She heard them coming down the hall and realized it must be the break before the encore. Rising, she checked that Richie’s clothes were ready and opened the door – just as Jon rushed past.
“Where the hell were you?!” He threw at her.
“Right here!” She yelled back, moving out of the way so Richie could enter the room. She grabbed the towel from him, wiped his back and handed him the clean clothes.
“Are you okay?”
“Not now Rich, you’ve got to go.”
“Let’s go!” Jon called out as he headed back to the stage.
Richie growled in frustration and followed.
Tori moved around the dressing room, putting laundry in the bag, setting out Richie’s street clothes, and packing up what he no longer needed. Restless, she headed down the hall to get another glass of wine. When she returned she found them all standing outside Richie’s dressing room. At the sound of her heels on the tiles they turned. The frowns on Jon and Richie’s faces set her teeth on edge and her temper rising.
“Why did you leave the stage? And without telling anyone. After everything we’ve told you about wandering around alone!” Jon snapped.
“I told Richie’s tech where I was going. Don’t start with me Jon! It wouldn’t take much at this point to convince me to go home tomorrow and stay there!”
Hearing that, Richie stiffened.
“I was looking for you! I was expecting to bring you….” Jon began.
Tori’s eyes flashed blue flame as she pinned him with a glare.
“Uh oh, duck!” David murmured to the others as he saw her eyes and realized that Bongiovi tempers were about to butt heads.
“Exactly Jon! You expect, you assume, you order, but you never ask! You never asked me if I wanted to join you on stage. You didn’t ask me if I wanted to be part of the circus. You sure as hell never asked me if I wanted to be paid for it – which I don’t – sorry Jon but if you really feel the need to assuage the family guilt, you’re going to have to find another way to do it! Sure, you asked me if I wanted to come out this leg of the tour, but you forgot to mention all the strings attached. Since I met you I’ve been told what I need to do, where I need to go, what I need to accept, the changes to my life that I need to make – all with nothing but my best interests in mind, of course…but nobody asked me if I wanted any of this! If I wanted to never be able to go anywhere by myself. If I wanted to have other people control my actions. If I wanted my life turned upside down! Well, guess what boys…this is my life and I will decide how I’m going to live it! Now, I have a very big decision to make in that regard, so please let me be!” Entering Richie’s dressing room she slammed the door behind her.
Silence reigned in the hallway as they all just looked at each other. When Jon moved towards the door, Richie stopped him. “Let me talk to her first.”
They nodded and headed for the showers.
Richie entered the room to find her with her elbows on her knees and her head buried in her hands. He took a step towards her. “Honey…”
She raised a hand to stop him, but didn’t look at him. “Don’t. Not yet.”
“But, we need…”
“Richie please! I don’t want to run the gauntlet with puffy eyes. Just go have a shower so we can leave.”
Realizing she was holding it together by a thread, he turned and headed for the shower. Emerging, he dried his hair and dressed in silence, glancing at her periodically as she sat sipping her wine.
A knock on the door signaled that the others where ready to go. She slipped on her jacket, grabbed her purse and almost bolted out the door. She didn’t notice Jon and Richie exchanging glances over her head. She waited for Jon to lead the way and followed, forcing her lips to smile when they reached the fans. This time she didn’t slow down or even look around, just went straight to the van and climbed in.
It was a subdued group that made the trip to the airport. Clearing security quickly, they boarded the plane and settled in for the short trip to London. Tori sat staring out the window at the retreating city lights and tried to find a solution to her situation that she could live with.
At the hotel, they found that they had beaten their bags to their room. Tori moved to stand by the balcony door and stared out over the city. Richie took a Diet Coke out of the mini bar and carried it to her. “Thanks.”
“Will you come sit and talk to me? Please?”
A knock at the door forestalled her response. Thinking it was their luggage, she went to answer it. The bell hop took the bags into the bedroom for them and left, almost running into Jon on his way out the door.
“Can I come in?”
She waved him in, then took a seat on the couch. Richie sat beside her, relieved when she didn’t move away.
“Tori, what’s going on?” Jon asked quietly.
“I told you what’s going on. I don’t deal well with people telling me what I can and can’t do – even if it’s for my own safety. And I’m told this is just the beginning. That the more the public sees me, the worse it’s going to get. That my life as I’ve known it will never be the same again. I knew there would be a certain level of public scrutiny and lack of privacy when my connection to the two of you became known, but I wasn’t prepared to lose control of my life. To be honest, I don’t know if I can live like that.”
“You said that you had a decision to make. What is it?” Richie asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
She blinked back tears. “There’s a few things I have to decide on. First and foremost, it appears that I have to choose between being a part of your lives and my independence – and it frustrates me to no end that I can’t have both. I have always prided myself on being able to look after myself, without anyone’s help, and now I can’t even walk down a hallway without an escort! It makes me feel caged.”
“Dorothea manages to do both.” Jon pointed out.
“Yes, and her way is an option. But that means that, for the most part, I stay home when you guys are on the road, and no singing with you. It means keeping a distance between personal and public life. That’s another alternative that I have to consider. It wouldn’t give me back complete control of my life, but it would give me more than I have this way.”
“What else?” This from Richie in a tight voice. He had a feeling he knew what was coming.
“Another option is to walk away from all of you and go back to my old life. As long as I don’t sing in public, after awhile the novelty will wear off and people will forget about all of this. Then I would have complete control again.” Just the thought of giving them up made her heart ache. She closed her eyes briefly against the pain. She placed her hand on Richie’s and met his eyes. “Richie, I love you. I don’t want to live without you in my life, but I have to be able to live with myself too!”
“But would you be happy?” Jon asked.
“No. It’s taken me too long to find the missing half of me to turn my back on it now.”
“Would you be happy sitting at home and watching from the sidelines, never feeling that exhilaration again of performing in front of an audience? I’ll warn you, it’s like an addiction. Once you start, it’s hard to quit.”
“I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve been miserable today. My dream come true is turning into a nightmare. I’ve fought very hard to become a strong and independent woman. I don’t know if I can give that up now…..or if I want to.” She sighed. “I know you don’t understand why I feel so strongly about this. You’re men, so it’s not something you would run into. Let me try to explain. I grew up in a fairly conservative small town with a mainly older population. From the time I graduated from school I was encouraged to get married and have children – not so much from my parents, but from a large section of the community I live in. When I began to work for my father with an eye to taking over the store I was questioned on why I would want to do that. What did I need a career for, I just needed to find a nice man to take care of me. The longer I stayed single the more disapproving glances I got. When Brian came along, it was like a large communal sigh of relief. I’d finally seen the light and found a great guy – and a lawyer no less. Now I could forget my silly idea of running a business and settle into my destined role of wife and mother. I didn’t need the store, because now I could just let my man take care of me. When Brian was killed, the looks became pitying, because now I was older and it would be that much harder for me to find a husband, and my childbearing years were coming to an end – how could I attain the full purpose of my womanhood? I continued in the store, taking on more and more responsibility, but it was a long hard fight to get the people around me to accept that I was just fine on my own. I didn’t need a man and children to justify my existence.”
“Are you opposed to having kids?” Richie interrupted.
“Not at all. I love kids. I just disagree with the idea that a woman has to have children or she’s somehow less than a real woman. I finally convinced everyone that I could look after myself. Now I feel like I’m back at square one, and the ‘society’ around me is telling me I need a man to look after me!” She raked a hand through her hair in frustration. “So you see my dilemma. Is it all or nothing, or is there some middle ground that we can all live with?”
Another knock on the door brought David and Tico. She smiled faintly. “Is this a support group or an enforcement squad?”
“We’re here to help. What can we do to make this easier for you?” Tico asked.
“Help me convince these two that I can walk around a venue by myself without getting attacked.” She answered wryly.
“Sorry Bela, can’t do that. I wish I could, but your safety comes first.” David replied.
“But, it’s not me that they’re interested in! If I’m with you guys, then yes, but if I’m by myself, THEY DON’T CARE!”
“Yet.” Jon interjected.
“What difference will time make? They don’t hassle Dorothea. Heather was a celebrity in her own right so that was a different situation.” Tori argued.
Trying to head off round two of the Battle of the Bongiovis, David made a suggestion. “What about leaving things as you’ve set them up for now? Staff will keep an eye on her when she’s on her own. Tori I understand that you know what they’re doing and trust that you will signal them if you run into trouble.” He waited for her nod of agreement. “If staff get the feeling that she’s in danger, then the security net can be tightened. This way she’s got protection if she needs it without being unnecessarily restricted. I know it’s not what you really want Tori, but can you live with it?”
She thought about it for a long moment. “Yes.
Jon gazed at her thoughtfully for a full minute before finally nodding. “Okay, but you will be issued a radio – and at the first sign of trouble you will do what the staff tell you.” She nodded.
“Richie?” David asked.
Richie frowned and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand trying to ease the tension. His need to protect her warred with his need to let her be her. He sighed. “Okay. I don’t like it, but that’s my protective instincts talking, not my head.” He traced a finger down her cheek. “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”
Catching his hand she pressed a kiss into his palm. “I will. I promise.”
“Tori, I have to ask. Why did you want to be out there anyway?” Tico asked.
“I was bored. You guys were all tied up with interviews, and I was looking for something to do. I like to people watch and the crowds at your shows are always an interesting group. Plus, I was watching what merchandise they were buying.” She shrugged. “Occupational hazard.”
“And nobody noticed you?” David was amazed.
“Well, there were a couple people that looked my way, but, no one came near me.”
“That’ll change.” Jon assured her.
“Why do you keep saying that?”
“Because the more they see you on stage, the bigger your celebrity status.”
“They don’t bother Lorenza.”
“Lorenza isn’t a lead singer - or my sister or Richie’s girlfriend.” He pointed out.
She couldn’t argue that point. So she addressed the other. “Who says they’re going to see me on stage anyway?”
“I do.” Seeing her raise an eyebrow at him he grinned and altered his wording. “I would like you to continue to perform with us while you’re with us…..please.”
“Are you going to try to pay me again?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“YES!” The other three responded.
She raised both brows at their outburst. “Why?”
“Because you’re a professional, and professional’s get paid.” David explained.
“And it’s nice to be able to look at someone else’s ass – and a nicer one at that - besides Jon’s for a change.” Tico added.
“Okay, okay, I give up!” She laughed.
After confirming what time they were to meet for the trip to Tori’s parents the next day, the guys headed for their rooms – and their beds, leaving Tori and Richie alone. Curling up on the couch beside him she wrapped her hands around his arm and laid her head on his shoulder.
“Tired, angel?” He pressed a kiss to her forehead.
She nodded, but didn’t move.
“Ready for bed?”
She shook her head. “Not yet. Can we just sit here for a few minutes?”
“Whatever you want, baby.” He placed his hand on her knee and squeezed. “You really do have a temper, don’t you?”
“Mmmm, let’s just say that I wouldn’t want it directed at me very often.”
She smiled. “Smart man.”
“You know, for a fan, you don’t seem to be much in awe of us. Most fans can hardly speak to us – especially Jon, let alone rip up at us.”
“Well, you guys keep telling us that you’re just normal guys, so….besides, Dorothea gave me a few tips on dealing with Jon. She warned me that if you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile, and when he starts going off on one of his ‘my way is the law’ trips he sometimes needs to be reminded who he’s talking to and that he can’t dictate to everyone.” She smiled up at him. “And babe, you awe me everyday, just with the knowledge that you want to be with me.”
Hearing the endearment from her lips eased the last of his tension – it was the first time she’d called him anything but ‘Richie’ all day. He kissed her briefly. “You know I would never try to control you, right? That everything I said and did today was out of concern for your safety?”
“I know, and I’m sorry for jumping all over you. I just suddenly felt claustrophobic and a huge pressure to give in and let you and Jon look after me. And something deep within me rebelled.”
“I know that you’re very independent and now I understand why that is so important to you. I don’t want you to change. I love you just the way you are.” He hesitated. “But I can’t promise you that it won’t happen again. Your safety takes priority – even if it makes you mad at me. I can’t stand the thought of you getting hurt…I don’t want to lose you.”
She searched his eyes and saw sincerity, wariness….and determination. He would protect her at all costs. “I hear you….but here’s a tip on dealing with me….talk to me about it, don’t dictate! I may still get mad, but I’ll have a lot more respect for you and be less likely to walk away and ignore you. ”
He nodded. “Got it.” Suddenly he grinned and pulled her into his lap. “How about you give me some tips on what makes you happy in…let’s say…a…sexual context?”
She chuckled, reached up and stroked his cheek. “Honey, you don’t need any help in that department. You’re figuring out what does it for me quite well all on your own.”
“Yeah?” He brushed her mouth with his. “Are you sure?”
“Definitely.” She sighed, reaching for more than that elusive contact. “Each time’s better than the last.”
“Glad you feel it too.” He whispered, sipping from her lips.
“Mmmm…so come here and make me feel it again!” She urged.
“Yes, ma’am.” His mouth captured hers, forcing her lips open to allow his tongue to probe deeply.
Her hand slid into his hair to grip the back of his head, holding him to her while his kiss stole her wits. When his hand slid between them to cup her breast she arched into him, a purr of appreciation vibrating in her throat. Breaking the kiss, she gasped for breath. “NOW I’m ready for bed!”
He chuckled. “Yes ma’am.” Lifting her to her feet he stood and let her lead the way. Movement out of the corner of his eye had him turning his head to see their reflection in the mirror above the desk. As an idea formed in his head he studied the chairs in the room and glanced out the windows to be sure that they were high enough that no one would be able to see in. Feeling her tug on his hand he turned back to her with a wolfish grin. She tugged again. He shook his head. “No, come here.”
The gravely tone scraped her nerve endings to full alert which the glint in his dark eyes only heightened. Curious, she let him tow her towards the desk and watched as he adjusted the chair, glancing at the mirror to gauge the proper position. Her pulse raced as her mind grasped his intention.
When he returned to stand in front of her she knew if she wanted to touch him she needed to do it now. Once he got his hands on her she’d be lost. She reached for the buttons on his shirt, stripping them open and spreading the halves wide. The wide expanse of his chest never ceased to fascinate her. Exploring with hands and mouth she managed to ignore his hands removing her clothing. Until there was none left and the feel of his calloused fingertips caressing her brought her to full awareness of her naked state. Shivering, but not from cold, she returned the favour.
When she had him bare, she nudged him into the chair, pushed his knees apart so that she could stand close, framed his face with her hands and kissed him, licking and nibbling his lips while his hands rubbed up and down her back. Tongues tangling, she lowered her hands to his shoulders and slowly swept them down his chest, pausing to circle and tug at his hard nipples. Pulling her mouth from his she followed the path made by her fingers with her lips, moving steadily down until she was kneeling between his legs. She leaned back and stroked his thighs from knees to groin. Reaching the prize she gripped him with one hand and slowly stroked from base to tip – several times. She replaced her fingers with her mouth, alternating between licking and kissing her way up his hard shaft, one hand cupping his sac. With the other she held him upright, running her tongue around the ridge, fluttering it against the swollen tip, smiling when she felt his thigh and abdominal muscles tense.
“God baby!” He groaned, gripping the arms of the chair tightly.
She glanced up into eyes gone almost black in his passion. Grinning, she licked her lips and sucked as much of him as she could into her mouth. As she set up a slow rhythm she felt his hands first grip her shoulders, then shift to cradle her head, hips arching when she paused at the apex of her ascent.
Swallowing hard, he watched his shaft slide in and out of her mouth as she pleasured him, his fingers flexing in her hair in reflex. Remembering, he glanced towards the mirror and the vision there had his breath stopping in his chest. He could see her bare back and bottom, the latter swaying in time with the movement of her head and her own arousal, her hair spread over his groin. When she started to suck harder he closed his eyes and shuddered. Feeling his climax building, he fought against it, not wanting this interlude to end yet – and not like this.
“Tori, baby, stop!” He rasped, tugging lightly on her hair.
“Hmmmm?” She hummed in her throat.
“GOD don’t do that! I can’t take anymore!” He panted.
She lifted her head. “Don’t you like it?”
“Too much! That’s not the way I want it tonight. Come here.” He tugged on her shoulders, urging her to stand. When she did she frowned at the arms of the chair. While they didn’t come right to the end of the cushion, with them there she couldn’t straddle the seat. He saw her confusion and chuckled. “Turn around and face the mirror.” When she did he pulled her down onto his lap. “Lean back against me.” Wrapping his arms around her he put his lips to her ear. “Watch.”
She did. The double stimulus of seeing his hands caressing her body and feeling the fire of his touch had her panting in seconds, her body undulating against his. He cupped her breasts, kneading them gently, tugging lightly on the hard tips. Sliding down her abdomen he squeezed her hips before continuing his path down her thighs, urging them apart and over his, opening her to his touch.
With the fingers of one hand he stroked her most sensitive flesh, feeling her already hot and wet for him. Parting her slick folds, he found the nub he was searching for and rubbed it lightly with the tip of one finger, and watched her body arch in reaction in the mirror. When she closed her eyes on a moan, he stopped. “No. Open your eyes.” His voice was a growl in her ear. When she obeyed, his finger started moving again, this time tracing her cleft until he found her entrance and slipped first one then two fingers deep inside and stroking.
“Richie, please!” She gasped.
“Please what? What do you want baby?”
“You! Please Richie, I want to feel you inside me. I need to feel you inside me NOW!”
“Yes ma’am.” Withdrawing his fingers he grasped her hips and lifted her over him, sliding down a little until he could fit himself to her and slowly ease her down his shaft until he was buried to the hilt. He held still for long moments savouring the feel of her humid sheath holding him tight. “You feel so good.”
“Mmmmm.” She moaned grinding her hips against him, bracing her hands on the arms of the chair.
Watching her body writhing in the mirror, he began to move, undulating his hips in counterpart to hers, augmenting her rhythm, his hands once again roaming her body. Unable to wait much longer, he slid one hand down to stroke her clit as he thrust upward, making up for their limited ability to move.
“Oh God, yes….right there….mmmm…like that…yes, Richie!” She panted.
Three thrusts later she screamed as her orgasm peaked. He wrapped his arms tight around her holding her to him, absorbing her shudders as he watched the expressions of ecstasy on her face. Satisfied that she had found heaven, he let go and followed.
Panting, she turned her head until she could reach his mouth and kissed him. “I told you. Better every time. Although, if it gets any better I don’t know if I’ll survive it!”
He chuckled. “You and me both babe. But what a way to go!”
They sat that way until their bodies cooled. Feeling her shiver – this time from cold – he hugged her closer. “Come on angel, let’s get you to bed.”
She groaned. “I don’t have the energy to move.”
“Are you saying you want me to carry you?”
“Would you?” She batted her eyelashes at him. “I just love the feel of your strong arms around me.”
“Minx!” He laughed and kissed the tip of her nose. “Hang on then.” Lifting her off him, he cradled her in his arms and stood. “Oooh, I think I just slipped a disc!”
She glanced at him in shocked concern. Seeing the twinkle in his chocolate eyes she narrowed hers at him. “I thought you wanted a real woman. But maybe you’re not up to it.”
“Ouch! Truce!” He dipped his head to kiss her before carrying her into the bedroom and laying her gently on the bed. After shutting off all the lights he climbed in beside her and pulled her close. “I do want a real woman, and baby you’re all woman.” He kissed her again. “And all mine. And the day I can’t carry you is the day they put me in the home.”
While they were getting ready the next day, Richie looked over to see Tori frowning. “Darlin’ what’s bothering you? You’ve been distracted ever since we got up. Are you really concerned about me meeting your family? Or is it Jon?”
“Well, I’m a little nervous about how my family will react to Jon – he didn’t endear himself to them with his behaviour at the hospital, but they’re aware of his change of heart, so they’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.” Her frown deepened.
“And what about me? I thought your parents liked me?”
“They do. It’s my brothers that concern me.” Looking him in the eye she hesitated. “They’re aware of your….issues…and they’re very protective of me.” She wasn’t sure how to say what was worrying her.
“In other words, they’ll want to make sure that their sister isn’t involved with an abusive womanizing alcoholic.”
Her eyes filled with tears. “Honey, I’m sorry, they don’t know you like I do, and …”
He pulled her into his arms. “Angel, stop. It’s okay. I know they’re only looking out for you. I wouldn’t expect anything less. In fact, I’d be disappointed if they weren’t concerned.” He lifted her face to his with a knuckle under her chin and smiled. “Relax honey, it’ll be fine. You’ll see.”
She wrapped her arms around him, laid her head on his chest and hugged him tight. “I hope your right.”
Meeting up with the guys, they loaded into the van and Tori gave the driver the directions.
“So, Swingman, nervous about meeting the outlaws?” David smirked.
“Naw, they like me. How about you Kidd? How are you feeling?”
“Uh oh. Didn’t you make nice with Bela’s parents at the hospital?” David asked.
When Jon didn’t answer they all looked at Tori. “As I recall he didn’t meet my parents.” She admitted.
“What?! Oooh. No wonder Rich isn’t worried. Compared to you he must look like a knight in shining armor.” David shook his head at Jon.
At David’s choice of wording Richie and Tori exchanged a long look and a smile.
“So tell us about your family Tori.” Hugh urged.
“My parents, Bill and Helen you’ve all met – except Jon. They’re your typical middle class couple. They’ve been married over fifty years and are still happy together. My oldest brother is Jim. He and his wife Louise have four kids – Matt’s 20, Pete’s 18, Aaron’s 14, and Jennifer’s 11. Michael and his wife Sue have two kids – Billy’s 17 and Leanne’s 13.”
“And your brothers are both older than Jon?” Tico grinned.
“Yep. Jim’s 49 and Michael’s 47.”
“And they’ve been married a long time too?” Hugh asked.
“Yeah. Twenty-four and twenty years respectively and counting.”
“That bodes well.” Richie noted.
Tori stared at him. Jon smiled.
As they drove through her hometown, Tori played tour guide pointing out places of interest including her father’s store which, being Sunday was closed as were most of the businesses in this small town. Reaching the Adams’ residence they piled out of the van.
She turned in time to catch the missile that came flying at her. “Hi Jenny.”
“Which one’s your brother?” Jenny whispered.
“You tell me.” Her aunt whispered back.
The young girl glanced around at all of the men and her eyes quickly came back to Jon. “That one.”
“You’re right. How can you tell?”
“He has your eyes.”
Tori laughed and introduced her niece to the guys. When she got to Richie she watched him closely. She knew that Jenny would hit close to home for him. She was blonde, with brown eyes and just a year older than Ava. She was right. She could see the twinge of sadness behind his smile as he gazed down at Jenny.
“Grandma says that you’re Aunt Tori’s boyfriend.” Jenny informed him.
“Yep, that’s me.”
“You’re really tall…even taller than my dad!”
He chuckled. “Want a ride to the house?”
They trooped into the house, Tori leading the way, Richie following with Jenny riding piggy-back. Very quickly they were surrounded by the rest of her family, and Tori was kept busy making introductions.
“Wow!” Louise exclaimed upon meeting Jon. “You really do look alike!”
Jon laughed. “Yeah, a bit.”
“Hi Helen, nice to see you again.” Richie greeted Tori’s mother and kissed her cheek.
“Hello Richie dear, nice to see you too.”
Richie turned to shake hands with Tori’s dad. “Hi Bill, how are you?”
“Good Richie. You’re looking well. I see you’re taking good care of my little girl.” They both watched Tori laughing with the guys and her siblings, her happiness very evident in her face.
Something in Richie’s voice had Bill searching his face. “Found out she’s a tad stubborn and has a bit of a temper have you?” He knew his daughter well.
Richie laughed. “Yeah, but I’m learning how to deal with it. She really is a lot like Jon, and I’m used to dealing with him, so it’s not a huge learning curve.”
“How are things with Jon now?”
“Very good.” Richie assured him. “Once he accepted that Tori was for real and not out for a piece of his celebrity, he welcomed her into the family with open arms and has taken his role of older brother very seriously. Music has given them a strong bond to build on. Wait until you hear them sing together. It’s amazing.”
Music was the topic of conversation on the other side of the room as well.
“Well I guess we know where Aunt Tori gets her musical ability from now.” Matt commented, somewhat dejectedly.
“Don’t feel bad Matt, the other two brothers don’t have it either.” Tori tried to make him feel better.
While Jim and Michael greeted Tico, David and Hugh very warmly, they were more reserved with both Jon and Richie – not rude, just a little distant, as though withholding judgement.
Everyone was urged into the living room to sit and relax.
“Can I get anyone a drink?” Jim asked. “Richie?”
Tori stiffened and glared at her eldest brother. Richie squeezed her hand and smiled.
“A Coke would be great.”
“So Aunt Tori, what’s it like touring with a rock band?” Pete asked.
“Pretty tame with these guys actually.”
“Really?” He sounded disappointed.
She grinned. “I’m sure it was different in the 80’s but remember, they’re either as old or almost as old as your dad. They’ve outgrown all of that crazy excess.”
Pete looked at Jon, who smiled ruefully. “I’d like to disagree with her, but she’s right. Oh we could party with the best of them in the day, but now after a show we’re just as happy to have a good meal and go to bed.”
“So, no more groupies?”
“Oh they’re still there, we just don’t…..indulge anymore.”
“Do you still get mobbed?”
“Yeah, but we have good security, so it’s hard for anyone to get in.”
“Or out.” Tori muttered. When Jon slanted her a look, she made a face at him.
“So you’re in London for tomorrow and then what?” Helen asked.
“Then we’re off home for a couple weeks for Thanksgiving, then back to Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, then home for Christmas.” Jon replied.
“Oh, that reminds me. Mom, can I borrow your car for a few minutes? I need to run to my apartment and get some clothes.” Tori asked.
“Didn’t you pack enough?”
“I packed for concerts and Canada. Richie’s taking me to L.A. to spend Thanksgiving with his daughter.”
Eyebrows went up as various members of the Adams family exchanged glances. Jim and Michael looked a little grim. If he was taking her home to meet his daughter this must be getting serious. Tori’s announcement just reinforced their plan to have a little chat with Richie. They decided to wait until Tori left.
She hadn’t been gone five minutes when the brothers got their opportunity. Billy, who had been sitting talking to him got called away by his mother. Jim and Michael quickly took his place. Richie saw them coming and braced himself.
“Is it true that you dated Cher?” Jim began.
Richie was surprised. That wasn’t one he was expecting. “Yes, a long time ago.”
“And you were married to Heather Locklear.” Michael chimed in.
“Yes, for over eleven years.”
“And then dated Denise Richards.”
“So what are you doing with Tori?” Jim asked.
“Excuse me?” Richie was confused. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, as much as I love my sister, and think she’s wonderful, she doesn’t seem to be your type. I’d hate to see her get hurt because you’re just looking for someone to kill some time with out of the limelight.” Jim responded.
Richie stared at him. “That’s not what I’m doing. I’ve had enough of what Tori calls the ‘Hollywood’ type. I want a real woman, with real parts, and real feelings, who isn’t constantly concerned about her image and how to get her face in the magazines. Tori is beautiful and bright, and funny and caring and considerate and wants me for who I am, not what I do. I can’t tell you how rare that is in my life. She’s everything I could ask for in a woman, and more than I deserve. She gets me in ways no one else – except maybe Jon – ever has. I love her.”
“There were rumours of abuse and infidelity in your marriage.”
Richie shook his head. “I never cheated on Heather and I have never raised a hand to a woman. Ever. Not even when I was drunk. And I never will.”
“That brings up our next concern.” Michael stated.
Richie nodded. “Yes I was in rehab. I haven’t had a drink in months. It was a situation that got out of control because of events that happened in my life. I won’t say that I’m cured. It’s a battle I fight everyday. But I know what my triggers are and I do my best to avoid them. I have a great support network.” He motioned towards the guys. “And I have a daughter that is the light of my life. I have too much to lose to make it worth risking for the sake of a little temporary numbness.”
Jim and Michael studied his face for a long time. Helen came up behind them having observed their intense discussion, and flicked both her sons in the ear. “Leave Richie alone! She’s happy for the first time in five years.”
“Ow! We’re just trying to make sure she stays that way!” Michael protested.
“So am I.” Richie assured them.
Tori had returned by the time Jim and Michael had managed to get Jon alone. They were watching Tori laughing with Richie, Sue and Louise at some story David was telling.
“With her connection to the two of you, is she in any danger?” Jim asked.
Jon hesitated. “By and large no, but there’s always crazies out there. When she’s with us, she’s fine – we always have security with us. When she’s wandering by herself where I think she might be recognized I have staff watching over her. She doesn’t like it, but her safety is more important than her independent sensibilities.”
Michael hooted. “I would have liked to been there for that conversation! Our Tori takes her independence very seriously.”
“So I’ve found out.” Jon retorted dryly.
“We just wanted to be sure that you’re looking out for her.” Jim said.
Jon stiffened. “Of course I am. She’s my sister too.”
“You didn’t always feel that way.” Jim reminded him.
“I know, and I’ve apologized to her for my behaviour during that time. I was protecting my family. I take that responsibility very seriously. Don’t worry, she’ll be protected whether she likes it or not.”
Laughter had them looking towards the group on the other side of the room again. This time it was Richie telling the story.
“Even from him?” Michael pressed.
“If necessary.” Jon looked at them. “But I gotta tell you that I don’t think it will be. I’ve known him for over twenty years. He would never purposely hurt the people he cares about. And he loves her. He’ll treat her like a queen. I’ve never seen him so in sync with a woman – including Heather. Just watch them. They’re great together. They make each other happy. Isn’t that the point?”
Dinner passed pleasantly enough, with David and Tico regaling the group with tales from the road – mostly at Jon’s expense. All too soon it was time to go. Amid the hugs and kisses and thanks and the arranging of plans to meet those that were going to the show the next night, Tori saw Jim and Michael watching Richie closely and grudgingly shaking his hand. Eyes narrowing she went to bid them goodbye.
“Get off Richie’s back!” She hissed at them. “He’s been nothing but wonderful to me and I love him!”
They nodded. “And as long as he’s good to you, we’ll leave him alone. Just…be careful, and remember that we’re here if you need us.” Jim admonished her.
Frustrated she turned to her mother, who smiled. “What’s the saying?...Payback’s a bitch?”
“What do you mean? I was never that bad with Louise and Sue!” Tori protested.
“It’s the difference between testosterone and estrogen.” Her mother assured her. “Relax, they’ll come around. Just like you did.”
“Hmmfph! Thanks for dinner Mom. Talk to you soon.”
“You’re welcome dear. Anytime. Have a good time in L.A.”
Bill and Helen approached Jon. The three looked at each other for long minutes, then simply nodded. “Take good care of our girl.” Bill said shaking Jon’s hand.
“Absolutely.” Jon replied.
As the van pulled away, Jon and Richie both sighed in relief.
“I’m sorry about Jim and Michael.” Tori began.
“Relax Tori, they’re just looking out for you. It’s okay.” Jon assured her.
“Maybe, but they didn’t need to be so overbearing about it!”
“Honey, they don’t know us. They only know the ‘rockstar’ stories. When they see that we’re not going to hurt you, that we’re on the same side, they’ll calm down.” Richie hugged her close and kissed her temple. “It will all sort itself out. You’ll see.”
She sighed. “I hope so.”