Alex immediately fell in love with Bruce's Family. Patti, who was heavily pregnant, welcomed her with open arms, and the small gifts Alex had thought to buy for the children won them over immediately. She quickly fell in with the family's routine and was as comfortable as if she'd always lived there. Patti was immensely grateful for the help Alex gave. Her baby was due shortly after New Year and she had become rather unwieldy.
The entire time she was with Bruce and his family, Alex was observing him. He was a great family man and loved his children and wife dearly. Alex felt privileged and was touched to observe the tender moments Bruce and Patti shared, and hoped that one day she would have that same special bond.
A couple of days before Christmas Bruce came out to the guest house to inform Alex that a few family and friends would be there for dinner that evening, and that they hoped she would join them. Of course Alex accepted with pleasure and immediately made her way to the main house to see if she could assist Patti in the preparations. She was assured that everything was under control, so she returned to the guest house to ready herself for the evening.
Alex dressed simply in dark blue denim skinny jeans and a cream turtle neck cashmere sweater that hugged her curves. Her hair cascaded down her back and she applied only the smallest amount of gloss to her lips. She made her way up to the main house just as the first of the guests arrived. She had met a few of them earlier in her stay, members of Bruce's band and a few locals but there were quite a few others she didn't recognise.
Making her way over to the bar Alex was complimented on her work by several of Bruce's friends. She was glad to know that her work was being recognised. She procured a cup of eggnog and curled up next to Bruce's children, Evan and Jessica, on one of the large overstuffed couches before the fireplace to read them a story. Soon a small group of children had found their way to her, all huddled close by, their eyes excited as she read. So engrossed in the story was she, that Alex didn't notice the new arrivals to the party.
Across the room Bruce greeted his most recent guests. "Jon, Dot, great to see you again. How are you both?"
"Just fine thanks Bruce. Thanks for the invite; it's great to be able to catch up. How are you and the family? Patti must be ready to pop" Jon answered smiling as he shook Bruce's hand firmly
"Yes Patti is!" came a voice from behind him and a poke in the ribs. "How are you both? And where is little Stephanie?"
"All good." Dot answered as she and Patti exchanged kisses.
"Mom's here. She wouldn't surrender the baby so we left her at home." Jon explained.
"How old is she now four months?" Patti asked.
"Actually she'll be seven months next week. She's just about sitting by herself now. Won't be long and Daddy here will be chasing the boys off with a stick. She sure is a Daddy's girl." Dot positively glowed at the mention of her new daughter.
"Well I hate to break up this little mother's club you've got going but I'd like to introduce Jon and Dot to our house guest." Bruce interrupted.
"Of course dear, you go do that and I'll check on the kitchen. Can I get you something to drink on the way?"
"White wine would be lovely thank you Patti" Jon replied.
"Mineral water for me thanks. I'm still feeding" Dot said as she hooked her arm through her husband's.
Done, I'll have a waiter bring them right over. Jon...Dot I'll catch you a little later, we can finish that conversation." Patti waddled off in the direction of the kitchen.
"I feel for her" Dot said watching Patti move away. "It's the worst feeling and the best feeling all at once, so uncomfortable but yet the greatest anticipation."
"I don't know, I feel for Bruce here" Jon said patting his friend on the back as they crossed the room. Then added with a huge grin and a wink "He's the one that has to put up with the whining, and the cravings and the mood swings..."
This earned Jon a slap on the arm from his wife and a nod of agreement from Bruce. Now near the couch Jon was admiring the touching scene before him. Bruce's house guest flanked by his two small children and several others seated on the floor before her as she read aloud, her voice animated. She was obviously enjoying the story as much as the children.
"Can I interrupt for a second?" Bruce asked of the woman.
Alex folded the book closed using her finger as a marker, stood and turned around.
"Jon, Dot" Bruce began "I'd like you to meet Alex Belle. Alex is from Australia and is rapidly becoming world renowned in the world of photography. Alex this is Jon and Dorothea Bongiovi"
Alex didn't skip a beat, "Mrs Bongiovi, Jon... so nice to see you again." She appeared as cool as a cucumber the entire time, while internally her stomach was doing somersaults. She shook Dot's hand first, then extended it towards Jon who stood motionless, his manners abandoning him in shock until his wife jabbed an elbow into his ribs. He took her hand and shook it lightly, the feel of his calloused fingers was almost her undoing but she managed to remain steadfast.
Jon stood in stunned silence. His mouth could not even form a coherent sentence as his brain struggled to reconcile what his eyes were seeing. His Alex, HERE, in the same room with him, in the same room as his WIFE.
"Have we met?" Dot asked curiously, not recognizing Alex as the young lady she met long ago, at a concert on the other side of the globe.
"Yes, quite a few years ago actually, and only very briefly. In Australia, you were there with the New Jersey Tour I believe it was." Alex was surprised at the evenness of her voice.
You know damn well what tour it was. Jon thought. What the fuck is she doing here?
"That same tour I did some photography work for the band, got to know them rather well in the end. It was, shall we say educational..."
"Actually, I do remember Jon talking about a young photographer back then. He didn't mention you were so stunning though. I think I'm lucky to still have a husband" Dot joked, causing Jon to choke on the glass of wine the waiter had just handed him. She didn't know how close it had come.
"Oh hon, are you ok?" Dot began to fuss over her husband.
"Yes Dot I'm fine, just went down the wrong way" Jon became uncomfortable with his wife attentions and brushed her off. "Maybe I just need something a little stronger" Jon caught the attention of the waiter. "Jack straight up."
Trying to control his emotions Jon turned towards Alex "So, Ali...hu...hum, excuse me Alex" he corrected not wanting to use the familiar name he had for her, "What have you been up to since I saw you last? I believe Paul tried to contact you in regards to doing the last leg of the tour with us but you were committed elsewhere."
"Um yes, sorry about that. It seems that my work is attracting quite a bit of attention these days. I actually just came off tour with Bryan Adams. I've worked with quite a few artists in the last two years. Although, I have to say, I haven't had that special... magic I found on tour with you." At her words Jon's pants got decidedly tighter causing him to adjust his stance. Alex loved that she could make him so uncomfortable with just a few well chosen words. "I mean the photographs that come out of that tour are still amongst the best I've done, and I was so young then, so inexperienced. I learnt a lot that tour but you'd be surprised at what I've learned since." Alex continued, running her tongue over her upper lip.
"I was almost wounded by that statement" Bruce interjected. "The work we have done here is just amazing; I thought we had a special connection..."
Alex moved to kiss Bruce on the cheek and embrace him in a half hug. "Oh Bruce, we do...of course we do....I've felt like part of the family here. It has been a wonderful couple of weeks. I feel blessed to be here, truly I do." Jon's jaw clenched, as he felt the familiar stirrings of jealousy grip him.
"Well ok then" Bruce said chuckling. He winked at Jon before adding. "Lucky you're young enough to be my daughter, honey....or Patti may have found herself without a husband. I mean look at her Jon, talented, intelligent, compassionate...she has been just wonderful with the kids and helping Patti, and all that wrapped up in this amazingly beautiful package. How did you ever resist her back then? If I was a single man...."
Dot saved Jon from a response. "Ah, but he wasn't Bruce...we had married that April. The band toured Australia in what was it.." She began.
"November!" Alex and Jon answered in unison.
"Too funny." Dot laughed but a niggling thought in the back of her mind began to play on her.
"Well Dot, we better get to mingling. Alex it was very nice to see you again." Jon said stiffly and began to steer his wife away from his former love. This party was a disaster in the making.
"I'm sorry Jonny, I hope I didn't make you uncomfortable. I forgot you two were together back then." Bruce said apologetically.
"No...no problem Bruce. Actually I'm gonna head out for a smoke. Look Dot, there's Janice...maybe you'd better go say hello. Wasn't she trying to get a hold of you earlier today?"
Jon, made a hasty retreat to the yard. He was reeling. What the fuck was she doing here... in New Jersey? His home town God damn it! He had chased her half way across the world and all the time she was in his own back yard. He had to get Dot out of there. Come and speak to her alone. But how?
His mind began to race. It was an impossible situation. How the fuck could she do this to me? And here...NOW? And damn her fucking insinuations all to hell. Jon's anger began to rise. What was she playing at? And of course Bruce hadn't helped any either. Fuck...Fuck....FUCK!! How could he go back into that room with her? Her and that silky mane of chocolate curls, those pink full pouty lips that had kissed him all over, those soft skilful hands that had caressed his body.....Jon let out a long groan at the sensations his thoughts provoked... anger was rapidly morphing into passion. FUCK, I am so screwed.