After seeing what the note said, Nick sighed heavily and after handing Jade over to Tierja and the note to AJ, he went over and sat next to Ava before taking her gently into his arms and she buried her face in his shoulder, put a death grip on him, and continued to cry.
“What does the note say, J?” Brian asked worriedly.
“It says we know you told him on it…”
“And now he’s going to come after my baby, he’s made that very clear” Ava cried. “He knows I told him, and won’t stop at anything until he has her.”
“Well he’s not getting her” Nick reassured while tightening his arms around her. “You know that baby, she has nine people plus our security keeping an eye on her and we’re taking all of the measures to make sure he doesn’t.”
“That restraining order isn’t going to mean anything to him Nick.”
“Look at me baby,” Nick ordered gently and he pulled back from her and gently cradled her face in his hands so that she is looking into his eyes. “If you can’t have faith in this restraining order, then have faith in me instead. I need you to trust me to take care of you and our daughter; can you do that for me?” When all Ava did was gaze at him tearfully, he went on. “You have known me since we were kids, baby. You know I’m not going to let anything happen to either one of you. Not without a damn good fight and if he does manage to succeed, you know I’m going to go after him with a full vengeance. She’s ours, he can’t have her.” Ava shifted so that she is straddling him and slid her arms around him before once again burying her face in the crook of his neck and he slid his arms around her waist and held her close to him protectively.
“You and Jade are mine and I will fight like hell to make sure he doesn’t take you from me. And if that makes me sound a little bit possessive, so be it but the difference here is you are safe with me Ava. You didn’t give me a chance to fight for you when she was born, I’m asking you to give me that chance now.”
“I’m not going anywhere Nicky,” Ava spoke softly into his neck and she tightened her arms around his waist. “Where else would I go? You’re home to me and always have been and you are all I’m holding onto right now to keep me safe.” Nick gently placed his hand at the back of her head and made her rest her head against his shoulder before kissing her forehead and hugging her and while she hugged him back Tierja suddenly spoke up.
“Ava, Nick…we have a situation over here” she announced and Nick, Ava, and everyone else looked in her direction to find her kneeling down in front of Jade who was sitting on the floor leaning against the bed and she has her arms crossed over her chest and tears streaming down her face as Zara sat next to her with her arms wrapped around her.
“Baby Jay what’s the matter huh?” Ava asked while wiping her tears away and she got up and crossed the room to them before sitting down in front of her daughter after Tierja had moved. She gently gathered her into her lap so that she is cradling her, before resting her forehead against hers and gazing into her teary blue eyes. Nick who had gotten up and followed her sat down in front of her. “Huh? Tell Mommy why you’re crying.” After a few moments of silence Jade pulled out what she was hiding face down into her shirt and she turned it over revealing a ripped up picture of her and Nick together that was done professionally at one of his photo shoots. She was three in the picture and it was one of her favorites. On the now ripped picture David had wrote Nick is NOT your father, Jade.
“Oh no…” Ava spoke softly before looking at Nick not knowing what to do.
“He ripped my picture Mommy…” Jade cried, and Ava hugged her closer.
“It’s okay baby, calm down…Mommy has a whole box full of pictures of you and your Daddy.”
“But this one was my favorite picture Mommy, it was special”
“Here baby…let me handle this…” Nick spoke up, and he took Jade from her and placed her into his own lap before cradling her. He gazed into her teary eyes for a couple of minutes as she lay there sniffling.
“You and I will get another picture taken together, how is that?”
“It won’t be the same…” she sniffled. “This one was professionally done, Daddy. And you gave it to me on Christmas. It’s special…”
“Well the boys and I will surely be having another photo shoot soon…Daddy will talk the manager into letting you get your picture taken with me, how is that? We’ll make this one even more special. It’ll be recent and everything.” Nick offered, as he leans down resting his forehead against hers and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“You promise?” She asked softly.
“I promise.” Jade looked up at him for a couple of moments just thinking as he cradles her in his arms and has his forehead rested against hers still.
“He killed Teddy…” She announced suddenly, and she sniffled.
“Well that’s something that Mommy can fix,” Ava reassured her as she sat Indian style in front of Nick while he sat in the same position and she brushed Jade’s hair out of her face before tucking it behind her ear. “I can sew teddy back up and he’ll look good as new I promise.”
“Really?” Jade asked hopefully.
“Of course…that’s what mommies are for, they make great doctors when it comes to injured teddy bears. Why don’t you take a nap and right when you wake up he’ll be good as new and ready for your snuggles?”
“Yeah, come on honey you’ve been up since early this morning watching cartoons. You need a nap” Nick agreed with Ava and Jade stuck her lower lip out in a pout. And here she thought her daddy was always going to be on her side.
“I am on your side you silly goose” He told her, reading the expression on her face so well. “But when it comes to my little girl’s well-being, I’m going to side with mommy because she’s always right about those things.” Jade huffed, but otherwise didn’t respond.
“And anyway baby J, Zara can take one with you its nap time for her too.”
“Aww…Mommy…” Zara protested.
“Don’t Aww Mommy me, you’re taking one.” Raven replied, and couldn’t help but smile before looking at Ava.
“Want Brian and I to take her off your hands for a while sweetie? We can put them down for their nap in our room; I brought a lot of Z’s favorite Disney movies over here and everything.”
“If it’s not too much trouble…” Ava responded wanting to get through this emotional situation without Jade around to witness how upset she is any more than she already has. It’s only going to get worse when the cops arrive, which she can see that Kevin is already taking care of.
“Of course it’s not.” Raven insisted while walking over to them and scooping Jade up into her arms while she holds Zara at the same time and she carried them off to Brian’s room with Brian right behind them. She and Brian both hope to god that there isn’t too big of a mess in there. While Ava sat there watching them disappear out of the room, a thought suddenly crossed her mind and she got to her feet and rushed over to her nightstand and threw open the top drawer. When she discovered the envelope with Jade’s birth records in it gone, she turned toward Nick about to cry all over again only to find him standing right behind her and he gently grabbed her face and looked into her eyes.
“Calm down sweetheart, I have them…it’s okay” He reassured her calmly, having had figured out what she was currently panicking over the very second she ran toward her nightstand.
“You have them?” Ava asked emotionally, double-checking she heard him right and he pulled her into a hug.
“I have them, they’re safe” he answered gently while kissing the top of her head.
“Have what?” Kevin asked worriedly when he got off of the phone and Nick glanced over at him to see everybody eyeing them worriedly.
“Ava has been keeping Jade’s birth records, both from the hospital and her official birth certificate hiding in her nightstand drawer for the past four years because she didn’t want David to see them” Nick explained while rubbing his hand over her back soothingly. “They have my name on them listed as the father” He added before looking into her eyes. “She showed them to me last night and I moved them this morning to a much safer place in my room.”
“Where did you put them Nick? Show me, I need to know to have peace of mind. Her birth certificate can easily be replaced, but the one we got from the hospital is special to me. How do you know he didn’t tear your room apart too and find them?”
“Because he wouldn’t have been able to have access to them,” Nick reassured and he gently took her hand into his before leading her out of the room and down the hall to his own. As soon as they were in there, sure enough they discovered it just as trashed as the rest of the house. He brought her into his walk in closet and she watched him go over and sit on the floor in front of a rectangular compartment that occupied his hanging clothes. He motioned her toward him then, causing her to walk over to him and he gently took her hand into his and pulled her down into his lap. She watched him pull the compartment out away from the wall revealing a hidden fire proof safe behind it. He gently made her rest her head against his shoulder and covered her eyes before putting in the code, not removing his hand until he had the folder containing Jade’s papers in them out and had shut the safe again. He opened it up and showed them to her and when relief instantly flooded back into her, she reached up and cupped his face in her hands before pulling his lips down on hers in a soft kiss and he kissed her back.
“You are my hero right now,” she told him between kisses before shifting so that she was straddling him and he instantly slid his arms around her waist.
“Ever since you showed me these papers, I didn’t like the idea of them just being in that drawer of yours, so while you were in the bathroom getting ready this morning I took them. I meant to tell you, I’m sorry I didn’t baby.”
“Thank you for doing that Nicky, I would’ve been heartbroken if he got his hands on these. I never imagined he would break in here…you and my brother live here, in my mind this was the one place he couldn’t touch.”
“I have more room in this safe then I know what to do with, so if there is anything else important that you are hiding in that room that you don’t want him getting his hands on you tell me and I will lock it up for you.” Ava quietly eyed the safe in curiosity, suddenly wondering why he was so secretive about the passcode and the things that are in it with her of all people now that her previous worry was taken care of. Not missing this at all, Nick smiled softly and hugged her closer to him while planting a kiss on her forehead. “I have something in there that I’m not ready for you to see just yet. I will give you access to the safe when you finally do. I’m not hiding anything from you that I don’t plan on eventually letting you see I promise.”
“Nick, Ava, the police just pulled up” Howie warned, poking his head in Nick’s bedroom door.
“We’ll be right there” Nick responded before taking the folder from Ava and while she rested her head against his shoulder and snuggled into him with her eyes closed comfortably, he opened the safe again and returned the important papers to it. When he had it closed up and hidden again he stood up with her cradled against his chest and carried her out of his room and down the hall to hers again. Once they were in there, they only had to wait a few minutes before AJ brought the officer into her room.
“Hi, I’m Officer Drake. Are you missing anything?” The officer asked after taking in the room.
“We haven’t really had the chance to look around yet, but I don’t think so” Nick spoke up while hugging Ava close to him protectively. “He’s only interested in one thing, and that’s to torment my girlfriend.”
“He left this note attached to my niece’s teddy bear with a knife in that wall over there,” AJ spoke up indicating toward Jade’s favorite bear and holding out the paper. Officer Drake took it and after reading what it says, he looked at Ava.
“What does it mean?”
“David is my ex-boyfriend. When he found out that Nick and I were together for one night and that I was pregnant, he forced me to keep the fact that he is her real father secret” Ava answered softly, and Nick gently combed his fingers through her hair and kissed her forehead affectionately. “He told me that if he ever found out, he would take Jade from me and kill her. I kept the secret for four years to protect her but when I left him recently and moved back in with my brother, keeping the secret was making me emotionally sick so I finally told him...”
“Is this his first attack on you?”
“No, there have been a few other incidents where he has tried to forcefully take Ava from us that we have reported and we’re in the process of getting a restraining order” Nick spoke up after going over to the bed, clearing a space, and sitting down with Ava. “We had just come back from talking to my lawyer when we found the place trashed.”
“Well, it’s good that you’re reporting his every move so that it’s on record, but judging by the fact that he wasn’t afraid to break in here and give you a message that was clearly a threat toward your daughter, a restraining order is not going to stop him at this point.” Ava snuggled deeper into Nick, refraining from saying I told you so.
“We weren’t going to rely too heavily on it, but we wanted to get it anyway just to say we took that step.” Nick explained while rubbing his hand over Ava’s back soothingly.
“Well, lucky for you, you’re talking to the right officer. I don’t tolerate abuse against women and children at all and have helped many of them into safe homes and even saw that they eventually got their lives back in the past, so you have my full support in this, restraining order or not. Ava’s obvious bruises and this incident are enough evidence for me. Where is your daughter now?”
“Down the hall in my band mate’s room taking a nap. She was distressed over her teddy bear and favorite picture that he ripped up so we wanted to get her away from it all,” Nick answered after exchanging relieved looks with AJ.
“He ripped her picture?”
“Yeah, this one” Ava answered while reaching over and grabbing the ripped picture that she put on the nightstand earlier and handing it over. The officer nodded and opened his mouth to say something when suddenly his phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the caller ID.
“I have to take this, just a minute” He told them before answering the call and walking out of the room. When he returned minutes later, he had a frown on his face as he looked at Nick.
“Is your Lawyer James Conrad?”
“Yes…why?” Nick asked worriedly.
“That was my partner. We got two calls earlier, this one and a crime scene that we had to be at. So we did a divide and conquer sort of thing. He found your lawyer beaten till near unconscious in his office.” Everybody stared at him in shocked silence upon hearing this information, trying to process it. They had just spoken to James only an hour ago. After what seemed like forever, a suddenly tearful Ava was the one to break the silence.
“Is he going to be okay?” She asked softly.
“He is being sent to the hospital right now as we speak so as of right now we don’t know.”
“And you are sure it was David who did it?” Kevin asked.
“We’re positive. My partner found a note taped to James’s body stating it’s not going to be that easy to keep me away Ava.”
“I want to be kept up to date on him,” Nick insisted after a moment when he found his voice to speak. “He and I are close; he’s had my back in a lot of tough situations.”
“If it’s possible to give you that information I will let you know, I promise. But you may have to go through his family though. Meanwhile, would you consider the possibility of putting the two of them in the witness protection program?”
“My brother and Nick are getting ready to go on tour tomorrow, they can’t afford to go into hiding and I won’t leave them.”
“If going into hiding is the only way to keep that bastard away from you and my daughter, then that’s what the three of us will do” Nick insisted and Ava looked up at him.
“What about the Backstreet Boys? You’ll be letting down millions of fans by not being there.”
“They will just have to do without me for a while, that’s all there is to it. You are my family and my family is in danger. That comes first.” Nick replied while looking at Kevin who surprisingly didn’t look like he was about to fight this to the death. Ava really does have him wrapped tightly around her finger.
“Nicky I couldn’t let you do that. You love being onstage performing…you need it.”
“I need you more, and the decision is mine to make, not yours.”
“We will only go there if it’s absolutely necessary, I just want you to think about it that’s all” Drake responded. “If you do it, nobody outside of the house we put you in will be allowed to have any contact with you what-so-ever until David is caught. He would be waiting for that.” Ava reached out and grabbed her brother’s hand tightly in hers.
“I won’t leave you” She insisted, fighting back the urge to cry with great difficulty.
“Sweetheart, if it comes down to it, if it’s the only thing that’s going to save yours and Jade’s life you will do it.”
“What are you doing for security in the meantime?” Drake spoke up again after a moment.
“We have our Backstreet security guarding her; they don’t leave her side when we go out in public.”
“Is that going to be difficult when you’re touring and need them yourself? I imagine your young teenage fans get pretty crazy.”
“Yes, but it doesn’t mean we won’t figure it out,” Q spoke up from the doorway. “AJ has always had Ava on the road with us since she was eleven so we’re used to watching over her as well.”
“Yeah, but now you have someone out there stalking her every move…I can easily see him trying to take advantage of a very large crowd and attacking when you are most vulnerable. I will provide extra help if you want it.”
“We could never go wrong with a little extra help…” Q agreed after a moment, deciding the officer has a very good point. He can’t afford to be territorial with Ava right now when she and Jade’s life are in jeopardy. AJ can’t share him and Marcus all the time after all. It was easier when she was little, because all they had to do was sit her up on their shoulders and she was fine while they were able to put their focus on the boys, but she’s not so little anymore and there is a possessive man, probably with a gun out to get her. They could use the help. He’s not completely handing her over to this extra help though; they will have to put up with him.
“I’m not trying to come in here and take over, I promise. I can see how protective of her you are” Drake reassured after a moment, not missing the slight territorial look in Q’s eyes. He has a feeling Ava has every single man in this house wrapped tightly around her finger; they all seem highly protective of her.
“She’s the youngest out of the group and until Tierja, Kathryn, and Raven came into the picture, the only girl in the group too. She’s our baby and trust me she knows just how to act like it, of course she has us wrapped around her finger” Q insisted, not missing or finding it difficult to read the look in Drake’s eyes either. Ava couldn’t help but smile softly in amusement.
“Don’t fight over me boys; protecting me from David is going to require a team effort. There’s enough of me to go around.”
“Not too much of you to go around though,” Nick spoke up, tightening his arms around her and smiling. “I may not be as possessive as David is, but I’m sure as hell not sharing you either.” Ava shifted so that she is straddling him and while he slid his arms around her waist she rested her hands on his shoulders and leaned up and kissed him causing him to kiss her back lovingly.
“Don’t worry Nicky, there is only one man in this whole world that I want to belong to,” She told him between kisses and when she pulled away, he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes working very hard to hide the emotion in his own, to no avail. She saw it and knows how happy she made him by saying that. It’s not I love you, but he knows she is getting closer and closer to it.
“Don’t mind them, they never stop. When are we going to be meeting this extra help?” Q spoke up again after rolling his eyes playfully.
“I could have them ready to go when you are, what time are you leaving tomorrow?”
“12 in the afternoon,” Kevin was the one to answer. “We will be getting on our tour busses here.” Drake nodded and sat there quietly thinking for a few moments, his eyes landing on the teddy bear that no one’s gotten around to taking down yet.
“You say that’s Jade’s favorite teddy bear?”
“Yeah, I’ve promised to have it sewn back up for her and good as new by the time she wakes up…I should probably get on that” Ava responded while getting to her feet and going over to get the teddy bear down.
“Does she take it with her everywhere she goes?”
“Yes she does. I’m surprised she left it home today, because she rarely goes anywhere without it. Nick gave it to her when she was a baby.”
“I know what you are thinking, and it’s a good idea” Q spoke up, once again reading the look on Drake’s face. “If you can do it, then do it.”
“Do what?” Ava asked curiously, and slightly amused. As much as Q wants to be territorial and not like Drake, he’s visibly having a very hard time. She predicts they’re going to be best friends within two weeks of being on the road together.
“If it’s okay with you and Nick, I was thinking how convenient it would be to put a tracker in her teddy bear so we would always know where to find her. I can have one in it in no time and you would still be able to keep your promise to have it sewn back up before she’s awake.” Ava looked over at Nick and saw he didn’t need any convincing about this, he’s sold.
“If it means knowing where my daughter is at all times, I’m okay with it. Ava?” he asked, looking over at her, wanting to include her on any decision he makes so that she knows she has just as much say in their relationship as he does.
“Okay,” She agreed and Drake pulled his phone out of his pocket.
“I’ll have my partner bring a tracking device then and call my captain and discuss all of this with him. In the meantime, you all should probably check to make sure nothing was taken and everything is normal around here just to be on the safe side.” When he walked out of the room, Nick got to his feet and walked over to Ava and wrapped his arms around her while looking over at AJ who looked at Q.
“This is a good thing Q; we need police protection on our side.”
“I know I’m just feeling a bit on the territorial side that’s all…I’ll get over it as long as I’m involved in everything…I’ve never not been in charge of Ava and Jade’s safety.”
The next day Ava awoke early to the sound of Jade’s excited squeals downstairs, and reached over to wrap her arm around Nick, only to discover him not there. Feeling confused, she opened her eyes and glanced at the clock to see that reads six am. When she managed to wake up all the way, she crawled out of bed and ventured downstairs as the smell of breakfast filled the house. Nick is sitting on the floor playing with an overjoyed Jade and Zara, and to her surprise Denise is there.
“Mommy!” Jade cheered the moment she saw Ava enter the kitchen, as her mommy is her favorite person in the world right now. Just as Ava had promised, when Jade woke up from her nap yesterday, her teddy bear was good as new like nothing ever happened to it. The smile on her face, the way her eyes lit up and how she looked at Ava as if she were a real hero all because she fixed her teddy bear had made Ava feel really good inside. Especially when she was rewarded with a Velcro hug and an I love you Mommy.
“Hi baby,” Ava replied, forcing a small smile on her face for her daughter before going over to Denise.
“Hey Momma…what are you doing here?” She asked while pulling her into a hug.
“I’ve been asked to go on tour with you and I agreed so that I could spend more time with you.”
“Oh, well that’s cool” Ava responded casually even though it’s very obvious that she’s beyond thrilled about this information. She has only seen her mom once since she’s been home and she misses her.
“You are up really early,” AJ announced, as he turned and looked at Ava to find her sitting in Denise’s lap shamelessly. She is the baby and she definitely knows how to act like it.
“I heard Baby Jay and woke up...It’s a habit I’ve developed from living with David over the years.”
“And I smelled breakfast and knew it was you cooking so I had to come down here—wouldn’t miss out on your cooking ever.” Ava told him, again forcing a small smile. AJ laughed in amusement even though he did notice her fake smiles.
“I would have woken you.”
“Aren’t you just a little too old to be sitting in your Momma’s lap, Ave?” Kathryn spoke up. Ava wrapped her arms around Denise and hugged her while resting her head against her shoulder.
“Absolutely not,” She answered as Denise smiled softly and returned her hug and AJ rolled his eyes playfully.
“She’s a Momma’s girl and has been since she was little. She’ll never leave her side the entire tour, watch.”
“You’re just as much of a Momma’s boy as she is a Momma’s girl, Alexander James McLean.” Denise spoke up in a scolding tone, making AJ lower his head and the guys all laugh. Ava smirked.
“You got told, Ha-ha,” she teased.
“Shush you” AJ replied while shaking his head smiling and he turned his attention back on breakfast. Ava stuck her tongue out at him behind his back making everyone laugh once again and AJ turned and looked at them causing Ava to quickly stop and act normal. AJ raised his eyebrow.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing Alex, nothing at all…” Ava answered innocently and AJ stared her down, not trusting her in the least bit.
“…Right, you’re not Nick’s best friend for nothing.”
“Well I’m glad you pointed that out big brother, but I’m getting kind of hungry” Ava announced.
“Yeah dude, today would be nice.” Howie laughed. AJ scowled and once again turned his attention back on breakfast. Ava smiled and got up and went up behind him and she wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her chin against his shoulder.
“I love you Alex…” She told him with an innocent smile on her face.
“Yeah, yeah…” He replied, and wrapped one arm around her before pulling her around in front of him. He hugged her close to him and rested his cheek against her forehead while he continued to make breakfast. She stood there with him for a few moments, before going over to Nick and the kids and she sat sideways in Nick’s lap. He wrapped his arms around her waist and looked into her eyes.
“You are very unusually obnoxious considering it’s so early in the morning. You’re normally very grumpy when you wake up at six AM.”
“Well I had a very good night’s rest,” Ava told him, before placing her hand to his cheek and bringing his lips down on hers in a soft kiss.
“Daddy it’s your turn,” Jade spoke up, causing Nick to pull away from Ava’s kiss remembering he’s in the middle of playing mouse trap.
“Sorry baby,” Nick laughed and then turned his attention back to the game. After going his turn he looked back at Ava again resting his forehead against hers and he gazed into her brown eyes.
“You’re really good at distracting people, you know that?”
“Especially certain daddies” Jade added, making both Ava and Nick laugh.
“That’s right, especially certain daddies.” Nick agreed in a mock lecturing tone while making that goofy face he always makes and Ava giggled. He smirked at his accomplishment of getting her to smile for real for the first time all morning and he kissed her forehead and continued to gaze into her eyes.
“How come Baby Jay was so excited earlier? I could hear her from all the way up in my room.”
“Your mom walked in and she got all excited to see her.”
“I don’t blame her, I’m happy to see her too” Ava admitted as she glanced over at her mother who was in the middle of a conversation with Kevin and she rested her head against Nick’s shoulder. Her mom may have forgiven her when she came home, but she never really got to spend any time with her after that one morning, so she’s still kind of feeling guilty. They’re going to have to do a little mother and daughter outing and go the mall or something the moment they get the chance.
Nick who was paying very close attention to her while he was playing with the kids, gently brushed her bangs to the side and kissed her forehead affectionately, causing her to slide her arms around his waist and with her head still rested comfortably against his shoulder she quietly watched him and the kids play. By the time the game was over and Zara had won, breakfast was ready so while Nick helped them clean up Ava made Jade’s plate, then hers, and just as she was half way through making Nick’s, he came up behind her and slid his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.
“Are you making my plate for me baby?” He asked incredulously.
“You’re always doing nice things for me; I wanted to do something nice for you.” Nick quietly gazed into her eyes and when he saw her genuine desire to please him because she cares about him and not because she feels like she needs to he hugged her close to him. She leaned back against him and continued to do what she was doing and he kissed the side of her head.
“I love you,” he told her softly in her ear and when she finished she turned and handed the plate to him. He leaned forward and kissed her softly before going over and sitting down at the table, leaving the chair between him and Jade empty for her and she grabbed up Jade’s and her own and followed.