Chapter 16

Emily thought about not answering the door. She certainly didn’t want AJ to see her in her pink polka-dot pajamas!

“Emily, I can hear you breathing!” he said.

Shit. She opened the door a crack. “Hey AJ!”

“Are you ok in there?” He asked, trying to peer in.

“Yeah, I was just getting ready to go to bed actually.”

“Go to bed? No way, you’ve got the night off and you’re coming out with me and Kevin and Howie.”

“AJ! I’m not even dressed anymore and I’m really tired.”

“Come on; don’t go to bed all stressed out! Come have some fun! If you’re miserable, I’ll bring you right back, I promise.”

Emily sighed. “I don’t suppose you’re going to give up, are you?”

“I see you’re finally catching on. Now let me in!”

Emily opened the door and AJ smiled at her outfit.

“Nice, I have a pair of those myself in blue.”

“Very funny! Just give me a minute to get dressed.” Emily said, going into the bathroom.

“Ok.” AJ sat down and watched some TV while he waited on her.

“I’m ready!” Emily announced, walking out of the bathroom in jeans and a pink blouse with her favorite pair of cowboy boots.

“Wow! Kickin’ boots!!” AJ said.

Those eyes. He was looking at her with those eyes and it made her nervous.

“Let me guess, you have a pair red?” she said.

“How’d you know? You been in my closet?” AJ joked.

“You’re so skinny; nothing in your closet would fit most women out there.”

“They don’t call me Bone for nothing.”

“Is that why? I always thought it had something to do with….” Emily stopped herself.

“With what?” AJ asked, smirking. He knew exactly what she was about to say.

“Never mind.” Emily blushed.

AJ leaned in and whispered in her ear, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

Emily met his gaze. Sexual innuendo was definitely one of her strong suits.

“Be careful, you don’t want to make me throw up again do you?”

“Oh, now that was harsh!” AJ laughed.

Emily and AJ met up with Kevin and Howie outside in the car.

“Hey Emily! Feeling better?” Kevin asked.

“Yes, but honestly, I’d really rather pretend that you never saw that happen!” Emily said.

“Consider it forgotten.” Kevin said.

“How have you been getting along at home?” Howie asked.

“I have a whole new respect for single parents. Baylee is quite a handful and I am exhausted! I don’t think I’ve ever been so worn out by a toddler before.”

“You think that’s bad, try being in charge of AJ.” Kevin said.

Emily looked over at AJ, who was in the process of being obnoxious to whoever he was talking to on his cell phone.

“I heard that!” he mouthed. Emily laughed.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“Pizza party at AJ’s house.” Howie answered. “He wanted to go home, and we felt like being low key tonight.”

Emily suspected that nothing about AJ’s house would be low key.

They pulled into his gated driveway and got out of the van. Howie offered his hand to help her down out of the van. AJ finally got off his phone and held the door open for them. “Make yourselves at home.” He said. “Emily, let me take you on a quick tour.” He led her on a tour, showing her the downstairs first, followed by the upstairs.

“This is my room.” He said. His room was masculine like she expected, but somehow it was also more normal than she expected.

“It’s nice, AJ. Is that your closet?”

“Yes, why?”

“Well, I thought I would see if I could borrow those red boots you said were in here….”

“Cute. Real cute. Just for that, you’re not going to see my closet! And, it was going to be the highlight of the tour but you missed out!”

Emily and AJ went back into the living room where they found Kevin and Howie.

“Did you show her your closet?” Howie asked.

Emily just looked at AJ and the two of them laughed.

“Kevin, where’s Kristin?” she asked.

“She’s back home, probably knitting or something right now. She doesn’t like to tour all that much, she’s a low key kind of person.”

“I can’t really say I blame her for that!” Emily said.

AJ ordered the pizza and while they waited, they started playing a game of poker. Emily was thankful they weren’t playing with real money; she was horrible at poker.

“Too bad we didn’t opt for strip poker.” AJ said as he beat Emily yet again.

“Funny!” Emily said as she tried to give him her evil eye.

After a few hours of poker and pizza, they decided it was time to go. AJ was going to stay in his house while the rest of them went back to the hotel.

“Thanks for inviting me.” Emily said.

“I told you you’d have fun.” AJ said.

“I did.”

“Can I see you again while you’re here?” he asked, quietly. He was looking at her with those eyes again.

“I don’t know, I might just spend the weekend relaxing. Maybe go to a spa and get a massage or something.” Emily stalled.

“Well, give me a call if you want to hang out.” AJ said.

Emily had a hard time falling asleep that night. She couldn’t stop thinking about AJ. She liked him, a lot. But she didn’t want to like him. There were too many reasons not to. She didn’t want to jeopardize her job because she loved working with Baylee so much. She wasn’t even sure she would have time for a social life right now anyway. And then there was his whole substance abuse thing. She had read that he got his life back on track and had even become deeply religious as a result, but she wasn’t sure if a person could ever really change that much. She also knew that if he looked at her with those eyes much more, she would forget all about her reasons and go out with him, tattoos and all.


Chapter 17

During her days off, Emily did exactly as she said she would. She went to the spa, went to the movies, and took several naps. AJ called her on her last night there.

“Emily, come out, it’s your last night!”

Emily sighed. She really did want to go out. “AJ, I’m sorry I just don’t think it would be a good idea.”

“Why not?” he sounded hurt.

“To be honest, I like you. But I can’t like you because Brian sort of asked me not to go out with you and he is my boss first and foremost. I’m sorry.” She said, cringing at her lie and hanging up the phone.

AJ held the phone in his hand after she hung up saying, “I haven’t had to work this hard to get a girl to go out with me in years, no thanks to Brian!”


Early the next morning, Emily met back up with Brian and Baylee.

“Miss. Emily! Look what I got at Disney World!”

“What?””

Baylee came running, holding up a piece of paper. “Mickey Mouse signed me an autograph!”

Emily pretended to be amazed as she looked at the paper. “Wow! You’d better keep that in a safe place!”

“Baylee, go pack up your toys.” Brian said.

“Did you guys have a good time?” she asked.

“Yeah, we had a blast. Did you enjoy your weekend?”

“Absolutely!” she said.

“Baylee, Miss Emily is going to take you to the airport and you’re going to fly home today, ok?”

“Daddy I want to stay here with you!” His lip was starting to quiver.

“I know you do, but I need you to go home and take care of the dogs for me like you promised! And in two weeks, you get to come visit me again.”

Baylee was in tears. “I don’t wanna go!”

Emily knew Brian’s heart must have been breaking just as much as hers was. She saw that this wasn’t going to get any easier so she encouraged Brian to say goodbye and carried Baylee out of the room.

“Thanks, Emily.” Brian said as she left the room.

Baylee was still crying and insisting he wanted to stay when they bumped into AJ in the elevator.

“Baylee, what’s the matter Buddy?” he asked.

“I wanna stay here with Daddy!” he wailed.

“But you get to go home and have lots of fun with Emily!” he tried. Baylee wouldn’t have any of it.

“I hope you get home ok.” AJ said to her.

Emily couldn’t bring herself to look at him. “Me too.” She said.

Baylee eventually wore himself out on the ride to the airport and fell asleep before they got there. She carried him onto the plane, not wanting to disturb him and also not wanting him to wake up and start screaming on the plane. They made it home without a problem and Emily did not let go of him when they went to baggage claim, not wanting to re-live their last airport adventure.

Once they were home, she called Brian to let him know that they were home safe and sound.

“Did he settle down?” he asked.

“No, he cried himself to sleep in the car, and pretty much slept the whole way home.”

“God, I really hate putting him through that.” Brian sighed.

“I know you do, but he’ll be ok. We’re going to go swimming this afternoon and then I promised him I would watch Veggie Tales with him.”

Brian laughed. “Have fun with that!”

“It will give me a chance to catch up on some knitting or something.”


Brian hung up the phone and heard a knock on his door. He barely had the door open when AJ pushed it the rest of the way open. He stormed into the room swinging a punch at Brian.

Brian ducked just in time. “What the fuck, AJ?”

“I just wanted to thank you for telling Emily not to date me.”

“What are you talking about? I never told her that!”

“Well then why did she tell me that you told her not to?” AJ accused.

“I don’t know, maybe she was just trying to be nice?”

“Nice?”

“Wait…you asked her out?” Brian was still trying to figure the story out.

“Yeah, last night. She’s fun to hang out with, you know? I thought it would be fun to hang out together and she told me no, that you asked her not to date me.”

“Dude, I never said that, ok?” Brian was getting pissed that AJ would just storm into his room and try to punch him in the face before at least getting his facts straight.

“I’m sorry, man. I guess I over-reacted.”

“You think?” Brian shot back.

“Listen, I’m sorry she shot you down. She’s very professional you know, maybe she just doesn’t want to mix business with pleasure.”

“Maybe. Man, I hate it when chicks have morals and values and shit.” AJ joked.

Chapter18

Over the next few days, Emily managed to get Baylee to cheer up by keeping him occupied and letting him call Brian and Leighanne several times a day.

“Listen, if you want him to stop calling you so much, just let me know.” Emily told him.

“It’s not a problem; I think it’s good for him to know he can still reach us. It’s been hard on Leighanne, though. She feels terribly guilty every time he tells her he misses her.”

Emily smiled. “Hang on a second, Baylee has something else to tell you.”

“Daddy, Miss Emily is taking me to the zoo today!”

“She is? Make sure to say ‘hi’ to the monkeys for me!” she heard Brian say.

Baylee talked to Brian for a few more minutes before hanging up. Emily got him loaded up in the car and they took off for the zoo. They covered the entire zoo, making sure that no animal went unseen.

When they were in the monkey exhibit, Baylee insisted he call Brian again.

“I need to tell my dad something.”

Emily dialed his number, thankful that she had free long-distance and handed Baylee the phone.

“Hi Daddy!”

“Hi Baylee, are you having fun at the zoo?”

“Yes. Daddy, guess what?”

“What?”

“I’m at the monkey cage!”

“You are!? Did you tell them hi for me?”

“You can tell them yourself!” Baylee held the phone out to the cage.

Emily could hear Brian saying, “Hi Monkeys!”

“Daddy I think they heard you.”

“Ok, good.”

“I gotta go now; we’re going to go see the snakes.”


Emily was exhausted as she put Baylee to bed that night. They had spent the entire day at the zoo. She went into her bathroom and took a long bath, trying to wash away the animal grime that she knew must be all over her. She was just drying off when her cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“I saw your picture in the tabloids last month.”

Emily froze. She knew that voice anywhere.


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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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