“That prick was a real piece of work.” Richie commented as he and his bandmates sat at a table in the hotel bar. The after party was in full swing and they’d been kept busy schmoozing until now. “I wonder how many assholes like that Ronnie’s had to deal with. No wonder she’s a little wary of relationships. Is she okay?”
Jon shrugged, his gaze riveted on Veronica across the room where she was talking to a couple crew members. She’d tried to assure him that she was fine, but he didn’t believe her. Her eyes were a little too dark, her laugh a little too brittle, her smile a little too bright. “I don’t know. She says, she is, but....” He shrugged again.
Richie studied his friend’s face very carefully. “Don’t man.”
“Don’t gear up for another ride on the Guilt Express. It’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself.”
Jon sipped his wine. “Then who should I blame? If it hadn’t been for what happened back then she would never have had to deal with that kind of bullshit.”
“But you didn’t cause it to happen. Nobody did. I thought you’d stopped focusing on the past.”
“I did...but this afternoon brought it all back again.” Jon grimaced. “It just pisses me off. She’s been through enough without having that kind of shit thrown at her. It makes me want to beat on someone.”
They all nodded in agreement.
“All you can do is be there for her...be her shoulder to cry on.” Richie advised.
“And let us know if we need to take the fucker out!” Tico growled.
Back in their room, Veronica quickly got ready for bed and climbed in. Pulling the blankets up over her shoulder, she turned on her side, curled up and closed her eyes.
Jon frowned at her as he undressed more slowly and joined her. After a moment he rose up on an elbow and touched her shoulder. “Nica? Honey?”
“Not tonight Jon...please.”
Even though she tried to hide it, he could hear the emotions all but choking her. As much as he wanted to make love to her – to show her that she was still desirable – he understood why she might not feel like it. “Let me hold you. Let me do that much for you.”
With a sigh, she rolled over and curled up against him. Tom’s attitude wasn’t a surprise to her – she’d heard it all before – but hearing it again today was a shock. She hadn’t been prepared to see him, let alone brace herself for his opinion on her ‘disability’. She’d be okay tomorrow, but tonight her emotions were a little raw and she appreciated Jon’s warmth, understanding and comfort.
Jon let his hands rub over her back and arm and debated what to do or say. Finally, he just kissed her head. “I love you.”
Veronica squeezed her eyes tight, pressed even closer to him, but stayed silent. Whether she believed the words or not, tonight she needed to hear them....but she wasn’t ready to say them back to him.
The next day she was back to her usual self, although the guys all watched her carefully and treated her like glass. She took it as long as she could.
“Guys, I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine. Really!”
They accepted her words, but continued to keep a close eye on her. Knowing they weren’t going to stop, she did her best to ignore it.
In Dublin, her Ghosts of Boyfriends Past struck again. They were at the after party and Veronica was making the rounds with Jon as usual when she saw him.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
Jon heard her mutter and raised a brow. “Problem?”
“Bad karma or something.” She headed for the bar- she needed fortification. Jon would have followed, but was detained by a local reporter that he’d met earlier and had another question.
But she never made it to the bar.
Taking a deep breath, she took a moment to brace herself for what was sure to be, at the very least, an uncomfortable conversation, before turning around. “Brad. What are you doing here?”
His smirk suggested she should know. “The station got an invitation. In fact, I believe you sent it.”
“Uh huh....for the program director and DJs. Those invites don’t generally reach the station president. But what are you doing in Ireland?”
“I try to visit each station at least once a year. I was meeting with the staff at our station here when Bon Jovi’s concert and the after party was mentioned. I’d heard through the grapevine that you were travelling with them as head of promotions, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to come say hello.” He gave her a very thorough once over. “You look great.”
“Thanks.” She frowned when he looked thoughtful. “What?”
“I’m just trying to remember why we broke up.”
Veronica snorted. “Ask your wife. I bet she can jog your memory. As I recall, you said that she had more to offer you.”
“You couldn’t give me children. She could.”
“The fact that her father owned a network of radio stations didn’t hurt either.” She retorted dryly.
Brad just shrugged. It was no secret that he was ambitious and he wasn’t about to apologize for it. “So how are things with you?”
“Great. Couldn’t be better.”
Sandy brows lifted. “Really? Even though you’re alone?”
This time it was ebony brow that rose. “Who says I’m alone?”
“There’s no ring on your finger and you’re touring the world for weeks at a time with a rock band.”
“So? I may not be married, but I’m not alone.”
“Uh huh.” He looked her over again. “You’re still a very beautiful woman Veronica. There’s no reason you have to do without.....human contact. I can help with that.”
Veronica stared at him, stunned. “You can’t be serious!”
“Why not? Marriage is out of the question for you anyway, and there’s no worry of pregnancy, so there’s no reason why we can’t have some fun. We were always good together.”
By the bar, Jon watched Veronica’s eyes narrow and her face flush, and wished the bartender would hurry up with their drinks.
“No reason? You’re married for one, and I don’t sleep with married men. For another, I told you, I already have someone.” She saw Jon approaching out of the corner of her eye. “Why would I want you, when I have him?” She gestured towards Jon. When he stopped beside her, she accepted the drink he held out. “Thanks babe.” Taking a healthy swallow, she introduced the two men.
Brad shook Jon’s hand, then smirked at Veronica. “You actually expect me to believe that you’re with a rock star?”
Jon stiffened, immediately grasping the situation. “Believe it! I fuck her brains out every chance I get.”
“Sorry honey, but I’m sick of this shit!”
“You are aware that she can’t have kids, aren’t you?” Brad asked.
“I don’t give a fuck! If she wants them, we’ll find a way. But more importantly, Ronnie is a beautiful, smart, talented woman, that is everything that I need and want, and if I have anything to say about it, we’ll be together for a very, very long time.”
Veronica blinked back tears, raised a hand to cup his cheek and kissed him. “Thank you.”
Jon grinned at her then turned back to Brad. “And I don’t care if you broadcast it over every one of your stations!”
“He won’t. Then he’d have to try and explain to his wife why he was trying to set me up as his mistress!” Veronica assured him.
Brad grimaced. “Okay, okay, I get the message.” He smiled ruefully. “I really do hope you find happiness Veronica.”
“I have.” She assured him, sliding her arm around Jon’s waist and hugging him close. Jon hugged her back.
Brad nodded and walked away.
Reaching the table where the guys were sitting, Veronica set down her drink. “I’ll be right back.” At their concerned look, she pointed towards a narrow hallway. “Little girls’ room.”
Jon sat down with a heavy sigh.
“Another ex-boyfriend?” Richie guessed.
“How did you know?”
“Medium height, medium build, light brown hair, blue eyes....seems to be her type.”
Jon grunted. “Well she’s got the real thing now, so the others can all fuck off.”
A waitress came by to see if they wanted anything. They all ordered food, enough for Veronica as well.
“Another margarita, and something chocolate.” Jon added.
“We have a delicious dark chocolate mousse cake.” The waitress suggested.
“She needs chocolate?” David asked. “That bad huh?”
“Uh huh. Fucker went on again about her inability to have kids.” Jon grimaced. “I probably told him more than I should have.” He quickly gave them a rundown of the conversation. “Fuck it! I don’t care if they broadcast it all over the fucking globe!”
The guys exchanged glances, pleasantly surprised that Jon was actually putting someone he cared about ahead of his career. It was a first in their experience, and they hoped it didn’t turn out badly or he’d never do it again.
Veronica sat down, crossed her arms on the table and laid her head on them. “What did I do to deserve this? Who did I fuck over in another life?”
“Come on nina, it’s not that bad.” Tico, who was sitting beside her, rubbed her back.
She lifted her head just enough to look at him. “Really? Let’s see...my life was going along just fine....and then the worst events of my life came back to haunt me. First, Kidd here decides he wants to reminisce and somehow tracks me down....”
“Southside.” Jon interrupted.
“Southside told me he’d seen you...and where to find you.”
“Oh. Anyway, so then you guys show up in Nashville, completely disrupting my nice, comfortable life. Then Jon pushes until I give him all the gory details of losing my – our – child, I get to meet his kids – they’re great, but reminders just the same, have a couple of wonderful conversations with his mother – having my fingernails pulled out would be more fun, by the way, and now two of my exes show up to remind me of their opinion that since I can’t reproduce, I’m not a complete woman – although apparently I’m still good enough to fool around with. Yeah, it’s been a banner fucking year!” She laid her head down again and groaned.
Jon slung one arm around her shoulders and hugged her to him, cradling her head against his chest with the other. “Look at the bright side. You got to come out on tour and spend lots of quality time with us again, we added some excitement to your life......and you got me back....and we got Boots.”
Veronica snorted, but squeezed his hand and leaned against him. The waitress arrived with their food, the smell of chocolate teased her nose, capturing her interest immediately and she sat up. Sinking her fork into the gooey cake she lifted it to her mouth and sighed in appreciation. “Mmmmm.” She swallowed and leaned over to kiss Jon. “Thank you.”
He licked his lips, tasting woman and chocolate. “Mmmm. Delicious.” Leaning over he brushed her ear with his mouth. “Let me know when you’re ready to head upstairs sugar.” He had plans.