Jon ignored his sister’s smirk as he entered the room and settled Lauren into her high chair. “We’ll need to head out in about an hour or so.” He tweaked Stevie’s nose and winked at Ava before taking his seat. Looking closer at Tori’s face, he frowned in concern. “Are you sure you’re going to be up to this?”
Tori smiled and nodded. “Yes, I’ll be fine. I’m done throwing up.” I hope. She usually only threw up when she first got up, but she’d been sick three times that morning. She was chalking it up to nerves. It had been quite awhile since she’d performed.....and her body wasn’t exactly stage fit. She’d spent an hour in her closet with Ava trying to find something to wear. One longing look at the leather outfit she’d worn when she’d toured with the band assured her there was no way it was going to fit – at least not and look decent anyway. She finally had to settle for jeans and a violet, single shoulder strap tank top. Ava assured her it looked great, but she wasn’t convinced.
“You might be, but I may start after watching you eat that.” Hugh grimaced.
Tori looked down at her plate and shrugged. “It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“Uh huh. If you say so, but ketchup and mustard on a tuna sandwich? Just looking at it is turning my stomach.”
“She mixed the tuna with sour cream as well as mayonnaise.” Richie shuddered.
“I’m glad Rosa cooked dinner.” David swallowed heavily.
At the arena Tori set her clothes – and diaper bag and extra clothes for the kids – in Richie’s dressing room and went out for sound check.
Standing on the stage, she looked out into the empty seats and felt that first little flutter of excitement. Familiar hands cupped her shoulders.
Leaning back against her husband, she shook her head. “No, excited.” She tilted her head back so that she could see his face. “Did you put Jon up to this after our discussion?”
“Nope. This was all his idea.”
Giggles had them looking down into the seats in front of the stage where Ava was trying to keep Stevie and Lauren corralled and amused. Suddenly Stevie took off running towards the side of the stage.
“Hey buddy!” Tony bent to scoop his nephew into his arms. “How ya doing?” Moving to where Ava and Lauren were sitting, he waved at his sister and brother-in-law on the stage.
“Mama having baby.” Stevie informed him.
Confused, Tony looked at Ava. “What’s he mean?”
Tony turned to his family members on the stage. “For real? Another little rug rat?”
Richie grinned over his wife’s head. “Yep.”
Jon had arrived in time to hear his brother’s question and see the frown darken his face. “What’s the matter?”
“I’m trying to decide whether to thank them or be pi...er...mad at them. I don’t know if another grandchild will get me off the hook with Mom or whether she’s just going to harp at me more because you two and Matt have so many and I have none.”
“If Mom hasn’t called you yet to give you the news, I’m betting she’s trying to figure that out too.” Jon warned him.
“Great.” Tony sighed and reached over to hug Ava and Lauren before turning back towards the stage. “Thanks a lot Sambora!”
“It was my pleasure.” Richie grinned and ducked his wife’s swat.
After sound check they headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner where the guys fought to keep their food down while watching Tori spoon ranch salad dressing on her spaghetti and then dip her meatballs in it.
“Why can’t you just do the pickles and ice cream thing?” Tony stared at his sister.
“But then I wouldn’t get this reaction.” Tori replied, leaning over to adjust Stevie’s bib.
“You’re evil.” Tony shook his head and looked at his brother-in-law. “Bet you’re glad you’re on the road.”
“Believe it or not you get used to it.” Richie shrugged. “Actually, I find it fascinating. She never ceases to surprise me.”
“Surprises like that can make you lose your lunch.”
“So don’t look at it.” Tori scowled at her brother.
“Watch it Tony. She’s the favourite one now remember.” Jon reminded him. “Pi....er....tick her off and you’ll have Mom all over your a...uh...butt.”
“Wah,wah,wah.” Tori rolled her eyes. “I’m crying over here.”
Tony, Jon, Richie, David and Tico all froze and exchanged glances.
“Did you hear that?”
“Yeah. Where’d she get that from?”
“I don’t know. You been teaching her Chuck?”
“Nope. Never heard her do that before.”
“Maybe it’s in the DNA.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Tori asked, exasperated.
“You went Jersey on us for a minute.” Tony explained.
Tori stared at him, laughed and shrugged. “Guess I’ve been hanging around you guys too long....or I’ve watched too many movies.”
“We’re rubbing off on you. It was bound to happen.”
Tori sighed. “Guess that means next I’ll stop pumping my own gas.”
Back at the arena, Jon sat Tori down to discuss the new song she’d supplied some lyrics for. He really loved what she’d come up with and wanted her opinion on how he and Richie had finished it.
“So, what do you think?”
“I love it, it’s great!”
“Thanks for your help by the way.”
“I didn’t do much.”
“You got us started and that’s often the hardest part.”
After that, they all sat and visited until it was time to get ready. Jon called Tori into his dressing room to go over the set list and warm up their voices.
“Angel, where are the kids?” Richie stuck his head into the room.
“Ava and Rew took the little ones to catering for some dessert.”
“You let Rew look after our kids?”
“Ava’s in charge. She’ll call if there’s a problem.”
A noise down the hall announced their return.
“What have you guys been up to?” Richie swung Stevie up into the air.
“Wew gotted us some cake!”
“I bet it was chocolate too.” Richie laughed.
Stevie nodded. “How you know?”
“’Cause you’ve got it all over your face.”
“There’s wipes in the diaper bag.” Tori called and turned back to Jon. “Are we done?”
“Yes. Go.” He glanced at his watch and jumped up to do some stretches.
Tori walked into Richie’s dressing room to see Ava rummaging in the diaper bag. “What are you looking for Bean?”
“Sweetpea needs her pants changed and a clean shirt.” Ava replied, pulling out the required items. “By the way, she really likes chocolate ice cream.”
One glance at Lauren verified her big sister’s opinion. “Did she get any in her mouth?”
Ava laughed. “Yeah. A lot. Then I gave her some water. I hope it wasn’t too much.”
“She’ll probably be okay.”
They got the baby cleaned up just in time for her parents to head for the stage. Walking down the hallway, Richie lifted her high in the air and made airplane noises as he ‘flew’ her. As they reached the stage and stopped and waited for the cue to climb up the stairs, he tossed her lightly, grinning at her squeals.
“Rich, I wouldn’t bounce her around too much.” Tori warned. “She just ate and is really full. She might throw up.”
“Naw, she wouldn’t do that to her Daddy, would you Sweetpea?” Holding the baby over his head he smiled up at her.
Lauren opened her mouth and her laugh was cut off by a spew of ice cream and water.