Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chapter 8

Franie shut the door behind Jon and Stephanie and with a sigh she leaned against it, dropping her head to her hands. What is the matter with me? Jon had been understanding, but she had seen just the slightest bit of disappointment in his eyes when she pushed him away. Maybe she needed to push herself a little harder. Moving away from the door Frannie went through the house shutting off the lights and making sure her doors were locked.

Once she was settled in bed Frannie’s thoughts again took her to Jon’s living room. The last line of the song they had danced to stood out in her mind, All in the eyes of a boy. She shut her eyes and tried to remember what she had seen in his eyes right before she got lost in his kiss. Lust, want, longing. There was no evil lurking there. Somewhere in her mind she knew he wasn’t going to hurt her, that being with him would be beautiful and wonderful. With a sigh she rolled over and looked at the clock. It was late but still, she picked up the phone, hoping he would still be awake.

Jon was sitting in his den, staring into the fire he had stoked and thinking about the evening and the woman he had spent it with. He leaned back on the couch, laying his head against the back with his legs spread before him. What do I have to do to get her to trust me? He was at a loss at the moment. He had told her he wouldn’t rush her or push her into anything, but they didn’t even get past a kiss. He sighed and got up off the couch. How do I get her to see that I won’t hurt her? He crouched to poke at the fire. Deep in thought, the buzz of his phone at his hip startled him and he nearly lost his balance and fell on his ass. Checking to see who it was before he answered, he was surprised to see the number. “Hello.” There was a long pause then a quiet voice, “hi.” He got concerned, “what’s wrong Frannie?” She shifted in her bed, “nothing’s wrong Jon.” He stood and moved back to the couch. “Well then, what can I do for you?”

Now that she had him on the phone, she wasn’t quite sure what to say to him. “Frannie?” She took a deep breath, “I wanted to apologize again for what happened tonight Jon. I feel just awful.” So, he wasn’t the only one thinking about it. “You don’t have to apologize Frannie, its fine. I understand.” She smiled, “I know you do. Look, are you busy tomorrow night?” He mentally ran through his calendar, “I have a late meeting, but should be free by 7:30. Why?” She took a deep breath, “How do pizza and a movie sound?” He thought about it for minute. He had a feeling he knew what she was doing and he didn’t want her doing anything she may regret later. “Are you sure Frannie?” She tried to be nonchalant, “its just pizza and a movie Jon. What’s not to be sure about?” He shook his head, “Okay, okay, I should be there by 8.” “Good. I guess I will see you then. Thanks Jon, and goodnight.” “Goodnight Frannie.”

The next day Frannie had Geena come by and keep Sophie entertained while she worked in her studio. She spent most of the day working on the scene she had memorized from the night before. By the time she finished and stepped back to look at what she had done, it was nearly 7. She left the painting to dry and headed in to shower. She opened a bottle of wine and had just changed Sophie into her sleeper when the bell rang. She looked down at herself before heading to the door. She had worn dark jeans, black lace cami and a brown v-neck lightweight sweater. She had left her hair loose and, at the moment, Sophie had one little hand tangled in it. She opened the door and Jon grinned at seeing the two of them. Frannie tried to get Sophie’s hand out of her hair, “hi, come on in.” He closed the door behind him and held out the flowers he had in his hand, “I’ll trade ya.” Sophie heard his voice and her grip loosened and she started to kick her legs. Frannie pulled her hair free and handed her over to Jon. He passed Frannie the flowers and looked down at Sophie, “how’s the little princess today?” She gurgled and smiled. Frannie looked at her daughter and then up at Jon, “I think she’s in love.” He smiled at Frannie, “the feeling is mutual.”

Frannie led Jon into the kitchen and he set Sophie down in her baby seat. Frannie got out a vase and put the flowers in some water. “They are really lovely Jon, thank you.” She set them off to the side on the counter, “would you like a glass of wine?” He smiled at her, “your welcome and yes I would.” Frannie poured the wine and watched Jon making noises at Sophie. “You’re really good with her.” She handed him his glass and he clinked his glass with hers, “what shall we toast to?” Frannie thought for a minute, “to a fresh start.” Jon caught her eye and winked at her before taking a sip from his glass.

Dinner was a lively event with Sophie right there. Every time she heard Jon’s voice she laughed and made some sort of happy noise. After they were finished he kept her entertained and Frannie loaded the dishes into the dishwasher. Before they started the movie, Frannie took Sophie and fed her and put her down, hopefully for the night. Coming back into the living room she found Jon sitting on the couch. She reached out her hand for him, “come with me?” He took her hand and followed her out to her studio. “What are we doing out here Frannie?” Jon was curious. Frannie just smiled and led him to the easel in the middle of the room. “You said you wanted first crack at my latest project, well, have a look.” He turned his gaze from her to the easel. It was the scene from the night before, minus the two of them. It was amazing, even the flame on the candles seemed to come alive on the canvas. “How did you…, you captured every little detail. It’s fantastic.” She put her hand on his arm, “it’s not too recognizable as your apartment is it? I tried to keep it generic.” He looked at it again, trying to find anything that would compromise his home, but couldn’t find anything. “If I hadn’t been there last night, I wouldn’t know it was my dining room. You did a great job with this.”

Jon turned to face her. She had dropped her head to look at the floor, slightly embarrassed by his praise of her work. He lifted her chin with his fingers, “why are you embarrassed? You should be proud of what you’ve done.” She let her eyes meet his, “I am Jon; it’s just that I’ve never had praise like that from the subject of one of my paintings before.” He didn’t take his eyes from her face, didn’t say anything, just lowered his mouth to hers.

Like the night before he kept the kiss firm but gentle and when she tilted her head he took that as permission to deepen the kiss. He parted her lips with his tongue and he tasted her again. Jon felt her slide her hand up his arm to rest on his shoulder and bring her other hand up as well. He slid his arms around her waist and waited. She didn’t pull away so he pulled her closer. He felt her trembling and hoped it wasn’t out of fear. He pulled his mouth from hers and she nearly cried out at the loss. He scanned her face, “you’re trembling, are you all right?” She nodded her head, “I’m okay.” She looked up into his eyes, gone was the summer sky blue, replaced with a deeper, darker sapphire. Again she saw what she had seen the night before and that bolstered her courage. “Kiss me again?” How could he resist such an innocent plea? He dipped his head and took her mouth with his again. With his arms around her Jon pulled Frannie flush against him as their mouths mated. She didn’t push back this time, but he felt her stiffen slightly in his embrace. She pulled her mouth from his and took a breath. “Jon?” He kissed her cheek and up to her temple, “what?” “Maybe we should go watch that movie now.” She could feel him pressing against her and she needed slow things down a little. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, reached to take her hand and together they headed back into the house.

“Go on into the other room Jon. I’ll be right there.” Frannie stopped in the kitchen to make popcorn and grabbed a soda for him and a bottle of water for herself. Jon saw her coming with her hands full and reached to help her. “I grabbed a soda for you; I hope that’s all right.” He nodded, “that’s fine. What are we watching?” She went to the DVD player and put the movie in. Grabbing the remote she moved back to sit next to Jon. “Goodfellas. I know it’s not the Godfather, but it’s one of my favorites.” Jon smiled at her, “a girl who likes mob movies, if you tell me you like football too, I may just have to marry you.” Frannie laughed, “get ready to buy a ring pal, I love football.” Jon put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to him. “What’s your favorite team?” He hoped she didn’t say the Cowboys. She smiled up at him, “pro, college or arena?” Jon raised an eyebrow in surprise at her, “you follow all of it?” She nodded her head “hmm mmmm. Pro team is the Giants. College is Ohio State and the Arena League,” she paused and looked him up and down, “the Soul.” They chatted a bit more about football and then Frannie started the movie. She let herself lean against Jon, enjoying the feeling of his shoulder under her cheek. She could feel his fingers playing with her hair and then trailing up and down her back. She relaxed against him and let herself enjoy his touch.

While watching the movie, Frannie felt like she was being watched. She picked her head up and looked at Jon, his eyes weren’t on the movie, they were on her and they were that dark sapphire blue again. She leaned up and, without taking her eyes from his, she laid her mouth on his. He pulled her closer and she didn’t back away. She wrapped her arms around him, opening her mouth against his, their tongues dancing over each other. Jon let one hand wander up from her back and slowly let his thumb caress the curve of her breast. Frannie pulled her mouth from his and gave a slight gasp. Jon stopped, “are you all right?” She closed her eyes and took a breath. “I’m fine.” He wasn’t convinced, “are you sure?” She opened her eyes again, he didn’t see any fear in them, “I’m sure.” His mouth met hers again and as she concentrated on the kiss his hand found its way under her sweater and cami, caressing the silky soft skin beneath. Pulling his mouth from hers he shifted and eased Frannie back so she was laying down on the couch.

He leaned over her and kissed a trail up from the vee of her sweater, up her neck to her mouth. Again his hand was on her skin, working its way up the inside of her sweater and cami. When she felt the butterfly light play of his fingers on the underside of her breast, her breath caught in her throat and her nipple hardened instantly. When he moved to slide her shirt up, she stopped him. She grabbed his hand, “Jon, wait.” He looked at her, “what?” She pushed him up off of her and sat up. “I think we’d be more comfortable in the other room.” Standing, she held out her hand for his. He stood and took her hand, “Frannie, don’t do this if your not ready. I would never force you to do anything you don’t want to do.” She walked toward her bedroom. “I know Jon. You’re not forcing me, I want to.” She stopped at the side of the bed and turned to face him. She ran her hands up from his waist to his shoulders, marveling at the hard muscles that twitched beneath her touch. He pulled Frannie close, drawing her flush against him, letting her know just how much her touch was affecting him.

Frannie felt his hardness pressing against her and this time, she didn’t push him away. She ran her hands under his shirt, feeling the warm skin and silky hair across his chest. Jon slid his hands under her sweater, lifting it up and off. He pressed kisses across her shoulder and up her neck, finding a sensitive spot at the hollow in between. He ran his tongue over the spot causing her to shudder. He kissed his way back to her mouth as his hand slid up her side and closed over her breast, kneading and rolling the tip between his fingers. Her hands slipped down from his shoulders as he continued to bring to life feelings she had thought long buried. He urged her closer to the bed, laying her down across it. He tugged his shirt off and joined her on the bed, his fingers toying with the hem of her cami. Their mouths met again and Jon’s fingers moved up inside her cami, skimming across the soft skin of her stomach as they trailed up to her breast. Frannie moaned against his mouth as he lightly pinched the hardened tip. His hand left her breast briefly, pulling the cami up and off, tossing it to the floor. His mouth replaced his hand on her breast, tracing the tip with his tongue, before taking it into his mouth, sucking gently. “Jon” she breathed out on a sigh as her hands wandered, lightly skimming over his back and up and down his arms, the softness of his skin in stark contrast to the hardness of his muscles. With every pass of her hands, Jon could feel himself growing harder for her.

While his mouth continued its assault on her breasts one hand slid down across the flat of her stomach, stopping at the button of her jeans. When he didn’t notice any hesitation on her part, he reluctantly removed his mouth from her and sat up. Her creamy skin had a rosy glow to it, flush from arousal. He opened the button and released the zipper on her jeans, sliding them down her legs and off. Jon stood and, with Frannie watching, divested himself of his clothes. The only barrier between them now was the scrap of black silk that Frannie called panties. He joined her on the bed once more and ran his hands lightly up and down, from her hip to shoulder. She reached out, hesitantly and touched him, his cock twitched as she lightly ran her fingers up and down. She looked up at him, his eyes were closed and his breathing was unsteady. Feeling a bit bolder, she wrapped her hand around him and stroked him from base to tip. Leaning down she kissed his chest and ran her tongue around one flat nipple, causing it to harden in her mouth. “God Frannie” he breathed as she continued to run her tongue across to the other nipple, all the while her hand continued to stroke him.

She kissed and licked her way up his chest and neck to his mouth. Their kisses were hot and wet and with every stroke of her hand and every pass of her tongue in his mouth, Jon finally had to pull her hand from him. “I can’t… you gotta stop” he panted. God, he was ready to take her right then, but he knew he needed to be careful. Jon rolled her over and hooked his fingers in the waist of her panties, sliding them down her legs. Trailing his fingers up the inside of her thighs he watched her. Her legs opened of their own accord and there was no fear in her face as he continued. He let his mouth follow the path his fingers had just taken, her scent drawing him in. He could see that she was ready for him; her lips glistened with her need for him. He ran his tongue up and down her slit, dipping it into her pussy before seeking out and finding her clit. He slid a finger into her as his tongue teased her clit. He slid a second finger into her and could feel her start to tighten around him. “Jon!” she cried out as she felt her need for him growing, teetering on that precarious edge. He kissed his way up her body, laving each breast before claiming her mouth. He pulled his mouth from hers and knelt between her legs. “Frannie, look at me.” She opened her eyes and watched him as he entered her. He moved slowly; she was so tight he was afraid he might not be able to control himself.

Jon didn’t move right away, letting Frannie’s body adjust. He lowered himself, letting some of his weight settle on her. When she started to move beneath him he moved with her, letting her set the pace. As he moved in her he laved the hard points of her nipples with his tongue, and he felt her hands in his hair tugging him up. He lifted his head and her mouth fused to his. She could feel the wave building and she tore her mouth from his, “Jon... I…ahh! He felt her tighten around him and, as he drove into her once more, she dragged him with her into oblivion.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chapter 7

Frannie stood and took in her surroundings. She was touched that he had gone to so much trouble for her, but she also had to wonder what he expected from her. Jon watched as Frannie moved around the room. He was pleased to see that she didn’t seem affected by her surroundings, just comfortable and curious. She turned to find Jon watching her. “Jon, you didn’t answer my question.” He met her gaze, “question?” Frannie nodded her head, “yeah, why did you bring me here?”

He moved closer to her and took her hand, never taking his eyes from her face, “I didn’t want to risk taking you somewhere that held bad memories for you. I thought bringing you here would be a way for us to start off on the right foot. If you would rather go out somewhere, we can do that instead.” Frannie relaxed a little. He had only been thinking of her when he planned this. She smiled at Jon and squeezed his hand, “thank you, this was very sweet of you.” Jon smiled at her, kissed her hand and led her over to the table. As Frannie sat down she had a thought, “don’t tell me you cooked dinner too?” He lit the candles on the table and laughed as he walked toward the kitchen. “Not unless you wanted scrambled eggs for dinner.” Frannie chuckled and looked out the window while she waited for him to come back.

As Jon stepped into the kitchen he breathed a sigh of relief. He had been afraid she wasn’t going to want to stay. He moved around the kitchen, putting their plates which had been kept warm for him by his cook, along with a bottle of wine onto a tray to carry back into the other room. He stopped long enough to put some music on before returning to the dining room.

He came back into the dining room and stopped. Frannie was looking out the window, the candlelight softly illuminating her features. He cleared his throat and set their plates down. Frannie turned her head just as he set the plates down. “The view” she gestured toward the window “is fabulous.” Jon held her gaze, “it sure is.” Frannie felt herself blush and she glanced down at her plate. “What are we having?” Jon sat down across from her and poured the wine, “chicken marsala, oven roasted potatoes and asparagus spears.” Frannie picked up her fork, “it looks wonderful. Who cooked, or did you order out?” “You’re not going to let the whole cooking thing go are you?” Frannie smiled and shook her head “nope”. Jon smiled as he picked up his fork, “Lani, my cook/housekeeper cooked. She made dessert too.”

They enjoyed their meal and their conversation flowed from one topic to another, discussing their hobbies, interests, families, generally getting to know all the little details of each other. Without realizing it, Frannie had let down her guard. Jon watched as she talked about Sophie, she was totally at ease and relaxed. The little lines around her eyes and the creases on her forehead eased and softened. Her smile was easier and there was no wariness in her eyes. She really was a beautiful woman. He brought his attention back to what she was saying and poured more wine. When she stopped talking he looked across the table at her, “are you having a good time Frannie?” She nodded her head, “I am Jon. Thank you so much. I think I need to stand up and move around a bit though, if I sit here any longer I am going to become one with the chair.” He laughed and they moved away from the table. He took their dishes into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee and came back to find Frannie standing in the doorway, looking over at the table where they had just been sitting. “What are you doing?” She was trying to memorize the scene, from the moment she walked into the room and saw the table by the window she knew she was going to have to paint it. “Would you mind if I painted this?” He walked over to stand next to her, trying to see what she saw. He took in the view and turned to her, “I don’t mind, so long as I get first crack at the finished product. Now, let’s go in the other room.”

She followed him into the living room and immediately felt like she was invading his personal space. Looking around this was obviously where he spent a lot of time with his kids, there were family photos on the mantle and walls. He seemed nonplussed that she was there, and went to light a fire. He turned back to find her smirking at him. “What?” “You certainly know how to set a scene Jon.” He raised an eyebrow in question “scene?” She smiled at him this time, “scene Jon. You’ve got the fire, soft lights, quiet music, quite the seductive scene.” He shrugged his shoulders as he came to stand in front of her, “can’t blame a guy for trying now can ya?” He ran his hand lightly up and down her arm and she could feel the goose bumps rise on her flesh. He took her hand and tugged her to him, wrapping his arms around her, “dance with me” he whispered in her ear. Frannie slid her arms up around his shoulders and they moved slightly to the music. The words of Celine Dion couldn’t have been more perfect.

Where it was dark now there's light
Where there was pain now there's joy
Where there was weakness, I found my strength
All in the eyes of a boy

As the song ended they stayed locked in each other’s arms. Jon slid one hand up Frannie’s side to her chin, tilting her face up to his. Her eyes were wet. “What’s wrong baby?” She pulled in a breath, “nothing really. Just that song hit a little close to home.” He watched her eyes as he leaned in to kiss her. He didn’t want to scare her, but he wanted more than the chaste one he gave her the other day. The kiss was firm yet gentle. He watched as her eyes closed and he felt her tremble slightly but didn’t pull away. Letting instinct take over, he closed his eyes and let his lips roam across hers, waiting for her to respond. His tongue snaked out and traced her lips. Frannie parted her lips slightly and let her own tongue sneak out and touch his. That slight tentative touch sent a jolt right through her. His lips were whispery soft and she tilted her head just a bit and let herself fall into the kiss. He tasted her fully for the first time and hoped to God it wouldn’t be the last. Jon let his hand skim up her jaw and into her hair before sliding it slowly back down to her waist. He pulled her closer and, feeling his hardness against her, Frannie pulled back.

“Frannie?” He opened his eyes and looked at her. “I’m sorry Jon, I just… I can’t do this.” The wall had come back up and he could see that the fear was creeping back into her eyes. He slipped his hands from her waist and took her hand, leading her to the couch. “You don’t have to be afraid of me Frannie. I could never hurt you.” She sighed and shook her head. “I know you wouldn’t hurt me Jon, and it’s not you I am afraid of.” He didn’t understand, “if you’re not afraid of me, then what’s wrong?” She sighed, “could I get a cup of coffee before we take this any further?” Without a word Jon went to the kitchen and came back with coffee for both of them and two slices of the cheesecake that his cook had made.

Cradling the cup in her hands Frannie stood and moved near the fire. Jon watched as she struggled to find the words to tell him what was bothering her. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to be with a man again Jon. I thought I might be able to get past it with you, hoped I could even. While my body reacted as I knew it would, my head is another matter entirely.” Jon came up behind her and slid his arms around her as she stood facing the fire. She set her cup down on the mantle and rested her hands on his forearms. “I know you’re not ready yet Frannie. I would never force you to do something you didn’t want either. I am enjoying being with you and the rest we will deal with.” He turned her so she was facing him. “We’ll take this as slow as you need to baby.” He led her back to the couch where they fed each other bites of cheesecake and they finished their coffee.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Chapter 6

In the days leading up to their date on Friday, Frannie made a decision. She started looking for a nanny to help her out with Sophie. She had decided that if this thing with Jon, whatever it may end up being was going to go anywhere, she needed to gather her courage and take a few steps to help that along. That and she couldn’t and wouldn’t rely on Stephanie to watch Sophie when they went out. With baby steps, she was slowly trying to take control of her life again.

In between interviewing women for the nanny job, Frannie got together a portfolio of her work for the Art Alliance. After much deliberation she included the one she had painted after her last nightmare. She didn’t know if it would show or sell, but she included it anyway along with some ocean-scapes, park scenes, her favorite water color done from the banks of the Navesink River and a few other non-descript sketches she had done. She was packing everything up Thursday to take to the Alliance when her phone rang. She glanced at the window and didn’t recognize the number. She was going to let it go to voice mail but something told her to answer it. “Hello?” “Ms. Daniels?” “Yes, this is Francesca Daniels. Who’s this please?” She heard the shift of the phone at the other end. “This is Officer Simmons.” Frannie started to tremble. “What can I do for you officer?” “Are you available to come down to the station today? We caught the man we believed attacked you and would like you to look at a line up.” Frannie nearly dropped the phone. “Y-you caught him?” She slumped against her car as the officer spoke again. “We are pretty sure it’s him, but we need you to identify him. When can you come down?” They made arrangements for Frannie to be at the station in the next hour. This would be the perfect time to give the woman she was considering hiring, Geena, a trial run.

Frannie was on the floor of the living room playing with Sophie and waiting for Geena to arrive when her phone rang again. Seeing that it was Jon she flipped her phone open “hi there.” “Hi there yourself. How are you?” She could hear the smile in his voice. “I am doing all right today. How’s Philly?” They chatted for a few minutes, telling each other about their respective days. At a lull Frannie posed a question, “so Jon, why did you really call me?” He smiled, she was very perceptive. “I just wanted to make sure we were still on for tomorrow night.” Frannie chuckled, “as long as you’re sure about Stephanie babysitting, yes we are still on.” Jon assured her that Steph had no problem with babysitting. They talked a few minutes more and Geena arrived and rang the bell. “Jon, someone is at the door. I have to go.” “All right Frannie, I will see you tomorrow night. Bye.” “Bye Jon.” She hung up wondering if she had done the right thing in not telling him what was going on.

At the police station Officer Simmons met Frannie and led her into a small room with a big window. She could see the men in the other room but she was assured that they could not see her. As the men stood in a line Frannie studied each one, silently assessing them, before finally identifying #4. The officers had him step forward, the scar on the left cheek was there, but it was his eyes that confirmed it. They were a flat, emotionless gray. Frannie inhaled sharply, “that’s him.” Officer Simmons turned to her, “are you absolutely sure?” Frannie nodded her head, “yes, I’ll never forget those eyes.”

On her way out Frannie turned to the officer, “how did you catch him, did he hurt someone else?” Officer Simmons nodded her head and quietly told her “yes, he raped a young girl, nearly killed her the other night.” Frannie’s hand came up to cover her mouth in shock. “Oh no.” Officer Simmons nodded her head, “she’s going to be okay.” They parted ways then, with Officer Simmons promising to keep Frannie apprised of the situation, as she would probably be needed to testify against this man.

Frannie sat in her car for a long while, thinking about what she had just done and what it would mean. She hoped that once he was in jail she could finally be free of the hold he had on her.

The Art Alliance was on her way home so Frannie decided to stop in there since she had her portfolio in the car anyway. Joan greeted her warmly and took her back to the office to talk and go through what Frannie had brought. They sat and chatted and Joan inquired about her possibly doing a showing at the end of the month. Frannie thought about it; that would give her three weeks to get used to the idea. “You know what Joan, I think I could do that.” Joan was pleased, “I will make the arrangements; you just need to decide what you want to display.” Frannie and Joan talked a bit more, “oh” Frannie started, “I have a friend that would like to bring someone by to look at my work. Would that be a problem?” Joan shook her head, “just call first to make sure one of us is here to take them around.” Frannie assured her she would and then headed for home.

After Frannie got Sophie fed and settled for the night, she wanted to talk to Jon. She had picked her phone up more than once and then set it back down. She didn’t know if she should bother him, but she wanted to tell him about what had happened that afternoon. When she picked up the phone yet again she dialed and hit send, waiting this time for the call to connect. She got his voice mail. With a sigh she hung up, not leaving a message. She wandered around her house feeling restless. She meandered out to her studio. She turned the lights on and looked around the room. She crossed the room to where she had at least half a dozen canvases facing the wall. She turned them all and studied them. They were all violent and angry, comprised of reds, blacks, oranges, bold strokes and streaks of color. The last one in the line had a silhouette of a man’s face in the middle. She picked it up and placed it on the easel in the center of the room and picked up her box knife. She ran the knife through the canvas, rending it in two. She picked up the pieces and threw them in the trash. “You can’t hurt me anymore” she said out loud as she shut the lights off and headed to bed.

Friday dawned sunny and bright. Frannie slept a dreamless sleep and woke refreshed and feeling better than she had in a long time. She thought about her upcoming date that night and smiled. Today is going to be a good day. She showered and got Sophie up and was feeding her when her phone rang. She answered without looking to see who it was. “Hello?” “Hi darlin’ how are you?” It was Jon. Frannie smiled, “you know what Jon, I am feeling really good today.” Jon smiled “glad to hear that. Sorry I missed your call last night. What did you need?” She shifted Sophie, “I wanted to tell you what happened yesterday.” Jon started pacing his home office, “what happened, are you okay?” “I’m fine Jon, just hang on a sec.” She put Sophie in her baby seat and righted her shirt. “Okay, here’s what happened.” She recounted her afternoon from the phone call from Officer Simmons right through to the late night session in her studio.

Jon sat in stunned silence on the other end of the phone. He was proud of her for what she did but he wished he could have been there so she hadn’t been alone. “Jon, are you still there?” He cleared his throat, “I’m still here. I guess it’s a good thing we are going out tonight, we can celebrate.” Frannie smiled, “I like the sound of that Jon. Are you sure you’re okay?” He sighed, “I just wish I could have been there with you so you didn’t have to go through that alone.” Frannie was touched, “it’s okay Jon. You can be there at the trial with me, how’s that?” He laughed, “count on it. Okay babe I got some business to take care of, but I will see you later.” “I’ll be waiting” Frannie laughed and hung up the phone.

Frannie, after calling Geena and hiring her for Sophie, spent the day pampering herself. She didn’t now what would happen that night, didn’t know if she would be able to let anything happen, but she was going to be ready just in case.

She stood pondering her closet, Sophie in her seat on the bed babbling away. “I don’t know Sophie” she said as she pulled out a pair of pants, “what do you think?” All she got was some raspberry noises and a bunch of spit bubbles. Frannie had to laugh at herself, “talking to a 3 month old, like she could even answer me.” She finally decided on a denim skirt that fell just above the knee, a navy blue lace cami and a wrap-style cashmere sweater in a deep russet shade. She wore knee-high brown boots with a mid-size heel, and was just slicking on some lipstick when the doorbell rang.

Jon and Stephanie were standing on the front step waiting for Frannie to come to the door. Jon turned to his daughter, “thanks for doing this for me Steph. I appreciate it.” “Let’s not make this a habit though, okay?” She smiled at her father, softening the sting of her words. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and tugged her close, “you got it. Thanks.” She shoved away from him when they heard the locks disengaging.

Opening the door with a smile she ushered Jon and Stephanie in. She turned to Stephanie “Hi, I’m Frannie. Thank you so much for your help tonight.” Stephanie liked her immediately. She didn’t seem like the other woman her dad had dated before. There was something different about her. Frannie ran down a short list of dos and don’ts for Steph. Sophie was fairly easy so she shouldn’t have any trouble. She showed Steph where some snacks were and where the bathroom was and how to use the remote for the TV. All the important things. Turing to Jon, “okay, I think that’s it.” He smiled at her, “are you sure?” She walked over to where her coat was laying over the back of a chair, “I think so. Let’s go before I change my mind.” Frannie kissed Sophie and with a laugh they headed out the door.

Once they were ensconced in the backseat of the car Frannie asked Jon again, “where are we going?” Jon contemplated the question and decided to give her a little hint. “Into the City.” Frannie’s eyes widened, “for real?” He smiled and nodded his head, “for real.” When they pulled up in front of his apartment building in Soho, Frannie was confused. “Where are we?” Jon took her hand, “just come on, you’ll see in a minute.” He had brought her to his apartment, thinking she might be more comfortable there than out in a restaurant somewhere.

They rode the elevator for what seemed like forever before it finally stopped and they stepped off. He led her down the hallway to his door and when he opened it and ushered her inside he heard her breath catch. She turned to him, “this is amazing Jon, is it yours?” He nodded his head, “yeah, it is.” She didn’t understand, “why did you bring me here? I thought we were going to dinner.” He turned her so he could take her coat and then led her into the dining room. In front of the window, where the view was spectacular, the table was set for two.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chapter 5

Frannie was at her wits end. Sophie had been screaming for the better part of the morning and no matter what she did, Frannie couldn’t get her to settle down. She had just laid Sophie in her crib to scream it out when the doorbell rang. Oh God, who could that be? She was a wreck. She was still in her pajamas, her hair she was sure was going every which way. At least she had managed to brush her teeth. Frannie checked the peephole. Shit. It was Jon. She took a deep breath, smoothed her hair as best she could and unlocked the door. “Hi Jon, what brings you by?” He looked at her through the crack of the door. She looked worn out and he could hear Sophie squalling from somewhere in the house. “I wanted to talk to you.” He paused, “did I come at a bad time?” Sophie’s screams picked up and Frannie shut the door. He heard the chain slide out and the door opened, “come in. I have to go get her.”

Jon stepped in and shut the door behind him. He followed the sound of Sophie’s screams. He came upon her room and found Frannie pacing the room with her trying to soothe her. “Hey, can I help?” As soon as Sophie heard his voice she started to settle down. He took her from Frannie and walked with her, her cries slowly calming to whimpers and then finally she fell asleep on his shoulder. Frannie looked at him, exasperation showing on her face. “How did you do that and where the hell were you about four hours ago?” He held back his laugh, not wanting to wake Sophie. “I told you yesterday I have a way with the ladies. Seriously though, I have no idea. Maybe she just needed to hear a different voice or be held by a different set of arms. I have no clue.”

At that moment Frannie didn’t care, she was just glad that Sophie had stopped crying and was finally asleep. She looked down at herself and then over at Jon, Sophie sleeping against his chest, “would you mind staying with her while I shower?” He sat down in the rocking chair and waved her off, “go, we’ll be fine.”

She showered and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt as quick as she could. She was pulling her hair back as she walked down the hall and stopped in the doorway of Sophie’s room. Jon had laid his head back against the rocking chair and had his eyes closed as he gently rocked Sophie. The long line of his exposed throat made her mouth water. She shook her head and as quietly as she could she backed away and grabbed her sketch book from the other room. When she got back he had moved slightly and had his lips pressed against Sophie’s head. Frannie got the basic sketch done before he noticed her in the doorway. He stood and motioned Frannie into the room. “Should I put her down?” Jon was whispering, not wanting to wake her. “Go ahead; worst that could happen is that she will wake up.” Jon laid Sophie in the crib and covered her. Thankfully she stayed asleep. Frannie grabbed the monitor and they headed out to the living room.

Motioning for Jon to have a seat on the sofa Frannie set the monitor on the table and sat down next to him. “Thank you. She would probably still be screaming if you hadn’t stopped by.” Jon smiled at her, “glad I could help. Can I see what you were drawing?” She handed him the book, “it’s only just a rough sketch. You caught me before I could finish it.” He looked down at the sketch and immediately wanted it for his own. With just a few swipes of her pencil she had captured a rare moment for him, where he totally let his guard down. He looked up at her, “if you were to sell this how much would you get for it?” Confusion crossed her features, “what… why would you want to know that?” He smiled at her, “because I want this and I am willing to pay for it.” She shook her head, “I couldn’t let you pay for it. Give it here.” He handed her the book, she put her initials in the lower right corner and tore it from the book “here” she handed it to him. He put his hand over hers and, while she trembled at his touch, it wasn’t out of fear this time. “I’ll only take it on one condition.” She brought her eyes to his, “wh-what’s that?” He rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand, “that you let me take you to dinner this week.”

Frannie swallowed hard, she hadn’t been out in so long. She wanted to, but she was afraid. She looked at him, he was waiting expectantly for her answer. “I would like to Jon.” She paused and he sensed a ‘but’ coming on. She continued, “but I don’t have anybody to watch Sophie. I haven’t ever left her before so I don’t have anyone.” He smiled at her, “I know a girl who would be more than happy to baby-sit for you.” She eyed him warily, having a feeling she knew where he was going with that. “Really? Who?” He stroked his thumb across her hand again before smiling at her, “my daughter, Stephanie.” She met his gaze, “I don’t know Jon, let me think about it okay?” “Okay, but I did come here to talk to you about something.”

Frannie sucked in a shaky breath “what did you want to talk about?” He continued to hold her hand and she didn’t pull away. “I asked you the other day about bringing someone over to see your work. Any chance I could get you to change your mind?” Frannie thought about it, “am I correct in assuming you are talking about Tico?” Jon smiled and nodded his head, “yeah, I am.” Frannie returned the smile, “why do you think he would be interested in my work?” “Because other than the band and golf, he has a passion for art and I think he would like what he would find in your studio.” Frannie stood and paced, thinking about it before turning to Jon. “How about you bring him to the Art Alliance? I have to go see Joan, the curator as I owe her some work. I am sure we could work something out.”

As Jon started to agree Sophie started crying again. “Hold that thought” Frannie told him as she headed down the hall. Frannie picked up the crying baby, changed her and brought her out to the living room. All the while Sophie had not stopped crying. After trying to feed her with no luck and walking her, Frannie didn’t know what to do. She shifted Sophie so she was lying in her arm instead of up over her shoulder and slipped her knuckle in her mouth. Sophie stopped crying and was gnawing in her mother’s knuckle. Frannie felt the hard little nubs on her gums. She looked up at Jon, relief clearly showing on her face. “What is it?” Jon was curious to know what had stopped her this time. Frannie smiled, “she’s teething. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?” After applying some gum soother and finally getting her to eat, Sophie was content enough to go back to sleep for a while.

When Frannie came back Jon was slipping his jacket on and getting ready to leave. He looked over at her, “So, what about dinner this week?” Frannie took a step closer to him, “when?” He mentally ran through his calendar, “Friday?” She took one more step, “you’re sure about Stephanie baby sitting?” Jon nodded his head, “absolutely. How’s 7:30?” Frannie took one last step and she was standing right in front of him by the door, “7:30 is fine. Where are we going?” He shook his head, “you’ll just have to wait and see.” Frannie scrunched her nose, “if I don’t know where we are going, how am I supposed to know what to wear?” Jon thought about that for a minute, “how about this, no jeans. Does that help?” She just sighed and hung her head, “I’ll figure something out.” With his finger and thumb Jon lifted her chin and searched her face, “are you all right with this?” She was determined to do this, “I’ll be fine Jon.” While keeping his eyes on hers he leaned in and lightly touched her lips with his. He was glad that she didn’t flinch. When he pulled back he searched her eyes and found a storm raging within. Good. “I have to be in Philly the next couple of days, but I will see you on Friday.” She nodded and as he left she shut the door behind him, forgetting to lock it.

As if in a daze she sat down on the couch and touched her lips with her fingers. He kissed me.

She was actually looking forward to Friday.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chapter 4

After Frannie went home Jon and Richie were playing pool in the pub and having a beer when Richie finally posed the question that had been plaguing him all night. “What’s her story Jon, why did Frannie look like a scared rabbit ready to bolt all night long?”

Jon wasn’t sure how much he should share with his friend. He didn’t want to breach the trust he had established with her that day. Richie could sense his hesitation, “look man, you know I won’t say anything to anybody; take it to the grave if need be bud.”

Jon got them each another beer and they sat down at a table. He told Richie everything he had learned from Frannie earlier that day. “What do you think you can do for her Jon?” Richie knew his friend better than anyone else and knew that he would want to try to make everything all right for this girl.

Jon didn’t answer Richie right away. What did he think he could do for her? He hadn’t really given it much thought past what he had told Frannie. He wanted to help her find her way back to who she had been before. More than that, he liked her, he didn’t know much about her, but his gut told him there was something there. He always followed his gut. It had gotten him to where he was today, well that and a lot of hard work, but following his instincts had gotten him this far and he wasn’t about to change that now. He looked at Richie, he was waiting for an answer to his question. “I’m not sure. I want to be there for her but I don’t want to scare her off.” He studied his beer before continuing. “Maybe I need this as much as she does.” Richie raised an eyebrow in surprise. He knew Jon had been in a bad way, but this was not at all what he expected to hear. He looked over at Jon, “what do you mean?”

Jon drained his beer and looked up at Richie, “I’ve done the starlet thing and been with this girl or that, but I need someone who isn’t about the business Rich. I need someone who wants me for me, not for who I can introduce them to or for where I can get them. I miss the stability of just a normal everyday girl, of what I had with Dot. I want that again. I don’t care how slow I have to go with her or how long it takes.”

Richie nodded his head in understanding. He knew where his friend was coming from. He was in the same boat.

They talked for a while more before heading back to the house. Richie went back to his mother’s and Jon ambled up the stairs, heading toward his room. He passed by the kids’ rooms, empty and quiet now. He paused briefly before opening the door to his room, fully realizing just how lonely he was.

He lay in bed, thinking about Frannie and how the day had gone. He had been surprised and pleased that she called. It was rare day when he had little going on but he was glad it had worked out that way today. He had enjoyed the time they had spent together. He thought about what he had told Richie and decided he was going to make it impossible for her to resist him. He would take it slow, but he was going to make her see that she had nothing to fear from him.


When Frannie got in bed that night, she replayed the evening in her head. She had had a nice time, once she let herself relax. She thought about Jon and how attentive he had been to her and Sophie. And Richie, he was just too funny. He had her laughing more than she could ever remember. Her thoughts ran back to Jon. She could see him, in her minds eye, smiling at and jabbering to Sophie, laughing at something Richie had said, watching her when he thought she didn’t know. Frannie felt herself grow warm just thinking about him. She hadn’t had any pleasant thoughts of a man in so long she had almost forgotten what it was like.

The more she thought about Jon the more she wondered if she could have a relationship with him. She thought she might want to, but knowing what that would entail worried her. She wasn’t sure she could be with a man again and that scared her more than she was willing to admit. She so badly wanted to be that girl she had once been. She wanted to be in control again and not be afraid of being held and touched by a man..

Shaking her head, she pushed those thoughts away and pictured Jon’s face once again. She knew she was going to have to paint him. He was just too beautiful. His eyes were as blue as the summer sky, and his smile, when it was genuine, lit up his whole face. She closed her eyes and could feel his lips on her cheek as he kissed her goodbye; they were warm and soft, just like she had thought they would be.

Frannie drifted off with a smile on her face and she slept better that night than she had in more than a year. There were no nightmares that night, only pleasant dreams of a man with honey brown hair and bright smiling blue eyes.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Chapter 3

Jon waited with bated breath for her to continue. Frannie was staring at Jon’s hand as it rubbed up and down Sophie’s back. She could feel his eyes on her, waiting for her to say something. She stood and moved away from his gaze. Maybe if he wasn’t watching her it would be easier for her to tell him.

“I don’t know who Sophie’s father is.” Jon watched as she moved toward the window, “you don’t remember his name?” He wasn’t sure if that was what she had meant, so he waited for her to continue. She shook her head and turned to face him, but couldn’t meet his eyes. “I never knew his name. I was raped in a restaurant parking lot about a year ago. He’s still out there” she gestured to the window “somewhere. The police never caught him.” He looked down at the baby sleeping in his arms, how could something so precious come from an act so vicious? Jon rose from the chair and crossed the room to her. Now he understood the wariness and fear in her eyes and the stiffening at his innocent touch the day before. He reached for her hand, she started to pull away and he stopped her. “I won’t hurt you.” She looked up meeting his eyes then, finding only concern and compassion. She let him take her hand and he led her back to the couch.

When she spoke again, her voice was thick with unshed tears. “I’m tired Jon.” When he didn’t say anything she pressed on. “I’m tired of being afraid. That’s why I lock myself in the house. I don’t go out at night unless I absolutely have to. The first time I did, was to see you and that took every ounce of strength I had. I sleep with the lights on more nights than I care to admit.” She stopped and took a breath and looked over at Jon, wanting but not wanting to see his expression. She was relieved to see that it was still one of compassion, not pity as she had feared. “I still have nightmares sometimes.” She swiped at the tears that had slid down her cheeks. “I used to have a life, go out with my friends, have shows at the gallery, go out on dates. Now, I sit in my house and hide. I still draw and paint, but I drop them at the gallery and that’s it. I haven’t been with a man since that night and I haven’t been on a date since before that. My friends have been great, but they don’t really understand.” She looked pointedly at Jon, “I want my life back Jon. I don’t like this person I have become.”

Jon started to say something but Sophie started to fuss. Glancing at her watch, Frannie realized it was way past time for her to eat. “Let me take her, she needs to eat.” Without giving thought to where she was or who she was with, Frannie opened her shirt and put Sophie to her breast. Jon watched as the baby ate hungrily and as Frannie caressed her cheek. It was sight that had moved him with Dorothea and it was no different now. He felt a connection with Sophie not unlike the one he had with his own children.

He brought his gaze to Frannie’s face, now that he knew her story he thought her to be one of the bravest people he knew. How many women would have kept the baby after that? It takes a strong person to overcome that kind of ordeal and then raise the baby of a man capable of that kind of violence. It made him angry to think that the police hadn’t caught the asshole that hurt her. No wonder she was afraid.

Frannie looked up and caught Jon staring at her, “what?” He slowly shook his head, “you are a stronger, better person than I Frannie. I don’t know that, if put in your shoes, I could do what you are doing.” She shifted Sophie up to her shoulder and patted her back. “I just did what I thought would the best thing for Sophie.” She met his eyes with hers, “I didn’t ask for any of this, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything.” Sophie started squirming, “would you mind taking her?” Jon reached for her and Frannie realized her shirt was still open. Jon caught a brief glance of a creamy rose tipped breast just before she righted her shirt. He cleared his throat before he spoke, “you are doing a fine job with her Frannie, but I am worried about you.” She stood and started gathering their things. “Don’t worry about me Jon, I’ll be fine. We should really be going now.” Frannie glanced out the window and realized the sunny early afternoon had waned to a late day thunderstorm.

There was a commotion in the doorway and Frannie and Jon turned to see a rather drippy Richie standing there. He was in town to visit his mother and Jon had invited him over that night for dinner. “I wouldn’t go out there just now if I were you; it’s coming down every which way but straight out there.” Jon walked over to shake his friend’s hand, “how are ya man?” Richie found a dry spot on his jeans and wiped his hand before shaking Jon’s. “Just fine man and who is this little princess?” He ran his hand over Sophie’s head. Sophie squealed in delight at the sound of Richie’s voice and the men laughed.

Frannie walked over near the men at the sound of her daughter’s laughter, “okay, you’re both coming home with me for the middle of the night scream sessions.” They all laughed and Richie looked at Jon questioningly. “Richie you remember Frannie?” He looked her up and down trying to place her. He looked over at the baby and then back at Frannie, “you’re the one we helped what was it, three months ago?” Frannie nodded her head, “that’s me.” He leaned in to kiss her cheek and she forced herself not to back away. “How are ya darlin’?” Richie turned back to Jon, “this must be…Sophie, right?” Again Frannie nodded, “good memory Richie.” He smiled, “I always remember the pretty ones darlin’.”

They chatted for a minute more. “I really should take Sophie home.” Frannie moved to retrieve her bag and there was a loud boom of thunder followed by a crack of lightening that lit up the whole room. Jon looked at Frannie, “You’re not going out there. The two of you are welcome to stay until the storm passes.” Frannie didn’t know what to do. She was torn between her fear of being out after dark and her unwillingness to take Sophie out in the storm. “What about your wife and children Jon, I don’t want to impose.” Jon turned to Richie, “will you take Sophie?” Recognizing the look on his friend’s face Richie didn’t hesitate. “Sure, come here princess” he cooed to Sophie. “We’re just gonna take a little walk.” He walked out of the room, leaving Jon and Frannie alone.

Jon took Frannie’s hand and they went back and sat on the couch. He looked over at her, she had been painfully honest with him and it was only fair that he give her the same respect. “Frannie, I need to tell you something.” She looked at Jon only then noticing the pain and sadness in his eyes, “what?” With a heavy heart he told her what had been weighing on him over the last several months. “You don’t have to worry about Dorothea or the kids tonight. We are in the midst of a divorce and she has the kids.” Frannie didn’t know what to say. How had she not heard about that? “A divorce, but I thought you were so happy?” She cringed after the words came out of her mouth. They sounded ridiculous. He smiled and reached for her hand, this time she didn’t pull away. “I thought we were too Frannie, but obviously Dot wasn’t. She served me with papers after the last tour ended. She moved out and took the kids with her.” That was the part that was slowly killing him. The fact that she took the kids and, while he was able to see them whenever he wanted, it wasn’t the same as them being in the house and underfoot all the time. He missed the noise that was them, the bickering, fighting and laughing. He didn’t think he would ever get used to the quiet.

Frannie watched the different emotions cross his face as he told her what had been happening. Tentatively she raised her free hand and touched his cheek. He glanced at her, surprise clearly showing in his eyes. “It will get better Jon. You just need to believe that. Right now it may not seem like it, but it will.” He put his hand over hers so she wouldn’t pull it away and turned his head to kiss her palm. Looking over at her, he marveled at her. She had her own demons she was fighting and she still found compassion for him and his troubles. “Thank you.” She raised an eyebrow at him, “for what, all I did was sit here and listen.” “Sometimes that’s all it takes.” She gave him a small smile, pulled her hand back and got up and walked over to the window.

Jon got up and lit a fire in the fireplace before coming up behind her. She didn’t jump this time when he got close. He placed his hands on her shoulders, he could feel her trembling under his touch but he didn’t release her. He wanted to help her move past her fears and anxieties, but he wasn’t quite sure how. “Hey.” She dragged her gaze from the window and looked over her shoulder at him, “what?” He turned her to face him, her arms were crossed in front of her and he tugged at them until he could hold both of her hands in his. He scanned her face, watching for any sign that she was uncomfortable with what he was doing. “You said you want your life back and I would like to help you.” Before she could say anything he continued. “I know my life is a bit of a mess right now too, but maybe we can help heal each other.”

For the first time in a long time, Frannie didn’t feel afraid. Looking in the blue of Jon’s eyes, she felt at ease with him and thought maybe this could be what she needed. She squeezed his hands, “Are you sure Jon?” He nodded his head, “Since the night we helped you bring Sophie into the world I have wondered about you. I want the chance Frannie. It was a strange twist of fate that brought you to me; I don’t want to waste it. I want to see what happens. I want to help you find you again.” She nodded her head, “okay, but remember, it is not just me you are taking on, there is Sophie to consider too.” Jon smiled, “I know, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Richie came back with Sophie then, “sorry to intrude, but someone needs to be changed, and it ain’t me.”