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A few hours later as Joe and Savannah cuddled in his bed watching TV, there was a knock at his door. She looked at him with wide-eyes as he told whoever it was that they could come in. Savannah sat up a little straighter in the bed, making sure it didn’t look like the two of them were being sexual in any way. They were both relieved to see Frankie when the door opened instead of anyone else.

“I brought you something,” Frankie said to Joe, holding out a DVD case.

“What is it?” Joe asked curiously.

A Christmas Carol. It’s a tradition, and you guys weren’t able to watch it with us last night, so I figured you’d want to watch it today,” Frankie said sweetly. Savannah’s heart nearly exploded and she almost jumped out of bed to wrap him up in a massive hug.

“Thanks, Frank,” Joe said, smiling sweetly at his youngest brother.

“Yes, thank you,” Savannah told him, unable to hold back the wide smile on her face.

“I’m sorry that things are so tense for you two,” Frankie added in.

“Thanks, buddy,” Joe told him.

“Nick should be just as much to blame and it’s kind of bonkers that they like that Erica woman. Like, who the hell is she?” Frankie said, rolling his eyes.

Savannah let out a snort and Joe turned to smile at him. Frankie was only twelve, but he seemed to be wise beyond his years.

“I can tell you two are happy together,” Frankie added in.

“We really are,” Joe told him with a wide smile.

“I’m happy if you’re happy, Joe,” Frankie said sweetly.

“Come here, buddy,” Joe said as he scrambled to his knees on the bed, holding his arms out for him. Frankie immediately came over and let Joe wrap him up in a hug.

“Thanks, Frank,” he cooed.

“You’re welcome,” Frankie replied.

“I love you, you know that?” Joe told him as they pulled back from their embrace.

“I love you too,” Frankie told him, and Savannah couldn’t help but smile at the two of them. It was endearing as heck.

“Thanks again, Frank,” Joe told him, picking up the DVD from the bed.

“Yes, thank you, Frankie,” Savannah chimed in.

“You’re welcome,” he said, waving at the two of them before he stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

“Do you want to watch it?” Joe asked Savannah with a quirk of his eyebrow as he got out of the bed.

“Yes,” Savannah said, sending him a smile.

Joe slipped the disc into his DVD player and crawled back in bed with Savannah. The two of them enjoyed the movie in peace before they had to get ready for Christmas dinner. Guests could already be heard downstairs talking and laughing by the time Savannah slipped into her red Christmas dress. She was getting incredibly nervous because she hadn’t seen Joe’s extended family since the year before when she first met them – when she was on Nick’s arm.

Joe and Savannah walked down together to greet the family. Most of them didn’t even know she and Joe were together. Some of them didn’t even know what happened between her, Joe, and Nick. And a select few didn’t have a clue that she and Nick weren’t even together anymore. It was awkward to say the least.

“Oh, darling. You’re looking absolutely wonderful after having the baby. Where is she by the way? And where’s Nicholas? You two are so darling together. I am still waiting to get my wedding invitation in the mail,” Nick and Joe’s great-grandma said, taking Savannah by the hands. Savannah was stunned speechless as she looked back at the dear woman.

“Gran, no…” Joe said, trying to protest, but she already wrapped Savannah into a tight hug.

“Oh, there he is! Your husband-to-be,” Gran said, releasing Savannah from her grip. The three of them turned to see Nick walking toward them. His cheek had a large gash on it and his eye was swollen red.

“Nicholas, love, I was just talking to your bride-to-be! Now, where is that baby of yours?” Gran asked, holding onto Savannah’s hand.

“Oh, Gran, no,” Nick said, shaking his head as his eyes darted to Savannah’s and then back to his great-grandmother’s.

“No, what?” She asked, her brow furrowed as she looked between Savannah and Nick.

“Savannah and I aren’t together anymore,” Nick told her as sweetly as possible while Joe and Savannah stood there looking as dumbfounded as their Gran was feeling.

“What do you mean?” She asked as concern washed over her.

“Savannah and I don’t see each other anymore,” he tried to explain again.

“But, what about the wedding? What about the baby?” She asked, looking terribly saddened.

“I have a new fiancée, Gran. And she is the mother of my baby,” Nick said, looking rather uncomfortable.

“What?” Gran asked, not comprehending what her great-grandson was telling her, her eyes darting between the two of them.

“And Savannah is with Joe now,” Nick tacked on with spite in his voice.

What?” She asked again, looking between Savannah and Joe. She looked so confused and Savannah felt so bad for her.

“Oh, I will never understand you kids,” she said, waving her hands in front of her before sauntering off toward the kitchen.

“Oh my god,” Savannah said under her breath.

“That was brutal,” Joe said, looking over at her. Nick gave them both a loathsome look before walking off himself.

Dinner was harrowing. Their great-grandmother decided she felt the need to talk at excruciating decibels about how Nick and Savannah broke off their engagement and how Joe swooped right in to save the day. There was a lot of hushed chitter-chatter as eyes bore into the three of them. Savannah was wishing she could sink into her chair and never be seen again by anyone in their family. Denise seemed to be thinking the same thing and was downing glass after glass of Chardonnay to make the dinner tolerable.

Savannah was surprised with her, however. She was making an effort toward her. She even smiled at her a few times during dinner – genuine smiles. Savannah almost felt comfortable for a few seconds during the most agonizing Christmas dinner she’d ever been a part of.

After dinner, per tradition, the family exchanged gifts with one another. Joe and Savannah sat in the corner away from everyone else – the same corner Joe pouted in last Christmas when she and Nick were being fawned all over because of their engagement. This year was all about the two grandbabies – the blessings. Looking at Nick’s face, Savannah knew his daughter was neither a blessing, nor a curse. She could tell he loved her – he was a great father. But she knew he didn’t love Erica and he was stuck, because he didn’t want to disappoint his family any further than he already did. She couldn’t help but feel for him.

Kevin and Danielle decided to stay the night at the house after much persistence from Denise, wanting both of her grandbabies there early Christmas morning. Savannah was excited because it meant she would have two more people in the house that actually enjoyed her company.

Everyone went to bed early, except Kevin, Danielle, Frankie, Joe, and Savannah. The five of them stayed up talking in the living room as the lights on the Christmas tree twinkled brightly. It was the most fun Savannah had since she arrived. And around midnight, Kevin decided it would be a good idea to raid the fridge for leftovers. So the five of them sat around the kitchen table eating turkey sandwiches, joking and laughing with one another. Kevin and Savannah still got along extremely well. And Savannah absolutely loved Frankie, who had just as big of a heart as his brothers. And then there was Danielle. She really liked Danielle, and when she went on a rant about Nick’s baby mama, Savannah knew she always would.

“You are just so much better than her!” Danielle giggled, having had a few too many glasses of wine that evening. Joe let out a laugh listening to his sister-in-law.

“She’s… she’s just awful,” Danielle went on, causing the rest of them to laugh.

“She has no personality,” Kevin added and they all immediately agreed.

“She always wears shirts that make her boobs look like they’re going to fall out,” Frankie chimed in, which caused Joe to nearly choke on the sip of beer he just took. All of them were thrown into a fit of laughter.

“What? It’s true,” Frankie said through a laugh.

“You’re twelve. Stop looking at her boobs,” Kevin laughed.

“Kinda hard not to,” Frankie said a moment later, and they were all laughing again.

“Oh my god. My stomach hurts,” Savannah groaned as her laughter died off. Her stomach muscles were burning from all the laughing.

“Mine too,” Danielle giggled.

“You know, I’d have to agree with Dani, Savannah. You are much better. I can’t imagine us sitting around the table like this with Erica,” Kevin snickered under his breath.

“Thank you. Now, I just wished your mother saw what you see in me,” Savannah told him with a laugh, shoving a piece of turkey into her mouth as they sat around the kitchen table together.

“She’ll come around. She just needs time,” Kevin assured her with a sympathetic look.

“I hope so,” Savannah sighed.

“It didn’t help that she caught you two have sex this morning, or that Joe beat the shit outta Nick in the hallway,” Kevin snickered, chiming in with his two-cents.

“Oh my god,” Frankie snickered and Kevin laughed when he remembered his twelve-year-old brother was in their presence and probably shouldn’t have been privy to that bit of information.

“That son-of-a-bitch deserved worse,” Joe grumbled under his breath as he took another sip of his beer.

“He’s your little brother, Joe. You used to be best friends. You guys have been through so much together growing up, and between the band… and well, Savannah—” Kevin said, laughing at his own joke.

“Yeah, he snuck into Van’s room last night and tried to fuck her,” Joe explained to Kevin.

Jesus, Joe,” Kevin said, looking over at Frankie again, who’s eyes went wide with Joe’s vulgar words.

“Uh—” Savannah tried to interject, because she never said Nick tried to fuck her.

“Did he really?” Kevin asked, looking between the two of them. Savannah bit her lip trying not to make eye contact with anyone.

Yes,” Joe snapped and Savannah shook her head slightly, because it didn’t really play out the dramatic way Joe was making it out to be.

“Why would—I mean, he… he’s with Erica. Why would he—” Kevin stammered, trying to make sense of it.

“I don’t know it’s bullshit. She’s my girlfriend,” Joe grumbled under his breath.

“Well, to be fair, you did steal her from him,” Kevin chimed in and it made Savannah uncomfortable that they were talking about her like she wasn’t even there.

“I don’t give a shit. He was cheating on her the whole time!” Joe spat, and Savannah could tell he was getting truly angry.

“Stop it,” Savannah said quietly, feeling like her mind was reeling out of control. Joe’s eyes snapped to hers, and she looked back at him.

“Please, stop talking about me like I’m not even here. I am with you, Joe. I am not with, or will ever be with Nick again,” she told him, hoping with her words the conversation would be dropped.

“Alright,” Joe sighed, giving her a small head nod.

After a few tension-filled moments of silence, a very sleepy Nick Jonas walked into the kitchen wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants, his eyes squinting to adjust to the light. His timing couldn’t have been worse. Savannah’s eyes went wide as she looked up at the person they were just talking candidly about.

“What are you all doing up?” Nick croaked, furrowing his eyebrows at them.

“We haven’t gone to bed, brother. Merry Christmas!” Kevin said loudly, obviously trying to cover the fact that he was just the name on their tongues.

Nick waved unenthusiastically before sauntering to the refrigerator to retrieve a bottle of water. A moment later, he took a seat at the kitchen table, which was next to Savannah and it made her incredibly uncomfortable. Kevin started gabbing about how amazing this Christmas was going to be because it was the first year with grandbabies, and Savannah was sure he was rambling to make the situation less awkward, but in reality he made it even more awkward. Savannah looked over at Joe, seeing his jaw set, refusing to even look in Nick’s direction.

But somehow, Kevin got Joe into a conversation about how Kevin wanted to go to the Bahamas next year for his and Danielle’s wedding anniversary. Joe even offered to watch Alena for them if they wanted to go just the two of them, which made Savannah snicker to herself. Uncle Joe to the rescue.

Nick just sat at the table quietly as he sipped on his water. Savannah couldn’t help but watch him out of the corner of her eye. She first studied the gash on his cheek and the darkness that really became prominent under his eye where Joe punched him. He looked almost depressed as he sat there listening to Kevin talk so fondly about his wife and daughter, and it made Savannah sad for him. He looked so lonely, and just stuck in a life he never wanted for himself.

“What about a paternity test?” Savannah blurted out, talking directly to Nick. She didn’t even realize she said it until everyone’s eyes snapped to her.

“What?” Kevin asked, looking at her oddly. Savannah’s eyes were only on Nick and everyone caught on fast. Including Nick, who looked at her with questioning eyes.

“Did you ever have a paternity test done?” Savannah asked him and his confusion only amplified.

“Is the baby even really yours? I mean, you wouldn’t have to marry her if the baby wasn’t yours,” Savannah told Nick bluntly. He looked taken aback, but she knew he was contemplating her words.

Savannah,” Joe hissed under his breath, looking over at her like she was crazy. Savannah quickly eyed him, but her vision connected with Nick’s again a moment later.

“It’s worth a try,” Savannah told Nick with a shrug of her shoulders.

“Savannah, what is going on?” Joe asked in a hushed voice. Savannah’s eyes met with Joe’s again, giving him an almost guilty look.

“Nothing,” she told him quietly.

“It doesn’t sound like nothing,” Joe said with anger in his tone. Kevin, Danielle and Frankie sat silently as the situation grew increasingly awkward.

“I promise you, it is nothing,” Savannah told him, trying to reassure him. He bit his tongue at the circumstance, but she knew he would have an opinion later when it was just the two of them alone.

“Uh, I think we’re going up to bed,” Kevin said, standing up, clearing his and Danielle’s from the table.

“Me too,” Frankie said awkwardly, standing up from his seat.

“Yeah,” Nick chimed in as his chair scraped across the floor before he stood up.

“Yeah, I’m feeling kind of tired now,” Joe said, looking straight at Savannah with his jaw clenched, obviously displeased with her.

Joe was definitely unhappy with Savannah for even being the slightest bit concerned with the paternity of her ex-lover’s baby. She sat silently at the table as the five of them cleared their things from it and made their way toward the doorway. Nick headed off first, and Kevin, Danielle and Frankie were not far behind. Joe stood at the kitchen doorway looking at Savannah as she sat staring at the table.

She felt like she was about to be taken off to the guillotine to be beheaded or something. The night was definitely not over for the two of them.

“Are you coming?” Joe asked with animosity in his tone, and she knew she was in deep.

“Yeah,” she breathed lowly as she stood from her seat, being sure to push the chair back in before she followed Joe out of the kitchen.

The two of them were silent as they walked to his room, but once the door was shut behind them and they were quietly snuggled up into his bed, he brought it back up.

“What was that, Van?” He asked with a slight wrath in his tone. Savannah sighed deeply into the pillow, feeling sick to her stomach.

“Savannah, what’s going on?” Joe scoffed, getting even more agitated with her.

“When Nick came into my room…” Savannah quietly started to explain as she looked over at him. Her words trailed off as Joe’s eyes widened, preparing himself for what he was about to hear.

“It’s nothing bad, baby. I promise,” she assured him as she sat up next to him.

“It better not be,” Joe scowled as he clenched his jaw tightly.

“It’s not. He just… he told me the only reason he is marrying Erica is because of the baby. That your parents are forcing him to,” she said, feeling the weight of what that meant.

Even though she and Nick weren’t on good terms, it didn’t mean at one point in her life he didn’t mean the world to her. Those feelings never really had a fair chance of dispelling out of her system. It was just Nick, and then all of a sudden it was Joe. There was no transitional period, and so because of that, there were still pleasant feelings for Nick that still somehow lingered inside of her.

Joe just stared blankly at her, waiting for some sort of clarification.

“Why should he have to marry her? He doesn’t love her. It’s just such a ridiculous concept. I mean, I know you guys are famous and all, but it’s not like you’re royalty and have to follow some ancient tradition. You’re young and you make mistakes,” Savannah explained, feeling like her head was spiraling as the anger started to consume her over Nick’s stupid situation.

“Why is it any of your concern what Nick does or doesn’t do?” Joe snapped at her, looking quite angry himself, but for a completely different reason.

Because Joe, Nick used to be my friend. And I should care. You should care. Because he’s your brother and he was your best friend,” she told him, trying to get her point across.

“I don’t care. He did this to himself,” Joe said spitefully, and Savannah rolled her eyes at his stubbornness.

“It’s really making me mad that you still care about him,” Joe growled at her in a tone that backed his words.

“What do you expect? You want me to be some heartless bitch? Nick’s not a bad guy, Joe. And you know that. He’s your brother, and before I came along he was your best friend,” she reminded him, trying to help him see reason. Joe growled under his breath, and she knew she was just digging herself deeper.

“You’re just getting angrier with me with every word I say, so I’m just going to go to sleep,” she told him with a huff as she laid back down, pulling the covers up.

“Yeah. Good idea,” Joe grumbled as he tugged his shirt off of his body in a huff.

Savannah turned her back to him and felt a heavy weight settle on top of her which automatically made her want to cry. It was not how she imagined their Christmas playing out.

Savannah heard Joe as he undressed the rest of the way, continuing to grumble as he did before colliding with the mattress. Could he be any more dramatic?

Savannah tossed and turned for hours. There was a gap between the two of them on the mattress all night and it really didn’t sit right with her. It felt to her like the space between them was symbolic somehow. She really hated fighting with him.

The next morning Joe didn’t even wake Savannah up to partake in the Christmas festivities – which made her feel even more worthless and left out. She didn’t even bother getting out of bed after she woke up. She just cried silently into the pillow. What happened to ‘it’s just you and me’? She was feeling sick to her stomach because of the way Joe was making her feel, on top of how his family was treating her. She truly didn’t want to be there anymore.

At about noon, Savannah decided to brave it and venture out into the house by herself. As she was inching down the hallway, she could hear voices coming from the office, which was a few doors down from Joe’s room. She could hear Denise’s hushed voice almost immediately and it stopped her in her tracks.

“I don’t want Joe wasting his life with her. I don’t want any one of my sons wasting any time on her. And they’re fighting over her, Kevin. Physically fighting over her!” Savannah heard Denise’s voice coming from the office and she knew instantly that Denise was referring to her.

“How much more damage do you think she can do? She’s only a twenty-year-old girl, Denise. And she seems to genuinely love Joe,” Savannah heard Kevin Sr reply, and it made her ill-feelings for him slightly lessened.

“Well, she seemed to genuinely love Nick too, but you see how that turned out. Lies and deceit. I just don’t trust her. I don’t want one of my boys with her,” Denise went on to say with an attitude so strong, it made Savannah’s blood start to boil inside of her.

“And what about Erica? She and Nick – they were doing the same thing a year ago. Savannah got her heartbroken by Nick too,” Kevin Sr pointed out, and Savannah absolutely loved him in that moment for sticking up for her.

“Oh, I could care less about that gold-digging snot. I just want to be able to know my granddaughter. Oh, Kevin. How did our boys stray so far from where they’re supposed to be? Where did we go wrong?” Denise’s voice erupted with emotion as Savannah scowled from her words.

“They’re going to be just fine, darling,” Kevin Sr soothed his wife.

Savannah couldn’t listen to any more. It was making her sick. Was Denise going to do something to get Joe to leave her? Would she try to convince him she wasn’t good enough for him? She was becoming sick to her stomach with worry.

Savannah went into Joe’s room and wrapped herself up in the blankets like a cocoon. She didn’t want to think anymore. She didn’t want to feel anymore. She thought things were getting better, but she was sadly mistaken. Denise still hated her guts. The only comfort was she indeed also hated Erica’s guts. It made Savannah feel minutely better.

Savannah was lying in Joe’s bed wallowing in her misery when she heard the door open.

“Are you still sleeping?” Joe asked her quietly.

“I’ve been awake for hours,” she grumbled, keeping her back to him. He stayed silent, and it aggravated her so much.

She felt the bed move as his weight shifted onto it.

“Savannah…” Joe breathed, his voice heavy with emotion as she felt his hand rest on her arm.

“I don’t want to fight with you anymore. Things are getting better with you and my family. And I just…” Joe said quietly, trying to make amends.

“Things are not getting better with me and your family,” Savannah spat out, still not facing him. Tears welled helplessly in her eyes before slipping quietly onto the pillow.

“What are you talking about? You said yourself you were feeling better about it,” Joe reminded her and it made her scoff because he didn’t even bother to check on her all day.

He alienated her from his family that morning during their Christmas celebration. How was she ever going to redeem herself if she couldn’t even count on her boyfriend to have her back?

“Savannah, will you at least look at me?” Joe asked, pulling her toward him so she would face him. She tried to hide her tears, but he saw them and let a loud sigh out.

“Savannah, why are you crying?” Joe asked, concern in his voice as he pulled her up into his arms.

“She hates me. She still hates me,” Savannah cried into his shirt.

“Savannah, you need to stop this,” Joe said, pulling her away from his body to look her in the eye. There was annoyance written all over his face, which made her cry harder.

“What happened to the strong girl I know? Where did she go?” Joe asked in a softer tone.

“There’s only so much I can take,” Savannah breathed, feeling helpless.

“Is this how you’re going to spend your Christmas? In bed, crying?” Joe asked, letting her go completely and it made her heart break further.

“Joe…” Savannah breathed, unable to fathom why he was all of a sudden against her instead of with her.

“I’m going downstairs to spend time with my family while I’m here. If you decide you want to join us, you know where you can find me,” Joe said, getting up out of the bed. Savannah looked up at him, her mouth hung slack-jawed as she watched him move away from her.

Joe stood at the end of the bed and waited for a few moments for Savannah to say something, but she couldn’t. She was completely stunned. A moment later, he scoffed loudly to himself and left the room, letting the door shut a little too forcefully. Savannah was left there, completely in awe, fighting the bile that was rising in her throat.

So much for her ever believing he meant what he said as they stood on the front steps a few days earlier. We’re in this together. His words didn’t mean shit to her when he wasn’t backing them up with his actions.

 

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