Emma dropped her bag and whipped around to find AJ standing behind her with a smile.
“What are you doing here?”
“What? No hug?” he asked with puppy dog eyes. “I haven’t seen you in three years and I don’t even get a hug?”
She blushed and wrapped her arms around him. “I wasn’t sure you’d want one.”
“I’ll always want one.” AJ responded with a tight embrace and picked up her bag. “Nothing’s changed between you and I, Feisty.”
Some measure of relief flooded over her as she took his hand and followed him down to the parking garage. She had been terrified that all of the guys would hate her for what happened so she was happy that at least one of them didn’t. And, to be honest, she wasn’t surprised that it would be AJ because he always seemed to go out of his way to support her.
He helped her with loading the bags and then started the Denali, heading it out onto the highway. They drove in silence for a while partly because Emma didn’t know what to say and partly because AJ didn’t want to overstep his bounds. Finally, he couldn’t take the silence and jumped right into it.
“You know Nick’s here right?”
“I figured.” Emma said and dropped her head down. “I assume the other guys are here too?”
“Yep.” he confirmed. “You know they’re mad right?”
Emma nodded. “They have every right to be.”
“No they don’t.” AJ stated with certainty and his response completely surprised her.
“How do you figure that?”
“It’s not our business.” AJ sighed. “You and Nick have both hurt each other at different times but absolutely none of that is our business.”
Emma just stared at him.
“I’m serious. We got aggravated with Nick when he hurt you and it wasn’t any easier when you hurt him. But the fact is that you’re both adults and you need to deal with your issues without any of us butting in. We tried that before and it didn’t work out well.”
“I wish the others felt the same as you.” she whispered.
“They will when I talk to them.”
AJ left it at that and pulled into the hotel. After checking in and bringing her bags upstairs, he informed her that he was going to bring her over to the hospital to see Addie. She hesitated and tried to persuade him to let her go on her own, but he wouldn’t hear it. There was no way he was going to let her walk into a situation where she felt ganged up on. He knew he was risking pissing off the other guys, especially Nick, but he truly cared about Emma and wasn’t going to let her feel as though she was completely alone.
He waited for her to change and then escorted her down to the SUV to begin the short ride to the hospital. On the ride up to the floor where Addie was located, he squeezed her hand and gave her a smile to reassure her that someone didn’t have a problem with her.
Trailing him off the elevator, they headed to Addie’s room but were stopped by a nurse. She explained that Addie had been brought down for an ultrasound and it would be a little bit before she would be back up. The woman explained that there was a waiting room around the corner and AJ warned Emma that it was where the guys had been hanging out.
“Are you ready for this?” he asked with sympathy. “We can see if she’ll let you wait in the room.”
“No.” Emma replied quietly. “I’m going to have to face them eventually so I might as well get it over with.”
She followed AJ down to the room that the nurse had pointed out; the moment she entered, she regretted telling AJ that she was ready. The first person she locked eyes with was Nick whose anger at her being here, as well as being behind AJ, came rushing to the surface.
“You brought her here?” Nick hissed as he stormed past them, almost knocking Emma out of the way.
Tears started to form in her eyes as she looked around and came face to face with Kevin, Brian and Howie. None of them had the same reaction as Nick but none of the three made any motion to welcome her there. She sat in a chair that AJ had steered her to and watched as he signaled for the other men to follow him. As soon as the last one was through the door, the tears started to fall and she grabbed a handful of tissues to put in front of her face so that people wouldn’t hear her cry.
“What were you thinking?” Howie demanded as the four of them made their way onto the balcony. “Not only is she here but YOU brought her here; she came with YOU.”
“Yes Howard, I know she came with me, I brought her here!” AJ answered amused.
Kevin started rubbing his temples which always meant that dad was going to say something. It surprised AJ though that Brian spoke first.
“Didn’t you think that would piss Nick off?”
“I did but she was going to come here anyway. I wanted her to feel…”
“You’re worried about her feelings?” Kevin finally asked his eyes getting darker. “What about how Nick feels?”
AJ was working really hard to keep his frustration in check but he was starting to lose patience.
“What about Nick’s feelings? Nick’s feelings? What about Emma’s feelings? Just in case you didn’t notice she has them too! And I’m pretty sure being ganged up on by all of you is killing her.”
“We’re not ganging…”
“Yes you are.” AJ shouted. “I know what Emma did sucked and I know how bad it hurt Nick. But in case you forgot, he did the same thing to her and we weren’t being jerks to him.”
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Kevin reminded his younger brother. “Besides, that was different.”
“Really?” AJ asked. “How is hurting someone different from hurting someone else? I know two wrongs don’t make a right but to be perfectly honest, it’s not our business. This is something between Emma and Nick; it has nothing to do with us or Addie and as adults, we need to stay out of it.”
“I can’t go in there and hug her.” Howie stated. “Even for Addie…”
“I’m not saying you have to be bffs but we need to be civil to her. A hello from one of you isn’t going to kill anyone and Addie should be the reason we do it.” AJ turned to Howie. “Did Addie kick Nick out of your wedding because he hurt Emma?”
“No.” Howie admitted slowly.
“Right, so why are we basically doing that to her friend, her sister? Everyone needs to be here to appreciate and celebrate a terrific time in you and Addie’s lives and frankly, if everyone keeps acting like an asshole, the celebration’s gonna suck.”
None of the guys could disagree with that. Addie had held a grudge against Nick but she always made it clear that he was welcome at their house and that he was family even if she was pissed off. The three men stared at AJ as they came to their individual conclusions that it was going to be miserable for everyone if they couldn’t find some way of getting along. It took a little bit but they finally agreed that, although they weren’t going to be overly friendly, they would put aside the difficulty between Nick and Emma and leave it up to them to deal with.