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

Flirty Birds

Monday, January 25, 2010
Richie was also on the board, and laughed at the PMs he had received from Jennifer and Jon, practically at the same time.

Baby you should have told me Jon was coming. I had next to nothing on when he got here. He looks tired and worried about T's meeting his parents, but he's safe and snug in Gail's room lol....I offered him the place where Stephanie sleeps, but he turned me down.

Man, thanks ever so much for NOT calling Jen before I got here. Fuckwad, I showed up with no advance warning and she was barely wearing anything. I thought seriously about taking her off your hands at that point, but I knew T would kill me. So, consider that bullet dodged, jackass. You’re welcome.

Gotta tell ya, that's one hot woman ya got there, bro. I tried to flirt my way into her bed, and she called me on the bullshit. She's great! I love her already. When are you two getting married?

Married. Richie sat back in his chair and laced his fingers together, resting his hands on his stomach. Sure he loved Jennifer, but wasn’t it too soon to be talking about marriage? “Fucking hell,” Richie said. “Thanks a lot, Jon,” he muttered. Now all he’d be able to think about was Jennifer in a long, white dress. The more he thought about it, the more appealing it became. He fired off a quick note to Jon.

Hey, you could have called her, too, bro. Sorry about that, but damn, she just told me she was only wearing a t-shirt. I trust you kept your hands to yourself... And yeah, like you COULD take her "off my hands". You're not her type.

Besides, in her heels, she'd tower over you, and you hate that shit.

I love her too, bro, and I'd marry her tomorrow if she'd have me.

Hell, I'd just get her not to wear her heels.

Besides, why in the hell do you always have to go straight for the height jab? Damn, you're getting grumpy in your old age... And, when I turn on the charm, I instantly become any woman's "type".

Jennifer was chuckling at Jon. He was playing on the board and writing PMs to her, telling her what he was saying to Rich. He was being silly and she was giggling like an idiot. He really was a lot of fun when he let his hair down.

Yawning and stretching, she congratulated herself on acting normally when Jon showed up unannounced at her house. She thought she did quite well to not trip over her tongue when he walked past her in the mud room. Damn, that man was made for tight jeans. She hadn’t really had any one-on-one time with him since England, and she wasn’t sure what he’d be like, but he was sweet and charming, and when he was flirting with her, even though she knew it was only in jest, she couldn’t help the little shock that ran through her.

She groaned and rubbed her forehead. Why was she even thinking like that? Maybe it was the wine with dinner.

HOW much of that wine did you get? I feel like I drank more than half the bottle.

Maybe you feel like you drank more than half, because you DID!
Tell Rich how hard it was to keep your hands off me. He'll get a kick outta that I'm sure.

Damn.....I didn't think I had THAT much.... and if I recall, I did put my hands on you...just before you decided my bed wasn't good enough for you *snicker*

Baby, I never said your bed wasn't good enough for me. And it's not too late to change rooms.
I'll be right there. Just let me say good night to everyone. Wouldn't wanna be rude, ya know?

Yeah, sure
I don't lock my doors
Fair warning, I've lost the shorts, there babe, and it freaked you out once already today.

You've lost the shorts?! Hot damn, doll, I'll be right there. It didn't freak me out. I was just heart broken on being tempted by forbidden fruit. But, now you tell me it's not forbidden.

Isn't forbidden fruit sweeter? And it's alright, babe, you come to Mama, I'll make you feel alllll better

Forbidden fruit IS sweeter as long as she's not the one doing the forbidding. And since you're not forbidding.... Hey if I'm calling you 'mama', will you call me 'Big Daddy'?

hmmm, I'd like to think I'd be calling you "Oh my gaaaaawwwwwddddd", but I guess I can settle for "Big Daddy". You are taking WAY too long to get your ass in here. I'm starting without you.

Jennifer was laughing outright. Jon was a terrible flirt, almost as bad as Richie. She heard him shout, “I’m comin’ down the hall any minute, doll!”

“Believe it when I see it, baby,” she yelled back.

In his room, Jon chuckled. He was sitting against the headboard with his ankles crossed having one hell of a time. He decided it was time to have some fun at his buddy’s expense.

Did you know that your girl, a hard core Richie girl, just told me her door was unlocked?
*Be right there, Jen*

Jon had to laugh when he got Richie’s response. Damn, looking at the screen, he couldn’t tell if Richie was taking it as a joke or not. That made it funnier. Richie was quick to become jealous. Aside from his up-until-now shitty taste in women, that was his one character flaw. It was just so damned easy to push Rich’s buttons.

 And so damned fun.

You just stay the fuck in your room, if you want to live to see your wedding day.



Hands off, you say?
So, the tongue is okay, then? She’ll be so pleased. I’m very good with my tongue.

Richie was getting pissed. What the hell was Jen doing, encouraging Jon like that? He dialed her number and waited.

When the phone rang, Jennifer yelled, “You’re in the shit now, Jon! Richie’s calling.” She was giggling as she picked up the phone. “Hey there, baby,” she purred. “What’s up?”

“What the hell are you doing with Jon?” Riche demanded, putting Jennifer on the defensive. “Have you been drinking wine?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes, Jon and I shared a couple bottles of a lovely white while we were making and eating dinner.” She was trying hard not to get angry at Richie’s insinuation. She knew that when she drank wine, her emotions ran high. She had no idea what Jon had been telling Rich, but it was time to set him straight. “Look, I'm not doing ANYTHING with Jon; it’s just banter.”

Richie sighed and backed off a little. “Baby, I was just checking. Jon's talking smack and I wanna know how pissed at him to get. He goes too far over the line, you let me know.”

“Do you really think I’d do anything with him? Seriously?” Richie hesitated just a beat too long. “Never mind,” she added. “I see. Thanks for the trust.”

“Jen, it’s just that – ”

“Spare me the sob story, Rich. If you really think I’d even be interested in another guy when I have you, not to mention one who’s sleeping with one of my good friends, and not to MENTION that he’s practically your brother, then you have deeper issues than I can deal with while I have wine on board. Now you’re killing my buzz. I will try to forget this conversation happened. And the day I can’t handle a little banter and keep it platonic is the day I hang up my Goddess title and go back to being a mere mortal. Back off. Good night, Rich.”

“I love you, Jen,” Richie said.

“Yeah, well, for some reason, I don’t quite believe you right now. Talk to you tomorrow.”

Richie stared at his phone when Jen hung up on him. Hung up on him! She’d never done that before.

Jen was fuming. Time to dial it up a notch. If Jon was telling Richie everything they were saying, may as well make it something to get worked up over.

Message delivered, babe. Now hurry up before I finish without yooouuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... too late. damn....mmmmmmmmmmm

Oh, baby, that was just an appetizer. I'll be right there; I've got enough skillz to make you go again...and again....and again.

Well hurry. I don't like to come all the way down before I go up and over again...and again...and again....
Plus, we have to get up in like ugh, three and a half hours. May as well not even go to sleep at this point.

There. Jen knew that Jon was passing along these message to Rich -- let Rich put that in his pipe and smoke it.

Surprise Houseguest

Monday, January 18, 2010
A week later, Jennifer left work early to go to her orthopedist’s office. He examined the flexibility of her leg shortly before five, and was encouraged by the near 90 degrees of motion. He told her she needed a couple more weeks with the brace, but now she should try to walk normally, bending her leg, and she should start doing light stretches to try to loosen up the stiffened muscles. After two weeks, she’d go back to the doctor and they’d re-assess, and most likely start a course of physical therapy.

What made her happiest was that she didn’t have to wear the brace 24x7. She was able to leave it off when she was home, as long as she wasn’t really moving around too much. And she didn’t need to wear it in bed. “Thank god,” she said to her doctor, who laughed.

“Just take it easy,” the doc said. “The muscles around your knee are very weak, and if you over-do, they could become damaged again.

She got stuck in traffic on the way home, but didn’t care. She felt as if she’d been given a reprieve. When she hit her driveway around 6:30, she took mental inventory of what was in the fridge for dinner. After parking out front, and exhaling sharply, Jennifer climbed from her car and took tentative, almost normal steps to her front door. She brought her gear into the living room, and sat on the couch. She unwrapped her leg and did some gentle stretches. Things felt good. She smiled a purely happy smile and leaned back on the couch.

She rewrapped her knee and slowly made her way upstairs to change. She took a quick shower and pulled one of Richie’s “Care for Kelly” t-shirts on over her panties. It came to mid-thigh and still smelled of him. Smiling, she carefully made her way downstairs again. She was poking around the kitchen, still trying to figure out what she wanted to have for dinner when the buzzer by the door rang. Someone was at her gate. Jennifer was puzzled because her friends all had the gate code, or would call first so she would have the gate open for them.

“Yes?” she said into the intercom.

“Jen? Hey, uh, it’s Jon.”

Jennifer was concerned. What the hell was her brother doing here? He should be at work. “John, sweetie, what’s wrong? Is everything okay with Sue? Why didn’t you use the code? Gawd, come on up.” She hit the release on the gate, and went out onto the porch to wait, wringing her hands anxiously. She saw a taxi wind up the driveway.

“What the hell?” she asked, and hobbled down the stairs. She was waiting on the edge of the driveway when the car stopped. She pulled open the back door. “John! Where’s your truck? What happ – oh, SNAP!” She took a staggered step backwards when she saw Jon Bon Jovi get out of the car, not John Petruzzo, who she expected. “What are you doing here? What’s happened?”

Jon smiled wanly, and reached an arm out to steady her. “You haven’t talked to Rich today, I take it?” Jon paid the cab driver, took his bag out of the back and watched as the car wound down the drive.

“No, I haven’t talked to him yet,” Jennifer said. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing major,” Jon said, “just that Cheryl, my assistant, fucked up something with my reservation and I didn’t have anywhere close by to stay. Rich said you wouldn’t mind.”

Jon was scheduled to appear on CNBC’s Squawk Box the next morning at 6am at Gillette Stadium, which was about 20 minutes away from Jennifer’s house.

“Of course I don’t mind, but shit, I would have put pants on if I knew you were coming,” she said, blushing.

Jon leaned in to kiss her cheek. “Thanks, and I won’t tell Rich you greeted me wearing nothing but a t-shirt.”

Jennifer laughed. “Have you eaten? I was just about to make dinner. Grab your gear.” She turned and started for the stairs.

“You’re moving around pretty well,” Jon commented, hastening to catch up with her when she ascended the stairs. Just in case he saw something he shouldn’t.

“Yeah, I got the go-ahead to walk today. HALLELUJAH!” she shouted, raising her arms to the heavens.

Jon clapped a hand over his eyes. “Jesus, Jennifer, don’t do that without pants on!”

“Fuck, I’m sorry. I’m used to girl houseguests,” she said, “or Rich, who doesn’t care if I’m wearing pants or not.”

“Yeah well,” Jon said wryly. “One thing I am not is Rich.” He came up beside her and growled in her ear, “or a girl.”

Jennifer led him into the house and ducked into the mudroom to pull a pair of shorts from the dryer. “Go on through,” she said, and then when she was sure that Jon was in the kitchen, stepped into the soft jersey shorts.

“So, you buying into my team or not?” Jennifer asked, as she pulled a bottle of white wine from the chiller next to the fridge. She handed it to Jon along with a corkscrew, and pointed at the cabinet where the wine glasses were.

Jon chuckled and said, “You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out, doll.” He grinned at her and retrieved two glasses. After expertly uncorking the wine, he poured two glasses. “To surprises,” Jon said, clinking his glass to hers.

“To surprises,” Jennifer echoed, and sipped her wine. “So, I was deciding between chicken picatta and pork stir-fry. What are you in the mood for?”

“Whatever is fine, really,” Jon said. “In fact, I can take you out if you want. It’s the least I can do.”

“No offense, Jon, but I don’t even want to THINK about what the press would say if they photographed us together then learned you were staying here.” She raised her glass in a mock salute. “Besides, I don’t want to get all dressed again. I’m not going back upstairs until it’s time for bed.”

“Then let me know what I can do,” Jon said. “For the stir-fry.”

Jennifer pointed out where the wok and oil were, and he got the meat cooking while she expertly diced the vegetables, and set rice on to boil. She turned on the warming oven and took a foil-wrapped package out of the fridge and slid it in. At Jon’s raised eyebrow, she said, “leftover apple pie. Gotta have it warm.”

They had a nice dinner and light conversation, getting more acquainted with each other. “Hey,” Jennifer said while they were enjoying pie and coffee, “did you call T and let her know that you weren’t at whatever hotel you were supposed to stay at?”

Jon nodded. “I tried, but she wasn’t picking up, and her voicemail was full.” He laughed. “I’ll bet she’s doing it on purpose, afraid I’m gonna have my mother call her.” He wanted T to get to know his family, but she was balking. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes as he told Jen about it.

“Oh Jon, she’ll be alright,” Jennifer said. “She’s just nervous. Hell, when Rich showed up with Joan in tow, I thought I was gonna die.” Jennifer stood and started to clear the dishes. Jon helped her rinse and stack them in the dishwasher.

“You did fine,” Jon said. “Joan loves you, and so does Ava.”

“I know,” Jennifer said, “and I love them right back.” She put a gentle hand on Jon’s arm. “Your parents and kids will love T. And she’ll love them. You’ll see.”

“I hope so,” Jon said. “Listen, thanks again for letting me crash, but don’t let me keep you from whatever you were gonna do.” He was looking through the doorway into the hallway, trying to see what was back there.

Jennifer smiled. “I wasn’t gonna do anything but hang out. You want the fifty-cent tour?”

“Absolutely,” Jon said, “as long as you’re up to it.”

“It’s fine,” Jennifer answered. She led Jon through the downstairs, and he laughed at the image of her sitting in the fireplace to stay warm. He loved the game room and the media room, and she told him about the tunnels under the basement that were part of the Underground Railroad. He said he hoped he could come back sometime when he had more time to explore the basement and attics.

She led him upstairs and showed him Ava’s room, then the rest of the bedrooms. “So, which one is mine?”

Jennifer laughed. “Well I don’t think Laura Ashley is your style, so not Ava’s room. I guess you can stay where Joan or Gail sleeps.” She paused dramatically. “Or where Stephanie sleeps.”

Jon sidled closer to her. “And what about sleeping where Rich sleeps?” He wagged his eyebrows at her.

Jennifer put a hand on his chest. “Baby, that’s the same place where Stephanie sleeps.”

Jon gawped and took a step back. “I’ll take Gail’s room.”

Jennifer chuckled and showed him the way, letting him get settled. “Make yourself at home in my house,” she told him from the doorway. “There’s towels and shit in the bathroom through there,” she pointed. “What time do you need to get up?”

“How far away is Gillette?”

“Like 20 minutes. I guess you have to be there like at what, 5:30?” Jon nodded. “Then leaving here by 5 should do. That’s when I usually leave; do you want a ride?”

“I can take a cab,” Jon said. “I’ve got to head to the airport after the interview to head out to Florida to pick up my parents.”

“Are you sure?” Jennifer said. “It really is no trouble.” She chuckled. “I can arrange for a car for you for afterwards; I have them on speed dial, and they like me.”

Jon considered the offer. “If you’re sure it won’t be too much trouble, that all sounds great.”

“No trouble,” she said, and made the call. “Alright,” she said. “You’re all set. They’ll be at Gillette a little before six.”

Jon crossed the room. “Thanks again,” he said, and bussed her cheek.

“Alright, I’m gonna go get settled in my room. It’s the one at the end of the hall near the stairs. No midnight wandering if you please,” she said, winking at him.

Jon sighed dramatically. “You spoil all my fun.” He stuck his tongue out at her.

Jennifer burst out laughing. “Good night, Jon.”

“’Night, Jennifer.”

She went to her room and got ready for bed, then logged onto the board. She laughed out loud. Jon beat her there.

Date Night

Monday, January 11, 2010
At five o’clock Friday evening, Jennifer took her garment bag out of the closet, grabbed her stuff, fully intending to head down to the second floor where the main command center desk was. The second floor had full locker rooms, as the staff there often pulled all-night shifts. Before she could get into the elevator, though, Howard stopped her.

“Jennifer,” he said, “you haven’t come back to see me.”

“Howard, I am not in the mood,” she said snottily. “I have a date tonight that I am already late for because of the stupid trading issue that should have been resolved by lunchtime.” She sighed. “Look, I’m not prepared to quit today. I am also not prepared to take any bullshit from you and Legal. You decide if you trust me or not. If you don’t, I’ll give you my resignation willingly. If you do, back the fuck off and let me do my job.”

“Fair enough,” Howard said, shocked at her language. She never talked like that at work. “For what it’s worth, I personally don’t have a problem with you. If it were up to me, this never would have come up.”

“Howard, you are the COO. It was up to you.” She thought back to her conversation with Richie. Dammit, she thought. “But, I do know where you’re coming from, I guess. You have to protect the company’s reputation, no matter what. I get it. I don’t have to like it, but I get it.”

Howard smiled a little. “Have a nice weekend.”

“Back atcha, Howard.”

After showering and changing, Jennifer felt better. She wrapped her long tresses up into a chignon, though she knew Richie preferred she leave it down. She put on the jewelry he had given her, slid on flip-flops that would be hidden by the dress, applied minimal makeup, and went down to the lobby. The evening guard whistled as she went past, and she waved a thanks to the man. She smiled when she saw the stretch Humvee outside. She was getting excited now, to see what he and Vincent had cooked up.

“Vincent!” she called from the stairs. “Good evening!”

“Evening, Ms. Petruzzo,” he answered. “You ready for your date?”

Jennifer laughed. “You gonna tell me what the hell is going on?” she said as she approached the car.

Vincent put his hand on the door handle. “Nope. You’ll find out in a second.”

He whipped the door open, and handed Jennifer up into the car. She saw a flash of black out of the corner of her eye and turned. Her heart leapt up to her throat, and her pulse kicked into overdrive. It was the closest to an actual swoon as she had ever come.

“RICH!” she shrieked and threw herself across the car to sit in his lap, and held him close. “Is it really you?” she asked, touching his face, his hair, and his shoulders. She barely registered the car starting and pulling away from the curb.

“It’s really me, darlin’,” Richie said. “You look amazing.” He framed her face and kissed her long and hard, pulling her very breath from her lungs until she thought she’d be permanently dizzy.

Jennifer pulled back. “So do you.” He was wearing a black tux over a stark white shirt. Deep, royal purple tie, cummerbund, and pocket square provided splashes of color. His hair was mussed now from their kisses, and a discreet gold hoop hung from his piercing. “God, I missed you,” she said, and kissed him again.

Richie wound his fingers into her up-do and pulled the pins from it. “You promised you’d always wear it down for me,” he admonished, unwinding her hair and letting the damp tresses fall around them.

Jennifer’s fingers went to Richie’s tie. She had it undone in seconds, and the first few buttons of his shirt open before he could protest. The words dried up when she wormed her hand inside the shirt and stroked his chest. It was smooth and warm, and Jennifer thought the very best thing she had touched in a week. Her other hand cupped the back of Richie’s head and brought his mouth to hers. With tender, loving strokes, their tongues danced for long minutes until they felt the car make a turn. Jennifer pushed back, flushed from their kisses, and looked out the window.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“I couldn’t bear to wait until we got to your house to ravage you, so I took a room downtown” Richie said. Looking down at his exposed chest, he added, “And I see you couldn’t even wait that long.”

“Nope, it’s never too soon,” Jennifer answered, doing up his buttons. “But I can put my hormones on hold if it offends your delicate sensibilities,” she said, re-tying his bow tie. She kissed the tip of his nose. “There you go.” She settled in to his embrace, resting her head on his shoulder. “I can’t believe you’re really here,” she said. “What a wonderful surprise.”

“I missed you,” he said simply, and tightened his arms around her.

Minutes later, they were pulling up to the Copley Plaza Hotel. A uniformed man opened the car door and Richie got out, and leaned back in to hand Jennifer down from the car. He tucked her arm in his, and she leaned on him for support, leaving her cane behind. Richie led them into the elevator, and up to the top floor. They stopped outside his room, and this time the key was in his hand before they even got to the door.

After Richie had the suite’s door open, he scooped Jennifer into his arms and brought her into the room. He went straight to the dining area and deposited her in a chair. Jennifer giggled when Richie flamboyantly shook out a napkin and draped it in her lap. He went to the sideboard and brought over a silver-lidded tray. He bowed and lifted the cover.

Strawberries and cream.

“Darlin’, the first course.” Richie winked and sat next to Jennifer. He took a berry, swiped it through the freshly whipped cream and held it in front of her mouth. Jennifer slowly stretched her tongue out all the way to lap at the cream with just its tip, and Richie groaned. Jennifer locked eyes on Richie and grabbed his wrist with both hands. She brought his hand closer to her mouth and put the berry in it. Without breaking eye contact, she sucked the whipped cream off it, leaving the berry intact. When she backed away she saucily wiped at the corner of her mouth with her tongue and smiled.

“More,” she said softly. Richie dipped the berry again, and this time Jennifer took it to the stem with one bite. Richie squirmed in his seat, but fed her berries until he thought he was going to shiver himself out of his chair.

“Are you ready for the next course?” Richie asked heavily.

“Is it you?” Jennifer asked.

“Don’t you want the bruschetta?” Richie leaned forward so his lips were a micron away from hers.

Jennifer smiled. “I do like Italian.”

Richie laughed and kissed her softly. “Me, too.” He tapped the end of her nose and crossed the room to put on some music. He came back and held out his hand. Jennifer slipped her hand into his and he eased her up and into his arms. They swayed back and forth while Richie sang a little Nat King Cole in her ear.

It’s very clear
Our love is here to stay
Not for a year
But ever and a day

The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies
And in time may go

But oh, my dear, our love is here to stay
Together were going a long, long way

In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble
They’re only made of clay
But our love is here to stay

Richie let his hands wander down to Jennifer’s ass, and pulled her gently against him, letting her feel his arousal. “That’s all for you,” Richie said, kissing her neck. “Only for you.”

Jennifer took one of Richie’s hands, and brought it up to her breast, whose peak had pebbled up. Richie could feel it thorough the chiffon of her dress. “And that is for you,” she answered.

Richie reached behind Jennifer and lowered the zipper on her dress. She gave a little shimmy, and the dress fell to her feet. Richie gasped when he saw she was wearing the thong from the photos she had sent. He helped Jennifer step out of the puddle of crepe and chiffon. He smiled at her, and plucked the gown from the floor and draped it over one of the chairs. He let his fingertips trace a line from her neck, down over her shoulders, and around the swell of her breasts. He traced her ribs and ran them along the sides of her thong. He slid his fingers into the elastic, and pulled, kneeling to allow Jennifer to step out of them.

He stood slowly, now trailing his fingers up her legs, skimming up her thighs to their juncture. He felt her moisture and smiled at her. He opened his arms and she melted into him, her skin pressed up against the fabric of his clothing. “You’re far too dressed,” Jennifer said. She slid the jacket off Richie’s shoulders, and turned to toss it on the chair with her gown. She again pulled the end of his bow tie, and unbuttoned his shirt. This time, she pulled the tails out of his cummerbund and slid it off his shoulders; the waist adornment following. Jennifer groaned appreciatively at the expanse of wide, brown chest. She traced her fingernails over his pecs, tickling the top of his ribcage. She scraped down his abs to the button of his pants. She flipped that open and slid down the zipper. She gave a push, and Richie helped push them to the floor.

Jennifer greedily wrapped her hand around his cock, glad he went without boxers today. Richie toed off his shoes and kicked them and his pants away. He hauled Jennifer to him, lifting her and carrying her to the bed. He laid her down gently and slowly slid into her body. “I love you,” Richie said, as he started the slow roll of his hips that he knew drove her crazy.

“I love you too,” Jennifer growled as his pumping grew more insistent, and her breathing grew more ragged. She gripped Richie’s shoulders and pulled him down for a kiss as she shattered beneath him. A moment later, he did too.

Several hours later, they woke from a sated slumber, showered, and had something to eat. They cuddled together, kissing tenderly and stroking each other lovingly. “Darlin’,” Richie started, “did you decide what you were going to do about work?” He was stroking a finger up and down her arm, watching the gooseflesh rise.

“Mmmm, I can’t think when you do that,” Jennifer said, “but don’t stop.” She leaned her head back against Richie’s shoulder. “I’m not going to change anything right now,” she said. “That would just give credence to the rumor. I will handle it like I do everything else: with a little bit of decorum, and a whole lot of sass. I am NOT going to let those bastards drive me from a job I love.”

Richie smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. Jennifer had closed her eyes, so she didn’t notice. He thought of the small box he had packed in his luggage: a box with the keys to his house in LA and the Philly condo. He wanted to ask her to consider moving to LA with him. If she had been on the fence about leaving her job, he was going to try to persuade her to do it. She sounded really adamant about keeping her job, though, and decided that this wasn’t the right time to ask.

The entire flight home, he wondered if he had made a mistake.

Lunch and Lawsuits

Monday, January 4, 2010
Thanks, Queenie, for writing the lunch bit of this installment

Stephanie stood, looking at herself in the mirror, she had found a great red slip of a sundress and the new strapless bra helped it to look fantastic. Her chocolate brown curls were twisted loosely up and pinned with her new crystal adorned hairpins, leaving her long graceful neck exposed. She smiled, he asked for it.

Stephanie had come to California to visit her new friends from the board, Denise and Lucia. Lucia, originally from Chicago, moved out to be with her new beau, Jeff and Denise had hired her as her assistant. The girls had become quite friendly on the board so here she was, on vacation in California.

When Richie had discovered that Stephanie was going to be in California while he was home, he had asked Hath for her number so they could get together. Stephanie hadn’t minded, after all she had met him already flirted with him, and she was fairly sure she could handle him face to face.

Okay, spray of Freesia, the body mist floated in the air and settled all around her. Lip gloss. Stephanie chuckled; she had found a tube of bubblegum lip gloss, complete with the roller ball applicator, at her local Walmart. It took her back to her junior high days when all she was allowed to wear was lip gloss, but Richie had said bubblegum, so bubblegum he was getting. She slicked it on and nearly shuddered, no wonder I stopped wearing this gunk. Shoes. She slid her feet into strappy low-heeled sandals, perfect for walking in. She grabbed her purse and was off.

She walked up Ventura toward the restaurant. They were meeting at Mexicali Cocina. It was a beautiful sunny day and she hoped they would be able to sit outside. As she neared the restaurant she slowed and scanned the area for Richie. She spotted him sitting at one of the outside tables, sipping on a glass of water. She stopped for a minute and just looked at him; damn Hath is one lucky beyotch. He had on a dark blue button down and of course half the buttons were undone and she was guessing jeans, but she couldn’t tell as he was sitting down.

Before she got close enough for him to notice her, Stephanie took out her small mirror, slicked on a touch more lip gloss and took a breath. Here we go.

Richie noticed her as she walked up. Damn, Hath sure has some beautiful friends. He had to chuckle, she had worn her hair up. He wondered for a moment why someone as lovely as she was didn’t have a man in her life. Her ex must have been a real prize.

Stephanie walked up to the hostess but before she could lead her to the table, Richie stood and the hostess let her go. “Hello darlin’.” He took her hand, tugging her close for a kiss. “You look lovely.” He licked his lips, “bubble gum?” She nodded, “you said that’s what you wanted.” He laughed, “that I did darlin’.”

They settled in for a lovely lunch, punctuated with lots of smiles and laughter. By dinner time, there were pictures all over the tabloids about Richie and his new lover.

Jennifer knew that the lunch between Stephanie and Richie was innocent. She knew that the photos that accompanied the item were taken out of context. And she thought it was funny that Krissy and her other girlfriends would think she’d be upset over the “Richie and the Strange Brunette”. Please. But she loved them for being indignant on her behalf.

What she didn’t find funny was the TMZ item that had brought up her decade-old, long resolved problem with the SEC....or being called into the COO’s office when she got into work that morning.

“What’s up, Howard?” Howard wasn’t smiling; Howard always smiled. Jennifer’s heart sunk. “What’s happened?”

Howard spoke quietly. “Shut the door, Jennifer.” After Jennifer complied, he motioned for her to sit. She did.

“You’re making me extremely nervous,” Jennifer said. “Please, what’s happened?”

“Tell me about the SEC investigation.”

“What? That’s ancient history.” Jennifer was confused. “Why bring this up now?”

Howard let out a heavy sigh. “You know that we monitor publicity on certain individuals in the company, well, because of the amount of money you support, and the information you have access to, you’re on the list. There was this article…”

“Oh my GOD, you’re talking about that idiotic TMZ thing?” Howard said nothing. Jennifer shook her head. “Look, I know you know about the investigation because I fully disclosed everything when I was going through the interview process. I have been nothing but up-front and honest with you.”

Howard smiled; though it didn’t reach his eyes. “Please, give me a little more credit than to trust a rag like TMZ,” he said. “But, some enterprising reporter over at the Globe ran with it, and dug up the old information and did a ‘then and now’ kind of thing. I’ve got to say,” Howard said, “that they made quite a few people nervous.”

“People? You mean legal and compliance?” Howard nodded. Jennifer’s color started to get high, and she had to concentrate on keeping her voice level. “Howard, I have been nothing but loyal to you, this division, and this company for more than five years. I have done nothing that even hints of scandal, and this episode from more than ten years ago was cleared by the SEC. The Boston SecChief to be exact.” She leveled a stare at Howard. “I will not let this company slander my name.”

Howard held up his hands. “Jennifer, you have to understand, I have to ask. I know you haven’t done anything here that wasn’t on the up-and-up. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk to you about this – we are named in the paper.”

Jennifer sighed. She was prepared for the personal bashing about her looks or her fashion sense or whatever as being tied to Richie, but she never expected another attack on her professionalism and integrity. “Howard, and you have to understand. I will not stand idly by. Tell me right now, are you seeking to sever our relationship over a decade-old rumor?”

Howard was thoughtful for a moment. “No. But to be clear, Legal is going to be watching you.”

Jennifer stood with as much dignity as she could muster. “You should have my decision by the end of the day, whether I can continue to work for a company that does not trust in the loyalty of its employees.” She was shaking when she left his office. When she got to her desk, it was 9:00. Way too early to call Richie, she thought, but tough.

“’Lo?” A deep sleepy voice answered the phone, and Jennifer had a mental image of him laying in bed, with just a sheet across his hips for modesty.

“Baby, it’s me. Sorry it’s early, but I have to talk to you.”

Richie sat up. “Jennifer, darlin’, what’s wrong?” He shook his head to get the sleep fog to dissipate.

“Did you see the rags this morning? They captured your little tête-à-tête with Stephanie yesterday.”

“Jennifer, you know that….” Richie started to talk, but Jennifer interrupted.

“Baby, I know. I was just teasing. I think it’s hysterical. What isn’t hysterical is that they mentioned the SEC bullshit from the 90’s, the local papers here picked it up and ran a ‘where is she now’ piece, and I just left my COO’s office after being told that I’m now being watched.”

“Jesus, Jen, I’m sorry.” Richie ran a hand through his hair. “What are you going to do?”

Jennifer sighed and left her desk, heading for an empty conference room. “I don’t know. This is pissing me off. I’ve done nothing wrong, and am being treated, by a man who I’ve worked with for more than five years, as a suspicious person. I don’t need that shit.”

Richie swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Baby, I can’t believe they honestly believe any of that shit. They’re just being careful.”

“You’re taking their side?” Jennifer was incredulous.

“Not taking their side, just – I see their point. They have to be careful.”

“Jesus.” Jennifer paced the small conference room as best she could, pushing her hand through her hair as she stalked.

“Jennifer,” Richie said.

“Quiet for a minute, I’m thinking.” Jennifer was actually livid. It wasn’t his fault that this happened. She knew that. But she still had an irrational urge to lash out at him. “Alright, I just wanted to let you know what was going on, and that I’m pissed. I have to decide what to do now. Damn it. Sorry I woke you.”

“Please, don’t be. You know you can call me anytime.” There was no answer from the other end. Richie said, “You know I love you, right?”

Jennifer sighed. “I know; I love you too. I guess I’ll talk to you later. Bye.” She hung up before Richie could say anything else.

(c) 2008 by TheGoddessHathor

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