Chapter 40

Emily woke up the next morning feeling better but only slightly less itchy. She decided that there was probably no way Leighanne would let her come downstairs so she settled for visiting Baylee instead.

“Miss. Emily you look funny!” Baylee said, laughing as he saw all of her chicken pox.

“So do you!” Emily said.

“Mommy won’t let me go downstairs.” He pouted.

“She won’t let me down either. We’re prisoners!”

“Do you want to watch a video with me?” Baylee offered.

“Sure, why not? What are we going to watch?”

“Lady and the Tramp. Daddy got it for me yesterday.”

“That was nice of him!”

Baylee moved over and made room for Emily next to him in his bed. They turned on the movie and watched together and Emily eventually ended up falling asleep. Leighanne came in to check on Baylee an hour later and found that both of them had fallen asleep during the movie. She shut off the TV and covered them up with a blanket before grabbing her camera and capturing the moment.

Leighanne bumped into AJ in the hallway, who had gone looking for Emily.

“She’s asleep with Baylee. Take a peek, it’s adorable.”

AJ did just that. He quietly opened Baylee’s door and smiled at the sight. Emily was lying on her side, her arm around Baylee. The sunlight through the window was hitting her blonde hair making it shine. After a few minutes, he shut the door and decided to go outside to do some serious thinking on the porch swing.

“Penny for your thoughts.” A voice behind him said.

AJ jumped and turned his head. “What are you doing out of bed?”

“Leighanne had to go out, so I escaped. I’m sure I’ll pay for it when she gets back, but it’s totally worth it.” Emily explained, smiling down at him.

“Care to join me?” he offered, scooting over to make room for her.

“I’d love to!” Emily sat down next to him. “So what are you thinking about out here? You looked so serious.”

AJ turned to look at her. There she was, chicken pox and all, and she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She’d combed her shoulder-length blonde hair and put on a pair of khaki shorts that hugged her just right on the hips. She was all woman. Not too lean, not too curvy. Just right, he thought. And she had the most beautiful blue eyes he’d ever seen.

He stoked her hair. “You’ve gone curly today!” he said, playing with her curls.

“I didn’t feel like straightening it. This is what happens when I don’t do my hair.”

“I like it.” AJ said, softly.

“Is everything ok?” Emily was concerned. He seemed so nervous and apprehensive.

“Actually, I’m glad that you came out here. I want to talk to you about something.”

Emily met his gaze. “Talk away.” She was beginning to feel pretty nervous herself.

AJ turned to face her. “Shit, this is awkward.” He muttered, never realizing how difficult it would be to spill his guts to her.

Emily reached out and took his hand in hers. “It’s ok; just say whatever’s on your mind. I promise I won’t bite!”

AJ took a deep breath. “I’ve got girl problems.” He admitted.

“Oh?” Emily asked.

“Yeah. There’s this girl. She’s so beautiful and sexy and ever since I first laid eyes on her, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. But it’s not just her looks. She’s kind and smart and incredibly funny.”

“But?” Emily prodded.

“But I’m not sure she knows I exist.” AJ couldn’t look her in the eye.

“AJ, you’re famous! I’m sure she knows you exist. Nearly every female in the world knows you exist!”

“Not like that. She knows I’m alive, but she doesn’t look at me the same way I look at her.” He finally found the courage to look her in the eye.

As soon as AJ’s eyes met hers, she immediately knew what he was talking about. She swallowed hard. “Then she’s a damn fool for not noticing sooner.”

They held gazes for a minute before AJ responded. “You’re not a fool, Emily.”

Emily cleared her throat. “So, um, have you thought about telling her exactly how you feel?” she decided that playing along with this hypothetical situation was much easier.

“I have, but I’m afraid of what she might say.”

“You mean, you’re afraid she won’t feel the same way that you do?”

“Yeah, pretty much. I’m not sure I could stand it if she turned me down.”

Emily had to think for a minute. She could feel all these emotions rushing on her at once. It was overwhelming and she was completely caught off guard by it. She felt shaky and her voice quivered as she spoke. “Then maybe you shouldn’t tell her.”

AJ immediately looked up at her. She wasn’t looking at him but had her eyes closed and her head down. He understood, but that didn’t mean he liked it.

“You don’t think that hearing exactly how I felt would help change her mind?” he asked.

“I don’t think so. Maybe she just needs a friend right now. Maybe she likes you but is too wrapped up in her own selfish problems that she can’t handle anything else right now but to have you as a friend would be a blessing because she doesn’t have very many friends lately.”

“Do you think that if she and I got to be really good friends that someday, she might reconsider?” he asked, looking for a little hope in the situation.

“I think that’s always a possibility.” She answered, finally looking him in the eye.

They stared at each other for a few minutes before he finally broke the painful silence. “Aren’t you worried Leighanne’s going to catch you out of bed?”

“Not really. I think being out here with you is just what the doctor ordered.” She leaned her head on his chest and he wrapped his arms around her.

“Are you chilly? Your arms feel cold.” He noticed.

“Not really. I guess I’m just anxious.” She answered.

“What about?”

She smiled as she answered, “Apparently, I’ve got boy troubles.”

AJ smiled. “Do you want to tell me about it?”

Emily yawned. “Maybe tomorrow.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and inhaled his scent. He always smelled good. It was an intoxicating and sensuous scent that she could never get enough of. He tightened his hold on her and stroked her arm gently. They sat out there, not talking, just sitting and rocking in the swing until it got too chilly and AJ made Emily go back inside.


Chapter 41

Emily was trying to sneak back into her room without being caught by Leighanne she bumped into Brian in the hallway.

“And just what do you think you’re doing out of bed?” he asked.

“I just went for some fresh air. Are you going to tell on me?”

“No. I was supposed to be watching you. If she finds out you got out, I’ll be in just as much trouble.” He admitted.

Emily laughed. “Good, then it’ll be our little secret. Is Baylee asleep?”

“Yeah, after two stories and three jokes.” Brian was lingering in the doorway to her room.

“What’s up Brian?” Emily asked, noting the uneasy expression on his face.

“So, I was in the kitchen getting a drink when I happened to look out the window and saw you with AJ……”

“And?” Emily asked.

“Well, you two looked like you were having a very serious conversation. Is everything ok?”

Emily sighed. “You just don’t quit, do you?”

“No.” he stated.

“Everything is ok. Yes, we had a serious discussion and no, it probably didn’t go the way you and AJ would have hoped. Any other questions?”

“No. Yes…do you believe in signs?”

“Like stop signs?” she asked with a hint of sarcasm.

“Like, a sign telling you that you’re about to make a huge mistake, that kind of thing?”

Emily thought for a moment. “I guess if the sign was clear enough I’d believe it.”

Brian handed her a piece of paper. “Consider this your sign.” He grinned at her and left her to the piece of paper.

Emily had to laugh as she read it. Brian had written, “STOP! You’re doing the wrong thing!”

She was about to go to bed when she changed her mind. Hearing Leighanne had come home, she chose to use the intercom instead.

“Brian, can you come up here?” she said into the speaker box.

Brian must not have been too far because he was there within seconds.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

“Come in and have a seat.” Emily said, gesturing to the couch in her sitting room.

Brian did as he told and looked at her expectantly.

“I want to talk about your sign.” She said. “Tell me exactly what it is you think I’m doing wrong and why.”

Brian was silent for a second. “I’m sorry if it came off the wrong way, I didn’t mean it to be mean or anything.”

“No, I’m not mad, really. But you seem so damn adamant about it that I want to know why.”

“Women. Always needing a reason why. Alright, listen, it’s not rocket science. He likes you a lot. You seem like you like him a lot. Whatever the obstacles might be, don’t you think you owe it to yourselves to at least give it a chance?”

“Of course I do. Now how do you know that now is the time to give it a chance?” she responded.

“Why would you wait?”

“Because I’m trying to work through some stuff and I don’t want to drag him through it with me. He’s got his own stuff to work through. Maybe he’d be better off with someone who doesn’t have stuff.” She tried to explain.

“Just what is this stuff you keep referring to? Have you talked to him about it? I don’t think he’d care.”

“I know he wouldn’t care, but I would.”

“Have you ever thought that he’d be better off with someone who has ‘stuff’ to work through, that a person with ‘stuff’ might understand him and his ‘stuff’ better?”

“I don’t think it works that way.”

“Emily, quit being such a damn skeptic. Look, I haven’t seen AJ this obsessed over someone in a long time. I know that I haven’t known you all that long and I don’t know all that much about your life but in the short time you’ve been here, you’ve dealt with some pretty shitty things and to be honest, having someone there for you might do you some good. Give it some more thought ok? Just sleep on it.”

“Ok. But you have to promise me that you’ll respect my decision.”

“I promise. Now go to bed.”

“You’re starting to sound like your wife.” Emily said.

“I heard that!” Leighanne called from the hallway.


Chapter 42

The next morning, Emily woke up feeling much less itchy and well rested. She decided she’d had enough of being trapped in her room and went downstairs for breakfast whether Leighanne liked it or not.

“Good morning!” AJ greeted her, looking up from the table.

“Morning.” She mumbled. “Is there coffee?”

“Sit down; I’ll get it for you.” AJ said, getting up from his chair.

“Cream, no sugar please.” Emily answered.

“Can I get you some eggs?” he asked.

“Eggs sound wonderful. Where is everyone?”

“Brian and Leighanne are outside playing with Baylee. They couldn’t keep him in bed any longer.”

“I’m glad he’s feeling better.” Emily said, taking a sip of her hot coffee.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better.” AJ said.

“AJ…about yesterday…” she started.

“Don’t mention it.” He said.

“But I…”

“Really. We don’t have to talk about it. Let’s just concentrate on being good friends.”

“What are you doing today?” she asked, changing the subject.

“I thought I’d spend the day hanging out with you.”

Emily laughed. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing much today.”

AJ thought for a moment. “How about this. We’ll have a nice picnic lunch out in Brian’s back yard. Then we’ll go down into his theater room and watch some TV or movies and for dinner, we’ll order in a pizza.”

“That sounds like a plan to me.” Emily smiled at him, watching as he made the eggs. She was amazed that even early in the morning, having just rolled out of bed and making a mess as he cooked scrambled eggs, he still managed to look incredibly sexy.

They ate breakfast together in an awkward silence. He had a bruised ego from being rejected which, let’s face it, never happens to AJ. She felt bad for hurting him and felt stupid for letting him go.

AJ went upstairs to take a shower and Emily went outside to find Brian.

“Hi Miss. Emily!” Baylee yelled from his swing.

Emily waved at him.

“Hey Emily! How are you feeling?” Leighanne asked.

“I feel pretty good today. Brian, can I talk to you for a second?”

“Sure.” She and Brian stepped out of Baylee’s earshot. “What’s up?”

“Well, I’ve been kind of out of it for the last few days. I was wondering what’s going on with the whole tabloid thing.”

Brian sighed. “Not much.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“Good, I guess. Our press release was accepted very well. We even managed to make it onto CNN, talking about how tabloids are getting away with making false accusations against people. Other than that, it seems to be dying down.”

Emily breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. I was worried that you hadn’t mentioned it because it had gotten worse or something.”

“Nah, I just didn’t want to bother you while you were sick. Our lawyers are working on a case against White, but it doesn’t look like it’ll hold up. We don’t have any proof that it was him who leaked the story until we can track down his private detective he had following you.”

“What are the odds of that happening?” She asked grimly.

“Not good but we’re working on it.”

Emily nodded. “Keep me posted, ok?”

“I will, I promise. Someone’s looking for you.” He said, gesturing to AJ who was walking towards them. Emily met him halfway.

“Everything ok?” he asked. “You and Brian looked pretty serious.”

“Everything is fine; I was just asking him what’s going on with the tabloid shit.”

“And?”

“Nothing new to report.” She shrugged. “I thought you were taking a shower.”

“I’m going, but I have a surprise for you first.”

“For me?” she was surprised.

“Yes, you. Follow me.” AJ grabbed her hand and pulled her inside and upstairs to her room.

“AJ, exactly what kind of surprise are we talking about here?”

“Get your mind out of the gutter, Em. It’s in the bathroom.”

Emily walked into the bathroom and found that AJ had drawn her a hot bath complete with more oatmeal bath.

She looked at him with a questioning look.

“I just want to make sure that you’re not all itchy for our day of fun together!”

Emily smiled at him. “That’s very thoughtful, thank you!” she gave him a hug.

“Now, you have a nice long soak while I get dressed and get our picnic ready!”

Emily shooed him out of her bathroom and slipped into the tub. She was feeling nervous about spending the day with him. She knew she shouldn’t, it wasn’t like she hadn’t spent time with him before, and it also wasn’t like they hadn’t talked about their feelings before. Yet it was still different. If she didn’t know better, she’d say it was a date. And as long as she didn’t have to call it that, she was ok.


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"Never Gone" is a work of fiction.
The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2006
All Rights Reserved
No part of this text may be copied or reprinted
without the author's permission.

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