Alex was in the process of setting up her cameras for the formal shots that would be released to the press when she felt the presence behind her. "What's he doing here?" Jon growled in her ear, the tenor of his voice leaving no mistake as to which 'he' he was referring.
With barely a glance over her shoulder she responded. "He was invited. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you take it up with Richie and Heather." The happy couple were but a few yards away, blissfully unaware of the heated exchange taking place between their photographer and her lover.
"I wanted some time alone with you." He ground through clenched teeth.
"In case you have forgotten," she whispered, "you are here with your wife. That seems to have made time alone impossible regardless of Rick's attendance."
"I would have found a way." He insisted.
"Like you found a way to come see me this last month. I wouldn't hold my breath."
Jon huffed. "Alex...be reasonable. You know the situation."
"Far too well...But this is neither the time nor place to discuss it." She admonished.
Alex tried to keep her concentration focussed on her camera but was finding it increasingly difficult. It had been so long since they had seen each other that even his presence in the same room had elicited a strong physical reaction from her. One she knew all too well she had to hide. She had caught sight of him in the chapel during the service, and had found it hard to keep her attention focused on the bride and groom. She was having that same difficulty now.
"It seems that there is never a good time," he muttered.
"Well...isn't that telling you something?" She spat, as she corrected the final setting for the shoot.
"Yep, it's telling me that we need to commit to this more than we have been."
"And by that we you mean me I suppose?" She finally swung around to face him, defiant.
"NO," Jon yelled, frustration momentarily getting the better of him before lowering his voice as Richie shot him a warning glare. "By we I mean both of us. Though if I'm honest I have to admit more of that responsibility falls on my shoulders."
"You bet your sweet ass it does." And what an ass he had too, dammit Alex, focus.
"I'm sorry I haven't been around Ali. I'm being torn in a million different directions at the moment." He explained.
"Yep and as usual I'm the last to get a piece." He opened his mouth to object but she held up her hand to stop him. "Wrong time, wrong place. I have to get back to work. Go enjoy your family. There will be time enough later for us to argue this out." She said and turned dismissively back to her camera.
When she was sure he was gone she snuck a look on his direction. He had obediently returned to his wife's side, his disposition telling anyone who knew him well, that he wasn't happy to be there. Alex shook her head. She was disappointed in herself that she had to admit she was secretly pleased about that. She turned back to the task at hand.
"God, I've missed you baby." Rick's warm body had her pressed up against a wall in a dark corner of one of the Ritz's banquet rooms. His lips found hers in a fiery kiss, she was helpless to resist.
They were finally getting to the tail end of the evenings formalities and Alex was looking forward to the privacy of her room. Spending an evening in the same room as Jon and his wife was something akin to torture. Not that he was all that attentive as a husband...quite the opposite in fact, but Dots proprietary demeanour was beginning to annoy her. And she had no right to be annoyed...so then she got annoyed with herself for being annoyed... and then annoyed that Jon had put her in a position where she should be annoyed with herself for being annoyed. It was all one vicious annoying circle. If she could just get these photos done and spend a little time on some candids afterwards she would be able to execute her escape. For now though the comfort of Ricks embrace was one hell of a substitute.
Alex found the strength to pull away from him finally and gave a gentle push against his chest. "I've missed you too baby. But this isn't the time...I have to work."
He groaned but stepped back. "I know...but we have so little time. And it's been so long."
It was almost Christmas and the last time they had seen each other had been in August. They had met in London, where they had had an all too brief week together. Of course, Jon had been ropable, but Alex had very firmly reminded herself he had no right, just as he had no right to be starring daggers at Rick's back now. As she looked up and caught his eye he started across the room towards them.
"Oh Hell." She muttered.
"What?" Rick asked.
"Bongiovi's on his way over here." She sighed.
"And that's a problem?" he asked. "I thought you two were friends."
"Sometimes." It was a relationship she wasn't sure they couldn't claim.
"If he's done something to upset you babe..." Rick trailed off.
"No, no, no...it's nothing like that. Sometimes I just find him a little...Hey Jon." She said as if greeting him for the first time that evening. "It's been a while. You remember my husband Rick."
"How could I forget?" The last time I saw you, you were stealing my woman, you son of a bitch. "Good to see ya again, man." Jon said slapping Rick on the shoulder perhaps a little than required. "How's the Middle East treating you?"
"Good...besides keeping me away from my honey here." He moved to stand behind Alex and circle his arms around her. "Every minute away from her is its own tiny torture." He said and kissed her temple.
"I know what you mean." Jon gave Alex a pointed look while Rick's attention was diverted.
"Yeah I guess you do huh? You spend a lot of time away from Dot touring I guess."
"It's not easy being apart from the woman you love." Jon answered obliquely, looking directly at Alex a tight smile plastered to his face.
"Actually I saw Dot a little earlier...congratulations man, when is she due?" Rick asked, seemingly oblivious to Jon's pointed look at Alex.
"February," Dot said coming up beside Jon, "And thank you Rick. We couldn't be happier...could we honey?"
Jon turned up the corners of his mouth in a pitiful attempt at a smile.
"How are you Rick, Alex? Long time, no see, it must be a year now. What have you been doing with yourselves?" Dot asked.
"I've been working in the Middle East actually..." Rick began.
Jon interrupted, "Would you mind terribly if I borrowed Alex for a few minutes? I have some business propositions to discuss with her."
"Jon," Dot chastised, "This isn't the time to discuss work. Just because you're a workaholic it doesn't mean everyone else is. I'm sure Alex would rather relax and enjoy her evening."
For some insane reason Alex found herself coming to Jon's defence. "Actually I am on the clock Dot. And unfortunately Rick can attest to the fact that I am just as much a workaholic as your husband. But you are right about one thing, this isn't the time for this particular discussion. Sorry Jon," she added turning towards him, "but the happy couple are just about to cut the cake." She indicated to the centre of the room where an elaborate cake stood atop a round table draped in silk and fine lace.
Alex leaned up to lay a gentle kiss on Rick's lips. "Back to work I guess. It was good to see you both again. Jon, please feel free to call my office if you still want to discuss that proposition. I rather not mix business with pleasure."
"Oh, you can count on that." He smiled at her back as she made her way over to the bride and groom.
The cake was cut, the first dance had been had. Alex stood off to the side clicked off shot after shot of the guests as they twirled across the dance floor. A light tap on her shoulder had her lowering her camera.
"Dance with me?" Richie stood before her hand extended.
"Richie I'm working here."
"Now Darlin'," he grinned at her, "you can't turn down the groom. Besides you have done more than enough today. It's time for you to lay down those cameras and relax. Now put that down on the table here," he patted the table in front of an impeccably coiffed older woman, "Mom will watch it for you and come dance with me, damn it."
"How can I refuse an offer like that?" Alex placed the camera on the table in front of Mrs. Sambora and took Richie's hand.
They had been on the dance floor barely a minute when he asked, "Alex, do you know what's going on with Jon lately?"
"No idea. What makes you think I would?" At the start of their affair, Jon and Alex had determined that even their closest friends were to remain oblivious to their relationship. The more people that knew the more dangerous it would become for both of them. She hoped Jon had remained discrete.
"Jon has always said how close the two of you are?"
"And just how close is that?" She asked eying him speculatively. It took everything she had to stop the panic she was feeling from seeping into her voice.
Richie caught the tremor in her voice, "Don't worry darlin'...he didn't say anything about that. I know you two had somethin' pretty special...but that was a long time ago. You have Rick now and he has a family...not that that means much in his case I guess," he whispered. Alex frowned. What the hell did that mean? "It's just that I know you still hold a special place in his heart and I know he talks to you. I was hoping you could shed some light on why he's been acting like a bear with a sore tooth of late."
"Sorry Rich, really have no idea...maybe it's just the pressure of the new album release?" she suggested.
"Nope...it's more than that. I know this whole thing with the baby has thrown him for a loop. He really didn't want another kid with things the way they are with him and Dot. I assume I'm not betraying any confidences here?" he paused. Alex shook her head. "But I really think there is more to it than that. Will you keep an eye on him Alex? Can you do that for me? I'll be out LA a bit now...at least til the tour kicks off and I'm worried about him."
"I'll do the best I can," She smiled up at him gently. "Now, I really think that your wife would like some of your attention," she said and turned him to where Heather was watching from the side of the dance floor with interest. "I don't want to be the cause of your wife's displeasure on your wedding day."
"Nah," he chuckled, "Heather's cool. She knows I only have eyes for her. Besides..." he added in an aside, "I told her what I was up to." He bent down and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "It's been good catching up with you Alex. It's been too long. Don't be such a stranger next time huh?"
"It's been good to see you too. And you'll be seeing me soon enough. I have to get all these photos in to albums for you. They should be done by the time you get back home. Call me then. I had better get back to it." Alex said, indicating her camera.
"Oh no you don't. I told you," he said firmly, "you're work here is done. Put your gear away and enjoy yourself. I saw Rick earlier and I know he's been out of town. Spend your evening with him. You've already done far more than we asked for."
"If you're sure..." Alex smiled.
"I am....now go." It was the final word.
Alex retrieved her camera from Mrs. Sambora and gathered the rest of her gear together. She found Rick having a drink at the bar, he was having such a good time regaling a few guests with tales of action and danger that he decided to stay put while she went to drop her gear off in their room.
The elevator door dinged on her floor and she stepped out into the empty corridor. She let herself into her room and stepped into the bathroom to freshen up before rejoining the party. It had been a long day, and backed up on the heals of the flight over, she was absolutely exhausted. She perched precariously on the edge of the bath to gather her thoughts for a few minutes.
It was always hard for her to see Jon with Dot, regardless of how distant they seemed. Dot would always have something she wouldn't....the right to love him.
Wearily Alex rose. She would go downstairs, retrieve her husband, take him to bed and spend the rest of the night in the warmth of his arms. She gathered up her purse and inspected its contents to ensure she had her room key. Reassured of its presence, she swung the door wide and walked straight into Jon.