Chapter 43

AJ knocked on her bedroom door just as Emily was finished getting dressed. She decided to at least try and look decent in spite of her chicken pox. It was a warm day so she wore a pink polo t-shirt and khaki Capri pants. She left her hair curly, just for him.

“Are you ready?” he asked, eyeing her up and down.

“Yes I am!” She took note that AJ too had decided to try and look nice. He was wearing black pants and a tight fitting, white v-neck shirt.

AJ offered her his arm and escorted her outside. She had no idea where he’d hidden his picnic spot as he led her through the trees and down to a little stream.

“Here we are!” he announced.

“Wow! Is this all Brian’s land?” she asked, amazed.

“His property stops just on the other side of this stream. I’m surprised he didn’t give you a tour of his woods!”

“I had no idea!” Emily said as she sat down on the blanket he had laid out for them.

“It’s a nice day out, isn’t it?” he asked, looking up at the sky through the trees.

“Beautiful. Thank you for doing all of this.”

“Well, it’s a special occasion!” he said.

“Oh really? And what occasion would it be?”

“Well, two really. One, it’s the first day that Leighanne actually let you out of bed without you sneaking out. And two, it’s the official kick-off to our special friendship. So today, we’re spending the day bonding and getting to know each other.”

“I always knew you were into bondage.” Emily said, winking at him.

“That, my dear, is a special occasion for another day!”’

They ate their lunch, which consisted of strawberries, turkey sandwiches, potato chips and cookies.

Stuffed, Emily lay down on the blanket and stared up at the trees.

“So, let’s play a little game.” He suggested.

“What kind of game?” she asked, raising her head up and squinting through the sun at him.

“Well, kind of like truth or dare. We ask each other personal questions and if it’s something you don’t want to answer, you have to take a dare.”

“Exactly what kind of dares are we talking about, because when I played this in college I ended up doing some pretty scandalous things.” She said.

“Nothing too scandalous, I promise. Just silly things.”

Emily had a feeling she wouldn’t want to fall back on AJ’s dares and hoped that he didn’t ask her too many questions she didn’t want to answer.

“Ok, you ask first.” She relented.

“Great! Ok, let’s see. Tell me about your last boyfriend.”

“Boy, you don’t beat around the bush do you?”

“Nope.” He replied.

“His name was Joe. We’d been together for 2 years when things started to turn pretty sour. He blamed me for a lot of things, I don’t really know if they were true or not. We were actually engaged when he ended it. Things got hard, he couldn’t handle it, and he took off. Actually, I never heard from him. He never actually broke off the engagement or broke up with me, he just….left. Not even a goodbye. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.”

AJ was quiet for a minute. “Is that why you moved to Atlanta?”

“Not exactly. That all happened before I even became a nanny. The whole thing with Kent White just pushed me over the edge and I just wanted to get away from everything. So I moved. I took out a map, closed my eyes and pointed and that’s how I came to pick Atlanta. I’m just lucky I didn’t pick some hick town in Wyoming or something. Now it’s my turn to ask.”

“Ask away.” AJ said.

“Tell me about your last girlfriend.”

Emily saw a look of hurt cross his face for the briefest of moments before he answered.

“She stood by me through a lot of my bullshit. She was there through my rehab; she helped pick me up when I was down. Then, she cheated on me and I was never able to get past that and I don’t think she was either.”

“Why do you think she cheated?” Emily asked, carefully.

“To get back at me.” He was looking at his hands now.

“For what?”

AJ was quiet. “Dare.” He said.

“Huh?” Emily was confused.

“I’m taking a dare on that one.”

“Oooooh. Hmm…what should I make you do? Let’s see…..ah! I’ve got it!”

“Oh God.” AJ moaned.

“I dare you to give me a back massage!”

AJ laughed. “Emily, that’s hardly a dare. A dare should be like, embarrassing or scary or funny.”

“Well, it’s embarrassing for me to let you massage my back when it’s still covered with chicken pox, but I’ve been laying in bed forever and my back hurts!”

Emily rolled onto her stomach and AJ straddled her, working from her neck and shoulders down, and then back up again. Every time he hit a knot, Emily groaned with delight.

Damn, if only she knew what all that moaning does to a guy!” AJ thought.


Chapter 44

When AJ was done with his dare massage, Emily rolled back over onto her back.

“Well, now it’s been established that you give the best massages, and I fully plan to exploit your skills. I believe it’s your turn to ask a question.”

“Ok. What happened that was so tough between you and this Joe guy?”

Emily looked down. “Dare.”

“Finally! She takes a dare! I’ve been waiting for this moment. I dare you to go on a date with me!”

“AJ…”

“Not the romantic kind of date, just a friendly date. Out on the town. You and me.”

“Can I have another dare to pick from?”

“What’s the matter, you chicken?” he taunted.

Emily narrowed her eyes at him. “Nobody calls me chicken!”

“Then do we have a date?”

“We have a date. So long as you know that you only get a date with me because you blackmailed me into it!”

“Honey I’ll take a date with you any way I can get it. Now ask me my question.”

“What made you finally decide to go into rehab?”

“Kevin.” He answered.

“Kevin?” Emily asked.

“Yeah, Kevin did. I’m surprised you don’t know the story, every other fan out there does.”

Emily laughed. “Who said I was a fan?”

AJ gasped. “You’re not a fan? All this time I thought you were so smart……” he mocked anger.

“Well, to be honest, I used to listen to your very early stuff, but then when I went to college people kept making fun of me for liking you guys so much that I kind of became a closet fan and then eventually I just…moved on. Hell, I didn’t even recognize Brian right away. Doesn’t mean I don’t like your music though.”

“So, you were ashamed of us?”

“No, I was ashamed of myself for caring so much what other people thought of me.”

“I guess I can see where you’re coming from on that one. Do you at least own all of our albums?” he asked.

Emily blushed. “No. My collection stops at Millennium.”

“We will remedy that immediately.”

“Fine. Now back to Kevin.” Emily changed the subject.

“He saved my life.” AJ said softly. “I truly believe that if it weren’t for him, I’d be dead. I had sunk to a new low and the guys staged an intervention at the hotel. Me, being the doped up jerk I was back then, didn’t want to hear anything about it. Harsh things were said, but Kevin was the only one who wouldn’t back down. He practically pounded the door down and he showed me no mercy. He was brutal, and he was honest. I know now that he hated every minute of having to do that to me, but he knew what he had to do and he was right. He shattered my tough guy exterior and exposed me for who I really was, an emotional basket case. After awhile, things calmed down and he and I talked all night. The next day, I was on a plane to rehab.”

Emily was touched at the closeness AJ felt to the guys, his brothers. “I sure as hell would not want a pissed off Kevin coming after me, that’s for sure. It was bad enough the first day I met him.”

AJ laughed. “He told me about that. He was pretty embarrassed. Kevin seems like a real tough guy, but he can be one big teddy bear too.”

“How have things been going since you left rehab?” Emily asked, carefully.

“You mean have I used since then?”

“I’m sorry; you don’t have to answer that.” Emily blushed.

“It’s ok. One of the things I learned there was to be honest about my addictions. I care about you, and I want you to understand this because it’s a huge part of my life.”

Emily nodded.

“I haven’t used drugs since I left. I don’t even think I’ve ever really even had the desire to. Drinking, I slipped once. When I found out she cheated. I think I just wanted to spite her. I had one beer and then I realized what I’d done. I’ve never had a drop since then.”

“That’s wonderful.” Emily said, meeting his eyes.

“I’ve had a lot of support to get me through. Now, it’s my turn to ask another question.”

“Take your best shot.” Emily said.

“Tell me about the guy you dated before Joe.”

“What’s with all the questions about my boyfriends?” Emily asked.

“Sometimes, when you want to build new bridges you have to go back and fix the broken ones first. I just want to know which bridges were burned so I can fix them and build new ones with you.”

Emily was touched. “His name was Matt. He cheated on me.” That was all she was going to volunteer.

“So you’ve been through a lot with your last relationships, huh? Going through that, it really made me grateful to have my best friends to get me through.” AJ was digging for more information.

Emily’s face fell. “I didn’t really have any friends left by then. I had a really great best friend, but things didn’t exactly go well between us.”

“What happened?”

Emily sighed. “She slept with my boyfriend.”

“Matt?” AJ asked.

Emily nodded. “It was three days after my father’s funeral. Matt was from out of town and he came to visit me. Things hadn’t been the best between us lately and he had the nerve to tell me that if it hadn’t been for my dad dying, he never would have come to see me. My friend, Kate, she took a liking to him and spent the night in his hotel. I tried so hard to forgive her because I had just lost my dad and I really needed her friendship. But after a few months I realized that I just couldn’t get past it.”

Tears were escaping Emily’s eyes and rolling down her face. She tried to rub them away before he could see.

“What happened to your dad?” AJ asked, gently.

“He had a massive heart attack in his sleep. He was completely healthy. Not overweight, he exercised, young. It was completely random and unexpected. It tore my family apart because none of us knew how to deal with it. Matt still tries to talk to me every once in awhile, acting like nothing ever happened. Sometimes I just daydream about what I’d really like to say to him.”

AJ took her into his arms and hugged her. He couldn’t think of anything comforting to say, so he just held her in silence.

I sure have a lot of work to do to rebuild those bridges.” He said to himself.


Chapter 45

AJ and Emily talked some more, asking more light-hearted questions and enjoying each other’s company.

Emily looked up at the sky and curse. “AJ, we’d better get our butts back inside, it’s about to storm on us!”

AJ looked up. “Well shit!” he said. They picked up their things and started back just as the rain started to pour.

“Great! I’m going to catch pneumonia and Leighanne will never let me out of bed again!” Emily moaned.

They decided not to even bother trying to run back, they were already soaking. Instead they laughed and enjoyed the wet walk home.

Brian laughed as he saw them walking back up to the house. They looked like a couple of drowned rats. He grabbed some towels out of the laundry room and handed them each one as they came inside.

“Did you guys go swimming in your clothes?” Baylee asked.

They went upstairs to put on some dry clothes before meeting back in the basement. Emily chose a pink sweat suit, feeling chilly after being in the rain. She wore a white tank top under the jacket, which she left unzipped. AJ put on some black athletic pants and a blue t-shirt.

They met down in the theater room.

“You know, the only time I’ve ever been in here was when Brian showed me around the house. I never even go into the basement!” Emily said, sitting down on the black leather couch.

AJ laughed. “So, movie or television?”

Emily looked at her watch and grinned. “How brave do you feel?” she asked.

“I’m always brave!” AJ responded.

“Well, we’re just in time to watch my soap!”

“That depends entirely on which one you watch.” AJ said.

“Days of Our Lives all the way baby!”

AJ smiled. “Good. That’s the only one I’ll watch.”

Emily’s eyes widened. “You watch Days?”

“Well, when you’re trapped on a tour bus all day long, you gain an appreciation for daytime television real quick.”

Emily laughed as she turned it to the right channel.

“You’ll have to catch me up; it’s been awhile since I’ve watched. Is that one guy still dying?”

“Yeah he’s still dying but he faked his death so his family thinks he’s already dead. Now she just found out she’s pregnant but not with her husband’s baby. He’s in love with his best friend’s wife. She still has amnesia after waking up from her 10 year coma. She just drugged that guy there to get him to sleep with her. And him…he’s the new villain. He is secretly controlling them all!” Emily said, pointing out all the characters on screen.

AJ and Emily watched the show in silence, laughing at all the corny love scenes and the fact that they always seem to talk to themselves on that show.

When it was over, AJ exclaimed. “Damn! Now I have to watch tomorrow to see what happens to the blind guy trapped in the mine!”

Emily laughed. “I’m sure he’ll escape just in time, don’t worry. Do you want to pick out a movie to watch?”

“Sure.” AJ said, getting up to go through Brian’s collection. “Romance, comedy, drama, action…take your pick.”

“How about an action film.”

“I got it!” AJ said. “Twister!”

Emily laughed. “You like that movie?”

“You don’t?!?”

“I didn’t say that, I’m just surprised that you do.”

“I like storms.” AJ said, as the thunder continued to rumble outside.

“I do too. Whenever there’s a hurricane, I stay up all night and watch the coverage on the weather channel.”

AJ turned out the lights and they watched the movie together. About halfway through, Emily started to feel tired and leaned her had against his shoulder. She didn’t notice AJ’s sharp intake of breath as he reveled in the feeling of her closeness. He reached his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. Normally, when he was watching a movie with a girl, this would be the point he would put the moves on her. But not with Emily. Not only did he not want to rush into it this time around, he was finally getting her to open up and he certainly didn’t want to scare her off.

Emily dozed off somewhere in the middle of the movie, waking in time to catch the last scene.

“Did you have a good nap?” AJ asked her when it was over.

“I did! Sorry for falling asleep on you!”

“It’s no problem. I took a bit of a nap myself. Are you ready to order the pizza?”

“Yeah!” Emily exclaimed. “What kind of toppings do you like?”

“Pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, pineapple….almost anything.”

“How about one meat lovers pizza and one ham and pineapple pizza?” Emily suggested.

“Sounds good to me.”

“Wait right here, I’ll go order it!” Emily said, going upstairs to find the phone number to the pizza place.

When she placed the order, Brian came into the room. “You kids need a chaperone down there?”

Emily laughed. “No, Dad. AJ is being a perfect gentleman.”

“Are you having a good time?”

Emily smiled at him. She knew what he was trying to get at. “Yes, I am.”


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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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