Welcome to Love's Legacy: Frankie & Jonny

The start of the story can be found
here and it can be navigated by using the menu to the right or by selecting newer post or older post at the bottom of each chapter. It may not be updated with quite the frequency of Edge of a Broken Heart but I will do my best to post at least once a fortnight.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Chapter 13

By the time Jon got home after dropping Frankie off, it was late. The house was quiet as he let himself in and wandered through to the kitchen. He pulled a bottle of water from the fridge and chugged half of it down as he continued up the short hallway to Jake and Romeo's bedrooms. He looked in on each of them in turn, kissing them gently on the cheek and fixing their covers before moving to the other end of the apartment to check on the older kids. He found Jesse tangled in his sheets, but sleeping soundly. He eased the linens from beneath him and covered him over before going to check on Stephanie.

His daughter's room was usually off limits to him, along with the rest of the males in the house. She was a young woman now, she constantly reminded him, and needed her privacy. Stephanie was snuggled deep within her duvet. Her iPod was on the bed beside her, her headphones still in her ears. He plucked them out carefully so as not to wake her, she stirred a little but rolled over, her breathing still deep and even. Jon brushed the hair from her face, and bent down to kiss her on the forehead. He left her room closing the door quietly behind him.

He knew he was stalling. He just couldn't bring himself to go and climb into bed with his wife. Instead Jon climbed the narrow staircase that led to the top floor of the penthouse. It served as his office and a formal entertaining area. He pulled a blanket from the closet and lay down on the couch in his office to close his eyes but sleep would not come. He laid there awake for a long time reliving the evening, pleased at how well things had gone with Frankie and analyzing the reactions that Beth had provoked in him. Eventually he found sleep with thoughts of Beth's soft body pressed against his in their goodbye embrace and a smile on his lips.

Waking early the next morning, his back stiff, Jon headed back downstairs to shower and change. He could have accomplished the same upstairs but for the fact that all of his clothes were in the bedroom he shared with Dot, a situation he was beginning to believe was overdue for a change. The house was still quiet. It was too early for the kids to be up, especially on summer break. He padded down through the apartment to his bedroom, making as little noise as possible as he entered his bedroom. He was trying to avoid waking Dot at all costs, but she wasn't even in the room - she was probably in the gym – so he managed to slip into the bathroom unnoticed.

He turned on the shower and stripped out of his sleep rumpled clothes. Standing before the mirror as he waited for the water to run hot he ran his hands over his face. It looked tired and drawn, almost as bad as it did a month or so before, when he came off tour. How had it come to this?

He stepped into the shower, and stood there head lolled back, letting the hot spray ease away some of the week's tension, his hand tracing lazy circles across the taut muscles of his abdomen and kneading the knotted muscles in his neck. When he completed his morning ablutions he dried himself and ambled naked through to the wardrobe. He donned a pair of khaki cargos and a black fitted T-shirt and was leaning down into one of the lower draws to retrieve a pair of socks.

"Where have you been Jon?" Dot's voice from the doorway startled him, it was soft but she wasn't successful in concealing the accusatory tone.

"I slept upstairs on the couch. I'm sure it's still warm if you want to go check." He added bitingly. He tensed ready for the next onslaught.

"I…I'm sorry Jon. I was out of line. What I said about Gina…it was…inexcusable." Dot walked over to where he stood and placed a hand on his tense bicep. "I knew she loved you even back then…I really shouldn't have been surprised. It was just…well when you admitted you loved her too…that hurt Jon."

"I'm sorry Dottie," his demeanor softened, and his shoulders relaxed, "that wasn't my intent. I just needed you to know that I am serious about getting to know my daughter, and her getting to know us…all of us. Now if you don't want, or feel that you can't be a part of that, I'll understand. I know this can't be easy for you. But Frankie will be a part of my family and that includes our kids."

"I won't see them hurt Jon."

Jon let out a deep sigh, "Well Dot, as long as you don't turn this into some kind of tug of war they won't be."

"What are you saying Jon?" An edge of panic tainted Dots voice as she contemplated what situation would initiate a 'tug of war'. She could think of only one – divorce.

Jon shook his head a little. It was even a little amusing – the anxious tone of her voice. She had been giving him such a hard time of late. He wondered what she expected would come of it. But now wasn't the time for that. "Just that I want them to know Frankie, and as long as you are supportive of that and don't try to influence their opinions of her, there is no way they can get hurt in this. What has happened here hasn't changed my relationship with them - or with you for that matter, as long as you don't let it. And I'm not going to push the kids into anything they or Frankie aren't ready for." He explained.

"But Jon I…." Dot was cut off by the trill ring of Jon's phone. She waited while he took the call.

Jon grabbed his phone off the dresser in the large wardrobe, "Hello."

Beth's sweet voice was on the other end of the line, "Hello… Jon?"

Dot watched as her husband face filled with pleasure, "Hey…it sure is. I wasn't expecting a call so soon." Dot watched as his pleasure shift to concern, "Is everything ok?"

"Umm…not the best." Now that Jon was really listening he could detect some shakiness in Beth's voice. "I ah…I had a little car accident."

Panic gripped his gut at the thought of her hurt, "Are you alright? Where are you? I'll be right there." Jon was already gathering his things together – his shoes and his keys that had been sitting beside his phone.

"I'm fine Jon…really, just a little shaken. It's just a fender bender. You don't need to come out. I just didn't know who to call…and well your card was in my purse. I just need a tow truck. I was hoping you could arrange it for me."

"Give me a second to get a pen." He said, already out the door of the bedroom. "Where are you?"

Dot watched him rush out of the room and head to the kitchen. She followed in time to see him scrawl an address across a notepad.

"I'll be there in ten. I'll call the truck on the way. If he gets there before me, wait. I'll give you a lift home." He tore the top page off the note pad and sat on one of the kitchen stools as he pulled on his socks and shoes, the phone propped up on his shoulder.

"Jon really… please don't leave your family, just send the truck." Beth pleaded. She felt stupid now for calling him.

"Don't be silly. My family is fine, you however, are not. Wait for me ok!" It wasn't a question.

"Don't worry…I'm going anywhere." Beth sighed, acquiescent.

Jon snapped his phone shut.

"Frankie?" Dot guessed, unable to think of anyone else close by that would have him so alarmed.

"Um…no actually. It was her Mom." Jon realized that they hadn't had that discussion, the moment the words were out of his mouth.

"You said Gina was dead." Dot's voice raised an octave.

"For fucks sake Dot…I don't have time for this. Gina is dead. Frankie was adopted." He rolled his eyes, as if it wasn't obvious.

"Well why is she calling you? Where is her husband?" Dot asked immediately suspicious.

"Dead. Branson died last year. Look Dot I have to go. Beth's been in a car accident. I need to get down there." He rushed.

Dot was a little taken aback by the news, but not enough to silence her.

"Oh yeah," she said, her tone sarcastic, "we are apparently fine. Go Jon. Something coming before your family is nothing new to us."

"Nothing comes before my kids Dot… nothing!" He watched as she flinched at her occlusion from the sentiment. "But nobody here is hurt right now, and Beth may be so this discussion will have to be continued later." He grabbed his keys and started for the door. "Kiss the kids for me and tell them I'll see them this afternoon. See ya later." He shot over his shoulder as he walked out the door, leaving Dot stunned, hurt and once again, angry.

Jon almost ran to where his car was parked. Beth had seemed coherent enough, but that did not ease the concern he felt. Mingled with that concern was something he hadn't felt in a very long time. He felt needed. A warm glow of pleasure surged through him at the realization, he was needed…Beth needed him. It had been so long since he had been needed in that way – trusted to take care of something other than work or his own needs. Dot was fiercely independent and begrudged calling on him for anything anymore. More often than not, she thought of herself as a single mother and was not hesitant in sharing that view with anyone.

When Jon got to the scene of the accident the tow truck was just pulling up. Beth stood off to the side on the pavement, her arms wrapped around her body as if to still the trembling. A pimply faced teen, that Jon assumed was the driver of the other car since he looked just as shaken as Beth, stood with her. Jon looked to the road where the cars had been moved to the curb. Beth's car had been hit up the rear, the bumper bar and trunk, were both badly damaged. The kids' car, a shiny new truck with a thick nudge bar was barely touched.

The second he reached Beth, Jon drew her into his arms, pressing a long relieved kiss to the top of her head as he cradled it to his chest and stroked her hair soothingly. Beth melted into him, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist, crushing him fiercely to her. She hated to admit it, but she was glad of the strength and support he offered – the accident had shaken her more than she would have him believe. And then there were the other benefits...like his warmth, his delicious clean spicy scent, his soft lips pressed into her hair, and the sound of his thudding heart racing – was it only out of concern for her?

He tried to pull back to look at her more closely but she only held on to him more firmly. "It's ok, Beth...I'm here now. I won't let you go." He placed his hands on the top of her arms and rubbed them up and down, soothing her further. "Shhh." He could still feel her tremble. He took a step back from her but she kept her hands on him, resting them lightly on his hips, reluctant to lose even the smallest amount of contact with him.

He searched her face and body for some sign of damage, "Thank God Bethie…" he sighed. "Are you sure you're ok?" He asked as he brushed a stray lock of hair from her eye.

"Yes Jon. Really, like I said on the phone, I'm just a little shaken. You didn't need to come down here." As soon as she confirmed she was ok, Jon was looking past her to the boy.

"What were you thinking man? Typical teenager! Let me guess you were on the phone, right?" He glared at the boy angrily.

"I…umm...I was…" the boy stuttered. If not for the shock of the accident, he would have been stuttering from the shock of who was standing there berating him. Jon Bon Jovi…his mom was obsessed with this guy. She had been to countless shows on the last tour…even dragging him to a couple when no one else would go – he'd even enjoyed them.

"Shhh Jon, it wasn't his fault. The car in front of me braked suddenly…I stopped, Ben didn't. No one's hurt. No harm, no foul. Please don't make a scene. People are already staring." Beth soothed.

He realized she was right. His attendance had drawn a larger crowd than the accident. As if to emphasize the point the kid looked at him and said, "I was at Central Park. Dude…you kicked ass!"

Jon smiled a tight smile at the kid, "Thanks!" he said before turning back to Beth and muttering under his breath, "Shit!" He dropped his hands from her, the last thing he needed now was for someone to snap a photo of them together. "Let's get you out of here. Did you exchange details already?"

"Uh huh…all taken care of." She smiled gently at the boy who wore an anxious expression as he watched his father approach, sure that he would have his truck confiscated.

"Ok…the green BMW is mine," he pointed up the street and handed her the keys, "go get in. I'll just have a quick word to the truck driver and we'll get you home."

Jon joined Beth in the car just a few minutes later. "I think we should take you to the hospital and get you checked out Beth. That was a pretty hard hit there." He watched her carefully as she spoke.

"Honestly Jon…I'm fine. I just want to go home have a cup of tea and forget all about this." She insisted.

"If you're sure," he wasn't, he couldn't draw his eyes away from her for fear he'd missed some injury…somewhere.

"I am Jon…really. You've already gone to too much trouble. You should be at home with your family. I imagine you get precious little time with them as it is." Beth fidgeted with the strap of her handbag. She suddenly felt very self conscious, here in this confined space under his intense scrutiny, where she could feel the heat radiate from his body…his very tight masculine body, and where his scent was overwhelming. Beth felt the blood rise to her cheeks and turned to look out the window. "Can we please just go home?"

"Of couse."

The short drive home was spent in silence. The radio was on, playing softly in the background. Jon sensed something was wrong with Beth, but had no idea what it was or how to fix it. Every now and again he would shoot a surreptitious glance in her direction, she had not moved once since they left the scene of the accident – she stared blankly out of the window and he wondered if she was reliving the memories of Branson's death…he knew at that moment it was forefront in his mind. Frankie wouldn't cope if she lost another parent. Hell, who was he trying to kid...he wasn't sure if he could cope with losing her either. And that made him wonder…how was it that in a matter of a few short days she had so completely infiltrated his life. He told himself it was Frankie. That was it...it was only her importance in his daughters life, that had caused this protective urge in him. It was nothing more than that. He was married…she was a grieving widow, as he had reminded Richie only a couple of days before. It's just because of Frankie, he reiterated in his mind, just

Beth sat in the passenger seat trying to come to grips with the emotions coursing through her. She was so grateful to Jon for dropping everything to come and help her, but that same action was causing her some distress, for in doing so he had ingratiated himself to her further and that was dangerous. She didn't even understand what had compelled her to call him in the first place. There were plenty of old friends or family who could have help just as easy…Branson's brother was just a few minutes up the road. But she had opened her purse to dig out her phone and there was his card, sitting right at the top where she had thrown it in the night before, never expecting to pull it out again. And then his words came back to her, as if he were there whispering them into her brain, 'If you need anything at all…anything…please call me,' and she had just picked up the phone and dialed. It wasn't until she heard his husky voice on the other end of the line, sounding so happy to hear from her, that she realized it probably wasn't a wise thing to do. Jon was married with a young family and she was dragging him away from them, and she was a recent widow. What on earth had possessed her, she wondered.

When he pulled up to the curb just a few hundred yards from Beth's building, Jon jumped out of the car and darted around to her side of the car to help her out. Her hand trembled as she placed it in his. He put a steadying arm around her waist and walked with her like that all the way home, ignoring the curious stare of the doorman as they entered her building. Beth did not speak until they were in her apartment and he had deposited her safely on the couch.

"Jon," she said her voice almost inaudible.

"Yes Beth?" He was just about to head into the kitchen to fix her that cup of tea.

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention what happened today to Frankie. She'll just worry about me, and she already has so much on her mind. It will be coming up on a year since Branson...since the accident and she doesn't need to be reminded of that earlier than necessary." A tear came to Beth's eye as the reality of what transpired hit her. She could have joined her husband today…she wasn't ready for that. She moved to get up and winced. Her abdomen was tender now where the belt had tightened across it and her neck was starting to stiffen. She braced her hands on the edge of the couch for a second attempt.

"What do you think you're doing?" Jon scolded, resting a hand on her shoulder to keep her down.

"I think I could use that cup of tea now…I'm just going to go make it." Beth explained. She patted his hand. "I'm fine Jon, just a little tender, it'll pass. You go back to your family, I've already corrupted too much of your time this morning."

"Listen to me. I'm not going anywhere unless there is someone here to take care of you," Jon said. "Now, we can do one of two things…the first I already know you are opposed to and that is calling Frankie. The other is me staying here with you to make sure you don't try to do anything stupid."

"No Jon! I won't have that," Beth disagreed vehemently, shaking her head. "I'm fine. You said last night you'd be spending today with your kids. I don't even know what possessed me to call you like that. Now you need to go. I'm just going to go and lay down for a little while. I didn't sleep very well last night and this morning is starting to take its toll."

"All the more reason I should stay. I'll help you your room and camp out here in the lounge for the day. You won't even know that I'm here unless you need something." He reasoned.

There was no way she would be able to relax with him in the house. Every cell in her body was conscious of his presence, and every glance at him bought her dream from the night before rushing to the forefront of her mind. Beth could see she was going to have to be firm with him. "Look Jon…I appreciate your help this morning. I really do. But I don't need a virtual stranger camping in my living room while I'm trying to sleep. So if you don't mind, I'd really rather if you just left. I'll be fine here by myself."

"Oh…ok… sorry. I didn't realize you felt that way. Ok Beth…no problem. If you need me you know where to find me." Jon pulled his keys out of his pocket; the sting of her words was clear in his eyes as he met hers for one last time before he turned for the door.

"Jon I…" Beth started. He turned towards her with an expression of hope. She had been about to say she didn't mean it, that she'd love for him to stay, needed him to even, but she knew it wasn't appropriate and that his family needed him more."… Thank you again." She said instead.

She watched his face fall for the second time. "No problem. Bye Beth." He said, and he was gone.

Beth rolled over onto her side on the couch and pulled her knees up to her chest. She was in the same position an hour later when the tears were finally exhausted and she fell to sleep.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chapter 12

"Hey Mom," Beth heard Frankie call as she placed the roast back in the oven. "Mmmm that smells great…is there enough for me?" She asked as she kissed her mother on the cheek.

"There is always enough for you my darling…you know that. So you're staying for dinner then? I wasn't expecting you." Beth replied wrapping her daughter in a warm hug while wondering if she'd still like to stay once she knew who was coming for dinner.

"Yeah…I know, but since I missed out on seeing you last night and tonight freed up I thought I'd come by…maybe get a second home cooked meal for the week. I still don't know why you go to all this trouble when it's just you Mom…it seems kind of silly." Frankie observed as she nibbled at a piece of raw carrot she had snagged from the counter.

"Sweetie, I only go to this much trouble when I have visitors."

"Oh…so you have ESP now huh? Knew I was coming did you? Yeah right Mom…Face it, you just can't help yourself but go to the trouble of a three course meal on the off chance that I might drop by." Frankie chuckled as she bent down to see what else was cooking in the oven.

"Yeah that's it…you know me…I love to cook," Beth rolled her eyes playfully at her daughter. "But actually I do have a guest coming tonight. I'd still love for you to stay though."

"Oh…who is it?" Frankie was a little surprised; Beth really hadn't done much entertaining since Branson had died.

"Umm…it's Jon actually." Beth busied herself with the vegetables, as she braced for the impending explosion.

"John who?" Frankie asked, never contemplating the obvious.

"Your father Frankie."

"Oh no he is not." Yep, here it comes. Beth thought. "Why is he coming here? Who the hell does he think he is...coming here and disturbing you? That's not right Mom." Frankie fished her cell phone out of her pocket ready to call him and let him have it, but she realized that she didn't have his number. "Do you have his number?" She asked Beth.

"No honey I don't. What do you want his number for?" Beth already suspected the answer.

"Because I'm going to tell him he's not welcome here…today or any other." Frankie was seething.

"No honey…you're not." Jon is my invited guest and you will treat him as such." Beth placed her hands on Frankie's arms and turned her so they were face to face. "Listen to me honey…I wasn't planning for you to turn up tonight…but I'm glad you did. You need to get over this animosity towards your father…"

"He's. Not. My. Father!" Frankie interrupted through clenched teeth.

"Fine Frankie, you need to get over this animosity towards Jon," Beth used the name pointedly. "Because whether you like it or not, he is your father and he very much intends to be a part of your life."

"I don't…" Frankie began.

"No… you need to hear this, come and sit down." Beth pulled a chair out from the counter for her daughter and sat in the one adjacent. "I can't tell you how disappointed I was in you the other day Frankie. What you did to him was just plain cruel…"

"I know but…"

"Uh uh uh…I'm not done," Beth silenced Frankie by holding her forefinger up. "I'm glad you recognize what you did was wrong…but let me finish here. He's seems like a good man honey, and he really wants to be a part of your life. Now I know you don't want that now, but I want you to consider something. Life is so short baby…look at what happened to Gina and to Daddy. I don't want you to turn your back on Jon out of spite and regret it later on. What if something was to happen to him, and you never got the chance to know him, because you were too busy holding a grudge over something he had no control over? I want you to think this through rationally sweetie because it's not only about you and him either. He has family Frankie…four children…they are your brothers and sister. Are you ready to give up on that too?"

"I…I don't…I'm not sure…I…" Her mother's argument had all but deflated her temper. "I'm so confused Mom."

At that moment the intercom buzzed.

"Shit.." Frankie muttered under her breath.

"That will be him." Beth said, looking at her watch as she crossed to the phone on the wall. She listened and then spoke into the receiver, "Yes… thank you Ron. Send him up."

"Listen to me…I won't force you into this, though it would mean a lot to me if you stayed. But regardless of whether you do decide to stay for dinner or not, I didn't raise you to be rude…So you will be polite to my guest while you are here. Do you understand?"

Frankie nodded.

"And I think you should apologize for what you did to him the other day…but that, also, is up to you." Beth removed the apron from around her waist and smoothed out the black linen pants she wore beneath. She looked over the fitted red and grey print, short sleeve crossover top to make sure it was in order and fussed with the low knot in her hair.

If Frankie didn't know better, she would have sworn her mother was primping for a date. "You look nice Mom. It's good to see you like that again." Beth had always been very meticulous about her appearance, but since Branson had died she had been taking a little less care.

To an outsider the change was barely conceivable, but those close to her had noticed the little slips. To those in the know, the small things like the lack of a manicure - which had apparently been taken care of today, and the extra time spent smoothing her hair before twisting it into an elegant knot, had been very telling.

"Thank you sweetheart." Beth smiled. "It's a good day."

Frankie knew what her mother meant. The weeks following Branson's death consisted only of bad days, desolate days on which to merely get out of bed, was a struggle. But as the months had passed, those bad days were interspersed with good days, days on which a little ray of hope broke through the clouds. Those days – the good ones – were becoming more frequent now, finally outweighing the bad. But Frankie knew, that with the anniversary of her father's death and the holidays in the not too distant future, those bad days would soon come back to consume her.

Frankie shook her head to clear the thought. "I'm glad it's getting better Mom."

"Me too Frankie…me too!" Beth started down the hall, "Are you staying?"

"I won't promise…but I will try. That's the best I can offer." Frankie was unsure of how she would react seeing him again and she didn't want to give her mother false hope.

"That's all I can ask. Here we go." She said at the sharp rap on the door.


Jon waited at Beth's door for the third time in as many days. He had been right about Dot. It had not been a pretty scene and ended with him slamming the door in her face. She was being totally unreasonable, insisting that he not expose their children to 'that sluts spawn', and he had seen red.

He had not, however, managed to escape the apartment before being waylaid by his children. He had explained to the little ones that there was a new 'friend' they may be meeting soon. This information, once filtered back to the older kids, had been of great concern and the impetus for many more questions. He was bombarded with the 'who's' and the 'when's' and the 'why's'. And now that they were becoming accustomed to the idea, the 'what is she like's and the 'does she want to meet us's. That wasn't to say they were ready to meet her…far from it. It was just curiosity.

His heart began to pound as he heard the lock click. The door swung wide and she was standing there smiling at him, a warm look of welcome on her face.

"Hello Jon," she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek and his mind drifted to the not so chaste kisses of his dream, particularly given how lovely she looked. He could feel his cheeks starting to burn, but he gave her a quick one armed hug any way. Seeing her was the first bright spot in an otherwise brutal day.

"Hey, Beth," he replied, squeezing her gently and inhaling the sweet fragrance of her hair. "How was your day?"

"It was good actually," Beth said with a soft smile. "Frankie's here."

"No shit? Does she know I'm coming?" Jon grinned as butterflies flooded his abdomen. He was both excited and worried by the prospect of spending an evening with his daughter.

"Yes, I just told her. She wasn't wild about the idea, but I used my parental powers of persuasion and I think she's going to stay."

His smile was quick and easy. "This is what I love about you Bethie."

She blinked at his words and too late, he realized how that must have sounded, but she quickly recovered. "Come on in. I hope you like roast beef and mashed potatoes."

"What red-blooded American boy doesn't?" Jon replied as he followed her into the living room.


Frankie moved into the lounge and took a seat in the single armchair. On the coffee table before her, a selection of hors d'oeuvres sat next to a bottle of white wine left chilling in a bucket and two glasses. She frowned at the spread, and wondered how she had missed it on her way through to the kitchen earlier.

"Hi Frankie…" Jon said quietly as he entered the room. She assumed he had been forewarned of her presence for there was no surprise in his tone, and only pleasure lighted his features.

She looked up at the sound of his voice and fought back a smirk as she asked, "What in the heck happened to you?"

He touched his eye and winced. "Oh…this. Like I explained to your Mom yesterday, I got on the wrong end of a friends fist. He was a little protective of Gina back in the day, and wasn't too pleased to hear about the latest turn of events. Not you of course...that bit he liked." He wondered whether he should tell her that Richie was anxious to meet her, but thought better of it. He was grateful that she was even there and didn't want to overwhelm her.

"I think I'll like him," Frankie grinned, she wasn't at the point yet where she couldn't find some perverse enjoyment in his pain.

"I think you will too." He smiled back through for a different reason…he was actually conversing with his daughter.

"Let me take that, Jon" Beth said coming from behind him to snag the bottle of wine from his hand. "I'll just put this in to chill and check on the roast. Help yourself to some hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine, I won't be a moment." She turned to her daughter with a gentle reminder, "Frankie, be gracious to our guest."

And then they were alone.

"What's that?" Frankie asked as Jon placed a heavyset book down on the end of the table.

"I uh…I bought some photos of the kids for your mother to see. Would you like to have a look?" He reached forward but let his hand drop at her response.

"Not right now thank you." She said stiffly. Though the curiosity over her siblings was eating her up, she would not give him that satisfaction.

"Maybe later?" He offered.

"Hmmm" She replied.

And that was the extent of their conversation. They sat stiffly in silence until Beth returned a few minutes later. Jon was concerned that saying the wrong thing now would have her bolting for the door…and he certainly didn't want that, so he occupied his mouth instead with the canapés.

"So how are we doing in here?" Beth asked brightly as she breezed into the room, to take a seat next to Jon on the couch. She knew exactly how things were doing. She had been standing at the door for the last few minutes hoping for some kind of interaction…but nothing.

"Great." Jon said enthusiastically. "The food is delicious Beth, as was last night's dinner. Thanks again."

"You were here for dinner last night as
well!?" Frankie scowled at him.

Jon opened his mouth to speak but Beth beat him too it. "Yes honey, he was. He came by to see if I could help him with you. When you cancelled our dinner plans, Jon stayed to keep me company. It was him that dropped the food off for you." She explained as she poured herself a glass of wine.

"Making a habit out of this aren't you." Frankie said, one eyebrow raised.

"Frankie…I will not tolerate you being rude to my guest." Beth admonished.

Frankie knew what was expected of her, "Sorry," she spat. It didn't mean she had to like it.

A buzzer went off in the kitchen. "That will be dinner ready."

"Can I help?" Jon rose as she did.

"No, I've got it. I'll just go serve up and then I'll call you in. Play nice." She cautioned Frankie as she was leaving the room.

Jon waited for Beth to leave before he sat back down. He attempted a small grin at Frankie and was met with a murderous stare.

"What are you playing at?" She hissed at him.

"What do you mean?" He asked.

"I mean…you are a married man. What do you think you are doing wining and dining my mother?"

"It's not like that Frankie. I'm here for you… not your Mom. She agreed to fill me in on your past since you were unwilling to do it yourself." He explained.

"Well if it's all innocent, does your wife know you're here?"

He cringed.

"Didn't think so." She muttered.

"It's not like that. There was a…problem at the house today. Stephanie, my eldest…well besides you I guess, overheard Dot and I discussing your mother – Gina not Beth – there was a misunderstanding and things got a little out of hand. The important thing is that the kids, the older two at least – the little ones wouldn't understand - know about you now, and understand that I want you in my life."

Beth stood quietly at the door. This was all news to her as well and she didn't want to interrupt.

"You told them about me?" Frankie looked at him perplexed.


"But why?"

"Why not?" He wanted to know why she found it so odd that he had told them.

"I thought you would be… ashamed."

"I could never be ashamed of you." He misunderstood.

"No not of me exactly…more of what you did." She clarified.

"Despite the circumstances of your conception Frankie, you are my daughter. My child as much as any of them are and I want you in my life. I am not and could never be ashamed of that." He replied fervently.

There was a long moment of silence as Frankie grappled with her thoughts. This changed so much. She had never expected him to want their relationship to be exposed. Never thought that he would let his kids find out about her...much less tell them himself. Beth's voice interrupted her contemplation.

"Dinner is served," she said formally as she moved to the coffee table to retrieve their wine glasses.

Over dinner Beth continued her stories of Frankie's childhood. It was different this time. The stories were punctuated with loud groans from Frankie as her mother disclosed some detail that was embarrassing. And Jon watched in amusement as his daughters cheeks flushed with the memory.

He told a few stories of his own. Some from the old days that included Gina, others more recent that centered on his home life and children. He was not interested in playing rock star for her; he doubted that it would have impressed her anyway. It was more than difficult enough to get her even remotely involved in the conversation when he was speaking.

Frankie sat at the table, disengaged for the most part from the conversation taking place around her. Her mind still wrestled with the implications of his children knowing. What did they think? Were they as curious about her as she now was about them? Did they want to meet her, to get to know her? She barely noticed when dessert was placed before her – her favorite crème brulee. It wasn't until her mother called her name – twice - that she snapped out of it.

"Frankie…Frankie…" Beth was standing in the doorway.

"What?" Frankie looked around her, the plates had been cleared and Jon was no longer in the room.

"Are you coming honey?"

"Oh… yeah…sorry."

"Are you ok sweetie? You're a little pale." Beth asked concerned, touching the back of her hand to her daughter's forehead.

"Yes Mom. I'm fine really." She said, removing her mother's hand from her forehead but holding it in hers. "It's just a little… overwhelming, I guess."

"Of course it is sweetheart. No one is expecting this to be easy, least of all Jon. But honey, I am just so proud of you for trying. Thank you."

"That's ok Mom. You know I'd do anything for you." She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her mother's cheek.

"Come on…Jon's in the lounge. I think he has some photos to show us."

Frankie followed Beth into the room but did not go to sit near Jon and the photo album as her mother did. Her resentment of him had not faded that much, though she had to concede that he seemed like a fairly decent person. Under different circumstances she was sure she would probably even like him. Instead, she hovered around the room. First selecting some music and setting it to play, and then clearing the plates of hors d'oeuvres. But soon enough she found herself drawn to the back of the couch – curiosity getting the best of her - where she could look over his shoulder, while he pointed out her siblings and the rest of her new found family. Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts and cousins as well as brothers and a sister all smiled up at her from the pages of the family album. His wife was also there…her step mother.

"Jon," she said softly, her tone so different to anything he had heard so far - tentative, anxious.

He looked up her; her eyes were clouded with concern, her brow furrowed. "What did they say…the kids I mean…when you told them?

He stood and walked around the couch to stand beside her. "I won't lie to you Frankie. There has been enough deception already. They weren't happy about it. I mean, look at it from their point of view, no one wants to think about their dad with another woman."

She stood quietly for a moment worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. "Do they…hate me?"

"Oh honey…they don't even know you." He said softly, moved by the emotion in her voice. "They're in shock right now. We have to give them some time. They are already curious about you, but just like with you, I'm not their favorite person right now."

"Then we should all get along really well."

From the couch Beth gripped his hand and gave it an encouraging little squeeze. It was a move not completely lost on Frankie. She would make it a point to pay greater attention to that from now on. She was not going to have her mother fall victim to his charms. Her research about him had shown up some disturbing information, and while she didn't know if the rumors of his infidelities were true, she would not take that kind of risk with her mother's already broken heart.

Jon and Frankie left shortly after - together after she accepted his offer of a lift home. Beth stopped him at the door on the way out.

"I think this will work out Jon. She will come around, just be patient with her…she still needs time." She said softy.

"I know Beth. And I have all the time in the world." The smile that he gave her then was absolutely breathtaking and she knew it was the first time she was seeing him truly happy. "Thank you."

He pulled her in for a quick hug goodbye and her body responded in every way it shouldn't. Her cheeks flushed, her heart quickened and her breathing became shallow. He smelt so good, felt so good, so masculine, his hard body pressed up against hers. Branson hadn't been so hard…years in the gallery had softened him. He had always been fit but nothing like this.

"Are we going or what?" Frankie asked holding the elevator door, interrupting her moment. She hoped he hadn't noticed her reaction.

He hadn't, he was too busy trying to control and conceal his own.

"Can we do this again in a few days?" He asked, disengaging from the hug but keeping hold of her hand.

"Of course…just call me with the day." She smiled at him softly, an image he would carry with him well into the night.

Jon pulled one of his cards from his pocket. "I've put all my numbers on it. You can catch me at anytime. I always have my cell on, unless I'm on stage and then Cynthia, my assistant, has it. If you need anything at all…anything…please call me."

"Come on!" Frankie called impatiently.

Jon smiled an apologetic smile at Beth and was gone. She leaned heavily against the door frame and stared for a long moment at the spot he disappeared into the elevator, before moving inside and heading for bed. The dishes could wait until morning.

Beth's head had barely hit the pillow before she was sound asleep. She usually looked forward to the nights, because at night she could sleep, and with sleep came dreams and with dreams came Branson. It was the only place she could be with him now. But it was a restless night, images of Frankie and Gina and Jon and his children filled her head, whirling around in a kaleidoscope of color.

It wasn't until just before dawn that the images calmed. She was standing on her balcony, overlooking Central Park, Branson's arms were around her once more as he nibbled on her neck and hummed gently in her ear. She could feel his arousal press insistently against her rounded ass, felt her own arousal grow in response. He spoke softly in her dream. "You are so beautiful Beth…my Bethie." She spun in his arms at the use of the unusual nickname, to find herself pressed not against her husband, but Jon.

Beth started awake feeing ashamed and confused. She reached for Branson's pillow and hugged it tightly to her chest, trying to fill the hole he had left there, trying to purge the images of another from her head. His scent was almost gone from the pillow now…how long would it be 'til he was forgotten completely. She couldn't bear the thought and surrendered to the tears again for the first time in weeks.