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Nick spent the next few hours drinking everything he could get his hands on; he didn’t even care if he pissed everyone else off. If he had to stay at the damn party and put up with her, then he was going to do it with a serious buzz going. He chugged his latest drink in two gulps when he saw Emma coming back to the party followed by AJ.

His brother was such a traitor! Nick had stood by AJ through many of his issues but AJ didn’t give a damn about what Nick was going through. He would never have sided with a woman over his brother and he damn sure would never chat and hang out with a woman who broke AJ’s heart into a million pieces. His enraged gaze passed over Emma by accident and he gave her a look that could kill.

The guys noticed Nick’s behavior but they were just too tired to go over there and give him a pep talk or tell him that yes, the world was so hard on him. It was getting old to constantly deal with his mood swings and his selfishness. They wanted their brother to be happy but he was making that damn near impossible and they were just fed up.

Everybody but Nick gathered around to watch the fireworks and enjoy the final moments of the night. By that point, Emma had gone up to her room to watch the fireworks there and Addie had gone in to put the baby down. Addie wanted to check in on her friend but she also knew, from the look on her face earlier, that she needed some space. It was driving Addie batty to watch Nick treat her sister the way he was and she really wanted to throat punch him.

As everyone was getting ready to leave, the guys noticed that Nick was stalking off in the direction of the driveway. They all knew that there was no way Nick was sober enough to drive and that they would have to flip a coin to see who got stuck taking him back to the hotel. Howie called out to get his attention and waved Nick over to the pool. Nobody wanted to make a scene in front of the kids or the wives so they were going to try to get him to go quietly.

“What?” Nick said with droopy eyes. “I want to get going.”

“There is no way you can drive man.” Kevin told him. “It’s not safe for you or for anyone else out on the road. One of us will give you a ride home.”

“I’m not going with a traitor!” Nick hissed at AJ, who really didn’t want him to come home with him anyway, “and you all have full cars and cranky kids. I can go by myself.”

Brian stepped in front of him when he turned to leave and Nick got pissed. He tried to push past his brother but wasn’t strong enough after all the drinking. Instead, he started arguing with all of them, calling them all traitors and going on and on about how nobody cared about what he was going through. His voice kept rising and rising, causing Rochelle, Kristen and Leighanne to bring the kids inside.

What nobody noticed was Emma as she crept down the stairs and out the door. She knew that everyone was focused on Nick whom she knew was not going to back down. Everything that was building in her was coming out like a flood gate. Before anyone could stop her, she slipped through the circle of men, grabbed Nick’s keys from his hand and threw them as hard as she could into the deep end of the pool.

All of the women were rooting for her while all the men were silent as they watched the keys sink down to the bottom of the pool. All of a sudden, they all turned to face Emma as she stood there with her hands on her hips.

“There!” Emma sniped. “Problem solved.”

It was shocking to see Emma that irritated and nasty. Everything that had been happening over the course of the last week or so had just taken a toll on her. As pissed off as she was at this point with Nick, there was no way she was going to let him try to drive home knowing that he could kill himself or someone else.

Nick took a giant step towards Emma and got in her face. The guys knew where this was heading and they shot over to separate Nick from her. He would never have hit her but his ferociousness was scary for all of them.

“Why the hell did you do that?” Nick yelled. “You had no business doing that.”

Emma straightened her back and got right in front of him.

“I’m sorry that I care and don’t want anything to happen to you! I’m so sorry for that!”

“You don’t care about me and I don’t give a flying fuck about your feelings.”

Everyone watched as Emma turned on her heel and started walking back towards the house. There was nothing more she could do at this point and, before she lost it and started crying, she was going to remove herself from the situation.

Just as Emma was about to step through the door into the house, Nick screamed at the top of his lungs.


At this point, they all watched as her shoulders dropped and her hand slipped up to her face to wipe away the tears that were now falling down her face. It was also the point where Howie lost it and got right in Nick’s face.

“If you say one more fucking word,” Howie threatened, “I will punch you in the mouth myself!”

Addie would have been proud of her husband if she had been close enough to hear him. He looked dead into Nick’s eyes waiting for him to do or say something but they were all surprised when Nick didn’t.

He simply stepped back and collapsed onto a chair. There was never a moment in all the scenarios that had played through his mind for the last three years where he imagined saying something like that to Emma; he knew that he had now crossed a line that there may be no chance of ever crossing back. Howie had never looked as infuriated as he did now and Brian, Kevin and AJ stared at him with equally fuming expressions. If Howie hadn’t intervened, Nick knew that AJ probably would have hit him or, at least, thrown him in the pool.

Knowing that Brian and Leighanne probably would lecture him the least, he asked them to take him back to the house. They agreed and gathered up all their belongings, saying goodbye to everyone as they made their way to the door. As Nick passed Addie, he knew that the look on Addie’s face was nothing compared to what she probably wanted to do to him. He, in truth, had done something unforgivable and he knew it; all the fight and anger that had been coursing through him earlier was replaced by a feeling of shame. It was going to be difficult to face his friends in the morning and he knew that he deserved all of the hell he was going to catch for what he had done that night.

As soon as Nick left, Addie started to make her way up the stairs. Rochelle knew she was headed to Emma’s room so she gently put her hand on her arm. The touch caused Addie to turn around and the pain she felt for her friend was clearly written all over her face.

“I know you think going up there is going to help,” Rochelle pleaded, “but it’s not going to. It’ll make everything worse if you go up there as upset as you are. Emma needs to work through this before she deals with anyone else’s feelings. Give her till tomorrow.”

“But she needs to know I care.”

AJ leaned in to hug Addie and pulled his wife into his side.

“She knows how much you care Addie, I don’t think there is any question about that. Just give her some time to come to you.”

Addie still wanted to go upstairs but when Howie came through the door, she could see how upset he was. She knew she needed to help him deal with everything that had happened and made peace with the fact that she would give Emma some space. She just hoped her friend wasn’t hurting as much as she felt she was.