“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?”
“Then there’s your answer.”
“So you think I should talk to her?”
“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.”
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.”
He pulled her close and buried his head in her shoulder.
“Don’t leave tonight.” Nick pleaded. “I want you to stay.”
“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.”
“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.