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Chapter 79 – Wedding Bells

“So, after Kevin does his song we’ll do the candle lighting jigger, then our kiss, then the preacher’s going to announce us hubby and wifey, and that’s that, till the reception,” Austin declared, reading over her wedding notes. Her cell phone pressed to her ear, she listened to Ann’s approval, glancing up to see Cheyanne flipping through addressed invitations, checking them off on her master list. Giving her friend a smile, Austin slapped her notebook shut and stood. “So I’ll call you tomorrow, Momma R? And we can go over that menu for the reception?”

Cheyanne glanced up when she heard the closing of the conversation between the future mother-in-law and Austin, awed by the glitter of excitement lighting Austin’s coffee eyes. Austin and Mrs. Richardson were quite the dynamic duo, especially when it came to planning the wedding. Even through simple phone conversations, the wedding was perfected. And, as the tour progressed with bounding leaps, so did the time of planning for Austin’s dream wedding. So, Austin had enlisted Cheyanne as her helper for the day. Though, Cheyanne hadn’t had much of a choice when Josephine and Vivian went running, leaving her holding her infant daughter with a perplexed expression. Not that Cheyanne minded, because it was time to spend with her best friend. Alone. “…Did you give Grand-Momma R my love?”

“Yes’m,” Austin cooed. “She asked about you and Ollie when I first got on the phone with her.”

“Thank ya much,” Cheyanne drawled as she peeked over the edge of the bed to glance quickly at her daughter. Sure enough, Olivia was still sound asleep within her infant carrier, nestled perfectly against the headrest and neck supports, her fingers thrust into her small mouth. She was the prettiest little girl, Cheyanne decided, loving the way her honey blonde curls were starting to grow. Just a little longer before little ponytails could be made. Hopefully.

“You should consider yourself lucky that your Momma’s taking over your wedding planning for you,” Austin informed her, pulling herself off the bed in order to grab a folder of menu choices for the reception from her bag. “Honestly… All this bullshit I have to do--”

“You’re the one who insisted on being your own wedding planner and I didn’t exactly give Momma full reign over my wedding. Because, if I did that, everything would be draped in pink and fluff,” Cheyanne corrected, involuntarily shuddering at the mere thought. “Besides, Tea and I haven’t set a date nor have we even really talked about it. I’m happy just being engaged.”

"You two aren't going to skip off to Vegas or someplace and do the whole rushed wedding are you?" Austin questioned with a smirk as she flopped down next to the younger woman. "And I love you to death, but if you try to wrangle me into wearing some peach ruffled hoop skirt jigger with a wide brimmed bonnet and a three foot long bow in the back, I swear to God I'll kill you… Now, what sounds better for the dinner reception? Chicken or beef?"

“I don’t think Catholics are allowed to get married in Vegas. I don’t think Howie’s mother and father would be to happy with him getting married in Vegas. And I doubt Howie would have the spontaneity to suggest such an idea. And, why the Hell would I put you in a peach ruffled hoop skirt? You’ll just be lucky that I pick out dresses instead of pants. And I’m partial to chicken,” Cheyanne answered easily, now going through the invitations with a booklet of stamps.

"Please, God, don't make me go down the aisle for you in pants, okay?" Austin wrinkled her nose at the idea. "Hopefully by then I'll be fat and pregnant, so pretty much anything will look like shit on me anyway..." she trailed softly.

“Okay, I’ll be the one wearing pants and… Lord help me when you get pregnant…”

"And what the Hell is that supposed to mean?"

“I want to wear a bridal suit instead of a bridal dress?”

"Not that… But please tell me you'll wear a dress? For me? What the Hell did the 'Lord help me when you get pregnant' part mean?"

“Austi, you know what you’re like when you have your period… Can you imagine nine months of you with hormonal changes?” Cheyanne questioned honestly. “Me crying at Gaston dying will be nothing compared to your tyranny.”

"I'm looking into getting my own padded room?"

“And some safe sedatives?”

"…Won't that hurt the baby?"

“Some can… Some can’t… Depends on the medication…”

"Maybe I should just have Pretty Boy tie me to the bed for nine months?"

“You’d chew through the straps…”

"Well damn… Maybe we should skip the whole pregnancy jigger and look into adopting a starving pigmy from New Guinea?"

“Biboo-boppo Richardson?” Cheyanne giggled.

"We'll even let him wear a towel 'round his head…"

“Throw red markers at his forehead to keep that dot colored…”

"Or we could just let Katie stab him with a fork so it'll be blood?" Austin suggested with a cackle as the door opened. Glancing up, she caught Kevin's eyes and began laughing anew as he and Howie strolled in.

“I’m glad you find it so damn funny about what happened at dinner last night,” Kevin growled as he immediately tackled Austin on the bed, rubbing the gristle of his face against the crook of her neck. It seemed as if he were the topic of conversation amongst the tight knit family because of last night’s fiasco with Katie. “Everyone thinks that brat is so damn cute! But let her take her fork to your thigh and then tell me how cute you think she is!”

Squealing with laughter, Austin wriggled beneath him. "You shouldn't have tried to take the roll she was reaching for! Don't you know not to get between a kid and their food yet?!"

“You need to stop defending the little devil child!” Kevin howled, tickling her.

"Well, you wouldn't think she was such a devil if she were your child, would you?!"

“Yes! I would! She’s evil!”

Austin shrieked as she felt Kevin's cold hands make contact with the bare skin of her sides. Punching him lightly in the chest, she flipped him over with a grunt, sticking out her tongue as she pinned him to the bed. "Maybe she acts out so much 'cause she hasn't had a decent father figure all her life?"

“Like Drew is going to hammer her down some discipline. He spoils her worse than you!” Kevin growled with surprise as he stared up at his fiancée.

“It won’t matter much because Grand-Momma R is going to have a fit when she finds out you two wrinkled all these invitations,” Cheyanne scorned with a sigh as she crawled off the bed to retrieve all the invitations she had marked and stamped.

"I do not spoil her!" Austin defended.

Scooping up a handful of invitations, Howie handed them over to Cheyanne with a smile, leaning in for her welcoming kiss as Olivia sighed in her infant seat. "So much for you being the daughter…"

“You’re telling me,” Cheyanne laughed softly against his lips before gathering the rest of the invitations. Satisfied that they were all safe, she tucked them into the tin container and set it on the dresser. Wedding plans were officially cut short by the entrance of the fiancés. That much was obvious as Austin and Kevin squabbled over her spoiling of Katie. So, Cheyanne took the time to embrace Howie for a far more proper kiss. “Mmm, I missed you.”

"I missed you more," Howie argued softly, wrapping his arm around her waist. "Never before in the history of radio interviews has there been a more boring one…"

“Kevvy talking about his wedding plans again?” Cheyanne teased with an impish smirk, easing her arms around his neck as she concentrated on his rich chocolate eyes.

"How did you know?" Howie murmured with a plaintive sigh. "I swear, if I hear him say just how freaking special the song he's written for Austin is…"

"Are you making fun of the love I carry for my fiancée?" Kevin questioned, snatching up the menu plans before pulling Austin to him so they could snuggle together. "…Chicken? Princess… We're going to be in Kentucky. People will be expecting red meat…"

“Chey-Chey wanted chicken,” Austin argued.

“Like I really care? Grand-Momma R will make me chicken special if you guys have beef,” Cheyanne answered sweetly as a soft grunt sounded from the infant carrier. Glancing down, Cheyanne cooed when Olivia thrust her legs and arms into the air, eager to be held. “My Cinnamon Sweetness calls, Tea,” Cheyanne explained to her fiancé, squeezing out of his hold so she could stoop to cuddle her daughter. “How was your nap, Little One? Would have been better if Momma napped with you, huh?”

"Speaking of pregnancy!" Austin suddenly blurted out of nowhere, jerking from Kevin's embrace so she could turn to look at him. "I need to talk to you later!"

“Where was pregnancy mentioned?” Howie questioned in confusion as he watched Cheyanne curl onto the loveseat with Olivia tucked neatly into her arms, oblivious to anyone else in the room.

"Before y'all got here, actually…" Austin trailed softly. "But that's not important. City Boy! Chicken or beef?"

“Beef and Ma can make Angel some chicken special… Are you…?” Kevin interrupted, arching his dark, thick brows in wonder toward Austin.

Austin gave a noncommittal shrug, her coffee brown eyes sparkling mischievously. "I said later, Pretty Boy—"

“That’s not funny and you know it, Austin Leigh. Are you pregnant?”

"God help us if she is," Howie breathed as he moved to sit next to Cheyanne.

"Thanks for your never-ending support, Howard," Austin muttered. Looking up at Kevin, she shrugged again. "I'm two days late—"

“Let’s go!” Kevin blurted, tugging her from the bed before stooping to throw her sandals into her arms. “We need to get to drug store.”

"Kevin! It's too soon!" Austin cried, shaking her head in disbelief. The man had his heart set on having a child, and soon. "The only way I could know for sure this early would be a blood test—"

“Then we’re going for one of those! C’mon!”

"If you keep jerking on my arm, it's going to fall off! I don't want a blood test! I want to wait and find out for sure! Later."

“Yet you had to tell him you were late?” Howie questioned in confusion.

"Did I or did I not put emphasis on later when I said I had to tell him something?!"

“You know Kevin--”

"If I go buy a little stick to take a piss on will it make you happy?" Austin asked her fiancé with a sigh. "Or at least shut you up for a day or two?"

“Let’s go!” Kevin insisted loudly, jutting his finger toward the door. “They have those early pregnancy test jiggers! Let’s go now! You can’t just tell me you’re late and that be the end of it!”

"Okay, okay! Keep your shirt on!"

“Well get your shoes on!”

Austin shot him a glare. "Do you mind if I take a piss before we go?"

“Yes! I do! Save it for the test!” Kevin growled, yanking her out of the hotel room before she had a chance to disagree.

“I can’t imagine them when she’s really pregnant…” Cheyanne confessed with a rueful sigh as she glanced up from Olivia momentarily, only to have her infant’s hands find her face. Olivia grunted to catch her mother’s attention again and when she saw the familiar dark sapphire eyes, she cooed quite loudly with a happy smile.

"Maybe if we're lucky we'll be in Florida and they'll be in Kentucky by then," Howie mused softly, reaching to smooth Olivia's hair back. "Honey, I think she has enough hair for one of those Pebbles Flintstone hairdos…"

“I don’t think she’d ever forgive me if I did that to her beautiful curls… And you don’t think they’ll be calling us to settle the arguments of pregnancy? Like when Kevvy purposely lets her walk out of the house with mismatched shoes?” Cheyanne questioned softly, blowing a raspberry against the palm of Olivia’s hand to elicit a squeal.

"Maybe her hormones will be raging so much they'll spend the entire nine months in bed?"

“Lucky her,” Cheyanne scoffed, bringing Olivia close for kisses. “…You do realize that Kevvy and Austi are insistent on having me and Cinnamon live with them after the tour… Right?”

"Do what?" Howie sputtered, leaning back to stare at her. He had hoped she would be staying with him. "When did they decide this?!"

“It was decided even before we got back together…” Cheyanne answered as she reached for the blanket draped behind her, sensing Olivia’s hunger. “We even talked about it while you were at the house, Tea…”

"I thought they were just teasing… Why can't you come stay with me?"

“Because your mother would have an absolute fit? Engagement or no engagement.”

"But… You'll be in Kentucky…" Howie whined.

“That’s where Austi and Kevvy are planning on living… So it would make sense that I’d be there if I’m living with them…”

"If? So there's a chance I can steal you away?"

“Tea...”

"Alright… I suppose it's only right… Momma would castrate me if we were to live in sin…"

“Yeah, she would and I would be devastated to lose such a useful member of this relationship,” Cheyanne cooed softly as she shrouded her daughter in a comfortable darkness to eat before leaning to capture his lips for a sweet kiss. As much as she hated having to accept Kevin and Austin’s arrangement instead of moving directly in with Howie, she had to respect his mother’s wishes. She knew that they were intimate and didn’t mind the occasional weekends spent together, but a living arrangement was completely different. Cheyanne understood as much, though she’d miss him terribly and held the original fear that the distance would separate them once more.

"…And I thought you were marrying me for my money…" Howie teased gently, his fingers curling lightly in her hair to hold her lips to his. "So we need to set a date soon, 'cause I don't want to live without you for too long…"

“I wouldn’t care if you were penniless… As long as I had you…” Cheyanne murmured sweetly against his lips, nibbling against his bottom lip. She couldn’t believe he was asking to set a date for their wedding soon. It made her heart flitter.

"I love you, Honey… Just pick a day, okay? Whatever you decide on, I'll agree to," he promised.

“Soon,” Cheyanne rushed with an excited breath, slipping a hand away from holding Olivia to caress Howie’s face as she kissed him. “I don’t want to live in Kentucky without you…”

"Maybe I can sweet talk your Grand-Momma R into letting me rent her spare room?" Howie suggested with a smile, his heart fluttering excitedly at the thought of marrying her.

Cheyanne wrinkled her brow with confusion as she leaned back, sweeping her hand beneath the blanket so she could shift Olivia to the opposite breast. “Why would you do that?”

Howie waited until he heard the soft suckling of Olivia's mouth before answering. "So I could be closer to you?"

“But… Your whole life is in Florida… To rent a room from Grand-Momma R would be silly… I mean, we’ve done long distance…”

"And it didn't work out," he reminded her softly, reaching to lift the blanket to glance at Olivia. "If getting a room from Ann is silly, well… We'll just have to talk Kevin and Austin into making lots of trips to Florida…"

“That’s expensive…” Cheyanne trailed, glancing down to see what was entrancing Howie. Olivia’s sapphire eyes were slowly starting to droop with exhaustion, but she remained quite attached to her mother’s breast. Like always, her tiny hand clamped possessively against the warm tissue as she suckled, attempting to watch Cheyanne though she fought sleep. “And, she’s hungry…”

"That's good… Oh! Crapola in a box," Howie muttered, shifting slightly to retrieve his cell phone. "I got with Brian about Drew and Jo's late wedding dinner, and apparently everybody's leaning towards next Friday… So I'll get on the internet later and look for a good restaurant…"

“Okay…” Cheyanne trailed, tucking the blanket down so she could watch her daughter, knowing they hadn’t made a decision. They never seemed to make decisions, which Cheyanne was at fault for. She was so scared to step over boundaries or potentially hurt others. To tell Howie what she wanted without fear of repercussions.

"And what do you think of a week after Cinnamon's first birthday? It's a Saturday," Howie informed her, flipping through the calendar on his phone.

“For Jo and Drew-Drop’s late wedding dinner?” Cheyanne murmured in confusion, glancing up from Olivia as her eyelids sealed lightly with slumber.

"No, that'll be next Friday… Next summer for our wedding…"

“Our wedding?” Cheyanne whispered as she adjust herself back into her tank top, nestling Olivia against her chest to rest peacefully. And she couldn’t hide the smile on her face. “You’re really setting a date?”

"If it's alright with you? The tour ends in January… And you and Badonkadonk will be in Carolina until their wedding in late March, right? So I can come up there and stay with you through that… Then you and Cinnamon can come stay with me in Florida while they're on their honeymoon in Disneyworld and St. Tropez," Howie stated decisively, tucking his phone back into his pocket before pulling Cheyanne close to him. "How does that sound to you?"

“Sounds like I won’t have to miss you as terribly as I first thought,” Cheyanne confessed softly as she nestled within Howie’s embrace, turning her face to affectionately kiss his chest. “Hell, I was just about to ask if we could back track to Las Vegas…”

"And chance the wrath of Paula Dorough?" Howie questioned, making a face. "…I'd rather she castrate me for living in sin…"

“If you were castrated… Could I supplement another man for children?”

"As long as I got approval on the man you used?"

“You do realize that I’ll never be able to share you with another woman…”

"Considering you've already proven you're able to create beautiful children, not to mention that I love you too much to even look at another woman, I don't see that coming up…"

“You forgot to mention how astoundingly gorgeous I am,” Cheyanne whispered with an impish smirk, rubbing Howie’s thigh affectionately as Olivia sighed softly within her sleep.

"Haven't I told you that already today? I swear I remember mentioning it—"

“I was kidding, Sweet Tea,” Cheyanne answered softly, trailing her fingers up his thigh.

"Yeah, yeah… Come on… Let's get to our room before they get back and we're immersed in the waiting of results," he murmured, kissing her cheek softly.

*~*~*


“How’s Kevvy about finding out that the pregnancy test was negative?” Cheyanne questioned Austin softly as they walked along the back of the large, air conditioned venue while the sound check party continued. Katie had demanded that Josephine watch Cheyanne so she had a baby doll to play with. Cheyanne had been unsure at first, but the boys insisted she come to watch the sound check. The band and boys had been warming up for awhile and a select group of fans had been chosen to participate in the session. Cheyanne was still amazed at how dedicated the fans were as she glanced down to see dozens of flashes exploded while the boys performed a song to make sure the equipment was functioning properly. But her attention immediately shifted toward Austin, knowing she was still upset about the negative pregnancy test. “You guys are going to get pregnant, Austi. It’s not a wham-bam-thank-ya-ma’am. Besides, think of it this way, if you were pregnant now… You’d be ready to explode by your wedding… Now, you’ll be gorgeous for your wedding and get pregnant on your honeymoon. Like it’s supposed to be! Then Kevvy’ll dance around with cigars claiming he’s the macho man, when we know you did all the work anyway…”

"He's okay with it… Though now he's after me to go to a doctor and find out for sure," Austin sighed, shaking her head. "I mean, it's a-fucking-parent that I'm not, isn't it? Seeing as how I started last night," she added softly with a shrug. "And as for the macho man bit… He already bought a large box of some Cuban ones… I don't know, Chey. I want to be pregnant, but it's almost like me having a kid and us getting married is all he thinks about," she admitted, glancing down at her fiancé.

“What else do you want him to think about?” Cheyanne questioned as she turned around to lean on the back of the venue seats, folding her arms against her chest. She watched Austin carefully with her receptively dark sapphire eyes, wanting to understand. Though she figured it was time for trouble to explode between Kevin and Austin since they had been so loving lately.

"I don't know… Sex is almost becoming a chore between us," Austin muttered, leaning against the railing so she could look at Cheyanne. "And you know how much I love sex, right? Imagine me telling Pretty Boy I have a headache."

“Who knew you’d start hating sex and I’d start loving it…” Cheyanne trailed in attempts to make a joke, though she sobered with the unpleasant look on Austin’s face. “Maybe you should tell him… Besides, having sex all the time to conceive drops his stores of sperm. When it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen… Don’t force it…”

"I know… He probably means well, but… I don't even know anymore, Chey. I'm so damn stressed, I bummed a cigarette of Skinny—"

“Don’t tell me that!” Cheyanne squealed with disbelief, clamping her hands tightly against her pierced ears.

"Well I was going to bum one off Boohbah, but he so damned conveniently quit… Speaking of which, how are things going with you two?" Austin questioned, eager to steer the conversation from herself.

“He doesn’t have anymore cigarettes?” Cheyanne questioned softly, moistening her bottom lip with a glimmer of excitement glinting in her sapphire eyes. “I raided his bus and didn’t find any and he promised… But, that’d be like you promising and that stash you have on the back porch…”

"How'd you find out about that?!"

“Oh please, I’ve known about that since you first said – I promise to quit, Chey-Chey! For you and Ollie!” Cheyanne declared dramatically, though she was scowling just the same. “And I swear to God if Cinnamon develops asthma, you’re banned from her. You and Al.”

"I asked how you and Boohbah were doing?" Austin pressed with a wave of her hand.

“How are we supposed to be doing?” Cheyanne sighed, knowing Austin was relentless. So, she turned toward the stage again, smirking slightly when Nick jumped to wave at her while performing. He was adorably silly. That part of their relationship hadn’t faded, which she thanked the Heavens for. “We’re friends…”

"That's good… Isn't it? Or do you miss the crazy freaky sex you two had?"

“Austi…” Cheyanne groaned, rubbing her temples. As if having these conversations with Nick wasn’t hard enough. “I loved him y’know… It wasn’t just crazy freaky sex… And, yeah, maybe I do miss it. But I swear to God if you tell Tea--”

"Just how crazy freaky was it?"

“I’m not having this conversation with you.”

"Chey… Fine…" Austin trailed with a pout. "How crazy do you and City Boy get?"

“I thought having Vivie with her wild sex stories would keep you away from prying into mine…”

"Vivie's wild sex stories start losing their luster after the buzz dies…"

“Well, mine ain’t that exciting,” Cheyanne promised as she reached for Austin’s hands, tugging her down the stairs as the boys began to play Poster Girl. It was one of her favorites off the new album. “And, I think my relationships are complicated enough without talking about them. Being best friends with Nick… I just feel so guilty…”

"I still have no damn clue how you can be best friends with some guy you— Ow!" Austin yelped in surprise as Cheyanne jerked her down the last steps. "That's my arm you're pulling out of its socket!"

“Well if you would follow the direction of the tugs it wouldn’t be yanked out. And he’s not some guy. Damnit, Austi…”

"Okay! I'm sorry, Chey, really… I think it's good that you and him have worked it all out," Austin informed her as they neared the stage.

“I guess…” Cheyanne sighed, slipping into a row close to the stage, though they were separated from the fans.

"Ohmigosh! It's Howie's fiancée!" a nearby young woman squealed, immediately snapping a picture as Cheyanne sank into a seat.

“They actually know me as a fiancée now?” Cheyanne murmured with question toward her best friend, biting down on her bottom lip to hide her impish smirk as she waved at the woman. “When did Howie get the gall to start announcing it? Or I guess the jig was up when they noticed my branding ring on him…”

"Haven't you checked the fan sites lately? They're laying odds on whether you two are married yet," Austin stated with a grin.

“Oh please! The way he set a date was when he had a panic attack over the idea of me living in Kentucky with you and Kevvy.”

"The threat worked, huh?"

“I didn’t threaten him!”

"Oh please! Like you were really going to live in Kentucky with us when your City Boy was down in Florida—"

"Cheyanne? Austin? Can we get some pictures with you?"

“For your information, you were so insistent on me moving to Kentucky that I didn’t have the heart to say no. And I really was going to live with you, but now since I was so rudely kicked out apparently, I’ll figure out something else,” Cheyanne promised as she stood to greet the fans. “Pictures with us? Didn’t know we were so special that we’d even get on a roll of film that has to go to a concert tonight.”

"Looks like they found your Honey," Nick's voice boomed from the speakers. Austin glanced up to see him nudging Howie, who simply grinned and waved at them.

“At least he realizes I’m actually watching the sound check for once,” Cheyanne breathed toward Austin, eliciting a laugh from the fans when she climbed over the seats to join their row.

Giggling, Austin clamored after her. "And Pretty Boy has yet to—"

"And they dredged up my Princess as well!"

"Damnit," Austin muttered with a coy wave. "I swear that man has a brainwave attached to mine."

“More like his lips to your ass,” Cheyanne decided sweetly, her eyes widening when the girls reacted with a mixture of giggles and snorts. She instantly blushed with an apologetic smile. “I am such a bad influence…”

The shorter of the two giggled harder. "Please. Kevin can plant his lips on my ass—"

“That might not be the best thing to mention, soon-to-be-wifey can get quite possessive!” Cheyanne whispered loudly to intensify the giggles as the boys seemed to abandon practice to watch the women.

"You have nothing to worry about," the other girl assured Austin with a sweet smile. "She may talk about Kevin all the time, but it's really AJ that gets her all excited."

"Chey!" Nick shouted through the microphone. "You going to play guitar for us?!"

“Excuse me, that would be my Nicky attempting to save me from getting murdered again,” Cheyanne announced with a quick smile as she slipped between the two girls, aiming the digital camera at them for a quick picture. Satisfied, she ducked away from Austin’s hold, rushing up to the stage only to leap into Drew’s arms to make the metal railing. “Thank ya, Drew-Drop!”

"Anytime, Chey!" Drew chuckled, pushing her up to a waiting Howie, who pulled her onstage with ease. Turning, he was surprised to see Austin amongst the fans, poring over autographed items. "You're not getting onstage?" he called.

“No! I’m basking in my own personal limelight!” Austin hollered, waving them off as if they were offending her.

"She's just an attention whore," Nick pointed out with a wicked grin.

“Like that wasn’t obvious already,” Brian chuckled as Austin flipped Nick the middle finger.

"Where's your new girlfriend, Brian?" a fan called above the laughter.

"Yeah," Austin muttered. "Speaking of whores…" Which only caused the laughter to increase amongst the fans.

“You…” Brian couldn’t even find the time to finish the sentence as he scrambled off the stage, now anxious to find where his girlfriend had disappeared to. Her being alone on tour was like leaving a pyromaniac with lighter fluid and a set of matches.

“So… Why did I come up here again?” Cheyanne trailed as she tucked her hands into the back pockets of her camouflaged cargo capris.

Grinning, Nick motioned to his guitar. "Got to show off all those lessons I've been giving you, Sweetheart," he informed her.

Cheyanne deadpanned as she slipped behind Howie for protection. “You were serious?!”

"Well, yeah!" Nick laughed, picking up his guitar to hand it over. "After all, if you don't start showing off, some people are going to think you're doing other things when you're spending all that alone time with me," he whispered in her ear.

“Well, when they hear me play they’re going to know that we’ve been doing other things,” Cheyanne contradicted as Howie stepped out of the way, allowing Nick to slide the guitar strap over her shoulder. Not wanting to harm his instrument, she held the neck, attempting to glare at him as he scooted her toward his microphone. “Nicky, your fans do not need tortured!”

"Nick! Can I come on tour so you can teach me how to play?" a fan cooed from the front row.

“Is she serious?” Cheyanne and Austin muttered at the same time, though Cheyanne’s voice laced with possessiveness.

Nick chuckled in her ear, patting her shoulder gently. "Jealous?" he whispered, reaching to adjust the microphone stand.

“No, I’m not jealous,” Cheyanne defended, leaning back so she could steal the extra guitar pick he always kept in his right back pocket.

"Liar," Nick grumbled, offering a swift pat to her backside before stepping aside.

“Are you upset that I’m not jealous?” she squeaked in shock at the gentle slap to her bottom, reaching out to grasp Nick’s t-shirt so he wouldn’t go too far. Just staring down at the small dozens of fans made her heart leap to her throat, especially because she knew she would probably make their ears bleed.

"Not at all," Nick replied with a smirk. "After all… I can tell just by looking at you."

“You’re supposed to be dating, y’know…” Cheyanne trailed, strumming a few chords to assure her comfort level on the guitar. Though, the second Nick slipped the strap over her she had felt comfortable. He always said he was amazed at how quickly she picked up on the various lessons, though she told him it was because she had a perfect teacher. Anything to get him to smile.

"I am dating," Nick informed with a singsong voice.

Cheyanne glanced toward him with confusion. “Who?”

"Well, don't go blabbing to AJ… I'm taking Katie out for Chuck E. Cheese after sound check—"

“You’re speaking into a microphone,” Cheyanne interjected.

"Damnit," Nick cursed loudly, shooting Cheyanne a glare when she giggled. "I'm not telling."

“You just did!”

"I was lying!"

“Right…” Cheyanne trailed, strumming a familiar set of soft chords with a small smile.

"He does have a date after sound check," AJ murmured to Cheyanne as he passed on his way to get a water.

“Who?” Cheyanne insisted as she glanced back to Nick. She studied his dark sapphire eyes with disbelief, unable to hide the slight glimmer of hurt that caught in hers. Not that she didn’t want Nick to find love and find true happiness, but the thought of him dating still hurt. She still loved him. More than he would ever know. So, why didn’t he tell her at least? “Who are you going out with after sound check?”

Nick was suddenly immensely interested in the layout of the lights overhead. "Huh? Oh… Nobody special… Just a cousin of Austin who lives in town. Kevin got me her number, and—"

“Morgan?” Cheyanne interrupted, already knowing exactly who he was referring to. “She’s nice…”

"Uh oh," Austin breathed from her seat next to a fan. "I'm dead…"

Nick shrugged, looking over at Cheyanne. "Are you going to play or not?"

“I… Yeah…” Cheyanne sighed, finding the chords necessary to play one of her favorite Green Day songs. With a flourish of plucked strings, Cheyanne created an identical melody to that of the song, She’s a Rebel. She ignored the pain radiating in her heart at the mere suggestion of Nick dating again. Not that she didn’t want him to find love, but she couldn’t deny it hurt. Which just seemed to wash a fresh coat of guilt over her heart as she stepped to the microphone, singing the lyrics beautifully. “She’s a rebel / She’s a saint / She’s salt of the earth / And she’s dangerous…”

Nick nodded along to the beat, smiling at her accomplishment. Though he wasn't truly surprised. It seemed everything Cheyanne touched turned into something lovely and beautiful to be admired. Smiling, he noticed the fans were nodding approvingly, though Austin appeared to be hiding behind them as Cheyanne's eyes darted across the small crowd.

Cheyanne spotted just the wisps of her friend’s dark locks and decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. Austin already understood and was hiding because she knew Cheyanne would be upset. But what was the point in dredging up the hurt? Of admitting to her selfish nature? Swallowing her pain, she fell into the excitement of the music, jumping slightly with the shift in chords as she turned slightly to find Howie. She had to be happy for Nick. “Is she dreaming / What I’m thinking? / Is she the mother of all bombs / Gonna detonate / Is she trouble / Like I’m trouble / Make it double…”

Howie smiled in appreciation of his fiancée's talent. Though not much of a rock fan, he found he was losing himself in the melody, completely content just watching her play and sing.

Cheyanne’s heart flipped slightly when she saw Howie’s smile, turning back to finish off the song instead of just running into his arms. Playing the familiar chords, she added her own personal flourish to the end, invoking the audience into silence when she finished. Taking it as a bad sign, she slipped the guitar from her shoulders, forcing herself to meet Nick’s gaze as she offered it back. “Better get back to practice so you ain’t late for Morgan.”

Nick nodded as the fans began to applaud Cheyanne's performance. "You did great…" he trailed, his brows wrinkling in confusion as Cheyanne headed away. Looking towards Kevin, he cleared his throat. "What'd I do?"

“Nothing, La-La’s probably hungry or something,” Kevin answered with a shrug of his shoulders, watching Cheyanne embrace Howie briefly to murmur something in his ear. Satisfied, she affectionately kissed her fiancé’s cheek before disappearing with a small wave and thanks to the fans.

Nick watched Cheyanne's form disappear backstage, sighing miserably when she didn’t glance back at him like always. Handing his guitar over to a stage hand, he reached for his water. He realized he probably shouldn't have told her about his date with Morgan, had fully intended to keep it to himself until she'd begun teasing him. It wasn’t as though it were anything serious. In all reality, he was only doing it to shut Kevin up, who seemed Hell bent on creating some sort of match for him. As though any other woman in the world could take his heart from Cheyanne.
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