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


Sunday, May 31, 2009
The plane from Michigan was going too slow for Richie’s taste. He wished he hadn’t given in to Jennifer and agreed on this later flight – though late was relative, it was only 7:30 in the morning – because then he’d be there already. Of course, he thought wryly, he’d still have had to wait to greet Jennifer the way he wanted to because she had company. He chuckled. “Be careful what you wish for,” he muttered to himself. He’d told Jennifer he wanted to meet her friends, and he meant it, but he had to smile that she took him at his word, trusting implicitly that he said what he meant.

Another half an hour and he’d be on the ground. Most of his gear was traveling with the band; he’d only brought one guitar and a small bag. He had wanted her to come on the bike to pick him up, but they were going out for breakfast, he and Jennifer and her friend Stephanie, and the three of them on a bike wouldn’t work. He smiled. Well they would probably all fit, but it wouldn’t be a good idea.

He thought back to the brief conversations he’d had with Stephanie. The first one, Jennifer had put him on speaker and the two girls ganged up on him, teasing and flirting with him, and he felt instantly at ease. The second one, Saturday night, was by accident. He had just ducked away from the Soul’s celebration of their playoff win, and it was still a little loud, so he couldn’t hear all that well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Hello?” a voice answered. Richie thought it must be Jennifer, though with all the noise, he couldn’t be sure.

“Hey there darlin’,” Richie answered. “It’s Rich. What’cha up to?”

Stephanie nearly dropped the phone. She buzzed the intercom and told Jennifer to get her ass upstairs like NOW. “Oh, we were just watching you on a rerun of SNL.”

Richie laughed. “Not my finest moment,” he said. “So, you ready for me on Tuesday?”

“Uh, yeah, I think so,” Stephanie hesitated, not sure that Richie knew this wasn’t Jennifer.

Richie frowned. “Baby, why the hesitation? Nothing’s changed in these few days. I still want you so badly I can taste it. In fact…”

“WAIT!” Stephanie shouted, turning beet red. “Shit, um, this isn’t Jennifer,” she said softly.

“What?” Richie wasn’t sure he heard hear correctly. Stephanie repeated herself, a little more loudly. He started to chuckle. “Are you sure?”

Stephanie laughed. “I’m pretty sure I’d know if I was a statuesque blonde,” she answered. “Hang on, she’s just come upstairs.” Stephanie handed the phone to Jen. “I am NOT answering your phone anymore,” she groused. “It’s HIM, and he thought I was you.”

Jennifer laughed and took the phone. “Hey baby, still trying to get us to do that threesome, huh? Dirty-talking my girlfriend isn’t the way to do it.”

“Yeah, well, I woulda had her if you just gave me a couple more minutes,” Richie said, chagrined at his mistake. “How are you?”

“Just fine, baby, we watched you on SNL, and are waiting for Who Says…I miss you something awful.” Jennifer had taken the phone out into the hallway so she wouldn’t bother Steph.

“I miss you too,” he said. “Just a couple more days.”

“Tell Jon congratulations for us, would ya? You too.”

“Thanks, and yeah, I will.”

Jennifer could hear someone calling his name in the background, and chuckled. “Your public awaits, sir,” she said. “Go back to your party sweetie, and have fun. I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow after the show,” Richie promised her.

“I know, and I look forward to it,” she answered.

Richie sighed. “OK, then, good night, Jennifer darlin’.”

“Good night, Rich.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Smiling at the memory, Richie settled back in his seat and watched out the window as the clouds went by. He felt a slight dip in the wing and smiled. They were making their descent. As they passed through the clouds, his heart raced. Boston never looked so good.

At about the time Richie’s plane took off, Jennifer and Stephanie were just getting up. They had been awake for a while, each lost in her own thoughts of the day. Stephanie was still a little nervous about meeting Richie even though she had talked to him on the phone – especially after that second conversation. Jennifer was excited about having time with him before he went off to work. She laughed at herself, and wondered if she’d have a different perspective of the concert now.

The women showered and dressed, and had a light breakfast before getting into the convertible and heading into town. The day was already hot and sunny, and the air breezing through their hair felt great. They got to the airport with a minimum of fuss, and surrendered the car to short-term parking. They consulted the board and saw that Richie’s flight was right on time. They went to the arrivals gates, and waited.

When the plane bumped along the tarmac, Richie breathed a sigh of relief. He was always glad when the landings were smooth. Now he wished the plane would hurry the hell up and taxi to the gate faster. He was fidgety and tense, and Jon would be laughing his ass off if he could see Richie now. It’d been a long time since a woman had gotten this far under his skin. He’d meant what he told Jon, that he was willing to see if Jen was “The One” as she had put it jokingly in Southampton: capital ‘t’, capital ‘o’.

Richie was an eternal optimist; even after everything he’d gone through in the past two years, deep down he was always hopeful that the next one (whatever that ‘one’ was, be it a woman, a project, whatever) would be IT. With Jennifer, he was more than hopeful. He was approaching ‘sure’, though he was keeping that to himself for now. No sense scaring the crap outta her this early in their relationship.

Finally, the seatbelt sign clicked off, and Richie was out of his seat like a shot, grabbing his duffel from the overhead bin. The flight attendant had retrieved his hard-back guitar case from the captain’s closet, and he winked at the woman as she handed it to him on his way past. “Thanks, darlin’,” he said absently, just wanting to get off the goddamned plane.

When the first few people started to trickle out of the jetway, Jennifer thought they had the wrong gate. Surely Richie had flown first class, and should have .....THERE!

She turned to nudge Stephanie, but her friend’s wide-eyed expression said she had seen him, too. Jennifer grabbed her hand, and was practically bouncing up and down in excitement. Richie looked around, saw Jennifer, and smiled. His heart leapt at seeing the joy in her face, and he had to work to keep from running to her and making a fool of himself. He dropped his bags at the girls’ feet, and took Jennifer’s face in his hands and kissed her thoroughly. He smiled at her, touching his forehead to hers, then turned his full attention on Stephanie, who looked like she was going to die.

“You are so NOT kissing me like that, Sambora,” she said, winking. “I refuse to have a heart attack in the airport.”

Richie laughed and pulled Stephanie in for a tight hug, and kissed her briefly but soundly on the lips. “Sorry, darlin’, I have to kiss pretty women, it’s part of my DNA” he said. “But I controlled myself just for you. It’s nice to meet you, Stephanie.”

“You too, Richie,” she said, giggling. He was being silly, and that put her at ease, and she started to understand what Jennifer meant when she said that he was just ‘Rich’ to her.

“So?” he asked expectantly.

“So what?” Stephanie answered, confused. Jennifer laughed. She knew exactly what Richie was waiting for.

“So,” he answered, motioning with his hands, “you were going to be appropriately stunned at my presence.” He pouted. “You aren’t swooning.”

“Oh, I wasn’t stunned? Sorry,” Stephanie answered seriously, though a smile played at the corners of her mouth. “Get back on the plane and come back off, and I’ll try again.”

“No,” he said melodramatically, “that’s alright, the moment is ruined forever now.” He sighed. “I guess I can deal with that.” Stephanie just laughed at him and rolled her eyes.

“C’mon,” Jennifer said. “Let’s get outta here before it gets too crowded. We’ll go have breakfast, and be back here in time for Stephanie’s 11am flight home.”

The trio went out to Jennifer’s car and they took off for breakfast. Richie sat in the back, settling back for the ride to wherever it was Jennifer was taking them. He didn’t care. He was here, with her, and that’s all that mattered.

Welcome, Sister

Sunday, May 24, 2009
Soon enough, it was time to pick up Stephanie. As she drove, Jennifer thought ahead to the plans she and Stephanie had made. They were going to the Esplanade tomorrow, which meant getting up “wicked fuckin early” as her brother would say, and lighting out for the Hatch Shell. Richie had helped her pack everything in the truck, and now it was just a question of getting up early in the morning. Jennifer pulled over just before entering the airport, and called Stephanie. “Where are you girl?” she asked when Steph answered.

“Just cleared the terminal, and on my way outside. Where are you?” The excitement in her voice was palpable.

“Just outside the airport,” Jennifer answered. “I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Stephanie laughed. “Wonderful. Don’t hurry, but HURRY!” The two shared a laugh and signed off.

Jennifer meandered around the airport’s access road until she came to the Delta terminal. She saw a woman with dark curly hair and cute t-shirt standing on the sidewalk holding a duffel bag and an unseasonably warm black leather jacket. Gunning the engine, Jennifer pulled up to the curb. Stephanie, for nobody else would smile that big at all the noise the bike was making, waved to her.

“Jennifer!” Stephanie exclaimed, as the tall woman got off the bike and took off her helmet. It was like a movie scene; the hair spilling out and blowing behind her like a dream. Stephanie looked Jennifer up and down. “Damn girl, you ARE tall!” She turned the other woman around to see the back of her fringed black leather jacket and smiled. “Nice jacket!”

“I like it,” Jennifer said, hugging her newly-met-in-person friend. “It is so great to finally meet you in person! How was your flight?”

The two women made idle chitchat while they secured Stephanie’s duffel in one oversized saddlebag and drew out a second helmet from the other. It still smelled faintly of Richie’s shampoo. “You wanna ride up the coast, or through the city?”

“Either way,” Stephanie said. “I just wanna ride!”

Jennifer laughed as she wound up her hair again and pulled her helmet over it. “I hear you. Let’s go through the city,” she suggested. “The coast is pretty, but will be clogged with traffic. There are some pretty empty surface streets and access roads we can take where we can open him up.”

The women climbed on the bike, and after making sure Stephanie had a good grip, she throttled the FatBoy up, and pointed him toward town. They took more than an hour to get to Jennifer’s house, and by that time, Stephanie thought the smile would be permanently plastered to her face. Jennifer drew up in front of an imposing looking gate and entered a code. The gate slid open noiselessly, and Jennifer puttered up the drive. Out of habit, she turned to make sure the gate securely latched, and proceeded to the house. The house was primarily a light brown color, with muted sea green and dark Tudor brown accents. It looked like something out of a movie.

When they parked the bike and dismounted, Stephanie let out a whistle. “Holy shit, Hath; you weren’t kidding when you said you had all sorts of room. Wow, nice house.”

Jennifer smiled. She loved this house. It was one of the original town’s homes, at nearly 150 years old. “Thanks. Come on, let’s take the tour.”

Jennifer led Stephanie into the spacious foyer. She hung her jacket in a massive coat closet and reached back for Stephanie’s, and hung it next to hers. Stephanie was wandering down the hallway toward the great room. She stood back and watched the look on her friend’s face, glad she could surprise her. The great room ran the depth of the house, and was easily 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. An ornate stone fireplace was the focal point of the room. Flanked by ceiling-height bookcases, the fireplace was large enough to seat four. In fact there were stone benches carved into the interior of the structure.

“This is so cool!” Stephanie gushed, sitting inside the fireplace. “But, doesn’t it get too hot in here?”

“Nope, not for me,” Jennifer answered. “I’m always cold, so that’s like my most favorite seat in the house.”

They continued the tour through the dining room and into the billiards room, which sported a full bar along with the twin mahogany tables. Stephanie said, “Holy shit, Jen.”

Jennifer laughed. “These came with the house,” she said, lovingly stroking one of the tables. “I fell in love with them. Ex-ass wanted to get rid of one of them to put in air hockey and foosball, but I put my foot down.”

“Good decision,” Stephanie said. “What’s next?”

“Ahh, onto the kitchen: my pride and joy.” Stephanie oohed and aahed over the commercial-grade appliances and acres of countertops. Jennifer remembered with a smile the meal Richie had made her, and she had actually portioned off a small piece of lasagna and frozen it. She felt stupid, so didn’t say anything to Richie, but she wanted to save a bit of the first thing he ever made for her.

They went upstairs and poked in all the bedrooms and bathrooms, and went down to the lowest level to check out the home gym. “You really do have a stripper pole in your house,” Stephanie exclaimed. “That’s so cool.”

“Give it a try,” Jennifer cajoled.

She did, and laughed. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

“Naaah,” Jennifer answered, grabbing the pole about 2/3 of the way up and swinging herself up onto it, locking her legs around the pole and dangling upside-down. “It just takes practice.” Stephanie laughed and clapped, and the girls went back upstairs.

The women got acquainted over plates of cheeses and bread, and a good bottle of wine. Later, they grilled steaks for dinner. Stephanie made the salad while Jennifer reigned over the grill. They ate outside on the patio, chatting easily until it got too dark to see. The two women learned they had very similar upbringings, and had the same taste in music, movies, and books. “Movie!” Jennifer shouted. “That’s what we can do. C’mon.” They stacked their dishes in the sink, made a snack, and headed upstairs.

They dialed up a good horror movie on pay-per-view, and settled into Jennifer’s bed to watch. The bed was huge, a California King in deference to Jennifer’s height, and tendency to sprawl. They lay with a mountain of pillows at their backs, and a margarita mixer on a maid’s cart in the corner. A big bowl of popcorn sat on the bed between them, and they felt like high-schoolers at a sleep over.

The two friends jumped and shrieked appropriately, laughing at themselves and each other. When the movie was partway over, and the margarita pitcher nearly empty, the women were silly happy and Stephanie finally worked up the courage to ask her friend about Richie.

“What’s he like?” Stephanie asked.

Jennifer paused the movie and thought about it for a moment before answering. “He’s wonderful. He’s wildly romantic, funny and smart and witty, and the way he took care of me in Southampton, well, it was just lovely. That’s the word. He’s lovely. And BIG. He makes me feel petite. Oh, and he’s drop-dead, kick you in the head gorgeous.” She started laughing, and she couldn’t stop. Soon Stephanie was joining her; the two women sitting there with tears streaming down their faces. The ringing of the house phone surprised them and made them scream.

Jennifer pushed the speakerphone button. “Hellllooooo…” she sang into the phone.

“Well hello there, darlin’,” Richie purred, and Stephanie collapsed dramatically against the pillows. “Am I on speaker?”

“You are, my dear Richard,” Jennifer said, in her haughtiest tone, then ruined it by giggling at the end. “How was your flight?”

“Lonely,” he said, chuckling at her. “Just like my bed.”

Jennifer laughed. “Mine’s full,” she said, “though I have Stephanie sleeping on my side. I’m on your side. The pillows still smell like you.”

“So Stephanie made alright it then?” Richie smiled. He’s got his own side in her bed. His girl sounded like she was having fun. “What’re you doing?”

“Oh we’re watching a scary movie, and are all huddled up together to stay safe.”

Richie chuckled. “Does she speak?” he asked.

Stephanie laughed. “Yes, I speak,” she said softly, her heart pounding a mile a minute.

“Well hello there, Stephanie, darlin’,” Richie drawled. “Is my girl showing you a good time?”

“Apparently not as good as she showed you – OW!” Stephanie dissolved into a fit of giggles as Jennifer hit her with a pillow. “What? It’s true.”

Jennifer hissed, “Shut up…”

Stephanie laughed. “Oh, like he hasn’t bragged to his friends about your sexual prowess.”

“Prowess?” Richie interjected. “I have prowess? And for the record, I wouldn’t tell those guys shit about Jen’s, uh, skills shall we say.” He laughed. “They’re not the discreet kind.”

Stephanie laughed and Jennifer turned eight shades of red. She muted the phone. “Zip it, Steph, or I’m outing you as a writer.”

Stephanie’s laughter died mid-laugh. “You wouldn’t dare!” she exclaimed.

Jennifer un-muted the phone. “So, Rich, Steph and I have LOTS of things in common – OW!” Stephanie had just flicked her forehead. “You flicked me! Rich, she flicked me,” Jennifer whined.

He laughed. “You two are worse than me and David,” he said. “Don’t make me come and separate you two.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Jennifer said.

“Is that a DARE?” Richie asked.

Stephanie laughed. “Oh HELL yeah,” she said. “You man enough for the challenge?”

“More than man enough, darlin’, as Jennifer will tell you,” Richie said, his voice low.

Jennifer laughed. “Aw dammit, man, you’re making her make that swoony face. Thanks a lot.” She looked at Stephanie. “You know, he burps and farts just like other guys, right?”

“Jesus, Jen,” Richie said, while the girls laughed. “There goes my star factor with her. Thanks a lot,” he smiled. “Now who’s gonna moon over me at the airport on Tuesday?”

Stephanie laughed. “Don’t worry, Richie, I’ll be appropriately stunned by your presence.”

“See that you are,” he said. “Well, I’ll let you get back to whatever it is you two are doing in bed…” He let it hang but nobody took the bait. “Uh, girls?” he said.

“Sorry, baby,” Jennifer said. “I was just snuggling up to Stephanie and got distracted by her hair...”

“Take me off speaker,” Richie said with a thick voice, and Jennifer winked at Stephanie and picked up the phone. Stephanie sighed and turned toward the TV. She just talked to and teased and flirted with Richie Sambora. She was gonna have some good dreams tonight.

Stephanie heard Jennifer tell Richie she missed him, and started to get up. Jennifer put a hand on her arm and shook her head. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow then, sweetie.” She listened for another minute. “You wish. Bye baby.”

“He wishes what?” Stephanie asked.

“You don’t wanna know. Let’s just say he wanted to know if we pinch hit for the pink team when we tie one on.”

Stephanie started laughing. “Why is it that guys think it’s alright for their girls to have sex with another girl?”

“Because men are pigs, Ms. Stephanie,” Jennifer answered. “C’mon, let’s finish the movie.”

Goodbye, My Lover...

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Thursday, Jennifer was awake early. Richie had to be at the airport at noon, and he was still sleeping. She watched him sleep, his strong, tanned chest rising and falling with each breath he took. She marveled how he looked playful and fun even when unconscious. She laughed quietly, recalling his surprise last night when after the first fifteen minutes or so, nobody asked any questions about the band or the tour or the other guys. Her friends were just enjoying Jennifer’s boyfriend. It didn’t really matter to them that he was famous. To them, after the initial shock wore off, he was just a dad with a kid with stories somewhat like theirs about potty training, doctor appointments and school days. They chatted for hours about stupid things, the way people just getting to know each other do, and Richie commented on the way home that he felt instantly accepted as one of them.

“You are,” Jennifer had said, shouting to be heard over the road noise as they cruised down the highway. “All the boyfriends and husbands are.” She laughed. “Though you may be the first one to be invited back,” she winked. “They think you’re cute.”

Richie laughed. “Well, I am cute,” he had said.

“You certainly are,” she said softly now, watching him. His hair was all mussed up, there was a little toothpaste drool on his chin, and even in sleep, he had a slight smile on his face.

Jennifer quietly climbed out of bed and checked in on the boards to see what was what. She read a PM she received from T, telling her that things were going well with her and Jon. That was good. She deserved to have someone want her for HER, not for any other reason. T asked Jennifer if she thought this whole situation was surreal, and if she had any freak out moments, like when the guys’ songs came on the radio or something.

Jennifer had to think about that one. Hearing the band’s songs didn’t bother her, but she got all sort of squishy when she heard Richie’s stuff now. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy listening to his music anymore, but now she heard it with a different perspective, and well, ‘different’ was just about the right feeling. She couldn’t listen to it in quite the same way. She knew most of the songs (at least on Stranger) were written for or inspired by Heather, and she didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time thinking about Richie’s ex.

She posted a couple replies to people, then saw Richie starting to stir. His made that deep, hitching inhale that meant he was either waking up or ready to sneeze. “Darlin’, where are you?” he rumbled.

Jennifer chuckled. “You haven’t even opened your eyes,” she said, as she crossed the room to the bed. “How did you know I wasn’t in bed?”

Richie smiled, and opened his eyes. They were still slumberous, and hooded, and Jennifer thought that this was the way she would always remember him. “I can tell,” he said. “The bed isn’t as warm.”

“You’re making that up,” Jennifer said, but climbed into bed and snuggled up against Richie’s side. “But that’s okay. I choose to believe you.”

“What time is it?”

“A little after eight. You didn’t have too much more time before I was going to wake you up.”

Richie smiled. “And just how were you going to do that?” He turned to her, and pulled her over on top of him. She could feel his morning erection pressing into her belly.

Jennifer kissed his lips, and said, “Coffee.”

Richie laughed. “You witch,” he said. He rolled them so he was half on top of her, and kissed her tenderly. He played his hands over her shoulders and breasts, teasing her nipples until they stood proudly at attention. Then he tasted them, sucking them deep into his mouth until Jennifer was writhing on the bed. She grabbed onto his dick and stroked, amazed at how hard and big he was. He reached for another condom and sheathed himself. “We’re gonna have to buy stock,” he joked.

Jennifer laughed out loud. “I already have some,” she answered. “Check my portfolio.”

“Well then,” Richie said, after his belly laughs subsided. “Let’s make mama some money!” He drove into her with one powerful thrust, and Jennifer arched from the bed with his name a scream in her throat. He made her scream several more times before he allowed himself to empty into her, and he collapsed in a sweaty heap on top of her. “Sorry,” he groaned, and made to move off of her, but Jennifer held fast.

“No,” she said. “Stay. I like the way you feel on top of me.” She was glad the room was still semi-dark, couldn’t see her blushing. Soon, though, it was time to roll out of bed.

After they had cleaned up and had something to eat, Richie packed his duffel. “I guess we should go, then,” he said.

Jennifer had a tear in her eye. “I guess so.” They went out to the garage. “Which one you wanna take?”

Richie answered right away, looking like a little kid staring at the Macy’s window at Christmastime, “I want to ride behind you on the bike.” He moved to nibble on her neck. “I want to wrap myself around you and hold for the ride.”

Jennifer swallowed. “Well then, who am I to refuse? Bike it is.” They stowed his gear in the saddle bags, donned helmets and jackets, and took off.

Jennifer aimed her Harley up the Expressway, very conscious of the man wrapped around her. He had his arms locked around her waist, and his crotch pressed up against her ass. She had warned him to keep hands to himself unless he wanted to be splattered all over the highway. He had laughed at her, but so far had heeded her warning. Jennifer signaled left to take the northbound fork towards Boston, and put on an extra burst of speed. She wasn’t driving in an unsafe manner, she just loved driving the bike way too much to keep it at a sedate 65 per.

Traffic wasn’t too bad. Most people were heading out of the city, toward the Cape and the Islands (Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard), so she made it to the airport with time to spare. She parked in short-term parking and went inside with Richie. This experience was significantly different than hers. He was whisked to his own check-in clerk, who looked at him like she wanted to dive over the counter and grab him. Jennifer chuckled when Richie pulled her in close to him and kissed her temple while he waited for his boarding pass.

By 1pm, Richie was leading Jennifer to an ultra private lounge in a part of the airport she had never been in before. It was plush and luxurious, and Jennifer whistled. “Not bad, Sambora,” she said laughing. She accepted a glass of white wine, and they chatted quietly until a flight attendant came to bring Richie through security and onto the plane. He stood and gathered Jennifer into his arms. “It’s only a few days,” he said.

“I know,” Jennifer answered. “Have fun with your daughter, and call when you can.”

“I will,” Richie said, still amazed that she wasn’t all clingy, though he was going to call her every day, no matter what.

By 1:30, Richie was on his way onto the plane, and Jennifer was on her way back to ransom her bike from the pay lot.

By 2pm Richie was on his way home, looking forward to coming back to Boston, and Jennifer was in the Public Gardens, walking around the duck ponds, and missing him.

Ribs-n-Ritas Night

Saturday, May 2, 2009
They showered and dressed, and went out to dinner with Jennifer’s friends. Richie drove the Kelly green XLR with the top down, and was happy to see Jennifer didn’t care about her hair blowing in the breeze. When they pulled up in front of the restaurant, Richie could smell the unmistakable aroma of smoked meat. His mouth watered and he eagerly vaulted from the car. He put his arm around Jennifer’s waist as they crossed the lot. Through the window, Richie could see a table of women, sitting in front of a small stage.

“Is that them?” he asked her.

Jennifer beamed. “Yep, that’s them alright. C’mon, you’re gonna love them.” She took his hand eagerly and they went inside.

Matt, the owner, was working the register. “Hey Jen! Glad you could – holy shit.” Matt had gotten a look at who trailed her into the restaurant.

“Matt, this is Rich. Rich, the best rib master around, Matt Packard.” The two men shook hands over the counter.

“Jesus, Jen,” Matt laughed. “The girls are gonna go ape-shit. And I’m the best rib master period. Damn, Krissy told me you were finally seeing someone who made you happy, but didn’t tell me who it was.”

“She didn’t know,” Jennifer answered, blushing. “I wanted to surprise them.”

“Well, it’s certainly going to be a surprise,” Matt said. “Go sit down. Now that you’re all here, I’ll send Amy over.” He looked at Richie. “Good luck, man,” he chuckled, then turned to take care of the next customer.

Richie looked at Jennifer and rolled his eyes. “Ape-shit, huh?”

Jennifer nodded and brought Richie into the bar area. Conversation at the table full of women stopped when Jennifer and Richie approached. She laughed. “I see you all know Rich,” she joked. “Rich, the ribs-n-ritas crew: Krissy, Linda, Lisa, Megan, Pammy, Robin, Tracey and Veronica.”

“Good evenin’, ladies,” Richie said, turning up the charm. “It is a pleasure to meet all of you. I am gonna be the envy of every guy in the place if you’ll let me join you.”

Megan found her voice first. “Of course!” she said. “Please, sit down.” Riche and Jennifer sat, and the waitress, Amy, came over with platters of ribs, brisket, chicken and sausage, and a basket of little fried balls of something.

“It all smells wonderful,” Richie said, helping himself after the ladies had told him not to stand on ceremony. He took a little bit of everything. Biting into a succulent Carolina rib, he groaned. “This is amazing,” he said, scraping every last bit of meat off the bone, then sucking the sauce off for good measure. Conversation resumed, stilted at first, but as the girls relaxed, and the tequila flowed, it got more lively. He noticed Jennifer was drinking water, and leaned in to her. “You know,” he said, “you can drink with your friends if you want.”

Jennifer shook her head. “Nah, I’m fine. Honest.” She lowered her voice to a purr. “You don’t really want me passing out on you tonight, do you?”

Richie chuckled. “No, darlin’, I surely don’t.”

A cry of “DAMMIT” from the kitchen made it into the bar. Krissy winced. “Uh-oh. Matt’s not happy about something,” she said, and left the table to see what her husband was yelling about. She came back a few minutes later. “The kitchen printer isn’t working anymore.” She sighed. “The damned thing is practically new, too.”

Jennifer wiped her mouth. “Do you want me to take a look at it?” She stood.

“I hate to ask, but if you wouldn’t mind?” Krissy felt bad.

“Isn’t that my job?” Jennifer joked, and kissed Richie before getting up. “Wanna see the kitchen?” When Richie nodded, she looked at her friends. “You can talk about us now,” she said, and led Richie out back.

Richie was pretty sure smoke was coming out of Matt’s ears. “Jen, I’m sorry, but the damned thing isn’t working.” He smacked it with a spoon for good measure.

“When did it stop working?” she asked, crossing the kitchen to the shelf with the electronics on it.

“I don’t know, about ten minutes ago. Nobody told me,” he said, giving his staff the evil eye. Richie smiled. Matt and Jon would get along fine, he thought.

Jennifer picked up the small printer that looked like an old-fashioned paper-tape calculator with no keys. She turned it over and around, and checked the connections. Frowning, she unplugged the wire that went to the computer system and looked at the plug. “Someone dropped the printer off the counter,” she said. “The plug came undone and they jammed it back in upside down and bent the pins. Gimme pliers,” she said, holding out her hand while she continued to look at the printer, to see if any other damage was done. Matt slapped a pair of needle-nosed pliers in her hand, and she straightened the pins, and reconnected the printer. She printed a test receipt, and smiled when it came out perfectly. ‘Et, voila, ma chere,” she said with a horrible French accent. “Need anything else?”

“Yeah, an upgrade on the touch-screen, but not until Monday, when we’re closed,” Matt said. He saw Richie was confused. “Jennifer set up our computer system for us in her spare time. It took her a week to do, too, because the damned POS system didn’t come with instructions. The vendor is an idiot, but it was an inexpensive system, and she has it working perfectly. She taught Krissy how to program the menu.”

Richie looked at her, surprised.

“What?” she said. “I’m gonna make them go to someone else who’ll make them pay?” She shook her head. “We bartered. I take care of their IT issues, they keep me in ribs.”

Matt frowned. “Yeah, but you don’t come in except when the girls are all here,” he said. “And you know damned well I can’t feed all of you for free, ya’ll eat way too much.”

Jennifer smiled, and kissed Matt’s cheek. “Matt, honey, I don’t want to take advantage, you know that.” She winked at him and turned back to Richie. “Let’s go eat before everything’s gone.”

“Thanks, Jen,” Matt called as they left, and Jennifer just waved over her head.

They finished their meal amid much laughter, and stayed later than they expected to. They got back to the house around midnight, and fell into bed. They made love slowly, and cuddled up to each other, and after a tender kiss, Jennifer drifted off to sleep, her head pillowed on Richie’s chest. Richie stroked her hair and looked at her, watching her sleep. The more he learned about her, the more he liked her – really liked her. He didn’t correct Jon’s assertion that Jennifer might be the one for Richie. It felt natural to be with her, and he’d meant it when he told her that he felt he’d known her forever.

Richie pressed a kiss to Jennifer’s forehead. “Ah, sweetheart, you are definitely under my skin, and have wiggled your way into my heart,” he whispered. Then, more content than he’d been in a long time, Richie drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.

Kids and Dogs

When Jennifer finally pulled into the garage, she was so tense she could cry. Her shoulders were killing her, and she hadn’t stopped gripping the tattoo on the back of her neck for the last two hours. About an hour before the close of trading, the system went down. Jennifer had received a frantic page, and took off for the trading floor. She rallied the troops, and got the issue sorted out, but not before close of business, so there were going to be issues tomorrow. Fantastic. “Fuck it,” she said out loud. “I have tomorrow off and I’m taking it off.” She needed to take Richie to the airport in the morning, and in the afternoon, she was picking up Stephanie, a friend from the board, who was spending the Fourth with her.

Jennifer got out of the car and she slumped up the hallway to the house, dumping her stuff just inside the kitchen door. Unwinding her hair, knowing Richie liked it when she wore it down, she kicked the door closed behind her and looked around. No Richie. On the counter was a half pitcher of frozen margaritas and a glass. In front of the glass was a note that said “DRINK ME”. She smiled and picked up the frosty glass. Taking a slow sip, she sighed. The cool drink felt heavenly going down her throat.

Jennifer passed into the dining room, and saw there was a box of chocolates from the local shop on the table. She saw another little hand-written card. “EAT ME” it said. She selected a milk chocolate caramel and bit into it, moaning with pleasure at the creamy smooth texture and the wonderful flavor. She picked up the box and went looking for the next little surprise.

Wandering into the great room, she saw her very favorite silk robe draped across the back of one of the high-backed chairs in front of the fireplace. A big sign propped up against the chair legs said “STRIP AND WEAR ME”. Jennifer’s pulse kicked up a notch. What was he playing at? She shrugged and stripped off her clothes, knotting the robe around her waist. As was her habit, she put her hands in the pockets for a moment, and was surprised to find another note. “Come upstairs,” it said.

Smiling in earnest now, she picked up her drink and the candy, and climbed the staircase. At the top of the stairs was a sample of CDs from her collection: all mellow, soothing music. Some jazz, some blues, a little soft rock. There was another note. “PICK ONE”. She did, and started for her bedroom. The stereo in her room had a “PLAY IT NOW” sign on it, and she inserted the CD, and a soft saxophone started to play. She heard water splash in the bathroom, and saw the door was open a crack.

She hip-checked the door, setting it swinging open silently on its hinges, and her breath caught in her throat. Richie had drawn a bath in the deep claw-foot tub, and she could smell her favorite bath salts on the air. There was a frothy foam in the tub surrounding the most gorgeous thing she’d seen all day. Richie was sitting waist-high in the bubbles, with a smile on his face. He had a sign around his neck on a string that said “HUG ME”.

Tears sprang to Jennifer’s eyes, and she put her drink and chocolates down on the counter. She unknotted the robe, and dropped it to the floor. Slowly, she padded across the bathroom floor, until she came to the side of the tub. Silently, Richie stood, and Jennifer got into the tub, and hugged him tight. His arms came around her waist, holding her close, and he kissed the top of her head. After a few moments, he turned her, so her back was to his front, and urged her to sit. He sat behind her, his legs coming around either side of her.

Richie put his hands on Jennifer’s shoulders and winced. “You are so tense, sweetheart,” he said.

“Day sucked,” Jennifer answered, then turned her head to kiss his cheek. “But the evening is definitely looking up. Thank you.”

“Wanna talk about it?” Richie asked as he started to squeeze at the knots in her shoulders.

“You sure you want to hear about it?”

Richie pushed her hair aside and kissed the ‘N’ on back of her neck. “Absolutely.”

So, Jennifer told him about the endless meetings, the business people who change their minds every other day about what they want, then the coup de grace: someone used a system password the wrong way and invalidated it, making the trading system stop working. They got it working again, but people weren’t happy. “I am so glad I have tomorrow off,” she said, “but sad you have to go.”

“I’m not exactly thrilled either,” he said, “though since I get to see my daughter, I can’t really be sad.”

“What’s she like?” Jennifer asked, and Richie smiled. He loved talking about his little girl. He told her stories about her as a baby, and some of the things she liked to do and how much of a smart ass she was, like her father, but in all other respects she was like her mother. Jennifer was quiet for a minute. “How is she coping with her mother’s problems?”

“As well as any little girl could,” he answered. “She’s got quite an extended network of family, though, and she’s doing okay. I think you’d like her.”

“Of course I would,” Jennifer answered. “I love kids. Kids and dogs. Sometimes not in that order.”

Richie laughed. “I think she’d like you too.”

“Probably,” Jennifer said, practically, “but I don’t think that’s a really good idea right now, do you?”

Richie chuckled. “No, probably not. But at some point, you’ll need to meet.”

“Yep, you’re right, but it’s too soon. She’s got enough to worry about without worrying about someone else taking your time away from her.” Jennifer took a deep breath.

“What?” Richie said, knowing there was more she wanted to say.

“Nothing,” Jennifer answered. “I was just going to say that there’s plenty of time for a meet. We have all summer to set that up, right?” She held her breath, waiting for the answer.

“Absolutely,” Richie said right away.

Richie kneaded on the knots in her shoulders and neck until he felt her relax, then he pulled her up against his chest and leaned back against the side of the tub. Jennifer’s head fell back against his shoulder, and Richie couldn’t help but kiss her neck. She sighed and relaxed more in his embrace, and rested her hands on the sides of the tub. Richie smiled and scooped up two handfuls of bubbles and dropped them on her breasts, making her laugh.

Richie chuckled too, and started rubbing away the bubbles with a gentle fingertip, each stroke tickling and tantalizing Jennifer more than the last. By the time he removed the last of the foam, Jennifer was tense again, but for a different reason. She could feel too, that Richie was just as turned on as she was. She smiled. “Well hello there,” she said, scooting her ass forward so she could slip a hand behind her back. “I’m happy to see you, too.”

“Ohhh,” Richie said, as her hand closed around him. “Jen, you don’t have to – I mean this isn’t what I was planning…”

“I know,” Jennifer answered. “Doesn’t mean I don’t want it.” They stood together, pulling thick towels from the rack on the wall. After wiping the bubbles from their skin, Jennifer took Richie’s hand and led him to the bedroom. She urged him down on to the bed, and took a condom from the bedside drawer. She opened it quickly, and rolled it on slowly, then climbed on top of him and sunk onto his cock. She threaded her fingers with his, and pushed his hands down next to his head. She rode him unhurriedly, sipping from his mouth gently, like she had all the time in the world. As far as she was concerned, she did. They did. His thoughtfulness over the days she’d been with him, both here and in England, the tenderness and caring he’s shown; the laughter they’ve shared and the sense of home she felt when she was with him; it all just embedded him in her heart.

As they crested together, calling each others’ names, she squinched her eyes shut so Richie wouldn’t see the moisture in them.

She was falling in love with him.

And she was petrified it was much too soon.

(c) 2008 by TheGoddessHathor

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