Chapter 139

Emily cried half the night. AJ was not answering her calls and had eventually turned off his phone. He had driven around for hours, not wanting to face Brian and Leighanne. Around two in the morning he dropped off their car and took a cab to the airport and waited for a flight home.

Emily's phone rang the next afternoon and she dove for it, hoping it was AJ.

“AJ?” she answered.

“No...this is Randy.”

“Randy! Hi....what are you....I mean why are you....”

Randy sighed. “I was just sitting by the pool thinking of you. I really admire your courage for going after what you truly want and I guess I wanted to tell you that...and maybe I just wanted to hear your voice...I'm sorry, I know that's probably completely inappropriate.” he stammered.

“'s fine. Really, whenever you need to talk...” Emily sniffed.

“Are you ok? he asked.

“Um, no. I'm not.”

“What's wrong?”

“I was supposed to meet AJ last night to tell him and he got there right as you were leaving.....”

“He saw us kissing.” Randy said.

“Yeah. And he completely got the wrong idea and blew up at me before he stormed off. I ran after him but he wouldn't listen and now I can't get a hold of him.”

“Jesus Em, this guy sounds like an ass, are you really sure he's the one?”

Emily laughed. “He's not so bad. I'm sorry, you probably don't want to hear about this.”

“Not really, but I'll manage.”

“So....what do I do?”

“Emily, you do exactly what it is you set out to do. Find him and make him hear you. Do what you have to do.”

Emily thought for a moment. “You're right.”

“I should let you go.” he said.

“Randy, thank you.” Emily said.


Emily got up and washed her face trying to regain some composure. She called Leighanne.

“Hey Emily! How are the lovebirds?” she asked.


“You and AJ. I assume he's with you, he's not here and all his stuff is gone.”

“His stuff is gone?”

“ he there?” Leighanne asked, sensing something was going on.

“No.” Emily said. She told Leighanne everything that had happened from the night before leading up until now.

“Randy's right Emily. You need to go find him and make him listen.”

“I don't know where he is!”

“I think he went home.” Leighanne said.


“Because he'd have no reason to stay here.”

“So...I should go to Florida?”

“Yes. Go to his house and find him. Don't leave until he listens to what you have to say.”

“Ok. I hope this works....” Emily said.

“It will.” Leighanne said confidently.

Emily landed in Orlando at ten o'clock that night. She rented a car and got directions from Brian to AJ's house. It was dark and rainy as she made her way across town. She parked in the driveway and ran through the rain to his porch. There were only a few lights on in the back of the house but his car was there.

She rang the doorbell and waited.

To say that AJ was surprised to see her standing there was an understatement.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked.

“I need to talk to you.” she insisted.

“Don't you have a date with the doctor guy?”

“No! That's what I've been trying to tell you...”

“What part of I don't want to hear it didn't you get? Go home, Emily.”

“AJ you have to listen to me!”

“No I don't! We're over. I could see it all over your face when he kissed you. Why are you so insistent on telling me why you're staying with him instead of me?”

“I'm not...AJ please....let me talk to you.” Emily begged.

“It's late. You should really go.”

“No! I'm not leaving. Not until you listen to what I have to say.” Emily said, planting her foot on his porch.

“Fine, suit yourself.” AJ said, shutting the door in her face.

Emily was so shocked by his behavior that she stood there gaping at his door for a good few minutes.

“You know what? Fine. If he wants me to sit out here all night, I'll sit out here all night.” she said to herself as she huddled against the door and tried to stay out of the rain.

AJ had no idea she was still out there. He figured she left as soon as he closed the door. He couldn't believe she'd come all the way there just to dump him. What was up with that? He just wanted to be left alone. He didn't want to hear her tell him how he screwed things up and lost the one true love of his life. He was already in enough pain.

He heard his house phone ring and let the machine get it.

“AJ, it's Emily. I'm still on your front porch and I intend to be on your front porch until you let me in and listen to me. So...whenever you're ready to open the door....” she trailed off, hoping he'd hear the message and open the door.

AJ rolled his eyes. He wasn't falling for that. She was bluffing. She'd probably wait five minutes and leave.

Emily called ever ten minutes for an hour. Finally he picked up the phone.

“Look, please leave ok? There's no point in you sitting out there. I'm not going to talk to you.” and with that, he hung up on her.

Emily was downright furious now but she wasn't about to give up. She'd come here for a fight and dammit she wasn't going to lose! It was time to call in for backup. She wasn't able to reach Brian or Leighanne so she called Kristin.

“Hey Emily, what's up?” Kevin answered her phone.

“Kevin? Hey is Kristin around? It's pretty important.”

“Actually she's out at the movies but she forgot her phone. Can I help you?”

“God Kevin, I really hope so.” Emily said. She told him everything and he was definitely not pleased with AJ's behavior.

“Let me try and talk to him. If that doesn't work, I don't know, maybe you should call it a night and find a place to stay.”

“I will not! I told him I'm not leaving and I'm not leaving. would be nice if you could have some food delivered.....” Emily said as her stomach growled.

Kevin called AJ but he didn't pick up. AJ had a feeling Kevin knew what was going on and he didn't want to talk to him.

“AJ, quit fucking around and let her in man.” he heard through his answering machine. “You don't leave a lady out in the cold and rain. Come on man, she's tired and hungry and she's refusing to leave until you talk to her....” Kevin was cut off when AJ turned off the volume. Kevin would call Emily back and tell her he didn't get anywhere and then Emily'd give it a rest for the night.

Or so he thought. AJ was shocked when he opened the door to get his paper and Emily tumbled in, having fallen asleep leaning against the door.

“Jesus Christ, what the hell are you still doing here?” he asked, helping her up.

“I told you I wasn't leaving.” she said, glaring at him. She was royally pissed now. She forced her way into his house and into his living room. If AJ had any intention of throwing her out she beat him to the punch. She shoved him down onto the couch and stood in front of him with her arms crossed and her eyes blazing.

“Now shut the hell up and listen to what I have to say to you.”

AJ wasn't very pleased but he'd never seen Emily so angry so he chose to remain silent.

“I broke up with Randy Saturday night.”

A look of confusion took over AJ's face.

“That's right, you've got it all backwards you stupid asshole!” Emily said. “I asked him to meet me before you so I could break up with him and tell you that you were the one I wanted to be with. What you saw was not at all what you thought it was. Randy's a really good guy and he took it remarkably well and we had a good talk. He kissed me goodbye. That was it. If you'd have just listened to me instead of behaving so unbelievably idiotic and irrational you'd have known that.” Emily turned to leave. “Oh and another thing! When there's a woman at your door refusing to leave unless you talk to her, you don't leave her out in the rain all fucking night long! Be a fucking man and let her in!” Emily yelled before storming out of his house.

AJ was so completely dumbfounded that Emily was already in her car and gone by the time he realized what she'd just said to him.

She'd broken up with Randy.

She wanted to be with him.

He'd got it wrong.

He was an asshole.

AJ could not believe what an idiot he'd been. He ran out to his car in hopes of catching up to her. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her standing in his driveway, leaning against his car.

“I thought you left?”

“I did. I drove around the block and I came back. I told you I wasn't leaving until we talked and I meant it. I just had to excuse myself for a few minutes to keep from kicking your ass.” she glared at him.

“I deserve it.” he said. “Jesus...Emily...I'm sorry. I don't even know what to say.” He cupped her face with his hands. “ really mean it? You and I....?”

Emily's face softened. “Yeah, I really mean it. I'm in this AJ. I'm in this for the long haul.”

AJ was so overcome with emotion that he wrapped her in his arms, held her tightly and cried.

They stood together this way for several minutes before he finally let go of her.

“You big sap.” she said, wiping her own tears from her cheeks. “Oh and I'm still mad at you.”

“I know. I'm still sorry.” he said. “What can I do?”

“You can get my suitcase out of my car and take it upstairs so I can shower. Then, you're taking me out for a huge breakfast because I haven't eaten since yesterday morning.”

“Ok.” he said, taking her keys and unlocking her car to grab her bag. He held her hand as they walked back into the house.

“Oh, and you should probably call Brian or Leighanne or Kevin and let them know I'm still alive. And you're still alive, for that matter. They're probably all sitting at home wondering who'd kill who first.” Emily joked.

AJ cringed. He expected an ear full from whoever he called. He suspected Emily was very well aware of this when she told him to make the call. He decided Brian would be the least threatening one to talk to.

“AJ it's about damn time!” Brian said when he picked up the phone.

“I'm sorry. Look, I don't really have time to talk about any of this but I promised Emily I'd call to let you know that we haven't killed each other and that everything is ok.”

Brian breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Thank God. Leighanne was about to fly down there and kick your ass herself for being so stupid.”

“Trust me, Emily's taking good care of that.”

“ are ok otherwise?” Brian asked.

“Yeah. Things are ok. Or they will be as soon as I'm out of the doghouse.”

“You know I've always found flowers to work really well for that.” Brian said.

As soon as he hung up with Brian, AJ dialed the number for his local florist and placed a large order to be delivered later that day.

Chapter 140

AJ and Emily talked about innocent things during breakfast but nothing of any real significance. They each had a lot of questions but AJ was following Emily's lead. When they got back to his house he took her out back and sat down with her in the shade on his deck.

“So, where do we start?” he asked.

“Start with whatever is on your mind.” she said.

AJ thought for a moment. “So, you really mean it? You're in for the whole deal? You know, the family, the house, death do us part?”

“I really mean it. I'm ready AJ. I'm sorry it took so long but I think it's for the best. I feel like a completely different person on the inside. I think I needed to crash and burn before I could heal.”

“So, where do we go from here? Do we just start dating again? Do we jump back into things? How does this work?”

“I think we have some decisions to make first.” she said.

“Like what?”

“I don't want to get into this as a long distance relationship.” she said. “I think we both need to be at least living in the same city.”

AJ nodded. “I completely agree. So...who moves where?”

“I've thought a lot about this and if you have a huge problem with it we can work it out but I'd really like it if you moved to Atlanta. For the first time in several years I have friends and a life and I don't want to leave all that behind and start all over again somewhere else. But only if it's ok with you, I don't want to force you to move or sell your house and have you resent me for it....”

She was interrupted by his laughter. “What's so funny?” she asked.

“Baby I'd move to Antarctica if it meant I got to be with you. I don't care where we live!”

Emily grinned. “Good! I mean we can take our time. I know it might be hard to sell your house right now and you'd still have to find a place up there.”

“Emily, I want us to live together.” he said.

“You do?” Emily sounded surprised.

“Yeah! Why not?”

“I don't know, I guess maybe I thought you'd want to take some time first before we did that.”

“I don't want to waste any more time.” he said. “We'll go back to Atlanta this week and start looking for a house.”

“Really?” Emily sounded so excited.

“Of course! So, are you going to keep working? I mean you can, I want you to do whatever you want but you don't have to, I'll take care of you...”

“I've been thinking about that and I think I'll quit working at the bar and keep managing the store, at least for now, until I start my next adventure!”

“Is there anything you need?” he asked. “I want to make sure that you feel completely comfortable with things between us.”

Emily was quiet. “I know this might sound obvious but I need you to promise me something.”

“Anything.” he said.

“I need you to promise me that no matter what we might go through that you'll always be there. I need to know that if something terrible happens like what happened with Payton that you'll be there. Or if for some bad reason we can't have kids that you'll be ok with that.” she said, looking up at him with a hidden insecurity in her eyes.

AJ leaned forward until his forehead was resting on hers. “Emily, I'm never going to walk away from you again. I can promise you that. No matter what we go through, we're going to go through it together., ok?”

Emily nodded as a few tear drops fell from her eyes. “I just can't believe this is even happening.” she said. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” he whispered as he gave her a soft kiss that sent shivers down her spine. “I'm so glad you're ok.” he whispered. “When I thought that maybe you were sick and that I might lose you for good....” he trailed off. “Well, I just realized that life in a world without you was hardly worth living.”

“I feel the same way. When I thought I might have cancer I took a look at my life and didn't like the way it looked. If I died, I told myself I wanted to leave behind an impression of a great life and I knew that great life needed to start with you. There was never any question.”

AJ and Emily spent several hours outside talking. When Emily went inside to get something to drink his doorbell rang.

“I'll get it!” she yelled.

When AJ heard her laughing he got up to see who it was.

Emily had opened the door and found the florist with five large bouquets of Emily's favorite flowers that AJ must have sent her that morning.

“So, can you forgive me for being such an ass?” he asked as she set them all out on the table.

Emily smiled at him. “I forgive you. But do realize that this will be one of those times I will bring up whenever I need to make you feel guilty about something.”

AJ looked sheepish. “I was afraid of that.”

Emily walked over and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Why don't you take my upstairs and show me how sorry you are and how much you missed me.” she said.

AJ never needed to be told twice when it came to making love with Emily. He quickly picked her up, threw her over his shoulder and carried her up to his room. Emily laughed as he tossed her down on the bed and crawled on top of her. He slowly ran his hands up the sides of her body and brought her arms up over her head and held them there as his lips captured hers in a sudden surge of passion. His kiss was deep and rough with an intensity she'd never seen before. He rolled them over so she was on top of him and let his hands run up and down her back as he continued to kiss her. He quickly took off her shirt and slowly slid down her bra straps before he reached around and expertly unhooked it. Tossing it aside, he flipped them over again and this time trailed his kisses down her neck to her favorite spot just under her ear. He kissed her there only long enough for her to gasp in pleasure and quickly continued down towards her chest. He taunted her by kissing everywhere but her nipples. He could practically see her body aching for his mouth there as they grew harder and darker the more he teased her. Finally she got what she wanted as his hot mouth captured her nipple. She let out a moan and arched her back and he repeated the long and torturous process on the other side. He kissed his way back up to her mouth as Emily slid her hands underneath his shirt and clung to his back.

He slowly sat up and removed his shirt. Emily had forgotten just how toned he was as she reached up and ran her hand down his chest. He unbuttoned her jeans and was painstakingly slow at unzipping him. He slowly pulled them down her legs, kissing her skin as it was revealed. Once he had them removed he stood up and quickly removed his own jeans before climbing back on top of her. Emily loved the feel of his hot skin against hers. She could already feel beads of sweat building up on his skin as he kissed her. He slid his hand down and lightly grazed over her warmth. Emily was more than ready for him and just his light touch caused her to moan loudly. AJ quickly took off their underwear and paused over her for a moment as they gazed into each other's eyes, each sensing the depth of their feelings for one another. They kept their eye contact as AJ slowly entered her. He loved watching her face explode in pleasure as she continued to meet his gaze. They had never made love this way before. Usually one of them would have their eyes close in pleasure. Never before had they experienced the closeness of eye contact. It took a lot of control not to break it at first but soon Emily became captivated by his eyes. Still to this day, all he had to do was look at her with those eyes and she melted all over again. AJ's body began to tremble as he held back his release for Emily. She wrapped her legs around his waist and dug her heels into his lower back, forcing him deeper inside as her release finally came in wave after wave of pleasure. AJ rode her through it before finally giving into his own pleasure and collapsing on top of her, sweaty and breathless.

“Oh God...” Emily breathed. “That was incredible!”

“I love you.” AJ said, catching his breath.

“I love you too.”

AJ and Emily spent the rest of the day in bed together alternating between making love, napping and talking. AJ was glad to hear Emily finally making some plans for her future and they talked a lot about her dreams and the things she wanted to do. Emily was surprised to hear AJ talk so much about settling down and being a family man. They talked about their plans for their lives with each other and the things they wanted to do together.

“Hey, do you want to go on a vacation for your birthday? I do happen to remember that it's in what, two and a half weeks now?”

Emily smiled. “Where do you want to go?”

“Wherever you want. It's your birthday.” he said.

Emily thought for a moment. She thought about all the places she wanted to visit but decided that for this trip, while she wanted to pick a special place she wanted to pick a relaxing place.

“I want to go back to Hawaii!” she said.

“Really? Ok! I'll make the arrangements tomorrow. When do you need to get back to Atlanta?”

“I probably should get back on Wednesday. I know that only gives us two days of seclusion together but I have to get back to work so I can use my vacation time for Hawaii!” she said.

“Do you want to order a pizza? I'm starving!” he said.

“Better make it two pizzas.” she said. “I'm hungry too. Then we can have cold leftovers for later.”

“I'd much rather have you as my leftover to nibble on.” he said.

Emily laughed. “You can have that too.”

They spent their time at his house doing very little other than being together. Sometimes Emily forgot that they had even been apart for seven months, it felt like they picked up right where they left off. Only things were much different now. She was a much different person. Even AJ had changed. His biggest dreams were no longer of having his own successful album or winning a Grammy. He wanted a wife and a family and he wanted to take care of them and be with them.

They flew back Wednesday morning and went to meet up with a relater as soon as they got there. AJ had called her the day before and spoke with her about what they were looking for, what type of neighborhood and their price range. Once she figured out that this was going to be quite a big sale for her she was more than willing to accommodate them. They met her at her office and she showed them several property listings and they picked which ones they wanted to go look at. AJ only had a few preferences. He wanted either a gated neighborhood or a gated property and a pool. Emily was more interested in features like a big kitchen, first floor laundry and big bathroom that she could put a whirlpool tub in.

Two of the houses they looked at were in Brian's neighborhood and they looked at three others across town. It was the last property that completely won over Emily. It was a large two story brick house with a front porch that went the entire front length of the house. There was a large oak tree in the spacious front yard. Out back was a wonderful deck that led out to the pool. On the inside, the kitchen had recently been remodeled with granite counters and beautiful wood cabinets. It had everything they wanted. Five bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a finished basement, first floor laundry, wood floors and a vaulted ceiling in the family room. Emily could barely contain herself as they drove back to the office to put in an offer.

Three days later she called them back to inform them that the sellers had already accepted another offer and they had lost the house.

Emily put on a brave face and agreed to look at some more when they got back from Hawaii. AJ stayed up in Atlanta for a week before he needed to go back home to start the process of selling his home down there.

“I wish you could come with me.” he said as he hugged her goodbye.

“Me too but I have to work. But it's only for a week and then you get to whisk me away to a tropical paradise!” Emily said.

“Ten days in paradise with you sounds like a paradise all in itself!” AJ said.

Emily laughed. “You'd better get going or you'll miss your flight.”

AJ gave her a quick kiss and got into the waiting cab.

AJ made a quick stop by Brian's on his way to the airport. He'd told Emily his flight was two hours earlier than it really was.

“Hey AJ, what are you doing here?” Brian asked, answering the door.

“I want to show you something and I need your help!”

The two sat down in Brian's office and AJ showed him what he was talking about.

“Are you sure?” Brian asked.

“I'm positive. Will you help me?” he asked.

“Yeah I'll help you! This is really gonna knock her socks off you know!”

AJ smiled. “I sure hope so!”

Chapter 141

The week AJ was gone proved to be busy for him. He met with a relater down there and spoke with him about putting his house on the market. There were only a few upgrades he suggested doing and AJ made arrangements to have them done immediately. His house was on the market the next day. His mom came over and helped him pack up all of his stuff, most of which would be put into storage until they had a house in Atlanta. He made arrangements to have all his boxes and furniture picked up the day after he left.

He flew back to Atlanta the night before they left for Hawaii. Emily was so excited she barely slept at all. AJ slept like a baby, exhausted from all the work he'd been doing at home. They arrived in Hawaii and got checked into their hotel without a problem. Emily was absolutely beaming as she stood on their balcony and looked out at the beautiful blue ocean.

God, I love it here!” she said, taking a deep breath of the fresh ocean air.

I love seeing you so happy.” he said, standing behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist.

You know what? I want to go parasailing again!” she said.

You do?” AJ was genuinely surprised. “I thought you hated it!”

Emily laughed. “I didn't hate it, I was just scared. Now that I've done it and it didn't kill me, I kind of want to do it again because this time I know I'll be able to enjoy it.”

What else do you want to do?” he asked, kissing the top of her head.

Let's see, I want to go snorkeling a lot, I want to go to another luau, I want to go see the volcano, maybe hike down to that waterfall, go watch the sunrise on top of the mountain.....and what I really want to do is get into bed and make love to you!” she said, turning around in his arms.

Oh really?” he said, kissing her. “I think I can make arrangements for that.” He turned her around and led her back into their bedroom.

Emily couldn't tell if it was the warm Hawaiian air or just the way AJ was looking at her, maybe it was both, but suddenly she had to have him and she had to have him now. She pushed him down on the bed and quickly took off her shirt before practically jumping on top of him. AJ was so surprised it took him a moment to respond before he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her deeply. She pulled him up and took off his shirt quickly before pushing him back down on the bed. She kissed down his chest and swirled her tongue seductively around his belly button as she slowly undid the fly of his jeans. She sat up and slowly pulled off his jeans and underwear all at once. She continued her work on his navel and would every so often move further down as she taunted and teased him by kissing and licking everywhere but his now throbbing shaft. AJ groaned in frustration until he eventually grabbed her head and placed it right where he wanted it. Emily smiled as she took him in her mouth and pleasured him, bringing him so close to the edge that it was nothing short of pure torture and pleasure all in one. When AJ couldn't stand it anymore he flipped her onto her back, lifted up the her skirt and literally tore off her underwear. Emily yelped in surprise but it was quickly turned into a loud moan as he thrust himself deep inside of her in one swift move. AJ paid her back for all of her torture, bringing her right up to the edge of her climax and then pulling her back from it several times before he finally relented. He rode her hard and deep as she dug her nails into his back and screamed out in pleasure, groaning himself as he finally let go of his own release.

They collapsed next to each other breathless for several minutes before Emily spoke.

We are doing that many more times before we go home.” she said.

Ok.” he answered as he wrapped her up in his arms.

Over the next few days they made love several times, sometimes naughty and dirty, sometimes sweet and tender. They went parasailing and snorkeling and went on nature hikes and to watch a sunrise as well as relaxing things like laying by the pool. Two nights before the went home, AJ took Emily to the largest luau on the island.

Hey what should I wear?” she asked from the bathroom as she did her hair. “Wear something kind of nice.” he said. “I think it's more of a fancy one.”

Emily wore a black halter dress with bright pink hibiscus flowers on it. She grabbed a sweater in case she got chilly in the ocean breeze. When she came out of the room she saw AJ dressed in a black suit with a midnight blue shirt and a silver tie.

Wow! You look great!” she said. “Aren't you worried you'll be hot in that?”

Nah.” he said. “I'll be fine.” He walked over and gave her a kiss. “You look absolutely beautiful.” he said softly.

Thanks.” she smiled at him.

Are you ready to go?”

I sure am. Do you have the camera?” she asked.

AJ held up the camera bag. “Got it!”

It was an exceptionally beautiful evening even for Hawaii as they took their seats at one of the front tables. The luau was on on the grass right along the ocean. The sun was setting and the sky was full of beautiful colors. They met the people they were sitting with at their table and made conversation until it was time to eat dinner.

When the tables were cleared the show began. There were several Polynesian performances of dance and music, even fire batons. Then the host began inviting couples up on stage to learn some of the dance moves. AJ and Emily were the third couple they asked up on stage.

What's your name?” Kailu, the host asked.

Emily.” she said into the microphone.

And how about you sir?”


AJ that's a mighty beautiful lady you have with you there tonight!” Kailu remarked,

Don't I know it!” AJ said, winking at Emily.

Ladies and gentleman AJ has something he would like to say to Emily tonight.” Kailu said. The crowd went silent.

Emily couldn't believe what was happening.

AJ knelt down on one knee and produced a ring box from his pocket. Grabbing her hands he said, “Emily I love you more than anything. Life without you wouldn't be worth living and that's why I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Emily took one of her hands and covered her mouth as tears began to stream from her eyes.

Will you marry me?” he asked, opening up the box and showing her the most beautiful diamond ring she had ever seen.

Yes!” she screamed. “Yes I will!”

AJ's face broke out into a huge smile as he slipped the ring onto her finger. Standing up, he pulled her into a tight embrace and kissed her as the crowed cheered.

Let's hear it for the happy couple!” Kailu said. “How about a nice Hawaiian love song to dance to?”

Right there on the stage in front of everyone, AJ held Emily tightly as the two danced slowly.

Two days later Emily was still glowing when they got back to Atlanta. They had already called her mom and his mom from Hawaii to tell them the news but Emily was dying to tell Leighanne and Brian.

Are you really sure they didn't know about this?” she asked.

Honest! I didn't tell a soul about it.” he said.

She made AJ call and make plans to go over to their house for dinner the night they got back.

Do you want to tell them or do you want me to?” she asked as they pulled into their driveway.

I would never deprive you of this moment. You tell them!”

Emily smiled. “Ok, follow my lead.” she said as she looked down at her ring for the millionth time that day.

They rang the bell and Baylee flung the door open.

Hi Miss. Emily and Uncle AJ!” he said.

Baylee, I'll tell you what.” Emily said. “Since you're such a big boy now and go to preschool and everything, why don't you just call me Emily?”

Really?” he asked.

Sure! Friends always call each other by their first names, right?”


Welcome back!” Leighanne said as she appeared from the kitchen. “How was your trip?”

Oh it was fantastic!” Emily said, hugging her.

Come on in! Why don't we sit down before dinner and you can tell us about it!”

Brian and Leighanne sat across from AJ and Emily as they filled them in on all the things they did on their trip.

AJ, tell them about me and the sea turtle when we were snorkeling!” Emily laughed as AJ told the story of how she absolutely freaked out when she found herself face to face with a large sea turtle when they were snorkeling just off shore.

They told them about parasailing and hiking and the beautiful sunrise.

Oh! Hey do you want to see my souvenir?” Emily asked.

Sure!” Leighanne said.

Emily held out her left hand and proudly displayed her beautiful ring.

Leighanne gasped and Brian looked downright shocked.

Oh my Gosh! You guys!” Leighanne squealed as she picked up Emily's hand to examine her ring. “It's beautiful!” she said. “I am so happy for you both!” she stood up to give them each a hug.

Thanks!” Emily said.

All I have to say is, it's about time!” Brian said, kissing her on the cheek and giving AJ a hug.

So how did you do it?” Leighanne asked.

Well, I took her to a big luau and I'd made arrangements beforehand to be invited on stage to learn a dance. We introduced ourselves and then the host asked me if I had anything I wanted to say to her and that's when I did it. I knelt down right there on stage.”

Awww!” Leighanne exclaimed.

I know!” Emily said, beaming at AJ.

Well, this is turning out to be one heck of a birthday for you this year!” Brian said.

It was a busy week for Emily as she enjoyed the delight in showing everyone her ring. Together they'd called Kevin and Kristin, Howie, and Nick. Emily told everyone at work and when she went on her annual birthday shopping spree she had a good time telling Sally all that had gone on since she was last in shopping. It was then that Emily discovered that her ring really did go with any outfit!

AJ's stuff had arrived from Florida and Emily was beginning to feel rather cramped in her apartment that now had boxes in every corner.

I can not wait until we get a house”! Emily said as she tripped over yet another box. “It is too damn cramped in here!”

I know. I'm sorry baby.” AJ said. “So how about I take you out Saturday night?”

Oh yeah? Where are we going?”

It's a surprise!” he said, giving her a quick kiss.

“”Another surprise? What should I wear?”

Wear that pretty red dress you bought the other day. And definitely wear the hot black lace underwear with it!” he winked.

Emily rolled her eyes at him. “Maybe I just won't wear any underwear at all. How would that be?”

AJ froze. “You know, you could do that. I'm just not sure I'd be able to keep my hands off of you so if you're ok with my groping you all night in front of people....”

Emily laughed and wondered if she should call his bluff on that.

Saturday night she wore her red dress and was ready when AJ told her to be. He claimed he had some errands to run and would pick her up at 6. She'd seem him leave the house dressed nicely in black pants and a plain, white button-up shirt.

So where are we going?” she asked when he picked her up.

I told you, it's a surprise!” he said.

As they drove, Emily had no idea where they were going. After about twenty minutes they were turning into a nice neighborhood street. He pulled into the driveway of a very nice looking house. Emily noticed that there were several cars parked out in the street.

Is this it? Where are we?” she asked.

At a party.” he said, helping her out of the car. He led her up the path to the front door and opened it, allowing her to walk in before him.

Emily found herself surrounded by all of her friends as they all yelled, “Surprise!”

You guys!” she said. “You came all the way out here just for my birthday party?” Emily asked, sincerely touched that even her store employees were there.

Well, you can think of it as more of a birthday-engagement-HOUSE WARMING party.” Leighanne said with a huge smile on her face.

Emily turned to AJ with a confused look on her face. “What does she mean a house warming party?”

Welcome home, baby.” AJ smiled at her.

Emily's jaw dropped. “You mean...this....this ours?”

It sure is. The agent called right before I left for Florida and said she'd found a house nearly identical to the one we wanted with some additional features and a bigger yard. I went to take a look at it and I knew you'd love it. You do love it, right?”

Of course I love it! It's perfect! As I was walking in I was thinking to myself what a nice house it is and wishing I could have one like it.” she laughed. “But how did you manage to do all of this?”

I had a few helpers.” he gestured to Brian and Leighanne. “I signed the papers the day before I went to Florida and I met up with Brian on my way to the airport.”

Emily's eyes were a bit misty as she gave him a kiss. “Thank you.” she whispered.

Take her on a tour!” Megan yelled out.

AJ showed Emily around the house and with each new room he showed her she loved it even more. She had a ton of ideas for decorating it and couldn't wait to get started.

Once they rejoined the party Emily was cornered by Megan, Val and Hazel.

Your ring is huge!” Megan said.

I hate you!” Val said. “You have like, the dream life!”

So...can you fix me up with Randy?” Hazel wanted to know. “Since obviously he's single again!”

Emily laughed. “Maybe.”

AJ walked up behind her and put his arms over her. “Are you having a good time?” he asked.

I am having the time of my life!” she said.

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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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