Veronica woke the next morning to find Jon once again wrapped around her. She had to smile. He was one of the few men she’d met – and slept with – that liked to cuddle when they slept. Back when they were together, she was often up first, and used to walk out of the bathroom after a shower to find him curled around her pillow. He said it smelled like her. It had always made her feel so...safe, and...wanted. It had taken several years – and men – to realize that he was the exception, not the rule. She laid there for several minutes savouring the feeling, knowing that she may never find it again. Then she sighed, slipped from the bed, picked up her nightgown off the floor, and headed for her own room and the shower, locking the door behind her.
Standing under the hot spray she contemplated her future, now that she was finally dealing with her past. It was the last day of this leg of the tour. Tomorrow they were heading home for Christmas. She was looking forward to getting back to Nashville and catching up with the girls and spending the holidays with them. As the soap ran in rivers down her body, she made a mental list of everything she had to do. She still had some shopping to do, and she should check with Vince and see what project he had lined up for her next. Then, maybe, she’d think about buying a house. It was time she put down some real roots and created a solid, stable life for herself. And who knew, maybe someday she’d meet a man who didn’t want children, or already had some and wouldn’t find her....lacking. But until that happened – if it ever happened – she would live her life as the strong, independent woman she was. With new determination, Veronica turned off the shower, dried herself off, dressed, and headed for the venue, grabbing a quick bite to eat on the way.
Jon woke and reached for Veronica, frowning when he found nothing but cold, empty sheets. Lifting his head he looked towards the door to her room only to find it closed. He let his head fall back onto the pillow with a sigh. Fuck! He’d been hoping after she’d come to him last night that she would have stayed. He should have known better. Damn stubborn woman! He lay there, staring at the ceiling for a long time, trying to come up with some way to get her to come to New Jersey with him for Christmas. He knew that Lori’s family had been there for her and considered her family, and would take good care of her, but.....he wanted to take care of her. It was the least she deserved from him and much less than he wanted to give her. He wanted to be the one she turned to for support and to share with and....love. He wanted her to belong to him, and be a part of his family. He just had to find a way to convince her. The ringing of the room phone reminded him that she’d booked another full day and he needed to get moving.
Veronica was sitting at her desk on the phone with the label’s local office when the guys arrived. They all stuck their heads in and waved before moving on to their dressing rooms – except Jon, who strutted in, came around her desk and leaned against it. One hand reached out to tuck a curl behind her ear.
“Uh huh. I thought the Sun review was really positive.” She glanced at Jon, but otherwise ignored him. “No, we did CMT in Toronto, and won’t again until Nashville.” Jon leaned over and kissed her neck, nuzzling under her ear. She shivered, and pushed him away, glaring at him when he grinned. “Yeah. I’ve been in touch with the Tokyo and Sydney offices and they’re lining those up.” A hand came up to trace her ear and the line of her neck. She swatted it away and hissed at him. “Stop it! No, not you Brian, sorry. I’ve got a pest in here driving me nuts!” She laughed. “I know it’s December, but this particular pest is of the year round variety.” She laughed harder. “No it’s not a cockroach. This one doesn’t have a shell...although its head is just as hard.” Jon frowned. “Stomping on it is definitely an option.”
Jon chuckled and bent to whisper in her ear. “You can spank me anytime sweetheart.”
She covered the phone. “Stomp, not spank. You’d enjoy that too much. Now, go get your hair and makeup done and leave me be and let me finish what I’m doing.”
“Yes dear.” He kissed her neck one more time, quickly ducking out of striking range, straightened and left the room, his snickers echoing behind him.
Veronica watched him go, her smile at his antics transforming into a frown. She needed to talk to him, but she was afraid that he wasn’t going to like what she had to say. But he was acting like they were a couple and she needed to nip that in the bud. “Sorry Brian, the pest is gone now, where were we?”
Throughout the interviews and photo ops, Jon noticed that Veronica was a little distracted – still very professional and capable, but distracted. When they were getting ready to head to the stage for sound check, he held her back with a hand on her arm. “Honey? Is everything okay?”
“You seem a little...distracted... today, and I wondered if something was bothering you.”
“Oh, I’m just thinking of everything that I need to do over the next few days. Speaking of which, I need to talk to you, but I’ll wait until after the show.”
“What is it? Talk to me now.”
“Jon, they’re waiting for you.” A staffer stuck his head in to remind him.
Veronica nudged him towards the door. “It’ll keep until after the show. Let’s go.”
“Are you sure? They can wait a few minutes.”
“I’m sure, come on. You’d yell at the others if they made you wait.”
He smirked. “Yeah, but I’m the boss.”
“Arrogance doesn’t become you Jon.” She retorted dryly.
“But I’m so good at it.”
She snorted and gave him a shove towards the door. “Go to work Rockstar.”
“Yes dear.” He allowed her to push him out the door.
“Ronnie? You coming for dinner with us?” David asked from the doorway of the control room.
Veronica glanced up from the report she was writing. “No. If you want me to go with you tonight, I’ve got to get this done.” There was no after party planned that night. Instead, the guys – and Veronica - were going out on the town, visiting a few of the old haunts, including the strip club where Veronica had danced many years ago.
“You sure?” Jon joined David. “You said you wanted to talk to me.”
She nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll talk to you after the show.” Jon frowned. She sighed. “I’m fine Jon. Go relax and eat and let me get this done.” He went, but he was still frowning.
After the show she waited until she figured Jon had time to shower, then gave him an extra ten minutes - she wanted to be sure he was dressed this time – before knocking on his door. He opened it still rubbing his hair with a towel, but at least he was wearing pants. “Hey. What’s up?” He stood aside so that she could enter the room and closed the door behind her.
“Hi.” She walked over to lean against the dressing table. “First of all, I wanted to thank you for last night.”
“For being there for me when I needed someone. I also want to apologize for busting in on you like that. I shouldn’t have done that.”
Jon frowned, set the towel down on the table, and, with a finger under her chin, lifted her face up to his. “You didn’t bust in on me. I unlocked the door for a reason. I want you to come to me when you need something – anything. I wasn’t there when you needed me the most and I should have been. Let me be here for you now. I don’t want your apology or your thanks. I don’t deserve it. Just let me help.”
She nodded and gave him a quick hug. “Thanks. Now, the other thing I wanted to talk to you about is the rest of the tour. You really don’t need me here...”
“Yes I do!” He interrupted stepping closer and pinning her against the table.
Veronica raised a brow. “Back off Rockstar. You know the strong arm tactic doesn’t work on me.” She waited until he stepped back, a wry smile twisting his lips. “As I was saying, you don’t really need me here. You brought me out to get me to tell you the details of the baby’s death.” His eyes twitched. “I’ve done that.”
“That’s not the only reason I brought you out.”
“I’ve also got you off to a good start with the crossover with the country crowd. The local offices and your staff can handle it from here. I will come help with the Nashville show, but I won’t be much help in Japan and Australia anyway.” She watched him spin away and pace the room. “You know what I’m saying is true. Keeping me out here would just be a waste of time and money.”
He shrugged. “So? It’s my money. I don’t care.”
“And my time!”
“What would you be doing that’s so important? Sitting in bars listening to a lot of wannabe’s night after night hoping to find some talent?” At her narrowed gaze he held up a hand. “Sorry. I know your career is important to you and you love your job. I only meant that Vince won’t have anything lined up for you since he was figuring on you being with us for the whole tour.” He continued pacing for several breaths, then suddenly stopped in front of her. “No. You’re staying with us. You made a commitment to us...to me.”
“Under duress!” She reminded him.
“Even so, you made a promise. I’m holding you to it.”
“I want you with me.”
Veronica studied him for a moment. “Jon, we’re not a couple.”
He sighed. “I know that.” But we will be. “But I’ve just started to get to know you again. And what if you have more nightmares? Who’s going to be there for you?”
“They’re getting better every day. I guess talking to you about it was what I needed to put it to rest.”
“Dammit Nica! We need you! I need you!” He raked a hand through his still damp hair, debating, but decided to risk telling her at least a little of the truth. “Nica, you get us...me... better than anyone. I....I’m feeling....unsettled, a little....lost...on a personal level. I need people around me I can trust right now and who will help me through this, who aren’t afraid to stand up to me when necessary, and keep me on the right path. I need...you.” He begged her with both his eyes and his words. “Will you stay and help me? Please?”
She was shocked. She’d been so focused on her own feelings she hadn’t thought about what her relating of the events surrounding their son’s death might have made him feel. Three days ago she wouldn’t have cared. But now she couldn’t refuse the plea in the sapphire depths. She sighed, wondering if she was the biggest pushover in the world, and making a huge mistake. “Alright. I’ll stay.”
Jon was surprised at the depth of the relief he felt at her words. “Thank you.”