Well I went and did it again. I got involved in yet another interactive fan fiction story. This time, my character was paired with Richie (much more to my liking). That story wrapped in early November 2008, and I had been asked to assemble the "story posts", that is, the posts that tell Richie and Jen's story, in one place for people to read.

So I'm doing it.

I'm having to add some filler as I go, as there were lengthy pauses between the verbose posts I made, but I'm trying to keep the flow of the story going.

The Richie/Jen story is only half of the fan fic project. The other half was a Jon/T story. That is not explored here at all. In fact, very little mention is made. Just enough so it isn't a surprise when T shows up at various points.

If anything is confusing, please let me know. I've been living this character for the better part of the last eight months, and her memories are mine. I forget, sometimes, that you all can't see into my head.

I hope you enjoy the story. It starts here.

~ Hath

Guests For Breakfast

Saturday, December 13, 2008
Wednesday morning, Richie woke disappointed. He’d hoped that Jennifer would have come by last night, so they could finish what he started in her suite. He looked at the clock. It was 10am, which was early for him, but he figured she had gotten in late, so didn’t call her. He did write a note and slipped it under her door.

Good morning, Sunshine! I hope you had fun last night. I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight. Hope you and your friend have a great day. I didn’t want to wake you, so I’ll just say I’m on my cell, and will answer if I can, if you want to call.


He was just straightening from her door when Jon emerged from his room. He raised an eyebrow at his friend. “Just leaving or just arriving?” he said with a smirk.

“Just arriving, asshole,” Richie said, grinning. “She got in late last night and I was just leaving her a note.”

“A note? What, are we in high school or something?”

“Fuck you, man,” Richie said, laughing. “I don’t want to wake her.”

Jon looked at his friend’s face. “Yeah, you do,” he said, and crossed the hall in two strides. Before Richie could stop him Jon pounded on the door hard.

Jennifer jumped up out of bed and was in the sitting room of her suite without knowing quite why. There was some sort of loud noise...there it was again. Someone was pounding on her door. She saw the note under her door, and picked it up, scanned it quickly, then threw open the door. There was Jon, looking smug. “Here ya go,” he said to Richie. “She’s up.”

“What the hell is going on?” Jennifer was confused, and not sure if she was awake or not yet. Her hair was all wild, having been left down when she went to sleep. It cascaded over her shoulders in golden waves, and Richie itched to dig his fingers into it. Jon was studiously avoiding looking at her chest, but Richie could see the little peaks where her nipples poked through her camisole.

Jon rolled his eyes and cocked a thumb at his friend. “Casanova here is mooning around outside your door, not wanting to wake you.”

Jennifer slumped against the door jamb. “I see you have no such problems.” She yawned widely and stretched her arms up over her head, pulling the fabric of the camisole tight across her breasts, and raising the hem. She stepped back from the door, and looked at Richie. “You may as well come in. I’ll get dressed and order up some coffee.”

Expecting only Richie to take her up on her offer, Jennifer was shocked when Jon pecked her cheek on the way past. Richie kissed her more soundly. “Thanks, doll,” he said, winking at her.

They made themselves at home in the sitting room. She shook her head and handed Richie the room service menu. “I want breakfast, too,” she said, then went into the bedroom to get dressed. After shutting the door, she leaned against it and sighed. What the hell just happened? She quietly cracked the door open and peered out. Yep, the two of them were sitting there, arguing about what to order for breakfast. She shut the door again, and fired off a quick email to Samantha.

TO: samanthac@yahoo.com
FROM: thegoddesshathor@gmail.com
The two of them – JFBJ and RFS are sitting on my fucking couch ordering room service. Am I dreaming?

Jennifer dressed, brushed her hair and teeth, and went back into the sitting room, where the men looked up at her and laughed. “Nice shirt,” Richie said. This morning’s was Kelly green with an Italian flag on it. It said, “I’m Sicilian: Piss me off, and I’ll have you whacked.”

“Thanks, I like it. Uh...” Jennifer fidgeted with the ends of her hair. “What’s up?”

Jon laughed. “Nothing. We’ve got stuff to get done today, and this one here was going to be useless, I could just tell, unless he talked to you this morning. So, I took care of the problem.” There was a knock on the door. “Oh,” Jon said, “and I called the others and told them to come over for breakfast.”

Jennifer took a step backward and sat hard on the chair. “Why are you doing this to me?” she moaned.

“Trial by fire, baby,” Jon said grinning widely, and went to open her door.

“Make yourself at home,” she muttered after him, then went to sit by Richie.

He looped an arm around her shoulders and she rested her head on his shoulder. “What if I wasn’t alone in here?” she asked, looking up at Richie. “I mean, Gail and I got in pretty late, but what if she was here when dinkus over there pounded on the door?” Jennifer started laughing. “God that would have been priceless: not only the look on his face, but the look on Gail’s.” Richie smiled and dropped his mouth onto hers, and slid his tongue into her mouth.

“Morning!” David called as he came into the room. “Jesus, really?” he complained, making Jennifer jump and break the kiss, blushing. David sat next to her and looped an arm around her shoulders. He started playing with her hair. “Do we all get kisses like that?”

“No,” Jennifer said simply, making him laugh. Richie pulled her into his lap, away from David, now playing with her hair himself, sticking his tongue out at his friend. Jennifer wanted to purr at the feel of his hands on her, and melt against his chest, but didn’t.

“I don’t blame you ‘miga,” Tico said, coming in and sitting at the table. “Mornin’.”

“Hi,” she said weakly. “You know, I’m not even all the way awake yet, and I may be a little hung over still. This is so not fair.”

“Tough shit,” Jon said, smiling. “This is the way it is. We’re a four-for-one deal.”

Jennifer laughed. “I don’t see this kind of thing flying with T, you know. She’s way more awake in the mornings than I am. So, if you’re going to do this shit to her, well,” she sighed. “It’s too bad, but I guess Bon Jovi couldn’t go on forever.” She smiled at Jon.

“Fuck you,” he said, laughing.

“No thanks,” Jennifer answered automatically.

Richie squeezed her shoulder and kissed her again. “You okay?”

Jennifer nodded. “Yeah, I guess. It’s sorta like having my brother’s frat brothers hanging out. If I can put the holy-shit-it’s-bon-jovi reaction behind me, you guys are all pretty much normal guys.”

“That’s what we keep TELLING people, but they don’t believe us,” Jon complained.

“Maybe you should do random hotel room service blitzes,” she suggested. “Just walk in to someone’s room with carts of food, make yourself at home, and just be you.” She burst out laughing. “Start down on the 5th floor with Gail. She’ll love me forever.”

Room service arrived, and after Jennifer had the waiter wheel the two carts, since Jon ordered enough for an army, to the table. She cast Jon a withering look when he tried to take the check from her. David laughed. “Don’t worry, man, she can afford it. She told me so.” He winked at her. “You know, Jen, those are pretty tight jeans, and I still don’t see your balls.”

“Oh,” she said confused. “Didn’t you get the package I sent to your room? I thought you needed them more than me, so I had them cleaned and packed up all nice and purty, and sent to you. Huh.” She cocked her head and winked at him. I’ll have to check with the hotel laundry. She picked up the phone, and shrieked when a biscuit hit her in the head.

“Put down the phone,” David ordered. “Jesus, Jen.”

Tico embraced Jennifer. “You keep this up with him, and I will be your devoted slave forever.”

“Sorry, he just brings out the bitchy smart-ass in me, I guess.” She shrugged. “Sorta like my brother does.”

“He does that to all of us,” Jon said.

You can be a bitchy smart-ass?” Jennifer asked; mock shock on her face. “No way.”

Jon just cast her a glare that should have had her blushing and scrabbling to apologize. Instead, she just asked, “Where’s the bacon?”

Going Out On The Town

Friday, December 5, 2008
Jennifer called to make sure the car was on standby, and jumped in for a quick shower. When she was done, she put on a peach-scented lotion then slid into her going-out clothes. She had a sheath of white silk that was held closed at the back of the neck with a rhinestone clasp, and fell straight to the floor. It was cut so it left her back completely bare, and her breasts barely covered. The skirt of the dress was slit up one side all the way to her waist. She twisted her hair into an elaborate up-do, held in place by sapphire-studded chopsticks, and put on dramatic makeup. Her eyes, deep blue tonight, were done up like Cleopatra’s, thick with kohl.

When Jennifer was satisfied with the results, she put on a sapphire pendant that hung low between her breasts, and matching chandelier earrings hung from the lowest holes in her ears. A sapphire and diamond cuff bracelet adorned her wrist, and white strappy sandals with a four-inch heel completed the look. She spun in front of the mirror. She looked damned good. She had a white cashmere shawl to take with her in case it got chilly, and was ready with almost a half-hour to spare.

She called Richie’s cell. “Hey you,” she said. She was surprised he’d answered; she expected to have to leave him a message.

“Hey yourself!” Richie answered. “Are you in your room?”

“Yes, but--” she looked at the phone; he hung up on her! She laughed when the knocking started. “Who is it?” she said sweetly.

“It’s me,” Richie said, smiling.

“Who’s ‘me’?” Jennifer teased.

“Open the damned door,” Richie yelled, laughing.

When Jennifer opened the door, Richie took a staggered step backwards. “You…what…whoa…” he said, unable to form a coherent thought.

“Is there a problem?” Jennifer asked innocently. Richie just shook his head. “Wanna come in for a little while?”

Richie nodded, and Jennifer motioned him in. He stepped in and she shut the door, and he hadn’t yet taken his eyes off of her. She smiled and crossed the room, giving Richie a view from the back and he groaned, “F-u-u-u-u-u-uck… You’re wearing that out?” he said, sounding all possessive and making Jennifer’s heart trip.

“I was planning on it, why? Too risqué for a blues club?”

Richie looked at her. No, risqué wasn’t the word. He didn’t know what the word was, but he didn’t want anyone else looking at her like he knew he was looking at her. He simply shook his head. “You look amazing.”

“I do clean up good,” Jennifer laughed, and winked. “Hello?” She waved her hand in front of Richie’s face. “Blink, baby,” she said.

“I think I see the last tat,” he croaked, his mouth dry. Jennifer looked down. The edges of the rays of the sunburst that circled her left nipple were visible, and Jennifer shifted her dress so it wasn’t anymore.

“Oh, crap, I didn’t want that showing.” She was blushing now at Richie’s open staring. “You’re staring. You’re giving me a complex,” she said nervously. “Cut it out. I’m still the same person you know, just all dressed up.”

“Can I see it?” Richie asked, trailing a finger along the edge of her dress and raising gooseflesh in his wake.

“Rich…” Jennifer hesitated.

“Please,” he begged. When she reluctantly nodded, Richie slowly, gently, slid the left side of her dress away. He sucked in a breath when he saw the starburst. He traced around the ink, watching, fascinated, as Jennifer’s nipple pebbled. “This must have hurt something awful,” he said.

“Not too bad,” Jennifer answered; her voice husky. She couldn’t quite believe it was her standing here, breast bared, being touched by this man. It couldn’t be her. It had to be a dream.

His finger came achingly close to flicking over the rosy bump, and Jennifer sucked in a breath. Richie looked up at Jennifer’s face, and leaned in for a kiss. He cupped her breast lightly, testing its weight, and Jennifer moaned into Richie’s mouth. He broke the kiss and stepped back, covering her back up with shaking hands. “Darlin’,” he rasped, “if I don’t stop now, you are not getting out of here in one piece.”

“Rich, I —“ the phone ringing interrupted her thoughts. She slowly crossed the room, and picked it up on the fourth ring. “Yes?” she asked.

“Hath! I’m ready when you are sweetie. I’ll wait for you downstairs!”

Gail’s voice penetrated the fog in her head. “OK, G, I’ll be there in a few.” Gail made kissy noises into the phone and hung up. Jennifer turned to find Richie standing on the balcony, looking out into the twilight, arms braced on the wall in front of him. “Everything okay out here?” she asked, going for a lightness she didn’t quite pull off.

“Yeah,” he said, his voice a little strangled, though he still kept his back to her. “I’m fine. I just need a minute.”

“For what?” Jennifer took a step out, but stopped, still not comfortable out there. “Rich, what’s wrong? Turn around, please, you’re scaring me.”

He turned, and Jennifer saw why he needed a minute. The front of his pants was distended with his erection. Jennifer’s eyes went wide, and Richie smiled. “I need a minute, darlin’,” he said, “to get myself under control before I attack you.”

“Oh!” Jennifer said, blushing. “I’m sorry, I –“

“Don’t apologize for being desirable, Jennifer. I sure as hell am not sorry.” He looked at her, craving and hunger plain in his features. “Well I am kinda sorry you have plans for tonight,” he said with a wry smile. Jennifer just gaped at him, and Richie laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said, holding up a hand. “I wouldn’t dream of coming between you and your girlfriend tonight. We have all the time in the world for,” he twirled his hand in the air, “this.”

He walked slowly toward her, somewhat more in control of himself now. “I’m gonna go now, darlin’, and let you get on with your evening.” He stopped in front of her, and pulled her in for a steamy kiss. “You go fix your lipstick, and maybe I’ll see you later.” He smiled at her, tapped her nose with his fingertip, and was gone. Jennifer fixed her makeup, wrapped her shawl around her shoulders, and left her suite.

Shaking on her heels, Jennifer walked to the elevator. Gail was already waiting for her in the lobby when she got there. She had on a halter-neck turquoise top, cut low on her chest, with a silver hoop belt, sparkly jeans and silver 5-inch stiletto shoes. Her hair was down, and hung straight and shiny over her right shoulder. Her makeup was flawless, and her eyes exactly matched her top. When she saw Jennifer, Gail’s eyes widened. “Where the fuck do you think we’re going tonight?”

“What do you mean?” Jennifer asked. “I’m dressed up to go out.”

“Fuck me, you’re dressed for attention,” Gail said, laughing.

“Well why not?” Jennifer retorted. “What’s the fun of going out if you’re not going to be noticed?” She winked at Gail, hoping her color had returned to normal. “So, do you want to just go, or do you want drinks first?”

“Let’s go,” Gail said. “We can have drinks at the bistro.” Jennifer checked with the concierge, who confirmed that her car was waiting for them outside. When they went out, Gail whistled.

“Damn, Hath,” she said. “You sure do travel in style.” Parked at the entrance was a gorgeous silver Bentley, complete with gorgeous liveried driver. The driver’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head when he saw these two creatures gliding toward him.

“Ms. Petruzzo?” he asked. Jennifer nodded. “Your chariot awaits madame.”

Jennifer and Gail looked at each other and dissolved into a fit of giggles. When they were ensconced in the back of the car, they talked about the show the next night, and getting backstage. Neither knew quite what they would do when they saw the guys, though for completely different reasons. Gail noticed a little smile on Jennifer’s mouth. “What’re you so pleased about?” she asked.

“Oh, just thinking about their reactions when they see us all dolled up tomorrow night,” she said. “They’re gonna be just as speechless as we will. We’re going to knock them on their asses.”

They ate outside at one of the most expensive bistros on the quay, and argued over who would pick up the check. Gail won, saying that since Jennifer arranged for transportation, the least she could do was spring for dinner. They sat for hours after their steaks were gone, watching the ‘pretty’ people go by. They took guesses as to which ones had work done, and made up stories as to where they were going. They laughed and talked and sipped at their drinks until close to 10.30, when Gail informed Jennifer it was time to go. Jennifer pressed a button on her blackberry, and the car magically appeared a few minutes later. The ladies were handed down into the plush leather seats, and they went off to their next destination.

Blue’s Haven was a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall place tucked in between a defunct brewery and a clothing factory. It had high windows, a ton of ambiance, and a line people waiting outside to get in. Jennifer raised an eyebrow at Gail, who just laughed.

“The owners are friends of mine,” she said. “Besides, dressed the way you are, they’d let you in anyway.”

They approached the door, and Gail leaned in to whisper in the bouncer’s ear. “Hey there, Anatoly,” she said. “Got room for two more?” The big Russian looked at Gail, and swept her up in an enormous hug, spinning her around. He dropped a smacking kiss on her mouth, and Gail introduced him to Jennifer before leading her girlfriend into the dark, smoky club.

It was gorgeous, done up in dark wood and deep burgundy leather. The tables were all two-tops, with a pair of high-backed barstools set with them. The stage was currently dominated by a huge black man, who sang so soulfully, Jennifer wanted to cry for him.

“GAIL!” a voice called from behind them. The women turned around to find a 40-something couple approaching them. Gail’s face lit up as first the woman, then the man gave her twin kisses on the cheeks.

“Summer, Paul, this is my new friend from America, Hath. Er, Jennifer,” she said, introducing her.

They ignored the proffered hand and kissed her cheeks in greeting. “What brings you out here, then, Jennifer?” Summer asked. The woman was a diminutive 5’2” if she was anything, and couldn’t weigh more than 100 pounds sopping wet. Her slim black dress was a perfect match for her pale complexion and red curls, and her arms held dozens of beaded bracelets.

“I’m here actually for the Bon Jovi concert tomorrow night,” Jennifer said.

Gail laughed. “She and I won that radio contest.”

“For the backstage passes?” Paul asked. He was as different from his wife as night was from day. Where she was short, he was tall, taller than Jennifer in her heels. He was built like a linebacker, and had dark hair and a swarthy complexion. His hands were gentle on his wife’s shoulders as he stood behind her.

“You came all this way for a concert?” Summer asked, incredulous.

“It’s not the furthest I’ve gone,” Jennifer answered blushing a little. I’ve literally gone halfway around the world after them. I saw them in Australia back in the day.”

“Now that’s devotion,” Summer said.

“Nah,” Jennifer countered. “That’s just plain old lust.” The women all laughed, and Paul just rolled his eyes.

They pulled two tables together and chatted amiably for a while, then Jennifer noticed Gail getting twitchy. “You wanna go play, don’t you?” she asked her friend. Gail just nodded. “Go on then,” Jennifer said. “I’d love to hear you play.” Gail smiled and kissed her friend square on the mouth.

“Thanks, Hath,” and she was gone. Paul went to make their rounds while Summer stayed to chat more with Jennifer.

“You know,” she said, “Gail hasn’t brought any of her friends in here, not anyone actually, since her husband died. You must be someone pretty special.”

Jennifer smiled. “We are cut from the same cloth, her and me. We have so much in common it’s downright scary, and even over the internet, we knew we were soul sisters. I was coming here anyway for the show, long before I met Gail, but it’s going to be so much better with a friend.”

“Well, I’m just floored that she brought you here. Usually, she keeps this place for herself. It’s her refuge.” Summer saw her husband signaling her. “I’m sorry, I’m needed over there,” she said, nodding across the room.

“No worries; I’m just going to enjoy the show.”

Jennifer settled in to her bar stool, oblivious to the looks she was getting. She crossed her legs, bare over covered, and sat transfixed as Gail played through a set with the house band. She came back for a drink, and Jennifer stood to give her a hug. “That was amazing!” she said. “You are so good!”

“Nah,” she said, secretly pleased. “I do alright, that’s all.” They had just refreshed their drinks when a man stopped by the table.

“Gail, yer gonna sing for us, aintcha?” He was tall and beautiful, and had eyes only for Gail. Jennifer may as well have been one of the stools.

“Oh, I dunno, Ben” she demurred, but the he was having none of it.

“Hey,” Ben called to the room in general. “We want Gail to sing, yeah?”

There were catcalls and whistles, and Jennifer pushed her at him. “Go, sing. I’m fine.” Gail went up on stage and the band started an old Muddy Waters classic. Gail licked her lips, closed her eyes, flipped her hair off her shoulder, and let the words slide on out…

Want you to rock me baby, rock me all night long
Want you to rock me baby, rock me all night long
Well I want you to rock me baby, like my back ain't got no bones

Sun goin' down, the moon begin to rise
Sun goin' down, the moon begin to rise
Well I want you to rock me baby, till you make me satisfied

See me comin', run get your rockin' chair
See me comin', run get your rockin' chair
Well you know I ain't no stranger, you know I used to live right here

Want you to roll me, like I roll a wagon wheel
Want you to roll me, like I roll a wagon wheel
You know I want you to roll me over, you know how good that makes me feel

Rock me easy, rock your baby slow
Rock me easy, rock your baby slow
Well you know I want you to rock me so easy, till I don't wanna rock no more

Put your arms around me, like a circle around the sun
Put your arms around me, like a circle around the sun
I want you to call, call me daddy, let me lay down in your arms.

Jennifer closed her eyes and swayed with the music. Gail’s voice was fantastic; just the right combination of husky and sultry and was perfect for this song. When she was done, the crowd was breathless, and she’d imagine more than half the men were hard. She was awesome. A few more songs, and Gail left the stage to join her friend.

Jennifer was in awe of her new friend’s talent. Several people came by to talk to her or to see if they could cajole her into singing more, but she firmly turned them away. “I’m visiting with my friend,” she said. The girls had a great time turning down dances and accepting drinks, and rolled into the hotel about 3am. After dropping Gail off in her room, Jennifer went up to her floor. She stopped at Richie’s door and placed a gentle hand on it, but didn’t knock. Tomorrow, well today, was a busy day for him, with press appearances, interviews, and of course the show, and she didn’t want to be responsible for him being tired.

She kissed her fingers, touched the door, and went into her own room.

Meeting Gail

Saturday, November 29, 2008
Shaking after that encounter, Jennifer rushed through a shower then got dressed and ordered breakfast. She looked at her balcony doors. She should have just left them shut. Shaking her head, she jumped when a knock on the door sounded. Distracted, Jennifer opened the door, and was surprised to see Richie there. Smiling, she stepped back and motioned him in. She shut the door and before she could turn all the way back around, Richie had her pressed up against the door, and was kissing her soundly.

“What was that for?” Jennifer asked, smiling breathlessly into Richie’s face once he let her up for air.

“You. It was for you. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Jennifer nodded. “I’m sorry I over-reacted. This is sorta new territory for me, and I didn’t mean to overhear them, but I couldn’t stand it if you were just trying to recapture whatever you had with your ex. I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have gotten so upset.”

Richie shook his head. “I’m glad you talked to me about it. I’m just sorry you had to hear their doubts. They should have talked to me. Now,” he kissed her again. “What are you doing today?”

Jennifer took a shaky breath. His kisses made her weak. “Gail and I are going shopping today then hitting a club tonight. She’s got a friend who owns a blues club, Blue’s Haven I think it’s called. It ought to be fun.”

“Do you have a car for the day?”

Jennifer laughed. “Hell no, we’re taking her bike. She’s a Harley chick like me.” She pointed at her T-shirt, and Richie laughed. It was a tight white tank that said “This Bitch can RIDE” across it in bold red letters, centered over a silhouette of a motorcycle. “We might take a car tonight, but I already have that taken care of.”

“Nice shirt,” he said. “Alright, well then I guess I’ll see you later then. When are you coming back?”

Jennifer shrugged. “No clue. Want me to call you later? I’d imagine we’re coming back here to change before going out.”

Richie blew out a breath. “I’d love for you to call me later,” he said. There was another knock on the door.

“That’s gotta be breakfast,” Jennifer said. She let the waiter in, who brought the tray to the table in the sitting room “Want some?” she asked Richie once the waiter had left.

Richie shook his head. “Nah, but I’ll stay until…” There was a pounding at the door.

Puzzled, Jennifer went to open it, and was surprised to find Jon standing there. “Rich wasn’t in his room, I figured he was here. Nice shirt. RICH!” he shouted, making Jennifer jump. “Get your ass in gear, we have shit to do.” He winked at Jennifer who was just staring at him.

Richie came to the door, grumbling and munching on a piece of bacon. “Sorry, darlin’,” he said, smiling around a mouthful. “Couldn’t resist.” He swallowed, the kissed her briefly on the lips. “Guess I’ll talk to you later then?” Jennifer nodded. “Good,” he said, then turned on his friend. “Do you have to shout for me like I’m some sort of damned dog?” The two of them were grumbling and bickering as they walked up the hall, and Jennifer shut the door, laughing.

At 11:30, Jennifer was in the lobby, ready to go. She had donned her knee-high black leather boots over painted-on black denim, and had her jacket slung over her arm. She was glad Richie hadn’t seen her jacket yet. On the back was a replica of one of his tattoos; a winged guitar with “Who Dares Wins” written across it. It had the requisite fringe, and would hug her body like a second skin. She was chatting up Evie, who was on duty this morning, when she heard the unmistakably sexy, throaty growl of a Harley FatBoy. With a smile, she turned toward the sound.

Through the windows, Jennifer watched as Gail parked her bike out front. She slowly threw a leather-clad leg over the saddle, stood straight and arched her back to work out kinks. Jennifer smiled. There was nothing quite like the stretch after a long ride. She watched as Gail took off her helmet, and her hair, jet black and stick-straight, fell to the cheeks of her ass. She took off her jacket, under which she wore a gleaming white sleeveless t-shirt, slid on some shades, grabbed her saddle bags, and sauntered into the hotel. Her natural, slow-rolling gait was followed every step of the way.

Jennifer stood at the front desk, hands folded across her chest, watching the show. The woman knew how to make an entrance. They were going to raise six kinds of hell over the next couple of days. As she drew closer, Jennifer could see Celtic circle band snaking around the top of her left arm. Gail scanned the lobby and settled her gaze on Jennifer, who gave a half-salute in greeting.

Gail squealed “Hath!” and ran over to Jennifer. They were both giggling and talking at once, gushing over each other like long-lost sisters.

After a fierce hug, Jennifer pushed back. “You do NOT look like a music teacher!” she accused. Gail’s voice was soft-spoken and husky, perfect for singing the blues. She had lilac eyes today, peeking out from under the fringe of her hair. She had two piercings in each ear and a small silver stud in her nose. Jennifer could just see the edge of a Joker tat on her right shoulder blade. She shook her head. Something else they had in common – paying tribute to their favorite boys on their bodies.

“Oh my god Hath you’re here!” Gail gushed. “Oh hell girl you said you were tall. You are gorgeous!”

“Gail, you can call me ‘Jennifer’, you know, and look at you! Your hair is to die for and I can’t believe your eyes! I need to get a set of lilac lenses.” They hugged again.

“Oh,” Gail said. “I’m gonna call you ‘Hath’ because that’s what I know you as. I’m so glad you’re here, I can’t stop grinning! Let me check in and dump my bags then I’ll take you to my favorite café for the best lattes in the UK.”

Arms wrapped around each others’ waists, they walked to the front desk. “Good morning, Gail!” Evie said. “Sorry your usual suite is unavailable; we booked up quickly for this week.”

“I can’t understand why,” Gail answered, and winked at Jennifer. She got herself checked in and ducked into the ladies room. When she came out, she had changed out of her riding leathers into a baby blue t-shirt tucked into her ass-hugging jeans. “I see you’re already dressed for riding, so let’s boot. Shopping time’s a-wasting!”

They slipped into their jackets; Gail’s had small silver wings and keyboard on the back, and they went out to the bike. A few people, men mostly, watched as Gail and Jennifer wound up their hair under their helmets and straddled the bike. Gail drove, with Jennifer scooting up close behind her. With a whoop and amid much laughter, the girls took off.

After downing their lattes, they went poking around the shops and boutiques in the area. In one of them, Jennifer found the perfect outfit for the concert Wednesday night. She had brought something with her, but this was better. The black beaded halter-style vest had no back, just a small tie at the waist. It dipped daringly low in the front, and was just gorgeous. The beading would certainly catch the light. She tried it on and saw it was cropped enough on her that her double-neck tattoo would show. She stared in the mirror for so long that Gail barged into the dressing room.

“Holy shit, you have to buy that,” she said. “It fits you like a second skin. Nice ink,” she said, indicating the ab tat.

“Thanks, I don’t know though; we’re going backstage. Do I want all of them seeing it?”

“Seeing what? That you proudly proclaim your choice? Who the fuck cares?”

She was right. “You’re right. I’m taking it. And the lowest-slung mini I can find.” She found a soft black miniskirt that was closed at the hip with a jeweled buckle, and amounted to little more than a sarong that just kissed the middle of her thighs. “What do you think? Too whore-ish?”

“With the biker boots, yeah,” Gail said, rolling her eyes, “but with heels, it’ll be fan-fucking-tastic. Your legs will be a mile long.”

The next shop they hit was chock full of biker gear, and Jennifer was in heaven. She fingered everything, and tried on more jackets and gloves than she should have. She bought a pair of leather pants that laced up the side from ankle to hip, and ordered a jacket of the softest black leather to be shipped to the states when it was done. She was having it detailed with silver studs, having “Goddess” spelled out on the back in a flowing script. She was having the best time.

They stopped for a bite to eat around tea time, and had a great chat. Gail asked her about the man in her life, and watched as Jennifer’s face lit up. She was totally taken by him, and she laughed as Jennifer told her about him taking care of her jet-lag, and meeting his friends.

After buying more trinkets and treasures for Jennifer to bring home, they went back to the hotel to dress for supper. They had about two hours before they were going to meet in the hotel lobby for drinks before dinner. They were going to a fabulous trendy bistro on the quay, where they’d stay until it was fashionably late enough to hit the club. Jennifer couldn’t wait. She had JUST the outfit for a night out on the town.

Meeting Jon

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Jennifer woke early on Tuesday, donned a tight tank and workout shorts, and headed down to the gym. She missed having Richie there with her this morning, and she had to give herself a mental shake. It wouldn’t do to get too attached too quickly. She would see him later, maybe. It depended on what she and Gail got up to that night. All she knew for sure was that she was so glad to be acclimated to the time now. It was awful, feeling so sick all the time. She thought to herself that traveling this time around was markedly more pleasant because of Richie, and smiled a little self-satisfied smile. Being in his company was just wonderful. HE was just wonderful. She thought about what the girls on the boards had said last night when she had talked to them. They basically said to go with it, let the cards fall where they may. Just be herself, and things will be fine. She sure hoped so.

Today, she wanted to get a workout in because she hadn’t in the last few days and was starting to feel sluggish. The gym was empty when she arrived that morning, which suited her fine. She took her iPod and speakers from her bag, dialed up Ministry, and set out to warm up. She kept up pace with the hard and fast metal riffs had was sweating in no time. With a last stretch of her arms, she donned her boxing gloves, and set out to beat the shit out of Bob. Bob was a man-sized and man-weight boxing dummy that stood in the corner of the room with a bunch of his friends. Jennifer rolled him to the middle of the mat, adjusted his height, and promptly kicked him in the head, sending him rocking on his base, but not falling over.

“Fuck!” she yelled out loud. Her strength was tapped a bit. She took a moment to catch her breath, circling the dummy, and planning her next series. With a grin and a series of shouts, she punched, kicked, and jabbed the dummy until she was satisfied, and the bastard fell over. She rolled Bob back to his corner, downed half a liter of room-temperature water, and headed for the free weights. On the way, she set the iPod to slower music, so she wouldn’t be tempted to overdo.

Grabbing a set of 25-pound dumbbells, she positioned herself in front of the mirror. She folded the hem of her tank up under her breasts, squatted until she saw her ab muscles bunching, and started a series of curls. Halfway through her second set, a Bon Jovi song came up in the rotation, and Jennifer’s otherwise smooth repetitions faltered. She knew that somewhere in this hotel, quite probably on the same floor she occupied, the other guys were doing whatever it was they did at seven in the morning.

She wondered how the inquisition went last night. She was sure that they all peppered Richie with questions, but probably nobody more than Jon. He was Richie’s best friend, after all, and sort of responsible for the two of them meeting. She could just hear his voice in her head, asking Richie if she was normal or a psycho or what. She shook her head, glad that she hadn’t gone with Richie to the airport. She wasn’t even sure she’d be able to handle the after-show backstage passes she and Gail had. While Gail had said that just because the contest said they’d meet the band didn’t mean they actually would, Richie told her they would. The guys would all want to meet her, though she had no idea how they were going to play it.

Her mind went back to Jon. He and T had started getting close and comfortable on the board – to the point that he had asked her to come to Europe for some of the shows. T had demurred, partly because she couldn’t get the time off and partly because she still, in the back of her head, thought that Jon was only interested in her because of the cancer. Jennifer wondered how that was going; if he had made any headway in trying to convince her otherwise. She hoped so. She really liked T, and as a long-time fan of the band, she wanted to see all its members happy. She thought T could make Jon very happy. As if her thoughts summoned him, the gym doors opened, and in Jon strode; looking for all the world like he owned the place.

Jennifer’s heart rate doubled, and she quickly lowered the bottom of her tank. Though she was totally a Richie girl, now more than ever, she couldn’t deny Jon’s appeal. He was simply gorgeous. He was wearing navy jogging shorts, a tight moss green muscle shirt, and a barely tolerant half-smile that said he wasn’t pleased someone else was in the gym. She had to remember that he didn’t know who she was, even though she certainly recognized him. She decided to play it cool; or try to at least.

“Hey there; I can kill the tunes if they’re gonna bug you,” Jennifer said, turning away and feigning indifference at his presence. She started her overhead lifts, breathing steadily and summarily dismissing Jon.

“Nah, ‘salright,” Jon said, going to the treadmill, relieved that this woman, clearly an American, wasn’t making a big deal about who he was. He saw the recognition flash in her eyes, but she went right back to her weight training. He watched her in the mirror for a couple of minutes. She was an attractive woman, and annoyingly familiar. He’d put her in her mid-to-late-thirties, and she was in great shape. He appreciated that in people – when they took care of themselves. He watched as she straightened to her full height, and his eyes went wide. She was really tall. Jon took a closer look at her. Her blonde hair was tied back in a coiled braid, so he couldn’t tell how long it was. She couldn’t be – it wasn’t her, or was she?

“You gonna stare at my ass all day, Bill, or start your run?” Jennifer said with a smile, as Daughtry poured through the speakers. I was blown away, what could I say? Appropriate lyrics, given the situation, she thought.

Jon laughed. “I thought that might be you,” he said, going over to her. “Damn, woman, you’re tall, and Rich didn’t tell us you were staying here.”

Jennifer put down the dumbbells and held her hand out. “Hi, Jennifer Petruzzo, and I’m totally in your debt,” she said, blushing. “And I told you I was tall. It’s a real pleasure to meet you, and I don’t know why he didn’t tell you I was staying here. I’m two doors down from him.”

Jon took her hand and leaned in to buss her cheek. “That’s across from me and next to David, which is probably why he didn’t say anything. We’re assholes sometimes. I’m glad to meet you too. How’re you feeling?”

“Fine thanks,” Jennifer said, surprised that he seemed genuinely concerned, and her head spinning from the chaste peck and the surreal conversation. She was actually having an in-person conversation with a barely-dressed Jon Bon Jovi. “Uh, how was your flight in?”

“It was good, thanks. Rich said you got hit pretty bad with jet lag, though.”

“Yeah,” Jennifer agreed, blushing. “But a couple days of rest and I feel loads better.” She didn’t want to say anything about Rich taking care of her. She didn’t know what to say; Jennifer had no clue what ELSE Richie had told his friend, and now she all of a sudden felt really nervous. She was under the microscope big time, and didn’t know what she could and couldn’t say, or what she should. She started to fidget with the hem of her shirt.

“Hey,” Jon said. “Don’t do that. Don’t close up and get all nervous.”

“Sorry,” Jennifer said. “You caught me will full clarity this morning. When Rich met me at the airport I was doped up on Xanax, and really quite relaxed.” Jon noticed she called him ‘Rich’, and smiled. She clearly saw him as a man. He was glad his instincts about her were right.

“Come on, I’m a normal guy, just like Rich,” he said with a smile. “Just relax. Ya know, he couldn’t stop talking about you last night. You should have come with him to meet us at the airport. The other guys are dying to meet you.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t about to do that,” Jennifer answered, rolling her eyes. “You needed time to talk to Rich, and frankly, I wasn’t ready for the inquisition.” She laughed a little. “Still am not quite ready for it, truth be told, but if you wanna ask me questions, I’ll answer them honestly.”

“Yeah?” Jennifer nodded. “OK,” Jon said. “Where the hell is the next chapter of that story?”

Jennifer burst out laughing. She mock punched Jon’s shoulder. “Shut up!” she said, face flaming. “We’re working on it.”

“We?” Jon asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, ‘we’. Now, can I ask you something? All kidding aside? It’s about T.”

Jon sobered. He should have seen this coming. “Sure,” he said warily. “I can’t guarantee I’ll answer it, though.”

“Fair enough, “Jennifer said. “I just want to make sure you aren’t just pursuing this with her out of pity. You know, you met her because of the cancer, and now that it’s gone, you feel you have to keep up the contact out of a sense of duty.” She could see Jon’s eyes shutter. He wasn’t pleased with this question, but Jennifer didn’t care. T was her friend. “I guess what I wanna know is, are you? Keeping this up out of pity or whatever?”

“No,” he said quietly. “No, I’m not. I’ll admit, I went out there because I was intrigued by her situation, and the way she stood up to me, but once I met her?” Jennifer watched as his eyes got – shit, was that dreamy? — and a small smile played over his mouth. “Well, after that, the rest of it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter whether she had cancer or not. Whether she was a fan or not. She was just someone I wanted to know better. Still do.” He watched Jennifer’s face, and saw she believed him, and he breathed a sigh of relief. Now to get Tiff to believe him…

* * * * *

After the strangest workout ever; Jon spotted for her while she lifted, and she did the same for him, then they did a 30-minute side-by-side run, she went back up to her room. She actually peeked out of the elevator doors, and half-ran down the hall. She didn’t want to meet any of the others in the hallway. Jon was perfectly nice, and they had a chat while they ran and his questions weren’t all that bad. She answered everything honestly, and she actually enjoyed herself. She needed time to process that, though, before meeting any more of them.

When she got into her room, she opened the balcony doors to let the fresh air in. She heard voices on the next balcony over. It was David and Tico.

“I don’t know, man,” David said quietly. “Did you see those pictures? Really take a good look? She kinda resembles Heather. That can’t be good.”

“Oh c’mon. Aside from being blonde D, she doesn’t look anything like that woman. Anyway, did you not see how happy he was, man? Do you really think that if Jon thought for a minute she was like her he’d let her anywhere near Rich?” Tico was trying to be the voice of reason, but David was having none of it.

“C’mon yourself. Jon is interested in this woman’s friend, of course he’s gonna give her the benefit of the doubt. And yeah, I saw Rich’s dumb-ass smiles, but damn, how much of that is because of this girl and how much is because she reminds him of happier times with his ex-wife?”

Jennifer felt bile rise in her throat. She couldn’t believe they thought she reminded Rich of Heather. She hadn’t even thought of that. She felt like such a fool. She slid the doors shut and sat hard on the couch. Unbidden tears pricked her eyes. She shook her head angrily. No. No way. She had to hear from him if she was just a substitute for his lovely ex-wife.

She grabbed her key and checked the hallway to make sure it was empty before venturing out. She crept past David’s door, and knocked on Richie’s. He didn’t answer, so she knocked a little louder. He threw open the door, muttering, “what the hell --” then stopped when he saw Jennifer.

“Well good morning, Jennifer, darlin’.” Richie had a wide smile on his face. “Come on in.” He stood back to let her in, glad he’d thrown on sweats before answering the door. After shutting the door, he went to take Jennifer in his arms, but she stiffened against his touch. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you only attracted to me because I remind you of Heather?” Jennifer refused to let the tears that gathered in her eyes fall.

Richie was not expecting this. “What? No! Of course not, no! What the hell gave you that idea? Or should I say who?”

“Just something I overheard,” Jennifer said, dashing away the tears. “I wanted to be sure before this went any further than it has, and I wanted to hear it from you.”

“Darlin’,” Richie said, taking Jennifer’s hand. “Tell me who upset you. Where did you overhear that?” He took in her outfit. “You were at the gym. Did Jon say something to you? I’ll fucking kill him.”

“No,” Jennifer said. “It wasn’t him.” She didn’t want to narc on his friends.

Richie’s eyes narrowed. He looked at Jennifer again, then stalked to his balcony, throwing open the doors. “You assholes out there?” he asked without preamble.

“Yeah,” Jennifer heard David say.

“Get over here. Now,” he said, and slammed the door.

“Rich, no, I can’t face them. Not now.” Jennifer was panicked. “Please don’t do this.”

“I don’t want you being upset,” Richie said, anger in his eyes. At the knock on the door, he strode to it and flung it open. Jennifer wanted to hide in the closet. “Get your asses in here,” he said, and his friends came in.

“What the hell…” Tico started, but stopped when he saw the woman standing there, tears leaking from her eyes. “Mierda,” he said.

“Damn straight,” Richie said. “Look at this woman,” Richie said, and Jennifer wanted to die. “She does not remind me of Heather. Not at all. The share hair color, that’s it. She couldn’t be more different from my ex-wife if she was a man. You insensitive idiots should be more careful before you go spouting shit off.”

David was confused. “What?”

“She overheard you, and it upset her.” Richie went over to Jennifer, and put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into him. “Her room is on the other side of yours, D,” Richie said, anger heating his eyes.

David’s eyes went wide. “I’m sorry she’s upset,” he said, “but you can’t blame us for being protective of you. Have you SEEN the women you’ve brought around lately?”

Tico put a warning hand on David’s shoulder. “Calm down, D.”

David just shook him off. “I won’t calm down. Just because she puts on a pretty pout doesn’t mean she’s not trouble.”

Jennifer’s tears dried up; her embarrassment and dismay replaced by growing anger. She stepped away from Richie. “Excuse me? I’m standing right here. You have questions, you can ask me. English is just one of the languages I speak fluently. You can even use big words. I’m no dumb blonde.”

“Jennifer,” Richie began, but she turned and silenced him with a glare. “You started this by dragging their sorry asses in here,” she said. “But you will damn well let me finish it.” She looked at David. “Well?”

He stepped up to Jennifer, standing nearly eye-to-eye with her. “Are you just here because he’s a famous musician?”

“David,” Richie warned, but Jennifer waved him off.

“In a manner of speaking, yes,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the band, and Jon in particular, so I guess you could say that I’m here because of that. Is it ‘just’ because of that? No. Famous or not, if he was an asshole, I wouldn’t be here. Frankly, I don’t need that kind of aggravation in my life again.” She had her hands on her hips, and hadn’t flinched from David’s stare. “What else you got?”

“What do you want with him?”

Jennifer thought for a minute. “That’s a loaded question. You could be asking a myriad of different questions with that question. I think you’re asking about material things – do I want the lifestyle or the publicity or whatever – the answer there is nope. I don’t need it. I already have more money than I could ever hope to spend in my lifetime, and the people who matter know who I am. I don’t want his money, and I don’t need the spotlight.” She looked at Richie, whose face was a mask of surprise. “I told you a sandwich wouldn’t deplete the bank account. I meant it. I’ll show you my portfolio if you don’t believe me.”

She turned back to David, who looked like he starting to relax. Too damned bad. She wasn’t done yet. “If you’re asking about more personal things, well, not that it’s any of your business who I fuck, but I’m not here looking for a good time. Look at me objectively,” she said. “I could do just fine in the dating department without hooking up with a celebrity.” Tico laughed a little at that, and Jennifer continued. “If you’re asking about the spiritual, well, I have my God, I don’t need someone else to worship. Emotional? I didn’t come here looking for love, just the chance to meet a wonderful man, and by God, I’m having fun doing it, and I won’t apologize for it. What do I want? I already got it. I got the chance to meet him in person. The rest? Icing on the cake. Does that just about cover it?”

David burst out laughing. He couldn’t help it. “Jesus, woman, where do you keep them?”

She cocked her head at him. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Your balls. Where do you keep your balls? I don’t see them in that getup.”

Jennifer laughed, the tension broken. “I tuck them in when I work out.” She put out her hand and David shook it. She did the same with Tico, but he just pulled her in for a hug, his arms like steel bands around her back. His strength took her breath away.

“’Miga, anyone who can put D so firmly in his place has a spot in my heart forever.” He took her hand and raised her knuckles to his mouth for a brief kiss.

She looked over at Richie and grinned. He just shook his head. “You are amazing,” he said to her, and came to take her in his arms. This time, she went willingly and happily. She smiled at him.

“Not amazing,” Jennifer corrected. “I was pissed off, and I stood up for myself. That’s just me. Now,” she kissed Richie’s cheek and stepped back. “I’m sweaty and smelly and have to go get showered and dressed to go out shopping. I think it was nice meeting you two,” she said, winking at Tico. “I’ll let you know after I calm down.”

She strode to the door, feeling six eyes on her back. “And stop staring at my ass,” she said.

Richie's Friends

Sunday, November 23, 2008
Richie reflected on the last couple of days as he was driven to the airport. He was surprised at how he felt that he knew Jennifer for a whole lot longer than he had. When he went to her room this morning, and saw the hungry way in which she looked at him, he wanted to throw caution to the wind and the woman down on the nearest bed and have his way with her. To say he was strongly attracted to her was an understatement. He liked the way she looked, but he loved her personality. She was smart and funny, and just a little bit shy, which he found endearing, then she was so bold, he thought his jaw would drop. But she was real, and seemed to find him real too.

She’d warned him that if he wasn’t careful, she could get attached to him. He had news for her. He was already attached to her. He wanted to bring the guys back to the hotel and ditch them so he could have room-service supper with her in her suite, then maybe sit out on the balcony and watch the stars, maybe play for her.

His musings came to a halt when the car pulled around to the private terminal and came to a stop. When the guys all came out and piled into the limo, damned if they didn’t do what Jennifer said they would and pepper him with questions right away. “Where is she?” David asked.

“My flight was fine, thanks,” he said, rolling his eyes at David. “She wanted to give you guys a chance to talk about her behind her back,” Richie said, laughing. “She’s at her hotel.” He didn’t want to tell them she was in the same hotel, and in fact on the same floor. They wouldn’t leave her alone if he did that.

David’s query kicked off a flurry of questions from all of them that lasted until they got to the hotel. Richie answered everything with smiles and laughter, and none of that went unnoticed by the others. They shared a look.

“What?” Richie said. He saw that.

Jon answered, smiling. “Nothing, man, we’re just glad to see you so happy. She sounds like a great girl.”

“Woman,” Richie said automatically. “She’s no ‘girl’.”

David whistled. “Re-e-e-eally,” he said.

“Don’t go there,” Richie said. “I like her. She’s different. You’d better be nice to her.”

David looked hurt. “Moi?” he said innocently. “I’m a perfect gentleman.”

Richie laughed, and flipped off his friend. The car pulled around to the back of the hotel, and the guys went up the service elevator to their floor. Richie cast a lingering look at Jennifer’s door, and wished he was in there with her. The guys followed Jon into his suite, which was across the hall from Jennifer’s, and took seats around the room.

“So, when do we meet her?” This came from Tico, who had seen Richie’s look and guessed who was behind that door Richie had been staring at, though he didn’t let on.

Richie smiled. “Wednesday night. A friend of hers won a radio contest, and they got backstage passes. She and this other woman will be out and about doing whatever it is women who just met do, but you’ll meet her Wednesday night for sure.”

“Just met?” David said, raising his eyebrows.

“Yeah,” Richie said. “They’re apparently, ugh, they call themselves Jovi Sisters,” he rolled his eyes, “and met on one of the chat boards.”

“They’re going to meet up based on a relationship they started online? That’s just crazy!” David said. “I’ll never understand people who do that – it just can’t be safe. So, when the hell did you meet her?”

Richie cringed. “Uh, well, about that,” Richie said, unsure of where really to start.

Jon looked at him, feeling pity for his friend. “Listen, I sorta got them together. She’s friends with a woman I know, and I talked with Jennifer, and thought she sounded like a good match for Rich. I passed along her number, and the rest took care of itself.” Richie mouthed ‘thank you’ to Jon.

“This 'woman you know',” David latched on to this bit. “is she the woman from Texas?

“Yeah, what of it?” Jon answered.

David saw something in Jon’s expression he didn’t want to test. He knew a little bit about how Jon'd come to know the Texan, and felt bad about what he'd said before about online relationships. “Nothing, nothing, just asking. So, what’s she look like, Rich?”

“Leave it to you to ask the shallow question,” Richie laughed. "I'm surprised it took you this long." He went to his computer and dialed up his email. He opened the one from Jennifer with all the photos attached, and double-clicked the biker picture.

“What’s this?” Tico asked, looking at the woman’s email address. “Why is this name familiar, this Goddess Hathor person?”

Richie paled, but shrugged. “I dunno. Anyway, here she is with her bike, and here’s another with her brother.”

“Jesus,” Tico said. “Her brother is HUGE! Wait, is she wearing heels in this picture? Or is she really that tall?”

“Yeah,” Richie said. “She is really that tall. Nearly as tall as me.” The others were looking at him expectantly. “And she’s got gray eyes, though in this picture they’re blue, and I’ve seen her with green. You see she’s got blonde hair, it hangs down past her ass, and she has a good figure…” He looked at the looks on his friends’ faces. “What?”

“You’re totally smitten,” David said smugly.

He started to deny it, but why? It was true. “Yeah, I guess I am. Anyway, they’re going to Laconia this weekend with a bunch of other guys. Friends of her brother’s.”

“Laconia, huh?” Jon replied. “I’d sure love to talk to her about that when she comes back. I’ve always wanted to do that.” And that set them off on another conversation topic, but it eventually circled back to Jennifer.

“So this friend of hers on from the – ugh – chat boards,” David said. “Is she one of those fanatical fans? Or a normal one? Will she go blabbing about you and this Jennifer to everyone who’ll listen?”

“Nah,” Richie said. “Jennifer seems to think she’ll be level-headed about it. We’ll have to see what she’s like. I’m pretty sure I can pull off aloofness if I have to.”

“Rich, no offense, but you are a shitty actor,” Tico said laughing. He leaned in to talk low in Rich’s ear. “And I figured out where I know that name from, brother.” Richie just looked at him, and Tico winked.

“Shit,” Richie said softly. Jennifer was gonna kill him.

Monday is for Tourism

Saturday, November 22, 2008
Monday morning, Jennifer woke to a light knock on her door. She’d been having the most wonderful dream that Richie had stayed last night, and just held her all night long. Smiling, knowing he was in the hallway outside her room, she went to the door. “Yes?” she asked.

“Room service,” Richie said, trying to disguise his voice.

“You must have the wrong room” she laughed breathily. “I didn’t order room service. In fact, I hadn’t even gotten out of my nice warm bed yet. In fact,” she said. “I’m not even dressed.”

Richie groaned at the image that put in his head. “Open the damned door, Jennifer. I know you know it’s me out here.” He heard her giggle which made him chuckle, and when she opened the door, he just stared at her. Tendrils of hair had escaped her braid during the night, but for the most part, she looked exactly as she did when he left her last night except she wasn’t wearing a robe. The only thing that gave away that she’d been in bed was a faint pillow crease on her cheek.

Jennifer stared at Richie for a long minute before stepping back to let him in. He’d dressed for her today, wearing a burgundy dress shirt unbuttoned far more than halfway down his chest, un-tucked over tight black jeans. He winked at her perusal of him, and leaned in to give her a kiss. “Good morning, darlin’.”

“Morning,” Jennifer answered, huskily.

It didn’t escape Richie’s notice that her nipples puckered under the light material of her camisole at his kiss. He quickly pushed the cart he’d brought into the room before he did something she wasn’t ready for. Jennifer shook off the sudden stab of lust that pierced her body, and followed him to the sitting area. “And what are we having for breakfast this morning?” she asked, sitting in her chair and trying to get control of herself.

“Cold cereal and sliced fruit,” Richie answered, and removed the domed platter lid with a flourish before moving to sit across from her.

Jennifer laughed. He’d brought her sliced strawberries, dusted lightly with sugar, and a huge box of Honey-Nut Cheerios. A pitcher of icy cold milk, and two bowls and spoons filled the rest of the tray. “The hotel does not have giant boxes of Cheerios in the pantry. Did you pack everything I said I liked?”

Richie colored a little. “Well, not everything. I couldn’t pack the cheese for macaroni and cheese, and we can get mint-chocolate-chip ice cream here pretty easily. I just wanted to try to make travel a little easier on you, that’s all.”

She smiled at Richie and got up, circling the table. She knelt in front of him and hugged him close, taking in his scent, and reveling in the warm strength of his arms around her. “Thank you,” she said against his warm, smooth chest.

Richie stiffened at the feel of her breath on his skin, and smiled down at the woman in his arms. “Hey, another tattoo?” he said, tracing the dragonfly on her shoulder. “This is beautiful.”

Jennifer chuckled. “My brother designed it for me. He and I went together for his 35th to get ink done – a little sibling bonding, if you will. Mom just about had a shit fit – she doesn’t believe nice girls should have tattoos. Thank God she doesn’t see my ass anymore.”

Richie laughed, “Oh really?” he said, making Jennifer blush.

“Never mind that,” she croaked.

He tipped her face up to his, seeing happiness there; a sentiment he knew was reflected back at her. He leaned down to kiss her briefly before pulling her up to sit her on his lap. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. Jennifer wrapped an arm around his waist, and rested her other hand on his shoulder. She happily tucked her head under Richie’s chin and rested her cheek on a generous slice of warm, smooth, tanned, HARD chest. She listened to the steady beat of his heart, and traced circles on his arm with a light fingertip. They sat like that for so long, they had to order another pitcher of milk from room service; the one Richie had brought had grown too warm to drink.

After breakfast, Jennifer felt good enough to venture out. Richie wanted to go with her, so he exchanged his burgundy shirt for a steel-gray t. He donned her cowboy hat and his amber-lensed sunglasses, and they had set out on a walking tour of the area. They strolled amiably hand-in-hand around the streets, poking into shops and playing tourist. Quite a few people recognized Richie, but for the most part they left him alone. The few that approached slid hooded looks at Jennifer, and asked Richie for a picture or an autograph. The others just pointed and stared. A few people took pictures of them together. “Smile, darlin’,” Richie said in her ear at one point. “You’re on candid camera.” He nodded at some of the picture-takers.

“Are you okay with that?” Jennifer asked. She was paranoid that the whole world would know that they ostensibly met online, and that it would hurt his reputation. She was worried, too, that she wouldn’t be able to go back to the boards if this got out. If Gail saw the pictures she would know the “mystery woman” was her, and she was meeting Willow next month, and then she would know... Samantha and T already knew; it was just getting too complicated, and she should just bail, but she loved those girls already, and didn’t want to have to leave the forum.

“It’s fine, sweetheart,” he said, smiling at her. “Are YOU okay with that?” She just nodded, keeping her concerns to herself. After all, if he didn’t care, who was she to worry?

After a few hours of walking around Jennifer started to feel fatigued, and by the time they got back to the hotel, she thought she was going to fall asleep on the spot. Richie ended up half-carrying, half-dragging her down the hall to her room.

This time, when he sat her on the bed and took off her shoes and socks, she flopped backwards on the bed and groaned, “Can you give me a minute? I need to get out of these jeans.”

Richie smiled. “Okay, but you know that I’d be willing to help you out, darlin’, right?”

“I’m sure you would be willing to suffer that horrible fate for me, Rich,” Jennifer said chuckling, “but I think I can manage.”

Richie left but hovered outside her door; not looking in, but damn near. He heard the pants hit the floor, and his groin tightened. He called out, “You covered?”

“Just,” she answered, and Richie went back into her room. She looked so pathetic and pitiful, he wanted to laugh. He didn’t think she’d appreciate that, though.

“Did you put in for your wake-up calls for tea and supper?” He picked her jeans up off the floor and put them on the foot of the bed.

“Shit, no,” Jennifer groaned, and started to sit up.

Richie gently pushed her back down. “I’ll take care of it sweetheart. You just rest.”

Jennifer yawned huge and smiled. “Thanks. Again.” She paused for a moment, just looking at him. “You know, you’d better watch out,” she said. “A girl could get used to this kind attention you’re showing me. If you’re not careful, I could get mighty attached to you.”

“Would that be so bad?” he asked, brushing the hair back from her face, and kissing her lips gently.

Jennifer smiled sweetly. “No, Rich it wouldn’t be bad at all.” She closed her eyes, and Richie watched as she drifted off to sleep. He couldn’t keep the goofy grin off his face. After watching her for a few minutes, he decided that this time he wasn’t going to leave her while she napped. He toed off his boots and sat up on the other side of the bed. When his weight settled, Jennifer rolled over so he could see her face. He saw she had a faint smile on her face, and hoped she was thinking of him. He called down to the front desk, asking softly for wakeup calls at tea time and supper, then scooted down and over so he was laying next to her, an arm slung around her waist. He watched her sleep for a while, and felt his eyelids grow heavy. Before he knew it, he drifted off, too.

The ringing phone woke Jennifer from a sound sleep. She went to reach across the bed for it, and encountered warm, hard man. She snatched her hand back and opened her eyes in surprise, and nearly died when Richie’s sleep-rumbly voice answered her phone. He hung up, saying to her, “That was your wake up call, darlin’. Sorry, I didn’t want to go, and I guess I was tired” he chuckled, a sleep tinge still in his voice. Jennifer watched, fascinated, while he scratched at his chest and scrubbed at his face. “Are you upset with me, dalrin’?”

“No, not at all,” Jennifer said, stretching. “Just surprised that’s all. I wasn’t expecting to see you there.” Richie watched as Jennifer’s back arched in a catlike stretch, and could have sworn that she purred. That was a sound he wouldn’t mind being responsible for having her make.

Jennifer smiled at the expression on his face. Apparently, he didn’t quite know what to make of their current proximity, either. “Um, what should we have for tea?” she said finally, and reluctantly climbed out of bed, her heart pounding. Seeing him in her bed made her blood race, and she would have been quite happy to stay there with him all afternoon. Richie gasped as the covers slid from her body, and Jennifer froze, then with an “oh shit”, dropped to the floor. She had completely forgotten that she had gone to sleep in her t-shirt and thong, and she had just nonchalantly rolled out of bed, and showed Richie her ass. “God, I’m sorry,” she said. “I kinda forgot what I was wearing. Or not wearing, I guess.”

“You’ll hear no complaints from me,” Richie said, chuckling, “but now I have two questions for you. When exactly did you get a smiley-face tattooed on your ass; and are there any MORE tattoos on that body of yours?”

Jennifer groaned and flushed redder, peering over the edge of the bed at Richie. He was smiling at her, and his eyes were twinkling. “I got it when I was too stupid to know any better,” she answered. “But I kept it as a reminder not to make hasty choices, and,” she laughed, “not to make body-altering decisions when you’re drunk. And, um, yeah, there’s two more.”

“Good plan on the body-altering decisions,” he laughed, wondering where the other tattoos might be. “Uh, you don’t have to sit there on the floor, sweetheart. I’ve already seen your ass, and am not likely to forget it, but if you want, I’ll close my eyes while you pull your jeans on.” His eyes narrowed evilly. “Or, I could take my jeans off, and we’ll be even.”

Jennifer colored. “Y-y-your jeans? But are you wearing…” she couldn’t finish the statement, she was blushing so much, and a bit horrified that the question just popped out of her mouth.

“Nope,” Richie said smugly, “so you’d see my ass, too.” Jennifer squeaked, which made him laugh a full-throated belly laugh that went straight to her core.

“You’re teasing me!” she accused. “Here I am, sick with jet lag, huddled on the floor bare-assed, and you’re teasing me.” She pouted prettily, and snagged her jeans from the end of the bed. She pushed her legs into them and laid down to pull them up over her ass, then stood and turned to face Richie, who was watching her with interest. She hitched her t-shirt hem up a little to button her jeans. “There. Now we’re even.” She stuck her tongue out at him.

Richie laughed. “Chicken. Did I see a tat on your belly?” he asked.

Jennifer paled. “Nope,” she said quickly and turned away.

Hell yeah I did, Richie thought to himself, and grinned. “Wait a minute,” he called, getting off the bed and following her. “What was that all about?”

“All of what?” she asked, unconvincingly, sitting at the table and feigning interest in the room service menu.

“Cut it out, Jen,” he said. “C’mon, you’ve seen all of mine…”

Jennifer laughed. “I can’t argue with that, but I’m not comfortable showing it to you just yet.” She shook her head. “Nope, can’t do it. You’re just going to have to wait.”

“You showed me your ass!” Richie said, incredulous. "That's okay, but your ink isn't? That's messed up."

“I showed you by accident,” Jennifer answered, giggling.

“So you mean to tell me that your tattoo is more embarrassing than a big ol’ yellow smiley face on your ass? This I’ve GOT go to see.” Richie sat across from her, dropped his chin on his hand, and pouted. “Will you show me now?” he asked.

“No,” she said, flipping through the menu.

“Feel comfortable now?” he asked thirty seconds later.

“NO!” Jennifer laughed.

“You know, I’m just going to keep bugging you until you show me. I am a bit of an asshole sometimes – just ask Jon.”

Jennifer sighed and stood, hands on her shirt hem. “I’ll show you on two conditions. First, nobody else finds out about it. I mean it.” Happy to have gotten his way, Richie came over to stand next to Jennifer. His fingers were itching to raise the hem of her shirt himself, but he’d let her do it.

“Okay,” Richie agreed, wondering just what in the hell it could be. “What’s the other?”

“No laughing.”

“Darlin’, I wouldn’t laugh at you. Hell, if I didn’t laugh outright at your smiling ass, I’m not going to laugh at --” the air left his lungs as Jennifer raised the hem of her t-shirt. He sat hard on the chair she had vacated, and grabbed for her hips, bringing her closer to him. “It’s beautiful,” he said, touching the double-necked guitar reverently. He smiled at the little exquisitely detailed silver-studded Stetson hanging off one of the necks, and the elaborate “RS” entwined on the body. “This design is familiar to me,” he said, frowning. “I’ve read about it somewhere; where?”

“Aw shit, really?” Jennifer tried to step back, but Richie wasn’t letting go. She wanted to sink through the floor as it is, now she had to explain where he’d “seen” it before. In a few halting sentences, she told him about how one of her fan fic characters from the “Rental” story, had the same one in pretty much the same place.

“So Julianna is you?”

Sweet hell, he remembered the name of the character! “All the female leads in the stories about you are me. Can we please, please drop it now?” She was close to tears, and he still wouldn’t let her go. She wanted nothing more than to go lock herself in the bathroom and not come out until it was time to fly home.

“Aw, don’t cry, Jennifer,” Richie said. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I do think it’s beautiful – the work and the sentiment. I won’t tell anyone about it if you don’t want me to.”

Jennifer sniffled delicately. “Not now. Maybe later, if there is a later, but not just now.”

Richie let the “if there is a later” comment pass, not wanting to distress her more than she already was. Under the calm exterior she’d been showing, he could tell she was still a bit overwhelmed, and if he told her now that he was for damned sure going to make sure they had a whole lot of “later” together, she’d probably bolt. He decided on a subject change,

“So, after we eat, I’m going to the airport to meet up with the guys. You want to come with me? Meet my friends?”

“What, now?” She shook her head. “No. NO way. I’m not ready for that. Besides,” she said, “they’re gonna want to grill you about me, and I’d just as soon not be there for that.”

He didn’t push, and after they ate, he went to meet the guys on his own; but not before stealing a deep, lingering kiss at her door. “To hold me over until tomorrow,” he said then left.

Jennifer closed the door behind him, leaned against it, and slumped bonelessly to the floor. “Holy shit,” she said to the empty room, and touched her lips. They felt a little swollen, and when she licked them, she could taste him on her. “I’m in trouble.”

Groggy Goddess

Friday, November 21, 2008
Hours later, Jennifer woke to the ringing of the phone. A computerized voice told her it was her wake-up call. Moaning, she rolled to the edge of the bed. Most of the headache was gone, but she still felt out of sorts. She slowly made her way to the bathroom, and ran the shower. Stripping out of her traveling clothes, she stepped under the hot spray, letting the needles of water wash away some of the fatigue she felt. She washed her hair, and the light smell of peaches made her smile. It also made her hungry. This was a good sign. Usually, she wasn’t hungry until the day after landing.

Finishing in the shower, she wrapped a towel around her head and cocooned herself in the hotel’s fluffy robe. She sat at the vanity in the bathroom after brushing her teeth, and looked at her reflection. She didn’t look too bad. The dark circles under her eyes had faded somewhat, and she didn’t look quite so pathetic. There was a bit of color in her cheeks, and she smiled, thinking about Richie.

He was much more down-to-earth than she expected, and she was immediately at ease with him. She’d felt like she’d known him – really known him, not just cyber-stalked him – for years. Still, now she was clear-headed for the most part, and remembered some of the things she’d said to him, and blushed. She couldn’t believe she’d been totally and completely herself with him, and he didn’t seem to mind. Not many men liked her when she was being her. They wanted her to be the mindless, air-headed bimbo that her looks always made them assume she was.

She laughed at herself, and went to get dressed. After changing into soft jeans and one of her favorite t-shirts (this one said, “All this and brains too”), she stepped out onto the balcony, still not comfortable to venture farther than the edge of the doorway. She could hear soft guitar music coming from down the way a little and damn but she’d know that sound anywhere. “Rich?” she said softly. "Is that you?"

“Hey Jennifer, darlin’,” Richie answered. The privacy walls between the balconies meant she couldn’t see him, but she could hear the smile in his voice. “How’re you feeling?”

“Much better,” she said. “The nap and hot shower did wonders. I’m thinking of having room service send up something to eat. Care to join me?” She held her breath, and nibbled on her lower lip, waiting for his answer.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Gimme two minutes.”

“Take whatever time you need,” she said, and went back into her room. She combed out her hair, and was just finishing the end of her long French plait when there was a knock on the door. She let Richie in, and flicked the end of her hair behind her back.

“You look much better,” Richie commented as he came into the room. He kissed her cheek, and handed her her hat.

“I feel worlds better, and am glad that I’m actually hungry.” She gave the hat a flick, sailing it halfway across the living room to land square in the middle of the coffee table. “What do you want?”

“I’d love a turkey club,” he said. “And a Pepsi or something to drink. You don’t have to feed me, though; you can have them charge my room.”

Jennifer looked at Richie with a condescending stare. “I may not be in your league money-wise, but I do quite alright for myself, thank you very much.” She winked. “I do believe a lunch of turkey club and soda is not going to deplete my savings account.”

They chatted while they waited for the room service cart to arrive. Jennifer told him a little about her brother and the guys she was going to Laconia with. She’d been planning this outing for months, and was so excited that her brother was finally letting her go with them. These were guys she’d known for years, and they all considered her a little sister they had to take care of. It made her laugh because not only was she older than all of them, she was physically bigger than most. Richie laughed and had lots of questions. He wanted to know where they were staying, how they decided where to go and what to do, and wanted to know if she had a picture of her with her bike. While Jennifer booted her laptop, Richie told her that Jon had always wanted to go, but he wasn’t really able to. Jennifer nodded.

“I can imagine that would be difficult, but honestly, from what I understand, as long as you’re not an asshole, nobody on the ride pays too much attention to you. I guess the places we stop, that would be a different story.” She scrolled through her pictures until she found one of her with the bike. She had a shit-eating grin on her face, and a tight cammo tank top over jeans and leather chaps. She had one hand on the handlebars, the other on her cocked hip, an olive-drab brain-bucket dangling from her fingertips by the chin strap. Jennifer turned the computer and Richie laughed.

“Look at you! What a great picture. You’ve gotta send that one to me.” His eyes were devouring her image. “What else ya got here?” He started scrolling through the photos, skipping ones that didn’t have her in them. Jennifer was surprised, but Richie just laughed. “Quid pro quo, baby,” he said smiling. “I know you have seen countless pictures of me, and hell, you've probably passed them around to your friends. It’s only fair.”

Jennifer was saved from having to answer by the arrival of room service. She let the waiter in, and he brought the cart over to the table. He took the cover off, and Jennifer grinned widely. She had ordered soup and crackers, and the waiter brought her up what could only be Campbell’s chicken noodle, and a box of Pepperidge Farm Parmesan goldfish crackers. “What? How?” she stammered, then looked to Richie, who was grinning like a madman. “You did this?”

Richie nodded. “Why do you think I wanted to know what your favorite comfort foods were?” One of their many getting-to-know-you conversations was around mood foods, and what they each liked to eat when they were in some mood or another. He had filed all the information away in his head, and when Jen told him she was flying to England, he knew what he wanted to do. He had his mom send the soup and crackers to meet him in Ireland so he could pack them for this trip. When she had mentioned earlier that she’d want soup when she was hungry, he’d smiled. While Jennifer was sleeping, he brought the soup and crackers down to the front desk. Jennifer tipped the waiter handsomely, and showed him out. She came back, and wrapped Richie in a hug. His arms instinctively closed around her.

“You are just wonderful,” she said, and kissed is cheek.

When she tried to step back, Richie’s arms tightened around her, not ready to let her go yet. She looked into his eyes, and was surprised at what she saw there. There was a gleam of raw attraction she was not expecting. Slowly, he closed the gap between their faces, until his lips just barely brushed hers and backed away just a fraction. Jennifer’s heart was pounding, and without thinking she licked her lips.

Richie felt Jennifer’s breathing hitch, and he kissed her again, a little more firmly this time. He traced the seam of her lips lightly with his tongue, and they slowly opened to accept him. He stroked her tongue gently with his, gratified that she returned the caress, and after a long minute, he smiled, gently breaking the kiss. He pressed another tender kiss on her lips, and looked into her eyes. “Your soup is getting cold,” he said, grinning.

In a daze, Jennifer sat down and started to eat. Richie chuckled to himself, and did the same. This meeting was going so much better than he thought it would. He knew she was attracted to him – but he felt in his gut that she was attracted to HIM, not to the stage guy. That warmed his heart much the same way he imagined the soup was now warming Jennifer.

They spent the hours between tea and supper talking and watching TV, and when Jennifer would drift off, Richie would gently shake her, so she could keep to local time. They had dinner in her room, and at 9:00 local time, she was ready for bed.

She went into the bathroom to brush her teeth and change into her sleepwear. She looked at herself in the mirror, smiling at the memory of the kisses at lunchtime. She scooped up the ‘berry and fired of another message to Samantha. She was actually surprised Sam hadn’t called her yet. “He totally kissed me,” was all she sent.

When she came out all scrubbed and fresh, Richie gaped at her and cursed his sense of nobility. Richie very much wanted to stay with her; not to fuck her, though that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but to just stay. He could tell that she needed to completely relax, and his presence kept her off balance just enough to make his ego happy. He wanted her to be rested so she could enjoy her trip, so he knew he had to go.

She was wearing powder blue silky shorts and camisole, with a matching robe tied over it. Jennifer blushed at Richie’s open perusal, and was now glad she’d packed this instead of the ratty flannels she usually wore when she traveled. Richie approached her slowly, unable to tear his eyes away. He took her in his arms, and kissed her tenderly.

“Goodnight, Jennifer, darlin’,” he said softly, helping her settle in to her bed, and pulling the covers up to her neck. He smoothed her hair back and smiled at her.

“G’night, Rich,” she said, and covered his hand with hers. Bringing it to her face, she kissed his palm, closing her eyes a little at the smell of him.

“I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast,” Richie said.

Jennifer smiled. “Not if I see you first,” she quipped.

He smiled back at her and left the room. As Jennifer heard the door to her suite open then close, she sighed. She’ll be seeing him long before morning, she mused.

In her dreams.

At The Hotel

Saturday, November 15, 2008
When the driver parked in front of the hotel, he came around and opened Richie’s door. Richie got out and turned back to extend a hand to Jennifer. She leaned forward to snag her hat, and plopped it on her head before taking Richie’s hand. He pulled her up out of the car, took the hat from her, and set it on his head. “I wear the hats, thank you very much,” he said, making Jennifer giggle and bob a sassy curtsy.

“Yes, your majesty; whatever you say.” She had to cover her mouth to hold in the laughter.

“You are completely silly,” Richie said, looping an arm around her waist. In an unconscious but obviously familiar move, Jen snaked her arm under her hair at her nape, and pulled it out from under Richie’s arm. It settled around her like cape, and brushed teasingly at his fingertips. In a decidedly more hesitant and self-conscious move, she settled her other arm around his waist. Richie smiled.

“Ehh, the silliness is the jet lag and the after-effects of the Xanax,” Jennifer said, flapping her free hand. “There’s usually a pretty big stick up my ass, actually.”

Richie laughed, and kissed the side of Jennifer’s head. “I find that very difficult to believe.”

“That, my dear Rich, is because you’re incredibly sweet.” She smiled at him, gave his hip a squeeze, then stuck out her tongue. Hip checking him, she strode to the front desk. “Good day,” she said to the reception clerk. “I have a reservation for Petruzzo.”

The clerk, Evie, tapped a few keys on her computer. “Yes, Ms. Petruzzo. Five nights, executive suite with balcony, yes?”

“Mais oui,” Jennifer said, giggling. “Yes, that’s it exactly. Thank you.” She signed the necessary paperwork, turned over her credit card, and accepted her key. “Could I arrange for calls at tea time and supper? I’ve got to get on schedule, and that would be a tremendous help.”

“Of course,” Evie said, smiling. “Jet lag?”

“In the worst way,” Jennifer said, rolling her eyes. She fiddled with her key while Evie made notes on the computer. Jennifer smiled at the other woman. “Thank you Evie, for your help.”

“It’s my pleasure. Do you need help with your luggage?”

“Nah, this guy here can help me,” Jennifer answered, cocking her head at Richie. “He got the bags this far.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Evie said, stifling a laugh at the look on Richie’s face. She knew exactly who he was, and that he was staying in the hotel, too. “Sir, your key.” She handed Richie a key.

“Thanks, darlin’,” he said to Evie with a wink. “Huh, imagine that. Looks like we’re neighbors,” he said to Jennifer. He turned to hand his key to the driver, who already had their bags and Richie’s guitars on a luggage trolley.

“Ah yes, I’d forgotten you said you were staying here. Well then you better make yourself scarce on Tuesday,” she said. “Gaileepoo is coming on her FatBoy to take me SHOPPING!” She started to laugh, then grabbed her forehead. “Ugh, if I don’t die first.”

Richie laughed. “You’ll be fine. C’mon.”

He motioned to the driver, and they all headed for the elevator. Jennifer had a death grip on the hand rail in the elevator, and was rubbing the back of her neck the whole time. Richie saw her lips moving, though he couldn’t make out what she was saying. All the way up to the top, Jennifer kept with the rubbing and the muttering just under her breath. When the doors started to slide open, at their floor, she was through them as soon as she could fit through. She dropped her hand from her neck, and Richie had to ask.

“Don’t like elevators, either?”

“Coffins on strings?” Jennifer asked with sarcasm in her voice. “Nope, not a whit. I’m in no shape to climb stairs, though.” They headed down the hallway. The driver stopped first, and Richie nodded at him. He took Jennifer’s bag off the trolley, and the two of them continued down to her room, while the driver brought Richie’s things into his room.

“You get tension in your neck when you’re nervous?” They were outside Jennifer’s door now.

She looked at him, puzzled. “What? Oh, the rubbing?” She colored again. “Uh, no, it’s just my talisman. Look.” She swept her hair into her hand and twisted it up on the top of her head, turning around to show him the tattoo. Richie touched the letters with a gentle fingertip, making Jennifer shudder.

“There’s a story there,” he said softly to her.

“There is,” Jennifer agreed, “but not today. I have enough of a headache as it is.” She opened her door and Richie followed her in.

“Where do you want this?” he asked, indicating her bag.

“Bedroom, please,” Jennifer answered, walking through the sitting room to open the curtains and the balcony door. She stood just on the outside of the balcony door, leaned up against the glass, and craned her neck around.

Richie saw her, and chuckling, went to join her. “Don’t like heights at all, do ya?”

Jennifer just gave him a look. Richie went out to the very edge of the balcony and jumped up and down hard. He looked like an idiot, jumping up and down the length of the balcony, but Jennifer’s heart twisted at his thoughtfulness.

“Perfectly solid,” he said, and leaned his ass up against the waist-high wall. “Wall too. You’re safe up here.” He held out a hand, beckoning Jennifer to join him. Shaking, she took his hand, and let herself be pulled to the edge of the balcony. She held fast to Richie’s arms and peeked out over the railing.

“Beautiful view,” she said, exhaling a shaky breath she didn’t know she was holding.

“Yes, it is,” Richie said, looking at her hands braced on his arms.

Jennifer went back into her suite, and went into the bedroom. Richie followed, and sat on the edge of the bed, watching while she unpacked. When she was done, Jennifer was pale and clammy, a bit unsteady on her feet, and sweating a little. She went into the bathroom, and fired off a text message to Samantha: “Holy shit, he’s in my room! Too bad I’m about to pass out.” She took care of a couple other needs, and when she came out, Richie was surprised to see her in glasses. And that her eyes were gray. He watched as she sat hard on the other side of the bed.

“I thought your eyes were green? Can I do something for you?” Richie asked. “Do you want something to eat?”

“Contacts, no thanks, and if I eat something now, I’ll be puking later.” Jennifer smiled. “No, I think I just need to lie down. Maybe later I’ll have some soup.”

Richie got up and circled the bed. He held out his hand again, and again, Jennifer took it. Unselfconsciously, she slumped against him when he hauled her up, and waited while he pulled the bedcovers down. Gently, he sat her down and took of her sneakers and socks. Raising an eyebrow at her, Jennifer smiled. “This is why I wear track pants when I travel, Rich. So I can just crash.” She laughed at the pout he put on. “Thank you, you’re being very nice to me,” she said. “I’m sorry; I know I’m not really good company right now.” Richie gently took the glasses from her face and put them on the night table. She lay down on the pillows and Richie pulled the sheet up over her, kneeling by her head to smooth the hair away from her forehead.

“Sweetheart, don’t even worry about it,” he said. “I do not expect you to entertain me.” He leaned in to kiss her forehead. “And I’m a nice guy.” He laughed. “Actually I’m nice to you because I like you. You rest now, and I’ll check on you later, okay?”

Too tired to argue, Jennifer just nodded. “I like you too. Okay, I’ll nap for a little while, then get up for tea.”

“If you feel like getting out of bed, come and knock on my door when you wake up. Otherwise, I’ll call you later.”

Jennifer’s eyes were already drifting closed. “OK,” she said, then snapped her eyes open to lock them on his. “Hey Rich?”

“What sweetheart?” Her eyes were really quite extraordinary. They picked up some of the deep navy of the sheets, and looked blue.

“That’s my hat.” She was a little disconcerted that he was staring at her. His eyes were very potent, and paired with his smile, downright deadly.

Richie laughed, shaking his head. “I’m going to keep it for a while. That way I know you’ll call me later.”

Jennifer chuckled sleepily, and burrowed down in the bed. “I’d call you anyway,” she said, yawning, her words barely audible. “Your voice makes me smile.” She dropped off to sleep.

Richie stayed there, watching her for a little while, to make sure she was comfortable, and because frankly he didn’t want to leave. In sleep, her complexion started to pinken again, and the clamminess went away. After a little while, and with a final lingering glance over his shoulder at her, he left the room and went to his own.

Getting to Southampton

Friday, November 14, 2008
At precisely midnight, on June 10th, Jennifer’s plane soared upwards into the night, barreling her at more than 300 miles an hour toward what amounted to a blind date. One hand had a death grip on the armrest and the other gripped the tattoo on the back of her neck, just below the hairline. “STRENGTH” it read, and she needed strength now. Once the plane leveled off, she breathed a sigh of relief. Flying was one of those necessary evils she’d learn to live with, but it was not her idea of a good time. Like she’d told Samantha, and anyone else who would listen, her travel gear included Xanax, and she’d taken one shortly before boarding.

Finally, the captain turned off the “fasten your seatbelt” sign, and Jennifer reached for her Blackberry. No sooner did she power it on that it started to sing Madonna’s “Beautiful Stranger”: Haven’t we met/You're some kind of beautiful stranger/You could be good for me/I have a taste for danger

She smiled as she answered the phone. “Hello?”

“Jennifer? That you, darlin’?” Richie’s voice came through the speaker, and she sighed happily.

“Hey there. Yeah, it’s me,” she said softly. “What the hell are you doing up? Isn’t it something like six a.m. where you are?”

Richie chuckled. “Something like that,” he said. He’d woken early to call her and make sure she was okay. He’d flown with people who don’t like heights, and knew the ride would be tough for her. “You doing okay? Flight get off on time?”

Surprised, Jennifer answered, “Yeah, I’m okay, and the captain literally JUST turned off the fasten seatbelt sign. How’d you know this was the right time to call?”

“Darlin’, I’ve been flying for more years than I haven’t,” he said. “I can probably tell you the exact minute when the cart will come down the aisle.”

Jennifer laughed. “By that time, the sedative will have really kicked in, and I won’t care. I’ll bypass the hot towels for a nap any day. I’ll wake up just before landing, and pray all the way down.” She groaned. “You probably think I’m overreacting.”

“Not at all, sweetheart,” he said, making Jennifer’s eyes go wide. That actually sounded like he meant it as an endearment, not just something he says. Either way, it sounded damned good to her.

“So,” Jennifer said, shaking her head. “I won’t ask how I’ll recognize you at the airport,” she laughed at herself, “but I imagine you won’t be just hanging out. Where should I go to find you?”

Richie smiled. “Actually, my flight gets in at about the same time as yours.” He’d had Jon’s pilot double- then triple-check to make sure he’d land a least a half an hour before Jennifer’s flight. Jon had given him a bunch of shit over his plans, but Richie couldn’t find a commercial flight that would get in at the same time. “I’ll meet you in baggage claim. We can rescue your stuff together.” His gear would already be stowed in the car at that point.


“Uh-uh. No arguments. Let me worry about finding you, not the other way around. Now, help me out; what are you wearing?”

In Jennifer’s drug-fuzzied head, she went straight to the gutter, which was apparently the funniest thing that’d happened to her all day, and she started giggling.

“What’s so funny?” Richie asked, amused at her reaction.

Jennifer lowered her voice to a seductive growl. “I’m wearing a cowboy hat and a smile, baby,” she said, then dissolved into giggles again.

Richie joined her laughter. “Very funny,” he said. “The meds are kicking in, huh?”

“Yeah, sorry,” she snickered. “It’s true about the hat, though, and the smile, though I also have on blue track pants, a black t-shirt, and white sneakers. Christ, I’m tired,” she said, yawning to punctuate her point.

“Alright, darlin’,” Richie said, smiling at her. “You have a nap, and I’ll see you when you land. Remember, wait for me in baggage.”

Jennifer sighed happily. “Baby, I’d wait for you anywhere….g’night,” she said, disconnecting the call.

Back in Ireland, Richie stared at his phone. When she said that last, his heart tripped in his chest. He swore at his reaction. That had to be the Xanax talking.

Several hours later, Jennifer was gently shaken by the stewardess. “Miss, we’re getting ready to land,” she said softly. Jennifer groaned and sat up, nodding her head. She made the mistake of looking out the window, and panicked as the plane dipped a wing in its final turn. She closed her eyes and sat back against the seat, rubbing furiously at the tattoo on the back of her neck. She chuckled to herself, surprised she hadn’t rubbed the damned thing off by now.

When they rolled to a stop at the gate, Jennifer stood and retrieved her hat and bag from the overhead compartment. She quickly inserted her contact lenses, jade green today, and stowed her glasses before leaving the plane. Winding her hair into a knot as she walked down the jetway, she crammed the beat-up black hat over it. She found the baggage area, and promptly plunked down on the floor, waiting for the buzz that would herald the delivering of their bags. She fired off a quick text message to Sam, letting her know she’d landed safely, and that Richie’d called her on the plane. She was having trouble concentrating, and soon had to put her Blackberry away. As she sat there with her head in her hands, she felt rather than heard someone walk up behind her.

Richie saw the tall woman emerge from the end of the jet way and smiled. She was by far the tallest person coming off the plane. She was slender, stacked and damn cute. He watched her plunk down on the floor sit down, and his heart leapt. It must be her: track pants, t-shirt, cowboy hat. She looked like she had an awful headache though, the way she was holding her head. Smiling, he went over to her.

“Are you alright, miss?” a concerned and familiar voice asked softly.

Jennifer smiled, recognizing his voice right away. She tilted her hat back to look up at Richie. “Hell, I’m more than alright, I’m damn fine, friend-of-Bill,” she said.

Richie’s face opened in a wide smile as her voice and her words registered. There was a whole lot of sass in her East Coast tone. “Well, well, well,” he said, as he offered a hand to help her up off the floor. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Jennifer, darlin’,” he said, hauling her to her feet, and keeping hold of her hand. It was delicate and warm in his, and grasping it made him feel all protective.

“Likewise,” she said with a shy smile. She colored slightly, and leaned in to kiss Richie on the cheek. It was warm and slightly stubbled; his whiskers tickling her lips. “Thank you for coming to get me,” she said. Richie still hadn’t let go of her hand, but she didn’t mind. The strength and gentleness of his grasp were comforting.

Richie pulled her in for a big, full-body hug. He wrapped one arm around her waist, and the other around her shoulders and crushed her against the chest that had a starring role in most of her fantasies. “Thank you for agreeing to meet me so soon,” he said. “How was your flight?” He let her go and nearly reached for her hand again, but stopped.

Jennifer laughed, making her eyes dance. “Blessedly black,” she said, touching his arm briefly, burning him. “I don’t remember a thing after we hung up. It was great.”

They chatted a bit, getting a feel for talking in person rather than on the phone. Jennifer was amazed at how at ease she felt with Richie. She was sure that she’d be a mess, gushing over him and trying hard to appear as if she wasn’t. But, talking with him was easy. He was just as witty and charming in person as he was on the phone.

It didn’t escape Richie’s notice that Jennifer was pretty relaxed. He figured part of it was the sedative, but was relieved there wasn’t any “oh my God” with her. Knowing how big a fan she was, he was half expecting wide-eyed stares regardless. This was much better. Watching her, he was amused at the way she talked with her hands – her whole body actually – and wondered if she did that when she was on the phone as well.

When the baggage buzzer sounded, Jennifer turned instinctively and headed toward it. She shot a look of gleeful anticipation over her shoulder at him that made Richie chuckle. While she walked away, he took a moment to check her out again before following. She wore the hat well, though he wished she’d take it off so he could see her hair. Her long, lean torso tapered to her trim waist then flowed into long legs. She had a confident walk that had people turning to watch her as she passed. Jennifer had no idea her progress was being tracked. Either that, or she didn’t care. Refreshing.

Richie watched as an old couple stopped her to ask her something. The man in the wheelchair had to be at least 80 if he was a day, and his wife wasn’t much younger. Jennifer squatted to hear whatever it was the man was saying, so he wouldn’t have to crane his neck. She consulted her watch, stood to look up at the board, and nodded to them, touching the woman’s hand as she looked around the terminal. Jennifer smiled at the couple, raised a single finger, then took off for the baggage carts. She brought one back over to them, and accepted a brief hug from the woman before heading over to the carousel. He smiled at her; she was a considerate, touchy-feely person. That made Richie feel warm inside. He liked those kinds of people.

Richie came up behind Jennifer and asked, “How many bags?”

“Just one,” she said, startled at his voice in her ear.

Richie moved to stand close to her and grinned at having surprised her. “Really? Just one?”

“Yeah, but it’s REAL big,” Jennifer said, laughing. She looked at the man next to her. He was a little taller than she was, though not more than a couple inches, and his hair was sexily mussed, like he had just woken up. He had a half-smile on his face that set his dimples off, and his eyes were bright and clear. A tight deep blue t-shirt was tucked into tight black jeans, and Jennifer nearly sighed at the sight of his arms. The bottoms of his tattoos were just visible under the sleeves of his shirt, and when he crossed them over his broad chest, they flexed enticingly.

“Everything alright?” he asked.

Blushing, Jennifer answered, “Yeah, fine, sorry. You can’t really blame a girl for checking you out though, can you? Although,” she said, then shook her head, an evil gleam in her eye. “Nahh, never mind.” She took a step toward the conveyor as bags started sliding down.

Richie grabbed her arm. “Although what?” His eyes were sparkling with amusement.

“Although,” Jennifer said, lowering her voice and leaning in to talk into Richie’s ear, “I was sort of hoping for the nearly undone button-up shirt.” She straightened and winked at him before going to the conveyor to fetch her bag.

With a bark of laughter, he hurried to her side again. The combination of boldness and blushing shyness was fascinating. He wondered for a moment if she was like that with everyone, or if he was one of the lucky ones. “Let me get that,” he said, lifting the suitcase from the carousel. “You ready?”

“Just about,” Jennifer answered. A few minutes later, two large, blue, hard-sided suitcases came crashing down the ramp. “We need to grab those,” she said, and Richie put down her bag to pick the other two cases up. Jennifer hefted her own bag.

“Where to?” Richie asked her. “That couple you were talking to? Do you know them?”

Jennifer nodded then shook her head. “Yes, the cases are for them, and no, I don’t know them. I met them in Boston.” They brought the cases over and Richie put them on the couple’s cart. He looked around and signaled for an airport worker to help them through customs.

“You and your wife are such nice kids,” the man said to him. “Thank you for your help.”

“Oh,” Jennifer started, but Richie interrupted.

“No problem, sir,” he said, and steered Jennifer away. Jennifer just stared at Richie. “What?” he said. She just shook her head.

They cleared customs and went outside. Richie signaled to someone, and a long black car slid up to the curve. The trunk popped open, and Richie stowed Jennifer’s bag next to his own gear. The driver came around to open the door, and Jennifer grinned as she climbed into the car. She sank into the luxurious upholstery and sighed. Richie climbed in after her, and settled next to her, stretching his legs out. “You need anything?”

“I’d love some water,” she said, as she took a small packet from her pocket. Richie handed her a bottle which she drank half of in two long swallows. Groaning appreciatively, she opened the packet and tossed back the pills she had in there. She finished off the water, and settled back against the seat. The brim of her hat was bumping against the seatback, so she took it off and Frisbee-d it across to the other seat. She shook out her hair, and scratched her nails into her scalp, sighing appreciatively.

“You okay?” Richie asked. He couldn’t take his eyes off her hair. It was honey blonde, shot through with deep gold highlights and fell in a curtain to the seat. If she wanted to, she could sit on the ends of it. His fingers itched to replace hers in massaging her scalp.

Jennifer nodded. “Yeah, I’ve just got a headache, and I’m wicked parched. It’ll all sort itself out by tomorrow.”

Richie shook his head and handed her a second bottle of water. “Sorry ‘bout the headache, darlin’,” he said, then smiled. “But, wicked parched? Don’t you mean ‘wicked pahhched’?”

Jennifer laughed. “Fuck you, Rich” she said jokingly, then clapped her hands over her mouth. “Sorry, hazard of jet lag. The filter between my brain and mouth sorta disintegrates. Decorum takes too much energy. You get raw, unpolished, in-your-face Jennifer.”

Richie laughed and looped an arm around Jennifer’s shoulders and squeezed, the softness of her hair caressing his arm. She was fun, jet-lagged or not. He noticed, too, that she called him ‘Rich’ instead of ‘Richie’ like she did on the phone. He definitely owed Jon one for getting her number for him. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Frankly, I’m glad you’re comfortable enough around me to let your guard down. If my swearing at you will make you feel any better, fuck you back.”

Jennifer laughed hard at that. “God, you’re too much,” she said when she got herself under control. “I’m actually surprised I’m not a blithering idiot,” Jennifer admitted. “I was so sure I’d be gushing all over you and wouldn’t get a coherent word out. Thought for sure I’d be tongue-tied.” She shook her head. “Guess that’s not going to be a problem.”

“Guess not,” he agreed. “I’m glad, too,” Richie said. “I’m just a man, darlin’,” Richie said softly. “The other is just my job.”

“You’re more than ‘just’ anything, Rich” Jennifer answered. She patted Richie’s leg reassuringly, then boldly left her hand on this thigh. “Don’t worry, when I have clarity, I’m sure I’ll gush appropriately at you. But now, I’m just so freaking glad to be off that plane, but so damned tired I can’t see straight. I know, though, if I go to sleep now, I’ll never sleep tonight. Amuse me.” She demanded with a smile.

And he did, telling her stories and anecdotes about his daughter, the places the band had been, and some stories from his childhood. In no time at all, they reached the hotel.

(c) 2008 by TheGoddessHathor

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