Chapter 237

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 9:19 AM
Richie’s morning had not started well.

He’d left the hotel last night deeply worried about Jon and Amanda. He’d seen Jon’s anger after the concert and didn’t know how to reach him, what to say to make him not dig himself into a hole he couldn’t get out of.

Jon had the most amazing ability to simply “flash freeze” someone out of his life. Richie had seen him be in a room with two or three people, one of whom had done or said something that had truly pissed Jon off. No matter what was said by the person, it was as if he or she had ceased to exist. Oh, Jon smiled and was pleasant, but he didn’t change how he treated them. And he never changed his mind.

Stubborn, thy name is Jon Bon Jovi.

What worried him was that Jon was reacting to what he believed Amanda had done, not what had actually happened.

Where was Mrs. Bongiovi in all this? How the hell was she going to fix something if she didn’t even do the smallest thing?

He reached for his phone.

Jon first.

~~~

Jon had been pacing in his apartment for almost two hours. He knew Amanda had to have woken up by now, had seen the note in the room and hopefully had also gotten the note where he’d apologized.

Jesus, he couldn’t believe what he had done. He was a lot of things, but cruel wasn’t one of them.

Last night he thought he could just sleep with her. Get her out of his system.

It had failed miserably.

As he walked back and forth, his movements oddly jerky for such a physical man, he stopped only to light another cigarette. He choked back a cough as the smoke hit his throat and looked between the cigarette and the apartment windows as if one or the other would tell him what to do.

When his phone rang he reached for it quickly, eager for the distraction. He slowed once he saw the caller ID. Richie.

“Hey, Rich.”

“Hey man…I just wanted…“ Richie sighed, then tried again.“…you two work things out?”

Work things out? I fucked her then left her in the hotel room to wake up alone…

His conscience was turning into an ugly spike-heeled bastard, gloating in the background and refusing to sit down and shut up.

He felt a flare of anger; at himself, at Richie, at Amanda. His jaw tightened.

“Nah, it ain’t happen, Rich.”

“What do ya mean? That woman is still crazy in love with you.” Richie said, his eyebrows raising in surprise on the other end of the phone.

“So? I gave her what she wanted.” Jon’s voice now took on the characteristic tone Richie knew so well, the one where Jon has fucked up but doesn’t want to admit it.

“What the hell does that mean?” Richie’s voice reached a new level of growling.

“Hell, man, you should know. She wanted laid, she got it.”

Jon knew he was lying the moment the words left his mouth.

Richie was speechless for a moment. He recovered.

“You are such a prick. Good luck finding her when you change your mind.”

The phone slamming in Jon’s ear was loud.

But not as loud as the voice in his head telling him he was such an asshole.

~~~

Patricia and Richie were having breakfast after his phone call to Jon. He had not been as forthcoming with her as he wanted to and decided he needed some advice outside the band, someone who could be more impartial. Patricia’s next sentence helped make that decision.

“Stop me if you don’t want to talk, but there is something way wrong with Jon and Amanda. I got her on the phone, but she wouldn’t talk about anything. In fact, she outright refused. It was a pretty strange conversation.”

Richie nodded at her.

“…yeah…shit, Trish, this is not good…” and then he told her just how “not good” it was.

When he had finished, they sat in silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts.

Pouring them each another coffee, Patricia shook her head sadly.

“Richie, you’re Jon’s best friend. Whatever you have to do to help them, go do it.”

Looking at the woman across the table from him, Richie felt emotions stirring in his heart that he had been trying to mask for some time. He caught her hand in his.

“Trish…have I told you yet I’m nuts about you?” His whiskey smooth voice softened as he looked at her.

Slowly shaking her head ‘no’, she looked into the deep chocolate eyes that met hers.

He grinned at her, a twinkle in his eyes.

Then I’m tellin’ ya.”

She smiled back at him.

“I love you, Trish.”

“I love you too, Richie.”

~~~

Richie dialed Mrs. B on the way to his car. She answered on the fourth ring.

“Hello?”

“Carol? It’s Richie.”

There was silence on the line.

“Carol?”

He heard her take a breath.

“I’m here.”

“Amanda showed up at the concert last night.”

Carol squinted her eyes closed as she heard the tone in Richie’s voice. Whatever had happened, it didn’t sound as if it had gone as she’d hoped.

“And…?”

Now it was Richie’s turn to take a deep breath.

“He was pissed. Refused to see her.”

“My son can be stubborn.”

“Carol, he loves her. He spent the night with her, but nothing seems to have changed.”

“Richie, maybe this is for the best. Maybe they weren’t meant to be together…”

“I thought you were going to help.”

“I did! I’m the one who sent her a text message from Jon’s phone. I thought that if they would see each other again, they would talk and she would tell him…”

“So you don’t have to, right?” Richie’s voice roughened as he remembered from whom Jon had gotten his stubbornness.

Carol sighed. “Richie…”

“He loves her. She loves him. He’s gonna let her go, Carol. Gonna let her walk right out his life because he doesn’t know the truth and she won’t tell him because of you.”

There was a long silence on the phone.

“Just let me have a little more time.” Carol said.

“Time is not your friend here, Mom.” Riche spoke softly into the phone.

Carol slowly disconnected the call.

~~~

Patricia sat on the lid of the toilet seat in her bathroom, staring blankly at the light pink walls. She’d managed to wait until Richie left, but then just barely made it to the bathroom. She’d been throwing up every morning for days. She knew she had some sort of strange stomach flu, something that only bothered her in the morning.

She shook her head as she wiped her mouth.

She wasn’t sick, she was delusional.

What she had just confirmed was impossible. It just couldn’t be. There wasn’t a single chance, not a snowball’s chance in hell, not if hell froze over, out of the realm of possibility.

Oh fuck!

She looked again. Re-read the directions, sure there had been some mistake, some human error, some stupid step she had missed.

There wasn’t on the first one.

Or the second.

Or even the third.

She was pregnant.

Chapter 236

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 7:15 PM
Amanda stared at the paper, her face burning as it turned a brilliant shade of red.

Jesus H. Christ. His autograph.

A thousand thoughts ran through her head, but one broke from the pack, repeating itself over and over.

Fuck you, Jon.

She burst into tears.

~~~

Jon had woken a bit before five that morning, lying there in the darkened room, his arms and legs entwined with Amanda’s.

He listened to the sounds of her breathing, feeling her skin pressed against his.

Every bit of her felt so right.

He frowned. Nothing had changed. She was still married. She had still lied to him, manipulated him, and here he was, acting as if his life had just been saved. As if everything was okay, because she was back in his arms again.

Nothing was okay.

She’d tried to talk to him during the night, but he‘d stopped her with his lips, with sex, with anything he could think of. There just wasn’t anything she could say.

She was married.

And he was a fool.

He’d gently moved away from her, reluctantly feeling her skin slip from his. He’d watched her sleeping as he dressed, then moved to the desk in the darkened room. He took a piece of paper out of the drawer.

He’d stood for the longest time, staring at the blank sheet.

A thousand words had run through his head. A thousand feelings from sadness to betrayal and finally to anger.

Anger at himself for still loving her.

It was the anger that moved his hand.

Anger that signed his name.

~~~

Amanda’s tears finally slowed. She hadn’t really cried when she’d found out about Jeremy. Or when she’d had to leave Jon. Too much had happened in too short a time and she’d simply been reacting. Holding everything in because everything was just too much, too fast.

She sat there on the edge of the bed that held the messy sheets from the hours she had spent with Jon. Her hand absently smoothed the blanket. She found herself just shaking her head softly from side to side, the paper Jon had written on clutched in her hand. She smoothed it out and looked at it again.

Jesus.

It wasn’t any better the second time she saw it.

~~~

Jon looked once more at the sleeping woman in the bed, unaware of how long he actually stood there. He could hear the tick of a clock and the soft sounds of Amanda sleeping.

He still loved her and he hated himself for it. Hated that she could do this to him after how she had lied.

He opened the door and stood outside the room, his hand stopping the door from closing.

Indecision gripped him. He could change everything just by stepping inside again.

He could … No!

He couldn’t build a life with someone he didn’t trust.

I love her.

I can’t trust her.


I love her.


Fuck!

He closed the door.

And instantly regretted it.

~~~

It was 6:30 in the morning by the time Amanda got off the phone with the airline. She sat, drinking another coffee, trying to empty her mind, empty her heart.

By eight o’clock she had finished her packing, arranging to have the remainder of her bags shipped to her mother’s home in Florida. Her reservations were made and she had five hours until her flight left. She hadn’t really cared where the flight would take her. She had called, asking for the next flight leaving for Europe. It just happened to be to London.

That didn’t matter, what mattered was she had to get out. Had to leave, had to be alone.

Had to forget that someone named Jon Bon Jovi ever existed.

~~~

Jon stopped at the front desk of the hotel after he left Amanda’s room. The female clerk couldn’t quite seem to believe her good fortune that Jon Bon Jovi was standing in front of her, asking for a pen and a piece of paper.

“Of course, Jon. Here, take these.” She thrust the items at him, her hand lingering over his skin as she flashed a smile that revealed teeth in need of better brushing.

Jon pursed his lips as he took the pen and paper, his “thanks” not even close to reaching his eyes. He moved into the lobby and sat in the chair where he had waited last night.

He leaned over the small table and then stopped.

What can I say?

Just tell her you still love her.

That you’re sorry you left that fucking autograph.

What the fuck were you thinking, Jon?

He was thinking that he was hurt and angry and for just that moment if felt good to be mean.

And now he felt like shit.

Sixteen different kinds of shit.

His pen flew over the paper.

Amanda, I’m so sorry for that note. I didn’t mean it. Jon

He wrote her name on the envelope the clerk was happy to provide.

“Please give this to Ms. Matthews in 1728.”

The woman nodded at him with her less than dazzling smile.

“I will, Jon. Sure.”

And she really meant to do it. It was just that watching Jon’s ass as he walked out the door proved a little too distracting.

Misfiling the envelope the clerk assured that the couple in room 1738 would have an interesting morning.

Just Some Info

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 9:47 AM
Bear with me, guys. My dad died last night and there are a zillion things to do. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Sun

Chapter 235

Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 9:08 PM
Jon’s eyes widened in surprise as he did a quick look around. He’d been so involved in his own thoughts he hadn’t even noticed Richie wasn’t in the limo.

The other men were still talking when he walked up to them, but conversation trailed off at the scowl on his face and the narrowed blue eyes that shot each man their own look.

“Where’s Richie?”

The men glanced at one another, shoulders lifting in shrugs. Everyone turned as one to look at the driveway to see if the other limo was coming.

Tico spoke first. “Dunno, man, thought he was behind us.”

Jon just stood there, his mind racing.

Where was Richie?

~~~

Richie was back in the elevator, heading down to the lobby, trying to find out where Amanda had gone. He heard laughter from the bar area behind him. He paused, convincing himself she was in there, then turned in that direction.

He found her.

Moving through the crowded room, he walked gracefully through the laughing crowd, working his way to her table, a smile on his face that slowly drifted into a frown as he saw her.

Fuck.

Did she know tears were running down her face?

“Manda?”

Nothing.

“Amanda?” He reached out to touch her arm and gave a small wince as she turned her eyes toward him.

Pain.

Jesus.

Amanda looked up at the tall man, so deep in her thoughts it took her a moment to focus on his face.

“Richie? What are you doing here?” Amanda blinked at his sudden appearance.

He sat down on the other side of the table and gave her a small smile.

“I don’t think you should be alone tonight.”

Now she was the one with the small smile.

“I’ll be fine.” Her voice tightened a bit as she spoke.

Richie’s voice reached her ears as a whisper.

“You’re crying.”

Amanda’s eyes widened and she raised her hand, touching her cheeks. She felt the wetness and shook her head softly.

“It’s nothing.”

Richie opened his mouth to speak, but stopped as the waitress moved to their table. Amanda took those few moments to get a tighter hold on her emotions. It seemed that’s all she had been doing for the last week. Trying to not feel anything.

It was getting easier.

Now, she was lying.

~~~

Jon stood there, his anger growing.

He wanted to punch Richie right in the mouth.

Tell him to stop fucking with his private life.

Can’t even handle his own fucking life. Needs to stay the fuck out of mine.

Stop talking to people he was over.

Why the hell is he talking to her anyway? He needs to tell her to get lost.

He needs to … tell me where she is.

What the fuck?

He did not want to see Amanda.

That voice in his head needed to shut up.

Reluctantly, his mind churning, he followed the other men into the bar.

Three quickly downed drinks later, Jon pulled out his cell as he walked away from the table.

Dave, Hugh and Tico exchanged looks and a few rolled eyes.

Hugh looked at Tico.

“You think he’ll be back?”

Tico grinned as he lit another cigarette.

“Not a fucking chance.”

~~~

Jon’s strides ate up the floor as he walked to the exit doors, the cell to his ear.

“Where did you take him?”

The limo driver answered and Jon punched the button to end the call, dialing a cab company in one practiced motion and barking out his need for a pick up.

He paced, waiting for a cab, anger growing with each stride.

Fucking Richie. This was going to end tonight. Right the fuck now.

He loved Richie like a brother, but he’d made up his mind.

If Richie had taken off, without saying anything, he had gone to see Amanda. Jon just knew it. He could feel it.

Richie was with Amanda.

He might be looking at her right now. Sitting next to her, close enough to smell her perfume. Feel her hair brush his arm as she turned. See her smile. How her eyes would light up when she saw…

How her eyes would light up when she saw me.

He shook his head, crushing his hand into his jacket pocket to grab his cigarettes. He lit one with movements harsh with anger, taking several quick draws until he began pacing once again.

Amanda was not the problem. She was not. That was done. He was over her. He didn’t want to see her. Wouldn’t even be thinking about her if she hadn’t shown up tonight. If Richie hadn’t brought her back stage.

Richie was the problem.

Not Amanda.

~~~

“What are you going to do?” Richie toyed with his drink as he watched her, saw her open her mouth to speak, then close it, shaking her head.

“I’m gonna go away for a while, Richie.”

He squinted at her, not sure if it was surprise he was feeling at her answer.

Hell, I’d wanna get the fuck outta Dodge too.

“Where?”

Amanda’s eyes met his. “I don’t know yet. Does it matter?”

He wanted to answer her. To tell her it did matter, that she shouldn’t give up.

That it would all work out.

But he couldn’t. And he knew she understood that when her slight smile quivered and she grabbed her hat and bag, standing at the side of the table.

Richie stood, following her through the bar into the lobby. She waited for him and he slipped an arm around her waist as they walked to the elevator.

Amanda briefly leaned her head against Richie’s shoulder as they waited for the elevator doors to open and felt him tilt his head to lay the gentlest of kisses against her hair.

Jon watched all this from a chair in the lobby. His eyes blazed and he was on his feet as the doors opened.

Amanda and Richie entered the elevator, then froze as Jon seemed to just appear outside the slowly closing doors.

Amanda took a step forward, her eyes wide, her arm rising to touch without her conscious thought.

“Jon … please …” She stopped as he looked at her, his eyes burning into hers.

Richie took a small step back from her side as she and Jon just stood there, the door holding at Jon’s body in the way.

Jon stepped into the elevator and Richie’s hand shot out, catching the door. He stepped out and watched the door closing on the two inside.

She stood silently in the elevator, her arm burning where Jon’s hand had reached out and made contact with her skin. His eyes blazed into hers and they both stood there, breathing the other in.

The door pinged open and a group of men turned to enter.

Jon jammed the button as he spoke, his eyes never leaving Amanda‘s face. “Elevator’s full.”

One man opened his mouth to protest, then stopped, leaving the door to close on the two inside.

“What room are you in?”

She blinked at his voice, then had to search inside her bag for her room key. She stumbled a little as she did this and he took the bag from her to get the key. He pressed the button for the 17th floor and they started the ascent.

They walked down the hallway to her room, her balance less than perfect and Jon’s arm moved unbidden around her waist. He opened the door and she went inside. He stood at the doorway for a moment, long enough for her to turn and look at him, then he went in, closing the door.

Amanda slipped off her heels and Jon dropped her bag on the dresser. Standing there, looking at her, he was flooded with memories of her in his arms, the feel of her skin on his, the way it felt to be inside her.

He fought every memory. He thought of how she had lied to him, disappeared, threw everything he had offered her back in his face.

He knew he had to turn and walk out the door, walk away from her as she had walked away from him.

He moved to do just that and had no idea how he ended up moving towards her instead. She slid into his arms like the missing half of his soul.

His hands rose to push her away and suddenly there were shreds of clothes in them.

He grabbed her hair to keep her lips from his and those same lips were now joined with his, her breath softly mingling with his own.

He dropped his hands to her hips to stop grinding against her and instead met naked flesh.

She stood there, hardly daring to breath, her eyes liquid with desire, and he lost the fight.

A near-angry shove had her on the bed and in seconds he was inside her, her legs quivering with her need, her hands moving everywhere she could reach. He grasped her hands with one of his, forcing them over her head, using his other hand to raise her hips as he bent over her, burying himself inside her warmth.

He managed to stay just this side of too forceful as he reined in his anger and hurt, lost in the sensation of her body, the uniqueness of her smell, the fullness of her response.

She responded to this man, this love, with a wildness she had almost forgotten she possessed. He was almost unprepared for her climax, feeling her shake suddenly with the force and he opened his eyes to take in every move she made. The thundering in his veins announced his own peak as he curled over her, driving in deeper with the last few strokes.

One was afraid to speak, the other unable. Their gasping breaths told their own tale. As breathing slowed, passion renewed, but no words were spoken.

One physically demanded.

One more time, just once more.

The other silently pleaded.

Oh god, please, once more.

An exhausted sleep eventually found them.

~~~

Amanda woke the next morning, a shaft of muted sunlight in her room announcing the time was still early, not yet quite full dawn.

For the first time in more days than she could count, the heaviness that seemed to live in her heart was gone and she knew the reason.

She turned to Jon, a smile already beginning to curve her lips.

The bed was empty.

The bathroom was empty.

The room was empty.

Except for a single piece of paper.

A signature.

His autograph.

Chapter 234

Monday, April 26, 2010 at 10:02 AM
Unable to move as Jon passed her, Amanda jumped at the slam of the door and then went deathly still again at the sound of the lock. She stared at the door of Jon’s dressing room, the pounding of her heart drowning out the shuffling feet of the men beside her.

It wasn’t the woman.

It was that look in his eyes, the blanking out of emotion as his eyes met hers.

It was like she had ceased to exist for him.

Her heart just stopped.

She knew it had stopped.

She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.

Richie touched her arm once, and then again, finally taking her elbow and turning her toward him. He winced at the expression on her face. David and Hugh swore softly, glanced at Richie and Tico, and then turned to leave for their own rooms, unsure of what to say. Amanda didn’t see them leave, her eyes darting from Richie’s own eyes to Jon’s room.

“Amanda …” Tico began, stopping as Amanda’s pain-filled eyes turned toward him.

“He’s hurting…” Tico tried to explain, throwing
help-me eyes at Richie.

“Manda…come with me…” Richie nodded at Tico, indicating he would take care of her as Tico grimaced in response and left the two in the hallway.

Richie took one of Amanda’s cold hands in his, leading her into his dressing room. He sat her down on the couch and crossed the small room to pour her a shot of Jack. She took it without response and downed it, coughing a little as the liquid fire traveled from her throat to the pit of her stomach.

Her voice came out a near whisper.

“I made a mistake…I got a text from Jon’s phone about a ticket waiting for me here, for this concert. I thought he sent it to me, that he wanted to see me.”

Richie listened as she explained, some of his questions being answered simply by his remaining silent.

“You know I couldn’t tell him the truth, about why I left. I couldn’t embarrass him, couldn’t focus the press on him that way, and his mother…no. It was better if he hated me, if he believed the worst…” her voice trailed off, then she looked deeply into his eyes.

“And he does hate me now…”

He took a step toward her. “Amanda…”, but she shook her head and backed away.

“I’m gonna go, Richie.” She smiled sadly at the man in front of her, then took that one step closer to put her into his arms. She kissed his cheek as he enveloped her a hug. Pulling back, she looked straight at him and spoke.

“You take care of yourself.”

Richie watched her walk out the door, closing it softly behind her.

~~~

Jon stood pressed against the door he had just slammed and locked, his mind turning over and over what he had just seen in the hallway, the woman in his room all but forgotten.

She’s here! Goddam it! Where has she been? Why is she here?

I can’t believe she would do this again!

How big of a fool does she think I am?

God, she looks good!

His thoughts didn’t match his deeds though as the woman he had fully intended to lose himself in that night suddenly looked like a pale imitation of what he had once had. As kindly as he could considering his sudden need to throw her out of the room, he told her he had a commitment he had forgotten, kissed her briefly, and hurried her out. She has been there less than five minutes.

Alone now, adrenaline flowing, he paced back and forth from one end of the room to another, his mind whirling, fighting down the sight of Amanda again. In disgust he peeled off his stage clothes, entered the shower and turned it on at a blistering temperature. Skin turning pink, he finally adjusted the setting to cold until his outside felt as numb as his inside.

Dressing in jeans, a silk shirt, and cowboy boots, he left his room to see the other guys just walking through the private entrance to the waiting cars. Conversation stopped as he approached and he pasted on a smile, yelling out as he passed them.

“Let’s go, there’s a party somewhere!”

The men gave another glance at each other, following Jon to the waiting limos. A few of them had seen the woman leave and they all knew, even without that, that she had not been there long at all.

Richie felt a small smile cross his face.

He sent her away. Hot damn!

Jon strode toward one of the cars and then abruptly turned.

“Which one of you motherfuckers did it? Who brought her back stage?”

Richie answered quietly.

“I did. She was in the crowd, in the front. We all saw her.”

With surprise evident on his face, Jon narrowed his eyes.

“What was she doing at the show?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “So fucking what? She was there – what made you bring her back stage?”

“I thought you might want to see her, man. You’ve been a walking prick since she left.”

Jon started to answer, puffing up with anger, when Richie cut in.

“If you didn’t want her to come, why did you send her a text message that there was a ticket waiting for her?”

That statement stopped Jon short.

“What the hell are you talking about? I didn’t send her any text message. It’s just another lie, don’t you get it? She was only here for one thing and now she realizes she misses it and wants to get back in!”

Jon shook his head with disgust at Richie’s and his own gullibility.

Throwing his hands up, Jon turned once again to the cars, calling over his shoulder.

“I’m outta here.”

The other three glanced at Richie and followed.

The lead limo pulled out.

The second limo, with Richie in it, headed in the other direction.

~~~

Amanda had taken a cab from the stadium back to her hotel. Her tears had dried, but there seemed to be something wrong with her sight as she saw nothing during the ride.

All she could see was Jon’s face as he had looked at her. There just wasn’t anything there.

Damn Jeremy. Damn him to hell.

Her head shook as she violently thrust her thoughts away from her ex-husband. If she stopped to think about that right now on top of what had just happened with Jon, she would lose it. She knew she would.

She’d called her mother from California, the tearful conversation lasting over an hour. Her mother had tried to say all the right words, tried to comfort her child, but there just weren’t any words that would make it any better.

Somehow telling her mother about Jon had been even harder. Jennifer had let out a string of cuss words that only ended when Amanda had started giggling despite herself.

“Mom!” Amanda’s voice had been choking with laughter.

“I didn’t even know you knew all those words!”

Jennifer had given a snort and then a short bark of a laugh.

“I know them, but don’t usually need to use them.” She sighed and then spoke again. “Baby, I’m so sorry…I…”

Amanda had hushed her, feeling the tears welling again and not wanting to further upset her mom.

She’d promised her mother she’d keep in touch and her mother, knowing her daughter, had let her get away with her deflection. Let her end the call before the tears came again.

Amanda was dragged back into the present as the cab pulled up in front of her hotel.

She needed a drink.

A lot of drinks.

And then she needed to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

~~~

Jon sat in the limo, arms crossed, staring out the window as the other men talked softly.

He’s seen her face, of course.

When her eyes had widened and the pain had entered.

Pain?

Where did she get off feeling pain?

He was the victim here. Of her schemes, her lies, her treachery.

How dare she come back? And with more lies. A text message to come to the show.

He hadn’t sent her a text message. It was just another lie.

He needed a drink.

A lot of drinks.

And it was time to talk to Richie.

The car pulling to a stop had him turning to look at Richie.

Who wasn’t there.

~~~

Richie knew Amanda would be leaving. He could hear it in her voice when she told him goodbye at the stadium. He knew she wouldn’t try to see Jon again, but she needed to know not to give up.

And that he would help her.

The driver pulled up to the hotel and Richie dismissed him for the night. He had no idea how long he would be there, but Amanda deserved to have a friend at her side tonight.

A few steps through the lobby had Richie at the elevator, pushing the button for Amanda’s floor. He moved into the empty hallway and walked quietly to her door. He knocked.

Then knocked again.

Once more.

No answer.

~~~

There were a several couples inside the bar area of the hotel, as well as a group of men who seemed to be part of a convention or meeting as a few had forgotten to remove their nametags. The music was loud, but not overpowering, and a small dance floor toward the back was filled with couples.

At the very last table in the back, a lone woman sat facing the wall, a glass of Jack and coke in front of her. Her head was lowered and she remained oblivious to the crowd all around her. Her mind was filled with images – she kept returning to the look on Jon’s face.

It’s worse than if he hated me. It’s worse because he doesn’t care.

I was wrong to try to see him.

It really is over.

She had forgotten the hat on her head until it slipped a little when she tilted her head back to drink and she took it off, setting it on the table beside her. She fingered the hat for a moment, responding with a nod but without looking when the waitress brought her another drink.

During the few days since she had flown back from California with Richie, she had done little except think about what had happened. Although she knew that Richie had talked with Jon’s mother, she had little faith that Mrs. Bongiovi would do anything. She doubted the truth would ever be revealed to Jon and the result of that, never being in his life again, made her choice.

Money wasn’t a problem. She had enough in the bank that she could go anywhere she wanted.

She thought for a few minutes about returning to her home, to the life she’d had before Jon.

But that life was even more over than this one was. There was nothing to return to. Her mother was healthy and vibrant, her life filled with friends and her job and the many organizations she belonged to. They always made time to get together, but it was around her mother’s schedule, not hers.

She had no schedule.

No job.

No life.

No Jon.

Her eyes closed as pain shot through her heart once again.

She’d had hope before.

After getting that text from Jon about the concert, she went from one wild swing of elation to the downward slope of doubt and back again. She would see Jon and … if it was over … she would leave.

Sitting in the bar, reliving over and over again the rejection in Jon’s eyes, she knew it was over.

She had wanted to believe that somehow, someway, this could be worked through. But she knew, deep down, she knew.

No matter what Richie had said, she knew Jon would never let her back in.

Her decision made, she raised her drink in a small mock salute to herself, tipped her head back and let the fire flow down her throat.

Tomorrow she would disappear.

And find herself.

Chapter 233

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 6:43 AM
Amanda had picked up her reserved ticket at the Giants stadium will-call window. Her hand actually shook a little as the woman behind the counter handed it to her. The text from Jon had more than surprised her. She hadn’t yet heard from Richie regarding the results of his conversation with Mrs. Bongiovi. He had called, but other than telling her of Carol’s comment that she would “fix it”, there had been no further news. Receiving this text was a small hope that Jon had been told by his mother of what she had done and that he was at least willing to talk to her.

With Bon Jovi scheduled for 8 that night, she entered the stadium at 7:30, after the heavy rush of the crowd. The opening band was on and the seats were filled to capacity. She stopped and got a drink. Walking through the crowded venue, she glanced more carefully at her ticket and saw to her dismay that she was in the fifth row to the right of Richie. This unfortunately put her more towards the middle of the center than she would have wished and she hesitated before entering the section.

It was now 7:40 and the band on stage was ending their last number. She stopped at the edge of the section, finished her drink and abruptly turned and left the main area. Once again she sought out an alcohol stand, understanding she was using this as a crutch to prevent entering the stadium and because she was actually scared to see Jon. With drink in hand, she walked past a souvenir stand and on impulse bought a Shady Brady to wear, using a mirror to adjust the hat low on her head, hoping this would help hide her from the stage.

She re-entered the main floor at one minute to eight, the screaming of the crowd reaching out towards the stage, the light already flashing. Moving to her area, she apologetically slid past the screaming women already there. The swell of crowd noise as Tico, David, and Hugh took the stage brought her gaze to the platform as everyone around her was standing and jostling. She gazed at the men, a small sad smile on her face that widened into one of delight as Richie and then Jon came out to a surge of noise.

They opened with Born To Be My Baby and then Jon caused massive screaming by calling out that he needed “some bad medicine, baby”. Amanda was close enough to see Jon’s face clearly and it seemed to her that the smile Jon gave over and over just missed by some small fraction to fully engage his eyes. She was a little confused that he didn’t seem to be looking for her as he surely knew where she was sitting, but he was completely involved in performing so it slid from her mind as her eyes devoured him.

A solo by Richie ended and the opening bars of “Lay Your Hands On Me” began. Each slowly building note fed on the one before it until suddenly Jon re-appeared walking slowly from the back of the stage. He had changed into a vest with no shirt and Amanda’s breath caught in her throat as her eyes never left his face. She pulled the hat lower on her forehead but stood transfixed as she watched Jon move across the stage, welcoming the crowd to “Jonny’s church of rock and roll”.

Jon was moving along the catwalk on his side of the stage, charming, flirting, smiling, and generally causing the nearest thing to a Bon Jovi riot as women of all ages reached out for his hand, his leg, his pants, anything they could get their hands on.

Richie stood playing, letting his eyes sweep the crowd. Giants was always huge for them, the crowd on its feet the entire time, dancing, swaying, and clapping. It was probably Amanda’s total lack of movement that caught his eye. Someone not moving at a Jovi concert was an oddity – it just didn’t happen – particularly in the first several rows.

The woman standing there, a Shady Brady on her head, her eyes turned to follow Jon’s every move, at first made Richie smile wryly at what he believed was another Jon convert. A familiarity in her stance tugged at his memory and he moved closer to that area at the front of the stage. Recognition suddenly dawned and the tightening of his hands on his guitar caused a string to snap. A quick glance by Hugh towards Richie had him picking up the slack as Richie’s guitar tech hurried forward with a replacement.

Amanda noticed none of this as she couldn’t stop watching Jon. He turned back towards the stage and she saw with something akin to shock that he was going to walk in between the stage and the front rows of fans. She knew she was far enough back that he probably wouldn’t see her, but a deep yearning had her desperate to feel his hand against hers, even if it was for a brief second as he passed through the crowd. She resisted, pressing back against the women pressing her forward, managing to stay at her seat.

She saw him moving closer, smiling that amazing smile of his, pressing hands, slapping palms, and with every step growing closer to where she was. Jon remained on auto-pilot as he did his fan greetings. Every day since Amanda had left his life he had gone through the motions of being his old self, a man he didn’t recognize anymore. He saw a beautiful blonde as he passed through the line and on a whim he exchanged an intense kiss with her. After letting her go, he sent an old signal behind his back to one of his security men. They knew what to do.

Amanda saw him draw closer and lowered her head. Her arm ached with the effort it took to hold it at her side. She peeped under the brim of her hat and saw Jon kiss a gorgeous blonde. He seemed to linger for a moment and then moved on, but even though she knew it was a part of his performing, such a gesture at this time added another layer to the ice she had formed inside to shield her from her pain.

Moving on, Jon scanned the crowd in front of him as he neared those toward the center but a bit on Richie’s side. He gave a small smile as he saw a woman with a hat similar to his own Shady, but couldn’t see her face as it was tilted downward. He noticed the long dark hair though and felt a tug in his heart. Quickly finishing the walk through, he returned to the stage, passing Richie as he did so. His friend gave him a look that had Jon mentally scratching his head. He had no idea what signal Richie was trying to send him, but knew he would eventually find out.

A few songs later Richie managed to catch Tico’s eye and mouth “Amanda”. Tico’s eyes widened as he began to search the crowd as best he could while playing. Glancing again at Richie, he saw Richie point to his hat and that narrowed the field. It didn’t take long before he saw a woman towards the front, barely moving, a Shady on her head, her eyes following Jon as if he was water and she was dying of thirst.

Tico gave a signal to David and his open mouth was enough of an answer that he too had seen her. Hugh didn’t need to be told. He had seen her almost as soon as Richie did. Jon remained oblivious, working the crowd with all the magic he possessed.

During the encore Richie grabbed Chris, quickly explained what he wanted done, and then moved quickly to change his clothes. Jon had his own private changing area during shows and missed the machinations by his wingman. When Bon Jovi left the stage before the last encore, Amanda found herself taken by the arms by two security men who efficiently moved her out of the crowd and off to the side.

Her protestations were completely unsuccessful and the two unsmiling security guards didn’t help. She was sure she was being escorted from the concert, thrown out actually, and she just wanted to leave as quickly as she could before her embarrassment increased.

I never should have come. He wants me out of here. Oh god, Jon, I’m so sorry!

The security guards took her back behind the stage area, to the hallways and dressing rooms for the performers. Amanda followed silently, shaking her head slightly as alternated between hope and despair. They stopped at the open door of a room with catered food and drinks, motioning her inside.

Sitting was an impossibility and Amanda didn’t even try. She paced. Back and forth, slowly and then quicker, and the slowly again. The time dragged although it couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes since she had been brought back. She could hear the band, the screams of the crowd, and then the final roar as the concert ended.

Voices and laughter began to fill the hallways and Amanda’s walk slowed to a stop. She stood, craning her neck to see out the door and past the one remaining guard. A tall form suddenly filled the doorframe.

“Richie!” Amanda’s smile grew as Richie stepped in to the room and swept her in a bear hug.

“Damn girl, you should have told me you were coming.” Richie’s voice held a bit of surprise at her appearance at the concert.

She pulled back from him. “I need to leave. I thought he wanted to see me, but…”

Richie met her eyes as his thoughts whirled.

Do I bring her back? I know Jon didn’t see her. He’s been so angry. What will he do?

Her smile had started to quiver with the effort to maintain it when it took him a few seconds to answer her. He nodded then, seeming to have made a decision, and taking her hand, had her follow him from the room.

She felt immense relief until she realized he wasn’t taking her to the exit. She started to tug her hand away from his, but he held on and pulled her along with him.

Walking further towards the back dressing areas, her hand firmly held by Richie, Amanda saw curious looks but no expressions of outright surprise at her appearance. A truly warm welcome came from Tico, David and Hugh who were walking toward their dressing rooms, talking quietly about her being at the show.

Questions and smiles were shot at her in rapid fire and Amanda laughed as she tried to answer as truthfully as she could without telling what had actually happened. She was being released from a hug by David when she saw Jon walking down the hallway, his arm around the beautiful blonde from the front row of the concert. He had his head turned toward her ear, obviously whispering something that had the blonde giggling and pressing closer to him.

The unmistakable laughter and joking of his friends caught his attention and he turned toward their direction. He could see they were talking to someone, but Richie and David, the two taller of the men, were blocking who it was.

“Hey assholes! Whatcha doin’ hanging in the halls?” His voice was loud but a bit roughened from the singing. He jostled the drink already in his hand as he made a wide gesture.

At hearing his voice, Richie and Dave stepped aside and suddenly Amanda was standing there in the center of the group.

Jon stopped, frozen into motionlessness, his hand dropping from the rear end of the blonde as he blinked his eyes several times in surprise. For a long, long moment those engaging, expressive eyes flared and then he blinked again and all emotion was gone.

He seemed to visibly sag and then drew himself up again, his stance rigid, the anger coming off him nearly a tangible thing. The blonde at his side watched the group in front of her, then she again pressed herself to Jon’s side. He felt nothing when his arm automatically positioned itself on her waist.

A sharp gasp of exhaled breath escaped Amanda’s tightened throat as her heart attempted to re-start itself. She watched as Jon’s eyes drained of emotion, blanking out at the sight of her, and pain shot through her. He smiled then, a passionless sham of a smile, and pulled the woman closer.

Moving forward to his dressing room he addressed his band mates, ignoring the wide-eyed woman standing statue-like in their midst.

“Gonna be a little while guys. I’ll see ya at the party.” His voice was as emotionless as his eyes as he passed them and he missed the fists of both Richie and Tico tightening in anger at his words.

Everyone else missed the fire that returned to his eyes once he was past them.

In absolute silence they all watched him walk a little further down the hallway to his dressing room, motion for the woman to enter before him, and then slam the door.

The click of the lock was as loud as a gunshot.

Chapter 232

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 6:57 AM
Sitting there in silence after Jon had hung up on Richie, Amanda was barely aware of the man quietly thinking his own thoughts.

While everything was urging him to step in, tell Jon what had happened, why Amanda had left, that what he believed about her was wrong, there was a huge problem with doing that. How did he tell Jon that it was his own mother who had instigated this, first by investigating Amanda and then by demanding she leave.

It also seemed his mother had taken Amanda’s note and the items she had left and substituted her own. She had done this in such a way that it was almost guaranteed that Jon would despise the woman he loved.

How do I tell Jon what his mother did?

He had no answer for that – except he couldn’t.

“Richie…Richie…” Amanda’s voice called him softly, breaking him out of his deep thoughts.

“Yeah? Sorry, I was thinking. What, honey?”

“I wanted to thank you for what you said, but I think we both know things are over.”

Shaking his head in refusal, thinking furiously, Richie held up a hand to stop her.

“I don’t know how yet, but this isn’t over. I want to help you and I will…”

“We are not telling him about his mother, Richie. No matter what. Do you hear me?”

Amanda’s voice was firm and unyielding. No matter what Mrs. Bongiovi had done, she had done it for Jon, to protect him and even though what she thought she knew was wrong, Amanda would never tell Jon about it.

Sighing, Richie reluctantly agreed.

“Yeah, that’s what I was just thinking about. I won’t be telling him about his mother. You have my word on that.”

They sat in silence again, both lost in thought. Richie’s head snapped up as an idea came to him.

“We have a meeting about the Soul, two days from now. I’ll be there and you can see him.

“What if he won’t see me?”

“I’ll make sure he does. I want to do this, Amanda. I’m sorry I didn’t give you a chance to explain what was going on. Let me help, okay?”

She looked at him, sincerity radiating from every inch of his six foot height. She smiled softly at him, grateful to once again have his friendship and trust.

“It’s not going to work because there’s nothing I can tell him. How did I find out about Jeremy? Either someone told me or I already knew. He won’t believe me.”

“Dammit! I know that, but you’ve got to try…there’s got to be a way.” He sat heavily on the side of the bed.

They thought in silence for longer than a few minutes, both running different scenarios and both always coming to the same conclusion.

“Shiiiittt…” Richie breathed out after a lengthy silence.

The lighter-heartedness Amanda had felt a short time ago was fading rapidly. There was just no way.

Taking a deep breath, she spoke.

“I can’t. I won’t tell Jon about his mother.”

Richie looked at her, knowing he had reached the same conclusion. But he also knew something else.

We’re not the ones who are going to tell Jon about that.


~~~

Richie and Amanda flew back to New Jersey early Monday morning. He had finally managed to talk her into staying in the area for a few days. She was reluctant to do so, but the truth was she was feeling desperate to talk to Jon, to see him, and she missed his touch with an ache she hadn’t known she could feel.

Right now, concentrating on Jon, she was able to lock away how she felt about Jeremy’s betrayal, his children, his new life and the broken remains of hers.

There were some pictures taken of Richie at the airport with Amanda hanging back as far as she could so she would be out of the shot. It didn’t work as she was now also recognizable to certain portions of the public and later that afternoon photos of both were on the internet.

“Hey Jon, it’s Tony.”

“Hi, what’s up?” Jon answered his cell as he got out his car at the arena for the upcoming practice.

“What’s Amanda doing in California with Richie?”

“What?” Jon stopped walking as he listened to his brother.

“Matt called earlier. There are shots of both in the airport.”

Jon was thinking frantically. He wasn’t ready yet to talk about this, even to his brother.

“She has a relative out there and since I was busy, she took a few days.” He held his breath waiting to see if that explanation was accepted.

“Oh, okay, that’s cool. Just wondered. So, you’re coming to the parents house Thursday?”

Jon blew out the breath he had been holding, tension pouring off him.

“Yeah, I’ll be there. Talk to you later, okay?”

“Sure, Jonny. Later.”

The brothers hung up. One proceeded with his day without a care.

It wasn’t Jon.

~~~

Richie had a plan.

The main part it began with a surprise visit to Mrs. Bongiovi. He arrived a bit after the normal dinner hour on Tuesday and knocked on the door. John Sr. answered, a pleased yet puzzled smile on his face. He extended his hand to his son’s friend of over 25 years.

“Hi, Rich, how are you doing son?

“Good, Sir, hope I’m not catching you folks at a bad time.”

John shook his head, motioning for Richie to come in.

“Not at all, come on inside.”

Richie did so as John called out to Carol that they had a visitor.

Mrs. Bongiovi came in from the kitchen with a dishtowel in her hands.

“Why Richie! Hello! What a pleasant surprise. How are you?”

Richie accepted her hug of greeting and returned it, furiously thinking of how he could get her alone. Mr. Bongiovi unwittingly provided the means as he apologized that he had an evening arranged at one of his buddies houses and that he was actually on his way out. Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Richie accepted his apologies for having to run and they said their goodbyes.

Carol turned to Richie after her husband had left.

“Come on in the kitchen. I was just putting on a fresh pot of coffee.”

Richie followed her into the inviting room, a warm spacious kitchen that really served as the heart of the house.

Settling down in a chair at the table with a fresh cup of coffee in front of him, Richie looked at Jon’s mother with such an expression of seriousness that her maternal instincts were instantly aroused.

“Richie! What’s wrong? Is it Jon?” Her voice rose as her concern grew.

Holding up a hand, he allayed her concerns about Jon…at least the immediate one…and then his tone changed.

“Mrs. B, you and I have to talk.”

Carol turned wide eyes toward Richie as he began speaking. Several times he heard her gasp and often she turned her head away as if she could refuse to hear what he was saying simply by not looking at him. He laid everything out for her, from meeting Amanda by chance in California, to seeing her own note and the report, to talking with Amanda’s ex-husband.

She cringed when he relayed in full detail what Amanda had found out and what her part in that had been.

Then, to his own surprise, Richie also told Jon’s mother about how Jon and Amanda met. He gave her details she hadn’t know, how changed Jon was from nearly the first day of meeting her, how Amanda had not sought him out, how Jon was the one who refused to let her go. She had never heard any of this before and it cast the whole situation in a new light. She now knew why her son’s friends were so protective of Amanda. She had been accepted because she had proven herself over and over.

Turning toward Richie, tears blurring her eyes, she bowed her head.

“I’ve really made a mess, haven’t I?” Carol asked softly.

Richie didn’t answer her question, but instead posed one of his own.

“What are you gonna do about this, mom?” Her head shot up at his words and her eyes cleared.

“Fix it.”

~~~

Jon had dinner at his parents’ house a few nights later. He and his dad talked football while his mother prepared some of his favorite dishes. While both Jon’s parents tried to engage their son in conversation, they were met with one word answers and a quick departure after the minimum of socializing he could get away with.

Carol sat at the table after her son left. She loved him too much to not see how miserable he was. She already knew how wrong what she had done was, but was coming more and more to the realization that only she could help both her son and the woman he loved. She was wrong about Amanda and wrong about how Jon felt about her.

One thing she knew for sure, the text message she had sent from Jon’s phone when he was talking to his father was a start.

Chapter 231

Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 8:53 AM
The voice of the man standing here was so different from the one who had confronted her and spoken to her on the phone that all she could do was nod dumbly and step to the side.

She offered him a coffee as if everything hinged on her being as polite a hostess as possible in this two-person play. He fixed a cup and sat on a chair by the window.

He looked at her, a swath of dark hair falling partially over one eye.

“I’m some friend, aren’t I?”

“Wh…what? You’re a great friend, Richie. You and Jon are always there for each other.”

“I mean you, Manda, I’ve really been some friend.” He said this with self-disgust easy to hear in his voice.

Amanda had no idea what had caused the change in Richie’s attitude from one day to the next and just sat quietly as he mused.

“Something didn’t sound right about this from the beginning. I saw that note you left him and then he told me that you were married and that you had just left, taking everything with you, and that didn’t sound right. So, here’s what I want to know…why did you leave the way you did? Why make him feel like a fool?”

Taking a deep breath, her mind racing as to what she could and could not say, she began to tell him a little of what had happened.

“Jon’s mother came to see me and she had that…” she gestured to the folder now on the side of the bed.

Amanda turned pain-filled eyes to the dark-haired man sitting opposite her.

“She told me I had to leave, but I already knew that as soon as she said Jeremy was alive. How could I let anyone find out? I saw what the press does. They would have crucified Jon just for being with me. How could I do that to him?”

“Okay, I get that, but why do it the way you did? Why be so hateful in your note? Why take those things, especially the engagement ring, when you were leaving him?”

This was what had struck Richie as being one of the most strange things in a strange situation.

“Richie, you said that before. I didn’t take anything. Everything was on the desk.” She didn’t know how to convince him, but she knew what she had done.

Deep in thought, Richie didn’t respond for a few moments, then raised his eyes to her.

“Amanda, what did you write in your note?”

Puzzled eyes met his. “You said you read it.”

“I know, but tell me what you wrote.” He urged her.

Her eyes moved as she thought, never lighting for long on one object.

“I said I was leaving, but I couldn’t tell him why. That I could only bring him pain and he didn’t deserve that. I wrote I wasn’t who he thought, but that I love him.” It was not word for word, but what she remembered conveyed what she had written.

He cocked his head at her. “You’re sure that’s what you wrote?”

“Not word for word, no, but pretty close. Why?” Bewilderment continued to cloud her face.

“That’s not the letter Jon has.”

It was possible for her eyes to get wider.

“What letter does he have?”

“The one where you said you met him on purpose, to get what you could out of him. That you needed money. That you lied from the beginning about being married. That one.” He watched her carefully as he said this.

Tears filled her eyes as she heard this and she dropped her head so far that Richie almost didn’t hear her whispered words.

“Jesus … she hated me that much … she wanted him to hate me, so I could never come back…”

At that moment everything she had been through, all the shocks, the revelations, the horrible truths hit her and she folded over herself, hugging her stomach, her entire body shaking with the strain of her tears.

Richie sat there stunned as he watched Amanda trembling as she tried to hold in her grief and anger. He realized what she had said, what he had heard, and it nearly killed him to admit that he knew who had done this to both Jon and Amanda.

Moving from the chair to the crying woman, he raised her up by an arm and moved them to the side of the bed where he sat beside her with her in his arms. He held her as he would his daughter or his mother, offering simple comfort. As he sat there, he remembered when she had done the same for him.

As she absorbed his warmth and heard his murmured words of comfort, Amanda drew back again into welcoming numbness she had felt since learning about Jeremy. It was this lack of emotion that helped her through the next few minutes.

“I talked to Jeremy, Amanda.” Richie told her quietly.

“What? What did he say?!”

How bad did he make me sound?

“He told me everything … all of it … his affair and his son, the FBI, witness protection…”

Amanda’s eyes grew wider and wider as Richie relayed fact after fact that he could only have learned from speaking with Jeremy.

“He also told me you didn’t know.”

“I didn’t.”

They sat there in silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Richie spoke first; he had made his decision.

“Go back to him. Tell him everything. You’re free, Amanda. Tell him.”

“I can’t…” Amanda began.

Richie’s determined eyes met hers.

“Then I will.” He was reaching and dialing even as a protest rose in her throat.

“Jon?”

“Yeah?” The answer was tossed out distractedly from almost 3,000 miles away.

“There’s some stuff you need to know, man, about Amanda…” he began, his words rushing out.

“She already told me everything I needed to know.”

“But…” He realized he was speaking to a dead phone.

She looked at the phone in his hand and then at the silent man across from her. A heart-breaking smile crossed her lips.

She whispered, “… too late …”

Chapter 230

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 10:24 PM
Amanda had her proof. The divorce, like most of the other events connected with this mess, had been handled by the FBI. She wasn’t sure if she was amazed or terrified at the ease in which they could change the lives of people. She had returned to her hotel room after getting the papers.

“Good-bye, Jeremy” were the only words she could manage to utter at the last time she would see her former husband.

Jeremy had tried that morning to ask her questions about Jon, but she had shut him down so hard and fast he hadn’t dared ask anything more.

She wasn’t about to let him know that in addition to the loss of the life she thought she’d had, he’d also lost her the life she was about to have.

Ordering room service, realizing she hadn’t eaten in the last two days, Amanda ate every crumb and then curled up on the bed, eventually sliding into a restless sleep.

~~~

Richie had returned to his home after leaving Amanda’s hotel room, mulling over the papers he had read and her phone call. Sitting in his living room, a glass of wine in his hand, he took the copies he had made and read them again, more slowly this time. It was on the third read thru when he realized that the Mark Russell referred to in the papers was the same man who had taken the shots of Ava that day, the one asking questions about Amanda.

A few hours after initially seeing the contents of the folder and reading them more carefully, Richie began to think about what the papers said versus what Amanda had said. The more he thought about it, the more he became convinced that there just wasn’t something right about this whole situation.

How did she pull off a scam for months? A lot of lying for that. So how’d she do it?

Glancing at his watch he realized it was too late to return to the photo studio, but he would be there tomorrow without fail.

~~~

Mark had left Amanda at the bank after giving her the papers she had wanted. He knew he had hurt her deeply and his belief that he had done the right thing at the time, the only thing considering his son, was shaken. At this point there was nothing he could do for her and he felt regret eat deeply at him.

The tinkle of the studio doorbell brought Mark out of his thoughts to see the customer who had come in. He was more than a little surprised to see Richie Sambora considering they had an appointment for the following day to go over Ava’s photos. Richie strode across the waiting area of the studio directly up to Mark. He spoke to him, his eyes never leaving the other man’s.

“You know who I am and I know who you are. I want some questions answered and I’m not leaving until I get those answers. Understand…Jeremy?”

Mark’s eyes widened at that and took in the man standing in front of him, the unconscious arrogance of an international celebrity and multi-millionaire, someone who could change how he lived in this town with a few choice words.

He nodded.

Richie nodded back, folding his arms across his chest.

“Good fucking choice.”

~~~

An hour later Richie walked out of the studio, his questions answered, his mind rolling with what he had learned.

Inside Jeremy sat quietly, realizing that even if she never knew, there had been something he could do for Amanda.

~~~

Jon had stood there for several minutes just staring at his cell phone after Richie had called, telling him he had found Amanda.

What was she doing in California? How did Richie find her? Did she call him? Why wouldn’t she answer her damn phone?

He fought against himself, wanting to call back, wanting to know what she was doing, what was happening, but his pride, that purely masculine pride that makes a man take a stand even against his own feelings, ruled.

He was Jon Bon Jovi, by God, and he could have any woman he wanted. So what if this one had left, if he wanted he could have a hundred to replace her.

Jon knew he sounded like a petulant child, but even so, he only had to justify his thoughts to himself and right now, with what he knew she had done, that was easy to do.

~~~

Amanda had slept off and on for over a day. It was late in the afternoon on Saturday and she was now so wide awake she couldn’t stay in bed for a single second longer. She moved into the shower, luxuriating in the warm sudsy water until she thought of all the times she had shared these kinds of moments with Jon. She actually clutched her stomach with the flash of pain those memories brought, then quickly finished, anxious now to get out and away from the once welcoming water.

She ordered coffee and a light meal, sitting down to eat, her hair still in a towel, when it arrived. It was 7:30 in the evening in California, her mind automatically converting the time to 10:30 where Jon was in Jersey. It has been nearly a week since she had left and she ached to speak with him, to tell him what had happened, to explain that it was over and she hadn’t known, but images of Jon’s mother and how she could never prove the truth without exposing everything stopped her.

A knock sounded on her door and she scrambled up, surprised, expecting no one. Opening the door, she found Richie standing there. She couldn’t contain the gasp that escaped her parted lips.

“Richie?” She spoke his name as if seeing a ghost.

“May I come in?”

Chapter 229

Monday, March 22, 2010 at 8:40 AM
It was a few minutes after six that evening when Mark Russell exited the studio to the still brightly lit street. His arms were full with a portfolio, a computer briefcase, a coffee mug, and car keys and he didn’t see the woman waiting a little ways down from the studio entrance.

“Hello, Jeremy.”

Jeremy whipped around at the sound of that name and the voice. The travel coffee cup hit the pavement with a loud crack as he took in the sight of his wife standing in front of him.

“Amanda … oh my god!”

The emotional roller-coaster of the last several days had drained Amanda. The confrontation with Richie had been the final nail in the coffin of her emotional responses.

Facing Jeremy, she felt nothing.

Not even surprise that she felt nothing.

All she wanted were answers.

“I think you owe me an explanation.”

Jeremy looked at her for a long moment.

“Let me make a phone call first.”

She nodded at him. He dialed and spoke.

“Christina? I have some shots I have to run to a client tonight so I’m gonna be late. Yeah, I know. I’ll be there in time to help him go over his lines for the play. Okay, I’ll be home as soon as I can. Uh huh, me too.”

He hung up the phone without looking again at Amanda, but heard her next question.

“That boy, he’s your son, isn’t he?”

At that Jeremy did look at her.

“Yes, he’s my son.”

Amanda nodded, the first shaft of pain suddenly slicing through her numbness.

“My car is over there.” Jeremy pointed and they walked to his car. He put everything he was carrying inside and they stood there a moment. Amanda motioned to the restaurant where she had waited for him earlier that day.

“Let’s go there.”

Jeremy hesitated. “Uh, I’d rather not. Christina and I go there …” His voice trailed off.

Her eyes closed, the irony of his concern for the other woman not lost on her.

“Then I’ll follow you somewhere else.” She turned to head to her car, then stopped and pierced him with a look. “And Jeremy, don’t try and lose me, I already know where you live.”

Jeremy swallowed thickly at that and nodded, then got in his car, waiting until she was behind him to pull out of his parking space. They traveled roughly ten miles before Jeremy pulled off to a side street and then down a few blocks to a small café. Both parked and she followed him inside to a table. They ordered coffee and sat there in silence until it arrived.

Amanda spoke first.

“Are we still married?”

Jeremy winced slightly but answered.

“No.”

She nodded at that, then took a copy of the report out of her purse and slid it across the table to Jeremy.

“Read that. Then we’ll talk.”

Sitting and sipping at the coffee she couldn’t taste, Amanda waited for Jeremy to read through the several pages. He finally finished, but held off speaking until the waitress had refilled their cups and been assured that they wouldn’t need anything for a while.

“Most of this is true. Enrico Sanchez was into drugs in a big way. He was laundering money through the company and getting kickbacks from other contractors. The FBI approached me, told me I had to cooperate or I would get charged with federal RICO crimes even if I knew nothing about this.” He wasn’t meeting her eyes as he spoke, just filling in what the report had missed.

“The car accident wasn’t an accident. It was rigged – I found that out later. That same day the FBI moved me into witness protection. They had been following me and saw the accident. Thought I was driving. When they saw the condition of the body, how badly burned it was, they decided to let him be me.”

“Who did I bury?’

Her voice was shaking a little as the memories of the few moments of staring at what she believed was the almost unrecognizable burned body of her husband rose. Of how she had run from the room, barely making it to a bathroom before she had been violently sick.

Keeping his voice low, Jeremy answered.

“The guy who was killed was someone who worked on one of the construction sites. He had been sent to pick up some hardware. He wasn’t married and his dad lives out of state, so his family was just told he had been killed in an accident. Apparently his father is in a home with early Alzheimer’s, so there weren’t a lot of questions asked.”

Raising a hand to be heard, swallowing past the lump in her throat, Amanda broke in.

“Why didn’t you let me know any of this? Why didn’t I go into that program with you? Why…” she stopped as answers to those questions slammed into her.

“You took Christina and your son. That’s why I didn’t know and that’s why you didn’t take me, isn’t it?”

Meeting her eyes, Jeremy nodded.

“I’m sorry, Amanda. I met her a few years ago in Miami and … we … and then she got pregnant and suddenly I had a son.”

“And another one on the way, right?” Amanda’s voice now showing some of the hurt she felt.

“Yes, we’re having twins this time.”

Pain, deep and biting, hit Amanda at that admission. She had to change the subject. Gathering back the emotions flooding her, she sheathed them again in ice.

“I got an insurance payout and was able to sell the business. Did you make me commit fraud?”

“No! Enrico had to believe I was dead, so everything went through that way. The FBI arranged it. There’s no way it can come back on you.”

Jeremy had his own questions also.

“How did you find me?”

Amanda then handed him the handwritten letter from Mrs. Bongiovi.

“She had me investigated. I have no idea how that Mr. Davidson found out where you were, but he did.”

“He’s probably ex-FBI, Amanda. They still have pull with their former co-workers at times.”

“What about you? Don’t you have to testify? Isn’t this all going to come out?”

Jeremy shook his head softly.

“No. It’s over actually. Two weeks ago Enrico was killed in Miami. He was the only one I knew anything about, so now there’s nothing for me to testify to as he can’t go to trial. They already have a written deposition of everything I knew.”

Amanda sat in silence as everything she heard worked its way through. Tears filled her eyes suddenly and she dashed them away in anger.

“So, Mark, you’ve got your new life and your new family and everything’s just great in your world.” The sarcasm in her voice had Jeremy flinching.

“Amanda…I…” He began, only to have her turn such hate-filled eyes on him that he sputtered to a stop.

“I want a copy of those divorce papers. I want proof this is over.”

“They’re in a safety deposit box at a bank. I can get them tomorrow when it opens at eight.”

“I’ll meet you where you work at eight.” Amanda stood and looked down at the man she had once loved with all her heart.

She tried to think of something to say, some shred of acknowledgement of what had been or some response to what had happened, but nothing came.

Jeremy looked into the once more lifeless eyes of his former wife and knew shame.

Chapter 228

Friday, March 12, 2010 at 5:24 AM
Richie returned to Amanda’s room. She had left so suddenly her purse was still on the side of the bed. He glanced around, hoping to see the things she had taken. He opened drawers, glanced through her small purse, and looked inside her suitcase. It was there he found an envelope.

Drawing out the paperwork inside, he suddenly found himself sitting heavily on the bed, riveted on what he was reading.

The handwritten note inside set his mind spinning as he started to grasp just how bad things were.

Amanda –

Inside are papers detailing the information my investigator has discovered about you and your husband. The husband you claimed was dead who is very much alive.

Whatever scam you were planning involving my son is over. You are a married woman and you accepted an engagement with Jon. I don’t know if you wanted money or whether you are like so many today who want their fifteen minutes of fame, but you aren’t getting anything.

I will not permit you to drag my son into the sordidness of your life. Your husband is apparently involved in drugs in some way and the FBI is investigating him. If there was a way to have you arrested for fraud, I would do so.

Instead you are going to get out of his life – immediately! And you are going to do it in such a way that he never wants to see you again. You obviously have a talent for lying and deceiving, I’m sure you’ll think of something.

If you had a conscience, you would be deeply ashamed. But a woman who would plan what you’ve done obviously has no conscience at all.

Carol Bongiovi

~~~

Richie quickly scanned through the remainder of the papers, the investigators report, the attached information, and then read Carol’s note again. He now knew in full detail why Amanda had left Jon.

She HAD played him.

Sitting there with the damning evidence in his hands, his anger at her grew in direction proportion to the hurt he was seeing Jon go through.

Blocking the door lock of the room with a slip of paper, he took the folder down to the main office of the hotel where he was allowed to make copies. He returned to the room, threw the envelope onto the bed, and left.

There was no longer any reason to see Amanda.

~~~

Amanda had not left the hotel.

She’d run out of the room, afraid that she would take the phone when Richie offered it.

Afraid that when she heard Jon’s voice she would tell him everything.

Afraid she would beg him to understand, to believe her, that she hadn’t known.

Afraid he would damn her to hell.

Down the stairs by her room, she had wandered further into the depths of the hotel. Now she sat in the stairwell, wondering how her life had been so turned upside down. She half-laughed and half-sobbed as she thought about her “perfect life” – what an amazingly painful farce that had turned out to be.

She had lost her husband, found out he was alive, and then lost Jon with that knowledge. She wasn’t sure where everything had spun out of control, but while waiting there on the stairs, she knew she had to find out.

After an hour Amanda cautiously returned to her room. Opening the door she saw Richie was gone. She went in, glanced around and stopped cold. Thrown on the bed was the envelope she’d had in her suitcase. She knew Richie had seen it.

Oh no! No, no, no! He’ll tell Jon!

Bracing herself, dreading the call she had to make to protect Jon, she dialed Richie’s number.

He answered, but instead of ‘hello’, it was with a tone she had never heard from him before.

“What do you want?”

“Richie?” Her voice quavered a bit as she spoke his name.

“Yeah, what do you want?” His tone didn’t change in the slightest.

“You saw the papers, didn’t you?”

“Yep.” His voice curt, biting.

“Please don’t tell Jon, Richie. Don’t tell him about his mom or what that investigator found.”

A bitter laugh met her ears as Richie spoke again.

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Matthews, I won’t be mentioning your name to Jon – ever.”

Her heart sinking into her stomach, Amanda realized Richie believed she had been out to deceive Jon. He believed what had been written. She hurried to speak before he hung up on her.

“I didn’t know, Richie. I swear to you, I didn’t know.”

Again she heard sardonic laughter.

“Sure Amanda, right, because you’re so truthful. I read the report. Sounds like your husband faked his death and you’re trying to tell me you didn’t know? How could you do this? Who the hell are you?”

Amanda’s voice went lifeless as she heard the condemnation in Richie’s voice.

“I don’t have any idea who I am. I won’t call Jon or any of you again. I’m so sorry.”

Amanda slowly closed her phone.

Chapter 227

Monday, March 8, 2010 at 1:42 PM
Everyone who knew Jon knew something was wrong. Deeply wrong. Unbelievably wrong. The man who never had trouble talking to anyone about anything had changed. If the answer to a question wasn’t a grunt, it was one word. If it was more than that, it was with a sharp edge seldom heard from him before.

Sharon was meeting with him one afternoon and when she asked something about Amanda and an upcoming event, Jon’s response had her nearly in tears at its harshness. He apologized later, but it wasn’t the last time something like it would happen.

He hadn’t asked Richie not to say anything to the other guys, so he wasn’t surprised to get a call from Tico.

“Hey man…” Tico called in greeting as Jon answered his phone.

“Hey T…”

Tico’s rough voice didn’t mince words. “Jon, Richie called and I ain’t believin’ it.”

“Believe it. She’s gone and I have a note from her. She set it up from the beginning.”

“Listen to me. Ain’t nobody THAT good at lyin’. There’d have been something to give her away. All of us and nobody saw or heard anything? That’s what I’m not believing.”

Jon gave a heavy sigh. “Then she’s real fucking good, isn’t she?”

An answering sigh met his ears. “I guess so, but something’s not right about this.”

“Let it go, T, I have. She got what she wanted and now she’s gone.” To Tico, Jon’s voice sounded resigned, yet so full of anger and pain. He wanted to say something, anything, to help, but no matter what he thought of, it seemed too little, too trite.

“I’m sorry, man.” Tico finally managed.

There was a long pause and then his friend’s soft voice answered.

“Yeah, me too.”

~~~

Later that same day, sitting in his office at the Soul headquarters, Jon’s cell rang. Seeing it was his mother, he gave a sigh and answered.

“Hi.”

“Hi Jonny. Am I interrupting?”

“No. What do you want?”

Carol was taken aback a bit at the flat tone in her son’s voice.

“I don’t want anything. I just haven’t talked to you in a few days and wanted to see how you are.”

“Fine. Busy.”

“But you said I wasn’t interrupting.” She heard Jon sigh.

“You’re not. I’m fine.”

“Your dad and I wanted to see if you would come to dinner soon. Matt and Tony too. Just a nice family dinner.”

“A nice family dinner.” Jon couldn’t disguise the sarcasm in his voice.

“Jon! What’s the matter? I can hear it in your voice. Something’s wrong!”

“Nothing’s wrong, but I can’t make a dinner. Sorry.” Jon’s voice was increasingly abrupt.

“But you don’t even know when it will be!” Carol was becoming genuinely concerned.

“It doesn’t matter when it is. Right now I’m too busy. Sorry.” Unfortunately, he didn’t sound sorry in the least.

“Jon…” Carol began, but stopped when he interrupted her.

“My other line is ringing. I have to go. Bye.”

For the first time in his life Jon hung up on his mother.

~~~

Jon was spending his days in a rage-induced fog. Every sound seemed too loud, every voice was grating, every decision was an intrusion.

Parts of his world seemed to be crashing down and he wasn’t sure what had happened. The Soul was going to be disbanded as Arena Football was coming to an end. Temporary or no, right now there was no way to say.

So many people depending on him, so many decisions to make and he found himself questioning over and over again each one. Unsure of his judgment, feeling as if he no longer could get a read on people, on their true motivations, as if there was always something under the surface, and that something had fangs.

He was sticking his fingers into everything, trying anything to get his mind off the one subject, the one person, he didn’t want to think about.

Amanda.

Married.

Fuck me.

He had no idea how she’d hidden who she was so well. No idea how he had missed every clue, any clue, that the woman he had fallen in love with, the one he wanted to marry, spend the rest of his life with, could be a complete fraud.

I am such a fool.

He viciously stomped on the little voice that kept insisting he look for her, demand an answer, look in her eyes when she explained her lies.

That little voice was wounded, but didn’t die.

~~~

Richie stood there silent, watching the sudden tears of the woman sitting so dejectedly on the side of the bed. First her eyes had gotten even wider and her mouth had opened. Then her face fell. The tears were silent and just rolled down her upturned face, until she lowered her head and her shoulders drooped.

Softening his voice a little, he spoke to her.

“Tell me why.”

She never looked up, just shook her head back and forth in denial.

“Then give me what you took.”

This brought her eyes back up to his face.

“What did I take?” Her voice sounded weary, even as the hurt she felt grew.

Richie ground out his words in such a way that there appeared to be spaces between each one.

“His cards, the jewelry, and the engagement ring you threw back in his face.”

Amanda was so astonished at this that words wouldn’t form.

“Look, I know you didn’t expect to see any of us again and you knew he wouldn’t come after you for them. But now that I know and I found you, I WANT HIS SHIT BACK!”

She actually flinched at the growl in his voice at those final words and this brought her up off the bed, standing rigidly in front of him.

“I did NOT take those things. I left them in an envelope on Jon’s desk in his office.”

Richie continued to stare at her, arms crossed, face unyielding. Then he moved.

Amanda took a step back, which sat her jarringly back on the bed, but Richie only walked over to the window on the opposite side of the bed while reaching for his cell phone.

“Jon? I’ve found Amanda. She’s here in California. What? No, I don’t know yet…she…”

Richie spun from the window at the snick of the door closing, the room empty.

“SHIT! She left!” Richie closed the phone on Jon’s words and crossed the room, throwing the door open, running out into … an empty hallway.

Chapter 226

Friday, February 26, 2010 at 10:45 AM
“Mind if I sit down?”

Squeezing her eyes shut, she nodded her head ‘yes’, she did mind. He answered her silent nod.

“Too bad.”

She opened her eyes at the scrape of the chair and saw Richie staring at her, the look in his eyes a mixture of disbelief, disappointment, and anger.

“What the hell are you doing, Amanda?” He kept his voice low, but from the tone it could have been a shout.

Her throat was so dry she couldn’t have answered him if she had wanted to and she didn’t want to. She was having a nightmare and she was wide awake.

Stalling, her mind racing, she took a drink of her tea and carefully repositioned the glass. Richie waited impatiently.

“Richie … I … I can’t tell you.” Her voice was a whisper full of pain.

Nearly grinding his teeth as his anger threatened to bubble over, his voice was low and heavy.

“What can’t you tell me? That you’re married? That you’re a liar and a thief? A fraud? Which one? Which one can’t you tell me?”

A completely shocked look on Amanda’s face had Richie suddenly looking at her even more sharply, but he was prevented from further interrogation as Ava, with Heather at her side, approached the table.

“Dad, mom’s here.”

Richie looked up at his ex-wife and then stood.

Amanda had frozen when Ava had spoken to Richie, but her eyes were drawn back to him as he rose.

Richie caught her eyes, not breaking contact even once as he spoke.

“I’ll be right back. Heather, can I talk with you for a minute?”

Heather murmured her assent and drew Ava back with her as she and Richie walked several steps away.

Amanda watched them for a moment, shock still fogging her thoughts, and then the paralysis broke and she quickly reached for her wallet.

Telling Ava to wait, Richie took Heather’s arm and gently tugged her a few feet further from their child.

“Heather, I need to talk with that woman. I promise I’ll call you later, but I need to go right now.” He nodded towards the tables as he spoke and Heather turned to see Amanda throwing down bills on the table.

Richie’s intensity had a small frown starting on Heather’s face, but she quickly saw that for some reason what he was asking was very important to him. She nodded.

“Okay, go. I’ll tell Ava.”

Richie nodded gratefully, smiled, stopped once to kiss Ava’s cheek and strode towards the woman quickly walking away.

A few long strides had him at her side.

Amanda’s breath stopped as she felt a hand clamp down on her elbow.

Richie pulled her to a stop.

“You and I are going to talk.”

~~~

Richie kept a hand on Amanda’s arm as they entered her hotel. She tried to go into the bar, but he pointed towards the elevators and she dropped her head slightly as she realized he wanted to go to her room.

Amanda flinched when the door to the room slammed behind her. She still had her back to him when he spoke

“Now talk.”

Amanda sighed, shaking her head back and forth as she turned to him.

“Richie, I had to leave. I can’t tell you why, but I had no choice. Please just accept that.” Her voice was pleading with the man standing so solidly in front of her, his arms crossed at his chest.

The flat contemptuous tone of Richie’s voice shocked her again.

“Bullshit. Fucking bullshit. I want what you took and I want an explanation. DO YOU HEAR ME?!” His voice rose and he moved to tower over her.

Frozen for a moment at the implied threat of Richie’s voice and movements, Amanda could only look at him with wide eyes and an indrawn breath. Then what he said fully penetrated her confusion.

“What I took? What do you mean, what I took? I just took a few clothes and this…” she held her arm out for him to see the bracelet.

“I’m not leaving this room until you give me the rest. You don’t deserve it.” He stared at her and if he had hit her she would have been less surprised than at the look she was seeing in his eyes.

“Richie, I didn’t take anything.”

Contempt narrowed his eyes.

“Right. Just like you’re not married, just like your husband is dead, just like months of lies you never told.”

Pain crossed Amanda’s face.

“No, not like that. It seems I am married.”

Richie’s mouth rose in a sneer as he mocked her.

“It seems you are married…”

Amanda’s hands fisted at her sides.

“I didn’t know!” Her voice rose, even as it began to tremble.

Richie shook his head, an incredulous look entering his eyes.

“Jesus, you’re still doing it! You’re still lying!”

Amanda stood there silently as his words battered her.

“Tell me why you did this.” He waited as he saw her once again shake her head.

“No.”

The sneer on his face hardened the beauty there.

“You fucking bitch.”

Chapter 225

Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:07 AM
Richie had left town after the confrontation with Jon as he had planned to return to California to spend a few days with Ava. Patricia was still working and unable to come with him, although they had a trip arranged after her two weeks were over. Unfortunately, it looked as though that time period might have to be extended as her boss was practically begging her to give them at least another week to smooth over the transition.

Picking up Ava at her mother’s, Richie spent some time talking to Heather, realizing she was sounding better than she had in quite a while. They had actually reached the point where they had the beginnings of a friendship again. His support during her rehab stay and her support during his own alcohol problems had re-forged a bond between the two. They would never be in love again, but their shared parenting of their child was stronger than ever.

One of the things Richie had planned with Ava this trip was to get some professional shots done of her. She was changing so much he wanted some new photos to take with him when he traveled. In his dressing and hotel rooms there were always shots of Ava, the one constant other than his favorite guitar, that went with him everywhere.

Talking with Heather about his and Ava’s plans for the day, she had recommended a fairly new photography studio not that far away from her home. Several of her friends had been taking their kids there and everyone had been thrilled with their portraits. Richie was agreeable to this, as he was to Ava’s suggestion that her mother meet them afterwards and that they all go to dinner.

A short drive later, Richie and Ava entered the doors of the photography studio where he found one of the benefits of being a celebrity, that of no appointment needed. The owner of the studio called in Mark Russell, a newer hire, but someone who had proven to have real talent.

Mark entered to find Richie Sambora and a beautiful young blonde girl, not quite a teen, standing a bit shyly by her father’s side. Extending his hand, Mark introduced himself and was informed who the child was and what her father wanted. Moving back into the studio area, the two men discussed some ideas for the photos, making sure to ask Ava what she was comfortable with.

Loading both digital and 35 mm cameras, Mark joked and teased Ava until her natural personality shown through and then he started shooting. Close to an hour later, Ava was enjoying a snack in another room with one of the female assistants as Mark and Richie looked at several of the digital shots.

Mark knew who Richie was and he also knew that Jon had somehow hooked up with his wife. He tried to keep the fishing he was about to do on casual terms.

“Heard your last tour was really successful.” He glanced at Richie as he unloaded one of the cameras.

“Yeah, at first we weren’t sure what the fans were gonna do, but they seemed to really like us changing things up.”

“The word around is that changing the music up isn’t the only change going on in the band.” Mark tossed this out in an offhand manner.

Richie, distracted by looking through the shots of his daughter, answered pretty much without thinking.

“You mean Jon getting engaged? Guess I shouldn’t be surprised that made the papers out here too.”

“It sure did. What’s her name? Amanda?”

“Yeah, Amanda Matthews. She’s from Florida.” Richie was busy marking the photos he wanted extra copies of.

“I wondered if that’s who she was. A sort of a friend of a friend knows her husband.”

That caught Richie’s full attention.

“Knows her husband?” His eyes narrowed suddenly at the man in front of him.

Not understanding the change in Richie, Mark found himself thinking frantically.

“Well, knew him. This was a few years ago.”

Richie continued to stare at Mark, his brow furrowed thoughtfully.

“So you don’t know anything about him recently?”

Widening his eyes, Mark shook his head.

Richie gave Mark on more searching look and then turned again to the photos.

The remainder of their conversation consisted of ordering and time tables. The two parted at the door to the studio as Ava re-appeared with a soda in hand. Richie left his number and Mark assured him the photos would be ready within two days.

Standing at the window, Mark watched as Richie and Ava left, walking down the street. His thoughts at that moment consumed with what he had learned and what he knew.

~~~

Following Jeremy from his home the next day had been easy. She has simply waited down the street in her car until he left the house and then traveled the busy streets until she has seen the photography studio he entered.

Parking her car, she was about half a block down, sitting at an outside patio of a restaurant, thinking of what she was going to do. She knew she had to talk to him, had to find out what had happened, why he had let her think he was killed, the drugs, and what he was doing here, using another name and with another woman.

Half-turned in her seat, trying to keep an eye on the door of the studio, while drinking an ice tea she froze with the glass halfway to her mouth as she saw Richie exit the studio, a beautiful young girl with him. They stood for a moment engaged in conversation and then turned in the direction of the restaurant.

Quickly pulling a hair chopstick out of her bag, she wound her distinctive hair into a bun low at the back of her neck and turned further in her chair, her back now to the approaching couple. She could hear the young girl as she spoke.

“Daddy! I’m hungry! Can we stop here and get some french fries?”

Richie glanced at his watch.

“Your mom’s gonna be here soon and we’re going to dinner …” His voice trailed off as Ava turned a winsome smile his way.

He sighed. “Sure, babe. Want to sit inside or out?”

“Outside, dad, it’s so nice today!”

“Okay, baby girl, let’s get a table.”

“Dad! I’m not a baby anymore!” Ava chided her father, but her grin told him she still didn’t really mind.

Amanda heard them pass her as she made a slow turn in her own chair, trying to keep her back to them. There were several tables outside, only half of which were full, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Richie and his daughter choose one about four tables away from her.

Slinking down in her seat, quickly putting on sunglasses, she turned so her back was the only thing facing them. Her breath was coming in short bursts as she sat, frozen, afraid to get up and draw Richie’s attention. The memories of what had happened during these last several days was so raw and so fresh that she found herself blinking back tears. Seeing Richie, hearing his voice, knowing how close he was to Jon bought back the ache of missing Jon to the forefront like a bullet through her heart.

Richie was enjoying his time with Ava. Every time he was back with her he thought of how much he missed her when he was away. He was more than grateful that he and Heather had worked out their differences enough so that he could be with Ava whenever his schedule permitted.

Glancing around the restaurant as he listened to Ava chatter about school, her friends, her dance lessons, and all the things that interested a twelve year old, his eye was caught by the flash of sunlight on something shiny on a woman a few tables away.

He couldn’t see anything but the woman’s back, but when she brought a glass up to drink, a bracelet on her wrist flashed in the sunlight and he realized what had drawn his attention. His masculine eye appreciated the view of the shapely woman, but didn’t linger as the image of Trish flashed into his memory.

As he was turning away from the woman, a bright pink stick in the back of her hair stopped him. He squinted as he tried to remember what that reminded him of and then he realized it was something Amanda used quite frequently.

What the hell did she call those? A hair stick? No…a Chinese-stick?

Richie asked the only female available to him, Ava.

“Sweetie…do you see that woman at that table over there?” He pointed a few tables away at the dark-haired woman.

“Sure daddy. Why?” Ava’s eyes scrunched up as she looked at the woman and then her father.

“Do you see that stick she has in her hair? Do you know what those are called?”

Rolling her eyes at her father, Ava giggled.

“Dad, that’s a hair chopstick! Didn’t you know that?”

“A chopstick! Thanks honey, I know somebody who uses those and I couldn’t remember the name.”

Curious as always about everything concerning her father, Ava questioned him.

“Who wears those, daddy? A lady friend of yours?”

Turning to his daughter, Richie ruffled her long blonde hair.

“No silly, Uncle Jon’s girlfriend, Amanda.” Richie hadn’t told anyone about Amanda leaving and had no intention of doing so.

“Well, that lady didn’t do a very good job with the chopstick. See dad? It’s falling out.”

Richie turned again to the woman at his daughter’s words and sure enough, the stick had slipped and when the woman removed it to re-do the bun, the long dark honeyed hair it had been holding fell down her back. Richie blinked.

No…not possible…it can’t…

The words stopped as the woman gathered her hair and deftly re-inserted the stick. Her raised arms as she did so brought into full view the bracelet on her wrist. That, and the hair, made up his mind.

“Ava, I think I know that lady over there and I’m gonna go say ‘hi’. Do you mind waiting a few minutes for me?”

Nodding at him, Ava pulled out her iPod and grinned. “Go ahead, daddy. But can I get some ice cream?”

Richie stood and smiled down at her. “Sure, honey. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Amanda heard nothing of these exchanges behind her and was still sitting rigidly, hoping Richie and his daughter would be leaving quickly. A shadow fell over her and she tensed even further. The shadow moved and instead of a shadow, the tall figure of a man stood beside her.

She turned and looked directly into the suddenly hard eyes of Richie Sambora.

Warning and Disclaimer

The content of this blog is pure fiction. Actual places and real people are named, but in no way should anything be taken as fact. This is a story, with adult content and mature situations. If you are offended by such, please do not read.

Please do not copy any of this material to any other web site.

No harm of any sort is meant to the real people in the story and there is no disrespect intended towards anyone's family.

This is PURE FICTION and hopefully those that like this type of story will enjoy it. Comments are GREATLY appreciated!

Counter

Where Are You?

About Me

My photo
Sunstreaked, South Florida, United States

John Francis | Entries (RSS) | Comments (RSS) | Designed by MB Web Design | XML Coded By Cahayabiru.com | Distributed by Deluxe Templates