Friday, May 27, 2011

Chapter Ten: Something to Believe In

Emma gave her the signal that the consult room was set up so Devon went back to Carol who was slowly sipping her tea. "If you'd like to follow me, I'd like to give you a formal consult on what we could offer you." She clutched her notebook. She hadn't really had time to plot out the new business venture that she had wanted to launch but there was nothing like going into the lion's den blind. She could do this, she was a good businesswomen and this wasn’t the first time she had gone in all guns blazing.

Carol raised her brow, nodded and rose to her feet. "Do you always offer a walk in a free consult, or are you trying to impress me?"

Devon smiled easily. "I have a certain standard of care just like I am sure you have a certain expectation for standard of service." She showed Carol to the back room and Emma took her purse and coat and hung them up on the coat rack. Carol settled herself into the plush lazy-boy and Devon lowered herself onto the stool beside her.

"How long have you been doing this?" Carol asked as she clasped her hands together on her stomach and the many rings on her fingers glinted in the light.

"About five years in all. I've always been interested in beauty and skin care." She picked up Carol's hand and smoothed her hand over it. "You have remarkable skin, you clearly take care of yourself."

"Of course I do." She snapped. Jesus, how could Jon's mother be so different from him? In all honesty she’d expected Jon to be like this but he just wasn’t.

"And tell me, how did a girl like you end up in Soho owning what looks like to be a very successful business?"

Damn, fry my balls why don’t you?

"I went to beauty school when I left high school and I worked as an apprentice for some years. It's always a dream to own your own place and work for yourself, I made it a reality."

Carol pressed her lips together. "How in the world did you get enough money to set up here? I know what this type of real estate costs.”

Devon grinned. "A woman never tells her secrets." Especially not those secrets. She fussed around with her clipboard and made a couple of notes. "I'm just a very good businesswoman Mrs Bongiovi."

She half laughed. "Well that is true-- you did get my son to agree to beauty treatments. I'm just not sure if that's the only reason he raved about you." Her gaze slid over her head to toe. Devon rested her clipboard against her chest. "Why don't you let me book you in for a facial and then you can make your own mind up about that?"

"Oh you're good.” Carol huffed and shifted in the chair. “What I want to know though, Miss Scott, is what makes this salon better than the one I frequent now? They have all the right products and beautiful premises, and they do a good job. What makes your salon the one worthy of my money?" She knew that was a lie as Jon had already told her that his mother was unhappy where she was going but she played along. Carol was obviously the type of woman that made you work for her respect and trust and that was understandable when you had a son like Jon. She was sure that people sucked up to her in all kinds of ways.

Devon smoothed her hands down her apron. "Well, apart from as you say excellent products that are not tested on animals and superior care. We custom care. Each time someone walks back in my salon, it becomes their salon. Besides that I'm about to launch something very special that I think will separate my salon from the others.” Devon smiled into her clipboard as she dangled the carrot.

"Oh? And what is that?"

"Instead of your average salon experience alone, I know that there is one thing woman want. And that is their friends around them. I'm launching a number of packages that involve spa days at my clinic with a theme. "

"I'm listening."

Devon rounded the chair and slid onto the stool. She was making it up as she went but the adrenaline of a perfect idea took over. This could be big, really big. "It’s a spa day set up in a private part of the clinic for you and say, up to five of your friends. You custom make everything, food, drinks, music and of course the treatments through the day. We're putting together a number of different packages, bridal showers, and girl’s day out, teenage girl’s packages, glamorous ladies as well as any occasion. The brochures came to life in her head as she ratted through all the options. "It comes custom-made with your own dedicated member of staff all day." Guess she'd better bring this one up at the next staff meeting.

"I see."

Devon refrained from rolling her eyes and wondered if anything would actually crack a smile on this woman's face. "If that’s something that interests you, you would be the first client to trial it.”

Carol lay back in her chair. "I'll think about it."

Whew. She blew out her breath and reached for her hand cream. "I'm going to give you a complimentary hand massage today, if I may?"

Carol nodded and closed her eyes extending her hand. Devon cupped it in hers and applied a small amount of lotion and began the massage. "How often are you going to your salon at the moment?"

She shrugged. "Once a week. I alternate treatments."

"Do you find that is helpful or would you prefer spending a day, like once a month and making a day out of it?"


Devon took that as making a good point. Hell that was the best she was going to get from the woman. She finished one hand and changed to the other.

"Your accent is very different isn't it?"

She raised her brow. "Well, yes. I've been told that it's a mix between an Australian and British accent." Devon continued to pitch the salon and services to Carol while she fired back zingers at her. Carol wasn't her only client and in all honesty she knew she was only here because of Jon but she wanted Carol to want to come and spend time here, not just because her son told her to.

"So that's really about it. I really hope we can do business together is there anything you’d like to ask me?"

Carol pursed her lips and looked at her hands closely. "What intentions do you have with my son, Miss Scott?"

Devon's eyes widened and she cleared her throat. She did not just ask me that. "Well, he's a nice man and we’ve only been out once. Nothing to worry about at all." She wondered if she was a good enough liar about that subject. The truth was she wasn’t entirely sure what her intentions were with her son.

Carol's gaze flicked up to hers and then down to her hands. "I see. Well, thank you Miss Scott, you've given me a lot to think about. I'll be in touch if I require you further."

"Sure and you're welcome. If there's anything, any questions or anything don't hesitate to call and ask for me personally."


Devon wrapped her coat around her and dug her hands into her pocket as her boots clicked across the cobblestones of Mercer Street. She was running a little late as Carol's impromptu visit pushed her day out twenty minutes. That woman was tough work man and she didn't even know if she had nailed the sale or not. She was pretty sure that Carol thought that she was some girl trying to squeeze millions out of her son. She didn't have a problem with showing her own wealth off however, she knew nothing about Jon's relationship with her but assumed her high end silk clothes and solid gold jewelry was partly from Jon's wealth.

The bell tinkled as she pushed into the cosy wine bar across the way.

"Can I help you miss?"

She shook her head as she spied Jon tucked away in a corner booth on his cell phone. "It's ok, I'm over here." She shook off her day as she walked through the bar and tucked her hair behind her ears. Her belly fluttered as he lifted his gaze to hers and smiled instantly melting away any tension she had left. He laughed on his call and then disconnected it as she slid into the booth opposite him.

"Hey you, how were the gates of hell?"

She sank into luxurious leather and her body relaxed. "Your mother is lovely."

He snorted. "Liar."

He signalled to the waiter. "I hope you don't mind I've already ordered."

"Great, I'm dying for a drink."

He cocked an eyebrow. "It was bad wasn't it?"

"I wouldn't say bad, she's just so...shrewd. God, sorry I know she's your mother but she doesn't miss a beat does she?"

He chuckled. "That's her. She didn't grill you too much did she?"

"Not at all. All clients ask me how I established my business, how much money it took and what intentions I have with their son."

Jon bit his lip, to stop himself from laughing she thought. "That bad huh?"

"I pitched my fabulous idea for her and her friends, she listened but gave me no clue whether she was impressed. I mean a smile really wouldn't have gone astray you know." She blew out her breath and then winced. "Sorry, I shouldn't be saying all this."

The waiter poured her a glass of Pinot Grigio and he slid it in her direction. "Here, you've earned this. Believe me. I know what you mean. You had an hour or so of it. I have had forty plus years, baby."

She smiled with ease and fingered the stem of the glass. "This is true. She certainly knows how to get what she wants." Her gaze flicked to hers. "Something she has in common with her son I suspect." She took a long sip and settled on the flavours.

Jon held his glass out. "To successful business ventures."

"Well I have no idea if it's successful, she said she'd be in touch but I'll raise my glass anyway."

Jon clicked her glass and then grinned. "She just called me, that's who I was talking to when you came in."

Her jaw dropped as he took a sip. "And? You're such a shit."

"Yeah, I am but it was fun to see you sweat."

Devon shifted uneasily as his blue gaze rested on her. "Well, are you gonna tell me?"

Or just flame my panties off by staring at me like that.

"Bossy thing aren't you?" He laughed as she rolled her eyes.

"And you haven't even bought me flowers like you promised. You know I only came for that right?"

"How do you know I haven't?"

"Well they're not on the table..." She stopped mid-sentence as the waiter brought over a bouquet of daisies. "I really hate you and you did that on purpose." Her cheeks flushed as the waiter rested them down on the table. Jon plucked one out of the bunch and handed it to her. This man had a way of always surprising her. "They're gorgeous."

"You're welcome, are you hungry? I could go for a grilled chicken salad, I haven't eaten since breakfast."

She nodded. "I could do that." She had a night of crunching numbers ahead of her so it would be good to get some food into her and not have to worry about it later.

Jon ordered them both a salad. "So do you want to know how ridiculously fabulous my mother thinks you are or not?"

Her eyes widened. "What? Don't toy with me like that!" She was going to kill him. She’d dealt with worse than Carol Bongiovi's on a regular basis, but what was more important apart from the fact she was Jon's mother, was she had pitched her idea to her for the first time. God, she hadn't even had a chance to run it past Jonathan and the rest of her staff to see what they thought. Talk about diving in head first but it seemed only fitting after this week and the man that was sitting opposite her in the booth.

He laughed. "I'm not kidding. She was really impressed with the location, the way the salon was presented. But she was most impressed with the owner, said she was innovative, smart and knew what she was doing." He leaned forward over the table and cupped his wine in his hands. "She went as far as even to say your customized packages were brilliant."

"Yes!" She sighed happily. It wasn't often she'd had brilliant ideas and she had hoped she was onto something big with this one.

"No where she's been to have done that and she was very keen to get a group of her friends together to try it out."

Devon shook her head and couldn't hide the grin that spread across her face. "Thank you."

"What? You did all the work."

"Come on, you got me the gig. This means a lot to me, it really does." The opportunity to make some money and finish her renovations and pay back most of the money from her stash was liberating.

"You closed the sale. I just gave you the clients. You did the work, I knew you would. You've got a way..." He trailed off and brought his wine to his lips. "I feel very relaxed around you."

"Thanks, I think."

Her heart banged against her chest as he slid out from his side of the booth and into hers. He leaned in and ran his knuckles lightly under her chin. Christ, was he going to kiss her again? Bless the seat she was in. The spicy scent of him was tempting her to just melt into him. His gaze fell to her lips and she curled her toes as his lips brushed against hers. He took a quick taste before covering his mouth over hers. He tasted like Pinot and God, he so warm. Her fingers curled around the lapels of his coat as she tried to stop her body but it leaned into him. She could easily lose a few hours with Jon and that scared her as she hadn't felt like that in a long time.

His thumb stroked her neck slowly as he broke the kiss and her eyes fluttered back open. "You've really got to stop doing that."

His hand slid around to her jaw and still held her steady. "Devon." His eyebrow arched and that sneaky grin played on his lips.

Jon was like a big diving pool and she was standing teetering on the edge, did she jump or did she plunge head first? She would be lying if she didn't think she wanted to. This here, with him now was fine. But they couldn't stay in this cocoon forever, his life was far too public for that but yet something inside her just failed to let go of him.

It was her this time that inched forward and kissed him. Her finger tips grazed over the day old stubble on his chin and her gaze locked with his. She'd let him in and there was now no going back. He smiled and lifted the bottle of wine. "More?"

She nodded. "More." Maybe just a little. It wasn't just the wine and she knew it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chapter Nine: Expect the Unexpected

By seven am she had clocked four miles on the treadmill and worked out the last of the kinks in a shower. She hated the damn thing but it evened her out. And her night had not exactly been even. She'd tossed and turned all freaking night over a kiss. Whew, the man could kiss. Really kiss. Coffee—she needed coffee, not to concentrate on Jon’s kisses. Coffee with an extra shot of sensibility or she was never going to be able to concentrate. Her usual morning routine was going to come with a side of twenty questions, she could feel it.

The sweet scent of vanilla welcomed her into the clinic. She loved that it smelled like a home. She fussed with the vase of tulips by the window leaning into their vibrant scent. Sunshine crept through the front windows and the footpath filled with early morning commuters. "Morning." She slid onto her usual stool and raised her brow. Jonathan set out her coffee with a croissant and a side of fresh fruit. "What's all this?"

"Breakfast. I do have enough for two here…for perhaps an extra guest?" He wiggled his brows.

She picked out a strawberry. "Hope you’re hungry then." She took a sip of coffee keeping a straight face.

Jonathan narrowed his eyes and picked up his own mug. "You're going to make me beg aren't you?"

She resisted the smile and tore off the end of her croissant. "Thanks for this, I'm starved this morning." Teasing him was fun, it's what they did.

"Dev, c'mon. You know my life is boring. How was it?" He inched across the counter opposite her. "Was he dreamy?"

She rolled her eyes and laughed. The tap on the front door interrupted them.

"I'll get it but don't think you're off the hook, missy." He wagged his finger, rested his cup down and disappeared behind her. She shook her head and chuckled. Jonathan would get it out of her eventually but for now it was too easy to tease. Her belly was still a bunch of nerves. She couldn’t get the memory of his mouth out of her mind. The heat of his mouth as it hovered over her neck.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here?"

She looked up, sputtering out coffee. Jonathan was concealed by a bunch of sunny yellow roses. Her breath caught in her throat - gosh she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had flowers delivered to her.

Jonathan set them down and plucked out the card. Attempting to swipe it from him would be useless since he already towered over her. He held it high and cleared his throat. "Devon. Expect the unexpected and sorry in advance. J." He punctuated the sentence with a kiss.

She frowned. Sorry in advance? What the hell did that mean? Did he not want to see her anymore?


Disappointment sat heavy on her shoulders. Why would he send flowers? Was this his, thanks-but-no-thanks calling card?

Son of a bitch.

"So, what happened?"

She swivelled on her stool. "We're going to his friend’s house tomorrow night. He can't be blowing me off. It was a very nice night and we had a lot of fun. I don't get it," she muttered.

Jonathan smirked. "So you do like him! Tell me what happened last night and we can analyse it. Come on, we've got a good fifteen minutes before the girls arrive." He refilled their mugs and settled on a stool across from her.

"There's nothing much to tell. He took me to Coney Island and we had a very pleasant evening." Her fingers curled around her cup as she tried to stay focused. Sorry in advance? What the hell?

"Coney Island? Wow, I didn't expect that."

She sighed. "Neither did I but it was perfect. Perfectly perfect and he was a sweetheart. Not what I expected at all." Her admission had Jonathan smiling.


She shrugged. "We had a drink and then went home. There's nothing to tell." She frowned into her coffee cup. He’d kissed her goodnight. Had it been a kiss goodbye instead?

"You're a bad liar, Devon Scott. Now for God's sake give me some details before I strangle you."

She flattened her palms on the counter. I’m a better liar than you think. "He kissed me."

Jonathan clapped his hands together. "Bazinga! I knew it. Was it a peck, or a full blown suck the life out of your body kiss?"

"The latter. Full blown and delicious and that's all you’re getting. A woman never tells."

"They do if they really cared about their best friend." He crossed his arms. "So did you ask him to come inside at the end of the date?"

"No! It's the first date. And before you ask, yes I am seeing him again. Tomorrow. Well at least that's what I thought anyway." She'd been out of this dating game way too long. What did she do now? Was this is a test for her to ring him and ask him what the hell the note meant? The flowers were beautiful, thoughtful and were very her. She just didn't get it.

Emma breezed in, her sunny curls pinned back from her face. She dumped her bag on the stool beside Devon and rounded the counter to pour herself a coffee. "Okay, spill. How was he? I mean, does he have all the right goods?"

Devon's cheeks burned. "Emma! God, what kind of woman do you people think I am? I didn't take him home."

"But you so wanted to, didn't you hussy?" Emma always said exactly what she thought. Devon admired her. She was gorgeous and had all the confidence in the world when it came to men. Something she clearly lacked.

"He kissed her though." Jonathan chimed in.

"He was a gentleman."

"Rocking flowers! Holy crap!” Emma plucked a rose out and smelled it dreamily. “Could he find a bigger bunch?"

"See? Gentleman." There was something about courting the old fashioned way that stirred her up. She hadn’t thought she was a traditional girl, but one bouquet and she was a mess. It wasn't something she’d expected from Jon.

"Ok so tell me about this kiss. Was it a sweet and gentle? Or did he melt you into the ground?"

Dammit, her cheeks burned again.

"Jackpot! You go girl."

"Look, we could do this all day but we do need to get to work. Have you seen the schedule today?" She dusted off her fingers and shifted the dishes back to Jonathan.

"Ok, ok, spoil sport. But one more thing..."

She held her hands up. "Yes, I’m seeing him again tomorrow and yes, I do like him, and yes, he kisses like a dream."

A smile settled on Emma's lips. "That is all. Oh, and there’s a client behind you.” She whispered as she disappeared from the coffee bar.

What the hell? Devon turned around with her smile in place. A woman with meticulous blond hair wearing a neatly pressed white pant-suit stood in the foyer with a gold Gucci bag tucked under her arm. "Hi. Sorry, I didn't hear you come in. We're not open for a few more minutes, but please come on in."

The woman's expression didn't change and her eyes remained steely. Determined to drag herself back to the business at hand, Devon showed her to the consult area. The woman definitely hadn't been in her clinic before. She never forgot a face. "Are you looking for something specific I can help you with?"

She sat down, shrewd eyes looking her over. "You're the owner I presume?"

Devon nodded and settled opposite her. "Yes, I’m Devon Scott." She held her hand out and wondered if the woman would ever crack an expression let a lone a smile. She did lean forward and shook Devon's hand.

"Carol, Carol Bongiovi."

Oh God, oh God, oh God.

This was her? Already? Why in the blue hell didn't he tell her she was coming in so soon?

Sorry in advance.

Oh crap.

Suddenly everything made sense. Relief chased embarrassment. He wasn’t blowing her off. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Bongiovi. I'm so glad you could come in."

Carol glanced around the room. Devon couldn't decide if she was impressed or disgusted as her expression remained stony. Then it hit her like a stack of bricks. Oh, God. They’d been talking about Jon when she was behind her. She wanted to throw up. Dear God she was going to kill that man when she saw him next.

"Yes, well my son raved about this place, but I can't decide if it was for the place or the service he got."

Well, aren’t we shrewd? Zing!

Devon held her head high. "It was both. My salon offers a very high standard of care and services. I'd be happy to talk you through them. Can I get you some coffee or tea?

Carol nodded. "So I've heard. Tea, peppermint if you have it."

"Of course, one moment please." She excused herself and found Jonathan around the corner setting up one of the treatment rooms.

"That's Jon's mother!” she half whispered, half growled. “I just declared her son was a good kisser when she walked in for God's sake!"

Jonathan snorted and snuck a glance around the corner. "She's very Beverly Hills, huh? I’m sure she appreciates your compliments on her son's kissing."

She covered her face with her hands. "Shut up and get us some peppermint tea. Oh, my God." She had to think fast and glanced at her watch. "Get Emma to set up a room quickly and we'll give her a complimentary consult. She has twenty minutes before her first appointment. She can assist me until then."

"Yes, yes. Lavish attention on her, good plan. Jon was right. By the look of her she'll bring in the cash, baby. Go!" He nudged her gently back in the direction of Carol who was now on her cell phone. She nodded and signalled to give her a few minutes so Devon escaped to her office to regroup. She flipped through her client records and found Jon's number.

"Do you need a bigger bunch of flowers?" he asked in lieu of a greeting.

She chuckled and gnawed nervously on her lip. "You didn't tell me she was coming this morning!"

"I didn't know until I got home late last night I had a message from her at home. So, I thought since I was unleashing Satan on you, I'd send you some flowers."

She grinned. "They were gorgeous, and you shouldn't talk to your mother like that, that's terrible." She smoothed her palm down her apron. "However, I do feel like I'm under scrutiny. And I may have been talking about you unaware that she had walked in." She bit her lip and the deep chuckle vibrated down the line.

"I hope it was complimentary."

"It was, but that's not the point! She implied that the only reason you'd recommended this place was because of me."

He snorted. "Well, that's half true.”

“Jon,” she warned.

He cleared his throat, but she was pretty certain he was covering a laugh. “In all seriousness, she'll love the place. Trust me. You're onto a winner there with her. Just be your normal charming self. I'd come in to watch, but I'm tied up with business most of the day."

She took a deep breath. He was right. Carol was exactly the type she was used to. The only difference was she just happened to be the mother of the man she was dating. She definitely did not want Carol to assume that Jon's affections for her were the sole reason that he'd recommended him to her. She had too much pride for that. "Ok, I can do this. Thank you for the flowers, Jon. They were very lovely."

"I'm glad you thought so. Listen, I have a business dinner tonight but it's not ‘til eight. Can we meet for a drink? There's a little wine bar a block down from you. The least I can do is ply you with wine after you deal with my mother. That way you can tell me how things went."

She smiled. "Yes." She surprised herself how easy and quick her answer came. "You can bring me another bunch of flowers. You owe me."

"Great. I'll swing by about six."

She hung up and caught her breath. She hadn't even thought of refusing his invite and she’d even teased him. Jesus, she was so doomed. She picked up her notebook and tapped it against the desk. She remembered the idea that had hit her last night. Maybe, just maybe, Carol Bongiovi was the perfect guinea pig. She automatically smoothed her hand over the hidden drawer. She might have to dip in, but if her idea worked, she’d be that much closer to replacing all that she’d spent.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chapter Eight: Just a Kiss

Jon dug out his phone as Devon slipped into the ladies room. Surprised when he checked his phone to find a half dozen texts and emails. He hadn't even noticed the buzz in his pocket. After quickly scanning through his messages, he half-grinned at Richie's text at the bottom of the list.

*How's the date? She bored yet?*

God, he was such a shit. He tapped back a quick response.

*Surprisingly, no. She's very nice.*

He didn't get to even get into his email before his unit buzzed.

*Nice as in thanks but no thanks, or nice as in niiiiiiice?*

Jon snorted. “Ever the wordsmith, Richie.”

*Go away Sambora.*

Less than ten seconds later his phone buzzed again. “You pick now to learn how to type fast,” he muttered and opened the text.

*Oh so niiiiiice then huh? Good, I'll meet her when I get in. I'm bored, I'm flying over Fri.*

Richie was as bad as he was when they were away from touring. At the end of each tour they were ready to kill each other, but all it took was a few months downtime and the itch started all over again. They were talking a few times a week which meant the itch was bordering on full blown. He’d been writing, but it was just pieces. The minute he and Richie got into the studio he’d settle.

Devon’s spa and their date tonight had cured a little of that already. He knew he wanted to see her again and he was pretty sure she felt the same way. The question was just how much convincing he’d need to do.

*Looks like Sanctuary will be open for business. See you then*

Devon came back out of the ladies room with her usual glow. He glanced down at his last text from Richie.

*Looking forward to it. Don't do anything I wouldn't do.*

Stuffing his phone into his pocket, he smiled at her. It was like the little target shooting meltdown had never happened. He barely knew anything about this woman and she seemed content to keep it that way. It made him all the more curious and that just wasn’t like him. He hated people always digging into his personal shit. "All good?"

"Absolutely. Everything ok?"

He held out his arm and waited until she hooked hers through it to steer them towards the boardwalk. "Yeah, just Richie checking in. He's coming in at the end of the week. You’ll have to lure me out of the studio."

She fell into step with him as they moved away from the crowds and down the deserted boardwalk. He was glad that the city had continued its commitment to Coney Island. It really was a unique spot and had been in danger of a shut down too many times. He was just glad to see that nostalgia could keep some things alive.

She gnawed on her bottom lip, taking a moment before she spoke. “How do you decide what it is you write about?"

Usually a question like irked him, but there was too much sincerity behind it. She wasn’t some reporter regurgitating questions. "As cliché as it sounds, we let the music write the story of our lives."

"Any good writer knows the best writing comes from what you know, so that makes sense."

He slid his arm around the small of her back, drawing her in against the Hudson River’s vicious little whip of wind. "Right. That's exactly it. There's been so much change in our lifetime, and yes some of it is bad, but out of the bad comes hope. That’s the part I love to write about."

"And everyone needs hope."

He glanced at her and knew she meant it. "That they do. Obama’s bringing in a new kind of hope and I feel like it's the right direction for the first time in a long time. Still a lot of work to do, but I feel like we'll actually get there." She smiled at him and the surprise on her face was obvious. "What?"

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and shook her head. "Nothing, I just believe you. So many celebrities preach a message in their work, but I have to say that not all of them truly believe or live it--it's for their image. But I believe you."

He was flattered and he understood where she was coming from. Many of his colleagues in the industry were show ponies for politics and other social issues. He'd seen them behind the scenes at parties and events and she was exactly right—they didn't believe in what they were preaching, they did it for the sound-byte. "I don't put my name on anything that I don't believe in and I certainly don't conform to sell records. Never have and the day I do, I'll hang up my guitar."

"Spoken like a true artist. I'll admit my favourite albums are your social ones. These Days was a personal favourite."

His gaze settled on her lips, they'd had so many close calls tonight but one thing was certain he couldn't wait to get a full taste of her. "Oh, yeah? Particular track? I'm fond of it myself."

They were talking about him more than he liked, but he was hoping for a little tit for tat. It had been a long time since he'd taken a chance when it came to women, but there was something about Devon. She was grounded and came from a real background. As far as he could tell, she worked for what she had. It was obvious by the pride in her voice when she spoke about the salon. He understood carving out something out of nothing.

“‘Hard Letting You Go’ rips me in shreds, but the title track is my favourite."

"Hard Letting You Go, huh? That's a popular choice for These Days fans. I like it, but it's not anything special musically."

She laughed. "Silly man, it's not the music that we like, it’s the raw emotion in your voice when you sing it. That's the difference between a true artist and just a performer."

He wasn't fishing for compliments, but it was humbling to know she got his music and what he was about. Her candy-cane scent lured him closer. They walked companionably until he stopped outside one of the bars tucked out of the way and yet still part of the boardwalk. "How about we have a real adult beverage?"

"That would be lovely."

He held the door open for her and couldn't help but grin. Things were falling into place. The writing process would soon start and maybe, just maybe so would something else with this woman right here. Yup, things were definitely looking up.


It was a hole in the wall, but they were cozy. The rich wood and dark tones of the old booths and the lapping sounds of water made it feel like they were apart from everyone else. The waiter had instantly recognized Jon and the wait staff buzzed around them as they were seated. They bought out a complimentary bottle of wine and two glasses.
Jon thanked them politely, gracious to the end.

"Does it ever bother you?"

He poured them each a glass and placed one in front of her. She lifted the glass it and took a long sip. It was just what she needed to settle her belly of nerves. She took another one and leaned back.

He shrugged casually. "Not really. When it gets in the way of what I'm doing, yes. People are usually pretty respectful in this kind of setting. There's too much riding on reputation for the restaurant itself." He took a gulp of his wine. "Anyway, enough about me. Tell me something about you. I think you know entirely too much about me."

She sipped her wine thoughtfully. "That is true, you do have that disadvantage. You are easily accessible by one-click."

His eyes glimmered with amusement. "You Googled me?"

"No! I mean, ok…yes I did." Her cheeks burned. Good one, Devon. "But in my defence, I didn't know much about you and I didn't know what to expect." God, she was an idiot sometimes. This man was making her lose her cool and calm at every corner and she wasn't totally convinced she liked it.

"Fair call. And did Google tell you what to expect tonight?" He leaned back and pursed his lips, satisfied.

She shook her head. "You know it didn’t. As I've already said, this was unexpected...a good unexpected."

"Excellent." He popped his knuckle and picked up the wine bottle to top up her glass. "I thought you deserved to see the real me--it's no secret I live a strange life sometimes, but that doesn’t define me."

And that was a statement in itself. Jon could have easily wowed her by taking her to the top restaurants that only people like him could get a reservation and spend more money than she'd make in day in her clinic. Something told her he didn't do that for just anyone and she didn't know to be flattered or scared. She pressed her hand to her stomach and took a quick breath.

"I appreciate that and you definitely aren't what I thought you'd be." She swirled the wine in her glass and grinned. "Well apart from the obvious over self-confidence back at the carnival."

He winced. "Don't remind me. And just an FYI, that's never to leave here. I'll never live that down with my band-mates."


They talked for a while. She managed to steer the personal questions back to generalized answers. The only way she’d been able to, was practice. She found herself wanting to share more with him than was safe for either one of them.

He leaned forward and clasped his hands together on the table. "Listen, Devon, I've got a friend’s birthday to go to on Wednesday night. It's a casual cook-out at his place with his wife and a few close friends. Everyone is bringing someone, so I wondered if you'd come with me? They're lovely people and it's just dinner. We might sing a couple of tunes…anything can happen with them."

A second date just two nights from now? Man, she did not expect that. She cursed inwardly as she emptied her glass again. No more stalling. It was casual, what was the worst that could happen?

She already knew the answer to that question and she blamed the wine for not arguing more with her sub-conscious. "Sure, I'll come."

His smile was worth the uncertainty. "Great, you'll love them." He checked his watch. "We need to get going, the ferries get a bit sporadic at this time of night." He gestured to the waiter and took her hand with ease.

The night had been nothing like she'd expected. She'd managed to get through a date with him and somehow had accepted another one. She had to be crazy, but she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t excited.

The ferry was empty on the lower deck, so they huddled under there as light drizzle started to fall. The truth was, she hadn't opened up to anyone in a very long time. She was caught up in the moment and in his smile. How realistic could this even be? The doubt knocked in her chest, how far could she truly go with Jon?

"What’s going on in that pretty little head?"

She smiled. She wasn't sure even she knew sometimes. She took a deep breath and soaked in the moment. Maybe it didn't have to be complicated? He was a divorced man, she doubted he would be looking for anything more than a little fun. She could do fun. Hell, she wanted fun. "Sorry--I think too much. It's a habit." She was surprised he didn't think she was a space cadet at this rate.

He leaned in and she heard her own quick intake of breath as his lips brushed hers. It was soft and sweet and like a switch it went dark and deep. His mouth crushed down on hers. The sucker punch of heat spread from her belly like an over-indulgent hot coffee on a cold day.

His fingers threaded through her hair and he tipped her head using the angle to his advantage as he tasted each corner of her mouth. He slid his arm around her waist inside her coat and dragged her in close keeping the other hand in her hair. His lips were incredibly soft and not what she expected. Her eyes fluttered closed as need warred with sensibility and she let him take over. Hell, it wasn't as if she had a choice.

She was jammed against the metal wall of the ship. No ability to move or breathe as his strength held her there. Her hands slid up his chest, over the lapels of his jacket and around the back of his neck. Her toes curled and he broke the kiss. Her head rolled back to catch her breath, her fingers dug into his back as he nipped over her chin and sipped down the line of her neck.

She'd let go and her inhibitions were left behind in the wake of the ferry. His tongue dipped at the base of her neck and swirled around her clavicle. She wanted to burst from the inside out. Emotions churned in a confusing morass of lust and needs she hadn't felt in such a long time.

He cupped her jaw. His lips hovered over hers while he held her on a precipice as dangerous as the past that always nipped at her coattails. The moan escaped her throat as the tip of his tongue slid across her lower lip before he covered her mouth in a sweet, slow, lazy kiss.

Finally, he stepped back.

Thank God for her feet or she would have slid all the way down the wall. Her heart slammed against her chest as he let go of her completely.

She chuckled nervously. "You're supposed to wait ‘til you walk me home for that."

"I couldn't wait any longer. It was driving me crazy." He gently pulled her in. "I like you a lot, Devon."

She closed her eyes as he pressed his lips against her forehead and she laid her cheek against his chest. "I've noticed." Did she like him too? Yes. Did she want more of him? Yes.

Was she scared? Yes.

Jon left her at her door that night, but not without another kiss and a promise to pick her up on Wednesday. He didn't push her to come in and she was secretly glad as she didn't know if she would be able to deny him.

God, she didn’t have it in her to think about that. She'd already let him in so much. The real question was how far did she go?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chapter Seven: Tunnel Of Love

Devon decided picture perfect couldn’t begin describe the sea-side amusement park. From the fairy lights that curled around the iron gates and steepled up the stone entrance ways to the laughing children dragging parents from one ride to another. Magic layered with carnival music floated on the cotton candy and fried dough scented air.

The roar of roller coaster rails and well-oiled wheels harmonized with screams drawing them into the park. Something bubbled inside her. Was she excited to simply get out of the clinic and enjoy herself? Or was it all because of the man beside her?

Out in the open some of her nerves faded. Inside her shop, he was too intense. Sometimes she wondered if she could breathe without a piece of him lodging itself inside of her. But out here he was just a normal guy. In fact, no one gave Jon a second glance. She could do this. They were just enjoying a national landmark like two New Yorkers.

Jon tucked his shades into his pocket and wiggled his brows. "Ready?"

"This is just…wow!" She flipped her scarf and her worries over her shoulder and smiled. Jonathan was right, she'd been locked away from the world too long.

He rubbed his hands together. "Now, what ride should we try first? I'm not eating anything until we do a ride or two."

She giggled. Never in a million years did she expect him to bring her to a place like this. She nodded towards the tower of twisted steel and wood. "We totally should go on that."

"You want to go on the Cyclone right off the bat?"

She slid her hands into the pockets of her coat and rocked back on her heels. "Chicken?" Teasing him came easier than she expected too. “I love roller coasters. We just don’t have many back at home. We’d go over to Aussie for vacations and I’d just die as they have the best theme parks.” At his indulgent grin, she realized she’d shared more than she intended.

"Oh, I’m more than up to it. Let's see how brave you really are, brat." He grabbed her hand and they headed over to a relatively short line waiting to board the rollercoaster. Her belly went nuts. Nerves, that’s all. The ease between them was not only surprising, it made her want more. Already, she wondered what it would be like to kiss him...really kiss him. Not that quick peck he’d given her at the clinic.

"Where did you go?"

"Huh?" She opened her eyes and her cheeks burned. It was dark enough that he probably wouldn’t notice. Please, don’t notice.

"I thought I'd lost you for a minute." He winced as the screams fizzed past them. "It's not too late to back out."

"Back out? No—God, I'm fine. I'm having a lovely time."

He flicked the end of her scarf and smirked. "I was talking about the ride, but that’s good to know."

Oh, Jesus, she was a mess. She needed to pull herself together. "No chance there, buddy."

His gaze lingered just enough for her breath to back up before he took her hand. "Good, because we're up!"

Jon dropped his cap and glasses into the bins provided and waited for her to do the same. "After you." They climbed in and no choice but to sit snug against each other. He was warm and God, he smelled so good. As the safety bar came down she laughed at his white knuckle grip.

"You are chicken!" She was relieved to lighten the mood again as the ride attendant made the final checks and cleared the area.

He turned to her, so close she could smell the sweet scent of mint on his breath. Her eyes fell to his mouth. It was ironic that she was on a rollercoaster when that's exactly how he made her feel. The ride jerked into life and they both looked ahead to the steep climb of the track.

“Are you ready to take the plunge?"

He was talking about the ride, but Devon couldn't help but draw a parallel. Could she trust herself to keep racing down the track with him? She wanted to. God, she wanted it more than she could remember wanting anything in a long time.

They crawled to the top of the roller-coaster. She caught her breath, it was definitely the theme of the day, as the city skyline glittered across from the Hudson. Was this really real? Or was it something she just talked herself into to because she wanted it to be. She nodded and gripped the bar until her knuckles matched his. "I'm ready."

The wind blasted her face as they rocketed down the track. Nothing mattered except the freedom of flying. She laughed and screamed as they twisted, turned and cornered the bends. For the first time in forever, she felt herself let go. The sharp jolt back to the docking area and reality wouldn’t let go of her smile. "Oh, my God!"

"Wow! I can only think of one thing that could top that." That damn shit eating smirk played on his lips. "Perhaps you'd scream just as much too."

She elbowed him. "You're a very bad man, Mr. Bon Jovi."

He shrugged, unapologetic. “I have to say, I didn't think anyone screamed more than my daughter—I think I've been proven wrong."

She slapped his arm playfully. "Well, I just happen to enjoy fast rides." It was her turn to smirk and she turned away before she could register his reaction. She stepped out and straightened her coat. “Now, are you going to feed me or what?”

“Patience, bossy woman.”

She chuckled, it was more like bawsy woman in his Jersey accent which drawled a little more when he was relaxed. He teased her and adjusted his cap, glasses, and took her hand. “A future of fried carbs and refined sugar awaits us.”

“Fried carbs are the best kind of carbs.” They zigzagged through the lines of stalls until she had a corn dog in one hand and a stick of cotton candy in the other.

“I’m so going to pay for this tomorrow,” he muttered.

She took a bite of her corn dog. “God, so good." She laughed as he stuffed a hunk into his cheek to chew. “Don’t worry, you’ll work it off winning me a toy.”

He snorted. “You think it’ll take me that long?”

“Maybe. You’re over-confident and very self-assured. It’s been known to trip people up in the past.” He was easy to rile up. Hell, any man was when their honour was on the line.

“Better hurry up and eat. You’ll need your strength for the piles of toys I’ll win you.” The spun sugar melted on his tongue, staining it a dark pink. Would he taste like mint and sugar?

She blinked, finding it hard to focus with that thought lodged in her brain. “See what I mean?”

“Prepare to be bedazzled,” he said with a purposeful stride toward the shooting gallery. He dumped his trash and slapped his hands together.

She thought it was cute—ok not cute, it was sexy that he was so adamant to prove her wrong. She wasn’t stupid, Jon was a man who got what he wanted. Hell, she was here wasn’t she? She bit her lip as he held the gun and lined up the targets, checking his line of sight. He was taking it all very seriously. He licked his finger and held it up in the air.

“How’s the wind? Think you’ll make it, Dirty Harry?” She dug her hands into her pockets.

“Shhhhh.” He aimed the gun and fired. She snickered as all the shiny black and red targets remained.

“Just warming up. Every good performer needs a warm up.” He shook his shoulders and resumed the position before firing again.

Nope, he missed. He aimed again and missed. Oh boy, this wasn't going to be good for the male-ego thing. "It's ok, I can—"

"Dammit, there's something wrong with this gun."

She laughed and laid a hand on his arm. "Really it's fine."

"I know you're laughing. See if you can do any better." Before she could protest he handed her the shot gun and folded his arms. "You realize if you do hit that target, you're carrying my balls home in your purse."

She snorted. "Now that sounds like a challenge." She lifted the gun and aimed, her heart beat raced and her arms shook. She squeezed her eyes shut and fought the nausea that rolled in her belly. Her palms were as slick as the sheet of ice down her back. With practiced ease her finger hovered over the trigger.

Do it, Do it now! Shoot him bitch or I'll do it myself! The shot echoed in her memories as the rifle slipped in her hands.

"Devon?” He curled an arm around her shoulders gently. “Hey, are you OK?"

She managed a smile and laid down the rifle on the counter. "I'm good. Sorry, I just—"

"It's ok. Thanks, my man, we're done here." Jon threw the kid a few bills and lead her away from the crowd.

She blew out her breath quickly realizing she had some fast explaining to do. "Sorry, just stirred up some old memories." She patted down the front of her coat and nodded. "I'm good."

"C'mon, let's get a soda. I don't know about you, but all that salt and sugar has left me parched."

"Sounds perfect." She stopped. "Jon, it's not what you think. I'm not—"


"Hey, baby, I don't think anything. If you want to talk about it then that's fine. If not, that’s fine, too."

She didn't, but she wanted Jon back to the way he was with her. "My dad is a policeman back home. There were just some rough times that's all."

Jon paid for the sodas and handed her one before tucking his wallet in the back of his jeans. "Wow. A cop's daughter, huh? You do surprise me, Devon Scott.” His eyes were soft and kind as he brushed a lock of her hair back. “Did something bad happen?"

She took a long sip. "You could say that, but that is not a first date story." A smile played on her lips and she was relieved as his face eased and he grinned right back at her. Whew.

"Now that sounds like a challenge." He dumped his soda and took her hand. "I know exactly what we need to do."

Jon led her around to the big, old-fashioned Ferris wheel that slowly spun into the night with more coloured lights than a well-lit Christmas tree. The boarded a car and again she slid snug in beside him as the metal bar came down over them. "At least I won't lose my hearing on this one."

With a jerk they were pulled backwards and the swinging car rose until the whole park came into view, leaving her breathless once again. Lights and water bled into the distant skyline as they slowly climbed to the top.

"What a view. There's something about the New York City skyline that just gets to me."

"Home," she whispered. And it was her home now. New Zealand was a far cry from this world, but it was still in her heart.

"I haven't had this much fun in a long time, Devon. It’s no one’s fault but my own, but no less the truth." He leaned back and loosely rested his arm along the top of the seat as they glided down to complete the first lap.

"I'm sure your lifestyle is very demanding. I can tell just by the state of your skin remember?" She turned to him, their position one of easy comfort and her automatic lecture died on her tongue. "But I'm having fun too."

He said nothing, his eyes sparkling with all the intention in the world. The pads of his fingertips skimmed her jaw and then tilted her chin. He inched closer and the sound of rides, music, and laughter melted away. Her fingers curled around the safety bar, but it wasn't falling out she was afraid of. His gaze fell to her lips. She closed her eyes as the cool scent of mint and the kick of his spicy cologne jangled all her senses to life. His lips barely brushed hers and she was jerked forward.

"Oh, God!” She burst out laughing, releasing the tension between them. Their car had come to a complete stop right at the top and swayed gently.

"Son of a bitch!" He gripped the bar and looked down as another couple were set to board a car.

"It's so pretty up here." She took a deep breath and calmed her nerves. Jon made her feel things that she hadn't in a long time and she wasn't sure, especially now, if she was ready to go there.

He kicked back and tightened his arm around her shoulder with his fingertips resting on her arm. "You're not wrong there." He was content to leave it at that, and she even snuggled into him a little as the ride continued and they talked. One thing was definitely clear though and that was the thing that scared her the most. She didn't want the night to end.

Will you share her secret?