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“Nick? Nick? Wake up sleepyhead.”

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

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

“About ten.”

“Damn, we slept late.”

Emma smiled and stood up. “I wanted to wake you before I left.”

“Where are you going?” Nick asked. He was surprised by the anxiety in his voice.

“I’m going to pick up Della.”

“Can you wait a few minutes? I’ll get changed and come with you.”

“You don’t have to do that. I’m pretty sure I can handle her on my own.”

“No, I want to.”

Emma smiled and walked over to the door. “Five minutes buddy.”

Nick nodded and jumped out of bed when she left. He threw on his clothes and raced downstairs.

“Wow!” Emma exclaimed. “I think that was a record.”

“Well I thought you’d be in a rush to pick up Della.”

“I am but I don’t want you to break something.” Emma said with a laugh. “I would have waited the full five minutes you know.”

“That’s awful nice of you!”

Nick followed Emma to the car and the two chatted on the way to the kennel. Emma seemed to be in better spirits than the night before and Nick was able to make her laugh a few times. They decided to drive down to the Cape and let Della have some run around time before they headed back to Addie’s. Emma had just opened the door to release Della and before she could stop her, the dog was jumping all over Nick.

“Calm down girl!” Nick yelped. “I know you missed me but it’s only been a couple of days!”

Emma laughed and attached Della’s leash to her collar. She handed it over to Nick and started down the same path they had taken when they first came.

“I love this place.” Emma said quietly after a few minutes. “It’s so peaceful.”

The weather had gotten much cooler and the two of them seemed to be the only ones on the trail today. Nick didn’t mind and it seemed to help Emma relax.

“I can tell by the look on your face. You look much calmer, more comfortable.”

“I am. I’ve always liked being outside when it’s cooler and the being around water seems to do something for me. Kind of eases my mind.”

“How come you live in the city then?”

“It’s too expensive to live down here. I could never afford it on a teacher’s salary.”

“But you’d love to.”

Emma nodded.

“You need to start doing things that you’d like not just stuff for everyone else.”

“I know. Maybe if I got a raise or something.”

“How long are you gonna be at Addie’s?” Nick asked, changing the subject slightly.

“I don’t know. I don’t want to stay and intrude on her and Howie. The problem is, I can’t afford a house by myself and there are very few decent apartments that will allow me to keep Della. There is no way I am giving her up.”

“Absolutely not. You two are a package deal!” Nick said with a smile. “You can’t have one without the other.”

“I like that.” Emma laughed. “A package deal.”

“Thought you would.”

Emma started to shiver and wrapped her arm around herself. Nick noticed and draped his arm over her shoulder. He pulled her into his side tightly and kept walking. She was cold but she didn’t want anyone to see them and get the wrong idea. Nick stopped when she tried to pull away.

“Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“No.” Emma said quietly. “I just don’t know who’s out here. What if someone takes your picture and you have your arm wrapped around me? I don’t think Lauren would appreciate it.”

Nick was touched that she was looking out for him. He decided that they should head back to Addie’s before Emma got any colder.

“Sorry for cutting our trip short.” Emma said.

“Don’t be. I didn’t realize it would be this cold out here.”

They got Della settled on a blanket in the backseat and started the drive back to the house. Nick took the scenic route and went down by the water. He wanted to see the houses that Emma was talking about. After driving a few minutes, Emma’s face lit up.

“I love this house. I’ve always loved it.”

She pointed to a house that sat off from the street somewhat. It was a medium sized craftsman home that had a beautiful porch that wound around to the side of the house. Nick could tell that the walkway led down to the beach because he could see the waves crashing behind it. The front yard was beautifully maintained and it had a two car garage off to the side. It was painted a light blue with white trim and there was white wicker furniture on the porch. Even though they weren’t able to see the inside, Nick could tell that Emma loved it.

“It’s for sale.” Nick said and pointed at the sign on the lawn.

Emma laughed loudly. “Just because I love it doesn’t mean I can afford it.”

“Don’t you even want to ask?”

“I can’t afford it Nick but thank you for stopping so I could see it.” Emma said sadly. “Let’s just head back to Addie’s. They’re probably waiting for us.”

Emma turned her head away from the window and curled up further into the seat. Her body language told him that there was no point in continuing to talk about it so he pulled away from the curb and started driving again.


Nick dropped Emma off and headed back to the hotel. The four of them had made plans for dinner and he wanted to shower and change before they went out. He had just stepped out of the bathroom when he noticed the message light blinking on the phone. Picking it up, he dialed into the voicemail service and made himself a silent reminder to buy a new cell phone. There was one message and he tensed listening to it.

“Hi Nick, its Lauren. I tried calling your cell but it seems to be out of service. I called Howie and he said that you flew back out east. I’m sorry that you were aggravated when I talked to you last time.”

Aggravated? He was pissed.

“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be gone for the next two months. I thought I should tell you in case you were thinking about staying out there.”

Geez, thanks for giving me permission Lauren, he thought.

“I’ll be out of the country but I’ll try to call you as often as I can.”

She’ll try to call me? Nick was getting more aggravated the longer he listened.

“I love you Nick but you need to start understanding how I feel. I’ll call you soon. Love you.”

If the phone didn’t belong to the hotel, he would have picked it up and thrown it across the room. He loved Lauren but this was bullshit. Their relationship was a top priority for him but he wasn’t gonna sit around and wait for Lauren to call him.

He hung up and started to dial Howie’s number. Before he hit the last digit, he thought better of it and hung up. What was the point of canceling dinner? There was nothing to do here except for sitting around and be pissed all night. At least if he went out with everyone, he could forget about it for a little while.