Second Chances by Kyrie
Summary: It’s been two years since Nick and Emma last saw each other. When they come face to face at Howie and Addie’s wedding, will their feelings reignite or will they just go down in flames?

Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Group, Nick
Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Death, Domestic Violence
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 40 Completed: Yes Word count: 44817 Read: 50756 Published: 02/16/14 Updated: 05/29/14

1. A Walk Down The Aisle by Kyrie

2. The Rehearsal Dinner by Kyrie

3. The Visitor by Kyrie

4. A Bright Idea by Kyrie

5. Pictures and Speeches by Kyrie

6. Again? by Kyrie

7. Strange Request by Kyrie

8. Nice To Meet You? by Kyrie

9. Something's Not Right by Kyrie

10. A Plan of Action by Kyrie

11. The Set Up by Kyrie

12. Aftershocks by Kyrie

13. I'm Not Leaving by Kyrie

14. This Is So Not Helpful by Kyrie

15. Apologies by Kyrie

16. You've Got To Be Kidding by Kyrie

17. Give It Up Already by Kyrie

18. Revelation by Kyrie

19. Practice What You Preach by Kyrie

20. Time To Change by Kyrie

21. The First Step by Kyrie

22. Starting Over by Kyrie

23. A Pleasant Surprise by Kyrie

24. Not One Of My Talents by Kyrie

25. Hard Decisions by Kyrie

26. A Favor by Kyrie

27. Maybe? by Kyrie

28. Digging For The Truth by Kyrie

29. Surprise!?!? by Kyrie

30. Good Advice? by Kyrie

31. Change of Heart by Kyrie

32. A Good Morning by Kyrie

33. A First Date by Kyrie

34. Really? by Kyrie

35. A Decision by Kyrie

36. An Unexpected Guest by Kyrie

37. What Is Going On? by Kyrie

38. Jumping To Conclusions by Kyrie

39. Mixed Signals by Kyrie

40. Not Enough by Kyrie

A Walk Down The Aisle by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
A big thank you to Sapphire for the banner!
Emma was packing her bags and checking things off her to do list when her phone rang.

“How is my maid of honor doing?”

“Fine.” Emma said with a laugh. “Getting ready to head out.”

“How long’s your flight?”

“About 5 hours, I have a short layover.”

Emma was leaving cold and dreary Massachusetts for the sun and sand of Key West. Addie and Howie had decided on a destination wedding and, since most of his friends and family were already in Florida, they had decided to have it at one of the local hotels.

“I can’t wait to see you!”

Emma chuckled. “You just saw me a week ago.”

“I know but I miss you.”

“Well you’d better get used to it. That two week honeymoon is gonna keep us apart.”

“I know.” Addie answered and then decided to change the subject. “Is you know who coming?”

“You’re starting to sound like Harry Potter. He who shall not be named!”

“Very funny. Is he coming?”

Addie hated Emma’s new boyfriend with a passion and couldn’t understand for the life of her why Emma was with him. There was something that bothered her about him even though she couldn’t say exactly what it was. Whatever it was, it set off alarm bells in her head and she’d tried her hardest to find someone else for her best friend.

“And he is?”

“Okay, fine. Is Stephen coming?”

Emma chose to ignore that fact that Addie has practically hissed his name and told her that she was coming alone.

“What is he too busy?”

“He had a meeting to go to.”

Emma wasn’t about to open a can of worms and tell her best friend that they’d have yet another fight. It seemed to be happening a lot lately and when she suggested that this trip might help, he told her before he left that he was not going to waste his time down there with her friends.

“That’s a shame.” Addie responded, her remark dripping with sarcasm.

“Look Addie, I get that you don’t like him but he is my boyfriend. I wish you’d stop knocking him.”

I’d like to knock him out, Addie thought to herself. She knew she should be supportive of her friend but the whole situation seemed off and she didn’t like it.

“Alright, I’ll try.” she said and changed the subject slightly. “Are you going to be ok this weekend?”

Emma knew what her friend really meant was would she be ok around Nick. It had been two years since they’d broken up and she’s done her best to avoid him. He tried calling her in the weeks after she left but he eventually gave up like she knew he would. She didn’t want a relationship built on guilt or pity and she felt that if she opened her heart to him again, that’s why he would be there. The best choice for her was to wall up that part of her life and move on.

“I’ll be fine Addie. Please don’t worry about me.”

“I’m always gonna worry about you, we’re family.”

“That is true and it’s also true that if I don’t finish packing, I’m gonna be late for my flight!”

“Well then hurry up missy! I can’t get married without you!”

Emma smiled. “I’m leaving in a couple of minutes.”

“Ok, be safe and call us when you land. Love you!”

“Love you too!”

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

“When do you leave?”

“About an hour.” Nick replied. “Don’t worry D, I’ll be there soon.”

“Good! The rehearsal dinner is tonight and you can’t miss it.”

“I won’t.” Nick promised. “I would never miss anything this important.”

“I’m glad you’ll be here.” Howie paused and then got serious. “You’re gonna be ok this weekend right? I mean let me know…”

“Everything will be fine.” Nick answered.

He knew that seeing Emma would be difficult for him but it was something that couldn’t be avoided. He’d tried to talk to her after the breakup but she’d completely shut him out. It’s not like he could blame her and he’d been stupid to go back to Lauren when he couldn’t get Emma back.

“Glad to know that.” Howie replied. “Are you bringing the flavor of the month with you?”

Nick groaned. He and Lauren had broken up over a year ago and the dates he’d been on weren’t very successful. He’d been set up so many times that Howie had taken to calling all of them the flavor of the month.

“No big brother.” Nick answered. “I haven’t had any dates in over a month and I would never bring a girl I barely knew to your wedding.”

I also wouldn’t bring any woman anywhere near Emma, he thought. He knew how badly he’d hurt her and although she may never speak to him again, he wasn’t going to show up with some random girl and hurt her more.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you say that!” Howie exclaimed.

“I bet you are.” Nick chuckled. “I need to get off so I can board. I’ll see you in a few.”

“Call when you get here.”

“Will do.”
End Notes:
I hope that everyone likes the new story and I want to thank you in advance for reading. Please let me know what you think, the reviews help a lot!
The Rehearsal Dinner by Kyrie
Emma made it to the rehearsal dinner just in time. There had been a mix-up with her room and she barely had time to shower and change. Thankfully the dinner was being held at the hotel and as soon as Addie spotted her, she waved her over. She was extremely grateful that she was going to be sitting with her friend, Howie and his immediate family whom she’d been introduced to when they got engaged.

“I hear you’ll be my aisle walking partner.” John said as they were taking their seats.

“I am indeed. I think you might be stuck with me again for the bridal party dance.”

“I think I can handle it.” he responded with a laugh.

“You may regret saying that after I’ve stepped on your toes a million times. I’m not the most graceful person ever.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Be careful John.” Howie warned. “I’ve seen her in action and she isn’t kidding. You may want to look into stronger shoes.”

Emma looked over at Howie with surprise. He grinned at her and she smiled. They had become like brother and sister since he started seeing Addie and she loved hanging out with them. It was hard after she and Nick split up but Howie never seemed to treat her any differently and he was extremely supportive even though Nick was family to him.

“You better be careful Dorough or I’ll stand up tomorrow when they ask if anyone objects to the marriage!”

“You would not!” Howie said and threw a roll in her direction.

“Yes I would……” Emma’s sentence trailed off.

Addie turned around to see what she was staring at and found her watching Howie’s bandmates as they made their way to their table. She knew Emma hadn’t seen any of them since the breakup although AJ had tried to get ahold of her several times. The incident with Lauren bothered him and he wanted to make sure Emma was ok. The problem was that she couldn’t deal with anyone who was close to Nick, with the exception of Howie.

“Are you ok?” Addie whispered as she leaned in towards her friend.

Emma nodded and tore the roll Howie had tossed her in half. It took every ounce of willpower to steady her nerves and keep herself from making a beeline to the door. She knew she had to do everything she could to ignore the looks that would eventually drift her way.

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

“I think we just made it.” Brian whispered to the guys as they took their seats.

“What makes you say that?” AJ asked.

“The look on Howie’s face.” Kevin murmured. “He looks like he was contemplating killing us.”

“Well we made it.” Nick interjected. “So we’re fine and D can relax.”

The waitress had just taken their drink order when AJ swore under his breath. The guys swiveled to look at AJ’s line of vision and they all spotted Emma at the same time. She was sitting with Addie, Howie and his family. There was smile on her face but anyone who knew her could spot the sadness in her eyes. Nick knew that he had caused that and swiftly looked away.

“Do you want to trade seats?” Kevin asked.

“No.” Nick replied. “Howie told me she’d be here. I mean after all, she’s Addie’s best friend. Where else would she be?”

AJ, never one for tact, brought up the burning question.

“So are you gonna talk to her?”

“AJ.” Kevin warned. “I don’t think…”

“No, he’s right.” Brian said surprising everyone. “Nick needs to talk to her at some point. We’re all in Howie’s life now and we have to figure out a way to deal with all this.”

Nick usually appreciated Brian’s ability to play peacemaker but this was not one of these times.

“I know I need to talk to her but I have no idea what to say. Everything I can think of sounds stupid.”

“Well,” AJ started, “it might sound idiotic because…”

“What I did is idiotic.” Nick said finishing his brother’s sentence. “I get that. I don’t know what to say to her. Maybe she doesn’t even want to talk to me.”

“Maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t but you’ll never know unless you try.”

“I know but…”

“Keep making excuses Carter. You guys can sit here but I’m gonna make her talk to me.”

AJ got up and started across the room before anyone could stop him. They all watched as he made his way to Howie’s table, pulled up a chair and plunked himself down right next to Emma. She looked completely shocked but after a few minutes, AJ’s charm seemed to loosen her up and they saw her laugh at some pictures he was showing her on his phone. Nick stared at her as she continued to smile and eventually, she looked over at him. Her smile faded instantly and she looked away as quickly as she could. That action hurt Nick more than he could explain and he excused himself to the men’s room.

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

“How are you doing?” Addie whispered after AJ left.

“Hanging in there.”

“I saw Nick staring at you. He couldn’t take his eyes off you.”

“Don’t start Addie.”

“I’m just saying….”

“Stop saying.” Emma snapped. “I’m sorry Addie but there is nothing left between me and Nick. He didn’t want me then and even if he’s been staring at me all night, it doesn’t change anything.”

Addie looked back over towards the guys table. She knew Emma was full of crap when she said there was nothing left between them. Two years had passed and the mention of Nick’s name still caused a change in Emma. It was like a raw wound that wasn’t healing and Addie knew that something would need to be done in order to stop her friend’s pain. She wanted to tell Nick about all the damage he’d caused but she had to walk a fine line since he was, and always would be, Howie’s family.

“Are you at least going to talk to him?”

“Not unless I absolutely have to.”

“Don’t you...”

“Don’t push Addie. I just want to enjoy your wedding and celebrate the best day of your life with you.”

“Ok.” Addie said. “No more, I promise.”

“Good.” Emma replied as she smiled faintly. “Let’s get to dessert!”

Everyone spent the next hour or so telling jokes, trading stories and just enjoying each other’s company. They started to break up about midnight and Emma stuck around to say goodbye to some of Howie’s other family. She caught Nick heading in her direction and she decided to cut her goodbyes short. Hugging Howie and Addie, she rushed out to the lobby to catch the elevator to her room.

By the time Nick made it across the room, Emma had disappeared. He asked Howie where she went and his friend just shrugged his shoulders. Turning towards Addie, he started to speak and then closed his mouth when he saw the look on her face. Not wanting to cause an argument, he made his way back to his room. He may have missed this chance but he was determined to get her talk to him.
The Visitor by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
I hope everyone is enjoying the story so far!
Emma woke up the next morning to the faint sound of knocking. She threw on her bathrobe and padded over to the door. Looking through the peephole, she saw a familiar face and shook her head. Hoping to pretend she wasn’t in, she turned and took a step towards her bed.

“I know you’re in there.” said her visitor. “I’m not going away you know.”

“Not even if I pay you.”

“Not a chance Feisty. Get dressed and get your butt out here. You have five minutes, and if you’re not on your way out, I’m coming in.”

Emma knew he wasn’t kidding and she changed quickly. After making sure she had her cellphone and keycard, she opened the door and stepped outside.

“What are you doing here AJ? Don’t you have to help Howie with something?”

“I’m hurt. We haven’t seen each other in two years and I’m getting the brush off. That’s not like the Emma I know.”

There was no arguing with him especially when he was right. She had always gotten along with him and was so grateful when he stood up for her at Thanksgiving.

“I’m sorry AJ.” Emma said as she followed him out to the front lobby.

“No need to be sorry Feisty. Just figured while we were both here, we could hang out.”

“Where are Rochelle and Ava?”

“The little monkey has a pretty nasty cold so they stayed home.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Stop apologizing.” he replied with a smile. “I’m gonna enjoy the wedding tonight and fly back in the morning.”

“Quick trip huh?”

“Yup. And that brings me to my first question of the morning.”

Emma raised her eyebrow.

“I’m obviously dateless for the evening and I was wondering if you’d come to the wedding with me.”

“Did Rochelle put you up to that?”

“I plead the fifth.” he said and took a sip of the coffee they’d just purchased. “So as I was saying, would you like to be my plus one?”

“Sure.” Emma answered with a smile. “I’d like that. You can keep all the men who are dying to ask me out away from me. I don’t know if I can hold them all back.”

“I’m gonna have to beat them back with something.” AJ teased and then turned serious. “Is there a certain someone you’d like me to keep away?”

Emma groaned. “Not you too.”

“I’m just asking.”

“You never shy away from any topic do you?”

“Nope, not in my nature.”

“I can see that.”

“So, are you gonna answer my question? Is there a certain person I should keep away?”

“Yes.” Emma replied with a serious face. “I want to enjoy this night with my best friend and I don’t want any drama. Besides, there really is nothing left to say.”

“You’re such a liar. You’re almost as big a liar as him.”

“Hey!” she said and swatted him. “I’m not lying.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever. You know that at some point you’ll have to speak to him.”

“Not if I can avoid it.”

“You can’t avoid it forever.”

“I’m gonna give it my best shot.”

“We’re all gonna be family after tonight and family spends time together. There’s gonna come a day where we’re all together and it’s gonna suck if you two can’t even look at each other.”

Emma just sat there. There was no way she was going to admit that he was right so silence was her best option.

AJ sighed. “All I’m saying Feisty, is that at some distant time, you both are going to have to say something to each other.”

“Well today’s not that time. I want to get through the wedding and then head back home.”

“When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

AJ didn’t mention that Nick was leaving around then too.

“And don’t be thinking about any creative ways to put us together.”

AJ just held up his hands.

“I mean it McLean. I’m going to the wedding with you and that’s it. Keep any other ideas out of your head.”

Emma looked at her watch and realized that she needed to be showered, changed and in Addie’s room in an hour.

“I’ll see you at the ceremony.”

She stood up and started to walk away. Changing her mind, she walked back to where she left him and gave him a huge hug.

“Thank you AJ.” she said and turned around again.

“Welcome Feisty. See you in a bit.”

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

“So, did you talk to her?”

“Yes Brian, I talked to her.”

“What did she say?”

“That she’d love to be my plus one.”

“I mean about Nick!”

“She told me in no uncertain terms to keep him away from her.”

“Dammit!” Brian swore.

AJ laughed as he looked at his friend’s face. “Now, now Brian. You shouldn’t be cursing.”

“This is not the time to remind me about swearing.”

AJ watched as his friend paced back and forth. “What’s with you anyway? Usually I’m the one pushing you guys to do something. You’re practically crawling out of your skin to think of a plan to get them together.”

“I saw the way they looked at each other last night. There is no way that these two don’t care about each other. We need to get them back together and then we need to make sure Nick doesn’t screw it up again.”

AJ was completely surprised by Brian’s attitude. He’d spent most of his time in the past playing peacemaker and trying to keep his friends out of situations like this.

“I still don’t get this whole new aggressive Brian thing. What gives?”

Brian sat on the bed and put his head down. He answered AJ but his words didn’t come out very clearly. AJ asked again and he lifted his head.

“What if this whole thing is my fault?”

AJ sat down next to him on the bed and gave him a strange look. “This whole thing?”

“Nick breaking things off with Emma and then him going back to Lauren.”

“How in the hell would him being stupid be your fault?”

“What if what Leighanne said at Thanksgiving caused all of this?”

AJ was stunned. “How long have you felt this way?”

“Since they broke up.” his friend answered quietly. “This whole thing could be my fault.”

“This is absolutely NOT your fault Bri. These things happen and we all know Nick makes dumb decisions sometimes.”

“Maybe what Leighanne said triggered Nick’s feelings for Lauren.”

AJ decided to clue Brian in.

“Nick didn’t have any feelings to be triggered.”

“Huh?”

“Nick didn’t break up with Emma or go back to Lauren because he loved Lauren.”

“Why did he do it then?”

“Because he was scared.”

“Scared of what?”

“Emma breaking his heart. He loves her no matter what he says but he was so scared he’d get hurt that he didn’t admit it to anyone, even himself.”

“How did you know?”

AJ smiled at his friend’s innocence. “Because he could live with anything else except her leaving him. Why do you think Nick had an easy time breaking up with Lauren?”

Brian sat there and thought about it for a minute. “He did get rid of her pretty fast.”

AJ broke out into laughter. “He certainly did. It was probably the fastest thing he’s ever done.”

“So this isn’t my fault?”

“No and you need to stop feeling so guilty.” AJ stood up. “We’d better get going before Howie sends people to look for us.”

“Alright.” Brian smiled for the first time that morning. “Let’s go.”
A Bright Idea by Kyrie
“Are you nervous?” Emma asked as she zipped up Addie’s dress.

“No.” Addie answered with a smile. “I know this is right and we’ll be happy. You’ll know what I mean when you get married.”

Emma pretended to smile but deep down she had trouble believing that was true. First Jessie, then Nick and now Stephen; her track record wasn’t looking so good.

“I’m sorry.” Addie said quietly. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, it’s fine. You need to stop worrying about me. I’m not a fragile doll, I won’t break.”

Addie disagreed but she nodded and let Emma finish helping her. Once she was done, she helped Emma into her heels.

“Are you sure you can walk in those things?” Addie asked with concern. “You know how well you do on flat ground.”

“Zip it lady! I’m going to make it through the wedding with them on if it kills me!”

“You should never say that.” Addie replied with a laugh. “Please be careful.”

“I will, I promise.”

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

“Any last minute concerns?”

“Nope.” Howie answered AJ as he fiddled with his tie. “I couldn’t wait for this day to get here.”

“I felt the same way.” Kevin added. “You just know when it’s right.”

“That’s true.” Brian echoed. “You know when you meet that one person who becomes the most important person in your life. You do whatever you can to hold on to them.”

“You ok?” AJ asked Nick quietly. “You don’t look so good.”

“I’m fine.” Nick responded.

He couldn’t tell him how uncomfortable he was with this whole conversation. The guys were talking to Howie about their experiences with getting married but he felt like some of those comments could have been directed his way.

“It’s this whole thing with Emma.” AJ said, not letting it go. “Have you talked to her yet?”

“No Mr. Nosy. I tried to last night but she took off before I could even get to her.”

“Well you’d better find a way because this is going to keep bothering you.”

“No shit.” Nick replied. “I need to find a way to get her to talk to me. Some way that leaves her with no other choice.”

All of a sudden, a light bulb went off in Nick’s head. He brushed AJ off and raced over to Howie’s brother.

“Can I ask you a favor?”

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

Emma stood at the back of the church and watched the other bridesmaids began their walk to the altar. She turned and saw the enormous smile on her friend’s face as she stood there with her father, waiting to begin her trip. Turning back around, she saw the wedding planner give her the cue and she started down to where Howie was waiting. When she finally made it there, she saw the guys staring at her as she took her place in line. Even though she’d had somewhat made peace with AJ, she refused to acknowledge them and refocused her eyes on Addie.

Her best friend looked beautiful as she seemed to glide down the aisle and into the arms of her future husband. The priest began his part of the ceremony and paused several times in order to let other family and friends read passages that the bride and groom had picked out. Once all of the formalities had been completed, the priest asked for them to recite the personal vows they had written. Howie went first.

“I love you Addie and today I am the luckiest man in the world. Not only am I marrying the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, I get to marry my best friend. I promise from this moment on, I will be your lover, your support system, your rock and your partner in crime.”

Everyone let out a little chuckle.

“In you I have found my home, my love and my partner for life. You are the most important person to me and the only thing I can’t bear losing. With this ring, I vow to do everything in my power to make you happy, keep you safe and make you feel loved.”

A twinge of guilt passed through Nick’s heart. Why was it so easy for everyone else to tell the people around them that they cared about them? Without being able to stop himself, he glanced across the altar and saw Emma wipe a tear from her eyes. What was wrong with him?

Emma watched as Howie slid the ring on Addie’s finger. Her best friend was probably the luckiest woman on the planet today. Men like Howie didn’t come along very often and she was grateful her friend had found him. She took a deep breath and waited for Addie to begin her vows.

“I love you Howie and you mean so much to me. You’re the key to my heart. When I’m with you, I feel safe, loved and cared for. I know that together we can face every joy and challenge that life has to offer. We will make our journey together and create memories that will last a lifetime.”

Emma’s eyes started to well up and she looked over at Howie’s side. Her eyes skipped over Nick’s and went straight for AJ. He smiled and crossed his eyes. She had to stop herself from laughing and was grateful for his silliness; it helped ease the ache for her.

“With this ring, I promise to fight for us and everything we want. I will encourage you, support you and help you. I will strive to become a better person for you and I will always love you.”

At this point, almost everyone in the church was crying. Brian and Kevin’s eyes were wet, Nick was trying to blink away tears and Emma’s mascara was threatening to run down her face. The priest finished the final part of the ceremony and pronounced Addie and Howie husband and wife. Everyone clapped and whistled as the pair kissed for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Dorough. When they broke apart, they spun around to face all their friends and family with gigantic smiles on their faces. Addie took her bouquet back from Emma and whispered thank you.

Emma smiled as she helped Addie fix her veil and then watched her best friend and her new husband started their walk up the aisle. She took her position behind them and waited for John to come over. Feeling someone link arms with her, she twisted to smile at them and then realized that it was Nick next to her. She never saw the switch happen and she was so caught off guard that they had to nudge her down the aisle.

“What are you doing?” Emma hissed as she tried to keep a smile on her face. She didn’t want to ruin Addie’s wedding face with an angry look.

“Doing John a favor. He wanted to walk with his wife.”

Emma didn’t know what to say so she kept quiet until they reached the front of the church. As soon as she could, she broke apart from Nick and tried to dash off to the waiting limo. Unfortunately, her new set of shoes were turning out to be a bad decision and she pitched forward as her heel caught in a crack in the pavement. Before she could meet the pavement with her face, Nick was by her side and helped to steady her. She started to thank him but remembered that she was furious with him for switching places with John. Pushing his arm away, she took her heels off and walked the rest of the way down to the bridal party. Nick shook his head and joined the rest of the guys in their rental SUV.

“What the hell was that?” Kevin shouted once the doors were closed. “Are you trying to ruin Howie’s wedding?”

AJ laughed and answered for Nick. “That was one hell of a way to get her attention. She couldn’t refuse.”

Nick grinned. “No she couldn’t.”

“I hope it was worth it since you didn’t get to say much.” Brian pointed out.

“I have a feeling Nick already has an idea of how to take care of that.” AJ remarked.

“Just be careful Nick.” Kevin cautioned. “You force her to talk to you and things may not go the way you’re hoping.”
Pictures and Speeches by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Thank you to Sapphire, Nijntje, JordansLady, nycki02, Yara, Jujube and everyone else who have been taking the time to read my story. The reviews are greatly appreciated and I hope I can keep you all interested!
The bridal party spent an hour taking pictures and Nick continued to switch places with John as much as he could. The guys tried to stop him a few times but he was persistent.

“Moron.” Kevin cursed. “Howie’s going to kill him and us if his wedding pictures get ruined.”

“Why us?” Brian asked. “We didn’t do anything.”

“We’re not doing a real good job at stopping him!” Kevin said loudly causing Howie to look over. “He needs to cool it and give Emma a break. She’s got to be pissed by now.”

“She probably is.” AJ agreed. “But she’s too nice of a person to let it show. No matter what dimwit move he makes, she'll smile through every picture because she wants Addie’s day to be special.”

By the time the photographer announced they were finished, Emma was at the end of her rope with him. She ditched her heels and practically raced up to the function hall. Making her way through the crowd to the bridal room, she stood in front of the mirror and tried to fix the strands of hair that were popping out everywhere. After a few minutes, she heard them calling for the bridal party to line up for introductions. Ducking out of the bathroom, she smiled when she saw that Nick was flanked by the other guys and took her place at the back of the line. Thinking she’d been granted a reprieve, she let out a sigh of release; her luck didn’t last for very long though. As the first usher and bridesmaid walked out, John scooted out of the line and swapped places with Nick. It all happened so fast that she couldn’t react.

“Why are you doing this?” she muttered as they made their way out to the reception area.

“Because you refuse to talk to me.”

“Geez, I wonder why that is.” Emma snapped. “Why can’t you take a hint?”

“Because I’m stubborn and thickheaded.”

“No kidding.”

Nick started to say something else but they had asked the partners to split up and make an aisle for the bride and groom to walk in.

“Please help me welcome the newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. Dorough!”

Everybody clapped and cheered as Addie and Howie entered. They began their first dance to 98░’s “I Do” and everyone made a circle to close them in. Anyone could see how happy the couple was and it made the day even more special since they could share it. The bridal party knew their dance would begin next and Emma began her walk over to John. They hadn’t been told what song the couple had chosen and Emma prayed that it wouldn’t be a sappy love song.

The music came to stop and the bridal party matched up with their partners. Emma was so grateful for the initial respite from Nick but cursed John when he spun her over to him. Still being photographed, Emma put a big smile on her face and tried to keep from glaring at him. He pulled her close and she was so distracted by his cologne that she didn’t recognize the song until she heard Nick start singing softly.

Lying beside you
Here in the dark
Feeling your heartbeat with mine
Softly you whisper
You're so sincere
How could our love be so blind
We sailed on together
We drifted apart
And here you are
By my side

So now I come to you
With open arms
Nothing to hide
Believe what I say
So here I am
With open arms
Hoping you'll see
What your love means to me
Open arms***

The song sent Emma back in time to their first dance at the Halloween party the girls had taken the guys to. Her eyes filled with tears and she just couldn’t take it anymore. Thankfully, AJ saw her start to crack and cut in. He pushed Nick away with a serious look and wrapped his arm around her waist.

“I’m sorry.” he whispered. “We should have stopped him.”

Emma shook her head and wiped the tears away with one hand. As soon as the song was over, she bolted for the ladies room. AJ watched her walk away and then stalked back to his table. He leaned in towards Nick and the guys and told them they needed to talk. Everyone was so distracted by dinner that no one noticed the four of them slip out.

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

“Enough.” AJ bellowed and the other men looked at him. “Emma can’t take anymore.”

“But…” Nick started to say.

“No more!” AJ demanded. “I know I told you to talk to her but enough is enough Nick. You’re driving her nuts.”

Kevin looked over at Nick with a stern look. “I agree, you need to stop. I know you want her to talk to you but the only thing you’re succeeding in is pushing her farther away.”

“And Howie’s going to kill you.” Brian added. “If Addie finds out that Emma’s upset because you’re being an idiot, she’s gonna go to Howie and he’s gonna be furious.”

Nick started to say something but was silenced by the look on AJ’s face; he hadn’t seen him this angry in a while.

“She cannot take anymore Nick. Leave her alone.”

AJ gave him that final warning and headed back inside.

“What if…”

“Stop Nick!” Kevin said, getting louder. “AJ’s right. She’s eventually going to get angry and say something. Do you want to ruin Howie’s night?”

Nick shook his head no and watched as Kevin left. He turned around to face the beach and felt Brian put his hand on his shoulder.

“Just relax Nick. You’ll get to talk to her.”

“What if I don’t? What if I don’t get another chance?”

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

Emma was so grateful that Addie was in the middle of eating and darted to the bathroom so she could take a moment, pull herself together and get back out there. Praying no one would be in there, Emma was disappointed to find it occupied. As she waited, she ran through the dance with Nick again. The feeling of being in his arms completely frazzled her and she didn’t know how she was feeling right now. Anger was there at the top but so was love; she couldn’t help but still care about him.

The bathroom was finally vacated and Emma scooted in to wipe her eyes and clean her face. She only stayed a few seconds and then rejoined the couple at the head table. Addie and Howie had decided just to have the best man and the maid of honor sit with them. This was a strategic move that Addie hoped would keep Nick and Emma’s interactions to a bare minimum.

The appetizers had been served and the DJ announced that it was time for the speeches. John had agreed to go first and he told stories of how he and Howie had grown up and were not just brothers, but best friends. He told Addie how thankful the family was that she would be joining them and how eager he was for nieces and nephews. He finished by asking everyone to support the new union and keep them strong.

Emma knew she was next and stood up with shaking hands. She’d spent hours trying to figure out what to say and was having trouble keeping it under five minutes. But she remembered how much Addie loved Shakespeare and she decided to steal her cue from him.

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove; o’ no! It is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken; it is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come: love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”****

Emma knew everyone would be wondering what she just said. Shakespeare was not something everyone understood so she tried to explain what he meant.

“Shakespeare definitely had you two in mind when he wrote this. Love has such amazing qualities and one of those is to stay strong no matter what comes your way.”

Without even realizing she was doing it, she turned to the crowd and searched for Nick’s eyes. She found them staring back at her and she continued.

“When circumstances change or things happen, love stays firm and is a pillar for both people to cling to. It doesn’t change depending on the situation, it stays strong. It steers two people together and helps keep them anchored to each other. It stands the test of time and lasts past death.”

She turned her attention back to Howie and Addie.

“Love is definitely what you two share. I hope that it continues to guide you and keep you strong. I love you both.”

Emma leaned down to hug her best friend and Howie. Tears filled her eyes and she was truly happy to be here to share their day.


***Lyrics by Journey - “Open Arms”
**** Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116
End Notes:
I probably won't be posting anything for a few days, need to think of some more ideas! LOL
Again? by Kyrie
“I like their idea of wedding favors.” Kristen remarked to the table during dinner. “Making a donation to the American Cancer Society in everyone’s names is really terrific.”

“I know.” Kevin agreed. “It’s much more personal and will someone a lot of good.”

“I think between Howie’s father and Addie’s family, it seems like the best place they could donate to.”

“I agree. Besides, I already have enough key chains.” Leighanne said with a snooty attitude.

Brian turned about fifteen shades of red and said a silent prayer that everyone would just ignore her. Thankfully, Kristen and the guys already had that idea and continued to eat their dinner.

About twenty minutes later, the women excused themselves to the bathroom and Nick told the guys he was heading to get a drink. Brian, AJ and Kevin began a heated discussion about basketball but stopped when AJ started swiveling his head.

“What are you doing J?” Kevin asked.

“Looking for Nick.”

“He’s at the bar.” Brian responded and then shook his head at his own naivety. “But he’s really not at the bar is he?”

They all looked around and saw that Nick was following Emma out of the room and onto the balcony of the hotel.

“Is he fucking stupid or deaf?” AJ growled and started to stand up. “I told him to stay away from her.”

Kevin grabbed his arm. “Be careful AJ. If you go storming out there and cause a scene, it’s going to be bad for everyone.”

“What am I supposed to do? Stand here and let him keep at her?”

“No.” Brian said and stood up. “I’ll go this time.”

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

Nick walked about on the balcony and found Emma leaning over the railing, her eyes focused on the water. He was trying to think of something to say when she broke the silence.

“Are you coming out here for round whatever it is now?”

“No.” he said quietly. “I came out here to say I was sorry.”

“Well you said it, now you can go back inside.”

“Can I just talk to you for a minute?”

Emma spun around and Nick could see how tired she looked. She was shivering and had wrapped her arms around herself to keep warm. He started to shrug his jacket off but she held up her hand.

“I’m fine, I don’t need it.”

“But you’re shivering.”

“Like I said, I’m fine.”

Nick pulled his arm back in and looked down at his feet. This definitely was not going the way he had planned and he regretted all the idiot moves he’d pulled during the day.

Emma turned back around and stared at the moonlight. She didn’t know what to say to Nick; hell, she didn’t even know how she felt. This was the one thing she dreaded about the wedding. She knew they’d be put in a situation where they’d have to say something.

“Can I ask you a favor?” Nick whispered.

Emma just shrugged her shoulders and waited.

“Can I have one dance?”

“You already did.” she retorted.

“I mean one that I didn’t force you into. One that I might get with your permission.”

Emma shook her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. You got your one and that’s all I can handle.”

She turned back around and started to walk past him. He reached out and touched her arm causing her to stop.

“Please Em. Just one dance.”

“I’m sorry Nick.” she said after a moment. “I just can’t.”

“But it’s just one.”

“It’s one too many Nick.” she answered and looked up at him. “I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish here. The only reason we’re in the same room is for the wedding. Tomorrow, you and I will go our separate ways and who knows when we’ll see each other again. We need to leave things alone and move on.”

Nick was stunned and let her go back inside. He was contemplating going after again but Brian caught up to him just in time.

“Let it go Nick.” he suggested gently. “You’re not getting anywhere.”

“She’s not letting me.”

“Just let it alone for right now. It’s been two years since she’s seen you and I’d say she’s been pretty good at letting you get close tonight. I would have killed you if it’d been me.”

“So I’m just supposed to move on?”

“Yes, at least for tonight. I’m not telling you to give up, just give it a rest.”

Nick relented and followed his brother back to the table. He got a twin pair of dirty looks from AJ and Kevin as he sat down and just hung his head. He behaved for the rest of the night and only went over to the head table at the end of the night to say goodbye. While he waited in line to say goodnight, he noticed a pair of heels lying under the table, half hidden by the tablecloth. He picked them up and recognized them as the shoes Emma was wearing.

Howie nodded his head towards the door when Nick asked where she’d gone. Racing out front, he caught sight of her as she was entering the elevator. The doors closed just as he got there and he slammed his hand on the wall. He’d missed her again and didn’t even know what room she was staying in. Figuring he’d give them to Addie, he turned around and was halfway back to the reception area before an idea hit him. This may be his opportunity for a second chance at seeing Emma, his foot in the door; he decided then and there that he would hold on to them for another time.
Strange Request by Kyrie
Emma followed the hostess to her seat near the beach. Addie had suggested an early breakfast by the ocean before she and Howie left for their honeymoon. She didn’t feel guilty because Howie wanted to spend a few moments with the guys too.

“Hey you.” Addie said, snapping Emma out of her thoughts.

“Hey Mrs. Dorough. How are you this morning?”

“I’m good.” Addie gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and then took her seat. “How are you?”

“Tired. You guys kept us up late last night!” she responded with a laugh. “Did you even go to bed?”

Addie grinned. “Define what you mean by bed.”

“Oh gross. I don’t need any details.”

“I’m just teasing. I couldn’t sleep, I was so wound up. Did you enjoy the wedding?”

Emma nodded. “It was beautiful and you couldn’t ask for a better night.”

Addie noticed how quickly Emma answered and then looked down at her menu. Something was up and she wanted to know what it was.

“What gives?”

“What do you mean?”

“What’s up with you and the doom and gloom this morning? What’s going on?”

Emma shook her head and said nothing. Addie didn’t believe her and ran the events of last night through her head. She hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. Things had gone just as planned and Nick walked Emma into the reception. Wait a minute, Addie thought to herself. That wasn’t right!

“What the hell did Nick do?” she shouted. “I’m calling Howie right now! He’s got to…”

“Addie stop!” Emma yelped and put her hand on her friend’s arm. “Nothing happened and you don’t need to get Howie involved.”

“Why shouldn’t I?” Addie said, anger radiating from her body. “He should know Nick was bothering you.”

“Nick wasn’t bothering me.” Emma lied. “He thought he’d do John a favor so that he could walk and dance with his wife.”

“John should know better!”

“John has no idea about what happened between me and Nick. It’s no one’s fault and this doesn’t need to turn into a federal case. You’re gonna upset yourself for nothing and I’m gonna feel bad if you go into your honeymoon mad.”

Addie settled down quickly. Emma wouldn’t lie to her so things must be fine. It was probably just a misunderstanding and she agreed with her friend; leaving on her honeymoon in a bad mood wasn’t a smart idea.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m positive.” Emma answered and changed the subject quickly. “Are you excited?”

Addie started beaming and forgot about the other discussion. “I’m so excited! I’ve never been to Paris before and Howie managed to get us a room at Hotel Plaza Athenee!”

Emma smiled as she listened to her friend rattle off all the places she wanted to see and everything Howie had planned for them to do. She only lied to Addie when it was absolutely necessary and as much as she hated to do it, she couldn’t see what spoiling the newlyweds honeymoon would accomplish. Last night was probably going to be the only time she’d see Nick for God knows how long and she made a decision right then and there to put it behind her.

“Are you listening to me Em?” Addie asked as she waved her hand in front of her friend’s face.

“Of course! You were telling me about a night visit to the Eiffel Tower.”

Addie smiled and Emma thanked her lucky stars that she had developed the skill of listening and thinking at the same time.

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

Howie and the guys finished breakfast and started their goodbyes. He had already texted Nick that morning telling him that he wanted to talk to him alone.

“What the hell were you doing last night?” Howie demanded as soon as they were alone.

Nick hung his head. “I’m sorry Howie, I just…”

“Do you know how hard it was to make sure Addie didn’t see you go after Emma the way you did. I’m lucky I didn’t spend my first night as a husband on the couch!”

Nick felt awful and knew that he had really screwed up. “I know and I wish I could take it back.”

Howie shook his head and surprised Nick with his next question. “Was it at least worth it?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“She wouldn’t talk to me. I think I pushed her a little too far.”

“AJ certainly thought you did. I looked over at him and he was glaring at you. I thought I might have to break up a fight.”

“He wanted to kick my ass and he was right. I pulled some stupid moves thinking I’d be cute and get her to talk to me.”

“You have to give it some time.”

“Huh?”

“I know you were expecting me to say forget it but I’m not going to do that. I think she might talk to you at some point but you can’t set her up in front of a group of people like that. You know Emma doesn’t like all the attention and you definitely put her under some pressure.”

“I know and I honestly feel bad for doing it.”

Howie knew his brother meant it. Nick missed Emma and Howie wanted the two of them to be able to at least be in the same room together. Knowing how Emma reacted last night made Howie rethink the question he was going to ask Nick. After a moment, he decided that it needed to be done regardless of whether anyone else would like it or not.

“I have a favor to ask Nick.”

“Sure, anything.”

“You’re heading back up to Boston at some point while we’re gone aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I have a couple of meetings there.” Nick paused. “Why are you asking?”

“I need you to check on Emma for me.”

“Are you nuts?” Nick asked his eyes bulging. “Why on earth would you ask me to do that?”

“Because we’re gonna be gone for two weeks.” And, Howie thought to himself, you’ll get another chance to talk to her.

“So? She hates me Howie and she’s not gonna appreciate me showing up at her door uninvited. She’ll survive without Addie for a while.”

“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t really need you to do it.”

Nick thought about it for a minute. He wanted a chance to talk to Emma again but he wasn’t convinced that this would be the best opportunity.

“I’m serious Nick; I need you to do this for me.”

“Why is it so important?”

“I need to make sure she’s ok.”

“Why wouldn’t she be ok?” Nick asked, concern starting to creep in.

“Addie hates her boyfriend…”

“She has a boyfriend?” Nick shouted. “How come no one told me about this?”

Howie gave Nick a few minutes to digest that information. He hadn’t meant to spring it on him but he really needed him to do this favor.

“Please Nick; you need to check on her.”

“Because Addie hates him? She hated Jessie and she probably hates me. What’s the big deal?”

“I hate him.”

Nick was stunned. In all the years he’d known Howie, he had never heard him say that he hated anyone. That comment changed everything for him.

“What’s he doing?”

“Nothing, at least nothing Emma tells us about. He just rubs me the wrong way and Emma has become like a sister to me. I want to make sure she’s ok while we’re gone. Can you do that for me?”

Nick nodded but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t really sure what to say. Obviously there was something wrong with this guy if even Howie disliked him. His friend wrote down the address for him and he promised that he would head up there in a few days.

“Thanks Nick.” Howie said. “I owe you.”
Nice To Meet You? by Kyrie
Goddamn fucking snow, Nick thought to himself as he climbed the stairs to Emma’s front porch. It had been a week since the wedding and he’d finally gotten back up to Boston. Unfortunately, he was greeted by about five inches of slushy mess with the promise of more to come. His flight had barely made it and he had to stop at the house to drop off his stuff. He said a little prayer that she wouldn’t slam the door in his face and rang the bell.

“I didn’t think you’d be back….”

Emma stopped midsentence.

“Hi Em.”

She just stood there and stared at him. They were both completely unnerved by each other and after a few seconds, Nick said the only thing he could think of.

“Um, I came by to drop these off.”

He handed Emma a brown paper bag. She looked inside and cocked her eyebrow. Hooking her finger through the straps, she pulled out the set of heels she’d worn to the wedding.

“You came all the way from Florida to bring me my shoes?”

“Well, not exactly.” Nick said as his words jumbled together. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d bring them to you. Thought you might need them.”

Emma cracked a small smile. “Really? Heels in the snow? I probably shouldn’t try it.”

Nick wanted to laugh but he wasn’t sure if he should dare. She hadn’t closed the door yet and he didn’t want to push his luck.

“Yeah, that was stupid.” He looked down at his feet. “Sorry.”

Emma didn’t say anything and neither did he. The silence was getting rapidly uncomfortable and Nick decided that this might not be the best idea. He checked on her like he told Howie he would and could tell him that she looked fine.

“Well that’s it. Just wanted to bring them to you. Have a good night.”

Nick left Emma standing there in the open doorway and sprinted down the stairs to his car. He was unlocking his door when he saw a car pull in behind. The occupant parked and stepped out; the man was a few inches shorter than Nick and appeared to be a few years older. He was about to ask him to move when he saw Emma bolt down the stairs in their direction.

She reached Nick the same time that her boyfriend did.

“Hi honey.” she said giving him a quick kiss. “Nick, this is Stephen.”

“Hi Steve...”

“It’s Stephen.”

Alrighty then, Nick thought to himself. There were a dozen or so other names that he could think of using for him at the moment but he managed to extend his hand and introduce himself.

“It’s nice to meet you Stephen, I’m…”

“Nicholas. I recognize you.”

Nick didn’t know how to react to that so he explained that he’d just come by to drop off Emma’s shoes. He saw Stephen look at the shoes in Emma’s hand and turned back to him.

“I’m sure she appreciates it.”

“I do.” Emma added quickly.

Nick stared at her and saw a woman he didn’t recognize. She was standing there in the freezing cold, with no jacket, while snow collected on her hair. Holding onto the shoes like they were an anchor, she kept looking back and forth between the two men. Stephen voice finally broke Nick’s concentration.

“It looks like you were just leaving. I’ll move my car so you can get out.”

Stephen walked back down the drive and started his car. Nick turned around again to look at Emma.

“You’re soaked Em.”

Nick reached in the car to grab a sweatshirt for her but she pulled back and told him she was fine.

“Is something going on?”

“No.” Emma answered.

“Are you sure?” Nick asked with growing concern. “He seems…”

“He’s just not a people person.” Emma replied with a forced chuckle. “It’s fine. Be careful going home.”

Nick didn’t know whether he should leave or stay. Something seemed off and he started to ask Emma again.

“Do you…”

“I’m fine Nick.” Emma said with a stern look. “Go home.”

“Ok.” Nick said with his hands up. He couldn’t force Emma to let him stay and he had to believe that she knew what was best. “You should get back inside.”

Emma nodded and raced back up the stairs. She yelled thank you and darted into the house. Nick turned his attention back to Stephen’s retreating car. He now understood why Addie and Howie hated him so much. Her boyfriend was a jackass and it made him concerned for Emma. Not knowing what to do, he backed his car out and pulled away. As soon as he was down the block, he hit speed dial.

“Hey J? You got a minute?”

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

Nick pulled into the driveway and turned the speaker off on his cell phone. He asked AJ to hold on and he made his way into the house. Once he put made sure the door was locked, he was back to finish his story.

“He’s an asshole, I’m telling you AJ. There’s something wrong with him.”

“I’m not disagreeing. What did Emma say?”

“She just kept telling me she was fine, like it was no big deal.”

“You don’t believe her?”

“No, she seemed so skittish. Totally unlike her.”

“And she kept saying nothing was wrong?”

“Yeah. Kept assuring me that everything was fine.”

“Maybe she’s really ok then. Maybe he’s just unfriendly.”

“Do you actually believe that McLean?”

“No, I’m just trying to talk myself out of flying out there.”

Nick appreciated the support; he knew his friend was probably already looking for flights.

“I get why Howie was so insistent about me coming up here.”

“You’re gonna stay up there right?”

“Absolutely! I’m not going anywhere until Howie and Addie are back here and settled in. I promised to keep an eye on her and I will.”

“Alright. You need to let me know if anything else happens.”

“You’ll be my first phone call.”
Something's Not Right by Kyrie
Nick’s interaction with Stephen bothered him for the next few days. He knew that Emma said everything was fine but he just didn’t buy it. It was eating at him so much that, against his reasons not to, he decided to head back to Emma’s. Hoping her schedule was still the same, he arrived to find no cars in the drive and he decided to wait; he sat on her porch for an hour before she got there.

“Hi Em.”

“Jesus Christ!” she yelled almost dropping her groceries. “What are you doing here Nick?”

“Just came over to say hi.” Nick answered as he grabbed two of her bags.

Emma tried to grab them back but he moved them away from her.

“Look, I know Addie and Howie probably asked you to check on me but I’m fine.”

“No they…”

“Yes they did and I’m fine. Call them and tell them and then go back to whatever it is that you came up here for.”

Emma made a grab for the groceries again but Nick was too quick and held them out of her reach. She grunted and realized that this wasn’t going to go her way so she unlocked and opened the door. Nick followed her down to the kitchen and set the bags down on the table. Something was wrong with this house he thought and made his way back down to the living room while Emma was distracted.

He found the room set up like it was in a museum, everything pristine and nothing out of place. This whole scene was so not Emma. There was no TV, no stereo and no pictures anywhere in the room. Totally distracted by what he was seeing, he missed the first time Emma told him to leave.

“Earth to Nick, you can leave now. You brought in the bags and did your duty, there’s no reason for you to stay any longer.”

He ignored and took a few more seconds to let everything sink in; something suddenly occurred to him and shook him out of his thoughts.

“Where’s Della?”

Emma’s eyes welled up and she walked over to the door. “It’s time for you to go Nick.”

He refused to budge and repeated his question. She continued to ignore him and by now she’d opened the door and thrust a hand out. Walking over to her, he shut the door and took a seat of the stairs leading to the second floor.

“You can stand by that door as long as you want but I’m not leaving until you answer my question.”

“Nick please…” Emma pleaded. “Just go.”

“No.”

Emma couldn’t stand there and stare at him anymore so she took a seat in the living room. Not wanting to crowd her, Nick took the chair opposite her and waited.

It took her a few minutes to speak and when she did, she was barely audible through her tears.

“She passed away.”

“What?” Nick was shocked. “When? What happened?”

“About six months after you left. She developed hemangiosarcoma.”

“What the hell is that?”

“Cancer. It’s pretty common in dogs, especially golden retrievers.”

“But she wasn’t sick.”

“Apparently she was. The vet said that a lot of the time, you don’t even know a dog has it until they get sick. By then, the cancer has spread and there isn’t anything they can do about it.”

By this point, Emma had tears running down her face and she had trouble talking through her sobs. Nick couldn’t even imagine what this was like for her; Della had been her best friend for thirteen years. He knew that she had rescued her and that they were inseparable.

“I’m so sorry Em, I really am.”

He stood up and walked over to where she was, taking a seat next to her. Reaching out to put his arm around her, he was surprised when she scooted down the sofa and took a seat as far away from him as possible.

“Why didn’t you call me?” he asked after a few minutes.

“Why would I call you?” Emma replied, looking at him through her tears.

“We’re friends.”

“We were friends Nick.” she answered. “Everything ended when I left and nothing is going to change that.”

Nick didn’t know what to say. She was right about things changing but losing Della was extremely painful and he would have done whatever she needed.

“I would have come back.”

“Out of pity and guilt. I could handle it myself, I didn’t need you.” she paused for a minute. “And I don’t need you now.”

He was about to say something when they heard the door open and Stephen came into the room. The older man looked back and forth between the two several times before saying anything.

“Did you have more shoes to bring Emma?” he asked with a nasty tone.

“No.” Nick answered getting defensive. “I just came over to check on her.”

“Well as you can see, she’s fine.”

Stephen walked over to the door and opened it. Nick looked over at Emma and she asked him to leave again. He couldn’t start a fight so he decided his best option was to leave, at least for now. Stephen was wearing a nasty grin and Nick had to resist the urge to punch him in the face.

“You’ve seen her twice now and Emma is fine. I don’t think you’ll need to come over and check on her again.”

As soon as Nick stepped out onto the porch, her boyfriend slammed the door in his face. He wanted to break it down and go storming back in there but he had to control himself. Addie and Howie would be back in two days and he planned to have a serious conversation with them about how they could get rid of this asshole.
A Plan of Action by Kyrie
Nick offered to pick the newlyweds up from the airport and was waiting at the gate when they disembarked. Addie was curt but Howie was eager to see him.

“How did it go?” Howie whispered as they made their way to the baggage claim.

“Not good.” Nick whispered back. “We need to have a serious talk and as much as it may cause some friction, Addie really needs to be involved.”

Howie groaned at the thought. Addie was going to be furious with him for asking Nick of all people to check in on Emma while they were gone.

“Are you sure?”

Nick nodded and left him with his new bride while he went to retrieve the car. Addie saw the looks exchanged between the two men and asked Howie about it when Nick was gone. Her husband assured her that there was nothing going on; he may have to tell Addie about the whole thing but the middle of a crowded airport was not the best setting.

Howie helped Nick load the luggage into the SUV and spent the ride home deciding how he was going to explain his plan to Addie. He also had to think of a way to defend Nick since he’d put him in that situation. She asked him several more times on the way home whether he was ok and he just smiled and told her he was tired.

Addie surprised both men when she invited Nick to stay for dinner. She said they could order takeout and Nick could fill them in on his secret.

“Don’t bother to tell me you’re not hiding something. You should see the guilty look on both of your faces.”
she said as she unlocked the front door. “You two order the pizza while I change; then we’re gonna talk.”

The guys knew there was no way out of telling Addie the truth because she had no plans to let it go. They waited till the pizza delivered and they were seated before Howie launched into an explanation.

“I don’t want you to be mad…”

“Ok, so it’s gonna make me mad. Got it.” Addie said and waved for him to continue.

“I asked Nick to check in on Emma while we were gone.”

“YOU WHAT?” Addie yelled causing both men to cringe. “Why on earth would you do something like that?”

“Because her boyfriend is the biggest asshole I’ve ever met.” Nick answered for his brother. “You and Howie have been concerned for a while and after meeting him, I can understand why.”

“Did you tell…” Addie started to ask her husband.

“All he did was ask me to check in. I had the pleasure of meeting him both times…”

“You went twice?” Addie asked.

“Yeah, the first time was just to check. The second time was because I felt, and still feel, that something’s off about that guy.” Nick answered and changed the subject. “Why didn’t you guys tell me about Della?”

“Emma asked us not to.” Howie said quietly.

“I loved her as much as Emma did and you should have told me anyway. I would have come out here.”

“I decided to respect her wishes.” Addie sighed.

“Why?”

“Because she was in a really bad place. It had been six months since you guys broke up and then Della got sick and passed away. She had pretty much crawled into a hole and we had to dig her out. It got so bad that she almost stopped speaking to us. We had to be careful not to push her any further away than she was.”

Nick felt awful because he knew he played such a large part in causing her to feel like that and it bothered him that he couldn’t have been there for her.

“Is that when she met the douchebag?”

Addie laughed in spite of herself. “I think I waited a month before I started the name calling.”

“I only needed an hour.” Nick responded. “When did she start dating him?”

“About eight months ago?”

“And they’re living together?”

“You two were after like two months and you hadn’t even been dating.” Howie reminded him.

“Yeah but I wasn’t an asshole.” Nick said and saw the look on Addie’s face. “You might think I am right now but I wasn’t back then.”

“I don’t think she lives there all the time. She kept the apartment she moved into after you left.”

“Is she serious about him?”

“I don’t know.” Addie said. “I think she believes she is but it seems like she jumped into the first relationship she saw. She didn’t want to deal with the pain anymore and I think she’s walled up her heart in some respects.”

“What did you see when you went over there?” Howie interrupted.

“An Emma I didn’t recognize.”

“What’d you mean?”

“I remember meeting you guys and thinking about how bubbly and extroverted she was. AJ was right when he started calling her Feisty. She never took anything from anybody and she was never opposed to putting me in my place. That isn’t who I saw there.”

“Well who did you see?”

“She was on edge, unable to take a deep breath and relax. She was walking on pins and needles especially when he was around. It seemed like she was scared of how he was going to react to something…”

“Or scared of him?” Addie asked.

“Definitely. She didn’t want me to stick around as soon as she saw him. It’s like she’s a wounded animal and doesn’t want to come out of her cave.”

Addie had heard enough. “We need to talk to her.”

“We?” Nick asked.

“Yes we and by we, I mean the three of us.”

“That’s hasn’t gone real well that past few times I tried. Plus I think she’ll feel like we’re all ganging up on her.”

“Maybe we don’t call it a talk.” Howie added. “Maybe we invite her over to dinner and tell her we wanted to give her the souvenirs we bought.”

“I think that’s a great idea.” Nick said. “You and Addie…”

“No.” Addie said putting her foot down. “You need to be here too.”

“That’s kind of like an ambush Addie. You said you don’t want to push her away but this plan seems like it would do just that.”

“We won’t tell her you’re coming then. You can “drop in” and pretend that you needed to see Howie about something.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I’m gonna ask you one question.”

Nick waited with a raised eyebrow. “What?”

“Did you want to punch him in the face?” Addie asked.

“Yes.” he answered without hesitation.

“Then you’re coming.”
The Set Up by Kyrie
“Are you sure you want me to come by? You guys just got back from your honeymoon. Shouldn’t you be relaxing or something?”

“We did enough relaxing.” Addie answered with a laugh. “Plus Howie and I go back to work in a couple of days. We both want to see you. Will you come?”

“Maybe.” Emma answered. “You’re positive? No more time alone?”

“Why are you being so insistent on not coming?” Addie demanded. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m just tired and I don’t really feel like going anywhere.”

“Is it Stephen? Does he not want you to come?”

“It has nothing to do with what he wants.”

“Then you’d better get your ass over here tomorrow night.” Addie ordered. “If you don’t come here, we’ll come there. Take your pick. Which will it be?”

Emma sighed and gave up. “Fine, I’ll be there tomorrow around five.”

“Good, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. I’ll see you then.” Addie hung up and turned to Howie. “Something is definitely going on.”

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

Emma arrived on schedule and Addie was thrilled to see her. She went to give her best friend a hug but Emma pulled back.

“What gives?”

“I have a cold and I don’t want you to catch it. You guys can’t afford to get sick right now.”

Addie raised her eyebrows.

“I’m serious Addie, this is why I didn’t want to go anywhere.” Emma said and tried to fake a sniffle. “I’m not sure if it’s a cold or the flu.”

“We’ll risk it.” Addie answered and dragged her friend down to the kitchen. “Howie, Emma’s here!”

Howie came running up the basement stairs and went to grab her but Emma scooted away from him. He looked hurt and she felt really bad.

“I’m not feeling good Howie and I don’t want you guys to catch whatever it is. I told Addie that I should have stayed home.”

Howie leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll take my chances.”

Addie dragged Emma into the living room to show her the pictures from the honeymoon while Howie worked on dinner. They’d gotten through half of them when he announced it was time to pull out the plates and silverware. Addie had just run into the living room to grab a tablecloth when the doorbell rang.

“Hey Em?” Howie asked. “Can you grab that for me? I have to finish stirring this so it doesn’t stick.”

Emma nodded and headed down to the door. She opened it up and came face to face with Nick.

“Seriously?” she muttered.

“Sorry.” Nick said quickly. “I was just on my way home and I thought I’d dropped these papers off for Howie. I didn’t feel like making an extra trip.”

Emma left him standing at the door and made her way back to the kitchen. This is so not going to go well, Nick thought to himself. He closed and locked the door, then followed the voices down to the kitchen.

“Hey Nick!” Howie said giving him a hug. “What’s up?”

“I came by to drop these off. Probably should have called first.”

“Probably.” Addie seconded with a fake attitude.

Emma sat there and watched as the three of them put on their show. She knew they were full of crap and had planned this whole thing; she just didn’t know why.

“Do you want to stay for dinner?” Howie asked.

“Maybe that’s not the best idea.” Addie pretended to whisper and shrugged her shoulder at Emma.

“No Addie, it’s fine. I don’t want to ruin whatever you’re planning.” Emma interjected.

“What’d you mean?”

“First, you were so insistent that I come to dinner and then Nick just happens to show up here? I don’t know what gives but you can all stop pretending like this is some big coincidence. I’m not stupid.”

They could all see the agitation in her face and started to rethink whether this little talk was worth having.

“I can leave.” Nick offered. “I should go.”

“No.” Emma said sarcastically. “I think you should stay. Please don’t leave on my account. We might as well get this all done and over with since you all went to so much trouble.”

Addie couldn’t believe how downright hostile Emma was being. This was so out of character for her and she didn’t know how to respond. She watched as Emma offered to help Howie take down some plates and she helped her dig out the stool.

“Do you want some help?” she asked her best friend.

Emma just shook her head and started opening the cabinet.

“They’re on the top shelf.” Howie said quietly.

Addie was having second thoughts about this whole thing and had just turned around to grab something when she heard Nick roar.

“What are those?”
End Notes:
Thank you guys for reading and I hope you're liking the story!
Aftershocks by Kyrie
Emma shoved the plates back into the cabinet and tried to scurry down the two steps but she didn’t make it. Nick practically leapt across the room and yanked the back of her shirt up as the three of them stared at her. There were a pair of bruises starting to fade at the small of her back and when he touched the outline, she yelped. Grabbing the hem of her shirt, she jerked it down and took off for the bathroom.

Addie raced down behind her and started pounding on the now closed door.

“Emma Alissa Andrews! Get out here right now!”

Howie listened to Addie bang on the door and looked over to where Nick had been standing. He was now pacing back and forth, slamming one fist into the other hand. His face was bright red and Howie knew how angry he was getting.

“Nick.” Howie said quietly. “You’ve got to calm down.”

“I knew something was wrong.” Nick growled. “I should have demanded that she let me stay.”

“Nick, this isn’t your fault. Emma’s a big girl…”

“Don’t give me that Howie! I saw how she was around him and I just wrote it off.”

“No you didn’t. You told us as soon as we got home.”

“Lot of good that did!”

“How do you think I feel?” Howie shouted getting angry. “He’s been under our nose for almost a year and neither one of us said anything.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“I don’t know.” Howie answered honestly. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything physically.”

“Well, it’s gonna be the last time.” Nick replied furiously.

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

“Let me in Emma!”

“Please Addie.”

“Let me in or so help me God, I’m gonna get Nick and Howie and have them break the door down!”

Addie was about to yell for the guys when she heard the door click. Shoving it open, she almost knocked Emma to the floor.

“Jesus Addie.” Emma grumbled.

“What is going on?” her friend demanded.

Emma told a deep breath and perched on the side of their tub. She dreaded having this conversation with anyone, including Addie, and she didn’t know where to start.

“I promise you that I’ll help you Em. How long has this been going on?”

“The other night was the first time.”

“Yeah right.”

“I’m serious Addie. We’ve had our fights and he’s been nasty to me sometimes but this was the first time he got physical.”

“I’m gonna kill him!”

“No, you’re not. The other night was the first and last time it happened.”

“How do you know it’ll be the last?”

“Because I left.” Emma turned pink. “After I kind of threatened him with a frying pan.”

Addie’s jaw dropped. That’s my girl, she thought to herself.

“Yes Addie, I stuck up for myself.”

“It’s about damn time.”

“I know alright. I put up with a lot of crap but I’m not gonna sit there and take anymore.” Emma said as her eyes welled up.

“Why didn’t you ever tell us what was going on?” Addie asked as she sat on the tub and put her arm around her friend.

“I didn’t want you to tell me I told you so.”

“I would never…”

“You may not have said it but you would have meant it. I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I made yet another bad decision.”

“You don’t make bad decisions Emma.”

“I apparently do.” Emma replied and put her head on Addie’s shoulder.

“Maybe only this one.”

“Probably a few more that I can think of.”

The friends sat there for a few minutes before Howie knocked on the door.

“Everything ok?” he asked.

“Yup, be out in a few minutes.” Addie replied and then turned to Emma. “You’re gonna stay right?”

She shook her head no. “I need to leave Addie, I can’t stay.”

“Why not? We’re your friends…”

“No, you are my friend.”

“But Howie…”

“I love Howie but this isn’t something I want to discuss with him. And I definitely don’t want to talk it over with Nick. I don’t want to sit there and see them looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like I’m broken.”

“They’re not gonna…”

“Yes they are, whether they mean to or not. It’s bad enough that they saw what happened, I don’t need to explain it to them.”

“Why won’t you let us help?”

“Because I can take care of myself. I can get through this but I just need time.”

“But…”

“Addie if I go back out there, those two guys are gonna stare at me like I’m a child and I need to be protected. I’ve spent enough time feeling weak in this relationship; I’m not going out there to feel it even more. I need to handle this on my own.”

“Please…”

“Can you just go distract them so I can leave?”

“But…”

“No Addie. I want to go. Please do this for me.”

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

“How is she?” Howie asked quietly when Addie made her way back to the kitchen.

“How do you expect?”

Nick was about to say something when he heard the front door open and close.

“Did she just leave?” he asked and jumped up from his seat.

Addie grabbed his arm and pulled him back down. “Yes, she did.”

“How could you let her go back to him?”

“She’s not going back Nick. She moved back into the apartment she was living in.”

“But she needs…”

“She needs space.”

“But…”

“Look Nick, I’m walking a thin line. I want to be there for her but if I force this, she’s gonna shut me out too. I can’t risk that happening.”

“But she needs us…”

“No, I think you were right; you need to stay out of this.”

“What?” he yelled. “You want me involved and then you tell me to butt out?”

“Yes, at least for now. I…”

Nick leapt up and stomped out, slamming the front door when he left; he was not just gonna sit around and do nothing.
I'm Not Leaving by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Thank you to everyone for reading and for leaving feedback! I know it takes time out of your day so I want you all to know how much I appreciate it!
Emma spent the next week trying to avoid Addie. She ignored her phone calls, made sure she was busy with kids at work and refused to answer the door when she and Howie came by. This whole situation was overwhelming for her and the last thing she needed was to have everyone swarming around her.

It was late Friday night when she heard knocking on the door. Assuming it was Addie again, she ignored it at first but it just continued to get louder and louder. She crept to the door and peeked out the peephole. Oh God, she groaned, this is so not happening. She leaned against the wall and pretended not to be there.

“Let me in.” the voice came through loud and clear. “Don’t make me keep knocking.”

She silently wished him away but the knocking just continued.

“Ok, have it your way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The knocking finally stopped and she convinced herself that he’d left. She was halfway back to her couch before she heard the first verse of “Dancing Queen” coming from the hall. The voice kept rising and she heard a few of her neighbors yell into the hallway. Ripping open the door, she yanked him inside and slammed it shut.

“Dammit AJ! It’s almost midnight! Are you trying to get me evicted?”

“No Feisty.” he answered, pulling her into a hug. “I was trying to get in here.”

“Did you have to go that far?”

“Apparently. You weren’t gonna let me in otherwise.”

AJ finally let her go and followed her into the living room. She slumped down on the couch and put her feet up hoping to keep her distance from him. But in AJ like form, he pushed her feet down and took a seat next to her, propping his feet up on her coffee table.

“Make yourself comfortable.” Emma muttered.

“Thanks, I think I will.”

They sat there in silence for a few minutes before Emma asked him what he was doing there.

“I came to see you. I guess other people came too but you pulled the same “pretend you’re not here” crap with them.”

“It worked. Why didn’t you leave?”

“Because I’m stubborn. You may think you’ve cornered the market on being pigheaded but I win that award every year and I’m not about to give my title up.”

Emma just shook her head.

“Look, I get that you don’t want people around but I’m not about to sit by and let you close yourself away. Everyone else can do whatever they want but I am not going to tolerate that.”

“What do you mean you’re not gonna tolerate it?” Emma asked getting defensive. “It’s my choice, my decision.”

“Well your decision making sucks.”

Emma sat there stunned.

“I’m not pulling any punches here. I’ve always been honest, sometimes too much, and I tell everyone what I think whether they wanna hear it or not. So you can sit there and be pissed that I’m here but it’s not gonna change the fact that I am. And I am not going anywhere till we sort some of this shit out.”

“There’s nothing to sort out.”

“Yes there is. What happened to you is wrong and if I had that ass in front of me right now, I’d pummel him.”

“AJ…”

“No, let me finish. He may be gone but what happened doesn’t go away. You need to do something about it and you need to start relying on your friends and family for some help.”

“I don’t want anyone’s help; I don’t need it.”

“Bullshit. I’m not sure why you’re pushing everyone away but we’re tired of it and it has to stop.”

“I’m not…”

“Save it for someone who’s gonna buy it. I’m gonna make you talk if I have to stay here all night long. Hell, I’ll stay for the week.”

“You need to go home…”

“No I don’t. In fact, someone told me that if I come home without any luck, I’m gonna have a permanent bed in the garage!”

Emma laughed in spite of herself.

“Hallelujah! It still exists!” AJ yelled with a grin.

“Keep your voice down.” she said through her laughs.

“Ok, ok.” AJ said and raised his hands. “I promise to be quiet if you swear to talk to me.”

Emma got serious quickly but to his surprise, she nodded.

“Good, we’re getting somewhere. Here’s my first question. Why didn’t you tell anyone what was going?”

Emma thought about his question for a few moments and then answered him as honestly as she could.

“Addie is really the only person I have to talk to. She was planning her wedding and I didn’t think it was the best time to tell her about all the fighting.”

“Why didn’t you tell Howie or one of us?”

“Howie would have told Addie and none of you were around.”

“We weren’t around because you were keeping us away. You know you could have called me anytime and I would have listened.”

“I know.” Emma admitted. “I just couldn’t bear talking to you guys.”

AJ nodded. “I kind of understand why but that’s a discussion for a later time. I want to get back to why I came. How come you’re shutting everyone out now?”

“Because of the way everyone will see me.”

“How do you think we see you?”

“Weak, stupid, desperate.”

“Why in the hell would you think that?”

“Everyone knows how bad my breakup with Nick was and after losing Della, I jumped into the first relationship that came along. I knew he was bad for me but I continued to stay with him. I didn’t stand up for myself and I didn’t do anything to make the situation better.”

“Yes you did. You left him when it got physical. Then you told Addie what happened.”

“Not by choice.”

“Maybe not but you still did it.” AJ took a deep breath. “No one sees you as weak Emma. You had the strength and courage to get out and you were brave enough to admit to Addie what was going on. I don’t know why you can’t see that.”

“But the look in everyone’s eyes…”

“They’re not looking at you in a bad way Emma.” AJ paused. “How do you think they feel right now?”

“Huh?”

“You’re worried about how they’re looking at you but do you realize how they feel? Addie and Howie are so upset; they feel like they missed something and should have been more on top of things. And the rest of us, including a certain blond, are hurting for you. No one wants to see you go through this; we all want to help in any way we can. You just need to let us in.”

Emma couldn’t hold back any longer; the tears flooded her eyes and she started sobbing. AJ pulled her into a tight hug and let her cry on his shoulder. Enough was enough for tonight; they’d deal with everything else later.
This Is So Not Helpful by Kyrie
“So how did last night go?”

AJ had dropped by Howie and Addie’s for breakfast and they were grilling him to see if he’d made any headway.

“Well, she let me in.”

“Voluntarily?” Howie asked with a small smile.

“Kind of. It took a verse of Dancing Queen at the top of my lungs but she finally relented and opened the door.”

Addie just shook her head. “Dancing Queen?”

“It was all I could think of! And who cares if it was Old McDonald, I got her to let me in.”

Howie chuckled. “Did she say anything?”

“Yeah but I told her I would let her talk to you guys. I think she’s a little more willing to see you and explain things her way.”

“Why wouldn’t she before?” Addie asked.

“Because she thought we’d all see her as weak and stupid.” Addie started to say something. “Hey, her words, not mine.”

“What would make her feel like that?”

“She felt like everyone knew this was a terrible idea yet she did it anyway. I feel that deep down she knew it was going badly but I don’t think she realized it would go that far.”

“What did you tell her?”

“That we all thought she was brave to do what she did and admit to you that something was wrong.”

“I wish she’d come to us sooner.”

AJ took a sip of his coffee. “Look, what’s done is done. She’s gonna need you now and I don’t think dwelling on what everyone should have, or should not have, done is going to help anyone. That would definitely push her away.”

They were just finishing breakfast when the doorbell rang. Addie called out and they were surprised to see Nick heading their way. He looked at the scene for a moment and noticed that AJ was sitting there.

“What are you doing here?”

“Addie called me and asked if I would come out to talk to Emma.”

“Good luck with that.” Nick said, taking a seat at the table. “She won’t talk to anyone.”

“She talked to me.” AJ said bluntly.

Nick looked up, his face getting red. “Why’d she talk to you?”

“Nick…” Howie said reaching out his hand.

“Don’t hush me Howie! Why did she talk to you and not us?”

AJ chose his next words very carefully. “No offense but there is no “us” Nick. Emma is picking and choosing who she wants to talk to.”

“It’s her right to do that.” Addie added. “She can talk to whoever she wants to.”

“I know.” Nick snapped. “But why couldn’t she talk to us?”

“You mean you.” AJ interjected. “Why wouldn’t she talk to you?”

“Fine, me. Why wouldn’t she talk to me?”

Addie was getting irritated with Nick. “Why should she?”

“Because she and I used to be together!”

“Used to be are the operative words Nick. You’re not together anymore and you’re not her friend so stay out of it!”

“Why are you jumping down my throat?” Nick yelled. “I’m trying to help!”

All the stress that Addie been dealing with just boiled over and she let it fly at Nick. “Maybe you should have thought about that before you kissed Lauren! You dumped Emma for your ex and she jumped into any relationship she could to forget you!”

“Addie!” Howie yelped.

“I did not dump her!” Nick yelled.

“Ok, so you didn’t say those exact words but you still did it. You hurt her and now you think you can come riding back in with your shiny armor and save the day. If you really cared about her as much as you claim, you wouldn’t have hurt her to begin with!”

“Addie, enough!” Howie said, his voice rising.

“No.” she said to her husband. “Emma’s my family and she’s been through hell. I’ve bitten my tongue about my feelings towards him and Emma’s relationship because he’s your family but I’ve had enough.”

She turned back to Nick. “Stay out of this! We don’t need, or want, your help anymore!”

Addie jumped up from the table and stormed off; Howie went chasing after her while Nick stormed through the house and slammed the door behind him. AJ just sat there for a few minutes trying to take everything in.

“No wonder why she didn’t want to tell all of you.” he whispered.

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

AJ found Emma curled up on the couch when he returned. She was sound asleep and he hesitated before waking her up.

“Hey sleepyhead.” he said and shook her gently.

She woke up with a start and almost knocked him down. He backed up and let her get her bearings.

“Sorry AJ.”

“No problem.” he replied and took a seat next to her. “How’re you feeling?”

“Tired. I think I cried myself out last night.”

“It’s a good thing. I didn’t bring many t-shirts with me.”

“Jerk” Emma said with a smile and threw her pillow at him. “Where’d you go?”

“Over to Addie’s.”

Emma’s smile faded. “What’d you tell them?”

“Just the basics. I figured you could get into all the details with them.” He paused not sure whether to tell her about this morning’s fight.

“Maybe I should call them.”

“Eh, maybe not. You might want to wait a little bit.”

“Why?”

“Um, they might be in the middle of a little tiff.”

“A tiff? Addie’s doesn’t have tiffs, she has fights.”

“Maybe fight is the right word then.”

“Why are they fighting?”

“Ahhh, I was trying to explain to them what happened and then a certain someone showed up and it kinda went to hell after that.”

“What did he want?” Emma groaned. “I thought he went home.”

“Apparently not. I think he came over to see how you were doing and I surprised him.”

“So?”

“So he got a little angry that you and I had talked and then he and Addie got into it.”

“Oh God.” Emma said and dropped her head into her hands. “How bad?”

“Moderate to severe? She basically told Nick that he was the reason you went into the relationship…”

“No she didn’t!”

“She did and then she might have told him it was a little late for him to be concerned about how you were feeling. She also mentioned that if he cared so much he shouldn’t have broken up with you.”

“That’s not completely fair. I kinda broke up with him.”

“Uh-uh, don’t be taking the blame for the idiot. He screwed up not you.”

“Arghhhh. What should I do?”

“I suggest waiting till tomorrow and bringing a shield with you. You might need it!”
Apologies by Kyrie
Emma dropped AJ off at the airport the next morning and decided to head over to Addie’s. They were going to have to talk eventually and after the way things went down with Nick, she decided it had to be sooner rather than later. She rang the doorbell and waited a few seconds before Howie answered.

“Emma!” he cried and pulled her into a hug. “I’m so glad to see you.”

Emma gave him a small smile. “Glad because you want to make sure I’m ok or glad because I’m here to talk Addie off the ledge?”

Howie blushed. “Both?”

Emma followed him down to the kitchen and he offered her some coffee. She thanked him and took a seat at the table.

“Where is She-Ra?”

“She went out to run some errands. I don’t think she’s gonna be gone very long.”

“How are you?”

“Tired.” Howie admitted. “The honeymoon was great but it seems like we came back and…”

“Everything went to pot?”

“You could say that.”

Emma set her cup down. “I want to apologize because I know a big part of it was my fault.”

“It’s not your fault, don’t ever say that. Nothing…”

“Calm down Howie.” She placed her hand on his arm. “I’m not talking about what happened. I mean the times that I shut you two out and acted like nothing was wrong. If I’d been honest from the beginning, I could probably have saved us all some hassle.”

Howie was cut off by Addie running down the hall. Emma tried to stand but the force of Addie’s hug pushed her back into her chair. She stayed in that position until she had trouble breathing and had to pry her friend off.

“How long have you been here?”

“I just got here about ten minutes ago.”

“Is everything ok?”

“No.” Emma answered. “That’s why I came to talk to you.”

Howie decided it would be best to give them some space and disappeared downstairs as fast as he could. Addie poured herself some coffee and refilled Emma’s cup; they took a seat in the living room.

“What’s the matter?”

“You and Nick.” Emma replied without hesitation.

“What?”

“AJ told me about what happened the other day.”

“He shouldn’t…”

“No, he definitely should have. You guys can’t be at each other’s throats.”

“But…”

“No buts. You’re Howie’s wife and he’s his best friend and brother. It’s not fair to Howie to not have you guys in the same room without tempers flaring.”

“But it’s his fault…”

“No it’s not.” Emma said sternly. “None of this is Nick’s fault or anyone else’s.”

“He was a jerk to you and he broke your heart. He’s the reason…”

“Stop right there.” Emma held up her hand. “I appreciate you being my big sister and standing up for me but you need to be fair.”

“Why should I?”

“Because it’s only right. You can blame Nick for what’s he done but you can’t blame him for something he didn’t even know about it.”

“But he forced…”

“Nick didn’t force anything. He didn’t make me start dating Stephen, he didn’t tell him to treat me like crap and he sure as hell didn’t tell him to hit me. If you’re gonna be mad at him, then be mad for good reason not just because you’re angry at the situation and you want to take it out on someone.”

“I’m not angry!”

“Oh yeah, definitely not.” Emma said with a chuckle.

Addie was surprised by the smile on Emma’s face and it eased some of the tension. It was nice to see Emma in a better space and it made her slightly less mad at Nick.

“Please promise that you’ll back off Nick and at least attempt to be civil? You and Howie love each other and you both deserve to have your families in your lives.”

Addie decided this was as good a time as any to turn the tables on her friend. “Do you think you could talk to him?”

“No.” Emma answered quickly.

“But you just said…”

“I said you and Nick need to get along because you’re Howie’s family.”

“But you’re my family and now I might have to let Nick in.”

“Nice try. Nick is Howie’s family and you’re Howie’s family. I’m just a friend whose not gonna open up old wounds. I don’t need to do that right now.”

Addie nodded. “I know but do you think at some point…”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re pushy?” Emma teased. “Let me deal with stuff for right now and maybe down the road, a long time down the road, we can have this discussion again.”

Addie was so grateful to see some life in her friend again that she decided to back off pushing Emma to talk to him. She promised that she would call Nick and apologize for lashing out at him. Howie invited her to stay for dinner but she was tired and just wanted to unwind. Seeing the concern in her friend’s face, she changed her mind and agreed to stay.

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

Addie called Nick that night after Emma left. She was still angry with him for everything he put her friend through but she had to agree that he had nothing to do with this particular situation.

“Hey Nick.” she said as he answered.

“Hey.”

“I called to apologize.”

“You don’t have to…”

“Yes I do. I was wrong to lash out like that at you.”

“I deserved it.”

“No you didn’t. I’ll admit that I’m still mad about what happened between you two but this whole thing with Stephen had nothing to do with you at all.”

The mention of Emma’s ex’s name made Nick tense up. He hated what that guy did and he wished he could do something about it.

“Emma came here earlier.” Addie mentioned snapping Nick out of his thoughts.

“She did? Is she ok? How’s she doing?”

Addie laughed. “One question at a time.”

“Is she ok?” Nick asked first and Addie honestly felt like he was being genuine in his concern for her.

“She’s better. I don’t know about ok but I saw her smile and heard her laugh for the first time in a while.”

“She did?”

“Yup. You can relax.”

“Will she talk to me?” he blurted out.

Addie hesitated. “Not right now.”

“Did you ask…”

“Yes I did. I know you’re concerned but she’s just not ready to go there.”

Nick sighed. “Will she ever be ready?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.” Addie answered and then surprised Nick. “But I hope that at some point she will. I think you both need it.”

“Are you…”

“Agreeing with you? Yes shockingly enough but don’t plan on it happening again.”

“I won’t.” Nick said.

The two of them said goodbye and Nick lay back on the couch. No matter what Emma said, he wasn’t going to give up on talking to her. It needed to happen and there was no one who was going to tell him otherwise.
You've Got To Be Kidding by Kyrie
Friday night and the lights are low
Looking out for the place to go
Where they play the right music, getting in the swing
You come in to look for a king
Anybody could be that guy***

Emma sang to herself on an afternoon run. She was going to kill AJ for getting that song stuck in her head; she found herself singing it all the time now. It had been a month since she’d had her talk with him and things were finally headed in the right direction. She started seeing a counselor to help her deal with everything she’d been through and was surprised to realize how much anger she had suppressed. Anger at Nick for what happened between them, anger at the passing of her best friend and anger at herself for staying with Stephen. Thankfully, the therapy was helping and she was starting to feel more like herself again.

Running was a release that her therapist had suggested for her. Well, she suggested a kick boxing class but the more Emma thought about it, the more she was convinced she’d probably kick herself in the head. Running was the second option and she figured that was much safer; how hurt could she really get? She’d started at a gym near her apartment because it seemed like the winter storms were never going to end. But as typical as New England weather was, she lucked out today because it got up to about fifty degrees and she decided to head down to the state park she loved so much.

Scanning the parking lot, she found her car off to the side where she’d parked and headed towards it. Just as she was reaching the driver’s side, she tripped on a loose piece of asphalt. She went down hard and knew instantly that she had sprained her ankle. Sitting up, she saw it had already started to swell and she felt stinging in her hands. Both of them were scraped up and started to bleed slightly.

That’s just great, she thought to herself. How the hell was she going to get home with two scraped hands and her driving ankle blowing up to the size of baseball? Leaning her head against the door, she sat there for a minute while tears started to form in the corners of her eyes.

“Emma?”

She snapped out of her thoughts and blinked her eyes several times trying to focus. Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she looked up to find the person who had called out to her jogging over to where she was. You’ve got to be kidding me, she cursed and shook her head.

“Emma? Are you ok?”

She closed her eyes again, hoping that she was just hearing things. And seeing things, she thought, but opening her eyes just produced the same result. Nick was now kneeling next to her, concern showing in his eyes.

“Are you ok?” he asked again.

“I’m fine. I just tripped.”

Nick looked down at her ankle and then at her scraped hands.

“You’re fine?”

“It’s nothing. I’m just gonna go home and clean it up. No big deal.”

To prove she was ok, she grabbed at her door handle and tried to stand. The pain in her hands and foot were unbearable and she sunk back down to the ground again. She tried as hard as she could to not cry; she was so tired of looking vulnerable.

“Do you want some help?”

After sitting there for a few minutes cursing her inability to keep upright, she nodded and put her arm around Nick’s neck as he helped her stand. She leaned against the door handle and tried to get the keys out of her pocket.

“Want me to do that?”

She shook her head no. “I appreciate your help but really, I’m fine.”

Fumbling with the keys, she tried hard to unlock the door but after a few unsuccessful tries, the keys slid out of her hands onto the ground.

“Dammit!” she cursed and slammed her hand onto the window. She yelped as the pain radiated through her palm.

“I don’t think you’re ok Em.”

She was about to tell him she was fine again but she knew she was full of crap. There was no way she could drive home in the condition she was in. The problem was that Nick was the last person she wanted taking care of her.

As if he read her mind, he offered to call Addie and wait till she got there.

“I can’t call her. She dragged Howie to Maine to go outlet shopping; they won’t be back till late.”

“Then, as much as you may hate this, you’re kinda stuck with me.”

Emma shook her head. “I really think I can drive.”

Nick sighed. “Look Em, I know you pretty much hate me right now but can you stop being so stubborn just for a minute?”

“I’m not being stubborn!”

“Yes you are; you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. I know you don’t want my help but you need it. Can’t you just let me help this one time?”

She tried to lean down to get her keys but her ankle wobbled and she started to slide down. Nick caught her and when she looked up; their faces were so close that she could feel his breath on her cheek.

“Can you please just give up the tough guy act?”

Emma tried really hard to find a reason why she didn’t need his help but after that last slide, she realized she had to give in.

“Fine.” she muttered. “This one time.”

“Thank you.”

Nick grabbed Emma’s keys, slipped them in his pocket and pulled her arm around his neck. He helped her hobble over to his truck which was parked nearby and held onto her while she slid into the seat. Reaching up to grab the seat belt, he pulled it across her and snapped it closed. He gently closed the door and walked over to the driver’s side thinking that this was gonna be a long ride home.

***lyrics by Abba “Dancing Queen”
Give It Up Already by Kyrie
Nick pulled into the parking lot of Emma’s apartment building and was surprised to see the look of it. The building was old and wasn’t in the greatest shape. The surrounding area looked as though it wasn’t the nicest place to live in and Nick was concerned because he didn’t see any security system. Growing up being surrounded by hundreds of people, he’d gotten used to equipping his houses with some type of protection.

Emma saw him looking around and got defensive. “It might not look like much out here but the inside’s better.”

Nick nodded and helped her out of the car. Hanging on to his shoulder, she hobbled over and unlocked the main door. She was right about it looking a little better on the inside and Nick led her in the direction of the elevator.

“Umm.” she said quietly. “The elevator’s kind of doesn’t work.”

Nick looked surprised. “What floor are you on?”

“The third.” she mumbled. “I can make it if you’ll help me.”

Nick shook his head and before she could stop him, he swept her up in his arms and started towards the stairs.

“Put me down!” she yelled. “You’ve never gonna make it up three flights of stairs carrying me!”

Nick stopped. “Well I can carry you or I’ll give you a piggy back ride.”

Emma just stared at him, trying to decide which one was better. She knew he wasn’t gonna let her go so she finally told him that a piggyback ride would be better because he could hold onto the railing.

“Ok.” Nick said and slid her around so she was on his back with her legs wrapped around his waist. “You can wrap your arms around my neck as long as you promise not to choke me.” he teased.

Emma laughed at the mental picture and promised not to. Nick made it up to her floor with no problems and leaned her against the wall while he opened her door. Once the door was open, he helped her hobble over to the couch and waited while she got settled.

His eyes scanned the apartment and he could tell that this was the old Emma’s place. The apartment was small, only a kitchen, living room, bathroom and one bedroom, but it was bright and welcoming. There were pictures everywhere; ones from the wedding, some of her and Della and some old pictures of her family. Candles were all over the place and he had to keep himself from joking that she lived in a Yankee Candle store. He was happy to see more life in this place than he saw in Stephen’s house.

“Thank you for bringing me home and getting me up here. I can take it from here.”

Nick raised an eyebrow and sat down in the only chair. “Really?”

“Yes really.” Emma replied, retreating back into herself.

“Ok. Why don’t you get some ice, some Neosporin and some Band-Aids?”

Emma’s stubborn side started to rear up and she struggled to get her foot back on the floor. The pain of moving it caused her to lie back down.

“Yeah right you’re ok.” Nick said and started into the kitchen. He returned with some ice in a towel and helped get it situated on her ankle. “Is the first aid stuff in your bathroom?”

She nodded and watched him head over. Once he came back with the stuff, she’d tell him she was all set and that he could leave. Nick returned a few seconds later with a damp cloth and everything else she would need. Taking a seat next on the coffee table next to her, he reached out his hand and started to pull one of her arms towards him.

“I can do that!” she said loudly.

“Can you give it a rest please? How are you gonna wrap your hands when you can’t use either one?”

Emma hadn’t thought of that and, had her hands been good, would have smacked herself in the head.

“So Superwoman, are you prepared to give in?”

“I don’t have any other choice do I?”

“Nope.” Nick replied and pulled her hand towards him.

He spent the next few minutes cleaning her hands with the wet towel and then put on the antibiotic cream. After bandaging them up and wrapping them, he put everything back and sat down on the table again. He wanted to stay with her but he knew that he’d be pushing his luck. She had agreed, reluctantly, to everything else and he didn’t want to go back to square one by asking her if he could hang around.

“I’m gonna leave if you’re sure you’re ok.”

“I’m fine.” she answered, grateful he didn’t ask to stay any longer.

Nick stood up and headed to the door. She called out and surprised him.

“Thank you for helping me.”

He turned around and smiled at her. “Anytime. I’ll take Howie to pick up your car when he gets back.”

Emma smiled for the first time and thanked him again. He nodded and waved goodbye; she couldn’t see it but he had a huge grin on his face. Finally, he thought to himself, things are looking up!
Revelation by Kyrie
Emma was resting the next day when Addie called to check on her.

“How are you Wonder Woman?”

Emma groaned. “You heard?”

“Yeah, Nick called last night to let us know. He thought you should be checked on. How’s the ankle?”

“Looks more like a tennis ball than a baseball.” she said with a laugh. “At least it’s gone down some.”

“Your landlord needs to fix that damn elevator. It’s amazing you were able to climb three flights of stairs with your ankle.”

“I didn’t exactly climb.”

“Well how the hell did you get up there? What’d he do, carry you?”

“Does a piggyback count as carrying?”

“Are you kidding me?” Addie yelled through her laughter. “Hey Howie! Nick gave Emma a piggyback ride!”

“Shut up Addie! You don’t need to tell everyone!”

“Sorry.” Addie said and tried to control her giggles. “How are the hands?”

“Sore but Nick did a pretty good job wrapping them.”

Emma must have been pretty bad if she allowed Nick to touch her at all, Addie thought to herself.

“Well, I’m glad you’re doing better.”

“I am and as much as I don’t want to admit it, I was lucky Nick was around.” Emma thought to herself for a minute. “Why is Nick around?”

“He and Howie are working on some new material. They’re going to put out solo albums at some point and wanted to collaborate on some of the songs.”

“It’s good they can do that but it’s gotta be rough with having two guys in the same house.”

“Oh no, he’s not staying with us. He’s staying at the…”

Addie stopped short; thank God she didn’t finish that sentence.

“He’s staying where?” Emma asked, wondering if the connection was bad.

“At some hotel in Boston.” Addie said quickly. “One of those nice ones that…”

Emma started to tune Addie out; whenever she spit things out quickly, she wasn’t telling the truth. Why would Addie lie about where Nick was staying? Who cares where he stays?

“We’re thinking of going into the city to look at it and see if it’s as nice as he says it is.”

“I’m sure it’s great.” Emma replied. “I can’t see Nick staying in a dump.”

“He’s definitely not in a dump.” Addie assured her. “I’m glad you’re feeling better. I have to go help Howie finish dinner. Call you tomorrow, love you!”

“Love you too!” Emma responded and heard the dial tone. Something was going on and she was gonna find out what it was no matter what.

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

“How’s Emma?” Howie asked when Addie entered the kitchen.

“She’s fine but I put my foot in my mouth.”

“How’d you do that?”

“Emma asked why Nick was here and I told her…”

“What’s wrong with that?” Howie interrupted.

“That’s not the problem. She asked if it was a problem for us that he was staying here.”

“Oh.”

“I almost slipped up and told her where he was staying.”

“That wouldn’t have been good.”

“Ya think?”

“Yes Mrs. Snappy.” Howie teased. “You know she’s gonna find out eventually right?”

“Not from me! I don’t even want to be in the same room for that conversation.”

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

Emma headed over to Addie’s the next day after work. Her friend’s answer to her question about where Nick was staying really bothered her and she hadn’t been able to ask her about it at work. She just couldn’t understand why Addie would lie about something so trivial.

When she pulled in the drive, she recognized Nick’s truck and seriously thought about turning around. She finally decided against it; why should she keep avoiding her friends because he might be around? As she was walking up the walkway, another thought popped into her head; this would be the perfect opportunity to find out where Nick was really staying.

“Anyone home?” Emma shouted as she made her way down the hallway into the kitchen.

Her arrival startled the trio and they were surprised that the sight of Nick’s truck didn’t deter her from coming in.

“Hey you.” Addie said, giving her friend a hug. “It’s nice to see you out and about.”

“Hey.” Howie echoed. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” she replied. “thanks to Nick.”

Nick’s jaw almost hit the floor and he lost his ability to speak. Did she really just say something positive about him?

“Really?” Howie asked. “I didn’t think he was very good at first aid.”

“Shut up D.” Nick said and turned to Emma. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Thanks and thank you again for helping me out.”

“No problem.”

“Wanna stay for dinner?” Addie chimed in wanting to avoid the awkward silence she knew was coming. “We’re having lasagna.”

The three were shocked when Emma accepted the invitation. Everyone thought she’d turn them down since Nick was planning on staying.

Addie was right about the silence that seemed to fall over them as dinner began. Thankfully, it didn’t last very long and Howie broke the tension by telling stories of them being out on the road and staying in some awful places. By the time dinner was over, Howie had run out of stories and Emma thought it would be the perfect time to ask Nick the burning question.

“So I guess the hotel where you’re staying now must be a huge step up from those other places.”

Nick was caught off guard by the statement and really didn’t know what to say. Addie, on the other hand, choked a little on her water.

“Addie was telling me all about it yesterday. What’s the name of it again?”

Neither one of them knew what to say. No one had mentioned to Nick that they told Emma he was staying in a hotel and he knew that he couldn’t tell her where he was really staying.

“The Ritz?” he more asked than stated.

Addie’s face went white and he immediately knew it was the wrong answer.

“So, it’s not the Back Bay Hotel?” Emma asked. She was getting irritated and was tired of them lying to her. “Why is where you’re staying such a big deal? I mean you can stay wherever you want, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s not like your living in…”

Emma stopped midsentence and looked back and forth between the three of them.

“You’re not serious?” she asked her voice getting louder. “Why would you keep that?”

“Because it means something to me.” Nick finally answered. “I’m sorry it that upsets you.”

“Upsets me?” Emma started yelling. “I can’t believe you!”

They sat there not knowing what to say while she grabbed her stuff and stormed out. No one knew exactly how mad she was and Addie got so upset that she eventually headed down to the bedroom.

“That went well.” Howie muttered.

“Yeah right.” Nick replied. “I think I just flushed any progress I made down the toilet.”

“You’re definitely back to square one.”

“Square one? I think I made it back to square negative ten. She’s never gonna speak to me again.”

“Maybe she’ll…”

“She’s never gonna understand why I kept the beach house.”
Practice What You Preach by Kyrie
Addie waited until Nick and Howie headed to the studio before she called her friend. The whole fight between Nick and Emma really bothered her especially when she thought about the lecture Emma had given her a month ago.

“Hey.” was all Emma said when she picked up.

“Hey yourself. We need to talk.”

“I know.”

“Do you really?”

“Yes, I know I shouldn’t have started an argument.”

“No you shouldn’t have and I don’t understand why you did.”

“Why didn’t you tell me where he was staying?” Emma asked instead of answering her question.

“Don’t turn this back on me. You were the one who said you didn’t care and then went off on him like a lunatic.”

Emma sighed; she knew Addie was right but the fact that Nick kept the beach house really bothered her. She felt like it was a special place for the two of them, not just a house that he could parade all his girlfriends through.

“You keep telling me and anyone else who’ll listen, that you don’t care about him anymore but then you get pissed when you find out about him keeping the house.”

“I just thought I meant something to him.”

“Why would you think you didn’t or that you don’t?”

“He kept the house he shared with me and probably traipsed a dozen women through it.”

“No he hasn’t.”

“How do you know Addie?”

“Because since you left, there have only been two women in that house.”

“Yeah right.”

“I’m serious Emma.”

“Who were the two women then?”

“The cleaning lady and me.”

“You?”

“Nick hired a cleaning woman to make sure the house doesn’t get too dusty and Howie and I check in on the place when he’s gone.”

“I’m sorry but it’s been two years Addie and I don’t believe that he’s never brought another woman, especially Lauren, there.”

“He hasn’t Emma.” Addie didn’t want to speak for Nick but it needed to be said. “I love you Em but you’re being a hypocrite.”

“Excuse me?” Emma replied, her voice getting louder.

“You called me up a month ago and told me that I had to be nice to Nick because he was Howie’s family and so was I.”

“So what, I…”

“Be quiet for a minute!” Addie yelled. “You told me that I could be mad at Nick for something he did but not for something he didn’t. You’re furious with him because you think he brought someone else to the house and I’m telling you he didn’t. You need to take your own advice and stop all this shit. I’m tired of listening to you and Nick and I’m telling you I’m not doing this anymore. I’m your friend but you need to figure some stuff out. I can’t deal with this and I’m not gonna get stuck in the middle.”

Emma was shocked when she heard the phone disconnect; Addie never got that mad at her and she never yelled like that. Turning the phone over and over in her hand, she thought about what Addie had said. Not knowing what to do, she finally dialed a familiar number and waited for him to pick up.

“Hey Feisty. You ok?”

“Kind of.”

“What happened?”

“Did you know that Nick kept the house on Cape Cod after we broke up?” Emma asked instead of answering his question.

“Yes and I take it that you just found out.”

“Yeah.”

“And I’m guessing you didn’t take it very well.”

“Not really. So far I’ve had a fight with Nick and one with Addie.”

“Wow.” AJ replied. “You’re on a roll.”

“I need to ask you something.” Emma said ignoring his wise crack.

“Shoot.”

“Did Nick bring any other women to the house?”

“No.” AJ answered without hesitation.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive Em. He would never do that; he’d probably rather sell it first.” AJ paused. “Is this the reason for the fights?”

“Yeah. I know I shouldn’t care about the house…”

“Then why do you?”

“I don’t know. It’s not like I care what Nick does or…”

“Bullshit.”

“What…”

“Nope.” AJ said cutting her off. “I know why you called me. You wanted an honest answer and now you’re gonna get some honest advice, whether you like it or not.”

Emma didn’t say anything so AJ continued.

“I get you’re mad at Nick for everything that happened with Lauren and that you’re kind of mad at the world for everything else. But it needs to stop Em; it’s eating you up from the inside. You need to stop lying…”

“I’m not lying…”

“Zip it. You know I’m not one for coddling, even if it’s you. I know that deep down inside you still care for Nick whether you’ll admit it to yourself or not. Those feelings may or may not go away but you need to stop being a pain in the ass.”

Emma was taken aback by AJ’s words.

“I’m sorry Feisty, I don’t mean to be harsh but you need to find some way of dealing with this. Addie is Howie’s wife and you’re putting her in a bad position by essentially making her pick sides. I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with Blondie but you need to make an effort to be nice. You’re never going to move on or make peace with anything unless you can let some things go.”

Emma didn’t say anything.

“I don’t want to make you feel worse.” AJ continued his voice getting softer. “I’m concerned because you were making good progress and I feel like if you don’t let some things go, you’ll wind up shutting everyone out again. I happen to know that Nick’s gonna be in your area for a while and he’s going to be coming around to see Howie. Just try to find some way of dealing with him and the situation.”

“Ok.”

“Excuse me? Did you just say ok?”

“Yes.” Emma laughed. “I said ok.”

“That’s it? No “you’re being a jerk AJ” or “I don’t have to listen to you” comments?”

“No. I called you for answers…”

“And you got a lecture.” AJ added.

“Yes, I got a lecture that I think I might have needed.” Emma paused. “I hate being mad all the time.”

“Then do something to stop it. You’re still gonna be mad but you can’t go from zero to sixty in two seconds. All that’ll result in is having everyone avoid you.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize to me; you didn’t bite my head off.”

“I’ll call Addie in the morning.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Are you going to apologize to a certain six foot dingbat?”

“I don’t know how to.”

“Call him…”

“I can’t.”

“Ok. How about texting? Can you at least text him that you’re sorry?”

“I guess so.”

“Good.” AJ mumbled something to someone. “I’ve gotta go but call me if you need anything.”
“I will and thank you.”

“Anytime Feisty.”

Emma heard the dial tone and hit the clear button on her phone. She would call Addie in the morning but she decided to text Nick right away before she lost her nerve. Typing a short “I’m sorry”, she hit the send button and hoped for the best. A minute later, she heard the phone go off.

Me too was all the text said. She didn’t really know what she was expecting it to say but the two words left her feeling sad. Deciding that she was going to make a conscious effort to try and let some of the anger go, she climbed into bed and attempted to get some sleep.
Time To Change by Kyrie
“How are you doing Emma?”

She had just arrived for her weekly session with Dr. Kelly and she felt like this was the perfect time to talk about everything.

“Not so great.”

“What happened?”

“I thought I was getting over being angry at everything but it seems like I’m going backwards.”

“Why?”

“Nick is back in town and he’s been spending a lot of time with Addie and Howie.”

“How did you find out he was here?”

“I was running and I fell. He happened to be at the park and helped me out.”

“Did you let him?”

“I fought it until I couldn’t anymore and then I let him help me back to my apartment.”

“That’s a big step to let him assist you.”

“I know but then I found out he’s been staying at our old house and it made me so mad that I lashed out at everyone. I wasn’t very pleasant.”

“What bothers you about him being there?”

“The fact that he may have brought other women to the house.”

“Has he?”

“Everyone’s told me no but I’m not sure I believe them.”

Dr. Kelly took a deep breath and waited for a minute before asking her next question. “And why do you care if any other women are there? Do you still have feelings for Nick?”

Emma didn’t answer right away. She knew that nothing she told her therapist was going to be disclosed to anyone and she may be the only person that Emma could open up to about this delicate topic.

“I don’t know.” she finally answered. “I know that I feel something but I don’t know what it is. I’m not sure if it’s feelings from the past just resurfacing or me just wanting to go back in time and pretend like nothing ever happened.”

“Have you told anyone else?”

“No.” Emma answered quickly. “I have no idea what would happen if I did.”

“Do you know how he feels?”

“I know he feels guilty and he takes the blame for what happened.”

“Does he still care about you though?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Have you ever thought about asking him?”

“No. I could never ask him that.”

“Why?”

“Because of his reply.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s bad enough I’m not sure exactly how I feel. What if I realize I do care and then I tell him? I’m afraid that he wouldn’t feel the same way. I’d be opening myself up again to be hurt and I don’t think I’m ready for that.”

“Do you think you’ll ever be ready?”

Emma didn’t say anything but she did shake her head no. The doctor asked her a few more questions but it seemed like the more the doctor pushed, the more Emma retreated into herself. They finished the session early and Emma waited till she was outside to take a deep breath. This whole thing with Nick was going to be harder than she thought but she couldn’t see a way of getting around it.

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

Emma waited nervously at a table by the window. She called Addie to apologize and asked if she would meet her so they could talk. Her friend seemed hesitant but she finally gave in and told Emma where she’d meet her. Hopefully, this whole thing would work out because Emma hated it when Addie was upset with her; it was the worst feeling, fighting with someone who might as well be her sister.

She was just about to order a drink when she caught sight of Addie heading her way. Asking the waitress to give them a few minutes, she stood up and gave her friend a hug; as she sat down, she felt the tears start to form in her eyes.

“I’m really sorry Addie, for everything.”

Never able to stay mad at her friend for long, Addie reached her hand across the table and placed it over Emma’s. “I know and I’m sorry for yelling at you like that.”

“I deserved it.”

“No you didn’t. Well, maybe the lecture part you did, but I should have found another way to say it.”

“I definitely deserved the lecture and you were right about what I said. If I’m going to tell you to be nice to Nick for Howie’s sake, than I need to do the same; for Howie and for you. I know that he’s family now and it’s wrong of me to make you feel like you’re stuck in the middle. You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re choosing sides and I’m going to try really hard to smooth things over with Nick so that we can at least be civil with each other. Although, I’m probably the last person he wants to be civil too.”

Addie was surprised to see this change in her friend. “What caused this epiphany?”

“A doctor’s visit and a very politely put tongue lashing from AJ. He told me to grow up and stop acting like a crazy lady in such a nice way.” Emma said with a laugh.

“That’s AJ for you.” Addie agreed with a chuckle. “He could call you every name in the book but he does it in such a way that you can’t be mad at him.”

“No I can’t.” Emma replied. “I’m really sorry again for everything. I promise you that I’m going to work on my issues with Nick a lot harder and make a serious attempt at fixing some things. I won’t put you in the middle anymore and I won’t make being in the same room with the two of us painful.”

“You can’t guarantee things like that Em, and you don’t need to promise me anything. I would just like you to try and get along with him. You guys don’t have to be best friends but it would be nice if we could have you both over for dinner at the same time without hell breaking loose.”

“Then let’s do that.” Emma blurted out without thinking.

“You want to have dinner with Nick?”

“Well not just Nick, I mean I want you and Howie there too.”

“Are you sure you’re up for this? Don’t you think taking baby steps is a good idea?”

“When have I ever done anything with baby steps? Except maybe when I was an actual baby.”

Addie laughed. “Alright. Just remember that this was your idea.”

“I will.” Emma replied. I hope it’s not a bad one, she thought to herself.
The First Step by Kyrie
What the hell was I thinking, Emma asked herself as she stood in front of the mirror trying on her tenth outfit. She didn’t like anything she’d tried on and this one might barely make the cut. After her agreement to have dinner with her friends and Nick, she went shopping and bought some new clothes; however, the outfit she was considering at the moment was something she found in the back of her closet.

She didn’t think she’d be this nervous seeing Nick again. It’s not like she was going on a date with him, it was just dinner with friends. So why couldn’t she just decide on something? Her phone rang just as the thought left her mind.

“Hello?”

“It’s me.” Addie replied. “I’m calling to tell you to stop trying on every item of clothing in your closet and get your butt over here.”

“How did you…”

“Honey, we’ve been friends for so long that I know you just like I know myself. And I know for a fact that I would be doing the same thing if I was having dinner with my ex.”

“It’s not like…”

“Yes it is. You’re nervous about seeing Nick again and you want to make sure you put your best outfit forward!”

Emma laughed as she sank onto the bed. “Ok, ok, I give.”

“So what’d you choose?”

“The black skirt with the aquamarine camisole and sweater.”

“The short one or the long one?”

“The long one…”

“Change into the short one.”

“But I’m not…”

“I know you’re not but it doesn’t mean that you can’t look hot.”

Emma just shook her head. “Alright.”

“Good. Go get dressed and get over here!”

Emma hung up and walked over to the closet. She pulled the shorter skirt out and held it against herself. Maybe Addie was right, what could looking cute hurt?

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

“So she knows I’m coming and she’s going to stay anyway?”

Howie laughed. “No, she found out you were coming and we locked her in our closet to keep her from running away.”

“Funny Dorough. I’m trying to be serious.”

Nick was on his way to Howie’s house and his friend had called to let him know that Emma would be joining them.

“Sorry Nicky. Yes, she knows you’re coming and she’s still going to join us.” Howie paused. “In fact, this was kind of her idea.”

“What?” Nick yelped into the phone as he swerved on the road. “She suggested it? Why?”

“Drive carefully buddy.” Howie reminded him. “I think she feels badly about the argument you guys had and she told Addie she wants to be on better terms with you.”

Nick was speechless. He figured that once she found out about the house that was the end for them. She sent him a text to apologize and he thought that one text was all he was going to get.

“Should I bring something?” Nick asked, the thought occurring to him as he got closer to Howie’s.

“Like what? A corsage?” Howie asked with a chuckle. “Dude, you’re having dinner not going to the prom. How about you start with just you and see how that goes?”

“You’re a jackass.”

“I know and that’s why you love me. Drive carefully and we’ll see you when you get here.”

Nick hung up and put both hands on the steering wheel. What the hell was he getting himself into?

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

Emma pulled in and saw that Nick had already arrived. Stepping out of the car, she smoothed her skirt down and straightened her shirt. She still couldn’t understand why she was so nervous about doing this; she’d already let Nick help her after she fell. After giving herself another glance over, she rang the bell and waited for someone to let her in.

“Hey.” Addie said as she opened the door. “You finally made it.”

“I hit some traffic…”

“Bullshit.” Addie mumbled. “I can see the makeup.”

Emma blushed and tried to deny it.

“Nice try chica.” Addie replied and pushed her through the doorway. “She’s here!”

“Do all the neighbors need to know?” Howie called out as they were entering the kitchen. “How are you Em?”

“Good.” she answered, giving Howie a hug. “Thanks for having me over.”

“It was your idea.” he responded with a chuckle.

Emma turned bright red. Why did Nick have to know that she planned this?

“Hey Em.”

She finally turned around to find Nick standing against the counter. He was wearing a pair of jeans that fit just right and a white collared shirt with his sleeves pushed up, showing just a little of the muscle she knew was there. The sight of him was so distracting that she forgot what to say.

Nick seemed equally preoccupied. He’d never seen that outfit on her; it was one that he would never have forgotten. Her skirt was the perfect length and the shirt was cut just right. She was wearing makeup and had done a pretty five strand braid with her hair. He didn’t remember her ever being as beautiful as she was tonight.

“Hm, hm.” Howie said clearing his throat. “Are you guys even paying attention to me?”

Nick shook his head and snapped himself back into the present. “Yeah, what’d you say?”

Howie laughed. “Guess not. Can you help us set the table?”

“Sure.” Emma answered quickly wanting to get her mind off Nick. “What can I do?”

“Can you grab the plates out of the cabinet?” Addie asked as she was pulling out the casserole.

Emma nodded and opened the cabinet. She pulled out a stack of plates and as she turned, her heel caught the edge of Addie’s chef mat and she stumbled. Shoving the plates onto the counter, she fell hard onto the floor. It took a second for everyone to realize what happened and without thinking, Nick said the first thing that popped into his mind.

“Some things never change huh?”

Emma looked up at him and her eyes narrowed.
Starting Over by Kyrie
Oh shit ran through Nick’s head as he stood over Emma, waiting for her reply. Why couldn’t he ever think before he opened his mouth?

“One thing’s changed.” she answered as she stared at him. “You’re getting older and your reflexes suck.”

Nick’s jaw dropped as Emma, Howie and Addie cracked up; he didn’t know what to say.

“That’s true Nick.” Howie added as he helped Emma up. “You used to be able to catch her.”

“But, what, I…”

“It’s ok.” Emma interrupted. “You’d just have to give me another piggyback if I sprained the other ankle!”

Nick was so surprised by this change in his ex. She’d given him crap for being back and attempted to avoid him at all costs. Now, here she was, so cheerful and almost flirty; he felt like he was in the Twilight Zone. What the hell was going on?

He stood there while the rest of them finished setting the table and he only snapped out of his thoughts when Howie pushed him over to the table.

“Are you gonna be quiet all night?” Howie whispered.

“I don’t know. I feel like I’m meeting a new Emma. It’s really weird.”

Howie chuckled. “I don’t think it’s a new Emma, I think it was the Emma before you guys started dating.”

“What happened to the other one?”

“There was no other one Nick. She’s been hurt and she’s coming out of a tough place. I know for a fact she’s feels badly about the fight the other night and she wants us all to be able to hang out without any awkwardness. Maybe she’s just trying too hard.”

“I feel more awkward now. I think I’d prefer her fighting with me; I was getting used to it.”

“You want me to tell her to fight with you? Would it make you feel better?”

“No you idiot, I’m just saying…”

Nick stopped talking as the women made their way over to the table. Howie, knowing that Nick needed a moment with Emma, pulled Addie back into the kitchen.

“Hey.” Nick said as she sat down.

“Hey yourself.”

“I need to ask you something.”

“Ok.” Emma said hesitantly.

“I know you promised Addie that you would be more willing for all of us to spend time together but this is just strange. Are you really ok with this whole thing or are you just over trying?”

Emma sighed. “Maybe the joke was a little too much. I’m just trying to find a way to make this better for everyone Nick.”

He nodded. “I get that and I have to say that it’ll be good for Addie and Howie to not have to feel like they have to side with their friends. I just don’t want you to be overly nice just to please them.”

“Would you like me to be mean to you?” Emma asked with her eyebrow raised.

“Not mean but normal.”

“What’s normal for us Nick?”

He thought about that question for a few minutes; nothing had ever been really normal for them. A couple months into meeting, they’d broken up with their exes, moved in together and started a new life with each other. Two months later, they were done and not even on the same side of the country. Two years pass and now they’ve reentered each other’s orbits and it wasn’t a graceful entrance.

“I don’t know.”

“Me either.” Emma paused. “Maybe we should just try to work on making a new normal. I mean, we can’t go back in time and change anything. The future is all we’ve got so let’s make the best of it. We’ll figure it out as we go along.”

Nick nodded and they put the rest of the conversation on hold as Howie and Addie entered the dining room. The couple got settled and everyone was quiet while they served the food.

“How’s that class you’re taking?” Howie asked Emma as they got started on dinner.

“Class?” Nick asked.

“Yeah.” Emma said and rolled her eyes. “It’s another one of those classes that have everyone convinced that they’ll be amazing teachers after completing it.”

“I take it you don’t agree with that.” Nick said with a chuckle.

“She definitely does not.” Addie replied for her. “Everybody in there has no teaching experience and has never really experienced the classroom.”

“How come you have to take it then?”

“It’s one of those classes that we need to renew our licenses. It’s mandatory every few years.”

“Sounds like fun.” Nick said with a grimace. “I’m glad we don’t have to take classes to be in a boy band.”

Howie choked on his water while Addie and Emma burst into laughter.

“Are you afraid you couldn’t pass?” Howie asked after taking a few breaths.

“Dumbass.” Nick said with a laugh.

Any of the tension that had built up quickly dissipated and the rest of dinner flew by. They had dessert and shared a few more stories before Emma started to yawn.

“Someone’s sleepy.” Addie teased.

“I am.” Emma replied. “I’m gonna go start my car and give it a few minutes to warm up before I leave.”

“If you give me your keys, I’ll do it for you.” Nick offered. “It’s really cold out there.”

Emma thought about it for a minute and handed him the keys. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Nick said with a smile. “Be right back.”

He left and Howie excused himself as his phone rang. Addie slid over to the chair next to Emma and smiled.

“So? How do you think it went?” she asked.

Emma blushed. “I think it was ok. Maybe not the best start but it got better. I have to admit this is a lot better than being mad and arguing all the time.”

“Definitely more enjoyable.” Addie agreed. “For everyone involved.”

“I know and I’m sorry that I was the reason it was pretty miserable before.”

“You don’t need to keep apologizing. It’s the past, let’s just focus on now.”

Emma chuckled. “That’s kind of what I was telling Nick.”

“Telling me what?” Nick asked as he slid into Howie’s vacated chair.

“That the past should stay there and we should focus on the present.”

“I’m all for that.” Howie chimed in as he returned.

The foursome talked for a few minutes before Emma yawned again and announced she was leaving. Nick decided to call it a night and waited for Emma to grab her stuff.

“You don’t have to wait for me.” Emma told him. “It’s a short driveway.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Ok.” She replied and followed Nick out to the cars. “Thanks for warming mine up for me.”

“No problem. Be careful driving and maybe I’ll see you soon?”

“Yes you will.” Emma answered with a grin. “You be careful too.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Nick wanted to give her a small hug but he didn’t want to chance it, so he waved and watched as she got into her car. He waited for her to pull out and he headed back to the beach house. The night had gone so well that he replayed the whole time in his head and it took him forever to fall asleep.
A Pleasant Surprise by Kyrie
It had been a week since Emma and Nick had spent time together and she was surprised at how cheery she had been feeling. Letting things go and trying to focus on the present and not the past was making her life much easier to deal with. Her mood was better and she was finding that her anger was starting to slip away. On top of that, the weather was starting to get a little warmer and she was able to spend more time outdoors. In need of a little Vitamin D, she headed down to the state park for a run.

She had just started stretching when she heard someone calling out to her. Turning her head sideways, she caught sight of Nick as he wandered over in her direction.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself.” she replied. “Here for a run?”

“Yeah but I can find somewhere else to go if me being here bothers you.”

“Yes it bothers me.”

Nick stared at her serious expression and couldn’t believe it. They had gotten along so well the other night and now here she was telling him to leave.

“I’m kidding Nick.” Emma smiled. “It was a joke. Of course you can run here, it’s not my park.”

Nick released the breath he was holding. “You’re a wiseass.”

“Yup, guess I haven’t changed that much since the last time we did this.”

“No you haven’t.” he chuckled. “Are you planning to do the whole trail?”

“Yeah. You?”

“I was thinking about it.”

“Well you think about it and let me know!”

Emma took off in a jog, leaving Nick standing there trying to decide what to do. He wanted another chance to talk to her and she seemed open to it, so he broke into a run and it didn’t take long before he caught up with her.

“I see you decided.” she pointed out between breaths.

“Yeah, I figured you’d need someone to break your fall!”

“Jerk!” she shouted. “I’ll show you I don’t need your help!”

Emma increased her speed and thought she’d left Nick behind. Unfortunately, his long legs gave him a distinct advantage. They made it easy to catch up with her and the couple tried to outrace each other until they eventually wound up back in the parking lot. Emma collapsed onto the ground and put her head on her hands; Nick slumped down next to her.

“I am so not doing that again!” she mumbled. “My legs are killing me.”

“Well maybe if you weren’t trying to be Flo Jo, they wouldn’t hurt so much.” Nick responded as he shook the sweat off his head.

“That’s so gross!” Emma yelped as she got splattered. “I know I need a shower but I don’t need any more sweat!”

Nick smirked and leaned over to shake his head closer to her. She was faster than he was though and shoved him backwards. Jumping up, Emma strode over to her truck and pulled some waters out of the backseat. After making her way back, she handed one to Nick and sat down on one of the benches.

“Thanks.” Nick said after downing the bottle. “I forgot to bring some with me.”

“Well then I guess it’s a good thing you found me.”

Nick looked up at Emma as she took a sip from her bottle and was struck by how beautiful she was. Sweat dripped down her face and her hair was matted down, but her smile and eyes made all the rest unnoticeable.

Emma cocked her head sideways and one eyebrow went up. “Do I have something on my face?”

“Huh?” Nick asked becoming aware of the fact that she was talking to him.

“You were staring at me. Do I have something on my face?”

“Yeah, your nose.” he answered after a few seconds.

“Idiot.”

Nick laughed. “Think you could give this idiot a helping hand?”

Emma reached down and helped him get to his feet. He brushed himself off and followed her back to her truck. He didn’t want this time with her to end but he was afraid that if he pushed too hard, she cut off contact with him again. She surprised him, and herself, though went she beat him to the punch.

“I don’t know what you’re doing tonight,” she said quietly, “but Addie and I are going to the movies. You and Howie could come along if you want to.”

“Yes.” Nick said without hesitation. “I mean sure, we can do that.”

“Ok.” she chuckled. “I’m meeting Addie at her house around six thirty. The movie starts at seven so you have to be on time.”

“I promise.”

“Alright, I’ll see you then.”

Emma climbed into her truck and pulled away from the parking spot. He watched her truck fade from view and then bolted over to his. There was only a short amount of time to get ready and he was determined not to be late.

---------------------------------------
Nick got to Addie’s house a half hour early and surprised Howie when he answered the door.

“Hey. What are you doing here?”

“I’m going to the movies with you guys?”

Howie gave him a funny look. “The movies? I’m not going to the movies.”

“Yes you are.” Addie chimed in as she pulled Nick inside. “Emma should be here in about twenty minutes so hurry up and get changed.”

“We’re all going to the movies together?”

“Yes dear.” Addie replied as she pushed Howie towards their bedroom. “Get going.”

Nick followed his friend’s wife down to the kitchen and sat there while she loaded the dishwasher. He thought about all the things that could go right or wrong that night and was so distracted that he didn’t hear Addie ask him a question. She finally had to wave her hand in front of his face to get his attention.

“Huh?”

“I asked you if you were excited for tonight.”

Nick’s blushing face was all the answer she needed.

“Good because I think someone else is too.”

“She is?” he asked with wide eyes.

“I think so.” Addie said as she pulled her house keys out of her purse. “Don’t screw it up ok?”

“I won’t, I promise.”

Emma showed up as Howie was pulling on his jacket and offered to drive. Howie and Addie sat in back so that their friends would be able to talk without yelling over the seats. They got to the cinema just in time and found seats towards the back of the theater after the guys bought their snacks. Addie made sure to stick Emma and Nick next to each other and much to her surprise, neither one complained about it. As the lights dimmed and the previews started, Emma set her arm on the rest and found Nick’s in the same place. What the hell, she thought and let it rest against his.

Everyone loved the movie and Emma had to admit that it was nice to do things as a foursome again. She hadn’t really done anything enjoyable with Stephen and he never wanted to spend any time with her friends. Nick was the complete opposite of him and Emma had to admit that, regardless of the tension between them and everything that had happened, she still found being with Nick easy to do.

Rain had started during the movie and by the time they made it outside, it was pouring and there were puddles everywhere.

“Bet you wish you didn’t leave your jacket in the car.” Addie joked with her friend.

“Funny.” Emma replied as the four of them got ready to make a mad dash to the car.

Just as Addie and Howie started their run, Nick pulled Emma back and without asking, slipped his sweatshirt over her head. She surprised him by not fighting it and thanking him for giving it to her. He smiled and jogged down the steps; there was a huge puddle at the curb and he reached out his hand to help Emma across.

“Thank you.” she said as she stepped over it. “I really didn’t want to get soaked tonight.”

Nick laughed. “No problem.”

As they walked across the parking lot, Nick realized that he was still holding her hand. Emma looked down at the same time and instead of pulling it back, she gave him a little squeeze and followed him back to the car.

The ride home was difficult for Nick because he really wanted to be sitting in the back holding Emma’s hand. Unfortunately, she was driving and he had to settle for keeping her company when Addie and Howie dozed off. They got back safely and, after their friends made their way into the house, he tried to stall for as much time as he could get with her. After a few minutes, she started to yawn and he knew that it was time for her to go.

“You keep it.” he said as she tried to pull the sweatshirt over her head.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” Nick paused for a minute. “Maybe you can give it back to me the next time I see you?”

“Definitely.” Emma replied with a smile. “Be careful driving home.”

“I will.” Nick said as he started to shut the door. After a second, he pulled it opened. “Can you just text me when you get home so I know you’re safe? I can give you my…”

“I already have it.” Emma blushed. “I never got rid of it.”

Nick’s face broke into a huge grin and he said goodbye again. As he watched her drive away, he tried to think of all the things they could do so that he would get a chance to see that smile of hers again.
Not One Of My Talents by Kyrie
The following Thursday, Addie found her friend working hard on her grades in her classroom. Emma was so absorbed that she didn’t hear her enter and Addie decided to take advantage of the moment. She crept up behind her and poked on the shoulders.

“What the hell?” Emma yelled and jumped up, knocking her water bottle and stack of tests to the floor.

Addie couldn’t help but laugh. “I called you but you must have been in the zone.”

“You could have knocked.” Emma grumbled lightly and picked her stuff up. “What are you doing here so late?”

“Howie and Nick had a meeting so I figured I’d catch up on some stuff. You shouldn’t be staying so late yourself.”

“Well, I don’t have Howie to go home too.” she replied with a laugh.

“You’re a wiseass.”

“Nick said the same thing the other day.”

“I agree with him. And speaking of the boys, I was wondering if you wanted to hang out with us tomorrow night.”

“What are you doing?”

“I was thinking of doing that Paint Nite thing. I’ve seen a bunch of pictures on Facebook of people showing off their paintings and I thought it might be fun.”

Emma cocked one eyebrow. “Me and painting? I think a two year old has better painting skills than me.”

“Oh shut up, they do not and I really want to try it. Please?”

Emma thought about it for a minute and when she didn’t answer, Addie pointed out the obvious.

“What pressing plans do you have? It’ Friday night, are you planning to stay home and do more grading?”

“Maybe.”

“Uh maybe not. Forget I asked, you’re coming with us whether you like it or not. I’ll pick you up at 6 tomorrow.” Addie ordered as she was leaving. “And don’t forget to wear crappy clothes!”

Emma just shook her head; she had a lot to do but maybe a night out would be the break she needed.

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

She was just pulling on her shoes when she heard knocking on her door. Calling out for Addie to come in, she grabbed her keys off her dresser and was surprised when she saw Nick waiting in her living room. It caught her off-guard and she lost her train of thought.

“Sorry,” Nick apologized, “Howie had to drop something off and Addie asked if I would mind picking you up. I probably should have asked first.”

“No, it’s fine. I just wasn’t expecting you.”

Nick nodded and led the way out into the hallway. Emma locked her door and followed him down to his truck. As always, Nick held the door and helped her into the passenger seat before getting in himself. Once they were both settled, he started the short drive to the restaurant where the painting session was being held. More than once, he had to pull his hand back from wanting to rest on hers. She had held his hand the night at the movies but he didn’t know if it was just a spontaneous thing or if she’d be willing to do it again.

Thankfully, he didn’t have to agonize over the decision for too long. The drive was shorter than planned and they found their friends waiting for them when they pulled in. Nick helped her out of the truck and followed her over to the entrance to the function room. They got right in line for the paint and the hostess took their drink orders as they were getting ready to sit down.

“I’m not sure I want to sit next to you.”

Three heads turned to look at Emma as she pointed to the empty chair next to Nick.

“Why?” he asked cautiously.

“Because you’re freaking Picasso.” Emma replied with a chuckle. “Anything I paint next to you will look like a kindergartner’s finger painting adventure.”

Nick snorted and laughed. “I think you’ll be fine. I know you have more talents than you let on. I remember how you sang…”

“Ssh!” Emma hissed but it was too late.

“Oh she sang did she?” Addie asked. “I thought you couldn’t sing?”

“I can’t.” Emma responded.

“Yeah right.” Nick said sarcastically and he was rewarded with an elbow to the stomach from Emma. “Fine, you can’t sing.”

“Thank you.” Emma said as she sat down. “I’m warning you though, I seriously cannot paint. Hell, I can’t even paint my own nails.”

“You painted my studio.”

Nick’s comment left his mouth before his brain could tell him not to make it. Emma looked down and turned her head towards the example the artist had already painted. Addie and Howie tried to break up some of the tension with some jokes and eventually, Emma and Nick joined in.

The artist finally got them started and walked everyone through the steps. Emma had to admit that it was fun, even if her trees looked more like stick figures and her clouds looked like Ready Whip had exploded on her canvas. Nick had tried to be helpful, showing her how to mix the paints and move the brush a certain way. He also tried to give her as many compliments as he could but he had to admit by the end that Emma was never going to be a painter.

“I warned you.” Emma told him as they made their way to the trash.

“You did.”

Emma turned to say something else but two women recognized Nick and shoved past her to get a picture. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stop her from stumbling and she wound up wearing some paint on her shirt from the discarded plates. He quickly took the picture and headed in her direction.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah.” she replied. “I think I’m going to have to throw this out.”

“Not if we run it under the sink in the bathroom.”

“Um, I’m not really wearing anything else and I think it’s considered public lewdness if I walk around in my bra.”

Nick chuckled. “I think I have a sweatshirt in my car.”

“Great.” she replied. “It’ll be the second one of yours that I’ve confiscated.”

“I have enough. Wait here.”

Nick ran out to the car and came back with one of his old hoodies. He told Emma to go to the bathroom and change, and then he would help her get the paint out. It was a unisex bathroom with only one stall, so as soon as she changed, Nick came in and started showing her how to get the paint out. They’ll finally got out all the spots and Nick turned to stick it under the dryer.

Emma had started towards him as he turned and they wound up meeting eye to eye. She could feel her heart start to race and she couldn’t decide whether she wanted him to kiss her or not. Nick was in the same predicament as he stood there, with his eyes and lips inches from her. He finally decided to go for it when a knock on the door interrupted them.

“Let’s go you two!”

Emma turned away and tried to hide the blush that was creeping into her face. Maybe it was a sign that this wasn’t what she needed right now and she quickly scooted out the door. Nick silently cursed Howie and followed her out to the parking lot. Addie noticed the looks between Nick and her friend and decided that the night shouldn’t end just then.

“Who’s up for a late movie night at our house?”
Hard Decisions by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
Sorry for the short chapter, I promise to make the next one longer!
The foursome made their way back to their friends’ home and they decided, much to Addie’s chagrin, to watch a horror movie. They headed to the kitchen to make popcorn first and Emma excused herself to the bathroom as Nick was heading outside to take a call.

“Ok.” Addie whispered to her husband. “You get in there and stretch out on the couch. I’ll bring the popcorn in and sit in the chair.”

“Why? That means that Emma and Nick will be stuck with…”

“The loveseat, that’s my point!”

Howie sighed and draped his arm around his wife’s shoulders. “Should we really push this? I mean they just got back on speaking terms.”

“Yes.” Addie replied adamantly. “If we don’t push and prod a little, they’re going to take forever and a day to get back together.”

“And you want them back together?”

“I want them happy.” Addie answered quietly. “I know he makes her happy and she really needs that right now.”

“Ok. I’ll do it for that.”

Howie heard Nick come back in and made a dash for the couch as Addie headed towards the chair with the bowls of popcorn. Nick noticed that they had spread themselves and left the loveseat as the only available place to sit.

“Pushy much?” he muttered.

“Yes.” Addie said with a smile. “Are you complaining?”

Nick blushed and slumped down on the small sofa leaving room for Emma to sit. She joined them a few minutes later and gave Howie and Addie the same glance over that Nick did. Her friend winked at her and she shook her head as she took her spot next to Nick.

“I’ll try not to claw you.” Emma told him as the movie started.

“I’ll keep my guard up.” he answered with a laugh.

They spent the first half of the movie trying to stay in their own spaces, but as the movie gotten scarier, Emma had a hard time not crawling all over the couch, hiding her eyes. Nick moved a little to accommodate her but then just gave up. He knew the next part of the movie would send her over the edge, so he braced himself for her launch. His intuition was correct and as the scene played on, Emma yanked her feet off the floor and buried her head into Nick’s shoulder.

“Sorry.” she whispered. “I didn’t expect that to happen.”

“The bad guy being revealed or almost taking my arm off?” he asked with a chuckle.

“Both?”

“It’s fine.”

He decided to take a chance and drape his arm around her; she surprised him by scooting closer to him and resting her head on his shoulder. The scent of her shampoo reminded him of all the times they spent close together like that and he realized how much he truly missed it. There wasn’t any other woman that brought out these feelings in him and he knew, at that moment, that no matter how many walls she threw up, he was going to keep banging away at them until he wore her down.

Addie glanced over at her friend and smiled at the sight of her and Nick getting cozy on the couch together. This is exactly what Emma needed, and whether she’d admit it or not, the spot she was in was where she belonged.

The movie finally ended and everyone was yawning. Nick decided to call it a night since he had to take Emma home and they said their goodbyes quickly. The ride back to Emma’s was quiet and they both were acting like shy teenagers on a first date. Nick offered to walk her up to her apartment when they pulled in and she accepted.

“Thanks for driving me.” Emma said as she put her key in the lock. “I appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome.”

She started into the apartment and Nick turned to head back to the car. He was startled when he heard her call out to him.

“If you have a minute, I can change and give you back your sweatshirt.”

Nick didn’t a damn if he ever got the sweatshirt back but he would do anything to spend a little more time with her, so he waited in her living room while she changed.

“Here you go.”

Emma returned and handed him the sweatshirt. She had pulled her hair into a bun but a few stubborn strands had fallen in her eyes. Nick reached out to tuck them behind her ear and his hand grazed her cheek as he slid it down her face. Instead of pulling it all the way back, he cupped his hand over her cheek. She looked up at him and he knew that if he didn’t take a chance right then and there, he wasn’t sure he’d get another one. He leaned down and kissed her lightly on the lips; he pulled back after a few seconds, not wanting to be too intense. Emma opened her eyes and smiled at him.

Nick smiled and pulled her into a hug; he rested his head on hers and loved the feeling he had when she snaked her arms around his waist. They stayed there for a few minutes and Nick tried hard to resist the urge to push this further. He finally decided that he needed to leave or there would be no way he could stop himself from testing the limits. The need to be with her was so intense but he wanted to make sure that she was feeling the same way before he made any big moves.

“I think I should go.” Nick said quietly.

“For tonight?” Emma asked.

“For tonight.” he answered and headed towards the door.

Both of them wanted more but neither one wanted to rush into something either. They both knew that whatever was between them had returned and they were willing to give each other enough space to figure it out.

“Do you think I could take you out sometime?” he asked.

“Absolutely.”

Nick leaned down and kissed her gently. “Good.”

Emma gave him another smile and closed the door. He bolted down the stairs and jumped into his truck; he knew he had to hurry back to his place because he was in serious need of a cold shower.
A Favor by Kyrie
Nick and Emma tried to make plans to see each other again but they never seemed to be in the same place at the same time. Nick had to travel with the guys to some appearances and Emma couldn’t take any time off because of an upcoming set of meetings. They did start texting each other daily and it seemed to keep each of them at the forefront of the other’s thoughts.

By the time the next weekend came, Emma was tired of doing work and decided that she and Addie should enjoy a girls’ day out. The guys were still away so they headed down to the Wrentham Outlets to do some shopping. After they managed to load themselves down with bags, they settled on one of the small restaurants in the area for lunch.

“I can’t believe I spent all that money.” Addie sighed.

“Well you needed to. If you get that job as a vice principal, the suits and shoes are necessities. You can’t do the job in jeans!”

“That is true.” Addie replied with a chuckle. “I really hope that I get it.”

“Of course you’ll get it. They’d be stupid not to hire you with all your qualifications.”

“I hope you’re right. It’s going to suck not being at the same school anymore.”

“I know but it’s not like we’re breaking up. We’ll still be best friends and I’ll just have to come to your house more often.”

“Speaking of that….have you talked to Nick much?”

Emma blushed. “Yes nosy, we’ve talked.”

“Just talked?”

“Talked and one kiss.”

“A kiss?!? Why didn’t you tell me that?” Addie shouted causing some other diners to look over.

“Ssshhh! I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to make a big deal about it.”

“It is a big deal. Are you happy? Are there going to be more?”

“Slow down. I’m happy we kissed but I’m still trying to figure this out.”

“What’s to figure out?”

“Didn’t you ever read that book?”

“What book?”

“It’s Called A Break Up Because It’s Broken?”

“That’s a stupid book. Just because people break up doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get back together again.”

“I know but obviously there was some problem in our relationship and I don’t want to make the same mistakes again.”

“What mistakes are you thinking of?”

“Jumping into everything so fast. I mean we just got back on speaking terms and then he kisses me. I don’t know what I’m ready for next.”

Addie started to tell her she was being ridiculous but she shushed her friend when her cell phone rang. Nick’s smiling face popped up and Emma debated whether or not to answer it. After a few seconds, she pressed the call button.

“Hi.” she said quietly and saw Addie smile.

“Hi yourself. Just wanted to see how you were.”

“I’m good. Addie and I are out shopping.”

“You didn’t max out all of Howie’s credit cards did you?” Nick asked with a laugh.

“No! I used my own money thank you.”

“Well I’ll make sure he knows that.”

“You do that.”

Nick paused for a minute. “I don’t want to keep you but I did want to ask a favor.”

“What’s the favor?”

“One of the guys whose been working with us on the album is throwing an industry party and we’re all invited. The guys are all going and I was kind of hoping you might like to go. I mean with me.”

Emma thought about it for a few moments.

“You don’t have to. I was just figuring it was something that Addie was already going too. Don’t worry about it…”

“Sure.”

“Sure? As in you’ll come sure?”

“Yes.” Emma laughed. “I’ll go with you. Where is it?”

“In Boston.”

“Ok. Is it really fancy?”

“Yeah. Is that ok?”

“That’s fine. I’ll borrow one of Howie’s credit cards and buy a dress!”

Nick chuckled and told her how glad he was that she was coming. They made plans for him to pick her up and hung up. Emma turned to her friend and raised her eyebrow.

“How come you didn’t tell me you were going to a major party?”

“Because Howie made me swear not to. Nick was trying to work up the nerve to ask you and I didn’t want to ruin it for him. You’re coming right?”

“Yup.”

“Yes! I wasn’t looking forward to kind of being the only one not in the loop.”

“We can do it together.”

“Howie and I got a hotel room so we could stay in there. You and Nick should think about it too.”

Emma’s jaw dropped.

“I don’t mean together. I meant you should both stay in there so you don’t have to drive.”

After the shock had passed, Emma agreed that it was the best idea and she texted Nick to let him know. He offered to book the rooms but Emma wanted to pay for her own, so they agreed to do it separately. Once lunch was over, the two girls headed back out to find Emma something to wear.

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

“You’re not nervous are you?” AJ teased as he watched his brother pace back and forth.

“Of course I’m nervous.” Nick snapped. “We haven’t even figured out this whole thing yet and now I’m bringing her back in with everyone. Maybe this isn’t the right thing to do.”

“Do you care about her?”

“Yes…”

“Then it’s the right thing to do.” AJ said and straightened his suit. “Get lost so Ro and I can finish getting ready.”

Nick nodded and headed down the hall to Emma’s room. He knocked and waited a couple of minutes before he heard the door opening.

“Hi….”

Nick lost all ability to speak. Emma was standing in front of him in a long, strapless Brandeis blue gown, with a sweetheart neckline and a slit coming halfway up her leg. Her hair was up in a chignon with a few strands hanging down near her face and, whatever eye shadow she was wearing, made her blue eyes pop; her lips were covered in a pale pink shimmer.

They stood there staring at each other and Emma started to put on the shawl she was carrying just to have something to do. Nick put his hand on hers to stop her.

“You don’t need that. You look beautiful.”

Emma blushed which made her even more beautiful in Nick’s eyes. He took her hand in his and led her down the hallway to the elevator; he really wanted to turn her around and go back into the room but he knew he was expected at the party. This was going to take all his self-control he thought as he pushed the button to the first floor.
Maybe? by Kyrie
Nick and Emma found their way to the ballroom and to the table they had been placed at. Thankfully, the other guys would be sitting with them and she wouldn’t have to get to know too many people. It was her first time out with Nick and she wasn’t really sure exactly what this whole thing was or would become. She just hoped everyone would be welcoming.

Addie and Howie were waiting for them along with AJ and Rochelle.

“Wow.” AJ whispered as they sat down. “If Nick doesn’t behave tonight, I’m pretty sure you could find someone in here to dance with. In fact, I think you just sent a few into heart palpitations.”

Emma laughed and Nick gave AJ the middle finger when no one was looking.

“Thanks AJ. I didn’t know what to buy.”

“Well you did great. I think…”

“I think we need to get these ladies some drinks.” Howie interrupted and beckoned for the other two men to follow him.

“You picked out a beautiful outfit.” Rochelle assured her after the guys’ departure. “Nick’s going to have his hands full trying to keep all these guys away from you.”

“Do you think it’s too much? I don’t want to…”

“It’s fine.” Addie replied. “It’ll do Nick some good to see that he has a little competition. Maybe it’ll help him focus on what he has.”

“But…”

“Addie’s right. You two are just figuring out what to call what you two are, and he should know that if he screws it up again, that you won’t be sitting around moping.”

The girls sat around talking while the guys were waiting for the drinks. They had just returned when Leighanne and Kristen arrived at the table. Apparently, Brian and Kevin had the same idea about the bar. The two women sat down and the table got quiet for a few moments until Leighanne finally had to say something.

“You know I’m not one for beating around the bush...”

“No shit.” Addie mumbled under her breath and Emma elbowed her.

Leighanne glared at Addie and continued. “I just don’t understand why you’re here.”

Nick’s face turned beet red and AJ’s back was going up. They were ready to defend Emma but she beat them to it.

“I’m here because Nick asked me to come.”

“But you’re not part of this group anymore.”

Brian and Kevin arrived at the table and could instantly tell there was an issue.

“Maybe I am and maybe I’m not. Either way, it’s really none of your business. Whatever road Nick and I choose to take is up to us, not to you and not to anyone else. I’m sorry if you don’t like it but that’s the way it is.”

“Excuse me?” Leighanne hissed.

“You heard me, I didn’t stutter. I don’t know what your problem with me is but it’s your deal and not mine. We’re obviously never going to be friends and I know that I don’t meet whatever standards you hold everyone else to. I can’t help it if you don’t like me but I am not going to tolerate being berated by you every time we may have to be in the same room together.”

“How dare…”

“And frankly, this is not the place to discuss this. If you want to talk to me any further about this, we can step outside and have a chat.”

Emma stared at her almost daring Leighanne to say something. They all waited with baited breath until Leighanne slammed her napkin down on the table and took off to the ladies’ room.

She turned to Brian and the rest of the table. “I’m sorry Brian. I don’t…”

“Don’t worry about it; I’m kind of used to it by now.”

He smiled faintly and headed in his wife’s direction. Nick leaned over towards Emma’s ear as the rest of the table tried to break some of the tension by talking about Kevin’s new baby.

“I’m so sorry, I should have known…”

“Don’t apologize, you didn’t do anything wrong. Leighanne’s going to have her opinion of me no matter what anyone else says.”

“I know but…”

“No more.” Emma said and stood up. “I wanna dance and if you don’t come with me, I’ll take AJ’s suggestion and find someone else to…”

Nick leapt out of his chair before she could finish her statement and she laughed as he dragged her out on the dance floor. The music had just turned slow and Nick wasn’t exactly sure how to hold Emma; he slipped his arms around her waist and waited to see how she’d react. He was pleasantly surprised when she wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled. She laid her head on his shoulder and he pulled her in tighter as they began to sway.

The party lasted a few hours and the couple spent most of it dancing with each other and their friends. They were some of the last people to leave the party and Nick walked her back to her room. The two spent the entire trip upstairs deciding what they should each do now that the night was winding down.

They finally made it down to Emma’s room and Nick knew that he had to do something before he lost the chance. When Emma unlocked the door and turned around to say goodnight, Nick leaned in and kissed her before she could speak. She was caught off-guard but she quickly kissed him back and pushed the door to her room open. Nick pulled back only long enough to get them in the room and then pulled her as close as he could get.

Emma’s head swam as Nick increased the intensity of his kiss and she wrapped her arms around his neck pulling him as close as she could. Her fingers ran through his hair and he groaned quietly as she pushed him towards the wall. He wasn’t thinking with his head anymore and he fumbled trying to find the zipper on her dress. He started to pull it down when she pulled back.

“Oh my God.” she whispered.

“I know.” Nick said with a smile and tried to pull her closer.

“Wait.” she said. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

Nick looked crestfallen; he thought everything was going fantastically up to this point and didn’t understand what was wrong. Emma noticed the look and shook her head.

“It’s not that I don’t want to do this Nick but I’m afraid to go jumping into this so fast.”

Relieved to hear that she was telling him to take a hike, Nick leaned down and kissed her gently.

“We don’t have to.”

“I’m sorry Nick, I really am. I’m just scared.”

Nick dragged her over to the couch and pulled her down next to him.

“Ok. We won’t tonight. But if you’re gonna keep shutting me down, you need to stop wearing dresses like this one.”

Emma laughed. “I promise. I just want to make sure we’re both in this before we take it any further.”

“I get it, I do.” he paused. “Do you think I could at least spend the night?”

“Um, do you really think that you and I are going to be able to sleep in the same bed and not tear each other’s clothes off?”

“Definitely not.” he replied. “But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask.”

He leaned in and kissed her again. Unable to help himself, he pushed her back into the couch and his hands started to roam down her sides as he increased the intensity of the kiss. She gently pushed him back and stuck a pillow in between them.

“I think you need to go.”

Nick sighed and pulled himself up off the couch. She followed him as he made his way to the door and gave him a small kiss before he left. He stepped out into the hallway but turned as she was about to shut the door.

“I am gonna see you again right?”

Emma smiled. “Absolutely. I think we have some unfinished business.”
Digging For The Truth by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
I hope everyone is still enjoying the story and I apologize for the long delays with updating!
“So I have an idea.” Nick said as he practiced his swing.

The guys had been on a media tour for the last two weeks and they decided to spend the last day just hanging out. Howie had organized a golf trip and the group decided to go to the driving range for a little practice before they started their round.

“Uh-oh, you’ve been thinking again; we all know where that leads.”

“Shut up AJ.”

His brother laughed and held up his hands. “Just kidding.”

“What’s the idea?” Kevin asked.

“Emma’s birthday is coming up in a week and I think we should throw her a surprise party.”

AJ smiled as he looked at his friend’s face. It wasn’t a big shock that the majority of Nick’s ideas and thoughts were focused on a certain someone lately.

“I think that’s a great idea.” Howie replied. “Count Addie and I in.”

“Me and Ro too. What can we do to help?”

“I’ll take care of everything.”

“We’ll find some way to help. Where are you thinking about having it?”

Nick hesitated. “I was kind of thinking about having it at the beach house.”

His four brothers just stared at him for a few minutes before Brian broke the silence.

“Do you think that’s really a good idea?”

“I don’t know.” Nick answered. “I was hoping Addie might be able to help.”

“How?” Howie asked.

“Maybe she could do some digging without exactly telling Emma about the party.”

“What should she dig for?”

“Get an idea of how Emma feels about the house?”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes.” Nick answered without pause.

Howie sighed and pulled out his phone.

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

Addie waited patiently for Emma to arrive. Howie’s phone call prompted her to invite Emma to a spur of the moment lunch and she hoped she could figure out what he wanted to know. She had a few questions of her own concerning her friend and Nick and she wanted those answered too.

“Hey you.” she called as Emma approached the table. “How’re you doing?”

“Good. Glad to get out of the house and do something other than school work.”

“I hear you. I think I was going to go stir crazy if I didn’t do some shopping or some other activity.”

“Well I’m glad you called me.”

“Who else would I call?” Addie asked with a laugh.

“I don’t know.” Emma answered as she perused the menu. “What’s on the docket for after lunch?”

“I figured maybe some clothes shopping. Someone has a birthday coming up and…”

Emma groaned. “Don’t remind me.”

“Oh please, you’re turning thirty-three. It’s not like you’re spiraling into old age.”

“I feel like it.”

“Give me a break. What do you want for your birthday?”

“Nothing.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a store before but I can check.”

“Shut up.”

Addie laughed. “Would you be willing to spend it with us and maybe a certain other someone?”

Emma blushed. “Quite possibly.”

“How are you and that other someone by the way? I saw the way you two were acting at the party and how he walked you to your hotel room.”

“Are you following me?” Emma asked incredulously.

“No but I did notice you two sneaking off in that direction. Did he spend the night?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I wasn’t ready.”

“When are you going to be ready?” Addie asked bluntly.

“I don’t know; I’m afraid.”

“Of what?”

“Of making a mistake.” Emma answered after a moment. “What if I make a mistake?”

“What if you don’t? Sometimes, we have to go out on a limb and take a jump. You’re never going to know if there’s something there if you refuse to act on it.”

“So you’re saying I should try it?”

“Yes. Sleeping with or dating Nick is not a contract; it doesn’t mean that you have to marry him.”

“What if he wants more than I can give?”

“Honey, I think at this point, Nick will take whatever you’re offering. He really cares about you and I don’t think he’ll push you past what you can handle.”

Emma mulled it over for a few minutes. “I guess I’ll see what happens when he comes home.”

Addie paused, trying to figure out a way to word her next question. “Speaking of home, how would you feel if Nick wanted you to go over to his place?”

“Well if I’m going out on that limb, why not go all the way out?” Emma finally said.

Addie nodded and was relieved when Emma excused herself to the bathroom. She yanked her phone out of her bag and hit speed dial.

“Tell Nick to start planning.”
Surprise!?!? by Kyrie
“So where are we going again?”

Howie and Addie had picked her up and promised her that she would enjoy her birthday surprise. Unfortunately, they refused to tell her where that surprise would be happening and the suspense was killing her.

“It’s a surprise, again.” Addie said with a laugh. “If we tell you, then it won’t be a surprise anymore.”

Howie was squirming in his seat and hoped neither of the two women had noticed. He loved Emma like a sister and Nick was his brother; he wanted what was best for them both and he hoped this wasn’t a mistake. Not wanting to be the bad guy, he agreed to the whole party thing but he really felt like springing this on Emma might not be the best decision.

“You’re such a…”

“Loving friend who doesn’t want to ruin what’s in store for you.”

“That really doesn’t sound pleasant.” Emma said with a groan. “I feel like I’m walking into a horror movie or something.”

God I hope not, Howie thought to himself as he turned onto Nick’s street. He heard Emma’s sharp intake of breath as he slowed down to pull into the driveway and he could feel her eyes staring at the back of his head. The second he put the car in park, he leapt out of the car and raced towards the house. This was Nick and Addie’s idea; he wasn’t taking responsibility for this.

“What the…”

Addie leaned over her seat and took Emma’s hand. She saw the emotions flood her friend’s face and started to have second thoughts about what they were planning.

“I know this is hard…”

“Then why did you do this?”

“Nick wanted to do something special for you, for your birthday.”

“Why here?”

“You know we’re moving in a couple of days and your apartment is too small…”

“Why not a restaurant?”

“Nick felt like if they did it in a public place, someone might catch wind of it and the paparazzi would show up. He really wanted this night to be all about you and this was the best place he could think of.”

Emma just sat there and continued to gaze at the house.

“Remember when I asked you the other day if you could come here? You said…”

“I know what I said but I didn’t think I was going to have to face it now; I thought I could ease into the idea.”

“I’m sorry Em, I really am. If you want to leave, I can go in and explain…”

“No.” Emma said and paused for a minute. “Everyone’s already here and I don’t want to be the reason the party ends.”

“I know but I’m sure everyone will understand…”

“They probably will but you were right when you said I needed to just do this. Maybe it will help if there are other people here besides just me and Nick.”

“Are you really sure you want to do this?”

Emma nodded and climbed out of the SUV; she made it two steps towards the house when AJ came through the front door.

“Mind if I have a chat with the birthday girl?” he asked as he approached Addie.

She looked over at Emma who nodded. After giving her friend a hug, she slipped through the open door.

“Happy Birthday Em.” AJ said and enveloped her in a hug.

“Thanks.” she responded quietly. “It’s nice to see you.”

“It’s good seeing you too. Rochelle and everyone else are here too.”

“Even…”

“Oh no, not her. We decided it would be best not to have a cage match during the party.”

Emma laughed for the first time that night. “Good decision, I would hate to have to mess up my nails.”

“Or your hair. God that would so be worse.”

Emma elbowed him in the side.

“Easy, I bruise.”

“Yeah right, Mr. Fragile.”

“I am.” AJ replied with a pout. “I’m incredibly delicate.”

The two friends stood there for a few minutes before he brought up the reason they were standing there.

“Are you coming in?”

“I don’t know; I’m not sure I can.”

“I know you can.”

“How?”

“Because you’re Feisty; you can do anything.”

“You give me too much credit.”

“No I don’t, I just know you’re stronger than you think you are.”

“What if I go in there and break down?”

“I don’t think you will. And besides, I think the only thing breaking down in there will be the kitchen floor.”

“What?”

“Nick has been pacing the kitchen all night long and I seriously think that it’s gonna give way soon. I can actually see the path.”

Emma snickered.

“And I don’t wanna be responsible for his dry cleaning bill. I’m pretty sure he’s changed into twenty different shirts since I got here. Also…”

“I get it, I get it.” Emma interrupted him with a grin. “Let’s go.”
Good Advice? by Kyrie
“How mad is she?” Nick asked Addie as soon as she came in.

“I don’t think she’s mad, she’s more nervous.”

“She’s not the only one.” Howie muttered under his breath.

Nick disregarded Howie and continued pacing the floor. “How far back did I set us?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see what AJ can manage to do.”

“He’ll get her to come in.” Rochelle said, joining the conversation. “He’s very persuasive.”

“I hope so.” Nick responded. “I really want…”

He stopped talking as he saw the front door open. AJ stepped inside followed by Emma and they made their way to the kitchen.

“The birthday girl has arrived.” AJ announced. “And I think we need to get things going around here.”

The friends, with the exception of Emma and Nick, made an exit into the living room. The couple eyed each other for a few minutes before Nick spoke.

“I’m sorry if this upsets you Em, that wasn’t my intention.”

“I know and I want to thank you for doing this.”

“You don’t need to thank me, you deserve a celebration.”

Emma nodded and slipped her hand into Nick’s. “We should probably join everyone else.”

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

It took some time for Emma to adjust to being back in the beach house. Thankfully, Nick allowed her to roam around and talk to everyone without getting too close. The space provided her with an opportunity to mingle with all the guests as well as have some quiet moments outside by the beach.

Almost everyone had left at that point and AJ and Rochelle were on their way out. J noticed the change in his brother’s demeanor as he was leaving and turned around. Nick was watching Emma standing by the water, staring out at the ocean and the same sadness that hit Emma earlier now circled him. He approached him quietly and draped an arm around Nick’s shoulder.

“A dollar for your thoughts?” he asked quietly. “I’d offer a penny but this one looks pretty expensive.”

“It is.” Nick whispered.

“Are you gonna tell me or do I have to give you the dollar first?”

Nick gave a small smile. “I was just thinking about the times we used to walk around on the beach and talk all night staring at that view.”

“It’s a stunning view.”

“I know and I miss it. I mean I still see this every day that I’m here but it’s not as beautiful when she’s not around.”

“Have you told her that?”

“No. I didn’t want to crowd her tonight because I know she’s going through a lot just to be here.”

“Not crowding her doesn’t mean not talking to her at all Nick. You can’t just leave her by herself the whole night.”

“I know but what if I push too far or too fast? She might still be mad about having the party here.”

“I don’t think she was ever mad about it, it just surprised her.”

“She’ll get a bigger surprise if I tell her how I’m feeling.”

“Maybe she will but wouldn’t it just be easier to get it off your chest? I mean how long are you going to circle around the topic and never discuss it?”

“I don’t know.”

AJ sighed. “Let me ask you this. Do you want to be with her again?”

“Yes.”

“Then there’s your answer.”

“So you think I should talk to her?”

“Duh dude.”

Nick chuckled.

“Now get out there and tell her how you feel.”

AJ gave his brother a playful shove towards the sliding door. Nick smiled at him and walked slowly over to where Emma was standing. He put his hand on her shoulder and she jumped slightly.

“Sorry.” Nick said softly. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s ok. I was a little lost in the view.”

“I get the same way, although the view tonight is so much better.”

“Why?”

Nick faltered and then took AJ’s advice. “Because you’re here.”

Emma looked up at him and saw the serious expression on his face. She could tell that he was being honest and it meant a lot to her. Surprising her, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close; he leaned down and kissed her gently. They stayed locked together for a few moments and then Nick whispered into her ear.

“I’m sorry if that was too much but I need you to know how I feel.”

“Nick…”

He pulled her close and buried his head in her shoulder.

“Don’t leave tonight.” Nick pleaded. “I want you to stay.”

“I don’t…”

“Please Em. I won’t push you to do anything you don’t want to, I promise. We can just talk; we can sleep in separate bedrooms. I just don’t want you to keep leaving.”

“Nick, I…”

“I’m begging you Em, I want you to stay; I need you to stay. Please.”

Emma was interrupted by Addie calling out to tell her they were leaving. Nick’s head was raised and she saw the pain in his face. She didn’t know what to do anymore and as Addie called a second time, she squirmed out of Nick’s grasp and ran into the house.

Nick slumped down onto one of the deck chairs and hung his head; so much for taking AJ’s advice.
Change of Heart by Kyrie
“Are you sure?” Addie asked.

Emma nodded. “I’m positive.”

“If you change your mind, call me and I’ll come pick you up.”

“I won’t.”

Addie smiled and gave her friend a hug. “Good luck!”

Emma watched as she and Howie pulled out of the driveway and then headed back into the house, locking the door behind her. She made her way to the backyard and saw Nick sitting there with his head in his hands. Knowing that he was probably upset by the fact that he thought she’d left made it hard to go back out to him but she made herself do it.

“Nick?”

He was so distracted by the view and his own thoughts that he didn’t hear her come out. She had to walk over and place her hand on his shoulder to get his attention. Nick jumped up and turned to face her.

“Em?”

“Hi. I…”

Her words were cut off when he swept her into a tight embrace. He pulled her as close as he possible could and kissed her.

“You came back.”

“I wasn’t leaving.”

“You weren’t?”

“No, I just needed to tell Addie and Howie that I was staying here. Is that ok?”

Nick burst out into laughter. “Ok? Are you kidding me? This is more than ok.”

Emma smiled. “Good. I’d hate to have to walk home.”

“You definitely don’t have to go.” Nick said and then waited for a moment. “Are you sure you want to stay here? I promised you that I wouldn’t push and I meant…”

Emma cut him off with a kiss. “If I wasn’t sure, then I wouldn’t have stayed.”

She had decided earlier in the night that she had to take Addie’s advice. If she didn’t risk being hurt, she was going to regret not seeing where she and Nick could take their relationship. Maybe it would be tough but she’d take the leap.

“I know it’s late,” Nick told her, “I can go make up the other bedroom for you.”

“I didn’t really have sleeping in mind.” Emma replied with a smile. “I was thinking that we’ve spent…”

Nick crushed his mouth against hers and swept her up in his arms. He practically raced down to the bedroom and gently set her on the bed. Lying down next to her, he ran his hand over her face and kissed her again.

“Are you absolutely sure about this?”

Emma slid her hand under the back of Nick’s shirt and pulled it over his head. Tugging his head down, she kissed him with as much intensity as she could.

“Does that answer your question?”

“Absolutely.” Nick answered.

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

Emma woke up a few hours later to find herself wrapped in Nick’s arms. Her head was lying on his chest and she could hear him snoring quietly. They had spent the last few hours exploring each other and making up for all the time they’d been apart. She smiled as she thought about her decision to give this relationship another chance and she knew in her heart that she’d done the right thing.

Raising her head to look at him, she could see the smile on Nick’s face as he lay there. She slid out of his grasp, slipped on his shirt and made her way down to the living room. Pushing the slider open, she inhaled the smell of the beach air and wound up sinking down into one of the deck chairs. She drew her knees up to her chest and laid her head back, thinking about everything that had led up to this point.

She knew that they were taking a gamble by getting involved again and that the whole thing could backfire. Her heart wanted to protect itself but she knew that after tonight, there was no way she could avoid her feelings for Nick. No matter what happened in the past, she loved him and he was the only person she wanted to be with. She wasn’t going to tell him that right away but she needed to admit it to herself.

Nick’s hands grazing her shoulders surprised her.

“Sorry.” he said quietly. “I woke up and you weren’t there; I got worried.”

Emma slid over and let him lie down next to her. Running her hand over his face, she leaned in and kissed him gently.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good to know.”

Nick kissed her, gently at first, then passionately. He slid his hand up her shirt and she shivered but didn’t pull away. Taking that as a sign, he began to unbutton the top of the shirt and leaned in to kiss her neck. Slipping his arms around her, he pulled her close and left a trail of kisses from her ear to her neck. Emma lost all ability to think and her body took over; she moaned when Nick began to slide one of his hands towards the rest of the buttons.

“Don’t you think we should take this inside?”

Nick gave her a wicked grin. “Are you sure you don’t want to try something new?”

“I’d love to try something new but I think that if you continue what you’re doing, I’m going to get a little loud. I would hate to wake the neighbors.”

Nick stood up and pulled her with him. He grabbed her waist and she draped her hands around his neck while wrapping her legs around his waist.

“I hope you’re fast Mr. Carter,” she whispered in his ear, “because I’m not sure how long I can wait.”
A Good Morning by Kyrie
Nick woke up the next morning to find Emma nestled against him and he smiled. Last night brought back a flood of feelings that he wasn’t sure he’d ever get to express again. He was to the point where he thought he and Emma would never get back to where they were and the thought of not having her in his life scared him. Seeing her next to him made him determined not to screw it up.

Emma shivered a little and it seemed to wake her out of her sleep. She looked up at him and smiled; he couldn’t imagine a more beautiful sight.

“Hey sleepyhead.” he said quietly. “How’d you sleep?”

“Amazingly. I don’t think I’ve slept this well in a long time.”

“Me neither.” he paused. “The last time was with you.”

She pulled herself up towards his face and kissed him softly. He ran his hand down her face and over her neck. His hand was heading under the sheets when Emma laughed.

“Again?”

“I’m afraid I won’t get another chance.”

Emma looked up at him with a serious expression. “I’m not going anywhere Nick. If I had any hesitation about getting involved with you again, I wouldn’t have spent the night.”

“Honest?”

“Honest. I’m not going to set either one of us up for another heartache. Truthfully, I don’t think I could handle one more.”

“I promise not to do anything that would cause you to question us being together. I truly want to make this work Em.”

“Good.” she said with a grin. “Now where were we?”

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

The couple decided that they would have dinner with Addie and Howie later that night to tell them the good news. They spent most of the day in bed and only made their way to the kitchen when it was absolutely necessary.

“Are you excited to tell them?” Nick asked, watching her make dinner.

“I am and I think they’re going to be excited to hear it.”

“I hope so! They’re the ones who made it clear from the beginning that they wanted us together.”

Emma made her way over to where he was standing and wrapped her arms around his waist. She stood up on her toes and kissed him.

“And we are together.”

Nick leaned in to kiss her again when the bell rang. He gave her a quick kiss and then headed down to let in their guests. Howie and Addie had already figured out why they were there and made their congratulations.

“I knew this was going to happen.” Addie exclaimed. “And I’m glad you didn’t take forever getting there.”

“Funny.” Emma replied and swatted her friend.

Howie and Nick left the girls to talk in the kitchen and turned on the sports channel in the living room so they could talk.

“Are you happy?” Howie asked.

“Very. I’ve wanted this for the longest time and now I have her back.”

“Try not to screw it up again.”

“I already promised her that I will do anything in my power not to screw it up. I want us to be together.” Nick paused. “I’m thinking about asking her to move back in.”

“Whoa!” Howie replied. “Don’t you think you should ease into that? I don’t think either one of you should dive headfirst into decisions.”

“But I want her to be here.”

“And I’m sure she wants the same but maybe she’s not quite there yet.”

Nick thought about what his brother was saying. He wanted to have her back in his life one hundred percent of the time but maybe to expect it in a couple of days was a mistake.

“Do you think I should tell her that I want her back here? I’ll let her know that she doesn’t need to make a decision but it’s definitely what I want.”

“I guess that’s ok but I don’t want you to be upset if she can’t handle that right now.”

“I won’t be.”

Howie hoped his brother was telling the truth.

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

The two couples enjoyed dinner together and everyone was truly happy to be back to a foursome again. Howie and Addie stayed for a while but headed home early so that Addie could take care of some things. Emma walked them to the door and then made her way back to find Nick sitting on the couch in the living room.

“Can we talk?” he asked.

Emma felt her heart drop into her stomach. This was not going to be good and she couldn’t believe that they had just gotten back together and there was already a problem. Maybe Howie said something to him, she thought as she nodded and took a seat next to him.

Nick cocked his head and stared at her. “Why are you upset?”

Emma’s eyes started to get wet. “Us needing to talk is never a good thing.”

He leaned towards her and gently pushed her back onto the couch. Kissing her softly, he stretched out next to her and wrapped her in his arms.

“This is not a bad thing at all.”

Emma nodded and waited for him to continue.

“I wanted to talk to you about moving back in here.”

“What?”

“Howie told me to take it slow but I need to tell you how I feel. I want you back in my life and I want you to move back in with me.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“How about yes?” Nick replied with a chuckle.

Emma thought about it for a minute. “I don’t know if I can leap back into this.”

“I know, Howie said you might feel that way and I understand. I just need you to know how I feel about you.”

It meant a lot to Emma that Nick was able to tell her how he felt. “Can you give me a couple of weeks?”

“Ok but only a couple.”

Emma laughed. “You’re really going to hold me to it huh?”

“Hell yes! According to my calculations, you have exactly thirteen days, twenty-three hours and fifty-six minutes.”

“Damn!” Emma exclaimed. “You’re serious.”

“I am. I’m always serious about what I want.”

Emma grinned at him. “Really? How about…”

Nick crushed his mouth against hers and pulled her tight; they didn’t leave the couch for hours.
A First Date by Kyrie
Author's Notes:
I'm so sorry for the delay in updating, I promise to work harder! LOL
A week flew by as Emma worked at school and Nick took some meetings with his management about possibly doing a solo tour. They spent as many nights as they could together and Nick continued to give her his running countdown of how long she had to move in. She’d laugh every time he told her but she knew he was serious and that a choice would need to be made soon. Deciding she needed some friendly advice, she invited Addie out to lunch. Her friend had always been honest with her before and her guidance was invaluable.

“Hey there lady.” Addie said as she made her way to the booth. “Glad you could carve some bff time into your busy schedule.”

“I always have time for you.”

“Sure, sure. I believe a certain six foot something blond might be occupying most of your attention and time lately. I was wondering if you guys were gonna come up for air at some point!”

“Thanks for hanging in there and having faith we would!” Emma replied with a laugh.

“No sweat, figured it would happen eventually.”

The girls placed their drink and food orders and when they were done, Addie decided to just attack the issue.

“I’m guessing you summoned me because Nicky asked you to move back in.”

“How the hell did you know?”

“My husband, he sucks at keeping secrets.”

“Or you’re just really good at getting them out of people.”

Addie nodded. “There’s that too. So are you gonna do it?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.”

“Well who does then? I thought this was something you wanted.”

“It is but I’m….”

“Oh no, not this bullshit again. Let me see if I can figure it out. You’ve gotten hurt before, you’re afraid of doing it again, yada, yada, yada. Don’t bother using that crap with me.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“I’m serious. You cannot keep going back and forth. At some point you need to make a decision and stick with it.”

“I know I do.”

“Then why are you wasting time talking to me about this?”

“I guess I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“Whose shoe? Lauren is completely out of the picture and Nick hasn’t looked at anyone else since you came back into the picture.”

“She could come back.”

“Is that what this is about? A chance that Lauren could come waltzing back in the door?”

“Maybe.”

“Then kick her ass out!”

Emma burst out laughing and some of the other diners looked at her with contempt. She put her napkin up to her mouth and tried to clear her throat.

“You’re gonna get us kicked out.”

“So what?” Addie said. “I can say what I want, where I want. And don’t try to change the subject. If you want to be with Nick, then do it. If not, don’t drag it out.”

“I definitely want to be with him, I’m just not sure about the moving back in together part.”

“When does he want to know by?”

“Um let me check.” Emma said and pulled out her phone. “Seven days, ten hours and thirty-six minutes.”

“What the f…hell? What’d you have a countdown?”

“He does. He sends me texts all the time reminding me.”

“Then you had been move in soon because Lord knows what he’ll resort to after that lovely time limit expires.”

“I think I’m afraid to find out!”

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

Emma pulled into the beach house driveway after spending a couple of hours with Addie and to her surprise, Nick was waiting for her on the front steps. She jumped out of the car, ran up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck; he smiled and pulled her off the ground.

“Miss me?” he asked with a sexy grin.

“Of course! I didn’t expect you to be home tonight.”

“Jeez…what are you doing, throwing another kegger?”

“Wise ass. I meant that I thought you had to meet with someone from your management company.”

“I already did. Things went smoothly and we had time to spare. I was thinking that maybe we could go out on a date.”

“Ooohh..I like it. Should I change first?”

“Yeah, maybe some jeans and sneakers.”

“Ok. Give me five minutes.”

She raced down the hallway into their bedroom and started yanking clothes out of her duffel bag; Nick stood in the doorway watching her.

“You do know that if you move in with me, you won’t have to carry around all your belongings.” he said as she made a dash into the bathroom. “I’ll even share my closet with you!”

“Thanks, I appreciate the generosity!” she called through the door as she changed.

“That’s me, Mr. Generous.”

She was out in a few minutes and kissed him gently after she’d dropped her stuff on the bed. “Ready?”

“I just need one thing.” Nick answered.

She watched as he dug around in his closet and after a few seconds, pulled out a batting helmet. Cocking an eyebrow, she stared at him.

“Um, is that necessary?”

“With you around it is!”

Nick grabbed her by the hand and dragged her out to the car.
Really? by Kyrie
“Mini golf?” Emma asked as they pulled into the parking lot.

“Yup.”

Nick parked the car in one of the only empty spaces and cut the engine. He climbed out of the truck and grabbed his batting helmet.

“And you need that why?”

Emma climbed out and followed him up to the entrance.

“Because I’m here with you. I’m a little hesitant that you might hit me in the head.”

“That’s so mean. Put that thing back in the truck or I’m not going in there with you.”

Nick looked at her and saw how serious she was. He jogged over and tossed the helmet into the backseat.

“Just remember that if you hit me, you’re the one who made me put it back.”

“I am not going to hit you in the head!”

“Uh huh.” he replied with a chuckle. “You don’t exactly have the best track record you know.”

“Well then maybe you shouldn’t pick such physical activities.”

Nick wrapped his arms around her waist. “There is one physical activity that you are quite good at and I definitely don’t need a helmet for it.”

Emma’s face turned beet red and she smacked him on the arm. “Shut up, there are little kids here.”

“They can’t hear me.” Nick whispered as they finally made it to the counter.

“Can I help you?” the attendant asked.

“Two for nine holes.”

The woman handed them two clubs, a score card and directed them to the ball dispenser. Emma grabbed blue before Nick could so he wound up with the green one.

“Will you be able to see that one?”

“I won’t need to, I’m gonna get a hole in one each time.”

“Oh really Mr. Golf Master? I can’t wait to see this one.”

By the time they got to the fifth hole, Nick had gone over par every time. Emma, on the other hand, managed two holes in one and the other two were under par.

“This is so not fair.” Nick muttered. “Have you been pulling a fast one on me and practicing?”

Emma laughed. “No, I’m just good at it.”

“Yeah right. I think you’re a closet golfer.” Nick teased.

“I’m really not. I think it’s beginner’s luck.”

“Uh huh.”

Emma walked over and kissed him gently. “Still upset?”

Nick pulled her close and leaned down towards her ear. “Very. Just wait till we get home.”

The couple behind them cleared their throats and Nick motioned for them to play through. He took a seat on the bench and pulled Emma down next to him. It didn’t matter to him how long it took for them to get through the nine holes, he just wanted to be with her. After about ten minutes, the pair moved on and Emma took her spot. She narrowed her eyes and put all her concentration into her swing but Nick tickled her just as her club moved and her ball shot into the small pond.

“You’re a brat you know that. I should hit you in the head with a ball.”

“You can’t, you made me leave my helmet in the car.” he reminded her with a laugh.

Emma stuck her tongue out and watched as Nick failed to get a hole in one. By the time, they’d gotten to the last hole, she still had a decent lead and he was going to concede defeat. Refusing to let him get off that easy, she scored another hole in one and watched as he tanked again.

“I think you’re the one who’s been cheating Mr. Carter. There is no way you’re this bad a golfer.”

Nick shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe I can just play real golf.”

Emma gave him a look and walked over to the club and ball return. After they dropped everything off, Nick bought them ice cream cones and they headed back to the truck.

“I had fun tonight.” Emma said out of the blue. “I don’t think I really realized how much I missed doing the little things.”

Nick draped his arm around her shoulders. “That’s what I’m here for, the little things.”

“I’m serious Nick. The only time I’ve ever felt this comfortable in a relationship is when I’m with you. You’ve never tried to pull out all the stops or show off by buying expensive things for me.”

“Would that work?”

“No and that’s why I love…” Emma paused and Nick waited for her to say it. “That’s why I love being with you.”

He had to admit that he was disappointed that she hadn’t said that she loved him. After the last failed attempt however, he couldn’t say that he really blamed her. This wasn’t exactly the perfect moment for him to confess how he was feeling but he resolved to do it sooner rather than later.

“I’m glad I can make you happy.” Nick waited for a minute and decided to ask her again. “How about moving in with me again and making both of us happy?”

“You’re not going to give up are you?”

“Not until you say yes.”

“I thought I had two weeks.”

“Time is ticking and I think you’re down to about six days or so. Not that I’m counting of course.”

“Oh no, you wouldn’t do something like that.”

“Of course not. I can’t say the same for my phone though; it seems to have a mind of its own.”

Emma chuckled. “I promise to give you an answer by the time the countdown ends.”

“I’m holding you to that you know.”

“I know.”

The couple climbed into the car and headed back to the beach house. They were both tired and Nick fell asleep easily while Emma had more trouble. She knew that he was right about the time running out and she was struggling to make a decision. This was something she wanted and she knew that Nick would be ecstatic if she said yes; she just wanted to make sure that it was right for both of them.
A Decision by Kyrie
“So, have you made a decision yet?”

“Oh my God Addie! Did Nick put you up to bugging me?”

The two friends had gone out to lunch hoping to catch up and enjoy some girl time. Addie started in on her right away and was like a dog with a bone.

“No, I’m asking because I want to know.”

“To answer your question, no I have not made up my mind yet.”

“Jesus Christ Em, when the hell are you gonna make it up? Nick’s going to start looking into other options if you don’t smarten up and tell him yes.”

“It sounds like you’ve already made it up for me.”

“I have. Go tell him yes and get it over with already. And don’t start with the “I want to make sure I make a good decision” thing again. You know it’s the right choice.”

Emma laughed. “You know me so well.”

“I really do.”

“So you think I should say yes?”

“Does he make you happy?”

“Yes.”

“Do you still have feelings for him?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then nothing should be stopping you.”

“Ok, ok. I get it.”

“Good. Nice to see you making sense for a change!”

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

Emma spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out what to do. She knew Addie was right; she should just accept how she felt and move in with Nick. Something still kept nagging at her so she decided to call AJ. When she needed some sense knocked into her, he was first in line to whack her in the head.

“Hey Feisty, long time no talk.”

“Hey AJ. I’m sorry for not calling sooner.”

“No biggie. I know you and Blondie are getting back on track and I guess I can let it slide this time.”

Emma laughed. “Why thank you for forgiving me.”

“You’re welcome.” AJ replied with a chuckle. “What’s up?”

“I was calling for some advice.”

“Oh really? Let me see if I can guess what it’s about. Could it be about you moving back in with Nick?”

“How’d you know?”

“Nick already called and asked for advice on how to talk you in to saying yes.”

“Everyone is conspiring against me!”

“No we’re not. We’re just trying to get you to see how much it means to him that you move back in. He’s been trying to fix everything that’s gone wrong and he’s scared that he might lose you.”

“Why?”

“Because of what happened before, with Lauren. It’s almost like if he has you back in the house with him, there’s less of a chance that you’ll walk away; you’ll be more invested.”

Emma let AJ’s words sink in for a minute. She’s never thought of it as anything more than moving back in. Nick had never mentioned those concerns to her and she felt badly for not seeing the signs herself.

“You still there?” AJ asked.

“Yeah I’m here.” Emma paused. “I think I made a decision.”

“I hope it’s the right one.”

“Me too.”

Emma thanked AJ and hung up. She was going to have to throw her heart into the ring and hope that it didn’t get harmed in the process. After a few minutes of thinking, she called Nick and told him that she would be coming over tomorrow afternoon to talk to him. He asked if everything was ok and she reassured him that it was fine and he’d like what she had to say.

She finished her phone call and then lay down on the bed, wishing that this was going to happen with no problems.
End Notes:
Sorry for the short chapter, I will be updated more soon!
An Unexpected Guest by Kyrie
Nick spent the morning cleaning out closets in the hopes that what Emma wanted to tell him was that she would be moving back in. She had seemed excited when she called him and he wanted to be ready. It took him a few hours to rearrange everything and to tidy up the mini messes he made. He had just taken a shower and gotten redressed when the doorbell rang; he raced to get out there.

“Hey you….”

“Hi Nick.”

“What are you doing here Lauren?”

“Hi to you too.”

“Sorry.” he said. “I was expecting someone else.”

“Emma?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Lauren replied with a smile, catching him off guard. “I’m glad you’re happy Nick, I really am.”

“Umm thanks?”

Lauren laughed. “Look, I know what happened last time I showed up at your door but I swear to you that’s not what this visit is for.”

Nick felt instantly relieved. “So you’re here for?”

“I came to drop off a check.”

“For what?”

“I sold the house in California and I wanted to give you your half of the money.”

“You don’t have to do that; we agreed that you could keep it.”

“I know but I don’t need to stay there anymore.”

“How come?”

Lauren blushed. “I got engaged.”

“Congratulations!” Nick said giving her a hug.

“Thanks.” she replied. “My fiancÚ wants me to move into his place in Las Vegas so I decided to sell the house. Since we split the cost evenly, I wanted to make sure you got your half back.”

“You really didn’t have to.”

“I know but it’s what was fair.” She paused. “And honestly, I really haven’t been fair about a lot of things in our relationship. I want to do something to change that so here you go.”

She handed him a check and gave him a quick hug. “Good luck with everything and I’m happy for you Nick. You’re both lucky to have each other and I hope it stays good for you guys.”

“Thanks Lauren, that means a lot. And congratulations again.”

“Thanks. See you sometime.” she responded.

He watched as his former girlfriend pulled away and breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was falling into place for him and he was glad that all the drama with Lauren was over. He headed back into the house and decided to pass time by watching a movie.

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

Nick woke up a few hours later and was disoriented. Why was it dark out and why the hell wasn’t Emma here? He checked his phone and it said it was seven. Emma promised that she’d be there by five. Concerned, he dialed his girlfriend's number and it went straight to voicemail. He tried calling again and again but each time was the same. After trying the fifteenth time, he called Addie in a panic. She answered after a couple of rings.

“Where’s Emma?” Nick asked before she had time to say hello.

“Um with you isn’t she?” Addie replied.

“No, I feel asleep on the couch and just woke up. She was supposed to be here by five and she’s still not here.”

“Did you try calling her?”

“Of course!” Nick exclaimed. “Her phone just goes straight to voicemail.”

“That’s weird.”

“I know. I’m starting to freak out Addie.”

“Look, calm down and I’ll try calling her.”

“Will you call me back?”

“Absolutely. Give me a couple of minutes.”

Nick hung up and started to pace around the kitchen. Why wasn’t she here yet? What if something happened to her and she needed his help? Screw waiting for Addie, he thought and grabbed his car keys. Just as he was heading for the door, his phone alerted him that he had a text message. It was from Emma and his heart started to race.

Hey. Need to take care of some stuff. Won’t be able to come tonight. Call you later.

What the hell? She wasn’t answering her phone and now she sends some ridiculous message about needing to do things. What was going on?
What Is Going On? by Kyrie
Nick didn’t hear from Emma over the next few days and he was going from panicked to pissed. Why was she pulling this stunt? He couldn’t remember doing anything to upset her and he didn’t understand why she was suddenly avoiding him. Everything seemed to be going so well and now this. Driving to her apartment several times, he still didn’t get any answers because she wasn’t there either.

By the time a week had passed, Nick called AJ and asked him what to do.

“Where is she?” his brother asked.

“I have no idea. She was supposed to come over a week ago and never showed up. Then she sends me some bullshit text about having things to do and that she would call me later. It’s been seven days!”

“That’s unlike her. Has Addie talked to her?”

“No, she keeps sending her texts that she’s busy and will get back to her.”

“That’s bizarre. Let me try calling her and I’ll call you back.”

“Thanks.” Nick replied and hung up.

AJ called back a few minutes later. “I tried like five times and each time it went to voicemail.”

“See? That’s what I’m saying. I’ve been to her apartment every day for the last four days and I’ve gotten nowhere; she’s never around. You don’t think something happened to her do you?”

“I don’t think so.” AJ responded. “But something is definitely off. Why don’t you take a few days off from calling and see what happens?”

“That’s your advice?” Nick asked with an attitude. “Just stop calling her?”

“Yes. What do you want me to say?”

“How about break down her door and make sure she’s ok?”

“If she’s mad Nick, I don’t think that’s going to help. Just think about it.”

“Fine.” Nick said and hung up again.

-----------

Nick did what AJ suggested and another week had passed without him hearing from her. The whole situation was driving him crazy and he couldn’t grasp what was going on. They were doing so well and seemed like they were finally heading in the same direction and now nothing. He was willing to apologize for whatever he’d done if she would just tell him what he did.

Another week passed and Nick was starting to give up hope that anything would work at this point. This whole thing was going nowhere and he was spending most of his time obsessing over what might be wrong and what he should be doing. He’d been so preoccupied that he blew off some of his responsibilities to management. Eventually, they started breathing down his neck and he decided that maybe getting some work done might give him something to do.

He went to meet with a producer about some solo material and he was grateful for the distraction his work was providing. They worked into the night and by the time they were finished, Nick was exhausted. It was now one in the morning and the producer told him that he could use the studio and just to lock it up when he was done. He stayed for another half hour, locked everything up and headed towards his car.

Nick climbed in and rested his head on the back of his seat; all he wanted to do was get home and sleep. Turning the key in the ignition, he heard a disconcerting noise. He tried it again and this time nothing happened. Fan-fucking-tastic he said to himself, this was just what he needed. After trying a few more times, he gave up and pulled out his phone. Hopefully, he could get ahold of Howie and have him come pick him up.

Just as he started to dial, he remembered that Howie and Addie had gone away for the weekend. What was he supposed to do now? He didn’t know anyone in the area and he knew he was about two hours from his home. There was no cab company that was going to drive him that far. An idea popped into his head and he sighed; he could always try calling Emma and see if she answered. If she didn’t, he’d probably have to sleep in the studio for the night.

He dialed the familiar number and prayed to God that she might answer this one time. Apparently the big guy heard him and he was shocked when Emma answered after two rings.

“Hello?” she answered groggily.

“Emma? It’s Nick, please don’t hang up.”

He heard dead silence and silently pleaded with her not to hang up. He decided to talk fast and hope she answered.

“I know I’m the last person you want to talk to but I’m stuck at a studio and my car died. Its two hours away and I can’t get a cab company to pick me up. Howie and Addie are away and I wouldn’t ask you if I had any other choice.”

It took a few moments but he finally heard something.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Emma hung up and Nick leaned back against the seat. Hopefully she’d really come.

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

Emma showed up just as she said she would and found Nick sleeping in his car. She knocked on the window to get his attention and then headed back to her car. Waiting for him to lock up, she fiddled with the radio stations and settled on one that would allow her not to talk to him. He climbed in and she headed back to his house.

They drove in complete silence and the entire time Nick just wanted to ask her for answers. He knew that he shouldn’t push his luck but he needed to know what was going on. By the time she pulled into his driveway, he decided not to beat around the bush and just ask.

“Why haven’t I heard from you?”

Emma just sat there in silence.

“I have no idea what I did Emma. I would apologize for anything if I just knew what was going on. Please tell me what I did wrong.”

Still nothing.

“I want an answer Em.”

“Well, I don’t have to give you one. And if you don’t like that answer, then call Lauren the next time you need a ride!”
Jumping To Conclusions by Kyrie
“What?” Nick shouted.

“Call Lauren the next time you need something.”

“Why the hell would I call Lauren?”

“Because she seems to be back in town.”

Nick was trying to figure out what she was talking about. Suddenly it occurred to him that she had seen Lauren at his house that day.

“She’s not back Emma.”

“She was the other day.”

“Well, she didn’t stay. She just wanted to…”

“You don’t need to explain. You and she were bound to get back together again.”

“She came to tell me she was engaged.”

He could tell his statement had shocked her; her cheeks turned a bright red and she refused to look him in the eye.

“Nothing is going on. She sold the house we owned in California and wanted to give me half of the profit along with telling me she’s engaged.”

Nick waited for her to say something but she remained silent.

“I care about you Em and I thought that what we had was going to last. Deep down, I’m still hoping that it’s going to. I will do whatever it takes to fix this and make it work.”

“I don’t think that’s possible.” Emma finally replied. “Too much has happened in the past and I think that there’s too much water under that bridge. I’ve had a lot of time to think and maybe I don’t feel the same way that…”

“Bullshit.” Nick said.

“Excuse me?” Emma asked as she finally turned to face him.

“If you didn’t care about me then why did you come when I needed you? Why did you drive two hours to come pick me up when I got stuck?” He paused for a moment. “Why are you wearing my sweatshirt?”

Emma looked down and realized that she hadn’t taken off the shirt before she left. She’d spent every night of the past two weeks sleeping in Nick’s sweatshirt and she had forgotten to swap it for her jacket when she headed out. Pulling it over her head, she threw it over at Nick.

“There’s your sweatshirt and now you’re home.” she said avoiding his question. “Get out and let me go home.”

Nick noticed her eyes filling with tears and he wanted to pull her into his arms and not let go. He knew that what he wanted was not going to happen tonight and at this point, maybe never. Accepting the fact that he would have to wait, he climbed out of the truck and watched as Emma sped away.

He spent the next couple of hours tossing and turning, trying desperately to get some sleep; he finally gave up. Knowing that he had to do something to tell Emma how he felt, he decided to call her again. Instead of leaving one of his regular messages, he made a choice of singing instead of talking. Hopefully she would understand.

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

First time it rings
I can’t help but think of the first time I saw you
That moment I knew
Holding the phone tight, I hear the tone twice
If you just pick up, swear I can fix us

Every night feels like twenty-five to life
And this sentence I’ve been living is alone and unforgiven
And I’m guilty as charged ‘cause I went and broke your heart
But even I’ve got rights, you’re always gonna be my

One, always be my one phone call
All I want, all I need is one phone call
I’m gonna leave my message at the tone
Begging, “pretty baby, please come home.”
‘Cause you’re my one
Always be my one phone call

So let me make my case
And pray you won’t erase
The message that I’m leaving for you now
But if you do
At least you knew…***

He finished that line and hoped that she would listen to the message; he added one more thing before he hung up.

“I know this may be the cheesiest, most ridiculous message you could get but I swear it’s true Em. I don’t know how else to say this.” He paused. “I love you. I know I should have said it a long time ago and I messed up. I want to fix this more than anything and I will do whatever it takes. Please call me.”

------------
Emma listened to his message over and over again that night. She was so embarrassed that she’d been wrong about Lauren and that she accused Nick of doing something without getting all the information. The past had left her scarred and she was having trouble getting over it; she didn’t know if she ever would. She hated all the doubt that had crept back into her mind and that Nick felt like he was forced into begging for her attention. Something had to be done and it needed to be soon.

***Backstreet Boys “One Phone Call”
End Notes:
Sorry this chapter is so short!
Mixed Signals by Kyrie
Nick waited for her to call back and, as the days passed, the call never came. He tried again to reach her but it went straight to voicemail. After pleading his case and saying everything he could think of, he just felt empty; there was nothing more he could do.

AJ decided that he couldn’t watch Nick just wallow in the situation any longer so he convinced the other guys to plan a mini vacation for them to get away. They hadn’t done that in such a long time and he felt like everyone might get some peace out of it. Brian suggested Florida and a golfing trip which Kevin and Howie seconded; Nick said yes only to get AJ off his back. He knew what his friend was trying to do and, as much as he appreciated it, he just wanted to be left alone.

Two days into the trip, Nick returned to find a message on his cell phone. When he checked the log, he saw that it was Emma who had called. He raced into the suite living room where the guys were waiting for him to go to dinner.

“She called! She called!”

AJ smiled and motioned for him to check the message. He watched as Nick excitedly put in his password and waited to hear what she had to say. Over the course of listening to the message, Nick’s face went from elation to devastation. He looked as though he was in pain and the guys could tell that the conversation was not going the way he wanted it too. Finally, the message ended and Nick slammed the phone down.

“She doesn’t want to get back together.”

“Did she say that?”

“She didn’t have to.”

Nick handed AJ the phone and left the room. The guys put in on speakerphone and lowered the volume so Nick wouldn’t hear it again. They were surprised to hear the strains of a song they didn’t know come on instead of Emma’s voice.

The sound of your voice the touch of your skin
If we go there it will start all over again
So don't even call there no need for checking in
If it's really over let it just be over

No, we won't be sharing coffee or having lunch from time to time
I won't ask about your family please don't ask me about mine
This is never what I wanted and it's killing me to say
It just has to be this way

We gave all we could we fought the good fight
But no matter how we loved we just couldn't get it right
It hurts to let go but it's harder hanging on
I don't want it to be over but we know that it's over

No, we won't be sharing coffee or having lunch from time to time
I won't ask about your family please don't ask me about mine
This is never what I wanted and it's killing me to say
It just has to be this way

And even if I change my mind
Don't let me hurt me one more time
Stay away from me be as cold as you can be

No, we won't be sharing coffee or having lunch from time to time
I won't ask about your family please don't ask about mine
This is never what I wanted and it's killing me to say
It just has to be this way oh, it just has to be this way***

“Damn.” Brian said quietly. “I guess they’re not getting back together.”

“That sucks.” Kevin replied. “I know how much he wanted that.”

“Addie’s gonna be pissed.” Howie added.

“Seriously?” AJ said to the group. “Are you guys and Nick that thickheaded?”

“No.” Kevin responded. “That song says goodbye quite clearly.”

“No it’s doesn’t. That song screams I still love you but I don’t want to get keep getting hurt.”

***Reba McEntire – “It Just Has To Be This Way” http://www.last.fm/music/Reba+McEntire/_/It+Just+Has+To+Be+This+Way
-----------
Emma hung up the phone after making the call to Nick. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt him but this relationship couldn’t be played out like a yo-yo. She loved him more than she had ever loved anyone else and she had wanted it to work. This break had to happen because they couldn’t continue the way they were headed.

She sat down on the couch and picked up the envelope lying on the coffee table. The last few hours were spent reading all the information they had provided and making a list of the pros and cons. When she’d sent in her letter, she didn’t think there was any chance she’d get picked but there is was, offering her a way out. Any way seemed like the best avenue at the moment.

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

AJ spent half an hour roaming around the resort looking for his younger brother. He finally found him sitting on the sand, looking out over the water; he took a seat next to him and joined him in the silent meditation.

“Why isn’t this working?” Nick finally asked. “Why can’t she see how much I love her?”

“I think she does,” AJ replied, “and that’s what that whole song is about.”

“It’s about her leaving me.”

“No, it’s not.”

“I listened to the song AJ.”

“Well you didn’t listen well enough. The whole song is about two people being in love, trying the best they can and just having it not work out. She isn’t telling you she doesn’t love you, she’s saying she doesn’t want you both to keep hurting.”

“I’m only hurting when she’s not with me. I can deal with anything else, any fights, arguments, misunderstandings. The one thing I can’t deal with is knowing that we’re never going to have what we used to have.”

“Maybe you can.”

“How? It’s obvious that she doesn’t even want to talk to me.”

“So you’re gonna just give up?”

“What other choice do I have AJ?”

“Apparently none if this is how you’re gonna act.”

“Well since you understand this whole thing better than me, what’s your advice?” Nick asked with an attitude.

“Prove it.”

“Prove what?”

“How much you love her. When that whole thing happened with Lauren, Emma told you how much she loved you and instead of telling her you felt the same, you let her walk away. And, as evidenced by your attitude, you’ve resigned to doing it again.”

“I didn’t…”

“Yes you did. Instead of fighting for your relationship, you gave in. I guess you haven’t learned your lesson.”

Nick thought about what AJ was saying. As much as the advice pissed him off, he had to admit that AJ was right; he did give up last time.

“What do I do?”

“You make her talk to you. Not on the phone, or texting or through Howie and Addie. You force her to tell you to your face that she doesn’t want this anymore.”

“What if she says that exact thing?”

“Honestly? I don’t see her saying that. She sent you a message through a song on your phone. I have a hard time believing that she’ll be able to say that to you in person.”

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

Addie called Emma as soon as she got off the phone with Howie. She couldn’t believe what an idiot she was being and why on Earth she couldn’t get out of her own way.

“What were you thinking?” Addie shouted as soon as Emma answered.

“I’m doing what I have to.”

“You’re hurting Nick, destroying your relationship and for what? Because you’re scared?”

“I’m not scared.”

“Yes you are. And frankly, you are being ridiculous!”

“Thanks for the support.”

“I love you, you’re my best friend but I am not going to sit by and let you ruin something so important.”

“You don’t have a choice.”

“Does Nick?”

“No.” Emma answered quietly.

“What are you going to say when you see him around?”

“I won’t have to say anything.”

“Why not?”

“I’m leaving.”
Not Enough by Kyrie
Nick decided to follow AJ’s advice when they got home two days later. If Emma really wanted to break things off with him and walk away, she was gonna have to tell him face to face. He needed a chance to tell her how he felt and he was gonna get it, one way or another.

He planted himself outside her apartment that Saturday afternoon and waited patiently. Because her schedule hardly changed, he knew she would be heading to the park for a jog and then to the grocery store. He would have made a bet with anyone that she’d still do it and he was right; she left her apartment after he’d been there for thirty minutes and he followed her down to the park.

She was stretching before her run when she sensed someone walking up to her. Turning around quickly, she found Nick looking down at her with an expression that ran from sad to hurt to angry. Not wanting to have this conversation in public, she suggested going back to his truck to talk. Once they were settled, she waited a few moments before Nick began to talk.

“Why Emma? That’s all I really want to know.”

“Because we, mostly me, can’t keep doing this.”

“Doing what?”

“Keep having doubts every time someone comes into your life.”

“So don’t.”

“It’s not that easy and it’s not fair to you.”

“Why is it not fair to me?”

“I keep overreacting and you keep trying to reassure me. You shouldn’t have to apologize to me or try to prove how much you love me.”

“But I do love you.” Nick replied.

“I know.” Emma said with tears starting to form in her eyes. “I love you too.”

“Then why are we having this discussion?”

“Because it’s not that easy. Love shouldn’t have to be so much work and one person shouldn’t feel like they have to constantly remind the other one how much they care.”

“Love is work Emma, both people need to participate.”

“I know but sometimes loving each other just isn’t enough to make it work.”

“But we can make it work.”

“I don’t think we can, at least not now. I keep worrying about issues that might break us up or might hurt us. If I can’t get past that point, then I can’t open up to you like you need me to.”

“I’ll take whatever you can give me Em. We can work on this and make it better. I can deal with whatever I need to except you walking out again.”

“I’m sorry Nick but I just don’t believe this can work.”

Nick sat there and didn’t say anything. He was pouring his heart out and getting it broken in the process; why was love so hard?

“I have to tell you something else.”
“What?”

“I’m leaving.”

“What? When? Why?” Nick said so fast the words came tumbling out.

“In about two weeks.”

“Where are you going?”

“North Carolina.”

“What the hell is in North Carolina?”

“A new job.”

“I don’t understand, you already have a job.”

“I know but I’m going to take a sabbatical. One of the schools down there has a special English program they’d like to implement and they offered me a one year position.”

“Wait a minute. If you were moving in with me, were you still going to do it?”

“No, I didn’t know about it until last week. I applied and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get the position.”

Nick didn’t even know what to say. First she breaks up with him and then she tells him that she’s moving halfway down the eastern seaboard to take a job. He wanted to talk some sense into her and make her stay; the problem was that she already seemed to have her mind made up.

“I’m sorry Nick, for all of this. It’s my fault and I don’t want you to keep paying for my mistakes. You deserve to have someone in your life that won’t make you jump through hoops to keep them. Please understand that I’m doing what I think is best and it’s hurts me that I can’t be that person for you.”

Emma opened his passenger side door and climbed out. Before she closed it, she apologized again and headed back to her car. Instead of going out for a run, she got back in her car and drove out of the parking lot leaving Nick there to figure out what was happening.
--------------
She wasn’t surprised to hear from AJ that night.

“What the hell is going on?” he demanded when she picked up.

“I’m sorry AJ.”

“You shouldn’t be telling me that, you should be telling Nick.”

“I did.”

“Well your apology sucked.”

Emma knew she deserved that.

“I have no idea why you’re doing this but you need to stop. You love him and he loves you…”

“But it’s not enough AJ.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because I’m bad for Nick. Maybe he and the rest of you don’t see that but I am. Every time I have a doubt, he feels the need to prove to me how much he loves me. That’s not fair to him and I refuse to keep putting him through it. I totally understand if everyone hates me for this and if you never speak to me again, I earned that. Please be there for Nick and I’ll see you again. Maybe.”

She hung up the phone and made her way into her bedroom. Pulling up her email, she sent a message to the woman at the new school letting her know that she had booked a flight out for the end of the week. This whole situation was wrong and her heart was breaking because of what she was doing. Maybe she was being selfish or using this as a cop out, she just didn’t know what was left to do. She spent the next few hours packing her things and fell into bed exhausted.

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

Four days later:

Nick found out through Addie when and where Emma’s flight was taking out of. He was determined not to leave that airport without her and she was surprised to see him waiting in the terminal for her.

“What are you doing here?”

“Stopping you from making a mistake.”

“I’m not making a mistake Nick. Maybe you don’t see it this way, but I feel like I’m doing what’s best for everyone.”

“Stop deciding what’s best for me.”

She ignored his request. “You can find someone who makes you happy and who doesn’t need you to prove anything. I won’t be in the way and you won’t have to avoid anyone.”

“I want you to be in the way. I want you to be there in the morning when I wake up, at night when I go to sleep and every time in between. I don’t care if you think I am being strained too much. Let me make that decision myself.”

The attendant called her flight and she picked up her carry-on bag. Nick pulled on the strap and drew her as close to him as he could.

“I am begging you Em; please do not get on that plane. I love you more than I can tell you and it will break my heart if you leave.”

Tears started streaming down her face as she pulled away.

“I’m sorry Nick.”

She left him standing there as he watched her board her flight to North Carolina. He wanted to run out on the tarmac and stop her plane but he needed to resign himself to the fact that she was leaving. Emma had walked out of his life, probably for good this time, and as he headed back to the parking lot her words stuck in his head. Sometimes love just isn’t enough.
End Notes:
I know this isn't usually the way I like to leave a story and it's not my typical ending. I felt like this story needed to end this way and at some point in the future, I may take it up again; at least if anyone's interested! LOL Thank you all for taking the time to read and review; I know it takes time for you to do that and I truly appreciate it!
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