For the first six months after she’d left, he shut everyone out. He was so angry for allowing himself to love her and then have her turn on him; her absence dashed any hopes that he had of renewing what they had. Then Lauren showed up on his doorstep a year later and they managed to scrape some semblance of a relationship together; it didn’t last long and they decided to just go their separate ways and stay out of each other’s lives. Being together was only a band aid for both of them and Nick was tired of being in relationships just so that he could be with someone.
He had dated a few women for a couple of weeks but there wasn’t anyone who managed to catch and keep his attention. After being burned so many times, he kept his distance and never really allowed himself to open up. There was no chance in hell that he would set himself up to be hurt like that again and it made him jaded. When he broke up with the fourth woman, he wrote off romance all together and focused on rebooting his solo career.
After he checked in, dropped off his luggage and gave himself a pep talk, he headed over to the hospital and was surprised to see no Emma. He figured with Addie being so close to giving birth, Emma would be right by her side but he only found the other guys when he got there.
“Hey, there’s the late one!” AJ called out as his brother entered the waiting room. “You need to make a big entrance don’t you?”
He hugged the other guys and settled into one of the armchairs. “How are they?” he asked Brian.
“Ok. I guess the baby’s being stubborn and Addie will probably have to be induced in a couple of days.”
Nick nodded and sat back to wait with the others. Brian and Kevin left the room occasionally to check on things at home but AJ seemed pretty determined to keep an eye on his little brother. After about forty minutes of him doing his hovering thing, Nick called him out on it.
“What’s up with the looks?” Nick asked after Brian and Kevin left to get coffee.
“Nothing. Just happy you’re here.”
“Bullshit.” he responded. “You don’t have to worry about me.”
“Who said anything about worrying. I just…”
“You just think I’m going to fall apart the minute she walks in.” Nick paused to see if his brother would acknowledge the issue but continued when he didn’t say anything. “I knew this was going to be hard when Howie asked me to come but he and Addie deserve to have everyone in their corner for this. It’s a huge deal for both of them and Emma is as much Addie’s family as we are Howie’s.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s easy.” AJ remarked as he took a seat next to his younger brother. “I know how badly you were hurt when…”
Nick stood up. “I really don’t want to talk about this right now. I had to prepare myself to come here and face her. I just want to get it over with.”
“Rip the band aid off huh?”
“Yeah. I want to see her, deal with the uncomfortable stuff and then get back to our lives.”
Before AJ could say anything else, Howie came down to join the guys and give his wife a break to talk to the nurse.
“Hey man.” Howie said as he hugged Nick. “I’m glad you made it out here in time.”
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” Nick headed for the doorway. “I’m gonna get some coffee.”
Both men watched as their friend left the room before talking about the issue at hand.
“Where’s Emma?” AJ asked bluntly.
“Not coming till tomorrow, thank God. I needed to make sure Nick had some time to settle and deal with the fact that he was going to see her again.”
“Are you still mad at her?”
AJ asked his friend with the hopes that he would say no. He knew that Emma had broken Nick’s heart when she left but he seemed like the only one who remembered that Nick had broken hers in the first place. That wasn’t an excuse for how she behaved and what she did but it felt like she was going to be the brunt of everyone’s anxiety and he didn’t think it was healthy for anyone to make this into a bigger deal than necessary. He didn’t want to sit by and watch everyone wage a war on her.
“Kind of.” Howie answered honestly. “She really did a number on Nick when she left. Don’t you remember what he was like?”
“I do but I don’t think that everyone being pissed at her is going to help.”
“Are you forgiving her?” Howie asked surprised.
“I don’t think it’s our place to blame or forgive her. I think that’s up to Nick and I really think we should all keep out of it. It’s going to make matters worse for you and Addie if both of your families are on opposite sides. We, Emma included, all need to be here for you guys right now and everything else can wait for another time.”
“I appreciate the fact that you’re concerned for us J but we’ll manage. I’m not sure I can say the same for Nick.”