“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.
“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. “Oh...my...God.” 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.”
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?”
“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.”
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!]