Kevin drummed his fingers anxiously on his mother’s kitchen table, watching the sun just starting to peek up from its bed of Kentuckian Mountains. He shifted his gaze momentarily to the slowly brewing pot of coffee, but that only seemed to remind him of Austin’s eyes. Grumbling with disgust, he flicked his gaze now to the phone. Her drunken dialing last night had been enough to drive him insane. In fact, her confessions had kept him up through the entire night. He had said nothing to his mother about the problem, knowing it’d break her heart. So, he just planned on waiting for Austin to call. If she even remembered. And what was to say that she just didn’t go right back to having sex with Billy? Now that thought aggravated him as he yanked the phone from its base, planning on telling her where she could shove the expensive necklace he had bought her. Not to mention he considered buying a one way ticket to North Carolina in order to murder Billy, knowing he’d be spending the rest of his days in prison. But it’d be worth it for that slime ball even thinking of touching his woman.
After punching out the memorized number, he paced the kitchen as it began ringing, his movements mirroring those of a caged animal. Chewing on the inside of his mouth, he felt his anger surge anew. Why wasn't she answering? Too busy giving Billy a repeat? Just as he was about to slam the phone down in disgust, he heard the click of someone picking up the phone, a soft rustling, a painful groan.
"What," Austin croaked.
“LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT YOU DON’T KNOW!” Kevin immediately barked into the phone, quoting the first statement Austin had given him. As much as he had been a jerk in North Carolina when he was drinking, never had he tried to have sex with Cheyanne. Yes, he had taken her shirt, but that was merely to sleep with. He had never been unfaithful to her. Never.
"…Kevin? What the Hell did I do now? Damnit, I've got a headache from Hell and my nipple is burning like a bitch--"
“Maybe if you would have kept Billy’s chew-ridden-toothless mouth off of your tit you wouldn’t be having that problem!”
"What the Hell?! Billy's mouth wasn't anywhere near my tits!"
“Oh?! Then it was a bit lower than I originally thought. You better hope to God you don’t get cancer of the clitoris from his disgusting honkey-tonk ass. Though it would serve you right for even stooping so fucking low!”
"Kevin, for God's sake… I didn't do a fucking thing with Billy last night! We went out, had a few drinks, came home and the next thing I know you're fucking screaming in my ear!"
“Don’t even play that card on me. I’m not an idiot, Austin,” Kevin hissed loudly, not wanting to wake his mother so early. “You called me last night in the middle of your fucking stupor to tell me you thought you were pregnant, but when you found out you weren’t that you went and got fucking trashed. Then you told me that you were so damn horny for two weeks that you were ready to bang that barnyard animal! And, somehow, I don’t think I’d be too fucking shocked if he was laying next to you in that bed right now, his dick rammed halfway up your nether regions!”
"I did what?" Austin breathed, her voice holding a tinge of shock and fear. "Kevin, I swear, nothing happened between me and Billy. He's not in here… I called you?"
“Honestly, Austin, if I wanted this shit, I would have stayed married to Kristin instead of divorcing her to eventually marry you--”
"Yeah? Then maybe I should have stayed with Steven, too. Hell, maybe I'd be dead by now, and I wouldn't have to deal with anything anymore," she retorted hotly, and he could hear the tears in her voice. "It's not too late, Kevin. If you think you'll be happier with that Bitch, I sure as Hell won't try to hold on to you--"
“You are not allowed to be the victim after the shit you pulled, Austin! And don’t you dare bring that fucker into this!”
"Well it's obvious you've made up your mind that I'm nothing but a whore."
“You called me and told me that you were this fucking close to having sex with Billy after you found out you weren’t pregnant with my child and fucking celebrated!”
"I wasn't celebrating!"
“Then what were you doing at all those bars, drinking all that alcohol?!”
"Trying to forget the overwhelming depression that hit when I realized wasn't pregnant," she said softly.
Kevin sounded as if he might be quick to deny her that small confession, but instead, he expelled a heavy sigh. It was painful to say the very least as he rested his head against the cold table. “Damnit, Austin… Why didn’t you want me there?”
"'Cause I thought you'd be upset… After I told you I didn't want kids and all…"
“You said you wanted to wait… Then Ma told me about your phone call and… Did you have sex with him?” Kevin was desperate to know that answer. As much as he was falling apart at the thought that she wasn’t pregnant, the other question was far more vital. His heart craved to know before it threatened to shatter.
"No… I didn't have sex with him. I couldn't do that to you, Kevin. No matter how drunk I was…"
“Don’t you ever do that to me again.”
"I won't, I promise… D'ya think we can try?"
"To have a baby," she said in a rush.
“A baby?” Kevin choked in surprise, kicking his leg against the underside of the table because he jumped up. It was the words he had been waiting so long to hear. What he had hoped to change her mind about. And now she was asking. “Us? What about your career?”
"I can work from home, can't I? Besides, I was hoping you'd offer to take care of me so I wouldn't have to work… But, really, Kevin, I want a baby. Not just any baby. Our baby. Your baby…"
“Well, you kind of blew the chance of making that happen this weekend…”
"I'm so sorry… Can I make it up to you?"
“Yeah… Send me flowers,” Kevin murmured with the softest laugh, his heart healing just slightly.
"I don't guess there's any way I can talk you into flying down for today and tomorrow, is it?" Before he could form an answer in his brain, she blurted, "If you want, I'll chain Billy up so you can beat the shit out of him."
“…Don’t tempt me.”
"Oh, God… You won't believe this…"
“If he’s in bed with you Austin…”
"No, not that… I think I got my nipple pierced… Holy Hell no wonder it hurts."
“You think you got it pierced? Princess, that’s kind of an obvious thing…”
"I got it pierced… When the Hell did I do that?! Fuck, it hurts, baby."
“Hold on, I’ll call the airline,” Kevin groaned with a laugh.
Coming into the living room from the kitchen, Howie paused to admire the scene before him. Cheyanne was settled on the sofa, feet propped on the footstool his father had told Howie to bring from the den, looking through an old photo album. His mother was sitting beside her, happily crocheting a set of baby booties. As Howie watched, his father moved to sit on the other side of Cheyanne, placing his arm around her shoulders as he pointed out some pictures. Leaning in the doorway, Howie could only smile. His parents loved her. That had become so evident during dinner, when Hoke had insisted on serving Cheyanne, keeping a watchful eye on her as she ate. Paula had started telling her embarrassing stories of when Howie was growing up, offering to take Cheyanne on a shopping trip in the morning if she was up to it. Nothing major, just a couple of stops to some baby stores to pick up a few things.
"Howard, are you just going to stand there and stare at us or do you plan to join us?" Paula asked with a warm smile. "Hurry, before Sweetie's ice melts."
“Somehow I don’t think I’m the favorite anymore,” Howie sighed with a playful hurt, pouting toward his mother. But she waved off his complaint, taking the ice tea and crushed ice from Howie’s hands in order to offer it toward Cheyanne. Paula beamed with happiness when Cheyanne accepted it with great thanks, immediately hurrying back to her crocheting, wanting to make sure she got some things done before Cheyanne left.
“I won’t be considered the favorite till they have three photo albums dedicated solely to me, Tea,” Cheyanne teased sweetly, peering at Howie’s first professional photograph as a baby. He was wide eyed and smiling, lying on his tummy with just a tuft of dark hair. She smiled warmly as she glanced to Hoke with her secret confession. “I want our first son to look just like him. He was so adorable…”
Hoke squeezed her shoulders gently. "That he was… Well, until he started walking."
"What? It's the truth. Honestly, once he figured out what his feet were for, he became a little terror. Always breaking his sisters' things, and Lord have mercy, we had to get all new carpeting when he figured out how to take his diaper off--"
“He was claiming his territory, huh?” Cheyanne giggled softly, glancing up to her fiancÚ with true amusement. Her sapphire eyes glittered with the impish thoughts streaking across her mind. “I’ll have to remember to duct tape the son’s diapers… Maybe some staples, too…”
"Oh, that doesn't work, Sweetie. When you give them a bath or change their diapers…" Paula shook her head with a soft laugh. "I swear, Howard ruined three of my best shirts--"
"Can we change the subject? Please?" Howie requested, his face burning.
“Your Dad is going to take me to the police station tomorrow afternoon,” Cheyanne interjected to spare Howie any more humiliation. She figured she could salvage some of his dignity as she gingerly closed the album, offering it back to Hoke. “He wants to show his old buddies the new granddaughter or somethin’. All I know is that I get lunch out of the deal and a Kevlar vest for all those mean fans.”
"The station? Dad--"
"Now, now, it's perfectly safe. Lieutenant Smith is going to take us on a little ride along, show Cheyanne some of the city. Maybe I can talk him into printing her and taking her mugshot--"
"Hoke!" Paula admonished sharply. "Don't scare the poor girl!"
"It sounded good to me?" Hoke said with a chuckle. "Alright, just the ride along. No printing or mugshots…"
“Wait!” Cheyanne blurted, turning toward Hoke. Her sapphire eyes glittered with hope as she pouted slightly. “Can we do the mugshots? That’d be fun. So I can take them to Austi and get Tea in trouble…”
"Sure! If you like, I can get the computer tech to do up a Wanted poster," Hoke said with excitement.
"You're going to let him do this?" Howie asked his mother incredulously. "Drag her down to the station among all those criminals--"
"Oh, Howard! How many times did you beg him to take you to the station? Honestly. Besides, while they're gone, you and I can discuss the… You-know-what," she whispered, giving him a look.
Howie blanked at his mother’s knowing look, just staring at her as if she had suggested they were moving to an entirely different planet. He could only think about the men that might hurt Cheyanne at the station as she excitedly spoke with Hoke about the wanted poster, obviously wanting to cause mischief. And as much as his father loved Cheyanne, he couldn’t possibly protect her like Howie did. “Discuss what?”
Paula's expression clearly told him she thought he'd lost his mind. "Are you forgetting the phone call you made to me a week ago? At one o'clock in the morning, I might add?" At his blank look, she set down her crocheting. "The little trip," she hissed as Cheyanne giggled over something Hoke had told her.
“Was I drunk, Momma? Because I don’t remember this at all…”
"I swear, you've been hanging around Nicky too long, Howard," Paula said with a sigh. Leaning over, she whispered, "I can't believe you've forgotten asking me for help planning the honeymoon!"
“Oh! …But does he really have to take her to the station when we do that? Can’t he just… Be a normal father-in-law or something?”
"Is it wrong of your father to want to share his joy with his friends?"
“It ain’t like it’s his kid--”
“What? She likes dolphins! Can’t he take her to the dolphin exhibition at Sea World? I mean, I don’t want her around those rapists and crap, Momma. She’s really pretty and it’s bad enough that Nick left a cheese print on her inner thigh--”
"Howard Dwaine Dorough, would you stop! Your father would never let anything happen to her! Can't you see how much he loves her already? If this is how you're going to behave, you can go to your room!"
At Paula’s outrage and potential grounding of her thirty-one year old son, Cheyanne and Hoke pulled away from their private conversation. Cheyanne’s mouth formed a perfect ‘o’ of surprise, never expecting her tiny, future mother-in-law to command such a terrifying presence. Not to mention she had never heard Howie’s full name exclaimed in a chastising voice. “Are you trying to get grounded from me, Tea? ‘Cause your room ain’t my room…”
"Sorry," Howie quickly murmured, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. "I just don't want anything to happen--"
"To me, I know," Cheyanne said softly, giving him a gentle smile. "I know Hoke wouldn't let anything happen to me, Tea. I trust him."
“Hey now, none of that…” Hoke suddenly chided softly as Paula moved to sit on the recliner so Howie could have a seat beside Cheyanne. At first, Cheyanne thought he meant about Paula moving, so she fumbled to apologize, but he shook his head. “I don’t want you calling me Hoke anymore.”
“Oh…” Cheyanne murmured softly, biting down on her bottom lip to hide her hurt. “I’m sorry, Mr. Dorough--”
"No, no, not that either," Hoke assured her, leaning close to kiss her cheek. "I think you'd best start calling me Dad."
“Dad?” Cheyanne squeaked repetitively. Her sapphire eyes widened in warm shock as she leaned back from his kiss, glancing into his dark eyes quickly. She attempted to find some note of sarcasm or perhaps humor. But, Hoke was completely serious about his decision. Immediately, fresh tears sprang to Cheyanne’s fluttering eyes as she cupped a hand to her mouth. “I’ve never had a Dad…”
"Well," Hoke said gently, clearing his throat as though preventing tears. "You've got one now."
“Thank you so much…” Cheyanne whispered, immediately reaching to throw her arms around the burly head of the Dorough household. Tears finally melting down her cheeks, she eagerly pressed several kisses to his cheeks as means of thanks. “I love you so much… Dad…”
Howie watched his father's cheeks turn pink as he returned Cheyanne's embrace. Reaching to rub her back gently, he gave a start when his cell phone began to ring. With a disgruntled sigh, he reached into his pocket, belatedly remembering his promise to himself that he would turn it off.
"Who can that be?" Paula asked, glancing up from her work. "I thought you had turned it off."
Howie glanced at the display and furrowed his brow. "It's Austin," he said with a glance at Cheyanne. Flipping it open, he pressed it to his ear. "Hello?"
"I need to talk to Chey. Now," Austin demanded, her voice wavering.
"Badonkadonk? Is everything okay?"
Howie meekly shrugged as he offered the phone toward Cheyanne, giving Hoke a moment to compose himself. Slipping a quick kiss to her head, he promised to go fix ice cream for everyone and then sherbet for Cheyanne, since she couldn’t handle dairy too well. Everyone murmured their thanks as Cheyanne slipped the phone to her ear, fearing something happened to Billy, Jeff, or perhaps Moth. “Austi?”
"I am the stupidest pissfuck in the history of pissfucks, Chey," Austin declared with a stifled sob.
“What’d you do?”
"I took a pregnancy test and it came back negative and I was upset, so me and Billy went out drinking. And I got completely wasted and apparently I called Kevin screaming at him, and came so damn close to having sex with Billy my shirt was still outside this morning."
“You…” Cheyanne grew ashen at Austin’s blatant confession, her jaw hanging slightly ajar as she pushed Howie’s hands away from her. She attempted to stand from the couch, immediately holding Olivia for means of protection. At first, she thought Austin was playing some kind of prank, but she sounded so serious. “Austi… God, I never should have come to Florida…”
"No, it's all my fault, Chey. And Kevin called this morning and blessed me up one side and down the other, and when I was on the phone with him I found out I did something too painful to mention. And he should be here any minute now and I'm so scared I don't know what to do because I kicked Billy out this morning, 'cause I knew that Kevin would probably knock his ass into the next century." Austin paused, taking a deep breath. "How's your trip going?"
“Kevin is on his way?” Cheyanne repeated, not even wanting to think about how her trip was going. Mustering some kind of smile, she ducked away from the living room into the foyer, so she could speak more privately to Austin. As much as she loved her best friend, sometimes she was overzealous when it came to personal crises, and Cheyanne truly longed to just be with Howie. It would only be another two days until she would be parting with him indefinitely… For longer than just two mere weeks. “Then he can’t be too mad, Austi. I mean… I don’t know what you were thinkin’… If at all… But you and Kevvy always fight…”
"Not like this," Austin admitted. "I swear, I'll be sucking his dick 'till Kingdome Come--"
“Well, I have my chap-stick at the house still?”
"Chey," Austin groaned, giggling softly. "Shit, he's here. Have fun take care give City Boy kisses bye," she said quickly before ending the call.
Cheyanne waited in confusion until she heard the blaring sounds of a dead-end. Wrinkling her nose in distaste, she pulled the phone from her ear, immediately powering it down so Austin wouldn’t be making any more unexpected phone calls. For being so hysterical, she sure did chipper when Kevin arrived. All the worries completely gone. Almost as if she had deliberately… Cheyanne shook her head in disbelief, unable to think poorly of her best friend. Exhaling a soft breath, she moved back to the living room, seating herself on the couch Howie was occupying by himself, hoping he would cuddle her. “…Sorry about that…”
Pulling her into his embrace, Howie instinctively reached to rub her stomach. "Is everything okay with Austin?" he asked softly, aware of his mother's gaze on them. "She sounded upset…"
"Sherbet for my little girl," Hoke announced from the doorway, bringing a tray inside with him. Seeing the concerned looks on everyone's faces, he paused. "…What's happened?"
“Nothing…” Cheyanne quickly promised, not wanting to worry anyone as she snuggled against Howie. She rested her head against his chest, exhaling her slight frustration. “My best friend Austin just called. She… Is just crazy in all honesty. She got drunk with one of our guy friends, like she always does, and she took things too far, like she always does, and everything is going to be okay. Kevvy is there right now and she’s apologizing furiously… Oh, and she sends her love to you, Tea, and wants me to kiss you…”
"…Drunk?" Paula repeated softly, glancing to her husband.
"Austi likes to have a few drinks, Momma. It's nothing major," Howie assured her.
"But still. She's in love with Kevin, but goes off getting drunk with another man?" Paula asked, brows arching. "That doesn't sound like a very safe environment for you, Sweetie."
"Momma, it's not like that. Austin just likes to go out and have fun once in a while. It's normal for her. She's not a raging alcoholic," Howie said, sending her a look.
“Austi is the strictest caretaker ever,” Cheyanne included, knowing she probably hadn’t painted the most beautiful picture of her best friend. “Since my last appointment, she won’t let me out of bed for anything. Orders Billy and Jeff around like my own private nurses… She takes such good care of me. I don’t know what I’d do without her...”
"I'm certain she takes care of you," Hoke put in before his wife could speak again. Setting the tray on the coffee table, he handed Cheyanne a bowl and spoon. "Eat up, before it melts," he said softly, giving her a sweet smile. "I believe Paula had some bridal magazines--"
"Oh! I nearly forgot!" Paula exclaimed, setting aside her work. When the phone call from Austin had disturbed their quiet evening, all thoughts of wedding plans had flown from her mind. "I've got them in the bedroom upstairs. I'll be right back." Hurrying from the room, she made a mental note to call Ann once upstairs in order to assure herself that this Austin was really a decent girl.
“Hey, Dad, where’s my ice cream?” Howie suddenly requested with a pout.
“I can share my orange sherbet,” Cheyanne promised sweetly, spooning some toward his mouth with a soft grin.
“Austin Leigh, y’know, I shouldn’t have come to visit you,” Kevin announced with a small smile as his girlfriend opened her front door, waiting no time in launching herself into his arms. He felt the somewhat small hardness protruding from her right breast, unable to hide a rueful smirk. But, he said nothing about it, just tightly wrapping his arms around her. He knew that he should have been positively furious with her still, but he couldn’t find it in his heart to muster the anger. Instead, he was just thankful that nothing had happened between her and Billy. That she wanted to have his child in the near future. Those words had melted all the anger in his heart, especially as he bent down to kiss her softly. “But God did I miss you.”
"I missed you too," she declared, wincing slightly as he squeezed her tight. "God, Kevin, I was so stupid. I could have lost you forever, and I love you too much to do that. I--I went out and bought you some flowers," she admitted with a nervous smile, pulling him into the house. "And please tell me your Momma's not mad at me for taking you away from her--"
“She understands, but she’s still insisting that you and Angel come for a visit very soon,” Kevin promised, stopping her rambling with a powerful kiss. He smiled as his stroked her tongue with his, coaxing her silence with a powerful moan. Two longs weeks had gone by since he had been allowed to kiss her. He wasn’t going to take that for granted. “And, I love you too. But if you let Billy back in this house…”
"I won't… I promise… If he wants to come visit Chey I'll leave, okay?" Austin assured him, walking backwards into the living room. "Wait," she breathed, pulling back slightly so she could breathe. "I have to give you the tour…" Taking his hand in hers, she gave him an unsteady smile. "Which room do you want to see first?"
“Show me the nipple ring first and hopefully that’ll turn me on enough to want to throw you into your bedroom…”
"I can't believe I did such a stupid thing," she muttered, speaking not only of the piercing but her other actions as well. Perching on the back of the couch, she peeled the t-shirt of his that she wore off, biting her lip nervously as his eyes moved to her chest. "Well?"
Kevin tilted his head to the side as he admired her shapely breasts and the way she just bared them without question. They always fit so perfectly into his hands, yielding underneath his complete control. And, now the right nipple had a cool right bar pierced through its center, causing it to pucker up without any attention. And, as much as Kevin teased AJ for his elective body art, Kevin couldn’t help but be aroused by Austin’s decision. Though it was a drunken decision. “I think it’s sexy.”
"Do you now?" she asked with a smile, shivering under his critical stare. When his tongue flicked over his lips she felt her body respond, remembering all too well how that tongue and those lips had felt against her skin. He stepped closer, roughly pulling her legs around his waist as he continued to examine her piercing. "And?"
“And I think I need to have rough, sweaty, hot sex with you to celebrate the piercing… Then make love to you…”
"Here?" she asked with a casual wave of her hand.
“Everywhere,” Kevin growled, tearing his gaze away from her nipple to crush her lips against his.