Steph rattled a big bowl of popcorn, salting it liberally before she grabbed two Cokes. Her jumping stomach didn't really want popcorn, but she had to do something with her hands. She peered around the bend, Richie's big...holy crap, big...foot was sticking out off the edge of her bed. He'd stolen nearly every pillow on the bus creating a little cave in her bunk. She was just supposed to go out there and curl in?
For God's sake her body was still tingling from the by-accident feel up. She'd imagined his touch for so long that she'd lost her mind the minute he'd gotten close to her. But nothing had changed. Hormones and copping a quick feel instead of dumping her on the carpet didn't change the fact that he wanted her, but wouldn't let himself have her.
Who'd given him a crown? So he'd deigned to come down with the peasants and bring her a movie? The fact that her neck still tingled from his lips and her nipples were so hard and painful she was ready to scream didn't make his decision making process any less stupid. Did she need to smack him in the forehead with a neon sign that said: I'm the best you'll ever have?
She stalked across the kitchen and into the bunk area. He'd propped himself up on pillows, his head about three millimeters from the ceiling of her bunk. His long tanned feet and equally tanned legs were crossed, leaving her with about four inches of space. "Just where am I supposed to sit?"
He shoved over an inch and patted the navy blue sheet. "It's not like we haven't cuddled in and watched a movie before."
"When we were kids doesn't count. You weren't in my bed, we were on the floor of your mom's house with Jamie as a chaperone between us."
His lids lowered and his brown eyes darkened, but he didn't say another word. Watching horror movies had been one of her favorite things to do at the Sambora house on Saturday nights. Most of the time, Richie was out with a date or playing a gig at a some bar, but occasionally he'd stay in and make a big bowl of equally salty popcorn and watch with them.
She perched at the edge of the bed remembering when things were far simpler. His arm scooped around her, until she was firmly against his belly, but instead of copping a feel, Richie's hand dove into the bowl between her thighs. "Stop thinking so loud and watch Mel."
She didn't want to watch Mel. She wanted to talk like he said they would. She wiggled free, taking the popcorn with her.
She put the bowl on Jamie's bunk above her. "You said we were going to talk."
He propped his head on his hand. "Actually, I said we'd start with a movie."
Crossing her arms, she bared her teeth. "If you think I'm going to sit here and watch Mel and Danny Glover blow stuff up and not talk about what just happened, then you've been smoking up with boys too much."
He snapped back the blanket he'd draped over his lap. "Have a look."
Her eyes followed the verbal arrow and her lungs simply stopped working. A tell-tale bulge made a very specific shape under his loose fitting shorts. The length slid up from the middle of his crotch to his hip. She'd have crossed herself if it would do any good. Her eyes shot to his face and that hooded look held a harder edge.
"I've wanted you for years, so cut me some slack here. I need a bit of calm down time."
What he needed to do was use all of that, on all of her. Now.
"Stop looking at me like that."
"You give me an invitation like that, then tell me to cut you some slack?" Frustration had her eyes crossing. She slapped her hand on her chest then opened her arms wide. "I'm right here, and believe me, I want every inch of that."
He flopped back, dragging a pillow over his face. It was such a Sambora thing to do that she nearly laughed out loud. Jamie did the same damn thing when she didn't want to do something. "You're killing me," he said through the pillow.
"Right, and I'm over here without a care in the world."
Her sarcasm flipped a switch inside of him and he flung the pillow to the end of the bunk. "Don't you get it?" Anger, hot and dangerous turned his slumberous eyes to hard chips. "I want to fuck you into next to Tuesday--hell, I want to fuck you until you and I can't even think about moving again, but that's all it would be...fucking." He rolled off the bed. "I don't even know what town we're in, Baby, how am I supposed to give you what you deserve when we're living on a bus or a plane, or one dumpy hotel after another?"
Stunned by his outburst, she gaped at him. When was he going to get it through his head that she didn't care about anything but being with him?
Before she could say another word in her defense he gripped the tops of her arms and lifted her up onto her toes. "You are not one of the hundreds of women I've rolled, Steph. You'd never be one of those girls."
"Hundreds?" She didn't mean to blurt it out, but the idea of Richie and all those women. All those women that weren't her, touching him...she sucked in a breath. That was before her. She shut her eyes. It didn't matter. She knew what he was and didn't care. All she cared about was going forward and as uncertain as everything seemed to be, he was the one constant in her mind.
He'd always been her constant. It was time for him to figure it out and deal.
He laughed, and just like that the anger dissipated like smoke. He lowered her back to the floor. "Christ, Baby." He hauled her in, his lips on her forehead and her cheek against the wall of heat that was his chest. "You make me nuts."
"I make you nuts?" She struggled away from him even though everything inside her wanted to stay right there and soak in all his warmth and skin. "You take the cake, Richie. I'm pouring my guts out here--I want whatever we can get right now--I'll take the bumming around and the crappy hotel rooms as long as I have you." He opened his mouth, and she could literally feel the patronizing tone that was about to come out of his throat. "Whatever you think you're saving me from, cut it the hell out."
Deflated, he dropped back down on her bunk, taking he popcorn with him. "I'm saving you from yourself."
Disgusted, she sat down next to him and stole back the bowl. Now salt sounded really good. "Sounds more like you're saving yourself."
Instead of saying anything, he stretched back out on her bed and dragged her down with him. Even with her butt snuggled into his thighs, even with the hard length of him pushing into her, he just curled around her and dug into the popcorn bowl. "Watch Mel."
She forced her eyes to watch the TV and not crane around to talk him. The movie was exciting enough to pull her mind from the brick wall of stubborn that was Richie and whatever he thought was good for her. Why couldn't he be that guy? The guy that was willing to fuck first and think later. For the love of God, she was counting on the fact that he was ruled by his dick like most men. Of course he had to be different.
She listened to the movie with half an ear. Richie crunched popcorn behind her ear, leaned up for a drink here and there, but always settled himself right back behind her, his arm resting on her hip, his fingers dangling over into the bowl. Was it just for easy access? Or did he like touching her?
Mixed signals were par for the course lately when it came to him. She couldn't count on his body to make his decisions for him. It had taken the better part of the movie to have him truly relax behind her, but finally his hard on had finally faded leaving an odd sort of companionship. Of course just because he wasn't hard anymore didn't mean the rest of her could forget she was leaning against him. The awareness had been replaced with the sheer heat of him, the way he breathed, and the scent of his shampoo.
Not to mention that he'd stolen the pillows leaving his oddly comfortable bicep as her only cushion. It was a different feeling to be wrapped in a man's arms, especially one as big as Richie. The only other man she'd been involved in had been average in every way. Where Jeremy had been soft in the middle and slight through the chest, Richie was nothing but hard muscle and a wide chest built to snuggle with.
It wasn't like she'd been a nun or anything. She'd enjoyed just as much of the road life as she could stand in the beginning. But she'd never been about anonymous sex, so that gloss had worn off like a chipping topcoat within the first month. Not to mention that she had a constant reminder of the man she'd always wanted just out of reach.
As the light grew dim and Richie switched out movies from the bus's stash she dozed a little. This was what she wanted, even if Richie wouldn't let himself give it a name. This was the intimacy she'd longed for. She just couldn't figure out why he wouldn't allow himself to go that extra step. The next time she woke, confetti and Ferris Bueller's float scene filled the screen and Richie was relaxed around her.
The popcorn and sodas had been forgotten in the little coccoon they'd made. The air conditioner chugged away, but there was no way she could be cold with him around. She'd wrapped herself around his arm from bicep to forearm, their legs tangled and his fingers cupped her knee in easy companionship. He'd tucked his chin into her hair but he didn't have that utter stillness to him that said sleep.
His answer was an absent hum that came from his chest more than his throat. She'd been thinking about it off and on since the stairwell, but it had taken a few hours to get her brain wrapped around how to bring it up. What if the real reason he didn't want to be with her was New York. Richie had hooked up with plenty of strippers, but could he love someone who'd made that kind of mistake?
"When you found me in New York..." His whole body tensed behind her and she trailed off. Instead of pulling away, he wrapped himself around her more firmly. Even his legs had locked around her hips to keep her from moving. Again, the contradiction confused her. Wouldn't he want to push her away? She'd seen all that anger in his eyes.
"Finding you in New York is half the reason we're such a mess."
The quick prick of tears lodged the words she'd carefully planned in her throat. How was she supposed to explain to him that it had been just her mistaken pride that allowed her to even think about stripping to stay in New York? Every call she'd shown up for had been in vain. She was a good dancer, but broadway was cut throat--good, just wasn't good enough.
He tucked his chin into her shoulder. "I walked in that night, hell I wasn't even really in the mood to go to a club, let alone a skin joint." He stroked a lock of her hair back. "The guys just wanted to drag me out of the studio before I killed Jon or our producer. It was a toss up at the time."
A small laugh broke through the stone that had taken up residence where her voice had been. She could see it. As much as Jon and Richie bounced well off each other, there were days where frustration was the chemistry, not magic.
The tape clicked to the end and popped out of the VCR leaving the room in a dusky darkness. Intimate, loud with words unsaid, and the man she'd wanted for too many years to count closer than she'd ever let herself dream.
"I saw you."
She could feel him swallow behind her. That long, delicious neck swallowing down...what? Disgust? Oh God, she struggled to sit up.
Again, his body clamped around hers. "No way, you're not running. I'm talking and you're listening."
"I saw you up on that stage. You, my little sister's best friend, the girl next door that I nearly killed myself to not look at...every inch of you was right there." His voice went deeper, nearly a whisper. "Curves and gold dust, every sin and every dark thought on that stage...taunting me. I wanted you so bad I could have easily killed to drag you down, and take you out of there."
She stopped trying to get away from him. She had a hard time trying to pick out the good parts from the luggage of bad that she'd carried around for years. Wanted her? Always wanted her? She tried to twist around in his arms, but he held her still. "You wanted to take me out of there?"
"I wanted to take you out of there and do every little depraved thing I could think of, then start all over again and worship every inch of you."
She lost her breath. For the second time that night, she simply lost every ounce of air that her lungs could hold. "Why didn't you," she asked on a non-voice. "Why don't you?"
"Because your my little sister's best friend, because you were and always will be the best part of my childhood. I'm a rock star, Baby. I don't even have a house. You've always been more than what a guy like me deserves."
Frustration gave her enough ammunition to push out of his arms and out of their little cocoon of heaven. "Why do you keep saying that?"
In the dim light, his brown eyes were dark and a little sad. Did he honestly think that stuff mattered to her? Did he even know her at all?
"If we got sex involved in this and it didn't work out? Where would we be?"
"Human!" She all but shouted it. "Why are you working six steps ahead? All I know is I--" Her words skidded to a halt. She didn't want to guilt him into anything by throwing the love word around. Stupid, stupid, stupid man.
"All you know is what?"
"That you're a coward," she finished with her arms crossed.
He sat up fast and wacked his head on the bunk. "Son of a fucking bitch!"
She winced, and couldn't stop the bubble of laughter when he slapped his hand on his forehead. She leaned over and flicked on the light. "Let me see."
He looked up at her, and his face was priceless. He looked like a ten year old that needed a kiss to make it better. He frowned, keeping his hand over the sore spot.
"C'mon, you big baby."
"I'm a coward, and now I'm a baby?" He groused.
She forced herself not to laugh, tugging his hand away. "Just let me look." Sure enough, he had a little bump, but he'd be okay. She leaned in and kissed it. "Better?"
"No," he said with a pout.
She did laugh this time. Kissing it and his nose this time. He looked up at her, that long neck a little too delectible as far as she was concerned. When his eyes went into that hooded, I'm-going-to-fuck-you-into-oblivion look, she knelt over him on the matress, pushing him back. Stupid man just needed a little push in the right direction.
The sharp smack of the bus door cracking open and way too many feet had her about ready to scream. She'd nearly had him right where she wanted him. If she could just make him see how good they'd be together. "What the fuck?" she growled and climbed off of him.
Jamie, Ronnie, and Ash broke through the hallway, crowding in.
"Oh my God!"
"You'll never believe-"
And a screech from Ashley as she broke through Jamie and Ronnie all stopped as they saw Richie flat on his back on her bunk.
Jamie crossed her arms. "Are we interrupting something?"
Steph whirled back at Richie. "Liar."
Richie rolled to his feet. "Nope, she's saving my ass." He patted the top of Jamie's head.
Steph stomped. She felt like a kid, but she stomped again anyway. She was so frustrated she was simply going to kill someone. "This had better be good."
Jamie, Ronnie, and Ash all linked arms and moved in jumping again. Their excitement too much to be contained even with the less than stellar timing. Soon she was jumping with them, just so she wouldn't get trampled. "Why are we jumping?" She said laughing. Their hysteria was contageous.
"We're number one! Oh my freakin' God, Steph!" Jamie's eyes were like gold fire with glee. "Since You Been Gone is number one!"
"What?" Steph stopped, wincing when one of Ronnie's killer heels dug into her bare toes. "Dammit, Ron!"
"I'm sorry," Ronnie sidestepped but still couldn't stop screeching. "Number one! It's our first number one!"
Richie leaned against her bunk, his arms crossed, a soft smile lighting his much too handsome face. The heat in his eyes was more pride than sizzle, but she still felt it in her blood.
Jamie leaped from their circle to Richie and hugged him tight, her long legs wrapped around his back as she laughed. And Richie hugged her back, a smacking kiss on her cheek, but he looked over his sister's shoulder and their eyes met again. "Congrats, girls. This is definitely the first of many. And definitely a cause for celebration!"
Ashley jumped up on Richie's back and Steph swallowed a burning bubble of venom. Ash was just excited. But again, Richie was just basking in the excitement. But he didn't come her way.
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.