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

Distractions, Distractions

Monday, September 28, 2009
Jennifer was working in her office when there was a light knock on the door. She turned around to find Ava standing there, toeing the rug.

“Hey Sundrop,” Jennifer said, making the little girl smile. “What’s up?”

“I had a question about the bedroom I’m sleeping in.” Ava and Joan had been with her for nearly a week now, and Ava had made herself completely at home. She had her father rearrange some of the furniture in the room she was using, and put some photos and other little decorations from her sightseeing adventures around the room.

“Sure,” Jen answered, turning from her computer. “What’s your question?”

“Well,” she answered, very tentative.

“Oh, do you want a different room?” Jennifer asked. “It’s okay if you do, there are plenty to choose from.”

“No, I like it, really I do it’s just…” she trailed off and shoved her hands in her pockets. “Well, is it my room?”

“Of course it is!” Jennifer answered. “For as long as you come to visit me.” She tried to figure out where Ava was going with this line of questioning.

“Well, then, would it be okay to change stuff in it?”

“Oh!” Jennifer said, her words clicking something in her head. “Would you like to make it a different color? Maybe decorate it differently?”

Not knowing what her tastes ran to, Jennifer gave her a non-descript beige room. It was literally a blank slate; filled with enough furniture to make a serviceable guest room. The furniture was basic, done plain oak: the headboard of the queen-sized bed, two book-cases, a big desk, two dressers (one of which has a gorgeous mirror), two nightstands, a lighted vanity, and bench for the end of the bed. It had a fantastic view of the pond, and Jen thought Ava would like it, but it really was quite plain.

Ava sighed with relief. “Yes!” she said excitedly, clasping her hands under her chin. She just as quickly dropped them. “Would that be okay?”

“Sweetheart of course it would,” Jennifer said. “Do you know what you want?”

“Sorta,” Ava hedged.

“Come on, Ava, spill.”

And she did. Ava had great ideas. She wanted to paint the walls a pale green, with either floral or lilac-colored accents. Maybe a stenciled floral border at chair-rail height, and she wanted to find throw rugs and curtains and bedding to match.

“Daddy will buy everything for me,” she finished, looking at Jen nervously.

“Should we paint the furniture, too?” Jennifer asked, ignoring the remark about the money. “We can pick up the green and lilac colors from the wall, or do something contrasting in pink or just make everything white.”

“We could do that?”

“Sure, why not?” Jennifer logged off from work and got up. “Get your shoes and your grandma, sunshine, we’re going shopping!”

While Ava ran off, shouting “Yippee!”, Richie came into the office.

“What was that all about?” he asked.

“We are redecorating your daughter’s room,” Jen answered. “We’re going to make it so girly and sweet it’ll make your teeth ache. She ran off to get Joan.” She squinted at him. “How do you feel about painting?”

“Lukewarm,” Richie admitted, “but anything for Ava. You sure about this?”

“Rich, if she’s going to spend any kind of time here, I want her to be comfortable, and to feel comfortable asking for things. Changing the color of a room is no big deal. I’ll get my brother and dad to help with the painting. You’ll have fun.”

“Fun? If you say so,” Richie said, doubtfully. He reached into his back pocket to pull out his wallet.

“What are you doing?”

“Funding my daughter’s shopping excursion,” he said. “What, you think I expect you to pay for her whims?”

“Sweetheart, I think I can manage a bedspread and some sheets for my own house.” She kissed him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “But thank you; Ava said you’d pay for it.”

“We’re ready, Jen!” Ava called, running back into the room. “Hi Daddy! We’re going to redo my room! Jennifer said it’s okay!” She ran over to the woman in question. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she gushed, hugging Jen tightly.

Jennifer laughed and hugged her back. “You’re welcome. Rich, call my brother, have him help you move the furniture out onto the deck. You’re gonna paint that too.”

“Yes dear,” Richie said, kissing her again and rolling his eyes on his way out of the room.

After stopping at Sherwin-Williams and Home Depot, the women dropped off gallons of paint in various colors, brushes, rollers, drop cloths, rolls and rolls of painters tape, buckets and even painter’s hats. Jennifer’s brother was already there, and the two men were starting to bring the furniture out onto the deck.

“Back already?” Richie asked. “That didn’t take long.”

“That was just trip one,” Jennifer said. “We got your painting supplies. Now you guys can start while we go do the serious shopping.”

Ava showed her father what colors she wanted where, and had him repeat it three times before she was satisfied. “Just like her mother,” Richie grumbled good-naturedly, and waved as she ran off.

Three hours and two department stores later, they were set. Ava picked out a gorgeous Laura Ashley print, and Jennifer had almost as much fun as Ava, getting matching curtains, throw rugs, towels for her bathroom, and an extra set of sheets so they could re-upholster the bench. Joan would help them make a huge over-stuffed cushion for sitting on the floor. The car was packed with bags by the time they got back to the house.

They went out back to find Richie and both Johns speckled with paint. Jennifer’s parents had come along to visit, and Ma was barking orders at the men. The men were finishing the last of the furniture when the girls rounded the corner.

“We’re back!” Ava called out.

“The room’s done,” Richie called out, “but still stinks.”

“That’s alright, Daddy,” Ava chirped, “I can sleep with you and Jen again.”

Joan saw the pained expression flit across her son’s face. “Ava, honey, why don’t you sleep with me tonight? We haven’t done that in ages.”

“OK, Grandma,” Ava said. “Let’s go see my room!” She led her grandmother into the house, and Ma couldn’t resist laughing.

“Ava been spending time with you at night, has she?” Ma asked, smiling.

“Yeah,” Jennifer answered, walking across the porch. “She’ll be happier in her room once it’s all done.” She pointed at the bags. “John?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’ll be your Sherpa,” he groused, but went to fetch the packages.

The women unpacked everything, and Ma got the sheets into the wash. “Nothing like freshly-laundered sheets,” she said. They set about ironing the curtains, and measuring the cushion on the bench so they could re-cover it.

When the phone rang, Jennifer hastened to answer it. “Yes?” she asked. After a few moments, she smiled. “Outstanding, see you then.”

When she hung up the phone, Joan and Ava were just coming back downstairs. Ava had a smile a mile wide on her face. “The walls are perfect,” she gushed. “And they did all the – whatchamacallit – trim in that purpley color and it looks awesome!”

“I just got off the phone with the rug guy,” Jennifer said.

“Rug guy?” Ava asked.

“Yep, they’re coming tomorrow to put down a lilac rug so your feet won’t be cold if you’re here in the winter. Once that’s down, we can move the furniture back in, hang the drapes and we’ll be done! The color is light enough that the throw rugs will blend beautifully.”

“You’re the best, Jen,” Ava said, hugging her close. “I love you.” She ran out to tell her father about the rug, not noticing the tears of joy in Jennifer’s eyes.

Lots of Love

Sunday, September 13, 2009
Monday was an uneventful day at work. By the time lunchtime had rolled around, bringing a cab-ful of Samboras, Jen was more than ready to leave with them. She stuck out the day, however, like a good worker bee, and arrived home with a case full of folders and papers, ready for the rest of the week.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Ava and Joan were out on the grounds feeding the ducks at the pond, and Jen was taking a break, snuggled with Rich in the living room, and logged onto the board. The first post she read made her gasp. “Holy shit, look what Jon is doing.”

One of the women on the board had asked what a male orgasm felt like and Jon answered in graphic detail.

It starts with a tingling in your thighs. It's electric. If it's a really really good one, your toes will curl...you won't be able to stop them. Then your muscles tighten, and tense. It's like a massage from the inside out. Yeah! That's the best way to describe it!

Richie was laughing outright at Jon’s description.

Let me try this another way.

Have you ever tried to squeeze all the blood out of your arm? Then let it rush back in? Try it sometime...not the actual feeling...but the sensation...that's it. You feel it not just in your groin but in your head. You get light headed,....it really does feel like the top's gonna come off your head…if it's a really good one.

The girls got bolder, and asked him what it was like to go down on a woman, and damned if Jon didn’t answer. Graphically.

That's a tough one to describe. Mostly, because that's another one of those things that you, being a woman, might not be able to picture and get what I mean. But I'll try....

There's a certain sense of triumph when a woman opens herself to you like that. There's got to be a certain element of trust there, ya know? She's trusting you to keep her safe while she loses control. You've got to hold on and keep your mind in the game, but it's hard to do sometimes. There's a reason the French call an orgasm 'the little death'. I get a thrill knowing I can send her flying into the stratosphere with just my tongue and fingers.

Oh, and I gotta admit, I like a little bit of fur. Neatly trimmed. I like when it tickles my nose.

“God,” Jen said, laughing. “I so want to out Jon on this board. Could you imagine what everyone would do if they knew who they were talking to? They’d freaking DIE.”

“You’re mean,” Richie said, laughing. “ But, I’d do it in a heartbeat if Jon wouldn’t kill me. Ooh, look at what they’re asking now.”

Jen rolled her eyes. “Damn, what the hell are they trying to do? It’s a damned good thing this is an 18 and over board.” The question was,

So, are blow job orgasms are better than sex orgasms??

Jon was going on with yet another full-blown graphic description, and the girls were being thick. On purpose, she’d bet. “Christ, even I know what he’s talking about,” Jen said, blushing. “Even though I so didn’t need to know that information about him.”

She typed furiously for a minute, Richie hanging over her shoulder.

I think he means they're different kinds of good. Kinda like the difference between getting slammed by a gloriously thick cock so hard he feels like he's poking your womb, and being lapped at by a clever tongue so gently and tenderly you think you're gonna lose your mind...

“Damn, babe. You’re making me hard.” Jennifer rubbed Richie’s growing erection, loving the way it felt sliding under her palm.

“What?” Jen said. “It’s true. Look,” she said, pointing at the screen. “Even Jon thinks so. This is so fucking weird.”

He watched Jennifer type some more, and laughed. “Do you really need a ‘whore’s bath’ after that little exchange?”

Jennifer laughed and checked her watch. “No,” she said, “that was just to keep up with the game. But, if YOU were to describe those things to me well, I’d need more than a whore’s bath to be ready to face...”

“Face what?” Richie asked.

“Jennifer!” her mother called from the kitchen. “We’re here! Joan and Ava found us, and we’re making dinner.”

Richie looked at Jennifer, surprised. “Told you I wasn’t going to tell you the next time my family was descending. How’s your lap?”

“Shriveling,” Richie said, making Jennifer laugh.

Arms around each other’s waists, Richie helped Jennifer limp up the hall. They hit the entryway just as a little voice called out “Auntie Jen! Where are you?”

“Right here, bean,” Jennifer called out, and stooped over to hug her niece. “Oooh, I missed you,” she said, hugging the little girl close. Joanna wrapped her legs around Jennifer’s waist, and Jen hoisted the little girl onto her hip with a groan.

“You alright, babe?” Richie asked, putting a gentle hand on her back.

“Fine, sweetie,” she said, and tipped her head back for a kiss.

Joanna studied Richie. “I remember you, you were at Grandma’s house.” She studied Riche’s face. “You kissed Auntie Jen.”

Richie laughed and tapped a fingertip on the end of her nose. “I sure did,” he said.

Jennifer put her niece down and greeted her brother and sister-in-law. “Hey guys,” she said. “C’mon in.” She led them to the living room, and had everyone sit down. “MA!” she yelled really loudly, making Joanna laugh. “THE TALL KID IS HERE!”

“For heaven’s sake, you don’t have to yell,” Ma shouted back.

“Well,” Jennifer said, “the doctor said to stay off my knee, so I didn’t want to come ALL the way into the kitchen.”

“Lazy bi— uh, bum,” her brother said, casting a wary eye on his daughter, the parrot. At a dollar a swear, so far this summer Joanna had collected nearly fifty dollars from her father.

“Hello,” Richie’s mother said, as she came out of the kitchen. “I’m Richard’s mother, Joan,” she said, introducing herself to Jennifer’s brother and his family.

“I thought you and Ava were outside?” Richie asked.

“We were, until we heard the car pull up. Jennifer told us her family was coming over today.” She smiled wryly at her son. “Didn’t she let you know?”

“Richard,” Ma said, coming out to say hello to her son. “Ava’s in the kitchen with my husband, finishing the salad.”

Richie wandered off to the kitchen, shaking his head. He wanted to bring Ava out to meet the rest of Jennifer’s family. “Hey Angel,” Richie said to his daughter as he went into the kitchen. “How’s it going?”

“Fine, daddy,” Ava answered, carefully tearing lettuce into little pieces. “I like Ma and John. They’re nice.”

“Jennifer’s brother and wife and niece are here, do you want to come say hi?” Ava shook her head. “What’s wrong, baby?” Richie asked, pulling his daughter into his arms and lifting her up to sit on the counter. John discreetly left the two alone and went to greet his son.

Ava was quiet for a minute. “Ma was telling me about their huge family with all the cousins and aunts and uncles and Jennifer’s got her brother and niece and,” she sniffed. “Does she have room for me?”

Richie was surprised. “Did Jennifer make you feel like she doesn’t?” He was going to have serious words with the woman if she had.

Ava shook her head. “No, daddy, she has been super nice to me. But she already has so many people to love, is there enough left over for me?”

“Of course there is,” Richie said. “She has a lot of love in her to give.” He scooped his daughter up and sat on a kitchen chair, cuddling her into his chest. That’s where Jennifer found them.

“Here you are,” she said, smiling. “The house isn’t THAT big that you forgot how to get to the living room, is it? I can leave a trail of bread crumbs – what’s wrong?”

Ava looked up at Jennifer, and saw actual concern in her face, not the fake stuff that some ladies showed just to make her daddy think they liked her. “Nothing,” she said softly.

Richie shook his head, letting Jennifer know there was something wrong, but he’d talk to her about it later. “Are you sure, sweetie? Did Ma make you upset? We can shove her in the fireplace if she did.”

That made Ava laugh. “No, Ma is cool.” She was quiet for a minute. “She said you have six sets of aunts and uncles, and fifteen cousins and some of your cousins have kids.”

Jennifer nodded. “Yep, my mom is one of seven kids, and my grandmother is one of eleven, so Ma had ten sets of aunts and uncles, and THEY all have kids and grand kids and some of them have great-grandkids.” She laughed. “Nanna’s grandkids, me and my brother and my cousins, planned an 85th birthday party for her. We invited every family member we could find. We had more than a hundred and fifty people. There are a whole lot of us Petruzzo’s running around.”

“And you know every single one of them?” Ava asked.

Jennifer had no idea where this was going. “Some of them I hadn’t met until the day of the party. But, I know them all now, well the ones who came to the party anyway, and love every single one of them.”

“That’s a lot.”

“A lot of what? People to love?” Jennifer asked, and Ava nodded. “It is, I guess, but it isn’t even everyone. I mean of course I love my family, but I love my friends and their families too, and I know a LOT of people.” She laughed.

“And you love Daddy,” Ava said.

“Yep, and you and your grandma Joan too,” Jennifer said.

Ava’s eyes went wide. “You do?”

“Of course I do! Oh, unless that makes you feel uncomfortable, then I guess I can try to stop,” Jen answered.

Ava wriggled down off her father’s lap and crossed to Jennifer. She gave the woman a gentle hug. “No, that’s okay. I don’t mind. Can I meet your niece now?”

Jennifer stroked Ava’s hair and met Richie’s eyes over his daughter’s head, a question in them. Richie just nodded and smiled and mouthed, “later” and Jennifer took Ava’s hand and led her out to the other room.

The two girls hit it off right away, though Ava was nearly six years older. She helped Joanna set the table, then the two girls ran around the house playing some game that only they knew. Dinner was a loud and boisterous affair, with Ma and Joan telling stories about their respective children, and lots of laughter. They demolished the better part of two trays of lasagna and two loaves of garlic bread.

After the girls were excused, the women chatted at one end of the table, while Richie and the Johns talked football. Jennifer thought it would come to blows when they started talking about the most recent SuperBowl. They got themselves under control, but not before Joanna made fifteen dollars that night.

Jennifer’s parents left after dessert, and Joan excused herself to go upstairs and watch a show she liked. Jennifer and Sue were in the kitchen with the girls, who were playing a game at the table. The men were in the living room, talking shop. Richie was surprised that Jennifer’s brother knew so much about different instruments and musical arrangements, and enjoyed talking with him. “Man, we should jam together some time. You know, just mess around.”

John’s eyes went wide. “Really?” he asked. “That would be cool. How long you here for?”

Richie shrugged. “That depends on your sister, I guess,” he said. “I’ll stay until she gets sick of me, or until I need to take Ava back to her mother’s.”

John considered the man across from him. “You know that if you hurt her, Dad and I will kill you, right?”

Richie nodded somberly. “I know,” he said. “Don’t worry, I don’t plan on hurting your sister. I love her.”

“John, leave him alone,” Jennifer said, coming back into the living room. “You are the younger brother, dear, and I can take care of myself.”

John smiled and stood to buss her sister’s cheek. “Someone has to look out for you,” he said. “You typically make shitty decisions when it comes to men.” He winked at Richie. “This one seems okay though.” He went into the kitchen to collect the rest of his family. Jennifer just shook her head.

“Sorry about that,” she said. “The men in my family are protective of their women.”

“So I gathered,” Richie answered. “So about earlier...”

“Yeah, what happened? Did I do something to upset Ava?” Jennifer crossed the room slowly, and sat on Richie’s lap.

Richie shook his head. “No, she was just concerned when your mother was talking about what a big family you have that you wouldn’t have room in your heart for her.”

Jennifer got tears in her eyes. “Oh that poor child,” she said. “Of course there’s room in my heart for her.”

“You handled it perfectly, though you didn’t know what you were handling.” He kissed her tenderly.

“Jeez, guys, there are kids in the room,” John said, and the girls giggled. “We’re gonna take off. Gotta get the monster to bed.”

“I’m not a monster,” Joanna said. “I’m a girl.”

“Bye, guys,” Jennifer said, not leaving the comfort of Richie’s lap. Joanna ran over for hugs and kisses from her aunt then looked at Richie.

“Bye, Uncle Richie,” she said, and kissed his cheek. Then she ran over to Ava. “Are you my cousin now?” she asked, as she hugged the girl. “I always wanted a girl cousin. Uncle Greg and Uncle Matt have all boys.”

Ava smiled. “I don’t think I’m officially your cousin, but we can pretend.”

“Okay,” Joanna said happily.

The adults exchanged hugs and kisses, and Jennifer’s family left. “Well,” she said to Ava, “what did you think of my family?”

“They were fun. I really like Joanna, and your brother is funny, like Uncle David.”

“They liked you too, Joanna-bean especially,” Jennifer said.

“Why do you call her bean?” Ava asked.

Jennifer laughed. “The very first picture I ever saw of her was a sonogram, and she looked like little kidney bean, so I nicknamed her ‘bean’. Guess it just stuck.”

“What did you think I looked like when you saw me?”

Jennifer smiled. “A beautiful, golden flower. You’re so tall, and your hair is like molten gold,” she said, sifting it through her fingers. “I think you look like a beautiful Sundrop. Should I call you that?”

Ava smiled. “That would be cool. I’m going to go upstairs and see what Grandma is doing.”

“Ok, Sundrop,” Jennifer said, smiling. She and Richie watched the girl run up the stairs.

“Thank you,” Richie said.

“For what?” Jennifer asked.

“For making her feel like she’s part of your family. She hasn’t had the best couple of years.”

“Rich, you don’t have to thank me for that. She’s a wonderful little girl, and for as long as you’re part of my life, she’s part of my family.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I was so nervous about meeting her. She’s a dream.” Jennifer yawned widely. “Speaking of dreams, I need to go make some. I’m exhausted.”

“I’m not tired yet; I’ll walk you up, but I’m gonna stay up for a while.” He scooped Jennifer up and carried her upstairs. He’s been keeping his promise of always carrying her to bed, and Jennifer giggled the whole way. Richie deposited her gently on the bed, and kissed her thoroughly.

“Your eyes are closing, baby,” he said gently. “Go to bed. I’ll be in later.”

“Okay, sweetheart. I love you.”

“Love you too.”


Tuesday, September 8, 2009
“Darlin’, we’re here,” Richie announced into the gate at the end of the driveway, even as he punched in the code.

“You made great time from the airport,” Jen’s voice answered. “Now hurry up so I can meet your daughter, and we can get dinner going.”

The gates slid open and Riche’s rental glided through.

“Daddy, this is almost as big as our house,” she said. “Is Jennifer in a band, too?”

Richie laughed. “No sweetie, she makes her money using her brains, not her voice.”

“Whoa,” his daughter answered, as the house came into view. “It’s so pretty!”

Richie parked the car and switched off the ignition. “Ready?” he asked the two ladies in the back.

“Ready, dear,” Joan answered, smiling. “Why didn’t she mention anything about meeting me, dear?” she added sweetly.

Richie was saved from answering by the front door opening. Jennifer came out onto the porch, smiling and waving.

“Oh, Richard, she’s lovely,” Joan said. “Her poor leg.”

“She’s alright, Ma,” Richie answered. “Uh, c’mon.”

Jennifer had watched the sleek black car wind up the driveway. The windows were tinted, so she couldn’t see where Ava was sitting. She was nervous to meet this little girl. She knew that Richie doted on his daughter, as a Dad should, and hoped like crazy that Ava would like her.

As Richie’s door opened, he unfolded his frame from the seat with a grace big men didn’t often enjoy. When he stood, and smiled at her, Jennifer’s heart started to beat faster. She was so glad he was here. “Where’s your daughter?” she called out.

The rear driver-side door opened, and a tall, gorgeous little blonde girl emerged. She wore denim capris and layered tank tops and plastered herself to her father’s side, waving shyly at Jennifer. “Hi,” she called. “I’m Ava. I like your house.”

“Hi Ava,” Jennifer called back. “Thanks, I’m Jennifer, and I like it too. Come on in.”

“What about Grandma?”

“Grandma?” Jennifer asked. Holy shit, she thought, he brought his mother. A moment of panic swept through her, quickly replaced by annoyance. She was going to kill Richie. “Of course Grandma can come in too. Where is she?”

The other rear door opened, and an older woman with Riche’s easy smile slid out. She was wearing light cotton pants and a peach sweater over an ivory shell. “Right here, dear. It’s lovely to meet you.” Jennifer came down the stairs slowly and extended her hand to Richie’s mother.

She was going to absolutely kill him for not warning her.

“It’s a pleasure and a surprise to meet you, Mrs. Sambora. Welcome to my home.”

“What on earth were you thinking?” Joan asked her son, cuffing the back of his head. They were in the room Jennifer had chosen for her; the one next to Ava’s. Richie was helping his mother unpack her things. “You don’t spring a surprise like this on a woman! Honestly.” She had taken one look at the visage of terror on Jen’s face, and knew that her usually smart son hadn’t bothered to tell her that he was bringing his mom for a visit. Jennifer had covered nicely, though.

“Ma, I didn’t want to make her nervous, worrying about you coming,” Richie answered. “And truth be told, it was sort of a spur-of-the-moment decision. To come with Ava, I mean.”

Joan shook her head. “I don’t care. You needed to give the woman a warning.”

Ava came in then, with Jennifer close behind. “She’s got the coolest fireplace, Grandma. I bet we could fit a car in there!”

“Even your Daddy’s Humvee?”

“Even that one,” she said, smiling. “And there are ducks in the pond out back, and a room just for watching movies, like at Uncle Jon’s house, and…” she chattered on, talking about the tour Jennifer had taken her on.

She shot a glare at Richie, and he looked sheepishly down at his feet. “Uh, sorry about springing Ma on you.”

“Richard!” Joan admonished. “Do not compound your idiocy by lying to the woman.” She looked at her granddaughter. “Your father didn’t tell Jennifer that I was coming. He thought it would make a nice surprise.”

Ava frowned up at her grandmother. “Why wouldn’t you be a nice surprise?”

Jennifer laughed. “It’s fine, really. I have the room, and you’re not nearly as scary as I thought you’d be. Did Rich show you the bathroom and where the towels and such are?” Joan nodded. “Great. Why don’t we all go downstairs to the kitchen for some fresh lemonade?”

“C’mon, Grandma,” Ava chirped, pulling on the older woman’s hand. “I know where everything is already.”

When they were out of earshot, Jennifer punched Richie in the arm.

“Ow!” he complained, rubbing his bicep. “Jen, I know I should have told you, but you were already so nervous at meeting Ava and—”

“And you thought it would be better to spring them both on me at once? Nice.” She shook her head. “Remind me to forget to tell you the next time my family’s dropping by, Mr. Sleeps Naked.” She sighed. “Oh, alright, come help me downstairs.”

Down in the kitchen, Ava and Joan were sitting in the sunny nook, overlooking the back yard. “You have a lovely home,” Joan said. “Ava showed me all around down here.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Sambora.”

“’Joan’, honey,” she said. “Please call me ‘Joan’.”

“Joan then, thank you. I wasn’t planning on anything fancier than hamburgers and hot dogs out on the grill for dinner. I could zip out the store and get something else if you’d rather have something more grown-up.”

“Heavens no,” Joan answered. “Whatever you have planned is perfectly fine. What can I do to help?”

“Not a thing. Rich is going to do all the work. We can sit and you can tell me all about when he was little, and all the stupid things he used to do.”

“As opposed to this latest smart thing?”

Jennifer laughed. “Exactly so. Would you like an onion burger or a cheese one?”

Joan smiled. “Cheese, please.”

“Just like me, Grandma!” Ava said. “’Cept I’m having a hot dog too because I’m starving!”

“There’s some fruit in the fridge if you’d like.” She turned to Richie. “Please bring the fruit salad and some bowls and spoons, then you can get dinner going. The rolls are in the freezer and need to be thawed before they’re toasted. The meat’s in the fridge. Onions and cheese are already diced, you just have to add them to the meat and make the patties – the press is over there,” she pointed to the counter, then turned away.

Richie swallowed hard. He certainly hoped Jennifer wasn’t too mad at him. He wanted to be able to enjoy this visit with all his girls. He fetched the fruit, bowls, and spoons and brought them to the table. When he turned to go back to the fridge, Jen caught his arm. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” she asked, eyes twinkling. When he just stared at her, she tapped her cheek.

Smiling widely, he leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Hi baby,” he said. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” she answered, and leaned forward to peck his lips. “Now, back to the cooking ,wench!”

Ava and Joan laughed, and Joan launched into a story about Richie as a precocious 3-year old who steadfastly refused to keep his clothes on. Ava told a story about how he bought her a purple Hannah Montana guitar, and tuned it in the store before bringing it home, and how the clerk took his picture with his camera phone, “and Daddy had to pay him a hundred dollars to erase the picture.”

“Yeah,” Richie said, “it was just what I didn’t need Uncle David ever seeing.” He took the plate of meat out to the patio. “You want to eat out here?” he called back into the kitchen.

“Sure,” Jennifer answered.

After Richie cooked, they all enjoyed their dinner out in the warm evening air. When the bugs came out in earnest, they adjourned to the living room, and Joan had Ava run up to her room to bring down the albums she had brought. Jennifer, sitting on Richie’s lap, clapped with delight as Joan flipped through the “Photos of young Richard” as she called them.

By the time they got through the last of the albums, Ava was nodding off. Richie scooped her up and carried her up the stairs. “If you wait,” he said softly, I’ll be back for you.”

“No, don’t be silly,” Jennifer said. “I can manage for one night.” She turned to Joan and said, “Rich told me that he’d carry me up to bed at night when he was here so I didn’t have to do the stairs. He’s very sweet.”

“When he isn’t being an idiot, yes, he is a sweet boy,” Joan answered.

“Ma,” Richie complained.

“Clean slate tomorrow,” Joan sing-songed. “A rule in our house,” she explained to Jennifer. “No matter what happened, it had to be resolved by the time you retired. When you woke up, it was with a clean slate.”

When they got upstairs, Richie brought Ava into her room and Jennifer pulled down the bedclothes for her. When Richie put her down, she yawned and asked innocently, “Where is your room, Daddy?”

He pointed out the door and said, “Across the hall, baby girl.”

Ava frowned. “But that’s Jennifer's room".

“Yes dear,” Joan said, winking at Jennifer. “Daddy’s sleeping in there to help her in the night if she needs it. Her bed is very tall, remember?”

Ava nodded. “OK, Nanna, but you are so lying. I’ll bet he just missed her."

“You’re both right honey,” Richie said, kissing her daughter’s forehead. “Now get some sleep, and tomorrow, when Jen goes to work, I’ll show you all around her town. Maybe we can go into Boston too, and meet her for lunch?” He looked at Jennifer, who nodded.

“That sounds great, Rich,” Jennifer answered. “Goodnight Ava, sweetheart. If you need anything, come right in and get your Daddy, okay?”

“Okay. Do you have to work all week?”

Jennifer smiled and sat on the edge of Ava’s bed. “Nope, my boss is a great guy, and I’ve arranged to go in tomorrow because it’s Monday, and get things all set up for the week. Then, I can work from my home-office the rest of the time. It’ll be great, because then I don’t have to dress up.” She pulled a face.

Ava giggled. “I like to dress up.”

“Me too, once in a while, but every day? Bo-ring.” She rolled her eyes, making Ava giggle again. “We’ll have plenty of time to hang out get to know each other, alright?”

“Okay. Can we swim in the lake?”

Jennifer shuddered. “If you want, but the water’s icky. We can go to my Mom’s one day; she has a pool and would love to meet you and your grandmother, I’m sure.”

“How come you don’t have a pool?”

Jen laughed. “I promised my Dad I wouldn’t get one; that way I have to go see them all the time, at least in the summer. I always keep my promises, especially to my Daddy.”

“Me too.” Ava yawned widely. “I’m sleepy. ‘Night Daddy. ‘Night Grandma. G’night, Jennifer.”

Ava collected goodnight kisses from her father and grandmother, and closed her eyes. Richie and Jennifer said goodnight to Joan at her door, and disappeared into Jennifer’s room. When Jen would have left the door open, Richie closed it behind them.

“What are you doing?” she hissed.

Richie took her into his arms and kissed her thoroughly. For long minutes, his arms held her up as her legs went weak. For long minutes, his hands spanned her back and held her close to his heart. For long minutes, he made love to her mouth until she was breathless and weak. When he broke the kiss, he smiled into her eyes. “I’m greeting you properly, and didn’t want an audience. Granted, it’s not how I want to spend our first night back together, but I can’t be sure that Ava won’t wake up looking for me.”

All Jennifer could manage was a moan and a whimper.

“Daddy?” a voice called from across the hall.

Richie chuckled. “Be right there, angel,” he called. Kissing Jennifer gently one more time he said, “I’ll be back.”

Jennifer went into her bathroom and reluctantly brushed her teeth – she didn’t really want to wash the taste of him from her mouth, but she did. She changed into her sleep shirt and brushed and braided her long hair, securing it with an elastic.

“We’re back,” Richie said softly.

Jen went back into her room to find Richie standing there with Ava in his arms. “She was scared,” he said apologetically.

“It’s fine, sweetheart.” Jennifer went over and smoothed Ava’s hair away from her face. “Put her on my side.”

Richie put his daughter in the bed, and Jennifer climbed in on Richie’s side, scooting carefully to the middle. Ava sighed and rolled over, opening her eyes sleepily.

“It’s alright, Ava,” Jennifer said, stroking the girl’s soft hair. “Daddy’s right here in case we need him.”

“Okay,” she said, and closed her eyes again. “G’night, Jennifer.”

“G’night Ava.”

“Good night, Daddy,” Ava said, over Jen’s shoulder.

“Good night, Princess. I love you,” Richie answered, his eyes warm with love for his daughter.

“Love you too. Heaps.” Ava smiled and settled in to the bed, and was asleep in minutes.

Richie snuggled up against Jen’s back, and wrapped an arm around her waist. “Sorry,” he breathed in her ear. “I was hoping for a different kind of night together.”

Jen turned to lie on her back and looked up into Richie’s pretty eyes. “Rich, it’s okay, really,” she whispered. “I want her to be comfortable here, and if this is what it takes to get her used to the house, that’s fine. Honestly.” She hugged Richie to her. “She’s a beautiful, sweet little girl. You done good, Daddy.”

Richie chuckled. “Well it’s more like I didn’t screw her up too badly, but thanks.” He kissed Jen’s lips and settled in next to her. He sighed with pleasure when Jen rested her head on his bicep and slid her arm around his chest. With his family all safely tucked in around him, Richie relaxed and fell asleep.

(c) 2008 by TheGoddessHathor

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