Flopping onto Cheyanne's bed, Austin heaved a loud groan of fatigue. "I'm so sick of traveling," she declared, kicking off her shoes as Olivia babbled from her bouncy seat. "And I can't believe we're not going to be spending Thanksgiving together. This just totally sucks, Chey-Chey. You're going to be in the tropical paradise of Florida and my ass is going to be in Kentucky!" she exclaimed, lifting her head to watch Cheyanne pack.
“Aren’t you moving to live in Kentucky? So, shouldn’t you actually like the place?” Cheyanne answered in confusion, glancing up from her seated position on the floor in front of Olivia. The girls had returned home for a short break in the tour before going their separate ways for Thanksgiving. It was odd to say the very least, not being able to spend Thanksgiving with her best friend, but Cheyanne decided to make the very best of it. After all, in a few months Austin would be married and off on her honeymoon. Cheyanne would have to learn to thrive without her. So, she offered a soft smile as she cuddled Moth in her lap, playing with Olivia as she bounced excitedly. Three months old already…
"I love Kentucky," Austin assured her, rolling off the bed. Kevin had taken her home to see where he had grown up on the previous break, and she had truly enjoyed the wilderness and country that had surrounded them. She had especially loved seeing the progress on the house he was having built for them to live in. A nice secluded spot of land, within walking distance of his mother. He was even planning on building a stable to house Olivia's horse until Howie and Cheyanne found their dream home. She truly loved the land. But not having Cheyanne near her was going to be torture. "I'm just selfish… I want to have you to myself for as long as possible, y'know?"
“Oh, please, you’re just torn apart because you won’t get to take Cinnamon’s picture right next to the big ol’ turkey,” Cheyanne teased good heartedly as she reached to pluck the pacifier from her daughter’s mouth with her own. Olivia immediately squealed with delight as Cheyanne dropped it into her lap, reaching to blow wet raspberries on her daughter’s cheeks. Olivia writhed with excitement at her mother’s affections, reaching to hold her close, pealing with giggles.
"…We're having ham…"
“Ham? On Thanksgiving?” Cheyanne questioned in confusion, glancing back to her friend. “Ham’s for Easter…”
"I'm kidding! God, you should hear Kevin talk about it… Him and his brothers have to go out to a turkey shoot… Like they're some rough and ready redneck boys. Just the thought of Pretty Boy with a gun…" Austin shuddered dramatically.
“Maybe I should skip the city and come to Kentucky… ‘Cause someone’s going to have a bullet in the ass,” Cheyanne decided seriously as Olivia giggled, taking the soft rattle Moth offered her.
"Yeah… Right. You and Ollie are going to be stretched out on the beach," Austin snorted.
“Yeah… But that’s only to get away from all that noise,” Cheyanne sighed, leaning back against her bed as she watched Moth wrestle with Olivia playfully. He had adapted quite well to having a baby in the house, even coming to nip at Cheyanne’s ankles before Olivia even cried out. But, Howie kept threatening to get rid of him. The Hell he would if she agreed to live in such a noisy city.
"So long as Boohbah doesn't show up, you'll be alright," Austin assured her, hopping to her feet when she heard the oven timer going off.
“Like he would get within ten feet of me with the Anti-Nick-and-Cheyanne-Friendship Patrol on watch,” Cheyanne answered with a soft roll of her eyes, causing Olivia to furrow her own brows to match her mother’s disappointment. It had been months since Howie had pulverized Nick for accidentally hurting her, yet they still refused to let her speak with him. Though, at this point, she wasn’t sure she wanted to. All he did was parade the trashiest women around her during the tours. It cut like a knife into her heart, though, whatever love she had for him was fading.
"I wouldn’t put it past him…" Austin trailed with a sigh, lingering in the bedroom door. "Don't fret, Chey, it'll all work out—Whooo! They're home!" she squealed with excitement when she heard Kevin's rental pull up outside. He and Howie were staying a couple days until it was time to fly to their separate destinations. Howie and Cheyanne were flying down to Florida to spend Thanksgiving week with his family. Austin knew she was going to be completely miserable with only Vivian around, but assured herself she could refrain from committing murder until the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which was when Howie and Cheyanne would be joining them in Kentucky to celebrate Baylee's third birthday.
“She’s worse than our Mothie, huh?” Cheyanne teased her daughter as Austin went running outside, Moth hurriedly nipping at her heels as if it were a race. Olivia just offered a cherubic smile with a giggle, reaching out to her mother. Every time Cheyanne gazed at her daughter, she seemed to fall in love all over again. She was a strikingly beautiful child, petite with large sapphire eyes and the sweetest golden blonde ringlets that Cheyanne could fix into cute ponytails now. Even the fans seemed to fall in love with her, sites already dedicated to the infant and Baylee – apparently her long lost son. “We better go see Daddy, huh?”
"Kevvykins!" Austin cooed from the front door, followed closely by several fast-paced steps on the porch. "Moth! Pisser! Quit trying to attack Howie!"
Olivia giggled, holding her arms to Cheyanne. "Daaa," she cooed, kicking her feet excitedly.
“Yes’m, Daddy’s home,” Cheyanne cooed back toward Olivia, leaning to pluck her from the bouncy seat. Smothering her face with kisses to elicit a squeal, Cheyanne stood and started toward the living room. She held Olivia close as she babbled excitedly, repeating the babble for her father. “You love your Daddy bunches, huh, Cinnamon? We always miss him bunches when he disappears…”
"There's my Angel and my La-La," Kevin announced, stepping over Moth in order to kiss them both on the cheek. He was truly enjoying the down time with what he considered his little family. As Olivia squealed, stretching out her arms, he transferred the grocery bags he held into Austin's hands before taking the baby. "You wanted to see me, huh, La-La?"
"Daaa," Olivia insisted, tilting her head to one side so she was looking towards the door. When Howie stepped inside, carrying bags, her face lit up with excitement, kicking Kevin sharply as she attempted to wriggle towards her father. "Daaa!"
“Awe, Pappy ain’t important no more,” Austin cooed with a sickening sweetness. “Her’s just a Daddy’s girl. Knew if you were home, Daddy wasn’t far behind.”
“I honestly think she’s going to be motoring before I can even catch my breath,” Cheyanne announced as she reached to take the bags from Howie so he could oblige their daughter. It looked like Olivia was ready to leap from Kevin’s arms so she could get to her father. She could already roll over completely, reaching her milestones with great leaps and bounds.
"Hey, Cinnamon," Howie cooed as he took her in his arms. "Did you miss Daddy?" He was unable to hold back a pleased grin as she snuggled close to him, her head resting on his chest just below his chin. At Kevin's painful sigh, she shot him a defiant glare before popping her thumb into her mouth, her other hand clutching Howie's shirt tightly as he carried her into the kitchen.
"I guess I'm only good for hugs when Daddy's not around," Kevin sighed wearily, following Austin into the kitchen to help her put the groceries away. "Dinner ready yet? I'm starved…"
“Yeah, everything’s ready, we were just waiting on you two,” Austin answered, sauntering into the kitchen with her bags of groceries so she could get dinner served.
“And, hey, just ‘cause your granddaughter wants to be a Daddy’s girl doesn’t mean your daughter doesn’t need affection,” Cheyanne teased Kevin, lifting a foot to kick him lightly in the backside before following Austin.
"Sure, sure, kick a man when he's down… What is for dinner?" Kevin questioned.
"I'm so sick of foreign food I'd be happy with a half-raw cheeseburger…" Howie trailed as he settled into a chair at the table, kissing the top of Olivia's head as she curled against him. "Well… Maybe not half-raw…"
"It's baked chicken," Austin informed them, snatching up the heavy cream before Kevin could put it in the fridge. "I just need to mash the potatoes—"
"I thought you said it was all ready?" Kevin interrupted, lightly swatting her backside as he passed her to put the dog food away.
“Y’know, for that, you can mash the potatoes,” Austin growled at her fiancé.
"Fine. Then you can set the table," Kevin returned.
“And you can put the rest of the groceries away, you old fart.”
"And you can room with Vivian in Kentucky next week."
“And you can figure that all the time I spend with Vivian adds to the number of days when you won’t be getting laid.”
“Oh yes she would,” Cheyanne breathed as she finished collecting a large glass of crushed ice and a can of Pepsi. Bumping the fridge door shut with her hip, she eased onto one of the kitchen chairs, tucking her legs beneath her. “She has the bullet which works her just fine…”
Kevin stared at his fiancée. "You told me you threw that damn thing away!"
“She ordered another one,” Cheyanne sang softly, eliciting a coo from Olivia, who loved hearing her mother sing.
"When was this?!"
“That would be the day before she professed you were the only one who could please her and allowed you to break said bullet into pieces,” Cheyanne confirmed, running her fingering along the rim of her glass as the fizz dissolved. Smirking, she sucked her finger, making a popping sound that Olivia giggled at.
"Chey? Pencil in your death for tomorrow morning, okay?" Austin interrupted with a sigh. "Ain't like I've been using the damn thing—"
“She keeps it in the hidden pocket of her purse and she’s used it a few times when you were in a pissy mood,” Cheyanne confessed, grinning sweetly when Austin glared at her. “I’ll pen my death instead, okay?”
"When have I ever been too pissy to satisfy you?" Kevin demanded, snatching the cream from Austin's hands. Setting it on the counter, he hauled her from the room. "And we're going to destroy that damned bullet for good this time. Howie, fix the potatoes, we'll eat later."
Howie snickered when Austin squeaked in surprise, looking at Cheyanne as the lovers disappeared down the hall. "…Looks like they'll be eating something other than chicken, huh?"
“Oh she so freaking owes me for that!” Cheyanne breathed, sipping some ice into her mouth as she hopped off her chair. Moving to the stove, she glanced down at the slightly spicy chicken she had marinated and then to the potatoes. She had never been one for potatoes. So, she glanced back at Howie. “Do you want the potatoes still?”
"Ollie likes potatoes," Howie informed with a grin. "I let her taste some of mine yesterday. Just don't put any salt or pepper in it, and just a dab of the cream…" Pushing his chair back, he stepped over, shifting Olivia into Cheyanne's arms. "Better let me do it—"
“Daddy? You sure you got my Angel’s ‘tation sent out early?” Baylee inquired as he hurried through the living room, making sure to avoid Katie and AJ, who were sprawled on the floor playing with Barbies. It was the day of his birthday party and he couldn’t be more ecstatic. Not for the presents, but more so because Cheyanne was attending the party. It had been a long while since the little boy had seen her and he was aching to see her again. He had even woken up early, insisting that he look his very best for when she arrived. She was all he could talk about through Thanksgiving, amazing his Grandmother Jackie. Even with all the presents piled high and the Littrell house packed with guests, Baylee did his rounds to find the one special person. “You p’omise she didn’t miss the ‘tation? ‘Cause I gotta show my Angel to Gramma!”
"Scooper…" Brian sighed with a tired grin, kneeling down so he was face-to-face with his son. "I promise she got her invitation. She promised she would be here. But her flight may have been delayed, and—" he cut off at the sound of a car pulling into the yard, which sent his son into a frenzy.
"My Angel!" Baylee screamed, racing for the door. Skipping past his Uncle Harold, he flung the door open. "You came!" he squealed with excitement, ready to launch himself into Cheyanne's arms. Only his face fell with dejection when he saw it was Kevin and Austin coming up the steps. "It's only you!"
“Only me?” Kevin emphasized with hurt as he glanced to Austin. “What is it with these ungrateful kids? La-La only cuddles with me when Howie isn’t within a hundred feet of her and I spend all this money on Baylee only to have him stare at me like I’m some defunct, ancient billy goat or something.”
"You bring My Angel wit' you?" Baylee questioned quickly.
"Where her at?!" Baylee moaned, turning to hurry back into the living room. "Daddy? You sure My Angel got the 'tation?!"
“He’s quite fond of Cheyanne, isn’t he?” Ann questioned from the doorway as she reached to affectionately kiss Austin’s cheek. “He’s been asking about her since I arrived… Of course, Jackie says he’s been asking about her since he got here… Which would have been the day before Thanksgiving?”
"Awe, bless him," Austin cooed softly, giving Kevin a smile as she took the gift from him. "I'm sure she's on her way…" she trailed, following Ann into the living room. "There's my little Katie!" she squealed.
“AUSTIN!” Katie returned as she threw her doll toward AJ, scrambling to her feet. “I been p’acticing for my Flower Girl day!”
"You have?! Well later on we'll practice together down the hall upstairs, okay? And I have to get with your Momma so I can send your dress to you," Austin cooed, scooping the girl into her arms. "Are you and Allie playing Barbies?" she questioned, settling cross legged on the floor next to AJ. "Can I play too?"
“We’re not allowed to undress them, Baby Girl,” AJ warned with a wicked grin.
"You're the only one amongst us who has this thing for stripping," Austin returned.
“Not according to the video you stole from me.”
"How much will you give me for a copy?"
“Hey, you two, my family’s here, would you knock it off?” Kevin chided them with a low growl.
Rolling her eyes dramatically, Austin picked up the nearest Barbie. "Like he wasn't dying to watch it last night," she muttered under her breath.
“Daddy! That’s it! I ain’t doing diddly squat till my Angel comes here! Right now!” Baylee demanded with a firm pout after circling the house once more to see if she was hiding somewhere. But, unfortunately, Cheyanne was no where to be found. And, Baylee’s level of stress and panic was rising as he tugged on his father’s pants, pulling him away from Vivian’s kisses. “Daddy! My Angel! Please! That’s all I want for my bir’fday!”
"Scooper—" Brian cut off when he heard an insistent knock on the door. "I'll get—"
"I GOT IT!" Baylee screamed, already halfway through the living room.
“Brian, there’s a really good looking woman at the back door for you!” Harold, Brian’s brother, called as Baylee eagerly tugged open the front door.
“Perfect!” Brian answered with a grin, kissing his girlfriend’s cheek before racing to the back of the house.
"Uncle Howie! Where My Angel?!" Baylee questioned impatiently, ducking past the man's legs to look out in the yard. There was no sign of his favorite person, and he stubbornly stomped his foot. "Where her at?!" he whined, clomping back into the house.
“Sorry, Bay, something came up,” Howie answered simply as he shifted Olivia in his arm and handed the large present off to Vivian. “She’s really sorry that she couldn’t be here…”
"But… You gots Little Angel…" Baylee trailed with a pout as Vivian ushered him back into the living room. Tears of disappointment filled his large eyes as he looked around the room. "Daddy? I don't want a bir'fday without My Angel…"
“Baylee Thomas Wylee Littrell!, you’ve got to have your birthday,” Cheyanne chided with a soft laugh as Brian nudged her into the living room after fixing a bright blue bow atop her honey blonde curls. Brian had called her earlier to set up the surprise for Baylee, knowing it would mean more to the little boy. But she couldn’t stand to see him so upset, knowing it was probably a mean trick to play, though she also knew she’d make it up to him.
"MY ANGEL!" Baylee shrieked, launching himself into her arms. "You're here!"
“Of course I’m here!” Cheyanne exclaimed as she stumbled back slightly from the power behind Baylee’s leap, though she managed to hold onto him tight. Nuzzling his neck with a few playful raspberries, she pulled away slightly to kiss his forehead. “How could I possibly miss my Darlin’s birthday? Huh? Somebody’s gotta try out all those new toys with you!”
"I open your 'resent first, My Angel? Oh! I gots you a 'resent!" Baylee cried as he clung to her. "Daddy! Go get My Angel's 'resent now!"
“Darlin’, you didn’t have to get me a present. I was just happy knowing that I was invited to your party. And, if your Daddy and his Snookums doesn’t mind, I’d like it a lot if you opened my present first,” Cheyanne agreed as she rubbed her nose against Baylee’s nose, causing the other adults to chuckle as flashes emerged from cameras.
"I had to! Gent'a'mun always gets 'resent for visitin' lady," Baylee insisted. "Daddy!"
“I’m going!” Brian insisted, offering an exasperated look to his mother before dashing upstairs.
"Gentlemen don't order around their Daddies, Junior," Jackie admonished as Cheyanne moved to sit on the couch with Baylee in her lap. "We say please in this house, remember?"
"PLEASE, DADDY!" Baylee screamed after his father, giving Cheyanne an impish grin.
“You are such a troublemaker, but you’re an adorable troublemaker,” Cheyanne cooed, leaning to kiss Baylee once more. “I missed you so much, Darlin’.”
"Missed you more," Baylee insisted, wrapping his arms around her tightly. "You stay a while?"
"Allie! Give my Barbie back!"
“I’ll stay as long as I can,” Cheyanne promised as she watched AJ scrambling to his feet, sticking the Barbie in his back pocket. He then dashed out of the living room, Katie hurrying behind him, screaming furiously. Cheyanne couldn’t help but offer an amused smile as Josephine jumped out of the way to avoid being pelted. “You going to ask your Uncle Howie to sit down with us, Darlin’?”
"Sit, Uncle Howie? …Please?" Baylee requested, glancing over at his grandmother. "And my 'Rincess, too?"
“Austi…” Cheyanne breathed, trying to contain her excitement.
"Awe, I get to join the unbreakable circle of Darlin' and Chey-Chey?" Austin cooed as she moved to sit next to Cheyanne. Wrapping her arms around her best friend, she hugged her tight. She could not believe it had been a week since she had seen her. "I missed you," she whispered, her tears pricking with hot tears when she realized that after Howie and Cheyanne married, this was how it would be. Occasional visits… "Excuse me," she breathed, leaping up to rush down the hall to the bathroom.
“I…” Cheyanne was at a loss for words as Austin excused herself as quickly as she had sat down. Glancing up to Howie, she bit down hard on her bottom lip, knowing she had done something wrong. “Darlin’, I need to go talk to Austi… Can you help Uncle Howie play with Cinnamon? He can help you hold her.”
"Otay…" Baylee trailed with a nod, sliding off her lap. "We wait for you come back 'fore I open 'resents, My Angel," he stated decisively as his uncles began discussing the latest Wildcats game.
“I love you so much, Darlin’,” Cheyanne breathed softly, slipping several kisses to the top of the boy’s platinum curls before excusing herself. Following Austin’s flight, she located the closed bathroom door. Pressing herself against it, she tapped softly. “Austi?”
"What?" Austin sniffled from the other side. "G—Go back to the p-party, Chey…"
"N-no I'm not…"
Passing Cheyanne on his way back to the living room, Brian paused. "That door doesn’t lock," he whispered in her ear before continuing.
“Thanks, Bri,” Cheyanne answered, knocking softly on the door once more. “I’m coming in, Austi.”
Austin flung the door open, pressing tissues to her eyes. "It's no big deal, Chey," she insisted, turning to face away from the younger woman. "I'm just hormonal…"
“No, you’re just naturally crazy,” Cheyanne answered, stepping into the threshold of the doorway to make sure Austin didn’t run. “I’m sorry for whatever I did, Austi…”
"You didn't do anything," Austin assured her, finally turning to look at her. "I'm just a basket case…"
"I'm jealous, okay?" Austin sighed, leaning against the sink. "I don't want us to live in separate states… This week has been torture. I want to be able to walk out my back door and holler across the yard for you… I'm so damn tempted to tell Pretty Boy we're moving to Florida—"
“Austi… Like I really want to live in a big-ass city… I thought that’s why you wanted me living with you till I got married…”
"So… You'll tell City Boy to move his ass to Kentucky?" Austin suggested with a loud sob.
“Austi…” Cheyanne sighed heavily, reaching to wrap her arms around the older woman with an affectionate kiss to her cheek. She hated making Austin feel so badly, especially considering she had no desire to live in Orlando, Florida. But, Howie’s family was in Florida… Howie’s entire life was in Florida. She had to sacrifice for him. Though, she wished she didn’t have to sacrifice her Austin for her husband. “I’m sorry. I won’t get married, okay?”
"And have Howie come chase me around a chicken coop with a shotgun? No thanks… You need to marry him, Chey. Don't mind me, I'm just overly hormonal and emotional right now as it is, and seeing you after a week of being apart just hit me."
“I love you, Austi. So much. We’re going to figure this out… Even though I don’t think you want me living with you and Kevvy after y’all are married…”
"I love you too… Something tells me there's going to be lots of flights from here to Orlando," Austin stated, hugging Cheyanne tightly. "You go on back to the party… I just need to clean up my face and blow my nose, and I'll be right out, okay?"
“Okay,” Cheyanne agreed with a soft nod. “…And you do want me living with you ‘till I get married, right?”
"Damn straight," Austin affirmed. "Maybe you can give me and your Daddy tips on procreation—"
“MY ANGEL! I GOT’S YOUR ‘RESENT NOW!” Baylee interrupted.
“The little prince calls…” Cheyanne announced, pointing toward the living room. “And… I can start you on those tips, y’know, like letting him build up a sperm load instead of milking him clean ten times a day?”
Austin snorted into her tissues. "Sure… Go tell him that!"