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Chapter 99

“I can’t believe the number of people here to see you dips,” Bron peered out the limo as they pulled out of the airport.

Kevin held back on saying at one point that would have been you standing out there.  “I have a meeting in two hours, we’re getting our final itinerary.  The buses should be here so I’m going to go find Keith and get all of my stuff stowed.  I’d ask you to go with me but…”

“I’m going with you, I’m not staying by myself.  Besides I’m riding on your bus until tomorrow.”

Kevin dropped an arm over Bron’s shoulder as he watched Bounce jump around in the back of the limo and up and down on the seats.  “Do you do that at home?”

“I would if we had one of these,” Kaylin bounced even more just for sake of agitation.

“Bounce, stop it!” Bron turned and dropped a ‘better behave’ look on her.  Kaylin complied, temporarily, of course.  Kaylin thrived in this environment; it scared Bron.  They were going to travel to Cincinnati with Kevin tonight after this show.  They would fly home after the concert tomorrow, thanks to Mc.  It was a short distance but it beat driving.

The limo pulled into the underground parking garage of the hotel.  It drove up to four other limos waiting together.  All of the guys were waiting for them.  Howie and Gillian were standing with Nick and Suzie.  Brian and Leighanne were standing with A.J.  Kaylin spotted Brian’s adopted son B.J. and exploded out of the limo. 

“The family is together again!”  Kevin high-fived all of them as he went down the line.

“Wow, look at the size of you!”  A.J. needed an icebreaker to talk to Bron.  They hadn’t spoken since he had left for the rehabilitation center.

Lowering her sunglasses very slowly, Bron dropped her head slightly and peeked over the top of the rims.  “I have no idea what you are talkin’ about sir.  Any other woman in my delicate condition would have taken offense to that remark.  However, since I know you were raised by male pigs during your most impressionable years, I see that you must be forgiven for your lack of manners.”

A.J. was stunned, then he broke out in a laugh, the southern accent was a perfect impression.  “You ain’t delicate,” he laughed. 

Bron surged forward and hugged him as best she could.  “I missed you, I have had nobody to play with.  Nick is too sweet and gullible sometimes.  Come on, let’s talk.”

Bron piloted him away from the group as Kevin stood helpless, not sure if he should follow or stay out of it.

“That went better than expected,” Suzie nodded.

 Nick nodded  as if to confirm her words.

“She hasn’t popped him yet, so I guess it’s okay,” Kevin leaned back on the limo, they weren’t gone long as they made their way back to the group.

Bron’s eyes landed on each and every one of them, “Why the hell are we standing in the garage?”

“Because our glorious leader told us too.”  A.J. snickered.  It felt great being back in the fold.  Even better that he was still loved and respected.

“If Kevin told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?”  Bron began to laugh as she watched Kevin’s smile turn upside down.

“Okay, get your jollies out now kiddies, because it’s back to work time.”  Kevin heard the distinctive tramp of feet.  Security had arrived.

Carlos, Billy, Nelson, Raul, and Eddie walked into the circle.  Billy was the only one to speak, “Are we done conversing ladies?”

Bron sized up the big bad Billy, Carlos had a glint in his eye.  Personally, Bron didn’t have anything against Billy, he reminded her of her father, the army career drill sergeant.  They had had very few encounters and she was going to make something very clear.  He wasn’t her security and he wasn’t going to be telling her what to do.  Flipping her glasses to the top of her head, she smiled.  “Oh Billy, don’t bully me.  Back off and we’ll get along just fine.  By the way, you shouldn’t call Kevin a girl.  Last week he almost slapped an old woman for that in Wal-mart.  Of course, his hair wasn’t pulled back, all that long flowing black hair.”

A chuckle from Carlos and a low whistle from Nelson made Billy’s eyes cross. 

“How was Wal-mart Kev?”  Carlos laughed.

Billy cracked a smile.  “Just kidding Mrs. Cooper.”

Bron turned and flashed him an even bigger grin, “I like you, Carlos let’s go.  Jake is coming later.”

Billy turned to Kevin, “Carlos’s let’s go?  Jake?”

Kevin made a motion with hands out in front, “Big guy.”

“Oh yeah, I remember him, the mountain with teeth.  Now I can relax.” 

“Don’t relax, he once told me he would feed me to a crowd of teenies,” Nick balked at Billy’s sudden demeanor change.

Billy looked at Nick pointblank, “I knew there was a reason I liked him.”

Everyone laughed at Nick’s expense as they snuck in the hotel via the parking garage.

Bron and Kaylin helped Kevin get his gear on the bus.  Then Bron unpacked some things that were a surprise for him.  She Taped a few pictures up that were taken during the break.  Included were Kevin and Kaylin riding the horses, a picture of Bron and Kevin that Jake had taken.  It was the two of them working in the rose garden.  Another one of Kevin sitting on the ground with a dog on either side of him.  It was a posed shot and then what happened next as they jumped on him and roughhoused. 

Bron had bought new sheets for the bed as a surprise and some books.  She was busy placing new cd’s on the shelf as well as a laptop.  They had hit a computer store in Florida and both of them bought new laptops.  Bron did the programming for him since she knew he would have screwed it up. 

Kaylin decorated what was to be known as her bunk.  Preparations had been made that if she behaved, she could come and visit on a couple of weekends.

Sneaking back into the hotel, the men gathered for their meeting and left the women to ‘gossip’ as Kevin said.  Kevin stopped at the door of the center suite where the ladies had gathered.  All the women stopped talking and looked at Kevin.  “Why are you lookin’ at me like that?”

Bron knew they were doing the age old joke of getting rid of him.  Kevin could be dim sometimes.  “Goodbye Kevin,” they spoke in unison.

“Oh, I see, ya don’t want me around,” Kevin strolled on down the hall.

Bron sat back and relaxed, “This feels so good, freedom at last!  By tomorrow night, my life will be back to normal.”

An old and distinctive laugh came from the door.  All heads turned to see Mary standing there.  “Leaving me out ladies?  I do believe the last time we were all together like this was the night of Kevin’s stag.”

Bron cringed, “Don’t remind me, he was so damn drunk.”  Turning in the chair she smiled, “And don’t say it because I know you want too.”

Gillian and Mary began to laugh and they chimed in together, “When has your life ever been normal?”

“It’ll have to do.  Now I say we go get into some trouble.  Let’s go shopping,” Bron stood up, ready to go.  Nobody moved.  “Jake will be here any minute, he can go with us, so just relax.”

As if on cue, Jake’s body filled the frame, “You ever make me do this again, I’ll kill you.”

Suzie told her she was nuts, Jake told her she was nuts.  Mc thought it was nuts but helped out anyway, by making a few phone calls when Bron needed him to.  “Follow me dufus.”  Bron gestured to Jake.

“Don’t be calling me a dufus Spark.” 

Bron had to deliver one last gift before they left for shopping.  She waddled out and down the hall.  Jake followed with a private little army of bellhops.  Never wanting to be outdone, Bron opened the door to the meeting.  Sticking her head in the door, Kevin questioned her reason for being there automatically by just looking at her. 

A.J. didn’t, he had caught wind of the idea.  “Damn, she did it again,” A.J. jumped up and opened the door so that Jake and his army could march in. 

Nick was the next one out of his seat.  “Grab and growl.”

“Eat that turkey leg and Kevin will beat the hell out of you for it.”  Bron laughed as she watched them fend for themselves.  With her head still in the room, she smiled.  “I’m going shopping.”  All she could think of was the ‘Thanksgiving Dinner,’ she had made for them when they were in Chicago.  She loved the feeling in that room that night.  Bron wanted them to feel that way again.

Kevin shook his head, “No wonder, she’s buttering me up.  I hope you balanced the checkbook.” 

Billy just shook his head with a smile on his face.  “Dude, she plays you like nobody I have ever seen.”

“That’s what the overdraft on the account is for!”  Bron yelled down the hall as she joined the ladies and Kaylin for shopping.

A leisurely lunch, an afternoon of shopping and cavorting with the girls.  The Housewarming party had been brought up and all were attending.  Suzie, Gillian, and Leighanne, were comparing notes on the secret baby shower while Bron walked with Mary and Kaylin.  The front three were discussing house-warming gifts.

Jake was bringing up the rear and offering suggestions.  Good ones too, Suzie remarked.  Bron found a decent maternity store and was brave enough to sneak in.  Gillian and Mary hovered around the entrance since they didn’t want to be noticed.  A few people had recognized Bron but kept a discreet distance even though their voices carried.  Now Bron was pissed, name-calling seemed juvenile, so why as an adult, did it still hurt.

Suzie bit her tongue when they called Bron a cradle robber, then she snickered to Gillian, “If they only knew.”

Gillian laughed right back, “Like Kevin says, mentally she’s a teenager.  However, you, on the other hand.  Aren’t you old enough to be Nick’s Mama?”

“Oh Gillian, I know you are my friend.  I am only old enough to be his former babysitter,” Suzie smirked back.

Mary came out shaking her head, “She’s brave today.  Maternity hip huggers.”

“Eww, I’ll fix that,” Suzie marched right into the dressing room.  She stopped at a rack of very dressy black dresses.  “Better choice for her, she’s just pissed.”

Suzie opened the dressing room door. 

“What the hell is it with you people?  Every time I’m trying on clothes, somebody has to be in here.”  Bron stood holding her clothes over her body.  “First A.J. in Chicago and now you.”

“Shut up and try this one.”  Suzie shut the door and waited outside.  Jake was standing at the front of the store like a Cigar Store Indian.

“Oh I like this…”  Bron checked herself out in the mirror.  Changing quickly, she headed for the front of the store.  A woman slightly older than her stood behind the counter.

“I like your store, do you have a card?  I’ve never seen clothes like this.  They have style and no dots or bows.”  Bron spoke as she watched Jake for a signal to hurry.

“We are one of kind, here’s our card.  It was pleasure doing business with you… Mrs. Richardson.”

Bron’s face screwed up, “You don’t know me, do you?”

“No, but your credit cards says…”

“Oh yes,” Bron brightened up as Suzie joined her.

“I need shoes,” Bron whispered to Suzie, “My feet are swollen again.”

The woman leaned forward and whispered, “There is a shoe store two doors down.”

“Thank you,” Bron muttered as teenagers came into the store.

Bron stood organizing her purchases.  She found a few things she liked and she was placing her credit card back in her wallet.  Two younger girls had called the sales woman to the back of the store.  Bron was waiting, she had one more question for her. 

“Girls, leave Mrs. Richardson alone.  She’s tired and not feeling well.”

Bron gasped as the woman glared at a group of teenagers in front of the store, from behind the counter.  The gang of girls split out of the store.  “I thought you didn’t know who I was?”

“I didn’t, but those two girls in the back do.  I’m very sorry, they are my daughter and my niece.”  The woman pointed to two teenagers standing in the back of the store.

“Hey, it’s fine.  Do you have an e mail or web site so I can shop from home?”  Bron liked the little boutique. 

“No, I’m sorry, I’m computer illiterate.”  The woman laughed.

One of the young girls stepped forward; she grabbed the card from Bron and wrote something on the back.  “This is my e mail Mom.  If Kevin’s wife wants something or needs something, she can use my e mail address.”

Bron looked at the girl, “Are you going to hand my e mail out to all your friends?”

“No, I wouldn’t do that.”  The girls seemed decent and honest. 

Bron turned back to the woman as they walked to the front of the store.  “I’ll be calling.”

The rest of the shopping trip was trashed since they had been spotted.  They had enough time to get into the shoe store and out into the van.

“That was fun, we haven’t done that in so long.”  Bron watched Kaylin play with a toy that she had suckered Uncle Jake into buying for her.

Arriving at the hotel, they went in the front door.  Bron was smiled and waved to by some fans who recognized her.  She returned the same, not wanting to be deemed rude.  Then all hell broke lose when Nick came out of nowhere with Kevin.  Nick dropped an arm around Suzie and kissed her on the mouth in the middle of the lobby. 

“Damn I just outted you.  You can’t hide now.”  Nick was smiling and for some unknown reason, so was Kevin. 

Kevin must have had that little talk with Nick that he had promised Bron he would.

Nick was laughing at the shocked faces of the ladies over his public display affection, especially Suzie’s.  Bron and Kevin weren’t.

Piling into the elevator to escape the crowd that had begun to build in the lobby, the doors closed.

“Join the club Suz, you can’t hide now.”  Bron was more than happy; it was a step in the right direction.  She couldn’t wait to tell Mama Richardson.

“No cow jokes Bron,” Suzie smirked.

“Speaking of cows,” Nick turned towards Bron.

“You better back it up Backstreet Boy, because I will hurt you.”

“I came bearing gifts,” He tossed a beanie baby in the air.  Kaylin yelled; she knew it was hers.  All the Beanie Babies that Nick received automatically seem to go to Kaylin now.

“What about me?”  Bron questioned.

“I had a king size Reese for you, but Kevin ate it.”  Nick laughed.

 “Hey, what do I get?”  Suzie asked innocently.  Nick gave her a smirk and then his famous Carter grin.  “Never mind, don’t answer that,” Suzie stammered turning slightly red.

Bron yanked Kevin’s goatee and his head automatically went down to her level.  She kissed him thoroughly tongue and all.  She was still kissing him when the elevator doors opened on their floor.  Carlos stood there.  “What are you doing?”

“Getting my damn chocolate back.  Carter is going down on this leg.  I’ll whip that boy into the ground, he hasn’t seen the real me yet.  You could have let that question drop from that kid at the press conference Nick, but nooo you had to say it again nice and loud for everyone to hear, so Kevin had to answer it.”  Bron waddled off the elevator and down the hall.

“Should I be afraid?”  Nick looked at Kevin.

Kevin shrugged, Bron was so damn hormonal lately that he wanted a forecast before he went within ten feet of her.

Kaylin tugged his arm, “You better hope she doesn’t have a wooden spoon because she’s gonna get you.”

“Great, just great, thanks Kev,” Nick grabbed Suzie’s arm and hauled her out of the elevator.

“Why does everyone always blame me?”  Kevin looked at Kaylin.

“Cuz you’re the oldest?”  Kaylin’s large eyes looked back at him.

“Probably,” Kevin grabbed her hand and they sang a silly song as they went down the hall.  A.J. noticed all the changes in Kevin, even more than before the break.  Kevin was looser now, and more comfortable with himself.  Kevin was back in his prime.

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