Chapter Five

Erin spun around and felt her stomach flutter as she found herself looking right into those deep blue eyes.

“Why yes,” she regained her composure quickly and smiled. “I have, actually.”

Jon nodded approvingly. “Good. I wondered about that – and you – this week.”

“Oh, really?” Erin said slyly, just as the server called her name. “Sorry, just a sec,” she hurried over to pick up her drink and scone.

Jon eyed her cup. “What’s the choice today?”

“Caramel macchiato – what else on a day like this?” Erin winked.

“Good choice,” Jon smiled. “That’s why I came in. I certainly didn’t expect to see you here, however.”

Erin blushed. “Well, same here buddy. I didn’t think you just walked into public places like this.”

Jon rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “I’m not a high-profile criminal, darlin,” he teased. “Besides, they know me here. I’m a loyal.”

“Is that so?”

Jon raised an eyebrow and walked over to the counter.

The girl at the register smiled at him. “The usual, Mr. Bon Jovi?”

Jon turned around and smirked at Erin, who rolled her eyes and laughed.

As he finished up at the register, Erin watched him, her heart beating slightly faster than usual. She took him in again, admiring his toned body and perfectly fitted jeans, her eyes lingering a bit too long on his ass. She inhaled deeply. Damn, he was a sight.

When he returned, his blue eyes were dancing. “So how have you been?”

“Fine,” she said truthfully. “I’m still a bit behind on sleep, but that’s normal. I’m usually a pretty scheduled person, so anything that screws with that usually affects me for awhile.”

Jon nodded. “I used to be that way, until I became a musician. You learn real quickly that you don’t get to pick your schedule when you’re famous.”

“I can imagine that’s tough,” Erin mused. “I certainly couldn’t do it.”

Jon smiled. “Like I said, you learn.”

“So what about you? How’ve you been?” Erin asked.

“Pretty good,” he replied. “I’ve actually been home since I got home, which is a first. I have to be somewhere else next week, so I am certainly enjoying the downtime for awhile.”

The server called his name and he walked over to retrieve his own caramel macchiato. As he sprinkled cinnamon in it and stirred the hot liquid, he looked back over at Erin.

“Hey, you in a hurry?”

Erin shook her head. “No, not really. Why?”

“You hungry?”

Erin held up the bag containing her cinnamon scone. “I’m prepared,” she smiled. “But I was planning on eating something more substantial when I got home.”

Jon finished preparing his drink and picked it up. “Care to get something more substantial now?”

Erin considered him for a moment before making her decision.

“Sure,” she smiled. “I’d love to.”

“Great,” Jon grinned and held the door open for her as she stepped out into the rapidly cooling late afternoon air. He followed suit and motioned for her to follow him to a black Aston Martin parked around the back in the small lot of the coffee shop.

Erin knew enough to follow quickly, but not too closely, so as not to attract attention. Jon held the passenger side door open for her and she slid onto the black leather seat, smiling slightly to herself. She had never been inside a car this nice before, and it gave her a strange sense of importance to be in one now.

Jon hurried around to the driver’s side and hopped in. “I hope you like Italian,” he said as he switched on the ignition.

“I take it you already know where to go,” Erin laughed

Jon winked. “Only the best place in town.”

He backed the car up and pulled out onto the street, heading back the way Erin had come from. She wondered where he was going to take her – she assumed it would be something hidden and out of the way. She couldn’t imagine him walking her straight into an Olive Garden.

Sure enough, about ten minutes later, Jon turned down a narrow alley-like street between two buildings. A small red and white striped awning hung over an old wooden door on one side of one of the buildings, bearing tiny letters that spelled “Gugliemo’s Bistro”.

Jon pulled up just before the door and shut off the engine. He hopped out quickly and opened Erin’s door for her again.

“One of the perks of being a rock star is getting to use secret entrances,” he grinned as he led her to the door and pushed it open. “Welcome to Gugliemo’s.”

Erin was immediately greeted by the smell of oregano and baking bread, and she inhaled the rich aroma deeply. They were standing in a small entrance at the back of the restaurant. The place was humble and cozy, decked in full Italian décor – flagstone spread out to the entrance of a warm kitchen, from which flavorful aromas were wafting out to greet the pair.

A short walkway led to a small inside patio, where two wrought-iron tables and several chairs stood clustered together. Jon steered Erin toward them. “I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t go anywhere,” he winked.

He returned the way they had come and disappeared into the kitchen. Erin could hear the sounds of cooking, talking, and laughter in there, and when Jon entered, she heard the voices rise in excitement. She smiled to herself. They obviously knew him.

A minute later, Jon reappeared, laughing and talking over his shoulder to a large, beefy man wearing a white apron and traditional chef’s hat behind him.

“Erin,” Jon held out his hand and she stood up. “This is Gugliemo, owner and chef. He’ll be taking care of us this evening.”

“Taking care of you, I am sure!” Gugliemo said in a thick Italian accent. “I am pleased to meet la bella,” he took Erin’s hand and kissed it, making her blush. “You are reason enough to cook a wonderful meal! Not that Gugliemo ever cooks anything less,” he winked at her and she laughed.

Jon laughed as well. “No kidding. This guy’s calzones are enough to make you wish you had three stomachs.”

Gugliemo laughed a hearty laugh. “No no, you must try the pizza tonight, I bake one fresh just for you right now. Lots of cheese, olives, peppers, and the best Italian sausage you ever try!” he kissed his fingers with relish and started backing away. “Vincenzo come out and bring you the best wine in a moment, enjoy, enjoy!” he leaned toward Jon, winked and pointed at Erin. “The girl is beautiful, no? Treat her nice, now!”

Jon laughed. “Thanks, Gugliemo.” The chef retreated to the kitchen, and Jon and Erin sat down smiling and shaking their heads.

“Nice guy,” Erin mused as she settled in her seat. Jon nodded.

“He’s great. I’ve known him for years. Whenever I come here, he makes whatever I want, and I get to sit back here away from the crowd. It’s a perfect win for me.”

“I’d imagine so. You bring a lot of women here?” Erin smirked.

Jon laughed. “Back in the day, sure. Nowadays, I’m usually too busy to eat here myself, let alone bring a lady friend.”

“Are you saying I should feel special?”

Jon grinned. “Yeah, something like that.”

Vincenzo arrived with two large glasses of Borsao and presented them to the diners with a flourish. “You two are our guests of honor tonight,” he set a basket of fresh, hot bread on the table and shook a bottle of olive oil, which he then poured into a dish of vinegar and garlic seeds.

Signora,” he said silkily, opening Erin’s white cloth napkin and laying it flat on her lap. “Let us know if we can be of more service to you, Signor and Signora Bongiovi. Buon appetito!”

As the rich, enticing smells of the kitchen drifted through the air to the indoor patio, Jon and Erin settled into yet another comfortable conversation. Each played off the other’s comments and opinions about topics ranging from politics to religion, from music to books, from theatre to cinema, laughing and teasing the other in a way that flirted dangerously with seduction.

By the time the pizza arrived, Jon was overwhelmed by the feelings saturated with interest, desire, and lust that were coursing throughout his entire body. The woman across the table from him was downright beautiful; her complexion clear and radiant, her smile causing him to lose a few seconds of oxygen every time she laughed. And her eyes were unbelievably captivating tonight – sensual and mysterious in the soft, dim lighting of the patio.

Part of him was thoroughly enjoying the conversation and talk, and he was genuinely interested in what she had to say: she was an intelligent and insightful woman, which made her even more attractive. It was what had initially pulled him to her – the undeniable confidence, composure, and a naturally sexy vibe he got from her.

But the other part of him – the stronger part – was dying to rake his fingers through her hair and crush his mouth down on those beautiful lips, to caress and taste her smooth skin, to make her cry out with passion…

Jesus, he found himself thinking on more than one occasion. What’s gotten into you?

If an internal battle raged within his body, he didn’t let on: he didn’t show it on his face, and kept his expressions under control. Erin seemed none the wiser that he was fighting not to play out inappropriate scenes in his head.

As Gugliemo placed the pizza pan on the table and instructed them to enjoy, Jon played the gentleman’s role and allowed Erin to serve herself first. He watched as she almost gracefully separated a steaming hot slice from the rest of the pie and brought it to her plate, then groaned inwardly as she lifted it to her lips and gently blew on it to cool it off. His stomach fluttered as she took a bite, her tongue licking the grease off her lips afterward and leaving them with a glossy shine.

Fuck. Jon ripped off a piece of his own and started to eat as well, the explosion of flavor from the wealth of toppings and fatty cheese doing nothing to ease the intense sensuality of the evening.

“Mmm,” Erin groaned softly, sending tiny bolts of electricity to Jon’s every nerve. “This is absolutely delicious. I see why you picked this place.”

Jon smiled and took another bite of his pizza. “I told you, it’s the best place in town,” he winked.

After the pizza was finished and Vincenzo had refilled Erin’s glass of wine for the third time – Jon politely refused after the first glass since he was driving – Gugliemo brought out a triple chocolate cake and two cups of espresso.

“Oh Lord,” Erin groaned, leaning back against her chair. “I don’t think I can eat another bite.”

Jon laughed. “Sure you can, and you must. This is G’s famous ‘sinfully delightful’ cake, with three layers of chocolate.”

“Jesus,” Erin mused. “Three layers? How does he do that?”

Jon cocked an eyebrow at her, considering her question. Then he picked up one of the silver forks lying on the dessert dish and slid it sideways along the top portion of the cake, scraping off some of the fudge frosting and chocolate shavings that adorned it.

“Well,” he said, inserting the fork and its contents into his mouth and letting his tongue taste the sugary mix of topping. “There’s one layer.”

Erin’s face had stiffened, her eyes watching his every move curiously. She seemed almost surprised at what he was doing.

Jon returned the fork to the dessert and cut out a piece of the moist, spongy cake part, imitating his first move and inserting it into his mouth. “There’s the second.”

Erin’s expression was hard to read – a mixture of intrigue and near-desire - as he once again returned to the cake and speared the very center of it. Warm liquid chocolate oozed out of the middle, spilling onto the white dish and steaming slightly. Jon scooped out a bit of the molten confection and lifted his eyes to Erin’s, holding her gaze steady as he savored the gooey goodness that met his tongue. Then, slowly, deliberately, he withdrew the fork from his mouth and licked his lips of the remaining chocolate.

“And there’s the third.”

Erin’s lips were slightly parted by now, watching him with darkened eyes, and Jon tried not to smile as he dramatically returned the fork to the dish. Payback was sweet.

“Still too full to try some?”

Erin shook her head slightly and regained her composure, lifting her wineglass to her lips. “On second thought, I’m not. Besides, it looks like I’m missing out on something incredible there,” she said, gazing at him over the rim of the glass.

She set the glass down and picked up the other fork, proceeding to tease him with the same sweet torture he had just inflicted on her.

Jon watched her performance intently and turned away only when Vincenzo returned with the check. “When you are ready, of course, Signor.”

Ten minutes later, they bid farewell to Gugliemo and stepped out into the sparkling cold Autumn night. Jon ushered Erin into his car once again and pulled out of the alleyway.

“I think I remember where you live,” he said thoughtfully as they waited at a stoplight. “But you’ll still have to guide me.”

Erin looked at his shadowed profile out of the corner of her eye. Damn, she couldn’t get over how he was built to impress. The rigid jawline, the gentle slope of his nose, those unbelievably sexy lips…it was all she could do not to reach out and acquaint herself physically with his features. Then there was the issue of his bulging biceps, his flat, hard abs and the narrowing at his waist that led down to the hidden territory within his form-fitting jeans…

Erin looked back ahead, mentally smacking herself. Max, she tried to remind herself. Remember him?

But Max didn’t look like Jon did. Hell, he didn’t look like half of what Jon did. And he certainly didn’t treat her the way Jon did – with admiration and a gentlemanly respect tinged with the knowledge that she was capable of taking care of herself. Even the way Jon looked at her…Max had never looked at her that way before.

They rode in silence for a few moments before she needed to provide directions and guided him back to her house. Jon pulled up alongside the curb outside her house and shifted the gear to park. He helped her out and both tried to ignore the spark they each felt at the feel of each other’s touch.

“So I have to ask,” Erin said, as they stood awkwardly on the sidewalk. “Considering the intimate evening we just spent together, I’d like to assume that I’m the only ‘lady friend’ in your life that you’d do this with right now.” Her eyes gleamed with mischief, showing that she was teasing, but at the same time, truly curious.

Jon smiled. “Believe you me,” he said coyly. “You’re the only lady friend.”

Erin smiled. “Good,” she said, turning to head up the walk and leaving him looking like he would have started begging her to stay any moment. “I hoped I was.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chapter Four

Exhausted, Erin slept through the morning and woke up sometime around one. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept that late…but then again, she also couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone to bed at 5 am.

She’d fallen straight into bed after she got home, only taking the time to throw on a pair of sweats and wash her face beforehand, and barely had time to mentally recap the night before she was asleep.

Now, as she lay in bed trying to fully awaken, her thoughts drifted back to the night before and the person she’d spent it with.

Jon Bon Jovi. Of all people to have the seat next to hers on a cross-country flight, who ever would have imagined it would be him? Even in her wildest dreams she wouldn’t have imagined it. But there he was – that muscled-bodied, blue-eyed, blonde-haired beauty. And he had struck up a conversation with her.

She had opened up to him so easily – and he with her in return – that it surprised her. But it felt so…right…to talk to him and tell him the things she had. He was a great listener, and though they had just met, he seemed to genuinely care about what she had to say.

Not to mention the fact that she was undoubtedly attracted to him. Whenever he had flashed that mega-watt smile her heart had thumped a little harder, and she wouldn’t soon forget the softness of his hand as he helped her out of the limousine.

She couldn’t deny that she had felt some sort of spark between them, but this morning she chalked it up to being delirious with exhaustion. They had flown all night and she was operating on maybe six hours of sleep and nearly twenty-four waking hours – she hadn’t been thinking clearly. He probably didn’t feel the same way anyway, she told herself. She had just been another woman to cross his path, another passenger on a lonely flight to pass the time with.

I never said you didn’t have an effect on me.

The words resounded in her mind, and her heart skipped a beat. Maybe she was another woman to cross his path, but something told her she hadn’t crossed it for the last time. Or at least, she hoped she hadn’t.

In spite of herself, she smiled and rolled out of bed to begin the day.

After a shower and a quick breakfast – although it should have been a lunch by then – she checked her answering machine messages. There was one from work, one from her neighbor, one from her friend Tawna, all calling with various insignificant reminders or tidbits of news and gossip.

There was nothing from the airline yet, but Erin knew that it could be a day or two before they called. And since she didn’t know if they’d call ahead of time to let her know they had it and were going to ship it, or if they’d call after it had been sent, she decided not to worry for the time being. She wasn’t missing anything she couldn’t live without for a few days, save for her toothbrush and the last bar of soap she’d thrown in her bag before she left. But she could easily pick those things up at the grocery store down the street.

The latest message was left that morning around 9am.

Hey baby, just wanted to make sure you got home all right. You said you’d call me and I haven’t heard from you, so I’m getting worried. I’ll try again later, but let me know that you’re safe. Don’t forget to call me. I love you.

Erin sighed as she deleted Max’s message and consulted the caller ID. Sure enough, he had called three times since he had left the message. She had told him she would be home late when she found out in San Diego that the flight was delayed. Actually, he had called her – he had a copy of her itinerary and was checking the live flight tracker online, and had seen that the departure time had changed. Regardless, he had known that she’d be home in the wee hours of the morning and that she’d most likely sleep in.

Erin knew she had to call him - Max worried easily - and she had just picked up the phone when the doorbell rang.

She opened the door to reveal Max standing on the porch.

“Oh good, you’re home,” he breathed a sigh of relief. “Why didn’t you answer my calls?”

“Well hi,” Erin said with the voice of surprise, letting him inside. "I was just about to call you back..."

Max stepped in and hung his jacket on the coat rack. “I got your answering machine,” he said pointedly.

“I was asleep – I just got your message,” Erin explained.

“You were asleep at noon?”

Erin raised an eyebrow. She got tired of his interrogations quickly nowadays. “Yes, I was asleep at noon, I was tired. I got home at five this morning.”

Max furrowed his brow. “Five? The flight got in close to four. Why did it take an hour to get home?”

Erin explained how the airline had lost her luggage.

“Aww, you poor thing,” Max said, pulling her close to him and stroking her hair. “That must have been so traumatic. I wish I had been there to help you.”

Erin laughed. “I’m fine, Max,” she assured him. “It wasn’t a big deal. It’s annoying, but it doesn’t put me out. And they said they’ll return it in a few days.”

Max nodded. “If you need me to call them and speed up the process, I will.”

Erin fought the urge to roll her eyes. “They aren’t going to speed anything up just because you call. It’s fine, really.”

“All right,” he said softly in her ear. “You know, I missed you. I missed the feel of your skin and your scent and seeing your smile…”

He held her tighter, and Erin could feel through his jeans that he was aroused. Normally, that would have made her smile and she would have begun teasing him until they both collapsed naked on her bed, but this time she was surprised to find herself hoping that wouldn’t happen.

It wasn’t that Max was unattractive – he had a sweet, almost boyish face with dark brown eyes and curly brown hair that sat atop his head, forever unmanageable. He was modestly built, tall and slightly lanky, but with enough muscle to save him from looking like a beanpole. He had long, slender fingers, the kind that performed masterpieces on a piano, which he played in his spare time. His stomach was flat, his hips were narrow. His ears didn’t stick out, and he had two eyebrows. All things considered, he was a good-looking man.

But for some reason, she wasn’t turned on by him in the slightest right then, and she vaguely wondered why. Perhaps it was because he now stood so shadowed by the presence of last night’s encounter – an admittedly sexier, kinder, more confident man that had Erin’s sense of reality temporarily skewed. She couldn’t shake those blue eyes from her mind.

She pulled away from Max. “So is that the only reason you came by?”

He nodded. “I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“Well as you can see, I’m fine,” Erin smiled. “Do you want to hang around for a bit? I actually need to swing by the store real quick, but you can come with me, if you want.”

Max nodded again. “Sounds good. But bring a jacket – it’s chilly outside.”

A few minutes later they stepped outside and Erin found that Max was right as she felt the nip of a cold wind. It was late September and the weather had been starting to cool off for a couple of weeks on the east coast…but San Diego was still going strong in the mid-80’s and even 90’s as the Santa Anas and infamous “Indian summers” rolled through, and Erin had gotten accustomed to donning shorts and t-shirts outside.

Now, she pulled her coat around her more tightly and kept pace with Max, whose strides were considerably longer than hers given his height. They rounded the corner and approached the small grocery store, and Erin picked up a toothbrush and more soap among other food supplies.

Max walked her back home and helped her put the groceries away, making her go over every detail of her trip and showing his enthusiastic interest. She told him about the retreat and about her quick visit with family, but didn’t even hesitate to leave out details about the flight home. There were some things you just didn’t tell Max.

They ate a casual dinner at her house together and he left afterward, giving her another kiss and mentioning again how much he had missed her.

Since she had to get back to work the next day, Erin flopped into bed early to try to get to sleep at a decent hour. She didn’t have to try very hard, though, as she fell asleep around nine-thirty and slept for nine straight hours.


A few days later, Erin was eating breakfast and getting ready for a half-day at work for a meeting with her boss when the doorbell rang. She ran to answer it and was greeted by a UPS deliveryman holding a large box. “Are you Erin Sullivan?”

“Yes, I am,” she answered. “Is that from the airlines?”

“It sure is. Could you sign here, please?”

Erin signed the clipboard, then happily accepted the package from him and brought it inside. She finished her breakfast quickly and unpacked the box, relieved to find everything as it was supposed to be, her bag undamaged and still locked with the TSA lock. She carried it upstairs and set it on her bed to unpack that afternoon when she got home.

When she arrived at the office later, Jill, the secretary at the front desk stopped her.

“Mike got called into a last-minute conference call with Spain,” she said. “It’s supposed to take all afternoon, so he had to cancel his meeting with you. You don’t have to stick around; you can go home early. Enjoy an early weekend,” she smiled.

“Oh,” Erin said, surprised. “Is he on the phone with them now?’

Jill nodded. “Just called about ten minutes ago. Apparently it’s a last-minute proposition that couldn’t wait over the weekend. I don’t have details yet.”

Erin sighed. “Okay…well I have some things to do anyway, so I think I’ll get those over with so I don’t have them hanging over me. Thanks, Jill.”

She retreated into her office and closed the door, sighing. She hated when her boss got called into those last-minute meetings, especially when they were overseas. They always took forever, and this one was going to set her back a day since they’d have to hold the meeting on Monday and she couldn’t get started on Monday’s work until Tuesday. And missing a day didn’t sit well with Erin’s tight schedule. She decided to get as much done as she could today and hopefully lessen the backlog next week.

A few hours later, Erin emerged into the crisp Autumn air, satisfied with what she’d been able to accomplish. Since she’d worked through lunch she was hungry, and decided to stop at Starbucks on the way home.

She walked the single block to the shop and pushed open the door, greeted by the warm smell of coffee beans and pastries. There weren’t very many people inside, and she walked straight to the girl at the register and placed her order for a caramel machiatto and cinnamon scone.

She waited for her order quietly, massaging her neck and feeling the lingering effects of the jetlag. She’d probably go to bed early again tonight and catch up on the rest of sleep this weekend, and she’d be good as new on Monday. Right now, she was looking forward to a hot coffee, getting home and changing into her pajamas, and lounging around the rest of the night in front of the television.

Just as she was pondering what movie to watch, a voice in her ear made her jump.

“So,” the voice said mysteriously. “Have you gotten your luggage back yet?”

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chapter Three

When the plane landed on the runway several minutes later, neither of them spoke. They taxied and approached the gate, the attendants did their customary welcome to the destination city and thanked everyone on board for flying with them…and finally they were allowed to get up and get their bags.

Jon smoothed back his blonde hair and slipped the baseball cap back on. He didn’t don the shades – he’d look even more ridiculous with them at 4am in New Jersey – but he still regained that private, mysterious look he had when Erin first saw him jump on the plane in San Diego. He stood and reached up into the overhead compartment to retrieve their bags, and Erin caught herself admiring the strip of flesh that peeked out from beneath his shirt when he raised his arms. She closed her eyes and chided herself, hoping the heat that rose to her face wasn’t visible in her cheeks.

“Enjoying the view?” Jon asked quietly, and Erin opened her eyes in surprise to see him holding out her bag. She smirked and took it from him, deciding to play along while she still could.

“Cocky, are we?” she slung her bag over her shoulder and rose to her feet gingerly.

“No, just observant. Like you, apparently.”

And a mind-reader, she marveled inwardly. How many times had he gotten into her head that night?

They waited for a moment before the attendants opened the hatch and people began to move, slowly and sleepily exiting the plane through the long walkway. Jon let Erin out first and followed behind her silently, thinking back on the night himself.

Damn it if he wasn’t taken with this woman. She was incredible. It seemed ridiculous, but he couldn’t deny that she stirred something within him that hadn’t been touched in a long time.

She’s just another encounter, he thought to himself. Pull yourself together. In a few minutes you’re going to go one way and she’s going to go another, and you’re never going to see her again. Deal with it.

They emerged into the silent airport, which save for a couple of people scattered throughout the seats at the gate, was entirely empty. Jon and Erin followed the rest of the passengers up the escalator to baggage claim and waited silently for their bags.

A couple of people looked over at Jon as he stood next to Erin and waited, but nobody said anything. Erin was surprised - but then again, this was Jersey. He was a local, and most people were probably used to his presence in public places. Although, she realized, she’d never seen him anywhere.

Jon moved to pick up a long black duffel bag off the conveyor belt, and Erin’s heart beat faster as she realized he was about to leave. As he turned back to her, she smiled and started to say goodbye, but he merely returned to her side and proceeded to wait with her silently. She smiled inwardly. The fact that he wasn’t in a hurry to get going either meant more to her than she wanted to admit.

The conveyor belt continued to rotate around the carousel, and gradually the bags began to thin out as people claimed them and left. Soon, only a couple of people, including Jon and Erin, were left, and when the conveyor belt stopped rotating, Erin raised her eyebrows.

“Why’d it stop?” she asked, traces of anger on the edge of her voice. “That better not be it…”

She looked around at the others to see their reactions, and they looked as perplexed as she did. Erin waited to see if the belt started up again, and when it didn’t, she clenched her jaw.

“Fantastic. So where’s the customer service desk?” she looked around, trying not to let her temper get the best of her. But it was late at night, she was exhausted, and she couldn’t believe that her luggage might be lost.

Jon pointed to her left. “Over there. Come on, I’ll go with you.”

They headed over to the desk, followed closely behind by the other people who had been waiting. “Let me handle this,” Jon said quietly in her ear.

“Excuse me, sir,” he spoke up as they approached the clerk behind the desk. “Can you tell me if there’s another carousel by chance for flight 6502 with Continental?”

The clerk checked his paperwork. “I’m sorry, sir, number three is the only one. Is there a problem?”

“Well, it seems not all the luggage was dropped off from the flight,” Jon explained. Erin admired the calm way he presented himself and spoke with the clerk; she’d have been yelling by now.

“This lady can’t find her bag, and there are a few others who seem to be in the same situation,” he turned around to acknowledge the people standing behind them, who nodded at him. “Is there a way to find out if they’re on another flight?”

The clerk nodded. “Yes, of course, can I have the names of the passengers missing luggage?” Erin gave him her name and the people behind them followed suit.

“Okay,” the clerk picked up the phone. “Let me see what I can find out for you folks.”

“Thank you,” Jon stepped back and looked at Erin. “Believe me, my bags have been lost more than once. I’m sure it’s just on another plane right now. They’ll get it back to you soon.”

“Yeah, I’ve been in this situation before,” Erin sighed. “I just hate being in it.”

“No kidding. It’s no fun. Do you have your wallet and cell phone with you?”

In spite of herself, Erin smiled. “Yes, I do, they’re in here,” she patted her shoulder bag. “I travel enough to know to keep them on me at all times.”

Jon returned the smile. “Good girl. Just making sure.”

The clerk hung up the phone and looked up at them. “I apologize, but it seems the bags were located on a different flight to Seattle. They’re going to forward them as soon as possible, and we will have them delivered to you immediately. Are you folks visiting, or do you live here?”

The others appeared to be visiting. “I live here,” Erin said. “Do we need to fill out a claim?”

“No, since the bags have been located, we just need your address and contact information,” the clerk replied, passing a form and a pen across the desk to her. “You folks, too,” he nodded at the people behind them. Erin filled out the information quickly, thanking her lucky stars that she was home and wouldn’t be without clothes or toiletries for a few days.

A few minutes later, the clerk collected the forms and assured them that they’d get their belongings shortly. “Again, I apologize for the inconvenience.”

As they left, Erin grumbled in the back of her throat. “What a nuisance,” she muttered. Jon laughed softly. “I’m sorry, darlin’, but at least they found them.”

“That’s true,” Erin agreed. “Thank you for helping me out back there.”

Jon waved his hand. “Not a problem.” I wanted an excuse to stay with you.

They walked together again to the curb outside, where once again, Erin turned to say goodbye, figuring that they’d part ways here. And once again, Jon surprised her.

The black stretch limo pulled up as they came into sight, and he turned to her. “Since I figured you’d be taking a cab home anyway, why don’t I just give you a ride?”

In her late-night bout of exhaustion, Erin didn’t need much persuasion, despite the nagging voice in the back of her mind. You’re treading dangerous waters, here.

“Are you sure?”

Jon nodded, already opening the door for her. “Don’t worry about it. There’s no sense in you paying a cabbie an arm and a leg. Besides, this thing’s more comfortable.” He grinned at her as he held out his hand for her to get in.

“Well, thank you,” she said, sliding onto the soft leather seat. Jon slid in after her and the driver closed the door, then hopped into the front and pulled away from the curb.

It was quiet and cool in the back of the limo – much more comfortable than the back of a cab, Erin had to admit.

“Whereabouts do you live?” Jon asked, tossing his baseball cap onto the seat between them. She told him, and he passed the message on to the driver. They rode in silence for a moment before Erin spoke again.

“Well this certainly was a hell of a night,” she voiced, smiling. Jon looked at her. “Yeah? I didn’t think it was anything special.”

The gleam in his baby blue eyes made her insides tingle. “Ouch,” she laughed. “Way to crush a girl’s ego.”

Jon merely winked.

Twenty minutes later, they pulled up outside her townhouse, and Erin grabbed her bag. Jon hopped out first and held out his hand to her, acting every bit the perfect gentleman. Erin tried to ignore the fact that his skin was soft and his hand strong, his fingers grazing hers gently as he helped her out. She couldn’t let herself think like that. They were about to say goodbye.

They stood awkwardly on the sidewalk outside her house, neither knowing quite what to say.

“Well,” Erin finally said, breaking the silence. “Thank you again, for everything. I appreciate the help and the ride. And it was great meeting you and getting to talk to you.”

Jon smiled and fixed his eyes on hers, wanting to imprint their depth and color exactly in his mind. Erin looked back at him, transfixed by an electric current that seemed to pass between both of them as they stood there. “You’re welcome, it was my pleasure. It was good to have someone to pass the time with.”

“Same here, even if it turns out I had no effect on you,” she smirked.

Jon raised an eyebrow and a wide grin broke out on his face. “Oh, I never said you didn’t have an effect on me.” Shut up, you moron. Whet the fuck are you doing?

Erin was pleasantly surprised. “Well, too bad it had to end then. Good night.” She smiled and turned to leave.

Jon watched her head up the cobbled walk to her front door, a slight smile playing on his lips as he admired her from behind.

“Good night...”

She unlocked the door and waved, then smiled at him one last time before disappearing into her house.

Jon climbed back into the limo and sighed as the driver pulled away again. He ran his hands through his thick blonde hair and tried to ignore the feeling she’d left him with.

He knew he’d use their meeting as inspiration for a song in the future. She had been great food for thought. But that’s all she was. It was just a one-time thing. That’s all he could let her be.

Wasn’t it?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chapter Two

“So what brought you here, if you don’t mind my asking?” Jon settled himself more comfortably in the seat and crossed his arms, but left his legs spread confidently wide.

“Business,” Erin raised her eyes. “And family, too, you could say. But mostly business.”

Jon nodded knowingly. “Same here.”

Erin cocked her head to one side. “Really? You mean you were actually working? I had you figured as an all-play kinda guy.”

Jon looked over at her and saw the sly smile playing on her lips. He laughed. “Ahh, you think you’ve got me figured out already?”

“No, but rumor has it you’re a workaholic. I guess your reputation doesn’t lie,” she smiled.

Damn she had a nice smile, he couldn’t help but notice. And she was so confident – not the slightest bit shy, it seemed. He was intrigued.

“No, it doesn’t,” he admitted. “Unfortunately, that rumor is true. What about you?”

Erin shrugged. “Guilty as well. I work for a management-consulting firm. It’s hard not to work all the time.”

She didn’t offer up any more details, but Jon nodded in understanding. “I’d imagine not. And San Diego companies needed your expertise?”

“More like my presence. Our annual company retreat took place at their headquarters. So it’s been one big party after bigger corporate meeting for two weeks.”

“Ouch,” Jon winced. “I take it that time with the family was welcome at that point.”


Jon laughed. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was opening up to her, but it felt good to talk to someone who didn’t, to his knowledge at least, have an ounce to do with the music business. He had spent the last week surrounded by presidents and CEOs and representatives for major recording companies, and he was sick of the whole industry at that point.

Besides, she was easy on the eyes. She had that beautiful smile which showed off straight, perfect white teeth. Her long blonde hair was pulled back into a casual knot, and her skin was evenly tanned to the point of glowing. His eyes traveled down her body to take in the gentle slope of her chest, the flat plane of her stomach, and slender, firm legs. She also had the most captivating eyes he’d ever seen, a trait in women that he knew spelled trouble for him. They were dark green and for some reason, because his poetic lyricist’s mind worked this way, made him think of the shade of a deep forest.

All in all, not a bad companion to have to share a cross-country flight with.

She seemed to notice he was taking her in, and she adjusted herself in the seat. “So what about you? Any particular calling to San Diego, or just more of the same old ‘gotta be in this place at this time’ stuff?”

Jon sighed. “Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’ve been globetrotting for a while now. Business just keeps taking me all over the world – different state or country every week.”

“I’d say I was jealous, but something tells me it isn’t exactly heaven for you,” Erin mused.

“Yeah, not really. It’s nice to travel, it’s great to see different cultures and people, and it’s refreshing to get a change of scenery…but not when it’s all for the same thing over and over again.”

Erin furrowed her brow, wondering if he meant what she thought he meant.

“And I don’t mean that in reference to playing music,” Jon explained, winking at her. “I should have chosen my words more carefully. I meant when you’re off tour and in between albums and have business chore after business chore to do. That’s what gets old.”

Erin nodded, slightly taken aback. That was the second time he’d read her mind.

“I know what you mean,” she replied, choosing to ignore the uncanny hold he was beginning to take over her. “Thankfully, my job doesn’t require me to hop around the world, but I certainly do my fair share of domestic travel in a year. It ain’t fun and games all the time, but it works out.”

“It makes it easier when you’re unattached,” Jon mused.

Erin met his eyes. “What makes you think I’m unattached?”

“Are you?” he asked simply, berating himself for actually being curious.
She considered him for a moment before answering. “Yeah,” she finally said. “I am.”

An almost smug look crossed Jon’s features, and Erin suddenly wondered if she had been right in lying. But it wasn’t like it really mattered, she realized. It almost didn’t feel right to tell the truth, anyway – she was on a plane sitting next to an international rock star who had actually struck up a conversation with her. The situation was so surreal that it almost begged her to play up some characteristic differences. Not put on a mask or façade, just step a little bit out of the realms of her normal, otherwise boring life.

“I must say I’m surprised,” Jon said, nearly smirking.

Yeah, me too, Erin thought. “Is that so?”

Jon nodded. “With a pretty face like yours, I’m surprised you don’t have men fawning all over you.”

“Oh, I never said I didn’t have admirers,” Erin teased.

“Ah, but you keep them at bay, do you?”

Erin couldn’t help but smile. “In my dreams.”

“Whoa, careful there, that’s a little too much information,” Jon teased back.

Erin made a face at him good-naturedly. “That’s not what I meant!”

Jon shook his head, smiling. What was he doing?

They settled into an easy conversation, the topics leading them smoothly to new subjects and deeper discussion over the next few hours. The cabin lights were dimmed and most of the passengers slept, but Jon and Erin continued their banter in quiet voices. Neither of them knew or understood exactly how they had gotten to that point in the first place, but once they had begun talking, there was something so comfortable in confiding in the other that neither of them wanted to stop. It was reassuring to talk to a new face, but there was also a subtly developing attraction between them that they both sensed but neither openly acknowledged.

The night wore on, and the sky outside Erin’s window was inky black, the stars and moon glowing brightly. Together, they painted an entirely different world that, in retrospect, contributed to the sensuality that had flavored the evening.

Before either of them knew it, the pilot was announcing their descent into Newark. All around them, people began to wake and stir, breaking the soothing silence that had been dominant until then.

“It’s been almost five hours already?” Erin checked her watch, surprised.

Jon stretched his legs out and shifted his weight a bit. “Time flies when you’re having fun,” he said softly.

Twenty minutes later, Erin looked out the window and saw the familiar lights of Newark International Airport. A sad knot formed in the pit of her stomach as she realized her late-night adventure was coming to an end. It had been so enlightening, so entertaining, so…captivating to spend all that time talking with and getting to know the man sitting to her left, and she almost felt as if they had poured out enough of their souls to each other that they were entitled to get off the plane and head out together.

But real life was waiting on the ground in Newark. She’d get her bags and grab a taxi and go back to her little townhouse, and Jon would probably get into a waiting limo, drive away with a flourish, and go back to his colonial style mansion that she knew sat nestled out in the back country of Middletown. She’d probably see Max in the morning and he would ask about every detail of her trip; Jon would…she didn’t know what Jon would do. She wondered if he was seeing anyone. Somehow, in their entire conversation, they had never mentioned his love life.

Probably all the better, she thought. That’s a touchy subject with rock stars.

Regardless, their happenchance rendezvous was rapidly winding down, and Erin figured she might as well accept it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chapter One

It was late.

That was the one thing on Erin Sullivan’s mind as she gazed absent-mindedly out the window of the plane. She had been among the first Elite Access members to board the nonstop flight from San Diego to Newark, and after tossing her carry-on in the overhead compartment, placing her book and boarding pass in the seat pocket in front of her, and settling down in her first class seat, she was aching to get home already.

She had been in San Diego for the better part of two weeks, attending her management consulting firm’s annual corporate retreat, and squeezing in some visitation time with family afterward. Her flight was originally scheduled for noon that day, which would have gotten her home in New Jersey at a decent hour of the evening…but as luck would have it, departures had been severely delayed all day, and hers was one of them. Now, the plane was sitting outside the gate at eight o’clock San Diego time, meaning she wouldn’t be home until nearly dawn.

She watched the luggage carts and the crew on the ground as they tossed bags onto the conveyor belt that lifted them into the aircraft’s cargo hold. Inside the plane, disgruntled passengers filed past her down the aisle, wearing expressions that mirrored how Erin felt inside.

She turned her attention to the cityscape as it twinkled in the summer evening twilight and sighed. She had grown up in Southern California, and spent most of her childhood here in San Diego. She had graduated from UCLA, majoring in business and obtaining her master’s degree in Business Administration and Management, then grabbed hold of the first regional job that came her way. Several years later, she had been offered a promotion, and though it was in New Jersey, she took it and ran. Adjusting to the east coast was easy for her, and despite being across the country from family and friends she thrived. Work was her niche.

She wasn’t entirely alone in New Jersey, though – she had met Max the year before, and they’d be celebrating six months together this coming weekend, when she was home. She couldn’t believe it had been six months already…it felt like they had just met. In her mind, they weren’t very serious and she certainly wasn’t ready to settle down with anyone yet, but he was on a different playing field. He talked as if they were going to be together forever, and though it sometimes made her skin crawl, Erin usually smiled and played along.

The first class cabin was packed tonight for some reason; Erin could only see two empty seats from her vantage point – one several rows up across the aisle, and the one next to her. She vaguely hoped the seat would stay empty, but she knew with her luck it would soon be occupied by some big business executive, the kind who typed on his Blackberry or laptop the entire flight, or fell asleep with his mouth open and snored in her ear. At the very least, she figured it would be some businessperson as tired and impatient to get home as she was. That was a pretty safe bet in first class.

The line in the aisle began to thin out as passengers found their seats and stowed their carry-ons, and soon everyone was seated. The seat several rows up had been claimed, but the one next to her remained empty, and Erin started to believe that maybe she was in luck after all.

She watched the flight attendants as they talked to the pilots and checked with the ticket agents to ensure everyone was on board, and she hoped they weren’t going to have to wait for anyone tonight. She hated when people were late and held up the entire plane, especially when it was already delayed and everyone else wanted to get going.

She was a naturally punctual person – always on time and frequently early for everything, never late. Her life was scheduled and regimented down to the very last detail, with very little flexibility. Sometimes it took its toll, but for the most part she thrived on living in a world of predictability and order.

As the attendants finally moved toward the walkway entrance to begin closing everything up, Erin saw someone hurry through the door at the last minute. He seemed out of breath and muttered something to the attendant, which Erin assumed was an apology. In spite of herself, she rolled her eyes. There’s a reason the board time is printed on your ticket, she thought.

The attendant smiled and said something back that Erin couldn’t hear, then closed the door behind him and announced to the cockpit that they were ready to go.

The passenger made his way down the aisle, and Erin couldn’t help but watch him as he did. He was dressed casually in jeans and a white button-down short-sleeved shirt, which she noticed showed off rigidly toned muscles in his arms and torso. He had shaggy blonde hair that peeked out from beneath a baseball cap, and strangely enough, dark sunglasses framed his face. He carried a small bag that looked like a briefcase in one hand, and Erin realized he was most likely her mystery neighbor.

Sure enough, the man stopped at the seat next to her and smiled briefly at her before he reached up into the overhead compartment to stow his case.

Erin smiled back quickly, then faced forward so she wouldn’t seem like she was staring. The man took his seat and she caught a whiff of his cologne – a fresh, musky scent that struck her as instantly sexy. She wondered why he kept his sunglasses on, but figured he was just one of those San Diegans who kept them on in nearly every form of weather since sunshine was the norm. She had grown up here, after all – there were actually people like that.

Finally, the plane began to back away from the gate and toward the runaway. The pilot’s voice came on over the intercom, “Ladies and gentleman, welcome aboard Continental Airlines Flight 6502, nonstop service to Newark, New Jersey. Approximate travel time tonight is five hours and three minutes, with an arrival time of 4:30am on the east coast. We apologize for the delay tonight, but the good news is that we are first in line for takeoff, and should be taking off momentarily.”

Erin breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God.

The man in the seat next to her laughed lightly. “It’s about time, huh?”

Erin smiled again. “Yeah,” she said. “Considering the fact that I should have been crawling into my own bed by now.”

The man laughed again. As Erin turned back to the window, she caught sight of his reflection as he bent his head and discreetly removed his shades, and it suddenly dawned on her that perhaps he wasn’t just an obsessed San Diegan. She couldn’t get a good enough look at him without turning to face him directly, and she didn’t have the nerve for that anyway, so she contented herself for the time being with focusing outside.

The plane approached the runway slowly and began to pivot around to face the stretch. The cabin lights dimmed and Erin settled back in her seat, suddenly hungry and hoping they’d serve something somewhat edible for the in-flight meal.

Several minutes later, they were rumbling down the runway and taking off into the dark sky, gaining altitude as Erin watched the San Diego skyline drop away. The mystery man next to her stretched out his legs and reached for the magazine in the seat pocket in front of him. Reaching up to the overhead light, he glanced at Erin. “Do you mind?”

Erin shook her head. “No, go ahead. I probably won’t be able to sleep anyway.”

He switched the light on and Erin got a better look at his features – or rather, his eyes. They were the deepest, most beautiful shade of crystal blue she’d ever seen, set on a face of rugged handsomeness. As her eyes traveled down the rest of his body, she suddenly recognized him as quickly as if she’d been struck in the face.

It made sense, since they were headed to New Jersey. But she just never expected to see him on a regular flight like this, even if it was in first class. Usually stars of his magnitude traveled entirely incognito or on their own private charter jets.

She wanted to say something to him, but figured she’d better not. He was probably tired, like everyone else, at this hour, and he just wanted to get through this flight and get home smoothly.

She could totally understand that – but how the hell was she going to get through the next several hours sitting right next to him?

Max would be so jealous right now, she realized. He was always jealous whenever she was around another guy, particularly if he was good-looking. He preferred to keep her at his side whenever they went out, and if another guy so much as spoke to her, Max would cut in and make an excuse for them to leave. It annoyed Erin greatly, but whenever she brought it up to him, Max would put on a big show of hurt and say that “he was just looking out for her…after all, men are pigs.”

She didn’t need to be told that twice. Before Max, she had had bad relationship after worse fling, and none of them had lasted more than a few months. In fact, Max had lasted the longest out of every man she’d ever dated, and even now she wasn’t in a fairy-tale romance. Max was cute, and was certainly good in bed, but she couldn’t help the desire for that perfect someone – the man who’d be her partner and equal, but still sweep her off her feet with his impeccable charm and earth-shattering good looks.

Like the hunk of lust sitting right next to her, she mused. Lord knew he had captured the hearts and hormones of millions of women around the world, and Erin had no trouble seeing why. He was built to perfection – and she couldn’t help but admire the impeccable way his jeans fit his form.

He must have noticed her staring, because he turned his head and caught her eye before she had a chance to look away. She instantly blushed. “Sorry,” she muttered, looking back at the window. Shit.

He chuckled softly. “I don’t usually travel on commercial flights like this,” he said quietly, as if he’d read her mind. “But I made an exception, since I wanted to get home sooner.”

Erin turned and looked at him to see a smile creeping along the edges of that sexy mouth. Still blushing, it took her a minute to form a sentence. Then she giggled. “So did I.”

The man smiled, the corners of his blue eyes crinkling, but before he could say anything else the flight attendant arrived, taking drink orders. The man politely gestured to Erin to go first, and she ordered a Merlot. “Good choice,” he complimented her as he ordered the same.

“Yeah well, it’s the end of a very long day and we have a long flight ahead. I say bottom’s up in this case.”

He laughed. “I’ll drink to that.”

They clinked glasses and each took a long drink. The liquid was soothing as it slid down her throat, and Erin welcomed the effect it would have on settling her nerves.

“I take it you’re not local, then?” the man continued.

Erin shook her head. “Nope – although I did grow up in San Diego. New Jersey is home base now.”

He nodded. “How do you like it? I mean, compared to southern California?”

“It’s different, that’s for sure,” Erin shrugged, still surprised at who she was talking to. “But I like it. And I like having actual seasons for once.”

He gave a small laugh. “Yes, New Jersey is beautiful in the Autumn.”

They fell silent again, each nursing their wineglasses, before the man spoke again.

“You know, I don’t usually share a glass of wine with strangers,” he said softly.

Erin looked up at him, confused, and unsure what to say. But before she could open her mouth, he held out his hand, his eyes twinkling. “I’m Jon.”

She met his eyes and paused before she took his hand, suppressing a laugh. “Nice to meet you. I’m Erin.”

“Well, Erin,” Jon smiled. “I guess we aren’t strangers anymore.”

Lie To Me - Wordpress Themes is proudly powered by WordPress and themed by Mukkamu Templates Novo Blogger