The rest of the Prudential run went pretty smoothly. Gretchen played her second night and left the next morning, but not before once more encouraging Veronica to take Jon to bed and exorcise him from her system. Veronica just laughed, but Gretchen wouldn’t give up until she promised to at least think about it.
Daughtry was up next on the list of opening acts, followed by the All-American Rejects. To Veronica’s relief, Jon had backed off – a little. While he still touched her every chance he got, he seemed to sense when he was reaching the end of her tolerance and would stop, and he left her to enjoy her time off in peace without pressuring her to spend it with him.
David’s twins joined them one night. Veronica stood between them and shook her head. “Jeez, Joker, what are you feeding these kids?! Some kind of magic growing beans?” They were as tall as she was – Colton was taller – and they were only thirteen.
Colton rested his arm on the top of her head. “You’re just short.”
Veronica swatted his stomach lightly. “Brat! Lord help us! You’re going to be just like your father, aren’t you?”
David grinned. “What’s the matter Ronnie? You know the world needs more of us.”
Veronica looked at Gabrielle and rolled her eyes. “How do you stand it?”
“Lots of patience....and my iPod.” Gaby replied looking intently at Veronica’s eyes. “Dad can I get coloured contacts?”
“Ask your mother. Uh....I hate to break it to you sweetie, but those are her actual eyes, not contacts.”
“Really?” Veronica nodded. Gaby sighed. “Cool. Wish mine were that colour.”
“They’re unique alright, but yours are beautiful too.” David assured his daughter.
Gabi snorted. “You’re just saying that because they’re the same as yours.”
“Of course. What could be better?”
“Hmmm. It’s strange then that it’s not your baby blues that the fans gush about.” Jon retorted from the doorway. Veronica frowned at him and shot a look towards the teenager. “Not that yours aren’t beautiful Gaby.” He added quickly. “They suit you perfectly. It’s your old man that looks like a pale copy of perfection.”
“Oh please! They only gush about yours because you always block their view of me!” David argued.
Veronica looked back and forth between the two men. “Are you two seriously arguing over whose eyes are prettier?” She shook her head at them.
Both men looked chagrined, but grinned.
The day of the last show, Matt tracked Veronica down at her desk in the control room where she was going over the scheduled interviews and promos for the next two shows in Montreal and the official start of the tour.
“Ronnie? Do you have a minute?”
“Sure Matt. What do you need?”
“I just wanted to warn you that Mom and Dad are coming today.”
She closed her eyes and stifled a groan. “Oh happy day!” Opening her eyes, she studied Matt’s face. “Go ahead, drop the other shoe.”
“They’re bringing the kids.”
“Of course she is.” Veronica raked a hand through her hair and turned to Paul, who was sitting at his desk on the other side of the room. “Any chance that I could head up to Montreal early...like this afternoon?” Paul smiled, but shook his head. “No? Then I think I’m coming down with the flu. I suddenly don’t feel very well at all. I think I need to go home.”
Paul raised a brow and looked at Matt. “What’s with Miss Muffet here?”
“The spider’s visiting this afternoon.” Matt sighed. “Mom wasn’t....Ronnie’s biggest supporter.”
Veronica snorted. “Don’t try and sugar coat it Matt. She hated me. Probably still does.”
“Oh come on now, that was almost twenty years ago.” Matt protested. “I’m sure she’s gotten over all that by now.”
“Do you seriously believe that? Are we talking about the same woman?” Veronica crooked a sceptical brow and looked him in the eye.
Matt thought about it for a minute, grimaced and was forced to acknowledge that she was right. “Well, we can hope, can’t we? And Dad won’t let her get too out of control.”
The last interview was finished, the guys and Veronica were relaxing and rehashing the day’s work when the door opened, and Carol and John Sr. entered the room.
“Hello boys.” Carol greeted them, then froze as her eyes settled on Veronica. “What are you doing here?”
“Hello John.” Veronica ignored Carol.
“Hi Ronnie.” John Sr. answered, disregarding the scowl his wife threw at him.
“Mom, don’t start.” Jon warned.
His mother ignored him. “Hmpf. I should have known that now that Dorothea’s out of the picture, you’d show up. Trying to get your hooks into my son’s money and his glamorous lifestyle again?”
“Mom! Ronnie’s here because I forced her to be. Leave her alone.”
He might as well have saved his breath. Her rant continued. “He doesn’t need you trying to distract him from his obligations and from reaching his goals again. You tried that before and it didn’t work. You got what you deserved.”
The gasps around the room were loud. Veronica stiffened and paled as if she’d been slapped – which indeed she had.
“CAROL! That’s enough!” John frowned at his wife.
Veronica stood and walked towards the door until she stood in front of Carol. “For the record, I’m not after your Golden Child or his money or his ‘glamorous lifestyle’. I have quite enough of my own, thank you very much.” Her voice shook with the rage and pain that had her whole body trembling. “If I had my choice, I wouldn’t even be here.” She stepped around Carol and out the door.
“Are you leaving?” Carol called after her.
“I’m going to do the job I was brought here to do. If you don’t like it, speak to your son.”
Carol turned to Jon, but whatever she was going to say died on her lips when she saw the fury in his face.
“That was unbelievably cruel and uncalled for! I was as much to blame for what happened as she was. What do you have against her anyway?”
“She tried to get in the way of your success. She was holding you back and distracting you.”
Jon shook his head. “She was helping me! She didn’t distract me, she kept me focused! If it wasn’t for her, Slippery would have just been another album by a bunch of guys fighting for a chance in the spotlight.”
“Is that why she’s here? Because you think you owe her something?”
“Oh I owe her, but it’s got nothing to do with our success. It’s personal. But that’s not why I brought her here....or at least not the only reason. We need her help. She’s extremely well respected both at the label and within the Nashville community. She’s very good at what she does.” He eyed his mother. “You’ve been telling me for twenty-five years that I deserve the best. Well, she’s the best.” He started for the door, paused and turned back. “If I have anything to say about it, she’s going to be a part of my life for a very long time to come, so you’d better get used to the idea and get off of her back!” He strode down the hallway in the direction Veronica had gone.
“Where are you going? The kids are waiting for you in your dressing room.” Carol pointed in the opposite direction.
“They’ll be okay and can wait a little while longer. Right now I have to go and once again try to repair some of the damage you caused.”