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Chapter 55 – Strong Enough

Kevin whistled happily to himself as he slid off the elevator to the eighth floor. He glanced briefly to the wall for the direction he was supposed to be traveling, wasting no time in search of Austin’s room. He had watched her throughout most of the concert. Making sure to sing to her. He had even seen a few tears slip from her eyes when he soulfully played the piano for Never Gone. Though it had only been a few days, it seemed like eternity as he hurried his pace to her door. He wanted to scoop her into his arms, carry her upstairs, and love on her all night long. Perhaps he could even con her into staying on tour with him. Grinning at the thought, he approached her door, pleased to find it somewhat cracked. Opening it fully, he sauntered inside to give her the surprise of a lifetime, but he found one instead.

“Why are drunk fools always angling to get a girl’s shirt off?!” Austin cursed loudly as she straddled Billy’s drunken form, attempting to wrangle him into bed but only succeeding in getting undressed to a bra and pants by his fumbling hands.

“What the fuck is this?!”

"Holy Hell! God's talkin' to me, Austi!" Billy cried, tugging impatiently on her. "And he cussed!"

"Damnit, Billy!" Wrenching herself free of his grasp, Austin finally succeeded in getting him into the bed before whirling around to see Kevin in the doorway. A smile touched her lips, stepping forward to greet him properly. Only her steps faltered when she saw the smoldering look on his face. And she immediately began to explain. "He's drunk as Hell, I was just trying to--"

“FUCK HIM AGAIN?!” Kevin bellowed with a disgusted disbelief, gesturing wildly to her practically naked form. His cheeks were tinged a bright red as Billy made several retching noises in his throat before hurdling himself into the bathroom. And he couldn’t help but trip the man as he was lumbering past, watching him fall in the bathroom to spew the contents of his stomach on the floor.

"What the fuck is your problem?! Haven't we been through this shit before?!" Austin exclaimed, stepping back to avoid the mess. "How many fucking times do I have to tell you--"

“That’s the whole fucking problem, Austin! We’ve been through this shit before!”

"Do you think I planned this?! Coming all the way down here to see you perform then hop into bed with Otis the Drunk?!" Austin cried as Billy finally managed to pull himself into the bathroom. She winced when she heard the thud as he fell to the tile floor, but resisted the urge to go check on him. "Goddamnit, Kevin, you should know by now that I'd never cheat on you!"

“Well that’s kind of hard to believe in when you’re traipsing around with this hick acting like a whore!”

"He's my friend! He drove us down here!"

“And what’d you give him to do that?!”

"I didn't give him a fucking thing!" Snatching her shirt off the bed, Austin yanked it over her head, brown eyes spitting fire. "You are such an insecure pissfuck, y'know that?!"

“Ain’t nothing compared to being a manipulative bitch!”

Austin blanked at his harsh words, taking a moment to pull her shirt on completely before forming a reply. Though she could think of none. "You…You… FUCK YOU!"


"Well apparently to you, I've already fucked him three ways from Sunday! Maybe your sorry ass is already infected!"

“Wouldn’t that just be like you! Giving me a gift I don’t want like that shitty sweater!”

"I POURED MY HEART INTO THAT FUCKING SWEATER BECAUSE YOU SAID YOU WANTED ONE!" Austin sank onto the edge of the bed, sitting on her hands so she wouldn't launch herself at him and scratch his eyes out. She released one hand and reached up to clutch the necklace he'd given her. Ripping it off her neck, she flung it at him. "There, take back the shitty necklace you gave me."

Kevin was flabbergasted as the expensive necklace went tumbling toward his feet. He immediately bent down to retrieve it, noticing the broken chain. And his blood boiled over with disgust. It was as if she didn’t even care what he did for her. He poured his entire soul into her and she only managed to screw him over. “Do you know how much that fucking cost me?! God! You’re no better than Kristin!”

"So you constantly fucking remind me! The only good thing I can say about you right now is that you never hit me!" Though she would prefer if he did. The emotional wounds he was causing were too much to bear. She watched him stuff the necklace into his pocket, her heart breaking. She had given him everything, yet all he gave her was grief. The constant comparisons to his estranged wife, the fact he didn't trust her with another man. It was too much.

“Funny, I can’t say the same about you.”

Blinking back tears, she looked up at him, closing her eyes briefly. "Why can't we ever get along?" she whispered. "All we do is fight… I'm sick of it, Kevin."

Kevin exhaled a sharp breath, turning his gaze away from her. “Me, too.”

"I can't take it anymore."

“So… We’re done?”

"Are we? …I love you," she murmured, knowing it was too late.

“I love you, too, Princess, but you can’t take it anymore and I don’t want to see you suffer.”


“Take care of Angel and La-La for me, alright?”

Austin's breath caught in her throat, her tears flowing freely now. She couldn't let him go… "Kevin… Pretty Boy… Please, look at me," she whispered. She had to see his face, had to know if this was killing him as much as it was her.

“I’d rather not,” Kevin murmured, attempting to move to the door, forgetting how much of a brute she was. Because when he turned the doorknob, he was propelled onto the bed, lying flat on his back. “Damnit, Princess--”

"Look me in the eye and tell me that you can just leave. That you can walk out on me after all the shit we’ve been through," Austin whispered, pinning him to the bed with her body. "Do you honestly think I'll give you up without a fight?" she murmured, tentatively touching his cheek. She couldn't let him go. Ever.

“God, I was hoping you’d say that,” Kevin actually sniffled with relief, folding his arms around her to bring her close. Tears still continued to flow as he tucked his face into her hair, breathing in her light scent. “You can’t leave me, Princess. You’re not Kristin. I’m sorry, I just... I can’t think about you with anyone else.”

"I'm sorry… I shouldn't have blown up at you… And I'm so sorry I broke the necklace. It isn't shitty, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever received." Burying her face against his neck, she released a shuddering breath of relief. "That is, besides your love," she murmured.

“And I love my sweater,” Kevin promised. “We’ll fix your necklace, Princess.”

"Can we leave Billy half-dead in the bathroom and go up to your room now?" she murmured. "So I can show you how truly sorry I am for all the shit I just said?"

“Make-up sex?” Kevin questioned with a lopsided grin. “Now that’s the real reason I came down here to start this fight.”

“You are such a horndog," she murmured with a giggle, sliding off him. Grasping his hands, she pulled him up, immediately wrapping her arms around his waist when he stood. "I love you…" she whispered, leaning up to kiss him.

“I love you,” Kevin promised, lifting her to get lost in her kisses, not even remotely fazed when Billy called out meekly—

“Hey guys… I think I sharted…”


In the back of the rented limousine, Nick listened, his face blank of emotion, as Cheyanne recanted the details of her encounter with Howie. She spoke in a monotone, her sweet voice accented frequently by small hiccups, looking out the window at the passing cars and buildings. His earlier plans for the evening had long since left his mind, now the only concern he had was putting a smile back on her face. That was, if she would ever look at him. She glanced his way occasionally, probably making sure he was really listening, but mostly she kept her gaze on whatever was outside. Her hand clasped his tightly, and in the dim light he saw the ring he'd given her. Tracing the design with his finger, he carefully pulled her into his arms when she finished the story. Not knowing what to say, he only rested his chin on her shoulder, closing his eyes as she trembled with emotion. "Sweetheart… I'm so sorry," he murmured finally.

Cheyanne’s bottom lip began to quiver as renewed tears broke from her already burning eyes. She quickly blinked in hopes to ward them away, but it was futile. They spilled over her pale cheeks just as the others had. She had known for awhile that Howie was growing apart from her. But she had been foolish to think she could keep him. That he would love her and her child unconditionally. Men were just a large disappointment in her life. First her father leaving. Then Noah. Now Howie. It seemed like a bitter trail of tears. Sniffling, Cheyanne felt uncomfortable with Nick’s soft words of sorrow. She remained limp and distant in Nick’s arms, not even having the strength to curl her arms around his neck for protection. She just wanted to die. To crawl into a dark hole and die.

"Mr. Carter?" The disembodied voice of the driver came through the intercom. "Where to now?"

Sighing, Nick curved his arms protectively around Cheyanne. "Sweetheart… You need your rest. Do you want to go back to the hotel and get in bed?"

"No. I don't want to be anywhere near… Him."

Nick racked his brain, trying to think of where they could go. Pressing the button on the intercom, he paused for a moment. "Just take us to a decent hotel, okay? Someplace quiet…"

"Yes, sir."

Cheyanne glanced up briefly from Nick’s arms when the conversation had finished between him and the driver. It took her a moment to analyze the information before she pulled away. She didn’t want him wasting good money and putting his own sleep in jeopardy. It was foolish for him to tag along when she was so miserable. She hadn’t even wanted to take the limo ride, but he had insisted, actually carrying her into the vehicle. “Nick, no.”


“I don’t want to go to another hotel. I don’t want you spending your money. I don’t want you wasting your time with me. You need to be back at the hotel sleeping for goodness sakes, not toting me around like some… I don’t want to make this some stupid pity party,” Cheyanne attempted to explain, moving her gaze back to the tinted windows, unable to stand looking in his eyes, much less feeling his arms around her.

"So you just want me to dump you on the side of the street? Saunter back to the hotel and go to bed like you don't mean shit to me? Tough luck, Sweetheart. You can't get rid of me that easily," Nick informed her, his arms tightening around her. He felt her tense, slid one hand down to her stomach, rubbing gently. He hated seeing her like this. As though the entire world had betrayed her. He knew it probably wasn't his place, considering their relationship, but he had to let her know that someone cared. He loved her too much to let her wallow in her pain.

“I just want to be left alone,” Cheyanne whispered, feeling tears break all over again as Nick gently cared for her stomach, which seemed to almost ache worse than her heart at that moment. She could recall all the times Howie had curled close, promising only the best for her and her daughter. Now what was she supposed to do? Again, there was no father for Olivia. It seemed to run in her family.

"Haven't you learned by now that I'm stubborn?" he murmured, twining his fingers with hers. "I can't leave you alone, Chey. I care too much to just let you walk away."

“It hurts so much,” Cheyanne whimpered, her voice cracking painfully as she bowed her head in shame.

"I know… But… Can't you let me help?"


"Just… I want to be here for you, Chey." Squeezing her hand gently, he sucked in a breath. He knew this wasn't the time, and he forced the words out of his mouth, biting down hard on his lip.

“Nicky…” Cheyanne breathed after a lapse of several quiet moments, never noticing the limo ease to a gentle stop. She blinked rapidly to clear away the remaining tears, just staring down at their intertwined hands. He was so gentle and loving when it came to her. He could have just as easily abandoned her after he returned to the tour, but he hadn’t. He had stayed as close as possible to her. “…You mean the world to me…”

Kissing her cheek softly, Nick helped her from the back of the limo, glancing around quickly to make sure they wouldn't be disturbed. Tipping the driver, he thanked him before ushering her into the lobby of the small hotel. Moments later, key card in hand, he led her down a quiet hallway on the third floor, to their room for the night. Wordlessly, he opened the door, allowing her to enter first. She immediately moved to flop onto the bed, curling her arms around her stomach as Nick shut the door. Kicking off his shoes and peeling off his jacket, he moved to close the curtains when he saw a streak of lightning dance across the sky. Glancing around the room, he snatched up the TV remote and laid next to her. "Want to find something good to watch while I run to the vending room and get drinks and ice?" he murmured, setting the remote between them.

“Okay,” Cheyanne agreed without much enthusiasm, taking the remote so she wouldn’t disappoint him. She flicked on the TV and began to search the channels as he walked out, but easily abandoned the remote when the door shut. Sitting on the side of the bed, she pulled off her sandals and tossed them across the room. She then glanced down at her clothing, realizing she had nothing proper to sleep in. But what caught her attention most was the beautiful bubble necklace hanging from her neck. Which reminded her of her engagement ring, which she absentmindedly rubbed in hopes to ward off the pain. What was she supposed to do with them?

"Sweetheart, I got a little of everything, 'cause they didn't have Hawaiian Punch," Nick announced softly a few moments later as he reentered the room. Seeing her sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at her engagement ring. Moving to set the bucket of ice and stack of canned drinks on the dresser, he wondered if she would be taking it off soon. If she did, it could be taken as a sign that she and Howie were truly over with. Then what? Turning, he looked at her for a moment before sitting next to her. "Sweetheart…"

“He wanted to call me later and work things out… He never would have called… Never…” Cheyanne murmured to herself as she played listlessly with the engagement ring. It still glittered and sparkling within the soft lighting of the room, though it was just a lie. Why should she make herself hurt any worse than she already did? Exhaling a shaky breath, she reached behind her neck to unclasp the beautiful necklace, resting it on her knee. Then, swallowing a hiccup, she removed the engagement ring.

Licking his lips nervously, Nick watched her place the engagement ring on the nightstand along with the necklace. "Sweetheart… You…"

“Why fool myself? He’s not coming back,” Cheyanne answered with a shrug of her bare shoulders. “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with them. I don’t want to keep them.”

"Do you want me to give them back to him?" he murmured, reaching for her hand.

“Could you? …It doesn’t seem right that I keep them.”

"I will…" Pulling her into his arms, Nick breathed a sigh of relief when her hands slid up to clasp behind his neck. Everything felt right when she was next to him. Nuzzling her neck gently, he breathed in her sweet scent. "What do you want to do now? 'Cause I know you're not going to go to sleep…"

“I just want held,” Cheyanne requested softly with a pitiful sniffle, resting her forehead against his shoulder. She kept her eyes closed to keep the world from spinning around her, inhaling the soft scent of his spicy cologne. The strength of Nick’s arms around her and the soft breath against her neck seemed to calm her considerably. She had wanted to pull away from him and close herself off, but he wouldn’t allow that to happen. Now, she just sought to be comforted by him. Just to feel him next to her was all she needed. So she wouldn’t feel so desperately alone. So unloved. “You can go to sleep, just hold me while you do, please, Nicky?”

Kicking off his shoes, Nick stood, reaching to unbutton his jeans. She hadn't turned him away. She wanted him to hold her. Stripping down to his boxers so he'd be comfortable, he saw her tug on her top. "Here," he murmured, holding out his shirt. "You can wear this…"

“Thank you,” Cheyanne answered softly, taking the royal blue shirt into her hands. Setting it on the bed, she turned her back to him, undoing the fly of her dark tan capris. Sliding them gingerly down her body, she sniffled once more as she stepped out of them, oblivious to the fact that Nick was watching and remembering the familiar pair of cherry print bikini briefs she was wearing. Reaching underneath her elegant top, she undid the hooks of her strapless bra, pulling it away while reaching for the t-shirt, hoping to do a quick exchange.

"Here… Let me help," Nick offered, stepping closer. His hands gentle, he undid the four hooks at the back of her top before easing the spaghetti straps down her shoulders. Knowing she was always modest around him, at least initially, he helped her into his t-shirt before pulling the top over her head. Letting his hands fall to her shoulders in a gentle caress, he kissed the top of her head before moving to pull the covers back for her.

“I know I forgot to tell you, but you did a really great job at the concert tonight,” Cheyanne told Nick as she tugged the t-shirt downward so it grazed the middle of her thighs, carefully climbing into the large bed. Immediately searching the extra pillows Nick had requested, she curled against them, making sure to lay on her side to avoid a terrible spell of pain. “Your fans love you.”

Crawling into bed next to her, Nick slid his arms around her, snuggling as close as he could. Resting his head against hers, he breathed a sigh of contentment at having her near. "Thank you," he murmured, his hand reaching to grasp hers. "You looked like you were singing along at parts… And did you really send me that text?"

“Yes, I really sent you that text,” she confessed, delicately tracing the outlines of his many tattoos emblazoned on his shoulder. Her fingertips were light with gentle caresses, just wanting to forget what had happened to her previously. In Nick’s arms, she felt secure and safe. He would protect her. “…Are you really calling your guitar Little Zombie now?”

"You bet… It sure beats Helga, doesn't it?" he questioned, his lips brushing her forehead. "And… I'll be your Zombie if you want me to be…"

“…I thought you already were?”

"I want to be your everything…"

“The only everything I need is to be loved…”

Nick hesitated for only one second. "I love you, Sweetheart."

Cheyanne stopped her slow outlining of his tattoos, tilting back slightly to catch the depth of his ocean eyes. They seemed significantly darker than she was used to as if he were feeling the intensity of her pain. But the words were what caught her. He had stated the majority of the same phrase on three different occasions, though it always contained the word ‘love.’ Though, she didn’t understand the depth of what he was feeling as she leaned to kiss the center of his chest. “I need a good friend now, Nicky, thanks.”

"Sweetheart… I don't mean as a good friend," Nick whispered, sliding his hand to cup her cheek. "But… If that's what you want me to be--"

“My best friend then?” she questioned, still not understanding as she tilted her face into his hand.

"Austin would kill me if I tried to take her place…" Shaking his head, Nick leaned close, his lips a hairsbreadth from hers. "I love you, Chey…"

Cheyanne was stilled by his confession, unable to produce a simple sentence in response, though Nick wouldn’t have gave her time anyway. Without warning, his lips connected with hers in just a small kiss. A friendly declaration, though, his hand slid from her cheek to the back of her neck and the kiss electrified. Her entire body responded within the taste of his lips as his tongue eased into her mouth, coaxing her to let her inhibitions dissipate. Though, she feared his statement was just announced to assuage her pain, she let herself fall inward to his wants, knowing it would hopefully fulfill some of her own. “Nicky..”

"Let me show you how much I love you, Sweetheart…"

“I just wanted you to hold me,” Cheyanne murmured as his lips moved away from hers, only to reclaim them once again. She allowed her eyes to flutter closed, her long lashes tenderly kissing his skin. She divulged in his wants, feeling her body warm at just the touch of his lips against hers. She reached to rest her hands against his bare chest, feeling the hard pounding of his heart. Maybe she could pretend that his sentiments were real… That perhaps he did love her like no other.

"I promise to never stop holding you," Nick whispered against her lips, his hands carefully tugging up the t-shirt she wore. Slipping them beneath it, he caressed her back, felt her tremble at his touch. Her leg slid over his, drawing him closer. Emboldened, he slid one hand up, cupping her breast gently.

“I need you,” Cheyanne told him when their kiss broke, tucking her head underneath his chin to offer the barest of kisses to his chest, making sure to pay special attention to the kisses just above the pulsation of his heart. She shivered at the gentle strokes his fingers provided against her breast, immediately rubbing her foot sensually over the back of his calf. She was desperate for attention. Just to know she wasn’t so easily cast aside as if she were nothing.

"You've got me, Sweetheart," he promised, pulling away long enough to pull the t-shirt over her head. He gazed at her nude upper half for a long moment, heat coursing through his body when he saw the look of desire in her eyes. Reaching to pull her back, he groaned when he heard his cell phone begin to ring loudly.

“You better get that,” Cheyanne suggested softly, sliding her arms against her chest to protect her nude breasts, feeling her self-worth plummet once again.

"No… Whoever it is can wait," he whispered, pulling her into his arms.

“But what if it’s important--”

"Nothing's as important as you," he interrupted softly. "Would you feel better if I at least looked to see who it is?"

“Just answer it, Nicky…”

Sighing, Nick released her, leaning over the edge of the bed to retrieve his phone from his jeans. "Whoever it is better be dying," he muttered before answering. "What," he barked, turning back to continue his soft caresses.

“Nick?” Brian immediately returned. “Where the Hell are you? I’ve been trying to call for… Do you know that Chey and Howie just had this huge blow-up? Did you find her? ‘Cause if we don’t have her and Austin finds out… Where the Hell are you?”

"Don't you have a girlfriend to annoy?" Nick groaned, shifting the phone slightly so he could kiss Cheyanne's shoulder. "I found her… She's okay right now… And where we are is not important… Tell Austi not to worry, okay?"

“Austin isn’t worried at this specific moment… But… Nick, Cheyanne’s really hurting right now. Don’t do anything stupid…”

"I'm not. Jesus Christ, you're one to talk. Pointing out your mistress in front of thousands of screaming fans," Nick muttered. "Look, I'm gonna go, okay? Chey's trying to get some sleep…"

“Nick, I’m serious--”

"Everything's cool, B. Promise. Anything else?" Nick gently pushed Cheyanne to her back, nibbling softly at her neck as her hands slid down his back, inching towards his boxer shorts.


"Cool. Bye." Slapping the phone shut, Nick made sure to turn it off before throwing it to the floor. "Where were we?" he breathed, lowering his mouth to Cheyanne’s nipple.

“Nicky, we don’t have to--”

"If you don't want to, I'll stop," he murmured, lifting his head to look into her eyes.

“No…” Cheyanne breathed with a soft horror, a lump forming in her throat as her voice extended with hurt. “I want to. I want you. I just … I just want to feel loved again… To feel something… I just don’t want to hurt you…”

"I love you, Chey… You could never hurt me, unless you told me you didn't want my love," he murmured, leaning up to capture her lips. Teasing her mouth open with his tongue, he gently removed her panties, moaning when she wrapped her legs around him. "God, Chey…"

“What?” Cheyanne questioned against his lips, nibbling affectionately on his tongue before breaking their kisses. She felt his hot arousal pressed just underneath her opening point as she pulled him closer with her legs. She trailed her kisses to the corner of his mouth, over his jaw line, nibbled on his earlobe, and then finally began to suckle on his neck at the point of pulsation. Her body physically ached for him as she felt his hot pants against her neck, his hands traveling the length of her sweet body. He was giving her what she wanted – a form of love. Friendship or otherwise. It still felt good to be needed. To hear Nick call her name with such passion.

"It's been too long," Nick whispered, splaying his hands on her thighs. He could feel her moist heat against him; the knowledge that just being with him turned her on made him even hotter for her. He wanted so badly to make the night last, to show her in every touch, every kiss, how much he loved her. His desire for her was so powerful, however, he found himself gently entering her. Later… Once he had time to recover, he would take everything slowly. Right then, he just needed her.

“It’s only been a few days,” Cheyanne reminded with a slightly pained whimper, tensing at his initial entry, like always. But, the whimper turned from pain to pleasure as her body adjusted to accommodate his hot, throbbing thickness. The feeling of him inside overwhelmed her like no other. It was almost as if he encompassed her entire body as she nipped at his throat, silently pleading for more.

"It feels like forever," he murmured, turning his head to nibble gently at her earlobe. Her body fit his so perfectly. She arched to meet his gentle thrust, and he couldn't help himself. "I love you," he whispered, sliding his hands down her arms to twine his fingers with hers. Holding them together on the pillow above her head, he looked into her eyes. "I love you…"

“Nicky…” Cheyanne whispered, her voice seeming to catch against the lump in her throat. The brilliance of his ocean eyes was mesmerizing as her body flamed with just the slightest tone of domination to their sexual ecstasy. She loved how he took control of the situation to pleasure her. It was enough to drive her delirious with pleasure. But his eyes and the way he spoke to her. He couldn’t possibly have known how enchanting his eyes were. They seemed to promise her a hopeful fantasy of romance. Almost as if the stunning waves to some hideaway island were lapping within his blue irises. But the I love you… The repeated I love you… Was he serious?

"I love you," he whispered again, repeating the endearment with each gentle thrust. Her soft whimpers of pleasure rang in his ears, urging him on. Leaning down, he traced the curve of her neck with his tongue, nipping softly at her shoulder. Wanting to leave his mark, he returned to her neck, suckling gently, teasing her skin with his teeth. "Sweetheart…I love you," he murmured, lifting his head to gaze into her eyes once more. He could spend forever, just looking into her eyes. The deep sapphire pools pulled him in, seeing into his soul as no one ever had before. As though she knew each innermost feeling and thought he had, she gave him a gentle nod, squeezing his hands. Her silky legs hooked around his waist, urging him to go deeper.

“Oh, God, Nicky,” Cheyanne breathed, wanting to wrap her arms around his neck to pull him close, but he prevented her from doing so. At first she was frustrated as she whined, but the erotic quality to being overpowered enticed her more than she could explain, especially as he moved deeper into her body, causing her to gasp sharply.

"You like that," he whispered hotly, leaning close to nibble on her bottom lip.

“Y-Yes,” Cheyanne whimpered, leaning upward in hopes to kiss him.

Releasing his grip on her hands, Nick drew her arms around his neck, lowering his lips to hers. "I love you," he whispered yet again. Holding her to him, he sat up, his hands sliding to her hips to guide her over him. Tucking his legs behind her, he cried out softly when she leaned back, giving him a coy smile as her fingers slid upwards to tangle in his hair.

“You’re so good to me, Nicky,” Cheyanne told him as she pampered his face with the sweetest kisses, easing him as deep into her as she could handle. Her whole body shuddered from the experience as she kissed the side of his face, seeking his lips once more. Her tongue stroked against his, bidding him into her mouth. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

"Chey," Nick whimpered, sliding his hands up her back. Clutching her shoulders gently, he arched to meet the gentle sway of her hips. Trembling, he closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers as he struggled to breathe. "I love you…"

Cheyanne felt her breath catch against the last declaration of adoration as though that was the first time had had said it. Critically, her eyes searched his flushed face for any signs of lies. But, the way he trembled beneath her, holding her as close as possible while he squeezed his eyes shut for any means of relief caused her to sober. There was such a deep conviction in his voice. As if he couldn’t live another minute without telling her. The sway of her hips against him stopped as she moved to cup his face. She lightly kissed his lips in hopes to stir his eyes into a beautiful flutter. “Nicky, you mean that, don’t you?”

Gazing into her eyes, Nick felt the slightest of smiles touch his face. "Yes… From the bottom of my heart, Chey. I love you…"

The simply sweet statement sent an excited chill through Cheyanne’s body as she shared the smile he offered. Her mind backtracked for a moment to when Howie asked her if she loved Nick. She had told him truthfully that she had loved him, though, her heart had grown fond of Nick over the weeks. Though she didn’t believe it had been possible at first, she knew she was falling in love with Nick while keeping her love for Howie aflame. But, Howie was gone and she could hear the desperation in Nick’s voice. He needed to know the truth just as much as Howie had. Leaning down, she caught his lips again in a soft kiss. “I love you, too, Nicky.”

"You mean it?" he whispered breathlessly, holding his breath. Her face showed every sign of earnestness, and he wanted to believe he had captured her heart. Curling his fingers in her hair, he brought her to his lips for a gentle kiss before she could reply. "I--"

Cheyanne had to laugh softly against his mouth when he cut himself off within her kiss. Gingerly, she brushed her thumbs down his cheeks as his fingers tightened within her hair. She felt herself falling within the sweetness of his kiss. Her tongue barely tracing the outline of his lips before finding his once more. There was different feel of power between their exchange. Almost as if they were enveloping themselves in a powerful aura of adoration. Their feelings openly displayed for one another, knowing the depth of their caring. What they had been skirting around for so long. “Nicky… I love you, I promise.”

"Say it again," he whispered, arching up into her gently. "Chey… Baby… I'm--" Nick cut off, releasing a strangled moan as his body shuddered with delight. "Chey…"

“I love you, Nicky,” Cheyanne complied as he laid her back against the bed to steady his hardening thrusts. She felt herself gasp at the power behind his hips, digging her fingernails lightly into his back as she arched. “God, Nicky!”

"Let it out, Sweetheart," he murmured, lowering his head to suck a hardened nipple into his mouth. Catching her hips in his hands, he held her to him, moaning against her skin when he felt her tighten around him. Biting down gently on her sensitive flesh, he arched deeply into her, holding back his release until he was certain she found hers.

“Nicky… Oh, my Nicky,” Cheyanne cried with the most ultimate of pleasures, curling her legs around him once more when her body quaked with passion. The magnetism of her released caused her entire body to shudder as she hugged his arousal deep within her, biting down hard on her bottom lip to keep her screams from escalating.

"Chey…" Nick cried, pressing into her one final time. The enormity of his release brought tears to his eyes, and he sagged to her side. Softly whimpering as he rested his head on her shoulder, his lips seeking hers in a soft, soulful kiss.

Cheyanne smiled against his lips as she reciprocated the affection, feeling him remain inside her as he brought her closer. Almost as if he didn’t want to break the connection between them. Softly, she wiped away the tears that had fallen from his sparkling ocean eyes, murmuring into his mouth, “Are you okay, my Nicky?”

Giving her a shaky nod, Nick reached to pull the covers over them, his head sagging against the pillow when she snuggled closer to him. He felt as though his heart would beat out of his chest, and he could only offer her a lazy smile when her hand covered his. Smoothing the hair from her face, he whispered her name before lifting her fingers to his lips.

Cheyanne giggled softly from the way his soft lips grazed over her sensitive fingertips. The horrifying pain before having been completely washed away with Nick’s deepest confessions. Glancing into his dark ocean eyes, she curled her leg around his once more, just watching him as she curled against her pillows. “I love you…”

"I love you," he managed softly, leaning closer to kiss her softly. "I could stay like this forever," he whispered after a moment, lifting her hand once more to glance at the ring he'd given her.

“Did you think I’d take it off?” she asked, watching his eyes concentrate on the ring, though his hand trembled finely with the difficult task of holding her hand upward. It seemed as if all his energy had been drained into her. Into their passion.

Shaking his head gently, Nick kissed her fingers softly once more before bringing her head to rest on his chest. "I hope you'll wear it forever," he murmured against her cheek as he wrapped his arms around her. Completely content, he closed his eyes. She loved him.