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Chapter 29 – Into His Arms

“Hey, D… Little excited?” Kevin chuckled as he slipped into Howie’s hotel room, noticing the younger man sprawled over several gifts, wrapping paper, tape and scissors. He looked slightly frazzled, but delighted with all his purchases. Only a week had passed since he visited Cheyanne in North Carolina and he saw fit to splurge on her birthday since. All the gifts were for her, to make up for somewhat missing her birthday. Kevin found it endearing that Howie was so nervous and frittered at the thought of Cheyanne arriving at the Plaza for a few days vacation in just a few short hours. In fact, Kevin was thankful that Howie was outward with his nervousness, making it easier for Kevin to contain himself as he set the gifts he bought for Cheyanne’s daughter on the nearby desk. The gifts for Austin would stay in his room for later that evening, when she would model for him. He couldn’t wait to feel her again.

"A little?" Howie questioned, glancing up from his wrapping. "Holy Hell, Kev… They'll be here in a few hours, and I haven't even had a shower yet! But I have to get all this wrapped for Chey… Have you had a shower?" he asked, his grin wide.

Kevin arched one brow as Howie got to his feet. Unable to see the connection of his cleanliness with Howie's gift wrapping. "Yeah, I took one this… No, D. I'm not wrapping that mountain of--"

Please, Kev?” Howie instantly requested with a sharp whine to his voice, looking far more pitiful than Kevin had anticipated. “I’ve got to get a shower before Honey comes. This is the first time they’ve ever been in New York and I messed up seriously when I went there last week and didn’t even know it was her birthday. I’ve got to make this special… Please? What’s it going to take to make this happen?”

“They’re your gifts, you should wrap them,” Kevin defended. “You should have either started wrapping earlier or not bought so much.”

"You're an ass," Howie grumbled, flopping back down as his door opened once more.

"Who's an ass?" AJ asked, coming to a standstill when he saw the array of things scattered over Howie's bed. "Whoa, D… Is it your Momma's birthday again?"

“My mother’s birthday is every year, J…” Howie mumbled, reaching for one of the gifts to wrap. “And Kevin’s an ass.”

“Yeah, he is an ass,” AJ answered, stepping further into the room to admire the items Howie hadn’t wrapped. And, before he could salvage the surprise, AJ dove toward Howie, yanking two random gifts. Immediately, his dark brows shot upward with amusement. “Since when did you start buying your mother warm vanilla scented lotion and a collection of romantic love poems?”

"They're not for his mother, you moron," Kevin informed him, yanking the items from the younger man. Deciding Howie needed as little torture as possible, he lowered himself to the bed. "Go on, D… I'll finish these up for you."

"What the fuck is going on?" AJ questioned, looking at the gifts on the desk. "Are you two throwing a baby shower or something?"

“Nothing of your concern--”

“This is fucking shady. You tell us Howie’s going to visit his mother during the small break. But I called his mother and she was squealing about his visiting her next grandchild. What the fuck is this about?” AJ demanded sharply, the rasp of his voice breaking slightly. He looked offended that Howie would be keeping secrets from him. That he wasn’t involved in his best friend’s business. “Damnit, D, what the Hell do you think you’re doing?”

"Momma was squealing?" Howie asked with a grin. Stepping to the bureau, he opened a drawer to retrieve some clothes. "And, I think I'm about to take a shower," he added with a casual shrug, ignoring AJ's incredulous expression. Now, suddenly, everyone was interested in his life? What a load of bullshit, he thought, heading for the bathroom. "Oh," he said, turning to look at his friend. "You need to clean up your mouth. Honey doesn't like cussing around the baby…" he trailed softly before shutting the door behind him.

"The baby," AJ repeated derisively. "Jesus Christ."

“That includes taking the Lord’s name in vain, AJ,” Kevin warned without much emotion, measuring the size of the wrapping paper before placing the book in the middle, assuring it would be perfect. This meant so much to Howie, so he had to help in any way possible. The man had been so miserable coming back from visiting Cheyanne. Obviously missing her worse than when he left. Kevin was already anticipating Austin’s arrival, so he figured he could pass the time by keeping busy.

"Does he really fancy himself in love with this chick?" AJ asked, lifting a gift bag off the desk so he could peek at the contents. "Jes--Dang, Kev! You're buying her shi--stuff too?!" Dropping the bag, he shook his head. "You two have lost your ever loving minds!"

“She’s not a chick, AJ. She has a name and she had some bad circumstances surrounding the pregnancy. But, she’s the kind of woman that overcomes that and wants to love her baby regardless of how she was made. And, Howie is truly in love with Cheyanne. So much that he went down to North Carolina to visit her because she’s what they call a high risk pregnancy. And, he invited her up here to New York City to get her mind off the problems of her pregnancy. He wants her to enjoy herself. And, Austin, the woman that I met in North Carolina, I invited her. I want her here because I love her. And, if you do anything to fuck this up this weekend, AJ, so help me God…”

"Yeah, yeah. I got it." Stuffing his hands into his pockets, AJ watched Kevin meticulously wrap the book. "Do you uh… Want me to help?" he asked softly, feeling chastened at the man's words.

“If you want to help your best friend do something that he believes is really important in his life, yeah, sit down,” Kevin offered kindly, respecting AJ as his peace was made.

Perching on the edge of the bed, AJ reached for a green gift box. "Whoa. He bought her something from Tiffany's?" he breathed, lifting the lid to get a peek. Only he replaced it quickly when the door banged against the wall. "Hell, Nick," he muttered, reaching for the paper. "Just scare the shit out of somebody!"

“Who’s birthday?” Nick immediately asked, amused slightly by AJ’s startled nature, but unfazed by his mumbling. His dark blue eyes made a quick survey of the room, calculating that his birthday was a few months off. These weren’t for him.

"Nobody's," AJ answered quickly.

"They're for Angel," Kevin said, setting the wrapped book aside. Reaching for the lotion, he shot Nick a glance. "What do you want?" he questioned as he hunted for a small bag to hold the lotion. He was certain the youngest member had a reason for popping by. Something inane.

"I'm bored as shit--"

"No cussing!" AJ admonished with a snicker.

“No cussing?” Nick scoffed as he sprawled his tall, slightly chunky form across the soft carpet. He tucked his arms behind his head, switching his gaze between AJ and Kevin. “Why the Hell not? And who the fuck is Angel?”

Leaning one foot out, Kevin nudged him in the ribs. "Angel is Cheyanne. And D doesn't want us cussing around her, because she doesn't like it. Got it?" he drawled.

“Cheyanne?” Nick answered, shifting slightly to get away from Kevin’s large foot. “Cheyanne… Angel… Oh! That hot chick that’s knocked up?! She’s coming to visit?”

"She's not a chick," AJ intoned seriously, repeating Kevin's earlier words. "She has a name, and she's going through a rough time. We have to be nice to her."

"When is she coming?" Nick asked excitedly, sitting up. "Are we going to pick her up?"

"She's not coming alone, dumbass," AJ said, rolling his eyes.

“Who’s coming with her?” Nick asked in confusion.

“Austin,” AJ repeated, topping the elegantly wrapped Tiffany’s box with a bow, handing it to Kevin.

“Austin… Kevin’s little love shack secret,” AJ snickered.

“Oh, shit, she scares me…” Nick shivered with obvious emphasis. “She could definitely kick my ass…”

"Definitely," Kevin agreed with a smirk, remembering all too well landing on his ass. "And probably would.”

“Does Brian and Leighanne know they’re coming?” Nick suddenly asked, sitting straight up with obvious interest. Since Howie’s little disappear episode, Kevin and Brian had seemed to switch places in the group. Though Kevin was still over emphasized as the father figure, Brian was the fierce bully behind the father, inflamed with control issues. He controlled with an iron fist that every fan would be shocked to see.

"They'll find out when the ladies get here," Kevin said, standing to stack the gifts on the desk. "Not that it's any of their damn business," he added under his breath. "J, can you clean up the paper? I have to go get with Drew about meeting them at the airport--"

"Can I go?" Nick asked hopefully, bounding to his feet.

“No--”

“Howie!” Nick blurted with excitement as Howie opened the bathroom door, interrupting Kevin when he knew it wouldn’t be the answer he wanted. He practically launched himself over the bed toward his older friend, towering over him by several inches. “I’m going to go pick up Cheyanne, alright?”

"Nick--" Kevin began angrily, stopping when he saw Howie's bemused smirk.

"You want to go pick her up?" Howie questioned carefully, not sure whether to be happy or upset at this development. "Why?"

“Because I think she should be welcomed with open arms into this group,” Nick defended, owning a mask of offense that Howie could consider he had other intentions.

“As well as an undone fly,” AJ rasped as he continued to clean the scraps of paper away from Howie’s bed.

"Do you honestly think Angel wants to see you when she gets off the plane?" Kevin asked, leaning against the doorframe as he watched his friends. "Let's be realistic here. The first--and last--time you met her, you weren't exactly nice to her."

"I didn't have a full grasp on the situation," Nick informed him with a pout.

"Do you ever?" AJ quipped, diving away to dump the scraps in the trashcan.

“You know what, J? You can suck my big di--”

“He has a hard-on for Cheyanne, D,” AJ announced proudly, grinning wickedly at the youngest. “And he figures since he’s closer to her age than you…”

"Enough," Howie said firmly with a shake of his head. "Nick, if you want to go pick Cheyanne and Austin up because you're actually going to be nice to them, then by all means, do. But if you're doing this because you're thinking with your other head, you can just go to Hell."

“I’m going out of the goodness of my heart,” Nick stated defiantly, sticking his tongue childishly out at AJ while flipping two sharp birds. He then hurried jumped out of the hotel room, waving toward Kevin. “C’mon old man! Hurry up! I want to get the little ladies!”

"Oh Lord," Kevin muttered. "Why do I have to go with you?"

"To keep his sorry ass out of trouble," AJ informed him. "Oh, D, you owe me fifty bucks for my wrapping services…"

"C'mon, Kev!" Nick shouted. "We don't want to keep them waiting!"

"Their flight doesn't come in for another hour and a half!" Howie shouted, ignoring AJ.

“See! We don’t have much time!” Nick whined, grasping Kevin’s arms to yank him down the hallway.

"You're not going?" Kevin yanked his arms out of Nick's grasp, sending the younger man to the floor with a thump. "Why don't you go with Nick? I'll stay here…" he trailed, his eyes on Howie.

“Hello! I don’t care who goes! Let’s just go! Cheyanne’s going to be disappointed if she has to wait!” Nick growled from a crumpled heap in the middle of the hallway, perturbed with the sudden slowing of his plans. He crossed his arms tightly over his chest, pouting severely.

"For Christ's sakes, why don't you all go?" AJ muttered, heading into the living room of the suite. "I'll go too! We'll make in an official Backstreet welcome!" he said excitedly.

"Oh, Hell no," Kevin said. "You go, Howie. I have to make dinner plans…"

"Ooo, dinner," Nick teased.

“Austin is going to be severely disappointed if you aren’t waiting when her plane gets there,” Howie disagreed immediately, knowing Kevin absolutely had to go. They had worked so hard to get Austin to call. Kevin couldn’t foul the whole opportunity now.

“And what do you think Angel’s going to do when you’re not there?” Kevin questioned.

“I’ll be there!” Nick emphasized. “If we could leave!”

"I told her that Drew was going to pick her up… She said she understood," Howie returned. "She mentioned something about not wanting to cause a fuss when we walked through the airport." Smiling triumphantly, he moved to inspect himself in the mirror.

"And bringing Junior here won't cause a fuss?" Kevin countered.

"I can go incognito!" Nick assured him, leaping to his feet. "When I want to, nobody can recognize me!"

“Do you even know what the word incognito means?” Kevin groaned, shaking his head in disbelief as he turned back to Howie. “You’re afraid of those photographs and what the fans were saying about Angel, huh? Don’t want to fuel the flame by letting them get more pictures and you don’t want the fans jumping on Angel… Potentially hurting her. Right?”

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Howie nodded. "Right," he murmured. "And, seeing her with you and Austin, that won't be so bad. Or will it? Hell, you just filed for divorce and I'm asking you to saunter around the airport with another woman. Maybe Nick and AJ should go?" he offered with a tentative smile.

“I’LL GO BY MYSELF!” Nick offered loudly. “AND I’M TAKING HER OUT TO DINNER, TOO!”

"What the Hell is all the screaming about?" Brian questioned angrily as he strolled into the suite, Leighanne and Baylee right behind him. "I swear, I can hear y'all in the elevator."

"I'm leaving!" Nick announced, already heading for the door.

"Nick… You don't even know the flight number!" AJ groaned from the couch. "Are you just going to wander around JFK shouting their names?"

"Whose names?" Brian asked.

“Howie, give me the flight number!” Nick demanded, scooping up Baylee without any warning. The two year old squealed in surprise as Nick furiously tickled him, causing a round of giggles. “Want to go get a really hot chick at the airport, Bayster?”

"Ladies!" Baylee squealed with excitement. "I go!"

"Nick, who--"

"Here," Howie cut Brian off, walking over to give Nick a sheet of paper. "Give that to Drew so it doesn't get lost, okay? And for Pete's sakes, be careful."

"Gotcha, Daddy. Ready, Bayster?" Wrinkling his nose, Nick turned to Brian. "He's had a crap already, right? I can't go picking up hot chicks with a smelly--"

"Just go, Nick," Brian groaned, shaking his head.

"Bye Daddy!" Baylee cooed as Nick toted him towards the door. "Hot chicks!"

“Don’t attempt to say anything smart to Austin. Don’t hit on Angel in front of Austin! Don’t touch Angel’s belly! Don’t hug Angel too tightly! And, for the love of God, don’t trip her!” Kevin called down the hallway, immediately cursing softly as he reached to tuck his phone into his pocket. “Damnit, hold on Nick! There is no where on God’s green Earth that I’m letting you go alone!”

“You really trust him to go by himself to get Cheyanne?” AJ questioned in disbelief toward Howie, subconsciously rubbing his bare arms as if Hell had frozen over.

"Kevin's going, too," Howie said, as though he'd known all along. "I trust him. And Baylee."

"Hurry up, old man!" Nick shouted impatiently.

"'Urry up!" Baylee echoed.

“It’s the girls from the cabin, isn’t it?” Brian suddenly groaned, glancing toward Howie with skepticism. He had known something occurred over their small break by the way Kevin was actually responding to the crowds happily compared to his scowling menace. Not to mention Howie’s sudden disappearance over the week. Without a single word.

"Got a problem with it?" Howie asked him, dropping onto the couch next to AJ. "They'll be here for a few days, and I want you to--no, I insist that you be decent to them." Reaching for the remote, he glanced at his watch. "Kevin, are you going to leave or not?"

“If Angel gets all weepy ‘cause you’re not there…” Kevin trailed with an uncomfortable threat, listening to Nick continue to holler loudly, obviously holding the elevator door.

"Nicky will be there to dry her tears," AJ muttered with a smirk, wincing when the hard plastic of the remote connected forcefully with his arm. "What the Hell?!"

“I won’t stop him,” Kevin warned, grimacing as he started toward the door, only to meet Leighanne’s ghastly gaze. He swallowed the urge to knock the sinister scowl off her face, biting down hard on his inner cheek. “You’re going to be sweet as a Georgia peach, Leighanne. To both of them.”

Glowering at him, Leighanne turned on her heel and stalked off to the largest bedroom. "Brian, can I speak to you?"

"In a minute. God," Brian grumbled, flopping into an armchair. "Are they staying with us?" he asked Howie.

“Where else would you have them stay, Brian?” Howie returned, overreaching his arm so AJ couldn’t steal the remote.

Brian bit back his first reply, keeping his gaze on the floor as he thought of a suitable answer. "Wouldn't they be more comfortable in their own room?"

"I ain't sleeping with Howie," AJ put in. "I love you, D, but you steal covers and you snore."

“I already offered and they declined. Honey said she’s more than comfortable sharing a bed with me. She doesn’t mind the light snoring and we cuddle enough so I don’t steal the covers. And, Kevin, well, let’s not be na´ve about that. He and Austin are passionate. You won’t break them up. So, grin and bear it, Brian.”

"Dude," AJ said, glancing at Brian. "Guess he told you."

"Shut the fuck up, Aje," Brian growled. Getting to his feet, he decided his fate lay better with his wife. "As long as you know what you're doing," he finally conceded. "The fans already hate her, D. Do you honestly think having her here is going to change that?"

"Some of the fans hate Leigh, too. That doesn't stop you from dragging her ass across Hell's half acre," AJ informed him. Entirely too pleased that no one was angry with him.

“That was an almost decent thing you did there, J,” Howie answered when Brian stalked away to soothe Leighanne’s temper tantrum. Though, he knew better than to give AJ full benefit as he stood, deciding he had to make sure his hotel room was suitable for Cheyanne. “Remember I said almost, though.”

*~*~*


“Austi, this place is huge,” Cheyanne breathed in disbelief as she reached to grasp Austin’s upper arm, afraid of drowning into the crowds at the congested New York City airport terminal. When she was sure she had hold of her friend, her other hand instantly reached down to hold her slightly cramped abdomen and Moth who was sleeping comfortably in his soft pet carrier draped over her shoulder. That had been the only bag that Austin allowed Cheyanne to carry, afraid of making her do anymore work with the kind of stress the airplane probably had created. Though, Cheyanne felt guilty, she said nothing, not wanting to make Austin far more tense than she already was. They just wanted to find their ride and leave, never having been in such a large and dangerous city before.

"I know… But don't worry. Pretty Boy said that some guy named Drew would be here to meet us." Austin tried to contain her excitement at seeing Kevin again, a bit subdued at knowing he wouldn't be meeting them. She adjusted the bags under her right arm, reaching to grasp Cheyanne's hand. "All we have to do is look for a big beefy guy…"

“Um…” Cheyanne didn’t have the heart to confess that every man in the city looked big and beefy to her. It may have been a stereotype, but she couldn’t even begin to count the number of times she heard about the crime rates in New York City. Only, those thoughts dropped for a moment when she finally caught site of a familiar face. “What about a big beefy guy standing next to a tall, dark, home-cooked southern man and a tall, chunky blonde holding an adorable baby?”

Austin's eyes darted around, and she felt her heart leap when her gaze landed on Kevin. "He came," she breathed, squeezing Cheyanne's hand. "Oh, Lord," she muttered, recognized the blonde man. "Why the Hell did he bring that pissfuck with him?" she groaned as the three men headed over to them.

“It doesn’t matter,” Cheyanne laughed softly, actually feeling the excitement racing through her friend’s body. She had been so overwhelmed the past week with joy for this visit. Every mere mention of Kevin’s name sent a silly smile on her face. So, Cheyanne released her hand, nudging her softly. “Just go give him a hug and kiss. Y’know you missed him more than a frog missin’ his lily pad.”

"Which one do you want me to hug and kiss?" Austin questioned with a smirk. Dropping the bags she held, she resisted the urge to race up to Kevin. Taking one tentative step, she met his eyes and rushed over to him, throwing herself into his embrace with such force he staggered backwards. "God, I've missed you," she murmured as his lips descended over hers.

“Likewise,” Kevin promised with a strong whisper, wrapping his arms around her small frame and lifting her into his embrace. He covered her mouth with his, feeling her tremble underneath the softest kiss. Suddenly, it felt as if he were propelled backward into the past, standing on the porch with Austin securely in his arms. He actually wanted to cry out with relief, breaking their long, slow, beautiful kiss into several. “I love you, Princess. I love you so, so, so much. I’m never going to let you get away again. Ever.”

“Kevin!” Baylee whispered in awe, clapping his tiny hands over his mouth as if he were in trouble.

Clearing his throat, Nick stepped forward to greet Cheyanne. "Hey, baby, how're you doing?" he asked, eagerly reaching for her hand. When she shrank away from him, he sighed. "I brought a peace offering," he said, pointing to Baylee. "He's cute, he's fun, and guaranteed to melt the heart of any female over the age of one!"

"Hot chick!" Baylee squealed, grinning from ear to ear.

“You’ve definitely taught him well,” Cheyanne murmured, unable to hide her smile as Drew meticulously went to collecting the bags Austin so carelessly dropped. Only, she was more focused on the adorable little boy hoisted in Nick’s arms. She recognized him instantly as Brian’s son, the better half of Brian’s coldness, in an almost mirror reflection with bright blonde curls, handsome smile, and big, blue eyes. And Cheyanne couldn’t resist his sweetness, smiling shyly as she reached out her hand to him. “What’s your name, Sweetheart?”

"Baylee," he said, tucking his head against Nick's shoulder shyly. When her fingers lightly tickled his stomach he squirmed, giggling as he reached for her. "Who you?" he chirped excitedly.

"This is Howie's Angel," Nick said with a grin.

Still reaching for Cheyanne, Baylee shook his head. "Nuh uh. No Howie. My Angel," he said.

“How could I say no to that?” Cheyanne cooed in complete infatuation, gesturing for Nick to hold her pet carrier. He quickly obliged, allowing Baylee to climb into Cheyanne’s embrace. It had been awhile since Cheyanne had held a child, but her warmth and sweetness made it easier than she anticipated. She had always loved children. Something about the joy they exuded gave her such faith in humanity. And, Baylee wasted no time wrapping his tiny arms around her neck, grinning with triumph toward Nick. Gently, Cheyanne drew Baylee’s attention back to her, blowing a small raspberry on his neck to elicit a sharp giggle. “You are the cutest thing, Baylee.”

"Cuter than me?" Nick asked with a small pout. Glancing over at Kevin, he opened his mouth to voice his irritation with Howie's little woman when he saw Austin was still wrapped around him. "Good God," he muttered, shaking his head. "Can we get back to the hotel now?"

"Me know," Baylee said, adjusting his legs around Cheyanne. Glancing down, his eyes grew wide when he saw her small bump of a stomach. "What dat?"

“That would be my baby girl,” Cheyanne answered sincerely, running her fingers through his wily curls before catching the sleeve of Nick’s t-shirt so he couldn’t go far. “She’s sleeping inside my tummy right now. Just like you did inside your Mommy.”

"Nick," Baylee whispered seriously, turning his gaze upward. "Shh. Baby sleeping," he intoned, holding a finger to his lips.

Easing the strap of the pet carrier off Cheyanne's shoulder, Nick peeked inside at the sleeping dog before draping his arm around Cheyanne. "Kev, dude, we need to roll," he said, receiving a slap from Baylee when he didn't keep his voice down.

"Baby sleep!" Baylee insisted, furling his flaxen brows.

“Alright, alright, damn,” Nick muttered, surprised that Baylee’s sharp slap had stung so much. Though, he refused to rub his shoulder, knowing it meant he’d have to loosen his arm from Cheyanne. Instead, he brought her closer, growling playfully against the side of Baylee’s head. “You’re ruining my charm, Little Man.”

Baylee furiously shook his head before whispering harshly, “Nuh-uh! My Angel!”

Tapping Kevin briefly on the shoulder, Drew pointed to his watch. "Getting close to rush hour, and the limo's waiting," he said, glancing over at Nick and Cheyanne.

"Limo?" Austin repeated after tearing her lips from Kevin's. "Y'all came here in a limo?"

"I sit in your lap, Angel?" Baylee asked, eyes wide as he gazed at Cheyanne. "I keep Nick away!"

"Sounds like a plan to me," Cheyanne said, adjusting him on her hip as Nick led her towards the exit. "Austi?" she called nervously, looking over her shoulder. Relief hit when she saw her friend and Kevin right behind them.

"My Angel," Baylee informed Kevin proudly.

“I called her that first, Young Blood,” Kevin chuckled, reaching forward to ruffle the boy’s hair, who pouted sharply and hid against Cheyanne. Only, a few moment’s later he peeked his big blue eyes over her shoulder, grinning with triumph as he patted his hands on her bare shoulder. As if taunting Kevin.

“That’s Brian’s kid, isn’t it?” Austin asked, shaking her head in disbelief at how fast Baylee had fallen in love with Cheyanne. Though, she didn’t know why she was so surprised. Cheyanne was absolutely beautiful with children, which is why she would make a wonderful mother. Though, she noticed how Nick’s arm was draped around the younger woman, making Austin resist the urge to draw public attention to him by kicking his behind.

"Yeah. Don't worry," Kevin murmured, his arm sliding around her waist to hold her close as they stepped outside. "Brian's nowhere near the Nazi he usually is when Bay's around." Reaching forward with his other hand, he slapped Nick upside the head.

"What the fu--heck?" Nick jerked his head around, shooting Kevin a glare. "What was that for?"

"Hands off Angel."

"My Angel," Baylee sighed, poking at Nick's arm.

“I was protecting her!” Nick defended as he looked to Drew for help, who merely shrugged with a smile, amusing that Nick’s head now throbbed with the arm Baylee insisted on stabbing at. Annoyed, Nick briefly dropped his hand from Cheyanne’s shoulders, bound and determined to get it back in that position.

“Where’s Howie?” Cheyanne asked suddenly, turning when they reached the sleek, black limo. Drew immediately handed over the luggage to the driver, opening the door so they could get inside to safety. No one had caught them yet, but anything was possible. So, Austin reached for the pet carrier and Nick took Baylee, allowing Kevin to help Cheyanne inside first. Once she was comfortable, Kevin helped Austin in. And, Baylee immediately hurried to climb onto Cheyanne’s lap before Nick could think twice.

"He's at the hotel," Kevin assured her as Austin settled beside Cheyanne. Pushing Nick in ahead of him, he bit back a smirk when the younger man muttered a string of expletives at being forced to sit across from Cheyanne. Austin tittered appreciatively, lifting herself so Kevin could sit down. Settling in his lap, she leaned against him, and he wrapped one arm around her, glorying in the feel of her body once again. "Hold the dog, Nick," he said, motioning to the pet carrier Austin held in her lap.

“Yeah, I’ll hold the dog…” Nick muttered with aggravation, obviously wanting to say something more vulgar despite the company. And, he didn’t dare to top Kevin, especially with Austin sitting so haughtily on his lap. He didn’t want to flare her temper. Not yet anyway. Let AJ get that first slap.

“My Angel puppy?” Baylee questioned curiously from her lap, leaning back to snuggle against her and the baby. His tiny hands gently patted the small, round belly as if he were soothing Olivia. And, Cheyanne found it adorable as she played with his curls, keeping him close.

“That’s my puppy Moth,” Cheyanne agreed.

“Want to play with him, Bayster?” Nick asked hopefully.

"Moth took a puppy Xanax, he won't want to play for a while," Austin informed him smugly.

“Then Bayster could take a nap with Moth…” Nick offered, somewhat puzzled by the dog’s name.

“Bay’ter fine right here’d,” Baylee promised with a soft yawn, shifting to curl against Cheyanne.

"Don't get too comfortable, we're almost at the hotel," Kevin said softly, smirking as Nick pulled the pet carrier into his lap. It was beyond humorous, how Nick seemed to be jealous of the attention Cheyanne gave to Baylee. What had he expected, after all?

"I hope you have plans on staying in tonight," Austin murmured, covering the hand on her stomach.

“I was thinking about taking you out to dinner… But that’s what room service is for,” Kevin retorted, brushing away the brunette locks away from her neck. Smirking, he leaned down to kiss the back of her neck, suckling ever so gently to entice her further. To let her know how much he had missed her. She looked so good stepping into the airport in her tight jeans and his Kentucky t-shirt. He couldn’t have asked for anything more.

"Not in front of Baylee!" Nick squawked, covering his eyes with his hands.

Shivering at the touch of his lips, Austin turned slightly, reaching to touch his cheek. "We can go out tomorrow?" she questioned softly, glancing over to see Baylee fast asleep against Cheyanne.

“We’ve got all the time in the world to go out,” Kevin mumbled against her sweet yet slightly spicy skin. He’d rather stay cooped up in the hotel for the first night back with Austin, relishing in everything he had missed.

"Finally!" Nick screeched when the limo stopped. Pushing the pet carrier aside, he flung the door open. Leaning over, he gently plucked Baylee from Cheyanne's lap. "Here," he said, shoving the sleeping toddler into Austin's lap. Grasping Cheyanne's hand in his, he helped her out of the limo. "Want the official escort to Howie?" he asked sweetly, draping his arm around her shoulder once again as he ushered her into the lobby.

Austin glared after him. "That sonofa--"

“Hey, you’ve got a kid in your arms,” Kevin intervened with a rueful chuckle, anticipating Nick would do something bold. Shifting to take Baylee, he allowed Austin to jump out of the limo while grasping Moth’s carrier. Swinging him over her shoulder, she prepared to stalk in, but Kevin knew Cheyanne would wait for Austin. Though, he had to keep up with Austin so she didn’t get lost. “You keep that up, Princess, Angel’s baby is going to be cursing a storm when her cord is cut.”

"I'm trying really hard. But that… BOOHBAH is getting on my nerves and we haven't been here for twenty minutes," Austin said, folding her arms over her chest. "I am this close to just… Why are you standing there staring at me?" she asked suddenly, looking up at him. Baylee was draped against his chest, head resting on his shoulder. Kevin looked so natural holding a child, and for one brief second she wondered what their children would look like.

“Boobah?” Kevin questioned with honest confusion, shaking his head in disbelief as he motioned toward the elegant lobby doors. Sure enough, Cheyanne was waiting patiently inside, though Nick seemed to be working every angle to get her to their joint Presidential suites, probably for a personal tour of his own room. “What is a Boohbah?”

"One of those fat, annoying kids' shows on TV." Looking around the lobby, Austin felt out of place amongst the indescribably rich atmosphere. Biting her lip, she looked up at Kevin, saw he was gazing at her in amusement. "Better than pissfuck isn't it?" she whispered.

"Come on," Nick told Cheyanne, leading her to the elevators. "Howie told me you're supposed to be on bed rest, you shouldn't be on your feet so much."

"Good idea," Kevin said with a smirk, transferring Baylee into Nick's arms. "C'mere, Angel," he said, reaching for her.

Cheyanne was stunned slightly by her surroundings, somewhat oblivious to Kevin’s calling until she felt his arms ease around her growing waist. The Plaza was absolutely gorgeous, layered in rich tones of gold, brown, orange, and creams. She seemed so frumpy in her lavender maternity tank top and maternity Capri jeans. She had seen some travel television broadcast on the hotel, knowing the best of the best stayed here. And, somewhere, Howie lingered. Though, she glanced up in confusion, furrowing her light brows when her thoughts returned to Kevin. “What are you doing, Kevvy?”

"Keeping that little shithead's hands off my Angel," he whispered in her ear as he lifted her gently. "Unless… Would you rather I didn't?" he asked softly, aware of Nick glaring at him.

“No, I’m fine with this,” Cheyanne quickly promised as she loosely draped her arms around his neck, glancing briefly toward Austin, who almost instantly nodded with approval. Carefully, she glanced back toward him with soft, sapphire eyes. “As long as you don’t think you’re making a scene?”

"Believe me, Angel, it's nothing compared to the scene that would play out if Nick was the one who brought you to Howie," Kevin said, stepping onto the elevator.

"What is she? A slab of meat used for bartering or something?" Austin asked as they all crowded on. Once the doors slid shut, she relaxed a bit. "Whooo! This is one fancy-schmancy place!"

“Just wait till you see our Penthouse,” Kevin chuckled.

“Could you smile for me, Austin, just once?” Nick asked out of no where, shifting Baylee uncomfortably in his arms. “Just so I know you have all them dad-burn teeth of yours…”

"Nick," Kevin groaned, shaking his head as Cheyanne stared at him in shock. Next to him Austin tensed. "Princess… Don't…" Good thing Nick was holding Baylee, he decided.

Spinning to look at him, Austin gave Nick a sweet smile that would have rivaled Cheyanne's best, making sure her lips didn't part. "Why Nicky… When we get up to the suite, I'll be sure and let you see all my teeth, okay?" she cooed, touching his arm briefly.

Nick took one large step away from Austin’s touch, holding Baylee protectively to his chest. Almost as if the little boy was a shield. Her dark coffee eyes warned him not to tempt her, making him unduly uneasy. He realized quite quickly he overstepped his boundaries. “That’s all right… I have to put Bayster down for his nap…”

"I'll help you," she offered, shooting a quick glare at Kevin when he snickered. "Wait a minute, doesn't he have parents? Surely they can put him down for his nap… Are you scared of me?" she asked, holding a hand to her chest in mock shock. Looking Nick up and down, she knew she could take him. He would be easier to knock down than Kevin had.

"Austi," Cheyanne chastened with a soft giggle. "Don't scare the poor boy."

"Hallelujah," Nick said softly when the elevator stopped. Stepping out, he quickly rushed into the suite. Hopefully his friends would save him.

“Pussy,” Austin breathed loudly when she heard the pounding of a door followed by a quick opening and sharp closing.

“She’s going to have fun this weekend,” Cheyanne sung softly as Kevin stepped off the elevator, still cradling her quite tenderly. And, as much as she enjoyed Kevin, she quickly glanced down the empty hallways for sight of her own beloved. Only, no one surfaced within the glorious Penthouse dedicated solely to the Backstreet Boys’ ultimate desires.

Her fears dissipated when Kevin walked up to the door. It opened immediately, and she felt her heart flutter when she saw Howie there. Sliding from Kevin's arms, she was immediately wrapped up in Howie's. Sliding her arms around his neck, she clung to him, tears of happiness flooding her eyes. His lips met hers in a soft kiss, and when he whispered her name she had never heard it sound more beautiful.

“I missed you,” she breathed passionately, clinging to him tightly as she tucked her face into the crook of his neck. She could hardly keep the pleased tears from falling to coat his soft polo shirt. She had missed him so terribly that week and curling against Austin at night had done nothing to curb her appetite. She felt her very best when she was with him. The pain of her complicated pregnancy didn’t attack so hard when she was in his arms. The fears of her unknown future remained tucked away in the very silver linings of hope that Howie offered with each breath. Smiling with true delight, she sighed, kissing his neck. “I missed you so much.”

"I missed you too," Howie whispered, drawing her into the living room. Despite having only talked to her that morning, there were so many things he longed to say to her. Knowing what a short time they would have together. For the moment he simply held her close, reveling in the fact that she was his, she was there. When she was with him the world was nowhere near as bleak as it had been. One hand strayed to her stomach and he rubbed gently. "I've missed her, too," he murmured.

“She’s missed you just as much,” Cheyanne agreed, smiling when Olivia reacted to Howie’s gentle caresses. It was almost as if she knew when Howie was near and when he went away. Because, every night Howie wasn’t with them, Olivia tossed, turned, and kicked, making Cheyanne ill. But, if Cheyanne let Howie’s CD play all night, then most of the kicks were eased into just a fidget of obvious loneliness. “She gets so restless without you…”

Howie was about to respond when he heard AJ conspicuously clearing his throat behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw his friend's tentative smile. Easing around, he kept Cheyanne in his arms. "Honey… This is AJ," he said, daring AJ to step forward and say something vulgar.

“I know the first time we met, we really didn’t meet, so…” AJ trailed awkwardly for a moment, standing from the couch. He tentatively stuffed his hands in his ragged jeans for a moment, almost as if he were shy. He glanced down at his bare feet for a moment, before glancing up and finally sticking out one of his hands. “It’s nice to meet you, Cheyanne. I know you probably got horror stories from D, but I am his best friend…”

“It’s really nice to meet you, AJ.” Cheyanne matched AJ’s somewhat nervous grin, reaching to take his hand for a gentle shake. Her voice was charming and sweet; dripping with a beautiful feminine accent to the ‘redneck’ sounds they had tormented Brian for in the beginning. Coming from her glossed lips though, it was like a gorgeous melody. “Thank you so much for letting Austi and I come for a visit. I know we’re invading your space, but it means a lot to me.”

"It means a lot to D, too… Don't you think you should be in bed?" AJ asked, glancing at her protruding stomach. "D told us about your problems and all… Do you want something to drink?" he asked, anxious to do something to show how apologetic he was for their first meeting.

“I’m okay being up. Being confined to bed permanently until I give birth gets boring really fast. And, I’m not thirsty, but thank you much,” Cheyanne laughed softly, watching his eyes fixate on her pregnant belly. Carefully, she moistened her bottom lip, gesturing to where Olivia was starting to kick. She didn’t know if that’s what he was waiting to do, but figured she could be kind enough to offer. “Do you want to feel her kick?”

AJ stepped forward eagerly, and Howie had to remove one arm from Cheyanne, keeping a close eye on his friend's hand. But AJ was gentle as he touched where Olivia kicked. Relaxing slightly, he decided that maybe this hadn't been such a bad idea.

"Awesome," AJ murmured, stepping away. "I'll leave you two alone so you can… Well, you know," he said with a mischievous grin.

“Thanks, AJ,” Cheyanne laughed as Howie wasted no time in wrapping both arms around her again. She hadn’t the heart to crush Howie’s ego telling AJ that they weren’t allowed to engage in such pleasures, because the risks were far too dangerous. If Howie wanted to ‘talk in the locker room’ that was fine, because, he certainly had something to talk about. “I like him, Tea.”

"He's alright," Howie agreed. "I have something in the bedroom for you, if you--" he cut off quickly when he heard an animalistic growl come from the suitcase. "What was that?" he asked, looking down at the bag Kevin had set by the door. "Did you bring that vicious beast?"

Cheyanne puckered her bottom lip into a piteous pout at Howie’s obvious detest with Moth. “He’s not a vicious beast and Jeff couldn’t take care of him. We had to bring him here…”

"Honey? I was teasing you… He's more than welcome. AJ?" Looking around, he saw AJ was about to step onto the balcony. "Can you take Moth for a walk?"

“Moth?” AJ questioned in obvious confusion, staring down at the little long haired Chihuahua Howie had set free from the carrier. He seemed well agitated by his new surroundings, instantly ducking in between Cheyanne’s legs for protection. AJ had to admit he was amused by the tiny puppy, taking the leash from his friend.

“It’s the anagram for Man of the House,” Cheyanne explained.

“Clever,” AJ approved, bending down to become acquainted with the tiny creature. He seemed to protest leaving Cheyanne’s closeness, but, slowly approaching. And, completely opposite to how he treated Howie, he actually began to lick AJ’s fingers. Smiling, AJ easily clipped the leash on the collar. “It’ll be fun to take him for a walk. I’ll have Baylee tag along.”

"I thought Baylee was asleep…" Cheyanne trailed softly as AJ headed down the hall to find the toddler. "What were you saying about something for me in your room?" she asked Howie sweetly, smoothing her hand over his cheek.

“It’s a surprise, you have to follow me,” Howie explained, turning his head so he could gently kiss her palm. He felt her shiver at the action, causing him to smile with approval. Reaching, he intertwined both their hands, delivering more kisses to each knuckle. “Please?”

“Okay, but if you’re just showing me the bed to put me there, I’m flying back to North Carolina,” she threatened, allowing him to lead her to what she would consider her oasis for the next few days.

“I have to show you the bed, but just to make sure you rest, because I don’t want anything happening to you or Cinnamon. But not right now,” Howie attempted to save, pulling her down the hallway to his hotel room. His was nestled between Brian and Leighanne’s room and AJ’s room. Kevin and Nick were on the opposite side, which gave Howie great relief. In fact, it caused Howie to chuckle slightly, knowing Nick would never be able to drown out the sounds. But, the nervous knots tightened in his stomach as he motioned toward their door. Easily sliding the key into his lock, he eased the door open, leading Cheyanne into the gorgeously regal cream colored room.

“Tea, it’s so beautiful,” Cheyanne gasped softly, allowing him to lead her inside, oblivious to the mountain of presents on the desk as she ran her fingertips over the satin bedspread. Seating herself on the soft bed of what seemed like clouds, she sighed softly. It was so lovely. So perfect.

Smiling at her dreamlike expression, he moved to the desk, grabbing the stack of presents. "Happy belated birthday, Honey," he said softly, setting them on the nightstand. "Oh, and these are for Cinnamon, from her Uncle Kev," he added with a grin, going to get the gifts Kevin had brought earlier. Setting them with the others, he sat next to her, saw tears gathering in her eyes. "Honey…"

“You really, really, really didn’t have to get me anything,” Cheyanne emphasized with a soft sniffle, rubbing her face with trembling hands in attempts to get rid of the tears. She was always overwhelmed with his romantic gestures, touching her heart like no other man could ever hope to do. “I was so happy just to have you there for my birthday, Tea… That was the best present I could have ever asked for.”

"Do you want me to take them back?" Howie asked, already reaching for them. "I mean, it's not much… But I just wanted to make up for not knowing it was your--"

“Tea,” Cheyanne interrupted softly. “It would hurt you to take those back…”

Grinning, Howie relaxed. "But… Promise me, if you don't like them, you'll tell me? And I'll take them back and try again…" he trailed as she reached for the first present.

“How could I possibly not like anything you picked out for me?” she scolded softly, taking the bow from the small package and allowing Howie to place it on her belly. She smiled softly as she ripped through the paper, pulling out a small green box. Uncovering the lid, she felt her breath catch sharply in her throat. Within the expensive Tiffany’s box lay an even more expensive gift. Howie had selected a platinum chain with a beautiful pendant of circular platinum set sapphires and diamonds interchanging in a delicate zig-zag, giving off the appearance of bubbles. “…Please tell me you went to Walmart and just stole this Tiffany’s box from AJ or someone…”

"No… J doesn't shop at Tiffany's," Howie said softly. "Do you like it?"

“Tea, it’s so beautiful,” she breathed, adoring the piece of jewelry as she delicately brushed a fingertip over the dark blue sapphire. It wasn’t that the gift had come from Tiffany’s, but more so that it had come from Howie’s heart. “They’re my favorite gemstone…”

"I picked them because they match your eyes," Howie told her. Reaching for the necklace, he brushed his lips over her cheek. "Can I put it on you?" he questioned softly, plucking the chain from her hands. Moving to kneel behind her, he brushed her soft curls aside, fumbling with the clasp in his haste. Finally securing it, he pressed a gentle kiss to the back of her neck. "I love you…"

“I think I have to love you more after such an extravagant gift,” Cheyanne confessed softly, turning so she could look into his smoldering chocolate eyes. She offered a shy smile as she beckoned him close, kissing his bottom lip before pulling him closer for a thankful kiss, expressing every bit of emotion she could gather.