After the show they were sitting in the hotel bar waiting for their food, the atmosphere decidedly more upbeat than it had been for the last few weeks. The rest of the guys had been filled in on the plea agreement and they all agreed it was a good one.
“We’re here for ya man. You’ve been given a second chance. Don’t blow it.” Tico spoke for the group.
Richie nodded and smiled wryly. “I hear ya…..and thanks for all your support.”
Tori placed her hand on his thigh and squeezed. He covered her hand with his and squeezed back.
“What’s everyone planning on doing tomorrow?” Tori asked the table at large. It was an off day for them before the show the following night in Nashville. “Are you going home or sticking around or what?”
“Why? What’s going on in that devious mind of yours Bela?” David looked at her speculatively.
“I think we need something to blow out the cobwebs and shake off the doldrums we’ve all been buried in lately.” She turned to Richie. “Are you ready to go out in public or not yet?”
“I’ve got to do it sooner or later. Sooner works for me.”
“What are you thinking Tori?” Jon asked.
“If you want, but I was thinking Beale St.” She watched Richie’s face light up at the idea. She knew if the guys didn’t go with them, she’d end up sitting by herself for most of the evening while Richie jammed with whoever was on stage, but she also knew it would be almost cathartic for him. He was a bluesman all the way to his soul and she was hoping that surrounding him with it would chase away the last of the shadows and bring back his smile and begin the restoration of his normally cheerful personality.
Jon nodded approvingly and winked at his sister. “Sounds like a great idea.”
“So you’re not going home then?”
“No. I’m staying through the Florida shows, then we’ll hit the Soul game on the twenty-eighth and stay in Jersey until the Atlanta shows.”
Her brow rose. “Planning my life for me again bro?” She hadn’t missed the ‘we’ in his itinerary recitation.
He actually blushed. “Sorry. Habit.”
“Mmmm hmmm. We’ll discuss it later.” She looked around the table. “What about you guys?”
“I’m in.” Tico spoke up. “I’ll be home in a couple days anyway.”
“Did you warn Alejandra this time that we’re all invading her home?” David asked.
“Yes, and she wanted me to tell you that if you try to teach Hector any more….exotic recipes, she’s making you eat them…..and clean up after both of you!”
Snickers echoed around the table. At Tori’s questioning look, Tico explained. “Last time I forgot to let her know everyone was coming with me and she was not impressed that I didn’t give her time to prepare…..plus, she was in the shower when we arrived, and thinking that it was just me, came out to greet us in a towel. Then Shirley thought it would be a good idea to teach my son to make mud pies with a few bugs for flavour. The poor little tyke ate some and got sick all over his mother and her brand new sofa.”
Tori turned to David. “You’re not allowed around my kids until they’re old enough to learn not to do anything you say without checking with me first!” Richie tilted his head and studied her speculatively. She read the message in his eyes and shook her head. “I’m talking about down the road, not right around the corner.” He sighed.
They arrived in Memphis mid afternoon and checked into their rooms at the Peabody. After dropping off their bags, they headed out for the short walk to W.C. Handy Park where a band was playing. There were a few people hanging around enjoying the music, but no one seemed to pay any attention to their group – of course the guys were all wearing hats and sunglasses, so that may have helped. As they sat there, Richie’s arm resting along the top of the bench behind Tori, she glanced periodically at his face, pleased to see the lines around his eyes ease as he relaxed.
After about an hour, Richie glanced at Tori, then the rest. “Let’s cruise the strip before it gets too late to see the shops.”
Laughter reigned as they wandered slowly up one side of the street and down the other, pausing to look in store windows, and often the stores themselves, and David and Richie traded quips about some of the more outrageous items on display. At one point, Richie insisted on buying Tori a necklace she had stopped to look at, forcing him to stop too, since he hadn’t let go of his grip on her hand since they’d left the park. It was a simple cord string with a pendant of music notes made out of some metal that shimmered a rainbow of colours when touched by light.
“It’s not necessary.” She protested.
“Shush. It’s the least I can do after all you’ve done for me.” He fastened the necklace around her neck.
“But nothing. I told you before, if I want to buy you something, I’m going to, so just say thank you and give me a kiss.”
She sighed. “Thank you.”
He turned her to face him and pursed his lips. She snorted, but raised on tip toe to give him the required kiss.
“Hey Bela, if you’re finished making us all nauseous, can we go get something to eat please?” David spoke from the doorway.
“Your jealousy’s showing again Shirley.” She retorted.
“I’ve got my favorite dish right here.” Richie added, wrapping his arms around her.
She gave him a slap on the arm, but she was secretly very pleased that he was able to joke around again. She pushed him towards the door amid the sounds of David retching – and the store clerk snickering, to join the others outside.
She looked around. “B.B. King’s?”
“Sounds good.” Jon answered.
After a meal of good old southern barbeque, they discussed which bar to hit first. When Richie was asked his opinion he shrugged “Whatever, but it’s got to have a live band.”
Jon snorted. “Yeah, like we didn’t know that already.”
Outside it was dark now and the street was closed to traffic, the neon signs of the establishments all along the street lit up the night like a Christmas tree. They wandered, listening to the sounds of the bands emanating from various bars until one in particular struck Richie’s fancy.
Tori paused as they prepared to enter. “You guys go ahead. I’ll be right there. I want to check out something I saw in a store window back there.”
Jon and Richie both frowned. “I’ll come with you.” Richie offered.
“No you go ahead and get us a table.” The item she saw was for him. “I won’t be long.” She assured him when he hesitated.
“Be careful.” Jon admonished her.
“Aye, aye Captain.” She saluted him.
She walked into the bar and looked around. The band must have been on a break – canned music of different genres played in the background. It took her a few minutes to find them. She finally spied them at a table in the corner with Big and Rich. Richie had his back to her. She smirked as an idea popped into her head.
Walking up behind Richie she slid her hands over his shoulders and down his chest inside the shirt that was unbuttoned almost to his waist – she would find out later how that happened.
“Well hello there cowboy.” She purred in his ear loud enough for the others to hear. “Aren’t you a tall dark drink of water? Do you know what gets me the most about guitar players?”
“What would that be darlin’?” He asked, amused.
She picked up his hand and rubbed her cheek against it. “The best ones have these long fingers that play my body like a string.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the other men looking at their hands.
Jon frowned at his. “Hey!”
She blew him a kiss. “Don’t worry Pretty Boy, your face makes up for any…shortcomings.”
Jon gave her a disgusted look. The others hooted.
“Then there’s the calluses on the tips.” She continued, taking Richie’s index finger into her mouth and scraping her teeth along the thickened skin at the end. “The touch of them on my skin sets all my nerve endings alight and I burn. Want to put out the fire?”
“Hell darlin’, if Sambora here doesn’t, pick me!” Big Kenny drawled.
“As much as I might like that darlin’,” Richie replied, “I’m not sure my girlfriend would approve.”
“She doesn’t have to know. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
“Ah, but see, I would know, and I couldn’t do that to her.”
“And if she found out it would hurt him!” Jon pointed out.
She sighed theatrically. “Okay, it’s your loss. But at least let me show you what you’re missing.”
Raising one hand she tipped his face up to hers and kissed him. She made the kiss as hot as she could, teasing his lips with her tongue and teeth before finally sliding deep inside his mouth and exploring it thoroughly. She ignored the whistles and catcalls coming from the others at the table and didn’t stop until she heard him groan softly.
“Come on Bela, you can suck face with him any time. Come salsa with me.” Tico urged from behind her.
Lifting her mouth from his she grinned down into his eyes. “Wait for me?” She asked quietly.
“Always.” He answered.
“Okay, Hitman, let’s go show them how it’s done!” She dropped her purse by Richie’s feet.
“Angel?” Richie called after her. She stopped and looked back. “You know you’re going to pay for this later, right?”
She grinned. “I’m counting on it. Oh and uh, babe?” She looked pointedly at his very visible chest and belly. Glancing down he grinned and did up three buttons. “Thank you!” She called as she headed for the dance floor with Tico.
“Jesus!” Kenny exclaimed. “If that’s typical of the type of fan you get, I’m switching to rock and roll!”
Jon snorted. “That one is in a class all her own.”
John Rich had sat back and watched the entire performance – and everyone’s reaction to it. Smirking he spoke up. “You know her.”
“What? What makes you think that?” Kenny asked.
“Because Tico asked her to dance, Jon took her razzing without a word, Richie let her touch him however she wanted – even after mentioning his girlfriend, kissed her back in a way that made it obvious that it wasn’t the first time they’d kissed….and he knew from a look that she disapproved of his open shirt – and he did it up. Again, obviously not the first time the issue has come up.”
They all stared at him for a moment, then Jon and Richie laughed. “You’re good.” Jon complimented him. “That was Tori.”
“Aaaah, the infamous sister that we’ve heard about.” John stated.
“So you really are dating her?” Kenny asked Richie, who nodded. Kenny turned to Jon. “You hiding any more sisters like that?”
Jon laughed and shook his head. “No, just Tori, thank God! I don’t think any of us could handle any more like her.”
“I think I’m handling her just fine, thank you very much!” Richie protested.
Jon snorted. “Who’s handling who?”
Richie shrugged. “It makes her happy to think she’s in charge.”
Jon made a whip sound. Richie looked at him. “Look who’s talking!”
“Hey my wife can whup my ass and yours too for that matter! Of course she’s in charge! What’s your excuse?”
“When she’s happy she makes me very happy!” Richie smirked.
“Spare us the details…please!” Jon held up his hands in a defensive gesture.
When Tori returned with Tico from the dance floor she was flushed and perspiring lightly. Sitting on Richie’s lap she took the full glass out of his hand and took a big drink.
“Don’t gulp it!” Richie tried to warn her, but he was too late.
The alcohol burned all the way down and caused her to choke. “Holy shit! What is that….a double?”
“That is a Big and Rich special.” Kenny answered. “Just one before he can’t have any fun anymore.”
She turned to look at Richie, stunned. He just gave her a bland smile, his eyes begging her to understand and not make a scene. She then looked at Jon. He held her gaze for a moment, then shot a look at Big and Rich, hoping she’d get the message. She did. She knew that Kenny and John were a bit on the wild side, and that the guys got a kick out of them. She also understood that Richie didn’t want to make a big deal out of the situation…..and she didn’t want to come across as an untrusting, overseeing watchdog. After all the glass was full. Seeing a waitress, she flagged her down and ordered a coke. When it arrived, only someone watching very closely would have seen her make the switch. Leaning back against Richie’s chest she sipped her drink. Jon caught her eye and winked. Richie took a sip of the glass she’d returned to his hand, swallowed, and kissed her temple.
“So tell us Tori, what is a beautiful woman like you doing with a mutt like Sambora here?” Kenny asked after the introductions had been made. It turned out that John and Kenny had been working on a new album and needed a break, so they headed for Memphis and happened to be in the bar when Jon and the guys walked in.
She took another sip, and shrugged. “I thought I’d save the horse.”
There was maybe five seconds of silence, then laughter – and a few groans - erupted. She grinned. “Sorry, but I couldn’t resist. You set it up so well.”
John looked at Jon. “You were right. She is a handful.”
“In more ways than one.” Richie murmured in her ear.
When the band took the stage, conversation was almost impossible – not that they cared. Tori started to move off Richie’s lap into a chair, but he held her where she was, his hands tapping her legs in time to the music. It wasn’t long before he was giving her that hopeful four year old look. She laughed and shook her head at him.
Standing she motioned him towards the stage. “Well, go then!”
With a grin and a kiss he was gone.
“Man, that boy can play!” John commented as they watched Richie, eyes closed, completely lost to the music. The rest just nodded. Tori smiled, her eyes shining with pride.
When the band left the stage, Richie made his way back to the table – slowed by the many people who stopped him to congratulate him or just say hello. Tori welcomed him back with a hug and a kiss. Jon nodded at him and looked around the table. “Are we ready to go?”
“Yeah. I’m beat and I need my beauty sleep before tomorrow’s show.” David yawned.
Richie snorted. “Ain’t enough hours between now and then Shirley. Hell, Rip Van Winkle’s nap ain’t long enough!”
Yawning again, David flipped him off. “Bela are you just going to let him slander me like that?”
It was Tori’s turn to snort. “Since there’s no young ears around here to protect, I’m not about to try to referee you two. It would just be a waste of breath. However, I’m tired too and am ready to go back to the hotel.”
“Come on then angel. Let’s go.” Richie laced their fingers together and led the way out of the bar.
Out on the street he released her hand to slide his arm around her shoulders and hold her close to his side. She slid hers around his waist. As they walked they passed many groups of people. Some just nodded, some said hello, only one group approached and asked for autographs. Tori frowned, puzzled.
“What’s the matter Sis?”
“I don’t get it.”
“You all have being hanging out in public all day with only hats and shades for disguises – which I doubt fooled many, you let me go off on my own without insisting on coming with me, sat openly in a crowded bar – where Richie played - and now we’re walking down a very crowded street, and while people obviously recognize you, we’re not being swarmed. I don’t get it.”
Jon chuckled. “I know. I don’t really either, but it’s the same in Nashville. It’s like they know who we are, but don’t care. I don’t know whether it’s because they’re not into rock and roll so much, or that they’re used to seeing bands, or whether it’s just a Tennessee thing.” He shrugged. “Whatever, it’s nice for a change.”
Richie and David continued their bickering all the way back to the hotel, with Tico chiming in occasionally. For the most part Jon and Tori ignored it, talking quietly to each other. Parting to go to their rooms, Jon pulled Tori aside.
He glanced at Richie who was flipping David off. “You did real good today Tori. It was just what he needed. Don’t doubt yourself. You’re reading him real well, and doing a wonderful job supporting him and giving him what he needs. I have a really good feeling that this time, everything’s going to work out just fine.”
“Thanks Jon. I hope you’re right. ‘Nite.” With a hug she bid him and the others goodnight and moved to join Richie and head for their room.
Closing the door behind them, Richie flipped the lock and pulled Tori into his arms and squeezed. He buried his face in her neck and breathed deeply, inhaling her scent.
“Thank you. Today was wonderful.”
She stroked his back. “You’re welcome. I had fun too.”
He raised his head to look down at her. “So what did you go back to look at when we were going into the bar?”
She grinned. “Oh just something I saw that I thought you might like.”
He crooked a brow. “So do I get to see it?”
“Well, I was going to save it for your birthday.”
His bottom lip came out in an actual pout. “It’s mean to tease! Are you really going to make me wait?” The pout turned into a leer. “Is there some way I could convince you to give it to me now?”
“Gee, I don’t know…maybe if you promise to ‘give it’ to me after?”
“Hussy. Is that all I am to you, an object for your sexual gratification?” He managed to look hurt.
She pretended to think about it. “Yup, pretty much.” She squealed when he squeezed her tighter. “But you’re so good at it!”
“Brat!” His ego slightly mollified, he released her and held his hand out for his present. Chuckling she opened her purse and pulled out the small box and handed it to him. Lifting the lid, all trace of humour drained from his face.
Her heart sank. “You don’t like it.”
He shook his head slowly, never taking his eyes off the necklace. “You never cease to amaze me.”
“What do you mean?”
He finally lifted his gaze to meet hers. The emotion in his eyes caused the breath to catch in her throat. “You understand me better after ten months than Heather did after eleven years. And you put my needs ahead of your own. I’ve never known such selflessness.” He gestured towards the box. “My two sources of strength combined in one pendant. Music and you. You’re right. I don’t like it. I love it. Thank you.” The necklace was an angel wrapped in music notes. The concept sounded feminine, but the size and heaviness of the metals used gave it a definite masculine feel.
“Music and faith, not me. Besides I’m not completely selfless you know. I’m looking forward to a long and blissful life with you. For that to happen you have to be healthy and happy. So you see, it’s in my best interest to do what I can to keep you in that state.”
He smiled gently. “Oh the angel is definitely you, babe. I guess after last summer I shouldn’t be surprised at how strong you are, but this last month has given me a new appreciation for it. I don’t like having to lean on you, but I love knowing that I can.” His kiss was long and lingering. Raising his head he pulled her closer. “So, now I think it’s time to make you happy.”
“Well, then, follow me.” Stepping back she took his hand and towed him into the bedroom. Stopping beside the bed she turned to face him and began unbuttoning his shirt. “How did this get undone earlier anyway?”
“Kenny. He said he didn’t recognize me without my chest on display and he wondered what I was hiding. He understands now that I was just appeasing your possessive tendancies.”
She snorted. “Look who’s talking.”
He didn’t disagree, just reached for hem of her shirt. They slowly undressed each other, pausing now and then to caress a favorite spot or press a kiss to a patch of bared skin. When they were both naked, he lifted her and laid her on the bed, and stretched out on his side beside her. He braced his head on one hand, and with the other slowly traced a path down her torso.
With a sudden move, Tori pushed him off his elbow and onto his back, rolled on top of him and sat up, straddling his waist. “It’s my turn to play with you tonight.”
He sighed. “Of course. I’m just a sex toy to you.”
She grinned. “And so much better than anything I could buy in a store.” She leaned forward to trace his mouth with her tongue, luring his to come out and play. He obliged and they chased each other back and forth until they were both breathing hard.
Raising up she surveyed him lying beneath her. “Have I ever told you how much I love your body?”
“Tell me.” He murmured.
Her hands smoothed over his skin as her words described what she was touching. “Your shoulders are so broad, it comforts me to know they’re there for me to lean on – or lay my head on. Your arms are so strong, with their bulging biceps that can lift me as easily as they do Ava. You have no idea how that kind of strength turns me on. And just a little ink for decoration. Your hands work magic, whether it’s on a guitar string or my body. Just looking at them and remembering how they feel on my skin makes me shiver. Your chest is wide and firm, yet so comfortable to lie on. I love laying my head there and listening to your heart beat. Many think that your chest is completely smooth but it’s not. You have thirty-seven hairs scattered across it.” She tugged on one.
His lips quirked. “You counted my chest hairs?”
She grinned and shrugged. “I’m awake earlier than you.” She reached behind her and ran her hands down his legs as far as she could reach. “Your legs are long and strong. I love watching the muscles flex in them when you bend.”
Sitting up again she braced her hands on his stomach and shifted back so that she was straddling his hips. Listening to her describe his body had his blood heating and his muscles tightening….one muscle in particular.
“Then we have the crème de la crème, the piece de resistance.” She waggled her eyebrows and leered at him. He chuckled despite the anticipation that had his breath catching in his chest. “I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what I like about that particular part of your anatomy. You’ve heard all the superlatives a hundred times I’m sure.”
“But not from you.” He ground out.
She looked at him in surprise. “Why does that matter?”
“It matters.” Was all he’d say.
She glanced down and lightly trailed her fingers the length of his shaft, before taking it in her hand and pumping him slowly. “You’re so large I can’t close my hand around you. I’m amazed that my body can stretch enough to accept you. You fill me so full, and every movement causes a sweet friction that sends lighting bolts of sensation from my core through my body and out my toes and fingertips. I love that.” She bent down to him. “And I love the way you taste.”
He groaned at her twin assault of hand and mouth. She licked him from base to tip, then ran the tip of her tongue under the ridge and along the slit. Blowing lightly on it she glanced up at his face, locking her eyes with his as she slowly took him into her mouth and suckled. At the same time her free hand cupped his sac, gently stretching it.
He licked his lips and fought for breath as he watched his glistening shaft move in and out of her mouth, his hips jerking slightly, augmenting her rhythm. He took the sweet torture as long as he could. When he felt his climax creeping up his spine, he finally found the strength to pull her away.
“Come here babe. I want to be inside you. I need to be inside you.” His voice was a raspy growl.
Chuckling, she allowed him to pull her up his body until he could reach her mouth. Diving in he tasted himself on her tongue and stroked it with his. His hands smoothed down her back until he reached the firm globes of her buttocks. Filling his hands with her he squeezed, drawing a soft moan from her. Unable to wait any longer, he sent one hand gliding further down to check her readiness to receive him. Her earlier narration had affected her as well, and she was more than ready for him.
His hands moved to her hips and he urged her back. Breaking the kiss she sat up, gripped his erection with one hand and guided him home. When he was fully seated she paused, panting. His grip tightened as he started shifting against her, exhorting her to move.
She obliged, rocking against him, pressing him deeper. “Oh God!” After several minutes, she pulled his hands away from her hips and placed them on her breasts. “Touch me. Please!”
His big hands cupped her mounds, kneading them firmly, tugging on her hard nipples. Moaning she leaned back, bracing her hands on his legs. The change of angle dragged a cry from her throat. The sight she presented to him, head thrown back, breasts heaving, skin flushed, body undulating against his, had him fighting not to lose control.
“Jesus baby! You’re so beautiful. God! What you do to me!”
On the edge, he slid one hand down her stomach to rub and flick her ultrasensitive nub, visible to him in her current position.
“Mmmmm, Oh! Oh! Yes. RICHIEEEE!!” She shattered, her body convulsing violently.
Gripping her sides he pulled her down onto his chest and held her tight as he let go and pulsed out his release deep inside her.
When she was aware of her surroundings again she found herself still cradled on his chest, his hands stroking soothingly down her back. She raised her head enough to see his face. “Yup, definitely better than anything that comes in a box!”
“I thought I just did.”