Cheyanne muffled an exhausted yawn as she shuffled down the hallway with a blanket draped tightly around her shoulders. She shivered slightly, almost as if she had a fever, but she was just so tired. The anemia was finally getting the best of Cheyanne and she felt so miserable. Every time she slept, she dreamt of Howie, waking up with a strangled sob in her throat. She just wanted cuddled for a moment, though she thought otherwise when she found Austin sitting in the middle of the living room with various items strewed about her. Papers, magazines, photographs, addresses, and her laptop – all essential to the planning of her wedding… Austin’s wedding – it sent a sharp dagger to the center of Cheyanne’s heart. She was thrilled that Austin was going to be married so soon to a man she absolutely adored, but it reminded Cheyanne of what she had lost... Not that Howie had loved her anyway. Exhaling a hard breath, she caught Austin’s attention accidentally. “You’re busy, huh, Austi?”
"No, I'm not busy," Austin assured her with a bright smile. Pushing aside a stack of magazines, she motioned for Cheyanne to sit. "Just working on my half of the guest list…" Her gaze followed the younger woman to the sofa, eyeing her carefully. Cheyanne looked so weak and tired. "I… I was looking at possible bridesmaids dresses…"
“How many do you plan on having?” Cheyanne questioned softly as she collected the pillows off the sofa, tossing them meekly toward one side. Then, with a grimace, she curled onto her side, making sure she could see over Austin’s shoulder. She tried to act enthusiastic for her best friend’s sake, though it took almost all of her energy.
"You're going to be my maid of honor, aren't you?" Austin asked hopefully, her fingers flying over the keys of the laptop as she added names to the ever-growing list. She knew she'd have to cut it back a lot, but Lord only knew how many names Kevin would have when he arrived. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Cheyanne's gentle nod. "Besides you, then? Two or three… Nothing major. Kevin's already asked Brian to be his best man, and I know he plans on asking AJ and Nick to be his groomsmen… And I think Baylee's agreed to be the ring bearer, though Lord knows he'll probably throw the rings away…"
“…What’s he doing about Howie?”
"I have no idea…"
“He hasn’t said anything? Honestly?”
"Honestly?" Austin sighed, closing out the document before reaching for her address book. "He'll be there, okay? In what capacity, I don't know… Usually when Howie comes into the conversation we both try to change the subject."
“…Because of me?”
"Because right now I can't stand his guts?"
“Oh…” Cheyanne trailed, tucking her hand underneath the pillow to stabilize her throbbing head. She watched Austin hurriedly bring up the internet, searching through her favorites. “…What were you thinking about for bridesmaids’ dresses?”
"Something simple… It's just a little backyard wedding… But the colors are going to be pastel green and baby blue…"
“When are you getting married?”
"Next spring… Near St. Patrick's Day…" Kevin had been pushing for a winter wedding, but she'd made him hold out a few more months, deciding that springtime would be best for an outdoor wedding.
“I might be un-pregnant by then…”
"I sure as Hell hope so," Austin murmured with a giggle.
“You trying to say I’m a miserable pregnant woman?”
"Not at all. I just want you to be healthy and able to stand there beside me while I marry Kevin… And I want Ollie to be the honorary flower girl."
“Which means you’re putting her in a frilly dress…”
"Wrong! She's going to be wearing a pastel green romper with baby blue flowers embroidered on it. And, if she'll keep it on, a matching little hat."
“…Sounds sweet… So who the Hell are you putting in a frilly dress?”
"I have no freaking clue… I don't know any little girls…" Austin smiled sweetly and handed over the laptop. "There's the dress you'll be wearing, though…"
Cheyanne inched back so she could hold the laptop on the couch without fear of dropping it with her trembling hands. Glancing briefly over the gown, her lips parted into a small 'o' of surprise. It was a gorgeous floor length gown in mint julep green satin fabric. The strapless gown had a side invert with a fancy embroidering and beading down the left side with the invert. "I'm never going to be able to look good in that, Austi... Though, I guess that's the whole point of bridesmaids... Make the bride look gorgeous."
"Chey… You're going to look gorgeous in that," Austin assured her. "Hell, you've got the boobs to hold it up!".
"Not if I don't lose all my baby fat... I'm gonna hafta go riding every day at Jeffie's while Ollie naps..."
"Chey, you're going to be breastfeeding… You'll have those boobs forever," Austin informed her, taking the laptop back as Moth barreled up the hallway from Cheyanne's room. Glancing up, she watched him rush to the front door, yipping excitedly.
"Austi... I didn't mean losing my boobs... I meant the fat around the rest of my body--"
Austin glanced out the window at the car pulling up. "Again you're breastfeeding… What little baby fat you have is just going to-- THEY'RE HERE!" Austin screeched, leaping to her feet. In her haste to get to the door, she kicked over the stack of magazines, but ignored them as she rushed to open the door.
“I really need to get her looked at for ADD…” Cheyanne murmured in disbelief, shaking her head ruefully as she settled the laptop back on the coffee table. She forgot who had even been scheduled to come to the house. For the most part, she just assumed it was Jeff and Billy, so she pulled the covers over her head, snuggling deeper into the pillows. She was just so tired…
"WHERE MY ANGEL?!" Baylee's voice bellowed from the front door. "I GOTS MY ANGEL FLOWERS!"
Cheyanne popped her eyes open at the sound of Baylee’s exclamations of ruined surprises. It took only a moment for her weekend plans to come flooding back into her mind. She had Baylee for the break while Brian visited Vivian. Which mean Nick and Kevin were also outside waiting. Groaning with disgust at herself for forgetting, Cheyanne pushed herself off the couch. “Fuck me sideways,” she grumbled, wondering how she could be so stupid though she was ignorant to the fact at how truly sick she was. Instead, she shuffled toward the front door, forgetting that she was wearing her short boy-cut shorts printed with ducks and a sleeveless t-shirt, her golden curls unruly.
Baylee met her in the living room, grinning from ear to ear over the top of the enormous bouquet of lavender roses he clutched. "My Angel! I gots you flowers," he informed her. "Your favo'it color!"
At the front door, Austin waited until Kevin had fully climbed from the car before racing to greet him, leaping off the middle step and into his waiting arms. Without a word, she planted her lips over his, even as the force of her eager greeting sent him stumbling backwards against the car.
Kevin couldn’t manage to even mutter a simple hello as her lips sought his in several passionate kisses, her legs curling tightly around his waist to hold her steady. He felt a smart pain race against his spine from falling into the car, but dropped his bags to hold Austin instead. He had to growl with satisfaction as he caught her lips once more, teasing her mouth open with his tongue, eagerly exploring what he had missed so much, feeling the hardness of her nipple piercing against his chest, turning him on immensely. Somehow, he managed to tear his lips apart from hers, only to find them once more, then he muttered. “God, Princess, I missed you!”
"I missed you more…"
Shaking his head, Nick rushed up the steps into the house. "I swear, they're going to kill each other before they get married," he muttered to himself. Dropping his bags by the door, he scooped Moth into his arms, offering several scratches and tummy rubs before letting him go attack Kevin. Raking his hand through his hair, he came to a full stop when he saw Cheyanne. His lips slid into an easy grin at how simply beautiful she was. Stooping to hug Baylee, holding the bouquet of roses, her face was hidden from his view, and when she straightened, looking up at him with a shy smile, he sucked in a breath at her paleness. "Hey, Sweetheart," he murmured softly.
“Hey, my Nicky,” Cheyanne answered with another bashful smile as Baylee hugged tight to her legs. She feared she wasn’t allowed to take a step toward Nick, simply holding the roses with a soft puzzlement. Glancing around, she noticed the empty vase on the coffee table. Leaning slightly, she fixed the roses into the vase, then glanced down to Baylee. “Can I give Nicky a hug, Darlin’?”
"Otay… I go get Mothie and we c'play outside!" Baylee decided, giving Cheyanne another brief hug before hurrying out the front door, calling for Moth.
Stepping closer to her, Nick gently pulled her into his arms, whispering her name as he brushed his lips over her cheek. "I've missed you," he murmured.
“It’s only been a few weeks?” Cheyanne suggested, reaching to wrap her arms delicately around his neck. Her lips curved into a coy smile at the feeling of his lips against her cheekbone. She delighted in the scent of his light cologne, nearly aching to taste him once more.
"It's been too long, Sweetheart…" Nick held her close, his lips trailing to cover hers in a soft kiss. Lifting her, he toted her to the couch, settling her in his lap after sitting down. "Are you feeling okay?" he whispered carefully, smoothing her hair back so he could gaze into her eyes.
“I’m fine,” she promised with a small nod, tenderly rubbing the back of his neck as he studied her eyes. She suddenly wondered what Austin had been telling the group. Sure, she had been a little depressed, but who wouldn’t have been? Considering what she had gone through, Cheyanne considered herself immensely stronger than most women.
"You're pale… You want to go to your room and take a nap with me?" he offered, tucking her hair behind her ears before pulling her in for another gentle kiss. "I'm more than willing to spend the next three days snuggling with you," he whispered against her lips.
“I have to watch Darlin’,” Cheyanne declined as her hands slid from the back of his neck to cup his face. Smiling when she felt the familiar rub of facial hair, she tilted to kiss him again, savoring the taste of citrus. “I had Austi go get a small pool ‘cause it’s so hot… Figured he and Moth could have a ball…”
"KEVVY! WHERE MY TWUNKS?! ME AND MOTHIE GO SWIM NOW!" Baylee screamed from the front yard, apparently having discovered the pool.
"You want to go snuggle on the porch swing and watch them, then?" Nick suggested instead, grinning at Baylee's exuberance. He always managed to bring a smile to Cheyanne's face. "You go and get settled while I get him ready for the pool, okay?"
“Okay,” Cheyanne agreed as she slid off Nick’s lap, taking the hair-band from her wrist to tie up her long locks.
Holding a squirming Baylee, Nick struggled to apply the sunscreen to the boy's nose. "Hold still," he said gently, finally getting some on. "Your Daddy read me a ten page essay on caring for your skin, and just because you want to see the baby calves doesn't mean I can't follow his orders. Besides, your Angel let me put sunscreen on her," he added with a grin.
“That’s ‘cause you kissed in ‘tween!” Baylee objected with a growl, attempting to hop down once more. He had never been on a real cow farm before, so Cheyanne suggested it might be a nice treat. Most of Jeff’s cows had birthed their calves, which Cheyanne enjoyed feeding. She had spoke with Jeff yesterday night to set up the plans, even making sure that Baylee had his own wrangler jeans, cowboy hat, and boots. Though, Baylee was just anxious to get to Cheyanne, who was speaking with Jeff.
"Well do you want me to kiss you in 'tween too?" Nick questioned with a chuckle, puckering his lips.
"Nicky!" Cheyanne chided.
“You’re gross!” Baylee exclaimed, immediately holding his arms out toward Cheyanne as if he were being tortured. “My Angel! Save me!”
"Put on your hat!" Nick told him as Baylee squirmed away.
“Later!” Baylee grunted when his boots hit the ground, immediately racing toward Cheyanne, diving at her legs.
“Darlin’!” Cheyanne cried out with surprise when she stumbled slightly against Jeff from the young boy’s strength, never expecting him to be so fierce. Yet, he seemed jealous of Jeff, which caused Cheyanne to smother a bemused smile. Fixing her cowboy hat and adjusting her overalls, Cheyanne stooped to Baylee’s height. “You’ve got to wear that cowboy hat like I’m wearing mine…” She reached for the cowboy hat strung around Baylee’s neck, fixing it to rest on his light blonde curls. She then noticed the blobs of sunscreen that Nick hadn’t rubbed in. Clicking her tongue softly, she helped Baylee rub in the lotion. “Let’s protect your skin, Darlin’, okay? So when I kiss you later it don’t hurt.”
"Why didn't y'all drag Austi and that city boy of hers with you?" Jeff inquired as he led them towards the back corral. He'd pulled in some of the calves for Baylee, knowing the boy might be skittish around the larger animals.
“Because Austi is toting Kevvy all ‘round the town for finalizing wedding plans,” Cheyanne explained with a shrug of her bare shoulders, tucking her hands into the pockets of her jean overalls, smiling as Baylee’s hand curled tightly to the hem of the overall shorts, making sure she didn’t go far.
"Ain't he rich? Hell, why don't she just hire one of those fancy wedding planners?" Jeff questioned as Nick fell into step behind Cheyanne. Rolling his eyes, he easily pulled himself over the fence. "Wait right here with the young'n," he told Cheyanne before disappearing into the small stable.
"He's got a point," Nick murmured softly, toying with Cheyanne's pigtails. "Why doesn't Austin just hire a wedding planner?"
“Austi wants to do everything herself,” Cheyanne answered with an easy shrug of her shoulders, leaning on the top of the fence. The sun was blazing with the heat of August as if it were promising that it would fight fall with all of its steamy luster. So, Cheyanne plucked her sunglasses from her cowboy hat, sliding them onto her face before pulling the rim of the hat lower. Glancing downward, she noticed Baylee curiously peeking through the gaps in the fence, though he made sure to keep his nose pinched tightly shut. She had to smother a laugh against her bare shoulder, finding it adorable. “Y’know Austi’s independent. Plus, her Momma and Kevvy’s Ma are like the wedding planners anyway.”
"My Angel? All I can smell is sh--"
"Shh! Here comes Jeff with a calf!" Nick admonished quickly, resting his chin on Cheyanne's shoulder. Turning his head slightly, he breathed in the soft aroma of her perfume, unable to resist placing the softest of kisses to her skin. Loosely wrapping his arms around her, he watched the man lead the calf out into the corral.
“HE’S BIGGER THAN ME!” Baylee exclaimed with a high-pitched, nasal sound to his voice because of his pinched nostrils.
“That’s a she,” Cheyanne explained as she pulled her arms from the fence, resting her hands against Nick’s locked hands around her body. She gingerly rubbed the warm skin of his wrists with her fingertips, smiling as Jeff rubbed the side of the black and white calf with what almost looked like a white banded halo of fur around her head. Jeff had been quite excited when this calf, the newest, had been born. She was the first female of the brute and with the halo marking of fur, Jeff couldn’t resist naming her after Cheyanne. It was an honor… Somewhat… “Her name is Little Momma.”
"No, no," Jeff laughed, motioning for Baylee to come closer. "See, Chey is everybody's Little Momma, so I named the baby calf after her… Want to come in and pet her?"
“Is she d’unna bite me?” Baylee questioned warily as Cheyanne reached for the gate to the fence, unlocking it and easing it open for Baylee to step inside. Though, he made no move to do so, just reaching to grasp the hem of Cheyanne’s overall shorts once more.
"She's gentle, I promise. She doesn't even swish the flies from her backside. Just as sweet and loving as your Angel is," Jeff promised as the calf leaned close, sniffing heavily in Baylee's direction.
"Go on, Bay… Want me to do it first?" Nick offered. He would if Baylee wanted him to, though he longed to just stand and hold Cheyanne.
“My Angel,” Baylee whined with protest, immediately reaching up to be held. His large sapphire eyes were wide with fear as tears seemed to build, his hands trembling when Little Momma took a step forward.
“Darlin’,” Cheyanne sighed softly, breaking away from Nick’s grasp in order to pluck Baylee from the ground despite the pain wrenching from her abdomen to her back. Hiding the grimace, she ducked underneath Baylee’s cowboy hat to give him a few kisses, stepping inside the pen. She made sure to tuck Baylee to her right hip, leaning her left hand out for Little Momma to sniff. “See?”
Reaching into his pocket, Nick pulled out the digital camera Kevin had loaned him for the day, but only after several minutes of lectures on the proper use and care of it. Turning it on, he grinned when Little Momma tentatively licked the tips of Cheyanne's fingers, quickly snapping a photo of the moment.
Baylee shied away when the calf stepped closer, large brown eyes staring at him. With Cheyanne's whispered encouragements, however, he slowly slid from her arms, making sure to clutch her arm as the calf leaned closer, sniffing his hand. When he felt the warmth of her tongue against his fingers he giggled, reaching to pet her head.
“She ain’t so bad, huh, Darlin’?” Cheyanne cooed as Little Momma took another step closer to Baylee, obviously enjoying the taste of sticky sweetness – a candy bar from Nick’s rental car. But, Baylee didn’t seem to mind her long tongue as she lapped at his face and he scratched her head. Crouching, Cheyanne laughed as she rubbed the calf’s back, allowing Jeff to sneak back for a moment to retrieve the bottle for Baylee to help feed her with.
"Nicky, buy her for me?" Baylee pleaded softly, turning his wide-eyed stare on the man as he continued taking pictures. "I keep her?"
Nick was so dumbfounded by Baylee's question he immediately dropped Kevin's expensive camera over the fence. Wincing when it landed with a splash in the bucket of water, he wondered just how Kevin would torture him. "Ah, shit… Bay, I think you need to ask your Daddy if you can get a calf before I get one for you…"
“You are so dead,” Cheyanne breathed as she glanced backward at the sound of a soft splash, realizing just what had fallen in as Nick climbed over the fence. Rolling her eyes and not wanting to see Nick fall, she turned back to Baylee’s forlorn expression. “Darlin’, you can’t keep a calf at your house… But, I bet Jeffie will keep her here for you. She can be your special pet when you come to visit. Okay?”
"Otay… Wait! Snookums' got horsies! Her can stay with her!" Baylee decided as Jeff came towards them. "Jeff? I take Little Momma!"
“You’re taking Little Momma?” Jeff questioned with confusion as he held the bottle of milk, which attracted Little Momma’s attention immediately. She attempted to hurry over to her owner, but Jeff handed the bottle to Cheyanne, so the calf quickly turned, almost knocking Cheyanne backward.
"Whoa!" Nick cried softly, diving to catch Cheyanne before she fell. Shaking the excess water from the camera, he tried to assess the damage as Cheyanne showed Baylee how to hold the bottle.
"Her can stay with Snookums!" Baylee informed Jeff as he reached to hold the bottle. "My Angel? When you have the baby, you let me feed her?"
“Um…” Cheyanne stalled for a moment as she straightened her posture, resting her hands on her aching abdomen as she thought of the appropriate answer for Baylee. For the majority of the time, Cheyanne would be breastfeeding Olivia. It would only be on rare instances that she would even plan to use the breast pump and bottle, knowing that some infants had nipple confusion if they interchanged between breast and bottle. “We’ll have to see what happens with the baby, Darlin’, ‘cause there’s a special way that she’s going to feed instead of just using a bottle. I know I’ll let you hold her though, okay?”
"How's her d'unna eat?" Baylee wanted to know, wrapping his free arm around Little Momma's neck. Running his fingers over her soft fur, he grinned at Cheyanne. "Her eat with fork like me?!"
"I think you need to ask your Daddy that question, Bay," Nick murmured, stuffing the ruined camera into his pocket.
“Actually, Darlin’, you know how some baby calves eat from their Momma’s?” Cheyanne started gently, knowing she couldn’t let the question go unanswered.
"Uh huh… Daddy says the Momma's gots special feeding bags!" Baylee exclaimed, proud of his knowledge. "They make milk for the babies!"
"Oh, Lord," Nick breathed, shaking his head as he began to gently rub Cheyanne's back.
Cheyanne reached to massage her temples for a moment, trying not to laugh at Baylee’s quips and comments. He was an adorable child and far too funny for his own good, especially when it came to serious topics. “Yeah… The Momma’s make milk for the babies. Well… I’m going to be a Momma too, which means I’m going to make milk for the baby. So, that’s how I’m going to feed her.”
"Y'mean… You gots feeding bags?!" Baylee breathed, eyes wide with incredulity. "WHERE?!"
Biting back a laugh, Nick buried his face in Cheyanne's neck. "Oh Holy Hell…"
Cheyanne’s cheeks turned crimson as Jeff immediately mumbled something about needing some random item, hurrying away before he lost his nerve. She could feel Nick’s body heaving with muffled laughter behind her, which also offered her no support. She was left to contend with Baylee’s curiosity, knowing that Brian was probably going to slaughter her. “They’re not called feeding bags, Darlin’. They’re breasts… Y’know, right here?” Cheyanne gestured vaguely to her chest.
"Those?! But… My Angel, them's my pillows when I take a nap!"
“They can still be yours to take a nap with… But, you’ll have to share…”
"I already gots to share with Nicky…"
"Damn straight," Nick murmured, his hand sliding inside Cheyanne's overalls on the side away from Baylee. Lightly cupping one full breast, he trailed his lips over her neck. He could never resist an opportunity to touch her, loving the way she shivered when she felt his hands on her. Loving how the light flush crept into her cheeks, the way her eyes twinkled merrily.
“If Jeffie catches you he’s going to turn you into mulch,” Cheyanne breathed softly as she stuffed her hands into the pockets of her overalls, nodding toward Baylee to continue feeding Little Momma. Muttering to himself about never getting another good nap without a neck ache, Baylee complied with Cheyanne’s suggestion, patting Little Momma as she fed.
"If I stop, do you promise to make Austin keep Bay occupied so I can get some alone time with you?" Nick murmured in her ear, lightly grazing her nipple with his thumb.
“Nicky,” Cheyanne breathed in shock, suddenly thankful that her jean overalls were a thick material as her nipple responded to Nick quite eagerly.
“You’re a troublemaker,” Cheyanne identified as she turned within his hold, pulling his hand away from the warmth of her breast. Sliding one arm around his neck, she pulled him down for an affectionate kiss. Knowing their actions were concealed from Baylee’s innocent eyes, she slipped her hand down to firmly grasp the growing bulge in his jeans, starting to rub slowly. “And two can play at that game, only, you’re going to be the one embarrassed in the end.”
"Sweetheart," Nick whined softly, nibbling at her bottom lip. "My jeans are very loose," he informed her with a grin, his hand reaching up to lightly pinch her nipple through her overalls.
“Like Phobos won’t make an appearance,” Cheyanne answered, tensing slightly as she winced at what was meant to be an affectionate touch between them. “And you’re killing my nipple, Nicky…”
"And you're killing my--"
"My Angel! Milk all gone!"
“Boy are you in trouble,” Cheyanne murmured with amusement as she slipped him another kiss, firmly offering one more rub to his crotch, and turned toward Baylee. “Guess she was hungry, huh, Darlin’?”
"Uh huh! We call Daddy when we get home and tell him I keep her?" Baylee asked hopefully, hugging Little Momma gently around the neck. Rubbing his nose against her, he heaved a blissful sigh.
“We’ll talk to your Daddy about it,” Cheyanne answered somewhat vaguely, reaching to rub Little Momma’s head once more.
"Hey! Y'all want to see the new bull we got yesterday?" Jeff called from the stable. "He's going to be our new stud!"
“Sure, sounds like fun,” Cheyanne agreed as Baylee eagerly kissed Little Momma goodbye, tugging to be picked up. Cheyanne scooted Baylee to her hip as she shifted to glance at Nick, immediately smirking as she walked to the barn. “Jeffie! Nicky said he’d like to try out for that position as stud! He’s ready!”
Nick groaned, his body tense with sexual frustration as he followed her. "Damnit, Chey--"
"My Angel? What's a stud?"