Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chapter 63

The next morning Veronica was still trying to figure out a way to avoid the family trip to Philly when the van pulled up in front of the door.

“Forget it little girl, he’s not going to let you out of it.” Richie held her coat for her. “So just smile and get that sexy little ass in the van.” When Veronica raised a brow at him, he grinned. “Don’t believe me? Just look at him. Tight jeans are a bitch on a hard on.....and I noticed Jesse checking it out too.”

Her eyes widened. “He’s only twelve!”

“So? He’s a Bongiovi male. They tend to notice these things young.”

Veronica shook her head, blew out a breath and picking up her purse, trudged out to the van and climbed in.

Jon looked up from putting Romeo’s boots on and watched Richie help Veronica with her coat. He’d noticed that her wardrobe consisted of mainly rich, vibrant colours – what Dorothea called ‘jewel tones’, with a few pastels and darker accenting pants or skirts thrown in, and perfectly suited her colouring. Today’s outfit was no exception. She’s going to kill me! The black jeans fit like they were made specifically for her, showcasing the round firmness of her butt and the sleek length of her legs. They were matched with a ruby red cowl neck sweater that clung faithfully to every curve and was made of some fuzzy material that made him clench his hands against the urge to touch. Cursing silently, he slowly stood up, and adjusted his own jeans, desperately thinking of glaciers and the snow he could see lining the driveway, trying to ease the pressure on his unruly male flesh. A tissue appeared in front of his face. His gaze followed the arm that held it until blue met shining brown.

“You’re drooling.” Richie warned him.

Jon snorted, but was unable to resist glancing towards the van. “Can you blame me? Look at her. She’s making me nuts.”

Richie clapped his friend on the back in sympathy. “Sorry you brought her home?”

There was no hesitation in Jon’s response. “No.” His voice softened. “I love having her in my home. I just hope it works. I don’t want to lose her again.”

“Jesse, bug off!”

“Hey, that my seat!”

“I want to sit up there!”



The sound of kids squabbling had Richie chuckling and Jon sighing. “Come on. I better go settle this before someone gets hurt.”

Another voice was heard before they’d stepped more than a foot from the door.

“Boys, it’s not nice to pinch. Jake, since Romeo’s car seat is already up front, how about he sit there on the way to Philly and then you can switch for the ride home? Is that fair?” Veronica suggested.

Jake sighed. “Okay. Can I sit with you?”

“No, that’s my seat squirt.” Jesse quickly sat down.

A low rumbling chuckle reached her ears from the seat behind her where Tico was sitting with Stephanie.

“How about you sit right here in front of me Jake? Jesse, will you help him move his seat please?”

Jesse grumbled, but did as she asked.

“Nicely done nina.” Tico leaned forward to murmur.

By this time Jon and Richie had reached the van.

“Daddy, sit side me? Prease?” Romeo pleaded.

Richie winked at Veronica and obligingly took a seat next to Jake. Jon gave her an approving look and slid in next to his youngest. “Everybody in? Got everything? Okay, let’s go.” He signalled the driver.

They’d barely cleared the gates when Jake yelled. “WAIT!”

“What’s the problem buddy?” Richie asked bracing himself on the seat in front of him against the lurch of the van as the driver hit the brakes.

“We forgot snacks for the ride!”

Jon let out a relieved breath and motioned for the driver to continue. “It’s not that long a trip Jakey, you’ll make it.”

“But I’m hungry.”

“You just had breakfast!”

“That was long time ago!”

Veronica reached into her purse and pulled out a brown paper bag. “How about a cookie? Will that help the hunger pains?”


“Ronnie to the rescue. Again.” Richie chuckled and reached for the bag.

“Don’t hog ‘em Sambora. Pass them up here.” Jon held out his hand.

“And back here!” Tico added.

Veronica shook her head and made a mental note to make another batch when they got back.

“So...Ronnie....” Jesse cleared his throat and turned slightly towards her. “Tell us all about you. Where are you from?”

“Well, I grew up in Chicago, but I live in Nashville mostly now, although I travel around a lot.”

“What about your family?”

“I don’t have any brothers or sisters and my parents both died a long time ago.”

Jake turned to look at her. “Do you have any kids?”

The low rumble of adult male conversation that had been in the background stopped abruptly. Jon swivelled to search her face. He didn’t know whether to interrupt and change the subject or stay quiet and see how she answered him.

Stephanie sat up straighter in her seat. The atmosphere among the adults had suddenly changed. All three men were watching Veronica intently. Something was going on, but she didn’t know what.

“No, I don’t.” Veronica hoped that line of questioning would end there. She should have known better.

“How come?” When she didn’t respond right away, he asked again. “How come?”

Veronica didn’t want to answer that, but she knew that at five years old, he wasn’t going to let it go. How much do I tell him? Them?

She was silent for so long, Jon decided that he’d better step in. “Jake...”

“I had a son, but he died.” Veronica spoke at the same time.

“Oh. What was his name?”

“Drew...Andrew. His name was Andrew.” Her voice had gotten softer.

“How old was he?” Stephanie asked. At a sharp look from her father, she quickly added, “Unless you don’t want to talk about it.”

“It’s okay. It was a long time ago.” Veronica smiled sadly. “He was just a baby. Just a tiny baby.”

Tico reached out to squeeze her shoulder. She patted his hand.

Romeo frowned at his father. “Her Mommy and Daddy in heaven?” He wasn’t sure he understood the conversation.

Jon nodded. “Yes.”

“And her baby Drew too?”

“Yes.” Jon smoothed a trembling hand over his son’s blonde hair. He was having a hard time hiding his own emotions.

“Oh. Dat sad.”

“Yes, little man, it is.”

“’re all alone?” Jake questioned.

From the mouthes of babes. Veronica had to take a couple breaths and swallow around the lump in her throat before she could be sure her voice wouldn’t betray her reaction to the truth she didn’t want to face. “Oh no. I’ve got lots of friends.” The fact that friends didn’t make up for family was another truth she refused to acknowledge.

Stephanie frowned in thought. “Was this back when you worked with Dad or after?”

Veronica froze for a second, then glanced at Jon before answering. “I wasn’t working with your Dad then.” It wasn’t a lie, she had already left the tour – and the band – before the baby died.

Jon’s eyelids flickered at his daughter’s question and he frowned slightly. He hadn’t thought about if or when or how to tell the kids. Guess we’d better talk about that.

Richie took the opportunity to change the subject by asking Jesse about his school football team.

Veronica shot him a grateful look and turned to stare out the window, lost in her own thoughts for the rest of the trip.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chapter 62

After dinner, they all settled into the living room to watch T.V. Veronica had tried to sneak back to the office, but Jon wasn’t having any of it. He’d stayed in the kitchen and helped clean up, then escorted her to the living room. When she tried to walk on to the office he grabbed her by the waist. “Nuhuh. No more work.”


“No Ronnie. You’ve been working crazy hours for days. You’re taking tonight and tomorrow off. No arguments.” He redirected her towards the living room and gave her a light push.


“Give it up Ronnie. I’m laying down the law.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth he knew he was in trouble. The violet eyes that narrowed at him confirmed his fear. “I mean, please Nica. Come and sit and relax with us for a little while.”

“Come on you guys! You’re missing the best part.” Jake appeared in the doorway.

“I’m trying Jakey, but Ronnie wants to go back to work. I’m trying to talk her into watching with us.”

Jake walked over to take her hand and tug. “Come on! It’s a really good show. You’ll like it. It’s the weekend. Daddy tell her that she doesn’t have to work on the weekend.”

“I’ve been trying to Jakey.” Jon lowered his voice to a loud whisper. “She doesn’t like me giving her orders.”

Jake frowned in thought, then whispered back. “Maybe you should ask her nicely.”

Jon chuckled. “Not sure she’ll listen to me. Maybe you should ask her.”

Jake turned his big blue eyes to Veronica. “Will you come and watch T.V. with us Ronnie? Please?”

As much as she wanted to escape the family scene she couldn’t disappoint the boy. She’d never been able to resist a pleading look in that particular shade of blue eyes for long. “Alright. I’ll come watch for a little while.”

“Yay! Let’s go!” Jake tugged her into the room.

Following, Veronica shot a dark look over her shoulder at the smug man behind her. He tried to look innocent, but she wasn’t accepting it. The message she sent him promised payback. He just grinned and followed her.

In an effort to keep some distance between Jon and herself, Veronica avoided the couch and sat in a large, comfortable arm chair. He sat at the end of the couch nearest her. She had to force herself to focus on the television and not on the man sitting so close. Despite her conviction that they would never make it as a couple, she wasn’t immune to his appeal. The scent of his cologne reached easily across the small space between them to tease her and the tight dark wash jeans and cozy grey turtleneck sweater he’d put on after his post game shower made her long to curl up in his lap and cuddle.

Jon watched Veronica out of the corner of his eye, and tried to determine if she really was pissed. He hadn’t meant to word his wishes like an order, he just wanted her to spend the evening with him and his family. He knew that it was his fault that she was working so hard right now. It was only a little over two months until the show in Dubai and the sooner she made the band a household name, the better the album and ticket sales would be. But he hated to see her so tired.

Romeo shifted closer and snuggled into his father’s side. Jon smiled down at him and ruffled his hair. Glancing back at Veronica he sighed. He understood that being around his kids – particularly Romeo – was difficult for her. He didn’t bring her here to hurt her. The hope was that the more she was around them, the easier it would get for her. So far he hadn’t seen any signs that it was working. It has to work! I don’t know what else to do and she’s got to be comfortable with them if there’s to be any hope of keeping her in my life.

Jon shifted, trying to stretch his back and find a more comfortable position. He winced.

“Daddy, what wong?” Romeo looked up at him in concern.

“Oh it’s just my back, buddy. I zinged it a couple times this afternoon and it’s a little stiff.”

“Want me kiss it bettah?”

“Thanks, little man.” Jon chuckled and leaned forward so that Romeo could lift up his sweater and kiss his back.

“That help?”

“That helped a lot. Thanks.”

Veronica searched his face. “Where does it hurt?”

“My lower back, but it’s fine.”

“You should have brought Bob with you.” Richie spoke up. Bob was the chiropractor that toured with them and kept Jon mobile.

“Down into your hips?” Veronica wasn’t going to be put off.

Jon shrugged. “A little I guess. But don’t worry about it. I’m fine.”

“Got any of those Yoga stretches and stuff you do that might help him little girl?” Richie ignored Jon’s ‘I’m fine’.

Veronica considered Jon for several seconds, then nodded. “Yeah. Come here.” She rose from the chair and sat in the middle of the floor.

Jon just shook his head. “There’s no need. I’m fine. Just a little stiff.”

“Uh huh, and that’s what these stretches fix.” Her lips twitched. “What’s the matter Jon? Scared?”

“Yeah Dad, are you chicken?” Jesse challenged him.

“Brock, brock, broooock, brock, brock.” Chicken noises came at him from all directions.

Never one to back down, Jon stood and gingerly settled on the floor beside Veronica, eyeing her warily.

She smiled. “Don’t worry, injuring you would waste all the work I’ve done over the past week. I just hope those jeans are up to it. Okay. First, we’ll do the log cabin stretch. Cross your legs, but instead of doing it Indian style, put one leg on top of the other.” She showed him what she meant and waited until he’d followed suit. “Good. Now bend over until you feel the pull. You should feel it through your hips and down your thighs. Breathe deep and slow.”

Jon nodded and was surprised to feel it exactly where she said he would. As he breathed he found he could bend a little further as the muscles gave.

Veronica watched him and nodded in approval. “Good. Now sit up, switch your legs around and bend over again.” She counted off several breaths. “Okay. Next, lay down on your back.” She waited until he’d complied. “Bend your right leg, cross it over your left leg and hold your knee down with your left hand. Keep your right shoulder on the floor and turn your head to the right.”

“What do you call that one?” Tico asked.

“Some may have a fancy name for it, but my instructor just called it a spinal twist. It stretches through your hip and up into your lower back.”

“It looks like what Bob does, only he moves Jon’s leg for him.”

Veronica nodded. “Yeah, he’s working the hip abductors and the soas.”

“The what?” Jon frowned.

“The deep groin muscles. You’d be surprised at how tension there shows as pain in your lower back.” She clarified. “Okay, now switch legs.”

“Hey bro, maybe you could get Bob to teach Ronnie what he does and she could do it for you instead.”

Jon just grunted and concentrated on feeling the stretch.

“Breathe Jon.” Veronica reminded him.”Okay, put your leg down. Does it feel any better?”

He shifted and twisted a little. “ does.”

“Still have tight spots?”

“Yeah, but it’s better.”

“Lay down on your stomach. We’ll try the Cobra. But if it hurts, stop.” She got into position beside him. “Put your forearms on the floor, your hands by your head. Now lift your shoulders up – don’t use your arms, use your back and inner thighs.”

He lifted only slightly before he stopped and dropped back down. “Ow.”

“Okay don’t do that anymore.” She straddled his hips and lifted his sweater. “Tell me if I hurt you.” She started gently massaging the muscles along his spine, working her way down to his waist, feeling for knots. He groaned when she leaned a little harder. “Does that hurt?”

“Mmmmmm...hurts so good sugar.” And he was thankful that she wasn’t really sitting on him, crushing his semi-erection into the floor. God her hands feel good! If they had been alone he would have rolled over, pulled her down onto him and rubbed her in return – preferable from the inside!

Gradually he realized that her hands became more...caressing, less...medicinal, which didn’t help his predicament. Jon smiled to himself. Guess she’s not as uninterested as she pretends to be! He rocked his hips slightly from side to side, gratified to hear her swiftly indrawn breath – then sucked in his own as her nails bit teasingly into his skin in reaction. His groan sounded more like a purr.

“Daddy you sound just like Aunt Desiree’s kitty.” Jake told him.

Richie noted Veronica’s flushed face and Jon’s clenched hands and quickly guessed the problem. Catching her eye, he raised his brows and winked.

Veronica was stunned at the lightning bolt of sensation that ran from her thighs straight to her core when Jon rocked his hips. It was then that she realized that for the last few minutes she had been stroking his skin more than massaging sore muscles. Blushing, she rose, ignoring Richie’s wink.

“Anyone want something to drink?”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chapter 61

After they’d all gorged themselves on grilled cheese sandwiches, Steph and Jesse were assigned clean up duty. Jesse looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was close enough to hear him as he brought another armload of dishes to Steph to load into the dishwasher.

“What do you think’s going on with Dad and Ronnie?”

Stephanie shrugged. “I don’t know. I think they’re just getting to know each other again. Why? Would you have a problem with them hooking up?”

Jesse just shrugged.

“I thought you liked Ronnie.”

“I do.” He hesitated. “She’s too good for him.”

Stephanie set down the plate in her hand and turned to look at him. “What? Why do you say that?” He just shrugged again. “Jess, what do you have against him? You know that the divorce wasn’t all his fault. Mom even said so.”

Jesse’s expression turned mutinous. “He’s gone for long periods of time. He left Mom to look after everything by herself while he went running around the world playing Rockstar. He cares more about himself than he does any of us.”

“Jesse! That’s not true and you know it!” Stephanie was stunned.

“Do I? Why? Because he says so?”

“Because it’s the truth!”

“Whatever. He’ll just do the same thing to Ronnie.” He went back to the dining room for another load of dishes.

When he returned Stephanie continued the conversation. “I don’t know Jess. Think about it. With her job she could just travel with him.”

“Yeah...maybe.” He made another trip to the dining room and back. “Do you think that she believes all that stuff she tells people about how great he is? Or is she just doing her job?”

Stephanie considered for a moment. “I think she believes it. She was around back in the beginning remember, and was there when they first made it big. I think that she really thinks they’re talented.”

Jesse frowned. “Uncle Mookie likes her and I guess he thinks that they’ll get together.”

“They all like her, and they know her better than we do. I think it might be a good idea to try to get to know her. She may be around for awhile.”

Jesse grunted. “If Dad doesn’t drive her away too.”

In the office, Veronica checked lists while Richie and Jon autographed everything. “Is David coming here before leaving for Philly by any chance?”

“Yeah. He’s meeting us here, then we’ll travel together.” Jon answered.

“Good. I’ll call him and see if he can come a little early and sign this stuff so that I can get it out.”

“Daddy! Unca Mookie! It fooball time!” Romeo announced from the doorway.

“Okay little man. We’re coming.” Jon replied. He looked at Ronnie. “You going to come play or at least watch?”

Veronica shook her head. “No. I’ve got too much to do.” He frowned. She waved towards the door. “You go have fun. Try not to injure yourselves.”

Richie had been watching her from the moment Romeo appeared and noted the slight stiffening of her body. Passing her, he set a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. She smiled weakly at him.

Half an hour later, screams of laughter broke through her concentration and pulled her to the windows. The teams appeared to be Jon, Stephanie and Jake versus Richie, Jesse and Romeo. As she watched, the huddles broke and the teams lined up. That was about the extent of the similarity between football the way most people played and the way the Bongiovi’s played. Stephanie hiked the ball to Jon, then turned and all the kids tackled him. Veronica had to smile at the sight of him sinking to the ground under a pile of kids. Richie just stood back and laughed.

She drew in a sharp breath as pain stabbed her in the heart and her eyes filled. This is what she’d dreamed of as a young girl. A family who laughed and played together. But fate decided that was something she could never have. Even after almost twenty years it still hurt. Nevertheless, as painful as it was, she couldn’t stop watching. This shouldn’t bother me. I’m way past this!

“Want to join them?” Tico’s voice startled her. She hadn’t heard him enter the room.

She shook her head. “No. I’m trying to figure out the rules. As far as I can tell it’s basically get the ball to Jon, then tackle him.”

Tico chuckled. “That’s Bongiovi birthday ball. Whoever’s birthday it is gets tackled.” He studied her face. “What’s the matter nina?”

Veronica was silent for so long he didn’t think she was going to answer. “They should have been mine Teek.” She winced as Romeo and Jake took Jon out at the knees and they landed in a tangled heap in a pile of snow and mud, the others quickly jumping on top.

Tico moved to stand at her back and wrapped his arms around her. “I’m sorry querida.”

She leaned against him for a moment, then straightened and gave herself a mental shake. Squaring her shoulders, she turned and forced her lips to smile. “Did you come to give me your autograph?”

He frowned. “Ronnie...”

She shook her head. “I’ll be fine.”


“Please Teek, I don’t want to talk about it.” She rested a hand on his arm. “I appreciate your concern, but I’ll be okay. Really. Seeing them is just.....taking me awhile to adjust to that’s all.”

“You sure?”

“Yes. I’m sure.” A loud buzz sounded. Veronica looked at Tico.

He motioned towards the electronic panel on the wall near the door. “That’s the gate intercom. Press the big black button to speak and the green one to open the gate.”

Realizing that he meant for her to answer it, she walked quickly to the panel and pushed the black button. “Yes?”

“Hi. I have a delivery from Mancini’s bakery.”

She checked the video screen and saw the well marked delivery van. “Thanks. Come on up.” She pushed the green button, turned and caught Tico’s inquiring look. “Dessert for the birthday dinner.”

His dark eyes lit up. “Cannoli?” She nodded. “Yum!”

Veronica laughed and left the room to meet the deliveryman. Stashing the cannoli where she hoped Jon wouldn’t find them, she was on her way back to the office when the back door opened and a group of laughing, dirty, soaked ball players entered. “Have fun?”

“Yeah. We got Daddy good!” Jake told her, then sneezed.

Veronica frowned. “Everybody upstairs – but take your boots off first. Hot bath or shower and dry clothes before you all get sick.”

They all trooped towards the stairs without argument, Richie winked at her as he passed. Jon was the last. “Yes dear.” He bent and kissed her cheek.

She rolled her eyes and shooed him away. “Go!” With a sigh she went in search of rags to clean the mud off the boots and the floor.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chapter 60

Veronica had barely gotten her laptop set up, booted up and pulled up her list of the items that she needed to compare to what she had in front of her when the office door opened and Stephanie entered. The closing of the door behind her had the butterflies in Veronica’s stomach taking flight again. She took a deep breath. “What’s on your mind Steph?”

"I just wanted to talk to you about tomorrow. What were you thinking about for Daddy’s birthday dinner?”

Veronica almost laughed in relief. “I haven’t really thought about it. Do you have any suggestions of what he might like?”

“Veal Piccata....and cannoli for dessert. Do you know how to make that?”

“No, but if you know where Molly keeps her cook books I’ll be we can find a recipe, and if not there’s always the internet.”

Stephanie nodded. “And I know where the bakery is nearby that makes really good cannoli.”

“You don’t think I should try and make them?”

“You can if you want, but Mom always said that they were a real real difficult to make and Daddy likes the ones from Mancini’s.”

Veronica smiled. “Okay, let’s go check out recipes and supplies....and call the bakery.”

They passed Jon in the hallway. “Where are you two going?”

The girls exchanged a look. Veronica answered. “Nowhere. Got girl stuff to do.” Stephanie giggled.

Jon smirked. He knew they were up to something, but seeing Veronica so relaxed with his daughter, he really didn’t care what it was. “Uh huh. Should I be scared?”

“A little bit of fear isn’t a bad thing. Keeps you on your toes.” Stephanie assured him as she continued on towards the kitchen.

Jon turned a horrified look to Veronica. “She’s going to be the death of me...and she’s only fourteen!”

Veronica chuckled. “Karmic payback’s a bitch babe.” She patted his cheek. “Don’t worry, you’ll survive. Richie’s the one who needs to be concerned.” With that she followed Stephanie.

He laughed. “I’m telling him you said that.”

She shrugged and answered over her shoulder. “He knows he’s screwed.”

The girls were pleased to find not only that Molly did indeed have a recipe for the veal, but that the house was stocked with all the ingredients. The bakery assured them that they had a supply of cannoli and would deliver a couple dozen later that afternoon. They discussed the timing of presents and dinner and other activities that the kids had planned.

“We always play football.”

Veronica’s eyebrows rose. “Even in the snow?”

“Yep. Snow, mud, rain...whatever. But if Daddy’s on tour we don’t play in the rain – too much risk of him getting sick. But since we’re going to Philly for the Soul game tomorrow, we’re playing our game this afternoon.”

The vision a family having fun playing together hit Veronica hard and she knew the next couple of days were going to be even worse than she thought. But at least she had some warning and a few hours to prepare.

Back in the office, she was setting out the guitars when Jesse walked in. She glanced up. “Hey Jess.”

“Hi.” He watched her for several minutes. “What are you doing?”

“Setting out and organizing everything I brought from the office.”

“Want some help?”

“That would be great. Thanks.”

Jesse reached into a box and set the contents on a table. “Why do you have all this stuff?”

“I want your Dad and the guys to sign it and then I’m going to send it to Dubai.”


“Well, it’s a way to promote the band. Radio stations and newspapers can use them for prizes in contests. A lot of the people who live over there aren’t familiar with them or their music and it’s my job to expose as many people as I can to the catalogue so that they can see how great the guys are and want to buy the album and concert tickets.”

“Why both electric and acoustic guitars?”

“Electric guitars are still a rarity over there, especially outside the cities, so they’re considered special. Acoustic guitars are used in their folk music and will be appreciated by people of all ages whether they live in the city or out in the desert.” Seeing Jesse’s interest, she went on to explain what her thinking was on each of the items she’d chosen.

“So...basically you get paid to get as many people as you can in whatever way you can, to listen to you tell them how wonderful Dad is.” Jesse rolled his eyes.

Veronica laughed. “Yeah...pretty much.”

“No wonder he likes you.”

“And she’s very good at it.” Richie commented as he walked in the door and glanced around the room. “Holy shit little girl! I can feel writer’s cramp coming on just looking at all this stuff.”

Veronica picked up a Sharpie from the table beside her and tossed it in his direction. “Here. You might as well get started.”

Richie groaned, but dutifully started towards the guitars. When he passed Jesse, he stopped, backed up and leaned down to sniff. “Are you wearing cologne?” He sniffed again. “You are! What’s up? Trying to impress a woman? Got a hot date?”

Jesse turned bright red. Veronica winked at him. “Leave him alone Jughead. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to smell nice.” She leaned closer and sniffed. “I’m not sure how your Dad will react to you dipping into his Kenneth Cole stash though.”

“How did you know that’s what it was?” Jesse asked, surprised.

Richie smirked. “There isn’t much about your Dad that she doesn’t know Pal, they’re very...close.” He waggled his brows.

Jesse’s shoulders slumped, his expression one of dejection. Veronica glared at the tall guitarist. Before she could think of some way to lighten the blow Richie had just delivered, Jon appeared.

“Lunch is ready.”

Jesse jumped at the excuse to escape, quickly brushing past his father.

“Was that necessary?” Veronica questioned Richie.

He nodded. “Yes. Best to nip it in the bud and better that it come from me.”

“But it could have been done more gently.” She insisted.

He shook his head. “Better to rip the bandage off quickly.”

Jon frowned. “What’s going on?”

“Just causing a little pain now to prevent greater pain and anger later when hopes and dreams that never should have been allowed to grow get cut off at the knees.”

Veronica snorted. “Very poetic Rich.”

He grinned. “Thank you.”

Jon looked back and forth between them. “Someone want to explain it to me?”

“Jesse’s crush.” Richie looked at Veronica. “Trust me on this little girl. If it had been allowed to continue until one of you had to squash it, it would have caused bigger problems. This way he might be a bit disappointed, but he hasn’t had his pride trampled by, or in front of, you.”

“He’s right.” Jon agreed. “Jesse’s already got some issues with me because of the divorce. Waiting would only give it the potential to turn ugly.”

Veronica sighed, but bowed to their knowledge of the male psyche. “I just hate hurting him.”

“That’s the beauty of it Ronnie. You didn’t hurt him, I did. There’s nothing for him to be angry at either one of you for.” Richie assured her. “Now, let’s go eat.”

“You guys go ahead. I’ve got to get this done.” Veronica waved them towards the door.

“Oh, no. It’s time for lunch.” Jon crossed the room, took the CD out of her hand and pushed her towards the door.


“No Ronnie. You can stop long enough to eat.” When she would have protested more vigorously, he put his fingers over her lips. “If you’re going to work these crazy hours you need to keep your strength up. I may be the reason you have to work overtime, but I won’t stand by and watch you work yourself into a sickbed.” He nudged her once more towards the door. “Besides, I’ve been slaving over a hot stove to provide a nourishing meal.....and went a little overboard. I need everyone to eat as much as they possibly can.”

That made her laugh. “You’re a real crackerjack in the kitchen there Johnny boy.”

“I know. It’s not the room that best showcases my skills.” He waited in anticipation for her to ask which room did, but she disappointed him by merely snorting and rolling her eyes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chapter 59

“Romeo, that’s mine! Bring it back!”

Veronica jerked awake at the sound of Jake’s raised voice in the hallway. Rolling over, she sighed and stretched. A glance at the clock assured her that it was early, but not too early. She might as well get up and get some work done, especially if she was going to lose Sunday to a football game.

“No! It mine!” Romeo yelled back. “Stephie! Help! OW!”

“Jake stop pinching him. Romeo give him back his Spiderman.” Stephie tried to keep her voice down, but it still echoed down the hallway.

“Hey you guys, keep it down. People are still sleeping.” Jon scolded his children.

“Sorry Daddy.”

“We have breakfast now? Prease? I hungy.”

“Yes. Go on downstairs and I’ll be there in a minute. What do you want?”

“Scambled eggs!”

“And bacon.” Jake added.

“You got it.” Jon looked down the hallway. “Where’s Jesse?”

“In the shower.” Steph rolled her eyes and stepped out of the way of her two younger brothers who were heading for the stairs. “He’s been in there for almost an hour. I’m glad I got in there first or it’d be suppertime before I got to shower!”

Veronica waited until she heard the boys thump down the stairs before heading for the shower.

The sound of a door opening behind him had Jon turning to see Ronnie with her toiletry bag, a yawn spreading across her face. “Morning Ronnie. Did we wake you?”

Veronica shook her head. “It’s okay. I need to get to work anyway. Did I hear that Jesse’s in the bathroom? Morning Steph.”

“Morning Ronnie.”

“Yeah.” Jon gestured towards his room. “Use mine. There’s towels in the cupboard.” He ignored his daughter’s surprised look. There was another bathroom at the other end of the hallway where Tico and Richie were sleeping.

Veronica yawned again. “Thanks.”

“You ready for breakfast?”

“Um...give me fifteen minutes?”

“Take your time. Just come down when you’re ready.”

When the door closed behind Veronica, Stephanie smirked at her father. “Real subtle Daddy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“ ‘Use my bathroom’? Is that your way of getting her into your bedroom?”

“Stephanie Rose!”

“I guess after the whole dinner thing yesterday I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“What do you mean the ‘whole dinner thing’?”

“I mean you trying to cook a meal. Either you were trying to impress her or counting on her to fix it. Nice job.”

Jon stared at his teenage daughter, his expression a mixture of chagrin and....horror...that she’d figured out what he was up to. She was too mature and smart for his good. It made him feel old. Then he realized that she didn’t seem to be upset. “Would you be okay if I started dating?”

Stephanie thought for a moment, sighed and shrugged. “I guess. I mean, I want you to be happy. I still wish it could be with Mom, but I know that’s not going to happen.” She paused and shrugged again. “Ronnie seems nice enough. I’d like to get to know her a little better before I give my final judgement though.”

“That’s fair.”

“So...are you two dating?”

Jon really didn’t know how to answer that question. “Sort of..well, not really, I guess...I don’t know.”

“Let me know when you figure it out.” Stephanie grinned. “You realize you have some competition, don’t you?”

“Oh? Who?”

“Jesse. Ronnie’s all he’s talked about since he found out she was here. He thinks she’s hot.”

“Yeah?” Jon was amused. “Guess I’d better up my game then.”

Stephanie snorted. “You need to find your game first, ‘cause if you don’t even know if you’re dating or not, you’re in big trouble!”

“Ha, ha.” Jon wrinkled his nose at her. “Come on Miss Lonely Hearts, let’s get breakfast started before your brothers try to do it themselves.”

Veronica glanced around the large master bedroom on her way to the bathroom. She was surprised and strangely glad that there didn’t seem to be anything of Dorothea left there. The room was pure Jon, done in shades of blue and brown. The walls were a neutral beige, the massive four poster bed was mahogany and the spread – what she could see of it puddled on the floor – and the curtains were navy blue with a paler blue ribbon pattern through them. Beyond the bed was the door to the balcony, and on the other side of the room was a sitting area with a couch and two chairs in front of a gas fireplace. An image of being curled up in front of a roaring fire on a cold New Jersey night formed in her mind and warmed her deep inside.

If she hadn’t already known, the first step into the bathroom would have told her it was Jon’s. The air was filled with his scent, that slightly spicy, slightly musky aroma that was uniquely him. A hair dryer lay on the counter. There were a few stray whiskers in the sink, evidence of his recent use of his razor and a damp towel carelessly thrown over the towel bar on the wall. Above the bar was a cupboard, which, when opened, revealed neatly stacked fluffy towels. Selecting one, she closed the door, straightened the towel Jon had used, set the bag she was carrying on the counter and hung her robe on the hook.

She pulled out her shampoo, opened the door to the spacious shower and stepped inside. A few slight turns of the taps adjusted the water temperature and she stood under the hot spray. Noticing the settings on the nozzle, she turned it until the water became pulsing streams that massaged her back and shoulders. Another lever caught her eye. Curious, she flipped it. Suddenly water shot at her from various heads set at different heights in the walls. Oooh...this is nice! I gotta get me one of these! I could stay here for hours! Finally shaking herself, she soaped her hair and body, rinsed and regretfully turned off the water.

Veronica stepped out of the shower and dried herself off. A few minutes more saw her hair dried and her teeth brushed. She pulled on her robe and returned to her room to dress. It was sunny, but cold, so she opted for jeans and a cozy sweater. The memory of Jon’s reaction to her borrowed sweatshirt had her lips curving into a smile. Regardless of her opinion on their chances as a couple, she was still a woman, one who was pleased to be found attractive by him. She picked up her laptop and headed downstairs.

They were waiting for her, the boys sitting at the table, Steph pouring juice and Tico carrying platters of bacon and scrambled eggs in from the kitchen. Jake saw her first.

“Finally! DADDY! RONNIE’S UP!”

“Okay Jakey, you don’t have to yell.” Jon replied from the kitchen.

“Morning nina.”

“Morning Teek, boys.” She glanced around. “Richie not up yet?”

“Nope. Don’t expect to see him much before lunch.” Tico answered on his way back to the kitchen. He returned with toast and hash browns.

Veronica moved towards a chair and Jesse jumped up to hold it for her like Tico had done the night before. She smiled. “Thanks Jesse.”

“Welcome.” He muttered.

Stephanie rolled her eyes. Tico grinned.

Jon entered carrying two steaming mugs. He set one down in front of her.

“Thanks.” She sipped the coffee carefully and surveyed the meal. “This looks good.”

“Breakfast I can do.” He winked at her as he sat down. “Did you find everything okay?”

“Mmhmm. That shower is wonderful!”

“I know. Some days I don’t want to get out. I put in a double water heater just to make sure I don’t run out.”

“Ronnie, are you going to be around today or are you going into the city again?” Stephanie asked.

“I’m working from here today, if your Dad will let me use his office.” Veronica raised a brow at Jon.

He nodded. “That’s fine.”

“Was there something you needed Steph?”

“I just want to talk to you about something later.”

“Okay. Whenever you’re ready, come find me.” Butterflies took flight in Veronica’s stomach as tried to think of what the teenager could possibly want to talk to her about.

When they’d finished eating everyone helped clear the table. Jon pulled Stephanie aside. “What do you want to talk to Ronnie about?” The memory of their earlier conversation was still fresh in his mind and he was afraid that she might say something to blow his plan.

“Just some ideas for tomorrow.” They were celebrating Jon’s birthday the next day since the kids would be back at their mother’s on his actual birthday on Monday and the guys would be in Philly. She patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry Daddy, I’m not going to say anything to wreck ‘your game’. From what I’ve seen, you need all the help you can get.”


“Gee, I wonder where I get that from?”

“Your mother.”

“Uh huh, you stick with that story Daddy.” Stephanie grinned, picked up more dishes and headed for the kitchen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chapter 58

“Well, well, what’s going on in here?” Richie announced his presence.

“Uncle Mookie!” Four voices greeted him.

“Hey man.” The men replied.

Richie glanced around the room. “Where’s Ronnie?”

Jon looked around as well and shrugged. “She was here a few minutes ago. Maybe she’s in the kitchen.”

“Trying to wash the mashed potatoes off the wall.” Jesse added.

Richie’s brows rose. “Food fight?”

“Just between Daddy and the food.” Stephanie answered. “He tried to cook,”

Richie stared at Jon, his lips twitching. “Why? Trying to impress someone?”

Jon glared at him. “If I was that would be a stupid way to go about it, don’t you think?”

“Mmmm. How bad was it?”

Jon grimaced. Tico chuckled. “It ended up not too bad. Ronnie managed salvage enough to make an edible meal.”

“Her made cookies!” Romeo added.

“She did?” Richie spied the empty plate. “I’d better go see if she saved me any from you vultures.”

“We’re not vultures Uncle Mookie, we’re growing boys!” Jake informed him.

Richie chuckled and ruffled his hair. “Yes you are. We all are.”

“Some of us are just growing in a different direction.” Jon looked pointedly at Richie’s stomach.

Richie patted his slightly rounded belly. “Nothing like home cooking. Hmm...maybe some milk to go with the cookies.” With that thought he headed for the kitchen. Entering the large room, he glanced around, surprised to find it empty. A slight frown wrinkled his brow as he reached into the cookie jar. Devouring half a cookie in one bite he went in search of the baker. He tried Jon’s office first, thinking that she might be working. She wasn’t. He did notice several guitars and boxes of posters and CDs and stuff that he figured she’d brought for them to sign. Back in the hallway, the sound of Jake and Romeo’s giggles had his frown deepening and he turned towards the stairs.

At the top of the stairs he turned towards Jon’s room. He wasn’t sure which room Ronnie had been given, but he’d have bet his Fender that it was near Jon’s. A glance down the hallway assured him that there was only one room with the door closed. Stopping in front of it, he knocked. “Ronnie?”

“Come in.” Veronica looked up as the door opened and Richie entered. “Hi Rich.”

“Hi little girl. How are you?” Dark eyes watched her carefully, noting the tense line of her lips and the shadows in the amethyst pools looking at him. “How come you’re up here instead of watching the movie with everyone else?”

She shrugged. “Work. How’s your mom?”

“She’s good. Why didn’t you use Jon’s office? It’s got to be more comfortable than sitting on this bed with your laptop.”

“But it’s quieter up here.”

“And is that the only reason?”

“Of course. Why else?” She wouldn’t meet his eyes.

Richie studied her for a moment. “Did he even warn you that the kids were coming?”

“No, in fact he told be the house would be empty except for you and Tico. But I should have known. It’s the weekend and he hasn’t seen them for awhile.”

“And it’s his birthday on Monday.”

Veronica grimaced. “Yeah. Definitely a weekend for family.” And if I could figure out a way to get out of here I would.

“I hear dinner experience.” He changed the subject to something moderately less painful.

She laughed. “Oh Rich. You should have seen it! Mashed potato on the wall, corn burned to the bottom of the pot, and the gravy.....I can’t even describe it! It had to be seen to be believed.” She wiped a tear from her eye. “I guess I should give him credit for trying, but yeesh! I don’t know what possessed him to try to cook. ”

“Don’t you?”

“No. Do you?”

“To get you to do exactly what you did. Save the day and become a part of this household.”

“You’re crazy!”

“Come on Ronnie, think about it. Why would he attempt to cook a meal like that on Molly’s weekend off and the kids here? With me at Mom’s, who would be around to fix the disaster? Only you. You’re the hero of the day. You saved dinner.” He paused. “And you made cookies. From Jon’s perspective, you now know where everything is in the kitchen, you have a funny, bonding story to share with his kids, and he’s shown them that you’re more than an employee to him, you’re part of the family. Actually, I’m impressed. It’s a pretty clever plan.”

Veronica stared at him, then snorted. “Do you actually think that Jon came up with this ‘clever plan’?”

“Consciously? No. I think he had a horseshoe up his ass as usual. I think he planned as far as you rescuing dinner, and the rest was just dumb luck.”

She shook her head. “Too bad it was a waste of time.”

“Was it? Why?” When she just shrugged, he sighed and sat on the bed beside her. “How long are you going to fight it little girl?”

“Fight what?”

“The fact that you two are good together.”

“We’re disaster together! I think that’s been proven.”

“No. All that’s been proven is that when disaster struck, you were both too young and there were too many outside forces working against you for your relationship to survive it. But you’re older now, more experienced...better able to handle the bumps in the road.”

“Richie, don’t.”

“Why not? You have a lot in common and you get each other. You understand each other’s lifestyle and the demands of the music.”

Veronica raised a brow. “Are you pimping for him now?”

Richie laughed. “I’m just trying to help you see that the past is the past and if you let it dictate your future, you’ll both continue to be miserable.” He reached over to take her hand in his. “You keep telling him to let it go. You need to follow your own advice.”

She frowned. “I have.”

“No you haven’t or you wouldn’t still be holding it against him. You’d be looking towards the future and what will make you happy.”

“And you think that Jon will make me happy.”

He nodded. “I do. At the very least I think he deserves a shot. You both do.”

“We’ve already had our chance. It didn’t work out.”

“Everyone makes mistakes Ronnie. And everyone deserves a second chance.” He squeezed her hand and kissed her cheek. “Just think about it.” With that he rose and left the room.

Veronica stared at the closed door for a long time. Releasing a huge sigh, two fingers squeezed the bridge of her nose and she prayed that the headache hovering around her temples didn’t settle in. Shaking her head, she forced herself to focus on her computer screen.

An hour or so later, she heard the kids in the hallway as they got ready for bed, then Jon’s voice saying goodnight and admonishing Stephanie and Jesse not to stay up too late. A few minutes later there was a soft knock on her door.


She sighed. “Come in Jon.”

The door opened and he slipped inside. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just trying to sort out where to fit Dubai interviews into your schedule.”

He groaned. She raised a brow. He sighed. “I know, I know, I promised not to argue. Just...leave a little time for sleep, okay? Please?”

Veronica smiled. “I’ll think about it...if I can stand the quiet of this empty house.”

He winced. “Are you angry that I didn’t warn you that the kids would be here?”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Because I was afraid that you wouldn’t come.” The mattress dipped as Jon sat down beside her. “I really wanted you here. I’m sorry for....not telling you the whole truth.” He picked up her hand and laced their fingers together loosely. “But it’s going well, don’t you think? Aside from cooking disasters that is. Thanks again for rescuing dinner – and making cookies.”

“You’re welcome.” She was dying to ask why he attempted to cook, but was too afraid of the answer. She really didn’t want to hear that Richie was right. She sighed, too tired to fight with him. “In future, will you please just tell me the truth? Blindsiding me will only piss me off.”

“I promise. Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m all set thanks.”

“Okay, get some sleep. I know you haven’t gotten much lately because of me. I don’t want you getting sick.”

Her lips twitched. “Yes Daddy.”

Jon’s eyes heated. He leaned towards her until their mouths were just brushing. “See that you do. Don’t make me spank you.” He moved the slight distance required to press his lips firmly, but gently against hers. Her lips seemed to cling to his as he eased back. His free hand came up to stroke her cheek. “Sleep well Nica.”

“You too.” Her voice was a husky whisper.

He smiled wryly. “I’ll try, but I don’t sleep well alone.” Dropping another kiss on her lips before she could protest his words, he released her hand and rose from the bed. “Nite.”

“Nite Jon.”At the door he paused and turned back. “Did I mention that we’re all going to the Soul game on Sunday? You included. No argument. You’re taking a day off.” Chuckling, he dodged the pillow she threw at him and ducked out the door, leaving her growling in frustration.

Alone again, Veronica turned off her computer, got ready for bed and crawled gratefully between the sheets. She was exhausted, both mentally and physically and wanted nothing more than to forget about everything for a few hours. But Richie’s comments kept echoing in her head. Is he right? Am I letting the past prevent me from finding happiness? Could Jon and I make it? Should I take the risk? Can I? But how can I trust him again?

She tossed and turned for hours before finally falling asleep, no closer to finding the answers to her questions.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chapter 57

“Veronica, your car’s here.” Melissa, the receptionist at the New York office announced through the intercom. “Is all this stuff going with you?”

“Thanks Liss, and yes it is. I’ll be right there.” Veronica threw some courier weigh slips in her laptop bag, along with her notebook and hurried to the lobby. When she got there, she found two male interns carrying out the items she’d gathered. A loud twang had her wincing. “Be careful with those guitars guys please.”

“What are you going to do with all of this stuff?” Melissa asked.

“I’m going to get the band to sign them and send them to some radio stations in Dubai for contest prizes and that kind of stuff.”

“Don’t they have another couple days off? How come you’re taking it now?”

“Because Tico and Richie are staying at Jon’s so it’s a perfect opportunity to get them to sign it. I’m hoping that David will come to the house before we head to Philly and then I can ship everything out.”

“You’re staying at Jon’s too?”

“Yeah. It’s just easier to talk to him and set up interviews there than trying to do everything over the phone. Especially when they’re all together.” That was the explanation she was giving to anyone nosy enough to ask. She grinned. “And it’s a really nice house.” Melissa laughed.

On the drive to Jersey, Veronica leaned her head back and stared unseeing out the window. Lord, she was tired! She’d been working long hours trying to pull Dubai together and even when she got to bed her mind kept spinning with everything she needed to do. The one night she’d slept well was the night after they’d visited the cemetery. She’d chalked it up to emotional exhaustion and sexual release, refusing to even acknowledge the possibility that it had anything to do with being wrapped in his strong arms.

Last night she hadn’t slept well at all even though it was very late – or early depending on how you looked at it – by the time they’d gotten settled and she was able to crawl into bed. Jon had showed her to her room – next door to his of course – and she’d been sure he was going to say something or urge her to stay with him, but he just caressed her cheek, dropped a brief kiss on her lips and bid her good night. She told herself that she was relieved, not disappointed. Either way, she had lain awake, staring at the ceiling for a long time. Maybe tonight she could go to bed early.

The car pulled to a stop, and Veronica had just stepped out, a guitar in her hand when the door flew open and Stephanie appeared.

“Ronnie! Thank God you’re here! You’ve got to come help!”

“Hi Steph. What’s wrong?” Her stomach clenched at the sight of the teenager. The kids are here?!

“Daddy’s trying to make dinner!”

Veronica’s brows rose. “Where’s Molly?”

“It’s her weekend off.”

“Please tell me he’s ordering pizza!” The vigorous shaking of Stephanie’s head had her groaning. “Where’s Richie?”

“He’s still at Grandma Joan’s.”

Veronica grimaced. “Has he learned to cook at all in the last twenty years?”

“Not unless you count scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches.”

“I take it that neither of those are on tonight’s menu?”

Again Stephanie shook her head. “Please help!”

“Okay. Let me get this stuff unloaded and I’ll see what he’s up to and if anything can be salvaged before he burns the house down or we all get food poisoning.”

“Hey! Are you two disparaging my cooking skills?” Jon appeared in the doorway, wooden spoon in hand and an apron tied around his neck and waist. There were clumps of something white and pasty looking stuck to the spoon and one cheekbone and smears of some brown liquid on the apron. Flour dusted his nose and chin.

“That would imply that you had any.” Veronica’s lips twisted. “Well at least you’re giving fair warning.” She gestured toward the apron which read This is a recipe for disaster.

Jon wrinkled his nose at her, then noticed the guitar case in her hand and the boxes the driver was beginning to unload. “What’s all this?”

“Guitars, drum heads, posters, CDs....the stuff I need you guys to sign so that I can send it to Dubai.”

“Hi Ronnie. I’ll help you.” Jesse nudged his sister out of the way and reached into the car for another guitar.

“Thanks Jesse.”

“Be careful with those Jess.” Jon admonished him. Jesse stiffened and rolled his eyes.

Veronica bit her lip, noticing the tension between father and son. “Relax Jon. I’m sure he knows how to handle a guitar properly. After all, you taught him didn’t you?” When Jesse sent her a grateful look, she winked at him. Entering the house, she set down the guitar she was carrying along with her purse and laptop bag, and turned to Jon expectantly. “Okay Emeril, let’s go see what you’ve been cooking up – or trying to.”

“Bam! is right.” Stephanie commented dryly, then smiled innocently at her father’s dark look.

Veronica laughed and followed Jon into the kitchen. Her amusement ended abruptly at the sight that greeted her. It looked like there had been some sort of explosion. “” As she neared the stove she realized that the white pasty stuff - that was also splattered over the countertop and partway up the wall - was mashed potatoes. She peeked into the pot to see if there was any left. There was plenty, especially if the lumps were broken up. Hissing had her looking in the big roasting pan that was sitting on an element. This was obviously the source of the brown stains on Jon’s apron, but she couldn’t tell with absolute certainty what it was. “What have you got going here?”

“Gravy, what else?”

Veronica checked the pan again, and fought to hide her smile. He’d dumped flour in the drippings, stirred and added water, forming a goopy....mess. “What else are we having?”

“Roast beef.” He gestured towards the island where he’d been slicing the meat. That, at least was within his skill set.

“What did you season it with?” She was almost afraid to ask.

Jon frowned and shrugged. “Nothing.” Then he remembered. “Molly did it before she left.”

“And vegetable?”

He pointed to the pot sitting at the back of the stove. “Corn.”

Veronica lifted the lid. The corn looked okay – not even Jon could screw up opening a can. “Where’s Tico?”

“Keeping an eye on the two monsters.”

“What do you think Ronnie? Can any of it be saved? Or should we just call the pizza guy?”

“Hey! I slaved all afternoon to make you a nice meal!” Jon glared at his daughter. He moved to stand beside Veronica and stirred the ‘gravy’. His voice was a murmur for her ears only. “I don’t know what happened. It always looked so easy. Can you fix it?”

Veronica put a sombre expression on her face. “I don’t know, but I’ll give it a shot.” She winked at Steph and clapped her hands. “Okay, let’s see what we can do. Steph would you bring me some milk, butter and the mixer please?”


“What do you want me to do?” Jon asked.

She looked up from contemplating what to do with the ‘gravy’. “Well, you could go set the table.” She almost laughed out loud at his pout.

After re-mashing the potatoes, and scooping the corn – minus the kernels that were burned onto the bottom of the pot – into a bowl, it was time to tackle the gravy. A lot of straining, water, and whisking later, it was as good as it was going to get. “Well, that’s the best I can do.” She poured it into a boat and handed it to Stephanie to take into the dining room, picked up the platter of meat, took a deep breath and followed.

“Hi nina. Now I’m definitely convinced. You are a miracle worker!” Tico stood, kissed her cheek and held the chair beside him for her.

Veronica set down the platter before taking her seat. “Hi Teek. I’m almost afraid to ask why you say that.”

“You actually managed to salvage an edible meal out of Kidd’s attempt to blow up the kitchen and poison us all.”

Jon flipped him off.

Romeo’s eyes widened. “Daddy dat bad finger!”

Veronica had to look away. “You might want to hold that judgement until you’ve tasted it. I did the best I could, but.... no guarantees.”

“Anything’s gotta be better than Dad’s try.” Jesse muttered on her other side. Veronica winked at him.

“Ha, ha. Very funny. At least I tried which is more than any of you did!” Jon grouched.

“Do us all a favour Daddy? Leave the supper cooking to Ronnie for the rest of the weekend?” Stephanie requested.

Jon sighed. “If she’ll agree.”

Pleading eyes turned to Veronica. A wry smile twisted her lips. “In the interest of public health and safety, I guess I’d better.”

“Ronnie?” Jake’s voice was tentative.


“Would you make us some cookies after supper? Please?”

“Oh, yeah! Please?”


“Please nina?”

“Pretty please?” Jon batted his eyes.

Veronica rolled hers. “Okay. If Molly has stocked the ingredients, I’ll make some.”

When they set their forks down, Romeo turned to his father. “Daddy you watch movie wif us now?”

“In a few minutes buddy. Let me get the kitchen cleaned up and I’ll come watch.” Jon replied.

“You go ahead Jon. I’ll clean up.” Veronica stood and started clearing the table. The others followed suit.

“I’ll help you.” Jon offered setting his plate and glass beside the sink.

She shook her head. “Go spend time with your kids. I’ll do it.”

“You sure?”

“Yes. Go.”

After cleaning up the kitchen – which included washing down a good portion of the wall – and making a double batch of cookies, Veronica took a plateful, still warm, into the theatre. The sight of Jon with Romeo on his lap and Jake snuggled up close beside him hit her like a stab to the heart. The pain took her by surprise. She’d thought that she was past that. Setting down the plate, she slipped quietly out the door, paused in the foyer to pick up her laptop bag and climbed the stairs to the room she’d been given.

[Author's note: for those not familiar, Emeril is an American chef who had (has?) a TV show. He throws in ingredients and yells Bam!]

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chapter 56

When Jon awoke the next morning he found himself alone and the connecting door closed – again. It was enough to make him scream in frustration. All things considered, the previous day had been a good one and he’d hoped that it meant that she’d realized how good they were together and decided to give them another chance – or at least give him the chance to try to convince her that he was worth the risk. Now he was afraid that it was a case of one step forward and two steps back.

Sitting up he raked a hand through his hair. The little plastic bag on the nightstand caught his eye and he reached for it. He stared at the fine strands of hair for long moments, then rose and searched for his wallet where he tucked the bag into a safe place.

Once again they gathered in the hallway to head to the venue, and once again Veronica was on the phone. Jon just sighed, took her laptop bag and held the elevator door for her.

“How’d everything go yesterday bro?” Richie asked quietly.

“Before or after your messages?” Jon retorted dryly.

Richie chuckled. “She wasn’t really that upset was she?”

“She cried for half an hour.”

“Really?” Richie looked sick. “Aw fuck! I was just joking around.”

“Don’t worry. I comforted her.”

Richie eyed his friend. “I’ll bet you did. In that’re welcome.” Jon laughed. Richie clapped him on the shoulder. “Seriously though man, how did it go at the cemetery?”

Jon sighed. “It was....cathartic....and oddly comforting. She was right. It was something I needed to do.” He gazed at Veronica, talking them up to someone on the other side of the world. “She....she gave me some of his hair that she’d saved.”

Richie gripped his shoulder again and lowered his voice. “And how are things between you two?”

“I don’t know. Yesterday was good, but today...” He shrugged. “She’s back to being business only again.”

“Maybe you need to spend some time with her away from the tour.”

“I know, but that’s easier said than done. I keep inviting her to Jersey, but she won’t come. I may have to resort to a little trickery.”

“Just be careful or you’ll piss her off.”

“I know. I’ll have to give it some thought.” The doors pinged. He noticed Veronica hanging up her phone and raised his voice slightly. “Oh, and you asked about those scarves.”

Richie’s lips twitched and he saw Veronica’s head jerk towards them out of the corner of his eye. “Yeah?”

“Don’t need them. I’ve got my own.” The doors opened and he guided Veronica to the van with a hand on her back...and let it slide briefly down over the curve of her bottom.

She elbowed him and shot him a look from under the dark fringe of her lashes, ignoring Richie’s snickers behind her. “Careful there Rock Star. It won’t be me that gets tied up.”

“We’ll discuss it.”

She snorted. “In your dreams.”

“Uh huh. And you know how good I am at making my dreams come true.”

She shook her head. “You’re going to drive me crazy today, aren’t you?”

Jon just smiled and winked at her.

Veronica sighed, realizing she was going to have to stay away from him for awhile. She needed to build the wall against him back up and that was almost impossible to do with him in this playful mood.

“So how did it go today?” Veronica asked Tiffany as she plunked down in the chair on the other side of her desk.

“I don’t know what you did yesterday, but it worked. He was friendly and even joked around with the reporters.”

“Good. Hopefully the worst is behind us.”

“Ronnie can I ask you something?”


“Where do you find the nerve to stand up to him when he’s in a temper? I mean, aren’t you afraid that he’s going to fire you or something? Doesn’t it bother you when he yells?”

Veronica smiled. “When you’ve been in this business as long as I have you learn how to deal with the prima donnas. It helps if you keep in mind the pressure that they’re under. Everyone wants something from them. Don’t take it personally when they lose their cool, it’s just their frustration coming out. In Jon’s case you’re also dealing with a perfectionist – and an Italian temper – so he’s a little more difficult than your average diva. But he also rewards good work. I guess the best way to look at it is that if you can survive working for him for a tour, you can work for anyone, and you’ll never have trouble finding a job. And if you do a really good job, he’ll make sure you’re taken care of.” She paused. “I don’t normally talk to artists like I do Jon – I’m usually a little more diplomatic. But Jon and I have a long history.”

“And you had a relationship.” At Veronica’s surprised look Tiffany winced. “Sorry, were we not supposed to know about that?”

“I guess it’s a little obvious.”

“Just a little.”

“So...yeah... I knew them before they made it to the big time, so I’m less tolerant of the arrogance. Sort of an ‘I knew you when so don’t try to snow me’ kinda deal. Jon and I know how to push each other’s buttons, and we also know when we’re seriously pissed off and when we’re just trying to make a point to the other.”

Tiffany smirked. “So even though it may sound like the beginning of World War III, that isn’t necessarily the case?”

Veronica chuckled. “Yeah. We’re just getting the other’s attention. If you’re not sure if it’s serious watch the guys. They can always tell.”

“Thanks Ronnie.”

“No problem. If you have any questions or need any advice on how to deal with him, I’m here.”


Leaving the stage after sound check, Jon detoured by the office to invite – no insist – that Ronnie join them for dinner. As he reached the door he could hear her on the phone, obviously talking to someone at the record company.

“We’re flying back to Jersey after the show tonight, so I’ll be in the New York office tomorrow. Not sure, probably not until afternoon, depending what time I can drag my ass out of bed. I’m not sure where I’m staying. Wherever the car drops me off I guess. I don’t really care, as long as it has a clean bed and a shower.”

The wheels in Jon’s head started churning with ideas and he headed for his dressing room – and his phone – to start putting them into action.

Veronica spent most of the flight to Jersey glued to her computer screen, and the car ride leaving voice mails and sending e-mails. Finally finished, she glanced around, a little surprised that it was taking so long to get to the hotel. Then the realization hit. We’re in New Jersey. Jon will be staying at home. Why am I in the car with him? Glancing around at the limited scenery made visible by occasional headlights and street lights, her eyes narrowed. “Jon?”

“Mmmm?” He’d been dozing and waiting for her to realize where they were going.

“Where are we going?”


“Okaaaay, let me rephrase my question. Why am I in the car going to your house?”

“Because that’s where you’re staying.” He held up a hand against her expected protest. “Tico’s staying too, so is Richie after he visits his mother. You can have your own room – if that’s what you want.” It wasn’t what he wanted, but he knew that now wasn’t the time to push it.

“It is, but that’s not my main concern. I need to be in New York. I’ve got a pile of work to do there.” She ignored the pounding of her heart at the thought of staying in his house. She needed distance from him to rebuild her defences, not proximity!

“A car will be here around noon tomorrow to take you into the city and bring you back when you’re finished.”


“There’s no point staying in a cold hotel room when I have a huge house sitting empty and available.”


“Nica, please don’t break my balls about this. I just don’t want to be in that big house alone.”

“You just said that Tico and Richie will be there.” She thought she had him.

“But neither one of them understands what I’m...what we’re feeling. I just.....I’d like someone close by to....share with.”

Veronica sighed and turned to look out the window. When he put it like that she’d be a bitch to argue.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Chapter 55

Veronica awoke first and was thankful for that. She needed some time to sort out her feelings about what had happened between them earlier. Never in her life had she felt anything even close to that! Even back when they had been together and Jon had taught her how to explore the depths of her passion, and then shared the journey with her, she’d never felt such intense, incredible pleasure. Yes, he had lost control, but even that had been exciting. She had sensed his need and hunger and had wanted nothing more than to sate it, and to have him sate hers in return. But that was a yearning she couldn’t afford to give in to. She was afraid that it could be addicting and she couldn’t let that happen. She couldn’t take that chance again. She would give him today, but tomorrow it would be back to business as usual, and only business. Letting out a heavy sigh, she watched the sun setting slowly out of the wall of windows.

Jon heard her sigh and tightened his arm around her. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Veronica rubbed his arm and smoothed his hair. “I’m fine.”

“I really didn’t hurt you?”

She hugged him. “You really didn’t hurt me.”

They lay silently staring out into the fading light for several minutes. Jon kissed the warm skin under his cheek and caressed her side with his thumb. “How often do you...visit?”

“At least once a year. More if I’m in the area, but always at least once.”

“And that’s enough for you?” He realized how that sounded. “I’m not criticizing, I’m just asking.”

“Most of the time.” She paused, remembering. “It took me quite awhile before I could go at all. Then I went a lot. Now, I go when I’m close or when I’m.....feeling the need.”

He nodded and squeezed her. “Thank you for taking me. You were right. I needed that. I should have been there years ago.”

Veronica was silent for a moment. “Better late than never Johnny.”

Something in her voice made him think that they weren’t just talking about the gravesite any more. He lifted his head to search her face. “Really?”

She hesitated, then nodded. “I really could have used your support at the time, but at least you’re acknowledging him now.”

Jon lifted a hand to caress her cheek. “I really am sorry about....everything.”

Veronica covered his hand with hers. “I know.” She sniffed and frowned. “Did you put on coffee when we got back by any chance?”

His eyes widened and he pushed up on an elbow to look towards the pot. A sheepish smile curved his lips when he turned back to her. “Oops. Yeah I did. I guess I forgot about it. I think it’s pretty cooked by now. I’ll call down and order some if you want.”

Before she could answer her stomach rumbled and she smiled ruefully. “Maybe some dinner while you’re at it.”

“You got it.” He leaned down to kiss her gently before rising from the bed.

She watched him walk, naked, across the room to turn off the coffee maker and pick up the room service menu. Returning to the bed he handed it to her then crawled over her and sat up against the headboard. “See anything that interests you?” His lips twitched at the sidelong look she gave him. He hadn’t bothered to cover himself. “On the menu I mean.”

Veronica snorted and slapped the menu against his chest. “I’ll have the chicken and mushroom penne please.”

It was Jon’s turn to watch her as she slipped from the bed and headed for the bathroom. To his disappointment, she returned wearing one of the hotel’s fluffy robes. Having placed their order, he hung up the phone and followed her progress around the bed, picking up their clothes. The sight of her sweatshirt had him frowning. “Whose is that?” The words came out before he could think better of it.


“But who gave it to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s obviously a man’s shirt and I doubt that you bought it yourself.”

She smirked. “I could have.”

He grunted. “But you didn’t.”

“No I didn’t.”

He waited but she didn’t say any more. Even though the voice in his head told him to leave it alone, he couldn’t. “So who gave it to you?”

The near growl had her brows rising. “If I didn’t know better I’d say you were jealous.” Another grunt was her only answer, well, that and his unblinking stare. She snorted, but told him what he wanted to know. “It belonged to Lori’s brother. I was walking to their parents house one night and got caught in the rain. I was soaked to the skin. Tom loaned me his shirt.”

“So you stole it.” He wasn’t really surprised. If memory served he’d lost a few shirts the same way himself.

She shrugged, a grin tugging at the corners of her lips. “No, I just never gave it back. It’s really warm and comfortable.”

A knock at the door had Veronica scurrying into her own room and Jon scrambling for a pair of sweats. A few minutes later the door closed behind the waiter.

“Honey? Dinner’s here! He’s gone, you can come out now.” Amusement was clear in his voice.

“Laugh all you want, but I told you, I don’t want to be tabloid headlines.” Veronica reminded him as she entered and sat down at the table where he’d set out the food.

“Sweetheart, I hate to tell you this, but dinner is obviously for two, the connecting door is open and I’m half naked. He’s bound to figure it out.”

“But for all he knows, I’m fully dressed. He can speculate, but if he doesn’t see me he doesn’t know for sure.”

He chuckled, but wisely didn’t argue with her logic. Besides, she did have a point. “Yes dear. You’re right of course.”

“Oh shut up and eat.” She threw a napkin at him.

He caught it, blew her a kiss and laid it across his lap as he picked up his fork. While they ate they made small talk about travelling, movies...and of course music.

“I’m sorry Jon, but in my opinion the Rolling Stones haven’t put out anything good since Tattoo You.”

“That’s sacrilege! That’s like saying we haven’t put out anything good since New Jersey!”

“Well, now that you mention it....hey!” She ducked the roll that came flying at her head.


“Well, at least you got smart with this one and came to me for help.” She grinned at him.

His response was interrupted by the pinging of Veronica’s phone. She looked at the message and smiled.

“Who’s it from?”

“Richie. Checking on us.”

“Let me see it.” He held his hand out and she handed it over.

6:17: U doing okay? Need anything? A referee? Help getting away? R

Jon snorted and typed out a response.

6:20: Fuck U. She’s all mine today. Didn’t U get memo?

A few seconds later Richie replied.

6:21 Memo said U were off limits, not her

Jon grunted.

6:22 Well she is. Call tmrw

A second later, another ping.

6:23 Keeping her hostage bro? Guess it’s 1 way to stop her from running away.

The smirk on Jon’s face as he typed had Veronica rounding the table to read over his shoulder. Gasping, she reached for the phone. “Don’t you dare!”

Jon held the phone out of her reach and pushed send.

6:23 Only place she’s running is my bed...or maybe the chair....hmmm..or against the wall.

“JON!” She swatted his arm, but he just laughed. The phone pinged.

6:25 Do U want the scarves?

Seeing Richie’s reply, Veronica growled and forced Jon’s arm down until she could reach the phone.

6:16 STOP IT! BOTH OF U!!!! U R worse than horny teenagers! Is that what you think of me? Like some....groupie?

“Aw come on sugar, we’re only having a little fun.” Jon pulled her down onto his lap and kissed her neck. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”

“Embarrassed me? Don’t flatter yourself. It would take whole lot more than that to embarrass me.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Before she could answer the phone pinged again.

6:19: Sorry little girl. Will stop. Didn’t mean to offend. U know we love & respect u. Enjoy your night. LOL

She turned back to answer Jon. “He’ll tell the rest about this conversation and I don’t want to give them any ammunition to use against me. If they think that I’m truly angry about it, they’ll leave me alone.”

Jon chuckled. “Clever.”

She nodded. “Self preservation. I learned early on how to deal with them. They were easy. You were always the challenging one.”

He snorted. “You seemed to figure me out easily enough.”

She studied his eyes. “Not completely. You’re a complicated man Jon.”

He shook his head. “Not really.” One hand reached up to move a curl away from her temple. “You get me better than you think you do. You always have. It used to drive me nuts. You always seemed to know what I was thinking before I did.”

Used to drive you nuts?”

“Mmmmhmm. I’ve grown to appreciate it. Tends to make some things a lot easier. Saves explanations.”

Veronica just grunted. “So that’s your excuse for not talking.”

He kissed her neck again. “I’ll talk about whatever you want.”

“I’ll remember that.”

They spent the rest of the evening curled up on the couch watching movies. When Veronica started to nod off, she dragged herself from the couch, dropped the robe and crawled into the bed. Jon smiled and joined her, curling his body around hers.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Chapter 54

Arriving back at the hotel, for once Veronica didn’t worry about appearances and let Jon hold her hand all the way up to their rooms. She knew that he needed the contact, and if she was being honest, so did she.

When they reached their rooms and she pulled her hand from his and searched for her key, he frowned. “Nica...” He didn’t know how to voice what he wanted. He didn’t want to be around a lot of people, but he didn’t want to be alone either.

Veronica smiled gently. “Open the door. I’ll be in in a few minutes.”

He nodded, relieved and entered his own room. Inside, he kicked off his boots, shrugged out of his coat, dropped it in a chair and immediately went to unlock and open his side of the connecting door. Next he set the little coffee pot to brew to fight off the chill he felt down to his bones. The pain, guilt, sorrow, regret and self disgust swirling around in his head made it impossible for him to sit still, so he paced the room. He was standing at the window staring blindly at the snow covered trees, watching the traffic jostling for position on the slick street below when the snick of the lock heralded Veronica’s arrival. Jon turned his head to watch her enter his room. She’d changed into her sweats – and that damn man’s sweatshirt. This time I’ll find out who that belonged to! As she approached, he noticed that she held a small plastic bag in her hand, like he’d seen in upscale jewellery stores that held unset gems. He couldn’t make out what was in this one.

Veronica stopped beside him, her eyes searching his. He could see his own emotional turmoil echoed in the violet depths.

“Nica.” He whispered, lifting one hand to caress her cheek.

She looked down at the tiny bag in her hand, blew out a trembling breath and held it out to him. “Here.”

Inside were several strands of short, fine hair. His chest constricted and his breath caught as he realized what he was looking at...his son’s hair. She’d kept it as a memento and now she was giving it to him. But he couldn’t take that away from her when he’d already hurt her so much. “I can’t take that from you.”

One corner of her mouth lifted into a semblance of a smile at his consideration. “I kept some for myself, but I thought you deserve to have some too.”

The hand that rose to take the bag was shaking. He stared at the only link to their son that they had left for long moments, then closed his hand around it. Sorrow filled blue eyes raised to hers and he pulled her into his arms, one hand burying in her hair, his face in her neck. “Thank you.”

After a moment, Veronica’s arms slid around him and held him tight, both of them finally letting down the barriers and allowing themselves to share their grief over the loss of their child.

Gradually, Jon’s hug softened, becoming more cradling than restraining. She shivered when his mouth nuzzled her neck and made its way up to her ear. “Jon...”

“Don’t push me away Nica. Please! I need to feel. I” His mouth slid along her jaw to sip at her lips. “Please Nica!”

Telling herself that it was only fair, he’d comforted her in Vancouver when she needed it, Veronica surrendered. That she just might need the reminder that they were alive as much as he did was something she wasn’t prepared to even consider.

When her lips softened and parted under his Jon took full advantage, tilting his head more to make the kiss as deep as he could, tongue stroking hers. He felt her hands slip from his back and he was afraid that she’d changed her mind and was going to push him away, but relaxed as she slid them up his chest to twine her arms around his neck and bury one hand in his hair. Slow sweeps of his hands down her back urged her even closer.

The heat rose between them as their passion increased in leaps and bounds. It wasn’t long before they needed more. His arms tightened around her and he lifted her off the floor and walked to the bed, setting her down beside it. He set the little bag carefully on the bedside table and swept back the covers on the bed before turning back to her. Calloused fingertips gently traced her eyebrows, cheek bones and jawline. “So beautiful.”

“Johnny.” Her whisper was as quiet as his had been.

He touched his lips to hers to taste his name on her lips. “Nica.”

Silently, reverently, they undressed each other. When they were both naked Jon picked her up and laid her in the middle of the bed, stretching out beside her and reaching out to caress her.

Her eyes closed as his hand swept her torso setting her skin on fire. He spent long minutes on her breasts, stroking the soft flesh, cupping and weighing each plump mound. Two fingers rubbed where creamy pale skin met dark pink over and over, round and round until her nipples had hardened and lengthened. Leaning over, he licked and kissed and nibbled the stiff peaks.

“Johnny!” Veronica slid her hands into his hair and tugged him closer, her back arching.

Chuckling, he obliged, closing his lips around her sensitive flesh and suckling – gently at first, then harder. His hand coasted over her stomach, noting the contraction of the muscles at his touch, to cup the warm mound at the juncture of her thighs. Instantly her hips lifted towards him, asking for more. The two fingers that had teased her nipples now teased her most female flesh, stretching her gently, massaging the humid tissue. Her hips moved to the rhythm of his fingers, soft moans purring in her throat.

As much as he ached to bury himself deep inside her, he held off. He’d caused her so much pain he was determined to show her that he could bring her intense pleasure as well. Blue eyes lifted to survey her face as he continued to suck her nipples and stroke her intimately. His thumb came up to rub her swollen clit and he watched ecstasy consume her.

Barely letting her tremors subside, he released her nipple and slid his open mouth over her stomach, spread her thighs wide and settled between them. Gentle fingers held back her swollen folds, opening her to his gaze....and his mouth. His tongue became an erotic weapon and he wielded it with devastating results, using long strokes and quick flicks to drive her insane. Three times she came close to the edge, and three times he backed off and wouldn’t let her fly. Her fingers clenched in his hair and she growled low in her throat in frustration – and warning. Chuckling, he glanced up to meet her glowing amethyst gaze. “Now?” She nodded. He licked her bud delicately. “You sure?” She growled again and tugged on his hair. He chuckled again, then gave her what she wanted. His lips closed around her clit and he suckled in rhythm with his stroking tongue and sent her soaring. She screamed.

Veronica lay with her eyes closed, panting, still trembling and felt him slide up her body. He paused to kiss and nuzzle her breasts before moving up to kiss and nuzzle her neck. Flexing his hips, he slowly buried himself inside her. They both groaned. Jon held still for a long moment, savouring the feel of her hot, moist flesh pulsing around him, her hands stroking his back. Then he started to move, thrusting slowly and gently.

“Johnny.” Veronica moaned softly.

“Nica.” He answered, his tongue tracing her ear.

He wanted to be generous and considerate and all those things that a good lover should be, but that kind of control was beyond him at the moment. In fact, he was hanging on to what little he had left by the thinnest of threads. He thrust deeper and the bite of her nails raking his back snapped the thread. Groaning, he let go and lost himself in her scent surrounding him, her silky skin beneath him, and the taste of her on his lips and tongue. Over and over he penetrated her willing body, barely noticing each time she climaxed, intent only on his own need to feel alive and drown the grief in pleasure, if only for a little while.

Gradually, he became aware of her shaking uncontrollably, her arms splayed out to the side with no strength left to even hold him, her cries reduced to whimpers. Thrusting even deeper he drove her into yet another orgasm, this time going over the edge with her.

When he could move again, he slid from her body, reached down to pull up the blankets, then settled half on her again, his head on her breast, one arm curled around her. “Are you okay?”


“I know I was out of control. I’m sorry if I....hurt you.”

Her arms lifted, one to stroke his arm, the other to play with his hair. “It’s okay Jon. I’m fine. You didn’t hurt me.” Not by a long shot...although I think you almost killed me!

Exhausted, they dozed off.