"Care to explain this asshole?" Jon woke with a start as the morning paper was flung into his face.
"Dorothea…What the FUCK?" He exclaimed, jolting upright and scrabbling to grab the paper before it hit the guest room floor.
"Page six Jon."
"Awe c'mon Dot...you woke me for a fucking gossip column. Aren't we done with this yet? You know it's all BS." Jon said dismissively flinging the paper aside and scratching at the fur on his bare chest.
Jon rolled his eyes, but retrieved the paper, flicking through until he came to the offending article. Fuck, he thought, this isn't good. And he hadn't even begun to read yet. Several photos of the benefit were splashed across the page, the most prominent two showing him kissing Beth in greeting and then kissing her forehead later in the evening. The photographer had caught the intimacy of the moment perfectly, for a moment Jon's thoughts drifted as he wondered if it would be possible to get a copy.
"Well?" Dorothea asked impatiently…the scowl she wore was now a permanent fixture on her once calm face.
"Geez Dot...gimme a break you just startled me awake," he said and mentally added, not to mention dragged me from another very pleasant dream, "give me a chance to get my bearings will you?"
"Just read it!"
Jon scanned the headline…nothing so unusual there…
Jersey Rock Royalty Givin' Love A Bad Name??
That was par for the course, it was one extreme to the other. He was either the poster boy for a rock n roll marriage, or he was jumping into bed with his latest co-star. He read further on…
Looks like the King of Happily Married Rock Stars may be getting a bit tired of his same-old, same-old. Insiders tell us none other than Jon Bon Jovi, who will be celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary next spring, was spotted on the town in In Why See with a lovely widow. Friends say they're just acquaintances, but our photogs snapped some pics that tell quite a different story. Bon Jovi was partying until the wee hours of the ayem at a benefit honoring the late Branson McKenzie, former husband of the fresh-faced lovely who spent quite a bit of time in the arms of our favorite Jersey boy.
JBJ has kept up his family man persona for several years now and he and wife Dorothea Hurley are the proud parents of four. Some in the know think there may be a fifth child on the horizon for the star, but since the current Mrs. Bon Jovi isn't sporting a bump, we're assuming this may be a child from another liaison. Never mind that sultry little deet, Bon Jovi's sexy blue eyes, not to mention his hands, never seemed to leave Miss Mystery, who was cloaked in an elegant Versace ball gown that showed off her teensy taut bod. Perhaps the merry widow could shed some light on what is sure to develop into a fascinating story...
"Fuck," he cursed loudly.
"Yes it would seem you did," Dot spat sarcastically. "She's pregnant Jon? How could you?"
"What are you talking about woman? No one is pregnant. Hell I would have had to sleep with her for that to happen. I already told you there is nothing between us."
Dot snatched the paper from his grasp. "That…," she pointed to the incriminating photos, "that does not look like nothing to me."
Jon ran his hand through his hair and let out an exasperated sigh. He threw the sheets back and stalked through to the bathroom. When he returned to the bedroom a couple minutes later – dressed in jeans and a T and a lot calmer – Dot was standing staring at the rumpled sheets on the bed. Jon flushed a little when he saw what had caught her attention…the laundry hadn't been done yet he realized.
Dot raised an eyebrow as she looked at him but said nothing.
He spoke in an effort to distract her attention. "I will say this again Dot…there is nothing between Beth and I but friendship." As the words left his mouth, Jon prayed that the paparazzi that had snagged the photos at the benefit hadn't tailed him to Beth's. If he had… there would be much worse to come.
"The kid?" Dot persisted.
"I would assume that was referring to Frankie." He explained. "I'm guessing someone heard something they shouldn't have. Let's say that Frankie was a little resistant to my presence."
"This ungrateful child has caused you nothing but grief Jon…why are you persisting with this? It's quite obvious she doesn't want you in her life." She pointed out.
"Would you have me give up so easy if it was one of our kids that were behaving the same way?" He asked. "Stephy doesn't want her old man around half the time now…should I give up on her too?" His tone was icy.
"I didn't mean… That's different Jon. You know Stephy loves you. With her it's just typical growing pains."
"Yeah well hopefully with a little time and patience Frankie will grow to love me too…she hasn't had the pleasure of my wit and charming personality for the last nineteen years." He grinned.
"I'm not seeing anything here worth smiling over Jon."
"You'd rather I cry?"
"I'd rather not deal with this at all." Dot dropped into the wing chair in the corner of the room, her shoulders slumped. "Look at what this is doing to us Jon. We don't even talk anymore…everything is an argument now. All since this girl came into your life. And my god Jon the kids…what are they gonna say about this?"
At that moment Jon's cell phone rang out from the side table. He crossed the room in a couple of strides and picked it up, he recognized the number immediately.
"Don't you dare answer that Jon" Dots tone was steely.
He shot her a defiant look and flipped the phone open. "Hey," there was a pause as the person on the other end of the line spoke, "Yeah I saw it," another pause, "I know…don't worry we'll deal with her together…I'll be there soon. I just have to deal with the fallout here first."
Jon crossed the room and retrieved his wallet from the small bureau, Dot's intense gaze following his every move. "No, it's fine…I'm dealing with it," he responded to a question, "I don't know…we haven't discussed that yet. I don't think so though. Look I'm gonna go. The sooner I get through here the sooner I can get there and we can handle this. Warn Tom I'm coming so he can let me straight through…I'm guessing there'll be a press ambush downstairs." There was one last pause. "Ok…see you soon."
"I assume that was her?" Dot asked venomously.
"It was Beth…yes." He replied calmly, "She wants to get to Frankie before she sees the paper. Where are the kids? Have they seen this?"
"We are not telling them about this." Her voice was firm.
"Be reasonable Dot…They are going to find out. Better they hear it from me now. It's not like they don't know about Frankie anyway." Jon implored.
"No. I will not have them exposed to your indiscretions. It's always been our agreement Jon…do what you like but be discrete…and you royally screwed that condition this time."
"They need to hear this from me before it gets out of hand. I'm going to speak to them Dot. I'm sorry but you don't have the power of veto in this instance." He said his mouth set in a grim unyielding line. "You know you should take a lesson in manners from her. Beth was concerned about you and the kids and how you're handling it, yet you don't give a shit about Beth and Frankie and what this is doing to them."
"Stealing another woman's husband counts as good manners does it?" Dot spat. Anger flashed dangerously in Jon's eyes. He opened his mouth to protest, but Dot didn't give him the chance. "Awe hell Jon…this is just so fucking like you! Could you for one minute try to look at this from my point of view? I'm trying to protect my family here. Maybe Frankie is part of your family, and in your typical fucked up twisted way you think her mother is now too, but they are not part of my family."
Dot assessed his mood. Watched the clenching of his jaw and took in the resolution in his stance…the set of his shoulders and the way his feet were planted firmly on the floor. She realized there would be no backing down for him in this. She couldn't win when he was like this…she would just have to deal. She moved to stand before him. "So are you gonna stick around for the fallout? Or are you going to leave that to me as usual?"
"I'll be here to answer the kids questions if that's what you mean…but I have another child to think of here too. This is going to be a lot harder on her and her mother than it will be on any of you." Jon made no attempt to move past her. It would be better for the kids if they could provide a unified front.
Dot crossed her arms over her chest, "Hmph… how do you figure that?"
"You and the kids have always been exposed to this side of my job. Frankie and Beth have not. Can you please be reasonable here Dottie?" he asked trying to appeal to her better nature. She really was a very good person at heart and he recognized how hard on her all of this had been. "I know this is hard on you…but please…think back to the first time something like this happened to you."
"I don't have to think too far back Jon," Dot said quietly, "This is the first time there has been any foundation to the gossip. The rumors and lies I can handle…but this…"
"Dot, could you consider just giving them a chance? I mean, I know you probably wouldn't ever come to see Frankie as your daughter, or your step-daughter even, but I think if you just got to know her you'd really like her. She's a lot like you in fact…" Dot stood silently before him looking sullen. He continued, "… and Beth is just...well put yourself in her place. She just lost her husband, now her child's birth father has come on the scene and it's me. I don't want her to feel insecure, like I'm trying to take Frankie, or that I want to take Branson's spot in her life. Can't you see why I would feel like I need to befriend her? Because honestly Dot, if she doesn't like me, and is against me and Frankie forming a relationship with each other, then I am royally fucked, because just like how our kids are with you, they are very, very protective of each other. Trust me, Frankie's already chewed me out about my friendship with Beth, even though she realizes it's mainly just to get closer to her."
Dot couldn't meet her husband's eyes when next she spoke, she didn't want to see the lie in his response. "Maybe that's what it started out as, Jon, but pictures don't lie. I know the look in your eyes in those photos."
"Dottie, c'mon now. You've been around this forever. It was a lucky angle, good lighting, whatever you want to call it. Whatever you think you're seeing there is just not there. Do I like Beth? Yes, as a friend, and as a woman I respect and admire because she has done a damn good job raising my kid." He let out a deep sigh, "Look Dottie, I'm sorry… really sorry. I never intended for it to come out like this. But I will fix it. I don't know how yet. But I will."
Two hours later, Jon was racing across town to Beth's apartment. He had spoken to the kids about the newspaper article, and Dorothea had grudgingly been on hand to appear supportive. He was glad, in light of current events, that over the course of the last few weeks he had sat the younger boys down and explained that they had a half sister and answered all their questions. Of course, they didn't realize the ramifications quite as much as Steph and Jesse, but they had taken the news well and were looking forward to meeting Frankie, hopefully soon.
All four kids took the gossip column in their stride. The older two in particular had been exposed many rumors throughout their young lives…to them this was no different. Jake and Romeo shrugged it off and headed to their rooms to play. The fact that there was some truth to it this time – the child that was eluded to…Frankie - did have Steph and Jesse asking if he intended to handle things differently this time. He was truthful in his answer. He didn't know. But it was what he was - no doubt - about to find out. He felt he owed it to Beth, that she be involved in any decision he made…the article was, after all, as detrimental to her as it was to him.
As Jon approached Beth building a buzzing throng of paparazzi came into view. He muttered a silent curse under his breath, his brow furrowed and his jaw tightened. He had expected repercussions, he had halfway expected…well…this…but despite his expectations it had been his most fervent hope that they wouldn't track her down this quickly.
"Fuck" he cursed again as he drove past her building without slowing. He snagged his cell from the passenger seat where he had thrown it when he got in the car. He dialed Beth's number and waited for her to answer. It went straight to her machine. After the tone he began to speak, "Hey it's me. Call me as…"
"Jon?" her voice was hesitant.
"Oh thank God Beth. Are you ok?" She could hear the relief flood his voice even before she answered.
"Yes we're fine. I had to start screening calls. The damn phone has been running off the hook with press."
"We're…you mean Frankie is with you?" Now she could hear apprehension.
"Yep..she turned up here an hour ago. She's um…she's pretty upset Jon. She had to fight her way through that mob scene at the front door. Did you see it? Thank God they were too interested in us to plaster her face across the paper. She managed to get in safe at least." Beth's voice was strong but Jon sensed a certain fragility behind her words.
"That's why I'm calling Beth. I don't think it's such a great idea for me to come up there. I think we'll just be adding fuel to the fire if they photograph me entering your building."
"Oh...ok..." there was a short pause as Beth considered Jon's words, "So I…I guess we're on our own then. I mean I guess it will settle down…"
"Jesus Beth no…" Jon interrupted, "There is no way I would do that to you. We have to get through this together…I just don't think your apartment is the place to do it. I think we should head somewhere with a little more privacy. How would you feel about coming out to Red Bank?"
"I don't think now is the time for us to meet your family Jon." Beth said.
"The family is in the city. It would just be the three of us…oh and maybe Paul. It might be time to get an outsiders perspective on this." Jon explained.
"He's on my management staff. Don't worry Bethie…I've known him for almost twenty-five years. He's trustworthy." He assured her.
"I still don't know. I think we'd be better meeting in a hotel or something." Beth said warily.
"You are kidding right? What kind of rumors are you trying to start here Beth? A hotel?" There was a current of amusement underlying his incredulous tone.
Beth let out a deep sigh. Jon imagined a roll of her eyes as she did. "You're right. So how do I get there?"
Jon smiled despite himself and eased the car into the right lane to turn, heading towards home. "I'll send a car. Do you have a basement garage?"
"No. But there is an entrance through the alley in the rear. What do you have in mind?" she asked.
"I think it would be best if you were picked up there…in back I mean. There may still be some press lurking, but it shouldn't be as bad. I'll get on the phone and arrange a car. Tell Tom to be ready to help you out the back. The car should be there within the hour. I'll see you soon." Despite the dire circumstances Jon couldn't help a little bit of excitement creeping into his voice. He would finally be able to share a piece of his life with his new family. So far all of the meetings and dinners had been on their terms…on their turf, it would be nice to share even this small part of himself with them. Jersey was in his blood…and he was heading home.
After hanging up from Beth, Jon immediately dialed another number. "Hey man…I need a favor…" He began. Jon explained the delicacy of the situation to Mike, who took care of his security. He needed a car arranged but did not want it linked back to him. A car service was fine as long as the utmost discretion could be guaranteed. Blacked out windows were essential.
When that was organized he called Paul and asked him to meet them at the house later that day. If what he was considering was to come to fruition, he would need Paul to handle the logistics. He didn't go into detail but did suggest that perhaps a member of the PR department be made aware of the article. The next few days and how he handled them…how they all handled them…had the potential to break him. He had fought far too hard to get to this position just to let it all crumble around him now. But beyond that, he was astonished to realize, his biggest concern wasn't so much protecting his image or the fortune he had amassed. It wasn't even protecting Dot and the kids, as they had been through it all before. His biggest concern was for Frankie and Beth. These two women he had met only weeks before but who were now an integral part of his life. The same two women who had lived in relative obscurity for their wholes lives, and who were now about to have those private lives made very, very public.