Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chapter 103

Veronica was waiting for them when they came off the stage. The show had been everything she’d hoped for, the culmination of four months of hard work - and her adrenaline was off the charts. Her joy knew no bounds and she wanted to share it with everyone around her.

Michael met Jon as he came down the steps from the stage with a towel and a warning. “Brace yourself.”

“For what?” Jon wiped the sweat dripping from his face.

“Ronnie’s having a hug fest. If she’s nearly knocking the rest of us over, I can only imagine what she’s going to do to you.”

Only if I’m really lucky and I picked the right song! “Thanks for the warning.”

He barely made it out from under the stage when she flew at him, throwing her arms around his neck, gripping his hips with her thighs – the best she could do in a skirt – and dotting kisses all over his face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! That was fantastic!” Pressing her lips to his, she took possession of his mouth.

Jon grunted at the impact of their bodies, but immediately wrapped his arms beneath her butt to hold her up. He was sweaty and stinky, but if she wasn’t complaining, he wasn’t going to either. He was just happy to have her in his arms again. All he could do was kiss her back.

Suddenly, Veronica broke the kiss, lifted her head and narrowed her eyes at him in warning. “Don’t think this means that I’ve forgiven you, because I haven’t. I just don’t want to think about that tonight. I’ve worked very hard to make tonight a success and I just want to enjoy it. The rest will keep.”

“Whatever you say sugar.” At this point he’d take whatever he could get!

The after party had been going about an hour before they all had a chance to sit down together and relax for a few minutes. With Veronica’s high spirits and the fact that she wasn’t shooting Jon threatening looks, the guys decided it was safe to ask about the break.

“So how was your break?” Tico directed the question to Jon, but looked back and forth between them. “Anything exciting happen?”

Jon shook his head. “Naw, it was pretty tame.”

Veronica snorted. “Okay, sure, if you don’t count the boys’ death defying stunt, your mother’s oh so pleasant visit, which resulted in your daughter barely speaking to me....then yeah, I guess you could say it was tame. The only bright spot was Boots!”

“Boots? What kind of boots?” David asked.

Jon grimaced. “Boots is a cat.”

The near disgust in his tone earned him a light swat in the shoulder from Veronica. “Hey! Be nice to Boots!”

“Tell her to be nice to me! She treats me like a piece of furniture or a jungle gym! And I have the scratches to prove it!”

“She’s only a baby!” Seeing Rani waving at her, she excused herself.

At his friends urging, Jon filled them in on the events Veronica had mentioned. They all winced at Carol’s behaviour and agreed that Stephanie would come around.

“You have a cat? You?” David couldn’t believe it.

Jon sighed. “If you’d seen the looks on the kids faces – and Ronnie’s – at the sight of that poor little ball of fur, you wouldn’t sound so surprised. I just couldn’t say no.”

“Well, I think Ronnie’s right. You’d better be nice to Boots...cause at the rate you’re going, that may be the only pussy you’ll be getting close to for awhile.” Richie commented.

Jon flipped him off, and would have responded, but got distracted by the sight of Veronica following Rani’s movements as she taught her the steps of a traditional dance. It was a very fluid and graceful dance, which made it perfectly suited to Veronica. As he watched her, her midnight hair swinging from a high ponytail in deference to the heat, amethyst eyes sparkling as she laughed, he was struck again at how beautiful she was. He had to smarten up or he was going to lose her again...and he couldn’t let that happen.

About half an hour later, the party started to break up. Jon was talking to Sayed when he felt someone pushing something into his pocket. He didn’t need to look to know it was Veronica – the scent of lilacs teased his nose.

With a few words to Sayed, she bid them all good night, caught Jon’s eye and tilted her head to murmur in his ear. “Don’t be late.”

Confused, Jon watched her walk down the hallway, then pulled out the item she’d stuck in his pocket. It turned out to be a room key with a note attached. Suite 164, fifteen minutes. A slow grin spreading across his face, he checked his watch, then started making the rounds to say goodnight.

Exactly fifteen minutes after Veronica had left the party, Jon unlocked the door to Suite 164 and walked in. “Nica?” He glanced around the sitting room and whistled in appreciation. “Now this is more like it!” David was right – it was like a palace. The furniture was all gleaming wood and glass and plush cushions. That combined with the potted plants and artwork made the room a lush oasis in the heart of the desert. He’d bet if he checked, the bathroom fixtures would be marble. “Honey? Are you here?”

“Welcome master.”

Jon spun to see her standing in the doorway to the bedroom. His eyes just about bugged right out of his head, and his mouth went dry. She was wearing what he could only describe as a harem outfit. The flesh coloured pants were loose and transparent, the low waistband and ankle cuffs – and the area at the apex of her thighs - embroidered in bright colours – he couldn’t tell what the design was. When she turned it was clear that undergarments were not part of the ensemble. The top was of the same material, with embroidery on the cuffs and over just the tips of her breasts. The slightly tanned skin of her limbs and stomach lured his eyes to follow her barely concealed curves. A thicker red veil was wrapped around her ponytail and draped across her face leaving only her heavily kohled eyes visible. Master? Are we playing tonight then? He had to clear his throat twice before he could speak. Even then his voice was a husky near growl. “Are you my new slave then?”

“That will be for you to decide master....if my talents are acceptable to you or whether you want to sell me to someone else.” Veronica pitched her voice low and sultry.

Jon sat in a thick cushioned chair, made himself comfortable, and gestured to the open space in front of him. “Show me your...talents...then, so I can decide if you’re worthy of joining my household.”

Veronica lifted the remote in her hand and pushed a button and set it down. The room was instantly filled with music, a lilting, sensual melody. Moving to stand in front of him, she began to dance, her body swaying and turning to the beat. The material of her outfit floated around her body, the embroidered areas over her female parts teased and tempted him, almost revealing her, then covering her again. The result was more erotic and arousing than if she’d been naked.

His body hardened.

Next her hands and arms came into play, her movements graceful and flowing, flaunting herself before him. When her hands smoothed over her curves, his eyes followed and his pants shrunk another size. Her hips began to slowly swivel and gyrate in a rhythm he’d felt beneath him many times.

He shifted in his chair to ease the pressure on his now throbbing erection, but didn’t - couldn’t – take his eyes off of her. She was the most beautiful, most sensual woman he’d ever met.

The tempo of the music increased and so did her movements, faster and faster until she was spinning, her hips were a blur and he almost exploded in his pants. His hands clenched against the urge to reach out, drag her close and impale her in his lap. But he had other plans for the night.

The ‘sultan and harem slave’ scenario she’d set into motion would allow him to indulge his dominant, autocratic side – with her blessing - and she would have to obey. The thought sent all sorts of ideas through his head, which only made his current physical condition worse. It had been too long since they’d made love for his control to hold out for what he wanted to do to her. Unless.....

As the music reached its peak and ended, Veronica collapsed onto her knees on the floor and prostrated herself before him, her upper body bent over her curled legs, arms outstretched and waited for his response.

It took several breaths before he could be sure enough of his voice to give it. “Not bad. Get on the bed and we’ll see what else you can do.”

“Yes master.” She smirked under the veil at the strained growl. It sounded like her performance had had the desired effect and her body began to tingle in anticipation of what the result would be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chapter 102

Athe end of sound check, Jon stepped down from the stage and approached Veronica and the group she was talking to. At the touch of his hand on her back, she glanced at him, then introduced him to the reporters and DJs that she had been talking to. She stood back and watched him turn on the charm and work the group. As pissed as she was at him, she couldn’t deny that he was very good at this – when he chose to put in the effort.
After about half an hour the group broke up for prayers and dinner, making arrangements to meet up with Veronica again to watch the show. When she tried to walk away, Jon grabbed her arm.

“We need to talk.”

“Nothing to talk about Jon.” She tugged her arm. “I’ve got things to do.”

Jon just shifted his grip to her wrist. “After.”


“Let me put it this way. I’m not setting foot on that stage until we sort this out.” He headed towards the backstage area and the dressing rooms.

Since she wanted to go that way anyway, she didn’t fight him. Seeing Richie in the hallway she called out to him. “Jughead! T-shirts tonight please, no button downs.” He waved in acknowledgement.

Jon opened his dressing room door and pulled her inside. When he released her to turn and close the door, she moved to his wardrobe and started flipping through his shirts. He frowned at the ones she set out for him to wear. “I want to wear the black vest tonight.”

Veronica shook her head. “No. Only T-shirts tonight.”

He recalled her similar words to Richie. “Why?”

“Muslims frown on anyone – male or female – showing too much skin.”

That explained her long skirt and short sleeved top even in this crazy heat. “You’ve really done your homework.”

Anger stiffened her body and flared in violet eyes. “Of course! What the fuck do you think I’ve been doing for the last four months?”

“That’s not...Jesus Ronnie, calm down. That’s not what I meant! I just meant that you’ve done a great job.” He raked a hand through his hair. This wasn’t going to be easy, she was really prickly. He bent down to the cooler under the table. “Shit. Where’s my wine?”

“No wine.” At his look she explained. “Muslim country, no alcohol.”

Jon sighed. Just fucking lovely. Not only do I have to bare my soul, but I have to do it stone cold sober! He gestured to a chair. “Will you sit down please?”

Knowing she wasn’t going to get out of the room until he’d said whatever he’d dragged her in there to say, she complied.

Jon paced a bit then sat in the other chair. He hated these types of conversations, in fact he avoided them as much as was humanly possible, but he knew it was the only way to reach her. “Honey, I’m sorry I didn’t come with you. I promised you I’d do whatever you needed me to do, but I didn’t and I’m sorry.”

Veronica studied his eyes for a moment and waited for him to say more. He didn’t. “Fine. I’ve got things to do. I’ll see you later.” She started to stand up.

Jon frowned and caught her hands in his. “Why doesn’t that feel like forgiveness?”

“Because it isn’t.” Her patience snapped. “You think that you can just apologize and all your sins get washed away and all is forgiven? Well, guess what. It doesn’t work that way. Not with me. Not this time.”

“I know you’re pissed...”

Her eyebrows flew into her hairline. “Pissed? You think I’m just pissed?” She shook her head sadly. “I knew you didn’t really get it! Jesus Jon!” Shaking off his hands, she stood and paced. “The head of promotions is pissed because you broke your promise. The woman is beyond pissed at your callous disregard of her feelings!” She pinned him with a glare. “Dammit Jon, you knew how much this meant to my career! But more than that....” She had to pause to swallow down the lump in her throat and blink back tears. “This was the one place in the world that neither one of us had ever been to. A stark, beautiful land with exotic people. A new experience we were supposed to share for the first time.....together! But being the big businessman was more important to you. You gave me this big speech about how you recognize the mistakes you made in the past and how you were tired of missing out on things with the people you care about. You told me you’d changed. But you haven’t. Not one bit. You’re still the same egotistical, selfish, inconsiderate prick you’ve always been.” She dragged in a ragged breath.

Jon listened to her tirade and felt sick. He couldn’t argue with anything she said. She was right. I really am the world’s biggest asshole! “Fuck! Nica...sugar...I’m sorry!” She snorted. He grimaced. “I know. I know it won’t wash everything away, or make up for what I’ve done, I just don’t know what else to say! You’re right. I have been a selfish, inconsiderate prick. I should have been with you. I realized that about an hour into the meeting, but it was too late. The idea of this being new territory for both of us never occurred to me.” He paused. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“I shouldn’t have had to! If you’d kept your promise, you would have been here!”

“You’re right, and I promise to do better. Next time hit me if I’m not listening.”

“Next time?” Her voice showed her disbelief. “You actually think there’s going to be a next time?”

He stared at her, heart sinking. “You have to give me another chance! Nica, please! I promise it won’t happen again!”

“Give you another chance to hurt me? Why should I?”

“Because....because I love you!”

Veronica stared at him for a long moment, then shook her head. “No you don’t.”

“I do!” He insisted.

“No you don’t. You may think you do, but you don’t. Most people want to spend time with the people they love and limit the time they’re away from them as much as they possibly can, not the other way around.” She frowned. “In fact, looking at your history, I’m not convinced that you even know what love is.” She shook her head. “I can’t risk my heart on someone like that.”

When she turned towards the door, he was desperate. Reaching out, he pulled her into his arms and held tight while she tried to pull away. “You’re wrong. Nica, listen to me! I do love you! You’re beautiful and bright and funny and caring and you get me like no one else ever has. I miss you when you’re not around. I can’t wait to see you every day. I want to go to sleep with you in my arms and wake up the same way. My life is cold and lonely when you’re not in it! When you smile at soul...sings.” He hugged her even closer and buried his face in her neck. “If that’s not love, then you’re right....I don’t know what love is.”

Veronica fought to hold firm against him, but the damn man knew how to get to her. Tears ran down her cheeks. “Then why do you keep doing things to hurt me?”

“Because I’m stupid. But I’m going to try harder. I don’t want to hurt you Nica, I want to cherish you!” He lifted his head to meet her gaze. One thumb wiped at her tears. “Can you see a way to forgive me and give me another chance? Please?”

Part of her wanted to just let go and let him sweep all the pain and doubt away, but she couldn’t take it if he let her down again. “I....I don’t know Jon...I just don’t know if I can. I need to think.”

Jon knew he couldn’t push her any further right now and let her go. For long minutes after the door closed behind her he sat and racked his brain for something he could do to show her he meant what he said. A thought came to him and he went to find the guys.

Veronica went back to the hotel to pull herself together. She couldn’t figure out what it was about this one man that brought out her masochistic tendencies and made her want to ignore all her instincts for self-preservation. What made her want to believe him...believe in him so badly that she was willing to overlook everything he’d done and risk her heart again? She didn’t know and didn’t have time to think about it just now. This was the most important night of her career, and she needed to focus.

The show was incredible that night. Jon and the guys were on fire and the crowd appreciated every second of it. Veronica couldn’t have asked for more. As she wandered the crowd she was filled with pride – both in herself and in the band. The stadium was packed, the reporters and DJs that she’d spent so much time and effort to win over were having a great time and it looked like the reviews were going to be all that she could hope for.

If she could sort out what she should do about Jon, her world would be complete. She had avoided him before the show, and he hadn’t pressed the issue. But she knew that wouldn’t last for long. He wasn’t the patient type.

The intro to the next song pulled her from her thoughts. It wasn’t a Jovi song and she stopped to listen.

Now I know I messed up bad
You were the best I ever had
I let you down in the worst way
It hurts me every single day
I'm dying to let you know

Now I'm here to say I'm sorry
And ask for a second chance
Cause when it all comes down to the end
I could sure use a friend

So many things I would take back
You were the best I ever had
I don't blame you for hating me
I didn't mean to make you leave

You and I were living like a love song
I feel so bad, I feel so bad that you're gone
Now I know you're the only one that I want
I want you back, I want you

Now I'm here to say I'm sorry
And ask for a second chance
Cause when it all comes down to the end
I could sure use a friend
Now I'm here to say I'm sorry
And ask for a second chance
All I want to do is make it up to you
Cause when it all comes down to the end
You were the best I ever had

We fell in love for a reason
Now you're leaving
And I just want you back
So many things we believed in
Now you're leaving and words won't bring you back
I'll never let go of the heart I broke

You and I were living like a love song
Now I know you're the only one that I want
I want you back, I want you

Now I'm here to say I'm sorry
And ask for a second chance
All I want to do is make it up to you
Cause when it all comes down to the end
I could sure use a friend
Now I'm here to say I'm sorry
And ask for a second chance
All I want to do is make it up to you
Cause when it all comes down to the end
You were the best I ever had

I can't believe that I threw away all our dreams
I can't believe now that you're gone how much you mean to me
I feel so bad, I feel so bad
You were the best I ever had
I can't believe that I threw away all our dreams
I can't believe now that you're gone how much you mean to me
I feel so bad, I feel so bad
You were,
You were the best I ever had *

More like third chance! Veronica wasn’t aware that she’d moved, but suddenly she was standing at the barricade, her eyes locked with Jon’s. There was no doubt that he’d chosen the song as a message to her. The glistening of his sapphire eyes told her the depth of his emotions, and brought an answering wetness to hers. The damn man was lethal! But she wasn’t ready to let him off the hook completely just yet.

(* The Best I Ever Had by State of Shock)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chapter 101

Jon sighed as the jet touched down and taxied to a stop. Lord, he was tired! He’d tried to sleep on the flight, but didn’t have much luck. That was unusual for him. But then again, he hadn’t slept well for the last few days. You know what the problem is asshole! He raked a hand through his hair and started to gather his gear.

Sitting in the car on the way to the hotel, the cityscape outside his window went largely ignored as he tried to figure a way out of the hole he’d dug himself with Veronica. It was amazing how quiet a house full of kids could be when the other adult in it wasn’t speaking to you. In fact, it seemed that the only female in the house that really wanted to be near him was the kitten. She followed him around the house waiting for him to stop moving so that she could climb on, like he was her personal piece of furniture! And he didn’t particularly even like cats!

He knew he’d fucked up. If he hadn’t clued in with her ‘now I know your priorities’ comment, he did about an hour into the meeting – they were getting nowhere and it was a complete waste of his time. It hit him that he was missing out on exploring Abu Dhabi with Veronica – exactly the type of thing he promised her he wouldn’t do. He made a mistake. He admitted it. Now he just had to convince her that he was sorry and would work harder on not letting it happen again.

Jon looked at the phone in his hand and debated calling Veronica. But he didn’t know if she was still pissed at him – or rather how pissed she still was – and it was late. She was probably asleep and waking her wouldn’t help his cause.

Jet lag pressing down on him, he barely noticed the hotel lobby and the hallways the bell boy led him down. He gave the room only a fleeting glance, just enough to know where the bed and bathroom were...and that there wasn’t a connecting door. Stripping off his clothes he crawled between the sheets to stare at the ceiling and try to find a solution to his problem. He fell asleep before he found one.

The next day Jon awoke to bright sunlight streaming through the windows and filling the room. Sighing and stretching, he took a closer look around the room and was a little surprised at what he saw. It was a nice enough room, but not quite what he’d been led to believe he should expect in the way of luxury.

Spying his phone, he picked it up and checked for messages. Nothing from Veronica, just a note on his schedule advising him what time his driver would pick him up to take him to the stadium. He debated calling her, even going so far as to find her number in his list, but, thumb hovering over it, he realized that he really needed to talk to her face to face. Tossing the phone down, he rubbed his hand over his face and headed for the shower.

He almost got lost finding the lobby and the main door where what looked like an over sized golf cart was waiting for him, along with Makal, the driver, and Sayed, his guide and translator.

“Greetings Mr. Bon Jovi.” Sayed bowed. “If you would take a seat, we’ll take you to the stadium. The rest of your party is already there.”

“Thanks.” Jon climbed in and, with a slight jerk, the vehicle moved down the driveway.

At the stadium he was escorted to the stage where he found the rest of the guys preparing for sound check. Looking out into the stands he saw Veronica and a group of what he assumed were reporters or DJs or something sitting in the floor section talking. As he watched, she glanced up, met his gaze, then turned back to the group without so much as a nod or a smile.

Yup, still pissed. He sighed and glanced around at the guys. “Hey.”

“Hey.” They responded. They all looked towards him, but none of them even cracked a smile of welcome.

“Everything go okay yesterday?”

“Yep.” Richie didn’t elaborate.

“The hotel’s not bad. Not as luxurious as I was expecting though.” Jon tried again to make conversation.

They all stared at him like he’d lost his mind. “You’re joking right?” David finally spoke up. “That place is like a palace! My room is almost as big as the entire main floor of my house! And that marble in the bathroom is gorgeous!”

Jon frowned. “My room isn’t like that.” He glanced at Sayed who turned to Makal.

After a brief discussion in Arabic, Sayed turned back to Jon. “I’m so sorry Mr. Bon Jovi, there seems to have been a mix up. You were given a room in the servants quarters by mistake.”

There was silence for about thirty seconds, then it started. First choked off snickers from the roadies that were working on the stage, then chuckles which quickly turned into outright laughter from his bandmates.

“A mistake, huh?” He looked out into the stadium again. “I’m not so sure.”

“You don’t really think she did it, do you?” Hugh had followed his gaze. “She wouldn’t do that....would she?”

“She would.” Jon assured him and stepped up to the mic. “Veronica! Could I speak to you for a minute please?”

That just set the rest of them off again.

Veronica excused herself from the group she was talking to and climbed up onto the stage. She knew he wasn’t happy. He never used her full name. Well too bad, she wasn’t exactly thrilled with him either. As she approached, Richie, David and Tico all raised their arms and bowed to her, chanting “We’re not worthy”.

She raised her brows at them, but spoke to Jon. “Thanks for making time in your busy schedule for us.”

The guys winced. Jon didn’t so much as blink, although his lips pressed into a thin line. “Did you have anything to do with my room assignment?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I deal with promotions, not accommodations. If your room isn’t up to your standards, I suggest you take it up with them. Although, with the amount of time you’ll be spending in it, I don’t see what it matters.”

“Hey Ronnie, can we go dune bashing again?” David asked. “I want another shot at beating the Cubano.”

“Sorry, we don’t have time.”

“Are you sure? You can ride with me this time.” Tico coaxed. “Gotta prove to Lema it was superior skill and not luck that left him in my dust.”

“Bite me asshole!” David flipped him off. “My clutch kept sticking.”

“Uh stick to that story curly man.”

“Hey little girl, did you get the recipe for those grilled vegetables...and what did they spice that meat with?” Richie asked.

Veronica nodded. “Yes. I’ll e-mail it to you. You’ll probably have better luck finding the spices in L.A. than I will in Nashville.”

“I’ll send you some.”

“Oh nina...can you send me the pictures you took of the sunset last night?”

“Sure papa. Feeling a painting coming on?”

“Yeah, plus Alejandra doesn’t believe me about the colours.”

“Alright, alright, I get it.” Jon interrupted. He didn’t want to hear anymore about what he’d missed. “Can we get some work done please?”

Veronica looked him in the eye. “Do you Jon? Do you really?”

“Yes, sugar, I do, and I’m sorry.”

“Wish I could believe that....or that it would make a difference.”

Jon watched her walk away. “Fuck!”

“What do you expect man? You’ve got to stop making promises you can’t – or won’t – keep.” Richie commented. “She believes you, gets her hopes up and then gets hurts when you revert to form and let her down.”

Jon swore again. “I’m fucked aren’t I?”

“Yep, and not in the good way.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chapter 100

 “What do you mean you’re not coming to Abu Dhabi with the rest of us?” Veronica stared at Jon. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

"I’ve got an AFL owners meeting.”
“So skip it.”

“I can’t. It’s about the future of the league.”

“Dammit Jon! You know how important this is to me!”

“I know, and you’ll have the rest of the guys to help you with whatever you need until I get there.”

She wanted to strangle him. “It’s your name on the band Jon, and as much as I don’t want to inflate your ego any more than it already is, and no disrespect to the guys, it’s you they want to see! You’re the frontman. You’re the main spokesperson!”

“You guys will take a commercial flight and I’ll bring the jet as soon as my meeting is finished. I’ll only be a few hours behind you. You can get some shopping in.”

Her hands clenched against the urge to throw something – or slap him. “Well I guess I know where your priorities are now.” She closed her laptop. “Guess I’ve been working my ass off for nothing.”

“Aw, come on sugar.” He reached out a placating hand.

“Don’t ‘come on sugar’ me...and don’t touch me!” She slapped away his hand. “You’re an asshole Jon!”

Stephanie had to step out of the way as Veronica stormed from the room. “Way to go Dad. She’s really at you.”

“She’ll get over it.” The look her gave her told her he hadn’t missed her almost slip of bad language.

“Maybe, but before or after she leaves for Dubai?”

The answer was after.

They were somewhere over the middle of the ocean when her anger turned to thoughts of payback.

Richie, who was sitting beside her, gave her a sympathetic look. “He’s an asshole.”

“I know. But he’ll get what’s coming to him. I’m going to need you guys to pick up the slack though until he gets there.”

“Whatever you need little girl.”

They landed in the morning and found a huge limo waiting for them, and Abdul, Veronica’s main contact, who was going to be their tour guide. While they waited for their luggage and Veronica went over the schedule with Abdul, the guys talked amongst themselves.

“So is she really pissed at him?” David asked Richie.

“Yeah, but she’s into payback mode now. She’s got something up her sleeve, but I don’t know what it is.”

“This ought to be good.”

During the drive to the hotel, Abdul pointed out spots of interest, including the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, and a huge market – he called it a souk - and offered to take them after they’d gotten settled in.

The hotel was a melding of modern and old world, the lobby all marble and glass, the rooms done in desert and jewel tones. It was beautiful and easily the most luxurious hotel any of them had ever been in.

After the guys had checked out their rooms they returned to the lobby to find Veronica talking to a member of the hotel staff and Abdul’s wife, Rani, who had joined them.

Veronica gestured to her outfit. “Is this okay? Will I offend anyone?”

Rani shook her head as she took in the long skirt and short sleeves. “It’s perfect for a western woman. Cool, but not too much skin showing.”

Abdul gathered them all together and they set out. First up was a short visit to the biggest radio station in the city where the guys did an impromptu on air interview. Next was the Women’s Handicraft Centre where Veronica got a design hennaed on her hands and they all picked up some jewellery for the women back home. Veronica found some great stuff for the girls and a beautiful necklace for Stephanie.

The souk was a shopper’s heaven and unlike anything Veronica had ever seen. It would take hours to see everything, so they just did a quick once over. Richie was eager to go rug hunting.

“Oh guys...don’t forget to haggle.” Veronica reminded them. At their looks she smiled. “It’s expected.”

Still sceptical. They looked to Abdul for confirmation. He nodded. “It’s true. Come, I will show you the best place for carpets.”

Rani turned to Veronica. “Is there anything special you would like to look for?”

“Actually there is.”

When she explained what she had in mind, Rani’s dark eyes sparkled and Veronica was sure she was grinning behind her veil. “Aah, a little surprise for your husband!”

Rather than correct her or explain their relationship, Veronica just went along with it. “Only if he apologizes very nicely to me.”

The women laughed together and Rani took Veronica to a small shop nearby where she could find what she was looking for.

Rejoining the men, they continued through the souk. Veronica bought wooden carvings for the boys, some frankincense for herself and an intricately carved necklace for Jon – if she ever decided to speak to him again. Rani insisted they try some chocolate made from camel’s milk and flavoured with almonds and honey. It was extremely creamy and surprisingly good. Veronica bought some of that too.

They’d skipped lunch, instead snacking on various foods they found in the souk. By mid afternoon they’d finished shopping and were discussing dinner options. Abdul interrupted them.

“I have made arrangements for you all to drive the dunes and have a barbeque in a desert camp.”

“Oh, I read about that!” Tico grinned. “Dune bashing!”

They loaded into the car again and drove to where the ‘dune buggies’ waited for them. Abdul assured them that their purchases would be delivered to their hotel and introduced them to Akbar who would be their guide to the camp.

Veronica stood back while the guys checked out the ‘buggies’ and asked Akbar questions. Rani stood beside her and chuckled. “East or West, men are like little boys around cars.”

“Come on Ronnie, you can ride with me.” David offered.

“Uh, no offence Joker, but I’d like to get there and back alive. I’ll ride with Akbar thanks.” She knew better than to ask to drive herself. But that was okay, she’d rather ride and look around anyway.

David pouted, the rest laughed and they all piled in. The drive turned out to be a race and Veronica was even more glad that she was only a passenger....although she had to hold on very tightly. When they arrived at the camp they were all laughing and exhilarated from the wild ride.

“That was great!” Richie was rubbing his hands together. “I gotta get me one of these!”

Veronica watched the dinner preparations, always game to try new flavours. They ate as the sun started to set over the sand. Bright yellows, dark oranges and reds sending fingers of shadows over the dunes. It was stark, and...lonely....and...beautiful. Sensing a presence beside her she glanced up into understanding brown eyes.

“You doing okay?”

“It’s been a wonderful day. I could spend hours in that souk! And thanks for your help at the radio station.”

“No problem. And it has been a great day. So why do you look sad?” He nudged her. “Want me to punch him?”

Veronica smiled. “Honestly? Yes.” She looked around the camp, then out at the desert again and sighed. “He’s missing it Rich. He told me he’d learned from his mistakes and wanted to change. He told me he was tired of missing out on things with the people he cared about....and then he does this. He hasn’t changed at all.” She had to blink back tears. “I wanted to share this with him.”

Richie sighed, put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her. “I’m sorry little girl.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chapter 99

“Dad says you’re leaving.” Stephanie stood in the doorway to Veronica’s bedroom and watched her pack.

“I think that’s for the best.”

After a couple minutes of silence, Stephanie spoke again. “I think you should stay.”

Veronica paused, the shirt she’d just finished folding in her hands and turned her head to study the teenager. “Steph, I know you’re upset and I don’t want to make it any worse.”

Slender shoulders shrugged. “I’ll be okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Dad and the boys would be upset if you left.”

It wasn’t an apology or forgiveness, but Veronica had a feeling it was as close as she was going to get right now. She wondered if she’d ever get it. “Ok.” Alone again, she sat on the end of the bed. A sound near the door had her looking up.

“Hey. Everything okay?” Jon had heard his daughter’s last comment, but wasn’t sure what it meant.

“Yeah.” She stood up and joined him in the doorway. “Let’s get some breakfast.”

Half an hour later, while the kids were gathering shoes, jackets and backpacks, Jon approached Veronica and kissed her gently, one hand lifting to smooth her hair away from her face. “I gotta take the kids to school. Are you going to be here when I get back?”


“Good. It’s where you belong.” He turned away before she could react.

Veronica shook her head at him. She didn’t know what she’d say if he’d let her. Once again he was five steps ahead of where her head was at.

Late the next afternoon they were in office. Stephanie was talking to a friend on the phone, and the boys were outside playing. Veronica was going over her notes from the interview Jon had just finished when they heard the boys yelling.


“I knew it! One of them’s fallen in!” She ran out of the room.

She met them at the back door. Jesse had his arm hugged into his chest. “Where are you hurt?”

“I’m not. But this little guy might be.” He shifted his arm to expose a small black kitten, shaking, shivering and soaking wet.

When she bent closer, the little face lifted towards her revealing white cheeks. The tiny mouth opened to emit a weak mew. “Oh, you poor thing. Where did the boys find you?”

“He was at the edge of the river, trying to climb out, but he kept falling back in.” Jesse explained.

“Ronnie, you help him? Make him okay?” Romeo pleaded.

“I’ll try.” She glanced up to see Stephanie and Jon had come to see what was going on. “Steph would you get a towel please?”

“I’ll warm some milk.” Molly offered.

When Steph returned with the towel, Veronica wrapped the kitten in it and carefully rubbed to dry the fur, trying to check for injuries. A tiny pink tongue came out to lick her hands whenever it could reach. As warmth returned to the small cat it started to move around. When Molly set down the dish of milk, she set the kitten down and watched as it eagerly rushed over and began to lap delicately. “Doesn’t seem to be hurt. Just cold and hungry.”

“Can we keep him?” Jake turned pleading blue eyes to Veronica.

“I don’t know buddy. You know your dad’s not big on cats, and it might bother his allergies. Besides, it might belong to someone already.” Although that young and by the river...she had an idea what had happened and it was too horrible to think about let alone tell the kids.

“Please Daddy?”

“Pease?” Romeo added his voice to his brother’s.

Veronica hid her grin at Jon’s expression. He didn’t really want the animal, but he didn’t want to disappoint his kids either. Finished eating and worn out, the kitten walked over to where she was sitting on the floor and climbed into her lap. She stroked the still damp fur with one hand.

“I don’t know boys. You’ll have to ask Molly what she thinks, she’ll be the one looking after it most of the time.”

“Please Molly?”

“If it’s okay with your Dad, it’s okay with me.” Molly threw the ball back in Jon’s court.

Four heads turned back to Jon. Stephanie was sitting at the island, busily writing on a piece of paper.

Jon sighed. “We’ll have to see how my allergies react, but if it doesn’t bother me too much, you can keep him.”

“Yay!” Jake and Romeo ran to hug their father.

Stephane handed him the piece of paper she’d been writing on. “Here.”

“What’s that?”

“A list of everything we need for the kitten.” She knew her dad was a pushover when it came to things like this. Anytime they’d wanted pets, they’d gotten them. Fish, turtles, dogs....their last one, Copper, had died just before they’d moved to New York. It was her mother that always argued against it, knowing that she’d have to do the majority of the caretaking, but her dad always managed to talk her around. Plus, she’d seen the look on Ronnie’s face when she’d seen the kitten. Her dad would put up with watering eyes and a stuffy nose if it meant Ronnie was happy.

Jon sighed again. “Come on, you can come to the pet store with me.”

“What are you going to name him?” Molly asked.

“Blacky.” Was Romeo’s choice.

“No, Fred.” Jake argued.

“How about Sylvester?” Jesse suggested. He’d been watching old cartoons.

Veronica could see where he’d get that. The kitten was black with white cheeks and all four paws, but... “I hate to break it to you but she’s a girl.”

“Are you sure?”

She checked the hind end again. “Yep.”
“ what are we going to call her then?” Jake asked.

Veronica thought for a moment. “How about Boots?”

“Like Puss n Boots! Okay, dat good.” Romeo agreed and bent down to stroke the small head. “Hi Boots.”

When Jon and Stephanie got back with the supplies, Veronica conferred with Molly on the best place for the litter box and the food dishes. “I hope she was with her mother long enough to be litter trained.”

“So do I.” Molly’s agreement was heartfelt. Veronica chuckled.

They showed Boots where everything was and were relieved when she immediately showed that she did indeed know what a litter box was for, and she was satisfied with dry food. Veronica wasn’t sure how old the kitten was, but was guessing two or three months. Looking over the array of toys, she crooked a brow at Jon.

He shrugged. “She’s got to have something to play with.”

Veronica reached up to kiss him. “You’re just a big softy.”

“Sssh. Don’t tell anyone, you’ll ruin my image.”

Stephanie snorted. “Yeah, ‘cause it’s such a big secret Dad.”

The evening was spent coming up with new games to play with Boots. It really was no wonder the poor thing slept all day.

A few days later, Stephanie entered the office in search of Veronica. “You know how you said that Dad’s not big on cats?”

Veronica looked up from her laptop. “Yeah?”

“Come look.”

Veronica followed her into the den to find Jon had fallen asleep on the couch, his hand curled protectively around the ball of fur on his chest. Hearing them, Boots lifted her head to look at them. She blinked twice, the tiny mouth opening in a wide yawn, then settled back to sleep.

To the kids’ delight, and Jon’s – and Veronica’s – relief, Boots didn’t seem to aggravate Jon’s allergies. Still, while he’d watched the kids play with her, he’d never shown any interest or signs of affection – or so they’d thought. Veronica couldn’t fault Boots for her choice of resting place. She knew just how comfortable that chest was to sleep on.

“Looks like we’ve got a new member of the family.” Stephanie commented.

“Uh huh.” Veronica hesitated. “And how do you feel about that?”

They both knew it wasn’t just the cat they were talking about.

Stephanie didn’t take her eyes off the sleeping kitten. “There’s always room for one more in this family.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chapter 98

“What makes you think that?” Veronica tried to stay calm although her heart was pounding.

“I heard Grandma say something to Dad about the first child he gave you.” Stephanie turned to her father. “I was in the hallway outside your office. The door was open and Grandma wasn’t exactly talking quietly.” She looked at Veronica again. “Was she talking about your baby?”

Veronica sighed, sat down on the couch and exchanged a look with Jon, who sat beside her and took her hand. “Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Accusation dripped from each word.

“Because it happened long before you were born. You were never going to meet him, so I didn’t see what good could come from telling you.” Veronica answered truthfully.

“You didn’t think we had the right to know that we had an older brother?” This she directed at her father.

“We’ve been talking about it, trying to find the right time.” Jon began.

“Don’t blame your father.” Veronica jumped in. “He wanted to tell you awhile ago. I asked him to wait.”

“You lied to me! You told me that you weren’t with Dad back then.”

“I didn’t lie to you. I had been taken off the Jovi file and moved to something else at the time the baby died. We weren’t together. Your Dad was back with your mother.”

“Does Mom know?”

“Yes.” Jon answered.

“Has she always known?”


“So it was just your ‘other’ kids you were keeping it from.”

“Steph, that’s not what we were doing.”

“Was your whole life with whole life a lie? Were you in love with Ronnie the whole time?”

“No!” He squeezed Veronica’s hand. This could get very tricky for him.

“Was that why you didn’t fight harder to stay with Mom? Because you wanted to find Ronnie again? The one you wanted to have kids with first?” Her eyes filled and her voice started to quiver.

“No! Stephanie listen to me!” Jon admonished her. “I loved your mother! A part of me always will. We just want different things out of life. It has nothing to do with Ronnie.”

“But what would have happened if Ronnie’s baby hadn’t died? Would you have married her instead of Mom?”

“Steph I already explained to you why your Dad and I broke up. There were a lot of reasons. If the baby had lived I don’t think it would have made any difference.” Veronica answered. “I’m sorry you’re upset. I never meant to hurt you.”

“What else are you not telling us about? That you don’t think we need to know?” The tears over flowed and ran down her cheeks.

“Nothing! Sweetie, I swear there’s nothing else.” Jon stood and tried to hug her, but she pulled away.

“How can I believe anything you tell me ever again?!” She started to sob. “You probably don’t even love us!”

“Of course I love you! Stephanie!” He was talking to the air, Stephanie had run out of the room. “Fuck!”

Veronica blew out a breath and stood up. “You’d better call Dot and let her know what’s happened. And I guess we’d better tell Jesse.”

“Yeah. Are you okay?”

“Just fucking ducky. Just because your daughter hates me now, why shouldn’t I be? Once again your mother fucks up my life!”

“She’ll get over it when she calms down. She’s just in shock.” He wrapped his arms around her. “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.”

“Uh huh.” She didn’t sound convinced as she pulled away.

“Where are you going?”

“Kitchen. I need to check on dinner.”

He watched her go, her distress obvious. She was on the verge of tears. “Fuck!” Swiping up the phone he dialled his ex-wife.

Dinner was quieter than usual that night. Stephanie didn’t eat much...neither did Veronica. Jon tried to keep a conversation going with the boys, but he kept getting distracted watching the girls push the food around on their plates. Jesse didn’t seem to be bothered. They’d sat him down and explained everything to him, but all they got was “oh...okay”. And it didn’t appear to be affecting his appetite...he was on his third helping of mashed potatoes. Jake and Romeo could sense the tension in the air, and kept looking between the adults and their sister....but kept eating.

After dinner was finished and the kitchen cleaned up, Veronica took a deep breath and walked into the den, only to see Stephanie get up and leave. She looked at Jon. “I think maybe it would be best if I work out of the office in the city for the rest of the week. I’ll get a hotel room.”

“No! She’ll come around.”

“Maybe. But right now I’m not her favourite person. I don’t want to upset her any more than she already is.” She glanced around the room. “I’ve got some work to do. I’ll be in your office.”

Jon raked his hand through his hair in frustration, then stood and stalked upstairs to have a talk with his daughter. Pausing in front of her door, he knocked, and at her call, entered the room. “Steph we need to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. You had a baby with another woman and didn’t think we deserved to know about it.”

“What are you really angry about? The baby or that we didn’t tell you about it until now?” When she just shrugged he let some of his anger show. “Okay, then let’s talk about your attitude.”

“I have the right to my feelings!”

“Yes you do, but while you’re getting all huffy and giving Ronnie the ice treatment over something that happened long before you were born, why don’t you look at it from her point of view for a minute. Her baby died, Steph. That’s a pain I hope you never have to experience. It’s still very hard for her to talk about. Then she comes here and has to look at you four – all reminders of what she lost and can never have. Oh, did we mention that she can’t have kids now because of what happened? So, she comes here and sees you guys, and despite the pain it causes her, she tries to fit in and opens her heart to you. She understood that you might be uncomfortable with the idea of another woman in my life, and did everything she could to make it easier for you. And this is what she gets in return? What happened to my caring, considerate daughter?”

“But she lied!”

“She didn’t lie...she just didn’t tell you the whole story. She was trying to be considerate of your feelings as well as her own.” He sighed. “I understand that you’re angry and upset, but if you’re going to be mad because we didn’t tell you sooner, you should be mad at all of us, including your mother and I. We all agreed to wait until we felt the time was right and you were ready to hear it. I’m sorry you found out the way you did. That wasn’t the way we wanted to do it. I’m not asking you to ignore your feelings...but don’t ignore Ronnie’s either. Just think about it Steph. But don’t wait too long. She’s planning on leaving in the morning so that she doesn’t upset you any more than you already are.”

He left her to think about what he’d said and went to find the other distraught woman in his house. He found her in the office staring out the window. Walking up behind her, he wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder. “How are you doing?”

Veronica sighed and leaned back against him. “I don’t think this is going to work Jon.”

The defeat in her voice alarmed him. “What won’t work?”

“Us. You and I. There’s too much against us.”

He spun her around and gripped her shoulders. “No! I won’t let you give up on us! We’ve come too far!”

“But look around. Your mother hates me, your daughter used to like me, but now hates me, I still find it hard to be around Romeo.....there’s just too much pain.” Her voice cracked.

Jon pulled her into his arms again. “Oh honey. Don’t worry about Mom, she’ll either change her mind or we won’t see her. Stephanie will come around, she just needs some time to calm down and think things through. As for’re making a wonderful effort to work through your difficulty there.” He squeezed her. “Everything’s going to work out just fine. You’ll see.”

She blew out a heavy sigh. “I wish I had your faith.”

“That’s okay, I have enough for both of us.” It will work out. It has to!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chapter 97

Veronica sighed in satisfaction and shut down her laptop. It was Sunday afternoon, everything was on track for Dubai, her reports were up to date, she could take the rest of the day off. A glance at her watch told her she would be just in time to watch the Soul’s game on T.V., even before Jake came running in.

“Ronnie, it’s game time!”

“Okay buddy, I’m coming.”

They joined the rest of the family in the den. Steph and Jesse had brought in drinks and snacks for everyone and they were all getting comfortable. Veronica hesitated, then sat on the couch next to Jon. He smiled at her, settled his arm around her shoulders and hugged her close to his side.

After her conversation with Stephanie the day before, Veronica had decided to put it to the test and curled up with Jon while they all watched T.V. together. She’d watched the kids carefully, but didn’t see any signs of discomfort or disapproval....or really any reaction at all. Jon had smiled a little smugly, but was smart enough not to say anything.

The game was in its last minute when the buzz of the gate opening sounded. Veronica raised a brow at Jon. “Are you expecting someone?”

“No.” He shook his head and frowned. There were a limited number of people who had the code and he had a bad feeling about who it was.

“I’ll go see!” Jake took off for the door before anyone could stop him. Jon’s fears were confirmed a few minutes later when their visitors were announced by Jake’s loud yell. “It’s Grandma and Grandpa!”

Veronica stiffened. Jon hugged her and kissed her temple. “It’ll be okay.”

“That’s what they thought when the Titanic hit the iceberg.” Was her dry reply. She pasted on as much of a smile as she could muster when the senior Bongiovi’s appeared in the door way.

“Where’s the rest of my grandchildren?” Carol swept into the room and stopped dead at the sight of Veronica. “What are you doing here?”

“Carol.” John Sr.’s voice held clear warning. “Hi Ronnie, nice to see you.”

“She was invited Mom, can you say the same?” Jon’s voice dripped icicles.

Carol snorted. “I don’t need an invitation to visit my son and my grandchildren.”

“When you can’t be polite to his guests you do.”

Veronica stood, not wanting to create a scene in front of the kids. “Hi John, nice to see you too. Excuse me, I’m going to go start dinner.”

Jon put out a hand to stop her, but she shot a glance towards the kids and shook her head. He bit back a growl. “I’ve got phone calls to make.”

Carol followed him into his office. “Jon, what can you be thinking exposing the children to that...woman?”

“Why not? Especially when you consider that if it wasn’t for you...and my selfishness and stupidity she would have been their mother!”

“Well, Dorothea was a much better choice!”

“Dorothea is a wonderful mother.” Jon agreed. “That’s not the point.”

“Considering what happened to the first child you gave her, I’d think you’d want to keep the others away from her.”

“Get. Out. Now!” Jon didn’t say anymore. He was afraid that if he started he wouldn’t be able to stop.

Neither one heard the gasp in the hallway. Stephanie had followed her dad and grandmother to find out what was going on. She stood frozen for a moment, then snuck back down the hallway to find a quiet place to think about what she just heard.

Veronica was seasoning the roast when Carol came barrelling into the kitchen.

“What have you been telling him? Don’t think I’m going to let you get away with trying to turn my son against me!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Believe it or not Jon and I don’t talk about you.”

“If you think that you can just come waltzing along and worm your way back into his life, you need to think again. I won’t allow it!”

Veronica sighed. “Look Carol, I know you don’t like me. I get it. And that’s fine. I don’t care for you much either. But whatever happens between Jon and I is just that...between Jon and I. We’re adults. We don’t need your permission or approval. The only other opinion that matters is those four kids. And since they seem to be just fine with Jon and I being together, I’m not going to lose any sleep over you.”

“Why you little....”

“Carol! That’s enough! Go say goodbye to the children. We’re leaving.” John Sr. spoke from the doorway. He sent Veronica an apologetic look as Carol huffed and left. “I’m sorry Ronnie.”

“It’s okay John, it’s not your fault. I don’t know what she has against me, but I accept that she’s never liked me and never will. I don’t let it bother me.” Much.

John hesitated. “She sees you as a threat to her relationship with Jon. You’re much more in tune with his life – all aspects of it - than Dorothea was, so he doesn’t need Carol to fill in the holes.”

Her brows rose. “So Jon was right.” At his inquiring look, she explained. “He said pretty much the same thing."

“Yeah, well, as I said, I’m sorry. She has no excuse for being that cruel.”

“No, she doesn’t.” Jon agreed as he entered the room, passing his father to take Veronica in his arms. “Are you okay?”

“Yes Jon, I’m fine.”

“Dad, you’re welcome here any time, but I don’t want Mom here unless she can be civil to Ronnie.”

“Jon, she’s your mother.” Veronica protested.

“Uh huh, and she should respect who I choose to share my life with, my feelings, and my wishes. And until she’s ready to do so, she’s not welcome in my home....or my life.”

John Sr. nodded. “I understand...and I’ll make sure that she does too.”

When he’d gone, Veronica turned to Jon. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Yes I did. She needs to learn that there’s only so much I’ll put up with, even from her. I won’t have anyone being rude and cruel to you!”

Eyes glistening with the emotion his words stirred in her, she kissed him. “Thank you.”

“Dad, Ronnie, we’re going outside.” Jesse walked in followed by Jake and Romeo. He looked at Veronica. “We’ll stay away from the river, I promise.”

“Thank you. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”

Jon and Veronica walked into the den to find Stephanie standing watching her brothers through the window, her body stiff.

“Hey Steph, anything good on T.V?” Jon asked.

Stephanie shrugged and didn’t answer.

“Steph? Something wrong?” Ronnie ventured.

Stephanie turned and looked from one to the other several times, then focused on Veronica. “Was your baby my brother?”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chapter 96

The next day, the boys were going a little stir crazy, from being cooped up in the house.

“Can we go outside and play?” Jake pleaded.

“Yes...please do.” His father replied, relief evident in his voice. They were driving him nuts!

“It’s rained a lot lately and the river’s really full, so please don’t go too close, and be careful.” Veronica cautioned.

“We will.” Romeo promised.

“I’ll keep an eye on them.” Jesse assured her and followed his brothers towards the door.

“Thanks Jess.” Satisfied, Veronica stood. “Well, I’ve got some sales stats to analyze. I’ll be in the office if anyone needs me.”

When she’d gone, it left Jon and Stephanie sitting in the den. Stephanie stood up to leave, until her father stopped her.

“Steph, can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Sure Daddy.” She sat back down again. “What’s up?”

“What’s going on with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought you liked Ronnie.”

“I do.”

“Then what’s with the...lack of enthusiasm you’ve shown her since she got here? I thought you were okay with us getting together.”

Stephanie curled one leg underneath her and tried to find the words to describe her feelings. “But are you? Together I mean. I don’t see any sign of it. This is the first time she’s been here in months, you don’t sleep together, you don’t kiss or hug or touch. You don’t even sit together on the couch when we watch a movie. Even after all the years you and Mom were together, you still did that.”

“We do, it’s just after you guys are in bed. We’re trying to be considerate of you and your brothers’ feelings. Ronnie doesn’t want to push herself on you guys.” Jon explained as much of her comments as he felt comfortable with. He sure as hell wasn’t going to talk about their ‘sleeping together’ with his daughter! “Steph, what’s really bothering you about this?”

Stephanie played with the hem of one leg of her jeans. “I just....she’s nice and everything, but.....I get the feeling that she’s not very comfortable with us...especially Romeo. She just sits there and watches him a lot.”

Jon debated his response and desperately wished Veronica was there with him. Now would be the perfect time to tell the truth. “She hasn’t been around kids a lot. But she’s trying. That’s part of the reason why she’s here now. As for Romeo, well, you know about her baby that died. Romeo reminds her of him and that’s why she sometimes acts a little strange around him.”

“Oh. I wondered if the baby had something to do with it.”

“Does that answer all of your concerns?”

“Yep. I just didn’t want you to get hurt....or us not to get to spend time with you because she doesn’t like us.”

Jon locked his eyes with hers. “You know I would never let that happen, right? I love you guys and would never let someone come between us like that.”

Stephanie searched his eyes for a moment, then, satisfied that he was telling the truth, nodded. “Yeah, I know. We love you too.”

“Besides, I know she likes you.”

“You do? How can you tell?”

“She makes those cookies for you. She only does that for people she cares about.”

Down the hall in Jon’s office, Veronica was staring at her computer screen, but not seeing it. Despite the .....tension relief....she and Jon had indulged in the day before, she still wasn’t completely at ease. From a work perspective, things were going great. Jon had been very co-operative about interviews and being with him meant that she didn’t have to try to get through on the phone or e-mail...she just wandered the house and tracked him down!

The kids, on the other hand, were a challenge for her. Steph and Jesse weren’t too bad, although she had a feeling that something was bothering Steph. Jake she was finally starting to get more comfortable with. He had the most amazing sense of humour and perceptions of the world for a six year old. She was always looking forward to what he would say next. But she was still having a very hard time with Romeo. He was so much like she imagined Drew would have been. She just couldn’t relax around him...and she couldn’t stop watching him.

A shriek pulled her from her thoughts and she glanced out the window. And froze, her eyes widening. “Oh my God! JON!” Jumping up, she ran from the room. “JON!” She found him and Stephanie in the den. “Jon! You’ve got to stop them before someone gets hurt!”

Jon watched her rush out of the room towards the back door, and turned to look out the window to see what she was so excited about. “Oh shit!”

Veronica exited the back door at a run, slowing when she neared the tree that overhung the swiftly flowing river, afraid to startle them. She came to a stop beside Jesse. “What are you guys doing? Jake, Romeo, please come down from there before you fall!”

“We’re racing our boats.” Jesse explained, lifting his remote control.

Following his gesture she noticed three plastic boats bobbing near the bank. “And why are Jake and Romeo up in the tree? Please come down boys.” Jake was out midway on the branch that draped out the furthest out over the river. Romeo was even further out.

“We’re not using the remotes except to bring them back to the shore. We’re just dropping them in and letting them go. Then we figured out that they go faster the further out you drop them. We wanted to see how fast we could get them going.”

“But the branch could have broken!” She couldn’t prevent her voice from rising.

“That’s why Romeo went out the furthest – he’s the lightest.”

Jon had arrived in time to hear the explanation. He stared at his oldest son in disbelief. “And what were you doing?”

“Timing them.” He held up his other hand which contained a stop watch.

Jon ran his tongue around his teeth, debating what to say and watched Veronica help his youngest two down to the ground safely. Before he could comment, she let them all know what she thought.

“What were you thinking? You could have fallen in and drowned! You would have floated away before anyone could reach you! I warned you about how full the river was! What happened to your promise not to go too close?”

“We weren’t close. We were in the tree.” Jake explained.

Veronica threw up her hands. “Boys!” Shaking her head, she turned to stomp back to the house. As she passed Jon she threw him a look. “You deal with them!” They could hear her muttering something about brainless boys and death wishes.

“What wrong wit Ronnie?” Romeo asked, a frown creasing his small forehead. “She mad at us?”

“No she’s not mad at you. She’s upset. What you boys did was very dangerous. You could have been hurt or even died. You scared her.” He made eye contact with all three of them. “Please don’t do that again.”

“Okay Daddy.”

“We sorry.”

Jon started to turn away, stopped and looked at Jesse. “Who won?”

“Romeo. By five seconds. We were going to swap boats to see if that made any difference when Ronnie came out.”

“Mmm. Well, I think it would be best if you guys stayed away from the river for the rest of the day, okay?”

“Yeah.” Jesse glanced towards the house. “Is she really upset?”

“She’s not used to being around boys and their stunts. She’ll get over it. Just...try not to do anything that might get you killed for a little while.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Stephanie, who had followed her father out and had just stood listening to the conversation, shook her head at her oldest brother. “You’re an idiot!” Turning on her heel, she headed back to the house.

“Nyah,nyah,nyah.” Jesse wrinkled his nose at her.

Stephanie found Veronica in the kitchen making more cookies – both because there never seemed to be enough, and because it was how she calmed down. “Sorry about that. My brothers are idiots.”

Veronica smiled. “No, they’re just boys. They tend to act without thinking.”

“Do they grow out of it?”

“Not in my experience.”

“So...Dad’s pulled some stupid stunts like that?”

“Well...not quite that stupid, at least not since I’ve known him, but yeah, he’s done stuff without thinking it through.”

“But it doesn’t stop you from lo...liking him.” It was more of a statement than a question.

Veronica paused her stirring and turned to look at the young girl leaning on the counter beside her. “Yes, I like him.”

“’re really dating him again?”

“Yes. Are you okay with that?” Jon had assured Veronica that she was, but the way Steph had been acting since she’d gotten to Jersey, she wasn’t so sure.

“Yeah. I just want him to be happy. And you too.” Stephanie hesitated. “It’s okay for you to snuggle with him and kiss him in front of us you know.”

“I don’t want to make you or your brothers uncomfortable...seeing your Dad kissing a woman that isn’t your mother.”

Stephanie snorted. “Are you forgetting who we’re talking about? I’ve seen him kissing other women all my life.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, and it’s fine...really. It won’t bother me, and I doubt if the boys will even notice...well, Jesse might, but that’s because he’ll be a little jealous.”

Veronica groaned. “That’s another problem.”

“No it’s not. He’ll get over it. There’s a girl at school he’s trying to get up enough nerve to talk to.”

“Ah...I see.” Veronica smirked and dropped dough on to a cookie sheet.

“Are you and Dad going to get married?”

The spoon hovered in mid-air for a second before moving on. “Oh, I don’t know Steph. We haven’t talked about it. I haven’t even thought about it.”

“Well, you might want to. I know my Dad and I can see the signs. He’s in love with you. And that means he’ll want to marry you. He likes to keep the people he loves close.” She paused, her conversation with her father running through her head. “Unless being around Romeo is too hard for you.”

Veronica set down the spoon. “What makes you think being around Romeo is hard for me?”

“I see the way you watch him. You look...sad. Dad told me that he reminds you of your son. I’m sorry. That must be really hard for you.”

“It’s not easy, but I’m working on it.”

Stephanie nodded. “If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.” Stealing a ball of dough from the tray she popped it into her mouth and left.

Veronica watched her disappear, sighed and turned her attention back to the cookies.

Jon stood in the doorway, where he had watched and listened. He wanted to kiss his daughter for her help in laying the ground work for him. Walking up behind Veronica he wrapped his arms around her waist, kissed her neck and squeezed. “You okay?”

She nodded and leaned back against him. “Yeah, but I could do without any more death defying stunts for awhile.”

He chuckled. “I think they’ll behave, at least for the rest of the day. I can’t guarantee tomorrow thought.” When she groaned he squeezed her again. “Welcome to dealing with boys.”

“Just what I need...a little more heart stopping excitement in my life.”

“At least you’ll never be bored.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chapter 95

Within a few days they’d settled into a routine – or what passed for a routine in the Bongiovi house. The days were busy, with school for the kids, meetings, interviews and phone calls for Jon, and continual prep work and analysis for Veronica – including a trip into New York City to check in at the office. Evenings were spent doing homework, watching T.V. or playing games.

After the kids were tucked in, the adults would sit and have a glass of wine together, talk, or just veg in front of the T.V. until they were tired enough to sleep....or at least try to. Despite their recent excess – or maybe because of it – the forced abstinence with the woman he wanted in his house was slowly driving Jon insane.

It wasn’t doing a lot for Veronica either. For propriety’s sake, when the kids arrived she had moved into the bedroom across the hall where she’d stayed on her previous visit. Much to her disgust, she found that sleeping alone meant that she wasn’t sleeping much at all.

By the end of the second week they were both a little tense. Every time they touched – or even got close to each other – it felt like static electricity. The goodnight kisses were getting longer and longer as it became harder each time to let go.

Jon found himself looking for opportunities to be near her or brush by her, or acceptable reasons to touch her, especially since she wouldn’t allow any more obvious signs of affection in front of the kids – she wouldn’t even sit beside him on the couch while they were awake!

The night before had been pure torture. Veronica and Stephanie decided to braid each other’s hair, a typical girl thing to do, but all he could see was silky black locks spread over his pillow or sliding through his fingers, while she lay naked and open and waiting for him. He’d had to look away before he embarrassed himself in front of his daughter.

Sitting at his desk during the day, with her across the room, he swore he could smell her perfume...feel her heat reaching out to him....luring him...tempting him to go over and touch...taste.....and then a kid would come in or a phone would ring and his opportunity was lost.

He needed to find them some alone time – and soon!

Veronica was spending most of her free time in Jon’s gym. She’d never really considered herself an overly sexual person – she enjoyed sex but wasn’t controlled by it – but then again, Jon was in a different category from the other men she’d slept with, and being near him, but not having him had her nerve ends screaming. Add to that the tension caused by being around the kids and she was on the edge of snapping. So she worked out to try and relieve some stress, but it wasn’t helping much. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take.

Friday of that week, Jon walked into the house after dropping off Romeo at pre-school and headed for the office. Veronica wasn’t there. Checking his schedule, he realized that he had a couple hours before he was needed for anything. His mind quickly came up with several ideas of how to fill the time, and went in search of his girlfriend.

He ended his search of the main floor in the kitchen, having found all the other rooms empty. “Hey Molly, do you know where Ronnie is?”

“I think she went upstairs to shower after her workout.” Molly looked up from her cook book. “Is she okay? She seems pretty....stressed.”

“Yeah, she is, but she’ll be okay. It’s just work and...stuff, and it’s just temporary.” The thought of Veronica, naked, with ribbons of soaping water running down her delectable body had his responding predictably. “I think I’ll go see if I can help her relax a little.”

Molly laughed. “Is that what they’re calling it these days?” She waved a hand. “Go take advantage of a kid free house. I’ll stay downstairs.” Molly wasn’t blind and although they – well, mainly Veronica – tried to hide their relationship from the kids, she could see which way the wind was blowing there. She could also see that Veronica wasn’t very comfortable with the kids, but it wasn’t any of her business.

Jon actually felt his face heat as he blushed like an untried boy. He laughed a little self-consciously, and quickly exited the kitchen. Rushing up the stairs, he hesitated, debating which bathroom she’d be in, but there really wasn’t any doubt – he knew how much she loved his shower. The sound of running water that met him when he entered his bedroom confirmed his thinking. He quickly stripped off his clothes and headed for the bathroom.

The sight that greeted him when he opened the shower door stopped the breath in his throat and hardened his body even more. Veronica was facing him, her back to the main shower head, eyes closed, arms raised while she used her hands to help the spray rinse the shampoo out of her hair.

Jon couldn’t resist the invitation of her lifted breasts that seemed to reach out to him. Stepping closer, he molded his hands over her plump mounds and massaged, rubbing his palms across her nipples until they hardened and stood up for him.

Veronica sighed, opened her eyes and watched hunger for her darken his eyes. When his gaze rose to meet hers, she crooked a brow at him. He just smirked and squeezed. Her own small smile twisted her lips as she decided that fair was fair, slid her hands up his arms, over his shoulders, around to his chest, and finally down below his waist to wrap one around his throbbing shaft, the other slipping underneath to cup his sac.

Jon’s breath hissed through his teeth, her touch on his aroused flesh almost painful. He let her fondle and stroke him for several minutes, and wished it could be longer, but he’d been too long without her. Releasing her breasts, he reached down to gently pull her hands away. Before she could protest, he bent and took a taut peak between his lips. He licked and scraped his teeth along the tip before settling in to suckle.

Veronica moaned softly and closed her eyes. Pulling her hands from his, she slid them into his now wet hair to cradle his head and hold him close. His hands gripped her hips and pulled her tight against him. After a few minutes, her pulled back despite the pressure of her hands, but only to shift and give her other breast the same treatment.

As her pleasure increased, her hips pushed against him, reminding him that other parts of her body liked attention too. One strong hand slid from her hip to the damp – with more than the water from the shower – flesh between her thighs. At the first touch of her slick heat, he knew he needed to taste her. Releasing her nipple, he slid slowly to his knees, dragging his open mouth over abdomen as he went.

Veronica watched him nudge her legs further apart and settle in between, her body humming, anticipation speeding her heart rate. Blunt fingers pulled her swollen folds open and he just looked at her for a long minute. Then his gaze flicked up to hers and she sucked in a deep breath at the fierce desire she saw in the sapphire depths. He grinned, then set his mouth to her pulsing flesh.

Whatever faults he had, the man knew what he was doing when it came to pleasuring a woman. He knew what to lick, what to nibble, what to suck and how much pressure to use, his masterful use of lips and tongue and teeth unarguable, the results mind blowing. Veronica braced herself against the cool tiles and prayed her trembling legs wouldn’t give out on her before he finished.

Jon could feel the tremors running through her. He slipped one hand behind her knee, lifted and hooked her leg over his shoulder. Both hands cupped her firm ass cheeks to help her balance, and he continued to feast.

Veronica’s hands once again fisted in his hair, her only anchor in a world gone back around the edges, her moans and cries telling him of her appreciation of his skills. Leaning back slightly, he glanced up at her, licked his lips, and without taking his eyes from hers, he shifted towards her and slowly penetrated her with his tongue...repeatedly, gratified to see her eyes dilate. When he judged she was on the brink Jon returned his attention to her swollen clit, taking it into his mouth and suckling. Hard.

Veronica screamed and shattered, shudders shaking her body.

Jon continued to lave and drink from her until her tremors subsided. As he slowly rose to his feet, he let her leg slip from his shoulder to his hip and held it there. He kissed his way back up her body, pausing to pay homage to her breasts again for several minutes on his way up to her neck. Finally, he took possession of her mouth, thrusting his tongue deep and letting her taste herself. She moaned and clutched at his shoulders, arousal starting to build up in her body once again.

His hips rocked, and she gasped through their kiss at the feel of his erection sliding along her sensitive lips. Jon groaned as her renewed desire drenched him.

He couldn’t wait any longer.

Bending his legs slightly, he straightened, and with one long steady movement, buried his by now beyond aching shaft to the hilt in her moist heat. He wanted to hold still and savour the feeling of being where he wanted to be at long last, but her tight grip and his control wouldn’t let him. Almost involuntarily, his hips started to move, slowly at first, then faster as she melted and flowed around him.

The feel of his hardness – both surrounding her and inside her – was exactly what she needed, and desperately wanted. Without breaking the now ravenous kiss, Veronica tightened her grip on his shoulders and lifted her other leg to wrap around his hip so that she could hold him even closer, trusting him not to let her fall.

Jon slid both arms under her, pressed her more firmly against the wall and increased the speed of his movements even more.

Tearing her mouth from his, she panted for breath, each lungful pushed from her body by the strength of his thrusts. All she could do was hold on.

He buried his mouth in her neck and fought against his release, wanting her to come first. Swivelling his hips, he thrust harder....faster....deeper. Just when he thought he was going to lose the battle, he felt her body fist around his.

The sound of her breathless scream when she climaxed was music to his ears, and permission for him to finally let go and find his own release. Which he did in a flurry of frenzied strokes and a low growl.

Veronica held him even tighter, struggled for breath and savoured the feel of his hot juices flooding her womb.

The water was turning cool, but neither of them noticed. Not a word had been spoken throughout the entire encounter. None were necessary.