Chapter Seventeen

Jon’s heart skipped a beat and he froze.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me,” the caller said plainly. “Don’t go near Erin again. It’s not safe to be around her.”

A thousand questions swirled in Jon’s mind and he sputtered over them, agitated.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Just stay away from her. I’m warning you.” And the call dropped with a click.

Stunned, Jon held the receiver at his ear for a moment before he hung it up. What the hell?

Staring at the phone, his mind clicked with thoughts. While his first reaction was a classic “WTF” annoyance, he was also inclined to laugh in retrospect because the guy had sounded like a loon. Some prank call, no doubt, from someone who had watched too many cheesy horror films.

…And who knew Erin.

…And Jon’s phone number.

In spite of himself, Jon was slightly spooked. But he also knew his emotions ran high in times of stress, and he finally shook his head and decided to take a strong sleeping pill before he hit the hay.

He flipped off the kitchen light and unplugged the phone just in case, then headed toward the sweeping staircase. He grabbed his briefcase from the foyer as he passed, and when he got upstairs he noticed his phone was blinking blue with a voicemail. The missed calls menu showed it was from Erin, and a smile involuntarily stole his lips as he hit the call key.

She answered on the second ring, “Hey there, handsome.”

“Hey baby, what’s up?”

“I was just wondering if you were home yet. I miss you.”

Jon collapsed on the bed and exhaled wearily. “I miss you too darlin’. And yes, I am home for the weekend.”

“Just the weekend?” he could hear the disappointment in her voice.

“Yes, I have to meet up with the guys again on Monday and Tuesday,” Jon explained apologetically. “But it’s in Manhattan, so it ain’t far.”

“When can you meet up with me?” Erin asked slyly.

“When are you free?” Jon grinned, playing along.

“I was hoping I could have you all to myself sometime soon. I’m working like a dog, but I’ll have more free time after this week. How about next weekend?”

“What did you have in mind, there?”

There was a pause, and Jon smiled as he pictured the smirk on Erin’s lips. “Well, you know…” she drawled. “The usual – a nice dinner out, wild sex back at my place, a long movie with champagne, more wild sex…”

Jon laughed. “Is that all?”

“Did I mention the sex?”

“You do miss me, don’t you.”

“Baby, you got no idea.”

Jon laughed again. “All right, I think I can squeeze you in next weekend. It’s a date.”

Erin chuckled. “You’re too kind, thank you. So how was your trip?”

Jon let out an exasperated sigh in response. “Let’s just say I am thinking seriously of hibernating beneath my covers this weekend.”

“That fun, huh?”

“Meetings are never fun,” Jon shouldered the phone and began unbuttoning his jeans. “Even if they’re about music, I am not a fan of ‘em.”

“Same here. But at least I get to go home right afterward, not to a hotel room.”

“I didn’t even get the luxury half the time; we usually worked through the night.” He peeled off his socks and threw them in a heap along with his jeans, then pulled back the thick, welcoming bedcovers.

“Well I’m glad you’re home,” Erin said softly.

“Me too,” Jon sighed.

“You go get some sleep and I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“Sounds good. Night, baby.”

After he hung up, he realized he hadn’t mentioned the mysterious phone call. But then again, perhaps it was best not to tell her. She’d certainly worry, and there was no point in getting her all worked up over what was likely a stupid prank.

Jon pulled off his shirt, slid beneath the covers and sank gratefully into the enveloping comfort of the enormous bed. Realizing he didn’t need that pill after all, he reached over to flip off the bedside lamp…and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.


TThe next morning dawned cold and gray, thick with the promise of rain. And the steely sky did nothing to improve Max’s mood as he glared out the window, lost in thought. 

He’d decided two things while he’d sat up through the night, nursing beer after beer. 

One, Erin was stupider than he’d first thought. 

And two, he hated Jon Bon Jovi. 

Not just disliked or couldn’t stand. Forget the fact that he’d never met him. He hated the man. 

He’d known guys like Bon Jovi. Arrogant, puffed-up jackasses with the nerve to strut and swagger all over the place like they owned the world. Just because they had more money than the average Joe down the street. Just because they had bathrooms big enough to house the entire New York Giants lineup. Money wasn’t everything. 

Power was more important. But Max believed it should be bestowed upon those who deserved it and who would utilize it well for the advantage of the greater good. Not for those who liked to touch and use it because they felt entitled to with multimillion-dollar oceanfront homes. 

Like his asshole of a stepfather. 

Max had been five when his real father had walked out on them, leaving his mother to raise Max alone. Struggling her way through a string of jobs that never lasted more than a month, they were always dangerously close to living out on the streets. 

Max was too young to understand much about finances – all he knew was that his mother was gone twelve hours out of the day, and when she was home she usually had a date with some guy named Jack Daniels. The overstuffed, dilapidated armchair that sat in front of the tiny black and white television had a permanent imprint from her backside, and it was a rare sight in the year following the divorce for that chair to be empty in the evenings. 

That changed when his mother met Lewis. Wealthy, charming, and handsome, it didn’t take a genius to figure out why she fell for him. They began dating and the armchair started emptying at night…sometimes all night. 

Lewis promised to take care of her and her son – the mousy little boy who hardly ever spoke and shuffled his feet when he walked. Max’s mother believed him. They married two years after his father had left. 

Max snorted out loud from the memory. Lewis was the only other man he had ever truly hated. Like Bon Jovi, he thought he had power because of his money.

Neither of them deserved power. Bon Jovi was obviously too hungry for it, and that was dangerous. He fell into the classic category of stupid rock stars with inflated egos who made their way through women like they were on a conveyor belt, trying to satisfy their constant hard-on. And Erin had fallen victim to his irresistible charm and his undoubtedly appealing endowment…

Max rubbed his face agitatedly. He could come up with a thousand ways to describe Bon Jovi and insult him from the privacy of his own home, but that wasn’t enough. He thought he'd been fair in warning the man to stay away from's not safe to be around her. The scare tactic might not have been well thought-through; from his vantage point down the street from Jon's place, Max had already started on the beers when the limo turned into the drive. But he'd dropped the alert bomb. Bon Jovi had been fairly warned. 

His anger had simmered for quite some time now, and he knew eventually it would explode. Like a soda bottle kept under pressure for too long. The plastic container was only so strong for the gasses within…and Max’s bottle would burst soon.

It was only a matter of time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chapter Sixteen

The next two weeks passed in the blink of an eye – or so it seemed to Erin, at least, whose workaholic tendencies flared up when she was assigned a new project at the office the Monday following her tumultuous weekend. Working all day long with hardly any break, writing up schedules and profiles, scribbling notes in endless meetings, or getting tied up in hours-long overseas phone conferences, she was every bit the slaving businesswoman her boss had hired. And aside from coming home late every night and falling into bed exhausted, keeping busy had its advantages for her.

For one thing, she hadn’t seen nor heard from Max since the night she’d broken it off with him. While that was a good thing by most standards, his utter silence flickered in the back of her mind. Max wasn’t one to disappear off the face of the planet – even when you wanted him to. Besides, his constant suffocating presence had been what irked Erin to begin with - aside from the fact that she was seeing someone else, that had been the other main reason for ending things with him anyway.

Fortunately, she didn’t have time to ponder over Max’s mysterious and complete absence; rather, she accepted it gratefully. It made things a hell of a lot easier.

Staying busy also helped keep her mind off of Jon – for his two-week stint at home had ended, and he had returned to his hectic schedule of globetrotting and meetings. Though Erin was disappointed that they both had been consumed by responsibility just as they were given the emotional “freedom” to be together, she understood that it was part of the package deal in dating someone like Jon. And now when they did have time to be together, she didn’t have to feel guilty or conscience-stricken. She could enjoy him.

And she did. As their budding relationship progressed, she grew more and more fond of him as a person. Underneath the sexy rock star image, the dazzling good looks and the smooth, charming seduction he’d so brilliantly mastered, Jon Bon Jovi was simply a kind soul. He had a caring heart and a desire to work for the greater good, a soft spot for friends and family, and a gentility in the way he treated women that Erin couldn’t help but love. What was more, he possessed the uncanny ability to make her feel like a queen even when she felt like crap.

All in all, he was a wonderful man. It had been over a month now since they’d met on the plane and unofficially begun dating, and while the shock and disbelief had for the most part dissipated, Erin still found herself smiling randomly at times when she realized what a lucky bitch she really was.

The relief of the lifted “Max pressure” off her chest was tantalizing to Erin. Alternating between feeling schoolgirl-giddy and grown-woman-lustful, she was attracted to Jon like a moth to a flame. He’d brought a new twist into her life, despite the emotional chaos that had ensued regarding the previous beau, and it was as addicting to Erin as a drug.

What was more, there was a freedom in their new relationship – a no strings attached kind of status, where Erin didn’t feel pressured to follow Jon’s every move or fill him in on hers. He called, she called, they saw each other when they could and were able…and always when they wanted to. When she wanted to. A strange and rusty habit to get used to after six months with Max’s leash around her neck.

Jon didn’t seem to expect anything from her except…well, except her. She didn’t have to report to him, she didn’t have to explain her absences or long days at work. He accepted them and let an answer like “I’m sorry I didn’t call yesterday, I was busy” slide right off of him like water off a duck’s back. Not interrogating, not suspicious and alert to her every out-of-routine step.

She was free to live her life. As she should be. And Jon’s silent trust in her and comforting faith that she still felt the same way about him at the end of the day was peacefully reassuring in more ways than one. In fact, Erin worried herself more over the question of just how she did feel about him than he did.

Was all this a crush? No.

Was it infatuation? Partly.

Was it lust? Definitely. But not just.

Was it love?

That was the one question Erin never could answer…and didn’t really want to. That kind of feeling would constitute the binding and suffocating ties she had grown to reject, and would beg for inevitable heartbreak.

Especially with a high-profile celebrity rock star like Jon Bon Jovi.

No, she wasn’t in love. She definitely felt something for him that she hadn’t felt in a long time, and she cared deeply for him in ways she couldn’t quite comprehend. An almost foreign emotion to her, surely, but one she counted off as whimsical and caught up in the exciting frenzy of recent events. But it wasn’t quite that core-of-the-heart, deep-in-your-soul connection.

At least, not yet.


The gravel crunched beneath the tires as the limo pulled up to Jon’s massive home. Exhausted from a long week of traveling, he slung his briefcase over his shoulder, grabbed his favorite New York Giants cap, and crawled out from the backseat. Thanking the driver and confirming the next pick-up, he wearily made his way to the sprawling front entrance and shoved the key in the lock.

Pushing open the heavy French door, he dropped his briefcase inside the dark foyer and punched the key code on the alarm. It was good to be home, finally. It was always good to be home after traveling, but this time felt especially comfortable. He’d barely gotten a wink of sleep when he was in Seattle, quite literally pulled two all-nighters with Richie and their producer in Nashville, and had been blessed with stomach-roiling turbulence on the flight home. He’d even taken the private jet this time so he could sleep. Apparently Nature had other plans.

He kicked off his shoes and padded into the kitchen to look for something to eat before he hit the sack. The answering machine on the marble countertop blinked furiously red and Jon wearily ignored it; he was not in the mood for ten thousand messages, 9,999 of which would be about work, right now.

He grabbed a loaf of bread, a pack of ham, and a jar of mayonnaise from the fridge, and as he began to make a quick sandwich, the phone rang.

Jon groaned. Seriously? Couldn’t a guy get some rest around here…

He grabbed the phone off the receiver and wedged it between his ear and shoulder to resume sandwich preparation. “Dude, I just walked in the door,” he said huffily by way of answer, figuring it was either Richie or Obie.

“Oh, I know you did.”

Jon froze. That voice did not belong to Richie or Obie…or anyone else he knew, for that matter.

“I’m sorry?” he asked, knitting his eyebrows together.

“Where were you tonight?”

Jon raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me? Who is this?”

There was a brief silence and then: “Let’s just say I’m a friend of a friend.”

Jon raised his eyes. Another stupid teenager who’d gotten hold of his number and thought he’d be funny. “Right, but I’m supposed to just tell you where I was tonight. Fuck off, asshole,” he slammed the phone back down on the receiver.

Cursing under his breath, he finished making his sandwich and scarfed it down by the time the phone rang again.

“What?” he barked, knowing he should just leave it alone and go to bed. Unplug the phone and ignore it. But he was notorious for being poisonously cranky when he was tired, and right now, he was exhausted.

“I asked you where you were tonight.”

Jon stared at the wall in exasperation. “Look, punk, I don’t know who you are or how you got this number, but I am not in the mood. Don’t call here again, and leave me the fuck alone.”

He was about the slam the phone back down and unplug it, but the caller’s reply made his blood run cold.

“No problem. If you leave Erin the fuck alone.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chapter Fifteen

Inside his darkened apartment, Max stared blankly at the plasma screen television. He’d pulled the curtains closed, and the lights were all off except for the glowing blue of the TV. Some old re-run of CSI was on, a show he never had much interest in, and his thoughts had quickly drifted while the uniformed agents searched for clues and analyzed evidence on the screen.

He’d called Erin earlier, hoping she’d agree to dinner or at least an evening together since they hadn’t spent much time together lately. She’d blown him off yet again, though, and Max had nearly crushed his cell phone in his fist when they’d hung up.

I’m sorry, Max, I’m not feeling well…

Bullshit. More like she was half naked on the couch while that pansy rock star Jon Bon Jovi kissed and sucked on her neck.

Max’s stomach roiled at the very thought.

That Bon Jovi prick was meddling with the wrong people, treading dangerously toxic waters, and it was clear that he had to go.

Max had tried to assess the situation from both of their points of view – Erin he couldn’t be mad at for long; she was young and stupid and he couldn’t blame her for her faults.

Bon Jovi, however, was the very root of the problem. He was a grown man and had acted upon impulse, poorly governing his actions with lust. The consequences of that – sticking his nose in others’ business and expecting to be welcomed because of his fame – were severe. Max would see to that himself.

Suddenly he made up his mind. He was tired of sitting back and feigning innocent oblivion. If things were going to go anywhere, he had to step inside the middle of the problem, the center of the wheel that was spinning out of his control behind closed doors.

Max grabbed his keys and strode out of the house. Ten minutes at the market and he had everything he needed before he was off in the direction of Erin’s neighborhood.

Erin couldn’t know any better. She’d been naïve and blind; she was a woman after all – a woman under the control of a man skilled at seduction. Max would have to punish her for her childishness, but after that he’d forgive her – he cared about her too much to see her get hurt.

And that’s what was going to happen if she continued to see this Bon Jovi guy. She’d get hurt. But Max would be there to comfort her and heal her wounded, naïve heart. Bon Jovi, however, would be hurt too…

But unfortunately, nobody would be able to help him.


Erin rubbed at her temples lightly, her soft fingers working in slow circles to massage away the throbbing pain that had settled there. For a day that had started out so right, it had ended so wrong.

The attack on Jon’s car still bothered her, and as night fell she became uneasy and slightly jumpy, nervous every time she rounded a dark corner in her house. As a result, she’d flipped on nearly every light and switched on the television to comfort herself; instead, she’d developed a massive headache that refused to be extinguished.

She was just considering heading up to bed for the night when a loud tap at her front door nearly jolted her out of her skin. Heart pounding, she eyed the door warily and approached it slowly, peering through the eyehole.

A crop of curly brown hair jutted out at her in the distorted image, and she groaned. She’d told him she didn’t want to hang out tonight…

Forcing her face to remain passive, she opened the door. “Oh, hey Max,” she tried to sound happy to see him. “I thought we weren’t going to get together tonight.”

Max smiled and crossed the threshold, closing the door behind him.

“You said you didn’t feel well,” he said sweetly. “So I brought you some chamomile tea and a movie. I figured we could just stay here tonight and I’ll take care of you.”

Erin raised an eyebrow. “Wow, um, thanks Max, but you really don’t have to do all this. I have a splitting headache and I was just about to head to bed when you knocked. I really should just sleep this off.”

Max pulled an injured face. “Come on, baby, we haven’t spent quality time together in ages. We’ve both been so busy. Let’s just relax tonight, okay?”

“But I don’t feel well,” Erin said pointedly, trying to be polite.

“I’ll take care of that,” Max cooed, kissing her forehead gently. As he passed her on his way to the kitchen, Erin stood staring at the wall in disbelief. Great…

Tension was high as she followed him a moment later, furrowing her brows as Max began to move around her kitchen skillfully, as if he owned the place.

“Trust me, sweetheart, a cup of strong tea will take care of that headache of yours,” he turned a knob on the stove and the gas clicked to life. Erin watched the blue flames lick the bottom of the teapot while she tried to decide what to say next.

“Max,” she began softly. “Can we talk?”

Max didn’t seem to hear her as he unpacked the box of chamomile tea and reached for a ceramic mug hanging on a wall hook by the cabinet. “Sugar, baby?”

“No, thanks…Max…”

“Don’t strain that pretty voice of yours, Erin, have a seat and let me take care of you.”

“No, I really need to tell you something – ”

“Here, why don’t you go pop this DVD in the player and wait for me in the living room.”

Erin exhaled sharply. “Max!” she said firmly. “We need to talk. And it really can’t wait.”

Finally, Max stopped talking and looked at her innocently. “What is it, baby?”

Erin took a deep breath. Do this now, she chided herself, before things get even worse.

“I – I really don’t know how to tell you this,” she began. “So I’m just going to come right out and say it…”

She forced herself to look him in the eye. “I don’t think this relationship is going anywhere.”

Max blinked.

“In fact, I know it’s not,” she went on. “We’re both such different people, Max, and with our crazy schedules, we – I – just can’t make it work anymore. You said it yourself: we haven’t spent quality time together in ages. You can’t have these huge lulls in a relationship – it starts to deteriorate.”

“You think we’ve deteriorated?” Max asked, calmly.

Erin studied him. “Our relationship has. We just don’t fit anymore, you know? We both work long hours, we hardly see each other…I just can’t do it anymore. I’m sorry,” she added.

Max’s face was hard to read: Erin detected confusion, but also traces of sadness and anger. He didn’t look surprised, however, which puzzled her. He never left her gaze, and Erin suddenly felt awkward in the silence.

“I hope you aren’t angry with me for seeming to just drop this on you…”

“When were you planning on telling me if I hadn’t come over tonight?” Max asked.

Erin’s stomach knotted, and she shrugged guiltily. “I don’t know,” she said truthfully. “I guess it’s been on my mind for awhile but since we never see each other, I didn’t know when I could.”

For some reason, that seemed to satisfy Max. He nodded slowly, looking at her oddly. “Okay,” he said plaintively. “If that’s how you feel.”

Erin blinked confusedly but pulled herself together. “Yeah, it is. Again, I’m really sorry. You’re a great guy, Max, it just…wasn’t meant to be.”

The tiniest of smiles played at the corner of Max’s mouth as he turned to pick up his things. “I guess it wasn’t,” he agreed. “But I do think you’re making a mistake.”

Erin said nothing. Let him think whatever he wants to.

“So that’s it, then?” he said it politely, but Erin could read hidden emotion behind the mask.

“I guess so…” she said dumbly, unsure what else to do or say.

Max nodded and slowly began to move toward the door. “Well I guess it would be too awkward for me to stick around tonight,” he laughed. “I hope you feel better, though.”

“Thanks,” Erin smiled, trying to keep things friendly. “And I appreciate you trying to take care of me.” Just keep him happy.

“No problem.”

She followed him to the door. “We can still be friends, of course, right?” she asked gently, cringing inwardly at the cliché.

Max turned and smiled at her. “Of course. In fact, I hope we are. You’re a beautiful woman, Erin, don’t let anyone take advantage of that. And don’t ever forget that I love you.”

Erin forced her face to remain passive. “Yeah…thanks, Max. I’ll see you around, okay?”

“You can count on it.”

He leaned over and kissed her cheek softly before turning and heading silently down the walk. Erin watched as he climbed into his car and drove off a moment later.

Erin breathed a sigh of relief and closed the door. Finally.

Max was gone. For good.

She smiled as she returned to the kitchen to clean up the tea things and turn out the lights in the house, then made her way wearily upstairs. Without bothering to do her normal bathroom routine, she simply changed into a pair of sweats and collapsed in bed.

Finally, she didn’t have to worry about Max anymore, or worry about him finding out about Jon…or vice versa. She’d had to talk quickly and think quicker, but somehow Max had bought her speech. She’d been partially honest in what she’d told him, after all – she didn’t see their relationship going anywhere.

He didn’t need to know about Jon. And now Jon never needed to know about him. But she was surprised at how well he took it all. He almost seemed as if he knew it was coming…like he expected it, somehow.

Whatever, Erin thought sleepily. Whether he had read the signs in the last few weeks or not, she didn’t care. All that mattered was that she’d finally “done the right thing” – more or less.

Feeling relieved and free, Erin drifted off into thoughts and dreams of Jon and their new freedom together…unaware that Max’s car sat idling by the side of the road at the end of her block.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

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