We danced our way back into circulation and I prayed that no one was the wiser. I met Rick’s eyes from across the room and the look he shot me told me my prayers had not been answered. Jon had told him to keep an eye on me and I guessed he had kept the faith, at least until we disappeared behind the curtain.
“Oh shit. Rick saw us” I whispered in Jon’s ear.
“And he’s not the only one” Jon whispered back, followed by that mischievous cackle. I felt the color rising in my cheeks now.
“Oh no, who else?” I asked, not really wanting to know.
“Three guesses. Who do you think would be paying that much attention to us?” he smirked, looking down at me as we continued dancing amidst the crowd and I panicked.
“Not the press! Dear God, tell me it wasn’t the press?” I demanded.
“No, no. Far worse” he said, still grinning. “Eva” he replied, chuckling again softly. “She doesn’t miss a thing.”
I looked in the direction of his eyes and caught sight of Eva, standing near Tico, and she winked at me. I buried my face in Jon’s chest and groaned. It could have been far worse, except I knew the teasing would be merciless.
“I can live with Eva knowing as long as it doesn‘t end up in the tabloids” I grumbled into Jon’s chest.
“Just so you realize, if Eva knows, Tico knows and that means everyone in the band will know and I will never hear the end of it” he said resignedly.
“And you will be further immortalized in legend, I’m gathering?” I said cynically.
“Oh, you better believe it. Even the King of Swing will envy me this time!” he said smirking.
“Well, I’m glad you’re pleased with yourself” I said, feigning petulance.
“Seems like you were pretty pleased with me too, now, weren‘t you?” he asked, tilting my face to look him in the eye and I couldn’t help but smile at that face and admit the truth.
“Yeah, I’d have to admit that” I said indulging his ego. “The shame is so worth the pleasure.” He held me tightly against him and squeezed me.
“You’re so right about that” he agreed.
“Jon, I should go to the ladies room and freshen up. Uhmmm, I’m a little wrecked at the moment” I whispered.
“Mmhhmm. Did I mess you up, darlin’?” he asked. I was keenly aware of our mingled juices running down my leg at that moment and nodded.
“Okay, but hurry back. It’s almost midnight and there’s someone I want you to meet. He should be here anytime now” he said anxiously. Who else could top Elton John, I wondered.
“Who?” I asked, my curiosity aroused.
“It’s a surprise. Go ahead, but hurry back to the bar. We’ll be over there” he said as he pointed in the direction of where the band and Kevin and the rest were.
I saw Joe Elliot had joined the group too and wondered if that was who he meant. I hurried off to the ladies room and Eva met me there, having seen me heading in that direction.
“So, you two disappear for a private dance, eh?” she asked, her eyes shining.
“You don’t miss anything, Eva. Did anyone else see us besides you and Rick?” I questioned her, needing to know.
“No, Hon, I don’t think so. Actually, I didn’t see where you went until I saw where Rick was watching and then I saw you both come out from behind the curtain. Jon’s usually so private, the guys are gonna tease the shit out of him over this one” she said, looking simply delighted.
“Oh Eva! You’re really enjoying this almost as much as we did!” I exclaimed and she gleamed back wickedly. I cleaned up in the ladies room as best I could and tried to make myself look more dignified.
“How’s that?” I said, looking in the mirror.
“You’d probably get away with it except the shit-eating grin on your face gives you away” Eva observed and I tossed my head.
“Not much I can do about that, I’m afraid” I said, knowing it was true.
We made our way back towards the bar and I stopped short about eight feet away.
“Oh my fucking Goddess!” I cried when I saw who was standing at the bar with Jon and Eva stopped too.
“What is it? What’s the matter?” she asked worriedly.
I stood there frozen as they approached me. Jon was grinning slyly from ear to ear. How the hell had he pulled this off?
“The only other man in the world who could turn me into a puddle of goo” I said more to myself than to Eva.
I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest and I had no time to think. Eva followed my gaze. Jon was walking towards me with Sam Elliot at his side. I was still frozen and couldn’t move a muscle and he was smiling at me. Oh my God, Sam Elliot was smiling at me. My throat was too dry to speak as Jon sidled up alongside me and slipped his arm about my waist and I was grateful for the added support as Sam spoke to me.
“Hello, Darlin’. Jon invited me here to meet you” he said in that voice that made my brain numb.
“Oh my God, you’re Sam Elliot” I croaked and then realized I’d said that out loud.
“Yep, that’s what my Mama called me and it kinda stuck” he said smoothly, grinning at my reaction.
“I mean, I, I …” I stammered.
He was looking directly at me and my mind went completely blank. Jon could hardly contain his laughter at my expression and Eva just stood there as well, speechless for once.
“I think we surprised her, alright” he said to Sam, laughing.
“Drink, baby” Jon said to me.
He pushed a drink in my hand. I obeyed him without hesitation and closed my eyes for a moment, regaining my composure. I opened my eyes. He was still there.
“How…?” was all that came out of my mouth.
“Jon here called a couple days ago and got hold of my manager. My manager told me he was some big rock star, so I figured what the hell and called him. I didn’t really believe the story he told me, but I had to see for myself” he said in that deep southern drawl.
I looked at Jon, my cheeks turning ten shades of crimson as I wondered how much he‘d told him. Jon took pity on me finally and explained.
“I told Sam that I wanted to surprise you after you’d told me you’d had a crush on him since you were a kid and I begged him to come tonight if it was at all possible. And he agreed to come and give me a few pointers!” he said, beaming as I hugged him.
“You amaze me. What a gift! But you hardly need pointers!” I whispered over his shoulder before turning to face my other idol.
“I am so honored to meet you! Jon told you the truth, I’ve had a crush on you since the first time I saw you in a movie. And there isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t say the same thing if she’s truthful! How can I ever thank you? ” I gushed and Sam chuckled himself now.
“So, how ’bout that dance yer man here promised me? Sounds like a slow one coming on and I can’t dance to that fast shit” Sam said and Jon turned me to face him.
“Go ahead, babe” he encouraged as Sam pulled me close and Jon watched, smiling.
Sam was older now, probably in his late sixties, but that did nothing to diminish the thrill of dancing with this legendary icon.
“I can’t believe Jon convinced you to come all the way here just to meet me and that he managed to keep it a secret like that. I had no idea!” I commented, marveling at his thoughtfulness.
“Yeah, I could tell it was a surprise” he drawled. “Ya know, I’d never heard of him before. Don’t really pay much attention to rock and roll, myself. But my manager said he was pretty famous and I guess he wasn’t kidding from the looks of this shindig. But when I called him, he was pretty persuasive and he struck me as a man who isn’t accustomed to taking “no” for an answer” he laughed.
“I was curious to meet him after that” Sam said simply.
I smiled to myself, thinking even men weren’t immune to Jon’s charms. I found myself bragging then about Jon and all the things he’d done, including all the charity work and the Soul. I concluded with “Persuasive is his middle name” and Sam nodded.
“We had lunch this afternoon and I had a chance to get to know him a little better. He seems to be a good man. Are you in love with him?” he asked seriously.
“More than life itself” I replied without hesitation despite my surprise at the question.
“That’s good. ’Cuz there ain’t nothing else worth half as much and it’s hard to remember that when you’re surrounded with assholes telling you how great you are. Me and my wife, we been together for as long as I can remember and there ain’t nothing more precious to me than her lovin’. It seems like your Jon has that figured out already, too. There’s a lot of bullshit in this business and you can end up believin’ the crap you hear. You need a real person to come home to at the end of the day” he finished.
The song had ended and he released me with a bow.
“Thank you, Ma’am, for dancing with an old man” he said as we made our way back through the crowd.
“And thank you for making true a wish I’ve had since I was little girl. You’re every bit as charming as I knew you would be” I said sincerely.
“Awww, hell, girl, you flatter me” he said as he handed me back to Jon.
“Thank you, sir, for letting me borrow your beautiful lady for a dance. You two take care of each other. Gotta roll” he said as he shook Jon’s hand and kissed me goodbye.
“Thanks, man. I owe ya!” Jon said as he shook Sam’s hand.
“He’s quite a cool dude, babe. I enjoyed meeting him myself” Jon commented after Sam left.
“I think he’d say the same about you. He was pretty impressed and so am I” I said, kissing him deeply.
“I can’t believe you did all that for me! And kept it a secret all this time!” I said, poking him in the chest.
“That part was hard. If I hadn’t known he was coming tonight I probably would have blown off this gig the way I was feeling and the way you were looking” he grinned.
“So, am I still your #1 or did Sam steal your heart?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at me.
“He’s a charmer, but I think I’ll keep you” I said.
“Thank you, baby; that’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me” I added, putting my arms around his neck. He kissed me long and hard, as we finished dancing to the music and made our way back to the group at the bar.
“So, Eva, I’ve never seen you speechless before. It was almost worth it for that alone!” Jon teased her.
“Yeah, well, that didn’t last long. She hasn’t shut up since” Tico interjected. Eva pinched him and we all laughed as she confessed she had a “thing” for him herself.
“How the hell did you pull this off, Jon, and what prompted you to do it?” she asked and Jon explained where the idea had come from.
“The guy is pretty cool, actually. I offered to pay him an outrageous sum of money to come out here, but he refused, and told me to donate it to a worthwhile cause, so Habitat got another big check in Sam’s name. It was money well spent as the look on your face was priceless!” he concluded and I blushed then as everybody nodded and laughed.
We stayed at the party for another couple hours and Jon disappeared occasionally to talk business with some of the tour promoters and to make nice with the press who wanted to know the story behind the surprise.
I didn’t know what Jon told them and I didn’t care. It had been a magical night and I felt like a Fairy Queen, but it had nothing to do with the dress. Jon was my King.