Cheyanne exhaled a soft breath as her eyes began to droop again, causing her to shift slightly as the hammock swung lazily within the spring breeze. She had decided to spend a peaceful day alone since Austin was indefinitely off with Kevin and Howie had taken to some business. First, she had just decided to go for a gentle swim within the lake. Then, shuffling back with the large towel draped around her shivering body, she noticed the large hammock tacked between a shady area on Howie and Kevin’s cabin property. Her lips curved into a pleased smile as she declared that her resting spot for the entire day, sprawling within the netting, allowing the breeze to rock her. She had all the comforts she needed. Her MP3/radio tucked into her low-riding, boy-cut bikini bottoms, playing her favorite country station while she perused her Nursing Maternity Textbook. Since it had been one of the last classes in her sessions, it seemed logical that she would still be reading it. Though, no one knew about the names she had scribbled on the inside cover, nor that she was reading for her own knowledge more so than that of her patients.
Feeling eyes on her, she glanced up, saw Howie stepping out onto the porch, phone pressed to his ear. His gaze was on her, but something about his stance told her he wasn't really seeing her. She allowed a smile to alight on her face, thinking of the warmth and safety of his strong arms. So unlike Noah, she thought, one hand resting on her stomach.
Noah. Just thinking his name brought a wave of sadness and regret over her. He had seemed so perfect when they'd met at the fraternity party the year before. Austin had dragged her along, wanting a designated driver just in case. Cheyanne had ended up in the living room sipping hideously spiked punch after her friend had slipped upstairs, plastered beyond belief. Noah, with his Californian beach bum good looks, had so charmingly kept her company, his hands groping and pulling away. She'd fended him off, accepting his invitation to dinner and a movie. So it had begun. Months of pushing him away, explaining time and time again that she wanted to wait until marriage. Months of hearing his scornful virgin remarks, defending him against Austin, who insisted he was the scum of the earth. If only she'd listened to Austin, she wouldn't be in the predicament she was in now, she thought, pressing her hand against her stomach. Biting her lip, she shook her head. "I can't regret you," she whispered.
The child growing inside her womb may have been fathered by Noah, but his tie to the child had broke the second he found out she was pregnant. He had blamed her fully for the mishap, saying she should have been more experienced and known what to do. When, in fact, he had forced himself upon her and accidentally conceived the child in the process. She had wanted to break off ties that night with him, under much of Austin’s persistence. So, she had telephoned him, but he insisted on coming over. It was such a grand parting gift. One that Cheyanne buried under her heartache, fears, and ultimate regrets. She still remembered how used she felt when Noah flung fifty dollars into her face after a firm smack across the cheek, telling her to just ‘fix the problem.’ But she couldn’t. She couldn’t knowingly kill her child. She’d rather die herself. So, justifiably, she decided to carry the pregnancy to term. What happened afterwards was still unknown. She was already so connected with the child, but adoption seemed like the best alternative. She could never provide the child a good home as a single mother, though her mother had triumphed. She wasn’t as strong as her, nor as brave. She feared hurting the child worse than hurting herself. No matter how much she loved it.
"Do you mind some company?"
Howie's voice jerked her away from her thoughts, sending the textbook flying to the ground. Looking up at him, she gave him a shaky smile. His face was lined with worry, and she assumed the phone call hadn't been a good one. "I'll always be happy to have your company," she said softly as he stooped to pick up her book. He dusted off the cover, reading the title, and gave her an inquisitive look. "I had a Maternity class," she said, taking the book from him. "Just doing some brushing up."
“Do you plan on working in Maternity?” Howie questioned as she set the book on the opposite side of the hammock, not too concerned with any hidden connotations behind her words. Instead, he just leaned against the large oak tree, watching her easily sway within the soft netting. She looked so peaceful, basking in the sunny shade. Her lean, petite form displayed beautifully by her tankini. He had even taken notice to the small MP3 player tucked so delicately into the top of her bottoms, nestled in a place that Howie would probably never dare to venture.
“Not sure yet…” she answered with a shrug of her shoulders, glad to have diverted the question so easily. Resting her hands on her exposed abdomen, she glanced up at him again, noticing how truly uncomfortable he was leaning against the tree. She wanted to reach out to him, but his worrisome features gave her an uncertainty. Their relationship surely wasn’t defined by any means, so she could certainly do some serious damage if she wasn’t careful. So, sweetly, she played on the words he had used to coax her into his bed. “This hammock is big enough for the both of us… I don’t bite, either, y’know…”
Smiling in spite of himself, Howie joined her, enjoying her soft laugh as the hammock swayed precariously. Sliding his arm around her shoulders, he released a gentle sigh, felt the building pressures lift with her presence. Cheyanne snuggled close to him, her head resting on his shoulder as she hummed along to the song playing in her ears. Closing his eyes as the dappled sunlight warmed him, he turned his thoughts to the conversation he'd just had with his mother. She'd been so worried, so upset about him. He couldn't bring himself to tell her what was troubling him, not wanting to worry her further. Sometimes he was accused of being a Momma's Boy, and he supposed that was true, but most people didn't have a Momma like he did. She'd tried calling the others, but no one was ever answering, and when she'd tried his cell phone, neither did he. When he mentioned that AJ had her number, and surely he should have called her, she'd been silent. No word from his best friend.
Cheyanne had been somewhat silent despite her soft humming as Howie lost himself within his thoughts, but she soon started to feel Howie’s body naturally tense when she curled closer. At first, she had thought it was something she had done, like draping her arm across his chest, tucking it safely inside his fresh wifebeater top. So, worriedly, she pulled the ear-buds away, allowing the muffled music to crackle softly into the air. Craning slightly, she noticed Howie attempting to blink feverishly while draping his free forearm across his face. Cheyanne felt immediate pains in her heart, knowing something was wrong. Reaching, she tentatively brushed a soft hand down the side of his face. “Howie… Are you okay?”
Could he tell her? Should he divulge his problems to her? Taking a deep breath, he launched into the tale, leaving out the details pertaining to songs and recording. The desolate feeling of not belonging, of being unnoticed. How his friends seemed to look over him when he was silently crying out. He'd had to just get away from it all, get back to what really mattered. "But I still feel like I don't belong," he whispered, pulling his arm away to stare up at the leaves. All around him were signs of burgeoning life and beauty, yet he felt like he was dying inside.
Cheyanne listened and drank in every piece of information as she gently sat up in the hammock, just silently watching his turmoil. She never imagined that he was holding such pain inside. Such utter isolation and dark loneliness. At first, she really didn’t know what to say. How to make him feel better about the situation. She was probably just as lost as he was in this world, so who was she to say that he should just tough it out? It was unfair and she would never utter such words. She felt as if her heart had been pricked with several sharp pins, causing it to bleed for only him. She wanted to tell him that he belonged. He belonged right next to her. But, instead, she reached to wipe away the tears that had fallen down his wan cheeks, offering a sad smile. “Howie… You’ll find out where you belong…”
Covering her hand with his, Howie looked up at her. "I'm thirty-one years old, Honey. I was supposed to find myself years ago. It's too late now," he said, hating the thought of dumping his troubles and worries in her lap.
“Age doesn’t justify finding yourself,” Cheyanne scorned softly, allowing Howie to bring their hands to his lips as she continued to lean over him. Carefully, she moistened her bottom lip as she willed her thoughts to be voiced, no matter what consequences it brought. “Besides… What if all of this had a purpose? The neglect brought you out here… So you could find me? So you could belong to me?”
"Could I?" he asked softly, brushing his lips over her fingers. "Could I ever belong to someone so sweet and gentle, so kind and loving?" Her words gave him hope, as did the coy way her lips curved into a smile. He had never really been a believer in fate, but her hopeful expression made him want to believe in something. "I wouldn't be worthy of someone like you," he whispered.
"Howie, sweetheart, listen to me," she said, brazenly moving to straddle him. Holding her hands in his, she brought them to her heart. "You are the most sweet-tempered, gentle guy I've ever met. Any woman would be lucky to have someone like you by her side. I know I'm jumping the gun and you probably think I'm moving too fast, but you've already brought me so much joy in such a little time. I…" Cheyanne's voice trailed, and she swallowed back her tears. "I care about you," she murmured.
“You care about me?” he repeated, still so unsure of himself. He needed to know how she felt. He really did need for her to spell it out. No one had ever uttered those words to him. Instead, they had asked for the numbers to his bank account or perhaps the largest credit card. Yet, here Cheyanne was, fully open. Fully bearing her heart to him, asking him to take it from her, to keep it safe. The amount of emotional ties that lingered overwhelmed him to silent tears. To hope.
“I care about you,” she promised, releasing one of his hands as she brushed away a few tears that had spilled onto her cheeks. How to God she wished that she had met Howie first. That he could have been her child’s father. “I want you to belong to me. I want you to feel like you belong to me... I want to belong to you…”
"I want to belong to you too… Chey, Honey… I care about you," he admitted, pulling her down for a kiss. "Let me love you," he whispered as their lips met.
Cheyanne had to laugh softly against Howie’s lips as his hands framed her face. Their first kiss was quite slow and formal, easily arousing her taste for him. So, she leaned further, easily sucking his bottom lip into her mouth for a moment before bringing their lips back together, allowing her tongue to seductively tease his. She became quite aware of his hot breath exchanging with hers, feeling his hands move from cupping her face to holding the back of her neck. She leaned down further still, practically melting her body against his, whispering faintly. “As long as you let me love you, too.”
Howie trembled at her words, his hands coursing down her back, holding her body close to his. "You got it, Honey," he whispered, feeling her MP3 player pressing into his stomach. Sliding one hand down, he eased it away, let his fingers slip under her swimsuit top, needing to feel as much of her body as possible. Her tongue danced over his lips, encouraging his other hand to move lower, cupping her breast. She tensed immediately, and he quickly pulled his hand away. He surely didn't want her to think he was just after sex.
“Howie…” Cheyanne murmured hurtfully when he turned to his side to somewhat throw her off his hips. The hammock swung with the pull, causing her to gasp. He pulled completely away from her, almost as if she had scalded him sharply with her subtle tenseness. She hadn’t meant to shrink away, but she had first thought of Noah. She hadn’t been physical with any man but Noah and that had been forced. So, for Howie to reach for her had been a surprise. But she wanted Howie so badly, causing her eyes to grow somewhat teary with his actions. “I’m sorry… Wait--”
"Don't be sorry," he whispered, shaking his head. "I shouldn't have--"
"Howie…" Reaching for his hand again, she brought it to her lips, kissing the warm skin of his fingers before placing his hand over her breast. Drawing in a deep breath at his warmth, she met his eyes. "I want you to touch me."
“Cheyanne…” Howie breathed hard, his dark, chocolate eyes moving from where she settled his hand to her enchanting, sapphire eyes. The warmth radiating from her caused sharp shivers to race down his spine, knotting his stomach in several tight loops. He couldn’t believe what she was really offering him. After all, she was a virgin, inexperienced to this type of touch. She wanted him to teach her. She wanted him to love her. Him.
“Howie, please,” Cheyanne persuaded softly, leaning forward to kiss his bottom lip. “…Please.”
Swallowing nervously, he lost himself in her gentle kisses, his hand lightly caressing her breast as she drew him closer, her legs tangling with his as the heat between them grew. Dipping his tongue into her mouth, his mind raced as she pulled him over her, her soft hands smoothing over his body. He released a moan at her touch, gently pushing the top of her swimsuit up, gasping at the feel of her bare breast in his hand. "Chey..."
“Thank you,” she answered softly within his mouth, arching her back slightly at the sensation of Howie’s hand cupping her sensitive flesh. She had never felt such brilliant sensations of excitement racing through her body. She even grew lightheaded as her heart pounded hard against her chest, feeling Howie’s growing hardness against her, enticing her further. Her skin instantly prickled with delight, causing her to whimper delicately. She wanted to give him the world, even if he didn’t know.
"God… Chey," he whimpered, his lips finding her ear. Through the haze of his arousal he heard the Escape pull up and he reluctantly withdrew from Cheyanne's embrace. "Chey… not here, not now. I want to make love to you properly, not like some horny teenager under the bleachers," he whispered breathlessly, smoothing her swimsuit down. "Especially not with those two morons," he added, kissing the tip of her nose.
“Okay…” Cheyanne relented, exhaling a hard breath to release the tension forming tightly in the pit of her stomach. She offered a shaky smile toward him, nonetheless, doing her best not to be too disappointed. Only, Howie really didn’t give her warning as he suddenly swung the hammock, leaning down to grasp something that had dropped. She instantly curled her arms around him with a sharp squeal of surprise, expecting to fall out as she listened to Kevin and Austin’s laughter. “What did you do that for?!”
"Sorry," he said with a grin, reaching to tuck her MP3 player back in her bikini bottoms. "I think it was thrown to the ground…"
"In a moment of passion," she said coyly, smiling sweetly at his blush. "Thank you. I'd go crazy if I lost it." Finding the ear-buds, she grasped them in her hand, her heart still racing. "I have to have my music."
“And what music would that be?” Howie inquired, wrapping his arms around her shoulders as Kevin and Austin came barreling away from the car, obviously bickering and attempting to pin one another to the ground. Though, Howie didn’t pay them much mind as he watched her fix the small, purple MP3 player within the low waist band, knowing he’d be in a bit of pain in the passing moments.
“Country, of course,” she declared in her beautiful southern drawl, rolling off the hammock with ease and wrapping the towel around her again. She thought a fresh dip in the lake was in order. To settle her steamy emotions. “Like any self respecting Carolina woman would think of listening to anything else but country MP3’s and 99.3 for her radio.”
Howie nodded, somewhat grateful she hadn't told him she listened to pop or the top 40. Rolling out behind her, he tugged his pants away from his erection as Kevin chased Austin around the back of the cabin. Skidding to a stop, Austin gave them both a jovial grin.
"Hey, you two! We're having a wienie roast tonight!"
Kevin tipped the can of his frosty beer, swallowing the slightly bitter contents as he leaned back in his chair, admiring the beautiful scenery the sun left behind as it sunk into its lakeside bed for the evening. He had missed this part of is life; living in the country. He had forgotten how peaceful it could be and how beautiful it could be with the proper love of a woman. After enjoying Austin’s feverish body in the front of the Ford Escape, Kevin decided that he had to stop kidding himself. He was punch-drunk over Austin and wouldn’t continue to try to deny himself the pleasure of her body. In fact, he relished over the idea of her slipping into his bed later tonight. Just the mere thought set the embers of his loins aflame with desire. Kristin surely had broken the marriage bed before him, so why should he be so worried? She had yet to call since his phone took a plunge in the lake. That was proof enough. The marriage was over. But, he didn’t care.
“You know, the proper thing to do is offer a lady a drink.”
Kevin tipped his head back to see Austin standing behind him, arms crossed stubbornly over what he assumed were her still bare breasts beneath his t-shirt. “Funny,” he mused with a wicked grin, loving to agitate her. “I don’t see a lady.”
Austin leaned over him, taking the can from his grasp. "I forgot. Only gentlemen do that," she muttered before taking a sip. "And we all know that you're not--" she cut off when he yanked her into his lap. "Alright, Pretty Boy, don't you think it's a little early for you to be starting to get your buzz?" she asked, wriggling against him.
"Like you could keep up," he scoffed, reaching for his beer.
“I could drink your ass under the table,” Austin warned indefinitely, holding the beer out at an arm’s length so he couldn’t pry it from her hand. Her dark coffee eyes glittered with excitement as he protested with a sharp groan.
“Only if you started on that pisswater that you like to call beer.”
“Like yours is any better!”
“Better than what you tried to buy.”
“Princess, you can’t drink me under the table and it would be a shame to waste all your money considering we could put it to better uses,” Kevin chuckled, leaning to nibble the crook of her neck.
"You wanna bet?" she gasped, closing her eyes as her body responded to his attentions. The thin t-shirt scraped against her bare breasts as he pulled her closer to him. He had been awfully attentive since their earlier romp. She couldn't place her finger on it. "If I can't drink you under the table, I'll…"
"What?" he murmured against her ear, one hand sliding up her shirt, snaking upwards to grasp her breast.
"Kevin!" she squeaked, glancing through the open door. It was one thing, Cheyanne knowing they were fooling around. Another thing entirely if she caught them halfway in the act.
Kevin chuckled at her erratic squeak, loving how uncharacteristic it was of her as she slapped his hand away. She may have tried to be furious with him, but sweet milk had been poured into her dark irises, making them a rich mocha color of coffee. He bent again to nibble at her throat, drawing his beer back away from her trembling hands. “My, my, my… Princess, you have a weak spot?”
"You wish," she gasped, squirming against him. "Stop it! What if Chey comes out here and finds you groping me?"
Dropping his hand, he leaned back, a satisfied smirk on his face. "I got what I wanted," he informed her, lifting his beer to his lips.
"You--you--you--pissfuck!" she shrieked.
Kevin choked slightly on his beer at her declaration of a mixed profanity. Furrowing his dark, bushy brows, he shook his head in bewilderment, tilting them both slightly so he could retrieve a beer for her from the cooler propping his feet. “What the Hell is a pissfuck, Princess?”
Austin pushed the top of the beer can in, taking a hearty swig with no room for formalities. Settling back against Kevin’s chest, she swung her free hand somewhat passively as if to emphasize her point. “You know… Pissfuck… Right after a fuck, you stumble into the bathroom for your first piss. It burns like a mother and you have to think twice about dumping peroxide on or douching peroxide in the appropriate organ for sanitation purposes.” She then released a loud pass of air from her gut.
Kevin shook his head with true amusement. “Darling, you are nothing but a southern gentlewoman, huh?”
Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, Austin smiled sweetly. "I'm just a sweet southern belle," she purred, adjusting herself comfortably in his lap. "Waiting on a tall, dark and handsome beau to come sweep me off my feet," she said dramatically before taking another hearty swig.
“Haven’t I already swept you off your feet, several times in fact?” Kevin questioned, shifting his legs yet again to retrieve beers as each quickly finished off their firsts. Neither had yet to eat dinner yet, since he was waiting for moonlight to start the bonfire, which allowed the alcohol to dump far more easily into their systems than normal. But neither cared, having a silent contest as to who was the better drinker. The same air of competition that had sparked their relationship from the beginning.
"That's different," she said casually, propping one elbow his chest as she gulped her beer down. The buzz was kicking in already, and she met his eyes. "Its just sex, isn't it?" she asked softly. "For you, I mean."
Kevin, despite his lightheaded enjoyments, frowned when he concentrated on the end portions of her statement. He reached absentmindedly to rub his left pectoral muscle as if to mend a stabbed heart. He hadn’t been ready for that kind of statement, causing his mouth to dry somewhat considerably. Focusing on the sweating beer can, he frowned again. “Is that what it is for you? Since you leave every night after I fall asleep?”
Crunching her can, Austin tossed it to join the others littering the porch, giving him a shrug as she leaned over to retrieve another beer. She wasn't sure she even knew the answer to that question. It just seemed the right thing to do. Tossing back a hearty swig, she tapped her chest, releasing a hearty pass of air. "It's not like we get along so great during the day," she admitted, propping her elbow on his chest once more. "I'm not the greatest morning person after mind-blowing sex, and I sure as Hell don't want you up my ass anymore than you already are. Sex is all we have in common, right? I mean, you're some citified Pretty Boy, and I'm just a country bumpkin from the middle of nowhere. After sex, what is it?"
“So, I’m just your manwhore?” Kevin coolly stated, trying to control his already hot temper despite the alcohol dumping into his system. Trying to keep quiet, he downed a whole extra can of beer, crushing it easily within one hand.
"Why not? Aren't I your little country slut for your stay? Or do you have more?" she spat hatefully, clamoring from his lap. "Because if you have more whores than me, you better start wrapping that big dick of yours up." Kicking his legs off the cooler, she angrily yanked one out, gulping it down in her haste to blur the words she'd said. She surely wouldn't want to remember them later.
“I haven’t been with a woman since…” Kevin’s voice slurred slightly when he realized he was about to say ‘wife.’ That left a sour taste in his mouth while he covered with another slug of beer. He was already full, but Austin’s hateful stance was fueling his fires. He immediately began to see all women as heartless bitches only after him for one thing or another. “…What about you, Austin? How many men are you with? Because, I tried to use a condom how many damn times and you kept telling me no. Just can’t feel the rhythm of a dick anymore because you’re too loose?”
"You sonofabitch," she cried, whirling around to glare at him. "I was right all along, wasn't I? You and Howie were just nice to us for kickbacks, weren't you? Well you can take your so-called southern hospitality and shove it up your ass! That is," she added with a snort, her coffee eyes glittering with hatred, "if you can find room with that fucking tree branch already up there." Gulping down the rest of her beer, she unceremoniously dropped it in his lap, turning to head inside the cabin.
“Don’t you dare play the victim!” Kevin demanded sharply, reaching to grasp her upper arm before she made it even a mere inch away. He instantly stood to tower over her, though he swayed slightly with true inebriation. “You’re the one that always leaves my bed in the middle of the night! I never ask you to leave! I always tell you to stay! You’re the one that treats me like a whore. Not the other way around, Princess!”
"Austi?" Cheyanne questioned softly from the doorway. Seeing Kevin's glowering expression, coupled with the way he gripped Austin's arm, she felt alarm prickle her neck. "What's going on?" Stepping out onto the porch, she took in the littering of empty cans. "Are you--are you drunk?" she asked, horrified. Placing a hand on Kevin's arm, she tugged gently. "Let her go!"
Kevin stared down at the small, sweet Cheyanne, watching her defiant stance and sapphire eyes lick with icy flames of hatred. And, he laughed with a hardy snort, not knowing why she even bothered to attempt such a task. Did she honestly think she could match him? That sweet little thing? “Calm down, Sweetheart, I was just telling Princess some truth about the way she treats me,” he explained, yanking his arm away from Cheyanne’s grasp. Only, he nor she wasn’t prepared for the strength he exuded in breaking off her grasp, flinging Cheyanne into one of the plastic seats with a hardy crash that alerted Howie’s attention from within.
"Chey!" Austin gasped, pushing Kevin away, her only concern for her friend now. Shooting Kevin a look that told him to go straight to Hell, she rushed over, only to find Howie had already beaten her to it. Swaying on her feet, she was surprised to feel Kevin's hands, gentle this time, steadying her. "Chey," she said softly. "Are you okay?"
“I’m fine,” Cheyanne answered somewhat sharply, pushing Howie’s hands away from her in attempts to stand. She immediately clasped her hands against her abdomen, protecting the child that had almost been doomed in that very moment. She had hit hard against the chair, just enough to knock the wind from her lungs. If she had fallen the opposite way, surely she would have lost her child. At first, she cursed her luck for not falling face first, but a heavy weight of guilt settled over her heart at that hateful thought. How selfish could she be? Not to mention she was tired of becoming the scapegoat between Austin and Kevin. It wasn’t fair and she was already exhausted enough. She felt heavy tears cloud her hurt, sapphire eyes as she walked briskly toward the sliding glass doors leading inside the cabin, groping for her MP3 player before she ran down the stairs to get away, not wanting to say another word to any of them.
Howie felt his Latin temper rise as he watched her rush away. Turning his glare on the two drunken fools, he took a deep breath. "What the Hell is with you two?" he shouted angrily. "If you two aren't screwing, you're ready to murder each other! I'm sick of it! Cheyanne is the sweetest girl in the world, yet you two have to drag her in the middle of your petty bullshit like she's some pawn! You," he growled, pointing at Austin, "you're always yanking her away just when she's relaxing, and jump on anyone who attempts to be decent to her. Are you that insecure? Are you afraid she'll find someone who treats her nicer than you do and leave your sorry ass? And you," his finger and glare turned to Kevin, "I can't believe how fucking shitty you're being to her! Just because the woman you have your sights on is a major bitch doesn't give you the right to take it out on Cheyanne. If I had known all this damned drama would happen, I would have kept my ass in Florida!" Turning, he stomped into the cabin, slamming the door forcefully behind him.