Monday, August 29, 2011

Chapter 31

A week later, Richie came out of the pet store after replenishing their supplies – he couldn’t believe how much a puppy could eat! – to find another flier on his windshield.

Feeling stuck in a loveless marriage?  Looking for a way out? The one you’ve been longing for is just around the corner. The love and family you deserve is waiting for you.

Richie snorted and tossed the note into the passenger seat. Must be some movie or a play....or maybe a dating service. The only love and family I want is waiting for me at home.  I may not deserve them, but I want them.

He ran a mental check list of what he was supposed to pick up. Food, treats, chew toys – so Taffy would have something other than their shoes to chew on. Actually, she never touched Tori’s shoes. The puppy’s behaviour around Tori was very....surprising. While she played with the kids – and him – sometimes roughly, she was very careful with Tori. After that first day, she never jumped on Tori again, but would often lie quietly beside her. She also tended to follow Tori around from room to room, particularly when the kids were napping. It was almost as if she was watching over Tori.

As for Tori....he’d been afraid that she didn’t like dogs and would ignore Taffy as much as possible. He should have known better. Judging by the affection she doled out on the pup, her beef really was with the time and effort required to look after a dog. Not that she did any of it, other than the occasional brushing. No, it all fell on him. She was making a point. But he had no room to argue. He’d been warned and he’d brought it on himself. A glance at the dashboard clock told him he’d better get a move on. Taffy would need to be walked soon.

“So, are you speaking to him yet?” Karin asked even though she knew the answer.

“Yeah. You know I can’t stay mad at him for very long.” Tori considered her own words for a moment. “Not over something like a dog, anyway.”

“You just like the make up sex too much.”

“What can I say?  My husband is a sexy stud.”

“I believe the animal he’s compared to is a moose, not a horse.”

“He’s a bull alright.”

“TMI Tori!”

Tori chuckled. “Jealous?  How is Shirley anyway?”

“Hey! Don’t be knocking my Chia Pet! Besides, it’s not about the size, but how he uses it. And David definitely knows how to use it.”

“Mmmmhmmm. Lucky for me, I get both size and skill.” Tori opened the fridge in search of a bottle of water.

“Stop bragging!”

Tori’s laugh was cut off by Lauren’s scream followed by crying.

“What was that?” Karin had heard the scream.

“Lauren. Hang on.” Tori rushed into the living room to see Lauren sitting on the floor, her face scrunched up and red as she voiced her unhappiness, Stevie and the puppy sat nearby. “What happened?”

“Taffy knock her over.”

“Is she okay?” Karin asked when Tori came back on the line.

“Yes. Collision of puppy and toddler. I think she’s more mad than hurt.”

“Never a dull moment around your house, is there?”

“Nope.  It’s a regular circus around the Sambora house. Don’t pull on Taffy’s ears Sweetpea, you’ll hurt her.”

“So, what does that make you? The ringmaster?”

“Ringmaster, lion tamer, juggler. Don’t give her too many treats Peanut. She’ll get sick and Daddy won’t be happy if he has to clean up another mess.”

“Clown? No, that would be Richie’s department.”

“Actually, that’s more your house than mine. Richie’s more like a comedian...and then not as bad as Shirley. His impersonations are hilarious though.”

“Our lives sure are different than how we pictured them ten years ago, aren’t they? I mean instead of your average white collar husbands and three bedroom houses with maybe a pool if we were lucky, we live in mansions, get to travel all over the world and we’re married to rock stars.  They may act like big kids a lot, but they love us and treat us like princesses.” She sniffed. “And they make beautiful children.”

“Hormones Karin.” Despite her warning to her friend, Tori felt her own eyes fill.

“I know. It’s just that it’s all so wonderful, like something out of a fairy tale.” Karin’s voice hitched. “We couldn’t have dreamed anything any better, could we?”


Richie walked in to find his wife on couch, phone to her ear, tears streaming down her face. “Angel? What’s wrong?”

She shook her head and waved to signal everything was fine.

Richie frowned and bent to scratch Taffy’s ears. He looked at Peanut. “Who’s Mommy talking to?”

“Tant Charlie.”

“Ah.” Hormone convention. Best to stay out of that. “Come on Taffy, let’s go for a walk. Peanut, you want to come?”

“Uh huh!”

When they got back, they found Tori and Ava in the kitchen helping Rosa with dinner, Lauren and Elmo on the floor in the middle of the room. Richie walked up behind her and slid his arms around her waist, palms rubbing her stomach. “Everything okay with Charlie?”

“Yeah, why do you ask?”

“Because you were in tears talking to her on the phone. That usually means something’s wrong.”

“Oh, that.” Tori turned in his arms and looped her own around his neck. Her eyes searched his, then she reached up to kiss him. “I love you.”

“I love you too angel. I’m not complaining, but what brought this on? Did Charlie say something?”

“She just pointed out how lucky she and I are to have you guys in our lives.” Tori leaned against him.

Richie rubbed her back. “Shirley and I are the lucky ones angel. And we know it.”

Lauren’s scream jerked them apart in time to see Taffy take off towards the living room...with Elmo in her mouth.

“Guess she can’t stand the noise anymore either.” Tori commented.

Lauren used a chair to pull herself to her feet and set off after the puppy.  

“The girls are fighting Rich. Better go break it up.”

“I’ll go.” Ava offered.

But Tori shook her head. “No, let your father deal with it. This is his show.”

She may have forgiven him, but she obviously wasn’t going to let him off the hook completely. “Yes dear. Taffy, come here girl.”

After dinner they were relaxing in the living room watching TV while the kids – human and canine – played on the floor.

“What do you think of me taking flying lessons?”

Tori didn’t look up from the magazine she was reading. “If you want to. Just promise me you’ll be careful. Of course, you realize that Jon will have you flying the jet.”

“Then maybe I’d get more say on where and when we go somewhere.” He chuckled.

“Not likely.”

“Speaking of your controlling brother, he called me earlier.”

“Yeah? What did he want?”

“To let us know that since we’re going to be in Jersey next month for the arrival of the newest Bryan munchkin, he’s booked us a gig.”

That got her attention. “He did, did he? What happened to post tour down time?”

“It’s a fundraiser.”

She frowned, then shrugged. “As long as he doesn’t expect me to participate.”

“It’s for the Kidney Foundation.” He’d let her draw her own conclusion. He didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news.

“Son of a....I’m going to kill him! No wonder he called your cell instead of the house! Why does he always do this to me when I look like I’ve swallowed a beach ball? And without even discussing it with me!”

“You look beautiful.” He leaned over to kiss her neck and rub his hand over her swollen stomach.

“You’re biased.”

“I’m honest.” He countered.

Tori smiled at him in gratitude. Her hand rose to caress his cheek and she kissed him. “Thanks, but I’m still going to kill him. Or maybe I’ll just call Dot and let her kill him.”

“Whatever you need to do angel.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chapter 30

She didn’t know how long she’d been soaking, but the water was still warm when a draft of cool air warned her she was no longer alone.

“Feeling better?”

She nodded.

There was silence for a few moments while Richie debated his words. “Are you still pissed at me?”

Tori sighed, cracked open an eye and just looked at him leaning against the vanity.

“I’m sorry.” He offered, lips twitching.

“What for?”

And there was the black hole question that so many men fell into. He had to be careful how he answered it, but he was pretty sure that ‘for whatever I did that pissed you off’ wasn’t what she wanted to hear. This wasn’t so much about what he was sorry for as whether he understood what had pissed her off in the first place.

“For going against your wishes and bringing home a dog.”


“And for not thinking about what all is involved with having a dog and who was going to do it.”


“And that it might be too much for you right now with the kids and the new baby coming.”


And? What else did I do? His mind raced trying to come up with something. The longer he took the more her eyes narrowed at him. But he had nothing. “And what? What else is there?”

Tori bit back her exasperated snarl and kept her tone mild. “How about making a decision that affects our family without discussing it with me first? Don’t you think that might have been the right thing to do? So that we could make the decision...together?”

Oops. Forgot about that. “You’re right. I should have talked to you first. I’m sorry.”

Tori studied his face, judging his sincerity, then, satisfied, nodded, closed her eyes and relaxed against the back of the tub again. “You really are a sucker for sad puppy eyes.”

Lucky for me, so are you. Richie waited a few more seconds. “So, am I forgiven?”

She opened her eyes again to be greeted with that pleading puppy dog look and she mentally kicked herself. I am such a push over when it comes to him and that look. “I don’t know. I think you need to do some penance.”

“What kind of penance?” His voice deepened as all kinds of possibilities swirled in his head.

“Well, for starters, you can wash my back.” She sat up and leaned forward slightly.

“Yes dear.” Kneeling beside the tub, he took the puff she handed him and lightly scrubbed the length of her back. Then, using his hand, he scooped up water to rinse her off. “Want me to wash the rest of you too?”

She thought about that for a moment, but she knew where that would lead...and she had other plans. “No, but don’t go anywhere, you can help me out in a minute.”

Quickly washing the rest of her body, she rinsed off and started to stand. Richie immediately moved to give her a hand and help her out. Spying the towel, he swiped it up and gently dried her. When he finished, he turned her to face him and, with a finger under her chin, raised her gaze to his. “I really am sorry. I love you.”

“I know, and I love you too.” Raising on tip toe, she kissed him.

When their lips parted, Richie glanced at the vanity counter. “Where’s your lotion?”

“In the bedroom.”

“Come on.” He started to toss the towel aside, but caught himself – and her warning look - in time and hung it up. Taking her hand, he laced their fingers together and tugged her out the door.

A little push urged her onto the bed and he reached for the lotion. While Tori got comfortable, Richie stripped off his clothes, careful to put them on a chair and not drop them on the floor. He was working on getting out of the dog house, he didn’t need to do anything to get sent right back in again.

Tori stretched out on her stomach and sank into the mattress, anticipating the relaxing touch of his hands. The dipping of the bed on either side of her hips told her that he’d straddled her the instant before his large hands settled on her shoulders. Her muscles quickly became mush under his strong fingers. “Mmmm. Seriously, babe, if you ever want a new career, you’d make a fantastic masseur.”

“Thanks angel.” He chuckled, then bent until his lips brushed her ear. “But would you really want to share?”

She thought about that for a minute. “No. I like knowing that this is all mine.”

“That’s what I thought.”

For the next ten minutes, the silence of the room was broken only by the occasional soft moan as his hands moved down her body. He worked the tension from the long muscles bracketing her spine and paused to knead and caress the firm globes of her ass before moving on to smooth the length of her legs. Finally, he took each slender foot in turn between his hands, thumbs pressing deep along the arches and tugging each toe gently.

Moving off her, he removed the clip from her hair and nudged her hip. “Turn over.”

Tori rolled onto her back and gazed up at him through slitted eyes. It was almost impossible for her to keep them open at all, but she wanted to see him.

Richie poured more lotion into his palm and tuned back to her, noticing her watching him. He smiled into her eyes and reached for one of her arms. Her eyes drifted closed as he massaged first one arm, then the other. Shifting his attention to her torso, he paused, debating. “Are you awake?”

It was that dark velvet voice that sent shivers down her spine. “Mmmm?”

“Sit up.”

When she did – with his help – he moved to kneel behind her. Glancing in the mirror on the wall opposite the bed, he shifted their positions until the view was to his satisfaction, and reached for another bottle from her nightstand.

He showed it to her. “This the one that helps with stretch marks?”


Richie sat back on his heels, gripped her hips and lifted her onto his thighs, curling her legs back so that she was straddling him with her back against his chest. Squeezing lotion into his palm, he rubbed his hands together and cupped her breasts.

“Mmmmm.” Tori leaned her head back on his shoulder and watched in the mirror as he smoothed lotion over her breasts and stomach.

For long minutes, his hands rubbed and caressed, smiling when the baby kicked him. Then one stealthy finger dipped lower and slid along the cleft between her thighs. What was already damp, quickly became wet as he stroked. When he was satisfied that she was ready, he raised her up onto her knees, positioned himself and eased her back down, impaling her on his waiting erection.

“Oh!” Tori gasped.

Richie gave her a moment to settle. His lips nuzzled under her ear. “Watch.”

He didn’t have to say anything, she couldn’t look away. Her body rocked with the motion of his hips and thanks to the mirror she could see his glistening flesh slide in and out. “Oh God.”

As her passion grew, Tori lifted a hand to grip his hair, the other dropping to grasp his thigh. “Mmmmm.” She turned her head, her mouth in search of his. Finding it, her lips fused to his, her tongue seeking entrance and diving in when he granted it.

Tasting her hunger, feeling her body squeeze his, he knew he wouldn’t last long.....and she wasn’t quite there yet. He need to do something about that. One hand cupped a breast, kneading and squeezing, pinching the sensitive tip. The other slipped down between her thighs, middle finger resting on her swollen clit, riding her movements without blocking the view of their merging bodies.

She tore her mouth from his. “Oooooh shit! Richie!” Her breathing became increasingly laboured. Using her knees for leverage, she raised higher, increasing the force of his penetrations when she sank down again.

“Jesus angel! You feel so damn good!” He growled in her ear and increased his pace.

“Yes, Richie! Like that!” She was panting now. Watching him plump her depths, and feeling him stretching her at the same time was incredibly erotic. “Just like that. Mmmmmm.”

Richie fought to hang on to his control, silently admonishing himself to let her fly first. But he couldn’t wait too much longer. Luckily, he didn’t have to.

“Oh! Oh! Yes! Yes! Yes! RICHIE!” Her body arched back against him, her hand fisting in his hair, her body fisting around his throbbing shaft.

He kept moving until her muscles started to relax, then, with a grunt, he let go and found his own release, emptying himself in her pulsing depths.

Collapsing back onto the bed, he separated their bodies and pulled the blankets up over them. “Damn baby!” Make up sex with her made the argument worth it.

Tori chuckled breathlessly. “I love you too.”

They’d been asleep for a couple hours when a high pitched whining coming through the baby monitor woke them up.

Tori sat up, frowning. “That’s Peanut’s monitor. What the hell is that?” Her heart started to pound at the thought of what might be happening to her son.

Richie set his hand on her arm when she would have jumped from the bed. “We gave it to Taffy tonight. Peanut said he could yell loud or come get us if he needed us.” At his wife’s look, he grimaced, threw back the covers and pulled on his robe. “Don’t say it. I’m going.”

Tori smirked and snuggled back down under the covers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chapter 29

Tori stormed into the kitchen and began yanking vegetables out of the fridge and throwing them on the counter. Rosa took one look at her face and moved out of the way. Lettuce was quickly shredded between tearing fingers and a hapless carrot took the brunt of her anger.

Richie watched the flashing knife, noting the force with which it hit the cutting board, and winced. She was definitely pissed. Maybe confronting her in the kitchen, where there were any number of sharp weapons wasn’t the best idea.  What was the saying?  The best defence was a good offence? He figured it was worth a shot. “What have you got against dogs?”

“Nothing.” The word was bit out.

“So....then it’s the kids having a pet that you object to.”

The knife hit the counter with enough force to bounce several times before coming to a stop and Richie knew he was lucky she’d thrown it down and not at him.

“What I object to is having my wishes totally ignored! By my own husband!”


“No ‘buts’ Richie! I told you I didn’t want a dog right now, and you went out and got one anyway. Without even talking to me!”

“Peanut asked for...”

“Peanut asks for a lot of things. He’s three. He has a thirty second attention span. This morning he asked for a shark and a spaceship. Are you going to buy him those too?”

“Every child deserves a pet.”

“I’m not disagreeing with that. My issue is with the timing. Animals take work. Who’s going to do it? You?”


“Right.” She snorted. “And when you’re away? Do you expect Cathy or Rosa to do it? They have enough to do. No, it’ll all fall on me. I have a three year old, a one year old and soon a new baby. Those are my priorities. I don’t have time to look after a dog too!”

“There’s not that much to it. I can feed her and walk her.”

Tori bit back the urge to scream – or hit him over the head with something. “Did you get a crate or are you going to let her have free run of the house at night before she’s trained? Are you going to clean up the mess? And are you going to train her? Get up when she whines at all hours of the night and take her outside? Or do you figure since I’m going to be up with the baby anyway that I can do it? And what about vet appointments?”

Richie frowned. He hadn’t thought of all of that.

Seeing his expression and interpreting it correctly, Tori growled in frustration and grabbed a towel to wipe her hands. “Men! Why don’t you ever think things through?”

“I’ll take her back or find a new home for her.”

“And make me the meanest Mommy on the planet?  I don’t think so.” She rubbed her forehead, exhausted just at the thought of her new responsibilities. “Dammit Richie! Why didn’t you listen to me? I told you that we’d talk about a pet in a couple years, when the kids were older. But no. You had to be ‘Wonderful Daddy’ who brings them whatever they ask for without considering the ramifications! What’s it matter to you? You’re not the one who has to deal with them, I am!”

“Tori, that’s not fair!”

“Tell me about it!” On the verge of tears, she threw down the towel and turned on her heel to leave the room. She needed some space and some time before she said something she’d regret later.

Richie watched her leave and blew out a heavy breath.

“Aren’t you going to go after her?” Ava had overheard the last part of their argument – couldn’t avoid it really, with the volume of Tori’s voice.

“No.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I’ll let her calm down first.” He’d seen the unshed tears and belated remembered her condition and the hormones running rampant through her. “Come on Bean, let’s get the puppy settled.”

“She needs a name.”

“We’ll talk to Peanut about that.”

“Ok, but don’t let him call her Dug.”

Richie chuckled. “Yeah, okay.”

Tori lay on a lounge by the pool, hoping the sounds of the waterfall would soothe her. She hated fighting with Richie, but the damn man really needed to think more before he acted.  That was nothing new and she usually anticipated it and dealt with it. But this time she was just too tired. Besides, she didn’t know how she could have made her feelings on the subject any clearer. Even the male mind can process the word ‘no’.

“Dinner’s ready.”

She looked up to see Ava standing beside her chair. “Okay.”

“Tori....I’m sorry about the puppy. If I’d known you didn’t want one I would never have encouraged Dad to buy her.”

“It’s okay Bean. It’s not your fault. Your father is a grown man capable of making his own decisions.”

“Yeah, but he’s not real good at it.”

Tori chuckled, but didn’t deny it.

“Except when he married you.”Ava continued. “That was the best decision he’s made in a long time....or since. He needs someone smart to help him.”

“Thank you.” Tori didn’t deny the last comment either.

“Mama, Bean, come eat!”

“Coming Peanut.” Standing, Tori slid her arm around Ava’s shoulders and squeezed. “It’ll be okay Bean. I just need to be mad at him for a bit.”

Ava looked unconvinced, but didn’t argue.

Dinner was a subdued hour. Although both Richie and Tori interacted with the kids, they barely spoke to each other, Tori because she was still mad, Richie because he figured she wouldn’t answer him anyway.

“Where’s the puppy?” Tori looked under the table and around the room.

“Her name’s Taffy.” Stevie informed her.

“Oh? Why Taffy?”

“Her look like Taffy.”

It took a minute to figure out what he was talking about. “Oh! You mean she’s the same colour as the taffy you ate yesterday?”

“Uh huh. Her seeping. Her tired.”  

“Aah.” She was curious to see where they’d put Taffy’s bed, but she’d be damned if she’d ask. This was Richie’s show and he’d have to look after it. Besides, she could always search for it when he wasn’t around.

After dinner, they settled into the livingroom. Tori was sitting on the floor working on a puzzle with Stevie, Lauren close by with her Elmo. Ava was in a chair texting to her friends and Richie was on the couch channel surfing, looking for anything decent to watch on TV. Suddenly, there was a high pitched whine, a soft yip and what sounded like a small pony coming down the hallway.

Taffy burst into the room and made a beeline for Stevie. Seeing Tori, she changed course slightly and picked up speed. Tori braced herself for impact. Seconds later she had a lap full of puppy and a wet tongue trying to reach every inch of her face.

“Taffy no!” Ava cried out.

“Taffy off!” Richie tried his stern Dad voice.

Neither worked, so they both started to move towards Tori to pull the puppy off before any damage was done.

Before either one of them reached her, the baby apparently didn’t like being crowded and pushed back.  At the movement, Taffy froze then sniffed Tori’s rounded stomach. They watched in amazement as she slid off Tori’s lap and laid beside her, resting her head on Tori’s leg.

Tori reached out to pet the soft head. “That’s a good girl. You can lay there, just don’t jump on me.” She got a snuffle in agreement.

Of course, being a puppy, Taffy couldn’t lie still for very long and was soon running around wanting to play. Richie helped Tori up, insisting she sit on the couch while he grabbed a ball and got down on the floor. For the next couple hours kids and puppy played.

Finally, it was bedtime for the little ones. Tori wasn’t sure who was more tired, the kids or the puppy. Leaving Richie and Ava to look after Taffy, she took Stevie and Lauren upstairs and tucked them in.  Even Lauren went right to sleep. Maybe having a dog won’t be so bad after all.

As she walked by her bedroom, she noticed the light on and stepped inside to turn it off. The scent of lavender tickled her nose and she looked around to find the source. A flickering light was visible underneath the closed bathroom door. With a slight frown, she went to investigate.

The door opened to reveal any tired and stressed woman’s nirvana, and hers in particular. Candles had been set on the countertop and around the wide ledge of the bathtub, which was full of steaming water and bubbles.

Somebody’s sucking up. She knew what he was doing....and she was quite content to let him. Stepping into the closet, she quickly undressed and returned to the bathroom where she grabbed a thick towel and sank into the scented foam. She leaned back, rested her head against the rim of the tub, closed her eyes and, with a contented sigh, allowed herself to relax.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chapter 28

The days passed in relative calm. Lauren’s birthday party was a success. Family and friends enjoyed a barbeque and the pool and the birthday girl preferred the boxes her gifts came in to the gifts themselves....except for her Elmo. That she carried everywhere she went and wouldn’t sleep without it.
Richie tried not to be smug and managed to keep his ‘I told you so’ to himself.

Two weeks later, Tori was contemplating strangling the red muppet with a guitar string. It had been amusing to begin with, but now she just found it annoying. Unfortunately for her, her daughter loved it and couldn’t get enough of his antics, giggling hysterically every time he fell over. And if she turned it off, Lauren screamed until it was turned back on.

Gritting her teeth, she refocused on the guitar lesson Richie was giving.

“Like this Peanut. Put your fingers like Daddy’s.” The two dark heads were bent close together. “Now strum like I showed you. Good.”

It actually wasn’t bad....for a three year old.

Suddenly, Stevie’s head jerked up. “Me watch Dug now?”

Used to his short attention span, Tori chuckled. “Sure.”

Richie put away the guitars while Tori put on the Up dvd.

“Our house fly too?”

“No, our house is too heavy. There aren’t enough balloons to lift it.” Tori answered with a smile.

“Oh.” Stevie was silent for a few minutes. “Me have doggie? Pease?”

Tori found herself the focal point of attention – at least from the males in the room. Blue eyes looked at her with hope, brown ones with thoughtfulness.  She met the brown ones and shook her head slightly. “I think we should wait a few years until you and Lauren and the baby are a little older.”


“Because they’re a lot of work. They need to be fed and brushed and taken for walks.” She smoothed a hand over his hair. “I promise, in a couple years we’ll talk about getting you a pet.”

“Okay.” The sad acceptance in his voice was way beyond his years and made his mother feel like a big meany.

“Awww...Dad look!” Ava stopped to look into a store window. They were having a Daddy/Daughter day. Shopping, lunch and hanging out. “Let’s go in.”

Richie dutifully followed her in. As she grew older, she was less inclined to hang out with her old man, so he was happy to take what he could get, even if it meant trailing her through clothing stores and handing over his opinion (when asked) and his credit card.

He glanced around while Ava made a beeline for the pen that had caught her eye from the sidewalk.

“Awww. Aren’t they adorable Dad?”

Richie looked down into the pen to see five golden retriever puppies. Four were rolling around playing together, while the fifth was off to the side watching. His soft heart went out to the one left out of the fun.

“What do you think? Dad?”

“ you think your mother will go for it?”

“Not for her house, for yours. Peanut and Sweetpea would love one don’t you think?”

“Oh, I don’t know Bean.” But he couldn’t look away from the little wallflower. As if sensing his stare, the puppy ran over to him, stood on its hind legs and waved its little tail so hard it almost fell over. The dark eyes looked at him with such...hope, the result was inevitable. He was in big trouble.

“You can pick her up.”

He turned to see a young woman, obviously an employee, gesture towards the puppy.

“You can pick her up and pet her. The rest of the litter tend to ignore her. I don’t know why. She’s a little sweetheart. She’s eight and a half weeks old. She’s had all her shots and a clean bill of health from the vet. She loves to play, but she’s very gentle.”

Ava picked the puppy up and cuddled her, laughing when her face got washed. “Dad, you’ve got to take her!”

Richie took the squirming ball of fur and held her up in front of his face to look her in the eye. “Do you want to come home with me? I’ll warn you, there are two little toddlers there that will terrorize you.” Not to mention my wife who will terrorize me for this!

His answer was a face full of puppy breath and a wet tongue swiping across his lips.

“Ewww!” Ava laughed.

With a sigh, he gathered the puppy against his chest. “Okay, Bean, round up what we need.”

They exited the store, Richie carrying the puppy in a carrier, Ava several bags of supplies. The helpful store employee followed with a dog bed.

Richie grimaced as he placed the bed in the back of the Hummer. “I hope that’s comfortable.”

“Why?” Ava asked.

“Because I have a feeling when your stepmother sees what we’re bringing home it may be my bed.”

“You think she’ll be mad that you bought a puppy?”

“Oh, I think that’s a pretty safe bet.”

“Then why did you do it?”

“Because she was lonely and needed a home.”

“Aww, you’re a big softie.” She kissed his cheek. “You’d better hope that works with T-Mom.”

“So how are you feeling?”

“Like I swallowed a beach ball and it’s trying to get out.” Karin shifted position. “How am I going to make it another two months?”

“So I guess I shouldn’t tell you that you’re only going to get bigger then, huh?” Tori laughed. “But seriously, you’ll get through it. You’ll be surprised at how fast it goes.” Until the last month anyway.

“You’re going to be here, right?” Karin tried to keep the anxiety from her voice, but the bottom line was the thought of giving birth scared the crap out of her and she wanted, no needed Tori to be there. David was wonderfully supportive, but Tori had been with her through every major event of her adult life and she couldn’t imagine going through this without her.

“Of course I will. We’ll be in Jersey at least a week before your due date, just to be sure.” Tori assured her.

Karin blew out a relieved breath and changed the subject. “So what are you and Richie up to today?”

“I’m hanging out at home with the little ones. Richie and Ava are having a Daddy/daughter day.” A commotion at the door had her turning her head and listening. “Oh, sounds like they’re back.” She could hear Lauren’s happy squeal, Stevie’s excited chatter, and....barking.  Barking??? Oh no he didn’t!! “Karin I’ll have to call you back. I think I have to go kill my husband.”


“Because unless my ears are deceiving me, he’s gone against my express wishes and brought home a dog!”

“With a three year old, a one year old and a new baby on the way?  What is he thinking?”

“Apparently, he’s not. I’ll call you later.”

“Okay. Send me the funeral arrangements.”

Slamming the phone onto the table, Tori stood and made her way towards the foyer. She stopped in the doorway and surveyed the chaotic scene of children and puppy.

“Mama look! Daddy got doggie!” Stevie was almost dancing in his excitement.

“I see that.” The look she gave her husband sent a shiver down his spine.

Richie quickly scooped up the puppy and held her up to his bristling wife. “Could you resist this face?  She was being ostracized by her brothers and sisters. She was lonely and needed a home.” Her expression didn’t change. “She’s a Golden Retriever. They’re very good with children.” Still the icy glare. “I’ll build her a dog house. She can stay outside.”

“Make sure it’s a big one.”

“Why?” He was afraid he knew the answer.

“You’ll want to be comfortable.”

That’s what he thought.

As she walked away, Ava blew out a breath. “Now that’s a stink eye.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chapter 27

Richie stepped out of his car and sighed. This was the last item on his Honey-Do list. He’d been home over a week, but still felt like he could sleep for days. The older he got the longer it took to recover and get off the vampire schedule. But while his wife understood and let him relax the first few days, his youngest two children were not that accommodating. All they knew was that Daddy was home and they wanted his attention. Not that he minded – not at all – but he really could use some more sleep. When they got older they’d have to talk about having family vacation time right after a tour like Jon and Dot did.  He’d thought about doing it this time, but he figured with Tori being pregnant, and the baby being so sensitive to travelling, she’d rather stay home.  For right now...maybe if he was fast finishing up his errands he’d get back home while they were napping....and he could nap too!
Twenty minutes later, he exited the store, pleased with his day’s purchases. He’d gotten everything Tori had asked him to pick a few extras. She was probably going to kill him, but he really couldn’t resist.  Lauren’s birthday was the following week and Tori had decided on an Elmo theme. While he was searching through balloons, signs and candles, he heard giggling. Rounding the end of the aisle, he looked down the next one to see two young children and their mother looking at the floor and laughing. Another round of giggles had him looking down as well and he found the source of their amused attention. He couldn’t help but snicker as a furry red Elmo laughed and laughed and laughed....and fell over.  The longer he watched, his snickers turned into chuckles and then into outright laughter. He couldn’t help it. The muppet was contagious! So of course he had to buy one.

Then, in the music store where he was getting the guitar strings Tori had asked for, he saw an acoustic obviously made for a small child. Picking it up, he noted how small it looked and felt in his large hands. He strummed it experimentally for a few minutes, checking the tone and quality,  debating, before giving in and setting it on the counter beside the cash register. If Tori objected, he’d just point out that it would be less ear splitting for Peanut to learn the guitar, than the drums.

Approaching the Hummer, he noticed a piece of paper had been stuck under the driver side wiper. A quick glance around assured him he wasn’t illegally parked, so he figured it was probably just some ad.  He pushed the button on his key fob to unlock the doors, placed his latest purchases in the back seat and removed the white slip before climbing in. About to crumple it up and toss it, the writing caught his eye. It wasn’t a typed or printed ad. It was a handwritten note:

Do you know where your wife is? Or even more importantly, who she’s with?

Richie frowned, turning the page over and over in his hand, looking for some clue who it was from and what it was all about. It couldn’t be directed to him personally – he knew exactly where his wife was, namely at home...with their children. Of course, this being Hollywood, it could mean just about anything, including some clever advertising campaign that would get everyone talking until they decided the time was right to let the public in on whatever it was they were selling.

Shrugging, he tossed the note aside and headed for home.

“Angel? I’m back. Where are you?” Richie tossed his keys in the dish by the garage door and stowed his packages in a closet where little eyes wouldn’t think to look. “Angel?”

“I think she’s out by the pool.” Rosa suggested when he stuck his head in the kitchen.

“Thanks. And the kids?”

“Little ones are still napping and Miss Ava is at Miss Kate’s.”

The sight of his wife, stretched out on a lounge chair wide enough for two, eyes closed, face lifted to the sun, hair lifting slightly with the breeze, made the breath catch in his throat. She’s so beautiful. As he drew nearer, he noticed a set of headphones bracketing her swelling stomach.

Sitting on the chair beside her, he set a hand on the evidence of his growing child and bent his head to kiss her.

“Mmmm. Hi. You’re back.” Tori opened her eyes and raised a hand to caress his cheek. “Did you find everything?”

“Yep.” He adjusted a wire. “What’s on the playlist today?”

“Daddy of course.”

“And what does Cashew think of it?”

Before she could respond, the baby answered for him or herself with a kick – or a punch – in the centre of his palm.

His brows lifted. “That good huh?”

Her low chuckle warmed his blood. She tugged on his shoulder. “Come lay here with me and tell me what ‘extras’ you bought today.”

He stripped off his shirt, stretched out beside her and hedged. “What makes you think I bought anything other than what was on your list?”

Tori just looked at him.

Richie grimaced. “Okay, but it was only a couple small things. I saw this really funny stuffed Elmo that laughs and laughs until he falls over. It’s the most hysterical thing. Sweetpea will love it!” He paused. “And maybe it will give her something to talk to on her sleepless nights.”

“So we can listen to it all night too?”

That supposed-to-be-grumpy tone didn’t fool him. “It’ll make you laugh. You’ll see.”

“Uh huh.” She took a sip of her ice tea and set the glass back on the table beside her. “What else did you buy?” The rubbing of his hand over his chin had her bracing herself. “What did you buy Richie?”

“I was in the music store getting the guitar strings,” he began, “and I couldn’t resist it.”

“Resist what?”

“It’s the perfect size and I checked it over. It’s made well.”

What is?”

“And it’s probably the best for him to start with, at least until he gets bigger.”

“Richie! What is it?”

“A little guitar for Peanut.” He closed his eyes and waited for her reaction.

She thought about it for a moment. Well, at least it’s quieter than drums. Music was so much a part of their life she didn’t question that their children would play an instrument at some point. “Please tell me that it’s acoustic.”

Blowing out a relieved breath, he nodded. “Yes.” He turned his head to see her face. “You’re okay with me buying it? Even though Peanut’s only three?”

Tori shrugged. “In this house it’s bound to happen sooner or later. Besides, if he picks it up as fast as you did, maybe he can serenade his sister to sleep.”

“Maybe I should write some music for that book.”

She chuckled and turned onto her side to curl up against him. “That would be some lullaby.”

“Yeah.” Richie chuckled, one hand caressing her arm. “So how many girls is Bean having over this weekend?”

“Three. Kate, Melissa and Sierra.” Delicate fingers toyed with a patch of chest hair. “Oh, by the way, Bean asked if you’d make chicken parmesan for them.”

“I suppose. What else does she have planned?”

“Oh just typical stuff for a teenage girls’ sleep over. Snacks, movies and gossip. And just so you know, they’d prefer it to be an evening free of parental harassment.”

Richie frowned. “I don’t harass them.”

“Okay. Let me put it this way. Adult’s are not invited.”

He pouted, then spoiled it with a yawn.

She tilted her head to study his face. Even with the sunglasses hiding his eyes he looked tired.  “I heard that yawn. Need a nap?”

“Uh huh. No, don’t get up.” He held her closer when she made as if to pull away. “Stay here and rest with me. Rosa will let us know when the kids wake up.”

“But you need to sleep.”

“I always sleep better when you’re beside me.”

A gentle smile curved her lips at that statement. She turned her head to press a kiss to his hard chest, shifted slightly into a more comfortable position, and closed her eyes. Within minutes they were both asleep.