A few days later the album was finished – at least it would be if Jon didn’t come up with some last minute ideas or changes. Even now he was quiet and distracted while they brought down their luggage and waited for the car that would take them to the airport.
Tori got his attention. “Jon, it’s really good. Some of the best work you’ve done. The fans are going to love it. It’s okay to let it go.” She hoped that reminding him that she was a fan would get him to take her opinion seriously and relax. By the looks on the guys’ faces she might as well be talking to the wall.
“Nice try Bela.” Tico murmured in her ear.
Jon merely nodded. “You did a great job by the way – both on the album and at the warehouse.” Tori had taken him down to view the operation the day before and he had been impressed with the changes she’d implemented.
“Thanks, but I didn’t do much at the warehouse. Most of the changes were Jennifer’s ideas. And the album was almost fun.”
“Almost?” Jon crooked a brow.
“Mmmmm. Next time you want me to participate, a little advance notice would make it better.....and maybe then I won’t have a two month old baby to cart along to the studio with me.”
“Well he was very well behaved. Must take after his mother.” Jon smirked and stroked the baby’s cheek with the back of one finger while he lay in his mother’s arms. Tori grinned. Richie gave him the finger.
David looked around, then nodded. “Album’s done, we’ve filled up on Rosa’s wonderful cooking, started Ava on her path to be a real estate tycoon, inducted Little Stephen into the Jovi men’s club, Bela and Chuck are getting it on again, which makes them much more relaxed to be around....yes I think our work here is done. We can go home now.”
“Thank God!” Richie muttered. Tori stared at him, trying to ignore her red cheeks. She checked her watch.
“Checking to see how much longer you have to put up with him Bela?” Hugh asked.
Tori shook her head. “No, I’m checking to see what time it is back home. I think Karin and I need to have a loooong talk.”
David snorted. “Like you don’t already know everything about our relationship. Nice try Bela, but I figured out the first time I met her that you two share everything. There’s nothing she can tell you that you don’t already know, and I know that as soon as we leave you’re going to call and tell her everything that’s happened here.”
“And you’re not worried?” Tico asked.
David shrugged. “Naw. Karin loves me. It would take a lot more than me teasing Bela to get her seriously mad at me.”
Tori ran her tongue along her teeth. “Maybe, but what do you think she will do when she finds out about your little stunt with Stevie and your ogling my breasts?”
That made David pause and consider. He dropped to his knees in front of her. “I’m sorry. You know I would never hurt Stevie and I can’t help the teasing, it’s what I do. As for the ogling, well damn Bela, it’s not like they’re something a man can just ignore.”
“Try.” Richie suggested.
“Please Bela, be kind. I thought you were my friend...my sister. Don’t be cruel.” When Tori raised a brow at him, he reached out to take the hand that wasn’t holding the baby. “Bela, please! I haven’t gotten laid in almost a month! Please!”
Tori burst out laughing. The guys just rolled their eyes.
“Uncle Shirley, what are you doing?” Ava had come into the foyer to say goodbye to her uncles.
“Trying to get your stepmother to not get me in trouble with Aunt Karin.”
“Oh. Good luck with that. But it won’t really matter. You get yourself in trouble without any help. You can’t help it. Aunt Dot says it has something to do with whatever makes your hair so curly.” Ava shrugged.
David shot Jon a look. Jon rolled his eyes and shrugged. Tori snickered and patted David’s head. “Don’t worry, I’m sure that you’ll find a way to get back into her good book. You’ve got a few hours on the plane to think about it.”
“Buy Aunt Charlie some flowers and maybe some jewelry.” Ava suggested.
Tori winked at her. “Sounds like a good start.”
“Are they born like that, or are they taught?” Hugh wanted to know.
“Born like that.” The other four men replied.
“And they seem to be starting younger and younger.” David added. “I was late picking the kids up last month and Lily told me that she’d forgive me....if I bought her tickets to see Hannah Montana or Mylie Cyrus or whatever name she’s using these days.”
“Oooh, she’s great!” Ava exclaimed. “I want to see her too.”
“I’m glad I only have a son.” Tico sighed.
Tori gave them all withering looks. “Well if we women have to put up with you men and all your crap, we need to get something out of the deal.”
Since all of the men were either married or had been, they wisely didn’t respond.
Later that night the Sambora family gathered in the livingroom. Ava was curled up in an armchair texting to her friends and Tori was on the couch, her legs outstretched on the cushions while she fed Stevie when Richie walked in. Lifting her feet, he sat, settled her feet in his lap and began to massage them. She smiled at him.
“What are you thinking about angel?” When her brows rose in question, he explained. “You’ve got the same look on your face that Jon gets when he’s got an idea rattling around in his head. So what’s up?”
She chuckled. “I’m thinking that we should have a Labour Day barbeque. Sort of an end of summer last bash before the kids go back to school. Invite Ava’s friends and their parents, your friends that I haven’t met yet......Heather.”
This time it was Richie’s brows that rose.....right into his hairline. “You really want to do that?”
“Oooh yeah! That would be fun! Can we Daddy?”
Tori met Richie’s gaze and nodded. “Yeah. I do.”
“Okay. Just tell me what you need me to do.”
“You want to do what? Are you nuts?” Karin was incredulous.
“What? It’s just a barbeque.” Tori switched the phone to her other ear.
“Don’t play dumb Tori. That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it. You seriously want to invite Heather....your husband’s ex-wife......the woman that tried to destroy your marriage and your happiness....into your home for a party?”
“Yes. She’s Ava’s mother and I need to find some way to at least be on speaking terms with her.” Karin snorted. Tori smiled. “And there’s an ulterior motive.” She paused. “Richie and I are sort of at a standstill, or a plateau. We’re getting along well and in some ways I feel closer to him than I have in a long time....”
“But there’s still a part of me that’s holding back. The trust isn’t there yet. It’s better, but it’s not like it was. But I want it to be. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I don’t know what else to do.”
“It’s going to take some time.”
Tori sighed. “I know. But somehow I’ve got to face my fear and try to overcome it. You know me. I can’t sit back and wait and see what happens. I need to know. The album is pretty much finished so that means a tour next year and this time I’ll have to stay home. I’ll have to be able to let him walk out the door and be away from me for weeks at a time and I’ll never make it if I’m constantly worried about what he’s doing. I need to have things settled in my mind before then. We’ve been in our little cocoon here ever since we got home. I haven’t been able to see how I feel with other women around – especially Heather.”
“So you want to invite people over – including Heather – and watch how he acts around them – and them around him - and how it makes you feel.” Karin thought she understood now what was going on in Tori’s mind. “Are you going to explain this to Richie?”
“No. I want him to act naturally. That’s what I have to be able to deal with if we’re going to make this marriage work.”
“Well, it sounds like a good idea. Are you sure you’re prepared for it though?”
“Yes. I have to be. It’s the only way I can see to keep moving forward.”
“Good luck then. I hope it goes well and you’re able to enjoy yourself, especially since you’ve had to put up with the guys for the last few weeks.”
Tori chuckled. “I can’t believe how quiet the house seems now that they’re gone. At least I don’t have to watch for any of Shirley’s little stunts though.”
Karin grunted. “Or deal with him staring at your breasts.”
“You’re not going to let him off the hook easily on that one are you?”
“Nope. He’ll be paying for that one for a long time.”
“And is he sucking up?”
“A dozen roses arrived at the office today and he wants to take me to Jon’s place in the Hampton’s this weekend.”
“He’s sucking up.” Tori laughed. “I’ve never been to the Hampton’s yet myself, but Richie tells me it’s nice.”
“Well we can’t all have the ocean almost in our back yard.”
“Yeah, well, just remember that it comes with earthquakes.”
“Any more since that first one?”
“No, thank God. I hope I never have to experience that again.”
“I thought you liked to feel the earth move.”
“Only when it’s my husband causing it.” Tori retorted.