As empty dinner plates were being cleared, Howie asked softly, “Dance with me?”
Sarah looked up into his eyes wanting desperately to say ‘yes’ but she was in too much pain.
Howie saw the emotions and brushed her hair back. “How about we go to my office for a few minutes?”
Nodding ‘yes’, a single tear spilled over and he quickly wiped it away hoping no one saw it.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t fast enough because Kevin asked, “Sarah, why are you crying?”
Nick teased, “She’s all choked up over the romantic setting Howie’s got going here.”
Looking around, Ali agreed, “It is VERY romantic. How in the world did you manage to get all these white roses, Howie?”
“I ordered them at the beginning of January,” smiled Howie.
“Sarah, you are so lucky to have such a romantic guy,” complimented Lynne.
“Thanks,” she answered weakly.
“Howie has the top spot in the romance department,” added AJ. “He’s trying to teach Nick but Nick keeps goofing it up.”
“Yeah, yeah…Howie’s a real romantic guy,” scoffed Nick. “But how romantic can he be on the spur of the moment? He’s had a month and a half to plan all this. Not to mention, it’s not hard in a place like this. How romantic can you be in some place…..” Nick eyed the group tying to think of a place that was completely unromantic. His eyes fell on Sarah and it hit him. “I want to see how romantic you can be in the delivery room while Sarah’s screaming at you to get those twins out of her.”
Snickers and giggles at the image Nick had created circled the table but they were waiting to see what Howie was going to say.
“No problem. Wanna lay odds on it?” asked Howie nonchalantly.
Taken aback by Howie’s quick response and willingness to make a bet, Nick said, “Okay. How much?”
“Why not the same amount Sarah put up on Garrett’s sex?”
“Four hundred dollars? No problem and it goes to the charities.”
“Deal,” said Nick holding out his hand to shake with Howie. Changing the subject, “Sarah, when are you going to eat?”
Sarah was in the middle of a contraction and everyone had been so engrossed by Nick’s challenge that they had missed the tears rolling down her cheeks. She was also biting her lip as all eyes turned to her.
“That’s it!” steamed Kevin realizing that he’d been right. “Don’t tell me that the babies are moving. You’re in labor, aren’t you?”
“We might as well tell them,” whispered Howie looking at Sarah. She nodded her agreement and Howie went on, “Sarah’s been in labor since this afternoon but we didn’t want to tell you until the contractions got closer.”
“Why did you come tonight?” asked Brian. “We would have all understood if you’d cancelled.”
As the contraction ended, Sarah said, “Howie was going to cancel but I needed the distraction. Kevin, please…YOU were the main one I wanted to keep it from.”
Hurt, Kevin asked, “Why?”
“I know you mean well and that you love me but I just don’t need you getting all bossy and trying to be in charge.” The tears were still flowing like a river as she took a breath. “I’m terrified and I’m in a lot of pain and I’d sell my soul to have my mother here with me but there’s NOTHING I can do to change that. I DO have the most amazing husband to support me though and I’m extremely grateful for that.”
Everyone turned to see Kevin’s reaction and watched Kevin soften hearing Sarah’s words. He had his own tears as he said, “Baby, you know better than anyone at this table that I just want to protect the ones I love.”
“Yeah, I do and I know that everyone here is going to be in my corner. Please, Kevin….you were so wonderful when Howie and I were having problems….my rock. Just give me that kind of support….that’s all I want.”
Becca glanced at Lynne to see how she was taking this and noticed that she was on the verge of asking a question but was holding back because of the conversation between Kevin and Sarah. She’d have to make sure she talked to Lynne alone before Sarah was taken into the delivery room because she knew full well that Kevin wasn’t going to let Sarah and Howie go in without him.
Kevin gave Sarah a tender smile, “Baby, I’ll do whatever you need.”
Nick jumped in. “That means our bet is gonna take place tonight. Bec, how long do we have the babysitter for?”
“Just for tonight. Why?”
“Because I’m going with Howie and Sarah into the delivery room to see if he can be romantic.”
“Like HELL you are!” shot Sarah. “There is NO WAY you’re gonna be in there with me NICKOLAS GENE CARTER!”
“What? Why can’t I go with you? You were with us when GT was born?”
“That’s DIFFERENT! It wasn’t Howie watching YOUR WIFE give birth….it was ME.”
“Then how am I gonna know if Howie won or not?”
“You’ll just have to take my word for it,” smirked Howie.
“OH NO!! This is why you agreed so quickly…you knew Sarah wasn’t going to go for me being in there and you were gonna get HER to vouch for you! I don’t THINK so!”
“So the bet’s off?” asked AJ.
“YES!” said Nick adamantly.
“Can’t call it off, Nick. You shook on it, remember?” reminded Becca.
“I’m NOT taking Sarah’s word for it. She’ll lie for him.”
“Then how are we gonna prove it?” asked Sarah.
“I don’t know.”
Ali spoke up, “Sarah, is someone gonna video tape it for you?”
Sarah looked at Howie who said, “We had thought about it and I have the video camera but I wasn’t sure who we were going to ask. Bec, would you mind video taping it?”
“Of course not!”
“Works for me and then we can ALL watch and see if Howie is romantic,” said Nick.
“Speaking of romantic. Sarah, when are you going to give Howie his gift?” asked Becca.
Trying her best to remain upbeat, Sarah smirked, “I’m working on it as hard as my body will let me but I can’t just spit these babies out.”
Becca rolled her eyes and mumbled, “Smartass” as everyone else laughed.
Sarah blew her best friend a kiss as Howie said, “Since I can’t open Sarah’s gift just yet….”
“Says who?” questioned Sarah raising her eyebrows.
“Angel, really! In front of EVERYONE?”
It was Sarah’s turn to roll her eyes. “Dorough! You’re worse than Alex! I bought you something else,” she said as she pulled the gift out and handed it to him.
“It’s a good thing I had your gifts here,” said Howie as he motioned to Shannon. Looking at their friends gathered around the table, Howie said, “Sarah and I got each of you a little something too.”
Retrieving Sarah’s gifts from the bag, Howie instructed Shannon to pass the others out to their friends along with a single, red rose for each of the girls. When they were all distributed, each one was waiting for the others to go first.
“This is ridiculous,” said Ali. “Sarah, you and Howie go first since you two are going to be busy tomorrow.”
Sarah looked at Howie who said, “You go first, ‘Angel’.”
“This one,” said Howie tapping the slender box.
Sarah opened the box and pulled out what appeared to be a diamond bracelet. When she looked closer, she saw that in the center were three stones that were not diamonds; they were birthstones. In the middle was Jesse’s and on either side were the twins’. It was only a tiny thread holding Sarah together and this was just one more nick at that thread.
“’D’, this is so beautiful,” she whispered trying to control the tears that threatened to fall.
Taking the trinket from her, Howie said, “Let me put it on you.”
“Uh, Howie…you might want to wait,” suggested Lynne. “She’s going to have to take all her jewelry off before she goes into delivery.”
Another snip at the thread as Sarah realized Lynne was right. “Howie, I don’t want anything to happen to my rings,” she panicked as a single tear dropped.
“Shh,” whispered Howie. “Nothing’s going to happen to your rings, Angel. I’ll take care of them. Now hold out your wrist. I want to see it on you.”
Sarah obeyed and Howie put the bracelet on her wrist. Then she showed it off to everyone else.
“Come on, ‘D’. What did Sarah get you?” prodded Nick.
“Nope…not until she opens the next one,” smiled Howie. Pushing the envelope to her, he said, “Open this and then I’ll go get your last gift.”
Sarah took the envelope and opened it carefully. Inside were papers and a picture. Reading over it quickly and then looking at the picture, Sarah looked at Howie in disbelief. “Why?”
“What is it?” asked Sonja.
Howie took the picture to show everyone as he explained, “Sarah said that day on the bus headed to Seattle that she’d always dreamed of owning a thoroughbred that had won the Triple Crown. I couldn’t manage to get shares in one but I did make arrangements for us to attend the three races this spring. The picture is of the two quarter horses I bought for her and they’re being kept in Virginia until I can make arrangements to have them stabled here. This was kinda last minute. Rusty just called me last week to let me know that he’d found what she wanted.”
That thread was beginning to fray as Sarah once more got teary-eyed. “I love you so much, Howard,” she whispered leaning to him.
Cupping her face in his hand as he leaned his forehead to touch hers, Howie placed a sweet kiss on her lips. "You’re my heart and soul, ‘Angel’."
As Howie and Sarah shared a few brief moments immersed in their love, Nick began drumming his fingers, whistling, and checking his watch. After what he judged to be a reasonable amount of time, he said, "Geez….Sarah’s in labor and you two are STILL going at it. Do you two EVER get enough?"
The couple broke apart laughing as Howie asked, "What’s wrong, Nicky? Getting nervous you’re gonna lose the bet?"
"He can’t stand having a gift in front of him and not being able to open it," shot Brian.
Nick shot Brian a nasty look as he said, "It’s not that. I just want to see if Sarah knows Howie as well as he knows her."
Slipping his hand under Sarah’s hair to caress her neck, Howie winked at her as he said, "She knows me just as well. No matter what she does, she’s going to make me happy."
As Nick made gagging sounds, Howie took the gift from Sarah and opened it. Reaching in, he pulled out a beautiful silver watch that had the children’s birthstones on the links closest to the watch face.
"This is perfect. Thank you."
"Look on the back."
Turning it over, Howie read the inscription and his eyes teared up. Leaning to her once more, he kissed her…a deep, breath-taking kiss…their tongues dancing together as his hands stroked her stomach. The kind of kiss that nothing could interrupt…nothing except….
"OH GOD!" gasped Sarah breaking away as a contraction started.
"Cleansing breath," prompted Howie as he continued to stroke her stomach.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as Sarah did as she was told and when it was over, she leaned into him resting her head on his shoulder as he brushed her hair back. "Oh, god!! It hurts worse with each contraction."
Teasingly, Becca said, "It’s not pain, its temporary discomfort."
Sarah glared at Becca. "BITE ME! YOU try having twins and back labor!!"
Undaunted, Becca reminded Sarah, "YOU were the one who kept telling me that."
"It must have been when I was drugged or something because damnit…THIS HURTS. The contractions aren’t completely in the front and they aren’t what hurt…it’s my back. It feels like a knife being twisted."
"Anything I can do to help?"
Sarah shook her head 'no' as AJ asked, "What was on the back of your watch that made you try to give ‘Tigger’ a tonsillectomy?"
Moving his hand to her lower back in an attempt to ease the pain, Howie glowed as he said, "Forever isn’t long enough."
"I thought you were going to give him an ID bracelet with ‘Daddy’ engraved on it," said Becca.
"Get real, Bec. Jess was standing right there and the first chance she got, she would have blabbed it to Howie. I couldn’t take that chance. Now enough about us….you guys open your gifts."
The other four couples made quick work of the wrapping paper and opened their gifts. Howie had gotten each of the guys a money clip with the date they officially became The Backstreet Boys while Sarah had gotten each of the girls a heart-shaped charm. On it were the names of the couple and on the back, Valentine’s Day, 2002.
Chapter 46 Index