“This had better be go…..”
Kevin’s statement was cut short when he saw his little brother. Nick had tears streaming down his face and he looked like someone had punched him in the gut. They followed him into the room and watched as he slumped down onto the couch and dropped his head into his hands. AJ reached over and draped his arm around the younger man’s shoulders, Brian pulled up a chair so he could be in front of Nick and Kevin perched on the arm of the sofa.
“What happened?” Brian finally asked.
All Nick could do was shake his head.
“Is it Emma?” AJ tried to be as calm as he could and Nick nodded.
“Is she alright?” Kevin interrupted. “Is that why Howie’s not here?”
Nick took a deep breath. “I didn’t call him.”
All three men were shocked by Nick’s admission. They knew how close the two of them had gotten and for Nick to not call him, there really was something serious going on.
“Is Emma ok? Did something happen to her?”
“She’s fine, but she’s not gonna be when I get home.” Nick answered, a few more tears sliding down his face. “She’s gonna hate me.”
“Ok.” AJ said. “I love you man but you need to be clearer. You called us and you need to tell us why.”
“Lauren was here.”
“And she kissed me.”
“That’s a little bit of a problem.” Kevin responded. “But I’m sure Emma will understand. It’s not like you kissed her back.”
Nick’s head drooped and he started running his fingers through his hair.
“Damn!” AJ swore. “What were you thinking?”
“I don’t know. It just happened.”
“Kissing someone doesn’t just happen, Nick.”
Brian put his hand on AJ’s arm and shook his head. He knew his brother was mad but this wasn’t helping the situation.
“Is that why Howie wasn’t invited?” Kevin inquired.
“I couldn’t tell him. He would have to keep it from Addie and I don’t want to put him in that situation.”
Nobody really knew what to say. They knew Howie would be in a bad position if Nick told him and understood why he wasn’t invited to the powwow.
“Are you gonna call Emma?”
“I can’t tell her over the phone. That’s not right.” Nick said quietly and ran his hand over his face.
“I hate to do this,” AJ said looking at Kevin and Brian, “but you two should leave. I wanna talk to Nick and you guys shouldn’t hear any more than you need to.”
Kevin started to protest but Nick cut him off.
“He’s right; I shouldn’t have called all of you.”
It was Brian’s turn to protest but AJ waved him off.
Nick nodded his agreement and the two cousins headed for the door. Once AJ was sure they were gone, he smacked Nick as hard as he could on the back of the head.
“Those two are gonna coddle you but I’m not. Are you stupid? Emma loves and trusts you. I have never met a woman better suited for you and you decide to mess it up by kissing your ex!”
“She kissed me…”
“I don’t wanna hear it. You didn’t have to kiss her back. Why on Earth would you do something like that?”
“I don’t know AJ!” Nick said finally pulling himself together. “I really don’t know.”
AJ tried to calm himself down and asked the next question carefully.
“What do you want?”
“What’d you mean, what do I want?”
“I mean exactly what I said. If you’re gonna go home and spill everything to Emma, she’s gonna expect you to make some kind of decision. You need to make that decision before you get there. Either you tell Emma, beg for her forgiveness, hope she says yes and live happily ever after or you tell her and break her heart. Which one is it?”
“I don’t want to hurt her.”
“I think she’s gonna be hurt either way but are you planning to fix her broken heart or just finish it off?”
“I want to be with her but some of the feelings I had for Lauren came back tonight when she kissed me. I mean we spent four years together.”
AJ shook his head. “I love you but I’m gonna put it out on the table. Do you love Lauren more than Emma or are you gonna choose Lauren because she’s easier?”
“What the hell does that mean?” Nick asked angrily. “Lauren’s not easy!”
“That’s not what I meant. Lauren broke your heart a few months ago and you survived it. Emma helped. If you’re thinking about choosing Lauren, it means one of two things. You love Lauren more or you can handle her breaking your heart again.”
“I still don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“You’re thickheaded! Are you picking Lauren because you’re afraid of what will happen if Emma breaks your heart? Are you gonna hurt her and pick Lauren because you’re terrified that you won’t survive if Em breaks your heart first?”