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 case...you’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.”
“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.