“Ronnie! Wake up!” Romeo jumped onto the bed.
“Mmmm?” Veronica blinked. “Hey little man. When did you get here?”
“Just now.” He looked around the room. “Where your sitcase?”
“Your sitcase. You know...with clothes in it.”
“Oh, my suitcase.”
“In the closet. Why?”
“I take it downstairs for you!” He jumped off the bed and ran into the closet and returned, dragging the case with him. “It empty!”
“Uh huh.” Veronica sat up, clutching the covers and rubbed a hand over her face, trying to return from the Twilight Zone.
“But we going soon! You gotta hurry!”
“Hurry for what? Where are we going?”
Romeo rolled his eyes. “We going to Geese! You gotta pack....and make cookies!”
“Uh huh...somepace called Santa Rini. But Daddy doesn’t think dere’ll be elves der.”
It took her a couple minutes, but she thought she got it. “We’re going to Santorini in the Greek Islands?”
Romeo nodded. “Yup!”
“And when are we leaving?” Her mind started to spin. Jon had talked about taking a vacation, they’d even talked about possible locations, but nothing had been finalized – that she was aware of. Of course, she’d been pretty busy over the last week finishing her tour reports so that she could officially ignore Vince and actually call her time her own, for the first time since....she couldn’t remember when. It was possible that Jon had told her he’d booked something, but she didn’t think so – she was pretty sure she’d have remembered that.
“Right after lunch, so you might want to pack a few things.” Jon spoke as he entered the room.
Veronica frowned. “But your stitches....”
“We’re stopping by the doctor’s office on our way so they can take them out.” Jon watched her closely for her reaction. He glanced at his watch. “Seriously, honey, you don’t have a lot of time to get ready.”
She looked at the clock on the bedside table and stifled a panicked gasp. But she still couldn’t leave the bed. Ebony brows snapped into a frown. “A little advance notice would have been nice...and helpful...about a lot of things.” She clutched the covers tighter and gave Jon a meaningful look, with a quick glance towards Romeo. He hadn’t warned her that the kids were coming, and after their....exertions....the night before she hadn’t bothered to put on a nightgown.
“I wanted it to be a surprise. If I could have found a way to pack for you and not tell you at all, I would have, but I figured I’d forget something you really needed or wanted and it would spoil the holiday.” Realizing her predicament, he turned to his son. “Come on little man, let’s go make sure everything’s ready downstairs. We leave in a couple hours sugar.” He ducked out of the room, closing the door behind them before whatever missile she decided to throw could find his head.
As soon as the door clicked shut, Veronica jumped out of bed and ran for the shower. “A couple hours?! He thinks I can be ready to travel halfway around the world in a couple hours? He didn’t even tell me how long we’re going for!” If she wasn’t looking forward so much to the trip, she’d be seriously pissed at him.
The next two hours were a blur of activity for her as she showered, dressed and packed, thankful that she had a lot of her summer wardrobe with her and cursing Jon for not telling her soon enough to make a trip to Nashville to pick up a few things she’d left there, or at least have time to go shopping. Stephanie, who was helping her, suggested that in recompense he ought to buy her a few outfits once they got to Greece. Veronica decided she liked the way the girl thought. She did manage to be ready on time, much to Jon’s relief – and he was smart enough not to tell her that he’d built in extra time in case she couldn’t.
At the doctor’s office Jon suggested that she wait in the car with the kids while he went in and had his stitches removed and his wounds checked.
“Right. Like you’d tell me the truth about what they said and what instructions you’re given.” Veronica scoffed and climbed out of the car.
Jon sighed in resignation and followed.
Half an hour later they climbed back into the car. Veronica pulled a bottle of Advil out of her purse, shook two into her hand and held them out for Jon along with a bottle of water.
“I don’t need it.”
Veronica stared at him for a long moment. She knew he was in pain, she could see it in his eyes. “Humour me.”
With a heavy sigh, he took the pills and water, downing both. “There. Satisfied?” At her look and lifted brow, he grimaced. “Sorry. I do have a headache. Thank you.”
Stephanie caught Veronica’s eye and rolled hers. Veronica winked. He was learning.
The flight was long and boring, especially since they were flying commercial. Veronica had become used to the private plane and she missed the space to move around as she chose....and the more comfortable seating. She shifted in her chair and glanced around to check on the kids.
“What’s the matter? You’re as jumpy as a teenage boy waiting three minutes.”
She did a double take as his meaning sank in. “That was bad.” She shrugged. “I’m just a little uncomfortable...and I’m trying to keep an eye on Romeo.” She’d already noticed he tended to wander when he was bored.
“I know. Flying commercial sucks after the private plane, but I figured you’d nag me about the cost if I used it for something personal. And don’t worry about Romeo. We’re on a plane. He can’t go too far. The worst he’ll do is chat up some older lady and charm the flight attendants out of some cookies.”
Ten minutes later, as his father predicted, Romeo appeared beside her, holding out two mini packages of chocolate chip cookies. “Here ya go.”
“Thanks. Where did you get them?”
“Kathy gave me them.”
“Mmmhmm. Her.” Romeo motioned towards the flight attendant just coming through the curtains into the first class cabin. She waved at him. He waved back, then went back to his seat.
“Told ya.” Jon ripped open a package and bit into a cookie.
Veronica shook her head, wondering what else his wonderful children had in store for her.
Six sets of eyes were glued to the scenery visible outside the van’s windows on the trip between the airport and their hotel.
Veronica sighed in appreciation at the bright white buildings with their blue shutters. “Jon it’s beautiful!” She noticed Stephanie’s frown. “What’s the matter Steph?”
“It reminds me of something, but I can’t think......Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants!” Her brow cleared at the solution to the mystery. “It looks just like that movie.”
“I think it might have been filmed here.” Veronica replied.
“So, does that mean we get to ride donkeys?”
The boys perked up at that. “Really?”
When Jon glanced at the driver, he nodded. “Nai. There are donkeys to ride up the hills.”
The room at the hotel was a two bedroom suite, and Veronica assumed that she’d be bunking with Stephanie again while Jon bunked with the boys. But Stephanie insisted that she’d stay with the boys – as long as there was a bathroom schedule to assure her some privacy.
Veronica pulled her aside. “It’s okay Steph, you don’t have to do that.”
“It’s fine. Really. You and Dad deserve some alone time this vacation too.”
As she walked away Veronica watched her. “Why do I have the feeling she’s up to something?”
Jon shrugged. “Don’t know. I gave up trying to figure out women’s minds a long time ago.”
“Too hard for you?”
“Too inconsistent for me. You all keep changing things all the time. My poor male brain can’t keep up.”
“It’s good to know you’re aware of your limitations.”
Jon opened his mouth and closed it, giving up the battle of words. “Yes dear.” Kissing her briefly, he went to call the concierge for a recommendation for a restaurant for dinner.
They all turned in early after deciding on their plan of action for the next day. They wandered all over the island, checking out the volcano crater and riding the donkeys, and admiring the unique architecture.
It was a couple days later that Veronica finally got her day at the beach. The white sand and clear blue water had been teasing her every time they got close enough to see it and she could hardly wait.
They’d been baking for an hour or so when refreshments became a priority. Jon took orders and went in search of cold beverages. Stephanie offered to go with him and help. It was on the return trip as they got near the blanket where Veronica and the boys were laying that he realized there was an ulterior motive to her helpfulness.
“Ronnie, are you going to marry Daddy?” Jake threw out the question at a nudge from his older brother. Jon just about tripped over his own feet, coming to a dead stop several feet away.
Veronica, stunned, wasn’t sure how to answer him. “I don’t know Jake. I don’t have any plans to.”
Jesse frowned. “Why not?”
“Well, for starters, he hasn’t asked me.”
“Way to go Dad.” Steph muttered, shaking her head in disgust.
“I’ve been a little busy, in case you haven’t noticed.” Jon replied in his own defence, keeping his voice low so that Veronica wouldn’t hear their discussion. “These things take timing and planning...and why am I discussing this with my daughter?”
“Because you need me to give you a push in the right direction. Why do you think I agreed to stay with the boys...so that you and Ronnie could have a room to yourselves...in this beautiful setting?” She rolled her eyes. “Do you need me to spell it out for you?”
“Why are you pushing this so hard?”
“Because I like her and she takes good care of you – whether you want her to or not. She’s probably the one woman in the world – other than Mom – who gets you, and she understands your lifestyle and career needs.” She paused. “And she makes you happy. Hold on tight to her Dad, don’t let her get away.”
“I don’t plan to.”
“Well then you’d better step up your game...cause what I’m seeing is pretty lame.”
“What do you mean?”
“Come on Dad, your first vacation together, a romantic setting.....and you bring your kids?”
“She was happy you were coming with us.”
“Uh huh. But Dad....you’re dating...you hope to convince this woman to marry you and be a part of your life forever. That takes romance and alone time, not kids in the next room!” She eyed him speculatively. “Do you even have a ring?”
“Well...no....not yet. Don’t shake your head at me, I haven’t had time!”
“You and I will go shopping when we get home.”
“Why do you have to come with me?”
“Because I’ve seen Mom’s ring.” Stephanie started to walk towards Ronnie and her siblings.
“Hey! What’s wrong with it? She liked it!”
“She didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“I see you don’t seem to have the same problem.” Jon followed more slowly, at that moment wishing he’d left his daughter at home.
“Why are you asking about your Dad and I getting married?” Veronica posed the question to all the boys.
“Because we like you and we want you to stay.” Jake answered.
“I just hope Dad doesn’t screw it up this time.” Jesse muttered.
Veronica was surprised by his comment. She’d thought he’d gotten over his hostility towards his father. “You really need to give him a break Jess. He’s not a bad guy.”
Jesse just shrugged. “He was smart enough to find you. We’ll have to see if he’s smart enough to find a way to keep you.”
Jon was chagrinned to find out how little faith his oldest two had in his ability to make a relationship, but he guessed he couldn’t blame them. But he could – and would – prove them wrong.