AJ went inside his house after the police car drove away and immediately started cracking up. He couldn’t get over how pathetic they all looked sitting in the back of the car. He’d have been pissed if it was anyone but them. He knew why they’d done it. He also knew that he probably deserved it.
He picked up the phone and called Brian and Kevin, asking them to come over to his house right away.
“What’s going on?” they asked when he let them in.
“What happened to your yard?” Kevin asked.
“Do you two have any idea where your wives are at the moment?” AJ asked.
Brian and Kevin looked at each other for a minute before realization dawned on them.
“They did this?” Kevin asked. “Kris said they were taking Emily out to get drunk!”
“Oh they are, believe me!” AJ said. “I’ve never seen anything so funny in my life as the look of panic on their faces when that cop arrested them.
“WHAT?” Brian and Kevin shouted.
“Relax, man. I didn’t have them arrested. The cop said he was just going to toss them in the drunk tank until we pick them up. You know, mess with them a little.”
Brian chuckled as he looked out the window. “They got you good, man.”
“So what do we do now?” Kevin asked.
“I expect they’ll try and call you guys soon, you know, as their one phone call. I think you should pretend like you don’t know. We’ll let them sit over there in fear until we pick them up.” AJ said.
“That sounds a little mean. You really think it’s funny to send them to jail?” Brian asked.
“Brian…look at my lawn man!” AJ said. “They syran-wrapped my car!”
Brian laughed. “Now that is a good prank!”
“Excuse me, sir?” Leighanne asked the officer as he drove them away. “Where are you taking us?”
“Downtown, miss. You’ve got a whole list of offenses on you.”
“Oh my God! We’re going to jail!” Emily moaned.
“I feel sick.” Leighanne moaned.
“Do NOT throw up in my cop car!” The officer said.
Emily and Kristin giggled.
“It’ll be ok, Leighanne. Just don’t drop the soap!” Kristin said. Emily burst into another giggle fit.
“It’s not funny, you two! You’ll see! Just wait until Big Bertha gets a hold of you in there! You won’t think it’s so funny then!”
“I’m hungry.” Emily said. “Excuse me, officer? Are you going to be stopping for any donuts? I’m starving!” Kristin elbowed Emily in the side. “OW! What did you do that for? He’s a cop! Cops love donuts! Everybody knows that!” Emily hissed back.
The officer escorted them into the police station and locked them up in a cell to themselves. Emily looked at her neighbors through the bars.
“Hey!” she called to one of them. “What are you in for?”
“Oh God, Kris, what’s she doing?” Leighanne moaned.
“I got picked up on solicitation. You three look like you got picked up for the same, huh? Boy, must’ve been a big night for the cops.”
“What’s she mean we look like we got picked up for solicitation?” Leighanne hissed.
“She means we look like hookers.” Kristin whispered.
“Yeah, it’s getting harder and harder to tell the Johns from the cops anymore.” Emily sympathized. “I’d better get back to my friends here. They’re not used to being locked up.”
They were in there about ten more minutes when they were each taken to make a phone call. Leighanne went first, figuring Brian would be more calm than Kevin would be.
“Brian?” she asked, shakily.
“Leigh? Is that you? Is everything ok?” he asked.
“Sweetie, where are you?”
“Brian…I’m…I’m in jail!”
Brian was silent.
Over at AJ’s, he was holding back his laughter.
“See this would be the part where you explain.” He said, finally.
“Please don’t be mad! We just wanted to have a little fun, but AJ had us arrested!”
“What do you mean AJ had you arrested?”
“He’s such a freaking jerk, Brian! All we did was TP his house a little, and he called the cops and had them haul us away!”
Brian was bent over, biting his lip. “So what do you want me to do?” he asked.
“Get down here and get me out before Big Bertha gets me!” Leighanne said.
“Who’s Big Bertha?”
“Brian I don’t have time to explain. Get your butt down here now! Emily’s making friends with the hookers already!”
“Ok, I’ll see what I can do.”
“Brian, can you call Kevin?”
“Why doesn’t Kris call him?”
“She’s too scared.” Leighanne said.
“Oh. Well, I guess I can understand that. I’ll call him. It won’t be pretty though.”
When Brian hung up the phone, he had to lie down on the floor and laugh.
“What happened?” AJ asked.
“Well, she’s pretty pissed at you, actually.” Brian said.
“Why me?” AJ asked.
“According to Leighanne, all they were doing was TP your house and you called the cops and had them arrested. She said something about being afraid Big Bertha was going to get her, and that Emily is making friends with the hookers in the next cell. And she asked me to call Kevin because Kristin is too scared to call.”
“Alright boys!” AJ said. “Let’s go put them out of their misery. Make sure to play it up, though. Especially you, Kevin. You gotta pretend to be all angry and scary.”
When Kevin, Brian and AJ arrived at the police station, AJ spoke quietly to the “arresting officer” who was waiting for them. After a few minutes, the officer walked back to get the girls.
“They’ll be out in a few minutes. He says they’re all still pretty drunk and they can’t keep Emily from talking to the other criminals. He’s been watching them all night; he says it’s been absolutely hilarious. Apparently, on the way here, Emily said she was hungry and asked him if he was planning on stopping for donuts.”
“Alright you three.” The cop said, opening the cell door. “You’re free to go.”
“Already?” Emily asked.
“Yeah. Your husbands are here to get you. We’re not going to be pressing any charges against you unless Mr. McLean changes his mind. Although, as pissed off as they look, you might be safer in here!”
“Oh crap!” Kristin whispered.
“Hey, it’s ok Kristin!” Emily said. “Those hookers were giving me some pointers for in the bedroom. I can tell you real quick, and then when you get home, you seduce Kevin and he won’t be mad anymore.”
Emily didn’t have time to explain it to Kristin. Before they knew it, Brian, Kevin and AJ were standing in front of them looking pissed off. Leighanne and Kristin hung back, afraid of what their husbands were going to say. Emily however, was still feeling pretty brave after talking to those hookers all night and marched up to them.
“Look. We’re sorry for all the trouble we caused, but unless AJ decides to press charges, we’re free to go. We were just having some fun, and it was all my idea, so you can wipe those pissed off looks from your faces and take us home!”
Brian and Kevin didn’t really know how to respond so they simply nodded and led the way to the car.
“Apparently, Emily is feisty when she’s drunk!” Kevin whispered to Brian.
“Yeah, we’d better not leave her in a room alone with AJ.”
Once in the car, Kristin finally got the courage to speak. “AJ, we’re sorry about what we did to your yard.”
“Speak for yourself.” Emily muttered louder than she meant to.
“Just don’t let it happen again!” AJ said, holding back his grin. Emily was definitely feeling feisty, and truth be told, it was a bit of a turn on.
AJ took them all back to his house to pick up Brian’s car. Emily, Kris, and Leigh all sat in the back, their buzzes finally starting to wear off. By the time they got back to the hotel, they were all fast asleep. Emily seemed convinced she was going to sleep in the back of the car until she was physically hauled out by Kevin.
Once settled on her feet, she looked up at him and said, “You are big, aren’t you?” Kristin and Leighanne burst into giggles.
Kevin wasn’t stupid. He knew exactly what she was talking about. He had heard many times the way women speculated on just how big he was. He just didn’t expect to hear it from Emily.
“I don’t know, Em. I guess you’ll have to ask my wife.” He responded, trying to keep a straight face.
“Well I did, but she wouldn’t tell me!” Emily pouted.
Kevin made sure Emily was tucked into her room ok before escorting Kristin back to their room.
“What were you and Emily whispering about in there?” he asked.
Kristin smiled. “She was telling me some tricks the hookers taught her.”
The next morning, Emily woke up to the ringing of the phone next to her head.
“’Lo?” she mumbled.
“It’s me.” Leighanne whispered.
“What’s up? Why are you whispering?”
“Because talking hurts my head.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Emily whispered back.
“Anyway, meet us all downstairs for breakfast in an hour.”
“Leigh, I don’t want to eat!”
“Me either, but we should at least have some toast, right?”
Emily eventually agreed and hauled her hung-over self to the shower.
Toast and tea was about all Emily managed to keep down. Leighanne managed some eggs while Brian tried to tell Baylee that Mommy had Party Flu. Kevin looked strangely happy, as did Kristin. When Emily finally managed to ask her what was up, Kristin’s only response was, “Kevin said he should send us to jail more often to see what else we can learn.”
Despite feeling like hell, Kristin had promised to take Emily shopping for a dress for the ball.
“Tell me again why we couldn’t have gone tomorrow?” Emily groaned.
“Because we don’t have time tomorrow. I already told you, our nail appointments are at noon, hair at 1:30, make-up at 3:00. The ball starts at 5:30.”
After three dress shops and over four hours of shopping, they had finally found the perfect dress.
“Are you sure it doesn’t look like a prom dress?” Emily obsessed.
“Would you relax? It looks great!” Kristin insisted.
Emily had to admit, the dress was perfect. It was a long black dress that clung perfectly to her curves, showed just enough cleavage without showing too much, and had a hint of sparkle with black beads along the round neckline and thin straps.
“AJ is going to die when he sees you in this!” Kristin said as Emily studied herself in the mirror.
“Who cares what he thinks? If he likes what he sees, he can just be reminded of what he gave up. Hopefully, he’ll spend the entire night miserable while I have a blast!” Emily said, studying the back of her dress.
“That’s a girl!” Kristin said. “Before Kevin and I were totally serious, I would do the same thing to him all the time. It drove him nuts.”
“I’m not doing anything to AJ. I’m just going to the ball because Brian and Leighanne asked me to, not to impress AJ and make him jealous. Believe it or not, I don’t want him back!” Emily insisted.
“Right. And Kevin has a small dick.” Kristin muttered.
“I heard that!” Emily said over her shoulder as she went back into the dressing room to change.
“What kind of shoes were you thinking?” Kristin said on the other side of the door. “Because I was thinking you don’t want to go to high, you don’t want to be too close to AJ’s height on the dancefloor…”
“Kristin Richardson, stop it right there! I am NOT dancing with AJ, do you get it? Stop acting like its some romance novel where the endings are always happy. This is just the way it’s going to be. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet someone else at the ball, but I sure as hell have no intention on dancing with AJ.”
“Emily, why do you always assume that nothing can ever have a happy ending?”
“Because it never has before.” Emily said flatly.
Kristin let it drop, but she didn’t believe a word out of Emily’s mouth except the part about not believing in happy endings.
The next morning, Emily put on a happy face and tried to pretend she was excited as she went and did all the girlie things at the salon in preparation for the ball, but deep down inside she was dreading it. She didn’t want to go at all. She didn’t feel like being merry and celebrating the holidays and she certainly didn’t want to see AJ, especially after what she did that drunken night when they tried to TP his house.
“Is Emily ok?” Leighanne whispered to Kristin at the salon. “She’s acting a little weird today.”
“I think she’s trying to pretend excited when deep down she’s scared to see AJ.” Kristin said.
“Did you talk to her about it at the store yesterday?”
“I tried to, but she insisted that she had no desires to get back with him. I didn’t believe a word of it. Don’t worry, she’ll be ok once she gets there and gets seeing him over with.”
“What if she’s not ok?” Leighanne worried.
“There’s an open bar. She’ll be ok.” Kristin joked.
Before Emily knew it, she was dressed to the nines. Her hair was done and her nails freshly painted. She sat in her room on the bed waiting. She had tried all day to pretend that she wasn’t nervous but she could no longer deny the fact that she was scared to death. For weeks now she had fooled herself into thinking she was getting over AJ. Now, being here in Orlando, it was almost like falling in love with him all over again. She made a complete fool of herself, getting drunk and vandalizing his property. That was part of the reason she was dreading seeing him, afraid of what he thought about it. But that night, she’d seen him. She saw those big brown eyes looking at her. Sure, they were looking at her sitting in a cop car but nonetheless, she thought she saw something in them when he looked at her. A look of desire perhaps?
As the hosts of the party, the guys were planning on showing up “fashionably late” and making a grand entrance once the party was rolling. There was a knock on her door. It was time for Cinderella to attend the ball.
Emily grabbed her purse and opened the door.
“You ready?” Brian asked.
“Leighanne went to go get Kevin and Kristin, they’ll meet us downstairs.”
Brian studied her face as they got in the elevator.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
“Did you know your hands are shaking?” he asked.
Emily looked down at her hands and was surprised to find that they were indeed trembling. Brian took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
“He’s not really mad, you know.” He said.
“AJ. He’s not mad about what you three did to his lawn. He actually thinks it’s a little funny.”
“Really?” Emily finally spoke.
“Yeah. Listen, don’t worry about him tonight. You just concentrate on having a good time, ok?”
“Everyone ready?” Leighanne asked. “The others are already there. Let’s get a move on!” she said as she scurried them into the limo.
Emily was silent the whole ride over there. Kevin seemed to be the only one not clued in on what was the matter with her and received a sharp elbow in the ribs from Kristin when he asked her if she was still hung over.
Finally, the limo pulled up to the party hall. Security was there to escort them inside, and there were some party-goers who were hanging around out front. Emily felt horribly self conscious as she walked alone behind the other four, wishing she had never let them talk her into coming to a party she didn’t belong at.
“Hey Kristin! Over here!” a voice called.
Kristin turned to look and let out a squeal as she broke away from Kevin and ran over to the woman.
Kevin turned around and gave Emily a mock annoyed look. “That’s her best friend. They haven’t seen each other in awhile.”
Kevin finally figured out what was wrong with Emily and his southern gentleman manners kicked in as he hung back and offered her his arm and a comforting smile.
“No sense in both of us walking alone!” he said, as he gave her arm a squeeze.
Emily smiled. “Thank you.” She said. There was something about standing next to Kevin that tended to make a girl feel safe.
“You look very lovely tonight, Emily.” Kevin told her as they approached the doors.
“Thanks Kevin. Your wife has very good taste in dresses!”
“That she does.” Kevin agreed, taking in the sight of his wife, walking behind him.
Kristin was touched by Kevin’s sensitivity to Emily that she purposely hung back and let him escort Emily in. Emily could have sworn that her heart stopped as she walked into the ballroom, which had been beautifully decorated for the holidays with Christmas trees, lights and candles everywhere. Emily didn’t even notice how gorgeous everything was. Her head was swirling as she frantically searched the crowd for AJ.
Kevin had been married long enough to know when to take a hint. Sensing her tense up, he helped her search the crowd.
“Hey Em, I’m going to go over there and say a quick hello to AJ and Howie. Why don’t you and Kristin find our table and get seated for dinner?”
Emily followed his gaze to the other side of the room where AJ was standing with Howie, staring right at her.
Emily nodded and followed Kristin to their table.
AJ had been talking to Howie when he saw her walk in on Kevin’s arm. Kevin always was the sensitive one with the ladies. He honestly had no idea what Howie was talking about and didn’t even notice that Howie had stopped talking when he realized he had lost AJ’s attention and followed his gaze to the door.
“She looks gorgeous.” Howie said.
“Huh? Who?” AJ said, pretending not to notice.
“You know who. You’ve only been staring at her for the last five minutes.”
AJ never thought it was possible but he somehow must have forgotten just how pretty she was because tonight, she truly looked incredible. He felt that same stirring inside that he felt every single time he saw her.
“Hey guys! How’s it going?” Kevin asked as he walked over to them.
“Hey Kev! I think AJ’s in the middle of a system failure right now, he’ll have to get back to you in a few minutes.” Howie said.
“Huh?” AJ said, snapping out of his daze.
Howie and Kevin just laughed at him.
Kristin led Emily over to their dinner table and were quickly joined by Brian and Leighanne.
“This table is huge!” Emily said. “Who all are we sitting with?”
Leighanne and Kristin exchanged uneasy looks.
“Oh no! He’s sitting here too?” Emily panicked.
Seeing her panic stricken face, Leighanne and Kristin slipped into protective mode. They had both seriously underestimated just how nervous she really was about seeing him again.
“It’ll be ok! We’ll sit you in between Kris and I!” Leighanne said. “That way he’ll at least be on the other side of the table.”
Soon they were all seated for dinner and the guys got up to make a welcome toast as the servers began to bring out the food. Emily kept her gaze fixed on the centerpiece of the table until she heard his voice and she involuntarily looked up. His gaze was fixed completely upon her as he spoke.
“Thank you all for coming tonight. Some of you we haven’t seen in awhile and it feels real nice to have you here.” He said.
As they sat down, AJ ended up immediately across from her. Emily tried to keep herself distracted, involving herself in conversation with Leigh and Kristin, sharing some Baylee stories when asked. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t keep herself from stealing glances in AJ’s direction. He looked as sexy as always in his tux, although he also looked surprisingly normal as his jacket had both sleeves in tact and his shirt was buttoned with the bowtie fastened. The only hint of AJ in the entire outfit was the bright red silk handkerchief in his front pocket.
AJ could tell she was nervous. Hell, he was feeling pretty uneasy himself. He tried not to notice her looking in his direction but he found himself looking back at her briefly, before they’d both uneasily look away from each other.
Everyone at the table noticed, even Nick, who, let’s face it, wasn’t always known for being the most observant.
“Who wants to start a pool that these two hook back up tonight?” Nick whispered to Howie.
“I’m totally in.” Howie whispered back.