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Chapter 40 – Hillbilly Blunders

“A HOWDY-ROWDY CHEER TO NEGATIVE PREGNANCY TESTS!” Billy declared with a rambunctious whoop, smashing his almost empty, sixth beer can against Austin’s full seventh can. He attempted a wild grin as he swayed them joyously on the back porch swing, oblivious to the beautiful property surrounding them. In fact, he was more concentrated on Austin’s swaggering form, but that was because she seemed to split into three different people until he squinted. Not that it mattered. She was beautiful and this was a celebration. To think the stupid city slicker almost got her pregnant. He shook his head in disbelief, throwing an arm around her shoulders. They had been hopping to the various country bars all over their small town, finally deciding, after several drinks, to get a twenty four pack and return home. Neither was coherent enough to drive, but they made it in one piece, collapsed on the swing. Jeff had gone out for the evening since Cheyanne was in Florida, leaving them a dangerous amount of privacy with their lack of sobriety. “An’ I tell you, Austi. You are as drunk as a skunk in a funk on a bunk with a hunk... Whatever the fuck that means…”

"You're spillin' my beer," Austin informed him with a giggle, lifting her can for a hearty gulp. The overabundance of alcohol in her system brought forth a loud belch, causing Billy to lift his can in appreciation. "And the skunk as a funk in a drunk on a hunk means… Something," she said with a wave of her hand before finishing her beer. Tossing the can towards the empty box, she whooped when it clattered inside. "Crack me another beer, Billy!'

“God I love a woman who can get drunker than me!” Billy laughed, practically falling off the swing as he grabbed another beer from the cooler. “Not to mention an un-pregnant woman who can get drunker than me!”

"I thought you was drunker," Austin declared, giving him a pat on the back. She burst into raucous laughter when he fell from the swing. Leaning over, she snatched the beer from his hands, whistling. "Nice ass, Billy!"

“I ain’t drunker! Though the room’s spinning like a broom in the womb of a tomb…” Billy declared, just staring up at the dark sky in a bewildered state. Though, his fumbling hands moved to his belt buckle nonetheless, whipping it away from his jeans.

"Whooooo! Getting' naked for me, Billy?" Austin asked, dropping her beer onto the swing. Getting to her feet, she was intent on moving to get her hidden cigarettes, but instead fell atop Billy. "Gerroff me," she grumbled, wriggling against him.

“Hey! Hey! Hey! You’re on top! And you’re burnin’ my yearnin’ for learnin’!” Billy gasped in shock, immediately fumbling to plant his hands on her waist to stop her. But he missed by several inches, grasping her hips instead.

"Y'know, this rhyming shit has got to go," Austin said, arching a brow when he pulled her closer to him. "Gilliam Meorge Waitland, what the think do you Hell you're doing?" she asked in surprise, planting her hands on his chest to lift herself up slightly.

“Gilliam is enjoyin’ him… Him… Himself!” Billy declared with a whoop, starting to clumsily undo the buttons on Austin’s tight jeans. “I wanta see where babies come from!”

Austin flopped to her back to assist Billy in unbuttoning her jeans. "If I show you yours if you show me mine!" she said with a cackle, tugging on his shirt. "So hurry up about it… I've got a itch…"

“Want me to scratch it for you?” Billy offered as she threw his t-shirt aside, his hands slipping into her pants to push them down over her firm backside. “God, you’re better than my inflatable goat…”

"Hell, Billy, it's been over two weeks… And, baby, I'm better than a lot of things… C'mere," she practically purred, pulling him over her. "I--" Austin cut off, releasing another loud belch. "I wanta see if the girls at school were tellin' the truth…"

“Holy Hell,” Billy breathed in disbelief, completely unfazed by the spew of noxious gas in his face. Instead, he was throwing Austin’s shirt over her head, fumbling to find her lips with his. Though sloppy kisses ended up on her chest, throat, cheek, and perhaps a tongue to the ear.

"Wait… No… Hold on," she muttered, attempting to sit up. Her arm tangled in the strap of her camisole, causing her to fall back to the ground with a grunt. "I gotta piss!"

“You can piss on me!” Billy whined. “I think I already did!”

"How 'bout we go inside? That way I won't be pulling splinters out of your…" Austin trailed with a slight squeal as his teeth found her earlobe. "Holy Hell…"

“Please tell me that wasn’t your nose…” Billy murmured, trailing his tongue along her cheekbone till he finally found her lips.

Austin groaned against his mouth, reaching for the fly of his jeans. Jerking her head back, she winced when it banged against the wooden plank beneath her. "Did you hear that?" she whispered, wide eyed.

“It sounded like a chipmunk running into a tree…” Billy answered, tugging her hand impatiently back to the thick erection in his wrangler jeans. Leaning over he planted another sloppy kiss to her lips, rocking his hips against hers. Obviously, the alcohol had done nothing to impair his physical reactions though it blocked all inhibitions.

"Wait, I thought I heard the ring phoning," Austin mumbled against his lips, whimpering when his hands returned to her hips. "Damn, Kevin, easy," she whispered, tensing when the name passed her lips. Kevin.

“My name isn’t Kevin… I think…”

"That pissfucker doesn't love me!" Austin declared, furrowing her brow. "He didn't believe me when I told him, just said for me to have a good weekend! Damn him! I'm goin' to call him! Gerroff me!"

“What the fuck does that mean?”

Billy didn’t have a chance to find out though as Austin pressed her knees into his chest, sending him flying onto his back. Then, she crawled hurriedly to the kitchen doors, stumbling halfway in attempts to stand. But, that was useless as she went crashing back down to her knees. So, she continued her fast crawl toward the phone, knocking over the stand in order to rummage for the phone. Squinting when she found it, she fumbled for the familiar numbers. Cursing when she got a dial tone. But trying again nonetheless. Then, there was the familiar sound of her lover’s voice. And she exploded. “LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT YOU DON’T KNOW!”

“…Princess?”

"FOR YOUR INFORMATION I'M HAVING THE WORST FUCKING WEEKEND EVER!" Austin screamed.

"Gee, THANKS!" Billy shouted from the deck, where he was attempting to pull his jeans back up.

Kevin was quiet for a long moment, apparently trying to capture all the background noise he possibly could before speaking. “Princess, you’re the one that uninvited me to come down… And… How much did you have to drink tonight?”

Austin released a loud hiccup, slapping a hand against the wall to steady herself. "A couple?" she suggested softly, screwing up her lips as she thought. "We started off at the Boar's Inn, then we went to White Fox's, and then… Then… THAT'S NOT THE POINT!" she cried. "YOU HUNG UP ON ME!"

“I really don’t want to talk to you when you’re this trashed.”

"Just so you know, your little soldiers can't swim for shit!"

“…My what?”

"I had to take a pregnancy test this afternoon," she informed him as soberly as she could, staggering to her feet. She took two steps towards her bedroom before tripping over the stand, releasing a long string of colorful expletives as she fell.

Kevin fell quiet again as she lay very still on the floor, finally cursing at him when he didn’t respond. “Obviously, you’re not pregnant?”

"BUT, A-FUCKING-PARENTLY I WANT TO BE!"

“What are you talking about? Princess, you’re the one that told me in New York that you wanted to wait for kids--”

“I’M FUCKED UP! I CHANGED MY MIND! I’M A WOMAN, KEVIN, DUH!”

“Austin--”

“IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GIVE ME A BABY, THEN I’M GETTING ONE FROM BILLY! I’LL GO RIGHT BACK TO UNZIPPING HIS PANTS—“

“Austin, hang up the phone right now,” Kevin demanded sharply.

"NO! WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS! NOW! WHILE IT'S ON MY MIND!"

"Austin--"

“DO YOU KNOW HOW CLOSE I WAS TO HAVING SEX WITH BILLY?! HE WAS LYING ON TOP OF ME, MY JEANS WERE ON THE GROUND! AND HE’S A DAMN GOOD KISSER! A LITTLE WET! BUT A DAMN GOOD KISSER! AND ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS YOU! AND HOW MAD I WAS AT YOU! I SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO BANG HIM THREE WAYS FROM SUNDAY! IT’S BEEN TWO WEEKS SINCE I HAD SEX! BUT YOU! ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS YOU! AND YOU DON’T GET A DAMN THAT I CALLED YOUR MOTHER AND TOLD HER I WANTED DOZENS OF BABIES IN HER HOUSE! NOT THAT I’D GIVE HER THE BABIES, BUT… DAMNIT KEVIN--”

Austin, you need to hang up the phone right now or I’m going to kill you.”

Austin took a deep breath, stumbling once more to her bedroom. Slamming the door behind her, she fell onto the bed, blinking rapidly so the ceiling would come into focus. "I love you, Kevin," she whispered. "So fucking much. Would you kill the woman who wants your baby?"

“Right now?” Kevin questioned, his voice laced with disbelief, anger, and a burning hurt. “Yes... So, why don’t you make a pot of coffee, sober the Hell up, and maybe try this again tomorrow when you can actually hold a decent conversation without threatening to fuck your best friend because you decided I couldn’t come visit?”

"I was scared--"

“When you’re sober, Austin.”

"Say the words, Kevin. Please?" she requested in a whisper, blinking back the hot tears that threatened to fall.

“When you’re sober.”

*~*~*


"Honey, wake up," Howie said softly as he pulled into his parents' drive. Cutting the engine, he glanced over at Cheyanne, who had said she was only going to rest her eyes for a moment during the trip, and hadn't spoken a word since. At the sudden absence of cold air pouring from the vents, however, her eyelashes fluttered, and she looked at him with a small pout.

"What did you kill the air for?" she asked sleepily, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand.

"We're here," he announced, pushing his door open. Glancing up at the house, he saw his mother already opening the front door, a bright smile on her face. "Are you ready to face the barrage of Doroughs now?"

“I don’t know…” Cheyanne trailed as Howie hopped out of the car, hurriedly racing toward her side. She attempted to reach for the handle, but Howie had already opened the door. She offered him a flustered smile as she moved to stand, feeling her stomach knot significantly with worry. She wanted to make a good impression on Howie’s family. She didn’t want them to find any reason why she couldn’t marry him. Because, she knew in her heart if they didn’t approve, she wouldn’t consent to marrying Howie. He deserved his family’s support. So, uncharacteristic to her, she attempted to present a wholesome appearance. Fixing her curls into a somewhat proper bun, she tucked her fallen curls behind her pierced ears, gazing worriedly to Howie. She dressed in a pair of maternity black shorts, sandals and a beautiful light lavender baby doll halter top. She felt so out of place. “What if they don’t like me?”

"They'll love you," Howie assured her, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead in an attempt to ease the worry etching her face. "Momma's already referring to you as her new daughter--"

"Howard! Would you bring the poor girl into the house?! Can't you see she's about to melt?!" Paula called impatiently from the doorway. "Come on, John's coming out to get your things…"

“I think I’m going to like having John as the mule,” Howie mused quietly toward Cheyanne, wrapping his arm around her bare shoulders to lead her up the stairs. Since starting in the band, Howie had made sure that his family received just as much of his rewards as he did. The first thing he had bought them was a lavish house, which allowed Pollyanna, the youngest of the three daughters, to stay with them. It was wholesome and rewarding to provide for his family. And he couldn’t help but smile as his small mother grew antsy to meet Cheyanne.

“I think you’re spoiled rotten,” Cheyanne whispered, reaching for the railing to steady herself during the exhausting climb of stairs, her other hand naturally going to protect her abdomen.

"Me? Spoiled? Never!" Howie cried, feigning hurt. "Besides, John--"

"Cheyanne!" Paula fairly squealed, descending upon them with a wave of soft perfume and outstretched arms. "Howard, get away! Help your brother get the bags, I can get Cheyanne inside," she fussed, shooing him away. Embracing Cheyanne gently, she released a happy sigh. "It is so good to finally meet you," she said softly. "Now, let's get you inside where it's cool. Don't tell Hoke, but I turned the thermostat down about ten degrees for you. I swear, that man fusses when I touch it, but he'll get over it!"

Cheyanne glanced feebly back to her fiancé, who merely shrugged in shock as his older brother breezed out to practically tackle him into work. And, that’s when Cheyanne knew she was on her own. Exhaling her nerves, she pulled her messenger bag against her shoulder, allowing herself to be ushered inside toward the living room where a gaggle of women were anxiously awaiting. Cheyanne mustered a shy smile toward Paula, who barely reached the small young woman’s shoulder, attempting to stop her halfway. “You honestly don’t have to make a fuss over me, Mrs. Dorough. I’ll be just fine with how you operate your home on a regular basis. Honestly. I don’t want you to think I’m some prissy little southern belle…”

"I would never think that, Sweetie. Now come on, have a seat. Howard told me you like Hawaiian Punch with 7-Up and a lot of ice, and I had Polly fix you one as soon as I saw you pull up… Polly? Where did you--"

"Kassidy! That's not your drink!"

"I was thirsty, Momma!"

"Polly, would you--"

"I'll get another, Cheyanne," Pollyanna said with a laugh, already moving out the room.

“I really don’t…” Cheyanne let her voice trail off hopelessly as Pollyanna disappeared and she was gently pushed into the middle of the couch. She immediately clasped her hands over her round belly, chewing nervously on her bottom lip. She watched the little girl who had stolen her drink eye her curiously, squirming out of her mother’s arms in order to get a closer peek. Cheyanne couldn’t have possibly felt more out of place with her accent and fair complexion. Maybe she wasn’t what the Dorough women wanted for their youngest. “Y’all are just way too kind. Thank you so much…”

"Oh, it's nothing," Paula assured her, settling down next to her. "Now, let me introduce you. That would be my oldest girl, Angie, and her daughter, Kassidy--the drink stealer. Her others have obviously disappeared to wreak havoc, and you'll meet them later. Pollyanna has gone to the kitchen to get you another drink, and--"

"Momma! What room are we putting them in?" a deep voice boomed from the hallway.

"That would be John," Paula whispered with a deep sigh. "Do you think you have a friend we could set him up with--"

"Momma!" Angie cried in disbelief.

"The guest room next to the bathroom, Johnny," Paula called with a sweet smile before turning to Cheyanne. "After your things are brought in, you can go on up and get a rest. Would you like a little something to eat?"

“No, I don’t need anything to eat. Tea made sure I had this huge breakfast and… He made me feel like a bloated whale for eating it all. I won’t be able to eat till next Tuesday…” Cheyanne explained with a soft laugh, a shy blush creeping to her cheeks. The family was just so large and loud, but the love in the house could be felt the second one stepped inside. It was amazing compared to the quietness of her visiting her mother, even when her mother and Austin’s parents got together during the holidays it wasn’t this loud.

Angie dropped into a soft recliner facing the sofa. "No offense, Sweetie, but you'll be feeling like a bloated whale for the next couple of months," she said with a knowing smile.

"Chey's not a whale, Momma!" Kassidy piped up, her dark brows drawing together in confusion.

"Don't mind Angie," Pollyanna said as she reentered the room, handing Cheyanne a tall glass. "She was just a miserable cow every time she was pregnant--"

"Polly!"

"Momma, it's true!" Sitting next to Cheyanne, Pollyanna gave her a warm smile. "Can I rub your belly? I want to get to know my niece."

"Me first!" Kassidy said excitedly, scrambling from her mother's lap. "My baby cousin!"

“I don’t mind. I actually let AJ feel the first time he met me, though Tea didn’t like that too much,” Cheyanne answered softly, smiling at the little girl who leapt into her Aunt Pollyanna’s arms in order to get the first feel of the baby. Shifting, she rolled the baby doll halter upward to reveal her ripe pregnancy belly for the women, listening to Hoke bellow for Howie and John to shut the front door and stop goofing around upstairs. “And I’m not miserably pregnant. I really love it. I love being able to hold her at night… To feel her move… Even when she kicks me in my bladder… I just have a little pain, but that’s not anything important.”

"Wow," Kassidy breathed in amazement, eyes widening when the baby moved beneath her hand. "What's her name?"

"That's our little Cinnamon," Howie said as he came into the room, hair mussed, face flushed with exertion. Smoothing his shirt, he glanced at the sofa, wondering how he could pry his sister or mother away so he could sit with his fiancée. "What's for dinner?" he asked, dropping a kiss on Cheyanne's head before moving towards the kitchen.

"Dad's grilling chicken," Pollyanna said, gently placing her hand over Cheyanne's stomach. "Have you had an ultrasound lately?"

“Two weeks ago, actually,” Cheyanne confirmed as Olivia writhed beneath her aunt’s hand. She seemed to know that everyone wanted to lavish attention to her, which made her consider waking up from whatever nap she had been taking. Leaning over for a moment to sneak a hand into her messenger bag, she pulled out a folder and then a wrapped gift. The last ultrasound had actually shown Olivia sucking on her thumb, so she had her obstetrician make copies of the image. She had framed one for Paula and one for Howie, since he hadn’t been able to see any of the ultrasounds yet. “Every few weeks I have to go get ultrasounds because of the abruption… But, I have them all filed if you want to see? And a gift for you, Mrs. Dorough…”

"We want to see!" Pollyanna and Angie chorused, the eldest Dorough daughter moving to the sofa.

"Oh, Sweetie, thank you," Paula said, her eyes misting over as she accepted the gift. "Now, let's have a look at my new grandbaby's first pictures!" she cooed, leaning over to see inside the folder.

"Paula, where did my favorite tongs go? I'm about to put the chicken on the--Oh! This must be our newest daughter!"

Cheyanne glanced up in surprise to see Hoke standing over the Dorough women, craning his neck slightly to see the images being passed around. Though, his dark eyes immediately shifted back to Cheyanne. He held a warm smile on his face, observing her bare belly. She immediately blushed furiously as she rolled her baby doll top back down. She had never had a father figure in her life, so Hoke was extremely intimidating at this point. “Sorry, Mr. Dorough, they wanted to feel Olivia--”

"Olivia, is it? I think that's such a beautiful name," Hoke informed her, moving forward. Leaning over, he gave her a quick embrace, gently kissing her cheek. "My mother's name was Olivia. Nice to meet you, Dear. Now, if these nattering hens don't give you any peace, you're welcome to join me on the deck while I cook. You do like grilled chicken, I hope? Paula whipped up some of her marinade, and I'm just about to get the strips on the grill… That is, if someone could find my tongs for me?"

“Thank you very much,” Cheyanne approved with a grateful smile, having half a mind to accept the offer now if it wasn’t for the sweltering heat outside.

“Dad, Johnny had them last time,” Pollyanna mumbled as she concentrated on the very first ultrasound, waving her hand vaguely in the air. “He said something about needed to fish a dead bird out of the pool--”

“Don’t you dare get me into trouble!” John burst, finally hunkering down the stairs and into the living room with a fixed scowl at the youngest Dorough daughter. Though, his thoughts became sidetracked when he finally noticed Cheyanne, giving a lopsided grin. “How did my goofy little brother who ran around naked for a majority of his childhood get someone so beautiful, Dad?”

"Now you know all us Dorough men carry with us the irresistible Dorough charm," Hoke said with a grin that resembled Howie's. "Now get your tail in that kitchen and find my tongs before I use your fingers to turn the meat!"

"Irresistible charm," Paula said under her breath, shaking her head. "More like they're so helpless and hopeless we feel sorry for them…"

"Dad, your tongs are on the counter by the coffee pot!" Howie shouted from the kitchen. "And why isn't there any ice cream in the freezer?!"

"Your Momma has this crazy notion that we need to cut back on sweets… Look behind the sherbet!" Hoke hollered. Giving Cheyanne a quick grin, he headed from the kitchen. "Don't you women overtire my baby daughter, y'hear?"

“Of course, Daddy,” Angie and Pollyanna cooed, obviously reflecting some of that charm in their feminine wiles. Though, as soon as he was outside, they hurriedly began asking Cheyanne a dozen questions, passing around the photographs. She did her best to answer what she could, tilting her head up when she felt pressure on the top portion of the couch behind her. Sure enough, John was looking down at her with an amused smile, gesturing toward her stomach.

“Oh, sure, go ahead,” Cheyanne complied sweetly.

John's hand had just barely touched her stomach when Howie's voice thundered from the doorway, "Hands off my woman!" Though his face belied his amusement as his family members created a protective barrier around Cheyanne. He could barely see the top of her golden head amongst the others. It warmed his heart that they already loved her so. He knew she would feel a little better, knowing they liked her.

Cheyanne smiled and eagerly nodded her head as she leaned over Pollyanna, drawing her finger over the black and white image. “Yeah, she’s sucking her thumb right there. She was perfectly content two weeks ago while I was getting poked, prodded, and tortured… I framed that photograph for Mr. and Mrs. Dorough to keep… That’s what the gift is. I hope you like it. I don’t have much and I thought it was something… Just like a little piece of the family I hope you’ll let me start with Sweet Tea…”

There was a chorus of 'awws', followed by Mrs. Dorough hastily unwrapping the gift. Running her finger along the pewter frame with Baby Girl engraved along the bottom, she blinked rapidly. "Oh… That's so beautiful," she whispered, dabbing ineffectually at her eyes. "I… I think I need to go help Hoke," she announced, hurrying from the room. Stopping in the doorway, she embraced her youngest son suddenly, causing him to nearly drop his glass of tea. "You found yourself an angel," she whispered before rushing to show her husband the gift.

“That… That was a good reaction, right?” Cheyanne questioned as Kassidy crawled into her mother’s lap, asking if Cheyanne could stay there forever.

"That was a very good reaction," John assured her. "Just between you and me, I don't think she got that teary-eyed when she saw any of the other grandkids' ultrasounds," he whispered. "But, after all, Howard's her baby, so… You know. Need help getting upstairs?" he asked.

"Momma loves you," Pollyanna said softly, replacing the photographs into the folder. "She's been talking nonstop about your visit for two weeks now," she added as Howie stepped over.

"Are you sure you really want to be stuck with my goofy baby brother forever?" Angie asked with a giggle, ducking away when Howie playfully swiped at her. "I mean, he's a mess, really. Leaves his dirty underwear all over the floor…"

"And he's really picky about his clothes," Pollyanna put in.

"And his hair."

"God, don't ever mess with his hair!"

“I play with his hair all the time…” Cheyanne trailed thoughtfully, biting affectionately on her bottom lip as John helped her stand. Her dark sapphire eyes glittered impishly as John wrapped an arm around her protectively. “Besides, it was either accept Tea’s proposal or try a relationship with Nicky…”

"And you chose Howie?!" Angie and Pollyanna screeched.

Howie immediately scowled at his older sisters, trying to hide the hurt in his heart because he knew they were teasing. But, he was still unsure of himself when it came to Cheyanne. Especially having her so far away right now. Not to mention how Nick viciously pursued her despite the beautiful engagement ring on her finger. “You two are so horrible, y’know that? And you wonder why I tried to tell Momma not to invite you!”

“They’re just teasing you,” Cheyanne chided softly as she excused herself from John’s grasp, moving to thread her arms around her fiancé’s waist. Ducking close, she offered a light kiss to his chest, peering into his dark eyes before glancing toward the sisters. “Besides, who would want Nicky when I have you? He is the sweetest guy in the entire world, honestly. The first time he met me, he saved me from a snake. Then he saved me from a terrible storm. Then he saved me from a horse… He’s just so perfect in my eyes. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Not to mention he’s quite the lover--”

"Okay, okay," Angie interrupted, pulling Kassidy away when she made a move to grab Cheyanne's bag. "We really don't want to hear about Howie's sexual escapades."

"We don't?" John asked her, receiving a punch in the arm for his words.

"Johnny!" Pollyanna hissed, shaking her head. "Honestly!" Giving Cheyanne a warm smile, she got to her feet. "You'll get used to our teasing Howie. We do it all the time--"

"But we really love him. He's our favorite brother," Angie assured her.

"What am I? Chopped liver?"

"He's our favorite baby brother," Angie corrected with a sigh.

"I'm your only baby brother," Howie informed her, ushering Cheyanne towards the stairs. "Now, if you'll excuse us, Cheyanne needs her rest. After all, I made a blood oath that she wouldn't get overexcited."

"Boy, did you bring her to the wrong house," John muttered.

Cheyanne laughed softly as Angie and Pollyanna went about attacking John for his foolish comment, allowing Howie to slip her away without complaint. Holding onto her stomach once more, she climbed the stairs by his side, glancing every so often toward him. “Good thing they didn’t want to hear about your sexual escapades. They never would have believed me.”

"I don't know… Angie's married, I'm sure she's seen and done it all by--"

"Howard!"

"Lord, you've been around Momma too much," Howie mused with a grin as he turned her into her room. "They didn't drive you too crazy, did they?" he asked softly, pushing the door shut so he could have privacy with her. His hand slid beneath her shirt, gently rubbing her side as he moved in for a kiss.

“Not too crazy. It’s kind of like taking a history from an entire family when a child comes into the Emergency Room,” Cheyanne related, wrapping her arms around his neck as she tilted her chin slightly to accept the kiss. She couldn’t help but smile with delight as she nibbled affectionately on his bottom lip, loving the way he tasted to her. “…But do you think your father would mind if we spent more time with him? …I like him a lot…”

"He likes you too," Howie murmured, drawing her towards the bed. "I think he would love spending time with you, Honey. Do you want to go sit on the deck with him while he cooks? Momma's probably in the kitchen making potato salad or something, and my sisters are supposed to be leaving before dinner, and John--"

“You’re already making my decision for me,” Cheyanne interrupted gently as Howie eased her onto the bed, stooping to remove her flip-flops. He then adjusted the pillows behind her head, making sure she was safe and comfortable. She smiled softly as she gestured for him to join her. “We have plenty of time to visit with your family if you just want to stay up here. Besides, it’ll be so hot with him outside cooking and I don’t want to bother his concentration any.”

"Dad has cooked this dinner a million times, he can do it with his eyes closed," Howie informed her with a chuckle, settling down next to her. "Are you cool enough in here? I can always go grab a fan, or go turn the air up some more… And when were you planning on showing me Cinnamon sucking her thumb?"

“I’m just fine with this temperature,” she promised as she motioned toward her messenger bag, which Howie grabbed. She smiled with thanks as she curled next to him, resting her head on his chest. Once she felt comfortable, she pulled out the file and the second wrapped gift. “And I was going to show you the ultrasounds last night… But we got sidetracked, so I thought you could look at them with your family, but you disappeared. So, you can have them now and I also framed the one of her sucking her thumb for you, too. You said you needed a picture for your tour bus…”

"The one that sent Momma flying to the deck to show Dad?" Howie questioned softly, resting the folder on her stomach so he could flip through it with one hand, his other arm curling around her. "She told me I'd found an angel, but I didn't get a chance to agree with her, she went to show Dad before I could take a breath." His eyes flickered over the images before him, and he felt tears gather in his eyes as he made out features. "She's really grown," he mused thoughtfully, comparing the first ultrasound with the latest one. "Whoa! What's that?! I thought Cinnamon was a girl?!" he cried, pointing.

Cheyanne opened her eyes briefly to glance down at the image, furrowing her light blonde brows at what Howie was pointing to. She immediately cupped a hand over her mouth to keep from giggling too loudly. “Baby, that’s not what you think it is. That’s her umbilical cord... What feeds her while she’s growing.”

"Oh," Howie breathed with a sigh of relief. He was certain that if Cheyanne were having a boy he would love it just the same, but there was a glimmer of worry that a boy would look too much like the real father. And Howie wasn't sure he could handle that subtle reminder of what had happened to his lover before she came into his life. A girl, however… A little ray of sunshine that would bring them nothing but joy. Perhaps he was being petty, but that was the way it was for him. Closing his eyes briefly, he pictured a little baby with a tuft of blonde hair and sapphire blue eyes. A toothless grin, gentle coos of happiness when she looked at him. He honestly couldn't wait to be a Daddy.

“You okay?” Cheyanne questioned softly, keeping her eyes closed as she listened to Howie grow quiet. The flipping of the pages had stopped and for a moment she thought he might be asleep. Gingerly, she rubbed his chest with her hand in order to stimulate him, curling closer with a soft sigh. She loved lying with him.

"I'm fine," Howie murmured, setting the folder aside so he could hold her. Taking her hand in his, he lifted it to his lips, lightly kissing her fingers. "I love you, Honey," he whispered, his lips trailing to her wrist.

“I love you too, Sweet Tea,” Cheyanne promised, shivering softly at the sweet kisses he was placing against her hand. “I’m glad your family seems to like me, too, because I don’t think I could have lived without you. It’d be too painful.”

"I told you they'd love you," Howie whispered against her skin, breathing in her scent. "If they had pushed you out of the door and said they hated you, I would have just carried you off to the Caribbean and lived with you there," he told her, letting his lips glide up to her shoulder. Skipping over the material of her shirt, he nibbled lightly at the crook of her neck, heard her soft gasp.

“Howie,” she murmured with a sharp shiver of delight, finally opening her eyes so she could watch him. He had been quite amorous when she arrived in Florida, not that Cheyanne disagreed with his state. She loved the way he influenced her body into the ultimate peaks of pleasure. He knew exactly where to touch, kiss, and caress so she would whimper for more. But, they were at his parents’ home. So, she worried about making a good impression. So, hopefully to assuage his needs, she cupped his face, bringing him up for long, sweet kisses to show her appreciation. “What are you trying to do?”

"I can't kiss my fiancée?" he murmured between kisses, bringing her closer so she could feel his thick arousal. "Are you about to tell me there can be no hanky panky?" he asked with a pout, lowering his head to gently manipulate her hardening nipple with his teeth. It was so hard to keep his hormones in check, especially knowing that in two days she would be unreachable.

Howie!” Cheyanne gasped in shock, which turned to a hard whimper at the feeling of his hardness mixed with his nibbles against her breast. She trembled as he shifted to rest over her, keeping their bodies molded together. Unable to resist, she let her hand drop between them, rubbing his erection with a tender friction. She then dropped her lips to the top of his head, trying to control her now labored breathing. “…We’re at your parents’ house… We can’t do this… They’ll never forgive me…”

"They'll never know," Howie whispered, easing her shirt up over her chest so there was less material between his mouth and her nipple. The gentle movements of her hand against him caused him to tremble suddenly, and he lifted his head to look into her eyes. "If we can't do this… You are being such a tease," he said, his whisper turning into a soft moan.

“You’re the one that started teasing first,” she contradicted, dipping her hand into his khaki shorts, starting to play with the waistband of his boxers. “I was just trying to keep up.”

"And now? You're still keeping up?" he gasped, involuntarily arching against her hand in hopes that she would slip it lower. "I thought we couldn't do this," he murmured. Even as he spoke, he lowered his head, one hand gently pulling her bra down, instantly capturing her nipple in his mouth. His other hand slid up her leg, finding the top of her shorts. Slipping his hand inside, he traced the elastic band of her panties with his finger.

“We really shouldn’t,” Cheyanne emphasized, arching her back at his suckling sensation against her nipple as her free hand caught against his short curls. Her breathing immediately labored with heated pleasure as she closed her eyes, trying to ignore Howie’s gently caresses against her lower half. She squeezed her eyes shut in shock at the shocks of pleasure, finally slipping her hand inside his boxers, daintily inching her fingers toward his hard erection for the lightest stroke. “We really shouldn’t be doing this…”

Howie moved his head slightly, glancing at the door. "I should go lock the door… God, Chey," he practically whimpered, tensing when he heard footsteps on the stairs. "Damn… Dinner's going to be ready soon, and I know they'll expect us to eat with them… Can we finish this later?" he asked hopefully, moving to replace her bra.

“No problem,” Cheyanne stated easily, attempting to regain her composure as she pushed Howie’s hands away. Sliding from beneath him, she turned her back so she could fix her clothing, closing her eyes to ward away the hot emotions. Yanking away the scrunchie from her hair, she blew off a long sigh, reaching to gather the curls back. She hadn’t really wanted to invoke that anyway. Howie was just so alluringly powerful. “You’re the one that’s going to have troubles, Tea, ‘cause I don’t think you can save what’s in your boxers for later...”

"I could slip into the bathroom for a few minutes and take care of--"

"Howie!"

"Kidding! I'll be fine," Howie assured her with a chuckle, leaning over to kiss the back of her neck as she fixed her hair. "I'll just think non-sexy thoughts."

"Howard? Dinner's almost ready," Paula called from the hallway as she tapped lightly on the door. "It's just the four of us, Polly's gone to Angie's so Chey can relax her first night here. Your father and I will be in the kitchen, you two have enough time to freshen up if you like."

"That took care of it," Howie murmured in Cheyanne's ear. "We'll be down in a few minutes, Momma," he called.
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