Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chapter 114

After a relatively quick trip to the emergency room – when you show up with a bleeding child they don’t tend to make you wait very long – to get Romeo checked out, they returned to the hotel.

“So what are we going to do for dinner?” Jon asked his family. “Go downstairs, out somewhere else or order in?”

“What do you think little man? What do you feel like?” Veronica put the question to the little boy she was carrying. He got upset if she was very far from him and she was happy to keep him close right now. “I think a bath is first on the list for you....and me.” The nurse had cleaned most of the blood off as best she could, but not like soap and water could.

Romeo nodded, his head resting on her shoulder, the white bandage on his forehead covering what had turned out to be a fairly deep cut, that had required six stitches. “Yeah, we all yucky.” He lifted his head to look at his father. “French fies.”

“Do you want a hamburger or chicken fingers to go with those fries?” Jon wanted to stroke the blonde head, but didn’t want to hurt him. He’d been a trouper, but it had to hurt.

“Chicken figners pease Daddy.”

“You got it buddy.”

“Why don’t we just order from room service Dad, then we can all take our time getting ready for the show.” Stephanie suggested.

“You okay with that Jess?”

Jesse shrugged. “Yeah, fine, whatever.” He picked up a pad of paper and a pen. “What’s everyone want?”

While dinner was ordered and they waited for it to arrive, Veronica gave Romeo a bath, carefully washing the blood out of his hair, trying not to disturb the bandage. Wrapping him in a towel, she carried him out and set him on the couch beside Jon while she grabbed a robe and returned to the bathroom to get herself cleaned up.

Standing under the hot shower, she tried to figure out what had that she could explain it to herself, at least. All she knew was that when she saw Romeo, scared, crying, hurting, reaching for her, covered in blood, something deep inside her awoke, and it hit her....she couldn’t save or even comfort her own child – their child – but there in front of her was one she could. By helping Jon’s being there when he needed her....she could finally accept that Drew’s death wasn’t due to any lack of maternal skills on her part. Here was an opportunity to prove – to herself anyway – that she had what it took to be a good mother. If Romeo wanted her to take on that role, however temporarily, she would do so...gladly...and to the best of her ability.

Feeling better than she had in a very long time, she dried off, pulled on a robe and went to join the family in the sitting room.

“What are we going to do about the show?” Jon asked Veronica quietly while they ate. He knew what he thought should happen, but it had to be her decision.

Veronica studied Romeo in his seat beside her. He was eating, but it was obvious that he was starting to fade. “What do you want to do little man? Go to Daddy’s show or stay here and watch T.V.?”

“Will you stay wif me?”

“If you want me to.”

“Can we watch a movie?”

“Sure.” She turned to Jon. “You guys go ahead, we’re going to stay here.”

“Are you sure?” He was all for Romeo staying in if that’s what he wanted, he would probably fall asleep early anyway, and they still needed to watch for signs of a concussion. It was also okay by him if Veronica wanted to stay with him. He wanted so badly to see her get close to Romeo voluntarily, he’d sacrifice having her with him at the show to make it happen. But he knew that Vince was being a prick and watching everything she did, and he didn’t want to be the cause of any more friction there.

“Yeah. It’s just for the show. I’ll call Tiffany. She’s been shadowing me for awhile now trying to learn what I do. Between her impressions and yours I can get enough to work with, and there’s another one tomorrow night that I can get my own.” When he still looked unsure, she smiled a little grimly. “And if Vince doesn’t like it he can kiss my ass and fire me. I don’t care. Romeo’s needs come first.”

Jon leaned over and kissed her. “I love you.”

Veronica squeezed his hand and turned to answer a question from Jake.

When the others had left for the show, Romeo and Veronica stocked up on snacks, got into their pajamas and curled up together to watch movies. After awhile, he got a little restless and fussy.

“What’s wrong little man? Does your head hurt?”

“Mmmmhmm.” He almost whimpered.

Rising, Veronica got him some of the painkillers the hospital had given them and a drink. “Do you want to go lay down in bed?”

“Can we lay in your bed?”


That’s where the others found them when they returned after the show, curled together and sound asleep.

Jon leaned down to shake Romeo’s shoulder. “Hey little man, wake up for a minute.”

“Mmmm.” Romeo frowned and grumbled.

“What are you doing Dad?” Stephanie asked quietly.

“I need to check for concussion symptoms.” He shook Romeo again. “Romeo wake up. Do you know where you are?”

“I seeping Daddy.”

Jon grinned. “Yeah, but do you know where you’re sleeping?”

“Ronnie’s bed.”

Close enough. “Okay buddy, go back to sleep.” His gaze settled on the woman curled protectively around his son and his expression softened even more. One hand brushed an ebony curl off her forehead and caressed her cheek.

“You really love her don’t you?” Stephanie had been watching him.

“Yes, I do.”

She was silent for a long moment. “Then marry her. After the tour is over take her home and marry her. Don’t let her go back to Nashville and her old life.”

Jon gave his daughter a penetrating look. “Why do you say that?”

“You’ve got her interested, don’t give her the time and space to really think about it and change her mind.”

“Gee Steph, thanks for the vote of confidence in your old man.”

“Come on Dad, we all know that you’re a good looking guy,” she rolled her eyes, “but let’s face it, living with you – and your job – can be......challenging.”

“So can living with a smartass teenager!”

Stephanie just shrugged. “The point is, who knows when you’ll find someone who can see past the lights and glory of the rockstar to see the work that goes into it, and the man behind it again. Ronnie knows all the highs and lows of the business, what it takes to succeed in it, and she knows you, warts and all. The two of you have been through the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows together, and yet here she is...with you again. Anyone worth hanging onto. And you love her. Make it legally binding before she changes her mind. Don’t let her get away.”

One side of Jon’s mouth lifted in a half smile. “How did you get to be so smart?”

“I take after Mom.”

Jon didn’t disagree. She may look more like him, but she was a chip off her mother’s block. Romeo shifted, bringing his attention back to the matter at hand. “I’ll move him out of your room as soon as I get Jake settled.”

“It’s okay. Leave him.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. He’s comfortable. Let him sleep.” She hesitated. “I can stay with the boys tonight if you want to stay in here with them.”

His brows rose. “Really?” It would make him feel better. While he was pleased at seeing Veronica let Romeo close, he wasn’t sure how the events of the day might affect her, nightmare wise, and he’d like to be close if she needed him.

“Yeah, it’s fine. Then if Romeo needs anything, you’ll both be here to help him.”

“Thanks sweetie. It’ll just be for tonight.”

“It’s fine. I guess I can put up with Jesse’s snoring that long.” She reached up to kiss his cheek. “I just want you to be happy Daddy. Think about what I said.”

“I will.” Truth was, when he wasn’t working he thought of little else. But there was one thing Stephanie hadn’t considered. Does she love me?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chapter 113

Veronica realized very quickly that she was going to have to learn to balance the demands of her job and those of being, well, a mother. With Vince watching her every move so closely she couldn’t delegate the interviews to someone else, so she drafted Matt to help Alejandra and Lexi keep the kids entertained. Being mostly a big kid himself, he was perfectly suited for the job.

Spending so much time in such close proximity to the kids was a challenge for her. The show days weren’t so bad, she was kept pretty busy, but the off days were....difficult. And they were getting progressively harder.

Their first day in London was spent wandering around Madame Tussaud’s and the Tower. Even though they’d been there before, it seemed the boys – big and small – never tired of either place....and Stephanie was a good sport.

After spending hours examining the latest wax effigies – including one Romeo chattered at calling it Daddy until, getting frustrated that Jon didn’t answer, he reached to tug on the hand and realized it wasn’t flesh and blood, causing Jon to smile wryly and the rest of them to laugh – and listening to the Beefeaters spin tales of intrigue and imprisonment, they grabbed a bite to eat and finally returned to the hotel.

“Okay boys, bedtime.” Jon eyed his youngest two. “Get your pajamas on and you can have a snack first.”

Snack finished – a drawn out experience typical of those trying to delay the inevitable for as long as possible – teeth brushed, time was up and they said their good nights. Romeo turned from kissing his father, eyed Veronica for a moment, then held up his arms, lips puckered.

Veronica’s stomach clenched and it felt like a fist was squeezing her heart. It took everything she had to oblige his silent request. “Good night little man.”

When Jon returned to the sitting room after tucking Jake and Romeo in, she was gone. He raised an inquiring brow at Stephanie, who gestured to the balcony. Stepping through the door, he saw her leaning on the railing looking out over the city. “Are you okay?” She turned her head towards him and he could see the tears streaking down her cheeks. “Oh honey, come here.”

Veronica let him enfold her in his arms and leaned against him. “When is the pain going to stop Jon? Will I ever be able to look at him, touch him...and not see Drew? Will I ever be able to love him as he deserves?”

He didn’t know how to answer, or how to help her, but he knew he had to support her. “Hang in there sugar, you’re doing great. It’s just going to take time.”

She sighed heavily and clung to him, soaking in his strength and confidence while she struggled to pull herself together. Finally, she straightened and wiped the tears from her face. “Thank you.”

Blunt fingers framed her face, lifting it to his. “That’s what I’m here for.” Blue eyes searched violet. “I love you. Lean on me when you need to. I’ll be your rock.” His lips twitched. “I’ll be here for you.”

She stared at him, then snorted. “Reduced to paraphrasing yourself?”

“Richie actually. That one was his remember? Even though it was meant for you.”

“I remember that you were trying to get out of the doghouse after missing my birthday party because you were in writing mode –or too drunk - and lost track of time.”

“But I made up for it afterwards didn’t I?” His eyes were warm with remembrance.

She shivered at the memory of his way of making amends. “Mmmm.”

Hot breath stirred the curls by her ear. “I could get another room and remind you.”

She was tempted, very tempted, but..... “We can’t leave the kids.”

“Steph and Jesse can keep an ear out for the little ones.”

She hesitated, then shook her head. “It’s their vacation too. They shouldn’t have to babysit.” One hand lifted to caress his cheek and she kissed him. “We’ll find some time for us. Soon. I promise.” The truth was she needed it as much as he did.

Jon sighed, but gave in. He couldn’t argue when her refusal was out of consideration for his kids. “I’m going to hold you to that.” If she didn’t find a way he would.

“Fuck!” Jon tossed his phone onto his dressing table and raked a hand through his hair.

“Problem?” Veronica paused in the doorway, then closed the door behind her. Jon had left the interview room immediately after the last interview to return a phone call, which wasn’t unusual, but him being late for sound check was, so she’d come looking for him.

He glanced up at her. “It’s the Central Park show. The lawyers are whining about liability and Ticketmaster.....fucking Ticketmaster wants to charge a handling fee! On a free fucking ticket! I should start up my own ticket distribution company and do it myself! And if the whole thing falls apart guess who’s going to get the blame? The lawyers? Ticketmaster? The mayor? No. ME.”

Veronica stood behind him, set her fingers on his temples and massaged gently. He leaned back against her, closed his eyes and sighed. “Why do I put myself through this? I hate it.”

She almost laughed, but caught herself in time. He wasn’t fooling her, he thrived on this stuff. “Because you love the music and bringing it to your fans. It’s the bureaucratic nit picking and sabre rattling that you hate. But you’ll put up with it in order to do something big... and get your name in the record books as one of the few who’ve ever done it.”

His eyes flew open and he frowned up at her. She raised a brow and dared him to deny it. He couldn’t. This was one of the drawbacks of having her in his life....she knew him....and didn’t shy away from talking about his less pleasant personality traits. She would never blow smoke up his ass and tell him how wonderful he was just because he was the boss. If she complimented him then she meant it...and if she criticized him she meant that too. She would always tell him what she thought. Whether he wanted to hear it was something else. That was one of the benefits to having her in his life. He could always rely on her to tell him the truth.

They were silent for a few minutes until she felt him relax under her hands. “Better?”

“ have magic fingers sugar.”

She smiled and bent to kiss him. “They’re waiting for you for sound check.”

Jon sighed, but stood and followed her out the door. They were nearing the stage when they heard first the shouts of warning, then the screaming. Recognizing his youngest son’s cries, Jon started to run.

Rounding the stage, he saw Romeo, fighting to get away from Lexi, who was trying to calm him down, screaming, crying....his face covered in blood. Jon’s stomach clenched even as he reminded himself that head wounds bled like crazy. Still, he had to swallow twice before he could speak. “Come here buddy.”

Lexi released the little boy who ran towards his father. But when Jon touched his head, he tried to push away. “No, no, no touch Daddy!”

“I know it hurts, but I need to see where the blood’s coming from.”

Romeo shook his head almost violently. “No no no no no no.” Seeing Veronica over his father’s shoulder he fought harder to get out of Jon’s hold. “Ronnie! Ronnie!”

Mommy! Mommy! Veronica stood, frozen, her mind creating words she knew she wasn’t hearing, but still kept echoing in her head. She watched Romeo run towards her....Jon’s face, Jon’s eyes, blood everywhere. Suddenly, something inside her snapped and she dropped to her knees and gathered him close, uncaring that she was getting blood all over her, not realizing that she was crying too, shoulders shaking with silent sobs.

Jon watched them, distantly aware of a roadie explaining what had happened – Romeo had tripped over a cable and hit his head on a step - and apologizing profusely. “It’s okay Terry. It was an accident.”

Someone had alerted the venue staff who in turn radioed the first aid team, who came running. One of them started past Jon and he reached out to stop him. “But sir, we need to see how badly he’s hurt.”

“Leave them alone for a minute.”

The rest of the band had watched the events from the stage and now joined them on the floor. David wrinkled his nose. “Ugh! Look at the blood. I think I’m going to be sick.”

Lexi shook her head at him. “Good thing you took Jon up on his offer and became a rockstar babe. You never would have made it as a doctor. I’m surprised you survived the kids’ childhood.”

“We weren’t allowed to bleed around him.” Colton explained.

The medic tried to assess as much as he could see. “Is she hurt as well?”

“No.” Alejandra stepped up beside Jon and squeezed his shoulder. “She’s healing.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chapter 112

Arriving at the hotel, it took a few minutes to unload and get everyone inside. In the suite Veronica pointed out the bedrooms. “Boys in that one, girls in that one.”

“Dibs on that bed!” Jesse pointed and nudged Jake.

“Me too!” Jake quickly spoke up, running into the bedroom to hop onto the chosen bed.

Jon stifled a sigh. “Guess you’re stuck bunking with me little man.”

“That okay Daddy.” Blonde brows drew together into a frown. “But can you not take aw de covers? Pease?”

Veronica turned away to hide her grin, leading the way into the girls’ room to finish organizing her things.

Stephanie followed, pulling her suitcase behind her. Glancing around the room, she chose a bed at Veronica’s invitation and began to unpack a few items. The silence in the room grew more uncomfortable the longer it went on and Stephanie was mature enough to understand the reason for it. “Ronnie.....can we talk?”

“Sure.” Veronica’s heart picked up its beat, unsure of whether this was going to be a good conversation or a bad one. When Stephanie moved to close the door, her stomach joined in, swirling and churning.

Stephanie sat on the end of the bed, staring at her hands in her lap, fingers laced together and squeezing. “I’m sorry.”

The words were uttered so softly Veronica wasn’t sure she’d heard them right. She was trying to figure out a gentle way of asking her to repeat what she’d said when Stephanie began speaking again.

“About how I treated you when I learned about the baby. Mom and I had a long talk and she made me see that I wasn’t exactly being fair to you. She told me about what you went through and how horrible it must have been for you and how hard it probably still is for you to talk about. How hard being around us.....just looking at us.....must be for you.” She grimaced. “Dad tried to tell me, but I didn’t want to listen. I was selfish and inconsiderate and....wrong....and I’m sorry.”

The vice around Veronica’s heart eased and her stomach calmed. “You had every right to be upset Steph. It couldn’t have been easy for you to hear that your father had a baby with another woman.”

“It wasn’t that so much – although that was a shock. Until I met you I didn’t even know Dad had had another girlfriend other than Mom – and Diane. It was more....” Her fingers twisted, her voice softening even more. “I wasn’t his first born anymore. I wasn’t.....special.”

Veronica sat beside her and slid an arm around the slim shoulders. “Oh honey! You are the first one he got to see come into the world. The first one he got to hold and watch grow and get to know. The first one he got to hear call him ‘Daddy’. You will always be special to him!”

Blue eyes so much like her father’s looked up at Veronica, shining with unshed tears, the expression in them pleading and.....hopeful. “You think so?”

Veronica smiled and hugged her closer. “I know so! Plus you’re the only girl – a definite advantage. You are the only one in the world who will ever be his baby girl.”

Stephanie reached up and hugged her back. “Thank you. I’m really sorry for how I acted before.”

“It’s okay.” Veronica leaned back slightly so that she could see the young girl’s face. “Friends?”

“Friends.” Stephanie agreed with a smile.
As they finished organizing their belongings, Veronica gave in to her own curiosity. “Steph do you know why Jesse didn’t get upset about the baby? He didn’t seem to be affected at all.”

“He says it’s because there’s no one here for him to see. A brother that died twenty years ago isn’t real for him.”

Something in her voice made Veronica ask. “You think there’s another reason?”

Stephanie shrugged. “He’s very protective of Mom, especially since the divorce. I think he figures if your baby hadn’t died, maybe Dad would have married you instead of Mom, so he’s not real upset about what happened.” She shot Veronica a look. “Sorry. Anyway, when Mom sat us down and talked about what happened back then...what was going on with all of you at the time, and told us we shouldn’t blame you, that it was nobody’s fault, he listened and let it go.”

“I see.” Veronica wasn’t sure what to make of that. Was Dorothea actually supporting her? That would be a first. To be fair though, their previous interactions where when they were competing for Jon....and they were a lot younger and more naive. They were wiser and more mature now. Maybe they could be on the same side now – or at least not adversaries.

“Stephie, Ronnie, come on!” Jake complained from the other side of the door.

“We want to go ‘splorin!” Romeo added.

“Okay, okay, we’re coming.” Veronica chuckled and followed Stephanie into the sitting room.

Several hours later, it was a tired group that returned to the hotel. Jon carried a sleeping Romeo while Ronnie herded the rest of them into the elevator. There were no arguments about bedtime. Even Stephanie and Jesse were happy to call it a night.

When they were all settled, Jon poured two glasses of wine, handed one to Veronica and joined her on the couch.

“Mmmm. Thanks.” She leaned against him and sipped.

“I think today went well.” He hugged her closer.

“Thank God for jet leg. I didn’t think they were ever going to agree to stop!”

“Why do you think I run? It’s the only way I can keep up with them.”

“I may have to take it up. They wore me out.”

He chuckled, then sobered and sipped his wine. “You and Steph get things sorted out?”


“See, I told you she’d come around when she calmed down and thought about.”

“Actually, it was Dorothea. She sat down with both Steph and Jesse and discussed everything with them. Told them not to blame me.”

“Yeah? That was....big of her.” He was silent for a moment. “What did she want to talk to you about earlier?”

Veronica debated her answer. “She wanted to thank me for pushing you to call her and warn her about Tom’s article. And to ask me to try to get you to stop buying the kids everything they ask for.” The rest was between Dorothea and her. He didn’t need to know. At his silence she turned her head to look at him and saw him frown. “What?”

“It just occurred to me...that you and Dot getting along may not be in my best interest.”

“Oh? I thought that it would be a good thing for the kids.”

“It is. Good for them, not so good for me.”

Her lips twitched. “Why not?”

Jon shifted uneasily. “The last thing I need is for the woman that I lived with for the last twenty years sharing stories and tips with the woman I hope to live with for the next twenty years.”

And there it was. What she’d shied away from from the moment he’d made it clear that he wanted a second chance at a relationship with her. Why she hadn’t wanted to admit – even to herself – that he loved her. She knew what that would mean as far as he was concerned. As much as she claimed that they weren’t the same people they were all those years ago, their major characteristics hadn’t changed. The odd one night stand with a groupie aside, Jon had never been a player. He was always a long term relationship kind of guy. She still wasn’t sure if she could give him what he wanted, but her conversations with Alejandra and the girls...and Richie....convinced her that she needed to give it some serious thought. But she wasn’t prepared to discuss the future with Jon tonight. She still had to figure out how to cope with Romeo – if she could.

She raised a brow. “Afraid we’re going to gang up on you?”

“In a word? Yes!”

“Well that ought to keep you on your toes.”

He stared at her. “Now that’s just mean! And it’s not necessary. You know me already, you don’t need any help getting me to do what you want.”

That was debatable, but she’d let it slide for now. She studied his face. “What are you afraid of?”

Jon grimaced. “It’s hard enough to keep one woman happy, let alone two.”

Veronica lifted her free hand to stroke his cheek. “Awww...afraid you’re not up to the challenge?”

He grunted, and looked away from her, not wanting to admit how close she was to the truth. Lifting his glass he took a big swig.

Something about his demeanour made her pause and consider. And it hit her. That’s exactly what he was afraid of. Big confident Rockstar, Mr. CEO, was unsure of his ability to make a woman happy! For some reason, that actually made her feel better about their relationship. His perfectionist tendencies would make him try that much harder. “Hey.” She waited until his gaze came back to hers. “I have faith you’ll manage just fine.”

Masculine lips curved slightly, then he bent to kiss her softly. “Thank you.” He just hoped her faith was justified.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter 111

“Sugar! Where are you?” Jon called, entering the sitting room from his bedroom of the suite.

“In here.” Veronica replied from the other bedroom.

Standing in the doorway, he watched her move around the room getting her things organized. “It’s time to go pick up the kids.” He checked his watch.

She had to smile at how eager he was to see his kids. “Why don’t you go ahead and I’ll wait here. It’ll give you some time alone with them.”

He caught her around the waist as she walked by, pulling her into his arms. “Whoa there sweetheart. Nice try, but no. You’re coming with me. It’s not like you don’t know them – or them you. I don’t need time alone with them. We need time together. All of us.”

“If you recall, last time I saw them Stephanie was barely speaking to me.”

“And if you recall, she was in shock, learning about the baby the way she did. I’m sure she’s got a better grip on it now and you’ll be friends again. Besides, Alejandra and Lexi will be there too.” He checked his watch again, stepped back, grabbed her hand and tugged. “Come on, let’s go.”

One look in his eyes told her that he wouldn’t give in or back down. Sighing in resignation, she let him pull her towards the door, picking up her purse as they passed the couch.

At the airport they met up with the guys and waited for their families to clear customs. Ava, Alejandra and Hector were the first ones through. After greeting Richie and Tico, they made the rounds of the group.

“Hi Ronnie!” Ava gave her a hug.

“Hi Ava. Did you have a good trip?”

“Yeah, it was long though.” She turned to Richie. “Dad, can we get some ice cream?”

Veronica turned to greet Alejandra, winking at Hector. “Hola mijo.”

He smiled shyly. “Hola Ronnie.”



The noise level increased dramatically as the rest of the troup joined them. Veronica hugged Jesse and Jake, gave Romeo a pat on the shoulder, stroked his hair and smiled uncertainly at Stephanie. Stephanie met her gaze for a moment, then smiled back, an open, friendly smile. Veronica let out a relieved breath.

She felt an arm settle on top of her head. Glancing up, her eyes narrowed. “Brat! I’m not that short!”

Colton grinned. “Well, you ain’t tall. But that’s okay, you’re the perfect height for Uncle Jon.”

“Brat! I heard that!” Jon cuffed him lightly in the back of the head. “Lema! You need to teach this kid that I am not short!”

“Son, don’t pick on people who are smaller than you.” Was David’s response.

Jon lunged for him, but Lexi and Veronica got in between them and kept them apart.

“Boys! Behave!” Lexi admonished them. “We’re in public!”

“Come on, let’s go before you idiots get noticed.” Veronica pushed Jon towards the door.

Stephanie and Gabi exchanged long suffering looks and eyerolls, and grabbed their suitcases. It was a large group that made its way out to the waiting vans – one for the Bongiovis, one for the Bryans and the Samboras and Torres’ shared one.

On the way to the hotel, the kids chattered away about what they’d been doing lately, the flight over and what they wanted to do while they were there.

Veronica eyed the boys warily. “Uh, guys, I know that this is a big, exciting city with lots of great places to explore, but will you promise me that you won’t go anywhere by yourselves? And by that I mean take an adult with you. And if you get some great idea run it by an adult – or your sister – before you do it. Please? For my peace of mind?”

Jesse frowned. “Okay, but why Steph?”

“Because she’ll know whether it’s something that will make me worry.” At his mutinous expression, she exchanged a glance with Stephanie. “It’s a girl thing.”

“Don’t try to understand it Jess, just go with it.” His father advised. Jesse sighed heavily, but nodded.

“Oh!” Stephanie pulled out her phone and gave Veronica an apologetic look. “I’m supposed to call Mom and let her know we’re here.”

Veronica smiled. “Of course.”

“Mommy took us to see Boots a while ago.” Jake informed them. “She’s getting bigger. She misses us.”

“How can you tell?” Veronica was curious about what he would say. He had such an interesting perspective on everything.

“She came running when she heard us and kept rubbing against us. Oh, Molly said to tell you that Boots has a new favourite bed, now that she’s big enough to climb up the stairs.”

“Yeah? Where?”

“Daddy’s bed. Molly says she finds her curled up on his pillow all the time.”

“Great.” Sarcasm was thick in Jon’s voice.

“Aaaawww, she misses you.” Veronica couldn’t stop the grin from spreading across her face.

He gave her a withering look. Her grin widened.

“Ronnie?” Stephanie’s voice was almost hesitant.


“Mom wants to talk to you.” She held out the phone.

Veronica took the phone....and a deep breath. “Hi Dorothea.”

“Hi Ronnie. How are you?”

“I’m good thanks, how are you?”

“I’m good. Surviving life on the road with the circus okay?”

“Yeah. It took me awhile to get back into the swing of touring again, but it hasn’t been too bad. The animals are a lot tamer than they used to be.”

“Age ends to do that to the best of us.” Dorothea paused. “But the vultures are still vicious.”

Veronica snorted. “Especially the ones I used to date. I’m sorry about that.”

“It’s not your fault. You haven’t done anything wrong. That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. I want to thank you.”

“For what?”

“For pushing Jon to call to warn me about the article.”

“Oh, I didn’t.....”

“Don’t try to cover for him. I know him too well. He doesn’t mean to be inconsiderate, he just doesn’t think through all the possible repercussions sometimes.” Dorothea interrupted her protest. “So thank you for making sure I knew what was floating around.”

“No thanks needed. I didn’t want you to get blindsided by it. That wouldn’t be fair to you.”

“Well, thanks anyway.” Dorothea insisted. “You’re a thoughtful, considerate woman Ronnie. I hope Jon appreciates that and is treating you right. I know he’s trying to change some of his less appealing personality traits, but it can’t be easy. Don’t let him slip back into the comfortable mould of the selfish, arrogant rockstar. You deserve better than that.”

To say Veronica was stunned would be an understatement. “Uh...thanks.”

“I always felt bad about how you were treated twenty years ago, especially on top of everything you went through with the baby. You didn’t deserve any of it.”

“Thanks Dot. I appreciate that.”

Dorothea cleared her throat and changed the subject. “I hope the kids don’t give you too much trouble. Don’t let them run you ragged, and don’t let Jon give them every damn thing they ask for! He used to have more of a backbone for that kind of thing, but he’s turned into a marshmallow. All they have to do is turn big eyes on him and plead prettily and he caves.”

Veronica chuckled. “Yeah, I’ve noticed that.”

“Try and get him to stop. It’s making them hell to live with.”

“I’ll try.”

“Good luck with the rest of the tour. I’m sure I’ll see you when you’re back on this side of the pond. Take care Ronnie, and thanks again.”

“You too, Dot. See you later.” Hanging up, she handed the phone back to Stephanie. Jon gave her an inquiring look, but she just smiled to let him know she was okay.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chapter 110

“He loves you, you know.”

Veronica sighed but didn’t look away from the blanket of clouds that was her view out the window of the plane, even when he sat down beside her. “I know.”

“He’s doing everything he can think of to make up for not being with you in Dubai.”

“I know.”

“He defended you to those pricks you dated, even to the point of saying a few things that could cause some issues if it shows up in the media.”

“I know.”

“He put you ahead of his career.”

“I know.”

“He’s never done that for anyone, even Dorothea.”

“Richie, I know!” She shot him an exasperated look, then turned back to the window. “I know.”

He studied her for a moment. “Have you told him that?”


“Why not?”

“Because I’m not ready to have that conversation.”

“Not ready for the conversation or the expectations he’ll have?” When she just shrugged, he nudged her with his shoulder. “Talk to me little girl.”

She turned to look at him, brows rising. “Playing Dear Abby Jughead? Or still pimping for him?”

“Neither. I just want two of my favourite people to be happy.”

“We’re not unhappy.”

“No, but you could be happier.”

She couldn’t argue the point. “We, well I, still have some things to work through before I can give serious consideration to his...expectations.”


“He’s the biggest, but there are other things too.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“No, I’ve got to work it out on my own. But thanks for the offer.”

“You know where I am if you need anything.”

Veronica leaned over to kiss his cheek. “Thanks Jughead.”

“Hey! Trying to poach my woman bro?” Jon mock scowled at his friend.

“I tried, but she seems to be stuck on you.” Richie shrugged. “No accounting for some people’s taste I guess.”

Veronica laughed and swatted his arm as he stood. “There’s nothing wrong with my taste.”

Jon sat down and leaned over to kiss her. “Mmmm. Nothing wrong with your taste at all, sugar. Sweet yet spicy, just the way I like it.”

An unladylike snort was her response to his silliness, although there was a sparkle in the amethyst pools he loved to drown in, and a slight curve to the luscious lips he loved to taste.

Before Veronica could say anything, her phone rang. She glanced at the display then at Jon. “Hello?”

“Hi Ronnie, it’s Cheryl.”

“Hi Cheryl, what’s up?” She raised a brow at Jon, but he just picked up a magazine and opened it.

“I’m calling about the arrangements for the kids to join you. I’m sending their flight information to you, but I wanted to talk to you about the hotel accommodations. The hotels have two bedroom suites, but no additional connecting room. you want your own room or will you be staying in the suite? When I asked Jon, he said he thought the suite, but I should check with you.”

“Ummm..” Veronica hesitated, debating. But she knew she really didn’t have a choice, not if she wanted to give their relationship a real try. “The suite, I guess.”

“Okay. That’s all I needed to know. Thanks Ronnie.”

“Thanks Cheryl. Talk to you later.” Hanging up, she turned to look at Jon. “Why did you tell her to call me instead of just asking me yourself?”

“Neutral third party. It was your decision to make and I didn’t want you to feel pressure from me.”

“Hmpf.” Maybe not a spoken pressure, but I knew what you wanted. But it won’t be exactly as you want! “Looks like it’ll be boys in one room and girls in the other.” I hope Stephanie’s talking to me or it’s going to be very uncomfortable.

Jon frowned. “The kids can all share one.”

Veronica gave him a chiding glance. “Oh, yeah, I’m sure Stephanie would be just thrilled to share a room – and a bed - with her brothers.”

Jon sighed in resignation. “I guess not.”

“What’s the pout for – besides the obvious?”

“It means I have to share a bed with Romeo. Jesse and Jake will throw a fit if either one of them have to.”


“He hogs the covers.”

Veronica chuckled and patted his cheek. “Poor baby. We’ll find you an extra blanket.”

“I’d rather you kept me warm.”

“Sorry babe, not in front of the kids.”

Jon sighed again, and turned back to his magazine.

A ping from her laptop signalled an e-mail arriving and, still chuckling, Veronica clicked to open it. As she read her amusement faded, then died altogether. “Damn.”

“Something wrong?”

Before she could answer, her phone rang. A glance at the display had her cursing again. “Hi Vince.”

“Did you get my e-mail?”

“I’m reading it right now.”

“What the hell’s going on out there Veronica?”

“The tour’s going very well. Dubai was a success and the European shows are mostly sold out. Sales are...”

“That’s not what I’m talking about. You’re there to do a job, not play house with your boyfriend!”

Veronica closed her eyes and took a tighter grip on her temper. “I’m doing my job Vince, one you told me I was chosen for because of my abilities and because of my friendship with Jon. If you don’t think I’m doing a good enough job, then replace me.” She held up a hand when Jon’s head snapped towards her, a frown creasing his forehead and darkening with every word she uttered. “And I’m not ‘playing house with my boyfriend.’ What I do outside of work hours is my business. I haven’t done anything that would reflect badly on the band, the label or affect sales. That article was written by a jealous ex-boyfriend who’s trying to make a name for himself, hopefully at my expense. It won’t work. Neither of us are married or involved with anyone else. It’s a non story.” Jon turned her laptop so that he could read it and held out his hand for her phone. She shook her head.

“So you admit that you’ him?”

“Yes, I guess you could call it that. I would have preferred that our relationship not become public knowledge until after the tour, but....” She shrugged.

“What are you going to do about the article?”

“Nothing. We’re going to ignore it. Jon’s very good at avoiding personal questions that he doesn’t want to answer. There’s only a few weeks left of the tour, and then it won’t matter anymore.”

“Hmmpf. Well, keep an eye on it.” He had to tread a little carefully. If he pushed too far, she’d quit, and, professionally speaking, he couldn’t afford to let that happen. Her ear for talent was one of the best in the business. Any of their competitors would be more than happy to have her. Not to mention, if this turned out to be a serious relationship with Jon, he didn’t want to take the risk of pissing him off and losing Bon Jovi from their roster.

“I will.” Hanging up, she closed her eyes, leaned her head back against the seat and blew out a heavy sigh.

“Fucking prick.” Jon growled.

“Tom or Vince?”

“Take your pick. Why wouldn’t you let me talk to Vince?”

“Because I was handling it. You would just lose your temper and create a bigger....issue.”

Jon couldn’t deny she had a point – at least about him losing his temper, but that didn’t make him feel any better. “I’m part of this too remember, you don’t have to take any crap from Vince or anyone else because we’re together. It’s nobody’s business but yours and mine....and the kids. Everyone else needs to mind their own fucking business! And if Vince or anyone else at the label has a problem with who I date, they can take it up with me!”

“Like they’d dare.” She chuckled, but Jon’s scowl didn’t go away. She reached out to squeeze his hand. “I appreciate your support and if Vince keeps it up, I’ll let you have at him. But let me try it my way first. Please? If I have to look for a new job I’d rather not have my last assignment cancelled before it was finished.”

“If he fires you, I’ll hire you. You can work for us full time.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Veronica leaned over to kiss him.

Jon’s raised voice had alerted the others that something had happened and they gathered around them.

“Problem?” Richie spoke for the group.

In response, Jon handed over the laptop so that they could read Tom’s article – or at least the relevant part – for themselves.

On the personal side, it appears that Bon Jovi, recently divorced from his wife of almost twenty years, has a new woman in his life, although insider’s doubt how new she is. Rumour has it that they’ve known each other for many years. Relighting an old flame? Or just killing time on the road? Did I mention that she works for Mercury Records and is travelling with the band, handling promotions for the tour? Nice gig if you can get it.



“Dead man!”

Veronica didn’t disagree.

“Yeah, and now Vince is hassling her about whether she’s working did he put it...playing house with her boyfriend?” Jon filled them in.

David raised a brow. “And you didn’t reach through the phone and rip him a new one?”

“Ronnie wouldn’t let me. If he doesn’t back off I will though....and then I’ll switch labels. Fucker!”

Veronica remained quiet while they expressed their opinions, support and ideas of what should be done to both men. When they wound down she caught Jon’s eye. “You should call Dorothea and warn her.”

He frowned. “She knows we’re together.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t know that it’s, for all intents and purposes, public knowledge....or that he’s implying that we may have been together during your marriage.” When he still hesitated, she nudged him. “If you want to stay on good terms with her, call her. Don’t let her be surprised or get caught unprepared if someone mentions it to her....or the kids.”

“Mmmm. I never thought about that. Good point.” He picked up his phone.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chapter 109

The room was beautiful, decorated in the Victorian era style with a huge, solid four poster bed with wooden slats joining the top of the posts to each other forming a square. Bed curtains hung at each corner, tied back with long silk cords.

Veronica set down her purse and laptop bag, but before she could move, strong arms slipped around her waist, pulling her back against a hard chest. Hot breath bathed her ear.

“Finally! I’ve waited for hours to get you to myself.”

She chuckled, leaned back against him and tilted her head, an invitation he was quick to accept, lips and tongue tracing the line of her neck and ear. “Mmmmmm.”

While his mouth tasted, licked and nibbled and nuzzled her, Jon lifted one hand and slid it inside the deep vee of her halter top to cup a firm breast, calloused fingertips caressing warm flesh, snagging lightly on the lace of her bra. His other hand slipped the brass button of her jeans through the hole and eased the zipper down until he could reach inside, two fingers foraging through her rapidly dampening curls to find her even hotter female flesh.

Veronica moaned and clutched his arm, sinking her other hand into his thick mane, turning her head in search of that teasing mouth. Finding it, she melded her lips to his and sent her tongue to battle with his.

For long minutes they stood there, letting the heat and passion between them rise. But it wasn’t long before it wasn’t enough – for either of them. Releasing her body, but not her mouth, Jon let her turn to face him, then manoeuvred them towards the bed as they removed each other’s clothing, not slowly, but not with any real sense of urgency either. By the time they reached the end of the bed, they were both naked. Jon tugged her against him, ran his hands down her back to fill his hands with her firm cheeks and pull her closer yet.

Veronica whimpered at the feel of his erection pressing into her stomach, looped her arms around his neck and swivelled her hips to caress his sensitive flesh. She didn’t notice him reaching out to some point behind her.

Jon groaned, the urge to take her right there, right then, almost overwhelming, but he forced himself to stick to the plan, forced his arms to ease her body away from his, forced his lips to part from hers.

Her protest died in her throat as she quickly found her wrists bound together with one of the silk cords. While she watched, he reached to the corner post behind him for another cord. Tying one end to her bindings, he threw the other end over the wooden slat overhead and pulled until her arms were lifted above her head, tying it off to keep them there.

Veronica crooked one ebony brow. “What are you doing?”

“You’ll see.” Amusement and anticipation was heavy in his voice.


Stepping back, Jon let his gaze drift over her from the top of her head to her. He may as well have touched her, the effect was the same. Her skin tingled and her blood heated. He lifted his hands, framed her face and kissed her as if he would devour her.

Every thought cindered beneath the heat in that kiss. Reflex had her tugging on her bonds to try to hold him to her, but they wouldn’t give. All she could do was stand and let him do whatever he wanted to her.

Releasing her, Jon dropped slowly to his knees, his fingers trailing over her body as he went. He sat back on his braced knees, grasped her thighs, raised them and placed one over each shoulder. Gripping her hips with both hands, he held her firmly and set his lips to her core.

Veronica swallowed a shriek, her hands clenching around the cord holding her arms suspended. Her spine arched, thighs pressing down hard against his shoulders. He possessed her with slow deliberation, reducing her to a state of breathless, panting need. He held her on the edge for long minutes, licking, sucking, teasing her moist flesh, before taking her swollen clit between his lips to suckle, letting her fly.

Veronica screamed.

Before her tremors had subsided, Jon let her legs slide off his shoulders and stood. Grasping her thighs, he lifted her up and to him, entering her with one long, powerful thrust. Her cries urged him on, her legs a vice around his waist, as he pumped her slowly, repetitively, deeply, until she shattered into a million pieces, taking him with her.

But he wasn’t done yet.

When the last ripples of her release faded – and he could breathe again – and she slumped boneless against the bonds, he withdrew from her temporarily sated body. Reaching up he untied the cord holding up her arms, and lifted her onto the bed. He left her there to recover while he gathered what he needed for the rest of his plan.

Veronica sensed him moving away from her, but didn’t yet have the strength to open her eyes to see what he was doing. A few minutes later she jumped at the touch of a warm wash cloth between her thighs.

“Sorry sugar, didn’t mean to startle you, just cleaning you up a little.” Setting aside the cloth, he tied the cord to the head board, so that her arms were once again above her head. That done, he laid down beside her, arm bent at the elbow, rested his head on his palm and surveyed his handiwork.

Veronica lifted her still bound hands as much as she could. “Why?”

“Because with your hands tied, you can’t use them to...distract me.” Or break my control. This time, it’s going to be at my speed! “Tonight is about pleasuring you.” At her look, he grinned. “I didn’t say it was about pleasuring only you.” He sobered. “Nica....I want to show you that you are a beautiful, desirable, complete woman who deserves to, and is worthy of being loved.” And prove to her that he wasn’t like those pricks trying to pass themselves off as men that she’d dated. “So I’m going to make love to you for as long as our stamina will hold out. I want to see how much pleasure you can take.”

Veronica shivered at the thought. She appreciated the sentiment behind his words...and understood what he didn’t say....and she wasn’t sure she was ready to face that. But she also wasn’t exactly in a position to stop him.

Blunt fingers traced the line of her arm and along her collarbone. “Your skin is so soft and smooth and pearls. You don’t tan time to lay out in the sun I guess. Although your face and chest do flush...or blush, whatever, when you’re aroused. I love to run my hands over you...feels like warm silk.”

His hand lowered to cup her breasts. First one, then the other. “Nice. Firm, but not hard. Obviously real, not silicone. Fits perfectly in my hand. Also a nice soft place to rest my head.” One fingertip traced the line where creamy changed to soft pink. “Such pretty pink nipples.” His lips curved into a slight smile as the items he was describing hardened in response to his touch. “It amazes me that something so soft can become so hard so quickly.”

Veronica snorted despite the tiny fires his touch lit under her skin. “I could say the same about you.”

“I guess. I never thought about it that way.” He shrugged. “I’d rather pay attention to how your body reacts than mine.” His hand left her breast to smooth over her stomach to her thigh. “Have I ever told you how gorgeous your legs are? The fact that you can bend them into so many....interesting....positions doesn’t hurt either. My favourite is either locked around my waist or all the way up so that your knees are by your ears.”

Sliding his palm up the inside of her thigh, he cupped her between her legs. “And here we come to the heart of the matter. hot, so...wet. You’re body’s telling me it wants me. I love how you take me in and hold me so snug and tight.” The heel of his hand rubbed against her clit, available now that her folds had swollen and opened with her rising passion. He slid two fingers inside her and grinned at her soft moan. “Aah, hot velvet.”

Veronica’s eyes drifted closed, a defence mechanism against the sensations his touch created. She would have begged for more, but she didn’t want to interrupt his recital. The combination of words and touch had woven a spell around her, touching both body and soul and pretty much taking away her ability to speak anyway. All she could do was lift her hips into his hand in silent plea.

“You want more? I have something that you might like even better.”

Veronica bit back a cry of protest at the feel of his fingers leaving her. The sense of loss was lessened by the prospect of getting what she really wanted....him. A gasp was ripped from her throat at the sensation of something hard and cool penetrating her. She lifted her head. He hadn’t moved from his position beside her. “What the hell?”

Jon grinned, pulled out the toy and held it up for her to see......and grinned when she flopped back with a groan. “Hey, you had The Blue Pill Adventure and Harem Night, it’s my turn to choose how we play.” Sliding the toy back in, he proceeded to use it like a dildo rather than turning it on, pumping her slowly. “One of the benefits of this is that I can watch you. When I’m inside you I get so distracted by my own pleasure, I can’t really appreciate yours.” He watched her body ride the movement of the vibrator. “Yes, just like that. I love seeing the flame ignite in those incredible purple eyes, seeing the expressions passion brings to your face.” His gaze studied her face. “God! You’re so beautiful!”

Veronica closed her eyes, moaned, and absorbed the wave of sensation his ministrations were creating. “Johnny!”

“Yes, Nica, it’s me. I’m giving you this pleasure. Do you want more?”

She could only arch her back and nod. Jon sped up the movement of his hand, thrusting and withdrawing the toy faster, harder, deeper. Veronica gasped and moaned louder. He increased his speed even more and watched intently, his ears ringing with her scream, as her body stiffened, then convulsed. Jon kept pumping until the tremors subsided. “Beautiful.”

After allowing her a few minutes to rest, Jon bent and kissed her, tasting her gently, but very thoroughly. “Mmmm. I love the way you taste.” He shifted direction and slid his open mouth over to nibble on her ear before continuing down her neck. At the same time, his hand roamed her torso, teasing, arousing, inciting. Arriving at her breasts, his lips cruised over the creamy mounds to sample the pink peaks, first one then the other, while blunt fingers massaged. His lips twitched as he lifted his head and he reached for the vibrator, sliding it slowly out of her body. He rubbed the tip all over and around her nipples, both stimulating them and coating them with her juices, which he then settled in to lick and suck off.

Lifting his head, he caught her eye. “Maybe we should try using this the way it was built for. Hmmm, which speed? I think maybe just low to start.” A flick of his thumb, and a low hum sounded in the room. He reapplied the toy to her nipples, grinning when they hardened instantly. “I love how responsive your body is.”

Starting in the valley between her breasts, he ran the vibrator in a path over her stomach and along her cleft, then followed with his mouth, licking up the wetness left behind. He circled her clit several times, then slid the appliance home, moving it in and out a few times.

“Johnny!” Veronica cried out as nerve endings sent lightning bolts through her body. Her hips lifted in search of more.

Jon smirked. He would have liked to keep teasing her, maybe watch her come a few dozen more times – she was so incredibly beautiful in the throws of passion – but his body told him time was running out...and he had one more sweet pleasure he was determined to visit on her, before taking his own.

Leaving the vibrator buried, he gripped her hips and flipped her onto her stomach. One hand brushed aside ebony curls to set hands and mouth to the long lines of her back. As he neared her waist, he couldn’t help but notice the slight, almost involuntary rocking of her lower body, the better to absorb the sensations caused by imbedded toy. He listened to her whimpers for a few more minutes, then reached down to turn off the vibrator and remove it. Veronica groaned and muttered in protest. Jon chuckled. “Patience sugar.” Strong hands gripped her hips and lifted. “On your knees please sweetheart.”

Veronica quickly obeyed, bracing herself on her knees and elbows, since her bindings prevented her from raising up onto her hands, and prayed her trembling limbs would support her. Although she couldn’t deny that the pleasure she’d been experiencing since he’d laid her on the bed had been incredibly delicious, she, almost desperately, hoped she was finally going to get what she really wanted – him. When Jon positioned himself behind her, she let out a sigh of relief.

Jon heard and grinned, having a pretty good idea what was going through her mind. Sorry honey, not quite yet. “Okay, let’s see if I can find that magic, elusive spot.”

When the tip of the vibrator penetrated her once again, Veronica wanted to cry in frustration. “Johnny please! I want you!”

“Soon, Nica, I promise.” He wiggled the appliance slightly, searching, but didn’t turn it on. “Tell me when I’m in the right spot.” Her gasp and soft cry was a good clue, but he wanted to be sure. “There? Is that the spot?”

“Yes! Mmmmm, yes there....ooh, right there!”

“Okay, let’s see what high speed does for you.” A flick of his thumb and the hum sounded again, a higher pitch this time.”

Veronica sucked in a breath, and promptly lost it – and any sense of control. The nerve endings that had been flickering and simmering, exploded, sending shock waves of pleasure throughout her body. All she could do was gasp and strain and scream. Over and over, like the ocean breaking on a beach during a storm, the waves swamped her. Her orgasms were hitting one on top of another.....or maybe it was just one big, long, intense one, she couldn’t tell. And Jon didn’t stop until her legs gave out and she collapsed onto the bed, her body racked with convulsions, black spots appearing at the periphery of her vision.

Turning off the vibrator, Jon gently withdrew it from her body, set it aside, and flipped her back onto her back, brushing her hair out off her face.

“Jesus.....Jesus.” She couldn’t have said if the breathless word was a curse or a prayer. Her mind wasn’t fully functional at this point. All she could do was struggle to breathe while her body twitched and shuddered. “Jesus...Jesus.”

“I guess high speed does it for you.”

She managed to lever her eyelids up enough to see the amusement glinting in the deep blue above her. Whatever reply she was going to attempt to make went right out of her head when he shifted over her, nudging her legs apart, settled in between and with one slow, gentle thrust buried himself inside her.

All she could do was groan. “Jesus Jon....are you kill me?”

“I’m just a man, not God, sugar.” If she had the strength she would have swatted him. He grinned. “Sorry sugar, this won’t take long.” Bracing on his elbows, he framed her face with his hands and started to move.

He used slow, gentle thrusts, watching her eyes for any sign of discomfort. Every few minutes he lowered his head to touch his lips to hers in a soft kiss. He wasn’t really surprised to feel her hips match his rhythm. He remembered well the depth of her passionate nature....and her stamina.

Veronica was surprised though. She didn’t think she had anything left to give. She’d lost count of the number of orgasms he’d brought her to, but knew it was more than she’d ever experienced in one night. Then again, they’d always been an extremely good match.

This time seemed to go on forever and at the same time felt like it was over in minutes. This time was more than just a joining of bodies. This time when she climaxed, it wasn’t with fireworks and screams, but rather with sighs and something.....deeper. This time he reached a part of her she’d thought was dead – or at least buried so deep it would never see light again. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that, but she couldn’t deny it. Tears slid out of the corners of her eyes at the beauty and depth of the emotions she could no longer hold back.

The clenching of her hot sheath around him took him over the edge with her, flooding her with his warmth. Taking a shaky breath, he kissed the corners of her eyes, tasting her tears. “I love you.”

She didn’t know how she felt about that either, but couldn’t deny it.