October 30, 2020

Your Update Link: A King’s Command – Part 8

I made through another week! Next week, I have two remote teaching days (I report to school, the students stay at home), and then three days off. Well, one of those days is an inservice day where I’ll have stuff to do, but still — so excited to be close to November. I’ve got a Status video going up on Sunday, and I’m going to have more NaNoWriMo kick off information soon so stay tuned this weekend!

This entry is part 9 of 27 in the Flash Fiction: A King's Command

Written in 63 minutes. Had to take a minute to double check some garment situations and the existence of something in Perth in 1514.

Johnny was wise enough to say very little to Jason or his wife when they returned to the clearing and mounted their horses to complete the journey to Perth. T

hough he knew it would grate at Johnny and Francis to stop in one of the largest towns in the Highlands for several days, Jason knew that they’d be able to find rooms and resupply themselves for the final ten days of the trip, though he planned to supply themselves for at least two weeks. He hoped Elizabeth would be able to pick up the pace once they had rested, but Jason wanted to be ready for anything.

He also had other plans for their stay in Perth.

They reached the boundaries of the city just an hour or so before dusk fell, but the inn Jason and his family had usually favored was close and they were able to stable their horses and arrange rooms before complete darkness fell.

“This is the last inn before Braegarie,” Jason reminded Elizabeth as they left Johnny and Francis in the common room and climbed the steps to their room. Inside, he lit the lamps and turned to her. “We’ll stay two, maybe three days, but after this—”

“It’s back to the tent,” Elizabeth said with a nod. “I understand. And I thank you for taking this journey so slowly. I—” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth. “I know you’d make the trip in half the time—”

Less than that, but Jason just nodded and kissed her forehead gently. “I’ve arranged for a bath after supper,” he told her. “Enjoy the comforts while you can.”

“That sounds ominous,” Elizabeth replied, but she was smiling and her eyes were lit with a spark he’d not seen before. “Thank you.” She paused. “Today, you made it clear that you would…”

“Elizabeth?” he said when she trailed off.

“That you would like us to…make a true marriage of this,” she managed, her voice fading slightly. He tipped her chin up, intrigued by the flush that had spread across her cheeks. “If we are to stay a few days here, then maybe—” She cleared her throat. “M-Maybe we should start tonight.”

He stilled, furrowing his brows slightly as he took in her words, scouring for any other meaning than the one he wanted. “Start,” he repeated. “Do you mean—”

“Well,” Elizabeth said, “I’m not entirely sure I understand everything, mind you,” she continued, “but I don’t imagine sons or daughters appear under a bush.” She glanced at the bed, then at him, before dropping her gaze again. “Unless you wish to wait—”

“I don’t,” he assured her, speaking so abruptly that she had barely completed half of her statement before he blurted his answer. “I just want you to be ready.”

“I don’t know if one is ever ready,” she replied, “but I think we’d both do better if we…” Elizabeth made a face. “I’m sorry. I’m making a mess of this.”

“You’re not.” Jason cupped her face in his hands, kissing her swiftly and fiercely, drawing out the embrace until she was clinging to him, her breath shallow and her eyes dazed. “You couldn’t.”

“So tonight,” Elizabeth said.

“Tonight,” Jason agreed, even though waiting another minute might likely kill him. “I’ll go tell the innkeeper we’re ready for our supper.”


Downstairs in the common room, Johnny sulked over an ale, glaring at the frothy liquid. “M’face feels like I ran into a tree,” he muttered.

“Looks like it, too,” Francis agreed, cheerfully as he ate his stew. He watched as the innkeeper’s wife, a maid, and another man dragged a tub up the stairs. “Will you leave off making the lass feel like a bad penny?”

“I know I punched him at least three times,” Johnny continued, “but his face has not a mark on it. Unfair.”

“You made a crude statement about his wife,” Francis reminded him. “You’re lucky that Jason didn’t leave you in pieces for the crows. Will you stop?” he repeated.

“It’s my job to challenge Jason,” Johnny reminded Francis. “But I’ve told him that he’s a fool and that he’s putting his trust in the wrong person. He has—” He rubbed his jaw. “He has, uh, rejected that advice.”

“That’s one way to say it.”

“He’ll regret not getting to the bottom of her secrets,” Johnny predicted, “but I’ve given up making all of us miserable. I will, however, be first in line to remind him of this day when I’m proven right.”

“Cynical bastard,” Francis retorted, lifting his ale and taking a long swig.


Elizabeth hung back by the hearth, her wrapper tied tightly around her body as Jason held the door open and the tub was removed. She’d decided to throw all her caution and good sense to the wind inviting her new husband to bed her—she thought maybe his kisses might make the rest of it worth it. She’d heard maids complain about the act over the years, though one or two had seemed to like it.

But she’d never thought marriage for her. She’d never dreamed she might have a husband of her own, but now she was married to…a man much larger than her, she realized with a start as Jason walked towards her, still wearing the knit shirt and kilt.

“Are you all right?” he asked, taking a hand in his. “You can change your mind—”

“No,” Elizabeth said quickly with a fervent shake of her head. “No,” she repeated. “It’s just—” She licked her lips, looked up at him. “I’m a bit nervous is all,” she admitted. “I’ve—well, obviously I’ve never—” She huffed. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Jason told her. With his other hand, he traced the line of his jaw and her eyes fluttered closed. “It’s important that you speak the truth to me,” he continued, and her heart skipped a beat — because that was never going to happen — but when she opened her eyes and met his again, he continued speaking. “If something hurts you,” he said, “or you wish to stop, you’ll tell me?”

“Aye,” she managed though she thought maybe if he just kept touching her, all would be well because sparks and shivers were sliding through her and surely, even if parts weren’t that nice, this would be. And they’d be close. She’d like to be close to him, to feel him become part of her.

If the world was kind to her, this would be the man she’d live with for all the rest of her days and maybe, just maybe, there would be babies. Oh, she would really like babies—

“You’re thinking too much,” Jason told her, with a wicked grin. “I can see the thoughts and worries in your eyes—”

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said blankly, even though she wasn’t really sure why she was apologizing. “It’s difficult to stop—”

“I’ll do my best to help, ” he said. He kissed her and made the world disappear, at least for a little while.


The next morning, Elizabeth was sure that her face was bright red with embarassment as Jason walked her down the stairs to the common room where they were meeting Johnny and Francis to break their fast.

“Are you sure you don’t want to rest longer?” Jason asked as they came to the bottom of the steps. “You didn’t sleep much.”

Elizabeth’s cheeks heated as she ducked away, looking at the floor. She heard him laugh lightly and when she looked at him again, he was smiling. He did have such a lovely smile—so much better than the scowl he’d worn so much of the time she’d known him. Maybe things really were better now.

“That’s not what I meant, wife,” he teased.

“I really am okay,” Elizabeth assured him. She turned to look at the common room, a bit worried about facing Johnny and Francis. Especially Johnny. Wouldn’t they know? Would Johnny be more angry?

But she was Jason’s wife now—truly—so she lifted her chin, and she and Jason went towards the room and the low table where his men were seated.

“Good morning,” she said politely as she sat on the empty bench across from them. “Did you sleep well?”

“Aye,” Francis said. He flicked his eyes to Jason. “We’re staying another night?”

“Maybe two,” Jason said as he handed Elizabeth a bowl of porridge. “Is that a problem?”

“No, I didn’t realize how close we were to Beltane,” Francis said. “The festival begins tonight with a bonfire in the townsquare—”

“Beltane?” Elizabeth repeated. She pushed her porridge around her bowl. “I wouldn’t have thought such a large town would celebrate something like this.” Her heart was racing but she endeavored to keep her breathing even, her voice calm.

Beltane. The harvest festival that sometimes drew the witch hunters, looking for old pagan believers who worshipped the old gods and gave blessings to them.

“You don’t care for Beltane?” Johnny said with a furrowed look. “What do they do in the Lowlands?” he sneered. Jason glared at him.

“We have Beltane in Annan,” Elizabeth said faintly, the flashes of fire in her mind. She took a deep breath. “I simply didn’t realize how close it was to May. The days have…” Her hand shook slightly so she put her spoon down, and put her hands in her lap. She looked at Jason. “Will you want to go to the bonfire?”

“If you’d like,” Jason said slowly. “There’s a large market in the square. We’re going to resupply there.”

A large crowd preparing a bonfire. Elizabeth forced a smile, then looked across the table, startled to find Johnny staring at her.

“Don’t tell me you’re scared of the old faery and witch legends,” Johnny said. “My sister used to hide beneath the bed on Beltane, sure that the faeries were coming to get her.”

“H-hardly,” Elizabeth said. “There’s no such thing as faeries. Or witches,” she added.

“No,” Jason agreed, “but witch hunters are common enough, and they’ll be out tonight. Especially in Perth,” he added. Elizabeth stared at him. “They burned a woman two years past on Beltane. She had a fit,” he continued, “and they suspected witchcraft.”

“Oh,” she said softly. “I—I didn’t know.”

“Not a safe place to be,” Johnny added, and she looked at him, her eyes wide. “A woman alone is suspicious enough, but on Beltane night? You might be taken up for a witch.”

October 26, 2020

Your Update Link: Not Knowing When – Part 8

I’m happy to say that today almost went perfectly — except when I heated up the mushroom penne I was avoiding last week and it turns out I still really hate creamy pasta, LOL. So I had to ditch that and heat up leftover pizza instead. I got a bit of a late start on Flash Fiction, but it all worked out. And this was the first weekend since I went back to work that I completed my entire week on schedule, so yay!

I’m looking forward to this week since it’s just refining content that already exists, so I feel so much more relaxed and in control. Next week will be a bit more dodgy — we’re spending two days on remote, then five off, and I still have to finish my Africa material. But making great strides forward and I’m really enjoying my students this cycle.

This entry is part 8 of 16 in the Flash Fiction: Not Knowing When

Written in 55 minutes.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

The last thing Jason wanted to see when he opened the door to the penthouse an hour later was people sitting on the sofa. He knew Brenda would be lurking, but why the hell were Sonny and Benny with her—

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose as she walked in behind him, setting a duffel bag on the desk. Jason put down her suitcases—he’d been strangely relieved when she hadn’t just put things back into the single bag she’d brought with her in September. The majority of her clothes were now in his penthouse.

And Brenda’s luggage was still at the base of the stairs, a glaring reminder of how close he’d come to ruining everything.

“I’ll go upstairs,” Elizabeth began, but Brenda shook her head.

“Oh, no, if this trio of morons is going to be deciding how the hell to save my life, I am not going to be the only woman in the room.” Brenda sprang up. “Look, I know we got off the wrong foot when I almost married your husband—”

Jason scowled at her, but Brenda kept going, “But in a very strange way, I’m like a fairy godmother, you know? Because if I hadn’t dragged him to Vegas, Sonny wouldn’t have dragged you there either, and now I’d be married to him.”

Elizabeth squinted. “Wasn’t that the plan?”

“Yes, and I think we can all agree marrying this—” Brenda flicked her eyes at him, frowning. “Well, some people like him but it would have been a terrible mistake. Tell her, Jason—”

“Huge mistake,” Jason muttered.

“Elizabeth, maybe you should go upstairs—” Sonny said. “Brenda’s just upset with the plan we came up with—”

“Upset?” Brenda whirled around, her dark eyes flashing dangerously. “Upset? Listen, Don Corleone, just because one time in my life, I was dumb enough—” Her hands were shaking, Jason noticed, and reluctantly he looked at Elizabeth.

“This is going to sound really insane, and I am so sorry,” he began.

“But Brenda could use someone in the room without testosterone,” Elizabeth finished. Her smile was thin, but he didn’t think it was disappointed. “I understand. Brenda—”

The other woman turned back to her. “They want to send me away. Lock me up, just like Luis. I can’t lose my life again—”

“I don’t want to lock you up,” Sonny said. “I would never do that to you.” He exhaled slowly. “I suggested the island,” he told Jason. “With guards to keep Alcazar from finding her—”

“But why can’t we talk about options that keep me in Port Charles? I don’t—” Brenda closed her eyes. “I just want some control,” she said after a moment. “It’s been four years, Sonny. And I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I couldn’t contact my friends. My family. I don’t know how much time I have left before—”

“I don’t understand,” Elizabeth said, “and maybe I’m not allowed to ask this, but, um, can’t you just…” She made a wave with her hands, looking at Jason. “You know.”

Jason paused. “That’s on the table, too,” he said.

“We’ve talked about this,” Sonny said, with a warning look. “He’s protected by the government—you wanna bring down more heat?”

“You got any other ideas?” Jason demanded. “Brenda shouldn’t be so desperate to get her life back that she suggested marrying me for protection.”

“Well, that, and your sparkling personality,” the woman in question muttered.

“I thought it was about your—” Sonny hesitated. “I thought you wanted someone to take care of you at the end,” he said finally as Benny looked away.

“I can do that with a power of attorney,” Brenda said. “It’s a side benefit. But I thought I might have a better chance of surviving if Jason was standing in front of me. I never said it made sense, Sonny. I said I was desperate.” As an afterthought, she shrugged to Jason. “No offense.”


“If the man Elizabeth overheard on the pier was someone watching Brenda, Alcazar isn’t giving up,” Jason said. “He’s not going to let Brenda go. It doesn’t matter where she goes, where we send her—”

“Sonny—” Brenda turned her attention on her former fiance. “If I thought I could get away with it, if there was any other way—I’d do it myself. I just want to live again.”

Sonny held her eyes for a long time, then nodded. “All right,” he said finally. “But that’s where the two of you are out of it,” he said to her, before looking at Elizabeth.

“Don’t wanna be in it in the first place,” Elizabeth grumbled, “but Alcazar keeps shooting at me.”

Sonny and Benny left then with plans for Jason to head over to the warehouse later that evening to work. Brenda went up to her room, waiting for Jason to deliver her luggage.

Elizabeth followed her, busying herself with her own unpacking, still not entirely sure how she’d gone from listening to Courtney tell her about her future romance with Jason to married to him and back in the penthouse.

A smile flitted on her lips as she closed a drawer in the bureau. She couldn’t wait to go to work the next morning. She and Courtney were working the opening shift.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone tonight,” Jason said. He closed the bedroom door behind him, looking at her with a hesitant expression. “And I don’t know if I can call to tell you.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed. “Thank you.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t—” He sat next to her, drew her hand into his lap, playing with her fingers. “That I wasn’t around when you were here last. Every time I looked at you—” Their eyes met. “I was lying to you. And I hated it.”

“I know you can’t tell me everything,” she said. “And I don’t want to know. But I also need to know when you can’t say something. Like right now—I would have been worried if you left and didn’t come back tonight. I’ll still worry,” she added, “but not the same way.”

“It’s been a while since where I was mattered to someone,” he admitted. “I’ll do better this time.”

“I’ll do better, too,” she assured him. “I wasn’t fair before, and I’m sorry.” Elizabeth frowned as he reached for her left hand, his fingers sliding over her ring finger.

“Do you want a ring?” he asked after a long moment. “I can get one.”

Elizabeth pressed her lips together, considering the question. She should say yes. They were married. It was real and within a few days, everyone would know. Everyone would look at her hand and ask questions.

“I don’t know,” she said finally. “I know—I’m not sorry that we did it—that you dragged me into the chapel to win an argument—” Elizabeth smiled when he winced. “And it’s not like I’m telling you that I want undo it. I’m here. And I want to make this work. I just—”

She waited, trying to find the right words, hoping she wasn’t hurting him by being honest. He didn’t look upset—only curious. He tipped his head, encouraging her to finish.

“We got married on a whim,” she said. “We didn’t plan it. That’s not—it’s not how I want to make promises to you, Jason. You know? So, no, right now, I don’t want a ring.” She leaned forward to kiss him lightly, hoping it could take the sting out of her words.

His hand, strong and warm, touched her neck, his long fingers tilting her chin to the side to deepen the kiss. “You deserve more than Vegas,” Jason murmured.

“We both do, but I’m still glad we did it.” Elizabeth’s eyes drifted close as his mouth moved down her jaw. “Did you lock the door?”

“Yes,” Jason confirmed.

“Then if you don’t know when you’ll be home—” Elizabeth scooted back on the bed towards the headboard and grinned at him. “We should make the most of it.”

Kelly’s: Kitchen

The next morning, Elizabeth breezed into the kitchen and flashed a bright smile at the cook who was busy with his morning prep. “Morning, DJ.” He saluted as she hung up her purse and went into the dining room to start the side walk.

Courtney was already there, frowning at her smile as Elizabeth joined her and started making the coffee. “I thought you’d quit.”

“Why? Because I flaked my on shift yesterday?” Elizabeth shrugged, measuring the coffee. “I promised Penny I’d cover for her soon, and Mike said it was okay.”

“But—” Courtney edged away from her. “You…were mad at me the last time we talked.”

“I was,” Elizabeth said. She pressed the on button, then turned to face the other man fully. “But then I ran into Sonny, and he asked me to go to Vegas with him to see Jason.”

“Jason—” Courtney squinted. “Vegas? What—”

“And Jason and I talked about it, but it’s okay now. It’s easy to mistake a crush for something else,” Elizabeth said. “But I don’t have anything to worry about—”

“You don’t—”

“No, not since I moved back into the penthouse.” Elizabeth stared at her hand. “Jason and I decided to wait to get rings, but—”

“Rings? Penthouse—” Courtney held up her hands, her blue eyes wide. “Elizabeth, what the hell—”

“Jason and I got married in Vegas,” she explained patiently, enjoying the flash of anger in the other woman’s eyes as Courtney clenched her jaw.

“You—” Courtney cleared her throat. “You married Jason. Jason Morgan.”

“It was spontaneous, but—” Elizabeth went around the other woman to start unstacking the chairs. “But I’m glad you told me what you did. If you hadn’t, Jason and I might not have talked. At least not so soon. And once we’d sorted things out—well, we were in Vegas—”

“This is a joke, right? Or—or it’s business.” Courtney lifted her chin. “Taggert came in here yesterday, asking about you. Zander’s dead, didn’t you hear? Is that why Sonny took you to Vegas? Did you see Jason doing something?”

“No, believe it or not,” Elizabeth said softly, “Jason married me because he loves me. And I said yes because I love him.”

“No. No. I know what I felt, what he felt—”

“I’m sorry, Courtney,” Elizabeth said, attempting to keep her temper, “but you were wrong. And it would be best if you just forgot about it. You’re married—”

“This is a trick. You’re tricking the police, and you’re just trying to be mean to get back at me. You’re probably in the guest room again,” Courtney accused, her eyes flashing as she stormed out from the counter.

“No, Brenda’s in the guest room.” Elizabeth folded her arms. “I’m in Jason’s bed.” It might be small of her to enjoy this moment so much, but damn it—Courtney had pretended to be her friend.

Hurt flared in Courtney’s expression now as her lip trembled. “But he said—he told me—he told me it was over with you—”

“He thought it was. Now it’s not. Get over it.” Elizabeth walked away from her, and didn’t even flinch when she heard the bell over the door jingle as it swung open.

“Where did Barbie go?” DJ asked, leaning out from the kitchen. “We’re opening in ten.”

“She got some bad news,” Elizabeth said, returning to the counter to finish prepping for her shift. “I’ll take care of the morning rush.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“You don’t have to worry, Carly already left for the club,” Sonny assured Jason as he handed him a cup of black coffee. “What did you find out? Can we get a line on Alcazar?”

“It might be easier than we thought,” Jason said, “since he’s in the hotel—”

They both turned at the sound of raised voices in the hall. Jason sat the coffee on the desk just as the door flew open and Max threw up his hands. He couldn’t stop the blonde who shoved her way in without tackling her.

“Sonny—” Courtney drew up short at the sight of Jason. She glared at him. “I hope you’re happy.”

Jason frowned, confused. “What—”

“If you’re here to tell me AJ dropped dead in the middle of the night,” Sonny said, “then, yes, I’m very happy—”

“I’m not talking to you,” Courtney snarled at her brother. “I’m talking to Jason.”

“Jason would also be happy with that news—”

“Sonny—” Jason said with a shake of his head. He looked back to Courtney. “I don’t know what’s going on—”

“What’s going on is that you lied to me,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “You told me that you and Elizabeth were over, that it never really started—”

Sonny pursed his lips as Jason just stared at the other woman, baffled. “Uh, what am I missing?” He looked at Max who was waving his arms. “Max–

“So why the hell did you marry Elizabeth Webber two days after you kissed me?” Courtney demanded.

“You know,” Taggert said from the doorway where he’d just appeared around the corner from the elevator. Max dropped his head with a sigh. “The universe is really on my side these days.”

October 25, 2020

Your Update Link: A Shot in the Dark – Part 8

Oof, I managed to get just about everything done today, but I am so tired, LOL. This is the worst part of adulting — everything gets shoved to the weekend when you’re supposed to be able to relax, and next weekend is Halloween, so probably not relaxing then. Anyway — wrote a chapter of Fool Me Twice today but didn’t manage one yesterday for reasons that even I don’t understand, LOL. Feeling a bit less stressed going into this week so that’s good. We’ll see how that works out once I’m in work.

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the Flash Fiction: Shot in the Dark

Written in 59 minutes. No time for spell check.

Mykonos, Greece: Flat

Luke checked his watch, wincing. “I gotta get back to my place. Lucky will be wondering where I am, and if he starts thinking I’m against him—” He looked at Laura. “What do I do with Cowboy?”

“Bring him here,” Laura said reluctantly, shooting Elizabeth an apologetic look. “If Helena does have him under her control again, seeing Elizabeth might shake him into saying something. And if it doesn’t, well—”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose at being volunteered to play even a small role in Lucky’s nonsense, but it would be important to learn whether or not Lucky was being his normal jackass self or a new breed of brainwashing had taken hold. She left the Spencers alone to determine the best way to deal with Lucky and went back over to Spinelli’s computer desk where Jason and Sonny were studying some of the prints they’d made.

“Hey, Luke is gonna bring back Lucky,” she warned them. “But Patrick should be here—” she checked her watch. “In about an honor—”

“Spinelli’s getting closer to the security cameras,” Sonny reported. “He’s found the network—” He hesitated, looked at Spinelli. “What did you say?”

“I found the network, but decrypting it might take a while,” the younger man said. “Unless Robert and Anna can do this faster—”

Elizabeth started to reply, but her phone beeped and she picked it up. “It’s Dante,” she said as she pressed play on the speaker. “Dante?”

“Listen, I don’t want you to worry—”

“Where are the kids?” Elizabeth demanded.

“I got to Patrick’s place and found Maxie and Lulu tied up,” Dante said. Sonny scrubbed a hand over his face. “Apparently, Joss hitched a ride to the house—and distracted them—they can’t really explain it—”

Elizabeth hissed. “Are they gone? How long?”

“No more than half an hour,” Dante assured them. “They left Aiden in the living room with a Lunchable and the remote. He’s watching cartoons, so he’s fine—”

A Lunchable and remote. Elizabeth shoved the phone at Jason to put her head in her hands. “They could get into a lot of trouble in thirty minutes—”

“Clearly, but Carly and Michael are on it. Joss thought she turned off the tracker on her phone, but apparently Carly put one on something else Joss carries because, well, she doesn’t trust her. They’re on their way to the airport, and Michael is meeting them there.”

“The airport,” Jason repeated. “What were they planning to do, hijack a plane?—”

“They didn’t give details because, and I’m quoting Cameron here, only dumb villains monologue and give away the plan.”

Sonny snorted and turned away before Elizabeth could set him on fire with a glare. “Ask Carly where she got the tracker because I’m gonna need to lojack my kid when I get home. Thanks, Dante.”

“Honestly, tying Maxie up and gagging her is probably the best thing that’s happened to me,” Dante said easily. “I’ll keep you posted, and we’ll put the kids under closer watch. We underestimated them.”

“You have my permission to use the handcuffs.” Elizabeth took the phone from Jason and hung it up. She looked at Laura who came over now that Luke had left. “Cameron, Emma, and Spencer — with help from Joss — tied up Maxie and Lulu and made a run for it. They’re tracking them to the airport.”

“Oh.” Laura couldn’t fight the giggles. She pressed her hands to her mouth, but the mirth slipped out. “Oh, my. Did Dante take pictures?”

Jason put an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. “It’s okay. Carly and Michael are on it,” he assured her. “You’ve always wanted to gag Maxie.”

“This is insane. The kids are trying like hell to throw themselve in the middle of the nightmare and you’re all laughing— ” Elizabeth stalked away, storming out onto the terrace. Jason winced, and followed.

“I shouldn’t have laughed,” Laura said, her humor sliding away. “She’s scared for Jake—”

“Jason will take care of it,” Sonny assured her. “Let’s look over these maps. Tell me how much this has changed.”

Port Charles Airport: Drop Off Entrance

Cameron slammed the door on the taxi and shoved a pile of cash at the driver while Spencer lugged their duffles out of the backseat. “Okay,” he said. “We got to the airport. How do we get to Greece?”

“I reserved tickets,” Spencer said. “I used my father’s credit card, and we’re traveling as unaccompanied minors—” He peered at his phone and the email with the information. “We just gotta avoid everyone until the flight to Mykonos—”

“Oh, balls,” Jocelyn Jacks said with a sigh as she saw the tall, blonde man leaning against the glass entrance. “How’d he get here so fast?”

“What?” Cameron turned, his stomach sinking as he recognized Joss’s older brother. “Damn it! Your mom must have put something on you.”

“Going somewhere?” Michael Corinthos asked, sauntering over, his hands in his pockets. “How were you planning to get to Greece?”

“Unaccompanied minors travel all the time,” Spencer said loftily. “And my father never pays attention to credit card bills. I stole one last year and he never noticed. I only use it in emergencies.”


“I brought mine,” Joss volunteered. “Spencer always has his because he’s a Cassadine. We were at Emma’s house, and—”

“I grabbed mine when we were packing. I never used it before,” Cameron explained, “but one time, my mom was going to take us on a trip and we all got one.” He’d had to slide it out of a drawer where it sat next to Jake’s. Aiden didn’t have one—his mom must have gotten them before Aiden was born.

Michael frowned. “This might have been dumb enough to work.”

“But Mom doesn’t trust me,” Joss complained. “What did she put the tracker on? Oh my God, did she like, open me up while I slept and slap it on my ribs?”

“Yeah, not telling you. Let’s go. We’re going home.” Michael looked at Cameron. “Dante had to call your mother in Greece, Cam. And she was not happy.”

His stomach sank. “He’s my brother,” Cameron said, dully. “I gotta help bring him home. Wouldn’t you try everything to bring Morgan or Joss home?”

“I would,” Michael said, “and part of me is pretty impressed by the four of you.” He met Cameron’s eyes. “But your mom has been through enough, Cam, and you know that. Don’t ask her to worry about you. And Spencer—”

“I’m a Cassadine—this is a matter of honor.” Spencer sniffed. “You have no right to tell me what to do—”

“Really? Because your mom and my mom were best friends,” Michael said. “And my mom wouldn’t want Courtney’s son getting hurt. You’re not just a Cassadine, kid. You’re my cousin, too. And Aunt Courtney took real good care of me.”

“My dad took off with my grandparents,” Emma complained, “and I don’t get to know anything.” She pouted as Michael picked up her duffel bag. “I just wanted to help.”

“I brought the rope,” Joss said when Michael started herding the four of them towards the parking lot. “Would you believe Dr. Patrick didn’t have none?”


Mykonos, Greece: Flat

The sun was just starting to set over the Adriatic Sea as Jason joined Elizabeth at the terrace as she looked out at the distant lump of land where the Cassadine estate could be found.

“He’s just across the water,” Elizabeth said. “And he’s sitting in the middle of some of the worst people in the world, Jason. It was one thing when it was just Helena and Stavros. I was scared, but I didn’t think they’d hurt him. But I don’t know Mikkos. And this Valentin—Luke said Helena is terrified of him.” She looked at him. “If we get this close to getting Jake back and lose him—”

“We won’t,” Jason told her. “We’re not going to get this close and go home alone,” he added. “I might not know much about the Cassadines, but I’m a pretty good shot, and I know how to follow orders. Robert and Anna—Luke and Laura—you were right. This is what they do. And you and I—Spinelli and Sonny—we’re smart. We think on our feet.” He tipped her face up to his. “We’re going to get our son back,” he promised her. “And we’re going to stop the Cassadines from coming back.”

Elizabeth leaned forward, her forehead resting against his chin. “And then Dante calls, and Cameron’s trying like hell to get here because he wants to help. Part of me is just so angry and scared—”

“And the rest of you is proud,” Jason said. “Because you’ve raised a really great kid who’d put his life on the line for his little brother without even blinking.”

“He’s just a baby.” Elizabeth swiped tears from her cheeks. “They’re all just babies. He shouldn’t be worried about this. He’s barely eight years old, Jason.”

“Barely eight, and without even taking a minute, he and Spencer put together plan to get to Greece, and Emma and Joss agreed to help because they’re best friends. There are worst in the world than finding out you’ve got a strong, independent kid who could take on the world.”

“I know.” Elizabeth’s mouth twitched. “They left Aiden with a Lunchable and a cartoon.”

“Resourceful,” Jason said and she laughed. Her phone rang and he handed it to her. “It’s Michael. He probably has them.”

Elizabeth took the phone and put it on speaker. “Michael?”


“Cameron—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, relieved. “Baby. You’re with Michael?”

“He found us at the airport. I—I’m sorry. I just—” There was a pause as Cameron’s voice faltered. “I just want to find Jake. I want to bring him home.”

“I know you do. I’m so proud of you, and I love you so much. Jason and I were just talking about how amazing you and Spencer and the girls are to get that far. Did you have tickets? What about passports?”

There was a pause. “Dante said you didn’t want to reveal your plan,” Jason said, “but I think it’s safe now.”

“I found my passport in your room, Mom. I saw it once when you were getting my birth certificate. It was next to Jake’s. Spencer got tickets on a credit—” There was a scuffle. “Uh, I don’t know how Spencer got them.”

Tickets and passports. If Michael and Carly had been ten more minutes behind the kids, would they have been able to stop them? Elizabeth sighed. “Michael, are you there?”

“Yeah, hey. We’re on our way to Mom’s place. Dante is coming over to hang out. For some reason, Lulu and Maxie are tapping out.”

“Please, I did the world a favor,” Joss said from the background. “They should always be gagged.”

“Anyway, Mom’s got this. She’s always one step ahead of Joss mostly because Mom already did worse than Joss is ever gonna try—”

“I’ll find that tracker!”

“I’ll call you if they break out again,” Michael said.

“Okay, thanks. Cameron, I love you,” Elizabeth said. “But if you decide to tie up Carly and gag her—”

“Make sure you take pictures this time,” Jason offered.

Michael snorted. “We could make a lot of money selling those.”

“Bye, Mom. Bye Jason.”

She hung up the phone, looked at Jason. “We’re going to get our little boy, aren’t we?” she said softly. “We’re going to get Jake and bring him home.” She slid her phone in her pocket, then reached up to kiss him fiercely. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

They stood there for another minute, looking out over the island but then Laura came out on the terrace. “Before you decide to just swim over,” she said, “Luke’s on his way up with Lucky.”

“Well, I guess I’m back in the Saving Lucky business,” Elizabeth muttered, but Laura shook her head.

“No. It’s not like that, sweetheart. If Helena has control again, it’s not on you to take care of it. It’s me. And Luke. We should have finished this a long time ago.” Laura lifted her chin. “But I think seeing you—with Jason—it might shake Lucky enough. If he thinks giving Jake back to you will win you back—”

“You always did piss him off just by breathing,” Elizabeth said even as Jason made a face. She focused on Laura again. “Michael called. They have the kids.”

“Oh, good. How close did they get?”

“Honestly, ten more minutes, and we’ve have a child army ready to go to war,” Elizabeth admitted as they went back inside. “I think they might stay put for a while, but—”

The door opened and Lucky stumbled in, blinking at the crowd of them. Spinelli got to his feet, Sonny angling himself slightly in front of the younger man, unsure what Lucky might do or say.

“What’s—” Lucky looked around. “Mom—” His eyes found Elizabeth. “Why—you came. You came to help. Dad told you? He told you Nikolas stole our boy—”

“No, Nikolas stole my son,” Elizabeth corrected, gently. “Min and Jason’s. We’re here to get him back. To take him home.” She slid her arm through Jason’s, smiled up at him. “Together.”

Lucky shook his head. “No—No, that’s not—” He looked at his father who sighed. “That’s not how this is supposd to happen.”


“She—” Lucky’s hands fisted at his sides. “I’m supposed to—I’m—” He glared at Elizabeth. “You’re doing it again. You’re ruining everything!”

“How am I ruining anything?” Elizabeth said coolly. “You left Port Charles and made it very clear that you didn’t want me or any of my boys in your life.”

“No, no, no—this is wrong.” He took a step towards her, and Jason’s hand tightened around hers, tugging her back slightly. “I’m supposed—you’re supposed to come back to me.”

“According to who?” Elizabeth asked. “I’m telling you how it is—”

“Damn, she said that if I killed Nikolas, I could have Jake back!” Lucky raged. “If I could bring him home, you’d love me again! She promised!” He turned his fury to Jason. “You’re always ruining everything—”

He lunged at Jason, pulling a knife from beneath his jacket. The room exploded in chaos as Jason tried to shove Elizabeth aside just as she pushed him away—over balancing them both—Lucky crashed into them, sending them all to the ground.

“God damn it!” Sonny growled as he waded in. Luke grabbed Lucky by the back of the jacket—just as blood began to pool on the floor. “Who the hell—”

“It’s not me,” Lucky said dully—his face crumpled as Jason rolled over and shoved Elizabeth on to her back—the knife shoved into her gut. Elizabeth stared blankly at the knife, then at Lucky before her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out.

October 24, 2020

Your Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 5

Trying something different today with updating flash fiction first, then grabbing dinner, and writing FMT afterwards. I’ll let you know tomorrow how it works. I know I have to update the Recent Updates page. It’s on the list 🙂

The ending might be a bit wonky. My dad LITERALLY called me as I was writing the final kiss and broke my concentration, then I was out of time and can’t fix anything, so I didn’t reread it yet, LOL.

This entry is part 5 of 41 in the Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 59 minutes. No time for spell check. Forgive any issues with the ending. Dad called as I was writing the kiss, and even though I ignored his call, it was right next to my computer, and my brain got very confused, then there was no time to fix it.

December 30, 1999

Kelly’s: Parking Lot

Carly scowled as her keys slid out of her hand and dropped with a clink to the ground. She started to crouch down to retrieve them but her foot slid out from under her, kicking the keys under the car. Wincing, she glared at the glint of silver mocking her from just out of reach. “Fine,” she hissed to the world.

She got to her feet, determined to go into the diner and force someone to get her damn keys for her. She was a Quartermaine now—she wasn’t supposed to be rolling around on the ground like a nobody.

Carly hitched her purse over her shoulder and started towards Kelly’s, but the roar of a familiar motorcycle stopped her in her tracks and she grinned. Jason might be angry at her, but she knew she’d talk him down eventually and he wouldn’t leave her in the lurch. She turned to the street, waiting for his bike to turn into the lot—but it sped right past her, around the corner of the diner, towards the alley—and someone was riding with Jason, her arms wrapped him, frizzy brown hair peeking out from underneath the helmet.

She growled and stalked towards the alley, determined to put a stop to this once and for all. Jason needed to stop playing in the playpen and concentrate on what was important — getting her out of her marriage. That was the only reason he was getting distracted by that child—he was bored—

Carly heard the motorcycle’s engine switch off, so she stopped at the corner, waiting for Elizabeth to go inside—

Only to see the little brat hand him the helmet and say something to him that Carly couldn’t make out from where she was standing. Jason grinned—her eyes narrowed—she knew that particular smile, the jerk—

Then she stared as Jason put his arm around Elizabeth’s waist, pulling her against him and kissing her. Not on the cheek. Not on the forehead. But on the mouth—and clearly not for the first time the way the little bitch curled up against Jason and all but climbed into his lap—she might as well straddle him on the bike, Carly thought bitterly.

“I’ll see you at closing?” she heard Jason asked, Elizabeth nodding and smiling at him. She waved and went inside. Jason watched her go, and Carly was not at all happy about the way he was smiling.

It looked like she was going to have to remind him who came first around here.

Kelly’s: Diner

Elizabeth smiled sunnily at DJ who just squinted at her, since the last time the cook had seen her, she’d tried to freeze herself into feeling nothing the night before.

“You look better, Lizzie,” DJ said. He flipped a pancake. “You pulling another double?”

“Mmm, until break is over in January, I took all the hours Bobbie would give me,” she said, hanging up her jacket and purse. “You, too?”

“If I let anyone else make the chili,” the cook said with a sigh, “we’d go out of business. Miss Ruby said no one ever made it like me.”

Elizabeth smiled wistfully, remembering the owner of the diner who had passed away earlier that year. Ruby Anderson had taken a chance on Elizabeth even though she was the worst waitress ever, and the tough as nails woman had had always had a soft spot for her. “Without you, this place would have fallen apart,” she told him, then went out to start her shift.

A few hours later, as she was finishing the first half of the lunch rush and gearing up for the late lunch shift workers from the docks, she noticed Bobbie coming in, smiling at Penny who was handling half the diner that day.

Elizabeth went behind the counter to check on the carafes of coffee, trying to avoid the redhead’s notice. She was grateful that Bobbie had been wrong the night before, but part of her couldn’t quite shake the notion that Bobbie knew Jason better than Elizabeth did. Had Bobbie said something to Jason? She knew she should just trust Jason—he said what he meant, and wouldn’t lie to her.

But that didn’t mean he didn’t also have a deep streak of kindness—but maybe that was just her insecurity again, Elizabeth decided. She was listening too much to the people around her who said she’d never be Jason’s type, but he didn’t kiss her like she wasn’t his type—

Except he wouldn’t just want to kiss her. That thought had slid into her head like an assasin somewhere between the third and fourth pots of chili, and Elizabeth knew the topic of sex would come up faster with Jason than it had with Lucky. It hadn’t really ever come up with Lucky, except just that once and she knew Jason wouldn’t pressure her but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t get bored—

“You look like you’re trying to figure out peace in the Middle East,” Bobbie said with a smile as she came around the corner to pour herself a cup of coffee.

Elizabeth smiled tightly. “I didn’t pay a lot of attention in history,” she said, “but even I know that’s probably not going to happen.” She cast her eyes over the diner, wincing when she saw her last customer leave—Penny’s section still had a handful of diners, but Elizabeth was done for the moment.

“I’m sorry,” Bobbie said. “About last night. I really shouldn’t have said anything.”


“No—” Bobbie put a hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “You’re part of my family, the way that Jason is,” she added. “And I suppose I never saw it coming because in my head—” she sighed. “In my head, it’s still supposed to be Lucky.”

Elizabeth’s throat tightened and she stared blindly at the counter. “And it’s supposed to be Carly for Jason,” she muttered.

“No—well—” Bobbie pressed her lips together. “Yes, I guess maybe. Which sounds terrible since she’s married, but—”

“But you thought Jason would get her out of the marriage with Michael and they’d be a family.” Elizabeth folded her arms, picking at a loose thread in her sleeve.

“I did,” the other woman admitted. “But that’s selfish of me because Jason is a good man who deserves to be happy. And he was right—he gets to make that choice.”

“You talked to him?” Elizabeth asked, frowning. Oh, God, what had she said—

“Nothing, except that I had heard he’d moved out and was glad. He was very annoyed with me, worried I might have given you the wrong idea about how he felt,” Bobbie added. “I realize now that I heard what I wanted to hear. What I expected to hear.”

“Because Jason and I don’t go together,” Elizabeth finished when Bobbie said nothing else. “We don’t fit. I know that.”

“Elizabeth—” Bobbie tilted her head to the side. “You know, I might have agreed even a week ago, but I think I just didn’t see how much you’ve grown up. You’ve been through so much, baby. I wish I could protect you from the world, but I can’t. And Jason absolutely deserves to be happy. He shouldn’t be cleaning up after my daughter or Sonny for the rest of his life. You’re both young enough to take a risk.”

Elizabeth frowned. “You don’t look like you believe what you just said.”

“It’s not that. Just because Jason is ready to let go of the last year—”

“That doesn’t mean Carly is.” Elizabeth bit her lip. And part of her wondered if Jason really was ready to move on from Carly. He’d been tangled up with her for years—had been rushing to her rescue barely two months ago. She was supposed to think that a few months of being around Elizabeth would change that?

“Just be careful,” Bobbie cautioned. “Carly can do quite a bit of damage, even when she’s not aiming directly at you.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Hallway


Jason nodded at Johnny on the door. “He wanted to see me?”

“Yeah,” the guard said, shoving the door open. “Yo, Mr. C. Jason is here—”

“Good, good.” Sonny waved him in and Jason reluctantly stepped over the threshold, avoiding the other man’s eyes. Was it always going to be this way? When Robin had hurt him, she’d left town and it had been easier to get over it. To find some understanding, even regret for how everything had worked out.

But Sonny and Carly were always in his face—even if Sonny wasn’t demanding forgiveness the way Carly was—Jason was finding it harder than he thought to face the whole thing. He’d stayed too long in the studio—had hoped by the time he’d left, his brain would have let it all go. But it just wasn’t.

“I heard from my guy at the PCPD,” Sonny said. “You didn’t tell me Taggert had already gone after Elizabeth. He got a search warrant?”

“Nothing to tell.” Jason looked at Sonny’s forehead. It was easier than meeting his eyes. He didn’t know what he’d find there or if he even wanted to know. “Elizabeth handled it and he walked away. Taggert knows there’s nothing in the studio. He wanted to scare her.”

“She doesn’t scare easy,” Sonny said, folding his arms. “This isn’t going away—”

“I’m meeting with Justus tomorrow,” Jason said. “He’ll take care of it. Taggert can’t prove anything and Elizabeth can talk circles around him.” He smiled then, not realizing it, remembering the frustrated bafflement in the other man’s eyes as Elizabeth had efficiently demanded the search warrant and located an error, forcing him to back down. She was tough than she looked.

“I know that,” Sonny said. “I’m pretty intimidating when I want to be, but ever time I tried to turn it on her to get you out of the studio, she just—” He shrugged. “Either ignored me or talked me around until I was agreeing with her.” He paused. “But the PCPD is still coming after you for Moreno—”

“They can do whatever they want,” Jason replied. “As long as Elizabeth is out of it.”

“She’s not giving an alibi?” Sonny asked. “I thought she’d want to—”

“I don’t think she’d refuse,” Jason said slowly, hating that he even had to have this conversation, but Sonny’s business depended on keeping people out of jail so he, at least, had a right to know whether or not Jason was about to be arrested. “But I don’t want her to lie for me.”

“If it comes down to proving you were somewhere else—”

“Carly knows I wasn’t with Elizabeth,” Jason told Sonny with a shake of his head. “So—”

“Actually—” Sonny winced. “She does know. She saw you dancing with Elizabeth. At Kelly’s.” At Jason’s scowl, he sighed. “That’s why she was here,” he said. “She wanted to know how long that was going on. And I probably—” He hissed. “I egged her on. Didn’t tell it was probably innocent.” Sonny eyed him. “Whether or not it would be now—”

“It’s none of her business what I do,” Jason said, stiffly. “She married AJ. She made her choice. I’m making mine.”

“Okay,” Sonny drawled, waiting as if Jason would volunteer more but there was no way Jason was giving Sonny any more information about his life. Not when Sonny seemed to doubt the way Jason ran his life. He’d wanted to take Carly out of his life, so he’d taken her. Jason didn’t  want to know what Sonny might try if he didn’t want Elizabeth around.

No one going to take her away from him, unless Elizabeth didn’t want him anymore.

“Carly knows you were with Elizabeth that night. She doesn’t know exactly when you got shot. So if Elizabeth gave an alibi—”

“I’m not asking her to lie for me,” Jason cut in. “And that’s the end of it.”

Kelly’s: Diner

“So, really,” Elizabeth said to Francis as he stacked another set of chairs on a table as she mopped one half of the diner. “You just sit all day and watch me work? That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Francis said. “Mostly—” he hesitated.

“Mostly it’s to make sure the warehouse guys know I’m being protected,” Elizabeth said with a half smile. “I’m not an idiot. I told Jason about Sorel’s guys, and you showed up the next day.”

“That might be part of it,” the guard said, with a shrug. “Mr. C also likes you. Said you were top priority.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she’d ever thought about being the top priority to a man who was a notorious gangster, but nothing in her life had gone the way she’d planned since she’d moved to Port Charles. In fact, dating the number two guy in the local mob and needing a guard was probably the least traumatic experience she’d had so far. “Well, that’s probably a good place to be if someone has to be on a list.”

“It’s not bad.”

The bell over the door jingled as Jason opened it, nodding to Francis. “Hey.” He glanced at Elizabeth. “Can I—”

“Sorel’s guys sat in Penny’s section,” Elizabeth said as she moved the mop over to the section where Francis had stacked the chair. “They said nothing, just like yesterday.”

Jason winced, then tipped his head to the guard.

“Night, Miss Webber,” Francis said as he took his coat from the rack and put it on. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow, Mr. Corelli.”

Francis flashed a grin as he left and Jason made a face as Elizabeth finished mopping the diner. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to sound like he was reporting back to me—”

“It’s his job,” Elizabeth said with a shrug. She picked up the bucket, waving him off. “I let Francis stack the chairs because I couldn’t stop him,” she said as she went into the kitchen to dump it. “I don’t mind closing and cleaning up. Bobbie pays extra.”

Something was off, Jason realized as he watched Elizabeth efficiently finish all the tasks and put on her coat. “Are you okay?”

“Me?” Elizabeth hesitated, then looked at him. “Yeah. It’s just—” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s silly, but I guess I’m still—this is weird, right?” She met his eyes. “A few days ago, we were something else. And now, we’re—whatever. And it’s just—” She bit her lip, then leaned up to kiss him, blushing furiously as she stepped back. “I’m allowed to do that now and not just think about it.”

Jason returned her grin, swallowing her smile as he kissed her again, letting himself push everything else away. He sucked in her bottom lip into his mouth, soothing the nicks she’d caused by biting it.  “I know,” he murmured, as he drew back. He wound one of her curls around his finger. “But I like it.”

“Me, too.” She smiled again, slid her hand in his, and then they left to take the cliff roads.

October 23, 2020

Your Update Link: A King’s Command – Part 8

I warned you guys, LOL, that this was going to be the most insane week.

I basically start my entire class over once a month, and my first time coincided with getting the flu shot, not sleeping, and SGOs being due (administrative bullshit). Oh, and also, there’s this election happening, and one of my students was exposed and put into quarantine but I didn’t find out until Thursday, so you know, that’s how it’s going. BUT, the last time I saw this student was three weeks ago and I’m fine and she hasn’t tested positive yet, so I’m just not going to think about it. I wear a mask and rarely leave the house unless I have to.

Also, I got the lump sum of unemployment funds from my state this morning (which I did not know was happening) and I’m so relieved. I paid my property taxes on time and I can fix my car a month earlier than I thought I could. The check engine line has been on and I have a decent commute to work, so I’ve been nervous. It’s getting fixed tomorrow, so that’s a huge weight off my mind.

All of that anxiety explains that Tuesday’s Flash Fiction was the only writing I did all week. I’m mostly okay with that. I made a lot of progress last weekend, and I knew this last week was going to be insane so I just let go of the idea I was going to work on FMT at all. I do think next week will be better because I’ve already written most of the content I’m teaching, and now I’m just refining the delivery to the students. That’s so much easier than what I’ve been doing this last month. Thanks so much for your patience and understanding. I love my new job, but it’s a huge task to walk into a course that doesn’t even have a textbook or a program set in place for resources. I’ve had to create it completely from scratch (which I say all the time, I know, LOL).

Hopefully next week I’ll be able to write an hour or so each night, particularly Tues-Thursday. I’ll keep you guys in the loop!

This entry is part 8 of 27 in the Flash Fiction: A King's Command

Written in 52 minutes. Basic spell check.

“At least I know you didn’t nothing stupid last night,” Johnny muttered as he helped Jason to see to the horses while Francis took Elizabeth down to the stream to wash and stretch her legs.

Jason glared at him. “What does that mean?”

“She can barely meet your eyes,” Johnny said, with a shrug, “and you don’t look like a man who’s enjoyed the marital bed—”

Jason grabbed Johnny by the fabric of his tunic, shoved him against the tree. “You think because we grew up together that you can talk about my wife that way?” he growled.

Johnny shoved him back, and Jason lost his balance, hitting the ground. He scrambled back up and launched himself at Johnny. The two of them grunted and rolled—Jason wincing when Johnny landed a shot to his jaw, but Johnny’s nose spurted blood when Jason’s fist connected to it—

“Oh hell,” Francis muttered as he and Elizabeth returned from their short trip to find her husband rolling around on the ground with hostile Highlander. “I was hoping this would hold a few more days—”

“Aren’t you going to stop them?” Elizabeth asked, blinking up at the taciturn blond man. “Shouldn’t—”

“Johnny’s been asking for it,” Francis admitted. “He likes to needle Jason more than he should, and—” he glanced at her. “Well—”

“He doesn’t like me,” Elizabeth murmured. She wrapped her arms around her torso, staring at the men, wondering if they would truly kill one another.. She’d only really known her father and brother who were nothing like these brawny Highlanders.

“It’s not that—”

“He doesn’t trust me.” Elizabeth lifted his chin. “Neither do you. Or my husband.”

Francis nodded slowly. “It’s not personal, lass,” he said with a bit of color in his cheeks. “Just—”

“I’ve kept secrets,” Elizabeth finished. “And you three think that ‘tis so easily to transfer loyalty.” Tears stung her vision as Jason shoved Johnny again, and the other man hit the tree, grunting before he hurled himself at her husband again. “Would you think better of me if I had immediately told Jason everything that I had only just sworn to keep quiet? Why would you trust me if I broke my word? You’d only wait for the day that I did it to you.”

Francis pressed his lips together, accepted the truth of that. “Aye, well, you should know that Jason barely believes you capable of any real treachery,” he admitted. “Johnny barely trusts his own mother—” He winced as Jason punched Johnny again. “I should stop it,” he muttered. He strode forward, grabbed Johnny by the arm and shoved him back.

“Feel better?” Francis asked Jason dryly as he held Johnny back easily. “You’ve broken his pretty face more than his brother did last Michaelmas.”

Jason wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I won’t warn you again,” he told Johnny. “You’ll hold your tongue—”

“Someone has to watch your back!” Johnny exploded, “or you’ll let your—” Francis growled and the other man broke off his words, looking at Elizabeth, whose pale face suddenly colored and she stared at the ground. Johnny’s meaning was clear.

“You may not like it,” Francis told him in a low voice, “but she’s done naught to deserve the way you speak of her. You’d blacken the eye of any man who did so at home.”

“Please,” Elizabeth said softly. “I think there’s been a terrible—” Her voice faltered as she met Jason’s eyes. “This was a terrible mistake,” she finally said, but her voice was so low it barely carried on the wind. She turn and fled back into the woods.

Jason shot Johnny a scathing glare before taking off after her.

“He doesn’t even see that she’s wrapped him around her little finger,” Johnny muttered. “I’m his first, Francis. I’m supposed to challenge him—”

“Like it or not,” Francis said slowly, “she’s his wife. They took a vow in the church before God and king. She’s Lady Morgan now, and you’ve treated her worse than you’ve treated a tavern maid. It doesn’t matter what secrets or danger she’s carrying. Jason swore an oath to honor her. No one is asking you to trust her,” he said when the other man just rolled his eyes. “But show some damned respect until you know differently.”

Elizabeth didn’t even know where she was she was running, but the choice was made for her when she stumbled into the clearing she’d only just left with Francis, where the woods opened into a small stream.

Her chest heaving, her face flushed with shame and misery, Elizabeth stood at the water’s edge and contemplated the depth of the water. Could she go across? Simply disappear into the woods? Vanish from the world and all the people in it?


She closed her eyes. She’d heard his heavy footsteps behind her and hoped that he wouldn’t be able to follow—how silly was she to think she’d be able to hide from a man who likely knew these woods better than she knew the four walls of her bedroom at home.

“When we reach Perth,” Elizabeth said, relieved to find her voice steady, “you should leave me there.”

“To do what?” Jason asked, stepping up to her side, his broad shoulders brushing her arm. Elizabeth refused to look at him.

“It matters not,” she said, wishing she could dip inside his mind without having to touch him. She knew now the voice she’d heard the night before — not Jason’s, but Johnny’s, the angry man who had resented her every step of the way.

He was Jason’s first, the leader of his men, one of Jason’s most trusted warriors. And now he was quarreling with Jason, violently clashing over Elizabeth, over the secrets she kept.

How could she continue this way? She couldn’t tell any of them the truth. They’d never believe her, and she half thought Johnny would have burnt as a witch if she told them she had visions of thoughts and could hear snippets of conversations for which she hadn’t been present.

And Jason would never trust her enough to let her stay his wife. He wouldn’t chance breeding her madness and curse into his sons. Her father, in all his cruelty and anger, had been right. Elizabeth should have stayed behind.

Should have stayed quiet and invisible.

“It matters,” Jason said, “as you are my wife, and the regent has charged me with your protection.”

“It would be a mistake,” she said, “if we pretended that you could bring me to your home and others would not share Johnny’s distrust. I am not of your clan, I am from the Lowlands, and the regent forced us into this match. And—” Elizabeth looked at him, raising her chin to him defiantly. “You do not trust me.”

“Johnny disagrees with you,” Jason said slowly, “which was the source of our disagreement. I might find it difficult to accept that you keep secrets from me, but that is not the same as distrusting you.”

Elizabeth frowned, shaking her head slightly. “But—”

“And I’m sorry if you think that any of the kindness or care I’ve given to you was out of pity or a hope that I could trick you into telling me what you keep to yourself,” Jason continued. He reached for her hand, and she watched as he traced the lines of her palm, his larger, darker fingers dwarfing her own.

“I cannot tell you,” Elizabeth said softly, her breath nearly a sob. “I can never tell you.”

“I know you think that’s true,” Jason said, their eyes meeting. Not letting go of her hand, he used his other to touch her jaw. The way he had the night before. “Because your father convinced you not to. And your mother thought you should stay quiet.”


“I am asking you to trust me,” Jason told her. “Not with your secret,” he added when she closed her eyes. “But with the rest of you. If you can promise me that your secret will bring me or my clan no harm, than I will take you at your word and not press you.”

Her eyes flew open, and Elizabeth blinked in confusion. “But Johnny and Francis—”

“Will do what I tell them,” Jason finished. “I won’t leave you in Perth, Elizabeth. Even in the Highlands, arranged marriages are common. We don’t have to be any different. I have a need of a wife. My aunt is getting older and will need more help running the keep. I want children. Sons to continue my line,” he added as her heart began to pound so fast she could hear it in her eyes. “And daughters.”

“Daughters,” she repeated, remembering their conversation the day they had wed. “Daughters would not be a burden?”

“I have a sister,” Jason reminded her. “And she was never a burden to me or my father. She’s married now, living on the Isles,” he said with a trace of wistfulness. “I haven’t seen her in more than a year. I understand the worry your brother had for you that day—it was the same I had the day Nikolas took Emily away, and I couldn’t protect her.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes, tears sliding down her cheeks. It couldn’t be real. Couldn’t be possible that he was really handing her the life she’d wanted so desperately deep down inside without demanding everything in return. There was a trick somewhere—there must be—

“Elizabeth? Will you come with me?”

“I—” She couldn’t speak. Couldn’t force the words out of her throat, afraid that if she spoke them out loud, this moment would vanish and she would wake up back in the inn with an angry husband or worse — back in Annan, and this entire adventure nothing more than the dream of a silly girl.

Jason bent down to her, his lips brushing against her so softly they felt more like a caress than a kiss. And she saw it — saw what their future might be—seated beside a hearth, Elizabeth smiling at him, her body round with child—oh, and Jason holding another child in his arms, a smiling, laughing, beautiful little boy—her chest nearly ached from the vision—or was it just a dream—

“Yes,” she whispered against his mouth. She threw her arms around his neck, clumsily kissing him back with all the love she wanted to feel for him, for the dream he’d laid in front of her, and the desperate hope that he was everything he was promising to be.