Chapter 14 – The First Noel

Late the next morning, Nick parked his car outside of Brittany’s condo complex. He sighed to himself, glancing at the clock. He’d now officially missed his flight to Florida. No matter how much he didn’t want to see his family, he wasn’t looking forward to having to deal with any drama that was bound to arise on account of skipping out.

So, he sent a quick text to Brittany, letting her know that he was downstairs. Then he took a deep breath and called his youngest sister.

“Nick?” her soft voice rang through the speakers of his bluetooth enabled car.

“Hey,” he said shortly, peeking out the window to make sure Brittany wasn’t anywhere in sight yet. She wasn’t. “Uh, so I just thought I would tell you, I’m not going to be coming out to Florida…”

“What? Why?” Angel asked, sounding disappointed. Nick sighed a little. He’d thought it would have been best to call her, since out of all his siblings she was the one he got along with the most, but now he was regretting that decision as he was just feeling guilty.

“I’ve got stuff to do here in LA,” he lied.

“On Christmas?” she challenged. “Really, Nick?”

“Yeah,” he said, still keeping up with his lie.

“You expect me to actually believe that?” Angel asked him with annoyance. “This is the first Christmas you were going to spend with us in years and you’re ditching us. You just don’t want to see us. As usual.”

“No, Angel, that’s not it,” he said, straining his neck to see if Brittany was walking towards his car. She wasn’t yet, and so he had no excuse to blow off this conversation with his sister as well. “It’s just that… Brittany told me she wasn’t doing anything for Christmas, so I thought I’d take her out to Malibu.”

Angel didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes, but Nick heard her audibly sigh. “That’s bullshit, Nick. You just don’t want to see Mom.”

“That too,” Nick admitted. “But I really am taking Brittany to Malibu.”

“Seriously? You’d rather hang out with her than your own family?” Angel asked him in exasperation, and she was beginning to get overly upset. “Aside from how much that sucks for us, it’s really creepy.”

“No,” Nick said. He was beginning to get tired of all of the grilling he received over his and Brittany’s age gap. “She’s not that much younger than you.”

“Oh,” Angel scoffed. “Yeah, that makes it so much better.”

“Angel,” Nick sighed, running a hand through his hair. He noticed Brittany walking briskly towards his car and gave her a small wave. “I’m sorry, I just really don’t want to deal with all of that family bullshit,” he said, putting his phone in privacy mode and holding it against his ear.

He motioned for Brittany to throw her bag into the back as he listened to his sister. “Right, so you’re just going to leave me to deal with it all alone, without you.”

“Look,” Nick said, nodding to Brittany as she sat in the seat beside him. He forced a smile on his face as he continued to talk, choosing his words carefully. “You’ve survived every other year without me. It’ll be fine.”

“Fine,” Angel spat. “Whatever, Nick. Go off and have your stupid mid-life crisis or whatever.”

“I hope it’s not mid-life,” Nick joked a little, trying to lighten the mood. “I’m only thirty-four.”

“You know what I mean,” Angel snapped at him. “I guess now I’m the one who has to let mom know. Thanks a lot.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Nick said, rolling his eyes a little and then glancing at Brittany apologetically. “Sister,” he mouthed to her, and she just nodded.

“You’re right,” Angel said, still sounding really annoyed with him. “She was probably expecting you to not show up anyway.”

“Oh come on, Ang,” Nick said, then frowned, realizing he could only hear dead air. He glanced at his phone and sighed, Angel had hung up on him.

“Rough phone call?” Brittany asked him cautiously.

“Yeah,” Nick muttered, putting his phone down and pulling out of his parking space. “Just telling my sister I’m not gonna make it down to Florida,” he shrugged.

Brittany gave him a look. “You know, you can still go to Florida,” she said cautiously, feeling guilty for taking him away from his family time.

“I don’t want to go to Florida,” Nick said shortly, glancing at her before looking back out at the road in front of him. “I want to go to Malibu. It’s not that big a deal. You know how siblings are.”

“I don’t actually,” Brittany said, glancing at him. “I don’t have any.”

“Really?” Nick asked her, realizing he hardly knew anything about her family life. He assumed it couldn’t have been good, considering she’d told him the day before she didn’t get along with her mom and that she was spending Christmas with him. “Well all you’re missing is a ton of drama,” he said knowingly, though he did feel a slight pang of guilt as the words left his mouth.

Brittany shrugged. “I guess,” she said. Then quickly changed the subject, not really wanting to get onto the topic of family. “So are you going to make me a fancy Christmas dinner?” she laughed.

Nick laughed a little and raised his eyebrow. “Uh, no. But I think there’s a Chinese food place near there. I bet they’ll be open.”

“What?” Brittany asked, licking her lips and grinning at him. “No Chili’s?”

“Not for Christmas dinner, Brittany,” Nick said, shaking his head. “Come on, have a little class,” he joked.

Brittany burst out laughing at that. “Oh my God,” she giggled. “Okay, Chinese food it is.”

Nick grinned as he turned the car onto the highway. He reached for the volume and turned the radio up, but it wasn’t playing much of anything. “What’cha wanna listen to?” he asked, motioning to the compartment in between their two seats. “There’s some CDs in there.”

She unlatched the compartment and thumbed through the cases. Most of Nick’s music wasn’t anything she thought she’d be interested in. Journey, Metallica, Nirvana… until she stopped.

“Alabama, Nick?”

Nick just laughed. “Uh, yeah. I went through a little country music phase when I moved to Nashville.”

Brittany grinned at his obvious embarrassment. She didn’t care about his taste in music, and put the disc in the CD player. But instead of letting it play through, she skipped to the last track; her favourite on the album. “I love this song,”

“It’s kind of depressing,” Nick said, giving her a look, but not changing the song.

Brittany just shrugged. “I don’t think it’s depressing. It’s uplifting, actually. About how people come into your life when you need them the most. Plus, it’s sort of Christmassy,” she said, nodding her head a little when Nick gave her a confused look. “You know, angels?”

Nick laughed a little. “I guess so.”

The two of them were silent, listening to the song. Brittany looked out the window and couldn’t help but make the connection between the lyrics and her relationship with Nick, but she didn’t say anything to him about it. She glanced over at him for a split second before calmly looking out the window again.


About an hour later, Nick stopped the car in front of a house with a large gate in front of it. He reached out and punched in a code, before the gate opened. He pulled the car into the driveway, and a couple minutes later, he and Brittany stepped out.

“This is your house?” Brittany said, her eyes wide. It wasn’t a small house by any means, and it didn’t look like something that Nick would want to own at all.

Nick shrugged. “Yeah. I wanted beachfront… and with beachfront you sorta need to get the huge house.”

“I can’t believe you own a house like this,” she said in disbelief, still gazing up at it.

Nick laughed at her innocence. “What? You could own a house like this too, if you wanted.”

“I guess,” she said, grabbing her things out of Nick’s car and following him to the front step, where he unlocked the door. “But I’ve never really had a need for one. What do I need all of that space for?”

“Yeah,” Nick said with a nod. “I know. Like I said, beachfront.”

Brittany raised her eyebrow at him as he led her through the house. She glanced out the back porch and couldn’t help but notice the beach. When Nick had said beachfront he definitely hadn’t been lying. “Holy shit,” she muttered to herself, following Nick up the stairs.

“Uh,” he said glancing around. “I guess you can have whichever room you want,” he shrugged. “There’s lots.”

Brittany glanced at the double doors that were directly behind where Nick was standing. She pointed at them and gave him a cheeky grin, but he just rolled his eyes.

“That’s my room,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Although, if you want to sleep in there, you can. But I’m not giving it up,” he nodded with a smirk.

“I’ll pass,” she giggled, not bothered by his inappropriate comment. “This is fine,” she said, walking into another room and setting her things down on the bed.”

“This one’s good too,” Nick said, walking over to the window and opening the curtains. “You can see the beach perfectly from here.”

“I can’t believe you have your own stretch of beach,” she sighed, looking out the window at the waves below. “It’s kind of surreal.”

“You want to go out there?” Nick asked, and Brittany nodded eagerly. “Come on,” he said, leading her outside.

They walked through the house quickly, off the small deck and out onto the sand. The water wasn’t quite calm, and it was too cold to go swimming in, but it was still good to watch. And that was just fine with the both of them.

“Nick, this is breathtaking,” Brittany breathed, looking out at the water. “I can’t believe you own this.”

“Yeah,” Nick said with a nod, looking down at her and putting his hands in his pockets. He’d hardly been out to his house in Malibu ever since he and Lauren had broken up. But now, standing here, he remembered why he loved it so much.

“God, I could just stay out here forever,” she mumbled, still looking out at the water.

Nick shrugged, looking down at her as he blonde hair blew around in the wind. “We could eat lunch out here, over on the deck,” he shrugged. “I don’t have a lot of food in the house, but I could order a pizza or something,”

“Sure,” Brittany nodded, looking up at him. She reluctantly followed him back into the house as he went to order the pizza.

“You want a drink or something?” Nick asked, looking around for a flyer to a pizza place. “There’s probably something in the fridge.”

Brittany opened the fridge door and glanced inside. Nick wasn’t kidding when he’d said there wasn’t a lot of food in the house. Aside from a few bottles of water and some condiments, there wasn’t much. She grinned to herself as she pulled out a bottle of wine. “Uh,” she said, reading the label. “Strawberry White Zinfadel?” she asked, giving him a look.

“Shut up,” Nick said, pointing at her playfully as he help his phone to his ear. “That shit’s really good.”

“I’ve never had it before.”

“Oh really?” Nick asked, and quickly placed his pizza order before hanging up the phone and turning his attention back to Brittany. He walked over to her and took the bottle out of her hands. “We can drink it while we eat lunch.”

She giggled, thinking how ridiculous this all was. Eating pizza and drinking fruity wine on Christmas Eve in California definitely wasn’t traditional, but when she looked over at Nick, she realized this was the perfect way for the two of them to spend the holidays.


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