“You made the paper again,” Nic called out from the cashbox.
“Hot or not?”
Tessa slipped into the cashbox. It’d been a game they started playing ever since she started making the tabloids. You just never knew what angle got sold to what paper. Some had been real doozies. “Really?”
Nic held up the paper and she pointed. “Look at that leg, you hussy!”
She blushed. Evidently the night that they’d gone to the Philly fundraiser the leg shot had made the papers. She nipped the paper from her fingers. “That was Jon’s fault.” She grinned, remembering how the evening ended. “A lot of things were Jon’s fault that night,” she murmured aloud.
Nic turned around in her swivel chair. “Oh really?” She laughed, “From that blush, I’m going to say it was a very good reason to say it was his fault.”
She cleared her throat. “Yeah well, gotta do something to spice those things up.” She headed back out to the checkout counter.
“Hey now! You don’t get to drop something like that and walk away.”
“Isn’t that just what I just did?” she said over her shoulder, hiding a grin. She had to admit, teasing Nic was a favorite past time lately. She’d never been the type to kiss and tell and Nic was certainly aware of that fact, but it didn’t stop her from asking nearly every day for one detail or another.
“Why oh why do I have to drag this stuff out of you? I’d figure you would be crowing off the rooftop that such a stud was making you cream and scream on a daily basis,” Nic said under her breath as a customer came up. “Hello, sir are you all set?” she asked and stepped up to her register.
She waved at Nic as she headed to her office, grinning when she stuck her tongue out for an answer. Well, it certainly wasn’t every night, but the law of averages was certainly on her side when it came to Jon lately. They still had a pretty friggin’ healthy love life, but things were settling into a nice routine.
It had taken some getting used to with the whole maid/cook thing, but Lottie seemed to genuinely enjoy cooking for them both when they could manage a night in together. She’d started giving Nichole more responsibilities since part of the Jon bargain was some outings that didn’t coincide with a retail lifestyle. She didn’t give him all her time, but she tried to make sure she attended the majority of the local fundraisers when she could. It certainly didn’t hurt her store that she was as active as Jon in the community.
In fact, she’d had to hire another supervisor since Nichole had been bumped up to Assistant Manager. The store was doing quiet well. Jon’s celebrity brought an influx of business to the store since he pretty much stopped in whenever he wanted. Luckily she hadn’t gotten all the way to stalker hang out when it came to the customers, but one out of ten asked if Jon had been in that day. That had taken some getting used to. But with the active store, came a need for more help and a profit margin she hadn’t been prepared for.
She was going to surprise her original staff with a quarterly bonus since they were so above plan. Nichole and Adam certainly deserved it since they’d worked the hardest to help her get it together and keep it running. She wasn’t sure how she felt about benefiting from Jon’s celebrity. She certainly hadn’t planned for it to happen, but as a businesswoman, she couldn’t deny the facts. Whatever Jon touched, turned to gold…even if it was peripherally.
Sitting down at her desk she dragged out her window binder and flipped to March. She couldn’t believe it was just around the corner. Winter was starting to give way to spring and she had yet another month of windows to plan. She started tallying costs and compiling the books she would use for the month, letting her personal and private life percolate.
Between the Soul and the new album Jon was starting to wind up in the busy department. She was going to have to learn to keep herself busy again. She didn’t realize quite how busy Jon was until she’d started going to functions with him. And when she’d walked in on him and his personal assistant she’d been staggered at the bulging planner she kept for him.
Studio time was taking up a good chunk of his day and night. He and Richie were joined at the hip lately, much to her enjoyment. It was an education in the ways of men when they got together that was for sure.
Her hip buzzed and she detached her cell. Smiling at the display she grinned. “Well hello there sir, I was just thinking about you.”
Richie’s booming laugh came through the phone. “I’m tellin’ Jonny that you’re fantasizing about me!”
“Don’t you dare, you snot. I was just thinking how fun it’s been to have you at the house for the last week.”
“Well, I hate to crowd in on the lovebirds, but we gotta work sometime, darlin’.”
She grinned. “I don’t mind, honestly. Besides if you aren’t working you’re heading into the city most nights so I get him where I want him.”
“Flat on his back,” Richie snorted.
“Well someone generally ends up on a back or at least their knees each night.”
His laugh was rich and loud as the man himself. “Oh man, I love when you talk dirty to me.”
“It’s only because you’re easy, Richie.”
“That I am, gorgeous. Tell all your friends and neighbors of the female persuasion. Only the hot ones though, okay? I have standards.”
It took a minute to compose herself, but she finally stopped laughing. “Is there a reason why you’re calling me, Troublemaker?”
“Do I need a reason to call my favorite book lady?”
“Not at all,” she let her voice drop in a mock purr. “Your voice is almost as good as Jon’s.”
“Oh darlin’ it’s far better,” his voice dropped an octave and her heart gave a quick trip of pure female enjoyment. Richie was a tease of the worst order, but she loved that about him.
“As I said, Troublemaker, what do you want?”
“I love making you speechless; it’s like my favorite pastime.”
“Yada, yada, Richie. Stop getting me into trouble.”
Hearing the slight squeak, she could see him tipped back in one of the chairs in the studio, swaying. “Well, Tico, Dave and Huey are coming in tonight so we’re having ourselves a little party. Jon’s in a Soul conference and I thought I’d invite you and your gang before you make plans. God knows how long he’ll be in that room with the suits.”
“Sure, it’s going to be a regular partaaay. Food, drinks, obnoxious talk, maybe a little poker and entertainment if all goes well. A party. Because you know the taskmaster. He’ll have us holed up for a week without air when we get workin’.”
She was trying to picture all the testosterone that would be coming with that crew. “Are the wives coming?”
“A few will be there. Don’t worry, you won’t be the only girl, darlin’.”
“Shut up, Richie,” she huffed. “Wow, sounds like a good time. I’ll see if Nic and Adam want to come over.”
“Excellent! Chow for now baby. I gots to go make some calls. Love you madly,” he said and hung up.
Laughing she clipped her phone back to her belt. “Huh…a party.” She picked up the handset and dialed the cashbox.
“Queen of all things money and profit, how can I help you?”
Biting back a snort she rolled her eyes. “Hey you, what are you and Adam doing tonight?”
“Oh we’re totally booked tonight. We have a 7:30 date with a meatloaf and an 8:00 date with the TV.”
“Are you up for a better offer?”
Nic lifted the receiver closer to her mouth. “Just what kind of offer? Are there naked people or midgets involved?”
She just was never prepared for what would come out of her best friend’s mouth either. “Oh man, you’re as bad as Richie. The guys are coming into town tonight and Jon’s having a little gathering. You up for it?”
She was silent for a minute. “I’m sorry, are you inviting me to the palace? Did I hear that correctly?”
Tessa rolled her eyes. “Would you stop calling it that? It’s not a palace. It’s a house…just a big one. But yes, the band is coming in to work this week and they are having a little get together. Jon and I have been talking about getting my friends to meet and hang with his friends. I know it’s kind of impromptu-“
Laughing, she tucked the phone into her shoulder. “So you guys will come?”
“Do you want to check with Adam?”
“No, he’s coming. Are you kidding me? He’s going to trip over his damn tongue. Is it dressy?”
“Not at all, jeans and t-shirts are the definition of these guys. So come on over after work. Jody can handle closing. She’s done it enough now.”
Nic’s voice went serious. “Hey thanks, sweetie. It means a lot that you’re finally sharing that part of your life with me.”
Tessa tightened her grip on the phone. “I don’t mean to keep it separate, I just-“
“It’s okay, I understand. You want to keep him to yourself. I don’t blame you. Just…well, thanks for thinking of us.”
Slightly ashamed when she hung up the phone she stared down at it for a minute. She hadn’t intentionally meant to keep Nic apart from her life with Jon, but it was exactly what she was doing. They’d grown into a little nice little cocoon and it was time to come out of hibernation.
Well hopefully tonight would show that she and Jon were just a normal couple.
She had to say she was looking forward to it. She’d met Richie in
How it had all brought her to this moment, right now.
Flipping her book back open, she forced herself to concentrate on the windows and not meeting Jon’s family, for all intents and purposes.