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

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Monday, March 29, 2010
Richie took Jen into his arms and held her close to his body. He trailed kisses from her jaw to the spot just under her ear that made her whimper. Pressed against his body, Jennifer could feel the hardness of his erection. Richie eased away slightly, afraid that having her rubbing against him would make him cum in his jeans. He kissed his way down her neck, taking time to lick and suck every inch thoroughly. By the time he got to her shoulder, she was quivering.

Richie cupped Jennifer’s face with his hands and sipped from her lips. She kissed him back eagerly, wrapping her arms around his neck. He slid his hands down to the buttons of her blouse, and opened them slowly. When the garment wouldn’t fall from her arms, he gently pulled them from around his neck. He quickly divested her of her bra as well, while never taking his mouth from hers.

He scooped her up and brought her into the living room, where she finally noticed the fire burning. Spread out in front of the fire was a sea of duvets and blankets, all covered with soft, cotton sheets. As Richie laid her down gently, their mouths parted, and Jennifer chuckled. “Did you find every blanket in the house?”

“Just about,” he answered, stripping off his own shirt and shoes. “I left our bed made for later.”

He stretched out by Jennifer’s side and leaned over to take one pebbled nipple into his mouth. He moaned with pleasure. “Damn, I missed you,” he said.

Jennifer threaded her fingers through Richie’s hair and gasped as he sucked hard on the tiny peak. “God, I missed you too.”

While his mouth worked, his hands were busy unzipping her slacks and pulling them and her panties down and off her legs. “How’s your knee?” he asked.

“It’s fine,” she said, pulling his head down for another mind-numbing kiss. “Practically good as new.”

“Good,” Richie said. “Because I want to feel both of your legs pulling me in tighter to you when I’m making love to you.”

He grazed a hand down Jen’s side to the top of her thighs, tickling the little patch of hair there. When her legs parted, seemingly of their own accord, Richie didn’t hesitate, and dipped his fingers in between to find Jen already damp. He skimmed his fingertips along her sensitive lips, parting them slightly to dip one finger inside. Lubed up, he slid it around her clit before pressing the tiny ball into her, making her shiver.

Jennifer half-sat and pulled at Richie’s belt, unbuckling it quickly. She fought with the button on his jeans and struggled with the zipper, as it was pulled taut across his bulging erection. “Help me,” she grunted.

Richie rolled onto his back and finished unfastening his jeans, and pulled them off, kicking them away. Rolling back to her, poking her leg with his cock, he asked, “better?”

“Mmmm,” Jennifer answered, taking his long shaft in her hand. “Much. I want you inside me, Rich. I need you.”

Richie didn’t need for her to ask a second time. He rolled so he was cradled between Jen’s legs and pushed gently into her, filling and stretching her. Jen’s neck arched and her head lolled to one side as the sensation of being filled as only this man could fill her, body and soul, overtook her. When he started stroking in and out of her slowly, she raised her legs and looped them together around his back.

“I just want to feel you inside me for a minute,” Jen said, pulling at his shoulders. “Please, just let me feel you.”

Richie obliged, laying atop Jennifer, feeling her heartbeat with his. When the two beats matched, he pushed up, his hands on either side of Jen’s face, and started rolling his hips again. Slowly.

Jen’s legs dropped back to the floor, and she bent her knees, planting her feet wide. Richie knelt up and took Jennifer’s calves and draped them over his arms. He pushed at her thighs with his hands, opening her more to him, and the change in angle had him pressing just so slightly upward within her.

“God, Rich,” Jen said, her voice a strangled whisper.

He picked up the pace, the crackling of the fire and the steady slap of their bodies the only noises in the room. He felt her start to tense, and he stopped, waiting for her eyes to open. When she slitted then just enough to make out his face, he smiled. “I want to watch your eyes,” he said. “They turn colors when you cum.”

Jen groaned and opened her eyes as best as she could. Richie let Jen’s legs down, then dropped his hands to either side of her head. He leaned down to kiss her, then pressed his forehead to hers as his hips continued to piston. He could feel her squeezing him, tighter and tighter, and knew she was getting close. He felt the tell-tale tingle at the base of his balls that told him he was getting close, too.

They locked eyes for the last few strokes and when oblivion came, it took them swiftly, washing over them in wave after wave of heart-stopping pleasure. Richie watched as Jen’s eyes darkened through several shades before finally rolling back in her head. He continued to pump in and out of her until he started to go limp, and only then pulled out of her. When Jen whimpered, he quickly started to stroke her clit, tight, quick circles that brought her to orgasm again. She cried out and thrashed on the blankets as the buzzing that started at her core quickly worked its way through her. Richie kept up the gentle pressure on her bud for long minutes, rubbing it until she begged him to stop. Only then did he slip between her thighs again and slide home.

He bent down to kiss her deeply, his tongue matching the thrusts of his hips. Jennifer, still buzzing from the assault on her clit, clamped down almost immediately with wave after wave of pure bliss. Her head got fuzzy as all the blood slowly drained from her brain. She didn’t know where it went, and didn’t care. She had her Richie back, that was all that mattered.

Much later, when they were sated and sleepy, and the fire had burned down to nearly nothing, Richie spoke. Jen’s head was pillowed on Richie’s chest, and he was tracing lazy circles on her shoulder.

“Are you awake, darlin’?”

Jen chuckled, shifting her leg so it was twined more firmly around his. “Sure am, baby, what’s up?” Her hand snaked down to between his legs. “Not you.”

“Damn woman, I’m not a young man anymore. Give me a little time to rest, and we can pick up where we left off.” He caressed her head, and pulled her hair out from under it so he could sift it through his fingers. “I brought you something.”

Jennifer pushed up onto one elbow. “A present? You bought me a present?”

“Not bought, brought. Wanna see it?”

“Oh absolutely.” She scooted over so Richie could get up.

She watched as he sauntered across the room, his thigh and ass muscles flexing as he walked. He bent over to flip up the lid of his suitcase, and Jennifer groaned when his balls pushed between his legs.

“Oh NO! My eyes! My eyes! Not a good look, there sweet cheeks.”

Richie laughed and spread his legs a little so his cock hung down between his thighs. “Better?”

“Oh yes, much,” Jen agreed.

Shaking his head, Richie dug through his suitcase and came up with an inch-thick large flat package wrapped in silver paper. He sauntered back to the bed, and stopped just short, holding the package just out of Jen’s reach. “I just want you to know how very, very important you are to me.” He handed her the package and sat facing her on the pallet.

Jennifer locked eyes with Richie for a minute, seeing the truth to his words there. She swallowed back the lump in her throat and carefully slit the tape on the paper.

Richie chuckled. “One of these days, I’m going to get you to rip the paper.”

“Never,” Jen answered. “I’m too set in my ways.” She smiled as Richie leaned forward to kiss her lips, and giggled when she parted the sides of the elegant wrapping. “Bubble wrap?” she said. “Ooh, what is this a picture of?”

“I’ll never tell,” Richie answered. “You’ll have to see for yourself.”

Jennifer tore away the tape holding the bubble wrap over its precious cargo. She gasped at what she saw. “Oh Rich,” she whispered. “How in the world...”

In an antique silver frame was a black and white photo of a very young Jennifer being kissed on the cheek by a very young Richie.

“Tony owed me a favor or six,” he quipped. Then he explained how Tony had photographed much of Richie’s solo endeavors back in the 90’s, when Jon didn’t have anything for him to do. “I just called him and asked him to dig through the stuff he had from San Diego back in the day.”

“And he found it?” Jennifer was incredulous, but couldn’t tear her eyes away from the photograph. “That was more than a decade ago!” She traced a finger over Richie’s image, at the slight crinkling of his eyes, over the long dark hair that she now knew to be soft as sable.

“It’s our first kiss,” Richie said. “Preserved for all posterity.”

“It’s beautiful,” Jennifer said, finally raising her gaze to meet his.

Much later, after she showed Richie just how happy the gift made her, they hung the photograph in Jennifer’s bedroom next to the door, so it would be the first thing she saw in the morning, and the last thing she saw before going to sleep.

Richie and Jen spent the remainder of the weekend together, separating only when absolutely necessary. They talked and cried together, made love and laughed together. They walked a thousand miles around the lake on her property, telling each other everything they hadn’t told each other yet. By the end of the weekend, they knew each other as well as two people possibly could.

Monday, Jennifer called in sick to work. She and Richie went to visit her parents, who were tolerant but wary. They had seen the pain in Jen’s eyes, heard it in her voice, and weren’t quite so quick to forgive Richie as their daughter. But, when they saw how positively serene, how purely happy and content their baby girl was, they relented, and welcomed Richie back into their hearts.

“We don’t know what happened,” Jennifer’s father said, “and we don’t want to know. Just know that we only forgive you because she forgives you.”

“And,” Ma added, “if you ever hurt her like that again, it will be the last thing you do.”

Later that night, as Richie and Jen were clearing up dinner in her kitchen, Jen’s phone rang. “Can you get that?” Jen asked, wet up to her elbows at the sink.

“You got it, darlin’,” Richie said. He hit the speakerphone button. “Yes, can we help you?”

“Rich, man is that you?” Jon’s voice came through the tiny speaker.

“Who else is it gonna be, asshole? What’s up?”

“Is Jen there?”

“Right here, Jon,” Jennifer called. “I’m doing the dishes, or I would have answered myself. How’s the weather in Galveston?”

“We’re actually in New York,” Jon said. “The hurricanes were fierce, and we had to evacuate. T’s fairly pissed off, but it was JUST TOO DANGEROUS!” He yelled the last few words, and Jen and Richie could hear a faint “No it wasn’t!” in the background. Jon laughed and continued. “We were wondering if you could stand our company for a few days.”

Jen and Richie exchanged a glance. “Sure,” she said. “What’s wrong?”

Jon chuckled. “Nothing much, just the damned paparazzi are practically stalking T, and she isn’t really thrilled with it. We could go to Philly or out to Jersey, but T said...” he trailed off, and the woman in question took the phone.

“T said,” Tiffany continued where Jon left off, her soft drawl filling the kitchen, “that if I’m gonna be thrown out of my home, and be stalked like a damned deer just because I’m wearin’ this lil bit of sparkle on my hand...”

“WHAT?” Jennifer shouted excitedly. “You’re getting married? Oh, T, that’s wonderful! Congratulations!”

“Yeah,” Tiffany answered, laughing softly, “he made me an offer I couldn’t possibly refuse. Anyway, I wanna come out there to visit. Maybe stay a few days?”

“As long as you need,” Jen said. “When are you coming?”

“Day after tomorrow okay by you?”

“Absolutely,” Jen said. “I’ll have Rich help get a room ready for you.”

“Alright, we’ll see you Wednesday then. Thanks, Jen.”

Richie's Arrival

Monday, March 22, 2010
When the plane finally finished taxiing to the gate in Boston late Friday afternoon, Richie stood and stretched. He had left as early as he could on Friday. He wanted to leave right after seeing Cheryl back to her hotel, but had dinner plans with his daughter. He was distracted all night, which wasn’t lost on Ava, and he wondered what she’d tell her mother when he dropped her back home. He was packed and ready to leave by nine Friday morning when his own words from lunch the previous day came back to him. He owed Jennifer something special.

He knew she wouldn’t appreciate jewelry or flowers; she’d like them of course, but she wasn’t a ‘buy me off’ kind of girl. Besides, he wanted to give her something personal; something that showed her how much she meant to him; something that showed her that he was serious about them, and wanted to put the last days behind them once and for all and move forward; together.

As he was pacing the house trying to think, he discarded dozens of ideas as too trite. He thought about writing her a song, but thought that was way too clich├ęd. But, he reasoned, he always poured his heart and soul into the pieces he’d written for Ava, why not for Jen? As he walked purposefully toward the small studio he had set up in the back of his house, he stopped. The hallway, his “brag wall” was lined with photographs and promotional posters from his solo work from the 90’s. Seeing them made him smile.

He knew just what to do for Jennifer.

He pulled his phone from his pocket and pressed a few buttons. After a minute, he said, “Tony? Rich. I need a favor.”

Now that he was on the plane, and it was nearly to Boston, Richie was practically crawling out of his skin. He’d been antsy and fidgety the entire flight. Even the flight attendants, who were usually charming and attentive, were giving him a wide berth and leery glances.

The cross-country flight seemed to take more time than ever this time around, and with every minute that passed, he had gotten more and more agitated. When the plane finally came to a halt, he grabbed his oversized duffel from the overhead, and his guitar from the captain’s closet. He stopped a moment to apologize to the flight attendant for his attitude, then turned and strode purposefully down the jet way. Ava had wanted to come to Boston to see Jen, too, but Richie knew that he needed some alone time with his girl to really make sure everything was alright. And he wanted to be alone with her when he gave her the gift Tony helped him put together.

Checking his watch, he cursed. He’d be able to get to Jen’s before she got home, but just barely. And if there was traffic getting out of Logan, he’d miss being able to surprise her.

Jennifer checked her watch for the thousandth time. Then she checked her phone. Richie had said he’d call with his flight arrangements, but when the phone rang, she was in a meeting, and let it go to voicemail. He didn’t leave a message, which surprised her, but called him back as soon as she got back to her desk. No answer.

Her cell rang an hour later when she was on a conference call, and again, no message. “What the hell?” she said to herself, when she got Richie’s voicemail again.

By the end of the day, they still hadn’t connected, and she lost service when she got on the train. She wasn’t worried; she figured Richie would either be on the first flight out on Saturday or a late flight later tonight. She was nervous about it being awkward between them, however, and wanted to know when he was coming so she could have time to prepare for his arrival.

She spent the drive home from the train station wondering what they’d do over the weekend, and by the time she keyed in the code at her gate, she had calmed herself down. She’d pour herself a glass of wine, call Richie one more time, and settle in for a quiet evening at home.

As the house came into view, Jennifer frowned. The soft glow from the front windows distracted her, and she didn’t notice the smoke rising lazily from the chimney. “I don’t remember leaving any lights on,” she said to herself. She was meticulous about shutting off the lights before she left for the day. Her frown turned to fear when she saw a shadow pass in front of the window.

Standing on the brakes, she brought the car to a halt. She threw the gearshift into reverse and backed down the driveway, dialing her cell as she went. “Patriot Security, how can I help you?”

“This is Jennifer Petruzzo, account 3287154; I want to check on the status of my alarm, please.”

She heard a few key clicks on the other end, and the voice said, “It was disarmed this afternoon at 6:12pm Eastern time. Is there a problem?”

Much of Jennifer’s fear dissipated. She had set it that morning; someone who knew the codes had unset it. Most of her family and close friends had the gate and house codes, and before she brought the police in, she wanted to be sure of who was in the house.

“There may be, but I don’t know yet. Can I keep you on the line for a few minutes?”

“Of course.”

She put the Tahoe into ‘drive’ and crept up the driveway. When she turned off the SUV and climbed out of the car, her front door opened. Standing there, filling her doorway was Richie.

“Rich!” Jennifer exclaimed. “You should have told me you were coming early!”

“Sorry, darlin’,” Richie said softly. “I wanted to surprise you.”

“Well, you certainly succeeded,” she chuckled. She put the phone up to her ear and said, “Thanks, everything’s fine. Sorry to have bothered you.”

“No trouble at all, Ms. Petruzzo. You have a good evening.”

“Thanks, same to you.” She clicked off and dropped her arm to her side. “It’s really good to see you,” she said to Richie.

“It’s so good to see you too,” he replied, coming down off the porch to stand in front of her.

After an awkward silent moment, Richie opened her arms, and Jennifer stepped into the circle of his embrace, nestling against his chest. He kissed the top of her head, then laid his cheek against her hair and squeezed her tightly. “I love you,” he said simply.

Jennifer leaned back to look at Richie, tears glittering in her eyes. “Oh, Rich, I love you too.”

He lowered his mouth to hers, and sipped naturally, gently from her lips. When Jennifer sighed, Richie tilted his head a little more, slanting his mouth so his tongue could fully explore her mouth. She met him stroke for stroke, and they stood there for long minutes, mouths locked together, their bodies pressed tightly against each other. When they finally broke apart, Jennifer smiled and caressed the side of Richie’s face. He closed his eyes against the sweetness of the gesture and sighed.

“I missed you,” he said to her, gently grasping her hand and kissing her palm. “And I’m so damned sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” Jennifer answered, “more than you know. And I missed you something awful. But you’re here now, and everything’s going to be alright. Help me with my stuff? I’ll make you dinner.”

Richie nodded, tucked Jennifer under his arm, and led her back to the Tahoe. He grabbed her briefcase and laptop bag, she grabbed her purse, and they slowly made their way into the house.

Richie dumped Jen’s bags on the entry hall table, and pulled her into his arms again. “On second thought, I’m not very hungry right now,” he said. “Not for food anyway.”

Lunch with Cheryl

Monday, March 15, 2010
Thanks, Willow, for writing most of this one

Late Thursday morning, Richie pulled the Aston Martin into the parking garage at The Grove, a trendy LA shopping and dining area. He had suggested that Cheryl meet him here because he wanted her to see one of the hidden jewels of LA while she was here. It wasn’t the mid to high end shops that he felt were so special, but the old-fashioned flea-market type area with about a dozen food stands that were practically hidden within this trendy LA-chic place.

He had told her to meet him outside in the courtyard, hoping that due to the fact that it was Thursday and an earlier hour, the crowds would be sparse and the exposure minimal. Not wanting to take any chances of a repeat performance of his lunch with Stephanie, he pulled on a ball cap, tucking his long hair back and underneath it as he adjusted his glasses and stepped from the car.

Having only met her once before, Richie hoped he would remember what she looked like. As he walked up toward the fountain in the plaza, he recognized her reddish-blonde hair even though her back was to him and he chuckled when he realized that she had indeed worn her hair up like they had teased about on the board a lifetime ago.

Not being the type to turn down the opportunity to cause a woman to swoon, Richie walked up behind Cheryl and, placing his hands on her shoulders, leaned in to kiss the side of her neck just below her ear. This closeness made Cheryl spin around, a shocked look on her face that melted as soon as she saw the shit-eating grin on his face.

“Hey darlin’,” he said, removing his glasses and then taking her into a deep embrace. “It’s good to see you again. How are ya likin’ LA so far?”

“Hey Richie. It’s good to see you too. ” She hugged him back as he picked her up off the ground given that she was nearly a foot shorter than he. “I haven’t been here long enough yet to decide, but this place is really gorgeous. It’s a little public though, dontcha think?”

“What’s wrong? No desire to end up on TMZ with me?” he quipped, making them both laugh as they thought back to the ridiculous story from a few weeks ago.

“Hell no, I could care less who sees us. Jennifer knows we’re having lunch and I even got her blessing to wear my hair up like this, so to hell with the stupid media. I’m just glad to see ya again.” She stepped back to take a long look at him. He looked fantastic in tight black jeans, well-worn leather boots and a deep purple shirt unbuttoned so far down he shouldn’t have bothered. Looking into his face, she saw the smile lines and little eye crinkles, but his smile didn’t quite light his eyes; she could see a hint of worry there.

“Let me show you around, although I see you’ve already found at least a couple of stores,” he said, eying the two small shopping bags that were sitting on the edge of the fountain next to her pocketbook.

“Yea, I got here a little early so I did a little shopping. I’m a sucker for all things bling-y, so I picked up a few things. I’ll show you later if you are interested. I even saw some things I bet Jen would love,” she winked at him knowingly, but cringed inwardly when he saw a flash of sadness cross Richie’s face.

As they walked along, Cheryl said, “You know, I’m really glad I didn’t have to come out here and serve you up your balls for lunch.” She turned and looked him straight in the eye. “I haven’t seen someone that messed up in a really long time. Jennifer loves you so much that it’s making her crazy. I don’t know what happened between you two Rich, and I don’t really want to know unless you want to tell me, but I’m glad you two are working it out”. She leaned up on tippy-toes to place a kiss on his cheek.

“I’m trying, but I don’t know that she can really forgive me,” he admitted softly. “I was such a bastard to her. She said she forgave me, and was willing to forget, but I’m not so sure. I’m worried that it’s gonna be awkward with her this weekend.” He put his sunglasses back on to hide the emotion in his eyes.

Cheryl put her hand on his arm. “I’m sure it’ll be okay. In the months I’ve known Jen, she hasn’t said anything she hadn’t meant; at least with important stuff. Can I give you some advice?” Richie nodded. Cheryl said, “Just tell her you love her, pull her into your arms, and hold on. I’ll bet you anything she’ll cry a little, but she’ll hug you back. Then she’ll be ready to move on.”

Richie nodded. “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll do that.”

He led her around what looked like the back of a couple of the shops, almost as if he were leading her into a back alley. She trusted him, of course, and didn’t ask where they were going as he continued to walk, her hand placed tightly in his. When they ducked their heads low under a natural awning in the narrow walkway, they walked into what seemed like a whole different world. Cheryl gasped! It was the most quaint place she had ever seen. Everywhere she looked there were vendors and tables and shops… no, booths really, all selling a variety of foods from prepared items to cold cuts and meats to breads and candies. The smells all mingled into one another and it was just wonderful.

“Come on, I have the perfect place for us to eat,” he said with just a hint of teasing in his voice which Cheryl might have missed had she not be keen to his sense of humor from talking to him on the board. She wondered what the hell he was going to do. Walking about halfway through the market they came up to a counter and Richie grabbed two menus, handing one to Cheryl before opening his own. “We order here at the counter and then sit down and they will bring out the food.”

Cheryl opened the menu, although she already knew what type of food was here and she smiled. “How did you know that I love French food?” she inquired.

He just looked at her over the top of his sunglasses, and raised his eyebrows, smiling mischievously.

“Oh no you didn’t?! Richie! Please tell me you haven’t been reading my Paris story.” He could see a slight bit of color rise in her face.

“Guilty as charged,” he said, grinning widely. “Jennifer shares everything with me, darlin’.”

A shadow of dread came over her just then. “Oh no, please tell me that Da….”

He stopped her then with a finger to her lips. “No, I didn’t tell him about it. He does know, thanks to one soon-to-be-dead Cubano, that Jennifer has an alter ego in ‘Hath’, though he hasn’t found her site, but that’s not to say he won’t, especially now that his show is off the ground, and he’s got some time to breathe.” Richie winked at her. “And if THAT ever happens, I will never hear the end of it, because of that stupid Joker story. He’d comment for sure on your story, and there’d be a new male member on the board, because he wouldn’t let that shit go.” Richie didn’t mention that the other male member, “Billy the Kid”, was actually Jon because he wasn’t sure if Cheryl knew that or not. “So nope, he doesn’t know. Yet.”

She exhaled audibly. She was new to the fan fiction writing world, “We’ll Always Have Paris” being the only story she had ever written in earnest, and she was still really unsure of it, let alone of the idea that he, or any member of the band for that matter, would actually read the thing.

Richie could see the look of uncertainty lingering on her face, and laughed. “It’s a good story and you shouldn’t worry about it so much,” he said reassuringly. “I promise you, we see the all the things you girls write as flattery.” He thought for a minute, pursing his lips and tapping them with a thoughtful finger. “Well, all except the gay shit,” Richie said, shivering and making Cheryl laugh.

They ordered their lunches and settled at a table in the courtyard to eat and talk. “Let me see what you bought. I’m a bling guy myself, as if you didn’t already know that. Plus, I love getting ideas from you girls about things I can do and get for Jennifer. Besides,” he finished softly. “I owe her something special.”

Cheryl pulled out the bags, one from Breiton and the other from Lucky Brand. She opened the second one first. Prefacing by saying that this item was strictly for the fan in her, she pulled out a necklace that was so a crazy homage to Richie that even he was taken aback by it. It was a silver chain with a couple of dangling stars on one end, but what made it unique was the black and white fender guitar that was attached to one part of the chain and the guitar pick that said “Lucky” on the other side of the chain.

“You know, you need to replace that pick with the real thing, right?” he said, grinning.

“Well, of course, but I don’t have the real thing. I guess I was never good at getting your attention at a show,” she smirked at him.

Richie reached in his pocket, pulling out a couple of picks. He always carried them with him just as he always had a guitar close by, because he never knew what situations would present themselves. He held out his hand to her and she grinned.

“Pick one,” he said.

She looked at him quizzically. He nodded. She chose an older pearlized pick that she recognized from several tours back. It had his signature on one side and the inscription “Wielding the Axe of Love” on the other. She pointed to it and, in true Richie Sambora fashion, he took the pick and flicked it at her lightly, landing it squarely inside her dress, right between her breasts.

“I never miss,” he said, full on smirk wide on his face.

The rest of the afternoon went quickly, too quickly for her liking. They talked about Cheryl’s husband and children, and about Jennifer and Ava, and Richie told her that he never ever thought he would love someone as much as he did Jen. He told her that he wanted nothing more than for Jennifer to come out to LA with him forever. Cheryl almost chuckled at the wistful tone of his voice until she saw he had the face to match. He was serious. She didn’t ask him if he was going to propose but she could see the wheels turning behind those eyes. She told him that if there was ever anything she could do, to please just call.

When Richie dropped Cheryl off at the hotel, she called her friend.

“Jen, I just had the best lunch with your man,” she said.

“Oh really?” Jen laughed. “Did you get the full swoon-worthy treatment?”

“I sure did,” Cheryl answered. She told her friend all about her lunch date, and the two women were laughing. “Jen, seriously, are you two okay? He was looking pretty ragged under the smile.”

“We’re okay,” Jen said. “Or at least getting there. He’s coming out this weekend to see me, and I’m going to see if I can really put the last week behind me. I’m sorry, I don’t really want to talk about it because it hurts too much, but just know that if I couldn’t have handled it myself, I would have come to you.”

“I do know that, sweetie, but you shouldn’t have had to handle whatever it is alone. I would have been there for you, no matter what.”

“I know, Cher, and I love you for that. This was just something I had to handle myself. I promise,” she laughed, “I’ll have other things to whine to you about. You know me.”

“That I do. Well look, I gotta go, but I just wanted to touch base, and tell you I’m glad you worked stuff out with Rich, and hope you have a good weekend.”

“Thanks, babe. It’ll be okay. And if it isn’t I’ll call you.”

“That’s a deal. Bye, sweetie. Love ya.”

“Love ya too, Cher. Bye.”

Make Up

Monday, March 8, 2010
When Richie’s phone started playing Jennifer’s ring tone, he thought he was hearing things. He hit ‘connect’ before the first stanza of music had gone past. “Jennifer, thank you so much for calling me back. I am so sorry...”

Jennifer interrupted. “Richie, I know you’re sorry. I know you love me. I know you want to fix this. What I don’t know is what I’ve done to make you think I’d even consider not only cheating on you, but trying to do so with your best friend. What I don’t know is what kind of woman you think I am. And I need to know those things before I even think about trying to fix this.”

“You haven’t done anything,” he said quietly. His heart sunk when he heard her call him ‘Richie’. She always called him ‘Rich’.

“I didn’t think so, but I wanted to hear it from you.” She took a deep breath. Now for the tough question. “Why would you call me those horrible names? Do you really think I’m a slut and a whore?”

Richie closed his eyes and his head dropped back against the couch. “Of course not,” he answered.

“Or a liar? You really think I’m lusting for your best friend?”

“NO, Jennifer,” he said vehemently. “I don’t think those things.”

“Then why did you say them?” Jennifer’s color was high and her eyes were bright, and she was glad she found one of the conference rooms that wasn’t all glass.

“I don’t know,” Richie mumbled.

Jennifer sighed, clearly exasperated. “Richie, that’s the answer a kid gives when you ask him why he did something bad. I expect, no, no. I deserve the truth.”

Richie was quiet for a minute, and Jennifer was on the verge of hanging up. How did he say this to her in a way that she’d understand? “I love you too much,” Richie said, then was quiet again.

“What in the hell does that mean?”

“It means that I got scared,” Richie said. When Jennifer didn’t say anything, he continued. “This is not easy to talk about, you know.”

“Well,” Jennifer said unsympathetically, “it wasn’t easy being called a whore by someone who professed to love me, either.”

Richie groaned. “Alright, look. The few major relationships I’ve had in the past, I don’t mean the flings or affairs, but the real relationships, I’ve gotten hurt when they ended. Really hurt. So much so that I know I don’t want to go through that again.” He stopped to take a breath.

“I’m with you so far,” Jennifer said.

“Well, I saw this turning into one of those. The long-term, forever kind of things, and it scared the shit out of me. Aside from Ava and my mother, I’ve never loved a woman the way I love you. What I had with Heather and Denise – that was different. You’re a part of me, Jennifer, a big part, and you have such power over me, I don’t think you understand.” He stopped to take a breath. “I was so petrified that you were going to break my heart, that I was going to go so far deep into the pit that I couldn’t get out, I lashed out. At you and at Jon. I know it didn’t mean anything. I know you were just messing around. In my heart I KNOW that. I will never forgive myself if I’ve ruined what we were building together.”

The silence on the other end of the phone made Richie anxious. He listened hard, and could hear Jennifer’s breathing, so he knew she didn’t hang up on him. He thought she may be quietly crying, but couldn’t be sure until she spoke.

“Rich,” Jennifer said, her voice tremulous. “Do you see how insane that is? A pre-emptive strike on something that’s WORKING? Over something so ridiculously stupid? And to be so hateful...” A discreet sniffle came across the line, and Richie’s own tears started to fall.

“I swear to God, Jen, I didn’t mean any of it,” Richie said, his heart swelling with relief and joy that she called him ‘Rich’ again. “I swear on Ava’s life I wish I could take it back.”

“Well you can’t,” Jennifer said.

“I know,” Richie answered, dejected. “What can I do? Can I even do anything?” He was so frightened that she was going to say ‘no’. He didn’t know how he’d survive it if she did.

“I don’t know,” Jennifer said honestly. “You hurt me pretty badly, you know.”

“I know,” Richie said, “and I’d give anything to take that hurt on myself. Will you give me a chance to try to make it up to you?”

Jennifer was quiet for a minute, composing herself before she answered. “When my husband and I split, I swore I would never be one of those women who take all the abuse her husband or boyfriend or whatever wants to dish out and smile like nothing was wrong. I swore to myself I’d never let anyone hurt me the way Brandon did, and if I did get hurt like that, I’d sure as hell make sure it never happened again. Rich, you hurt me like that. Deep, to the soul pain. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt because I still love you so much it hurts, and I know that maybe the craziness went a little too far.” She was crying in earnest now. “But I never... EVER... want to feel like this again.”

“You’re not giving up on me? You’re giving me another chance?” Richie wanted to be absolutely certain he was hearing her right.

“I’m giving you a last chance. Get jealous all you like. Get mad and rage and stomp your feet if you need to. Yell at me if I do something wrong or hurtful or stupid. But don’t you ever again make me feel like less than a person. Ever.”

“I can promise that,” Richie said eagerly. “Oh God, Jennifer, I can’t promise I won’t get mad but I can promise that I will never make you feel anything less than the woman I love.”

“Alright, Rich,” Jennifer said. “Then I will take you at your word, and forgive and forget. I love you and I want to get past this. You won’t hear me bring this up again.”

“When can I come out and see you?”

“Come this weekend if you can,” Jennifer said. “You have lunch with Cheryl tomorrow; I don’t want you canceling on her. She doesn’t know about what happened, and I’m not going to tell her. When I met her and the other girls in the city, I just told them that things weren’t good between us anymore. I’m not telling anyone what really happened. It’s staying between us, and I’d appreciate it if you honored that.”

“You got it, sweetheart.” Richie was in no hurry to tell the world what an ass he’d been. He was glad Jen wanted to keep it under wraps. “I can’t wait to see you, I will spend all weekend showing you the kind of woman I think you really are.”

“I don’t doubt it, Rich,” Jennifer said. “But I seriously don’t want to talk about this anymore. I mean it. Just thinking about makes me sad, and I want to be done crying.”

“Okay,” Richie said. “I get it. I’m still going to worship you when I see you, though,” he said. “After all, you are a Goddess.”

Jennifer chuckled a little, and Richie’s heart soared. “And don’t you forget it,” she said.

“Never,” Richie promised solemnly.

When she got back, to her desk she sent an email to Jon.

FROM: jemtpetruzo@allegiance.com
TO: frontman@bj.com

It’s over. No, not me and Rich, but this whole episode. He and I talked today, and have mostly sorted it out. He explained some things to me, I explained some things to him, and I decided that ultimately, I’m not ready to kick him to the curb.

Looking at things calmly now, I can appreciate that you didn’t mean for things to get so far out of control. Still, they did, and I hope to hell you’ll think twice before fucking with my life again.

This is the last time I want to have to say this; I said it to Rich, and I’m saying it to you: I don’t ever want to talk about this again. Ever.

I mean it.

~ Jen

PS: I rescind my ban on you coming to my house. Just call first next time.

When Richie hung up with Jen, he knew he had one more plate of crow to eat, and called his best friend.

“What?” Jon said angrily.

Richie winced at the tone of his best friend’s voice. “Hey man. I guess you’ve talked to Jen, then?”

“You could say that. Look, not that you shouldn't trust Jen...because you should. But damn it, Rich, even if you didn't you should've trusted ME.”

Richie sighed and ran his hand roughly through his hair. “I know I should have trusted you implicitly, and you know that I know that you'd lay down your life for me, like I would for you. I was just.... listen, you know that in the past, some of the, uh, 'ladies' I've hooked up with were just using me to try to get to you. And even then, you never bothered with them, so I KNOW in my heart that you would never do that with someone I actually care about. But all that shit you were talking...and you made it sound like she was willing, and I had that minute of doubt man, that minute where I went so blind stupid with rage that if you were in the room with me, I woulda taken a swing at you. So I lashed out and tried to make you feel as shitty as I did.”

“You didn’t just lash out at me, man,” Jon said, unwilling to let his friend off the hook without making him admit what a bastard he’d been.

“I know I called Jen...well...things I should never have called her; let's leave it at that. I'm not proud of my behavior, man. Not by a long shot. I said lots of things I never should have. Look, I can make excuses and offer explanations all day, and it doesn't mean shit. Bottom line is that I fucked up. Again. Can I make it right with you?”

“You just did, bro.” Jon was smiling widely.

Richie chuckled. “Damn, you're way easier than Jen. Seriously though, I came THIS close to fucking that up beyond repair. She's letting me come out this weekend to see her. Damn, I made her cry, man. Worse, I made her say THOSE three little words: I need time. I'll hear that shit in my head forever.”

“Yeah you will,” Jon said. “And it’s not that I’m easier than Jen, we just have more history to fall back on. I know you enough to know that you're truly feeling remorseful. But, let me tell you something. You can say shit about me any day of the week. But disrespecting a woman like Jen that way – well, that wasn’t cool. You do that again, I will personally kick your ass up around your ears.”

“You won’t have to, she’ll kill me.”

Jon laughed. “I don’t doubt it.”

Now What?

Monday, March 1, 2010
Richie was worried. He didn’t know what to do. He’d thought that after Sunday at the game that they were okay. He should have figured it out, he supposed, when they had gotten back to the parking lot after the game let out, and she dropped the happy-to-see-him act.

“You’re coming back to the house?” Jennifer asked, surprised.

“I was planning on it,” Richie answered, smiling.

“Well, the truck’s sorta full of gear; I don’t have room for you.” She smiled a little. “I really wasn’t expecting to see you today.”

Richie winked. “I have it under control,” he said. When he leaned in to give her a kiss, she jerked away quickly, before his lips could touch her. She didn’t say another word, just got into the truck and slammed the door.

Richie had stood there in shock for a full minute before sprinting to the limo lot to find the car he’d hired. He gave the driver the address, and waited what seemed an eternity before he was driving through the gates of Jennifer’s house. He pulled up in time to see Jennifer and her father, brother, and friend finish unloading the truck. They had stored all the gear in one of the garage bays, and were carrying the coolers back into the kitchen.

“You guys want to stay for dinner?” she had asked them, not seeing Richie in the doorway. Her brother had seen him, though, and given him a hard stare.

John could sense something wasn’t quite right with his sister and her boyfriend, and though he wanted to stay and protect his sister, he knew she needed to deal with this on her own. She’d come to him if she needed him – she always did. “Nah, sis,” he said. “Ed has to get up early tomorrow, and so do I. I’ll take Dad home; you uh, entertain Rich.” He smiled at his sister, who didn’t return the gesture.

“Alright, John.” She reached up to hug her brother, who towered over her despite her height. “Thanks for coming.” She hugged her father and Ed too, keeping a wary eye on Richie when she caught sight of him.

“Thanks for having,” Ed answered. “See you in a few weeks.” He kissed her cheek. “Bye, Jen.”

She shut the door behind them and stared at Richie. “I suppose you’re hungry,” she said, her voice flat and cold. She turned to go into the kitchen, and Richie put a hand on her arm to stop her. Jennifer stopped, but didn’t turn around.

“Jennifer, look at me. Please.”

Reluctantly, Jennifer turned and met Richie’s gaze. He could see pain and sorrow in her dove-gray eyes, and it tore at his heart. “I love you,” he said to her, meaning every word.

She just nodded. “I know you think you do, but I don’t really believe that you do.” She turned her gaze away so he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes. She started to walk to the kitchen, and Richie followed her. He watched as she silently emptied the coolers, and got everything put away.

“You took me by surprise,” Jennifer said softly. “I wasn’t expecting to see you today.”

Richie smiled sadly. “You said that already.” He crossed the room and tried to take Jennifer into his arms, but she stiffened and pushed away from him, and he nearly cried. He dropped his arms and took a step back. “I’m so damned sorry, Jennifer. You didn’t deserve all that.”

“No. No, I didn’t,” Jennifer answered sadly. She reached up as if to touch the side of Richie’s face, but dropped her arm to her side. “I think you need to leave now,” she said quietly.

“You don’t love me any more, do you.” Richie’s question was more of a statement of fact. He barely got the words choked out.

Jen shook her head. “Somewhere, in there, under the hurt, I’m sure I still love you. It wouldn’t hurt this much if I didn’t. I just don’t like you at all right now, and I don’t know if love is enough. I don’t know if I trust or forgive you.

Richie nodded. “I understand,” he said, barely above a whisper. He reached out to touch Jen’s hair, but stopped when he saw her flinch. “Can I at least call you tomorrow?”

Jennifer shook her head, more vehemently this time. “I’ll call you in a couple of days.” She stiffened but didn’t dart away when Richie leaned in to press his lips briefly to her cheek. He could feel her eyes following him out of the room.

The whole flight home, Richie tried to figure out how this whole thing got so fucked up.

It was now late Tuesday, and Jennifer still hadn’t called him. Richie was getting really nervous now. Being without her, unable to reach her heart, made him see that Jennifer was the woman he wanted to be with for the long haul. Once he admitted that to himself, and found that he liked the feel of it, he knew he had to convince Jennifer to forgive him. He posted a message to her as an act of desperation, because his phone calls went to voicemail, and his emails went unanswered. He was half-tempted to call Jon to help, but didn’t want to admit to Jon how badly he’d messed things up.

When he checked the board later for a response, and saw her impersonal reply, his heart fell.

Sorry, Rich; work has been busy, and I’m going out w/friends tonight. I have an early morning tomorrow; so I need to try to get some sleep; I'll talk to you later.

You are right, I suppose; we should talk, and we will. Soon.

~ J

Wednesday morning, Jennifer went to work as usual, and saw her voicemail light blinking. Again. Sighing, she scrolled through the call log and saw Richie had called more than a dozen times. She also saw she had a couple of missed calls from work, and called those people back directly, telling them her inbox was full. Then she called the help desk and once again had one of her friends there empty her mailbox so she wouldn’t have to listen to his voice. Then she thought back to what Jon had said to her last night.

After the heated PM exchanges with Jon earlier in the week, she was surprised when he had called her, trying to persuade her to let him take care of Richie since he was the one who instigated the whole thing. Jennifer had reluctantly answered the phone when she saw his name come up on her Blackberry, but held firm, wanting to maintain the little dignity she had left after this whole episode. Jon tried to tell her again that this was totally out of character for Richie, but that just made her hurt more – that she had driven him to this. He was distraught at the tone and lack of emotion in her voice.

Then Jon told her that he had made some off-the-cuff remark to Richie about when was he going to marry her, and Richie had answered “today, if she’d have me.” Jon told her to think about that when she was mulling everything through.

She’d done nothing but think about that.

Mid-morning, her phones started ringing again, both work and cell. She was legitimately busy, so ignored them, but caved, and listened to the messages when she broke for lunch.

“Jennifer, please, call me back. I need to talk to you. I need to make you see that I didn’t mean any of that horrible stuff I said to you. I love you. I never meant to hurt you. Please, let me make this right.”

“I’m begging you, baby, please, PLEASE talk to me.”

Tears formed in Jennifer’s eyes when she heard the obvious tears in Richie’s voice. She expected him to be contrite, but not to be so upset. She hadn’t counted on that. She skipped the rest of the messages, checked the calendars for an empty conference room, grabbed her cell phone, and took off, dialing on the way.

(c) 2008 by TheGoddessHathor

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