Tessa tucked her hand into the crook of Jon’s arm. They followed a few dozen people for the picture they wanted to take out in the courtyard. The trees sparkled in the clear night sky. Their frosty white lights twined around grasping braches, weaving a stage for the Rockefeller Center Spruce tree and her timeless colored lights and bright crystal star. The Rock speared into the sky glowing creamy white against the inky black. Even the stars couldn’t compete with beauty of Christmastime in New York City.
Flags snapped in the light breeze as they were lined up for the charity’s website photo. The JBJ Soul Foundation opened doors for so many and she honestly didn’t mind giving a night up to support it, but the day was catching up to her. With all the beauty around her, she could only focus on one thing. Standing up for the picture and getting the hell out of there and into her warm bed.
As usual, when there were so many different levels of famous in one place, it took forever to get everyone situated in the lineup. Those that thought they were far more important than was wise vied for status slots in the center of the groupings. Then came the governmental status versus power positions next to the famous.
She and Jon were juggled so many times she was ready to use her stiletto for leverage just to get the picture taken. After her tenth growl and shuffle Jon slid his hand up to the nape of her neck and craned her face up to his. “Inside growls like me, Tessa.”
She wrinkled her nose and sighed, rubbing her cheek against the lapel of his tux. “I could fall asleep where I stand.”
“Just a few more minutes and we’re out of here. I got a text from Henry. He’s on the corner of 48th and 5th and ready to roll.”
“Nope, I think we’re going to have to thank Henry this time.”
She snorted. “I’ll kiss the big lug as long as he gets me to the house and my bed.”
“Well, I’m getting you to our bed, not Henry.”
“Not sure Henry would know what to do with me besides Ma’am me to death.”
They both chuckled and the first flashes went off that were of the non-paparazzi kind. They stood still for a series of test shots and then finally…finally, the last series of continuous shutter shots that would hopefully get everyone smiling without blinking or making a face. Hell, she didn’t care if she was even showing in the photo.
“Okay, thank you everyone!”
And like that, you’d think the President was waiting in the wings as everyone scattered. There were no long goodbyes, nor small talk. The night breeze left behind frozen feet in dress shoes and very cranky officials. Jon waved to a few people that he hadn’t gotten to talk to, but instead of his usual schmoozing he hustled her around the corner.
A few blinding flash bulbs from the paparazzi that had been waiting for an opportunity were followed by Jon’s glower. They skipped up the stairs to her favorite car in the whole wide world, at least right then, and they were inside.
He fell back against the seat with sagging shoulders and closed eyes. Both of them quiet as Henry pulled into traffic. Tessa slid across the cushy seat and rested her cheek against Jon’s chest. His light, spicy scent and warmth curled around her as she blinked out for the rest of the ride home.
Jon drew an absent thumb over her shoulder as the street lights shone through the tinted windows. Memories of a different night intruded. Tessa had fallen asleep, curled into him that night too. New Year’s Eve at Elton’s party, her first introduction to the intrusive life of press and photogs. It was old hat now, but no less annoying. And yet she chose to come out with him—to be with him—even when she was obviously ready to drop.
He wasn’t sure what he’d do without her.
The only thing he knew for sure is that he was determined never to find out.
As they rolled to a stop in front of their penthouse, he gathered her in closer. He nuzzled her neck, nipping at the edge of her ear. The chuffing laughter drew his tired lips into a smile. “Wake up Sleeping Beauty.”
She turned her mouth to his, finding him in the dark. The kiss was sweet and soft filled with her breath and the magic of the evening. She pulled back, her eyes bleary but clear. “Is it finally over?”
Tessa let him draw her out of the car and to the door. They both waved half heartedly at the doorman and he slapped his palm on the plate. The door opened quickly, one more testament to the lateness of the night. He hooked an arm around her shoulders and drew her into the elevator. She leaned heavily against him. Without thought, he brushed a kiss at her temple and lifted her off her feet.
The fact that she barely complained told him just how tired she was. Twelve hour days at the store were on the horizon and she needed rest. The doors opened to the murmurs of a pair of girls.
He smiled as his daughter and her best friend stood up. Steph smiled and sat back down. Tessa was out already. She’d hit her wall. Climbing the stairs to their bedroom was a bit of a trial. Crawling around on the floor before the party tweaked his knee, but he wouldn’t put her down.
He got her up to their room and settled her into bed, drawing her clothes off her gently until she rolled under the sheets with a sigh. “Stay,” she murmured.
“Steph and Michelle are here. I need to settle them in.” Her green eyes popped open as she sat up. He pushed her back. “They’re already settled, don’t worry. I can handle it.”
She curled back into her pillows with a yawn. “I don’t know about that one, but I’m too tired to argue.”
Her eyes closed and her cheek snuggled into the pillow she smiled. “Smart ass.”
He leaned down, kissing the tip of her nose. “You love my ass.”
“Yeah, yeah. Kiss your daughter for me.”
“You got it.”
“Kiss me first.”
He settled a soft kiss on her lips, but she was already out. He stood, smoothed a curl behind her ear and stripped out of his suit into sweats and a t-shirt before going back down to see Steph.
The girls were watching a concert of all things. Jon dropped onto the couch next to his daughter and raised his eyebrows. “Bush?”
Steph leaned in and hugged him. “I know. Gavin’s still freaking hot.”
Jon rolled his eyes. The world was in that cyclical pattern again. Looks like the nineties were going to make a bit of a resurgence. Good thing they weren’t ready for a new album right now. Crap. “You aren’t old enough to appreciate grunge.”
She giggled. “Tell that to the college campuses that are hosting nineties parties.”
Her laughter was musical and very welcome. He sat back, throwing his arm across the couch so that Steph rolled into him for a cuddle. He made the required small talk with her friend and found himself enjoying the next hour. Even tired as he was, the girls were obviously happy and the mood was infectious. By the time they were ready to pack it in for the night, the clock was showing well after 2am.
Michelle moved ahead into the room they would share and left them alone. “Thanks for coming out with such short notice.”
“I’m even more glad I did after watching you carry in Tessa. Geeze, Dad, she was exhausted.”
“Between the store and my schedule, she’s about shot. Losing those workers really killed her Christmas plans. I didn’t expect her to come out for the gala tonight.”
“She wants to be with you and show support for the Foundation, Dad.”
“I know. I just had to marry an overachiever like me.”
“Like follows like,” she said with a sunny smile. On tiptoes, she kissed him. “I’ll go in with her in the morning and she can show Michelle the ropes. She’s a fast learner. She worked at the campus bookstore.”
“Now who’s the rockstar?”
“Definitely me,” she said over her shoulder with a cute little wiggle.
Jon sighed and hit the stairs to the upstairs half of the apartment where their bedroom was. Moonlight poured across the sleeping bundle on the right side of the bed, one foot flung out from the covers and her arm dangling off the side.
He slid into their bed, rolling her toward him. She came with a murmur and tired moan and pressed her cheek into his chest. “It’s not morning yet.”
“Nope, go back to sleep.”
Her response was a sleepy mmm before she fell heavily against him, sleep completely claiming her. Tomorrow was another day and hopefully with a little help from his kid she’d be a little less crazed.