Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chapter 74

They arrived at the hotel in Denver late morning. Richie stopped Veronica outside the door to her room and gave her a big bear hug.

“Thank you for....everything.”

“Anytime. And I mean that.” She pointed a warning finger at him. “Don’t bottle it up again! Talk to me!”

“Yes ma’am.” He saluted her.

She snorted. “Smartass. Go get settled. The vans leave in...” She checked her schedule and her watch. “An hour and a half.”

Richie saluted again, winked and disappeared into his room.

Veronica opened her own door, walked in, sat down on the end of the bed and sighed. It had been a long week. She felt emotionally worn out, and instinctively turned to the one thing that had brought her some small measure of peace, although she refused to acknowledge to herself either the source or the reason. Sighing, she rose and walked to the door connecting her room and the one beside it. When she opened her side she was only slightly surprised to find his door sitting wide open.

Jon was sitting on the couch, bent over the laptop open on the coffee table in front of him, but looked up as the door opened and Veronica walked in and sat close beside him. It was the first time she’d come that close to him voluntarily, outside what was necessary to do her job, and he was almost afraid to move and scare her away. They’d talked everyday while she’d been in L.A., about Richie of course, and work, but also about their regular daily events. He felt that he was finally making some progress and was worried about doing something to fuck it up. “Hi.”

Veronica slumped back against the couch and closed her eyes. “Hi.”

He frowned at her pale face and the dark circles under her eyes. For the hundredth time he swore at himself for dumping Dubai on her like that. And now this mess with Richie. Thankfully another couple months would take at least one off of her plate. Maybe then he could get her to relax a little. He eased back until he was shoulder to shoulder with her, reached out slowly and took her hand in his, lacing their fingers together. “Are you hungry?”

She shook her head. “No, we ate on the plane.”

“How is he today?”

“About the same as yesterday. A little quieter than usual, but otherwise okay.”

“I still can’t believe he did something that stupid! He knows better than to drive after drinking! We aren’t fucking teenagers anymore!” He blew out a frustrated sigh and raked his free hand through his hair. Concern was clearly visible in the blue eyes studying her. “How are you holding up? You look tired.”

Veronica smiled slightly. “We’ve stayed up late talking.” She gazed down at their joined hands and flexed hers, her smile widening a little when he squeezed back. “He’s......lost.....adrift. He’s hurting and doesn’t know where to turn except alcohol to ease the pain. I’m...afraid for him Jon. He needs help. Before something worse happens.”

Releasing her hand he slid both arms around her and hugged her close, pressing his lips to her temple. “We’ll get him whatever he needs. He’ll be alright. You’ll see.”

She leaned her head against him and sighed. “So much much pain.”

He wasn’t sure if she was still talking about Richie, or if she was referring to them as well. Figuring he was better safe than sorry, he didn’t say anything, just held her and rubbed her arm lightly.

After awhile, encouraged that she wasn’t pulling away, he lifted her face with a hand under her chin and brushed her lips with his. When she didn’t stop him, he settled in for a more thorough taste.

The feel of his tongue stroking hers brought Veronica to full awareness and set off her warning bells. Not a good idea Veronica, you’re too vulnerable right now! Senses tingling, she sat up and gestured towards his laptop. “I’m sorry. I interrupted you.”

Dammit! “That’s okay, I was just catching up on my e-mails and doing a little research for a Foundation project. You can interrupt me anytime.”

“Can I have that in writing?”

“Ha ha. Smartass.”

Veronica smiled, glanced at her watch and stood up. “Oh, the vans will be leaving in about forty-five minutes. I’d better get settled and let you get back to work.” She hesitated. “I think we should keep Richie out of the interviews for a few days. Let things settle down.”

Jon nodded. “And I think maybe you should sit in on them. Tiffany’s doing a good job, but if something comes up with all of this mess, I’d rather you were there to help deal with it.”

She agreed, in fact, had already planned on it. She was also surprised that he’d suggested it instead of just handling it himself. It made her feel....needed and appreciated. It had been a long time since he’d made her feel that way.

Back in her room, she was rummaging through her suitcase looking for her extra memory sticks when her hand came into contact with a medium sized box. She pulled it out to find a brightly wrapped package with a note taped to the top. If you won’t give him a chance you’re going to need this. But wouldn’t you rather have the real thing? Lori. The suspicions the note had swirling through her brain made her almost afraid to open it. She ripped off the paper, lifted the lid and almost groaned out loud at the sight of the vibrator.  A sound behind her had her quickly replacing the lid on the box and stuffing it back into her suitcase. She turned to find Jon in the doorway.

“I’ve called a band meeting in Richie’s room. I’ll come get you when we’re ready to go.”

She met his eyes, read the message there and nodded. “Okay.” They needed to deal with it before the show and without a lot of people around.

“That’s it? No advice on how to handle it? What to say or not say to him?”

Veronica shook her head. “The band would never have made it this far if you guys didn’t know how to deal with internal issues.” She frowned. “He needs to understand how serious this is – not just the DUI, but the drinking. I’ve tried to get the point across, but.....”

“But a little reinforcement won’t hurt?”

“Something like that.”

“Okay. I’ll do my best.” He gave her a quick hug, dropped a kiss on her lips and was gone before she could react.

Forty minutes later he was back. “Let’s go.”

She searched his face. “Everything okay?”

He shrugged. “I guess. It will be. I hope.”

Veronica acted instinctively, without thinking. She kissed him briefly. “Keep the faith Johnny.” Her lips twitched.

Jon stared at her, stunned, for a moment, then groaned. “That’s bad Nica. That’s really bad.”

“I didn’t write it. You did.”

“Let’s go smartass.” He swatted her rear end and urged her towards the door.

They met up with the others in the hallway. It was a silent ride to the venue. While the others headed inside, Veronica held Richie back with a hand on his arm.

“You okay?”

He sighed and managed a slight smile. “Yeah. They didn’t say anything I didn’t already know or wasn’t expecting. I didn’t especially enjoy hearing it, but I know that they’re right and they’re worried about me.” He hugged her. “Stop worrying little girl. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll be fine.” As they walked inside he glanced around. “I take it I’m excused from the interview room for awhile?”

“Just for a few days. Until things settle down a little and we see the reaction.”

He nodded and grimaced. “I’m sorry that I’ve made your job more difficult. You have enough on your plate with Jon and Dubai and everything, and here I go adding to it.”

“I’m more concerned about you than me. I can deal with the rest.” Well, most of it. As for Jon....I’m working on it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chapter 73

When Veronica got off the plane she found Brent waiting for her in baggage claim. “Hi, how bad is it?”

“Only a couple of the rags have it so far, but that’ll change by morning.”

They spent the drive to Laguna discussing potential problems and possible counter measures. When Brent stopped in front of a house, Veronica glanced around. “Is this his place?”

“According to our information, yes. One of them anyway. Do you want me to come in with you or wait for you or what?”

“No, I’ll be fine thanks. If he doesn’t have room to put me up I’ll find a hotel.”

He helped her get her bags to the door. She knocked and waited, not totally surprised when the door opened to reveal a well built blonde. She pulled a business card out of her purse. “Hi, my name is Veronica Watson. I’m with Mercury records, currently working with Bon Jovi. Is this the Sambora residence?”

“Umm...” The blonde hesitated and glanced between Veronica and the card in her hand.

“Who’s at the door?” Ava appeared. “Ronnie! Hi! It’s okay Valerie, she’s a friend of my dad’s.”

“Hi Ava. Are you okay?”

The big blue eyes filled with tears, but she nodded. “Yeah, but the police took Daddy away!”

Veronica stepped through the doorway to hug her. “I know sweetie.”

“Uh, me if you need any help with anything. I’ll let you know what we’re hearing.” Brent set her luggage inside.

“Thanks Brent. And thanks for the ride.”

He waved and was gone.

Ava slid her arm around Veronica’s waist and urged her into the living room and down onto the couch. Valerie closed the door and followed them.

“Ronnie this is Valerie. She’s a stylist in L.A. and a friend of Daddy’s.”

Veronica held out her hand. “Hi. Nice to meet you.”

Valerie shook it. “Hi. Nice to meet you too.”

“ were with them tonight?”


Veronica turned to Ava. “Where’s your friend?”

“We took her home.”

“Did you call your mother and let her know you were okay?”


“Okay. Tell me everything that happened.”

Valerie frowned. “I think we should wait for Richie.”

Veronica smiled slightly. “Oh I want to hear it from him too, but I need to know what you two remember as well.” At the unsure expression on Valerie’s face, she explained. “If I’m going to be able to help him I need to know everything.”

Ava started. “We went out for dinner.”

“Just the four of you?”


“And did Daddy drink?”

Ava hesitated, then nodded. “Yeah, but just a couple.”

Veronica took a deep breath. This was the tough one. “Was he drunk?”

Ava frowned and shrugged. Veronica looked at Valerie, who shrugged. “I couldn’t say for sure. He wasn’t slurring or stumbling around or anything.”

Something in her voice had Veronica studying her closely. “But you suspected.”

Again Valerie shrugged. “He was driving a bit erratically I guess, but I just thought it was the Hummer.”

Veronica tried not to sound accusing. “Can I ask why, if you suspected, you didn’t insist on driving?”

Valerie’s eyes widened. “He didn’t seem that bad to me. Besides, I didn’t want to piss him off.”

That statement pretty much told Veronica everything she needed to know. “Okay.” She glanced at her watch and eyed Ava. “Do you think you’ll be able to sleep?”

“I want to wait for Daddy.”

“Okay. Why don’t you get a pillow and blanket then and lay down on the couch?”

“You’re staying aren’t you?”

“Yes. I need to talk to Daddy.”

The three sat quietly watching T.V. for the next several hours, dozing off and on. The sound of the door opening had the adults sitting up – Ava was asleep.

Richie’s eyes widened when he saw Veronica. “Hi little girl. Come to assess the damage?”

“Hi Jughead. Something like that. How are you?” He looked like shit. His face was pale with dark circles under his eyes and his hair stuck up all over like he’d been running his hands through it repeatedly – which he had.

He shrugged. “I’ve been better.” He turned to Valerie. “Sorry about everything. Thanks for taking care of the girls. Do you want me to drive you home?”

Valerie knew a dismissal when she heard one, even if it was gently put. “No, that’s fine, I have my car. I just wanted to make sure you were alright.” She stood and kissed him briefly. “Take care of yourself Richie.”

“Thanks. You too.”

After she’d gone Richie stood staring down at his sleeping daughter. “I can’t believe I did that to her.”

“Tell me what happened Rich.”

He sighed heavily, then nodded and sat beside Ava, one large hand stroking her blonde hair.

They talked through what was left of the night.

As dawn painted the horizon Richie went into the kitchen to put on a third pot of coffee. Veronica glanced at her watched, quickly calculated the time difference and reached for her phone.

He picked it up on the second ring. “Morning sugar. How is he?”

“Hi. He’s trying to put up a good front, but....he’s pissed at himself, humiliated....and hurting.” She stood and wandered out the patio doors onto the deck. Speaking quietly, she gave him a rundown of what she’d learned of the nights events, from their dinner where Richie had a couple of drinks to his difficulty keeping the Hummer on the right side of the line. Then she went on to tell him about what had brought it on.

Jon could hear her voice break. “Hey honey, don’t cry. We’ll get him through this.”

“Oh Jon, you should have heard him talking about those last days and weeks with his dad! It breaks my heart to see him like this. I feel so helpless.” She fought against her tears. She didn’t want Richie to see them and feel worse.

He smiled gently. She really had a soft heart for the people she cared about. Now if only he could find a way to be included in that group again. “What he needs is exactly what you’re doing. We just need to be there for him and listen if he wants to talk. Did he mention what’s happening next?”

“He has to go to court in May. That’s all I know at this point. His lawyer says we have to wait until the blood test results come back.” She blew out a shaky breath. “Talk to me about something else, Jon. How was Easter with the kids?”

“Good. We had an Easter egg hunt in the back yard. It was supposed to be just for Jake and Romeo since Jesse thought he was too old for it, but I noticed him searching through the bushes....and I don’t believe he was looking for a lost ball.” He hesitated. “They asked me when you were coming to visit again.”

She debated her response, but some of the girls’ comments kept echoing in her head. “We’ll see.”

Jon sat up straighter in his chair and had to force himself not to push. “Okay. We can talk about it later. Are you going to stay out there until the Denver show or are you going back to Nashville?”

“I think I’ll stay. I have some stuff to do at the L.A. office anyway. If Richie doesn’t want me around I’ll check into a hotel.”

“Of course I want you around little girl.” Richie stepped through the patio door and handed her a cup of coffee. Is that Jon?” She nodded. He took a deep breath. “Can I talk to him?”

“Sure.” She handed him the phone and went back inside to give them privacy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chapter 72

“You’re nuts. You know that right?” Lori stared at her friend in disbelief. “Absolutely certifiable.”

“Why? Because I won’t just fall in with his plans?” Veronica took a sip of her drink. The girls had gathered for dinner at their favourite restaurant and were getting caught up on the latest in the Jon/Ronnie saga.

“No, because you’ve got what so few people get....a second chance with the love of your life...and you’re throwing it away.”

“He’s not the love of my life.” Veronica argued.

“Riiight.” Tricia snorted. “That’s why you’ve had sooo many boyfriends, trying to find Mr. Right.”

Veronica shrugged. “I just haven’t found him yet.”

“You haven’t been trying....because you know that you already found him...twenty years ago. You just ran into some horrible circumstances that tore you apart.” Naomi spoke up. “But now you have a second chance!”

“Not interested.”

“Yes you are, otherwise these little stunts he’s pulling wouldn’t bother you so much. You’d just tell him off and ignore him.” Lori disagreed. At Veronica’s mulish expression, she sighed. “What is it exactly that you have against him – aside from the past - that’s preventing you from giving him another chance?”

“Isn’t that enough?”

“Are you the same person that you were twenty years ago?” Tricia jumped in. Veronica grimaced. “Exactly. You’ve grown up and matured. So why do you think that he’s the same man – or rather boy – that he was then? That he hasn’t grown up too?”

“He’s still stubborn...”

“And you’re not?” Naomi interrupted.

“...and arrogant and bad tempered.”

“Uh huh...but that’s nothing new for you, you deal with it every day. And I’ve seen you in action, you can hold your own against his temper.” Lori tilted her head slightly. “What does he do when you call him on it?” There was no question that she would.

“He apologizes.” Veronica was forced to admit.

“There you go. He just needs keep him grounded.”

“Why are you all suddenly on his side? I thought you were my friends and you cared about me.” Veronica was feeling cornered.

“Oh honey, we do care about you. We love you! And we don’t want to see you miss out on the chance to be happy and loved. Why won’t you give him a chance?” Naomi urged.

“Have you forgotten that his mother hates me?”

Tricia waved that away. “Oh I have no doubts that you can hold your own with her. Besides, I’m sure Jon will deal with her.”

“And the kids? How am I supposed agree to be a part of his life when being around his kids knots me up so much I want to puke?”

“Okay, that’s one’s a tough one, I’ll grant you that,’ve only been around them, what, two or three days? That’s not enough time to decide anything. You said yourself that you got along well with the oldest two, it’s just the youngest one that really bothers you.” It was Lori’s turn again. “I think that you need to spend more time with them, and see how you feel.” She paused, then continued in a quieter tone. “You know, if you keep pushing him away he’s going to quit coming back and you’ll lose him for good. Do you really want to do that?”

Veronica was silent for a long minute. “I just don’t know if I can take the risk. He hurt me so badly....I don’t think I could survive that again.”

“So you’d rather take the safe, coward’s way out and be alone for the rest of your life? That’s not the Veronica I know. The Veronica I know would have the guts to open up her heart and mind to him again if there was even a chance of finding the kind of happiness most of us can only dream about, or read about in romance novels. The Veronica I know wouldn’t let fear and something that happened twenty years ago dictate her future.” Naomi pushed.

“All of my memories of him are wrapped up in pain.”

“So make new ones.” Tricia suggested. When Veronica just frowned, she sighed. “Look, we just want you to be happy, and from what you’ve told us, he made you very happy once and wants the opportunity to try again. All we’re saying is think about it and don’t dismiss him out of hand.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Lori finally broke it. “Mom asked me to check that you’re bringing dessert for Easter dinner tomorrow.”

Veronica smiled. “Yeah. I made cherry pie, some squares and a bunny cake.”

Three days later, Lori had gone to Veronica’s for dinner and stayed to watch a movie. It was almost over when her phone rang.


“Hi Veronica, it’s Brent. Sorry for calling so late.”

“No problem Brent. What’s new in L.A.? Does Vince want something else?”

“No, that’s not why I’m calling. I just heard something, and I thought you should know. Richie Sambora just got arrested for DUI in Laguna.”

“Oh shit! What happened?”

“Not sure. All I’ve been able to find out is that he was with some girlfriend, his daughter and another young girl.”

“Did he blow over?”

“He refused the breathalyser, insisted on a blood test instead.”

Veronica raised a hand to rub her temple while her mind spun with possibilities. “Okay. I’ll get out there as fast as I can.”

“Let me know when your plane will land and I’ll meet you with whatever scuttlebutt’s floating around.”

“Okay thanks. I’ll see you soon. And thanks for calling.” Hanging up, she closed her eyes for a moment, then picked up the phone again. “Jon, it’s me. Sorry for calling so late.”

“Hey sugar, no problem, I was catching up on my mail.” And wishing you were here. “What’s up?”

“I just got a call from a colleague in the L.A. office. Richie’s been arrested for DUI.”

“Awwww FUCK!” He raked a hand threw his hair. “What happened?”

She filled him in as much as she knew. “I’m heading out there now to check on him and do what I can for damage control.”

“Okay. Call me when you get there.”

Veronica hung up and turned to see Lori bent over her computer. “What are you doing?”

“Finding you the soonest flight to L.A. Go pack. I’ll drive you to the airport.”

“Yeah, thanks. I guess I might as well pack for the next leg since we start out there anyway.”

Veronica packed in record time and they were quickly on the road. On the way to the airport she explained to Lori what was going on.

“I thought he’d quit drinking.”

“So did I. We are coming up to the anniversary of his father’s death though, so that may have had something to do with it.”

“Poor Richie, I take it they were really close.” Lori looked at her.

Veronica nodded. “Yes. Adam was a wonderful man, and they were very close. He must be hurting pretty bad to have taken such a chance with Ava in the car.”

“So who’s this ‘girlfriend’ that was in the car?”

“I don’t know. As far as I know he hasn’t been seeing least not steady.”

Pulling up in front of the doors, Lori got out to help with Veronica’s suitcases. “When will we see you again?”

“Um three weeks or so. We play Nashville on the twenty-fourth.”

“Okay. If there’s anything that we can help you with, let us know.”

“I will. Thanks for the ride.” Veronica hurried into the airport and spent the flight thinking about what to say to Richie.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chapter 71

Veronica dropped her purse and laptop onto a couch and stomped back to throw open the door. Glancing around she found the band gathered near the elevators. “Jon, could I speak to you for a minute please?”

If the expression on her face – and her crossed arms - wasn’t warning enough of her mood, the icicles dripping from each word certainly were.

David eyed her warily. “Uh oh Bro, I think you’re in deep shit. Tico! Get the popcorn amigo, there’s going to be fireworks.”

Veronica gave him a withering look, turned her attention back to Jon and raised a brow.

“Now sugar, before you get all bent out of shape and gear up to take a strip off of me, let me explain.” Jon beseeched in a placating tone as he quickly approached her.

When his hands reached for her she slapped them away. “Don’t you ‘now sugar’ me John Francis Bongiovi! And I’ll get bent out of shape if I want! I tend to do that when my express wishes are blatantly ignored!”

“I didn’t!”

“Didn’t you?” She pointed towards her room. “So then you’re not expecting me to share that suite with you?”

“Well.....yeah, but...”

“Dammit Jon! I put up with the whole connecting door thing because it seemed to make you feel better and that makes life easier for all of us, but this is going too far!” At last she had an acceptable reason to blow up at him, something she could explain and let him see. Not that she wasn’t furious over his high handedness – but that was only part of the source of her anger. The other part – perhaps the biggest part – was self directed. Despite the pain of the past, despite her fear of opening her heart up to him again, she found herself wanting to give in. Time and proximity had brought up feelings and memories that she’d thought were long buried....that she needed to be buried. She didn’t want to feel the strong attraction between them. She didn’t want to feel the longing to be near him....with him....a part of his life take a chance and see if he could fulfil the promises he’d been making. But her defences against him were crumbling and it scared the hell out of her. She took refuge in anger. “I told you that I didn’t want anyone thinking we are a couple! Gossip follows this business around like a bad smell. I can’t do my job if people are focussed on you and I instead of the music! And then you do this! Without talking to me!”

“Honey, calm down and let me explain! This was the best solution for our needs. You wanted to be able to do the phoners from here with enough phones for me, Richie and you to listen in on. That was going to take two rooms – and one of them a suite. They didn’t have any with connecting doors, so this was the only way to make it work.”

“We could have used a reception room downstairs!”

“Not without worrying about having to go into the public areas of the hotel. Besides, this way we can be comfortable.”

“So I can show up in my underwear?” Richie perked up.

“Pants please! At least a robe. You in just your underwear is not a sight my poor innocent eyes can handle after only a few hours sleep.” Veronica grimaced.

“That’s a sight you never need to – or should – see.” Jon shot his well endowed wingman a warning look.

Richie just grinned.

Jon eyed Veronica. “So...are you okay about the room arrangements?”

She scowled at him. “Hmpf! Like I have a choice? The high and mighty Rock Star has issued his decree and this lowly peon has to obey.” Stalking over to the door, she swiped her key almost viciously, shoved open the door and disappeared, giving the door an extra push to close it.

“You can have your pick of the bedrooms.” He called after her, grinning. It was probably just as well he couldn’t hear her response.

“You are one fucked up individual bro.” Richie shook his head.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been trying to lure that woman back into your life for weeks and you pull a stunt guaranteed to piss her off? And when she blows up – justifiably I might add – you stand here grinning like a fool. That’s fucked up.”

“Yeah, what’s so funny? She’s seriously pissed.” David added.

Jon’s grinned widened even more. “Yeah, but throughout her whole tirade she never once asked for or demanded another room. I told you that she wasn’t as set against me as she tries to let on.”

The others exchanged speculative looks. He might just be right.

“But....why do something you know will upset her and take the chance?” David frowned. It didn’t make sense.

The grin turned into a leer. “Have you ever noticed how her cheeks get all flushed and her eyes sparkle when she’s mad?”

Richie’s brows rose. “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes if she ever finds out that you did it on purpose just to push her buttons. She’ll make you pay.”

Jon shrugged. “If she finds out. Besides, that only means that she cares. If she didn’t she’d just tell me off and ignore it.”

“Like I said....fucked up.”

Jon laughed. “Time to hit the hay. I’ll see you guys later.” He pointed a finger at Richie. “Don’t be late.”

“Are you kidding? And be in Ronnie’s bad books? No thanks. I’ll be early.”

“Not too early.”

“Uh huh.” Richie yawned. “Nite guys.” He glanced at Jon. “Watch your back, man.”

Jon just laughed and swiped his key through the lock, although when he turned the knob he opened the door slowly and peered carefully around the edge, checking for flying missiles, ignoring the snickers behind him.

Veronica was in the bedroom she’d chosen, her suitcase open on the bed when she heard him come in.

“Honey, I’m home!

Grabbing her bag of toiletries she headed for the bathroom, throwing a glowering look his way as she passed him.

Jon leaned against the bathroom doorframe and watched her wash her face.

She glared at him. “Go away Jon.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re angry?” He followed her back through the sitting room.

She snorted and walked into her bedroom.

“What? No goodnight kiss?”

“Fuck you Jon!” She slammed the door.

“Any time sweetheart, any time at all.” He called after her.

Veronica growled and stifled the urge to throttle him. Okay, Mr. Rock Star, you want to play that game, I can play too. She set aside her normal t-shirt that she used for a nightgown and rummaged through her suitcase until she found the silk and lace one buried on the bottom. She wasn’t really sure why she’d packed it, but she would put it to good use now.

When the phone rang with their wake up call several hours later Jon answered it, then laid there for a few minutes debating the morning’s agenda, before rising and proceeding to get it started. Noting that Veronica’s door was still closed, he decided to shower before he woke her.

Fifteen minutes later, a towel wrapped around his hips his only covering he knocked softly on her door and opened it. The sight that greeted him stopped the breath in his chest. She was lying on her back, her midnight hair spread over the pillow. Her skin glowed like pearls against the red lace covering her breasts revealed by the blankets that had dropped to her waist. Christ!

He sat gently on the edge of the mattress, reached out and smoothed back a curl from her forehead. Unable to help himself, he let his fingers trail over her shoulder and down her arm. “Nica? It’s time to get up.” He leaned over and touched his lips to hers. “Honey, wake up.”

Veronica sighed and stretched, watching through her lashes as his eyes followed the movement of her body. Her own took in every inch of his firm, muscular flesh. “Mmmm. Okay, I’m up.”

So am I! He cleared his throat and forced himself to look away from the curves of her breasts swelling above the edge of the lace. “Okay. Shower’s free. I’ll order some breakfast...or lunch or whatever. Do you want tea or coffee?”

“Coffee....and some orange juice please.”

“Got it.”

He had just picked up the phone to call room service when she emerged from her room. All thoughts of food – or anything else for that matter – went right out of his head. Fuck me! Please! Her nightgown ended mid thigh, revealing all eight feet or so of her supple, very flexible legs.

“Room Service, how can I help you? Hello? Hello?” The voice in his ear finally broke through his daze.

“Sorry, yeah, I need to order some coffee and some food.”

Richie knocked on the door of the suite a good ten minutes before the first interview was supposed to start. When Jon opened it, Richie grinned. “So she didn’t kill you then.”

Jon grunted. “Not yet.”

Richie’s brows rose at his friend’s disgruntled mutter. When he caught sight of Veronica in the chair by the desk he suspected he knew what Jon’s problem was. She was once again in those form fitting black jeans and that fuzzy sweater that he figured was probably red, that she’d worn to the football game and caused Jon to drool. Her legs were crossed and the swinging of her foot brought his attention to its bare state and the painted nails that were the same colour as her sweater. Poor bugger doesn’t stand a chance against her. No wonder she’s got him spinning. He shot Jon a sympathetic look. “Morning little girl.”

Veronica looked up from her notes. “Hi Jughead. Thank you for being on time.”

“Anything for you darlin’.” At Jon’s snort, he grinned. “What? I ain’t stupid. Gotta stay on her good side.”

“There’s a few other people I could name who I wish shared that attitude.” She commented, not looking up from the papers in front of her.

Jon just grunted. “Give me some incentive and I might consider it.”

She raised a brow, eyed him for a moment, but refused to take the bait. “You’ll have to excuse him Rich. Something he ate must not be agreeing with him. At least I’m assuming that’s what’s making him such a grumpy ass.”

More like the meal he didn’t get. Richie wisely kept his thoughts to himself. Neither one of his companions would appreciate them.

“Can we just get on with this please?” Jon grouched.

Veronica exchanged a wink and a grin with Richie and picked up the phone.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chapter 70

After sound check the next day Jon went looking for Veronica. He hadn’t seen her since they’d arrived at the arena, and he’d discovered that the more he was around her the more he wanted to spend his free time with her, even if it was to just sit quietly in the same room. He found her presence....soothing....comforting. Whether she was arguing with him or ignoring him or something in between, it didn’t matter, as long as she was nearby. He shook his head at himself. I’m like a teenager with his first crush! But that wasn’t the only reason why he wanted to find her. When they’d met in the hotel hallway – and throughout the trip to the arena - she didn’t, by word or look, refer to what had happened the night before. Of course she had her phone stuck to her ear as usual. And they think I’m bad! But if she wasn’t upset by him putting her to bed and undressing her, then maybe he could push it a little more.

He found her at her desk in the empty control room, in front of her laptop, the ever present phone to her ear. Although her voice was pleasant, her body language said something else. While he watched she alternated between pressing the heel of her free hand on her eye and rolling her head slowly on her shoulders – familiar signs of stress and tension for her. He walked up behind her, set his hands on her shoulders and massaged – gently at first, then harder when he felt how tight her muscles were.

Veronica leaned her head back against him and bit back a groan. God that feels good! He always knew just where her muscles were tight and how to dig and rub to loosen them. She knew she should pull away and not let him so close – especially after last night, but right now his hands felt too good to make him stop. Last night. She didn’t know whether to be mad at him or thank him. It implied an intimacy that she was trying to deny, but on the other hand he did it for her comfort.

Her boss’s voice in her ear brought her focus back to the present. “Yeah, that’s what I think too. Okay, I’ll reassess using those parameters. I’ll get that to you in the next couple days. Other than that, I’ll continue as planned. Right. Okay. Thanks Vince. Bye.”

Veronica’s head dropped forward as knowing fingers worked from her shoulders up her neck to the base of her skull. “Mmmm.. yeah...right there.”

Jon chuckled and pressed a little harder. “Too hard?” He got a low groan in response. “I’ll take that as a no.” Unable to help himself, he leaned down and brushed his lips across her nape and up the side her neck to nuzzle her ear. “Vince giving you a hard time?”

“No.” She had to stop and clear her throat. The velvety touch of his lips and the hot gust of his breath, combined with his nearness, sent a shiver down her spine and brought all of her senses to full attention. “He just.....” She swallowed heavily, her mouth suddenly going dry at the feel of his teeth scraping her lobe. “He just wants a few things added to my report. Jon, stop.”

“Why?” He licked and nibbled and sucked her ear and the skin beneath it. She’d always been super sensitive there. It had always been his go to spot – guaranteed to get her juices flowing. He could feel her body’s instant reaction to his ministrations and his own responded accordingly. “We both know how much you like it. Don’t deny yourself Nica. Feel it. Feel the blood burning in your veins, your skin tingling....your nipples hardening.” He glanced down her chest and grinned. “Feel all of it Nica. Let yourself enjoy it...and remember that I can give you more.”

“Johnny....” His name was a sigh on her lips. Voices in the hallway had her stiffening and shaking her scattered wits back in place. “Jon you have to stop.”

He could have cheerfully strangled whoever it was in the hallway. Damn it, I had her! His saner side acknowledged that it was just as well. The plan was to tempt her, tease her, and make her admit that she still had feelings – strong feelings - for him. The more he ramped up her frustration the better. Unfortunately that also meant ramping up his own. “Okay. I’ll stop. For now.” He kissed her neck again and stepped back. “Let’s go get some dinner.”

Veronica stared at him as if he’d lost his mind. Did he really think she would – or could – just calmly trot off and share a table and a meal with him? When she was about ready to jump out of her skin.....or throw him down on that table and have him finish what he started? Damn him! Why can’t he just forget about it and leave me alone? Why does he keep tormenting me with what I can’t have? Before she could voice her protest, the guys appeared in the doorway.

“There you are! Are we going to eat or what bro?” Richie asked.

“Yeah, let’s go.” Jon replied.

“You coming with us Ronnie?” David raised his brows in question.

She hesitated. “I have a lot of work to do.”

Jon smirked. “Scared?”

Veronica snorted. “Of you? Not in this lifetime.” Not physically anyway. Emotionally? Well, that’s another story.

“Then get your ass in gear little girl, and let’s get the van moving, I’m starving!”

“When aren’t you Jughead?” She retorted dryly.

“When he’s sleeping.” Tico answered.

Richie shrugged. “I’ve got an extra foot of body to feed than you do.”

Tico flipped him off.

Throughout dinner and the after party, and even most of the next day, Jon didn’t avoid Veronica, but he didn’t try to crowd her either. His aim was twofold. First, to not be predictable and throw her off balance again, and second, to give himself some cooling down room. When he’d come up with his great plan he hadn’t considered what the affect would be on himself.

For her part, Veronica didn’t know quite what to make of Jon’s behaviour. One minute he was trying to get into her pants, the next he was treating her like just another staff member. She suspected that his hot and cold routine was an attempt to mess with her head, but she was too busy and too tired to try and figure out what he was up to. Once she got through Dubai she would be able to deal with him. Or maybe if she kept ignoring it, he’d give up and leave her alone.

Hitting enter on her laptop, she pushed back from her desk in the control room – it felt like she lived there these days – glanced at her watch and decided that there was enough time before the show started to update Jon on what she’d arranged for the Dubai interviews and the American ones she’d rescheduled.

She knocked twice on his dressing room door. “Jon?”

“Come on in Ronnie.”

Veronica opened the door, stepped into the room and glanced around to find him standing bare chested in front of his wardrobe. The door shut behind her. She wasn’t even aware of her gaze licking over his sculpted, fur covered display.....but Jon was.

He smirked. “Did you need something or did you just come to visit?”

She cleared her throat and gathered her scattered thoughts. “Umm...I wanted to show you what I’ve done with your schedule. Where’s your phone?”

Jon looked around and frowned. He walked over to the table and started sifting through the items covering it. Lifting a towel, he revealed the phone, picked it up and handed it to her. Veronica opened it, clicked on the schedule and scrolled forward two days to Fargo. Jon stepped closer to read over her shoulder.

She swallowed heavily. That damn cologne is going to be the death of me! It’s not right for a man to smell that good! “So I moved a couple print interviews until DesMoines and put Dubai here, here and here. I’ve spoken to the DJs and they’ll be ready and waiting. We can call from your room or mine, whichever you want, we just need to tell Richie which one.”

He couldn’t resist. “Your room or mine? I like the sounds of that.” His voice was a deep growl in her ear.

“Jon....don’t.” She stepped away – or tried to.

He flicked the towel he was still holding around her neck and wrapped the ends around his hands. One hard tug pulled her off balance and she fell against him, her hands coming up reflexively to brace against his chest. “You’re so damn beautiful! Why do you keep trying to fight this Nica? Don’t you remember how good we are together? How well we fit together?” He brushed his lips over hers. “You used to always say that you loved the way I taste.” His tongue dipped inside. “The way my skin felt.” Another taste. “The way my hands and lips felt on your skin.” A firmer, longer kiss. “The way it felt when I was buried deep inside you and your hot...wet.....flesh held me so tight.”

Her fingers curled into the soft hair covering his chest. “Johnny.” Damn you! She was mesmerized by his voice and the memories his words evoked and couldn’t summon the strength to pull away. In fact, her legs were shaking so bad she was afraid she was going to collapse into a puddle at his feet.

The sighing of his name and the trembling of her body had him gathering her closer, pressing their bodies together from shoulder to knee. He captured her lips again in a kiss that very quickly became ravenous.

Veronica whimpered at the feel of his fur and hot flesh under her fingers and his hardening erection nudging the juncture of her thighs. She could feel herself being sucked under his spell and fought against it. “Jon....Jon stop.”

“Don’t want to.” When she turned her head to break the kiss he just changed his target to that spot on her neck. She moaned. Jon grinned. “And you don’t really want me to. I want you Nica. I want to make love to you. I want to go to sleep with you and wake up with you in the morning. I want to spend time with you. Let me in Nica. Let me show you that I can bring you pleasure.”

Don’t do it! Remember how much he hurt you! He hasn’t changed. Not really. Her head reminded her of the past. But the circumstances have changed. You’re not stupid kids anymore. You loved him more than life once and he made your world complete. What if you could have that again without the pain? Was her body’s counter argument. But don’t forget his kids....the constant reminder of what you lost and can never get back. Her heart came back with the biggest sticking point – and the one she could find no positive response to.

Veronica forced herself to push at his chest. “Jon. No. Stop.”

He ignored her.

She pushed harder. “Jon! Stop!”

Jon sighed and straightened. One hand lifted to caress her cheek while he studied her eyes. “Sweetheart, I know you’re scared and that you think it could never work between us, but I I know you’re wrong. What we feel is too strong to ignore.” He paused. “A lot was taken from you a long time ago. I can give it back to you, if you’ll let me. You can have it all again Nica. All you have to do is say yes.”

Veronica could only shake her head and blink back her tears.

The corners of his mouth curved into a slight smile and he kissed her gently. “Don’t be so stubborn. Just think about it. Don’t dismiss of hand. We can make it work if you’ll only give us a chance.” He stepped back and turned to the wardrobe. “Help me pick out a shirt?”

Lost in thought, Veronica walked over, pulled out her favourite and handed it to him.

Jon grinned. “Thanks.”

Veronica just nodded and left the room, her mind swirling with his words. How can he be so damn sure? An hour later she scolded herself about wanting to live in the past and forced herself to focus on the future. Luckily for her piece of mind Jon seemed to sense her determination to keep that wall between them and backed off.

Or she thought he had.

Until she entered her hotel room in Fargo.

Standing in the living room of the two bedroom suite, Veronica felt her temper rocket to the boiling point. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to know who the other bedroom was for. “I’m going to fucking kill him!”