Jon rolled over and dropped his arm over Veronica’s waist. A slight frown of confusion wrinkled his brow when his fingers touched something soft and...furry. He flexed them and waited for his sleep fogged brain to process what he was touching. He knew it wasn’t her nightgown – that was silk – and he could feel the blanket under his arm. Then he felt something damp and slightly rough scrape his skin.
“What the hell?” He raised up on his elbow to see what it was. Green eyes looked up at him while the small pink tongue continued licking.
“Cat.” Veronica murmured sleepily without opening her eyes.
“Oh.” He dropped back onto his pillow and closed his eyes, his fingers absently smoothing fur. “How’d she get in here?”
“She was scratching at the door and crying. Jake must have closed his door.” Boots had taking to sleeping on the six year old’s bed – with his complete agreement - since Jon had kept his promise to keep his bedroom door closed so that she couldn’t get in.
“So you let her in?”
“Mmmm. Couldn’t stand the noise.”
He sighed. “At least she’s sleeping on your side.”
“You kept pushing her off the bed on your side.” She turned her head slightly and cracked open one eye. “Do you really not remember any of this?”
“Uh uh. You wore me out last night.” As she had every night since they’d gotten home. Yeah, he could definitely get used to this.
Veronica snorted. “I didn’t start everything last night....I just finished it.”
And that was an area where he’d like to see some improvement – she very rarely initiated their intimate encounters. She responded readily to his advances, but he wished she’d take the lead sometimes.
A knock at the door prevented his response. “Ronnie, Daddy.”
“Come on in little man.” Veronica called out. Stephanie had been right again. None of the boys had seemed the least bit surprised or upset about finding her sleeping in Jon’s room.
Romeo ran over and climbed onto the bed. “It’s party day! Oh, hi Boots!”
“It is! Are you excited?” Veronica smiled at the boy and kitten playing beside her.
“Yeah! When everybody coming?”
“Not until this afternoon.”
“Aww.” His bottom lip came out in a pout. “What we gonna do ‘til then?”
“Have a nap.” Was his father’s suggestion.
“But Daddy, it not night time! And we haven’t had breakfast yet!”
“That’s why it’s called a nap.”
Veronica poked him with her elbow. “Daddy’s just teasing. We’ve got to get the tables set up, make sure the food’s ready, Daddy’s got to make sure the barbeque’s ready and set up the bar...” As she ran down the list of what they needed to do before the guests arrived, she ignored the groans coming from the grumpy wall at her back.
Romeo’s eyes widened as she spoke. “We’re gonna need a lot of cookies to get all that done.”
Veronica laughed. “How about we start with some breakfast first? Why don’t you take Boots downstairs and make sure she’s got food and water in her dishes and we’ll be down in a few minutes and Daddy will make us something to eat. Okay?”
“Okay. Scambled eggs pease Daddy.” Holding the kitten carefully, he slid off the bed.
“You got it little man.” Jon replied, but didn’t even open his eyes.
“Come on Grumpy Gus, this is your party.”
“Mmmmm.” Rising from the bed, she pulled on a robe and headed downstairs for some sustenance to prepare her for the day.
Behind her, a frustrated rockstar growled into his pillow and punched it.
After breakfast and quick showers, Veronica deployed her troops for Operation Party Prep. They were setting the last of the tables in place when a car came up the driveway.
“It’s Grandma and Grandpa!” Jake, who was closest, announced.
“Oh joy.” Veronica muttered under her breath, thinking no one was close enough to hear.
Stephanie gave her a compassionate look and went to greet her grandparents. Jon stepped up to kiss her and squeeze her hand reassuringly but made no move to go near his mother.
“We came early to help.” Carol announced as she joined them. “Matthew and Desiree are right behind us.”
“But it looks like you’ve got everything under control. It looks great Ronnie.” John leaned over to kiss her cheek. “Happy Fourth honey.”
“Thanks John. Happy Fourth to you too.” Taking a deep breath she turned. “Carol.”
Carol looked over Veronica’s barbeque attire of red shorts over a white bikini – which Jon assured her was totally appropriate, and he greatly appreciated – and shoved the salad bowl she was carrying into her hands. “Hmmpf! This needs to go in the fridge until we’re ready to eat.” She walked over to the nearest table. “This table should be over there.”
“Hey Ronnie, where do you want this stuff?” Matt called, gesturing with the containers of raw vegetables he carried.
“In the kitchen please Matty.” Veronica shot Jon a look, and turned towards the house.
Jon watched her go, sighed, and narrowed his eyes at his mother. “Don’t start Mom. I told you, be civil or leave.”
“Help your father move this table.”
“It’s fine where it is.”
“It belongs over there.”
“It belongs wherever Ronnie wants it!”
“This is your house not hers!”
“And I say it goes wherever the fuck she wants it!”
“Jon! Language! The children are right here!”
With a dismissive wave of his hand, Jon headed towards the house to see how much damage was done.
“Carol stop.” John’s voice was harsh. “You promised you wouldn’t do this.”
“I haven’t done anything. Did I say anything rude to her?”
Her husband’s look said he wasn’t buying it. “Stop or we’re going home.”
In the kitchen, Veronica put the salad Carol had brought into the fridge and shut the door with a little more force than was necessary.
“Don’t let her get to you Sis, everything looks great.” Matt assured her.
“If you don’t mind me asking, why does she...” Desiree wasn’t sure how to word it.
“Hate me?” Veronica finished for her. She looked at Matt. “You would know better than I.”
“Ronnie’s a threat to Mom’s place in Jon’s life.”
“She’s his mother, how can Ronnie be a threat to that?” Desiree was confused.
“She was also a driving force behind his career in the beginning, and was Jon’s sounding board on what he should do....until Ronnie came along.” Matt explained. “Ronnie knew the business and knew Jon. She could help guide him careerwise and lookout for his best interest. He didn’t need Mom anymore.”
Desiree still didn’t see the problem. “So? Your mother should have been happy about that.”
“Ah, but no one should be looking after him but her.” Veronica stated snidely. “She should always be the centre of his life. Her Golden Boy.” A sound had them turning to see Jon standing in the doorway. “Sorry, that wasn’t a dig at you.”
“But that was over twenty years ago, surely she’s gotten over that by now!” Desiree was still trying to understand.
Veronica shook her head. “Nope. Apparently she’s made it her mission in life to sabotage my happiness – at least where Jon is concerned.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
Jon and Veronica exchange a long look. Jon raised a brow, but let her make the decision. Veronica hesitated, then shrugged. “They’re family.” Taking a deep breath, she gave them the Reader’s Digest version of what happened with the baby and how Stephanie found out as well as Carol’s continuing attitude towards her. By the time she finished Desiree was in tears and Matt looked like he wanted to punch something.
“I knew there was something big going on! No wonder being around the kids was so difficult for you.” He turned on his older brother. “And you just walked away and let her go through that alone?”
“I know I was wrong, but you weren’t there, you don’t know what it was like!”
“I know you walked away from your pregnant girlfriend and let her go through hell alone while you were off playing rockstar!”
“I didn’t know what she went through until about six months ago!” Jon raked a hand through his hair. “It’s not your business Matt, you were told out of courtesy because your family....back off!”
“Stop it!” Veronica glared at both of them. “Just stop it! Matt, I appreciate your concern and support, but it wasn’t all Jon’s fault. I’ve told you how he was kept in the dark about the worst of it. We were young. We weren’t prepared to deal with the situation.”
“He should have been with you!”
“Yes, he should have. And he knows it. And he feels horrible that he wasn’t. But it’s all in the past. Jon and I have talked it out and dealt with it. It’s time to let it go.” Veronica reached out to squeeze Matt’s hand, trying to defuse the Bongiovi temper. “Please Matty. Let it go. There’s lots of blame to spread around, but what good would it do? It won’t change anything. It won’t bring Drew back.” She could see that he wasn’t convinced, but he was listening to her. “Today’s supposed to be a happy day, surrounded by family and friends. Please don’t spoil it.” She included Jon in her plea. “Please, for my sake, and the kids.....let it go!”
The two brothers stared at each other for several breaths, then both nodded curtly. Matt leaned down and kissed her cheek. “You know where I am if you need anything.”
“I can fucking well take care of her!” Jon scowled.
“Yeah, you’ve shown how well you do that!” Matt shot back.
“Stop it! Both of you! I have enough to deal with today without having to worry about refereeing you two!” Veronica wanted to smash their heads together. “I can take care of myself!” She took a deep breath and fought for calm. “If there’s anything I need from either one of you, I’ll let you know. And right now I need you to help me finish setting up for this party. Matt, there’s chairs stacked outside the patio door. Would you please set them out by the tables and near the pool? Jon, finish the bar and check the barbeque please. And somebody check on Jake and Romeo. Desiree, will you help me finish the veggie trays and put out the dips?”
It took a few seconds before the men gave up their aggressive stances and do as she asked. Matt glared at Jon as he brushed by him to head outside. Jon turned to follow him.
“Jon wait! There’s something I need you to do for me first.” Veronica gave in to an urge that was almost overwhelming.
“What?” There was an edge of annoyance and exasperation in his tone.
Veronica stepped up to him, wrapped her arms around his neck and clung. When his came up to hold her, she pressed closer. “Tighter.”
He squeezed, understanding that she needed the contact with him – and why. If he was honest, he needed it too.
After several long minutes absorbing his strength, Veronica sighed and leaned back enough to see his face. “Thank you. Don’t fight with your brother.”
“I didn’t start it!”
“I know you didn’t, but please don’t fight with him. Not about this. Not today.”
Seeing Jon’s frown, Desiree spoke up. “I’ll talk to Matt and get him to back off.”
“Thank you Desiree.” Veronica turned back to Jon and kissed him. “Now, will you please finish up outside?” As he left the room, she called after him. “And make sure the boys stay away from the river!” Leaning against the counter, she closed her eyes and blew out a breath.
“You okay?” Desiree asked.
Veronica nodded. “Yeah. But I have the feeling this is going to be a long fucking day.”