“What’d you do to her this afternoon?” Austin freely asked as she turned in the front seat, amazed to find Cheyanne sound asleep, sprawled out on the back seat with her head nestled in Howie’s lap. She couldn’t have pictured a sweeter sight than Cheyanne perfectly nestled in Howie’s tight embrace, her cheeks lightly flushed from warmth, fallen curls framing her beautiful face as the sunset offered a brilliant glow against her strawberry highlights. She could only begin to imagine what Cheyanne and Howie’s afternoon had consisted of. They had returned to the Escape with several unmarked bags, shooing Austin away so she couldn’t pry. Kevin seemed to respect that as he motioned toward Austin’s own purchases for Cheyanne’s birthday. So, the mysteries remained held as they traveled for a steak dinner. Cheyanne had been able to eat a great deal more than before, though she settled for chicken instead of a hardy steak. Austin had been relieved at that though. The day had just been so wonderful and she couldn’t wait to get back to the cabin and start a fire, knowing both couples would curl in the living room for some light music and conversation.
"Just shopped," Howie said with a grin, smoothing the curls from Cheyanne's face. She had told him each thing he picked up in the store was too much. He'd managed to slip in a few things when she wasn't looking, and the total had been more than double her preset limit. He'd shooed her off to get them both something to drink as the salesgirl had rung up his purchases. The odd looks he'd gotten from her had worried him, and he'd thought briefly she recognized him, but no signs of that had crossed her face when she'd run his credit card. Content with his purchases, he'd met Cheyanne in the little ice cream parlor for sodas before going to find Austin and Kevin. Austin and Kevin, he mused, glancing up at the front seat to see them all snuggled together. Austin's head rested on his shoulder, murmuring something Howie was certain he didn't want to hear as the man drove. In the quickly fading light, he saw their hands clasped, and, judging from the peaceful look on his friend's face, Howie assumed that whatever Brian had said was long forgotten.
“Never really crossed my mind that Howie would be one to throw Angel into a bathroom and have wild passionate sex with her… But, considering he braved my room just to get a condom one night, I could see it, Princess,” Kevin announced loudly, flicking his gaze toward the rear view mirror to see Howie’s shocked expression. He had to smirk with accomplishment, loving to ruffle the Latin man’s feathers. In fact, he was in a good mood considering how horrible the afternoon had turned out. In fact, Austin had washed away all his doubts, sticking close to his side as they traveled into various stores. He had bought her quite a few items, which she hadn’t resisted, but he loved that spitfire streak in her.
"Howie got a condom? When was this?" Austin asked with a chuckle, kicking off her shoes to prop her feet on the passenger door as Kevin pulled into the campground. "If I wear one of my new camisoles to bed tonight, are you going to rip it off me?" she asked coyly, lifting his fingers to her lips for a soft kiss.
“I’ll try to be careful,” Kevin promised, glancing down to smirk at her and her obviously wandering mind. Now focused on the thought of them making love, she seemed to forget all about Howie, more intent on tasting Kevin’s fingers. He shivered slightly at the tip of her tongue moving as she sucked on his long index finger, trying to concentrate on anything but the erection that was obviously starting to grow. Staring straight ahead, he noticed their cabin marked with an unfamiliar car.
“Who the Hell would take a Cadillac Escalade to the mountains?” Austin asked, stealing the question from his mind.
"Why are they parked at our cabin?" Howie asked as Kevin stopped the Escape. The end of motion caused Cheyanne to stir in his lap, and she sat up with a groan. Blinking her eyes sleepily, she gave him a sweet smile, leaning forward to kiss him gently. "Sleep well?" he asked softly.
"I always do when I'm with you," she cooed, her voice husky from her light sleep.
"Why the fuck is that short little blonde guy glaring at us?" Austin asked Kevin, letting his hand drop from her grasp. Sitting up, she reached to pull on her shoes, not ready for any drama that evening.
Kevin glanced up to see who Austin was referring to and his heart stopped. “Oh Holy Hell--”
“Can I help you?” Cheyanne asked kindly with her sweet southern drawl as she easily slipped out of the back seat, oblivious to the horror etched in Kevin’s emerald eyes. She had no idea who the man was, but wanted to offer any help she could, smiling slightly when Austin hopped out of the car to defend Cheyanne if need be. But, Cheyanne kept her curious sapphire eyes on the man, holding a petite hand to her mouth as she yawned with a slight yip. Stretching her lithe body out, Howie’s t-shirt tightened and exposed her cute body, causing two men to tumble out of the car as if a gunshot had sounded.
Austin raised one brow critically as the two men rushed to join the one standing before them. Looking from one to the other, she unconsciously tugged Cheyanne back, crossing one arm over her as though to protect her from harm. Good God, she thought, glancing over her shoulder to see Kevin pushing open his door. Who the Hell were they? The short one was sending daggers at Kevin, his arms folded over his chest, bright blue eyes glittering with rage. And the other two… Yuck, she thought as the skinny one licked his lips suggestively. "Who are you and why the Hell are you here?" she asked.
“Excuse me?” the tall blond laughed with sheer amazement, slouching against the Cadillac in order to muster his most dazzling look toward Cheyanne. She seemed unfazed by the gesture of his puckered lips, merely furrowing her blonde brows in question as Austin practically pressed her deep into the Escape’s side. “You don’t know us? The Backstreet Boys?”
"Who the fuck…" Austin trailed, obviously thinking as the skinny one stepped forward with what she assumed was supposed to be a charming smile.
"Come on, babe. You gotta know who we are," he said, holding out his arms so she could see his body. Not that she wanted to see it. "Kevin, man, where'd you dig up these stupid hicks?" Shaking his head in wonderment, he looked over at the short one. "B, you hear that? They don't know who we are!"
“Stupid hicks?” Austin snorted, stepping toward him with every intention throttling his skinny frame till he was bare bones. “I’ll show you--”
“Damnit, Austin, don’t!” Kevin burst, grabbing her into his arms before she could start any chaos. Kevin could only imagine the Hell he would get from management if AJ was thrown into a country hospital’s ICU Program. And more important things were on his mind, like how the bliss he had been enjoying for so many weeks was about to come to a screeching halt.
“Who the fuck are these people, Pretty Boy?!” Austin growled as Howie clamored out of the car, gingerly pulling Cheyanne away from tall blond’s blazing gaze.
"Pretty Boy?" the skinny man repeated with a snort of laughter.
"Kevin, what the fuck is going on?" the short one demanded, dropping his arms. "We came here to talk some sense into you two. Remember? We have an album coming out in a couple months? Not to mention all the shit you've stirred up with Kris. She was completely miserable on the plane ride here, Kev."
Rolling his eyes, the blond straightened, smoothing his shirt. "Kris is always fucking miserable," he muttered. Flashing a grin at Cheyanne, he cleared his throat. "Hi. My name is--"
“Don’t even fucking think about it, Carter,” Howie interrupted protectively, pulling Cheyanne into his embrace, attempting to move toward the cabin. He honestly didn’t want to deal with these horrors right now. He just hoped beyond all hope that if he could just get Cheyanne inside, the mess would fix itself. He could calm her, explain everything, and she would still love him. But, Brian blocked his steps. “Brian--”
“Again, what the fuck is going on with you two? Do you know how bad the press has been chomping our asses because you haven’t been at any events?” Brian growled, poking Howie in the chest sharply.
"Brian?" Austin repeated, whirling around to look at Kevin. "Your cousin? The one you said took over things and enjoyed the spotlight?" She still didn't understand. Backstreet Boys? Didn't ring a bell. Why were the two morons acting as though they should know who they were? And, by God, if that blond guy sneered at Cheyanne one more time…
"I take over things and enjoy the spotlight?" Brian echoed softly, his eyes on Kevin now. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
"Exactly what it sounds like," Austin informed him, wrenching out of Kevin's grasp. "You sure are a piece of work, from what I hear. Don't even appreciate your own cousin, when a-freaking-pparently he has more going for him than you do. Pissfuck," she muttered, glaring at him.
“God, Austin, just shut up,” Kevin groaned.
“I don’t appreciate my own cousin?” Brian laughed cruelly at the younger woman, shaking his head in disbelief. “Well, he’s not all gold lining, Sweetheart, considering he’s currently having an affair with you when his wife is sitting in that car right there holding the wedding band he left on their dresser before coming here!”
Austin felt her entire world crash down around her, taking in the stricken expression on Kevin's face at his cousin's words. Her heart stopped beating, and it was all she could do to keep from bursting into tears. Taking a deep breath, she stepped away from Kevin, her eyes narrowing. "You're married?" she asked coolly. "All this time… You never said…" her voice trailed. Unable to think coherently, much less speak, she looked towards the Escalade as the affirmation of Brian's statements stepped out.
“Oh, that’s right, Princess, his wife! You’ve been fucking a married man!” Kristin hollered shrilly as she flipped her platinum blonde curls behind her shoulders. She had waited for the perfect time to get out of the expensive car as if she were directing some drama perfect for the movie screens. And, she played the victim perfectly as she dabbed a little tissue to her eyes. She then straightened her lean, body into a haughty stance, pursing her freshly made lips in a thin line of disgust. Her blue eyes blazing with sheer disgust as she glared at her husband. “Though I don’t know how he could satisfy a whore like you when he couldn’t even please me!”
"Whore?" Cheyanne repeated, her voice calm and cool as she moved to stand next to Austin. "I don't know who the Hell you think you are, calling her a whore. Anyone can tell just by looking at you that you are the whore, not her."
Kristin rolled her eyes, waving Cheyanne off as though she were a child. "Stay out of this, you little bitch. This is between my husband's whore and me. You have nothing to do with--"
"Austin, no!" Howie cried as she hurled herself at Kristin, knocking her into the side of the Escalade.
"Good God…" AJ murmured in disbelief as he watched Austin viciously throw heavy blows into Kristin's perfected face, causing the older woman to shriek with pain. But Austin didn't care as she smeared Kristin's beautifully expensive make up as she flailed to throw slaps back. Kristin even wrenched her hands into Austin's hair, ripping away small clumps, but Austin was furious. Every man standing between the two cars were terrified to even step into the situation, not knowing who to grab or how to intervene without causing serious damage.
"Austin Leigh!" Cheyanne yelped in disbelief, yanking herself away from Howie's body and scrambling toward her friend. Easily, she reached to grab both of Austin's arms, pulling her away from Kristin's now crouched body. Austin was sobbing horrifically as she fought slightly, only to wrap her arms tightly around Cheyanne's small body in the same moment. Cheyanne stumbled back slightly from the weight, but didn't break her hold. "I'm sorry, Austi. I'm sorry…"
Sitting up, Kristin lightly touched her lips, her eyes narrowing when she pulled her fingers away and saw blood. Getting to her feet, she shot Kevin a scornful glance. "You've picked a real winner, baby. She can't even finish her own damn fights without some scrap of nothing yanking her away. Where did you find them? The local whorehouse?"
Cheyanne’s entire body tensed with revulsion for the older, bigger woman standing just a few feet behind her. Who the Hell did she think she was? She had no right to treat Austin so horribly, no matter what lies Kevin had sprouted. Just the fact that she had uttered a single malicious phrase against Austin was enough to rile the youngest woman. And, refusing to justify Kristin’s hateful remarks with words, Cheyanne gently untangled herself from Austin’s grasp and stepped toward Kristin. Without a single warning, her right, tiny fist shot in a sharp cross against Kristin’s face, knocking her head hard and fast back against the Escalade, easily wilting her to the ground. She then glared at Kevin with disgust, shaking her head in disbelief. “You’re an asshole!”
"You're one to speak," Kevin said, speaking for the first time since seeing the heartbroken look Austin had given him. "At least I'm not single and knocked up, trying to nab a rich guy," he said icily. "Don't try to deny it. That sweet little act you put on doesn't fly with me, Angel."
Cheyanne paled dramatically at Kevin’s revelation and could feel Austin’s eyes burning into her back with disbelief. She suddenly felt violently ill to her stomach as her lower abdomen cramped terribly with the stress. The stress she wasn’t supposed to be having for sake of keeping the baby safe. She attempted to muster any source of words, but nothing seemed to project. “You--”
“Howie’s damn lucky your ass got thrown from that horse! Otherwise you probably would have pinned the baby on him. Don’t think it wasn’t on your mind. The way you just loved right up on him from the very start. Acting like you were some sacrificial virgin in order to play into his ego. Saying that he was your world when all you were doing was reaching for his wallet. Nothing but a loose whore who can’t manage to keep a man to save her life--”
“I WAS RAPED!” Cheyanne screamed painfully, holding her hands to her ears in order to block Kevin’s venomous words.
"Holy shit," Nick said, looking at Howie incredulously. "Next time you guys decide to come to the mountains, let me--"
"Shut the fuck up, Nick," Brian hissed. Looking at Howie, he shook his head. "And I always thought you were the sensible one," he muttered. As Kristin leaned against the Escalade, pressing a tissue to her bleeding lip, Brian turned his attention to his cousin. "Y'all need to pack. We have an interview in New York tomorrow afternoon. All of us."
Austin pulled a shaking Cheyanne into her arms, her eyes spitting fire at Kevin. She could see the hurt in his eyes, knew this had to be stressful for him, but the lies he'd told her piled up, making his hurt useless to her. "I lied," she told him as she ushered Cheyanne to the cabin. Tossing him a hateful look, she narrowed her eyes. "You weren't the best I ever had."
Howie exhaled a painfully broken breath as he heaved his suitcase onto the bed, trying to ignore the muffled voices of Brian, Kristin, and Nick in the living room. They were all angry, furious even, but Howie didn’t care. Nor did he care to the fact that Kevin was currently packing his things as well. He was more concerned with the betrayed look that had broken Cheyanne’s beautiful face when Kevin declared her to be some kind of whore. She had been so ashamed that she couldn’t even muster the courage to look Howie in the eyes to show him how much he truly had hurt her. How the lies and the broken promises had cracked her last brief hope in man kind. Howie had hoped to salvage something with her when the girls had packed up their things. He had even taken a bold step to slip his cell phone number into Cheyanne’s hands when Austin wasn’t looking. But, he feared that the number would be out on the yard when he was dragged away from the cabin and to New York for stuffy press meetings.
“Did you get her pregnant?” AJ questioned, flopping himself down onto the bed as he stared at his best friend, obviously far too interested in Howie’s indiscretion to be caught in the living room. Though, like always, AJ was oblivious to what special things had happened in the very bed he kicked his soiled feet onto, reaching for the fetal heart monitor for something to play with.
"No, Aje, I didn't get her pregnant," Howie replied, yanking the monitor from the younger man's grasp before carefully tucking it into his suitcase.
"You sure? 'Cuz you don't have to take care of the baby. Hell, D… There are such things as abortions, you know. Perfectly legal, perfectly safe… You can sure as Hell afford one." As he spoke, AJ reached for one of the unmarked bags Howie had dropped on the bed earlier. Peeking inside, he reached in, pulling out a stuffed duck. "D…"
"Goddammit, AJ, you've got a lot of nerve, you know that?" Howie spat, dumping the contents of his drawer into the suitcase. To hear AJ talk, an abortion was as simple as having a filling fixed.
“Why are you so pissed at me?” AJ winced as Howie snatched the soft duck from his grasp, immediately collapsing on the edge of the bed to hold it. AJ seemed unfazed by Howie’s loving gesture, continuing to pull out various items from the bags as if he were hunting for stolen treasure. He couldn’t believe the amount of items Howie had purchased, whistling loudly. “I’m not the bitch that tried to snare you into being her baby’s Daddy.”
"That's it," Howie said, getting to his feet. He couldn't take this anymore. Grasping AJ's arm, he yanked him from the bed, pushing him towards the door. Before throwing him out on his ass as he longed to do, he pushed him against the wall, his glare threatening. "First of all, Cheyanne is not a bitch. Got it? She happens to be a sweet girl, and despite what you and the other three assholes out there think, she didn't try to 'snare' me into being anything. Second of all, I love her, and if you ever say anything derogatory about her again, I will personally kick your scrawny ass until no one can recognize you." Flinging the door open, he pushed his band mate into the hall. "And spread the fucking message. Asshole," he added before slamming the door.
Staring at the door, AJ smoothed his shirt. "Well I'll be Goddammed," he muttered. Never before had he seen his friend so incensed. Maybe this Cheyanne broad was what Howie said she was, but he couldn't believe it. Women, despite being loving and dewy-eyed, were always after whatever they could sink their claws into. Shaking his head in disbelief, he headed for the living room. "You guys won't believe this," he said, flopping onto the sofa as Kristin stomped outside, cell phone pressed to her ear.
“I highly doubt it at this point, J,” Brian huffed, leaning back on the large couch as he rubbed his aching temples. Kevin and Howie seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace to get their things packed, which drove Brian to the brink of insanity. He had never had to manage the band as if he were the father. He had left those points to Kevin and Howie, never understanding the depths of frustrations it could cause. He had scheduled a late flight to New York that evening, hoping Kevin and Howie would understand how important this first press conference was. But, unfortunately, he wasn’t so lucky, starting to grind his teeth as he listened to Kristin’s shrill voice echoing from the porch, Kevin making a strong point to ignore her. What had he been thinking? An affair? Their family would have a fit. And, Howie with a pregnant young woman? Where had their sensibility gone?
"Hopefully he said his ass is almost ready," Nick muttered. He had decided to make himself useful, stuffing clean clothes into an empty backpack. Why, he wasn't sure. Brian had said they needed to hurry along, and anything was better than just sitting around listening to Rok bitch. Making a face, he held up an emerald green camisole. "Woo hoo! Wonder which one this belonged to?"
“Nick, don’t be an ass,” Brian growled, actually standing from his seat to deliver a sharp smack upside his younger friend’s head. The act was so uncharacteristic of Brian, causing Nick to actually stumble forward in surprise. But, Brian didn’t care, the physical action giving him just the tiniest bit of relief. And neither made mention to it, Nick stooping to hurriedly push the rest of the clothes in the backpack, not caring whether it was feminine or masculine. Kevin and Howie could fight about that in New York.
“Hello, I was talking!” AJ growled. “Who the Hell does he think he is? Interrupting my story--”
“What, AJ?” Brian exasperated, turning around on the second youngest. “What is so important? What did Howie say?!”
Rolling his eyes, AJ lit up a cigarette, propping his mud streaked shoes on the coffee table. Spread the fucking message. Asshole. Jesus, Howie was beyond pissed. All because Kevin had told the truth about the little woman? "Howie wanted me to tell you… Well, we can't say anything about the little blonde."
"What would we say about her?" Nick asked, leaning to one side to throw the backpack out onto the porch, heard with satisfaction the thud as it hit something solid.
"Damnit! Who the Hell--"
"Sorry!" Nick called, smirking. Hot damn, he'd hit the Mega Bitch. Flopping down in the chair by the fireplace, he looked at AJ. "Well?"
Eloquent as always, AJ flipped him off. "Quit fucking interrupting me, shithead. Anyways, Howie has threatened bodily harm if we say anything… Derogatory I think he said… About her." Taking a long drag off the cigarette, he exhaled a plume of smoke towards the ceiling before handing it over to Nick.
"He honestly thinks we'll go around saying shit about her?" Brian asked. He was honestly hoping once they all got to New York, all this drama would be forgotten. He had no plans of bringing up the little money-hungry slut. Ever. As far as he was concerned, she was gone. History. Howie would forget her soon enough. Maybe Leigh had a friend they could hook him up with.
“Apparently,” AJ mused, his dark eyes twinkling with satisfaction over the gossip he could stir. It wasn’t often that Howie made mistakes, so, AJ was giddy with excitement to relish in the fact. “He says he loves her and he’s got a whole damn baby store back in his bedroom. Machines, outfits, toys, pacifiers… The works…”
"Well he can just give it to a charity," Brian said decisively as Kevin's bedroom door opened. Looking down the hall, he saw a suitcase land unceremoniously on the floor before the door slammed again, shaking the entire cabin with its force. Sighing, he looked at his friends. "Somebody oughtta go talk to him."
Nick’s dark blue eyes bulged in disbelief as if Brian had just asked him to murder ten slumbering infants. “Are you fucking serious?”
“By all means, you go right ahead, B. If you don’t come out with your dick bleeding in your hands, I’ll follow next,” AJ chuckled, reaching to steal the cigarette from Nick’s hand. And, that’s where they waited, until Howie and Kevin were ready to finally depart.