Jon found her in the galley, making a cup of tea. Crossing his arms over his chest he leaned against the door frame. “Can we talk about this or do you need more time to come up with another obstacle to our relationship now that the last one’s been overcome?”
The flash of purple fire was visible under sooty lashes, and her lips pressed into a thin line, but her voice was calm as she dunked the tea bag. “There are other issues.”
“None that matter.”
She sighed. “Why are you being such an asshole?”
“Because it seems to be the only way I can get some emotion out of you.”
“Gee, and here I thought I gave you plenty of emotion just last night.”
“Passion and lust are not the emotions I’m looking for – or not the only emotions. They’re great, but they tend to be temporary if they’re not based on something stronger...deeper.”
Veronica glanced at him and raised a brow. “You’re a man, you’re not supposed to notice the difference – or care, or even think about feelings like that.”
“Oh we think about them, we just don’t feel the need to talk about them all the time like your half of the species does. But I’m a songwriter, so I have to more than most.” He paused. “And I remember how it was before...I can feel the difference.”
The silence stretched.
He sighed. “Why are you fighting this so hard?”
“I don’t know.” Tears clogged her throat and roughened her voice. “It’s...easier, I guess......safer.”
He thought that was probably the most honest answer she’d ever given him on the subject. For once he didn’t push, but waited for her to speak when she was ready.
She sighed. “I’m scared Jon. What we had was so....intense, so....overwhelming....and when it was taken away, I felt....lost....empty.....betrayed. I don’t ever want to feel like that again. I couldn’t take it.”
Jon stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Oh honey! I can’t turn back time, and I can’t fix what happened, but I can promise you that I’ll never hurt you like that again!” He squeezed. “I know you’ll never forget it, but try not to dwell on it. Think about how good we were together – how good we are together. We can have that again if you’ll just let go and trust me!”
“I’m....trying Jon. I promise I am. I just need some time. I need to take it slow.”
He wanted to growl in frustration and shake her. “Don’t take too long sweetheart. Don’t let the past dictate our future. You know better than most that life is short. Too short to spend a lot of time being afraid to take a chance.”
She knew he was right, but it was hard to break a twenty year self defence mechanism.
Jon nuzzled her neck. “Let me love you.” The stiffening of her body sparked his temper again. “I’m not asking you to say it back, dammit, just acknowledge that I said it! Stop denying my feelings just because you’re too unsure or afraid of your own! I love you!”
“Fine! You love me.” Even she could hear the anger in her voice. What was she angry about? That he said it or that he made her acknowledge that he said it? Was she really that selfish? He had the right to his feelings, but regardless of what he said, the pressure was on her now to reciprocate. And she just wasn’t ready to do that. She might be more comfortable with his kids now, and enjoyed being part of Jon’s life and his family, even missed him when they were apart, but she wasn’t ready to label it love. Still, she didn’t have the right to deny his feelings. She let her body relax, leaned against him and nodded. “Okay. I know you love me.”
“Thank you.” He took a breath. “Now, can we get back to what brought us in here in the first place? Did you really think that you needed an invitation to spend the holiday with us? With me?”
Veronica sighed and took a sip of tea. “We hadn’t talked about it. I didn’t know what you were thinking.”
Jon rocked her from side to side a bit. “Seriously? Do you really expect me to believe that you didn’t know what I wanted?”
To do that would only make her look stupid, or brand her a liar. But whether she knew or not wasn’t really the point here. “Don’t take me for granted Jon.”
He snorted. “The only thing about you that I take for granted is that nothing is going to go as I expect or as smoothly as I’d like. You keep me on my toes.” When she didn’t react – not even a chuckle or a little bit of a smile, he sighed. “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you about it, and I’m sorry for the way I talked to Lori.”
She considered that for a moment. “And I’m sorry that I didn’t bring up the holiday myself and I’m sorry I didn’t just tell Lori that we hadn’t talked about it and I’d have to get back to her instead of making it look like you didn’t want me with you.”
Jon turned her to face him, a knuckle under her chin lifted her face towards his. “So, are we okay then?” She nodded slightly. “And you’re coming home with me when we land?” Veronica hesitated, then nodded again. “Good.” He kissed her lightly. “There’s nowhere else I want you to be.”
“Me either.” She answered honestly, slid her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly for a long minute, savouring the comfort she felt when his closed around her. Easing back she kissed him. “Come on, let’s get out of Vicky’s galley. I’m sure she’d like us out of her way.”
Catching her hand, Jon laced their fingers together and led her back into the main body of the plane and up to where the rest were sitting. All eyes turned their way and those of the adults and the four Bongiovi children eased at the sight of their clasped hands.
“Okay,” Ronnie began as she sat down and met blue gazes all around her. “So tell me about this Bongiovi Fourth of July Barbeque, and what do you need me to do?”
As traditions and suggestions flew back and forth, Jon sat back and watched her interact with his kids, adding his own comments periodically. While he watched, Romeo moved over to climb into Veronica’s lap. She smoothed his hair back from his forehead to check his bandage, then gave him her full attention as he described some of the games they played and the fireworks they either set off themselves or drove over to the shore where they could watch them light up the sky over New York City. It was obvious to Jon, that all her barriers against his youngest were finally gone. There was warmth shining in the amethyst depths of her eyes where before there had been only apprehension and pain and yearning.
This is what he’d been missing since the day Dorothea called it quits and asked him to leave. Family. His refuge from the madness of his life on the stage. Dorothea and the kids kept his feet firmly on the ground and reminded him that when it came right down to it, he was just a man. A husband and father. But Dot never understood what being on that stage meant to him. It wasn’t about the fan adulation – although he had to admit that was nice. It wasn’t about selling a million records or having more sold out shows than Bruce or Bono. It wasn’t about awards – but a little recognition of his hard work would be nice – or even the Hall of Fame.....not really. Sure, his ego liked it, but that’s not why he did it. It was about creating something, then sharing it with the world. Any artist will tell you that the joy of creating is doubled when you share it with those that appreciate it. Standing on that stage and watching the crowd dance and sing along with him, getting enjoyment out of his creation.....that’s what it was all about. The adrenaline rush and sense of....satisfaction...was unmatched by anything else he’d ever done. His work with the Foundation was getting close, at least in the satisfaction department. But it was hard for non-creative types to understand. He’d tried to explain it to Dorothea in terms she could relate to, comparing it to her dojo and the feeling she got when she watched a student master a particularly difficult move that she’d spent a lot of time working with them on. She kind of got it, but music and karate were different. She liked music, but it wasn’t a part of her soul like it was his. Ronnie got that. She understood how a melody or a lyric can get into your head and you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you can’t think about anything else until you get it down on paper.
Twenty years ago he’d had to make a choice.....the woman who understood his heart or the one who understood his soul. At the time his life was a frenetic race for success. Shows, interviews, photo shoots, recording sessions, one after another after another after another. Everyone around him telling him how great he was, how big he was going to be. He thought he needed the grounding influence Dorothea could provide. And he was right. He regretted the pain he’d caused Ronnie, and not being there for her when she really needed him, but he never regretted marrying Dorothea. He loved her and she brought stability to his life. They had four beautiful children together. He could never regret that.
But Ronnie had always had a piece of his heart. Back then she’d been trying to make a name for herself in the business and her life had been as crazy as his. She couldn’t provide what he needed then, but they were older now and more settled. Their requirements were different now and he was convinced she could fill all of his. She knew the business and what it demanded of him. She knew when to stroke his ego and when to deflate it. She understood the importance of family and not missing out on the important events with your loved ones. Life was too short. He would never know if they could have made it if they’d stayed together back then, but he was convinced they were right for each other now – or at least that she was right for him.
Over the next hour, people started to drop off to sleep, the kids included. Jon glanced down when Veronica’s head drooped and came to rest on his shoulder. A soft smile curving his lips, he bent and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. One glance around assured him all four of his offspring were sleeping as well. Yes, he had everything right here that he wanted in life.....well, this and induction into the Hall of Fame.