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.
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.”
“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.”