Once the cake was eaten, it was time for one of Emily’s favorite parts of a birthday party: presents!
Baylee went first, who presented her with a picture taken of the two of them at the zoo in a frame made of elbow macaroni and painted blue.
“Did you make this all by yourself, Baylee?” Emily asked as she admired his work.
Baylee was beaming. “Yeah, except for Daddy had to help me get the glue off my hands.”
Emily laughed. “Thank you very much. I love it! I’m going to put it right next to my bed.”
Next, Brian gave her a box from LA. “This one’s from Kevin and Kristin.”
Emily tore open the packaging and pulled out a gorgeous deep blue sweater made of mohair yarn.
“Oh wow! She must have made this herself!” Emily said, holding the sweater up for everyone to see.
Leighanne came over to examine. “That is gorgeous, and it’s so soft!”
Emily pulled out a note from Kevin and laughed as she read it.
Happy Birthday Emily!
By now I’m sure you’re wondering exactly how I helped Kristin pick this out, aren’t you? (Actually, she was wondering that….) Well, Kristin took me to the yarn store and made me pick out a color. Hope you like it, I certainly can’t take credit for making it! (But she did let me hold a knitting needle once.)
Kevin and Kristin
Emily passed the note around, explaining that Kevin had just told her over the phone that Kristin picked it out and he helped.
Next up, Leighanne handed her a brightly wrapped box with a pretty pink bow on top.
“This is to make up for Brian’s dog!” she said as she set the box on Emily’s lap.
Emily had no idea what Leighanne was talking about until she had the box unwrapped and saw the letters on the package.
“Oh you guys! You shouldn’t have!” Emily gasped, pulling out a brand new pair of dance shoes to replace the ones Tyke had for lunch.
“Well, my dog did ruin your pair. It was only fair to replace them!” Brian admitted.
“I know but these are the top of the line shoes!” Emily had seen these shoes before at contests, and she knew how much they cost.
“Only the best for the best, right Brian?” AJ smiled.
“Exactly. And, next month you’ll be able to put them to good use at the first annual Backstreet Ball.” Brian added.
“What’s the Backstreet Ball?” Emily asked.
“The Backstreet Ball is a very formal, black tie event to raise money and awareness to a whole round of charities. But it will also be a more private ball. Friends, family, staff, interested society members. No media inside, because it’s also going to double as our holiday bash.” Brian answered.
Emily nodded. “That sounds like fun! So I take it there will be dancing?”
AJ rolled his eyes. “We didn’t call it a ‘ball’ for nothing.”
Emily rolled her eyes right back at him.
Next came AJ’s presents. Emily was a little concerned. She really didn’t know what to expect from him and was worried it might not be appropriate for Baylee to see.
First he handed her a tiny box. A box women all around the world instantly recognize as one thing. Jewelry. She carefully untied the ribbon around the blue velvet and opened up the lid.
“AJ! It’s beautiful!”
AJ had given her a beautiful necklace. It was one of those diamond circles that had been made so popular by being one of Oprah’s Favorite Things.
“Do you like it?” he asked, suddenly feeling insecure.
“I love it!” she said, leaning over to kiss him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He felt very relieved. He liked giving women jewelry but he always had a hell of a time deciding what they would like. He took the necklace from Emily’s hands and fastened it around her neck.
“That’s gorgeous!” Leighanne admired.
Baylee couldn’t take it any longer. “Uncle AJ! Give her the big box, give her the big box!”
Emily laughed and looked over at the boy, realizing he knew what was inside the big box and was getting tired of keeping the secret.
“Ok, Little Dude. Relax!” AJ said, grabbing the big box and setting it on the ground in front of Emily.
Emily could have sworn she saw the box move.
“What is it?” she asked, cautiously.
“Open it and find out!” AJ answered.
Emily looked up. Brian, Leighanne and Baylee had all moved closer, smiling. Brian had the camera ready to take pictures.
“Ok, here goes nothing!” she said, pulling the lid off the box.
Emily smiled. “Look at the cute little kitty!” she exclaimed, rescuing the now crying kitten from the box and cuddling him.
“His name is Guapo. It means handsome.” AJ said.
Emily held up the little gray kitten. “Hello Guapo! You are absolutely the cutest kitty ever!” Guapo was a dark gray color with fuzzy kitten fur and still young enough to have blue eyes.
“I remembered you mentioning having cats at home and how much you loved having them around. Then I mentioned it to Brian who thought that having a cat on your side might make Tyke leave you alone, because he is scared of cats. And Leigh thought I should tell you that he’ll be perfect to cuddle with when I’m not here!”
Emily was petting the kitten, making him purr rather loudly.
“I love him! Thank you so much!”
“Miss Emily! Can I pet him?” Baylee asked.
“Of course!” Emily said as she held the kitty for Baylee to play with. “Just be gentle.”
“There’s a bag of cat supplies and toys in the closet.” Leighanne said. “The shelter we got him from said this little guy loves to play.”
Emily carried the kitten in the house to go find him some toys and treats. She built him a little play ring with the hay bales and let him romp around to his heart’s content.
“I’m so glad you went to the shelter to get him.” Emily said. “Poor little guy deserves a home!”
“Leigh almost left that place with five other kittens.” AJ said. “She wanted to keep everyone we looked at.”
Leighanne rolled her eyes at AJ. “Well someone has to want them!”
“That’s ok; I think that donation you made to the shelter should keep those kitties fed for a few years!” AJ teased.
“You guys, thank you so much for such a great day. I haven’t had a birthday like this in a very long time!”
“It was our pleasure!” Brian said.
Everyone sat outside for a few more hours talking and enjoying each others’ company. Guapo eventually wore himself out playing and curled up in a little ball on Emily’s lap to take a “cat nap”.
When things seemed to be winding down, AJ pulled her to her feet.
“If you’ll excuse the birthday girl, I think we’ll be heading out now.” He said.
“Heading out? Where are we going?” Emily asked, confused.
“Your birthday isn’t over yet, little lady.” AJ said, with a twinkle in his eye.
Emily couldn’t believe she had almost forgotten their plans for that night.
“What about Guapo?” she said, lying the still sleeping kitten back into his box.
“Baylee and I will watch over him.” Leighanne assured her.
“Ok. Well, thanks so much guys!” Emily said, hugging Brian, Leighanne and Baylee.
“Happy Birthday.” Brian said, kissing her on the cheek.
AJ led Emily by the hand around the house to his car.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“The Crowne Plaza Hotel.” He answered.
Emily’s eyes went wide. “Really?”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I have big plans for you tonight and I want to make sure we aren’t disturbed. And to make sure we don’t disturb anyone else!” he answered.
“Well can’t I at least go grab some things for the night?”
“Who says you’re going to need clothes?” AJ teased.
“Emily, I’m kidding. Leigh packed a bag for you. It’s in the trunk. She said you’d have everything you need.”
Emily blushed. “They all know what we’re up to?”
“They know I’m taking you out for an evening of incredible romance, yes. In fact, they both asked me what the hell took me so long to do it!”
AJ helped Emily in the car. Her hands were shaking as she tried to buckle her seat belt and she realized that she was nervous. All the anticipation they had built up held a lot of promise, but it was still a first for them. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he put the key in and started the car. He was nervous too, she realized as he fumbled with the keys.
Apparently, AJ had already checked them in earlier that day so they were able to walk right in the hotel and hop on the first elevator they could get. AJ carried her bag for her and seemed to have grown even more nervous upon entering the hotel. Emily laughed when he fumbled with the room key.
“What?” he asked, letting them inside the top floor suite.
“We’re as nervous as a couple of virgins, you know that?” she laughed.
AJ relaxed a little and allowed himself to chuckle. “Yeah, that thought did cross my mind in the car, actually.”
AJ flipped on the light and Emily took in the sight before her. The view out the window was incredible, overlooking the city. There was a large, king size bed with red rose petals scattered all over it, and of course, a bowl of strawberries and whipped cream. AJ walked up behind her and put his arms around her.
“I’m really glad you had a good day.” He whispered.
“Thank you so much for everything you did. I know you wanted to make sure I had a happy day, and I did. It meant a lot to me.”
“Damn, I can’t believe how nervous I am! You have no idea how long I’ve been looking forward to this, and now that I’m actually here, I’m choking up!” AJ muttered.
Emily held back a giggle. “Just try and relax. It’s just you and me. Maybe just pretend like we’re not doing anything different tonight. You know, it’s just another one of our ‘make-out’ sessions!”
“Why don’t we take a hot bath together first?” AJ suggested.
Emily raised her eyebrows at him. “Ok.”
“Go and enjoy the view for a few minutes while I run the bath.” AJ ordered.
Emily did as she was told and a few minutes later, AJ grabbed her hand and pulled her into the bathroom. He had lit several pillar candles and filled the tub with bubbles that carried an intoxicating scent. It was a scent that Emily recognized.
“Is that…” she started to ask.
“Yes, it is. I raided your little body product collection and found a nice bubble bath!” AJ answered.
Emily laughed. “You made a good choice. This one’s my favorite.”
“Well, aren’t you going to get in?” he asked.
Emily stopped. “I….we’ve never really…been…naked in front of each other before.”
AJ turned his back. “Make you a deal. I won’t look while you get in, then you won’t look when I get in.”
“Ok. No peeking!”
Emily managed to get undressed with shaky hands and quickly climbed into the warm water. “This feels great!” she sighed.
“Close your eyes, I’m coming in!” AJ said.
Emily closed her eyes and didn’t open them until she felt him climb in across from her.
“So, were you this nervous when it really was your first time?” she asked him.
AJ blushed. “Yeah, but I guess maybe in a different way. Then it was, ‘I hope I do it right.’ Now it’s, ‘man, I’m so into this woman and I want it so badly that I almost don’t know what to do with myself.”
Emily smiled. “I guess that’s better than being worried about doing it wrong!”
“Believe me; I know how to do it the right way! What about you?”
“Do I know how to do it?”
“No, I mean, were you this nervous when it was your first time?” he asked.
Emily thought. “I guess. And you’re right; it was a totally different way. A girl’s first time ain’t all that pleasant, and that’s what I was the most worried about. Now, I’m worried about typical female insecurities. Am I sexy enough, am I good enough, that kind of thing.” She answered.
“Well, you’re definitely sexy enough, that’s for damn sure!” AJ said, winking at her across the bubbles.
They sat in the bath for about twenty minutes, until the water started to get too cold. They took turns getting out, still too shy to reveal themselves. Emily excused herself to the bedroom and decided to suck it up and get over it. She knew it would be there. Leighanne was a sneaky little devil when she wanted to be. Sitting right at the top of her overnight bag was the white lacy number she bought earlier that day, tags already cut and everything. She quickly slipped into it and went back to the bathroom, standing in the doorway.
AJ didn’t see her there at first; he was too busy drying off and putting on a pair of boxers. As soon as he turned around he froze, his mouth hanging open just a little.
Emily smiled back at him.
“Damn.” He said under his breath. “You look…..” he was unable to find the right words to finish his sentence.
“Do you like it?” she asked, softly.
“Do I like it? Are you kidding?” Suddenly, he managed to shake free of some of his nervousness. He walked towards her, wrapped his arms around her waist and backed her up until she was against the wall.
“I love it.” He whispered, before kissing her. Slowly at first, picking up intensity as they went on. She had her arms wrapped around his neck, tangling her fingers in his hair. He kept his arms around her waist, pulling her against him while keeping her pinned against the wall. He made sure to pay special attention to that special spot on her neck, making her arch her hips against him even more.
AJ groaned and picked her up, walking over to the bed. He lay her down gently underneath him as his kisses resumed. His lips went everywhere. All along her neck, her arms, stomach. She closed her eyes, getting lost in the feeling of his soft lips all over her body. She was starting to feel restless from the anticipation and from wanting more. She tried to roll herself out from under him but he pinned her down with his body weight.
“Tonight is all about you, babe. It’s all for you. I want to show you just how great it can be, even after those three very, very long years.”
That statement really got Emily’s blood pumping. She had always dreamed of being with a man who was only interested in pleasuring her from time to time.
AJ’s hands were beginning to wander and finally, he let his fingers graze over her breast. Emily inhaled sharply and arched herself. He was driving her crazy, taking his time. Before she knew what hit her, AJ had her out of her gown and had his lips wandering around her chest. She tried to make a mental note to ask him later how he got so good with lingerie. He suckled her, gently at first, getting more intense as she moaned beneath him. His hand wandered down to her thigh, sliding it up incredibly slow. When he finally touched her there, she let out a loud moan. She was definitely ready for him. He brought his lips back up to hers, suddenly realizing what was about to happen.
“Are you sure?” he asked, searching her eyes.
Emily was brought a bit more back to reality. “I’m sure. Do you have….”
AJ nodded. “Yeah, I do.” He said, gesturing to the wrapper on the nightstand.
“Do you want me to?” she offered, awkwardly.
“No, that’s ok, just give me a second.” AJ grabbed the condom package and fumbled to get the damn thing open. When he finally got it open, he fumbled getting it out and putting it on properly.
AJ kissed her again, but it was different. It was as if both of them suddenly forgot their passion of a minute ago and were back to being the nervous virgins they laughed about. He was kissing her but it seemed he was miles away from her.
As he shifted to get more comfortable, he got her hair caught underneath his arm.
“OW!” Emily said.
“What? I haven’t done anything yet!” AJ said, alarmed.
“No, you’re on my hair.” She said.
“Oh, sorry.” He moved his arm.
He buried his face in her neck as he slowly entered her. He felt her tense up beneath him.
“Just relax, baby.” He urged as he slowly began thrusting.
It was so quiet you could hear the crickets chirping or a pin dropping. And it was all over in a few short minutes. There were no fireworks, no moaning and gasping, no begging for release. Hell, for her, there hadn’t even been a release. So it was true after all. Great sex didn’t exist, especially your first time together.
“I’m sorry.” AJ said, lying next to her, catching his breath.
“No, don’t be. It was good.” She said, lying through her teeth.
“Honey, if you call that good, I’d hate to see what you call bad.”
The two lie there in silence. Each one afraid to talk about it and yet afraid to say anything else. AJ felt like a failure as a man. He had made all these great promises and had lost control of himself and performed poorly. Emily was feeling just as insecure, wondering if it was something she did or didn’t do. A small part of her worried it was her body. Women who’ve had a baby are different. Maybe he hadn’t expected that. Maybe she should have gone with the black lace.
Eventually, the two of them fell asleep on opposite sides of the bed.
AJ woke up early the next morning, cursing himself as he remembered how awful their night of romance had been. He looked over to Emily, who had at some point put her nightgown back on and had fallen asleep on top of the covers. She was shivering in her sleep. AJ felt like such an ass. He had a rule about sex, and that was, if you care about the woman, never let her sleep “uncuddled” afterward. He rolled over and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her back against him, trying to warm her up.
God, how had he been such a jerk? She was probably laying there thinking, “I told you so, McLean.” And he had proven her right. It was AWFUL! He had meant to take things painfully slow. To explore her and tease her. Instead, he let his damn nerves get in the way until a part of him just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. And he had certainly done just that. He couldn’t understand it. He performed on stage in front of thousands upon thousands of women. He danced in the most sexual of fashions. He could take off his shirt and half the girls in the front rows would faint. Yet here he was, in front of one woman, who he happened to care a lot about, and he had ‘performance’ anxiety. He was so embarrassed and humiliated that he was tempted to leave early, claiming he had somewhere to be or something, but he knew he wouldn’t ever be that guy.
Emily stirred and rolled over, facing him. Her eyes slowly opened.
“Morning.” She mumbled.
“Hey.” He said, rolling away from her. Now that she was awake, he didn’t feel all the comfortable holding her after last night. “You want any breakfast?”
“Yeah. Some eggs would be nice.” She said, noticing the way he had pulled away from her.
AJ called in the room service order then announced he was going to take a shower. He hadn’t made eye contact with her since she’d been awake.
Emily sat up when she heard the click of the bathroom door. She sighed and ran her hand through her tangled hair. She felt like he was mad at her, he was being so cold towards her. Maybe she had done something last night without realizing it. She didn’t think so. The more she sat and thought about it, the more irritated she began to get. Last night had been special to her, no matter what it had been like. She had shared a part of her with AJ that was very special to her. She didn’t just go giving her body like that to just anyone. She knew he was aware of that. For him to just act so cold and unloving only made her feel like it hadn’t been nearly as special to him. Like it was just a challenge. Now that he had won that challenge, it didn’t matter anymore.
When she heard the shower shut off, she decided she’d better throw on some clothes. The room felt very cold and AJ’s attitude made her feel severely self-conscious in her underwear.
They were spared any conversation by the arrival of their breakfast. Emily let the food in while AJ got dressed. They ate in silence.
AJ felt extremely awkward. Emily was very silent when he had gotten out of the shower. He was convinced she was upset with him for his poor performance and lack of proper attention last night. And the thought that she was made him feel upset. Hadn’t she known how much it had meant to him? She could clearly see he was nervous. Didn’t that tell her anything? Maybe it wasn’t as special to her. Maybe to her it was just a chance to fuck AJ McLean the Backstreet Boy. It wouldn’t be the first time he had been played like that.
“Are you ready to head back?” he asked.
Emily looked surprised. “Already?”
AJ nodded, curtly. “My flight leaves later this afternoon. I have to get back to work.”
Emily’s face fell. “Oh. Alright then. I guess I’m ready.”
Now she was convinced it was nothing more than sex to him. All that talk about love and feelings must have just been an act. He couldn’t wait to get away from her.
She threw her things into her bag. AJ didn’t even bother to carry it for her on their way out to the car, nor did he help her in. The ride home was incredibly tense. Neither one was being at all rational after the emotional high of the night before nor were the thoughts swimming around inside their heads pretty ones because of that.
AJ stayed outside when they got back to Brian’s house to smoke. Emily was immensely grateful that no one was home. She went straight up to her room and sat down, trying to figure out what the hell happened.
AJ smoked three cigarettes before going back inside. A part of him knew he was being completely irrational and acting like a jerk. The other part of him felt like Emily was acting like a bitch. He finally went inside and packed up his things, hoping he wouldn’t bump into Emily upstairs. He was lucky. She was shut in her room playing music. He carried his bag downstairs and tried to keep himself occupied for the next few hours before he had to leave for the airport. He was disappointed Brian wasn’t back yet so he could say goodbye, but realizing Brian could sense trouble immediately, was also relieved he didn’t have to explain to Brian what had happened last night and this morning. Brian wouldn’t like it one bit.
He couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time for him to leave. He went upstairs and knocked on her door. When she didn’t answer, he slowly opened the door and peered in. She had fallen asleep on the bed. Relieved, he convinced himself not to wake her and to just leave her a note saying he had gone to the airport.
Emily woke up an hour later. She went into the kitchen where Leighanne was preparing dinner.
“Hey Em! How was your night?” Leighanne winked at her.
“Umm…it was ok.” Emily mumbled.
Leighanne didn’t notice the miserable look on her face. “AJ left you a note on the table.”
“Oh? What does it say?” Emily asked.
“I didn’t read it. I figured it was a love note or something.”
Emily walked over and picked up her note, unfolding it.
Didn’t want to wake you. Went to the airport. Bye.
“What does it say?” Leighanne asked.
Emily sniffed. “It says bye.” She answered, tossing the note on the table and going outside for some fresh air.
Leighanne watched her go as she quickly dried her hands and went over to read the note. While it didn’t come out and say it, Leighanne sensed trouble. This was a very unromantic note for a couple who was supposed to have had a very romantic night together. As she stood there speculating as to what might have gone wrong, she scolded herself and realized that she had definitely spent too much time around Brian. If Emily and AJ had a problem, that was Emily and AJ’s problem. She would come to them if she needed help. But that didn’t stop her from showing the note to Brian.