“You didn’t leave!” he exclaimed as he wrapped her in a hug.
“No.” she whispered in response. “Leighanne convinced me to stay. I just wanted to clean my face off.”
AJ pulled back and saw the faint tear stains on her face. He felt awful that he invited her over here and it turned out that it was like a lamb walking into a lion’s den. This wasn’t his intention when he originally asked her to come and he hoped it would get better from here.
“I’m sorry about Nick. I didn’t realize he was going to be an asshole.”
“It’s not your fault. I should have expected it.”
“Why would you expect someone to treat you like that?”
“I don’t know. They’re your family and they probably don’t trust me.
“Well I do and they’re just gonna have to deal with it. Either that or I’ll kick them out.”
“Don’t do that!” Max shouted. “If anyone should leave, it should be me.”
“You’re not going anywhere.” AJ said with fierce determination.
“This is not up for discussion.” he replied. “In fact, I’m taking you on a tour.”
“The house.” he said with a laugh. “How much have you already seen?”
“Um…the hallway and the bathroom?”
He chuckled, grabbed her hand and led her into the kitchen. She didn’t know what to expect and was shocked at the size of it.
“This could fit two of my apartments!”
The kitchen was beautiful with its hard wood floors, granite countertops and cherry wood cabinets with glass doors. She could see the stove had a professional chef’s hood and there was a gigantic stainless steel refrigerator next to it. There was an island attached to a small bar area in the middle of the kitchen and a small table set on the other side. It had been well designed with an open air plan and she could see the sunken living room off to the left hand side.
An enormous TV and entertainment center took up one of the solid walls with bookcases lining the other. The third wall was all glass and looked out over the patio and swimming pool. She could see how his property stretched all the way to where the beach began and how well maintained the flowers and shrubbery was; the view of a sunset must be amazing, she thought to herself.
Bringing her attention back to the living area, she noticed his plush tan sectional and matching recliners. There were two small end tables with a few CDs lying on top of them; she was surprised when she turned and saw that there were stacks of CDs and DVDs all over the bookcases.
“Bookcases are supposed to be used for books.” she teased.
“Hey! Just cuz book is in the title doesn’t mean they have to be everywhere.” He pointed to the bottom shelf. “See I have books there.”
“Those are magazines AJ.”
“Whatever, same difference.”
Max laughed and followed him towards the stairs. Just as they were starting up, the boys came up from downstairs and she came face to face with Nick again; AJ glared at him, almost daring him to say something. To Nick’s credit, he just mumbled a hello and proceeded out to the deck.
“Hi Max.” Howie said and stuck out his hand. “I’m Howie.”
Kevin gave her a small nod and a quick hello before following Howie out to the back. AJ let out a sigh and turned back towards the kitchen.
“How about we postpone the rest of the tour for later?”
Max shook her head in agreement and walked behind AJ all the way to the slider. As he opened it, Leighanne squeezed by and grabbed her hand.
“It’s freaking hot out there. I’m changing and heading to that beautiful pool of yours J.” she said tugging on Max’s arm. “You should come too.”
As much as she hated wearing a swimsuit in front of people, Max thought that this might be the perfect way to put some distance between her and the guys and let things calm down some. She turned towards AJ and shrugged her shoulders.
“Go ahead.” he said with a smile. “The water’s perfect. You can change in the bathroom in my room; it’ll give you some more privacy.”
Max grabbed her bag from the foyer and let Leighanne lead her upstairs and down the hall to AJ’s room. She was surprised by what she saw when she opened the door. The walls were done in a dark slate blue and the bed took up most of the room. There was a sliding door on the right, leading to a small balcony and the bathroom he mentioned was off to the left.
“Are you going to be ok?” Leighanne asked.
She nodded and watched as the older woman made her way back down the hall into what she assumed was a guest bedroom. Turning back around, she entered the bathroom and flipped the switch for the light. She began pulling her suit and towel out and closed the door before taking off her clothes. As she was finishing adjusting the straps on the suit, there was a quick knock on the door and, before she could grab a towel, AJ came barging in.
“I’m sorry.” he said quickly. “I just wanted to…”
AJ stopped mid-sentence and stared at her for a minute. She turned her back to him and his jaw dropped.
“What are those?”