It was as they were walking into the party that it hit Jon. The tour was over. They didn’t have to hide their relationship anymore – not that his staff and crew hadn’t figured it out anyway, but they hadn’t really advertised it to the world at large. As of tonight, he was released from his promise to keep his distance when there were outsiders around. Before he could take advantage of his new freedom, Veronica stepped away from him to speak to a couple of her co-workers – well, soon to be former co-workers. Jon turned from the bar, drinks in hand and went to join his girlfriend’s circle.
“No shit! You really quit?” Brent had flown in from L.A. He had a meeting at the New York office, but he really wanted to find out if the rumours floating around the office were true.
“Yep! Just have to finish my tour reports and I’m done.” Veronica assured him.
“Wow! I can’t believe you quit! What happened?” Melissa had been with the label almost as long as Veronica had, and never thought she’d see this day.
Veronica shrugged. “I just got fed up with Vince’s shit. I don’t need it. It’s time to move on.”
“No wonder Keith’s dancing around like he just won the lottery. He figures the last obstacle is out of his way and he just jumped to the top of the hierarchy in Vince’s books. He probably figures he’ll finally get the big names.” Brent shook his head. “And he may be right.”
“He won’t get us.” Jon stepped up beside Veronica and handed her a drink. “He doesn’t have the experience, or the skill to handle us.”
None of them were sure if he was referring to the band’s promotional needs or actually being able to handle the band members themselves – Jon in particular.
“What will you do then?” Melissa asked.
“We’ll do it in house like we’ve done for the last few years. I only want the label’s help this tour because of trying to break into the country side a little bit.” He met Veronica’s gaze. “I got what I wanted out of it....and then some.”
Melissa and Brent exchanged amused glances at Veronica’s pink cheeks and the sparks shooting between the couple opposite them.
“So you’re pleased with the result?” Melissa couldn’t resist a little double entendre of her own.
“Couldn’t be happier.” Jon kissed Veronica’s temple and hugged her close to his side.
“So Veronica, what are you going to do?”
It took her a moment to realize that Brent was referring to her career, not her personal life. “I’m not sure yet. Maybe switch companies....or maybe I’ll go freelance. I don’t really have to be attached to a label to promote an artist anymore. I have enough media contacts to make me an asset to anyone.” She took a sip. “Right now I just want to take a few days to rest....maybe take a vacation....then I’ll start thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
As they walked on to the next group, Jon kept his arm around her.
“What are you doing?” Veronica raised an ebony brow.
“What do you mean?”
“This.” She tapped his hand at her waist.
A wide grin spread across his face. “Tour’s over sweetheart. Public displays of affection are no longer banned.”
Veronica snorted. “Like that promise ever stopped you anyway.”
“Believe it or not, it did...a lot of the time.”
The thought was enough to make her shiver. “If that was you being subtle, I can’t imagine what you’d be like given free reign.”
“Stick around sugar, you’ll find out.” He glanced towards the stage at the end of the room where Paul was motioning to him. “Starting now.” Releasing her only to take her hand, lacing their fingers together, he strode the length of the room, towing her with him.
They climbed onto the stage to stand in front of the mic and Jon got the room’s attention. “When I had the idea to write a Nashville influenced album, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. And I didn’t have a great track record with my brilliant ideas. But this time I got lucky. With some great songs, excellent producers and wonderful guidance,” he winked at Veronica, “it was a bigger success than I could ever have hoped for. But the guys and I couldn’t have done it alone. To all the staff and crew I say a heartfelt thank you for all of your hard work over long hours with little sleep. I know it’s grueling, often unnoticed and thankless work, but you never failed to do what was asked of you, on time and with minimal bitching, and I want you to know I appreciate it. We owe a big debt to our families....those at home who let us go off and play for days and weeks and months and always welcome us home again with open arms – lord knows why, but thank God they do, and those who joined us on the road and stuck by us and with us. It’s your love and support that keeps us going.” He paused and looked at Veronica. “And Ronnie......I can’t thank you enough for all of your help and guidance in this experiment...and kicking my ass when I needed it.”
“That’s a full time job!” Came from the back of the room.
“Fuck you Joker! Watch it or I’m going to sick her on you next!” Jon saluted David, then turned back to Veronica while the crowd laughed. “We owe a big chunk of the success of this album and tour to you. You took my hopes and dreams for this album and made them come true. I....” He had to stop and swallow. “There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude. I am so blessed to have you in my life again. I thank you. I love you.” Leaning over, he kissed her, thoroughly, to rousing cheers. When he lifted his head, he scanned the room. “Each and every one of you had a part in making my vision become reality, and you will forever have my gratitude. Now...go home, rest, reconnect with your families....and I’ll let you know when we’re ready to do it all over again. Thank you!”
For the next several hours, they toured around – always together, Jon wasn’t letting go of her – making sure they talked to everyone. Veronica could see his energy flagging, but also knew he wouldn’t leave until the end.
“So what’s next on your schedule little girl?”
“Sleep, finish up tour reports, sleep, maybe go lie on a beach somewhere, did I mention sleep?” Veronica answered. “Then I’ll take some time to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”
“I’m sure Kidd has a few suggestions.” Richie pointed out.
“I’m sure he does. And I’ll take them into consideration.”
“First is a vacation.” Jon joined them, carrying fresh drinks. “Then we’ll talk about what comes next.....like going down to Nashville and packing up her apartment.”
“What makes you so sure I want to move in with you?”
“Because you love my house and my kids.....and you can’t leave me alone in there with the furball!” He brushed her ear with his lips and murmured. “Plus I can offer a few fringed benefits.”
Veronica blushed and swatted his chest, but her amethyst eyes sparkled at him. “Pretty cocky, aren’t you?”
“No, that’s me.” Richie argued.
“Ugh! Jughead! I didn’t need that visual in my head!”
“Trust me sugar, I’ve seen it....it’s not that spectacular.”
“So says the man who admits he’s built like a second grader.”
“Boys! Please! Can we leave the school yard behind?” Veronica shook her head. “What are you? Four? No, scratch that, Romeo’s better behaved than you two!”
Finally, there was only a handful of people left and Jon agreed it was time to go home. They climbed into the town car, relaxing back against the seat with identical sighs. The car hadn’t gone two blocks before Jon reached over to adjust her position until he could lean back against her, his head resting on her shoulder and closed his eyes.
Veronica’s lips curved into a gentle smile and her fingers sifted through his hair, tousling it slightly. “Tired?”
“Well, you can sleep as late as you want tomorrow.”
“Only if you stay in bed and cuddle with me.”
“I might be able to arrange that.” The idea of a lazy day in bed had definite appeal.
Jon drifted off, soothed and sedated by her hands, one playing with his hair, the other rubbing his chest.