Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chapter 209

Tori took a seat on the couch and turned towards him. “So Jon, Dorothea and the kids all say hi. The meetings went well. We’ve come up with a few new items – not as many as I’d like, but it’s a good start. I think Neil hates me, although when he showed me some of the new t-shirts, he said ‘I know, I know, expand the colour pallet and have normal sizes as well as the ‘kiddie’ ones’. I guess he was listening to me that day in Jon’s den.”

Richie snorted. “Despite being men, we do listen to women on occasion. Besides, you were the boss’ sister…and now you’re the boss. It was in his best interest to listen.”

Her brow rose at his tone, but she didn’t respond to it. “Yeah, well, I’m not real sure about this whole boss thing. I hope I’m up to it.”

“Of course you are. Why would you think you aren’t? You’ve ordered for a whole store.”

“Yeah. One store in a small town where I know most of the people and what they want. This is for millions of people all over the world. Different cultures and different tastes.”

“Jon wouldn’t have put you in charge if he didn’t trust your ability to do the job.” He waved a hand. “But that’s not what I….”

“Jon wants to include me and make me feel a part of the family.” She cut him off. “I appreciate that and I don’t want to let him down.”

“You won’t.” He stared at her wondering why she kept avoiding the subject they really needed to discuss. Then Rosa entered the room with Tori’s tea and he understood.

“Here you go Mrs. Tori. You sure you no want something to eat? You a little pale.”

“I’m fine thanks Rosa, just tired.” Tori assured her.

At Rosa’s words Richie took a closer look at his wife. And frowned. “When did you eat last?”

Tori shrugged. “I had lunch with Jon and Dot before I left….then whatever the plane was feeding us.” Well, eating it might be a stretch….but I moved it around a bit. “I’m really not hungry.”

When Rosa left, Tori took a couple sips of her tea, set it down and looked at him expectantly. “So what did you want to talk about?”

“Gee, I don’t know. Sports? The weather? Hey, I know, how about my depressed ex-wife and the problems she’s causing in our marriage?”

“No need to be sarcastic. I know that we need to talk about it. I just wasn’t sure that you did.”

He sighed. “Contrary to what you obviously think, I’m not blind or insensitive to your feelings. I know you’re having a hard time understanding why it’s so important for me to try to help her in any way I can.”

You’re not blind? Oh honey, Stevie Wonder can see more than you can where she’s concerned. “You’re right. I don’t understand that at all.”

“When my marriage…first marriage…fell apart, Heather blamed me. She said that I didn’t pay enough attention to her, ignored her feelings, was too focused on my own career to help her deal with her problems with hers. I have to admit she wasn’t totally wrong. The band was experiencing a resurgence. Jon had us hopping. She was having trouble getting roles. I probably wasn’t giving her as much attention as I should have been. The worse things got between us, the more time I spent in the studio. She complained that I put the music first. She never understood.” He smiled slightly at her. “That’s one of the things that attracted me to you right from the start. You understand about the music. That it isn’t about being selfish. It’s something that I’m…..compelled to do. I can’t help it. It’s part of me, of who I am. It’s part of my soul.” She nodded. “Anyway, a part of me has always felt that I let her down, that I was to blame for the failure of our marriage – partially at least. Now I’m being given the opportunity to make up for that. To be there for her when she really needs me. I don’t want to fail her again.”

Tori was filled with so many emotions, she felt like she was going to explode. Anger, pain, fear, pride, some she couldn’t even identify, were all swirling around inside her. She understood what he was saying, and even at some level was proud that he was such a caring man, but… “Okay. I hear what you’re saying, but where does that leave me? Am I just supposed to sit by and watch you…my husband….go off on some fool’s errand every day? Because you feel…what? Guilty? Obligated?” She stood and started pacing, her eyes shooting blue flames. “You’re so concerned about her feelings, but what about mine? Do you have any idea what all of this says to me? What it does to me to see you leave here and know that you’d rather be with her? That you put her feelings ahead of mine?” She blinked away the tears and laughed derisively. “I agreed – no actually, I insisted that we cut short our honeymoon so that we could be here for your daughter, and I don’t even get to see her! I have to stay away so that Heather isn’t upset! What about me being upset? You shut me out and go running to her, and then have the nerve to get annoyed when I tell you that I’m going to Jersey for work? What did it matter to you whether I was here or there? At least there I knew I was wanted.”

“I want you here!”

“Really? How was I supposed to know that? You left me here alone all day while you went off to visit your ex-wife.”

“I was home every night.”

“Ah! So that was supposed to make up for everything was it? ‘Sorry angel, my ex-wife comes first and even though we just got married I need to spend my days with her, but I’m here for you at night.’ Are you doing me a favour or yourself? I guess I should take some comfort in that at least I seem to be satisfying you in bed, at least for now, since I don’t seem to be doing such a great job anywhere else.”

“That’s not true! You satisfy me in every way. I love you!” My God! I had no idea she would take my visits to Heather this way!

“Really? Then why is she coming first in your life? What about me? When do I come first? Me! Your wife! I’ve tried to be understanding. I’ve tried to take the high road and not be a selfish cold-hearted bitch in the face of her pain. But I’ve had enough. I can’t live like this – I won’t live like this anymore.” Suddenly the pain overtook her and she sobbed, unable to hold back the tears any longer.

He stared at her, his heart pounding, stomach clenching. He’d never seen her like this, alternating between tears and anger, pacing with her roiling emotions. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that you need to think long and hard about what you’re doing. Make sure that whatever you’re getting out of whatever’s going on over there is worth throwing away everything we’ve begun to build here.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Why can’t you understand? I’m just trying to help her! She’s sick! I can’t just turn my back on her!”

“So you turn your back on me instead?” The tears stopped as the anger returned. “Do you remember the conversation we had about this in Sarnia that day before I would agree to start planning the wedding? You promised me that you had sorted out your feelings and that you were sure that it was me you wanted. That you wouldn’t change your mind. YOU PROMISED! So, what? Now that we’re married you don’t have to live up that promise? You think you can have your cake and eat it too? Her during the day to talk to and me here at night, willing to give you what she won’t?” She snorted. “And the worst part is you can’t even see that she’s playing you. You’re so caught up in being the knight in shining armor swooping in to save the damsel in distress, that you can’t see that she’s the one pulling the strings.”

He frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“Did it ever cross your mind that maybe she’s….exaggerating….her illness? I’m not saying that she’s not sick, just that she’s not as sick as she’s letting on. Don’t forget, she is a decent actress.”

“ You can’t be serious! Of course she’s not exaggerating! Why would she want to?”

“Gee, I don’t know, maybe to get attention? She certainly got yours.” It was Tori’s turn to lay on the sarcasm. “Think about it. She happens to ‘accidentally’ mess up her medication and go driving when we’re on our honeymoon? The timing seems a little suspicious to me. She knew that when it hit the press we’d come running home to make sure Ava was alright. Then, once she had you back here, she just has to see you every day?”

“I’ve explained all that. She needs to talk to me about stuff. It’s part of her therapy.”

“Oh? Then why is her doctor not there for these ‘therapy sessions’? I can understand the need to talk about her problems, I could even understand if you needed to be there for some of it, but how can the doctor help her deal with her issues if he isn’t there? If she could work through it herself, she wouldn’t be in this position in the first place!” She shook her head. “No. I’m not buying it. It’s just an excuse. To show us that she’s still in control. She’s jerking your leash.” Her eyes filled again. “And you’re letting her!”

When she looked at him again, he was stunned to see that the fire was gone from the sapphire depths, leaving only shadows. No life there, just pain and defeat. “I understand that you still have feelings for her at some level – if for no other reason than she’s Ava’s mother. You wouldn’t be the man I know you to be if you didn’t.” She closed her eyes briefly, exhaustion taking over. “Richie, I love you, but marriage isn’t built for three – at least not one I’m a part of. I need to know…to believe…to feel that you love me. That you want me! I need to come first in your life – aside from Ava of course.” She started to shake. “I thought we had something special, but I guess I was wrong.”

He jumped up and rushed to reach her before she collapsed. Scooping her up in his arms he resumed his seat on the couch, cradling her on his lap. “Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry! I never meant to hurt you like this! You’re right. I have been putting her feelings ahead of yours and I shouldn’t have. But baby, we do have something special! You have to believe me when I tell you that I do love you. I do want you. Only you. You are my life!” He rubbed her back.

She raised tear filled eyes to his, her lower lip quivering. “Then why Richie? Why are you doing this to me? To us?”

His heart broke at the naked devastation on her face. “I didn’t mean to. I didn’t even realize what I was doing. I never meant to make you feel second best.” He sighed. “You’re right. I wanted to be the one to help her. To show her that I’m not the selfish, insensitive, uncaring man that she said I was.” He snorted. “Looks like she was right. In my zeal to prove her wrong, I actually proved her right. I became all of those things to you. God, angel, I’m so sorry!” He held her closer, tipped her face up to his and brushed her lips with his, tasting her tears. “So sorry.”

Tori blew out a ragged breath, let him pull her even closer and laid her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat beneath her ear. They sat silently for a long time. When Richie finally glanced down at her to say something he found her asleep. He shifted his grip and stood, still cradling her in his arms.

Upstairs he laid her down on their bed, removed her clothing and pulled the blankets over her. Stripping off his own clothes, he slid in beside her, relieved when she rolled over to curl into his arms. Stroking the arm she draped across his chest, he kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry angel. I love you. Please don’t leave me.” He laid there for a long time, staring at the ceiling and thinking about what she’d said. He knew that they still had more talking to do, but it would have to wait until tomorrow. She was exhausted, and he needed to think.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chapter 208

The flight back to L.A. seemed endless. Tori tried to distract herself by going over her notes from the meetings, but she couldn’t concentrate. She tried to sleep, but even though she’d hadn’t slept well in days – the bed just seemed empty – her mind wouldn’t settle. With a sigh, she gave up and let her mind go where it wanted to – her husband. She had to find some way to make him see what his catering to Heather was doing to her. To them. But everytime she thought about the situation, the tears would start again. Like now. Come on Tori, pull yourself together! You’re stronger than this! Blowing out a breath, she pulled out her I-pod and a tissue, leaned back in the seat and tried find some peace in music.

Richie arrived at the airport a few minutes before his wife’s flight was due to arrive. He hoped he’d be able to get a decent night’s sleep now that she was home. He wasn’t joking when he said that he couldn’t sleep well without her. He’d spent a lot of nights alone over the years, both enforced and by choice, and it had never been a problem. Until Tori. From the very first night they’d spent together he felt a peace and contentment, that he’d never felt before. Now, if she wasn’t there to curl up with his bed felt cold and empty. And so did he. He sighed, closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose. He knew that this whole thing with Heather was putting a strain on their marriage and that they really needed to sit down and talk about it. He had to find some way to make her understand why it he had to do what he could to help Heather. Opening his eyes, he glanced at his watch then at the door to the terminal. A couple familiar faces caught his eye and he realized that the vultures were hanging around to see who they could find, those pests from TMZ in the forefront. Protective instincts screaming, he opened the car door and headed inside to meet his wife. He was waiting by baggage claim and saw her before she saw him. What he saw made his stomach clench. She looked pale and tired and had dark circles under her eyes. When she saw him her face lit up, then her glow dimmed and the sparkle in her blue eyes was replaced by pain and shadows.

Tori stopped in front of him, uncertain how to greet him. “Hi.”

“Hi.” His need to comfort her had him opening his arms and reaching for her.

Her need for his comfort had her walking into his arms, her own sliding around his neck. When he lifted her clear off the floor she closed her eyes against the tears threatening once again and buried her face in his neck, savouring the feel of his arms holding her close, his familiar scent surrounding them.

Setting her down, he cradled her face in his large hands. “I love you angel. Welcome home.”

“Thank you. I love you too.”

He kissed her gently, raised his head and turned her towards the luggage carousel. “You looked surprised to see me.”

“I was expecting to find you waiting outside, not in here.”

“I saw the vultures circling, so I decided to come and help you.” He lifted her suitcase off the belt, and pulled out the handle.

She waved her hand. “Oh they don’t bother with me if I’m not with you. I’m not worth their time and effort.”

His brow lifted in disbelief. “Oh really, Mrs. Bongiovi Sambora?”

She smiled. “Really. I’ve told you before. I don’t even rate a blip on their radar.”

“Okay. Care to put that theory to the test?” He handed her the suitcase and motioned her forward. “I’ll meet you outside.”

“But they know you’re here now.”

He shook his head. “Uh huh. They didn’t see me come in.”

She saw the challenge in his dark eyes and met it. “Fine. You’ll see.” Grabbing the handle she headed for the escalator.

When she reached the bottom she’d only taken a dozen steps before she was surrounded. “Hey Tori, are you travelling alone? Where’s Richie? Maybe he’s too busy with Heather. How is Heather doing?” The questions came at her like bullets. Keeping a smile pasted on her face she didn’t answer any of them and kept walking. “Come on Tori, give us something. How do you feel about what’s happened to your husband’s ex-wife?” Tori grit her teeth and kept walking. She would have responded but she was afraid that her bitterness would show.

Suddenly, the crowd turned and parted and she saw Richie coming towards her. “Hi honey. Sorry I’m late.” He leaned down to kiss her. Straightening he grinned at her, took her suitcase, laced the fingers of his free hand through hers and started for the doors.

She suppressed a glare at his barely concealed amusement. If they hadn’t been surrounded by vultures she would have swatted him, but she didn’t want to be an item in the rags being accused of assaulting her husband.

When they reached the Hummer, he opened her door for her, threw her suitcase in the back and climbed in behind the wheel. “What was that you were telling me about not being on their radar?”

She grimaced at him. “Oh shut up. Did you hear the questions? They weren’t about me. They were about you. And Heather.”

He sobered. “Yeah. I’m sorry about that.”

She shrugged. “It comes with the territory.” She leaned her head back against the seat and stared out the window.

Richie glanced at her. “Tired angel?”

“Yeah. It’s been a long week.” Tired didn’t begin to describe how she felt. She was physically and mentally exhausted. She felt emotionally drained. “What’s the plan for Bean’s birthday tomorrow?”

“I’ve made a reservation at that restaurant that she likes in Westlake Village. I’m not sure what’s going to happen though. It will depend on how Heather’s feeling.”

That had Tori’s head jerking in his direction. “Don’t you dare let her spoil Ava’s birthday! She’s had to give up enough already because of her mother’s….illness. She shouldn’t have to give up celebrating her birthday too.”

Richie was taken aback at the fierceness of her response, although if he thought about it he should have expected it. He knew how much she loved his daughter, and the Bongiovi in her would jump in to protect Ava’s feelings, and fight to make her happy.

At the house, Richie set down her suitcase near the bottome of the stairs just as Rosa came to greet them.

“Welcome home Mrs. Tori.”

“Thank you Rosa.”

Rosa studied Tori’s face. “You come sit down and relax. I make you a nice cup of tea. You want something to eat maybe? Airplane food is no good.”

Tori smiled. “The tea sounds great, but I’m not hungry. Thanks Rosa.”

She turned towards the stairs, but Richie stopped her. “Angel, I know you’re tired, but can we go sit down and talk?”

She sighed. As much as she knew they needed to, she wasn’t sure she was emotionally up to this tonight. “I need to unpack, and….”

“Please?” He interrupted her. “I don’t think we should put this off any longer.”

She searched the depths of his dark eyes for a long moment, then nodded wearily and turned towards the living room.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chapter 207

“Okay Tori spill.”

“Spill what?” Tori had arrived in time to say goodnight to Jake and Romeo, had visited a bit with Jesse and Steph before they headed off to their rooms, and had just settled into the den with Jon and Dorothea when Jon threw his demand at her.

“Whatever’s going on with you and Richie.”

Tori hesitated, then shrugged. “We’re just still adjusting living with each other. We’ll work it out.”

Jon look sceptical. “ Uh huh. You might as well go ahead and tell me. Dot will just tell me later.”

His wife raised a brow at him. “Not necessarily.”

Tori gave him what she hoped was a reasurring smile. “Seriously. We’ll be fine.” His look said he wasn’t buying it. “Jon, let it go. I appreciate that you want to help me, but this is between Richie and me. I can’t come running to you everytime he and I have a disagreement.”

Jon knew she was right. That didn’t mean he had to like it. He grunted. “Well, you know where I am if you need me.”

This time her smile was real and natural. They certainly had come a long way. “Yes I do, and I love you for it. Thank you.”

Two days later, Dorothea went looking for her sister-in-law after dinner. Checking the main floor she came across her two oldest in the theatre. “Have you guys seen Aunt Tori?”

Jesse shrugged. “She was on the phone with Uncle Richie a little while ago.”

Steph shook her head. “No, she went outside after that.” Her eyes met her mother’s. “She looked upset.”

Dorothea frowned and headed out the back door. She had a pretty good idea where she’d gone. When she neared the bench by the river she discovered she was right. Taking a seat at the other end of the bench she glanced at Tori, noting the wet tracks of her tears shining silver in the moonlight.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She saw Tori’s hesitation. “I promise not tell Jon if you don’t want me to.”

Tori sighed. “I…I don’t know what to do Dot. I’ve tried to be understanding. I even pushed to cut my honeymoon short to be here for Ava.” She snorted. “Look at me. Not even married two weeks and not only is my honeymoon over before it should have been, but I’m afraid that my marriage may be too.” The tears overflowed again.

“Heather?” Dorothea guessed.

Tori nodded. “She calls and he goes running over there. Every day. He tells me to stay home. He doesn’t want to embarrass her by making her face me when she’s in this condition. When I ask why he needs to go he says that her doctor says that she needs to talk through her issues and that she needs someone who’s been there and that a lot of her problems go back to when they were together so she needs him there. He says that she’s his daughter’s mother and he can’t sit by an watch her fall apart without trying to help.”

“How is Ava?”

Tori shrugged. “I haven’t been allowed to see her. Richie’s says she’s okay, but what kind of environment is that for a young girl? How can being exposed to her mother in that condition day after day be healthy for her?” Her hands clenched into fists in her lap. “I get that Heather’s hurting, and I feel bad for her – and Ava – I do, but….I’m tired of being understanding. I’m tired of taking second place in my husband’s life to his ex-wife. Shouldn’t he want to spend his time with me? Why are her feelings more important to him than mine?” She couldn’t hold back the sobs any longer.

Dorothea moved closer and wrapped her arms around her. If she could get her hands on her brother-in-law right now she’d happily strangle him! This is what she’d been afraid of ever since Heather’s stint in the hospital, but she’d hoped that after everything that Heather had put him through he’d be smart enough not to get sucked in by her again. Obviously he still had a blind spot where Heather was concerned. She just hoped Tori wasn’t going to have to pay the price for his blindness. What the hell is he thinking? “Do you want my advice?”

Tori raised tear reddened eyes to hers and nodded. “I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t know what to do. I love him and I don’t want to lose him, but I can’t live like this!”

“Then fight. If you want him you’re going to have to fight for him, and, knowing Heather, you’re going to have to fight dirty. It’s the only way she knows. I’m thinking that there’s a very good chance that the whole DUI thing was done on purpose – not as any attempt at hurting herself, but rather for publicity and to disrupt your trip. She’s jerked his leash and brought him to heel. Now she’s showing you that she’s in control, that even though he married you, she still takes priority. And he’s letting her. You need to sit down with him and tell him how his actions are affecting you. And be firm. Don’t let him get away with this ‘she needs someone who’s been there’ and it’s about things that happened when they were together bullshit. She’s getting professional help. She’s got Jack for moral support. She doesn’t need Richie.”

“That’s what I told him.”

“What did he say?”

“He just asked me to try to understand.” The tears started again. She couldn’t seem to stop them. “But I don’t. I don’t understand why he’s choosing her over me. He promised me that I was the one he wanted to be with. I thought he loved me!”

“He does. He’s just….” Dorothea sighed. “Well, honestly I don’t know what he’s thinking. But you need to find out. Then….what was it the flight attendant called it…go Bongiovi on his ass?”

Tori had to smile at that. She’d told them a little bit about the trip to Hawaii. She sobered. “Thanks Dot. Please don’t say anything to Jon. I don’t want to be the cause of any trouble between them.”

“I won’t…as long as you stop letting Heather get away with this and fight back.” She frowned. “And I think you’re right about Ava. It would be better if she was with you.” She shivered slightly in the October night air. “It’s getting colder. Are you ready to come inside?”

Tori shook her head. “Not just yet. I won’t be long though.”

Dorothea nodded and squeezed her shoulder before rising and heading for the house. When she stepped through the back door she found Jon standing by the window, a cup of coffee in his hand, his knuckles white on the handle as he watched his sister.

“What’s going on?”

Dorothea sighed. “She’ll be alright. She just needed someone to talk to – who would help her figure things out, not try to fix it for her.” At Jon’s stubborn look she continued. “Jon, you can’t help her this time. It’s between them. They’ve got to work it out themselves.”

“And if they can’t?”

“Then we’ll be here for her to lean on and help her any way we can.” Dorothea’s eyes narrowed. “After I kick Richie’s ass of course.”

Jon’s lips twisted. “I thought you only used your skills in self defence?”

She shrugged. “Self defence, defending my family, same thing.”

He leaned over and kissed her. “My avenging warrior.” He glanced out the window again. “Don’t let her stay out there too long. It’s getting cold.”

Dorothea smiled sympathetically. She knew how hard it was for him to sit by and watch someone he loved hurting and not do something about it. “Yes Daddy.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chapter 206

The next day when Richie once again went running at Heather’s call, leaving Tori at home, she sighed and headed for the office. If her honeymoon was over she might as well get to work. She booted up the computer, opened her email and stared. Apparently Jon had put out the word that she was officially on board and everyone had something that needed her urgent attention. Taking a sip of the cup of coffee she’d brought with her, she settled in and set to work. She was still at it when Richie came looking for her for dinner.

“Whatcha doing?” He walked up behind her, set his hands on her shoulders and massaged gently.

“Working. BJM is trying to come up with some new merchandise for Christmas and apparently Jon has told the team that I have to sign off on everything. I’m being bombarded.”

He chuckled. “Welcome to working for your brother. I warned you that once he accepted you fully as part of the family he’d probably drive you crazy. Although since you’re as much of an anal retentive perfectionist control freak as he is, you’ll probably get along just fine. Oof!” He rubbed his stomach where her elbow collided as she stood up. He grinned at her withering look and followed her to the kitchen.

After dinner they settled in the livingroom to veg in front of the T.V. She hesitated, then bit the bullet. “How’s Heather?”

He sighed. “Struggling.”

“What does her doctor say?”

“That talking through her feelings is the best therapy…..and he’s monitoring her meds.”

“Sounds like he’s not convinced the episode the other day was an accident.”

“Mmmhmmm. I get the feeling Jack isn’t sure either. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?”

“Hopping on the bandwagon for publicity?”

He shrugged. “Could be. Her pain seems real though.”

She frowned. “Maybe you should bring Ava here.”

“I couldn’t do that to Heather.”

“And what about Ava?”

“She’s okay. I check in with her before I leave.”

Tori started to say something, then decided not to push the issue. She didn’t like the idea of Ava having to deal with her mother’s battling emotions, but it wasn’t her call.

Her days settled into a routine, but as Richie continued to spend hours every day with Heather, Tori buried herself –and her emotions- in work. She spent hours on the phone to New Jersey, answering e-mails, researching items and prices online, and even making a couple trips to the warehouse in Van Nuys. She was working late into the evening, but since she wasn’t sleeping much anyway, it gave her something to do. By the weekend, she’d made a decision. When Richie came to get her for dinner, she took a deep breath and told him about her plan.

“I’m going to Jersey for a few days next week. I need to meet with the team, sign off on some contracts and see some of this stuff in person. Pictures don’t tell me about the material and how it feels. I’ll be back for Ava’s birthday.”

He frowned. “But we’re still on our…” He cut himself off.

She snorted and snapped. “If we were still on our honeymoon, we’d be in paradise practising different ways of breaking me and keeping Kiki busy instead of sitting here.” She sighed and raised an apologetic hand. “Sorry, I know it’s not your fault.”

His lips twisted and his gaze turned into a hopeful leer. “You know, we don’t have to be in Hawaii to practice different ways of breaking you. I’m beginning to feel like a monk.” He was trying to make her laugh, but he was also serious. She was trying to hide it, but he knew she was having a problem with all the time he was spending with Heather. A tension was growing between them. They hadn’t made love since they’d come home. The first few days she was recovering, but the last few…well she’d made it clear she wasn’t interested. She either went to bed early and was asleep by the time he got there, or worked late into the night, ensuring that he was asleep before she came to bed. And of course she was gone when he woke up.

She gave him a disgusted look. She’d tried to be understanding and take the high road, but her patience was at an end. “I’m sorry that watching my husband leave everyday to go spend hours with his ex-wife, leaving me at home, during what was supposed to be our honeymoon, doesn’t put me in the mood!”

He sighed and raked a hand through his hair. “What do you want me to say?”

She studied him for a moment. He said he didn’t want her to hide her feelings from him. She was about to put that to the test. “For starters you can explain why her problem is our problem. Why do you have to go running everytime she calls?”

“I told you. She just wants to talk to someone who’s been there.”

“And you’re the only one she knows?” She snorted. “This town is one big group therapy class! I don’t recall her running to help you when you needed it, so why do you have to be her security blanket? I thought that was supposed to be Jack’s job.”

“I know her better than he does, and a lot of her issues go back to when we were together. She just wants to talk things through with me.”

“And what about all those weeks this summer? I thought that was what you were doing then.”

“We were. This is a continuation.” He gave her a frustrated look. “She’s Ava’s mother. I have to try to help her. Besides, you’re working most of the day anyway.”

She glared at him. “Don’t! The only reason I’m working now is because I got tired of sitting here alone. And if you’re so concerned about Ava, you should bring her here. I’m not sure that’s a healthy environment for a young girl anyway. She doesn’t need to face that everyday.” She fought back tears. “I get that she’s hurting and needs help. I do. I accepted that we had to come home early to be here for her and Ava. But she has professional help. People who are trained to help her. She has Jack. She doesn’t need to monopolize my husband’s time as well!”

“I’m sorry. Baby, please try to understand. I can’t just stand by and watch my daughter’s mother fall apart without at least trying to help.”

Tori sighed and gave up. For now. “You’re an amazing man Rich. To be there for her after everything she put you through…..not many could do that.” She glanced at the computer screen were her travel schedule showed. “I’m leaving Sunday morning and I’ll be back Friday night.”

Richie met her gaze for a long minute, then nodded. “I’ll drive you to the airport.”

After dinner she made a call to New Jersey. While she waited for someone to answer she debated how much to say.


“Dorothea. Hi.”

“Hi Tori. What’s up? I understand you had to cut your trip short.”

“Yeah. Ava was pretty upset when she called to tell us what happened so we thought we needed to come back.”

“Poor little thing. How is she?”

“Fine I guess. I haven’t seen her but Richie says she’s okay.”

Dorothea frowned. “You mean she’s not with you?”

“No. Heather begged Richie not to take her away, and since she let Ava stay after his episode, he felt it was only fair. But that’s not why I’m calling.” She didn’t want to talk about her domestic situation over the phone. “I’m coming to Jersey next week for some meetings with the team. Apparently I have to sign off on all the new merchandise, and I can only do so much by phone and e-mail. Matt wants me to look at some stuff for the fan club too. Since they want to have it for Christmas, I’m on a short clock.”

Dorothea chuckled. “Yeah Jon told me he’d put you in charge. I’m betting he didn’t tell you though did he?”

“No he didn’t. I went to check my e-mail a few days ago and found forty frantic messages. I finally had to call Paul to figure out what was going on.”

“Well, he likes to have family in charge where possible. This was one area that he always had to entrust to someone else, and he was never really comfortable with that. He was thrilled when you agreed to join the team.”

Tori sighed. “A little warning would have been nice.”

“You should now better by now.” Dorothea reminded her. “So when are you coming in?”

“Sunday night until Friday morning.”

“Is the room you had last time alright or do you guys want the guest house?”

“The main house is fine. It’s just me. But you don’t have to put me up.”

“Of course we do. You’re family.” Dorothea hesitated. “Richie’s not coming with you?”

“No. He needs to stay here for Heather and Ava.”

Dorothea’s brows rose. “What time is your flight due in?”

“About nine pm your time.”

“Ok. Someone will pick you up.”

“Thanks Dot. I’ll see you then.”

Dorothea hung up the phone and looked at her husband. Her expression had him sitting up straighter. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure. Tori’s coming in for meetings with the merchandizing team.”

Jon nodded. “Yeah, and?”

“And…Richie’s not coming with her. She said that he needed to stay in L.A. for Heather and Ava.”

“Considering everything Ava’s been through that doesn’t surprise me. What’s got you worried?”

“Ava isn’t staying with Richie and Tori. Rich left her at Heather’s and Tori hasn’t even seen her.”

Jon frowned. “That’s a little strange.”

“Mmmhmm. Tori tried to gloss over the situation, but I could sense that something’s not right.”

“When’s she coming?”

“Sunday night.”

“I guess we’ll find out then.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chapter 205

She was still sitting there three hours later when Richie returned. He joined her on the balcony, his fingers toying with the curls resting on her shoulder as he stood beside her.

“There you are. I’ve been looking all over the house for you. Rosa says that dinner’s almost ready.”

She raised her face for his kiss. He obliged. She looked behind him into the bedroom. “Where’s Ava?”

“At Heather’s.”

He brows rose. “You left her there?”

He grimaced. “Heather begged me not to take her away. Since she let me have her after my….act of stupidity, I thought it was only fair.”

“Please tell me that Julie is there!”

He frowned. “Yes, and so is Jack.”

She waved her hand at that. “Ava isn’t his priority. If you’re going to let her stay there, I want to be assured that someone is there to look after her properly.”

He smiled. “Relax angel, she’s fine.”

She nodded and stared out at the back yard again. Richie frowned and knelt beside her chair, setting a hand on her thigh.

“Sweetheart, I’m really sorry that we had to cut our trip short.”

She turned to look at him, smiled sadly and raised a hand to stroke his cheek. “I know. So am I. But it’s not your fault.” She hesitated. “Rich….can I ask you a question?”

“You can ask me anything. You know that.”

“Why did you go over to Heather’s alone? Why did you leave me here?”

He sighed. “Because I didn’t know what I’d find when I got there, and….honestly, I thought it might embarrass Heather to have to face you over this. I’ve been there, I know how it feels. I thought we should give her some time to pull herself together and come to terms with what she did first.” He studied her face as he tried to figure out what was bothering her. “Hey!” he shook her leg gently. “I love you!”

She nodded. “I know. I love you too.” She leaned over and pressed her lips to his. Her stomach grumbled. Loudly.

He chuckled and leaned back. “Hungry?”


He stood and held out his hand. “Come on angel. Let’s go see what Rosa’s cooked up for us.”

When they reached the top of the of the stairs, she stopped, gripped the banister and blew out a breath. Puzzled, Richie wondered at her actions. Then it clicked in and he grinned and scooped her up into his arms.

“I think maybe you should leave the stairs for a day or two yet.” She just sighed and laid her head on his shoulder. “Is this why you were upstairs when I got back?”

She nodded. “I made it up, but couldn’t face the return trip right away.”

“Poor baby.” He kissed her forehead and fought against a smile.

“You better not be laughing at me or I’ll tell everyone you broke me.”

He snorted. “I think I had a little help.”

“Oh really? I don’t think I tied myself to the bed, and I know I wasn’t the one made the promise to fuck me until I couldn’t walk.”

“Maybe not, but who pushed me and teased me, forcing the caveman out? And now you can’t say I never follow through on my promises.”

She couldn’t argue the point. He was right. So she changed tactics. “Do you think ‘she asked for it’ will fly with my brothers?”

He grunted, imaging Jon’s reaction. “No. Brat!”

She chuckled and kissed him as he set her down at the bottom of the stairs. “As long as you don’t rub it in, and let the caveman – or pirate, whichever the case may be – out to play every once in a while – in moderation of course – this little episode will stay our little secret. Deal?”

“Deal.” He looked a little uncomfortable now that they were actually talking about it. “I’m sorr…”

She put her fingers to his lips to stop him. “Don’t. I’m not, even if I am sore. It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget!”

“Me either!” He grinned, pulled her into his arms and lowered his mouth to hers, tasting her thoroughly.

A cough broke them apart. “Dinner’s ready.” Rosa stood in the doorway to the living room, an indulgent smile on her face.

After dinner, Tori tried to call Karin to let her know that they were back in L.A., but just got her voicemail. She left a message, then, giving in to Richie’s pleading, headed back to the kitchen to make him cookies. Entering the living room with a plateful still warm from the oven, she found him stretched out on the couch watching a movie. She offered him one, then set the plate on the table.

“Thanks angel.” He reached out, took her hand and tugged. “Come here.”

Smiling, she stretched out beside him, her head on his chest, his arms holding her close. When the movie ended he glanced down to find her asleep. He shifted her enough to slide out from underneath her, stood, lifted her into his arms and carried her upstairs. In their bedroom he laid her gently on the bed, removed her clothing and pulled the covers over her. She sighed and turned onto her side, burrowing down into the blankets. Walking to the other side of the bed, he stripped off his own clothes, slid in beside her, curled around her and drifted off to sleep.

The next afternoon they were sitting by the pool when the phone rang. Tori could tell by Richie’s side of the conversation that it was Heather and she was upset.

“Alright, alright. I’ll come over.” Richie hung up, sighed and stood up. When Tori would have too he shook his head, bent over and kissed her. “No. You stay here and relax. I won’t be long. She just needs someone to talk to who’s been there. I want to try and get her calmed down before Ava gets home from school.”

She frowned as she watched him walk into the house. She understood that Heather needed help, but she didn’t like it that Richie seemed to be the one she was reaching out for. She liked it even less that he didn’t want her around for their meetings.

A few hours later, the phone rang again. This time it was Karin. “Hey there. What are you doing back in L.A.? I thought you were supposed to be gone another week.”

“We were. I don’t know if you saw, but Heather got nailed for DUI.”

“Yeah I saw that. Prescription drugs wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Ava called, very upset, so we came home. Where were you last night? Out with the gang?”

“No, actually… I was in… New York for a long weekend and just got back this morning.”

“New York? What for? Work related?”

“No, I….um…well I went to see a play. A musical actually.”

Something in Karin voice set off alarm bells in Tori’s mind. “Oh? What did you see?”

“Um…Toxic Avenger.” She waited for the response she knew was coming.

Tori’s brows rose. Her mind was swirling. “Toxic Avenger? You mean…wait a minute…do you mean to tell me that you spent the weekend with Shirley?!”


“Whoa, whoa, whoa….just…okay…How did that happen?” Her own problems were set aside as she pried out the details of this new major development in her friends lives.

“Well, I don’t really know. We started talking the day before the wedding when he asked me to help him with the pranks he had planned, then during the reception we danced a couple times and I chatted with him and his kids for awhile, and well, you saw what happened with the bouquet and the garter. After you and Richie left the next day, he invited me to lunch. It was actually Gabi who suggested that I go see the musical. I didn’t commit to anything, because I didn’t want him to feel obligated because of what his daughter had said, and because I really didn’t know how I felt about it. But I did give him my number and he kept calling me until I agreed to go.”

“And where did you stay?”

Karin hesitated, then gave in. “At his place. And before you ask I slept in the spare room!”

Tori chuckled. “So what’s going on?”

“I really don’t know. I mean, I had a great time this weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that much. Well, you know what he’s like. But he also has this serious, caring side that totally blew me away. We talked for hours, about everything. Don’t worry I didn’t give away any secrets or give him any ammunition against you.”

“Thank you. So are you going to see him again?”

“We’ve talked about it, but haven’t set any firm date.”

“What’s the problem?” She could hear the doubt in Karin’s voice.

“Well, it’s just the distance thing, and he’s been through a painful divorce and has three kids to consider, and….well….dammit Tori, he’s a rockstar! He can have pretty much any woman he wants.”

Tori laughed. “Welcome to my world! Remember what you told me when I was having the same feelings about Richie? You told me to forget all that stuff and give him a chance. I did, and look what happened. The distance thing is no big deal, you’re not that far apart and the tour is over, so he won’t be going far anytime soon. As for his kids, the worst part is over. You’ve already met them and they obviously like you.”

Karin chuckled. “Yeah Colton told me that any friend of ‘Aunt Tori’s’ was okay by him.”

“God! This whole situation is getting almost incestuous!” She shook her head. “Seriously though, if you like him, give him a chance. See where it goes. Pranks aside, he’s a great guy.”

“And what about his ex?”

“I don’t know much about her, but apparently they’re civil to each other. I think the divorce was pretty painful, but he’s had a few years now to deal with it, and I think he has. I can try to find out more if you want.”

“Not right now. I’ll let you know, but I think I want to talk to him a bit more about it. By the way do I need to learn how to play an instrument now?”

Tori laughed. “No, but it helps. You will have to brush up on your practical jokes though. He really is devious. You and Shirley. I can’t believe it.”

“Who and Shirley?” Richie asked from the doorway.

She turned to look at him and frowned. He looked worn out and frazzled. “Karin. It seems she spent the weekend with him.”

Richie’s brows rose. “Really? Well, I guess you’ve told her enough that she knows what she’s getting into. Tell her if she needs any help, like ideas for paybacks, to let us know.”

“Did you hear that?” Tori asked Karin.

“Yeah. Tell him thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, there goes my call waiting. It might be David. He said he might call.”

“Go. I’ll talk to you later. Say hi from us.”

“I will. I’ll call you later.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chapter 204

Tori woke first the next morning, stretched experimentally, rose from the bed and slowly made her way to the bathroom. Sinking into a tub of steaming water, she sighed in relief and shook her head ruefully. The massage helped, but she wouldn’t be running anywhere just yet.

The door opened, then shut quickly to keep the warm air in the room. “Morning angel. How are you feeling this morning?”

“Morning honey. A little better I think. That massage really helped. Thank you.”

Turning from washing his hands at the sink, Richie’s lips twisted in a wry smile as he bent over to kiss her. “Considering that I helped cause the problem, it was only right that I help try to fix it.”

She laughed. “True.”



He started towards the door then stopped. “Do you need help getting out?”

She smiled ruefully. “We’ll see in a few minutes.”

“Yell if you need me.”

She did manage to climb out of the tub by herself while he ordered breakfast. He walked back into the bedroom just as she was about to get dressed – if you could call a bathing suit dressing.

“Wait a minute. Lay down on the bed.” She crooked a brow at him and he chuckled. “Relax. Kiki gave me some lotion that she said would help.” Once she settled on the bed he squeezed some lotion into his hand, rubbed them together and gently massaged her thighs and hips. Then he hesitated, shook his head and handed her the bottle. “Sorry babe. Kiki said that it could be used everywhere, but if I apply it where you are the sorest, I’m afraid that I’ll only end up making it worse.” He was damn close to needing a cold shower as it was!

She grinned. “What happened to your self control?”

“As soon as I touch you it goes up in flames.” He waggled his eye brows.

“Mmmmm…in a blaze of glory!”

He groaned. “That’s really bad angel.” She just grinned and took the bottle.

He watched while she proceeded to finish the job herself. Noticing, she looked up at him and slowed the movements of her fingers. After a few minutes he managed to raise his gaze to hers. She felt almost burned by the fire lighting the dark depths.

“Brat!” He growled, turned and headed for the shower.

“Cold is to the left!” She called after him, laughing when the slamming of the bathroom door was the only response she got.

They had finished breakfast and were sitting on the terrace, Tori debating whether she was ready to try to manueuver the stairs and go for a walk on the beach, when Richie’s phone rang. He’d left it in the bedroom since he wasn’t taking any calls, but the ring indicated it was Ava, and he ran to grab it.

“Hello? Hi baby girl. How..Ava calm down. Take a deep breath honey I can’t understand you. What happened? Was anyone hurt?” He slumped back down in the chair. Tori watched him, frowning in concern. “Where is Mommy now? Where’s Julie? Let me talk to her for a minute okay? Hi Julie, start from the beginning. Uh huh. Uh huh. And how is she now? What did her doctor say? Okay. Thanks for taking care of Ava. I’ll check in regularly. Yeah. Hey Bean. Mommy’s going to be alright. Everything’s going to be okay. We’ll be home in another week, and we’ll plan a weekend of fun. Mmmmhmmm. Yeah. I will. We love you too baby girl. Call me if you need to. See you soon. Bye.” He sighed as he closed the phone. He glanced at Tori. “Ava says hi.”

“What happened?” She was almost afraid to ask.

“Heather got nailed for DUI.”


He shook his head. “No. Prescription meds. She says she forgot when she took the last pill and accidently took too many.”

“Was Ava in the car with her?”

“No, thank God.”

Tori hesitated, but had to ask. “Do you believe it was an accident?”

“I don’t know. I hope so, but with the depression….I can’t be sure. Julie says her doctor thinks it was, but he’s still going to keep a close eye on her.”

They sat in silence for several minutes, then Tori sighed and stood up. “You make the travel arrangements, I’ll go pack.”

“We don’t have to go back.”

She looked him in the eye for a long moment. “Yes we do.” When he frowned, she continued. “Was Ava upset?”

“Yes, but she’ll be okay.” His lips twisted. “It’s not like she hasn’t been through this before.”

“Yes she will, but she needs you right now.” She turned and headed inside.

Ten minutes later Richie walked in and watched her placing clothes in a suitcase. She glanced at him. “What do you want to wear on the plane?” She was already dressed.

He grabbed a pair of chinos, a t-shirt along with socks and underwear, shucked his bathing suit and started to dress.

Tori kept packing. “What time do we leave?”

“About an hour and a half.” She nodded. He stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “I’m sorry.” She nodded again, and fought back her tears.

It was a very quiet trip back to L.A. Tori answered when spoken to, but otherwise didn’t speak. Her disappointment was choking her, and she didn’t want to take it out on him. It wasn’t his fault. For his part, Richie felt guilty, and responsible for them having to cut their trip short. He didn’t know what to say, so he kept quiet.

Tori hadn’t really been paying attention to where the car was going when they left LAX, so she was surprised when they pulled into the laneway to the house. She had expected to go to Heather’s.

Inside, Richie took their suitcases upstairs while Tori went to let the staff know they were home. She didn’t get any further than the doorway to the living room. Rosa was coming to meet her.

“Mrs. Tori you’re home. Will Miss Ava be joining us for dinner?”

“I don’t know yet Rosa. You don’t seem surprised to see us.”

Rosa shook her head. “No. We knew you would come home for Miss Ava.”

“Angel?” Richie called from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yeah?” She she retraced her steps.

He leaned down to kiss her. “I’m going to run over there and see what’s going on. I won’t be long.”

Stunned, Tori watched him walk out the door. Frowning, Tori struggled up the stairs. In the bedroom, she unpacked, debated going downstairs again, but grimaced at the thought and opted instead for the balcony. She sat there for a long time trying to figure out why she was spending her honeymoon sitting at home alone while her husband was visiting his ex-wife.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chapter 203

Richie awoke before his wife. That was unusual, but considering the events of the previous night, not surprising. Last night! He frowned. Not wanting to wake her, he slipped from the bed, tucked the blankets around her and headed for the bathroom. After a quick shower he emerged and smiled to see her still sound asleep, curled around his pillow. He pulled on a pair of shorts, ordered some coffee and when it arrived, took it out onto the terrace where he sat contemplating his recent behaviour. He really didn’t know where it had come from. He’d never been into the whole dominance scene, aside from the occasional little sex game – and even then it had never lasted a whole night. He’d never felt the need to control another person – particularly a woman – like that. But something about seeing Tori tied up in his bed, open to him and at his mercy had brought out the Neanderthal in him. He couldn’t get enough. In the bright light of day he wasn’t sure how to react. It wasn’t that he regretted his actions exactly – he could never feel sorry over something that had felt so incredibly good – but even though she said that she didn’t mind if he was….not quite gentle, he didn’t think that last night was what she had in mind. He had no idea what her reaction would be and that’s what had him concerned! He didn’t know whether to apologize or just act like nothing unusual had happened. He guessed he’d wait until she woke up and play it by ear. The sound of rustling sheets coming through the open door had him standing and heading inside. Now was as good a time as any to find out what she thought. Plus, he had a feeling she might need some help.

Tori rolled onto her back and sighed, a feeling of utter contentment surrounding her. As memories of the day before – especially of what happened after they got back to the hotel – flitted through her brain she grinned and opened her eyes. She had asked for the caveman and she got it – well, the pirate version of it, but considering where they were she guessed that was appropriate. In fact she’d gotten a lot more than she’d bargained for. She’d always sensed that Richie was capable of it, but figured that he was so afraid of hurting her that he would keep a pretty tight lid on it. And he had….until last night. She shivered at remembered sensation. Apparently his possessive tendancies had gone into overdrive over the last few days. Whether it was due to the wedding or throwing away the pills she didn’t know, but it seemed that it was also on a hair trigger. She just hoped that he didn’t feel guilty this morning like he tended to after their more…aggressive… lovemaking sessions. He’d only done as she’d asked. In fact, if she was being totally honest, she’d pushed him into it. She didn’t regret a single minute of it. She might be a little sore for a while, but it was definitely worth it. A glance at the clock got her moving. She needed a bath and the housekeeping staff would want to get in to clean the room – and change the sheets. Throwing back the sheet, she started to sit up and swing her legs over the side of the bed only to groan and fall back.

“Hang on angel, I’ll help you.” Richie entered the room, scooped her up into his arms and carried her into the bathroom. Sitting her on the toilet, he started the bathwater for her, making it as hot as he thought she could stand. When the tub was full he lifted her and set her in it. “Are you ready for some lunch?”

“Yeah, for some reason I’m starving. I can’t imagine why.”

He grinned, leaned down and kissed her. “I’ll order us up a feast. Call me if you need anything.”

She soaked for half an hour, but when she tried to stand she found that she could only get to her knees – and that only with the support of the side of the tub. She groaned and shook her head ruefully. I’m going to have to be more careful of what I ask for. With a sigh, she did what she knew she had to do. “Richie! I need your help!”

“Coming!” He appeared in the doorway, grabbed two fluffy towels and approached her. Wrapping one around her shoulders he lifted her out and set her down. “Can you stand?”

She nodded. “I think so.” She used the towel he’d given her to dry her arms and wrapped her hair in it while he used the second one to dry the rest of her. He held a robe for her – there was no point in her getting dressed, she was in no condition to leave the room today. Tying the belt of the robe she turned toward the door. “Is the food here?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I set it up out on the terrace.” He watched her carefully as she went to take a step, catching her when she nearly collapsed. Without a word, he carried her out to the terrace and set her in a chair.

While they ate they talked about what else they wanted to do with the rest of their time in Hawaii, what changes Tori was thinking about making to the L.A. house and grounds, what projects they both had waiting for them, Tori’s thoughts on new merchandise for the band, anything but what had happened the night before. Since Tori didn’t seem to be upset even though she was obviously in discomfort, Richie was content to let it go and simply help her any way he could.

After lunch he carried her into the bedroom and set her on the newly made bed. “Do you want to rest in here or sit out on the terrace?”

“On the terrace I think. Will you hand me my pink bathing suit please?”

After helping her dress he stood close by as she stood and once again tried to walk. She managed about half a dozen steps before stopping and shaking her head. He scooped her into his arms again and carried her back onto the terrace and deposited her gently on a lounge. Ducking back inside, he returned with her sunglasses, book, a glass of Coke and suntan lotion. Setting the glass and the book on the table beside her lounge chair he handed her the sunglasses and the lotion, and headed back inside. He returned with his own drink and his guitar. Settling on the other lounge chair, he strummed idly while he watched her smooth the lotion over her exposed skin.

Tori wiped her hands on a towel, put on her sunglasses, started to reach for her book, but decided instead to just lay back and listen to Richie play. She had almost fallen asleep when he stopped. “Please don’t stop.”

“I thought you were asleep.” He started to play again.

She shook her head. “Just relaxing. Sing for me?” He nodded, thought for a moment, then strummed. Recognizing the intro, she stopped him. “No. Not Jovi. Sing me yours.”

He grinned and proceeded to serenade his wife.

If God was a woman
with long brown hair

Tori chuckled at the lyric change and blew him a kiss.

would you kneel at her altar
and offer her prayer
could she be your addiction
could she make you sin
If God was a woman
and you were her man
If God was a woman
would you be impressed
if she showed up in high heels
and a pretty red dress
would you make a donation
or would you draw the line
would you yield to temptation
or savor her wine
If God was a woman
she'd come like an angel
or a devil in disguise
when she left in the morning
would you lose your religion
or kiss your faith goodbye, goodbye
If God was a woman.
If God was a woman
tell me who could we blame
would she make Jesus righteous
or completely insane
If God was a woman
would she kiss and tell
would we wind up in heaven
or would we all burn in hell.
If God was a woman
she'd come like an angel
or a devil in disguise, oh yeah
and if she left in the morning
would you lose your religion
or kiss your faith goodbye, goodbye
If God was a woman and you were her man, yeah
If God was a woman
would she come like an angel
or a devil in disguise, oh yeah
when she left in the morning
would you lose your religion
or kiss your faith goodbye, goodbye
If God was a woman
If God was a woman
If God was a woman
If God was a woman
We'd all burn in hell
If God was a woman, woman, woman, woman
If God was a woman
tell me who would we blame
If God was a woman
If God was a woman
she'd drive us insane, yeah

For the next couple hours Richie played and sang as per her request. Tori smiled in contentment – being married to such a talented musician certainly had its fringe benefits!

When dinner arrived, Richie once again set it up on the terrace, but when he would have lifted her from the lounge she stopped him. “Just help me stand up.” Upright, she made her way slowly to the table, with him standing close by just in case.

Later, they were curled up on the couch inside watching a movie when someone knocked on the door. Richie answered it, then stepped aside, allowing Kiki to enter with her table. “Hello Mrs. Sambora. Would you like me to set up here again?”

Tori looked at her husband and tried not to blush. “That would be fine Kiki.”

When Kiki was all set, Richie distracted her with the oils so that she wouldn’t notice Tori’s slow, painful movements, although he had to force himself not to rush to help her. “Do you want the vanilla again honey, or do you want to try something different?”

Tori groaned into the towel covering the table underneath her, the memories of what happened after her last massage sending ripples through her aching body. “Um, something different I think.”

Richie hid his grin – he’d heard her groan and understood the reason for it – and surveyed the scented oils. “Oh, Kiki’s got Pikake. Isn’t that what your lei was made of yesterday? What about that?”

Tori lifted her head and stared at him in disbelief. “Not today.”

“I thought you liked it?”

She realized what he meant. “ Oh I do, I love it, but it’s such a beautiful, rare, heady scent, that I wouldn’t want to use it every day and have it become commonplace. I think it’s something that should be kept for special occasions. Today, I’d prefer something more….soothing.”

His eyes met hers for a long moment, then he nodded and turned back to the oils. “Let’s go with the lavender.”

Kiki lifted out the chosen bottle and went to work, smirking slightly to herself at the love bites visible on Tori’s body, and resisted the urge to glance at Richie who had resumed his seat on the couch and was strumming his guitar softly.

By the time Kiki finished, Tori was once again asleep. Richie picked her up and carried her to bed. Kiki was packing up her oils when he returned to the living room, her table already folded and waiting by the door. She handed him a bottle. “This will help her sore muscles. Just massage it gently into her skin.” She hesitated, not sure how to say it. “It’s made of all natural ingredients and is safe to use….everywhere…Just keep it out of the eyes.”

Richie felt his face flame, but he nodded. “Thanks.” He walked her to the door, locked it behind her and went to join his wife.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Chapter 202

Tori could feel the tension emanating from the large man walking beside her. All her senses were on high alert in anticipation of what might happen next. When they entered the suite, Richie headed for the bedroom. She set down her purse and stepped out onto the terrace. With a sigh of contentement she watched the waves lap at the moonlit beach. Suddenly, her view was blocked by a panel of silk settling over her eyes. “What the…?” Surprised, her hands rose to touch the blindfold.

His hands grabbed hers and pulled them down and behind her back. Holding them with one hand, he slid the other around her waist and pulled her back against him. “Now then, me beauty, ye don’t seem to listen real well. I told ye, ye belong to me. This…” His hand rose to squeeze her breasts very firmly, then slid over her bare midriff to cup her between her legs. “…and this…..” He squeezed. She stiffened and inhaled sharply. “….belong to me. By the time the sun lights that thar sky agin, ye’ll know it too!” His breath was a raspy growl in her ear. His arm encircled her waist again and he lifted her off the ground and carried her into the bedroom.

Her heart pounded and her mouth went dry. She didn’t fight him. The thought never even crossed her mind. This is what she wanted. Her caveman – or in this instance, her pirate – was back. She licked her lips as she waited to see what he would do.

He stopped beside the bed and released her hands just long enough to lift her onto the bed. Recapturing her hands he raised them above her head and tied them to the headboard with scarves. After checking that her bonds were secure, but comfortable, his hands roamed possessively over her body, removing her clothes as he went.

“I seen ye flauntin’ her body in them scraps of cloth.” She felt strips of some material being wrapped around her legs – not at her ankles like she expected, but just above her knees. She frowned slightly in confusion wondering what he was going to do. “Teasing them thar divers.” Two firm tugs unravelled the mystery as her legs were pulled up and apart, opening her completely. “Taunting every man in the room with every twitch of yer hips.” The pirate was fading. She sensed him moving away and her straining ears picked up the sounds of him undressing. “No more me beauty. Ye need to be taught a lesson.” She could feel his hot breath in her ear. “Ye be mine!” She jerked slightly when his hand touched the sensitive flesh between her thighs that was already throbbing. “Aah, what’s this? You’re dripping already.” His voice deepened. “Do ye want me, me beauty? Do ye?” Her back arched as he sank two fingers into her slick channel. “Do ye?”

“Yes.” She whispered. She felt the bed dip as he climbed onto it. A gasp was forced from her as he withdrew his fingers and with one hard thrust, buried his erection to the hilt.

He groaned. “You fit me like a glove. Your body was made for me and no one else.” The playful accent was gone. He pounded into her. “I’m going to fuck you until you know it too. Until you feel empty if I’m not inside you. Until you can’t walk!”

Just the thought of what that would take sent her over the edge and she cried out as she shattered. With a grunt and another hard thrust he followed, emptying himself deep inside her.

Rolling off of her, he watched her breasts heave as she panted. He reached out with two fingers to rub a nipple, smirking when it hardened instantly. “I’m going to stroke you until your skin craves my touch.” For long, silent minutes he did just that, starting at her wrists and moving down her arms, spending several minutes caressing, kneading and squeezing her breasts before continuing on down over her abdomen and thighs and repeating the sequence over and over and over.

Rendered sightless by the blindfold, the silence in the room left nothing to distract her from the sensation of his hands on her skin. She shivered as goosebumps rose in the wake of his touch and her nipples hardened even more.

“Cold?” He asked. She shook her head. “You don’t feel cold. You feel….warm and soft and smooth. No other man will ever touch you like I do. No other man will feel the silky velvet of your breasts, the firm taughtness of your thighs…” His hand stroked the relevant areas of her body as he described them. “….the hot…wet…satin of your most female flesh.”

“Mmmmm.” She moaned softly as he penetrated her with three fingers.

He grinned as her hips lifted towards his hand and moved in time with his fingers. “Yesss. That’s it. Move with me.You like that don’t you? You like feeling even this little bit of me inside you don’t you?” When she didn’t answer he sped up his movements, curling his fingers slightly to rub the super sensitive spot in the front wall of her passage. She cried out. “Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’d rather I stopped. Which is it?” She just shook her head. He withdrew his fingers.

“NO!” She sobbed. “Please! Don’t stop!” Her body lifted, searching for contact with him. “I….I like it! I do! Please!”

“That’s what I thought.” Long fingers traced her swollen folds before slipping inside her again. This time, while his fingers massaged her inner flesh, his thumb rubbed her clit lightly.

“Oh! Oh! Yes! Mmmmm. Right there! Yes! Oh! Oh! Oooooh!” Her body shook with the strength of her release.

He continued his stroking until her muscles relaxed, then withdrew his fingers, leaned back and surveyed his captive. Her skin was flushed and covered in a sheen of sweat. Her lips were parted as she fought for breath, her tongue emerging to lick them. He leaned over to lick and nibble on her earlobe. “You’re all sweaty. Are you hot?” She swallowed and nodded. “Mmmmm. You taste good. Even better than that vanilla oil.” He alternated licks with open mouthed kisses in a path down her neck and over her collarbone. “But I’m the only man who will know that. No other man will taste the salty sweetness of your sweat.” He kissed his way over the mound of one breast, licked her nipple, blew on it and watched it stand up for him. “Or feel your nipple harden in his mouth.” He suckled her firmly. Her back arched and she moaned. Releasing her breast, he continued licking and kissing his way over her abdomen and her legs, leaving marks on the tender skin of her inner thighs. He shifted over her and settled his shoulders between her widespread thighs. Opening her with his fingers he paused, staring at her exposed flesh. “No other man will taste your sweetness or feel your flesh pulsing against his tongue.” He bent and slowly traced her cleft with his tongue, up one side and down the other. When he reached her nub, he flicked it several times, before closing his lips around it and suckling her.

“Oh…oh…mmmm….oh….oh god…mmmm..RICHIE!!!” She went rigid.

Lifting his head to look at her face he grinned, then lowering his head again settled in to feast. “Mmmm. Sweet…so sweet.” He lapped at her, drinking and sucking her juices, wondering how much he could draw from her. Using only his lips and tongue her brought her to climax twice more. Finally, he couldn’t hold back any longer, slid his body up hers and he sank his aching shaft into her still pulsing passage. He groaned. “You’re so tight. You feel so good. No other man can fill you like I can.” He started to move, thrusting slowly, but firmly. “No other man will pleasure you like I do. No other man will feel your hips lifting towards him, urging him deeper. No other man will feel your moist, velvet walls close like a vice around him, as he pushes you over the edge into ecstasy.” He picked up speed, thrusting harder and deeper. “No other man will hear your cries of rapture. No. Man. But. Me!” He punctuated each word with a hard thrust and smiled as she clamped down around him and screamed as she peaked again. He held still until her tremors subsided, then picked up his rhythm again.

She shook her head. “Enough. Please. I can’t.” Her voice was a whisper.

“Yes you can. It’s never enough. I need more.” He growled in her ear. “And you’re going to give it to me.”

And she did. As she came for the third time, taking him with her, exhausted and overwhelmed by sensation she passed out. When he realized she was unconscious, Richie loosened the scarves holding her legs, letting them relax and straighten, drew the sheet up over her and laid back to contemplate the rest of the night’s activities.

Tori awoke and tried to move, only to find that although she could move her legs slightly, her hands were still bound. Likewise, the blindfold was still in place. Her heart rate kicked up a notch, her mouth went dry and her lower body melted as she realized that he wasn’t finished yet. This is even better than I anticipated!

The rustling of sheets at her movements brought his attention back to her. He leaned closer. “Are you hungry? Thirsty?”

She licked her lips. “Thirsty.”

She felt the bed shift as he rose. A few minutes later it dipped again as he returned. An arm slid under her shoulders, raising her slightly, and a glass was pressed against her lips. She drank half the glass of Diet Coke before pulling back. “Thank you.”

Richie set aside the glass, turned back to her and pulled the sheet off of her. “Now, let’s get back to your lessons. We’ve covered your response to my hands and my mouth, now we’re going to work on your response to just my presence.” A couple tugs and her legs were once again pulled up and open. She sensed him reaching for something. A moment later, she jerked and shivered as something brushed her leg. He chuckled. “Do you remember this from New Orleans? You seemed to enjoy torturing me with it, now it’s my turn. You won’t feel me touching you, but just knowing that I’m the one wielding the feather will cause your body to respond as if it were my hand.”

As the feather flicked over her sensitized skin she found her body responding just like he said it would. Her nipples hardened and tingled, longing to feel the pull of his mouth, and deep inside where the ache to hold him grew, she felt her juices begin to flow as her body prepared itself for his possession.

He watched, fascinated as her body undulated, seeking greater contact, greater sensation…seeking him. But that’s not what this round was about. He continued brushing her body with the feather, now lightly, now firmer, pausing for long minutes on her more sensitive areas.

“Richie please!” She pleaded.

“Please what? What do you need?”

“You. I need to feel you! Please!”

“Nuh uh. I told you. I am the feather.” When he judged the time was right – that she was close – he opened her folds with the fingers of one hand and flicked the tip of the feather over her clit. Back and forth, back and forth. She gasped and her hips jerked in response.

“Oh God! Oh..oh…oh God….mmmm.” She was moaning and panting her legs straining against their bonds as reached for her climax. Her scream echoed around the room as she found it and her body convulsed.

She was still trembling when she felt him straddle her chest. “Open your mouth.” She did. “Wider.” When she obeyed he slipped the swollen head of his erection inside. “Lick it.” She ran her tongue over the wide crest and along the ridge, then flicking the tip along the slit. After several minutes of that he slid in a little deeper. “Suck it.” As she did he began to move his hips, slowly easing deeper, then backing off. Feeling his control slipping he stopped her. “Enough!” She licked him as he withdrew, loving the taste of him. “You like that do you? You want more?” She nodded. “Do you want me to come in your mouth?” She licked her lips and nodded again. He almost gave in to her. “Maybe later.” Instead, he shifted back and settled his hips between her thighs. He filled her with a slow controlled thrust. She groaned as her sheath was stretched to its limit once again. His hands came up to squeeze her breasts, pulling at the hard tips as his hips rocked against her. This time when she crested he kept moving, riding out her storm. He slid his hands down to her hips, tilted them up towards him and drove in, grinding against her, putting pressure on her clit and pushing her into a screaming orgasm. Feeling her walls clamp down on him, he let go and flooded her with his warmth.

And so it went all night. He would let her rest in between ‘lessons’, even doze off for a little while, but while he would loosen the bindings on her legs, he kept her arms tied. At one point she woke to feel the scarf slide away from one leg and she thought he was releasing her, but discovered that he was merely turning her over onto her stomach. This time when her leg restraints were tightened it forced her up onto her knees. Unable to brace herself on her hands, she used her elbows as best she could.

Imagining the picture she presented with her butt in the air and her head on the pillow sent little flutters through her core. She felt him move in close behind her. His hands stroked down her back and around to knead her breasts. One hand slid between her thighs and stroked her cleft. Feeling her wetness, he moved back, bent down and licked her. She came that time with his fingers inside her and his mouth sucking her clit. But he wasn’t satisfied yet. Gripping her hips, he positioned himself and slid inside her. She moaned softly, incapable of doing anything but absorbing his steady thrusts. At this point her orgasms were announced with quiet gasping whimpers – she didn’t have the strength for anything more - although her body tremors were still strong.

Tori awoke and realized by the light coming through the scarf that it was morning – and that she was still bound. No sooner had that fact registered in her brain than her legs were once again pulled open and Richie’s weight settled on her. She groaned. She didn’t think she could take anymore.

“So. Have you learned your lesson?” His voice was a gravelly purr in her ear. She nodded weakly. “I don’t know. I’m not convinced.” He shifted, rubbing her body with his. After everything that had occurred throughout the night, her body reacted to his instantly. Her moan ended in a gasp and a soft cry as she felt him slide inside her once again. “Tell me, me beauty who do ye belong to?”

“You.” She surrendered in a whisper.

“And who else?”

“No one else. Just you.”

“Very good. Methinks ye deserve a reward.” He kissed her gently – for the first time since they had embarked on this little adventure. As his tongue explored her mouth and tangled with hers, his hips rocked gently, rhythmically against her.

She was stunned to feel her passion rise to meet his, her body matching his rhythm. She didn’t think she had anything left. Obviously he knew her body and what it was capable of even better than she did. This time they came together.

Removing her bonds, he rubbed her shoulders, arms and legs, and pulled off the blindfold, smiling when she curled into his arms. He kissed her forehead. “Sleep angel. I love you.”

“Mmmm. Love you too Rich.”

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chapter 199

And the pattern was set. For the next few days, except for walks on the beach, and an After Hours Experience in the hotel spa, they didn’t leave their room. On their fourth morning there, after a particularly lengthy lovemaking session, Tori glanced up at her husband in awe, her fingers playing with the patch of hair on his chest.

“You’re definitely a man on a mission.” She panted.

He shrugged. “If my calculations are right, we’re coming into prime time.” He watched the light in her eyes dim and the blue darken.

She tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her go. “Let me up.”

“Nuh uh. Not until you tell me why you’re pissed.”

“I’m not pissed.” He just looked at her. “I’m not.” She insisted.

“Okaaay, then why the sudden change of mood?” When she hesitated he gave her a squeeze. “Come on angel, talk to me.”

“Because I feel…..I don’t know…used I guess.” She struggled to find the words to explain her feelings.

“Used? Used how?”

“Like a means to an end. What used to be a beautiful expression of desire and mutual pleasure is turning into something else. It’s becoming a necessary act to achieve the goal.”

He snorted. “Trust me angel, making love to you is not a chore!”

“Well it’ll become one to me if I feel that procreation is the main reason that you’re doing it!”

He stared at her, stunned. “You’re not serious?”

“Well, think about it. I throw away the pills and you suddenly get the libido of a twenty-five year old! We’ve been here three days, and other than a few walks on the beach we haven’t been out of the room. Everytime I turn around you’re hauling me off to bed. You weren’t like this before. You’re counting days. You didn’t want me to ‘waste it’ out on the terrace the other day. What am I supposed to think?” She grimaced. “This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen! I knew we should have waited until we got home! Or maybe I should have just gotten rid of the pills and not told you until later. I just wanted to enjoy our honeymoon without any pressure!” Her eyes filled with tears.

“Whoa! Back the train up there a minute! The only goal I have tried to achieve in that department was to give you pleasure. I’d thought by the screams still ringing in my ears, and the nail marks in my back, that I’d succeeded. I certainly didn’t hear you saying no or stop!” She tried to pull away again, but he held her fast. “No. You’re not going anywhere until we talk this out.” He sighed. “I’m sorry, that may have been uncalled for and a little crude, but I really don’t appreciate hearing my wife tell me that I make her feel used, and attaching motives to my actions that just aren’t there! Yes, I want another child. That’s hardly a secret. But sweetheart, you have to believe me when I tell you that it’s not my prime purpose when I make love to you! That would just be a bonus. As for me suddenly having the libido of a twenty-five year old and never ‘being like this’ before…..if you remember, you haven’t stuck around in the mornings, and since we’ve been together one or both of us have had to be somewhere or do something. I haven’t had the chance to ‘be like this’.”

She was crying openly now. Not only did she not explain her feelings very well, now she’d hurt him and pissed him off. “I’m sorry.”

Richie fought the urge to squirm. It had been a long time since he’d let tears get to him – except his daughter’s. He’d been around actresses too much to let them effect him - they could turn them on and off like a faucet. But Tori wasn’t an actress. Her tears were real. He slid down in the bed until they were on a level, cupped her cheek with his hand, and wiped at her tears with his thumb. “Tori, what is this really all about?” His voice was soft, but demanded a response.

She closed her eyes and blew out a ragged breath. “What if…..” Her voice died, cut off by the emotion clogging her throat. She opened her eyes, swallowed and tried again. “You can downplay it all you want, but I know how badly you want more children. Whether you want to admit it or not – or even realize yourself that you’re doing it – you are thinking about it everytime we make love. Yes, you give me incredible pleasure, but ever since the wedding, there’s been a different feeling to it. An intensity that wasn’t there before. A…a…a sense of a purpose other than mutual pleasure.” Tears escaped her lashes again. “But what if I don’t get pregnant right away? What if I can’t get pregnant at all? I’m forty years old! For the last twenty years or so I’ve been very careful not to get pregnant. What if I waited too long? What if…” She swallowed again. “What if I can’t give you what you want most in the world?”

The fear and uncertainty in the sapphire gaze searching his hit him like a fist squeezing his heart. It took him a moment to answer. “Sweetheart, what I want most in the world is right here in my arms. You! A baby would be wonderful, but if it works out that it’s just you and I and Ava, then that’s great too. I have a feeling that Ava’s going to be plenty for us to handle anyway.” He was relieved to see a small smile twist her lips at that. “I’m sorry if I made you feel pressured. I certainly never meant to.” He paused and chose his next words carefully. “But honey, I think you’re jumping the gun a bit here, and worrying before you know that there’s a reason to.” His fingers caressed her cheek. “Tell you what. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll stop making references – however unintentional – to getting you pregnant if you’ll stop worrying that you won’t. Let’s not think about it. Let’s just enjoy ourselves and let whatever happens, happen. Okay?”

She could see nothing but sincerity and love shining in his dark eyes, but she needed to be sure. “You won’t be disappointed in me if I can’t…”

He stopped her with a finger to her lips. “Stop it angel. I didn’t marry you looking for a brood mare. I married you because I love you and I want you to be a part of my life forever. Just you.”

She closed her eyes and nodded her acceptance of his words. He kissed her gently and leaned his forehead against hers. “What am I going to have to do to get you to talk to me about these ideas you get?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“What upsets me is that you’re upset!” He sighed. “I know that you’re used to dealing with issues on your own, and that you will always try to protect me and my feelings. You’re a Bongiovi. It’s in the blood. But I’m your husband. We’re supposed to share these things. Isn’t that what you told me last March?”

She leaned back so that she could see his eyes, blushed sheepishly and nodded. “Point taken.” She took a deep breath. “I promise I’ll….try.”

He grinned. She was a Bongiovi. That was the best that he could expect. “That’s all any of us can do.”

Chapter 200

After a late breakfast Richie hit the shower. While the water beat down on him he thought about their conversation earlier that morning. She’d surprised him. She always seemed so self confident - except in regards to her musical abilities, but he’d always figured that was because she was surrounded by people she saw as professionals more experienced than her and that she’d looked up to for years. He’d never dreamed she would be insecure about something as natural as having a child without having a strong reason. He knew that there were a lot of women out there who, sadly, were unable, for one reason or another, to bear children, but for Tori to worry that she might be one of them before they’d even given it a try just didn’t sound like the Tori he knew.

Suddenly, it hit him like a lightning bolt. The explanation she gave for Jon’s extreme nervousness at the Arena Bowl came back to him. This is beyond his control. He can’t call the plays or carry the ball. All he can do is watch and pray. That’s pretty hard to swallow when you’re used to being the one calling all the shots. “Of course!” He’d forgotten the Bongiovi control freak trait. Conception was beyond her control and that drove her nuts. Add to that his unthinking comments which just confirmed how badly he wanted a baby, and her stress level went through the roof. He didn’t mean to pressure her, but he guessed he had. So what to do now? Only time would answer her main concern – one way or the other – so there was nothing he could do to help there. But she needed a distraction, to get her mind off of it, at least for a little while. Unfortunately his normal form of distraction would only make it worse, so he needed to find something else.

By the time he was dressed he had a plan. He found her sitting in a chair on the terrace, his guitar in her lap, fingers strumming idly. Setting his hands on her shoulder he bent to press a kiss to the top of her head. “Get dressed angel.”

She tilted her head back to look at him. “Are we going somewhere?”

He nodded. “You were right about one thing. It’s time we explored paradise.”

That afternoon was spent touring the shops of Lanai City. In one they found Suziz O’s Slippah jewelry. Tori picked out picked out a pink necklace for Ava, and an enamel and Swarovski crystal necklace and earring set for herself. Richie watched her carefully, then, when she was looking at another case, chose a silver turtle with a crystal tummy and an abalone ukulele pendant, with Christmas in mind.

Over the next few days they checked out the Pu’aiwa Petroglyphs, the Garden of the Gods, went sailing, scuba diving, and swimming with dophins in Hulopo’e Bay, and searched for treasure – and crab’s - on Shipwreck Beach. That expedition had Tori alternating between blushing and laughing until her sides hurt and the tears flowed as Richie’s inner pirate made an appearance.

“Arrg! I’ve got me treasure right here and I ain’t sharing!” He growled in her ear before lifting her onto his shoulder and heading up the beach.

“Help! Somebody save me! Let me go you dirty sea dog!” She managed to get out between rounds of laughter as she beat her fists on his back and wriggled, trying to get away.

He gave her a swat on the rear end and lowered her to the ground before he dropped her, pinning her to the sand with his body. “Never!” He suddenly turned serious. “I’ll never let you go.” Lowering his head, he kissed her gently, but thoroughly.

When he raised his head she sighed. “What happened to my knight in shining armor?”

He grinned. “That was just to lure ye into me net. I be protecting ye from other scurvy dogs, but ye’ll not be escaping me.”

“So I’m doomed to be a pirate’s woman?” Her blue eyes sparkled with amusement. He really could be a big goof sometimes, and she thanked God for it everyday. He knew how to make her laugh and give her spirits a lift when she needed it.

He nodded. “Aye, and it’s a life’s sentence ye be getting there, me beauty.”

She sighed dramatically. “Well I guess I’ll just have to make the best of it then.” She sniffed. “At least you don’t smell like you’ve been at sea for months. In fact...” She buried her nose in his neck. “ smell like flowers.” Her eyes widened. “Are you wearing perfume?”

He stared at her for a minute in disbelief, then laughed. He probably did smell like flowers. He’d joined her during her bath that morning – despite what she thought, his current ‘level of activity’ was normal for him when he had the time and opportunity, and he wasn’t about to change that unless he had to - not thinking about the scent of her bubble bath clinging to his skin like it did hers. “Brat!” He kissed her again, then rose, pulled her to her feet, and continued their trek down the beach.

Tori was impressed with the history and culture preserved on the small island. Dole’s legacy was evident in the old pineapple fields and the plantation houses in every colour of the rainbow. There were sacred places dotted around the area as well, both religious and ceremonial that she found fascinating.

After dinner at the hotel, they would either listen to the live music in the lounge or go and watch the sunset at Kaumalapau Harbour before taking a moonlight swim and/or retiring to their room where they would relax on the terrace enjoying the tropical evening, and Richie would play for her.

When they climbed into bed, the atmosphere changed. Where before their lovemaking had been hot, intense, almost urgent, now Richie was….tenative. He was afraid of pushing, so he would make his desire known, then back off and wait for her response. Even when she turned to him in invitation, he was careful to go slow and make her pleasure his main concern. If that meant holding back and denying, for the most part, his own needs and urges, then so be it. He told himself that seeing the ecstacy on her face was enough for now. Besides, it wasn’t like he wasn’t getting any pleasure out of their intimate encounters, but he’d become used to being able to let go and ride the wave in whatever direction it took them. We’ll get back there. I just need to take it easy on her for the next little while. Just until we either have answers about her fertility or until she believes that I want her, baby or no baby.

When Richie rolled off her and drifted off to sleep, Tori snuggled closer to him and fought the urge to scream in frustration. She knew he thought he was being considerate of her feelings, but she was about ready to smack him upside the head! It’s your own fault Tori. You should have kept your mouth shut! Now he thinks you’re too emotionally fragile to take it! No matter how many times over the last few days she told him that she wouldn’t break, he insisted on treating her like some delicate piece of glass that might shatter with too rough a caress or too hard a thrust. While she appreciated – and how! -the exquisite gentle pleasure he brought her, she missed the more intense domination that he was also capable of. She could sense him holding back and felt extremely guilty that he was denying himself –and her – because he thought it was best for her emotional health, especially when there was no need to. She sighed. She wanted her husband, with all of his wants and needs. She wanted – no needed to satisfy them, and have him satisfy hers. The gentleness was wonderful and sweet, but if he didn’t just throw her down and take her – and soon – she just might have to resort to some sort of drastic action.

Chapter 201

“Hey honey, look at this.” Tori picked up the flyer that was lying on the table in the lobby. “There’s a big luau over on Maui tonight. It says there’ll be lots of local musicians and dancers.”

“Yeah? Let me see.” She handed him the flyer. “Hmmm. Sounds interesting. Do you want to go?”

“Won’t it be a little too public?” She hoped not, she loved new cultural experiences.

He shrugged. “If it is, we can always leave, but I think it should be alright.” He hoped so. He badly needed a distraction from his beautiful and very desirable wife. The need to keep it gentle was testing his control to the limit. Catching the concierge’s eye he went to talk to her about making the necessary arrangements.

“Angel! You just about ready? The car’s here to take us to the ferry.” Richie called from the living room.

“Coming!” Tori answered, giving herself a last once over in the mirror. She smiled in satisfaction. If this doesn’t bring out the caveman, I don’t know what will. The wrap skirt was long and hung low on her hips, the Hawaiian floral print was bright and cheerful. The strapless bra style top matched the pink in one of the flowers in the skirt and set off the sun kissed skin of her shoulders,arms and torso. Her hair was a mass of curls tumbling around her shoulders.

When she entered the living room, her breath caught at the sight of him in beige slacks and blue and beige Hawaiian print shirt half unbuttoned as usual. Oh yeah. She was going to get her way tonight, one way or another. She just couldn’t wait any longer.

Hearing her, he turned, and froze. His eyes widened and heated as they roamed over her noting every bit of exposed flesh. “Jesus Tori! What are you trying to do to me?”

Break through your control and get my lover back – in all his forms. “What? Don’t you like it?” She hid her grin when he just grunted and waved her towards the door.

The ferry was about half full when they boarded for the trip to Lahaina on Maui. On the main level near the back was a group of men on their way back from scuba diving. Their loud laughter filled conversations stopped abruptly when Tori and Richie walked by them to stand at the rail. She pretended not to notice. Richie moved closer and rested his hand proprietarily on her hip. As the boat picked up speed she shivered slightly as the breeze hit her and moved closer to Richie, using him as a windbreak.

“You should have brought a jacket angel, it’ll be even cooler by the time we come back after the luau.”

She shrugged. “I guess I’ll just ride inside if it’s too cool.”

“I wouldn’t mind keeping her warm.” One man murmured to his buddies.

“She’s doing a good job of keeping me warm right now.” Another commented. The others nodded in agreement.

They had a little time to kill when they arrived in Lahaina, so they decided to take a little tour. They saw the big Buddha and the Banyan tree that was the size of a city block, and wandered down through the shopping district.

As they walked Richie noticed a lot of heads turning to watch them. Most of them were men. While he didn’t really like it, he wasn’t surprised. His wife was a beautiful woman and he knew he wasn’t the only male who would think so. Torn between pride and possessiveness he glanced at her, and suppressed the urge to snort and shake his head. No, the male admiration didn’t surprise him, but her response did. She seem to be utterly oblivious to the attention she attracted. He grit his teeth and tightened his grip on her hand. When she sent him a questioning look he just smiled and kissed her briefly.

While they were waiting in line to enter the luau grounds, Richie noticed a couple of the scuba divers who had been on the ferry talking to one of the greeters working the gate. When their turn came the greeter set aside the usual Plumeria lei and instead reached for a rope Pikake one and settled it over Tori’s head. “Aloha.”

Aloha. Oh, how beautiful!” Tori lifted the blooms to have a closer look.

Richie bent to accept his Plumeria lei, then straightened and eyed the divers who were watching Tori. They looked at each other and smiled in satisfaction. “Come on angel.” He urged her forward with an arm around her waist.

Next they were offered drinks. Tori chose a Mai Tai and Richie fruit punch. A host came and gave them the layout of the grounds, pointing out the eating area as well as the where the Imu presentation would be held and the area where local artisans were demonstrating their skills. Sipping their drinks they wandered through the arts and crafts area, very impressed and fascinated with the display. Tori was examining the detail in a wooden carving when a young Hawaiian boy, maybe six or seven years old, came up to her and shyly offered her a single large flower – she didn’t recognize what it was – obviously meant for her hair. “For the pretty lady.”

“Oh, how sweet!” Tori accepted the bloom. “Mahalo.” She bent and kissed his cheek.

The little boy grinned, nodded and ran back to rejoin his mother who was one of the artists. She lifted the flower and slid it in above her right ear.

Richie sighed. It was going to be a long evening. Doesn’t matter, young or old, they fall at her feet. He reached out with one hand and plucked the flower from her hair. When she frowned at him, he turned her head and slid it back in above her left ear. “Left side angel. You are definitely taken!”

Biting back a smile, she slipped an arm around his waist and urged him to follow the crowd as they headed for the beach and the Imu presentation, which turned out to be the unearthing of the roasted pig. The aroma was heavenly and Tori’s mouth watered in anticipation.

When they reached the entrance to the eating area, another host greeted them. “Mr. and Mrs. Sambora. Aloha. Follow me please.”

As they followed him to their table, Richie scanned the crowd. He saw several women look twice and nudge their friends. He smiled and nodded. They waved back. Tori smiled indulgently and prepared to be visited later. As his gazed continued to sweep the room, Richie almost growled when he noticed the divers were seated at the table beside them. He made sure that he sat between them and Tori and kept his arm along the back of her chair, his fingers alternating between playing with her hair, and stroking her shoulder.

The food was delicious and very plentiful. Tori’s favourite was the Kalua pork, the Island Crab Salad, the Lau Lau and of course the Poi, along with the banana cake and fresh fruit that she chose for dessert. Richie traded her tastes of his Pulehu steak, chicken long rice, and stir fry vegetables. He made a point of feeding her and getting her to feed him.

She didn’t let on that she had seen the divers sitting at the next table. The day’s events couldn’t have played in her favour any better if she’d planned them herself. Yep, the caveman’s trying to get out! It needed a final push, but she’d just sit back for awhile and see what happened.

As the sun set, the show began. Within minutes Tori was caught up in the story of the Polynesians discovering and settling on the islands, followed by a demonstration of the ancient Hula. Next came the era of the missionaries and the changes they made. Then came the modern Hula. As the first song came to an end, the dancers invited a few women up to learn a bit of the dance. Richie bit back a protest as Tori accepted the invitation and climbed the steps onto the stage.

“Ooh, you have an admirer.” One dancer commented. When Tori raised her brows in question she gestured to the lei. “A Pikake lei.”

Tori glanced at Richie only to see him frown. Shifting her gaze to the table of divers she saw one nudge his buddy and grin. Her brows rose even higher, but didn’t say anything, concentrating instead on the movements of the dance they were being taught.

As he watched the graceful motions of her hands and arms, and the undulations of her hips as she executed the steps of the dance, Richie felt his whole body tense and something deep inside him sit up and howl. Tori called it his inner caveman and she wasn’t too far from the truth. He’d always admitted to being possessive, but right now dragging her away by her hair wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. He’d never felt it this strongly before – even with her. This was worse than the fans gawking at her in that leather outfit. It was more than just the table of divers openly admiring her. She was a beautiful woman. He expected other men to notice. That didn’t mean he had to like it! He shifted uncomfortably in his chair as the music sped up, and with it her movements.

“That’s a hell of a story she’s telling.” The older man at the table beside him commented.

“Daniel!” His wife swatted his arm and shot a glance at Richie.

“Sorry sweetheart, but I’d have to be dead not to notice!” He gave Richie an apologetic smile.

Richie smiled back and nodded. His jaw clenched as he scanned the room and noticed others watching his wife with masculine appreciation. When the tempo increased again, he turned his attention back to the stage….and couldn’t look away. Tori had moved to the section of the stage that was right in front of him. Their eyes met and for long minutes it was like the rest of the room ceased to exist. Her blue eyes sparkled and her tanned midriff appeared to glow under the torch lights. Her arms seemed to reach out for him and the gyrations of her hips reminded him of other times and places where her movements drove him wild, making him ache to get her alone.

The music came to a crescendo and ended. The applause was thunderous. Tori thanked the dancers and musicians as she left the stage. As she made her way back to the table several people stopped her to praise her performance. She halted beside the table of divers, lifted the lei and smiled. “Thank you. I appreciate the compliment, but I’m afraid I’m married.” She lifted her left hand to display her rings. The men sighed but nodded their acceptance.

“You’re afraid you’re married?” Richie growled as she sat down.

She leaned over and kissed him. “You know what I meant.” He grunted. She glanced around as the other guests prepared to leave. “Ready to go?”

He grimaced. “I need a few minutes.”

“Oh? What for?” He just stared at her. Reading the message in the dark depths she glanced down at his lap, and grinned. “Oh. Sure. Let me know when you’re ready.”

“Keep laughing angel. It’s your fault, and you’re going to pay for it later.”

“Yeah, yeah. You know babe, you’re real big on making the promises, but not real big on the follow through.” She retorted. His reply was prevented by the approach of the women they had noticed earlier, in search of autographs.

Richie was quiet on the ferry ride back to Lanai. He was thinking about his unusual reactions today. He’d always considered himself a modern, evolved man, but his response today was anything but. He didn’t want to admit it – and certainly wouldn’t to her – but he was afraid that Tori just might be right. That maybe, just maybe, somewhere deep in his subconscious he was always thinking about getting her pregnant now that she’d given the green light, and his strange feelings today were a throwback to some instinctive and primal need to guard his mate to ensure that any propagation of the species that occurred would be with his genes. He didn’t think for a minute that she would cheat on him, but the urge to stamp her as his was nearly overwhelming.

She leaned against him for warmth. “You’re awful quiet. Everything okay?”

He wrapped his arms around her and rubbed her back, trying to smooth away the goosebumps. “Yeah, everything’s fine. Just thinking.”

“About what?”

“My beautiful and very desirable wife who has men of all ages falling at her feet.”

She chuckled and leaned back a bit so that she could see his face. “Your interest is the only one I’m trying to attract.”

“Angel, you’ve had it from the first time you opened those beautiful blue eyes in the hospital and looked at me.” He leaned down and kissed her.

Back at the hotel, the concierge greeted them. “Did you enjoy the luau?”

“Very much. Thank you. It was an experience I’ll never forget.” Tori responded.

The concierge gestured to the lei and grinned. “Very nice. You certainly caught somebody’s interest.”

Tori grinned. Richie grunted and with a hand on her back guided her towards their room.
This is my nice little story turned epic with Richie in the starring role - although Jon plays a large part.