The sunlight streaming through the open curtain landed squarely on Austin's face. Groaning, she rolled over, attempting to ward off the offending brightness. The covers wouldn't cooperate, and when she tried to burrow beneath them, the tree trunk across her waist wouldn't budge. "What the Hell…" Cracking one eye, she winced, closing it quickly as her head throbbed. Her voice sounded hollow, far away, as though she were listening to her own echo in a tunnel. Smacking her dry lips, she cracked one eye again as the tree trunk began to snore. Oh, thank God. It was only Kevin. Lifting her head slowly, she whimpered at the pain in her neck. Why the Hell was he lying across her? Pushing at him weakly, she whispered his name, though it didn't sound like a whisper. "Kevin!"
“What?!” Kevin yelped in horror at the sound of Austin screaming his name. Startled, he pitched forward on the bed, doing an awkward somersault to the floor. He landed with a sharp smack onto his back, though the ceiling was mysteriously covered in a light lavender shroud. Clumsily reaching to withdraw it, he winced as the bright lights invaded his grainy eyes, immediately closing them just as quickly. But the soft scent of Cheyanne’s perfume lingered in the air, causing him to furrow his brows though his eyes were still sealed. Groping, he felt the soft fabric again, realizing it was Cheyanne’s shirt. And he tensed.
"Why are you screaming?" Austin moaned, pulling the covers over her head. The sound of her heartbeat pounding in her ears made her shriek with frustration, causing her to groan in pain. "What the Hell was I thinking last night?" she moaned plaintively, shoving her head under the pillow.
“You’re the one making all those damn noises,” Kevin grumbled, his voice gravelly from lack of adequate hydration. He felt as if every drop of water had been sucked from his body, leaving him in a pile of human dust. But, that was the furthest thing from his mind, especially as he continued to hold Cheyanne’s shirt within his hands. He thought of shoving it down his boxers, but that would probably look far more suspicious if he was caught. He struggled to remember what happened last night, but it was just a fog of black. At least he had been in bed with Austin. Wasn’t that a good sign?
The door crashed open suddenly, slamming hard against the wall, causing Kevin and Austin to each groan loudly. Cheyanne appeared, all smiles and warmth, her cheeks flushed prettily. "Whoooooooo!!!!" she shouted with a giggle, leaning in the doorway. "Good morning!"
Grumbling under her breath, Austin snuggled further down in the covers. "Go to Hell, Chey."
“That is not very nice, Austi,” Cheyanne cooed with a firm pout, tilting her head slightly as she noticed Kevin still perched on the floor. Her shirt was still clutched firmly in his hand as he tried to tuck it underneath his back. Deciding to pay them back for last night, Cheyanne scrambled inside, stepping on Kevin in order to jump on the bed, spinning in a circle with each bubbly jump. “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! I want to go horseback riding today!”
Pushing the covers back slightly, Austin pulled her head from under the pillow and glared at her friend. "Out," she demanded weakly, her head spinning and stomach churning with each bounce from Cheyanne. "Kevin," she whined, looking at him for help. "Chey's acting all bubbly and perky!"
“Neither of you are in a position to do anything about me! So! Up! Up! Up! Let’s go! I want a good horse!” Cheyanne demanded with a giggle, obviously having a very good time making love to Howie last night… And that morning… And about ten minutes ago…
Sitting up slowly, Austin held her head in her hands. "I'm going to kill you," she threatened. "Kevin… You're big and strong… get her out. Please? I beg of you…"
Pulling himself to his feet, Kevin gripped the edge of the bed for support as his vision swam. Blinking hard, he looked at Cheyanne, who still bounced up and down on the bed, seemingly extremely happy with her life. "Oh God," he groaned, dropping her shirt to the bed as his stomach churned noisily.
“Oh!” Cheyanne perked even further than before, stopping her jumping for just a moment. Leaning down, she snatched her lavender shirt from the bed, hopping down so she could kiss Kevin’s cheek. “I forgot you took my shirt from me last night! Thanks!”
"You took her shirt? Why the Hell…" Austin's voice trailed, and she vaguely remembered Cheyanne helping Kevin to bed. "Did you… God… No, you didn't. Chey would never have let you… You pissfuck!"
“She was hot?” Kevin mused in attempts to explain himself, attempting to move when Austin reached to hit him. That only succeeded on sending him down to his backside, which seemed to be his most comfortable location after meeting the two girls. He groaned in pain at the sensation that jostled his head, immediately reaching to yank the covers away from Austin. “Howie hasn’t murdered me yet, so I know I didn’t do anything!”
“I was just too sexy for my shirt last night,” Cheyanne agreed, leaning against the wall in obvious amusement.
"I need sleep!" Austin shouted, yanking the covers back. "Preferably alone," she added before burrowing under the pillow again. "Without annoyingly bubbly people and men who steal their woman's friend's shirts," she mumbled, folding her arms over the pillow.
"What did she say?" Kevin asked groggily, looking at Cheyanne for help.
"She wants me to jump on the bed some more!" Cheyanne exclaimed, leaping onto the bed once more. "Up, Austi! Up! Up! Up! Up! Up!"
“Kevin, I swear to God I’m going to kill her! First I’m going to slit her throat! Hack her into tiny pieces! And feed her to the spiders!”
“C’mere you little imp!” Kevin groaned, unable to stand the sight of her jumping anymore. If he watched her much longer, he was going to be kneeling against the cold toilet for several hours. Besides, he needed to make nice with Austin again… For whatever he did with Cheyanne. So, anticipating a slight miscalculation in his body mechanics and sight perception, he reached to grab her. Catching hold of her baggy shirt, he pulled her close, hoisting her light, tiny frame into his arms.
“What’d I do?” Cheyanne pouted hurtfully as Kevin lumbered while carrying her out of the room.
Stumbling into the living room, Kevin saw Howie coming inside, empty mug in hand. "Here," he said, unceremoniously dumping Cheyanne into his friend's arms. "She's about to get killed, so I suggest you take her far, far away," he grumbled before going back to the bedroom.
"Chey," Howie said, shaking his head with a chuckle. "What did you do?"
“Nothing horrible,” Cheyanne defended with a faint pout, reaching to wrap her arms around his neck so he wouldn’t have the chance to drop her. “I just wanted Austi to get up so I could go horseback riding today… But I don’t think she’s in the mood… She threatened to feed me to the spiders…”
"You can go horseback riding with me," Howie offered, nuzzling the expanse of neck she offered him so sweetly. "That is, unless you're expecting some fancy cowboy moves or something." His mind scrambled to remember the last time he'd actually been near a horse.
“The last time it was suggested you were less than enthused,” Cheyanne remembered as Howie sat down on the couch, never attempting to make her move from his arms. She exhaled a sweet sigh, giggling as he continued to nuzzle her neck. “Are you sure you want to go?”
"Unless you'd rather stay here…" Howie let his voice trail as his lips moved to her ear.
“I risk my life if we stay here…” Cheyanne trailed just the same, though hers ended in a slight whine.
"Then let's go," Howie said, lifting her over his shoulder as he stood. "Can't have you dying because those two are hung over and can't stand your sweetness," he added, carrying her down the hall.
“DON’T BRING HER BACK TILL NIGHT FALL!” Austin bellowed from inside Kevin’s room, hearing Howie’s door close so they could change for whatever they were doing. She relaxed at that sound, watching Kevin stumble to draw the curtains tightly to shroud them in darkness. Then, undermining his footing, he fell backward into the bed with a sharp groan. Austin didn’t seem to care though, immediately curling against his warm body and kissing his collarbone. “I’ll love you again.”
“Oh, not right now, I couldn’t even see straight to get it in the right hole--”
Giggling softly, Austin moved to straddle him. "Who said you have to see?" she murmured, cupping his face in her hands. "I think your body should know by now…" Kissing him softly, she pulled the covers over them both, her hands sliding over his chest.
“We just can’t lie in bed all day and not move a muscle, can we?” Kevin sighed, feeling his body immediately start to arouse from her simple pleasures. Craning his neck, he leaned up to nip her bottom lip, knowing she’d be draining the last bit of fluid he had left in him.
"Okay…" Nuzzling his neck lightly, Austin moved to lie beside him again, pulling the covers over her head. Snuggling close, she sighed lightly. "Best suggestion you've had all week."
Kevin yawned as he turned, pulling her comfortably into his arms before pressing a kiss to the side of her face. He inhaled the light scent of her perfume lingering against a touch of perspiration causing a dewy glow. He thought she looked amazing, even under the worst of their hangovers. “I love you, Princess.”
"I love you, too," she murmured, turning her head to meet his lips. "Funny. You used to call me Princess out of dids--diss--whatever the fuck that word is-- and now you use it as a term of ender--endem--whatever the fuck that word is."
“You do the same with Pretty Boy…” Kevin frowned slightly against her lips at the thought. “…I hope?”
"Mm hmm. It's because you're my Pretty Boy," Austin said with a smile, resting her head on his shoulder. Having heard no sounds from the other bedroom, she sat up slightly. "WHAT'S TAKING Y'ALL SO LONG?!" she screamed.
“Just shut up and kiss me, Princess,” Kevin groaned, pushing her onto her back as he lowered his lips to hers, making her forget all about the other couple.
“How you doing, Howie?” Cheyanne called when she stopped hearing mixtures of sounds related to nervousness and fear emulating from Howie’s mouth. She had been so engrossed in the lovely mountain side that she had stopped worrying about Howie falling off. But, turning her horse, she realized that was a grave mistake. She saw him a few yards back, looking entirely too tense on the back of the gentle mare the stable had selected for him. He looked to completely hate the riding experience, not to mention the fact that he had agreed to even come with her. His back was far too straight as he bounced hard on the back of his slow moving mare, probably more uncomfortable than Cheyanne could anticipate. And he grasped the reins as if he were on the back of some violent beast, causing her to smile with pity. Gently nudging her horse in the ribs, she had her own mare trot back toward Howie, reaching to plop her cowboy hat on his short curls.
"Are you sure this animal isn't going to bolt?" Howie asked through clenched teeth, tilting his head back slightly to look at her. "I know I sound like a big wuss, but--"
“She’s not going to bolt,” Cheyanne interrupted with a soft promise, dropping one hand from her reins in order to reach over to Howie. Carefully, she helped him loosen his tight hold on the reins, giving the horse just a bit more freedom. She offered him an encouraging smile, squeezing his hand when he finally loosened just a bit. “You’re way too nervous and she can sense that, which will make her nervous. Move with her when she walks. Let your body flow. She’s not going to hurt you.”
"Do you ride a lot?" Howie asked softly, relaxing a bit under Cheyanne's gentle touch. "You seem to enjoy it." She seemed to enjoy a lot of things, he mused. Cheyanne was the type of person who enjoyed everything life offered her. He wished he could be more like her. He could remember a time when he was… Looking out over the vista before them, he drew in a gentle breath, trying not to let his thoughts darken.
“When Momma left my father, she moved into this small house on the countryside next to my great-aunt. She owned a horse farm and I spent all my days over there. Ever since I could walk, I was riding,” Cheyanne confirmed, allowing her horse to steady its pace next to Howie’s horse, that way she could keep her hand on his. She could feel the loosening of his body, knowing she couldn’t pull away. “After this vacation, Austi and I are moving into this really pretty ranch house on this vast amount of land. We got such a deal out of it… Austi almost thought she was going to have to sleep with the land dealer… But we worked so hard over college to save up money... Then, when we get settled, we’re going to buy two horses.”
"Sounds like heaven. You'll let me come see it?" he asked hopefully as the horses turned onto a trail through the forest.
I’d rather you live there with me, Cheyanne thought as she muffled a soft sigh. Though she knew that it was a far reach, she had started dreaming about starting a life with him. Of him holding her child and insisting to be the father. But, those were just dreams that she woke up from, knowing it wasn’t possible. Though, just the same, she offered a coy smile to her counterpart. “If you’re lucky.”
"I see how it is," he teased, giving her a wink. "I offer you my cabin, give you my bed, bring you to heights of passion unknown, and all I get is 'If you're lucky'? Well, I'm sure Austin will extend an invitation to Kevin, and I can just tag along with him."
“Doesn’t mean I’ll be around,” she answered, reaching to pushing on his head so he didn’t crash into the low hanging branch. “Besides, no wonder you bring me to heights of passion unknown. I haven’t been with anybody but you. So, let me go back to The Brass Rail and I’ll let you know how you turn out…”
"You think you're cute, don't you?" he asked, tugging playfully on her curls. "Maybe we can find that Bubba looking guy again. He sure seemed to like you…"
“Kevin scared him off,” Cheyanne remembered, pulling away so he couldn’t touch her. She offered him a demure smile when he reached but to no avail. “But, Kevin is always an option… He did yank my tank top off me last night… Not to mention the screams he gets out of Austi…”
"Chey…" Howie let his voice trail as the horses moved up the incline. "You're gonna get it when we get back to the cabin…"
“I’m going to get what?” Cheyanne mused, arching one light blonde brow toward Howie with confusion.
"You'll see," he promised, ducking to miss another low branch. "The least they could do is trim back the trees, if they're going to have a horse trail through here," he muttered.
"As long as the horses can get through without injury, it's okay," Cheyanne cooed, giggling when he rolled his eyes.
“So, you care more about the horses than me?” Howie guessed incredulously, holding a hand to his heart as if Cheyanne had broke it in half. He knew they had been playfully teasing throughout the entire trip, but he couldn’t help but worry in the back of his mind. Maybe they were subtle clues that she was sending. Something to tell him to back off. But if so, what was the reason for making love so many times the previous night into day?
“Depends on the situation,” Cheyanne jibbed, never noticing the snake slithering across the path. Though, her mare instantly recognized the intruder, rearing upward with a loud whiny, which caused Howie’s horse to back considerably. Only, Cheyanne wasn’t able to hold onto her mare with wild rear, causing her to slip and fall. Unable to stop herself, she immediately hit the small incline, tumbling down the stony dirt side in sharp twists and turns, ending with a hard hit to her abdomen at the bottom.
"Chey!" Howie cried, vaulting off his horse so quickly his foot tangled in the stirrup. Yanking it free, he stumbled down the incline, dropping to his knees next to Cheyanne. "Honey… Oh God… are you okay?" he asked worriedly, tentatively touching her face.
“I’m fine,” she promised, pulling away from his touch to curl onto her side. She held a strong hand against her abdomen as if to protect her baby, taking a few slow breaths. She had to calm down. She was just stunned. That’s all. The smarts of pain invading her body were result from the fall. Maybe a few scrapes and bruises, but she’d be okay. She was fine. Gingerly, she attempted to sit, still holding her stomach as she glanced toward Howie. She offered a shaky smile. “Did I mention how much I hate snakes?”
"Sweetheart… You fell pretty hard and pretty far. Are you sure you're okay?" Plucking a few dead leaves from her hair, he eyed her intently. "You might have some internal injuries. Why don't you let me take you to the hospital and have you checked out? I can't have anything happen to my Chey."
“I’m okay,” she promised, reaching to grasp his hands so he could help her into a standing position. She released a long, slow sigh underneath her breath as she attempted to straighten her position. Like she expected, her body stitched with sharp pains from the fall. She could even feel some stinging seeps of blood from various scrapes. But what she didn’t expect was the knife-like quality of pain that cramped against her lower abdomen. It was so powerful that she paled with the first hit, crumbled to her knees with a heavy wince as she reached to grasp Howie’s hands for help. Tears immediately flooded to her eyes. “Damnit…”
"Come on, Chey," Howie murmured gently, though his heart was nearly beating out of his chest with worry for her. Lifting her into his arms, he slowly made his way up the incline and saw the horses grazing just off the trail. Now how the hell was he going to do this? Walking over carefully, he leaned up to place her on the saddle of her mare. "Just hold on, okay?" he said, pulling the reins into her hands. "I'm taking you to the hospital."