When Tori and Ava returned from their shopping expedition the next day they found Joan sitting by the pool, sipping on a cup of coffee.
“Nana, we’re home. Want to see what we bought?”
Tori studied Joan’s face. “How was your day?”
Joan smiled and patted Tori’s arm reassuringly. “It was fine. Richie’s in the studio.”
Tori frowned. “You know it’s not just him I’m concerned about right? This can’t be easy for you either.”
Joan nodded. “I know and I appreciate it. And you’re right. It’s not easy, but I’m hanging in there.”
While Ava showed her grandmother her purchases, Tori went to look in on Richie. He was sitting staring out the window, an acoustic guitar in his lap. Walking up behind him she slid her hands over his shoulders and down onto his chest.
“Hey there. We’re back.” She murmured in his ear.
One hand came up to cover hers. He turned his head to kiss her. “Hey yourself. Did she find anything?”
“Yeah. I think we got enough to finish her room in Philly and a few things for her room here as well. You should come have a look.”
He set aside the guitar, and rose, still holding her hand, and followed her out of the room. Even that quick glimpse of his eyes told her that the shadows were back. Grimly she tried to think of what to do to distract him.
“Do you feel like a guitar lesson after dinner?”
His lips twisted. “I suppose that’s one way of keeping you from falling asleep on me…..again.”
“Hey, I told you last night to wake me up if I fell asleep. It’s not my fault you didn’t. I’m still trying to adjust to the change of coast.”
He chuckled. “I know. And I didn’t wake you up because you looked so peaceful and you obviously needed your sleep. I’m warning you though. If you fall asleep early again tonight I will wake you up. I can’t lie beside you another night and not make love to you. My gentlemanly manners only extend so far.”
“Then let me warn you. If you don’t wake me up tonight, I’m going to wake you up in the morning….I’m not a gentleman!”
He laughed and she was pleased to see the twinkle back in the dark eyes.
After dinner they settled in the studio for the girls’ guitar lesson. Even Joan was impressed with their progress.
“At this rate, Jon’s going to have you playing on the next album.” Richie warned Tori.
She laughed. “I’m a long ways from being ready for that, but thank you. I’m having fun.”
He cocked his head at her. “You really have no idea how good you are, do you? And I’m not just talking about your guitar playing. I’m talking about your musical ability in general – the piano and your voice.”
She shrugged. “I may be a little better than average, but I know I’m not in the same league as you guys. I’m still amazed that Jon actually wants me to sing on stage with all of you.”
He shook his head at her. “If you had played and practiced everyday like we have for the last twenty-five years, you would have left us in the dust a long time ago. Look how fast you’ve picked up the guitar. You’re a natural.”
She shook her head. “I can read music and play it. You can pick up an instrument and play by ear. You’re a natural. I just have some talent and a good teacher.”
“You’re wrong.” There was no point arguing with her – she wasn’t going to believe him, but he was going to find some way to make her see how good she really was.
They got Ava tucked into bed and Tori brought out the eggs – both chicken and chocolate – that she wanted to hide for the next day. This was going to be even more fun that it had been growing up – this house was huge. It could take hours to search it all!
Richie suddenly grinned. “Why don’t you go on up and get ready for bed. Ma and I will hide the eggs.” She crooked a brow at him. “Then you can hunt for them with Ava tomorrow. This seems to be the year for making new traditions, and this is mine. You can decorate the eggs with the kids, but I will hide them so that you can join in the hunt.”
Both women heard the plural, but didn’t comment. They just looked at each other and smiled. Both knew that Richie was anything but subtle about what he wanted.
Tori was cuddled under the covers, fighting to stay awake with the television on when Richie finally came into the room. Something about the set of his shoulders kept her quiet while he moved to stand in front of the window and gazed at the sky as he undid his shirt. He sighed.
“Did you get all the eggs hidden?” She asked softly.
He turned at the sound of her voice and smiled. “You’re awake. Yes we did.”
“If you spent all this time hiding them, I have a feeling finding them is going to be a real challenge.”
“Naw. Ma and I were just talking.” Stripping off the rest of his clothes he lifted the blankets and slid in beside her.
She reached out and caressed his cheek. Catching her hand he pressed a kiss to her palm. She studied his eyes and the tension in his body for a long moment.
“Come here.” She murmured
He shifted closer and leaned over to take possession of her lips. She could taste the buried emotions in his kiss, and she knew that in order to help him, she had to find a way to bring them out into the open. Only once he acknowledged them could he begin to heal. Sliding her hands around to splay on his back she pressed her body tightly to his, chuckling when she heard him inhale in surprise.
Breaking the kiss, he leaned back slightly to look down at her, a scandalized look on his face. “You’re naked!”
She grinned and shrugged. “I figured it would save time.”
“Mmmmm I like eagerness in my women.” When her eyes narrowed and her brow rose he replayed his words in his head and quickly amended them. “Woman. Only one woman. Only you. You’re the only one I want.”
He threw off the blankets, baring her to his avid gaze. Reclaiming her mouth he sent his hands skating over her body. Their passions rose very quickly. She could sense his internal struggle. When his hand covered her breast and he squeezed firmly her back arched and she gasped. He immediately pulled away, curling his hand into a fist.
“It’s okay.” She assured him.
He shook his head and closed his eyes as he fought for control.
She framed his face with her hands. “Honey look at me.” She waited until he did. “It’s okay. Let go. I won’t break.” He frowned uncertainly. “I’ll stop you if you hurt me. I promise.”
With a groan he bent down to her again. While his mouth ravaged hers, his tongue stabbing deep, his hands moved over her body. His grip became just short of painful. The difference was exquisite.
She threaded her fingers through his hair and held on. Her body undulated involuntarily, always towards his touch. His desperation reached out to her, sparking an answering urgency in her. Her breath came in pants, her skin burned, and deep inside she ached to hold him.
Breaking the kiss he slid his mouth to her ear where he nibbled on her lobe before nuzzling the sensitive spot below. She shivered. Spurred on by her movements and the sounds of pleasure she couldn’t hold back, he kissed, licked, sucked and nibbled his way down her torso. He spent long minutes worshipping her breasts, kneading the firm flesh, taking her nipples between his teeth and tugging before suckling them hard.
Tori bit her lip in an effort to suppress her cries and not wake Joan and Ava. Her nails raked his back.
Richie continued his downward path, dipping the tip of his tongue into her navel and swirling it around. His fingers left bruises on her thighs as he spread them, making room in between. He gripped her hips firmly as he settled to feast on her succulent, hot, moist flesh. He explored, every nook and crevice, returning again and again to flick her swollen clit.
Her hands fisted in the sheets and her head thrashed back and forth as she fought to stay quiet. When his tongue dove deep into her channel and sent her over the edge she couldn’t hold back any longer and bit into her pillow to muffle her cries.
Her legs received his attention next as he gave her a few minutes to catch her breath. Reaching her feet he rubbed them and scraped his teeth over her instep. Rising up onto his knees he gripped her hips and flipped her over onto her stomach. Starting at her shoulders he started his downward path yet again, first with his hands, then with his mouth. He squeezed the globes of her buttocks, kneaded them, licked and kissed them, then traced a finger down the crevice between to spear inside her. Pulling it out, he added a second finger and penetrated her again.
Groaning she bore down as he continued to move his fingers in and out. Suddenly he released her and sat back. Hands grasping her hips he pulled her up onto her knees, fitted himself to her and with one solid thrust, buried himself to the hilt.
Her pillow muffled her scream. Using her hands to brace herself, she rocked back against him in rhythm with his thrusts, taking him deeper yet. There was no attempt at control or gentleness as he slammed into her over and over, grunting with effort. By the time her next climax approached, her arms and legs were shaking and her cries were reduced to breathless whimpers.
It still wasn’t enough for him. Withdrawing from her before her tremors had subsided, he turned her once again onto her back. He raised her legs onto his shoulders and slid inside her once again. Sliding his hands under her pelvis he tilted her up towards him and pounded into her.
Tori gasped for breath as her body geared up again. She no longer worried about anyone hearing her – she had no breath left for anything louder than a whimper. Her muscles had long since turned to mush. All she could do was lie back and let him take what he needed. Opening her eyes, she looked at his face. His eyes were open, but unseeing, his face flushed, sweat dripped from his nose and chin, his focus turned inward. She didn’t feel slighted. He needed an outlet for the emotions tearing him up inside, and she was happy to provide it. If the forceful, almost violent taking of her body helped him find some peace, then she would welcome it.
This time when her peak hit, she went rigid, clamping down around his hard flesh like a vice.
“Yes! Baby, yes.” He rasped in her ear as he at last found his own release and collapsed on top of her.
They laid like that for long minutes just trying to breathe. Finally Richie lifted off her, rolled onto his back and gathered her in his arms.
“I’m sorry.” He murmured.
“I’m fine.” She tipped her head to look at his face. “Do you want to talk about it?” She searched his eyes. “You don’t have to, but it might make you feel a little better.”
He stared down at her and raised a hand to trace her eyebrow and stroke her cheek. “Not right now. I don’t want to think about death. I just want to concentrate on life and the people I love. I just want to hold you. Is that okay?”
She nodded and stretched up to kiss him. “That’s just fine. I love you.”
“I love you too angel.”
The next morning Tori awoke early and decided a hot bath was in order before heading downstairs to join Joan and Ava for breakfast. At Tori’s insistence, Rosa once again was given the holiday off, and Tori and Joan finalized their plans for dinner.
Taking her cup of coffee with her, Tori headed into the living room. She hesitated beside a chair, grimaced and went to stand by the window and gaze out over the grounds, making mental notes of areas to talk to the gardener about.
Long arms slid around her waist and pulled her back against a hard chest. She breathed deep as his scent surrounded her. His warm breath caressed her neck as he bent to nuzzle the sensitive spot beneath her ear.
“Morning honey.” Well, it was morning for a few minutes yet.
“Where is everyone?”
“Your mother took Ava to Easter mass and I gave the staff the day off.”
He grunted. “Cooking for ourselves again huh?”
“Yep.” She relaxed back against him.
He stole her mug, took a sip and handed it back.
“About last night…..”
“I want to apologize.”
She turned enough to see his eyes and shook her head. “There’s nothing to apologize for. I told you I’m fine.”
He snorted. “That’s why you’re standing here instead of sitting down?”
“I was looking at the grounds and planning some additions to the landscaping.” She wasn’t about to let on any differently. She’d be fine in a few hours. “Honey, I know you’re going through a rough patch. That’s why I’m here. To help you anyway I can.”
He sighed and squeezed her tighter. “Thank you.”
When Joan and Ava returned the egg hunt began.
“Okay. The eggs are all on this floor of the house and at a level that either one of you can reach.” Richie informed Tori and Ava as he handed them each a basket.
“Is there a prize for whoever finds the most?” Ava asked.
“Yes, my mercenary baby girl, there is a prize.”
They learned very quickly how devious Richie was. Some eggs were easily visible, and some were a little harder to find….and some were downright sneaky. Thinking they had them all, they would start to leave the room only to have Richie shake his head.
“You haven’t found them all yet.”
It took them an hour and a half to find them all. They found eggs in every nook and crevice of every room – including inside acoustic guitars and the piano in the studio. Joan counted the baskets and, with a conspiratorial wink at Tori, declared Ava the winner.
“What did I win?”
Richie handed her a wrapped package. She quickly ripped off the paper and squealed at the paint set and stencils of flowers and butterflies.
“Oooh. Thank you Daddy. Can I paint some pictures to hang on the wall in my room in Philly?” She turned to Tori.
“Absolutely. You pick your favorites, we’ll get them framed and Daddy will hang them.”
Ava scooped up her treasures and headed for her playroom where there was a table perfect for just such an endeavor – paint splatter would only add to its slightly battered appeal.
At a look from her son, Joan announced that she was going to go check on their dinner and headed for the kitchen. When Tori would have joined her, she waved her away. “I don’t get to cook for my family very often anymore. You just relax and let me do this.”
“So do you want your prize?” Richie asked.
She turned to face him. “There’s only one winner.”
He shrugged. “You deserve a prize anyway.”
“For services rendered in the effort to create a happy family holiday.”
She laughed, then her eyes widened at the box he held out to her. She was almost as fast as Ava in ripping off the paper. Lifting the lid she gasped.
“Richie! They’re beautiful!” The diamond earrings were simple studs – about half a carat each, and the necklace was a large teardrop. The set was plain enough to be worn for a casual occasion, or with the right outfit, a more formal one. “You didn’t need to buy me a present you know.”
“I know, but I wanted to.” He wrapped his arms around her and laced his fingers together in the small of her back. “You’ve done so much for Ava and I, I wanted to do something for you.” He smiled wryly. “But I’m a man, and don’t have much imagination for this type of thing, so I stuck to what I know – jewelry.”
“You can protest all you want, but it’s not going to change anything. If I feel like buying you something, I’m going to.” He interrupted her. “Get used to it.”
She smiled. “I guess I’ll have to. Thank you. I love it.” Raising up on tiptoe, she kissed him.
The next couple days proved more difficult. The shadows in Richie’s eyes were getting darker, but he still wouldn’t talk about it. He was spending more and more time in the studio. Joan left for home on Monday afternoon, but Ava was staying until the following Sunday, leaving Tori to try to keep Richie occupied during the day, and be a mother figure for Ava after school.
Kate had invited Ava to go to a movie with her Tuesday night, and Gail had offered to take them. Tori was glad. She wanted to use the time to try to get Richie to open up. She was beginning to get a little frustrated. She had tried everything she could think of to distract him and help him work through his feelings, but he kept saying he didn’t want to talk about it, and that he was fine. But she knew that he needed to get it out before he could begin to heal.
Mid afternoon the phone rang. Richie was once again ensconced in the studio working on a song, so Tori answered it.
“Hi Tori it’s Gail.”
“Hi Gail, how are you?”
“I’m good thanks, but I have a bit of a problem. Some financing for the movie I’m currently working on is falling through and an emergency meeting has been called for tonight, so I’m not going to be able to take the girls to the movie.”
Tori bit back her disappointment and decided she couldn’t make the girls suffer the same fate. “No problem, I’ll take them.”
“Are you sure? I know you haven’t had much alone time with Richie this trip.”
“It’s fine. This was meant to be family time. When I get moved we’ll have plenty of alone time. Right now we’re working on quality, not quantity.”
Gail chuckled. “Considering his line of work, that’s probably a good idea. Well, if you’re sure you don’t mind…..”
“Not at all. I’ll pick both of them up from school and Kate can have dinner with us.”
“Thanks a lot Tori. I owe you one.”
“Invite me to the premiere and we’ll call it even.” Tori joked.
“You got it!”
Hanging up, Tori headed for the studio. Richie was bent over an acoustic guitar, alternating between playing chords and scribbling madly in a notebook in front of him.
“Hey babe. Sorry to interrupt. How’s it going?”
“Hi angel. It’s going pretty good actually. Did you just come to visit or did you need something?”
“Gail just called. She’s been called into a meeting tonight and can’t take the girls to the movie. I told her I would pick them up at school and take them. I thought maybe you would like to come with us. Get out of the house for a bit.” He hadn’t been out in several days.
“Naw. You go ahead though. Make it a girls’ night out.” He turned back to his notes.
Tori sighed and went to tell Rosa that Kate would be joining them for dinner.
“Where’s Daddy?” Ava asked as she and Kate dropped their back packs on the dining room table.
“In the studio working on a song.” Tori answered. “If you want to go to the movie we better get your homework done now.”
When dinner was ready Tori went to get him. He was staring out the window. Taking the guitar out of his hand, she sat in his lap.
He wrapped his arms around her and nodded. “Thanks.” They sat there for a couple minutes, then he sighed, tilted her face up to his and dropped a kiss on her lips. “Come on, let’s eat.”
“Hey Rich? Where are the keys to the car?” She had her own key, but she wanted to try one more time to get him to go with them.
“You’re taking the Astin?”
“Well, I’m not taking the tank.”
He frowned. “Why don’t I drive you?”
She crooked a brow. “Don’t you trust my driving?”
“It’s not your driving that concerns me, it’s the other yahoos out there, not to mention the parking lot. Plus, it would be a little cramped for the girls. I’ll drop you off and pick you up when it’s over.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” She really didn’t want to leave him alone.
“I’m sure. I really want to get this song finished.” He glanced up and caught the look of concern on her face. “It’s okay. I’ll be fine. Really.” He assured her.
Exiting the theatre, Tori glanced around looking for the Hummer while the girls were giggling over the plot and dialogue. When Richie pulled to a stop, she opened the back door and helped the girls in before climbing in the front seat. Doing up her seatbelt she checked that the girls had theirs on as Richie pulled away from the curb. Turning from the back seat a slight aroma caught her attention. She took a deeper sniff and frowned. Leaning a bit towards Richie she sniffed quietly again.
“Rich, why don’t you pull over and let me drive?” She didn’t want to alarm the girls, but she needed to get him to stop the car.
“I thought you said you didn’t want to drive ‘a tank’.”
She shrugged. “So I changed my mind. There’s not a lot of traffic here and I’d like to try it once.”
He laughed and glanced at her. The big car swerved over the centre line. Richie pulled it back.
“Please? Will you pull over and let me drive?” Her heart was starting to beat faster. She had to get him to stop.
The pleading note in her voice had him looking at her again. The car swerved again. A horn honked. The girls screamed. Richie pulled it back. Tori was fighting panic now.
“Richie! Please pull over!”
“Relax angel, I’m fine.” He glared at her. “I’m not drunk.”
“I know you’re not, but it would make me feel better if you’d pull over and let me drive.” He may not have been drunk, but she could smell alcohol, and his eyes were a little glassy.
“We’ll be home in a few minutes.”
The Hummer drifted over the line again. Tori was at her wits end.
Suddenly flashing lights appeared behind them. A siren flared briefly. Swearing softly, Richie pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. He glanced apologetically at Tori.
“Daddy, what’s going on?”
“The police want to talk to me sweetie it’s okay.”
Tori closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the seat. She knew it wasn’t okay.
Tori opened the door of the house, exhaustion – more emotional than physical – dragging at her. She dropped her purse and keys on the table and walked into the living room where she sank onto the couch and put her head in her hands. When the phone rang she sighed and groaned. She glanced at the display and knew she had to answer it.
“Are you okay?” Jon’s voice was a mix of anger and concern.
“Physically, I’m fine. Emotionally….no I’m not okay. I don’t know what to do Jon. I don’t know whether I want to hit him or hug him.” She didn’t even question how he knew.
“I’d taken Ava and her friend to a movie. Richie had dropped us off so that I wouldn’t have to worry about parking and came and picked us up – he was working on a song and didn’t want to come with us. I didn’t realize until we’d gone a couple blocks that he’d been drinking. He wasn’t drunk, but he definitely had had something. I tried to get him to pull over to let me drive, but he ignored me, and just kept saying that he was fine. Next thing I knew it was lights and sirens behind us. If you had seen the look on Ava’s face when they took him away....” Her voice broke. “No child should ever have to see that.” She drew in a ragged breath. “Then, because I’m not Ava’s mother, they called Heather, who condescended to let me drive Ava home to her place. She wouldn’t let her stay here with me.”
“What brought it on?”
“I don’t know. I never got the chance to find out. He’d been a little down earlier, but he seemed fine when we left.”
“Where is he now?”
“Still at the police station. They weren’t sure how long he was going to be, and after I dropped the girls off – and apologized profusely to Kate’s mother – I was too angry to go back and sit and wait for him. He can get a cab home.”
“What are you going to do?”
She sighed. “First, I’m going to have long soak in a hot tub and try and figure out what to say to him. Then….I don’t know. I guess it depends on what he tells me.” She slammed her fist on the arm of the couch. “DAMMIT Jon, he was doing so well! I thought he really had it under control.” She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the back of the couch. “How could he take such a chance with Ava in the car?”
“I don’t know, but if you find out, let me know.” There was a hard edge to his voice. “Tell him I want to talk to him.”
She sucked in a sharp breath. “Oh my God! I never thought…..how is this going to affect the tour?”
“That’s one of the things I want to talk to him about.”
“I’m sorry Jon.” Her voice broke again. “I did everything I could think of to help him, but apparently it didn’t wasn’t enough. As soon as I left him alone he went straight for the bottle.”
“Ssssh honey. Don’t cry. It’s not your fault. We’ll get through this. We’ll get him through this. He needs help. Don’t give up on him now.”
“I’m not planning to. I’m just upset. Speaking of which, how come you’re so calm?”
“I got my ranting and swearing out of my system before I called you. Dorothea figured you would be upset enough without having to deal with my temper.”
“Well thanks. Tell her I appreciate it.”
“Look, you go try to get some rest and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay. And Jon….thanks.”
“That’s what family’s for.”
The bath relaxed her enough that she was able to doze on and off until she heard him come in the door.
Entering the bedroom he quietly stripped off his clothes and sat on the side of the bed.
“You stink. Go have a shower.” She kept her voice calm and quiet.
He got up and did as he was bid. Returning from the bathroom he laid down and stared at the ceiling for long moments. He turned his head towards her where she was curled up facing away from him, and reached out tentatively to touch her shoulder. “Baby?”
“We’ll talk about it in the morning.” She raised her head enough to see the clock. It was close to five am. “Well, later this morning. Get some sleep.” She hesitated, then reached up to squeeze his hand.
It was afternoon before he was up and around. He found her in the livingroom staring out the window, sipping a cup of coffee, her pale face and the dark circles under her eyes like a kick to his stomach. She watched him as he sat on the sofa and raked a hand through his hair.
“Do you want some coffee or something to eat?”
He started to shake his head, then stopped. “Maybe some coffee.”
She went into the kitchen to get him a cup and refill her own. She waited until he had taken a sip and met her eyes. “So. Who do you want to deal with first? Me, Jon, your mother, Heather, or Ava?”
He grimaced. “Did Jon call?”
She nodded. “Last night, right after I got home. Your mother called this morning. Heather hasn’t called yet, but I’m sure she’s expecting you to explain to both her and Ava.”
She’d kept her voice calm, but he could hear the edge of anger underneath. “You’re pissed.”
“You’re damn right I’m pissed! What the hell happened Rich?”
He sighed. “I don’t really know. I was in the studio working on a song. You know I’ve been a little depressed lately. I don’t know whether it was the lyrics that triggered it or what, but all of a sudden it all came crashing down on me as if it was happening now instead of a year ago. I…I…I reached for my crutch to help stabilize me. I only had one or two before I realized what I was doing and I stopped. But then it was time to go get you and the girls. I didn’t think. I just knew I had to get to you. I needed you. I swear to God I only had a couple!” His eyes begged her to believe him. “I knew you’d be mad.”
The look in his eyes tugged at her heart, but she knew she couldn’t let him off the hook that easily.
“I’m not mad because you had a drink or two. I’m disappointed because you had a drink or two. You were doing so well! I’m mad because you had a drink or two and then got behind the wheel. You put yourself at risk, you put everyone else on the road at risk, you put me at risk...” She paused and blue eyes pinned brown. “You put your daughter at risk! Rich, you’re a smart man, but that has got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen you do! What the hell were you thinking? All you had to do was call me and we could have taken a cab.”
She swallowed hard as she blinked back tears. “I know what it’s like to lose someone you love to a drunk driver.” Richie’s eyes widened. He’d forgotten how her fiancé had died. Now he felt like an even bigger heel. “And then when I begged you to pull over and let me drive you ignored me! So now you get to explain to your daughter why you thought that it was a good idea for her to see her father get taken away by the police!”
She took a deep breath and let it out. “I tried everything I could think of to help you, but it didn’t make any difference. You wouldn’t talk to me. Honey, I love you, but you need to get some help. You can’t do this alone. No one can. And obviously a weekend here and a week there isn’t enough.”
He nodded. “I know. It’s just been a lot to deal with.”
“Uh uh.” She interrupted him, shaking her head. “No excuses Rich. You fucked up. Yes, you had a lot of horrible things happen in a short period of time. But sweetheart, you’re not the only person that has been through rough times. You’re a grown man. You need to take responsibility for your actions. You need to take back control of your life.” She sat beside him, put one hand on top of his, cupped his cheek with the other, and searched his eyes. “I will help you in anyway I can, but you’ve got to do it.”
“You’re not leaving?”
“Of course I’m not leaving! What kind of woman do you think I am? You actually think that I would say I love you and then run when things hit a rough patch? I thought you knew me better than that.” She didn’t know whether to be hurt or insulted.
“Aw, baby, I’m sorry. I do know you better than that. I’m just all messed up in my head right now. You’re right. I fucked up. Big time. I put the people I love the most at risk. I have no excuse for that – there is none. I’m prepared to accept the consequences.” He paled and swallowed heavily. “Even if it means losing my daughter.”
Tori squeezed his hand. “Do you really think she’ll do that – or try anyway?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, but I really wouldn’t blame her if she did.”
“I would. I understand about wanting to protect Ava, but she’s not exactly the poster child for motherhood. She’s got her own skeletons that she’ll want to keep buried.”
He sighed and leaned against the back of the couch. Lifting one hand he stroked her cheek. “So are we okay?”
She nodded and cradled his hand with hers. “But if you ever pull another stunt like that I’ll kill you myself.”
He smiled and nodded. “I hear you. I guess I’d better call Jon.”
“Are you ready to eat something yet?”
“Yeah, I think so.” He looked around. “Where is everyone?”
“I gave them a couple days off. I figured they didn’t need to fight their way through the circus. We can survive on our own for a few days.” She headed for the kitchen as Richie reached for the phone.