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Chapter 68 – Mending the Broken

Following the small trail through the woods, Vivian stopped when she saw Cheyanne sitting on the old wooden pier that stretched out into the lake a few hundred yards. Sighing, she continued. Everyone in the house had seen the exchange between Cheyanne and Nick, Kevin having had to physically restrain Austin to keep her from storming out the front door and attacking the man. When Cheyanne had headed into the woods, Howie had been the first to offer to go with her, which had caused a three way disagreement between he, Kevin and Austin, each of them claiming they had the right to go talk to her. Brian had given her a helpless look, AJ had decided it was time to take Baylee into the back for a nap, so Vivian had slipped outside without anyone noticing. She had yet to think of what she would say to her, but could not bear to see her looking so heartbroken. Stepping onto the pier, she walked over to where Cheyanne sat, her bare feet dangling in the water. Kicking off her shoes, she sat next to her, lowering her feet into the cool water. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the small package of tissues she always kept on her, handing them over silently.

“Thank you,” Cheyanne croaked in a soft whisper, though it turned to a sharp hiccup as she struggled to open the package. For a moment, she thought it would fall into the lake, but managed to salvage the package. Taking a few from the plastic wrap, she handed it back to Vivian, continuing to concentrate on the ripples of water dancing across the usually calm lake from the gentle swing of her feet underneath the cool water.

"If I had known he would have been such a jackass today, I would have told Bear to leave him in Florida," Vivian murmured, squeaking in surprise when she felt something brush against her foot. Glancing down, she breathed a sigh of relief when she realized it was a fish.

“It was bound to happen sooner or later,” Cheyanne answered with a soft shrug of her shoulders, leaning over to see what had disturbed Vivian. For a moment, Cheyanne glanced at the older woman, wiping the streaks of tears from her delicate face with a small smile. “…Aren’t you from the country? Darlin’ said something about you owning horses…”

Vivian nodded, "I was born in Kentucky, and moved to Atlanta when I got married… He was a pure city boy, and he hated everything to do with country life. After the divorce, I got a little farm in Georgia with my settlement and fulfilled my dream of horses… And cows too, apparently," she added softly with a rueful smile. "I'm a hick."

“That doesn’t like fish,” Cheyanne actually giggled, though it turned to a sharp hiccup.

"I love fish," Vivian informed her with a grin. "…As long as they're in batter on my plate…"

“…I like fish sticks…”

"Ditto… Bear keeps saying he wants to fix up a tank for Bay with all the Nemo fish… And I'm just… No." Vivian shook her head decisively, splashing her feet slightly. She felt immensely relieved that Cheyenne was no longer crying.

“I wouldn’t mind a salt water tank… Though, just make him take care of the tank… You do well at ordering him around.”

"I hate having to do that… Great as he is, he just acts like a complete moron without someone telling him what to do. Momma says I've got him trained."

"Better than letting him run all over you..."

"I had enough of that with Dave…"

"How long were you married?"

"Nearly five years… Don't look so surprised! I married him right out of high school."

"Was Brian the only one after him?"

Heaving a sigh, Vivian looked out across the lake. "No… I was engaged to someone else… Not officially engaged, but there was a spoken agreement. And then there were the occasional blind dates that led nowhere. Because, apparently, it's taboo for a divorced woman to run her own business without a man."

"Oh..." Cheyanne trailed slightly, glancing back down to the waters. "...Sorry..."

"It's okay… Can I ask you a personal question? If you don't want to tell me, you don't have to… It's just something I've been wondering, and Bear's no help at all," Vivian explained softly, twisting the turquoise ring on her thumb.

“Guess you have to ask it first before I can tell you…”

"Why… Why did you let Howie back into your life?" Vivian questioned in a whisper, glancing over at the younger woman.

“…Do you think I shouldn’t have?” Cheyanne returned, not wanting to directly answer the question.

"I don't know. I don't know what all happened between you, so I can't judge either way. I just know how miserable he was after you sent his ring back… You love him, don't you?"

“…He was miserable?”

"According to Bear he was… And Bear never lies to me, unless you count him telling me he was already divorced the night we--" Vivian cut off, blushing furiously.

“I didn’t think he cared about me,” Cheyanne admitted softly, tapping her hands against her bare thighs as if that would keep her busy. Howie was such a mystery to her since they broke up. He acted as if they were just good friends when she wanted so much more. What she hoped that she deserved, though now she wasn’t so sure with Nick’s betrayal. “I mean, he was busy on tour, I know that. But… I didn’t want to get in the way of his career and make him mad at me. So, I left it be. Then Nick swooped in and… I thought he cared about me… But apparently I was just a good lay… Like I was to Noah…”

"Nick's… I like to hope that he's just a confused little boy, but the more I get to know him, he just comes across as being a complete… Well, you know." Sighing, Vivian looked down into the water. "Who's Noah? …Is this lake clean?"

“This is about the cleanest lake you’re going to find anywhere. Protected from the runoff. Just mostly fishing is done here… ‘Sides swimming… And Noah is Olivia’s biological father…” Cheyanne answered, longing just to take a satisfying swim within the lake to forget the complexities of her perfect life.

"Oh… Did he not want anything to do with you after you got pregnant?" Vivian asked, looking around. "Want to take a dip with me?" Getting to her feet, she pulled off her denim capris before wriggling out of her t-shirt. "Or is the owner going to come out with a shotgun if I dive in?"

“Technically, Austi and I are owners of the lake…” Cheyanne trailed with a small smile, amused at how random Vivian seemed to be. Almost as if she were a duplicate of Austin. Almost. Which seemed appropriate for the Kentucky cousins. “…And Noah just didn’t want anything to do with me when I got pregnant… He raped me…”

"You're shitting me… God… Did you press charges? Hold that thought…" When Cheyanne nodded, covering her eyes demurely, Vivian removed the rest of her clothing and dove into the lake. Surfacing, she squealed, pushing her hair from her face before looking up at Cheyanne. "So… Did you press charges?"

“Why would I press charges? It would be his word against mine and we were already dating. Besides, he gave me money for an abortion. I mean… It was my choice to have Olivia. No harm, no foul,” Cheyanne sighed, shrugging her shoulders.

"He sounds like a real winner," Vivian muttered bitterly, already loathing the man. "If you need anyone to talk to, though… I'm here. I've been there before… Now get your happy ass in here. I ain't swimming naked in your pond alone."

“It ain’t a dinky pond! It’s a lake!” Cheyanne cried defensively, though she was grinning.

"Pond, lake, whatever! Are you coming in or do I have to climb out and push you in?" Vivian threatened, already swimming over to the pier.

“I’m still burning baby fat,” Cheyanne warned as she pulled her feet from the water, not wanting to be pulled in and risk a concussion when her head bounced off the side of the dock.

"What better way to burn baby fat than a good swim? C'mon, Cheyanne…" Placing her hands on the side of the pier, Vivian started to pull herself up, knowing Cheyanne would squeak with horror. Immediately Cheyanne scooted back, giggling.

“Alright! Alright!” Cheyanne exclaimed, hurriedly climbing into a standing position. Turning her back to Vivian, she stripped off her maternity tank, tossing it toward a low branch of her favorite weeping willow. Wiggling out of her jean shorts, she went tearing off the dock, diving into the deep waters with grand elegance. And, immediately surfacing, she let out a whoop of delight. “You better hope no one comes looking for us!”

"Bear'll come looking eventually. But that's no big deal, everybody knows he has the hots for you," Vivian teased with a laugh, swimming away when Cheyanne moved towards her. "God, this place is--Holy shit! Your damn fish are trying to eat me!"

“Stop wiggling your toes,” Cheyanne suggested with a sweet sarcasm, speeding the time of her strokes so she could easily pass Vivian within the waters. “’Sides, Brian doesn’t have the hots for me… And, you’re right, I do love Howie… Very much…”

"He loves you too," Vivian called after her, quickly catching up. "But right now he's scared…"

“Scared of what? Nick certainly didn’t pose any threat. He only wanted sex… To say he could have something of Howie’s… That was my mistake…”

"Howie's scared of pushing you away again. That's why he's doing this whole friendship bullshit. And I call it bullshit 'cause I can tell just by looking at both of you that you're each longing to get back to where you were before…" Trailing softly, Vivian began treading water, watching Cheyanne thoughtfully. "So…"

“He should be furious about what I did with Nick…”

Shrugging her bare shoulders, Vivian sighed. "He should. But he's not. He loves you…" Looking over her shoulder to make sure no one was coming, she turned back to give Cheyanne a wicked grin. "How was the sex?" she whispered loudly.

Cheyanne immediately blushed. “With which one?”

"Both of them…"

Cheyanne reached to dunk Vivian. “You’re not funny!”

Spluttering, Vivian splashed the younger woman, backing away. "Alright, alright… How was the sex with Nick?"

Cheyanne shrugged haphazardly as she swam in the other direction, making sure she was far enough from Vivian to keep her from reading the emotions in her dark sapphire eyes. She attempted to remain callous to the situation, not wanting to rehash the pain in her heart. She didn’t want to admit she loved him. Not wanting to start crying all over again, she dunked herself under the water to sprint a few yards before surfacing and answering. “It was just sex. Howie wasn’t around, so…”

"Just sex?" Vivian repeated, shrugging it all off. Apparently the blonde asshole wasn't well versed in how to make love properly. Turning to swim into some shade, she squeaked when she saw movement along the path. "Oh, shit a brick," she groaned.

“That would be terribly painful…” Cheyanne trailed as Vivian gestured wildly toward the path. “…Damnit, Vivian!”

"How was I to know someone was going to come out here?!" Vivian cried defensively, squinting to see who it was. "I can't tell who it is… Can you?"

“Only your boyfriend,” Cheyanne answered with a grimace of displeasure, hurriedly swimming toward the dock in hopes to reach her clothing before Brian could see the details of her body.

"Bear! What are you doing out here?!" Vivian called loudly before swimming after Cheyanne, who reached the dock just as Brian stepped onto it.

Brian looked at the discarded clothing then out at the two women in the lake. "What the Hell are y'all doing swimming naked?!"

“Well it ain’t like we brought our bathing suits along!” Cheyanne huffed as she ducked underneath the dock, shielding herself from Brian’s view.

"And what's wrong with swimming in your underwear?"

"Bear, would you stop asking questions? Turn around and cover your eyes so Chey can get dressed…"

“It’s more liberating to be naked,” Cheyanne drawled as she waited patiently for Brian to turn around. He was obviously offering Vivian a displeased scowl, but the older woman flashed her a signal it was okay. Swimming out from underneath the dock, Cheyanne climbed upward, hurrying around Brian to grasp her tank top and shorts. Hurriedly pulling them on, she stuffed her underwear into her pocket, reaching to wring out her saturated curls. “And I’ll be going now. Guess Cinnamon will be hungry.”

"Actually, she's still asleep… I think Aje slipped her something…" Glancing out at the water, Brian saw Vivian shoot him an irritated scowl. Grinning, he looked down into the water. "There aren't any snakes in there?"

“No, no snakes,” Cheyanne promised, offering a firm nudge into Brian’s backside to send him pummeling into the cool water. “But now there’s an asshole…”

Spluttering as he surfaced, Brian shook the water from his hair as Vivian laughed hysterically. "Damnit, Chey!" he barked, slapping the surface of the lake with his palm. "This water's freezing!"

"Nuh-uh!" Vivian cried, swimming over. Sliding her arms around his waist under the water, she giggled appreciatively as Cheyanne flipped Brian off. "I'll warm you up, Bear," she murmured.

"I'm really going now," Cheyanne announced, turning to head down the trail. "No sex in my lake!"

*~*~*


“Do you think that maybe you should get a couple baggy t-shirts and shorts instead of all these camisoles and lacy under-jiggers, Austi?” Cheyanne questioned wryly as she followed Austin and Vivian deeper into the women’s section of clothing in their Super-Walmart. There were only a few days left until the girls would head back on tour with the boys, leaving them in a flurry of excitement. Although, it was only today that Austin decided it was time for a shopping trip with a variety of charge cards… All which didn’t have the girls’ names. Though Kevin, Howie, and Brian had simply chuckled at the decision, handing them over as if it were second nature. At first Cheyanne had wanted to decline, but Vivian and Austin had refused to let her say a word. Instead, she was forced to gather her cloth baby sling, tucking Olivia close to her body as they walked around to get the necessary supplies. “’Cause half of’em just get ruined… And all that happens is that you end up naked… What’s the point?”

"Isn't that the point? To turn Kevin on so much that he just rips 'em off her?" Vivian chuckled, pulling a skimpy tank top off a rack. Fingering the silky material, she held it up to her, making a face as Austin began spouting off the glorious rewards for her lacy undergarments. "Here," she called, tossing the tank at Cheyanne. "Maybe that'll light a fire under Howie's ass for you!"

“It’s a waste of fabric,” Cheyanne contradicted as she caught the sky blue camisole with a plunging halter neckline. She immediately wrinkled her nose in distaste as Olivia shifted within her hiding place, peeking a tiny, yellow socked foot outside the fabric of the concealing sling. “And this is a waste of money for such a tiny piece of cloth. That wouldn’t fit me in a million years! Not to mention… I think Howie’s a lost cause, y’know?”

"No man is a lost cause," Vivian countered, lightly rubbing the socked foot before it slid back into the sling as Austin disappeared into the dressing room. "All you have to do is show off your assets… Rather, boobsets, and he'll be--"

"Howie's not like that," Cheyanne interrupted. Shoving the shirt back into Vivian's hands, she shook her head. "I could walk into the living room naked and he wouldn't notice…"

"Please. He's a man, isn't he? Are you saying he hasn't shown you any sign of sexual attraction?" Vivian asked, her eyes widening when Cheyanne nodded slightly. Grabbing her new friend's arm, she spun her around, ushering her towards what she considered the more revealing clothing. "Time to show Howie what he's missing."

“Isn’t it apparent that he ain’t missing nothing,” Cheyanne sighed, attempting to get away from Vivian’s quest, though the older woman’s hand seemed to cinch tightly to her upper arm. Squeaking with disapproval, Cheyanne was thrust into the heart of the sexier styles of clothing, making her blush furiously. She had no desire to wear this type of clothing. Tank tops, shorts, and capris had suited her quite fine since giving birth. Not to mention before she had given birth. Before she had even been pregnant. She didn’t want Howie to come to her on those terms. She wanted him to love her, now that Nick had completely disappeared with no plans to return, ever. “…Besides, he’s just here because of Cinnamon. Which is fine by me. I mean, she deserves a good Daddy and I’m going to tell him joint custody is an option. I mean… Whenever he wants her, he can have her. But he doesn’t have to stay around ‘cause he’s scared of losing her…”

"He's staying around 'cause of you…" Vivian trailed thoughtfully, eyeing Cheyanne's figure critically before making selections. "This matches your eyes, and we all know how that helps… And we really need to get you a good bra… Are you even wearing a bra?"

“Are you really assessing my boobs?” Cheyanne questioned as she folding her arms against her chest protectively, blushing considerably.

"Sugar, every woman who's seen you today has been assessing your boobs. And you've nothing to be ashamed about, you should be proud of them." Handing over an armful of skimpy tops, Vivian turned her towards the dressing room. "If only I had boobs like that… Here, I'll take Olivia while you go try those on."

“This ain’t gonna do anything for Howie,” Cheyanne attempted to protest once more as Vivian shifted the baby sling onto her body, gently patting Olivia’s backside to deter her from crying out for her mother. “I lost him a long time ago… I mean… It was always Cinnamon that he wanted…”

"Do you always have to argue? Now go. I'll be right here to see how they look…"

Cheyanne looked bewildered. “I usually don’t argue…”

"Then don't do it now… Hurry up, 'cause I have to get some thongs--"

“You better be talking ‘bout sandals!” Cheyanne groaned as she moved toward the dressing room, keeping an eye out for other women, making sure they weren’t assessing her breasts.

Rolling her eyes, Vivian gently rubbed Olivia's backside as she waited, glancing up when Austin stepped out of her dressing room, dumping an armload of camisole tops in the cart. "We're heading to the shoe department after this, right? I have to get some thongs," she murmured wryly.

Vivian had to laugh, “Did you hear her?”

"Yeah… What'd you do, send her in there with an armload of things to show off her cleavage?" Austin guessed when she heard a disgusted grunt from the closed door. "C'mon, Chey! Let's see it!"

“I ain’t--” Cheyanne’s voice was halted when Austin threw open the door she was attempting to lock, causing the young girl to stumble out into the open. She immediately straightened with embarrassment, attempting to conceal herself. But, Austin and Vivian wanted no part of that, Austin reaching to grasp her hands and hold them outward. She was wearing the light sea green, handkerchief tube top that displayed her petite form beautifully, enhancing the soft roundness of her supple breasts. “Damnit, Vivie, I look like some kind of harlot!”

"No you don't," Austin assured her as Vivian stepped forward, reaching to fuss with her hair. In seconds it was floating around her shoulders, freed from the messy ponytail Cheyanne had thrown it in earlier. "You look amazing! Why haven't you been wearing stuff like this all the time?!"

“She needs one of those lariat necklaces… To draw attention to her cleavage," Vivian murmured thoughtfully, stepping back. "And I'm thinking a nice denim skirt… To show off those legs…"

Austin nodded in agreement. "And a pair of high heeled sandals--"

“I’m not your guys’ Barbie doll, y’know?” Cheyanne interrupted with irritation, the thought of wearing a skirt horrifying her.

"Wait, if she wears a skirt, Bay'll be taking peeks… Shortie shorts?" Vivian suggested.

"You have been shaving your thighs, haven't you?" Austin asked Cheyanne.

Cheyanne looked mortified. “Of course I shave my thighs!”

"Good. Now, go back and try on the rest, and we'll start searching for shorts," Austin instructed, pushing her back into the dressing room.

"But--"

"Go."

“That’s it! I’m only shopping with Brian and Kevvy from now on!” Cheyanne growled, attempting to stomp angrily back into the dressing room though she looked absolutely adorable.

"Like they wouldn't push her to buy revealing clothes," Austin muttered as the door thumped shut behind her friend. Linking her arm through Vivian's, she headed over to look for shorts. "So, how long have you been seeing my fiancÚ's cousin? What'd you do to him to encourage him to get rid of the Wickedest Bitch of the East? And are you going to marry him?" she questioned in a rush, unable to contain her curiosity any longer. It seemed every time she'd had a chance to get to know Vivian, someone intervened.

“I’d like to ask you the same thing,” Vivian mused as she continued to rub Olivia’s back through the sling to assure the infant stayed sleeping. “On top of, did you really punch Kristin’s lights out? Did you almost attack Leighanne? And did you really say that Baylee would only breastfeed from her if she put a black towel over her face?”

"About six months, I don't know, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Your turn," Austin replied with a grin. "Wait… Hold up… Brian's your fiancÚ?"

“No, Brian is certainly not my fiancÚ. He needs to be paper trained before that hurdle.”

"Just rub his nose in it a few times, he'll get the idea," Austin laughed. "So how'd you meet him? Before you ask, I met Kevin when he and Howie showed up to help me and Chey at the campground, 'cause we'd run into a snake… And I flipped him onto his ass…"

“It was really windy in town and I was getting groceries after meeting with a client, so I had one of those button up shirts, y’know? Well, halfway to my truck, I catch a heel in this hole and cause my groceries to go spilling, unhooking my shirt in the process. Then the wind blew harder and…” Vivian hurried the last portion of her sentence, “I flashed Brian the first time I met him.”

"This was in Atlanta?" Austin asked through her giggles. Vivian nodded, her cheeks reddening slightly. "Well, Hell… I gave Skinny a strip tease and lap dance in New York…"

“Why the Hell would you do that?!”

“For a few hundred dollars!”

“I think I need to try that…”

"He's an ass man," Austin declared, looking through a rack of shorts.

"Well, if there's one thing I've got it's ass…"

“I think we should talk Brian into boob-jobs, he has to know where his Wicked Bitch went for them… I’d just take a picture of Cheyanne’s and display them proudly. Put these titties on me!” Austin announced loudly, holding up a few pairs of small shorts for Vivian to decide from.

"Bear likes my titties… He says they fit his hands just perfectly… Those with the rhinestones on the pocket," Vivian decided. "And from the way Kevin's always grabbing yours, I'd say he's damn well pleased with the ones you have."

“Kevin better be damn well pleased with everything I have or he’s a dead man.”

"Brian too. Though he's already learned that if he crosses me I cut off the sex. Is it true that you got drunk and went and had your nipple pierced?"

“…Yes and it was an accident but, God, does it drive Pretty Boy buck wild!”

"You should've seen Brian's reaction when he saw my piercing," Vivian stated with a wicked grin as they headed back to the dressing room with the selection of shorts for Cheyanne.

“Where are you pierced?!”

"Well it's not my nipple, and I ain't talking about the navel either…" Vivian trailed softly.

“HOLY SHIT!” Austin screeched with laughter as she realized where the piercing was located. “I WANT ONE OF THOSE, TOO!”
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