Brianna was sitting at her desk in the office sorting through Jon's mail and going over the reports from Craig Spencer about the Soul's preparation for the upcoming season. When her phone rang, she answered without looking at the display. "Brianna Prentiss."
"Yes, Ms. Prentiss," a nasal voice responded. "There is a famous rock star who will be arriving at JFK tomorrow on the two-thirty flight from Los Angeles, who will require transportation to his lodging in New Jersey, and I was told that you could provide said transportation."
Brianna grinned. She'd missed the silliness of the band members. "Didn't the rock star ask his assistant to arrange for said transportation?"
"Oh no. This cannot be handled by a mere assistant. It must be handled by you."
"Um.....but I am a mere assistant."
"No, my dear, you are so much more. You are the assistant, girlfriend and Boo Boo tamer, and as such are the only one qualified to drive the rock star."
"Oh, I think, since the rock star is so important, it would be better to hire a town car or maybe a limo for him, with a professional driver."
"I'm sorry Ms. Prentiss, that just won't do. I'm afraid I must insist that you pick up the rock star and drive him yourself."
"And why must it be me?" Richie was a lot like Jake - he never ceased to amaze her with the workings of his mind.
"Because he is very particular about who drives him. It's a long drive and he prefers someone pleasant and attractive to spend that time with." He paused and switched to his normal voice. "And you can fill me in on what's happening at Casa Bongiovi......and with your love life."
And that would be the real reason. "Richie, did anyone ever tell you you're worse than a teenage girl?"
"Darlin' when you live in a town whose life blood is gossip, you can't help it if some rubs off. I just want to make sure my friends are happy." He smirked to himself. "Besides, Ava's already shown me the tabloid pictures of you two. I'm surprised there hasn't been more."
"We haven't gone out that much, and when it's music related no one thinks anything of me being with him."
"Unless you're playing tonsil hockey on stage."
Brianna chuckled. "Well, it was New Year's."
"What's your excuse the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year?"
She shrugged. "Because I can."
A deep chuckle reverberated down the phone line. "I guess that's as good a reason as any." He sobered. "But seriously, Bri, can you pick me up and take me to Red Bank? I need you to catch me up on how everyone's doing before I get there. When Jon called and asked me to come, all he said was that everyone was doing fine and he was ready to do some writing."
"You don't believe him?"
"This is Jon we're talking about remember. He'd say he was fine if he was bleeding to death."
"It's only a flesh wound." Brianna quipped in her best attempt at a British accent.
There was a split second of silence, then Richie burst out laughing. "I'm not dead yet!" He laughed again. "Ah Sunshine, Tony named you well. So, what do you say? Can you give me a lift?"
Brianna heaved a heavy sigh. "I suppose I can rearrange my schedule."
"Atta girl! You're the best!"
Richie grinned. "See you tomorrow Sunshine!"
The next day, Brianna pulled into a spot in front of the arrivals area and scanned the area for Richie. A small crowd and a few camera flashes told her he was close. When his distinctive hat became visible, she made her way towards him.
A gap in the crowd revealed his face and she grinned. "Hey handsome, can I give you a lift?"
"Hey baby!" He set down his bags to wrap her in a bear hug, lifting her clear off her feet. "You can take me anywhere!"
Ignoring the tabloid reporters and tourists, they walked to her car. When he opened the back to put his luggage in, Richie saw her suitcase and slanted her a look. "Had to rearrange your schedule to pick me up huh? Liar! Fess up Sunshine. You were planning on going to Jersey for the weekend long before I called for a ride, weren't you."
Brianna's lips twitched. "Maybe."
"Jon's right. You're a brat."
She just laughed and moved to stand beside the driver's door.
Richie opened the passenger door and waved her towards it. "I can drive."
She raised a brow. "Don't trust my driving?"
"That's not it. When I asked you to pick me up I didn't mean for you to be my chauffeur."
"Really!" He searched for a way out of the hole he found himself in. "Does Jon let you drive him around?"
She had to think for a moment. "No, but then we've always been in his car or had a driver." When he just looked at her expectantly, she rolled her eyes. "Get in the car Rich. I promise I'll get you to Red Bank in one piece." She climbed in and put the key in the ignition.
Richie sighed and did as he was instructed.
He waited until they'd left the city and the traffic had eased before turning the conversation to a serious subject. "So tell me how everyone's really doing?"
"Actually they're doing well. The kids still have a few bad days now and then, but they're healing and are happy most days."
"And Jon? Is he 'healing and happy' most days?"
"I think so. He's a little overwhelmed at being a single parent sometimes, but he's really trying. He's even doing a lot of Romeo's potty training."
"Really?" Richie smiled. "Can't wait to see that!" He studied her profile. "And how are things going with the two of you?"
"Why do I hear a 'but' in there?"
She shrugged. "We don't get a lot of time alone together. Usually just the time between when the kids go to bed and when we do or the nights he comes into the city and stays at my place. He doesn't like to leave the kids very often." Realizing how her words sounded, she grimaced. "Don't get me wrong, I love the kids and I don't begrudge them his time. I just wish we had a little more time for ourselves."
"You need to get away for a few days just the two of you."
Brianna snorted. "I wish. But I don't see it happening. Aside from the kids, he's getting back into work mode. I think this is more than just a songwriting session for something to do. I think he's ready to put out an album, and maybe even a tour. I don't foresee much time for a holiday."
"Well, on the bright side, you'll be able to get some quality alone time during the tour. Just think about it! Hotels and room service, so no cooking or cleaning. Beautiful scenery...."
"Reporters, technical glitches, tired, moody boss, babysitting."
Richie frowned. "Babysitting? There won't be kids on tour."
"Pfft! Only the biggest kids of all!" She gave him a pointed look.
"You must be talking about Lemma, not me."
Richie just grinned.
The buzz of the gate opening could barely be heard over the pandemonium created by four kids who had been cooped up indoors too long.
"BIANNA'S HERE!" Jake announced when her car neared the house.
"BINA! YAY! BINA!"
"Thank God!" Jon muttered, heading for the front door.
"Uncle Mookie's here too!"
"Bonus!" Kicking into his boots, Jon reached for his coat just as the door opened.
"Hi buddy!" She started to bend down to hug him, but was stopped by his father.
Jon framed her face with his hands and captured her lips in a fierce kiss. "I am so glad to see you! Rich! Drop your shit and let's go out to the studio."
"Um, yeah....okay." Richie eyed the rambunctious kids, set down his suitcase picked up his guitar, waved at the kids and followed his host out the door.
Stunned, both by his intense greeting and his quick departure, Brianna watched them walk down the driveway. "Did you at least start something for dinner?!"
"Pfft!" She snorted. "Sorry my ass!" Closing the door, she sighed and looked at the kids. Any ideas for supper?"
"I took a lasagna out of the freezer and there's lettuce for a salad." Stephanie offered, raising her voice to be heard over Jake and Romeo' s screeches and yells as they chased each other around the foyer.
Brianna winced at the boys' volume. Walking over to Stephanie, she gave her a hug. "I love you!"
Stephanie laughed and hugged her back. "I love you too."
Jesse just rolled his eyes.
"Bianna come play with me!"
"No! Bina pay wif ME!"
"Boys!" Brianna interrupted. "I've got a better idea. Get your coats and boots on." She frowned. "Maybe your snow suits would be better."
"Where we going?" Jake wanted to know.
"What to do?"
"We're going to play in the snow. Maybe build a snowman, maybe a fort." Burn off some of your built up energy!
The next few minutes were pure chaos as preparations were made to brave the cold outdoors. Stephanie and Jesse decided they could use some fresh air too and joined them.
They moved around to the back of the house where there was plenty of room for whatever they wanted to build. There was no shortage of snow, but Brianna just prayed it would pack enough to be good building material.
Mother Nature was on her side. It was perfect packing snow. The boys immediately started rolling balls, Jesse and Stephanie helping with the big ones and lifting the smaller ones to form, not just a snowman, but a whole snow family.
Jesse looked over to where Brianna was standing eyeing the studio. He walked over to join her. "They'll come back for dinner."
"I know. Richie hasn't eaten since whatever they gave him on the plane. His hollow leg must be just about empty."
Jesse laughed. "So why are you staring at the studio?"
"Do you think we could build a wall here in front of that open area of the driveway?"
"I guess. What for?"
"To shield us from return fire."
He stared at her for a moment before her meaning sank in. He grinned, the twinkle in his blues eyes matching hers. "That will work. We should build one over on the other side too in case they circle around the front of the house and try to out flank us."
"Good idea! Steph! Boys! Come here."
"What?" Jake asked as he approached them.
"We need to form a battle plan."
"Who we fighting?"
"Daddy and Uncle Mookie."
Jake looked confused, but Stephanie whooped. "Snowball fight!"
Brianna nodded. "We need to build up our defences......and prepare our ammunition."