Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Ghost From Her Past

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Obviously the acting roles credited to TC are not really hers to claim, but neither is the song I've used in this short story. The song is actually Kenny Chesney's Baby You Save Me, but it fit this story quite well.

He flipped his cell phone closed. Something wasn't right with his wife, but he wasn't sure what it was. He'd been staying in the New York apartment for a little over a month while dealing with all the charitable projects he had going right now. It didn't really matter though, he wouldn't be with her even if he was at home. She was in LA staying at Richie's house while she worked on her own projects. The younger kids had been with her up until a week ago; their nanny flew with them to visit him. Their oldest was back at college.

If she didn't sound any better when he talked to her again, he'd talk to Rich and see if he knew anything. She sounded down, and that just wasn't like her at all. Despondent. That's the word that came to mind, like she just didn't care about anything. She sounded tired too, like she wasn't sleeping well either. He decided he wouldn't worry about her though; she was too self sufficient to need him worrying about her. He went to check on the nanny's progress in getting the twins ready for them to go out to dinner.

Standing on a balcony in LA, she closed her cell phone and sighed. Why was she letting this bother her so damn much? It had been almost twenty years since it had happened, but the nightmares had returned after she'd seen him three days ago. He'd actually had the audacity to walk up to her in the store and ask her how she'd been doing. If she was happy? She'd stood frozen in terror, staring at him like an idiot. She'd managed a nod or to give some kind of answer because finally he'd said goodbye and walked away. She'd thrown down her items and almost ran from the store without looking back. Richie and his wife Stephanie had asked if she was okay that night at dinner. She'd thought she was putting up a good front, but apparently they'd seen through her acting job. Or maybe, Richie just knew her too well. If she didn't get over this, or at least get better at hiding it, Richie would talk to Jon and then her husband would descend on LA like some kind of avenging angel hell bent on finding out what was wrong with her.

She really didn't want that. This was something she'd never told Jon about; honestly, she'd only told one person, and he'd wanted to play the white knight and try to protect her...even wanting her to press charges. She couldn't do that. Not only because she didn't want the media attention that would go with it, but because she didn't think the charges would stick with them having been married at the time. She'd been sure that no jury would convict him.

It was only 4:00 in the afternoon, but she was so damn exhausted. Maybe, the daylight would keep the nightmares away. Richie and Steve had taken their son and Ava out for ice cream, surely she could get a short nap before they got back.

Richie and his family had only been home for a few minutes, when he walked past TC's room. He heard her cry out and knocked softly on her door, intending to check on her.

"No," he heard her cry weakly, "please."

Worried about her, he flung open the door. She lay on top of the covers with her long hair spread across the pillow, while she tossed her head from side to side, clearly lost in the world of nightmares. He hurried across the room, surprised to find tears on her cheeks.

"TC," he called out to her, "darlin' wake up." He reached out to shake her gently, unprepared for her violent reaction.

She jerked awake with a scream, pulling away from him with strength born of fear, then scrambling across the bed to get away from him.

"TC, it's okay. It was just a dream," he spoke softly, gently, trying to placate her. "Darlin', it's me Rich." He'd never seen this woman afraid, but this was beyond that. This was a kind of terror he'd thankfully never seen in his life.

"Rich?" she questioned, her voice breaking.

It broke Richie's heart to see her like this. "Yeah, darlin'. It's just me," he answered, still speaking softly trying not to spook her. He sat down on the side of the bed. "C'mere, darlin'," he told her, opening his arms.

TC slid across the bed and was immediately enveloped in Richie's strong arms. With her face pressed tightly against his chest, she cried her eyes out, soaking his shirt, while he just gently stroked her back murmuring to her that she was safe and that it had just been a dream. One thought kept bouncing around in his head, the whole time he was comforting his best friend's wife. I need to call Jon.

Later that night, TC woke from the nightmare again in a dead panic. It took her several minutes of lying in the dark taking deep breaths before she was even brave enough to turn on the bed side lamp to make sure she was really alone in the room. The dream was so real. She would swear she could hear his harsh breathing, feel his hands on her body, smell the sour whiskey stench of his breath.

She took a deep breath, smelling only the vanilla of the candle she'd burned earlier. He wasn't really there. He wasn't really there. She lay there for several minutes trying to slow her racing heart and calm her breathing. Giving up on going back to sleep any time soon, she finally climbed out of bed and pulled on her robe. Quietly, she slipped out of her bedroom and headed for the kitchen.

When she got to the kitchen it wasn't empty. Steve was there, sitting at the breakfast bar eating a brownie with a big glass of milk in front of her. TC smiled at the very pregnant woman.

"Can't sleep?" TC asked her as she slid into the bar stool across from the other woman.

"Nope, this one's gonna be a soccer star for sure," Steve answered, patting her extended abdomen lovingly.

The two women were silent for several long seconds. Then finally, Steve asked, "You wanna talk about it?"

"About what?"

"Whatever it is that's keeping you awake."

"You mean the nap I took this afternoon? Why would I want to talk about that?" TC asked, shrugging. She could pull this off, she was an Emmy award winning actress for crying out loud.

"Rich told me about the nightmare," the other woman said calmly.

"That son-of-a-bitch lied to me!" TC exclaimed angrily. "He swore to me that he wouldn't tell anyone."

"No, I didn't," a deep, sleepy voice said from the doorway. Casually and calmly, as if daggers weren't being shot at his back, Richie went over to pour himself a glass of milk, then joined his wife, pilfering a brownie as he took the seat next to her. "What I promised was not to tell anyone about how you were acting. I never promised not to tell anyone about the dream."

"How did she act?" Steve questioned.

"Can't tell ya that," Richie said with a smirk, then kissing the tip of his wife's nose, "a promise is a promise."

TC sat watching the two of them, knowing that what Richie was telling her without saying it out loud was that he'd talked to Jon. Wondering exactly how the conversation between the two friends had gone, she stood up and calmly announced that she was going back to bed.

The next morning in New York, Jon sat at his desk going over his conversation with Richie for the millionth time, thinking about what it was that Richie had been trying to tell him without telling him.

"I'm calling about your wife," Richie had jumped right to the point, which was never a good sign. If Richie wasn't cracking jokes, there was a big problem.

"What's wrong with her?" he'd demanded, not even trying to hide the panic in his voice.

"She's not sleeping well and looking tired, and she's having terrible nightmares," Richie had answered.

"Nightmares? What about?" he'd wondered aloud.

"Don't know," Richie answered, "but, I'm a grown man and if her reaction to them is anything to go by I'd be afraid to go to sleep too."

"What do you mean her reaction?"

"Can't answer that one, bro. She made me promise not to tell anyone."

That's when Jon had realized there was as big a message in what Richie wasn't telling him as in what he was. "What can you tell me?"

"My shirt was soaking wet afterwards, and I bet I still have the half moons in my back from her fingernails."

"It was that bad?"

"Yeah," was all Richie had said.

"I've got stuff I can't get out of until the weekend. Can you keep an eye on her 'til then?" Jon had asked.

"Yeah, of course, man. You don't have to ask; ya know I've always got your back."

"Thanks Rich."

He'd always said that Richie was the most loyal friend a person could have. He glanced at his watch; it was a little after 8:00 in LA. He picked up the phone and dialed her cell. It took several rings before she answered the phone.


Jon winced at the sleepy voice. He hated to think that if she'd finally gotten some sleep that he'd woke her up. "Did I wake you, baby?"

"No," she told him. "I was sitting on my balcony sipping on a Dr. Pepper. I've been awake since about four. I've been expecting your call too."

"You have?"

"Yeah," she answered, "I shoulda known that Rich couldn't keep his big trap shut."

"Do you wanna talk about it?" he asked, already knowing the answer.


Yeah, that was the answer he'd expected. "Okay, Teece. Let me ask you you wanna talk about it now, or on Friday when I get to LA?"

"Neither really," she answered, her voice hard.

"Tough shit," Jon told her, using one of her own favorite phrases. "It's one or the other."

"That's what you think, Jersey. If I don't wanna talk about it, I'm not gonna talk about it."

"You do realize that I can be as stubborn as you, right? I'm Italian, Teece; it's sort of in the job requirements."

"I'm Southern. And there's no 'sort of' to it on this end."

"I love you, Teece. I'll see you on Friday."

"I love you too, Jersey, and not if I see you first."

She heard Jon's laughter as she hung up the phone. TC could tell that he wasn't going to let this drop. Oh well, bring it on. This was not something she wanted to talk about. Hell, this wasn't even something she wanted to think about, and with a little time she'd be able to put it back behind those locked doors of her mind.

She hoped.


Friday morning, grumpy from lack of sleep, TC arrived at the airport early to pick up Jon. She could have let Richie pick him up; could have even just sent a service to do it, but then her husband would've called her a coward. Squaring her shoulders, she left the car in short term parking. She really wasn't in the mood to put up with the paparazzi, but she knew they'd be on her like a duck on a junebug. That was something she could always count on.

The first shouted comment came at her from her left, before she was even close to the arrivals area. "Hey TC. How's it going today? Flying home to Arkansas?"

"I wish," she said, turning to give them that smile, "but I've still got business here in LA."

"What business. TC?" a TMZ reporter called from behind her, as he ran to try and catch up.

"I'm scoping out bands for my label, and one of the bands I've signed has a show here next week," she answered. "Don't you guys have younger, better targets to chase now? Isn't that Lyndsay Lohan over there?" she asked pointing. She was disappointed that none of them even bothered to look; she didn't slow her step at all.

"Gimme a beautiful woman over a little girl any day," one of the younger ones announced as he snapped a couple of pictures.

TC gave him a genuine smile of thanks. "You sure know how to charm a girl."

He took advantage of her appreciation to fire a question at her. "What band? When's the show?"

TC decided she liked this guy. She'd been willing to use her fame to get the word out about her label and the bands she signed, and this guy was willing to help her with the promotion. "What's your name?" she asked him. He looked familiar, but she didn't think he'd ever 'hunted' her before.

"Parker," he answered.

"He was on 'Big Brother'," one of the others yelled.

"Ah," TC said nodding, "that's why he looks familiar."

"You watch 'Big Brother'?" another asked.

"My daughter Kelly does. I've caught it a few times."

"About the band," Parker tried again.

TC decided she really liked him. "They're playing at a place downtown called The Joint on Wednesday through the weekend. They're called Bombay Black, and they're really good." She'd made it to the glass doors leading into the arrivals area, and one of the paparazzi opened the door for her. She offered him a polite 'thank you' as she passed through, realizing that somewhere along the way, she'd slowed down enough that the TMZ guy had managed to get in front of her and was walking backwards with a video camera pointed in her direction.

"You staying at Richie's place while you're in town?" the TMZ guy called out.

"Yeah, I am," she answered, puzzled about where he was going with this line of questioning.

"So, it's true then? He and Jon do share everything?" the slime ball asked.

TC frowned at him, then his meaning sank in, and she tossed him a frosty glare. "Who told you that?" she asked with a fake laugh, "They're just like real brothers; they don't like to share their favorite toys."

"Are you saying you're Jon's toy?" another one asked.

"Yep," she tossed out, "I even have a t-shirt that says that, somewhere."

A few of them laughed at her remark, including Parker. The TMZ guy asked, "Where is Jon?"

TC was tired of this guy. "If he was up your ass you'd know."

The guy promptly tripped over a trash can and sent it and his camera flying. TC laughed as several of the other guys snapped pictures of her and the clumsy ass. That's the scene Jon walked up on.

"Teece," he said, shaking his head at her, "you know that's the kind of comments they love to pry outta you."

"Hey, Jersey. Did you have a good flight?"

He pulled her into his arms for a brief, welcoming hug, completely conscious of the cameras trained on them. His lips brushed across her temple. She looked really good. Faded blue jeans molded to her curves, with a ragged hole at her left knee. He smiled at the Philly Soul jersey she was wearing. It was one of his that he'd been looking for since he last saw her. He wasn't fooled by the sunglasses that he was sure hid dark circles under her eyes, since she hadn't pushed them up on top of her head once she was in the airport. She wouldn't have wanted the paparazzi to get a picture of her looking like she hadn't slept in a week. "The flight would've been better if you'd've been with me," he whispered in her ear.

"C'mon, Jon," one of the guys called out, "give her a big ol' welcome kiss."

Jon looked over her head at the guy, flashing him the fake smile that said 'don't push me, I'm only barely tolerating you'. "I'll make a deal with ya," Jon began, "I'll give you a shot in a million, if you'll all promise to go beat the bricks and find bigger fish to fry. Surely, Lyndsay, Paris or Britney are up to something. Deal?" Jon looked down at his wife with his charming 'trust me?' smile, while all the photographers gave each other questioning looks.

Finally, they all agreed, even the TMZ reporter who finally appeared to be in control of himself again, and their apparent spokesperson announced, "Sure Jon, it's a deal."

Jon dropped his bag that he'd had in one hand, and dipped TC back over his arm in a move that would make Fred and Ginger proud, while she clutched at his shoulders. She opened her mouth in surprise, and his lips swooped down on hers. Even while flashes went off around them, his tongue delved inside her mouth tasting her completely, letting her know just how much he'd missed her.

"God, I hope I'm gettin' this," the TMZ reporter muttered, just before Jon stood her back up on her feet.

"If you're camera was broke in the fall, I'll be glad to sell TMZ some of the stills I got," Parker told him with a grin.

"A deal's a deal, guys," Jon told them all. "Now, if you'll excuse us, my wife and I have some time to make up for."

It was that very second, when Jon grabbed her elbow and steered her toward the exit, that she realized he'd orchestrated that whole scene just to get her alone sooner. "You're such a fuckin' ass," she muttered under her breath.

"Why? Because I want to be alone with my wife?" he asked, grinning.

"No, because you wanted to be able to grill me."

He flashed her a perfectly innocent grin. "And what would I want to grill you about?"

"Don't try that shit with me Jersey. You're not that good of an actor."

"Ouch, Teece," he said, grabbing his chest, "you wound me."

"Walk it off, champ, walk it off," she muttered, speeding up a little.

He hurried to catch up with her. "When are we going to talk about why you're not sleeping? About your nightmares?"

"We're not," she said with finality.

"Sure we are," he argued.

"This is me being Southern."

"This is me being Italian."

"Fuck you, Jersey."

"Ya really wanna cause a spectacle like that?" he asked, then reaching for the zipper of his jeans, he shrugged, "well, okay, I'm game if you are."

"Smart ass prick," she said under her breath, as she kept right on walking.

"Hard headed bitch," he answered, smiling sweetly at her.

Suddenly, Jon stopped, realizing they'd walked past Richie's Aston Martin. That was Richie's Aston Martin, wasn't it? He looked back at the car, and back at his quickly departing wife. "Teece?"

She only stopped because of the true puzzlement she heard in his voice. She spun around quickly. "What?" she demanded.

"Did you drive Rich's Aston Martin?"

"Yeah, why?" she asked.

"'Cause we just passed it three cars ago," he answered.

"Look what ya made me do," she cried in exasperation as she stomped back toward him.

Just as she passed him, he asked, "Made you?"

"Yeah, it was you that pissed me off so bad I didn't notice the car."

"How far were ya gonna walk?" he asked grinning at her back.

"All the way back to Arkansas, ya ass."

Jon laughed softly to himself, then hurried to catch up with her. As soon as he fell into step beside her, he adjusted his stride to hers. "Hand over the keys," he told her, holding out his hand.

"Nope," she quipped, shaking her head. "Rich made me promise not to let you drive his baby."

He threw back his head with a deep bark of laughter. Then calmly with his hand still out, "Gimme the keys."

"I said no."

"Teece, you may have Rich fooled, but I've ridden with you before. Now, gimme the keys or I'll tell Rich the truth, that you drive like a bat outta hell."

Jon watched as her bottom lip popped out in a childish pout and she handed over the keys. "Here," she said on a puff of air, sounding just like a three year old. God, how he loved this woman! He almost let her drive. Almost. But damn, the woman scared the shit out of him every time he got in a car with her.

When they reached the car, he unlocked the passenger door and opened it for her. He leaned in to kiss her cheek as she climbed in the low slung sports car. She took his bag and put it in the floor by her feet, smiling up at him as he closed the door. He knew that somehow he had to get her to talk about the nightmares, but decided he'd let it go until they were back at Richie's house.

For the whole drive, they discussed the kids and what they'd both been working on. A few times, Jon caught her staring out the window. There was a cloud of sadness around her, and she didn't seem like his TC at all. This woman almost appeared to be afraid of her own shadow. What the fuck was going on? He could tell that she was grasping at the edges of her confidence and sanity like straws. She was walking on the edge of a very steep cliff, and it was almost like he could see the ground crumbling beneath her feet and being able to do nothing. He would not just stand by and watch her fall!

It was when they entered Richie's house and she pushed her sunglasses up on top of her head, that he died a little inside. The dark circles were there, just as he'd expected. She'd put on make-up for the trip to the airport, probably preparing for the paparazzi picture frenzy, but you could still see the signs of fatigue. What was haunting his baby?

Richie greeted them just as they cleared the foyer, and Stephanie soon joined them for the reunion. After exchanging welcoming hugs and back slaps, Jon started toward the staircase. "Baby, you comin' up to the room with me?" he asked TC. He had no intention of pushing her too hard in front of Richie and Steve.

"Yeah, we might as well get this over with," she said with resignation. She knew there was going to be a big explosion when she refused to talk to him about the nightmares.

Once in their bedroom, Jon tossed his bag in a chair and pulled TC into his arms. "First things first. God, Teece, I missed you," he told her, kissing her forehead gently.

"I missed you too, Jersey," she said softly, her breath coasting across his neck.

"Baby, it's killing me seeing you like this and not being able to do anything about it," he told her, tightening his arms around her just a little.

"Jon, even if I told you, there wouldn't be anything you could do," she told him, laying her forehead against his chest, "except what you're already doing. Just hold me, Jersey."

As her words sank in, Jon realized she was right. As much as he hated to admit it, and even with his protective instincts screaming out a denial, he knew all he could really do was comfort her through this, whatever this was. But, if he was going to have to fight demons in the middle of the night, he'd at least like to know what kind of demons he was up against.

"Teece, maybe if you'll talk about them, they'll go away," he suggested into her hair, making the little wisps tickle her forehead.

"That won't work. They won't go away that easy," she told him, pulling out of his arms.

She started to pace the room, pushing her fingers through the long strands of her hair. He started to have hope that she'd start spilling her guts. This was usually the beginning of getting her to give in, the frustration. That's what he'd been waiting on. Then she dashed that hope with her next words.

"This is something I'll just have to work through on my own. As soon as I have the memories locked back up behind walls in my head, I'll be fine."

"What memories, Teece? What are you talking about?" he asked gently.

"It doesn't matter now. It happened a long time ago," she answered, stopping her pacing to stare out the window, her slender hand holding the curtain back while resting against the glass.

"Before we met?" he asked her back.

"No, during the years we were apart," she answered, without turning around.

Jon frowned at those words. That was the way she'd ended a few arguments in the past. It was her way of saying that it was none of his business. In her mind, if it happened in the years between meeting and marriage, it was not something he had any business knowing about, unless it had to do with Kelly. He'd be damned if he'd let her tell him that this time!

"It must matter now, or you wouldn't be having nightmares," he pointed out.

"They'll go away. They did before; they will again."

She said it with such conviction, that Jon knew he wasn't going to get anymore out of her right now. He'd have to figure out another way to get her talking. A plan. He needed a plan.



The sharpness in the tone more than the hated nickname got his attention. He blinked at the pool table, then looked up at Richie standing across the table from him. "What?"

"I said to quit trying to burn a hole through my pool table with those icy blue orbs of yours and take your shot," Richie repeated.

"Sorry, Swingman," Jon said automatically, then bent over the table to line up a shot on the 8-ball.

He missed.

Richie shook his head; Jon shouldn't have missed that shot. It was an easy shot for a novice, much less a player as good as Jon. "Wanna talk about it?"

"There's nothing to talk about," Jon answered.

"Something's bugging you," Richie replied, sitting on the edge of the pool table.

"You know what's bugging me, but I don't know how to get to the bottom of it," Jon told him, leaning his cue stick against the table and walking over to the bar. Calmly, he pulled a beer out of the refrigerator and held it up for Richie to see, silently asking if the guitarist wanted one. Most people thought that because Richie had done time in a detox center it was for alcohol, actually it had been because he'd been addicted to painkillers. When Richie nodded, Jon took another beer out of the fridge and handed it to Richie when he began the pacing.

Richie had been silent for the whole ritual, waiting on Jon to continue. When he didn't, Richie asked sagely, "But is it what's bothering TC that's getting to you, or your lack of being able to control the situation?"

Jon stopped pacing to level a piercing gaze on Richie. "C'mon. Ya know how long I've been with TC. Do you honestly think I'm in control of anything where she's concerned? I've gotten used to it."

"Have you?"

"I may be an ego-manical leader of men with control issues in our professional life, but in my personal life, the wife wears the pants. S'always been that way. I just spend the majority of my time trying to get her out of 'em," he said the last sentence with a wicked little grin and a waggle of his eyebrows.

"OK, so I'm guessing here. She won't tell you about the nightmares?" Richie asked, trying to get to the point of the conversation.

"No," Jon answered, shrugging and starting to pace again. "She said it was something that happened while we were apart that's causing 'em. That's all she'd say."

Richie waved a hand in the air, indicating Jon's pacing. "Will you cut the angry lion shit and have a seat? That shit's making me edgy."

Jon glared at the guitarist for all of 3 seconds before going over and claiming a bar stool. "Ideas, Rich? I need her to talk to me."

"She needs to talk to you. I'm sure of that. I just don't know how to get her talking if she doesn't want to."

They were both silent for several seconds, each lost in their thoughts. Finally, Richie added, "I remember the advice she gave me about Steve. Basically, she told me to just let her know I was there to talk to if she needed me. I guess that's really all ya can do, Kidd. You can't force the issue, as bad as your lack of patience demands that be exactly what you do."

Later that night, Jon lay in bed holding his wife while she slept, thinking about those words. No, he couldn't force her to talk to him, but damn, he sure wanted to try.

TC whimpered in her sleep, then cried softly, "No. Please don't."

She began to squirm in his embrace, trying to wriggle free of him. Jon tightened his arms. "Teece, wake up, baby."

"I said, NO," she screamed, raising her knee.

Jon saw stars and grabbed his groin, squeezing his eyes shut to fight back the tears. "Fuck, Teece," he moaned in pain, rolling away from her as she shoved hard at him. "Wake up, Teece," he said as loud as he could, from the relative safety of the edge of the bed, once he was able to force air back in his lungs. He opened his eyes to see his wife in a defensive crouch across the bed from him, breathing like she'd just ran a mile. Even in the dark, her eyes looked wild and scared.

He reached out a hand to her. She jerked away from him, and he almost cried. "Teece, calm down," he told her gently, "it's me, Jon."

"Jersey?" she asked in the dark, her voice cracking with fear.

"Yeah, baby, it's me," he'd barely gotten the sentence out before she was throwing herself into his arms. He caught her, tenderly stroking her hair and making shushing noises. "It's okay, baby. It was just a dream."

She was crying and clutching at him like he was the only thing keeping her from falling over that cliff. He held her tightly against his chest, her face buried in the curve of his neck and shoulder. TC took deep breaths, taking in the scent of safety. Of Jon.

Several minutes went by, then finally, her breaths evened out, and Jon asked, "You okay, now?"

"I think so," she answered, rolling away from him, and sitting up on her side of the bed. "Go back to sleep," she said softly, as she stood up.

He flipped on the lamp by the bed. "You've gotta be shitting me," he exclaimed, quickly sitting up on the side of the bed.

She stopped by the balcony door, and turned back toward him. "What?" she asked, sounding truly puzzled.

"You expect me to just 'go back to sleep' after that shit? C'mon, Teece, who do you think you're kidding here?" he stood up and crossed the room quickly, grasping her by the upper arms. He shook her slightly in frustration.

TC's eyes flared wide. At first, he thought it was in anger, and expected icy pale green fire to burn him to the core, but instead it was a mossy green. Panic and fear. She was tensed for flight! "Teece?" he questioned, suddenly feeling like a bully. "Baby, what is it?"

She pulled away from him, and reluctantly, he let her go. "Nothing," she said softly over her shoulder.

He reached out one hand to lay it gently on her shoulder. "Baby, you know I'd never hurt you, right?"

"Of course, I know that," she replied quickly.

"Talk to me, Teece."

"I can't, Jon," she cried, pulling free of his hand on her shoulder. She took several steps away from him, trying to put more than just a physical distance between them.

Jon was starting to get a bad feeling about this. Her behavior wasn't right at all. She was more than just frightened from the dream. She was like a wild animal, barely holding onto her courage to stand there talking to him. He could tell she wanted to run. To hide. "Why can't you?"

"I just can't," she answered, turning her back to him. "It would make it real again, if I spoke the words out loud," she admitted softly.

His stomach twisted in knots at the tears and fear in her voice, and his heart almost stopped beating. Somehow, he knew what she wouldn't tell him, but he wouldn't let himself believe it. Not until she said the words. Not his TC. No.

"Teece?" he barely managed to push her name through his lips.

She turned to look at him. His eyes were wide with the question, his feet planted apart braced for the answer, while his hands clenched and unclenched into fists at his sides.

"Do I really have to say it?" she demanded, anger creeping into her voice.

He took deep breaths and nodded once.

"I was raped. There. Ya happy?" she yelled. "I said it. Now, can we go back to sleep?"

Jon actually staggered back a step at her words. Raped? His Teece? He felt like he'd just taken a sucker punch to the gut. The whole world, or maybe just the room they were in, tilted sharply. What else had she said? Something about going back to sleep? Holy fuck!

"Who?" he managed to ask, his voice just a squeak.

"It doesn't matter," she answered, walking to her side of the bed.

"Of course it matters," he exclaimed.

"Shh, I'd rather not have the whole house in on this discussion," she hissed, sounding like a mother talking to her loud three year old.

His mouth fell open, and his eyes went wide. Did she just say that shit? Really? He watched as she calmly got back into bed. How could she act as if nothing had happened? Like the world as he knew it hadn't come to a screeching halt?

"Could you turn the light out?"

He stood staring at her, dumbfounded. How could she be so calm? How could she...

"Fuck no! I will not 'shh' and I will not turn out the light! Who did this to you, Teece? I want a name, damn it."

"He did 'this' almost twenty years ago, Jon. It's long over. It's just the nightmares that I have to deal with now."

"Is he in jail? How come I never heard about this? I would think something like this would've been all over the news."

"I didn't press charges for that very reason," she answered. "And because I was afraid a jury wouldn't convict him." She paused slightly. "Now will you turn out the light?"

"Why wouldn't a jury convict him?" Jon demanded.

"Because..." she paused, "well, because....he and I were in a relationship at the time. I decided to end it before he was ready to end it. He climbed in my bedroom window one night, and...well you know the rest."

"But...," Jon was having a hard time making his mouth form coherent sentences, "no means no. You did tell him no, right?"

"Of course I did," she answered, "but Jon, that was a different time then. Before date rape became an accepted term. Back when even if you said no, you were still 'asking for it' in certain situations. I didn't wanna get drug through the media mud and not get a conviction, so I let it drop."

Jon realized a few things in that moment. "That's when you hired Rick, right? When you went all crazy about security? The high tech alarm system, video cameras all over the estate, the security control room, everything, right?" Things about her that he'd always accepted as just an eccentricity, a certain level of paranoia, suddenly made sense. He'd known when he met her that there hadn't even been so much as a bodyguard, then when he'd shown up on her doorstep in Arkansas and had to do everything but go through a metal detector to get in to see her, he'd wondered about it, but just accepted it as a part of her personality.

"Yeah," she answered. "Now, will you turn out the light?"

He looked at her, laying there with her head propped up on one hand, with her elbow braced next to her pillow, her long hair puddled around her, green eyes snapping. He had to ask. "Why are you acting so nonchalant about this? Like it's no big deal?"

"It may be new news to you, Jersey. But it happened almost twenty years ago. For me, it's ancient history."

He walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed and turned out the lamp. "Ya happy?" he asked, throwing her words back at her.

"Extremely," she said into the darkness.

His eyes hadn't adjusted to the dark yet, but in his mind's eye, he had no trouble seeing her smug little smirk. Jon lay there for a long time making a mental list of the men that had been in her life back then, using the gossip rags he'd seen as his guide. He discarded many a suspect, but without an actual time frame other than 'almost twenty years ago' he couldn't be sure of his suspect list.

It was driving him crazy, the not knowing. He wanted to hurt the man. Tear him limb from limb. Make him afraid to fall asleep at night. Worst of all, he didn't want to come into contact with any of the men from her past without knowing first which one was the guilty one. Otherwise, he'd spend every encounter wondering if that was the guy. Of course, he guessed he could just go by her reaction to the guy in question. Surely, she wouldn't be quite so calm when faced with her rapist. The realization struck Jon like a lightening bolt! That's why she was having the nightmares, now, after all these years. She'd ran into the guy recently. Now, his baby was living in fear of falling asleep, afraid of her own shadow.

It was killing him to see his TC like this. She'd always been such a strong, tough lady. He chuckled softly to himself thinking about the fight Matt and Rick had had on their hands when they decided to tie her up and hide her in the closet back when they were trying to get him and her back together after a fight. He knew about the self defense classes, the hours upon hours of martial arts instruction that she'd said had been for a movie part, and now he wondered why with all that knowledge she was still afraid of the guy. He thought about how many times she'd jokingly said 'I bet I could take him/her'. He'd called her cocky when she'd said that she was sure she could 'take' Jean Claude Van Dam. Now, he began to wonder just how 'big and bad' this unknown guy had to be, if his TC didn't think she could 'take him'.

Her deep, even breathing assured him that she was asleep, but he lay there in the darkness thinking for a long time. He cursed his damn pride that kept him from chasing her back to Arkansas when she'd left him in Jamaica. If he'd went after her, and gotten her back, the rape would've never happened. That was the thought that haunted him into slumber.


Jon woke the next morning with one thought bouncing around in his head. It was his fault. He could've prevented it. He looked over at TC's side of the bed, but she was already up and gone. He rolled out of bed, pulling on some jeans, then headed for the kitchen. Richie's housekeeper would already have coffee going.

With his first cup clutched like a life line in his hands, he went searching for his wife. He didn't have to work too hard to find her, he could hear the tinkling notes of a piano, and occasionally her soft voice. She must be in the music room.

He found her right where he expected her to be. With his left hand in his pocket and the other clutching his coffee cup, he leaned against the door frame and just took in the beauty before him. He loved to watch her work. A notebook lay open on the top of the baby grand, TC played a few bars and then would scribble something on the paper. He knew she was only jotting down lyrics, because his wife couldn't read music. She played everything by ear.

Jon smiled as she tilted her head to one side, her eyes closed. He knew she was listening to the music in her head, tapping her foot to a beat only she could hear. Then she sighed and began to play the music on the piano. Her fingers flew across the keys with agility and grace. The melody was both haunting and beautiful, but it was once she started to sing that she took his breath away.

Every now and then
I get a little lost
The strings all get tangled
The wires all get crossed
Every now and then
I’m right upon the edge
Danglin’ my toes out over the ledge
I just thank God you’re here

'Cause when I’m a bullet shot out of a gun
'Cause when I’m a firecracker comin’ undone
When I’m a fugitive ready to run
All wild-eyed and crazy
No matter where my reckless soul takes me
Baby you save me

The music stopped and TC began to scribble furiously in her notebook, then she took a big sip of Dr. Pepper. Jon shook his head and grinned. Cold caffeine, that was his wife's weakness in the morning. He continued to watch her and let the normalcy of the morning calm him.

She began to sing again.

Well I know I don’t tell you nearly enough
I couldn’t live one day without your love

When I’m a ship tossed around on the waves
Up on a high wire that’s ready to break
When I’ve had just about all I can take
Baby, you,
Baby you save me

Once again the pencil scraped across the paper. Then she was erasing and then scribbling again. He could almost see the wheels in her head turning, and he was sure if he listened really close, he could hear the music in her head as well.

"How long are you gonna stand there spying on me, Jersey?"

"As long as it takes," he answered softly, crossing the room to her. He bent and kissed the crown of her head. "Good morning, Teece."

"Is it?" she asked, going back to her scribbling. Then she stopped and looked up at him. "As long as what takes?"

"Until you save me," he told her.


"Hey, good morning you two," Stephanie said cheerfully, as she entered the room.

Jon gave TC a little half smile, then turned toward his best friend's wife. "Good morning, Steve. Rich up yet?"

"You know better; it's not even nine yet," she laughed.

"G'morning, Steve," TC told the other woman. "What're you up to today?"

"Going shopping for the baby. Wanna come?"

TC looked at Jon, then back to the other woman. "I'd love to, but I can't. At least not until I finish this song I'm working on. I just can't leave it unfinished. I've never been able to walk away from a song."

"She hears it over and over in her head until she gets it down on paper," Jon explained. "I think I'm gonna go round up some breakfast." He cast a meaningful look TC's way. He just hoped she'd take the hint and drop the subject. He really didn't want to explain what he'd meant.

When the two women were alone, Stephanie asked, "What's up with him?"

"Not sure," TC answered, "but I think I have some idea."

"Anything I can do?"

"Naaa," TC replied, "not unless you can turn back time."

"Sorry," the other woman told her, "that's one power I wish I had, all the time."

"Yeah, me too," TC agreed, absently. Her mind already returning to the song. Only one fleeting thought remained concerning Jon's behavior, but it soon vanished. The music took over.

"I'll let you get back to work," Stephanie laughed, when she realized TC was no longer paying attention; she was scribbling in her notebook again.

An hour later, Jon was hiding out in Richie's studio. He could admit to himself that he was hiding, even if he'd never admit it to anyone else. He sat there in the silence with TC's voice echoing in his head.

No matter where my reckless soul takes me, baby you save me.

No, he hadn't saved her. He could have, but he'd let pride get in the way. He'd been young and dumb, swearing that if she didn't want him enough to stay, that he wasn't going to chase her down and beg. He'd kept the engagement ring all those years not as a memento, but as a reminder. A reminder to what he'd lost, even if he'd kept his pride in the bargain.

When I'm a ship tossed around on the waves, up on a high wire that's ready to break.

He knew how much he needed her. She grounded him, gave him a reason to come home. Hell, she gave him way more than he'd ever given her. He needed her to breathe.

When I've had just about all I can take.

She was the life line when he needed one. She was serenity and calm, when everything else in his life was going crazy.

Baby you, baby you save me.

No. She saved him. Every time. Every single fucking time. He owed her more than she'd ever know. Somehow, he'd do it. Just once. Somehow, this time, he'd save her.


Monday morning, TC woke before Jon and slipped quietly out of bed. She had appointments all morning, including a couple of interviews with producers for the CD that Bombay Black was about to go into the studio and record. She had started this label with every intention of being a hands on owner, even going so far as to not resign with her own label when her contract came up for renewal. From now on, her CD's would be released under the Renegades, Rebels, and Rogues label as well. She and the two bands she'd signed so far laughed together over the name of the label. Now referred to as simply 'Triple R', she'd named it that because all she wanted to sign were acts that fell into one of those catagories. Acts that played what they liked and didn't put music in a box. Acts like her.

While she got ready to leave, she contemplated the problem with Jon. Ever since she'd told him about the nightmares on Friday night, he'd treated her like some sort of fragile china doll, that would break with the slightest touch. He acted like if he breathed on her too hard she'd crumble. He was being over protective and possessive. It was bugging the shit out of her.

She'd let it go until now, because she knew him well enough to know what was going on in his head. He was blaming himself. He did that a lot, blamed himself for things. Sometimes it was his fault, but most times it wasn't. Jon just liked to think that he could fix everything, and if he couldn't then it must be his fault.

He'd even been avoiding touching her in any sort of sexual way. There were the loving touches, the good morning kisses, the gentle hand playing in her hair when they sat next to each other watching television in the den. But, gone were the ass grabs, the infamous 'boob tickle' when no one was watching, and the hand on her thigh under the dinner table that would slowly inch upward to the heated core of her, causing her to squirm in her chair, while the others at the table continued on with their dinner conversation unaware that her husband was trying to seduce her over dinner.

She knew she needed to talk to him about it, but not right now. She was hoping to get out of the house before he even woke up.

"G'morning, Teece." His sleepy voice had her pausing in mid-brush stroke and meeting his eyes in the mirror.

He was so adorable in the morning with his hair sticking up every which way, standing there in just a pair of sweats that rode low on his hips, groggily scratching his chest. "Morning, Jersey."

Even fresh from sleep, his eyes missed nothing. "You're up early," he pointed out.

"Yeah, I've got some appointments today." She went back to brushing her hair.

"When will you be back?"

"Not til late this afternoon." She laid the brush down on the counter and turned to face him.

"Is Rick going with you?"

She heard the concern in his voice, but chose to ignore it. "Nope."

"How 'bout meeting me for lunch," he suggested as she went to squeeze past him through the door way. He reached out one hand to lightly stroke the bare skin of her upper arm. The bright red of the sleeveless top brought out the green of her eyes.

She shrugged and moved on past him into the bedroom. "I was thinking about doing lunch at The Ivy," she named the celebrity hot spot knowing Jon would rather have teeth pulled than 'show face' there. That's why she was completely surprised by his next words, and turned back to face him.

"That's fine. What time?"

She frowned. What was he up to? "About 12:30. I've got a meeting at 11:30, but it should be over in time."

"Great. I'll see ya then, baby. Love you. Now, I really gotta take a piss."

"How romantic," she muttered under her breath. "Love you too," she called out to him as she headed for the bedroom door.

It really bothered him that her bodyguard wasn't going with her. What if she ran into her rapist again? He was positive that she'd already crossed paths with the man once while she was here, and that was what had caused the nightmares.

Jon had spent a lot of time seriously considering the suspect list. It had been the end of summer 1986 when she'd left him in Jamaica. She'd dropped off the Hollywood radar for awhile, so he wasn't sure about her life then. All he did know was that Kelly ahd been born in June of 1987. The only clues he had to go by other than the gossip rags were that it was someone she'd 'been in a relationship with', in TC speak that meant someone she'd been seriously seeing or married to, not just someone she'd went out on a few dates with, and that she'd said 'almost twenty years ago'.

The date told him it happened some time after 1989, but before 1992. Any later than that and TC wouldn't have rounded up to twenty. He knew he couldn't rely a whole lot on the gossip rags, because their information could've come from anywhere. In the late eighties until '91, TC had been starring in 21 Jumpstreet. She'd seriously dated Johnny Depp for several months, Emilio Esteves for a few more, that Scottish actor, and a professional wrestler, all in the time frame he was looking at.

He'd been able to cross Emilio off his list almost immediately. He knew his friend well enough to know that he would never treat a woman that way. He and Emilio had even discussed TC while they were working on the Young Guns movie, and he knew that Emilio still had a great deal of respect for her. Jon also took comfort in knowing that TC had never slept with Emilio. The other man had bemoaned that fact to Jon when she'd been the topic of conversation. Emilio had said that TC was his one true regret when it came to romance, but that had been before he'd married Paula. Jon had been able to discard Johnny as well, because TC was still friendly with him. Jon knew that she wouldn't still be friends with her rapist. She'd even worked with Johnny since then.

That left just the Scottish actor, Adrian something and the wrestler. He didn't know why he couldn't let this go. She obviously had, except for the nightmares.


Jon got to the restaurant before TC and asked the hostess for a table on the patio, but close to the building. He knew the paparazzi would be on the sidewalk snapping pictures from the other side of the ivy covered fence that surrounded the patio.

While he sat waiting on TC to show, he noticed Richard Greico come in and watched as the hostess showed TC's ex-husband to a table not far from where he sat. Jon had never met the man, so he didn't bother to say hello. As he continued to wait, Jon caught the other man's eyes on him several times. Jon just gave a mental shrug. Maybe the guy was jealous that he was married to his ex-wife. Oh well. Jon figured she was his first; Richard had only been borrowing her anyway.

When TC finally arrived, Jon stood up and walked over to hold her chair. He leaned in and brushed a kiss across her cheek. "Hey Teece. How'd your meetings go?"

"Hey Jersey," she smiled as she greeted him. "Fine. Everything's on track for the band to go in the studio next week," she answered his question as she sat down.

"Hey TC," Richard called out, standing up. "Good to see you. How ya been?" He crossed the short distance to Jon and TC's table.

"Great," she answered without even bothering to look up at the man. She began to peruse the menu. "You?"

Jon watched as the other man's face fell. TC's obvious lack of intrest in talking to him having that effect on him. "Good."

"Have you met, my husband?" TC still didn't look up from the menu.

"Uh, no," Richard looked over at Jon, then stuck out his hand.

"Jersey, this is Richard Greico. Richard, Jon Bon Jovi." TC's introduction was automatic and sounded kind of like a robot.

"Jersey?" Richard frowned with the question.

Jon smiled in sympathy at the man. "Just a nickname. She's called me that for years."

"She called me that once."

"Purely by accident," TC answered from behind her menu.

"Is that so?" Jon asked with a smirk.

"Yeah, and?" She laid down her menu. "I think I'm gonna have the grilled chicken salad. Goldie says it's the best."

"Well, it was nice seeing you again," Richard said, turning to go back to his table. "Nice to meet you Jon," he added as an after thought.

Jon smiled. Obviously the man knew TC well enough to know when he was being dismissed.
Once Richard had returned to his table, TC went on to talk about her meetings and the band's performing at the club on Wednesday. While she chattered on about stuff he'd already heard a million times, Jon's mind focused on the man a few feet away. He'd not even considered Richard for the suspect list. He'd been a part of TC's life a few years too recent to fall into the time frame that Jon had decided on, but after the way she'd reacted to him, Jon was rethinking the whole thing.

The waitress came and took the order, then left with a promise to be right back, and the whole time Jon's mind whirled. At least until TC slapped her hand flat against the table.

"You're not even listening to me, are you?"

Jon knew better than to lie. Besides, she wouldn't really hold it against him. "Sorry baby. No. My mind was wandering."

The waitress came and sat their drinks down and told them their order would be right out. TC took a big sip of her lemonade. Sandra had been right. It was to die for, and you could tell it was fresh squeezed.

"It's small. You shouldn't let it out on it's own like that." TC had a knack for being able to pick up a conversation right where she left off, even days later.

Jon, not so much. "What?"

"Your mind." She gave him a pointed look.

Jon knew she was waiting on him to go on, to ask her about what she had been discussing. "Baby, look. We need to talk."

She leaned back in her chair. "About?"

"You know what about." He hated it when she acted dumb to avoid discussing something.

The waitress walked back up to their table and sat their orders down. "Here ya go. Let me know if you need anything else."

Once the young woman was gone, TC took several bites of her salad. Jon knew when he was being ignored. Patiently, he waited; he knew that TC wouldn't be able to stand the silence and would eventually start talking again.

"This is as good as Goldie said it was. Wanna try it?"

Jon looked down at his burger and fries, then back up at his wife. "No. I wanna talk."

"About what?"

He shook his head. "Damn it, Teece."

"Let it go, Jersey."

"I can't."

TC threw her napkin down on the table as she stood up. "I'm outta here. It's been fun, Jersey. We should do this more often." Her sarcasm wasn't lost on Jon.

As she stormed away, Jon looked at his unfinished burger wistfully. He threw two hundred dollar bills on the table and hurried to catch up with his wife. He finally caught up with her on the sidewalk, with the paparazzi yelling questions at her and snapping pictures. As bad as he wanted to hit them, he realized he probably wouldn't have caught up with her if they hadn't slowed her down.

"Teece, where're you going?" He grabbed her arm and pulled, spinning her to face him.

"Yeah, TC where're you going?" a reporter called out.

"I'm going back to Richie's to pack."

"So, you're gonna run away?"

The reporters were all ears. One was even rolling video.

"You won't even touch me anymore," she cried.

"Teece," he began, hoping to stop the tirade.

"No, Jersey. You wanted to talk. Let's talk."

"Let's don't," he said quickly. "Not here. Not with an audience."

"Aw, c'mon, 'Jersey'. You two should talk." Jon wasn't even sure which reporter said that.

He turned to the group. "Please guys. Have some compassion. Give a fellow guy with a foot in his mouth a break."

"What'd ya do, Jon?"

"It's a long story," Jon answered. When he turned back toward his wife, it was to find her already in a cab, with it pulling away from the curb. "Damn it to hell."

At least the reporters were smart enough to let him go without making any more comments. He drove faster than he'd ever seen TC drive, but still she managed to beat him back to Richie's house. When he stormed in the front door, Richie met him at the entry way. His best friend just pointed toward the staircase.

TC was throwing clothes in her bag, when the door slamming behind her made her jerk to a standing position and spin around. Jon flung the car keys on the dresser. "Now. Let's. Talk."

"Are you gonna listen?" The Bongiovi temper didn't impress her at all, but she could admit that he looked damn good when he was mad. His full lips were compressed into a tight line, and he took deep breaths through his nose causing his nostrils to flare with every rush of air that left his lungs. His hands were clenched into fists at his sides, but she knew that he wouldn't use them on her. His blue eyes were wide, with his eyebrows drawn together over them with a frown.

"I want his name."

"You're not gonna get it."

"Was it Richard?"

"No." She stomped toward him until she stood glaring up at him. Icy green eyes met frosty blue ones. "Let it go, Jon."

"Why the fuck are you pissed off?"

"Because you haven't touched me since I told you."

"Of course I've touched you."

"Only in a way that screamed 'I don't wanna break you'. Dayum it, Jon. I won't break. I won't crumble. I just want you to make love to me again, and act like you mean it."

"Teece," he reached out with one hand.

She interrupted him. "No, Jon. Look, I can't live like this. Fine. Let's get down to business here. A nice, easy, tender roll in the hay is great. Sometimes that's what I want. But, dayum it. I also want those times where you grab me by the hair and throw me up against the wall or on the bed, and fuck me senseless. Those are the times that I love the most. The times when it's obvious that you want me so bad, you can't wait to be inside me. Can't take the time to go slow, to be tender. If you're not ever gonna touch me like that again, then I'm done. It's been fun. I'll have my lawyer call you."

Jon had just stood there, eyes wide, while his wife yelled at him, poking him in the chest with one long finger. Until she mentioned a lawyer. Until she was threatening to leave him.

He grabbed her finger, his larger hand wrapping around her whole hand. Jon pulled it to his mouth and kissed it lightly. "I just wanted to be your hero. I just wanted to save you. Just once."

"Jersey," she breathed the nickname like an endearment. "You're always my hero. You save me just by breathing. Holding you, holds me together. You save me every time you say my name. With every kiss, with every caress. But, I'm not broke and you can't fix me. You've got to let this go."

"What if I don't wanna let it go?" he asked, as he wrapped his left hand up in her long hair.

"Jersey, it's done. There's nothing you can do about it."

"I can't just get over it, Teece." His tongue slid along the curve of her jaw.

"It's been almost twenty years, Jon." Her breathing was already getting ragged.

He nipped at her chin. "I'm sure it took you at least a few days to get over it."

"At least." It was getting harder for her to breathe. Talking was damn near impossible.

"Okay then, I'm sure you won't begrudge me a few days." His breath was hot on her ear and she shivered. With his left hand balled into a fist, and her hair held tightly in that hand, he pulled down, forcing her head up. His lips came down on hers, not hard enough to hurt her, but forceful enough to get his point across. "I do still want you; don't ever doubt that," he pulled back from her lips, just far enough to whisper those words, then his mouth was back on hers, his tongue invading her mouth, and all the while he backed her slowly and methodically toward the bed, removing articles of clothing with his right hand.

TC had two fistfuls of his shirt. They were almost to the bed, when she pulled at the material hard, making buttons pop and skitter across the floor, but only opening his shirt about half way. Frustrated, she pulled again. This time his shirt fell completely open and she moved on to the button at his waist.

Once they reached the bed, Jon released her hair and shoved her hard enough to make her fall back on the bed. "Don't you dare move." His voice was just hard enough to make her obey the command while he finished her handiwork and shrugged out of his shirt and dropped his jeans. He'd managed to remove her shirt and bra while they'd crossed the bedroom, now he quickly unfastened her jeans and peeled them down her long legs, dropping them in the floor by his feet. The bed was the perfect height for what he had in mind.

One strong hand went straight to her left breast, making her arch her back and push her hardened nipple into his palm. With his lower body, he nudged her legs apart so that he could stand between her spread thighs, letting her legs hang off the side of the bed. She was prone and open to his gaze. The fingers of his free hand skimmed up the inside of her thigh, causing her to moan and reach out for him. He shook his head and slipped one finger inside her. He smiled to find her wet and ready for him. "I love you, Teece. You know that right?"

He waited patiently for her answer, poised at her entrance. Her head stopped moving back and forth on the comforter and she opened her eyes to look at him. With her breathing harsh and ragged, she gasped, "Yeah, I know."

With his hands on her hips, Jon pulled her toward him even as he plunged forward. She choked out his name on a sob and her legs found their way around his waist, locking her ankles behind his back, just above that tight ass that made her drool even after all this time. Her heels thumped against his ass with every movement of his hips. He couldn't resist the urge to lean over and take one nipple in his mouth. Bracing his weight on his arms he did just that, without stopping the motion of his hips. He continued to pound into her as he drew her nipple into his mouth.

"Oh God, Jersey," she cried out, clutching at his shoulder with one hand and his bicep with the other. Her back bowed up off the bed as she saw stars dancing before her eyes. "Yes. Jon."

He felt her tightening around him, her walls squeezing him like a fist. He clenched his jaw and thrust a few more times before he lost himself in her. Groaning her name, and making his own religious statement, he let himself go.

Moments later, he rolled off of her, pulling her into his arms as he did. "Don't call your lawyer."

"I wouldn't dream of it," she smiled, as she pressed her nose into his neck, once again breathing in the scent of safety.

The scent of Jon.

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