Things had been going smoothly since Dubai – too smoothly. Veronica was afraid something was going to happen to disrupt the even flow of her days – she just wasn’t prepared for what it would be.
They were in Frankfurt doing interviews. Veronica walked down the hallway to meet the final reporter of the day who happened to be from an international magazine.
The voice had her hackles rising before she even looked up. “Tom? What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to interview the band for the magazine. God, it’s good to see you!” The light brown haired, blue eyed man hugged her, ignoring the stiffness of her body. “How have you been?”
“I’m great Tom.” She frowned at her list when he let her go. “I had Kurt down on my list.”
“Yeah, he was originally scheduled to come, but when I heard that you were doing promotions with them this tour, I got my editor to switch us.”
“Because I wanted to see you. To see how you’re doing. It’s been a long time. I’ve always felt bad.”
“Because you dumped me, or because of the reason you dumped me?”
Tom smiled. “You’re still a beautiful, passionate woman.”
“But not a whole woman, right?” It was all she could do not to snarl.
He looked sad. “That’s why I feel bad. A woman as beautiful as you shouldn’t have to end up alone.”
Veronica had to steel herself against the urge to punch him. “Well, you don’t have to feel bad, and you don’t have to worry about me. I’m doing just great. In fact, I’ve never been happier in my life...and I’m not alone.”
His look said he didn’t believe her. “But you’re not married either I see.” He looked pointedly at her left hand.
She shrugged. “I’ve been a little busy lately, but that may come soon.”
“Hey sis, the guys are ready for you.” Matt spoke from the nearby doorway to the command centre, where apparently he’d heard enough.
“Thanks Matty. Come on Tom, they’re this way.” She started down the hallway.
“Why did he call you sis?” He knew she had no family.
“I’ve known him since he was a teenager....and he’s my boyfriend’s brother.”
If that was her boyfriend’s brother, then chances were that her boyfriend was around somewhere. He hadn’t thought beyond that when she stopped in front of a door and opened it.
Jon looked up as the door opened, his instincts going on full alert at his first glimpse of Veronica’s face. It wasn’t obvious, but he knew her well enough to know something was wrong. There was a subtle tenseness to her face, her lips were pressed into a thin line, her smile stiff and unnatural. Violet eyes were dark and turbulent, sending him a message....but he wasn’t sure what it was.
Veronica introduced the men, then moved to the refreshment table. “Anyone want anything? Babe? You want some water or tea?”
The band members exchanged glances. Jon met Veronica’s eyes and debated whether it was a slip or deliberate. Was he supposed to ignore it or go with it? “Water thanks.” He stood and walked over to join her. “What’s going on?” His voice was a low murmur for her ears only.
“I’ll explain later.” She leaned against him. She was breaking her own rule, but right now the need to wipe the sympathetic, condescending look off her ex’s face out weighed the need to keep her relationship with Jon quiet. His hand rose to squeeze her hip.
The interview was very stiff. The guys weren’t rude, but they were very wary and cautious with what they said. There was no joking around or easy conversation. They didn’t know what exactly was going on, but they knew that Veronica was upset, and it had something to do with this man. That’s all they needed to know for their protective instincts to rise to the forefront.
Tom watched in amusement, not believing for a minute that Veronica was dating Jon Bon Jovi. She was just putting on a show for him. No man of Bon Jovi’s calibre would be involved with a damaged woman like Veronica.....unless he didn’t know.
Jon watched the man opposite him and wondered exactly what his role in Veronica’s life had been – or more precisely, what had happened to make her so tense in his presence. He also had a feeling the man was itching to say something, but didn’t want to in front of Veronica. “Honey? Why don’t we give Tom here a tour program? Would you mind getting one please?”
“Sure babe, no problem.” She knew she was being sent from the room for some macho reason, but didn’t care. She was more than happy to get out of there for a few minutes.
Closing the door behind her, she blew out a breath and walked down the hallway to the command centre. Matt and Paul were sitting at Paul’s desk talking, but looked up at her entrance, concern written on both their faces.
“Everything okay sis?” Matt asked. “Who is that asshole anyway?”
“Tom Parker. He’s a reporter....and an ex-boyfriend of mine.” Veronica admitted.
“I kind of figured that from the way he was talking to you in the hallway. But I thought I must have misunderstood...I thought you had better taste than that!”
Veronica smiled wryly. “He wasn’t always like that.” Just since she’d told him she couldn’t have children. She picked up a program and turned back towards the door.
“You don’t have to go back in there Ronnie,” Paul offered, “I can take that.”
“Thanks, but I’d better go make sure that Jon doesn’t say something he shouldn’t.” She was a professional and she didn’t need anyone fighting her personal battles for her.
In the interview room, Jon studied his opponent, debating strategies. “How do you know Ronnie?”
“Ronnie? Oh, you mean Veronica. You call her Ronnie? She would never let me call her that.”
Jon smiled smugly. “I’ve called her that for twenty years.”
“So you’re old friends then.” That explained it.
“Among other things. So how do you know her?”
“We met through a mutual friend, and dated for several years. In fact I almost proposed. It was a close call.”
“Luckily, I found out she was barren before I wasted money on a ring.”
“Luckily?” The muscle twitched in Jon’s jaw.
Richie, David and Tico leaned forward, not liking where this was going. If Jon didn’t say something to defend Veronica, they were fully prepared to.
“Yeah.” Sensing the tension in the other men, he glanced around the room. “You have to agree, no man wants a damaged woman – at least not for a wife.”
Jon’s eyes narrowed. “A womb doesn’t make a woman, especially one like Ronnie. She’s got a whole lot more going for her.”
“Oh sure, she’s beautiful and smart, but would you ever consider marrying her when she can’t give you children?” Tom was sure he knew the answer, so Jon’s reply stunned him.
“In a heartbeat. I was stupid and let her go once, not realizing what a wonderful, special woman I had. I won’t make that mistake again.” Jon knew he was telling a reporter too much, but he couldn’t just sit there and listen to the man denigrating Veronica.
Tom’s brows rose. “You really are dating her then?” He couldn’t believe it.
“Oh, but you already have kids don’t you.” Tom nodded to himself as if that explained it. “You can afford to be generous and overlook her shortcomings. I couldn’t do that.”
Richie held his breath and waited to see if he was needed to stop Jon from beating the man to a pulp – or help him! A low growl rumbled in Tico’s throat.
Jon shrugged and clenched his hands until his knuckles turned white. “Your loss, my gain. I got a second chance with her. She’s everything I could ask for. Beautiful, smart, funny, caring, considerate, excellent at her job....she’s all woman,” he leaned forward and pinned Tom with an icy glare. “And all mine!” His smile was smug and not the least bit friendly.
Veronica opened the door and immediately felt the tension in the room thick enough to cut with a knife. “Everything okay?” She glanced around at the band members who all just smiled at her. “Jon?”
“Everything’s fine sugar. Tom and I were just discussing what traits we find important when it comes to women.”
She stiffened. “Well, I’m sorry I missed that conversation!” Sarcasm dripped from each word. “Although, I already know what Tom finds important, and what’s a deal breaker for him.” She held out the program. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” Tom took the program and stood, preparing to leave. “For the record Veronica, I am sorry it couldn’t work out between us.”
“I’m not. It opened my eyes to what’s really important in life.” She moved to stand beside Jon, her hand settling on his shoulder. “I’ve found someone who understands and agrees....who encourages and supports me instead of trying to change me....who loves me for who I am, and sees me as a whole woman, not a damaged one.” Jon’s hand rose to cover hers and squeeze.
There was a brief knock on the door before it opened and Matt stuck his head in. “Obie’s just about ready for sound check if you’re finished.”
“Yeah, we’re done. Will you show Tom out?” Jon replied.
“Gladly.” Matt didn’t elaborate on exactly how he’d like to show him out.
“Thanks guys. Have a good show.” Tom glanced at all of them, but wisely didn’t attempt to shake hands. “Veronica....it was nice to see you again. In spite of everything....I hope you’re happy.”
“I am. Goodbye Tom.”
As soon as the door closed behind him, Jon stood and wrapped Veronica in his arms. She released a shaky breath and clung to him. “Don’t listen to assholes like him. You are a wonderful, whole woman! And I love you.”
She just hugged him tighter.
“I can’t understand what she saw in that asshole.” David grumbled.
“Can’t you?” Richie answered. He hadn’t missed the resemblance between Tom and their illustrious leader.