February 27, 2022

Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 26

News & In Case You Missed it

  • I completed Mad World‘s beta edit on February 21.
  • I’m working on the final round of edits during March.
  • Mad World will begin posting on April 4, 2022. Chapter 76, the first chapter, will be posted early as a preview, I think, a week early.
  • April 1, I’m posting Karma which was exclusive to Liason Haven for three months.
  • Tentatively set my project schedule for rest of the year.
    • March: Editing Mad World, Discovery for Counting Stars.
    • April-May: Drafting Counting Stars, Discovery for Fool Me Twice, Books 2 &3
    • June-August: Drafting FMT Books 2 & 3, Editing Counting Stars
    • Fall: Releasing Counting Stars, Editing FMT, Discovery Broken Girl (November NaNoWriMo)

If you’re interested, I live-tweeted my editing of Mad World from beginning to end. You can read the thread.

Patreon News

  • Posted Mad World Beta edit for Stalker, Obsessed, and Adored tiers.
  • Discovery #8 posted.
  • Check #14 coming later today.
  • Patreons will be charged for March beginning on Tuesday, March 1. Tomorrow is last day to change or cancel before the next charge.

This entry is part 26 of 41 in the Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 64 minutes. Sorry, I wanted to get the ending in just right.

January 7, 2000

Harborview Towers: Hallway

“I’ll pick you up at Kelly’s after your shift,” Jason promised Elizabeth as he walked her to the elevator the next morning. “We can’t take out the bike because of the ice,” he reminded her, “so I’ll be in the SUV.”

“Maybe we should have taken that ride like you suggested,” she said with a wrinkle of her nose, but Jason shrugged and kissed her.

“I like what we did instead,” he said, drawing back grinning when her cheeks flushed and she ducked her head, biting her lip. He slid a finger under her chin to kiss her one more time. “I’ll see you later,” he murmured.

“See you later.”

When she was on her way down to the parking garage and to meet Francis, Jason looked over at Sonny’s door, took a deep breath, and then went over to find Max standing outside as always.

“Hey, Jase.” Max rapped lightly on the door.


Sonny pulled open the door. “Jason.”

“We need to talk about this reception,” he said, walking past Sonny. Sonny closed the door behind him, and Jason faced his friend and boss. “When?”

“Uh, Vega and Tagliatti were going to get back to me,” Sonny said, a bit taken aback. “They wanted to wait for things to settle a few days. To let Sorel think the deal is in effect and that this is just part of the normal order. I’m thinking maybe a week from tonight. Next Friday,” he clarified.

Jason nodded, shoved his hands in his pockets. “We’re doing it. Not because we want to or because I think it’s the best way to handle this—”


“Because I don’t. I think it’s one way, and maybe it’s the easiest for all of you,” he added, and was gratified when he saw Sonny grimace. “But it’s also involving family. Not just mine. Unless Vega’s not bringing his wife?”

“No, that’s—that’s a point. And it’s one I argued, Jason—”

“But not hard enough. I’m doing it because you didn’t give me a choice. You already told them yes,” Jason interrupted. “And if I refuse now, it’ll tell everyone we have a problem between us.”

Sonny stared at him for a long moment. “And we do, don’t we?”

“Yeah, I think that’s clear.” And he shouldn’t have to explain this to Sonny. If Elizabeth had understood it after only a few months, why the hell didn’t Sonny, his supposed best friend, get it, too? “But it’s personal and it’s no one else’s business.”

“I know you’re mad that I went to Elizabeth—”

“It didn’t work. And it’s not going to. Elizabeth isn’t Carly,” Jason retorted, and Sonny scowled at that. “You can’t turn her against me—”

“That’s not what I did—”

“You said it yourself, Sonny. Carly saw me dancing with Elizabeth and asked you about it. And you knew you could play her. You knew you could make her angry at me, and you did it because you thought you knew better than me.”

“I was right,” Sonny insisted, his face reddening. “You know I was right, and you’re better off now, aren’t you?”

“It was my mistake to make, and if you hadn’t pulled that bullshit with Elizabeth yesterday, maybe I could let it go.” And he nearly had, Jason realized. Because Carly was out of his life and he was happier for it. He might never have made a move towards Elizabeth if not for that. But Sonny hadn’t been content just to leave it at that. “But you tried it again. You thought you could get Elizabeth on your side—”

“She’s not the reason you’re standing in front of me, agreeing to do it?” Sonny pointed out, and Jason pressed his lips together. Because Sonny had a point, but it hadn’t happened that way.

“You tried to talk her into taking your side when you knew how I felt. What if I’d done that to you with Brenda? Or Lily?”

“It’s not—”

“What, it’s not the same?” Jason shot back. “It is. But it won’t work with Elizabeth, and you know that now.”


“I’ll do this reception because I don’t have a choice, but you and I are going to have to talk about what happens after that. Things are going to change, and I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

“Hey, DJ, we’ve got another three omelets on order,” Elizabeth said, arranging some dishes on the tray and delivering them to the table.

As she returned to the counter, the bell over the door jingled and Bobbie stepped in. Elizabeth tensed, realizing she hadn’t seen or spoken to the redhead in several days—not since she’d moved into Jason’s penthouse and the wedding.

“Well, good morning.” Bobbie smiled brightly, taking one of the stools. She flipped over her coffee mug, and Elizabeth poured. The nurse caught Elizabeth’s hand, the diamond flashing. “I heard about this.”

“Yeah, it’s, um—” Elizabeth wiggled her fingers, still unused to the way it felt on her hand. “It’s new.”

“I’ll say.” Bobbie tipped her head. “Quite a lot has happened in the last six weeks, wouldn’t you say?”

That was a fair statement, so Elizabeth just smiled thinly, then left to grab orders when DJ hit the bell. When she once again returned, Bobbie was sipping her coffee.

“Is that all you’re going to say?” Elizabeth asked hesitantly.

“Well, I suppose I have my worries,” Bobbie admitted. “Lord knows, I’ve jumped into marriage impulsively. I suppose—” She bit her lip.”I suppose I’m concerned. I know you and Jason care for each other. He made that very clear to me,” she added with a flush to her cheeks. “At the same time, I saw the papers. And I know what the PCPD is investigating.”

Elizabeth paused. Clearly Bobbie didn’t know that Carly had made a statement. While Emily’s suspicions had hurt because her best friend really didn’t know anything else was going on in the background. Bobbie did—and if she didn’t know about Carly, did that mean Carly hadn’t said anything about her mother?

What if that meant that Carly still had that up her sleeve? Carly’s story was dead in the water with herself as a witness, but if she went back and told them about Bobbie, wouldn’t it bring more people in? Bobbie and Carly weren’t the only people who had seen Jason at her studio. Elizabeth’s grandmother had. Nikolas had. And maybe they’d think more closely about how Jason had looked—

“Elizabeth?” Bobbie prompted. “Is everything all right?”

“Actually, um, there were some—well—there a few reasons Jason and I decided to get married so quickly. And one of them was Carly.” Elizabeth met Bobbie’s guarded expression. “Carly threatened to tell the PCPD about the studio. And that you and I knew.”

Bobbie swallowed hard. “She—”

“We needed to damage her credibility,” Elizabeth added, keeping her voice soft. Almost inaudible. Bobbie leaned in. “So we did. And then Carly went to the PCPD. I don’t think she said anything about you—”

“But that doesn’t mean she won’t.” Bobbie nodded, closing her eyes. “I see. All right. I’ll have to—I’ll have to look into that. Ah—” She focused on Elizabeth. “Are you all right? Otherwise, I mean. Were you—”

“I’m good,” Elizabeth promised her. “Do you remember right after it happened, and I told you I was scared that I’d never be able to be with anyone?”

“I do.”

“I was wrong.” She smiled then, relieved to see some light coming back into Bobbie’s expression. “Very wrong. You were right. When I was ready, and when the right man came along, it was beautiful. Thank you for that, Bobbie. For all that you did for me after the rape.”

“I’m so glad, sweetheart.” Bobbie squeezed her hand. “I just knew it would turn out well for you. I’m very happy for you.” She paused. “For the both of you,” she added.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason hadn’t lived in the penthouse all that long, but he thought it seemed awfully empty and lifeless when Elizabeth wasn’t there. He didn’t really have anything else to do that day, and with the snow, he couldn’t even take out the bike.

When the guard on the front desk told him that his sister was waiting, Jason was relieved. Even if Emily had come over to yell at him.

“I was actually hoping to catch Elizabeth,” Emily said, as she removed her jacket and scanned the penthouse, frowning when she caught sight of the framed wedding photo on his desk. She picked it up. “Oh, man, it’s real,” she murmured.

“Did you think it wasn’t?” Jason asked, confused. Elizabeth hadn’t really talked about Emily the day before, only that their lunch hadn’t gone well. “We told you—”

“I know. But—” Emily showed him the photo. “You’re in the church. You’re wearing a suit, she’s got a dress on.”

“Uh, yeah. That’s—” Jason squinted. “That’s a wedding—”

“No, I thought—” Emily shook her head, studying the photo. “I don’t know what I thought,” she admitted. “Maybe that it was a City Hall thing or something in the living room. It all seemed so rushed—”

Jason arched a brow. “Because you weren’t invited?”

“I don’t know. Yeah, maybe. I’m her best friend, and your sister.” Emily set down the photo. “If it was all real and on the level, why didn’t you call me? No one said a thing to me,” she complained. “I saw Elizabeth on New Year’s, and I know you guys weren’t that serious then. Then three days later you get married—”

“What do you mean, not that serious?” Jason demanded. “What are you talking about?”

Emily rolled her eyes. “I’m not an idiot, Jase. Elizabeth told me that Nikolas was wrong at the Christmas party. I don’t know everything, but I know things weren’t like that. And she was nervous on New Year’s Eve about taking things to another level. She was only going to stay with you because of the lock on her door.” Emily shrugged. “I’m not stupid. You were Robin forever and never got married, and you were in love with her. Something happened.”

Jason folded his arms. “Things were different with Robin,” he said finally. “And I’m not that person anymore.” He’d worked hard to be better. “And what makes you think you have any right to demand Elizabeth and I tell you why we got married?”

Emily stared at him. “What does that mean?”

“It means exactly what Elizabeth and I have been telling you for days. Weeks,” he clarified, and her cheeks flushed. “You’re not entitled to information about our sex life—”

“Oh, my God, this isn’t about sex—”

“Yeah, it is. You just said so. Elizabeth was nervous about it on New Year’s Eve. And you’re telling me that like it’s my business. How do you know she even talked to me about it yet?” Jason challenged. “What if she didn’t? She confided in you, Emily.”

“I—” Her cheeks paled. “She said she’d talk to you—”

“How do you know she did? Did she tell you?”

“No, but—”

“No. And you’re here demanding to know why we’re married. Did I demand you tell me everything about Juan?”

“No—” Emily scowled. “But you didn’t like him—”

“No one did,” Jason muttered. He cleared his throat. “You think something’s wrong because you had a conversation with Elizabeth eight days ago—”

“You’re telling me you fell in love with her that fast?” Emily demanded. “Because—”

“It’s none of your business,” Jason cut in, irritated now. “Elizabeth is your best friend, not me. And until she decides to make it your business, you’re only making it worse by demanding information. Why shouldn’t I tell her you’re going behind her back and telling me what you talked about?”

“That’s—” Emily swallowed hard. “That’s not what I meant to do. Elizabeth just—she just gets so defensive about you, and I just wanted to know why you got married so fast. Why can’t I ask?”

“You can ask, but no one owes you information, Emily.”

“I’m trying to protect her and look out for—” Emily huffed. “You’re making it sound like I’m a bad person. I know you rushed into this wedding, and I think it was because something she did for you. Because if you weren’t sleeping together last month, then there was another reason you were staying with her. And fine, keep that from me. Whatever. But if it’s the reason you got married and it means she’s going to get hurt—”

Jason remembered the way Elizabeth had looked that night at Vista Point, when she’d painfully recounted some of the things people had said to her during her first shift back after the Christmas party. The way she’d been treated. That she’d thought she wasn’t someone he’d care about.

It didn’t matter that Emily had a point. That she was absolutely correct, and maybe they should tell her something. It mattered that Emily had likely said something exactly like this to Elizabeth, and it had brought all that back.

“You’re so sure that I wouldn’t have married her,” Jason said, and Emily stumbled to a stop. She drew her brows together, confused. “You don’t think it’s the other way around. You think I wouldn’t have married Elizabeth.”

“Well, yeah. You wouldn’t have—”

“Is that what you said to her? That you know I wouldn’t have married her unless something was going on. That the only reason we’re married is because of my job or something else. Not her. Or the way I feel about her.”

Jason could see the truth sinking in now and Emily’s cheeks paled. “Oh. Oh, no. That’s not what I meant. Not at all. You’d be lucky if Elizabeth picked you to marry. You’re out of her league—” Tears glimmered in her eyes. “She’s too good for you, okay? After all the things you did to Robin because of Carly—”

“Then maybe you tell her that,” Jason cut in, not in the mood to hear another diatribe about his shortcomings. Elizabeth didn’t hold any of that against him so he didn’t care. “And stop demanding to know things that aren’t your business.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Front Room

It was the first time Carly had seen her mother in at least a week, and she had a strange feeling this wasn’t a social call.

Bobbie was standing by the window, her shoulders tight, her arms folded. She turned when Carly came in and just stared at her.


“How could you?” Bobbie asked softly. “How could you do that?”

Carly’s list of crimes was long enough that she didn’t know exactly what her mother was referring to. “What—”

“It would have cost me everything,” Bobbie said, and Carly winced. “And don’t tell me you wouldn’t have thrown me under the bus if you’d needed to. We both know you still can and will.”

“Hey.” They both turned to find AJ. “Reginald said you were here.” His easy smile faded as he took in the tense atmosphere. “Michael’s upstairs if you want him.”

“That’s not why I’m here,” Bobbie said. “I’m here because my daughter decided to talk to the PCPD.”

AJ blanched and came fully into the room, closing it behind him. “Bobbie—”

“And clearly you knew about it,” Bobbie said. “You knew she was planning to turn me in?”

“But I didn’t!” Carly said. “I know I told Jason I would, but—”

“I made her do it,” AJ said quickly, and Carly shot him a grateful look—something Bobbie did not miss. “I made her do it because I wanted her to prove she’d broken with Jason. But she always wanted to keep you out of it—”

“Me, but not Elizabeth,” Bobbie said, and AJ looked away. “Not your sister’s best friend. You didn’t mind if Elizabet was dragged into the investigation. Arrested. Maybe even put on trial.”

“Everyone keeps telling me she’s a grown adult,” Carly spat. “She made her choices—”

“I knew Jason would protect her,” AJ cut in, and Carly glared at him. “I knew he would because it was the right thing to do and because he cares about her. You know that, Carly—”

“And what would have happened if it had worked?” Bobbie demanded. “Do you really think that it would have stopped at Elizabeth? Were you so sure I wouldn’t be part of it—”


“You did it to be spiteful and vindictive because Jason had moved on. And you—” Bobbie leveled a furious glare at her son-in-law. “You did it to get revenge on your brother. Don’t try me with this Elizabeth would be protected bullshit. You took a calculated risk because that’s who you are. This is who you both are.”

“Mama, please—” Carly’s voice broke.

“You deserve each other,” Bobbie spat. “I hope you make each other miserable.”

February 20, 2022

Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 25

News & Roundup

  • Mad World’s beta edit going well. We’re at 30/41 chapters completed.
  • Continue to stay on track for April 4.
  • Still hoping to get Books 1-3 re-released for ebook but it’s just not a priority at the moment.

Patreon Updates

  • Crimson Check #12 posted for all tiers.
  • Crimson Discovery #7 posted for Stalker & Obsessed.
  • Stalker Mad World chapter update coming tonight.
  • Adored will get full beta draft on Saturday. Obsessed gets the monthly update as soon as it’s done.
  • Livestream Watch Party coming in first week of March. More news on that later.

This entry is part 25 of 41 in the Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 57 minutes.

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Jason woke abruptly later that night, though he couldn’t say why. The room was pitch dark, without even a glimmer of moonlight sliding through the curtains. The snow had moved in a few hours ago, though they’d never made it out for that ride.

He listened intently—had there been a door creak or footsteps that had jarred him out of sleep? But there was nothing. Just the sound of Elizabeth’s soft breathing. She was curled against his side, her arm hooked across his chest, the tips of her fingers brushing his shoulder.

She was still deeply asleep, though that didn’t mean anything. Elizabeth barely responded to an alarm clock blaring right next to her head.

But there was nothing in the penthouse. No sounds. No movements. Nothing outside beyond the whirl of the wind and the sleeting snow against the windowpane. There was no threat. Just his own thoughts.

He closed his eyes, tried to slide back into sleep. He’d done this before, in the studio, when he’d had pain or worry about the world outside. He’d focus on Elizabeth, sleeping just below him on the floor. Her breathing always lulled him back to sleep, and it was even better now. She was in his arms, and he could feel her soft skin everywhere, her breath warm against his skin where her face tucked into his shoulder.

He stroked her back, and she moved slightly. Her breath changed, and he winced now. Had he woken her?

She shifted, her hand sliding down his chest, away from his shoulders, towards herself, and then she slid up on her elbow. “Jason?” she asked, her words slurred. “Are you awake?”

“I’m sorry, go back to sleep,” he murmured. He touched her face, brushing her hair back, but he couldn’t resist sliding his fingers down her cheek to her neck. He couldn’t see her very well in the dark, but he knew she wasn’t going to listen.

“What’s wrong?” She shivered, and he reached for the blanket that had slid down. He tucked it around her shoulders, but he could see the white of her eyes now and knew she was awake now.

“Nothing,” Jason said, but Elizabeth didn’t accept that. She reached across him, straining for the lamp on his night table. He squinted when the soft light flooded the room and illuminated her face, worry etched into her features.


He laid back, stared at the ceiling, the way the light cast shadows above them. She tucked herself back into his side. “We have to do the reception.”

“I know.”

Jason frowned, but he didn’t look at her. Still stared at the ceiling. “How did you—”

“Sonny said yes. It’s why you were so angry.” She tilted her head up so that her chin rested on his shoulder, and now he met her eyes. “Once he said yes, it didn’t matter what you wanted. What I wanted. It was already done.”

And that was it, of course. That was why he’d woken in the middle of the night. Why he’d been restless and irritated all day. It didn’t matter. Sonny wasn’t asking Jason, and he hadn’t presented it that way. He’d just told him. This was how it was, and there was no choice.

“I don’t know why things are like this between you and Sonny,” Elizabeth continued, “but I know something’s wrong. You don’t have to tell me,” she added. “It’s just that I’m worried. Your job is to take orders from him, isn’t it?”

And it was that simple, wasn’t it? Would Jason be this resistant if that night in December hadn’t happened? If Sonny had already proven that he was no better than the Quartermaines or Robin or anyone else who thought Jason didn’t know how to think for himself—

“It is,” Jason said hesitantly. “But not about this. Not when it involves you.”

“But it’s not about me—”

“It’s—” Restless, Jason slid out of bed and reached for the briefs nearby on the floor. “I can’t explain it.” Didn’t want to explain it. Didn’t want to explain to Elizabeth that it all traced back to that horrible moment standing in Sonny’s penthouse, bleeding from a bullet he’d taken for Sonny, watching the woman he thought he loved saunter down the stairs in Sonny’s shirt.

How did he begin to tell her about any of that without making it seem like it was the sleeping together that bothered him? It had in the beginning, but then it didn’t anymore. And after watching Elizabeth’s face change that day in the church—

He didn’t want to go through it again.

“You don’t have to—” Elizabeth began, but for some reason that answer irritated him. He turned back towards her, some of his frustration bubbling up and out.

“Stop that,” he said, and it sounded harsher than he’d meant it to because she flinched, then swallowed hard. She dragged the blanket up more tightly, seeming to draw back inside herself.

Jason dragged his hands over his face. “Stop telling me I don’t have to explain myself,” he said, a bit more calmly but the damage was done. “This is about you. Don’t tell me what I’m feeling.”

“I didn’t mean to—” Elizabeth tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “I didn’t mean to. I just—I just don’t think Sonny sees it as it being about me, and maybe that’s the disconnect, you know? He’s seeing it as business, and you don’t—”

Jason just shook his head and walked away, went over to the window to shove aside the curtain. The bedroom sat over the living room, so the view from here was the same as the balcony, over the lake and the harbor though he could barely see either through the snow.

He heard rustling behind him and turned. Elizabeth had reached for the first clothing she could find—the gray sweater he’d discarded somewhere on the floor, and his mood softened. The collar slid to one side, and the hem hit her midway on the thighs. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“You don’t have to apologize—”

“No, I just—” He sighed. “This would be easier if I told you why Sonny and I are having issues, and I don’t want to do that.”

“Because it involves Carly.”

Jason drew his brows together. “How—”

“I’m not an idiot,” she said with a roll of her eyes. She folded her arms, tucking the ends of the sleeves into her palms. “You talked about Carly doing something that made you see who she was, and you cut them both out at the same time. Why else would you be so mad at Sonny over me? Because it’s not about me,” she said flatly. “It’s because of Carly. They slept together, right? The night you were shot.”

“Yes,” he confirmed with a slow nod, and she sighed. “I’m not mad about that. Not the way you think. I was for a while, but I meant what I told you the day we got married. That I see Carly for who she is, and I’m glad—”


“And I wouldn’t give a damn about it anymore if it hadn’t been for what Sonny said to me the day after,” Jason hurried to add and she frowned at him. “He came to the boxcar and told me that now I knew who they both were. He did it because he thought I was better off without Carly.”

She swallowed hard, looked away, and there it was. The hurt he hadn’t wanted in the first place, but— “He was right. I know that. But it wasn’t his place to prove it to me.”


“I thought he understood that. I thought—” Jason shook his head, looked away from her again, out the window to the blinding snow. It had snowed like this the night he’d gone to the boxcar. He’d laid out in the snow, waiting for the numbness to seep throughout his entire body. “I never expected much of Carly, but Sonny was supposed to know better. He was—” How did he explain this? How did he make her understand when he could barely put it into words for himself?

“You told me once that Robin and Sonny had taught you everything you knew,” Elizabeth said. He met her eyes. “And that you grew up in Sonny’s eyes, but not Robin’s.”

That was it. Exactly. He swallowed again. “Robin thought she knew what was best for me. She was right about Carly using Michael, but I didn’t care. I knew she was. But I wanted Michael. It was worth it to me. She took the choice away from me. Just like the Quartermaines,” he murmured.

“And Sonny did that again with Carly.”


“And now he’s doing it again with this reception thing.” Elizabeth reached for his hand. “I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong about Carly. I know that, and Robin and Sonny were right. And maybe the Quartermaines were right, too. I don’t know. But it wasn’t their job—” His throat tightened. “I’m not damaged. I’m allowed to make mistakes, and no one—” He couldn’t force out the words anymore. Couldn’t make himself finish.

“No one has the right to make choices for you.” Elizabeth clasped his hand between both of hers, bringing it to her chest, resting it against her heart. “Or tell you what you’re feeling. Or be angry when you don’t live your life the way they think you should.”

He nodded. Cleared his throat. “I don’t know if I can keep working for Sonny if this is how it’s going to be.” He met her eyes. “But I don’t know who I am if I don’t work for Sonny. I don’t have anything else.”

“You have me,” Elizabeth said. “I know it’s not a lot, but it’s nothing, right?” She chewed on her bottom lip. “That’s not where either one of us lives anymore. You told me that the day we got married. That I dragged you back into living.”

He dipped his head, kissed her, wishing there were words. Wishing he could make her understand just what she’d done for him.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, and he lifted her in his arms, marveling for just a moment that he could do this now. That she’d trusted him.

“Do you know why this morning happened?” She murmured against his lips, hooking her legs around his waist. He carried her back to the bed and set her down. “Because you gave me the choice yesterday. When you told me what Sonny had said about not needing the whole year.”

Jason blinked, a bit confused by that. He drew back, but Elizabeth just smiled. “You let me make the choice for myself,” she continued, tracing her thumbs over his cheekbones.  “Trust me to keep making that choice, and I promise you I won’t ever make one for you. We’ll do this stupid reception. Not because Sonny said so,” she added, “but because it’s probably not the worst idea in the world. And then—when you know what you want to do, I’ll still be here.”

“Yeah?” He leaned down and kissed the shoulder left bare by his sweater. “For the whole year?”

“For however long you want me.”

Jason focused on her, on the way she’d said the words and what she might mean, then he kissed her again, losing himself in how she tasted and felt. He didn’t need anything but her.

This entry is part 24 of 41 in the Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 61 minutes.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny poured himself a cup of coffee and grimaced as Max opened the door for Jason. He was not looking forward to this conversation. “Hey. Sorry if you had plans today.”

Jason just raised his brows. “You said it wasn’t going to take long. What’s going on?”

“I might have been hasty yesterday when I suggested you and Elizabeth could wrap up this marriage thing on your schedule,” Sonny said. He gestured towards the coffee bar, but Jason shook his head. “Had a call from Tagliatti’s people.”

Jason tensed. “What the hell does he want?”

“He wants,” Sonny said slowly, “to throw you and Elizabeth a wedding reception at the No Name, and before you say no—” he put up a hand as Jason opened his mouth. “It’s not something we can refuse.”

“Why the hell not? It’s personal—” Jason began, then shook his head. “It’s not coming from Tagliatti, is it?”

“No. Not only him.” Sonny sat at the dining table, sipped his coffee, even as his blood boiled. He didn’t want Elizabeth in the middle of all of this any more than Jason did, but that was where she’d ended up. “They’re gonna use the party as a cover to take out Sorel. Tagliatti and Vega have their eye on Moreno’s territory, and they’re not interested in letting Sorel solidify his hold.”

“Then they can throw their own party,” Jason retorted. “I’m not taking Elizabeth anywhere near an assassination attempt—”

“I get it, but—” Sonny paused. Jason, in so many ways, wasn’t a good fit for this world and this was more evidence of it. “Let me lay out their plan—”

“Wait. Wait—” Jason shook his head. “You know the plan? Damn it, Sonny, you’re in on this—”

“Tagliatti and Vega have nothing against you or Elizabeth. In fact, they’re on our side. None of us want Sorel in charge of a parking meter, much less Courtland Street and the rest of that area. Moreno was a boil on our ass, and I’d be happier if we divided things up—”

“I’m not—”

“The plan is to make sure you and Elizabeth are long gone before any of this goes down,” Sonny interrupted. “We’ll have the party. Other guys will bring wives and mistresses. Whatever. You’ll do a few dances. Dinner. And you’ll retire early and the party will go on. Just like any other reception,” he added. “Elizabeth will be safe at home before anything happens—”

“That’s if it goes right,” Jason snapped. “What makes you think Sorel will play along? What if he—”

“That’s a risk,” Sonny said slowly, “but Sorel’s already gone after Elizabeth once. You and I both know he was behind that bomb on New Year’s. Sorel needs to go, Jase. This might be our one chance—”

“No—” Jason shook his head. “Absolutely not. You can find someone else—”

“It’s not a request.” Sonny got to his feet. “This is how it’s going to be—”

“You don’t get order me around—”

“No?” his boss raised a brow. “We could call Elizabeth over and ask if she’d be willing to do this—”

“You leave Elizabeth out of this,” Jason growled, stepping towards Sonny. “She’s already done enough.”

Sonny tipped his head. “You think she wouldn’t want a chance to get rid of Sorel? She’ll probably understand this better than you do—”

“I don’t care. It’s not on the table. You can go to hell.”

Jason slammed the door behind him, and Sonny sat down, troubled. He’d known Jason would take this badly, but that was the problem with friendships in this business. Sometimes you had to put them aside for the greater good.

Whether Jason liked it or not, this was how it had to be.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth set the phone back on the hook and frowned, glancing up when the door was thrown open. Jason stalked in, and slammed it behind him. “Oh. That was quick.” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ears. “You made it sound like you’d be gone for a while.”

“Yeah, well—” Jason glared at the door, before forcing himself to take a deep breath. He turned his attention back to her, his eyes softening even as the tension remained in his face. “If Sonny tries to talk to you, don’t listen.”

“Uh—” Elizabeth blinked. “Don’t listen?” she echoed. She’d thought things were better with Sonny and Jason, but—

“He thinks he can convince you when I already told him no, so I need you—” Jason exhaled in a huff. “You need to trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

“I do trust you, and I won’t talk to Sonny if that’s what you want.” She bit her lip. “Can I least know what’s going on or—”

Jason fisted his hands at his waist, dipped his head to look at the floor. “I’ll tell you, but you won’t change my mind.”

This didn’t sound good, but Elizabeth trusted Jason. “Okay.”

“Two of the other families want to use us to get rid of Sorel,” Jason bit out. “They want to throw us a wedding reception so Sorel will come and they’ll take care of things. They promise we’ll be out of there before it happens, but there’s no way I’m putting you in that position.”

That was the absolute last thing Elizabeth had expected to hear and she simply stared at him. “Are you kidding me? That’s what Sonny wants to do? Why does he think I’ll say yes when you don’t think it’s a good idea?”

“It’s—” Jason grimaced. He stalked across the room to glare out the balcony doors. “Because it’s how things are done,” he muttered. “Sonny thinks I’m an idiot, and I don’t know that.”

“I—” Which meant it was a good idea? She didn’t understand what was going on. “Do you think they’re lying when they say we won’t be there?”


“Okay.” So if the risk to her was minimal and this was how things were done— “Do you think I’ll mess something up or I’ll—”

“No. It’s not about any of that.” Jason turned to face her. “Sonny has no right to tell me what to do. This isn’t business—”

“It sounds like it is,” Elizabeth said gently and he flinched. “I’m not pretending I know a lot, but I’ve lived in Port Charles long enough. There’s not really a clear line between personal and the business, is there? I mean, look at us right now. I didn’t want to be mixed up in any of this, but I am. We haven’t been able to separate from any of it since you were shot.”

“I don’t want this to touch you—”

“It’s too late for that.” He flinched, and her stomach twisted. “Look, I’m not saying I’ll agree or anything. You’ve said no, and that’s enough for me. This is your life, Jason, and you get to make the decisions. Okay? Please don’t think I’m saying anything differently.”

“Then what—”

“If this is about Sonny telling you what to do—” Elizabeth tipped her head. “Is it maybe about the delivery and not the idea itself? He made it sound like an order, didn’t he?”

Jason was quiet, but she could see some of tension easing in his shoulders. “I don’t like the idea,” he said. “But maybe it is. He’s in charge, that’s fine. But he’s not going to tell me what’s right for me. Not again.”

Elizabeth knew something terrible had happened with Sonny and Jason, but he’d never told what it was. She just knew it was the night of the shooting and it was why he’d been bleeding to death in the middle of nowhere, and that it involved Carly, who Jason thought he’d been in love with a month ago.

And this was not a conversation she wanted to have today, not after the morning they’d spent in bed. She wanted to hold onto the dream little longer.

“Okay. So we won’t do it and Sonny will have to figure out something else.” She shrugged and turned back to the phone. “Emily called while you were gone. She’s home for the weekend and wanted to have lunch. I told her I’d let her know—”

“You’re not going to ask any other questions?” Jason wanted to know.

“Do I need to?” She shrugged. “You know why you’re saying no, and you’ve asked me not to take Sonny’s side.”

He blinked, then nodded. “Right. So, okay. We won’t do it.”

“Right. That’s what I said.” She gestured to the phone. “Do you want me to call Emily back so we can meet her for lunch or did you have something else you wanted to do?”

“I should head into the warehouse and make some calls, but you go ahead.” Jason leaned down, kissed her. “Thank you.”

It was strange, she thought after Jason had left and she’d made plans with Emily, that Jason seemed so grateful that Elizabeth had taken his side with so little pushback. This was Jason’s way of life, and he was the one calculating all the risks. What business was it of hers to say differently?

She wasn’t surprised, however, when Sonny came knocking mere minutes after he’d likely learned Jason had left. It put a bad taste in her mouth because she knew what he’d be doing.

And Sonny must have seen how she felt when he opened the door, because he sighed. “Jason already got to you?”

“Got to me?” Elizabeth scowled. “What the hell does that mean?”

Sonny walked past her into the penthouse, even though she hadn’t invited him in. “Look, I get why Jason is angry at me, and I hate that it has to be this way. But this life means doing the hard things—”

“And it means you trying to shove a wedge between me and Jason because you think you’re right,” Elizabeth cut in sharply. Sonny stared at her blankly. “What do you expect is going to happen if Jason tells you know, and then I tell him that I’m on your side? You think Jason isn’t going to be mad at me?”


“But maybe that doesn’t matter to you since you already told Jason he can divorce me tomorrow if he wants to,” Elizabeth retorted. “So what do you care if Jason and I are fighting ?”

“I never said it—is that what he told you?” Sonny demanded. “I told him he should just let things go until you want to make a chance. No expiration dates—”

“I want to know why it was your business to even offer an opinion. Do you think Jason and I are morons?”

“Okay, maybe—”

“Do you think we wouldn’t have noticed in a few weeks that the PCPD had closed the case or that Carly wasn’t really a threat anymore? Do you think we need you to tell us what to do?”

“That’s not—”

“You told Jason he could divorce me any time and he came home to tell me that I had options,” Elizabeth spat. “Because he wanted me to know if I wanted out, I could go. Because that’s who Jason is. He didn’t want me to feel tied down or forced to stay. But it took me hours to figure that out, and so we spent most of yesterday pretty sure the other person wanted to leave.”

“I didn’t mean for that to happen—”

“I don’t care what your intentions were, okay? I care that you think you have a right to interfere in my life or Jason’s. We’re not your pawns to move around a chessboard.” Her chest burned. “And I don’t know what you did to hurt him and break his trust, but this sure as hell isn’t going to earn it back.”

“I’m not trying to earn it back,” Sonny said slowly. “If Jason’s in Port Charles and working for me, then he still needs to take orders from me. If he can’t handle it—”

“Then it’s your fault.” Elizabeth jerked the door open. “You can get out. Jason speaks for both of us. If he tells you no, you don’t get to go around him.”

“This wedding reception is going to happen,” Sonny warned her. “I already told the others yes. So you tell Jason—”

She slammed the door before he could finish.

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Elizabeth was still in a rotten mood when she took a seat across from Emily a few hours later. Emily made a face. “Jason couldn’t be here?”

“No, he had work.” Elizabeth picked up a menu and scanned it. “He said maybe tomorrow—”

“He’s working? Didn’t you just get married? I knew it.” Emily sat back. “I knew something was weird and off about all of this.”

Elizabeth laid the menu down and stared at her best friend. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Since the Christmas Party, you’ve both been acting really weird,” Emily said. “I mean, I’m trying to be okay with all of it, and I’m still glad it’s not Carly, but you have to admit, this all feels really forced.”

She really wasn’t in the mood. “Forced.”

“Is it about the business?” Emily lowered her voice. “Are you helping Jason cover up something?”

And because it was partially the truth, tears pricked at Elizabeth’s eyes. Even her own best friend and Jason’s sister couldn’t believe Jason would be in love with her enough to get married. “Because he couldn’t possibly want to marry me otherwise, right?”

“Elizabeth, that’s not what I meant—”

“But it’s what you think. It’s what plenty of people think.” And even it had started like that, she knew it wasn’t just about the business. About Carly or the PCPD.

“Oh, don’t sound so offended—where are you going?” Emily demanded. “You just got here—”

“I lost my appetite.” She jerked away from the table and stalked out.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

A few hours of grunt work at the warehouse hadn’t rid Jason of his bad mood or irritation, so he left and went home. Maybe Elizabeth would want to take a ride. The roads were clear, and they were supposed to get snow the next day. It would be the last chance for a while—

He found her out on the balcony, the doors wide open, letting the swirl of January winds into the penthouse. Not that he cared, but—

Jason stepped out onto the balcony. “Hey, are you okay?”

Elizabeth turned, then blinked at the doors behind him. “Oh. I didn’t realize—” She sighed. “I just got back from lunch with Emily, and she thinks—it doesn’t matter,” she muttered. “I’m just not in the mood to deal with her. And Sonny came by as soon as you left,” she threw over her shoulder as she looked back out over the edge of the balcony.

Jason tensed. “What did he say?”

“I yelled at him for a while, but it didn’t change anything. He said he’d already said yes, so you need to get used to the idea or something.” She jerked a shoulder. “I’m really tired of everyone telling me what they think or acting like they know better than I do.”

He joined her at the balcony. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow, tell him to leave you alone—”

“I did that before I threw him out. We’ll see if it works.”

He drew off his jacket and dropped it on her shoulders. “Aren’t you cold?”

“I didn’t want to feel anything,” Elizabeth replied, then made a face. “It sounds stupid now. I was just so mad at Sonny, and then Emily—”

Jason ran his hands down her arms, then back up to her shoulders. “Let’s go take a ride. Before it snows and we can’t go for a few weeks.”

“We can do that later, can’t we?” Elizabeth slid her arms around his neck, the jacket dropping to the ground. She leaned up to brush her mouth against his. “I want to be with you. Everything goes away when you touch me.”

That was the best offer he’d had all day, so he lifted her in his arms, kicked the doors closed behind them and headed for the stairs.

February 6, 2022

Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 23 – Rated R

Spotlight: Mad World, Book 1

  • New weekly feature. Picking a story and highlighting for new readers and others who might have missed it. I was doing this back in the summer a bit with Throwback Thursday.
  • This week, I’m highlighting Mad World, Book 1. We have eight weeks to go before the release of the finale. If you haven’t read the series or reread in a while, think about getting started.
  • Mad World, Book 1 begins in June 2003 and rewrites the panic room storyline. It’s 19 chapters and I wrote it in what feels like a fever dream in July 2018. I wrote 77k in three weeks. It’s kind of insane to think about that.

News & Reminders

  • Mad World scheduled for April 4, 2022 release. Currently editing beta draft. I’m 15 chapters deep with 26 to go.
  • Counting Stars scheduled for April Camp NaNoWriMo. No ETA on release, but maybe in the fall.

Patreon Roundup

  • Stalker Tier: Mad World Beta Edit, Chapters 82-90 posted.
  • Obsessed & Stalker Tier: Crimson Discovery #6 blog posted. Also created post for Malice (Bittersweet sequel) with discovery material.
  • Crimson Check #10 for all tiers.

Continue reading

This entry is part 23 of 41 in the Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 57 minutes. Rated R. Shorter than most of my usual parts, but I wanted to make sure I took my time with this scene and did it right. I don’t normally write things like this, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Elizabeth emerged from the bathroom, and when she found Jason still in the room, standing at the dresser to pull out clothes for the day, she decided to take it as a sign.

“Hey, um, do you have something to do today?” she asked, forcing a casualness to her tone, even as she slid her eyes over the muscles in his back, and the smooth expanse of his chest when he turned to answer her question.

“Not until tonight,” he said, and her cheeks flushed when she dragged her eyes up to meet his, to find him smiling because he’d probably known what she was looking at.

She could do this. She could absolutely do this, and reminded herself that Jason had made it clear for more than a week now that he was physically attracted to her, but it was easy to forget that. She was…who she was and built the way she was, and Jason was older and he’d been with other women—how many, she wondered idly, and how could she possibly—

“Did you want to do something?”

His question jerked her out of her thoughts and she bit her lip, folded her arms. She mentally cheered when his eyes drifted down—the strap of her tank top had slid down her arm. Okay, so maybe—

“Yes. I—” She stepped forward. Just a single step because it was literally she could manage. Everything felt tingly and heavy and strange. How did you ask a man to take off his clothes? Was too fast? But he’d done it a few days ago, she reminded herself—

“Elizabeth?” Jason prompted. He closed the dresser drawer, then strode towards her, stopping a few feet away. He tipped his head to the side. “What did you want to do?”


She knew she hadn’t said it out loud, but maybe it was in her eyes because the blue in his seemed to change shades, darkening, and there was a tenseness in his chest that hadn’t been there earlier. Not tense. That wasn’t the right word. But she could literally see his body tighten.

She was an adult woman who was married to this man. She could ask for it, couldn’t she? He wouldn’t laugh at her or say no.

Elizabeth lifted her chin, took a deep breath. “Um, a few days ago. Before the search warrant, I mean. We were talking about…and we were—” She gestured at him. “I just, um, didn’t want you to think I wasn’t—” Stop babbling, moron, she chided herself.

Jason caught her hand and drew her closer until their bodies brushed. He dipped his head and kissed her, and all of the nerves fled her body like rain cascading from the sky. She loved the flavor of him, the mint from his toothpaste, the way he always tasted just a little like coffee—

Her hands dug into the skin just beneath his shoulder blades, addicted to the way his skin felt like someone had stretched silk over steel. And his heart pounded against her chest as Jason dragged her closer, his hands tangled in her hair, sliding through until he’d released it from the band she’d been wearing. It spilled down around her face and shoulders.

Jason drew back just slightly, his chest rising and falling rapidly, his breathing shallow and the color in his cheeks raised. She’d done that to him, she had to remind herself. He’d been touching and kissing her and she’d made him that way—

“What do you want to do?” he repeated, but now the question sounded different, his voice thicker and pitched lower. And she wasn’t as scared as she’d been before. She wasn’t worried he’d laugh at her or refuse.

And she thought maybe she wasn’t scared of anything anymore. How could she be when this was Jason in front of her? The man who had slept beside her for more than a week? She knew the weight of his body now, the gentleness inside of it, the softness—he could never hurt her.

Elizabeth slid her hand up his chest, her fingers resting just below his collar bone. Below the bobbing of his throat as his heart continue to beat rapidly against her body. She needed to put what she wanted into words, because she knew—she knew—he wouldn’t touch her until she gave him permission. Until she told him what she wanted.

She could hear her heart so loudly it was pounding in her ears, but she knew what to do. How to tell him she was ready. She took a step forward, and he stepped back. She took another step, and he understood—

His knees hit the edge of the bed and Jason slowly sank down on the edge of the mattress, sliding back slightly. Her pulse was skittering now, and her hands were nearly shaking as she lifted a leg to rest on the bed beside him. Jason’s hands went to her hips, supporting her as she slid the other leg across him.

His fingers had slid beneath the edge of her tank top, where it had separated from the top of her sleep shorts, the touch like searing fire against her bare skin. His eyes were still locked on hers, and his hands didn’t move.

She could feel him against her now and it wasn’t the first time he’d been aroused, the heaviness against her body. The mornings she woke up curled around him, he’d always been hard — and he’d always rolled away and said nothing.

Elizabeth had never been scared of him in those moments, and now, knowing that they were close to the next step, to the step she’d never been able to take—

“Are you okay?” he asked, roughly.

Elizabeth just smiled, rested her forehead against his, her hands touching his face, just letting herself settle. She could stay here forever, his warm body against hers, reminding her that she wasn’t damaged. That she was more than the girl who’d crawled out of the bushes.

“You could never hurt me,” she answered softly. “I’m ready for this. I trust you.”

“Elizabeth, I can wait as long as you need me to,” he promised. He brushed her hair out of her face, his hands warm on her neck. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know. But I don’t want to wait anymore. I want to know.” She kissed him, reaching for his hands. She laced their fingers together, then brought them to her body, sliding beneath her tank top. “I want you to—” She lost the words then, her breath failing as his thumbs brushed the underside of her breasts. “Please.”

“I need you to say it,” he murmured against her throat as she dipped her head back. “You’re in charge, remember?”

Oh, he was so mean, she thought, dropping her head back to glare at him. Jason just laughed at her, his eyes sparkling with mischief and amusement. Elizabeth arched a brow. Two could play that game, she decided and she rocked her hips back, then forward—and now he was the one who lost his breath for a moment.

“You were saying?” she murmured.

Jason slid the hem of her top slowly up, his eyes on hers, waiting for her to say anything to stop him. But she wouldn’t. She couldn’t.

And then it was gone, tossed somewhere in the room, and she still wasn’t scared. Still wasn’t pulling back.

“I want this,” she told him softly. “And I want it to be you.”

He was so careful with her, moving almost too slowly at times and even Elizabeth expected him to roll them, so that she was on her back and he’d rise over her—he never did. Maybe he thought it would jar her or scare her—

But she didn’t think about any of that—couldn’t have. She was lost in the way his hands felt on hers, the way his body tensed, then nearly quivered as she explored with her fingers. She wanted to spend forever just learning every piece of him—

And then the moment came that she’d been terrified of—the moment she’d had nightmares about and panic attacks—and it was as natural and as beautiful as she’d dreamed. She wasn’t being ripped apart and broken, but pieced back together and made to feel whole for the first time in years.

And he kept those beautiful eyes on hers every minute as he slid inside, waiting for her to stop him, to give him a signal, the worry mixed with lust she could see and feel brought tears to her eyes. This wonderful man who managed to always put her first even when anyone else would be thinking of his own pleasure—

“Are you all right?” he managed when it was over and she lay on his chest, sweat glistening on their skin, their breathing shallow and rapid, the sunlight sliding through the curtains and bathing the room in golden light. Or maybe that was inside her mind. It was hard to say, hard to separate the dream from the reality.

“Better than,” she breathed, closing her eyes and drifting. “Perfect.”