“Are you ready to go Ava? The tour busses are here, and so are Luke and our new security members. AJ wants you to especially meet Luke.” Nick questioned while walking into her bedroom with Jade naturally rested on his hip. She has her head rested against his shoulder and is sucking her thumb on one hand and clutching her teddy in the other. She hasn’t let it out of her sight at all since she got it back from Ava yesterday. He appeared in the bathroom to find Ava standing in front of the mirror, just staring into it. She has on a black double collar halter top that zips up in the front. It adorns rhinestones on the collars and side buckle belts. She has on denim blue jeans, her lace up platform boots from sketchers, and she left her hair down and straightened it. To complete her look, she was wearing black eyeliner and pink lip-gloss. Ava scrunched up her nose and looked over at him.
“And what if I don’t want to?”
“Honey, he is a really nice guy…Jade and I have both met him and he seems like the type of person you would get along with.”
“He may be a nice guy, but he is also a possible threat to my brother too.”
“It is not his fault Tierja is attracted to him and you know it. Maybe your brother needs a little competition around here to light a fire under his butt. You know he is never going to let anyone steal her away from him.” Nick insisted and he reached out and slid one arm around her waist before pulling her near and he rested his forehead against hers.
“You look gorgeous,” he told her, everything in his eyes telling her he wants nothing more than to unzip that shirt right off of her and have his way with her, and would if he wasn’t currently holding their daughter in his arms and didn’t have a bunch of people downstairs waiting for them. “Is it your goal to make me completely crazy? Because it’s working...”
“I do like it when you’re crazy about me,” She admitted, a small smile on her face and she gently took their daughter from him and while she slid her arms around her neck and rested her head upon her shoulder instead, Ava proceeded to walk out of the bathroom, taking great care to shake her hips seductively knowing full well that he is looking and she smirked when he groaned and hurried after her. By the time they got downstairs she took his hand into hers and laced their fingers together as she heard the voices of all of the men she doesn’t know and will have to put her trust in just outside. She is only just learning how to trust her best friend who she has known for ten years again; she doesn’t know how she is going to be able to put her life in the hands of complete strangers. Nick squeezed her hand gently and brought it up and kissed the back of it causing her to look up at him and meet his eyes.
“They know you are shy, AJ warned them all ahead of time and all of them are expecting you to be wary of them at first anyway because of how David treated you. So there isn’t any pressure for you to be warmed up to them right away. Just know that I’ve got you okay? I would never let anyone hurt you.” Ava nodded quietly and with her hand still in his, he took the lead and proceeded to take her outside and over to where AJ was standing with Q, Drake, and three guys she doesn’t know. When they noticed them approaching they turned their attention on them.
“You must be Ava,” A man with shoulder length light brown hair, light brown eyes, and a short goatee that circles around his mouth and across his chin reminding her slightly of her brother greeted as he watched Nick slide his arm around her waist and pull her and his daughter close to him. He was wearing a black tee shirt, dark denim jeans, and a black leather jacket which Ava noticed right away was concealing his holstered gun. “I’m Demyan Dombrovski.”
“Hi Demyan, it’s nice to meet you” Ava spoke softly. “Are you going to be my bodyguard or Jade’s?”
“Jade’s – Stefan here got nominated to guard you” Demyan answered, indicating toward the other man standing beside him. Stefan has short dark brown hair that reaches just below his ears with slightly curly bangs that comes to a rest over his forehead and dark brown eyes. Like Demyan, he too has slight facial hair. Stefan’s circles his mouth and outlines his chin and the bottom of his cheeks and he has sideburns that are the length of his ears. He has on a light blue hoodie and black jeans. She can’t see his gun, but she suspects it’s under his hoodie somewhere.
“That’s if that’s okay with you, we can have it any way you want. I’m Stefan Ivanov,” He added gently.
“It’s nice to meet you Stefan, and no that’s fine” Ava responded, taking note of the slight hint of a Russian accent in both of their voices, and their names are very Russian too, so they’re obviously from there. She briefly wondered how two Russian men ended up in the American Police department, but kept it to herself for now. She has a whole bus ride to get to know them and has every intention of politely grilling them later. They are going to be looking after her daughter after all. She’s not going to blindly sit back and let Q and Drake run everything. She loves Q, he’s like family too her and he’s been protecting her, her entire life. She trusts him with her life whole heartedly. She knows Drake is a police officer and everything, but she wants to know everything that’s going on and everyone involved in protecting her. It’s the only way she is going to be able to put her trust in these guys. She turned her attention on the third man standing there that she hasn’t yet met but knows is Luke. He has curly golden bronze hair that touches the bottom of the back of his neck and blue eyes. He is wearing a black tee shirt with a skull graphic on it, the short sleeved shirt revealing all of the tattoos on his arms and jeans, and red converse shoes.
“And Ava, this is our new guitar player Luke,” AJ introduced when he noticed his sister’s focus was on him. Ava glanced up at Nick just long enough for him alone to notice the look of surprise in her eyes that he was right before leaning against him and looking at Luke again. He does look like someone she would be friends with.
“Hi Luke, it’s nice to meet you” She told him politely and Nick smiled softly and slid both of his arms around her waist and turned her sideways so that she was facing him and leaning against his chest with Jade between them. He kissed her forehead, everything in his demeanor saying I told you so. No one else would ever notice the silent banter going on between the couple, but Nick and Ava have known each other for a very long time and don’t need words to tease one another. With an exception of playfully pinching him in the side and subtly pressing herself into his obvious bulge, she ignored him and kept her eyes on the guitarist she was in the middle of meeting, smiling softly when she noticed him fight back a yelp and just barely managed to remain perfectly calm.
“Likewise,” Luke responded gently. “Your brother tells me you play the guitar yourself.”
“Yes I do,” Ava answered while resting her head against Nick’s shoulder lovingly. “I’ve been playing from the time I was old enough to pick up a guitar and start strumming – completely self-taught.”
“Nice, I will have to hear you play some time,” he responded. Ava opened her mouth to reply when suddenly she was interrupted.
“J, come on. The drivers want to leave” Kevin announced, poking his head out from his bus. Nick gently guided Ava and Jade over to their bus with Drake, Demyan, Stefan, and Q following close behind them while AJ and Tierja went to theirs and Luke went to the bus specifically for the crew. When Nick and Ava were on theirs they discovered Kathryn, Brian, Raven, and Zara already on it. For the sake of their children and everybody’s sanity, they thought it be best that Jade and Zara don’t get separated. Kathryn however, is quite a surprise, Ava was sure she would want to ride on Howie’s bus.
At the sight of her best friend, Jade squirmed her way down from Ava’s arms and ran over to join her. When Nick saw that Brian and Raven were more than happy to accept her into their playgroup and were keeping an eye on them, he turned his utmost attention on Ava with playful narrowed eyes and she smiled up at him innocently. Before he could reach out and grab her, she turned and walked over to Jade and sat down beside her before gently taking her into her lap, planning on dragging this torture on for as long as possible.
He told her she was making him crazy, she wants to show him just how crazy she can make him. And besides, it thrills her. David never got crazy over her like this. He had all of the control in the relationship, and if she ever pulled a stunt like this on him he would beat her. She watched in amusement in the corner of her eye as Nick debated on whether he should playfully drag her into the back room, or let it go. After a full moment, he decided he would let her have her fun for now and let it go, but there will be payback. Two can play this game. Shaking his head, he turned his attention on the ‘security talk’ that was going on between Q and the police officers wanting to be involved in all things to do with the safety of his girls and Ava looked at Kathryn.
“Hey lady, not that I’m not happy to see you or anything, because you know I am. But what are you doing here?” she asked curiously, gently nudging her in the foot with her own as she sat across from her. “You and D have been pretty close lately; I thought you would want to ride on his bus.”
“D and I are just friends Ava,” Kathryn insisted when she noticed her young friend wriggle her eyebrow playfully and Ava smiled in amusement.
“With some pretty awesome benefits from the looks of things…”
“It’s not like that” Kathryn responded and Ava laughed.
“Then why are you blushing?” she asked and Kathryn threw a pillow at her, making Ava quickly dodge it and smirk.
“Only one woman is allowed to be in denial in this group at a time, Kat. Don’t go turning into me now.”
“Well I’m glad you’re finally admitting you are in denial” Brian spoke up in amusement.
“We’re not talking about me, we’re talking about Kathryn here” Ava insisted stubbornly. “With the two of you being just friends and all, I figured you would want to ride on his bus.” She amended, keeping up her playful banter, wanting to drag information out of the older woman. She knows she is keeping secrets from her she can sense it. Brian rolled his eyes playfully, but otherwise kept quiet and let the baby of the group have her fun. He knows she is like Nick, and once she gets started there is no stopping her.
“I just thought I would spend time with you and Raven, that’s all” Kathryn finally answered, her eyes discretely going toward the other side of the room where the officers and Q stood, Ava noticing in the corner of her eye that they landed on a certain very hot dark haired Russian bodyguard. Ava smirked in utmost amusement.
“With Raven and I huh?” was all she said, knowing those highly trained security guards can probably hear the smallest thing and notice the smallest details and she wouldn’t do that to her best friend no matter how big of a pain in the butt she likes to be.
“Yup,” Kathryn answered innocently. “And besides, he has Kevin with him on his bus. You know how those two are when they’re on the road.”
“All about business, I know. Nick and I learned how to avoid being stuck alone with them a long time ago.”
“I’m surprised Nick managed to avoid having AJ with us, he was all about you being in his eye sight at all times last night” Raven responded.
“It helps to have him wrapped tightly around Tierja’s finger and her around his heart; he’ll do whatever she wants him to do. That and Q bribed him in order to keep the peace” Brian explained.
“Bribed him with what?” Ava asked amusedly, wanting to know what it takes to get her highly protective brother to back off. She’s never been able to accomplish that before, she didn’t think it could be done.
“He’s buying him Starbucks and breakfast every morning for a month.” Ava sat there in stunned silence for a long moment until she suddenly felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. She reached in and pulled it out and looked at it curiously to see that it reads Nick. She glanced his way and noticed him talking to security, though she recognizes that mischievous smile on his face nonetheless. Rolling her eyes playfully, she looked down at her blackberry and opened the message.
Just wait until I get you alone, you little minx…you’re in a world of trouble. Ava held back a snort and proceeded to reply. She is surprised that playful threat doesn’t terrify her, considering all things.
Oh I am, am I? she typed and then pressed send.
You better believe it, baby. You’re playing with fire.
Well I hate to burst your bubble Nickolas, but that’s going to be an awful long time from now. We share a bed with our daughter all night.
You can’t hide behind Brian, Raven, Kat, and the kids all day.
Watch me. She waited and when she didn’t get a response, she hugged Jade closer to her.
“Who wants to bake brownies?”
“ME!” both girls exclaimed excitedly, their little eyes going wide.
“Great, looks like it’s unanimous – lets go” Ava told them with a big smile on her face, and she got up with each girl rested on her hip and brought them over to the kitchen, the feeling of Nick’s eyes on her not going unnoticed.
“Well, that came way out of left field…” Raven told Brian and Kathryn quietly, the three of them eyeing their youngest friend with surprised looks.
“I have a feeling she’s pulling the female Nick card and Nick just happens to be on the receiving end right now,” Brian told them amusedly, as the couple’s conversation through text and Nick’s uncomfortable predicament hasn’t gone unnoticed by him.
“Still, for her to decide to bake something all on her own is a pretty amazing step toward recovery. And the fact that she is able to tease Nick at all without being afraid of pissing him off says a lot too” Kathryn insisted.
“She’s a McLean, she’s a fighter. I knew it wouldn’t take long for her to bounce back, I’ve had faith in her all along” Brian insisted. “David didn’t break her, no matter how much she would like to think so.” Nick let Ava spend the time baking with the girls simply for the fact that it’s good for her, but he kept up his relentless texting nonetheless, being sure to explain to her in perfect detail just what he was going to do to her the moment he got the chance and enjoyed watching her squirm as he aimed to make her feel like he was touching her even though he was clear across the room. When he noticed her just putting the batch in the oven and the kids had run off to play again, he walked up behind her so that she was trapped between him and the counter as she was in the middle of wiping it up and slid his arms around her waist. She looked up at him with that all too innocent look in her eyes, though he could see the need for him in them anyway, especially when she felt him press his erection up against her.
“I am through with playing games with you,” he informed her softly in her ear and she fought back a moan as he slid his hand down between her legs and placed loving kisses on the back of her neck and shoulder. “Either you let me drag you back to our bunk, or we shut the door and make love right here and now, take your pick sweetheart.” Not having the strength to play hard to get anymore, Ava turned around to face him, brought her hand up and cupped his cheek in it and pulled his lips down on hers for a kiss. Nick moaned softly and kissed her back hungrily. When she pulled away minutes later he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes.
“Make your decision baby, you’ve got about five seconds before I pick you up and put you on this counter” he told her quietly.
“Kat,” she spoke up, managing to keep her voice normal.
“Yes Ava?” Kathryn asked amidst playing video games with Brian, Raven, and the kids.
“Will you check on the brownies for me and take them out when they’re done, please?”
“Uh huh, will do” Kathryn promised, and Ava slid her arms around Nick’s neck just as he picked her up and proceeded to carry her into the bunk room shutting the door behind them.
“Alexander James, will you please relax? Your sister is fine” Denise lectured as she watched him stand at the window of the bus and gaze out at it agitated. Tierja had fallen asleep in the other room in front of the television after cuddling with him on the couch.
“I’ve never not had her with me on the road, Momma.”
“I know that, but she’s in a relationship with Nick now. Protecting her isn’t just your responsibility anymore, you have to learn to trust that he is just as capable of doing so too.”
“He doesn’t know everything that goes into protecting her, mom. There is a reason she has been kept in my eye sight at all times all these years.” AJ reminded, turning and looking at her with a serious look that she would understand.
“Then maybe it’s about time that you told him” Denise responded back just as seriously.
“I promised her that I wouldn’t. She wants that part of her life to stay buried.”
“What are you going to do when Nick proposes to her and she marries him and…oh I don’t know…decides she wants to move out?” Denise questioned and AJ looked at her like that’s the craziest thing he’s ever heard. “She’s not going to want to share that house with the five of you forever you know, and neither is he. You have to face the possibility that it could happen. And if it does, don’t you think Nick should know? Besides the fact that he is her best friend and could very well end up her husband someday, if god forbid she should relapse, he will be the one there when it happens. And he’s not going to have time to call you up and demand to know what’s going on with her, all of his focus will need to be on her.”
“Fine, you have a point” AJ responded softly and he turned and looked back out the window. Denise gazed at him quietly for a long moment, before going over to him and gently making him look at her.
“She’s still your baby sister, that’s never going to change and its always going to be your job as her brother to protect her. But I think it’s time you welcomed Nick into her circle of protection too so that it’s not all on you. He loves her; he has a right to know.”
“And what about the promise I made to Ava, huh?”
“I think the two of you should tell him together. She’ll do it if you convince her to, she always listens to you. If they’re going to be in a relationship, he deserves and needs to know everything about her.”
“Okay,” AJ agreed softly and he turned his head to continue to stare out the window, only to have his mother gently take him by the arm and pull him away from it.
“Now quit your worrying and come play checkers with me and we’ll talk about Tierja next” she added with a small smile on her face and AJ huffed and rolled his eyes. There are upsides and there are downsides to having his mother on the road with them.