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.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chapter 21

After dinner Frankie returned to her movie in the family room and Jon and Beth retired to his office to wait for the car.

"Will you share a bottle of wine with me while we wait?" he asked. "I promise no more hard stuff."

"Maybe just one glass. Thank you. It's kinda been a tough day all round." Beth rubbed her hands over her face and moved to take a seat on the sumptuous leather sofa that sat opposite his desk.

Jon popped the cork on a bottle of red, poured two generous glasses and handed one to her. She watched as he sniffed the bouquet and nodded - apparently satisfied - and took a sip. Lounging casually on the front edge of his desk, his feet crossed at the ankles, swirling the ruby liquid around his glass, he was a picture of self-assuredness. Not to mention stunningly beautiful, so much so, he made her mouth water. She took a large gulp from her wine glass.

It was good, rich and satisfying, just as she imagined him to be. Christ, she was thinking like that after only five minutes alone with the man, how was she going to get through the next hour. Apparently it had been far too long since she had had any physical contact with a man and it appeared her hormones were writing checks her brain just wasn't ready to cash. She was damn sure her body was though…it was reacting in ways she didn't even remember.

"You can say that again." He said, watching the stress play across her face. But there was something else there as well. He studied her a little more closely, noticed the shallowness of her breathing and the nervous way she was toying with her wine glass, running her fingers constantly up and down the stem. It was out of place for the woman who was usually so calm and collected. He bit back a curse as his groin tightened involuntarily. He adjusted his stance accordingly.

Unaware of his discomfort Beth blurted out the question she had been worried about for hours. "Jon, can I ask you something?" Beth asked cautiously, still a little upset over his demeanor earlier.

"I guess…" he wasn't sure if he was in the mood for twenty questions…not even from her.

"Have I caused problems between you and Dot? I feel just awful about what happened outside this afternoon."

Jon sighed heavily…he had so hoped not to go into this tonight. All he wanted was to forget…forget the divorce…forget it all, but he certainly couldn't have Beth feeling that she, or particularly Frankie, were responsible for what was about to go down. It would be better if he could discuss it with her here and now rather than her hearing it second hand later.

He closed the distance between them in two strides and perched on the coffee table before her, leaning forward so that his elbows rested on his knees, his hands clutching the wine glass between them. The posture had his face so close to hers she could clearly see the minute imperfections the camera usually missed… the small freckle just to the left of his nose, the fine lines at the corners of his eyes that were now a permanent feature even when he wasn't smiling, it made him seem so much more real to her… not the celebrity, not the rock star… just Jon.

Jon noticed that she seemed to squirm uncomfortably in her seat and wondered if it was his nearness that caused it. He was unsure how much of what Frankie had told him he should take at face value. Nevertheless, Beth certainly seemed to have a heightened awareness of his proximity…hmmmm….

"I'm not going to tell you everything is ok, Beth. I can't lie to you, but what is happening between Dorothea and myself has been a long time in the making. This thing with Frankie is just the latest in a very long line of problems that we have been dealing with," he explained. He paused for a long moment, lost in thought, intently focused on some small imperfection in the flooring, then he blurted, "She asked for a divorce today Beth." Shit, he hadn't meant to say that.

"Oh…I'm sorry Jon…" Beth lowered her eyes to the ground, the hurt in his was just too real…too raw. "Is there any way you can work it out?"

"No," he shook his head, "There's no going back from this. Things have been bad for so long now that I barely remember them being right. But fuck Beth…that's why I expected this to be easy and it's…it's so….it's just not."

Beth leaned forward and hesitantly placed her palm on his face, and stroked her thumb across his cheekbone, "Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry."

He wanted to melt into that touch…wanted to do so much more but recognized that this was not the time to be doing that. God but he wanted to though…he wanted the comfort she offered and he wanted that offer to extend to more than her hand. He wanted to be wrapped around her…wrapped up in her. But of course that wasn't right, so instead he dropped his eyes to focus again on the spot on the carpet and simply said, "Don't be."

"So what does this mean for you now? What about the kids?" she asked, as he refilled their glasses.

Again he shook his head. This time it was a little slower, "I don't know Beth…I just don't know. Dot and I will have to talk it all through. I know this is the right thing to do…at least my head knows it, but damn it I wish my fucking heart would catch up."

As Beth sat there before him her heart bled for his pain. She had only ever known love from Branson. Sure there had been arguments but just like in a sitcom they had usually been solved before nightfall. In fact it was their resolution to never fall asleep angry. It had worked for them for over twenty years. She was grateful that she had never known the pain that Jon was suffering now, but it left her at a loss as to how to console him.

"I wish I could do something for you," she whispered.

"Just being here is enough." He sighed deeply shook his head and wondered aloud, "where is that god damned car?"

Just as the words left his mouth the shrill ring of the phone on the desk had both him and Beth startled in their seats. "God damn it," he uttered as he rose to stop the offending noise. "Yeah?" he said brusquely into the receiver. "You have got to be fucking kidding me. Just send another one…hell send a limousine or one of those God damned Hummers…just get me something here within the hour…do you understand me?" There was a pause as the person on the other end of the phone explained something to Jon. He turned his back on her and cursed into the phone, "Give me a minute…" He turned back to Beth, "The car they had sent has broken down. He's saying he can't get another here until sometime in the early hours…they're all booked. I can't drive you 'cause I've had a little too much to drink, but he says he can organize a cab or of course…" he trailed off.

"Of course what?" She asked.

This is what he had been trying to avoid. Presently, in his vulnerable state Jon was having more than a little control issue, in fact even now he was picturing her upstairs and naked in his bed. And that was most definitely not the way to treat a woman like Elizabeth McKenzie. Well not under these circumstances anyway…he was sure under others she could be quite pleased with the results…after all his song did guarantee satisfaction.

He suppressed a grin at his wit and kept his eyes focused on the floor, "Well…you could both stay here," he suggested.

"Oh no," she said adamantly, "I don't think that would be a good idea."

Jon was surprised at the disappointment he felt, "And why the hell not?" He asked. "Look at the size of the house Beth…. We could have a room each and never see each other…besides it's only for the night."

"I just don't think it would be appropriate. Especially with all that has gone on today. I mean… what would Dorothea think of it? I am sure she wouldn't approve of our little sleep over. No," she reiterated firmly, "just get them to send the cab…its best if we go home."

Jon did not respond to her but instead spoke into the receiver, "I'll get back to you in a few." And then he hung up the phone.

"Now that didn't sound like you ordering a cab," Beth observed eying him shrewdly as she rose to her feet.

"Hear me out here…ok?" Jon said as he moved to stand before her.

He was close again…too close. Beth was rapidly learning that when this man got this close…trouble soon followed.

"I'm listening," she said reluctantly.

"It just doesn't make sense to have a cab come all the way out here. I have to be back in the city in the morning anyway to see the kids, I can drop you both home then."

"I don't know Jon," Beth murmured, the strength of her conviction waning. She took a couple of steps towards the French Doors and peered out into the night, putting some much need distance between them. There seemed to be a distinct correlation between her ability to think coherently and his proximity.

"Bethie, you're not worried I'm going to take advantage of you… are you?" He joked playfully, "I mean …we do have Frankie as a chaperone."

He was propped against the desk again. He had loosened the top few buttons of the white button down he had changed into for the press conference, and a sprinkling of silver fur could be seen in the deep V. Oh. My. God. Look at his eyes, only his eyes. Beth drew her gaze back up to his face. Yeah right like that helped… he was wearing that stupid cocky smirk of his, the one that enhanced the little lines at the corners of his eyes, and made those cornflower blue irises sparkle with mischief.

"That is sooo not funny Jon." Beth said exasperated, trying to quell the tinge of excitement she had felt at the thought. "Christ, after what we have gone through today…please don't be tempting fate like that."

Hmmm, I'd rather be tempting something else, he thought. Damn, where had that come from? You dumb fuck you're supposed to be mourning the death of your marriage.

"I'm sorry Beth. I was just trying to lighten the mood a little…I know I need it," he said, "but seriously though…I don't see anything untoward about my daughter spending the night here."

Beth sighed deeply, and took a long draw from her glass. "I know you're probably right Jon. I guess I'm just being a little oversensitive after everything that's happened."

"That's understandable," he agreed.

"And Frankie is so worn out right now," Beth continued, thinking aloud, "She hates to show any weakness but I can see that the day has taken a huge toll on her."

"Yeah, I agree, she hasn't been her usual sassy self with me at all today." Now that the transportation and accommodation details had been sorted, or so he thought, Jon took it upon himself to refill Beth's wine glass.

"Thank you," she said bringing the glass to her lips as she looked up to the starry night sky. "Wow the stars are so pretty out here. Not at all like home, everything there is washed out by the city lights."

"Would you like to go for a walk? I can grab your coat." He offered.

"Hmmm…maybe some other time. I had better get in there and tell Frankie she'll be sleeping in someone else's bed tonight." Beth smiled gently, "She won't be happy. Even as a baby the only place she would truly settle was in her own crib."

"Funny Stephy was a bit like that too," he reminisced, "with me touring she didn't always have that option though. That was one of the things that keep Dot from touring so much. We decided it was better to give them a stable home than a full time father. I often wonder if we made the right choice. I mean don't get me wrong….all of my kids are turning out great…but…I don't know… sometimes I feel like Steph and Jes just missed out on a little too much of my time."

Beth turned to look at him and saw the shadows that plagued the depths of his eyes; the same ones that only moments before had been full of laughter and fun. He was a rollercoaster of emotion tonight. "Don't beat yourself up Jon. You were doing what you thought was right at the time," she said. "Even Branson was an absentee father a lot of the time, what with the gallery and all of his charities…"

The faraway look on Beth's face in conjunction with the small smile that played at the corner of her mouth told Jon that she was remembering both the good and the bad times with Branson. "This past year has been really rough on you huh?"

Beth just shrugged. Rough just didn't seem to cut it…the last year had been hell. The anniversary of Branson's death was in a couple of weeks and it seemed to be speeding for her like a speed train. She knew that it would dredge up all those emotions she was trying so hard to put behind her.

"I'm sorry I've added to that Beth…I really am. Perhaps it would have been better if I'd never pursued this whole thing with Frankie…better for you at least." He said as he topped up both of their wine glasses once again. Damn but the woman could drink….she was keeping up with him just fine.

"Don't even think that way Jon. Everything happens for a reason. Frankie needs a man in her life…a father, and while I don't think for one second you will ever be able to take Branson's place, I do believe that you are beginning to notch out your own," Beth offered him a winsome smile. "I mean look at this whole concert thing… a couple of weeks ago do you think she would have even accepted the tickets, let alone asked you to go with her?"

Jon smiled and her heart skipped a beat. She loved to see that smile…loved to see him happy. "Yeah…that was somethin' huh? I can't believe she wants her old man there with her. I know she doesn't think of me that way…but she knows I do."

"And believe me when I say she is coming around to that way of thinking too." Beth said.

"What am I coming around to?" Frankie asked as she appeared in the doorway. "And where is this damned car?"

Beth turned to her daughter's voice, "Oh, I was just coming out too see you. The car isn't coming Frankie. It broke down, so Jon very kindly offered us the use of his guest rooms. We'll be staying here tonight."

"And you actually believe that load of bullshit?" Frankie retorted. She stepped further into the room and observed the two empty wine bottles and raised an eyebrow, "So that's how he did it huh…plied you with wine so you'd agree to stay. We know how much you love your Pinot Noir…Mom." She said, heavily accenting the last word disrespectfully.

Beth rose from the sofa her fame quivering with anger. Jon watched with his breath stuck in his throat as she stalked across the room and came to a stop just inches before her daughter, her nostrils flaring and her cheeks tinting a deeper shade of pink preparing to give Frankie the set down she richly deserved. Oh man, he thought, this will not be pretty.

"Young lady, I am going to tell you this once and only once, if you ever speak to me in that disrespectful manner again I will beat your bottom like I did when you were five…and don't think for one second that I won't." she fumed.

Jon watched in amused silence from the sidelines, waiting for Frankie to find her voice. He'd never known to be at a loss for words. When she looked in his direction, clearly seeking assistance, he merely shrugged…no way was he getting in the middle of this. He'd had far too much experience with Stephy and Dot…and after years of trying to referee a cat fight he knew better than to stick his nose where it wasn't welcome.

After a long moment of silence, where Frankie and Beth continued to stare each other down, Jon thought better of it and finally spoke up, "Ladies…I think this is all just a misunderstanding."

In unison the women replied, "Fuck off Jon."

"Oh kay then" he drew out the words "I think I'll just go wait in the kitchen…should I have the first aid kit ready?" The cold stares that he received had him retreat from the room…his office…his domain…without another word.

Beth turned her attention back to her daughter, "Young lady, I did not raise you to behave this way. How many times do we have to have this conversation? It is not acceptable for you to speak to me or anyone else in this disrespectful manner."

Frankie glared at her Mom. If only you knew what I know, she thought. But looking into her mother's eyes, and seeing the pain she'd inflicted…the pain that was compounded by all they had been through together over the last year, she couldn't bear to stay angry at her over something so trivial. "Sorry Mom."

"Enough is enough Frankie…do you understand? No more!"

"Yes Mam," Frankie said obediently.

"Good. Now let's go find Jon…I'm ready for bed."

As Beth and Frankie stepped from the office they found Jon loitering in the foyer as close to the office as he could discretely be. "You ladies ready for bed?"

As Beth walked on ahead Frankie muttered softly for his ears only, "Bet you've said that a few hundred times."

He looked at her and wiggled his eyebrows…a mischievous smile playing on his lips. Frankie simply rolled her eyes in return.

"What was that?" Beth asked.

"Nothing," came Jon's reply in his daughter's defense as he suppressed an amused chuckle.

Jon showed the ladies to the two guest rooms upstairs that were made up. He showed Frankie into the first room at the top of the stairs. It was all pink and frills and so far removed from what she was accustomed to, she wondered how she would ever be able to settle.

The room he showed Beth to was the polar opposite in all respects. It was at the far end of the upstairs hallway, and the d├ęcor was sleek, masculine and modern. A king size bed adorned with an expensive looking red duvet she seemed to recall was a limited edition Frette creation – she had admired it when shopping for her own new linen after Branson had passed - dominated the room, which was decorated in hues of slate grey, steel blue and cream. Her eyes flickered to an old acoustic guitar that sat propped in the corner of the room.

"I'm not stealing your bed am I?" Beth asked softly, feeling like an intruder. The room was so inherently his…she didn't need the fact to be confirmed. Damn it…it even smelled like him.

"No ...it's just one of the guest rooms." He replied. "Dot's and my bedroom is next door," he added without thinking.

Beth looked away, uncomfortable, "Um… well…thank you. Is it ok if I use the shower? I hate going to bed without one."

"Sure…bathroom's through that door. There should be fresh towels on the rack and toiletries in the vanity. If you need anything else I'm across the hall…in there." He pointed to a doorway that faced hers.

"Didn't you say your bedroom was next door?" she asked.

"Yeah…it was," he said quietly and left, shutting the door gently behind him.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chapter 20

Beth stood at the French doors of Jon's office, hidden to the world outside by the curtains that hung there, nervously fidgeting with her fingers. She studied with some measure of apprehension the hoard of press that was gathering in Jon's driveway and seemed to be multiplying exponentially with each passing minute. A cool female voice interrupted her thoughts.

"You'll be fine you know. It will be over before you know it." Dorothea said.

"I uh…I've never done anything like this before. How do you deal with this," Beth indicated to the doors and the press beyond, "they're like vultures out there."

"Comes with the territory; this is what it means to be part of his life. You sure you don't want to reconsider?" Dot studied Beth speculatively.

"Do I have a choice? I mean this has never been about me. Frankie is his daughter. I can't change that…no matter how much I may want to."

That surprised Dot. "Why would you want to?" she asked a little defensively.

"Oh shoot…that came out wrong. Jon is a wonderful man" Dot picked up on the affection in Beth's tone and the glint in her eyes when she spoke of him, "and from what I can see a wonderful father…it's just…well…I guess it's just that perhaps this would have all been easier if he was just your regular run of the mill citizen…you know… not so well known."

"I do understand that Beth…but to me that's exactly what he is. I mean all of this," Dot now indicated towards the waiting press hoard, "this is just his job. It's not who he is. And please, believe me when I say he does his best not to bring work home with him. Once it all settles down there should be very little impact on you and Frankie." As Dot spoke, she contemplated the future and what Beth didn't know – that very soon another statement would be made to the press about her separation from Jon, and that likely that would lead to more speculation about him and Beth. She would keep that quiet for now. It wasn't her place to say anything and she was certainly not yet emotionally stable enough to do so. The very thought of moving on in life without her husband had her stomach roiling, and bile catching in her throat.

"I hope you're right." Beth said softly.

The sound of someone clearing their throat behind them had both Dot and Beth turning around. "Everything ok in here?" Jon asked hesitantly, worry and curiosity evident in the strain of his voice.

"Fine," Dot smiled stiffly.

Beth watched the couple intently and wondered what it was that she was sensing between them. Dots tone had been icy when she had requested, no demanded Jon's presence upstairs, but when they had returned to the group a little while later, holding hands, a cool sense of calm had seemed to descend over them both. Dot had busied herself tidying up in the kitchen, Beth thought more to keep her hands busy than out of necessity – they had staff that could take care of that – and Jon had retreated to the yard once more, his brow furrowed if possible even more so than it had been before.

"Dorothea was just giving me some press pointers," Beth replied. Her lips curled up at the edges in an attempt to smile but it turned out as more of a grimace.

"You'll be fine," Jon assured her, but his manner was now cool and detached, not warm and comforting as it had been outside and he could no longer meet her eyes. "It's time," he added simply.

Everyone was waiting in the foyer when the three of them emerged from the study. Beth watched as Frankie's eyes flittered from her to Jon to Dot. God, what must this all look like to her? Beth wondered. But there was no time to analyze the thought further, for just at that moment, Jon nodded, the front door opened and Paul stepped outside to greet the press.

Paul's amplified words filtered into the house. "Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming. Mr. Bon Jovi has called this conference in response to recent allegations made in the press. He will make his statement, during which photographs and video may be taken. There will be no questions at this time. We request that you leave the premises at the completion of his statement. Thank you." Paul said and stepped aside.

"That's our cue," Jon said. He took Dorothea by the hand and headed for the door. Beth and Frankie followed dutifully behind.

A small podium had been erected to formalize things and keep the press from crowding too close. Jon stepped up to the lectern, Dorothea stood to his right, her hand still clutched in his. Frankie stood to his left, gripping her mother's right hand tightly. Before Jon had even begun to speak, flashbulbs were blinding them. When he began moments later his voice was calm and confident.

"I think all of you already know the woman to my right, my wife of nearly 20 years, Dorothea. I'm here to introduce you to the women on my left, and to respond to recent allegations that have appeared in the press. This is Frances Gina Carol McKenzie, affectionately known as Frankie. Frankie is my biological daughter." An excited murmur erupted in the crowd of press. Jon waited for it to still before continuing. "She has just turned nineteen years of age and she was conceived prior to my marriage to Dorothea. Her birth mother was Gina Belle, a longtime friend and fellow musician, one whom I had great love, respect and admiration for. I was never aware of Frankie's existence because I was on tour and Gina, for her own reasons, did not inform me of her condition during her pregnancy and tragically died in childbirth before she had a chance. Frankie was adopted by Branson and Beth McKenzie. Tragically, Branson was taken from Beth and Frankie in an auto accident just this past year.

"Frankie's mother, Beth" He looked to her, where she stood holding her daughters hand and smiled at her encouragingly, "invited me to play at a benefit she hosted last night in Branson's honor to raise money for a Scholarship in his name. I only recently met Frankie and her mother, but wanted to support their efforts for this worthy cause, as a debt of gratitude for the wonderful job Beth and Branson did raising my daughter.

"Obviously, there were some allegations made in the press regarding both this event and my involvement with Beth. I am here to set the record straight. I have always made every effort to keep my private life private but I will not have rumors and innuendo surrounding these two innocent women. Yes, Frankie is my daughter and I consider her, and in turn her mother Beth, to be part of my family now. Dorothea is here with me today as a gesture of support," he gave her hand a squeeze and she smiled at him kindly, "and my children and the rest of my family and close friends are fully aware of this situation. I urge you to please respect my daughter's privacy and her mother's as well. They certainly are not as accustomed to this lifestyle as my family and I are, and that's why I have decided to respond to these allegations myself, rather than allowing the speculation of gossip columnists and paparazzi to disrupt their lives.

"I hope that in doing this, your employers will realize that there really isn't any news here. I have explained the context of our relationships with each other and I want this to end now. If I learn that paparazzi are hounding Beth or Frankie or in any way endangering their safety, you can rest assured that I will deal with it swiftly and thoroughly by whatever means necessary.

"I appreciate the fact that you have always given my family space and privacy. I am asking you to kindly do the same thing now, because these two women are as much a part of my family as Dorothea and my other children. I thank you for the time you have taken to come here today. No further statements will be issued on this matter."

Jon indicated to Beth and Frankie that they should make their way back indoors. Dorothea followed close behind them, her hand clasped firmly in Jon's, most likely for the very last time in public.

As soon as the press had departed, Paul, and a few members of Jon's staff that had arrived earlier to assist in setting up, swiftly pulled down the equipment and left. Dot announced that she would be heading back into the city to be with the children when the news broke formally. Beth waited for Jon to confirm that he would be following his wife but he made no move to do so. Instead he headed directly for the liquor cabinet. He pulled out a full bottle of Jack Daniels and settled himself into a stool at the counter. He poured the amber liquid into a tall glass and downed it in one swallow.

By the time Dot was ready to leave a short time later, he had repeated the process several times. The bottle was dwindling rapidly and Beth was becoming more and more concerned as she watched him.

"Ok...I'm outta here." Dot announced walking back into the tidy kitchen.

"Bye babe," Jon lifted a hand as if in salute and once again raised his glass to his lips.

Beth pulled Dot aside, "Is he going to be ok?"

"Eventually," Dot replied. She hated that she sounded so matter of fact, but truth be known, at that point in time all she was feeling herself was numb. If it weren't for the four kids at home depending on her she would probably be joining him. At Beth's obvious look of distress she added, "He'll be fine Beth. He just needs a little time to adjust." She spoke in hushed tones but doubted he would be paying attention to her even if she shouted.

"I don't think it's wise to leave him like this," Beth said. This was a side of Jon she hadn't seen and it was one that concerned her greatly.

"Maybe not, but I can't stay. I have to get back to the city and the kids. I can't leave them to deal with the fallout from this alone. He created this mess. I'm afraid he'll just have to deal." She knew she was being cruel but the day's events were catching up.

Beth was momentarily stunned by the callousness Dot was showing, but considered the situation and decided it was her right. "I might see if I can get some coffee into him before I go. We have to wait for the car service anyway."

"Good luck with that." Dot offered. "Well, I wish I could say it's been fun, but frankly I'd rather spend the afternoon in the dentist's chair than relive this day."

Beth stared openly at the other woman and couldn't help but feel like an intruder. "Dorothea, I'm really sorry about all of this. If I hadn't asked Jon to do that benefit, none of this would have happened."

"Don't be silly…of course it would have. A different time, a different place perhaps but it was inevitable. Welcome to our world." She thought briefly about giving Beth a comforting pat on the shoulder but couldn't bring herself to do it. "I have to go. I'll see you soon I'm sure."

Beth opened her mouth to respond but Dot was already walking away from her.

"Jon I'm leaving," Dot said to him. She crossed to stand beside him, "And I think you've had enough of that," she said sliding the bottle out of his reach. "I'll give you tonight, but I think you should come home tomorrow and talk to the kids. Despite what we've already told them, they're gonna need you."

"'Of course," Jon murmured as he tilted another shot back, his forehead creased as he considered the ramifications of the day. As Dot passed, he caught her by the shoulders and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead, mindful of the fact that Beth was watching from the other side of the counter. "Thanks babe."

"Yeah, whatever. You may not be thanking me in a few weeks Jon."

He smiled but there was little humor in his eyes, certain she was referring to the inevitable settlement she would be seeking. "You know I'll always take care of you."

"I know that," she responded. "Gotta go, though. I guess I'll see you in the morning in the city?"

"Yep, I'll call and let you know when," he murmured, heading for the bathroom for some time alone. He instinctively knew he needed to get his head together before dealing with Beth.

Dot crossed the room to stand before Frankie. The young woman had been sitting quietly at the table taking in the whole scene with interest. "I'm heading back now. The kids have been very curious about you. When you're ready, speak to your father and we'll arrange a meeting."

"He's not my father," Frankie replied. Was this something she would forever have to distinguish?

Dorothea chuckled as she caught Frankie's eye roll, familiar with the expression of bored indifference that was a mirror image of her own children. "Listen Frankie, you're a smart girl, probably smarter than everyone around you is giving you credit for," Dot said. "Know this…your father, yes that's right I said your father, is a good and decent man. Sometimes that may not seem so clear. But I've known him for nearly thirty years. You don't respect him now, but one day you will. Try not to make this too hard on yourself." Dot smiled sadly at her husband's daughter and left.

Frankie's eyebrows inched up her forehead in surprise. She sought out her mother to see if she had witnessed the exchange. Beth was on the other side of the room busying herself making coffee, but Frankie was sure she had heard every word. She did not however make any effort to comment.

Frankie was heading for the lounge when Jon re-entered the room a few minutes later to find a steaming cup of strong black coffee where his glass had been. The bottle of Jack had also disappeared.

"Hey…where's my drink?" he asked indignantly.

"In front of you." Beth replied coolly.

"What are you trying to say honey?"

"I'm saying I think you need some black coffee more than you need some Jack honey."

He chuckled. "Looks like the tame little kitten has claws. But lucky for me, you're in my house." He ducked into a pantry and pulled out another bottle of Jack Daniels.

"That's just lovely, Rock Star. But don't expect me to sit here and watch you drink yourself stupid."

"What, you don't wanna join me?" He offered her a cheeky suggestive grin.

"I don't do self pity all that well thanks." Beth remarked pointedly.

"Ouch that hurts honey." Jon clutched a hand over his heart. "But I can almost forget it looking into your eyes." He flashed his million watt smile, waiting for the inevitable look of adoration that usually followed.

"That kind of charm will get you absolutely no where with me. You're drunk, Jon."

"And your problem is?" he asked, cognizant of the fact that he was far from drunk, but interested in seeing how far he could push Beth's buttons.

Beth sighed deeply, "After the day I've had I'm not interested in dealing with your shit. The car should be here soon. I think I'll find Frankie and wait outside."

"No Beth…wait. I'm sorry… I'm acting like an ass."

"Yeah you are."

Jon sighed and chewed on his bottom lip as he considered his next words, "I know this has been hard on you and Frankie, and I'm sorry for that…but… I just…"Fuck this was hard, "this whole thing with Dot has really thrown me for a loop."

"What thing with Dot?"

"I just never imagined me and Dot... well…fuck…it's probably obvious that things between me and Dorothea are just....done. But part of me just can't even bear to think of that."

"What are you saying here Jon?"

"Jesus, Beth, what does it sound like I'm fucking saying?"

Beth felt a sinking in the pit of her stomach as she searched his eyes for an answer. "You're not making any sense."

He stared at her, seeing the confusion and the dawning of pity in her eyes, unwilling to admit to Beth what he didn't even want to admit to himself.

"Jon I think you need to drink this...you're barely coherent."

He grimaced. He was absolutely coherent. A few shots of Jack weren't going to put him under. It was his life that no longer made sense. "Whatever Beth," he murmured, suddenly feeling dejected and wanting nothing more than to drown his sorrows in peace.

"Drink the coffee Jon," Beth said sternly

"Jesus Christ you're stubborn. I'm not fucking drunk."

Beth raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow, "I'll see you in a few days when you're feeling a little better," she said lightly, his cool tone upsetting her even more than his coarse language. She scooped her purse off the counter and was almost at the door when Jon edged in front of her. He was so close she could smell the liquor on his breath.

"Bethie stop!" Jon's voice was raw with frustration and anger with himself for talking that way to her. None of this was her fault and she was only trying to help him. "I'm sorry. I keep fucking this up."

Beth took a step backwards to put some distance between them and asked, "Fucking what up Jon?"

"This…thing with you…hell…everything is so fucked up right now. But I didn't mean to speak to you that way. It's not right…Frankie is my daughter and you're my…" Jon stopped unable to finish the sentence. What was she? Friend just didn't seem to cut it anymore. She was so much more to him than that now…but he had no term of reference for what she meant to him…there had only ever been Dorothea.

"I'm your what Jon? Your pain in the ass? The little inconvenience you need to dispose of? Or is it that I'm an asset to you? …the way to get into Frankie's good graces." Beth finished for him.

"Oh God Beth no…none of those. It's just… I just… I can't define what you are to me anymore. The lines have all blurred. But I do know that I need you here right now. Will you please stay? Just for a while? I can't be alone yet." He pleaded.

Beth stood silent for a moment trying to absorb what Jon was saying. All she could really comprehend was that he wanted her to stay. "I don't know Jon."

"Please Beth…"

"Fine," she said and moved around him to lay her purse back on the counter. "But you need to stop the drinking and start on the coffee."

"Done!" He agreed, and let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding.

"We're gonna need to eat." Beth said. "I'm sure Frankie is famished…she barely picked at her lunch. Do you have something here I can fix for us?"

"You can look but I doubt it. The house isn't too well stocked at the moment because we've been in the city." He explained.

"Well can I borrow a car and I'll head to the store for some supplies?"

"Sure, take the Chevelle" he said as he pulled the keys from his pocket and handed them to her.

The keys were warm from being pressed tight against the heat of his body, and for the briefest of seconds she wondered what it would be like to be pressed against him the same way. She shook her head to clear the thought from her mind.

"You don't want to take it? It's just a car Beth…it won't bite." The corner of his lip lifted in a half smile.

"No, no…it wasn't that," she said, her cheeks gaining color as she scanned his physique.

"Care to let me in on the joke?" he asked quizzically, planting himself firmly between her and the counter where her purse sat, waiting for an answer.

"No joke… I'll ah… I'll be back soon." Beth said as she moved forward and reached around him, causing her hips to involuntarily brush up against his as she grabbed her purse. A small moan escaped her lips, and she jumped away from him and rushed out the door, calling behind her, "I'll be back soon."

"Oh fuck," he muttered on an inaudible sigh as he watched her walk out the door. Had he just imagined that response in her? The very same response he had managed to suppress with great control.

Frankie rushed into the room, "Where's Mom gone?" she asked accusingly, "What did you do to her now?"

"God damn it Frankie, can't you cut me some slack?" Jon turned to glare at his daughter. "Your mother has gone to pick up something for dinner. She thought you might be hungry."

"Why did she leave in such a rush? What did you do to her before she left?"

"Jesus Frankie, what do you think I did to her? Tied her up and spanked her? It's getting late…I guess she just wants to get dinner started," he said exasperated.

Frankie raised a skeptical eyebrow and said, "I guess we know what you've had on your mind Rockstar. I wouldn't have taken you for that type. Do you have the whips somewhere too?"

Jon rolled his eyes. "I am so not having that conversation with you young lady. I can't believe you would even take it there."

"It seems like bluntness is a genetic fault, so if I take after you, it probably comes naturally."

Jon shook his head with an ironic grin. Hell, at least she was referring to a genetic connection between them, and at this point, he would take what he could get. "Whatever, Frances. Oh I almost forgot, I have something for you," Jon moved to his coat that was slug over the back of one of the kitchen chairs and pulled out two concert tickets, holding them up face forward to show her. He watched with amusement as realization dawned on his daughter's face.

The second Frankie realized what was in her father's hands her thoughts began to spin out of control. Oh. My. God. What will I wear? I need a dress. I need shoes. Who will I take?

Just as her hand reached out to grab them, he pulled them back from her grasp. "Uh uh uh young lady, not so fast. There's a catch…these can only be used by me…so if you want 'em, you've gotta go with your old man." His smug smile was almost enough to have her throwing the fruit bowl that sat on the table before her through the fancy French doors. Her face was a twisted mask of fury and frustration.

"You know it's not a gift if there are strings attached Jon," she pointed out through gritted teeth.

"I never said it was a gift Frances," Jon reminded her gently. "Honey you remind me so much of me when I was your age, always take take taking and nothing to give. Lemme tell you something little girl, that will get you nowhere in the long run."

"Fine…you can come with me," Frankie conceded quietly, crossing her arms across her chest in a defensive stance.

Jon continued as if she hadn't spoken, "but if you don't want 'em that's fine. I think Steph might like to go. Of course, she's not a big fan like you are, that's why I offered them to you first. But I'm sure she'd enjoy it. She's been going to shows like this all her life, getting backstage, getting to meet the band, she's pretty used to it but she still enjoys it."

"I said fine," she spat, "I'll go with you."

"Oh how interesting…" he smirked.

"What's interesting?"

"Suddenly you want the tickets…but you haven't told me what you plan to offer in return." He said smugly.

"I'm going with you aren't I...isn't that enough?" she asked.

"No," he shook his head as he rubbed his thumb over the tickets, flaunting them before her, a self satisfied grin on his face, "it's not."

"Well what do you want then?" Frankie asked impatiently.

"I want you to stop putting insane ideas into your mom's head," he began, "she's still very…fragile. I don't want your psychotic bullshit getting in the way of her trusting me."

Frankie shook her head disbelievingly, "You know they aren't insane Jon."

"Honey, please," he pleaded, "don't misunderstand; I think your loyalty to your mom is a wonderful thing. I just think you're very misguided if you think I'm doing anything other than trying to be her friend and trying to learn as much as I can about you so I can be a father figure to you."

"Look, you say what you like…I know what I'm seeing" Frankie said forcefully, "and nothing you say will convince me otherwise but…I won't cause any more trouble…I know it hurts mom too much."

Jon sighed deeply, "you know kid…you have the most insane ability to make me feel guilty when there is nothing for me to feel guilty about. Would you please just trust me…if you can't trust me about anything else, at least trust me on this, I like your mom, I really, really like her in fact, I'd even say that even if you weren't around I'd still like her. But as a friend Frankie. She's a wonderful woman, she's smart and she's funny and she's sweet and caring and I know I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. So why is it that you find it so unbelievable that I just like her and I want to be her friend?

"It's just something I know Jon… and I think if things were different she might even feel the same." Oh shit did I really just say that? But hang on…if I play this right it could work. The look of complete surprise that graced Jon's face at that moment led her to see the possibilities of her faux pas.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Are you telling me you don't see it? Or feel it?" Hell…I've already come this far...

"Ummm" Jon shook his head to clear it, certain he hadn't heard right. Was she saying what he hoped she was saying? "No, I'm not sure what you're talking about."

"Ok if that's how you want to play it." Frankie turned and walked back to the family room.

Jon was immediately on her heals. "No, no, no, I want to hear what you have to say… I'm just not sure I ...understand exactly."

Frankie settled into a corner of one of the couches, her feet curled beneath her. "If you play on anything that I am about to tell you, I swear I will never speak to you again."

Jon was pleased to see his daughter looking so comfortable and at home in his space. "Well, no," he flashed her that killer smile of his that usually brought women to their knees "of course, not Frankie. I'm not sure what I would play on any way. I've laid all my cards out on the table with you honestly."

"That's debatable," Frankie uttered, "but despite that I will be honest with you."

"What would I have to gain by lying to you?" he asked her as he settled onto the far end of the same couch, turning his body towards her.

"I haven't figured that out yet. I haven't been able to figure out if you are lying or if you just can't admit the truth to yourself," she said. And much as she hated to admit it, she was beginning to think the latter was the more likely scenario. He almost looked…hopeful when she mentioned her Mom might feel the same way.

Jon drew back from her a little, a look of intense concentration on his face. "I don't know about that Frankie, but let me tell you this one thing…right now…there is nothing that's more important to me than getting to know you better and figuring out how we can fit into each other's lives. Believe me when I say nothing is more important to me than that. I see this blossoming friendship with your mom as just…well, kind of like the cherry on top of the sundae."

"You know in your heart it's more than that Jon...you just have to admit it to yourself."

"No…no," he shook his head adamantly, his denial a little more strenuous than required, "trust me I know myself better than you know me. But back to what we were talking about before…"

"Which was?"

"You said if I played on something you were about to tell me you'd never speak to me again?" he prompted.

"Oh yeah that…never mind..." Frankie evaded and turned her attention to the TV screen that spanned almost the entire width of the room.

"No wait, I need to know what you were thinking," Jon insisted.

"Well, if you're only seeing mom as a friend it really doesn't matter…does it?" Frankie offered him a self-satisfied little smile…she so had him where she wanted him now. At this point in time she was quite confident she could get him to tell her almost anything.

"'But hey…if you think she feels something more…I mean I didn't misunderstand that did I?" he asked. "You did say that if things were different then she might...?"

"Never mind what I said. It's not my place to say anything at all. Besides you evidently don't feel anything more than friendship and you are married so it doesn't matter....right?" That's it reel him in…if I can just get him to admit the truth, I can take it to Mom.

"Well, yes and no," Jon watched his daughter carefully and wondered about the calculation he could see behind those bright eyes of hers. He knew she was up to something…had some kind of grand plan...yet despite that he had to move forward with the conversation…God damn her but she had picked the only bait he would fall for…he was desperate to know if the connection he was beginning to feel for Beth was real or just some surrogate crush. "I mean, if you think your mom...might...feel a certain way about me, then I should know that, right? Because the last thing I'd want is for her to be getting the wrong idea or something."

"Mom's pretty astute Jon, I really don't think that's necessary. Besides if all you intend to be is a friend to her...how could she get the wrong impression from that?"

Fuck…what did that mean? What was Beth already thinking? "Damn it Frankie…would you tell me what you meant and stop being so God damn stubborn. Just for me…just for my edification. Just so that I have a clear picture of what's going on here." Jon was getting beyond frustrated now. His gut was clenching as he waited for his daughters response…he couldn't help himself…he knew there were games afoot yet he needed the answer.

Frankie smiled indulgently, "How about this…you be honest with me...and I'll be honest with you."

"Fine," Jon spat. And here it was…her game revealed and damn him if he wasn't going to play it with her too.

"Fine what?" she asked sweetly. I so have him now. A small smile played on her lips, but internally she was grinning wider than the Cheshire Cat.

"Tell me what you want to know?" he asked dryly.

And this was where the game would end she surmised…no way was he going to answer this one. "How do you feel about my mother?...honestly feel?"

Jon swore a soft curse under his breath, so soft it was barely more than a sigh. "Look, remember you said earlier that if I used something against you you'd never forgive me?"

Holy shit…he's gonna keep his word…fuck. Do I really even want to know? "Yep…I remember."

Jon stared off in the direction of the oversized TV screen, unable to meet her gaze. "Alright Frankie here goes," he took a deep breath, "I'm trusting you here, do you understand that?"

The words were out of her mouth before she knew what she was saying, a knee jerk reaction if you will. "Get on with it Jon." Apparently she really did want to know.

"If things were different…and that's a huge if…but if things were different…and they're not but if they were," he bit of a curse…damn it he was rambling…he hated that. "Look your Mom is…well you know she is a very special lady and you know I've been with the same woman for a really long time, and that that's all I've ever known…well…you know what I mean… and Dot is, well, she's an amazing woman as I'm sure you saw today but…" he let the sentence trail off unable to finish.

"That's a pretty big 'but' there Jon?" When he didn't respond she asked, "Are you in love with my mother, Jon?"

"NO," his tone was forceful, perhaps a little too forceful. "Jesus Christ, Frankie I've known her for what? A few weeks?"

"And your point is?"

"I guess…well look, the thing is Dot and I, we really haven't been doing so well lately. We've been spending most of our time fighting…when we aren't fighting we are doing our best to avoid each other...and well, some of the stuff that's happened lately hasn't helped matters any." He tried to explain awkwardly.

Frankie was quiet for a while before she asked "You mean me?"

"No, not just you honey. I think your mom…well Gina…she was the only woman that Dorothea ever really felt…threatened by, I guess is the best way to put it."

"Was she a threat? Did you love her...or was she just a rock star fling?" Frankie asked, getting off track but unable to stop herself asking for the answer she had so desperately wanted to know. It seemed that her self value had become wrapped up in the answer to this very question. Had her conception been the result of a rockstar's untethered hormones or the product of a loving, if somewhat dysfunctional, relationship?

"Gina is the only woman I would ever have even contemplated leaving Dorothea for. Of course I loved her Frankie…I still love her. The memories of her have haunted me…wondering where she was…what she was doing…who she was with…who was loving her as I should have been, I mean you saw my reaction to her death…that wasn't an act for your benefit Frankie. Those emotions were real…I hate to admit it but I'm just not that good of an actor." He tried to use humor to deflect from the seriousness of the situation, but Frankie didn't even crack a smile.

"Then what happened Jon? Why was she left alone ...left to die alone" A solitary tear escaped Frankie's eye.

"Frankie you've got to believe me…I have gone over it all in my mind a thousand times since you came into my life…I just don't know…I don't know why I didn't know…why she didn't come to me when she found out…hell maybe she didn't feel about me the way she had said she did. Maybe she didn't want the commitment…maybe it was easier for her…less complicated for her to walk away like she did." Jon raked his fingers through his hair, as tears of his own began to fall. When he spoke again his voice cracked, raw with emotion, "You know it kills me to think of her going through that alone. I could have been there. I should have been there. I could have helped her, I could have…I…" he broke off as emotions clearly overtook him…

Frankie reached out as if to touch his shoulder then drew back. She didn't know what had changed, but she believed every word he had said. "You know…I think I actually believe you this time."

Jon stiffened his shoulders and brushed the tears from his cheeks. "Thank you. And that is why I'd be an idiot to betray that trust now. I know you're no fool Frankie, and I know I'd be a fucking idiot to deny my attraction to your mother, I mean hell, is there a straight man on the planet who wouldn't be? And you were right…I have tried to deny it…even to myself but…" he paused as he gathered his thoughts, "How I feel can in no way influence my actions at this point. It wouldn't be fair to any of us. I'm still reeling over Gina's death and while it may seem strange to you… I'm in mourning for her. Dot and I need to sort through so much…a divorce, the kids. And just as important as dealing with the kids is getting to know you. I just don't have room in my life for anything other than a friendship with your Mom right now, or anyone else for that matter." Jon's jaw clenched at the internal struggle, while he knew that what he was saying was right, all he wanted to do at that moment was blow it all off and… His attention was drawn to Frankie who was studying him intently. "Do you believe me Frankie?"

"Time will tell," Frankie said. While she desperately wanted to believe what he was saying, she could plainly see the internal struggle he was suffering through…knew how easy it could be to blow off the hard stuff and take solace in something new and good. "I'd like to believe you. She likes you Jon. She's happy when she's with you. I haven't seen that since…well since you know…since Daddy…" the sentence trailed off and there was a moment's silence as she remembered. She shook the memory off, "but I swear Jon, if you make a move on her…"

"Shit Frankie…define move? Is having dinner with her making a move? Is dancing with her making a move? Is me just being nice to her making a move? Because, at the moment, where your Mom is concerned, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells around you. Can't you see honey that the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt Bethie?"


He shrugged, "Sorry, just a silly nickname I guess…but you know what I mean."

"I don't believe you would hurt her intentionally...but you said it yourself Jon...she's fragile and look at what's already gone down with the press and all." Frankie pointed out

"I think your mom is stronger than you or I give her credit for."

"Probably, but this last year has been hell on her…on both of us. But even with all that, I doubt she saw having to deal with paparazzi as part of her future."

"You're only seeing her as your Mom. Where she is concerned I think you're wearing blinders Frankie, you don't see what I see… that strong, confident, amazing woman that walked out in front of the press holding your hand today with her held high deserves a lot more credit that you afford her."

Frankie considered Jon's words for a long tense moment. She was about to open her mouth in response when she heard the click of the latch in the front door.

Beth bustled into the family room carrying two large brown paper bags of groceries. "Hey guys, I got us the fixings for a great dinner here." The second she paused Beth felt the tension in the room. "Oh for Christ's sake, what's going on between you two now? Frankie are you being sassy to your father again?"

Jon surprised both of the women by speaking in Frankie's defense, "No Bethie…it's all good. We were just getting to know each other."

Beth nodded and began to move towards the kitchen, Jon snagged the bags from her before she could get too far and Frankie followed behind, agreeing with Jon as she walked.

"That's right Mom…Jon and I have a date. He got tickets for that concert I missed out on…we are going together."

"Ummm yeah about that Frankie…" Jon said, "look, I really would love to go with you but I'm sure I could arrange it so that I don't have to be there. You can take a friend along instead if you like." Her immediate excitement was overwhelming and his face dropped just a little…he had hoped that she would still choose to take him.

Frankie watched her father's face fall. Damn it, he was actually disappointed that she didn't want to go with him. She knew she would live to regret the words that were about to flow from her mouth, but she couldn't seem to stem the verbal diarrhea. "Jon…I'd still like it if you would come with me. I just appreciate the fact that you gave me the option to choose you rather than you forcing yourself on me. Thank you."

Jon beamed then, "Geez thanks kid. That means a lot."

"That's sweet of you honey. Thank you." Beth said.

It wasn't until sometime later, when Frankie was helping her mother clear up after a very surreal and very pleasant family dinner that she realized that for the very first time she had referred to Jon, albeit internally, in her own frame of reference as her father. God he was sucking her in too…