Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chapter 68

Veronica closed her laptop with a sigh and gazed out the window at the fluffy clouds that formed the surface beneath the plane. She was on her way to Pittsburgh to rejoin the tour. She almost couldn’t wait to get back to it. Almost. She was somewhere between the frying pan and the fire and wasn’t sure which was which, or which was worse. Jon and his not so subtle pressure or the girls and their more subtle, but just as stubborn pushing. If she had to listen to one more story about what a great humanitarian Jon was and what an incredible songwriter he – and Richie – were, and how gorgeous he was, etc, etc, etc, she was going to scream! Her friends meant well, but they didn’t understand how badly she’d been hurt and how long it had taken her to recover. Lori called her a coward, and maybe she was, but the risk was too great for her to even consider it.

As the plane taxied down the runway to stop and connect to the gangway, she took a deep breath and wondered what awaited her. She and Jon had argued over her travel plans. He wanted her to fly to Jersey and travel with him, she insisted that was silly and wanted to fly straight from Nashville to Pittsburg. She’d promised to be careful and he’d finally given in...but not gracefully. God only knew what he’d arranged to appease his concern over her safety.

Veronica cleared the gate, hitched her laptop bag higher on her shoulder and followed the signs to baggage claim. A familiar face near the carousel had her brows rising.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” She greeted Mike. “Please don’t tell me that he sent the head of security to pick me up.”

Mike grinned. “Okay, I won’t tell you. But if you’ll point out your suitcase, I’ll take you to the hotel.”

Grumbling about over protective, stubborn rock stars, Veronica pointed to her suitcase as it came around on the belt, then followed Mike out to the waiting car. It wasn’t a long ride to the hotel.

“Are they here yet?”

“Yeah. They’re at the hotel.” Mike glanced at his watch. “Vans leave in about an hour.”

Veronica nodded. There wasn’t a whole lot of interviews since they’d been in the area for a week already. “Okay.”

There were a few fans hanging around the entrance when they pulled up, but they hardly even glanced at them. The concierge greeted them, handed Veronica her key and a few messages and pointed out where the elevators were. “Mr. Bon Jovi asked that you let him know as soon as you arrived.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

In her room, Veronica set her suitcase and coat on the bed and the messages, laptop and purse on the table. She debated a moment, then opened the door connecting her room to the one next door and banged on the one on the other side. “I’m here. Safe and sound. Van leaves in an hour.”

She had just unzipped her suitcase when the door opened and Jon appeared. “Hi. How was your flight?” His eyes ate up the vision of her in black jeans and another of those fuzzy sweaters, this one a rich emerald green.

“Fine.” Glancing at him, she promptly forgot what she was going to say at the sight of him leaning against the doorframe, wearing tight dark wash jeans, and a pale blue button down shirt that was untucked and unbuttoned as if he had just pulled it on. His feet were bare. When her gaze finally retreated back up the length of his body to meet his, he crooked a brow and smirked knowingly at her. Damn! She cleared her throat and forced her mind back to the conversation. “Yours?”

“Fine. Did you bring any cookies by any chance?”

Veronica snorted, reached into her bag and pulled out a sealed plastic container which she tossed in his direction. “You’re a suck.”

He caught it and grinned. “Thanks! How was your week at home?”

“Good. The girls say hi. Yours?” She moved to the table to try and distract herself with the messages and checking the contents of her laptop bag.

“It was okay. The kids were disappointed that you weren’t there.” His eyes followed her. “So was I.” He admitted, his voice deepening to an intimate level.

She shrugged. “They’ll get over it.....and so will you. Don’t try to make me feel guilty Jon, it won’t work. We both know that it’s for the best.”

He wanted to argue, but the set of her jaw told him not to bother. Before he could try anyway, her Blackberry buzzed, startling them both. Seeing her smile, then frown as she read the text message, he moved closer to investigate.

Veronica didn’t hear him move, but wasn’t startled to feel his arms slide around her waist. She closed her eyes and fought to suppress a shiver when he nuzzled her neck and rested his chin on her shoulder, his breath a hot gust in her ear. Gathering her resolve she twisted her head and tried to glare at him. “What are you doing?”

“You always smell so good, and I love these fuzzy sweaters of yours...they’re so soft and cuddly, and warm.”

“If you’re cold do up your shirt and put on some socks.” She retorted.

“Naw. This feels better.” He shifted his shoulders slightly, rubbing his chest against her.

Veronica snorted and tried to pull away, but he held tight. “Relax, I’m only holding you.”

“Jon, you promised.”

“I promised to quit with the public displays of affection. This isn’t public. You’ve told me how you feel, and I understand, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do everything I can to try to change your mind. I have to. If I’ve learned anything in this crazy life, it’s that when feelings are this strong and this special, you don’t ignore them and you don’t push them aside. We weren’t prepared for it twenty years ago. We didn’t know how to handle it. Hell, we were too young to even know what we had. But we’re older and wiser now.” He paused. “We have the opportunity for a second chance Nica. Not many people get that. Please don’t throw it away. At least think about it.” Her stubborn expression made him want to shake her. Instead he sighed, kissed her neck and nodded towards her Berry. “Everything okay?”

It took her a moment to be sure her voice wouldn’t betray her. “Yeah. I just got confirmation for a phoner with one the main radio stations in Abu Dhabi. We’ll have to do it from the hotel instead of the arena though.”

“Oh? How come?”

“Because I want to listen in and we can’t do that with your cell.”

His lips twitched. “Don’t you trust me to answer the questions properly?”

“That and I want to hear the questions.” She chuckled when he growled and squeezed her. “Well, you asked.” Sobering, she frowned in thought. “Maybe Richie should join you.”

“Whatever you want sugar.”

She took the opportunity he’d handed her. “What I want is to have a professional relationship.”

“We do.” He was purposely misunderstanding her.

“A strictly professional relationship.”

“No you don’t. Not really.” Jon sighed. “Try to look past the pain Nica, and listen to your heart. I think you’ll find that you want the same thing that I do.” He squeezed her gently, kissed her neck again and released her. “Think about it sweetheart. Don’t you think we’ve hurt enough?”

Veronica silently watched him walk back into his room to finish getting ready, hardly noting that he left the door open. How can he be so sure? Am I sending him signals that I’m not aware of? Or is he just being the arrogant CEO he’s become and trying to order the world to his will? The ping of her Berry distracted her before she’d come up with an answer, and she forced herself to refocus on work.

She was still on the phone when Jon came through the door again, this time fully dressed and with his coat on. He glanced at his watch, picked up her coat and held it while she slid in one arm at a time, trading hands on the phone as she did it. Next, he held open her laptop bag while she shoved in whatever she needed with her free hand. Jon zipped up the bag, slung it over his shoulder and handed over her purse. He drew the line there.

They were almost to the door, when Veronica turned back to retrieve something from her suitcase. Jon waited at the door, holding it open.

“Where’s Ronnie?” David asked from the hallway, then exchanged a glance with Richie at the sight of Jon in her doorway.

Jon gestured into the room with his head. “She’s coming.”

“Did she bring any cookies?” Richie asked.

“She brought me some, but I don’t know if she brought any for you assholes.”

At that moment Veronica appeared, clutching her phone in one hand and another plastic container, this one much larger than the one she’d given Jon in the other. Giving Jon an admonishing look, she handed the container to Richie as she wrapped up her conversation. Richie kissed her cheek and immediately lifted the lid to reach for a treat.

Jon frowned. “Hey!” His bottom lip came out in a definite pout.

Veronica closed her phone and shook her head at him. “It’s bigger because there’s more of them. I brought two containers because I wanted to make sure they got some and you sometimes forget to share.”

“Na na.” David taunted digging in for his own cookie before passing the container to Tico.

“Children...and Ronnie....can we get going please?” Paul called from the elevator. He’d come up looking for them and was holding the door.

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