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 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.