Jordan dropped her bags in the hallway as she removed the keys from the door. Home at last. It had taken a few hours but she was finally starting to come back to reality. She’d tried to get some work done on the plane but her mind kept flashing back to the events of the past two days, and at times the rush through her veins was so hot she was sure the person sitting next to her could feel the heat radiating off of her.
When her plane had landed and she turned her phone on, she saw she had a message waiting and took a deep breath before pressing the “send” button to retrieve it. She knew she had to deal with David, and might as well start now. She was surprised when the voice turned out not to be his.
“See, I told you I’d call. And you didn’t even give me this number. Shows you how determined I am.” She could hear the smile in his voice. “Anyway, I hope you’re having a good flight. I’m getting ready to board mine right now but I just wanted… I don’t know, to hear your voice, I guess. And to say thanks again. Good luck with… everything. I’ll be thinking of you.”
Her heart felt like it leapt into her throat as she listened. She saved the message, then listened to it twice more, a soft smile forming on her lips. Then she’d moved through the menu on her phone to the call list, to view the “dialed” calls. Sure enough, around the same time she was in the shower that morning, a call was made from her phone to a number she didn’t recognize. She’d laughed to herself. Very resourceful. She started to save the number but then changed her mind, deleting it. She didn’t want the temptation.
I’ll be thinking of you. She smiled. Maybe for a while. But then he’ll go back to being the Rock Star, and all that went with it. Not to mention back to being a husband and father. She wasn’t going to fool herself into believing that she’d be crossing his mind for long.
She couldn’t deny, however, that she was happy for the little place she was occupying in his mind for now. God knows she couldn’t get him out of hers. The way he threw his head back when he laughed and the throaty sound of his laughter… the way his hands moved on her and his fingers brushed her lips… the way he looked at her across the pool table and the way he brought his beer bottle to his lips… the way those lips felt against her skin... the way he…
She shook her head as if trying to clear an Etch-o-sketch. She felt her cat Abby rubbing against her legs and bent to scoop the feline up in her arms. “Hey baby girl. Did you miss me?” She buried her face in the furry mane. Back to reality.
She changed out of her travel clothes, relieved to finally slip into some yoga pants and a baggy sweatshirt. She unpacked her bag, refilling all of her “travel bottles” before storing her toiletry case in the bathroom closet. She scooped the cat box—which was in dire need, as the cat sitter had thought she’d be home two days sooner—then sorted her clothes and threw a load of laundry in the washer. She looked around to see if there was anything else she could do to postpone the inevitable.
She decided to put the kettle on to heat some water for tea. She really wanted a glass of wine, but decided she’d consumed more than enough alcohol over the past few days. Besides, she wanted to be stone-cold sober for the events that were about to unfold.
She took her engagement ring out of the side pocket in her purse where she’d stored it two nights earlier and went to her dresser to retrieve the velvet box it had come in. She sighed as she slid the ring into place and gave it one final glance before shutting the box and setting it on the counter.
Finally she reached for the phone and dialed David’s number. She was relieved when it rolled over to voice mail. “Hi, it’s me. I’m home safe and sound. Obviously we need to talk. Stop by if you want.” She hung up just as the doorbell rang. Shit. She should have known he’d just show up on her doorstep. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, breathing out slowly before walking to the door.
She was relieved to find Tina standing on the other side. “Oh, good, it’s just you.” She laughed then, embracing her friend.
“I guess I should have called but I just wanted to stop by to give you a hug and see how you’re doing,” Tina shrugged, smiling.
“I’m fine, really,” Jordan assured her. “Just a little nervous about dealing with David tonight but other than that I’m great, actually.”
Tina looked at her friend as she closed the door behind her. “You know, I think you are. I was expecting, I don’t know, tears or something.”
Jordan smiled sadly. “I know. But to be honest, I haven’t really wanted to cry at all.” Not counting this morning in the shower, but she knew that David had very little to do with that. “I mean, it is sad. But I’m just not, really.” She sighed. “Hell, don’t ask me to explain it. Want a cup of tea?”
“Sure,” Tina responded, taking her coat off and hanging it on the hook behind the door before following her friend into the kitchen. She took a seat on one of the barstools at the kitchen counter, watching as Jordan took the mugs out of the cupboard and then held out the canister of tea bags for her to choose one. She observed for a few more minutes—the ease at with Jordan moved around the kitchen, a small smile on her face and an aura of calm surrounding her. Finally she spoke up.
“Okay, this has to be the easiest breakup I’ve ever seen. You aren’t just ‘not sad.’ You’re, I don’t know,” Tina searched for the words. “You seem so relaxed and at peace. The way one normally looks when they are falling in love with someone. Not breaking up with them.”
Jordan rolled her eyes. “Well let’s not go overboard. Would you rather see me destroyed and in a heap on the floor like I was when…” She stopped herself, not willing to let her mind go back to that horrible time in her life.
When Rob left. Even Tina didn’t like to think about it. She still hated that man with every bone in her body for what he’d done to her friend. Ironically enough, the last time she saw Jordan like this was with him, before he turned out to be Asshole of the Decade.
“Of course not. Hell, I think you should have broken up with him sooner if this is the result!” They laughed together then. “I’m not sure I understand but if it’s what you want, I’m glad for you. I guess I knew you weren’t deliriously happy but I never thought that you were unhappy.”
Jordan shook her head. “I wasn’t; we weren’t. But to be honest, I knew something wasn’t working, for me at least. And obviously for him, as well. Otherwise he wouldn’t still be seeing Amanda.” She paused, dunking her tea bag up an down in the cup. “I don’t hate him. I’m not even that mad at him, and I know I should be. So what does that say about our relationship?”
Tina nodded, inhaling the aroma from her mug. She was sure there was part of the puzzle missing but decided it didn’t matter. She and Jordan had been friends since college and one thing she knew was that the woman could handle just about anything. From what she could tell, this was just a bump in the road. In fact, part of her felt envious and she wasn’t even sure why. There was some sort of energy emanating from her friend that was hard to define.
Then a thought occurred to her that almost made her blood run cold. Rob. God, please don’t let it be that. For a few years after their breakup, he’d briefly reappear in Jordan’s life and turn it upside down before pulling the same old shit and leaving again. And every time Jordan would be shaken to the core, although her recovery period got shorter each time. It can’t be. She’s too smart for that. And if it is, I can’t even ask.
Instead she asked, “So I take it your introspection time in Chicago was time well spent?”
A sly smiled stole across Jordan’s face before she could corral it. You can say that again. “It gave me time to really think about things, that’s all. Where my life is going, what I want… and what I don’t want.” Jordan took a sip of tea. “I highly recommend it. Not that you need it, of course.” Tina was deliriously happy with her husband and Jordan adored Kevin; she couldn’t have hand-picked a better mate for her friend.
Tina shrugged. “Well, whatever it is, I’m happy for you. And that is something thing I was not expecting to say to you tonight.”
“Well I’m glad I surprised you,” Jordan replied, sitting her mug down and walking to the living room, where she sat on the rug and began a series of yoga stretches.
Tina burst out laughing. “Yes, but in a good way. So does this mean I have to take you vibrator shopping again?”
Jordan joined in her laughter. A few years earlier, she had convinced Tina accompany her for a little “adult entertainment” shopping that she was afraid to do by herself. Once David had come into the picture, however, she had agreed to “put away her toys,” as he called it. He had felt threatened by her solo play (with good reason, she had to admit), and so her little treasure chest of goodies had been relegated to the back of the closet.
“Well, only if the old ones don’t work anymore,” she answered with a grin, rolling her shoulders back and tilting her head to the side to stretch her neck muscles. She closed her eyes and her mind flashed back to the evening before. I want to watch what you do to make yourself feel good. She felt the heat rush through her body and let herself savor the moment before bringing herself back to the present.
Tina looked at her watch. “Okay, I have to jet. We have a dinner thing with Kev’s family tonight.” She rolled her eyes to show her excitement.
Jordan laughed. “Wow, I hadn’t thought of that extra bonus. No more dealing with David’s obsessive mother or the bitchy sister!” She rose and walked with Tina to the door.
“Call me later and let me know how it goes,” Tina gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Or if you need anything else.”
Jordan nodded. “I will, I promise.”
Tina let her eyes linger on her friend for a moment as she pulled on her coat. She couldn’t put her finger on it but all she knew was that her friend looked amazing. So much for needing to worry about her.
She opened the door to leave and found David standing on the other side, about to knock. Their eyes met briefly and she shook her head slightly. “Hi David. And goodbye, David.”
He didn’t respond but stood aside and let her pass. He looked up at Jordan and swallowed. “Can I come in?”
Some of Jordan’s resolve melted when she saw him standing there. He really was a handsome man, with strong features and a sweet smile, even if he wasn’t breathtakingly gorgeous. And she doubted anyone would use the word “sexy” to describe him. Part of her felt guilty looking at his receding hairline and his closely cropped hair, and she chided herself for being so superficial.
She nodded in response and gestured him in, reminding herself of the conversation she’d been rehearsing in her mind off and on for the past two days. They walked into the kitchen and then stood there awkwardly. He finally spoke.
“It isn’t what you think,” he started, and she interrupted him.
“Well, what I think is that you and Amanda have been seeing each other behind my back. So unless you can honestly say that isn’t the case, then it pretty much is exactly what I think.”
He opened him mouth to respond and then closed it again, his eyes pained as he looked at her.
“For how long? Did it ever stop or has it been going on since last year when I caught her leaving a message on your machine?” Jordan surprised even herself at the calmness in her voice.
“It’s not… it’s just…” he stammered.
“Never mind,” she sighed. “To tell you the truth, I don’t even want to know. It doesn’t matter. Because now you’re free to be with her.”
“She’s married,” he replied, then cringed at how stupid that sounded.
Jordan laughed bitterly. “Oh, I see. You were going to marry me and she’d stay married to him and the two of you would just fuck on the side?”
“Jordan!” He was clearly shocked. “That’s not you talking.”
“Actually, yes, it is. Very much so, in fact. Obviously you have missed that part of me while you were rolling around in the sack with little Miss Number Cruncher.” The sarcasm was thick in her voice. “The two of you must just set the sheets on fire.”
He looked as if she’d slapped him, and she regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. It was mean-spirited and it wasn’t the way she wanted to end things. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, taking a deep breath before continuing.
“Look, David… obviously you have something with her that you don’t have with me. Fair enough. And I’m sorry if you can’t have her because she’s married. But you know what? That’s not my problem. Right now you're my problem. And I just want this over. I forgave you once. But that’s it. I’m moving on.” She reached for the velvet box on the counter and handed it to him.
His eyes were brimming with tears as he took it. “I’m so sorry,” he said simply.
She felt the lump forming in her throat and sighed heavily. “So am I,” she answered, blinking back her own tears. She felt a little dishonest letting him think it was all his fault but she decided in a way it would be less painful for him than actually knowing the truth.
“I’ll miss you,” he said quietly.
She felt a tear escape and trail down her cheek. “I’ll miss you too.”
“Can we at least go to lunch once in a while?”
She sighed heavily. “I don’t know. I think it’s probably too early to think about that.”
He nodded and turned to leave. He paused at the door, not looking back. “I do love you, Jordan.” She watched as he closed the door silently behind him.
She wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at the clock. It was early but suddenly she was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to sink into her own bed and cuddle up with the cats. She washed her face and brushed her teeth and then slid under the covers, Abby and Brando happily curling up with her. She fell asleep without turning out the light.
It had been almost a week since the snowstorm had left him stranded in Chicago, and in the days since Jon had arrived back home in New Jersey, he had been caught up in a whirlwind of activity. His schedule was jam-packed and he hit the gym first thing every morning before beginning his day. Preparing for a tour was like training for a marathon—or at least what he assumed it would be like. He found it hard to believe that some 20 years earlier he could drink himself into a stupor well into the wee hours in the morning after a show and get up and do it all again the next day. And he wasn’t in nearly as good of shape then.
Of course back then it was pretty much all about him. Now there were so many other people to take into consideration that it left little time to be self-indulgent. All in all, that was a good thing, but the added responsibility made him temperamental at times and he knew it. He wanted so badly for everything to be perfect, for each show to be the best they’d ever done, his body to look the best it ever had and his voice to be the strongest it ever been. Although he had to admit that the latter point was arguable. There were some notes he just couldn’t hit very often any more and on the rare occasion he did, he felt it for the rest of the night. His cigarette habit didn’t help, he knew, but it was one thing he just couldn’t let go. The one vice he couldn’t shake completely.
Until now, that is. As busy as he’d been the past several days, Jordan was never far from his mind. Common sense told him to forget about her but unfortunately good sense wasn’t winning this one. He was trying, but there were reminders of her everywhere—which was ridiculous, considering she was almost 2000 miles away.
And this morning, as he lay on his weight bench, 105.7 FM blaring over the speakers in the workout room, he was mid bench-press when he heard the smoky, haunting wail of the opening saxophone of “Turn the Page.” Fuck.
He’d finished his set and sat up, shaking his head. Dammit, woman. He knew he couldn’t blame her. He was the one who pursued it, not her. To her credit, she’d put up a pretty good fight. Much more than he had, in fact. He’d replayed the evening in his mind several times, trying to ascertain at what point it had quit being a game for him; when he decided it was worth the risk. It was over the dinner table, of that much he was confident. Probably when she had confessed to him that the fiancé wasn’t rocking her world.
Then once he felt the touch of her skin on his fingers, it was as if all rational thought took a holiday—the id took over and the ego and super ego went to sleep.
He had been reckless, he knew, but he had no regrets. And he felt only slightly guilty—and mostly for the guilt he wasn’t feeling. She was a totally separate part of his life and he was surprised at how easy it was to still compartmentalize such things after all these years. Back then, his extracurricular activities were all lumped into one big category—blondes, brunettes and redheads, sometimes more than one at a time. More often than not, he couldn’t even remember the details.
This was different, and at a level he found somewhat disturbing. He could still feel her, smell her, taste her. She haunted his dreams and interrupted his thoughts.
I’ve got your taste in the back of my mouth
I want to reach in and pull it out…
More than once he’d found himself sitting with his guitar, the lyrics forming in his mind as his hands played through the chords.
The last thing you need’s another pickup line
I bet you’ve heard them all a thousand times
God only knows what you’ve been through
Believe me, I’ve been broken too…
Usually he started with a title and formed a song around it, but on occasion the song developed on its own, and this was one of those. It was coming to him in his sleep, in the shower, anytime he had a moment alone.
He needed to get back to work. Once he was surrounded by the machine that brought the live shows together, he was sure he’d be able to shake the hold she had on him. To start feeling himself again.
Until they hit Denver.
He’d finished his workout, deciding to pound out five more miles on the treadmill before jumping in the shower. He was running late now; the van would be arriving in less than an hour to take him to the plane, where he’d join the rest of the band and head off to Atlanta.
Sound check went extra long the next day, an opportunity for a mini-rehearsal following their more than month-long break over the holidays. They were happy to be back together, joking and laughing the same way they’d been doing for more than 20 years. Jon was proud of what they’d managed to sustain, and loved each and every one of them like a brother—although some days he felt more like a father, issuing orders and pulling rank when he felt the situation dictated.
In turn, they respected his role as leader and usually followed along dutifully, each carrying his portion of the load happily. If he seemed more distracted or on edge, no one mentioned it. He had always been the more serious one, and was also the one who kept his emotions closest to his heart. As long as they’d known each other, they also knew when to leave well enough alone and not push. The formula had worked for a long time and they trusted him implicitly, regardless of what might be brewing beneath the surface.
The crew had gotten there the day before, setting up the massive stage and all of the technology that went with it. Jon still enjoyed watching it come together. They prided themselves on being the best in the business; no one could claim a better stage show than theirs, and year after year their ticket sales reinforced the fact.
That night as he and Richie stood side by side, guitars in hand, he felt that same rush he’d been feeling since the first time they stepped out on stage together. He fed off energy of the crowd and gave it back to them two-fold. He was home.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Two weeks later, Jordan sat at her desk, finishing up some thank-you notes and pulling files for her meetings the next day. She was having lunch with Tina that day and looking forward to spending the upcoming Saturday with her sister. Life was more or less back to normal, as she settled into a routine that didn’t include David. She was enjoying the freedom life was allowing her now; the only personal obligations she had were to herself and she kind of liked it.
The past few days, however, David had been driving her nuts. He’d left a message on her home answering machine the day before, begging her to please call him, and then this morning she’d found a rambling, drunken message on her voice mail at work.
Jordan, please, I miss you…I’m so sorry… it’s over between Amanda and me…I can’t stand being without you…please give me another chance …I’ll never let you down again, I swear…I know I messed up… I love you…I know you love me…
The words echoed in her mind as she sealed the envelope she held in her hand. She knew she couldn’t take him back—didn’t want him back—but she felt bad that he sounded so sad. She had every right to feel satisfaction for his suffering but she just didn’t have it in her. She felt as if he’d set her free and that superceded most of the anger she felt towards him.
She wasn’t over it enough, however, to want to see or talk to him. She just wished he’d leave her alone.
A knock at her door interrupted her thoughts and she looked up to see Tina standing in the doorway. “Am I early?”
Jordan looked at the clock and was surprised at how fast the morning had gone by. “Wow, not really. I just lost track of time. Give me a couple minutes and I’ll be ready.”
Just then the receptionist appeared at her door holding a gigantic bouquet of pastel-colored roses. “Delivery for you, Ms. Scott,” she said formally, a joking tone in her voice.
“Shit,” Jordan sighed. She cleared a place on her desk and the receptionist set them down.
“Not the response I was expecting,” the woman laughed. “There has to be three dozen there. If you decide you don’t want them, feel free to put them on my desk!”
After she left Tina looked at Jordan. “David?” Jordan nodded and told her of the phone calls.
“Well he sure is trying hard,” Tina laughed, reaching for the card. “May I?” Jordan nodded and Tina pulled the envelope off of its post, pausing to enjoy the fragrance before stepping back and pulling the card out of its envelope. A look of confusion crossed her face as she read it.
“Jordan, these aren’t from David,” she responded. “Who’s J?”
“Jay who? I don’t know anyone named Jay.”
“Not Jay. J. As in the initial,” Tina handed her the card.
Jordan caught her breath as she looked at the card. Underneath the token “Thinking of You” it read, “See you soon. J.”
Oh. My. God. She took a breath, willing herself to appear nonchalant. “Oh, it’s just a donor I’ve been visiting with,” she paused, then added, “Who shouldn’t be sending me flowers.” Jordan was impressed at how quickly she came up with a plausible story.
“Really?” Tina sounded intrigued. “Who is it?”
“You know I can’t tell you that,” Jordan answered. It was easy to lie, she discovered, because Tina knew that a lot of what she did had to be kept confidential. She just hoped her friend didn’t notice the tremble in her voice. See you soon. What the hell did that mean?
“Are you having an affair with one of your donors?” Tina teased, although part of her wondered if that might be the case. It certainly would explain some things.
“Of course not,” Jordan answered, laughing. She reached for her coat. “I thought we were going to lunch.”
Tina laughed and shrugged. “Sorry. I can’t help trying to live vicariously through you, that’s all.”
Jordan couldn’t help smirking. Well have I got a doozy for you then.
Later that night, Jordan was just sinking into a hot tub when her cell phone rang. She sighed and reached to see who it was. She didn’t recognize the number and toyed with the idea of not answering, then thought better of it.
His voice was soft and sexy. “You’re a hard woman to track down.”
She felt a flutter in her stomach. “You seem to be pretty good at it, though.”
He chuckled. “Well, that and the fact that I pilfered one of your business cards when you weren’t looking.”
“I had no idea you were so sneaky,” she leaned back in the tub, taking the big sponge and squeezing the suds over her shoulders.
“I prefer to think of it as cunning,” he answered. He listened for a moment and then smiled. “Where are you?”
“At home,” she answered, teasingly.
“Damn, you’re in the tub, aren’t you?”
She laughed. “How can you tell?”
“I can hear it,” he answered. “Are you alone?”
“What do you think? Would you answer the phone if you were in the tub with someone?”
“Good point,” he laughed. God it was good to hear her voice.
“The flowers are beautiful.”
“Good. They were supposed to be.”
“They almost got me busted though.”
“Oh. Sorry about that. I tried to be mysterious.”
“And you did a very nice job,” she could picture him on the other end of the phone, sitting on a hotel bed, his denim-clad legs stretched out in front of him while he sipped a glass of wine. “Where are you?”
“Toronto; we’re doing three shows here and tonight’s our night off,” he smiled, envisioning her in her bath. “I finally was able to get some time to myself.”
“Well I have to admit, it’s nice to hear your voice.” Not the same as having him with her in the tub but she’d take what she could get.
“You too, Denver. How is…everything?” He decided not to flat-out ask how it had gone with what’s-his-name.
“Fine. Really good, actually.” I miss you though. “And you? How’s it going? Where have you been so far?”
“Let’s see… Atlanta, Nashville, Milwaukee, St Paul. I’m probably missing something. It gets to be a bit of a blur at times,” he admitted, laughing.
That was it. Of course. It hadn’t occurred to her to look at the local concert schedule.
“So that’s what your cryptic message meant,” she said out loud.
He grinned and she could hear it through the phone. “What do you mean?”
“When are you here?”
He was pleased to hear the anticipation in her voice. “A week from Saturday. I’ll have two tickets set aside at will call if you can make it.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” she answered softly. “So… what are you wearing?”
He laughed wickedly. “You miss me, don’t you?”
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