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