Anyway, enjoy :-)
The next morning Nick opened his eyes and looked down to find both children gone, and Ava still snuggled beside him with her arms wrapped around his waist and her head rested against his shoulder. Feeling him stirring slightly she looked up at him, her brown eyes meeting with his beautiful blue ones.
“Hey,” she spoke softly.
“Good morning baby” He replied, before kissing her forehead affectionately and Ava smiled softly before snuggling deeper into him as this is really the first time since she’s been home that she’s actually woken up in his arms.
“I love waking up in your arms in the morning, I always have” She mumbled into the crook of his neck and he grinned to himself upon hearing that little admission, before rolling them over so that she was underneath him with his arms rested on the bed on either side of her head before raining numerous kisses over her face.
“Good, because you will be waking up in my arms every morning for the rest of our life together if I have it my way, baby girl,” he told her between kisses. Ava brought her arms up around his neck and closed her eyes comfortably causing him to place tender kisses on them, before finding her lips and claiming them for his own.
“What time is it?” he asked between kisses, not bothering to look at the alarm clock on the nightstand. He knows it will be wrong, since the electricity went out last night.
“Seven thirty,” Ava mumbled against his lips and he brought them down to her neck finding his favorite spot.
“You’re awake early,” he told her while lightly grazing her skin with his teeth and she let out a soft moan as her only response as he slid his hands behind her and sought out the clasp to her bra. When he found it she felt him undo it and lightly tangled her fingers in his hair.
“We’re going shopping at eleven thirty Nicky and we have you, me, and Jade who all need to get ready” She spoke softly in his ear. Nick brought his arms down around her waist and in one swift movement he was out of bed with her over his shoulder and she squealed playfully as he proceeded to carry her toward the bathroom.
“Well, there is only one obvious solution to that problem. I can multi-task…want to see how well I can multi-task baby?” he asked her when he was in the bathroom and she giggled as he sat her down on the counter and shut the door before opening the drawer he stocked condoms in when she wasn’t looking.
Later on that morning after breakfast, Nick walked into the kitchen with Jade rested on his hip bathed and dressed for the day, in a bright pink shirt with puff sleeves and the graphic on it reads “Love” in white fancy writing and is embellished with pretty glitter and rhinestones. She has on a pink ombre colored soft flowy tutu skirt with a shimmer waist band and to complete the look a matching pink tulle flower headband in her hair that Ava even went as far as curled for her and everything, and pink low top converse shoes. Just as he knew he would, he found everyone except for Raven, Zara, and Tierja hanging out in there, still cleaning up the breakfast mess. When AJ’s eyes fell on his niece he smiled in amusement.
“That is a lot of pink you have on there, Little J,” he commented and Jade giggled softly as he walked over to them, cradled her face in his hands, and kissed her forehead affectionately.
“She picked her outfit out all by herself today and insisted that mommy curl her hair because she wanted to feel pretty - huh princess?” Nick explained and Jade smiled shyly in response and rested her head against her daddy’s shoulder and snuggled into him a tiny bit more. She still isn’t used to him calling her princess; he never did it before they learned the truth. She still can’t get over the fact that she has a daddy and that he loves her, let alone the fact that he calls her princess. Nick hugged her close to him and planted a loving kiss on top of her head.
“Well, mission accomplished there, you look absolutely beautiful sweetheart” AJ told her gently.
“Thank you Uncle Alex,” She told him softly and AJ gave her a warm smile before turning his attention on Nick.
“Where is Ava?”
“She’s locked herself in the bathroom to get ready in peace and playfully informed me that she did not want to be disturbed. So I obeyed her orders for the sake of her remaining happy with me, but Q is standing outside her bedroom door nonetheless” Nick explained rather innocently. “You would think she was getting ready to go on a hot date or something, she’s wearing a dress for the second time in two days. She hasn’t worn dresses in a really long time, and suddenly she’s wearing them all the time now.”
“Because the asshole she begrudgingly lived with for four years wouldn’t let her,” AJ informed him after a moment, deciding he has the right to know that Ava is testing him. Nick arched his brow in curiosity at this information and AJ went on. “The day the two of us had that huge fight and stopped talking for a month, she had brought every single one of her dresses and outfits that he deemed too ‘revealing’ and put them in her closet here after having saved them from the garbage can when he threw them out. He was even telling her what she could and could not wear, because he didn’t want her showing off to anybody. As far as he was concerned, she ‘belonged to him’. It pissed me off and was the last straw for me, everything blew up.”
“So she’s testing me then” Nick responded, suddenly comprehending and AJ nodded.
“She will continue to do so for a while until she fully feels that she is safe with you Nick. It was a big deal to her when you told her she was beautiful yesterday. She is putting all of her time and effort in her clothes, hair, and makeup for you.” Nick nodded as he stood there silently thinking about AJ’s words, suddenly understanding other issues at work here that he had stupidly missed. No wonder she gets nervous and pulls away from him when he tells her she ‘belongs’ to him, David told her that. He doesn’t mean it in the same possessive and controlling way that David does of course, his words are strictly out of love but Ava doesn’t know that because she is used to the poisonous words that he fed her. He would have clarified if he had known his words were scaring her. They will be discussing this later.
“Anyway, Jade and I are going to run some Top Secret errands real quick. If she comes down here looking for me, will you tell her that I love her and will be back right on time to go shopping?”
“Will do,” AJ promised while eyeing the younger man curiously, wondering what he is up to.
“Thanks,” Nick responded and with Jade still rested comfortably on his hip and Raul at his side, he walked out of the house and went to go check on how his big surprise for Ava is coming along. AJ raised his eyebrow wondering why he went out the back door instead of the front and started toward it, only to have Brian grab a handful of the back of his shirt and pull him back.
“Oh no you don’t, McLean, you stay put” He told him and AJ huffed and went over and sat in the chair at the table.
“It’s a surprise for Ava, why does it have to be kept secret from me?” he complained and Brian grinned in amusement.
“Why do you think, J? It’s no secret to anybody that you can’t keep a secret, especially from Ava. You tell her everything and it’s important that she finds out about this at exactly the right moment so we’re keeping very quiet about it. She already knows we’re up to something because she got a peek at what Nick was working on a couple of weeks ago.” AJ sighed heavily, but otherwise accepted Brian’s answer and Brian rolled his eyes playfully.
By the time eleven o’ clock rolled around an hour later, Ava walked into the kitchen that only occupied Brian now, wearing a black and white striped short figure-fit jersey dress with a round neck and long sleeves. She had on black tights, black wedges that zip up in the back, and had left her hair down and straightened. To complete her look she simply put on black eyeliner and black mascara to bring out her chocolate brown eyes that Nick loves so much. She looked around the kitchen for Nick who was ever so slowly becoming her entire world whether she wants to admit it or not and when she didn’t see him or her daughter anywhere, she looked at Brian confused.
“He and Jade are running top secret errands, they’ll be back just on time to go shopping” He explained. “He said to tell you he loves you.”
“Kay” Ava responded, secretly not liking the fact that Nick isn’t close by where all she has to do is look across the room or reach out and touch him if she wants him and she went to the refrigerator and pulled out a can of Dr Pepper. Brian seeing right through her, couldn’t help but smile slightly but otherwise kept quiet on the subject.
“You look nice today,” was all he said and Ava flashed him a small smile. She opened her mouth to respond, when she was suddenly interrupted.
“You look beautiful” Nick corrected, as he had walked in the door right then and heard what was last said. He set Jade down onto her feet and she immediately took off to go figure out the whereabouts of her best friend. Ava’s eyes instantly fell on him and her heart did an entire flip when they met his. Not being able to resist, she ran over to him and flew into his arms, winding her own around his neck. Nick chuckled softly before cradling her face in his hands. “I guess asking you if you missed me would be a ridiculous question, huh?” he asked softly and she rested her forehead against his. “You aren’t allowed to disappear on me like that Nicky; I don’t like not having you near.”
“I didn’t go far sweetheart I promise” Nick reassured while sliding his arms around her waist and bringing her closer to him so that she was leaning against him.
“Are you ever going to tell me what you are up to?” She asked while looking up at him with a small knowing smile. “You know that I know you are up to something.”
“I will when the time is right. Not only are you not ready for it yet, but it’s also not ready to be seen either.”
“When will I be ready for it?” Nick looked into her eyes for a few moments, before gently lifting her up so that she is straddling his waist with her arms still wrapped around his neck and she rested her forehead against his.
“When you aren’t afraid to tell me that you love me,” he answered before gently rubbing his nose over hers for an Eskimo’s kiss. “When you can look me in the eyes and tell me that I am your entire world and that you’re ready to spend the rest of your life with me, I will take you to see your surprise.” Ava gazed at him quietly, wondering what he could be up to before cradling his face in her hands in return and leaning down and kissing him. Nick slid his hands down and rested them on her bottom for support before kissing her back and Brian deciding that he would give them a few moments alone before they have to leave for the store, grabbed up his coffee and book and slipped out of the kitchen. When Nick pulled away moments later, with his forehead rested against hers, he lightly caressed her cheek with his fingertips.
“Are you all ready to go?” he asked and she nodded. “I meant what I said earlier you know, you are beautiful” he informed her before going over to the counter and setting her down on it positioning himself between her legs while she rested her arms on his shoulders. “It’s been such a long time since you’ve worn dresses, why the sudden change?”
“David would never let me wear them,” She answered softly after a moment and after gathering the courage she went on, holding onto the promise that she made to him and herself that she would never lie to him again. “If he truly had it his way, I would’ve been forced to pretty much wear Amish clothing in public and wouldn’t be allowed to show off any skin what-so-ever unless it’s to him, because he owned me. I belonged to him and there was no need to show off to anybody else. He didn’t fully have his way, but came pretty close.” Nick slid his arms around her waist and pulled her a bit closer to him protectively, wanting her to feel safe to tell him this. “I missed feeling beautiful and pretty and wanted to hear you tell me that I am. I needed to know that you wouldn’t try to control me.”
“Did you get your answer?” Nick asked gently. When Ava saw nothing but love in his eyes she nodded quietly and he gently tilted her chin up and brushed his lips lightly over hers. “You need to start telling me when my words unintentionally scare you baby, or else how am I supposed to help you get past this?” He asked still remaining very gentle. “You need to know that when I tell you that you belong to me, I don’t mean it in the possessive controlling way that he did, I mean it strictly out of love. You can wear anything you want and I’m still going to think you are the most beautiful girl in the world and I hope everyone is looking at you, because the difference between that bastard and me is, I like to show you off, and I want them to be jealous that you’re with me and not them.” When Ava didn’t respond he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her chocolate brown eyes as he held her close to him. She slid her arms around his neck and snuggled into him. “Okay?”
“Okay,” Ava responded softly and he rubbed his nose lightly over hers.
“I mean it Ava Marie. You can wear whatever you want. Or nothing, I really like that too.” When he saw a small smile start at the corner of her mouth, he grinned slightly at his small success.
“I’m already naked enough around you; I can never seem to keep all of my clothes on when I’m alone with you” she informed him just before lightly swatting his hand when he slid it up her leg and under her dress and he smirked and gently nipped on her lobe before whispering in her ear.
“It’s because it’s my favorite…you naked in my bed with no makeup on and hair a mess. There isn’t anything more beautiful than that.” Ava rested her head against his shoulder and snuggled deeper into him and he kissed her forehead and hugged her affectionately. “I love you baby…I don’t want you to be afraid of me anymore. If something I do or say scares you, I want to know about it so I can make it better okay?”
“Okay” Ava answered softly as she hugged him back.
“Come on beautiful, it’s time to go shopping” he informed her when he noticed the time on the stove. Before she could move away from him he gathered her up in his arms so he is cradling her against his chest with care and began to carry her into the living room while placing tender kisses on her forehead. When he walked in there he found everyone waiting and a protective AJ and Kevin looked immediately concerned when they saw him handling her as if she might break.
“What’s wrong?” AJ demanded lightly.
“Nothing, all is fine. I have one of my beautiful girls and Brian has the other, so we are ready when you are” Nick answered, noticing Jade sitting on top of one of Brian’s shoulders while Zara sat on the other. AJ shrugged his shoulders and took Tierja’s hand in his before walking out of the house and everybody followed his lead, Kevin locking the door. They all climbed into cars and headed to Wal-Mart.
“Mommy,” Jade spoke up eagerly as she tugs on Ava’s shirt while they were walking through Wal-Mart, Ava holding on firmly to her hand and Q and Raul sticking closely to their side.
“I gets candy?” She asked while looking up at Ava with the sweetest little puppy dog eyes ever.
“Sure baby, go ahead and pick something out.” Ava answered, and she couldn’t help but smile at how adorable her baby is. After a few moments of deciding, she eventually picked a king sized Twix bar up off of the shelves and Ava eyed her daughter warily.
“Baby do you really need that big of a candy bar?”
“Mommy please?” She pleaded. Ava continued to eye her daughter with a wary look on her face knowing exactly what’s going to happen after she eats all that sugar. Picture Nick’s energy times twenty and that will happen.
“Yeah mommy, pleeease?” Nick’s voice chimed in from behind her and a pair of gentle arms wrapped around her waist. He reached over and grabbed a Twix bar too as they’re his favorite candy bars and always have been. Ava rolled her eyes and smiled. She looked up at him and gazed into his irresistible blue eyes.
“You’re absolutely no help at all,” she informed him with laughter in her eyes.
“Yeah, but you love me anyway.” Nick insisted, and then leaned down and kissed her lips softly.
“Don’t you two ever stop? Get a room, sheesh” Kathryn teased, as she suddenly walked into the candy aisle and Nick and Ava pulled away. Ava looked down at Jade who still stood there holding her Twix bar and looking up at her mommy and daddy with her innocent little eyes.
“Fine…you can have it. But your daddy is going to be held responsible for just how crazy you get when you eat it.” She told her, as she scoops her daughter up and she lifted her playfully in the air and blew raspberries on her stomach making her shriek and then laugh hysterically.
“Mommy stop it that tickles!” She squealed, and Ava stopped and brought her down cradling her and she smiled into her blue eyes.
“You, angel, are so damn adorable it’s not even funny!” Ava told her as she places soft kisses on her forehead. Jade smiled happily and slid her arms around Ava’s neck and hugged her just as AJ and Tierja walked into the aisle.
“What are you three doing to that poor child; we can hear her screaming from all the way on the other side of the store.”
“Ava was just playing with her,” Nick explained while giving AJ a happy look as he too is starting to notice the happiness seep back into her ever since their talk this morning. When AJ and Tierja reached them, he slid his arms around Ava and kissed her forehead lovingly before taking notice of the giant candy bar in his niece’s hand.
“You’re giving Nick’s spawn that huge candy bar, are you insane? You’ll be scooping her down from the ceiling by the time that massive sugar rush I see in your immediate future ends” he teased and immediately felt Nick kick him in the butt and smirked.
“There’s no saying no to her, she gives you her sweet little puppy eyes and has you eating out of the palm of her hand” Ava insisted while leaning down and raining kisses all over Jade’s face making her giggle. AJ rolled his eyes playfully and then gently grabbed Nick by the arm and pulled him away from the group so they could talk in private. Ava eyed them curiously for a moment, but then turned her attention on Tierja who was trying to hide the upset look in her eyes to no avail. Ava handed Jade over to Kathryn and gently took Tierja’s hand and with Q still remaining strictly by her side as if he were glued to it, she pulled her friend away from the group too and spoke quietly.
“So? How did things go last night woman? I’m your best girlfriend it’s my job to pry answers out of you” She asked and Tierja laughed slightly.
“I see how it is…turning the tables one me now, are you?”
“Damn straight, now start talking” Ava answered with a small smile on her face.
“It went exactly the way I wanted it to go,” Tierja answered while eyeing the candy on the shelves.
“Then why don’t you look one-hundred percent happy?”
“Well, I guess I should say it went exactly the way I wanted it to go at the time,” Tierja corrected, looking away from the candy and at Ava instead. “Then we had a conversation about it this morning. It needed to be had, it just didn’t leave me one-hundred percent okay that’s all” she explained softly.
“What happened?” Ava asked concerned and Tierja looked at her, biting her lower lip nervously.
Earlier that morning, after making his rounds and making sure people were awake and getting ready for the day, AJ walked down the hall to his room deciding he should probably get ready himself. When he was in the doorway he stopped short when he found Tierja standing in there in a towel. It was then that he remembered he told her she could use his bathroom to get ready. Tierja looked up at him with wide eyes, not having expected anybody to walk in.
“Holy shit…I’m sorry! I forgot you were in here…I….” AJ stammered, trying to find the right words, though all he could do was stare at the beautiful woman he loves as she stands there with nothing on underneath that towel and memories of them sleeping together last night flashed through his head. Tierja laughed slightly and walked over to him and she cradled his face in her hands and looked into his eyes.
“Alex, its fine calm down,” She told him soothingly. “It’s not like you haven’t seen me naked before, why are you so nervous around me?”
“I’m not nervous; I just forgot you were in here, let alone in a towel that’s all. You took me by surprise.” Tierja gazed up at him in silence for a few moments, and deciding that she would let him have his excuse for now, she slid her arms around his neck and pulled him closer.
“Well, get used to it, because I’m not going anywhere” She informed him and he rested his forehead against hers.
“Is that a promise?” he asked softly and whether he wanted her to see it or not, she saw worry in his eyes. Tierja placed her hand to his cheek and pulled his lips down on hers in a soft kiss and AJ kissed her back deepening it. When she felt him starting to take her towel off, she pulled back from him.
“I need to get dressed and put my make up on for the day, and if you really plan on us leaving this house by eleven thirty, you should probably get ready too” She informed him and she laughed at the pout on his face before grabbing up her backpack and going to use the mirror in his bathroom. AJ huffed, but followed her advice nonetheless and proceeded to do what he originally came into the room to do to begin with, not failing to notice the amused smile on her face.
When AJ finished showering and was dressed he slid his arms around Tierja’s waist from behind and kissed the back of her head affectionately before looking at her through the mirror. When he saw the worry in her eyes disappear and the small happy smile take its place on her face, he grinned back slightly and rested his chin on her shoulder.
“Are we going to discuss what last night was any time soon? I know it’s bothering you, and I know the other girls talked you into it. You aren’t the type of woman to have a relationship be all about sex, Tierja, and I respect you way too much to go in that direction.”
“I’m not the type of woman to have it be like that forever,” Tierja corrected him softly, darting her eyes away from him and putting all of her focus on her makeup. “I’m in love with you and always have been, and I can’t live without you, so if it means moving a step forward with you and not being alone and hurt anymore, I’m willing to make that sacrifice for you. But yes I’m eventually going to want more than that, and you’re eventually going to have to tell me what’s scaring you, Alex.” AJ fell silent and Tierja turned slightly and gently cupped his face in her hands and looked into his chocolate brown eyes seriously. “I know you aren’t ready to right now, all I’m saying is, I will go your pace for now like Nick is doing for Ava, but you’re eventually going to have to open up to me.”
“And what if I never can?” AJ asked softly, his eyes guarded.
“Then I will eventually walk away from you and try my damndest to move on with my life, but it will kill me, Alex.” When she saw that she made her point very clear, she turned her attention back on her makeup and hair again. AJ stood there watching her in silence for a few moments, before leaning forward and kissing her cheek affectionately.
“I’ll be downstairs if you need me okay?” He asked softly. Tierja nodded quietly and watched through the mirror as AJ walked away from her.
~*~End Of Flashback~*~
“I probably terrified him, but we had to have that conversation. I told him how I feel; I made it clear that I am not going to wait on him forever, and now it’s up to him to do something about it. That was the right thing to do, right?”
“Yeah of course it was. I’ve been telling him this for a while now, but I think he needed to hear it from you. I can see he’s trying Tier, he really is. He’s just afraid.”
“Do you by any chance know what’s scaring him? Maybe if I knew it would help but he won’t tell me and it’s frustrating me.”
“I have a pretty good idea,” Ava answered and when Tierja looked into her eyes with a pleading look she went on. “We McLean’s kind of have a problem that I’m beginning to realize runs in the family. None of us has ever been in a relationship that has actually worked out. Dad left mom, Alex could never hold onto his girlfriends in the past, and obviously I’m no different either, the worst of them all actually abused me and won’t stop until he kills the one thing besides Nick that means everything to me in this world. So when we find someone that means the world to us, we don’t want to do anything to ruin that,” Ava explained while looking across the aisle, her eyes landing on Nick.
“When he told you that he respects you too much to make your relationship all about sex, he meant it.” She went on after a moment and returned her eyes back on Tierja. “You’re different from any other woman he has ever been with. He’s in love with you and I think like me, he’s terrified of losing you. We both have major abandonment issues…I do anyway at least. It started with my father and didn’t end with any other man who entered my life. I may have been the one who left the last one, but he still broke me.”
“He didn’t break you,” Tierja insisted while pulling Ava into a hug and she rested her head against her shoulder. “I promise honey. I think if you let it, the situation could make you much stronger and if you tried, this cycle of bad relationships could end with you and Alex. You just told me in so many words that you love Nick. Not directly, because you’re a stubborn McLean, and I’m glad you didn’t because he deserves to hear it first, but I heard it in your words nonetheless. If you let go of the hurt and let yourself be open to it, you will realize he loves you too and that you were meant to be with him all along.”
“I’m trying, but you make it sound so easy” Ava mumbled into her shoulder as she hugged her back and Tierja kissed the top of her head.
“I know you’re trying, and there is no rush what so ever. Nick isn’t going anywhere and neither am I as long as Alex starts trying too. The cycle of bad relationships ends with me and Nick.”
“I love you Tier.”
“I love you too sweetie.”
“Alex told me that he’s had Nick picked out as his brother in law from the very beginning…well you need to know that the feelings are mutual the other way around. I’m looking forward to you being my sister in law some day in the future when this all works out.” Tierja laughed softly and rubbed at her watery eyes.
“Me too, but I’m afraid it’s going to be in the far distant future the way things are looking. Your brother is nowhere near ready for an actual commitment right now let alone marriage.”
“I just wanted you to know that, that’s all”
“Well thanks honey, that means a lot to me,” Tierja smiled.
After spending an hour at the store getting everything that they want and need to stock up all of their tour busses tomorrow, everybody left the store and after visiting Nick’s lawyer and giving him the pictures and discussing important things, they returned home only to find the door wide open.
“Okay…I know I locked this…” Kevin announced worriedly, as he looked at the guys. Everyone cautiously walked into the house and they found it completely trashed. There was things thrown on the ground, furniture thrown everywhere, glass broken, Clothes all over the place—it looks like a tornado or two has been through it.
“Oh…shit…” AJ spoke softly, and then looked around for Ava and he found her standing near him looking around the house with tears threatening to fall—she knows who did this. He reached over and took her hand and pulled her close.
“Who could have done this?” Raven asked softly, not even thinking.
“Think about it…the one person who is trying to get back at ME. It’s between ME and HIM and he’s taking it out on everyone else!” Ava answered, letting the tears fall. “Everyone has to suffer because of me…” AJ sighed and pulled Ava into a hug and he kissed her forehead.
“Sweetheart it’s not your fault and you know it.”
“Yes it is.”
“No it’s not.” Nick replied and Ava shook her head in disbelief as Brian too wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close.
“Daddy…” Jade spoke softly, as she tugs on Nick’s shirt. Nick reached over and picked her up and she hugged him tightly as she rests her head against his shoulder and he placed soft kisses on her forehead as he hugs her close.
“Well…let’s all go make sure he didn’t take anything…and then call the cops” Kevin responded, and then took off looking around the house and Ava went straight upstairs. AJ looked at Nick to give him a ‘keep an eye on her’ look, only to see the younger man already following her up the stairs protectively. Just as he reached the top he heard her scream in her room.
“AVA!” Nick shouted and took off running in that direction still holding Jade and everyone else hurried up the stairs frantically after him. When Nick got inside the room he found Ava sitting on the floor leaning against the wall underneath a teddy bear that was hung up on the wall by a knife through it and there’s a note attached. Ava sat there hugging her legs to her chest, her face buried in her lap and she’s sobbing. Everyone else hurried in the room just as Nick grabbed the note and read it.
We know you told him. Was all it said.