“I didn’t think you’d be back….”
Emma stopped midsentence.
She just stood there and stared at him. They were both completely unnerved by each other and after a few seconds, Nick said the only thing he could think of.
“Um, I came by to drop these off.”
He handed Emma a brown paper bag. She looked inside and cocked her eyebrow. Hooking her finger through the straps, she pulled out the set of heels she’d worn to the wedding.
“You came all the way from Florida to bring me my shoes?”
“Well, not exactly.” Nick said as his words jumbled together. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d bring them to you. Thought you might need them.”
Emma cracked a small smile. “Really? Heels in the snow? I probably shouldn’t try it.”
Nick wanted to laugh but he wasn’t sure if he should dare. She hadn’t closed the door yet and he didn’t want to push his luck.
“Yeah, that was stupid.” He looked down at his feet. “Sorry.”
Emma didn’t say anything and neither did he. The silence was getting rapidly uncomfortable and Nick decided that this might not be the best idea. He checked on her like he told Howie he would and could tell him that she looked fine.
“Well that’s it. Just wanted to bring them to you. Have a good night.”
Nick left Emma standing there in the open doorway and sprinted down the stairs to his car. He was unlocking his door when he saw a car pull in behind. The occupant parked and stepped out; the man was a few inches shorter than Nick and appeared to be a few years older. He was about to ask him to move when he saw Emma bolt down the stairs in their direction.
She reached Nick the same time that her boyfriend did.
“Hi honey.” she said giving him a quick kiss. “Nick, this is Stephen.”
Alrighty then, Nick thought to himself. There were a dozen or so other names that he could think of using for him at the moment but he managed to extend his hand and introduce himself.
“It’s nice to meet you Stephen, I’m…”
“Nicholas. I recognize you.”
Nick didn’t know how to react to that so he explained that he’d just come by to drop off Emma’s shoes. He saw Stephen look at the shoes in Emma’s hand and turned back to him.
“I’m sure she appreciates it.”
“I do.” Emma added quickly.
Nick stared at her and saw a woman he didn’t recognize. She was standing there in the freezing cold, with no jacket, while snow collected on her hair. Holding onto the shoes like they were an anchor, she kept looking back and forth between the two men. Stephen voice finally broke Nick’s concentration.
“It looks like you were just leaving. I’ll move my car so you can get out.”
Stephen walked back down the drive and started his car. Nick turned around again to look at Emma.
“You’re soaked Em.”
Nick reached in the car to grab a sweatshirt for her but she pulled back and told him she was fine.
“Is something going on?”
“No.” Emma answered.
“Are you sure?” Nick asked with growing concern. “He seems…”
“He’s just not a people person.” Emma replied with a forced chuckle. “It’s fine. Be careful going home.”
Nick didn’t know whether he should leave or stay. Something seemed off and he started to ask Emma again.
“I’m fine Nick.” Emma said with a stern look. “Go home.”
“Ok.” Nick said with his hands up. He couldn’t force Emma to let him stay and he had to believe that she knew what was best. “You should get back inside.”
Emma nodded and raced back up the stairs. She yelled thank you and darted into the house. Nick turned his attention back to Stephen’s retreating car. He now understood why Addie and Howie hated him so much. Her boyfriend was a jackass and it made him concerned for Emma. Not knowing what to do, he backed his car out and pulled away. As soon as he was down the block, he hit speed dial.
“Hey J? You got a minute?”
Nick pulled into the driveway and turned the speaker off on his cell phone. He asked AJ to hold on and he made his way into the house. Once he put made sure the door was locked, he was back to finish his story.
“He’s an asshole, I’m telling you AJ. There’s something wrong with him.”
“I’m not disagreeing. What did Emma say?”
“She just kept telling me she was fine, like it was no big deal.”
“You don’t believe her?”
“No, she seemed so skittish. Totally unlike her.”
“And she kept saying nothing was wrong?”
“Yeah. Kept assuring me that everything was fine.”
“Maybe she’s really ok then. Maybe he’s just unfriendly.”
“Do you actually believe that McLean?”
“No, I’m just trying to talk myself out of flying out there.”
Nick appreciated the support; he knew his friend was probably already looking for flights.
“I get why Howie was so insistent about me coming up here.”
“You’re gonna stay up there right?”
“Absolutely! I’m not going anywhere until Howie and Addie are back here and settled in. I promised to keep an eye on her and I will.”
“Alright. You need to let me know if anything else happens.”
“You’ll be my first phone call.”