While Nick, Ava, and Jade were in the kitchen getting ready to prepare dinner, Brian and Raven joined everybody else in the living room with Zara who instantly went over to play with her and Jade’s toys.
“What were you three up to down in the recording studio?” Kevin asked curiously as he watched Brian sit on the couch and pull Raven into his lap.
“J-Baby, Zara, and I started writing a song together – they’re very excited about it, huh Z?”
“Yeah! Brian says we gets to record it with him when we’re done an’ everything!”
“Aw, how fun, we will all have to hear it when you’re done with it” Tierja responded, and Zara beamed happily before continuing to play with her toys.
“Tomorrow is our last day here before we go on the road, I was thinking of running to the grocery store to stock up on food for mine and Ava’s bus, does anyone else want to come?” AJ spoke up.
“Is Ava even riding on your bus this time around? I’m sure if Nick has it his way, she’ll be riding with him” Brian reminded.
“Or Nick could just ride on mine,” AJ pointed out, feeling slightly protective. He’s always had his sister with him on the road and he wants her in his sight at all times, especially now with this whole David situation going on. “He always has ever since we started using separate busses.”
“They weren’t in a relationship back then though. And are you sure you even want them on your bus after today?” Kevin asked with an amused smile.
“They’re just going to have to either learn to be quiet, or wait until they’re in their hotel that’s all. As long as David is out there stalking her every move, she stays in my eye sight at all times.”
“Well, you better discuss that with him. I can see a serious war breaking out over your sister otherwise, and that’s never any fun especially when McLean’s and their short tempers are involved.”
“I could always bunk on Nick’s bus,” Q who was sitting near Zara watching her play while also keeping himself in close distance of the kitchen door in case he needs to get in there to Ava and Jade at any time. “I have no problem with that what-so-ever, and it would certainly keep the peace.” AJ shrugged his shoulders non-committedly and looked at his band mates.
“So? Shopping anyone?”
“It’s a good idea,” Howie spoke up. “Are all of the women coming with us?”
“Tierja and I are definitely coming,” Kathryn shrugged and everybody looked at Raven.
“I have my job to think about, I can’t just up and leave right now” she answered while looking up at Brian warily. She’s been secretly dreading this conversation ever since they became a couple.
“Actually it won’t be a problem,” Brian announced and Raven raised her eyebrow at him.
“What do you mean?”
“I was talking to Amber the other day when I went to pick you up. I begged her to give you time off.”
“Are you out of your mind? I could’ve gotten fired!” she told him when she managed to find her voice to speak, the furious tone she was using getting Zara’s attention and she began to listen, feeling slightly worried. Her mommy and Brian never fight.
“No I didn’t honey Amber and I are good friends remember? And she loves you and says you are her best employee, she would never in her right mind fire you. She said no at first, but I followed her around all day begging and pleading. She finally gave in and said yes and she told me to tell you to have fun. Relax…you didn’t lose your job.” Raven looked at him for a few moments, not knowing how to react to this as many different emotions ran through her at once at what Brian had done for her.
She’s not used to any one taking care of her like this. Not since Zack left her. She has had to become independent and strong since then so that she could be a single mother and raise Zara all on her own. She is used to that and here Brian comes wanting to take care of her all the time. Don’t get her wrong, she likes being taken care of it feels good and she feels loved and appreciated and wanted whenever Brian is around.
She could really learn to get used to it…but he had taken such a huge risk with her job in doing so, whether they’re both really good friends with Amber or not. And as much as she enjoys Brian taking care of her, she still can’t afford to lose her job. She refuses to lose her job and have to rely entirely on him to support her. Not like she did with Zackary…the whole thought terrifies her.
“You still shouldn’t have done that!” She insisted with so much anger in her voice after a moment. With tears forming in her eyes, she got up and grabbed her keys. “Zara come on we’re going home.”
“Raven no! You’re NOT going out in that storm I forbid it!” Brian snapped. It had started raining shortly after the girls got home from the mall, and is now storming very hard.
“Well guess what Brian, you don’t own me!” Raven replied, as Zara got up and walked over to her. She got Zara’s pink jacket and began to put it on her.
“Raven, Brian is right you shouldn’t drive home in that storm.” Kathryn spoke up.
“I’ll be FINE it’s just a ten minute drive.”
“Raven you’re making a big mistake…” Kevin warned.
“LEAVE ME ALONE! I just want to go home!” She picked Zara up then and started toward the door.
“Raven Darkholm if you go out that door I swear I will drag you back in here! I don’t care if you’re kicking and screaming!” Brian demanded.
“You just go ahead and try it, Littrell, and I’ll run you over!” Raven snapped. She opened the door and went outside and just as he promised he would, Brian went after her and before she could put Zara in the car he took her from her.
“If you want to be stupid and kill yourself FINE with me, but I am not going to let you do it with my baby in the car!” Zara wrapped her arms around Brian’s neck and rested her head against his shoulder.
“She is NOT your baby Brian you didn’t help me bring her into this world, the fuck face that did left me!” Raven yelled, breaking down into sobs by now.
“YEAH well I WANTED to Raven! I wanted to and guess what! I wouldn’t have left you like that asshole, because if you haven’t noticed I LOVE YOU! I wouldn’t be standing out here in the middle of the goddamned rain screaming it if I didn’t! You can hate me all you want, but you’re going to do it here, because I’m NOT letting you drive home in this storm! HATE me all you want, but you’re NOT going home! I’m sorry I talked Amber into giving you a few months off but all I wanted was to spend time with you! I didn’t want to leave you behind!” He yelled back and then he grabbed her keys from her and carried Zara back inside the both of them soaking wet.
Everyone had heard their entire conversation from inside, including Nick and Ava because they came out of the kitchen to see what was going on. Brian put Raven’s keys up high where Raven can’t reach them before carrying Zara upstairs as she still has her head rested against his shoulder, and he placed soft kisses on her forehead. As soon as he had her upstairs he took her into his room where Raven and Zara have been sleeping in ever since Raven and Brian became a couple and shut the door. He lay Zara on the big king sized bed and he got her a dry tee shirt and panties from the top drawer. Raven had brought most of their clothes over, and Brian gave them two of his drawers and space in the closet. He went over to her and sat next to her on his bed and he took her jacket off. She lay there looking up at him in tears.
“Is Mommy going to take me home?”
“No, I won’t let her. Don’t worry baby.”
“Are you and Mommy going to break up?” Brian looked at her and looking into her brown eyes he found so much fear in them.
“I don’t know baby, not if I can help it.” Zara didn’t reply, and Brian took her wet shirt off of her, as well as her pants and panties before dressing her in dry warm clothes. As soon as he finished he leaned down and kissed her cheek, and she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. He returned her hug.
“I don’t want you and Mommy to break up. I want you to be my daddy.” Zara answered, as tears streamed down her cheek. Not knowing what to say in return to that, Brian just pulled Zara into his lap and he held her close for a long time. After a while he got up and carried Zara downstairs and into the living room.
“Where is she?” he asked in a panic when he didn’t find Raven anywhere.
“Outside still…we’ve tried to get her to come in, but she won’t.” Brian sighed and put Zara down.
“Go play sweetie.” She did as he said and while she was doing that he went to the door and opened it. He looked outside to find Raven standing in the rain still leaning against her car with folded arms, and she is sopping wet.
“Are you going to stand out there all night?”
“It’s better than being in there with you,” She answered coldly as she tries so hard to be angry, but Brian could hear the falter in her voice.
“Honey please come inside…” Brian begged his voice gentle. “You’re going to catch a cold.”
“No. I don’t want to live anymore, I want the lightning to hit me” She added as she breaks down, finally letting herself cry. Brian went out there, and he went over to her.
“Why do you want to die baby?”
“Because Zackary hurt me…” She answered tearfully “He left me, and he left my baby and it’s all my fault.” Brian didn’t reply he only wrapped her in his arms, and she rested her head against his shoulder and continued to cry as the two of them stand there in the rain. He gently rubbed her back and just let her cry. When she had calmed down he placed his finger under her chin and lifted it gently so she that she is looking him in the eyes.
“Please come inside, I don’t want to lose you. I already lost one woman that I loved, I don’t want to lose you either. You’re the only woman I could ever love after losing Emily…please don’t leave me…you’re all that I have left. You helped me get over her death and move on and you make me so happy. Please don’t take that away from me. Please don’t take the only happiness that I have left away from me,” He pleaded. She didn’t reply she only wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him close. She rested her head against his shoulder, and he picked her up. She wrapped her legs around his waist as he carried her inside, closed the door behind them, and put her down.
“Why don’t you go upstairs and get changed into dry clothes? If you really want to take Zara and walk out of my life forever, then I guess there’s nothing I can do to stop you. You can leave tomorrow when it’s not storming. You may not love me, but I love you, and I don’t want to lose you the same way that I lost Emily.” He suggested and he brushed some of her hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear. “You and Zara can have my bed tonight. I will sleep on the couch.” She looked at him in tears for a couple of minutes and then she went upstairs.
Brian watched her until he could no longer see her any more, before wiping his tears away and he went and sat on the couch that no one else is sitting on and just stared at nothing in particular as tears roll down his cheek. Raven went up to Brian’s room and she changed into a white tank top and pajama pants before proceeding to pick up Zara’s jacket and wet clothes. She hung her jacket up and put Zara’s clothes in Brian’s dirty clothes hamper right along with her own clothes. She lay down on Brian’s bed, and she lay there crying. Meanwhile downstairs, after an hour had passed, Ava poked her head out of the kitchen at her brother and friends.
“Dinner is about ready…someone better go tell Raven and ask her if she’s coming down to eat.”
“I will,” Brian insisted softly and he got to his feet and headed upstairs. When he got up there and was standing in the doorway to the room, he found his girlfriend lying on his bed crying. He sighed softly before crossing the room to his bed and crawling inside it behind her. When he enveloped her in his arms she leaned back against him and he kissed her between her neck and shoulder. “Is there anything I can do to fix this at all?”
“You can tell me not to leave…” Raven told him tearfully and she looked up at him. “I don’t want to leave Brian…” Brian tightened his arms around her waist and gently turned her around so that she is facing him before resting his forehead against hers.
“I don’t want you to leave either,” He informed her while gently tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. “I want you and Zara to stay right here with me, you both mean the world to me.” Raven quietly slid her arms around her neck and buried her face in his chest and when he felt her trembling, he grabbed the blanket and pulled it over them and planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
“I’m sorry I talked your boss into giving you a few months off…you’re right I shouldn’t have done that without your consent. I just don’t want to go five months without you. I want to be able to be with you every minute that I can.”
“I just didn’t expect you to do that, it took me completely off guard and scared me” Raven told him softly and she looked up at him causing him to delicately brush her tears away. “I worked really hard for that job…when Zack left I had to make myself be independent and strong so that I could be a single mom and survive on my own. I had nothing when he left and I don’t ever want to be that way again. I know I have you, and I know you love me and you say you would never leave me. I know you enjoy taking care of me and Zara, and I love you for that. I love having you to rely on and I always feel very taken care of when I’m with you. But I need to still hold onto my independence a little bit Brian. If you, Zara, and I end up becoming an official family in the future, I need to feel like I’m taking care of our family too.”
“I don’t want to take your independence away baby, I like that you love to work and I’m not about to take that away from you. If I felt that talking to Amber would make you lose your job, I never would’ve done it. You didn’t lose your job, it’ll be right here when you get back. But if you don’t want to go, I’ll understand…” Raven brought her hands up and gently cradled his face in her hands before looking into his eyes.
“Do you honestly think I would be able to survive an entire tour without you either? Of course I want to come with you...” she told him softly and Brian grinned before leaning forward and brushing his lips lightly over hers. “But I want to call Amber and confirm all of this with her myself first thing tomorrow morning just so that I will have peace of mind that everything will be here when I get home.”
“Okay,” Brian agreed and he hugged her closer to him causing her to shift so that she is sitting on top of him with one leg on either side of him and she once again cradled his face in her hands before leaning down and kissing him. Brian slid his arms around her waist and kissed her back and when she pulled away, she rested her forehead against his and looked into his blue eyes.
“I love you,” she told him softly.
“I love you too baby, very much…come on, let’s go eat dinner. I’m sure Zara is waiting for one of us to come make her a plate if one of the others haven’t done it already” He told her and he got up with her straddling his hips blanket and all and while she rested her head upon his shoulder, he carried her downstairs. When they walked into the kitchen they discovered Zara already sitting at the table next to Jade contentedly eating her dinner. A small smile formed on her face however, when she noticed things seemed to be better with Brian and her mommy. Brian kissed Raven’s forehead affectionately and brought her to the table and sat her down in one of the two empty chairs left.
“I’ll make your plate baby, you stay here.”
“But Brian I don’t mind—“
“I love that you are independent baby, but you can let me take care of you a little bit” Brian insisted gently and Raven watched him proceed to go over to the food, which to his pleasure is steak, Garlic and Herb Potato wedges, and baked carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. One of Ava’s many specialties. When he returned to the table with both his and Raven’s plates he sat down, put hers in front of her, and looked at Nick and Jade. “It looks really good you guys, I can’t wait to try it.”
“Ava and Jade made the potato wedges and veggies, and I pulled the grill under the back porch cover and made the steaks.”
“Nick was going to help Jade with the potato wedges and veggies, but suddenly got really busy with the grill,” Ava cut in while looking over at Nick with playful narrowed eyes and he flashed an innocent look right back.
“Well I did” he defended and Jade giggled causing Ava to flash her daughter playful narrowed eyes too. She knows they’re conspiring behind her back.
“Well they’re delicious potato wedges and veggies,” Kevin told her gently after swallowing a bite of some potato.
“Yeah Ava, really good” Brian added, making point to try them first.
“Thank you,” Ava told them softly, and she continued to quietly eat her own dinner. Nick reached over and gently slid his fingers through her hair in an endearing way.
“She added her secret homemade seasoning onto the steaks too,” he added while leaning over and kissing her forehead. “In case you were wondering why they taste especially good tonight, it’s definitely not all my doing.” Ava stole a glance at Nick and he flashed her one of his genuine smiles, mouthed I love you and continued eating.
Ava gazed at him in silence for a long moment, before doing the same and AJ who was watching them, noticed the happiness that she used to have before David came into her life and sucked it out of her, was seeping back into her. Nick is bringing her back to life – slowly, but surely. When everyone was finished eating, AJ and Howie organized a cleanup party, insisting that since Nick, Ava, and Jade cooked they didn’t have to be a part of it.
While they were doing that, Nick took Ava’s hand and brought her into the living room and after setting a warm fire in the fireplace, he sat down on a cushion in front of it and gently pulled her down into his lap so that she is sitting with her back to him and the back of her head rested upon her shoulder. He slid his arms around her waist and she looked up into his blue eyes.
“Do you think Raven is going to be okay?” she asked quietly and when he saw the slightly worried look in her eyes, he hugged her a bit closer.
“Of course she will; it looked to me like she and Brian worked things out before they joined us. She just got scared that’s all, you know how she is…she’s probably as bad as you are when it comes to people taking care of her” he joked light heartedly and Ava playfully scowled and stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed.
“Seriously though, they’re going to be okay” he reassured after a moment when he became serious again. “They love each other, they’ll work it out. Couples fight sometimes, they can’t always agree on everything. Don’t worry okay?”
“Sometimes they can’t always make up in the end either though, sometimes they just leave.” Ava pointed out softly and she looked up into his eyes, revealing her fear and the pain she endured again and again from her boyfriends in the past and even from hers and AJ’s father. She and AJ don’t talk about it, but he knows his abandonment hurt her when she was a little girl.
He senses it whenever it’s brought up and knows there’s some big secret that neither of them is telling him. He’s fully aware of how angry AJ was when he left, he makes that no secret to anybody, but it’s affected Ava too, he just isn’t sure how much. He has plans of dragging it out of AJ the very moment he gets the chance though. He feels like he has the right to know.
“Cowards leave,” Nick insisted and he gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear before resting his forehead against hers. “But real men like Brian and I who truly love our women, will stick around and work through it no matter how hard it gets.” Ava sat there quietly taking in his words for a few moments, before cradling his face in her hands and kissing him and he kissed her back.
When he pulled away, he brought his hands down to her smooth legs and lightly caressed them; very much liking that she put shorts on. “Just keep this in mind baby,” He began and she looked up at him curiously. “You will be chasing me around in one of those motor chairs for the elderly when we are 80 years old. You can count on that.” Ava couldn’t help but laugh a little and he grinned at his accomplishment.
When everybody had the dishes in the dishwasher and the kitchen cleaned up, they joined Nick and Ava in the living room. Jade who went upstairs, returned shortly after with the Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who. She walked over to Nick and Ava and gave Nick one of her heart-melting can’t-say-no-even-if-you-wanted-to looks.
“Daddy, will you read to me?”
“I sure will princess, come here” he told her gently and he pulled her into Ava’s lap so that she lay back against her while she continued to sit in his lap with her legs bent. He and Ava wrapped their arms around her and Jade happily rested the back of her head against Ava’s shoulder feeling pretty content with the both of them holding her. When she was settled, Nick opened the book and proceeded to read to her animatedly. Soon enough, Zara was sitting next to them on a cushion listening too, and the two of them brought book after book that by the time an hour had gone by Nick had a pile of them sitting next to him.
“Jade, go on upstairs and get your pajamas okay? I will be up in a minute to help you change into them” Ava announced when 11:30 rolled around and Nick had finished reading a The Little Engine that Could.
“Do I have to go to bed?” Jade asked while looking up at her mommy with an instant pout on her face.
“Yes I’m sorry sweetie, it’s getting late and we have things that we have to do in the morning”
“But I want daddy to read me one more book…”
“I read an entire pile of books to you baby, if I read anymore I’m going to end up reading your entire book collection, and then what would we do?” Nick asked while leaning down and rubbing his nose lightly over hers.
“But I want to stay up an’ play with Zara” Jade replied after a moment and Nick planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
“You and Zara can play tomorrow, she will still be here when you wake up I promise.” Jade huffed and before she could work up another protest, Raven spoke up.
“Yeah and anyway Zara is about to head to bed too.”
“Aww…Mommy…” Zara protested, causing Brian to chuckle a bit.
“Come on munchkin go get into bed and I’ll be up to sing you to sleep, how’s that?” Zara smiled really big and jumped up and ran upstairs causing Brian to once again laugh.
“She’s going to want you to sing to her every night now when she goes to bed, you do know that right?” Raven asked and she looked up at him smiling slightly.
“Mhm and I will always be here to do so.” She placed her hand to his cheek and pulled his lips down on hers for a passionate kiss and once he pulled away he set her to the side and got up and went upstairs to tuck Zara in.
“Okay Mommy…” She sighed, and then crawled out of Ava’s lap and went upstairs to her room. She opened her drawer and got out her purple pajamas. They’re a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and they have little pink hearts on them. She sat on the bed and waited patiently for Ava to come up there. A few moments later, she and Nick walked in hand in hand, and she smiled sweetly at them. Nick sat next to her on the bed and began to help her get dressed.
“What are we doing tomorrow?”
“We’re going shopping with Uncle Alex to buy snacks for the tour, and then a whole lot of packing.”
“No playground?” Jade pouted.
“Aww,” Nick laughed and he looked at Ava with identical pouty lips, considering he is whom she got it from.
“No playground, Mommy?” he asked, causing Ava to giggle and she went over and sat in Nick’s lap as he is now finished getting Jade dressed. She leaned down and kissed Jade’s pouty lips, and then she looked at Nick, placed her hand to his cheek, and kissed him as well and he returned it.
“It’s going to be way too muddy for the playground tomorrow sweetie, but maybe if you’re a good girl daddy and I will take you to the toy store and buy you one toy from each of us. Sound good to you?” She suddenly smiled really big and had that same excited look Nick gets causing Ava to once again giggle.
“Daughter like father…” He smirked and leaned down and began to blow raspberries on Jade’s stomach sending her into a fit of shrieks and laughter.
“DAD-DYYYY, THAT TICKLES, THAT TICKLES!” she shrieked between giggles. Suddenly AJ and Brian walked into the room and AJ chuckled a bit at Nick and Jade. When he finally stopped, he carefully sat Ava on the bed beside him, and then he got up and picked Jade up and he playfully dropped Jade in the middle of the bed, as her head is rested against the pillow causing her to squeal in excitement and giggle once more. He sat beside her and pulled the blanket up on her, before brushing some of her blonde hair from her face and tucking it behind her ear.
“Are you comfortable sweetie?”
“Good. Did you have fun today?”
“That’s good, because Daddy’s day isn’t complete unless my sweet angel has had a fun day.” Jade smiled really big. “Now daddy knows he can sleep through the night knowing he’s accomplished his goal for the day. Made sure you have fun.”
“I love you daddy,” she spoke softly.
“I love you too baby, very much.” He replied and he leaned down and kissed her cheek. Ava then scooted over so she’s lying on the other side of her and she too wrapped her arm around her and kissed her on the cheek as well.
“I love you mommy,” Jade told her while wrapping her arms around her and giving her one of her Velcro hugs that she knows her mommy loves so much and Ava hugged her back.
“I love you too sweetheart, you are mommy’s everything.”
“Daddy, will you sing to me?” Jade asked hopefully.
“Of course princess, what should I sing?”
“All I have to give.”
“Okay” Nick told her and he began to sing to her. While he was doing that Ava kissed his cheek and got up and she went to AJ and Brian who have been in there the entire time waiting patiently.
“What’s up bro…Bri?”
“Are you two coming shopping with us in the morning like we discussed at dinner?”
“Mhm, what time do we need to be ready?”
“Well we really want to leave here at 10:00,” Brian answered.
“Okay cool we can have Jade and us ready by then, that’s easy.” Brian and AJ both hugged Ava and kissed her cheek before leaving the room and she went back and sat next to Jade again. Just as Nick had finished singing, Jade finally closed her eyes and was asleep. Nick reached over and dimmed the lamp on the nightstand before going over to the big light and turning it off and when he turned around he found Ava standing behind him. He slid his arms around her waist and gently pulled her up against him before leaning down and brushing his lips lightly over hers.
“What did Brian and AJ want?” he asked quietly.
“To double check if we were going shopping with them in the morning. They want to be able to leave at 10:00. I told them we would be ready, does that sound good to you?”
“If it sounds good to you, it sounds good to me baby” he reassured and he gently lifted her up into his arms cradling her and brought her over to the bed. He grabbed his soft bucs blanket that she loves so much, wrapped her in a cocoon, and got into bed on the side that Jade wasn’t sleeping on with her lying in his arms before propping the pillows. When he was comfortable he lay back against them before leaning down and placing tender kisses on her forehead, the tip of her nose, and then claiming her lips for his own and she kissed him back.
“Has everyone gone to bed all ready? What time is it?” Kathryn asked, as she sits on the couch next to Howie and AJ was sitting on the couch across from them. They’re the only three down there now. Kathryn is sitting close to Howie with her head rested against his shoulder as they’re sharing a blanket. It’s still storming outside and definitely not going to stop any time soon.
“Midnight,” AJ answered, after looking at his watch. “Where is Tierja, she didn’t leave did she?” he asked and Kathryn hid her smile and shrugged her shoulders.
“She’s around here somewhere. She probably went up to the bathroom to get ready for bed…I suppose we should follow everybody’s lead and get ready for bed too, seeing as how we’re waking up pretty early in the morning and have such a busy day and all.”
“Yeah you’re probably right,” AJ responded. “I’m going to go do that. Good night guys,” He added while getting to his feet and going upstairs and Howie and Kathryn exchanged amused looks. When they could no longer see him, Kathryn once again met Howie’s eyes.
“Looks like I’m by myself down here tonight…”
“Oh no you’re not…come get in bed with me, I’m not about to leave you down here by yourself,” he insisted while getting up and taking her hand. He pulled her up from the couch and he led her up the stairs, Kathryn smiling to herself as he did.
Meanwhile upstairs, when AJ walked into his room, his breath immediately left his lungs when he found Tierja sitting at the foot of his bed wearing nothing but a black pushup lacy bra and matching panties that she picked out from Victoria Secret earlier that day. Her long blonde hair that she had been wearing up in a ponytail all day is now down and she had put on some black eye shadow, black eyeliner, and some lip gloss, making her look sexy as hell.
He stopped short in the doorway, his eyes wide as he looks the woman he’s in love with over and to Tierja’s upmost pleasure, she saw sheer desire in his eyes. While he stood frozen in the doorway not knowing how to react to his shock right then, Tierja got to her feet and walked over to him and he watched her every move as she did. When she was standing right in front of him she cradled his face in her hands and looked into his eyes.
“I’m sleeping in here with you tonight,” she informed him, before pulling his lips down to hers and kissing him. After only a brief moment, AJ kissed her back and deepened the kiss while bringing his hands down to her waist and resting them there. Tierja slid her arms loosely around his neck and pressed herself closer to him, before trailing her kisses from his lips to his ear. “That okay with you?” she spoke softly. AJ shuddered and instead of answering her, he lifted her up and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He closed his bedroom door with his foot and brought her to the bed, laid her in the middle of it, and reclaimed her lips for his own in a hungry kiss while she pulled him down on top of her.
“I love watching her sleep,” Nick commented softly as he still sat propped up against the pillows with Ava lying in his lap cocooned in his blanket. She has her head rested against his shoulder and was quietly watching him idly run his fingers through their daughter’s soft blonde hair. She had subconsciously curled up close to Nick’s side and had her arm sprawled out across his stomach. “She’s always so peaceful; it makes me wonder what she could be dreaming about.” Ava smiled and reached out and lightly caressed the back of Jade’s hand with her finger.
“Me too,” she told him and she looked up at him and met his blue eyes. “Watching her sleep since she was just a tiny newborn has been my favorite thing in the world to do, because blonde hair or not, she’s always looked like you and it comforted me to see you in her when I was constantly living in fear at David’s house.” Nick lightly caressed her cheek with his fingertips.
“She has a lot of you in her too. She is almost just as beautiful as her mommy is,” he told her gently. “She is the most perfect thing you and I have ever done together, Ava…I love her so much.”
“She loves you too,” Ava told him softly when she managed to keep her emotions in check. “She had so much fun today, I’ve never seen her so happy.” She admitted and Nick rested his forehead against hers and tightened his arms around her.
“Did mommy have fun?”
“After we got all of the emotional stuff done and over with, yes…I really needed today.”
“Good,” Nick told her while lightly rubbing his nose over hers. “Because my day isn’t complete unless you’ve had a good day. Now I can sleep well through the night knowing I accomplished all of my goals for the day,” he repeated his words to Jade from earlier and Ava couldn’t help but giggle even though she really wanted to cry and he tilted her chin up and kissed her softly. Ava slid her arms around his neck and shifted so that she was straddling him before kissing him back. When he pulled away he gently laid her back on the bed between his legs and cradled her face in his hands before leaning down and brushing his lips lightly over hers.
“We’re meeting with my lawyer again tomorrow after we’re done shopping, we should probably get those pictures done and over with so we don’t have to worry about them in the morning” he reminded her gently. “Which injuries should we use as evidence?”
“The ones on my face, arms and back are the most brutal…and my stomach” Ava answered softly and Nick tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and looked into her eyes lovingly.
“You lay here and relax and I will go down the hall to get my camera okay?” Ava nodded quietly and watched him as he got up and disappeared from the room. He was only gone for a few moments before he returned with his camera and he found her already laying there in her bra and shorts. He resumed his spot on the bed and once again shifted her so that she was lying between his legs with her own wrapped around him and he proceeded to take pictures of the incriminating evidence that will help them get this restraining order. The ones on her arms, her stomach, her face, and then her back and when he finished he placed the camera on the nightstand before grabbing the sides of his bucs blanket and wrapping it around her before leaning down and resting his forehead against hers. She slid her arms up and around his neck and looked into his eyes.
“Are you okay?” Ava nodded quietly and sat up in his lap before burying her face in the crook of his neck. “Just hold me Nicky,” she told him and he tightened his arms around her protectively and maybe a little possessively. Just as she was getting comfortable, the dimmed lamp flickered from the storm outside and then went off, sending the room into complete darkness. Ava looked up at him and he planted a kiss on her forehead.
“I’ll light some candles,” She told him before getting out of his lap. When she was on her feet he watched her as she opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out some scented candles and a lighter and placed them around the room. When she had them lit, she walked back over to him and he slid his arms around her waist and pulled her into his lap again before pulling down her shorts and dropping them on the floor so that she is only in her bra and panties and pulling the blanket up on her.
“Comfortable?” he asked when she slid her arms around his waist and nestled her head into his shoulder. Ava nodded quietly and he planted a kiss on her forehead. The two of them sat there in silence, Ava soaking up all of his hugs and kisses for all it’s worth and Nick looking down at Jade and resuming playing with her hair. When he finally spoke up again he rested his forehead against hers. “Can you do me a favor?” He asked softly. “It would mean the world to me...”
“What?” Ava asked, looking into his gentle blue eyes curiously.
“Can we change Jade’s birth certificate so that my name is on it instead of David’s?”
“Your name is already on it,” Ava revealed and she reached up and lightly caressed his cheek with her fingers. Nick looked surprised and a little curious.
“How did you pull that off when it had to be a secret? Wasn’t David pissed?”
“David doesn’t know I did it because I filled out the paperwork at the hospital right after she was born…I waited until you left the room. He would’ve murdered me as well as Jade if he found out” Ava explained and she reached over and once again opened her nightstand drawer and to his surprise, pulled out a folder that has both Jade’s hospital records with her footprints on it and her birth certificate inside. She handed it to him and when he opened it up and saw his name listed as the father on each of them, tears instantly came to his eyes and rolled down his face. Ava who was watching him lightly brushed them away with her fingers. “I kept it here so he would never get his hands on it. It was my way of respecting you, as well as protecting her. If he ended up killing me I didn’t want him to have any claim on her. Alex doesn’t know it but I went to his lawyer and asked him to write up a will for me and everything stating exactly what I want, and where to find these certificates if anything should happen to me. By all rights she is yours and would’ve gone straight to you.”
“That was really smart of you…” he told her, trying very hard to keep his emotions at bay and he tilted her chin up and kissed her. “Thank you baby, it means so much to me that you would do that…”
“You have to know and understand that it killed me to keep this secret from you Nicky…that’s the majority of the reason why I was having stomach aches during the time that you weren’t talking to me. Watching you with her and knowing how much I was hurting you by keeping this secret from you was slowly starting to make me sick…”
“I know baby, I could see it. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew you were making yourself sick for some reason and I knew my silent treatment was only half of it. I’m not mad at you, okay?”
“You should be,” Ava told him tearfully. “God knows I deserve it…I can’t live with myself, how can you?”
“Because I love you,” Nick insisted and after putting the envelope with the precious papers in them back in the drawer for the time being, he gently turned her over so she was lying on her stomach on top of him wrapped in the blanket. She looked up at him and he rested his forehead against hers and held her close to him. “I love you, and I can’t live without you, god knows I tried my damndest I really did. You were protecting our baby and if it were me in that position I would’ve done the exact same thing. So forgive yourself sweetheart, I have. There is no reason to make yourself sick over it anymore.”
“It’s not that easy,” Ava sniffled. “I was forced to lie to the one person I tell everything to…a part of me died a little inside when he made me do that, Nick.” Nick shifted so that she was lying underneath him on the bed and cradled her face in his hands and looking into her eyes.
“What can I do to make it all better baby?”
“Hate me like I deserve…”
“You’re asking me to do the impossible, honey” Nick insisted gently and he placed tender kisses on various parts of her face. “I don’t have it in me to hate you, nor do you deserve it either. You kept this secret from me to protect our baby like any mother would do and I love you for that. I love that you would go through such lengths to protect our child, even if it means hurting me. Would it have been better if you told me? Yes, because you wouldn’t have had to do it all alone, I would’ve been right here protecting the both of you from that bastard like the way it should have been. But I see and understand why you did it nonetheless. And it’s not like I missed out on anything, I still got to be a part of every single thing that went on in her life from the time she was born, you still made me an important person in her life. If you had kept her from me entirely, it would be a different story.”
“You were never just an important person in her life Nicky, you are the very center of her world,” Ava insisted tearfully. “From the time she first opened her little eyes in that hospital and looked up at you while you held her, she loved you. I think somewhere inside her she knew exactly who you were. It’s why she needed to be like you so bad.”
“I know I’m the center of her world, I’ve never had to work for her love. The question is, am I the center of your world? That’s my ultimate goal right now.” Ava opened her mouth to reply when suddenly out of nowhere, Jade shrieked shrilly and started crying. Ava flinched and both she and Nick turned their attention on her worriedly.
“MOMMY HELP!!! NOOO PLEASE, I’M SORRY DAVID I’LL BE GOOD I PROMISE! MOMMY HELP!” She sobbed while thrashing about in her sleep, her arms and legs flailing as if she is fighting someone off of her. Nick sat up and reached over and gathered her into his arms and held her close to him protectively just as everybody ran into the room, Kevin being the very first one in as he had been awake in his room reading by candle light. Tierja had thrown on one of AJ’s robes, AJ managed to get his boxers on amidst running out of his room, Kathryn and Howie were visibly just sleeping, and Brian and Raven were holding a frightened Zara who had woken up screaming and crying the very second her best friend had – pretty much simultaneously as if they were sharing the same nightmare. Ava sat up with Nick’s blanket wrapped around her to cover her half naked body.
“Shhh, baby it’s okay…it’s only a nightmare” Nick soothed, as he gently rocked her in his arms. Jade continued to fight with him and Nick sat there calmly holding her, Ava gently taking her arms into her hands so she could no longer hit him and he talked to her until eventually she heard her daddy’s voice and finally stopped screaming. Her eyes shot open and met with Nick’s calm blue ones and he looked down at her with nothing but love in them. “Hey you…” he greeted and she threw her arms about his neck, buried her face in his shoulder and continued to cry. He planted a soft kiss on her forehead and continued to rock her in his arms. “It’s okay, daddy’s got you baby. It was only a bad dream” he reassured. Ava gently ran her fingers through her blonde hair and kissed the back of her head softly and after what felt like forever to her, when Jade had finally calmed way down a lot, she turned her attention on Zara and frowned when she noticed tears rolling down her bloodshot eyes.
“Hey…Zare what’s the matter?” She asked, as concern filled her voice and Zara reached for her while sniffling. Brian brought her over to her and Ava gently took her and cradled her in her arms like a tiny baby and leaned down and kissed her forehead, before looking at Raven and Brian for answers.
“She woke up screaming and crying just as Jade had.”
“Aww…poor baby,” Ava replied sympathetically and she hugged her tightly as Zara automatically returned it before wrapping her arms around Jade and hugging her next. Jade wrapped her arms around her in return, and returned her hug, while sniffling still. Everyone else went and sat with them on the bed too, since it’s a queen sized bed. While the two children clung to each other in their laps, Nick turned his attention on Ava and gently cradled her face in his hands before looking into her eyes with that look she knows he gets when he is trying to read her.
“Are you okay?” he asked when he saw her hidden emotions in them. Ava shook her head and rested her head against his shoulder. He kissed her forehead softly and watched her as she looked down at the kids who haven’t let each other go at all.
“I’m sorry you all got woken up…I know some of you were sleeping” she apologized.
“It’s okay sweetie don’t apologize, we’re just happy Jade is okay.” Howie replied, while taking her hand into his and lacing his fingers with hers. Everyone sat there talking for a while before all eventually going back to their rooms. All except for Brian and Raven who are still waiting for Zara and Jade to finally let go of each other.
“Come on Zara, you need to get back to sleep, it’s late. You’ll see Jade in the morning,” Brian spoke up.
“I don’t want to,” Zara whined. “I want to stay with Baby Jay.”
“But baby you and Jade need your sleep.” Raven insisted.
“No…” both children whined, and Jade held onto Zara tighter.
“Can Zara stay with me tonight?” Jade begged.
“Yeah Mommy can I??”
“I don’t know honey; it’s up to Nick and Ava.” Jade and Zara both looked at Nick and Ava with pleading eyes and Brian and Raven also looked at them.
“It’s okay with me. Nick?” Ava asked while looking up at him.
“I don’t mind.” Raven and Brian both kissed Zara’s cheek before getting up and leaving the room. Nick and Ava lay them down, and Zara snuggled close to Jade while Jade hugged her tight being thankful that she’s there. Zara may be younger, but she promised Jade she would always protect her from David, or at least try to and only Zara understands what Jade is afraid of. Only she knows what happens in her nightmares, she hasn’t even told Nick. Only Zara understands how badly they frighten Jade.
“For what baby…?” Nick asked all confused, and he lay down and wrapped his arm around Jade, Zara, and Ava, and Ava wrapped her arms around him, Jade, and Zara too as she lay on the other side of the kids.
“For loving me, and telling me that I’m special…Thank you for never hitting me…” Nick looked into her teary blue eyes for a few moments, and then he kissed her forehead.
“I could never hurt the two most important girls in my life. I promise you both” Nick replied, as he pulled Ava closer to them. She rested her forehead against Nick’s, as the four of them share a pillow. Soon both children were finally asleep, and Nick kissed Ava’s forehead and idly played with her hair. She soon fell asleep too and he lay there watching the three of them, until he too eventually fell asleep.