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The next week flew by quickly in a blur of family and friends. Howie’s family stayed with the couple while Emma and the guys held their rooms in the hotels. The friends wanted to be there but, out of respect for his family who was leaving by the end of the week, they kept their visits short; they all knew that they would have more opportunities to see them since they visited more than Howie’s family.

Emma passed the time seeing old friends and colleagues, going to visit the parks that she loved and spending time with AJ. He and the other guys were staying in town to visit and to work on the new album so Emma was conscious that she may run into Nick during their time there. Thankfully, other than at the house, she only saw him two times and she had been able to avoid him, even though it was difficult. Both times, she had been running on the trail that they had used when they were together; she was able to hide behind a tree one of the others times and the other time, she stopped and pretended to use one of the bubblers they had installed on the trail. He had almost stopped that time but, seeing someone else was drinking, he moved on to the next one. She had been lucky to avoid him and she thought that she had hidden herself well. What she didn’t know is that Nick knew she was the person drinking and had purposely run past her instead of waiting for her to finish.


“Why the fuck is she always around?”

Nick stormed into AJ’s room after his brother opened the door. He was meeting the guys there to grab a ride to another session at a local recording studio.

“I take it you’re not talking about the housekeeper.”

Nick glared at AJ standing there with a Cheshire cat grin on his face. He hated that AJ was always on her side and that he even bothered to give her the time of day. As Nick was preparing to lash out, Brian and Kevin entered the room, both men’s faces scanning their two brothers’ faces.

“Uh-oh.” Kevin said with his fatherly voice while taking a seat on the chair nearest the window. “What’s going on?”

“Nick was just about to tell me how he hated the new housekeeper.” AJ replied, unable to keep himself from smirking. “I think she’s really nice, always leaves chocolate on my pillow.”

Brian almost cracked a smile but the thought immediately went out the window when he saw how furious Nick was getting.

“You’re a fucking asshole! You know damn right well who I’m fucking talking about!”

Nick stomped out the door acting like a petulant child leaving Kevin rubbing his temples and Brian standing there with his jaw dropped. He slammed the door behind so hard that the it shook as it closed. After his outburst and exit, AJ simply turned around and kept packing the bag he took with him to the studio.

“Why do you have to goad him J? Is it really necessary?”

Kevin was getting tired of Nick behaving as though Emma had committed the worst sin of Earth and treating AJ like he was a traitor. But, to be fair, he was also losing his patience with AJ constantly needling Nick.

“Because he’s being a jackass.” AJ responded. “He’s doing his best to make everyone as miserable as he is. We’re supposed to be here for Howie and celebrating his new daughter. Instead of doing that, Nick wants all of us to focus on him and treat him with kid gloves. I’m tired of him treating Emma like she’s a piece of crap and purposely trying to make her uncomfortable enough to the point where she actually leaves the room.”

As much as Kevin was tired of how AJ was acting, he agreed that his brother had a point. Nick was so irritable, continuing to wage a war on Emma and everyone who treated her with an ounce of kindness or respect. It was making it difficult even for his brothers to be around him and it was starting to upset Howie; he thought of Nick as one of his best friends and, instead of being there for him, Nick was putting all of the attention on himself, ignoring everyone else’s feelings.

Kevin let the subject die as he and Brian followed AJ out to the elevators. Brian had sent Nick a text that they would be waiting in the car for him and for him to hurry up. They were already drained from all the fighting and just wanted to get some work done. Hopefully, that could happen with a limited amount of arguing between Nick and AJ.


“Are you sure this can’t wait?”

Howie’s family had just left that morning and he got a call from his management company. They wanted the boys to do a mini press tour to get some excitement going over the new album. As much as Howie complained, they weren’t concerned about the guys having families or the fact that one of them had a new baby; all they were concerned about was the money coming in.

“What’s the matter?” Addie asked when he husband came into the living room. “You look upset.”

Howie told her about the phone call and Addie was absolutely livid. She wanted to call the company back and read them the riot act about giving a damn when one of the guys had a major life change. Thankfully, Howie was able to talk her out of it and settle her down; he knew she was going to be upset but he also knew that the company had them over a barrel. The guys were contracted to do a certain number of events as a group including doing some press trips to get buzz going over the new songs.

“What am I supposed to do while you’re gone Howie? We just had a baby and now I have to do this by myself!”

Emma had just walked in the room having been called over by Addie to plan their Fourth of July barbecue.

“Oh no.” She looked at Addie’s face and then turned to Howie. “What’s wrong?”

“His company sucks!” Addie answered, her anger starting to bubble again. “They apparently don’t care about children and family!”

Howie dropped his head into his hands and explained the situation to Emma. She could see why her friend was so upset but she could also understand Howie’s problem. All the money he earned paid for the house they lived in and all the luxuries they had. Trying to think quickly, Emma came up with a possible solution.

“What if I stayed with you?” Emma questioned as she face Addie. “I can stay here and help you with the baby. We can plan the party and spend a few days having girl time.”

Emma was actually hoping her sister would agree to the arrangement. It would give her more time with Addie and her daughter as well as give her some space away from Nick for a few days. She was trying to be cordial and making sure she was careful to not do anything to upset him but all the looks and his actions were getting to her; she was exhausted after trying to avoid him.

After considering the plan for a minute, Addie agreed and told Emma that she wanted her to check out of her hotel and stay in their guest room for the remainder of her visit. They had let Emma stay in the hotel to keep Nick from being angry at what would look like them taking sides. However, after this new wrinkle and his current behavior, Addie didn’t give a damn about Nick’s feelings and, after seeing the look on his wife’s face, Howie agreed with her and told Emma she was more than welcome to stay with them.