September 28, 2020

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Not Knowing When

Written in 60 minutes. No time for spell check or typo check.


Cosmpolitan Suite: Sitting Room

“….this, uh, marriage thing…which was impetuous and funny about an hour ago now looks like a cover-up…”

Brenda Barrett prided herself on being observant. She didn’t care that most people thought she was self-absorbed to the point of narcissism because she knew the truth. She understood people.

And right know, she understood that Sonny Corinthos was a jackass who couldn’t read a room. The minute he’d called Jason and Elizabeth’s marriage impetuous and funny, Elizabeth Webber’s face drained of color, all life left her colors, and she stared down at her lap.

Five minutes earlier, this same woman had been sparkling with irritation, with amusement, even happiness—and now all of that emotion had blinked out of existence.

Because Sonny had called her marriage impetuous and funny—and Jason hadn’t said a word in response.

Men.

“But it’s not,” Brenda said, hoping to bring the conversation and give Jason an opportunity to speak up. But her ex-fiance (she was going to love calling him that for the rest of her life though she’d probably wait until Elizabeth thought it was funny because Brenda’s almost marriage was impetuous and funny—why couldn’t Sonny see there was a damn difference—idiot) was just frowning at Sonny.

“I don’t understand,” Jason said slowly. “What happened last night?” He looked at Elizabeth, his light brows drawn together in confusion. “How did—why were you on the pier?”

“I didn’t want to go home after work,” Elizabeth muttered, staring at hands like they had the answers to all of life’s questions. And Brenda wondered if Elizabeth’s reluctance to go home had anything to do with the beach blonde bimbo Barbie she’d threatened with the box cutter—

“But the pier—why the hell did Marco let you—”

Sonny frowned. “Marco wasn’t with her last night. He’s been guarding Courtney—”

“No, he isn’t,” Jason argued. “He’s been Elizabeth’s guard since the shooting at the hospital—” He looked at Elizabeth. “Where—”

“I—” Elizabeth finally looked up with a squint of her eyes, a little impatient. “Jason, I haven’t had a guard since I left the penthouse.”

Left the penthouse? Brenda filed that away for later. So much for no one being back in Port Charles who would mind if he got married.

“But—”

“I—” Sonny cleared his throat. “When you told me on the plane,” he said to Elizabeth a bit painfully, “that Marco had taken you to work while you were there, I didn’t—I didn’t make the connection—”

“What connection? I don’t—I don’t have a guard,” Elizabeth said. She looked back and forth between Jason and Sonny, and Brenda was surprised to see fury flash in Jason’s blue eyes—fury directed at Sonny.

She leaned back, crossed her legs, and smirked. “Oh, I see. Jason thought you had a guard this entire time, and it looks like Sonny reassigned him.” Brenda just lifted her brows when both men turned to scowl at her. “Or did I get it wrong?”

“When did you reassign Marco?” Jason bit out, shoving himself to his feet. “Didn’t he tell you—”

“He told me that—” Sonny winced, rubbing his temple. “He told he was working on something, but I—I told him I’d take care of it—I never—I forgot—”

“Damn it, Sonny—”

“Wait—” Elizabeth looked at Jason, her eyes wide. “You thought I had a guard this whole time?”

“Of course I did! You were living with me, Elizabeth! You think Alcazar didn’t know that? I didn’t—” Some of the anger drained out of him and he sat back down, his head in his hands. “I didn’t ask Marco. He’s not there to spy on you, so I figured—no report was good news. That you were okay.”

Brenda saw Elizabeth’s hand tremble as she lifted it, nearly reaching out to Jason, but it fell into her lap at the last minute. Oh, man, they were both idiots. “I think we’re getting off topic,” she murmured. “Elizabeth didn’t have a guard. Jason can smack Sonny around about it later—”

“Right,” Elizabeth said slowly, focusing on Brenda, then flicking a quick, confused glance at Jason who wasn’t looking at her. “Um, I was just gonna walk on Bannister’s Wharf, but I wasn’t paying attention—”

Jason muttered something under his breath Brenda couldn’t make out, but whatever it was had Elizabeth narrowing her eyes into slits. “I’d just been told something that made me feel very violent,” she said, her jaw clenched.

The boxcutter. Brenda nodded. “Fair enough. We’ve all been there.”

“I realized where I was, but before I could get out of there, I heard voices. I recognized Alcazar’s,” Elizabeth said, “because of that time I’d heard him at Kelly’s with Roy. He was angry with someone—I didn’t see either of them. I ducked behimd some boxes. Then—” Elizabeth rubbed her wrist, restless. “I heard a gunshot. Something dropped to the docks. I tried to get out of there without being heard, but I tripped—” She paused. “Alcazar thought it was you,” she murmured to Jason who looked at her. “And he shot at me. That’s why there’s footage of me running away from the pier.”

“Could it have been Zander you overheard with Alcazar?” Sonny asked.

“I—” Elizabeth bit her bottom lip. “Maybe. I didn’t hear the other guy. He wasn’t as loud—Alcazar was really angry—the guy had lost sight of his property—” Her face paled as she focused on Brenda. “And he said she’s gone. I think—”

“This would have been around the time you and Jason started this whole jaunt to Vegas,” Sonny said dryly. “So whoever Alcazar had watching you, Jason was able to lose him long enough for you to get to the airport.”

“But—if that was Zander—” Elizabeth sighed. “That means he got his memory back and went back to work for Alcazar. I just saw him two days ago,” she muttered. “He didn’t say anything about his memory being back—”

“Of course not. You’re more useful to him in the dark,” Sonny said. Elizabeth scowled at him as Jason winced.

“Yeah, that’s how you like your women,” Elizabeth retorted. “Out of the loop, walking around like idiots.”

“Elizabeth—” Jason began.

“It doesn’t matter. Look, can’t I just tell the PCPD what I saw?” Elizabeth asked.

“No, because you’re not credible,” Sonny said. “The PCPD knows you’d lie for Jason. You’ve done it before.”

“Funny you remember that now,” Elizabeth said, acid dripping from her words. Well, at least that cleared something up — Elizabeth had been left out of the whole Sonny not being dead secret, too, and she was still pissed about it.

“Sonny, can you just shut up?” Jason demanded. “You’re not helping—”

“What—”

“So if I can’t tell the PCPD what I saw,” Elizabeth said, cutting off Sonny’s bewildered reply, “what do I do?”

“Honestly?” Sonny shrugged, leaned back, and studied the two of them. “The best option for all of us is to pretend this Vegas trip never happened. Or at least that you never came here,” he told Elizabeth.

Elizabeth blinked at him. “Wait, what?”

“Sonny—”

“We go back to Port Charles,” Sonny said. “Liz goes back to her life, Jason goes back to his. Their breakup was well-known. People commented on it—”

“Oh, you are a lot dumber than you used to be,” Brenda breathed as Elizabeth closed her eyes and Jason winced.

“We can prove Jason was in Vegas,” Sonny continued ignoring her. “We can prove he was at the airport, and I’m betting—based on when you got to the Towers—that the plane had just taken off when the shots were fired.”

Sonny looked at Brenda. “You can alibi him, and I can give a statement about the flight taking off because I was tracking it, trying to charter another plane. I stalled you at the airport—”

“I knew something was off,” Brenda said.

“But Elizabeth, you just went home. And if Jason’s not a suspect, they’re not going to care about you,” he told her. “You guys lay low, just keep acting like you’ve been acting for the last few weeks, and this won’t be an issue.”

Except Elizabeth had come to Vegas, and Jason had practically marched her to the altar. Brenda watched Jason and Elizabeth absorb Sonny’s plan. “You mean,” she said, deciding to help them when Jason kept his mouth closed, “pretend they never got married.”

Or spent the morning locked in hotel’s master bedroom.

“Yes,” Sonny said. “I think it’s the best way to get Jason clear of this as quickly as possible. Then we can get back to focusing on Alcazar.”

Jason opened his mouth, looked at Elizabeth who was staring at her hands, then sighed. “It keeps you out of it, too,” he said softly.

Brenda closed her eyes. Absolute idiot.

“Okay.” Elizabeth’s lips trembled slightly, but she pressed them together, then nodded. “Okay, Sonny. You should—you should probably make sure I get separate transportation home from the airport or something. I can’t be dropped off in the limo or anything.”

“Right, I’ll call Benny—” Sonny got to his feet. “We’ll work out everything else—” He stopped when Elizabeth shoved away from the table and disappeared into the master bedroom. “On the plane,” he finished.

Jason exhaled slowly, looked at Sonny. “She came to you at the Towers after she was shot at—”

“She came to you,” Brenda corrected Jason quietly. She turned back to her other ex-fiance. “Didn’t she, Sonny? She was nearly killed, and came looking for Jason. And you patted her head, told her Jason was on the brink of death, loaded her on the plane because, obviously, you knew he’d never go through with marrying me if she was anywhere near it.”

Sonny slid his hands into his pockets. “You’re making it sound more calculated than it was—”

“No, I think I’ve got it right. And now, because you don’t want Jason to be distracted by someone else when he should be dealing with Luis, you want her to pretend that the last twelve hours didn’t happen. Which, in case you forgot, includes her getting married to Jason.”

“I—” Sonny looked at Jason. “You see it the way I do. She’s safer this way—”

“As safe as she was without the guard I assigned her,” Jason bit out. He got to his feet. “The only reason I’m doing this is because I don’t want the PCPD harassing her—”

“That isn’t your decision,” Brenda said bluntly. He turned his attention to her, frowning. “I don’t know the history, Jase, but Sonny seems to think Elizabeth has had run ins with the cops about you before. And she’s clearly still standing. I swear—” She took a deep breath. “I swear to God, if you leave her standing in the rain, I will never, ever forgive you.”

And with that, Brenda stalked into the other bedroom, slamming the door.

Sonny scowled after her. “What the hell crawled up her ass—” He turned when he heard another door, catching Jason just as he followed Elizabeth.

“How the hell did I end up as the bad guy?” Sonny muttered.

Master Bedroom

Jason closed the door behind him, Brenda’s words echoing in his head.

If you leave her standing in the rain… The way Sonny had left her, walking away over and over again, leaving Brenda to doubt how he felt about her—leaving her to wonder what she’d done wrong—

Jason was a literal man, but even he understood the metaphor Brenda had been trying to make.

Elizabeth was sitting on the bed, staring down at her hands. At her fingers. She was twisting a small silver ring she wore on her right hand, and he found himself wondering if they should have stopped somewhere so he could buy her a wedding ring.

It’d be something small, that wouldn’t get in the way when she painted or sketched—

“Are we leaving for the airport?” Elizabeth said, her voice empty. He knew that tone—he’d heard it before. When she’d talked about modeling and the dreams Lucky had wanted for them —

“I dont know,” Jason said. He glanced past her, at the bed and the sheets that were still all over the place. They’d spent hours in that bed earlier—he’d learned every inch of her body and he finally learned how she tasted when she laughed—

She didn’t even look like the same woman.

“I agreed to Sonny’s plan because I don’t want you in the middle of this,” Jason began. “But—”

“Same old story.” Elizabeth got to her feet and walked over to the window, yanking back the blackout curtain, sunlight streaming into the room. Jason blinked, stepped out of a direct beam. “Fine. Whatever.”

“Elizabeth—”

“When are we leaving?” Elizabeth interrupted. She folded her arms, lifting one of them so that her hand could rub her lips. “I’m tired, and I want to sleep on the way home.”

“But it’s not my decision to make,” Jason finished. “If we go back and tell everyone that we got married, the PCPD won’t care that I have an alibi. They’ll still think we got married because of what happened to Zander. Alcazar will come after you harder because he’ll know you came to us.”

“And Carly will make my life a living hell, my grandmother will be disappointed like she always is, and everyone will look at me, wondering what I was thinking,” Elizabeth said. “What’s your point?”

“My point is that since you’re the one that has to deal with all of that,” Jason said, “then you should be the one to decide if it’s what you want.”

Elizabeth frowned at him, then took a few steps forward, finally pulling herself out of the sunlight that had blocked her face from his view. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that it’s going to be harder for you this way, but if you don’t want to go with Sonny’s plan, we won’t.”

“If I want?” Elizabeth snorted. “You’ve never cared what I wanted—”

“That’s not true—”

“No, you’re right. You don’t care about it when it looks like I want you,” she said. “Because every single time I’ve given you the signal I want more, you run as fast as you can in the other direction.” She held up a finger. “And yeah, I’ve done it, too. But this is different. Because when I ran, it was because I was scared of getting hurt. When you run, it’s because you pretend the danger is too much for me.”

“I pretend—” Jason sighed, then dipped his head. “Yeah,” he admitted. “I know.”

“And I’m really tired, Jason. I can live with you pushing me away because I’ve hurt. I wouldn’t blame you. God knows, I’ve dragged you through the mud and run over you a few times—” Her voice faltered. “I deserve to be pushed away for that—”

“Hey—” He strode forward, took her hands in his, drawing them away from her waist. “No—”

“But when you tell me it’s too dangerous when Sonny gets to have a wife and you hang around with Carly and Michael and you nearly marry another woman, and kiss Courtney—” A tear spilled down her cheek. “It’s starts to feel like it’s me you don’t want—”

“I didn’t kiss Courtney—” He paused. “Is that what she told you?” When Elizabeth just wrinkled her nose, looked away. “Is that why you threatened her with a boxcutter?”

“No,” Elizabeth muttered. “I did that because she wouldn’t stop talking. I just wanted her to leave and to stop talking about how I’d been wrong, and how you’d fallen in love with her while you were guarding her—I just wanted her to shut up and go away—”

“She was wrong—she kissed me,” Jason told Elizabeth. “Half the reason I agreed to Brenda’s insane plan was to get Courtney stop—” He shook his head. “Never mind. That’s not—I don’t want you to get hurt. But if you’re willing to take that risk, then—”

“I’ve always been willing,” Elizabeth reminded him. “You’re the one that keeps changing his mind.”

“Then I’ll tell Sonny we need a new plan.” Jason grasped her chin in his fingers, lifting her eyes to meet his. “And you’ll come home with me. If that’s where you want to be.”

“Yes.” With her free hand, Elizabeth fisted her hand in his shirt. “Is that where you want me?”

“It’s where I always wanted you.” Jason cut off anything else she had to say with a kiss, and if Sonny hadn’t banged on the door a minute later, telling them the plane would be ready in fifteen minutes, they might have gone back to bed.

September 26, 2020

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 60 minutes.


Monday, December 27, 1999

Vista Point

Jason had planned to put more distance between himself and Elizabeth after he’d left the studio the day before. In fact, he’d planned to go back to way it had been before she’d found him that morning in the snow — two people who occasionally ran into each other and were friendly.

He wasn’t sure what him think that was a possibility after the last four weeks, but he knew once he’d listened to his sister’s angry voice mail that day at the warehouse, there was no point in pretending.

The whole world knew Elizabeth Webber was important to him, even if they had no idea what they were talking about.

He pulled over at the Vista Point observation deck, and Elizabeth hopped off the bike, pulling the helmet over her head, her hair cascading down over the leather jacket he’d given her for Christmas.

“That was just what I needed,” Elizabeth told him with bright eyes and a wide smile. He returned the smile, and stowed the helmet on the back of the bike. “Where are we?”

“You’ve never been up here?” Jason asked as he led her from the parking lot over to the observation deck where benches had been installed.

“No—” Elizabeth leaned over the guard rail, looking over the cliffs encircling Lake Ontario. “I bet there’s a good view of Spoon Island when the sky is clear,” she said.

“Probably. I’ve never been up here during the day.” He leaned against the railing, watched for a minute. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose, looking at him. “No.” She huffed. “I was going to tell Emily the truth,” she muttered. “But she showed up at the end of my shift after I’d already dealt with customers smirking at me, Carly, and my grandmother. And—” Elizabeth eyed him. “Obviously, I can’t tell my grandmother why she found you at the studio.”

Jason accepted that with a nod. Audrey Hardy would not appreciate knowing that her granddaughter had been taking care of a gunshot victim and hiding him from the police. “No, that would not be a good idea.” He winced. “Carly?”

“I can take Carly,” Elizabeth assured him. “In fact, if my grandmother hadn’t shown up—” She sighed. “Never mind. I’ll talk to Emily tomorrow. She was just annoying me. Like I’d committed some horrible crime by not telling her we knew each other.”

Jason furrowed his brow. “She knows that. You asked for me help when she was trying to sneak off to Puerto Rico.”

“She has a nasty habit of always taking Nikolas’s side,” Elizabeth admitted. “It’s always been that way. She assumed what he said at the party was true, and didn’t even stop to think there might be anything else going on.” She lifted herself up to sit on the railing. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to help you, and literally everyone in my life made it worse.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” Jason told her. “I’m sorry it made trouble for you—”

“Only with the people who don’t think I can make my own decisions.” Elizabeth hesitated. “I’ll talk to Emily,” she repeated, “but I’m not talking to Nikolas right now after what he pulled, and he’d be harder to explain things to. He can’t be trusted with the truth.” She sighed, looked away. “He couldn’t even be trusted with a lie.”

“I’m sorry,” Jason repeated.

“It’ll be something people talk about for a minute, and then it’ll go away,” Elizabeth assured him. “Someone will do something insane at New Year’s, and it’ll be old news.” She met his eyes, searched them for a long moment. “Unless you think there’s another way to handle it.”

Jason hesitated. Until the call from Emily, Jason’s plan had been to avoid Elizabeth entirely. If they weren’t seen together, no one would take the fight at the party seriously — but — “You said customers were talking about it?”

“Yeah, I had a packed section,” Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes. “And would you believe half of them didn’t even bother to tip? Cheap bitches,” she muttered. She stared at her hands. “Just a few snickers. I over heard a couple of people saying some things—”

When she stopped talking, Jason’s stomach tightened and he stepped closer. “Saying what?” he demanded in a low voice. Damn it, Bobbie was right — he should have left long ago. He could have managed on his own after the first week. “Elizabeth—”

“Nothing worth repeating,” Elizabeth said. “Don’t worry about it. Really—”

“Who was it?” he pressed. “Was it college kids or—”

“Some workers from the docks,” Elizabeth admitted. She hopped off the railing and walked a few steps in the opposite direction. “Um, a few of them I think I recognized from the warehouse. I got your meds from Sonny there once. And then a few of the others—I think—” She turned to look at him finally. “There was a table of guys I know work for Moreno.”

Jason hissed, looking away. “Moreno,” he muttered. He hadn’t been seen since the shootout, and Jason thought he was probably dead. He couldn’t be sure, but— “What did they say?”

His tone had shifted, become harder and flatter and she flinched. He dragged a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, I—”

“One of the guys told me when I got bored with you, I should look him up—” Elizabeth slid her hands in her pockets. “And I—” Her cheeks flushed, and she stared at the ground. “That’s really all that table said.”

That table. “What about Sonny’s guys?” Jason bit out. How were they treating a woman that was clearly linked to him?

“Jason, it’s really not a big deal—”

“Elizabeth.”

She looked up and when she met his eyes this time, he could see the confusion in her expression. “Jason, it’s not like we’re dating. It doesn’t matter what they say—”

“They don’t know that,” Jason retorted. “So it matters. What did they say?”

“Just that I didn’t seem like your type,” Elizabeth said finally. “Apparently, they think you got the good girl out of your system when you broke up with Robin, and I didn’t even have her ass to make up for my lack of—Can we drop it now?” she demanded. “Or do you also want to talk about the women who came in and decided I wasn’t built enough to—” She clenched her jaw, turned around, and started towards the parking lot.

Jason winced, then went after her, his longer legs overtaking hers just as she reached the parking lot and the bike. “Elizabeth—”

“I told you,” Elizabeth said, tossing her hair back. “I didn’t want to talk about it. So can you just take me home?”

Jason exhaled slowly, then handed her the helmet. “I’m sorry,” he said awkwardly. “They shouldn’t be talking about you that way—”

“They’re guys,” she said, pulling the helmet, and fastening the strap. “That’s what they do—”

“No, I mean—” He cleared his throat, unsure what to do with any of this. He could see that the way her customers had talked about her had hurt her feelings—and worse—he could see in the flush of her cheeks and the look in her eyes that she agreed with what they said.

And he didn’t know if either of them would be better off if Jason liked the way her body just the way it was, so he remained silent and started the bike. He waited for her to climb behind him, then took her home.

He’d been insane to think that just by leaving the studio he could put their friendship back the way it had been.

Nothing was going to be the way it had been before the night he’d been shot and the morning she’d dragged him back to the world of the living.

Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Elm Street Pier

Elizabeth’s second day back at work after the party didn’t go much better than her first day, though she noted that no one from the Corinthos-Morgan coffee warehouse sat in her section and the few guys that did come into the diner studiously avoided looking at her.

She wasn’t really sure how to take that—wondering how Jason had made that happen and what’d he had to say to them. He’d been so angry at the idea that people were talking about her, but Elizabeth didn’t know what good it did either of them for her to spell out the reasons in great detail why no one understood why he’d look twice at her.

And it was worse because Elizabeth knew that he wouldn’t, so she really didn’t need to have those reasons in her head or have to say them out loud to Jason.

But thankfully, Emily and her grandmother stayed away—Elizabeth wasn’t looking forward to setting Emily straight since she was still annoyed, and she didn’t feel like going through another round of her grandmother’s disapproval. The only problems Elizabeth had were Moreno’s guys returning to ogle her and more women who came to smirk at the silly girl with no boobs trying to get their hooks into an older man who couldn’t possibly be satisfied—

And she still got screwed on tips.

She left work and decided to have an early night at the studio, curled up on her sofa with the secondhand television that she’d give herself for Christmas—with her door locked and the ringer on her phone turned off.

But a quiet night at home wasn’t going to happen. At least not before Elizabeth ran one more gauntlet.

Waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs on the pier were Detectives Marcus Taggert and Andy Capelli. She hissed, drew up in front of them, and wrinkled her nose. She should have taken the long way round to the studio.

“Are you going to move,” Elizabeth began, “or are you standing there for a reason?”

“We have a couple of questions,” Taggert began with a smooth smile that she recognized, “if you have a minute.”

“What if I said I didn’t?” Elizabeth said. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket, irritated with herself for leaving her gloves behind at Kelly’s in her haste to leave the diner.

“Then we’d arrange to talk at the station with an attorney,” Capelli said. “What’s it gonna be?”

So he was going to be the bad cop. Fantastic. Elizabeth pursed her lips. “What’s the question?”

“November 30,” Taggert said, meeting her eyes. “You happen to see Jason Morgan that night?”

November 30. The night she’d received that terrible art grade and danced with Jason at Kelly’s.

The night Jason had been shot. They were asking her if she could alibi Jason on a night she knew he’d been out committing crimes.

Elizabeth lifted her chin. “Yes,” she said simply. When she said nothing else, Taggert’s smile turned into a scowl.

“Is that all you want to say?” he demanded. “Just yes?”

“I see we’re abandoning good cop already. You asked me a question, Detective. I answered it—”

“I see Morgan’s trained you well,” Taggert snapped as Elizabeth attempted to walk past them. “Fine. Where did you see him? What time did you see him? And for how long did you see him?”

Elizabeth stared at him for a long time. “That’s three questions. You said you had a couple. I’ve answered one of them. You get one more. I’ll be nice. I’ll even let you choose.”

“Fine,” Capelli interrupted as Taggert opened his mouth. “How long did you spend screwing Morgan before he went off to kill Anthony Moreno?”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Jason braced himself as Johnny O’Brien pushed the door open and he went into the penthouse for the first time since the night he’d been shot.

Since the night Carly had waltz down the stairs in nothing more than Sonny’s shirt. The shirt Sonny had been wearing before Jason had taken the meeting that nearly killed him.

He stayed near the doorway, watching Sonny carefully as his boss poured himself a tumbler of bourbon. “You wanted me to come by?” he said evenly.

“Yeah.” Sonny sipped the liquor. “We got a call from our guy in the PCPD. Anthony Moreno’s body was pulled from the harbor over Christmas. Shot twice. Once in the chest, and once in the head.”

Jason nodded, taking in the information. “I thought Sorel would do a better job at making him disappear,” he said, “but that tracks. I got off a shot as I left—that’s probably the chest wound. No way I managed a head shot.” Not in that condition. “Sorel probably finished the job.”

“That’s what I figure.”

“What’s the problem?” Jason said. “You said there was—”

“Apparently, Nikolas Cassadine tried to file assault charges,” Sonny continued, “for the Christmas party. He was laughed out of the station, but not before Taggert got the content of the fight.”

Jason stared at Sonny for a long moment, then drew his brow together. “I don’t—What—”

“Nikolas told the entire party—essentially the entire town that you and Elizabeth were sleeping together,” Sonny reminded him. “And Nikolas, in the report at the PCPD, stated that knew that was true because he’d found you at her studio in December.”

Jason closed his eyes. “Which means Taggert knows.”

“Which means Taggert knows,” Sonny repeated. “You disappeared for most of December, around the time Moreno did. And now Taggert knows exactly where you were for some of that time.”

Jason growled, pulled out his cell phone as he yanked open the door, already dialing Alexis Davis’s number. “Jason—” Sonny said, following him into the hallway. “Listen—”

“He’s going to ask Elizabeth for my alibi,” Jason cut in. “And—” God, Elizabeth would probably do it. She’d be insane enough to give him an alibi. It would go into an official report that she’d been with him that night.

“It’s not the worst idea,” Sonny began, but Jason whirled around at the elevator. “She’s solid as a rock—”

“She doesn’t need to be in the middle of this.” He muttered a swear when he only got Alexis’s voice mail. Maybe Justus would help—

“She’s already there—”

“Moreno’s guys are going to Kelly’s,” Jason told him Sonny bluntly. “Making comments. They already know who she is. And you think it’s a good idea for her to alibi me for an entire night? Damn it—”

He jabbed the elevator button. “I need to get to her. To tell her not to talk to the PCPD without a lawyer—”

“Jason—”

But Jason was done talking to him, and the doors closed on Sonny’s face.

Elm Street Pier

Elizabeth could see from Taggert’s murderous expression that Capelli’s question had not been the plan. He glared at his partner. “That’s not what I wanted to ask—”

“That’s too bad,” Elizabeth said coolly. “You’re interested in my sex life, Detective Capelli?”

“Damn it,” Taggert muttered. He dragged his hands over his face. “Elizabeth—”

“I mean, that’s the question,” Elizabeth said, widening her eyes. “You wanted to know how long Jason and I were having sex before he left that night? What—like how many times or—”

“That’s not—” Capelli threw his hands up. “You’re deliberately misunderstanding me—”

“No,” Elizabeth said slowly, “I am merely clarifying your question. You asked me how long I spent screwing Jason before he left to go kill someone. The second part of that isn’t a question. It was a statement. So it sounds like you’re interested in my sex life. You’ll have to take a number, Detective.”

She turned and walked in the opposite direction. She’d take the long way around Bannister’s Wharf.

“Elizabeth—damn it!” Taggert rushed after her, grabbed her arm. “Wait a second. Just—”

“Don’t put your hands on me—” She backed up a few steps, and the detective grimaced. “You don’t get to be pissy with me because your partner didn’t follow the script.”

“I’m sorry—”

“You should be. Because I have no intention of answering any question from either of you or anyone else at the PCPD about the details of my personal life. Not without a lawyer or a judge telling me I have to. Am I under arrest?”

Taggert pressed his lips together. “No.”

“Then get out of my way and let me go home.”

September 25, 2020

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Flash Fiction: A King's Command

Written in 50 minutes. Spellchecked, but not reread for typos.


Jason was already experiencing misgivings about his dealings with his new wife as he went downstairs to the public rooms and ordered a draught of ale, awaiting the return of Johnny and Francis with her belongings.

The sooner he could pack up his unexpected bride and return home to Braegarie where he was in control and no one could command him to do anything he did not wish to do.

When his men did finally return, Jason frowned at them, glancing out the window at the setting sun. “Did you have to go to Stirling for her things?”

“No,” Francis said shortly. He sat on the bench across from Jason and set a dingy, gray sack on the table. “This was right where milady said it would be.”

Jason stared at the sack which might have stored several pounds of grain at home, then raised his eyes to the man who had brought it. “That’s it?”

“There is something very strange afoot,” Johnny declared as he handed Francis an ale and sat next to him. “I thought your wife must have brought the wrong bag from her lodgings or perhaps she didn’t want to make a fuss after you dragged her down the Mile—”

Jason scowled. “I did not—”

“So we went to find out for sure,” Francis said. “Her father was unhappy to see us, but her brother assured us that—” He nodded at the sack. “That is the sum total of what the baron allowed his youngest daughter to pack for her presentation at the royal court.”

Jason narrowed his eyes. “There could not be more than a few articles of clothing,” he muttered. He knew the weight and shape of women’s garments — “The sister was well dressed?”

“At the wedding, yes. Her brother confirmed that Sarah,” Johnny said, biting out the name, “brought several trunks.”

“I would say it makes sense to outfit the elder daughter more than the younger,” Francis said slowly, “but the brother gives me pause. I think that the baron never intended to present the other girl. Her brother was not present when Elizabeth made her bow to the regent.”

Jason stared at the sack for another moment, before getting to his feet and picking up the sack. “I need to speak with my wife.” He tossed a few coins onto the table. “She’ll need warmer clothes for the journey north tomorrow. See to it. Get another mount.”

“Aye, we’ll see to it.”

——

Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed, sliding her fingers over the velvet of her dress. It was such a nice color, and there was so much more materials. Perhaps the dress could be cut down and reshaped

She jumped when the door opened again. Her husband stood there, grasping her sack. Relief slid through her veins. “Oh, I was hoping they could find my garments—”

She was already reaching for the clothes, then blinked, pulling her hands back when Jason Morgan did not set the bag down.

“It seems to me,” he said slowly, as he closed the door, then walked across the room the table beneath the window. He set the sack down, and pulled out a chair. “That there are many things I could ask you that have nothing to do with your service to the regent.”

Elizabeth bit her lip, rose to her feet. “Like what?” she asked cautiously. She sat in the other empty chair. “Will you—” She tried to look into his eyes, but her husband’s expression was still closed to her. “Will you keep my belongings if I do not answers?”

“Belongings,” Jason repeated. He gestured at the sack. “There cannot be more than two dresses.”

There were three, but she bristled, unsure of what specific insult he was inflicting on her. Elizabeth lifted her chin. “There are three. You did not answer my question.”

Jason pushed the sack towards her. “Your belongings are your own,” he said gruffly. “You tell me you cannot tell me why the regent has decided to favor you with a marriage.”

“Nay, but—” Elizabeth set the sack in her lap, focused on Jason’s light blue eyes. “But if you are willing to trust me—”

“Trust is earned, Elizabeth. Not given freely.”

“How may I earn your trust, then?”

“Your father did not intend to present you to the regent, did he?”

Elizabeth stiffened, her shoulders squared back, prepared to defend her father’s honor, but then— “No, he did not.”

“Why?”

“I cannot say—” When Jason scowled, she hurried to add, “I mean that I do not know. The call to court was specific that my father was to bring all three of his children, but he had hoped to make excuses. To say that I had fallen ill. He brought me to Edinburgh, but he only intended to bring Sarah and Steven when the time came.”

She looked away, but her eyes were dry. “But the regent specifically sent for me. For my father to bring me. Only me.” Elizabeth paused, then turned her gaze back to Jason. “How did you know that?”

“My men went to your family’s lodgings to be sure you hadn’t left anything behind. It was clear that your sister came with trunks of clothing meant for court.”

They both looked down at the sack in her lip. Elizabeth’s lip trembled slightly, so she bit down on it.

“My sister is the elder. Unmarried—”

“No father overlooks a chance to rid himself of unmarried daughters,” Jason said, flatly. “Not even Lowlanders.”

Rid himself— Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “And is that how you would approach the marriage of your daughters?” she demanded. “As baggage to be tossed aside?”

Jason tipped his head slightly to the side, and now there was a hint of a smile at the corners of his lips. Or perhaps she had mistaken a twitch of his muscles. “No. But I know enough men who see daughters as burdens. Your father strikes me as one of their number.”

She could not find fault with that reasoning, so Elizabeth just looked at her hands.

“Was it this way at home?”

Elizabeth drew her brows together, met his eyes with a slight shake of her head. “My Lord—”

“Jason,” he corrected, his voice quiet. “I am your husband.”

“You did not seem eager to claim that title earlier,” she muttered, tightening her fingers around the cord tying her sack closed.

“I was…” He looked away, his profile falling into a slash of fading sunlight. Surely she was mistaking the flush in his cheeks for something else. He leaned forward, then lit the lantern between, giving the room a soft glow. “I apologize.”

Apologize. She’d never known anyone to apologize to her and was not sure she liked knowing the reason he felt remorse.

“If you think to feel pity for me,” Elizabeth said slowly, “because my sister is richly clothed and my father struck me yesterday, then I must ask you to keep it. I will not accept your apology under such circumstances.”

“You will not—” Jason repeated, his eyes widening. “You will not accept—? Do you know how many apologies I have given in my life?”

Elizabeth winced. She ought to close her mouth and have done with it. This was how she ended up in trouble so often. If she could just control yourself? “I beg your pardon,” she muttered. “The day has been long.”

“No, I find myself curious as to why my apology is lacking.” He raised his brows. “Go on.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose, but then nodded. “All right then. Where shall I begin? Perhaps with the reminder that I made it quite plain to you and the regent—as well as my father—that I did not ask for this, yet you and my father have both treated me as if I am to blame. I did not want to come to Edinburgh. I did not want to meet the regent—I asked for none of this, my lord,”

“Jason—”

“I will call you by your Christian name when I please,” Elizabeth snapped. “I was not finished. You dragged me out of the chapel without my things, scarcely paid attention to me until I fell into the mud and then you put me in this room, demanded that I break my oath of secrecy to the regent—and now you think to apologize because you realize that my father does not love me.”

She set the sack on the table and rose to her feet. “If you wish to apologize for your ill manner and rude behavior because you realize you were unfair to me, I will accept your apology. But I will not accept an apology because you feel sorry for me.”

——

Jason stared at his wife for a long moment, unsure how to respond to that diatribe delivered in the biting tone with flashing eyes. Slowly, he stood, knowing that he loomed over her by nearly a foot.

Her chin lifted even higher to meet his eyes. He might have thought she was unafraid—that this was evidence of a spoiled Lowland miss that was accustomed to doing what she wanted and saying what she pleased—

But he could see her hands clenched at her sides were trembling slightly. There was a quiver to her lip—

His new wife was terrified, and likely expected that he would give her a matching bruise on the other side of her face.

“I apologize,” he repeated. “For my rudeness. You are right. Outside of whatever secret you are keeping to the regent, you have done me no wrong and did not deserve such treatment.”

Elizabeth’s chest heaved slightly as she let out a shaking breath. “I did not ask for any of this,” she repeated.

“I know.” Jason stepped closer to her. “Neither did I.” He reached out, took out of her fists in his, and gently straightened out her clenched fingers. “And let me make something clear, Elizabeth—” He waited for her eyes to meet his—startled to find they were damp with tears. Her breathing hitched. “A man who uses his strength against a woman is no man at all. I will never put my hands on you.” He paused. “In anger,” he added.”

She closed her eyes, the tension bleeding out of her shoulders. Something in her voice had changed—the wintry chill had melted. “I know.”

“You do? How—”

“I—” Elizabeth’s eyes flew open, then she blinked rapidly, her fingers tightening against into a fist. “I—you told my father that—”

“Oh.” Jason nodded. “Right. Well, I—” He cleared his throat, looked down at her hand, the softness of her skin sliding against his rougher fingers. Suddenly he was conscious of the closed door and the bed in the center of the room. “I’ve sent my men for warmer clothing. Can you ride?”

“A little,” Elizabeth said. She licked her lips, nervously, her eyes on their joined hands. “Not well.”

“We’ll go slowly,” he promised. “You’ll ride with me if the terrain is rough. I—” He stepped back, let her hand fall away. “I think it best if we—” He looked at the bed. “If we wait for any—”

“I—” Her cheeks flushed. Elizabeth laced her fingers together. “Of course. I—”

“I’ll leave you to check on supper,” he muttered, then left the room as quickly as he could. He’d intended to get answers from his wife—

And now all he had were more questions.

September 23, 2020

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Flash Fiction: Shot in the Dark

Written in 56 minutes. Basic spell check, but not reread for typos.


Webber House: Cameron’s Bedroom

Spencer stared at the closed door with a suspicious look. “They’re very quiet down there,” he said.

Cameron wrinkled his nose and went over to the heating vent. He shoved his hockey uniform off and leaned closer. “Shut up, or I can’t hear anything,” he muttered.

“Whoa—I thought your mom found out—” Emma launched herself off the bed and joined Cameron the floor, laying on her stomach.

“What did I just say?” Cameron said to her with narrowed eyes. “Quiet.”

“Luke…Cassadines…”

“Oh, no,” Spencer muttered. “Not again—”

“Shhh—”

Cameron heard his mother’s voice, sharp, upset—but he couldn’t make out the words.

“Nikolas—” That was Grandma Laura this time. “Stavros—”

Spencer straightened, his face paling. “Stavros.”

“Who’s that?”

Cameron cleared his throat. “Uh, I think that’s not a good thing, is it?”

“That’s my grandfather. He died before I was born. A long time ago—”

“…worse than…”

“This is terribly inefficient,” Spencer muttered.

“I can’t just go to Greece!”

That was his mother again, and Cameron scowled. “Why would anyone go to Greece? What the heck—”

“Elizabeth—” Voices faded out again, and then Cameron heard Emma’s dad.

“Why the hell would they take Jake?”

Emma gasped loudly, then clamped her hands over her mouth as the voices in the living room stopped. Cameron shoved the hockey shirt back over the vent, grabbed Spencer and Emma and was dragging them over to his video games when the door opened.

Patrick was there, a brow arched. “Heating vents? Really. I’m disappointed. I would have thought with Spencer’s ingenuity, you would have rigged up a system to dangle one of you outside the window downstairs so you could hear everything.”

“Well, given some time and materials,” Spencer began.

Patrick crooked his finger. “Come with me.”

“We gotta get better that this,” Emma told Cameron as the three of them filed down the hall to Elizabeth’s bedroom.

In the back of the house, with a heating vent that was not at all connected to the living room. “I’m never gonna know anything again,” Cameron muttered. “And what’s this about Jake? Did someone hurt him? Is that why he died?”

Patrick hesitated, then handed them the remote. “Do me a favor, guys, stay young for a while longer. You got the rest of your lives for the crap Port Charles is going to throw at you.”

Then he closed the door.

Spencer glared after him, then turned to Cameron. “If someone hurt your brother, and it was from my family, then I’m honor bound to right this wrong.”

“What did he just say?” Emma said with a furrowed brow. “What’s happening?”

“If someone from your family killed my brother,” Cameron said, darkly, “then you’ll have to get in line.”

“You guys—” Emma began. Then sighed. “We should call Joss.”

The boys blinked at her. “You hate Joss,” Cameron said suspiciously. “A lot. You yelled at me for being nice to her.”

“That’s true,” Emma said. “But Joss has something we don’t. And if you guys think you’re gonna avenge something, it’ll probably be in Greece. I was listening in class the other day, and I think that’s on the other side of the world.”

“And Joss can help us with that?” Spencer said skeptically.

“Joss’s dad has a private plane. And her brother’s dad has a plane, too. Do you either of you dorks have a plane?”

“No,” Cameron said slowly. “But—”

“I’ll call Trina, too. She’s always got plans, and hers usually work.” Satisfied, she went over to the land line on Elizabeth’s night table. “Let’s get started.”

Living Room

 

Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair. “I don’t understand how any of this is happening,” she said to Laura as Patrick came down the stairs. “How—”

Her little boy. Her precious angel—She looked at Jason whose jaw was clenched. The idea that their baby boy was alive and with the Cassadines—

“We can’t just go to Greece,” he said after a minute. “Not if this is about the Cassadines. We can’t jump into it. I remember when Helena was going after Emily—and I don’t—” He met Elizabeth’s eyes. “I can’t believe Nikolas would have helped anyone take Jake.”

“Luke didn’t explain why Lucky’s convinced of that, either,” Laura said. “The kids are in the back room now?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know what they heard,” Patrick told them. “You might want to do some damage control later.”

“This is—” Elizabeth picked Aiden up from the playpen where Laura had set him, started to pace. “Why would Helena take Jake? To get back at Luke?”

“Maybe, but why keep him? I mean, it came out pretty quick that Lucky wasn’t Jake’s father. That would have mattered,” Laura said. “Blood is everything to her.”

“She hates you,” Patrick reminded Elizabeth. “She lied about Aiden’s paternity to torture everyone, including Nikolas. Do you think she’d do this to go after you?”

“I—” Elizabeth hesitated. “I just—I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Jason—” She pressed her lips to Aiden’s curly hair, closing her eyes. Remembering another little boy that had been just a little bigger than him.

“How sure is Luke?” Jason asked. “If he’s screwing with us and Jake’s not—” He swallowed hard. “He saw him? He actually laid eyes on him—”

“He says he did. He says he and Lucky have both seen Jake, but they can’t get close enough.” Laura shook her head. “Luke might be a lot of things, but I don’t think he’d come to me with this if he didn’t know for sure. And I agree, we can’t just run off to Greece. Not right this second. But I’m worried about what else Luke told me—”

“Lucky threatening to kill Nikolas,” Elizabeth remembered. “If he thought Nikolas did this on purpose—but he has to know—I mean, God, everything else aside—Nikolas would never do to that to us.”

“But Luke saw Nikolas with Jake,” Patrick told her. “If that’s what he’s saying, Nikolas knows he’s alive and hasn’t said a word. In fact, he dumped his kid on Laura. Maybe so he could devote his time to whatever his grandmother and father are planning.”

“Stavros,” Elizabeth repeated. “How can this be possible? How many times do we have to kill him?”

“Now, you say he’s worse than Helena—” Patrick looked at Jason. “What do you know about him?”

“I don’t know,” Jason said, shaking his head. “I wasn’t living here the last time he was around. By the time I came home, it was over.”

“Stavros collects things,” Laura murmured. “He saw me when Luke and I went to the Cassadine Island to stop Mikkos from freezing the world. He decided he wanted me. So Helena kidnapped me. Forced me to live there. Marry him.” She sat on the sofa, weary. “For three long years.”

Because Laura was pale and shaky, Elizabeth took up the tale. “The official story was that Laura escaped, and Luke killed Stavros when Stavros came to get her back. That’s what we all believed. Until the garage fire. Helena kidnapped Lucky to brainwash him and turn him against the Spencers. Under her control, Lucky—” She rubbed her chest. God this was supposed to over.

Why didn’t Cassadines ever stay dead?

“Lucky threatened Lucas’s life if Tony Jones didn’t revive Stavros. Helena had all these labs and tunnels under the hospital. So Tony brought Stavros back to life.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Nikolas pretended to be loyal to Helena in order to get on her side, to get a head of things, but he had to kill me to prove his loyalty.”

“Of course he did,” Patrick muttered. “I don’t like where this is going—”

“You shouldn’t,” Jason said dryly. “She took a poison that made her heart slow down to the point she appeared dead. Sonny sent her to the island.”

Surprised, Elizabeth looked at him, and he smiled wanly. “Carly took a great deal of pleasure in contacting me to tell me you were dead.”

“Oh—” Elizabeth scowled. “Naturally.”

“Sonny got word to me—” He shook his head. “Anyway.”

“We won that time,” Laura said, “and Stavros—I thought he was dead. But no body. I should know better by now.” She got to her feet. “I understand if you can’t come to Greece right away, Elizabeth, but I have to go. I have to make sure Lucky doesn’t hurt Nikolas.”

“Of course, Laura, but just—” Elizabeth rubbed a finger against her bottom lip. “I want to go. I can—I can try to explain things at work—”

“You have more vacation time coming than most people get in a life time,” Patrick told her. “And you know I’ll take care of the boys. I might have to tie them up—” he said with a wince, “but I got this.”

Elizabeth looked at Jason. “Can—”

“I’ll call Sonny,” Jason told her. “And Spinelli. I’ll get the jet ready and he’ll meet us there. Whatever we need to know, we can figure out on the way there.”

“What are we going to tell the kids?” Laura said. “We can’t tell the truth—”

“Actually—” Elizabeth paused. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Jason & Elizabeth’s Bedroom

Elizabeth was unsurprised to find Emma on the phone while Spencer and Cameron were furiously writing things down, using the notepad she kept in her nightstand and a fuzzy pink pen from her vanity table.

“So who’s plane are you trying to commandeer?” she asked.

Cameron dropped the pen, scowling as Emma’s eyes widened. “Joss, I’ll call you back later.” She slammed the phone down, and smiled at Elizabeth. “Hi, Aunt Elizabeth. Everything okay?”

“Joss, huh? I know how you feel about her, so that’s real loyalty. Too bad for Joss that her father’s plane is out of town,” Elizabeth said, “and we’re taking Sonny’s. Any other friends with private planes?”

“No,” Spencer muttered. “But I’ll find one. This is Port Charles—”

“Mom, did someone hurt Jake?” Cameron asked, his lip trembling. “Is that why he’s gone?”

“Actually,” Elizabeth said, hoping she wasn’t making a mistake. “It looks like there’s a chance that he’s not—” Oh, God, her little boy—he was alive! Let it be true. Please, please, let it be true.

 

“We heard you guys talking about my family,” Spencer said. “If my family hurt Jake, I have to help fix it. It’s a matter of honor—”

“You are not responsible for your family,” Elizabeth told him. She sat on the bed, ruffled his hair. “As a Cassadine, you need to learn that early. Your father still hasn’t. I think the reason he left you with Grandma Laura was to do exactly that. Grandpa Luke says he’s seen Jake,” she said to Cameron.

“Seen him—” Cameron shook his head. “But—but when you saw him, you had to go away—”

“I was so sad, I dreamed I was seeing him. But Luke says he really—he really did. He’s in Greece with Lucky. They’ve seen Jake. Alive. On the Cassadine estate with Nikolas.”

“With my dad—but—”

“I think your dad found out that your great-grandmother has been keeping a lot of secrets that would hurt people, and he decided to make it right.” Elizabeth saw Jason standing in the doorway. “The jet?”

“Wheels up in an hour,” he said.

“Is it really true?” Cameron asked him. “Is Jake alive?”

“I don’t know,” Jason said. He met Elizabeth’s eyes. “I’m not sure I can trust it,” he admitted. “But whatever is going on, we need to find out.”

“You and Spencer are going to stay with Emma and Patrick,” she told Cameron. “I need you two to promise me—no, the three of you,” she said, crooking a finger at Emma who made a face. “That you are not going to tie Patrick up, steal a plane, and follow us.”

Jason raised his brows, but she just shook her head and continued. “I know you want to help. And I love all of you for it, but this isn’t a game. I’ve been fighting the Cassadines since I was a few years older than you. And I don’t want it for you.”

Emma sat next to her on bed. “But what can we do here? We have to do something. We need bring Jake home. And Spencer’s dad. We need to help.”

“You can help by staying here,” Jason told her. He looked at Cameron. “We’ll bring Jake home.”

“If he’s alive,” the little boy said with a sigh. “I’m afraid it’s not true,” he told his mother. He swiped at his cheek. “But if it is, don’t leave without him, okay? I want my brother back.”

“If Jake’s out there, there’s no way I’m not bringing him home.” Elizabeth pulled her eldest into a tight hug. “There’s nowhere in this world I wouldn’t go for my boys.” She kissed his forehead. “Now, go into your room. Get your things together. Spencer—”

“Grandma Laura brought my things in the car,” he said. He looked oddly vulnerable. “Do you really think my dad is away trying to make things right?”

“That sense of honor you have? The need to make up for your family?” Elizabet smiled at him. “Where do you think it comes from? It’s not Helena. Nikolas loves you. The only reason he’d give you up would be to keep you safe. Trust me — you don’t want to be in the middle of this, Spencer.”

Cameron’s Bedroom

 

Jason followed Cameron into his bedroom and watched the eight-year-old pull a bag from his closet. “Do you want me to help you with anything?” he asked.

“No, I’m okay.” Cameron sat on the edge of his bed, staring down at the carpet for a minute. “Mom told me what you asked her. That you wanted to adopt me.”

Jason hesitated, then sat next to him. “I know. She said you wanted time to think about it.”

“I want Jake to come home,” Cameron said. He sniffled. “I want it a lot. I love my brother. I want Mom to have him back. But mostly because I think if he’s here, we’ll be okay again.” He looked at Jason. “Why do you want me? I’m not a baby. I know I’m not your kid. Not really. Not like Jake.”

“If we decided to do this, you would be my kid. Just like Jake. I’m adopted,” Jason told him. “Monica isn’t my biological mother, either. She adopted me when I was a baby. And after the accident, when I didn’t remember her—she never stopped loving me. Sometimes you’re born in a family, Cam. Sometimes blood does that. But I got to choose a family after my accident. I chose Sonny and Carly. And your mother.”

“Mom told me Aunt Emily was adopted, too.” Cameron’s lip trembled. “And I never knew that because no one never said it. She wasn’t your real sister—”

“What does real mean?” Jason said. “It’s just a word, Cameron. I want to choose you because I love you. I’ve known you all your life. And I want to be part of the rest of it.” He ruffled Cameron’s curls. “But you have to want it, too.”

“Maybe. But I don’t know yet.” Cameron sighed heavily. “But maybe. I want Jake to be alive so much it hurts,” he whispered fiercely. He turned and hurled himself into Jason’s arms. “I miss him. Don’t let nothing else happen to him. Or Mom. Okay?”

“Okay.” Jason hugged him back. “I promise.”

“You scared, too?” Cameron said, his voice muffled. “That it’s not true?”

“Terrified,” Jason admitted. “I’m trying not to think about it. Just putting one foot in front of the other until we know.”

“Mom will be really said if he’s not alive. Don’t let her get too sad because she had to go away last time. I don’t want to lose Mom again.”

“You won’t,” Jason promised. “Let’s get your things together, okay?”

“Okay.”

Front Porch

Elizabeth watched as Laura walked over to Patrick’s house with all the kids, rubbing her arms. “Is this really happening?” she asked Jason as he came to stand next to her. “We’re going to Greece to bring our son home?”

“Maybe,” Jason cautioned. “I know Luke said he was sure—”

“I know you’re not convinced. And maybe I’m wrong to cling to it. But it makes a terrible amount of sense,” Elizabeth said. She looked at him, her eyes shadowed in the setting sunlight. “Helena has always hated me. And she came to taunt me while I was in Shadybrooke. She could have done this, Jason.”

“She didn’t do it alone,” Jason said softly. “If Jake’s alive, someone else had to know. How else did Joss get a kidney?”

Elizabeth pressed her lips together, then stared blindly out to her front lawn. “You think Luke is lying.”

“I don’t know,” Jason said, hesitantly. “I want it to be true,” he said in a low voice. “And if it is—if anyone at the hospital knew—”

“We’ll find out who took our little boy from us.” She lifted her chin. “And we’ll make them all pay.”

September 21, 2020

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Not Knowing When

Written in 60 minutes.


Cosmopolitan Suite: Master Bedroom

Deciding to go to sleep had been the easy part — the location of said sleep was more complicated. Jason had walked Elizabeth into the large master bedroom with the palatial king-sized bed. He’d hesitated as they both looked at the bed — then he’d started to say something about leaving the other room in the suite for Brenda, and he’d take the sofa —

Elizabeth had nearly let him walk out, but at least second—she’d twisted her fingers in the cotton fabric of his shirt, holding him back.

He’d gone temporarily insane and now they were married — she still couldn’t quite wrap her mind around any of that — but maybe it was her turn to take a risk.

“I’m really tired,” she told him. Jason turned to her, drawing his brows together in a bewildered frown. “And that bed is huge. If you’re on the sofa when Brenda and Sonny get here, you won’t get any sleep at all.”

He searched her eyes. “Elizabeth—”

“Let’s just go to sleep. You look so tired, Jason, and that sofa isn’t big enough.” Her fingers still holding his shirt, she drew back over the threshold of the room. With her free hand, she pushed it lightly until it closed.

“I—”

“Like you said — neither of us expected this to be happening. I trust you.” At least in this she did.

Elizabeth gently pushed his leather jacket off his shoulders, and it hit the marble tile of the floor. “I think we can share the bed. We used to sleep in the studio, didn’t we?”

“Yeah.” Jason cleared his throat. He brushed his fingers against her jaw. “Yeah, okay.”

He’d given her his t-shirt to sleep in, and while she changed in the bathroom, he had pulled the light blocking curtains over the window. She knew he could sleep through anything, and had done it for her.

They climbed into the bed, on opposite sides. She’d stared at the ceiling for a long time once he’d switched off the lamp, listening to him breathe. She’d dreamed of this once. Not precisely this — in her dreams, he had always been holding her — just laying in the dark, listening to him breathe.

She’d done that in the studio during the few short weeks they’d shared that pace, and it had been calming then. Reassuring. He was alive, and she’d saved him the way he’d saved her.

Now, it was strange to listen to him breathing, listening to the way it slowed and relaxed as he slid into sleep, and she was still trying to understand exactly she’d ended up as Jason’s wife when she followed him into slumber.

Jason opened his eyes, blinking just once as his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room. He took in the silk sheets beneath him, the top sheet covering — then turned his head slightly find out that he hadn’t hallucinated the last twelve hours.

Not that he’d ever been one for dreams or hallucinations. There had just been that one time — last year — when he’d picked up Elizabeth’s gloves and for a moment—she’d been in the room with him. Smiling at him.

Then she’d been gone, and Jason decided he was just fine not be able to picture things.

She was laying in the bed next to him, her face turned towards him, her body twisted on its side. He could only dimly make out her features as light seeped around the edges of the heavy blackout fabric covering the window.

He’d come to Vegas to marry Brenda Barrett, and instead —

Instead, Elizabeth had shown up and, in a fit of temper and insanity—he’d decided that marrying her would be proof that he loved her.

He exhaled slowly, turning his face to the ceiling. What had he been thinking? And why had she agreed?

He’d never really pictured himself getting married before. Robin had mentioned it a few times, and he’d always thought they’d get married one day because it was something she wanted. But that was a life time ago.

Do you want proof or not?

He flinched, hearing his own angry words echoing in his brain as Elizabeth had looked at him with wide, confused eyes when he’d demanded a new marriage certificate. He didn’t have any practice with marriage proposals, but that probably wasn’t a good one.

She’d married him anyway.

Jason turned back to her, only half-surprised to find her eyes open, staring back at him. “Hey,” he said softly.

“Hey,” she replied. She slowly sat up, the sheet pooling at her waist. His shirt was too big for her and listed to one side, baring her shoulder. “What time is it?”

“Just before eight,” Jason told her. He sat up, but neither of them made a move to leave the bed.

If they got of bed—if they faced the day—

This was real.

And he was almost sure that she’d take it back. That the craziness would have sunk in and she’d want to run away.

And he wasn’t sure if he’d blame her. He hadn’t proposed to her, had shoved the certificate at her—and married her in the chapel, with the same officiant where he’d nearly married another woman.

She should be running from the suite screaming.

Instead, Elizabeth rubbed the heel of her hand against her chest and looked at him. “You should sleep longer,” she told him. “You—you said you hadn’t slept in two days—three hours isn’t really enough—”

“I’m fine,” Jason said with a shake of his head. “But you worked yesterday—”

At the mention of her job, Elizabeth’s face dimmed and she looked away. “Yeah, I did. Um, I don’t—” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth and bit down. “We said we’d figure it out when we woke up.” Elizabeth met his eyes again. “Any idea how to start that?”

“No.” And he felt a bit lighter when she laughed at him— a genuine laugh of amusement.

“Me, either.” She exhaled on a shorter laugh. “This is insane. I’ve never done anything as crazy as this, and I’ve faked my death.”

“Marrying me is crazier than taking poison?” Jason asked skeptically. “Should I be insulted?”

“Oh, that—” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “That was nothing compared to this. All I did was drink some wine. Nikolas and Sonny did everything else. Actually, it was a relief,” she admitted. “I woke up on the island and didn’t have to go home until it was over. This—” She gestured at the space between them. “This is definitely crazier.”

She still didn’t look sad or upset, so Jason decided not to take crazy as a bad thing. She wasn’t asking for an annulment. Or a divorce.

And she was still in bed.

Elizabeth bit her lip, looked at him, and he had a feeling if he could see her face in full light, her cheeks would be flaming red. “Do you wanna know something really weird?”

“What?” Jason slid closer. Just an inch. Well, maybe three inches.

“I really thought we’d both wake up, look at each other, and — I don’t know—we’d trip over each other to apologize. Or call it a mistake. Or, I don’t know, something. I thought I’d wake up and…regret it.”

Her soft confession took his breath away, and everything inside him tightened. “And you don’t?”

“Do you?”

He shook his head. He wasn’t going to let her deflect. Not again. “I asked you first.”

“No,” she said finally. “I’m—I’m not sure this was a good idea, but as insane as it sounds, I don’t really regret it either.”

“Me either.”

“Really?” Elizabeth tipped her head to the side. “Not even a little?”

“No.” Jason slid closer again, leaving less than a foot of space between them. He cupped her cheek with his hand, and she leaned into it. “Not even a little.”

“I do…I do kind of wish one thing had been different.” Elizabeth opened her eyes, met his. “I wish we hadn’t been so tired when we got back to the hotel.”

Jason lifted his brows as she pressed a hand against the one on her face, then kissed his palm. “Are you tired now?” he murmured.

Elizabeth grinned at him, and he felt his mouth curve up in response. She hadn’t smiled at him like that in a long time. “Not even a little bit.”

She was still smiling when he cupped the back of her neck and dragged her him, crushing his mouth against hers, not giving her a chance to change her mind.

She pressed herself against him, wrapping her legs around his waist as they rolled over on the bed, nipping each other’s lips, both struggling to take control. When her fingers slid beneath the fabric of his briefs, Jason grabbed her hands and pressed them back against the bed. She arched her brows. “No?”

“Not yet,” he said, leaning down to kiss her neck, trailing his mouth down her collarbone. He released her hands so his own could slide down her body, push his shirt higher on her hips—

“Not fair—” she moaned.

He started to laugh—

Then there was a knock on the door. “Jase? You up? We got stuff to go over—”

Jason felt Elizabeth tense beneath him, like a bucket of cold water had been thrown over her. “Elizabeth—”

She closed her eyes. “You should go,” she said, flatly. “It might be important.”

It might be. But it also might be bullshit. Like it had been nearly every time Sonny or Carly had called him last summer and dragged him away from her.

And if Jason got out of this bed right now—

Elizabeth would start regretting everything.

“I was going to say,” he said, “the door isn’t locked. And Sonny doesn’t know how to mind his own business. Don’t move.”

“Jason—”

“I mean it.” He kissed her, hard, tangling his hands in her hair, hoping she could taste his frustration, impatience, and desire. “Don’t move.”

“Not a muscle,” she managed as he rolled away from her.

On the other side of the door, Sonny was about to knock again when there was a CLICK sound. He stared at the door for a minute, frowning until he realized what he’d heard —

The bolt sliding home.

Locking the door.

“He—” Sonny turned to find Brenda, freshly showered and sipping a cup of a tea like she had a full eight hours of sleep and a morning at a spa rather than less than three hours of sleep.

Probably came from sleeping in a luxurious bed and not a crappy sofa. He rolled his neck. He’d be feeling this for weeks. He was not as young as he’d been once. “He locked it.”

“Yes, he did.” Brenda saluted him with the cup. “He just got married three hours ago, Sonny. Let the boy off the leash.”

Sonny scowled. “But—”

“You know, when they come up for air,” Brenda continued, ignoring him, “I’ve decided that I’m not even going to ask him to thank me.”

“Thank you—”

“I mean, yes, it was close,” she said, “but if I hadn’t dragged him to Vegas, he wouldn’t be knocking boots with his new wife. Whatever they were fighting about — seems like they’ve taken care of it.”

“I’m the reason she’s here,” Sonny said, irritated, stomping away from the door and all thoughts about what might be happening on the other side. “I get some credit.”

“Uh, I didn’t lie to him. You lied to her.” Brenda pointed at herself. “Winner.”

“Listen—”

It was nearly three hours—three hours—before the bedroom door unlocked, and Brenda was perusing the room service menu for lunch while Sonny was scowling at the list of voice mail messages from Carly who was not taking his silence kindly.

She was going to be seriously unhappy when they finally got home tonight.

Jason stepped out of the room, dressed again in the jeans and t-shirt he’d worn the night before. He walked over to the table where Brenda was sitting and sat down as if he hadn’t ignored Sonny for the last three hours —

A minute later, Elizabeth—flushed and avoiding everyone’s eyes—followed him out. She glanced at Jason for a minute, bit her lip, then sat down, reaching for a bottle of water from the basket in the middle of the table.

Sonny wanted to say something cutting and obnoxious, but since he’d just barely gotten away without being pummeled by Jason for his lies to Elizabeth — and both of them seemed in a good enough mood that he might end up being forgiven —

Well, he decided to just let it go.

“Uh, I woke up to a voice mail this morning,” Sonny said to them. “From our guy at the PCPD.”

Jason frowned, glanced at Brenda and Elizabeth as if confused why Sonny was saying anything in front of them. “Sonny—”

“We can go,” Elizabeth offered. “Um, maybe downstairs—”

“No, this is—” Sonny took a deep breath, met Elizabeth’s eyes. “The PCPD is looking for you. With a material witness order.”

“Material witness order?” Elizabeth shook her head as Jason scowled. “What’s that?”

“It’s faster than an arrest warrant,” Brenda said, almost cheerfully. “The cops want to haul you in, but warrants need evidence and judges and stuff like that. I’ve had a few of them.”

“Arrested—” Jason began as Elizabeth just wrinkled her nose.

“Oh, my God, don’t tell me she’s pressing charges.” With a roll of her eyes. “I didn’t get anywhere near her with the box cutter, and it’s not like I was really going to cut all her damn hair off.”

Jason broke off in mid sentence as he stared at her. “What?”

“I don’t even think the box cutter would have worked,” Elizabeth continued with a shrug. “And, in my defense, I told Courtney to shut up.”

Sonny hesitated. “Uh—”

“Courtney? The cheap blonde? No, I don’t think a box cutter would work—”

“Elizabeth,” Jason began.

“As interested as I am in why you threatened my sister with a knife,” Sonny said, slowly, drawing all their attention, “and believe me—we’ll circle back to that—the PCPD wants to talk to you about last night. On the pier.”

“Pier?” Jason repeated.

“I thought you said your guys didn’t find anything,” Elizabeth said, focusing on Sonny. “You said that before we were even in the air—”

“I know. But what was true at one in the morning—” Sonny shook his head. “It wasn’t true at five. They found a body.”

Elizabeth’s face paled. “A body—”

“And you were seen on security footage running from the pier,” he said with a wince. “Around the same time the gunshots were reported.”

“What the hell is going on—” Jason got to his feet, looking at Elizabeth. “Elizabeth—”

“There’s more, isn’t there?” Elizabeth slowly stood up, keeping her eyes on Sonny. “What’s the rest of it? The PCPD wouldn’t be coming after me with a material witness order otherwise.”

“The body was Zander Smith,” Sonny said with a sigh. “You were seen running from the scene of his murder. So, yeah, they kind of want to talk to you.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “Zander’s dead.”

“Yes.”

“And—” She opened her eyes, looked at Jason. “Oh, God.”

“What—” Then Sonny saw it hit Jason at the same time, his cheeks losing a bit of color. “They think I did it.”

“And that Elizabeth saw something.”

“Which means this, uh, marriage thing—” Sonny wrinkled his nose. “Which was impetuous and funny about an hour ago now looks like a cover-up.”

September 20, 2020

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Flash Fiction: Sunday Rewrites

The final part of this story! I’ll be editing it and distributing it later this week on all the platforms.

Written in 61 minutes. No time for spellcheck.


Friday, March 24, 2001

 Port Charles Park

Elizabeth watched Carly walk out of the park, almost wishing the acerbic blonde had stuck around a little longer. She wasn’t entirely ready to face Jason — not alone.

“Elizabeth?”

She sighed, then met his concerned eyes. “Are you okay?” she asked him again. “I don’t think I’ll ever get that image out of my mind—he had a knife—” Elizabeth looked down at the switchblade where Jason had kicked it uder a bench.

“I’m fine,” Jason told her. He touched her elbow. “I—”

“And then he tried to make it seem like you’d attacked him!” Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair, walked away a few steps, trying to settle her thoughts. Would she have believed Lucky if she hadn’t seen it?

Would she have believed Jason had thrown the first punch?

Or would she have known the truth?

“Elizabeth—”

“I think if I hadn’t seen it,” she said slowly, squeezing her eyes shut, “I think maybe I would have taken his side. I don’t know what—” She turned back to him, meeting his eyes, seeing the hurt and confusion.

“You think I’d do that—”

“No, I don’t.” She sighed. “But I think I feel guilty enough about all of this that I might have taken his side to make it stop. To stop him from being angry.”

And what did that say about her?

She wandered over to the bench and sat down. “I was really selfish when I was younger,” she told him. “I hurt people. I didn’t care what anyone else wanted—I just took what I thought I deserved—”

Elizabeth laughed lightly as he sat on the other end of the bench. “I wasn’t much better than Carly.”

“I find that hard to believe—” He was smiling now, and she was relieved to see that.

“Everything changed after the rape. I couldn’t think past the minute, past the next breath—I couldn’t plan or scheme. I just wanted to survive the day.” She stared at her hands. “All the people in my life—they’re in my life because of the rape.”

“Elizabeth—”

“Lucky didn’t like me before it happened. And I always knew he felt guilty about it. He’d changed his mind about the dance at the last minute, and I lied to save face. And Emily—she didn’t like me either. Nikolas—” Tears stung her eyes. “They didn’t like who I was. And so I wasn’t her anymore.”

“Hey—”

“But it’s so hard to be someone you’re not all the time. To always swallow what you’re thinking, to try so hard to keep people in your life—and why—” Elizabeth swiped her hand roughly against her cheek. “Why can’t I ever be enough? Just the way I am?”

“You are enough—”

Elizabeth looked at him, smiling wistfully. He’d slid closer to her, his eyes intent on hers. “You’re the only one who’s ever thought so. Nikolas came to Kelly’s to yell at me for quitting, and Emily’s first thought was for Lucky — no one even asked me why.”

She drew in a ragged breath. “Nikolas told Gia I was raped. And she was the only one who seemed to think it wasn’t a great idea for me to be a model, to be around photographers, in the same studio where Tom Baker—” She stopped. “She used that information to hurt me, but she wasn’t wrong. And it almost feels like she’s the only one who could see it. Nikolas told her about the worst thing that ever happened to me, and when I realized that—”

Jason reached over to take one of her hands—she hadn’t even realized how badly it was shaking. “I’m sorry,” he said tightly.

“It’s my truth to tell. Not his. And I never even told him, you know? He saw me coming out of a support group a few months after it happened, and—he threw it in my face.” She bit her lip. “Do you remember that Nurse’s Ball? You and Robin were still together. You broke up a fight between Lucky and Nikolas?”

Jason squinted, then nodded. “Yeah, I—” He drew back a bit “It was that night?”

“I was angry at him for hurting my sister, breaking up with her the way he had. And I copped an attitude. The first time I’ve felt like myself,” she admitted. “I let Lizzie Webber out to play—and he slapped me with it.” Elizabeth pushed her hair behind her ear with her free hand. “He told Lucky he didn’t care what his little girlfriend had been through—”

Jason’s mouth tightened. “And Lucky punched him—”

“Yeah. But I couldn’t breathe—I couldn’t even think. I was so scared people would find out—and what they’d say if they did—and Nikolas—I mean, he apologized later. But I think I pushed Lizzie away again. I buried her deep, and I didn’t need her. I told myself she was before. And Lizzie was why we were in the park in the first place—”

“Lizzie,” Jason repeated. “I don’t—”

“I blamed myself for the rape—who I was. I blamed the voice in my head that impulsive and angry—and I told myself that was the Lizzie part. The part of me no one liked, so she had to go away.”

She met his eyes. “And she did. I didn’t need her because I had Lucky, and I thought he loved me. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. Because I’m always going to be Lizzie. And he never wanted her.”

On a shaky breath, Elizabeth smiled. “But I needed Lizzie to stand up to Carly that December. To protect you, I need her again. And I got angry. And I was mean. And I was snarky. And impulsive—” She grinned at him. “When I told Nikolas we were lovers—”

Jason smiled at the memory. “I remember.”

“I like that part of me. I don’t want to shut it out anymore.”

“I like that part of you, too,” he said, his fingers moving lightly back and forth over the palm of her hand. “I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone take care of me the way you did.”

They sat there for a long moment in a comfortable silence, as Elizabeth just watched the way he touched her hand, the light brush of their skin against each other.

“I’m just so tired,” she admitted. “Of this place. Of these people. Of constantly pretending to be happy. To be someone I’m not. I need a minute to breathe.” Their eyes met. “I care about you. You know that.”

“I care about you, too,” he said softly. “But you need more time.”

“I need to be sure,” she said with a nod. “I don’t expect you to wait around or—”

“Where am I going?” Jason tipped his head.

“Nowhere, I guess, but I think I need to. I was thinking—my parents keep telling me I can come see them in Europe. They’re in, um, Croatia now, I think. I don’t really want to see them or deal with them. But I also think I need to get away. To have space.”

“If you don’t want to see your parents,” Jason said slowly, “then maybe you’d be okay with the island. The one Sonny has in the Caribbean?”

“I—” Elizabeth blinked. “I don’t know—”

“I wouldn’t be there,” he added quickly. “I just—” Jason shook his head. “Never mind. I want you to be comfortable. To have that space—”

“No, I—I really don’t want to go to Europe. I mean, not to Croatia, I’d rather see Italy.” She bit her lip. “But I’m not ready for that.”

“I know.”

Elizabeth looked away, looked straight head, pressing her lips together as she considered it. She wanted a break. She thought she might even deserve it —

“Yeah. Yeah. That actually sounds—that sounds great. Um, I can’t afford it, but—” She wrinkled her nose when Jason just stared at her. “I’m not a charity case—”

“No, but you never let me pay for anything when I stayed at the studio,” he reminded her. “The way I see it, I owe six weeks of rent so why don’t you take a villa at the hotel for as long as you want it and we’ll call it even.”

“A luxury villa in a Carribbean resort is not even with a one-room studio with no heat during a New York winter.” She rolled her eyes.

“I needed a place, and you gave it to me.” Jason pulled her to her feet. “It’s exactly the same.”

“It’s really not,” she argued even as he walked her out of the park, knowing she was going to lose this fight — but enjoying it all the same.

May 2001

West Plana Cays: Airport

“Did you call her?” Sonny Corinthos asked as he put on a pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes from the bright, nearly blinding Caribbean sunshine.

“No,” Jason muttered as he watched their bags be taken off the plane. “She came down here to be alone. And she hasn’t called.”

Which told him everything he needed to know. Elizabeth had come down to the island a few days after their conversation in the parks nearly two months ago, and she hadn’t come home.

She’d stayed in the villa for a few weeks, but then she’d moved somewhere else on the island, and Jason wasn’t sure where.

Elizabeth had been right to ask for space, he’d finally realized the week before. She’d been unsure if the way she felt about him was due to unhappiness — and well, of course—

“Hey, these are new—” Sonny reached over to a counter and picked up a postcard with a watercolor painting on the front. “I thought I recognized the brush strokes—”

“What?” Jason frowned at him. Brush strokes? What the—

“Elizabeth,” Sonny said, handing him the post card. “She had this art thing I went to while you were gone. You know, to show my support. She’d moved out of oils and into watercolors at that point. This is hers.”

“Hers—” Jason stared down at the back of the postcard — West Plana Cays at Sunset by Elizabeth Webber, and the name of the store. “I don’t—”

“You never called her once,” Sonny said with a sigh. He looked at the ceiling. “Where did I go wrong with this boy?”

“Sonny,” Jason said tightly.

“I mean, I knew you didn’t call her to tell her we were coming on business, but did you not call her at all?”

Jason stared at him, feeling oddly defensive. “No. She came down here for space.”

“From the other idiots. Not you. Oh, man, she’s going to be pissed.” Sonny’s white teeth flashd in a grin. “This will be fun to watch—”

“Shut up and tell me what’s going on.”

Agathe’s Curiosities & Trinkets: Second Floor

Elizabeth grinned, then bounced on her feet as the owner of the store and her boss looked over her newest designs. “What do you think? Will they sell as fast as the others?”

Agathe Rolle, Elizabeth’s favorite person in the world and personal savior, smiled then nodded. “Faster,” she assured. She wagged a finger at her. “Didn’t I tell you when I saw you that day? You were going to make both of us a lot of money. I’ll take these to the printer, and we’ll get an idea how long it will take to get them in the shop.”

Elizabeth sighed happily as Agathe left and she settled back at her drafting desk, picking up a pencil to get back to work. A few minutes later, she heard footsteps on the steps.

“Did you forget something?” Elizabeth said, twisting on her stool, then stopping when she saw Jason in the doorway of her studio, not Agathe. “Jason.”

She drank in the sight of him, the first after all these weeks—he looked the same, of course, but he’d traded the jeans and long-sleeves for a loose pair of linen pants and a white t-shirt to match the island weather.

Elizabeth got to her feet, folded her arms nervously. “Um, hey. I didn’t know you were coming.” Because he hadn’t called her once since the day he’d put her on the plane in March.

“I—” Jason cleared his throat, then stepped over the threshold. “I thought you—you wanted space. I was giving it to you.”

“Oh.” Her cheeks flushed. “Oh—I thought—um—” Elizabeth smiled then, feeling the butterflies in her belly again. “Then it was just—it was a misunderstanding. I got a job. I think I kind of live here now. Or at least for right now.”

“I—” Jason held up a postcard. “I saw.”

Elizabeth walked forward, plucked it out of his hand, beaming at her name on the other side. “People are buying these so fast—the first week, I was here, I was drawing in this cafe, and Agathe said she wanted to sell them in her shop. I couldn’t beleive it—but I figured why not. And then a week later, she asked for more. Then she talked about making postcards—”

“You left the hotel,” Jason said. “I didn’t know where you were.”

Elizabeth sighed. “I should have called,” she admitted. “I think I was just scared. It all felt like a dream. She offered me this studio, and there’s a room in the back. The postcards are selling so fast we can’t keep up. They’re in the shop, at the airport, and another store wants them now—” She met his eyes. “I’m an artist, Jason. People like what I draw. What I create. And I keep thinking it’s going to stop. Or end. But it just keeps getting better.”

“I’m glad.” He tucked her hair behind her ears. “That’s what I wanted for you. I mean, I didn’t expect you to move to the island,” he teased.

“Me either, but it’s so beautiful here.” She gestured out the window which overlooked the main street of the village, then out to the sparkling waters beyond it. “Every morning, I wake up, and I can’t believe how lucky I am. How happy I am. Being a model—all of that. It feels so far away.”

He said nothing, and she looked at back at him. “But I’ve had my space. More of it than I thought,” she added. Elizabeth twisted her fingers in front of her. “And I know—I know how I feel. I guess I just—I wasn’t sure if you felt the same—”

Jason stepped up to her, closing the distance between them, their eyes searching each others. “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.” And grabbing of a bit of that Lizzie courage, Elizabeth leaned up on the tops of her toes, rested her hands on his shoulders and kissed him. A moment later, he dragged her closer, pressing her against him.

When they parted a long time later, their breaths shallow, chests rising fast in time to one another, Elizabeth smiled at him. “Do you have a bike down here?”

Jason laughed, then took her by the hand to show her that, yes—

He did have a bike, and he’d take her anywhere.

September 19, 2020

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

I am very excited to be bringing this story to Flash Fiction! I had this idea a while ago and workshopped it a bit in my Flash Fiction archives. I’ve always wanted to write the 1999 time period more, but I haven’t really found a place for it to fit into my normal schedule And if Signs of Life didn’t make it into the Flash Fiction category, you might not see this story for another three years.

This story picks up directly after Jason moves out of Elizabeth’s studio in 1999 — after the infamous Christmas Party where Nikolas punched Jason and announced that Jason and Elizabeth were sleeping together. Bobbie came the day after Christmas tell Jason that Liz didn’t need to be known as Jason Morgan’s girlfriend, so he moved out. This begins the next day. I’ll have a more thorough recap if you want it later.

Written in 50 minutes. Time for a basic spellcheck, but not typos.

ETA: I’ll be honest — the PCPD scene in this flash fic entry was written previously. I had a version of it from old draft that I just liked a lot, and didn’t see the point in rewriting it. I cleaned it up and edited it, but everything else is new.


Monday, December 27, 1999

Kelly’s: Kitchen

“I will not get arrested, I will not get arrested,” Elizabeth muttered as she leaned against the brick wall, her eyes closed, counting to ten.

She opened her eyes to see DJ, the cook, staring at her with one dark brow lifted. “You got problems, Lizzie?”

“Problems. Do I got problems?” she repeated. Elizabeth huffed, then straightened. “Do you know what my problem is?”

“Am I going to be sorry I asked?”

“Do you see that crowd of people out there?” She gestured out the serving window where Kelly’s was packed, uncharacteristically crowded for a pre-dinner rush hour. Kids weren’t in school and most of the warehouses were shutdown for the holidays. Kelly’s was usually dead this time of day.

But not today.

Today, someone must have told someone else that Elizabeth Webber, town harlot, was back at work because her shift had started a stampede of people who wanted to look at her. Whisper. Giggle. And wonder what Jason Morgan saw in her.

“I see them,” DJ said. “You should take their orders—”

“Do you think people are lining up to snicker at Jason?” she demanded. “No. Because I’m the woman. He can do whatever he wants—”

—including moving out of the studio abruptly with no warning or explanation that made a lick of sense, then not bothering to even call her today, the first day in almost a month they hadn’t seen each other, bastard couldn’t wait to shake her loose—

“Well, I don’t know, Lizzie, if Jason Morgan worked at a diner, maybe people would be—”

“Oh, don’t help, DJ,” she muttered. She grabbed her order pad and stalked out into the diner, hoping that some of these gawkers would at least tip her well.

They did not. In fact, some of them didn’t tip at all. Maybe, she thought nastily as she bussed a table because Gavin had flaked again, maybe those beach blonde bimbos thought Jason paid for everything because that’s how they would handle dating a sexy, rich—

“You are an idiot,” she muttered to herself. She dumped the tub in the kitchen, then went back out into the diner, wincing when she saw Carly Quartermaine seated at the counter. Of course.

“Are locusts next?” she asked the ceiling.

“Now, don’t you be tempting the Good Lord, Lizzie,” DJ admonished her. “He’ll strike you down for it.”

“He’ll have to get in line,” she retorted.

“Having a bad day, Lizzie?” Carly asked as she picked up a menu, doing her best nonchalant expression. “I guess it hurts to know Jason couldn’t wait to get away from you as soon as everyone knew he was slumming it with you.”

“I actually think I’d be an upgrade,” Elizabeth said with a sweet smile. “But I’ll take your word for it since no one knows trailer trash better than you.”

Carly slapped the menu on the counter, her brown eyes sparking. “You wanna go a round?”

“Today? I absolutely do.” Elizabeth held up a finger. “But I fight dirty. I bite. And you can ask my brother Steven to show you the scar I gave him when I was six. Served him right for cutting my doll’s hair for a pretend surgery.”

And her parents had just laughed at her when she’d cried about it — Steven was going to be a doctor. It was natural for him to practice.

Carly’s scowl deepened, and Elizabeth thought she might actually take her up on the offer — until another figure approached them. Elizabeth winced as she locked eyes with her disapproving grandmother and Audrey’s thin, tight smile.

Carly twisted on the stool. “Oh. Mrs. Hardy. Here to pick Lizzie up for her Girl Scouts meeting?”

“Carly,” Audrey said, carefully. She stepped around the blonde. “Would you mind if I spoke with my granddaughter alone?”

Elizabeth sighed as Carly shrugged and picked up her coat. She’d rather get into a fistfight in the back alley than deal with another round with her grandmother, but Carly slid off the stool.

“See you around, Lizzie,” Carly tossed over her shoulder.

“Say hi to your husband for me!” Elizabeth called after her. Then turned her eyes on Audrey. “Gram, let’s save us both some time. You’re disappointed in me. Very disappointed. What would my parents think —” She waved her hand in the air. “And so on.”

“Actually, I was wondering what Lucky would think.”

Elizabeth pressed her lips together as she took that in, the tightness in her chest beginning to ache. “I think,” she said softly, “that Lucky loved me very much. And that he would want me to get on with my life. I’m only eighteen, Gram. I didn’t die with Lucky. No matter how much I wished I had.”

“Oh—” Audrey closed her eyes, shook her head. “Of course that’s not what I meant. But it was such a shameful display at the hospital—how could you—”

“I didn’t do anything. And you know it. I was there to work the party. Jason and I were just talking, and Nikolas started that fight. Jason and I didn’t do anything wrong—”

“When did this start?” Audrey demanded. “Before or after November?”

“Wondering if you have a case at the PCPD? Gonna try to get him on statutory rape?” Elizabeth said, biting out the final word. “Go ahead. Give it your best shot. Wouldn’t be the first time the PCPD couldn’t do anything—” She sighed. “There’s nothing to tell before November—”

“But there is something to tell?”

Another anguished voice cam from behind Elizabeth, and she turned, surprised to find her best friend, Emily Bowen-Quartermaine, standing there. She must have come in the back alley. “Emily—”

“How could you keep this a secret from me? I’m your best friend. He’s my brother!”

Elizabeth was nearly at the end of her rope with this damn day. “I was right, DJ. It’s the locusts—”

“Locusts? Elizabeth, will you never be serious?” Audrey sighed.

“You should have told me!” Emily said, very nearly stomping her foot. Elizabeth looked at the watch on her wrist and sighed in relief

Four-thirty. It was over.

“I didn’t tell you, Emily, because I don’t owe you the details of my life. I choose to share them, but you don’t get to demand anything from me.” Elizabeth untied her apron and shoved it on the counter. “My sex life is my business. Not yours—”

Audrey moaned slightly as she pressed a hand to her head. “Oh, dear God, what would your grandfather say if he were here?”

“Sex life!” Emily repeated, her eyes bulging. “You’re having sex—”

“That’s it. Party’s over,” Elizabeth decided. She stalked past Emily to the back where she’d stowed her coat and purse for a quick get away out the back. “Hey, DJ, what comes after locusts?”

“Darkness,” the cook said, with a sad shake of his head. “But don’t you go temping that, Lizzie. There are bad things in the dark.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Tell me about it,” she murmured, then she pushed open the security door and left the diner.

Elm Street Pier

For half a minute, Elizabeth thought about staking a position on the pier to see if she could run into Jason. She should probably warn him that she hadn’t set Emily straight on the platonic nature of their relationship—

But then she realized that if Emily went over to scream at Jason about something that wasn’t her business, he’d get a small taste of the nonsense she’d lived through that day —

And if there was a perverse pleasure in that, Elizabeth wasn’t going to complain.

Besides, as soon as she came to the top of the stairs, she saw Nikolas Cassadine, her former best friend, sitting on one of the benches.

And her ire only grew.

All of this was because Nikolas couldn’t mind his own business. Couldn’t respect her boundaries. Thought he had a right to tell her what to do—

She sauntered down the steps, and he turned at the sound. He drew his brows together. “Elizabeth,” he said warily. He got to his feet.

Good, he should be worried.

“At what point did I give you the impression that you had any right to tell me what to do?” she asked coolly.

“I know you’re angry—”

“Angry? You humiliated me in front of half of the town,” Elizabeth snapped. “I don’t want you, Nikolas. Get over it.”

His cheeks flushed as he lifted his chin. “That’s not what this was about—”

“No? Could have fooled me. We were friends. Until you tried to kiss me, and I didn’t want it. I don’t want you,” she said flatly. “And I felt really bad about hurting you. But you don’t have that same problem. You didn’t care that you were hurting me, that you were making my life more difficult—”

“If you’re ashamed of your affair,” Nikolas sneered.

“Affair? I’m single, Nikolas. I didn’t die last April, and I am not going to spend the rest of my life alone! If it wasn’t Jason, it was always going to be someone. Just admit it, Nikolas! You’re not mad that it’s Jason, you’re mad that it’s not you—”

Nikolas glowered. “He’ll just hurt you. The way he did Robin—”

“And that would be my business. Not yours. You and I are done, Nikolas. The Cassadine in you really jumped out,” she said. “We’re not friends. Maybe we never were—”

“You know that’s not true—”

“You never liked me,” Elizabeth reminded him. “And I didn’t like you either. Let’s go back to that. I think our first impressions were correct.”

She turned and stalked up the stairs, leaving Nikolas behind.

For good this time.

PCPD: Squad Room

Marcus Taggert was not having a great first day back after a holiday break. He grimaced as he listened to the irritating hold music on the other line. All he wanted was a John Doe floater to be fingerprinted.

Why the hell did everyone keep acting like it was so damn hard? IT wasn’t his fault the body had been dumped in the harbor and so bloated and decomposd that it couldn’t be identified visually?

Did anyone think Taggert wanted to look at those damn photos first thing in the morning—

Taggert scowled at the phone receiver in his hand as if the pathologist on the other line could see him. “Well, can’t you just run the prints? No, no. Don’t give me this bullshit about it being a holiday. That was yesterday. Pick up the stiff’s fingers, roll them in some fucking ink—don’t give me attitude, Carson, or the next person you talk to will be the Commissioner.”

He snorted. “Yeah, I’ll wait.” Never failed. As he waited for the pathologist to return to the phone, he scanned the squad room and noted his partner, Andy Capelli, taking a statement from an increasingly irate Nikolas Cassadine.

When the younger man stormed out of the room, Taggert lifted his brows. “What’s his damage?”

“Oh, he wants me to file assault charges against Jason Morgan,” Capelli said. “Can you believe sweet little Elizabeth Webber has gotten mixed up with that asshole?” he snorted.

“Mixed up with? Like—” Taggert winced. “Sleeping together?” No. Not possible.

“Says Elizabeth confirmed it. He found Morgan with her in a studio her grandmother rented for her birthday a few weeks ago.”

“Well, she’s not the first good woman to see something worthwhile in an asshole,” Taggert said. The pathologist came back on the line finally, and the name had him clenching his teeth. “You’re sure—hey, cut the sarcasm, asshole—yeah, okay, send me over the full autopsy when you’re done.”

He set the receiver down gently in the cradle. “When did Cassadine say he saw Morgan at Elizabeth’s place?”

Capelli glanced at his notes. “Ah, around mid-December. Maybe the 13th. He didn’t remember for sure. Why?”

Taggert pursed his lips and tapped his pen against his desk blotter. “You said there was a fight. Was it that day?”

“Yeah—Cassadine wasn’t talking about that one though. Apparently they got into it at the GH Christmas party, too.” Capelli leaned forward, his dark eyes focused. “You think there’s something to the assault charge?”

“No, I’m thinking about timing. I remember thinking I hadn’t seen Morgan around for a while, and usually I do. We both go to Kelly’s for coffee almost every day, but I didn’t see him around much in December.”

“So, then I guess he was holed up with the Webber girl then—”

“Or,” Taggert said slowly, “she’s been covering for him. The guy at the morgue printed my floater. Anthony Moreno.”

“Anthony—” Capelli closed his mouth and just stared at him. “Moreno. Corinthos and Morgan’s rival. But Morgan’s too smart to dump a body like this—”

“I’m not saying I have all the details worked out. I’m saying that it’s all very interesting, and I’m not sure I buy that Jason Morgan is sleeping with Elizabeth Webber. Not—not like this.” Taggert hesitated. “I mean, everything she’s been through—Morgan—” How did he phrase this so that Capelli would understand?

“Morgan’s protective of her. I could see that the one time I saw them together. I don’t know why she’d be covering for him, but I also don’t believe it’s what Cassadine thinks it is. It’s…it’s worth finding out exactly how long its been since anyone saw Moreno and if Morgan has an alibi for that time period.”

“All right, let’s go check it out.”

Studio: Back Alley

Elizabeth turned the corner and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the motorcycle parked there—and the man sitting on it. Jason Morgan arched a brow at her as she stood there like an idiot. “Hey.”

“Um, hey.” She approached him, folding her arms nervously. “What—why—”

“I was wondering,” Jason said with a light grin that made something in her chest flutter. “Why I got a voice mail from my sister demanding to know why I hadn’t told her about us. Apparently, you wouldn’t tell her because our sex life isn’t any of her business.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips, deciding she needed to answer that question very carefully because truth be told, she was pretty sure she just figured out what it meant to be turned on by someone just saying a thing.

Because Jason referring their sex life—even fictionally—was making everything inside her feel sparkly, and fluttering—and stupid.

And if she opened her mouth right now she might do something insane like ask him to repeat our sex life on a loop for the next fifty years.

“In my defense,” Elizabeth said, “I’m not wrong.”

Jason tipped his head. “Yeah?” His grin stretched even further. “How so?”

“The fact we, uh, don’t have a sex life isn’t relevant.” She met his eyes, then arched her own brows. “It still doesn’t make it her business. Or do you tell your sister about every woman you sleep with?”

Well, that was wildly inappropriate, Elizabeth decided as she watched Jason’s eyes widen slightly. She was nearly ready to apologize and stop this ridiculous attempt to flirt—

Oh my God, was she trying to flirt with Jason Morgan?

But then Jason just nodded. He held out the helmet, and Elizabeth took it from him. “You’re right. And if she was half as irritated with you in person as she was in the message—well, I guess you deserve to have a little fun.”

“That’s what I thought.” Elizabeth fastened the helmet, climbed on the back of the bike. “This has been the absolutely worst day.”

“Cliff road?”

“Fast.”

September 18, 2020

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Flash Fiction: A King's Command

Written in 50 minutes. I did a basic spell check, but as I was finishing up, I got the news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so my brain is just — I’m sure I missed stuff. I’m sorry guys.


After the priest blessed their marriage, and they had signed the registry to formalize it, Jason did not linger in the chapel. Elizabeth scarcely had a moment to look at the countenances of her father and siblings before he took her hand and led her out of the church.

Elizabeth blinked at the sunlight in the street of the Royal Mile—the sun had climbed higher in the sky.

“My laird,” a man called, following Jason and Elizabeth. “A moment—”

The men with her new husband—her mind nearly skittered over those words—turned, their faces fierce and ready to do battle.

“His Grace, the Duke of Albany has offered chambers at Holyrod for your wedding night,” the man said, flinching as the rough scowls of three Highlanders were leveled at him.

Jason tensed. “I have rooms at the Red Lion,” he said, “that will do just fine.”

“The Red Lion—” the man sputtered.

“Have her father send her things there. We leave in the morning.” Jason turned, his hand still grasping Elizabeth’s, and started down the stone streets.

Unused to the heavy velvet skirts or the weight of them draped around her, Elizabeth stumbled and nearly fell to the ground.

“Jason, she’s not dressed for a trek through the streets,” one of the men—a dark-haired man with suspicious eyes—said to him a low tone as her husband hauled her back to her feet.

“I just need to walk a bit more slowly,” Elizabeth said quickly. “I—’tis not my gown. I—” She fell silent as Jason’s eyes fell on her.

“Would it be better to take the rooms at the place?” the other man, with fair hair, suggested. “She might be more comfortable—”

“Oh, no—” Elizabeth shook her head, wincing as her husband’s face tightened. “Please. I do not wish to be any trouble.

“Are you not a Lowlander?” the fair-haired man asked, spitting out the term as if it were akin to Hell. “Silk sheets and goose feathers?”

“No,” Elizabeth said quietly. She drew her hand out of Jason’s grasp, her chest tightening. “I am from the Lowlands, but that is not my experience. A cot or even some padding on the floor will do fine. I ask for nothing special. You did—” She chanced a look at Jason’s blue eyes, finding them as frustratingly closed to her as she had the day before, as she had in the chapel.

It was not until she had taken his hand, until their skin had touched, that she’d been able to glimpse anything. He was a kind man, frustrated at the turn of events. He had not come to Edinburgh to wed and did not want this. He was prepared to do his duty, and she knew he would not hurt her.

“You did not expect to be looking after a female, I imagine,” she finished in a small voice. “I will endeavor not to be a burden.”

“Difficult,” the dark-haired man said. “You’re a female. It’s in the description.”

“Johnny—” Jason snapped. He took a deep breath. “Forgive me,” he said shortly. “These are my men. Johnny O’Brien and Francis Corelli.”

Elizabeth drew her brows together at the strange last names—Irish and Italian. Unusual to find in a Highland clan. “Hello,” she said uncertainly. She smoothed her hand down the skirts of her velvet gown, a bit dismayed to find the bottom of the skirts had been splashed with mud.

“We’ll go to the Red Lion,” Jason said finally. “I arranged another room last night,” he told her. “You will be comfortable.”

She blinked at that, but before she could discover more, he turned back to Johnny and Francis. “And have a care with how you speak to her. She’s your lady and deserves the respect you show my aunt.”

“Right,” Johnny said slowly, squinting at Jason. “Will she be dunking me in the loch like Lady Tracy? Because I can only take so much—”

Jason scowled, took Elizabeth’s hand, and the four of them continued down the Royal Mile again. This time, Jason tried harder to match the stride of her shorter legs and was more careful avoid the mud.

He did not know what to think of his new wife.

When the regent’s man had offered the comfort and luxury of the palace, Jason had been irritated. He could take care of his clan, and it was better for Elizabeth to learn now what kind of life she could expect as his wife. He expected her to pout and complain when he’d turnd down the offer—

Only for her to support him, back him up, even when Johnny had suggested Jason change his mind. And she’d barely flinched when Francis and Johnny had all but insulted her as a weak Lowlander.

When he’d seen her in that velvet gown, he’d been irritated. She was beautiful of course but it was completely unsuitable for a Highland woman. If her entire wardrobe was made up of garments like that —

But then he’d learned it was not her gown, but a gift given to her Albany—

His teeth clenched as he showed her inside the dark and dim entryway of the Red Lion. He did not care to be reminded that his new wife had done some service to the Crown that he had not been told.

She would tell him the truth, Jason decided. She would decide today where her loyalty was to lie — with him or with the Crown.

Elizabeth looked around the room, her eyes wide and Jason felt as though he was looking at the interior for the first time. It was dark, with low ceilings—he could smell something unpleasant from the public rooms.

He waited for her to complain, but she did not. Instead, she smiled at him, a slight curve of her lips as she looked at him expectantly, folding her hands in front of her. “Are we taking a meal down here?” she asked softly. “Is that why we’re waiting?”

“No,” Jason muttered, wishing she would just do what he expected her to. He did not care for surprises. He looked to Johnny and Francis. “You are both to go to her family’s inn. Get her things. If you need to arrange a pack horse—”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary.” Elizabeth flinched when Jason turned, scowling at the interruption. “My apologies, sir. I only have a few things. They’re—they’re in the vestibule at the church. I—I did not bring much to Edinburgh.”

“What is much?” Johnny asked suspiciously. “Jason’s sister told me that once, and she had an entire trunk—”

“There should be a sack in the room where I met with His Grace,” Elizabeth said. “That is all I had with me.”

“A sack.” Francis cleared her throat. “Well, then, Johnny, we ought to track it down for milady, and take our leave.”

“You’ll have to send for your things from—” Jason hesitated. “Where are you from?”

“Annan, in Dumfrieshire,” Elizabeth said, “but ‘tis not necessary—”

“Why?”

“Well, ‘tis just clothing,” Elizabeth said lightly. “And I’m told the weather is harsher in the North, is it not? It won’t be appropriate. Why go to the trouble if most of it will not be wearable?”

He had no answer to that perfectly logical statement. Instead, he took her hand and led her up the cramped staircase. The Red Lion had perhaps not been the best choice for his wife, he realized, as her skirts brushed the sides of the narrow hallway. He pushed open the second room he had arranged for her and allowed her to walk in ahead of him.

Elizabeth walked into the center of the room, and he studied her reaction to the small room, with its double bed, thin mattress, and night table. Near the window, there was another stand with a bowl for washing up, but the room was spare and not nearly as comfortable as rooms in the palace would have been.

She stared at the bed for a long moment, then swallowed hard, looking at him. “I understand that this was not your choice,” she said softly. “And I meant what I said earlier. I will try very hard not to be a burden. I cannot say you will not even notice me, but—”

Jason closed the door behind him, then faced her, crossing his arms. He waited for her to meet his eyes, her own shadowed in the dim light of the room. Little sunlight reached this area of the building and he hadn’t lit any of the candles.

“What service did you do for the Crown?”

It had been too much to hope, Elizabeth thought with a sinking sigh, that her new husband would be impressed with her lack of complaints thus far and not inquire about the reasons the regent had wanted to arrange a marriage for her.

In truth, she was bewildered by the turn of events as well — why had the regent not simply thanked her and sent her home with a caution to her father to keep her hidden?

Why arrange a marriage to a man that Albany respected and, she sensed, feared, if he did not have some sort of reason? And what excuse could she given her new husband if it could not be truth?

It could never be the truth. Jason Morgan was not a man to countenance such a curse, she surmised. He might not cast her out or beat her for what she could do, what she could see—

But neither would she ever be a true wife. He would never allow her to be a part of his family. There might never be children.

“His Grace told me I was not to speak of it,” Elizabeth said. Her throat tightened as his jaw clenched. “He swore me to secrecy.”

“Secrecy,” Jason repeated. “And you would keep this oath?”

“I—I would,” she said in a halting voice even as she broke their eye contact, cast her eyes as the uneven wooden planks beneath their feat. “All I have is my word,” she continued. “Where I come from, a man lives and dies by the strength of his word. If he says something will be done, it must be done. Is it not the same in the Highlands?”

“Aye, keeping your word is an important thing,” Jason said slowly. He walked towards her, stopping just short. “But it is not as important as loyalty.”

“I—I am loyal—I will be loyal—” Elizabeth promised. She raised her eyes. “I promise you, Laird, I will try very hard—”

“You cannot be loyal to me and hold a secret that endangers my clan,” Jason told her, bluntly.

“It doesn’t—” But tears stung her eyes. It could, and she knew that. She would never mean it, but it always brought her misfortune.

“This service you’ve done to the Crown—the Duke has not discharged is debt by marrying you to me,” Jason said. “This was not repayment. I am not important enough for that—”

“I—”

“This was protection,” he continued. “You have been placed under my protection. And you will not tell me why.”

“I—I—” Elizabeth pressed her lips together, nodded. “Yes. I believe that must explain it. But I gave my word to His Grace. You cannot ask me to break my word.”

“No, I cannot ask it. Nor can I command it.” Jason returned to the door, opened it slightly, then looked back at her. “But if you will not tell me, then I cannot trust that you are loyal. And I will not have a wife who is not loyal.”

“I—” All her hopes and dreams extinguished in an instant. Elizabeth stared at him. “You will set me aside already?” she asked, shaking. Her father would be furious—

“I have been asked to give you the protect of my name and my clan,” Jason said. He opened the door fully, then stood on the threshold. “I swore to the duke that I would see you safe. I never promised anything else.”

“B-But—”

“It will be up to you,” Jason told her. “What life we are to live. I will send your things to you when they arrive. Good day, Elizabeth.”

Then he closed the door.

Elizabeth stared blindly at it long after he left. If she told him the truth, he would never take her to his bed. Never give her his children.

But neither would he do those things if she held her tongue.

What was she supposed to do?

September 16, 2020

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Flash Fiction: Shot in the Dark

Written in 56 minutes. Time for a basic spell check but not a read through.


Webber Home: Kitchen

It was a few days before Elizabeth could get Cameron on his own long enough to bring up the topic of adoption which was for the best, honestly, because Elizabeth wasn’t sure how she felt it about it herself.

Not that Jason wouldn’t be good for Cameron or that either of them would regret it, but she wondered what it said about her that she was willing to literally give Jason one of her boys — both of them really since Lucky barely managed to call Aiden once a month these days — but was hesitating to make any other kind of commitment.

She’d give him the boys she loved more than herself, but not herself.

And that was such a strange realization that Elizabeth almost let the whole idea drop, knowing Jason wouldn’t bring it up again if she didn’t.

Then Cameron trudged in after school on her day off, dragging his backpack by the strap. He let it go in the foyer, then went into the kitchen without a word to her. Elizabeth frowned, followed him, and watched him take out the gallon of milk, pour himself a glass, and get a box of cookies.

She folded her arms. “Tough day?” Elizabeth asked, leaning against the door frame. Cameron sighed, climbing up on the stool before dunking his first chocolate chunk cookie.

“Can I move to a new class?” he asked dully.

Elizabeth walked over to the counter, put the cap back on the milk, then put it away. “What happened?”

Cameron jerked a shoulder as he crammed the cookie into his mouth. “Emma’s mad at me.”

“She never stays mad—”

She thinks I like Joss.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Joss? When did that happen?”

“Dunno. Girls are weird. She got mad at me because Trina hates Joss, and Trina is Emma’s girl best friend, and I think that’s supposed to mean something to me, but Trina isn’t in our class so it doesn’t matter if I like Joss—”

Elizabeth tipped her head, trying to follow this logic. “Wait, are Trina and Joss still mortal enemies?”

“Trina swore on blood,” Cameron told his mother very seriously. “Joss’s blood.”

“Oh—” Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. “Do I want to know?”

“Last year,” Cameron replied. “We were on the playground, and Joss told Trina to brush her hair—”

Elizabeth winced. “She didn’t.”

“She did. Trina made that face, too, but then she punched Joss in the face—” Cameron’s mouth quirked up in a half smile. “That was funny. She hit her really hard, then started, like, hopping up and down, because she hurt her hand. Then everyone got in all kinds of trouble—their moms came to school—but anyway—before the teachers stopped it—Trina had Joss’s blood on her knuckles, and swore on it that she’d hate that—” Cameron hesitated. “Well, there were some words I’m not allowed to say—”

“I get the gist. I guess I missed this,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. She scratched her temple.

“It’s okay. Joss’s mom didn’t know what the big deal was, so Trina’s mom threatened to sue the school for something, and Mrs. Jacks had to take some sort of sensitivity course. So did Joss. She told me that it’s rude and mean to say things about a Black girl’s hair like she did, but that she wasn’t wrong, so she didn’t mean it when she said she was sorry—”

“Oh, Lord—” Elizabeth exhaled. “So wait—”

“Joss gave me that stupid Valentine,” Cameron muttered, “and Spencer told Emma about it, but I’m not supposed to be friends with her anymore, Emma said.”

“Cam—”

“But it was forever ago,” Cameron complained, “and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Emma said I was supposed to tear it up in front of Joss so she’d know, but that seemed really mean, Mom.”

“It does,” Elizabeth said, making a mental note to talk to Patrick — and possibly pass this on to Jason in case Carly was going to get into more trouble at some point. It didn’t surprise her at all that Joss had a mouth on her like her mother.

I

And they’d only been in fourth grade the year before—Elizabeth couldn’t even bring herself to imagine what they’d do in high school—

“So I told Emma that, and instead of not hurting Joss, Emma and Trina are mad at me, Spencer thought it was hysterical, and Joss is always mad at me because of Emma—” He sighed. “I tried to be nice to Spencer, Mom. Just like I told you and Jason. But it doesn’t work. How come I always got to be the good guy? Everyone else gets to be mean and stupid. It works for them.”

“You never did ask the easy questions.” Elizabeth reached for a cookie, dunked it in Cameron’s milk. “It’s hard to be a good person when it feels like everyone gets rewarded for doing the wrong thing. I get it, I do. But I’ve been on the other side.” She pursed her lips. “Actually, I wasn’t that different from Joss when I was a kid.” Maybe not passively racist, she allowed, but — “I talked back to my parents, I skipped school whenever I could, I smoked—”

Cameron’s eyes were wide. “Mom, smoking is really bad—”

“I know, I know. But I wanted people to look at me. And I didn’t care if it was good or bad. I just wanted attention. I was selfish, and I was mean. A lot.”

“That’s not—” Cameron shook his head. “No. I don’t believe it.”

“I should put you on the phone with my sister one day.” She chewed her cookie. “She’d tell you about the time I stole test answers in English class and planted them on her to get her kicked out of school.”

“Mom!” Cameron was scandalized. “That’s really bad!”

“It is. And it was exhausting being like that all the time. Never having anyone to talk to. The thing this, Cam, when you’re the bad guy — when you’re mean and stupid — you don’t get to have any friends. Not really. I didn’t have a single best friend until I was sixteen.” She sighed, thinking wistfully of those days. Of the Four Musketeers and sharing brownies at Kelly’s.

“My life isn’t always easy, Cam, and I’m not always happy. Sometimes I still want to do the wrong thing because it’s easier. And it might get me what I want in the moment. But at the end of the day — doing the right thing — being a good person — it’s worth it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I turned out okay, right? I’m not perfect,” she said with a smile as Cameron smiled back at her. “But I do okay. And I’ve got great friends. I’ve got Patrick and your uncle Steven. I had Aunt Emily—” Her throat tightened lightly as it always did. “I have the best boys.”

“And you have Jason,” Cameron said. He poked out a chocolate chip. “I like having him around. And you’re happy with him. Did you do the good stuff? And that’s why you got to be happy this time?”

“Yeah,” she said softly. “I did the good stuff. The right stuff. Even though it was hard. Life isn’t easy, Cam. And the right choice is sometimes going to be the worst one. Joss and Trina might be enemies until death.” And since Joss was Carly’s daughter, and Carly still hated Elizabeth because Jason had let Elizabeth help him after being shot, not Carly —

“They probably will,” she corrected. “But how you treat people is up to you. Would it make you feel better to laugh in Joss’s face? Rip up her card?”

“No. I don’t like that Emma’s mad or that Trina got mad. She was really mad last year. And she cried. I don’t like that either.”

“You can’t win all the fights, Cam. Take the hits, get back up, and then live to fight another day.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Actually, there’s something I wanted to ask you. About Jason.”

“Yeah? Emma said that since I’m the man of the house,” Cameron told her, “that when he wants to marry you, he’s gotta ask me. Is that true?”

“Well…” Elizabeth squinted. “No. Because you’re eight.”

“Almost nine.”

“And being nine won’t give you the ability to grant my hand in marriage either.”

“Okay.” Cameron shrugged. “So what about Jason?”

She cleared her throat. “He loves you and Aiden. And me,” she added. “You know we dated a little a few years ago. You were only about four.”

“I remember. He was around, and then he wasn’t. I thought—” Cameron stared down at the counter. “I thought he was gonna stay. And he didn’t. Why not? He’s Jake’s real dad. Didn’t he love him?”

“He did—he does love Jake. We will always love Jake,” Elizabeth said. She reached across the island counter, squeezed Cameron’s hand. Waited for him to meet her eyes. “And what happened four years ago—Michael got hurt. You remember? He has that scar. And he was asleep for a whole year. Jason got scared you and Jake would get hurt. So he left. But it was a mistake. We know that. I shouldn’t have let him leave, and he shouldn’t have gone.”

“Okay.” Cameron frowned at her. “So are you getting married?”

“No. But back then—Jason was going to adopt you,” Elizabeth said. “So that he would be your father legally. And forever.”

Cameron looked away, looked down at the counter. “Is…do you want him to adopt me?”

“That’s up to you, baby. Because this didn’t come from me. This is something Jason suggested. Something he wants.”

“He—” Cameron swallowed hard. Looked at her again. “He does? Why?”

“Because he loves you.”

“But—if you got married, he’d be my stepfather. I don’t—”

“If you don’t want it—”

“I—I just—” Cameron blinked hard, swiping an hand under his eyes. “I want it,” he said in a small voice. “I don’t need a dad. You’re awesome, Mom. Just you. But it’d be okay. To have a guy. In case I needed one.”

“But?” she prompted softly.

“He…wanted me before, you said. But he left. And I didn’t know him anymore. What—” Cameron shoved cookie crumbs around the counter. “What if he changes his mind again?”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “Cam—”

“Or you guys have another baby. You might want another kid. And what if Jason gets a real one?”

“You would be his real kid—” She paused. “It’s okay to say no, Cameron. It’s important for you to be comfortable.”

“I—don’t wanna say no. I just—” Cameron sniffled. “It’s just scary to say yes.”

“I know. It’s a lot to ask. And you know, Jason would answer these questions if you want to talk to him about it,” Elizabeth told him.

“Can I—can I think about it?” he asked.

“Sure.” Elizabeth forced a smile as her stomach twisted. Her little boy had the same trust issues as she did. Neither of them had a lot of experience with people who wanted to stay.

And she really didn’t know what to do with that realization.

Spencer House: Living Room

Laura scowled as she scanned the note from Spencer’s teacher, then raised her eyes to glare at her grandson. “Spencer Michael Cassadine—”

“It’s really not that serious,” Spencer began as he flashed a smile at her. “It’s one little F—”

“Because you didn’t bother to even start the math test—”

“I don’t need any of that,” Spencer said scornfully. “I’m a prince—”

“Not if I don’t let you live to reach eighteen,” Laura muttered as she stalked away from him, towards her ringing cell phone. She hadn’t really raised Luke or Lulu once they’d hit the teen years, but Lucky hadn’t been this mouthy—

Had he? Luke had always known how to handle him—he’d always been Luke’s son—

“Hello?” Laura demanded, not bothering to check the caller ID. “I have a nine-year-old for sale if you’re interested. Slightly used, bit of a mouth—”

“Well, Darlin’, I don’t think that’s a good idea seeing as he’s the Spawn of the Dark Prince.”

Laura sighed and turned away from Spencer’s eye roll. “Luke?” she said. “What’s going on? I haven’t heard from you in months—”

“I know, I know, I’ve been looking up some things with Cowboy,” her ex-husband said. “That’s why I’m calling. Uh, we—I got myself into something here. And I need you.”

“You need me,” Laura said. She narrowed her eyes. “What did you do?”

“For once,” Luke said carefully, “I feel like I might be on the side of the angels—”

“That has literally never been true a day in your life, Lucas Lorenzo Spencer—”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one getting the full name treatment,” Spencer muttered.

“Now, Laura—”

“Don’t Laura me. Call Robert. Or Ethan,” Laura retorted. “I have things to do—”

“Robert and Ethan can’t take care of these things, Angel,” Luke said. “It’s Cowboy. I can’t—I think he needs you. I—I thought I could help. I thought we do this on our own, but he’s—he’s starting to look wrong. Like he did before.”

Her blood chilled. “Luke—”

“And Helena’s up to no good. Some serious, serious no good. I just—I need you to come to Greece. I need you to help me with our boy. Before we lose him for good.”

“I can’t just come to Greece. You need to tell me more—”

“I—”

Laura heard nothing but his breathing on the phone for a long minute. “He’s threatening to kill Nikolas, Laura. He thinks Nikolas kidnapped his son.”

“What?” Laura demanded, her shrill tone grabbing Spencer’s attention. He furrowed his brow, sitting up from his flip on the couch. “Spencer right here—”

“Not Nikolas’s son. Lucky’s—” Luke paused. “Well, I guess he’s still Lucky’s. On paper.”

Laura closed her eyes. She put her hand against the back of the sofa. “Luke. You need to tell me everything. Now.”

Webber Home: Living Room

Elizabeth frowned as she passed in front of the living room window and saw Laura’s car in her driveway—and Laura and Spencer walking across the front lawn—followed by Patrick and Emma. “Jason,” she murmured.”

Jason looked up from the dinner table where he was coaxing Aiden to eat his vegetables—he always refused to eat them for her—and got to his feet. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said. She went over to the door, reaching it just as Laura raised her hand to knock. “What’s wrong?” she said to her former mother-in-law. Laura’s face was pale, her eyes looked shocky. And Spencer wasn’t even glowering as the four of them stepped inside.

“I’ll explain in a minute. I’m sorry just to show up like this—um—” She pressed a hand to her head.

“She asked me to come over,” Patrick told Elizabeth. “Emma—” He nodded at Cameron. “Cam, Spencer, go upstairs. Don’t kill each other. I mean it.”

Cameron got warily to his feet, pausing his Mario Kart game. “Mom—”

“Go upstairs,” Elizabeth repeated. “Please.” Her palms felt sweaty. God, what if something had happened to Lucky? But why would Laura bring Patrick over—

Cameron start up the stairs, and the bewildered Emma and Spencer followed him. A few minutes later, Elizabeth heard his bedroom door close. She paused, leaned up the stairs.

“I didn’t hear enough steps over my head—”

“How does she always know?” Emma hissed. A few minutes later, they heard the door again—and this time, there were steps over Elizabeth’s head.

“Laura—”

“I asked Patrick to come over because if—if I’m right—if Luke is right—” Laura twisted her hands together. “You’ll want someone to take care of the boys—”

Jason lifted Aiden into his arms and came over to stand next to Elizabeth. “Laura, what’s going on—”

“Luke called me tonight. He needs me to come to Greece because Lucky is there. He’s threatening to kill Nikolas.”

“I—” Elizabeth started to shake her head, exchanging a bewildered look with Jason because what did that have to do with them—

“He says Nikolas kidnapped his son. And Luke said—Luke said—” Laura’s voice almost broke. “He said he saw him.”

“Saw—” Elizabeth’s entire body froze. Her brain simply stumbled to a halt.

“Laura—” Patrick said.

“Elizabeth, Luke said he saw Jake on the grounds of the Cassadine estate,” Laura told her. She reached for Elizabeth’s hand as Elizabeth stared at her blankly. “He saw him. Alive.”

“I can’t—” Elizabeth shook her head. “No—No—”

“Jake is alive,” Laura repeated, more firmly. “But there’s more—”

“More—” Patrick demanded, his face pale, his dark eyes stark against the color. “How can there be more—”

“He saw Jake with Nikolas,” Elizabeth finished faintly.

“Not just Nikolas. Elizabeth—it’s not just Jake who’s alive. It’s Stavros.”

“St-Stavros,” Elizabeth repeated, her pulse skittering. “Stavros. Your—Nikolas’s—”

“Who the hell is Stavros?” Patrick demanded.

Elizabeth looked at him, as her head felt faint. “Can you imagine someone worse than Helena? Because that’s—That’s who has my little boy” She swayed slightly and Jason shoved Aiden at his grandmother, catching Elizabeth before she hit the floor.

September 14, 2020

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Not Knowing When

Written in 55 minutes. Time for a basic spell check but not typos.

YOU GUYS THIS PART IS WILD AND I CANT WAIT FOR YOU TO READ IT


Las Vegas, Nevada

The Chapel of Love: Parking Lot

Elizabeth might have had a head start, but Jason’s legs were longer and he did more running than she did — he caught up just as she passed the Fountains at the Bellagio, passing in front of her so he could stop her in her tracks.

Elizabeth scowled and nearly managed to adjust at the last minute to run past him, but he snagged her elbow and dragged her back.

“Would you just stop!” he snapped. He grimaced when he realized he was almost digging into her forearm with his fingers. He forced himself to gentle his hold and guide her back in front of him. “Just—just let me explain—”

“Explain?” Elizabeth yanked her arm away from him, cradling it against her chest, her eyes shadowed, almost hidden from him even as the bright lights of the Strip washed over them. “There’s nothing to explain! I am done humiliating myself—I’m getting a cab, I’m going back to Port Charles, and then I am never going to speak to either one of you again—”

“Why—” Jason hissed as she turned sharply and started towards the street. He should just let her go.

She was always walking away from him.

Never giving him a chance to explain.

Never believing him even when he did—

After nearly forty-eight hours without sleep, after hours spent in Brenda’s vexing company—Jason finally snapped.

“Why do you always do this?” he called after her, his tone scathing. “Why did you even come?”

Elizabeth halted, nearly six feet from him, her shoulders snapping straight. She turned slowly, lifting her chin, her fists clenched at her side.

“Are you really going to get mad at me right now? I—” She scowled, stalked back. Elizabeth jabbed a finger in chest, the tip of her index finger poking just below his collar bone. “You want to know why I came to Vegas? Why I showed up at your wedding to another woman like this is a bad romantic comedy?”

Jason narrowed his eyes. “Yeah—I want to know. If you’re not even going to let me explain—”

“I came,” she bit out with a depth of bitterness that he’d never heard from her before, “because Sonny told me you were hurt.”

Jason’s mouth closed. He stared at her. “What?”

“He told me that you were hurt. That you needed—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, squeezing them shut as if it could protect her. “You needed me. Worse. He told you’d asked for me.”

He was going to murder Sonny.

Slowly.

And he was going to enjoy it.

Jason drew in a sharp breath. “Elizabeth—”

“And like the clearly stupid girl that I am—” Elizabeth opened her eyes, tears spilling over her lashes, sliding down her cheeks. Her voice broke. “I didn’t argue. Not until we landed in Vegas, and I realized that none of it made sense. He brought me here because he wanted to stop you from getting married. And he knew if he’d told me the truth, I never would have gotten on the plane.”

“It’s not what it looks like—”

“Really?” Elizabeth sneered. “Because it looked like you were marrying Brenda Barrett. How is there any way to explain that? How many times do you have to lie to me before I finally get it—”

“I have never lied to you—” Jason wanted to drag the words back even as they flew out of his mouth. Once he could have claimed that.

“For someone who prides himself on honesty,” Elizabeth retorted, “you’re really racking up the lies—”

“I tried to tell you that there things I couldn’t tell you—”

“No!” She sliced her hand through the air, the word exploding out of her like a bullet. “No! That is absolutely not going to work. No! Here are the things you can’t tell me—things I would never ask — what did you do at work today? When will you be home? Where did you go?”

“I—”

“You do not get to lie to me about the death of your best friend!” Elizabeth shook her head. “No. No, I’m not doing this—” She turned away again.

“You’re the only one who gets to make mistakes?” Jason demanded as he followed her towards the street. “How many times have you lied to me?”

Her eyes widened, and she whirled back around. “I—”

“How many times have you done things that anyone else would find unforgivable?” he continued, the rage boiling in his chest. “You knew Zander had betrayed Sonny. That he was my enemy, Elizabeth, and what did you do?”

“I—”

“You took him into your home. You—” He broke off as Elizabeth stared at him. “You slept with him. You asked me to leave him alone—”

“I thought you—” She swallowed hard, her lip trembling. “I thought you forgave me—”

“Because that’s what I do. I forgive you. Because, damn it, I love you!”

The words hung between them as she closed her eyes and Jason winced. That was not—that not the way that should have happened.

“I don’t believe you,” Elizabeth said softly. She cleared her throat, opened her eyes to meet his. “Because someone who loves me wouldn’t do the things you’ve done—”

“Damn it—”

“You sat in your penthouse, you looked me in the eye, and you told me that you wanted to be with me. That you wanted to try—and you lied. And then you kissed Courtney—”

What?”

“And you were just marrying another woman—” Elizabeth gestured wildly at the Chapel of Love a hundred yards behind them.

Jason clenched his jaw. “And you came across the country because you thought I was hurt. What does that say about you? You love me, too, Elizabeth—”

“No, I don’t—” she snapped. “Don’t tell me how I feel—”

“Then don’t tell me how I feel,” he threw back at her.

“How the hell am I supposed to believe you?” Elizabeth threw up her hands. “What have you done except lie to me for weeks—”

If he could just convince her—if they could just get past this minute—he could explain everything about Brenda—and he’d fix that crap about Courtney — but she looked ready to bolt at any minute—

She’d flown across the country with little more than Sonny’s word because she thought he needed her.

Well, he did. Even though he wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled. She was so damn stubborn—

“You want proof?” Jason scowled, his mind racing. He dragged a hand through his hair, stared at the wedding chapel for a long moment, then looked back at Elizabeth. “I can prove it.”

“I’d like to see you try—”

“Come with me,” Jason said, grabbing her hand, then all but dragged her back towards the chapel.

If she wanted proof—

He’d make her see that he wasn’t lying if it was the last thing he did.

Chapel of Love: Lobby

Sonny pressed the ice pack to his nose, wincing as he watched Brenda examine her nails. “Are you ever going to forgive me?” he asked.

“You’re going to have to be way more specific because your list of crimes is very long,” she said sweetly. She frowned. “This polish is chipped. I need my luggage. It’s in the car—”

“And what the hell are you doing in Vegas?” Sonny demanded, out of patience with her. “I came all the way here and all I’ve gotten so far is a busted nose—”

“That was a thing of beauty,” Brenda started to say, but then the double doors to the chapel opened and Jason stalked in, practically dragging Elizabeth after him.

Sonny thought Elizabeth had told Jason that instead of taking a minute to protect her after what had happened on the pier, Sonny had lied to her. He got to his feet, bracing himself to get another sock to the jaw—

But instead, Jason ignored Sonny and Brenda entirely and walked over to the front desk. “I need a new certificate,” he said, flatly.

Elizabeth’s face drained of color and Sonny saw her muscles bunch. If Jason hadn’t tightened his grip, she might have taken another run for it.

“Wait—what did he just say?” Brenda asked.

“Uh, Mr. Morgan—”

“A new marriage certificate,” Jason repeated. “Now.”

“Uh—” The clerk blinked rapidly, looked over at Sonny and Brenda, looked at Elizabeth. “Okay,” he said slowly. He set a fresh sheet of paper on the desk. “But it’ll cost you double. You were halfway through—”

“Put it on the card—”

“Jason,” Elizabeth hissed.

“Do you want proof or not?” Jason demanded, and Sonny raised his brows at the sharpness in his friend’s tone. He didn’t think Jason had ever spoken to her that way.

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “You think this is proof?” She jerked a thumb at Brenda. “Your last fiancée is right over there—”

“Oh, well, fiancée is a strong word,” Brenda said, wrinkling her nose.

“So is wife,” Elizabeth snarled, tossing a dirty look at her. “Stay out of it.”

“I like her,” Brenda decided.

“You could find out where they’re registered later,” Sonny muttered. What the hell was going on—

Jason was ignoring them all as he grabbed a pen and filled out the form, signing his name at the bottom. He shoved the pen at Elizabeth and slid the paper closer to her. “Well?”

Sonny was sure Elizabeth was going to stab Jason in the eye or something else violent from the way that she looked at him. But then she drew in a shaky breath, signed the form.

“Huh,” Brenda said with a nod. “Well, at least this won’t be a wasted trip.”

Elizabeth couldn’t quite decide exactly why she’d signed the form or how she’d ended up in front of the same officiant that had nearly married Jason and Brenda less than thirty minutes earlier.

She almost felt like she was floating above it all and had been since the moment Jason had bit out a declaration of love like he wanted to hit over the head with it.

He never got angry with her.

And when she’d asked for proof—

He’d gone to find a way to prove it.

So—

She married him.

When the officiant declared them husband and wife and told Jason he could kiss his bride, Elizabeth blinked, looked at Jason, wondering what he would do.

He gently pressed on her shoulder so that she was facing him, tipped her head back and kissed her, drawing her against him like he had that night in her studio. Tired of fighting it, tired of pretending, of being angry and sad — Elizabeth kissed him back, threading her fingers through his hair, dragging him closer to her, wishing she could just disappear into him.

She didn’t want to let go, didn’t want the moment to end, because then reality would hit — and he’d realize he’d made a mistake —

Elizabeth didn’t know if she could bear to see that in his eyes. If she never let him go—never opened her eyes —

But then there was a slight coughing from the front of the pew, and Jason drew back. Their eyes met as he slowly stepped back, sliding his hands down the length of her body until they rested at her waist.

She turned to look at Sonny and Brenda in the front row, blinking rapidly.

“Maybe we should go to the hotel,” Sonny said, getting to his feet.

Jason glanced behind them to see the officiant offering them a smile and a reminder to pick up the license out front. When he’d left the room, Jason looked at Sonny, his eyes hard. “Don’t ever lie to Elizabeth again. Especially not about me being hurt.”

Sonny winced, then he gasped in pain as Brenda whacked him hard in the ribs. “Damn it—” he grunted. “What the hell—”

“You dragged that poor girl all the way here and she thought he was hurt the whole time—I hope your nose heals crooked,” Brenda said. She whacked him one more time with the back of her hand.

“We’ll meet you at the hotel,” Jason told Sonny. “We’re taking the limo. You can drive there with Brenda.”

He took Elizabeth’s hand and led her out of the chapel.

Brenda scowled after him, planting her hands on her hips. “I think he thinks that’s a punishment. You’re lucky I didn’t marry you!” she called after them. “I would have made you miserable!”

She huffed, looked back at Sonny. “Well, let’s go. I need food and sleep. And a new plan because my best idea just walked out of the room married to someone else.”

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: Owner’s Suite

Jason shoved the door open and waited for Elizabeth to walk in front of him. She had been silent during the short ride to the hotel that Sonny controlled in downtown Vegas, and Jason hadn’t known how to start the conversation.

Elizabeth walked over to the large floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the Strip, folding her arms across her chest. The sun was just beginning to rise in the west, peeking out over the horizon in the distance. Jason closed the door, took a deep breath. “Elizabeth—”

“If you’re sorry already,” she said softly, “can you just…wait to say it?” She looked at him. “Just a little longer.”

“I’m not sorry,” Jason said roughly. He crossed over to her. He reached out to touch her, but faltered, let his hand drop down. “I don’t really—I’m not sorry,” he repeated. “But I thought you might be.”

“I’m not really sure what I’m feeling,” Elizabeth admitted. “This is—” She laughed slightly, nerves making the sound shaky and fragile. “This is not exactly what I thought would happen last night when I left Kelly’s.”

“Me either,” Jason said. He framed her face in his hands, leaned his forehead against hers. “I missed you,” he murmured.

“I missed you, too.” She slid her arms around his waist and they stood there for a long moment, just letting the silence around them settle.

“Let’s get some sleep,” Jason suggested. “And we’ll—we’ll figure everything else out later.”