“I mean it Jasmine. Stay the hell away from my family!”
“It’s not your family, it’s mine! Richie and I were meant to be together. Those kids were meant to be our kids!”
Even from where Tori was standing she could see the fanatical light in the other woman’s eyes. It was sad really. “No Jasmine. You know deep down that’s not true. Richie was never yours.”
“No. He wasn’t. You spent a few hours talking to him, five years ago. That was it.”
“He kissed me!”
Tori wasn’t going to rehash that argument. “And came back home and asked me to move in with him. Did he ever contact you afterwards? No. He doesn’t want you Jasmine. I’m sorry, but that’s the cold, hard truth.”
“You’re wrong.” Jasmine shook her head. “He hooked up with you and then couldn’t get out of it. You’re Jon’s sister. He didn’t want to piss him off.”
“You think he married me because I’m Jon’s sister?” Tori had to chuckle at that idea. “If you truly think that, you don’t know him at all. I’ll admit there’s a lot of things Richie would do for my brother – and Jon for him – but getting married and raising a family just to please him is not one of them. No, Richie married me because he loves me and wants to spend the rest of his life with me. Me. Not you.”
But the fever of delusion burned brightly in Jasmine’s dark eyes. “He loves me! He does! He just can’t see it because of whatever spell you’ve put on him.”
Tori’s eyes widened. “So now I’m some sort of witch or sorceress?” She snorted. “That ‘spell’ as you call it is love. True love. And it goes both ways. Both of us are happier together than we’ve ever been apart or with anyone else.”
“No! Once you’re out of the way, he’ll see that it’s me he’s wanted all along.”
Taffy had been growling low in her throat ever since they’d entered the room, but suddenly stopped. Out of the corner of her eye, Tori could see the dog’s ears perk up and her tail begin to wave and she knew Richie was close.
That knowledge brought with it feelings of relief....and annoyance. She was relieved to know that help was close by – if Richie was here, that meant that members of Mike’s team were as well – but she was also annoyed that he thought he needed to run to her rescue, that she couldn’t take care of things herself. At the same time she was warmed by the assurance that he would rush to help her, no matter the risk to himself.
“I’m sorry Jasmine, but he just doesn’t love you.” Tori repeated to distract the other woman from the door opening slowly behind her.
“Yes, he does!”
“No, Jasmine, I don’t.” Richie spoke quietly as he entered the room.
At the sound of his voice, Jasmine spun around, her whole being lighting up. “You came for me!”
“No.” Richie shook his head and crossed the room to stand beside Tori, his arm sliding around her waist and squeezing, although his eyes showed his exasperation with her. Reaching down with his other hand, he gave Taffy a pat. “I came for my wife.”
“But...but...we’re meant to be a family! I know it!”
Her comment reminded Tori of a few questions she had about the other woman’s background. Now might be the last chance she had to satisfy her curiosity and it would distract her until Mike’s team set their plan in motion – whatever it was. “Where is your family Jasmine? Your parents, I mean. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
Shadows flitted through Jasmine’s dark eyes and the line of her lips tightened. “My brother and my parents say I have dishonoured the family by falling in love with a rock star and particularly one from the west. They are very traditional. They wanted to lock me away so that I wouldn’t embarrass them.”
Despite everything, Tori was starting to feel a little sorry for her. Obviously, her family were aware that she had a problem, but still...to feel like your family didn’t want you around had to be tough to take.
“How did you get them to change their minds?” Richie asked.
“They didn’t. After we finally sat down and talked in Tokyo....the connection was so strong...and I knew you felt it too. After Sydney I was sure of it. So I made plans to come to the States so that we could be together.”
Her gaze shifted to Tori and hardened. “But then she showed up with her black belt sister-in-law and ruined our reunion. If it wasn’t for her, we’d have been together so much sooner and not wasted so much time.”
Richie couldn’t automatically refute her statement. Who knew what might have happened if he hadn’t met Tori? Although he was pretty sure he’d have seen she was nuts and stayed away. But he did meet Tori...and he was a better man for it. “Jasmine......Tori is my wife and the mother of my children, and I love her with all of my heart. She is everything I ever wanted or hoped to find in the woman who would share my life. I don’t want anyone else.”
Tori leaned her head against her husband and smiled. While she knew how he felt about her, it was still nice to hear him say it out loud.
“It’s okay Richie, you don’t have to pretend anymore.” Jasmine didn’t want to hear it. “Everything’s out in the open now. We can get rid of her and finally be together. Like we were always meant to be.”
“What makes you so sure you were meant to be with Richie?” Tori had to ask, if only to see how far down the rabbit hole the woman had fallen.
“The first time I saw Bon Jovi in concert I was in the second row right in front of Richie. He looked down at me and smiled.” She shifted to stand behind a nearby chair, her hands gripping the back and her face took on a dreamy expression as she remembered. “Our souls reached out to each other and in that moment I knew I’d found the man I was destined to spend my life with.”
“Wow.” Tori muttered. She’d expected some such story, but she still could hardly believe her ears. And she didn’t want to hear any more. “Jasmine....I’ve explained this to you before. Richie is friendly with all his fans. That’s just the way he is. It doesn’t mean that he wants to spend the rest of his life with them. He wants me. He loves me. He is my husband and the father of my children. We are a family. And there is nothing you can do to change that.”
“Oh yeah?” Jasmine’s eyes gleamed. She reached under the cushion on the back of the chair. “Are you sure about that?”
Richie and Tori both stiffened at the sight of the gun. Taffy, sensing their tension, started to growl again.
“What are you planning to do with that?” Richie asked even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer.
“I’m going to remove the obstacle to the fulfilment of our destiny.” Raising the gun, she aimed at Tori. “Step out of the way baby, I don’t want to hit you by accident.”
But Richie didn’t move.
“Do you really think you can kill me and get away with it?” Tori tried to keep her talking. Okay Mike, you can come to the rescue any time!
“Why would they come looking for me when you’re suffering from post-partum depression and you killed yourself?”
“That’ll never work. I haven’t shown any signs. And my doctor will testify to that.”
Jasmine shrugged. “That won’t mean anything after they read the letter you wrote explaining it all.”
“But I know the truth.” Richie pointed out.
“Why would you say anything when it means we can finally be together?” She shook her head. “You won’t.”
Richie knew there was no point in trying to reason with her. She was too far gone for that. He braced himself and watched her, waiting for an opening.
Tori wanted to give it one more shot. “Jasmine...”
“No! No more talking. You said you wanted this to end. And so it will....for you.” She squeezed the trigger.