Monday, November 24, 2008

Chapter 157

The next day as they approached their tent after sound check, Tori stopped. Richie gave her a nudge. “What’s the matter?”

She stepped behind him. “You go in first.”

He stared at her for moment, then laughed. “Afraid of what might be in there? Has he got you paranoid?”

She wrinkled her nose. “I can handle whatever he throws at me….I just would prefer that if something’s going to jump out, that it jump out at you first.”

“Thanks a lot babe.”

“Well, you’re supposed to be my protector.” She nudged him. “So go make sure it’s safe.”

He shook his head and sighed. “Fine. Scaredy cat.” But as he reached the tent he stopped and gingerly lifted the flap and peeked inside.

She snorted. “What’s the matter oh big brave one?”

“Nothing, I just don’t want to get caught in a trap meant for you.”

“Thanks honey, I love you too.”

They had a few days off around Leipzig and Stuttgart. At David’s request they stayed an extra day in Leipzig so that he could check out the Bach festival. In Stuttgart they had a few interviews, but still had plenty of time to tour around and relax. They would typically split up during the day, everyone doing their own thing. In exchange for Richie visiting Wilhelma - zoological and botanical gardens with her (which he did under duress as David threatened to join them to keep an eye on him around the ape house), she agreed to go to the Mercedes-Benz museum with him. By the time they left, she was amazed that she managed to get him out without buying one…but she wouldn’t be surprised if he did a little shopping around when they got home.

They joined back up for dinner and to hang out at the Laboratorium – sort of a night club/musical/cultural workshop where musicians from all over the world were welcome to join in. She had to literally drag Richie out at the end of the night.

Over dinner they would relate their activities that day. When it was Richie and Tori’s turn, Jon listened, with an almost expectant look on his face. When they finished, he frowned slightly and gave his friend a probing look. Tori didn’t notice as she was listening to whoever was speaking. Richie noticed and knew what the look was about, but ignored it.

The day of the concert in Stuttgart, as they took the stage for sound check Jon inpected Tori’s fingers closely and declared her ready to play again. He pushed a stool towards her and handed her a guitar. She strummed a couple times, frowned, and strummed again. Something didn’t sound right. She held the guitar out for Jon, but he shook his head.

“Uh huh. If you can hear that it’s off, then you should be able to hear when it’s right. Tune it yourself.”

“But I don’t know which string it is or what knob to turn or which way to turn it.”

“Then it’s time you learned. Pick one string at a time until you hear which one is off, follow the string to the ‘knob’ and tighten it.”

It took her a good twenty minutes before she got it. He wouldn’t help her, and wouldn’t let anyone else help her either.

“No wonder Jesse doesn’t want you ‘helping’ him. You’re no help at all!” She grumbled.

“But you just learned how to tune a guitar didn’t you.” He pointed out.

“Hmpf. Maybe so, but I much prefer Richie’s teaching methods.” Her lips twitched. “I find the hands on approach more…..educational.”

Richie winked at her while the others groaned.

“Play! Before you make us all sick.” Jon shook his head.

“Okay, but first…Obie! I want an honest opinion about this okay? Don’t let Jon talk you into saying it’s okay if it’s not.”

Obie waved his hand in acknowledgement. Taking a deep breath, she settled in and began to play. When she finished, there was silence for a long moment as the guys all looked at each other and nodded.

“Wow, Bela, I’m impressed. You picked that up quick!” Hugh stated what they were all thinking.

Tori glanced around at the techs who were all nodding, then looked out at Obie. “Ob?”

“You definitely got the music gene. Now, can you shake your ass like Jon does?”

“I don’t know. Do you want me to try?”

“Yes!” Came from several male voices.

“No!” Came from Richie and Jon.

“You can give me a private viewing and I’ll let them know.” Richie offered.

“Spoilsport!” She grinned at him.

“Can we focus on the song please? Let’s try this a couple times.” Jon reminded them of the task at hand.

Satisfied that they were ready, Jon called it quits and they headed backstage where Tori picked up a radio – and Mike – and set out to do her ‘research’.

More than a little nervous about playing the guitar on stage, regardless of the compliments of the guys, she knew she was going to need a confidence boost to do it, and she knew just the outfit that would help. She stayed in the booths until she was sure that Richie would be down in makeup, then went to get dressed. Reaching into the back of the wardrobe where she hidden it, she pulled out one of the outfits that she’d bought in L.A. with Ava. Richie hadn’t seen this one yet, and she was curious to see his reaction. The navy blue leather pants were butter soft and fit her like a glove. The matching leather vest was cropped to show a good two inches of skin between the bottom and the low waistband of the pants, and had a zipper closure from the hem to just between her breasts. High boots with four inch heels and chunky silver jewelry completed the outfit. Looking in the mirror she frowned. It seemed that she was going to have to follow Jon’s custom after all. Panty lines ruined the look. She was just about to head down to makeup when she heard the guys outside.

“Angel, you in there?”

“Yeah. I’m just about to head down to makeup.” She opened the flap with one hand and stepped out.

“Jesus Tori!” Jon choked out.

“Madre santa del dios!” Tico breathed.

“Damn Bela!” David looked stunned.

Richie didn’t speak – he wasn’t sure he could. He licked lips suddenly gone dry, swallowed heavily and ignored the fact that his pants seemed to have shrunk two sizes. She crooked a brow at him. He cleared his throat. “You are NOT wearing that in public!”

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” She smoothed her hands over her hips and heard breaths being sucked in.

“There’s not enough of it!” Richie frowned and reached out to try to tug the zipper up. “And what there is, is too revealing!”

She snorted. “Oh come on. Everything is covered. Stop tugging on it Rich, that’s as high as it goes. It’s not as revealing as some of Lorenza’s outfits.”

“Lorenza doesn’t fill hers like that!” David muttered.

Richie pushed her back into the tent. “Find something else to wear.”

“No. I want to wear this. I need to wear this.”

His frown deepened. “What, you need to torture me or you need to turn on every man in the audience?”

She sighed and tried to find a way to explain. “Neither. Look, despite everything you all have said, the thought of playing on stage scares the shit out of me. I need the extra confidence of knowing I look good to help me through it.”

“You always look good.” He argued.

“Thank you, but tonight I need to look even better.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and tilted her head to look up at him. “I’m not trying to torture you, although I’m flattered that I can, and the only man I want to turn on is you.”

He pulled her closer and sighed. “So you’re telling me that I have to suck it up and accept that every man in the audience is going to get all hot and bothered over my woman?”

“It’s only for a few songs.” Her lips twisted wryly. “Welcome to my world.”

His brows rose. He’d never thought about how the fan adulation might affect her. Aside from the whole Jasmine episode, she’d never mentioned it. “How do you deal with it?”

“By reminding myself that it’s my bed that you’ll be sleeping in, and that it’s me you want to be with.” She shrugged. “You sorta get used to it after a while.”

He snorted, not sure his possessiveness would ever allow that to happen.

She kissed him lightly. “Hey! I love you!”

He sighed again and rested his forehead on hers. “I know. I love you too.” He smirked. “Good thing my guitar hides me.”

When she joined them on the stage, he couldn’t help but scan the crowd to see the men’s reactions. It was exactly as he feared. Bulging eyes and lust filled looks were everywhere. He had to fight the urge to cover her with the jacket he had shed earlier. How does she stand this every show?

As they finished Any Other Day Jon nodded to her and she walked back and let his tech slide the guitar strap over her head. While Richie set up stools for them she stepped up to his mic, blew out a nervous breath and took a pick from his stand. She could see the girls in the front nudging each other as they watched her. She smiled at them. Taking her seat beside Richie she flexed her fingers.

He leaned over. “Just like sound check.” She nodded.

For the first few bars, she watched her hands and concentrated on the music, tuning out the audience. When Richie rose to plug in he winked at her, pride shining in his eyes. She took a chance and glanced at the audience. They were all cheering and clapping. When the song ended the spotlights scanned the crowd and she could see raised hands all around the stadium. Jon walked over and pulled one of her monitors out. The roar was almost deafening.

“Listen to it. You earned it. Good job!”

She grinned at him, waved to the audience and finally allowed herself to accept that maybe she really did have talent. Maybe she really did belong here…on stage….with them.

Chapter 158

Next up was Portugal. When they arrived at the hotel in Lisbon, Tori discovered that one of her bags was missing. The staffer in charge of luggage frowned.

“I’m sorry Tori. I’m sure I unloaded it off the plane. I’ll find it.”

While the guys went to do interviews and promo spots, Tori – and Mike – toured around Lisbon. By mid afternoon they were both worn out and ready for a break. They found a small restaurant where they had a bite to eat and Tori was able to sample some of the national product – a nice glass of 12 yr old port, before heading back to the hotel.

Everyone was gathered in Jon’s suite debating plans for the evening, when a staffer rushed in with Tori’s bag. “Found it!”

“You’d better check if anything’s missing Bela.” David suggested.

The warning bells went off for her, but she was determined not to give him the reaction he was looking for. She figured it was the only way to get him to not target her. Unzipping the bag, she slowly lifted the lid. She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing out loud.

“Anything missing?” Richie asked. He knew something was up by the look on her face.

“Yes, a bowl, a spoon and milk.” She threw back the lid so that they could all see.

“What the hell is that?” Jon could see small pieces of… something filling the bag. Richie started laughing.

She picked up a piece and ate it. “Count Chocula cereal.” She shot a glance at David who was grinning, but she could see that he was a little disappointed in her reaction. “That was original. I’ll give you that.”

She managed to hold it together until they were back in their room getting changed for dinner. “Oh lord!” She wiped her eyes. “Where does he come up with this stuff?”

“I don’t know, I’m just glad he’s focusing his stunts on you and not me.” Richie frowned. “Although I’m afraid I’m going to get hit just by being in close proximity.”

She crooked a brow at him. “Does that mean you want to stay away from me?”

He looked horrified. “Hell no! There’s nothing that he – or anyone – could do that would make me want that!”

“Good answer.” She retorted dryly. He grinned and kissed her.

Two days later they were in Spain. Jon was talking to the crowd and joking with Tori between songs. When he signaled to start the next song – which David and Tico were supposed to be leading, different notes entirely came blaring through the speakers. Tori recognized the intro and spun around to stare at David. So did Jon. It wasn’t a Jovi song. When she glanced at him, Jon just shrugged. He obviously was just as surprised as she was. She turned to Richie who also shrugged, but quickly picked up the song.

“Is that a challenge boys?” She crooked a brow at David, Tico and Hugh.

“Are you up to it?” David shot back.

The crowd, which had quieted to listen to the exchange, roared.

She glanced at Jon again. He motioned for her to go ahead. “I am if you are.” She assured them. She stepped to the front of the stage.

I hear the ticking of the clock
I'm lying here the room's pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
No answer on the telephone
And the night goes by so very slow
Oh I hope that it won't end though

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone

You don't know how long i have wanted

to touch your lips and hold you tight
You don't know how long I have waited
and I was going to tell you tonight

But the secret is still my own
and my love for you is still unknown

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone
Alone, alone *

As the last note faded, Richie stepped up to his mic. He had to yell to be heard over the crowd. “All you have to do is ask babe.”

She stared at him in disbelief for a moment, then laughed and shook her head at him.

As they came off the stage, Jon looked at the group and they all held their breath, anticipating a tirade.

“Next time you want to change the set list, tell me. I’d appreciate not being surprised in the middle of a show.”

As he led the way to the van, they released their breaths. David looked at Tico and wiped his brow in relief.

They were back in Germany again – Frankfurt this time. Tori was coming back from doing her ‘research’ when she noticed a few staffers giving her strange looks.

“Hey Bela! You didn’t tell us that you had relatives coming to visit!” Tico called out to her as she neared their tent.

She frowned. “What are you talking about?”

The only answer she got was laughter. She braced herself, knowing that David was at it again. Entering the tent she found Richie sitting there, staring at their visitor. She had to chuckle.

He glanced at her. “You might not find it so amusing once you get the full effect. It talks.”

“Yeah?” She walked over to the table where ‘The Count’ from Sesame Street was sitting. She pushed until she found the button that made him talk.

One hickey on Richie’s neck
Two hickeys on Richie’s neck
Three hickeys on Richie’s neck
Four hickeys on Richie’s neck
Naughty, naughty Tori!

She looked at Richie and burst out laughing. Picking the stuffed vampire up, she exited the tent. The rest of them were standing outside. She walked up to David and kissed his cheek.

“Thank you! He’s adorable!”

David gave Richie an exasperated look. “Does nothing bother her?”

Richie grinned. “Not that she’s going to let you know about.”

(*Alone by Heart)

Chapter 159

As they were leaving the stage in Vienna the next night, Tori glared at Richie. “Will you please stop it!” She hissed.


“Stop staking your claim during the shows! You and I both know that I’m not going to leave you for some guy in the audience. They all know that we’re together, you don’t need to rub it in their faces. Let the girls have their fantasies. If you want to kiss me during the bows, fine, but keep it brief and light!”

He’d had his eyes opened and he wasn’t sure he liked what he saw. She’d continued wearing the leather outfit and a few others of the same ilk and it brought out the caveman in him. He knew he was being ridiculous, but it didn’t change the way he felt, and he found himself reacting. Where before, after she finished her section of the show he would just wink at her, now he would kiss her, and everytime she walked by him during her performance he would hip check her or high-five her or touch her in some other way. It was now at the point where she avoided him during the show. The upside was that he no longer unbuttoned his shirt quite so low. He finally understood how she felt.

He frowned as he followed her out to the van. He knew that what he was being possessive, but he didn’t think he was THAT bad.

Back at the hotel, they showered and headed downstairs to the after party.

“Anyone else notice that there seems to be more guys than usual at the shows lately?” David asked. Murmurs of agreement went around the table and they all looked at Tori, who blushed. “Rich, you better put a ring on her finger and a bun in her oven before you find yourself with some competition!”

Tori laughed. “At least now there’s a bit more eye candy for Lorenza and I.”

Richie frowned. “Hey! All the eye candy you need is right here.” He pointed at his chest.

She snorted. “Oh, but it’s okay for you to flirt with all the girls? I’m not even flirting, I’m just looking. Relax caveman, most of them are with their wives or girlfriends, waiting to cash in after you and Jon get them all worked up.”

Jon sighed. “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

Back in the room Tori confronted him. “What’s going on with you Rich?”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t play dumb. What’s with all the touchy-feely stuff during the show all of a sudden?”

“Why do you not like it all of a sudden?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it, I just don’t think it’s a good idea on stage. You know, even better than I do, that performing is more than just playing an instrument and singing. The connection between the band and the audience is vital. Jon isn’t the only one the girls watch and lust over. Just like Jon gives the illusion of availability by not wearing his wedding ring – yeah, yeah, I know he says it’s so that the fans don’t pull it off his finger when they grab at him, but that’s only part of the reason - you need to project that same impression.” She waved her hand. “But you know all this.”

“I always wore my wedding ring. It wasn’t an issue.”

“But Heather wasn’t on stage with you. And there’s a difference between wearing a ring and constantly touching and kissing me. But you don’t need me to tell you all this, so I have to wonder what’s going on with you.”

He sighed, sank down on the couch and raked his hand through his hair. “I don’t know. I guess when I look out and see those guys practically drooling over you, knowing what they’re thinking, I just have this overwhelming need to remind them that you’re off limits.”

She stared at him and laughed. “Don’t tell me that you’re getting jealous and insecure on me!” When he didn’t answer and his face flushed dark red she stopped laughing. “Richie! You’ve got to be joking! Don’t you trust me?”

He grimaced. “It’s not you I don’t trust.”

She sat down beside him, and turned his face towards hers until their eyes met. “I love you! I barely notice those guys. Okay?”

He sighed. “I know. I’ll get it under control. I promise.”

She smiled, leaned forward and kissed him. “If I can cope, so can you.” She reminded him that he wasn’t the only one dealing with lustful fans.

When they arrived in Dublin, Tori turned to Jon. “Okay big brother. Show me what it is about this town that you love so much.”

He grinned. “You’re on. Anyone who wants to join us, we’ll meet in the lobby in twenty minutes.”

It was a very full afternoon. They traipsed around the cobbled streets with Jon pointing out his favorite spots. They toured Dublin Castle and Malahide Castle where Tori was fascinated by the dolls house that was Tara’s Place.

“Has Ava seen this?” She asked Richie.

He nodded. “It’s what gave her the idea for me to make her a house for her American Girl dolls.” He frowned. “I guess I should have made two.” The doll house was at Heather’s and it was too big to move back and forth.

“There’s a project for you when we get home.”

They had dinner and spent a few hours at the Davy Byrnes Pub just absorbing the atmosphere.

The next day, while the guys were in interviews, Tori, with Mike once again in tow, visited the James Joyce Museum and browsed the shops in Moore St, Cow’s Lane and Merrion Square. She found a beautiful necklace for Ava. The four leaf clover pendant was made out of Waterford crystal and hung on a silver chain. She smiled to herself as she packed it away in her suitcase. She knew just the event she wanted to give it to her for. A slight frown puckered her forehead. If it ever happened. Even though she hadn’t said it in words, she knew that he’d gotten her message that she was ready. The ball was in his court now. And he seemed to be sitting on it. It surprised her. As much as he wanted another child, she’d thought he’d have moved quickly once she gave the nod. Maybe he’s changed his mind.

That night, they gave in to Richie’s pestering and went to the Bleu Note Bar & Club for some live blues music. He noticed her distraction. “Everything okay angel?”

She smiled and nodded. “Fine. Just thinking about the show tomorrow night…..and trying to come up with a good way to get back at Shirley.”

He chuckled. “Just let me know when to duck.”

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This is my nice little story turned epic with Richie in the starring role - although Jon plays a large part.