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Nick’s interaction with Stephen bothered him for the next few days. He knew that Emma said everything was fine but he just didn’t buy it. It was eating at him so much that, against his reasons not to, he decided to head back to Emma’s. Hoping her schedule was still the same, he arrived to find no cars in the drive and he decided to wait; he sat on her porch for an hour before she got there.

“Hi Em.”

“Jesus Christ!” she yelled almost dropping her groceries. “What are you doing here Nick?”

“Just came over to say hi.” Nick answered as he grabbed two of her bags.

Emma tried to grab them back but he moved them away from her.

“Look, I know Addie and Howie probably asked you to check on me but I’m fine.”

“No they…”

“Yes they did and I’m fine. Call them and tell them and then go back to whatever it is that you came up here for.”

Emma made a grab for the groceries again but Nick was too quick and held them out of her reach. She grunted and realized that this wasn’t going to go her way so she unlocked and opened the door. Nick followed her down to the kitchen and set the bags down on the table. Something was wrong with this house he thought and made his way back down to the living room while Emma was distracted.

He found the room set up like it was in a museum, everything pristine and nothing out of place. This whole scene was so not Emma. There was no TV, no stereo and no pictures anywhere in the room. Totally distracted by what he was seeing, he missed the first time Emma told him to leave.

“Earth to Nick, you can leave now. You brought in the bags and did your duty, there’s no reason for you to stay any longer.”

He ignored and took a few more seconds to let everything sink in; something suddenly occurred to him and shook him out of his thoughts.

“Where’s Della?”

Emma’s eyes welled up and she walked over to the door. “It’s time for you to go Nick.”

He refused to budge and repeated his question. She continued to ignore him and by now she’d opened the door and thrust a hand out. Walking over to her, he shut the door and took a seat of the stairs leading to the second floor.

“You can stand by that door as long as you want but I’m not leaving until you answer my question.”

“Nick please…” Emma pleaded. “Just go.”


Emma couldn’t stand there and stare at him anymore so she took a seat in the living room. Not wanting to crowd her, Nick took the chair opposite her and waited.

It took her a few minutes to speak and when she did, she was barely audible through her tears.

“She passed away.”

“What?” Nick was shocked. “When? What happened?”

“About six months after you left. She developed hemangiosarcoma.”

“What the hell is that?”

“Cancer. It’s pretty common in dogs, especially golden retrievers.”

“But she wasn’t sick.”

“Apparently she was. The vet said that a lot of the time, you don’t even know a dog has it until they get sick. By then, the cancer has spread and there isn’t anything they can do about it.”

By this point, Emma had tears running down her face and she had trouble talking through her sobs. Nick couldn’t even imagine what this was like for her; Della had been her best friend for thirteen years. He knew that she had rescued her and that they were inseparable.

“I’m so sorry Em, I really am.”

He stood up and walked over to where she was, taking a seat next to her. Reaching out to put his arm around her, he was surprised when she scooted down the sofa and took a seat as far away from him as possible.

“Why didn’t you call me?” he asked after a few minutes.

“Why would I call you?” Emma replied, looking at him through her tears.

“We’re friends.”

“We were friends Nick.” she answered. “Everything ended when I left and nothing is going to change that.”

Nick didn’t know what to say. She was right about things changing but losing Della was extremely painful and he would have done whatever she needed.

“I would have come back.”

“Out of pity and guilt. I could handle it myself, I didn’t need you.” she paused for a minute. “And I don’t need you now.”

He was about to say something when they heard the door open and Stephen came into the room. The older man looked back and forth between the two several times before saying anything.

“Did you have more shoes to bring Emma?” he asked with a nasty tone.

“No.” Nick answered getting defensive. “I just came over to check on her.”

“Well as you can see, she’s fine.”

Stephen walked over to the door and opened it. Nick looked over at Emma and she asked him to leave again. He couldn’t start a fight so he decided his best option was to leave, at least for now. Stephen was wearing a nasty grin and Nick had to resist the urge to punch him in the face.

“You’ve seen her twice now and Emma is fine. I don’t think you’ll need to come over and check on her again.”

As soon as Nick stepped out onto the porch, her boyfriend slammed the door in his face. He wanted to break it down and go storming back in there but he had to control himself. Addie and Howie would be back in two days and he planned to have a serious conversation with them about how they could get rid of this asshole.