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Author's Chapter Notes:
We just want to make an announcement that we are extremely appreciative of all the reviews we've been recieving, but this is a co-authorship. Please, not one 'girl' has wrote this, but two. And, Anastacia owes a great many thanks to Shrinkingviolet for just being allowed to collaborate on such a project.
Chapter 31 – Love Me

Standing under the warm waterfall coming from the showerhead, Howie closed his eyes, sucking in a breath when the water coursed over his erection. "Damn, Howie," he muttered to himself, shaking his head slightly. Why had the sight of her snuggled close to Baylee aroused him so? He couldn't explain it, especially to himself. She had looked so warm, so cozy… So sexy, he thought, bracing one hand on the cool marble wall. Trying so hard to resist the temptation of giving in to his burgeoning desire.

Resisting the temptation meant to forget about Cheyanne as the blood continued to circulate to his manhood, tightening and stiffening the tissues inside, making his shower far more painful than he expected. Sharply, he squeezed his eyes shut, pressing both hands against the marble so he could avoid the situation entirely. But the images of Cheyanne continued to flutter around his mind like a sexual muse. Making love with Cheyanne at the cabin had been one of the most beautiful experiences in his life. Just the cues her body sent him, telling him she was overjoyed with his performance, was enough to send him into ecstasy. Or at least, he had thought when he traveled to North Carolina, knowing that traditional sex was out of the question. It was too dangerous. Rupturing Cheyanne’s placenta would mean that she bled to death instantly, cutting off oxygen to Olivia. Howie had used those thoughts to stop the progression of his natural desires. But, now, having her so close again, knowing he wasn’t allowed to have her, seemed to cause a frustrated insanity. He wanted to love her so much. More importantly, he wanted her to love him.

So wrought with conflicting emotions, he didn't hear the bathroom door open. Cheyanne slipped inside, shutting and locking the door behind her. Leaning against it, she looked at Howie's form through the steamed glass door, she felt a flutter of excitement, quickly peeling off her clothes before she could lose her nerve. Shaking her hair free of its pigtails, she opened the door and stepped into the steamy shower, biting her lip at the sight of his nude body. Honestly, the man was growing sexier each time she saw him… "Tea…"

The sound of Cheyanne’s soft voice through the hazy steam of the shower seemed like his mind’s last desperate attempt for salvation from the excruciating pain. The sweet southern coo of her voice sent shivers down his spine, tightening his muscles more than necessary. He bit back a hard groan as he tried to remember the dangers of hurting Cheyanne and how he should be above the need for just constantly having sex. Their relationship was more than that… Then he turned slightly in the shower, finally opening his eyes to see Cheyanne’s nude form through the layers of steam. The sight of her was almost enough to make a sharp release, but somehow it maintained as he groaned. Her golden curls slightly dampened by the moist air were falling against her creamy shoulders in shimmering ringlets, lightly kissing the fullness of her bare breasts. Though still quite petite, her body was changing with the pregnancy. Her hips slightly widened and her firmly rounded, little belly protruding gently with a dark line marked from between her breasts to her navel. She was gorgeous. And he gasped hard with shame, stumbling slightly to make sure his backside continued to face her, so she wouldn’t see his embarrassing arousal. “Honey!”

“Darlin’ is sleeping with Austin, so, I thought I’d take up your offer…” Cheyanne attempted to explain, not understanding Howie’s frazzled nature. Starting to think it was her presence, she curved her arms around her bare breasts as if to shield her nakedness, stepping back in the gigantic shower as if to step out.

"I'm glad you did," Howie said softly, snatching the washcloth off the railing to… What? Toss over his erection like a flag? Rolling his eyes at his own stupidity, he let the cloth fall to the floor. Drawing in a deep breath, he willed his body to calm down, lest she think he was an overly hormonal-- "Honey?" he breathed when he felt something brush his legs. Glancing down, he saw her arm reaching around him to grasp the cloth.

"I've got it," she assured him, glancing up so he could see her smile. Only, her smile quickly faded upon seeing what he had taken pains to hide from her, and she felt her body tingle with desire, remembering all too well how it had felt to make love to him. "Did I interrupt something?" she whispered, straightening. Tearing her eyes from his arousal, she looked up at his face, saw he was blushing furiously. Holding out the washcloth, she waited for him to tell her to leave.

Howie was completely mortified at her subtle announcement of her findings, not to mention how long it took for her to find his eyes. He weakly reached to grasp the wet washcloth, jerking slightly when he brushed her fingers. “No! I mean… I saw you with Baylee… God… You just looked so… We couldn’t… And we still can’t…” Howie felt like the world’s largest moron as he fumbled for an explanation, finding nothing as his erection seemed to grow at the mere sight of the water kissing her sweet skin. “I’m so sorry, Honey--”

“No, I’m the one that’s sorry,” Cheyanne quickly answered, mustering an apologetic smile as she stepped back again when Howie jerked at the brief connection of their bodies. “I didn’t mean to interrupt. You had just asked for me to join and I managed to weasel out. I didn’t think you’d be… I know it’s hard not being able to be with me because of the high risk pregnancy. I’m not an idiot. And I’m sorry that you have to suffer through it--”

"I wouldn't call it suffering." Reaching for her hand, Howie shook his head as he drew her closer to him, unable to resist touching her delectable body. "And you weren't interrupting me, Honey… I just… Well... I'm a man," he said with a shake of his head. "Sorry."

“You don’t have to be sorry. I know it’s hard to control when I was so…ambitious at the cabin,” Cheyanne promised softly, allowing Howie to bring her closer to him. She tensed slightly despite her strong desires for him, not wanting to cause him any more pain. But, when he wrapped her in his embrace, she couldn’t help herself. She exhaled a soft sigh of contentment, knowing he wasn’t upset with her. But, she couldn’t help but think back to his attempts at a birthday surprise. They had been so close to engage in making love, but he pulled away, knowing the damage he could cause, even though he was suffering. It wasn’t entirely fair for Howie, especially as she felt the hardness of him pressing between them. Blowing out a breath of nerves, she let her hand slip between them, trailing her fingers from his chest to the pit of his stomach. Hopefully, her sapphire eyes glanced upward. “Can I try to make it up to you? If not, you can go find a fan for a night of desire or something…”

Did she honestly think he could have anything remotely akin to desire for a fan? "Make it up to me?" he blurted, staring into her eyes, which were sparkling. The feel of her fingers on his skin brought for a tortured moan. "Honey…"

“I want to try to help, because I feel guilty,” she attempted to explain, not wanting to be completely brazen about the task she wanted to complete for him. Instead, she bowed her head slightly leaning forward to kiss the water from his chest, letting her fingers dance lower, carefully tickling the erect member that slightly twitched between them. “Please?”

Whimpering, Howie weighed her offer for a moment, the feel of her fingers on him nearly sending him over the edge. Her mouth trailed over his chest, and he felt his knees grow weak, leaning his hand against the wall once more. But… "I couldn't ask you to do that, Honey… Unless you let me help you, too," he murmured.

“You’re not asking me to do it,” Cheyanne disagreed softly, not really understanding how he could help her. Not that she truly cared, bringing her lips to his throat, suckling gently as her hand wrapped around his erection, just holding the warmth as she rubbed her thumb on its underside. She felt him shiver beneath her hold, causing her to smile against his throat, nibbling softly before breaking into several short kisses. “I want to do this for you.”

Howie nodded, unable to form words now. Wanting--needing to touch her, he let his hand trail down her side, gliding over her stomach before moving up to cup a full breast. Dipping his head, he caught her lips with his, moaning into her mouth as her grip on his arousal tightened. Stepping closer, he eased her legs apart with his thigh, his fingers stroking her nipple lightly.

Cheyanne’s back naturally arched as his fingers puckered her nipple into a hardened state of arousal, causing her skin to melt against his. Changing with the pregnancy, her breasts seemed to be the most sensitive and easily manipulated by his soft hands. Her breath easily changed into a quickened series of short pants, reaching up to nibble on his bottom lip before trailing her tongue against his lips. Her hand now began to easily glide against his length, manipulating him with her sweet caresses and gentle rakes of her nails. Hot water continued to pour down, drenching them in a pool of heat and desire. Faintly, she recognized Howie’s own manipulations with her body, briefly glancing down at his thigh. “Tea… W-What are you doing?”

"Helping you," he murmured, involuntarily lurching into her hand. The sensation of her nails raking him pulled the wind from his lungs, and when she leaned against the wall, offering her body to him as much as she could, he let his lips move to her neck. Fingers dancing down her side, he felt her tremble at his touch, heard her sharp intake of breath as his hand maneuvered its way between her thighs. "If--if you want me to stop… Just say so," he whispered against her skin as his mouth moved lower, his tongue flicking the warm water off her warmer skin.

“N-No, don’t stop,” Cheyanne whimpered, arching yet again at the pleasurable sensations rushing through her body. She felt as if she were fire underneath Howie’s hold. Spurts of electricity shooting down her spine with every tender touch, kiss, and caress. She knew she would be unable to handle her emotions if he just removed himself from her. It had seemed like far too long since she was able to physically show him how much she cared. So, attempting to remain on her feet, she wrapped an arm around his neck while continuing to stroke his length, teasing him with just the lightest of touches to firm massages. “I missed you so much…”

"I missed you," Howie whispered against her breast, his fingers lightly teasing her moist folds. The passion was so close to consuming him, and he knew that, despite all his control, it would only be moments before-- "Chey!" he gasped as her gentle strokes increased. Lifting his head, he quickly found her lips, teasing them with his tongue as one finger gently gained entrance.

Howie,” Cheyanne whimpered hard in disbelief, tightening immediately when she felt his finger inside her body. For a moment, her gentle strokes stopped on his erection, her nails slightly digging. She hadn’t been prepared for that. Nor had she been prepared for his gently strokes of her most intimate area. She felt sincerely lightheaded with the waves of pleasure crashing over her body, mixing with the sensual heat of the shower. Slowly moving her hand back against him, teasing the tip of his head, she shuddered with delight as she kissed the side of his face, nibbling on his earlobe. “I love you so much.”

"Chey," Howie moaned softly, closing his eyes tightly as his body trembled. "I-I love you… Honey… I'm…" Gasping, he eased another finger inside her, increasing his movements as his member throbbed in her hand. He was so close..."Chey…"

“Go ahead,” Cheyanne encouraged softly in his ear, rotating her hips slightly against Howie’s fingers. She felt her body start to build against the desire, knowing she would most certainly follow him afterwards. So she increased the rhythm of her strokes along his shaft, letting her nails add just a touch of pressure. She felt great satisfaction in pleasing him so, seeking his mouth with hers to drown whatever screams might be produced. “Let go, Tea.”

Howie's cries were muffled against her lips, thrusting himself against her hand as the wave overtook him. Tearing his lips from hers, he released a strangled cry, his body shuddering next to her. Dropping his head onto her shoulder, he drew in several shaky breaths, heard her soft murmurs as she cradled him close, her body curling next to his. Trembling, he gently increased the strokes of his fingers, felt her nails curve into his neck. "Chey… Let it go," he whispered against her ear.

Cheyanne nodded softly with a hard whimper, thankful that Howie told her it was okay. She had been so concerned about helping him release that she forgot about herself. So, shaking, she brought both hands to curl around his neck. She continued to rotate her hips against the thrusts of his fingers, burying her face so perfectly into the crook of her neck. And, as the dam of yearning broke, Cheyanne released a soft cry against Howie’s skin. Water pelting her tingling skin, she shivered, curling a leg around Howie’s calf. “Thank you…”

Wrapping his arms around her, Howie kissed her softly, shivering as her leg moved against his. "No… Thank you," he murmured. Once he trusted his legs, he stepped back until they were fully under the water, his lips never leaving hers as he reached for the soap. "I love you so much, Honey…"

“I love you, too. Far more than anything in this world,” she promised with a satisfied smile, leaning up to kiss him once more. She had been yearning so badly for him since he came to North Carolina, to be so contented from such an intimate moment offered her strength. She honestly couldn’t imagine her life without him. “…But I get the first back rub, right?”

*~*~*


“My Angel!” Baylee called excitedly, racing toward the living room with lightening speed once his father managed to wrangle him into a pair of jeans and a light t-shirt. He had fallen asleep with Austin in bed, only to be found by his father to be dressed for the day. So, he never knew that Cheyanne had disappeared on him to take a shower with Howie. Instead, he just assumed Brian had disrupted his slumber. So, his dark blue eyes were lit with happiness when he found Cheyanne lounging on the couch, curled next to Howie, simply watching a movie. He immediately rushed toward his bag of toys, pulling out a stack of blank paper and a box of crayons. Attempting to hold them against his chest together, he hurried over to her side, producing the materials. “Play wid me?”

“I’d love to play with you, Darlin’,” Cheyanne promised with a coo, moving to seat herself on the soft carpet with Baylee perched in front of her. She made sure that her back propped between Howie’s legs, so she didn’t move far from him, unaware that he was already reaching for the digital camera he refused to part with since she arrived. Instead, she laughed when Baylee offered her the paper and some crayons, insisting she draw something he could color. “Can we draw something for Austin?”

"Her sleep," Baylee said, brow furling as he settled next to her, spilling his crayons onto the coffee table.

"No her not," Austin said with a laugh as she entered the living room. Her damp hair hung down her back as she padded to the opposite couch in her bare feet. "Your Daddy woke me up when he came to get you." Not that she had minded, of course. Shuffling back to Kevin's room, she'd found him just getting off the phone, tense and thoroughly irritated. At first she'd been a bit hesitant to accept his offer of a quick shower, but… Smiling dreamily, she didn't even realize Baylee was talking to her. "What?"

"What you want me draw you?" he asked, impatiently tapping a crayon against the paper before him.

“I don’t know, surprise me,” Austin answered with a bemused giggle, patting the top of Baylee’s head before heading for the coffee pot, Kevin not far behind.

“Here,” Cheyanne sighed with a roll of her eyes, leaning over Baylee’s paper. The boy looked none too pleased with Austin’s quick dismissal, obviously hurt. So, kissing his cheek, Cheyanne blew a raspberry to draw his attention away from that. Then, quickly, she sketched a beautiful crown in black crayon, outlining it with diamonds and other various jewels. “Color that for her, ‘cause Kevvy calls her Princess.”

"Her his 'Rincess?" Baylee asked.

"She sure is," Cheyanne informed him, pushing the crayons closer.

"But… Her my 'Rincess too!" he insisted. "Wat color my 'Rincess like?"

“Green is her favorite color,” Cheyanne answered as he hurriedly snatched the various colors of green from the pile. She smiled as she leaned back against Howie’s legs, propping her elbows on her knees, just watching Baylee with his creation. He was so intent on making it perfect, the tip of his little tongue poking out the side of his mouth, his light brows furrowed in the utmost concentration. He was adorable and Cheyanne couldn’t help but wonder what Howie’s sons might turn out like.

Leaning over, Howie kissed the top of Cheyanne's head. "And you keep worrying that you won't be a good Mommy," he murmured.

“The thought has crossed my mind,” she admitted softly, tilting her head back so she could stare up at Howie. A small smile graced her face at his confidence in her skills, loving that he had so much faith. That he was so dedicated. That he loved her so.

Howie was about to speak when he saw Leighanne sweep into the living area, digging through her gigantic purse for something. Seeing Baylee next to Cheyanne, she skidded to a stop, her blue eyes narrowing. "Bay, it's time to go," she said with an impatient sigh. "We're going to lunch with Daddy."

"Sounds like a fun filled time to me," Austin muttered derisively into her coffee cup as she moved to sit on the couch again.

Howie choked hard on the tea he had been attempted to drink, immediately cupping a hand to his mouth to shoot Austin a playful glare. The woman merely shrugged her shoulders as if she were innocent, unfazed by the darkness in Leighanne’s eyes. Kevin had given her enough horror stories about the woman married to his cousin so she would be adequately prepared. That is, until she noticed the way Leighanne was eyeing Baylee so comfortably tucked into Cheyanne’s side. He didn’t seem to hear his mother till she called again, merely offering Cheyanne a piece of paper and crayons to draw a picture together at the same time. He waved his tiny hand at Leighanne, crawling into Cheyanne’s lap. “Dat’s o’tay, Mommy. Want My Angel.”

Leighanne dropped her purse to the coffee table. "Now, Baylee. Daddy wants to spend some quality time with us. You can play with Howie's girl toy later."

Leaning close to Howie, Austin kept her eyes on Leighanne. "If Brian wants quality time, he should have left her ass at home," she whispered. "And if she calls Chey a girl toy one more time, I'm going to have to bitch slap her silicone injected body into next year."

"No!" Baylee wailed as his father came from the bedroom. "Want My Angel!"

“Scooper…” Brian trailed in confusion, glancing at Leighanne for a source of answers. He obviously hadn’t been told about his plans for that afternoon. He could only guess the uproar Leighanne had caused, judging by the disgust on Kevin, Howie, and Austin’s faces. Not to mention the way Baylee continued to cry as he tried to pull him away from Cheyanne to hold. “What’s wrong, Scooper?”

“Wan’ta stay with My Angel! P’ease Daddy?!” Baylee whimpered hard, tears already bursting from his dark sapphire eyes as he buried himself into Cheyanne’s embrace. He curled his hands into tight fists around her tank top, refusing to budge. The harder Brian tugged, the more Baylee clung to Cheyanne.

Cheyanne frowned at Baylee’s distress, actually feeling tears moisten her eyes from Baylee’s tiny body trembling against her. She had no desire to hurt him so, glancing up hopefully to the woman that obviously despised her. She remained kind and sweet as if she had no clue, knowing somewhere inside Leighanne could be kind if merely extended the hand. “Leighanne, if you just want to go out to dinner alone with Brian, I could watch--”

"I don't fucking thing so." Eyes spitting fire, Leighanne glared at the woman her son clung to. The jealousy burning within was evident to Brian as he released Baylee to stare at her. "Get one thing straight, you little inbred. I don't care that you've got Howie wrapped around your little finger, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let you anywhere near--"

"Leigh--"

"Shut up, Brian. I'll be damned if--"

"Goddammit, Leigh!" Brian exclaimed, pushing her back a few steps. "What the Hell has gotten into you?"

“THAT BITCH!” Leighanne screamed in disbelief, causing Austin to tense with a riled fire. It looked as if she might pounce, so Kevin was quick to catch her, Howie bending down to wrap his arms around Cheyanne, drawing her upward with Baylee so Leighanne wouldn’t be tempted to physically strike. But, Leighanne seemed oblivious as she stabbed a manicure finger in the air toward Cheyanne. “She’s the biggest whore that one of these idiots has brought into this family and I’ll be damned if Baylee is subjected to her nonsense! Not to mention what if he catches something from her?! Would you be a man for once and stand up to her? You called her a money grubbing whore, same as I did, Brian Thomas. Now do something--”

"She is not a money grubbing whore!" Brian exploded, stepping closer to her. "If you would look past your own ass once in a while, you would see that she is a sweet girl. Look at your son! Look at him! Have you ever seen him take a liking like that to anyone so quickly? Shit, he didn't even like you at first!" Clenching his fists, Brian stared her down, his blood boiling with sudden rage at his wife. "You listen to me, and listen good. Say one more rude thing about her, and your ass is going back home. Alone."

Leighanne was honestly flabbergasted at Brian’s hostile attitude, unable to muster a word in edgewise, her jaw hanging slightly ajar. He had never attacked her with such viciousness, usually just letting her have her own way about things. And, to be verbally reprimanded so strongly in front of a crowd was beyond humiliating. Her face was cherry red by the time Brian had finished, her head slightly shaking as if to tell him to stop. But, all she could think to do was turn on her expensive heel after ripping her purse away. “I want to talk to you outside, now!”

“You can fucking wait you damn bitch,” Brian muttered without any warning, causing Austin to sit back in awe. Only, he didn’t seem to notice, crouching down in front of Cheyanne and Baylee, who was still wrapped tightly in Cheyanne’s embrace, crying softly. Tentatively, Brian reached to rub his son’s back. “Hey, Scooper. You still want to play with your Angel today?”

"Brian," Cheyanne breathed in wonderment, beyond amazed at his taking her defense.

Sniffling, Baylee nodded almost imperceptibly, peeking at his father. "Uh-huh. Me want My Angel," he said softly.

Smiling slightly, Brian leaned in for a quick hug. "You got it. If she doesn't mind, you can have her all day, okay? Daddy has to go talk to Mommy. And how about tonight you and Daddy go to Mickey D's and play in the ball pit? Then we can go see a movie. Just you and me, Scooper."

Grinning now, Baylee nodded again. "O'tay, Daddy. My Angel go too?"

“Darlin’…” Cheyanne trailed softly, moving to wipe away the crocodile tears that still wetted his beautiful face. “Your Daddy wants to spend alone time with you tonight. You can’t have me around all the time. You’ll get bored silly.”

"Next time?" Baylee implored, sitting up fully.

"You bet," Brian said. "Now you two get back to your coloring, okay? I want some pictures to put on the bus…" he trailed with a grin, kissing his son's cheek lovingly before standing up. Looking at Cheyanne, he hesitated, then leaned over, pressing his cheek to hers. "I'm so sorry about all the things she just said," he whispered before going after Leighanne.

"How come I wasn't invited to Mickey D's and a movie?" Austin asked with a playful pout, reaching to tousle the boy's curls.

“ ‘Cause you s’eeping all the time with Kevvy,” Baylee said quite matter of fact, pulling Cheyanne back to the coffee table. Scribbling something on his first drawing, he handed it backward to Austin, then diligently found a new sheet of paper to color with Cheyanne. “ ‘Sides, I love my Angel more.”
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