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Chapter 42 – Homecoming

Moth had climbed onto the back of the armchair in front of the window to look outside for any signs of life. Stretched out on the couch, Austin patted her leg in an inviting manner in hopes of luring him away, knowing he would get overly excited when he saw Cheyanne's taxi pull up. But the dog ignored her, turning his back to her as he pressed his nose to the screen. Rolling her eyes, Austin glanced at the clock, wondering how long it took a damn taxi to get from the airport to the ranch as Kevin muttered something in her ear. Dragging herself back to the conversation with him, she caught only the tail end of his sentence.

"…I don't think it'll ever go away."

Holy Hell what had he been talking about? Something about one of the hickeys she'd left on his neck? "I'm sorry?" she ventured, biting her lip. Hoping he would just laugh it off.

“Were you ignoring me?” Kevin feigned a sound of hurt after a loud smack was heard. Him probably correcting one of the younger men. “Is this how it’s going to be, Princess? Constant sex during my breaks, but no meaningful dialect otherwise?”

"Sorry," she apologized with a grin. "I drifted for a moment. What were you saying? What is it that I did to your body that won't go away?" Turning to her side, she reached behind her to rub her aching rear end. "If it's any consolation, my ass still hurts from where you threw me against the fridge."

“What makes you think that it was you that did something to my body? Do you think you’re that exquisite of a lover?”

"You kept telling me I was last night… Or did you and Nick have a little get-together when you met up with them earlier?"

“How could I possibly get to Nick when he’s so very much involved with AJ and his blow up doll named Cheyanne?”

"Oh, so you do have some kinky shit going on with your cousin?"

“Do you know he moans Cheyanne’s name when he orgasms? Quite the ego-deflater…”

"Well, if you'd had the balls to get more than her shirt, you'd probably moan her name too…"

“What are you trying to say about your best friend, Princess?”

"Nothing… But I sure know City Boy seems pretty damn satisfied."

“…And he isn’t even getting the real deal…”

"Exactly. So imagine how much better the real deal must be?"

“Should I inquire? …He’s sitting here now, wondering how I managed to get from North Carolina to here so quickly, but she’s not back in your vicinity of care yet… It might get his mind off worrying…”

"Doesn't he realize how far we are from town? Besides, don't you remember the pleased sounds coming from their room at the cabin? Holy Hell, I didn't know my sweet innocent Chey-Chey could make those kinds of noises… Ask him!"

“And how should I phrase the question?”

"Tell him I want to know if she's good? Hell, I hope some of my talents have rubbed off on her, however vicariously…"

“Alright,” Kevin chuckled. A soft rustling could be heard as he phrased the question to Howie, followed by loud whoops from Nick and AJ, and then Howie’s Spanish expletive. There was another heavy rustling as Kevin’s voice became distant. “He would like to tell you himself apparently—HEY!”

"What's the scoop, Howie?" Austin asked with a grin as Moth curled up on the back of the chair.

“Is Honey back yet?” Howie questioned, though Austin couldn’t pinpoint whether it was for security purposes or worry.

“Not yet… Takes awhile to get a cabby this far into the sticks… So, is she good?”

"I don't think I should to answer this…"

"Are you saying she's not?!"

“LORD NO!”

“Then what are you saying?! C'mon, City Boy, she's so sweet about these things... I can't get her to talk about your sex life. I need you.”

"If I tell you, you'll let it slip to her and then do you know what'll happen?"

"Um… You won't get sex? But, Hell, you're not getting sex as it is, so would you really miss it?"

Austin…”

“You guys don’t have a break for weeks, she ain’t anywhere near the property, and she can’t stay mad at you for long anyway. So, let’s go! Dirt! I need something! And you’ve always been like a girlfriend to me, City Boy.”

"And you think that'll make me tell you?"

"C'mon, City Boy! It's your Badonkadonk! Please?"

"No."

"Pretty please?"

"No!"

"Fine, fine… I guess I'll just go ask Jeffie--"

“WHAT THE HELL WOULD HE KNOW ABOUT IT?!”

"C'mon, tell me! And I'll give you some dirt on Kevin. Like, how he likes to start off with me on top, but then he--"

“What would Jeff know about Honey’s sexual habits?” Howie repeated sharply, probably on the verge of a panic attack. “Were they a couple once? Did she purposely not tell me that? Because he’s staying there? He’s sleeping in her bed with her at night isn’t he? I could kill that pissfucker--”

"Howard Dwaine Dorough! Jeffie never laid a hand on Chey, 'cept for the occasional brotherly kiss. Would you stop acting like a jealous fiancé?!"

"And what, pray tell, would you like me to act like?"

"The fiancé who can't wait to tell everybody he loves about how good his woman is in bed! Or shower… Or wherever…"

“He likes her as more than a little sister, Austin. You can’t deny that--”

"Ugh, you are absolutely no fun. Let me talk to Kevin again."

“No, I want a straight answer. Is he there right now? Is he planning on spending more time there--”

"Jesus, Howie! No. He's not here. He just stays nights, and since Billy's been kicked out, he's taken to sleeping on the couch, but if Chey wants someone to watch horror movies with he snuggles with her in bed. You know how much she likes to snuggle. Believe me, nothing's going on there. And if all you're going to do is accuse my best friend of two-timing you, you can kiss this friendship goodbye. Now, Kevin, please?"

“Austin--”

The rest of Howie’s answer was drowned by the high pitched yips of Moth finally leaping to attention. He launched his tiny body at the window, scratching furiously with excitement because Cheyanne had finally arrived. Spinning an excited circle, he looked lost as to what he was supposed to do. More importantly, how he could get to the door. Continuing to bark, he leapt from the top of the furniture onto Austin’s hip, furiously scrambling for the door so he could acquire Cheyanne’s attention first.

"Your fiancée's here. I have to go before Moth pisses on the rug. Let me talk to Kevin," she demanded, exasperated with the man's jealous temper as she rushed to open the door. She heard Howie mutter a few choice words in Spanish, but paid no attention as she flung the door open just as Cheyanne climbed out of the back of the taxi. Moth immediately raced to greet her, tumbling down the steps in his haste to reach her before Austin could.

“Princess--”

Now Kevin’s voice was drowned by the excited yapping of the impatient little dog as his jumped to Cheyanne’s thighs so she could properly scoop him up. She wasn’t allowed to bend over and add pressure to the baby, so Moth had adapted into cute tricks. And it looked as if she had missed him, eagerly giving him scratches with exchanges of precious coos. And, from Austin’s judgment, Cheyanne looked as if she had been rejuvenated by the trip. She was still pale and her posture showed her exhaustion, but the smile and twinkle in her sapphire eyes was unmistakable. She had a wonderful time in Florida, which sent a small pang to the older woman’s heart.

"Call me later?" Austin requested softly as the cab driver brought Cheyanne's bag to the porch. "I need to get Chey settled…"

“Sure, Princess, I’ll call when she’s taking her nap,” Kevin suggested sweetly, already knowing how long it would take Austin to get Cheyanne settled and asleep. It was almost like clockwork. “Give her and La-La a kiss for me?”

"I will. Go get some dirt for me, okay? I love you." Moving to the steps, Austin reached for Cheyanne's arm as she reached the bottom, turning to usher her into the house.

“I love you, too, Sweetheart,” Kevin promised before ending the phone call.

“Talking to Kevvy?” Cheyanne guessed as she was pushed inside the house and back the hallway. Austin seemed to waste no time with formalities, helping Cheyanne get dressed into a baggy t-shirt and boxers before pushing her into bed. She hadn’t even the option to say hello as the covers were yanked over her and the excited Moth plopped to the end of the bed. “Austi?”

"Oh… Yeah… Had to smooth Howie's ruffled feathers, 'cause apparently he thinks the airport is just a two minute ride from here. How was your flight?" Austin asked as Moth headed for his favorite snuggling spot. "Did you like City Boy's family?" Her eyes drifted to the expensive ring on Cheyanne's finger, and she felt a lump form in her throat. All of a sudden it dawned on her. Soon, Cheyanne would be married… "I'll go get you something to drink…"

“Okay…” Cheyanne drifted in confusion as Austin hurriedly rushed from the room. She felt as if she were accelerating at the speed of a race car till Moth nudged her hand with his cold nose. She jerked slightly, but immediately apologized to the small puppy, scratching him behind the ears affectionately. She had missed him something terrible while she was in Florida. She had also missed Austin, too, but she hadn’t the opportunity to say that as Austin returned with the usual Hawaiian punch, 7-up, and crushed ice. Not understanding what she had done wrong, Cheyanne smiled sweetly. “Are you going to cuddle with me, Austi?”

"When y'all get married, you're staying in Carolina, right?" Austin asked abruptly. The question had been burning in her mind since she'd learned of Howie's proposal, and she couldn't hold it in any longer.

“What?” Cheyanne questioned in confusion, furrowing her blonde brows. “Me and Howie?”

"Well, yeah. I mean… I know his family's in Florida and all, but…" Sinking onto the edge of the bed, Austin looked over at the baby things in the corner. "You and Ollie will stay with me when he's off on tour and stuff, won't you?"

“I just assumed I’d be moving to Florida… I mean, Momma already moved to Pennsylvania, so I…” Cheyanne trailed when she realized Austin wasn’t even looking at her. She hadn’t even realized she would be leaving Austin once she was married. It just honestly hadn’t crossed her mind, because Howie hadn’t even set a wedding date yet. But with the bridal magazines in her messenger bag, it seemed as if everything would be finalizing soon. That she would indeed be leaving Austin. “Haven’t you and Kevin talked about moving in together?”

"He doesn't want to do a thing until his divorce is finalized. And he's from one of those old Southern families… Wants to do everything proper," Austin said with a sigh. "And even if we did move in together, I know he'd want to be close to his Momma… Which means…"

“You’ll live in Kentucky,” Cheyanne finished with an encouraging smile. “Besides, you’ll be going on tour and stuff with him. Why would you want Ollie and me cramping your style?”

"I… God, Chey, I'd rather be here with you and Ollie than on tour with him… But, I guess you'd want to go on tour with Howie, wouldn't you?" Austin murmured, suddenly feeling as though she had nothing to look forward to. Clearing her throat, she jumped to her feet. "You and Moth snuggle for a while, I think I need to take a walk… I haven't checked the mail today…"

“Austi, wait, I don’t understand--”

"I've just got PMS. Don't worry," Austin assured her with a weak smile. "Get some rest, okay?"

“You don’t want to hear about my time in Florida then?”

"I can tell you had a great time. You can fill me in over supper."

“You’ll eat back here with me?”

"You bet. Think you're up to a marathon of Stephen King movies tonight? Jeffie called earlier and said he has to stay at the ranch, his Daddy's prize mare's about to foal, so it'll just be us."

“That sounds fun…” Cheyanne agreed softly as she watched Austin continue to inch toward the door. She obviously wanted to escape, which offered a slight twinge of pain in Cheyanne’s heart. But she ignored it, not wanting to make upsetting waves. “…Can you hand me my messenger bag, Austi? I want to look at the bridal magazines Momma gave me if you’re going on a walk…”

"So you're going to have the big fancy church wedding?" Austin asked. Cheyanne shrugged, causing Austin to chuckle, moving to get the bag. Setting it beside Cheyanne, she backed towards the door once again. "Make sure she stays put, Moth," she warned before leaving the room.

*~*~*


“Uncle Howie!” Baylee’s tiny voice screeched from the hallway of the penthouse, causing the man to cringe as he tucked his cell phone away. The group had just arrived in Los Angeles, California for their last stop in the promotional tour before they actually started touring in larger venues. They had an early meeting, so Howie hadn’t been able to call his fiancée. Then, when he returned to the hotel, he had been swept up by the boys. So, he had finally managed to find a quiet place to make a phone call to Cheyanne, but Baylee had obviously awoken from his nap. And he sounded none too pleased as he stomped into the den in front of Kevin, thumping his hands onto his hips with a firm glare. “My Daddy said you had My Angel while I had’ta go visit Stinky Grammy!”

"I went for a visit?" Howie countered with a bemused grin. "But she sent a present for you."

“A ‘resent?!” Baylee questioned excitedly, hopping onto his uncle’s lap. “Is it My Angel in a box?!”

"No… I'm afraid not," Howie said with a chuckle, lightly tussling the boy's hair.

"That would have been a present for Howie," Kevin observed.

"Where my 'resent at?!"

“It’s in my room on my desk--”

“I GET IT!” Baylee squealed with excitement, squirming away from Howie’s grasp to retrieve the present.

"You'd think it was Christmas," Kevin said as he flopped down on the other sofa. "Oh! Did I show you the sweater Princess knitted for me? She finished it this morning before I got on the plane. Want to see?"

“Why is she knitting you a sweater when it’s almost August?” Howie mused with a roll of his eyes, wondering if he’d ever get to make his phone call to Cheyanne. She must be worried.

"Because she loves me? Because I make her happier than she'd ever imagined she could be? Because--"

“I GOT ‘RUBS!” Baylee squealed loudly, interrupting the adult conversation as he ran back into the room. Sure enough, he was holding a pair of Nemo scrubs designed specifically for children. He held a toothy grin as he waved them like flags of victory toward Howie. “I GOT ‘RUBS LIKE MY ANGEL!”

"Did you look under them in the bag?" Howie questioned with a grin. He could only imagine how exciting it would be to give Cinnamon presents, to see the excitement on her face. "Your Angel got you something else, too…"

“UNDER?! MORE?!” Baylee exasperated, throwing the scrubs into Howie’s lap for a moment. “’OLD THEM UNCLE HOWIE! NO STEALING!”

"No worries, Bay," Howie assured him, looking down at the pattern as Baylee rushed down the hall once more.

"I don't know, D… They look like your color," Kevin laughed. "Maybe you should see if Angel will get you a set?"

“Ha-ha,” Howie answered dryly, smirking slightly when he realized that Finding Nemo had been Baylee’s official ‘movie date’ with Cheyanne. She always seemed to remember the tiniest details that would steal any man’s heart. “Besides… Do you know how unbelievably sexy she looks in her scrubs? God, I can’t wait till Cinnamon’s born…”

"So, you two are going to start the role-playing? You, the deathbed patient, she the nurse who brings you back to life and the only way you can thank her is to--"

"I GOT A 'TETHOCOPE!" Baylee screamed.

"God, he sure knocks fantasies out of your mind, doesn't he?" Kevin muttered.

“You’re telling me…” Howie sighed, glancing sideways to Kevin. “Don’t tell me you were getting turned on by thinking about my Honey as a naughty nurse…”

"A little," Kevin admitted with a sly grin. "However, in my mind, when she lifted her head, she looked like Princess' twin…"

"Uncle Howie! Me check your heart?" Baylee asked hopefully as he barreled into the room. "After I change into my 'rubs?"

“Sure, you can check my heart after you change into your ‘rubs,” Howie promised as he offered the clothing back to Baylee. “It might be broken though, ‘cause I miss my Honey.”

"Then why you didn't bring her back?" Baylee implored before stomping away.

"Your Princess would have gotten mad at me if I did!"

"You could've brought her, too!" Baylee informed him. "I be back! Daddy! Change me!"

“Anyway…” Kevin laughed as Baylee charged ahead with his plans. “I’ve got to head over to that lawyer’s office to complete the rest of the divorce papers before it goes to court… You want to tag along for moral support and then some good dinner?”

"I was planning on calling Honey, but… Okay, sure. As long as--what does Austin call her? The Wickedest Bitch of the West? As long as she doesn't set me ablaze."

"Whooo! What're we doing tonight?" Nick asked with exuberance as he burst into the room, launching himself onto the couch next to Kevin. "Did you and your Ma have fun? Did she send me any cookies?"

We--” Kevin gestured to himself, Nick, and Howie, “Aren’t doing anything. Howie and I are taking a trip out and you’re going to stay here. And, why would my mother send you any cookies? Are you fucking nuts? She sent them all to Princess and Angel.”

"But… When did you see them? I thought you said that Austin called and told you to stay the fuck away? And why do I have to stay here?! I'm twenty-five years old, can't I go out and have fun if I want? Where are y'all going?"

"Y'all?" Howie repeated. "When did you start saying that?"


“Since Cheyanne fell in love with me,” Nick answered pointedly, wrapping his arms behind his head with satisfaction. “She isn’t just going to be playing with my iPod for long. That’s for fucking sure.”

"Chey fell in love with you?" Kevin glanced towards Howie and saw the Latin temper already brewing. "You're fucking nuts, Nick. Or have you already forgotten, in your eternal blondeness, that she's about to marry D?"

“He hasn’t set a date yet, so I have time to wiggle in there. You should have seen her face when I touched her inner thigh. Her muscles tightened and damn, she so fucking wanted me right there, right now,” Nick continued to emphasis with no regard for his well being.

"Her muscles tightened out of impalpable fear," Kevin informed him. "And if you don't shut up right now, I'm going to give you another black eye. Or, Hell, I'll just call up Princess and fly her out so she can do it. She still hasn't shown you she has all of her teeth."

“Why are you so damn testy? She ain’t even your broad. Hell, Howie hasn’t said one fucking word about the whole thing. See why I have a chance with her? He don’t give two shits. Just a ring on the finger and thinks that solves everything--”

"That's it!" Howie shouted, leaping onto Nick in a rage. His hands instantly clamped about his neck, not caring that he might cause irreparable damage. "You son-of-a-fucking-bitch! If you ever talk like that again, I will kill you! Listen to me, you egotistical prick! I don't give a flying rat's ass what you think, Cheyanne is mine, got it?"

“Holy Hell,” Kevin murmured in shock, just watching the events unfold, not knowing what he should do. Usually, he would jump right in to break the brawl, but he was so proud of Howie at that moment.

"Uncle Howie! I check your heart now?" Baylee's voice called softly from down the hallway. "Then, you take my pi'ture to send to My Angel?"

At the sound of Baylee's voice, Howie released his grip on Nick, wrenching away from the younger man. "Watch your fucking mouth," he whispered in warning, moving to the other sofa as he tried to calm the rage within. After a moment of deep breaths, he was finally able to make a coherent reply to Baylee's request. "Sure thing, Bay! Honey told me she wanted some pictures!"

“Psycho,” Nick gasped in horror, falling from the couch in order to flee the situation, though he was crawling by the time Baylee entered the room.

“I call My Angel, Uncle Howie? Tell her to come so me listen to her heart?” Baylee continued to question, hurrying over to Howie with his new stethoscope draped around his neck and scrubs adorning his little body. He looked absolutely adorable to say the least as he crawled onto Howie’s lap, immediately searching for his heart, oblivious to any wrong doings that had occurred previously.

"After you listen to my heart, I have to get ready to go out with Kevvy, but you and I can call her when I get back, okay? I'm sure she'll be happy to hear from you," Howie assured him, wondering that Baylee couldn't hear his heart without the help of the stethoscope. His blood still boiled over Nick's callous words. For twelve years, Howie had constantly been pushed aside by the younger man. No more, he decided. If Nick wanted to act like a little shithead, Howie could be the same way. Glancing to Kevin, he saw his friend's expression of shock, and was grateful that in his anger he hadn't landed on the wrong man.

“No, call now, please? Me miss My Angel, Uncle Howie,” Baylee implored softly, his dark sapphire eyes widened when he finally found Howie’s heart.

"I know you miss her, Bay, but… What are you doing?" Howie asked as he felt the boy's hand in his pocket. "Bay!"

"I call My Angel!" Baylee squealed, slipping from Howie's grasp. Clutching the cell phone tightly in his hand, he started off down the hallway, diving past AJ. Eyes darting around, he quickly stepped into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind him. "Her number one, right?!" he shouted, already hitting the speed dial.

AJ glanced curiously at Howie and Kevin. "What the Hell's going on? Nick's in his room saying that Howie nearly killed him, Baylee's locked himself in the bathroom shouting about who's number one, and I swear, D, your face is turning purple."

“He’s having a slightly irritating day…” Kevin murmured, sliding off the couch as he tried to hide his bemused smirk. Howie was just so good natured that he was constantly pushed around, even by little Baylee. “I’m going to go get ready to go out… You could probably pick the bathroom door lock if you wanted…”

AJ watched Kevin leave the room before turning to Howie. "Is that pissfucker getting on your nerves again? Dude. I swear, we should just kill him, dispose of the body and call Timberlake or--"

"He'd be just as bad. If not worse," Howie groaned. "Look, get my phone from Bay, would you? I have to go get ready to go with Kevin."

“Is he talking to Cheyanne?” AJ questioned as they walked out of the den, Howie attempting to move down the opposite end of the hallway while AJ moved toward the bathroom. He could hear Baylee’s excited giggle, already knowing the answer to the question. “You want me to keep her on the phone after I tackle the brat?”

"Just tell her I'll call her when I get back, okay? And hide my phone from Baylee so I don't have a million dollar phone bill next month. If she needs to talk to me, she can call me on Kevin's phone. Oh," Howie said, pausing in his doorway. "Tell her I love her."

“Shouldn’t you be telling her that?” AJ questioned in confusion, stuffing his hands into his pockets. Usually, Howie would be the one tackling Baylee to get the phone back. In fact, the guys had to actually hide Howie’s phone just to get him away from calling Cheyanne. So this change in demeanor was shocking to say the least.

"As upset as I am about Nick right now, I may say some things I'll regret later. Just give her the message, okay? That is, unless Bay's flushed my phone down the toilet," he mused.

“I don’t think he’d flush it down the toilet… He might say he did then keep it for his instant connection with his Angel.”

"Just get the damn phone, AJ," Howie muttered, shaking his head before stepping into his room and shutting the door.
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