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10.29.2009

THREE

Richie climbed the stairs for the third time that day. Restless didn’t even begin to cut it. Jon was working on phone interviews and if he had listen to him give the same answer one more time he’d garrote himself with a guitar string. It was bad enough waking up to them at seven every morning. Who the fuck was awake at seven?

Jon was up at seven, that’s who.

He skimmed past the elevators, threadbare carpet held onto the stale smoke that hung heavy in the humid air. He made it around the corner just in time to hear the giggle of females. God knew if it was a fan or the girls from Devotion. He didn’t know which was worse—avoiding screaming fans, or Stephanie’s all too knowing gaze.

The way she looked at him, well there was nothing girlish about the way she stared him down.

“It’s all right, Richie, you can come out. It’s just us.”

“Damn,” he muttered and leaned back so he could see around the corner. Ashley and Veronica waved. Relief, then the kick of disappointment pissed him off when he realized Steph wasn’t with them. “Hey, girls.”

“Hey, yourself.” Ash, barely five feet even with her pixie bleached hair spiking around her head, looked like a child next to the statuesque, Veronica. Not to mention that she vibrated like cymbals twenty-four-seven. “What are you doing sneaking around?”

“I’m not sneaking. Just looking for something to occupy my time until soundcheck.”

Ash stood on her tiptoes and leaned on Ronnie’s shoulder. “He’s looking for something to do, Ron.”

“He’s not looking to do you, Energizer Bunny.”

Richie’s eyebrows shot into his bangs. “Uh.”

“See, now you scared him.” Ashley grinned up at him, slipping an arm through his.

She smelled like Hubba Bubba and trouble. “Uh,” he stammered again. There was no way he could touch any of the girls in Devotion. Except Steph. The qualifier did not bode well for the day. They’d been on tour with them for a few months now and it was getting harder for him to put Steph back in the box he’d put her in for nearly five years now. Hell, since she was fifteen if he was honest with himself.

It was safer to live with the lie.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let her hurt you, Richie.”

“Gee, thanks.”

Ronnie shrugged, beaming a smile at him. “Least I can do.” She slid her arm around his other one and siddled up to him. Christ, this was a wet dream waiting to happen. Even a year ago, he’d have dragged the both of them into his room and let them have their way—any way—with him. “It’s not like you to be bored, Richie. You usually cure that with sleeping,” she teased.

He snorted, happy to be on even footing again. He was okay when palling around with the girls. He could almost see them as little sisters…as long as Steph wasn’t around. In fact, he’d learned to sleep behind locked doors around the girls. They must have been taking lessons from Jamie. Every one of them were sneaky, even the strait-laced Veronica had a twinkle in her eye that made him itch to take a step back. “What, so you can shave my chest again?”

Ash laughed and lifted his shirt. “C’mon, there’s so little there to shave.”

He batted her hands away and tugged down his Giants t-shirt. “You only managed it because I was shitfaced on Smirnoff.”

“Not my problem you can’t hold your vodka. Besides, there were only like three hairs to shave.” Ash was half his weight and could drink him under the damn table when it came to liquor. Texas girl to the blood.

“What’s this about vodka? And keep your hands off the guitar player, Ash. How many times do I have to explain personal space?”

Richie stilled. Steph’s throaty voice took him out at the knees before she ducked under his arm, letting it drape over her shoulder. Even through his t-shirt, his skin went haywire. She was a touchy sort to begin with, but around him, she was Velcro. And for the love of Jesus he didn’t want her to ever rip away from him.

Fucking dangerous thoughts there, son.

She smiled around a pink stained stick, the scent of cherries and tootsie rolls followed the click of the lollipop around her teeth. Her head fit right at shoulder height. They lined up perfectly.

“Looks like you don’t have any trouble with personal space,” Ashley drawled, reaching over to take an ever present lollipop from Steph’s hip pocket.

“Richie likes it.” Steph said with a pop of glistening candy. She waved it in front of his face. “Wanna lick?”

Fuck, yes. He cleared his throat. “No, thanks.”

She shrugged and stuck the lollipop back in her mouth. “Suit yourself.”

Double braids and a makeup free face gave her that All-American girl look, and reminded him—double time—just how young she was. His pits pricked and his skin felt too tight. Cherries and soap—he should be shot for even getting turned on by the scent. When she laid her hand on his belly—damn close to his snap—he stepped back. “You are all going to get me into trouble.”

Her summer sky eyes smiled at him, even as she took a long pull on the fucking candy. “Nothing you can’t handle,” Steph said and tucked the lollipop in her cheek. She tried to look innocent, but each roll and click of the candy around her mouth left her lips slick and his dick aching.

“So says three out of four girls that glued Dave’s door closed.” He tried for levity. He did not have enough sleep under his belt to deal with Steph or the girls.

Ash smirked. “He owed me twenty bucks. You welsh on poker, you’re going down, buddy.”

Richie crossed his arms over his chest. “I was in there too!”

Ronnie grinned. “Collateral damage.”

Richie laughed. “Evil, every one of you.”

“You have no idea,” the three of them said in unison, then laughed.

Ash hooked her arm through Ronnie’s. “I’m starving! Let’s find something to eat.”

“We’ll see if we can con anyone in the kitchen to give us a late breakfast.” Ronnie looked over her shoulder. “Coming, Steph?”

“Nah, I had a granola bar, I’m good.”

“More like loaded up on Tootsie Pops,” Richie muttered.

All hope of escape was dashed when Steph caught his wrist, slipping her hand in his and dragged him down the hallway. Her touch felt too good, and as always his skin craved it like a drug. “C’mon, I’ll entertain you.”

Her compact little body wiggled just enough ahead of him to do the most damage. A T-back tanktop hugged the center of her back, leaving her shoulders bare and tan. He tried not to notice the lack of bra straps, but it was too late—the thought already had his jeans begging for mercy. She’d missed a curl of hair in her quick twisting braids, leaving it to snake down to tease the top of her cutoffs.

Like a neon arrow pointing to the promised land, her perfect, two handed ass was framed with fraying strands of denim. He’d never wanted to be a pair of daisy dukes more in his goddamn life.

She looked back over her shoulder. “You’re quiet.”

He mustered up a smile and tried to untwist his fingers from hers, but she held on tight. “Stupid phoners at the ass crack of dawn.”

“Yeah, I had to do two of them myself. Jon’s not the only one who gets asked stupid questions at O dark thirty.”

“Then why aren’t you in bed?” He wanted to slice off his tongue. Christ, do not think about her and a bed, Sambora.

“I’m too keyed up. Ten hours on the bus and then getting cooped up in a hotel room is not my idea of a fun afternoon.”

“Well, you and the girls should go out shopping or something.”

Steph smirked over her shoulder. “Oh yeah, with what money?”

He smiled easily for the first time that morning. He remembered when they were the opening act. Ramen noodles and beer were about all they could afford. “Understood.”

She led him down the hallway, past her room, past the elevators, past the ice machine room. A little sign stated stairs. Where the hell was she taking him now? She swung the door open, the stairs putting a whole new wiggle in her step. Fuck.

Just then, he’d follow her, and that stupendous ass to hell. But instead of hell, she led him up a few flights to the roof access. She opened the door with such pleasure and pride, he didn’t have the heart to make excuses to get the hell out of the danger zone. Two folding loungers with towels and a sweating bottle of Coke tucked in an ice bucket was a helluva lot more inviting than the hotel room waiting for him.

“Expecting someone?” He sucked back a groan. That sounded bitchy and way too female-jealousy for his taste.

“Sort of. I was supposed to meet Jamie up here to get some rays, but I think I’d rather hang with you.” She lifted her tank. “Wanna get some sun with me, Richie?”

His breath backed up as smooth flesh, tanned a dusky gold, wiggled out of her tight tank. The heavy curve of her breast peeked from the bottom of her screaming yellow strapless bikini top. His mouth went dry and he was pretty sure he could feel each individual tooth of his zipper dig into his cock. Shit.

She flicked open the snap of her jeans and wiggled once. They pooled at her feet, leaving a black and yellow strip of bathing suit to hike up to her damn ears. She reached down into a bag beside her chair, the perfect curve of hip and cheek—with no tan lines—made his fingers itch.

He jumped as a bottle of Coppertone flipped in front of his face. He caught it reflexively.

“Gotta protect my skin,” she said with a wink and dropped onto her chair. She flipped to her stomach and released the catch of her top. “Help me out?”

10.19.2009

TWO

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Jon tucked the phone to his ear. The cackling tin of the laugh track grated until he wanted to smash the phone into the wall. The regurgitated call letters of the radio station burned his ears for the fourth time in fifteen minutes. He was all about radio, just not morning radio.

“An ice pick would be good about now,” he muttered in response to Jeff and Lindsay in the morning’s jingle. Where the hell was he even calling in? Charlotte? Or was that at ten thirty?

Fuck, he hated phoners.

He snarled at the knock on the door. Christ, he’d shuffled Richie off to get the calls done. Not that he couldn’t sleep through it, but he’d needed the alone time. Blessed silence clicked in his ear as he swung the door open.

“What? You couldn’t find someone willing to share your bed, Sam—“ the words died in his throat. Wrong Sambora. His belly tightened and his temple throbbed in time with his dick. Fucking perfect.

James filled the doorway, her jasmine scent swirling inside his head. Part of him wanted to drag in the scent and lose himself in her skin, the other half demanded that he hold his breath against the temptation. An insolent sneer twisted her bite-worthy lips and her hair hid half her face. A baggy sweatshirt should have turned her sexless. Instead, it only accentuated the boxer shorts that left almost three feet of bronzed legs to taunt him.

So not what he needed this morning.

She buzzed past him without a word, before he could shut the door he spotted Tico in the hallway behind her. Instead of saying anything, Teek just leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his massive chest. Jon gave him a questioning eyebrow, but he simply tipped his chin in James’ direction.

Hell. What now?

“Jon! We’ve got some listener questions if you’ve got the time.” Lyndsay’s chirpy voice cut through the silent communication.

“Sure,” he automatically said and shut the door. He turned into the room and sucked back a groan. James was on his bed, leaning back on her elbows, her legs crossed to showcase every inch of tanned skin possible. Purple tipped toes swung with impatience and attitude.

He answered the inane questions on autopilot. Did they really fucking care what his favorite color was?

She grinned as he answered another stupid question and sat up. She drew her foot up, tucking her heel into herself as she wrapped an arm around one knee. The shorts inched higher. Trying to ignore the line of sweat that slicked his spine, he prayed for the interview to be over. At least…nope, there was the hair question. He sighed, kicked the friendly back into his voice and did his thank you schpiel.

Turning away from her, he put the base of the phone down and leaned on the dresser. He willed his dick to behave and his hormones to go back into their box. He picked at a stray sticker advertising Free HBO on the wood and gave his required call letters commercial for the station before he hung up.

By the time he faced her again, she was tugging her sweatshirt over her head. Tiny straps of a tank held on for dear life, stretching taught across her chest. The tips of her nipples were obviously free of a bra and pressed against the cotton, making his damn teeth itch. He closed his eyes for a moment, sucking in a breath thru his teeth when her hand slid along his waist.

“James.”

“Don’t use that warning tone with me.” Her thumb snuck under his t-shirt, brushing along the line of hair that curled from his belly button to the snap of his jeans.

When she flicked it open, he took a step back. “Don’t try to distract me with things I can’t have.”

She caught his zipper in her clever fingers and managed to tick it down a few teeth before he wrenched her away. She smiled at him, not an ounce of contrition in her eyes. “I keep telling you, I’m more than attainable. All you have to say is yes, Jonny.”

“You’re trying to distract me,” he said again. He rounded the chair and table that was jammed into the corner of the room.

She pulled her hair over her shoulder, drawing the feathering dark strands around her face until they curled across her cheek with fiery streaks. “You’re not running are you?”

“Hell, yes.” He’d lost the fight with his pride around the first week in May. He wanted her so bad his balls were in a permanent blue status when she was in the room. He chose retreat. He’d been built to survive, and if that meant running—well, he was up to about four miles each day. More than two of them were to cope with Jamison.

She sighed and collapsed into the tiny u-shaped chair across from him. “I do have something to talk to you about. I don’t want you to get all bat-shit crazy about it, but I don’t want my girls to have to worry either.”

The switch from siren to human female was always jarring. He was pretty sure she did it just to make him crazy. He was pretty sure she breathed to make him crazy, but fuck if he could follow what she was saying. All the blood flow was decidedly south of his belt. Suddenly suspicious, he growled. “Is there a cop involved in whatever you need to tell me?”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Yeah, let’s not go with cops as the first option, stud. We don’t get—“ she stuttered to a stop with a laugh. “Okay, so there have been a few close calls, but this isn’t one of them. It’s probably nothing. I can handle him, but it’s just a precaution.”

He leaned on the table, his fingers splayed. “Handle who?”

She swallowed quickly, the long line of her throat working the spit down. Her pulse fluttered madly on the left side that was free of her heavy fall of hair. It did nothing to soothe him.

“Relax, macho man. It’s nothing.” She covered his hand with hers for a moment, before drawing back into herself. “I swear it.”

Impatience and temper locked his elbows as he loomed over her. “Let me be the judge of that.”

“All right, all right. Geeze.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Something happened on the bus.”

His shoulders instantly eased. Christ, it was just a girl fight. Thank God. “What, did you have it out with Steph or something?”

“Or something.”

He stood up, crossing his arms, he dug his fingertips into his biceps. “It’s an adjustment period, that’s all. We went through it too. You just have to remember to get out of each other’s face for a few hours each day or you’ll end up killing each other. Your brother and I learned that the hard way.”

“Look, I’d love to blame it on bus squabbles, Ace, but it’s not that simple.” She stood and wandered the room, finally lighting on his bed, sitting Indian style in the center of his mattress. Her nails scored up and down her thighs.

Frowning, he sat next to her. “Spit it out, James. I’ve got to do another phoner in about twenty minutes.”

She bounded off the bed. “Just forget I came in here.” She swung the door open and growled. “Dammit, T!”

“Spit it out, querida, or I will.”

“Somebody better spit something out, or I’m going to knock heads together. What the fuck is going on, James?”

She sneered at Tico and slammed the door closed again. She twirled around and her hair fell back around her shoulders. Angry red welts on their way to purple dotted her right cheekbone. At his look, she must have realized her reveal and tugged her hair forward.

He grabbed her wrist. “Too fucking late, Jamison.” Rage threatened to spew, but he held himself in check. Lifting his other hand to brush bangs and layers away, the tips of his fingers probed at her cheekbone. When she hissed, taking a swing at him, he blocked instinctively. “Easy.”

“Well, don’t touch it!”

“I just wanted to make sure your cheekbone wasn’t broken.” She jerked back, but he caught her chin. “Tell me what happened?”

“Hands off, Ace.”

He stroked his thumb just under the broken skin and dropped his hand. Instead of asking again, he just arched a brow.

“Like I said, it’s no big deal.”

“If that’s the case, then spit it the fuck out, James.”

“You’re not going to like it, and I don’t want to cause trouble. And you need to promise not to tell Richie.”

“Do I come across as stupid? I’m pretty sure I’m not.”

“You can’t tell Richie.”

He closed his eyes. If one of her damn hookups had done this, he’d kill him. It would be easy. Even if Richie wasn’t helping, he could arrange it. “You haven’t even told me what this is about. I’m not making any promises,” he warned.

She fluffed out her hair and the swollen cheek was swallowed up by her dark chocolate layers. “I so don’t want to tell you this.”

“Jesus, James, just tell me!”

“It was Alec, all right! Alec did this.”

“Alec who? I—“ His ears went hot and felt like his monitors had gone all white noise. She tumbled over her words. Trying to explain to him that it was just the drugs talking. That Alec didn’t mean to hit her. But all he heard was Alec had hit her. Al, that he’d known since the pre-Jovi days. Al, that was part of his own neighborhood.

Al.

He held up a hand and his stomach bottomed out as she flinched. “I’d never,” he whispered hoarsely. “Ever.”

“I know!” She grabbed his hand, pressing it between hers. “I know, I’m sorry. I’m just a little punchy.” An hysterical bubble of laughter broke. “Punchy, wasn’t the best choice of words.” When he tried to tug his hand away, she held on tighter. “Don’t,” she whispered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to even tell you. I wanted to handle this on my own, but T had to drag him off me, Jon.”

The ring of the phone made them both jolt. He ignored it. There was no fucking way he could do an interview now. He shut his eyes. The heady scent of her shampoo and the wild jasmine broke through the numbness. He couldn’t stop himself, not now. He dragged her in close. She was solid and real. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” She pushed against his chest, but he held her tighter. “Just a second longer,” he whispered against her hair. His fingers sifted through the heavy silk of her hair. When her hands slipped up to his shoulders, he stepped away. The need to soothe was a physical ache inside him. It wasn’t his place. Even if he wanted it more than breath some days.

He gripped the window frame. He had a fine view of the dumpster and rigs that were readying themselves to head out to the venue. The Devotion bus was right under his damn window and he hadn’t seen a thing.
He rested his forehead on the cool windowpane. He wanted to punch something—anything. He’d known that Alec was dipping into the band stash more than anyone else. He’d just assumed that he was using it to pick up women. What if he’d been doing more and more of it to get the kick of the high?

Just how much would Doc let slide for the good of the tour? How much farther would Alec have gone before he noticed?

Jon stalked to the door and opened it again. “T—c’mon in here, man.”

James stood in the middle of the room, her fingers clasping each elbow as she held herself tight. Part of him wanted to go and hold her. To tell her it would all be all right. But he knew that even that much contact would be stupid. He was already walking the nasty edge of lust. He had no intention of letting it go from lust to coveting.

“Is it true, T?”

“I’m sorry, Jonny.” Tico gripped a wide hand over his shoulder. “I’m not entirely sure what would have happened if I hadn’t see him getting on the bus.”

Jon’s stomach twisted. Tico was the last man to get involved with anyone’s personal business. “How long have you been watching him?”

Tico’s tanned face went ruddy. “For awhile.” He rubbed his palm over the back of his neck. “I didn’t like the way he was looking at any of the girls lately. He’s been watching from corners. Hell, Jonny, he was even freaking some of the girls out that come to the parties.”

How had he missed all of this? “Did he…” he swallowed. God, had Alec hurt someone already?

“Nah, don’t think that way Jonny. I was just being careful. He watches you and Rich get all the play. Hell, even Davey is hooking up with anything that walks.” He glanced at Jamison and winced. “Sorry, querida.”

James shrugged. “You’re only speaking truth. Alec is always the last to get a girl. And the ones he does are sloppy seconds that have already boned a roadie to get backstage.”

“Jesus, James.”

“What? You think I’m blind? I’m at those parties too, Jon. I know we’re on the outskirts of the inner circle, but we see and we definitely observe. Alec gets twitchy as the night goes on. We’ve just learned to avoid him. And that’s what I intend on continuing to do. I don’t want to cause any trouble for anyone.” She slowly made her way to stand next to Tico. “I’m grateful for Tico, but I think this was just a really bad trip. Whatever he was on, he didn’t come down off of it like he usually does. It was probably a one-time thing.”

He jammed his hands into his pockets. “I can guarantee it.”

“I’m sure you’ll take care of it.” She cuddled into Tico, brushing her cheek against his in natural affection.  “Happy now, Papa Bear?”

“No, not happy, kiddo. But I’m more at ease.”

Jealousy burned hot and bright in his gut. She pressed a kiss to Tico’s cheek, her smile sweet and without guile. Nothing like she was around him. “I’ll see you at the venue.”

Jon picked up her sweatshirt off his bed and handed it to her. “I’m glad you came to me, Jamison.”

She tugged it over her head. “I only did it for the other girls. I can handle myself.”

Jon glanced at the bit of her cuts that still showed. When her chin lifted, he sighed. “I know you can.”

“Damn straight. That’s why I don’t want you to tell Richie.”

His gut twisted for a whole different reason. Lying to Richie went against every instinct he had and it felt like every other breath included a lie lately. “I have to, James.”

“No, it’s none of his business. I came to you, so you could talk to Doc—Chain of command. Don’t drag Richie into this.” Her shoulders squared. “I’m mean it, Jon. It won’t be good for anyone if Richie gets involved in this. He’d just go hurt him and it wouldn’t solve anything.”

“What makes you think I’m not going to go hurt him?”

“It’s not how you do things,” she said simply.

He bristled. “How do you know that?”

Her lips curved. “I know you,” she said into his eyes. She held his gaze for a moment, humbling him when her amber eyes went soft. “Just for me, all right. Make this easy on me for once.”

He rubbed his hands over his face. “Goddammit. Just go, get out of here. I’ll think about it.”

She ran to the door, the raised welts seemed to glow off her pretty gold skin as she looked back at him. “You know I’m right.”

And she was gone.

“She’s right, Jonny.”

He sighed. “Not you too, T.”

“Look, we know Richie’s not all that stable when it comes to Jamie. He likes his oblivious bubble where he doesn’t notice shit. Let’s leave him there.”

Jon sighed. Tico was right. Richie would rip Al’s hand—or worse—off and stuff it down his damn throat.

The phone rang again and he lifted the receiver up. “Hey, give me just a second.” He pressed the phone to his chest. “I gotta take this. I’ll talk to Doc. I’ll make sure it’s fine, T.”

“I know you will.”

He cradled the phone at his shoulder. He wished he had as much faith in himself as Tico did. “Hey, Jessica.” One more phoner…just one more.

10.11.2009

ONE

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Slippery When Wet Tour - 2nd Leg
June, 1987

Jamie jolted awake.  The hiss of hydraulics followed by her world dropping at least half a foot, signaled stop number…fuck, what day was it again?  God, she hated the damn bus.  “Where the hell are we?”

Ashley dropped from the top bunk, ‘Freak Me Friday’, stamped on her bikini underwear. “Minneapolis.”

“Right.”  She winced and turned back to the carpeted wall.  She so didn’t need to see Ashley half naked this morning.  Male fantasies of pajama parties and tiny shorts weren’t far off if you lived in Ash’s world.  The girl just didn’t believe in clothes.  It had to be a Texas thing.

She rolled onto her stomach, and dragged the pillow over her head.  They’d been spoiled the previous week with the prop plane that Jon liked to call the Jovi Jet, but it was down for repairs.  Of course, the guys had conned some stupid PR guy to fly them into Minnesota from blustery Illinois, but they’d been bus bound.

Ronnie lifted her pillow. “Wakey-wakey.”

She flipped her sheet over her head.  “No.”

“If you’d said no to that college boy, you’d have had enough sleep.”

“That college boy was hung like a porn star.” She peeked out from under the sheet.  “You’re just jealous.”

“I got nothing to be jealous of, darlin’.  I dragged his best friend into the rig.  He was very appreciative of my bass collection.”

She snorted.  “A whole new pickup line.  Would you like to come up and see my etchings…I mean my, bass collection?”

Ronnie laughed.  “C’mon. If you don’t move, you’ll end up with Ash for a roommate tonight.” 

Jamie snatched the pillow back.  “Unh-uh! I had her last night, dammit.”

“And I had her three nights in a row last week.”

“Give her to Steph,” she mumbled from under the pillow again.

“Good luck with that.  She’s already off the bus.”

“Shit!” Jamie flipped back her blankets, yelping when her sheet wrapped around her ankle and she ended up on the floor. 

“Are you all right?”

“Don’t you laugh,” she ordered Ronnie. 

Ronnie’s lips twitched, but she didn’t say a word, just tugged her bag down from the bunk directly across from her and waved on her way out into the hallway.  Jamie kicked out of her tie-dye sheets and dumped them back into her cubby.  Sucking diesel fumes and burnt popcorn all night wasn’t exactly what she’d signed on for.  Her head throbbed like the inside of a kick drum.

She slapped her foot against the storage drawer under her bed and dropped onto her back.  God knew what was on the carpet, but she just couldn’t make herself move.  She was tired. 

They’d been on the tour for two months now, and Doc McGee was a grueling taskmaster when it came to public relations.  She should be grateful.  He’d been willing to take on Jovi and Devotion for the marketing and management through the tour.  They were paying a pretty penny for his goddamn marketing, too.  Fucking leech.  But he was doing his job.

Devotion’s second single, Desperate, was screaming its way up the Top Twenty Countdown on MTv.  They’d even won over more crowds than they’d lost since they’d joined the tour.  She didn’t have anything to bitch about.

Too bad she was feeling so bitchy anyway. 

“Well, there’s a picture.”

From bad mood to worse. Awesome. “What the hell do you want?”  Fully awake now, she stood, dragging a hoodie out of her drawer.  Alec John Such’s eyes raked down her body.  How the hell had he gotten on the bus?  Her sleep shorts and tanktop could have been see-thru with the way he was looking at her. Just…ugh.

He leaned against Veronica’s bunk.  She was pretty sure he was wearing the same clothes as last night.  “You should be nicer to me.  I’m the reason you’re on this tour.”

No, you’re only on this tour because you’re an old friend of Jon’s. She managed to bite back that thought. “What, you’re in here for a thank you?” She tugged the sweatshirt over her head, her eyes disdainful. “Thanks.”

“I was thinking something more give and take.”

“What, me on my back? Please.”

“I hear that’s what you do best, James.”

She whirled on him. “Don’t call me that,” she snapped.  Alec had a twisted sense of humor, but this was just too much. She grabbed her knapsack and pushed her way past him.  A wiry arm shot out, stopping her cold.  “Let me by,” she said through clenched teeth.

He lifted the ends of her hair and brought it to his nose.  “From what I saw on Wednesday night,  you’re up for just about anything.”

The first trickle of unease prickled between her shoulder blades. Her eyebrow arched, but she stood absolutely still.  She wanted to take two steps back away from him, but that’s what the little freak wanted.  He’d been sniffing around the Devotion bus since April. 

She tried to think back to Wednesday night.  God, it was only two nights ago.  She couldn’t exactly say that she was an innocent on this tour.  They’d been in Detroit.  She’d…her skin went tight with goosebumps.  She’d hooked up with a baseball player in the stairwell.  He was a big fan, and she’d been more than happy to go for a home run.  Her voice went hard and cold.  “I only fuck men, not weasels.”

Alec fisted his hand in her hair.  “You can’t talk to me like that!”

“And I didn’t say you could touch me.”  She stared him down.  Richie had taught her everything there was to know about self-defense.  She could take the little twerp down if she needed to.  His brown eyes jittered twice and she swore inwardly.  He was tweaking.  Fuckhead wouldn’t have touched her if he was in his right mind.  Richie would rip his ball sac off and feed it to him.  Not that there would be much to swallow.  “Don’t make this ugly, Alec.  Whatever you thought you saw the other night, doesn’t mean I’ll repeat the performance with you.”

“It would be a step up from the groupies.  I’m with the band,” he said with a whiney, nearly hysterical laugh. 

She was pretty sure that worked about eighty percent of the time, but not with her.  Booze and last night’s concert reeked off of him.  He was crashing hard, and a speedball never treated Alec well the next morning.  “Look, why don’t you just go find Marcus.  You’re not thinking straight.”

“I’m thinking plenty straight.  I’ve been watching you strut around the parties with your Miss High and Mighty airs, or whatever.  I’m plenty good enough for a whore like you.”

Mean carved grooves into Alec’s face.  She liked to party as well as anyone, but her gut was starting to twist at the look in Alec’s eyes.  She’d suspected that Alec was dabbling with the harder stuff, but this clinched it.  Switching tactics, she dropped her voice to soothing.  “What’s up, Alec? What brought this on?” 

A hideous laugh had her backing up a step.  “I watch all  you girls coming into our parties, stirring things up. Thinkin’ you’re better than everyone.  I’m plenty good enough!”

Jamie frowned.  Completely lost with the conversation and the man.  Alec was spiraling and she was alone with him.  Good Christ, she wasn’t sleeping in again.  Ever.  Where was Mike, their driver?

“You think you’re so much better than everyone because you’re Richie’s sister.  What would Richie say if he knew how easily his sister gave it up?”

What? He thought he was going to blackmail her now? She looked down at him.  She was a few inches taller than him, even with the lifts he wore.  He put his hand on her hip, his fingers digging into her ass.  “Don’t make me break your fingers, Alec.  You already play like shit.”

The backhand came without warning.  She saw a flash of rings and then black dots.  He was wearing enough hardware on his fucking fingers to make it feel like she’d been cold cocked with brass knuckles.  The force of it barreled her back, rapping the base of her head into the divider between her and Ash’s bunk. 

She crumpled like last night’s setlist.

The thump and shouts that followed her down to the floor, rang in her head like microphone feedback.  She shook her head, but couldn’t focus enough to back away or even move.   

When she could focus again, it was a tirade of Spanish that broke through the clanging.  She flinched at the hand to her face. 

“It’s me, querida.  Shh…he’s gone.”  More murmurs of Spanish soothed her, not to mention let her know just how bad she must look.  Tico only drifted into his native tongue when he was upset or tipsy.  “C’mon, let’s get you up.”

Wrapping her arm around his neck, she let him drag her off the floor.  He walked her out to the living area of the bus, backing her onto the couch. 

He took a towel full of ice off the table.  “Here.”

The puppy-dog brown of his concern filled eyes had her tearing up. “Oh, Papa Bear.”

“Oh no, you’re not going to cry on me are you?”

She sucked it back, shaking her head. “Of course not, only wimps cry.”  She leaned her head onto his shoulder and set the ice on her cheek.

“That’s my girl.”  He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and huddled her in against his chest.  “What happened?”

She met his eyes. “I swear I didn’t lead him on or anything!”

“Baby, I know you didn’t.” He kissed her forehead and pushed her head back down on his chest, putting her hand back up to her cheek with the ice.  “I had to put him in a headlock to drag him off you before I could even get him off the bus.” Tico sighed.  “He was on something.”

“Something serious, T.” The wildness in his eyes, just before the crack of his hand…she shook it off.  Alec was a sleazeball, but he was usually harmless.  “I can handle myself, you know I can.”

“I know, querida.”

She hated the shudder that rolled through her.  “Don’t tell anyone what happened, okay?  Alec was just coming down off of something hardcore.  He didn’t know what he was doing.”

“He knew.” Tico’s voice was flat and cool. So unlike him.

She dropped the towel into her lap.  “He—“

“That was more than being an asshole.  Sorry, kiddo, but he was out of control.  What if I hadn’t been here?”

“But you were here!” She clutched at his wrist and tightly muscled forearm.

“I can’t do that, Jamison.  Doc needs to know, and you know Jon needs to know about this.”

She sat up.  “I’ll just make sure none of the girls are alone with him.  Devotion’s just getting into their groove on the stage.  I don’t want to make waves.  He didn’t hurt me.”

“This time.”  He cupped her face, his thumb brushed the raised skin where the rings had hit.  “How are you supposed to explain this?”

“You accidentally cracked me with your elbow?”

Tico rolled his eyes. “What, so now I beat on women? Jamie, I couldn’t reach your head with my elbow. You’re taller than me.”

“I fell?”  He just stared at her solemnly.  “C’mon, Papa Bear.”

“We have to tell Jonny.”

“Shit, shit, shit!”  She knew he was right, but just…well, shit.  Jon was going to flip out, then he’d tell Richie and then it would just go downhill from there.  “Let me tell him.”

“I don’t trust you.”

Jamie smiled.  “I swear, I’ll go tell him now before anyone sees my rapidly swelling eye.” She stood up and went to the mirror in the kitchen.  “Shit, I’m going to need to put my makeup on with a trowel to cover the shiner that’s coming through.”

He came up behind her.  “Keep the ice on it.”  He put his hand on her lower back. “Let me walk you over to see Jonny.”

She frowned down at him.  “Not going to let me get around this one, huh?”

“Nope.”

She sighed.  “Let me get my bag.”

10.06.2009

And A Shared Dream.

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“I swear, I saw Richie.”

Jamie rolled her eyes. “You’ve got those laces tied too tight there, chick.”

Steph cinched the leather dress closed, leaving a thin slice of skin between the silver eyelets. The dress huggedthe tops of her thighs. She tied a double knot at the center of her breasts for security, forcing her hands to unclench and let the ends dangle down.

She knew she’d seen him. For God’s sake she’d felt the weight of his gaze. Even before she’d locked eyes with him, she’d felt him. She’d always known when he was in a room. But as usual, Jamie was oblivious to anything beyond the neck of her guitar.

Sometimes she envied her narrow focus on the music and the tone of the set. She knew she could rely on Jamie following her lead when it came to the entertaining end of things. And she interacted with the crowd well enough, but at the heart of her, it was the unity of the group and the guitars that were Jamie’s obsession. She was very much like Richie in that regard. The differences between sister and brother were jarring after that.

Where Richie was wide smiles and fun, basking in the love of the stage, Jamie would lose herself in the song. Her sadness or joy was controlled by the song. It was what made her a truly empathetic songwriter and player. It was just exhausting to be around sometimes.

Standing before the long dressing mirror, Steph reached in and tucked herself into the slightly too small cups of the built in bra of the dress. The swell of cleavage was enhanced with varying silver chains. She fastened a large purple heart pendant above the fullest part of her.

“Yes, your tits are perfectly framed and sparkly, you slut.”

Steph looked over her shoulder. Knots in her belly loosened at the easy insults that only best friends could fling. “You’re just jealous because you have to use duct tape to find your cleavage.”

She looked down. “What? Can you see it?” Jamie pushed her over, and turned to the side, then checked out her back. There was nothing but gold toned skin. Three skinny strings held the halter front up and tracked down her back where a band of black hugged the hips of her leather pants.

Stephanie hip checked her out of the way. “No, whore…you’re fine. Is my ass covered?”
Jamie took a step back to look her over. “Barely. No bending over or you’ll be showing more than the girls tonight.” She crossed her arms. “Who put those stockings on you, a two year old?”

“Are they twisted?”

“Yep.” Jamie crouched down to fix her. “No sitting in these bad boys,” she warned. A decade of friendship meant she could feel her up without issue, or a trace of modesty. After smoothing the crooked line of the stockings until they lay right, she snapped one of the strings behind her knee.

“Ow!”

“Don’t be such a baby,” Jamie muttered. “You’ll look like a bunched up, retarded grandma’s whore if these aren’t lined up right.”

“God, I just love the way you put things, Jamison.”

Jamie grinned at her in the mirror and stood. “You’re the one wearing fishnets.” She was a full head taller than her. “Good thing I love you. I should hate you on principle.”

“Why,” Steph asked on a choked laugh.

“Because I look like a cricket on steroids next to all your lush curves.”

The laugh was quick and sure. Ever the ongoing debate between them. She’d kill for a bit of Jamie’s height so she didn’t look so curvy. She stepped into a pair of ankle boots; the extra three inches put her a bit closer to Jamie’s 5’9. A heavy dose of water and gel activated her curls, giving her a few more inches.

They were both in rocker black, but Jamie would never pick a skirt over leathers. She was the jeans and leather pants girl, where Steph was all girl. It was why they worked.

“Ready for this?”

“Damn right,” Jamie said and slid her hand around her waist, leaving Steph to do the same. Ashley came up on Steph’s left. White leather short-shorts and a bright pink bra hugged her pixie-lean body. Her short bleached hair was tipped in the same pink. Fake eyelashes extended her own, and even they were tipped in pink.

Ronnie came up to stand at Jamie’s right. White jeans and violent purple boots skimmed her thighs. A matching suede jacket was pushed up at her arms, and a white lace tank completed her look. Her dark hair curled everywhere.

“We look awesome,” Stephanie said with a huge smile.

Jamie arched a brow into the mirror, fixing the black and red cross that cinched across her neck. “Well, I know I do, but you whores are passable.”

The chorus of groans and laughter ended in linked hands as they formed a circle. Steph’s voice hitched a little. “I know we’re all tired as hell, but we can do this.” Nothing felt as important as this moment. Her girls around her, the next step in Devotion’s evolution was waiting for them, she could feel it in the air.

Everyone nodded and squeezed once before letting go. Steph stayed back, off to the side of the stage. Ashley did a running handspring, then a back flip onto the stage. She waved at the crowd madly before climbing up to her kit. Ronnie strutted to her mic stand all legs and righteous heels. Jamie waited for the house lights to dim before she snuck out to her post.

The bass line and guitars growled then Ash’s kick drum pulled it all together. She walked out, her voice low as the lights slowly pulsed blue, then purple, then hot pink as the opening verse grew into the heart of the song. The crowd had been prompted well, reacting to the pounding chorus with a sing-along that infused the song with the fun and the heartbreak.

They ended up redoing the song at least fifteen times before the director had enough footage to do what he wanted. She scanned the room, hating that she couldn’t relax and forget about seeing him.

Maybe it was wishful thinking. Maybe she just wanted to see him so much that she was imagining him. It had been months since she’d seen him. All the way back to Christmas, and even then it had been a quick stop in. The only thing Steph remembered clearly was the mistletoe and a jostled kiss on the cheek.

Another inch to the left and she’d have had her mouth under his—Finally. Would he react and kiss her? Or ignore her, as he’d done since that night in New York City?

She forced a big smile onto her face and thanked the crowd. She waved a few people forward and all the girls came down to sign autographs and pose for pictures with their fans.  Through the sea of faces she spotted him leaning against the bar.

She knew she’d seen him, dammit. She pushed past Jamie, ignoring her questioning glare. The stairs were a little tricky, but she slapped hands and smiled for the flashes until she circumvented the crowd.  Broad shoulders and dark hair came into view a moment later.

Shouting his name, the crowd suddenly hushed and his eyes were on hers for a moment before all hell broke loose. Knowing her mistake the minute his name left her lips, she heard the low curse from Jon then Richie’s rich laugh. The crowd went from milling and calm to a frenzy of pushing females and screams.

This time, the screams weren’t for her band. She watched them handle the crowd like the ringmasters they’d become. Smiles and efficient Sharpies bought them time until security swooped down to decimate and disperse.

Patience leaked out of her with every minute that she had to stand there and watch women crawl all over Richie.  Wishing for a lollipop to mash her teeth into, she stood on the sidelines as bodies were shuffled. She smiled and shook hands when fans remembered it was Devotion they were there to see. All the while, she watched and she waited. She was used to waiting.

She was beginning to hate the word.


*             *             *             *



“What do you mean, Jon’s out there?” Jamie peered over Ashley’s shoulder. CC Rider’s was slowly emptying out. She rolled her eyes as an explosion of females pushed toward the bar. Richie looked like he was enjoying the crush. As usual, Jon had his blank face on—Mr. Cool, just a few degrees away from cranky.

Unapproachable should be off putting, but when it came to Jon, rose colored glasses were the deal of the decade, and every fucking girl had a pair. Christ, they were completely oblivious to the snarl that was brewing.

Ash nearly vibrated in front of her. Looks like she owned a pair of those glasses too. “What do you think Jon and Richie are doing here? I mean, wow.  The guys from Bon Jovi are here at our show, you know?”

Jamie pushed her hair back. “I have no fucking clue. Maybe Richie wanted to check up on me.”

“Maybe he just wanted to come congratulate us,” Ash said over her shoulder.

“Yeah, congratulate. Great.”

“C’mon, Jamie. Richie’s proud of you.”

Tamping down the need to snipe at the perpetually perky Ashley, she said nothing. Couldn’t Richie be proud of her in a phone call? A postcard? Did he have to show up and steal her thunder? “C’mon, let’s go see what the deal is.”

Ronnie and Ashley trailed behind her long legged stride. By the time she’d gotten to the bar, the worst of Caligula had been dragged away. All except one girl, who’d made sure to plaster herself to Jon’s right side. Her hand gripped his scarf, twisting it around her wrist. She was as boring and non-descript as any other groupie—all boobs and adoring eyes.

Stephanie stood at the end of the bar with her arms crossed. Her brother was all wide smiles, detangling himself from the stragglers who’d managed to charm their way around the security.

He came right for her, scooping her up in a bear hug. “Hi, baby girl.”

“Man, don’t call me that,” she groused, but hugged Richie back just as tightly. He was the only man besides her father that could put her on her tiptoes. Not to mention the stupid smile she couldn’t quite control. “What are you doing here?”

“What? I can’t come and see my baby sister?”

Jamie blew bangs out her eyes, just as Richie did the same. Just like that, she couldn’t stop the laugh or the sudden pump of happiness. He really was her favorite person on the earth. It was so hard to be mad about second place. “Did you see me?”

He waggled his eyebrows. “I did, and you’ll have to teach me that thing you did with the solo in Psycho Bitch.”

Pleased, her smile widened.  “I gotta have some secrets.”

“Not from me you don’t.” He slung his arm around her and turned back to the bar.

She felt him tense, then immediately relax. She zeroed in on Stephanie’s blank face. Man, she had to be taking lessons from Jon. It was probably only for self-preservation. If Steph kept spitting hearts from her eyeballs, even her dense brother would figure out she’d been in love with him for ten years.

He slid away from her, his fingers curled around the edge of the bar as if to hold onto it instead of her best friend.  Christ, he was a doofus. As if she didn’t know he was just as hot for her best friend, as Steph was for Richie. “Steph.”

“Richie,” Steph said in that sex voice she reserved for radio interviews.

Jamie’s lips twitched before she nodded at Jon. “Hiya, Crab Ass.”

“James.” His voice was soft and rumbly. He was the only person to call her that. The only one she allowed to call her, James. The quiet voice belonged to the devil, she was sure of it. And the devil spoke through Jon in every one of her sweat filled fantasies. She pushed her hair back before she could do something stupid like drag him behind the bar and do Tequila shots off his neck.

“What are you guys doing here?”

“Can’t I just come and see you guys?” Richie asked with an exasperated laugh.

“Sure, if it was just you. You brought the Boy Wonder, so something’s up. Spill.”

“Nice, James.” Jon pushed his sunglasses up leaving his angular face uncovered for once.  He looked young and idealistic again for just one minute, before his blue eyes shuttered back into the bored glare she was used to.

She shrugged. “You don’t walk into groupie central,” she paused, giving the limp road rat a once over, “if you can avoid it.”

“Retract the claws, Jamie,” Ronnie murmured behind her.

To prevent herself from tearing out one of the chick’s crooked teeth and feeding it to her, she cracked her thumb knuckle. Instead, she focused on Jon’s cool blue eyes.  He never could lie to her face.  “You know you prefer hiding on that bus or plane of yours. What gives?”

Jon looked down at the girl beside him. “Can you give us a minute, baby?”

“Sure, Jon.”

The little twit’s voice belonged to Long Island, which made her despise her all the more. When she tipped her head up to kiss him, she had to breathe through her nose. Was there smoke coming out? His eyes met hers as the stupid bitch frenched him.

She glanced around to make sure Richie hadn’t caught that asinine show, but he was too busy being entertained by Ashley. Jamie crossed her arms, suddenly aware of her low cut, taped together self. “If you’re done mauling Miss Long Island, I’d like to get this over with so I can get out of these clothes.”

Jon brushed his thumb over his bottom lip, holding her gaze for a second longer before he drew a sheaf of papers out of his coat. “We’ve got a little news for you ladies.”

“All of us?” Steph asked, stepping forward.

Richie sighed and took his place next to Jon. “First, I want to say it wasn’t my idea.”

The back of Jamie’s throat began to itch. That so didn’t sound good.

“Mercury came to us about this only last night. Our headliners, Cinderella, had a last minute injury. Tom Keifer blew out one of his vocal cords.”

Jamie swallowed as Stephanie clasped her hands together. She could see her best friend trying to hold herself together, but her summer sky eyes were already gleaming with excitement.

“Are you asking what I think you’re asking?” Steph asked quietly.

Shit. Shit. Shit!

Ashley started jumping. “Oh my God! Oh my God!” She dragged out the God until the word echoed around the bar twice.

Ronnie dragged her close and held her flailing arms to her sides. “Ash! Down, girl.”

Jon turned to Stephanie, then to Ronnie, then smiled—hell, who couldn’t smile at Ashley—and finally focused on her. “Mercury wants Devotion to open for us. I wasn’t so sure about it, but after watching you guys tonight…well, I want Devotion to open for us, too.”

Jamie almost believed him. It had to be from the higher ups if Jon was willing to be in the same airspace as her. Stephanie turned to her and shrieked, hugging her so hard, she cracked her back. Ashley and Ronnie crowded in and the cacophony of voices drowned out her silence. She smiled and forced a laugh. This was their big break.

A video on MTv, a top twenty single, a gold album—Now this. She met her brother’s dark eyes. His dimple flashed, and the genuine pleasure practically broke his face with the smile.

Jon leaned on the bar, Miss Long Island clutched at his side again. He gave the girl  no more attention than he would a warm beer. Jamie turned away from his bland stare and into her girls waiting arms.

She’d ride her brother’s fame once again.

Fuck.

“Champagne, Paul!” Jamie slapped the bar, passing a bottle to the girls, then to Richie and Jon, then one in front of herself. If she had to be a shadow, she’d be a drunk one. She lifted the bottle. “To Mercury! God help the Slippery Tour.” She drank until the bubbles floated down her shirt and between her breasts.

She drank until the bubbles made her laugh. She fell into her girls and hoped the laughter would hold.

The Music

I'm no songwriter, so I snag music through the ages. Reality has no business in this story, so if I like the tone of the song, the words, the fun--anything goes. You'll see songs from 80's, 90's & Today. click on the links above for vids and downloads.