Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chapter 249

“What did he say?”

Tori gave her mother a rundown of her conversation with Richie a few days earlier. Helen was trying to be fair and objective, but her heart ached for her daughter’s pain and her hands itched to wrap around her son-in-law’s neck.

“Do you believe him?”

Tori sighed. “I don’t know. I want to, but….it doesn’t match what his mother told me.” She relayed that conversation as well. “So, either she’s wrong or he’s lying. Again.”

“Or he’s just not telling you the whole story.”

“Same thing.”

“No. It’s not. He may not even be aware himself of the real reason he wanted to give Heather another chance.” She hesitated, but had to say it. “Honey, you need to think long and hard before you make a decision. The choice you make is going to affect the rest of your life….and Peanut’s. You have to think about the baby as well as yourself. Peanut needs a father.”

“Are you saying that I should go back to him? Forget that he lied and broke his promise to me and just go back?” Tori was astounded.

“No, if you decide that there’s no hope, that you can’t believe him or trust him ever again, that you just can’t make it work, the family – all of it – will help you and the baby with anything you need. But raising a child alone isn’t easy – for the parent or the child. Look, all I’m saying is think carefully and make sure your decision is one that you can live with. I don’t want you to stay in a marriage that’s full of lies and makes you miserable, but I don’t want to see you throw away everything you’ve built over the past year and the happiness you had if there’s a chance you could have it again.” Helen explained. “We will support you, whatever your decision, all I’m asking is that you take your time and think it through very carefully. Let your emotions – and your hormones – settle a little before you make up your mind. Don’t rush into anything.”

“She’s right you know.” Karin told her friend after Tori had filled her in on her recent conversations, ending with her mother.

“I know.” Tori was sitting on Jon and Carol’s porch, looking over the back yard, phone in hand.

“Has Richie called again?”


“And? Does he have a better explanation?”

“No, it’s always the same story.”

“Either he’s too stubborn to come up with a better one, or…..he’s telling the truth.”

Tori agreed. “Yeah, but which one?”

“You know him better than I do. What’s your gut telling you?”

“To believe him. But I can’t tell for sure whether that’s gut instinct or wishful thinking. His story doesn’t match with what Joan told me.”

Karin didn’t know what to tell her. “Then wait until you’re sure. There’s no time limit here.”

“No, just a limit to how much of this wondering and debating I can take.”

“I don’t know how much of this wondering and waiting I can take.” Richie admitted to Jon. “It’s driving me crazy!”

“You’ll take as much as she wants to dish out. You’re the one who fucked up here, so suck it up. You’re lucky she’s even talking to you. Actually, you’re lucky you can talk, period. If she’d let me have my way, you’d be eating through a straw.” Jon watched his brother-in-law pace the confines of his office. “Have you seen her yet?”

Richie winced and shook his head. “I’ve talked to her on the phone, but she doesn’t want to see me yet. She doesn’t even know I’m in Jersey.”

Jon’s brows rose. “And you’re not pushing? That’s not like you. Normally you’d be over there whether she wanted you there or not.”

Richie grimaced. “Believe me I want to, but I’m afraid to push. If there’s going to be any chance of her coming home it’s got to be on her terms. You said it. I’m the one who fucked up, so I have no say in any of what happens now. She’s in control. What she says goes. Besides, I’m afraid of what upsetting her any more will do to the baby. All I can do is take whatever time she’ll give me and continue to plead my case.” He dropped into a chair and cradled his head in his hands. “I can’t lose her Jon.”

“Honey, I’m going to…..” Dorothea stepped into the room and stopped, her eyebrows snapping together. “What’s he doing here?”

Richie quickly stood up and backed away, hands lifted defensively. “Now Dot, I can explain.”

“I’ve heard your explanation.” She advanced towards him. “And I don’t buy it.”

“Don’t injure him too badly honey, Tori wants him to still be able to play.” Jon reminded her.

“A few bruises won’t prevent him from playing.” She stopped in front of Richie and had to fight to hang on to her anger. He had lost weight, his face was drawn and his eyes were dark and haunted. He looked like shit. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t use you for a work out dummy?”

He sighed. “I know I fucked up. If I could undo it all I would. But I can’t. All I can do is keep telling her how sorry I am and do whatever I have to to convince her to give me another chance.”

“And is Heather still in the picture?”

“Only as Ava’s mother. I told her that there could never be anything more between us.”

“And you think that she’s just going to accept that?” Not the Heather I know. Not in a million years!

“Yes, I think she will. She’s different since the therapy. She’s….softer, gentler…kinder.”

Dorothea snorted. “If you say so.” She looked at him and sighed. “When was the last time you ate?”

He shrugged. “This morning or lunchtime, I don’t remember.”

“How about sleep?”

He laughed shortly. “What’s that?”

“Well, you’d better avoid the vultures. If they see you they’ll have you back on the bottle, or drugs or both. You look like shit.”

“Gee, thanks Dot. It’s good to know I look as good as I feel.”

“Don’t look to me for sympathy. You brought it on yourself. You should have seen Tori a few weeks ago.”

“I know. Is she better then? Is the baby okay?”

“The baby’s fine. She’s a little better, although all this stress isn’t good. Carol’s making sure that she eats properly, but I don’t think she’s sleeping all that well. Of course when you reach the eight month, you don’t sleep well anyway.”

“I should be there to help her!” Richie growled in frustration.

“Yeah, well, you should have thought about that before you decided to take a trip down memory lane.”

“I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to her or the baby.”

“Don’t worry about that.” Jon assured him. “We’re making sure they’re both looked after.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chapter 248

“Aunt Tori, did you come for my birthday?” Jake greeted her with a hug.

“I sure did.”

“You didn’t come for my birthday.” Romeo pouted.

“Well, no, I was in L.A. But I sent you a present and called you special, right?”

His little face lit up and he hugged her. “Oh yeah!”

Stephanie took Tori’s present to put with the rest, and Romeo took her hand to lead her into the den where the family had gathered. This was just a family dinner tonight. Dorothea was having a party with all of Jake’s friends on Saturday. She settled onto the couch with a contented sigh, acknowledging to herself that she was probably going to need help getting up. Jesse pushed a footstool in front of her. She smiled and set her feet on it. “Thanks Jess.”

He shrugged. “Mom always said it made her feel better to put her feet up.”

“It does. Thanks.”

Romeo stood beside her, a frown creasing his little forehead. “What’s the matter Big Man?”

“There’s no room for me.” He gestured towards her rapidly diminishing lap.

“No I’m afraid Peanut’s taking it all right now. You can sit here beside me though.”

“Is him moving?” He asked as he climbed up on the cushion next to her. Jake took the one on the other side.

“Yes he….or she.. is. Want to see something really neat?” Both boys nodded. Tori lifted her shirt to bare her stomach and waited.

“What?” Jake looked confused.

“Just wait a minute and you’ll see.” Just then the baby visibly moved to one side.

“I saw it! I saw it! Wow!” Jake’s eyes were round. Tori looked up at the adults and exchanged smiles.

“Do it again!” Romeo demanded, one finger poking her gently.

“Well, I can’t make him do it, we’ll have to wait and see if he’ll do it on his own.”

“Sure you can.” Dorothea informed her, rising and heading to the bathroom. She returned with a washcloth soaked in warm water. Crouching in front of Tori, she placed it on the side of her swollen belly opposite the baby. Suddenly, the baby moved towards the warmth.

“Cool!” Steph crouched beside her mother. Even Jesse stepped closer to watch.

“Very cool.” Came from above her head. She tilted her head to see Jon standing behind the couch and watching. Meeting her gaze, he set a hand on her shoulder, squeezed and bent to kiss her forehead. Her eyes filled with tears at the thought of what Richie’s reaction might have been. She blinked rapidly. Don’t feel guilty! HE did this, not you! Although she knew her inner voice was right, it didn’t make her feel any better.

They were settled back in the den after dinner and Jake was just finishing opening his presents when the phone rang. Dorothea answered it, then handed the phone to Jake.

“Hi Uncle Richie!”

Tori stiffened. The adults – and Steph and Jesse – looked in her direction. “You don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to.” John Sr. assured her.

“But you’re going to have to deal with him at some point.” Jon reminded her.

“Yeah…uh huh….yeah…it’s cool…..yeah…thanks…yeah, she’s here.” Jake held the phone out Tori. “He wants to talk to you.”

Tori stared at the phone for a long moment, then took a deep breath and reached to take it. Deciding she didn’t want an audience, she started to stand up. A few grunts later she gave up. “Jesse, stop it and give me a hand.” Jesse could hardly stop laughing long enough to pull her upright. “Thanks. Brat!”

“Tori? What’s the matter? Are you alright?” Richie could hear the grunts and groans at the other end.

“That’s a loaded question, but if you’r referring to what you just heard, I was sitting on the couch and, well, Peanut’s making me slightly less agile these days and Jesse was too busy laughing to help me.” She answered as she headed for the back door, closing it quietly behind her.

There was silence for a moment, then he sighed. “So Peanut’s really growing huh?”

“Yeah.” There was that guilty feeling again. She pushed it away. “Missing out on these things is a consequence of the choice that you made Rich.”

“I know.” He hesitated. “Angel, I’m sorry.”

She flinched at the pet name. “Why Rich? Can you explain that to me at least? I gave you…..everything I had. Obviously it wasn’t enough. So, what was I missing? What can she give you that I can’t? Was it because she’s more beautiful than I am? What made you choose her?” The tears were running freely. She ignored them.

“I didn’t! I told Heather that it wasn’t going to happen. That a part of me will always love her, for Ava, but she’s not what I need or want in my life. You are. Tori, I chose you! You are more beautiful – inside and out – than she will ever be. You’re right. You’ve given me everything. Everything I could ever want or need, and much more than I deserve. I know I fucked up, but angel, I love you!”

“What about the last four months? What the hell was that? If you love me and you want me, then what decision did you have to make? Why was there a choice at all?”

He raked his hand through his hair. “I had to be sure. She…she seemed to be a different woman….more like the one I married. I had to be sure that I wouldn’t always be wondering ‘what if’. That wasn’t fair to you. To do that I had to spend time with her – with the new her. I knew it would be hard for you to understand – especially with the hormones affecting you so strongly. I didn’t want to upset you unnecessarily.” She snorted. “Yeah, I know, that didn’t work so well. But I swear that’s what my intentions were. I didn’t want to hurt you. I know I did, badly, and I’m sorry.”

She sighed. “How’s Ava?”

“Pissed at me. Missing you like crazy.” He paused. “I need to apologize for that phone call too. I already have to her. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I wanted to talk to you and you wouldn’t take my calls. I knew that you’d take hers. I had hoped that you wouldn’t want to be the one to tell her and you’d act like nothing was wrong. I didn’t mean to hurt her, I just wanted to talk to you.”

“What did you tell her?”

“That Daddy is a stupid idiot and a fool. She told me to smarten up, fix it and get you and Peanut back home real quick.” She smiled, but didn’t comment. “Since we’re on the topic of children, you don’t really think that I only wanted you to give me a child?” Silence. “Come on Tori, after everything we talked about in Hawaii?” His tone was reproachful.

“Well it never got put to the test did it? I got pregnant right away, so how do I know?”

“Angel, please believe me.” He didn’t know what else to say. “I love you!”

“And that’s supposed to make it all better? I’m just supposed to believe you? How can I trust anything you say ever again?”

He wanted to growl in frustration. “I know I have a lot to make up for, and I know that I have to earn your trust all over again. I’ll do whatever it takes. Will you come home – no shouldn’t be travelling. I’ll come to Jersey and we can sit down and talk this out face to face.”

“You can go wherever you want, but I’m not ready to see you right now. Not yet.”

“Baby, please just give me another chance!”

“I don’t know if I can Rich. I need to really think about this. I’m not sure I buy your explanation. I don’t know if it’s enough.”

He sighed. “Will you at least talk to me? Let me try to convince you?”

“Okay. But I’m not making any promises. You hurt me Richie. You made me believe that I was special and that we’d be together for ever. That we’d have that fairy tale ending. Then you showed me that fairy tales are for kids, and not all stories have a happy ending.” The tears started again.

Richie felt the ball in the pit of his stomach that had been there since she’d walked out the door, tightened even more. “I’m so sorry angel. Tell me what I can do to make it right.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if you can.” She felt her emotions starting to overwhelm her. “I gotta go.”

“I’ll call you later. I love you Tori. If you don’t believe anything else, please believe that.”

“Bye Richie.” She hung up and let the sobs come, her shoulders shaking with them. A blanket suddenly appeared around her shoulders. Even though it was May, the evenings were still cool.

Jon silently gathered her in his arms and just held her while she cried. He’d been watching from the kitchen window for the last few minutes. Now he rubbed her back. “One punch. Just let me get in one punch.”

She let out a chuckle and leaned against him a little more. “No. Don’t hurt him.”

“Why not? He deserves it.”

“Maybe, but Ava and Peanut still need a father, and you need a lead guitarist and songwriting partner.”

“He can still do all that missing a few teeth.”

She smiled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For making me laugh. For caring.”

He shrugged. “You’re family.”

“Aunt Tori, come have cake!” Jake called from the door.

“Coming buddy!” She wiped her eyes and let Jon lead her back inside.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chapter 247

Over the next few days, Tori’s personality slowly started to return. She even managed to slog through the backload of her e-mail, making notes on items she needed to talk to the staff about.

“Come on, let’s go shopping.” Dorothea interrupted her contemplation of t-shirts.

“Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“Not for me, for you.” Dorothea corrected her. “I’m betting that you don’t have a dress with you for Jon’s induction to the Jersey Hall of Fame.”

She had the red one, but there were too many memories attached to it for her to be comfortable wearing it. “Well, no, I hadn’t planned on going.”

“What? Of course you’re going. The whole family’s going.” Dorothea studied her for a moment, and guessed what she was thinking. “Shirley and Charlie are coming, but the rest aren’t able to make it.”

Tori gave in and spent the afternoon following her sister-in-law from store to store. Dorothea seemed to know what she was looking for. Tori knew better than to argue. Finally, in the fifth store they found it. It was the same blue as her eyes, with a deep v neck, two inch wide shoulder straps and a hemline just above the knee . The material was sparkly and clingy – so much so that Tori wasn’t sure she was comfortable with it.

“Look at me. I look like I swallowed a watermelon!”

“So? You’re pregnant Tori, don’t try to hide it, flaunt it!” Dorothea urged. She didn’t have the heart to remind her that she still had two months to go, and she was only going to get bigger.

“You’re sure it looks okay?”

“It’s perfect.”

The night of the induction, they all met at Jon and Dorothea’s. Jon searched Tori’s eyes and hugged her carefully. “You doing okay?”

She nodded and gave him an extra squeeze. “Yes, and thank you.”

“For what? I haven’t done anything.”


“Yeah, well, I’m glad that makes one of us happy.”

“Aunt Tori!” The kids came to greet her. She bent to hug the little ones, afraid that if she crouched down to their level, she’d never get up again.

“Hey! What was that?” Romeo touched the side of his face that had been pressed against her stomach.

Tori grinned. “That was your cousin kicking.”

“Really? Can I feel?” Jake reached out a hand. Barely waiting for his aunt’s consenting nod, he put both hands on her belly. Not to be left out, Romeo followed suit. “Cool!”

“Whoa! You’re really filling the doorway these days, aren’t you Bela! Maybe we should get you a ‘wide load’ sign.” Came from behind her.

Tori turned. “Maybe we should get a ‘space for rent’ sign for your head Shirley!”

David grinned. “See Karin, I told you she’d be alright. She’s a strong woman.”

Tori and Dorothea exchanged a look. Karin came forward and hugged her. “Are you okay?”

Tori nodded. “I’m getting there. With a little help from my family.”

“That’s what we’re here for. Don’t be too proud to lean on us when you need to.”

Tori’s eyes filled, but she nodded. She sensed David’s gaze. Looking up, she found him studying her. Their eyes locked for a long moment, then he silently opened his arms. She flowed into them and felt them close around her gently. His hands rubbed her back soothingly. “We’re here for you honey. He’s an asshole and an idiot. Are you sure I can’t go beat the shit out of him? Please?”

She chuckled. “Yes I’m sure. I wouldn’t want you to hurt your hands.”

“Can I hurt his?”

“Get in line Shirley.” Tony advised. Matt nodded. They both moved to hug their sister.

“No.” Karin answered. “He’s going to need them to pay the child support.”

“Ha ha. Shouldn’t we get going?” Tori didn’t want to talk about it.

“Yeah, let’s go.” Jon herded everyone out to the cars.

When they arrived at the Performing Arts Centre, Tori looked around at all the fans and reporters lining the sidewalk and took a deep breath. Tony helped her out of the car and escorted her towards the door. As flashbulbs went off in all directions, she tightened her grip on Tony’s arm and held her head high.

“Hey Tori!”

“Over here!”

“You look great!”

“Where’s Richie?”

“Are you here alone?”

Within seconds, Tori found herself surrounded and hidden from the vultures. The Bongiovi’s had closed ranks.

After the ceremony, there was a social gathering for all the inductees and their guests. Feeling a little closed in, tired of smiling at strangers and the sympathetic, watchful looks from her family, Tori stepped out onto the terrace outside the French doors of the large ballroom for some fresh air. A few minutes later, Karin came looking for her.

“You okay?”

Tori smiled ruefully and shrugged. “Depends on your perspective I guess. All things considered, I guess I’m okay.”


“But.” Tori sighed. “I miss him. In spite of everything. What does that say about me? I’m hurt and confused and angry, and…I miss him.” Her eyes filled. “I miss his silly jokes, I miss the way he always made me feel special, I miss him reading to Peanut every night, I miss curling up with him and the feeling of safety I find in his arms.” She drew in a shaky breath. “What am I going to do? How did it all go so wrong?”

Karin’s heart ached for her friend. “Have you talked to him?”

Tori shook her head. “No, well, other than to yell at him for putting Ava through that horrid phone call.”

“Yeah, that was a real nice move.” Sarcasm dripped from every word. She paused. “Do you still love him?”

Tori’s smile was sad. “I will always love him.”

“If he wanted you to come home and try again, would you?”

Tori sighed. “I don’t know. How could I ever trust him again? He lied to me and broke his promise. What possible reason could be enough to forgive that?”

“Do you want my opinion?” She waited until Tori nodded. “I think that you need to talk to him. Listen to what he has to say, then take as much time as you need to think everything through.”

Tori’s brows rose. “I thought you wanted to string him up?”

“Oh I do. For the pain he’s caused you I want him to hurt. Bad.” She sighed. “But more than that I want you to be happy. For the last year and a bit – with the exception of all this shit with Heather – you’ve been happier than I’ve ever seen you. He brought out the best in you. I really hope that he has a reasonable explanation for all this – something other than the lame ass attempt he’s come up with so far -for both of your sakes. I don’t know what will be reasonable for you, you’ll have to decide that. But I think that you have to at least hear him out. I know you and your sense of fairness. You won’t be able to live with yourself if you don’t.”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chapter 246

The next day, Tori had another visitor. Joan looked uncertain as she joined Tori on the porch. “Hi. Is it okay for me to me here?”

Tori took a deep breath. “Of course! Have a seat.”

Carol walked out with drinks and a plate of cheese and crackers. Tori started to struggle to her feet. “Carol, you didn’t have to do that. I could have done it.”

Carol waved her to her seat. “Sit. Relax. It’s no problem.” She set the plate of cheese close to Tori and pointed a finger at her. “Eat!”

Tori saluted her and picked up a cracker. Carol snickered. “Smartass.”

“I’m a Bongiovi aren’t I?” Tori retorted.

“Yes, you are.” And it’s about time we saw more of that.

When Carol had left them alone, Joan turned to Tori. “First of all, I’d like to say up front that I’m not here to make excuses for my son or plead his case – although he did ask me to check on you. He’s going to have to find his own way out of the mess he’s created. I know him better than anyone and I can honestly say even I’m astounded by the depth of his stupidity. I don’t know where it came from. I raised him better than that.” She paused to take a sip of her drink.

“I don’t blame you.” Tori assured her.

“As I said, I’m not here to make excuses – there are none, but I think I may be able to help you understand what was going on in his head.”

“That would be nice, because I’ve been trying to figure it out for two weeks, but nothing makes any sense to me.”

“It started back from the time the band made it big. Richie was always drawn to the glitz and glamour of the celebrity life. Jon was the face of the band, so Richie had to find his own path to the limelight. He gained notice by the women he dated. Some were nice enough, some made me shudder. Cher concerned me at first, but she actually taught him a lot about life in the spotlight and how to deal with the vultures. I always knew that they wouldn’t last. Then came Heather. Within a short time I knew she was going to be different. I could see it in the way he acted around her.” She hesitated. “I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone – not even Richie. Something about her didn’t sit right with me from the very beginning. It wasn’t anything that I could put my finger on, she just seemed.....fake to me. Like she was always playing a role. And I didn’t like what I saw happening with Richie. He was going along with all of her wishes. When Richie told us they were getting married, Adam and I hid our reservations and wished them happy. But she wasn’t what I wanted for him. I wanted him to find a strong, loving woman who would support him and help him without something having to be in it for her other than love – like Jon did. Someone like you. But Richie was obviously in love with her and if she was going to make him happy, then so be it. When Ava came along we were thrilled. It looked like Richie had been right. Then things started to go downhill. Heather didn’t want more children – sometimes we weren’t sure she wanted Ava. That was becoming a breaking point for Richie. Well, you know how badly he wants more children.”

Tori smiled slightly and rubbed her stomach. “Yes, he made that very clear right from the beginning.”

“When she finally called it quits, I wasn’t exactly unhappy – except for the way she did it. That little manoeuvre showed her to be the selfish, uncaring coward I always suspected she was. She didn’t care one bit about Richie’s feelings. Even through Adam’s illness, she didn’t provide much support for him or even for Ava. No, I can’t say I was sorry to see his legal ties to her broken.” She paused for another sip. “Richie knew that Adam and I weren’t huge fans of hers, and he wanted to prove us wrong. He saw the divorce as failure. His failure. He didn’t deal with that well. Then came Denise. Well, let’s just say that I’m very glad he came out of his fog and realized what a mistake that was. I’d thought that after he’d met you and seemed to know right away that you were the one for him, that he’d gotten over his feelings around the divorce. But after this….apparently I was wrong.”

Tori frowned. “So what you’re telling me, is that you think that his going back to Heather is so that he doesn’t feel like a failure for their marriage falling apart?”

Joan nodded. “Yes I do. By the way, has anyone told you that he hasn’t gone back to Heather?”

“Yet. After all, my side of the bed’s hardly cold.”

Joan shook her head. “Mark my words. The only woman he wants sharing his bed is you. You walking out has shaken him up. Brought him back to reality, so to speak. He has to keep on speaking terms for Ava’s sake, but he won’t be travelling down that road again. It’s a dead end.”

“How is Ava? She was pretty upset when I talked to her the other day.” Her eyes flashed blue fire. “Do you know that he hadn’t told her anything, and got her to call me to ask when I was coming home? When I told her I wasn’t, she wanted to know why and begged me not to leave. It broke my heart to hear her cry.”

Joan sighed. “I’m sorry he put both of you through that. If he was here, I’d smack him myself. Stupid idiot!”

Tori chuckled then sucked in a breath. “Oh.”

“What’s wrong? Is it the baby?”

“Yes, it’s the baby, but nothing’s wrong. Peanut’s just doing a little mid afternoon aerobics.” Tori assured her.

Joan chuckled. “Can I feel?”

“Sure.” Tori took her mother-in-law’s hand and set it on the spot where a little foot was tap dancing.

Joan smiled. “Strong kicks.” Tori nodded ruefully. “Just like his father.” At Tori’s raised brow she continued. “Richie always had big feet. Sometimes I thought he was going to break one of my ribs or so some serious damage to my organs the way he stomped around in there.”

Tori laughed. “Great. Something to look forward to over the next couple months.”

Joan grinned, then sobered. “Tori….whatever happens between you and Richie…I hope that you’ll let me see you from time to time.”

“Of course! You’re Peanut’s Nana! I’ll always want you to be a part of our lives.”

“Thank you.” Joan hugged her. “I’d better get going. If I can do anything for you, let me know. And if you have any questions, give me a call.”

“I will. And Joan….thank you. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

“As I said there’s no excuse for his behaviour, but maybe now you can understand where it’s coming from.” She smiled. “Of course understanding doesn’t lessen the urge to strangle him.”

Tori grinned. “At the very least!”

When Joan got home she immediately picked up the phone. “Richard? You are my son and I love you, but right now I could slap you for what you’ve done to that poor girl!”

Richie sighed. “I know Ma. How bad is she?”

“From what Carol told me, she’s a little better. She’s got some spark back. But she’s confused and hurting. By the way, what the hell is this about you getting Ava to call her and ask when she was coming home? Richard how could you?”

At the other end of the line, Richie squirmed. “She won’t take my calls and I wanted to talk to her. I knew she’d answer if Ava called.”

“And what about what that did to Ava? You didn’t tell her what was going on. She had to find out that way? And Tori had to tell her? Where is your head lately? You finally provide your daughter with a solid family life, then you rip it out from under her through sheer stupidity, then instead of sitting her down and explaining what was happening you try to take the coward’s way out and make Tori tell her. Real good parenting there Richard!”

“Frankly I was counting on Tori not wanting to to tell her and acting like everything was okay. Give me some hope that the situation wasn’t completely beyond repair. I didn’t tell Ava because I was hoping that I could get Tori to talk to me and sort everything out and get things back somewhere near where they were and I wouldn’t have to tell her anything. I didn’t want to hurt her too. I already broke up one family on her, I couldn’t bear to see the pain and disappointment in her eyes again. She loves Tori so much.”

Joan sighed. “Are you going to try to fix this or are you just going to sit on your ass in L.A. and let the best thing that’s ever happened to you walk out of your life forever?”

“She won’t talk to me! What am I supposed to do?”

“Do you want to be a part time father to another child?”


“Then use the sense that God gave you, practise your grovelling and DO SOMETHING! Sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to get the job done. If you want your wife back, you’re going to have to fight for her.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

Chapter 245

“How is she?” Dorothea asked her mother-in-law.

Carol sighed. “The doctor said that the baby is okay, but she’s worn out. But emotionally? She doesn’t want to talk, she just walks and sits for hours. She eats whatever I put in front of her, but it feels like I’m forcing her. I’d bet all of Jon’s money that if it wasn’t for the baby she wouldn’t eat at all. I don’t thing she’s sleeping much. Her normal spark is gone. John has even tried prodding her temper, but she won’t take the bait. It’s like she’s there, but she isn’t.”

Dorothea frowned. “Wow. She’s really depressed. I think I’ll come for a visit.”

“Good idea. Maybe you can get her to talk.”

An hour later Dorothea arrived with a body pillow. Carol directed her to where Tori was sitting on the back porch just staring into the distance.

“Hey there. How are you feeling?” Dorothea was shocked at the shell of a woman her sister-in-law had become.

Tori glanced up and managed a slight smile. “Not too bad.”

Dorothea decided that it was time to stop coddling her. “Bullshit. You look like hell. I brought you a body pillow. I remember what the last couple months were like, never being able to find a comfortable position to sleep. I found that the pillow really helped.”

“Thanks.” Tori looked down and rubbed her stomach.

“Peanut stretching?”

“Yeah. Feels like he’s trying to break out.”

They were silent for a few minutes then Dorothea sighed. “Tell me what happened.”

Tori shrugged. “He went back to Heather.”

“What do you mean by that?” Tori shrugged again. “Tori tell me everything. You need to talk about it, it’s eating you alive.”

This time it was Tori who sighed. “Apparently Heather’s therapy is working and she’s feeling much better. So much better in fact, that she’s realized what a huge mistake she made when she filed for divorce. She admits that she treated him badly and never gave him a chance to try and work through their problems. Basically, she wants him back. She wants to try again.”

“And Richie?”

“He’s been spending the last three months or so trying to decide which one of us he wants to be with….or so he tells me. He told me he was having problems with a song he was writing, and was going for a drive to clear his head, but he was actually going to see Heather. If I questioned him on his absence, he’d snap at me, then do something wonderful or romantic to try to make up for it.”

“That’s not like Richie.”

“I didn’t know that. I’d never been through album prep with them before. I bought the excuses.”

“You don’t believe that he was trying to decided between the two of you?”

Tori shrugged. “Maybe. To be honest, I don’t know what to believe anymore. I’m wondering if this whole relationship has been a farce from the beginning.”

Dorothea frowned. “To what end?”

“A child.”

“What makes you say that?” Dorothea was shocked.

“When I asked him if he’d made a decision, he said ‘I’m here aren’t I’. Then I asked him if it wasn’t for Peanut, would he still be here, and he said he didn’t know. Let’s face it, I’m not his usual type. I’m not blonde, I’m not built like a model….so what attracted him to me? Oh he’s given me all kinds of bullshit about being ‘real’ and caring and loving….”

“And you disagree with all of that?”

“No, I was raised to be that way. But I’m not convinced that any of that was the determining factor. We all know how badly he wants another child. Heather wasn’t prepared to give him one. I was.”

Dorothea shook her head. “Is that what you really think?” Tori shrugged. “Okay Tori enough of the pity party. You’re better than that.”

Tori’s head snapped up. “You think I’m wrong?”

“I know you’re wrong. Tori, whatever may be going through his head about Heather, he loves you. I’ve known him for twenty-five years, and I’ve never seen him care about anyone the way he cares about you.”

“Then why did he pick her? I did everything I could think of to make him happy, to get him to choose me, but it wasn’t enough.” Tears streamed down her face. “What does she have that I don’t? What’s wrong with me? Why wasn’t I good enough for him?”

Dorothea sighed and took Tori in her arms, her mind racing with various ways of inflicting serious injury on her brother-in-law. “Nothing’s wrong with you. I don’t know what he sees in her. And frankly, you’re too good for him.” She shook Tori lightly. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to him and if he’s too blind to see that, it’s his loss.” When Tori remained silent, her voice became firmer. “Tori, snap out of it! You’re a Bongiovi, and beyond that you’re a strong, independent woman. You don’t need him. You’ve got a job I thought you loved, a family who loves you and will support you in anyway you need. You are not alone. If Richie wants to be a stupid asshole, let him. But don’t let him drag you down with him. You’ve got a child to think about now. Sitting here wallowing in self pity isn’t helping anyone and is hurting you and putting the baby at risk. It’s time to pull yourself together and get on with your life.”

Tori blew out a breath. “I’m not sure I can.”

“Bullshit! Are you just going to roll over and play dead? Are you going to let him take everything from you? Is that the kind of example you want to set for your child? That’s not the Tori I know. The Tori I know would tell anyone who treated her like he has to go fuck himself and then show him that she could live just fine without him. Live Tori, not just exist.” Deciding she’d done all she could for the momet, Dorothea stood. “Don’t let him beat you Tori. Don’t let her beat you.You’re three times the woman she is. Show him exactly what he’s throwing away.”

Tori looked up at her, a small spark in the dark blue depths of her otherwise dull eyes. Standing, she hugged her. “Thank you.”

Dorothea nodded. “Make sure you call us if you need anything.”

“I will.”

Jon looked up at the slamming of the front door and watched his wife storm into the room and pick up the phone.

“Are the kids home yet?” Her voice was hard and full of anger.

“No.” He waited to see who was going to be on the receiving end of her temper.

“Good. They shouldn’t hear this.” When the call was answered, she cut loose. “Do you know what you are Sambora?”

Richie sighed. “A fucking son of a bitch?”

“I was going to say a stupid fucking asshole, but son of a bitch works. Do you have any idea what you’ve done to her? Do you care?”

“Yes I care! And I’ve got a pretty good idea what I’ve done.”

“Do you? Do you really? She thinks that your whole relationship was just some elaborate plan on your part to get another child. Since Heather wouldn’t give you one, you went out and found someone who would. And now that Heather wants you back, and there’s a baby on the way, you’re throwing Tori to the side. You’ve gotten what you wanted from her. I HOPE YOU’RE FUCKING PLEASED WITH YOURSELF!” She started to pace in her agitation. Jon sat frozen, feeling his temper rise with every word.

“SHIT! That’s what I was afraid she meant. Jesus! I love her! How could she think that all I wanted her for was to give me a child?”

“What the hell was she supposed to think when almost as soon as she gets pregnant you start screwing around with your ex-wife, trying to decide which one you want to be with – like there should be any question! – and then when she asks if you’d still be around if it wasn’t for the baby you tell her YOU DON’T KNOW?!! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT Richie?” She let out a frustrated growl. “God I wish you were here. I’d drop kick you into next week!”

Richie groaned. “You can’t make me feel any worse than I already do.”

“Wanna bet?”

“Dot, I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt her.”

“Well you sure have a strange way of showing it.”

“I know. I know I’ve fucked up big time. The comment about whether I’d still be around if it wasn’t for Peanut….I was trying to be honest. I couldn’t separate the two of them. To my mind, my choice was between Heather and Tori and Peanut. I hadn’t given any consideration to a choice between Heather and Tori.”

“There shouldn’t even be consideration of a choice at all! Why would you even have to think about it for three seconds, let alone three months?!”

“I don’t know how to explain it Dot. Heather seemed to be so much better…different. She was my first real love, and I loved her for a long time. If I stayed with Tori without being sure of my feelings for a healthy Heather, I would always wonder, if it was the depression that caused the problems in our marriage, if we could have made it if she was healthy. And that wouldn’t be fair to Tori.”

“And screwing around with Heather behind her back was? You’d better come up with a better explanation than that! Talk about lame excuses! And so what if Heather’s healthy? You’re married to Tori now. Heather’s in the past. After everything she put you through how can you even think of her any other way?”

“For the record, I didn’t sleep with Heather. But, I’ll agree that meeting with her without talking to Tori about it was a pretty rotten thing to do. As for the rest….I know it sounds horrible, but I don’t know how else to explain it.”

“So you let the best thing that’s ever happened to you walk out the door? HOW COULD YOU BE SO STUPID?”

Richie winced. “I know, I know, IKNOW! Dot, believe me I know. If I could do it over I never would have let her walk out that door. But she was upset, and I didn’t want to make it worse. You may not believe me – and she probably won’t either – but I was thinking about her well being. Her and the baby. I thought I’d wait until she’d calmed down, then talk to her. But she left and now she won’t talk to me. Dot…I love her. I miss her….I’d do anything to take it all back. I’ll do anything to have her back again.”

She snorted. “Well you’re going to need a miracle. You’ve broken her heart…and her trust. If it were me, I wouldn’t believe anything you said.”

“I know. But I have to have faith. I have to. I love her. I have to try.”

“Hurt her again and I’ll have your guts for garters, and your head for a punching bag.”

“Warning noted.”

Jon watched her hang up the phone and sigh. “What happened to abiding by Tori’s wishes and not taking sides?”

Dark eyes flashed his way. “That was before I saw her and the condition she’s in.” She stomped off towards the gym.

Jon followed her and watched for several minutes while she beat on the bag with a flurry of punches and kicks. “She’s that bad?”

“Jon, I didn’t recognize her. She’s pale, her eyes are sunken with black circles…but worst of all, she had no….life… in her…no.. fight. She wasn’t the Tori we all know.” Her eyes filled.

He wrapped her in his arms. “She’ll be okay. We’ll make sure of that.” He rubbed her back. “Are you sure I can’t go beat the crap out of him?”

She leaned back, smiling when he kissed her. “You’re sister wouldn’t like that.” Turning she kicked the bag again. At his questioning look she grinned. “She didn’t say I couldn’t hurt him.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chapter 244

Tori spent the next week walking the beach during the day and sitting for long hours watching the shrimp boats return to Tybee Island with their escort of flashing silver dolphins and swooping gulls. At dusk she returned to the cosy historic Inn where she was staying. It was run by a middle aged couple with two children. She ate because Peanut needed her to, not because she had any appetite, no matter what delicious delicacies Lydia, her hostess, tried to tempt her with. Then she retired to her room to surf the T.V. and rest her body. She could say she slept, but she’d be lying. At the most she’d doze for a few minutes, maybe half an hour at a time. The effects were beginning to show. Her eyes were sunken and lifeless, with dark circles around them, her cheeks were drawn, her skin pale beneath the tan she’d acquired on the beach.

Her activities were peaceful, but her mind was anything but. As much as she tried to focus on the future, her thoughts kept drifting back over the last three months, then the last year, reassessing every conversation, every action and wondering if there was something she could have done differently to make him choose her.

For the most part, everyone left her alone. Her mother and Karin had both called to check in on her a couple times, and Jon had called to ask her if she would talk to Richie. She’d said no. The wounds were too fresh, too raw, too painful. She knew she’d have to deal with him at some point, but she needed a little more distance first.

On Wednesday she was getting ready to head back to the Inn when her phone rang. When she checked the number, her stomach clenched. A big part of her wanted to ignore it, but she couldn’t do it. Bracing herself she pushed the button. “Hello?”


“Hi Bean.”

“Where are you?”

“Savannah, Georgia.”

“What are you doing there?”

“Exploring. The Magnolia trees are in full bloom and they’re beautiful. And there are a bunch of dolphins that follow the shrimp boats back to port. They jump really high and are very playful.” Tori purposely misunderstood Ava’s question.

“When are you coming home?”

Tori swallowed hard. “I…I’m not sweetie. It’s not my home anymore.”

“But…but…why? What happened? Is Daddy leaving too?”

“No sweetie, Daddy’s not leaving.” She could hardly speak. “It’s…I….it’s just not going to work out between Daddy and I.”

“What about Peanut?”

“Don’t worry, you’ll still see Peanut.”

“You can’t leave us!” Ava was in tears. “We’re supposed to be a family. Why are you leaving? What did we do?”

Oh God! “You didn’t do anything Bean. I love you very much.”

“Then why?”

Tori sniffed and wiped at the tears running down her cheeks. Her heart was breaking all over again. “You’ll have to ask Daddy to explain it to you.” Because God knows I can’t.

“She said to ask you to explain.” Ava’s voice indicated that she’d turned away from the phone.

Sadness turned to anger. “Is Daddy there?”

Sniff! “Yes. I don’t want you to leave Tori. Please!”

“I didn’t want to leave you either Bean. You’re a beautiful, caring, wonderful girl Ava, and I will always love you. Remember that.” She took a deep breath. “Can I talk to Daddy now?”

“Okay. Bye Tori. I love you too.” Defeat echoed in every word. She’d been through this before and knew there was no use arguing.

“Angel? How are….”

“YOU FUCKING SON OF A BITCH! How DARE you do that to her. To ME! You don’t tell her anything and expect me to try to explain? Be a man Rich. Do your own dirty work. Have the balls to explain to your daughter what you did.”


“The baby’s fine. I know that’s what you’re really concerned about. What this whole farce of a marriage has been about. What this whole last year has really been about. Don’t worry, you’ll get your visitation rights because the law says I have to. But don’t even think about fighting for custody, because with your record, it won’t matter how much money you have, I’m sure the judge will see who the fit parent is. Next time, you might want to try a professional surrogate and a contract. Much more honest that way.”

“Tori! That’s not what….”

She snapped the phone shut and sat curled around herself as sobs racked her body. She didn’t sleep at all that night.

Two days later she returned to the Inn for lunch. Lydia was crossing the lobby when she walked in the door, and waved her over. “Tori!” Tori had made sure that everyone called her by her first name right from the beginning. She no longer felt like ‘Mrs. Sambora’.

“Hi Lydia.”

Lydia frowned. “You need to eat more, and get some sleep. The baby needs you to take better care of yourself.”

Tori managed a small smile. “Yes mom.” She started to walk away.

Lydia placed a detaining hand on her arm. “There’s a couple waiting for you in the lounge.” She nodded in the direction of the small room off the side of the lobby where there were several chairs and a couch.

Tori frowned, but sighed in resignation. “Thanks Lydia.” She walked into the lounge expecting to see Jon and Dot. Instead she found John Sr. and Carol. “Hi.”

Carol smothered a gasp. John took one look at her and his frown turned black. “That does it. Go pack your things, you’re coming home with us.”

She saw the muscle twitch in his jaw as he clenched it. “John I appreciate the offer, but…”

“No arguments! You’re coming with us and that’s final!”


“No buts. Have you looked in a mirror lately? You look like death warmed over. You obviously aren’t taking care of yourself….or my grandchild.”

Her hands went defensively to her stomach. “The baby’s fine. And so am I.”

“No you’re not. But you will be. Now go pack.”

“John, really, I’m fine.”

“Victoria! I don’t want to hear another word about it. Go pack. Carol will help you.”


“Enough! Not. Another. Word!”

She might have been forty years old, and he might not be the father who raised her, but he had that stern parental tone down pat, and the child in her responded. Plus, she recognized the stubborn set of his chin. She looked at Carol for help.

Carol smiled. “Where do you think you got it from? Do you need me to help you pack?”

Tori shook her head. “No. I didn’t unpack that much.”

John watched her climb the stairs, then stormed outside where he slammed his fist into the side of the building, then shook it to relieve the stinging. “GOD DAMN HIM!”

Carol took his hand between hers and inspected for damage. “I don’t think you broke anything.”

“Did you see her? Did you see her Carol? Did you see what he did to my little girl? If I could get my hands on him right now I’d kick his ass!”

“I know, and I’d help you. But he’s not here, and right now we need to focus on Tori. We need to get her home and make sure that she and the baby are alright.”

Their departure was delayed long enough for Carol to make sure Tori ate a good lunch, then they climbed into the car.

“Jon and Dorothea would like you to stay with them.” Carol began.

“No!” Tori responded. “I mean…”

Carol waved a hand. “Dorothea figured you would say that and she understands why. So you’re staying with John and I.”

“That’s not necessary.”

“Necessary or not that’s where you’re staying. At least until the baby’s born.”

“But I don’t want to impose…”

“It’s not imposing. We want you there.”


“Victoria!” That father’s voice again. Carol placed a restraining hand on his arm. He sighed. “I couldn’t be there for you growing up. Let me help you now.”

Tori knew when she was beaten. And she was too tired to fight any more. She nodded and leaned back against the seat and watched the trees passing by her window.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chapter 243

In New Jersey that feeling was echoed by several of Tori’s family members.

“What the hell happened?” John Sr. asked his eldest son.

“All I know is that she believes that he’s still in love with Heather. She wouldn’t tell me anymore.” Jon replied.

“She wouldn’t.” Dorothea agreed. When they looked at her she explained. “From the very beginning she was concerned about even getting involved with Richie. She was afraid that if things went sour it would cause problems between the two of you. She was determined that she would not be responsible for that happening.” She watched her husband pace the room. “When are you going to get her?”

“She begged me not to. She wants to be alone for awhile.”

“Even with the baby coming?” Carol asked.

“She said that there’s a hospital there, and that she’ll be fine.”

“Oh she’ll be fine, but she’ll be here.” John Sr. confirmed. “She may have asked you not to go, but that doesn’t apply to me. I’ll give her another week, then I’m going to get her.”

The phone rang. Jon looked at the display and blew out a breath before he answered it.

“What the hell’s going on Rich? Why is my very pregnant sister alone on the other side of the country from her husband?”

“Let me talk to her.”

“I can’t. She’s not here.”

“What do you mean she’s not there?”

“Just what I said. She’s….not….here.” Jon bit out. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t hop the next flight out there and beat some sense into you.”

“Where is she? She’s not at her parents or Karin’s and if she’s not with you, where did she go?” Richie demanded. He hadn’t been concerned about her safety because he’d assumed she’d gone either to her parents or to Jon. “Have you talked to her?”

“I’m still waiting to hear a reason.”

“What? Oh, because I’m the father of her child?”

“So? The family will look after both of them. Not good enough. Is she right? Are you still in love with Heather?”

“You have talked to her! Where is she? Is she alright? How’s the baby?”

“The baby’s fine. I’m not sure you have any right to any other answers.”

“Dammit man, tell me where she is!”

“You answer my question first. Is Tori being hormonal or is she right? Are you still in love with Heather?”

“No! Not the way she thinks anyway.”

“Then why does she think that you are?”

“Because she saw pictures of Heather and I kissing.”

“I take that it was more than a friendly mother-of-my-child kiss?”

“Yes.” He admitted. “And when she asked me about them, I couldn’t lie.”

“What the hell did you do Rich?” Jon’s grip on the phone tightened as he fought to keep his temper from exploding.

Richie sighed. “I fucked up. Heather has been contacting me again about her problems. She told me that she was feeling a whole lot better. That her therapy was really helping. A couple months ago she told me that she realized that she’d made a huge mistake. That she realized how horribly she’d treated me and that she still loved me and that she wanted to try again. I’ve been meeting with her, talking, to decide what I really wanted.” He hesitated. “I love Tori,….but Heather was my first real love. We had a good thing for a long time. It tore me up when she ended our marriage, but a part of me still loved her, and probably always will.”

“So you broke my sister’s heart for what? A bit of nostalgia? A little fling for old times sake?”

“No! It wasn’t like that. I had to be sure. I love Tori, but I had to be sure of where my heart was at. For her sake as well as mine. I didn’t want there to be any regrets. No ‘what ifs’. I had hoped to have it all sorted out before she found out. I didn’t want to hurt her any more than I had to.”

“Well, that worked well.” Jon’s sarcasm was cutting. “And are you sure now?”

“Yes! Tori’s the only one I want, and the only regret that I have is that I hurt her so badly while I was trying to sort out my feelings.” He paused. “Jon, I know I have a lot to make up for, and that she may not believe me or forgive me, but I have to try.”

“So call her. She has her cell.”

“I’ve tried. I can’t get through. I think she’s blocking my calls.”

“Then I guess she’s not ready to talk to you yet.”

“I can’t accept that. I have to talk to her. I need to talk to her. You gotta help me man. I…I’m lost without her.”

Jon frowned. “Have you been drinking?” If anything would cause a relapse, his pregnant wife leaving him would probably do it.

“No. I won’t deny I’ve thought about it, but I know now that it won’t help.” He’d thought about it, but there was no point. No amount of alcohol would dull this pain.

“Why did you just let her walk away? Didn’t you try to stop her?”

“Shit Jon, she’s six months pregnant! She was upset enough. I didn’t want to put her blood pressure – and her hormones - into the stratosphere. I thought I’d let her calm down first and then try to explain it to her. I hadn’t counted on her cutting off all contact. Are you going to help me try to fix this?”

After a long silence, Jon sighed. “She’s in Savannah. I can’t make any promises, but I’ll talk to her.”

“Thanks man.”

“Don’t thank me. I’m doing it for her, not you. You, I’d like to skin alive with a dull knife for being so stupid and hurting her so badly. But she asked me not to take sides. You might want to stay away from my wife, my dad and my brothers for awhile though. She hasn’t handcuffed them yet and to say that they’re pissed would be putting it mildly.”

Richie nodded. He hadn’t expected anything else. “And the guys?”

“You’re safe from Shirley. Tori told Charlie to keep him leashed. The Cubano is still loose though as far as I know.”

“Jon, I have to ask. How come you’re not going Bongiovi on my ass? I expected ranting, raving, swearing, threats to certain parts of my anatomy….how come you’re so calm?”
“Oh, I’ve been doing all of those things. Don’t think I haven’t,…but…” He sighed. “…Tori doesn’t want to be the cause of problems between us and I’m trying to give her that. I don’t want to add to her burden. You’ve done enough of that for both of us. Besides I want her to be happy, and until all this shit with Heather, you were doing a good job of making her happy. And I know how much she helped pull you through that mess last year. You’re good for each other. I’d like to think that you can work this out, at least I think you both deserve the opportunity to try. But Rich, so help me God, if you cause her any more pain, I’ll use your guts for guitar strings, your teeth for piano keys, and make sure that the family jewels you’re so proud of get reset and resized – and I don’t mean bigger!”

Richie winced. “I hear ya, and I wouldn’t blame you. Believe me man, I don’t want to hurt her anymore. I promise I’ll do everything I can to make her happy, if she’ll just give me the chance. I know how badly I fucked up. All I’m asking for is a chance to make it up to her, and prove to her that I mean it, and that it’s worth taking the risk.”

“It’s not me you have to convince.”

“I know. But I can’t convince her if she won’t talk to me.”

Hanging up the phone, Jon stared out the window for a moment, then slammed his hand against the wall. “Dammit!”

Dorothea smiled sympathetically. “You really want to tear him apart don’t you?”

He nodded and blew out a breath. “Yes, but he’s also my best friend.” He glanced around at his family. “This really sucks. I want him to be happy, but how can I ignore the pain he’s caused her? How could he be so stupid?” Everyone wanted to know the answer to that one.

“I know it’s hard honey, but you’re going to have to abide by her wishes. We’ll be here for her and help her any way we can.” Dot rubbed his back. “We’ll get her through this.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chapter 242

A week later, Tori was walking along the beach near Savannah when her cell phone rang. She pulled it out of her pocket, checked the number and sighed. She guessed she should be thankful that he’d left her alone this long. She debated about answering, but knew he would only keep calling until she did.


“What the hell is going on Tori?”

“Hi Jon, I’m fine thanks, how are you?”

“Bullshit! If you were fine, you’d be home in L.A. with your husband, preparing for the birth of your child instead of…where the hell are you anyway?”

“Savannah. I always wanted to visit here. It’s a very beautiful historic city. You should see it, the magnolia’s are in full bloom. It’s quite a sight and the scent is heavenly. And the food is great.”

“And why are you on the other side of the country from where you belong?”

“I don’t belong there anymore.” She swallowed hard. “He doesn’t want me Jon. He’s still in love with Heather.”

“Don’t be silly! Of course he wants you! As for Heather, she’s Ava’s mother and he wants to keep on friendly terms, but he’s not in love with her.”

She sighed. “Yes he is Jon. He as much as admitted it.”

There was a long pause. “Son of a bitch! I’ll skin him alive!”

“No you won’t. You’ll leave him alone.”

“Like hell! I can’t just stand by and let him hurt my sister like that without doing…something!”

“Yes you can or you’ll never see me again. This is between Richie and me.”

He sighed. “Come to New Jersey. Or better yet, I’ll come and get you.”

“Thank you, but no. I’m going to stay right here.”


“NO Jon!” She took a deep breath. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m fine.”

“What about the baby?” He tried a different tack.

“There are hospitals here you know.” She responded dryly.

“So you plan to go through this alone?”

“I’ll let you know when the baby’s born.”

“Why won’t you let me come get you?”

“I swore I’d never come between you. I meant it. I don’t want you taking sides.”

“But you’re my sister!”

“And he's your best friend and I’m asking you to stay out of it. Please Jon! Just let me try and find some peace and figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”

Another long pause. “Do you need any money?”

She snorted. “No. He keeps putting some into my account.” He knew she’d refuse to touch the household account she had access to.

“And what does that tell you?”

“That he wants to make sure that the baby and I are taken care of. I never said he didn’t live up to his responsibilities or that he didn’t care about me. He just loves her more.”

Jon sighed. “What am I supposed to tell him when he calls?”

“That I’m safe and that I’ll be just fine.”

“Can I tell him where you are?”

“If he wants to know. I’m not hiding. I just need to be by myself for awhile.”

“Okay. Take care of yourself Tori. Call if you need anything.”

“I will. Thanks Jon.”

She knew she’d better call her mother before she heard about it from the gossip rags. Finding a pretty spot, she sat down on the sand and stared at the phone in her hand. She didn’t know what to say. She took a deep breath and dialled.


“Hi Mom.”

“Tori! How are you? Is everything okay? Did Richie tell you I called yesterday?”

“I’m fine Mom, and no he didn’t tell me you called. I…I’m not in L.A.”

“What do you mean, you’re not in L.A? Richie didn’t say anything about taking a trip. Should you be traveling this close to your due date?”

“Mom.” She interrupted her mother’s flow of words. “I’m in Savannah. Alone.”

“Alone?” Helen digested what Tori hadn’t said. “What happened honey?”

For the first time since she left L.A., Tori found herself fighting back tears. “He went back to his ex-wife.” She tried to laugh. “I guess I’m just not meant to be married.”

“Come home.”

“No. At least not yet. I need some time to sort things out and figure out what to do next. Besides, Richie wants the baby born in the U.S.”

“I guess I can understand that. We can always get him or her dual citizenship here later.” Helen paused. “Then at least go to New Jersey. You should have family around in case you need anything. Especially when the baby comes.”

Tori smiled. “You and Jon! I’ll be perfectly fine here. There are plenty of good doctors and a hospital close by.”

“There’s such a thing as being too independent you know. Don’t let your pride interfere with your health – or the baby’s.”

“I won’t Mom, I promise. I just want to be by myself for awhile.”

“Okay, but check in often please so I don’t worry and lay awake at night picturing you lying dead in alley somewhere. And call as soon as you even think you’re in labour! Or when you’re ready to talk about what happened.”

“I will Mom, I promise.”

Hanging up Tori blew out a breath. One more call to make.


“Hi Karin, it’s me.”

“Hey Tori how’s our little mother-to-be? Coping with the heat and smog of L.A. alright?”

“Actually, I’m not in L.A. I’m in Savannah.”

“Aren’t you a little close to term to be traveling across the country? What’s Richie thinking?!”

“He doesn’t have anything to say about it. I came on my own. I’m not that close.”


“What happened?”

Tori knew that she wouldn’t get away with the little bit she’d told her mother and Jon – not with Karin. She’d keep at it until she got the whole story. “A photographer showed me pictures of him and Heather. Very cozy pictures. Recent pictures. When I confronted him, he admitted that he’d been meeting with her.” She swallowed. “He told me that she’d realized what a mistake she’d made letting him go and that she wanted him back. When I asked him if he was still in love with Heather and wanted to be with her, he couldn’t deny it. So I left.”

“The son of a bitch!” Karin snarled. “And he just let you leave?”

That was the part that hurt the most. “He didn’t even try to stop me. He just told me to be careful.”

“Oh honey! I’m so sorry. When are you coming home?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do yet. Right now I’m just looking for a peaceful place to lick my wounds and focusing on the baby.”

“Why didn’t you come home or go to the family in New Jersey?”

“I can’t face the pitying looks of the people at home. I’m 0 for 2 in the marriage department you know. As for New Jersey…well I don’t want to put them in the middle of this. They’ve known him for a lot longer than they’ve known me. There’s also the band to consider. I don’t want to be responsible for any bad feelings between them. Please make sure Shirley understands that. ” She knew better than to ask Karin not to tell David what had happened. “Tell him I’m fine and he’s to leave Richie alone.”

“You’re a better person than I am. I’d like to see the bastard strung up by his most prominent appendage!” Karin growled.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chapter 241

Tori sat out by the pool, the envelope on the table beside her, cautioning herself not to jump to conclusions. Remember the episode with Denise. But she knew these pictures were recent. The shirts Richie was wearing were ones she’d bought him a month ago. She blew out a ragged breath and tried to come up with an acceptable explanation. She couldn’t.

“Angel? I didn’t hear you come back. How long have you been home?” Richie had been passing through the living room when he’d noticed her sitting outside.

“A while.”

The coolness in her voice sent warning bells off in his brain. He stepped closer and felt his chest tighten at the look of….despair was the only word that fit…on her face. “Tori? What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

“That’s what I was going to ask you.” She picked up the envelope and held it out to him.

Frowning, he pulled out the pictures, flipped through them, put them back in the envelope, sat down in the other chair and sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry that it happened? Or sorry that I found out?” She struggled to keep her voice even.

“Honestly? Both.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”

Her heart was an aching lump in her chest. “Why don’t you start from the beginning and explain to me how it came about that my husband had his ex-wife in his arms and his tongue down her throat?”

He winced, but didn’t deny it. “You know how it started – with her DUI and her wanting to talk to me about her issues.”

She frowned. “I thought we’d settled that. I showed you that she was playing you and you agreed not to meet with her without her doctor there.”

He nodded. “Yes, and I didn’t. I stayed away.” He paused. “Until Ava’s first soccer game.”

She thought for a minute. “The one I missed because I was sick.”

He nodded. “She told me how much better she was feeling and how she’d come to some new found realizations with her thereapy. She begged me to meet with her.”

“And you did. After everything we talked about you met with her.” Things started to fall into place for her. “And of course, knowing how I’d react, you did it behind my back. All those drives because you were ‘trying to clear your head’ and work through your writer’s block. You didn’t have writer’s block at all did you?”

He shook his head. “No. It was the only thing I could think of that you wouldn’t question. I didn’t want to upset you.” His lips twisted wryly. “But I felt so guilty going behind your back, that I ended up snapping at you and upsetting you anyway.”

“Why Richie? I still don’t understand that part. Before you said that you felt responsible for the break up of your marriage and you felt obligated to help her and prove her wrong. Well, if she’s so much better now, why did you need to meet with her?”

He stood abruptly and paced in front of her. “I don’t know how to explain it to you. I just needed to see for myself that she was doing better.” At her sceptical look he snapped. “What do expect me to do? I can’t just ignore her. She’s the mother of my child!”

“And what am I?” She snapped back. “Why do her feelings mean more to you than mine?” He had no answer for her. She sighed and braced herself. She had a feeling the worst was yet to come. “And that?” She waved at the envelope.

His hand raked through his hair again and his gaze fixed on some object in the distance. “She told me that her therapy has helped her to understand how selfish she’d been, how she’d ignored me and my feelings, only caring about herself, and blaming me for things that weren’t my fault.” He hesitated and Tori’s stomach clenched. “She…she told me that she realized that she’d made a really big mistake when she let Denise talk her into filing for divorce. That she should have talked to me and tried to work it out. She..” He stopped. He couldn’t say the words that he knew were her greatest fear come true.

“She wants to try again. She wants you back.” Tori finished for him. He nodded. She waited, but he didn’t say anything else. “And? Have you decided?”

He slanted her a look. “I’m here aren’t I?”

Her lips twisted. “Until she calls and wants you. Then you go running to her.” Raising her hand to wipe away a tear, her watch caught her eye. She turned her wrist. The professional in her took over. “Don’t you have a meeting today with the director about that movie score?”

He looked at his watch. “Shit! I’ll have to reschedule.”

She shook her head. “They’re in final production, the marketing has already started and they’re due to release in a month. There’s no time to reschedule.”

“Fuck!” He glanced at her apologetically. She waved at him to go. “We’ll continue this as soon as I get back.”

She nodded. He was at the door when she stopped him. “Richie? One question before you go. If it wasn’t for Peanut, would you still be here?”

He stared at her for a long minute. “I don’t know.” The pain in her eyes was almost more than he could bear. “I’m sorry.” He turned and was gone.

She turned her face up to the sun and struggled to absorb the pain. “At least he was honest.” An hour later she’d come to a decision – not that she had much of a choice – dragged herself to her feet and went inside.

“Mrs. Tori? Are you okay?” Rosa was concerned at the look on her face and the air of defeat surrounding her.

“No Rosa, I don’t think I am. But I will be.”

Rosa frowned as she watched Tori climb the stairs. She’d intended to go into their bedroom, but instead found herself in Peanut’s room. As her gaze touched on each item she remembered the day Richie had done all of this for her, all the hopes and dreams the room represented. Suddenly it hit her that it was all gone. Everything she’d envisioned her future to be, destroyed in the space of a few hours. She sank into the rocking chair as her legs gave way and grief overwhelmed her.

When her tears subsided, she sighed heavily, stood, walked into their bedroom, pulled out a suitcase and began to pack. There was nothing else to do. She’d come to the conclusion that she would always take second place in Richie’s heart, and she couldn’t live like that. She wouldn’t live like that. She deserved better.

He saw her suitcases sitting in the foyer when he walked in the door. He found her in the living room standing by the window, staring out at the pool, her hands absently rubbing her belly.

“You’re leaving.” He stated quietly.

She turned to look at him. “Can you deny what those pictures show? That you’re still in love with her? That you want to be with her?”

He didn’t answer.

She closed her eyes against the pain. She nodded. “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m tired of fighting for something that only one of us wants, so yes, I’m leaving.” She waited for his response, hoping that he would argue with her, tell her she was wrong, that he really wanted her, beg her not to go….something!

“Where will you go?”

Her last hope died. She’d fought and she’d lost. The best she could do was accept her defeat and leave with as much dignity as possible. She shrugged. “Back east. Closer to my family.” Her voice was dead, no life to it at all, but she didn’t cry. Tears came from hope. She had none left. “I’ll make sure you’re notified about the baby.”

He nodded. The line of her jaw and the glint in her eye told him that arguing would just be a waste of breath. He knew the signs of Bongiovi stubbornness. “Be careful.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chapter 240

Sitting in the back of a limo, waiting their turn, Tori looked out and saw Jon and Dorothea climb out of the limo ahead of them and pose for pictures. When their car moved into position and the door opened Richie stepped out first. Jon heard the crowd and reporters shout Richie’s name, turned and walked back to the curb.

“Hey man. How was your flight?”

“Hey. Flight was fine. Tonight might be another story.”

Jon’s brows rose. “Oh? Why?”

Richie sighed. “You’ll see.”

Tori realized very quickly that between the low slung car and Peanut, she was going to need help if she wanted to get out with any grace at all. She maneuvered herself to the door and waited for Richie to give her a hand. And waited. And waited. Finally, she reached out a hand and swatted his leg, effectively disrupting their conversation.

“Uh, a little help here please.”

Richie grinned. “Oops. Sorry angel.” He reached in to grip her arm.

Jon glanced in and reached to grab her other arm. He looked at Richie. “One, two, three, pull!”

Very quickly, Tori found herself standing on the sidewalk. She pulled one arm free and with her clutch bag, swatted both men. “I asked for a hand, not to be launched. I’m not that big yet!”

“Holy Christ Tori!” Jon choked out as his gazed raked her.

“See?” Richie’s comment was for both of them.

The crowd, which had hushed in expectation when they reached into the long car, and then erupted when they got a good look at Tori, laughed.

“Hey Tori, when’s Baby Sambora due?”

“June.” She replied with a smile, then lowered her voice. “Oh put a sock in it. Both of you.”

“Hey Jon, how about a picture of the three of you?”

They obliged.

“Hey Jon, where’d your wife go?”

Jon looked towards the door and waved. “Dot, come here.”

The two women hugged then stood with their men while flashbulbs went off all around them. Finally, they were able to escape inside. Tico, Alejandra, David and Karin were all standing in the lobby, David accepting congratulations and signing autographs. Both men did a double take at Tori, then hustled her into the centre of their group, shielding her from the crowd.

Madre santa del Dios!”

“Holy shit Bela!”

“What? And by the way, my eyes are up here.” Tori pointed to her eyes.

“Yeah, but for once those aren’t your most notable feature.” David observed.

Karin reached over and lifted his chin – and his line of sight. “You’re referring to the baby of course.”

He snorted. “It’s not the baby that’s on display.”

Richie frowned down at his wife. “I told you!”

Tori looked around at the men in disgust. “Men! A little bit of skin and your minds go right to the gutter! Besides, I thought you all liked seeing a little cleavage?”

“Not on my sister!” Came from three throats.

“Not on my wife! Well, at least not in public where others can see it. And it’s more than a little, angel.” Richie pointed out.

Tori looked at the women who all rolled their eyes. “Oh come on you guys, look at me! I’m not exactly Playmate of the month with this belly.”

“No, you’re better.” David argued. Tori snorted.

“He’s right Bela. There’s nothing more beautiful than a gloriously pregnant woman.” Tico assured her. Jon and David nodded.

Tori eyes filled with tears. Richie’s arm came around her. “I told you.” She just leaned against him and blinked rapidly.

“And apparently it brings out the Neanderthal’s in the men closest to her.” Dorothea noted dryly.

“Uh, David, sorry to interrupt, but Joe needs you backstage.” A theatre staffer interjected.

David nodded and took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll be right there.” He kissed Karin and looked around the group. “I’ll see you guys after.”

“Shirley.” Tori stopped him as he started to walk away. She searched his blue eyes, then hugged him. “Relax and enjoy this. It’s going to be a great show.”

David squeezed her gently. “Thanks Bela.”

After the show – which was indeed spectacular – they were sitting around the table at the party catching up on each other’s lives.

“How are you feeling Tori?” Alejandra asked.

“Great. The baby started kicking about a week ago.”

“I’m surprised Richie’s hand isn’t permanently attached.” Karin chuckled.

“She won’t let me.” Richie winked.

Tori snorted. “It might as well be, you don’t let go for long.”

“Of course not. I don’t want to miss anything.”

“Awwww.” Came from around the table. The women smiled warmly at him, the men smirked and rolled their eyes. He just shrugged.

Richie went to get drinks, and David flopped down in a chair, taking a break from his schmoozing, when Peanut woke up.

“Oh!” Tori jerked a little in surprise.

“What’s the matter? Is it the baby?” Jon was instantly at her side.

She nodded. “Peanut woke up.”

Jon grinned and put his hand on her stomach. She sighed and moved it to where she’d felt the kick. “Hi Peanut. I’m your Uncle Jon.” Kick. Jon and Tori exchanged a surprised look and smiled. David and Tico nudged Jon aside, determined not to be left out.

“I’m your Uncle Tico.” Kick.

“I’m your Uncle David.” Nothing. David sighed. “Uncle Shirley?” Kick.

Tori snickered. As the three men fought for position she raised her brows at Dorothea. “Did they do this to you?”

Dorothea nodded. “All four times.”

“Hey! Hands off my Peanut!” Richie commanded as he set down the drinks and pushed them all aside, setting his own hand on her stomach. “It’s okay Peanut, Daddy’s here.” A flurry of kicks. Dark eyes met blue. “He knows my voice!”

Tori smiled. “She should. Lately you’ve been talking to him or her more than you have me!”

He leaned over and nibbled on her ear. “I’ll make it up to you later.”



In the car on the way back to the hotel, Tori leaned her head on his shoulder and set her hand on his thigh. He kissed the top of her head. “Tired angel?”

“Not really.” She smirked, slid her hand to the inside of his leg and squeezed.

He grinned and felt himself begin to swell in anticipation. He hoped she meant what he thought she meant. Her…cravings…had been hit and miss lately and he had to watch carefully for any signs she might be receptive.

Entering their room, Tori headed directly for the bathroom, while Richie put out the ‘do not disturb’ sign and locked the door. When she returned, she set a bottle on the night stand then moved to the dresser to remove her jewellery. Richie removed his jacket and tie, threw them on a chair, and started unbuttoning his shirt as he walked around the bed and checked out the bottle. Noting the label, he grinned. So she wants to play. Okay, I’m up for that. He glanced down. All the way up.

The movement of her hand towards the zipper of her dress caught his attention. “No. Don’t.” He stripped off his shirt, tossed it towards the chair and sat on the high bed. “Come here me beauty.” He pointed to the spot between his spread knees.

The pirate’s voice sent shivers down her spine and had her heart rate speeding up. She obeyed. His hands closed around her hips and he tugged her closer. One hand rose to skim over the mounded flesh spilling over the neckline of her dress.

He frowned. “It seems ye’ve forgotten yer lessons.” He quickly stripped her naked and reached for the bottle. Pouring some into his hand, he rubbed them together and smoothed the oil over her swollen belly. She ran her hands up his arms to rest on his shoulders. The exotic scent of Pikake filled the air, evoking memories of one incredible night in Hawaii. Her body reacted instantly, her nipples hardening, her feminine core opening, dampening, aching for his possession. He smirked at the visible signs and slid two fingers along her cleft and deep inside her pulsing passage. “Ah, yer body remembers though.”

She shuddered as his fingers thrust into her over and over. His other hand rose to lightly pinch and tug on her nipples. Her body swayed with the movement of his hand. She was nearing the peak when he stopped and withdrew his hand. “NO! Don’t stop! Please…don’t stop.” Her nails bit into his shoulders.

He stood and motioned her to sit on the bed. She started to move back further. “No! Sit thar! On the edge. Lean back. I like to look at yer body.” His hands went to his belt as his gaze swept slowly over her as she leaned back on her hands. She licked her lips when his arousal was revealed. He smiled. “Ye like that?” She nodded. He kicked aside the rest of his clothes and stepped closer. The bed was the perfect height. “Ye want it?” She nodded again. “Spread yer legs.” She moved her knees apart about two feet. His lips twitched. She played the game well. Long fingers gripped under her knees and jerked them up and pressed them flat onto the bed, knocking her off her hands to lie flat on her back. “I said, spread yer legs!” The broad head of his erection nuzzled her opening. He watched her eyes darken and felt her hips lift towards him. With one thrust, he buried himself in her moist heat, her cry echoing around the room. A glance at her face assured him her cry was one of pleasure not pain, and he started to move. He pounded into her and watched the ecstasy wash over her.

When the tremors of her first climax subsided he withdrew from her body and moved her until she was lying properly on the bed. Still panting, she waited to see what he had planned next. He left the bed briefly, dug into his suitcase, and returned with another bottle. Dipping his finger into the bottle he spread the oil over her nipples, grinning when they hardened at his touch. The scent of vanilla teased her nostrils and she moaned softly, knowing what was coming.

Chuckling, he bent over, cupped a breast and licked the oil from the stiff tip. Her hands came up to press him closer. He teased her for long minutes with teeth and tongue before finally closing his lips around her sensitive flesh and suckling, drawing more cries from her. She groaned a protest when he released her, but murmured appreciatively when he only moved to give the same treatment to her other breast. By the time he pulled away she was panting again, her whole body quivering. A touch of his hand on her leg had her thighs spreading wide. He coated his fingers with oil, then traced and explored her most feminine flesh. Her hands clenched in the sheet when he positioned himself between her thighs and settled in to taste his handiwork.

As his tongue slithered over her, sending bolts of electricity through her nerve endings, all she could do was lie back and take it. As seconds turned into minutes, her frustration mounted. Each time she felt the peak near, he seemed to sense it, and would back off and turn his attention to the smooth skin of her inner thighs until she’d calmed, then he’d dive back in again. Finally she couldn take anymore. “Richie please! Enough teasing. I can’t take anymore.”

He raised his head at the sound of her sobbing plea. “Ye want me?”

The sight of her juices glistening on his lips turned her desire up another notch. “Yes! Please!”

He studied her for a moment, then knelt beside her. “On yer knees wench!”

She obeyed as fast as she could, but found out very quickly that she’d have to brace herself on her elbows – her arms wouldn’t hold her up. He could feel her trembling as he positioned himself behind her, gripped her hips and nudged inside her. About two inches in he stopped. She pushed back against him, but he held her still. She whimpered.

“Tell me.” He rasped, his own arousal testing the limits of his control. She moaned and pushed back again, trying to drive him deeper. He retreated.

“NO! Please!” She sobbed.

“Tell me!”

She surrendered. “Fuck me! Oh please Richie! Fuck me! Fuck me hard!”

Satisfied, he gave her what she wanted, thrusting into her hard and deep. She screamed as her orgasm swamped her. He kept moving. Sweat was dripping off his face onto her back and made his hands slip on her hips. He tightened his grip and increased the pace of his thrusts. This time when she peaked, he let go and went over the edge with her, his hands bracing his weight when his muscles threatened to turn to mush so that he didn’t crush her. When he had given her all he had, he slid from her body and collapsed onto his back on the bed beside her.

She used the last of her strength to roll towards him and curl against him. A trembling hand reached up to stroke his cheek, then dropped to rest on his chest. “My God! What you do to me!”

He chuckled breathlessly, reached down to pull up the blankets and settled her comfortably against him. “Believe me angel, it’s not me. It’s you. You inspire me.”

“It’s us then, ‘cause you make me….want…like I’ve never wanted before. It’s addictive.” She reached up to kiss him. “I love you.”

“I love you too angel.”

A few days later, back in L.A., Tori was finishing a few errands and was heading back to her car to go home when she heard someone calling her name. Turning, she saw a photographer waving at her. She’d seen him around, and since he’d always been respectful and wasn’t as obnoxious as the TMZ people, she waited to see what he wanted. As he neared he made a point of showing that his hands were away from his camera. He had an envelope in one, which he held out to her. She just stared at it.

“Tori…I like you. You’re a nice lady. You’ve always been polite to me and let me take the shots I needed.” He paused and shook the envelope. “I thought you should see these. I haven’t published them yet. I didn’t want to blindside you. You deserve to know and have the chance to prepare.” Something in his eyes had her reaching for the envelope. He started to turn away, then stopped and looked back at her. “Tori, I….I’m sorry.”

Tori watched him walk away, her stomach clenching. Climbing into her car she sat for long minutes staring at the envelope before finally finding the courage to look inside. Her hands trembled as she sifted through the pictures, her heart trying to deny what her head and her eyes were telling her – that her world was about to fall apart.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chapter 239

“Anything yet?” Richie asked as he passed through the living room on his way to the kitchen.

“No.” Tori replied from her seat on the couch. She didn’t look up from the lists she was making of what they needed to pack for their trip to New York for Shirley’s gala opening in a couple days, what she needed to do before they left and the couple things she needed to talk to Jon and Matt about while she was there. Normally, for such a short trip she wouldn’t need the lists, but pregnancy brain mush had set in. Some days she was surprised she could remember her own name!

“Anything yet?” Richie returned with two glasses of Coke and several cookies. He set one glass on the table in front of her.

“Thanks, and no nothing yet.” She put down her lists to look at him. “I promise you I’ll yell if Peanut gets active.” For the past three days, Peanut had started making his or her presence known to the world outside the watery pool of her womb. Unfortunately for Richie, he was never in the right place at the right time, and kept missing it. And he wasn’t happy about it.

“Yell loud.”

“Yes dear.” Tori grinned as she watched him walk down the hallway towards the studio.

An hour later he was back.

“Anything yet?”

“No.” She’d been sitting quietly, hoping it would encourage Peanut to do some callisthenics. If Richie didn’t get to feel the baby move soon, one of two things was going to happen. Either he was going to drive her crazy….or she was going to kill him.

With a sigh, he sat beside her, placed a hand on her swollen belly and bent close. “Come on Peanut, say hi to Daddy.” Nothing.

Tori smiled and stroked his hair. “Sorry sweetheart.” She glanced at her watch. “You’re going to be late picking up Bean.”

He sat up. “You’re sure you don’t want to come with me?”

She shook her head. “No, I’ve got some things to do before we go to New York and if I get them done now I can spend more time with Bean.”

“Okay. I’ll be back in a few.” He kissed her and Peanut and left.

The sound of the Hummer’s engine hadn’t faded yet when Peanut kicked – or punched, she wasn’t sure which. She stared down at her stomach. “Now, you wake up!”

“Tori!” Ava yelled as soon as she stepped through the door.

“In the livingroom Bean!”

“Hi. I have a project due on Monday. Can you help me with it?” Ava fell onto the couch next to her stepmother and leaned over to kiss her sibling. “Hi Peanut.” Suddenly, she felt something push back against her mouth. Ava sat up and looked at Tori, her eyes wide. “Was that Peanut?”

Tori nodded and smiled. “Yes.”

Ava looked back at Tori’s stomach and placed a hand on it. “Cool!” Peanut kicked again.

“Richie!” Tori yelled. “Hurry!”

“Daddy! Peanut’s kicking!”

Richie almost ran into the room, his hand reaching out to touch before he’d even sat down. Nothing. “Aww, come on Peanut! That’s not fair!”

Tori fought back a smile at the frustrated pout on his face. “Bean, you try.”

“Peanut, say hi to Daddy.” Ava urged.

A few seconds later, Richie finally got his greeting. The look on his face brought tears to Tori’s eyes. “Hi there little one.”

Later that evening, Tori looked down at the two heads, one dark, one light, pillowed on her chest with an indulgent smile. Each of them had one hand on her stomach while Richie read tales of life in the Hundred Acre Wood. Finishing a chapter, he reached for his glass to take a drink. Peanut kicked in protest.

Ava giggled. “That means don’t stop Daddy.”

“Oh it does, does it?” Richie smirked at her, but obligingly resumed reading.

Tori stifled a sigh and shook her head. She was beginning to feel like a third – or was it fourth – wheel. They only needed her around because she was currently housing Peanut. The pattern continued over the next couple days. Anytime she stopped moving she could expect within about a minute to feel a hand on her stomach.

The night before they were to leave for New York, she was ready to clobber her husband. They were laying in bed. She was ready to sleep, but Peanut apparently decided it was play time. Richie was lying beside her, stroking her stomach and talking to the baby.

“Hey you two, it’s bedtime.” They both ignored her. “If you’re going to keep doing this, I’m going to start wearing a nightgown.” She threatened.

Richie glanced up at her. “Why?”

“Because I’m cold.” He’d pushed the blankets down to bare her stomach and gooseflesh was starting to rise on her arms and torso.

He grinned sheepishly, and pulled up the blankets. She turned onto her side, he curved his body around hers, placed his hand on her stomach and all three drifted off to sleep.

When they landed in New York, Tori was surprised to find the car turning towards the city instead of New Jersey. “Where are we going?”

“To the hotel.”

“Aren’t we staying with Jon and Dot?”

“No. I thought we deserved a little mini holiday, and I know you haven’t seen much of the city, so I booked us a hotel and we can spend a few days playing tourist.”

She raised her brows, but smiled at him. Leaning over, she kissed him. “Thank you.”

They reached the hotel with enough time to spare to allow Tori to rest a bit before getting ready. When Richie walked out of the bathroom to find her dressed, he almost swallowed his tongue. “Jesus Tori!”

“What?” At his outburst, she turned from the mirror where she’d been fastening her earrings.

“I hope you brought something else to wear, because you are NOT going out in public in that dress.”

“Why not? What’s wrong with it?”

“You’re almost falling out of it, that’s what’s wrong with it!”

“Oh stop! It’s not that bad.” She adjusted the neckline slightly.

His frown deepened. “That didn’t help. I don’t want to have to spend the evening watching other men ogle my wife!” He pulled on his clothes with almost angry movements.

She shot him a disbelieving look. “Oh come on Rich! Look at me. I’m hardly a sex object with this belly.”

He stared at her for a moment, then shook his head. “You don’t get it do you? You don’t understand how beautiful you are. Your fertility is anything but a turn off...I don’t know how to explain it….there’s just something incredibly sexy about a pregnant woman.”

She snorted and handed him her necklace to fasten for her. “I just seem that way to you because it’s your baby.”

He grinned at her in the mirror, then sobered. “I may be biased, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. You’ll see.” He sighed. “At least the rest of the guys will be there to help keep the wolves at bay.” He bent and kissed her bare shoulder. “You are beautiful you know.”

She turned to face him and rolled her eyes as he tugged on the bodice of her dress. “Thank you. I’m glad you think so.” She reached up to straighten his tie and smooth the lapels of his jacket. “I have to look worthy of being by your side.” It was his turn to snort. “I’m serious.” She caught his eye. “And your opinion is the only one I care about.”

He bent until his forehead met hers. “Then change your dress.”

She tilted her head slightly and kissed him. “No.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chapter 238

Two weeks later, Tori was leaving the office to get a snack when she heard Richie’s voice coming from the studio. Pausing in the doorway, she saw him hang up the phone and rake a hand through his hair while he paced. “Something wrong honey?”

He spun around at the sound of her voice and looked at her blankly for a moment. “You mean the phone call? No. It was from Stand Up For a Cure. They’ve got an idea for a fundraiser and they want my opinion. They’ll be sending you the details.” He hesitated, then stepped towards her. “The problem is this damn song! It’s not flowing and it’s pissing me off. I’m going to go for a drive and try and clear my head.” One hand rested on Peanut as he bent and kissed her. “I’ll be back before dinner.”

Tori frowned as she watched him walk down the hallway. She wondered if this was normal for him during the writing process or if he was just having a block. I wish I knew how to help him. Or whether I should even try, or just leave him alone. She sighed and headed for the kitchen.

A few days later the building frustration came to a head. Tori had been down in Van Nuys meeting with Jennifer and checking the new stock and came home to find Richie gone. She double checked his schedule to make sure she hadn’t forgotten something, but it was clear. Next she checked with Rosa, and the office, but he hadn’t left a note.

She was sitting on the couch in the living room a few hours later, nibbling on a chunk of maple sugar and trying to imagine what Peanut was doing based on the flutters she was feeling, when Richie returned.

“Hi honey.”

“Hi angel.” He sounded tired.

“What have you been up to today?”

“I went out for a drive. Is that okay or do I need to check with you first? Before that I had a shit. Anything else you want to know?” It was almost a snarl.

Her eyebrows snapped together and her eyes narrowed to icy slits as she rose to her feet. “So now I’m not allowed to ask a simple question? Gee sweetheart, I’m sorry that I tried to show some interest in your life! Forget it! I’ll leave you alone.” She walked stiffly towards the door.

He grimaced and reached out a hand to stop her. “Honey….”

She shook him off. “Don’t.”

It was his turn to watch her walk away. Sinking onto the couch, he covered his face with his hands. “FUCK!”

Dinner was a tense, silent half hour. Richie pushed the food around on his plate. Tori ate because she had to for Peanut’s sake, but it tasted like sawdust. As soon as she was finished, she carried her dishes to the sink and left the kitchen. Rosa turned to say something to him, but saw his shoulders slump and decided to keep silent. Her brows rose when he handed her his still half full plate. It wasn’t like Richie to leave food.

“Sorry.” He murmured and followed his wife.

He found her in the living room in front of the T.V. When he sat down close beside her she started to get up. “Please don’t.” He paused until she settled back down. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that. You didn’t do anything to deserve it.”

She nodded curtly, then sighed. She really didn’t want to fight with him. “Does this happen often when you’re working on a new album?”

He shook his head. “No. I don’t know why I’m having such a problem with this one.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, but I appreciate the thought.”

“What about Jon? Have you talked to him about it? Maybe he can help. I thought you usually wrote together anyway.”

“A lot of the time, but not always. If I can’t work it out, I’ll let him have a go at it, but right now it’s pissing me off so much I’m determined to do it myself.”

The Bongiovi in her knew exactly what he meant. She nodded. He reached out to squeeze her hand. “I really am sorry.”

She searched his eyes for a long moment, then nodded again. “I know.”

A couple days later, Tori let Gail talk her into a spa and shopping day. What she didn’t know was that it was at Richie’s instigation. He wanted Tori out of the house for the day, and enlisted Gail’s help.

“Wow! When I heard people talk about how much it costs to have a child, I always thought that they meant raising them. Nobody ever mentioned the size of the wardrobe you need! Every couple months I’m buying new clothes just to have something that fits!” Tori grumbled as she tried on a dress for Shirley’s opening.

Gail laughed. “Well, you could always just wear sweats.”

“You’re joking, but if I lived anywhere else and wasn’t married to a public figure, that’s exactly what I would be wearing.” Opening the door to the dressing room, she twirled in front of the mirror. “What do you think? Will this work for an off Broadway opening?”

The ruby red dress was off the shoulder with a plunging neckline that showed more than a hint of cleavage. It was fitted to just under her bust, then floated in a loose sheath to just above her knee. Gail whistled and glanced around the room at a couple of men who were shopping with their wives. “I think it looks great.” She leaned closer. “And so do those men over there.”

Tori rolled her eyes at her friend, but couldn’t resist glancing in the direction Gail had indicated, her ego gratified to see the men’s appreciative gazes. “But will it still fit in three weeks?”

That was the salesgirl’s cue. “You’ve still got plenty of room and the material stretches. It should do you for at least the next six to eight weeks, if not all the way through.”

“You’re sure I don’t look too…I don’t know.”

“Pregant?” Gail supplied. “Sorry Tori, there’s not much we can do about that.”

Tori slanted her a look. “You know what I meant.”

“Yes, I do, and stop fussing. You look beautifully pregnant.”

Reasurred, Tori bought the dress. While she was paying, Gail was browsing. “Do you need any nightgowns?”

Tori snorted. “Have you forgotten who I’m married to?”

“Oh, right. Stupid question.”

Gail was glad when it was finally time for their spa appointment. After the first couple, she’d had to scout their path to avoid baby stores. Richie had given her strict instructions not to let Tori buy anything for the baby’s room, and that was easier said than done. Tori was in the mood to shop and Gail could only stop her by suggesting that she look around a little more before buying anything.

Tori was surprised at the spa – and impressed. One of their specialties was massages for pregnant women. The table had a scooped out indentation perfect for growing bellies. Peanut liked it too. She could feel him or her fluttering excitedly. By the time they left, she felt totally relaxed and wonderfully pampered.

Entering the house after Gail dropped her off, she set the shopping bags down in the foyer, and laid her keys and purse on the table. A noise had her looking up the stairs. “Richie?”

“Ow! Fuck! I’m up here angel.”

She climbed the stairs, then followed the noises until she reached the room they’d set aside for the nursery. There she stopped dead. Hanging on the door was a beautiful hand painted name plate that simply said ‘Peanut’. More cursing had her peeking around the door frame. Her eyes widened at what she saw. Along one wall was a chest of drawers. In front of the window was a fully stocked change table. The wallpaper border, pictures and the pattern on the material on the table was all the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Turning her head she saw where the grunting and swearing was coming from. The oak crib gleamed in the light. The bumper pads and mobile continued the Pooh theme.

Richie slid out from underneath. “There. Done. Finally!” He set aside the wrench and screwdriver in his hand. “Well?”

“Oh, Richie.” She couldn’t get anything else past the lump in her throat. Her hand reached out to stroke the wood of the crib, the lace of the bumperpads and nudge the mobile into motion. She slowly moved around the room, trailing her fingers over little things here and there. The chest of drawers and the change table were adorned with stuffed animals – the Pooh characters as well as a couple teddy bears….and a two foot high Mr. Peanut. A smile curving her lips, she picked up Tigger and hugged him as she finished her circuit of the room and sat in the rocking chair set between the crib and the change table. She sat and rocked, glancing constantly around the room, not speaking for several minutes.

Finally, Richie couldn’t take it anymore. “Angel? Say something.” She turned to where he was still sitting on the floor and he could see the tears streaming down her face and the soft look in her eyes. Smiling gently, he rose on his knees to reach for some tissues from the change table and handed them to her. “I take it that means you like it?”

All she could do was nod and hold her arms out to him. When he moved closer she hugged him tightly. “I love you.”

His hands stroked her back. “I love you too angel.”

“So how are you feeling?” Karin asked.

I’m feeling pretty good, but Richie’s driving me nuts! I will be so glad when this album’s finished. I thought I was the one who was supposed to have the mood swings!”

“What’s the problem?”

“He’s having trouble with a song and he’s not dealing with that well. One minute he’s snapping my head off, and the next he’s doing something wonderful like giving me an incredibly romantic Valentine’s Day or decorating the baby’s room.”

“You mean he had someone decorate the baby’s room.”

“No, he did it himself.”

“Really?” Karin was surprised.

“Yeah. He’s even got the cuts and bruises from his fight with the crib to prove it. Karin, you should see it. It’s beautiful.”

“Wow. Well, hopefully he’ll get this song worked out soon, and get back on an even keel.”

“I hope so. I want my Richie back.” Tori sighed and changed the subject. “How’s Shirley holding up?”

“Speaking of people riding an emotional roller coaster! He’s proud and excited one minute and stressed out and convinced the audience is going to hate it the next. And to top it off he got a bout of food poisoning last week and missed a day of rehearsal.”

“Ouch! Is he feeling better?”

“From the food poisoning yes, but he won’t feel better about the play until it opens and he sees how great it is. Please tell me that you’re still coming to the opening. I don’t think I can get him through this on my own…..plus it’ll be my first red carpet event with him, and I’m nervous.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine and we’ll be there to help. I’ll be the one in the red dress with the big belly. That ought to take the vultures’ attention off you at least a little.” Tori assured her.

“Red huh? Bet Richie loves that.”

“Actually, with his colour blindness, I don’t even know if he can see red, at least not like we do. I figure that’s why he likes purple so much.”

“Hmmm. I never thought about that. So Peanut’s growing?”

“Mmmmm. And moving too – at least I can feel it. Richie can’t yet.”

“I bet that’s sitting real well with him.” Karin chuckled.

“You’re right. He’s taken to making me sit at the end of the couch every evening so that he can lay down with his head in my lap and read to my stomach.”

“What’s he reading?”

“Well, we’ve had some Dr. Seuss, some Mother Goose, and last night he started The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.”

Karin was silent for a minute. “You know that’s incredibly sweet, right?”

Tori blinked away tears. “You don’t know the half of it. He does the voices. Between hormones and laughter, I usually go through a dozen or so tissues every night. I think he’s hoping to get a kick in the head one of these nights.”

“That actually would make me laugh.”

“Me too. I can almost picture the expression on his face.”

“Maybe Peanut will be kicking all of us by the time you come to New York. Oh, there goes my cell. It’s David. I’d better go talk him off the ledge.”

Tori smiled. “Tell him I said to relax, Toxie’s going to be terrific.”

“I’ll tell him, but he won’t believe you either. God, I’ll be glad when the opening’s over. See you then Tori.”

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