March 27, 2022

TL;DR Summary

  • Mad World Release schedule is being adjusted one more time. I had planned to release one chapter a week starting Wednesday, April 6, and continuing one a week until May when I would increase to M-F.
  • We’re going to maintain that one chapter a week on Wednesday through May, and possibly into June.
  • Flash Fiction is going to stay on Sundays, but I’m not promising it every week. I’ll either post at the normal time around 11 AM EST or I won’t.
  • I’m releasing Karma, the novella I wrote for Liason Haven next weekend.
  • All Patreon perks will be released on Sundays instead of Saturdays. I had a few things I was posting on Saturdays, but it just isn’t working.

If you’re interested in learning more about any of these things, you can click the Read More link. Otherwise, subscribe to the mailing list and get emailed when I release new material.

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March 20, 2022

Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 28

News & Roundup

  • Official Mad World Release Schedule
    • Chapter 076 released Wednesday, April 6, and then every Wednesday until the end of April.
    • Starting Monday, May 3, chapters will be posted daily Monday – Friday until mid June.
  • Counting Stars
    • Writing for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. Should finish the first draft somewhere in late May, early June.
    • Editing this summer.
    • Release in the fall.
  • Fool Me Twice, Books 2 & 3
    • Drafting this summer, editing next fall, release next winter in about a year with a similar M-F schedule.
  • Flash Fiction
    • Signs of Life should be posted until mid June, then a break.
    • Scars returns in July with more frequent updates (unsure, but definitely 3x a time to get it completed)
    • Planning to go on Flash Fiction hiatus in August.

Patreon Updates

  • Crimson Check #13 posted for all patreons.
  • Mad World – Final Edit
    • Weekly updates posted for Stalker tier started & Chapters 76-79 posted.
    • Monthly updates will be posted for Adored tier on March 31.
    • Full draft will be posted for the Devoted tier when it’s completed, sometime in April.
    • Weekly updates will begin for Love tier on April 2. They will get Sunday updates of anything that’s being posted that week.

This entry is part 28 of 41 in the Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 66 minutes.

Monday, January 10, 2000

Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room

Carly’s palms were sweating as she followed AJ into the family room that morning. This was too soon, she told herself. What if Jason heard and had questions? What if he told Sonny and demanded a paternity test? What was AJ thinking? If they could just wait a few more weeks to give them all time and space—

“It’ll be fine,” AJ told her before turning to his family scattered between the breakfast table and the sofa where Lila was sipping her tea and Edward was reading a newspaper. “Good morning—”

“Hardly,” Edward muttered. “Did you see the stock market? I’ll be making some calls—”

“Don’t call Moynihan again,” Ned complained from the table. “We need him for actually important things—”

“Don’t tell me—”

Lila ignored her husband and grandson and offered AJ a warm smile. Though it cooled just a touch when she met Carly’s eyes, it was still less hostile than the rest of the family. “Good morning, darling. How lucky we are to have you both join us.”

“Lucky isn’t the word I’d use,” Alan muttered and Monica elbowed him.

Carly folded her arms, looked at AJ. “I told you,” she muttered, but he didn’t indicate that he’d heard her.

Instead, he raised his voice, “Carly and I have something to tell everyone.”

The conversations dimmed and now they were all looking at AJ and Carly. Oh, man, he was doing this to torture her, wasn’t he? This was terrible. This was stupid. Why had she agreed to this—

“Do you?” Monica asked. She twisted in the chair and arched a brow. “Go on.”

“Michael is going to be a big brother soon,” AJ declared, sliding an arm around Carly’s waist. He pinched her and she forced a smile. “Carly’s pregnant.”

“Oh, how lovely,” Lila said with a smile that actually looked genuine. Monica pursed her lips and Alan picked up his coffee. “Another baby—”

“Not that we got to enjoy the last one as an infant,” Edward muttered.

“When are you due?” Ned asked, rising to his feet. “I didn’t realize you were thinking of expanding the family.”

“It was a bit of a surprise,” AJ said. He turned to Carly. “When did you say were due?”

Ned was only asking to check conception dates, and Carly bristled at it. What, was he going to count back forty weeks and see if AJ was in town? If he could prove they could have been together?

“September 10,” Carly said. “Give or take a week or two. You know how inaccurate they can be. Michael wasn’t due until January—”

“No, that’s certainly true.” Monica rose. “Well, congratulations.” She kissed her son on the cheek, ignored Carly. “You’ll have to excuse your father and I. We have a meeting at the hospital.”

Alan’s brows drew together slightly, the only indication that he hadn’t heard of this meeting before now. Still, he set aside his coffee. “Of course.” He shook AJ’s hand and kissed Carly’s cheek. “Michael will be an excellent big brother.”

Carly managed a weak smile. Either they didn’t think AJ was the father of this child or they were all horrified that Carly would have a second claim on the Quartermaine fortune and name. Indignation flooded her veins. She was good enough for their son to marry but not have another child with? It didn’t matter that the baby wasn’t a Quartermaine by blood—neither was that stupid bitch, Emily, but this baby would be born in wedlock.

These bastards were going to pay for this.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Alexis said, dropping a contract in front of Sonny. “And you updating your will doesn’t make me feel better.”

Sonny made a face, then scanned the changes in the document. “I’ll be fine. Jason updated his, too, didn’t he?”

“He did, but that was because he got married,” Alexis said dryly. “And let me tell you how pissed off Elizabeth is going to be when she finds out who the primary beneficiary is.” Her mouth pursed. “And what do you think Jason is going to say when he finds out who you’re leaving everything to?”

“Tell her to donate it to charity if it makes her so angry.” Sonny nodded. “This is good. Go get Max and we’ll get it taken care of.”

Once Alexis and Sonny had signed it, and Max had written himself down as a witness, Alexis sat at the table with a cup of coffee. “Can I ask why you’re insisting on this dinner on Friday?”

“You can but I thought you wanted plausible deniability.”

Alexis just stared at him, and he sighed. “There’s a way to do things—”

“I’m a Cassadine,” she interrupted. “And I’ve seen the Godfather.” She tipped her head. “Is that why you started going by Sonny?”

“No.” Sonny wiggled his shoulders. “It’s just a coincidence,” he muttered.

“Uh huh, well, as long as you don’t plan to have the same fate as your namesake—”

“Are you just gonna crack jokes, or—”

“Sorry.” She leaned back. “Go on. Explain to me why you need an elaborate reception so you can deal with this guy when the lake is right there.”

Sonny’s scowl deepened and he shoved away from the table. “Have you talked to Jason or something?”

“No. I’m just a study of human nature. I was over at his place before this taking care of his paperwork,” Alexis said. “And I definitely got the impression he’s not wild about any of this. So, again, is there something I should know?”

“There were two ways I could have dealt with Sorel.” He went over to refill his cup. “One was quick and painless for everyone. And the other…” He raised his head and caught his reflection in the mirror. He looked away. “The other way served my long-term goals.”

“Ah.” Alexis cleared her throat. “Your partnership agreement with Jason is coming up for renewal next month.” He frowned at her. “The coffee warehouse,” she clarified. “You’re fifty-fifty parters and it requires annual renewal.”


“So?” Alexis tapped the paperwork on the table. “This is the last piece of legal work I’ll be able to do on your behalf due to conflict of interest.”

Sonny’s mouth felt dry as he forced out the next words. “Conflict of interest. That means Jason is thinking of selling out and you can’t represent the both of us.”

“Not ethically, and he’s the one that retained me.” She paused. “Whatever you’re planning on Friday, Sonny, I really hope it’s worth it.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Hardy Home: Dining Room

Dinner with Elizabeth’s grandmother was every bit as awkward as Jason thought it was going to be, but he was determined to get through it without showing his unease. Audrey Hardy didn’t like him, but she clearly loved her granddaughter.

Elizabeth had spent most of the evening searching for topics they could talk about safely, but they really didn’t have much to work with. Jason didn’t have a lot of interests, and Audrey had bitten her tongue more than once to avoid talking about what he did for a living.

“You know, my grandmother used to be a flight attendant,” Elizabeth said to Jason about halfway through the meal of pot roast and potatoes. “Jason has a whole book shelf of travel books,” she told Audrey.”

“Really?” Audrey cleared her throat. “Do you enjoy travelling?”

“I haven’t really—” Jason saw Elizabeth’s hopeful expression because she was clearly grasping at anything she could find. “I haven’t traveled much,” he continued. “I think—I think I did before the accident. Uh, maybe I’ve been to Paris, but I don’t remember.”

“Oh, well—” Audrey’s eyes softened a bit. “I do recall you traveled often during the summers. You did a lot of internships and programs that took you everywhere. Maybe…well, maybe there’s a piece of you that does remember that.”

He hadn’t known that, but— “Maybe,” he allowed. “I remembered some of the medical things I studied. That make sense.” He didn’t like talking about his accident. “So you weren’t always a nurse.”

“Well, I had completed my studies,” Audrey said, “but rather than going to work in the field, I decided I wanted to see more of the world. Lucille thought I was wasting my life. My older sister,” she clarified when Jason frowned. “But I thought the world was much bigger than Port Charles and I was determined to see it.”

Jason nodded. He could understand that. Sometimes he wondered about the world outside, and wanted to see the places in the books he’d read. “What made you change your mind?”

Audrey smiled at Elizabeth, before looking at Jason again. “Well, I came home to visit Lucille, and I went to General Hospital. The emergency room had just opened the year before,” she said, “and they were looking for nurses. Lucille was trying to get me to apply—to make something of myself—and I was refusing. And then—”

“And then you saw Gramps,” Elizabeth said, putting her chin on her fist, her eyes shining. She’d heard this story before. “Right?”

“It seems silly to me now that I changed everything, but I just felt something click.” Audrey’s fingers rested on her fingers. “Of course, Steve and I didn’t quite manage to get it right, and I ended up leaving. I worked in Vietnam during the war,” she told Jason. “But the few years I lived here working as a nurse, it became clear to me that was what I was meant to do. But I’m so glad I took the chance and saw the world first. Oh, flying was so different then! Pilots and stewardesses were treated like traveling VIPs, and I was so lucky to be given an international route. I was able to see London and Paris, and for a time, I worked on the Barcelona tour, and I flew to Cairo—”

“You’ve been to Egypt?” Jason interrupted. “Did you see the pyramids?” He’d read about them, but the pictures didn’t feel right, and he’d wondered about them ever since.

“Oh, of course. Giza is just outside of Cairo, and I couldn’t pass the chance. Have you?”

“No, but I—” Jason paused. “No, but I read about Egypt a lot. A lot of the books are about Africa,” he added. “The Egypt ones are my favorite. I like the history.” It had appealed to him, all that long history, maybe because he hadn’t any of his own. “And—” His throat tightened. “Michael liked hearing about the animals.”

“I always wanted to go back,” Audrey said. “To see the animals. To do a safari. Steve and I—” Her voice faltered. “We talked about traveling when we retired, but—”

Jason remembered now that Steve Hardy had died in his office at GH—that he had never retired. And he knew Audrey still worked. They’d never had that chance. “I’m sorry. Dr. Hardy was a good doctor.”

“The best.” Audrey took another deep breath. “Well, Elizabeth has also talked often about traveling. There are so many museums she wants to see.”

Elizabeth cleared her throat when they both looked at her. “Um, yeah, I guess. I took an art history class last semester and I knew some of it, but the Renaissance really—I want to see Italy,” she added. “And definitely France. There’s some really amazing architecture and beautiful buildings. But I don’t really have the time for traveling right now with school and work.”

Audrey tilted her head. “You’re still at Kelly’s? I would have thought—”

Elizabeth made a face. “Gram.”

Whatever Audrey had intended to say, she dropped it. Instead she smiled, “Summer will be here before you know it,” she told her granddaughter. “I can understand not taking a honeymoon right now with classes starting in a week, but—”

“Gram—” Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed, and she shoved her hair behind her ears. “We haven’t talked about that—”

“But we could,” Jason said, and Audrey smiled at him. A genuine one with warmth and softness. They’d taken a turn there during the dinner, even though he wasn’t really sure where. He was just glad it had happened, and that Elizabeth was smiling even as her cheeks were still stained with the flush of embarrassment. She met his eyes as she sipped her water and smiled at him. Maybe she would go with him this summer. He could take her Italy, couldn’t he? And she could see the pyramids with him in Egypt. Why not?

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Elizabeth switched off the bathroom light and crawled into bed next to Jason who had one of his travel books in his hands. She curled on her side, watching him read for a while before she realized the cover was the Piazza del Marco from Venice.

“You’re reading about Italy?”

Jason laid the book on his chest. “Yeah. I have a few that I didn’t get to—”  Because he often reread his favorites, she knew, and Egypt was sitting on his nightstand. His usual go to night reading. “It was nice, talking to your grandmother about the places she’d been.”

“Yeah. Sometimes I forget what a full life she’s lived. I’ve always known her as the upright and steady nurse who took on her husband’s grandchildren and loved them like her own. She’s not my biological grandmother,” she added. “And she didn’t even raise my dad, but I’ve never once felt that way.”

“You’d never know it,” Jason said. He paused. “Monica’s not my biological mother, either,” he said. “But I know she raised me like I was.”

“That must have been strange after the accident,” Elizabeth said, “learning about all the secrets and craziness from when you were a kid.”

“Not really,” Jason said. “Monica used it to try to explain that even if I didn’t remember her, that it wouldn’t change anything. Blood didn’t make a family.” He stared at the ceiling for a moment. “It’s always been easier with her. Not as easy as Emily or my grandmother, but more than anyone else.”

“I’m sorry if Gram brought back any sore spots with the accident—”

He shook his head. “It’s fine. It’s—” He frowned. “It’s interesting, I guess, what stayed the same. I used to think of myself as a different person but the more time that passes, I can hear about him now. Or myself. I still know some medical things, and the traveling—I didn’t know I’d been a lot of places.”

“You spent a summer with my parents,” Elizabeth told him, and he blinked at her. “Doctors Without Borders. Before they joined it permanently a few years ago, they did a stint that summer, and you applied to the program, I think, your freshman year. You were in Sarajevo.”

“I didn’t—” He exhaled slowly. “Sarajevo, my freshman year. 1992. That would have been when things were getting bad.”

“Yeah. It’s one of the reasons Mom and Dad kept going back, and why they just…made it their life’s mission. They’re terrible parents, but amazing doctors. The world’s lucky to have them.” Elizabeth reached for the book laying on his chest. “You always read about all these places. Why haven’t you gone?”

“Never seemed like a good time,” Jason told her. “First I didn’t have the money, and then I was working for Sonny, and I went to Paris to see Robin,” he added. “But Sonny left, and there was Michael—” He shook his head. “But you told me about your art history class before. You should see the museums—”

“Oh, don’t let my grandmother think—”

“You don’t have to work at Kelly’s,” Jason said, and she frowned at him. “I mean, you can. I know you like it. But you should have more time for your art. I just…if you wanted to.”

Elizabeth sat up, thumbed through the pages of the book, sliding her fingers over the pictures. “Tammy said the same thing,” she murmured. “She said I’d always have a place there, but when classes start, I won’t have much time. Last semester, I felt like I always working and going to class. Maybe that’s why my work wasn’t as good. I was so tired.” She looked at him. “I’ve heard the light in Italy isn’t like anywhere else in the world. That’s amazing for artists and why so many important works are from there.”

“We could find out. After your semester is over,” he added. “But—”

“We could,” Elizabeth said. She handed him back the book. “One condition. We go to Egypt first.”

He grinned, tossed the book aside and reached for her. “Anything you want,” he murmured against her mouth.

“I’ve got everything I want right here.”

March 13, 2022

Happy Sunday!

Dropping in to say that Daylight Savings messed with my sleep schedule and by the time I woke up, it threw off my whole day. So no Flash Fiction today, we’ll be back next week!

I’m making a slight adjustment to Mad World’s release plans. I’m still going to start posting in April but rather than beginning daily Monday-Friday posting, it’ll be a bit slower — one chapter a week until May when I’ll increase to five chapters a week.

I was proofing my second draft  and came to small storyline arc that just felt a bit superficial, and I realized that some of the characters involved had been huge beats going back to Book 1. It just didn’t feel like a satisfactory ending. I started to reorganize it, and along with some other changes as well as some real life complications, I just got about a week, maybe two behind my schedule. When we get to that point in the story as I post it, I’ll be more specific 😛

This is sort of similar to what happened with Fool Me Twice last year, except that was made a lot worse by the anxiety issues I was having and my general level of burnout and stress in real life and with writing. The entire editing process of that book got derailed and messed up because I felt such a deep pressure to maintain a posting deadline I had promised, and now I have some regrets on how I handled a few things in Book 1. Nothing major, just a general level of wishing I had made more time and given myself more space.

I’ve worked on Mad World off and on since 2014, and mostly on since 2017. The serial rapist storyline had been in my head since 2004. As we head into the final book in this series after nearly a decade, I just want to do right by myself and the universe, as well as the readers who’ve stuck by me this long.

Chapters 76-79, the first four chapters, are relatively solid. They need the last bit of polish, but other than that, they’ll be good to go. That’s why I feel really good about slowly building up  the posting schedule.  I’ll have an actual schedule ready in a few days.

I really appreciate your patience and understanding 🙂


March 6, 2022

Update Link: Signs of Life – Part 27


  • Mad World – Final Edit
    • I’m going pretty slowly through the beta edit catch any last minute typo and continuity errors.
    • I should finish around March 10, then I’ll be editing 2-5 chapters a day with a goal of being completely done by around March 25.
  • Posting Schedule
    • I’ll be posting Chapter 76 as a preview chapter on Monday, March 28.
    • Starting Monday, April 4, I’ll be posting one chapter a day Monday-Friday.
    • I won’t post on the weekends and I won’t do update posts.
    • Join the update list in the sidebar and you’ll get updates that way if you want.
    • Then on Saturdays, I’ll post a round up post of all chapters posted that week.
    • This should take us to about the end of May.
  • Camp NaNoWriMo – April
    • Working on the plot breakdown of Counting Stars as we speak.
    • I’ve broken down around 9 or 10 chapters.
    • I’ll be writing that in April & May, editing this summer and releasing in the fall.
  • Other Crimson Glass News
    • Karma is coming April 1.
    • I got a question about Fool Me Twice’s color scheme, and I’m going to be updating that at some point in the next few weeks.
    • The blue on blue isn’t working for me, either, to be honest but I never got around to fixing it.
  • Patreon
    • There’s no Patreon posts for this week.
    • I got a little backed up at work and really just vegged at home, working on Mad World’s posting edit reread. I’ll have a lot more next week.

This entry is part 27 of 41 in the Flash Fiction: Signs of Life

Written in 62 minutes.

January 7, 2000

Kelly’s: Diner

Elizabeth tossed up another table of orders and grabbed the bowls of chili DJ had set down. As she delivered them to another table, she heard the bell over the door jingle and braced herself. Her grandmother had just walked through the door.

Just because Audrey had been kind about the wedding a few days earlier, that didn’t mean Elizabeth could really trust it. Gram had a way of smiling and accepting who Elizabeth wanted to be, only to turn around and lay down conditions the next time they spoke.

“Hello, darling. I was hoping I could catch you after the lunch rush.” Audrey glanced around the diner which was starting to thin out a bit.

“More like I’m in between. There’s a shift change on the docks in about an hour, but I’ve got a minute.” Elizabeth went around the corner and waited for her grandmother to settle herself on one of the stools. “Tea?”

“Yes, thank you.” Audrey spooned some sugar in the tea as it steeped. “I was hoping you might ask Jason to join us for dinner one night this week.”

Elizabeth blinked. “Dinner?”

“Yes. If I’m to get to know him, we’ll need to spend a bit of time together.” Audrey carefully blew on the hot beverage, then sipped. “Or do you think he’ll be uncomfortable? We can do something else. What would you suggest?”

“I don’t know.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “I wasn’t really expecting—”

“I meant what I said, dear. Lila has been so gracious and warm about you joining her family. She knows you thanks to your friendship with Emily. I’d like the same opportunity. You’ve told me that Jason’s not who I think he is. I’d enjoy finding out for myself, I think.”

This felt like an episode of the X-Files, Elizabeth thought. Or one of the old Twilight Zone stories her grandfather had liked to watch. Her grandmother wanted to invite Jason for dinner. What would that even look like?

“We don’t have to—”

“No, I mean, I don’t know. I’ll ask Jason.” Jason would probably agree, Elizabeth thought. He felt so bad that she was being dragged into this reception thing—he’d probably see it as fair. They’d be even. Still — “I’ll call you and let you know know.”

“Wonderful.” Audrey beamed.

Not long after her grandmother had finished her tea and left, Elizabeth had another visitor — one that gave her nearly as much anxiety. In fact, she nearly tossed her apron and disappeared into the back when Emily came in.

“Hey.” Emily smiled nervously. She bit her lip and sat at the counter. “I, uh, went over to see Jason this morning. We had a really good talk.”

Elizabeth stared at her, uncertain. Had Jason told Emily why they’d married? He wouldn’t—would he—

“And he made me see that the way I’ve been acting since you told me, it was, uh, sending all the wrong messages. Like, I obviously don’t get to demand information from you. And you’re both right. I’m not entitled to know anything about your sex life.” Emily’s cheeks flushed. “I’m not asking about that, either. It’s just—it, um, really threw me. You were gonna stay with Jason because of the lock on your door and you said you were really nervous about how things were gonna go.”

And then three days later, Elizabeth had married Jason. “I guess I can understand how that would be strange,” she said slowly, “but—”

“And I didn’t say things, right, you know? It’s not that I don’t like the idea of you together. I like it even better after talking to Jason, by the way. Before, I was happy you weren’t Carly, but I couldn’t really see it. Like, it didn’t make sense.” Emily began to shred a napkin into long slivers. “But I also know my brother’s been a moron. He really hurt Robin, you know. You’re really too good for him.”


“Not that way either. Crap, I’m messing this up.” Emily met her eyes. “I never thought you getting married was weird because I didn’t think he’d marry you. Or that he’d be interested in you. I promise you, it was never that. It was just—I was scared you got in the middle of something with his job and I don’t want you hurt. So I pushed because I wanted to make sure you were okay. I just messed it up.”

Elizabeth’s chest felt looser now and she exhaled in a rush of breath. “That’s why you were saying it was weird.”

“Yeah. But then I went to Jason’s—to your place, too, now I guess. And I saw your wedding photo. And he’s wearing a ring.” Emily reached for her hand. “So are you. It’s real. And he looks—well, I think he’s happy. He’s hard to read.” She released Elizabeth’s hand. “Are you happy?”

“I’m—” Was she? Things were so up in the air, unsure and fragile. But — “Yes. You were right. That last time we talked before you went to New York. I talked to Jason about how I was scared, and he was kind.”

“And this isn’t me asking for details,” Emily said. “I just—I want you to be okay. And happy, but okay is different, you know?”

“I’m okay,” Elizabeth promised her. “Better than.”

“Good. Good. I never in a million years would have put you guys together,” Emily told her, “but then again, maybe I would have. I remember when I was gonna run away with Juan last September, and you got Jason to help us. And he didn’t even yell at me or anything. He listens to you. I could see it then. And I’m glad. I hope you guys are really happy together.” Her face brightened. “And hey, we’re sisters now.”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth smiled. “Yeah, I guess we are.” And it felt so good to be back on the same page with Emily. She might have lost Nikolas, but Emily really had been her best friend. It had been hard to be at odds with her.

Maybe things were looking up.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“Hey.” Jason folded his arms as Max pulled the door closed behind him. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Um—” Sonny scratched the back of his neck. “I wanted to let you know that I finalized some of the details for the reception.”


Sonny winced at the short, clipped reply but forged ahead. “It’s, uh, this Thursday at the No Name. We’ll take the limo,” he continued. “There’s gonna be some dinner and dancing. Vega wants to say some nice things, and then there’s the favors part—”

“Favors?” Jason echoed. “Why—”

“They feel as though I didn’t deliver on my part—” Sonny closed his eyes. “When I married Lily. I was supposed to make up for it later, but—”

But he’d walked away, leaving Brenda at the altar. He couldn’t say it. Couldn’t think of it. The tragedy, the pain of her death still felt too raw. “But this is why Sorel is on board. Why he’s buying it, because I owe this. I’ll grant a couple of requests. Elizabeth will spend some time with Vega’s wife and, uh, I think his daughter. Tagliatti is between wives—”

“And then we leave,” Jason said. “I don’t want to be there more than two hours—”

“Yeah, yeah. You and Elizabeth will take the limo home, and it’ll come back for me. I’ll head out after another hour or so, and when Sorel goes, there’ll be the shooting. But that’s the deal. The three of us are out of range.”

“And you think Sorel doesn’t see this coming?” Jason demanded. “So close to the rest of it—”

“He’ll be suspicious,” Sonny admitted, “but he knows I’ve got tension with the others because these last two years. It’s me getting in good with the rest of them. And he wasn’t invited at first. They let it slip in conversation to him, and he forced his way in.”

Jason didn’t like that, though he understood why it made sense. “Fine.”

“The only time you won’t be by her side is during the favors when she’s with the women and during some of the dancing. Vega’s calling for the dance, and she’ll be safe with him,” Sonny added when Jason scowled. “He’s old school. You know that. He helped broker your deal with Moreno.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I remember. He was angry that Mac had been hurt and that Michael and Robin were in the line of fire.”

“If there were another way—”

“There’s always another way,” Jason bit out. “This is helping you, not me. Not Elizabeth. You said it yourself. You made these guys angry as hell when you dipped out of town and left everything to me. You need to get back in with them. If this was really about getting rid of Sorel, I’d just go stake him out and bullet in his head. You assholes want the circus.”


“I told you. We’ll do this, but don’t expect me to be happy about it. You didn’t give me a choice.”

Jason didn’t slam the door as he left, but Sonny flinched all the same. Putting Elizabeth in even slight danger had been the final crack to their friendship, and Jason was right. Sonny had seized this opportunity, telling himself it was the only way. He’d agreed too quickly, seeing the benefits to them all.

But if he’d taken even a minute, he’d have known Jason wouldn’t agree. Not under these circumstances. Not after he’d torn his hands apart to get to Elizabeth on New Year’s, and she’d still been shaking when he’d brought her to the Towers. They might never know if Sorel had screwed up the bomb or had just wanted her terrified.

Sonny had, once again, thought more of himself than anyone else, and just like always—he’d be the one left alone in the end.

And he would deserve it.

Quartermaine Mansion: AJ & Carly’s Suite

Carly leaned over the toilet, her stomach pitching and rolling, and she heaved, coughing and nearly choking. She’d already puked her guts out, and now it was just dry heaves, her wretched body putting her through the exhaustion of vomiting without the mess.

She finally leaned back against the cool tiled wall, her sweaty hair sticking to her forehand, hanging limply around her shoulders. It had been hell hiding her nausea from everyone, from AJ, but it would be nearly a month before she could safely tell AJ she was pregnant.

He’d never believe it now. Before last week, they hadn’t been together in months, and he was already feeling terrible about her mother’s visit earlier that day. He’d gone into the office, and Carly had headed straight for the stairs.

She didn’t want to disappoint Bobbie—she’d tried so hard to be a good daughter, but Bobbie would never, ever forget who she’d been once. There would always be that small kernel of distrust and hatred inside.

Elizabeth Webber, Carly thought bitterly. That’s what had made Bobbie so angry. Not just that Carly might have had to snitch on Bobbie, but that Elizabeth had actively been in trouble. Why did everyone want to protect that stupid little girl?

Lost in her own misery, she didn’t hear the bathroom door open — but she did hear the soft click of shoes on the tiles. She twisted her head to the side and watched in a sort of detached horror as AJ knelt down beside her, his head tipped to the side.

“Food poisoning,” she managed. “Something I ate—”

“Must have been hell,” AJ murmured, “finding out you were pregnant after Jason married someone else.”

She drew her brows together, confused by this opening. “What?”

“Before that,” he continued, conversationally, as if he hadn’t just caught her, basically red-handed in her infidelity, “you probably could have guilted him into finding you a way out of the prenup.”

She cleared her throat. “I—”

“You could still tell him,” AJ said, “but I bet he wouldn’t help you the same way now. He’d just give you child support and ask for visitation. And you’d lose Michael and all of my money, too. Not exactly what you’d want, huh?”

She couldn’t fight back. Couldn’t argue. And what would she even say? He was right. Even if the truth was out, Sonny would just take the baby from her. And she’d lose everything.

“I can explain—”

“Michael is not going to lose his family,” AJ said. He looped a nearly boneless arm over his shoulder and lifted Carly into his arms, taking care not to jostle her. “He loves you and you’re an okay mother.”

She wanted to slap at him, tell him to stop saying words, she was an amazing mother—

“And I think you and I have an understanding now,” AJ continued. He set her down on the bed, tugging off her shoes. “Jason’s not an option for you. He never will be again. And if you told him now, you’d just make him unhappy.” His face tightened. “He’d never be rid of you.”

She closed her eyes, the tears slipping down her cheeks. If this had been Jason’s baby, AJ would be right. Jason would be miserable and trapped with her. He hated her now, and he’d never stay with her for the baby. That bitch had ruined everything. Why hadn’t she gone away? Why couldn’t Carly get rid of her the way she’d chased away Robin?

“And he owes me for what he stole from me. What he put me through,” AJ continued. “This is my child, Carly. We’ll raise it together, and Michael will get to keep his parents together. He’ll be a good brother, and I’ll be a good father. Do you understand?”

“Y-Yes,” she managed. “Yes. I understand.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“I smell like grease,” Elizabeth grumbled when Jason leaned in to kiss her that evening. She flattened her hands against his chest to hold him back slightly. “Some kid threw a plate of fries at me just before my shift ended—”

“I like fries,” he reminded her, and kissed her anyway. “Work was okay, then?”

“As good as it ever gets.” Elizabeth unzipped her jacket and tossed it over the desk chair. She kicked off her shoes and wandered over to the sofa. Behind her, Jason used his foot to push her shoes closer to the desk, then hung up her coat. “Tips are good.” She flashed him a grin. “I think they’re worried if they stiff me, I’ll complain to you.”

“Happy to be useful.” He sat down and lifted one of her feet in his lap, rubbing a thumb over an arch. Her eyes fluttered closed and she sighed happily. He hated to mess this moment up, but— “The reception is set for Thursday,” he told her.

She opened her eyes and sat up, bracing herself on her elbows. “Oh. Okay.”

“We can go over the rest of it later,” he told her. “But in case you need to get off work—”

“Yeah, I can. Um, if we’re talking about dinner plans then—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Gram came by the diner. She wants to have us for dinner this week. Should I tell her maybe another week will be better?”

He was nervous about this reception, but the thought of sharing a meal with Elizabeth’s grandmother who thought dirt on her shoe was better than him was more intimidating, he realized. But—

“No, we can do it this week. Um, pick the night,” he told her. “Whenever.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “You’re doing something for my—” He squinted. “My side,” he said finally. “I should do it for you, too, right? And I…like your grandmother.”

“You do?”

“She’s trying, isn’t she?” Jason pointed out. “Maybe it’ll be a disaster,” he continued and she sighed. “But maybe it won’t be. We’ll see what happens.”

“All right.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “This is going to be a really weird week.”