Cleaned up and redressed, Jon and Veronica climbed into the waiting van to join the others already there.
Richie glanced at his watch. “You’re lucky. We were giving you five more minutes then leaving without you.”
Veronica frowned. “Thank you. I appreciate you waiting.”
“Why? We would have sent the van back for you.” David spoke up.
“It would have been too obvious if Jon and I had arrived alone and after everyone else.”
It was Jon’s turn to frown. “Does that still matter? It didn’t seem to bother you that Gretchen knew we’re together.”
“Gretchen’s my friend. She may tease me – and you apparently – but she would never say anything to the press or to any outsiders. And yes, it still matters. The tour isn’t over yet.”
Jon sighed. I guess her attitude hasn’t changed as much as I thought.
The after party was in full swing by the time they arrived. Guiding Jon around the crowded bar to ensure he talked to everyone he needed to, Veronica had to remind herself to keep a little distance between them. It was almost reflex for him to put his arm around her if she got too close......and she’d barely notice – until it was too late. Better to keep a foot or so between them.
There were a lot of people there that she knew. This was her town after all, and her friends. After the work was done she spent a lot of time visiting with people she hadn’t seen in weeks.
Every time Jon looked for her, he found her laughing, dancing and hugging people he didn’t know. He frowned. A couple times he saw her head bent close to someone and they appeared to be deep in serious conversation. His frown deepened. When he heard her shriek and spun around to see her being lifted high in the air, then enveloped in a bear hug by some broad backed Adonis, a growl rumbled in his throat and he started to stand up from the table.
Lori put a hand on his arm to restrain him. She, Naomi and Tricia hadn’t been able to get to the show in time to stop backstage and say hello beforehand,, but had come to the party at Jon’s invitation. “That’s my brother Tom. He’s like an older brother to her, nothing more.”
Ah....the owner of the sweatshirt. Jon grunted, sat down again and turned back to Lori. “By the way, I owe you a thank you.”
“You’re the one who bought Ronnie the....toy.... right?”
It took a moment for Lori to clue in. When she did, her face flamed. “Oh God....you didn’t....I mean....did you actually.....use it?” She was torn between embarrassment and curiosity.
“Not yet, but I plan to.”
“And Veronica agreed to that?” Her brows rose in surprise.
“She doesn’t know yet...but she will.”
The look in Jon’s eyes was enough to make Lori want to trade places with Veronica. She hoped her friend realized how lucky she was and took advantage of what she was being offered.
An hour or so later Veronica looked over to see that Tico, David, Gretchen and Big Kenny had joined Jon and Lori at the table. Gretchen was leaning towards Jon touching his arm and leg. Curious, she moved to see what was going on.
When she got closer enough words drifted to her to realize that they were talking about work out routines and muscle groups. Walking up behind Jon, she slid her hands over his shoulders and down onto his chest.
“Hands off there girlfriend, get your own, this one’s mine!”
Jon leaned back against her and tilted his head to study her face. “Reporters all gone?” He figured they must be for her to touch him like that in public. Veronica nodded.
“You’re in a good mood Ronnie.” David noted. “Are you drunk?”
Before she could answer, Jon did – after a quick look down at himself. “I’ve still got my clothes on, so I’d say no.”
There was silence around the table for several seconds, then Lori had to ask. “Excuse me?”
“When Ronnie gets drunk she tends to rip my clothes off.” He looked up at Veronica and dared her to deny it.
Veronica looked down at him, face heating, trying to decide whether to smack him or act like it was no big deal. She couldn’t deny it, she remembered too many nights when that did indeed happen. Finally, she shrugged. “That was a long time ago. I’m older now, more able to control myself.”
Jon offered his half full wine glass to her. “Want to put that to the test?”
Glaring at him, she took the glass, downed it, and handed the glass back to him. When she wrinkled her nose at him, he just grinned and refilled the glass from the bottle in front of him.
“Have you eaten nina?” Tico wanted to make sure things didn’t get out of hand too quickly.
“Si papa. Ino te molestes.(Don’t worry). I had a burger a little while ago.”
“Escuchar sus elderes (Listen to your elders) nina!” He pushed the plate of chicken wings sitting on the table closer to her. “If you’re going to drink, eat!”
“Si papa.” Veronica knew better than to argue with him. She reached for a wing.
“So, if it’s not the alcohol, what’s got you in such a good mood?” David brought the conversation back to his original point.
Veronica shrugged and grinned. “This is my town. These are my friends.” She paused. “And I got a preview of some of the reviews that will be printed tomorrow.”
“I take it they’re positive?”
“Good enough to get Vince off your back?” Lori asked.
Veronica snorted. “He’ll just say he didn’t expect anything else....then ask how Dubai’s going.”
Jon had gone on alert at Lori’s question, and now turned his gaze on Veronica. “Is there a problem?”
Veronica waved a dismissive hand. “Just work shit.”
It was obvious that she didn’t want to talk about it. Jon decided to let it go for now, but the discussion wasn’t finished.
Lori winced and threw Veronica an apologetic glance. She’d forgotten that Jon didn’t know about Vince’s badgering. “Veronica, you didn’t tell me that your man here was into kink.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well he thanked me for the....toy....I gave you and said he planned on using it.”
Veronica stared at Lori for a moment then snorted. “In his dreams! Besides, I threw it away.” Clenching one hand she tugged on his chest hair. “I can’t believe you said that!”
“Ow!” His hand came up to hold hers and keep her from pulling again. “Sugar, you know how good I am at making my dreams come true.” He grinned. “And you only threw the box away. I kept the goods.”
Veronica rolled her eyes and blushed as the others laughed.
A little while later, the room started to empty as people headed for their beds. Big Kenny stopped to shake Jon’s hand.
“Nice to see you man.” He hesitated, glancing across the room to where Veronica was talking to the girls. “Take good care of her. She’s a very special lady.”
Jon too looked at Veronica. “I know, and I will. Thanks for coming man. It was great to see you.”
Veronica came up beside Jon just after Kenny walked away, and laid her head on his shoulder.
He slid an arm around her waist and squeezed. “You ready to head out sugar?”
“Mmmhmm.” She nodded. “Has the van come back yet?” Richie, Tico, Dave and Hugh had gone back to the hotel earlier and promised to send the van back for them.
“Yeah. Come on, let’s go.”
They gathered up their belongings, waved to the few who were still around and headed out the door. In the van, Veronica leaned back and closed her eyes.
“Where to Mr. B?” The driver turned in his seat to ask.
After a moment’s silence Jon nudged Veronica. “Answer him sugar.”
“Huh? What?” Veronica blinked.
“He needs the address.”
She frowned, confused. “To the hotel?”
“No, to your apartment.”
All sleepiness disappeared as she realized what he wanted.....for her to take him home. To her home. For some reason the thought of that made her nervous. She didn’t know why. It was a reasonable request, considering their relationship.
When she didn’t answer right away and just stared at him, Jon realized that she wasn’t too sure about taking him to her apartment. Fuck that shit! I’ll make her accept that we’re together if it’s the last thing I do! Lips twisting into a somewhat sad smile, he reached out and caressed her cheek with his fingertips. “Nica, I....I’m not going anywhere, so you might as well let me in. Besides, it’s only fair. I took you to my home.”
She was sure he’d started to say something else, but she didn’t want to think about that either. But he was right. There was no reason to deny his request. Sighing, she nodded and gave the driver directions.