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?”