Jessie's Girl by Kyrie
Summary: They have a saying that everything that was meant to be will be. This works in fairy tales but can real life be the same?


Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Group, Nick
Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 60 Completed: Yes Word count: 59860 Read: 73091 Published: 09/25/13 Updated: 02/15/14
Story Notes:
Disclaimer: For the purpose of this story, Howie has not met Leigh. I didn't have the heart to break them up but I needed him single! Please forgive me!

1. Let's Get Ready by Kyrie

2. Nice To Meet You by Kyrie

3. Honey, I'm Home! by Kyrie

4. Cosmic What? by Kyrie

5. Crush by Kyrie

6. Another Show by Kyrie

7. A Late Dinner by Kyrie

8. An Invitation by Kyrie

9. A Long Walk by Kyrie

10. More Plans by Kyrie

11. Again? by Kyrie

12. The Farm by Kyrie

13. Movie Night by Kyrie

14. Tell The Truth by Kyrie

15. Some Friendly Advice by Kyrie

16. Wow! by Kyrie

17. What?!? by Kyrie

18. Help Is On The Way! by Kyrie

19. Hello Nick! by Kyrie

20. Keep Me Company by Kyrie

21. The House by Kyrie

22. Great Ideas by Kyrie

23. No Way Nick! by Kyrie

24. Not Again! by Kyrie

25. What The Hell? by Kyrie

26. Maybe? by Kyrie

27. Shopping by Kyrie

28. First Night Together by Kyrie

29. I'm Leaving by Kyrie

30. First Night Alone by Kyrie

31. Who Are You? by Kyrie

32. That's It! by Kyrie

33. A Good Night's Sleep by Kyrie

34. Uh-Oh! by Kyrie

35. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid! by Kyrie

36. Maybe? by Kyrie

37. The Morning After by Kyrie

38. Trying It Out by Kyrie

39. Faith by Kyrie

40. Concerns by Kyrie

41. Second Place by Kyrie

42. Round 1 by Kyrie

43. Surprising News by Kyrie

44. Thanksgiving Dinner by Kyrie

45. Aftermath by Kyrie

46. Damn TMZ! by Kyrie

47. Couple Time by Kyrie

48. What Next? by Kyrie

49. Surprise! by Kyrie

50. The Accident by Kyrie

51. Christmas Shopping by Kyrie

52. Hiding Something by Kyrie

53. An Interesting Invitation by Kyrie

54. Christmas Eve by Kyrie

55. Christmas Presents by Kyrie

56. The Perfect Gift by Kyrie

57. New Year's Eve Surprise by Kyrie

58. Brotherly Advice by Kyrie

59. Truth Time by Kyrie

60. Consequences by Kyrie

Let's Get Ready by Kyrie
“Damn it!”

Emma Andrews swore as she wiped furiously at her shirt. Her best friend Addie Matthews stood next to her laughing as she watched her trying to dry her shirt.

“This isn’t funny! I need to get this soda out before it starts.”

The two friends had been waiting in line to attend the Backstreet Boys meet and greet in Boston before their show and some girls had started shoving everyone else out of the way to get to the head of the line. Emma, with her good luck, got doused with a soda that one of them was carrying. Karma, however, was apparently on her side today. She and Addie finally made it through the line much to the chagrin of the two idiots who were now in seclusion by the check in table. They glared at the two friends as they walked by.

“You should have gotten out of the way.” Addie said, trying to control her giggles.

“Me? Those two crazy women shouldn’t have been acting like 5 year olds! We have a ticket and they don’t. What was the point of being first when you can’t even get past the check in table?”

Addie shook her head with a smile. “You’re a lot nicer than me hun. I would have elbowed past the two of them.”

“I tried but I’m not exactly the most physical person.”

“You should have yelled at them then.”

Emma laughed. “That probably would’ve worked.”

Emma taught 8th grade English at a local middle school. Her students’ initial impression of her was a tall, lean, brown haired, blue eyed pushover. That was until they heard her yell. Emma could clear a hallway full of unruly teenagers with one shout.

“On second thought, maybe not.” said Addie. “You’d have scared everyone and gotten us kicked out!”

“I wouldn’t want to do that.” Emma replied, feigning horror. “We couldn’t live if we missed this!”

“Ok smartass! This was your idea remember. I recall you sitting there talking about how you’ve been a fan since they started. I’m only doing this for you.”

“Bullshit! You’ve been staring at Howie’s picture for the last month! Don’t act like you have no interest in being here!”

“Shhhh! The guys could be around here and I don’t want them hearing you say that.”

Emma laughed. “Yeah right. They’re probably out back getting set up. I think they have more pressing things to do than wander through the crowd listening to everything we say.”

“You never know.” Addie whispered. “They could be anywhere.”

“Sweetheart, if they were anywhere out here, we’d know. You would see the screaming horde of women swarming them in a heartbeat. You couldn’t miss them.”

“Funny. You better go to the bathroom and dry your shirt before sound check starts. You don’t want to look like you drooled all over yourself!”

“You’re lucky I love you!” Emma said, swatting Addie in the back of her head. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Addie waved her off and got back to watching the crowd. Emma laughed and prayed there wouldn’t be a long line in the bathroom.

---------------------------

“Ever wonder what’s going through their heads?” Howie asked peering around the curtain. There was an ever-growing group of women getting ready to head in for the sound check and Q & A.

“They’re thinking about how hot I am and how sad it is that I have to be the only good looking one in the group!” AJ answered with a laugh.

“Wow! I didn’t think your ego could get any bigger!” Nick said with a whack on the back of AJ’s head.

“There’s still room.” Brian added coming out to join them. “His head might actually explode by the end of the tour!”

“I hope nobody faints at this event.” Kevin mumbled as he came out on stage.

“Oh come on Kev, that woman passing out at your feet was a compliment. She missed you.” Howie responded.

“Nah Howie, I think it was just the heat.” Nick nudged his brother. “It was a hot day.”

“Remind me why I came back out here with you guys again?”

Kevin’s eyes were smiling when he made that comment. He missed all of them and was happy to be back out here celebrating their 20th anniversary.

AJ batted his eyes. “You missed us, you know you did! You love us!”

Kevin chuckled. “You think?”

“I know.” Nick said with a grin. “Think I have time to use the bathroom before we start this thing?”

“I love you Carter but you’re like the last minute kid.” Kevin was showing his big brother side again. “You have less than 5 minutes so get going!”

Nick smiled and jogged through the roped off area. He hoped he would get there and back without any issues or Kevin was going to have his head.
End Notes:
This is my first foray into a Nick story and you guys like it!
Nice To Meet You by Kyrie
Murderous thoughts were running through Emma’s head as she struggled to get the soda out of her shirt. She wanted to throttle those two women but since that was illegal, she took her anger out on the stain. Unfortunately, the only thing getting accomplished was the damp spot on her shirt growing.

Looking down at her watch, she noticed that she was running out of time. Stretching the shirt out in front of her, she held it under the dryer for a few minutes and then took off out of the ladies room. As she was just clearing the middle step, her sandal got caught and she stumbled down the bottom one as she braced for impact.

“Jesus Christ!”

To her surprise, two arms reached out to steady her and she heard a deep, sexy laugh.

“Um no. I’m just Nick but thanks for the compliment.”

Emma raised her head and found that the arms that were holding her up belonged to none other than Nick Carter. She instantly lost the ability to speak and the only thing she could do was to stare into the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen.

“Are you ok?” he asked with concern.

“I, um, yeah, fine…..” Emma stuttered over her words.

Nick chuckled and released her arms. “I hate to leave so quickly but I really have to get back to the group. Kevin is going to send out a search party soon.”

Emma let out a giggle.

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“I’m good. Thank you for the save.”

“Anytime!” he called as he started to run off. “Have fun tonight!”

She watched as he turned the corner and walked over to Addie.

“You will never believe what just happened!” she said with excitement.

“Tell me later.” Addie said tugging her along. “You almost missed this.”

“But…”

“C’mon.” Addie looked down at her hands as she dragged Emma forward. “Why are my hands wet?”

Emma groaned to herself. She just had the moment of a lifetime and her shirt was completely soaked. Nick was probably asking himself the same question; this was not how she planned any of this happening. As much as she wanted to be there, climbing under the covers in her bed wasn’t looking like a bad idea right now.

-----------------------------

“We’re almost there!” Addie whispered excitedly. “I can’t believe I’m going to meet him!”

Emma didn’t say much. She was still thoroughly embarrassed and she could only hope that Nick wouldn’t remember her.

“I can see his eyes!”

She watched Addie jump up and down in place trying to get a better look at Howie.

“Relax. You’re gonna freak him out if you run him over.”

The two girls finally made it to the end of the line and started to introduce themselves. Nick was the last one in line and when Addie introduced herself, he replied “Nice to meet you. I’m Jesus Christ.”

The water Brian was drinking shot straight out across the stage and he started choking. Howie banged on his back and gave Nick a look.

“Um….” Addie didn’t know how to reply but Emma did.

“Thank you for the save Mr. Christ. I really appreciate it.”

Nick started to laugh and reached out to hug her. “It’s nice to meet you….”

“Emma.”

“Well it’s nice to meet you Emma.”

AJ cleared his throat. “Someone wanna clue the rest of us in to the big joke?”

Since the girls were the last ones to greet, Nick took a moment to explain what happened.

“You didn’t tell me that!” Addie shouted loudly causing the guys to laugh.

“I tried but you were too absorbed. I guess it wasn’t wicked important.”

Kevin chuckled. “Can you say that again?”

“Say what?” Emma asked.

“Wicked.”

She raised her eyebrow. “Wicked?”

“Your accent is so strong. Anyone can tell you’re from Boston.” Nick said smiling.

“Oh.” Emma turned and looked at Addie. “I thought you said we were paying for a meet and greet, not a let’s make fun of Emma’s accent party.”

“Ouch.” AJ said. “You’re feisty.”

“You have no idea.” Addie murmured.

“I like feisty!” AJ said with a wicked grin.

“Watch it.” Nick said playfully shoving his brother. He turned to Emma. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t making fun of you. I just like the accent.”

“I guess I can let it slide this time.” Emma replied with a smile.

“Thanks, I appreciate that.”

“I hate to do this ladies,” Kevin interrupted, “but we have to get backstage and start the prep. I hope you guys enjoy the show tonight.”

“I know we will.” Emma said. “Thank you for the few extra minutes.”

“No problem.” Brian said, now fully recovered from his choking. “It was nice meeting you.”

AJ and Howie hugged both girls and headed backstage. Nick pulled Emma aside before he followed the guys.

“I’m really sorry if I offended you. I don’t want our fans to feel like we’re making fun of them.”

“I was just teasing you.” Emma replied. “But thank you for telling me that.”

Nick smiled and gave her a quick hug. “Make sure you sing along loud tonight!”

“We will!” Addie yelled as they watched him disappear.

Once he was gone, she turned to Emma. “You’d better tell me all about it!”
Honey, I'm Home! by Kyrie
“Thanks for coming tonight.” Addie said as she dropped Emma off.

“I had a good time and I’m glad you finally got to hug Howie!” she replied with a wink.

“I know.” Addie giggled. “Say hi to Jessie for me.”

“Will do.”

Emma waved to her friend as she drove off. She unlocked her front door and noticed the pile of mail by the door.

“Hello?”

She waited for an answer but none came.

“Anyone home?”

Shaking her head, she started down the basement stairs.

“Jessie?”

She got to the bottom of the stairs and looked around. There were beer bottles and pizza boxes everywhere. Sitting on the only furniture in the room, sat her boyfriend of 3 years and a couple of his friends.

“Hello!” Emma shouted.

“Hey.” Jessie called back. “I’m trying to finish this level. Can you wait a few minutes if you’re gonna talk to me?”

Emma sighed. This is what her life was turning in to. She made her way back upstairs and found Della, her golden retriever, waiting for her at the back door. Pulling it open, she watched as Della shot out into the backyard. To pass the time, Emma loaded the dishwasher, started it and cleaned up the mess that used to be her kitchen.

Della started barking at the door to be let back in. Emma fed her and then she climbed the stairs to her bedroom. After changing her clothes and brushing her teeth, she climbed into bed and smiled as Della
nudged her way under Emma’s arm. At least someone wants to sleep with me tonight, she thought to herself.

Her relationship with Jessie hadn’t started this way. He used to be the one who was trying to get her out of the house. Now all he did was work and then come home and play video games for hours on end. It was almost as though Emma didn’t even exist. She had tried everything to get his attention and it just seemed like they had become more like roommates than a couple. No amount of pleading or begging on her part changed anything and she knew that at some point, they were going to have to decide what to do about the whole situation.

“What do you think girl?” Emma asked stroking Della’s head. “What should we do?”

Della just looked up at her with loving eyes and rested her snout of Emma’s chest.

“I agree.” she said with a laugh. “Let’s sleep on it.”

Emma pulled the covers up and closed her eyes.
----------------------------------

Nick opened Face Time on his IPad and smiled as Lauren’s image came through. “Hey babe.”

“Hey sweetie. How was the show?”

“It was good. The fans were terrific and the meet and greet went well. There was this fan……”

Nick got cut off by Lauren’s cell ringing.

“Can you hold on?” Lauren asked him while she got up and answered the call.

“Sure.” he said with a sigh. “No problem. It’s not that important.”

That last comment was meant more for himself than Lauren since she had already disappeared. It seemed to be going this way for a while between them. They loved each other but they were always in different places at different times and Nick felt like they were losing that connection that had been such a big reason that he fell for her in the first place.

“Hi honey.” Lauren said coming back.

“I missed you tonight.” Nick said gently.

“I know but we’ve been through this before. You take care of the tour stuff and then you’ll be back and we can spend some time together then.”

“I hope so. It feels like forever since…..”

Lauren’s cellphone rang again.

“Sorry Nick, but I have to take this one. Have fun tomorrow and call me when you’re done.”

Lauren blew a kiss at the screen and broke the connection.

“Yeah, sure, I’ll have a blast.” Nick shouted and stared at the dead signal. “You might have time for me then.”

Someone knocked on the door and Nick walked quickly over to it.

“I hope this is why your phone…” Nick stopped talking when he saw Howie standing on the other side. “Oh, it’s you.”

He left his brother by the door and flopped himself onto the couch.

“Thanks for the welcome.” Howie said closing the door. “I take it you had another conversation with Lauren.”

“I don’t know if you could actually call it a conversation. I talked to her while she talked on her cell phone.”

Howie shook his head. “I’m sorry Nick. I know you miss her.”

“I do but I’m not so sure she misses me!”

“C’mon, you two love each other. It’s just a bump in the road.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Oh course I am. I’m always right.” Howie replied with a smile.

Nick laughed. “Thanks D.”

“You’re welcome.”

Nick got up and walked over to the TV. “Interested in playing some Call of Duty?”

“No way. Those things kill your brain cells.”

“Suit yourself.” Nick said with a shrug and settled himself into the couch.

“I’ll sit here though and tell you what you’re doing wrong.”

Howie threw his arms up to deflect the pillow heading his way.

“You’re such a good big brother!”
Cosmic What? by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Thank you guys for the reviews! I hope you're all liking it so far.
“I have an idea!” AJ announced a few days later.

“That’s a first!” Nick replied, trying to avoid the elbow to the stomach.

“Funny Carter.”

“I’m just saying.”

“What’s your idea J?” asked Howie.

“I think we should go bowling!”

“Bowling?” Kevin came through the door of the suite. “You want to go bowling?”

“Yeah, it’s our last night in Boston so let’s go out and explore.”

“We must be getting older.” Brian chuckled. “It used to be “let’s go to a club” or “let’s go to a party”. Now we’re going bowling.”

“Fine, if you guys don’t want to go….”

“Can we go Cosmic Bowling?” Nick asked.

“What the hell is Cosmic Bowling?”

“It’s like a disco bowling thing. They turn on a black light and disco balls. The lights flash all over the lanes and they play different kinds of music.”

“Why not?” Kevin answered, shocking the group. “Could be fun and we’re off for a few days. Where do we go?”

“I saw some places south of Boston. It wouldn’t take us long to get there and it could be kinda fun.”

The guys called in Marcus and a couple of the other bodyguards. They all agreed to give it a try but if the fans got wind of it, they’d pull the plug and the guys would have to leave. Climbing into a couple of the SUVs that they were renting, they headed south to Brockton.

-------------------------------

“This is going to be so much fun!” Addie said linking her arm with Emma’s. “I’ve never tried Cosmic Bowling.”

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. I can barely bowl with the lights on. Now you’re gonna turn them off and turn on disco balls? I’ll be lucky if I don’t hit myself in the head with the ball!”

“Oh you’re gonna be fine!”

“Famous last words Addie!”

The two girls made it up to the door and were surprised to find it locked. They were open when they called earlier and now it seemed kind of deserted.

“This stinks.” Addie frowned. “I wanted to have some fun.”

“I know what we could do.” Emma replied turning around. “Let’s go hang out and play video games at my house!”

“I seriously hope you’re joking.”

“Ya think? I hate those things. Sometimes I wanna pack up all of Jessie’s and run them over with my truck.”

“Now that would be fun!”

Addie was just stepping off the curb when she heard the door open behind her. She turned to look and found Howie Dorough standing in front of her. Her jaw dropped open and she made a squeak causing Emma to turn around.

“Hey, you guys came to our show the other night right?” he asked.

Addie just nodded her head.

“We were coming to check out the Cosmic Bowling.” Emma told him. “But I guess we got the hours wrong.”

Howie blushed. “That’s actually our fault. We wanted to try it out to and the owner said the only way we could do it was to rent all the lanes. He didn’t want all of our fans to show up and flood the place.”

“I can’t say that I blame him.” Emma replied. “Have fun!”

The two girls turned around to leave but Howie called out to them.

“Hey, we have plenty of room. Let me check with the guys and see if they mind two more.”

He darted back into the bowling alley and returned a moment later to invite them in. Addie lowered her voice and leaned into Emma’s ear as they made their way inside.

“I cannot believe we’re going to bowl with the Backstreet Boys!”

Emma chuckled. “Maybe they can make that into one of their cruise themes. Bowling with the Backstreet Boys.”

“Wise ass!”

---------------------------

“Hey!” AJ called out. “It’s Ms. Feisty!”

Emma turned beet red and Addie burst out laughing.

“Ignore him.” Nick said giving her a hug. “He’s being AJ.”

“Just kidding sweetheart.” AJ hugged her and grinned. “I like to tease people.”

“I can tell.”

The girls said hello to Kevin and Brian and thanked everyone for letting them join the group.

“No problem.” Howie responded. “It’s nice to have company outside of these knuckleheads.”

“We were just divvying up the teams.” Kevin said ignoring him. “How about Howie, Addie and me on one team and then Nick, AJ and Emma on the other.”

“You’re not playing Brian?” Emma asked.

“Nah. I bumped my wrist on part of the staging and I don’t want to do anything else to it. We still have a lot of shows to do and I can’t afford to not be able to wave to all my fans.”

“I can wave to them for you.” AJ’s eyes lit up. “You know they really want to see me anyway.”

“Ok, ok. Let’s break it up boys. We still have to sleep tonight.”

The two teams broke up to figure out who would go first for each one.

“I’m going to warn you guys in advance.” Emma said to Nick and AJ. “I’m not athletically inclined and I don’t bowl very well with the lights on, forget in the dark.”

Nick laughed. “No problem. Kevin and Howie aren’t great either so I think we’re ok.”

Emma drew the short straw and had to go first. She threw the ball down the gutter and had just swung her arm back to let go of the second one when she dropped the ball and fell down, hitting the floor butt first.

“Oh no.” Brian said quietly.

The guys had seen how girls reacted to being embarrassed and most of them cried or threw a fit. Everyone waited to see how Emma reacted.
Crush by Kyrie
Emma wrapped her arms around her waist and leaned back so that her long, brown hair splayed out onto the lane behind her. She started laughing so hard that it made her whole body shake. Addie chuckled and shook her head.

“Good job!”

“I think that wins the prize for the most ungraceful moment I’ve ever had.” Emma stood up and dusted herself off.

The guys watched her walk back over towards the chairs and were stunned by her attitude. AJ moved over to the chair next to him and let her sit down.

“Damn girl.” he said with a grin. “How bad does your ass hurt?”

“AJ!” Nick yelled.

“A lot.” Emma answered with a smile. “Actually, I can’t decide which hurts worse, that or my pride.”

“I gotta give you credit Emma.” Kevin stood up to take his turn. “I haven’t met many women that can laugh at themselves like that.”

“Trust me, I’ve done it so many times that if I didn’t learn to laugh at myself, I’d probably never leave the house.”

“She wouldn’t.” Addie agreed. “She’s a walking accident waiting to happen sometimes.”

“Thanks.” Emma threw a napkin at Addie. “I love all the support.”

“Just being honest.”

Nick moved to the chair behind Emma as the other team took their turn. He reached out and put his hand on her shoulder.

“You really ok?”

Emma turned to face him. “I’m fine honest, but thank you for asking.”

She smiled at him and Nick stared at her, momentarily hypnotized. When Emma smiled, her entire face lit up. It gave off the most peaceful glow and her amusement showed in her eyes.

“Are you ok?” Emma asked waving her hand in front of his face.

“Yeah, sorry. Spaced out for a minute.”

“Well it’s your turn.”

“Thanks.”

Nick walked over and picked up the ball. He felt like an idiot for staring at her and he hoped that he hadn’t freaked her out. Flustered by the whole thing, his two throws were completely off and it caused his team to lose.

“Sorry guys.” Nick muttered as he sat down between AJ and Emma.

“Not a big deal.” Emma responded. “Do you guys have time for one more game or do you have to leave?”

“We should probably head back to the hotel.” Kevin said looking at his watch. “It’s already 11 and we have an early flight out in the morning.”

The group headed out to the parking lot to say their goodbyes. Howie took Addie aside while the rest of them finished talking.

“I think someone has a crush.” Brian teased.

“It’s mutual.” Emma replied. “She’s had an infatuation with him since forever.”

The two rejoined the party and the girls thanked them for a terrific time. The boys watched as Addie and Emma waved and pulled out of the parking lot.

“So Howie……”

“Shut up AJ.” Howie said turning bright red.

“Well at least tell me you got her number.”

Howie pushed AJ out of the way and climbed into the SUV. Kevin and Brian climbed into the same one, leaving AJ and Nick to ride in the other.

“Stop picking on Howie, J. You know he gets embarrassed by that stuff. And besides, what’s wrong with a little crush?”

“Absolutely nothing.” Lowering his voice, he muttered something only Nick could hear. “I don’t think he’s the only one who likes someone.”

“Shut up J.”

He closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat. There was no truth to what his brother had said and Nick knew it.

---------------------------------------------------

“Sooooooooo………….” Addie said looking over at Emma.

“So what?” Emma asked confused.

“I got Howie’s number.”

“I figured that.”

“Did you get someone else’s?”

“Whose?”

“I don’t know. How about a certain tall, blonde, blue eyed god?”

“Why would I have gotten Nick’s number?”

“I saw the way he was looking at you….”

“Whoa! Stop right there. Nick was not looking at me. I can’t believe you’d even suggest that! He is in a relationship and so am I.”

“Yeah, you’re in one that sucks.”

“Maybe it’s not great all the time but it works for me.” Emma lied. “And besides, I heard Nick talking about Lauren tonight. He’s really in love with her.”

“But…”

“No buts. This conversation ends now and never gets brought up again.”

“Ok, ok.” Addie said quietly. “I’m sorry. I won’t say anything like that again.”

Emma turned her head and stared out the window as Addie drove her home.
Another Show by Kyrie
“I can’t believe they’re adding another show and bringing it here! They’ve never ended a tour in Boston!”

Emma smiled as Addie searched for tickets. It had been a month since the night at the bowling alley and Howie was calling her every other day.

“I think it’s because someone needs an excuse to come and see you!”

“Oh c’mon. You have to admit you’re pretty excited to see them.”

“Maybe just a little.” Emma answered.

The boys had been great and she really liked hanging out with them. She was surprised at how real and easygoing they were; they were genuinely nice guys.

“A little my butt! You had a blast with AJ and Nick. I think you might even…..”

“Don’t go there! Do you not remember the conversation we had in the car?”

“I know but…..”

The look on Emma’s face made Addie stop midsentence. She knew that her friend was getting annoyed and decided not to push it any further.

“How come you wouldn’t let Howie give us tickets?” Addie asked changing the subject quickly.

“Because you’re not dating him. I would feel weird having the guys give us free tickets. I mean we just met them a month ago.”

“Yeah but Howie offered.”

“So? Would you take a car if Howie offered it to you?”

“No but that’s different.”

“Not really. I don’t think we should take advantage of them.”

“It’s tickets Em, not a house!”

“I don’t care. We have enough money for the tickets so let’s just buy them.”

“Will you let him give us the meet and greet passes?”
“No, we get those ourselves. I don’t wanna owe anyone anything.”

“You’re a pain in the ass.” Addie said with a pout.

“But you love me.” Emma teased with a smile.

“You’re lucky I do!”

Emma laughed. “I'm gonna take a shower. Get busy on finding those tickets! The show’s in two days!”

--------------------------

“I can’t believe she wouldn’t let me give her the tickets. Does she not like me?”

“Oh brother.” Kevin murmured.

“It’s not that Howie.” Nick said. “She made a point of telling you that this was Emma’s call and not hers.”

“But she still won’t take them.”

The guys didn’t want to tell Howie, but they were pleasantly surprised by Emma’s insistence that the girls buy their own tickets. Usually, fans would happily take whatever the boys were giving out. People had tried to take advantage of them since their popularity soared and it was nice to know that not everyone was like that.

“She’s coming to the concert right?” AJ asked.

“Yeah.”

“And she’s coming to the meet and greet right?”

“Both of them.”

“Then what the hell are you worried about? If she didn’t like you, do you really think she’d spend the money to buy tickets to the concert AND the meet and greet?”

Howie blushed. “I guess you’re right.”

“I always am!” AJ replied with a grin. “It shouldn’t surprise you anymore!”

Nick shook his head as he watched the others finish packing. He had to admit that it would be nice to see them again. They all had a blast hanging out at the bowling alley and he was hoping that maybe they’d get the chance to hang out again. Lauren was coming out the show and he wanted her to join them. His cellphone snapped him back into reality and he stepped out in the hall to take the call.

“Hey babe.”

“Hey sweetie. Do you have a second?”

“For you, always. What’s up?”

“I don’t want you to be mad but I’m not going to be able to come out for the last show.”

“But Lauren……”

“I know I said I would but something came up at work and I need to take care of it. You’re almost done with the tour anyway. We’ll have plenty of time together when you get back.”

“I know but I wanted you to make at least one show.”

“I’m sorry Nick but this is important.”

So am I, Nick thought to himself. He didn’t say it out loud because he wasn’t interested in starting a fight but it was getting on his nerves. It felt like she always had to do something else instead of spend time with him.

“Will you be around when I get home?”

“I should be.”

Nick had to bite his tongue to keep from thanking her for fitting him into her busy schedule.

“Call me when you land and I’ll come get you.”

“Ok.”

“I love you Nicky.”

“Love you too Lauren.”

“Have fun and I’ll see you soon.”

He didn’t even have time to reply before she hung up on him. Shoving the phone into his pocket, he walked back into the room. None of the guys needed to ask since the look on his face said he had another phone call from Lauren and it didn’t turn out the way he wanted.

“When do we leave?”
A Late Dinner by Kyrie
Emma had finally relented on something and Addie was excited to get the backstage passes for after the show. The girls waited with some of the bodyguards while the boys finished wrapping stuff up and then got taken back to the green room.

“That was amazing!” Addie gushed as she spotted Howie and ran to hug him.

“Hey Fiesty.” AJ said to Emma as he pulled her into a hug. “Nice to see you again.”

“Thanks AJ.” Emma responded with a smile. “It’s nice to see you guys too.”

The girls said hello to Brian and Kevin but Nick was nowhere in sight.

“I was thinking that maybe we could all have a late dinner.” Howie said to Addie. “Is that ok with you guys?”

She and Emma nodded and followed the guys out to the parking lot. They were just getting into the SUVs when Nick caught up to them. He climbed in next to AJ and barely said a word on the way to the restaurant. Kevin had called ahead to let them know they were coming and there was a table in the back waiting for them when they arrived. Emma, AJ, Kevin and Brian got settled in and watched as Howie and Addie snuck off for a minute. Nick excused himself to the bathroom and Emma asked the guys about his behavior.

“Is Nick ok?”

AJ sighed. “He’s fine. Lauren was supposed to be coming out to the show tonight and she bailed on him. Again.”

“That sucks. I know he mentioned at the bowling alley that he was really looking forward to her coming out on the road with you guys. He seemed excited.”

“He was but I guess Lauren had more important things to do.”

Addie and Howie rejoined the group and it was Emma’s turn to excuse herself.

“What did we miss?” Howie asked.

“Emma was asking why Nick was so cranky tonight.”

“Did you tell her?”

“Tell her what?” Addie asked.

“Lauren backed out of coming out to the show tonight. Said something important came up and she was going to have to spend time with him at home.”

“I get why that upsets him.” Brian added. “You want to feel like a priority to someone you love, not something that takes second place.”

“Sounds just like someone I know.” Addie mumbled.

“Huh?” AJ asked while the others stared at her. She realized that she had said that out loud and sighed.

“Emma’s boyfriend Jessie is the same way.”

“What way?”

“Emma is not a priority in Jessie’s life. He works and spends almost all his free time playing video games with his friends. I like him but he’s a lousy boyfriend.”

“Sounds like they’re not really that close.” Kevin said.

“They used to be inseparable but not anymore. It’s almost like they’re roommates and not a couple. As awful as this sounds, he probably doesn’t even realize she left the house tonight.”

“That’s awful.” AJ said. “If I ever did that, Ro would have my head.”

“Same here.” Brian added. “Why do they stay together?”

“I have no idea. I’ve tried talking her into breaking things off but it seems like she’s so used to this that it’s normal for her.”

AJ started to say something else when he caught sight of Emma heading back to the table. He motioned for everyone to stop talking about it and they changed the topic of conversation quickly.

“Nick hasn’t come back yet?” Emma asked as she slid into her chair.

“Here he comes now.”

Nick slid into the chair next to Emma and picked up his menu. The waitress came by for their order and Emma leaned over to Nick.

“I’m sorry you’re not feeling good.”

“Sorry.” Nick replied. “I don’t mean to be in a lousy mood especially since you guys are here.”

“Not a big deal.” Emma said with a smile. “It happens to everyone.”

He watched as she pushed some hair behind her ear and turned to face the rest of the group. She really did have a beautiful smile and he couldn’t help himself from grinning when she started telling them funny stories from work. He decided not to let this thing with Lauren ruin his night and joined in on the conversation.

----------------------------------

“So I was thinking that I might not fly home with you guys.”

Emma and Addie had gone to the ladies room and Howie decided to bring it up while they were gone.

“Jeez, I wonder why.” AJ teased. “It wouldn’t have something to do with a girl would it?”

“Good for you Howie.” Brian added. “It’ll probably make her day.”

“I hope so. I just wish I wasn’t going to be out here alone.”

“She doesn’t look like the ax murderer type D. I think you’ll be fine.”

Nick’s cellphone rang and he stepped away from the table while the guys finished talking.

“Hi Nick.”

“Hi Lauren. What’s up?”

“You know how I told you I would be home when you got back?”

---------------------------------------

Emma and Addie made their way back to the table which was minus Nick again. AJ pointed to the window and shrugged his shoulders. Emma could tell that Nick was really mad at whoever was calling. He was turning red and his hands were flying as he started to yell into the phone. She hoped it wasn’t too bad.
An Invitation by Kyrie
“You told me that whatever you needed to do would be done by the time I got back!”

“Don’t yell Nick. There is nothing I can do.”

“Yes there is! You can put your foot down and explain that you haven’t seen your boyfriend in months! It’s your business, you can take a break!”

“No I can’t. This is an important sponsor and I need to spend some time with them to work on a deal.”

“How about spending time with me? Do I have to start sponsoring you so that I can get a little time with you?”

“That’s a low blow Nick.”

He took a deep breath and tried to control himself. “I’m sorry Lauren but I haven’t seen you in 3 months. I want some time with you.”

“You’ll get it. You just need to wait a couple weeks.”

“A couple of weeks? I thought it would be a couple of days!”

“I have to fly to Texas and take care of the basics and then fly to Florida to finish the rest. You of all people should know how important my job is.”

“I know it’s important but I thought our relationship was too!”

“Look Nick, it is what it is. I need to do this and then I’ll take some time off and we’ll go away somewhere. Is that ok?”

“Do I get a choice?” Nick asked bitterly.

“No you don’t.”

“Then I guess it’s just fine.”

“I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

“Yup.”

Nick hung up the phone without telling Lauren that he loved her. Maybe it was childish but he was hurting and wanted to strike back. He hoped it would upset her. He made his way back to the table and took his seat next to Emma.

“Hey Howie?”

“Yeah?”

“I think you just found some company for the next few weeks!”

----------------------------------------

Howie and Nick offered to bring the girls home so Emma and Addie said goodbye to Brian, Kevin and AJ at the restaurant.

“I’m glad we got to hang out again.” Emma said as she hugged AJ.

“Me too Feisty. I’m gonna have to bring Ro next time. I think you and her would get along great.”

“I’d love to meet her and that beautiful little baby girl of yours.”

“I never thought I could love someone that much.” he said with an ear to ear grin. “I’m pretty biased, but she’s amazing.”

“I bet she is.”

Emma hugged Brian and Kevin and climbed into the passenger seat of the SUV while Nick took the driver’s seat. Addie and Howie finished saying goodbye and climbed into the backseat.

“Thanks for driving us home.” Emma said to the guys.

“No problem.” Nick responded.

It was a pretty quiet ride to Addie’s house where they dropped Addie and Howie off. The four said their goodbyes and Nick drove Emma to her house.

“Where are you going after this?” Emma asked.

“Probably back to the hotel. I called and thankfully they had an available room.”

“I’m really sorry that Lauren wasn’t able to make it out.”

“Doesn’t really matter. I probably won’t see her for weeks now so I’ll find some stuff to do while I’m here.” Nick said, pulling into Emma’s driveway.

“You’re welcome to come hang out here anytime you want. I’m usually home by 4 and I’m pretty much a homebody on the weekends.”

“I don’t want to bother you. I can find things to do.”

“It’s not a bother. In fact, I was planning on going down to the Cape tomorrow and spending some time down by the canal.”

“The canal?”

“Yeah. There is a long canal separating us from the Cape. You have to take bridges to cross it but there are lots of bike paths and walking trails on the banks. I like to go there on Saturdays in the fall. It’s still nice weather and the foliage is beautiful.”

“Sounds it.”

“So why don’t you come with me?”

“I wouldn’t want to be a third wheel. Your boyfriend probably wants to spend some time with you.”

Emma chuckled. “Yeah right. I do this stuff by myself. He’s not an outdoorsy kind of guy. They don’t have PlayStations located on any of the trails.”

Nick burst in laughter. “That would be pretty cool.”

“I don’t think so. I hate those things. I wish they’d never been invented.”

“C’mon, they’re not that bad.”

“Oh yes they are, and trust me, you don’t want to debate this issue with me.”

Nick held up his hands. “Nope, you’re right, I don’t. I’m gonna be quiet right now.”

“Good.” Emma said with a smile. “Now will you come with me tomorrow?”

“I guess so.”

“Jeez, don’t sound so excited.” Emma teased, elbowing him.

Nick smiled. “I would love to go with you. Was that better?”

“Definitely. I usually go around 10. Is that ok with you?”

“I’ll be here.”

“Ok, I’ll see you in the morning. Don’t be late!” she said and wagged her finger at him.

“I won’t be.”

Nick watched as Emma closed the door, walked up to the front porch and turned to wave at him. If he had to spend the next few weeks out here, it wouldn’t be so bad to make some friends.
A Long Walk by Kyrie
Nick arrived at 9:45 the next morning. He contemplated calling to let her know he was here, but he decided to just knock. There was no answer so he knocked again and still didn’t get an answer. Just as he was about to knock again, the door was pulled open and he was struck by a giant ball of fur.

“What the……” Nick yelped as he tried to fight off whatever was licking his face.

“Della, stop!” Emma yelled.

Suddenly, the licking stopped and he was able to figure out what was going on. Emma had her hand on the collar of a large golden retriever whose tongue was hanging out. The dog looked almost as if she was smiling. Emma let go and reached out her hand to help Nick up.

“I’m really sorry. I thought Jessie would answer the door but I guess he couldn’t be bothered. Usually Della isn’t this bad, but she saw me digging out her leash and got excited.”

Nick, looking a little less frazzled, dusted himself off and followed Emma back into the house.

“Not a big deal, I love dogs.”

As if the dog understood what he was saying, she started nuzzling his hand. It seemed like this was her way of saying she was sorry for knocking him down.

“I’m glad but she still shouldn’t be knocking people down. She just gets so excited when I take her for long walks.”

“I can tell.”

“Let me just tell Jessie I’m leaving and then we’ll go.”

Emma walked over to the basement door and called down to her boyfriend.

“Hey Jessie, I’m leaving.”

“That’s nice.” Nick heard him call back. He wanted to say something about him being so rude but he still didn’t know Emma that well and didn’t want to offend her.

“See you later.”

“Yup.”

“The house is burning down.”

“Great.”

Emma shook her head and pulled on her jacket. “Let’s go.”

--------------------------------------

Nick pulled into the parking lot at the Cape Cod Rail Trail and was pleasantly surprised. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was in for but it was a beautiful site. Emma had been right about the views and the foliage. Walking over to her side, he helped her out and offered to handle Della’s leash.

“I promise not to let go.” Nick answered her unspoken question. “I’ve taken dogs for walks before you know.”

“I know but I’ve seen pictures of your dogs. She’s about 100 times the size of them!”

“I can still handle her. J practically needed a leash for a while and I could handle him.”

Emma laughed and handed it over. “I guess I can trust you then.”

She walked over to the beginning of the trail to get one of the maps for them. Turning around, she motioned for him to join her and they started off. There were a few moments of awkwardness with Emma trying to catch up with Nick’s long legs but after a few minutes they had a good rhythm going.

“So how old is Jessie?” Nick asked, curious about the man who belonged to the voice he heard.

“He’s 40.”

“What?”

Emma smiled. “Yes, he’s 40 and is still obsessed with playing video games.”

“How come you never put a stop to it? It seems to bother you a lot.”

“I tried tons of times. He’d stop for a while but he did it grudgingly and he made it miserable being around him.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah it does. I guess I’m just used to it now.”

“But it still bothers you?”

Emma didn’t say anything.

“Sorry if I’m overstepping my bounds.”

“No, it’s not that. You’re right when you say it still bothers me because it does. I’ve just spent so many years with him; it’s become normal to me.”

“Is he always like that when you leave?”

Emma chuckled sadly. “Most of the time he doesn’t even know when I’m there. He doesn’t make it pass the basement stairs most nights.”

Nick’s mouthed dropped open.

“I know that sounds bad.”

“It sounds awful for you. It sounds like you spend most of your time alone.”

“I have Della. She even sleeps upstairs with me.”

“Doesn’t that make you feel lonely?”

“Sometimes. I mean I like my independence and I don’t need someone to hover around me.”

“Yeah but there's a huge difference between hovering and not ever being around.”

“I know.”

They both got quiet for a minute. Emma was surprised that she was opening up to Nick as much as she was. She barely knew him and she was talking about things she didn’t discuss with anyone but Addie.

“I guess I can understand how you feel.” Nick said trying to take some pressure off. “Lauren works all the time and I feel like I never see her lately.”

“Your situation must be really tough. Both of you away and working a lot.”

Nick nodded. “It’s like we’re never in the same place at the same time anymore. Kind of makes having a relationship hard.”

“Do you ever get to spend time without anyone else around when you’re not on tour?”

“We used to. Now it seems like whenever I’m home, she’s not and vice versa.” Nick paused for a minute. “I don’t think I’ve seen her in three or four months. It seems like forever.”

Emma reached out and put her hand on his arm. “I’m really sorry.”

“Nothing for you to be sorry about. I think your situation is harder than mine. At least I get to be lonely by myself. You’re lonely when you’re in the same house.”

Emma laughed softly. “You sound like that Reba McEntire song.”

“That’s one comparison I’ve never heard!” Nick replied with a chuckle. “Now I’m curious though. What song is that?”

“Lonely Alone.”

“I don’t know that one. How does it go?”

“You want me to sing it?”

“Sure, why not. I just want to know what I sound like. Plus we’re the only ones right here.”

“Um, I can’t really sing.”

“I don’t buy that.”

Emma’s eyes flashed. “Are you challenging me?”

“Maybe.” Nick answered with a grin.

“Fine, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
More Plans by Kyrie
Emma stopped in the middle of the trail and closed her eyes. She began humming a tune and when she started singing, she had Nick’s full attention.

“I could stop right here, turn this car around. Walk back through the door, put my suitcase down. Tell you I'm sorry and things would be alright I know. But it all comes down to the lesser of the two. Alone by myself or alone with you. And if I have to be lonely I'd rather be lonely alone.”

Emma opened her eyes and saw Nick staring at her.

“I told you you’d be sorry for asking me to sing.”

Emma turned and started walking down the trail. After a few feet, she realized that Nick wasn’t with her. He was still standing in the same spot they had been so she walked back to where he was.

“Are you ok?”

Nick didn’t answer right away. Emma had given him a warning but not for the right reason. Her voice was beautiful and she really could sing. Something was bothering him though and he was trying to find a way to say it.

“You lied about not being able to sing. That was terrific.”

Emma blushed. “I appreciate you being nice.” She paused for a minute. “You look like you’re about to say something else.”

“I’m sorry.”

Emma looked confused. “For what?”

“That you feel like that.” Nick paused. “That song is beautiful but it’s so sad.”

“I’m used to it though.”

“No one should have to get used to that.”

“Thank you Nick but I’ve learned to live with it.” She started to walk away again. “Let’s just forget this discussion. It’s a beautiful day and I want to enjoy it.”

Nick could tell it was bothering her so he decided to drop the issue. “Ok, let’s get going.”

-----------------------------------------------

“I think it’s time to head home.” Emma said, patting Della on the head.

They had been at the trail for almost two hours and the afternoon was starting to get chilly. Emma wrapped her arms around herself and showed Nick the way back to the car.

“I had a good time today.” Nick said following her.

“Me too. I’m glad you decided to come along.”

Emma turned to smile at him and her foot caught on a broken piece of asphalt. Just as she started to fall, Nick reached out and wrapped his arm around her waist. He pulled her back to a standing position and started to laugh.

“I didn’t believe Addie when she said it but she’s right.”

“Right about what?”

“You being an accident waiting to happen.”

Emma elbowed him sharply in the side. “That’s not very nice Mr. Carter.”

“Sorry but I do believe this is the second time I’ve caught you mid fall. I think you even called me Jesus Christ the first time!”

Emma burst out laughing. “That’s true.”

“Can I ask you a favor though?”

“Sure.”

“If you’re gonna make it a trifecta, can you give me some advance notice?”

Nick winked at her and took off in a jog. Emma just stared at him as he ran away with Della following him. She shook her head and started after him.

----------------------------

Nick pulled into Emma’s driveway and walked around to her side to open the door. He helped get Della out and into the house. She walked over to the basement steps and called for Jessie. After a few times and no answer, she decided to check while Nick waited for her in the living room.

“I guess we’ve been ditched.” Emma said as she came into the room. “He’s gone.”

“I’m sure he left a note.”

“I doubt it.” Emma said without emotion. “Want to stay for dinner?”

Nick really wanted to say something about Jessie being a jerk but he decided to bite his tongue. He didn’t want to push the issue again.

“I’d love to but I’m supposed to meet one of our producers for a business dinner.” He paused for a minute. “I can cancel it.”

Emma smiled. “No, you need to take care of business.”

“But you’re by yourself.”

“Like I said earlier, I’m used to it. You should probably get going.”

“Ok.” Nick replied. She has put her foot down about that discussion without having to say anything. He only hoped that he hadn’t offended her.

“What are you doing next week?” she asked as he walked him out.

“Nothing that I know of. Howie will probably be hanging out with Addie so I’m pretty free. What did you have in mind?”

“I wanted to go apple picking before it ends. There’s a farm two towns over and they have pumpkins and hay rides.”

“That sounds good to me.” he answered with a smile. “Same time?”

“How about three instead? It’s a haunted hayride so it’s scarier in the dark.”

“So you like to be scared huh?”

Emma grinned. “I love to be scared. Horror movies, haunted houses and hayrides. I don’t get the chance to go very often because Addie hates anything that’s scary.”

“Well you are in luck. I love everything scary!”

“Then it’s a date.” Emma realized right away how that sounded. “I didn’t mean a date date just a date.”

“I know what you meant.”

He gave her a hug and climbed into the SUV, rolling down the window so he could still hear her.

“I’ll see you on Saturday ok?

“I wouldn’t miss it.”

Nick put the truck into reverse and pulled out into the street. He waved at her through the window and watched as she went back inside. If next Saturday was like this one, he knew he’d have a good time.
Again? by Kyrie
“Hey D!”

“Hey Nick.”

The two were meeting for lunch on Tuesday while Addie and Emma were at work. One of the producers was interested in working with them on solo albums so they were meeting to discuss the details.

“How’s Addie?” Nick said with a smile as Howie settled into the booth.

“She’s good.”

“I’m impressed.”

“Why?”

“You finally can talk about her without blushing at all!”

“Not funny Nick.”

“I’m being serious. It’s nice to see it.”

The waitress came by to take their drink orders. They told her that they were expecting one more and were going to wait on ordering.

“What have you been doing to keep yourself out of trouble?” Howie asked after she left.

“Had dinner with this producer to talk and I went for a long walk on Saturday.”

“A long walk? By yourself?”

“No with Emma.”

Howie raised his eyebrows. “Really? Emma huh?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing. I think she’s really nice. Cute too.”

“Cut it out.” Nick said getting irritated. “You sound just like J. It wasn’t like that. It wasn’t a date.”

“You gonna to do it again?”

Nick paused and decided to just tell him the truth. “Yes, next Saturday. Is that ok with you?”

“Don’t be so touchy Nick. I know you weren’t thrilled about being out here. I just don’t want you to be miserable the whole time.”

“Well I’m not so you can relax.”

“I’m sorry Nick. I wasn’t trying to be pushy.”

“Just forget it.”

Howie was about to apologize again when he noticed the producer walking towards their table. He decided to wait and have the conversation some other time.

---------------------------

Nick left right after lunch. He wasn’t in the mood to rehash this whole thing about Emma again. Howie and J needed to back off and leave the whole situation alone. Emma had Jessie and he had Lauren; that’s all that needed to be said.

He had just gotten into his hotel room when he heard the notification for Face Time on his IPad was going off. He flipped the cover off and pressed answer. Lauren finally came into view and he smiled.

“Hey babe. It’s nice to see you.”

“Hey sweetie. It’s nice to see you too. How’s it going out there?”

“Good actually. Howie and I had lunch with a producer this afternoon. He’s interested in working with us on solo albums.”

“That’s great. It means you’re gonna be pretty busy for a while right?”

Nick could feel the smile fading. He didn’t like the direction this conversation was going in.

“Yeah but I told him I was gonna take some time off and relax. Why?”

“I spoke to my sponsor and he kind of wants to start the promotion sooner rather than later.”

“What exactly does that mean? Are you not gonna be around when I get home?”

“No I’ll be here but I can only stay for a few days.”

“You’re fucking kidding me right? I’ve been on tour for three months and now I’m out here for another month while you work. I thought we were gonna spend some time together!”

“Calm down Nick. We’re going to, just for a shorter amount of time.”

“A shorter amount of time? That’s how you see this? We haven’t seen each other in months and you think a few days are enough?”

“I think it’s fine Nick. It’s not like we won’t have time when this whole thing slows down. I need to push this whole thing through while people are still interested. You should understand the whole momentum thing. You’ve done it several times.”

“I haven’t done it at the expense of us though.”

“Don’t be so dramatic Nick. It’s another couple of months and then I’ll take some time off for us to just spend together.”

“Jeez, thanks Lauren. I’m glad you can pencil me in.”

“Stop being a jerk Nick. You’re gonna have to deal with this and I don’t have time to fight with you now about it. I love you.”

Nick was stunned as she broke the connection without letting him say anything. He was tempted to call her back but he realized nothing was gonna change. They’d both still be mad and he was still gonna be pissed that she wouldn’t be around. He decided to just change his clothes and head down to the gym in the hotel. Maybe working out would release all the tension that was building up.
The Farm by Kyrie
Nick was glad when Saturday finally rolled around. He welcomed the distraction and knew he would be able to have a good time. Driving to Emma’s, he stopped and picked up some coffee. He pulled in a few minutes early to find her waiting on the front porch. She stood up and Nick couldn’t help but stare as she walked down. Her brown hair was pulled up into a ponytail and she was bundled up in a sweatshirt. He wouldn’t ever admit it to Howie or J, but he had to agree that Emma was really pretty.

“Hey stranger.” Emma said with a smile.

She climbed into the truck and got herself settled. Once she was done, Nick handed her one of the coffees he had bought.

“What’s this?”

“A medium French vanilla with extra cream and three sugars.”

Emma’s mouthed dropped open. “How did you know what I order?”

“I remember you telling the story about how someone messed up your coffee and it threw your whole day off. Did I get it wrong?”

“No, it’s perfect. You just surprised me.”

Nick grinned. “Glad I can do that!”

“You definitely can.”

Emma sipped the coffee as she gave him directions to the farm. They decided to go apple picking first and then find the pumpkin patch and apple cider. The hayride would be saved for last so it would be dark enough to be scary. When they pulled in, there were tons of excited little kids and some harried parents.

“Wow.” Nick said. “This is crazy.”

Emma smiled. “This is awesome. Make sure you put on your baseball cap though. We don’t want a riot if someone recognizes you.”

“Absolutely not. I just want to enjoy myself today.”

“I’ll make sure you do.”

Emma linked her arm through his and led him down the path to the apple orchard. Nick offered to carry the basket and reach up to grab any apples she couldn’t. Most of the time, he just watched Emma run back and forth between the trees looking for the perfect apples. She had this amazing smile on her face and it reminded him of the a little kid’s face. Her eyes lit up as if this was her first time.

“How often do you do this?” Nick asked when she stopped to add some apples to the barrel.

“Every year.”

“Every year?”

“Yup.” Emma answered with a smile. “Fall has always been my favorite time of year and doing this reminds me of all the times my parents took me.”

“Do they live around here?”

“No, they moved to Florida a few years ago. It was getting too cold for them. I offered to have them live with me but I think they like their independence too much.”

Nick chuckled. “How did Jessie’s feel about that?”

Her eyes darkened slightly. “He hated the idea. It almost split us up.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

The clouds in her eyes passed and her smile came back. “There are a few more trees down back that I want to check out before we head back to the barn.”

Nick followed her down and watched as she surveyed all of the trees. She was just about to pick one of them when an apple came crashing down on her head.

“Ow!” Emma cried as she put her hand onto her head.

Nick rushed over and set down the basket.

“Let me see.”

He pushed her hand down and ran his hand over her hair. There was a large knot forming but he didn’t see any blood.

“I think I just hit the trifecta.” Emma said as she rubbed her head.

Nick laughed. “Nope, not yet. In order for it to be the trifecta, I actually have to save you before something happens.”

“Good to know.” Emma said with a smile.

“I think you have enough apples now. We should probably head back and check out the pumpkins.”

Without thinking, he reached out his hand for hers and she took it after a few seconds. She nodded and followed him to the pumpkin patch. They spent an hour searching for a few pumpkins that would be good for carving. Once they had what they needed, they checked out and stowed all the stuff in the back of Nick’s truck.

Making their way back, they purchased tickets for the hayride and got in line with a few other people. Emma noticed that most of them were couples and it made her sad that she wasn’t able to enjoy these things with someone she loved. Nick was great company but it’s not like they were together.

The wagon finally pulled up in front of the barn. Nick and Emma got stuck with the end seats on both sides of the wagons. The couples didn’t want to be split up and since there were seven seats on each side, that meant they couldn’t sit together. The driver got the horses going and they started through the corn fields. There were small scenes cut into each of the fields and the workers elicited screams from each of the passengers. Once they were sufficiently scared, the driver would pull through to the next scene.

“Is it always like this?” Nick asked, leaning in towards Emma.

“Always!” Emma said with a smile. “That’s why I like them so much.”

Pulling into the next scene, Nick turned to get a look at what was behind him. As the workers backed away into the field, he turned back around and caught a glimpse of something behind Emma’s back. The wagon started forward and he got a better view.

“Emma…”

Before Nick could get his warning out, one of the workers pulled the rope on a chainsaw. Emma was so startled that she jumped up and was caught off guard by the moving wagon. She started to fall over the back gate and someone yelled at the driver to stop. All she could do was brace for the impact.
Movie Night by Kyrie
Just as she was about to go over, two arms reached out and pulled her back. Before she knew what happened, Nick had her back into the wagon and on his lap. She was shaking so badly that he wrapped his arms around her tightly.

“You’re ok Em, you’re ok.”

It took a few minutes but Emma finally started to calm down. She had stopped shaking and turned to face Nick.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see that coming.”

“It’s alright, I don’t think anyone did.”

She started to stand so that she could sit on her side but Nick held her down.

“Uh-uh. I think you should just stay here. I don’t want to have to do that again.”

Emma finally smiled. “I guess you hit the trifecta huh?”

“I guess so.” Nick answered with a grin.

---------------------------------

“Thanks for such an eventful night.” Nick said with a chuckle as he pulled into Emma’s driveway. “I don’t think I’m going to forget that anytime soon.”

“I know I won’t.”

Emma climbed out of the passenger seat before Nick could get over there and started unloading the apples and pumpkins.

“Let me help you.”

Nick grabbed the pumpkins in his arms and followed her up to the house. Emma opened the door and Della came rushing out to see them. Gently taking the dog by the collar, she led her out to the back yard. After closing the door, she went back to help Nick with the apples.

“I can help with those you know.” Emma called out as Nick made a second trip with the rest of the food.

“I know but you had to take care of Della. It’s not a big deal.”

“I think you’ve done enough for me tonight.”

“It’s not a problem.”

Emma nodded and walked over to the basement door. She was about to call for her boyfriend when she saw a note taped to the door.

Emma, don’t wait up. Jessie

Seriously, Emma thought to herself as she shook her head. It’s not like she waited up for him anyway. Nick saw the note when she set it down on the counter so she could let Della in. The message was completely void of any feeling and it seemed like something you would leave a roommate, not a girlfriend.

Emma caught him reading the note and slid it towards her. She crumpled it up and threw it into the trash.

“Guess you have the night to yourself again.” Nick said.

“I guess so.” Emma replied. “It’ll give me some time to get the pumpkins carved.”

Nick had to admit that Emma had a way of not getting bothered by things for too long. She seemed to always find another way to look at it. Before he could stop himself, he asked if she wanted help.

“I’ll be ok. I have all the patterns and stuff. I’m sure you have better things to do than help me gut pumpkins.”

“I don’t mind.”

“It’s really ok.”

“I don’t have anything else to do.”

“What if Lauren calls? I don’t want you to miss her.”

“I won’t miss her trust me. I’m sure she busy doing her own thing.”

Emma noted the sadness in his voice and turned around to get the carving stuff. She placed the knives and pumpkins in front of him on the counter.

“Which one do you want?”

--------------------------------

“That was disgusting.” Nick said as he washed his hands in the sink.

Emma laughed as she cleaned up the counter. “You have to get all the seeds and guts out before you can carve it.”

They had spent the last hour cleaning out and carving pumpkins. It had been a long process but there were three pretty cool pumpkins now sitting on her front porch.

“I didn’t realize you mean every single seed.”

Emma shook her head and started to bag up the trash. She pulled it out of the basket, tied it up and turned to go outside. Before she could open the door, Nick took the bag from her.

“Let me get that.”

“I can take out my own trash Nick.” Emma responded as she tried to sidestep him.

“I know Ms. Stubborn.” Nick said stepping in front of her. “But I can do it for you.”

“But you don’t need to.”

Emma thought she slipped past him but he grabbed the bag out of her hands when she making the dash for the door.

“Ha, ha. I win.”

She watched as he took it out to the barrels behind the garage. Della had raced out there behind him and was now jumping all over the place. He laughed and headed back to the house with her at his heels.

“That was really sneaky.”

“You gotta do what you gotta do.” Nick replied.

“You win this time. But wait till next time, I’ll get you back.”

Emma made her way out to the front porch and lit the newly carved pumpkins with some LED candles. Nick was standing in the doorway when she turned around.

“You probably have to go now huh?”

“Wow, that’s rude. I just brought your trash out and now you’re kicking me to the curb?”

Emma turned bright red. “That’s not what I meant to do.”

“You’ll have to make it up to me then.”

Emma started to turn a darker shade of red. “Um, how do you want me to do that?”

“Popcorn and a horror movie.”

“I can handle that.” Emma responded as her face went back to its normal color.

“Good. Let’s go.”

Stepping aside, he let her into the house. He closed the door behind them and followed her into the living room whereEmma turned the TV on and pointed to the rack that held all her DVDs.

“I’ll make the popcorn and you can pick the movie.”

“You might regret it.”

“I doubt it.”

“Never say that with me around.”

Emma shook her head and went out to the kitchen. After a few minutes, she returned with popcorn to find Nick stretched out on her couch with the remote.

“Make yourself at home Carter.”

She pushed his feet onto the floor and curled up on one side of the couch. Putting the bowl in between them, she took out a handful and leaned her head back onto the couch. Nick just watched as she got comfortable and turned off the lights. After a few minutes, she turned to face him.

“Are you starting the movie?”

Nick nodded and turned his attention back to the TV. He chose play on the menu screen and the music for Halloween started to play.

“I love this one.” Emma said quietly.

Nick smiled and settled himself back into the couch. He laughed as he watched Emma shield her eyes through a few parts and curl up tighter when Michael was attacking Jamie Lee Curtis in the closet. The movie finally ended and Emma reached over to turn the lights back on.

“I hate that closet scene. The first time I saw this was in college and I made my roommate get all my clothes out for me.”

“That must have sucked for your roommate.”

“She was ok but when it passed the two week mark, she put her foot down.” Emma chuckled.

Nick just shook his head and grinned. He stood up, stretched and checked his watch.

“I didn’t realize how late it was.”

He looked at Emma’s face and realized how that had come out.

“I didn’t mean it in a bad way.”

She just nodded.

“I swear. I had a lot of fun today.”

“Me too.” Emma said as she stood. “I’ll walk you out.”

Nick let her lead the way and they walked out to the truck. Catching her off-guard, he pulled her into a hug.

“I really had fun today.”

“I’m glad.” Emma replied and hugged him back. “Maybe we can do something else while you’re out here.”

Nick pulled away and smiled at her. “Absolutely. I’m here for a couple more weeks so maybe we can plan some stuff on the weekends. I know you work so weekdays are probably busy.”

“Sometimes and I don’t always know when I have meetings and stuff.” She paused for a minute. “You should come to the party with us.”

“What party?”

“One of our co-workers has a Halloween party every year. You should come. Howie is going with Addie.”

“Well I can’t let Howie have all the fun. Count me in. Do I need a costume?”

“She decided on a Back to the 80’s theme so whatever you can dig up for that.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” He climbed into the driver’s seat. “Go on inside. I want to make sure you’re in before I leave.”

“Ok.”

Emma ran up the front walkway and opened the door. She turned around to smile and Nick waved to her. He backed out as she closed the door and headed back to the hotel.
Tell The Truth by Kyrie
Nick met Howie for lunch a few days later. He wanted to talk about the albums and the upcoming party.

“Addie told me about it the other day. I was going to ask you about it but I haven’t seen you.”

“That’s alright. What are you going as?”

“I was thinking Miami Vice. We could both do it.”

“I can hear J right now.”

“We don’t have to tell him.”

“We’re NOT going to tell him. We would never live it down. We’re keeping this to ourselves.”

“Agreed.” Howie said and opened his menu. Changing the subject, he asked if Nick had seen Emma lately.

“I did on Staurday. We went apple picking and for a hayride.”

“That sounds like fun.”

“Most of it was.”

“Most of it?”

Nick told Howie the whole story of what had happened with the chainsaw and about going back to her house to carve the pumpkins.

“That’s crazy! She’s lucky you were there.”

“I’m glad I was. She told me she does this stuff every year by herself. What if that happened while she was on her own?”

“It seems like she’s always on her own.”

“What’s that mean?”

Howie sighed. He wasn’t into gossiping but Addie had told him all about Emma’s boyfriend. Nick might as well know too.

“Her boyfriend isn’t exactly the best.”

“I know.”

Howie looked stunned. “What do you mean you know?”

“I picked her up to go to the Cape and when she told him she was leaving, he acted like he couldn’t be bothered. He doesn’t even know when she’s around.”

“Addie said that too. I guess he’s a decent guy just a sucky boyfriend.”

“He wins the award for worst boyfriend. So far, every time I’ve been to her house, it’s something new. He leaves without telling her, hangs a note on the door like she’s a roommate and he doesn’t seem to care.”

“Addie told me that it bothers Emma a lot but she’s gotten good at hiding it.”

“She’s right. Every time I bring it up, she tells me she used to it and changes the subject.”

“What did you say to that?”

“That she shouldn’t get used to it. I wish she could see that he should make her a priority. She deserves it.”

“So do you.” Howie added without thinking.

“What’d you mean by that?” Nick asked angrily.

“You’re giving all this advice to Emma but you should listen to yourself. I hate to say this but you deserve to be someone’s priority too and right now, you’re not.”

Nick stood up and threw his napkin down onto the table. “I’m done. Thanks for lunch.”

He stormed out of the restaurant. When he got to the sidewalk, he pulled his cellphone out and called Lauren. He’d prove Howie wrong. The phone rang five times before Lauren picked up.

“Hey babe.”

“I can’t talk right now Nick. Can I call you back?”

Nick couldn’t even think of what to say. Lauren must have assumed they had a bad connection and hung up without letting him answer. He leaned against the wall of the restaurant and shoved his phone into his pocket. Howie, who had been watching the whole thing, came out a minute later.

“Want to go costume shopping?” he asked quietly.

Nick nodded and followed his best friend down the street. He hated himself for giving D a hard time and it was becoming quite apparent that he was right.

-------------------------------

Nick got back to the hotel and hung his costume in his closet. He pulled out his phone and saw the voicemail icon flashing. Good, he thought to himself. Lauren must have realized she was wrong and called to apologize. His smile faded once the message started; it was the producer calling to schedule another lunch with him. He finished listening to the message, flopped down on the bed and stared at his phone. After a few minutes, he opened up the phone and dialed what was becoming a familiar number.

--------------------------

“Hey.” Emma said opening her door.

“Hey.” Nick responded. “Thanks for letting me come by.”

“No problem. You sounded kind of down.”

“You could say that.”

He followed her down to the kitchen and realized that she had been in the middle of making dinner.

“If this is a bad time……”

Emma smiled and pointed to a chair. “Park your butt buddy. You called for a reason and you’re not getting out of it that easy.”

Nick sat in the chair she pointed at and stared at her.

“Good. Now tell me what happened.”

Nick went through the whole lunch thing, leaving out what he had said about her. He didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable knowing he and D had been discussing her.

“That’s wrong Nick. She shouldn’t be treating you like that.” Emma brought bowls and bread over to the table and then made a return trip with the soup she’d been making. “You want to be around her and she shouldn’t pass up that opportunity.”

“Thanks Em. I just wish she felt the same way.”

“It really sucks that she doesn’t understand how lucky she is. She obviously means the world to you. You should be her world in return.”

Nick didn’t say anything for a few minutes. He wanted to talk about him and Lauren but Emma’s relationship seemed so similar.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“You have issues with Jessie never being around right?”

“Yeah.”

“How come you don’t seem bothered by what he does?”

She put her spoon down and thought for a few minutes about what he said. “It’s different for me Nick. I’m used to this.”

“Why are you used to it?”

“Because I am.” Emma replied. “It doesn’t bother me anymore.”

Nick couldn’t stop what he said next.

“I don’t believe you. I think you just say that so you can keep lying to yourself.”

Emma looked into Nick’s eyes and he knew he had crossed some kind of line.

“I think you should go back to the hotel Nick.”

She stood up and walked down to the front door. He knew that there was no way to come back from what he said, so he got up and followed her. He stepped outside and turned to say something but she had already closed the door. Terrific Carter, he thought, you’ve managed to alienate everyone around you all in one day. That has to be some kind of record. He climbed into his truck and headed back to the hotel.
Some Friendly Advice by Kyrie
Addie was waiting on the front porch for Emma when she pulled into the driveway. It had been a week since her fight with Nick and Addie felt like she had to put a stop to it.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Emma answered and unlocked the front door.

Addie watched as Emma walked past her and down the hall. She heard the backdoor open and close and knew that Emma would be coming back down in a minute. Following her friend into the living room, she took a seat on the sofa and started right in.

“How come you’re avoiding me at work?”

“I’m not. I’ve just been busy.”

“Bullshit.”

Emma was surprised that Addie swore but she was even more surprised by the look on her face.

“I know all about the thing with Nick.”

“How did you….”

“Howie told me. Nick went back to the hotel that night and told Howie everything. I was kind of hoping you’d do the same but since you didn’t, I’m here.”

“Don’t worry…”

“Don’t tell me not to worry. I’m your best friend, you’re ignoring me and you’re making yourself miserable.”

“I’m not….”

Addie held up her hand. “Stop trying to deny it. Ever since that night, you’ve been moody. Maybe what Nick said was wrong but you need to stop behaving this way.”

“What if he wasn’t wrong?”

Emma whispered the question so softly that Addie had to ask her to repeat herself.

“I said what if he isn’t wrong?”

“He’s not.”

Emma looked up stunned.

“Don’t look so surprised. I’ve told you countless times that this whole thing with Jessie is a mess. I love you and you’re a terrific woman. You need to find a man who’s going to appreciate it. And unfortunately, Jessie isn’t the guy.”

“We’ve been together for six years.”

“I know. This makes it five and a half years too long.” Addie paused for a minute. “I’m sorry that this is coming out like a lecture but I think it’s come to the point where you need to do some serious thinking.”

“I have been. I just don’t have a decision.”

“Then let me suggest one for you. Leave.” Emma started to protest but Addie cut her off. “I know you care for Jessie but I know for a fact you’re not in love with him anymore. I’m not saying you don’t love him but he’s not the one you really want.”

“I don’t know what I want.”

“I know you don’t want to spend the next six years wondering if you made a mistake.”

“I understand that but what am I supposed to do about it? This is Jessie’s house, not mine. I’d have to find a new place that would allow me to keep Della and buy new furniture. It means moving and turning my whole world upside down.”

“That’s not really the problem is it?”

“Yes it is.”

“No it’s not. You can’t lie to me Em. You don’t want to admit you made a mistake and you don’t want to look like you’re giving up.”

Emma just sat there.

“See, I knew I was right. You can’t spend the rest of your life this way just so you can say that you didn’t give up. This isn’t a failure; it’s a fact of life.”

“But it is a failure. I failed.”

“No, Jessie failed. He failed at being a good boyfriend.”

“But what if it’s my fault?”

“It’s not Em. You’ve made him a priority and he hasn’t returned the favor. You can’t keep living as roommates.”

Emma stood up and walked down to the kitchen. Addie followed her; she was not going to let it go that easy.

“You can come and stay with me until you find a place.”

“I can’t do that. You and Howie are getting closer and I don’t want to get in the way.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll understand. He even said that he might rent a place here so he can record his album locally.”

“I’m happy for you.” Emma smiled and tried to change the subject. “You’re gonna love having him around more often.”

“I’m glad you’re happy for me but I’d like to be happy for you.”

Emma sighed. “I’ll think about it. That’s the best answer I can give you right now.”

“I guess I’ll have to take that for now, but this conversation isn’t over. And speaking of things not over, are you gonna talk to Nick anytime soon?”

“I kind of threw him out the other night. I don’t think he’s in a rush to talk to me.”

“That’s not true. He was upset when he talked to Howie. You guys were getting along great and he felt like he made a huge mistake by saying that to you. He’s really sorry Em. I think you need to talk to him.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“How about sorry I kicked you out?”

Emma laughed. “I guess that’s a start.”

“I’m glad to see you smile.”

“Thanks Addie. I’ll figure something out.”

“Well you’d better do it before the party since you’re both going and it’s in a couple of days.”

“He’s still going?”

“Yeah. He wants to talk to you but I told Howie I would try first. This way, if you were still mad, you could yell at me instead.”

“You’re sure he really wants to talk to me?”

“I know it for a fact. He promised Howie that he wouldn’t say anything else about the whole Jessie thing.”

“Good.”

“One more thing. He’s having a really rough time with Lauren and I think he needs all the friends he can get. You two were getting along so well and it was good for him. Howie says he’s back to moping around since the fight with you and it’s driving everyone crazy. Actually, AJ said those words in a more colorful fashion. I’m just paraphrasing.”

Emma chuckled and shook her head. “Good old AJ, always has a way with words.”

“Can I tell Nick that you’re still going to the party?”

Emma nodded. “I’ll go.”

“Good.” Addie replied and hugged her friend. “You’d better have a costume.”

“I already do.”

“Alright. Do you want to ride with us?”

“Sure.”

“Ok. I’ll call you to pick a time.”

“Ok.”

Emma walked Addie out and then went out back to spend some time with Della. Hopefully the party wouldn’t be too awkward and she and Nick could get things cleared up.
Wow! by Kyrie
“Hey Nick.”

“Hey Addie.”

“I love the costumes.”

Nick climbed into the back of the SUV. He and Howie had decided to go with the Miami Vice theme and Addie was wearing a Cher outfit.

“Thanks. Do you want me to drive?”

Howie turned around to look at him. “Are you insulting my driving?”

“No, I’m just saying that your girlfriend is wearing um, a costume, um….”

Addie laughed and turned to Howie. “He’s concerned about you getting us into an accident cuz you’re staring at me.”

Howie blushed. “Maybe you should drive Nick.”

They all traded seats and set off to pick up Emma. He hadn’t talked to her since the fight but Addie said she wasn’t mad anymore. Hopefully, the party would lighten the mood and he could apologize for getting too involved.

Nick pulled into the driveway and offered to go up to get her. Howie and Addie were too busy flirting to even know they were there. Just as he reached the porch, the front door opened and out stepped Emma. Nick was so taken aback by her costume that he couldn’t find anything to say.

Emma was dressed as Alex Owens, Jennifer Beals’ character from Flash Dance. She was wearing a long, thin sweatshirt that came off the shoulder with a leotard underneath and her hair was up, curling around her face. Nick looked down and saw legwarmers and high heels to complete the outfit. She was absolutely beautiful and he had trouble getting any words out.

Emma blushed as Nick stared. She started to climb down the stairs carefully, hoping that her heels wouldn’t send her flying. By the time she got to the bottom, Nick was able to utter a weak hello.

“Hi.” Emma responded quietly. “I’m glad you came.”

“Me too.” Nick stuttered. He had no idea why he was acting the way he was. Both he and Emma were taken and he shouldn’t be feeling this way. “Nice costume.”

“Thanks. I’m gonna be freezing by the end of the night but it was the best idea I could come up with.”

“It’s perfect.”

Emma nodded and followed Nick to the car. He opened the door and helped her in before getting back in the SUV. Pulling out, he glanced over at Emma again and still couldn’t shake what he was feeling. It was a quiet twenty minute drive to the party and Nick was grateful to hear the loud music coming from the house. He hoped Emma wouldn’t be able to hear anything embarrassing that he might say. Once inside, Emma and Addie found their host and introduced her to the two men. They excused themselves to say a few more quick hellos and Howie took the opportunity to pull Nick aside.

“You want some help with your jaw?” Howie asked with a grin.

“Huh?” Nick looked confused.

“You need to pick your jaw up off the floor and close your mouth. You’ve been staring at her since she got in the truck.”

“No I haven’t.” Nick said protesting.

“Uh, yeah you have. There’s nothing wrong with thinking she’s cute Nick.”

“Yes there is! I’m in love with Lauren.”

Howie laughed. “You’re not cheating on Lauren by thinking someone else is cute.”

“Then why does it feel that way?”

“Because you’re a good guy Nick. Ease up on yourself a little. Emma looks cute and there’s nothing wrong with admitting it to me. It’s not like you’re telling Lauren.”

Nick sighed. “She really looks beautiful.”

“See, it doesn’t have to be so bad.”

Nick watched as some of the other men in the room starting checking her out. It bothered him and he had to remind himself that he wasn’t her chaperone.

“Jessie is a moron.”

“What?” Howie asked.

“Her boyfriend. He’s a moron.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s passing up on time with her.”

Emma and Addie returned before Howie could say anything else. Addie dragged her boyfriend out onto the dance floor and left Emma and Nick standing by a window. Neither one really knew what to say to the other one so Nick decided to just come out and apologize.

“I’m sorry for the other night. I shouldn’t have said what I did.”

“And I shouldn’t have kicked you out.” Emma responded with a smile. “It was rude and I feel badly.”

“Don’t, I deserved it. I probably would have kicked me out too.”

Nick’s comment made Emma laugh and he was glad to see her happy. He was about to say something else but he heard Journey’s “Open Arms” come on and pulled Emma out to the dance floor. She stumbled a little in the high heels but Nick held her upright.

“Sorry, should have done that a little slower.”

“No problem.” Emma chuckled. “You’re the one who’d have to pick me up anyway.”

“I would.” Nick said quickly.

“I know.”

Nick wrapped one arm around Emma’s waist and took her hand in the other. They danced while Nick sang along with the lyrics. The song ended and when the new one started, Nick began to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Emma asked curiously.

“Do you recognize this song?”

Emma listened carefully for a moment and then nodded. Her eyes started to moisten and Nick was concerned because he didn’t understand.

“You don’t like Rick Springfield?”

“No I do. And I love the song.”

Jessie’s Girl had always been a joke between Emma and her boyfriend. He used to tell her that he wasn’t going to let anyone pull a Rick Springfield on him and steal her. It hit her right then that he hadn’t made a comment like that in years. The sad part was she didn’t really feel that bad about it.

“We can stop dancing if you want.”

“No, don’t be silly. It’s fine.”

They danced for another few songs and then Emma suggested they head out to the deck. It was getting crowded and she wanted to get some air. By the time they made their way to the porch, they were the only ones out there. The wind had gotten much stronger and it made Emma shiver so she wrapped her arms around herself as she looked out over the yard. Nick watched her shiver and slipped his coat off. He gently draped it over her shoulders and leaned onto the railing.

“It’s beautiful out huh?” he asked as she pulled his jacket tighter.

“It is.”

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yeah, just caught off guard by the song that’s all.”

“I didn’t mean to make a joke of it.”

Emma laughed. “Actually the whole thing was kind of a joke. Jessie used to tell everyone that I was Jessie’s Girl and made a huge deal about it. I started to think about it when I heard the song.” Her eyes turned sad. “He hasn’t made that joke in a long time.”

“I’m sorry Em.”

“Don’t be. You didn’t do anything.”

“I know but it doesn’t make it better. He should want to be here with you tonight and not somewhere else.”

As soon as he said those words, he regretted it. He had just told her he would stay out of it and here he was, running his big mouth. Expecting her to get mad, he turned away and didn’t say anything else. Emma surprised him by agreeing.

“I know. I’ve known it for a long time. I guess you’re right and I just keep saying it’s ok so that I believe myself.”

Nick draped his arm around her shoulders and kissed her on the top of her head. “He doesn’t know what he’s missing.”

“Maybe.” Emma whispered quietly. “Or maybe he just doesn’t care anymore.”

“Then he’s a moron.”

“You sound like Addie.”

“Ever think Addie’s right?”

“I’m starting to.”

Nick’s jacket started to vibrate before he could say anything else. He slipped his cellphone out of the pocket and saw Lauren’s picture flashing on the front. Emma saw the caller id and handed Nick back his jacket. She motioned that she would be inside and he waited till she was out of earshot to answer the phone.

“Hey Lauren.”

“Hey.”

“How’s work going?”

“Ok. I told them I needed to take a few days off and I was hoping that you might be able to fly back home. We can spend time together like you wanted.”

“When are you gonna be back?” Nick asked excitedly, his conversation with Emma fading to the background.

“Tomorrow. Can you get a flight home?”

“I’ll call right now.” Nick said with a grin. “Thank you.”

“I love you Nicky.”

“I love you too Laur.”

“See you tomorrow.”

Lauren disconnected the call and Nick dialed the airline quickly. He made arrangements for a flight the next morning. When he finished the call, he turned to head back in and saw Emma talking to someone in the doorway. Suddenly he wasn’t as excited about that flight anymore.
What?!? by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
A big thank you to everyone who has been reading and reviewing: Sapphire, Jordanslady, Rosalie, Hazel_85, Rainbowbrite006, Ajsgirl4life, Tweetersweet, Nijntje and BeastieBarb. Your reviews, thoughts and comments are much appreciated and I hope you guys are still liking the story!
Nick pulled into Emma’s driveway and offered to walk her up to the house. Howie and Addie were still at the party and were going to catch a ride with another friend.

“Do you want to come in for some coffee?” Emma asked as she unlocked the door.

“I can’t tonight. I’m sorry.”

“Maybe we can do something on Sunday.”

“Actually I won’t be here on Sunday.”

Emma looked up at Nick with surprise but didn’t say anything.

“Lauren is coming home tomorrow and she asked if I could meet her there.”

“I’m glad she got some time off.”

“I know and I had to take it. If I didn’t……………”

Emma put her hand on his arm. “You don’t have to explain it to me. I get it.”

She removed her hand and stepped through the doorway.

“Be careful and have a safe flight.”

“I will. Maybe I can take a rain check on the coffee?”

“Sure.” she responded with a smile. “Have fun.”

Emma quietly closed the door and Nick headed back to the car. He knew he should be excited that he was getting some time alone with Lauren after so many months apart. The only problem was that he wasn’t sure how he felt.

------------------------------

Emma showed up at Addie’s house early the next morning. So much had happened last night and she had to talk to someone.

“Hey.” Addie said rubbing her eyes. “Didn’t someone tell you it was Sunday?”

Addie had meant it as a joke but as soon as she saw her friend’s face, she knew this was not the time to be funny. She ushered her into the living room and made them both some coffee. Emma didn’t even wait for her to sit before jumping right in.

“I did it.” Emma started to cry. “Actually he did it but it doesn’t matter anymore.”

“Whoa, slow down. Who did what?”

“Jessie.”

“Jessie did what?”

“He broke up with me.”

Addie just sat back on the couch and stared at her friend. She knew that the time was going to come at some point but she was shocked that Jessie had initiated it.

“Did he say why?”

“His new girlfriend did.”

“EXCUSE ME?” Addie yelled. “His who did what?”

Howie was just coming downstairs when he heard all the commotion. He walked into the living room and found Emma on the couch crying and Addie pacing back and forth in front of the TV looking like she was going to murder someone.

“What’s going on?” he asked as he sat down next to Emma and put his arm around her.

“Her loser boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend, had his new girlfriend break up with Em.”

Howie’s eyes got huge. “Seriously?”

Emma nodded. “Kind of. I got home early last night because Nick had an early flight….”

“Wait, where’d Nick go?”

“Who cares about Nick? Let her finish!” Addie snapped.

“Sorry Em.”

“It’s ok. I got home and found them down in the basement playing video games when I went to do laundry. He wasn’t expecting me and he didn’t look very sorry.”

“What did he say?”

“That he was tired of living with a roommate and he wanted a girlfriend.”

“I’m gonna go over there and kick the crap out of him!” Addie screamed.

Howie got up and grabbed ahold of his girlfriend. “I don’t think this is helping her.” he whispered into her ear.

Addie looked over and knew he was right. Emma was still crying and looked like she hadn’t slept in a month. She took a deep breath and sat back down next to her.

“That’s ridiculous Emma. You’ve been trying to be a girlfriend to him for years and he kept pushing you away.”

“Well he’s not pushing her away.”

“I’d like to push them both over a cliff.” Addie mumbled.

Emma laughed in spite of the situation. “I don’t know what to do Addie.”

“You’re gonna move on. You’ve wasted enough time on that dumbass and it’s time to move on. We’ll go pack all your stuff and get you and Della out of there ASAP.”

“Where am I gonna go?”

“Here.” Howie replied.

“But I don’t want to intrude on you guys.”

“You’re not.” Howie said sitting on the coffee table in front of her. “Addie is your best friend, you’re family. I would do the same for any of the guys.”

“I really don’t…………”

“I don’t want to hear it. Addie’s right. I want you to go home and pack up your stuff. Addie and I will meet you there soon and we’ll take care of it.”

Emma stood up and hugged Howie tightly. “Thank you.”

“Why are you thanking me? I get to stay with two beautiful women now!”

Howie winked and tried to avoid Addie’s elbow.

“Funny Dorough.”

Howie pulled Addie in and kissed her on the cheek. “Let me get ready and we’ll leave.”

Addie nodded and walked her friend to the door. “It’s gonna be ok Em. I promise.”

“I hope you’re right.” she replied sadly. “I really do.”

So do I, Addie thought to herself as she watched her friend leave.
Help Is On The Way! by Kyrie
“You’re kidding me right? Tell me you’re joking.”

“No, I’m not Nick. I have to take care of this stuff.”

Nick had been home for four days and barely spent a minute with Lauren. She was staying at the house but she was always working and now she was calling to tell him that she had to catch a flight to check out another location.

“You need to take care of us! I flew out here the morning after you called. Hell, I would have flown out that night if I could have!”

“No one asked you to!”

“Actually you did!” Nick laughed. “I dropped everything to come back out here to see you.”

“What everything did you have out there? Playing video games with Howie? How pressing was that?”

Nick was pissed. He couldn’t believe that Lauren was talking to him like a child, like he has no other things going for him in life.

“No, actually I made some friends and was working on my solo album.”

“So go back and do that!” Lauren snapped. “I don’t want to have this argument anymore. You have two choices. Stay out here and wait for me or go back out with your new friends.”

Nick was about to reply when she hung up. He closed his phone and then threw it against the wall. Watching it break into pieces reminded him of how his life was coming apart. There was this life with Lauren which he didn’t know if it was a life with her anymore. Then there was his life with the guys. The tour ended and all his brothers scattered to be with their families. Howie was the only one he was really getting to bond with and now flying out here interrupted all of that.

Nick grabbed his house phone and dialed Howie’s number. It rang five times and Howie picked up just ask Nick was about to hang up.

“Hey brother.” Howie said.

“Hey D. Are you busy?”

“A little.”

Howie didn’t know what to tell Nick. He knew his brother left for Lauren and he wasn’t sure if he should tell him about Emma.

“Oh ok. I can call you back.” Nick replied sadly.

“No, it’s ok. Talk to me.”

“Lauren called me the other night and promised me that we would have a week together, just us. Then she’s barely here and calls me today to tell me she’s flying out to meet another sponsor.”

Howie shook his head. He knew that Nick loved Lauren and deep down, Lauren probably loved him back. The problem was that neither was happy and the cracks in their relationship were starting to show.

“Are you gonna stay out there in case she comes back?”

Nick sighed. “I don’t know. I love her but I can’t deal with this crap right now.”

“So why don’t you fly back out here?”

“I was thinking about it.”

“When?”

“I think I can get a fly tomorrow.”

Howie laughed. “Already checked it out huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Well good, book the ticket. Then you can help me move all of Emma’s stuff to storage.”

Nick’s head snapped up. Emma was moving?

“Where’s she going?”

“Addie’s apartment for now.”

“Why?”

Howie paused. It wasn’t his place to tell Nick about Jessie and his new girlfriend.

“Um, she needed to leave.”

“Why Howie?” Nick said growing concerned. “What happened?”

“Jessie cheated on her.”

“Asshole!” Nick swore loudly. “I told you he was a moron. What did he find a new video game?”

“Actually, he found a new girlfriend.”

“WHAT?”

“I guess Emma found them in the house the night you dropped her off from the party.”

Nick felt sick. She had asked him to come in for coffee and he turned her down. If he had only gone in.

“I know what you’re thinking.” Howie said as though he was reading Nick’s mind. “Nothing would have changed. She would have still found them and she would have been more embarrassed because someone else was there.”

“I know. I just feel like I could have helped her.”

“You couldn’t then but you could now. She’s gonna need all the friends she can find. It’s been hard on her and it’s really showing. I don’t think I’ve seen her smile in the last few days.”

Nick hadn’t known Emma very long but it seemed like she was always smiling. It was hard to imagine the kind of pain she was in that would cause that smile to disappear.

“I’m booking my ticket now and I’ll be there in the morning.”
Hello Nick! by Kyrie
Emma and Addie were packing the last few things she had left at Jessie’s. Howie went to pick up the moving truck and they wanted everything to be ready when he got back.

“It was nice of the jackass to leave for a few days.”

“Don’t start that again Addie. We all know he’s a jerk. I just wanna move and be done with everything.”

Emma taped the final box and sat down on the floor. Addie sighed, sat down next to her and draped her arm around her shoulder.

“I’m sorry Em. You’re my best friend and I get defensive. I don’t like you getting hurt.”

“I know you don’t but it happened. I should have seen it coming.”

“What coming?”

“Him and I going our separate ways. It was going to happen eventually.”

Addie was interrupted by the honking of a horn. The girls got up and walked out to the truck. Emma was just about to open the back when she saw the passenger side door open.

“What are you doing here?” she exclaimed.

Nick smiled and walked over to her with a coffee.

“Your favorite and I’m here to help you move. I wasn’t gonna let Howie sweep in and save the day by himself.”

“But Lauren….”

“Don’t worry about it.” Nick said and pulled her into a hug. “Let’s get you moved.”

---------------------------------

It was a few hours later when Emma finally locked her storage unit and walked back out to the truck. She couldn’t believe that her life had come down to living in her best friend’s spare room and having most of her stuff locked in storage. The whole situation was more than she could handle and the tears were threatening to fall.

They all drove back to Addie’s in silence. The two girls went up to the house and Nick was going to follow Howie and drop the truck off at the rental place.

“Thank you for all you’re doing for me Addie.” Emma said, hugging her best friend. “I really don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“It’s ok Em. You would do the same for me.”

Addie hating seeing her best friend hurting and it seemed to have gotten worse since they moved all of her things out.

“I think I’m gonna take a shower.”

“Want me to make you some tea?”

“No but thank you. You need to get ready too. Aren’t you and Howie going out tonight?”

“We were but we can stay here with you.”

“Absolutely not.” Emma said quietly. “I don’t want to disrupt your life or your plans. I’m already in the way enough.”

“You are never in the way!”

“I am though. I appreciate you letting me stay but you need to do whatever you need to do. I’ll order some takeout and watch a movie or something.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“You sure you don’t want tea?”

“No and I think you should shower first. That way you can be ready when Howie comes back.”

Addie agreed and left Emma alone in the living room. She curled into a ball on the sofa and waited for Addie to come out.

----------------------

“I’m not sure we should leave her alone tonight.”

Howie had just gotten back with Nick and found Addie waiting for him in the living room.

“How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad. I can hear her crying in the shower. I just want to go kick Jessie’s ass.”

Nick felt awful for Emma. She was an amazing woman and had given Jessie all she had. He decided to pay her back by finding a new girlfriend and kicking her out of the house.

“We can stay if you want to.”

“I just feel horrible. She doesn’t even have Della here.”

Emma had decided to board Della overnight so that they could move without having to worry that she would get loose.

“Ok. We’ll cancel the reservation and stay in.”

“You don’t mind?”

“No, I just have to…………”

“No.” Nick said, stopping him. “I can stay here with Emma. You guys go enjoy your night and I’ll keep her company.”

“You don’t have anything else to do?” Addie asked cautiously. She didn’t want Lauren calling at some point and Nick running off to deal with her.

“Nothing. I promise that the only thing on the agenda for tonight is keeping Em company.”

“Ok, but……..”

The conversation was cut short because they could hear Emma coming downstairs.
Keep Me Company by Kyrie
“Sorry I took so long Howie. I hope I’m not making you guys late.”

“Not at all.” Howie said with a smile. “I’ll go take a quick one and we’ll head out.”

Addie left to finish getting ready and Emma walked over to the door.

“Thanks for helping me Nick. You didn’t have to and I appreciate it.”

“Anytime.” He paused. “Why are you waiting at the door?”

Emma blushed. “I thought you were leaving.”

“Geez! You tried kicking me out of your house once and now you’re kicking me out of Addie’s too? I’m gonna get a complex!”

Nick felt awful the second he finished his sentence. Emma’s eyes had filled with tears and she walked away into the living room. Sitting down on the couch, she pulled a pillow over to her and hung on to it for dear life.

“I’m sorry Em.” Nick said sitting down next to her. “I shouldn’t be teasing you right now.”

“It’s ok.” Emma wiped at her tears. “I shouldn’t be taking things so seriously.”

“You have every right to. What Jessie did to you was awful and you should be pissed.”

“I know but I can’t keep being so depressed. I don’t want to stay like this.”

“You won’t. It’ll pass but you need time to deal with everything.”

“I’ll get some quiet time tonight and maybe that’ll help.”

“Actually, I was kind of hoping you’d let me hang out with you.”

“You don’t need to babysit me Nick.”

“I’m not babysitting you. I’m all by myself with no plans. In fact, I may be the one that needs a babysitter! You have no idea how much trouble I can get into when left alone.”

Emma laughed softly and couldn’t help but smile a little.

“There it is!” Nick exclaimed. “I’ve been waiting all day to see it!”

“You’re a brat Carter.”

“That’s why you like me.” Nick smiled and draped his arm around her shoulder. “I was thinking that maybe we could order in Chinese and find a movie to watch.”

“That sounds good.” Emma said with a smile.

Without thinking, she settled her head onto Nick’s shoulder. When she finally realized what she had done, she jerked into a sitting position and scooted away from Nick.

“I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Relax Emma. There is nothing wrong with putting your head on my shoulder.”

“I know but…”

“No buts.”

Nick gently pulled her over to him and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. She hesitated and then decided it was ok to put her head onto his shoulder.

“See? It’s ok. No harm done.”

Emma nodded but didn’t say anything.

“You better not be this quiet all night. Otherwise I’m going to have to find some way of torturing you just to amuse myself.”

Emma looked up at him. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would.” Nick said and started to tickle her side. “Are you gonna be quiet all night?”

Emma started to laugh and fight his hands. She was laughing so hard that tears were pouring down her face. Nick was easing up so she could catch her breath. Addie and Howie came into the room and saw the two of them there. Neither one would admit it, but it was nice to see both of their friends happy for a change. They needed, and deserved, it.

“Alright children!” Howie yelled causing them to jump apart. “Do we need to hire a babysitter or can you two behave yourselves.”

“We’ll behave Dad!” Nick teased. “You and Addie can leave now. I promise there will be nothing out of place when you come back.”

“I hope everything’s still in one piece, forget out of place.” Addie replied.

Emma stuck her tongue out at her friend and it caused Addie to smile. She wanted to see her friend happy and in that moment, she was. Nick seemed to bring out a happier side of her and Addie would always be grateful for that.

“You two behave!” Howie said and wagged his finger at them. “I mean it.”

Howie dodged the pillow Nick had threw at him and pulled Addie away. Nick leaned back onto the couch and picked up the phone.

“Know any good takeout places?”

---------------------------------

“Want to watch another one?”

Emma groaned. “Really? We’ve already watched three.”

“Three schmee.” Nick said with a grin. “It’s only eleven. I’ll even let you pick this one.”

“Oh wow, thanks. Such a gentleman.”

“Hey, I’m always a gentleman!”

“I know.” Emma said walking over to the DVD rack. “We’re watching this one.”

Nick took the movie out of her hands and grumbled. “Seriously? Do I have to?”

“Yes.” Emma said sternly. “You told me I could pick this one.”

Nick groaned and stretched out on the sofa. “I’m gonna need popcorn for this one.”

“I’m on it.”

Emma left to go make the popcorn and Nick got up and switched the DVDs. He wasn’t thrilled about sitting through the last Harry Potter but if it made Emma happy, he’d suck it up. He turned the lights off and lay back down on the couch.

Emma came in a few minutes later and pushed his feet off the sofa.

“Hey, I was comfortable!” he protested.

“I need somewhere to sit.”

Nick waited for her to sit down and then laid his legs on her lap. “See, now we’re both comfortable.”

Emma just shook her head and pressed play. They made it about halfway through the movie before they were both sound asleep on the couch. Howie and Addie found them in those positions when they came home an hour later.
The couple hated to wake their friends but they looked a little uncomfortable.

“What time is it?” Nick asked as he was waking up.

“It’s about one.”

“In the morning?” Emma asked.

“Yes in the morning.” Addie chuckled. “You need to go to bed.”

Nick stretched and stood up. He reached out his hand and helped Emma to her feet. She stretched her arms and picked up the popcorn bowl.

“Guess I should head back to the hotel.” Nick said sleepily.

“I don’t think so.”

Everyone turned to look at Emma who was standing in the doorway.

“It’s way too late and you’re too tired. You shouldn’t be driving this late.”

Addie nodded. “I agree with Em. It’s too late. You can stay here tonight.”

“Um, where am I gonna sleep?”

“There’s a pull out sofa in the third bedroom. I use it as an office but I always like to have extra sleeping space.”

Nick shrugged his shoulders. “Sounds like a plan to me.”

The four of them made their way to their respective rooms and within the next few minutes, they were all sound asleep.
The House by Kyrie
“Nick? Nick? Wake up sleepyhead.”

Nick opened his eyes slowly and found Emma standing sitting on the bed next to him, gently shaking his arm.

“Hey.” he replied with a yawn. “What time is it?”

“About ten.”

“Damn, we slept late.”

Emma smiled and stood up. “I wanted to wake you before I left.”

“Where are you going?” Nick asked. He was surprised by the anxiety in his voice.

“I’m going to pick up Della.”

“Can you wait a few minutes? I’ll get changed and come with you.”

“You don’t have to do that. I’m pretty sure I can handle her on my own.”

“No, I want to.”

Emma smiled and walked over to the door. “Five minutes buddy.”

Nick nodded and jumped out of bed when she left. He threw on his clothes and raced downstairs.

“Wow!” Emma exclaimed. “I think that was a record.”

“Well I thought you’d be in a rush to pick up Della.”

“I am but I don’t want you to break something.” Emma said with a laugh. “I would have waited the full five minutes you know.”

“That’s awful nice of you!”

Nick followed Emma to the car and the two chatted on the way to the kennel. Emma seemed to be in better spirits than the night before and Nick was able to make her laugh a few times. They decided to drive down to the Cape and let Della have some run around time before they headed back to Addie’s. Emma had just opened the door to release Della and before she could stop her, the dog was jumping all over Nick.

“Calm down girl!” Nick yelped. “I know you missed me but it’s only been a couple of days!”

Emma laughed and attached Della’s leash to her collar. She handed it over to Nick and started down the same path they had taken when they first came.

“I love this place.” Emma said quietly after a few minutes. “It’s so peaceful.”

The weather had gotten much cooler and the two of them seemed to be the only ones on the trail today. Nick didn’t mind and it seemed to help Emma relax.

“I can tell by the look on your face. You look much calmer, more comfortable.”

“I am. I’ve always liked being outside when it’s cooler and the being around water seems to do something for me. Kind of eases my mind.”

“How come you live in the city then?”

“It’s too expensive to live down here. I could never afford it on a teacher’s salary.”

“But you’d love to.”

Emma nodded.

“You need to start doing things that you’d like not just stuff for everyone else.”

“I know. Maybe if I got a raise or something.”

“How long are you gonna be at Addie’s?” Nick asked, changing the subject slightly.

“I don’t know. I don’t want to stay and intrude on her and Howie. The problem is, I can’t afford a house by myself and there are very few decent apartments that will allow me to keep Della. There is no way I am giving her up.”

“Absolutely not. You two are a package deal!” Nick said with a smile. “You can’t have one without the other.”

“I like that.” Emma laughed. “A package deal.”

“Thought you would.”

Emma started to shiver and wrapped her arm around herself. Nick noticed and draped his arm over her shoulder. He pulled her into his side tightly and kept walking. She was cold but she didn’t want anyone to see them and get the wrong idea. Nick stopped when she tried to pull away.

“Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“No.” Emma said quietly. “I just don’t know who’s out here. What if someone takes your picture and you have your arm wrapped around me? I don’t think Lauren would appreciate it.”

Nick was touched that she was looking out for him. He decided that they should head back to Addie’s before Emma got any colder.

“Sorry for cutting our trip short.” Emma said.

“Don’t be. I didn’t realize it would be this cold out here.”

They got Della settled on a blanket in the backseat and started the drive back to the house. Nick took the scenic route and went down by the water. He wanted to see the houses that Emma was talking about. After driving a few minutes, Emma’s face lit up.

“I love this house. I’ve always loved it.”

She pointed to a house that sat off from the street somewhat. It was a medium sized craftsman home that had a beautiful porch that wound around to the side of the house. Nick could tell that the walkway led down to the beach because he could see the waves crashing behind it. The front yard was beautifully maintained and it had a two car garage off to the side. It was painted a light blue with white trim and there was white wicker furniture on the porch. Even though they weren’t able to see the inside, Nick could tell that Emma loved it.

“It’s for sale.” Nick said and pointed at the sign on the lawn.

Emma laughed loudly. “Just because I love it doesn’t mean I can afford it.”

“Don’t you even want to ask?”

“I can’t afford it Nick but thank you for stopping so I could see it.” Emma said sadly. “Let’s just head back to Addie’s. They’re probably waiting for us.”

Emma turned her head away from the window and curled up further into the seat. Her body language told him that there was no point in continuing to talk about it so he pulled away from the curb and started driving again.

------------------------------

Nick dropped Emma off and headed back to the hotel. The four of them had made plans for dinner and he wanted to shower and change before they went out. He had just stepped out of the bathroom when he noticed the message light blinking on the phone. Picking it up, he dialed into the voicemail service and made himself a silent reminder to buy a new cell phone. There was one message and he tensed listening to it.

“Hi Nick, its Lauren. I tried calling your cell but it seems to be out of service. I called Howie and he said that you flew back out east. I’m sorry that you were aggravated when I talked to you last time.”

Aggravated? He was pissed.

“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be gone for the next two months. I thought I should tell you in case you were thinking about staying out there.”

Geez, thanks for giving me permission Lauren, he thought.

“I’ll be out of the country but I’ll try to call you as often as I can.”

She’ll try to call me? Nick was getting more aggravated the longer he listened.

“I love you Nick but you need to start understanding how I feel. I’ll call you soon. Love you.”

If the phone didn’t belong to the hotel, he would have picked it up and thrown it across the room. He loved Lauren but this was bullshit. Their relationship was a top priority for him but he wasn’t gonna sit around and wait for Lauren to call him.

He hung up and started to dial Howie’s number. Before he hit the last digit, he thought better of it and hung up. What was the point of canceling dinner? There was nothing to do here except for sitting around and be pissed all night. At least if he went out with everyone, he could forget about it for a little while.
Great Ideas by Kyrie
Nick just in time and they were waiting for him. It was a long drive to the restaurant and once they got settled and ordered drinks, Emma and Addie excused themselves to go to the ladies room. Once they were out of earshot, Howie turned to his younger brother.

“What’s up?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re upset.”

“No, I’m not. I’m fine.”

“Liar. We’ve know each other way to long to play that game. What’s going on?”

Nick sighed and told him all about the message Lauren left for him. Howie wanted to say so many things but he let Nick finish before saying anything.

“That’s just wrong Nick. You’re her boyfriend not a pet she can keep on a leash.”

“I know.”

“Well what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I like being out here with you but I don’t want to keep sleeping in hotel rooms.”

Howie had just opened his mouth when Nick cut him off.

“And don’t offer to have me stay with you. Emma is already staying with you and as much as I appreciated the sofa bed last night, I don’t want to sleep there for the next few months.”

“Does that mean you’re flying back home.” Howie asked with a sad tone. “I was kind of enjoying hanging out with you.”

“Thanks a lot. Kind of enjoying it?”

“Jackass. You know what I mean. We always seem to be in different places and I know you’re close to Bri. It’s been nice to bond a little.”

“I agree.” Nick replied. “The only problem is finding a place to stay.”

“Emma’s looking for a place. Maybe you can share a place for a while.” Howie suggested without thinking.

Nick choked on some water. “Oh yeah, Lauren would love that.”

“No offense but does she even care? She seems to be doing her own thing. Why can’t you?”

“I can with the exception of living with another woman.”

“It’s not like you and Emma are dating. Plus, we’re going to be traveling to work with some of the songwriters that producer suggested. You’re not going to be there every second of the day. Besides, you both could use the company.”

“But she’s a woman.”

“No shit Nick. I figured that out by myself. There is nothing wrong with two friends living together.”

Nick just shook his head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Howie was interrupted by his phone vibrating. He opened it up and looked at the text. AJ had sent him some message that had a file attached. Nick noticed out of the corner of his eye that the message was labeled “Lauren”.

“Let me see that!”

Nick grabbed Howie’s phone and opened the attachment. There was a picture of Lauren laughing with some other people at a party. She was looking at someone’s phone and Nick noticed a man standing next to her. Lauren had her arm linked with his. Howie saw the picture and snatched his phone back.

“I’m sure it’s nothing Nick. I think that guy is one of the sponsors.”

Nick wanted to be mad at the guy but he was furious with Lauren. How could she let some other guy do that? As soon as that thought hit him, he was reminded of this afternoon with Emma. She had pulled away from his arm because she didn’t want it to come across like there was something going on. Nick realized he couldn’t be mad at Lauren for doing the same thing he did.

Howie’s phone buzzed again and he found another text from AJ. He couldn’t really hide this one since Nick was already staring over his shoulder. A new picture popped up showing Lauren sitting with the same guy and some other people. She had her hand on his leg and her head nestled on his shoulder. He was whispering in her ear and she was smiling. One more suddenly popped up and this one showed the man leaning in towards Lauren.

Nick had been ready to forget the first picture because he had done something similar. However, this one pushed him over the edge. What the hell was Lauren doing?

“Maybe there’s a simple explanation for this Nick.”

“Why is he leaning in to her? Is he gonna kiss her?”

“Maybe he kissed her on the cheek.”

Even if he did, these pictures felt like a kick to Nick’s gut. How could Lauren not realize that there were photographers everywhere? These pictures were gonna wind up on the internet site of some celebrity trash magazine. The rumors would start next and then the phone calls from people asking if he and Lauren were having problems. Why didn’t she ever take his feelings into consideration?

“Don’t sweat this Nick.” Howie said reading his mind. “You don’t have to explain it to anyone.”

“I wouldn’t even know how to.” he answered quietly. “I don’t even know what’s going on.”

Howie was about to say something but he was interrupted by the women returning. Emma and Addie noticed right away that something was wrong and they could tell it was about Nick. They watched as he placed his napkin on the table and walked out of the restaurant.

“What’s going on?” Emma asked. “Why is he so upset?”

Howie pulled out his phone and showed them the pictures. It didn’t matter that they saw them since everyone in the country was going to see them in the morning.

“That’s awful.” Emma responded. “How could she do that to him?”

“She probably didn’t mean to….”

“C’mon Howie. You guys have the media around you all the time and she didn’t think someone would catch this?” Addie asked.

“I guess she didn’t think.”

“Or care.” Emma replied.

She stood up and put her napkin on her chair. Following the route Nick had taken, she found him sitting in the SUV with the driver’s side window rolled down. He looked like he was having a fight with himself so she walked up to the door and placed a hand on his arm.

“I’m sorry Nick.”

Her voice caught his attention and he turned to face her. He wasn’t crying but his eyes were filled with tears. Emma wiped the ones that spilled out onto his cheek.

“I’m sorry you’re hurting. I wish there was something I could do for you.”

“Can you give me a few minutes alone? I’ll come in soon.”

Emma nodded and headed back to the restaurant. It hit him that this woman, who he had barely known for a month, cared more about his feelings than the woman he had been in love with for the last three years. Maybe Howie was right. Since both he and Emma were looking for some place to stay, they might as well have some company.

He climbed out of the truck and headed back to the table.

“Hey Em? I have an idea.”
No Way Nick! by Kyrie
Dinner got pretty quiet after Nick had suggested he and Emma try to find some place where they could both stay. Howie was surprised Nick was taking his advice, Addie was hoping her friend would say yes and Emma was completely uncomfortable. The ride home was even quieter and when they arrived, Howie and Addie took off for the house and left their friends in the truck.

Nick and Emma sat in silence for a few minutes and then Emma turned to look at him.

“Are you crazy?”

“Huh?”

“Are you nuts?”

“Maybe.”

“We cannot live together Nick.”

“You don’t have to call it that. We’re just living in the same place.”

“Oh yeah, cuz there’s really a difference. Can you imagine the fallout if someone realized where you were staying and posted that you were living with a woman? Lauren would be heartbroken.”

“She’d have to deal with it. It’s not like she cares about my feelings.”

“So that’s what this is.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Did you suggest moving into the same house because it made sense like you said or because you want to get back at Lauren for hurting you?”

“Maybe it started like that, but the more I think about it, the idea makes sense.”

“No part of this makes sense Nick.”

“Yes it does. You need somewhere to stay, a place of your own. You can’t stay with Addie forever.”

“I know, that’s why I am already looking.”

“And how is that going?”

Emma stayed silent and Nick nodded.

“See. You told me this morning that you needed a house so you could keep Della but you couldn’t afford one on your own. This is the solution.”

“This is not a solution Nick, it’s a scandal waiting to happen.”

“No it’s not. Besides, I am going to be travelling with Howie for work. I wouldn’t even be there all the time.”

“But you’d be there at some point.”

“Yeah but not all the time.”

“It doesn’t matter Nick. Some of the time is just as bad as all the time in this case.”

“Think about it Emma. This is really the only good solution.”

“Uh-uh. This is a mess not a solution. I can’t live with you. I’ll find something.”

“No you won’t.”

“Excuse me?” asked a stunned Emma.

“You’re not going to find the perfect place without me.”

“I don’t need a “perfect place” Nick. I just need a place.”

“I can get us the place you really want.”

“You’re kidding me right? Are you seriously trying to make me say yes by promising me what you know I want but can’t have? That’s low Nick.”

Nick sighed. “I’m sorry Em. I don’t mean it that way. I know you love that house and we both need some place to stay. You want to keep Della and I don’t feel like being by myself all the time. That house is the solution to both of our problems.”

Emma leaned her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes. She knew that logistically Nick had a point. It would solve both their problems. However there were some major issues with that solution. There was no way she could afford to live there and she did not want to be the cause of more problems between Nick and Lauren.

“No Nick.” Emma finally said after a few minutes. “I can’t afford to stay there and I am not going to get in the middle of you and Lauren. I’ll find somewhere else to stay.”

She climbed out of the truck and walked up to the house. Nick was tempted to follow her and plead his case but he didn’t. Maybe if he gave her some time to think about it, she’d change her mind.
Not Again! by Kyrie
“So what was that all about?” Addie asked.

Emma groaned and sank onto the sofa. “Where’s Howie?”

“Upstairs. I asked him to give me some time to talk to you.”

“I don’t need to talk Addie. I just need to let Della out and go to bed.”

“I already did that. She’s upstairs watching TV with Howie.”

There goes my way out of this little chat, Emma thought to herself.

“We’re gonna have this conversation whether you want to or not.”

“There’s nothing to discuss. I already told Nick that it was a bad idea and I’ve made my decision. Living with him is not gonna happen.”

“Why?”

“Why? Why? Are you as thickheaded as he is?”

“Hey, no need to insult me. Or Nick for that matter. Neither one of us is thickheaded.” Addie paused for a minute. “In fact, I think you’re the one being stupid.”

“Me?” Emma yelped and turned to face her friend. “I’m being stupid?”

“Yes and stubborn and inflexible. You know that you need what he’s offering.”

“I don’t need anything he’s offering.”

“Yes you do. You need to have your own place. I would let you stay here forever but I know you won’t be happy that way.”

Addie was right about that. Emma appreciated the support her friend was giving her but she didn’t want to keep living confined to one room and have all her stuff stuck in a storage locker.

“And you know you’re not gonna be able to find a decent place that’s gonna let you keep Della.”

Addie was right about that to. Emma would never give up Della, even if that meant she would have to live in her car. That dog was her baby and there was no way they weren’t going to stay together.

“I can see your mind racing. You know I’m right.”

Emma groaned. “Maybe about those things but not about everything. I can’t afford my half of the rent or any of the bills.”

“Talk to him about it. Maybe there is…..”

“No.” Emma responded firmly. “There is no solution for that. I’m not getting a raise anytime soon nor am I going to win the lottery.”

“So that’s your only reason?”

“No. There’s the fact that I do not want to get involved in Nick and Lauren’s relationship.”

“You’re only going to be living there…”

“Yes, living with a guy who already has a girlfriend. One who will probably kick my ass when she hears I’m living with her boyfriend. If Nick thinks they have problems now, this definitely won’t help any.”

“Lauren is not your problem Emma, she’s Nick’s. You’re not dating him, you’re just living there.”

“Again, I can’t afford it. I’m not gonna sit there and let Nick pay for everything. That would make me the biggest kind of leach. A leach he hasn’t even known very long!”

“Nick is offering, you’re not leaching.”

“No. No, no, no, no.”

“Why do you have to be so goddamn stubborn Emma?” Addie yelled harshly.

“Why are you being so pushy?” Emma yelled back.

Howie heard all the shouting and came downstairs. “What’s going on?”

“She’s being ridiculous!”

Both women shouted the same thing at the same time and Howie grinned. “What are both of you being ridiculous about?”

Addie jumped in first. “Emma won’t move in with Nick even though it makes sense!”

“And Addie won’t mind her business. This plan makes no sense.”

As much as Howie cared for his girlfriend, this whole conversation was going nowhere fast. He pulled her into the hallway and asked if he could speak to Emma alone.

“Maybe I can convince her.”

“Whatever.” Addie said frustrated. “Let me know how it works out for you.”

Howie waited until Addie was upstairs and then returned to the living room.

“Where’d Addie go?”

“Upstairs. I want to talk to you in private.”

“Please tell me you’re not gonna start too.”

“I just want you to listen. Will you do that?”

Emma nodded just to humor him. She had already made up her mind and he wasn’t going to change it.

“I heard all the reasons you gave Addie for not living with Nick. I get what you’re saying but I want to give you some reasons you should.”

“Howie…”

“You said you’d listen.”

“Ok.” Emma sighed.

“I know that you’re concerned about paying for things and about how things would look to Lauren. You need to understand, though, Nick is a big boy. Don’t make decisions for him; let him do it for himself.”

“But what if his decision is a mistake?”

“He doesn’t seem to think it is if he asked you. Let him deal with Lauren. You’re looking for a place to stay and so is he. It works for both of you.”

“I can’t pay that much rent Howie.”

“So let him pay the rent……”

“I can’t do that!”

“I wasn’t finished. Let him pay the rent and you pick up some of the other stuff. We’ve all gone through times where we have to lean on others for help.”

“But I’m taking advantage of him.”

Howie smiled. “No you’re not. Do you know how many people have stuck out their hands for Nick’s money? He’d give anyone the shirt off his back and they know it. People have lived with him and paid nothing. I appreciate that you’re concerned about it but you’d be paying whatever you can. Plus you’d have to put up with all his crap being all over the house.”

Emma chuckled. “That bad huh?”

“Worse.”

“I still don’t like getting in the middle of Nick’s relationship with Lauren.”

“You’re not. You two aren’t dating, you’re just living in the same place. Think about it. If you found a place and Nick decided to stay out here for a while, would you two still hang out?”

“Of course. I like being around him.”

“Wouldn’t that mean spending time at each other’s places?”

“Yeah but…”

“No buts. If you’re gonna spend time at each other’s places, you might as well have the same place.”

Emma thought about what he said. Howie had a point when he said they’d be hanging out a lot. She just didn’t know what to do.

“I can see those wheels turning. I think you should give it a try Emma. If it doesn’t work for whatever reason, then you move back here with Addie until you find a place.”

“Let me sleep on it ok?”

Howie nodded and stood up. “Promise me you’ll give it serious consideration.”

“I will, I swear.” Emma replied with her fingers crossed behind her back.

Howie left her sitting in the living room. She knew some of what they had said would make sense but there was no way on this planet that she was going to live with Nick while he was dating Lauren. It just wasn’t gonna happen.
What The Hell? by Kyrie
Nick’s mind was still racing as he entered his hotel room. Emma was being stubborn about moving in together and he was bothered by her calling him out and saying it was just a revenge thing. His plan made sense no matter what the reasons were. He was headed towards the bathroom to shower when he noticed the blinking light on the hotel phone. Not this again, he thought as he lifted the receiver.

“Hi Nick, its Lauren. Can you call me when you get this? It doesn’t matter what time it is.”

Nick smiled as he listened to the message. Maybe he’d finally gotten through to Lauren and she was starting to see things from his point of view. He dialed the number and waited for her to pick up.

“Hello?”

Nick was shocked to hear a man answer Lauren’s phone. His shock went to anger seconds later and he asked to speak to his girlfriend. There were a few seconds of silence before he heard her voice come on.

“Hello?”

“Lauren?”

“Hi Nick.”

“Hi Nick? That’s all you’re gonna say!” Nick yelled.

“What do you mean?”

“I call my girlfriend’s phone and some dude answers? What the hell Lauren?”

“You need to relax Nick. It’s just my manager.”

“Manager? Since when did Nicole have such a deep voice?” he asked loudly.

“Nicole is no longer my manager.”

“What? You guys have been friends for years and she’s always been your manager.”

“The company thought it would be a better idea to have a man take over the position. Some of the sponsors find it difficult to deal with women.”

“So you ditched one of your best friends because a sponsor can’t handle dealing with women?”

“I had to. I need this sponsor Nick and you just don’t seem to understand.”

“Apparently, I’m not understanding a lot lately.”

“Actually, that’s why I wanted to talk to you. My manager thinks these issues between you and I are distracting me and I think he’s right.”

Nick pulled the receiver away from his ear and stared at the phone. Was he going deaf?

“Nick? Nick?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you hear what I just said?”

“No.”

“I already told you that I was gonna be gone for the next month or so and I think maybe we should take a break for a little bit.”

“Excuse me?”

“I think that we should spend some time apart…..”

“That’s not what we’ve been doing?”

“I mean apart relationship wise Nick.”

“Are you seeing someone?”

“No!” Lauren yelled. “I can’t believe you would think I was.”

“You can’t believe it? I call your phone and some guy answers and my friends are texting pictures of you and some guy lookin’ awfully cozy!”

Lauren was silent for a moment.

“So are you seeing someone?”

“No.” she answered flatly. “This whole thing is a distraction for me and I need to put it on the backburner for a while.”

“Do I get a say?”

“No. I’ve made up my mind and I just wanted you to know. I’ll call you when I’m back in town.”

Nick started to protest but Lauren had already hung up. He couldn’t believe what was going on. His whole world was going to shit right now and he didn’t even get to participate in it. Instead of showering, he climbed into bed and pulled the covers over his head. Maybe he could go to sleep and wake up to find that none of this had ever happened.
Maybe? by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Thanks to Sapphire for all her help in getting this chapter done!
Nick came over early the next morning. He had slept like shit and he wanted to try and talk to Emma again to see if she would change her mind. This whole thing with Lauren was throwing his a wrench into his life and he was determined not to sit around and let her do this to him. Something had to change.

When he knocked, he was surprised that Della didn’t start barking. He knocked again and still heard nothing. He had just knocked a third time when Howie finally answered the door.

“Hey man.”

“Hey.” Nick said stepping into the hallway. “I came by to see Emma.”

“Well let us know if you find her.”

“Excuse me? Find her?”

“Yeah. Addie and I both tried to talk to her last night about the whole situation with you. She promised me she’d sleep on it and when we got up this morning, she was gone.”

“Gone? She moved out?” Nick yelled. This was not part of his plan.

“No Nick.” Addie answered as she came out from the kitchen. “She left a note saying she was going out with Della to think. I’m not sure where she went or when she’ll be back.”

“Is she coming back?”

Addie grinned. “Yes, she’s coming back. She just needs space to think.”

“Will you let me know as soon as she comes back?”

“Of course. Don’t sweat it. Sometimes she just needs time by herself.”

Nick nodded and headed back out to the truck. Where the hell did she go? He wracked his brain to try and figure out where she would go. Suddenly, a conversation they had came back to him; he had an idea where he might find her.

-------------------------

Emma had always liked Borderland State Park. It originally belonged to a wealthy man and his wife, but the state was able to retain the land after the woman’s passing. They had turned it into a public park and it had beautiful views of ponds as well as numerous walking trails. It was pretty quiet this time of year and she had found a spot next to the water where she could sit and think.

She was so lost in those thoughts that she never heard Nick come up behind her. He laid his hand on her shoulder and she jumped up. In the process of her turning around, she lost her balance and tripped on a rock. She would have come crashing down on some of the stones if Nick didn’t reach out to steady her.

“Are you trying to kill me?” she yelped.

Nick laughed for the first time that day. “No, I’m not.”

“I’m glad you think it’s funny.” Emma replied, brushing the dirt of her jeans. “Why are you here?”

“I went to Addie’s to talk to you and she said you left. I remember you said something about this place so I came hoping to find you.”

“How long have you been here?”

“An hour or so. You’re a hard person to find.”

Apparently not hard enough, Emma thought.

“I know why you like this place. It’s beautiful.”

Nick sat down on the ground next to Della, who hadn’t moved. He looked up at a surprised Emma and patted the piece of ground next to him. Not sure what was going on, she sat down next to him and waited for him to say something.

“I know I caught you off-guard last night when I mentioned us moving in to the same house.”

“Ya think?”

“Yes Ms. Sarcasm. I felt bad about pushing so hard and I wanted to apologize.”

“Apology accepted. So this means no more talking about moving in right?”

Nick shook his head. “Nope. I apologized for pushing so hard, not for asking. I still want you to think about it.”

“Did you, Howie and Addie make a pact or something?”

“A pact?”

“Yeah. The three of you are tag teaming me. Why is it so important to everyone that I say yes?”

“Because we all know it’s a good idea.”

“Then the three of you are crazy.”

“Look, give me the top three reasons why you think it’s a bad idea.”

“I can’t afford it, it would cause a headache for you and I just don’t like the idea of this whole thing affecting your relationship with Lauren.”

“So you really just have two reasons then?” Nick said, ignoring the opportunity to address his new relationship status.

“I gave you three.”

“The last two are pretty much the same.”

Emma just shook her head.

“As far as not being able to afford it, I can buy the house myself.”

“But I can’t afford the mortgage.”

“No one said anything about a mortgage. Real estate’s a good investment. Howie tells me that all the time. Why not listen to him?”

“Oh so now you’re all about listening to Howie huh?”

“In this case, yes.”

“I can’t afford to give you half of the mortgage and I can’t live there for nothing.”

“Then I’ll make you a deal. I’ll pay the mortgage, the homeowner’s insurance and the taxes. You pay the monthly bills and we’ll split food.”

“But you’re still paying more than me.”

“I didn’t realize that this was a contest of who pays more. If I buy this house with or without you, I still have to pay all that stuff right? And I would have to pay the monthly bills too. You’d be saving me money.”

Emma laughed out loud. “You really have a way to spin things.”

“So is that a yes?”

“No. My reasons about Lauren still stand.”

“They don’t have to.”

“Yes they do.”

“No they don’t.” Nick paused. “Lauren called me last night to tell me we were taking a break.”

Emma sat there stunned. What was going through Lauren’s mind? Was she an idiot?

“Say something.” Nick said quietly. “I can’t stand the silence.”

“I’m so sorry Nick. That’s awful. I know how much you love her.”

“I guess that doesn’t matter.” Nick said shaking his head. “I’m done trying to reason with her. I need to do this for myself.”

“I totally understand.” Emma said and paused. “But I’m still not moving in with you.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re hurting and angry and…..”

“Will you stop doing that?”

“What?”

“Dismissing me and telling me how I feel. I’m not a kid Emma, I know my reasons for doing things and I’m capable of making my own decisions.”

“I’m sorry Nick. I didn’t mean to do that.”

Nick sighed. “I know but please let me make my own choices. Whatever my reasons are, they’re mine and I’ll deal with them. If I choose to live in the same house as you, then that’s my decision. I’ll handle the issues.”

Emma closed her eyes and leaned back onto the ground. Nick made sense with what he was saying and she realized that he was an adult and could look out for himself. Before she could stop herself, she told him she would do it.

“I hope this isn’t a mistake Nick.”

“It won’t be.” He pulled her up off the ground and grabbed Della’s leash. “I promise you. It will be good for both of us.”

Emma had to bite her tongue to keep from saying what she was thinking. What if this whole thing was a mistake? What would the fallout be?

Shopping by Kyrie
The next few days flew by. The owners of the home had already moved to another place and were excited to get rid of their other mortgage. They signed the papers immediately and Nick dragged Emma furniture shopping with him. After they spent a few hours looking around, they finally settled on everything they would need. The next day was the trip to Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick up all the smaller stuff Nick wanted. Emma tried to pay for some of it and got mad when he told her to put her money away.

“No.” she said defiantly. “I can pay for my own stuff Nick. It’s bad enough you paid for everything else. I’m paying.”

Nick quickly learned exactly how far Emma could be pushed and he relented, letting her buy the smaller stuff.

“Happy now?” he asked on their way to the car.

“Very.” Emma replied with a grin. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Nick chuckled. “Not like I really had a choice.”

“You didn’t but I still appreciate it.”

“I’m glad.” Nick said. “By the way, I’m picking up the moving van this afternoon. Is all your stuff ready?”

“Yeah. Most of its packed in the storage unit and I haven’t been staying at Addie’s long enough to unpack my clothes and stuff.”

“Good. The faster we can get everything done the better.”

“Why the rush?”

“Howie and I are flying down to Florida to meet with one of the producers.”

“Already?” Emma asked.

Nick nodded. “It’ll only be for a couple of days but we need to meet with him while he’s there. He’s in-between projects and we have a small window of time.”

“Makes sense. I guess I’ll just have a nice, comfy house to myself.”

“Funny. I’ll be back in a few days and you won’t have any quiet so enjoy it.”

“Thanks for the warning.”

“No problem.” Nick teased.

Emma bit her lip. “Are you sure this is a good idea.”

“Not again.” Nick groaned. “I already bought the house. Too late now.”

“I just…”

Nick set his bags down in the middle of the parking lot and put a hand over Emma’s mouth. Her eyes got big and he laughed.

“No more talk about whether this is a good idea. Got it?”

Emma nodded and he released his hand. “You’re lucky no one else is out here. Someone might have thought you were a kidnapper.”

“Good point. I’ll make sure we’re alone when I do that again.”

Emma turned away from Nick. She was embarrassed and blushing profusely. Nick, not noticing anything, picked up the stuff and carried it over to the truck. Once it was all stored in the back, they pair headed off to drop all the purchases by the new house. Addie and Howie had agreed to help them move Emma’s stuff into the new place that night and the furniture would be coming the next day.

She was quiet on the way to the house and barely said anything when they dropped their recent purchases off. Nick had no idea what was going on. They seemed to be getting along fine and he hoped she wasn’t having second thoughts about moving in. He dropped her off at Addie’s and Howie agreed to go with him to pick up the truck.

“What’s up Carter?” Howie asked after they left.

“Huh?”

“You’ve been quiet for the last ten minutes. What gives?”

“Emma. I don’t get her.”

Howie laughed loudly. “She’s a woman. Join the club.”

“No I mean her behavior today. We had a great time this morning and then as soon as we left Target, she got all quiet.”

“Did something happen at Target?”

“I don’t think so. She was fine till we were in the parking lot.”

“What happened in the parking lot?”

“She started talking about it being a mistake, so I covered her mouth with my hand….”

“That might be it.”

“What? Covering her mouth?”

“Duh.”

“I don’t understand why that’s a problem.”

“It’s a little scary.”

“I didn’t mean it like that. And she teased me about it after saying that she thought I might look like a kidnapper to someone else.”

“What did you say to that?”

“I said that next time I would make sure we were alone.” Nick paused for a minute. “Oh, yeah, that probably sounded bad huh?”

“Just a little. You probably embarrassed her.”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“Then just tell her that. I’m sure she’ll understand.”

“I hope so. I don’t want this whole thing to go to hell.”

“Just talk to her.”

Nick nodded and pulled into the rental place. As soon as they finished moving tonight, he would sit her down and apologize.
First Night Together by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Thank you to everyone who has been reading and reviewing. I'm glad you all the story and I hope to keep that going. I appreciate all your comments!
Five hours later, they had everything moved out of the storage unit and moved into the new house. Nick had offered to buy dinner for everyone but Howie and Addie just wanted some quiet time with each other. They thanked him for the offer and he walked them out. He closed the door behind them, made his way down the hall to Emma’s room and knocked on the door.

“Can I come in?”

“Sure.”

Emma was unpacking some clothes and Nick offered to help her hang them. He really wanted a chance to talk to her about this afternoon.

“I’m sorry Emma.”

“Huh?”

“I’m sorry about this afternoon.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry for.”

“I shouldn’t have put my hand over your mouth or said what I said.”

“You just caught me by surprise Nick. It’s not a big deal.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Emma answered with a smile and pushed him to the door. “Now go call for some takeout. I’m hungry.”

Nick grinned and headed down to the living room. The previous owners had added some rooms onto the back of the house and this was one of them. It was one of those sunken rooms and it had a couple of steps on two of its sides leading up to the kitchen and a den. The third and fourth sides were wall to wall windows. There was an amazing view of the ocean and Nick felt at peace here. He got so lost in the view that he didn’t hear Emma come up next to him.

“Did you call?” Emma asked startling him.

“No, sorry, not yet. I was enjoying the view.”

Emma smiled and nodded. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Nick watched as she walked up into the kitchen and headed for the sliding glass doors. She opened them and followed Della outside. The dog loved the new backyard and the bench access. Nick called for the food quickly and then joined the two of them out on the beach.

“It’ll be here soon.”

“Good.” Emma replied, wrapping her arms around herself. “I’m starving.”

“Me too.”

They were both quiet for a few minutes before Emma spoke again.

“Thank you Nick.”

“For what?”

“For convincing me to do this. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place or a nicer person to share it with. I truly appreciate what you’re doing and I’ll find a way to make it up to you.”

“You don’t need to do anything. I mean it.”

“Ok but I’ll still find a way.”

“You’re so stubborn.”

“Yup.”

Nick headed back into the house and returned a minute later. He had grabbed his sweatshirt off the couch and handed it to her. She thanked him and slipped it over her head. Nick chuckled and sat down on one of the patio chairs.

“Why are you laughing?” Emma asked, sitting opposite him.

“That sweatshirt is a little big for you.”

Emma looked down and saw all the extra space. She pulled it tightly against her.

“I guess a little. It’s really warm though.”

The part she didn’t mention was that it smelled exactly like him. She loved his cologne and had to hold herself back from breathing in the scent. It would look funny and she didn’t want to freak him out.

“It looks cute on you. Even if it looks like a dress.”

Before the moment could get awkward, the doorbell rang. Emma raced inside and grabbed her wallet; there was no way Nick was paying for dinner. They almost collided trying to be the first to the door but Emma managed to beat him.

“Ha, ha.” she whispered before opening the door.

Emma paid the delivery guy and handed the food to Nick. She made her way back to the kitchen and starting pulling out silverware and napkins. Remembering the plates she had put away earlier, she pulled out the step stool and climbed up to look for them. Nick was just setting down the food when he saw Della run by the stool to get to him. The dog slammed into one of the legs and the stool tilted causing Emma to lose her balance and fall backwards. He got over just in time to catch her and the plates.

“I’m gonna start charging you.” he teased as he helped her down.

“For what?”

“Keeping you upright. Addie was being polite when she said you weren’t graceful.”

Emma swatted Nick and pushed him away. “You think you’re so funny Carter. Just wait till you need help.”

“I don’t think you can catch me if I fall!”

“You know what? I won’t even try. I’ll let you fall on your butt.”

Emma brought all the utensils over to the table while Nick dished out the food onto plates. He set hers down in front of her and sat down across from her.

“I think we need a toast.” he said as he raised his water bottle.

Emma giggled and raised hers. “To what?”

“To this whole situation. I hope that it works out for the best.” He paused. “For everyone.”

“I agree.”

The pair tapped their bottles and started dinner. They had no problem finding things to talk about and it was late before they finished. Emma knew Nick was tired from doing all the heavy lifting and she offered to do the dishes. He agreed, only out of exhaustion, and headed down to his room. Addie had some air mattresses she lent them until the furniture arrived the next day. A few moments after setting his head down, he was fast asleep and Emma smiled as she checked on him before she went to bed.
I'm Leaving by Kyrie
The furniture arrived the next day and Howie came over to help put everything together. Emma and Addie were at work and Nick wanted to surprise her by having everything set and ready.

“How’d it go last night?” Howie asked.

“Good.” Nick answered. “This place is really beautiful.”

“I know, you got lucky.”

“I did. So did Emma. This place is gonna be great for both of us.”

“You certainly seem to think so.” Howie grinned.

“Give it a rest D.”

“What? I didn’t say anything!”

“You didn’t have to!”

“Good.”

“Anyway.” Nick said changing the subject. “When are we leaving?”

“Tomorrow about nine.”

Nick groaned. “I hate early morning flights.”

“Too bad Nicky. I’m gonna swing by and pick you up around seven so you’d better be ready.”

“I will but I won’t be happy about it.”

Howie just shook his head. “It’s a good thing we can meet with this one. He seems pretty busy and is squeezing us in during his off time.”

“I hope we don’t get too rushed.”

Nick moved the last piece where he wanted into the living room and stood back to admire his handiwork. The living room, dining room and kitchen were all set. The only things left were the two bedrooms and the three bathrooms.
Emma would be home soon so he and Howie sped up to get the rest of it done. Howie had just left when Emma pulled into the driveway and opened the front door.

“Surprise!” Nick yelled.

Emma was amazed. Everything was in place and it took on the look of a lived in house.

“This is amazing Nick. How did you do it?”

Nick plopped down on the couch and smiled at his new roommate. “Howie and I did it together.”

“You guys must have been busy.” Emma responded, collapsing into one of the new chairs. “I would have helped you.”

“You don’t have to. After working all day, the last thing you want to do is move furniture.”

“I know, but I would have. This house is my responsibility too.”

“I’ll make you a deal then. If anything isn’t where you want it, I’ll sit back and let you move it.”

“Such a gentleman.” Emma said sarcastically and threw a pillow at him. “Did you make dinner too?”

“Um Betty Crocker I am not.”

Emma laughed. “I’ll try and find something around here.”

“How about we just get takeout again?”

“I’m paying if we do.”

“No you are not! You paid last night.”

“But you did all the work today. I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me……”

“Yes I do Nick. Just order and I’ll pay.” Emma left the room without giving Nick a chance to respond.

“Stubborn woman.” Nick muttered and picked up the phone.

An hour later, the two were sitting in the den, eating pizza and watching a movie.

“What time are you guys leaving tomorrow?” Emma asked.

“Howie’s coming at seven and he told me that I had better be ready.”

“I guess that’s an order huh?”

“Yeah, D doesn’t like being late to anything.”

“I don’t blame him. How long are you gone for?”

“What’s with all the questions? You planning a giant party while I’m away?”

“Yeah, a huge kegger.” Emma replied and rolled her eyes. “I just don’t want to be surprised if someone’s trying to open the door. I don’t wanna attack you thinking you’re a burglar.”

“Thanks for the heads up killer.” Nick laughed. “We’ll be home in five days. Does that help?”

“Yup. Now I can order the keg!”

“Wise ass.”

Emma chuckled and stood up to stretch. She reached out her hand and Nick gave her a weird look which made her laugh again.

“I need your plate so I can throw it away.”

Nick turned red and handed her his plate. She turned and headed up to the kitchen. Wanting to avoid more embarrassment, he turned his attention back to the screen. Emma came back a few minutes later and announced that she was heading to bed.

“Have a good trip tomorrow if I don’t see you.”

“Aren’t you usually up by then?”

“I have a conference tomorrow so I have to leave earlier than usual.”

“Have fun at that.” Nick said making a sad face.

“Yeah right. It’ll be a blast.”

Emma waved and headed down to her room. Nick heard the door close and he decided he should finish packing. He didn’t want D beating down his door because he wasn’t ready.
First Night Alone by Kyrie
Nick woke up early the next morning and wandered down to the kitchen. His plan to make breakfast was stopped by a note from Emma.

Hey,
I wanted to wish you good luck and make sure you were fed before Howie got here. There’s fruit salad in the fridge and bagels by the toaster. Be safe and have fun!

Emma 

He smiled and dug out everything she’d made. By the time Howie showed up, he had showered, changed and was on his second bowl of fruit salad.

“Where’d you get that?” Howie asked. “It looks really good.”

“Emma made it for me.”

“Oh she did huh?” Howie asked noticing the note she left. “Wow. She lives with you for a few days and she’s already taking care of you.”

“Shut up.” Nick said and whacked his friend in the head. “She was up early and she just left me breakfast.”

“I’m not knocking it. Addie didn’t even wake up when I left.” Howie replied with a laugh.

“That’s because you guys are dating, we’re just roommates.”

“If that’s the case, then I wanna come live here too!”

“No freaking way dude!”

Howie chuckled and looked at his watch. “We’d better get going. I don’t want to…”

“Be late. I get it.” Nick put the rest of the food in the fridge and grabbed his stuff. “Let’s go.”

-----------------------------

“What’s up for tonight?” Addie asked her friend as they headed out of the building. “Want some company?”

“Sure. It’ll be nice to have some girl time.”

“Uh huh. Now we can talk about the boys without them being around.”

Emma laughed and opened her car door. She slid in and shoved all of her stuff over. “What time?”

“How about seven?”

“Sounds good to me.”

Emma backed out of her parking spot and waved to her friend as she left. She pulled into the driveway shortly after and decided to take Della for a walk on the beach before Addie got there. As soon as she let her out, the dog started barking and ran over to the side of the house. She sat there barking at the gate and Emma had to drag her away from it. It was unlocked and she couldn’t remember if she had closed it or not.

Before she could worry about it, the doorbell rang and she found Addie standing on the front porch with dinner. She decided that she probably left it open when she took Della out this morning and forgot to lock it.

“What’s up with the confused look?” Addie asked.

“It’s nothing. I must have left the gate open when I left this morning.”

“That’s not like you.” Addie commented, handing her friend the bag of Chinese food. “Are you sure Nick didn’t leave it open?”

Emma had totally forgotten that Nick left after her this morning. “You’re right, it was probably him.”

“Feel better now?”

“Much. Just made me nervous.”

Addie laughed and started unpacking the bag. She placed everything on the kitchen table and they sat down to enjoy dinner. It was about ten when Addie finally left and Emma made sure everything was closed and locked. She had just climbed into bed when her cell beeped. Opening it, she found a text from Nick.

Here fine. Hope you’re enjoying your party! Make sure you clean up!

Emma laughed and texted him back. She made sure to include an emoticon with its tongue sticking out. Settling down under the covers, she set her alarm and curled up with her body pillow. As tired as she was, she just couldn’t fall asleep. She was so used to having someone else in the house and being by herself was a little scary. It’s only for a couple of days, she thought to herself and after another hour, she finally fell asleep
Who Are You? by Kyrie
Addie was shocked at Emma’s appearance when she showed up for work the next day.

“Holy shit Em! What happened to you last night? It looks like you got hit by a truck.”

“I feel like it.” she grumbled. “I couldn’t sleep at all last night.”

“How come?”

“I didn’t like being alone….”

“But you were with Jessie most nights.” Addie interrupted.

“I know but I was used to that house and I didn’t have any mysterious happenings with that gate.”

“I see. This has nothing to do with Nick not being at the house?”

Emma turned beet red. “Maybe a little. His snoring made me feel better.”

Addie laughed out loud as the students passed them in the hallway. They looked at their teachers strangely and kept going.

“So you really like having him around huh?”

“Yeah. It feels good not to be by myself all the time. Even when Jessie was home, he was locked away in the basement and I never saw him. It was nice to come home from work the other day and have dinner with Nick.”

“And you thought it was an awful idea.” Addie teased.

“Well apparently I was wrong.” Emma said with a laugh. “That does happen every now and again.”

Emma and Addie finished their conversation and headed off to their respective classroom. By the time Emma was done with all of her grading, Addie had already left the building, so she packed up her stuff and headed home to take care of Della.

-------------------------------------------

Emma loved the time she got to spend with Della. She was a rescue dog and Emma had her since she was about 6 weeks old. No matter what she had to go through, Della was always there for her. She was getting older and Emma dreaded the day that she wouldn’t have her best friend anymore.

She took Della for a long walk down on the beach and was just coming up the walkway when she caught sight of someone peeking in the living room windows.

“Hey!” Emma yelled as loud as she could and released Della from her leash.

The dog took off towards the house barking and the woman who was there began running around to the gate. She barely managed to get through before Della jumped up. The dog was now leaning on the gate, barking like crazy.

Emma raced up and dragged Della away from the fence. She hooked the leash back on her and opened up the gate. The woman was nowhere in sight. Emma quickly took the dog in the house and checked all the doors and windows. Once everything was secure, she called Addie.

“Hey, what’s……”

“Somebody was near the house!”

“Huh?”

“Somebody was trying to get into the house! I came back and then this woman, she was…….”

“Slow down Em. I can’t understand you.”

Emma took a deep breath and sank into one of the kitchen chairs. “I came back from walking Della and found some woman peeking into the windows at the back of the house. Della chased her off.”

“Damn.” Addie swore. “Did you get a good look at her? Maybe we can call the police.”

“I was too far away and I just saw her from behind.”

“It was probably some crazy fan who figured out where Nick was staying and decided to take a look.”

“A fan? That’s what stalkers do!”

Addie laughed in spite of the situation. “Some of their fans love them an awful lot. It was probably a harmless person.”

“What if she wasn’t? What if she comes back?”

“I don’t know Em. I would call the police if you see anyone else near the house.” Addie paused. “Do you want me to come and stay with you tonight?”

Emma thought about it for a minute and shook her head. “No. I’ll be ok.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Thank you for offering though.”

“If you change your mind of something else happens, call me and I’ll come over.”

“I will. Thanks Addie.”

Emma hung up the phone and spent the next few hours trying to keep herself busy. She tried to make herself calm down and relax but she knew that sleep wouldn’t be coming anytime soon.
That's It! by Kyrie
“I think that’ll be terrific Nick.”

Nick grinned. The producer they had come to see was fantastic and had some really great ideas for his solo album. They had worked all night and already had some tracks laid down. He was exhausted but really energized by all the creativity. Chris helped him finalize a few things and then he headed out to meet Howie for breakfast.

Howie walked in as Nick was finishing his second cup of coffee and ordered himself one as he sat down.

“You look exhausted Nick.”

“Chris and I were up all night laying down tracks for the album.”

“Any good?”

“Definitely! He’s amazing and had some terrific ideas.”

The waitress brought Howie’s coffee and then took their orders for breakfast.

“So,” Howie asked changing the subject, “how’s Emma?”

Nick shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her.”

“She didn’t call you about yesterday?”

“No.” Nick said slowly. “What happened yesterday?”

“I guess Emma came home from walking Della and found some woman peeking into the windows of the house.”

“What?” Nick yelled.

“Yeah. Della must have chased her off. Addie said something about a gate being left open too.”

“Is Emma ok?”

Howie shook his head. “Addie said it looks like she hasn’t slept in two weeks. I guess she’s creeped out being by herself.”

“I have to go home.”

Howie’s jaw dropped. “Go home? We have three more days.”

“I need to check on Emma and do something about a security system.”

“You’re that worried?” Howie asked with a grin.

“Yes I am.” Nick replied. “This isn’t a joke.”

“Calm down. It was probably just a fan who figured out where you’re living.”

“Maybe, but Emma’s not used to that kind of stuff. I would be scared if I was in her shoes.”

“You can fix it when you get home. I’ll tell Addie to go spend the next couple nights with her. She’ll be fine.”

“No. I’m booking a flight and I’m going home tonight. The rest of this stuff can wait.”

Howie was stunned. Nick was usually one to let things go and focus on whatever he was doing. He knew that Nick had a thing for Emma but he didn’t realize that he was that serious about it; he wasn’t even sure if Nick realized it.

“Ok, ok.”

Nick dug his phone out and started looking for flights. By the end of breakfast, Nick had booked himself on a flight that would arrive in Boston late that night.

-----------------------

Emma felt like she hadn’t slept in days. Her mind kept racing and she was driving herself nuts gets nervous over ever little noise she heard. Seeing that woman peeking into the house that afternoon was starting to completely freak her out. She understood the point Addie made about it probably being a fan but she just couldn’t relax.

She was so scared that she had taken to sleeping with an old sock full of rocks near her bed. There weren’t many “weapons” in the house so she made one for herself. If something else was going to happen, she was planning on using it to protect herself.

It was after midnight by the time she started to fall asleep. She curled up next to Della and flung her arm over the dog. Drowsiness was setting in and she was hoping for just one night’s sleep. Before that could happen, she heard a noise coming from outside. There was a car door slamming and then she heard something bumping along the front walkway. Della had leapt up from the bed and was starting out her bedroom door.

Emma grabbed the sock from her nightstand and crept down the hallway behind Della. This was ridiculous, this was her house and no one was going to scare her into hiding. She had her back against the wall in the foyer and had the sock swung back so she could easily let it go.

The doorknob rattled and turned a few times. Whoever was trying to get in tried a few more times and finally got the door unlocked. The door swung open and Emma let out a karate yell. She lobbed the sock as hard as she could and she felt it connect with something. Grabbing the phone to call the police, she flipped on the light and stopped in her tracks.
A Good Night's Sleep by Kyrie
“Oh my God Nick!” Emma dropped the phone and ran over to where he was. “I’m so sorry! Are you ok?”

Nick laughed and bent down to pick up his bag. “Yes, thankfully you have really crappy aim.”

“Did I hit you?” Emma asked horrified. “I am so sorry.”

“No, but you dented my bag pretty well. Good thing I moved my breakable stuff to the other one.”

“I’m really, REALLY sorry Nick. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Nick closed and locked the door. He left his stuff in the hallway and steered Emma down to their bedrooms. Following her into her room, he flopped down on the bed and patted the spot next to him. Emma sat down quietly and waited for him to speak.

“Why didn’t you tell me what happened the other day?” he asked quietly.

Emma hung her head. “You were busy and I didn’t want to bother you. I know you have a lot going on right now.”

“We live here together Emma, and I need to know what goes on too. Don’t ever feel like I’m too busy.”

Nick looked over at her and finally got a look at what Addie had been seeing. Emma had dark circles under her eyes and she looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks. He brushed her hair out of her face and smiled.

“I think you could use some sleep.”

Emma nodded but didn’t move. Nick kicked off his shoes and lay back onto the bed next to where Emma usually slept. She waited for a few minutes and crawled back under the covers.

“I’ll stay with you till you fall asleep ok.” Nick told her. “I won’t go anywhere till you’re out like a light.”

“Thank you.” she answered quietly and closed her eyes. Just having Nick near her was enough to help her relax and within moments, she was asleep and snoring peacefully.

Nick smiled and watched her as she slept. He had planned on going back to his room to unpack but his lack of sleep made him drowsy and he soon fell asleep beside her.

--------------------------------
Emma awoke to an empty bed. She was startled when she heard someone talking but then she remembered that Nick had come home the night before. Pulling on a sweatshirt and jeans, she padded down the hallway and into the kitchen.

“Morning.”

Nick helped up his finger and kept talking. “Yes today. No this can’t wait; it has to be done today. And I want the whole package, anything that you offer.”

Emma waited till Nick was off the phone before saying anything.

“Sorry,” Nick said, “that was the security company. They’re coming by today to install a new alarm system.”

“Nick that’s not…..”

“Yes it is necessary.” he said sternly. “You need to feel safe and I can’t be out doing whatever I need to unless I’m absolutely positive you’re alright.”

Emma was touched by his concern but she didn’t want to interfere with what he was trying to do.

“I appreciate that but I know you have better things to do than babysit me.”

“I’m not babysitting you, I’m keeping you safe.” And before Nick could stop himself, he added, “I don’t want anything to happen to you. You’re important to me.”

Emma blushed and nodded. “Thank you for always looking out for me.”

“You don’t have to thank me.”

Nick came around the island and put his arm over her shoulder. She looked up at him and all he wanted to do at that moment was kiss her. He leaned in without thinking and his lips almost touched hers. Unfortunately, the moment was ruined by the sound of the doorbell ringing. Nick pulled away with regret and went to open the door.

Emma waited till he was gone and finally let out a breath. He had caught her off-guard and she wasn’t sure what she would have done. In one respect, she was grateful Nick had a distraction. On the other hand, she wanted to know what it was like to be kissed by Nick; not because he was a Backstreet Boy but because she had developed feelings for him. She would never say it but his actions made her think that maybe it wasn’t one-sided.

The security company spent the day setting up the new system for Nick and Emma. Every window and door was alarmed and they had sensors everywhere. There was also flood lights installed in the back yard and they had the ability to view the house whenever they weren’t home to make sure everything was ok. Emma was amazed at everything they had put in and she said that to Nick once everyone was gone.

“This is nuts Nick. I was waiting for them to pull out an electrified fence!”

“No, that’s a separate company. They’re coming tomorrow.”

Emma’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. Nick couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’m kidding Em. I would never do that. You’d probably electrocute yourself!”

Nick ducked as she threw a pillow at his head. “Haven’t you hit me enough?” he said with a laugh.

“That’s not funny Nick. I didn’t mean to.”

“I know.”

Nick walked over and wrapped his arms around Emma. He looked down at her and stared into her eyes. It was in that moment that he realized whatever he felt for Emma wasn’t just friendship anymore. Pulling her in tightly, he leaned down to kiss her.
Uh-Oh! by Kyrie
The doorbell rang just as Nick leaned in and he was tempted to ignore it. It rang again several times and he groaned. He stood up straighter and saw the disappointment on Emma’s face.

“I’m gonna disconnect that fucking doorbell.” he grumbled as he left Emma in the kitchen. He yanked open the door and roared, “What now?”

“Nice to see you too.” Howie laughed and walked past Nick into the house. Addie followed close behind and both ignored the look on Nick’s face.

“What are you doing here?” Emma asked as she saw the trio heading down the hall.

“I came to check on you.” Addie replied. “And Howie came home early.”

“I thought you had stuff to do.” Nick mumbled, still pissed that his chance to kiss Emma was interrupted again.

“Well, since Chris’ other client took off,” Howie cleared his throat, “I had enough time to take care of what was left for my stuff. I decided to fly home early so I could spend some time with Addie.”

Nick was about to make a smart comment when his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller id and silenced the phone. A minute later, it rang and he silenced it again.

“Who’s that?” Howie asked.

“No one.” Nick answered quickly and swore as it rang again.

Emma put her hand on his arm. “She’s gonna keep calling so you might as well answer it. We’ll be here when you’re done.”

If Nick hadn’t wanted to kiss her earlier, he certainly wanted to right then. He nodded and walked down to the study so he could talk in private. He pushed the door closed with his foot and answered the phone.

“What?”

“Hi to you too Nick.”

“What do you want Lauren?”

“I wanted to call and see how you were doing.”

“Yeah right.” Nick replied with a laugh. “Why did you really call?”

“I saw a picture of you with your new roommate. You two look cozy.”

Nick wracked his brain trying to think of a time when there was a photographer could have gotten a picture.

“I see she likes Target.”

Nick groaned.

“Who is she?”

“What difference does it make to you Lauren? Aren’t you the one who suggested we take a break?”

“I didn’t think you’d be hooking up with the next woman you met.”

“I didn’t just meet her Lauren, and whatever we do is none of your business.”

“Well, are you seeing her or is she just your roommate.”

“Give it a rest Lauren.”

“I bet she’s just some groupie that you have living there so she can watch your house.”

“Yes Lauren, she’s just living here so I can have someone watch the house while I’m gone. You’re right as usual.”

“Don’t mock me Nick.”

“I’m not.” Nick’s responded with sarcasm. “You know me best, so you must be right.”

“You’re such a child.”

“What do you want?” Nick said. This conversation with her was getting annoying and he just wanted it to me over.

“I called to tell you that I think our break should be permanent.”

Normally, Nick would have been surprised and begged her to reconsider. However, she had pushed him too far this time and he agreed.

“You’re right. Let’s just end the whole thing.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Yes I can. It was your suggestion.” Nick said, getting angry. “I’m tired of doing this with you. Go enjoy your boy toy and leave me alone!”

Lauren didn’t say anything and Nick hung up. He was pissed and really didn’t need any more aggravation right now.

---------------------------------------

Emma made her way back down the hallway and into the kitchen. She handed the Tylenol to Addie and walked over to the sink to get her some water.

“You ok Em?” Addie asked.

“Fine.” she answered quickly. “I’m fine.”

Addie was going to ask her again but Nick came back into the room.

“How was that conversation?” Howie inquired.

“Fine.”

“Wow!” Addie whistled, looking back and forth from Nick to Emma. “That’s a lot of fines between you two.”

Emma turned around to hand Addie the water and slid on the kitchen mat. She dropped the glass and started to fall but Nick grabbed her arm and pulled her up.

“Dammit Emma! Can’t you ever be careful? I’m tired of looking out for you!”

Emma recoiled like she’s been slapped and Nick instantly regretted saying it. Emma jerked her arm out of his grasp and her eyes welled up with tears.

“I don’t need you to look out for me.” she said angrily. “You shouldn’t have to waste your time looking out for someone who’s just living here so they can watch your house while you’re gone!”

Now it was Nick who looked like he’d been slapped. Emma turned and stormed out of the room. Addie gave him a dirty look and followed her friend.

“What the hell was that about?” Howie asked as Nick sank into the kitchen chair.
Stupid, Stupid, Stupid! by Kyrie
“What was that about?” Addie demanded as she followed Emma into her bedroom.

“Nothing.” Emma said sharply.

“That’s bullshit.” she replied. “Something just happened and I want to know what.”

Emma slumped down on her bed and covered her face with a pillow. Addie heard her mumbling and yanked the pillow away.

“Say it without covering your face.”

“Nick told Lauren I was just living here to watch his house while he was away.”

“What?!?” Addie yelled. “He did not say that!”

“He did too. And he told her she was right about me.”

Addie sat there for a minute. Nick really seemed to care for Emma and he had bent over backwards to help her. He didn’t seem like the kind of person to take advantage of the situation.

“Maybe you didn’t hear him right.”

“I heard him clear enough. I’m not deaf!” Emma snapped.

“I didn’t say you were but there has to be some kind of explanation for the comment.”

“Yeah, he’s a jerk.” Emma started to cry.

Addie sighed. “He’s not Emma. There has to be some reason he said that.”

“Do you know what happened before you and Howie got here?” Emma asked through her tears. “He almost kissed me today.”

“That’s good right?” Addie asked.

“Not if he was doing it because he was looking for something to do and someone to do it with!”

Addie put her arm around her friend as Emma burst into tears. This had to be some kind of misunderstanding.

------------------------------

Nick thumped his head against the table as Howie stared at him.

“What’d you do this time Nick?”

“I opened my big mouth and didn’t make sure the door was shut.” he muttered.

“Did you really say that about Emma?”

“Yes….”

Howie looked as though he wanted to smack him.

“But it’s not what I meant.”

“It’s seems pretty clear. If you didn’t mean it that way, what exactly did you mean?”

“Lauren made some comment about her being a groupie who was just living with me so she could watch my house.”

“And?”

“I agreed.”

“What?!?”

“I was being sarcastic Howie, I didn’t really mean it. Lauren was getting under my skin and I just snapped.”

Howie looked at his younger brother and sighed. “Do you think before you speak?”

“Apparently not.” Nick murmured. “I really fucked up huh?”

“Ya think? You have some major damage control to do. Emma really likes you and I’m pretty sure you just made a big mess.”

“I know, she’s pissed.” Nick said quietly and paused for a minute. “You know I almost kissed her before you guys got here.”

Howie whistled. “Well you may have killed any chance of that EVER happening.”

Nick was going to reply when Addie came back into the kitchen. She walked up to Nick and stuck her finger in his face.

“You had better be as big an idiot as I think you are!” she said loudly. “My best friend is down there bawling her eyes out because she thought you cared about her. I tried to explain that it must be some kind of mistake. For your sake, it better be the king of misunderstandings. Fix it now!”

Addie grabbed Howie’s hand and stormed off towards the door leaving Nick sitting there. She was right; he needed to clear this up before it got any worse. He stood up and headed down to Emma’s room.
Maybe? by Kyrie
“Emma?” Nick whispered as he knocked on the door. There was no answer so he knocked again. She still didn’t answer so Nick turned the knob and found it locked. He knocked again. “Please let me in Emma. I need to talk to you.”

There was no answer from inside and Nick banged his head against the door. He should probably back off and give her some space but he didn’t want to. This mess needed to be cleared up and he wasn’t going anywhere until he explained what happened.

“I’m not leaving Emma. You can stay locked in there but I’m not walking away. I’m gonna keep banging on this door and calling your name……”

His statement was cut off by the sound of the door unlocking. He gave it a minute before opening it and when he did, he found Emma lying down on the bed with her back turned to him. Della came over to sniff him and then she walked away; even the dog knew how bad he’d screwed up. He walked over to the bed, sat down behind her and put his hand on her shoulder. She shook it off and he hung his head.

“I’m really sorry Emma. You weren’t supposed to hear that.”

Emma flipped over and glared at him. “So you did mean it!”

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

Turning over again, she muttered something about wanting him to leave.

“I’m not going anywhere till you hear me out.”

“So talk.” Emma said. “And then leave.”

“I said what I said to Lauren because she was being a jerk and I just repeated what she said. I was being sarcastic and if you had hung around for the conversation, you might have known that.” Nick said more harshly than he meant too.

“Feel better now?” Emma asked and pulled her pillow over her head.

This was ridiculous, Nick thought to himself. He ripped the pillow off of her and threw it across the room. Emma jumped up startled and backed herself up against the headboard.

“I’m sorry.” Nick apologized when he saw her face. “You wouldn’t listen and I didn’t know how else to get your attention.”

“Maybe I wasn’t listening because I don’t believe you.”

“Why?” Nick pleaded. “I’m telling you the truth. I said it but I didn’t mean it. I would give anything to take it back but I can’t.”

“You’re right, you can’t.”

“Please Em. You have to believe me.”

“No Nick, I don’t. This whole thing is a mess just like I said it would be.”

“What does that mean?” Nick asked shocked.

“It means that if you’ll leave me alone, I’ll pack up some of my stuff and leave. I can come back for the other stuff later.”

Nick watched Emma like she was in slow motion. She pulled a suitcase out of her closet and started putting clothes into it. He couldn’t believe what was happening. Two hours ago, he’d been about to kiss her and now she was packing to leave.

Finally, he was able to get his feet and brain to move at the same time and he jumped off the bed. He slammed the drawer shut and he spun her around so she was looking at him.

“I’m sorry Emma. I really am.”

Emma just stared at him and he could see the tears starting to form inside her eyes. She wasn’t listening and he did the only thing he could think of. He put his hands on both sides of her face and pulled her close to him. Leaning down, he kissed her gently and when she didn’t pull away, he pressed his lips firmly against hers. He let his hands fall away from her face and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against him as tightly as he could.

Emma was completely surprised by Nick’s kiss and, even though she was furious with him, she put her hands on the back of his neck and kissed him with as much strength as she could. The kiss lasted for a few moments before Nick felt Emma start to pull away.

“Don’t.” he mumbled into her hair and tightened his grasp. “Don’t pull away from me.”

The tears fell from Emma’s eyes and onto Nick’s shirt. “We can’t do this Nick.”

“Why?” he whispered.

“Because I don’t want to be the rebound girl.” Emma answered still trying to push him away.

Nick raised his head to look in her eyes but didn’t release her. “You are not the rebound girl Em. You’re the woman I want to be with. Please believe me about this. If nothing else, please believe this.”

Emma shook her head and a few more tears escaped her eyes and landed on Nick’s arm. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why me?”

“Because I like who I am with you.”

Emma lowered her eyes and Nick rested his head on top of hers.

“I like who I am when you’re with me. I laugh more than I ever have and I feel comfortable with you. Being away from you the last couple of days was hard.”

Emma laughed in spite of the situation and finally stopped trying to pull away from him. Nick backed up so that he was resting against her desk and positioned her so that one of his legs was on either side of her. He never let up on his grasp on her waist and she moved when he pulled her closer. Leaning in, he kissed her again and this time, she didn’t try to pull away from him.

They stayed like that for a little while until Della whined about being let out. Emma pulled back and Nick was hesitant to let her go.

“I have to let her out Nick.”

“Will you come back?”

Emma nodded and walked down to the living room with Della at her heels. She opened the back door and stepped out onto the patio. She was replaying what just happened in her mind when she felt two arms encircle her waist. It startled her but she began to relax when she felt Nick kiss her neck lightly.

“Why did you come out here?” Emma asked.

“I didn’t believe that you’d come back.” Nick answered with a chuckle. “Now that I have you, I don’t want to let you go.”

Emma blushed and turned to face him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and looked up into his eyes. “You don’t have to.”

“Good.” Nick said and swept her off her feet. He whistled to Della who followed them into the house. After making sure the door was locked, he carried Emma down to her bedroom and slammed the door with his foot. Nobody else was going to interrupt them tonight.
The Morning After by Kyrie
Emma awoke a few hours later to an empty bed. She and Nick had spent hours getting to know each other and she had fallen asleep wrapped in his arms. Sliding on her sweatpants and Nick’s t-shirt, she made her way down the hallway looking into all the rooms for him. By the time she got down to the living room, he was nowhere to be found. She started to worry that Nick had had a change of heart and thought the whole thing was a mistake. Just as the tears were threatening to flood her eyes, she saw Nick and Della come bounding up from the beach. She wiped her tears away quickly and walked over to the door to let them in.

“Hey.” she called as she stepped aside to let Della past. “Thanks for taking her out.”

Nick closed the door and pulled Emma so close that she could barely breathe. “I didn’t want to wake you.” He leaned in to kiss her and noticed that her cheeks were wet. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just had something in my eye.”

“Yeah right.”

“I’m serious.”

“Uh huh.” Nick said and raised his eyebrow. “We’ll discuss how bad a liar you are later, but I wanna know what gives now. Why were you were crying?”

“It’s stupid Nick.”

“It’s not stupid Em. I don’t wanna see you cry. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s nothing.” Emma paused and looked away from him.
Nick stared at her for a few moments and then spoke softly. “You thought I left didn’t you.”

“No, I didn’t……”

He pushed her jaw up so he could see her eyes. “Yes you did. That’s why you were crying.”

“No it was……”

Pulling her by the hand, Nick walked over to one of the oversized chairs and flopped down on it. He tugged Emma down so that she was on his lap with her head resting against his chest.

“What did last night mean to you?”

Nick caught Emma completely off-guard with his question. She was already feeling confused by the whole thing and now Nick asked her that. What if the feelings she had weren’t the ones he had? Maybe it was just a heat of the moment thing for him.

“Hey you.” he said softly. “Are you gonna answer my question?”

Emma decided to just put it out there. If she was gonna get hurt, then so be it.

“It meant a lot to me. I’ve had feelings for you for a while.”

Emma paused and waited to see if he was going to say anything. When he didn’t, she continued.

“It was special. You were so gentle and caring; you made me feel like I was the only person on your mind. It’s been a long time since someone did that for me.”

Nick’s face broke out into a grin. “I’m glad you said that. Now I don’t feel like the only one.”

Emma shook her head like she didn’t hear him. “Huh?”

“It was the same for me Em. You make me feel so comfortable and you treat me like someone important. Not just because of who I am but who I am to you.”

Emma went to turn her face away but Nick cupped her chin gently in his hand and kept her looking at him.

“I mean it Em. You’re important to me and I’m not going to do anything to hurt you.”

“But what if you decide to leave?”

“I care about you Emma and I’m not just gonna walk out. I want to make this work with you but you have to trust me.”

“I’ve trusted people before…”

“I’m not Jessie Em, I’m not gonna do that to you.”

“I didn’t think he would either.”

“Did he ever tell you he wouldn’t?”

“No.”

“There’s the difference. I’m telling you that I’m not going anywhere. I like where I am right now and who I’m here with. Why would I want to screw that up?”

“Do you really mean that Nick?”

Nick gave her a sexy grin and stood up. He picked her up so she had to wrap her legs around his waist.

“I guess I’m gonna have to show you again that I mean it!”

------------------------------

Emma woke up a few hours later to find two arms wrapped around her tightly. She could feel Nick’s body pressed up against her back and his breath on her neck. Her mind happily replayed the last few hours and she tucked herself into him cozily.

Nick smiled as he felt her body move closer to his and he kissed the back of her neck. Hugging her against his chest, he ran his hand over her hair, smoothing it down.

“Hi.” Emma whispered quietly, not wanting to ruin the moment.

“Hi yourself.” Nick replied with a laugh.

Emma turned herself over so that she could look Nick in the eyes and was a little hurt when she saw his smile disappear. He just stared at her like he had never seen her before. She could feel the panic start to creep him when he leaned in and kissed her gently. He pulled back after a minute and smiled.

“Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”

Emma started to blush and tried to look away. Nick held her face in his hand and her eyes slowly rose to meet his.

“I’m serious Emma. You are so beautiful.”

He leaned in to kiss her again but before he could, Della laid her snout on the bed behind him and nudged his back.

“Apparently someone needs to go out again.”

“I’ll get in this time.” Emma said and started to get up.

Nick gently pushed her back and kissed her deeply. “I got it.”

She watched as Nick got dressed and left with Della right behind him. Pulling the covers up to her neck, she smiled and waited for him to come back.
Trying It Out by Kyrie
Nick and Emma were cuddled on the sofa when her phone rang. She laughed when she saw Addie’s picture come up and asked Nick to pause the movie. Once he headed out to the kitchen to get a drink, Emma answered the call.

“Hi Ad……..”

“Did he fix it? Is he a moron?” Addie asked, cutting her off.

Emma started to laugh. “Yes Addie, he fixed it.”

“So he is a moron!”

“I heard that.” Nick yelled, coming back from the kitchen. “People in China heard you!”

“Good!” Addie yelled so loud that Emma had to pull the phone away from her ear. “If you make my best friend cry again, you’d better move to China!”

Nick grabbed the phone out of Emma’s hand.

“Hi Addie. I am a moron, I did fix it and I promise not to make Em cry again.” He paused and smiled at Emma. “In fact, I think she’s happier now.”

“Put her back on the phone.”

Nick handed the phone backed to Emma and kissed her gently.

“Why are you happier now?” Addie demanded when she answered.

"Because…”

“Please tell me you two slept together.”

“Addie!” Emma yelped and turned bright red. “Why would you say that?”

“Because you two have been eyeing each other for a while! It was only a matter of time.”

“She’s got a point.” Nick whispered into Emma’s other ear. He kissed her neck gently and pulled her onto his lap.

“Nick…” Emma whispered as Nick kept kissing her and she tried not to moan into the phone. “Stop..”

“What’s he doing?” Addie demanded.

“Eyeing her again.” Nick said into the phone. “She’s gonna have to call you back.”

Nick grabbed the phone and snapped it closed. After tossing it onto the chair, he laid Emma back onto the couch and straddled her. Kissing her deeply, he started a trail going from her lips down to her neck.

“Nick…” Emma said trying to focus.

“Don’t bother, protesting isn’t going to work.”

Emma realized after a minute he was right and happily gave in.

-------------------------

“Ok.” Emma said with a laugh. “I’m drawing a line. We have to get out of bed.”

“Why?” Nick whined playfully.

“Because I want to do other things with you…..”

“Say it.”

“Say what?”

“You want to do things with….”

“You?” Emma replied with a quizzical look.

“Try again.” Nick said with a grin and leaned on his elbow.

“What am I trying again?”

“You want to do things with….”

Emma blushed when she realized what he was hinting at. She wanted to say it but she just couldn’t.

“I’ll help you out. You want to do things with your …” Nick said again. “It’s got nine letters and starts with a b.”

“Boyfriend.” Emma whispered quietly.

“What?” Nick asked teasing her. “I didn’t hear what you said. You’ll have to say it louder.”

“Boyfriend.”

“What? Still can’t hear you!”

“Boyfriend!” Emma yelled and burst into laughter. “I want to do things with my boyfriend.”

Nick leaned down to kiss her. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”

“Oh yeah? You try it.”

“Girlfriend.” Nick said without hesitation. “I want to spend time with MY girlfriend doing anything she wants as long as she wants to do it with me.”

Emma could see how serious he was when he said it and she felt bad for her delay. She pulled him close and whispered in his ear.

“Your girlfriend would love to stay in bed with you a little longer.”

Nick smiled. “Anything for you.”
Faith by Kyrie
“So you’re coming right?” Emma asked.

“Of course.” Addie replied. “We’ll be over in an hour. Can we bring anything?”

“Nope, I think we’re all set.”

“Ok. See you in a bit.”

Emma hung up her phone and returned to her bedroom where Nick was slowly getting dressed.

“I left you alone for ten minutes and you’re just getting dressed?” Emma asked with a smile.

Nick walked over and pulled her close to him. “I was hoping that a certain someone might change their mind and want to stay in bed a little longer.” he answered with a gentle kiss.

“We can’t stay in bed forever.”

“I’m not saying forever but maybe for a couple more days.”

“Days?” Emma repeated with a chuckle. “I don’t think I have enough energy for a couple of days.”

“I think we could handle it.”

“I hate to disappoint you but Addie and Howie are coming over for dinner and it might be a little uncomfortable for everyone if we have dinner in my bedroom.”

“That reminds me.” Nick said. “We need to pick one of our bedrooms and use that one.”

“Why?”

“Uh, because couples usually sleep in the same bed.” He paused for a minute and then started to grin. “Unless of course you think we’re gonna wear one bed out and need the other one just in case.”

“Nick!” Emma yelped turning bright red.

“Just kidding.” Nick chuckled.

“Good! Try and keep the comments clean when Addie and Howie get here.”

“No promises beautiful.”

-----------------------

“Anybody home?” Addie called, pushing open the door.

“Down here!” Emma yelled.

Howie and Addie followed her voice down to the kitchen where they found Emma cooking.

“Where’s Nick?”

“Right here.” Nick replied coming in from taking Della for a walk. “How’re you guys?”

“Good.” Howie grinned. “But I hear you’re more than good.”

Nick’s face was beaming. “I would say great.”

“All right you two.” Addie said sternly. “Go have your boy talk in the living room, I wanna talk to Em.”

“Ok, ok.” Howie responded with a laugh and held his hands up. “We’re leaving now.”

Addie watched as the boys left and then turned to her friend.

“So…what’s the deal?”

“What deal?” Emma asked innocently. “There’s no deal.”

“Bullshit. I can see it written all over your face.”

Emma tried as hard as she could but the smile just crept onto her face.

“He’s amazing.”

“Yes!” Addie smirked. “I knew you two were bound to get together at some point. Has he started calling you the g-word yet?”

Emma nodded.

“Why don’t you look happy about it?”

“I’m just nervous.”

“Why?”

“He just ended things with Lauren and as much as I want this relationship with him, it makes me wonder if it will last.”

“You need to stop with all these doubts. He obviously wants to be with you. I mean he flew back from working to check on you and make sure you were safe. Howie said if there was a plane at the restaurant, he would have been on it.”

“I know. I’m just scared. I have really strong feelings for him….”

“Do you love him?” Addie interrupted.

“No, at least I don’t think so. I’m just feeling a lot of things and I’m kind of afraid to put my heart out there.”

“Why?”

“What if he breaks it? What if he decides that he jumped into this too fast and the feelings on his part fade away.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

“Maybe not but you can’t be sure.”

“No, you’re right, I can’t be. But I do know that he cares for you a lot and I don’t think he would hurt you.”

“I don’t think he wants to hurt me but he might still do it unintentionally.”

“You have to stop Em. Just appreciate the time you have together. No one can guarantee anything in life and you have to enjoy it while you have him. He may surprise you.”

“He doesn’t have to surprise me; he just needs to not hurt me.”

Addie came over and put her arm around her friend. “I have faith in him. You need to too.”

Emma nodded and went back to cooking dinner.

-----------------------------

“How happy are you right now?” Howie asked as he took a seat across from Nick.

“Extremely.”

“I bet.” Howie laughed. “I’m happy for you guys. You make a great couple.”

“I think so.” Nick replied with a serious tone.

“What’s the matter then?”

“I’m not so sure that Emma does.”

“Why would you say that? She looks pretty happy to me.”

“She hesitated and wouldn’t call me her boyfriend. I practically had to force her to say it.”

“That might be the problem.”

“Why?”

“You two just got out of long term serious relationships. Maybe you should slow things down a little.”

“What’d you mean?”

“I mean that she might be nervous about this whole thing. I’m guessing you don’t want to get hurt again and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t either.”

“I’m not going to hurt her.” Nick said offended.

“I know you’re not but maybe she doesn’t. You guys got together pretty fast and maybe she thinks you’re looking at it like a rebound thing.”

“But it’s not!”

“I know that,” Howie replied patiently, “but she might have concerns about it.”

“Well how do I fix it?”

“Talk to her, make sure she understands that you have real feelings for her.”

“I already told her that.”

Howie laughed. “She’s a woman; she may need to hear it more than once!”

Nick chuckled. “I’ll talk to her again after you guys leave.”

“Sounds good. Let’s go get some dinner.”
Concerns by Kyrie
“So there was this kid in Emma’s class that was really hyper and he kept doing impulsive things.”

“Kind of like you Nicky.” Howie interrupted.

Emma and Addie had been telling them funny stories from work and Addie had just started one that she promised they could appreciate.

“Anyway, like I was saying, he was really impulsive. He was sitting by himself at a horseshoe table because he got “voted off the island” as Emma put it. Well instead of walking around the table to get something, he decided to take a swan dive over it.”

Emma just sighed and shook her head. “It was bad.”

“What happened?” Nick asked.

“The kid went sailing over it and landed on top of it, breaking one of the legs off and knocking the whole thing to the floor.”

“Ouch!” Howie cried. “Was the kid ok?”

“He was.” Emma replied. “He thought it was hysterical but my poor table was in pieces. I wasn’t even sure what I should say……”

“I would have kicked him out,” Addie interjected, “but this one just put him in a new seat and fixed the table.”

“What could I do?” Emma said. “He didn’t mean too.”

Nick laughed and kissed Emma on the head. “That’s one of the reasons I love you.”

He felt Emma become rigid under his arm and he knew that he should have put that a different way. Emma excused herself from the table and headed down to the bathroom.

“I screwed up again, didn’t I?” Nick asked Addie.

“No, trust me, if you screwed up, I’d tell you!” Addie said without a smile. “I think she’s just really sensitive right now. She cares a lot about you and she’s scared of getting hurt. She told me earlier that she kind of freaked about the girlfriend/boyfriend thing.”

“Yeah she did. I should have backed off and not forced her to say it.”

“No, I think you did the right thing. She’s got to find a way to deal with her trust issues.” Addie said bluntly. “I pretty much told her that in the kitchen.”

Howie and Nick just sat there with their mouths open.

“Don’t act so surprised. I don’t beat around the bush. She had a crap relationship with Jessie and she got burned. I don’t want her to close herself off from being happy so you have my permission to force her a bit Mr. Carter.”

“Thank you for giving me permission.”

“You’re welcome.” Addie said with a serious face. “But just remember what I said the other night. You hurt her and you’d better move to a foreign country because I will kick your ass.”

Nick looked shocked by what Addie had said and she gave him a look that said she meant every word.

“I promise not to hurt her.”

“Good.” Addie said standing up. “I think we should probably head out so you can talk to Em.”

Nick walked his guests to the door and thanked them for coming over. He also reassured Addie that he would go out of his way to protect Emma. She seemed to be ok with what he said and told him that he should check on his girlfriend. As soon as they left, Nick turned and walked down to the bathroom.

“Em? You ok?”

“I’m fine. I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Ok.”

Nick walked back towards the living room and thumped down on the couch to wait for her. It took her a few minutes but she finally emerged and made her way back towards him.

"Where did Addie and Howie go?”

“They left.” Nick answered and pointed to the couch next to him. “I think we need to talk.”

Emma hung her head and took a deep breath. She sat down and turned her face away from him.

“I would appreciate it if you’d at least look at me.”

Emma slowly turned her head so that she was looking in Nick’s eyes. He tugged her over to him and onto his lap. Draping one arm over her legs and the other around her back, he looked in her eyes and started to speak.

“I’m sorry for what I said at dinner and for what I said earlier. I don’t mean to push you so hard. I understand where you’re coming from and I don’t want to get hurt either.”

Emma felt badly when he said that. She was so focused on not getting hurt that she hadn’t realized that he might be feeling the same way.

“We’ve known each other for months and spent a lot of time together Em. I feel like I can trust you and I want you to be able to trust me. This whole thing between us isn’t going to work unless we cut each other some slack and we find a way to move past what other people have done to us. I’m not Jessie and you’re not Lauren.”

“I know and I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want you to apologize. I just want both of us to be able to move forward and focus less on who’s hurt us and more on what we have between us. I promise not to make you say boyfriend and I’ll watch how I put things.”

“You shouldn’t have to do that Nick. If we’re going to be in a relationship then I need to stop taking everything to heart and being scared about calling you my boyfriend. I mean hell, we live together.”

Nick laughed and it caused Emma to smile.

“We’ve already moved in together so we might as well have the official titles.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that.” Nick said and kissed her gently. “I won’t put any more pressure on you.”

“And I will open myself up more and try to put all the hurt feelings in the past.”

“I think that sounds like a pretty good compromise.”

Nick picked her up and set her next to him. She was surprised by his actions but didn’t say anything. He leaned down to kiss her and asked for five minutes. Nodding, she watched as he headed down to their bedrooms and waited the five minutes he asked. As soon as she hit the hallway, she could smell the candle he had lit and it made her smile. She pushed the bedroom door open and walked inside.

Nick was sitting in the middle of the bed with his arms open. She surprised him by pushing him onto the bed instead of sitting down with him. Kissing him with as much force as she could, she unbuttoned his shirt and peeled it off. It was Nick’s turn to groan and Emma smiled when she heard the noise.

“I think it’s time for me to take charge and show you how much I want to be with you.”

“I’m looking forward to it.” Nick said with a sexy grin and reached up with his hand to pull her face down to his.
Second Place by Kyrie
The next week flew by. Thanksgiving was coming and Emma would be on break from school for a few days. Nick wanted to have a big dinner for everyone at their house and all the guys had committed to coming. It was going to be a busy few days and Emma needed to mentally prepare herself for everything. It was two nights before when Emma finally got the chance to sit down and figure out all the details. Since Nick and Howie were working on some songs for their albums, she guilted Addie into helping her.

“I’m here.” Addie yelled down the hallway. “I brought food!”

“Yeah!” Emma said with a laugh. “Now I can stop thinking about all the other food we need.”

Addie set their dinner down and hugged her friend. “Stressed huh?”

“You have no idea. I’ve cooked dinner for like six people but this is insane.”

“How many are we up to?”

“There’s Brian, Leighanne and Bailey, you and Howie, AJ, Rochelle and Ava, Kevin, Kristen, Mason and Maxwell. Plus Nick and I! That’s fourteen people!”

Addie burst into laughter.

“What’s so funny?” Emma asked with her eyes flashing.

“You’re seriously screwed.”

Emma sighed and threw a handful of crunched up paper at her. “Thanks for the support.”

“You know I love you and I’ll do whatever I can to help you.”

Emma turned to face her. “So what are you cooking?”

“Absolutely nothing! I will help you clean and shop and set up but there is no freaking way that I am cooking anything. You’re Betty Crocker, not me!”

“So I take it you’re not gonna help me stuff the turkeys either are you?”

“Hell no! I am not, I repeat NOT, going to touch any bird unless it’s already been cooked.”

“Well then I am electing you to come with me tomorrow and get all the food.”

“That I can handle.” Addie handed Emma a plate of food. “When is everyone coming?”

“Tomorrow but Nick and Howie are gonna hang out with the guys at the hotel since he knows we’re gonna be busy.”

“It’s nice of them to keep the company away so you can get some work done.”

“I know but I really enjoy the guys and I can’t wait to meet Rochelle. AJ swears that we’d get along great.”

“Just remember who your BFF is lady!”

“Always.” Emma replied with a smile.

Addie cleared off a spot on the table and set her food down. “What exactly are all these lists?”

Emma blushed and tried to push them away.

“Uh-huh!” Addie said as she grabbed a handful and unfolded them. She saw lists of foods that they could serve and ones that might be best. There were also descriptions of the decorations and table settings. “You are so Type A!”

“So are you!”

“I know, that’s why we click.”

Emma threw away all the crumpled papers and sat down to eat with Addie. She was quiet for a few minutes which caused her friend to comment.

“What’s up? Did Nick do something stupid?”

“No. We talked and I’m trying to work around all my issues and his. I’m just getting nervous for Thanksgiving. Everyone will be here and what happens if they don’t like me?”

“Who’s not going to like you? Everyone likes you!”

“What if they wives don’t? What if I don’t fit in?”

Addie burst into laughter. “Then they definitely won’t get along with me. Don’t forget, we’re in this together.”

“I know but you’re so much more confident than me.”

“Is that what you really think?”

“Sometimes. It’s just that you can say whatever you want and you’re taken seriously. You didn’t start dating Howie after he broke up with someone that they were friends with. It’s almost like I’m here in Lauren’s place.”

The thought struck Addie and she realized she had never thought of that. She stepped into a relationship with someone who was completely single and didn’t have an ex-girlfriend that was friends with all the women.

“I just want them to like me.”

“Em......”

“I don’t mean like I can’t survive unless they love me. I just want them to look at me apart from Lauren and not as the runner up.”

“You are not the runner up and I know they’ll all like you. I don’t think Nick would stand for anything bad being said. He’s protective and honestly, I don’t see the guys’ wives doing that. They seem like great women.”

“I hope you’re right. It would suck to have them all wishing it was Lauren here and not me.”

Addie reached out and put her hand on Emma’s arm. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right.”

---------------------------------

When Nick came home later that night, he found Emma in the same place at the kitchen table. She was finishing another list and didn’t hear him come up behind her. He leaned down and kissed her head, causing her to jump up.

“Ahhhhh!”

Nick grabbed her and pulled her into a tight hug. “Sorry honey but I called your name all the way from the front door and you never answered.”

“I didn’t hear you.” Emma replied and wrapped her arms around him. “I’m glad you’re home.”

“Me too.” He leaned down and kissed her softly. “It looks like you’ve been busy.”

Nick reached out to grab a paper and Emma snatched it before he had time to look at it.

“What are you hiding?” he asked with a grin.

“Nothing.” she answered, trying to hide more papers.

“It’s something.”

Nick finally snatched up one of the lists and read through it.

“Are you gonna laugh?” Emma asked with concern.

“Why would I laugh?”

“Because it’s a stupid list.”

“Nothing that you do is stupid Em. If the lists work for you, do them. There’s nothing funny about it.”

Emma looked relieved and put the other papers back on the table. Nick draped his arm around her shoulder and kissed her forehead.

“Can I add just one thing to the list?” he asked quietly.

“Anything.”

He took Emma’s hand and walked her down to the bedroom. “Where are we going?”

“I’m adding ‘spending the night in bed with my boyfriend’ to your list.”

Emma smiled. “I don’t think I need a list for that.”
Round 1 by Kyrie
Addie picked Emma up the next morning to go shopping. Howie and Nick were getting everyone from the airport and bringing them back to the hotel.

“So did you talk to Nick last night?” Addie asked as they entered the story.

“We always talk.” Emma said with a laugh. “Why would last night be different?”

“I was hoping you told Nick about your concerns.”

Emma shook her head. “I don’t really know how to bring it up. I don’t want to come across as insulting the wives or as being needy. I just need to deal with things. Like you said, I’m sure everyone will be great.”

“You don’t think you should mention it? Aren’t you guys supposed to be honest?”

“Yes but he doesn’t need to know this. I’m a big girl; I can take care of myself.”

“Ok snappy, it was just a suggestion.”

“Sorry if I snapped. This is just something I have to deal with myself.”

“I understand but I just thought if you mentioned it to Nick, it would put your mind at ease.”

“I don’t know. Like I said, how would I put it? ‘Hey sweetheart, do you think your brothers’ wives will hate me or wish I was your ex-girlfriend?’ I don’t think I could have the conversation without bringing Lauren up and I don’t think now is a good time to do that.”

“Maybe you could just say something like you hope they’ll like you.”

“What do I say when he asks why I think they wouldn’t?”

“Just tell him that you’re nervous because you’ve never met them.”

“But you haven’t either and you’re not asking Howie. Nick’s not stupid, he’s gonna figure out why I’m asking.”

“He’s a guy, they take forever to figure stuff out!”

Emma laughed. “I’ll think about it ok.”

“I guess I can live with that.” Addie replied and they finished their shopping. She dropped Emma off and spent half of the ride home debating whether she should let her friend figure it out or if she needed a little help. Finally making her decision, she dialed Howie’s number.

“Hi sweetie, can I talk to Nick?”

--------------------------

Emma was up to her elbows in stuffing when she heard her phone go off. It took her a minute to answer it and she was surprised when she heard AJ’s voice.

“Hi Feisty.”

“Hi AJ.”

“I know you were expecting Blondie but I wanted to ask you a favor.”

“Is everything ok?”

“Oh yeah, nothing’s wrong. I was just kind of wondering if Ro and I could bring Ave by tonight. You won’t have to do any cooking; we can pick up food on the way.”

Emma paused for a minute and AJ jumped back into it.

“Ro just really wants to meet you and she’s afraid once everyone’s there, she won’t get the chance to talk to you.”

“Sure AJ, you guys are more than welcome.”

“Thanks Feisty, we’ll give you a couple hours and then head over. Is that ok?”

“Yup.”

“Great, I’ll see you when we get there.”

He hung and Emma went into complete panic mode. She had so much stuff to get done and needed things to be set by the time they were there; she would have to use every second she had.

----------------------------

Emma was just taking the last batch of cookies out from the oven when she heard Nick’s voice coming from the front door. She whipped her apron off and straightened her shirt and hair.

“Hey beautiful.” Nick said pulling her close. “You smell good.”

“I think you smell the cookies.”

Nick leaned in and whispered something in her ear. She turned beet red and scooted around him to see AJ.

“Is he misbehaving?” AJ asked with a laugh.

“Just a little.” Emma replied as she hugged him. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“Same here.”

AJ stepped aside and flung out his arm. “This is my beautiful wife Ro and the most amazing little girl on the planet.”

“It’s so nice to meet you Emma. AJ can’t say enough good things about you.”

The two women hugged and Emma led them all into the living room. AJ and his wife took a seat of the sofa and set Ava down in between them. Nick sunk into one of the chairs and pulled a surprised Emma onto his lap.

“Nick,” she whispered, “we have guests….”

Rochelle laughed. “Don’t worry about us. AJ does the same thing at our house.”

“See?” Nick said with a grin.

Emma still looked uncomfortable and unsure of what to do.

“Relax.” Nick whispered his lips so close to her ear that she shivered. “I promise not to start making out.”

Emma blushed and smacked Nick lightly with her hand. “You’re a brat!”

“There’s the feisty woman I know.” AJ said with a grin. “See Ro, I told you she could keep Nick in his place.”

“I have to give you credit Emma, not many women could do that.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, I try.”

“AJ,” Nick whined in a little kid voice, “they’re picking on me!”

“It’s about damn time!”

The two couples chatted a little longer and then AJ asked Nick if he could help him with Ava, conveniently leaving Emma and Rochelle alone to talk.

“So let’s cut to the chase.” Rochelle said as soon as the guys were gone.
Surprising News by Kyrie
Emma’s face paled and she started to panic. This is exactly what she thought was going to happen.

“I like you.”

Emma’s jaw dropped. “Excuse me?”

“I like you.”

Emma looked at Rochelle like she was from a different planet.

“AJ was right and I can see why he speaks so highly of you.”

“I’m really confused right now.”

Rochelle laughed. “I can tell. What did you think I was gonna say?”

“I’m not sure.” Emma said after a minute. “I just thought….”

“I want to tell you the truth. Your friend called Nick and told him about how you were feeling.”

Emma groaned. “I’m gonna kill her.”

“Don’t.” Rochelle responded. “I think Nick wishes you had told him yourself but it is what it is. You really have nothing to worry about.”

Emma sat there not knowing what to say.

“I’m sorry that I kind of threw all this stuff at you at once but I wanted to put you at ease. Everyone is gonna love you.”

“But I’m not Lauren.” Emma replied quietly.

“No, you’re not. And no one expects you to be.”

“But you all liked her.”

“I can’t speak for the other ladies but I wasn’t always her biggest fan. I want all the guys to be happy and Nick wasn’t all the time.”

“No one can be happy all the time.”

“You’re right but everyone should be at least half the time.”

“I appreciate you telling me this. I was just scared that all of you would wish I was Lauren.”

“I don’t and I know Kristen won’t. I can’t speak for Leighanne, but I’m not really sure she likes me some of the time!” Rochelle said with a laugh.

Emma giggled and was relieved to shed some of the stress she’d been feeling. Maybe this holiday wouldn’t be so bad.

------------------------------------

“So how do you think it’s going in there?” Nick asked as he handed AJ a diaper.

“Would you relax? It’s going just fine.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s Ro and Emma. They’re probably the two most easy going women on the planet.” AJ replied with a laugh. “Hell, they’re probably BFFs by now.”

Nick chuckled. “I hope so.”

“You need to chill out Nicky. It’ll all be ok.”

Nick sat down on the bed and watched as AJ finished dressing his daughter. “I just wished she had told me how she was feeling herself instead of letting Addie do it.”

AJ sat down next to him, bouncing Ava on his lap. “First of all, I don’t think she “let” Addie do it. That woman seems pretty strong willed and probably took it upon herself to do it.”

“I still wish she’d told me….”

“Dude, how did you expect her to tell you?”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s the new girl in the group.”

“But so is Addie.”

“Yeah but Howie didn’t just break up with someone he’d been with for four years. He didn’t just introduce that someone he’s dating and living with right after ending a long term relationship.”

“Are you saying I’m using Emma as a rebound?” Nick demanded, getting angry.

“No Nick, I’m not saying that. I don’t think you’d do something like that and I hope I’m not wrong.”

“You’re not; I wouldn’t do that to Emma!”

“Relax Nick; I’m not saying you would. I’m just saying that it puts her in a different boat than Addie.” AJ paused. “I mean put yourself in her shoes. How would you like it if she had four sisters with wives or girlfriends who got used to her boyfriend and now there was someone new? Wouldn’t you feel a little out of place and nervous?”

Nick thought about it for a minute. “I guess you’re right. I think that’d be hard for me.”

AJ grinned. “You’re seeing the light!”

Nick laughed and nodded. “Finally.”

“In all seriousness though,” AJ said and looked at Ava, “isn’t she the most beautiful little girl?”

“Absolutely.” Nick answered. “Thank God she takes after her mother!”

---------------------------

Dinner went smoothly and Emma felt much more at ease by the time AJ and the girls left. Nick walked them out while Emma cleaned up what was left in the kitchen. When she turned around, she found Nick leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed.

“So, how mad are you?” Emma said, lowering her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see his reaction.

“I’m not mad at you.”

Emma looked up and saw Nick’s face. “But you’re upset.”

“No.” Nick replied and walked over to her. “I’m a little hurt that you didn’t tell me but I’m not mad.”

He pulled Emma into a tight embrace and leaned down to kiss her. After returning his kiss, Emma leaned her head against his chest.

“What made you not mad?”

“AJ.”

“AJ?”

“Yeah, he helped me see it from your point of view.”

“He did?”

“Yup.” Nick chuckled. “AJ was actually the voice of common sense. Go figure.”

Emma laughed and wrapped her arms around Nick’s waist. “I’m glad he was. I’m sorry for not telling you myself; I just didn’t know how to.”

“I know.” Nick said as he pulled back to look in her face. “I just want us to be as honest as we possibly can with each other, even if it hurts or is uncomfortable.”

Emma nodded. “Ok. I promise in the future to be up front about this kind of stuff.”

“Any kind of stuff.”

“Alright, any kind of stuff.”

“Good.” Nick said and grabbed her hand.

“What…”

“You and I are going to bed.”

“But Della…..”

Nick leaned down and kissed her gently. “I’ll take care of her. You go get comfortable.”

Emma blushed and watched Nick open the door to the backyard. As she turned away, she realized what an amazing man she was lucky enough to have.
Thanksgiving Dinner by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
A massive thank you to Sapphire who helped me get this chapter together and written!
Emma was overwhelmed from the time the first person stepped through the door. Everyone seemed to arrive at once and she was still trying to get everything settled in the kitchen. Addie had come out to help her but that seemed to frazzle her friend even more so she made her way back into the living room to study the other women.

After getting the last pie out of the oven, Emma made a dash for the bathroom. She needed two minutes to herself to catch her breath and prepare to meet the other wives. Rochelle had been great but she still had to face Brian and Kevin’s wives. Taking a final deep breath, she straightened her shirt and hair and then headed back to the living room. On her way down, she got a glimpse of Leighanne talking to Kristen in the hall. She ducked into a doorway and listened as they continued their conversation.

“So have you met her yet?”

“No, but Kevin said she’s a really nice girl.”

“She can’t be that nice if she stole someone else’s boyfriend!”

“Lower your voice Leighanne.”

“Why? She’s in the kitchen, she can’t hear me.”

“No but other people can. This is Nick’s house and you don’t want to upset him.”

“Upset him? He should be ashamed of himself. He broke Lauren’s heart and then jumped into bed with that woman two minutes later.”

The women were interrupted by Brian calling them to the table. Emma bolted back into the bathroom and shut the door quietly. Tears were streaming down her face and her cheeks were getting red. She knew this was going to happen; everyone was going to hate her and resent the fact that she had taken Lauren’s place. Someone rapping on the door snapped her back to reality and she turned on the sink to wash her face.

“Em?” Nick called. “You ok?”

“Yeah I’m fine. I just needed to clean something off my shirt. I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Ok. I’m telling everyone that the food’s ready.”

“Good.”

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yup. Go ahead and sit. I promise to only be another minute.”

“Alright.” Nick said and reluctantly went back to the table.

“Is she ok?” Addie asked him quietly.

“She said she is but I don’t believe her.”

“Maybe she just…..”

Howie was cut off by Emma sitting down next to Nick. They could all tell that something was wrong and saw the tear tracks that she had tried so hard to wash away. Thankfully everyone else was talking so they couldn’t hear the exchange between the couple.

“What’s wrong?” Nick asked leaning in to whisper in her ear. “And don’t tell me nothing because you were crying.”

“I wasn’t….”

“Don’t lie. What happened?”

“Don’t worry about it Nick, we can talk about it later. It’s not important.”

“It’s important enough for you to cry over.”

Emma just shook her head and looked around the table. She cleared her throat and thanked everyone for coming.

“It really means a lot to Nick, and to me, that all of you were able to come today. I know everyone’s busy and we’re very thankful that we could all be together.”

“It’s not like the whole family’s here.” Leighanne stated rudely.

Brian’s face turned beet red and he kicked her chair violently. Nick’s face was becoming purple and Addie looked like she could have scratched Leighanne’s eyes out. Emma shrank back into the chair and tried to fight back more tears.

“I’m serious. Not everyone…”

“Everyone who should be here is here.” AJ interrupted loudly. “The people sitting around this table are the people that belong here.” He paused to let his comment sink in. “And before I forget, the big, long thing at the end of the hallway is the door and anyone who has a problem with whose here should use it.”

AJ glared at Leighanne almost daring her to make a move. Surprisingly, Leighanne didn’t move at all nor did she open her mouth again. Satisfied that he had made his point crystal clear, he turned to Emma.

“Thank you for having us here. I know this was all your doing because if it had been Nick’s, we’d all be eating take out!”

AJ’s comment relieved some of the tension around the table and everyone changed the subject to the food. Emma wiped her eyes on her napkin and put her hand on AJ’s arm.

“Thank you.” she whispered.

“You don’t need to thank me.” he replied with a smile. “She’s being a bitch and needs to know that. Don’t take anything she says to heart; everyone here loves you and are really happy for you and Nick.”

Emma smiled faintly and turned her attention back to her plate. Nick leaned in and kissed her gently on the cheek.

“You did a beautiful job and don’t doubt for one second that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.”

Emma nodded and put some food on her plate. She had lost her appetite but didn’t want to sit there and sulk; she was determined to do the best she could to get through dinner.

---------------------------------

The next few hours passed without any more issues and almost everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Kevin and his brood left first, followed closely by Brian, Bayley and Leighanne. She was the first one out and didn’t say a word to Nick or Emma. Brian followed, apologizing profusely for his wife’s behavior and telling Emma how much everyone liked her. AJ and the girls were the last to leave and he gave Emma a huge hug.

“Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t belong here.”

“I won’t.” Emma said with a half-smile. “Thank you again.”

“Anytime. Nobody’s gonna mess with my feisty one!” AJ responded with a laugh. “Take care of her Carter!”

“I will and don’t call her yours!” Nick yelled with a laugh.

Addie and Howie headed out next knowing that Emma and Nick would need some time to talk. She pulled her friend aside so that the boys couldn’t hear what she was going to say.

“I’m not kidding when I say this Emma. You give me the thumbs up and I will track that woman down and…..”
“Calm down Addie, you don’t need to do that.”

“I cannot sit by and tolerate the way she treated you. How dare she say that to you, especially in your own home?”

“It’s Nick’s house…”

“It’s your’s too!”

“It’s ok Addie. I can deal with it.”

“You shouldn’t have to!”

“Forget it ok? Why don’t you and Howie enjoy the rest of your night in peace and I’ll call you tomorrow?”

“Fine.” Addie huffed. “But I’m warning you, if that woman says anything like that again, I swear….”

“I get it, I get it.” Emma said. “I appreciate you always sticking up for me.”

“I’ll always have your back.”

“I know and that means the world to me.”

Addie hugged her and made her way to the car where Howie was waiting. Nick came over and wrapped his arm around Emma’s waist and laid his head on top of hers. They watched their friends drive away and headed back into the house where Della was waiting by the back door.

“I’ll let her out and then I want to talk to you.”

Emma nodded and walked down to her bedroom. She changed her clothes, slid under the covers and pretended to be asleep when Nick came back with the dog. They would have to talk but she just couldn’t handle anything else tonight.
Aftermath by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Thank you to everyone for reading and reviewing! I know the holidays are a busy time of the year and I appreciate all the time it takes to read the story and leave feedback. I hope you're all still interested!
Emma woke up to a quiet house. Della was asleep and snoring next to the bed; Nick’s side was empty. She sighed and slowly made her way down to the kitchen to make some coffee. After pulling down one of the mugs, she started filling the pot with water.

“Did you get enough sleep?”

“Jesus!” she yelled and spun around; she’d been so distracted that she didn’t see Nick lounging on the sofa.

“Is now a good time to talk?”

Emma nodded and put down her mug. She sat down hesitantly next to him and turned so she could see his face.

“I know you were pretending to be asleep last night.”

She didn’t try to deny it.

“This is really important and we need to talk about what happened yesterday.”

“I know I just couldn’t deal with anything else last night.”

“Well, when were you planning on doing it?”

“Today. Sometime.”

Nick sighed. “If we’re gonna make this thing work, you have to get used to a few things. First is that we need to talk about things right away, even if we don’t want to.”

Emma started to say something but Nick cut her off.

“I’ve seen the guys have really uncomfortable moments with their wives but I’m telling you, the longer something festers, the worse it gets. This is especially true when we’re on the road. The more time spent not talking is not going to help either one of us. Look at what happened between me and Lauren.”

That comment made Emma flinch and Nick noticed her bristle.

“I didn’t mean it like that Em. I’m not sad that it happened because I have you now. I just want you to see the repercussions of not talking things through with each other. Can you understand that?”

She nodded and Nick continued.

“Second, being with me is going to be a pain in the ass sometimes.”

Emma snorted which caused Nick to chuckle.

“I’m serious. If you’re gonna question whether you belong with me because of some stupid comments Leighanne made, it’s gonna be worse when the fans get ahold of you.”

“I know.”

“Honestly, I don’t think you do. Some of the fans loved Lauren and they’re gonna be pissed when they find out I’m dating you. There are some fans that are gonna be pissed no matter who I’m dating. There will always be comments on social media about who I’m dating. Some will be kind and others will be extremely hurtful. Most of our fans are good about respecting the women we’re with but some still take things too far. I know it hurt Lauren a lot when she would see some of the horrible things they posted about her. Trust me, Leighanne is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to slinging insults.”

Emma sat in silence for a few moments. “I guess I didn’t think about all of that.”

Nick pulled her over and wrapped his arms around her. She laid her head on his chest and hugged him tightly.

“I know.” he replied quietly. “You’re extremely important to me and I don’t want you caught off-guard. The media's gonna go crazy and everyone’s going to have questions about you.”

“I know and I’m sorry if that creates problems for you.”

“There are no problems for me. I have you and that’s all I need. You and I belong together and if you don’t mind, I want to be able to tell people that.”

Emma looked up at him and smiled. “I object, strongly.”

“Brat.” He leaned down and kissed her gently. “Are we good?”

“We were always good.” Emma answered and kissed him again. “We’ll always be good.”

“Glad to hear that.”

---------------------------------

The guys’ management called a few hours later and Nick didn’t look thrilled when he got off the phone. Emma noticed him slump down on the sofa and cover his eyes.

“What’s up?” she asked sitting down next to him. “Remember what you said about always talking things through.”

“Apparently, someone already talked to the press and they know all about you.”

“I think I can guess from your attitude that we know who that someone is and that the media might not have the whole story.”

“They never have the whole story and they don’t care. All they want is to sell something and even half-truths will get people’s attention.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“What do you want me to do?” Nick asked surprising her. “I’ll do whatever you feel comfortable with.”

Emma thought about her options. She knew that Nick had told her earlier that she belonged with him and that he would be willing to tell everyone that. The problem was she knew that would create an avalanche of crap for him.

“I think you shouldn’t say anything.”

Nick just looked at her.

“I know we’re together and you know we’re together right?”

Nick nodded.

“Then that’s all that really matters. What anyone else “knows” or thinks they know is not an issue for us. I think it’ll be worse if we feed into what got started. What’s done is done and we don’t need to explain it to anyone.”

Nick smiled and kissed her deeply. “Have I told you lately how amazing you are?”

“Not today.” Emma giggled. “But I think you can make up for it.”

Nick didn’t need any more prompting. He pulled her up and threw her over her shoulder. She started laughing and banging on his back.

“Put me down!”

“I will when we get to our final destination!”
Damn TMZ! by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
A big thank you to Sapphire for her help with this chapter!
Several days passed since Emma’s introduction to the wives and things were getting back to normal. She and Nick were enjoying some quiet time together and prepping the house for Christmas. He and the guys had to leave for a four day media tour so they wanted to get the tree up before he left.

Two days into their trip, Emma invited Addie over for a girls’ night in. Turning on the TV, she flopped down on the couch and waited for her friend to get there. Knowing it wouldn’t take her long, Emma settled on TMZ to kill the time and started working on a list of gifts she wanted to get people. She was barely paying attention to the TV until Nick’s name was mentioned and she snapped to attention.

They were showing a picture of the two of them walking down the beach. She had no idea that someone had taken their picture and it felt like an invasion of privacy. As the segment continued, they showed another picture; this was of Nick with Lauren and the reporter discussing it said it was taken a day ago. He had his arms wrapped around her and was leaning in to kiss her on the cheek. Emma felt her heart sink and her eyes started to well up. She was so distracted that she didn’t hear Addie come in.

“What the hell is that?”

Emma turned around slowly and Addie could see the tears streaming down her face.

“I don’t know. I just turned it on.”

Addie stomped down to the living room, grabbed the remote control and hit the power button. As the TV faded to black, she sat down next to Emma and wrapped her arm around her friend’s shoulder.

“There has to be some explanation for this.”

“I hope so.” Emma said and excused herself.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Addie pulled out her cellphone and hit her speed dial. She waited a few seconds for Howie to pick up and went he did, the words just tumbled out.

“Turn on TMZ right now. Nick better have a really good reason for that picture!”

--------------------------------

Nick and AJ were playing video games in the living room between the suites when Howie came marching in, turned off the game and flipped on TMZ.

“What the hell Howie?” AJ yelped. “I don’t want to……”

AJ stopped talking the minute he saw the two pictures side by side. Looking over at Nick, he listened to what they were reporting and watched as his friend’s jaw dropped.

“Where the hell did they get that picture?”

“Which one?” Howie asked.

“The one of me and Emma.”

“I’d be more concerned about that picture of you and Lauren.” AJ interrupted.

“They’re lying!” Nick yelled. “That picture was taken like two years ago at some party.”

“Are you sure?”

Nick turned to Howie and looked like he was about to hit him.

“Yes, I’m sure. I asked someone to take it for us. It’s was on my phone….”

“I’m guessing that means you don’t still have it.”

Nick shook his head. “I deleted any pictures of Lauren off my phone when Emma and I got together. I thought I was doing a good thing.”

“Do you remember who took it?”

“No, I have no idea. I just remember it because Lauren always liked that picture.” Nick shook his head and suddenly looked confused. “How’d you know about the show Howie?”

“Addie called and said Emma had it on when she got there.”

“Oh my God.” Nick said running his hands through his hair. “Did she see it?”

“I guess so.” Howie answered. “And Addie was really specific when she told me to remind you about moving to China.”

“I didn’t do anything.” Nick responded with anger. “This isn’t from the other day and I wouldn’t do that to her.”

AJ decided to intercede. “I’m sure she knows that Nick but you have to remember that she’s new to this. Every girl any of us have ever been with has had to go through this experience. This crap caused a whole bunch of headaches for me and it took its toll on a few relationships. You have to keep reminding yourself that you’re used to it and Emma’s not. Call her and explain it; I’m sure she’ll understand.”

“I hope you’re right.”

-----------------------------------

Emma was sitting on the couch talking with Addie when her cell phone rang. She saw Nick’s picture flash on and picked it up.

“Hey.” she answered quietly.

“I’m so sorry Em, I really am. Howie told me that you saw those pictures on TMZ.”

“Yeah, I caught them.”

“You have to know that I would never do that to you. That picture was taken two years ago at some party. I don’t remember who took it or I would have them call you.”

“They don’t need to.”

“But…”

“It’s ok Nick.”

“It is?” he responded with surprise.

“Yeah. I got upset when I saw them and I have to admit that seeing you with Lauren bothered me. But I remembered what you said the other night about me needing to learn to deal with things because they might get worse.”

“You listened to me?” Nick asked, trying to lighten the mood.

Emma chuckled. “Yeah, but don’t expect it to happen very often.”

“I won’t.” Nick replied and he felt the tension sliding away. “So we’re ok?”

“We’re good. I trust you Nick and I know that you wouldn’t do that to me. It just caught me off-guard.”

“I’m sorry; I wish I could change what happened.”

“It’s not your fault. I just need to grow a thicker skin and try not to let things like this bother me.”

“I can’t wait till we get home.”

“Me neither.”

“You gonna be ok?”

“Yeah, Addie and I are throwing a huge keg party……”

“Wise ass.”

“That’s me.” she replied with a laugh. “Go back to the guys and call me tomorrow ok?”

“I promise.”

“Good. Have fun.”

“You too.” Nick replied and hung up.

AJ grinned. “So you and Feisty are good right?”

“We’re good.”

“I hope you know how lucky you are to have a woman like that.”

“I do.”

“Good because if you ever screw it up, I’ll kick your ass.”

“You’ll have to get behind Addie.”

“We’ll flip a coin to see who gets the pleasure!”

Nick grinned and handed AJ back his controller.
Couple Time by Kyrie
Nick was excited to see Emma waiting at the airport for him. He wanted to believe her when she said they were all good but was afraid she was just waiting to say anything else till he got back. She surprised him even more by running over and jumping into his arms.

“I missed you!” she cried.

Nick laughed at she wrapped her arms around his neck. It had been a long time since someone seemed that happy to see him and he realized how much he’d missed it.

“I missed you too.” he whispered into her ear. “I can’t wait till we get home.”

“Well you’ll have to wait a little longer. Addie and I are taking you guys out to dinner first.”

Nick groaned. “I spent enough time with D. I wanna spend some time with you.”

“We will, I promise.”

“I’m holding you too that!”

---------------------------

Nick and Emma finally arrived home after spending some time with their friends and she kept her promise of spending time with him. They were lying in bed a few hours later, Emma with her head on Nick’s chest and Nick with his arms wrapped tightly around her.

“I’ve really missed this.” he reminded her for the umpteenth time since they got home.

She laughed and ran her hand over his chest. “I know, you keep telling me.”

“I just wanna make sure you know.”

“I do and I missed it too. It’s gonna be hard when you guys head out on tour.”

“That’s not for a while.”

“I know, I just love you being around and having someone to talk to.”

“You have Addie to talk to.”

Emma pulled away and leaned on her elbow so she could see him. “That’s not what I mean.”

“What do you mean then?”

Emma sighed. “I spent six year with Jessie and five were probably the five loneliest years of my life.”

Nick’s heart broke a little when he heard that. “I’m sorry Em.”

“I don’t want you to be sorry.” she replied with a faint smile. “The situation made me unhappy but that’s the past. You walked in and changed my life.”

Nick was stunned. “How did I do that?”

Emma smiled at his amazement. “You became my friend and allowed me to be myself. You also made me question what I was doing, as painful as that was, and you were right when you said I was lying to myself about my relationship with Jessie. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to break up with him and I was lucky when he did it for me.”

“Lucky?”

“Lucky because I have you. Lucky because I have someone who cares about me and tells me that all the time.”

Nick was deeply touched and he pulled her close so he could kiss her. “Well you’d better get used to it because you’re gonna have me for a long time! You might actually regret saying it!”

“I’ll never regret it. Or what I have here with you. No matter what happens….”

“See, you’re already trying to get rid of me.” Nick said with a chuckle.

“That’s not true!” Emma said slapping his shoulder. “I mean that I’m always going to appreciate what you’ve done for me.”

“That sounds better. I don’t like to hear you talking like this isn’t gonna last. We both know what we had and what we have. I don’t want to lose that.”

Emma could see the sincerity in Nick’s eyes and she kissed him gently. “Neither do I.”

“Good.” Nick said, pulling her tight. “Now let’s get back to what we had about ten minutes ago!”

--------------------------------

Emma dragged herself out of bed the next morning and followed the smell of coffee wafting down the hallway. She found the remains of Nick’s breakfast and a tall pot of coffee waiting on the counter. Looking around for her boyfriend, she spotted him out back, running back and forth on the beach with Della. As a grin spread across her face, she pulled on a jacket and went out to greet them.

“Hey sleepyhead.” Nick called out as he headed back towards the house. “You finally got up!”

“Is it that late?”

“Noon.”

“Holy crap! I didn’t mean to sleep that late.”

“I’m actually glad you did.”

“And why is that?” Emma asked as they made their way back into the house.

Nick’s reply was cut off by the doorbell ringing. He ignored her curious look, opened the door and returned with Howie right behind him.

“What are you doing here?” she asked as she hugged him.

“I came for Della.”

“Excuse me?” Emma yelped. “Why are you coming for Della?”

Nick laughed and went to stand behind Emma, wrapping his long arms around her waist. “Howie and Addie are taking Della for a few days because you and I are going away.”

Emma spun around. “Away? You didn’t say anything about that to me.”

“Surprise!” Nick said with a grin.

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a secret.”

“I won’t know what to pack if I don’t know where we’re going.”

“I packed for you while you were asleep.” Emma’s jaw dropped and Nick laughed again. “Problem solved.”

Howie snickered and called out for Della. He put her leash on, told them to have fun and then headed back to Addie’s. Emma, still shocked, was pulled down the hallway by Nick and he deposited her in the bathroom.

“I left clothes in there. Get changed and meet me outside. I’ll get your luggage.”

He closed the door and left Emma standing there. What the hell was going on?
What Next? by Kyrie
Nick drove for what seemed like hours and Emma was surprised when she saw the sign saying they were entering New York. She didn’t ask him about it because he already told her he wasn’t going to say anything and ruin the surprise. They continued driving a little longer and then he pulled into the parking lot of the biggest lodges that Emma had ever seen.

Nick put the car into park and told her to wait there. She sat there for a few minutes before he came jogging back out to where she was. He handed her a key, pulled out of the spot and followed a curvy sand road up to a group of cottages. After stopping a few times, he found the one he rented and pulled into the parking spot in front of it. Emma was amazed when she stepped out of the car and looked around.

Snow was covering everything on the property and twilight was just setting in. The cottage itself was small and inviting with the lamplight glowing through the windows and the smoke from a fireplace coming up through the chimney. They made their way up to the door where Nick dumped all their belongings and opened the door. The inside was just as charming as the outside. There was a large bed in the middle of the room with a fireplace to the right and the bathroom to the left. There were a couple of comfy chairs right in front of the roaring fire and a basket of wine and fruit to welcome them in.

“Do you like it?” he asked after they stepped into the room.

“It’s beautiful Nick.”

“Not as beautiful as you.” he whispered in her ear and kissed her neck gently.

Emma shivered and turned so she could pull him close. She tugged his chin down and kissed him softly. Reaching up, she wrapped her arms around his neck and ran her hands through his hair. The intensity of the kiss increased and Nick reached down to pick her up. She clasped her legs around his waist and he carried her over to the bed. Gently setting her down, he placed his knees on either side of her; his hands were tender as they caressed her face. After deepening his kiss again, he whispered that they were in for the rest of the night.

-------------------------------

Emma woke up just as dawn was breaking. She slipped out of bed so as not to wake Nick and pulled on a sweatshirt. Opening the door just wide enough to sneak out of, she stood out on the porch and watched the light play off the lake. The Cape was always one of her favorite places to wake up to but this moment changed her mind. The beauty of the morning was so captivating that she didn’t hear Nick come up behind her. His hands on her shoulders startled her but she soon leaned back into him and let him pull her close.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked.

“Really well.”

“Good because you’re going to need it.”

“Another surprise?” she groaned.

“This one was worth it wasn’t it?”

Emma smiled. “You’re right, it was. Where are we going?”

“We’re staying here but we need to head up to the lodge soon.”

“Breakfast?”

“Yup and then today’s activities.”

“Activities?”

“Uh huh. Make sure you dress warm this morning. Sweater, hat, jacket, mittens, scarf…..”

“I get the gist.” Emma giggled and kissed him. “Give me ten minutes and then we can leave.”

Nick watched her go into the bathroom and started to get dressed himself. He was looking forward to this.

------------------------

“Are you trying to kill me?” Emma shouted.

Nick laughed and pushed her forward.

“I’m serious Nick, if you want to break up with me just say so. You don’t need to get me killed.”

“Let’s go, we’re almost there.”

Nick pulled her over to the ski lift entrance and helped her into the chair. He took his seat next to her and they started up the mountain.

“There is no way I am skiing Nick!” Emma continued to protest. “I can barely walk without breaking something and you want me to strap on two pieces of wood….”

“Fiberglass.”

“Whatever! You want me to strap them to my feet and go sailing down a mountain? Are you crazy?”

“Not last time I checked.” he replied with a smirk.

“You are crazy! I’m gonna wind up becoming well acquainted with some tree down there. That is if I miss the rocks first. Don’t you remember how many times you’ve had to save me?”

“I do.”

Emma continued to protest as they climb off the lift and headed over to a shack that had a line formed outside. Nick just kept smiling and pulled her in towards him. They finally got to the head of the line and Emma’s face turned beet red. She was surprised to see a large stack of inflatable tubes piled in all corners of the tight, cramped space. He grinned at her embarrassment and gave the attendant a five dollar bill. The two picked their tubes and headed over to a smaller hill and joined the line to head down.

“Did you really think I was going to send you down a mountain on skis?” Nick whispered and kissed her gently.

Emma turned red again.

“You’re my girlfriend and I want you in one piece. I also don’t want to spend our romantic weekend in the emergency room.”

“That’s wrong.” she said, elbowing him in the stomach. “But it’s true.”

Nick chuckled. “I figured we could go down on our own for a little while and then try out the two person tubes.” He paused. “That is if you’re still standing.”

Emma stuck her tongue out and cut in front of him in line. “I’m going first.”

The attendant held the tube for her and once she was situated, he gave her a gentle push to get her tube started. Emma held on as tightly as she could and everyone could hear her scream as the tube picked up speed. She finally made it to the bottom and managed to get herself into a standing position. Hearing Nick call her, she turned around and was knocked to the ground by him in his tube.

“I’m so sorry Em!” Nick cried as he jumped from his tube. “I didn’t think you’d still be standing so close.”

Emma was sitting on her butt in the snow, covered in the soft white powder from head to toe. He tried as hard as he could to not laugh but just couldn’t stop himself. Doubling over, he had tears streaming from his eyes and was trying to hold back as much as he could. Distracted by his laughter, he didn’t see Emma charge at him until she had shoved him into a nearby snow pile. She added a snowball to the head for good measure and then turned to pick her tube up.

“Race you up there!” she cried, running up to the conveyer.

Nick continued to laugh as he brushed snow off of himself. He grabbed his tube and raced to catch up with her.
Surprise! by Kyrie
“I’m exhausted.”

They had just gotten back from the snow tube run and shed their coats and boots. After warming up by the fire for a few minutes, Emma crawled onto the bed and her head quickly found a pillow.

“My body is gonna hate me tomorrow.” Nick moaned.

“So is mine. I can feel the bruises starting!” she replied with a laugh.

“Well, we’re not done for today.”

Emma’s eyes grew wide. “There’s more?”

“Just a couple.”

Emma groaned and closed her eyes.

“Come on.” Nick said. “You enjoyed this one.”

Her eyes stayed closed but she smiled in response. Nick chuckled and pulled the covers up over them both. He tugged her closer and kissed her on the head. She wrapped her arms around him and snuggled as close as she could.

“I don’t need anything more than this.” she whispered.

Nick smiled and the two fell asleep a few moments later.

-----------------------------

“C’mon sleepyhead.”

Emma grumbled and pulled the covers up over her head. Nick laughed and pulled them completely off her.

“It’s time for your next surprise.”

“I hate you.” Emma replied with a smile.

“No, you love me.” Nick teased. “That’s why you’re gonna get in the shower, warm up and be ready in 20 minutes.”

“Twenty minutes?” she yelped. “I can’t shower, do my hair and everything in twenty minutes!”

“You better try!”

Emma jumped out of bed and raced into the bathroom. Nick heard the shower start and opened the door thinking he might join her.

“Uh-huh buddy! If I only have twenty minutes, you have to wait!”

He laughed and closed the door. Dialing his phone, he waited for the front desk to pick up. The clerk assured him that everything would be taken care of and he wanted to make sure. Once they confirmed it, he dropped onto the bed and waited for Emma to finish.

-------------------------

“That was so good!” Emma raved as they made their way to the lobby of the lodge. “I love crème brulee and no one ever has it! You managed a great surprise.”

Nick chuckled. “That wasn’t the surprise.”

“It wasn’t?”

“Nope.” Nick pushed the main door to the lodge open. “This is.”

Emma’s jaw dropped. Waiting outside the lodge was a horse drawn sleigh with blankets and pillows piled up in the seats. The driver smiled and helped her up into the carriage part. There she found a dozen roses, a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered pineapple slices. Her eyes welled up as Nick climbed into the seat next to her.

“Do you like it?” Nick asked quietly.

“I love it Nick.” Emma whispered. “It’s the most amazing thing anyone has ever done for me.”

She slid as close to him as she could and kissed him gently. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she deepened her kiss and felt his arms encircle her waist.

“This is about as close to you as I can get here but wait until we get back to the room tonight.” Emma said in a low voice.

“I may have to cancel the rest of this.” Nick joked.

“Don’t you dare.”

Emma curled up close to him and pulled a blanket over both of them. She leaned her head against his shoulder and the sleigh took off slowly. The snow covered area was beautiful and the horses lead them into what looked like a winter wonderland to her. Trees were covered in snow, the lake’s surface glittered and the moon was bright and full.

“I remember another time we went on a ride like this.”

Emma giggled. “I remember too. I believe you had to save me yet again.”

“I’m glad I did.”

Emma blushed. “Me too.”

“I really mean it Em. These past few months with you have been amazing and I know how lucky I am to have you. You mean so much to me and I’m gonna do whatever I can to remind you of that.”

“You already do Nick.”

“I’m gonna keep doing it. We’ve been through a lot between our past and our present and we’ve managed to come out on top. We have each other and that’s important to me.”

“It means a lot to me Nick. You’ve made me happier than I could have imagined being and I value that.”

“Even if I say stupid things and TMZ shows doctored photos?”

“Even if they do that.” she replied with a laugh. “You’ve taught me to have faith again in someone else and I know that I need to trust you and us. If we can do that, we’re gonna be fine.”

“Just make sure you remember that. Nothing is going to come between us and we’re gonna be able to handle anything that comes our way as long as we do it together.”

“Agreed.”

Nick kissed her gently and they enjoyed the rest of the ride in quiet. The sleigh finally pulled up in front of their cottage an hour later and Emma reminded Nick of what she said in the carriage. He smiled and carried her up the stairs and into the room. Slipping the do not disturb sign onto the door, Nick turned around and found Emma waiting for him.
The Accident by Kyrie
Emma woke up the next morning to a note resting on Nick’s pillow. Apparently, he had gone for coffee and breakfast for them both and he wanted her dressed and ready by the time he got back. She had just gotten out of the shower when she heard him come in.

“Almost done!” she yelled through the door. “You should have woken me up before you left!”

She finished drying her hair and opened the door to the room. Glancing out, she didn’t see anyone there.

“Nick?”

Emma looked around and there was no sign of Nick. She had just turned around when he jumped out from behind the door.

“Boo!”

“Jesus Christ Nick! Are you trying to kill me?”

“No.” Nick said with a laugh and pulled her in for a hug. “Just thought I’d make sure you were awake.”

“I am now you big jerk!” Emma smiled and kissed him gently. “Why did you want me dressed and ready?”

“I have another surprise!” he replied with an enormous grin.

“Another one? What is it?”

“You’ll see.”

Nick helped her get on her jacket and then put a scarf over her eyes. He led her down a path and they walked for what felt like forever before he finally told her to wait and pulled off her blindfold. It took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust to the light and she groaned when she finally saw it.

“Ice skating?”

There was a huge pond that had frozen over and many of the lodge’s guests were taking advantage of the clear day to get in some ice time.

“Yup!”

“Do you remember the conversation we had about skiing yesterday? Ice skating’s kind of the same thing.”

“No it’s not.” he laughed and handed her a pair of skates. “There are no mountains, slopes, trees or rocks. You’re good.”

Emma just shook her head. “Don’t say anything if you have to save me!”

“I will gladly rescue you.”

She smiled and pulled on her skates. Once they were both laced up, she tentatively climbed out onto the ice and grabbed Nick’s arm to help steady her. She held on for dear life and let him lead her around the ice a few times. Once she started to get comfortable, she let go and slowly skated around the outside while she watched him race around a few times. He looked like he was having a blast and it made her smile. This whole trip had been terrific for them and she was dreading having to go back to real life and everything that came with it.

She was so distracted by watching Nick that she didn’t realize how close to the edge she’s gotten. The ice was much thinner there and her skate broke through part it. The blade wedged itself in and sent her tumbling backwards onto the ice. She banged her head when she went down and when she opened her eyes, Nick was kneeling next to her. His face was filled with worry and she tried to reassure him she was fine.

“I saw how you went down, you’re not fine.”

“I am.”

“You banged your head Emma, that’s not fine.”

“I’m awake and talking. I’m good.”

She lay there for another minute and tried to sit up. One of the doctors from the lodge came down to check her out and told her she might have a concussion. She tried to tell them she was fine but they insisted that Nick take her to the local hospital to get checked out. Not listening to her protests, he and the doctor moved her to the side of the lake and Nick took his skates off. He carried her up to the car and followed the lodge’s directions to a small hospital in the next town over.

Emma continued to object as he settled her into the emergency room lounge so he could go and sign her in. They waited for a few hours and then were called in. The doctor examined her and agreed with the lodge doctor.

“You definitely have a concussion. I think we should keep you for the night.”

“No way!” Emma yelped as tears sprang to her eyes. “I don’t want to stay here.”

She hated hospitals and she knew that they would make Nick leave when visiting hours were over.

“I think you should…”

Emma cut Nick off with one look and turned to the doctor. “I’ll let you do an x-ray. If it comes back fine, I want to go home.”

The doctor tried to reason with her again but he found the same answer. She would consent to an x-ray and unless something was broken or fractured, she was leaving. He left to order the test and Nick turned to her.

“I still think..”

“I know what you think but I am not going to stay here tonight. I haven’t thrown up..”

“Thanks for sharing.” Nick joked, trying to lighten the mood.

“Or gotten drowsy.” Emma continued, ignoring him. “I honestly don’t think I hit it that hard and I know the x-ray will be ok.”

An orderly came in to take her to radiology and when she returned fifteen minutes later, she found the room empty. Panic started to creep in and she couldn’t figure out why Nick would leave. Just as she was calling for the nurse, Nick came throw the curtain holding his phone. He saw the scared look on her face and wrapped his arms around her.

“Where’d you go?” she asked quietly.

“To make some phone calls.”

“To who?”

“Well my first phone call was to Addie.”

Nick laughed as he watched Emma’s eyes get big.

“Yup. She said if you do not spend the night in the hospital, she’s gonna come up here and keep you awake all night. She didn’t make it sound like a lot of fun.”

“It wouldn’t be.”

“So are you gonna stay or do I have to call her back?”

“I don’t have much of a choice.” she replied. “When do you have to leave?”

“That was my second call. I got you a private room and I get to stay with you. I’m gonna run back to the lodge and pick up all our stuff. I’ll be back by the time you get settled into the room.”

“Promise?” she whispered.

“I promise Em. I’ll be back before you know it.”

She nodded and he leaned down to kiss her. With a wave, he left and returned an hour later with their stuff.

“Was I fast enough?”

“Could have been faster.” Emma teased with a smile.

“Apparently, your concussion hasn’t made you less of a wiseass.”

Emma laughed and shook her head. “Nothing will do that.”

They were interrupted by a nurse coming in to check her vitals. The doctor had suggested that she try to stay awake for as long as she could and if she fell asleep, someone would need to wake her every so often. Nick told the nurse he would let them know if she was having any problems and the nurse left. Once she was gone, he told Emma to move over and crawled into the bed next to her. If she couldn’t sleep, at least she could rest wrapped in his arms.
Christmas Shopping by Kyrie
Nick and Emma returned from their weekend away without any more issues and just as Emma predicted, the next few weeks found them both absorbed in their work. They spent as much time as they could together but Nick and the guys had to travel for a few media events and Emma had to finish the semester at school. It was a few days before Christmas before they were finally home at the same time.

“I missed you.” Emma said as she picked him up from the airport.

“Same here.” Nick replied and kissed her gently. “You’re done with school right?”

“Yes I am!”

“Good, maybe we can finally spend some time alone without having to do anything.”

Emma laughed and started the trip home. “I am off until after New Year’s. Maybe we can plan on going somewhere.”

“I like how you think!”

“I’m planning this one though. I don’t want any more surprises from you!”

“That’s just wrong. I didn’t think it was gonna be that bad.”

“I’m not taking any chances Mr. Carter. I’m going to stay on solid ground and not participate in any activities that put my safety in jeopardy.”

“That pretty much cuts out everything except sitting on the couch for you.” Nick teased.

“You’re a jerk.” Emma replied with a laugh. “You better watch it because I will pull this car over and make you walk home.”

“Ok, ok.” Nick responded, raising his hands. “Waving the white flag.”

“Good!”

“To change the subject, what are we doing tonight?”

“We’re going Christmas shopping.”

Nick groaned. “Do we have to?”

“Yes.” Emma said sternly. “We both have to get it done. Addie and Howie are coming with us.”

“I swear sometimes I feel like I’m dating Addie and D too!”

Emma smiled. “Well, you’re not. Once we get everything done and go to dinner, we can head home and enjoy time alone.”

“We’d better.” Nick grumbled.

“I swear we will.”

“I’ll believe it when we do!”

--------------------------------

An hour later, the foursome had gathered at the mall and they split up with the guys doing their own thing. Nick and Howie decided to head to the food court and hang out until the girls were done.

“Look, we get to hang out some more.” Howie teased.

“Yeah.” Nick laughed. “I don’t get to see your face enough, now we get one on one time!”

“I’m not that bad.”

“Whatever.” Nick took a sip of his soda. “What’d you get Addie for Christmas?”

“I found this necklace when we were on our last trip. I got her some perfume and tickets to see a show on Broadway.”

“What show?”

“Les Mis.”

“Emma is always talking about how she loves that play. She’s made me watch the movie three times.”

“You should go with us then. I’m sure I can get two more tickets.”

“That would be great, Emma would love it.”

“I’ll call tomorrow and see what I can do. What else are you getting her?”

“I don’t know, I really haven’t thought about it.”

“Nick! Christmas will be here in a few days. You have to get her something.”

“Well maybe we can look at some jewelry while we’re here.”

“What are you going to look for?”

“I don’t know. Stop putting me on the spot!”

“I’m not putting you on the spot. I don’t know why you seem so nervous. Are you planning to propose?”

Nick spit his soda across the table. “What?” he sputtered.

“Gross.” Howie replied wiping soda off his jacket. “I was just kidding.”

“Don’t say stuff like that. Especially in front of Emma!”

“What’s with you Nick? You two seem great together and I know you care about her.”

“Of course I care about her. I wouldn’t be with her if I didn’t.”

“Then what is it? I’m assuming you already told her you love her.”

“No.”

“What’d you mean no?”

“I mean I haven’t said it yet.”

“What are you waiting for?”

“I don’t know. I just feel like it hasn’t been the right time.”

“What constitutes the right time?”

“When I’m ready.”

Howie cocked his head to the side and stared at his friend. “You’re scared.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you are.” Howie replied frankly. “That whole situation with Lauren really affected you didn’t it?”

Nick sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

“You’re afraid to open up again.”

“Maybe.”

“There’s no maybe Nick. You’re afraid to tell Emma how you feel.”

“I don’t know how she feels. I’m not even sure how I feel. We’ve only been together a few months Howie and I don’t want to rush into anything.”

“You mean you don’t want to rush into anything that might get you hurt.”

“Look, I’ll figure it out. I don’t want to say something unless I’m a hundred percent sure that’s how I feel. I’m not going to make another mistake.”

Howie let it go at that point because he could see how agitated Nick was getting. He loved his little brother but he knew Nick wasn’t being honest with himself. Emma was the perfect girl for him and Howie knew that if Nick could stop being afraid, he could admit that he loved her. It was obvious in everything Nick said and did as far as she was concerned; he just needed to see it.
End Notes:
Thank you Sapphire for all your help!
Hiding Something by Kyrie
“So what are you getting Nick for Christmas?”

Emma shrugged her shoulders. “I have no idea. He has everything he needs and some of the things he really wants, I can’t afford. I don’t want to just get him something for the sake of getting him something. It’s got to be something special.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

“I hope so.” Emma replied with a laugh. “Otherwise, he’s getting me with a bow!”

Addie chuckled. “I’m sure he’d like that!”

“I would hope so! If he doesn’t, we have a serious problem.”

Addie stood there for a minute watching her friend as she perused some books at the Barnes and Noble that they had stopped at. It took Emma a few moments to notice and she gave Addie a strange look.

“What? Do I have something stuck on my back?” she asked as her hand ran over her sweater. “Why are you staring at me like that?”

Addie grinned. “Nothing, you just look really happy. I haven’t seen that look on you in a while and Carter is definitely responsible for it.”

Emma’s face went red; she turned away and pretended to look for a cookbook.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of Em. You should be happy and as far as I can tell, he’s good to you. And good for you.”

“He is.” Emma whispered. “I really like him a lot.”

“That’s crap!”

Emma’s jawed dropped. “Why would you say something like that?”

“You don’t really like him a lot Em, you love him.”

“What, but, no, it’s…..”

“Yeah right.”

“No really, he hasn’t said it and I’m not sure how I feel and…”

“Whatever. You can keep telling yourself that you don’t, but you do. I’ve known you a long time and there is no lying to me. What you are feeling is love whether you say it or not.”

“I’m not saying it.”

“Like I said, you don’t really have to.” Addie sighed. “And honestly, I don’t know why you’re trying to hide it. What’s the problem with loving your boyfriend?”

“Have you and Howie said it?” Emma threw back at her.

“Actually we have and we’ve both pointed out that it’s long past time that our stubborn friends admit it.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes you can. Its three words. You’re an English teacher; you can manage to say I love you.”

“It’s three words that have a lot of depth behind it. I don’t want to say it unless I’m positive and I think that he feels the same way.”

“Howie says he does.”

“Well Nick hasn’t said it so maybe Howie, and you, just think you know something you don’t.”

“Ouch!”

“I’m sorry Addie.” Emma turned back to the books. “I just don’t want to make another mistake.”

“I know that Em, I really do. I’m not pushing you to say it; I just want you to admit it to yourself.”

“Got it. Can we just finish shopping?”

“Sure.” Addie replied quietly. “Where do you want to go next?”

--------------------------------------

Nick jumped up when he saw the girls approaching and ran over to help Emma with her bags. He leaned in close and gently kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you for saving me.” he whispered.

“Bonding with Howie wasn’t fun?” she teased.

“I’ve bonded enough with Dorough. All I wanna do is get through dinner and go home to bond with you.”

“Oh..did I forget to mention that they’re staying with us for a few days?” Emma asked her eyes not meeting Nick’s.

“WHAT?!?”

Emma cracked up. “I love messing with you. They’re not staying with us; it’s just you and me.”

Nick wrapped his arms around Emma’s waist. “Keep messing with me lady and see what happens when we get home!”

“Is that a promise?”

“Absolutely!”

“Hey lovebirds!”

Both of them froze after hearing Howie’s choice of words. He instantly regretted saying it and decided to just gloss over it and keep going.

“We’re gonna lose our reservation if we don’t get going.”

Emma and Nick nodded and headed out of the mall behind their friends. They didn’t make eye contact with each other and it began to feel a little uncomfortable. By the time they climbed into the car, Emma couldn’t take it anymore and reached out for Nick’s hand. He smiled, grateful for the contact, and pulled her against his side. Since Howie was driving, the two of them could just hang back and let their friends do the talking.

--------------------------

A few hours later, they left their friends at Addie’s and headed back to the house. Della was waiting by the door for them when they pulled in and she jumped up on Nick, wagging her tail and licking his face.

“I missed you too girl.” he said laughing.

“She really did miss you. Almost as much as me.”

“Oh really?” Nick asked with a sexy grin. “And exactly how much did you miss me?”

“Why don’t you take Della for a little walk and when you come back, I’ll show you.”

As Emma watched with amusement, Nick and Della raced each other to the back door, Nick almost tripping on his own feet. She waited till they were gone and headed down to their bedroom. Lighting some candles and putting on some soft music, she changed into the outfit that she knew Nick loved the most and sat on their bed waiting for him. He didn’t make her wait long before he came barreling in the door. Noticing everything she’d done, he lay down on the bed and pulled her over.

“You have no idea how much I’ve missed you!”
An Interesting Invitation by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Sorry for taking so long to update!
“So you’re sure you can’t come down and visit?”
“I appreciate the invitation Bri but we can’t”

Brian thought about his next comment carefully. “Can’t or won’t?”

Nick sighed. “Won’t. I’m sorry but after Thanksgiving, I don’t think I wanna subject Em to any more family dinners.”

“I talked to Leighanne and she promised that she would keep her opinions to herself.”

Yeah right, Nick thought to himself. Leighanne would probably promise Brian anything for another round with Emma.

“I appreciate you doing that too but I just don’t want to do that to her. I want us to enjoy Christmas since we’re gonna be gone for New Year’s.”

Brian groaned. “I know, I hate it. Sometimes I wish we could avoid any shows until after the holidays.”

“Well unfortunately for us, this life doesn’t work that way. I hate that I’m not gonna be able to spend our first New Year’s together.”

Brian smiled at the emotion in his friend’s voice. “You really like her don’t you?”

“Yeah I do. She’s important to me and she’s really been there for me through the last couple of months. I’m not sure I would have bounced back as well as I did if it wasn’t for her.”

“It sounds to me that it’s more than a simple “I like you” situation. Have you told her yet?”

“Told her what?”

“That you love her.”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”

“Because we can all see something that apparently, you are too knuckleheaded to see.”

“Look Bri, I know I really care about her but aside from that, I don’t know. I’m not going to say anything unless I’m positive. I’ve made that mistake before and I’m not gonna repeat it.”

“I get that and I feel for you. Just keep in mind that at some point, you need to admit it to yourself and to her. Don’t let that moment pass you by because it might not come around again.”

Nick was about to respond when he heard Emma coming through the front door. He quickly said goodbye to Brian and was waiting for her when she came into the kitchen. Sweeping her into a hug, he kissed her gently and she giggled. He loved the way her eyes sparkled when she laughed and he began to wonder if there was something to what Brian and Howie had told him.

“What’s the serious look for?” Emma asked as Nick put her down. “Everything ok?”

“I was just talking to Brian.”

“Is he ok?” she asked with concern.

“Yeah he’s fine. He called to invite us to his house for Christmas.”

“Are we going?”

“Huh?” Nick asked with surprise. “Why would we go?”

“Why wouldn’t we?”

“Do you not remember what happened last time we all got together?”

“I do but it’s not the same. I know what to expect now and as much as it breaks my heart, I have come to the realization that I’m not going to be BFFs with Leighanne.”

Nick chuckled at the idea. “I bet it really hurts.”

“Right here.” Emma said, putting her hand over her heart. “It bothers me every day.”

“Wiseass.” Nick replied.

“Thanks for noticing.” she said and elbowed him in the stomach. “But in all seriousness, you and I are good and I’m sure of that. No matter what they say, it’s not gonna change anything.”

“But why would you want to subject yourself to that?”

“Because of you. These guys are your brothers Nick. You love each other and I know how important it is to have them in your life. Shutting them out because of what may or may not be said to me isn’t fair to you or to them. I’m a big girl Nick and I can handle it. You don’t break up family over a relationship.”

Nick was touched that she would make that kind of sacrifice for him and it made him realize how truly lucky he was to have her. He pulled her close and kissed her deeply.

“You’re amazing.”

Emma laughed. “No I’m not.”

“Yes you are and as much as I value you going another round with Leighanne for my sake, we’re gonna stay home this year. We can spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with Howie and Addie. It’ll be a smaller family holiday.”

“Ok but you’re not gonna continue keeping the other guys at arm’s length are you?”

“No. After the holidays are over, we’ll plan something to do with everybody. Maybe we can take a huge family vacation.”

“God help whoever gets stuck with us!” Emma said with laugh. “That would be one hell of a time!”
Christmas Eve by Kyrie
“Do you guys do this every Christmas Eve?”

Emma nodded. “Yup. It’s tradition.”

Nick was in the kitchen helping Emma make meatloaf and listening to her tell him about things she’s always done with Addie around the holidays.

“We have meatloaf and mashed potatoes, watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and stay up till midnight so we can each open one gift.”

“I thought you were supposed to wait till Christmas morning to open gifts.” Nick teased.

“Technically it is Christmas morning so we’re not breaking any Christmas rules.”

“Ok, I’ll give you that one.”

“Score one for me!” Emma said with a laugh. “You’re doing a good job with that meatloaf.”

“Score one for me!” Nick mimicked.

“Wiseass.”

“Yeah but you love me.”

Nick leaned over and kissed her lightly. Emma didn’t really know how to reply to his statement so she just kissed him back and kept on peeling potatoes. Thankfully, the doorbell sounded and it eased any awkwardness that was going on. Nick cleaned his hands and went to let Addie and Howie in.

A few moments later, Addie made her way into the kitchen piled high with bags.

“Are you moving in?” Emma joked.

“You’d better be quiet or I’ll bring the bread pudding I found back.” Addie retorted. “As soon as I find it again!”

“My favorite!” Emma shouted and threw her arms around her friend. “You’re the best!”

“And you smell like potatoes!” Addie replied, crinkling her nose.

“Sorry.” Emma said as she wiped her hands on a towel. “I wanted to finish everything before you guys got here.”

“We would have helped you know.”

“You’re company; you’re not cooking your own dinner.”

“We’re family.” Addie replied draping her arm across her friend’s shoulder. “We’ll always be family.”

Emma smiled. “Always, no matter what.”

Addie grinned and nodded. “Now where’s the gravy?”

----------------------------------------

Dinner flew by and it was midnight before the couple finished the movie. Nick and Howie were discussing whether the whole concept was depressing or uplifting when Emma chimed in.

“I think it’s how all of us feel as some point.”

“What do you mean Em?” Addie asked.

“I think we all hit that point in life where we just question whether or not we’ve made a lifetime of good or bad decisions. You have to decide how bad the mistakes really are and do what you can to change it. He realized he had the life he loved and just needed to find his way back.”

“What about the people who don’t feel that way?”

“Then you chock it up to a mistake and you fix it. For me, Jesse was a mistake and I realized that when I met Nick. Now I’m like George Bailey!”

Nick grinned. “See Dorough, she does like me!”

Howie shook his head and chuckled. “I guess she does.”

“Ok, ok.” Addie interrupted. “Enough of the mushy stuff. Time to open some presents!”

“You’re worse than a little kid!” Emma told her with a smile. “You just can’t wait.”

“What’s wrong with being a kid?”

“Not a thing.” Howie responded and leaned over to kiss Addie. “But you and Emma have to open your gifts together.”

“Why?”

“Cuz we bought you guys the same thing.” Nick replied.

“Nice going Carter. Can’t you ever zip it?” Howie asked with a smack to the back of his head.

“No I can’t.”

Nick handed a thin envelope to both of the girls and sat back with a grin. The girls agreed to open them on the count of three and both shrieked as soon as they saw what was inside.

“Les Mis!” Emma cried and threw herself into Nick’s lap. “You are the best!”

Nick laughed and kissed her on the top of the head. “You make it easy.”

Emma looked into Nick’s eyes and it took all the willpower she had not to tell him that she loved it. She was afraid that he might not feel the same way and that it was too early. There would come a better time to do it, so she just wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“Do we get anything?” Howie asked, pretending to be hurt. “We were good all year.”

Addie laughed and handed him a box. “Here you go.”

Howie opened his gift to find a pair of tickets to Florida.

“I thought taking a trip to see your family would be nice.”

“I love you!”

“I love you too and I can’t wait to meet your family.”

Emma watched as Addie and Howie interacted and smiled. She wanted the best for her friend and she thought that Howie was a wonderful man. She was so lost in thought that Nick had to wave his hand in front of her face to get his attention.

“Do I get something too or was I not a good boy?”

“Hmmm…..what qualifies as good?” Emma asked with a smile and dragged a box out from under the tree.

Nick opened it up and dug through all the paper. He was starting to think that the box was empty until his hand finally landed on something. When he pulled the item out, he found a box of colored pencils. He looked over at his girlfriend and cocked an eyebrow.

“Um….”

Emma laughed loudly. “It’ll make more sense tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Nick yelped. “That’s so not fair!”

“Sorry sweetie, you’re gonna have to wait till the morning.”

“That’s awful.” Howie said with a chuckle. “You’re gonna make the poor boy wait till Christmas morning?”

“Hey,” Nick said with a start, “it is Christmas morning. I want my present!”

Emma stood up and smiled, pulling him to his feet. She leaned in and whispered something into his ear. Suddenly, he was tired and told everyone he could wait until it was light out. Their friends laughed and headed down to the guest room. Nick took Della out for a walk and found Emma in the bedroom waiting for him. He grinned and asked her where his next present was.
Christmas Presents by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
A huge thank you to Sapphire who gave me the idea for Nick's present!
Emma awoke to laughter and the smell of coffee from the kitchen. She pulled on her bathrobe and wandered down the hall.

“Merry Christmas sleepyhead!” Addie shouted and gave her friend a hug. “Nice of you to join us!”

“How long have you guys been up?” she asked.

“Since early.” Howie replied. “We woke up to someone banging every pot and pan in your house.”

“I was not banging every pan! Della needed to go out and I decided to make breakfast.”

“Awwww.” Emma turned and kissed Nick. “That was so sweet of you.”

“I think he really thought that if you were up, you’d have to give him your present.”

Emma grinned. “Nope. We eat, open presents and then you get your gift.”

Nick’s eyes bulged. “I really want it!”

Emma laughed and tugged on Nick’s arm. “Alright, alright. Come with me before you give yourself a coronary.”

“We’ll stay here and finish breakfast. We already know what you’re getting.” Howie yelled after the retreating couple.

“That’s was mean Howie.”

“What? He would have said the same thing to me.”

“You guys are like two year olds.”

“I know, that’s another reason why you guys love us.”

“That is true.” Addie replied and kissed him lightly. “I wish those two weren’t so petrified to admit that to each other.”

“They’ll get there.”

“I hope soon.”

“Me too.” Howie turned and added eggs to the frying pan. “I can’t wait to see Nick’s reaction to his present.”

“I really hope he likes it. Emma put a lot of time and work into it.”

“I know. Did she put in our gift?”

“Yup, she added it yesterday.”

“Good.”

“She wanted me to thank you again.”

“No problem, we had to get him something anyway and it helps her out.”

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he loves it.”

“Trust me, he will.”

----------------------------

Emma made sure the bandanna was covering Nick’s eyes before she led him outside.

“Where are we going?” Nick asked. “It’s freezing out here.”

“Just a little bit further.”

She stopped and told him to wait a minute as she tried to find the key to the shed that took up a good amount of space in their backyard. It wasn’t one of those plastic ones but a large, wooden structure with several windows that faced the ocean. They hadn’t used it for anything and Emma thought it was the perfect place. Finally getting the door unlocked, she pulled Nick in and told him to take his blindfold off. He blinked several times and when he realized what he was looking at, he gasped.

Emma had painted the entire inside of the shed with shades of white and light blues. The windows were covered with curtains and there was a couch pushed over to one side. Nick turned to face the other side and was amazed at what he saw. There was a large drafting table taking up space along one wall and on the other side, facing the windows, was a large easel and more pencils, chalks, paints, paper and easel boards than he could count. She had turned the whole space into the most amazing art studio that Nick had ever seen.

He turned to look at her and saw the hopeful look on her face. Instead of saying anything, he grabbed her by the waist and lifted her off the floor. Pressing his lips to hers, he kissed her with such intensity that it even surprised him. After a few moments, he set her down again and framed her face with his hands.

“I love it Em.”

She burst into an ear to ear grin and her eyes started to water.

“This is the best present anyone could ever get for me.”

“I’m glad you like it Nick. I was so worried that I couldn’t find something you’d like or that was special enough for you.”

“I would love anything you gave me because it came from you.”

“I appreciate that but I wanted to give you a gift that was really unique. You’ve given me so much and I wanted to find something that would say thank you and show you how much I care.”

“I just gave you theater tickets.”

“That’s not what I mean.” she said, swatting at him. “I’m talking about everything you’ve done for me. You’ve given me a place to live, a life to call my own and the best relationship I have ever been in. You’re an amazing man Nick and I don’t think you realize it.”

Nick was stunned by what she was saying. “You would have had it without me Em.”

“No I wouldn’t. I have all of it because of you. I couldn’t ask for a better man and I want you to know how much you mean to me.”

Emma was about to tell Nick she loved him when Howie and Addie came barging in. The moment slipped away and she told herself that she would tell him later when they were alone again.

“Do you like it?” Howie asked.

“It’s amazing.”

“She did a fantastic job huh?” Addie added. “The table is from me and Howie but everything else is all Em. She spent hours out here working on it and trying to keep it a secret.”

Nick turned to her. “Exactly how did you keep this whole thing a secret?”

“That’s all me.” Howie answered. “Remember all the stores I dragged you to the other day? She managed to get all the painting done and then moved out the stuff when I asked you to run some errands with me yesterday morning.”

“It was all Howie.” Emma repeated with a chuckle. “I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Howie draped his arm around Emma’s shoulder. “That’s what family’s for right?”

“Right.” Emma agreed. “And I have the best family.”

“All right folks,” Addie interrupted, “let’s eat and see what other presents are beneath that tree of yours!”

-----------------------------------------
The group tried to enjoy breakfast but Nick kept bouncing in and out of his seat.

“Do you have ants in your pants?” Emma teased.

“No, I just wanna give you your present.”

“The tickets were enough Nick. You don’t need to get me anything else.”

“Yes I do and yes I did. Can we please go open presents?”

“Alright child.” Howie said with a grin. “I want mine first!”

Howie tried to reach the tree but Addie beat him to it and opened her presents first. Emma gave her a beautiful bracelet, a pretty sweater set and some books she’d been looking at. Howie surprised her with a sapphire necklace and matching earrings along with a limo ride to and from the theater to see Les Mis while Nick got her a new iPad case and some iTunes gift cards.

“Thanks you guys. I really can’t wait to see the play.”

“Now you can arrive in style.” Howie told her, planting a kiss on her head.

“You’re next Howie.” Nick said excitedly.

Addie bought her boyfriend a gift certificate for a fishing trip she had planned for him and his brother while they were in Florida. Emma and Nick chipped in and got him a pair of water skis and a wake board to use on his vacation with Addie.

“This is terrific! I’m going to enjoy that fishing trip.”

“Try not to kill yourself on the water skis.” Nick joked.

“Funny Carter.”

“What’d you get me Dorough?”

“That expensive drafting table.”

“Fair enough.” Nick said and looked at Emma. “Now for your presents!”

Addie handed her a small box and Emma was surprised to see a necklace setting that was missing the stone.

“Um…”

“I know.” Addie said with a grin.

Emma raised her eyebrow and moved onto Howie’s gift. She opened it to find a gift card for snorkeling lessons.

“Hey Howie?” she asked.

“Yeah?”

“I can’t really snorkel off of Cape Cod. There’s not too much to see.”

“I know.” Howie responded with a smirk.

“Ok.” Emma demanded. “That’s enough with the okays. What do you two know that I don’t?”

“This.” Nick answered handing her an envelope. “I hope you like it.”

Emma slid the flap open and pulled out a pair of plane tickets. When she flipped them over to check the destination, she screamed and jumped onto Nick’s lap.

“I take it you like them.” Nick laughed and kissed her gently.

“I love them.” She kissed him with excitement. “I always wanted to go to Hawaii!”

“I know, you’ve told me a billion times.”

“That’s what my necklace is for.” Addie interrupted. “You can find a pearl down there and have it set.”

“You guys are the best!” Emma cried and hugged her friend.

“I know.” Addie laughed. “You better bring us back some souvenirs!”
The Perfect Gift by Kyrie
Nick and Emma spent the next few days enjoying the quiet time that had together. The guys were leaving for a show on New Year’s which Emma and Addie couldn’t make it to.

“It’s just one day.” Emma said as she lay with her head on Nick’s chest.

“I know but its New Year’s Eve.”

“I know but it’s an important show for you guys and you need to do it.”

“But it’s New Year’s.” Nick whined.

“Really? I wouldn’t have known without you telling me a million times since Christmas.” she teased. “What exactly are you worried about?”

“I wanted to spend our first New Year’s together, not completely across the country.”

Emma propped herself up on one arm and turned to look in Nick’s face.

“I’m gonna be here when you get back Nick. I’m not going anywhere and we can celebrate then.”

“But…”

Emma put a finger on Nick’s lips to silence him. “Just because it’s not exactly on the day doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it. Are you guys always home on the holidays?”

“No but..”

“No buts. I know you all make sacrifices for this career and I know how much music matters to you. I get that and I know that at some point, we’ll have to be apart for longer periods of time.”

“But it doesn’t have to be now.”

“Yes it does and honestly, I think I would get used to it better if it was in small increments of time to begin with. I know your tours will be longer and that’s going to be hard on me.”

Nick realized that he’d never really thought about his absence affected Emma. He was focusing on just what he wanted without giving a thought to how she’d feel.

“You promise to be here?” Nick asked.

“I will be the first person you see when you step off that plane.”

At that moment, Della chose to get up and nudge Nick with her snout.

“And she will be the second person.” Emma added with a laugh. “She’s going to miss you too.”

Nick chuckled and reached over to pat their dog. “I’m gonna miss her too. I love taking her out on runs and playing with her.”

As if she understood what that meant, she barked and raced to get her leash.

“You started it.” Emma said with a grin. “Now she’s gonna want to go outside with you.”

“Ok, ok.” Nick said as Della came back dragging the material behind her.

He crawled out of bed, threw on his clothes and turned around to kiss Emma.

“I’ll be back soon.”

“I’m holding you to it!”

-------------------------

“So how are you doing with the idea of Nick leaving?”

“About as good as you’re doing with Howie leaving.”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s completely miserable.”

Emma smiled sadly. “Nope, I’m in the same boat. Remember what they say, misery loves company.”

“You’re gonna be keeping me company on New Year’s!”

“I promise.”

“How’s Nick doing?” Addie asked.

“He’s bummed about us not being out there and is trying to spend most of his time with me. At least the time when he’s not in the studio.”

“What’s he doing out there?”

“I’m not sure. He says it’s a surprise and I can’t see it yet.”

“Have you tried sneaking in?” Addie asked with a laugh.

“I’ve thought about it!”

“When is he going to tell you?”

“He said after dinner tonight.”

“They’re leaving tomorrow!”

“I know, it’s stressing me out. I want to see whatever it is!”

“Well at least he’s giving you a head’s up. I want you to call me as soon as you can and tell me what it is.”

“Ok. I’ll talk to you in a bit.”

“K. Love ya.”

“Love ya too!”

----------------------

Nick was amused as he watched his girlfriend fidget in her seat during dinner. The suspense must be killing her, he thought. As much as he wanted to show it to her, he had to wait for the right time. They barely made it through dessert before Emma threw down her napkin.

“I want it. I want it right now!”

“Wow!” Nick said. “I think it’s a little daring don’t you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You want it right now? Right here in the kitchen in front of all the windows?”

Emma balled up another napkin and threw it at him.

“You know that’s not what I’m talking about!”

Nick laughed and stood up. He pulled her into a tight embrace and kissed her gently. Smiling as she wrapped her arms around his neck, he worked his way down her neck and back up to her lips. She held on a little tighter and he increased his intensity. After a moment, he pulled back and stared into her eyes.

“Do you still want what’s in the studio?”

Emma bit her lip as she thought about it. It was taking all of her willpower not to drag Nick down to the bedroom but she wanted to see what he’d been hiding.

“Can I see the surprise and then we can head back in?”

“You’re just a little kid at heart.”

Emma smiled as he led her out to the backyard. Unlocking the door, Nick led her over to the couch and had her sit with her hands over her eyes. Once he made sure she wasn’t peeking, he strode over to the easel, turned it around and tugged the sheet off. He made his way back to the couch, sat down next to Emma and pulled her hands away from her eyes.

It took a few moments for Emma’s eyes to focus on the easel board but when she did, she gasped. Jumping out of her seat, she made it across the room in a few steps. She reached out her hand to touch the drawing but Nick stopped her.

“It’s not completely set so be careful if you touch it.”

She pulled back her hand and covered her heart with it.

“Do you like it?” Nick asked.

“I love it.”

Nick had managed to capture her and Della in the most beautiful moment. There had been a night a while ago where she and Nick took Della down to the beach. It was sunset and Emma had stopped to sit on the sand and enjoy the view. Della had managed to nuzzle her head under Emma’s elbow and settled down next to her. He had gotten her smile and Della’s eyes as they sat together. It was the best gift she’d ever received and the fact that Nick had spent so much time on it meant the world to her.

Nick waited as she looked over every inch and took in every detail. He wanted to give her this gift, something no one could buy her and that would show his feelings for her. As he was about to say something, she turned and threw her arms around his neck and pulled him as close to her as possible. Her kiss held so much passion that it caught him off guard and he stumbled backwards onto the couch. She straddled him and leaned in so close that he could feel her breath on his face.

“We’re not going to make it back to the house.”
New Year's Eve Surprise by Kyrie
“Are you sure you can’t fly out here?”

Emma laughed as Nick whined into the phone. “No, it’s New Year’s. You’re in LA and I’m on the Cape. I don’t think I’d make it on time.”

“This sucks.”

“None of the other guys brought anyone did they?”

“No, AJ, Kevin and Brian all have flights booked for tomorrow afternoon and Howie and I fly back tomorrow night.”

“See? You’re not the only lonely one.”

Emma heard the other guys’ voices through the phone. “Are you guys going on soon?”

“Yeah in a few minutes. I’m still mad you’re not here. I really don’t want to have to kiss McLean at midnight!”

“I heard that!” AJ yelled so loud that it made Emma cringe. “Who said I wanted to kiss your ugly mug?”

“Don’t listen to AJ sweetie, your mug is adorable.”

Nick laughed and shook his head. “I really miss you.”

“I miss you too but just think that tomorrow you’ll be coming home for a while. No more traveling until the tour starts.”

“I can’t wait to have some one on one time with you.”

“Me too.” Emma whispered. “We’re going to have to make up for all the time you’ll be missing.”

“Argh….why do I have to be out here again?”

“Because it’s your job and you love it.” Emma replied. “Don’t worry; I will be right here when you get back tomorrow.”

“You’d better be.”

“I will and I even bought a surprise for you.”

“That’s just wrong. I’m across the country from you and you’re teasing me like that. You’re in trouble when I get back there.”

“I hope so!” Emma said with a chuckle. “Go do your show and call me when you get back to the hotel.”

“Alright. Don’t fall asleep on me!”

“I won’t. Get going.”

------------------------

“I’m wiped.” Kevin complained as they rode the elevator up to their rooms.

“I hear you. This getting older thing sucks.” AJ replied. “How did we manage to do all this stuff before?”

“We were young, in shape and completely crazy.” Nick said with a laugh.

Brian just chuckled and started down the hallway to his room. Kevin and Howie branched off into their rooms leaving Nick and AJ to make their way further down the hall. They made plans to have breakfast in the morning and said goodnight. Nick decided to take a shower before calling Emma back.

He was drying his hair twenty minutes later when he heard someone knock on the door. Figuring it was AJ, he smiled and yelled “I’m not changing my mind about kissing you McLean!” No one said anything so he got off the bed and started to unlock the door. His smile faded as soon as it opened.

“Hi Nick.”

“What are you doing here Lauren?”

“I was kind of hoping I could talk to you.”

“Look Lauren…”

“I just need a few minutes Nick, I promise, and I’ll leave. Can I please just talk to you?”

Nick wanted to say no but he felt bad for his ex. She looked like she’d been crying and it bothered him to see her so upset. He nodded and stepped aside so that she could come in. Sitting down in the only chair, Nick folded his hands and waited for Lauren to say something.

“I’m sorry.” Lauren whispered and looked Nick in the eyes. “I’m sorry for everything.”

“It’s done…”

“Please let me finish Nick.”

“Make it quick.”

“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to you and to us. I’ve had a lot of time to think and I know I’m completely at fault for what happened to us. I spent way too much time taking care of my business that I forgot to take care of us. I let a really terrific man get away.”

Lauren’s eyes filled with tears and Nick handed her a tissue.

“I’m with someone Laur.”

“I know, she’s really pretty.”

“She’s important to me.”

“Do you love her?”

Nick was shocked by the question and didn’t really know how to answer it. Em meant the world to him but just like he’d told everyone else, he wasn’t ready to say that he loved her.

“I love you Nick. I want you to know that.”

“Lauren…”

“Please don’t tell me no Nick.” Lauren made her way over to him and knelt down next to him. “I love you and I’m still in love with you. We were together for four years and I know that at some point, we were happy. We can be that way again. I just need you to give us a chance.”

Nick stood up and walked away. “How can you ask me to give it another try? I’m with someone else.”

“Who you’re not sure you love.”

“I didn’t say that. We haven’t been together long enough for me to say I love her.”

“But you love me. I know you do. I can see it in your eyes Nick.”

“There’s nothing in my eyes.” Nick decided that the discussion had gone on too long. He crossed over to the door and started to unlock it. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”

Lauren nodded her head and headed for the door. Just as she was about to turn the handle, she spun around and kissed him gently. Snaking her arms around the back of his head, she increased the intensity. Ignoring the fact that his head was screaming no, his body gave in to the old feelings and he returned Lauren’s kiss. They stayed that way for a minute and then she pulled back.

“Just think about it ok.” Lauren said and slipped out the door.

Nick shut the door and banged his head against the wall. What did he just fucking do?
Brotherly Advice by Kyrie
Fifteen minutes later, Brian met AJ and Kevin at Nick’s door. The other guys were still rubbing their eyes and Kevin shrugged his shoulders when Brian asked why they were there. The door swung open after AJ’s first knock.

“This had better be go…..”

Kevin’s statement was cut short when he saw his little brother. Nick had tears streaming down his face and he looked like someone had punched him in the gut. They followed him into the room and watched as he slumped down onto the couch and dropped his head into his hands. AJ reached over and draped his arm around the younger man’s shoulders, Brian pulled up a chair so he could be in front of Nick and Kevin perched on the arm of the sofa.

“What happened?” Brian finally asked.

All Nick could do was shake his head.

“Is it Emma?” AJ tried to be as calm as he could and Nick nodded.

“Is she alright?” Kevin interrupted. “Is that why Howie’s not here?”

Nick took a deep breath. “I didn’t call him.”

All three men were shocked by Nick’s admission. They knew how close the two of them had gotten and for Nick to not call him, there really was something serious going on.

“Is Emma ok? Did something happen to her?”

“She’s fine, but she’s not gonna be when I get home.” Nick answered, a few more tears sliding down his face. “She’s gonna hate me.”

“Ok.” AJ said. “I love you man but you need to be clearer. You called us and you need to tell us why.”

“Lauren was here.”

Brian’s whistled.

“And she kissed me.”

“That’s a little bit of a problem.” Kevin responded. “But I’m sure Emma will understand. It’s not like you kissed her back.”

Nick’s head drooped and he started running his fingers through his hair.

“Damn!” AJ swore. “What were you thinking?”

“I don’t know. It just happened.”

“Kissing someone doesn’t just happen, Nick.”

Brian put his hand on AJ’s arm and shook his head. He knew his brother was mad but this wasn’t helping the situation.

“Is that why Howie wasn’t invited?” Kevin inquired.

“I couldn’t tell him. He would have to keep it from Addie and I don’t want to put him in that situation.”

Nobody really knew what to say. They knew Howie would be in a bad position if Nick told him and understood why he wasn’t invited to the powwow.

“Are you gonna call Emma?”

“I can’t tell her over the phone. That’s not right.” Nick said quietly and ran his hand over his face.

“I hate to do this,” AJ said looking at Kevin and Brian, “but you two should leave. I wanna talk to Nick and you guys shouldn’t hear any more than you need to.”

Kevin started to protest but Nick cut him off.

“He’s right; I shouldn’t have called all of you.”

“But..”

It was Brian’s turn to protest but AJ waved him off.

“Go Littrell.”

Nick nodded his agreement and the two cousins headed for the door. Once AJ was sure they were gone, he smacked Nick as hard as he could on the back of the head.

“Those two are gonna coddle you but I’m not. Are you stupid? Emma loves and trusts you. I have never met a woman better suited for you and you decide to mess it up by kissing your ex!”

“She kissed me…”

“I don’t wanna hear it. You didn’t have to kiss her back. Why on Earth would you do something like that?”

“I don’t know AJ!” Nick said finally pulling himself together. “I really don’t know.”

AJ tried to calm himself down and asked the next question carefully.

“What do you want?”

“What’d you mean, what do I want?”

“I mean exactly what I said. If you’re gonna go home and spill everything to Emma, she’s gonna expect you to make some kind of decision. You need to make that decision before you get there. Either you tell Emma, beg for her forgiveness, hope she says yes and live happily ever after or you tell her and break her heart. Which one is it?”

“I don’t want to hurt her.”

“I think she’s gonna be hurt either way but are you planning to fix her broken heart or just finish it off?”

“I want to be with her but some of the feelings I had for Lauren came back tonight when she kissed me. I mean we spent four years together.”

AJ shook his head. “I love you but I’m gonna put it out on the table. Do you love Lauren more than Emma or are you gonna choose Lauren because she’s easier?”

“What the hell does that mean?” Nick asked angrily. “Lauren’s not easy!”

“That’s not what I meant. Lauren broke your heart a few months ago and you survived it. Emma helped. If you’re thinking about choosing Lauren, it means one of two things. You love Lauren more or you can handle her breaking your heart again.”

“I still don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“You’re thickheaded! Are you picking Lauren because you’re afraid of what will happen if Emma breaks your heart? Are you gonna hurt her and pick Lauren because you’re terrified that you won’t survive if Em breaks your heart first?”
Truth Time by Kyrie
Howie was worried about Nick. His younger brother was completely silent and looked like he hadn’t slept in years. He tried to get him to talk but Nick just said he was fine and put his headphones on. Before the plane took off, he texted Addie and asked how Emma was doing. She replied back that Emma was fine and excited about them coming home. Howie felt relieved that there wasn’t anything going on between Nick and Emma but he still couldn’t figure out why Nick was acting that way. Hopefully, when he saw his girlfriend, he would snap out of it.

A few hours later, it was apparent that seeing Emma did not make the situation better. If fact, it seemed to Howie like it made Nick’s mood even worse. Addie noticed it too and asked him about it. He shrugged his shoulders and told her to give Emma some time with him; maybe it would help.

The two were not the only ones to notice that something was definitely wrong. Emma asked Nick several times on the ride home what was going on and he gave her the same response he gave Howie. She gave Nick enough room to unpack his things and shower before she pushed the issue.

“I think we need to talk.” she said forcefully.

“I’m kind of tired.” Nick replied.

“Bullshit.”

Nick looked at her with surprise. She had never taken this tone with him and it told him she was not gonna let it go. He slumped down on the couch and she sat next to him. There was an awkward silence for a few minutes before she spoke again.

“Something is going on Nick and don’t tell me nothing. You’ve reminded me several times that when something is bothering us, we need to talk about it. I want to know why you’re acting this way.”

He knew there was no getting around this. “Lauren came to see me in LA.”

Emma was stunned. She didn’t know how to react to that information and just sat there, waiting for Nick to keep going.

“She apologized for everything and told me that she wanted to get back together.”

“And?”

“She kissed me.”

Emma’s face went white and she reacted as though someone had just slapped her. She didn’t want to know anything else but she had to ask.

“Did you kiss her back?”

Nick stayed silent and nodded. Emma felt like she was going to be sick and ran down to the bathroom. She locked the door behind her and sank down to the floor. Nick knocked on the door a few minutes later and called her name. She ignored him as he spent the next few minutes trying to get her to open the door. Finally, he told her he would take Della out for a walk and be back in five minutes.

She waited another minute to make sure he was gone. On her way to the front door, she grabbed her keys, a sweater and her phone. Unlocking the car, she got in and took off for Addie’s house. She needed some advice.

---------------------------------

“He did what?”

Emma had just finished explaining what happened between her and Nick when Howie jumped off the chair, his face beet red.

“I’m calling him.”

Howie grabbed his phone and stormed off. Addie watched him leave and then turned back to her friend. Emma looked so fragile and she wanted to smack Nick.

“Did he tell you why he kissed Lauren?”

“No.” Emma said and blew her nose. “I didn’t give him a chance and it doesn’t matter. He kissed her because he still loves her.”

“Is that what he said?”

“He didn’t need to! Why else would he kiss her?”

“Maybe it was a lapse in judgment. A really, really, really stupid mistake.”

“Why are you sticking up for him?”

“I’m not. I just thought that he was better than that and this was just something stupid.”

“I did something stupid.”

“What?”

“I trusted him.”

“Em..”

“No, I should have seen this coming. I even asked him at the beginning if I was the rebound girl. He swore that I wasn’t and he really wanted to be with me.”

“I think he does.”

“If he does, he wouldn’t have kissed her.”

Addie waited for a few minutes before she said anything else.

“What are you gonna do now?”

“I have no idea.”

“Do you still love him?”

Emma nodded and Addie felt her heart break a little.

“I think you know what you need to do then.”

---------------------------------

“Are you fucking stupid?” Howie roared into the phone. “Why would you do that?”

Nick cringed at the sound of Howie’s voice. He had no idea what to say to his friend.

“Are you there?” he yelled.

“Yeah, I am.”

“How dumb are you?” he continued screaming. “Your girlfriend is sitting on my couch crying her eyes out because you fucked up. How could you do that to her? She trusted you!”

“I know.” Nick replied weakly. “I didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“Well you screwed that up didn’t you? You’d better have some way to fix this.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“Beg, plead, grovel, whatever you need to do to make Emma realize you love her. How about telling her you love her?”

“I can’t.” Nick whispered.

“What’d you mean you can’t?”

“I’m not sure if I love her.”

“You’re a moron! Of course you love her! Maybe you can’t admit it but you do.”

“Maybe I love Lauren more.”

“Now you’re not only a moron but a liar. There is no way you love Lauren more. You’re afraid of Emma hurting you so you’re going to hurt her first.”

Nick was stunned to hear Howie tell him the same thing AJ did. Was he really that afraid of her?

“I’m telling you right now, smarten up and find some way to fix this!” Howie yelled before hanging up on him.
Consequences by Kyrie
Emma returned home to find Nick sitting on the couch, gazing out onto the beach. She tried to be as quiet as she could be but he heard her coming and turned to face her. His eyes were damp and she could see the tear tracks covering his face. It looked like he hadn’t slept in days and as upset as she was, she hated seeing him this way.

“Hey.” she said as she sat down in the chair across from him.

“Hey.” he whispered, his voice cracking.

They sat there for a few minutes before the silence was too much to bear.

“We need to talk.”

Nick nodded but didn’t say anything.

“I need to know what happened.”

“I already told you.”

“No, I want the whole story.”

“Emma, please…”

She gave him a look that he knew meant she was serious. He sighed, and although he hated what he was doing, he told her everything. Her eyes welled up and she had to choke back a sob several times during his explanation. It took everything she had, but she managed to stay silent until he was done.

“Did it mean anything to you?”

“I don’t know Em.”

“When will you know?” she asked harshly. “I asked you at the very beginning of this whether I was the rebound girl and you swore up and down that I wasn’t. Were you lying to me or to yourself?”

“I wasn’t lying at all.” Nick replied quietly. “You were never the rebound girl.”

“Then why do I feel like one?”

“I don’t want you to ever feel like that. I really care about you.”

“But you care about her more.”

“I never said that Em.”

She thought about what to say and chose her next words carefully.

“I want to believe that Nick but the look in your eyes says differently.”

“There’s no look in my eyes Emma.”

“Yes there is. You’re questioning whether you should stay with me.”

“No, I’m not…”

“I want to only be with you and I want you to feel the same way.”

“I do want to be with you Em. It’s …”

“I love you Nick.”

Those words were like a tidal wave. They washed over Nick and left him feeling as though he was fighting a current.

“I love you.” she repeated. “I’ve loved you for a while now. I never told you because I was afraid of how you’d react. I can’t be afraid anymore.”

Nick didn’t know what to say. There were so many thoughts and feelings running through his mind and he was having trouble sorting through them. Emma walked over and took a seat next to him on the couch.

“I don’t need you to tell me you love me back. I’m not looking for a declaration of undying love. I need to know where I stand. I want this relationship to work and I will fight with everything I have to keep us together. But if I’m not the person you can’t live without or the person whose smile you want to wake up to every morning, than I need to know. I want you to tell me if there’s something to fight for because I can’t fight a battle that I’ve already lost.”

Nick’s head was screaming at him to tell her how he felt. Was he so afraid of her breaking his heart that he’d rather lose her instead? She wasn’t going to wait forever and he needed to say something.

She gave him a few minutes before she got up and headed down to the bedroom. He knew he should follow her and tell her exactly how he was feeling, but as much as he willed his body to move, it wouldn’t budge.

Emma returned about five minutes later with a bag and Della.

“I love you Nick.” she whispered as tears rolled down her face.

When he didn’t respond, she headed for the door and he heard it close behind her. A few minutes after she left, his body began to move. He wandered from room to room and couldn’t find a place that he could stand being without having her there. After trying to do something, he wandered out to his studio and came face to face with his painting of her and Della. He reached out and ran his finger down the edge of her face.

“I love you too Em. More than you know.”

Unfortunately, the one person who needed to hear that was no longer there and nothing was going to be the same.
End Notes:
This story ends here but I'm planning on doing a sequel. I hope I can keep you guys interested!
This story archived at http://absolutechaos.net/viewstory.php?sid=11172