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“What the hell?”

Nick yelped as the flashlight flew by him. He had assumed he was by himself but apparently someone or something had gotten into the house. When he turned to the direction the object had come from, he came face to face with Emma. She was on the other side of the island and was preparing to throw something else. Nick raised his hands to get her attention.

“Whoa there Tom Brady,” he teased, “you’re gonna take someone’s eye out.”

Emma realized that it was Nick and her body and mind relaxed; she hadn’t been expecting him but he was better than a burglar or a murderer.

“What are you doing here?”

Nick set his bag on the counter and picked up the flashlight. He gently set it back down on the counter and took inventory of the all the candles she had put there.

“Howie asked me to check on the house.” Nick answered. “Do you think you’re going to need all of these candles? You might burn the place down.”

“I wanted to be prepared.” Emma said as she looked down to see about twenty-five candles. “There were more but I left them in the closet.”

“Good thinking. Why are you here?”

Emma explained that she had been intending to go to New York but her travel plans fell through when the storm picked up its intensity. Nick understood why she had thought better of going but it was going to be an uncomfortable situation with both of them staying there. He was thinking about leaving but he noticed that Howie had left the umbrella up and he knew that Emma wouldn’t be able to take care of that herself.

The wind whipped around and shook the house causing Emma to snap to attention. She knew that Nick was taking inventory of what needed to be done and she was more than happy to let him help. There would be no way of getting the patio furniture down safely on her own.

She had just come around the corner of the island when Nick caught sight of something over her right shoulder. He surprised her by pulling her into him tightly, spinning around and wrapping his free arm around her head. Opening her mouth to speak, she shut it quickly as she heard a tremendous smash; without being able to see, she could tell that the umbrella had just crashed through the sliding door to the kitchen.

“Are you okay?” Nick asked as he released her. “Nothing hit you right?”

Emma could see glass all over the floor and she understood why Nick had moved her. The umbrella had landed within inches of where she had been standing. She simply nodded and began moving towards the closet to get a dust broom.

“No way.” Nick said, gently yanking her back. “I need to board up that door before we do any cleaning. There’s still a chance something else could come through.”

She watched as Nick cut through the kitchen and went into the garage. He came back a few minutes later with a drill and some large pieces of plywood. It took him about a half an hour to get everything in place before he would let her come into the room.

“How did you know how to do that?” Emma asked as they started picking up the big pieces of glass. “Do they get many hurricanes in California?”

“No,” Nick replied with a laugh, “I grew up in Florida and they were a common occurrence. My brother, sisters and I got used to this at an early age.”

“That must have been fun.”

“It wasn’t that bad, we got to learn all this handy stuff while we were young so we didn’t get into a bad spot when we got older.”

Emma nodded and turned back to the task at hand; it took about an hour but they managed to get everything cleaned up and taken care of. They had remained pretty silent while they were working but Emma had noticed that when Nick came in, he had a bag with him. She wasn’t sure what was going on but she asked as soon as they finished.

“Howie offered to let me stay here after I checked on the house so that I wouldn’t have to drive all the way back to the hotel.” Nick answered. “But I can always go back.”

“It’s not safe.” Emma told him. “I would feel awful if something happened.”

She blushed after admitting that and hoped it didn’t make an uncomfortable situation even worse. Thankfully, Nick let the comment slide and asked her if she was sure; it would be very awkward if they weren’t able to stay around each other.

“I’m sure. I can just grab my stuff and head upstairs that way you can have the living room and I won’t disturb you.”

“You can’t go upstairs.” Nick told her adamantly. “Don’t you know that, when there is a storm like this, the safest place is the lowest part of the house?”

“No, I knew that but I didn’t want things to be weird.”

“Well weird or not,” Nick told her, “there is absolutely no way you’re going to go past this floor.”
Emma was unsure about what to do; she didn’t want to make things uncomfortable but she also felt better that Nick was there with her. She tried to think of things they could do to keep themselves busy when Nick spoke up.

“Why don’t we invade Howie’s man cave and see what he’s hiding down there!”