“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.”
“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?”
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.”
“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.”