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Chapter 28 – Such Sweet Sorrow

Propped against pillows in the bed, Cheyanne watched Howie and Austin maneuver the crib next to the wall. "It needs to go a bit to the left," she said sweetly before turning her attention back to her pregnancy book. Austin grumbled under her breath, which made Cheyanne giggle softly. Glancing up, she released a soft sigh. "No… The other left!"

"You're not even in the same room, are you trying?!" Austin retorted with a laugh. "Howie, run outside to the truck and get the glider?"

"What am I? A mule?" Howie asked, leaning against the wall for a breather. He hadn't had a moment's rest since they'd gotten back from their shopping spree. What was supposed to have been a simple afternoon of setting up baby furniture had turned into a complete rearrangement of Cheyanne's bedroom.

“More like a jackass,” Austin promised, trying not to laugh as Howie reached to kick her straight in the backside, though his movements were labored as he pressed a hand against his chest.

Cheyanne attempted to make a sound like a donkey, but ended up with a high pitched ‘hee-haw.’ At that sound, she set her pregnancy book in her lap and wrinkled her nose in obvious distaste. “That just sounded like a drunk redneck…” Then, much like Austin, her mood changed and she waved toward her labored lover. “Tea! C’mere!”

Doing as his beloved requested, Howie flopped down next to her. "How's my little Cinnamon doing?" he cooed, rubbing her stomach lightly as he leaned close for a kiss.

"Howie!" Cheyanne screeched at the feel of his phone pressing against her thigh. "Get that hard thing out of your pocket--"

"Chey!" Austin squelched, adjusting the crib a miniscule amount. "No sex in the new nursery! At least, not until six weeks after little Ollie makes her grand entrance into the world… Do you two want something to drink?"

“Austi, I was talking about his--” Cheyanne furled her brows with amusement as Austin pressed her hands tightly to her ears, walking out to obviously get drinks for everyone. Cheyanne really didn’t seem to mind her friend’s dismissal, reaching into Howie’s pocket to withdraw the phone, setting it on her bedside table. She then brushed her fingers underneath Howie’s chin, drawing him for another kiss, till Olivia delivered a swift kick to her side. She jerked away from Howie’s lips at her daughter’s request, staring down in absolute wonderment. That was the hardest Olivia had kicked and the first time since Howie had visited. Immediately, she grasped his hand, pulling up her shirt slightly so he could feel Olivia better. “She’s moving.”

Eyes wide in wonder, Howie held his hand against her stomach. As he shifted his fingers, he felt the slight movement beneath his palm. He had longed to feel Olivia's kicks, had come close to giving up on that for this trip. In the middle of the night, he had lain awake, gently rubbing Cheyanne's abdomen, singing softly, hoping for even the slightest flutter from the baby. An overwhelming sense of joy washed over him as the squirming beneath his hand continued, and when the tears slipped onto his cheeks he barely noticed them. Lightly rubbing his fingers over Cheyanne's warm skin, he sang softly, "From this moment, I have been blessed… I live only for your happiness… And for your love, I'd give my last breath… From this moment on…"

Olivia kicked his palm, and he grinned from ear to ear as he gently pressed his hand against Cheyanne's stomach. "I give my hand to you with all my heart… Can't wait to live my life with you, can't wait to start… You and I will never be apart… My dreams came true because of you…" Leaning down, he pressed a kiss to Cheyanne's stomach. "I will love you… As long as I live… From this moment on…" he breathed, closing his eyes as Olivia's movements slowed. Straightening, he gave Cheyanne an impish grin. "I think my singing put her to sleep…"

“I think your beautiful voice definitely put her to sleep, which is good, because her feet hurt,” Cheyanne laughed softly, reaching to brush away the tears that had fallen from Howie’s dark eyes. She was always charmed whenever Howie sang. The soft, sweet melodies of his voice always put her at ease as well as Olivia when they decided to sleep for the night. But, mostly, she was elated that he was so dedicated to Olivia. The way he tenderly kissed and stroked her growing belly gave her pride. She loved him, but him wanting her child to be his own made her fall in love all over again. “I had hoped she’d move before her Daddy left.”

"So had I," Howie murmured, lowering his lips to hers for a gentle kiss. "I wish I could stay longer…"

"Are you two decent?" Austin called from the hallway before stepping inside, balancing three glasses of tea.

“I only have my pregnant belly bared,” Cheyanne promised as Austin walked in halfway through her sentence. The pregnant woman simply shrugged her shoulders with a small smile, not knowing why Austin even bothered to ask. Gently, she rolled her t-shirt back down in time to receive a large glass of tea with plenty of ice. Austin even stooped to get the kiss she always sought, which Cheyanne delivered thankfully. “Ollie moved.”

"Whooo!" Austin dropped a kiss on Cheyanne's stomach as she handed Howie his glass. "I can't wait to see you face to face," she cooed before sitting on the foot of the bed. "All we need to do now is get the glider in…" she trailed, rolling her eyes when Howie's phone began screaming on the bedside table.

“Apparently, Jeffie and Billy are going to have to bring the glider in,” Cheyanne laughed as Howie purposely reached over her to grasp the phone, making sure to place a ticklish kiss against the crook of her neck. Which, only set Austin off when she pushed him sharply on his shoulder, making a warning glare as to tell him not to get fresh.

"You'd let two men into your bedroom?" Howie asked, catching himself so as not to fall atop Cheyanne. Grasping his phone, he looked at the displayed name and couldn't help but grin as he sat back. "It's Pretty Boy," he said dramatically, which caused Austin to cough on the mouthful of tea she had.

“You’re an ass,” Cheyanne drawled toward her lover, grasping his phone before he could answer. She could only imagine how he would torture Austin, who was staggering to leave the room, obviously flustered, though she lingered at the door just to hear the conversation. Smiling, Cheyanne flipped it open. “Hey, Kevvy!”

"…Angel!" Kevin exclaimed, obviously surprised to hear her voice. "I wasn't expecting to hear your sweet voice…"

“Tea was being an ass, so I had to intervene,” Cheyanne answered simply, amused with the carrying of Kevin’s voice. “…Did you not want it to be me, or what? ‘Cause you’ve got serious kissing up to do for me…”

"Angel, I could kiss up forever and not make up for the ass I was," Kevin said with a sigh. "How are you doing? Taking care of yourself and the baby?"

“I’m okay,” Cheyanne promised, covering Howie’s face with her small hand when he made a face as if he might correct her. “…And, Austi’s making sure that I’m taking care of me and the baby. Oh, and thank you so much for the package. The Christening gown was gorgeous.”

"I saw it and had to buy it for you… I've got some more stuff to send with Howie the next time he comes down…" Kevin trailed, and Cheyanne could picture him looking at a vast array of overly expensive baby items. "Can I talk to him for a minute? I have a quick question, then you two can get back to whatever adorably loving thing you were doing…"

“He was being my jackass,” Cheyanne answered simply as if it were the most natural thing in the world, handing the phone over to Howie, trying not to laugh at the stricken look on Austin’s face. The sheer mortification that Cheyanne had caused.

"What's up, Kev?" Howie asked, lightly tickling Cheyanne's side. "Moving in on my woman?" he teased.

“I already did at the cabin,” Kevin assured with a light chuckle, obviously amused at the sounds of Cheyanne’s soft giggles. “You get your flight for tomorrow morning?”

"Ugh, don't remind me," Howie said plaintively, reaching to grasp Cheyanne's hand with his. "I fly out of… Of… Honey? What the fucking doo-doo is that airport called?"

Cheyanne stared at Howie with true bewilderment, trying to register what he had just said. And, unfortunately, the oddity of ‘fucking doo-doo’ baffled her. Finally, she just shook her head with a groan, breaking their hands while she eased out of bed. “My God you’re an idiot,” she drawled with sweet southern honey, moving for the bathroom.

"What'd I say?" Howie asked Austin, who was rolling her eyes as well. "Anyways… I fly out of the airport at three thirty… Why?"

“I just wondered, because Brian is like Mr. Nazi at this point…” Kevin answered with a heavy sigh. “But… Is Austin busy?”

"Brian is always Mr. Nazi… No, she's not busy. She's standing in the doorway pretending not to listen to this end of our conversation," Howie said with a grin, ignoring the malicious look Austin sent him.

“Would it be alright with her if you gave me their home phone number, so I could return her phone call from earlier?”

"Uh…" Howie reached for his wallet, removing the slip of paper he'd written the number on for safekeeping. Though, he had memorized it already. Reading it off slowly, he saw Austin backing out of the door. "Are you going to call her now?" he asked casually.

Austin really didn’t need to hear Kevin’s answer nor Howie’s witty comment to it, knowing that the man would be calling. So, she had to get to the phone immediately, which meant finding it first. She tried her best to run through what she’d say when she answered, but the phone was already alarming. Her heart leapt to her throat as she stumbled backward toward the hallway, sprinting hard as she knocked into the walls, obviously not paying attention. Even as she sharply by passed her best friend who was emerging from the bathroom just to fall back against the wall.

“I know we say this all the time, but do you not realize I’m pregnant or what?!” Cheyanne hollered in disbelief, holding her abdomen as if she thought she was going into labor at that moment.

"Sorry!" Austin tossed over her shoulder as she flung herself into her room. Throwing herself on the bed, she pushed the pillows to the floor, grumbling under her breath when Moth scurried up to greet her with kisses. Grabbing the phone, she yanked the receiver to her ear. "Hello?" she questioned breathlessly.

“Y’know… When you call someone’s cell phone, Princess, it really helps to leave a name and number so I can call you back… I think that’s what I put as a voice mail message to begin with… But, I knew your voice the second I heard it…”

The low timbre of his voice, the slight drawl, sent a shiver down her spine. Sitting up, she wet her lips nervously. "Well, Pretty Boy… That last bit of your message left me at a loss for words," she admitted softly, pulling Moth into her lap.

“You… You believe me, don’t you?”

"Kevin…" Austin trailed, tucking the phone against her shoulder so she could reach for the frog. "I believe you… And…"

“I love you so much, Princess,” Kevin continued, obviously fearful that he may never have another chance. “I know it was rotten of me to not tell you about my marriage, but I didn’t know how… There was never a marriage to begin with. She never loved me. Everything I told you was the honest to God truth. No one has ever loved me like you do. And I already filed for divorce and you gave me the strength to do that. To know that I deserved better than her. To hope that I could have someone like you…”

Austin blinked back her tears, adjusting Moth in her lap to make room for the frog. "I love you too, Kevin. More than anything in this world. And it hurt like Hell when the Wickedest Bitch of the West showed up… Not to mention those three stooges you're saddled with for coworkers." Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes. "And I lied, too…" she trailed softly.

“You already have someone who treated you a helluva lot better than I did?” Kevin guessed with a painful breath.

"No," Austin murmured, confused. "You were the best I ever had. And I mean that in every way… You had this sweet little country girl's heart from the get-go, Pretty Boy."

“…Then… What’d you lie about? ‘Cause I sure as Hell didn’t find anything that gave me an indication you were really slinging a hunk of sausage between your legs…”

Austin laughed at that, causing Moth to leave her lap with a grunt. "Kevin… Listen to me, baby. What was the last thing I said to you at the cabin?"

“That I wasn’t the best you ever had,” Kevin answered, too quickly.

"That was the lie," Austin said softly, stretching out on the bed. Holding the frog close, she breathed in Kevin's scent, wishing now more than ever he were there with her.

“…So, I was the best?” he asked, causing Austin to envision his proud smirk.

"Egotistical ass," she muttered with a giggle. "Yes. You were the best. The best ever," she affirmed. "No other man on this planet could ever compare to you."

“…That didn’t sound so sincere, Princess, but I’ll take it… I’m really glad you called. I was so jealous of D when he said he was coming to visit. Thought about sneaking into his luggage or something, ‘cause Lord knows he has enough clothes… Then I thought you and Angel would be the kind of girls to keep a shotgun hung above the door…”

"City Boy did a thorough check when he got here. Oh," she murmured, suddenly remembering. "Thank you for the check… It's too much, but we can really use it."

“It’s not too much. Not for you and Angel,” Kevin disagreed. “Howie said he’d write the next one next month. Just until you guys get settled. I mean, with Angel’s pregnancy being so serious, those medical bills are going to be outrageous… We want to help you as much as possible. No matter what. We’ve got the money, might as well spend it the right way, huh?”

"I can't think of anything better for you to spend it on," Austin agreed with a smile. "Do you really want me to send back your shirts with Howie?" she blurted. "'Cuz I've been sleeping in them a lot, and… I like having a piece of you with me…"

“Nah… Send one of your shirts with Howie so I have something to put on my pillow… Then you can at least turn back two shirts when I fly you out.”

"Put on your pillow… Fly me out? What? When?" she asked excitedly, her thoughts jumbling at his words. "Fly me out where? I can't leave Chey--"

“Would you take a breath?” Kevin chuckled, exhilarated by her enthusiasm. “When we were at the mountain, you said that you wanted me to fly you out on one of my business trips to keep me entertained. Well, I’m going to need entertaining in a week when we finish this promo tour. What do you say about a nice vacation to New York City? To see me? To be pampered by me? Not to mention loved unconditionally…”

"Sounds like Heaven," she murmured. "But… What about Chey? You gonna fly City Boy out here to keep her company? Hell, I'll leave him here now and do his job on the promo tour jigger, okay?"

“I think Howie might enjoy having Angel in New York City, with all those fancy baby shops that’ll make her head spin… And, as much as he doesn’t think he’s important to this group, fans would be disappointed if he wasn’t with us for the promo tour. But you can wait a week, can’t you?”

"A week," Austin moaned. "As it is, I have to get my little bullet as soon as I get off the phone…"

“Your bullet?”

Austin bit her lip, feeling a faint flush creep into her cheeks as she giggled. "It's something I pull out when I'm missing you, baby," she whispered.

“When you… OH!” Kevin breathed with realization. “I could offer some…audio to this magic bullet if you like, Princess…”

"Yeah?" she questioned softly. "Hang on, let me get undressed…"

“I better lock my door then…”

*~*~*


“You little Pisser, if you wake her up…”

Howie’s voice was low and threatening within the softly light bedroom as he pointed an accusatory finger at the small Chihuahua puppy. Moth had immediately began to growl with disgust when Howie stepped into the bedroom, having quietly collected his things from the bathroom to stuff into his duffle bag. It was a little after one in the morning and his flight would be leaving at three, so, Howie was attempting to be as quiet as possible. He assumed that Cheyanne was sleeping soundly amongst her soft blankets, but that was farther from the truth. She hadn’t been able to sleep the entire night, knowing Howie would be leaving soon. Just the thought of him leaving made her physically sick to her stomach, which caused the cramps to become far more painful than she anticipated. A few tears had escaped from her tightly closed eyes, knowing she had to be strong, otherwise Howie would never bother to come again. She just should be thankful he managed to get a flight out to North Carolina and back to Florida so quickly.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Howie smoothed a hand over Cheyanne's cheek, heaving a deep sigh. How he longed to crawl in with her, wrap his arms around her body and never leave her side. "Honey," he whispered, letting his hand trail to her stomach, covering the hand she held protectively over it. "I love you," he murmured, not wanting to wake her up, but longing to hear her voice once more before he hit the road.

“I can’t sleep,” Cheyanne confessed softly, reaching to smooth her other hand on top of his and hers. She forced down the lump tightening her throat, refusing to let the tears fall. She knew this had to be ten times worse for Howie than her. So, she wasn’t going to make it a big fanfare. She didn’t want to upset him.

"I wish I could stay," Howie whispered for the millionth time since dinner. "But I'll be back, and soon, okay?" he murmured with a glance at the clock. He could linger for a few moments at her side… Though it would be even harder to pull away. "You and Ollie get plenty of rest, promise?" His mind raced with all the things he wanted to tell her. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to call me. I love you so much, Honey… Play the CD I brought you so she won't forget my voice? Tell her every five minutes how much I love her, and I want a phone call each time she moves. I love you…" he trailed, willing himself not to cry. He had to be strong, for he could tell she was about to burst into tears.

“If I call you all the times she moves, you’ll never get off the phone,” Cheyanne sniffled softly, moving to sit up carefully. She wasn’t going to lay in bed as he walked out, knowing she’d have to at least see him to the door, then crawl into Austin’s bed for safekeeping. “And, I’ll play the CD every night before we go to bed… But, you promise to call when you get home safe? No matter what the time? Just one call?”

"I promise," he whispered, pulling her into his arms. "Call me if Austin becomes unbearable and you need someone to tell her to chill, okay? Call me… Just call me, Honey. Anytime, day or night. I…" Covering her lips in a gentle kiss, he teased her lips with his tongue, wanting to taste enough of her to last him until he could see her again. "I love you," he whispered between kisses.

Cheyanne couldn’t help the tears that slipped from her dark sapphire eyes, cupping Howie’s face in her hands. She tilted her head slightly, parting her lips so he could slip his tongue toward hers. She felt her heart swell with warmth and adoration for the man that would be leaving her, knowing she’d miss him the second his shadow dissipated from her doorway. She wanted to ask if she could come with him, not caring about anything more or less. Just wanting to keep him by her side. Even if it was foolish. “I love you, Tea… Don’t forget me…”

"I could never forget you," Howie assured her, curling his fingers in her soft hair. Breathing in her scent as her thumbs brushed the tears from his cheeks. He hadn't even noticed he was crying… "I'll love you forever, Honey…" Allowing himself one final taste, he reluctantly pulled himself away. "I… I have to go," he whispered, sliding his hand to rub her stomach gently.

“Don’t forget to call when your safe at home,” Cheyanne reminded once more, wrapping her arms around herself as she watched Howie gather his bag from the floor, even managing to pat the growling Moth on the head. She felt heavier tears slide down her cheeks as she bit hard on her bottom lip, hating how sick she felt inside, watching him leave. “Bye Tea…”

"You can get out of bed and walk him to the door," Austin said softly from the door. She had crept from her bed, hoping to get her snuggles with Cheyanne, and had hesitated at seeing their tender goodbyes. Her heart ached for Cheyanne, and she hugged herself lightly, crossing the room to give Howie a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'll miss you, City Boy," she murmured before climbing into bed.

“Do you want me to walk you out?” Cheyanne whispered as Howie moved to return the kiss to Austin’s cheek, obviously caring a great deal about their friendship. Though, Cheyanne hesitated on climbing out of the bed, not knowing if Howie would be comfortable. She didn’t want to make it harder.

Howie nodded slightly, sneaking a quick pat on the head to Moth, who slid from Cheyanne to snuggle with Austin. Walk him out… Hell, he wanted to just take her with him. It had crossed his mind so many times. But he couldn't ask her to leave her home just to ease his heart. "Please?" he whispered, reaching for her hand.

Cheyanne nodded in agreement with Howie’s request, turning to hurriedly yank the lavender colored pillow case off her favorite pillow. When she secured it, she accepted Howie’s hand, allowing him to pull her up. It took a moment to steady, but she shot a soft thank you to Austin, walking with Howie down the hallway. “I want you to have this, Tea… You always bring your own pillow from home when you travel… Now you can have my pillow case so you won’t be so lonely.”

"Honey…" Pausing in the living room, he gazed down at her, taking in her coy smile as she offered him her pillow case. "That's the sweetest gift anyone has ever given me," he admitted, covering her hands with his.

"I… I just want you to have something to remember me by," she murmured as he kissed her forehead. "I'll have your shirts to sleep in, and your beautiful songs to listen to," she whispered brokenly, swallowing the lump in her throat as the stepped slowly to the door. When he reached for the deadbolt she gripped his arms, felt her heart breaking when she realized he was truly leaving. It had yet to fully hit her, and when the cool late night breeze came through the open door she leaned against him, longing to beg him to stay.

“Honey…” Howie murmured softly, feeling her fingers tighten against his arms when he opened the door. Glancing down, he noticed her trembling severely as she stepped into him. Sighing hard, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, furiously pressing several kisses to the top of her sweet hair. He would have traded anything in the world to stay, even the career that he used to love. But, he had made a commitment to the group. He couldn’t abandon them, no matter how invisible he felt in their presence. “If I could stay, you know I would…”

“I know,” she promised, turning to press her face against his chest for safety, willing herself not to cry. She suddenly regretted walking him to the door, knowing this would be far more painful for him than either realized.

"I'll call you," he murmured softly into her hair. Memorizing the feel of her body next to his, he hugged her as tightly as he dared. Covering her face in soft kisses, he eased his hand under her t-shirt, lightly rubbing their baby. "I love you," he whispered fervently, tilting her chin up so he could look into her eyes. "Promise me, you'll never doubt how much I love you, Honey…"

“I promise,” she whispered, blinking rapidly to keep the tears from breaking against her murky sapphire eyes. She didn’t want to say goodbye, especially as Olivia moved against Howie’s hand. They wanted him to stay. She felt so selfish in admitting that though. She knew Howie didn’t think he was important to his group’s fanfare, but she knew better. He was such a beautiful man, it was impossible to think that he wouldn’t be missed. Others needed him more than she did. “As long as you promise to enjoy singing like you enjoyed it at the cabin… To love your career like you used to… You’re so important, Tea…”

He had never felt so important, until there was her. "Each time I sing, I'll think of you and our little Ollie, okay? Honey… I have to--"

"I know," she whispered, leaning up to catch his lips in a soft kiss. "Go… Before I really start to cry… I love you, Tea…"

"I love you, Honey…" Setting his duffel bag down, he stooped to lightly kiss the movement against his palm. "I love you, my little Cinnamon… Be a good girl for Mommy, okay?" Straightening, he kissed Cheyanne softly. "I love you…"

“I love you,” Cheyanne guaranteed once more, unable to resist lingering against him for just one final kiss, so she wouldn’t forget his taste. And, with that memory held, she released his hand, allowing him to step outside. She felt her stomach tighten with sickness, but said nothing to make him worry. “Have a safe flight… And you can call me when you’re not busy if you want…”

"I will… I'll call you when I land… Love you," he affirmed, leaning in to kiss her once more before backing slowly down the steps.

“Bye,” Cheyanne called softly, waving slightly as he continued to back toward his car, hitting his back against it. That’s when he finally had to turn and Cheyanne reached to lock the screen door. She then watched painfully as he climbed into the car, turning the engine on. It seemed to take him time to get adjusted, before finally pulling out of the driveway. And, she watched, waited, hoped, until his car disappeared into the darkness. So, she closed the door to lock it and that’s when the tears broke. Shuffling back the hallway, she crawled into her friend’s already awaiting arms, burying her face into Austin’s neck. “I’m going to cry, okay, Austi?”

Leaning over, Austin flipped out the lamp before wrapping her arms around Cheyanne. "Let it out, Chey," she whispered soothingly as Moth squirmed between them in an attempt to get in his usual spot. Smoothing the curls from her friend's face, she held her close as she began to sob. Her heart ached for her Chey. She could only imagine how hard it was for her to endure saying goodbye; and knew it would be the same after each visit with Howie. Closing her eyes, she brushed her lips over Cheyanne's forehead, rocking her gently as she herself began to cry.

“He’s always going to li-live in Florida… I’m a-always going to say goodbye… What if he for-forgets me? Doesn’t want to call?” Cheyanne hiccupped painfully between her hot sobs, trembling quite violently from all the sorrow that had pent up during Howie’s visit. She had been so happy to have him close. But, with all the love, the questions still lingered. Everything was so vague, except for her eternal love for him. “I d-didn’t want him to g-go.”

"He won't forget you," Austin said softly as Moth snuggled even closer to Cheyanne. Glancing down, she saw him rest his head in the crook of the younger woman's neck. In the moonlight she saw his worried expression, and it touched her how the little pup could sense Cheyanne's worries. Turning her attention back to her friend, she edged her closer, lightly tangling her fingers in the soft golden curls. "Everything will be okay, Chey. I promise… And I know he didn't want to go, either. If he could have, he would have stayed… He loves you, hun. You and little Ollie. He loves you guys so much…" Remembering Kevin's words, she knew they would be some comfort. "Besides, you'll see him next week…" she murmured.

“Wh-What?” Cheyanne hiccupped in confusion, blinking rapidly to clear the tears from her burning eyes. She looked so vulnerable and lost at that very moment, barely hearing the soft ringing of the phone at her bedside. She couldn’t believe what Austin had just murmured. She prayed Austin wasn’t making some wry joke.

"We're going up to New York for a few days," Austin said simply, pulling away slightly to reach the phone. "I've already cleared it with my boss," she added before lifting the phone to her ear. "H'lo," she murmured.

“New York?” Cheyanne questioned in confusion, not really caring that Austin was on the phone. She could only assume it was another drunken phone call from Billy or Jeff. They were notorious for that. “Why are we going to New York?”

"Ask Howie," Austin said with a slight smile, pushing the phone into Cheyanne's hand. "You have him trained so good… He's not even on the highway yet, and already he's calling," she cooed.

“Howie?” Cheyanne answered incredulously, shifting slightly so she could lie on her back, slightly propped. Moth whined at first in his mother’s shift, but soon crawled onto her chest for his familiar nest of warmth. Cheyanne shakily rubbed her face to clear away the tears, cradling the phone close as Austin curled next to her, flipping on the TV. “…Tea? I thought you were going to call when you landed…”

"I just had to hear your voice again," Howie said softly, and Cheyanne heard the familiar strains of their song. "…And I had to tell you I love you…"

Cheyanne hiccupped from her recent bout of sobs, feeling tears start to gather yet again. She couldn’t believe that he had even thought to call her. It was so endearing that her heart actually seemed to lift in her chest. She pressed a hand to her mouth to keep from hiccupping and crying together. She loved him so much. “Tea, you’re horrible…”

"But you still love me, right?" he teased lightly, followed immediately by a soft sigh.

“I’ll always love you,” she confirmed, ignoring Austin’s adoring coo as she focused on him. “…Are you okay?”

"I miss you already," he admitted, and she bit her lip when she heard their song began again. "I just had to hear you say that once more… Get some sleep, Honey… Promise me you'll get some sleep," he murmured.

“I’ll get some sleep,” she answered, not wanting to disappoint him anymore. “And Tea?”

"What do you need, Honey?" he asked quickly.

“I wanted to say I loved you one more time. So you’d have it to last you until you get on and off the plane...” she answered shyly, hoping to cheer him up just a fraction. “Oh… Te amo para siempre…” she added, though her Spanish for ‘I love you forever’ drawled with her southern accent into the cutest interpretation of her years of Spanish lessons in high school and college.

"Te amo para siempre, Miel," he murmured.

“I hope,” Cheyanne sighed with appreciation, knowing he meant it with everything inside his heart, though her mind wandered when Austin flipped on an old season of Real World from New York. “…But, what’s this about New York?”

"…New York? Austin told you?" Howie asked incredulously.

“She just… I was kind of crying and she said that everything would be okay… That I’d see you next week when we went to New York…” Cheyanne attempted to explain, blushing furiously.

"Do you think you can wait a week to see me, Honey?" he asked softly. "I want to take you and Ollie on a major shopping spree… As long as you'll be up for it…"

“If you can wait a week to see me, then I can wait a week, too,” she promised somewhat safely, not knowing if he really wanted to know how much she would miss him even within that short time span. But, knowing she’d see him in a week gave her hope. A tiny thrill of adrenaline. She could survive a week.

"I'll be counting the hours…" Howie assured her. "Honey… You need your rest. I love you… Te amo para siempre, Miel," he repeated emphatically, as though he wanted to make sure she knew.

“I love you, too, so much, but don’t forget to at least leave a message when you get there… If you’re afraid to wake me up…” Cheyanne advised, knowing he wanted to get off the phone.

"I'll call," he assured her. "I'd much rather talk to you until I get there, but I know I'm about to lose my signal… I love you…"

“Always,” Cheyanne whispered, allowing their exchange of affection to linger long after the connection had parted.
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