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Chapter 70 – Unmasked

"Y'know… I still can't believe you were on your knees with Brian's… Member in your hands," Austin breathed in disbelief as she placed Olivia in the middle of Cheyanne's bed. Patting her back gently, she bent to kiss her goddaughter's head softly, adjusting her small body slightly so she was on her stomach. "Work on your little muscles, Ollie," she cooed, turning to start packing baby things into a bag as Cheyanne folded. "I mean, sure, Brian's a good looking guy and all… But geez, his girlfriend was right there!"

“Austi,” Cheyanne groaned with soft embarrassment, trying to hide her fiery cheeks as she continued to fold the onesies her daughter would need. Vivian, Brian, and Baylee had taken a flight out earlier that morning, wanting to have some privacy before the tour officially started. Not to mention, it seemed like Brian wanted to take flight out of the dangerous situation of morbid embarrassment over what had happened. “Vivian wanted me to make sure he didn’t have an infection… And do you know he snuck a peek at me when I was getting out of the lake? Not to mention they want a threesome with me!”

"A threesome?!" Austin's jaw dropped in shock, and she slowly shook her head. "Do you have some kind of special perfume you wear that makes everyone want you or something? …What did you tell them when they asked?"

“I didn’t say anything…” Cheyanne trailed with a shrug of her shoulders, clicking her tongue to arouse the attention of her daughter. She smiled with Olivia lifted her head in her mother’s direction, cooing softly. “That’s my pretty girl! …I have just made a pact with myself never to be alone with those two… Ever…”

"So I take it they didn't join you in the shower yesterday?" Austin continued, smirking. "And since when do you go skinny dipping in the lake? And when were you going to tell me that you did? And if you're going to have a threesome, you should know that Kevin would--"

“Austin,” Cheyanne interrupted with a rueful smile, reaching to bump her hip against Austin’s hip to silence her best friend. “They didn’t join me in the shower, but they did peek in like some kind of perverts, only to find that Howie was in the shower with me! And, I usually go skinny dipping in the lake when I’m alone, but Vivie asked me to join or she was going to pull me in anyway. So, I just went… And, I figured that Brian would be telling everyone what I did anyway. And why the Hell would Kevvy be interested in a threesome with me?!”

"You've got that whole Barbie doll thing going on now… Everybody just wants to undress you now, don't they? Speaking of which…" Austin tilted her head to one side. "I thought you hated those skimpy camisole tops?" she teased softly, pointing to the gauzy white camisole that clung to Cheyanne's small frame.

“I’m much happier with my racer-back tank tops and spaghetti straps, but… Tea likes these better…” Cheyanne explained as she moved to the dresser to retrieve outfits for Olivia for every season, not knowing which would be needed in which state. Especially since it was nearing late August and the seasons were changing anyway. “Not to mention you and Vivie attacking me with these hurts, so I mine as well just wear them without getting pummeled…”

"Tea likes them better… Just how many times has Tea been removing these tops from you? And don't give me that innocent I-didn't-do-anything look, 'cause you and Tea were rather loud last night…" Austin trailed suggestively, smirking when her friend blushed. "And why were you two doing it on the couch? What's wrong with your bed?"

“Were you spying on us? How else would you know we were making love on the couch?” Cheyanne returned without having to answer the original question, glancing down when she heard her daughter’s frustrated grunt. Smirking, she watch Olivia tightly grasping the comforter in attempts to pull herself up, almost as if she were ready to crawl. Gently dropping to the bed. Cheyanne met face to face with her daughter. “Hey, Over-Achiever… Why don’t you just stay cute a little while longer instead of trying to grow up so fast?”

"I might have walked by on my way to get a drink…" Austin murmured before sitting on the edge of the bed, watching mother and daughter.

Staring into her mother's eyes, Olivia grunted again, her mouth opening and closing slowly as though trying to voice her frustration. Cooing, her face lit up when Cheyanne cooed at her, one tiny hand scooting across the comforter in an attempt to reach her. Slowly, her lips curved into a pleased smile, showing off toothless gums as she squealed happily.

"Awe," Austin breathed, diving for the camera kept on the nightstand. Cheyanne was so enraptured with her daughter's beautiful smile she didn't blink when the flash went off. Reviewing the photo, Austin beamed, heading for the door. "I'm just going to go show Pretty Boy…" she trailed softly as she disappeared down the hall.

“You are, by far, the cutest baby in the entire world,” Cheyanne breathed softly, scooting closer in order to take Olivia’s tiny hand into hers. After over two weeks of motherhood, sometimes the thought still surprised her. Especially as she watched Olivia sleeping. So peaceful and content. Cheyanne’s whole world tucked inside a small soul. Smiling at the thought, Cheyanne offered the sweetest kisses to her daughter’s tiny fingers. She then tilted to blow a soft raspberry on the side of Olivia’s face before attacking her with kisses. A thrill of pride raced through Cheyanne’s body as Olivia squealed happily again, reaching to touch her face with another brilliant smile. “I love you so much, Cinnamon Sweetness…”

"Pretty Boy requested that he get a chance to make her smile once he finishes packing… And City Boy will be here soon as he finishes cleaning up Pisser's mess," Austin announced as she reentered the bedroom, grinning as she heard Olivia's squeals. Moving to continue packing, she glanced over at the beautiful interaction between mother and child, finding herself longing to have her own child. A beautiful baby with a head full of dark hair like his father, she decided with a smile. She had already chosen the names for their children, had started a blanket and layette set in anticipation. She only hoped she would be a mother soon.

“You didn’t have to get him, but thank you,” Cheyanne told Austin with a sweet smile as Olivia continued to reach for her. Cooing yet again, Cheyanne reached for her daughter, laying back on the bed and resting Olivia on her concave stomach. Olivia squealed with surprise, but instantly nestled her face against her mother with a pleased smile. Laughing, Cheyanne rubbed Olivia’s back, leaning forward to kiss the top of her daughter’s head. “…Are you going to go to all the shows while we’re on tour?”

"I have no idea… I mean, being able to see Kevin on stage getting all hot and sweaty is a real turn on… But you won't be able to go to shows at all, will you? Not with Ollie… And unless City Boy hires you a nanny, if you want to go to a show, I can baby-sit," Austin offered. "Didn't Howie mention that Drew's chick will be on tour some? Doesn't she have a daughter?"

“Yeah, Josephine and her daughter Katie,” Cheyanne answered with a confirming nod, clicking her tongue toward Olivia to get another smile. “I can stay with her at the hotels… And I’ve downloaded a bunch of like tourist sights I can take Cinnamon, too. You should go to the concerts. You were in love watching him the last time. Not to say that you’re not in love normally, but… You really enjoy watching him…”

"There's just something magical that happens to him when he's performing… Like that night at the Brass Rail, when he played the piano, it was as though that was what he was made for, y'know?" Austin placed the last of the outfits in Olivia's suitcase, heaving it off the foot of the bed as Howie stepped in. "Here," she called, tossing it into his arms. "That can go to the living room with the rest of it." Reaching for the large diaper bag, she moved to gather the diaper supplies for the tour bus.

“I know, it’s special for you,” Cheyanne agreed with a nod, humming softly as Olivia settled into a light rest against her mother’s chest. “That’s why I want you to be at the concerts, Austi. It’d mean a lot to Kevvy, too. Plus, the fans love you.”

"…They do? Have you not Googled my name lately?" Austin questioned with slight irritation.

“Well, you tend to get a lot of hate sites when you put ‘bitch’ next to Austin Harrell,” Cheyanne chided with a roll of her eyes. “Besides, one of Kristin’s lovers just came out saying he was with her when she was with Kevin… Just let all her stuff bare to the media… Now everyone’s rallying around you. Honestly, Austi.”

Austin sighed, slowly zipping up the diaper bag before moving to finish packing Cheyanne's things. "But… Even still, some fans remain faithful to her. Saying that I'm the reason they split up, and then there's all this shit with teenagers posting on their blogs that Kevin picked them up for random sex on the promo tour… And… If he cheated with me, what's to stop him from cheating on me?" she asked softly as she stepped into the bathroom to gather Cheyanne's favorite robe.

“Austin…” Cheyanne sighed softly as she gently pulled her daughter up to curl her into the crook of her arm. Sliding off the bed, she moved toward the bathroom to catch her friend, offering a small smile. “You were the one that first told me I shouldn’t give a damn about what the fans think. I mean, there are some fans that are absolutely smitten with Leighanne and you know what kind of horror story she is… Besides, you weren’t someone Kevin cheated with. What he did with you is completely different than what my biological father did to Momma. He loved you so much and he was in a loveless marriage. You taught him what it was to be free again and he would never betray that. Ever… You’ve got to trust him…”

Nodding, Austin plucked random items off the shelf over the toilet, dropping them into Cheyanne's makeup bag. "I do trust him… I just don't trust them… I guess I should start my own blog? And start journaling that if people don't leave me alone my rough and ready best friend will kick their asses?" she suggested with a small smirk.

“I… I can pack the rest of my stuff if you want to go spend time with Kevvy?” Cheyanne suggested as she patted Olivia’s behind, the little girl happily sucking on her fingers as she was nestled securely in her mother’s arms. “And, I would always protect what you and Kevvy have. It makes you happy.”

"You sure?" Austin murmured, reaching for Olivia. "And Ollie and I can spend quality time with her Grandpa?"

“I… Yeah…” Cheyanne answered, relinquishing her hold on her daughter, who fussed momentarily at being pulled from her mother. “You really do want me finish packing without distractions, huh?”

"We're leaving tomorrow morning at seven, so that'd be nice? …Like Howie won't come in and help you…" Cooing softly to Olivia, Austin smiled as she snuggled close to her bosom. "I think it's time I take my granddaughter out to the hammock in the back yard to enjoy snuggle time with her grumpy gramps," she cooed, heading down the hall. "Him's upset 'cause him doesn't want Boohbah to completely ruin the rest of the tour," she murmured to the infant as she stopped to grab Olivia's sun hat off the back of the couch. Adjusting it just so, she stepped out onto the back porch, looking for her fiancé.

Yawning, Kevin lazily stretched out his body in the hammock, turning slightly in order to see Austin stepping carefully down the steps of the back porch with a small body in her arms. Kevin could hardly contain the smile on his face as he outstretched his arms, welcoming both. The very sight of Austin carrying a child in her arms gave Kevin actual chills. He knew it would still be a few months before the birth control wore off completely. But he could wait, knowing how beautiful it would be in the end. “If it isn’t two of my favorite girls. My Princess and my La-La. Hopefully they’re coming to cuddle with me…”

Smiling, Austin handed Olivia over before climbing into the hammock to curl her body against his. Sliding her arm across his stomach as he shifted Olivia so she was lying in the crook between their bodies, she leaned up to kiss his cheek. "You finished brooding?" she murmured softly, giggling when Olivia smacked her lips noisily as she sucked her fingers.

“I wasn’t brooding,” Kevin defended softly, reaching for Olivia’s other hand to smack his lips against, grinning when Olivia squealed and began to writhe with a happy smile.

"You didn't want to snuggle in bed this morning… You're brooding. Are you not looking forward to the tour?" she questioned gently, resting her head on his shoulder as Olivia cooed at him. "She loves her Gramps…"

“I love my La-La,” Kevin promised as he brushed a fingertip down the infant’s nose, only to get it caught by her slightly damp fingers. Smiling, he glanced over toward Austin, shifting to gently kiss her forehead. “And I am looking forward to the tour. Mostly because I’m going to have you by my side through everything. I don’t ever have to say goodbye to you anymore. But, I’m worried about how Angel is going to handle it… With Nick being there… And then Howie having to handle Nick… And Nick getting himself in so much trouble that I couldn’t even buy his way out of…”

"Ever thought that maybe, just this once, you should let other people handle their problems?" Austin suggested softly as Olivia snuggled closer to Kevin. "Chey's got Howie to take care of her… Howie's got Chey to take care of him… And Nick can go fu--I don't really care what happens to him… I just don't want him to hurt Chey anymore, but I know that the role of her protector's been transferred to Howie again. And I trust him completely this time," she admitted.

“You trust Howie completely?” Kevin repeated, holding his free hand to his heart as if it had stopped.

"Ugh, Pretty Boy--"

“I’m kidding,” Kevin chuckled, kissing her forehead once more. “Y’know she took his ring back? Our baby girl is getting married…after us…”

"Like I could miss the Rock of Gibraltar weighing down her left hand?" Austin smirked, shifting her had to kiss his cheek again. Sighing with contentment, she watched Olivia drift to sleep on Kevin's chest. "Y'know what today is?"

“Um…” Kevin trailed as he hurriedly searched his brain for the significance of the date. But, nothing really came to mind. Nothing that important between them anyway. He suddenly wondered if she’d call his mother to complain. Those two seemed to be the dynamic duo… “Howie’s birthday is coming up soon?”

"Well, yeah… But that's not what I'm talking about," she murmured, tangling her legs with his as she snuggled closer. "You honestly don't know, do you?"

“What present should I buy you to make up for this screw up?” Kevin sighed.

"I'd like a fancy new laptop… But don't you think you should know what you've forgotten before you sign away your bank account?" she giggled, lifting slightly so she could look into his eyes.

“…What day is it?”

"Seven months from today we'll be getting married?"

“God, I thought I forgot your birthday or something important,” Kevin breathed, instantly regretting his words when Austin kneed him lightly in the groin. Shifting uncomfortably and taking Olivia with him, he smiled nervously toward his fiancée. “I mean, that’s fantastic! Did I tell you that we’re heading to Las Vegas and I’m giving you a boatload of money to take Angel and Vivian out wedding dress and bridesmaid dress shopping? And whatever else your heart desires?”

"…So that means I'll get a fancy new laptop?" Austin asked hopefully as Olivia whimpered in Kevin's arms. Watching him soothe the infant with soft murmurs and gentle pats on the backside, she smiled softly, knowing he would be a wonderful father. "Are you sure you want to pay for everything? I feel bad… Like I'm taking all your money… Maybe we should sign a pre-nup…"

“I ain’t signing no pre-nup, I want to do this for you, now, c’mon, get your shoes on,” Kevin decided, craning his neck toward the back door to gesture they needed to go inside.

"Where are we going and why are you brushing off the pre-nup?" Austin questioned, sliding off the hammock nonetheless. Stepping into her sandals, she reached for Olivia, cuddling her close as Kevin got out. "What'd I say?"

“We’re going to get the laptop before we go on tour so you have something to do during sound-checks and everything,” Kevin explained, taking Olivia back when he was stable on the ground so Austin could roll out. “And, I don’t want to sign a pre-nup with you, because I don’t ever intend on breaking up with you. Signing one of those things is like dooming us. And I ain’t going to do it.”

"But I thought you'd just want to protect your stuff… I mean, what if you die and I run off with all your money?"

“Then I’d be content in Heaven knowing you’d be well taken care of.”

"Kevin… You're too freaking sweet, you know that?" Austin murmured, jumping up so she could kiss his cheek.

“I love you too,” he laughed, scooting her inside.

*~*~*


Groaning against the throbbing headache starting to attack his already tender temples, Nick rolled over in his hotel bed to crush several bottles of alcohol. Wincing at the cold hardness of the bottles, he attempted to stumble out of bed, struggling to remember what happened the previous night. He only faintly recalled coming early to the hotel and never bothering to wait for anyone else to join. Stumbling out into the night, he partied as hard as he possible could and judging by the numerous amounts of lipstick plastered over his bare chest, he figured it was pretty hard. Reaching for the half chugged bottle of Goldenschlagger, twisting the cap to begin another day of unabridged drinking. He found after leaving North Carolina that it was easier to stay inebriated, because then he never had to be reminded of the pain of losing Cheyanne. Instead, he forgot everything and everyone. Finishing off the bottle, he tossed it back on his bed in exchange for what seemed like a decent shirt. Pulling it over his head, he fished in his pocket for some change, wanting something to eat from the vending machine.

Falling into the hallway, Nick cursed loudly as he hit the opposite door harder than he intended. He thought about slamming his fist into it, but the sound of his body colliding with the elegant wood was enough to silence him. Holding his forehead, he leaned over slightly, squeezing his eyes shut with every intention of yelling at whoever had just appeared from their room. Glancing up, he was pleased to see a golden haired beauty’s backside. She had a white towel wrapped low around her waist with flimsy strings wrapping around her neck and back to hold together a bikini. Maybe she was the chick he fucked last night…

"Hey, babe, why you leavin' so soon?" he called, his voice hollow and slurred from the alcohol in his system. Pushing himself off the door, he swayed slightly on his feet before stumbling after her, grabbing her shoulder to stop her. "C'mon, babe… Let's get back to my bed and you can pick up where you left off."

“Nick!” a familiar voice called out in surprise that caused Nick to stumble back slightly when she turned. Immediately, all the memories he had drowned in alcohol came flooding back as he peered into a familiar set of dark sapphire eyes as the golden curls tumbled around her elegant shoulders, kissing his hand. Though, she didn’t look happy to see him, curling her daughter tightly against her triangular cut, string bikini top printed with sweet red cherries on a light blue background. Her supple breasts heaved upward with the breath that caught in her chest, stirring heat within Nick’s nether regions. Even with Olivia chewing happily on her fingers, dressed in a blue and white pinstriped bikini with a ladybug embroidery and matching sun hat. She was gorgeous. Everything Nick had ever wanted.

"What the fuck are you doing here?!" he spat with derision, jerking his hand away from her as though he had been singed by her flesh.

“Um… Kevvy invited Austi to come on tour. She really didn’t want me staying home alone with the baby, especially with Jeffie and Billy… So, she made them watch the house so I could come on tour, too…” Cheyanne explained softly, trying not to act hurt by the quick jerk of his hand. The hurt in her heart may have been healed by Howie, but seeing Nick seemed to make it rekindle. She could only think of what a fool she had been, especially when he made the bold suggestion that he was one of her many women from the previous night. Taking a step back, she made sure to tuck her left hand against Olivia as she fussed, obviously catching Nick’s malicious aura permeating through the stale air of smoke and alcohol.

"Still won't let you out of her sight, huh? Too fucking bad… Where is she now? About to swoop down on me like the great crow she is?" Nick questioned with a snort, glancing around the deserted hallway, wincing at Olivia's fussy cries. "Can't you shut her up?"

“Austi is downstairs by the pool with Kevvy,” Cheyanne explained, shifting Olivia over her shoulder to pat her back gently. She cooed softly in her daughter’s ear, overly nauseated even by the mere smell of Nick’s abundant odor. The smoke choking her significantly and his hostile attitude putting her daughter at odds. “Cinnamon’s probably getting hungry, I’m sorry.”

"Like I give a fuck…" Nick trailed into a groan, rubbing his throbbing temples. Reaching into his pocket, he drew out his cigarettes, hastily lighting one. "So… Y'sure you don't want to drop her off with Austin and come back to my room?" Reaching over, he dragged his hand across her cheek slowly. "I'm sure you're a pretty good fuck when you're not pregnant--"

“Please don’t touch me,” Cheyanne requested softly as she took a quite step back, trying not to flinch at the feel of his hand on her face. What used to delight her about his touch now made her skin crawl, especially as he purposely blew a thick plume of smoke into her face, causing her to cough considerably.

"So now I can't touch you?" Nick questioned with a snort, shaking his head as he pulled hard on his cigarette. Un-fucking-believable. "I'm sure you've let Howie touch you, haven't you?" When her eyes widened slightly, he knew. She surely hadn't wasted any time… "Glad to know somebody's been having a good fucking time," he muttered.

“From how you acted when you first came out of your room, it seems like you haven’t exactly lost your sexual appetite either, Nick,” Cheyanne answered softly, her eyes already watering with the smoke as her throat tightened and her head began to ache. Meekly, she gestured toward all the lipstick prints showing through his somewhat unbuttoned shirt.

Glancing down, Nick shrugged. "She must not have been so good, I can't remember her… I've got lipstick rings on my dick--"

“Glad to know you’re fulfilling your needs, Nick,” Cheyanne interrupted softly, not wanting to know what he had been doing with other women. What he probably had been doing in between visits to her. The very thought made her sick, especially considering that condoms hadn’t been a priority. She suddenly scolded herself for being so foolish. She just wanted to get to the pool.

"Yeah, well… I don't have you to fulfill them anymore, so what am I supposed to do? Jack off in the shower?"

“You don’t have me because you decided not to have me, remember? And, I couldn’t have been that fantastic considering I was just some stupid game,” Cheyanne answered, trying not to let her voice waiver with hurt.

"Is that what we were? A stupid game? Well, good news, Sweetheart, you fucking won…"

Cheyanne stared at him with honest confusion. “What the Hell are you talking about? How did I win? How could I have possibly won? You’re the one that treated me like some kind of blow-up doll. That’s all you wanted from me. That’s all you said you wanted from me. I asked if you loved me and you said you just got one thing out of it! Remember? I didn’t even get a chance to tell you what I thought we were! Or are you too plastered to even remember leaving my house after I tried to thank you for your beautiful gift?”

"Well I'm here now… Tell me," he demanded harshly, grabbing her arm and hauling her to him. Digging his fingers in her skin, he glared down at her. "Tell me what you thought we were."

“Nick, what the Hell are you doing?” Cheyanne yelped with surprise as he pulled her back the hallway, almost shielded completely away from the public, pressing her back tightly to the wall. Her head bounced lightly against the wall to startle her as he pressed completely against her, feeling the heartiness of his body as Olivia cried out in shock. Cheyanne tensed as she attempted to reach over to hold her daughter with both arms, but Nick kept her immobile. The tainted smell of stale alcohol making her dizzy as her heart rate accelerated with a flight of fear.

"You know damn well--"

"What the fuck are you doing?" Howie's voice exploded from down the hall.

“Let go of me,” Cheyanne quickly requested of Nick, attempting to yank her arm free from the tall man’s grasp as Olivia’s whimpers turned to sharp wails as if she felt her mother’s pain. Cheyanne tried to ignore it, just wanting to prevent Howie from slaughtering Nick in broad daylight.

"Howie, Howie, Howie," Nick drawled, backing away from Cheyanne slowly. "Ever the fucking lifesaver, aren't you?" Taking a last drag off his cigarette, he dropped the butt to the floor, stubbing it out with the toe of his sneaker as Howie barreled towards him, instantly getting between him and Cheyanne. "Tell me, where were you when she was hemorrhaging? Too wrapped up in your own pitiful world to give a fuck?"

“Nick, just stop it,” Cheyanne attempted to assuage, reaching with the aching arm he had relinquished to reach for Howie. “C’mon, Sweet Tea. Please?”

"You know what? You've got one Hell of a nerve, Nick…" Howie trailed, taking a deep breath to calm his nerves as Cheyanne gently rubbed his arm. "I'm warning you now, Carter… You leave Cheyanne alone. I don't want you looking at her, I don't want you talking to her, and I sure as Hell don't want you touching her," he warned. Longing to just throw the younger man to the floor and pummel him into a pulp, he stepped back, drawing Cheyanne with him.

“Cause you know she’d run back to me. I was the best fuck she ever had and she’ll never forget that. Just like I won’t forget how much I made her scream,” Nick snarled, moving back toward his hotel room after giving Cheyanne a blistering glare.

"You motherfuck--"

“Tea, don’t,” Cheyanne interrupted as she pulled him down the hallway. She heard Nick’s vindictive laugh echo as she lead Howie into the elevator. Hitting the number for the lobby, she winced as she realized Olivia was still screaming in her ear. Slumping against the side of the elevator, she gently handed Olivia over to Howie, hoping to calm him and her daughter so she could check her throbbing arm. “Hold her for a second, please?”

"Did he hurt you, Honey?" Howie questioned softly, cuddling his daughter close. Rubbing her back gently, he hummed softly, feeling the anger seep from his body at the gentle touch of her hand to his chest. "It's alright, Cinnamon," he whispered, kissing the top of her head as she clung to his shirt, hiccupping between cries. Glancing at Cheyanne, he saw her tenderly rubbing her arm, and realized with horror that there were marks on her delicate skin. In his arms Olivia began to calm down, sniffling pitifully as she continued to hiccup against his neck. "Honey--"

“I’m fine, Tea,” Cheyanne whispered softly as she rubbed her upper arm in attempt to ward off the pain. But, neither the bruising fingerprints nor the pain was fading. Groaning softly, she shook her arm as she dropped her hand away from holding it, reaching to rub her daughter’s back as she made a point to avoid Howie’s dark eyes. “I’m just more worried about my Cinnamon Sweetness… She was scared silly…”

"She's alright," Howie assured her as the elevator doors slid open. Indeed, Olivia was starting to fall into a light slumber, apparently aware that the danger was over and she was safe and secure in her father's embrace. Looping his free arm around Cheyanne's waist, Howie led her onto the elevator, holding the two most important women in his life close to him. Kissing each of their heads gently, he breathed a sigh of relief that a major confrontation had been avoided. But he was certain that, considering the road Nick was on, there would be another one soon. He only hoped that he would be there to stop him from harming Cheyanne or Olivia in time.

“Nick wouldn’t hurt me,” Cheyanne murmured softly as she reached to indicate what floor they wanted, making sure to step closer into Howie’s embrace when she was done. She could feel the acceleration in his heartbeat at the mere mention of Nick, but Cheyanne needed to say something. Anything. Because, if Howie kept in this state, the tour would be no fun.

Howie was nowhere near as sure as Cheyanne about that statement, glancing down at the bruise marring her upper arm. "I don't think it's a good idea for you to wander around alone, Honey… Maybe I should ask Drew to stay with you and Cinnamon when I'm not with you."

“Drew needs to be at the shows protecting you. I can protect myself and my child just fine.”

"Your child… I thought she was ours…" Howie trailed softly before shaking his head. It would be useless, starting an argument over something so trivial. "I'm sorry… But, Honey, you need protection. Not only from Nick, but from the fans as well… Just promise me you won't go anywhere alone, okay? Have Austin or Vivian with you, please?"

Cheyanne wanted to tell him where he could put his gist of protection, but glancing into his dark eyes made her think twice as the elevator doors slid open. He looked far too concerned about her well being for her to deny him the simple request. Sighing, Cheyanne leaned up to offer him an apologetic kiss. “I’m sorry, Sweet Tea… She is our baby… And, I won’t go anywhere alone…”

"Okay…" Howie patted his daughter's backside gently as they made their way through the back door leading to the outdoor pool. "Is the diaper bag down here with Austin already? 'Cause I think Cinnamon just made a deposit," he explained, wrinkling his nose slightly.

“Austi said she’d bring down the diaper bag for me,” Cheyanne answered, motioning toward the only couple sprawled on the lounge chairs with AJ drinking in the sun by their side. Kevin had cleared out the pool for their small party, which made it easier for Baylee to swim without fear. Sure enough, the little boy and his father were splashing wildly within the pool. Of course, they were splashing outside the pool, soaking Vivian who was just trying to cool her feet. Smiling, Cheyanne glanced back to Howie. “Want me to change her?”

"I've got it," Howie assured her, giving her a quick kiss before heading to get the diaper bag.

"Daddy! STOP! MY ANGEL HERE!" Baylee screamed, shielding his face from his father's boisterous splashes.

“Oh! And she’s wearing a itty bitty bikini!” Vivian whistled loudly.

“You need to stop ogling me,” Cheyanne laughed with a tender blush, turning to stand in front of Kevin and Austin. She played with the towel around her hips, peering beside Kevin’s drink to see if he had the sunscreen. She had just made sure to lather Olivia will an ample amount of sunscreen, figuring she could work on herself at the pool before getting in the water.

Austin tilted her sunglasses up to look approvingly at Cheyanne's bikini, nodding once before dropping them back on the bridge of her nose. "Vivian's been ogling everybody," she informed her friend, reaching for the fruity mixed drink on the table. Taking a sip, she lifted her head to look around. "And when we got here she and Brian were making out in the deep end… I don't know how far they got, but Brian had a hard on the size of--"

"Do we really need to know about Brian's voracious sex life?" AJ groaned from next to her, shaking his head as he tilted his novel to block the sun from his face. "I'm just betting twenty to one that she'll have the top off her own itty bitty bikini before Chey gets into the water."

“I think you might just be jealous, AJ,” Cheyanne retorted when she located the sunscreen tucked by Kevin’s hip. Unwrapping the towel from her waist, she draped it over the back of Austin’s chair before seating herself at the end of Kevin’s seat. Squirting out the brightly colored lotion into her palm, she then offered it back to Kevin. “Can you do my back, Daddy?”

"Me? Jealous? Of what?" AJ scoffed, tossing his book aside to sit up. "Why would I be jealous? My best friend's got a gorgeous babe and a beautiful daughter, my other best friend's got a gorgeous babe with an ass that makes me want to thank Jesus every day, and my other best friend's got a gorgeous babe who likes to get naked almost as much as me. Who would be jealous over that? I can just sit back and enjoy the eye candy without having to deal with all the drama!"

Cheyanne giggled with surprise as AJ made the sign of the cross, kissing his fingers and holding them up in the air as if giving God some kind of praise. “It’s great that you thought that out, AJ…” Cheyanne laughed harder, shaking her head with disbelief as Kevin reached to rub the sunscreen on her shoulders, touching the bruising. She jumped slightly in surprise at the sharp sting of pain. “I can do the rest myself--”

"What the Hell happened to your arm?!" Kevin asked incredulously, stopping his gentle rubs to examine the bruising.

“Do you mind saying it a little louder?” Cheyanne mumbled sarcastically as she tempted to slip away, though his grip tightened as he turned her. Closing her eyes, she heard Austin suck in a sharp breath as AJ called to Brian and Vivian with shock. As if the whole world needed to know that she had pushed Nick into accidentally hurting her.

"Who did this to you?" Austin questioned softly as Vivian headed over.

"Austi, really--"

"That pissfucking fuck nut! I'm going to kill him!" Austin exploded, vaulting from her lounge chair.

“Did you give Howie the safe word for when you play rough sex?” Vivian whistled with amusement, though Cheyanne paled considerably.

“Howie didn’t hurt me--”

"It was that no good asshole," Austin grumbled bitterly, yanking AJ's t-shirt off his chair and slipping it on. Stepping into her sandals, she jerked her sunglasses off as Howie approached the group. "How could you just let him get away with manhandling her like that? Jesus Christ, is he going to have to throw her down a stairwell for you to do anything?"

“I took care of it, Austin,” Howie defended immediately, already knowing they had found the bruises before he could even attempt to explain. Shifting Olivia in his arms, he held a protective hand to her head, hoping Austin wouldn’t startle her. “As much as I could take care of it--”

“I told him not to do anything,” Cheyanne interrupted as she pulled from Kevin’s grasp while Brian came to examine the bruises after giving Baylee a box of juice. She attempted to reach for Austin’s hands, tears unavoidably gathering in her eyes. “It was my fault that it happened. I made him mad on purpose and… I’m sorry, Austi. Nick would never hurt me.”

Austin blinked rapidly before staring at the younger woman as though she had never seen her before. She remembered all to well saying the same words to Cheyanne not even a year before as Stephen's abuse had grown increasingly worse. "…Just like I made Stephen mad, Chey? And you fought me tooth and nail and begged me to get away from him, remember? Don't you understand that this time, damnit, it's not your fault? Nick's no better than Stephen. In fact, considering some details of his personality, he's worse… He's already proven that he would hurt you--"

"Who's Stephen?" AJ asked Kevin in a whisper, leaning forward to look at his friend.

"That's not important now, AJ…"

“And I’m not with Nick…” Cheyanne attempted to emphasize softly, glancing down at the hot ground to blink back a rapid set of tears. She had been so upset with Austin for the longest time, not understanding why she kept running back to Stephen. Time after time, when Cheyanne had to be the one to clean up the bloody messes. It terrified her to even conjure the memories within her mind. But Nick wasn’t like that.

"You're going to be around him all the time, Chey… Hell, even if you avoid him like the plague you're still going to run into him occasionally," Austin murmured, hugging herself tightly, aware that everyone's eyes, with the exception of Cheyanne and the children, were on her.

“Then I should go back to North Carolina?” Cheyanne whispered, tapping her hands idly on her stomach.

"No… You belong with Howie…"

“…I already told Tea I wouldn’t go out alone…”

"You realize if he touches you again, I'm going to kill him? I ain't bullshitting, Chey, I'll call Billy and Jeffie out and go buy a shovel--"

“And I’ll give you money for the lye,” Cheyanne finished softly.

"So… I take it you're not going to go beat Nickers to a pulp wearing my shirt?" AJ inquired as Austin moved forward to hug Cheyanne.

“No, she’s going to end up stealing it,” Kevin murmured, standing so he could envelop both girls into his arms for a protective squeeze, whispering a few words into Cheyanne’s ear.

AJ sighed, leaning back and collecting his book. "Well, considering she's stretched it out now--"

Austin’s eyes widened as she tore away from Kevin and Cheyanne. “You skinny little fucker!”

"I meant it in a good way!" AJ yelped, his book flying from his hands as he leaped up. Pushing Brian and Vivian out of the way, he dove into the pool, swimming hard and fast to the other side. "Good God! I didn't mean it as an insult!" he shouted.

“She’ll be chasing him for awhile…” Cheyanne sighed as she kissed Kevin’s cheek, watching Austin follow AJ’s path with threats of horrendous deaths before pulling out of his arms. Stepping toward Howie, she gestured toward her daughter, who was chewing on her fingers. “Can I have my Cinnamon?”

"DADDY! I HAFTA GO POOP!" Baylee announced at the top of his lungs, rushing over clutching his empty juice box.

“Did you give him prune juice again or what?” Vivian questioned her lover with a groan.

"It's grape juice!" Brian cried in defense as Baylee waved the juice box at her. "C'mon, Scooper, let's get inside to the potty," he murmured, ushering his son towards the door.

"Just so you know, I'm going to do some topless sunbathing while you're gone, so take your time!" Vivian called after him, smirking when he swung Baylee into his arms and raced inside.

“I’ll be back,” Kevin murmured, rubbing Cheyanne’s shoulder gently before disappearing inside.

"That is so not fair," Austin grumbled before dunking AJ under the water again. When he surfaced, spluttering and mumbling curses, she sighed. "Why does he get to go kick his ass and I have to act sweet?"

“SWEET?!” AJ growled loudly. “Like that’s a fucking definition I would use for you, Hilter-ita!”

"Oh, kiss my ass!" Austin retorted.

“Don’t I wish!”
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