Another Update...

I've been missing again, I know. My boyfriend and his family (who live in the Netherlands) visited for two weeks, so I was playing tour guide...and then have been dealing with real life shit since they left, including a mental breakdown and hitting rock bottom with my finances. I seriously needed a therapist.

So...clearly, I have had no headspace for writing. I'll be catching up soon and getting new stuff out soon, though. Keep watching this space.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chapter Thirty

Erin could see him, she could feel him, the sensation instinctive and suffocating within the crowded club.

He was doing an incredible imitation of any other normal guy at the bar. He sat there nonchalantly, neither looking her way or showing any sign of knowing she was there. Like he expected her to think this whole thing were a coincidence.

Erin glared at him through narrowed eyes, wishing that looks truly could kill.

The waiter returned and set down two square glasses on the table; Erin barely noticed.

Jon returned a few moments later to find her sitting stone-still at the booth, her mouth set in a thin line.

“Whoa baby, that gin too strong for you now?” he smiled.

“Not strong enough,” she mumbled.

“What?” Jon sat down, the edges of concern creeping around his eyes.

Erin jerked her head toward Max. “He’s here.”

Jon followed her signal and Erin watched as his eyes went from bright blue to dark cobalt within seconds. His jaw tightened and clicked, his hand clenched into a fist.

It was hard to see his face clearly from across the club, but Erin swore she saw Max’s lips form an amused smile. As if he knew they were watching him. She suddenly felt sick to her stomach, anxious…but suddenly livid at the same time.

Enough is enough.

Before she even knew what she was doing, Erin was striding toward him at a hasty pace. Max seemed to schedule his timing: as she got closer, he suddenly turned and saw her, smiling as if surprised to see her there.

“Erin,” he said good-naturedly. “Fancy meeting you here. How have you been?”

“What are you doing here, Max?”

He shrugged. “You know, just relaxing at the end of a long week.”


Max raised an eyebrow and feigned confusion. “Sorry?”

“Stop the innocent act, you know exactly what I’m talking about,” Erin spat, loud enough for other nearby to turn.

“No, I don’t…”

“You followed us here!”

Max’s eyes widened in surprise. “I what?” he laughed slightly. “What do you mean? I didn’t even see you come in.”

Erin felt Jon’s strong hand on her shoulder as he came up behind her.

“I saw you the other night, Max. Outside my house?”

Max’s gaze seemed to slip ever so slightly; Erin stared him down. “You think you can just keep stalking me like a maniac and I won’t notice? Hiding around every corner, watching my every move. I’m not an idiot, you know!” her voice rose louder.

Max held up his hands. “Erin …I have no idea what you’re talking about. I haven’t even seen you since the night we broke up. Since you broke up with me…”

“I could have you thrown in jail, you know,” Erin ignored his claim. “Sabotage, vandalism, stalking…if you keep this up, I will file a restraining order against you, I swear to God I will. I’ll have you locked up!!” Erin was screaming by now, her emotions raging.

Max looked around nervously, shrugging as if he was innocently oblivious to her accusations.

“Erin,” he said in a voice dripping with condescension. “Are you feeling all right? Have you been drinking too much?”

“ME?!” Erin spat, dumbfounded. She could not believe his act. Treating her like a crazy person attacking him out of the blue. She wouldn’t let him win. She might be looking a little crazed to the people around them, but she could not let him get away unscathed.

“It’s over,” she growled, recomposing herself. “Now leave me – and Jon – alone!”

Jon had been quiet until now, seeming to understand that this was something Erin needed to handle on her own. Despite his instinctive urge to say a few well-chosen words himself, he merely stood by as guard.

“Jon, huh?” Max glanced over at Jon, seeming to notice him for the first time. “Well, I don't know what's going on here, but I think I should probably leave.”

As he got up and made to pass them, his eyes met Jon’s briefly. They held his gaze for perhaps half a second, but that was enough for Jon to see the smug look of defiance. The unspoken challenge to do something about this.

And that was all it took.

The emotions, the hurt, the pain, the fury that had been raging inside him exploded, and before Max could wipe that silly smirk off his face, Jon’s fist did it for him. “You son of a bitch,” he snarled, as Max stumbled backward in surprise.

Gasps were heard from the gathering crowd, and it seemed to back up collectively. Jon was fuming, and as Max recomposed himself, he lunged at him again. He grabbed Max’s collar and cocked his arm, connecting with his cheek again. Max crashed backward into the bar and held onto it to keep from falling. He lifted his head to look up and revealed a gash beneath his eye; blood trickled out of a corner of his mouth.

Erin grabbed Jon’s arm as he prepared to strike again, and shoving their way through the astonished crowd, pulled him outside.

The crisp air was inviting after the stifling tension of the club, but people stared as they burst down the sidewalk to the valet lane.

“Oh my God,” she gasped as they shoved the valet slip to the attendant and told him to hurry. “Jon, what…?”

Jon massaged his knuckles and shook his head vehemently. Behind them, people began emerging from the club in groups, staring at him and Erin, then hurrying off.

The attendant pulled the car up and Jon ushered Erin inside quickly. He thrust a $20 bill in the attendant’s hand, jumped into the driver’s seat, slammed the door, and gunned the accelerator.

His grip on the steering wheel was deadly, and Erin knew better than to say anything. They drove to her house in silence, the only sound the roar of the engine as they sped down the street.

As they pulled up to her house, Jon finally spoke. “I’ll have to smooth things over with Bear,” he muttered angrily.

Erin looked over at him in surprise. His features were sharp, framing his profile severely in the shadows. “What happened back there?” she asked. She was still trying to process what had transpired so quickly, but she was finding herself looking at Jon in awe.

“I don’t know,” he growled. “That fucking look he gave me…God, I wanted to kill him.”

“What look?”

Jon ran a hand through his blonde locks. “That arrogant look, like he was challenging me. Bastard.”

Erin’s watched him with concern.

He looked at her sternly. “Is he always like that?”

“Like what?”

“Haughty. So goddamn condescending. The way he acted like he had no idea…”

Erin nodded. “That’s Max. He’s always been superior to everyone, especially me.” She turned and stared out the windshield, aware of Jon looking at her.

“What did you ever see in him?” he asked bluntly.

Erin smiled sadly. “I have no idea,” she confessed, feeling stupid. “He was charming at first. I was new here. I knew no one. It was like, why not?”

Jon rubbed his face and stared out the windshield. “I’ll have to do some damage control tomorrow. The guys at Rocket aren’t gonna like that Jon Bon Jovi just picked a fight in their VIP lounge. Shit. Just imagine the press…”

Erin took his hand. “Can you call them and tell them not to speak to the press? No one has to know about it unless the bartender at Elmo’s says something…or any of the people there…”

Jon smiled meekly. “I didn’t think. That’s the problem. I should have waited one fucking second before I reacted. He just pissed me off...”

“That’s a side of you I haven’t seen before,” Erin said gently. “And I thought there were no more surprises between us,” she laughed.

Jon smiled. “Well, I guess he finally got our message.”

Erin didn’t say anything for a moment, the scene playing out in her head again. “He said he hasn’t been following me,” she said quietly, Max’s words coming back to her.

“Did you really expect him to admit it?”

“I guess not...” Erin trailed off. Suddenly, the reality of the situation sank in. Jon was right, of course. What were the odds that Max would be in the same VIP lounge of the same club at the same time they were?

He was there because he’d seen them go in. He’d known they would be at Club Rocket tonight because he’d been following them. And of course he would lie about it.

A chilling fear took root in her stomach, and her eyes filled with tears. “I’m scared,” she whispered, staring at the dashboard.

Jon reached over and wrapped his hand around hers protectively. “Baby, don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay. Guys like him are just cowards – all talk and no action. He’s just a jealous creep right now. He’ll back off soon…probably sooner now that he’s seen we know what he’s up to.”

Erin nodded. “Will you still stay here with me tonight?”

“I have a better idea,” Jon said, starting up the car again. “My house is further away. He doesn’t know where it is. And if he does, my alarm system will have the cops on his ass before he can even get a window latch open.”

Erin nodded. “You’re right. I’d feel a lot better at your place.”

Jon nodded, and before either of them could say anything else, he turned the car around and headed back down the street. A cold rain began to fall, and behind them the beginnings of thunder rumbled in the distance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Erin felt as though she’d grown wings. Feeling lighter and freer than she had in months, she bopped around her house and office with joy swelling in her heart.

She felt as though she’d emerged from a dark tunnel, a cage she’d built herself, and felt the warm, bright sunshine for the first time. It was the feeling of lighthearted, in-the-moment euphoria that comes when everything in life is going right at that moment.

Jon loved her. And she loved him back. For the first time in a long time, she had given her heart up completely to someone else, trusting him with its well-being and safety, as though it were a fragile child (which it had felt like for years.)

They weren’t perfect – they were far from it – and she knew the damage she’d done with her lies wouldn’t be erased too quickly. But all that mattered anymore was that there were no more lies. No more secrets, no more pretending. She was finally in a place of total honesty with Jon, and though the path to that place had been rocky, it was good now. She knew she didn’t deserve him to be so understanding and forgiving, and for that she was deeply grateful.

The two of them had both been busy all week, and had only seen each other once since the weekend. But Jon had called her that morning to ask if she wanted to go to the club on Saturday, and she’d happily agreed.

Conveniently – or perhaps by subconscious design – Erin had forgotten for the time being that Max had turned out to be a stalker. She’d been so wrapped up in her worries about hurting Jon and fixing what she’d broken that she’d forgotten the reason she’d told him the damaging truth in the first place.

The future seemed bright and promising.

But as with all illusions, reality was waiting just outside the reach of her imagined sunshine. And darkness was waiting to swoop down once more.


Max sat in his kitchen, focusing intently as he ran his thumb along the blade of a butcher knife. He kept the pressure just light enough so the blade didn’t slice into his skin, and the challenge was exciting. It was flirting with danger, a thrill that grabbed him and sucked him in, daring him to succumb to failure.

But he wouldn’t succumb. Failure wasn’t an option for Max; it never had been. He’d decided that long ago.

His mother had been a failure. She’d been unable to hold onto her first marriage; she faltered when she found herself trying to raise a child alone. She’d turned to alcohol and frittered away what little money they had on that.

Then she’d married a second time for money, she’d brought some egotistical moron into their home and made herself disgustingly subservient to him to make him happy. So he wouldn’t leave them.

Max smiled. But he had left them, hadn’t he?

His mother hadn’t lasted long after Lewis died. She wallowed in self-pity and drowned her sorrows until they drowned her. Max awoke one morning to the sound of the bath running – a sound never heard after 7am, when his mother left for work. She was lying face-down in the tub, red-tinged water filled to the brim.

Max dialed 911, informed them that a woman was lying dead in the tub, and left for school.

Now, he set aside the knife and stared at it, lost in thought. His mother had been weak, and she’d gotten what was coming to her. She deserved it. Life is for the living – those who are strong enough to fight for it.

Erin had seemed like a fighter when Max had first met her – someone who took her job seriously, who had her head on straight, who knew where she was going in life with devotion and purpose. She didn’t seem the type to get sidetracked and blinded; she was focused.

Until she met a rockstar whose very name made women wet themselves.

That was where she failed. She’d been tested with a challenge to see if she could remain on the steady path to success, and she’d failed miserably. She was such a disappointment to Max. It almost made him sad – she had such potential, he hated to see it wasted.

But the world didn’t have room for wasted potential - it only took up space. Just like Lewis, just like his mother, Erin had chosen her own fate the second she slipped up.

Max stood up, filled with a steadying resolve for what he knew he had to do soon. He wasn’t nervous, he showed no sign of emotion. It was a matter that simply had to be taken care of, but the trick was executing it just right.

Just like the night Lewis drank his final cup of coffee.


Jon arrived at Erin’s house at precisely 7:00 PM, just as he’d promised. Feeling confident in her short black dress and knee-length leather heels, she opened the door and smiled as the obvious signs of approval crossed Jon’s face.

“You look stunning, as always,” he shook his head. “It should be a sin to look as good as you do, woman.”

Erin winked and shimmied past him. “Thank you, sir. You’re not so hard on the eyes yourself, you know.”

They climbed into the car and headed off for Club Rocket again; both had agreed to spend an evening free of drama and complications, to just enjoy themselves in the company of other people and let loose the unspoken burdens of the weekend before.

Once inside Elmo’s VIP lounge, they headed over to the private booths on the far end. Erin was taken with a sense of déjà vu, and she smirked as they passed the darkened doorway in the back, remembering what had happened there the last time they’d been here.

They arrived at a secluded booth and slid onto the leather seat as a uniformed server appeared almost out of nowhere to take their drink orders. Erin swapped her usual martini for a gin and tonic, and popped a peanut from the dish sitting on the table into her mouth. Jon watched her amusedly.

“So you going to dance tonight?” he asked.

Erin shrugged. “Eh, not if you aren’t.” Somehow she felt that abandoning him to have fun on her own was the exact opposite of what they should be doing tonight. She furrowed her brow; she was also suddenly feeling slightly uneasy, as though something weren’t right. She glanced around the club, trying to shake the nagging feeling that they were being watched.

The server returned with their drinks, and as he bustled off toward the bar Erin followed him with her eyes, somehow strangely pulled toward the area as if she was supposed to be looking for something.

Jon stood up. “I’ll be right back, baby, I gotta take care of business,” he gestured toward the men’s room and Erin nodded.

An odd feeling took hold in the pit of her stomach as she glanced back at the bar, feeling suddenly apprehensive.

When she saw the curly-haired man sitting atop the end stool, her heart stopped cold.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Welcome back!!

Welcome back to the world of Jon and Erin - I hope you didn't forget too much. I had to adjust to an entirely new routine and lifestyle over the last month, so it took awhile to get back into the swing of things. But Chapter 28 is up now, and Jon and Erin are back - in the middle of the muck where I left them. Things will be unraveling fast now...

I hope you're still interested in the story, and you can always go back to the last few chapters (in the menu on the right) to refresh yourself.

Thanks for being patient! :)

~ B

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Erin slept fitfully that night.

No matter how hard she tried to forget it, the memory of the hurt she'd seen in Jon's blue eyes seared at her heart, almost mocking her in its persistence. He'd been so angry. So confused. It killed her to be the cause of that, but she couldn't help be slightly relieved that she'd done it. The burdening weight of her secret was finally lifted off her shoulders, and while the damage inflicted was going to take some time - and pain - to fix, she'd rather be on a path to open honesty than a darker web of lies.

But his words had stung. His accusations of her 'stringing them along like puppets', and his spiteful 'aren't you a saint' might as well have been slaps in the face. She wished he had yelled. The quiet, deadly voice was not the Jon Bon Jovi she knew - it was her first glimpse into the dark side of him she'd always heard of, but never wished to see. And certainly never wanted to provoke.

Another creak outside her door made her heart stop, and she began to cry again, stressed and overwhelmed. Her world had come crumbling down on top of her so suddenly - her ex-boyfriend was a psycho stalker, her current boyfriend hated her, she'd screwed herself over tenfold all because of a little lie that began months ago. What the hell was she supposed to do now?

Nothing, she answered herself wearily. She was in this mess because she had kept trying to manipulate the situation to benefit herself; staying out of it for once might be just what she had to do. Actively fixing it would probably only dig her deeper. It was like quicksand - the more she struggled, the faster she sank. She had to stop struggling.

Erin's mind was spinning. She could go over every detail of the fight that night, she could jump at every noise in the hallway, she could cry herself dry, and nothing would come of it. Sleep seemed the only obvious alternative - nothing could intrude on her tired brain while she slept. And in the morning, things would be different. They'd be better.

They had to be.


Jon jerked awake as his head slipped down the window and hit the door ledge. "Fuck," he muttered, rubbing his jaw. It was morning, barely. The sun was over the horizon, filtering thinly through the trees that lined the street. The birds were stirring, singing quietly, but the paved walkways at the houses were quiet and deserted. Jon glanced warily down at Erin's place - no different than the others. Her curtains were still shut; she was almost certainly still asleep. At least the psycho boyfriend wasn't around.

Jon yawned and grumbled, stretching as much as he could in his cramped front seat. The sleek sportscar might be a dream to drive, but he learned that night that it was a nightmare to sleep in. He checked his watch: 6:30 a.m. He groaned - he'd been asleep for two hours. Stubborn and defiant, he'd sat stone-still in that seat all night long, staring down the street for any sign of movement, arms crossed over his chest. Nothing had happened under his watch, except the mysterious leather-clad woman who'd emerged from the house across the street around 2 a.m., stumbling over herself tipsily.

Almost gingerly, Jon's mind returned to Erin. He was downright weary of thinking about the events that had transpired the night before; hours of silent reflection will drive a man crazy. But now that it was morning, and he'd had a two hour break, he couldn't help it. Somehow, though, miraculously, most of his anger had ebbed away in the dark hours of the night, replaced with an almost melancholy sadness. More than anything, as much as he hated to admit it, he was just hurt.

A movement down the street caught his eye, and he saw Erin emerge from the house, wrapped tightly in her robe, shuffling down the walk to retrieve her paper. She glanced nervously up and down the street, no doubt wary that the ex-boyfriend-stalker was going to jump out from behind a tree. Jon watched, silent and still, as she hurried back into the house and shut the door.

Suddenly he wanted to talk to her. He didn't want to turn the car around and go home - she was right there. He thought it would be stupid to be this close without trying to talk things over, now that they were both awake and calmed down.

He stiffly got out of the car and winced as he began to walk toward her house - his damn knees weren't getting any younger, and having been bent consistently for hours didn't help.

He knocked quietly, not wanting to alarm her. Several seconds later, the dining room curtain fluttered slightly to his left, and he stepped back to make sure she knew it was him. The door opened slowly a moment later.

"Hi," he said gently. She looked shy - timid and fragile. Her hair tumbled messily around her shoulders, her eyes were puffy and red. She held the newspaper in one hand, the doorknob in the other. He was sure she had slept about as well as he did. She looked altogether broken, and Jon felt his heart constrict in spite of himself.

"Hi," she replied meekly. The singing of the birds seemed to grow to a roar in the thick silence that filled the space between them. Jon cleared his throat.

"Can I come in?"

Erin looked surprised, but stepped aside and made way for him. He edged past her, trying not to notice the way she still smelled faintly of oranges.

Erin shut the door behind him and turned around, looking ashamed and almost scared, as if she were bracing herself for a tirade.

Instead, Jon stared at the floor for a moment before looking up. He paused, then spoke in a soft voice. "I'm sorry for the things I said last night."

Erin's eyes immediately began to fill, tears brimming thickly. Her lips trembled, and before he knew what he was doing, Jon strode over to her and wrapped her in his arms. She dropped the newspaper and buried her face in his chest, crying with abandon. "I am so sorry," she sobbed against into his shirt. "I'm so sorry..."

Jon held her tightly. "Shh," he said soothingly. "It's okay."

"No, it's not," Erin replied, shaking her head vehemently.

"Well, you're right," Jon said. "It's not. But it could be a lot worse."

Erin pulled away and looked up at him, her face streaked with tears and her eyes bloodshot. "Really?"

Jon nodded. "Yeah. I thought about it all night, and as much as I hate what you's not the end of the world."

Erin blinked, clearly stunned. "You're not mad?"

"Oh, I was mad," Jon said without hesitation. "I was furious. But not anymore. I let it simmer all night - now it's out of my system."

Erin's mouth was open. "Really?" she said again.

Jon finally smiled. "Yes, really. I'm not saying I'm okay with everything, but..." he faltered. Erin looked at him expectantly, her sad eyes brightening slightly with hope.

Suddenly he frowned. "You never should have lied to me," he said. "But I know it took guts for you to tell me the truth last night. And I must be a crazy lovesick fuck, because as much as I want to be mad at you still, I can't be."

Erin's face broke into a bashful smile. "Really?" she repeated. Only this time, it had a whole new tone.

Jon kissed her forehead. "Really. But we have to work this out, you know that."

Erin nodded, stray tears breaking free. "I know. But I'm so relieved you're not mad anymore."

Jon nodded silently, thinking. "Erin," he said suddenly, his voice serious. "Before I can forgive you, I need to know something." His jaw was set, his features rigid and tense. He looked as if he didn't want to know the answer to his question. "I don't want to - I can't - more forward with anything unless I know..."

Erin's eyes softened in realization of his intention. Suddenly she knew, as clearly as if she'd known all along, but only just now realized it. "Yes," she whispered, before he could say anything else. "I love you, Jon. I always have."

Jon looked at her long and hard, apparently considering her response and testing it for validity. Then he kissed her, their lips meeting tenderly, sensitive to every emotion that had rushed through their veins that night, and he whispered against her.

"Thank God..."


Hey all -- just wanted to post a quick update and apologize for going so long without new material here. I've got stuff jotted down and mapped out from weeks ago, but for those who didn't know, life has been crazy the last month and I just have not had the time.

Lately, however, scenes and ideas have been running through my head, so I will TRY to get the new chapter up and running as soon as possible. Bear with me!!!

Thanks :)

~ B

Friday, August 28, 2009


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Jon circled the block a few times to blow off some steam, then parked the Aston Martin at the end of Erin’s street. He might be angry, he might have hated everything she told him, and he might have needed to get out of her house and be alone for awhile, but that didn’t mean he didn’t care about her safety. If that creep Max so much as dared to show his face around the neighborhood, he’d regret it instantly.

Jon shut off the headlights and sat back in the driver’s seat, crossing his arms tightly over his chest. His jaw was locked, his eyes hard, as he stared at the dark street in front of him. His head was spinning with thoughts and emotions coming at him from every angle – anger, disbelief, surprise…


He’d been side-blinded and thrown off balance when Erin told him about Max. He’d sat there while she poured out her heart in apology, and tried desperately to absorb the reality of the information while questions raged in his brain. Why is she telling me now? He’d thought. In the middle of the night?

Because the guy had been outside her house. “Watching her. Waiting for her.”

Jon didn’t like that fact one single bit. What was the creep doing watching her in the middle of the night? Why had he taken up stalking her? Was he just a disgruntled ex, or did Erin have some other secrets she wasn’t telling Jon?

He got that was why she called him, he got that she was scared…but the way she dropped all that crap on him, with so much more to the story, really got under his skin. Like she was trying to side-blind him, get him under the pretense of a bigger, more important story than the fact that she’d cheated on him.

Last month. She had been involved with another guy until last month. It was one thing if she and Jon had just met and she’d told him about Max right then…but last month? Three months into their relationship?

Jon cringed as he remembered making love to her, setting up a romantic evening at his house, admitting to her that he loved her….shit. His face burned as he felt insanely foolish; he’d been a blithering idiot. Entirely blind to her two faces, unaware that as he confessed his love to her that night she was hiding a secret relationship with another man. His stomach churned with a mixture of humiliation and fury.

Then again, Jon realized, what if she had told him about Max right away? Or what if she’d been straight with him from that first moment they met on the plane? Everything would have been different. Jon never would have known her. They would have gotten off that plane and gone their separate ways, and she never would have made that impression on him that she did when he had his driver take her home. When he watched her walk up to her door and thought about the inspiration she had given him for a song.

She would have become nothing more than that – a character in some future lyrics.

So what did that all mean? That this was the price of getting to know her after all? That because she simply answered something else to that question on the plane, they’d ended up talking all night, he’d helped her get her luggage back, taken her home, decided to follow her in when he saw her at Starbucks a week later, became instantly wrapped up in the excitement and passion of a new romance, and ended up falling for her. Hard.

It seemed as though everything had transpired because of a lie. And as much as he hated to consider it, Jon couldn’t help but feel as though the whole thing, the whole past four months, had been a lie itself.

But the other part of him knew he was overreacting. It wasn’t as though she’d known that night what was going to happen. She, just like he, was in the middle of a situation that she’d never foreseen – immersed in an atmosphere that lent itself to slight manipulation of the truth. They had been perfect strangers, after all. Thrust together by happenchance. Neither of them even considering the fact – at the time – that they’d ever see each other again.

When he thought of it that way, her lie seemed so insignificant.

But then why, after they’d gotten to know each other, after they’d gotten involved, after they’d gotten physical for Christ’s sake, why hadn’t she told him then?

Despite his eagerness to accuse her, to find fault on her side, Jon knew the answer to that as well. He was only human.

So how could he be angry with her? He was no saint himself, in fact, he was probably the biggest hypocrite in the world for preaching about fidelity.

But damn it, he had never cheated on her. He hadn’t even thought about it.

And strangely enough, Jon realized as he sat there deep in thought, that was the root of this whole problem. Why he was so angry. Because he was in love with Erin. Because she meant enough to him that he wasn’t even interested in other women, because she was amazing and beautiful and intelligent and wonderful enough to finally prove his match. She was worthy of his crazy, stubborn, hotheaded personality and unrelenting lifestyle, and every day she proved to show him something new about herself. About them. Teaching him that he’d never known love from this angle – at this depth.

To finally have found that ultimate match, that one woman who made all the women from his past obsolete, the final destination in that crazy, cosmic search for love…it was terrifying. Was she really “the one”? Jon didn’t know if he was ready for that.

And try as he might to play it off casually, as much as he insisted it wasn’t as big as it felt, he was downright terrified of the hold she had on his heart.

Jon rubbed his face agitatedly. That was what made it so much worse. Maybe he could understand why she hadn’t told him about Max, or Max about him, but the fact that she hadn’t broken things off with Max, the fact that she’d kept things going well into her and Jon’s new relationship…it hurt. More than Jon wanted to admit. It meant that she didn’t feel the same way about him, and if that was true, he was absolutely damned.

Admitting he was under her spell, in love to the point of almost no return was hard enough. But having to accept the fact that it wasn’t reciprocated…Jon suddenly understood the real reason for all of his mixed feelings that night.

And as he sat in the silent car, staring out at the darkened street, the lyrics from a song he’d written long ago stung at his heart…

If you don’t love me, lie to me
‘Cause baby you’re the one thing I believe
Let it all fall down around us, if that’s what meant to be
Right now, if you don’t love me, baby
Lie to me…

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Six

Jon got to Erin’s house faster than she expected him to. Despite the anxiety over what she was about to tell him, she couldn’t help but feel a wave of relief when he pulled up outside. The sight of him as he walked up the path calmed her nerves, and when she opened the door and fell into his strong arms, she felt uncannily safe and protected.

“Thanks for coming,” she said into his chest.

Jon smoothed her hair away from her face and lifted her chin to look at him. “Baby, what’s wrong?”

Erin breathed deeply, then took his hand and led him into the living room. “I need to talk to you,” she said as nonchalantly as she could. She tried to tell herself it wouldn’t be a big deal, that Jon wouldn’t care when he learned there was another man involved – however involved he was now – in Erin’s life. That he’d shrug it off, pull her into a hug, and tell her it was okay.

God, she wished it would play out like that.

She sat down on the sofa opposite Jon, and willed herself to be completely honest. “Jon, when I got home tonight, someone was outside my house.”

Jon raised an eyebrow, confused. “Outside your house? As in, walking by on the sidewalk?”

“No,” Erin said carefully. “As in, sitting inside a parked car. Waiting for me. Watching me.”

Jon’s face steeled so fast Erin thought it would freeze that way. He was silent for a moment, but a tick pulsed strongly in his cheek. “What are you talking about?”

“I know it sounds ominous, and it was,” Erin continued steadily. “I was really scared, and I hurried inside the house and locked the door. But I watched the car from inside, and then I saw the person leave…” she faltered, suddenly aware of how melodramatic she was being. Get to the point, Erin. “The thing is, I know who it was.”

If Jon was angry about the idea of someone watching her, he seemed even more confused about where she was going with the whole thing. His expression shifted slightly, and he furrowed his brow. “Erin, what are you talking about? Who was it?”

“You don’t know him,” she said gently. “His name’s Max. Max Gerber. He’s…actually my ex.”

Jon’s eyes widened and Erin corrected herself. “Boyfriend,” she said quickly. “Ex-boyfriend. But we were together for awhile…about six months.”

The baby blues masked the calculations that Erin could almost see going on behind them, as Jon figured the timing out. “Six months? Here in Jersey, you mean, right? Or is he from California?”

“No, he’s from Jersey,” Erin said. “We met here.”

“But you barely moved here a year ago,” Jon said pointedly. “When exactly were these six months up?”

Trying desperately to avoid as much confrontation and argument as possible, Erin seemed to shrink into herself. “Last month,” she said quietly, hardly able to look at him.

Jon’s face changed yet again to steel, hardened and rigid in a way Erin had never seen before. Anger and hurt began seeping through his expression, and she jumped into an explanation before he could speak.

“Jon, I know this sounds bad. But I swear, it was over long before that. Even before I left for San Diego, Max was already driving me crazy. I never saw myself with him long-term, I was distancing myself from him for a long time. I just never really did anything about it until…well, until…” Erin stopped.

Until you came into my life.

How the bloody hell could she honestly say that to him and make it sound good? Even in her head it sounded stupid. She’d make Jon sound like he was entirely disposable. Replaceable, like the rest of the men in her life. But that wasn’t it at all.

She looked up and cringed at the look Jon had fixated on her. Fierce and demanding of a better explanation, that much she could tell. And damn it, she knew she owed him one. But she just didn’t have a good enough one.

“Jon,” she said gently. “I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. This wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I don’t know what I was thinking, and I am the one entirely at fault here. I was stupid, I know. And I can never undo it. Things got out of control…” she faltered, discouraged by the unrelenting look Jon maintained. “But you have to believe me when I say I never cheated on you. After I met you, Max and I never did anything. In fact, we hardly even saw each other. We spoke on the phone a few times and that was it. I kept avoiding him because I didn’t want to tell him about you –”

“And why’s that?” Jon interrupted her, his voice clipped. Erin shut her eyes and shook her head. That had come out all wrong.

“No, that’s not what I meant, I just –”

“Then what exactly did you mean?”

Erin hesitated, growing more terrified of Jon’s expression and feeling more anxious by the minute. This was not going the right way at all. She rubbed her face, frustrated with herself for not explaining it better.

“I didn’t tell him about you because I didn’t think…”

“You didn’t think we were going to work out?” Jon snapped. “And when we didn’t, you could finish screwing around with him?”

“No!” Erin retorted, shocked at his accusation. “No, that’s not it at all!”

“Then tell me, Erin! Why didn’t you tell this guy about me?”

“For the same reason I didn’t tell you about him – I was scared!” Erin stood up, feeling suddenly suffocated by the tension in the room. “Because THIS is the kind of conversation I wanted to avoid. Because I was afraid of confrontation.”

“This conversation would have gone a lot differently if you’d told me about him when we had just met, Erin,” Jon said poisonously. “But no, you choose to tell me three months into our relationship!”

“I wasn’t going to tell you about him at all, Jon, but as I found out he’s been stalking me, I figured I’d better now!”

As soon as she said it, she regretted it. One look at Jon’s face and she knew she’d just ruined any chance of redeeming herself.

“Well that makes it better, doesn’t it,” Jon said in a voice of deadly calm. “You hide this from me the whole time we’re together, then drop it on me out of nowhere because suddenly things aren’t going your way. You figure I’d have found out eventually now that he’s following you, so you come to me first and look like the bigger person. Aren’t you a saint.”

The words stung Erin like a thousand needles, and she gaped at him, at a loss for words.

Jon stood up from the sofa slowly, looking suddenly much taller and intimidating. “You told me on the plane from San Diego that you were unattached. That is the only reason I pursued you the way I did. I don’t understand that connection we had on that flight any more than you do, but it stuck with me. And I wasn’t going to – I couldn’t – ignore it. Damn it, Erin, you affected me more than any woman has in a long time. And to find out that all this time you’ve been lying to me…”

Erin swallowed hard, fighting back the sting of tears that threatened to spill over.

Jon looked at her, his blue eyes darkened and hard. Any trace of their normal twinkle was gone, replaced with hurt and fury. “I don’t care if you say nothing happened with this guy after we met. The fact remains that you didn’t tell me about him, or him about me. You strung us both along like puppets.”

“No I didn’t,” Erin said weakly, hurt by the way he was talking to her. Her faults seemed a hundred times worse when Jon pointed them out.

“Yes, you did,” he continued. “You say this all ended last month? Did you break things off? Tell me you at least were the one to break it off.”

“Yes,” Erin said more strongly, glad to have done something right. Sort of. “I told him it was over, and I haven’t seen him since. Well, except for tonight.”

“But you didn’t tell him things were over because there was another guy, did you?” Jon’s mouth was set in a thin line.

Erin shrank even more. “No,” she said angrily, furious with herself. “I told him things weren’t working out anymore.”

“Right,” Jon said bluntly. “And once again, you took the easy way out. You figure the dude still doesn’t know about me, I don’t know about him, but you break things off and now he has no reason or excuse to come around again, so you can continue dating me in peace, and neither one of us is the wiser for it.”

“Jon,” Erin said exasperatedly. “I didn’t mean it that way!”

“But that’s how you did it, Erin! Shit! Don’t you see? You’ve manipulated this whole fucking thing!” Jon threw his hands up in the air. “I don’t believe this. I don’t believe you. How can I ever trust you again? You’ve put me in the worst fucking position, you know that?”

“How is that?” Erin snapped back, furious with herself and upset that Jon was lashing out so much.

“Jesus, Erin, what am I supposed to do now? You call me in the middle of the night to come protect you, but won’t tell me why…then drop this all on me when I get here. This guy is now stalking you – God knows why – and I find out he’s not only your ex, but you were still with him when we started dating! Shit…” Jon turned away from her and walked the length of the living room, running his hands through his hair. “But I can’t very well just leave when you have a stalker, now, can I?”

Erin hadn’t thought of it that way. She hadn’t meant to put him in that position, but of course it was a shitty one. If he stayed with her, he had to pretend everything was fine, which it obviously wasn’t. If he left, he was the asshole for leaving her vulnerable to someone who might or might not be a very real danger.

She couldn’t help it, the tears slid down her face before she could stop them. “I am so sorry,” she sobbed. “Jon, I am so sorry. I truly never meant to hurt you. I never meant to put you in this position. Everything you said is true, I know that now. I did those things, I acted that way. I wasn’t doing it intentionally, and if I had known how bad it looked, I never would have gotten into this mess,” she gasped for breath in between sobs. “I didn’t think. I was stupid. I should have handled it better, and if I could, I’d go back and redo this whole thing. But I was scared, Jon. I was scared of losing you. And I know that’s no excuse, but it’s the truth,” she paused, wiping her eyes defeatedly.

Jon looked at her silently. Despite his anger, despite all the wrong she had done him tonight, he still cared about her deeply. Her dark green eyes were clouded over with tears, her face shrouded in defeat and sorrow, guilt lurking around every corner and unafraid to admit it. He could tell she was truly apologetic, he knew she was sincere. It might be entirely the wrong time to be so, but she was. He knew that. And it helped.

But it didn’t make it okay. He was still hurt, still angry, still disbelieving that she had betrayed him like that. He needed time to be alone – to think. Not knowing what else to do except stay here and prolong an argument that didn’t need to continue, he walked over to the sofa. Without saying a word, he picked up his coat and keys, headed toward the door, and stepped out onto the porch.

“Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight,” he said without turning around. “No one will be outside your house. You’ll be safe.”

And with that he turned and headed down the sidewalk. Erin watched as he got into his car and drove away, the roar of the engine deafening as it sped down the otherwise silent street.

Erin shut the door and bolted it, then slowly returned to the living room, sank into the sofa, and cried.

She knew she had been wrong. And she knew things would go the way they did tonight. That was why she had avoided it for as long as she did, but she knew she had to eventually do the right thing, even though it hurt. And this was the right thing to do.

Wasn’t it?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Five

The dark blue Jetta screeched to a halt at the parking curb in the apartment complex and Max slammed his hands onto the steering wheel. “FUCK!” he roared, gritting his teeth and punching the wheel repeatedly.

He was absolutely furious with himself for being caught. WHY hadn’t he left earlier, when he saw that her lights were off? For all he knew, she could have been asleep, and he could have left knowing she was safe and alone…but no, he had to sit there, waiting, in case a light came on and he could see her beautiful silhouette. In case her lights had been off for another reason.

It was stupid, he knew that. And it made things ten times worse now. He hadn’t expected to see the fucking cab pull up right outside her house and deposit her – telling him instantly that he’d not only been watching an empty house for a fucking hour, but that he was now sitting right in the line of fire.

He’d hoped she wouldn’t notice him. She’d only seen his car once or twice; he’d bought it about a month before she’d gone to San Diego, and they had both been too busy for many dates back then.

He knew she’d seen the car when she went up to the mailbox, but he didn’t even think about the fact that she could see someone sitting in it. And of course that would freak her out.

He’d taken his chances when she’d gone inside, hoping he could escape before she saw him outside again. He didn’t want her to call the cops. But then he’d seen her at the window as he left, and panic and rage took over.

He punched the steering wheel again, cursing under his breath. SHIT.

Trying to calm down, he grit his teeth and shut off the ignition, then got out and made his way up to his apartment. His brain worked quickly, trying to figure out an explanation for the inevitable interrogation that was sure to come within the next day or so.

He let himself into his apartment, slightly surprised not to see a blinking light on the answering machine sitting on the hall table.

A weak hope rose in him – maybe she hadn’t recognized him after all…

His eyes turned back to dark slits when the phone rang right then and there, her number showing up plain as day on the caller ID.

Max didn’t answer it, but picked up the receiver and flung it against the wall, his face hardened in rage as he watched it bounce to the floor, the ringing cut off in mid-tone.


Erin sat on her bed, the curtains drawn and her bedroom door locked, staring at the television she’d turned on to break the silence she suddenly found terrifying.

She hadn’t really expected Max to answer, but the call had dropped before the machine picked up. She considered calling his cell, but hesitated even as she reached for hers. Part of her didn’t want to talk to him – she was so freaked out that confronting him, even over the phone, seemed to require far more courage than she had right now.

Within the spanse of about ten minutes after she saw his car peal away from her neighborhood, she’d figured things out. Her line of thoughts tumbled over each other faster than she could process them, realizing with bone-chilling force that he had been staked outside tonight to watch her.


He was curious about her whereabouts. Curious who she was with. Obviously still angry about her breaking up with him.

It almost didn’t surprise her – he had the type of personality that could take a seamless turn from possessive to stalker.

The gravity of the word hit her stomach like a sinking rock.

Stalking, following, whatever. The fact remained that he hadn’t let go of her as easily as he’d pretended before. That night she broke up with him. She should have listened to her gut.

Things made sense now, when she thought back on everything that had transpired over the last few months. The way he knew she’d been with someone that weekend Jon came over for the first time…his indifference when she broke up with him…they seemed to fit together. And she was sure there was more she hadn’t noticed before. It was frightening. He’d been watching her, and she’d be willing to bet tonight wasn’t the first night he’d parked on her street.

As her anxious mind clicked and whirred in thought, she tried to figure out what it all meant. The first thing to pop into her head, of course, was Jon. Did Max know about him? If he’d been watching her, he’d undoubtedly seen Jon’s car whenever he picked her up…or stayed the night….

Jon’s car. Oh my God. Erin’s eyes widened further. Max was the one who’d sabotaged it. She was sure of it. That must have been the night he’d found out about them…and he’d slashed Jon’s tires in rage…

Just how much had he been watching her? Was it just camping outside her house? That alone was enough to make her skin crawl, but what if – God please say she was wrong – he had been literally following both of them out and about town?

Erin felt sick to her stomach.

She wanted desperately to call Jon. She needed to hear his voice and beg him to get his ass over there right this instant. She needed his strong protection, the comfort of his arms keeping her safe.

But what the hell would she say? He didn’t know about Max, but she couldn’t very well just pretend she didn’t know him. Jon would have a hissy fit and call up every cop in town to track him down.

On the other hand, she could tell him the truth. Now seemed as good a time as any – even better, now that things had gotten to this point.

Erin groaned loudly and ran her hands across her face anxiously. What was it her mother had told her? Oh what tangled webs we weave when at first we deceive…


She’d be damned if she got caught further in this tangled web. It was time to clear things up.

She grabbed her cell and hit Jon’s speed dial. He answered on the third ring, a sleepy whisper that made her feel guiltier.


“Erin? Baby, what’s wrong?” his voice strengthened and turned to worry as he recognized the terror in her voice.

Erin took a deep breath, trying to steel herself. Don’t make him get out of bed for you, you’re the one who got yourself into this mess, she chided. A creak in the step outside her bedroom door made her hair stand on end, and she changed her mind instantly. She might be the worst person in the world for lying to him about Max in the first place, but it wasn’t her fault Max was a possessive psycho who was now stalking her. Who cared if he had driven away. She was scared.

She took another breath. “I really need you right now. Do you…think you can stay with me tonight?”

She heard the beep of a car alarm on Jon’s end. “I’m already on my way.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Four

“Oh good, here comes Captain Sunshine,” Richie nodded toward Jon when he pulled up at the guitarist’s house that Monday afternoon. Dave snickered and Teek laughed, a scratchy growl of amusement that made Richie smile in spite of himself.

He really wasn’t all that bitter – just anxious about his best friend. Jon was smart as a whip, but he was also a romantic. And the combination didn’t always balance out. One trait usually won over, and Richie was worried that the singer’s heart was blinding his brain.

“Hey guys,” Jon said good-naturedly as he let himself into the Sambora manor. “Did you start without me?”

“How could we, man?” Dave waved at the sprawling paperwork on the table. “We need you to transcribe this shit for us.”

Jon laughed and set down his briefcase. “Did Obie call yet?”

Richie pushed a chair toward him. “Not yet. He said it would be around four.”

Tico cleared his throat as Jon sat down. “So where’s the lady today?”

“At work,” Jon replied. “Said she probably had to put in overtime.”

“So when do we get to meet her?” Tico reached for his beer.

Jon shrugged. “Eventually, I guess.”

“Eventually? Sounds like you’re pretty serious about this dame, Jonny, and we gotta meet her pronto. She needs the seal of approval.” Tico winked, and David laughed.

“Yeah, she needs to pass Teek’s test before we can allow you to go any further with her.”

“Too late. Knowing Jonny, they’ve gone as far as they can go,” Richie jeered. The table erupted in laughter.

“Fuck you,” Jon retorted good-naturedly. “Hey, are we here to work, or are we here to talk about relationships like a bunch of sissies?”

“So things are really going well, huh?” Dave asked, ignoring his comment and glancing sideways at Richie.

Jon nodded. “She’s great, man. I really – I just scored big time with this one.”

Something in his voice silenced the sarcastic comment Richie had been about to make. Maybe Jon had been right about what he’d said before – just because he’d been burned, and in a big way, didn’t mean things couldn’t work out the way they were supposed to. Jon didn’t fall very easily. He’d had flings, he’d had flirts, he’d had more than his share of one-night stands.

But this…it wasn’t casual anymore. Richie could see that now. The tone in Jon’s voice, the way he’d been acting recently – it was more than attraction. This woman had him well and truly hooked.

“You love her, don’t you.” Richie said it more like a statement rather than a question, but he still waited for an answer.

Jon looked up at him, slightly taken aback. “Yeah,” he said slowly. “I do.”

Richie nodded, quiet for a moment. “Good.”

Jon raised an eyebrow at him. “Good?”

Richie nodded as he took a pull from his beer. “It means she ain’t gonna come and go. She’ll stay.”

Jon eyed him, trying to figure him out. The sudden change from rejection to acceptance of Erin was confusing. “What does that mean?”

“You haven’t loved a woman in ages, Jon. They’ve all been in and out of your life - faster than you could blink sometimes – because they weren’t serious enough for you. They never fit the bill. This one obviously does.”

Jon glanced over at Tico and Dave. “He’s right, Jon,” the Cuban said in his low, gruff voice. “We haven’t heard you talk about a woman like this one in God knows how long. If she’s really everything you think and say she is, I’m happy for you.”

The table quieted again and Jon distractedly sunk into thought.

For some reason, his friends’ approval seemed to cement the fact that he’d fallen in love with Erin. And they hadn’t even met her yet. He was an independent, fly-on-his-own man, and always had been, but the introspection his bandmates showed on his behalf was uplifting. He wasn’t crazy. They knew him better than anyone in the world, and if they could notice a genuine difference in him, and have sincere faith in his newest venture, then he must be doing something right.

Feeling like a crazy teenager, he looked up and grinned. “Thanks, boys. Now fuck this girl talk and let’s get down to business, shall we?”

The guys laughed and Jon reached for the nearest folder on the table.

“Sambora – gimme a beer.”


Erin massaged her neck in the back of the cab on her way home. It was past eleven; she’d worked later than she had in weeks. Call after call, meeting after meeting, it never seemed to end. And she had to be back there in the morning, 8 o’clock sharp. With any luck, she’d catch a few hours of sleep after scarfing down something for dinner. She could already foresee several cups of coffee in the morning.

On nights like these, she wished she had a car. It would be so much easier – and more comfortable – to just hop in and drive herself home. But she didn’t plan on living in New Jersey forever, and she lived within walking distance to work; it would have been a waste of money. Although with the way the next few weeks looked, she’d probably shell out the equivalent of a down payment for cab rides.

The cabbie turned onto her street and she absently looked out the window. Same old suburban neighborhood – nothing out of the ordinary. Tiny, square, manicured lawns, porch lights glowing at every front door, the residence parking spaces filled with the cars of everyone home from work, hours earlier than she was. Not a thing out of place.

“This one, ma’am?” the cabbie slowed in front of her townhouse.

“Yes, this is it, thank you,” Erin pulled out a ten and leaned forward to hand it to him, glancing briefly through the windshield. A car a few houses ahead was parked along the sidewalk, and she absently marked her disapproval as she got out of the cab. Can’t park on the street, idiot, she mumbled to herself grumpily, you’re gonna get a ticket. She opened her purse to get her keys, fumbling around as she walked over to her mailbox.

She located her keyring and grabbed the small pile of letters and junk catalogs, thrusting them under her arm to close the mailbox door. As she did, she looked up, the parked car in her direct line of vision. She could just make out a dark silhouette through the back window, and she realized someone was sitting in the driver’s seat.

She froze. What the…?

Suddenly uncomfortable, she closed and locked the mailbox, then made her way up the walk to the front door quickly. She let herself in and locked the door behind her, slightly apprehensive.

It was probably nothing to worry about, she tried to tell herself, but living alone rendered her nervous about any suspicious activity in the neighborhood. And someone sitting in a parked car was definitely suspicious.

Without turning on the light, she set her stuff down on the table and made her way over to the window to reassure herself that it was just some lost out-of-towner, checking his map to see where he made a wrong turn.

And had parked his car.

And was sitting in the dark.

The car was still there, but as she watched, she heard the muffled sound of an ignition firing, and the brake lights flashed on.

The car looked oddly familiar, and Erin furrowed her brow. If it wasn’t eleven at night, she’d think someone was paying her an unexpected visit and had gotten the wrong house. She squinted, trying to make out the driver, but it wasn’t until the car pulled away from the curb and made a u-turn, firing down the street with a squeal of acceleration, did she register the curly-topped head.

Her eyes widened and she let out a gasp of surprise, her heart skipping a beat as she realized where she’d seen the car before.

And who the driver was.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Three

Max prowled around his apartment restlessly, bored out of his mind and irritated because of it. He kept reaching for his cell to call Erin - find out where she was - but stopped himself every time. They weren't an item anymore. He wasn't supposed to call.

He'd grown curious the night before, his overworked brain overthinking yet again as he lost himself in the works of Mozart and Beethoven. He'd killed the headlights as he drove down her street later, frowning when he found her house and porch dark. She'd been out.

And she still wasn't back as of ten o'clock this morning, judging by the newspaper still sitting on her driveway.

Max's jaw clicked as he tried not to think about where she was. It didn't take a genius to figure out where a woman with a rockstar boyfriend could be all night. The thought made him sick.

This Bon Jovi dude was forcefully reminding him more and more of his cursed stepfather - the arrogant sonuvabitch who thought all women were fair game and personal territory.

Max's mother had been no exception.

After Lewis strolled into their lives, his mother changed. Max would lay in bed every night, listening to the sounds coming from the room next door. His mother’s heavy breathing, punctured by loud groans and the occasional cry, shortly followed by a guttural sigh.

His stomach roiled at the thought of what Lewis did to her, of what she let him do to her. Blinded by attraction, both to his looks and his money, she didn’t realize that he didn’t truly love her.

Max hated trying to sleep next door to them every night. He even invested in some earplugs, but could never fully drown his mother’s cries out.

Eventually, he learned to ignore them. They were so routine he could almost fall asleep to them as a lullaby.

Which made it easier for him to notice when something was different. One particularly quiet evening, his mother went up to bed early, complaining of a headache. Max went to bed shortly after, leaving Lewis downstairs in front of the TV.

Max was awakened later by the sounds of his mother’s cries, but not with pleasure. They were tinged with pain, more like yelps than orgasmic groans. A loud scream sounded, stifled quickly by a violent “Shut up!”, and then his mother’s voice, “Please, stop, you’re hurting me…”

Max jumped out of bed and rushed to their bedroom, only to find the door shut and locked. He knocked sharply, but no one came to the door. Instead, Lewis yelled at him to go back to bed. Insisted everything was fine. Max could hear his mother inside, whimpering.

The next morning, his mother stepped gingerly, wincing every time she sat down or bent over. She wore a baggy blouse, but when she reached up for something in the kitchen that afternoon, Max caught sight of her upper arms. The marks were shaped like large fingertips, colored a ghastly greenish blue.

“Mama, are you okay?” Max had asked, pointing to the bruises.

His mother quickly covered them back up and offered him a smile. “I’m fine, baby, just clumsy, that’s all.”

That night, the sounds of pleasure were back.


Later that year, Lewis died. Max had vivid memories of that day: the vacant look on his mother’s face, the hushed tones of the officers and the coroner, the blanketed stretcher they wheeled out with Lewis’ body.

And then, the pitiful sobbing of his mother after everyone had left. “What will we do without him?” she hiccupped.

“He left everything to you,” Max had said plainly. “We have plenty of money.”

His mother had stared at him, obviously confused at his apparent oblivion to what she meant.

Lewis had been out that night, enjoying several tankards of his favorite liquor with his drinking buddies at the bar. Despite his riches, he was an empty man and found shallow solace in their company.

He’d come home late, which was why he was surprised to find the mousy-haired boy still awake, stirring a pot of coffee. “What are you doing up?” he grunted. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

“I made you coffee,” Max said quietly, handing him a mug. Lewis seemed taken aback.

“Uh, thanks,” he muttered, taking the mug. “Now go to bed.”

Max did as he was told, and Lewis finished off the coffee quickly before following suit.

The next morning, however, he didn’t wake up.

The officers didn’t ask many questions; the coroner had examined his body and reported a dangerously high blood alcohol level, which left little to speculation. Lewis had died of heart failure in his sleep. Anyone could see that was easily attributed to the drinking.

In the end, it was ruled an unfortunate accident, and no further investigation was required.

Max tolerated the incoherent wailing of his mother for nearly a week, offering a sympathetic pat on the arm every now and then. He stood grimly at the funeral, nodding solemnly when others expressed their sorrow at his and his mother’s loss. He said nothing when his teachers offered a grace period on his assignments, telling him to take as much time as he needed.

But when he came home in the afternoon, he locked himself in his bedroom and dumped his backpack in the corner. The empty aspirin bottle rolled out from the front pocket, where it had been hidden among crumpled papers and broken pencils.

Max eyed it satisfactorily, a smile creeping around the edges of his pale mouth. He'd get rid of it in the morning, when he passed the dumpsters on his way to school. But for now, he sort of wanted to hold onto it. Like a souvenir of a job well done.

In his silent apartment, Max paced more furiously in circles, reminded that people often have to do things that are unpleasant, but necessary. Erin’s mistake would cost her, but he knew she couldn’t help it. And he understood. He forgave her for what she’d done.

How could he not?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Two

Erin awoke the next morning to the bright sunlight streaming in, splashing golden rays across the massive white bedspread. Cocooned in the blankets, she felt Jon’s hard body pressed up against her back. She turned slightly to see him – one arm flung protectively over her side, the other bent and cradling his head, his legs stretched out comfortably. Blond hair hung down into his face, his lips parted slightly as he breathed quietly.

She sighed. He was beautiful.

Not wanting to wake him she lay still, enjoying the feel of him nestling her against him even in sleep. She wasn’t in a hurry to get up, anyway – her eyes were still heavy and she would gladly bury herself back beneath the blankets and sleep another few hours.

She had lain awake for hours after their “talk” last night. The battle she’d waged with her overworked brain all evening had finally lost with that climatic end on Jon’s part.

Those three little words. How was it possible that they could cause such a reaction in someone? They held such power in their simplicity, such depth in their connotations.

I love you.

Erin closed her eyes and sighed. She’d analyzed and over-analyzed last night until she nearly had to force her brain to shut up and shut down so she could rest. It seemed it was an entity all on its own, nowadays.

Part of her was touched – deeply touched – that he not only felt that strongly about her, but that he could confess it so openly. She wasn’t used to emotion and raw honesty in men. After all, Max had never shown one iota of evidence that he had an emotional side – besides worry, that is. He could easily pass as a one-dimensional creation and no one would know the difference.

Erin had grown used to that as an inclusive element of his character – just part of who he was – and it had never posed any real problems. It wasn’t that he was stony-hearted. He had a romantic side – if you could call it that. He’d dote on her and bring her flowers, tell her she was the most beautiful woman in the world, do everything and anything she wanted him to in bed, charm the neighbors when they walked down the sidewalk, hand in hand. But it had never really seemed pure. It all always seemed routine, like he was doing it because he was supposed to. Like he knew that men should try to make their girlfriends happy, whether they meant it or not.

But she’d grown tired of his antics and possession over her. He was the easily jealous type, she’d learned quickly, but he’d been the only one she knew when she moved to New Jersey, and she didn’t have many other options. He was just kind of there – someone she was dating, or seeing, rather than in a real relationship with. It took finding someone else to give her the courage to break things off when she did.

She’d never been in love with Max. She’d never uttered those three words to him, though he had to her. The problem was that she didn’t truly believe him.

She believed Jon, though. With every inch of her heart she believed him when he said it. And that was what scared her.

There was so much attached to a proclamation like that. For one thing, it ended the notion that they were a casual relationship. Erin had never considered them a fling, or a purely physical match – there was a lot more to it than that. A friendship, definitely. Attraction and chemistry, absolutely. But she didn’t think she was ready for the “L” word to be thrown into the mix.

Then there was the whole pressure of return. Was she supposed to say it back to him? Could she say it when she wasn’t sure if she felt the same? And what did that say about their relationship if one person was in love and the other…wasn’t?

Erin mentally shook herself. She was covering the same ground over and over again, retracing her steps. But she still couldn’t come up with a good reason why Jon’s confession was the end of the world. Because it wasn’t.

So stop acting like it is, she chided herself.

She felt Jon stir against her and rolled over to face him. She had to smile as he ran a lazy hand across his sleepy face, his eyes still shut against the offending morning light. The blond hair was tousled, a red mark from his arm decorated the side of one cheek. He was absolutely irresistible.

“Good morning, rock star,” she smiled. Jon scrunched up his face and opened one slitted eye at her, deciding how to accept the greeting. He decided on a throaty mumble, which elicited a soft giggle and kiss from her.

“How did you sleep?” she whispered. Jon nuzzled her neck, breathing in the scent that was so perfectly Erin.

“Pretty damn good,” he replied, his breath warm on her skin. “How about you?”

“Fine,” she lied. “This bed is ridiculously comfortable.”

“I know,” Jon sighed sadly. “I wish I could take advantage of that more often.”

Erin smiled. “Look at that pout – you’re such a little boy.”

“Oh really?” Jon wiggled his eyebrows at her. “I don’t think you would have said that last night.”

Erin blushed. “Now, now, no getting cocky. And don’t even think about making that joke,” she cut in as he opened his mouth to retaliate.

Jon laughed. “You do know me all too well.”

They fell silent again, content in the early phase of “wakeup” that rendered them both lazy.

The silence was broken, however, by Erin’s stomach growling loud enough to wake the dead. She burst out laughing.

“That lobster seems so long ago,” she giggled. She propped herself up on her elbows and looked down at Jon, her green eyes imploring. “Feed me.”

Jon sighed. “So demanding. What is it with women and food? You give them too much of it, they bitch about how fat they are. Give them too little, they whine and beg and put on a big show complete with mood swings and irritability until they get what they want, then eat too much of it and go back to bitching about looking like cows. We can never win.”

Erin laughed. “We?”

“Men. See, we’re perfectly content to eat however much we want and not worry about our figures. Give me a hamburger and fries and I’ll down them in five minutes, then agree to a whopping ice cream sundae with all the fixin’s. And I’ll wash it all down with a chocolate shake.”

“Okay, ignoring the fact that you never have to worry about your figure, you could not just happily eat all that and not suffer from heartburn or indigestion at the very least later,” Erin raised an eyebrow challengingly.

“Could so. Ever heard of tums?”

Erin snorted. “Okay, but on the other hand, if men are deprived food they are even crankier than women are. You guys turn into children when you’re hungry! All pouty and whiny and grumpy.”

“We do not!”

“Do so!”

“No,” Jon said, turning up his nose arrogantly. “You’re mistaken.”

Erin shook her head, laughing. “Like I said – children.”

Jon grinned up at her boyishly and snaked his fingers up into her hair, pulling her toward him for a kiss. “Back to your original request – what do you want to eat?”

Erin tilted her head in thought. “Pancakes,” she proclaimed. “Or French toast. Eggs. Bacon. Waffles. Fruit. Granola. Anything. I’m starving here.”

Jon chuckled. “All right. Your wish is my command, darlin’.”

He pushed back the covers and slid out of bed. Erin eyed the rippling muscles beneath the tan skin as he moved, thoughts of the night before flashing back like a movie reel.

“Enjoying the view?” Jon smirked as he pulled his jeans on.

“On second thought, I think I do know what I want,” Erin replied.

Jon pulled up the zipper and put his hands on his hips, looking at her thoughtfully.


Erin threw a pillow at him.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chapter Twenty-One

Jon knew he was staring like an idiot, but he couldn’t help himself.

She looked so – incredible – the tiny red lace getup showing off every curve of her body, every plane and contour and slope….and those long, strong legs. He sucked in a breath at the thought of the moisture between them.

Good Lord. He was almost in pain inside his jeans.

“C’mere,” he growled.

Erin smirked and began moving toward him slowly, accentuating her hips by swaying them slightly. Eyes never leaving Jon’s, she came within a few feet of him – close enough to tease him mercilessly, but far enough away that he couldn’t reach.

The voices on the giant television screen talked on, but Jon and Erin were deaf to them. Jon’s eyes were nearly black as he hungrily devoured the sight of her, wanting to imprint her image in his mind.

“I hope you didn’t pay too much for that outfit,” he said seriously.

Erin stared back at him, heart thundering in her chest as she summoned all her willpower not to throw herself on him. “Even if I did you wouldn’t spare it, would you?”

Jon shook his head. “Baby, you got me all figured out.”

Two steps and he was there, his mouth crushing down on hers hungrily, tongue begging entry. She willingly obliged as his hands tangled into her hair, pulling her closer to him. Their bodies pressed against each other tightly, and Erin whimpered against his mouth at the feel of his arousal at her hips. She slid her hands up and down his chest before reaching down and grabbing the hem of his black shirt. Their lips parted for a split second as she pulled the shirt up over his head, and ran her hands up and down the ridged muscles of his chest.

Jon maneuvered them toward the sofa, kissing furiously all the while, and backed her up against it until one more move would send her on her back, at his mercy. She slid her fingers down his chest once more toward the snap on his jeans and undid it quickly, loosening the waist so he could get them off. Jon kicked them off quickly and pulled her close again, so their bodies were nearly seamless against each other.

One teetering move and she was on the sofa, Jon crawling between her legs silently. He slowed suddenly, allowing the sound of their heavy breathing to permeate the room along with the voices in the movie. Their eyes locked, a gaze so intense that Erin nearly screamed for him to take her.

Jon seemed to notice, and a small smile crept around the edges of that sexy mouth as he touched his fingers to her thighs. The connection was like an electric shock to Erin, and she watched breathlessly as he slid each finger up slowly – agonizingly slowly – toward the hem of that tiny babydoll.

He tore his eyes away from hers and focused on the exploration of her legs, sliding his fingers up beneath the lace and toward the warm wetness between them.

“Jon,” Erin whimpered. “Not again. I don’t need fingers again – I need the real thing – I need you…”

Jon didn’t say a word, but gently pried her legs apart and slid his hands up to her hips to pull her closer to him. He lowered himself on the sofa toward her, and gently draped each leg over his shoulders. Sliding his hands back up to her hips, he held her firmly as he lowered his head.

The first feel of his hot tongue made Erin jump so violently that she instinctively grabbed the back of the sofa. Her surprise quickly turned to blinding pleasure as he began to lap her, gently and delicately pressing the flat of his tongue into her. He ran it slowly up and down her slit, then just as she started to groan, dove inside to drink her. Erin threw her head back in one long guttural moan, fighting between wanting to pull away and make him come inside her, and exploding right then and there in sheer pleasure.

Jon continued his torture until she was writhing beneath him, his fingers gripping her hips tightly as hers tangled into his hair. He waited until he could hear the change in her breathing, the tell-tale quickened panting that signaled the finish.

As her legs began to tremble, he stopped and looked up at her. Her head thrown back, she was even sexier than he could imagine – the slope of her heavy breasts beneath the tight red silk gave way to the flat plane of her stomach, which tapered off to the hips he was gripping, and the center of her body that he was so intimately familiar with.

She groaned loudly and looked up in surprise, her eyes darkened and her lips flushed. “What the hell, Jon!”

He grinned and released his hold on her waist, reaching down to the hem of lace and pushing it up around her curves. He slid his body up along hers until their hips met, and she could feel him right between her legs. “I need you,” she panted. “Now.”

Jon didn’t need telling twice. He reached an arm down beneath one leg and pulled it up toward her chest, nestling himself right against her snugly. He positioned himself quickly, and just as neither of them could take it any longer, slipped inside.

Erin gasped as her entered her, the pressure causing a mingling of pleasure and pain. She instinctively grabbed his back, digging her fingertips into his flesh as he began to thrust inside her, hard. He took hold of one side of her waist with one hand, the other slammed down onto the cushion beneath her head for better leverage as he pounded into her.

They moved in sync together, bodies fused seamlessly, lips and tongues battling furiously as Jon slammed into her mercilessly. Erin felt herself beginning to tremble sooner than usual, and she shut her eyes tightly, preparing herself. Jon watched her as a frenzy overcame him, and he drove as deep as he could get without hurting her…wanting to feel all of her.

Tremors quaked through Erin’s body suddenly, clenching Jon tightly from within over and over again. As she tipped her head back and lips parted, her dark green eyes shut against release, a powerful emotion grabbed at Jon’s heart, taking him so completely by surprise that he yelled, spilling into her.

His arms trembled as he waited for her to finish, his name on her lips – loudly at first, then gradually to a guttural whisper. As the violent tremors slowed, her eyes sprang open to meet his – lust-filled, dilated pupils staring into his own.

He groaned loudly and released his position, collapsing into her. He brought his hands up to the sides of her head as he bent into her neck, breathing heavily. Her raw, heady scent overwhelmed his senses as he breathed her in, her heart beating wildly against his as their chests heaved up and down together.

They lay like that for a minute as their bodies calmed, hormone-driven tension releasing from their muscles almost palpably. When their hearts slowed, Jon lifted his head so they were face to face.

Erin looked back at him, their eyes meeting yet again. But this time, she read more than lust in his. He held her gaze firmly, a look so searching it seemed to reach down into her very soul. Almost impossibly overwhelming. She could barely force herself to hold it.

As their eyes communicated an unspoken message, Jon leaned down slowly until their lips met. He kissed her gently, his lips soft against hers – full of tenderness and love. In sharp contrast against the wild passion of only a few moments ago.

When he pulled away, he said nothing, but smiled down at her in a way that made Erin’s heart melt. “What?” she asked quietly.

Jon shook his head. “Not right now,” he grinned, the gleam suddenly back in his eye. He lifted himself off of her and tugged at the red lace. “We got one good use out of this thing,” he said. “But I prefer you naked.”

Erin gasped as he ripped the babydoll clean off her body, the thin material ripping easily in his strong hands as if it were made of tissue paper. Jon eyed her hungrily, running his fingers along her smooth, creamy skin and leaving goosebumps behind in their trail. “Erin…” he breathed. “You are so damn beautiful…”

Erin watched him as he explored her body, running his fingers up her sides, along her breasts, down her belly, to the inside of her wet thighs. “Come on,” he growled. “Let’s go upstairs.”


An hour later, they lay entangled in each other and panting again, their bodies slick with sweat. Exhausted and spent, they could barely move. The dim light of the bedside lamp threw a faint glow across Jon’s massive bed, bathing them in golden shadows.

Jon peppered her shoulder and chest with tiny kisses as they rested, making her sigh contentedly. She threaded her fingers into his thick blond hair and brought him up to meet her lips, kissing him gently. His breath on her face was like a whisper, soft and intimate.

He rolled over and propped himself up slightly on several of the dozens of pillows that adorned his bed. Erin wiggled over and snuggled up against him, breathing in the musky scent of sex on his skin.

“I’m exhausted,” she proclaimed. Jon laughed lightly and kissed the top of her head. “Me too.”

Erin traced slow circles on his skin, twisting the light hair that dusted his chest. “What was it that you were going to say earlier?”

Jon didn’t answer at first. She waited, and felt him swallow as he fidgeted slightly. He leaned his head to one side, and she looked up at him curiously.

He smiled down at her, and her eyes questioned. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he answered, seeming to regain composure. “I just don’t know how to say what I want to say in words,” he laughed, embarrassed. “I’m a lyricist, for God’s sake, and I can’t find the words.”

Erin laughed but said nothing, knowing whatever he wanted to say was important. Her heart beat a bit faster as she waited. Jon swallowed again.

“I-” he started. “I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t been on the same plane at the same time,” he said. “If we hadn’t been in the seats next to each other.”

Erin nodded slowly as he paused.

“You’ve quickly become so important to me. On so many levels. Hearing your voice gives me butterflies – I haven’t had butterflies since fucking high school,” he laughed. “Your eyes, the way you look at me – I’m a goner. Your laugh, your smile, everything about you is beautiful and confident and sexy. It radiates off you.”

Erin blushed, her cheeks hot against his chest.

“Look at me, I’m blubbering on like an idiot. You’ve turned me into a sap.”

Erin laughed and looked up at him, shaking her head. “Shut up, it’s refreshing to see real emotion and depth in a man.”

Jon laughed, then turned serious again. “I mean it though,” he said. “I want you to understand – you mean so much to me. I’m quickly getting to the point where I can’t understand how I got on without you.”

He paused, fixing her with intense baby blues again. “I love you, Erin.”

His eyes were sincere, filled with the same deep emotion she’d seen in them earlier. His jaw was set firmly, his face serious…and suddenly she knew that he didn’t say those words very often. Not to a woman.

She stared back at him, unsure what to say. Her mind reeled, her heart danced. She struggled to find the right words. She felt complete and broken all at the same time.

He was waiting.

Finally, she smiled and leaned forward to kiss him, her lips lingering on his. He kissed her back unquestioning, seemingly content with her response.

She said nothing as he tucked her into his arms and rested his head on hers. And she continued to lay there quietly for hours, long after he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chapter Twenty

Max sat alone in his living room, the curtains all pulled shut, every light but one turned off, not a sound in the house.

The grand piano – his pride and joy – gleamed in the golden light of the nearby lamp, and it sat silently majestic while Max prepared his sheet music.

A moment later, he flexed his fingers, set them on the stark white keys, and began to play Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. The notes were haunting, as they should be, and Max lost himself in the music almost immediately.

Piano was his emotional sanctuary. The chords, the keys, the distinct sounds each one could make when paired with another…he craved it. Especially in times of emotional turmoil, he could play for hours on end without stopping. His fingers flying across the keys, slowing occasionally, the chords ever-changing and real.

Nothing else existed in those times…just the beautiful, magnificent instrument that he alone could play. Just him, alone with the music.


Erin could barely concentrate on the movie being so close to Jon – feeling his skin against hers, breathing in his scent. It felt as if her entire body were on alert, each nerve sensitive to even the slightest touch.

Jon settled his arm comfortably around her, pulling her just close enough that she could feel the rippled muscles in his torso, teasing her through his thin black shirt.

Sweet Jesus…how I have missed this man.

She had succeeded in shutting out her nagging brain thus far, but her nagging desire was another thing entirely.

Without taking her eyes off the screen, she reached over and laid her hand gently in Jon’s lap, resting it comfortably between his legs. She felt him stir slightly and look at her, undoubtedly confused. She didn’t look back, but slowly began to rotate her thumb in small circles through his jeans.

Jon groaned slightly. “Baby, watch the movie…”

Erin smirked. Like he really meant that.

In response, she slid her forefinger down the zipper trail of his jeans as her thumb continued rotating. She could feel him hardening right through the thick fabric. Damn if she wasn’t feeling the unmistakable signs of arousal as well.

Jon inhaled quickly, trying to ignore her antics and focus on the characters on the screen. It didn’t help that Danny and Evelyn were intimately tangled in parachute sheets.

Erin continued her manipulation, stroking him softly and enjoying the internal struggle he seemed to be battling. To see how far she could push her limits, she slowly unzipped his zipper and slid her hand into his jeans to get a better position. Jon sucked in a breath and held it, shutting his eyes and focusing on the burn in his lungs rather than the tingle between his legs.

The truth was, he’d wanted her all night. Hell, he’d wanted her all week – since they’d last seen each other. Her deep, dark green eyes had tinted the edges of his every dream, his fingers had literally ached to smooth over that satiny skin. And tonight – fuck. That minidress was just long enough to cover the curve of her ass, but he’d been hoping she’d bend over all night. The way her thick blonde hair tumbled down around her, hiding that shallow curve between her shoulder and neck…

He gave himself about three seconds before he made up his mind.

Exhaling slowly, he gently removed her hand from his lap and brought it over to her own. Pushing up the short hem of her dress, he fingered the lace on her thong before sliding a finger beneath it and beginning his own exploration. She was surprisingly moist, a revelation that caused his very belly to tighten like a rock.

He removed his finger and took her hand in his, bringing it back down below to the thong’s fabric. Erin looked at him, her eyes widened.

“What are you doing?”

Jon threw her ball right back into her court, smirking and refusing to look at her. Gently, he positioned her finger beneath his and slid them both back beneath the lace. It was Erin’s turn to suck in a breath, as she sat there in surprise at what he was doing.

Jon was staring at the movie screen, but he couldn’t have explained what was happening anymore if someone had paid him to. His entire mind and every thought was on the woman sitting next to him, where his finger was and what he was doing to her…what he was making her do to herself.

He slid their fingers slowly in between the moist folds of flesh to sink into the soft silkiness inside. Then, he moved them gently in and out, stroking her in her most sensitive places as he did so. He listened carefully to her reaction, and smiled when he heard her start to pant.

He picked up the pace then, gradually increasing speed until she was nearly bucking her hips in time with the mutual thrusts of their fingers. She whimpered in between her pants, and threw her head back against the sofa in anticipation of the finish. Jon was overcome with a crazy urge to bring her over the edge, to watch the look on her face and hear the guttural sounds she made as she found her sweet release.

She found it quickly, her body tensed so tightly that it had been nearly at the breaking point already. She moaned as she clenched around their fingers again and again, slicking them both. Jon waited until her body relaxed, then slowly withdrew their fingers.

He met her gaze then, and made sure he had her attention as he brought her finger to his mouth. He closed his lips around it and sucked with his tongue, closing his eyes as he did so. When he was finished, he opened them and released her finger, chuckling at the look on her face. She seemed in a daze, her mouth set in a precarious ‘o’ and her eyes unblinking.

“Well…how was that?” he said slyly.

Erin narrowed her eyes at him. “It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.”

Jon chuckled. “I figured. But you should know that I don’t play well when I’m on the defense.”

Erin raised an eyebrow.

Jon nodded. “I usually play on the offense.”

“Well then,” Erin got up and tossed back her hair, letting it fall freely down her back.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ll be right back,” her voice was mysterious, but Jon somehow knew she didn’t want him to follow her. He watched as she walked away, a deliberate sway in her hips. His jaw clicked as he smirked. She was undeniably sexy…and she knew it.

Erin made her way to the entry hall, where she’d left her purse – she’d brought along something special for the night. She turned down the hallway to the nearest guest bathroom and shut the door.

A thin, slinky red piece of lace, entirely transparent except for the tiny matching triangles of silk. Erin smirked as she peeled off her minidress and slipped on the babydoll, admiring what she saw in the mirror. Despite working hard lately, she’d found time to get in a nightly run, and now she was pleased with the toned thighs and tight tummy. The lace was dangerously thin and fragile, the silk triangles clung to her heavy breasts, and Erin somehow knew the outfit wasn’t going to survive the night.

She ran her fingers through her hair quickly, tossing and fluffing the long tresses. She pulled a tube of bright red lipstick from her purse and splashed some color on her lips, then spritzed her favorite perfume on her neck and chest. She shoved her clothes and purse aside, took one last look at herself in the mirror, and left the bathroom quietly.

Barefoot and nearly naked, she made her way through the house silently.

As she approached the living room, she called out, “I play on the offense, too, you know.”

“Oh, really?” Jon turned as she walked into the room and stopped short. Erin’s stomach fluttered as she watched the changes in his face take place rapidly, and she nearly laughed at his almost dizzying change from nonchalant to pure lust. His baby blues darkened, his lips parted, his breathing shallowed. He stared at her with an expression so hungry she could barely restrain herself.

“Yeah,” she said smugly. “I do.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chapter Nineteen

Neither Jon nor Erin could wait until the week was over.

Jon was finding himself thinking almost nonstop of her, every waking moment punctuated by her brilliant smile and dark green eyes. She had one hell of a hold over him, but strangely enough he didn’t want to let it go.

Erin, on the other hand, was being pulled in opposite directions about wanting to see him. She desperately wanted to be with him, to find comfort in his arms and his touch, to press herself into his body and secure herself against any harm. He had that effect on her. A protective guardian, handsome and sturdy in his watch.

But on the other hand, he was the root of the reason why she was a psychological wreck at the moment.

She decided to ignore her conflicting conscience, shoving aside the nagging angel and demon that had taken up residence on her shoulders. She wanted to see him, and he wanted to see her. She wouldn’t let herself ruin the time they had together.

For the first time since they’d started dating, Jon had invited her over to his place that night. She’d gotten ready early that evening, excitement weaving its way through her veins and mixing with the unmistakable stirrings of anticipation and desire.

Jon pulled up to her house around six. Dressed in a sleek black minidress and matching pumps, Erin opened the door with an air of confidence that wasn’t lost on him.

Jon whistled. “Shit, woman,” he growled. “You’re making these jeans uncomfortable.”

“Good,” Erin flirted, leaning forward to kiss him. “They’re coming off later, anyway.”

Jon laughed lightly as their lips met. God, she tasted so good. Her lips were soft and gentle, and tantalizingly so. He had to reign himself in before he took her right there on the porch.

“So what are you feeding me?” Erin asked as she stepped outside and locked the door behind her.

“How does lobster and champagne sound?” Jon led her to the car and opened the passenger door.

“Elegant,” Erin smiled. “But I have never had a good lobster dinner anywhere but at the boardwalk.”

Jon merely smiled as he started the car. “I know a good place much closer than the boardwalk.”

About 20 minutes later, they turned onto the long winding drive outside his house. Erin’s jaw dropped wide open at the sheer size and majestic presence of the mansion as its looming silhouette emerged from the trees.

“Holy shit,” she whispered. “I knew rock stars lived big, but this place needs its own zip code!”

Jon laughed. “Does that mean you approve?” They stepped out of the car and approached the massive house, its pale profile striking against the clear black sky.

“It’s certainly amazing from the outside, but I haven’t seen the inside yet,” she winked.

The inside was no less approving. Erin looked around in awe as Jon gave her a quick tour. The Victorian style permeated throughout every room, complete with grand archways and sweeping windows that ran either so tall she couldn’t see their tops, or so wide Erin couldn’t see the point in a wall.

The kitchen was breathtaking, accented with rich mahogany cabinets and counters, the tops gleaming opaque marble. It was easily three times the size of her kitchen at home, and a golden chandelier dangled from the center above the island counter. Erin was instantly jealous.

“So are you just showing me all this to get me all worked up before we eat?” she joked. “It’s getting a bit late.”

Jon shook his head. “I know you said something last weekend about a nice dinner out,” he said. “But I thought we could stay in tonight.” He retreated through another archway to his right, intending for her to follow him.

Erin did, and then stopped dead in her tracks.

The dining room sprawled out before her like a house in itself, so magnificent and elegant that she found herself speechless. Victorian plated windows patterned the rounded perimeter, flanked by thick red velvet curtains. The gleaming ebony table seated a dozen, the matching chairs elegantly carved with intricate designs. Overhead, a diamond chandelier, twice the size of the one in the kitchen, glittered in the soft light of the candelabras that sat atop the table – the only light in the room.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Jon said as Erin stared, open-mouthed.

Erin slowly shook her head. “Mind? Why in the world would I mind?”

She approached the table and the two places that had been set out. China plates and napkins that matched the curtains were flanked by crystal goblets and real silverware. The glow of the candles was intimately romantic, and Erin felt a hush befall her.

“You did this for me?” she asked gently.

Jon nodded. “I made up everything this afternoon. I just need to put the lobster in the oven to warm them up, but that won’t take long.”

Erin held his gaze and smiled softly, unsure what else to say. Jon seemed to understand, though, and he smiled back before motioning for her to follow him back to the kitchen.

He pulled out two wineglasses, less fancy than the crystal goblets in the dining room, and served them both some champagne. “To you,” he said, his glass raised. Erin blushed and smiled. “To us,” she corrected.

They clinked glasses and drank, watching each other over the rims. Then Jon set to work finishing their dinner.

Erin watched as he preheated the oven and pulled the lobster, along with a glass bowl filled with mixed salad and a bottle of vinaigrette, from the refrigerator. From the freezer he got out a loaf of garlic bread, which he set out to thaw.

He turned to the island counter and opened a drawer to get a box of aluminum foil, which he then spread evenly with butter. He wrapped the first lobster in it with a slice of lemon, and did the same with the second. When the oven was warm enough, he placed the wrapped lobsters in a glass dish and set it inside to slowly heat.

“I didn’t know you were so handy in the kitchen, Mister Bon Jovi,” Erin teased.

“You pick things up when you live alone,” Jon winked.

Erin knew he said it good-naturedly, but in the back of her mind she wondered again about his past.

She helped him carry the salad and garlic bread into the dining room, and when the timer dinged, Jon served each of them a piping hot, succulent red lobster.

“Have a seat, madam,” he said in the manner of a maître d'. Erin sat, and they started to eat.

“This,” she said sincerely, “is the most delicious lobster I have ever tasted.”

Jon bowed his head. “Thank you. I’m glad you approve.” Erin grinned.

She quickly was overcome with a peaceful sense of contentment as the meal went on. The intimacy of the candlelit atmosphere coupled with the elegant surroundings was intoxicating, appealing to every one of her womanly senses. Jon seemed to feel the same, although more in a satisfied manner, as though happy his date was enjoying herself so much.

They took their time eating, enjoying the food and each other’s company. For the first time in weeks, Erin’s conscience had settled down in silence, and didn’t interrupt her much-needed relaxation and indulgence.

Afterward, they cleared their dishes together and Jon took her hand, leading her to the beautiful living room. A DVD case sat on the cream-colored sofa, and Erin picked it up to read it: Pearl Harbor.

She laughed out loud. “Are you serious?” she joked, waving the case in Jon’s face.

Jon chuckled. “Come on, it’s a good movie. Plenty of action and death for me – and all the romantic crap for you.”

Erin smiled, shaking her head. “All right, I concur. But only because you made me lobster.”

Jon stepped closer to her without a word and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her into him. She was caught off guard, and stumbled into him before looking up. His gaze was gentle, full of kindness and care, deep with meaning.

If Erin knew any better, she’d say it was what love looked like in a man’s eyes. Unfortunately, however, she’d never seen quite what that looked like.

She held his gaze as long as she could before it overpowered her senses. Then, she buried her face in his neck, breathing in his musky man scent. Her heart pounded uncomfortably against her ribcage, jumping with something more than just blood. It seemed to be beating for something bigger, something stronger than her right now, and Erin didn’t know what to make of it.

Jon lifted her chin with a finger and leaned down to kiss her gently, his lips soft and warm. Erin melted into his kiss, willing herself not to think too much. She’d learned lately that it was her biggest weakness.

Jon pulled away and began setting up the DVD while Erin settled on the sofa, her mouth dropping open yet again when he pressed a button on a small dashboard and an enormous plasma screen television emerged from the floor, projecting slowly up until it nearly reached the ceiling.

“Shit,” Erin whispered when the movie-theater size screen stopped at full-length. “Rock stars really do do things big.”

Jon laughed and joined her on the sofa. “Baby, you haven’t even seen it in action yet…”

“Actually, I have,” Erin smirked. “And it has mighty fine action.”

Jon looked up, surprised, then shook his head and laughed at her bad joke, while Erin smiled innocently, feigning naivety.

It was going to be one interesting night.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

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