Chapter 46

AJ and Emily watched another movie as they ate their pizza. This time they both managed to stay awake the whole time.

When it was over, AJ asked, “Do you think Brian has any ice cream up there? I want dessert!”

Emily laughed. “The thing I’ve learned about Brian’s house is that there is always plenty of ice cream and cookies.”

“Great! Let’s go raid his freezer!” AJ said, going upstairs.

Emily followed him upstairs. They were in the process of scooping out the ice cream when Brian caught them. “Ah ha! I knew it!” he exclaimed.

“Knew what?” AJ asked.

“I knew you were going to steal my ice cream while you were here. You always do!” Brian said.

“Hey, it was Emily’s idea!” AJ said, winking at Emily.

Emily smiled at Brian, who studied her carefully.

“Right. I’m watching you, AJ.”

“What are you and Leighanne up to?” AJ asked, changing the subject.

“Watching TV. Care to join us?”

“Sure.” AJ said.

They all sat in the family room together. They started watching the dance version of American Idol. The boys made fun of all the hip hop dancers that came to audition. Then, there was a couple who came on to do some ballroom dancing.

“Oh my God! Their Tango form is all wrong!” Emily exclaimed.

Three pairs of eyes turned to look at her.

“You know how to tango?” AJ asked.

Emily blushed. “I used to take Ballroom lessons back home.”

“Aw, I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that!” Leighanne said.

“You should, it’s so much fun! I went just to learn your basic foxtrot and waltz but I got so into it that I kept on going, dancing in contests and shows and things.”

“Did you ever win?” Brian asked.

“Only a few times.”

“What did you dance?” AJ asked.

“Well, let’s see, my first contest I performed a Tango and Latin routine. The second one was Swing and The Hustle, and the third time I did the Viennese Waltz.”

“I had no idea you could dance!” AJ said.

“Well, I used to dance. It’s been a few years. I’m afraid I’d be a bit rusty now.” She admitted.

“Nah, it’s like riding a bike. You’ll never forget!” he said.

“Oh really? So you still remember all your dance moves?” she asked.

Brian laughed. “AJ was the only one who never forgot a dance step.”

“Can you ballroom?” Emily asked him.

“How do you think I started to learn how to dance?” AJ said.

The show came back from commercial and they continued to watch, laughing at the break-dancers and rooting for the good people.

Emily was beginning to feel sleepy again and excused herself to go to bed. She was startled when she turned around to see that AJ had followed her upstairs.

“What are you doing?” she asked him.

“I’m going to tuck you in!” he said. He waited while she got changed and caught her trying to scratch her back.

“Emily! No scratching allowed!” he scolded.

“But my skin itches!!!” she complained.

“Get me some lotion; I’ll put it on for you.”

He followed her into the bathroom and watched her open a cabinet full of lotions and perfumes and various body products.

“Good God, girl. Do you have enough stuff from Bath and Body Works?” he exclaimed, examining her collection.

“Shut up!” she said, laughing at his expression. “I used to work there. Not only did I have a discount but sometimes I’d get stuff for free. It’s like an addiction.”

“Be careful, or I’ll send Kevin in here to talk to you about it!” AJ said.

“Funny!” Emily said sarcastically.

“Do you have any stuff for guys in that collection?”

“Actually…” Emily said, digging into the back of the cabinet, “I do!” she said, resurfacing with a bottle of shower gel and cologne. “You can have it; I certainly have no use for it!”

AJ laughed. “I was kidding; I didn’t actually think you’d have anything. Thanks!”

Emily handed him a bottle of the lotion she’d chosen.

“Tahiti, Sweetie?” he said, reading the scent out loud. “What the hell does that smell like?”

“Peaches and coconut.” Emily answered. “Do you want the salesgirl pitch on it?”

“No, that’s ok.”

Emily lifted up the back of her shirt so he could apply the lotion. He took his time rubbing it in. “Better?” he asked when he was done.

“Much. Thank you.” She said.

“Good, now get into bed!” he ordered. “By the way, are there any other hidden talents you have that I don’t know about?”

Emily looked at him and smiled. “Oh believe me, I’ve got hidden talents, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find out what they are someday!” she winked at him.

“Would that be a promise or a threat?” AJ asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“I’d say a little bit of both.” She answered.

Emily climbed into bed and AJ pulled the covers up over her and turned out her light. “Goodnight, Em. I’ll see you in the morning.” He said. He kissed her forehead gently and quietly walked out of her room.

Leaving her room was one of the hardest things he’d done. He wanted nothing more than to curl up next to her and hold her all night. Instead, he went back downstairs to the kitchen.

He bumped into Brian who was making some popcorn. He took one look at AJ’s face and walked straight over to the freezer, removing the carton of ice cream and handing it over to AJ.

“Thanks.” AJ muttered.

“So how are things going?” Brian asked.

“Slow but steady I guess. We had a nice talk this afternoon, you know, the personal getting to know you kind of stuff. It was a nice day.”

Brian patted him on the back. “She’ll come around. Just give her some time.” and left him to his ice cream.


Chapter 47

Emily woke up early the next morning feeling even better. Upon examination of herself in the mirror, she found that she only had one pox left on her face and a few left on her arms and legs. She got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast.

“Good morning!” she said to Brian and Leighanne. She searched the kitchen for AJ.

“He’s not up yet.” Brian said.

“Who?” Emily asked, playing dumb.

“You know who.” He smiled at her.

“Baylee’s never up this early!” she kept up her act.

Brian rolled his eyes at her and she smiled back at him as she poured herself a bowl of cereal.

“What kind are you having today?” Brian asked.

“Fruity Pebbles. You?”

“Golden Crisp.” He answered.

“You two and your sugary cereals, I swear!” Leighanne said.

“Don’t mind her; she only eats low fat, low sugar low taste cereal.” Brian said, kissing Leighanne on the cheek as he got up. Leighanne rolled her eyes at him.

“Emily, the movers are moving all the stuff out of your apartment today. Is there any furniture that you don’t want put in storage?” Brian asked.

“Oh crap! I completely forgot that today was Saturday!” Emily said, smacking herself in the head.

“Hard to keep track of the days when you got the pox, huh?” AJ said, coming up behind her.

“I don’t think there’s anything. Honestly, there isn’t that much worth salvaging. My couch and mattress got sliced up when it was robbed. They can just throw those things away I guess. What about all my clothes and things?”

“They’re going to be boxed up and brought over here. You can go through them and unpack and then whatever you don’t want we can send into storage later.” Brian said. “Also, this was messengered over this morning.” He handed her an envelope.

“It’s from my insurance company.” She said, opening it up. “Oh! It’s my check to replace all the stuff that was stolen! Cool!”

AJ peered over her shoulder and took a look at the check. “Jeez, what all did they take? That’s a lot of money!”

“Well, it’s to replace the TV, DVD player, stereo, laptop, printer, and then all the furniture. Feel like helping me pick out some new stuff? We’ll just order it online.”

“Sure! You know me and shopping. It’s my other addiction.” AJ replied.

Emily smiled. “Do I need to get Kevin to come and have a talk with you about it?”

AJ laughed, but Brian didn’t seem to think it was the least bit funny.

“Sorry, man, it’s kind of an inside joke thing.” AJ explained.

“Whatever.” Brian mumbled, as he left the room.

“Do you think he’s pissed?” Emily whispered.

“Brian? No, he just hates being reminded about that day.” Leighanne said. “Whenever he starts saying how painful it was for him, I remind him that I did give birth to his son without drugs and I was in labor for 48 hours. That usually shuts him up pretty quickly.”

“As well it should!” Emily laughed.

AJ and Emily went into the den and began their online shopping. Together they picked out a new digital camera, a top of the line laptop, photo printer, flat screen TV and a new stereo system.

“You’re not going to have any money left for furniture!” he said as they ordered her DVD player, new DVD’s and a Ti-Vo.”

“I know! Since I’m living here for awhile, I don’t really need it right now and I make enough money that when I need it, I can afford it. Having nice electronics is more fun.”

A few hours later, the boxes from her apartment started arriving. The movers carried them up to her room and AJ helped her unpack.

“AJ, I am capable of moving boxes around.” She said as he took yet another box out of her arms.

“I know, but you’ve been sick and I’m a gentleman. A gentleman never lets the lady do all the lifting.”

“Right, just all the cooking and cleaning.” She muttered.

“I resent that! I like to pamper my ladies and that means they don’t have to do that stuff if they don’t want to.”

“Actually, I like to cook. I especially like to bake. My great-grandfather owned a bakery. I think it’s in my blood.” Emily said.

“Any chance you might bake while I’m here?” AJ asked.

“What do you like?”

“Chocolate.”

“Have you ever had chocolate pudding cake?” Emily asked.

“No, but I like chocolate, I like pudding, and I like cake so I think I would love it.” AJ answered.

“Good. I’ll make you one tomorrow.”

“Why tomorrow?” he asked, setting down another box of clothes.

“Because I’m cooking dinner for everyone as a kind of thank you.”

“Do you need an assistant chef? I’m pretty handy in the kitchen.”

“Sure!”

“Where do you want these books?” he asked, pointing to a stack on her bed.

“Set them in the nightstand drawer.” She said, hanging up some sweaters.

AJ opened her drawer and noticed a blue photo album in there. “Family pictures?” he asked.

Emily looked up and saw him picking up her scrapbook. “Yeah. It’s kind of personal.” She said, taking it from him and putting it back.

That only made AJ want to look at it even more, but left it there and put the books on top of it.

AJ and Emily finished up the unpacking and decided to go for a swim before dinner. She met him at the pool wearing her blue tankini swimsuit.

“What, no bikini?” he teased.

“Nope. I don’t like them.” Like I’d really flash my stretch-marks to you! She thought.

“Too bad.” AJ muttered, diving in the pool. The cold water was good for him, seeing her so scantily clad in a swimsuit almost threw him over the edge. “Are you getting in or what?” he asked.

“I will, I just like to do it slowly.”

“Ah. So you like it slow?” he teased.

“Sometimes. Although, sometimes it’s good just to jump right in.” she said, catching his innuendo.

AJ swam up to her and put his hands on her waist as she sat on the edge of the pool.

“AJ, do not pull me in here!” He grinned at her. “I mean it! You will pay dearly!”

AJ didn’t care. He grabbed hold of her and pulled her down into the water. Emily screamed.

“I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!” she said, splashing water in his face. He laughed and swam away from her.

“Come on, Em! You’re so cute when you’re mad!”

Emily squinted her eyes at him. She hated being told she was cute when she was mad. She just wanted people to think she was scary and intimidating when she was mad. It never worked though.

They swam around the pool a bit, trying to splash and dunk each other before they grew tired and climbed onto the rafts and peacefully floated around the pool.

Emily waited long enough to be sure that he was relaxed and zoned out before slipping off of her raft and sneaking up to him. Before he even noticed her there, she had successfully tipped his raft over and sent him back into the water. She had high-tailed it out of the pool before he came up but he was quick to chase after her.

“Oh you’re really going to get it now!” he said, laughing.

“I told you that you would pay dearly if you pulled me into the pool!” she responded. They were at a standstill, each one at the opposite end of the table on the deck.

“You know, we can do this one of two ways. Either you can surrender now and get it over with, or you can make me chase you. Either way, I will get you.” AJ said.

“Oh yeah? What are you going to do?”

“Well if I told you, it wouldn’t be as fun would it?”

Emily looked past his shoulder. “Hi Baylee!” she said.

AJ turned around to look and Emily took her chance to run.

“You cheater! Baylee wasn’t even there!” AJ yelled after her.

Emily laughed. She ran all over the yard but he was faster and his legs were longer. It wasn’t long before he had her pinned.

“I told you I would catch you.” He whispered, as he backed her up to the tree she was trying to hide behind. He leaned his arms on the tree so that she was trapped.

“So you caught me. Now what?” she said, meeting his gaze.

“This.” He whispered. He leaned in ever so slowly. She knew what was coming, and she didn’t care. He kissed her, ever so softly and ever so slowly. It was just the one kiss. He pulled his head back and smiled at her.

“Was that so bad?” he asked.

Emily pretended to think. “I’ve had better….” She smiled.

“Woman, you’re impossible!” he laughed.

They came back inside to get cleaned up for dinner. They were all sitting down to a spaghetti dinner with Baylee announced, “Daddy, I saw Uncle AJ and Miss. Emily kissing outside!”

AJ laughed and Emily blushed furiously. Brian flashed her a goofy grin before trying to explain to Baylee that it isn’t always appropriate to tell people the things that you see.

Chapter 48

The next morning AJ woke Emily up early. He was about to learn a very important lesson about her. She was not a friendly person if you woke her up.

“What?” she asked.

“It’s time to get up.” He whispered, sitting next to her on the bed.

She tried to push him off the bed. “Says who?”

“Says me! Come on, we’re going to church with Brian and Leighanne.”

“Says who?” she said, still trying to get him off her bed.

“Says me!” he said again, trying to pull her blanket back.

Emily sighed and snatched her blanket back.

AJ laughed. “Come on, Em. You can do it!”

“No! I want to go back to sleep.” She muttered, pulling the blanket over her head.

“Fine. Suit yourself.” AJ said, leaving the room.

Not two minutes later, someone else was sitting on her bed.

“Miss. Emily, Uncle AJ says to come and tell you that I want you to get up and come to church with me.”

Emily peeked her head out from under the blanket and smiled as she saw Baylee sitting there in his dress shirt and tie.

“Baylee, go tell Uncle AJ that I’m getting up and that if he wakes me up again, he’ll be in trouble.”

“Like a time out?” Baylee asked.

“Exactly.” Emily said, sitting up.

“Ok.” Baylee said, running out of her room. Emily laughed when she heard Baylee tell AJ that she was in fact up but that if he woke her up again he was going to get a time out on the naughty stool.

AJ stuck his head into her room long enough to say, “Emily, you can turn me naughty whenever you want.”

Emily was surprised that no one bothered them at church. Leighanne noticed her surprise. “We’ve been coming here for so long that everyone just expects to see us. They’re all pretty good about discouraging people from bothering us.”

They dropped Baylee off at Sunday school and took their seats. Emily sat in between Leighanne and AJ. She realized just how awkward it was to sit next to him when it came time to sing the first hymn. Sure, she was a music major, but certainly not a vocal major. And here she was, sitting next to a famous singer and trying not to sing too loud for fear that he would hear her.

When they were walking out of the church, AJ smiled at her.

“I know what you’re going to say!” Emily cut him off. “How is it that a girl with a music degree can’t sing, right?”

AJ laughed. “Not at all. Just because you’re not an opera singer doesn’t mean you can’t carry a pitch. You have a lovely voice.”

Emily blushed. “You’re just saying that to be nice.”

“Seriously. You can sing in tune, unlike half the people on the demo tapes I get all the time.”

“Yeah well, don’t count on me singing you to sleep or anything. I sing only in church and in the car. Occasionally in the shower but only when no one is home. I don’t sing in front of people and I certainly don’t sing in front of pop stars!”

AJ laughed again. “Well, now I’ve got me a good dare for next time we play Truth or Dare.”

Emily swatted at him. “Now that’s just cruel!” she laughed.

Brian and Leighanne took Baylee swimming while Emily and AJ went to work cooking dinner.

“What are we making?” AJ asked, peering over her shoulder at the cookbook.

“We are making orange pork chops with mandarin orange couscous, fresh green beans and a chop salad. And you already know what dessert is.”

“We’re going to make all that?” AJ asked, amazed.

“Scared?” she taunted.

“Never!”

She put him to work on the salad, showing him exactly how she wanted it in the bowl. “It goes in layers. Lettuce, onion, broccoli, carrots, raisins, sunflower seeds.”

“I think I can handle making a salad, Emily.” AJ insisted.

They spent the next few hours preparing, and as soon as Emily had the cake in the oven, they set the food on the table and called everyone to sit down.

“This looks great, Emily!” Leighanne said.

Everyone ate up their food and they were all enjoying dessert when Brian announced that he and Leighanne were going to be traveling to Kentucky to visit his family on Tuesday.

“It’s my mom’s birthday.” He explained. “So, you’ve got yourself some vacation time this week. Then next week, we’re going to New York for some album stuff so you’ll be back to official nanny duty.”

Emily nodded.

“How long are you staying, AJ?” Brian asked.

AJ grinned at him. It just so happened that he knew Brian was going out of town and had changed his travel plans in order to spend more time with Emily.

“Oh, probably next weekend.”

Emily tried hard to conceal her pleasure at having him for another week although she felt certain that this was some kind of set up between Brian and AJ.


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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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