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!”
“NO! THAT MY SEAT!”
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.”
“So...you’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.