“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.”
“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 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.”
“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.