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Chapter Twenty Six

“Are you really planning on staying out all night, Alex?” Tierja asked as the couple walked hand in hand along the sidewalk in the city of Pittsburgh.

“Absolutely baby, till the crack of dawn” AJ insisted and he wrapped his arm around her and pulled closer to him. She rested her head against his shoulder as he kissed her forehead.

“What can we possibly do all night? We did all of the nightlife stuff, there’s no way you could possibly pay the whole city to stay open for you” She questioned with a small amused smile and he chuckled softly and stopped in front of a building. He pulled her in front of him and once again slid his arms around her waist.

“We did the nightlife stuff and saw the best of Pittsburgh, yes, and now I plan to take a tip out of Nick’s handbook and step things up.”

“A tip out of Nick’s handbook, huh? You’re taking advice from Nick?” She asked teasingly, though when she looked up into his eyes he saw the thrill in her stormy blue ones nonetheless. It’s no secret to anyone that Nick goes a little overboard romancing Ava sometimes.

“You’re not allowed to breathe a word to anyone,” AJ teased right back and he rubbed his nose lightly over hers.

“Are you kidding me? I’m going to be talking about this night with the girls for hours tomorrow.” AJ rolled his eyes playfully.

“Well, as much as I hate to admit it, the kid has some pretty good ideas and he treats my sister very well,” he told her while bringing her into a restaurant that a friend of his happens to own.

“Where are we?” She asked curiously, having not caught the name of the place before they walked in. Had he distracted her on purpose? AJ just grinned and rested his chin lightly on top of her head as he made eye contact with his friend who was cleaning up. He nodded and motioned toward the stairs and AJ began leading her in that direction.

“A place that does dessert,” was all he said as he led her up the stairs and out onto a balcony where you have an awesome view of the city skyline. They discovered a blanket and pillows set up, candles lit around it romantically, and a chocolate fondue fountain set up next to it with bowls of marshmallows, strawberries, and cake cubes. Tierja looked at him curiously, only to have him hold a red rose out to her and grin at her lovingly. She felt her heart turn over in her chest as she took it from him and he tilted her chin up and kissed her.

“I thought it would be fun to have a fondue picnic and look up at the stars together all night” he explained between kisses and she slid her arms around his neck.

“It’s perfect,” She told him softly and he brought her over to the blanket, sat down, and gently pulled her into his lap straddling him. She once again slid her arms around his neck while still holding her rose in her hand and together the two of them checked out the sweets before them.


“And, she’s out…” Nick announced in amusement. He had eventually laid back on the floor right there where they were by the fireplace, with his two girls comfortably lying on top of him. He and Ava lay there quietly talking and watched Jade fight sleep until she finally gave in and crashed, her little head nestled against his chest.

“She had a busy day, I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did” Ava responded and she rained loving kisses on her daughter’s forehead. “She’s never gotten to stay up till 1 am before; I believe it’s a new record.”

“She can sleep in tomorrow, we are going to have a late start in going to the next city” Nick reassured and he gently tilted her chin up and kissed her softly. “You can sleep in tomorrow too.”

“Why, are you planning on keeping me up all night mister?” She asked with a small smile and he smirked and wrapped his arms around her as she rested her forehead against his and looked into his blue eyes.

“You know it baby…I have an entire night to thank you for the surprise you lovingly put together for me tonight.” Ava slid her arm around his neck and rested her head against his shoulder and he kissed her forehead softly, before once again looking into her eyes. “I still can’t believe you went above and beyond like that…you made me really feel like I was coming home to my family after a long day of work, even in a hotel room” he told her while hugging her and his baby close to him. “How did I get so lucky Ava? How did I manage to get someone as special as you in my life?”

“I’ve wondered the same thing about you since the day you entered my life, Nicky” Ava told him softly. “All you’ve done since then was take care of me…even when you weren’t aware that you were taking care of me, you were just simply being my best friend. That meant more to me than anything else in the world…”

“It’s my job to take care of you sweetheart,” Nick told her and he gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “I was born to have the job.”

“Shh…let me talk for a bit okay? I want and need to get this out,” she pleaded and he kissed the tip of her nose before resting his forehead against hers and looking into her eyes curiously.

“You came into my life and brought sunshine and happiness with you. The mental scars from the bullying I endured and still carry around with me to this day, all of the jerks that came in and out of my life, when I got sick, or was scared…when I was pregnant with our baby and couldn’t tell you no matter how badly I wanted to, all of the abuse I went through with David…you were here and somehow made getting through it a little easier. And even tonight you stepped in and did something for our daughter that she’s wanted since the moment she could walk…but couldn’t have because David refused. I was trying to come up with a way to ask you, because I’ve never asked you for anything in our whole friendship. It would’ve been the only thing I ever ask you for too and only because it was for our baby and it was important and as hard as I try to be independent and earn things on my own, it’s something I can’t afford to give her on my own right now. But you stepped in out of nowhere and made it happen, because that’s what you are always doing. So really, baby, I should be spending the entire night thanking you.” Nick opened his mouth to protest, but she lightly pressed her finger to his lips, silencing him.

“I made you dinner tonight and went the extra mile to make it special and romantic because all you ever do in our relationship is give and you never asked for anything in return. The only thing you wanted was for me to love you and all I ever did was let you down and hurt you,” she went on, tears building up in her eyes. “I made you dinner tonight because I wanted to finally show you just how much I do love you and appreciate all of the things you have done for me. I worship you Nick…and the only reason I held back all of these years is because you’re the most important thing in my life and I didn’t want you to be one more thing in my life that I lost. I couldn’t bear it if you walked out on me. I was protecting myself…but I never meant to hurt you.”

“I forgive you baby,” Nick reassured when he managed to get his emotions under control, though Ava watched one lone tear escape from his beautiful blue eyes and roll down his cheek. She reached up and wiped it away with her finger and he tightened his arms around her affectionately, though remained cautious of the sleeping four year old between them. “I love you too and I’m never going to walk out on you, so just get that out of your head right now okay? Let go of that childhood fear and let me in...”

“I’m working on it, I promise” Ava told him softly and she buried her face in the crook of his neck. “As long as you are here helping me through it like you always are, I can conquer anything. You are my rock, Nicky.” Nick brushed his lips lightly over hers and gazed into her brown eyes for a few moments before speaking up again.

“Let me go put the munchkin in bed real quick where she’ll be more comfortable and then I’ll be back…okay?” Ava rolled off of him and he carefully got to his feet with Jade’s head rested against his shoulder and proceeded to go into the other room.

“Put her in the bed in front of the door and leave it open baby…please…I want to be able to look in there and see her at all times.”

“No one is getting in here from this high up and with security right outside the door all night baby,” Nick reassured before disappearing in the bedroom, though she watched him as he delicately laid the four year old in the bed Ava wanted her in and placed her teddy bear under her arm.

“I don’t care; I still don’t like that window. If David wants her bad enough…and believe me he does, he’ll climb the side of the building with mountain climbing gear if he has to.” Nick shook his head slightly at Ava’s words and started to get up and go back out to her when Jade’s small voice interrupted him.

“Daddy?” She whispered, having had opened her eyes the moment she felt his touch vanish. She clearly wasn’t sleeping as heavily as he thought she was.

“Shh…baby go back to sleep, I just put you in bed that’s all.”
“You’re supposed to sing to me,” she reminded him and Nick rolled his eyes playfully before sitting down on the side of the bed, leaning over and enveloping her in his arms, and he kissed her forehead.

“Yes your royal cuteness…how could I forget such an important detail? I’ll get right on that. What should I sing?”

“All I have to give,” Jade answered after giving it some thought and he immediately obeyed. Ava shook her head at just how much their child has her daddy wrapped around her small finger. She sat listening for a few seconds, until suddenly a thought occurred to her and she got to her feet and snuck over to the sink where she had gathered all of the dishes earlier, while Nick was currently distracted.


“Are you guys really planning on pulling an all-nighter out in this hallway?” Drew asked in amusement when he discovered Drake, Demyan, Stefan, and Q all sitting on the floor in front of Nick and Ava’s door.

“Not in the hallway all night, only some of the night” Demyan spoke up seriously.

“I’d pull an all-nighter in their living room if it wasn’t so important to Ava to have the whole place to themselves right now,” Stefan added.

“So if not in the hallway all night, then where else?” Drew asked Demyan curiously.

“I plan to go stand guard outside the window to their room at some point.” When Drew raised his eyebrow, Demyan fixed him with a serious stare.

“What? If the bastard wants that child bad enough, the height won’t stop him. I hate that window.”

“For as long as I’ve known David…and believe me, I’ve known him for four years…he’s never seemed like much of a climber.”

“I don’t care, I’m not taking any chances with this child” Demyan insisted and even though he hadn’t said it, Stefan heard not this time and shook his head.

“The crazy bastard won’t have a single ounce of peace tonight if he doesn’t do it, so just drop it” was all he said.

“Do you all have enough caffeine in that coffee of yours to pull off this all-nighter?” Drew questioned.

“Yup, we’re good. Now quit interrogating us and go get your beauty sleep. You will be picking up the slack for me when I go to bed in the morning.” Drew scoffed.

“I’m beautiful all the time, Q, what are you talking about?”

“Go to bed, Drew, I’m serious…the crack of dawn, Ava duty – your responsibility.” Drew shook his head and turned and headed for his room.

“You get bossy when Ava is on the road with us, man.”

“And I’m not about to stop until my girl is safe, so get used to it” Q insisted, just before Drew disappeared in his room with the door shut. As soon as he did, Q looked at Demyan.

“As for you, the bastard would have to be Spiderman to get up here, so you might as well stay here in the building where the chance of him breaking in is more likely.”

“I’m going out there at some point tonight just to be thorough. He had someone spying on us so if anyone is hanging around this building; I’m going to catch him. Plus there is a building across the street that IS easy to climb, what if he decides to put a sniper on the roof, take Nick out through the window and break in through the door to kidnap her? In my line of work, shit like that happens…it’s not just screaming twelve year old girls. And if it does happen, there won’t be anything we can do for Nick sitting out here.”

“Would you at least like some help out there then?” Q questioned, knowing the man is serious. He doesn’t talk much, so if he took the time to explain himself, nobody will be talking him out of it. Demyan shook his head, but it was Stefan who answered.

“He works better alone when it comes to stuff like that, his attackers won’t even see him coming.”

“All right, well are you going to at least tell me why you two were so curious about Luke earlier?” Stefan shrugged his shoulders.

“You just think he’d have a little more respect for someone who hired him, that’s all…” He answered, and then got up and started toward the candy machine.

“Getting snacks, you guys want anything?”


“Ava Marie, what are you doing?” Nick asked, gently sliding his arms around her waist and kissing the side of her neck lovingly.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” she asked with a small smirk upon her face.

“It looks like you are being naughty and doing the dishes without me, when I specifically told you that I would be helping you. Do I have to turn you over my knee?” Ava raised her eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t object to the idea…it might be kind of sexy” Nick looked down at her with playful narrowed eyes as she stared up at him ever so innocently and he chuckled softly and placed his hand to her cheek and brushed his lips lightly over hers, before once again sliding both his arms around her, lightly pressing her against the counter and proceeding to help her with the dishes. He could never lay a hand on her, even out of play. Not after what David put her through. He doesn’t even understand how he could do it, she’s so fragile and innocent. Ava smiled to herself and leaned back against his bare chest at the unexpected complete feeling that she suddenly felt just from Nick with his arms wrapped around her so protectively the way that they are and doing something as simple as the dishes with her.

She doesn’t ever want to be without this new feeling. She suddenly has the desire to repeat this moment every single night with him in a home she could call theirs. She wants it so badly and that surprises her even more. Ever since she left David, she imagined she’d never leave her brother’s house again. Could she have that home with Nick though? A home that would be equally theirs and not just his that she always has to tiptoe around? She suddenly had thoughts of what their kitchen would look like, and her great big dining room table where she would serve meals to guests with the beautiful china that she saw earlier that day in the mall and walked away from when she knew she could never have such nice things. She sighed softly and Nick looked down at her curiously, as he rubbed his soapy hands slowly over her arms and down to her hands before taking her sponge in his hand too and helping her wash the plate she was working on.

“Is something on your mind baby?”

“Only that I’m really realizing just how much I truly love you, and always have my whole life for the first time ever that’s all…” She answered, unaware that he could see her face through the reflection of the cupboard. Although she is being truthful with him, he can also see that look in her eyes that she gets when she’s thinking she’s not good enough to have something.

She’s had the look hidden behind her innocent brown eyes that she always disguised as best as she could with a smile for as long as he’s known her and he has a feeling that no matter how much he loves her and reassures her, she is always going to carry that scar with her. Try as he might, there are just some wounds that can’t be fully healed, but she is never going to carry them alone if he has anything to say about it.

He quietly helped her with the rest of the dishes, his hands lovingly moving over hers in the warm soapy water, lacing his fingers in and out of hers, and oddly enough creating a stirring inside of her. He felt her squirm while he leaned against her and sucked in a breath when her bottom pressed up against his bulge, before lightly nipping on her lobe and kissing her skin just behind it, making her shiver. He gently turned her around, lifted her up, and placed her on the edge of the sink and she slid her arms around his neck, opened her legs, and gently pulled him between them just as he covered her mouth with his own and kissed her, his tongue teasing at her lower lip begging for entrance until she let it in. Ava brought her hands down to the button of his jeans and undid them and while she gripped the front belt loops and his boxers in her hands and pulled them down over his hips he grabbed the hem to her tee shirt and brought it up over both their heads while her arms were still in the sleeves, creating an illusion of a barrier between them and the outside world, making her feel instantly safe and protected. He placed his hands on her bare stomach before resting his forehead against hers and looking into her eyes that are filled with so much want and need.

“Say it.” He ordered gently and she whimpered softly as he gripped the waistband to her panties and slid them down, letting them drop to the floor and casually slid his finger over her entrance. “Say it to me again baby,” he added kissing her forehead, the tip of her nose, and then her mouth. She wrapped her legs around him and gripped his buttocks in her hands wanting him closer and she gasped as he pressed the tip of his cock just inside her.

“I love you Nicky, so much…” she whispered between kisses. Nick took a moment to take in those words and soak them up for all its worth. He feels like a starved man where those words are concerned. She gripped him tighter as he suddenly pushed all the way into her and wasted no time in making love to her against the kitchen sink.
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