Emma arrived at the Jonas household within the next hour. Danielle had called her earlier that morning saying that she had something important to tell everyone and she didn’t want to miss out. As she pulled into the driveway and saw Joe and Frankie through the window, she couldn’t help but smile and feel butterflies in her stomach. Over the past few weeks, Joe had been acting differently. He was so secretive and kind of skittish. As the sound of her car door closing echoed, she saw Joe turn to look out the window and smile when he saw her. She lifted her hand and waved before making her way up the front steps, the door opening before she could grab the doorknob.
“Hey,” Joe whispered, reaching an arm out and wrapping it around her waist as she walked inside into his arms.
“Hi,” she said, giving him a kiss as he slid her coat down her shoulders. She wrapped her arms around his neck, squeezing him tight and looked over his shoulder. “The house looks beautiful.”
“Well thank you. It took me hours, but I got it all done,” he joked.
“Did you cook, too?” she asked, as the smells wafted from the kitchen.
“Yes, I hope the cookies didn’t burn!”
“Okay, okay, what is it you really did by yourself?” she asked, resting a hand on his chest as his right arm slid around her waist.
“Well, I helped Dad and Kevin put up the tree, Kevin and I put the lights up outside… and… I helped lick the frosting bowl clean when Mom and Danielle were done.”
“Joseph Jonas you are still five years old.”
“Yes, I am,” he said defiantly, causing her to laugh. “Come on, Mom will want to see you before everyone else gets here.”
“So, when’s present opening time?” she asked as he led her to the kitchen.
“During dessert while we have the fire going and Nick might be playing some songs on the piano. Only one present each tonight, though.”
“I hope mine is a good one,” she joked, patting his stomach.
“Don’t worry, it is,” he said, glancing over at her. She smiled up at him and pecked him on the lips as his heart started to beat just thinking about later. “Hey Mom, look who’s here,” Joe said as they entered the kitchen.
“Oh!” Denise exclaimed, getting up from the table. “Emma, how are you?” she asked, embracing the girl in a hug.
“I’m fine Denise, how are you?”
“Fine, just fine,” Denise said, looking over Emma’s shoulder to smile at Joe who cleared his throat and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“Did I hear the voice of the girl who’s way too good for my brother?” Nick asked, coming around the corner into the kitchen.
“Nicholas!” Emma exclaimed, hugging Nick. Joe came up and smacked the back of Nick’s head. “Joe, that was unnecessary.”
“He said you were too good for me!” Joe said, holding up his hands in defense as his girlfriend walked towards him with a glare in her eyes.
“Honey… I am too good for you,” she joked.
“Oh really?” he asked as the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it!” Kevin Sr. called from the living room. “Johnson family! Come on in.”
“I’ve met them, right?” Emma asked Joe as they all turned to see them come in.
“Um… I think so. Emma’s met Nicole, right Nick?” he asked, turning to look at his brother. “Nick?”
Nick stood there frozen. His eyes open wide and his skin looking slightly paler than it had before. Joe shoved Nick’s shoulder and his head snapped around to Joe.
“What was that for?”
“You were like a zombie as soon as Dad said the Johnsons were here.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Nick said quickly.
“Okay… moving on,” Joe said, leading Emma to the front to re-introduce her to the Johnsons.
Nick watched as Joe led Emma to Amber and Spencer, Nicole and Jessica’s parents. To their left, Frankie was showing Jessica the tree. He heard someone come up next to him and expecting it to be his mother, he turned toward the body. His eyes widened when he saw that it was Nicole.
“Hi Nick,” she said, giving him a slight smile.
“Oh, uh, hey Nicole,” he said, clearing his throat and running his fingers through his hair. “Uh… how are you?”
“I’m good. It’s good to see you again. We haven’t seen each other since July.”
“Yeah, long time. How’s uh… Jeremy?”
“Oh… we broke up a few months ago,” she said, looking down at her shoes. Nick couldn’t help but smile wide, feeling so much happier. As she started to look up, he quickly wiped the smile from his face.
“I’m sorry,” he said, putting a hand on her arm and feeling the shivers run through his fingertips.
“No, it’s okay. I’m totally over it,” she said. “So… uh… how’s the whole song writing, music making thing going?”
“Really great… I’m actually working on a few new songs,” he said, happy to be talking about his main passion in life.
“What are they about?”
“Um… you know… the normal stuff songs are about,” he said, avoiding the question.
“Actually, I wouldn’t know anything about song writing.”
“Okay, but you’ve listened to songs so…”
“Nick,” she said with a laugh, nudging his side with her elbow.
“Hey, you know how a magician never reveals his secrets?”
“Yeah…” she said slowly, drawing the word out.
“Well, a musician never reveals his inspirations,” he said and she couldn’t help but smile.
After Emma had been re-acquainted with the Johnsons, she made her way over to Kevin and Danielle. Over their shoulders, she could see Nick talking with Nicole in the kitchen. Kevin enveloped her in a large hug and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She smiled at Danielle as they embraced.
“You look really nice tonight,” Danielle said as they held each other at arms’ length.
“Thanks. I just had this feeling that tonight was going to be something special,” she said, glancing over her shoulder to smile at Joe who was talking with his parents. He winked at her and continued his conversation and she turned back to Kevin and Danielle.
“You look… different,” she said, eyeing Danielle.
“Do I?” Danielle asked, glancing at Kevin. “Well, it has been a week since I last saw you,” she joked.
“No… no it’s something else,” Emma said, tapping her chin with her finger.
“Uh, Kevin, would you mind if Emma and I talked alone for a bit? Girl stuff and whatnot,” she said, placing a gentle hand on his arm.
“Yeah, sure,” he said, leaning down to kiss her. Danielle waited until he had started a conversation with Mr. Johnson to pull Emma into the downstairs bathroom.
“Whoa, what’s with the secrecy?”
“I have something that I’m going to tell everyone. Seriously, no one knows and I know you’re suspicious. I knew you were suspicious when we were on the phone, but I can’t tell you and I don’t want you to give it away. So please, no special ‘looks’ over to me or anything like that, okay?” Danielle asked holding Emma’s hands in hers.
“Okay. This is something… good though. Right?” Emma asked raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, yeah everything’s fine. I promise,” she said, repeating her words to Kevin from earlier.