By the time Veronica arrived at the hotel in Omaha, she was frustrated and very annoyed. First her plane was late, and now, because of that, she was facing crowds of fans blocking all the entrances to the hotel. Her driver pulled up to the back door – the same one where the band members would be arriving at and turned to look at her. “The band’s going to be arriving in a few minutes. Do you want to try to get in before they get here or wait until after they go in?”
She thought for a moment. “I’ll go in now. I can just mingle with the crowd.”
He nodded. “Leave your bags. I’ll bring them in.”
Veronica nodded and stepped out of the car and slowly threaded her way through the crowd towards the doors. Half way there, the vans turned into the driveway and came to a stop near the door. “Shit!”
The crowd pressed forward as security lined the route and formed a barricaded path, taking her with them. A quick survey of the situation showed her that her best bet was to try to make her way to the nearest security guard, but that was easier said than done when she felt like a sardine.
Richie was half a step behind Jon sauntering towards the door, glancing around and waving absently at the gathered fans until a familiar dark head caught his eye. “Whoa...uh...bro?”
“What?” Jon didn’t stop.
“Ronnie’s caught in the crowd.”
“What? Where?” He stopped dead and looked in the direction Richie indicated. “Fuck!”
The security guard’s eyes widened as Jon walked towards him and he braced himself against the surge of the crowd, muttering under his breath. “Shit!”
Veronica saw him coming, swore under her breath, and increased her struggle in his direction. She winced as someone stepped on her foot and she was shoved. Her glance caught Jon’s and she saw the blue eyes flare and his jaw tense.
His hand rose to wave her forward. “Come on. Let her through folks. Take it easy girls. She’s with us. Let her through please.” When Veronica got close enough he reached under the arms of the guards, grasped her hand and pulled her to him.
Without a word he turned and headed for the door, towing her behind him. In the lobby he barely slowed down long enough to take the two keys that Tiffany was holding out for him. When Veronica tried to pull her hand from his, he merely tightened his grip and continued on his path to the elevator. Once inside he pulled her into his arms, and held her tight. “Are you okay?”
Jon eased back, smoothed his hands up her back and into her hair, slid his thumbs under her chin and raised her face to his. He searched her eyes for a long moment, then bent and kissed her rather fiercely. “Are you sure?”
Veronica had to swallow and lick her suddenly dry lips before she could respond. “Yes. Jon, I’m fine.”
He blew out a breath. “Alright, from now on you travel with us. No exceptions.”
“That’s not necessary.”
“Yes it is.”
The doors pinged and opened onto their floor. She pulled away from him angrily and stepped out. “No, it’s not.” She started down the hallway, then had to stop and wait for him since he had the keys.
“Yes, it is. You could have been hurt out there today. What happened to you getting here before us anyway?” He strode past her.
She followed him. “My plane was late. I thought I could get in before you guys got here. I should have waited until you were in.”
Jon grunted, stopped in front of a pair of doors and handed her a key. “You won’t have to worry about that anymore.”
She sighed. “Jon, I don’t need security! I’m perfectly fine travelling on my own.”
“I will decide what level of security you need.”
“No. This isn’t PR. You don’t know what’s best in this area.” He shoved his key into the lock. “I saw you getting pushed and shoved around out there, and I saw your face. You were being hurt. You’re travelling with us. End of discussion.”
“ Dammit Jon...”
“NO!” He spun to face her. “I’m the boss here, remember? And this time you will listen to me!”
“But it’s not necessary!”
“It’s not up to you to decide that! “
Her eyes narrowed dangerously. “Don’t play the arrogant dictator with me Jon!”
“I’ll do whatever I have to, to keep you safe!”
“But it’s not...”
“Enough Ronnie!” He raked a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, but I won’t back down on this. I....I can’t.”
“Dammit Ronnie! Don’t you get it?” His hands clenched into fists. “I couldn’t save...” He swallowed. “I couldn’t protect you back then or the baby. I’ll be damned if I’ll let anything happen to you now!”
Veronica stared at him, wide eyed, stunned by both his words and the emotion in his eyes. She put a hand on his arm and squeezed, tears suddenly burning her own eyes. “Jon it wasn’t your fault. There was nothing you could have done, even if you had been there. There was nothing anyone could do.”
He met her eyes for a long moment, then shrugged, turned and entered his room.
Veronica stared at his closed door, her heart aching for his obvious pain.
“Don’t fight him on this little girl.” Richie spoke from behind her. A glance told her that they had all come out at the sound of their raised voices. “Let him protect you. Let him make amends in whatever way he can for his past failings.”
“But it wasn’t his fault.” She looked at him with brimming eyes.
“Intellectually he knows that, but emotionally......” He shrugged. “How long did it take you to get over the guilty feelings?”
She could only nod in understanding. He had a point. Inside her room she opened a bottle of water and sat for a long time staring out the window thinking about pain and the past and healing.