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Chapter 7 – Closer

“You really didn’t have to come along for the walk,” Cheyanne politely responded toward Howie after a period of silence had enveloped them. Usually, she took a walk by herself every day with a small MP3 Player tucked in her pocket. It was her time to reflect on her life or, at least, think about what she was going to do with her child. It wasn’t that she was opting for an abortion, in fact, she was far from that point. She would never kill her child willingly, never. But, adoption was an option at this point, because she knew she wouldn’t make a good mother. Not now. Not at twenty two years of age. Not ever. Just like Austin said, she was too na´ve. But, she did her best to push those thoughts aside as she walked along the sandy shoreline of the large lake, Howie lingering a bit behind her. She was childlike with her movements, practically dancing on the shore, making sure to step and balance on the large rocks that came in her path. It was an enjoyable activity, now that her stomach had settled.

Howie smiled at the sight of her looking so carefree. The gentle breeze sent her curls flying about her, and her earlier stomach trouble seemed to have cleared. Catching up to her, he caught her hand in his, feeling a surge of happiness when she flashed him a sweet smile. "How did you and Austin meet?" he asked softly.

“By the fate of God!” Cheyanne declared dramatically as Howie tugged her gently toward his body. She flushed with another sweet smile, accepting his decision at keeping them close, and squeezed his hand at clarification of that. “Okay, so, I met her at UNC Charlotte during freshman year. We were forced to be room-mates the first semester and afterwards, she just kind of adopted me like a kid sister. It was funny to see a Criminal Psychology Major taking care of a Nursing Major, that’s for sure... But I love her, a lot… I don’t know what I’d do without her…”

"Criminal Psychology?" Howie repeated, unable to picture the energetic Austin sitting behind a desk listening to a serial killer's life history.

"I know," Cheyanne said with a laugh. "She should be something flashy."

"Are you from North Carolina?" he asked, changing the subject abruptly. He did not want to spend their walk talking about Austin. He wanted to know everything about this angel at his side.

“Born and raised,” she confirmed, nodding slightly as she climbed the long flat rock that had come into her path. But, she made sure not to break her hold on Howie’s hand, using him for balancing, knowing he’d keep her safe. “My father was a Marine at Cherry Point Naval Base, so I was born there. Then, when things didn’t work out with Momma and my father, we moved to the countryside. I love it here.”

Pausing on the rock, Howie gazed out at the lake, taking a deep breath of the cool morning air. He couldn't think of anyplace he'd rather be, than there with her in that moment. When she leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her gently in front of him. Resting his chin on her head, he closed his eyes when her hands rested gently on his arms. "I love it here, too," he murmured.

“Better than where you came from?” Cheyanne questioned softly, hoping she wouldn’t be prying too much into his life. She really didn’t have the heart to ruin the moment, feeling so safe and secure wrapping within his embrace. She loved the way she seemed to fit perfectly within his embrace, how his arms naturally wrapped around her, allowing her to rest her arms against his. As if they were holding her child together, though he was oblivious to that minor detail. It didn’t matter though. He was a cloak of warmth that she didn’t want to give up.

"Florida? It's nice," he said with a noncommittal shrug. "I love it because it's home and family, but here is so different. It's never this chilly back home, even in the middle of winter. The air is fresher here, somehow, not to mention these gorgeous mountains." Unable to resist, he pressed a soft kiss against the top of her head. "And the ladies here in North Carolina are more beautiful than I could have dreamed," he murmured with a smile. "One lady in particular."

Cheyanne’s soft lips curved into a sweet smile as she stared out at the shimmering lake, Howie unable to see the firm blush resting against her cheeks. The delicate touch of his lips to the top of her head sent a small shiver of delight through her system. But, known for her playful nature, she honestly couldn’t resist the temptation to tease. Especially as she nonchalantly replied, “Austin is really pretty, huh?”

"Austin?" he repeated, turning her around so she was facing him. "Honey, she's not the lady I had in mind," he assured her, tapping her nose playfully when he saw her smile.

"The little old lady at the office, then? I know she's really sweet, Howie. I think you'd have a chance, if you brought her out here and said something adorable," Cheyanne teased.

“You’re quite amused with yourself, aren’t you?”

“I have my good days,” she confirmed with a happy nod, attempting to walk off the rock to continue her exploration. Apparently, loving the idea of flirting, but not wanting to get too close to the flames. Austin would have a fit.

Following her, he held her hand, helping her off the rock. Resuming their gentle pace along the shore, he suddenly wondered what the other guys were doing. If they even missed him. Releasing a sigh, he felt Cheyanne gently squeeze his hand, felt his spirits lift even more when he gazed at her.

"What's wrong, Howie?" she asked softly, her sapphire eyes wide with worry. "Did I say something wrong?"

“No, Honey, no,” Howie quickly assured when she stopped their walk. He smiled softly, hoping it looked secure to her. Nothing she could do would ever cause something wrong in his heart. Never. The only thing that slightly baffled him was her pulling away when he was so ready to kiss her. So ready to finally taste her. “It’s not what you said…”

“Then…” Cheyanne trailed in confusion, not understanding. “…What? Are you really sure it’s not me?”

Reaching up, he smoothed the flyaway curls framing her face. "Honey, I assure you, it's not you," he murmured, grazing her cheek with his thumb. She stepped closer to him, her hand resting lightly on his arm as she leaned against his hand. His thumb slipped lower, tracing the softness of her lips.

"Howie," she breathed, her heart skipping every other beat. "If…If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here," she murmured.

Nodding, Howie lowered his head, feeling her soft breath against his cheek. "Cheyanne, Honey," he whispered, releasing her hand to slide his arm around her waist. "Right now I just want to kiss you. But only if you're okay with it."

“Kiss me?” she repeated faintly, biting down on her bottom lip, making sure she understood correctly. Noah had never really asked if she was alright with what he did. In fact, he took things without permission. Which was the reason for her now hidden pregnancy. But, he was the farthest thing from her mind as her brows furled softly, feeling her breath catch, making her chest rise to brush against Howie.

"Please," he whispered, looking into her eyes. She nodded slightly, moving a bit closer to him, until he felt her chest pressing against him. Tilting his head, he drew in a shaky breath and captured her lips with his gently. Feeling her hands tentatively land on his waist, he closed his eyes, losing himself in the softness of her kiss.

“Mmm,” Cheyanne actually murmured softly against his lips, loving the intoxicating aroma of his cinnamon breath, mixing with the sweet taste of him. She had dreamed about this moment, though she’d never admit to that. But everything was so real compared to a silly dream. The way he held her close, never forcing the kiss to be painfully brutal. Nor was it lustfully hungry. The kiss just seemed so right in her mind. Slow, soft, perfect. Just a mere taste of what he had to offer. Everything that she wanted from him. She had even felt the need to prolong the delight, trailing her hands from his waist, slowly upward across his broad chest, to finally link behind his neck.

Howie smiled, loving the way she moaned so softly inside his mouth as his hands framed her face, getting caught within the braids she had weaved early that morning. It had a way of repairing the broken ego which had been practically shattered from years of worthlessness. She gave him everything he thought he had lost within a single moment of sweetness. Her reactions to his kiss letting him know that he indeed was lovable. He couldn’t even begin how to explain how passionately she stirred his soul, especially when it came to words. So, slowly, he parted their mouths, opening his eyes to see hers fluttering softly beneath the long lashes. He offered another warm smile as he leaned forward, pressing the softest kiss to the center of her forehead. “Thank you.”

“You’re more than welcome,” she promised, her voice coated with the familiar husky, southern, honey accent, biting down on her bottom lip with a firm blush.

*~*~*


Lightning filled the pitch-black night sky, illuminating the bedroom, followed closely by a crash of thunder that shook the cabin. Sitting straight up in bed, Austin held her breath, her hand clutched over her chest as the rain began. Glancing over at Cheyanne, who slept peacefully despite the chaos outside. Slipping from the bed, she tiptoed from the room, knowing it would be useless to try to sleep now. The wood floor was cool beneath her feet as she stepped into the hallway, the cabin quiet as she pulled the door shut behind her. Hugging herself, she looked around, feeling lost as the storm raged. Seeing light spill from an open door, she gravitated towards it, hoping only to find someone willing to talk with her until the storm passed. Peering into the room, she bit her lip when she saw Kevin sitting up in bed, an open book lying in his lap.

Despite all the indignation she caused the man, he looked quiet placid as he engrossed himself within the hardback book. But, Austin wasn’t really concerned about what he was reading, but more so, the way his long fingers touched his tongue before stroking the pages to turn them. He then rested his opposite hand on his bare chest, lightly scratching. No matter how much she argued with him, she still enjoyed the view. He may have been older, but men truly matured gracefully with age. His dark raven locks were cropped close to his head in a sort of buzz cut, enhancing the angular lines of his handsome face. The thickness of his dark eyebrows only seemed to accent his light emerald eyes and making him more mysterious. Not to mention how his body was taunt with a muscular physique that she most admired in a male companion. She felt a fire burn toward the pit of her belly as she subconsciously licked her lips, enjoying the view. That is, until a sharp crack of thunder caused her to yelp, launching herself inside Kevin’s room. “Holy Hell!”

Jerking with surprise, Kevin looked up to see Austin racing towards the bed. The book slit to the floor with a thump as she dove under the covers, peeking up at him. "What the Hell…" he began, trailing off when she sat up, folding her hands pertly in her lap. Not that he really minded her being there. The blue camisole top accentuated her curves, and when she lifted her head to look at him he saw fear in her warm eyes. "Are you afraid of storms?" he asked softly when he saw her tremble. The fact anything scared her was a shock to him, considering her usual attitude, and he reached to cover her hands with his, felt her draw in a deep breath.

"All my life," she stated blandly, moving closer to him as lightning flashed again. "I can't stand to be alone during one. I know it sounds crazy as hell to you, but it feels like the end of the world whenever one starts."

“You were laughing hysterically when the tent ripped…” Kevin trailed softly, lifting an arm to draw across her shoulders. He felt her slump forward with relief, curling against his side. It seemed so perfectly the way she rested head against the side of his chest, placing one hand against his chest for stability. Kristin had never done that, not even during their honeymoon. She liked her space in bed, which probably explained why they even had separate bedrooms.

"That was different," she murmured, her fingers smoothing over the warm skin beneath them. "It wasn't night, and I wasn't in a strange bed, and there wasn't any--" she cut off, wincing when thunder boomed in the distance. "There wasn't any of that," she whispered. The safety of his embrace made her move closer, her head resting on his shoulder as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Closing her eyes, she released a gentle sigh when his hand lightly rubbed her arm, sending tingles of excitement down her spine. Rain pelted the window, and when lightning flashed again she turned towards him, lifting her head. Unable to quell the storm raging within her, she leaned up, her hand sliding to his neck as her lips met his. "Think you can handle me again, Pretty Boy?" she whispered.

Like when she first arrived, Kevin was surprised at the warmth of her lips against his, more so the way she baited him into the stance. In fact, he was overwhelmingly caught when she slid onto lap, deepening her half of the kiss, biting down hard on his bottom lip. The warmth that started in the pit of his stomach quickly surfaced in his manhood, arousing a life in him that he had sworn to forget about after their shower together. But, there she was, freely offering herself as the lightning streaked across the sky, illuminating the sweetness of her body. But, groaning, he grasped her shoulders to pull her back. “What the Hell do you think you’re doing?”

"I'm trying to get a repeat?" Austin quirked and eyebrow at him, her nails raking down his chest.

Despite his earlier promise to himself, he slid his hands down her back, his fingers teasing the bare skin above the panties she wore. Her smooth tan legs pressed next to his thighs, and he could feel her heat against him as he yanked her forward, his lips crashing with hers as thunder rumbled outside. Her soft moan encouraged him as she wriggled her body against his, making him harder with each stroke of her fingers on his skin.

“You’re a damn minx,” Kevin growled sharply against her mouth, immediately tossing her on the bed to stop her insufferable wiggling. He then rolled to pin her petite body underneath his, reaching to nibble roughly on her neck. If she wasn’t careful, he was bound to explode without any chance for her to explore his strength and vitality. Much less scream his name.

"And you're a fucking tease," she hissed, sliding her legs around his waist, drawing him even closer to her. "'Come get them on your own.’ Like that wasn't an invitation." Moaning, she squirmed beneath him, licking her lips in anticipation when she felt his hard length against her.

“And your nails in my d--” Kevin gasped sharply when he heard a ripping sound and a cool breeze against his backside. Glancing down slightly, he realized that she had actually torn his boxer-briefs completely away from his body. And, it thrilled him as nature took its course, his hard member rising to the warmth of her belly, causing her to giggle mischievously. He could only harden his glare as he grasped her arms, pinning them above her head. “You’re paying for those.”

"Uh huh. Whatever you say." Austin stuck her tongue out, tracing his lips lightly.
"Would you rather I just leave?" she murmured against his lips before trailing her mouth to his neck, sucking hard as she breathed in his scent. "If I'm too much for you to handle, I can go," she purred, her teeth scraping his skin.

“Hey,” he hissed, holding both her small wrists in one hand as he allowed his other hand to slide down the length of her body. Over one peaked breast, down the valley between, over her warm abdomen, into her delicate panties, toward the inner thigh… Then he yanked the material away from her bottom half, tossing it carelessly to the side before reaching to rip away her silky camisole. Once she was as naked as he, he bowed his head to the valley between her breasts, flicking his tongue wildly against the sweet flesh. “Don’t run your mouth if you don’t plan on using it right.”

"You're paying for those," she growled, easily flipping him to his back. Releasing her wrists, he dropped his hands to her thighs, smirking when she dragged her hands down his sides, scooting back so she could grasp him. Holding him tightly, she lowered her mouth to his chest, nibbling and sucking his sensitive skin, the tangy sweetness of him making her moan softly. "What do you want me to do with my mouth?" she whispered, her hot breath rushing over him.

“I don’t think your cute little mouth could hold that, Princess,” Kevin promised, holding a breath as he grasped her face, pulling her down for a sweltering kiss. He felt her hold tighten against his erection, causing him to smile as he dipped his tongue deep into her mouth. She rocked her hips against him in anticipation and Kevin knew he was winning.

"Just give it to me, Pretty Boy" Austin whimpered, growing tired of the wordplay. She hadn't come for sex, but now she'd be damned if she'd leave without it. Releasing him, she braced her hands on his chest, sucking his tongue deeper into her mouth.
Kevin’s body tensed for a moment when he felt her lower herself onto the span of his erection. He blew out a tight breath as she grew accustomed to his length and size, her moist insides forming to fit his needs like a favorite glove. But, his sensible side panicked. “Wait, I don’t have a--”

"It's okay," she whispered, setting a gentle rhythm, her nails digging into his skin. "Mmm," she moaned softly, leaning over his body for a kiss. Closing her eyes, she bit down on his bottom lip, wanting to prolong the sweet torture as long as possible.
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