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Chapter 80 – Laughing Matters

Adjusting the baby carrier on his chest, Nick stooped to scoop Olivia from her bouncy seat, grinning when her feet kicked at him in protest. "Hey, it's cool," he assured her softly, easing her into the carrier. Checking the straps, he assured himself that she was secure, keeping one hand on her back as he headed from the lounge. Cheyanne had fallen asleep on the couch, blissfully unaware of all the noise around her as Baylee and Katie chased and shouted at one another, the sounds of a video game blasting from the large screen TV as Brian and AJ attempted to obliterate each other onscreen. Austin was on her phone with Kevin's mother, going over something about the wedding menu, Vivian and Josephine were discussing the upcoming Europe leg of the tour, Kevin was dozing in his fiancée's lap. Howie had been going over something on his laptop and had asked Nick to keep and eye on Olivia while he went for his shower. Wondering how a baby was supposed to get any rest amongst all the cacophony of back stage, Nick had decided to try out the carrier and show his little Zombie around. "Atta girl," he cooed as she rested her head against his chest as he walked down the corridor. "Just Zombie and her Uncle Nicky."

Cooing softly at the soft timbre of Nick’s voice, Olivia reached to coil her tiny fingers in his t-shirt, bringing it close to her face. She seemed pleased with Nick’s decision to rescue her, showing her utmost appreciation as she chewed on his shirt. It was surprising to realize that Olivia had been with the family over a month’s time. She was growing in leaps and bounds, though she still remained petite. A pint-sized version of her mother in every way. From her growing honey curls to her sapphire eyes and even her facial expressions. Especially the way she curled her fingers in Nick’s t-shirt and bounced her tiny foot against him as he walked to the stage.

Nick chuckled, reaching to lightly tickle the bottom of her foot as he stepped to the center of the stage. Turning to one side, he made a sweeping gesture with his arm. "See? This is where your Uncle Nicky and Daddy sing and do a little dancing every night. And there's where your Momma stands to watch us when we talk her into coming to a show," he told her, turning to point to just offstage. "And this," he added with a grin, reaching to pick up his guitar from its stand. "This is Uncle Nicky's guitar, and when you can sit up and hold it I'll teach you how to play, okay? Don't look so worried, we'll start off slow, I promise…"

Reaching with a free hand, Olivia brushed her fingers over the guitar strings, eliciting a soft twang. Her sapphire eyes popped open in surprise at the sound as her lips curved into an ‘o’ of surprise. And when the sound faded, she grinned up at Nick with a coo.

"That's my little Zombie," Nick cooed, setting the guitar down. "Now, we need to have a talk," he stated seriously, sitting on the piano bench. Glancing around to make sure no one was eavesdropping, he lifted Olivia from the carrier, securing her in one arm before tossing the carrier aside. Cradling her in both arms, he looked down at her. "First of all, no boys, okay? Not until you're at least twenty-one. Don't look like that," he admonished when her lips formed a small pout. "I'm saying this for your own good! You don't want to end up with some loser who'll just get leave you barefoot and pregnant, do you?"

Olivia wrinkled her nose in spite as if she were offended at the mere suggestion of being less than what she could achieve. Though, the wrinkled nose turned into a sneeze as she reached up to touch Nick’s face, almost as if she were promising to listen.

"Well you didn't have to snot all over me," Nick informed her, making a face as he reached to wipe her nose with a tissue. "I'm just saying… Follow your dreams and your heart, don't let anyone stand in the way. Be all that you can be, and all that jazz, okay?" Leaning over, he blew a soft raspberry against her cheek.

Olivia writhed appreciatively in Nick’s arms with the raspberry, almost as if she were attempting to squirm away. But, something that surprised Nick was the small giggle that erupted from her tiny body. Her first giggle ever.

"Holy shit," he breathed in surprise, grinning from ear to ear as he stared at her. "You haven't done that before, have you? Do it again!" he insisted, blowing another raspberry on her neck. His grin growing wider when she released another giggle. "Hot damn! Let's go show your Momma!"

Leaping up from the piano seat, Nick had full intentions of racing back the corridor to rouse Cheyanne. Only, when he turned toward the exit, he found Cheyanne and Howie already waiting. They had been observing him and Olivia for quite some time. A shiny glisten covered Cheyanne’s sapphire eyes as she smiled appreciatively at Nick. She couldn’t believe Olivia had actually giggled. It was the most adorable thing in the world. To see her nestled so protectively in Nick’s arms as she lavished his attention. “You made my little girl giggle, Nicky…”

"Twice!" Nick cried in triumph, reluctantly shifting Olivia into Cheyanne's arms when she reached for her. "I made our little girl giggle twice!"

“I saw,” Cheyanne laughed softly, snuggling Olivia close as she cooed with another giggle.

Nick, still grinning, looked from Howie to Cheyanne, feeling suddenly left out as their attention descended upon Olivia, each cooing with pride over her giggles. His grin slowly faded away. "I… Well, since you're awake and you've showered, I think I'll go call Aaron before sound check," he decided, feeling as though he were intruding on a family moment.

“You don’t have to leave. You’re the one that made her giggle, Nicky,” Cheyanne murmured, reaching to grasp his t-shirt when Howie took Olivia to blow raspberries on her stomach to elicit a barrage of giggles.

"You know, you're not supposed to get all frisky with me in front of Howie…" Nick trailed with a smirk, draping an arm over her shoulder. "He might start to—Oh shit," he gasped in pain when Cheyanne's elbow made sharp contact with his stomach. "Kidding!"

“Behave with my daughter around,” Cheyanne warned, squealing in shock when Nick’s fingers found her sensitive sides. Leaping away, she stared at Nick with shock, frowning when Olivia giggled with delight, mimicking the squeal from her mother. “Not funny!”

"Just ignore them, Cinnamon," Howie murmured, shaking his head as Cheyanne began to attack Nick again. "They're just completely crazy," he added.

Olivia cooed at her father with appreciation over his sentiment, her lips forming another small ‘o’ as if she were surprised with the revelation. Her mother? Crazy? Olivia grinned.

"Nick!" Austin bellowed from somewhere backstage. "Your cell phone's ringing nonstop!"

"Well answer it!" Nick shouted back, scooping Cheyanne up and tossing her over his shoulder.

"Hell no! It might be Morgan, and I'll be damned if I want to talk to her!"

“Morgan…” Cheyanne trailed, suddenly remembering the date Nick went on the past week. She bit down hard on her bottom lip as she dangled against Nick’s shoulder, patting his back. “How was it?”

Nick groaned, knowing he couldn't tell her all that had happened. "It was alright…" he trailed. "Nothing special." Morgan had turned out to be nearly as bad as Austin, though they had shared a couple of laughs over coffee. But Nick had found himself longing to leave and get back to his buddy time with Cheyanne.

“Of course it was nothing special, you were drinking coffee. Who can stand that junk?” Cheyanne shuddered, wondering how she could get off his shoulder without inflicting injury.

"…I never said I actually drank any…"

“You? Not drink coffee? I think my heart just stopped,” Cheyanne breathed dramatically as Austin came stomping onto the stage with the ringing phone. “Better put me down to answer your precious Morgan…”

"Precious?" Nick repeated, gently lowering her to the floor before Austin slapped the phone into his hand. "What makes her precious?" he questioned with a glance at the display.

Cheyanne shrugged haphazardly, not really having a clear definition of her intentions. For the most part, her emotions were so tangled when it came to Nick, making it hard to explain to others, let alone herself. So, she kept quiet as she tugged on her racer back tank downward, though it still remained an inch above her navel to display her new piercing. “I’ll let you take the phone call in privacy.”

"It's just Aaron," Nick stated, holding up the phone so she could read the id on the display – Fucker Jr. "Ain't nobody precious calling, Sweetheart," he assured her. For a moment he had been tempted to play it off as though it were Morgan, if only to make Cheyanne show a tiny bit of jealousy. But the hurt look in her eyes warned him not to. Flipping open the phone, he gave her a grin. "What is it, Fucker?"

“Like I really want to be around you while you try to compare penis sizes with your little brother,” Cheyanne teased, warding off any pain as she slipped close to offer a hello to the younger Carter. “Hey, Aaron.”

"Cherry panties girl!" Aaron bellowed, causing Nick to hold the phone away from his ear with a scowl.

"That's my ear, Fucker," he growled as Cheyanne slipped away, giggling. "What the Hell do you want now?" he questioned, giving Cheyanne and Howie a quick wave before heading off the stage.

“Besides a new picture of the little hottie… Y’know, you only had pregnant pictures of her, but now I bet she looks bangin’. You could at least slip the phone under her shorts for a little, y’know, cha-ching!” Aaron exclaimed with the usual flourish of testosterone he was known for.

"Jesus Christ, man! Do you want a picture of her that fucking bad?" Nick asked, glancing into the lounge to survey the damage. Baylee and Katie were now screaming at each other at top volume, so loudly even AJ was starting to look pissed. Deciding he would be better off throwing himself at a pack of rabid wolves, he continued down the corridor, slipping outside for a quick cigarette. "And thank God you weren't that fucking Morgan."

“Yes, I want a picture of her that fucking bad. Preferably in one of her little bikinis! You think you could manage that? …And Morgan? The dyke that Kevin set you up with? What happened?”

"I think I've got a bikini shot on the computer… I'll check after the show. And Morgan's not a dyke… At least, she wasn't last week, when we—Anyway, she's fucking annoying as Hell… Calling me all the fucking time. Like just 'cause I gave her some we're some sort of fucking couple now," Nick muttered, shuddering at the thought of being attached to Morgan.

“You’re definitely a dumbass for letting Howie have Cherries back…”

"Like I don't realize that now? Shit… It's torture, Fucker. Having her so fucking close and not being able to touch her—"

“Why can’t you touch her? Man, that’s an open field! You’ve fucked her! Touching should still be an option!”

"Sure, I can touch her… I just can't… Well…" Nick couldn't bring himself to say the words.

“Oh, please, you could fuck her again if you wanted. You had her while she was engaged to Howie… Like now is any different… That’s the best kind of secret!”

"She wouldn't let me, Fucker… I guess I'll just have to stick to the random chicks… Speaking of which… You coming down to Florida when I'm on my break?"

“You going to actually make it to the dock without getting nailed?”

"That was a fucking fluke, man… That cop was so bogus… I'll call you the day before I'm heading out, right?"

“I’ll have more bail money waiting.”

"Smart ass, aren't you, Fucker? You just better hope your ass don't get caught chugging down Coronas while we're on the boat… Got any chicks lined up?"

“Always… Are you still against blondes?”

"I was thinking of inviting Morgan… Never mind, fuck her, get me a nice redhead—"

“Big titties, nice ass, red head, got it!”

"Don't fuck up, Fucker. Make sure they're fucking legal this time, okay?"

“Everyone’s legal for me, Asshole.”

"What-the-fuck-ever. I don't want to be banging some chick that's gotta be home by midnight—"

“Keep your dick on, Fucking Loser. You wouldn’t even have this problem if you weren’t so fucking lazy.”

"Well, if you don't think you're fucking man enough to do it, I'll just call Morgan—"

“Like I give a shit if you call her or not. You’re the one bitching about her in the first-fucking-place.”

"If a man can't bitch to his baby bro, who the Hell can he bitch to?" Nick glanced at the clock on his phone with a sigh. "And I've got to go, Fucker. I'll call you."

“Not without a picture of a half naked Cherry Panties, you won’t,” Aaron warned.

"If it'll get you off the phone sooner, I'm going to email you the bikini pictures now, okay? Jesus Christ… Like there ain't a million other women in the world to jack off over—"

“She’s special,” Aaron decided, ending the conversation.


Austin smirked with amusement as she paused in the threshold of the living room, leaning against the wall as she observed Cheyanne. The United States portion of the boys’ tour had finished and they had a small break before they would be off to Europe. So, Austin requested that she get Cheyanne for a few days in North Carolina before Howie took her to Florida so his family could finally meet Olivia. She had been adamant that she get time alone with Cheyanne beforehand. They had some things to get prepared for Europe, like making sure Moth had the necessary items to stay with Jeff while they were away. And, Austin hadn’t regretted her decision for a minute, utterly thankful that she finally had Cheyanne alone. The pressure of the tour seemed to be too much at times. Especially considering how happy Cheyanne was now. So goofy as she danced around the living room to Honkeytonk Badonkadonk with a spoon in her mouth from her frozen Hawaiian Punch slushie. She was adorable.

“You are such a goofball, Cheyanne Grace!” Austin finally howled with laughter.

“I’m adorable!” Cheyanne contradicted with a proud grin as swayed her hips to the sultry beats of the song, gesturing for Austin to come closer. She had just settled Olivia down for a nap and wanted to enjoy some music while the baby monitor was tucked securely in her back pocket.

"You're just so damn unfortunate, ya know? You have no Badonkadonk to speak of," Austin sighed, moving into the living room. A devious smile on her lips, she placed her hands on the younger woman's hips. "You're shaking them too fast!"

“That’s why the baby monitor is in my back pocket,” Cheyanne teased with a laugh, though her sapphire eyes widened when Austin stopped her movements. “Um… That was the beat of the song… I know how to dance… I think…”

"It goes slower, Chey-Chey! Like this," she informed with a smirk, moving Cheyanne's hips slowly. "Maybe we should get you one of those butt-lifting jiggers that give you a Badokadonk. Though, you already have the greatest titties in the world, ain't like you need an ass to go with it," she teased.

“Butt-lifting jigger?” Cheyanne inquired with confusion, not bothering to comment on the second half of the suggestion as she swayed her hips at the speed Austin requested, dipping as she moved.

"You know those tittie-lifters I got a couple years back that gave me awesome cleavage? It's like that… Only for the butt…" Austin trailed with an amused smirk.

“I know I don’t have much back there… But I like my ass,” Cheyanne answered, turning so Austin could view her backside, craning her neck to look as well. “It’s small and tight… And don’t even suggest Howie’s penis going anywhere near it.”

Austin wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Um… Ew? I don't need a mental image of Howie packing fudge…"

“I was just covering my bases.”

"Brian's chick was trying to tell me how pleasurable it can be to have a man's whatcha-jigger up there, and that just turned me off even more, right? Like I needed the mental image of the two of them doing anything sexual…" Austin shuddered at the thought, clapping her hands on her own hips as she dipped low to the floor. "And speaking of things sexual…"

“Where’s the camera?” Cheyanne suggested with an impish grin.

Austin immediately popped up, giggling. "You know your Daddy made us promise he could be here when we finally walk down that road," she informed her friend. "I was actually speaking of Nick…"

“Nick?” Cheyanne repeated, immediately sobering as she reached to turn off the boom box.

"Nick. Tall, blonde hair, blue eyes? Your other boyfriend?

Cheyanne carefully moistened her bottom lip as she crawled onto the couch with her bowl of frozen Hawaiian Punch. “Yeah? What about him?”

"Could you possibly tell him to call Morgan and inform her what the Hell's going on?" Austin requested, flopping on the other end of the couch. "'Cause if she calls me one more time—"

“Austi… I ain’t getting into that…”

"Chey-Chey, I know you're still hung up on him, okay? And, not to be cruel or anything…" Austin sighed, running a hand through her dark hair. "But… Eventually he will start seeing someone else seriously…"

“I’m not still hung up on him,” Cheyanne defended as she avoided eye contact, suddenly not hungry anymore as she pushed her bowl aside. “I’m very happy with Tea. I couldn’t ask for anything more. And I want Nick to be happy. I want him to see someone seriously…”

"Then why do you start closing up when anyone mentions him with someone else?"

Cheyanne sighed softly, starting to fiddle with her engagement ring. “Because I still love him. I can’t help but love him. And… He told me he wants to work on himself before he starts trying to find someone to love. But, he’s not working on himself… And… I want him to love again, I just don’t want him to forget what we had together… It’s selfish, I know--”

"You just worry, Chey. That's normal. And you want him to be happy… Don't you think, despite all the shit he put me through, I want Stephen to be happy too?"

“I never said you didn’t…”

"It's going to be okay, Chey. You can't make Nick work on himself. He'll have to do that when he's ready…" Pulling one leg under her, Austin turned to look at Cheyanne. "And… I invited Stephen to the wedding—"

“I hope to God you’re joking…”

"I addressed an invitation… I haven't put it in the box to go to Momma R yet…"

“Does Kevvy know?”

"I'm not dead yet, am I? I don't even know if I'll send it… What if he goes trotting off to tell Noah about you and Ollie? Then that fucktard will start showing his ass, and I'd really hate to have to cancel part of my honeymoon to go murder somebody…"

“But Noah technically is Cinnamon’s--”

"Noah ain't shit to Ollie," Austin interrupted softly. "He gave up that right when he threw that money at you. Nuh-uh, Chey. Howie is that baby's daddy. She just got your good looks."

“Okay…” Cheyanne agreed softly, wondering if she should have done things differently. If she should have pressed charges on Noah in the very beginning. It seemed like a lost cause at this point, though it slightly disturbed her that Nick and Stephen were linked in Austin’s mind.

“Don’t you dare give Noah another thought, Cheyanne Grace…”

“Fine,” Cheyanne sighed, moving to lay her head in Austin’s lap. Glancing up at her best friend, she covered her eyes for a moment to hide any tears that might threaten to fall. “…Do you think it’s selfish of me to still love Nick?”

"I don't know, baby girl…" Austin murmured gently, lightly running her hands through Cheyanne's hair. "After all, what you two had was so damn special, it'd be crazy of you not to still love him. And you know he still loves you… Look at how much he's changed since y'all had that little talks a few weeks ago. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink…"

“I really do want him to be happy. I want him to find somebody to love… And I’m always careful around him and Howie, so I don’t hurt him…”

"Maybe you should kick that matchmaking gear of yours into overdrive…"

“He told me that he’d tell me when he’s ready for that… He doesn’t want me to now…”

"Yet he boldly told you about his date with Morgan? What a pissfuck—"



“Which means not really…” Cheyanne decided with a rueful smile, reaching up to bring Austin down for a playful kiss to the lips. “But, y’know what? We’re going to be in Europe for your birthday. Without Vivian. So, what are we going to do?”

"Without Brian's chick?" Austin grinned wickedly. "Hmm… Where in Europe are we going to be?"

“Sweden, I think?”

"Fucking sweet! Let's just go out and drink and watch some live sex shows— Oh, damn… Can't drag Ollie into that, can we?"

“That’s what my fiancé’s for? I mean, if you want to do that for your birthday, we’ll do it, Austi. Whatever you want…”

"You'd actually go see a live sex show with me? Seriously? I wouldn't have to slip you a few rum balls first, would I?"

Cheyanne wrinkled her nose to show her obvious displeasure though she smiled just the same. “Whatever you want, Austi.”

"…Can we bring Skinny with us?"

“If he brings the fart machine.”

"You're not funny, Chey-Chey…"

“I was being serious?”

"What happened to…" Austin cleared her throat, gazing to the side with an expression of complete innocence. "'Whatever you want, Austi'," she cooed in perfect imitation of Cheyanne.

“You’re such a bitch,” Cheyanne breathed with a teasing nature, rolling off the couch.

"But I'm your bitch!" Austin exclaimed, giggling when Cheyanne stuck out her tongue. "But okay, no Skinny… How about Brian?"

Cheyanne leaned in from the threshold of the kitchen, her sapphire eyes glittering impishly. “Do we get to try out our own live sex act?”

Austin grinned deviously, hopping up to get the load of clothes out of the dryer when it buzzed. "I don't know… Think he could handle the both of us at the same time?" she returned.

“I think I’m willing to give it a try?”

"Should I pack a few pounds of rum balls?" Austin teased.

“The more the merrier!” Cheyanne cried happily, though she shrieked with laughter as Austin tackled her with tickles.