Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chapter 117

"Are you sure you don't need us to come early and help you set up?" Sara asked.

She was in wedding chaos. Rehearsal was the next day and she was beginning to doubt that everything would be ready in time. As much as her mother might provide some help, Brianna didn't need her disapproving father standing around criticizing everything - out loud or silently. "Um..oh! No! Guys, turn the chairs the other way please...facing the river. Thanks. Sorry Mom. Why don't you come with Lisa and Rachel tomorrow morning. The boys can bring Father in the afternoon."

"You don't need them earlier?"

"No. The tent company is here setting up. The caterers are bringing their own help. Jon's brothers and his bandmates will all be here. They can provide any grunt labour we need."

"Yes, Mistress. Igor happy to help." Richie walked by her on his way to the house, one shoulder hunched, one leg dragging, face contorted, looking like something out of a bad horror movie.

Brianna reached out to swat him.

"Who's Igor?" Sara had overheard him.

"Oh, that's just Richie being a goof. Igor! Can you make sure Jon has the bar in the Inn stocked for the rehearsal party please?"

"Yes Mistress!"

"I wish you'd let us help with the rehearsal party at least. Surely we could bring some food or something." Sara insisted.

"Oh no." Brianna shook her head. "Jon's father's in charge of the food and I've learned that when he's creating in the kitchen it's best to stay out of his way and wait for instructions. Seriously Mom, everything's under control. Just relax tonight, play with the kids, and I'll see you in the morning."

"Okay. We'll be there as early as we can."

Great. Brianna sighed as she hung up. Only two more days. I hope Jon picked a relaxing spot for the honeymoon. She ran a critical over the workmen setting up around the backyard, looked down at her list attached to the clipboard in her hand, then up at the sky. The weather had once again turned warm and sunny. She prayed it stayed that way.

Jon stepped out of the house and looked around at the - he hoped - organized chaos that used to be his backyard. As usual when she was near, his gaze was drawn to Brianna. The tension visible in her face made him frown, but he knew it wasn't going to go away until the wedding was over. If he was being honest, he was a little tense himself. He wanted everything to be perfect - for her even more than for himself. She'd worked so hard. Stepping up behind her, he slid his arms around her waist and hugged her close. "You holding up okay? Need a drink?"

Brianna leaned back against him and groaned. "Why didn't we hire a wedding planner again?"

"Uhhhhh because you wanted to experience the joy of organizing it all yourself?" He smiled at her snort. "And because you're as much of a perfectionist as I am when it comes to the important things." When she turned her head to glare at him, he shrugged and dropped a kiss on her nose. "That's one of the reasons I hired you."

"Hmpf!" She grunted. "Is the Inn stocked for tomorrow?"

"Yes dear. And Mom called. Dad had her at the grocery store for two hours getting supplies. He's so excited he couldn't decide what he wanted to make, so he dug out the family recipe book. It's going to be an Italian smorgasbord."

"Mmm." Brianna groaned. "Sound delicious. What's for dessert? Cannoli? Tiramisu?"


"Have I told you how much I love your father?"

Jon chuckled and gave her a squeeze. "He loves you too."

"BINA! I hungy!"

"Coming little man." She straightened. "I swear that boy has a hollow leg."

"Maybe." His stomach growled. "But I think he's got the right idea."

"Bianna? Is it lunch time yet?" Jake left his chair where he had been watching the workmen and approached the house.

"Brianna? When's lunch?" Jesse appeared around the corner of the house.

"Okay, okay, I get the message. Yeesh! You guys act like I'm starving you." She turned and started for the house.

"I've been meaning to talk to you about that." The glint in Jon's eyes told her he wasn't talking about food.

"Aw, poor baby. You're so deprived."

He opened the door for her, followed her in and sighed. "I know. I've got the blue balls to prove it."

Brianna snorted and poked him in the stomach with her elbow.

In the kitchen, they found Richie and Stephanie surveying cupboard and fridge contents.

"Oooh, lasagna!" Stephanie exclaimed.

"Touch that and Grandpa will strangle you." Her father warned. "That's for tomorrow."

"Oh. Nuts."

"Grilled cheese?" Jake suggested as he joined them.

"That we can do." Jon agreed and opened a drawer to pull out the frying pan.

The dining room table was quiet as everyone focussed on their food.

Romeo set down his sandwich and looked around the room. "Daddy says he gots blue balls, but I no know where he put dem."

Jon stared at his youngest, speechless.

Brianna stared at her plate.

Richie choked as he fought not to laugh.

Jake looked confused.

Jesse smirked.

Stephanie was disgusted. "Ew! Really Dad? Really?"

Jon's gaze snapped to his daughter and narrowed. "How do you even know what that means?"

Stephanie rolled her eyes. "I'm not a child, Dad."

He turned to Brianna. "How does she know what that means?"

"Same way you learned stuff your parents would rather you didn't at that age."

"Neighbourhood housewives that need their 'lawns mowed'?" Jessie blinked innocently.

This time Richie couldn't hold it in. His laughter echoed throughout the room.

So did Brianna's.

Jon wasn't amused. "Is no part of my life private?"

"You should know by now that anything you say in an interview - whether it was two weeks or twenty years ago - is fair game and libel to come back and bite you in the ass." Brianna pointed out.

Jon just grumbled into his glass.

It was dinner time before the workers finished and left for the day. They would return the morning of the wedding for any touch ups that were needed. Tomorrow the florists would descend to begin their preparations.

"Everyone needs to get a good night's sleep." Brianna reminded them. "Tomorrow's going to be a long and busy day."

The kids had no problem relaxing and making an early night of it, but Brianna couldn't settle. While trying to watch T.V. after dinner, her lists kept running through her head, and she couldn't sit still. Finally, she decided a short workout might be helpful and she headed to the gym.

Jon entered the living room with snacks. Setting them on the table, he looked around. "Where's Bri?"

Jesse looked around too. "Isn't she here?"

Stephanie rolled her eyes at her brother. "You're totally oblivious aren't you."

"Oooh, did you learn a new word?" He shot back.

"Guys, cut it out. Do you know where Bri is?" Their father stepped in.

"I think she went to the gym." Stephanie answered.

"Thank you."

Brianna looked up when Jon appeared beside the treadmill. "Hey."

"What are you doing? What happened to resting up before tomorrow?"

She grimaced. "Can't...relax." She panted. "Trying off.....excess energy."

"Hmmm. I know another way to work off energy and relax you." He waggled his eyebrows.

She considered him for a moment, then shook her head. "Nope. Not until after the wedding, remember."

He closed his eyes and groaned. "I still don't remember agreeing to that." Opening his eyes again he scowled at her. "I think you took advantage of me in a weak moment."

"In a post coital fog you mean." She grinned. 

"Brat." He frowned down at his crotch. "I'm going to discover a whole new shade of blue."

"It'll go with your eyes." The scowl was back again and she laughed, stumbled and turned off the treadmill. "It's only two more nights. You'll survive."

"But you may not survive the honeymoon."  He warned her as he handed her a towel.

"Speaking of the honeymoon, are you going to tell me where we're going?"


"You've got to give me some idea, I need to know what clothes to pack."

"Clothes? It's a honeymoon. No clothes required."

She flicked the towel at him. "You wish!"

"I do." He nodded. "Desperately." He leaned in to kiss her. "Calmed down now?"

"A little."

"Go have a hot shower and I'll open some wine." He nudged her towards the door.

"Not joining me?"

"I'm in enough agony thanks."

He followed her laughter out the door.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chapter 116

"Jon, what are you doing?" Carol asked from the doorway of the kitchen where she'd stayed out of the way, but had heard the whole conversation. "I thought you loved her."

"I do."

"Well, you couldn't have hurt her any more if you'd picked up a stick and beat her." She sighed and sat down. "Honey.....I don't think you're ready to get married again."

Jon sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. "Why do you say that?"

"For starters, you just told Brianna that you'll never be over Dot. I'd say that was a pretty big clue."

"How do you get over the love of your life? The person you thought you'd spend the rest of your life with?" He shook his head. "But that has nothing to do with my feelings for Bri."

"It does if you're continually comparing her to Dot...and finding her wanting. Don't ask her to live in Dot's shadow Jon, that's not fair." She frowned. "I thought you had this all settled in your mind before you proposed."

"I did."

"Then what happened?"

"I'm not sure. Hearing Romeo call her mom..." He grimaced.

"Felt wrong and disrespectful of Dot?"

He shook his head. "No." He sighed. "It felt right and that felt disrespectful of Dot."

"So you lashed out at Brianna out of guilt." Carol nodded in understanding. "But have to realize that Brianna is going to be the only mother Romeo will remember. Brianna will do her best to remind him of Dot with the books and recordings, but he's just too young."

"I know."

"Do you think she'll be a good mother?"

"Yes. She's an excellent mother."

Carol picked up the ring and held it out to him. "Then go find her and apologize. Explain to her what's in your head and your heart.....and hope she forgives you."

Jon took the ring and stood up. "Tell me, oh wise one, any idea where I can find her? She could be anywhere between here and the city."

"Follow your heart."

"Gee, thanks. That's helpful." Jon responded dryly.

Opening the front door, Jon stepped into a full blown storm. The rain pelted down and the wind pushed it in all directions. By the time he got to his car, his shirt was already soaked.

No way she would try driving far in this. Where are you Golden Eyes?

He drove slowly around the neighbourhood, then followed an impulse and headed for the shore. Twenty minutes later, he was ready to give up and go home, hoping she'd come back when she calmed down, when he spotted her car in a lot that had access to the beach.

A quick look inside told him she wasn't waiting out the storm in the car's protection. A hand on the hood told him the car had been there awhile - it was cold. He glanced around, but could barely see three feet in front of him in the teeming rain and the rapidly diminishing light. Sand shifted under his feet as he walked towards the water, looking up and down the beach.

He couldn't see anything and was turning to go back to the car when the wind shifted and he finally spotted her. She was sitting on the sand facing the water, curled over her bent knees. As he walked towards her, he tried to plan what he was going to say.

He still hadn't figured it out when he reached her.

Brianna didn't look up when he sat down beside her. 

When she'd left the house, she didn't know where to go. She just had to get away. The storm made driving next to impossible even without tears blurring her vision. The sane part of her brain convinced her to pull over before she crashed. The car felt suffocating and she had to get out, despite the weather.

The rain suited her mood. Her whole world was crashing down around her. She didn't even feel the cold, didn't notice the wind. She felt.....numb. So she sat and stared at the ocean and tried to figure out how her life had gone from sugar to shit in the blink of an eye.

And the worst part was, she had no idea what she'd done wrong. She'd done everything she could for Jon and his family. To care for them, love them to the best of her ability. But it wasn't enough. As Jon said, she wasn't Dot and she never would be.

Face it Brianna, your best just isn't good enough. Just like Alex told you. You always knew, deep down, right from the start that Jon didn't love you. He chose you because it was what Dorothea wanted, but when it came right down to it, he couldn't go through with it.

But she'd taken a chance, and now she'd lost.....everything. She didn't even have a place to live. And she didn't know if she was angrier at Jon or herself.

Tears of grief and frustration overwhelmed her and she let them flow. When they subsided, she gave herself a mental shake and a lecture. Enough with the pity party Brianna! You're stronger than that! You've come so far.....stood on your own.....proved your worth. Don't let yourself be dragged back down again. If he wants to relegate you to a glorified nanny and housekeeper walk away. You want more than that. You're capable of so much more than that! You can start over again. Maybe move. Maybe L.A. Richie would put you up until you got settled. Leaving the kids - and Jon - would tear a hole in her heart, but she would survive. She'd rather live with a broken heart than have her soul wither and die.

"I know that a lot of people find the sound of the ocean soothing, but I don't think they meant in the middle of a torrential downpour." Jon quipped.

Brianna just shrugged.

"Okay, that was a bad attempt at humour in a situation that isn't funny." He acknowledged. "I'm sorry Golden Eyes. I shouldn't have lashed out at you like that. You haven't done anything wrong." He reached out to catch a lock of hair the wind had pulled out of her twist and tucked it behind her ear. "When Romeo called you momma, it startled me. It upset me - but not for the reason you think."

Brianna watched the muscle in his jaw twitch, but stayed silent.

"It startled me because it reminded me that you're not their mother. And the fact that I had to be reminded upset me. It felt disrespectful to Dot. I felt guilty and lashed out at you. That was wrong. You have been wonderfully loving and supportive to me and the kids. We never would have made it through losing Dot without you.  I can't thank you enough for that."

Brianna stiffened. "I don't want your gratitude!"

"I know, but you've got it anyway. Deal with it."

Amber eyes glittered.

He grinned and held his hands up defensively. "Don't bite me!" He shivered. "It's freezing out here. Can we go home and talk about this?"

She looked out at the frothing water again and ignored the question. "You were right about one thing Jon. I'm not Dot and I never will be. If that's what you're looking for, you and I will never work."

"I know, and I'm not. I told you the truth when I said I will always love Dot. But she's gone and there's nothing I can do to bring her back. The best way I can honour her is to do as she wanted - to love again and move on with my life. That's what I'm doing."

She gathered her courage. "By marrying the woman she chose for you."

His eyes narrowed as he considered her words - and the meaning behind them. "Is that what you think I'm doing? That I'm marrying you because it's what Dot wanted?"

Brianna shrugged. "Aren't you?"

"No! You can't seriously think that! Bri...honey, I love you. Not just for what you've done for my family, but for the woman that you are. You're smart and caring and considerate. I'm marrying you, not because it's what Dot wanted, but because it's what I want. You make the perfect partner for me. Personally and professionally."

"Really? You really believe that?"

"Of course. I wouldn't have proposed otherwise."

"Then why are you taking my job away? You know how much it means to me, how much I need to have my professional skills acknowledged and appreciated. To be thought of as more than just a homemaker and hostess." Tears stung her eyes again, but she blinked them away, determined to retain control.

"I know, and I do. I'm not taking your job away." He assured her.

"Oh?" Brianna lifted a skeptical brow. "When Amanda was hired, she was to take care of the correspondence and a little scheduling. Now she' doing the correspondence, ninety percent of the scheduling and the tour!"

"Yes, but with the wedding...."

"And what am I supposed to do after the wedding? Sit around and twiddle my thumbs while you take her around the world?" She sighed. "I loved being on tour." At least the parts that didn't involve dealing with Dorothea's illness.

Jon snorted. "Which part? Living out of a suitcase, changing cities everyday, always on the lookout for Tico's pranks, dealing with Lemma and Richie's antics on a daily basis?"

She nodded, her expression glowing with her memories. "Watching you on stage, in your element, the crowd responding to your smallest gesture, the electricity in the air, hearing the songs we all love played live - and singing along."

He'd forgotten she was a fan long before he met her. And he truly hadn't appreciated how much she enjoyed being involved in that part of his life. "Let's put our heads together. Between the two of us we should be able to come up with a compromise."

"You mean it?"

"Of course. My intention was never to cut you out of my professional life. I honestly was only trying to lighten your load." He lifted one hand to cup her chin and turn her face up to his. "I love you Bri. You. Not some Dot clone. Not her hand picked replacement. You."

Eyes shining - this time with happy tears - Bri smiled. "I love you too."

Jon leaned in to kiss her and was shocked at the coldness of her lips. The coolness of the skin under his fingers and the trembling of her body registered next. "You're freezing! Let's go home."

She took the hand he held out to her and let him pull her to her feet.....and didn't let go until they reached the parking lot.

Jon frowned at her car. "Leave yours here. We'll get it in the morning."

Brianna shook her head. "I can drive." Seeing his expression turn mutinous, she fought back a grin. He looked so much like Jake. And she handled him the same way - distraction. She stepped closer to murmur in his ear. "Then we can......relax.....tomorrow."

Hoping her idea of relaxing was the same as his, he grudgingly gave in. But he followed close behind to make sure she didn't run into any problems.

Even with the car's heater blowing full blast all the way home, Brianna was still shivering when she drove through the gates and parked. Jon joined her before she was halfway to the door, and rushed her inside.

"Go have a hot shower." He nudged her towards the stairs. When she resisted, he pushed harder. "Don't argue with me. You're chilled to the bone. Go."

"Yes boss!" She saluted him.

"Brat." He made sure she was going before he headed for the living room to let his mother and the kids know they were back.

"Jon! You're soaking wet!" Carol exclaimed.

"Well, yeah, in case you having noticed, it's storming."

"Don't sass your mother. Get in a hot shower right now."

What a great idea. "Yes ma'am!"

Brianna stood under the hot spray and focused on absorbing the warmth. She hoped Jon meant what he said. She didn't like being torn between the family she loved and what she knew she needed for herself. Determined to think positive and have faith in him, she resolved to find a compromise they could both live soon as she got warm.

The shower door opening and letting in a gust of cool air didn't help. "Hey!"

"Sorry." Jon stepped in and quickly shut the door. "God that feels good."

"Stop trying to steal my hot water!" She tried to push him aside. "Can't you wait until I'm done?"

"Nope. I'm freezing." He considered her for a moment. "I could come up with an incentive to share."

"Oh? I don't know. This feels pretty good."

"So will this." He reached for the shampoo.

As his fingers worked lather through her hair and massaged her scalp, she closed her eyes and groaned. "Mmmm. Okay, you're right. That feels even better."

"Told ya." He grinned.

When she stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel, Brianna noticed her engagement ring on the counter.  Her happy, relaxed mood faded. She had a decision to make. Did she follow her head and walk away...maybe start fresh somewhere else? Or did she follow her heart and trust that he was being honest with her...and himself?

Jon stepped up beside her,  reached for her left hand and slid her ring back onto her finger. "Don't take it off again."

One delicate brow arched and she searched his eyes. "Don't give me reason to." And don't make me regret this decision.

He sighed. "Agreed."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chapter 115

She was a coward. There was no two ways about it. While she'd made great strides in being able to stand up for herself in a lot of situations, when it came to the man in her life and her job - specifically, his opinion of what her job should be - she was still a spineless wimp.

She knew that Jon was trying to ease her out of her job and into the role of full time wife and mother. When they first hired Amanda - a forty year old divorcee and former executive secretary in a large law firm - she was given charge of the basic correspondence and a bit of scheduling. It wasn't enough for a full time job, but she'd gotten a generous settlement in the divorce and was just looking for something to fill in some time. But as spring faded into summer and summer edged towards fall, Brianna noticed that more and more was being sent Amanda's way. Since she was knee deep in wedding arrangements, she didn't mind...too much. As long as it didn't become a permanent thing.

Then it went a step too far.

Returning from a meeting with the caterers, Brianna entered her office, sat down and frowned. A folder was missing. She searched through the small pile on top of her desk, then through the drawers. Twice. It wasn't there. Rising, she headed for Jon's office. "Jon?"

He glanced up and leaned back in his chair. "Hey honey. Get the menu finalized?"

"Hmm? Oh. Yes. You'll get your cookies." She snorted at his satisfied grin. "I had a red folder on my desk and now it's gone. Have you seen it?"

Jon frowned in thought and glanced around his desk. "What was in it?"

"It was my tour folder. It had the confirmed dates from AEG, hotel confirmations for the cities I've booked so far, the jet booking and a preliminary schedule."

"Oh. I sent that to Mandy."

Brianna felt like she'd been punched in the stomach. Her voice was barely more than a whisper. "Why?"

"So that she can see how you do things, what still needs to be done and get a feel for how the tour functions before we hit the road."

Her gut told her his 'we' wasn't who she hoped it would be. She swallowed heavily. "Are you taking the tour away from me?"

"I'm not taking anything away from you." He hesitated, knowing she wasn't going to like what he was going to say, but he just couldn't see any other solution. "But let's face it. Someone's got to stay with the kids."

She sighed. "And that someone is me."

"Well I can't stay home."

"I know." So once again she was being told she needed to leave a fulfilling job and look after the homefront, like a good little wife. And the worst part was she couldn't argue his logic. The kids couldn't stay alone and it was too much to ask of a relative.

When she turned to leave the room, Jon grimaced. "Bri.."

She waved her hand, but didn't stop. "You're right. It's fine."

Only a stupid man would fall for 'I’m fine'. He knew she wasn't.....but he didn't know how to fix it. Sighing, he stood and followed her. He arrived in the living room in time to see her, ball in hand, heading for the back door. 

"Come on guys, let's go outside and play. Copper you too."

"Hey!" Romeo almost got knocked over by the exuberant canine. Regaining his balance, he took off after his pet.

"Bri.." Jon tried again, but she was already out the door.

"Daddy, you coming to play with us?" Jake asked as he paused in the doorway.

"Yeah Dad, come toss the football around." Jesse urged from behind him.

Knowing he was beaten for the moment, Jon scrubbed a hand over his face. "Yeah, let's go."

After the kids had gone to bed, Jon tried again. "Honey, can we please talk about the tour?"

Brianna sighed. "There's really no need. I know this is the way it has to be."

"You know I'd rather have you with me, but the kids need you more."

"I know. I get it." Doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

"So we've got our dresses, how's the rest of the planning coming along?" Lisa asked her sister-in-law. "Everything all set?"

The two of them, along with Rachel had spent the last few hours roaming the shops in Manhattan, and we're now relaxing on one of their favourite restaurant's patio, enjoying a few snacks and celebratory beverages.

Brianna nodded. "Pretty much. I've got a final meeting with the florist next week, but other than that everything's under control." She grinned. "Although the boys were very disappointed to find out their 'monkey suits' weren't actual monkey costumes."

The girls laughed.

"How's your mother been?" Rachel slanted her a knowing look and reached for her glass. After being married to Richard for fifteen years, she knew all too well how Sara worked.

"I took her with me to shop for my dress, so she's somewhat pacified." Brianna fought back a shudder at the memory. Sara had launched a full scale guilt trip, but Brianna had managed to stay strong. This wedding was going to be her way - especially since nothing else in her life was.

"What colour did you get?" Lisa wanted to know.


"Mmmm. Daddy Dearest won't be pleased." Rachel observed.

Brianna shrugged. "I know, but he's just going to have to suck it up. It's my wedding, my dress."

"Good girl!"

"At least with Jon you won't have to deal with the barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen mentality." Lisa commented encouragingly.

"Well, two out of three anyway." Brianna muttered as she picked up her glass and sipped.

Lisa and Rachel exchanged a glance and sat up.

"Brianna? Is someone wrong?" Lisa reached for her hand.

"Well, she'll never be barefoot. She likes shoes too much." Rachel noted. "Are you pregnant?"

Brianna snorted and shook her head. "Jon had a vasectomy after Romeo was born."

"That leaves the kitchen." Lisa frowned. "Bri, what's going on? Has he suddenly decided he doesn't want you to work?"

"Not exactly." Brianna sighed. "He hired another assistant a few months ago. He said with the house, the kids, the Soul, his charities and now the album release and the tour, it was too much for one person especially with all the wedding planning on top of all the rest."

"Sounds reasonable."

"Considerate even." Rachel agreed. "So what's the problem?"

"She will be accompanying him on the tour...."

"While you stay home with the kids." Rachel finished.

Brianna nodded.

"Well......someone has to stay with the kids." Lisa pointed out.

"I know."

"But you wish it didn't have to be you." Rachel guessed.

"Yes." Amber eyes filled. "I'm such a horrible person! Those kids lost their mother and all I can think about is losing a job."

"Not horrible," Lisa argued, "just human."

"Everyone involved knows how much you love those kids." Rachel added. "And with your past experience with the men in your life and their views of your work, no one could blame you for being upset at having a job you love so much taken away."

"The worst part is, I can't even blame him. As you said, someone has to stay with the kids."

"What would have liked to see happen?" Lisa asked.

"I mentioned a nanny ages ago, but he wasn't interested."

"And would you be comfortable leaving the kids in someone else's care for the better part of a year and a half?" Rachel questioned. At Brianna's grimace she nodded. "I didn't think so."

"Talk to him. Maybe you can come up with some sort of compromise." Lisa suggested.

"Maybe." But she wasn't holding out much hope. She'd racked her brain but hadn't been able to come up with anything.

September had started off unseasonably warm, but a few days in the temperatures dropped drastically. Brianna prayed that it was just a blip and it would warm up again in time for the wedding.

"Looks like a storm coming." Carol shivered as she and Brianna hurried to the car. They'd had the final meeting with the florist and both were pleased with the result. "Those centrepieces are going to be just beautiful."

"Mmm. I think so too." Brianna agreed, casting an assessing eye at the rapidly darkening sky. "I hope we get home before it rains."

They made it just in the nick of time. As they closed the door behind them, there was a big clap of thunder and the skies opened.

"Whew! That was close." Carol exclaimed. "It's really coming down!"

The sound of Romeo's plaintive cries drew Brianna's gaze to the stairs. Jon appeared with the toddler in his arms and started down. "Good. You're back."

"What's wrong with him?"

"He was complaining about a stomach ache ever since you left. I just got him to sleep. That loud crack of thunder woke him up and scared him."

"Aw, poor little man." Brianna reached for him.

"Momma!" Romeo leaned towards her.

Jon jerked as if he'd been punched and would have pulled Romeo away, but Brianna already had him.

Her startled gaze flew to Jon's as she rubbed Romeo's back soothingly. "Jon..."

He waved a hand, turned on his heel and stalked away. "I've got work to do."

Brianna started after him, but Carol set a hand on her arm. "He was startled. Let him calm down first."

Sighing, Brianna nodded. "Do you want to stay for dinner?"

Twenty minutes later, she entered his office and sat down across the desk from him. "Can we talk about this?"


"Jon, he was scared, he just woke and he's not feeling well. He didn't know what he was saying."

He grunted and stood up.


"I've got to go pick up the kids." He left without another word.

After the kids had left the dinner table, she tried again. "What are you so angry about? He's an upset little boy. He didn't know what he was saying."

Jon shrugged his shoulders.

Her frustration boiled over. "Don't just shrug your shoulders! Don't grunt at me, talk to me! Tell me what I did wrong! Tell me what I..."

"You're not their mother!" Jon exploded. "You're not Dot and you never will be!"

It was a direct hit, straight to her heart. Despite everything she'd done, everything she'd given still came back to Dot. "No, I'm not. Obviously, you not over.."

"I'll never get over her!"

She stared down at her ring. "Maybe we should rethink the wedding idea."

"Maybe we should."

Brianna took a deep breath and nodded. Her hands were shaking so bad she almost couldn't get the ring off. She stood up, laid the ring on the table beside him and walked out of the room.

The closing of the front door echoed a few seconds later.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Chapter 114

"So have you decided on a date?" Sara asked her daughter as she had every few days since she'd heard about the engagement.

"Yes. September twentieth."

"Okay. That gives us over a year to get organized. The first thing we need to do..."

"No Mom," Brianna interrupted, "September of this year."

"What? But...but....that's only four months away! That doesn't give us enough time!" Sara stuttered. "We need to find a location and book the church and..."

"No we don't." Brianna interrupted again. "We're going to have it here, on the lawn."

Sara considered that for a moment. "That could work, it's a good size space. I just hope it's big enough."

"There's lots of room." Brianna assured her. "We're keeping it small. Just family and friends. No business contacts."

"Your father's not going to like that."

"Since he doesn't approve of me marrying Jon, I would think he'd be relieved not have his business associates witness the horrific event."

"Snideness doesn't become you Brianna." Sara scolded.

Brianna snorted. "But am I lying?"

"That's beside the point." Sara cleared her throat. "Now. Your dress and flowers. What are you thinking?"

"I'm not sure really, fall colours for the flowers, but I haven't decided varieties yet. As for my dress, I want to look through some designer lines before I decide."

"And the colour?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you're not going to wear white are you? That would be a little.....gauche...don't you think?"

"Is that you talking or Father?" Brianna waved her hand. "It doesn't matter. It's the twenty-first century Mom, I can wear white if I want to." She took a calming breath. "I'm looking for cream, not white."

"Hmpf! Well, I've been making some preliminary plans, which can be easily adjusted for fall colours. Lilies and mums I think, with yellow and rust table cloths. And a string quartet for the ceremony, and..."

"Mom, stop. You got to plan my last wedding to suit you. This one's going to be the way I want it. Simple, yet elegant."

"I wasn't aware I did such a bad job or that you were so unhappy with it."

Brianna grit her teeth, but was determined to ignore the guilt trip and have her way this time. "I never said you did a bad job. It was beautiful. But you did almost all the work and planning. This time I want to do it myself."

"So you just want us to give you a check and stay out of it." Sara sniffed.

"No!" Brianna squeezed the bridge of her nose with two fingers and struggled to keep her temper. "We don't want your check. You and Father paid for my first wedding. Jon and I are paying for this one. I will keep you updated on my plans and if I need some help I'll let you know."

"Fine. I'll wait to hear from you then."

By the time Brianna got off the phone her head was throbbing. When it rang again she almost didn't answer it. "Hello?"

"Hi Brianna, it's Carol."

"Hi Carol, how are you?"

"I'm good. I'm just calling about the wedding."

The throbbing kicked up a notch. "Oh?"

"I was wondering how many people I can invite?

"Well, we want to keep it small, so we'd prefer it if you just invite family and close friends." She felt she had to be a little more flexible with Jon's parents since they didn't get to be involved with his first wedding.

"Okay. Now, about the food. We've got some friends who have relatives that are excellent caterers. And I still have a lot of contacts in the florist community and....."

Brianna closed her eyes and let Carol's voice wash over her. She knew her future mother-in-law was only trying to be helpful, but she had a feeling that between their mothers, her negotiation and diplomacy skills were going to be put to the test over the next few months.

Jon looked up from the TV when Brianna walked into the living room. The expression on her face had him frowning, but before he could say anything, she grabbed a pillow, dropped it on his lap and laid down beside him, burying her head in the pillow. "What's wrong?"

"I'm beginning to think maybe you and Dorothea were smart to just go to Vegas."

"You've been talking to your mother about wedding plans." He guessed.

"And yours."

He rubbed her back soothingly. "Do what you want. I'll back you up and help you deal with my mother."

"What about mine?"

He shuddered, but put up a brave front. "I'll do what I can."

Brianna sighed and closed her eyes.

Romeo got up from where he was playing with his blocks on the floor and walked over to the couch. "Bina seepin?"

Jon smiled at the loud whisper and nodded. "Yes. She needed a nap."

"Me too." Romeo climbed up onto the couch on his father's other side and laid down with his head on the other edge of the pillow.

Looking down at the two heads on his lap, Jon chuckled and turned his attention back to ESPN. A few minutes later, Copper appeared at his feet, looking longingly at the couch. "Oh no. Sorry old man, there's no more room up here."

Copper sighed and laid down on the floor.

With wedding preparations finally underway, Jon knew he had to get moving on hiring another assistant. Just when he'd gotten his sex life revving along nicely, it stalled again. But this time it wasn't due to inhibitions, or concerns about the kids. Brianna was simply exhausted by the end of the day.

His first thought was to do the interviews himself, but the part of his brain that warned him when he was about to do something stupid kicked in and he asked her to sit in.

Brianna wasn't sure how she was going to fit interviews in to her already packed days, but on the other hand, the sooner they hired someone, the sooner some of her responsibilities could be handed off. And if that idea made her wary of future of her job, she was just going to have to suck it up and hope for the best.

Sitting around the big desk listening to Jon ask questions reminded Brianna of her own interview a few years earlier and she watched the applicants reactions to meeting him face to face. She could tell immediately who the fans were and watched them struggle to maintain a professional demeanour. She remembered that feeling well. There were still odd moments when she couldn't quite believe she was such an intimate part of his life.

Jon's memories were centred on more recent events. When Brianna pulled a chair around his desk to sit beside him he couldn't resist making a show of looking under it, then crooking a brow at her.

Interpreting his expression correctly, Brianna rolled her eyes and swatted his arm, her face burning. "Ass!"

"Well, yes, you have a fine one, but we need to focus on work today. You'll have to wait until we get home." His smirk widened into a grin as her eyes narrowed at him. He was saved from her retaliation by Evelyn's knock announcing the first applicant.

It was a long day, but a productive one. Some of Brianna's fears were eased as Jon had described what the new assistant's duties would be: mainly correspondence and some scheduling. The bulk of the scheduling would stay with Brianna along with his charity work.

But as they discussed the applicants on the way home, and Jon asked her opinion on which of those they'd interviewed would be capable of taking on a heavier workload in the future, her anxiety increased again. "What are you thinking?

He shrugged. "Just considering our options and what might be helpful in the future."

That didn't make her feel any better.