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.