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.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chapter 15

Jon knew the exact second when Frankie realized he was comforting her. He felt her frame stiffen beneath his fingers just seconds before she flinched away from him. He reluctantly dropped his hand to his side. He knew exactly where he stood with her but the rejection still stung. She was his family, and by extension so was Beth, but they were also a family unit of their own. He wondered if he would ever be accepted into it. Rejection was not something he was accustomed to, and truth be told he really didn't know how he should deal with it.

"I'm proud of you honey. You did a great job out there…you did your Daddy proud." He said softly.

She turned to face him, and he waited for the tirade…it didn't come.

"Thanks, and thank you for what you said about daddy out there too, I appreciate it." She tried for a smile but he could tell she was fighting off another wave of tears. He supposed his presence wasn't helping…he would forever be a reminder of the father she had lost.

Frankie turned towards Beth who was looking upon her with an approving smile, "I think I might go for a walk."

"I'll come with you," Jon offered.

"NO," Frankie said…it came out a little more abruptly than she intended, "Sorry …I just need a little fresh air. I'll be fine in a few."

Beth pulled her daughter in for a brief hug whispering in her ear as she did. "Thank you."

Frankie smiled weakly at her mother, nodded towards Jon and walked away.

"I should follow..." Jon's eyes followed his daughter.

He had taken no more than a step in her direction when he felt Beth's hand on his sleeve.

"Jon, I know our daughter better than you do, she needs this time alone and if you interrupt her now it will only make her angry."

Jon let out a frustrated huff, "How am I ever going to get her to accept me?"

"It's only been a few weeks, you always knew that this wasn't something that was going to happen overnight." she reminded him gently. She took in his defeated expression, "I can see you need some distracting…and this is one of my favorite songs. Would you please dance with me? It's been a long time since I've been this dressed up and I'd love to have a proper dance with you."

Jon's face broke into a breathtaking smile, how could it not with the thought of her in his arms, despite the discord he felt in regards to Frankie. "It would be my pleasure."

Beth linked her arm through the one that he offered and followed him out to the dance floor. Only a few couples swayed in time as the orchestra played a long introduction to the Etta James classic 'At Last'. Jon led her to the centre of the floor and spun her out with a flourish before pulling her back into the warmth of his embrace, his right arm circling her waist, holding her at a close yet respectable distance. His thumb traced small circles in the flesh of her back, where the fabric of her gown draped artfully low to her waist. Chills ran through her at his touch, and he felt goose flesh rise under his fingertips.

As the music flowed from the speakers and the gentle tempo soothed them, they melted slowly into each other, her delicate right hand entwined in his left and held loosely against his heart. He hoped she could not feel the thudding of his heart that her proximity had caused. She leaned into him then and rested her head on her shoulder as they swayed, the other couples circling the floor around them. And then he began to sing, for only her to hear, his voice a whisper in her ear, his breath a warm caress on her skin.

In Jon's arms Beth forgot the pressures of her life. For the first time in she didn't know how long, she could just be. It had been so long since she had been able to let her guard down and relax, to get back to the person she was before… But she couldn't even think about that now…it seemed like a lifetime ago, now that she was here wrapped securely in this beautiful mans protective, nurturing arms.

Jon inhaled deeply, her scent infiltrated his senses, as he sang to her softly. He was sure she could hear his heart pounding now – even as he sang – with her ear pressed to his chest. This delicate flower in his arms was such a contradiction, so fragile… yet strong and as fierce as a lioness when it came to their daughter. As they danced he had an epiphany – he wanted to spend the rest of his life holding her just like this…protecting her. But that was not the half of it. The true epiphany was in that he realized that he would have wanted to do this even if she not been his daughter's mother. It was becoming fast apparent, much to his surprise, that this unusual captivating creature was fast capturing his heart.

As they danced, both lost in their own thoughts and each other, Jon and Beth failed to recognize the attention they had unconsciously garnered. Nearby a photographer snapped off a rapid fire round of photos. If he could just get the right shot he would be set for life. The money shot came for him as the music faded. He couldn't believe his luck, when in a moment so tender…so personal, the rock star pressed his lips to the woman's forehead, and left them there just a second longer that propriety allowed for a married man and a grieving widow. That photo, coupled with the information he had overheard earlier, should guarantee him that staff position he had been vying for.

Not so close, but potentially more dangerous was another spectator. Frankie watched in horror as her mother succumbed to the letch's charms, as she seemed to meld herself to him until they were practically one being. She couldn't believe her mother was that gullible, so susceptible to his charms? She had always thought her to be an intelligent woman…surely she could see his intent.

Above the dismay she felt in regards to her mother's situation, was the annoyance she felt at herself. For a little while earlier in the evening, when he had spoken of her father so respectfully, she had actually begun to…well not like him exactly…but she had begun to empathize with his situation. That empathy had dissipated the second he had taken her mother in his manipulating arms. She would show him that the way to her heart was not through her mother's bed.

"Thank you for the dance Jon," Beth smiled at him warmly as she drew back from his embrace, nervously fixing her hair. The kiss he had just placed on her forehead had left her tingling in places that had no right to tingle. "It was nice to let go for a while."

Despite her best efforts, Jon sensed Beth's sudden discomfort at the lack of distance between them, and took a step back. "It was my pleasure Bethie. It's been a long time since I enjoyed something so much."

"Thank you. That's kind of you to say," he certainly is a charmer, she thought. "Now if you'll excuse me I see a few of the guests are leaving, and I have to say my goodbyes and thank yous. I guess I should make you my first though. No need for you to hang around now that work is over with. So thank you for your support and your kind words about Branson, it meant a great deal to me, and I'll see you next week for our usual dinner." She pressed a brief kiss to his cheek and was gone before he even had an opportunity to respond.

Jon moved off to the side of the room, but did not leave. He watched as Beth worked the room, saying her goodbyes and courting the big donors. He was hoping to get the opportunity to talk to her again before leaving, perhaps even drive her home.

While Jon watched Beth, Frankie watched him. She was astounded at the audacity of this man who would come to her father's memorial only to flirt with her mother. In only a few long strides she was at his side. He was so enthralled in watching her mother he didn't notice her presence until she spoke.

Frankie's words were barely above a whisper. "I know what you're up to."

Jon chose to ignore his daughter's veiled accusation. He turned towards her,"Frankie, you were really amazing tonight. I am so proud of you sweetheart, that couldn't have been easy for you."

"Did you hear what I said?" she asked through gritted teeth.

"Uh, what am I up to?"

"I see how you look at mom."

Jon did not speak but a single brow inched high on his forehead.

"You're not going to get away with it you know."

"Be careful that you don't say something here that you will eventually regret Frankie," he cautioned her. "Besides, I really have no idea what you're talking about."

"I am talking about…" Frankie surveyed the room and lowered her voice, "I am talking about you taking advantage of my mother."

Jon's eyes widened in shock, a grin spread across his face and he burst into laughter.

She crossed her arms defensively and her brow furrowed, "Don't laugh at me," she said, with so much petulance he almost expected her to stamp her foot.

Jon suppressed a chuckle to speak. "How exactly do you think I'm taking advantage of your mom?"

"You are using her venerability to manipulate her into helping you get what you want."

"And what is it that I want?" he asked still smirking, he couldn't help it…she was quite cute when she was like this.

"Me for one thing!" She stated matter-of-factly. "As for what else you want from her…well those motives aren't quite clear yet but may I remind you that you are a married man."

"You know something Frankie? I find it amazing that you've turned into such an egocentric princess given how grounded your mother is," he chided, "You should be ashamed of yourself. Just because I'm a married man doesn't mean I can't have female friends, besides…did it ever occur to you that your mother and I may share some interests other than YOU?"

"That makes it even worse," she sulked.

"What makes it even worse? Does your mother not deserve to have a life now that your father is gone?" Jon rationalized, his amusement of the situation rapidly waning.

"Well you haven't been looking at her like a friend tonight…" she was right about this. She knew she was.

"Frankie honey, why don't you get a little life experience before you start saying shit like this? I'm not going to have some nineteen year old kid tell me how I'm looking at a woman. My relationship with your mother started because I wanted to learn more about you and you're such a stubborn little brat I figured it would be easier to go through her. Now we have forged a friendship and to be honest I really don't care what you think about that." He wondered why he was rationalizing this to her, could it be because he was trying to justify his behavior to himself.

"I'm old enough to know what that look means Jon...I'm not some innocent little kid."

"Oh c'mon Frankie…give me a fucking break. Are you telling me I'm not allowed to look at her now?" He asked exasperated.

"Not like that you're not!"

"Like what Frankie? Please enlighten me because as far as I'm concerned we were just sharing a lovely evening honoring your late father. Jesus kid…give me credit for having a little decency would you?" He could see this conversation deteriorating fast.

"Maybe when you show me a reason why I should…" She trailed off.

Jon let out a sigh of exasperation "Seriously Frankie…please tell me when I was supposedly giving her this 'look'. Describe it for me?"

"Oh I'm sure you don't really need me to do that for you, but since you asked, it's the look that says you want to slam her up against a wall with her legs around your waist...believe me I know that look well…I get it all the time."

Fuck but she enjoyed pushing his buttons. "Ok, seriously, Frankie that is so uncalled for. First of all, I really don't care to hear about you receiving those looks because like it or not I am your father, at least by birth, and the thought of anyone giving you looks like that really makes me want to rip someone's head off."

That elicited a smirk from her.

"Secondly," he continued, "and this is the one that really pisses me off young lady… what you just said is not only disrespectful to me, it is disrespectful to your mother, and I don't allow any of my children to be disrespectful of their mother. I can assure you that the last thing in the world I was thinking of tonight was…"he paused momentarily, "well…that. Do you want to know what I was thinking when I looked at your mom?"

"I'd rather not"

He spoke over her, "I was thinking what an amazing woman she is to organize all of this in your father's name. And you will listen to what I have to say because it's time somebody started telling you the shit that you don't want to hear. You are a fucking spoiled brat who doesn't have her head screwed on straight and I'm just thankful you have a mom as strong as Beth is to deal with you because lord knows if I was having to, I wouldn't be quite as patient as she is."

Frankie flinched at his harsh assessment of her, and then retaliated the only way she knew how. "Yeah well I'm sorry Mr. Bon Jovi but despite what you say, tonight your eyes and body were telling another story."

"My body??" He shook his head incredulous. "What the fuck were you looking at?"

"You wrapped around her on the dance floor...could you have gotten any fucking closer??" she spat.

"Frankie!!!!" Beth approached from the direction of the exit. She had said goodnight to the last of her major donors, now only a few stragglers remained. Both Frankie and Jon tuned towards the sound of her voice. "Francesca Gina Carol McKenzie…"

"It's ok Beth…I have this" Jon stood erect, his shoulders squared.

Beth glared at up at him, "No you most certainly do not have this, but I'll deal with you in a moment." She spun on Frankie so fast the girl didn't see what was coming. She was too busy being amused by her mother's treatment of him. "Frankie, what on earth were you just saying to him?"

"Nothing!" Oh fuck!

"Don't give me that attitude young lady." Here it comes.

"It was nothing. Don't worry about it."

"You're damned right I'm going to worry about it. Now tell me what you just said because I want to make sure I heard it clearly."

"But I didn't say anything wrong Mama," Frankie replied sweetly.

Beth flashed a glance at Jon, who was standing by with a stern paternal look on his face.

"Don't think you can play that Mama card with me right now, Francesca. Tell me what you said…Now young lady."

"I don't like that he's manipulating you to get to me." Frankie blurted quickly.

There was a sharp intake of breath from Beth. Jon just stood by silently and shook his head, he was enjoying watching Frankie wedge her foot further into her mouth.

"Ok…but I know that's not what you were saying when I walked up…and I want to know how exactly you think he is manipulating me?"

"By being all adoring and flirty."

"I am ashamed of you Frankie," Beth said, with an apologetic glance in Jon's direction.

"Why? What did I do wrong? He started this."

"First of all, did it ever occur to you that Jon and I might be friends? That perhaps I enjoy his company. And I would hardly classify the way he behaves around me as adoring and flirty and even if it were, don't you think I have enough sense to know the difference?"

"Really Mom…I don't think you do at the moment. Look at what just happened on the dance floor." Frankie reasoned.

"We were dancing Frankie. I asked him to dance. It's what friends do in settings like this where there is music." Beth explained indulgently, as if she was speaking to a small child.

"But Mom you're still grieving for daddy." As the words were spoken aloud, Frankie realized they now held little truth. Of course her mother loved her father, and missed him dearly but she was no longer actively grieving him, not like she did in the beginning. She was finally getting back to living…to being happy. She wondered how much of that could be attributed to Jon. Beth had started coming back to herself when he had come into their lives. A moment of doubt gripped her. Maybe he was good for her. No! I can't think like that…I'm right about this, she thought.

"You leave your father out of this conversation right now. I can't believe I'm even having this discussion on this night when we are supposed to be honoring him."

"Tell me about it. You might have been dancing Mama but he," Frankie thumbed in Jon's direction, "was wishing it was more."

Off to the side Jon shifted uncomfortably, the movement was infinitesimal, but it was there.

Beth stared down her daughter incredulously, "You are being ridiculous Frankie. I appreciate the fact that you feel you have to be protective of me but really I'm a big gi…"

"Beth I…" Jon interrupted, but stopped the second Beth turned to him, glaring sternly.

"You," she pointed in his direction, "You need to be quiet for a moment please."

Jon took a step backwards, making a quick sweep of the room to see how much attention the altercation had attracted. Thankfully, from what he could see, those remaining were all engaged in their own conversations.

Beth shot another quick glance at Jon, who was looking more than a little uncomfortable now as he scanned the room, before turning her attention back to her daughter. "Frankie I'm assuming I'm not going to need you to take care of me for at least another fifty years or so. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you could give me the respect that is due your mother. I have always tried to treat you like an adult except when you act like a child and right now you're acting like a six year old."

"Mama...you know I respect you." Frankie replied abashed, she hated that she made her mother feel disrespected. "I just don't trust him," she defended.

"You don't trust him because of your own personal feelings about his relationship with your birth mother, but that has nothing to do with me." Beth rationalized. "I am a forty two year old woman, Frankie, I can assure you that I know how to judge whether someone is trustworthy or not. Jon has been nothing but a good friend to me. Aren't I allowed to have good friends in my life again? Was I supposed to stop living as well when your father died Frankie?"

"Mama I didn't mean..."

Beth put a hand up to stop her daughter "I am sure you didn't. But as far as I'm concerned this conversation is closed and if you ever bring it up again…and most importantly, if I ever hear you being rude to my friend Jon again, I will take you straight to the bathroom and wash your mouth out with soap just like I did when you were six."

"I'm sorry Mama." Guess I just have to make sure you don't hear me then, she thought to herself as she dropped her eyes to the floor, shooting a sideways scowl in Jon's direction.

Beth turned her attention back to Jon, "You and I need to have a private conversation Jon." How could he have been so thoughtless as to engage their daughter in that conversation…and here of all places?

"Beth I'm sorry I was just..." This time the hand was directed at him, and he had the exact same reaction as his daughter…he paused mid sentence.

"Stop, right now, this instant," Beth said firmly. "I am too angry to think clearly and I still have more guests to thank. I would appreciate it if you would stay put until I finish that because there is something I need to say to you."

Despite the threat of confrontation in her words, Jon couldn't help the little thrill that ran through him at the thought of getting to spend more time with her.

"Frankie, it has been a long night and you need to get home."

"Yes Mama," she said quietly.

Once again Beth turned to Jon, "would you please call a car for her?"

"It's ok Beth...I'll take her myself." Jon immediately offered. He wasn't looking forward to driving with the sullen teen, but he had to do something to get back into her mother's good graces.

"I can get myself home," Frankie protested, but one piercing glare from her mother stopped her dead. "Fine!" she glowered.

Jon continued as if Frankie hadn't spoken, "By the time I get her home you should be done. I'll come straight back for you. We can talk then."

"Thank you Jon that will be fine." She offered him what had the promise of a smile before turning to her daughter for the last time that evening. "Frankie, I will consider excusing you for your rudeness this evening if you can manage to show him the young lady I raised you to be on your trip home."

"Yes Mama"

Beth reached for Frankie and pulled her into a warm hug, taking the opportunity to whisper in her ear. "Honey I know you're just trying to look out for me, and really, I appreciate the fact that you want to protect me, but you're all wrong about this. So please, don't be rude to Jon any more, ok? At least not on my behalf, what happens between you and him is between you and him but I will not tolerate rudeness from you."

"Yes Mama...but I am right...there is something there…at least there is for him."

"Stop! You're being ridiculous. Jon is a married man with a family. We are just friends. Stop reading things into the situation that aren't there." Beth replied. The strength of her conviction surprised her. Especially given that she had caught a glimpse of what her daughter was so vehemently promoting.

"If you say so Mom."

"Now go, and be nice!" Beth said.

"Of course Mama," Frankie pulled away and kissed her mother on the cheek.

Beth smiled a small tight smile at Jon, and nodded as she turned back to her guests.

Jon stared after Beth with a bemused expression. Without looking at his daughter he addressed her, "I didn't realize your mother had such a temper."

"That was nothing. You just wait. We had an audience for my dressing down, you won't be so lucky." Frankie replied smugly.

"Great!" was all he could muster. "Did you bring a coat or a wrap or anything?"

"It's in the cloak room."

"Give me the ticket and wait here."

Frankie handed him the ticket begrudgingly, but she thought it was best to play nice. She watched him walk away and followed.

Jon heard the click of her heals behind him, but the time he turned she was at his shoulder. "Didn't I tell you wait? Don't you ever do as you're told?"

"Not often...and certainly not by you," she grinned sardonically.

Jon let out an exasperated sigh, "Let's get you home. I don't want to be late in getting back for your Mom."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chapter 14


Jon stood at the bar of the Mandarin Oriental's Ballroom, amused by the eclectic group gathered to pay tribute to the late Branson McKenzie. It was coming up on a year since Branson had passed in just a few short weeks, and Beth had thought it fitting to organize a Gala in his honor. Her hope was to raise funds for a new scholarship program in Branson's name, to help aspiring young artists from underprivileged backgrounds. Of course, when asked, Jon had agreed to perform at the event – anything to help get his daughter on side.

He and Frankie were making progress but it was slow and hard going. She was civil to him now, and they even managed the occasional conversation but not much more could be said beyond that. He made a point to see her at least once a week besides their weekly dinners, if only for a few minutes at Beth's house, where he seemed to be spending more and more time. After Beth's car accident and Jon's subsequent dismissal from her house – at least that was how he had seen it – she had called to apologize and explained it was only because she had felt guilty for monopolizing the time he should have been spending with his kids. Of course he told her there was nothing to forgive, and their budding friendship was restored.

The 'family' dinners were going very well. Jon was enjoying immensely the opportunity to get to know his daughter from the woman who raised her – all the little quirks and tidbits of information that Frankie herself would not consider important but yet were so vital to the person she had become.

Frankie herself had joined them for every dinner thus far, and Jon wondered if it was because she wanted to get to know him as she claimed, or to chaperone him and Beth. He often caught her looking between them, a bemused expression on her face.

Beyond the knowledge of his daughter that he was gaining, and the time spent with her, Jon enjoyed the dinners simply for Beth's company. They had fallen into an easy rapport, both of them having Frankie's best interests at heart. Their dinners were very comfortable now. Conversation flowed as easily as the wine they drank, often to Frankie's annoyance. She did not comprehend her mother's compulsion to help this stranger, to grant him access to their lives, and she made no secret of it. She still had no knowledge of Beth's accident, and so didn't understand the bond that had formed between the two of them so quickly.

While all was going well in his relationship with Beth and Frankie – as well as could be expected with the later – his home life had fallen into a steep decline. His relationship with the children was fine, great in fact – they were curious about Frankie, and the older two often came to see him after his dinner with her for a full briefing. They had, only the day before, asked when it would be possible for them to meet her. He had explained that he didn't think Frankie was quite ready for that yet.

It was his relationship with his wife that was posing the problem. Despite her best efforts to conceal it, her resentment of the time he spent with Frankie was obvious and her snide remarks about his relationship with Beth had become intolerable. It was becoming harder for him to be around her. Even when she was trying to be nice, there was a falseness about it that he could no longer stomach. He found himself avoiding her now as much as possible, arranging his schedule so that he would have time with the kids when she was otherwise occupied.

Jon found it was difficult to resolve his feelings where his wife was concerned. He still loved her. How could he not? She had given him four beautiful children, had supported him throughout his career and all of his indiscretions. But that support was no longer there, and it seemed the more time he spent with Beth, the more he remembered what a relationship should be like…what a partnership should be like. Reliving with her memories of her life with Branson and Frankie, he could see what a family could be…should be.

And that was where the difficulty lie, because in seeing that, he recognized that a lot of the problems in his marriage were his fault. He wasn't there like Branson had been. Sure he provided his family with a nice life…hell, a great life…but what was that life if he wasn't there with them. He could see now how Dot had evolved into the person she had become. Looking back, sharing his own memories with his new family, he recognized it as the slow gradual change that it was, a change that could possibly have been prevented with just a little more care and attention from him. He also recognized, with sadness, that now it was too far past the point where it could be rectified.

He focused his attention on the present. The black tie event had attracted a strange mix of people; quite different from the Gala's he was used to. He nodded politely and tried to suppress a grin, as a rather robust woman with bright blue spiky hair paraded in front of him and winked salaciously in his direction.

On closer inspection, for the most part the crowd really was rather ordinary but for the few brave standouts - such as his new found friend – that made him feel as though he was in an alien world. He scanned the room for any sign of his daughter but came up short. Then on the other side of the room he spotted her, she was far from being his daughter. She was however, by far the most beautiful woman in the room. Elegant and graceful and swathed in a deep blue Satin sheath that clung enticingly in all the right places and flowed fluidly in all the rest. Sleeveless with a plunging neckline that enhanced enticingly the gentle curve of her breasts, the dress perfectly complimented her ivory skin and dark curls.

The woman turned to smile at him, and in his mind the crowd all but disappeared as she floated across the room. There was no other way to describe the way she moved, so fluid and smooth. It wasn't until she was right in front of him that Jon was able to reconcile exactly what he was seeing. This stunning ethereal creature was Beth – his Bethie. He was so used to seeing her in casual day clothes that it was hard for him to believe it was the same woman.

"Good evening Jon," she greeted him formally but leant forward to place a soft familiar kiss on his cheek.

Neither of them was aware of the camera that flashed bright as her ruby lips made contact with his skin.    

Jon silently breathed out the word whoa. "Beth…you look…well stunning just doesn't seem to cover it really…exquisite perhaps. Yet I don't think even that does you justice tonight. I am a wordsmith lost for words."

Beth blushed under his intense gaze and flattery but accepted it gracefully. "Thank you very much Jon. I must say this is quite the departure from your usual jeans and T-shirts." She said grasping his lapel between her thumb and forefinger and running them down its length. "You look very dashing. Oh my, do people even say that anymore?" She giggled…how was it exactly that he was managing to make her this nervous, she felt tipsy but hadn't had so much as a sip of wine.

Jon grinned at her lopsidedly, "Bethie honey, looking like that, I am most positive you could get away with saying anything you wanted, to anyone and most definitely to me." Shit…shit, shit…maybe that was a bit too full on. Tone it down you idiot. You're still married and this is her husband's memorial for fucks sake.

Oh my God…is he actually flirting with me? Beth wondered. She was very out of practice with the whole singles scene… her and Branson had been high school sweethearts who had married straight out of college. Thoughts of her husband triggered feelings of guilt within her. It seemed she had been feeling that way a lot lately. What was it about this man that had her emotions so bamboozled all the time?

The silence stretched on as both of them were lost in their own thoughts. It was Jon that finally spoke first to break it, sticking to a safer topic.

"Is Frankie here? I haven't seen her." He asked as he once again scanned the room for his daughter.

Beth let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. "She is, yes. She ducked out the back when she saw you come in. Sorry." Beth tilted her head slightly and gave a little shrug of her shoulders in resignation.

Jon shook his head, "Do you think she'll ever really come around?"

Beth placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and squeezed lightly, marveling at the hard muscle beneath her fingers. "Give her time Jon…she's your daughter, she will come around eventually. I just think that it is particularly hard for her today because she wishes things could have been different …that Branson was here to see all this."

"And that I wasn't….right?" Jon said sadly.

"I'm not going to lie to you Jon and say she isn't having…" Beth paused to find the right word, issues… no, that wasn't right, "…difficulty accepting you being here. In some small way she is still holding you responsible…" At Jon's look of distress she explained, "Oh Jon, please don't take that the wrong way. She knows it's irrational…that it isn't really your fault. She just needs someone to blame, and at the moment, you're a convenient target."

"Well, I wish someone would take the bull's-eye off my back so we can get past it and she can allow me to be a father to her. I'm not trying to take Branson's place Beth, God knows I never could even if I wanted to, but I think I've been a pretty good father to the rest of my kids…I just want the chance to be that for her now. I've already missed so much…" There was an edge to his voice…a hint of desperation.

Beth knew he was sincere in his sentiments but her daughter's decisions were her own to make. If Frankie chose not to see Jon, she… and Jon would just have to respect that. After the year her daughter had suffered, Beth had no intention of forcing her into a relationship she quite simply wasn't ready for.

"I know Jon…just keep the faith…okay? It will all come in good time." Beth was surprised to see a grin playing at the corner of those gorgeous lips of his.

"You trying to make a funny Beth?" He asked amused.


"Keep the Faith…" He replied pointedly.

"Ohh…yeah. That was one of yours wasn't it? Sorry, it really wasn't intentional." Beth's smile took his breath away. "So what are you singing for us tonight?"

"Hmmm I really hadn't decided…any requests?" He asked.

"Sorry… I'm not all that familiar with your work. " Beth replied, seemingly abashed.

He smiled gently, "You know, I can sing other songs…"

"Ummm… do you know 'Lean on Me'? It was one of Branson's favorites."

Thank God she picked one he knew, he thought. "Sure thing…anything else?"

"He was a huge Beatles fan," she offered.

"Good…good. I have the perfect song for that."

"Oh and…" she paused.


"Well…I do like that new one of yours that been playing on the radio…what's it called?"

"Make a Memory?" He suggested. He was pleased to know she'd been paying attention.

In reality she had come to know a lot more of his music. Over the last couple of months she had gathered a rather extensive Bon Jovi catalogue and his CD's were a constant in her player of late but she didn't want him to know that.

"Yes that's it...perfect." She beamed up at him. She was positively glowing. His heart skipped a beat.

"Um… I think I have time for a couple more…Do you want me to pick them?"

"Sure…I trust you completely." As she spoke the words, she realized she meant the in more than just the context of the present conversation.

Over the last weeks he had earned her trust, she no longer had any reservations at all where Jon was concerned. She knew that he only had Frankie's best interests at heart, so she resolved herself to helping him in any way possible to forge a relationship with their daughter – now that was still an uncomfortable thought…their daughter.

"Alright then…when do you want me up there?" He was anxious to get the show on the road now.

Beth looked at her watch. "I guess in about an hour or so. I have to make a speech, and then Frankie's up before you."

"Frankie's speaking as well? I didn't know that." He looked towards the small stage in surprise.

"No Jon. Frankie is singing…I guess she didn't tell you after all…" Beth frowned.

"I…I didn't know she sang. I mean I knew she could, you told me about the lessons and I heard her at the…that one time I told you about," he still couldn't bring himself to say the cemetery, "but I didn't know she actually sang…in public, I mean."

"To be honest…she doesn't usually. She doesn't like drawing unnecessary attention to herself, but she wanted to do this for her Dad. It's her goodbye I guess...and she is determined to get through it." Beth watched Jon's face very carefully for any signs of discomfort but they just weren't there. His features were smooth…calm, if anything they only showed concern.

"I can understand that but it won't be easy for her. Richie and I did a concert in memory of his father earlier this year and Beth…it was tough. I mean it's hard to talk when you're emotional, right?" She nodded in response. "Well it's damn near impossible to sing. I had that lump in my throat all damn night and was on the verge of tears several times. Hell, I did cry a couple of them. And it was worse for Richie of course."

"Do you think I should stop her?"

Jon shook his head. "No. Not if it's what she feels she needs to do. If she is even a little like me…well that hard headed determination will get her through it. Just be there to support her when she comes off."

"Yes" Beth agreed. "I'd better get back to mingling. I'll see you backstage…just come back when I finish my speech so you're ready as soon as Frankie is done."

"No problem." Jon lifted a hand in goodbye and watched Beth's hips sway seductively as she crossed the room. He didn't think she was even aware of the sexual energy she exuded. It just came naturally to her. It wasn't the contrived sexuality that he was so often exposed to. This was subtle, but oh so intense.


Just shy of an hour later Jon made his way to the side of the stage. Frankie stood silently watching her Mom at the podium, a beat up old acoustic guitar case sat at her feet. Jon walked over to stand beside her.

"Hey baby." He whispered close to her ear.

Frankie's jaw clenched, "I. Am. Not. Your. Baby!"

"Sorry. She's doing well," he said indicating the stage with a slight nod.

"Shhhh" Frankie scowled at him and pointed at her mother who was just finishing up her speech.

"Sorry...of course." Jon clasped his hands loosely before him and waited for Beth to finish.

Her voice had remained calm and steady throughout the speech but broke slightly as she began to introduce Frankie. "All of you know what a wonderful man Branson was. He was my heart, my soul, my reason for living sometimes. But many of you may not know our daughter, Frankie. She was the light of Branson's life, and I know she misses him very much, as much as I do. She has a special song she'd like to dedicate to her 'Daddy'."

As her mother spoke Frankie retrieved a beautiful old Tamaki from its case and walked slowly out on to the stage. She took a seat on the high stool that had been placed in a spotlight just to the left of the podium, braced her right leg on the rung at the bottom and propped her guitar on her knee.

She took a deep breath and spoke clearly into the microphone, "I miss you Daddy, this one's for you."

Another deep breath and she began to sing…

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful baby
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through through it all

Her voice rang out clear and strong, Jon was impressed by its intensity. His eyes flicked between Frankie on stage, and Beth who stood beside him. He could see in the set her jaw that she was concerned for their daughter. He bridged the gap between them to offer her his hand, her fingers entwined in his grateful for the support and she offered him a small smile.

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all


Only a professional would have detected the strain in Frankie's voice, to Jon's practiced ear it was obvious. Beth also sensed Frankie's difficulty, and gripped Jon's hand just that little bit tighter.


I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

Tears began to stream down Frankie's cheeks as she sang. Her voice broke and Jon took a step forward, but Beth restrained him whispering in his ear. "She needs to do this Jon. If you go out there now she will never forgive you."

Her voice was weak but Frankie managed to pull it together and carry on.

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

When the song was finished Frankie remained on the stool her head bowed. The room erupted in applause but she did not move. This time when Jon made to walk forward Beth allowed it. She smiled at him gently through her tears and nodded.

Jon walked over to Frankie and switched her mic off before he spoke, "Are you okay honey? Do you want me to help you off?"

She shook her head weakly indicating 'No'. He pulled the mic from the stand and turned it back on.

"Let's have another hand for Frankie McKenzie everyone." The applause was thunderous. Jon waited for it to die down before he spoke again and watched Frankie leave the stage and find the comfort of her mother's arms. A lump formed in his throat. "What an amazing daughter Branson had, I'm beginning to realize just how special and unique she is. It takes an exceptional individual to nurture a child – I know just how hard it is, I have four of my own – Branson and Beth have done a wonderful job with their daughter. Her courage and devotion, speak to the kind of man he was. I had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions, through various charities and business dealings. He was a family man, a man of great conviction, a community leader whose generosity of not only money, but time will be sorely missed. We gather here today to pay tribute to this great man and to honor him and his life by digging deep in our pockets to give to this worthy cause. To encourage you to do so, I am here to entertain you this evening. Now, I don't know that I can do the stage justice after Frankie's very moving performance, but I will do my best. Beth shared with me earlier a few of Branson's favorite songs. I'd like to begin with one of them now. Ladies and Gentlemen… 'Lean on Me'"

Frankie clung to Beth in the wings of the stage, obviously distressed, as Jon performed his set. It was short, only five songs. Even still on more than one occasion he considered leaving the stage. If Frankie could do it he could too. He drew from her strength and managed to complete the set comprising of 'Lean on Me', followed by the Beatles classic 'A Little Help From My Friends' and Jon's own 'Make a Memory' and 'Thank You For Loving Me'. He rounded out the set with Paul Simons' 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.

He bowed graciously at the crowd's applause and promptly left the stage, it was the longest five songs of his life, knowing that his daughter was at the side of the stage in pain. He placed a gentle comforting hand on Frankie's back, and for once she did not shrink away from him, she was too caught up in emotion and the comfort of her mother to even notice he was there.