Nick realized as they got to his apartment door, he didn’t have a key, all his possessions, including his wallet, were back at the hospital. Smiling nervously, he asked Chelsea if she still had her copy.
“Of course,” she said, smiling. She unlocked the door, letting them in.
Nick shivered, the heat had been lowered since he wasn’t living there, so he quickly ran to the thermostat to adjust the temperature. “I wish I had a fireplace, we could use the heat from the fire.”
“Yea, a fireplace would be nice,” Chelsea said, a look on her face that Nick recognized.
Slowly, they both walked over to the couch, shyly taking each other’s hands before sitting down. As soon as he was down, Nick popped back up again, realizing being in the hospital was no excuse for being a bad host. “I’m sorry, did you want something to drink? There might be some sodas, or I can make tea…”
“Nick, sit down,” Chelsea said, pulling him back down. He did, looking down at her hands. Chelsea wondered if he didn’t want to be alone with her. Just because his behavior down by the docks seemed like his feelings matched her own, didn’t mean they really did. Deciding it was better to clear the air, Chelsea said, “You know, we really need to talk don’t we?”
“Yea, we do,” Nick admitted.
Not sure where to begin, they stared a few minutes more at each other, worried what the other might have to say. Nick decided it was time he should go first. “Chelsea, I hardly know where to begin. These last few months have been, I don’t even really know how to describe them, it’s like nothing I could have imagined, even in my nightmares.”
Chelsea sweetly smiled, squeezing his hand. The touch gave him further courage to keep going. “I had given up, on everything. But you were there, everyday, coming by as often as possible. I know…I know I didn’t treat you right. I didn’t want you there, I said so, when that didn’t work I would ignore you.”
Chelsea shivered, again, the worry Nick’s earlier attentions were being mistaken as real love crept into her mind.
Nick went on, “I really didn’t try to understand why I was pushing you away. Dr. Evans wanted me to understand to some extent how the drugs affected me, which I got, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to open myself back up to you. I just…I was scared. So when Melanie came by today…”
“Melanie came by?” Chelsea interrupted, her heart sinking further. “Well, that’s good, um, you wanted to see her. You’ve been..waiting on her to…”
“I thought I did,” Nick said, slowly smiling. Chelsea’s face clearly showed the pain and vulnerability in it, and her feelings to him now were clear. “She’s forgiven me for my part in Trent’s death and the deception, and she was worried I hated her which, of course, I don’t. She wanted to see if we could be go back to the way things were. I told her…”
The pause forced Chelsea to stop staring at his hands and look up at him. She was so scared where he was going with this. “You told her…what?”
“That while I’ll always care for her, our relationship is over. It wasn’t until she was in front of me that I knew what I did feel, it might have been love at one time, was now gone. I have affection for her still, but I know now we can’t go back.”
“Oh?” Chelsea expressed, not sure she trusted herself to say anymore.
Nick had to smile, “Oh? Is that all you can say?”
“I…Oh, Nick, I promised myself all I hoped from everything was that you would get better. As much as I missed you and wanted you back, I could live with knowing you were ok, living your life and, of course, happy. I thought watching you with Melanie a month or two ago was difficult enough, but seeing you unravel and disappear before lost inside yourself was excruciating.
“Sitting in that warehouse, wondering if I could die, I prayed to God that you could still make it. Clearly I wasn’t helping you any, but if someone could help you, even Melanie…”
Nick put his hand on her cheek, caressing it, which stopped her speaking. Smiling, he said, “Oh, Chelsea, you were helping me. In fact, it’s because of you I’m back. I mean, they said you were taken hostage on TV and immediately, it was like, this layer of darkness that was holding me down vanished. You were in danger and there was no way in hell I could ignore that.”
“Oh, Nick,” Chelsea said, tears filling her eyes. Nick leaned in, slowly, barely touching her lips with his. Pulling back, his eyes stared into hers, the desire evident between them. Tilting his head, he reached back down and kissed her.
Chelsea had enough time to inwardly voice “Finally”, until her body began moving on it’s own, and her mind could only focus on the pleasures Nick was giving her. Their arms wrapped around each other, and they leaned into the couch.
As the kisses got longer and longer, Nick’s hands began working their way down Chelsea’s blouse. The cool air was hitting her body as the fabric was slowly slipping off. The kisses paused to allow for this, but their eyes never left each other’s, afraid once they did the spell would be broken.
The kissing resumed but Nick’s shirt became unbuttoned, though still on. Chelsea loved the feel of his chest under hands, and she ran them up under the shirt to his begin massaging back. Nick had to break free to groan which Chelsea took the time to kiss his chin, then his throat and neck. He enjoyed the attention for awhile but eventually missed tasting her and maneuvered himself to give kisses up and down the nape of her neck.
Chelsea leaned back, whimpering at the sensations Nick was giving. Her hands went to his hair as he kept lowering himself, Chelsea wanted to tell him she loved him, but she was unable to voice anything more then just mumblings.
Nick finally pulled away, realizing the couch was not the place he wanted to reunite with her. Sitting up, he gazed at her, marveling in how beautiful she looked. Swallowing and trying to gain some composure, he said, “Would you like to head to my bedroom?”
It took a beat for Chelsea to come to her senses and listen to what he was saying. Her eyes kept fluttering down to his chest, she realized he had been working out some since their last time together. Glancing back up to his face, Chelsea finally got out the words she wanted to say earlier, “I would love to, and I love you, Nick Fallon.”
Nick leaned in and gave her another toe curling kiss. He pulled back, his smile matching her own, “I love you too, Chelsea Brady.”
The next morning, Chelsea woke slowly, her eyes opening one by one. Glancing down, she realized her head was resting on Nick’s chest. Without thinking about it, she gave a soft kiss to her human pillow.
“Good morning,” she heard him say. “It’s about time you should wake up. I was worried how I was going to gently get you awake.”
She raised her head to gaze into his eyes. She started to tell him any of the number of ways he could wake her up, but he beat her to it by giving her a kiss.
When he pulled back, Chelsea smiled, “Well, I’m awake now, what say we continue with where we left off last night?”
“Oh, Chelsea,” Nick said, clearly wanting to, “But I’m surprised my stomach didn’t wake you up. We need to eat and I am sure there is nothing here for us.”
“Oh, we don’t have to leave do we?” she whined, clearly disappointed. “I mean, can’t we order a pizza or something?”
He laughed, “At 9:30 in the morning? I doubt it. But it’s time we got up and joined the rest of the world. Especially me, it’s time I rejoined life.”
Chelsea frowned as Nick got up, clearly he was serious about this. “Well, I don’t know if you need join anything yet. I like having you all to myself.”
Sitting across from her, Nick took her hand, “I know. I like having you to myself too, but you understand…it’s time I did this?”
Nodding, Chelsea reluctantly agreed, “Yea, I do. However, just remember, I’m going to be right there with you.”
The look on her face made him grin, “Oh?”
“Yup, I’m not letting you go again, Mr. Fallon.”
Leaning in, he kissed her softly. Finally, pulling her away, he said, “Well, we do need to take a shower, and you know my passion…for the environment…didn’t falter while in the hospital. We should conserve water and…”
“Right!” Chelsea said, laughing and jumping up, “Beat you there!”
He ran after her laughing as well.
It was a couple of days later when Nick and Chelsea pulled up in front of the Kiriakis mansion. As they got out of the car, both stood looking up at the stately manor, its formal façade towering over them. Chelsea walked to the back of the car and got out two empty suitcases. She hoped they would be enough to get everything.
“Are you sure you’re ready to do this?” Nick asked, worried. In spite of the rude awakening Chelsea got about this side of her family, he knew she still loved her grandfather and wished there was another way to make a stand.
“No, I’m sure. The last couple of days Grandpa and Philip have made it clear they are going to deny any responsibility to what happened. You know, I must have been blind living here and not seeing what was going on. I guess I knew at some level, but I ignored it, it was easier to look at Victor and see his paternal side. He can seem like such a caring and loving man, and forget all about what everyone else already knew.”
Nick took her hand, “Oh, Chelsea, I didn’t know it either. I mean, I heard rumors but if I listened to every rumor…”
“You’d have never wanted me,” Chelsea smiled, trying to lighten the mood.
“No, there was no way around other then wanting you, I was a goner that first time you sneered at me,” and he leaned in for a quick kiss. “But I wasn’t just asking about leaving here. You can always move in with your dad and Stephanie still wants a roommate. You sure you want to move in with me?”
The decision they made was whispered to be too rash given that Nick just got out of the hospital. But Chelsea shook her head, “No, that one is easy.” Just to further seal the decision, she leaned up and kissed him again.
Stepping inside, Chelsea asked Henderson where her grandfather was. Before he could answer, a loud voice was heard down the hall. Without missing a beat, Henderson stated firmly, “I believe you’ll find him in the library.”
The voices got louder as they got closer, Nick could pick out both Victor and Philip, and wondered if maybe now was a good time. Opening the door, Chelsea’s presence immediately shut both men up. Victor, his red face and glaring eyes looked for the first time to Nick as the typical mob boss he really was. However, upon seeing his beloved granddaughter, Victor’s stature changed and he quickly ran over to give her a hug.
“Chelsea, dear! I didn’t know you were coming back today! If I had known, I would have had cook prepare you something special.”
He stepped back and Chelsea started to open her mouth, but had to pause when she saw Victor’s affectionate face. For a few seconds, Nick wondered if she would give in, and agree to come back, but finally, she stood firm and broke the news. “I’m sorry, Grampa, I’m not coming back. In fact, we’re here to get my things.”
“What?” Victor looked over at Nick who stood his ground as well. There was a time when a glare from Victor would have sent Nick out of the room but Nick was more then prepared to defend Chelsea’s decision.
Philip walked up then, “Oh, Chelsea, please don’t leave. It’s been really nice having you around and everything going on…”
Walking past the men, Chelsea shook her head, “Oh, yes I do. I’m sorry, Philip, Grampa. I love you both, and am very appreciate for you making this my home but now I have to do what’s right. I can’t continue living here knowing what you really are.”
“Chelsea,” Victor said in his commanding way, “what do you think we are?”
“Well, for lack of a better word, criminals.”
Nick hid a smile. Seeing Chelsea act so sure and confident of herself, he really was quite proud. He knew inside she was a bubbling mess, but Victor and Philip were only aware of the woman they saw on the outside.
Victor, wasn’t so impressed. “I see, so you leave our house to go where? With this lunatic who could attack you at anytime?”
“How dare you…” Chelsea began, but Nick waved her quiet. He could speak for himself. “I am sorry for my mistakes, Mr. Kiriakis. I regret everything that happened, but unlike you, I have taken responsibility for my actions. I may be out of the hospital now, but I’m still seeing Dr. Evans for my addiction…”
“Well,” Victor said, his eyes rolling, “That just makes everything better doesn’t it? My granddaughter runs away from security and having anything her heart desires to shack up with a man nearly put in an asylum but is better now that he’s in therapy.”
“Nick, let me talk to him alone, please?” Chelsea said. Nick didn’t want to, but he knew Chelsea could handle herself.
Stepping outside, Nick stood like a guard at the door. Philip stood with him. Nick had nothing to say to Philip, he was still angry that whatever he was doing nearly got Chelsea and Stephanie killed.
Philip, for some reason, seemed to want to talk Nick. After a few minutes, he finally said, “Did you hear that we got Chelsea and Stephanie off the hook and don’t have to testify against me?”
Nick had to calm his emotions. Philip made it sound like it was a gesture for them, rather then an obvious self-serving defense tactic. “I’m sure that helps you more than them.”
In all fairness, Philip looked chagrinned. “Yes, it probably does. But I hated that they would be put in a position like that and it would have been hard on them.”
“Frankly, I think Stephanie is disappointed, she seemed ready to testify,” Nick said, speaking the truth.
Surprisingly, Philip smiled, “Yea, she was fired up about it. She won’t return my calls, I was trying to at least give her a recommendation so she could find another job.”
Nick sighed, his heart getting the better of him, “Philip, that’s nice of you, but if you think you can make this all better by helping her get another job, you really don’t know people.”
“Well, what do you suggest?”
Nick shrugged, “Admitting what you were really doing would be a start. Standing up and accepting whatever punishment…”
“Yes, yes, it must be wonderful when you always have that moral high ground to stand on,” he said icily. “That might have worked for you, what with the pills and the Horton family standing behind you in court. I’m a Kiriakis, and the judges here look for ways to throw the book at us.”
“If you want me to feel sorry for you, I don’t,” Nick said, matching Philip’s own glare. “You have, at your fingertips, the money and resources to do things people only dream about. You already have a successful business, running on it’s own, why do you need the criminal one? Instead of funneling money into that, you could take it and really make a difference in the world. Make it a better place for others.”
Philip started to say something, but seemed to consider Nick’s words. He shook his head, “Someone said that to me before, actually just last week. I mean at least with trying to use our money to help the world. I just teased her about it.”
“You shouldn’t have, it’s a start and a good way to try to appease those you have angered in the past.”
“Yea, well,” Philip shrugged. Nick noticed for the first time he really looked defeated. “It makes no difference now. My father has regained control of Titan, and I’ve stepped down as CEO. I’ll be lucky to have anything to do with Titan when this is all over.”
Nick didn’t agree with Philip’s actions, but he could sympathize at the situation. He himself had gotten caught up in a scandal and lost his job over it. Well now he’s lost two jobs since the university cancelled his contract. “Well, when the Salem lab fired me after I admitted to messing up, I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself, or I could look for another career. Maybe you need that too.”
Philip considered Nick’s words. Chelsea stepped out, tears in her eyes. Victor was behind her, wiping away tears himself. Ignoring Philip, Chelsea took Nick’s hand, “Let’s go upstairs and pack.”
Nick turned and was going to walk away, but Philip called out to him. “Wait!”
They turned, Nick expected Philip to say something to Chelsea but instead he reached out his hand to Nick, “It was a pleasure talking to you, Nick. Don’t let him go this time, Chelsea.”
Philip then stepped inside to an astonished Victor while they stood transfixed to their spot.
“Um, ok,” Chelsea glanced up at Nick, then smiled, “Wow, Nick. Just when I think you couldn’t get more amazing, you actually manage to do something like that.”
“Um, yea,” Nick said, confused. They both went up the stairs.
Chapter 52 Christmas
Nick felt Chelsea squeeze his hand. They were done with hanging the ornaments on the tree, always a reverent tradition in the Horton family. As everyone disbanded from the ceremony, Nick felt his mother’s arms around him. He turned and gave her a hug, the bells on his Santa hat ringing as he moved.
“Merry Christmas, Mom,” Nick said, feeling a lump in his throat.
“Merry Christmas, Nicky.” She said, smiling her eyes glistening with tears.
Nick pulled away and smiled at his dad. They had made sure to come over for Christmas, a gesture to see their son and make sure he was really ok for themselves. Nick was so glad to see them, he still flinched at how he treated her just a few weeks ago.
Chelsea, never one to feel truly comfortable in the middle of a family situation, offered to get any of them punch. Jessica went with her.
Nick stood with his father, feeling rather awkward, Joshua had never been an overly affectionate man, but suddenly his dad reached over and dragged him into a bear hug. Nick laughed shakily, knowing some people were staring and smiling.
“Son, I’m so glad you’re back, we’ve been praying about it for a long time.”
“I know, Dad, I’m glad I’m back too, and I’m really happy you’re both here.”
Eventually his parents started mingling with the rest of the crowd. People weren’t used to seeing them so they were catching up on old times. Nick’s eyes scanned the living room, and he noticed Hope walking around cleaning up.
Walking over to her, he took her aside, “Hope, what are you doing?”
She smiled, “I’m trying to clean up some, you know Gram doesn’t have the strength for cleaning though she denies it, and this is too much for Maggie to do after we all leave.”
“Well, let me help,” Nick offered.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that. Go, enjoy the party.”
She was going to walk away, but Nick touched her shoulder. That’s when she knew he had more to say. He had never apologized to Hope for his unfair treatment of her after he found out about his mom’s history. It was the one thing that had been eating at him since leaving the hospital. He wanted to get her alone to talk but Hope was never alone. Between her job, Ciara, the rest of the family and it being Christmas, he hadn’t had a chance to nonchalantly approach her. He was going to rectify that tonight.
“Hope, I wanted to say, well, first I need to say that I was really hard on you back in November. Unfairly so. I blamed you for being in the dark about my family’s history.”
Hope flushed, still feeling guilty. “Our family’s history, Nick. And it was understandable that you looked to me to explain it. I’ve been the one telling you the most about our family, I should have told you about the dark past as well.”
“Well, I wanted to explain though, why I took it so hard. See, you’re more then a cousin to me, you’re like…” Nick flushed, getting embarrassed. “I guess most guys will wish they had a big brother. Not me, I wanted a big sister. That’s weird, I know, but I always imagined that she would be kind and sweet and understanding, and that’s how you are. You’re the big sister I always wanted.”
Hope had tears in her eyes, and she hugged Nick. “Oh, Nick. You’re more than a cousin to me too.”
As they pulled back, he laughed, trying to lighten the mood. “Plus, I figured a big sister could give me advice on women, much more effective than a guy could.”
She laughed. “Yes, I would have, but I think you’re doing alright now.”
Her gesturing to Chelsea across the room made him blush as bright as his Santa hat he wore. Deciding he needed to cool off, he took the garbage bag from her, insisting he would throw it away. She thanked him.
Outside, Nick tossed the garbage, then stretched enjoying the cool air for a moment. Suddenly, he heard a soft whisper, “Nick!”
Turning, he was shocked to see Philip standing in the shadows. “Philip? What in the world?”
“Hi, Nick, I came by to see you.” He stood in his take charge way, but he looked positively freezing even with his gigantic overcoat on.
“Um, ok, but let’s go inside and talk, you’re cold…”
“No, no,” shaking his head, “Nobody wants to see me, and the last thing I need is another run in with my brother. I came to speak to you so this is fine.”
Folding his arms, mostly out of the cold air, Nick replied, “Um, ok.”
Philip never liked to beat around the bush, but as he kept trying to start, he had a hard time concentrating due to Nick’s appearance. “Um, look, this isn’t easy. Can you…can you take your hat off?”
Smiling, Nick took it off, wondering what his hair must look like. Philip was now ready to get to business. “Nick, I thought a lot of what you said when you were helping Chelsea move out. Well, you said a lot of things that made me think, but mostly about how to make a world a better place.”
Nick nodded, shocked Philip actually listened to him.
“I just thought, well, I know how much that alternative fuels project meant to you. I always thought it was an excellent idea but I know because of your…um, setback, the project was cancelled.”
“Yea, I am still not giving up on it though.”
Philip nodded, “Well, you shouldn’t. It’s a good idea, one I think that’s important and, well, I wanted to let you know, I’d be willing to fund it up again.”
“I said the project could be resurrected.”
Nick was taken aback, this was the last thing he expected. The offer was tempting, he so wanted to bring it back, but no matter how much it meant to him, he didn’t want anything to do with Titan. “Thank you, Philip, that is very generous, but I’m afraid, well, I’d prefer if it were a stand alone project, and with Titan in trouble lately…”
Philip smiled, he knew Nick would think that. “Well, first, let me assure this would be a stand alone project. You would be running it and could hire a couple of assistants. They would work for you. It’s just the funding would be from a corporation.”
“Yes, well, it’s just Titan…”
“And it wouldn’t come from Titan.” Nick looked surprised, making Philip smile. Gesturing to a nearby bench, both men sat down. Philip explained, “You said something else to me that got my attention. How when you lost your job before, you were able to jump into a new career, but still doing what you loved. It got me thinking, at Titan, I really enjoyed running the company. That business aspect of it, I was born for it but the company itself…well, I’ll always be seen as my father’s son.
“Anyway, with my mom’s passing, as hard as it was, she left Mythic to both Lucas and me, but gave her operating control. Up until now, I’ve left Lucas in charge but he’s admitted, he’s in over his head. He’s not run a company before and he needs help. I see this as a way to make a name for myself doing what I really enjoyed.”
Nick’s felt speechless. Shaking his head, he didn’t know what to say, “Wow, you’ve really given this a lot of thought.”
Philip nodded, “Yes, I have. I’ve poured over Mythic’s books. The company was strong enough to survive with my mom in the hospital but I have a new direction for it. That said, there is a strong cash repository which would be nice to use, as you said, to make the world a better place.”
“Yea, I see,” Nick smiled, it dawning on him he could really have his project back. “Philip, I don’t know what to say, I mean, we don’t really know each other very well and for you to trust me…”
“Trusting you is easy, Nick,” Philip said, a twinkle in his eye. “It’s confidence in you that you know what you are doing, but I have taken the liberty of reviewing your notes on the project so far. I know someone at Salem U’s board and they gave me full access.”
Nick nearly rolled his eyes. Leave it to Philip to basically admit this generous offer was also a sound business decision. Still, Nick couldn’t deny working on the fuel alternative project solely was very tempting. “Well, I have to tell you this does sound intriguing but you’ve given me a lot to think about.”
“Yes, yes, of course, you can take some time, it is the holidays,” Philip said, “But I must warn you, I’ve got two conditions.”
Nick’s heart sank, of course there were catches. “What?”
“Well, when the project is complete, I’d like to dedicate about 1% of the profits to a…a Mrs. Goodman.”
“Who?” Nick didn’t recognize the name.
“She’s the widow of the man who died a few weeks ago. My guard who died. Goodman. I, um, went to go see her and she made it clear…that this business was something Goodman had wanted to leave. He had a family, and didn’t want them to get stuck in this line of work but it seems, well, he worked for my father and Dad made it clear you don’t stop working for the Kiraikis.”
Nick listened to Philip who was gazing forward. Something told him that this talk with the Goodman widow did far more to push him into this decision then Nick’s words weeks earlier. “Well, Philip, I have no problem with that.”
“Good, the other condition is, I’m afraid, the project must be done in Chicago.”
“Chicago?” Nick asked. He hadn’t expected that. “Why Chicago?”
“Well, I suppose trying to make the world a better place comes at a cost. Chicago offers many tax breaks for companies working in the green industry.”
Nick stood up, irritated, “I see, well, tax breaks are important.”
Standing up with him, Philip explained, “Please consider, Nick. The tax breaks are for your benefit, not Mythic’s. With them in place, the funds given to you would stretch a good deal further then if you were hear in Salem.”
Nick closed his eyes, Philip was right. Nick knew he was being unfair to Philip. If another business tycoon had approached him, Nick wouldn’t have questioned this consideration. Opening his eyes, Nick could see into the house. His gaze settled on Chelsea who was in standing by Bo while holding Ciara. The vision was bittersweet, she looked perfect there, but how could he take her away from her family?
As if reading his mind, Philip walked in front of the window, blocking his gaze. “Again, think about it Nick. Talk it over, see what Chelsea says.”
Nick nodded, not wanting to say no right now. Extending his hand, he and Philip shook. Nick went back inside, putting his Santa hat back on. The warmth of the house did little to ease his mind, he wanted to accept Philip’s proposal so much, but how could he do that?
Walking into Nick’s apartment, Chelsea put the leftovers Maggie insist they take into the fridge. She smiled as she heard Nick jingling as he plopped down on the couch. Glancing over to him, she saw him reach up to remove his hat, but she ran over, stopping him.
“Don’t you take that off!”
“Why not?” Nick asked amused.
“Cause I want to see how long you can leave it on.” She grinned when she saw the blush creep over his face, he knew exactly what she was referring to.
Deciding it was best to give into her over these kinds of things, he leaned in for a kiss. Chelsea relaxed, the warmth from his touch spreading out over her body as she wrapped her arms around him.
Things were moving along in that direction, until Nick suddenly darted up, exclaiming, “Oh, how could I forget?”
He ran into the bedroom as Chelsea glared after him, irritated he would rather do something else. When he came back in, he was carrying a large present. Knowing it was for her, helped appease her lust, for now.
“Oh, we’re doing presents?” she asked, her eyes burning a hole into his gift for her.
“Mmmm-hmmm,” he said, grinning at her sudden interest. Teasingly, he pretended to walk away with it, “But if you would rather we do this later, it can certainly wait.”
“Get back here!” She said, laughing. Again he plopped down, and he handed the box to her.
“This is so big!” she said, “I have no idea what it could be.”
She opened it up, while Nick stood smiling. Inside was a beautifully carved box. Taking it out carefully, she opened it up to find papers inside. “What is this?”
“Well, in one of our sessions, Marlena told me how she had saved all her letters from John in the early part of their relationship. That was before email obviously and so, I thought maybe…”
The box had dividers in it, and each one noted different times. She reached into the one marked “LS” and pulled it out. “This is…this an email from you to me when I thought you were Shane Patton.”
“Yea, Lonely Splicer,” he gulped, suddenly nervous the whole thing was a stupid gesture. “That’s one section. Then there is another of some emails we traded when we first went out. And then of course last year when we got back together.”
“I…I don’t know what to say…” Chelsea’s hands started shaking. “What’s this last section…it’s handwritten stuff.”
She began to pull them out but Nick stopped her. “While I was in the hospital, Marlena had me writing a journal, err, diary type thing. It was really difficult at first. So she suggested I make it like a letter. That didn’t make it any easier, until I started addressing them to you. These…these are what I wrote in there.”
Her mouth dropped and she turned to look at him. Nick kept staring at the box, obviously nervous. Chelsea knew he was waiting to tell him what she thought, but she was so overcome with emotion she had a hard enough time voicing the words.
Finally, she got a hold of herself, “Nick, you’ve taken my breath away at this. What a wonderful idea, and I’m going to add to it.”
Again he blushed, “I love you, Chelsea. If it wasn’t for you, I’d still be in that hospital…”
She leaned in and kissed him. When they pulled apart, Chelsea still had to wipe the tears out of her eyes to see.
“So,” Nick said, a bit teary himself, “My turn, isn’t it?”
“Well,” Chelsea laughed nervously, “I’m not sure I can match that, but I hope you like it.”
She went over to the side of the room and pulled out a gift bag. She handed it to him, still wiping tears away.
He pulled it out to reveal a globe. Chelsea began to smile as he looked excitedly at it. Nick was someone who could get excited about almost anything, so it came no surprise to her he was staring at the cities around the world, and the calligraphy.
“This is great, Chels!” he said with as much enthusiasm as if she had given him a car.
“Nick, this might sound lame, especially after your wonderful gift but it’s symbolic.”
“Hmmm,” He said, still staring at it. She almost laughed. Reaching over, she touched his chin and gently pulled him to face her.
“What I’m saying is, I am never letting you go, no matter what. And wherever we might go, we will be together.”
“Wherever we go..” he repeated, her words sinking in.
“Nick, I know you’ve looked around town. It’s unlikely for you to get another job here in Salem where you can do what you love to do. So I’ve been prepared for us to begin looking in other cities…”
He interrupted, “But your family is all here! I can’t ask you to leave them for…”
“Nick, yes, you can. Together, remember?” She wrapped her arm around his, placing her head on his shoulder. “Besides, I can visit them and they us.”
Nick glanced back at the globe, the earlier conversation with Philip coming to mind. “Wait, did Philip put you up to this?”
“Philip? No, why would you ask that?” Chelsea asked, raising her head.
“Um, no reason.”
Not convinced in the slightest, she sat up, “Nick, what do you mean?”
Sighing, he gave in and told her how Philip approached her that very night outside. He explained everything, including the conditions on being in Chicago.
“Oh my God,” Chelsea exclaimed, “Are you going to take it?”
Surprised at her strong reaction, he shook his head, “I don’t know. I didn’t think you would want to go, but I suppose that’s not a concern…”
“Chicago has all the best shops and some great schools! Morgan lives there too!” She said as if it was all settled. “It’s actually not too far from Salem, we can get here in only a few hours.”
“Well, anyway, Chels,” Nick voiced, “you know there is more to it then that. I mean, we’d have to find a place to live, it’s a very expensive place to live …”
Taking his hand, she shook her head. “Well, we can use our money.”
“What? What money?”
“Well, there is the money Kate gave me,” she smiled, “But then you know all about that.”
Blushing, he looked away, “I don’t know what you are talking about. If you are referring to what she gave you to use for school, then you shouldn’t spend it on…”
Again, Chelsea reached out to turn Nick’s head to face her. “She told me before she died where that money came from. Of course, by then I had already used it for your bail so it’s kind of funny how it came full circle like that…”
“Yes, well, you got it back and you can keep it. We are not using…”
“Oh don’t you get snotty with me, Mr. Fallon,” Chelsea’s tone making it clear she wasn’t arguing about this. “We can both use that money now. Besides I can still go to school…”
Now he rolled his eyes, “Well, $50,000 might be a lot of money here in Salem, but it won’t go very far in Chicago…”
“No, we can use that for a down payment. But I didn’t tell you Grandma Kate did leave me money when she died in her estate. It was generous, actually more then I would have ever expected, but once she got in the hospital and realized she was dying, she liquidated her assets, sold her condo, and…”
“I told you, we aren’t using your money!” Nick got up, he was serious, but Chelsea was not to be deterred.
“You can huff and puff all you want, but you know it makes the most sense to invest in property now with interest rates so low and we can take advantage to first time home buyer’s tax breaks.”
Nick stared at Chelsea, waiting for an explanation to her sudden newfound knowledge on real estate.
She simply shrugged, “You can’t live with Grampa or Philip and not pick up a few tips on investments once in awhile.”
“I see,” he said, but softening to the idea. He really did want the job from Philip and with Chelsea so keen on the idea of moving, it seemed like a great opportunity.
Seeing he was giving in, she smiled, knowing this was the best thing for him, and therefore, her too. Hugging his waist, she said, “Besides, Philip is counting on you to take this offer. If you say no, there goes the opportunity for him to do something for the greater good.”
Kissing the top of Chelsea’s head, Nick chuckled, “Oh?”
She lifted her head up, gazing at him. “Yup, you might say his future fidelity is in your hands.”
Grinning, he corrected, “I think you mean philanthropy.”
“Whatever,” then she kissed him. It didn’t take long for them to temporary forget about Chicago and Philip.
Chapter 54 January 15th
“And then, Nick fell down, prompting Chelsea to roll her eyes again at him…” Steve said, while everyone laughed. Maggie was hosting a going away party for Nick and Chelsea at Chez Rouge. All their friends and family were there, and some had started telling stories of their early days.
“Ok, that’s probably enough now,” Hope said, seeing the weary look on both her cousin and stepdaughter’s faces. “I think we’ll finish this off by raising our glasses, Nick and Chelsea, we all wish you well, and hope you will visit us often!”
With that, many raised their glasses shouting “here, here.” Nick glanced over at Chelsea who grinned back at him, relief on their faces the embarrassing stories were finally over. Leaning over to Nick, she joked, “You know, I was missing my mom and Grandma Kate but realizing what stories they knew, maybe it’s not so bad.”
Nick responded with a laugh, but he knew Chelsea really didn’t mean it. She missed both Billie and Kate very much. He hoped as soon as he had time, he would surprise her with a trip to London.
“So, did I rescue you?” Hope sat down at their table, her smile evident.
“Yes, cousin, you did. Thank you.” Nick nodded gratefully.
Chelsea put down her glass, “I’ll be sure to forward you when the boutiques are having their sales, Hope.”
“No, you don’t,” Hope said, turning motherly, “You are going to be studying in your free time, not shopping.”
Nick giggled at that, and both women glanced at him. “Sorry, probably had too much to drink.”
The women looked at each other, Chelsea shrugged saying, “Don’t worry, I’m driving us home.”
Hope nodded, but realized with Chelsea’s comment, her stepdaughter had certainly managed to overcome her earlier demons and became a dependable and responsible woman. Reaching out her hand, she took Chelsea’s own, surprising her.
With a shaky voice, Hope said, “Just, promise me you’ll keep in touch. I know it’s hectic when you are trying to setup a new life in a new city, but Bo and I are going to miss you terribly. Salem isn’t going to be the same…”
She broke up then, and Chelsea too was crying. Standing up, both women hugged. Nick felt they needed a little privacy, and quietly slipped away. Chelsea pulled back, sniffing, “Will you look at us? We look like we’ve been crying all night!”
“Well, I admit I’ve felt like it. Really, Chelsea, I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of you.”
“We both are,” Chelsea turned to see her father sneaking up behind her. She turned and gave him a hug too.
“Dad, you know, leaving you is the hardest part of all of this.”
He nodded, “I know. It’s tough letting you go. But, I know you have to do this, and you were never more ready.”
Chelsea nodded, but tears welled up again. She had to get a hold of herself, she wanted to say so much. “Dad, I do want you to know, the surgery last year, I’d do it all over again, even knowing…”
She couldn’t finish. Again, they hugged with Hope looking on. They pulled apart slightly, and Chelsea leaned in for Hope to get on her other side. Chelsea smiled, “You know, when Ciara gets a little older, she’s going to have to come up and visit her big sister…”
Nick returned his drink at the bar but refused a refill. He turned around, watching Chelsea with Bo and Hope. The picture they made was bittersweet, the guilt immediately bubbling up within him. He had to remind himself Chelsea was the one so insistent on taking this job, but there was little doubt who the move benefitted the more: himself.
“Nick,” cried Maggie. She threw her arms around him. Nick returned the hug but he had to hide a smile. Maggie had been crying since he announced their attentions of moving, and he wondered if she was ever going to recover.
“Aunt Maggie, I don’t think you cried this much for me when I went into the hospital,” he joked.
“Well, I had to be strong!” She said, sternly. Composing herself, she cleared her throat, “I do want to say though, I’m so proud of you. I know what you went through was not easy, and to not just recover but take charge of your life like this…it’s amazing.”
Nick took his aunt’s arm and they began walking, “Now, you know I don’t deserve all credit for that. I owe so much to so many people. You especially. And you know, it’s not just about these last few months. It’s the years I’ve spent here. The minute I came to Salem, you welcomed me with open arms. It was the first time we met, but you made me feel like I belonged here with you, with the Hortons and in Salem.”
She took his hand, “Oh, Nick, you do belong here. I could see that instantly. But, you have come a long way from the gangly, awkward young man who tripped over my front door.”
“Sshh!” Nick said, “I think that’s the one story they didn’t hear!”
She laughed, “Well, if you don’t come back and visit, I’ll be telling everyone!”
“Ok, deal!” They hugged and Nick found himself growing sad. He really did adore his aunt; she was a woman who had such capacity to allow anyone to feel accepted and love.
“Well, is it too late for me to get a hug in?”
Nick turned to see Stephanie. He grinned, “I don’t know, I thought maybe you were coming with us?”
She playfully smacked him, “Stop it! I told you not to tempt me, I could wind up showing up unannounced on your doorstep.”
Chelsea walked up then, “Well, feel free, though if it’s late at night, don’t come knockin’ if the house is a’rockin’.”
“CHELSEA!” Nick said, his face turning red. Both girls howled with laughter, and he realized she was doing it to get a rise out of him.
“Oh, yea, I’m gonna miss this, that’s for sure.” He walked away but he was laughing himself.
“So, you’re really leaving huh?” Stephanie said, now growing more somber.
“Yea, it’s tough. I’m trying to concentrate on the positives, starting this new life with Nick is exciting and seeing Morgan! I’m real excited about that.” Chelsea said.
“Yea, she told me she’s been scouting houses for you.”
“Yea, she’s trying to fit us into a traditional bungalow, but I’m not sure that will fit with us yet. Nick wants a fixer upper, and that worries me, you know, him with a hammer.” Both girls giggled.
After they stopped laughing, they stopped and each opened their mouth to say something but were unable to. Stephanie got teary and before long, both girls started to cry again.
“You know, Chelsea, we used to hate each other, remember?”
Chelsea shook her head, “No, I don’t. You’ve always been my friend, my best friend.”
Smiling, Stephanie agreed, “And we always will.”
Nick finished his goodbyes to Steve and Kayla, tonight was becoming a good deal harder then he thought. All these people saying such wonderful things to him, he almost wished Steve would get back up and start telling humiliating stories again.
“Nick!” Came a voice. He turned to see Melanie standing by the door, motioning for him to come over.
Walking over, Nick greeted his ex-girlfriend. “Melanie, you should come in. You were invited.”
Glancing at Chelsea, Melanie shook her head. “No, I think it’s best I just come in and out. I wanted to just tell you goodbye, and to thank you. Again, for everything.”
Taking a breath, Nick smiled. He reached down, kissing her forehead. “You take care, Melanie. Do you have any plans?”
“Oh yea, I’m going to go back to school. College that is. I feel kind of old, I’m 21 and a freshman. It’s weird.”
“Not so weird,” Nick said, “You know Chelsea and Stephanie started school late…”
She laughed, “Then that settles it. I am weird.”
Nick gave her a look but she let him know she was teasing with her smile. He smiled back, but Melanie could plainly see the fire he used to reserve for her was gone. Looking down, she handed him a gift bag. “I got you something.”
“Really? You didn’t have to do that!” He reached in and pulled out a binder. Looking at it, it was similar what he made for her in France, but instead of fashion, it showed house clippings. Inside the binder were checklists on home features as well as places for pictures or flyers to be saved. Though Nick was glad to be back with Chelsea, seeing her gift brought a lump to his throat. “Oh Melanie.”
She shrugged nonchalantly, “Now, it’s no big deal there, Nick. Don’t you go getting all sappy over it. I just wanted you to be as ready for this as you possibly could be. I know how…neatness means to you.”
Putting the binder back into the bag, he leaned over and hugged Melanie, taking her by surprise. For a few minutes, she gave into the feeling, allowing herself to believe the hug was more then she knew it to be. Sadly for her, it didn’t last nearly long enough.
Glancing over his shoulder at the truly lucky girl, Melanie decided to lighten the mood. “Well, you better be careful. A guy over there has his hands all over her.”
Nick glanced over, smiling when he saw who Melanie was referring to. “That’s Will Roberts. He’s just come back from Europe, Sweden I think. He’s always had a crush for her, he’s her cousin. Well, he’s mine too actually. And he’s actually a cousin to her twice because Sami is his mother who…”
“That’s ok,” Melanie said, wanting to be spared the details of the tangled Brady family tree. “I just wanted to say goodbye properly to you. And wish you well, and let you know, if Chelsea ever treats you bad again, give me a call, I’ll teach her a lesson.”
He smiled, “Thank you. And good luck, Melanie. With everything.”
She nodded, and walked off. Nick turned, heading back into the party.
“I thought dancing would be fun, but it’s creepy the way they are all staring at us,” Chelsea whispered. The dance floor had opened up, and when Chelsea led Nick to the dance floor, no one followed.
Nick agreed, “I know, I used to think it was sweet to watch a couple at a wedding dance, but now I wonder if the feeling is the same.”
Chelsea smiled, hoping it wouldn’t be long before they found out. As they danced, Chelsea thought back to her life in Salem, with the Bensons and as a Brady. “Nick, when you decided to move here to Salem, were you more nervous or less than you are now?”
Nick thought about it. It was a good question. “I have to say I was more in the dark, I was younger, I had never lived on my own before, and I was about to start my career at the time. And that in itself makes it scarier. But now, heading off to Chicago isn’t so unknown to me. I mean, I guess this year has taught us who the heck knows what’s really in store for us, but…with you by my side, I know that whatever does happen, we can handle it.”
Forgetting those stares that were earlier making her so nervous, Chelsea gazed up, beaming at him. “I feel exactly the same way!”
Chapter 55 Fourth of July
“Dad! Hope!” squealed Chelsea as Nick followed behind. The two had returned for the annual picnic Bo and Hope threw every year at their house. Emerging from the car, Chelsea was so excited she couldn’t wait to run in and see them.
It didn’t take long for Nick to get noticed, and he was pulled into a big bear hug. Hope asked where their bags were.
“Oh, still out in the car, we weren’t sure you would want us to spend the night so we reserved a hotel room…”
“What? I won’t hear of it! You two are going to stay here with us! There is no argument!” Hope said firmly.
Chelsea smiled, and Nick agreed. He wasn’t sure about Chelsea’s old room, the bed was a bit too small for both of them, but maybe it would do. He couldn’t deny Chelsea a night away from her beloved family anyway.
Heading out to the backyard, all the guests greeted them with enthusiasm. The happiness was mutual. While Nick and Chelsea had managed to create a happy life in Chicago, it was really great to come back to Salem and see everyone again.
As soon as he got the chance, Nick stole Hope away, into the kitchen. “Listen, I needed to talk to you. I know, I should wait when you aren’t trying to host a party for a hundred people, but I can hardly wait and I needed to tell someone and I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind if you wanted to listen but please tell me now if you need to get back out there cause if I start…”
“Nick!” Hope said, laughing. “Of course I can talk with you! What is it?”
“Um,” He glanced behind her, then reached into his pocket, pulling out a jewelry box. Opening it, it revealed a beautiful diamond ring.
“OH, NICK!” Hope said way too loudly for his liking.
“Sssssh, Hope, I’m not ready to ask this minute!”
“Where did you get this?” She said, stunned by it’s beauty.
“It was my grandmother’s.”
Glancing up, Hope guessed, “Marie’s?”
“No, no,” he said, “Grandma Fallon’s. She died a few years ago and I’m the only grandson on that side. I was told it was her mother’s and I wanted to give it to Chelsea. Do you think she will like it?”
“Oh, sweetie,” Hope said, tears glistening, “She’s gonna love it. I know you two are happy out there. Chelsea has been emailing us pictures of the house, it’s really coming along.”
He put the ring up, careful not to drop it. “We’ve worked hard on the house. We got such a good deal on it, it’s not a huge place but I think it just…fits us, you know? It’s a lot of work but it’s coming along, that’s why I brought this here. I wanted to ask her here, in Salem. Where we met, and without a renovation around us.”
Hope giggled, “You always were romantic.”
He laughed with her, but he felt very nervous. In spite of how busyness of the year, his new job, and settling into a new house, he and Chelsea were happier then ever. However, would she agree this is the next step?
“Chelsea,” Melanie said, icily. Chelsea returned the greeting. Melanie had moved on from Nick, but she still had a soft spot for him, and was not thrilled to see Chelsea looking so fantastically happy.
“Here, Melanie, I got you this punch,” came Will. Chelsea rolled her eyes, it was obvious that her cousin had a huge crush for Melanie. This had to be stopped.
“Will, would you like to help me get my own punch.”
“Um, sure, Chelsea,” He replied. Confused. Their leaving made Melanie roll her eyes.
“Hi, Melanie,” Nick said. “How are you?”
Turning around to greet him, she beamed a smile at him. She hoped she could find a trace of regret from him they were no longer together, but sadly, he showed none. “I’m fine, Nick, glad to see you.”
He nodded, “I’m pleased to see you’re here. I was worried when I heard Max left town that you would cut ties and go too.”
“No, no, I find that college here suits me and I’m getting close to picking a major.” Melanie frowned, she did miss her brother.
“So it is working out, you were worried about being slightly older then your class.” He said, while leaning up against a table.
Melanie shrugged, “I still am, I’ve made friends but I prefer to hang out with the upper classman.”
Nick glanced behind her and saw Chelsea gesturing wildly to Will. Remembering Will’s attentions to Melanie, he teased, “I see you’ve got your own group of admirers. Will in your class?”
“Yea, he is,” She sighed. “Honestly, he’s got an annoying crush on me. He’s a sweet kid, but not my type, I’m not interested in dating a nineteen year old. Right now I’m dating someone older named Chad.”
Nick smiled, relieved to hear she was moving on from him. “Good, I’m glad. Make sure he treats you right though!”
Melanie winced realizing mentioning Chad’s name didn’t make Nick the slightest bit jealous. She watched as he wandered away to speak to Steve and Kayla.
“I’m so glad you two made it back for the holidays!” Stephanie exclaimed. “We’ve missed you so much.”
“Yea, we’ve missed you too,” Chelsea said, “It’s great having Morgan around, but I miss you so much!”
Stephanie and Chelsea took some drinks, wandering around the yard. Stephanie asked her cousin, “So how’s the house coming? The pictures you have been sending lately look like a totally different house then those first ones!”
“Oh, I know,” Chelsea agreed. “I was worried when Nick said we could do a lot of the work ourselves, but you know what? He’s pretty good working on this kind of stuff.”
“Really?” Stephanie said, surprised.
Never resisting the urge to gloat, Chelsea said, “Course, he’s always been great with his hands…”
Rolling her eyes, Stephanie frowned, “Spare me, please.”
“Um, I don’t think so. I believe I had to listen to constant stories of how you and a guy named Jeremy got it on, so I think you’re due to listen to me.”
“Wasn’t dating Jeremy punishment enough?” Stephanie said. “Why must you punish me like this too?”
Nick walked up then, forcing the girls to change the subject. Chelsea glanced around, “So, is this Nathan guy around here?”
“Oh, he’s the guy you’ve been dating, right?” Nick asked, looking around.
“Um, yea, he’s over there,” Stephanie said absently, her tone reminding Chelsea of how she herself spoke of dating Sam. “Um, Nick, can you get us some punch?”
“Don’t you have some?” Nick said, looking down. Taking her glass, she tossed the drink in the yard and then handed it to Nick, “Now, I don’t. Pretty please?”
“Uh-huh,” he muttered, “You can just say you want to speak to her alone you know.”
“What the heck was that about?” Stephanie asked.
Chelsea shook her head, “No, you tell me. You and Nathan have dated long enough, why are you acting like its no big deal?”
“It is a big deal, Chelsea,” Stephanie said, “It’s just some relationships aren’t always meant to be screamed about to whomever would listen. We are not looking to get married, I’m happy and…um, and that’s that.””
Stephanie’s pause was long enough for Chelsea to follow her eyes. Philip had walked in with a girl on his arm, and Chelsea knew then exactly what the problem was.
So then Stephanie clammed up and wouldn’t say a thing, Nick!” Chelsea said, irritated. “I mean, it’s obvious, there is something between her and Philip so why won’t she just admit it?”
Nick shrugged, looking around nervous. “I don’t know. It’s probably something she ate.”
Chelsea stopped glaring at her boyfriend, had he not listened to her? “Nick Fallon, what is wrong with you. You drag me out of the house, insisting we take this moonlight walk when it’s hot as Hades, and now when I do talk, you don’t even listen!”
Nick took a breath and looked straight into Chelsea’s eyes. His intensity made her pause, he usually looked that way when they were having deep conversations late at night or about to make love.
“You know, I was trying to wait, we had a couple of days here, and there should have been a moment I could take you to one of our favorite places. Like the beach or the church or even the spot where we had picnics in the park.”
Chelsea was still confused, “Nick, what are you talking…”
He then kneeled down, and Chelsea’s heart practically leaped out of her chest. She knew inevitably they would get married, there was no one else for either of them; she couldn’t imagine a life without him. But she didn’t expect it to be today.
“Chelsea Brady, I love you so much and…damn, I had this whole speech prepared, but I can’t remember a word of it.”
“Nick…” she reached out to cup his face, but he suddenly jerked down.
“Oh, the ring, shoot, I can’t believe I forgot to take it out.” He pulled out the box, and slowly but with trembling hands, he opened it. The sight of it took her breath away.
“Nick, it’s beautiful!” She couldn’t imagine anything better.
“So are you,” he replied, “and I’d be honored and actually blessed beyond my wildest dreams, if you would agree to be my wife.”
Kneeling down in front of him, she placed her hand besides the ring, as beautiful as it was, it was no match for his green eyes. “Yes, Nick, I will marry you.”
Joy filling him up, he leaned over and kissed her. Eventually they pulled apart, and Nick said, “You’ve made me the happiest man.”
She leaned her forehead onto his, “Nick, these past few months I’ve already been the happiest woman.”
They kissed again, and realized, their life was just starting.