The day of the party was a busy one for everyone. Like most holidays, Tori had given Rosa the weekend off to enjoy it with her family. That meant that Ava and Richie got pressed into service – Ava to help prepare the food and Richie to set up chairs and tables outside and make sure the bar was stocked. Tori had been too busy to go with Richie for supplies, and had to let him go on his own. Luckily, she was also too busy to worry about what he was doing. In fact, when he returned, she’d hardly known he was gone.
Salads and appetizers ready – including Rosa’s guacamole, vegetables and fruit peeled and/or cut, Tori went to get herself ready. Returning downstairs, she stepped out onto the back patio to check that everything was set. Richie looked up from the makeshift bar where he was pouring ice into coolers and almost swallowed his tongue. Ice cubes scattered in all directions.
“What are you trying to do to me?” He couldn’t take his eyes off of her in her bikini and sarong, her stomach as flat as it was before the baby, her breasts almost falling out of her top. His body hardened in a rush. Although he hadn’t been exactly deprived lately, having to stay in the submissive role wasn’t sitting too well with him. He didn’t mind it once in a while, but he missed being the one in control. She would let him touch her, but only to a certain point, and never in her most sensitive areas, before taking over. He knew that he only had himself to blame and that he should thank his lucky stars that she even agreed to give him another chance. He knew that not many women would. But damn! She was an incredibly beautiful woman in his eyes, inside and out, and right now all he wanted to do was carry her off to their room and show her just how much he loved her.
“Don’t you like it? Doesn’t it look good?” She walked over to take a look at what he’d set up.
He snorted. “You look fantastic and I like it just fine. I’m just not sure I want the men that are coming here today to.....see so much of you.” Raising one hand he trailed his fingertips over the upper curves of her breasts, then caressed her stomach with his palm. “I’ve kinda gotten used to keeping you all to myself.”
Tori smiled, cupped his cheek with one hand, raised up on tiptoe and kissed him. “Relax caveman. I’m not looking to replace you.”
“Tori! Peanut woke up and he’s crying.” Ava called from the doorway.
“Okay, thanks Bean, I’ll be right there.” She stepped back, started towards the house and stopped. Turning back to him she looked pointedly at the fit of his swim trunks. “Thanks, by the way.” Richie just grunted and went back to pouring ice.....and thought about how cold it was.
Kate, Gail and Todd were the first to arrive. Gail looked Tori up and down and shook her head. “That’s just disgusting.”
“Looking like that after you just had a baby. Todd, quit drooling.”
Tori laughed. “Oh stop it.”
“I’m serious.” Gail sighed. “Come on, introduce us to the newest Sambora.”
With a proud grin, Tori led them to where the baby lay sleeping in his bassinet near the door to the patio.
Gail reached out to stroke his cheek. “He’s beautiful.”
“Poor kid.” Todd managed to look sad.
“Why do you say that?” Tori asked with a touch of concern.
“He looks just like his father. That’s a pretty heavy burden for a little kid.”
Tori swatted his arm. “Oh stop! There’s nothing wrong with the way he looks. I think he’s gorgeous.”
“Thanks angel.” Richie joined them, slid an arm around his wife’s waist and kissed her temple.
Todd snorted. “Don’t get a big head Sambora, she was talking about the baby.”
“I was talking about both of my men.” Tori corrected him. A big splash told them that Kate had found Ava and they’d decided to go for a swim.
An hour or so later, Tori was sitting talking to Gail and Sarah’s mom Tracy, while the kids were swimming, and the other guests were gathered in small groups around the back yard. Richie was kept busy tending bar. When the doorbell rang, he went to answer it.
Gail leaned forward, her eyes wide. “What’s she doing here?”
Tori glanced over to see Heather walk through the door with Richie. “I invited her.” She watched Richie move to create more space between himself and Heather.
Gail opened and closed her mouth several times. “I’m sorry, but I have to ask. Why?”
“Because she’s Ava’s mother and I want to have a civil relationship with her.”
“So you invite her to your party? That’s....big of you. I understand not wanting to be on bad terms with her for Ava’s sake, but to try and be...what....friends? I don’t think I could do that.”
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Tracy murmured. She, like the rest of the people there, knew what Heather was like.
“Hi Tori, Gail, Tracy.” Heather joined them. “Tori, Stephen’s really growing.”
“Yeah he is. He’s a little piglet.”
“Naw, he’s just a man who enjoys his food. Angel do you want a drink?” Richie stood behind her chair and ran his hands over her shoulders.
She tipped her head back to look up at him. “Please. Thanks honey.”
“Hi Mom.” Ava came running up to the table, followed by her friends.
“Hi sweetie. Having fun?”
“Yeah.” She looked back and forth between her mother and her stepmother. “Um....can I have a pop?”
“Sure.” Tori answered, then looked at Heather.
Heather nodded. “Your house, your rules.” The other women around the table exchanged surprised looks. They’d never know Heather to take a back seat to anyone...at least not willingly.
“Can we have something to eat? Maybe some of the squares we made yesterday?”
Tori frowned. “How about some of the cheese and crackers, or dips or fruit or carrot sticks instead? Save the squares for after dinner.”
Ava sighed. “Okay.”
The mothers all watched the girls run off towards the bar to get drinks from Richie before circulating around the tables filling their plates.
Throughout the afternoon, Richie and Tori mingled with their guests. Even when deep in conversation, Tori kept one eye on Richie...what he was doing, who he was talking to. She wasn’t obvious about it, but she was constantly aware of him.
Richie was likewise aware of Tori. He could feel her eyes on him. It didn’t upset him. He understood. In fact, he welcomed it. This was the opportunity he’d been waiting for to try to keep moving forward in the rebuilding of their marriage, to show her that she could trust him.
Stevie made the rounds as well. He was passed around so much, at one point Tori lost track of him. She stood up to look around, but still couldn’t see him.
Gail noticed her agitation. “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t see Stevie. Do you?”
“I saw him a few minutes ago.” Gail craned her neck to look as well.
“Relax angel, I’ve got him. He needed a diaper change.” Richie spoke from behind her.
She spun around, a hand pressed to her heart and let out a relieved breath. She’d seen Richie go into the house, but hadn’t realized he had the baby with him. He smiled and handed Stevie over. “Time to start the grill?” She looked at her watch and nodded.
Gail sighed as he walked away. “How’d you get him to change a diaper? Todd wouldn’t go near them, he just handed Kate to me or anyone else he could get to do it.”
Tori smiled and shrugged. “He just does it. I’ve never even had to ask him.” She looked at Heather. “You?”
Heather shook her head. “No, he was always good with that, although when Ava started eating solid food, he did try to avoid the dirty ones.”
“Thanks for the warning.” Tori laughed.
The afternoon and early evening passed quickly as everyone enjoyed a good meal and good company along with a cooling swim and a few games. Heather was actually pleasant, even funny. Tori finally saw a bit of the woman that had attracted Richie a decade or so before. Looking at her husband, she smiled when he turned and winked at her, and realized that even with that new awareness, she didn’t feel threatened.