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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.


“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.”