It had been almost four weeks since the Las Vegas concert, and she hadn’t seen Jon since. The band was taking a break before the European leg, and they had taken care of all her necessary paperwork either in Las Vegas or by e-mail—she was now on a first name basis with staff members in the corporate accounting and personnel office. It truly was a giant corporation, she’d discovered. She appreciated the fact that all appropriate protocol was being followed, however. For all intents and purposes she was simply an employee, even if it were only a short-term assignment. She’d already received a new laptop and state-of-the-art digital camera and her first per diem check—a whopping $40 for the Las Vegas show.
Her preparations for extended leave from her regular job were keeping her very busy, which was good, because she found herself missing Jon more than she wanted to admit. They had arranged a meeting in Chicago two weeks earlier, but she had to cancel when a major contributor suddenly became available to meet with her after numerous cancellations.
Jon had sounded almost as disappointed as she was when she had told him. “Shit,” he’d said. “I even booked the same room at the Drake. So much for the best-laid plans.” He’d sighed. “It’s okay, baby; the next month will go by faster than we think.”
His schedule was even busier than hers, she knew. Between the commitments of his other business endeavors, his foundation and his family, she knew he had little room for her. She’d made a mistake of entering his name into her Google News Alerts and yesterday had been slapped in the face by a picture of him and his wife at a charity gala of some sort.
Reality. She understood and accepted it without question, but unfortunately it didn’t keep her from thinking about him when her own pace slowed.
And today… well, today was one day she’d practically sell her soul to be with him.
She shook her head, opening her laptop again and clicking on her calendar and to-do list. Dry cleaning, bills, shopping… a veterinarian appointment for Brando, her annual ultrasound. She made a note to reschedule it, even though she’d already done so twice in the past six months. She knew she’d receive a scolding from her gynecologist but there certainly was no reason it couldn’t wait until she returned from Europe. She wasn’t her mother. She closed her eyes, realizing the irony.
She could still picture it as if it were yesterday, as if sixteen years hadn’t passed. Jordan and Morgan had stood vigil beside their mother’s bed for what seemed like an eternity, but on that day—that day, of all days—they could tell the end was imminent. The doctors were managing her pain with morphine, but the drug had their mother so incoherent she could barely speak. Each daughter held one of her hands and fought back the tears as they said good-bye, begging her to let go. Giving her permission to leave them.
There was no cake that year, no presents, no secret drunkfest with her girlfriends. Instead she turned twenty inside the grey, medicinal walls of St. Anthony’s Medical Center. She dealt with coroners, funeral parlors and death certificates.
A year later, she’d turned twenty-one in grand style—drinking herself into a stupor and fucking some stranger in a UPS truck that the driver had foolishly left unlocked outside the back door of the bar. They’d left the used condom behind, along with a five-dollar bill, thinking they were quite humorous. Later she’d thrown up in the parking lot before passing out in the back seat of Tina’s car.
Eventually she became less reckless and even learned to enjoy her birthday again. She felt a smile form on her lips as she remembered her twenty-fifth birthday, with Rob—how he’d taken what little money he had and treated her to a romantic dinner at the Russian Tea Room and a touring company version of Cats.
Last year she and David had gone to Hawaii and the year before, to Jamaica. He’d left a voice message for her today, saying that he just hoped she wasn’t spending the day alone, and she had appreciated his kind words.
Her life had been such a whirlwind that it actually hadn’t occurred to her when she was setting up her donor meetings. It wasn’t until her assistant brought her the itinerary that she took notice. She was getting in fairly early, however, and she and Tina were planning dinner at her place. The original plan had been for her to go there and let Kevin do the cooking, but Tina had called earlier in the day to let her know that Kev had caught a nasty stomach flu bug from his nephew, and he was in no shape to entertain.
“Now I know I don’t cook as well, but I was thinking I could pull one of Kev’s lasagnas out of the freezer, make a salad and open a bottle of wine,” Tina had suggested. “I’ll give Morgan and Liz a call and maybe they can come down too. We’ll play Trivial Pursuit or something.”
Jordan had smiled. That sounded perfect, actually. A night with the girls was just what she needed. She certainly didn’t need to be wallowing in self-pity…either from distant memories or current circumstances.
So what if she was thirty-six and still single? It’s not as if her biological clock meant anything; that shipped sailed a long time ago. No—her life wasn’t where she thought it would be at this age. But then again, whose life is ever where they think it will be? She chastised herself silently. Things could be a lot worse. Hell, in less than two weeks she was jetting off to Europe to tour with an internationally-acclaimed rock band. To tell their story. And fuck their lead singer.
She thought back to that night in Las Vegas—the rush she’d felt from having sex with him in a public place; so dangerous and sexy. They’d decided to continue the tryst, grabbing a limo for a leisurely tour along the Strip. Their talk was dirty and teasing, and she had unzipped his jeans, stroking him slowly, until he pulled her to straddle his lap. “It’s your turn to fuck me,” he’d said, with an evil grin. She had ridden him slowly and steadily, until his breathing was labored, his fingers clenching at her thighs, then she’d stopped. She looked down at him and smiled lustfully. “How you doin’ baby?” He’d laughed softly and reached to pull her mouth to his.
“You are a very, very bad girl,” he said, running a thumb across her lips. “Who is making me a very, very bad boy.” He’d slid his thumb into her mouth, wetting it, then lowered his hand to gently massage her clitoris.
She found herself flushing at the memory—one she’d relived more than once since it had happened. She and Rob had been bold, but never that bold. Of course she had been younger then and more inhibited. But Jon made her feel so at ease with her sexuality, and the rawness of their passion was more than she’d ever imagined was possible. She smiled wryly at the thought that Rob would be so proud of her. He’d always encouraged her to let herself go more—that as good as it was, it could be better if she’d only tear down those walls.
Well they sure has hell had come tumbling down with Jon.
Rob. Asshole. She hadn’t returned his call, which she knew was a good thing, but hearing his voice after all this time had shaken her more than she cared to admit. Fortunately she hadn’t heard from him again. She was proud of her strength, and knew not calling him was the right decision. Hell, the guy was engaged to someone else and still had the balls to call her. She knew that having the distraction of Jon and the trip to Europe was saving her a huge amount of personal turmoil and heartache.
She tried not to think about the fact that she was living a fantasy that would eventually come to an end. She told herself she would be okay when the time came, but deep inside she was scared of what she’d feel when it happened. She rationalized, however, that nothing lasts forever. It was enjoying the journey that mattered. And making sure no one got hurt along the way.
She heard the pilot’s voice announcing their impending arrival and closed her laptop, preparing for landing. Once inside the terminal, she called Tina to let her know, and her friend responded that the lasagna was in the oven and should be close to done by the time she got home. She smiled as she headed towards baggage claim. Suddenly she was ravenous, and she decided there were few things she’d rather do than spend the evening with her best friend and what little family she had.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The sexy sound of a saxophone greeted Jordan as she opened the door to her condo, immediately followed by the aroma of Italian spices and the warmth of a kitchen in use. She smiled, wondering what CD Tina was playing, because it didn’t sound familiar. Maybe she had turned on the smooth jazz station or something.
“Hello?” she called, hanging her coat on the hook behind the door and sliding her boots off. She decided to leave the luggage in the hall for the time being. She strode into the kitchen, noting the table set for two. Shoot. Apparently Morgan and Liz weren’t able to make it. Before she could let herself get too disappointed, however, she noticed an envelope propped up against a bottle of wine, her name written in Tina’s flowing handwriting. She smiled and picked it up, pouring herself a glass of wine before opening it. Inside was a card that said simply, “Happy Birthday. You can thank me later.” What the hell?
“Tina, what’s going on?” Jordan said, moving toward the living room, trying to locate her friend. There was a fire in the fireplace and Brando and Abby were contentedly curled up on the rug in front of it.
It was then that she noticed him lounging comfortably on the couch.
“Welcome home, baby.”
She stood in stunned silence, trying to decide if she was dreaming. He rose from the couch and moved to her, lifting her chin with one finger so her eyes met his. “And Happy Birthday.” He kissed her softly, then smiled. “Surprise.”
“What…how…” Jordan stammered.
Jon noted the slight tears forming in her eyes and smiled softly. “Well that’s not the reaction I was hoping for. If you want, I can leave,” he teased.
She laughed then. “The hell you will.” She pulled his head down to hers and kissed him hungrily. A couple minutes later they came up for air.
His hands wandered down to cup her ass and he grinned. “That’s more like it.” They swayed together to the music—a sultry version of “Europa” which was followed by the blatantly sex-filled “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Jordan laughed.
“What is this music?”
Jon grinned. “You like it? I made it just for you. You know, to feed your fetish.” He winked at her. “It wasn’t easy, I’ll have you know—finding the sexiest sax music out there was quite the endeavor, and I did it all myself. I should get bonus points for this one, even…it’s Seger’s sax player.” He ran a hand through her hair and brought his lips to her ear. “I’ll take that orgasm anytime.”
She couldn’t help but moan a little as his mouth trailed down her neck to bite lightly at her shoulder. “I can pretty much guarantee it,” she answered. “But can we eat first? I’m starving.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tina accepted the glass of wine Kevin was holding out to her, and scooted over so he could join her on the couch in front of their own fireplace.
“So how are you doing, you little conspirator, you?” Kevin asked, laughing. She looked at him and shook her head with a smile.
“Honestly? Like I’ve gotten drawn into some sort of television drama. Shit like this doesn’t happen in real life.”
It was just under a week earlier that she’d returned home from running errands to find a message scratched out on the notepad by the phone. “Call John. 732-468-9121.”
She’d torn the page from the pad, puzzled. John who? She didn’t recognize the phone number. Kevin had come up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “So tell me about this mystery man.”
“I have no idea who this is,” she’d answered. “What did he say?”
Kevin shrugged. “Well, he did seem a little shocked when I answered the phone. Guess he thought he had your cell or something. Said he is a friend of Jordan’s. You don’t know him?”
Tina’s eyes opened wide. “Oh. Wow.” Shit. She realized her reaction only piqued Kevin’s interest, so she tried to scale it back. “Yeah, I know him. I mean, not well, but I’ve met him…” Damn.
“Is this somebody she’s seeing?” Kevin was a little surprised he hadn’t heard about it.
“Well, sort of. Not really. I mean…” God she sucked at lying.
“Okay,” Kevin said slowly. He wasn’t sure what the big mystery was but he could tell it was freaking his wife out a little. “Well, are you going to call him?”
“Sure. As soon as I put away the groceries.” And you’re not in the room.
Kevin laughed. “How about I put away the groceries and you can go in the other room and have some privacy?”
Bless you. She went into the bedroom, pulling her cell out of her purse. There was no mistaking his voice when he answered.
“Hi. It’s Tina,” she paused. I can’t believe this. “You called?”
He laughed. “Yeah, sorry about catching your husband. For some reason I assumed it was your cell number.”
“How did you get any of my numbers?” Tina asked, puzzled.
“From Jordan’s paperwork. You’re on her ‘in case of emergency’ list.”
Oh. Well okay. “So, what can I do for you?”
“I’m hoping to maybe surprise her on Thursday,” he’d said. “So she doesn’t come home to an empty house.”
Tina was surprised. “I can’t believe she told you.”
Jon laughed. “Well, she didn’t, actually. I saw that on her paperwork, too.” Tina realized he just meant her birthday. He didn’t know the rest. “I suppose you know that we had to cancel Chicago,” he’d said simply. He was right—and she knew Jordan had been very disappointed. Between that, the Rob thing, and all the emotions that accompanied her birthday, she decided that perhaps a little Jongasm was just what Jordan needed.
She’d sighed. “How can I help?”
When she came out of the bedroom, Kevin was watching football and having a beer. “So do you want to tell me what’s going on or is it a secret?”
She laughed, joining him on the couch and reaching for his beer. “You’re not even going to believe it.”
When she finished the story he shook his head. “Wow. Our Jordan and…”
“Yep. Our little Jordan is living out the fantasy of millions of women across the world.” She paused. “Except for me, of course.”
Kevin laughed. “Of course, not you. Liar. Hell, I’ve seen the guy. I’D probably do him.”
Tina had burst out laughing then, hugging her husband. “We’re probably going to need your help, too.”
“No problem,” he replied. “Just tell me what you need.”
She and Jon had coordinated details by phone over the next few days, and she had let Jordan continue to believe they were having dinner at her place until that morning. She was waiting for Jon when the limo dropped him off in front of the Four Seasons and had driven him to Jordan’s place.
Kevin had generously whipped up a fresh lasagna for the occasion, and after sliding it into the oven, she and Jon set about the rest of the preparations. She was chopping vegetables and he was tearing lettuce when he spoke up.
“You don’t trust me, do you?” His blue eyes were sparkling when she looked at him.
She gave a small sigh. “It’s not that I don’t trust you. If that were the case I sure as hell wouldn’t have let you in her house.” She put the knife down and reached for her wine glass. “It’s just that she’s been through so much. I don’t want anyone causing her any more pain.”
Jon nodded. “Fair enough. But would you believe me if I told you I feel the same way?”
She looked at him. His eyes were soft and sincere. “I suppose. But given the circumstances, don’t you think the two of you are playing with fire?” And what about your wife? Tina could scarcely think of how shattered she’d be if she were to discover that Kevin had another woman in his life.
“Jordan is a big girl, and I’m a big boy. We know what we’re doing.”
“Do you?” Tina challenged. She held his eyes and he was the first to look away, reaching for his own wine glass and taking a large swig before bringing his eyes back to hers. When he did, his voice was a bit resigned.
“Not really. We’re just kind of making it up as we go,” he admitted. “But that doesn’t mean we’re being stupid.”
Tina regarded him for a moment. “I guess the part I really don’t get is why. Why Jordan? And why still? I mean, the Chicago thing I can sort of understand. Then when you were here, even. But why continue it? You pretty much have your pick of women wherever you go, don’t you?”
“Sure, if that’s what I wanted. But it’s not. And you know what else? I couldn’t have picked her up in a bar, or after a show. She’s not some groupie, and you know it.” He shrugged. “It just happened.”
Tina gave a small laugh. “Yeah, that’s what she says.”
“I don’t know what else to tell you, but… look, I like making her smile. And frankly, I think she needs more laughter in her life.”
Tina smiled. “Not to mention orgasms.”
He laughed, nodding. “Exactly. So I want to keep doing it. For as long as she’ll let me, anyway.”
Tina realized that he understood her friend more than she’d thought. If he didn’t truly care about Jordan, he wouldn’t be here. It occurred to her that she had no idea what kind of relationship he had with his wife and it was not her place to pass judgment. In addition, he was taking far too many risks to be setting Jordan up for massive heartbreak—not without setting himself up for some serious trouble as well. He wasn’t using her.
“Can I ask you another question?” He decided to take advantage of the warmth she was showing him.
She picked up the knife and resumed her chopping. “I suppose.”
“Where is he now?”
“The guy who broke her heart so badly.”
“She told you about Rob?”
He shook his head. “No. But I can tell.”
“He’s around, but she hasn’t seen him in years. He called recently but she never returned his call. I think—hope—she’s finally closed that door. Thank god.”
Jon nodded. “That’s partly why you let me come, isn’t it…to help keep that door closed?”
Tina smiled softly. Smart guy. “Jon, I think there is something you should know.”
“What’s that?” he asked, moving the salad bowl closer to her so she could scrape the vegetables in.
“Today isn’t just Jordan’s birthday.” She told him then, everything she knew about that day sixteen years earlier. When she finished, he found himself blinking back tears.
“Holy shit,” he said, shaking his head. “She never told me that. I knew about her mom but not when it happened.”
“She doesn’t talk about it. I found out from her sister that birthdays were a very big deal in their house—their mom totally went overboard for them, even more so than on Christmas; she said it was the one day they didn’t have to share with anyone. So to have her die on Jordan’s birthday…” Tina sighed. “Anyway… that is also why I let you come. Because I like to see her smile, too.”
Jon nodded, leaning in to kiss Tina briefly on the cheek. “She’s lucky to have you. And I promise not to let you down.”
She smiled. “I’m counting on it. But please, don’t let on that you know.”
“I won’t. But I’m glad you told me,” he answered. Tina’s trust in him meant a lot and he didn’t want to prove her wrong.
Tina’s cell rang. She retrieved it and smiled. “It’s her.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“This wine is amazing,” Jordan said, contentedly. She smiled at Jon across the table. Dinner had been marvelous and they both had to fight the urge for seconds, neither wanting to fill up so much that sleep would come too soon.
“Isn’t it?” he agreed. “It’s from my own private stash. I bought a couple cases in Italy a few years ago. It’s hard to find in restaurants now, and when you do it’s about $1500 a bottle. I got lucky.”
She laughed. “And subsequently, so did I. Thanks for sharing; I feel pretty special.”
“Oh, baby, I’m just getting started,” he answered, smiling slyly as he rose from the table. “I’ll be right back.” He disappeared into the bedroom. She loved how comfortable he was in her home. She was a little surprised Tina had been willing to conspire with him but she was glad it happened. She owed her friend big time.
When he reappeared, he was carrying a large gift bag. “Grab the wine and come over here,” he said, setting the bag on the floor in front of the fireplace. He pulled the quilt from the back of the couch and spread it on the floor, then grabbed a few pillows and tossed them down as well.
She did as she was told, joining him in front of the fire. “What do you have up your sleeve?”
“Pretty much just spoiling you, that’s all,” he said with a grin. He slid the bag towards her. “Go ahead.”
She set her wine glass down and released the ribbons holding the handles of the bag together. She reached in, pulling out the first thing she touched. She removed the tissue and her breath caught in her throat. It was a first edition copy of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. “Oh my god. Where did you find this?” They were extremely rare, she knew. And worth thousands of dollars.
“Baby, you should know by now that I have my ways,” he teased. “So you like it?”
“Are you kidding? I love this story. But how did you know?”
“Well, last time I was here I noticed you have both the DVD in your cabinet and, from what I can tell anyway, the entire saga in your book case.”
“Yes…I, uh…” he noticed then that her voice was shaking and saw a tear slide down her cheek. “My mom used to get them for me on my birthday; I got one a year until I had them all.”
Fuck. There was no way for him to know this but the last thing he wanted to do was bring up any sad memories. Especially in light of what Tina had told him earlier. Shit.
“Oh, god, Jordan. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
She shook her head adamantly, wiping the tear from her face. “No, no. It’s wonderful. It’s perfect.” She smiled then. “You have no idea. Thank you.”
“You are very welcome,” he answered, relief flooding through his veins. “Okay, there’s more.”
Next she pulled out a small cedar box. Nestled inside was a black leather necklace, with a pendant similar to some she’d seen him wear. She grinned. “This is very rock and roll, I like it.”
He returned the grin. “Well, that’s just part of it, actually." He stood then, walking quickly to the bedroom. “Close your eyes,” he shouted, and she laughed, doing as he asked. He returned, and she felt him sit back down beside her. “Okay.”
She opened her eyes and gasped. It was a gorgeous black leather shirt—not unlike the one she’d seen him wear on stage, but in a feminine version. She reached out to touch the soft leather. “Wow,” she said, shaking her head. “Jon, this is gorgeous. She noted the designer label. “It’s also way too much. All of it.”
He shook his head, smiling. “No it’s not.” He leaned forward to kiss her. “Besides, you deserve it.” He let his finger brush her cheek slightly. “Okay, next.”
“There’s more?” Jordan asked, astounded.
He laughed. “Yes, there is.”
She smiled at the twinkle in his eye. “I can’t believe you,” she said, reaching into the bag. It felt almost empty, but she discovered a small, light lingerie box at the bottom of the bag. She chuckled. “And what do we have here?”
He smiled innocently. “Open it and see.”
She pulled the lid off and folded the tissue back to reveal an elaborately embroidered red bra and panty set. She laughed.
He grinned. “Okay, I’ll admit it. That one’s more for me than for you.”
Her fingers played on the lace. “I think maybe I should try it on… you know, make sure it fits.” She smiled softly at him, suddenly anxious to please him as much as he had pleased her.
“You do that,” he answered, feeling enormous satisfaction at the happiness he saw in her eyes. “And I’ll get desert.” He winked at her. “And then I’ll let you take advantage of me right here in front of the fire.”
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