It was the longest flight of Tori’s life. She spent the whole time planning what she was going to say to him. She knew he must be hurting something fierce and she had to find a way to ease his pain. BUT SHE COULDN’T DO ANYTHING UNTIL SHE GOT THERE!! She impatiently checked her watch yet again.
When the plane touched down she was out of her seat and had grabbed her bag – she’d only brought a carry on so that she wouldn’t have to wait for luggage – before they’d even neared the terminal. She hardly gave the flight attendant time to step out of the way after opening the door before she was through it and rushing down the gangway. She met Jack by baggage claim.
“Hi Tori. The car’s right outside the door.” He took her bag from her and guided her in the right direction.
“Hi Jack. Thanks. How is everyone?”
He grimaced and made a see-saw motion with his hand. “So-so. Everyone’s trying to put a good face on it, but you can feel the tension underneath it all. I was glad when Jon told me you were coming in and asked me to come get you. We’re all hoping you can cheer him up a bit.”
“Well, I’m going to try.”
Jack dropped her off at the back door of the venue and promised to take her bag to the hotel. Walking up to the door she realized she didn’t have her VIP pass with her and she didn’t know the name of the security guard who was standing there.
“Hi.” She began.
“Hi Tori, go on in. Just head down the hallway to your left.”
“Thanks.” Surprised, she followed his directions. She greeted several staffers whose relief upon seeing her was obvious. Turning a corner she ran into Jon.
“Hi Tori.” He hugged her.
“Hi Jon. How is he?”
“See for yourself. He’s in his dressingroom. Second door on the right.” At her look he continued. “Before you rip up at me, no he’s not alone. Shirley and Tico are with him.”
Tori paused in front of the closed door and took a deep breath before opening it and entering the room. The three men looked up as she entered, their faces all showing varying degrees of relief.
Richie jumped to his feet. “Angel! What are you doing here?” It came out harsher than he meant it to.
Her eyebrow rose at his tone, but she understood that he didn’t mean it the way it sounded, it was just his emotions. “Well I thought you could use some moral support, but if you don’t want me here I can always go home.” She winked at David and Tico.
“No! Baby I didn’t mean it that way. I’m just surprised to see you that’s all. I didn’t know you were coming. But I’m glad you’re here.” He pulled her into his arms and held her close. “Very glad.”
She was distantly aware of David and Tico quietly leaving the room, closing the door behind them. Leaning back she framed his face with her hands and searched his eyes for long moments. Her heart ached at what she saw.
“Let it out Rich. Let it out before it eats you up inside.” Her voice was soft and encouraging.
Crushing her tightly to him once more, he bent his head and slanted his mouth over hers. His hands raked down her back, pulling at her top. Considering that her only other clothing in this state was in the back of a car on the way to the hotel, she decided it would be prudent to remove it herself before it became shreds in his large, strong hands. She could sense his emotions pushing his control to the edge.
When she tried to ease back, he gripped her tighter until he realized her intent. Releasing her, he dropped to his knees to remove her boots while she dispensed with her shirt. His hands slid up her legs to her waist to unfasten her jeans and peel them off. Standing again, he stripped off his own clothes, then pulled her to him again. His lips bruised hers with the force of his kiss, his tongue stabbing deep to taste her. His hands came around to cup and knead her breasts firmly. When she felt his calluses snagging in the lace of her bra, she quickly removed it.
His fingers trembled as they reached to circle her nipples, pinching and tugging on them when they hardened for him. Lifting his head he searched her eyes, a question in his.
She smiled. “Whatever you need.”
Assured of her acquiescence, he let go and let his passion take control. Bending her back over his arm he lowered his head to tease and torture her nipples with teeth and tongue until she was gasping and moaning softly. One hand slid down over her stomach under her panties and into her cleft. He hands gripped his shoulders for support as his touch sent sparks shooting through her body. Turning his hand he ripped her panties off with one tug. Feeling her wetness he couldn’t wait any longer. He gripped her hips and lifted her. Urging her to wrap her legs around him he entered her with one hard thrust.
Gasping at the suddenness of his entry, Tori shuddered with the sensations bombarding her. She lifted his face up to hers, wanting to taste his kiss again as he moved inside her. He walked until he could lean her against the wall for support. Her hands clung tightly to his neck and shoulders as his thrusts became harder and more intense.
He tore his mouth from hers and slid it across her cheek and down her neck to nuzzle his favorite spot beneath her ear. He felt her shiver. Inhaling her scent he cupped her bottom cheeks, tilted her pelvis towards him and pounded into her, releasing all the pent up emotions of the last couple days.
She buried her mouth in his neck, muffling her cries. When she reached the peak she bit down on the strong tendons there, hoping her scream couldn’t be heard outside the door.
He felt her walls close tight around him, her climax rippling through the flesh that surrounded him. Leaning her harder against the wall, he tightened his grip on her and thrust even harder, once, twice, three times, then he too knew relief as he exploded deep inside her.
Struggling for breath he straightened away from the wall and managed to get them to the couch where he collapsed with her on top of him, still intimately joined.
Ten minutes later, having recovered sufficiently to speak she folded her arms on his chest and rested her chin on her hands so that she could see his face. His hands stroked her back, slowly, soothingly.
“Are you ready to talk about it?” She wanted to and knew he needed to, but didn’t want to push it.
He sighed and nodded. “Some cop apparently has a grudge against me or maybe just celebrities in general and is looking to make an example of me. I know I was wrong, but to accuse me of endangering my child……if I’d been falling down drunk, maybe, but under the circumstances I think it’s a little harsh.”
“So do I. In fact, I’m thinking that maybe they’re threatening the endangerment charge to try to push you to plead guilty to the DUI. If you weren’t over the limit, that would be the only way they could get you.”
He quirked a brow at her. “That’s what my lawyer says too. He says not to get too excited yet, it’s all typical plea bargain maneuvering.”
“Is he talking about a plea bargain?”
He shook his head. “Not yet. We’re waiting for the results of the blood test.”
“When is he expecting that? Shouldn’t that have been back already?”
“Yeah, but apparently the lab’s backed up. He says we should have it in a couple days.”
“How’s Ava handling this?”
“She doesn’t really understand what it means except that they’re saying I put her in danger.” He paused, then continued more softly. “Which I did. I can’t believe I could do something that stupid!” He blew out a breath. “She’s okay, but she’s pissed at the cop!”
Tori chuckled. Daddy’s little girl would defend him come hell or high water, which was as it should be. She reached up a brushed a lock of hair off his forehead. “Feel any better now?”
He grinned and lifted his hips slightly reminding her of his presence – as if she needed a reminder! “This always feels like paradise.” She grinned back and didn’t disagree. He sobered. “And yes I do feel better. Thank you. Although I feel kinda bad using you for a physical outlet for my emotions.”
She raised a brow. “And who else would you be using if not me?”
He chuckled. “No one. I promise. I’d just be bottling it up.”
“And that’s not good. I told you. I want to help you anyway I can, and if this is what you need, then I’m happy to oblige. Besides, it’s not exactly a hardship for me you know.”
The twinkle was back in his dark eyes. “So you like it, do you? I’m keeping it interesting enough for you? You’re not finding it’s becoming boring?”
“Boring?” She stared at him incredulously. “You’re kidding right? Or are you fishing for an ego boost?” When he just looked at her expectantly she snorted. “You silly, silly man. You seem to know exactly how and where to touch me to drive me insane with need. You make my skin burn and my nerve endings sing. You make me lose control and sometimes consciousness. You take me to heights of pleasure I never knew existed, but you never, ever bore me. Satisfied?”
He smiled smugly. “For now.”
A knock sounded at the door. “Thirty minutes!”
Tori blushed when she realized that they hadn’t locked the door and anyone could have walked in. Richie saw and guessed what she was thinking.
“I told you before, the only people who would just walk in here are you and the guys, and the guys know you are in here, and they respect you, so they would knock first.”
Lifting off of him, she stood up. “I guess we’d better get dressed. I wouldn’t want Jon mad at me for delaying the show. Is that the bathroom?” She pointed to a door on the other side of the room. He nodded. She showered quickly to give him time only to find him dressed already when she opened the door. “Aren’t you showering?”
His eyes glinted. “Nope. I want to be able to smell you anytime I want during the show.”
She flushed bright red and didn’t know how to respond. She gathered up her clothes strewn over the floor and started to get dressed. Picking up the shreds of her panties, she smiled wryly and threw them in the garbage. Grabbing her jeans she grimaced as she slid into them. “This was one Bongiovi custom I wasn’t planning on adopting.” Tucking in her shirt, she tried to get it to cover the places most susceptible to denim burn.
He grinned as he watched her. “Since it’s my fault, if you get chafed I’ll soothe it later.”
She closed her eyes and shivered at the thought and made a mental note to carry an extra pair of panties with her when she was with him. Running a brush through her hair she glanced in the mirror and frowned. “Better head down to makeup. Mine’s at the hotel.”
He turned her to face him, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. “You’re beautiful.”
She raised a brow in disbelief. “Now I know you love me.” She had no make up on at all and hardly looked her best. She didn’t mind him seeing her like this, but she wasn’t about to let the audience see it.
“Was there ever any doubt?”
She smiled reassuringly at the serious look in his eyes. “Not since the night you shared your past with me.”
“Good. If you ever need reminding, let me know.” Dropping another kiss on her still swollen lips he reached for her hand, laced their fingers together and led her to the door.
The show went smoothly, with fans holding up signs showing support for Richie, and letting out a roar when Jon brought Tori out on stage.
Watching her walk carefully around the stage, Richie smirked. Tori saw it and glared at him. Jon noticed the by-play and raised a questioning brow which made Richie’s smile widen and Tori roll her eyes in disgust.
Afterwards, Tori packed up Richie’s stuff while he showered, then they joined the others to head for the van and the hotel. Jon looked at Richie’s eyes, met Tori’s and nodded slightly in approval. As they neared the hotel Tori turned to Richie.
“Where’s the key to the room?”
His lips twitched. “Are you wimping out on us or do you just want to change into something more comfortable?”
She gave him a withering glance. “You won’t be laughing if your….exuberance, puts your favorite source of entertainment out of commission for a few days!”
“Damn!” He murmured softly. At her questioning look he explained. “Your comebacks hit hard. Jon’s a much easier target – the barbs don’t come back to bite me.” She chuckled.
When she joined them in the hotel bar after changing clothes, Jon saw her come in the door and stopped her before she neared the table where they were sitting.
“I don’t know what you did, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know, but thank you. It’s nice to see the twinkle back in his eyes, for even just a little while.”
She smiled and tried to ignore her red cheeks. “I’m hoping it’s for more than just a little while.” She frowned and blinked away the sudden wetness in her eyes. “What are we going to do if worst comes to worst?”
He pulled her close for a hug. “Hey! Don’t even think that way. It’s all going to work out. We can deal with whatever happens.”
Sighing she leaned against him for a minute, regrouping and gathering her strength. Standing straight again, she blew out a breath and nodded. “Thanks. I needed that.”
“I know this can’t be easy on you either. While you’re being a pillar of strength for him, don’t forget to look after yourself too. We’re here for you to lean on if you need to.”
Her eyes were shining again. “Thanks.”
He tapped her nose with his finger. “That’s what family’s for. Come on, let’s eat.”
Reaching the table Tori slid into the booth beside Richie. He leaned over to kiss her. “Everything…..okay?”
She smiled, and nodded. “Except I’m starving!”
After they’d placed their orders and received their drinks Tico turned to Tori. “So how’s the packing going?”
“Really good. I’ve got everything sorted and the off season items are all packed up. I should be ready to go by the end of the month.” Her eyes widened. “Oh! I almost forgot! Except for a few accessories, and a few pieces for the office, the condo is done.”
Richie stared at her in amazement. “You’re amazing!”
“So we can use it for the next home game?” Jon asked hopefully.
She nodded. “Yup! It’s ready and waiting.” She hesitated, then decided not to say anything.
Jon looked at her for a long minute. He knew she had been about to say something, then stopped. He thought he knew her pretty well by now, and had an idea what she was thinking. “You know you’re welcome at any of the games right? Whether we’re there or not? Just let me know and I’ll have the box ready for you.”
She smiled guiltily. This was another aspect of her relationship with her blood relatives that constantly surprised her. Already Jon understood how her mind worked better than either of her adoptive brothers. “Thanks.”
The next day, in Oklahoma, Tori was sitting in Jon’s dressing room with the rest of the guys while Richie was on the phone with Ava.
“So how long are you staying with us Bela?” David asked.
“Well, I didn’t bring much with me in the way of clothing, and I kind of left in a hurry, so I should be getting back in the next couple days.”
Jon frowned. “I’ve been thinking about that. I really think it would be in everyone’s best interest – yours included – if you finished out this leg of the tour with us. Richie is definitely more relaxed when you’re around, I don’t have to worry so much about him knowing you’re looking after him, and….as much as your family loves you, I’m not sure they understand the situation as well as we do and therefore cannot support you as well as we can.” His lips twisted. “We’re all in this together. We need to help each other.”
When she hesitated Tico chimed in. “Wouldn’t you feel better being with him everyday instead of sitting in Canada and wondering how he’s doing?”
She grimaced, then nodded. “Let me look at the schedule.” Jon handed it over. “Ok, how about this. After Kansas, I’ll head home, pick up some more clothes and finish up what I need to do and meet you back in Kansas.”
Jon nodded slowly and she could almost see the wheels turning in his brain. “We’ll come pick you up on our way. It’s not that far out of our way.” He forestalled her protest.
She knew that arguing would just be a waste of breath.
“Can we work a stop in Philly in there somewhere?” Richie asked from the doorway. “I’d like to see the finished masterpiece.”
Jon nodded. “We can stop on our way to Fargo.” He turned to Tori. “You might as well travel with us as far as Philly and give us the tour.”
She laughed. “Now I’m nervous.”
“Afraid we won’t like it?” Richie doubted that would ever happen.
“I’m not worried about you liking it……at least until you get the bills, but yeah, I’m not so sure about the rest.” She looked at Jon. “It’s nothing like your house. It’s not magazine material.”
“I told you before Angel, I don’t care how much you spend. As for the rest, as long as you and I and Ava are comfortable there, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. There’s no ‘Rockstar’ standard that you have to live up to.”
“And I’m sure it’s beautiful.” Jon added.
“And I’m glad I’m not paying those bills.” David shuddered.
Tori dropped into her seat beside Richie and glanced around at the other occupants of the plane. “Well, I’m officially finished at the store.”
“So you’re free to start your new job then.” Jon’s comment was more of a statement than a question.
“Considering that we have yet to discuss what exactly that job would be, and the fact that I still have to arrange the shipping and unpacking of my apartment, could I possibly have some time to get my life settled first?” There was just a little sarcasm in Tori’s response.
“Jesus Kidd, let her catch her breath. She’s been on the run for weeks, and she’s got enough to deal with right now with me without adding you to the mix.” Richie admonished him.
Jon sighed. “Sorry, I’m just anxious to get you started. We’ll leave it until after the break. You are coming to Europe with us aren’t you?”
Tori nodded. “Yeah. I just updated my passport, so I’m good to go.”
“Speaking of official documents, remind me to give you the paperwork Paul’s put together for your U.S. work permit.” Jon informed her.
She shook her head. “One track mind.”
The next day Tori and Richie were sitting in his dressing room –well theirs actually – going over mail while Jon and the rest were doing interviews – Richie was staying away for obvious reasons – when his phone rang. Glancing at the number he blew out a nervous breath. Tori raised a brow in question. “Lawyer.” He explained and pushed the button.
Tori listened to his side of the conversation and felt her heart sink. Richie raked a hand through his hair, leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and his head on his hand. A few minutes later he sat up and grabbed a piece of paper and pen and started jotting down what he was being told, turning it so that she could see.
Reading what he’d written she felt the knot that had been in her stomach for over a month release – a little. She was torn between grief over what happened and relief that maybe the end of this ordeal – or at least the beginning of the end - was in sight.
“Okay. Yup. Let me talk it over with my family and I’ll call you back. Thanks Blair.” Richie hungup the phone and looked at Tori. “What do you think?”
She blew out a breath. “Well, the rehab – or alcohol education classes or whatever they want to call it you need to do anyway, the money is nothing, and I think that three years probation is very, very generous. When I think about what could have happened…….I think Blair has done extremely well for you.” Blue eyes pinned brown. “You know that this is in essence your free one right? That if it happens again, you’re looking at jail time? That may be the new fad in Hollywood, but I would rather that not be a bandwagon you jump on. Ava doesn’t need to see that either.”
He nodded. “I know. I promise to do my very best. I won’t let you and Ava down.”
She considered him for several breaths. “Will you promise me that when things get tough you’ll talk to someone? Try to deal with it before something like this happens again? A counselor or a sponsor or whoever. Will you promise me that at the very least, you’ll talk to me? I will do anything and everything I can to help you, but you’ve got to be honest with me. I know it won’t be easy. I know that there is no easy ‘cure’. But as long as we can talk openly and honestly about it, I know we can succeed.”
His eyes were shining. “I promise.” He smiled slightly. “I don’t deserve you.”
“Sure you do. It’s your reward for putting up with Shirley for all these years.” She shrugged. “Besides, I’m not that special.”
“Angel, you have no idea how special you really are. A lot of women would have walked away long before now, nevermind promise to stand by me and help me. And most of those that would have stayed would have coddled me, and made excuses, instead of pushing aside the bullshit and making me face the truth.” He reached for her hand. “You love me despite my faults and weaknesses. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
She smiled softly. “Isn’t that what love’s all about? Supporting each other through good times and bad?”
“That kind of love isn’t so easy to find.”
“Then I guess we’re both pretty lucky.”
“Yeah, we are.” He leaned over and kissed her. “So you think I should take the deal?”
She nodded. “Yes, I do. What do you think?”
“I think this is the best I’m going to get.” He picked up the phone.
A thought struck Tori. “Has the blood test results been made public yet?”
“I’m not sure. Why?”
“Jon’s in interviews.”
“We’d better tell him. Would you mind? I need to call Blair back and get things moving.”
She nodded. “No problem. You’d better call your mother……and Heather too.”
Tori walked down the hallway to the room where Jon was doing interviews. Opening the door quietly, she slipped inside. Jon looked up at her entrance, met her glance and quickly and effieciently wrapped up the interview. As the reporter left, Jon turned to the staffer that was monitoring the interviews. “Diane, can you give us a few minutes please? I’ll let you know when I’m ready for the next one.”
“Sure. No problem. I’ll make sure you’re not disturbed.”
When the door closed behind her, he turned to Tori. “Okay, spill. What’s up?”
“Richie’s lawyer just called. The blood tests came back.”
“Since you’re not smiling I’m assuming it’s bad news.”
She nodded. “He was over. Almost twice the legal limit.”
Jon blew out a breath. “Damn! So what now?”
“Well, his lawyer has worked out a deal for him. He pleads no contest to the DUI, pays about sixteen hundred dollars in fines, attends alcohol education classes, gets three years probation with absolutely no drinking and they drop the child endangerment.”
“No contest. So he doesn’t have to go to court then. Well, that’s some good news. And frankly, he’s getting off lightly. I just hope he realizes how lucky he is. I hope this is a wake up call for him, and he gets his shit together.”
She nodded. “I think he does.” Unable to stand still any longer she started strolling around the room rubbing her suddenly chilled arms with trembling hands.
Jon watched her and frowned. “What’s wrong Sis?”
She frowned. “I couldn’t tell.”
“Couldn’t tell what?”
“He was drunk and I couldn’t tell. His BAL was .13 and I couldn’t tell! How can I look out for him and Ava and try to help avoid this type of thing from happening again if I can’t tell if he’s sober or drunk?” Her fear was visible in her face.
“You weren’t around when he was drinking, so you haven’t seen him like that. There are little signs, and I hope you’ll never have to learn them. But the biggest tell is his eyes. They get glassy after only a couple.”
She nodded. She had noticed it that night. Suddenly she started to shake.
“Tori? What’s wrong?” He quickly stood and rushed to her wrapping his arms around her. He could feel her trembling. “What is it?”
She shook her head. “I think it’s a delayed reaction. It finally sank in that this whole episode is over now – and how close he came to jail time.” Her eyes filled with tears. “This is permanent Jon. This will follow him around for the rest of his life. I did everything I could think of to help him and it wasn’t enough. What if….” She swallowed heavily. “What if he hits another bad patch and I can’t help him and he ends up in jail? What if I can’t give him what he needs?”
He squeezed her tight. “Oh, honey, believe me, you are exactly what he needs and more than he deserves. And you’re not alone. We’re only a phone call or a holler away. All of us – Dot and I, David, Tico, Hugh. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, all you have to do is call. There’s nothing we can’t handle together.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“I am.” He tilted her face up. “Now go wash away those tears. You don’t want him to know you’ve been crying. He’ll blame himself and that won’t help anyone.”
She sighed and nodded. “Thanks Jon.”