Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chapter 33

Veronica woke the next morning to find Jon a warm wall at her back, his arm a heavy weight over her waist. She lay still for long minutes replaying the events of the previous night. She had to admit that she actually felt better having told him the whole story. Emotionally drained, but better. Of course the.....soothing...he’d given her after she’d told him everything might have had something to do with it. She shivered at the memories, smiling when Jon’s arm tightened reflexively.

The smile slowly faded as her thoughts shifted from the past to the present...and the future. He’d gotten the information that he’d wanted from her and she’d gotten to finally confront the past and get the comfort that she’d needed from him. Now they could both move on with their lives and focus on the job at hand.

She slipped quietly from the bed, careful not to wake Jon. She wanted some time before she had to face him again. Besides, he needed his rest. He had a fairly full afternoon and a show that night. Veronica noticed the open door connecting their rooms and debated about showering in his, then spotted the little bottles neatly lined up on the table and figured the slight noise of running water wouldn’t disturb him.

A thought struck as she was walking through the lobby and she veered to the front desk. The clerk frowned slightly, and opened her mouth to say something when Veronica ordered a wake up call for her own room, then remembered herself and just smiled. Veronica met her gaze and smiled back.

The ringing of the phone beside the bed woke Jon. One arm flung out to grab it just to stop the annoying noise, then resisted the urge to pitch the whole thing across the room when he heard the cheerful automated voice telling him it was time to get up. Lifting his head, he glanced around the empty room, groaned and fell back onto the bed. A few minutes later, he cracked an eye open, looked at the clock, sighed, and forced himself to get up. Even a shower didn’t make him feel any better and a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror told him it was going to be a rockstar prerogative day. He sighed, reached for his sunglasses and headed for the door.

Richie, David, Tico and Hugh were already in the van waiting for Jon. The fact that he was the last to be ready was unusual, but considering the events of the previous night, not totally unexpected.

“I hope Ronnie’s okay.” David commented. “That was pretty intense last night.”

“She will be. She’s strong. She’s coped with it for a long time.” Richie assured him. “It’s Jon I’m concerned about. You know he doesn’t deal with guilt well, and he got a truckload of it dumped on him last night.”

“Yeah, well, he deserves to share the pain. He let her go through hell alone.” Tico growled.

Two minutes later they watched their pale, unsmiling frontman walk out of the hotel and climb into the van.

“Hey man. You okay? You look like shit.” Richie greeted him.

Jon snorted. “Imagine that. I just found out that I abandoned a woman who was going through hell without so much as a goodbye and that the baby we lost was my firstborn son, and to top it all off, my best friends knew all about it and never said a word to me. Not one word in almost nineteen years. Is it really any wonder that I didn’t sleep very well?”

“Don’t blame us. It wasn’t up to us to tell you. You should have been there!” Tico dared him to deny it.

He couldn’t. “I know.” He sighed and stared out the window for several minutes before turning back to his friends. “How did you know anyway?”

They exchanged glances. “We went to see her in the hospital.” Richie admitted. At Jon’s look he explained. “Doc had you busy with interviews and promo spots, but we had some free time and we wanted to see how she was doing.” He paused. “You didn’t seem interested and hooked up with Dorothea again right after, so we didn’t say anything.”

Jon raked a hand through his hair. “Doc kept telling me to stay away, that she didn’t want to see me. And he and Mom kept blocking her calls.” A muscle twitched in his jaw. “Mom told her that Dorothea and I were back together and she should stop calling. When I tried to find her, she’d disappeared.”

The others exchanged another look and hoped they weren’t around the next time Jon talked to his mother.

“So how is she?” David spoke up.

Jon shrugged. “She was gone when I woke up.” He still hadn’t decided how he felt about that. Part of him was disappointed when he woke up alone. Part of him was relieved. He needed a little time before he faced her again.

The van pulled to a stop in front of the back door to the arena and they all piled out. Jon took a deep breath and headed inside. After a brief stop in the control room and their dressing rooms they found Veronica in the interview room.

Jon walked up behind her where she was surveying the refreshment table and wrapped his arms around her. “Are you okay?”

She nodded and patted one of the arms encircling her waist. “I’m fine.”

“Thanks for the wake up call by the way.” He kissed her neck, relieved that she hadn’t pulled away. “Although it would have been better to have you beside me. Why’d you leave so early?”

“I had things to get ready here and you needed your sleep.” Turning slightly, she lifted the sunglasses enough to see his eyes and had her suspicions confirmed. He looked exhausted. “Are you going to be able to make it through the show?”

A brow crooked. “What do you think?”

Her lips twisted. “I think you’d be out on that stage if you had to crawl on your knees. I hope the makeup crew is up to the challenge.”

“Gee, thanks Sweetheart.” He retorted dryly.

She just grinned and stepped to the side to pour him a cup of coffee. “You guys want anything?”

The guys relaxed at the sight of her smile and the signs that the tension between her and Jon seemed to have eased considerably. They joined them at the table.

“Are you really okay nina?” Tico murmured as he took the coffee cup from her.

She smiled and hugged him. “I’m fine Teek.” She glanced around to see them all looking at her, sceptical expressions on their faces. “Seriously guys, I’m fine. Actually, I feel better than I have in a long time.”

“Then why are you so pale? You’re almost as white as Lema.” Richie commented.

David flipped him off. “Just because you want to play Russian Roulette with skin cancer doesn’t mean the rest of us do.”

Veronica winked at David. “I’m pale because yesterday was very....emotional...for me and I didn’t get a lot of sleep.” She shot a glance at Jon. He met her gaze and smiled gently. “Nothing a good night’s sleep won’t cure.”

“You’re sure?” David pressed.

She nodded. “Yes. But thanks for caring.”

“Always.” Richie assured her.

She rose up on her toes to kiss his cheek, then clapped her hands. “Ok, boys, let’s go to work.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chapter 32

When he realized that she was moving towards him instead of away, Jon pulled her even closer, but kept his kiss gentle. One hand tangled in her curls, the other stroked her body from shoulder to knee. He rocked his head back and forth slightly while his tongue explored her mouth, savouring every texture and flavour. When she moaned softly and returned the favour, he let his hand slide between them to cup a breast and held his breath. This is where she’d pulled back previously. But not this time. This time she arched into his touch, silently asking for more. His grip firmed and he squeezed and kneaded, pinching her nipple when it hardened for him, inhaling her gasp. Her hand fisted in his hair and pulled him closer. Encouraged, he reached for the top button in the line that ran down the middle of her nightgown from neck to knee and opened it. When she didn’t protest, he moved to the next one, and the next, stroking her skin with the back of his fingers as he went.

Veronica felt the side of her opened nightgown slide away from her body, exposing her to his view. Her hand fell to his shoulder when he raised his head to look his fill. She shivered as his hand coasted lightly from her collarbone to the triangle of curls at the juncture of her thighs.

He glanced up to find her watching him. “You’re so beautiful.” His head dipped to taste her again while his hand roamed her torso.

This time when his hand cupped and caressed her breast, there was no cotton to mute the heat of his touch or the feel of his calluses lightly scraping the velvet of her skin. She groaned deep in her throat and her torso twisted. At first he thought that she was trying to pull away, but quickly realized that she was shifting to give him access to her other breast. He obliged, squeezing and pulling on the hard tips.

She bent the arm that was pinned between their bodies until she could reach his own stiff nipples and flick them with a nail while her other hand dug into his shoulder. With a rumbling growl, he deepened the kiss even more, tongue thrusting rhythmically. Unable to resist, he let his hand smooth over her stomach and nudge her legs apart to explore the sensitive flesh between her thighs, only slightly surprised to find her already open and moist.

For long minutes he explored her swollen folds, stroking and teasing her pulsing tissue, plucking at the sensitive nub at the top of her cleft. Then one long finger slid inside. Her back arched in response and she moaned. His hand began to move and so did her hips, rubbing against his hardening shaft as she matched his rhythm. He added a second finger and thrust deeper and faster, adding a twisting motion that quickly sent her over the edge. Her orgasmic scream was swallowed by his mouth and he held her tighter while shudders racked her body, his fingers continuing to stroke her until her tremors subsided.

She was still panting when he raised his head to look down at her. He licked his lips and tried to speak despite his own laboured breathing. “Nica, I don’t know how to tell you how sorry....”

A shaking hand slid from his shoulder to cover his lips and halt his apology. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. Not right now. Make me forget Jon. Even if it’s just for a little while. Please.”

He studied her eyes for a moment, then stood with her in his arms, and walked to the bed, where he gently laid her down. Straightening, he met her gaze, a question in the blue depths. She held her arms out to him in answer. Jon drew in a slow steadying breath, shucked his sweats and laid down beside her.

This time he explored her with his mouth, relearning every nook and cranny, pausing over her sensitive spots. When she tried to return the favour, he shook his head. “No. Not yet. Just let me....touch you....taste you.” She acquiesced with a sigh of appreciation.

His lips traced a path of fire down her neck causing a shiver to run down her spine. After pausing briefly at the notch in her collarbone to feel the rapid beat of her heart, he continued down her chest to the stiffening pink peaks of her breasts. There he lingered, switching between her firm mounds, alternating between kissing, licking, nibbling and sucking until she was whimpering, her lower body undulating, urging him on. He obliged, sliding down her abdomen to the triangle of dark curls. He spread her thighs wide and dropped his shoulders in between, and settled in to feast.

Her hands fisted in his hair as his tongue lapped at her moist flesh. “Mmmmm Johnny.”

“Sweet, so sweet.” He slid his tongue as deep as he could into her pulsing channel, withdrew it, then sucked her clit. Hard.

“Oh, oh OH JOHNNY!” Her body went rigid and her back arched off the bed with the force of her climax.

When her tremors subsided he lifted his head, met her eyes, grinned and went back for another taste. This time when her peak was close, she tugged on his hair. “Johnny, I need to feel you.”

He took one last lick, then moved upwards, rubbing his body over hers. Bracing himself on his elbows, he bent to kiss her. He raised his head and watched her as he flexed his hips and slowly filled her, his own eyes drifting shut briefly at the snug fit. “Jesus.” Beyond the feelings of pleasure and desire was a sense he was finally where he truly belonged. The strength of that feeling shook him to the core. “Nica.”

At his whisper Veronica smiled into his eyes, and stroked her hands down his back. “Johnny.”

He started to move, thrusting slowly, deeply. “God you feel good.” She clutched him to her, urging him closer. Jon eased down until he was lying fully on her.

For long minutes the only sounds in the room were sighs of pleasure and soft moans as their bodies moved in sync to a languid, fluid, rhythm that was as instinctive as breathing. Every movement, every shift of position by one was answered by a complimentary shift by the other, like they’d done this a thousand times over a hundred years. When he felt her start to tighten around him, he slid his hands under her hips and tilted her towards him and thrust deeper. She cried out as the sensations became too much and her orgasm overtook her. A shout was pulled from his throat when her flesh squeezed him like a vice and took him with her.

Veronica savoured the feel of his weight on her. She cradled his body with hers, her hands stroking the damp skin of his back while she panted and waited for the world to stop spinning. Blowing out a deep breath, she kissed his shoulder and hugged him.

Jon smiled at the familiar caresses and felt oddly comforted. He levered himself up on his elbows and brushed stray strands of hair away from her face. A gentle smile curving his lips, he bent and kissed her softly. He didn’t say anything – words would only spoil the moment. Instead, he brushed his lips over her forehead, eyes, cheeks, and jaw before nipping her earlobe and nuzzling her neck. At the same time, he leaned on one arm and sent the other hand skating over as much of her as he could reach.

She shivered, raised a brow and flexed her internal muscles around his resurging erection. “Haven’t had enough yet?”

He shook his head slowly and put voice to what he had just realized himself a few minutes ago. “I’ve been missing this for nineteen years. I’m not about to let it be over quickly.” His lips twitched. “Besides, since when was once ever enough for you?”

She couldn’t argue his point. Her body was already showing how much it welcomed his attention. Ignoring his comment about missing her, she smiled and gave in to the sensations his touch sent along her nerve endings. Once again, he kept it slow and gentle and they came together on a sigh.

When he was able to move, Jon rolled off of her onto his back and pulled her into his arms. Veronica settled comfortably against him and quickly drifted off to sleep. Jon smiled down at her, kissed her forehead and stared at the ceiling. Her earlier recitation of the horror of their son’s death robbed him of the ability to sleep. His self disgust ran deep. He knew he was an arrogant, controlling, perfectionist, but he’d never thought he was a cruel, selfish, monster. But apparently he was. Once again he had to face his true self, and he didn’t like it. He had to find some way to make it up to her. But how did you make up for something like this?

Heaving a deep sigh, he slipped from the bed and went to the connecting door and his room in search of a cigarette. He paced while he smoked, staying in his own room, knowing that Veronica didn’t like the smell of smoke and not wanting to disturb her. A rustling of sheets had him glancing through the doorway to see her stirring restlessly. Stubbing out his cigarette, he rushed back to her side and stroked her hair. “I’m right here sweetheart. It’s okay. I’m here.” His heart ached when she calmed at his touch and the sound of his voice. How could I let you suffer like that alone? What kind of man am I?”

He spun away from the bed and headed for the mini bar. Pulling out several small bottles of whiskey, he threw himself into a chair, twisted off the tops and tossed back the shots, wishing he had a bigger bottle. He sat and drank and brooded for an hour and was no closer to an answer. When Veronica started to toss and turn again, he sighed, shut off the lights, crawled in beside her and wrapped her in his arms. It was a long time before sleep finally claimed him.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chapter 31

“You bastard! How dare you! Do you expect me to feel sorry for you? To believe that you actually gave a damn?”

“Of course I gave a damn! How could you ever think that I didn’t?” He flexed his jaw, surprised at the strength behind her slap.

“Maybe because when I told you I was pregnant you couldn’t back away fast enough. And because when....when I lost him, you were nowhere to be found. ” The tears started again.

“Tell me about it! I want to know everything that happened. I have the right to know!” As the rest of her statement processed in his brain he froze and his gut clenched. “Him?” A glance at the guys standing near the door showed no signs of surprise. Somehow they knew, but he didn’t have time to get into that now.

She stood, pushed by him and began to pace the room. “You want to know all the gory details? Fine, I’ll tell you! Where would you like me to start? How about with the two days I spent – alone - worrying, hoping and praying that the stillness in my womb would be broken and I would once more feel the kick of a small foot? Or maybe with the lovely ultrasound that showed no signs of life? Then there was the really fun discussion with the doctor who explained that the baby....” Her throat closed up and she had to pause to swallow and regain control of her voice.

Jon stood and tried to take her in his arms. She pushed him away and continued pacing. “The placenta had pulled away and the baby was dead, and because I was so far along, they were going to induce labour and I would have to go through the birth process. Now there’s an experience that you might like to hear about. How I got to suffer through eighteen hours of labour, sweating and straining, while they urged me to push, and wouldn’t let me rest even though I was exhausted. The pain just kept coming, and they kept telling me I had to push. I cried and told them that I couldn’t, I was too tired, I wasn’t strong enough. They told me that I had to keep going, I had to concentrate, bear down and push the baby out. But my baby was dead! All that pain, with no prize at the end. After seven months of feeling my child grow and move inside me, my baby was dead! I cried and screamed and begged for you to come and help me, but you never did.”

Once again Jon wrapped his arms around her, his heart aching, his chest so tight he could barely breathe. Oh my God Nica! I’m so sorry! This time she turned towards him. “Where were you Jon? Our baby died and I needed you! WHERE WERE YOU?” She started to beat her fists against his chest, tears streaming down her face. “I gave birth to a dead baby. Alone. Our baby! But you. Weren’t. There! You were too busy running around the world playing Rockstar. You were too busy to even answer the phone!Your son died Jon, and you couldn’t even come to say goodbye. You couldn’t even bring yourself to come to see me after it was all over. YOU COULDN’T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO SEE IF I WAS DEAD OR ALIVE!”

Her fists beat harder. He didn’t try to stop her. If he could have beaten himself he would have. He felt like the lowest form of humanity. He wanted to crawl out of his skin and die. “Oh God Nica....” He couldn’t speak. The horror of what she went through took his voice. Not that he knew what to say anyway.

Her sobs were heartrending. “Our beautiful baby boy Jon.” Her legs gave out and he caught her sagging body against his. Scooping her into his arms, he sat in her vacated chair and settled her on his lap, stroking her hair while she cried. One trembling hand lifted to trace his nose and jaw line. “He looked just like you. He was so perfect. Tiny and perfect. And he’s gone. He never got the chance to live. He died and took my only chance at having a family with him.”

“Only chance?” He could barely force out the words. He was almost positive that he didn’t want to hear the answer.

She sucked in a ragged breath and fought to bring herself under control. “After....after it was over I developed an infection that scarred my tubes. I can’t have children.” Once again tears took her voice.

The sound of sharply indrawn breaths from the other side of the room told Jon that this part of her story was news to his bandmates, but he didn’t look in their direction. His eyes were closed as he fought against the bile rising in his throat. No wonder she doesn’t want anything to do with me. She must hate me! I hate myself! “Nica.....I’m so sorry. Oh God sugar, I can’t tell you how sorry I am! I know that it’s too little, too late, but I swear to God I never meant to hurt you or for you to go through something like that alone.” He held her close, stroking her hair while she cried, his own tears wetting his face.

After a few minutes of silence, broken only by the sounds of her distress, the guys approached. Richie squeezed Jon’s shoulder. “Yell if you need anything.” Jon nodded.

Tico leaned down to kiss her temple. “We’re here if you need us nina.”

With gentle touches and murmured words, they left the parents alone to grieve.

Veronica huddled against Jon, shuddering, her cheek pressed to the warm skin of his bare chest, and let his stroking hands soothe her. She felt drained, cold, empty, yet.....lighter, as though a weight had been lifted from her. Her therapist had suggested that she needed to talk to Jon, to share her ordeal with him, that she needed to in order to truly heal, but she had been determined to deal with it on her own. She finally had to admit that she wasn’t as strong as she thought she was. When she’d calmed and was able to speak again, she let her fingers play with the thick mat of hair that covered his chest and asked the question that had been plaguing her for almost nineteen years. “Why didn’t you come?”

He sighed, knowing that this was just going to dig his hole deeper. His excuse was no excuse, and he knew it, it had just taken him a few years to admit to himself. “When you left the tour to go work on that other project, I felt...relieved...and angry. Angry that you didn’t fight harder to stay, even though I knew that your boss wasn’t giving you a choice, and relief that I didn’t have to see you every day and be reminded of my new responsibilities. Even though you never said anything, I knew you wanted to get married, and I understand why. We loved each other and we were having a baby, it would have been the reasonable thing to do. But.....the band had really taken off, we were on top of the world. Everyone wanted to see us. We were travelling the world, having everything we ever wanted given to us, women throwing themselves at us everywhere we went....I just wasn’t ready to settle down. Plus Doc was always at me to be ‘friendly’ with the girls. I wanted to enjoy the crazy life for awhile. I know that sounds selfish, and immature and irresponsible, but that’s how I felt. Then when.....when they told me that the baby died, at first it didn’t seem real. If I didn’t see you or talk to you it wouldn’t be real. It hit me harder than I realized. I picked up the phone a dozen times to call you, but Mom told me to give you some time to come to terms with what had happened. I was going to go see you during our next break, but Doc told me not to. He said that you were healing and didn’t want to see me.” At her snort, he hugged her closer and kissed the top of her head. “I know, but it made sense to me at the time, especially since you never called, and it was the easy way out. The coward’s way out. And then, when I finally got up the courage, you were gone and I couldn’t find you. I know I shouldn’t have left it like that. It was a horrible, hurtful thing to do, and I’m sorry. I understand now why you hate me. I’m having a hard time living with myself right now.”

Veronica lifted her head until she could look him in the eye. Both of them were once again fighting tears. “I don’t hate you. I convinced myself that I did for a long time. But that kind of anger takes too much energy to maintain. Over time, and with a lot of therapy, it faded. I never quite forgave you, and the hurt is still there, but the hate is gone.” She stroked his cheek and smiled wryly. “But there’s a few things you probably need to know to make your story complete.”

“You mean there’s more?” He wasn’t sure he could take it right now.

“Just some points that I think need some clarification. My recall by Polygram to work on that other project was not instigated by my boss, as we thought. He told me months later that Doc had called him and asked for a favour. Seems you was causing him some concern that you weren’t focussing on the job, and he wanted me removed from the tour – especially when I started to show.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I tried, but I couldn’t get through. Doc kept telling me how busy you were, but that he’d tell you that I called. Then, after the baby......he came to see me in the hospital and told me that you couldn’t get away right then, but he’d see that you got some time soon. I confronted him about getting me pulled from the tour, and he just shrugged and said that he was looking after his boy.”

Jon growled. “Asshole. He never gave me the messages.”

“Mmmhmm.” She hesitated, but decided he deserved to know the rest. “Several of the times I called, your mother answered and gave me the same song and dance that Doc did about how busy you were, but she’d have you call. Did she tell you that she came to see me after I got home from the hospital?” He shook his head and braced himself. “Well, she did. She said that she wanted to see if I was okay, and to let me know that I didn’t have to worry about you. Dorothea was looking after you and would I please stop calling.” The memory of that conversation and Carol’s obvious satisfaction at how everything turned out and her...pleasure... at being the one to tell Veronica that Jon had moved on, that she’d lost both her baby and her love, brought on the tears again.

He closed his eyes and groaned. “Fuck! Honey I’m sorry.” When he could look at her again she was shocked at the self disgust, regret, and sorrow shining in the sapphire depths. “My family has brought you nothing but pain. If I could take it all back I would. Please believe that I never meant for any of it to happen.” He cupped her face with both hands and used his thumbs to wipe at her tears, but they kept flowing. “I’m so sorry Nica.” He bent and brushed his lips over her lips, and her eyes, sipping the glittering drops from her lashes. “So sorry.” Returning to her mouth again, he kissed her gently, but more firmly.

Veronica hesitated, but the emotions of the day were too much to fight any longer. With a sigh she surrendered, lifted a hand, slid it into his hair and let him give her the comfort he’d denied her nineteen years ago.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chapter 30

He found her standing in the courtyard, empty now except for the ashtrays in the smoking corner, but in the summer it would be filled with tables. She was staring up at the stars, hugging herself and rubbing her arms against the chill December air. Walking up behind her, he draped her coat over her shoulders. She slid her arms into the sleeves and pulled the coat closed. She heard the snick of his lighter and the acrid smell of tobacco smoke teased her nostrils.

He drew deeply on the cigarette and blew out a long steady stream of smoke. “I guess I deserved that. But you know, you’re not the only one feeling the tug of old memories here.” He took another drag. “I have no excuse for my behaviour back then. I’m sorry I hurt you.”

She sighed. “What happened to us Jon? I thought we were happy. Was I wrong?”

“No, you weren’t wrong.”

“How did it all fall apart then?”

“I don’t know. Circumstances as much as anything I guess. We were young, we had people pulling us in so many directions, determined to keep us apart. Everything was....crazy, hectic....out of control. And then, when....” He trailed off and took another drag. “I wasn’t prepared. I couldn’t deal with it.....and I ran away.” Another drag. “ And after.....I couldn’t face what I’d done to you.”

She was silent for a long moment. “For a long time I thought that it was my fault. That you.... blamed me.”

He could hear the pain and tears in her voice. His gut clenched. A flick of a finger disposed of the cigarette and he stepped up and wrapped his arms around her, ignoring the stiffening of her body. “No! Oh honey, no!” One hand stroked her hair. “I was as much to blame as you were – maybe more. I never blamed you.” Framing her face with both hands, he lifted it until their eyes met. “It wasn’t your fault!” Her eyes were shining with unshed tears as they searched his, looking for ....she didn’t really know what. Comfort, answers, maybe....the truth. He bent and brushed his lips over hers. “It wasn’t your fault Nica.” He sipped at her. Again. And again, increasing the pressure each time.

Her hands came up between them to press against his chest. He didn’t move. “Don’t Nica. Don’t push me away. Please. Let me in. Let me help you!” His tongue traced her lips, his teeth closing gently on her bottom lip. “Don’t you remember how good it was?” When her lips parted in response to his teasing, his tongue slid inside briefly to taste her. “Tell me you remember, Nica. Tell me!”

Too many memories and emotions were coming at her at once, and she was so tired of fighting them. “Yes.... I remember.” She sighed, her fingers curling into his jacket, her mouth opening more as she kissed him back.

With a soft groan his arms wrapped around her and pulled her closer. His head tilted and he deepened the kiss. Her hands released him, one lifting to slide into his hair, the other slipping inside his open jacket to stroke down his chest and burrow under his sweater to feel his warm skin.

He sucked in a breath and returned the favour, his fingers tangling in her curls, his other hand finding its way beneath her clothing and coasting over the skin of her abdomen to cup her breast. At the sound of the moan purring in her throat, he bent her back slightly so that their hips were pressed closer together. She couldn’t help but feel the proof of his desire as he rocked against her. For long minutes the only sounds in the courtyard were the muted voices from the restaurant, and the moans and sighs that neither one could suppress.

Suddenly, Veronica froze and tried to pull away. He didn’t want to let her go. She began to fight in earnest. “Jon, don’t. Let me go.”


“Dammit Jon! LET ME GO!” As his arms relaxed, she jerked away from him, sobbed once and fled inside.

“What the hell?!” He couldn’t figure out what had happened. One minute she was warm and willing in his arms, and the next she was pushing and clawing to get away. Growling, he raked a hand through his hair.

Then he heard it. The wail of a young baby. His anger drained away, replaced by nausea. “Fuck!” He turned and rushed after her.

“Where is she?” He glanced around, but couldn’t see her.

“She left. Said she was going back to the hotel.” Richie answered. “What the hell happened out there? She looked like she’d seen a ghost.”

Jon’s lips twisted. “Pretty close.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out some bills and threw them on the table. “I’m going back too.” He wanted to be there in case she needed him. He suspected that it was going to be a rough night for her.

The guys watched him walk out the door, exchanged looks, waved over the waitress to settle the bill and followed him.

“NO! Oh God no! I can’t do this! JON! Where is he? I need him! I can’t do this alone! Oh God please! JON!!” Veronica bolted upright in bed, shaking, her face wet with tears, breath hiccupping in her chest as the sobs were ripped from her throat. Stumbling from the bed she turned on the light, collapsed into a chair, and unable to fight it anymore, let the tears come.

On the other side of the wall, Jon was jerked from sleep by the sound of his name being screamed. “Shit!” This was what he’d been afraid of. He jumped up and rushed to the door that connected their rooms, sparing a moment to wonder if she even realized it was there. He could hear her crying. His hand rattled the knob. It was locked from her side. He knocked. “Ronnie? Are you okay? Honey, open the door. Let me in.” There was no break in the heartrending sobs. Yanking on a pair of sweats, he threw open the door to the hallway, and found his bandmates standing there, concerned frowns on all of their faces.

“What’s going on? Who was that screaming?” David yawned and glanced around the hallway.

“Ronnie.” Jon answered and banged on her door. “Ronnie? Open the door, honey.”

“What happened?” Tico growled.

“I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess I’d say she had a nightmare.” He banged some more. “Nica please! I need to see that you’re okay.”

The only response was the sound of her continued weeping.

“That’s it. Somebody call the front desk.” Jon was getting into that room one way or another.

“Way ahead of you bro.” Richie replied walking out of his room. “They’re sending someone up with a passkey.”

A couple minutes later the elevator dinged and the doors slid open to reveal the concierge. “Is there a problem Mr. Bon Jovi?”

“Yes, I need you to open this door.” He gestured to Veronica’s room.

The concierge frowned. “But....”

Jon cut him off. “Let’s skip the ‘hotel policy’ speech okay? I’m paying for the room, and in case you don’t recognize that sound, she’s upset and I need to get in there and make sure she’s alright.”

The concierge approached the door, still unsure, until he heard her crying as though her heart was breaking. Sliding the card into the lock, he turned the handle and pushed inward, only catching a glimpse of a woman curled up in a chair before he was nudged aside and four men pushed by him into the room.

“Thanks. We’ve got it from here.” Richie assured him.

“Is she okay? Can I get her anything?”

“We’ll let you know. She’ll be fine. Thanks again.” Richie closed the door.

Jon knelt in front of her chair. “Ronnie, what’s the matter? What happened?”

She just shook her head.

He pulled her hands away from her face. “Come on sugar, talk to me. Are you hurt? Was it a nightmare?” She nodded. He let out a breath. “Tell me about it.” She shook her head again. He ran out of patience. “Ok Ronnie, enough of this! You’ve got to talk to me! It’s eating you up inside. You’ve got to let it out. What happened all those years ago? Tell me all the details.”

She shook her head again, sobs still racking her body.

His temper snapped. “Dammit Ronnie, I have a right to know. It was my baby too! You’re not the only one who lost a child!”

Her head jerked up and she stared at him in disbelief. The guys held their breath. A second later the silence of the room was broken by the sound of flesh meeting flesh as her hand connected with his face with all the strength in her arm. “How dare you!”

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chapter 29

The next morning Veronica decided she needed some time by herself. It was a day off for them, and she hadn’t scheduled any interviews, so she dressed comfortably and after a quick coffee in her room, set off to wander around the city. The previous night had shown her that she wasn’t going to be able to ignore the memories that were bombarding her everywhere she looked, and she preferred to face them alone where no one would see her fight their effect on her.

She walked through Gastown, seeing it as it was twenty years ago, and remembered walking down these streets hand in hand with Jon, window shopping and sneaking kisses. Chinatown was next. There the scenes in her head were of wandering through the Taoist temple and eating Dim Sum, trading bites and feeding each other.

The last – and the hardest to take – area, was Stanley Park. She and Jon had spent many hours there, watching the otters and Beluga whales and penguins play in the Aquarium, riding around in the horse drawn carriages or just sitting on a bench and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere – and each other. Watching one of the carriages pass by, a young couple snuggling in the back, Veronica couldn’t help but smile, and remember one particular ride with Jon. He had been in a really good mood, playful and teasing and joking. He couldn’t keep his hands off of her and very quickly they were both so hot for each other they couldn’t wait to get back to their room. They’d jumped out of the carriage at the Aquarium and ran deep into the nearby woods until they’d found a small, secluded clearing. Jon had laid her down stripped off their clothes and they’d done their best to set fire to the night. She’d spent the next two days picking pine needles out of their clothes and hair.

With a sigh, she sat on a bench and let the memories come. The Blackberry in her pocket buzzed. She pulled it out, checked the display and returned it to her pocket without answering.

“God dammit!” Jon’s frustrated growl echoed in the room as he pushed the button to disconnect the call and tossed his Blackberry onto the table in front of him. A knock at the door had him rising and rushing to answer it. His disappointment in seeing Richie, Tico and David on the other side was obvious when he just grunted and turned back into the room.

“So, I take that you haven’t found her yet.” Richie commented as they followed him.

“No. I’ve been calling her all afternoon, but she won’t answer the damn phone!” Jon raked a hand through his hair.

“Maybe she turned it off.” David offered.

Jon shook his head. “No. Paul and Matt have both talked to her. It’s just me she’s ignoring.”

“And me.” Richie hung up his phone.

“Maybe you should do what she wants and leave her alone.” David suggested.

“I....can’t.” Jon lifted a helpless hand. Thinking for a moment, he picked up his berry again, this time opting to try texting. When there was no reply after a few minutes he set his jaw and grimly sent another...and another....and another.

Veronica sighed in annoyance at the buzz of the berry in her pocket. Pulling it out she glanced down at the message.

[4:56] Where R U?

She shoved it back into her pocket without responding and resumed her study of the nature around her, trying to find the peace and tranquility that used to always come to her in this spot. Her pocket buzzed again....and again....and again. With a growl she yanked it out.

[5:04] Please answer me

[5:05] Need to know U R OK

[5:06] Dammit Ronnie answer

[5:07] Will keep pinging until U answer

[5:08] Can’t avoid me 4 ever

[5:09] Not going to stop

With a sigh, she gave in.

[5:10] Am fine. Now fuck off

Jon let out a relieved breath and chuckled at her answer.

[5:11] Where R U?

She hesitated before telling him.

[5:12] Stanley Park. Want to be alone

“Where is she?” Richie blew out his own relieved breath.

“Stanley Park.” Jon stared out the window for a long minute, then stood and reached for his coat.

“Where are you going?” Tico frowned.

“To get her.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” David spoke up. “She obviously wants to be alone.”

Jon glared at him. “She’s hurting, and I caused it. I need to try to help her.”

“But if you go, she’s likely to take off again....or you’ll both get arrested for causing a public disturbance...or assault and battery.” Richie pointed out.

Jon turned a baleful look on his wingman, but couldn’t disagree. Tico sighed. “I’ll go.” He started for the door and stopped. “Stanley Park covers a lot of ground. It may take me awhile to find her.”

Jon hesitated, then gave in. “She’ll be on a bench about a quarter of a mile from the Aquarium. It faces a large clearing surrounded by trees.” At their look he shrugged. “It’s where we used to go when we needed to get away from Doc and everyone and have a little peace and alone time.”

Tico found her exactly where Jon said he would. The air of sadness surrounding her and the tear tracks on her cheeks broke his heart. “Where’ve you been nina?” He spoke softly, not wanting to scare her. “You’ve had us all worried.”

Her head jerked around at his first word, her eyes widening. “How did you find me?”

“Jon told me. He said that you two used to spend a lot of time here.”

He remembered! Her lips twisted into a slight smile. “It was our escape from Doc and the machine. Our....haven... in the middle of the chaos of our lives.”

“Where’ve you been all day?” He asked again, sitting on the bench beside her.

She shrugged. “Wandering around. Remembering.”

“Happy times?” He knew the answer, he’d been there, but he wanted to hear her say it, wanted her to acknowledge that there was more than pain in that past.

Her smile turned wry. “In those days it felt like I had the world by the tail. My life was going exactly the way I wanted it to.” Her lips quivered and her eyes filled. “Then it all went to shit and I lost....everything.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

“Come here nina.” He took her in his arms and held her while she cried. “That’s it mija, let it out.”

When she’d gotten herself under control she sat up and blew out a hiccupping breath. “Thanks Teek.”

He gently wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Anytime.” He studied her face in the deepening twilight. “Did you eat today?” She shook her head. “Come on. Let’s get you some food.”

She let him lead her to the parking lot by the Aquarium where a car and driver were waiting and climbed in. When they pulled up in front of a restaurant just down the street from their hotel, she frowned.

Tico noticed. “You don’t have to talk to him, but let him see that you’re okay. He’s been a wreck all day worrying about you.” She nodded.

Inside the restaurant, she took a deep breath and walked to the table where the guys were all sitting. “You can all relax. I’m fine. I just needed some ‘me’ time.” They all gave her the once over, then, assured that she was okay, nodded and resumed their conversation. Jon watched her take a seat between Richie and Tico, noted the shadows in her eyes, but kept silent.

Dinner was accompanied by laughter and ‘remember when’ stories from their time in the city many years ago. They even managed to make Veronica laugh and recall a few stories of her own.

When Tico got up to make a trip to the bathroom, Jon slid over to his chair, lifted a curl off her shoulder and wrapped it around his finger. “You sure you’re okay? Why didn’t you answer my calls this afternoon?”

“Because I didn’t want to talk to you. I told you. I needed some time by myself.” She shifted her head to pull her hair away from his hand.

He frowned. “Ronnie, talk to me. Please!”

It was too much for her to deal with today. “Dammit Jon, stop pushing!”

“How about you try to stop running? I never thought you were a coward Ronnie.”

Amethyst eyes glowed. She surged to her feet. “Fuck you Jon!”

He stood too. “Ok. Your room or mine?”

She snorted. “No thanks. Been there, done that and frankly, it wasn’t worth the pain. It took me awhile, but I finally realized that the fucking I got wasn’t worth the fucking I got!” The flash of pain that crossed his face, rather than giving her satisfaction, made her feel like a bully. Spinning on her heel, she almost ran out the back door.

He watched her flight. “Fuck!” Shrugging into his coat, he picked up hers and followed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chapter 28

By the time the two week break was over, Veronica was chagrined to realize that she was actually looking forward to getting back to the tour. She told herself that it was the job she missed and the camaraderie with the guys. She’d forgotten how much fun they were to hang out with. It had absolutely nothing to do with Jon. And when her pulse sped up and her spirits lifted at the mere sight of him at the airport, she chalked it up to having to keep on her toes around him and the stimulation of verbally sparring with him. If anyone asked, that was her story and she was sticking to it.

“Have a good holiday?” Jon slid into the seat beside her.

“Yes. You?”

He nodded and patted his belly. “Ate too much though. How are the girls?”

“Good. Lori’s mother was a little concerned that you were working me so hard that I wasn’t getting enough sleep, but I assured her that wasn’t the case.” She smirked.

He snorted. “For that to happen, I’d actually have to be in charge of the schedule.” He reached out to tuck a lock of hair back behind her ear and studied her face. “Are you getting enough rest?”

The concern in sapphire pools watching her warmed her, which dismayed her. “Yes. It’s just taking me a little time to adjust to life on the road again. It’s been awhile.”

“Make sure you take care of yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard. I didn’t bring you out here to make you sick. What have you been doing with your days off anyway?” Wondering where she disappeared to was driving him nuts.

“Some shopping, some Yoga, playing tourist.”

“By yourself?” He frowned.

“Yes. Is that a problem?”

“I’d feel better if you had someone with you. For security reasons.

Her brows rose. “Why would I be in any danger? I’m not a celebrity.”

“Maybe not, but you’re a beautiful woman and that makes you a potential target for all kinds of.....predators. Especially if you’re alone.”

“Laying it on a little thick, aren’t you?”

He shrugged. “I just don’t want you to get hurt. I’ve caused you enough as it is.”

Blinking rapidly, Veronica turned her head to look out the window. Jon reached over, placed his hand on hers and squeezed lightly, heartened when she didn’t pull away. He resisted the urge to try to get her to talk about it. It seemed that maybe he was finally making some headway and he didn’t want to scare her off.

Over the next two weeks Jon and Veronica circled each other like wolves, assessing, testing responses and reactions. Periodically, one – usually Jon - would misjudge and they’d collide, growling and snapping. After the first couple confrontations, the crew learned to treat them as a source of entertainment, not the foreshocks of Armageddon that they appeared to be.

Richie plunked down on the couch beside Jon and stretched out his legs. Jon didn’t even acknowledge his presence. Richie followed his friend’s line of sight and smirked. “The crew have a pool going, you know.”

“About what?”

“How long before you and Ronnie either give in and drag each other to bed......or kill each other.”

Jon shot a look at his friend, snorted and gazed once more across the length of the plane to where Veronica was sitting. They were on their way to Vancouver for the last two shows of this leg. “What do you have?”

“Tearing up the sheets in Vancouver.”

“Why did you pick Vancouver?”

“That’s where it all began, man. Seemed like a good place to start again. Lots of happy memories.”

“Which may, or may not work in my favour. If she starts remembering, she may not be able to only focus on the happy ones. It could be the opportunity I’ve been looking for to get her to talk to me about what happened.” Jon sighed. “Or it could make the pain fresh again and make her even more determined not to talk about it.”

Richie stared at him for a long minute. “This is why you decided to come back here isn’t it? And why we haven’t played here in so long.” Suddenly it all made sense. “The memories are too strong for you too, aren’t they?”

The muscle in Jon’s jaw twitched. “Yeah. But I think it’s going to be even worse for her. We need to keep a close eye on her in case she needs some help.” At Richie’s look, he scowled. “Despite what you guys all seem to think, I’m not insensitive to her feelings and I don’t enjoy causing her pain. Hopefully, this will all get sorted out in the next couple of days and we can both begin to heal.”

“I hope you’re right. I’m getting pretty tired of watching her flinch and pale every time someone mentions the past.”

“So am I man, so am I.”

When they landed in Vancouver and climbed into the van, David talked the driver into touring around the city a little, particularly the areas they had spent a lot of time in when they were recording Slippery. Laughter filled the vehicle as landmarks were pointed out and stories began to flow.

“Are you okay? You’re awful quiet.” Richie murmured to Veronica sitting beside him.

“Yeah. I’m fine. Just tired.” She smiled weakly and turned back to watch the scenery passing by her window.

“Hey Ronnie! Look! Maybe we should stop and you can show us your moves!” David pointed towards a neon sign outside a business.

Veronica glanced at the strip club, then blinked and looked closer. It was the same one she’d danced in that crazy night long ago. “Oh my God! I can’t believe it’s still there!”

“Nice to know some things never change.” Richie commented. “What do you think little girl, should we put it on the list of places to check out before we leave?”

She noted the twinkle in his dark eyes, and raised a brow. “Is that a dare Jughead?”

“Are you accepting it?”

“I’m game if you are.” At David’s grin, she qualified her agreement. “I’m not dancing though.”

David’s grin turned to a pout. “What’s the point then?”

“Lema, if you have to be told, Lexi’s got a tighter grip on you than I thought – or at least on one part of you.” Richie shook his head.

“Do you really want to get into a discussion about girlfriends there, Swingman? How is Denise these days?” David retorted. Richie scowled and let the subject die.

Veronica was very glad to see the hotel. She was tired and the memories the city evoked were stronger than she’d anticipated. Even finding that her room was next to Jon’s couldn’t induce more than a mild annoyance. She didn’t notice Jon watching her with concern as she unlocked her door.

“Sleep well Ronnie.”

She hesitated briefly. “You too Jon.”

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chapter 27

“Where are you going for Thanksgiving, Ronnie?” David asked, leaning against the wall of the elevator. The show and after party were over and they had a two week break for the holiday.


“I thought your mother lived in Chicago.” Jon frowned.

“My mother died seventeen years ago.”

There was silence, then a chorus of murmured ‘sorry’s’. Jon’s frown deepened. The thought of everything that she’d lost within a short period of time, and of her being alone in the world bothered him.

“You’re welcome to come to L.A. with me.” Richie offered. “Ava and Ma would love to see you again.”

Veronica smiled. “Thanks, but Lori’s mother would be very upset if I didn’t have dinner with them. It’s become a tradition over the last ten years.”

“Are you sure?” Jon pressed.

She nodded. “Yes, but....thanks.” She acknowledged the concern he was showing. Ever since their confrontation earlier, they’d both been calmer. She’d stopped ignoring him and he’d stopped sniping at everyone. Apparently they both had needed to let off a little steam - at each other. “They’ve become my family.”

And that had been true for the last ten years, ever since she and Lori had become friends and Lori’s family had learned that Veronica was alone. They’d taken her into their home and hearts and treated her as one of their own. She’d never felt like an outsider and her feelings of loneliness and the longing for a family of her own had been held at bay...until this year.

Veronica stood in the doorway to the livingroom and watched Lori’s brother and his wife play with their six month old baby and tried to ignore the ache in her heart. Sighing, she gave herself a mental shake and a stern admonition to stop dreaming about things that could never be. She turned towards the kitchen to help with the meal.

“How are things going on the road Veronica?” Lori’s mother inquired. “I hope they’re treating you well. Are you getting enough rest? You look tired.”

“I’m fine. It’s been awhile since I’ve toured like this. I just need a little time to adjust.” Veronica assured her.

“It’s got to be more comfortable than it was back in the 80s though.” Lori commented.

“Yeah. Instead of doing a show, climbing on a dirty, crowded bus, travelling to the next spot through the night, getting up and doing it all again, day after day, week after week for months, now they do a show and either stay the night in a luxury hotel or climb on the private jet to the next spot and rest the next day. The shows are well spaced out and they take plenty of time off around the holidays. All in all, it’s much more relaxed than the old days.”

Two days later, Veronica, Lori, Naomi and Tricia met for dinner and drinks. When the waitress brought their drinks and left, Lori turned to Veronica. “Okay, now that we’re away from my nosy family, tell us how it’s really going.”

Veronica smiled. “Oh, it’s going okay. The audiences are really responding to the new album.”

“Jon’s not being too....overbearing?” Tricia asked.

“Oh he tries, but I ignore it for the most part.”

“And when you don’t?”

“Obie calls it fireworks.”

Lori considered her friend’s expression. “So how are you making him pay for forcing you to join them?”

Veronica smirked. “What makes you think I am?”

Three snorts followed her question. “Because we know you.”

She grinned. “From the very beginning, there’s one part of the business that Jon has always really disliked. Interviews and photo ops. He does it because he knows it’s necessary, but if he can find a way out of it, he will.”

“So you scheduled packed days of it.” Naomi guessed.

Veronica nodded. “And because he’s told everyone how he brought me out because I’m the only one he trusts to do the job right, he can’t say no.”

“So he either has to do it, or send you home.” Lori summarized.


“I bet that’s sitting well.” Tricia commented dryly.

“You could say that he’s a little frustrated.” Veronica allowed.

The girls laughed and toasted Veronica’s devious plan. Sipping her drink, Naomi hesitantly broached the subject they were all concerned about. “Is he still pushing you to about the past?”

“Not like he was here. Since that didn’t work, he’s changed tactics. He’s trying to.....seduce me....for lack of a better explanation. Trying to show that I still have feelings for him.....and him for me if I believe him.”

“Is it working?” Lori couldn’t resist asking.

Veronica sighed. “More than I’d like – or will ever admit to him. Gretchen says that I need to get laid and that I should take him up on his offer.”

“So why don’t you? You have to admit, the man’s gorgeous!” Naomi fanned herself. “Unless he’s not as good in bed as he looks like he’d be.” At Veronica’s involuntary shiver and remembering smile, Naomi sighed dreamily. “That’s what I thought.”

“So why don’t you go for it?” Tricia repeated.

Veronica grimaced. “Too much history, too much.....emotion, too many bad memories. Not a good candidate for a bit of tension relief.”

“What if he’s looking for something a little more....long term?” Lori watched her friend carefully. She’d always wondered what caused Veronica to avoid long term relationships, and while she still didn’t know the specifics, she had a strong feeling that it had something to do with Jon.

Veronica shook her head. “It would never work. Too much to overcome there. Besides, he’s got four kids to focus on.” Her lips twisted. “Not to mention that his mother hates me.”

“Really? Why?” Tricia had never known anyone to dislike Veronica.

“When we were together she accused me of distracting Jon from his obligations and goals, and she’s afraid that I’m going to do it again. Jon says she’s jealous of me. That back then my knowledge of the business and my love for him threatened her control over him and his career. That when he had me he didn’t need her, and she’s afraid that with me back, she’ll lose whatever power she still has over him.”

“And what do you think?” Lori asked.

Veronica shrugged. “I think that whatever the case may have been twenty years ago, Jon’s a big boy and can make his own decisions. But it doesn’t really matter. She’s never going to change her opinion of me. If I was thinking about a relationship with him, it’s just one more reason why it wouldn’t work.”

The other three girls exchanged a look, but refrained from voicing what they were all thinking. It was obvious that there was a lot of unfinished business between Jon and Veronica, despite Veronica’s protestations to the contrary. If Jon wanted her bad enough, he’d deal with his mother.