The next day, the guys were sitting around the interview room relaxing for a few minutes before the work of the day started.
“Ronnie sure seemed in a hurry to leave last night. I wonder what happened?” David commented. They all eyed Jon.
He shrugged. “You heard what she said. She was tired and we all have a full day today.”
“Uh huh. And do you believe that?” Richie asked. “She seemed to be having a good time up until then.” He’d noticed her swollen lips when she’d come in from the patio.
Jon just shrugged again and studied his paper. “I gave up trying to figure out how women think a long time ago.” His friends were sceptical, but no one pushed it.
“Veronica. Veronica!” The slight irritation in the voice indicated that her name had been called several times.
She glanced up from her desk and smiled at the woman standing in the doorway. “Gretchen! Hi! You made it. Come in. Have a seat.”
Gretchen Wilson sauntered across the room and sat in the chair in front of Veronica’s desk. “I’m here, but where were you?”
“Sorry, my mind was somewhere else I guess. How are you? How’s everyone at home? What have you been up to?”
The two friends spent the next ten minutes updating each other on their recent activities. As they finally wound down, Gretchen eyed Veronica closely.
“So what’s got you looking like you’ve been rode hard and put away wet?”
Veronica’s smiled ruefully. “Oh, I didn’t sleep well last night. I’ll be fine.”
“Mmmhmm. I’d say it’s been more than one bad night of sleep to get you looking like that. What’s up? It can’t be the job. I know you love this stuff.”
“No, the job’s fine...except that I’m working for my ex.”
Gretchen’s brows rose. “Why?”
“Because he has more pull with Vince than I do.”
“Must be Jon then.” Veronica was very well respected by both artists and executives, so it had to be someone really high up to force her to do a job she didn’t want to do.
Veronica smiled wryly. “Yeah.”
“You dated him? When?”
“Twenty years ago. Back when they first made it big.”
“And I take it things ended badly?”
Veronica snorted. “Have you ever had a relationship that didn’t?”
“Good point.” Gretchen looked at the surprisingly lengthy list in her hand. “Let me guess. He hates all this stuff doesn’t he?”
Veronica grinned. “But after telling everyone that he brought me here because I’m the only one he trusts to guide them through this, he can’t say no.”
Gretchen chuckled. “Evil. I like it!”
“Ronnie!” Rew stuck his head in the door.
“Jon’s says they’re ready to start.”
She sighed. “Okay. We’re coming.”
Gretchen studied her friend for a moment. “Do you know what you need?”
“A stiff drink?”
“Oh you need something stiff alright, but I wasn’t thinking alcohol. Darlin’ you need to get laid!”
Veronica groaned. “I know! But it’s not going to happen around here.”
“Why not? This place is crawling with men.”
“Uh huh, but you know that having a fling with someone you’re on the road with is never a good idea.”
“What if it were to turn into more than a fling?”
Veronica shook her head. “Not interested. And even if I was, not one of them would touch me.” She stood up.
“Why not?” Gretchen stood too and followed Veronica out the door.
“Because they value their jobs....and their heads.”
“What do you mean?”
Entering the interview room, Veronica re-introduced Gretchen to the guys and went to check the refreshment supplies. Jon joined her, his hand automatically settling on her waist. “Are you okay?”
She nodded. “I’m fine.”
He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “You look...tired.” Her face may have, but the rest of her looked fantastic in tight jeans which accented her curves, sleeveless black leather vest – although he wasn’t sure he approved of her display there – and black cowboy boots.
She shifted away from him. “I didn’t sleep well last night. My mind wouldn’t settle.” And neither would her body after his devastating kiss. She’d lain awake for hours reliving every moment on the patio and imagining what would have happened if she hadn’t stopped him – then mentally kicking herself for going there.
“Sorry.” His lips twitched. He wasn’t – not by a long shot – but if she was upset about their interlude he wanted to diffuse her anger.
“No you’re not.”
“If it makes you feel any better, my nightcap was a cold shower.”
Across the room Gretchen stood with Richie and watched Veronica and Jon. “Wow! Talk about sparks! Is it always like that?” Even from where she stood she could feel the tension.
Richie nodded. “Yeah. One of these days I’m going to hose them down with fabric softener before all of our hair starts standing on end.”
“Why not just lock them in a room together and let them get it out of their systems?”
“I’m afraid someone would get killed.”
“You think she’d kill Jon?”
At the after party, Gretchen watched the interactions of the major players of the little drama that was surrounding her. She understood now what Veronica had meant about none of the staff or crew touching her. They were all polite to her, most were even friendly, but they all shot glances at Jon to see his reaction.
“He really has cut you from the herd hasn’t he?” She commented as Veronica took the seat beside her at the table.
“Yeah. Lucky me.” Her sarcasm was thick.
“Why don’t you take him up on his obvious offer? Tear up a few sheets and relieve some tension.”
Veronica shook her head. “Too much....history, too much....emotion, especially for just a bit of slap and tickle.”
Gretchen eyed her friend closely. “And what if it was more than that?”
Veronica hesitated for a fraction of a second, then shook her head again. “That’s all it would ever be.”
“With Jon or anyone?”
“I’m just not cut out for a long term relationship. I’m too set in my ways. I like my privacy.”
That was the response Gretchen had expected, and was more curious than ever what was behind it. “Are you sure? He’s obviously willing, and in case you haven’t noticed, he’s gorgeous. I’m not sure I could turn him down if he looked at me that way. Treat it like a man would. Sex as just sex. It’s a wonderful way to relieve stress.”
Veronica laughed. “I think I’ll stick to Yoga.”
“Why not combine the two?” Richie suggested with a waggle of his brows, catching the last couple sentences. He started to take the chair next to Veronica, but Jon nudged him out of the way and sat down, his arm automatically sliding along the back of her chair, his fingers tangling in her curls.
“Down dog.” Jon chided his wingman.
“Well think about it man. Yoga makes her all flexible and bendy. The possibilities are....tantalizing.”
The girls rolled their eyes, but Jon gave Veronica a considering glance, his eyes roaming her from head to toe. Before she could say anything, David, Tico and Hugh joined them. For the next couple hours they talked and laughed and Veronica tried to ignore the dominating presence beside her. Jon made that impossible. His fingers started out playing with her hair, or stroking her bare shoulder lightly. When she leaned forward to get away from it, his hand rested on her back, then slid down to stroke the thin strip of skin that showed between the bottom of her vest and the waistband of her jeans. She quickly sat back, barely giving him time to move his arm. After a few minutes, his fingers resumed their play with her hair and shoulder.
Veronica was about ready to scream. He was driving her nuts! It didn’t help any that he didn’t even seem to be aware of what he was doing – but she knew better. Jon always knew what he was doing. She refused to acknowledge what it meant that she was so sensitive to his touch.
The final straw came when his hand lifted to trace the curve of her ear and down her neck. She couldn’t suppress the shiver that racked her body, and was mortified to feel her nipples harden as his calluses scraped her skin lightly and she saw the corners of his mouth lift.
She set her hand on his thigh and slid it to the inside as she turned her head to look at him. His smiled widened and heated. Hers was all teeth. She leaned towards him. “Jon..”
“Back off!” With that, she dug her nails into the sensitive flesh of his inner thigh.
His eyes widened, he stiffened and tried to move away from her grip. She didn’t let go. “Okay, okay! I’ll stop. Ow! Fuck!” He lifted his offending arm from her chair.
The conversation stopped as everyone stared at Jon and wondered what was going on. Richie was the only one who could see her hand and he winced when he saw Jon’s predicament. Catching Veronica’s eye, he winked. The others were dying to know what she’d done, but one look at Jon convinced them to ignore it....and ask Veronica or Richie later.