Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chapter 16

Richie found Veronica standing at the front of the stage staring out at the empty seats, crew members working feverishly around her to finish setting up. “Hey little girl.” He stood behind her, set his hands on her shoulders and massaged lightly.

She leaned back against him. “Hi Rich. How ya doing?” She’d heard the media reports about his stint in rehab.

He smiled. “I was going to ask you the same thing. I’m doing.....better.”

She turned her head until she could see his eyes and the truth of his statement. “Good. By the way, I have a bone to pick with you. Why didn’t you call me? You wanted me to call if I needed to talk about my.....issues. Why didn’t you call to talk about yours? Why did I have to hear about it from the media – when they announced you were going into rehab?” They’d talked a few times since his father’s funeral, but he’d never let on that he was having such a difficult time.

He sighed. “Because you had enough on your plate....and....I didn’t want to admit I had a problem.”

“Well, don’t do that again. I’m here for you, just like you’re here for me. If things start getting rough again, TALK TO ME!”

Richie chuckled. “Yes ma’am. So how are things going with your issue?”

She snorted. “At least with some effort, you can set aside the source of your problem. The source of mine is more like just keeps coming back, despite my best efforts to banish it.”

“Yeah. Too bad they don’t make a cream for that.” His hands squeezed her shoulders. “I’m sorry he’s doing this to you. We tried to talk him out of it, we even had to hold Tico back from kicking his ass, know how he is.”

She nodded. “Yeah. I do. Don’t worry, I don’t blame any of you. I know who’s responsible.” She sighed. “I guess I’d better get to work.”

“Come on, I’ll introduce you around.”

A couple hours later, Veronica was sitting at the desk that Paul had assigned her, going over the interview list that the media relations people had set up with her recommendations, and playing with the Blackberry Paul had handed her, when she felt a presence standing over her. Glancing up, she saw her old nemesis. She raised a brow.

Dorothea smiled wryly. “I just wanted to apologize for bursting in on you earlier.”

Veronica shrugged. “You’re his family. You had every right.”

“Still, if I’d known you were here I would have had someone prepare you before just showing up with the kids.” She searched Veronica’s eyes. “Despite our.....disagreements.... in the past, I wouldn’t be that cruel.”

“Too bad your husband....”

“Ex-husband.” Dorothea interjected.

Veronica nodded in acknowledgement. “Ex-husband, didn’t feel the same way. He seems to have some sadistic obsession with reliving the past in all its morbid glory.”

Dorothea winced. “I may have had something to do with that, and I’m sorry about that too.”

“Why would it have anything to do with you?”

Dorothea pulled up a chair and sat. “I gave up on my marriage because I was tired of coming last in his life. This...” She waved her hand around the room, “...always came first. The boy I knew in high school doesn’t exist anymore and hasn’t for a long time. The machine – and his own stubbornness and ambition - took over and turned him into someone else. Someone I don’t much care for. I thought it was just temporary, that once he got the guys back together and back on track he would ease up, but he didn’t. He got worse. As the band’s success grew, and he didn’t have to work at it so hard, he got a little bored and added charity work to his schedule, and now a football team. Just when it got to the point he could spend more time at home he found new activities to keep him away. And as is interests grew, so did his need to control everything and everyone around him. I waited as long as I could, but I finally had to accept that he was never going to be the man I thought I had married. The man I wanted. I told him that I should have seen it coming considering the horrible way he tossed you aside when you threatened to get in the way of his success.” She paused. “I think that might be why he tracked you down. I’m sorry he’s harassing you like this. If I had any influence with him, I’d tell him to back off, but he won’t listen to me either. When he gets something into his head he’s like a dog with a bone. He keeps gnawing at it until either it’s gone, or he gets distracted by something else.”

Veronica nodded. “I guess I’ll just have to hope that something comes along real soon to take his attention off of me.”

Dorothea had doubts that would ever happen, but didn’t want to destroy her hope. She stood. “Well, good luck. Steph and Jesse – our two oldest – are going to hang around this afternoon and stay to watch the show – they’re excited about seeing My Chemical Romance – but I’m taking the little ones home with me. I’ll have someone let you know when they’ll be coming to visit their father again.”

“Thanks.” Veronica watched Dorothea walk out of the room, and thought – not for the first time – that under other circumstances they could have been friends. With a sigh she turned back to her schedule and made lists of items to discuss with the local office and the head of the band’s fan club.

“Ronnie?” A man’s voice had her glancing up.

She frowned, then her eyes widened. “Matty? Is that you?”

Matt Bongiovi’s lips twisted into a wry smile at the old nickname, but he nodded and reached to hug her. “It’s me.”

“Wow! Look at you all grown up.” She winked at him.

He laughed. “Yup, married too.”

“Yeah? Good for you. So what are you up to these days?”

“I have a restaurant/lounge in Jersey, and I run the fan club for Jon.”

Her brows rose at that. “Really? You actually work for your big brother?” Matt nodded. She looked him up and down. “And no one’s been seriously maimed or injured?”

He laughed. “So far, so good. There’s been a few close calls, but it hasn’t been too bad.” He studied her for a moment. “I understand that you’re working for him too now. I have to say, I was surprised to hear that.”

She snorted. “It’s not by my choice, I assure you.”

“The dictator struck again?”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “Well, if you’re the head of the fan club, I guess you and I need to sit down and go over some promotional ideas for the tour.”

“Yeah. I’ve been looking at some possible deals around ticket sales and pit passes, and you’ll probably want to talk to Tony and Obie about recording some shows for DVDs.”

Her brows rose. “Your brother Tony?”

He nodded. “He produces videos and stuff now.”

“Wow. Great. I’ll give him a call.”

“Ronnie, what the hell is this?” David walked in, a sheet of paper in his hand.

“Hello to you too.” She commented dryly. Matt snickered.

“Sorry.” David bent and kissed her cheek. “Hi. Now, what the hell is this?”

She glanced at the paper he was waving in her face. “Your interview and photo op schedule.”

“This many? But I don’t do this many. Jon and Rich do this many. I only do a couple.”

“Ronnie?” Tico joined them. He too kissed her cheek. “Hola nina. What the hell is this?”

“Your interview and photo op schedule.”

“This many? But I don’t do this many!”

“Quit your whining Hitman. I’ll trade you.” Richie walked in, winked at Ronnie and showed the others his list.

“Ah no, that’s okay. I’ll stick with mine.” Tico quickly declined. Richie’s list was twice as long.

“Jeez, if yours is that long, what’s Jon’s look like?” David cringed.

“Like Jake’s Christmas list.” Jon grumbled as he joined them. “I know you haven’t been on tour with us for a long time, but I’m sure you were told how we do things now. I don’t do photo ops.”

She eyed him. “You do now.” She held up a hand to prevent his protest. “It’s just for these ten shows, not the whole tour – at least not at this point.”

He glared at her. “No.”

She raised a brow and glared back. “Yes.”

Matt, Paul and the few other staff members who were in the office silently watched the battle taking place in front of them. Paul and the staff members were stunned. They’d never seen anyone defy Jon. Matt just smiled and waited to see how long it would take for Jon to give in.

“Ronnie...” There was a warning in Jon’s voice.

“Did you or did you not talk my boss into sending me out to do promotions during these shows and the tour?”

“Yes, but...”

“And I assume you did so because you recognize my skills and trust my judgement, particularly on the country side of the industry.”

“Yes, but....”

“Then let me do the job that you brought me here to do. We’re introducing you – all of you – to a whole new audience.” Her gaze touched on all of them. “It’s almost like starting all over again. If you want to expand your fan base and get the country crowd to listen, this is how we do it.” She locked eyes with Jon. “If you’re not going to listen to me, you might as well let me go home. You’ll just be wasting my time and a lot of money. Are you going to trust me and do as I ask?”

The men all turned to Jon. They knew he was beaten. She’d neatly backed him into a corner of his own making. The only question was whether he would give in gracefully.

He smiled in chagrin. “Yes dear.”

“Good. The schedule starts in half an hour. Hair and makeup are on standby.”

Three smirking band members and one subdued frontman left the office to get ready. Paul came around his desk to shake her hand. “Welcome to the team. You’ll have to teach me how you did that.”

Matt laughed. “Good luck with that Paul. Ronnie’s the only one I’ve ever know who could get him to back down.”

Veronica just smiled and shrugged. “I knew him before he became the boss, and we have too much history. He can’t intimidate me. He knows that I would never do anything to hurt the band, so he can either suck it up and do as I ask, or send me home.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chapter 15

Veronica landed in Newark mid morning to find a car and driver waiting to take her to her hotel, then to the Prudential Centre where everyone was preparing for an unprecedented ten day run. After dropping off her bags she sat drumming her fingers on the door handle of the car, silently rehearsing what she was going to say to Jon when she arrived at the Centre.

It had been over a month and a half since she’d gotten the call from her boss that she was to join Bon Jovi, first for the ten night run in Newark, then for the tour, to be the label’s representative and help with promotion. When she pointed out that they didn’t do that anymore, Vince had told her that since this was an unusual situation of a rock band crossing over slightly and attracting country fans, the label wanted to have an ‘inside eye’ so to speak on how everything played out, and since she knew the guys and was there through the recording of the album, she was the best person on staff to fill the role.

Just thinking about that conversation made her snort. It was a nice cover story, but she knew the truth. Jon was intent on getting what he wanted and since she wouldn’t give in and bow to his wishes, he’d pulled some strings to force her to be near him. She wasn’t sure what pissed her off more...his arrogant manipulation, or the part of her that was actually looking forward to being around him. She shook her head ruefully. I need to go back into therapy. I don’t know where these masochistic feelings are coming from! I must be crazy to want to be even in the same state, let alone within shouting distance – or touching distance! She refused to acknowledge that maybe – just maybe – her wounds weren’t as healed as she thought they were, and she craved the comfort only he could provide.

When the car stopped in front of a back door to the Centre, Jack, her driver, opened her door for her and handed her a plastic pass on a lanyard. “Here. You’ll need this until the crew get to know you.”

She glanced down at the Access All Areas pass. “Thanks.” Squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath, headed for the door, showed the guard her pass, and entered. Inside she headed down a hallway, in search of the resident dictator. A few staff members looked at her curiously, but one look at her face warned them not to approach her.

A slender man with glasses walked out of a room and did a double take when he saw her. “Ronnie? Is that you?”

Her eyes widened. “Obie?”

“Hey!” He hugged her. “How are you?”

“I’ve been better. Listen, I’ll catch up with you later, okay? Right now, I need to have a few words with the tyrant. Where is he?”

Obie fought a grin. “Turn left at the next hallway and his dressing room is the second door on the right.”


As she continued down the hall as per Obie’s directions, Obie followed. Paul Korzilius, the tour manager came out of the command centre and saw him. “Where are you going Ob?”

“To watch the fireworks.”

“What fireworks?”

“The ones that are about to erupt between our new head of promotions and our fearless, but slightly autocratic leader.”

“What makes you think that there’s going to be fireworks?” Paul glanced at the dark haired woman striding down the hallway in front of them.

“She called him a tyrant.” When Paul still looked confused, he explained. “Ronnie worked with us back in the 80s and she and Jon had a relationship. She’s very good at her job and won’t take any crap from Jon. He used to try to make her do things his way, but if she didn’t agree, she wouldn’t. The more he pushed, the more she pushed back, and the louder the argument got. What really drove Jon nuts was that she was usually right.”

“But she just got here. How could he have pissed her off already?”

Obie shrugged. “I don’t know, but by the look on her face, I’m betting we’ll all be able to hear.”

Veronica threw open the door without knocking. A quick glance showed that he was alone. “Well, if it isn’t the high and mighty Jon Bon Jovi.” Her tone was scathing.

“Shut the door.” Jon’s voice was calm. He’d been anticipating her mood.

“Why? Afraid your staff will find out what an arrogant prick you are? Sorry Jon, but if they’ve been around you for more than a day they already know.” The door slammed shut.

Paul sighed. “I guess I better tell Tiffany she’s back on promotions detail.”

Obie looked surprised. “Why?”

Paul gestured towards the closed door. “You heard her. He’ll send her packing.”

“No he won’t.” Richie spoke from behind them. “That would defeat his purpose in bringing her here.”

It was Paul’s turn to be surprised. “You mean she can talk to him like that.....and he’ll take it?”

The other two men nodded. “She’s one of the few that can.” Richie added.

“Well, this certainly ought to make for an interesting tour.” Paul didn’t know whether to stock up on Tums or popcorn.

“What happened to not forcing me to do something I didn’t want to do?” Veronica demanded.

Jon leaned against the dressing table and watched her. God, she was beautiful when she was angry! The way her eyes shot purple flames, and her hair floated around her face and shoulders as she paced. He used to love pushing her buttons just to watch her erupt. “I didn’t make you come here, your boss did.”

“Bullshit! You know, as well as I do that record companies don’t send reps on tour with established bands anymore. If extra help is needed, the local reps take care of it. No. You did this. What did you do? Threaten to switch labels.....or promise Vince something if he sent me out? What I don’t get is why? Why do you want me here?”

“You know why.”

She snorted. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that? I asked you to let the past stay buried, I told you that I didn’t want anything to do with you, I asked you to leave me alone, but you don’t care. Everything has to be your way. Well, guess what Jon, you don’t own me! You can’t make me fall in line with your grand plan! Everything about Doc that you hated, you’ve become. And to think that I loved you once. Now, I don’t even like you!”

“You don’t mean that, you’re just pissed.”

She shook her head. “You use and manipulate and walk all over people to get what you want and to hell with their feelings! Do you know how people like that end up?”

“Rich and successful?”

“Lonely and alone!”

Before Jon could reply the door burst open and two little boys aged about five and three ran in and tackled him. “Daddy!”

“Hey guys!” He looked up to see his older two – and their mother - standing in the doorway. “It’s okay, come on in.”

Jesse stepped into the room and when his eyes lit on Veronica, they widened. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Veronica murmured.

Without taking his eyes off of her he walked towards a chair, tripped, and fell into it, pulled out a video game and proceeded to ignore everyone else in the room – except for the continuous glances towards Veronica.

Stephanie rolled her eyes at her oldest brother, and gave her father and Veronica an apologetic look. “I’m sorry. We didn’t know there was anyone in here. We can come back.”

Veronica shook her head. “No it’s fine. I was just leaving.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. The sight of Jon with his children was too much for her to take right now. She headed for the door and nodded to the older woman. “Dot.”

“Ronnie.” Dorothea replied and watched her walk down the hall. She turned back to her ex-husband. “What are you doing Jon?”

He shrugged. “You’re the one who reminded me how badly I treated her. I’m just trying to make amends.”

“She won’t put up with the attitude, and she won’t jump just because you say so.” She warned him.

Jon smiled wryly. “So she just reminded me.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chapter 14

“Oh shit.” She raked a hand through her hair. “When?”

“Last night. We got the call just before we went on stage.”

“How’s Richie?” He and his father had been very close.

“Ok. You know Rich, keep laughing in front of others, grieve in private.”

“Mmmhmm. When’s the funeral?”

“Day after tomorrow.” He gave her the details and location. “Are you coming?”

“I don’t know yet. I have some things to sort out.”

“Please don’t stay away because of me. I promise I won’t bother you. Richie needs all the support he can get right now.”

She stared out of her office window. “I’ll think about it.”

“Ok. I’ve got more calls to make so I’ll let you go.”

“Ok. And Jon....thanks for letting me know.”

“I knew you would want to know. I’ll see you Ronnie.”

“Bye Jon.” She hung up, briefly pondered his subdued tone and conciliatory manner, but chalked it up to sadness at losing someone close.

She thought about it long and hard, but in the end decided her need to support Richie was greater than her aversion to seeing Jon. She knew what he was going through. She too was an only child and had lost both of her parents.

Pulling up in front of the church she took a deep breath, got out of the cab and climbed the steps. Inside, she joined the line to speak to the family. Glancing around she saw Tico and David, but couldn’t see Jon. She breathed a little easier. She knew he had to be around, but at least she didn’t have to face him right away.

When she reached Richie his eyes widened slightly just before he engulfed her in a bear hug. “Thanks for coming little girl.”

She leaned back, reached up and framed his face with her hands. She recognized the anguish in the dark depths. “He was very proud of you and everything you’ve accomplished Rich. Don’t ever forget that.”

He smiled crookedly and kissed her. She saw the woman beside him nodding. He turned to her. “Ma, do you remember...”

“Veronica.” Joan interrupted him. “Of course I do. Who could forget those eyes? Nice of you to come dear.”

Veronica hugged her. “I’m so sorry for your loss Joan. Adam was always so kind to me.”

Joan smiled. “He liked you, although he could never understand why a smart beautiful girl like you would want to hang out with a bunch of long haired, smart mouthed punks like the boys.”

“Ma! We weren’t punks!” Richie protested.

Joan patted his arm. “Yes you were, but you grew out of it.” She winked at Veronica. “Actually, I think he was hoping that you would be the one to get Richie to settle down, and was disappointed when you chose Jon instead.” She took Veronica’s hand. “He felt horrible about what happened. We both did.”

Veronica nodded and blinked back tears. She found distraction in the young girl who came to stand between her father and her grandmother. “Daddy? Can I go sit down now?”

“Sure sweetie, but I’d like to introduce you to someone first. This is Veronica. She’s an old friend of mine.” Richie glanced up. “Ronnie, this is my daughter Ava.”

Veronica held out her hand. “Hello Ava, it’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too.” Ava shook her hand and looked closer. “Are your eyes really purple?”

Veronica smiled. “Yes.”

“Cool. No wonder Daddy likes you. Purple is his favourite colour.” The adults snickered. Richie stroked his daughter’s blonde hair and kissed her head.

Not wanting to hold up the line, Veronica moved on and saw Tico and David waiting. She hugged them both and Tico motioned his wife over. “Querida, this is the Ronnie that I was telling you about. Ronnie, my wife, Alejandra.”

“Hello Ronnie, Tico has told me so much about you. It’s very nice to meet you.” Alejandra hugged her. “Don’t worry, Tico won’t let him hurt you again.” She murmured in Veronica’s ear.

Veronica met the other woman’s eyes and smiled. “Nice to meet you too. And...thanks.” Tico had always been like a protective older brother and apparently still saw himself in that role where she was concerned.

She had intended to grab a seat in a pew at the back, but Desmond Child had seen her and waved her to join him. Sitting, she glanced around and saw Jon standing on the other side of the church watching her. He nodded. She nodded back. Turning back to answer a question Desmond asked her, she didn’t see Jon start towards her, or Tico and David block his path and shake their heads. Jon frowned, but turned and took his seat with his bandmates and friends.

She also didn’t notice another set of dark eyes watching her. Dorothea recognized her instantly as she joined Desmond, and looked for Jon to see if he’d seen her. He had, but apparently Tico and David weren’t going to let him get to her. Dorothea smiled wryly at their protective stances and eyed her ex-husband speculatively.

After the service Veronica managed to get out of the church and into a cab without having to speak to Jon. Breathing a sigh of relief as the car pulled away, she returned to Nashville and her life.

Several months later Jon was sitting in his office, staring out the window. Things were not going well and he was in a foul mood. The album was selling well and the summer shows had been good so far, but Richie seemed to be in a downward spiral. There was rarely – if ever – a day that he wasn’t drunk. Jon understood that he was trying to numb a deep pain, but it was starting to affect his playing, and Jon couldn’t have that. He’d have to have another talk with him.

On top of that, the kids were tearing him apart. Every time he went to see them, Jake and Romeo attached themselves to him and wouldn’t let go. Their tears when he left were like knives to his heart. But that was almost easier to take than Jesse’s reactions. He showed no interest in his father at all and had to be pushed to even acknowledge his presence. It was like Jon was just some man who came to visit every now and then and wasn’t worth Jesse’s time. Jon didn’t know how to reach his oldest son. He tried talking to him, he went to every one of his games and activities, but it didn’t seem to gain him any ground with Jesse. Stephanie tried to make up for her brother’s behaviour. She was always happy to see him and filled any uncomfortable silences in the conversation. She helped comfort the little ones when he had to leave and kept him up to date with their lives. He appreciated her help, but it wasn’t her job. He felt like a failure as a father, but didn’t know how to fix it.

And then there was Ronnie. He hadn’t gotten to talk to her at Adam’s funeral, and now she was once again avoiding his calls. He’d tried to respect her wishes and leave her be, but he couldn’t get her out of his head. Their time together – right up until the last few months – had been the happiest he’d ever known. He wanted to feel that way again. Now more than ever. He needed to know that he could make someone happy. Running out on her was the biggest mistake of his life. He could see that now. A mistake that he could – and would – rectify, if she’d only give him a chance! But in order to prove himself to her – and everyone else – he needed them to spend time together. He knew he could win her over again, he just needed time and proximity.

With a sigh he turned away from the window and reached for his phone. He was about to piss off several people – namely Ronnie and his bandmates – but it was the only way he could think of to get them the time together they needed. And he had too much coming at him from too many directions to play Mr. Nice Guy any longer. “Vince? Jon Bon Jovi. I need a favour.”

Twenty minutes later, Richie walked into Jon’s office and sprawled on the couch just in time to catch the end of Jon’s conversation.

“Thanks, Vince. I owe you one.” Jon eyed his wingman as he hung up, then called his assistant. “Cheryl, I need another hotel room for the tour and I want it on our floor.”

“Sure boss. What’s the name?”

“Veronica Watson. Codename, Ronnie.”

“Ok. Got it. Does that include the Prudential shows?” Cheryl smiled to herself as a mystery was solved. She suspected she’d just discovered why Jon wanted his codename to be ‘Archie’ this tour.

“Yes. Thanks. Oh, and she’ll travel on the jet with us.” Jon hung up and raised a brow at Richie who was shaking his head at him. “What?”

“What’re you doing bro?” His words were slightly slurred.

“Just making some arrangements for some extra help for the tour. Are you going to be sober enough to play?”

“Of course.” Richie glared at him. “When have I ever not been?”

“Last week was pretty damn close!” Jon sighed. “You need to get some help man.”

“I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. You’re drinking every day. Heavily. And it’s starting to affect your playing.” Richie just waved away the concern. Jon frowned. “I’m serious. I know you’ve been through hell and you’re hurting, but it’s out of control. Get some help. It’s not a request.”

Richie met Jon’s gaze for a long moment, then sighed and nodded.

Down in Nashville, Veronica had enjoyed a busy summer. She’d found some new artists with some real potential, she’d been to some great summer festivals, and she, Lori, Naomi and Tricia had spent their weekends at various barbecue’s, pool parties and the like. The only shadow on her happiness had been the thoughts of Jon that she couldn’t stop. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t relegate his image to some walled off part of her memory. She hoped that, with time, she would be able to. At least now that he’d stopped calling she’d have lots of time to work towards that goal.

Or so she thought. Until her boss called. As she listened to what he wanted her to do, her eyes widened and her breathing became agitated as, knowing who was behind the request, her temper rose. “You want me to do WHAT?!”

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chapter 13

After the guys had left, Veronica went to her office to catch up on her messages. A tap on her door had her looking up to see John McBride standing in the doorway. She smiled. “Hi John, come on in.”

“Hi Veronica. I just stopped by to tell you that you did a great job with Bon Jovi and to say thanks.” He hesitated. “I know that it wasn’t easy for you and I’m sorry about the way you got pushed into doing it.”

She smiled. “Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t your fault. What Jon wants, Jon gets. That’s just the way it is. You know the type.”

“Still, you did a great job under difficult circumstances and I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate it. I told Vince what a great help you were, and how hard you’d worked and suggested that you take a couple weeks off. He agreed. So once you finish whatever it is you’re doing, you’re out of here for two whole weeks. Go lay on a breach somewhere. Get some sun...and maybe get rid of those circles under your eyes.”

She chuckled. “Thanks John. I really appreciate that.” She could use the break. He didn’t have to tell her about the circles....she knew how worn out and haggard she looked. It matched the way she felt. What surprised her was Vince, her boss, giving her two weeks off on such short notice that easily. Not that he was difficult to work for or uncaring or uncompassionate, but he ran a tight ship and unless it was an emergency he wanted at least two weeks notice for vacation requests and preferably a month. She didn’t think she wanted to know what John had said to get Vince to agree.

The more she thought about it the more a beach sounded like heaven. After returning a few phone calls and answering a few e-mails, she logged onto her favourite travel site and checked out hotels and flight times.

The next night she met the girls for dinner. Sliding into her chair, she smiled. “Hi.”

Lori smirked. “Well don’t you look like someone who’s just been granted parole.”

“I would too if I’d just been given two weeks off!” Naomi grumbled good-naturedly. “Are you sure you don’t need some company?”

Veronica laughed. “Actually, I’m looking forward to having some time to myself.” She turned serious. “I need to regroup after the last two weeks in purgatory....find my centre of balance again.”

Tricia reached over and squeezed her hand. “Is there anything we can do?”

Veronica shook her head. “No, but thanks for the offer. I just need a little time and peace and quiet.”

“If you really don’t want to talk about it, you can say so, but.....why did Jon search you out after, what, eighteen years?” Lori broached the subject they’d all been dying to ask about.

Veronica sighed. “Yeah. I’m not really sure. He said something about them trying something new and wanting someone around whose instincts he trusted.” She paused. “And he wanted to apologize for something that happened a long time ago.”

When she didn’t say any more, the others exchanged a glance. “And does that make up for whatever happened? Or even help at all?” Naomi asked.

Veronica shook her head. “Not even close. I don’t think anything ever will. Look, I know you all want to know what happened, but I really don’t want to talk about it. Suffice it to say that it was the most painful time in my life and he was partly to blame for it – not completely, but he was a big part of it. I spent months in therapy learning how to cope with it. I thought I had gotten over it all, but seeing him brought it all back. Now I’m going to spend a couple weeks on a beach in Mexico stuffing it all away and getting my head in the right space again to focus on the future, not the past.”

“Will he leave you alone now, or will he continue to pester you now that he’s found you again?” Lori voiced Veronica’s fear.

Veronica shrugged. “I don’t know. I’d like to think that he’ll leave me alone. I’ve asked him to, but....”

“But?” Lori prodded.

“But he’s very stubborn and used to getting his way. I didn’t give him whatever he was looking for and that would drive him crazy. He may not let it go. I’ll just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

“Arrogant jerk!” Tricia spoke for all of them. Veronica snorted, but didn’t disagree.

Veronica spent the next two weeks walking in the surf, lying on the beach, gorging herself on burritos, enchiladas and margarita’s.....and thinking. Using the tricks and exercises her therapist had taught her, she was able to put Jon and the past back into perspective and back into its place in her psyche. She returned refreshed, recharged and ready to face the future. She quickly settled back into her normal routine, relaxing even more as her life resumed its previous, balanced path.

Her peace lasted until just before Christmas.

She was packing up getting ready to head out to the studio’s annual Christmas party when her phone rang. Without looking at the display, she picked it up. “Veronica Watson.”

“Hi Ronnie.”

Her stomach clenched. “What do you want Jon?”

“I just want to talk to you.”

“Well I still don’t want to talk to you. Goodbye Jon.”

“Come on Ronnie.”

“What part of ‘goodbye’ don’t you understand?” She slammed the phone down and sat there staring at it.

“Veronica? Are you ready?” Lori appeared in the doorway.

“Yeah. Let’s go.” Veronica grabbed her purse and stood.

“What’s wrong?” Lori frowned and followed her down the hallway.

Veronica didn’t answer until they’d reached the lobby where Naomi and Tricia were waiting. “I just got a call from Jon.” She looked at Naomi. “I won’t pick up if he calls again, so he may try to go through you.”

Naomi nodded. “Don’t worry, I won’t put him through. Are you alright? What did he want?”

Veronica shrugged. “I’m fine. I don’t know what he wanted. I didn’t give him a chance to say. I hung up.”

The other three nodded. They agreed that it was the right thing to do. Shaking off the downturn in her mood, she linked arms with Lori and Naomi. Tricia linked with Naomi. “Come on girls, let’s go have some Christmas cheer....on John’s tab!”

The next several months passed in peace. Jon had called a couple more times, but finally gave up when she either hung up on him or wouldn’t answer at all – or so she thought. Naomi didn’t tell her that Jon had called the main switchboard several times.

Spring meant award season and Nashville geared up. Veronica was kept busy running all over helping with organization and lining up artists and generally touching base with all of Mercury’s stable to determine who was going to be where and looking for opportunities to promote them.

“Are you going to be here for the CMT awards?” Tricia asked.

Veronica shook her head. “No. I’ll be in Las Vegas that week doing prep work for the CMAs and won’t get back until late that night, so I’m going to miss it.”

“It’s probably just as well.” Naomi responded cryptically. Bon Jovi had agreed to perform.

Veronica raised her brows, thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah.”

“You know who’s on the list to perform then.” Lori framed it as a statement, not a question.

Veronica nodded. “Yeah. It’s bad enough that the new single is playing on both the rock and country stations. I can’t get away from it. I don’t need to see him on top of it.” Especially that song!

The day after the awards, Naomi greeted Veronica as she came in the door. Veronica leaned against the reception desk. “So how’d it go last night?”

Naomi grimaced. “Just the usual minor crises of people not being where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be.” She’d been asked to help organize the backstage area. She hesitated. “Jon asked me where you were. He seemed....not desperate exactly, but there was definitely some sort of urgency to his request.”

“Hmm. What did you tell him?”

“The truth. That you were in Vegas preparing for the CMAs. Do you still want me to block his calls?”

“Yes. Thanks Na.”

An hour later her phone rang. Distracted by report she was writing for her boss, she picked it up without checking the display. “Veronica Watson.”

“Hi, Ronnie, it’s me.”

“Goodbye Jon.” She hung up.

A few minutes later, Naomi buzzed her. “Veronica, Jon’s on the phone and he says that he’s not going to stop calling until he talks to you. He says it’s urgent.”

Veronica sighed. “Ok. Put him through.” When she heard Naomi tell him to go ahead, she jumped in before he had the chance. “Dammit Jon....”

He cut her off. “Adam died.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chapter 12

Finally, the album was finished and the guys prepared to leave. Veronica smiled indulgently while she watched Richie pack up his ‘babies’ and prepare them for the trip home.

Lori, Naomi, Tricia and the rest of the staff who had been involved with the album came by to say goodbye. While Jon was over to one side of the room thanking the techs, Richie pulled Veronica aside.

“Here.” He handed her a slip of paper.

“What’s this?”

“My cell phone number. I want you to promise to call me if you ever need anything – and I mean anything. Even if it’s just to talk. Just because he’s an asshole doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, does it?”

She chuckled and hugged him. “No, it doesn’t. Thanks.” She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed his easy going nature and ready humour. When he stood there with an expectant look on his face, she raised a brow. “What?”

He held out his hand, palm up. “Don’t I get your number too? I’m serious Ronnie, I don’t want to lose contact with you again. Life’s too short to let the people you care about slip away.”

Knowing he was thinking about his father, she had to blink away tears. “I agree. Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t have a choice.” She hugged him again, then searched for a piece of paper and jotted down her cell number for him.

He tweaked her nose. “Take care of yourself little girl.”

“You too Jughead.”

Hugh was next, followed by David. Both wanted hugs and David passed over his cell number and demanded hers in return. She handed it over with a sigh, telling herself it was easier to just give it to him than worry about what stunt he might pull to get it from someone else – and experience told her he would make it as embarrassing for her as possible.

Tico was last. He hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Take care nina.” He too handed over his cell number. “Don’t be a stranger.”

Finally, there was just Jon. When he came to stand in front of her, Lori, Naomi and Tricia moved to stand beside her. He smiled wryly at the defensive wall of feminine support. Veronica stiffened when he reached for her hand and brushed his lips over her cheek – he was afraid of what she...or the girls...might do if he tried to hug her. “Thanks for all of your help Ronnie. You did a fantastic job as usual.” He paused. “I never meant to hurt you. I’m sorry.”

She wasn’t sure if he was referring to the past or just the past week, but she didn’t ask for clarification. It really didn’t matter. “Goodbye Jon.” At least she’d finally gotten the opportunity to say that.

“See you Ronnie.” He wouldn’t say goodbye – not with the note of finality that she gave the word anyway. He was determined to see her again. He wasn’t giving up that easily.

When the pilot had turned off the seatbelt sign, Richie stood and dropped into the seat next to Jon. “So...what’s next?”

“I’ve got some stuff to do with the kids over the next couple weeks, then we’ll head to England to mix it.” When Richie just stared at him, he raised a brow. “What?”

“Cute. Come on man, you might as well tell me. I know that things didn’t go the way you had hoped and I know you won’t give up until you get what you want.”

Jon frowned in confusion. “I’m really happy with the album.”

Richie gave him a withering glance. “I’m not talking about the album and you know it.” When Jon continued to sit there playing dumb, he snorted and opened his mouth.

Before he could say anything Tico sat down. “So what’s your plan?”

“Yeah, how are you going to do it?” David joined them.

Jon stared at them. “What are you talking about? Do what?”

“Bring Ronnie to heel.” David answered like it was obvious.

“What are you talking about Lema?” Jon frowned.

“She blew you off, didn’t do what you wanted, and we all know how well that goes over.” David was being deliberately harsh. They – Tico, Richie and him – had talked about it and had decided that they weren’t going to let Jon cause Ronnie any more pain. It was just too hard to watch and she didn’t deserve it. “You must have a plan to make her fall in line. Or maybe you’ve decided you don’t want her after all.” They all held their breath and waited for the explosion of the Bongiovi temper. But Jon surprised them.

“Am I really that much of an asshole?”

The other three men exchanged a look. It was Richie who answered. “Honestly?” It was rare to be able to have this kind of a conversation with Jon. Jon nodded. “Not always, but you can be. You’re a perfectionist and want things your way. That’s not always a bad thing – you’re usually right. Plus, it’s your name on the organization. You’re the boss and you got us to where we are. You’ve done a great job. You’ve worked harder, and given up more than any of us. We appreciate everything you’ve done.”

When he hesitated, Tico took over. “But you can be a little harsh with people. More than a little, actually. You have no patience. You want what you want, how you want it, when you want it, and heaven help the poor fool who doesn’t deliver.”

“If I’m so horrible to deal with, how come we never have a problem finding staff and crew?” He didn’t want to believe he was really that bad.

“Because they want to learn from the best and be able to put us on a resume.” Richie explained. “How long do staff stay on average? How many crew members come back for more than one tour?” That one was a little unfair since a lot of crew members moved around to another artist after a tour, but Jon got the point.

“We understand why you are the way you are. You’ve had to fight your way up basically from nothing. You’ve built an incredible organization from the ground up. You’ve paid your dues, and earned the right to dictate how things should be done.” David acknowledged.

“We have thick skins. We can take it.” Tico continued. “But Ronnie doesn’t, and she doesn’t deserve to be treated so callously, without any consideration for her feelings. She’s been through enough.” He locked eyes with Jon. “Let her be, man. Let her find some peace.”

“I....I can’t.” Jon admitted. “I understand what you’re saying, but I just can’t let her go. She haunts me. I’ve never been able to forget her. Even after all of these years, she’s still a part of me.”

“What is it that you want from her?” Richie was getting frustrated with his friend’s single-minded stubbornness.

“I want to talk to her – or more like I want her to talk to me.”

“About what? The glorious days of our youth together? Or those lovely days eighteen years ago when she went through hell alone while you ran away?” Even Tico flinched at Richie’s hard edged words.

Jon looked at his wingman for a long moment. “I want to know what happened. I need to know.”

The other three men exchanged glances. It was David who finally asked the question they all were thinking. “You mean you don’t know?”

Jon shook his head. “Oh, I know the basics, but not the details.”

“Didn’t you go to see her? Or at least call her and talk to her....afterwards?” Richie couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Jon shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “No. We were on the road, remember? I meant to once we had a long enough break, but Doc convinced me that she was fine and didn’t want to see me and that it was best if I stayed away.”

“And you actually went along with that?” David was stunned. “Man! You knew what he was like by then! What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t, alright?! I was young and scared and...stupid! I knew I’d fucked up, but I couldn’t face it. I just wanted to get far away and forget it. We were on our way! I couldn’t let anything get in the way of our success.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I know how that sounds, and you can’t say or do anything that will make me feel any worse than I already do.....and have for the better part of eighteen years.”

“Don’t tempt me.” Tico growled. He shook his head in disgust. “You’re an even bigger asshole than I thought.” He stood up. “Stay away from her Jon. Don’t make me kick your ass.”

The three men got up and moved to the table to play cards. Jon stayed in his seat and stared out the window.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chapter 11

Veronica was able to relax a little over the next couple days. Much to her relief, neither Jon or any of the other guys commented or referred to what had happened at the bar, and Jon had stopped pushing her to talk about the past. Unfortunately, she still couldn’t avoid thinking about it. The songs wouldn’t let her. As Richie started the intro to the next one, she tried to brace herself for what she would hear. When Jon started to sing, she closed her eyes and her jaw clenched.

A long slow drive down an old dirt road
You got your hand out the window listening to the radio
That’s where I want to be
On and old park bench in the middle of December
Cold hard rain falling can’t find no cover
That would be all right with me

Hard days, good times
Blue skies, dark nights
Baby, I want you to take me
Wherever you’re going to
Maybe say that you’ll save me
A seat next to you

In the corner booth of a downtown bar
With your head on my shoulder
Smoking on a cheap cigar
That would be all right with me

In the back row of a movie
Or a cross-town train
I want to hear your voice
Whispering my name
That’s where I want to be

Hard days, good times
Blue skies, dark nights
Baby, say that you’ll take me
Wherever you’re going to
Maybe say that you’ll save me
A seat next to you

Life is like a Ferris wheel spinning around
When you get to the top it’s hard to look down
Just hang on
We’ll make it through
Save me
A seat next to you

When you get to the gates
And all the angels sing
Go to that place
Where the church bells ring and know I’ll come running
Running to find you
Baby, say that you’ll take me
Wherever you’re going to
And baby, I want you to save me
A seat next to you
A seat next to you
A seat next to you
A seat next to you

Oh God! Every scenario he described, they’d done together. The drive down dirt roads in Jersey, the park bench in December in the rain in Brussels, the corner booth in a downtown bar in London,.... all of it. Glancing up she saw him watching her intently. She looked away.

By the time they got the track to a point where everyone was satisfied and recorded it, she was struggling to keep it together. Only her professionalism and her determination not to let him destroy her reputation with her co-workers and the Nashville music scene in general kept her from running out the door and not coming back. But the next song proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for her. After almost two solid weeks of being bombarded by memories – and nightmares - of both the best and worst times of her life, in addition to a lack of sleep, she couldn’t take it anymore.

Hello again, it’s you and me
Kinda always like it used to be
Sippin’ wine, killin’ time
Trying to solve life’s mysteries

How’s your life? It’s been awhile
God it’s good to see you smile
I see you reaching for your keys
Looking for a reason not to leave

If you don’t know if you should stay
If you don’t say what’s on your mind
Baby just breathe
There’s no where else tonight we should be
You want to make a memory

I dug up this old photograph
Look at all that hair we had
It’s bittersweet to hear you laugh
Your phone is ringing I don’t want to ask

If you go now I’ll understand
If you stay, hey I got a plan
You want to make a memory
You want to steal a piece of time
You can sing the melody to me
And I could write a couple lines
You want to make a memory

If you don’t know if you should stay
And you don’t say what’s on your mind
Baby just breathe
There’s no where else tonight we should be
We should be
You want to make a memory
You want to steal a piece of time
You can sing the melody to me
And I could write a couple lines
You want to make a memory
You want to make a memory

Unable to hold back her emotions any longer she fled the room. In the hallway she leaned against the wall, wrapped her arms around her middle and fought to bring the tears rolling down her face under control.

Jon had been watching her while he sang and saw the moment when she broke. He shot out the door after her before anyone could stop him. The sight of her tears and obvious torment, made his heart ache. “Nica?”

She stiffened and held her hands up in a defensive gesture. “Don’t! Leave me alone!”

“Let me in! Nica please!” She just shook her head. “Nica!”

“That’s not my name!” She tried to glare at him.

He stepped closer and reached out to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear and trail his fingers along her jaw. “It used to be. You were always my Nica.”

She flinched away from his touch and the memories his personal nickname for her uttered in that soft voice conjured up. She shivered. Anger came to her rescue. She slapped his hand away. “Don’t! Dammit Jon! Why can’t you just leave me the fuck alone! Haven’t you hurt me enough? Do you get some sort of sadist thrill out of causing me pain? I was doing just fine without you. Why did you have to come back?” Sobs took her voice.

“Nica, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hurt you.”

“STOP IT! Don’t you get it? I don’t want to see you, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to be anywhere near you! So, let’s finish the damn album and you can go back to Dorothea – you were always good at that - and your kids and LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!” She shoved him away and almost ran down the hallway and out the back door.

“Nica!” Jon started to follow her.

“Let her go Jon.” Richie grabbed his arm. He’d followed Jon into the hallway and had heard her outburst. “I think you’ve done enough.”

Veronica stood gripping the metal bars that surrounded the stairs and landing outside the back door, tears streaming down her face, fighting back her sobs. At the sound of the door opening behind her she turned ready to snarl at Jon, only to see Richie.

“Easy little girl, it’s just me.” He studied her face, then opened his arms. She flowed into them, held on tight and let her emotions loose. He held her, rested his cheek on the top of her head, stroked her hair with one hand and rubbed the other up and down her back.

When her tears subsided, she still didn’t let go. “Why is he doing this to me Rich?”

He sighed. “I’m not really sure. I think he’s feeling really bad about how he treated you.” He hesitated. “Dot left him. She said she was tired of the family always coming last in his life. I think it’s got him thinking.”

“So to ease his conscience he tracks me down, determined to make me relive the worst time of my life? Just so that he can say he’s sorry? Is that what you’re saying?”

Richie winced. “I don’t know for sure, but yeah, that’s my read on it. Something like that.” He squeezed her. “I’m sorry about what he’s putting you through, but I’m not sorry he dragged us down here. I’ve always wondered what happened to you. You just fell off the map after....well, after. I’m really glad he found you.”

She leaned back and smiled up at him. “I’ve missed you too Rich.”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chapter 10

Veronica groaned when her alarm went off the next morning. She felt like she’d been pulled through a wringer sideways. Her head was pounding and she had to drag herself out of bed and into the bathroom. One glance in the mirror confirmed that she looked about as good as she felt. Her face was pale and her eyes were dark and puffy from crying.

Standing under the hot spray of the shower she tried to figure out how she was going to get through the day – and before that, how she was going to face everyone. The girls would want an explanation for her abrupt departure the night before. She could put them off – for a while - but Jon wouldn’t be so easy if he decided to push it. Frankly, she wasn’t sure she was up to dealing with him at all today. She leaned her head against the tiled wall. She’d known that dancing with him wasn’t a good idea, but she’d convinced herself that her feelings for him – at least those of the softer variety – were firmly in the past. She hadn’t been prepared for how....comfortable.... it felt to be held in his arms again. It was like coming home after a long absence. Their bodies fit together like pieces of a puzzle. They adjusted to each other’s movements without conscious thought. His heat and scent had surrounded her, reminding her of happier times, heating her blood and making her skin tingle despite her best efforts to maintain the barriers she’d erected against him all those years ago. His gentle kiss had burned her lips. When he pushed her to tell him the details of what she had gone through, the pain the question brought was expected. The strong urge to break down and tell him and let him give her the comfort he’d denied her eighteen years ago, wasn’t. In fact, it shocked her. And scared her. After everything she’d been through, he shouldn’t be able to affect her. She couldn’t possibly still have feelings for him! Not after all the pain he’d caused her!

And what the hell was he after now? Why was he insisting on reliving the past? Was his conscience finally getting the best of him? Part of some sort of twelve step program? He said he wanted to make amends. How did he think he could possibly do that? He couldn’t give her back what had been taken away from her. And what did Dorothea think of him tracking her down like this? Did she even know? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d kept his meetings with Veronica a secret from her – or his meetings with Dorothea a secret from Veronica.

Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself for whatever she was going to have to face. Just a few more days Veronica. You can hang on that long.

“Morning Na.”

“Morning Veronica. The guys are already here.” Naomi hesitated. “Everything okay? You left in a bit of a hurry last night.”

Veronica nodded. “Yeah. Or at least it will be as soon as this album’s finished.”

“And he’s gone?” Naomi gave her a sympathetic look. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but you know that we’re here for you if and when you do, right?”

Veronica smiled. “Yes, I do. Thanks.”

The guys were all gathered in the recording room checking their equipment when she walked into the control room. They all frowned when they saw her face. She ignored them. Jon headed for the door, but was stopped by his bandmates forming a wall in front of the door.

“Don’t man. Leave her alone.” Richie advised.

Jon’s frown deepened. “But look at her. She’s upset.”

“Mmmhmm, and guess who’s to blame for that?” Tico growled.

“Then let me fix it.” He took a step forward.

The guys stepped closer together and shook their heads. “Not yet.” David spoke for the group. “Give her a chance to recover from your last attempt to ‘fix it’. Let her breathe, man. Quit pushing.”

Jon grunted, raked his hand through his hair in frustration, but turned back to the microphone.

That afternoon, Naomi buzzed Veronica. “There’s someone here to see the band.”

Veronica jumped at the chance to get out of the studio if only for a few minutes. “Okay. I’ll be right there.” Yawning, she wandered down the hallway, and wondered when ...or if...she’d ever get a full night’s sleep again. Her eyes widened when she saw the tall man talking to Naomi. “Desmond?”

“Ronnie? Is it really you?” Desmond stared at her.

She grinned. “It’s really me.” She hugged him.

He released her but caught her hands and looked her over. “How are you? You look....” His voice trailed off as he tried to think of a nice way to describe her appearance.

Her lips twisted wryly. “I know. I look tired and pale. It’s okay, you can say it. Everyone else has. I’ll recover...sometime next week.”

He studied her for a moment, then raised a brow. “Jon?”

She nodded. “Jon. How’d you guess?”

“Over twenty years of working with him.”

Veronica laughed. “I guess that would do it.” She noticed Naomi watching their exchange. “Oh, sorry, Naomi, this is Desmond Child. He’s going to be the executive producer for the album. Desmond, this is my friend Naomi.”

Naomi shook Desmond’s hand. “Nice to officially meet you. Since you obviously know Veronica, I take it that you worked with Bon Jovi back in the 80s too?”

Desmond nodded. “Yes, I did.” He winked at Veronica. “I watched this beautiful lady grow from a talented but shy intern into a vivacious, confident A&R rep that any label would give their eye teeth to get their hands on. Who snapped you up anyway?”

“Mercury. I’m borrowing an office here at the moment.”

His brows rose. “Country music? You? I don’t believe it!”

“Why not?” Naomi was surprised at his reaction.

“Because Ronnie was a huge rocker chic and had such a feel for what would work. Did you know that she talked Jon out of giving away Prayer? He didn’t think it would be a hit, but she knew better.”

Naomi nodded. Lori had passed along the story. Veronica rolled her eyes. “I only gave my opinion. You and Richie did the rest.”

“Uh huh. You stick to that story sweetheart.” Desmond responded dryly. “If I’d know you were here, I wouldn’t have rushed down to make sure Jon didn’t throw away any other gems. You are helping with the album, aren’t you?”

She nodded. “Against my better judgement, yes.”

He laughed. “Oh I’m sure it isn’t that bad. Oh wait a minute, we’re talking about Jon, of course it is. But I’m sure that Tico’s looking out for you and Richie and David are providing the comic relief.”

“So, they’re always like that then?” Naomi asked.

Desmond nodded. “ Yeah. They’re a regular Abbott and Costello act.”

Veronica snorted. “More like two stooges.”

Desmond laughed. “Come on Ronnie, show me what the creative minds from Jersey have put together this time.”

Veronica led him down the hall and into the studio. She introduced him to Dan Huff, then set up the playbacks while he was greeting the guys. After listening to what had been recorded, he raised a brow at Jon. “Taking a trip down memory lane? Or a therapy session?”

Jon shrugged. “A little of both I guess.” He shot a glance at Veronica. “Just doing a lot of thinking lately.”

Desmond followed his glance and nodded. “It’s good.”

Veronica wasn’t sure whether he was talking about the album or Jon thinking about the past and her. She didn’t ask.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chapter 9

“So Veronica was with you guys when you made it big.” Lori changed the subject, earning a look of gratitude from her friend, although she didn’t really like this subject either. The guys nodded. “Were there any songs that were written for her or inspired by her?” She looked pointedly at Jon.

He smiled and nodded. “Quite a few.”

“Which ones?” When Veronica started to protest, Lori shushed her. “You never talk about that time Veronica – or should I say Ronnie? And now we find out you hung out with rockstars. It’s your own fault that we’re curious.” She turned an expectant look on Jon.

Veronica sighed in resignation. Jon winked at her. “Let’s see...I’d Die For You, Lay Your Hands on Me, Born To Be My Baby, Bad Medicine, Living In Sin.....and of course,.....she’s Gina.” He didn’t bother to mention all the other ones over the years.....or the ones they were recording now.

Veronica noticed her friends all staring at her. “What? You’re looking at me like I’ve grown another head.”

“Sorry, it’s just that we’ve never had one song written for us, let alone multiple bit hits! I’m just trying to imagine what it would be like.” Naomi gushed.

Veronica snorted. “Don’t look so impressed. Most of them were written because either I was pissed off at him or he wanted something.” Her look dared Jon to deny it.

He just shrugged and smiled. “It usually worked.”

Naomi sighed. “I think that makes it even more romantic.”

Veronica rolled her eyes and stood up. “Come on girls. Let’s dance.”

This time some of the guys joined them periodically, including Big Kenny. When a slow song started he reached for Veronica’s hand and pulled her into his arms. She braced herself to deal with him pressing too close and his hands attempting to roam her body. She didn’t see Jon’s expression turn black as he watched.

The fifth time she pulled his hand back to her waist and pushed against his chest to create some space between them, Kenny sighed and gave up. “You’ve known him a long time.”

She didn’t bother to ask who he was referring to. “Yes. Over twenty years.”

“You two were.....together.”

After the conversation tonight there was no point denying it, and for the first time in eighteen years she didn’t want to. “Yes.”

The song ended, and another slow one started. Kenny stopped, his gaze fixed on something over her head. She didn’t have turn around to see what, or rather who he was looking at.

“My turn I believe.” Jon’s voice made it clear that it wasn’t a request.

The two men stared at each other for a long minute, then Kenny nodded, lifted her hand and kissed the back of it. “Thanks darlin’.”

As he walked off the dance floor, Jon took his place. Rather than make a scene, Veronica didn’t protest, even though something told her that if she was smart she’d walk away. As they started to dance he savoured the feeling of holding her in his arms again. Their bodies fit together perfectly and moved as one, with no awkwardness, as if their last dance was a few minutes ago instead of many years. The thumb of the hand on her back stroked in a familiar caress. “Are you okay? Was he bothering you?”

She rolled her eyes and glanced up at him. “Why do I feel like I’ve gone from the frying pan to the fire?”

He brought the hand he was holding in close to press against his chest. “You know I would never force you to do something you didn’t want to do.”

Her brow rose. “You mean like work on an album I don’t want to?”

He raised a brow back. “How else was I supposed to get you to help? I tried asking and you said no. Besides, you didn’t argue very long. I think you wanted to help us, you just needed a little push.” When she just snorted at his astounding logic, he sighed. “Ronnie, why won’t you talk to me?”

“I am talking to you.”

He squeezed her waist. “You know what I mean. You avoid any attempt I make to spend some time together. I just want to talk to you.”

She sighed. “No Jon, you want to dredge up the past, open old wounds and watch them bleed.”

“Wounds can’t heal if you don’t open them up and clean them out. They just fester.”

“My wounds have healed.”

“Have they? Or have you just put a bandage over them and covered them up?” Her mouth set in a mutinous line and she tried to pull away, but he held her fast. He sighed. “I’m sorry Nica. I should have been there for you. I know that. I have no explanation except that I was young and scared.”

“So was I.” She whispered.

He kissed her hand. “I know. And I know there’s no excuse for my behaviour. It’s haunted me for eighteen years. I know I have a lot to make up for.” He paused. “Tell me everything that happened.”

“You didn’t care then, why do you want to know now?”

“Because I need to know. I told you, it’s haunted me for eighteen years. I can’t get it out of my head, and I can only imagine what you’ve had to deal with. Tell me.”

She shook her head, her eyes filled with tears. “Jon, don’t. Please. It’s in the past. It’s over and done with. I don’t want to relive it.”

“Talk to me Ronnie.” She shook her head again. “Why not?”

“Because going through it the first time almost killed me. I don’t think I could survive it again.”

He lifted her chin with their joined hands. The anguish in the amethyst depths hit him like a kick to the groin. He pressed a gentle kiss to her lips and touched his forehead to hers. “I’m so sorry Nica. I never meant to hurt you.”

The raw emotion in his voice brought tears to her eyes and closed her throat. “But you did.”

If he hadn’t been so close he would never have heard her. “I know.” He whispered. “I want to make amends. I need to. I need to show you that I’m not that arrogant, insensitive, selfish, stupid kid anymore. Let me in, Nica. Let me try.”

“To what end, Jon? What would be the point? We can’t go back and redo it. You can’t fix it.”

“Despite what you said, I don’t think your wounds have healed. I think you’re still hurting. I know I am. I’ve thought about you often over the years. Wondered how you were, what you were doing.....what might have happened if I had stayed.....if we could have made it.” He lifted his head and stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. “I still care about you Nica. I’ve missed you.”

“Jon.....” Her voice trailed off and she shook her head, unable to speak, her tears overflowing.

“Are you going to deny that you still have feelings for me too? Because I won’t believe it. I know you do. I can see it. I can feel it.” His eyes begged her. “Let me in Nica. Let me try to help you to heal. Help me to heal.”

“I can’t.” She started to pull away.

“Nica, please!”

“I’m sorry Jon. I can’t.”


“Jon please! I can’t do this! Not now. Just let it go!” She pulled out of his arms, rushed to the table to grab her purse, muttered a goodbye to the group and almost ran out of the bar, desperate to get away. Once outside she flagged down a cab and managed to hold it together until the door of her apartment closed behind her. Then she collapsed and sank to the floor as the pain overwhelmed her and she sobbed.

They watched Veronica rush out the door, then turned to Jon.

“What did you do Kidd?” Tico’s voice was soft, but held a note of censure...and warning.

“Don’t start with me Teek. This is between her and I. We need to work this out ourselves.”

Drummer and frontman exchanged a long look. Finally, Tico nodded. The only thing that prevented him from rearranging the face that their female fans seemed to love so much, was the pain he could see in his friend’s eyes. It matched what he’d seen in Ronnie’s.

“I thought you weren’t here to hurt her.” Richie saw Jon’s pain, but wasn’t as inclined to go easy on him like Tico appeared to be.

“Do you think she’s the only one hurting here? I’m trying to help her – and me - heal!” Jon insisted, raking a hand through his hair.

“Looks like you’re doing a hell of a job.”

Big and Rich and the girls listened in silence. It was obvious that there was something going on that they didn’t know about, but it was none of their business unless Veronica wanted to make it their business.

The girls eyed Jon. Lori spoke first. “I don’t know what happened between you two in the past, but I know it must be something pretty big, and pretty painful. It has to be for her to bury it so deep. I’ve known her for about ten years and she never even mentioned any of you. I’ve always sensed there was something in her past that caused her to block off part of herself. She never dated much, no long term relationships – actually seemed to avoid them. I’m guessing it has something to do with whatever happened all those years ago. She won’t talk about it, and I’m not asking you to, you’re right, it’s between you, but if you’re the cause of her pain, you may be the only one who can help her heal. But let me give you a little advice. Back off for a few days. Give her time to think. If you push her now, you’ll only push her further away. In case you’ve forgotten, she can be a little stubborn.”

Jon hesitated, patience not one of his virtues, then nodded. Tricia frowned. “I know it’s not my business, but....what does your wife think of you being here like this?”

Jon sighed. “The divorce was final three months ago.”

The girls exchanged glances. Naomi caught his eye. “If you hurt her again, I don’t care who you are, we’ll kick your ass.”

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chapter 8

Veronica took a deep breath and opened the front door of the studio. One more week Veronica. Just one more week and he’ll be gone. She refused to acknowledge that the pang she felt at the thought was anything other than relief. It certainly couldn’t be regret. “Morning Naomi.”

“Morning Veronica. Ready for another fun filled week with Mr. Gorgeous and the boys?” Movement out of the corner of her eye had her blushing as she once again got caught saying things out loud without checking to see who was within hearing distance.

Veronica snorted. “Oh yeah, it’s a never ending party. I can hardly wait.” The sarcasm was thick in her voice.

“Glad you’re enjoying yourself.” Jon spoke from behind her, deliberately ignoring the sarcasm. When he saw her face he frowned. “You might enjoy it even more if you’d get more sleep.”

“I thought she was going for the Goth look with the black circles under her eyes and white face.” David joined them and offered his opinion. “Hey Ronnie, you know that big yellow ball in the sky? It’s called the sun. If you spend some time in it, it will give some colour to your skin and you won’t look like the living dead.”

“Well I guess that’s going to have to wait until you guys leave since you take so long to get anything done that it’s dark by the time we get out of the studio.” She shot back. “Ow!”

“I told you to watch yourself little girl.” Richie reminded her.

“Pinch my ass again Jughead and I’ll pinch something of yours that’ll hurt a whole lot more! And you know I’ll do it!”

Naomi stared at her friend, stunned that she would talk to these guys like that. Glancing around, she noticed that none of them were surprised. In fact, most of them were grinning – even Richie. The only ones surprised were the two that had entered just in time to hear Veronica’s threat.

Veronica felt hands grip her and lift her off her feet. “She’s a feisty little thing isn’t she?”

She hid her annoyance and smiled inwardly as a frown creased Jon’s forehead. “Kenny put me down!” Big Kenny had been trying to put the moves on her for the better part of a year now. Veronica, for professional reasons, tried to put him off gently, - a long term relationship wasn’t in the cards for her, - but he didn’t seem to be getting the message and continued his pursuit. Her patience was wearing thin. If he didn’t stop she was afraid that she was going to say something she shouldn’t and it could have permanent repercussions. When he set her on her feet, she stepped away from him and turned to greet his partner. “Hi John.”

“Hi Veronica. Good to see you.” John Rich was as polite as Kenny was......not.

After the guys all exchanged greetings, Jon moved to stand beside Veronica and turned them towards the studio. “Let’s get to work.” Big and Rich were there to record a song with the Jovi boys. Jon led the way down the hallway, his hand riding the small of her back. Veronica stiffened and shot him a look, but for once didn’t evade the contact. At this point he was the lesser of two evils – or at least the one she felt better equipped to handle. After all, she really didn’t care if she pissed Jon off. It wouldn’t be the first time and would have little to no effect on her career.

It took the better part of the morning to get the song laid down to everyone’s satisfaction. Veronica was ready to pull her hair out. To make matters worse, Kenny and John accepted Jon’s invitation to stick around. He wished he’d kept his mouth shut when Kenny went into the control booth and pulled up a chair beside Veronica.

They packed it in early that day and all went out to a nearby bar for dinner and drinks. Kenny wouldn’t allow Veronica to decline, so she called in Naomi, Lori and Tricia for back up. The girls were only too happy to spend the evening with Bon Jovi – and it wasn’t the first time they’d run interference with Big Kenny.

“So you guys knew Veronica back in the 80s.” Lori couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn a bit more about a time in her friend’s life that she never talked about.

Richie smiled and nodded. “Yeah. She worked with us on our first four albums. She started out as a little squirt of an intern at Polygram and clicked so well with us that we insisted that she continue to help us. She’s always had a feeling for songs...what will sell and what won’t.”

Lori glanced around the table, saw that everyone else was occupied and lowered her voice. “And when did the relationship with Jon start?”

Richie too glanced around. “A few months before we started recording Slippery.” There was no sense denying it. It was obvious with every look and word they exchanged.

“What happened?”

Richie hesitated then shook his head. “You’ll have to ask her.”

“Ooh, I love this song! Come on girls, let’s dance.” Veronica called from the other side of the table. She liked the song well enough, but her main purpose was to get away from Kenny for a few minutes. Trying to remain polite was wearing her out, especially when she had to worry about keeping Jon at a distance as well. She felt like the flag on a tug-of-war rope.

When they returned to the table and sat down, Richie winked at her. “You still got the moves little girl.”

“Thanks Jughead. You should have joined us.”

“Why does he call you ‘little girl’?” Naomi asked.

Veronica’s lips twisted into a wry smile. “Because I’m almost a foot shorter than him and when we met I was a young woman of nineteen to his old man of twenty-five. He needed to remind himself that I was off limits to him since I was so young.”

Richie smirked. “You were off limits alright, but it had nothing to do with your age.” He shot a look at Jon, who smiled a little smugly. Veronica saw and rolled her eyes. Kenny frowned and looked back and forth between Jon and Veronica speculatively. Richie looked back at Naomi. “Aren’t you going to ask why she calls me Jughead?”

“No, that’s pretty obvious.” Naomi responded. Laughter erupted around the table. Richie pouted. Veronica winked at him.

“I don’t get it.” Kenny disagreed.

“Read an Archie comic and you will.” Tricia advised him. “So we’ve got Veronica and Jughead, I’m assuming Jon is Archie....who’s Betty?”

“David.” They chorused. David flipped them off.

A change in the music had David grinning. “Hey Ronnie, there’s your song.”

Veronica listened for a moment, confused, then it clicked. She smirked. “I don’t know why you were so shocked. You’re the one who dared me to go to a strip club with you.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d get up on stage and dance!”

“WHAT?!” The other girls exclaimed in unison.

“You got up and danced on stage at a strip club?” Tricia was stunned. “Did you use the pole?”

The men all nodded. “You were in rare form that night.” David added. “I wonder if Vancouver will ever let us go back?”

Veronica snickered. “I blame the tequila.”

“Waitress!” Several hands around the table went up.

“The second show was even better.” Jon commented and caught Veronica’s eye. She blushed and felt her body respond to the memory of that very private dance and the heat of his gaze. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t look away.

David frowned. “Second show? I don’t remember a second show.”

“I don’t think we were invited.” Richie noted her flushed face and the sudden tension and sparks shooting between her and Jon. So did Kenny and his frown deepened.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chapter 7

Jon stood on the balcony of his room, squinted against the smoke drifting up from his cigarette and debated his next move. He was at a loss, but he refused to accept defeat. Once again Ronnie had refused all his invitations over the weekend to spend some time together. He’d tried meals, drinks, checking out new talent with her, touring the Opryland Museum, even a trip to Memphis. She’d always loved blues music and he’d thought for sure she wouldn’t be able to turn it down....but she had. Without even thinking twice. He had to find a way to break through her defences and get her to talk to him! He understood why she didn’t want to. He’d behaved like the lowest form of scum eighteen years ago. He knew that . He knew that he had a lot to apologize and make up for. He didn’t know all the details, but he had a general idea of what had happened to them. His only excuse is that he was young and stupid.....and scared. But that doesn’t excuse you running away like a coward and not being there when she needed you, asshole!

He sighed and raked a hand through his hair. His once perfect life had come at a price. He’d hurt a lot of people to get where he was....his wife, who basically raised the kids alone and had to deal with everything from scraped knees to broken pipes by herself, his kids who could never count on him being around for school plays or ball games – although missing those things hurt him as much as it did them, and many friends and acquaintances that he’d had to step on or over – or leave behind – on his way to the top. He wasn’t proud of some of the things, he’d done, but if he had to do it over again, he honestly couldn’t say he would do it differently. Except for Ronnie. What he’d done to her was inexcusable and undeserved. Although he’d managed to bury the memories for long periods of time, every once in awhile, when he was feeling down and vulnerable, they would come back to haunt him. And after Dot’s parting words to him when she told him she wanted a divorce, he couldn’t get them out of his head. How many people do you have to use and abuse before you’re satisfied? At what point will you consider yourself successful, and say ‘enough’? Is there such a point? When will your family come first? I guess I’m partly to blame. I let you get away with it. I should have seen it coming with the way you threw Ronnie to the side when she became a threat to your success, with no thought or consideration for what she was going through. I thought you’d outgrow that attitude. I waited seventeen years. I can’t wait any longer.

After that, he’d spent a lot of time soul searching and looking back over his life. He’d never meant to hurt anyone. But his drive to succeed had been – and still was – so strong that it had often overpowered the saner, more....human...side of him. He realized now how arrogant, controlling and inconsiderate he’d been to those around him, including his family and his bandmates. He didn’t like the man he’d become – not the singer/songwriter or the philanthropist, but the man himself. Who he was with the people he cared about the most. How he treated them. The successful businessman and musician was a piss poor husband, father and friend. Not all the time, but more often than not. He could give his time and effort to the homeless and less fortunate, but not to his own family. He shook his head at himself. What a fool he’d been. What good was any of it without people you loved to share it with? All the money and awards in the world wouldn’t keep him warm at night or cuddle on the couch with him, or.....just be there to answer when he called out so that the house wasn’t so damn quiet!

He stubbed out his cigarette and flicked the butt over the balcony. He had to make some changes. He couldn’t continue on this way. He was lonely and he had no one to blame but himself. So he did what he always did with strong emotions. He wrote songs about it. Sure, he used what Richie was going through as well, but there was a lot of him in this album – more than anyone, including Richie, knew. The more he examined his behaviour, and the more he wrote, the more he thought about Ronnie. She had been so much fun to be with, so beautiful, smart, tune with him and the music. She’d understood what it meant to him like no other woman in his life ever had before...or since. They could often communicate without even speaking. She lit up the room just by being in it. She’d made him feel so alive and wanted and needed – for himself, not for what he did. He’d loved her so much it scared him sometimes. And he’d rewarded all that with betrayal and abandonment. He couldn’t get rid of the sick feeling in his stomach that came every time those memories surfaced. Then he’d run into Southside Johnny who happened to mention that he’d seen Ronnie several months earlier, and he knew what he had to do. He had to find a way to make amends, or at the very least talk to her and apologize for his behaviour. So he’d hauled the guys to Nashville, to the studio where she was working. He’d forced her to help with the album, thinking it would be a good way to break the ice formed by past events and eighteen years. He’d hoped to use the music, the songs he’d written with her in mind, to get her to let him back in. So far he’d seen no real sign that it was working. He had to get her to talk to him! He couldn’t lose her again.

He sighed, poured another cup of coffee and lit another cigarette just as his phone rang. “Hello.”

“Hi Dad. Did I wake you up?”

“Hi Steph. No, I’ve been up for a while. How are you?”

“I’m good. Can’t sleep huh? Problems with the album?” She knew her father well.

“No, it’s going really well. Much smoother than I’d anticipated.” He ignored her real question about why he wasn’t sleeping.

“How’s Uncle Mookie doing?”

“He’s hanging in there. We’re keeping him busy. Is everything okay there?”

“Yeah, we’re all fine.”

“So what’s up? Or did you just call to check up on the old man?” Since the divorce, Stephanie had taken to mothering him a little and often being the go between for him and her mother and brothers.

“When will you be home?”

“Um...we’ve got this week in the studio, then I’ll be home for a couple weeks before going to England to mix it for a week or so.”


When she didn’t say anymore, he frowned. “Steph? Sweetie, what’s going on?”

“Nothing. We just miss you.....and we just wondered if you’d be home for my school play next Monday and Jesse’s football game on Saturday afternoon.”

“I miss you guys too. I’ll be there for your play and Jesse’s game.”

“Promise?” Jesse had picked up the extension.

“Yes, Jess, I promise.” He’d made a vow to himself to not make promises to his kids that he couldn’t keep, but also to make a point of being more involved in their lives and activities.

“Mmmmhmm.” While Stephanie had stayed neutral, and Jake and Romeo were too young to take sides, Jesse tended to blame his father for the breakup of his family. His tone indicated that he’d believe it when he saw it.

“I mean it Jess. I’ll be there.”


“Hi Jakey. How are you?”

“Good. When you tomin’ home?”

“I’ll be back in New Jersey Saturday morning.” Dot had moved the kids to New York City, while he’d stayed in the house on the Navesink.

“No, when you tomin’ home?”

Jon raked a hand through his hair and tried to find a way to explain to a four and a half year old. Stephanie came to his rescue. “Daddy lives at the old house now, remember Jakey?”

“But when him tomin’ here?”

Jon jumped on that one. “I’ll see you next weekend.”

“Yay!” Jon heard the phone click as Jake took off.


“Do you want me to tell Mom you’ll be coming?”

Jon smiled wryly. His thirteen year old daughter was growing up fast – too fast for his father’s sensibilities to handle – or approve of. “Yeah. I’ll call and let you know what time I’ll be there.”

“Okay.” She paused. “I love you.”

“I love you too sweetie. Give Romeo a kiss for me.”

“I will. Bye Dad.”

“Bye sweetie.” Hanging up, Jon sighed, rubbed a hand over his face and prepared to head into the studio.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chapter 6

“No! Jon! I need you! Where is he? Oh God please no! JON!” Veronica jolted awake. Glancing around her bedroom, she sighed and waited for her heart to stop pounding. She rose from the bed and walked on shaky legs to the bathroom to splash cool water on her sweating face. Gazing in the mirror, she fought back tears at the memories bombarding her. Just another week or so and he’ll be gone and you can get your life back. Hang tough Veronica you can do it! It would be a lot easier if it wasn’t for the damn songs he and Richie had written for this album. Every day in the studio was a trip down memory lane and it was killing her. Good memories, bad memories....they were all mixed up together and pounding at her defences like a battering ram. All the feelings that she’d worked so hard for so long to bury deep inside, were suddenly back on the surface, making her short tempered and edgy.

“Okay. That was great. Let’s move on.” Shanks instructed through the intercom. Jon nodded his agreement and turned to speak to the guys.

Veronica hid a yawn with her hand and forced herself to focus on the job at hand. As Richie started the intro, she closed her eyes and just listened.

Welcome to the party
Come on in and disappear
You’re feeling like a stranger
But all your friends are here
Little lines and cracks
Around your eyes and mouth
Something’s trying to get in
Something’s trying to get out

It’s okay to be a little broken
Everybody’s broken in this life
It’s okay to feel a little broken
Everybody’s broken
You’re alright, it’s alright
It’s just life

Her chest tightened so much she could hardly breathe. It was as though he could see into her soul. She opened her eyes and watched the emotion on Jon’s face as he sang. Forcing herself to look away, her gaze caught Richie and stopped. He’d always been really into whatever song he was playing, but something was different this time. He wasn’t as obvious about the emotions of a song as Jon – unless he was singing-, but they were there just the same, and this time stronger than usual. As she listened to the lyrics it hit her that the song was as much about him and what he’d been going through as anything else. Tico had filled her in on everything from Richie’s divorce and custody battle, to his father’s illness, and Teek’s concerns about how much he was drinking. Her heart ached for him. Her eyes filled with tears.

Step into the deep end
Make yourself at home
When you wonder why you’re breathing
Know you’re not alone
It’s so hard to believe
What’s easier to doubt
You’re trying to hold in
What you’re dying to scream out

It’s okay to be a little broken
Everybody’s broken in this life
It’s okay to feel a little broken
Everybody’s broken
You’re alright, it’s alright
It’s just life

Take a look around
Tell me what you see
Is who you think you are
Who you want to be

It’s okay to be a little broken
Everybody’s broken in this life
It’s okay to feel a little broken
Everybody’s broken
You’re alright
Keep on going
Eyes wide open
Everybody’s broken
Everybody’s broken
Everybody’s broken
Everybody’s broken
Everybody’s broken
Everybody’s broken

When the last note ended, Veronica couldn’t hold it in any more. She had to let it out. She rushed out of the control room and into the room with the guys. Richie had just set aside his guitar and reached for a bottle of water when she flew to him and threw her arms around his neck.

“Oh Richie. I’m so sorry. I’m sooo sorry. You don’t deserve any of it.”

Stunned, Richie stared at Jon, wide eyed, as he held the sobbing woman in his arms. Then her words sank in and he understood. “Sssh sweetheart. It’s okay. I’m okay.” He squeezed her and stroked her hair. “Sssh. I’m okay.”

She leaned back to search his dark eyes. “Really?”

He smiled, nodded and wiped away her tears with his thumbs. “Really.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Thank you though.”

“For what?”


“Still have that soft spot for the people you care about eh Ronnie?” Jon smiled gently at her.

She shrugged. “Only for those who really deserve it and don’t abuse it.” Her look told him that he was no longer in that group.

“Ronnie, I’m sorry...” He began, but the door was already closing behind her. “Fuck!” He watched her take her chair in the control room, but no matter how long he waited and stared at her, she wouldn’t look at him. He ground his teeth in frustration. Every night he tried to get her to join them for dinner, or at least spend some time with them, but she staunchly refused. She was polite and professional during the day, but as soon as they left the studio she blocked him out and couldn’t get away fast enough. He was running out of patience. He had to find a way to get her to talk to him.

The next day wasn’t any better. Dan Huff had come in to produce a few songs. Jon tried to get Veronica to participate more, but unless she was specifically asked for her opinion she sat back and kept quiet. He kept shooting glances in her direction as he and Dan discussed possible women to sing with him on one of the songs. They kept coming up dry. Everyone they thought of was either too young or not the right voice to mesh with Jon’s.

Jon raked a hand through his hair. “Ronnie? Any ideas? Or are you just going to sit there like a piece of furniture?”

She crooked a brow at him. “You’re the one who insisted I be here. If you’ve changed your mind, I’ll be more than happy to leave.”

“No, I don’t want you to leave, I want you to help!” He sighed and fought to bring his temper under control. Pissing her off wasn’t going to help his cause. “Sorry. Do you have any ideas of who might fit?”

She studied him for a moment. “Leanne.”

Huff’s brows rose and he stared at her. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of her? She’s perfect.” He frowned. “But is she available?”

“She’s in town for a performance at the Opry tomorrow. I’ll see if she’s got a couple hours to spare.” Veronica pulled out her phone. “Hi Leanne, it’s Veronica Watson. Good, how are you? That’s good. Listen, I’ve got a favour to ask if you’re willing and have a couple hours to spare this afternoon. We’ve got Bon Jovi over here at Blackbird recording an album, and there’s a song that Jon wants to do as a duet, and he asked me who I thought would be a good match. Naturally, I thought of you and he agreed. What do you think? Yes, I’ve heard it. I think you’ll like it. It’s a ‘trying to hold on to love’ type song.” She rolled her eyes. “Yes they are.” She grinned, chuckled and looked at Richie. “Yes, but don’t take my word for it. Come see for yourself. Yeah. Ok. See you then. Thanks Leanne, I owe you one.” She snapped the phone shut and pointed at Jon. “And you owe me one. She’ll be here in an hour.” She paused. “And bring in a fiddle player.”

“What is she coming to see for herself?” Richie asked, sure that it had something to do with him.

“She wanted to know if Jon’s eyes are really that blue and if Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome is really as nice as he seems.” Veronica winked at Richie. He grinned. Jon snorted.

After the first run through, Jon caught Veronica’s eye and nodded. Amid much laughter and flirting, they managed to lay down the track. Jon thanked Leanne and waited until the door closed behind her before turning back to the room and pointing at Veronica. “And that is why I wanted her here. Nice job Ronnie, she’s perfect.”

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chapter 5

The next morning, Veronica walked through the front door of the studio, having had not much more sleep than the previous night despite several glasses of wine. Now, she had a lovely, pounding headache to add to the tiredness dragging at her, and the tension and edginess that came with being around Jon and the memories he evoked.

“Morning Veronica.” Naomi greeted her from the reception desk. “Whoa, are you feeling okay? You look like crap.”

“Gee thanks Na. Nice to know my mirror’s working.” She sighed. “Yeah, I’m okay. Nothing that a couple of aspirin and a few solid hours of sleep won’t cure. Are the guys here yet?”

“No. John and the techs are in there checking everything over right now.” Naomi answered, pulling a bottle of Tylenol out of her desk drawer and handing it over. “By the way, John and Kenny will be here next Monday morning.”

“Thanks for the warning.” Veronica shook two tablets into her palm. “When’s Dan coming in?”

Naomi consulted her schedule. “Friday morning.”

Veronica nodded and yawned. “Okay. Well, I guess I’d better....”

The sound of the door opening behind her cut her off. She turned to see the guys trooping in.

“Morning Ronnie. Ready for another fun filled day in the studio?” David slung an arm over her shoulders.

“Fun filled? So you guys are taking the day off then?” She retorted. “Ow! Hey!” She rubbed her abused posterior where Richie had pinched it.

“Careful there little girl. People might think you don’t like us.”

“Hmpf! What makes you so sure that I do Jughead?” She turned and wrinkled her nose at him.

Both Jon and Richie frowned when they got a look at her face. “Are you okay?” Jon’s voice was harsh with concern.

“I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine.”

“Well, I am. Just a headache.”

“Are you sure nina?” Tico lifted her face with a hand under chin to take a better look. He didn’t like what he saw. Her eyes were shadowed and slightly bloodshot with dark circles under them.

Si Papa, muy bien.”

He tapped her nose with a finger. “Smartass. And you’re lying. Did you sleep last night?”

“Yes, I slept.” For a couple hours anyway. “Honestly guys, I’m fine. I just have a headache. I’ve taken a couple aspirin, so I’m sure it’ll go away in a few minutes. Let’s get to work.”

None of them were convinced, but they followed her into the studio.

By the time they finished for the day her head was pounding even worse than it had that morning. The songs were really getting to her, bringing back memories that she’d blocked out for many years. Long drives, sunny days at the beach, picnics, dancing to the radio, falling in love in the moonlight. The way Jon kept looking at her didn’t help either. She had a feeling that he knew exactly was she was thinking about. That he meant for her to. He was watching for a reaction from her and it took everything she had to keep a neutral, professional expression on her face. She refused to let him see her break. She couldn’t allow him to play with her emotions. Not again. But the effort it took to suppress those emotions gave her an unbelievable headache. Thank God it’s Tuesday.

“Ronnie, come with us to dinner.” Jon tried again.

She shook her head and continued down the hallway towards the front door. “Sorry. Already got plans.”

“Come on. It’s just dinner.” She didn’t look well and he wanted to make sure she ate.

Before she could respond, Lori and Naomi came around the corner, bags in their hands. “You ready Veronica?” Lori glanced between her friend and Jon.

“Yep. Let’s go.”

“Where are you girls off to tonight?” Jon flashed the smile that never failed to get him whatever he was after.

“Maybe we could join you?” David added. Richie nodded his agreement.

The girls looked at each other. “What do you think Veronica? Should we?” Lori bit her lower lip, trying to hold back a smile.

“You never know, they might like it.” Naomi added, her lips twitching. “It certainly would make the evening....interesting.”

Veronica pretended to consider it, but an image formed in her head and she couldn’t help but burst into laughter. “Only if we take a camera. Can’t you just imagine it?” Lori and Naomi joined her, adding their laughter to hers.

“Why do I get the feeling that this is some females only thing?” Richie shook his head at the girls who were now bent over in their mirth.

Naomi was the first to be able to speak. “No, but you don’t see many men there.” She chuckled again before she could finally explain. “Yoga class.”

“It would give ‘down dog’ new meaning don’t ya think?” Veronica managed to get out. The girls were off again, their laughter echoing around the lobby.

David and Richie wrinkled their noses and quickly declined. Jon looked over Veronica’s toned body with new appreciation. “Maybe I should join you. If it’s in any way responsible for you looking so incredible, maybe it could help me.” Although the way his pants tightened just looking at her, maybe seeing her in some of those poses wouldn’t be a good idea – not in public anyway.

Veronica couldn’t prevent the blush from heating her face at what she saw in his eyes as their gazes locked, any more that she could stop the warmth that infused her body at his obvious approval. She had to force herself to look away. Don’t go there Veronica! That road leads to nothing but pain. Don’t let those blue eyes suck you in again.

“Help you what? I don’t see any room for improvement.” Naomi let her gaze roam Jon from head to toe and back again. Jon smiled and winked at her. The rest just stared at her. She raised her brows. “What?”

“You said that out loud honey.” Lori murmured.

“Oh shit!” Naomi turned bright red and prayed for the floor to open up and swallow her whole. “Sorry.” She tugged on Veronica’s sleeve. “Let’s go.”

Jon watched them file out the door, then turned to his bandmates. “Let’s go eat.”

Richie’s brows rose at his cheerful tone. “What are you so happy about? She still won’t give you the time of day outside of the studio.”

“But she’s not as immune to me as she tries to pretend.” He’d noticed her reaction to his inspection of her body. “There’s still some feelings there.”

“I’m sure there is. Just don’t get your hopes up that they’re the kind you want them to be.”

“I know that they’re not all happy feelings, but the fact that she’s got any at all where I’m concerned gives me hope. I just need some time and the opportunity to talk to her alone.”

“Well, that may be difficult considering that she won’t even go to dinner with all of us, let alone be alone with you.” Richie frowned. “Does she know that you’re divorced?”

Jon shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why she won’t spend time with me. Maybe I should tell her.”

Tico had listened to the conversation in silence, but now pinned Jon with a sharp glare. “Be careful Kidd. You’ve already put her through hell once. I won’t stand by and watch you do it again.”

“Relax Teek. The last thing I want to do is hurt her anymore than I already have. I promise.” Jon clapped his drummer on the back. Tico merely grunted.