“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.
“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.”