Monday, October 31, 2011

Chapter 49

After settling Stevie and Lauren in their beds, Joan announced she was going to have a nap too and disappeared into her room. As Tori continued down the hallway with Zachary, she noticed Richie was following her.

When she entered their bedroom and laid Zachary in his cradle and he was still behind her, she crooked a brow. “Going to join us?”

Richie shrugged. “Might as well. No fun being the only one awake.”

Her answering low chuckle was more like a purr that hit him square in the libido. Down boy. You’ve got thirty-seven more days before she’s ready for you again. He watched her start to strip off her clothes as she made for the bathroom. But maybe......

Tori stood under the hot spray wishing she could sink down into a steaming sea of bubbles, but she was under doctor’s orders. No baths for another few days. A cool draft blew over her, making her shiver, just before the curtain was pulled back and Richie stepped in.

The quality of the soft smile she threw over her shoulder at him only revved him up more. “You feeling dirty too?”

He rumbled low in his throat. “Mmmhmm. But I can’t do anything about that for a few more weeks. You said you wanted a relaxing shower. And I know a really good way to help you relax.”

“Yeah?  How?”

“Let me show you. In this case, actions will speak much louder than words.”  Reaching for her shampoo with one hand, he tugged her out of the spray with the other. He poured a small puddle into his palm, and worked it into her hair, quickly creating a lather. Her moan at the feel of his long fingers massaging her scalp told of her enjoyment. Full lips curved into a slight smile and he nudged her back under the spray to rinse, running his hands through her curls to aid in the removal of the suds.

After applying conditioner and leaving it to soak in, Richie picked up her puff, squirted it with shower gel, and with a few squeezes had a thick foam to work with.  He took his time spreading the refreshing froth across her shoulders and down her back and spending long moments circling the puff around the firm globes of her ass before moving along the length of her supple legs.

Keeping her back to him, he stepped closer and reached around her to work on her front. He started at her collarbone, sweeping the puff across and down, circling around and around her swollen breasts.

“Mmmmmm.” Tori sighed and leaned back against him.

“Like that?”

“Mmmmm. Feels good.”

For long minutes he let his hand idly roam her torso, sensitizing her skin and firing up her nerve endings. Finally, he drifted lower, sliding the puff lightly over the tender flesh between her legs. When her back arched, he froze. “Hurt?”

“No. I’m just....sensitive.”

He dropped the puff and caressed her with his fingers. “Better?”

Her hands clutched his legs. “Oooh. Jesus.”

“No, Richie. Son of Adam, not son of God.”

Tori’s choked laugh turned into a moan as a calloused fingertip found the nub of her clitoris....and rubbed. “Mmmm. Whoever you are, this feels like heaven.”

“So you don’t want me to stop then?” He lifted his hand.

She grabbed it and pushed it back where it was. “Stop and you’ll be sorry.”

His chuckle vibrated against her ear even as his finger resumed rubbing. “Are you threatening your husband?”

“Not threat...oh!” She paused to swallow, a shudder racking her body. “That’s...a....promise! RICHIE!”

Somehow he thought the pleasure currently overwhelming her senses would make her forget her any threats or promises she was thinking of a few minutes ago. He kissed her temple and held her while she trembled.

As the world settle once more around her, she sighed. “Thank you.”

“I told you I knew how to help you relax.”

“Mmmm. What about you?” She could feel his erection poking her in the back.

“I’ll survive.”

“I know how to help with that.”

“I know you do. But I can wait. You need to rest.”

“I can’t rest knowing you’re in....discomfort.”  Before he could stop her, she turned to face him and slid to her knees.

“Angel, you don’t have....”

“Shush. I want to enjoy my pre-nap....snack.” Gripping his pulsing shaft at the base, she licked him like an ice cream cone. Over and over and around and around.


Glancing up, she noted his flushed face and clenched jaw. “What do you want?”

“Stop teasing.”

“Like this?” She cupped his sac with her other hand and massaged. At the same time she ran the tip of her tongue around the ridge and swollen crest.

Richie braced himself with his hands against the walls of the shower. “Fuck angel!”

“What do you want baby? You have to tell me.”

With eyes almost black with passion, he gazed down at her. When that devastating tongue came out to lick her lips, he almost lost it. “Suck me. Take me in your mouth and suck me.”

His head hit the wall with a thunk when she did exactly that. Closing his eyes he concentrated onholding on as long as he possible could and just absorbing the pleasure she seemed determined to drown him in. Lips, tongue, even teeth used to create the most exquisite sensations as her head moved back and forth, taking him in as deep as she could, then releasing him only to take him in again.

“Can’t take.....any....more.” He panted. “”

“Look at me.”

When he complied, Tori swiped her tongue over the weeping slit at his tip, then opened her mouth wide and took him in. And sucked as hard as she could.

The sight of her lips engulfing his flesh coupled with the suction was too much. “FUCK! Fuck...fuck..fuck.” The shout turned into a whispered litany as he erupted.

By the time he became aware of his surroundings again, Tori was rinsed of, out of the shower and drying off.  Picking up the hair dryer, she looked over and smirked at him. “Are you alive?  Need some help?”

“Mmm.” He grunted but didn’t move.

“Are you really going to nap with me?”

He nodded as he shut off the water. “I think I need the rest too. I’m feeling.....drained.”

Tori’s eyes roamed the long length of his body. Smiling in appreciation of what she saw, she licked her lips. “Strange, I’m feeling...full...and very relaxed.”

Richie’s groan was drowned out by the sound of her hairdryer. The thick towel passing over his skin went largely unnoticed, his attention fixated on the brush, then her fingers running through her hair, lifting it to allow the warm air to reach underneath.

Setting aside the dryer, Tori noticed him staring. “What?”

“I love your hair.”

“Thanks.” She stretched up to kiss him. “Come on or the kids will be awake and we’ll lose our nap time.”

“Ma will keep an eye on them.”

“I know, but they’re our responsibility. I don’t want to take advantage of her. Besides, Zachary’s going to wake up in a couple hours wanting to eat.”

He followed her into the bedroom, crawled under the covers and gathered her close, sighing in satisfaction.

Tori chuckled at the sound, her fingers idly tracing patterns on his chest. She’d missed this too. “Okay, I agree. It’s more comfortable without two toddlers in between us.”

Late that afternoon they got a phone call from Mike.

“They were transporting Jasmine to the hospital for a psych evaluation. A collision close by had the guard looking away for just a second. She escaped.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chapter 48

The next morning Mike came by to fill them in on what was happening down at the police station.

“Okay, so, since she’s here on a temporary visa, and obviously has some mental issues, the state doesn’t want to spend taxpayers money on a trial...and institutionalization.  They’re going to deport her back to Japan.” Mike glanced around the group gathered in the living room, his sympathetic gaze settling on Tori. “I’m sorry.”

“So she gets away with it. She stole our son, causing indescribable grief and pain and fear, and she gets away with it!  No prison, no psych ward....nothing! It’s not right!” Tori growled in frustration. “I should have given her more than just a bloody nose and a black eye!” When the baby started to fuss, she stood and took him from her mother’s arms and left the room to feed him.

They all watched her leave.

“Is there nothing we can do?”  Richie asked. The idea made him want to go out and beat the hell out of someone.

Mike considered. “No. The Japanese authorities will be notified about the reason for the deportation, but unless you know someone in Japan in a position to do something.....”

Richie and Jon exchanged a look. Jon nodded. “I’ll make some calls.”

Satisfied – at least as much as he could be having to depend on someone else to achieve justice on his behalf - Richie went in search of his wife. He found her and the baby in the big arm chair in the office. He crouched down in front of them and lifted one large hand to cup her cheek. “Jon’s on it. He and Paul know a lot of people in Japan.”

She understood what he was saying. Her slender hand rose to cover his, holding it against her face. Turning her head, she pressed a kiss to his palm. She managed a small smile as she nodded. “It’s just so damn frustrating.”

“I know.” He gazed down at their son, industriously working for his mid-morning meal. “But we have him home now, safe and sound. Isn’t that the most important thing?” Maybe if he could convince her he could believe it himself.

“Yes.” She agreed. “But I still want the bitch to pay! No! I want her to hurt!”

“My blood thirsty angel.” Richie chuckled. “I know. I’d like to see her get what she deserves too. And if Jon has anything to say about it, I’m sure she will.”

Tori merely grunted in response. She knew she could trust her brother to get the job done, but it wouldn’t be the same as meting out the punishment herself – or at least seeing it done.

“All done little man?” Richie reached for the baby. “Come here. Daddy’ll burp you.” He’d barely put him on his shoulder when a huge belch echoed around the room. Richie’s brows rose in surprise.

Tori just shook her head. “Like father like son.”

“Better out than in.” Richie grinned and held out his free hand to pull her up from the chair.

“Okay Shrek. Just don’t teach him any of your other bad habits.”

“What bad habits?”

“I’ll make you a list.”

Richie sighed. “Mommy’s no fun.”

“I’ll remind you that you said that in about five and a half weeks.”

At that not so subtle threat, Richie cut his losses and kept quiet.

Re-entering the living room, Tori glanced back and forth between Mike and Matt. “Can you get us the name and contact information of the fan who helped us find Zachary?”

“Oh yeah.” Richie nodded his agreement. “We should send her something.”

Tori snorted. “Send her something? For what she did, she deserves to meet you, have her picture taken with you...even a hug if she wants one.  She deserves to have her dreams about you come true.” She hesitated. “Within reason of course.”

Richie smiled at her qualification. “Yes dear.”

“Sure.” Matt nodded. “I’ll get that to you right away.”

The time immediately following lunch was given over to organizing the mass departure of their house guests – except Joan who was staying until Christmas which was only a week away.

“You call us if you need anything. Anything at all.” Bill instructed his daughter as he hugged her.

“I will.  Thanks Dad.” Her glance included the entire group. “Thanks all of you for your love and support. I don’t know how we would have made it through without it.”

“I’ll let you know how my discussions go.” Jon assured her, kissing her cheek.

“Thanks.” She glanced around at the piles of luggage. “You’ve all got the Christmas presents for the kids?”

“Yes Auntie.” Jim assured her. “I’m still not sure how you found the time to get all this ready.”

“Really?” Michael shot his brother a surprised look. “Did you not grow up in the same house I did? Or did you just forget that she’s an anal retentive control freak?  She’s probably had this stuff bought since Labour Day.”

“Have not!” Tori protested hotly.

“Really?” Dorothea spoke up. She’d dealt with Bongiovi’s long enough to know how they worked.

“Really.” Tori insisted. With her whole family giving her sceptical looks she was forced to admit the truth. “Only since Thanksgiving – and I’m not saying which one!” She scowled at the snickers that followed her admission. “Oh go home!”

Standing arm in arm on the front porch, Richie and Tori waved their family off. Tori turned to face her husband, wrapping both arms around his waist and resting her head on his chest. In turn, Richie’s arms slid around her and held her close.

They stood in silence for a few minutes, his hands rubbing up and down her back. Finally, he sighed in contentment, and braced himself for her answer to the question he was about to ask, hoping he had the energy. “So what’s the plan for this afternoon?”

Tori considered, then did something she rarely did. Put herself before her family. “Do you know what I really want to do?”


“Put the kids down for a nap, have a hot, relaxing shower and sleep for a few hours myself.” It had been weeks since she’d had a good night’s sleep. Then she thought about how close Christmas was and how much needed to be done and knew it was just a dream. “But we still have gifts to buy and wrap and food to prepare and....”

Richie cut off her flow of words with a finger across her lips. “If you want to rest this afternoon, then that’s what you should do. There’s lots of time to do that other stuff before Christmas.”


“No buts. You deserve it. Besides, you need to be rested to give us the kind of Christmas I know you want to.” He knew his wife – and her weaknesses - well.

“Dirty pool Rich.”

“Whatever works angel.” At her uncertain expression, he rocked her slightly. “Hey. This is my chance to take care of you. Will you let me? Please?”

When he put it that way, she’d be a bitch if she didn’t. “Okay.”

Keeping an arm around her waist, Richie led her inside.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chapter 47

It was a weary, but happy group that trudged into the Sambora homestead. They’d had to stop at the police station and file statements, then at the hospital to get Zachary checked out.  Although Tori assured the rest of the family they didn’t need to wait, no one had left to return to the house until the police were satisfied and the doctor assured them that Zachary was just fine.
“Rosa!” David called as he stepped into the foyer. “Set another place at the table!”

“He’s home?” Rosa rushed in. “Mr. Zachary is home?”

“Yes.” Richie walked in with the carrier – and the baby – in his hand.

Gracias a Dios!” Crossing herself, Rosa bent to stroke her finger across a soft cheek. “Welcome home nino. Wait until your brother and sister wake up from their naps and see you!”

“So what are we having for a celebration dinner?” David licked his lips.

“Tonight is Italian. Chicken Parmesan, Caesar salad, and Tiramisu.” At David’s pouty look, she rolled her eyes. “I have some salsa and chips in the kitchen.”

The mention of food had all their stomachs growling. Lunch had been forgotten in the excitement of the days events.

Rosa smiled. “I set out some snacks right away.”

“And guacamole?” He batted his lashes.

Si Mr. Shirley, guacamole too.”

Leaning down, he kissed her cheek. “You’re the best!”  

Blushing, Rosa snorted, pushed him away and after another smiling look at the baby, headed back to the kitchen.

“Oh! And an ice pack for Tori’s hand please Rosa.” Richie called after her.

As people drifted into the living room, Tori lifted the baby out of his carrier and started up the stairs.

“Angel? Where are going?” Richie frowned slightly, hoping she was okay.

“I’m going to wash the stench of her off of him and dress him in his own clothes.”


She watched him glance around looking lost for a moment and smiled. “Do you want to come help me?”

He grinned and took the stairs two at a time.

The bonding between parents and child began over splashes of water, baby powder and dirty diapers. Just as they got him cleaned up and dressed in a warm pale yellow sleeper, he started to cry.

Tori hesitated before blowing out a nervous breath and picking him up. “Okay, chickpea.”

Richie noticed her reaction but didn’t know the cause. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, exactly.  I hope. He’s hungry.”

“Yeah, and?”

She shrugged. “He’s been fed by a bottle for the past few days. I hope he’ll accept me.”

“Are you kidding? He’s my son. No way is he going to turn away from a bare breast.”

Tori stared at him, snorted and swatted his chest. “Richie!”

“What? It’s true.”  He watched her settle into the rocking chair and open her blouse. A few moments later he was proven right. “See?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Even though she was trying to just fluff it off, the relief was visible in her face. “Men!”

“Don’t say that as if you don’t love us.”


Grinning, Richie bent to press a kiss first on her head, then on the baby’s. His son was home, his family was complete, all was right with his world.  Except..... “How long do you think before everyone will go home?”

Tori laughed. She knew what he meant. As much as they loved their family, they needed some time on their own to let life settle a bit and to solidify their immediate family unit. “They’ll probably start to leave tomorrow. Christmas is right around the corner and they’ll want to get home.”

“I hope you’re right.”

When Zachary had eaten his fill, they returned downstairs to join the others. Tori had barely sat down with the baby in her arms when Taffy came to investigate. Curious to see what she would do, Tori leaned down to bring the baby closer. The supple muzzle ran over Zachary, sniffing and snuffling softly.   Suddenly, a wet tongue swiped across the tiny face before Taffy laid down at Tori’s feet. Zachary scrunched up his face, but didn’t cry – or even wake up.

“Guess she likes him.” John Sr. chuckled.

“Wonder what kind of reception he’ll get from the two upstairs?” Dorothea smirked.

As if they heard their aunt, voices came yelling through the monitors sitting on a nearby table. “Mama! We ‘wake! I tomin downtairs!”

“Guess we’re about to find out.” Tori replied dryly.

“I’ll go get Lauren.” Helen offered.

Stevie came bursting into the living room and skidded to a halt when he saw the baby in his mother’s arms. “Who dat?”

“This is Zachary, your little brother.” Tori responded, shifting the baby so that Stevie could see his face. “Do you remember when you came to the hospital to see him?”

A frown creased his forehead as he thought for a long moment, then it cleared. “Oh yeah, I member. When he get here?”

“Just a little while ago.”

“Oh. Okay.” He glanced around the room. “I have snack?”

“Yes. Rosa’s in the kitchen, she’ll get you something.”

“Guess he’s not going to be scarred at the idea of a new brother.” Tony snorted.

“Like you were?” Carol asked.

Tony shrugged and grinned at Matt. “He cramped my style.”

Matt’s response was a Jersey salute.

Helen entered carrying Lauren and set her on her feet beside her mother. “Here’s your little brother.”

“Do you remember coming to the hospital to see him?” Tori asked, watching her daughter closely. While she expected Stevie’s nonchalant attitude, this one was more unpredictable.

Lauren looked at the baby and back at her mother.

“Sweetpea? Do you remember Zachary?” Richie pressed, one finger reaching out to stroke the baby’s cheek.

Lauren scowled at her brother and immediately climbed into her father’s lap, her small hand stretching to pat his cheek, demanding his attention and shooting her baby brother a smug look when she got it.

Hearing Tori’s sigh, Carol smiled. “Actually that’s pretty good. It could have been a lot worse. Tony wasn’t much older than Zachary when Jon slapped him across the face.”

“What?” Tori choked on a laugh.

Carol nodded. “Joe and Joy had come to see the new baby and Jon didn’t like him getting the attention. When Joy held Tony, Jon ran across the room and slapped his little face, just as hard as he could.”

“Just the first beating of many I took from him.” Tony sighed dramatically.

“Every one of them deserved.” Jon retorted dryly. “And I can still do it if need be.”

Tony snorted. “You and what army?”

“Boys!” Carol stepped in to cut them off. “Stop it!”

Helen smiled. “Jim kept putting a blanket over Michael’s face. We were never sure whether he was trying to keep him warm....or smother him.”

Richie shook his head. “Suddenly, being an only child wasn’t so bad.”

“Being the oldest was the worst.” Jim spoke up. “The baby – the only girl – had it easy.”

Tori scowled at him and stuck out her tongue.

Joan decided she’d waited long enough. “Can I hold my newest grandson now?”

“Oh! Of course.” Tori handed him over.

And Pass the Baby began. Everything was fine until it was Jon’s turn. Seeing Zachary in his arms sent Lauren, eyes narrowed, sliding off her father’s lap and over to her favourite uncle. She struggled to climb into his lap....and push Zachary off at the same time.

“Lauren.” The sound of her name in her mother’s warning voice stopped her for a moment. “Be nice. You have to be gentle with Zachary.”

Lauren looked at her mother briefly, then made a noise that sounded like a snort and went back to pushing.

Tori sighed again and looked at Richie. “I hope Zachary has your temperament.”

Amid the laughter that followed her comment, the sound of the front door slamming could barely be heard.

“Is he here? Is he home?” Ava burst into the room.

“Yes.” Jon replied, his relief evident in his voice as he tried to juggle children. “Come take him before your sister permanently injures him...or me!”

“Hey there Zackman.” Ava cuddled the baby close. “We’re sooo happy to have you home.” Glancing at her stepmother she raised a brow at the ice pack. “What did you do? Punch the crazy bitch?”

“Yep.” Tori smiled smugly. “I should have done more, but I was warned that it wasn’t garbage day.”

“Way to go T-Mom! That’ll teach her to mess with this family!”

Later that night when everyone had gone to bed and the house was buttoned up for the night, Richie entered their bedroom to find Stevie and Lauren in bed with Tori and Zachary in his cradle beside her. While he’d understood – and agreed – with Tori on Stevie and Lauren sleeping with them since Zachary had been taken – he’d needed to know they were close by and safe too – he’d thought that now that Zachary was home, things could get back to normal. That included being able to spend his nights curled up with his wife, not a restless three year old and a one year old that kicked anything that touched her, including her brother or her parents. Luckily, the dog still slept downstairs.

Something of what he was thinking must have shown in his face, because Tori studied his expression for a moment, then smiled. “Tonight’s the last night they’ll sleep with us, I promise. I just.....we finally have our family all together, safe and sound. If Ava was younger I’d have her in here too. I want to be able to see them and be assured they’re safe if I wake up in the middle of the night.” She shrugged sheepishly. “Tomorrow night will be soon enough to put them back in their own beds......won’t it?”

He had a hard time denying her anything at the best of times. But when it had to do with her love for their children, there was no way he could even think about it.  She’d denied the majority of her feelings over Zachary being missing. If this was what it took for her to be settled and content again, then he could live with it – or rather sleep with it...he hoped. “Yeah. It will.”

He bent to kiss Zachary’s forehead, walked around the bed and climbed in. Leaning over the sleeping toddlers and kissed his wife. “Night angel. I love you.”

“Night honey. I love you too.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chapter 46

They’d just finished breakfast the next morning when the gate buzzed. Since Jon was the closest, he answered it and opened the door to let Mike in.

“What’s up?”

“Where are Tori and Richie?” Mike stepped into the foyer.

“Getting the kids cleaned up after breakfast. Did you find something?”

“Mmm. Can we get everybody together?”

“Sure. In the living room.” Jon led the way, calling out as he went. “Mike’s here and he’s got some news!”

Within seconds the family appeared and settled around the room. Tori and Richie sat together on the couch, hands clasped.

“Mike?  What’s happened?” Tori searched his face, but couldn’t read it. I wouldn’t want to play poker with him. Shaking her head at her own errant thought, she brought her attention back to his face and waited.

Mike reached out to grab her free hand, a big smile spreading across his face. “They found her.”



“You’re kidding!”

Tori ignored the exclamations being shouted all around them, keeping her gaze locked on Mike, her hand in a death grip with Richie’s, afraid to hope. “They really found her?” Mike nodded. She swallowed and licked her lips. “And the baby?”

“Neighbours have confirmed hearing a baby crying several times a day, including last night.”

“How did they find her?” Bill asked.

“A fan came through. She got Jasmine to give her a street name. With that, it didn’t take long to find her.”

“Where?” Tony spoke up.

“Glendale. The police are organizing a raid as we speak.” Mike looked back at Tori. “You’ll have little Zachary back very soon.”

Tori finally let herself believe it. With a small cry, she turned to Richie, throwing her arms around his neck and clutching him tightly, tears of relief tracking down her cheeks. He held her close, sending up a silent prayer of thanks, his own eyes damp.

Twisting her head, she caught Mike’s gaze. “Can...can we go?”

He smiled. “Yeah. But you’ll need to stay out of the way until the police have secured Jasmine.”

Tori nodded her understanding and stood. “Let’s go.”

It was the work of only a few minutes to organize people and vehicles. Rosa and Cathy stayed with Lauren and Stevie, but everyone else was determined to go.

They knew they were close when they came across several police cruisers and officers blocking the street. A SWAT van was parked in front of an apartment building a block past the barricade.

“Which one is it?” Tori asked Mike as he parked behind a cruiser.

He pointed. “152. Apartment 2C. But wait....” He might as well have saved his breath. He was talking to air. “Tori!” But she was gone, Richie right behind her.

At the door of the apartment building, Tori was stopped by an officer. “I’m sorry ma’am, but I can’t let you in.”

“That crazy bitch has my son in there!” She fought his retraining grip.

“I know. Ma’am....Mrs. Sambora, we’ll get him back for you. But we need to be careful. We can’t just break down the door, we...”

“Why not?” Richie demanded.

“Because we don’t know what weapons she might have or what she might do.  We don’t want to scare her into doing something to hurt your son.”

“She won’t.” Tori assured him. “She thinks he’s her ticket to get Richie to be part of her life. She won’t do anything to harm him.”

“You’re probably right.” The officer agreed. “But what if you’re wrong? Do you really want us to take that chance?”

“I want my son back!” She almost growled in frustration. To be so close to him, but unable to get to him was almost more than she could stand.

“We’ll get him. I know it’s hard, but try to be patient for just a little while longer.”

Upstairs, several officers, including a hostage negotiator were outside the apartment rented to Jasmine Yamoda. The cries of a young baby could be heard through the door.

The closest officer raised his hand and knocked. “Police! Open up.”

After several minutes of silence, he knocked again. “Jasmine Yamoda! Police! Open up!”

More silence. The negotiator stepped up. “We know you’re in there Jasmine. We can hear the baby crying. It’s time to give Zachary back to his parents.”

“He’s mine!” Even the wood panel didn’t muffle the near hysteria in her voice.

The officers exchanged glances. The negotiator took a deep breath. “Jasmine, you know that’s not true. If you open the door we can talk about it.”

“No! Go away!”

“I can’t do that.”

“His father will be home soon, and he won’t be happy to find you here!”

After an hour of trying unsuccessfully to get her to open the door, the negotiator took a break and went downstairs for some fresh air and to plan the next step.

Tori saw him first. “What’s going on? Where’s my son?”

He tried to smile encouragingly, but he didn’t lie to her. “It’s taking longer than we anticipated. She won’t open the door. We may have to force our way in after all.”

“But I thought that was a risk to the baby.” Tori frowned.

“It is, but we may not have a choice. Her delusion has evolved further than we thought.” He glanced at Richie. “She’s convinced that you’re together and she’s expecting you to come home momentarily.”  

“Then maybe I should.” Richie commented, a thoughtful look on his face.

“What do you mean?” The officer who had restrained Tori earlier asked.

Richie didn’t look away from the negotiator. “If she’s expecting me ‘home’, let’s give her what she wants.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” The officer argued.

“Why not? Chances are she’ll open the door for me. And we can be pretty sure she won’t try to hurt me.”

While the police weren’t thrilled with the idea, they couldn’t argue his logic. The negotiator scratched his chin while he studied Richie’s face. He’d been doing this job long enough to have a good instinct about what would work and what wouldn’t...and assess the risk involved. And his gut told him this may be the best way to bring the situation to a successful conclusion without somebody getting hurt. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to get my son back.” Richie assured him.

“Okay then, let’s go.”

When they reached the second floor, the negotiator turned to Tori. He knew better than to try to make her stay downstairs, but it was imperative that he lay down the rules if she was going to be this close to the action. “Mrs. Sambora, I know this is a hard thing to ask, but I need you to stay absolutely quiet.  She cannot know that you’re here.  There’s no telling what she might do if she found out.”

Tori nodded. “I understand.” She understood, but she didn’t like it. The truth was, she wanted to break down the door herself.

Whether he could see something in her face, or just knew her that well, Richie pulled her into his arms. “I’ll bring him out to you angel, I promise.”

She nodded and released him.

Standing in front of the door, Richie took a deep breath and reached for the knob. It was locked as expected, so he knocked. “Jasmine? It’s me. I forgot my key. Can you let me in?”

“Richie? I’m so glad you’re finally home!” Jasmine exclaimed as she opened the door and threw her arms around his neck.

Gripping her waist, he manoeuvred her back from the door, leaving it open. He had to force himself to stay focussed on his role and not toss her aside. “Yes, I’m home.” He glanced around. “Where’s the baby?”

She led him to the far side of the room to where a bassinet was set beneath the window. “He’s sleeping. Isn’t he beautiful? He looks just like you.”

As Richie looked down at his son, the tight band that had been surrounding his heart since that fateful day in the hospital finally loosened. Reminding himself to move slowly, casually, he reached into the bassinet and lifted the baby into his arms. “Hi little man. Daddy’s got you.”

Jasmine watched in confusion as Richie turned and walked towards the open door. “Richie?  Where are you going? Where are you taking him?”

Having reached the safety of the doorway and the police waiting just out of sight, Richie paused to look back at her, letting her see all the anger and disgust he felt. “To his mother.”

“But....Richie....I don’t understand. I’m his mother!”

“No you’re not. And you never will be.”

I  am!” Tori had waited as long as she could, but seeing her baby nestled in his father’s arms where he belonged, she couldn’t hold back any longer. Pausing only briefly to look Zachary over and assure herself he was okay, she kissed his forehead and stepped into the room to face her nemesis.

“You!” Jasmine’s eyes widened and she took a step back, lucidity lighting her dark eyes – at least for the moment.

“Yes, it’s me.” Tori kept walking forward. “I told you before. Richie is mine.” She came to a stop with only a foot between them. “And I fight for what’s mine.” That was the only warning she gave before drawing her fist back and letting it fly.

Jasmine was knocked to the floor, her nose spurting blood all over her white blouse.  “Ow! Stop!”

“Not until I’m sure you get the message loud and clear.” Tori reached down, grabbed a fistful of silk and dragged Jasmine off the floor, only to send her back down with another punch to the face.

Two officers stood inside the door and watched Tori pummel the kidnapper over and over.

“Should we stop it?” The younger of the two, barely out of rookie status, asked his partner.

The veteran snorted and crooked a brow at him. “Do you want to get in the way of a mother protecting her child?”

“Ah, no.”

“Me either, unless I absolutely have to. Besides, the woman deserves it for what she put these people through.”

Finally, Tori couldn’t ignore the pain in her hand any longer and stopped. But she wasn’t finished. Bending until their faces were only inches apart, her glare bore into the younger woman’s. “If you come near my family again, I won’t just bloody your nose or blacken your eye.” She paused. “I’ll kill you. And no one will ever find the body.” She waited until she saw understanding in the dark eyes staring at her. The doubt visible there made her continue. “That’s not a threat. That’s a promise. And I always keep my promises.”

Satisfied that she’d made her point, Tori straightened and strode back to the door and her waiting family. When Richie handed her the baby, she cuddled him close and looked up at her husband. “Let’s go home.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chapter 45

The next two days seemed to last forever.  There were no more notes from the nurse and the police were coming up empty.  It seemed the woman had just disappeared into thin air....and taken the baby with her.
The mood of the house varied between morose and an almost desperate happiness as they tried to put on a good show for the kids, especially with Christmas fast approaching. As much as Tori tried, she just couldn’t seem to summon up any enthusiasm for the holiday. While it was understandable, she knew it wasn’t fair to the kids.

“Come on T-Mom, no time to sit.” Ava breezed into the living room, her hands full of grocery bags. “We’ve got to get the Christmas baking done.” She held up a hand to forestall any protest. “No excuses. Rosa’s got your recipes out, the grandmothers and Aunt Dot are going to help. We’ll have it done in no time.” She eyed her stepmother with an understanding gaze that belied her years. “Besides, you’ll be glad to have it done when Zachary gets home and you don’t have the time anymore.”

Appreciative of Ava’s faith and knowing she was beaten, Tori did the only thing she could do: gave in gracefully. She stood and led the way to the kitchen. Behind her back, Richie gave his eldest a grateful thumbs up.

“Oh angel, since you’re baking......”

“I know, I know.” She was only surprised he hadn’t asked sooner. They’d run out the day before.

“Cookies please!” The words came from every male throat in the house, from age three to eight-three.

The women shook their heads and rolled their eyes.

It turned out that an afternoon of tasks to keep her hands occupied and female companionship to keep her mind occupied was just the distraction Tori needed to help her get through the day.

The next morning the private investigator came by with a folder in his hand. He set it on the coffee table in front of him, but left closed while he looked first at Tori, then Richie. “Does the name Jasmine Yamoda mean anything to you?”

Richie frowned in thought. “No. Should it?”

“Her name came up in response to the message Matt posted on the fan club website.  Apparently she’s a from Japan. She’s told people she’s actually met you.” He glanced at Tori. “Both of you actually, as well as the rest of the band, and Dorothea.”

Tori’s eyes widened as a memory surfaced. “That crazy bitch? Did she take our son?” Jumping to her feet she started to pace the room. “I should have taken her out when she told me she was out to take Richie away from me.”

“Oh her!” Dorothea exclaimed. “I knew she was delusional, but I thought it was just a harmless fantasy.”

“Wait.” Richie was confused. “So you two do know her?”

“So do you.” His wife assured him.

“I do?”

“Mmmhmm. She was the one who gave you the idea of buying the condo in Philly....indirectly. She was also the cause of our first real major fight. It was after your dealings with her that you asked me to move in with you.”

“Aaah.” Richie nodded. “Now I remember.”

“I don’t.” Jon frowned.

“It was...what...five years ago? She showed up at the after parties in Japan and Australia.” Richie explained.

“And after the show in Philly on your birthday.” Dorothea added.

“Oh! I remember that!” David looked at his band mates. “That was the night Bela and Dot looked like they were going to tag team that chick. The night Bela went into tough guy bodyguard mode and only the fans she allowed got to get near Chuck.”

“Oh yeah.” Jon nodded. “I remember now.” He turned to Mike. “What did you find out?”

Having been engrossed in their stories, it took Mike a minute to gather his thoughts. “Um. Well, several people mentioned having been friends with her – at least online. Most of them had ended that when they realized that her talk of marrying Richie wasn’t just a fan’s wishful thinking.” He glanced at Richie and Jon, his lips twisting wryly. “Luckily for you, most of your fans may have fantasies with you as the central figure, but they realize that it’s not reality.”

“Thank God for small mercies.” Jon commented dryly.

“Anyway, we found a couple people who stayed in contact with her. She’s been hinting for the last six months that there were big changes coming in her life, that all her dreams were about to come true.”

Tori snorted. Richie reached out and tugged her down onto his lap. Holding her close, he rubbed her back with one hand.

“We got an address from them,” Mike continued, “but she’d moved. The girls promised to try and contact her and see if they can find out where she is. And now that we have her real name, it should be easier to find her.” He glanced at Richie. “She keeps saying in the notes that she’s waiting for you to join them. Like you would know where they are. Do you remember anything she said to you that would give you any clue to her hiding spot?”

Richie thought for a few minutes, but finally had to shake his head. “Nothing. I honestly don’t remember what we even talked about. She was just a fan I talked to for a few minutes.”

“Are we sure it’s her though?” Bill asked. “I mean, we don’t want to be going off on a wild goose chase.”

Mike nodded. “Pretty sure.” He pulled two photographs from the folder. “The fans sent some pictures they had of Jasmine.” Holding it up for them all to see, he raised a brow at Tori and Richie.

“That’s her.” Tori confirmed.

 “But is it the nurse?” John Sr. frowned. “I thought you said the nurse was blonde. That girl is dark.”

“We did a little photo shopping on this.” Mike explained. “Gave her blonde hair, rounded her eyes a little...and came up with this.” He held up the other picture.

Tori studied it for a long moment before nodding. “That’s her.”

“Are you sure?” Her mother asked.

“Trust me Mom. That is one face I will never forget.”

“Are you going to share this with the police?” Jon questioned his friend.

Mike hesitated, glancing at Tori and Richie. “What do you think?”

“Tell them.” Was Tori’s opinion. “The more people we have looking, the better.” She paused. “But when you find her, and get my baby back......the bitch is mine.”

“I understand how you feel sweetheart, but don’t do anything rash that’s going to get you into trouble.” Bill warned her.

“Do you really think there’s a jury in this country that would blame me for inflicting a little pain on the women who stole my baby?”

“Just don’t kill her.” Jon advised. “There’s too much media attention to the abduction to be able to dispose of the body quietly.”

While the rest of the gathered family laughed, Jon met his sister’s gaze and merely smiled slightly.

“Okay, so I’ll go fill in the cops and see where we’re at. I’ll keep you updated.” Mike gathered up the photos and his folder.

Richie slid Tori off his lap so that he could stand and walk the investigator to the door.  Reaching out, he shook his hand. “Thanks man, for everything.”

“No problem. We’re close Richie. We’ll find him.”

“So what now?” Karin asked after Tori had finished bringing her up to speed.

“Well, between the police and Mike’s people, they’re searching L.A. and the surrounding area for any sign of Jasmine.” Tori shook her head. “I still can’t believe it was her.”

“You didn’t recognize anything about her? She didn’t give any indication that she’d met you before?”

“I thought there was something vaguely familiar about her, but not enough to twig my memory. And she never gave anything away other than that she was obviously a fan of Richie’s. For a nutjob, she’s a smart one.”

“And how are you holding up?”

“You mean after Richie and I blew up at each other?” Tori asked dryly. “Or are you going to try and convince me that Shirley didn’t tell you all about that?”

“What would be the point? Of course he did. Tori, we’re all worried about you. Both of you. I can’t imagine what you must be going through.” Tears choked her to silence.

“I know. And we appreciate everyone’s support and concern. We’re.....okay. Better now actually, after the guilt squad forced a time out on us.” Tori sighed. “I didn’t mean to lock Richie out. I shouldn’t have done that.  I just wish people understood why I’m holding everything in so tightly.”

“Your emotions are strong and will overwhelm you if you let them loose. That won’t help anyone, least of all the two small children you have there that need you.”

Thank you! Now will you explain it to your husband?” 

“I’ve tried. Not sure he totally gets it though. Is he giving you a hard time? Do I have to have another talk with him?”

“No. In fact he’s treating me like I’m made of glass and the wrong word will make me shatter. They all are –well, except Jon. It’s driving me nuts! And these people are related to me! You’d think they’d know how to deal with me by now!” Tori growled in frustration.

“What’s Jon doing?”

“He watches me, but basically leaves me alone. He and Shirley spend most of their time keeping Richie occupied....and playing with the kids. I don’t know if anything they’re writing is any good, but it keeps him busy and out of trouble.”

“Has there been any more....trouble?”

“Not that I’m aware of. And I think he’d think twice before picking up a bottle again. I made my opinion on the subject very clear.”

“I’d say you did. Did the wall get damaged?”

“No, just the glass – which I made Richie clean up by the way.”

“Have you heard from Tico?”

“Yeah. He calls every day. Says he’ll come if we need him, but figures we have a houseful right now – which is true.”

“Well, I’m sure it won’t be for much longer. They’ll find Zack and bring him home and life will calm down for a bit for you.”

“I hope you’re right.” The sound of a young baby crying made Tori’s chest tighten. “Sounds like Josh is hungry.”

“Yeah. I’d better go feed him. I’ll talk to you later.” Karin paused. “At the risk of quoting our other halves, keep the faith Tori. They’ll find him.”

“Thanks. I’m trying. Talk to you later.”