August 31, 2023

Update Link: Signs of Life – Chapter 9

The first new chapter since February! All of the scenes in this chapter were originally part of the flash fiction series, though it’s been edited for consistency.  I’m going to fix the design issues on the site this weekend, but life has been a little crazy the last few days!

First week at work has been, uh, interesting. I met my World Languages department chair on Monday, and it really feels like she mostly forgot they were adding French. It’s been a stressful, busy week though I did manage to write half a chapter on Tuesday.  It’s a little frustrating — there wasn’t a lot of money left in the budget for me, and I wasn’t able to spend anything on classroom decor, so my walls (which were damaged from previous posters and not repaired) look like a beige prison, ugh.

Today’s my last day of staff development, and then I have four days off before kids come in on Tuesday. I’ll see you guys tomorrow for a Flash Fiction update!

This entry is part 9 of 41 in the Signs of Life

I know I felt like this before
But now I’m feeling it even more
Because it came from you
Then I open up and see
The person falling here is me
A different way to be

Dreams, The Cranberries

Saturday, January 1, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

She was hallucinating. It was the only explanation.

“Can you—” She stepped back from him, desperately needing a bit of space. Her head was spinning and she couldn’t make sense of anything. He hadn’t really—

Had he?

She made a little circle with her finger. “Can you repeat that?”

“I talked to Alexis,” Jason said, “and she said that the best way to handle this was to make sure you couldn’t be forced to testify against me — and to damage Carly’s credibility in court.”

“Does she have any credibility to start with?” Elizabeth asked doubtfully. “Can’t I just refuse to say anything—”

“You could,” he said slowly, “but if Carly walks into the PCPD and says she knows I was shot, that she knows it happened the same night Moreno went missing, and that you were hiding me in the studio, Taggert is going to scrutinize every single detail. He’s going to be looking for leverage.”

“And the fact that I brought you pain medication is something you think Carly might remember.”

“Maybe. Elizabeth—If they charge you—”

“Are they going to do that on Carly’s word?” she said doubtfully. “Carly’s spent time in a mental institution—”

“And if she were making this statement against anyone else, I’d agree with you. But this is the PCPD—”

“And they hate you. They’ll use anything.” On a shaky sigh, she rubbed her forehead. Well, she’d asked Jason for all their options. “I guess we can’t really make Carly disappear because that would probably solve a few problems.” When he grimaced, she added, “That was a joke. Mostly.”

“I told you, Elizabeth, this wasn’t something I was even going to suggest. It asks too much—”

“Of both of us,” she cut in. “Don’t pretend like this isn’t something that would just be on me.  A week ago, we were just friends. We were just figuring out what this is, and now—”

Now, they were putting gasoline on their relationship and lighting the match. It was like skipping a year of dating—

“If either of us leaves Port Charles,” she murmured, “it would be harder to come back. If I left, Carly would still be harassing you about leaving town with her.”

“That would be my problem—”

“But it wouldn’t solve anything. Carly could still throw me under the bus—and worse, she might go after Bobbie without me here. I can’t let that happen, Jason. I went to Bobbie and asked for help. I didn’t do a good enough job of hiding my tracks. I led Carly right to you.” She wrinkled her nose. “And Nikolas. And my grandmother. Everyone knows about you being there because of them.”

“I could have let Sonny help me. Or moved to a safe house after a day or two. You saved my life, Elizabeth. I’m not going to let you get in trouble for doing it—”

“And I made the choice to do it. I came back to the boxcar because I knew you weren’t going to let Sonny help. You hadn’t gone to him in the first place for a reason.” She folded her arms. “If one of us leaves, it doesn’t solve anything. Does…does getting—” Oh, God, if she couldn’t say the word, how was she supposed to actually go through with it— “Does getting married help you with Sorel?”

Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “We need to get you off his radar. There’d be a certain level of protection if you—I mean—” He hesitated. “It’s not a guarantee, and things are up in the air. He’s trying to take over for Moreno, but not everyone agrees he should be the next guy in charge.”

“Right, but it wouldn’t hurt.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “Do you see another way out of this, Jason?”

“We could wait to see if Carly is bluffing—”

“But you said Alexis wanted to damage her credibility,” Elizabeth pointed out. “If we do it before she goes to the PCPD, that’s what makes it look like she’s just, you know, jealous or whatever. Doing it later makes it look like a cover-up.”

“I know.” He looked away, then shook his head. “No. If the goal is minimize the danger to everyone from Carly and Sorel, then this might be the best choice.”

“Okay. Then that—” She swallowed hard. “That settles it, right? Um, we’ll get married and then see what happens.”

Had she really said that out loud? Was this really her life?

“Are you sure?” He reached for her hands, drew her closer to him.

“I think so. I guess—I mean, it’s not like a lot of things would change, right? We’ve been mostly living together for the last six weeks,” she reminded him. “I was gonna stay here anyway. The PCPD and Carly already hate me. My family hates you. I mean, honestly, the only thing that changes is that it’ll take more paperwork to…” To walk away from each other but she did not want to bring that up right now.

“Yeah, I guess when you put it that way—” Jason looked down at her hands. He turned one of her palms over and traced the lines with the tip of his finger. “It doesn’t change what we talked about last night, Elizabeth. It’s just paperwork. Nothing between us has to change.”

She had a feeling that even he didn’t believe that, but she nodded. “I know. So, um, what’s next?”

“What’s next is that I tell Sonny and Alexis. Better to get it done as soon as we can,” he said.  “We could go to Vegas or something—”

“We could. Or, um, I think there’s only a twenty-four waiting period in New York. Emily told me that when she and Juan were separated last fall—”

“Oh, man—”

“Yeah, she definitely thought if she and Juan got married, he’d get to stay in New York—she didn’t do it, but—” She cleared her throat. “We could get a license tomorrow. Has Carly asked you again about getting her out of town?”

“No.” He shook his head. “Why?”

“Because if she only asked you once, she’ll probably try one more time before she goes nuclear. We probably have a few days, I mean. And—and we don’t want this to look like a cover-up.”

“Right. That’s—” Jason nodded, a bit surprised. “That’s a good point.”

“So if we take a few days to do it here in Port Charles, it’ll give the PCPD one less thing to argue about.” Elizabeth smiled nervously at him. “You keep being surprised when I’m not an idiot. I don’t know whether to be insulted or—”

“No. It’s not that—I just—” Jason paused, clearly searching for the right words. “You understand all of this more than a lot of people who’ve been in this longer,” he said finally. “I know how smart you are, but your instincts for handling the cops, for last night—and this—I just didn’t expect it.”

“Oh.” Ridiculously pleased, her smile widened. “Well, I’m glad a lifetime of constantly getting into trouble has finally started to pay off.”

“I’m just happy to have you on my side.” He leaned down to brush his lips against hers. “I better go tell Sonny I’m staying in Port Charles.”

“Thank you,” she said as he drew back. “For trusting me enough to do this.”

Jason started towards the door, then turned back to her. “I didn’t want to go, Elizabeth. I just—I didn’t think I had a choice.”

She watched him leave, then sighed. No, maybe he hadn’t wanted to go but he’d certainly settled on that option easily. She’d talked him out of it, but she would have to remember that staying with her hadn’t been all that important to him either.

They might be signing some paperwork that made them a team, but Elizabeth wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it meant any more than that.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny raised his brows when Jason strode in. “I thought you’d be spending tonight with Elizabeth,” he said. “Since you’re leaving in the morning—”

“It turns out,” Jason said, “there was another option.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Bathroom

Carly squeezed her eyes shut, avoiding the sight of the little plastic stick on the counter. It was going to be negative. It had to be negative.

There was no way in hell she’d be able to hide this from AJ. They hadn’t slept together in months, and while she was pretty sure she could seduce him, he’d be suspicious as hell if she popped up pregnant.

So she wasn’t pregnant. It was going to be negative.

She would just have to manifest it into reality. Negative, negative, negative—

Her watch beeped, and Carly opened her eyes to see the double lines.

Damn it.

Carly dragged her hands through her hair. Okay. Okay. She could handle this. She could do this. She’d make Jason get her out of town, and then she’d seduce him right away. As long as this kid came out looking like her and not Sonny Corinthos, she still had a prayer of this working.

She would just have to remind Jason just what was at stake. Clearly, he hadn’t taken her seriously so she’d have to make him.

If AJ found out she’d cheated, she’d lose everything.

Sunday, January 2, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Unlike the previous morning, Elizabeth woke up on her own side of the bed, curled up on her side with Jason next to her.

In the studio, once he’d started to feel better, he’d rarely slept and had always seemed to be awake before her.

But this morning, he was still asleep—stretched out on his stomach, his arms partially hidden by the pillow.

Would she feel more comfortable with all of this if their relationship was more than four days old? Or would it be worse? If they’d been together for months, and then were suddenly married, would it feel like more pressure?

Maybe it would be easier if they were sleeping together. Wasn’t that some of the tension Elizabeth felt inside of her? Being around Jason, knowing he cared for her and wanted to be with her—it was making it hard to concentrate sometimes. Her stomach always felt like it was on a roller coaster with dips and dives and curves—it was difficult to breathe.

What if she never felt ready? What if she did try and the worst happened—what if he was on top of her and she was shoved back to that moment, of feeling the bitterly cold and hard dirt beneath her, the scrape of rock against her back and shoulders—

She swallowed a sob, turning over to bury her face in the pillow. God, would it ever go away? Would it ever fade into a dim memory?

Was she ever going to be able to be normal? Would this insanity with Jason be the only marriage she’d ever have? She’d never thought about kids but maybe she’d want to be a mother one day. What if she could never learn to like sex? Would she have to grit and bear it so she could have a family?

What if sex always hurt and she always felt like she was being ripped apart—


She heard the rustling of sheets behind her, but Elizabeth kept her face in the pillow. Her breathing was shallow and fast—she’d walked herself right into a panic attack.

“Hey—” Jason touched her shoulder lightly.

She jerked into a sitting position, her lungs starting to burn. Elizabeth twisted, sliding her legs off the bed. “I’m okay,” she choked out. “I just—sometimes—” She squeezed her eyes shut. Count to ten. Count to ten.

You’re not in the park. It’s not happening. It’s not real. You’re safe.

The pressure finally eased and Elizabeth could finally take a full breath. Her cheeks were flaming when she turned to look at Jason, his face creased in worry. “Sometimes,” she said softly, her voice hoarse, “I get panic attacks. From nothing.”

“From nothing?” he echoed.

She scrubbed her hands over her face. “No, I guess not. I start to think too loud, and my brain goes in directions I don’t want it to. I usually stop it, but, um, I can’t always.” She forced a smile. “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize. What can I do? Do I leave you alone? Can I help?”

Her eyes stung with tears. “Not really. Um, it’s just—it’s me. I have a lot of anxiety. I didn’t used to,” she remembered with regret. “I mean, not like this. I hated a lot about my life, but I was always able to roll with the punches. Most of the time. It’s just—I think there’s a part of me that’s always—” She faltered. “It’s always going to be locked in that night. I’ll always be in the bushes and I can’t get out.”

“But you did.”

Elizabeth met his eyes. “I know. But I told you the other night. I don’t know what’s going to trigger it. It’ll be something that makes sense — bumping into someone — or it’ll be me just laying in bed here, thinking about something else, and bam—it’s happening again.” She sighed. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I was damaged.”

He didn’t argue with her, not like he had the last time she’d said it to him. “Is this because of last night? Because of what we talked about—”

“Yes. And no. I don’t know.” She got to her feet. “I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m not changing my mind, so it doesn’t matter.”

“It does,” Jason said, “but we don’t have to talk about it.”

“No, we have a lot to do if we’re getting married on Tuesday.” She managed to say it without stuttering over the words, but it still sounded insane to her ears.

Was she really marrying Jason Morgan in just a few days?

August 29, 2023

Update Link: Signs of Life Home | Chapters 1-8

Hello and welcome to the first update for Signs of Life since last February! I took a break to properly edit and revise the story, adding around 35k in additional material, including some really great Liason scenes I’m really proud of.  Today, I reposted Chapters 1-8. There’s nothing new in these chapters, but I found a few extra typos and made some small edits to tighten and improve the material. The first new chapter posts on Thursday. I’ll do my best to mark which chapters have brand-new scenes.

The site itself is mostly ready, but it’s still bare bones. I ran out of time to finish it off, lol, but it should be done this weekend. There’s a few small design issues that are driving me crazy — I used a slightly different design, and it’s been a way since I played with the style sheet in my story theme. I don’t know why I thought this would be a good time, lol.

Anyway, check out the chapters and refresh yourself 🙂 See you on Thursday!

August 27, 2023

Update Link: Watch Me Burn – Part 44

Well, a day late is better than skipping the update altogether, I guess. I suppose I’m just enjoying my last real weekend of summer vacation. I didn’t get to meet with my department chair last week, so I didn’t get the final word on what curriculum they’re going to use (which REALLY makes me hope they didn’t pick one, and I can just get them to use the program I’ve been using for two years, lol). But I’ll get that information this week, which means next weekend I’ll probably be planning, lol. Four days of staff development begins tomorrow, which includes a department meeting.

So I woke up late yesterday, and then I had my nephew’s birthday party — and the day got away from me.

In more interesting news, I’m putting together the theme for Signs of Life which I’m going to start reposting on Tuesday. I’m undecided on the color scheme, though, so if anyone wants to offer some feedback, check out the Practice Page and let me know. Non-Flash Fiction Updates go live at 7 AM because they are scheduled in advance.

Oh! And the next Flash Fiction series has been picked, thanks to those of you who posted in the poll. You guys voted Hits Different, a 1996 Alternate History/Universe hybrid story in which Jason wakes up after his accident to find out the Quartermaines have gone to extreme lengths to keep him under control, including divorcing the wife they never told him about.  That will be out in November.

Upcoming Posts This Week

  • Tuesday: Signs of Life, Chapters 1-8 (Repost of Cleaned Up Chapters)
  • Thursday: Signs of Life, Chapter 9
  • Friday – Sunday: Flash Fiction – Watch Me Burn, Parts 45-47


This entry is part 44 of 56 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 62 minutes.

General Hospital: Nurse’s Station

“I have to go to Thanksgiving this year,” Patrick said, slapping a chart down in front of Elizabeth. “So I need you to find a way to get me out of it.”

She lifted her brows, but didn’t bother to look up as she continued to complete the insurance paperwork. “Hey, you decided to go all in. That includes holidays and family celebrations.”

“Yeah, but—”

“Her family likes you.” And now Elizabeth did look up. “Count yourself lucky. I had to marry and divorce twice before Gram decided Jason wasn’t so bad.”

“Yeah, well when other options are Ric and Lucky,” Patrick muttered. He leaned over the counter. “But her family liked me before she got pregnant. And now we’re living together.”

“It’s been forty-eight hours since she decided to move in. You said she didn’t even finish moving her things over—” Elizabeth rose from the chair, and picked up the notes for her rounds. Patrick followed her. “Do you think Robert or Mac is going to have a shotgun ready?”

“Do I think the police commissioner and former WSB legend are going to ask questions about marriage? Yes.” Patrick made a face. “So if you could find a way to fake an emergency—”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, stopping at a patient door, and plucking their chart from the plastic holder. “Holidays are part of the package, Patrick. Just smile and nod, divert uncomfortable questions to Robin, and you’ll be fine.”

“Must be nice to be so confident,” Patrick muttered. He leaned against the hallway. “Are you guys going mansion or mob on Thursday?”

“Dinner at the Quartermaines with my grandmother, and then dessert with Sonny.” Elizabeth looked at him. “Patrick. You’re going to be fine. You remember that you used to be charming, right?”

“Yeah, but—it was easier to turn on all that—” He gestured to his face. “You know, you flash the dimples, and you got what you wanted. I could do that before it mattered. Now it matters.”

“And that’s why you’ll be fine.” Elizabeth sighed. “If Robert and Mac want to focus on you and Robin, on the baby, and everything around it, let them. Because there’s going to be an empty chair this year. And every thing they throw at you is going to keep them from remembering that.”

Patrick exhaled slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. When you put it that way—” He paused. “You’re going to have an empty chair, too.”

Seventeen days since Emily had died. Only seventeen. It felt like a lifetime since that terrible night — and at the same time, as if it had happened an hour ago. “That’s why we’re going to the mansion. Jason…I worry about him sometimes,” she admitted. She bit her lip. “This stays between us.”

“Like a vault. You know that.”

“When Alan died last winter, it hit Jason really hard. You know, just regretting the time that was lost, and not giving Alan the same chances he gave Monica and Emily. He couldn’t really do anything with that first because, well, there was Jake, and the trial. But then Emily—” She hesitated. “I’m worried that he’s trying to make up for all that too fast. He takes the boys to the mansion every other day to spend time with Monica, which is great. But then he told me about Thanksgiving—”

She put the patient chart back. “I don’t know. It’s like all the regrets he has about things after the accident — he’s on warp speed trying to make up for them. And it’s how he’s dealing with losing Emily.”

“What’s the worst that could happen? So he’s forcing himself to give his family another chance.”

“Well, it’s the Quartermaines, so there’s that. I don’t know. He ran so far and so fast from all of that—” Elizabeth shook her head. “And maybe it’s because I know it’s what I’m doing. I’m spending too much time at work and when I’m at home, I’m obsessing about the boys or Spinelli. Because I don’t want to stop and think—”

He touched her shoulder. “It hasn’t been that long yet, Elizabeth. You gotta give yourself a break.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess so.” Elizabeth flashed him a smile. “And that’s how I know you’ll be okay on Thursday. You know how to listen. Just let Robin take the lead, and follow her.”

She turned down another hallway, and Patrick headed out to his own rounds. Sam slipped around a corner and started after Elizabeth. The PCPD wasn’t moving fast enough to do anything about Jason, she thought bitterly, so she needed something else.

Maybe perfect Elizabeth would screw up at work and Sam could use that to ruin her life—what if she could get the bitch suspended—

“Sam, what are you doing here?”

Sam jolted, turning to find her mother stepping off the elevator. “Uh, Mom. Hey. I could ask the same for you.”

“Just a follow up with the doctor. A scan. Still in remission,” Alexis added. She wound her arm through Sam’s. “I was going to stop off and check in with a client who’s having surgery, but since I came across you, what do you say we get lunch?”

“Yeah. Yeah. All right.” Grateful Alexis hadn’t pushed her on why she was at the hospital, Sam followed her mother back on the elevator.

Wyndemere: Foyer

“Did you swim here?” Nikolas demanded darkly when he found his sister on his footstep.

“No, the launch pilot isn’t the only one who can drive a boat.” Lulu shrugged. “And you just told him he wasn’t allowed to bring me here. No one ever said I couldn’t get myself over here.  Dillon knows how to drive a speedboat.” She followed him into the study. “I just wanted to tell you that I wouldn’t come to bother you anymore.”

“Oh—” Nikolas poured himself a drink. “You came to bother me about promising not to bother me? That’s funny.”

“No, I came to tell you I’m not going to bother you at all. Which means I won’t tell Lucky I’m worried. I won’t complain to Dillon or Spinelli about you. I know what you did to Lucky, and until you figure out how to apologize for it, you’re not worth my concern.”

Nikolas scowled, looked at his sister. “What the hell does that mean?”

“You threw pills at him, Nikolas. At our brother, a recovering addict who’s trying hard to stay clean. Even though he just got divorced, lost custody of his kids, and buried his best friend. How much more do you want to throw at him—”

“Ah, I see Lucky figured out how to make you feel responsible for him—” Nikolas smirked, sipped his drink. “He’s good at that. Didn’t you listen to Elizabeth on the stand? I paid for his lawyer because I felt sorry for him. We both worried he’d fall back into drugs if we abandoned him. Welcome to the club, Lu.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a real pair of winners as brothers. A martyr and an asshole. And I’m a selfish bitch, so I guess Mom is three-for-three with the kids. Good thing she’s not here to see how we turned out.”

Nikolas rolled her eyes. “Don’t be dramatic—”

“Really? I broke up a marriage last year, Nikolas. Just like you did. Emily and Zander? You could have kept your distance and you didn’t. And you slept with Courtney—someone else’s wife—”

“Shut up—”

“Woes you with the traumatized wife who was raped by a man who looked like you,” Lulu shot back. “Poor little Nikolas who wants to blame everyone else for his problems. Why don’t we all just think about what you’ve lost? Forget Lucky, who knew Emily longer. Forget Emily’s family who already buried Alan this year. Forget Elizabeth who’s been through hell. No, no, let’s just worry about poor baby Nikolas who can dish it but can’t take it.” She sneered. “I’ve been worried about you, but you’re just fine over here, feeling sorry for yourself. But where were you last year when I needed you? Where were you two years ago when Grandma dumped me on Dad who couldn’t bother with me? Where were you when your wife was traumatized and needed patience and understanding?”

She shrugged. “You know what, I think I’m going to be better off without you. Lucky didn’t do a damn thing to you. He asked for your help with the custody case, and you gave it. Suck it up, and admit the only reason you and Emily weren’t together when she died was because you’re a selfish asshole. Until you do that? We’ve got nothing left to say to each other.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Mac dragged his hands through his hair. “Well, we have our link.” He looked up at Robert. “Too bad it doesn’t tell us anything.”

“No, I guess it doesn’t.” Robert took the DNA report back. “Other than a single killer is responsible. When we find him, we’ll nail him to the wall for all four murders—”

“When we find him—” Mac rose and went to the window. Looked out over the trees with their falling leaves, the mixtures of oranges, yellows, and browns littering the lawn outside the PCPD. “If we find him.”

“We’ve got him. He waited six weeks between the college and the hospital—” Robert grimaced. “I know there’s a chance he won’t wait that long again, but women on alert, aren’t they? The hospital hired extra security. So did the campus.”

“And what about the parking lot by the mall? What about the park? What about the thousands of public spaces in this town? And maybe it’s not about the age of the women. Maybe it’s not about their hair. Maybe it’s not even about women,” Mac muttered. “Maybe it’s just about public killing and the thrill of taking two at a time. What if he escalates to three or more? What if—”

“What if the sky turns orange? You know better, little brother, than to let those kinds of questions drag you down—”

Mac shook his head. “Thanksgiving is five days away. Last year, Georgie spent half the day in the kitchen with Robin, and now—”

“Now she won’t be there. I can’t imagine the depth of your loss, Mac. The thought of losing my daughter—” Robert’s throat tightened. “It’s beyond my comprehension. But we aren’t miracle workers. We have DNA. That’s more than a lot of cases have. Georgie fought hard, and she’s going to help put this bastard away. That’s going to matter one day.”

“Yeah. Maybe. But it won’t be enough.” Mac looked at Robert. “Maxie said something, just before the second set of murders. And it’s stayed with me. Finding out who did this, finding out why he did this—it’s not going to change anything. It won’t ever explain why there’s going to be an empty chair at every dinner for the rest of my life. It won’t ever be enough.”

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Jason jolted awake, but then wasn’t sure what had woken him. The room around him was dark, quiet. Elizabeth was curled on her side beside him, her breathing still deep and even, so whatever it was, it hadn’t stirred her. She’d once been a deep sleeper, but the boys had changed her, making it harder for her to sleep like the dead anymore.

Jason closed his eyes, slid closer to hold her in his arms, kissing her bare shoulder, then tried to go back to sleep—

But there it was again—and this time, the sound was louder, and Elizabeth rolled over on her back. “What was that?” she asked, her voice slurring from sleep. “Jason?”

“I don’t—” He looked past her at the monitor on the nightstand, the little black and white images. The camera was aimed at Jake’s crib and he could see their son laying on his back, his head turned to one side, his chest rising and falling. But just beyond that, they could see the outline of Cameron’s bed, and the blanket was rustling.

And they heard it again, louder. A gagging, hacking sound, then crying. Jason sprang to his feet, followed by Elizabeth as they rushed across the hallway. Jason shoved open the door, and Elizabeth flipped on the light.

Cameron was sitting up, his face red, tears streaming down his cheeks, his fingers clutching his blanket. He gagged again, and Jason realized that he was throwing up, the vomit landing on his blanket, his pajamas and around his mouth.

“Baby, hey—” Elizabeth knelt down next to the bed and Jason went to the linen closet just a few steps away in the hallway. He dragged out a stack of towels, plucking the largest. He returned to the room just as Jake woke and started crying. Elizabeth was stroking Cameron’s head.

“Does he have a fever?”

“No. Cam—”

“Tummy—” Cameron hitched another sob. “Hurt.”

Jason knelt next to Elizabeth, taking in Cameron’s glassy eyes, red face. “Do you want to call a doctor? I can—”

“No, no, there’s no fever—” Elizabeth brushed Cameron’s hair back. “Let’s just clean him up, um, some ginger ale—”

“Can I help?”

Jason glanced to the door, finding Spinelli there, one side of his cheek red from sleep. “Hey, we—”

“Actually—” Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder at the crying infant. “Okay. Okay. Jason, can you clean Cam up? He’ll feel better with a warm bath and new pajamas. I can throw all of this in the laundry—”

“I’ll do that, Fair Elizabeth,” Spinelli said. “The Jackal has a very strong stomach. You should  calm Stone Cold the Sequel and get Little Dude his munchies.”

“Oh, Spinelli, you don’t have to—”

“Thanks,” Jason said, interrupting. He wrapped Cameron in the towel and scooped him against his chest. “That would be a lot of help.”

“The Jackal reporting for duty.”

Jason went across the hall, back into their bedroom, and into the master bathroom. He set Cameron down on the counter to start the water running. “How are you feeling, buddy?”

“Throat hurt,” Cameron managed, but his sobs had quieted. Jason touched his forehead, but Elizabeth was right — he was cool to the touch, and she’d know better. She was a nurse and had more experience—

Jason peeled off the pajamas, wrapping them into the towel, and then set Cameron into the tub after making sure he’d dumped some of the bubble bath Elizabeth kept on the shelf. He used a water glass to pour water over Cameron’s head, carefully cleaning him up but making sure the water didn’t get into his eyes or mouth—

“How’s that?”

“B-better,” Cameron managed.

Spinelli appeared in the doorway. “Fair Elizabeth sends clean jammies and a new towel for the Little Dude, and I’m here to fetch the, uh, soiled materials.” He made a face as he set down the pajamas and towel, then picked up the rolled up towel Jason had set aside. “She went to get the munchies.”

“Thanks,” Jason said.

“No worries. How’s the Little Dude feeling?”

“Snelli,” Cameron managed. “Tummy hurt.”

“Less orange soda at bedtime,” Spinelli said, nodding sagely. “The Jackal takes the note.”  He left then, and Jason lifted Cameron from the tub, wrapping him in a fluffy, warm towel. He took the pajamas into the bedroom with him, and sat on the bed, rubbing Cameron’s back.

Elizabeth came in a moment later, holding Jake on her hip and balancing a pack of crackers and a can of ginger ale in her hand. “Hey, baby.” She sat on the bed next to them, putting Jake down in the middle of quickly arranged pillows. She cracked the ginger ale. “Sip slowly, honey.”

Cameron nodded and did as instructed. Then he ate a cracker slowly, in little nibbles. Time passed excruciating slow as Elizabeth repeated the process. A sip of ginger ale, then another cracker, eaten slowly. Behind them Jake fussed, but then fell back into a doze.

Finally, Cameron started to droop. “Feel better,” he said, his eyes closed. “Tummy okay.”

“All right. Let’s get you into jammies and back in bed.”

“Wanna stay here,” Cameron said, opening his eyes briefly. “Comfy.”

“That’s fine with me,” Jason said, brushing his lips against Cameron’s drying curls. “But clothes first.”

“Kay,” he murmured.

Jason handed Cameron to Elizabeth to change, then went to put the towel in with the rest of the laundry. He found Spinelli in the room downstairs, peering curiously at the dials. “Oh, you can hack into any network in the country, but a washing machine defeats you?”

Spinelli made a face. “Lots of buttons,” he muttered. “And Fair Elizabeth does my laundry. How’s Little Dude?”

“Better. Ready to go back to bed.” Jason started the washer. “Thank you, Spinelli. Sorry to wake up.”

“No worries. That’s, um, what family does, right?” Spinelli folded his arms, looking at the washer. “All hands on deck.”

“Yeah. That’s what family does. Go back to bed, okay? You have a paper due on Monday. And no, I didn’t forget,” Jason said.

Spinelli grumbled as he followed Jason up the stairs. “Family is overrated,” he muttered, but went into his room.

Jason returned to his bedroom. Elizabeth had returned the sleeping Jake back into his crib and was tucking Cameron into their bed.

“Go sleep?” Cameron asked, snuggling against the pillow. “Tired, Daddy.”

“Yeah, we’re going to bed.” Jason slid under the comforter, and Elizabeth did the same on Cameron’s other side. He switched off the light. “Good night.”

“Night,” the toddler sighed. “Tummy all better.”

August 25, 2023

Update Link: Watch Me Burn – Part 43

Other Links: Patreon Long Update | Poll: Pick Next Flash

Happy Friday! I posted at Patreon yesterday with a check in (public post) on how orientation went, what I expect my writing workload to look like in September, etc. There’s also a poll to pick the next Flash Fiction series that closes tonight at 11:59. It was posted on Monday for Patreon supporters, then opened on Wednesday for anyone who’s signed up on Patreon (including the free tier), and now I’m linking it here.

Watch Me Burn should wrap up in October if I don’t miss any updates or early November if I do, so I want to be prepped with the next series.

I’ll see tomorrow for another Flash Fiction Update! Don’t forget, we’re finishing up our summer schedule next weekend with a Friday-Sunday trio of updates before settling into the Saturday weekly update for Flash and Tues/Thurs updates for Signs of Life.

This entry is part 43 of 56 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 59 minutes.

Morgan Penthouse: Kitchen

Elizabeth pulled out the tray of chicken nuggets vaguely shaped like dinosaurs. “A few more minutes, Cam,” she told her son who bounced in the booster seat that made him tall enough to sit at the kitchen table.

“Then I eat roshus dinos.” Cameron played with the bright green plastic utensils, banging them against his plate like drums. “Yummy nuggets.”

“Yeah, really haute cuisine.” Elizabeth reached for her vibrating phone in her back pocket, and made a face when she saw Jason’s note that he’d be late. He’d spent the day with the boys while she worked, and then they’d traded — he’d headed into the warehouse, and she’d taken over for dinner.

“Mommy mad?”

“Mommy tired,” Elizabeth said, then slid the phone back in her pocket. “Daddy’s going to home late, so he’ll miss bedtime, okay?”

“Okay.” Cameron wrapped both hands around his sippy cup, then tipped it back. Elizabeth filled his plate with dino nuggets, then tucked the extras away in the oven to keep warm. She set the child lock on the oven door.

“I’m going to go get your brother up from his nap so he can eat dinner. You okay to eat by yourself for a few minutes?” she asked, turning on the monitor they kept in the kitchen.

Cameron bit into one of the nuggets, ripping off the head of the dino, then growled. “Grrr!”

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Elizabeth jogged up the stairs, then paused when she realized Spinelli’s bedroom door was ajar. She thought he was out with Dillon and Lulu—but then realized his lamp was on, and there was a lump on the bed. “Spinelli?” she tapped the door. “Did you want something for dinner?”

“The Jackal ate,” he said glumly.

She hesitated, then pushed the door open a bit more. “Are you all right? It’s not like you to go to bed early.”

Spinelli sat up, his hair mussed from spending most of the day beneath a beanie cap. He looked a bit pale and clammy. Worried, she perched on the edge of the bed, pressed the back of her hand to his forehead. “Are you sick?”

“No. No. The Jackal had an unpleasant experience,” he muttered. “Confrontations make him sick.”

“Confrontation…” Elizabeth tipped her head. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Spinelli glanced away, traced a seam in the comforter with his fingers. “At Kelly’s. There was—” He paused. “Sam.”

The one word name without any type of nickname didn’t make Elizabeth feel any better either. “I’m sorry. I know you were close with her. You can still be friends with her if you want—”

“No, no!” Spinelli’s eyes widened. “The Jackal couldn’t. Fair Elizabeth does not understand. He—” He closed his eyes. “Adult,” he muttered. “I am an adult.”


“I…knew,” Spinelli managed, his face twisted. “About Maureen Harper. And Sam.”

“Ah.” Elizabeth nodded. “Jason told you?”

“N-no. Well, y-yes. But I investigated for Stone Cold. He suspected something,” Spinelli admitted. “And then she tried to hurt him at the trial, and then she wanted you to lose the custody. But she was there today. And wanted to be friends. The Jackal had to tell her no.” He drew his knees against his chest. “Don’t like bad conversations.”

“I’m sorry, Spinelli.” Elizabeth touched his shoulder. “It’s hard when you think you’re friends with someone and they do something to hurt you. And it can be really hard to tell them. I don’t like to do it either. I mean, that’s how this all got started, you know? Lying about Jake. I was afraid to tell anyone, and I didn’t until I was forced. It’s brave to do it willingly. Without a perjury charge hanging over you.”

Spinelli’s smile was faint. “But Stone Cold is very happy you did. And so is the Jackal. This is the nicest place he’s ever lived.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

He nodded.

“Why do you refer to yourself in the third person? You almost never say I or me. You don’t have to answer it, but I was just curious.”

He considered the question for a long quiet moment. “When I was a kid,” he said softly. “My parents were gone. My mother died when I was a baby, and my dad was never in the picture. Granny raised me, but I liked computers and science and cartoons and silly things. The kids teased me a lot in school, and it was hard to—I never had any friends.” He paused. “Going to school was the worst but I had to go every day because Granny didn’t believe in quitting.” He bit his lip. “At night, I used to lay in my bed and tell myself stories where I was the hero, but it wasn’t me. Couldn’t be me. And the Jackal was brave. He was funny and handsome and had many friends. Family. Good things never happened to Damien, but they could happen to the Jackal. But maybe Damien could just go away and bad things wouldn’t happen anymore.” He shrugged. “It’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid, Spinelli.” She squeezed his knee. “I hope you know that we love you here. Not just me and the boys. Jason does, too.”

“He puts up with me.”

“If that was true, he wouldn’t still let you live here,” Elizabeth said. “He never let Carly live here, did he? And he definitely just puts up with her.”

His smile was faint. “The Valkyrie is an acquired taste, he tells me.”

“Well, Dillon and Lulu like you. Georgie liked you,” Elizabeth said softly, and he nodded. “You have friends now. If you want to still be the Jackal, that’s okay. We’ll always love him. But Damien is part our family, too. And I hope you feel safe enough to let him out more.”

General Hospital: Lobby

Robin tugged her tote bag over her shoulder, tired down to her bone marrow. She stepped out of the elevator, waiting for Kelly and Lainey to follow. “I’m going to sleep for a week when I get home,” she told them.

“We’ll drink your share of the wine, don’t worry,” Kelly promised, putting an arm around Robin’s shoulders.

“You should always call Patrick. I bet he’d give you a foot massage,” Lainey teased. “But then he’d just ask you to move in again, so maybe going home is the best idea.”

“Yeah, talk about running hot and cold,” Kelly said. “Do you know how many messages he’s left me about the next appointment? I told him to write the questions down, but—”

They turned a corner, heading for the lobby and the exit. Robin’s steps slowed when she saw a familiar dark head on a bench, bowed over a book.

Patrick. Reading another book with a pregnant woman on the cover. He didn’t know what time she was leaving today — couldn’t have known she’d see him. So he really was reading this books — and leaving Kelly’s messages.

“I’ll talk to you guys later,” she said to her roommates.

“Uh huh, sure.” Kelly took Lainey’s arms in hers. “Come on. Let’s go get a security guard to walk us to our cars.”

Robin sat next to Patrick and he jerked his head up, snapping the book shut. “Hey. What are you doing here?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing. I thought you worked this morning.”

“I did. I had a surgery that ran late, and I’m waiting to hear from the ICU in an—” He checked his watch. “Five minutes. If the vitals are good, I can head home.” He furrowed his brow. “Why are you alone? You weren’t going to the parking garage were you?”

Instead of answering, Robin reached for the book he’d been reading and flipped through it. Pages were highlighted — and there were post-its, tabs—notes in the margins. She opened to eight weeks. “A raspberry seed,” she said. “That’s how big the baby is right now.”

“You know, you go to medical school,” Patrick said, “and you learn this stuff, but it’s different when you’re actually talking about a real baby. Raspberry seeds are barely visible. But organs are developing—the baby has eyes—”

“Retinas,” Robin corrected. “And then tail is nearly gone, so there’s that.”

“Good thing. Would make diapers hard. I’ve seen them — not really a good place to put the tail.” But he smiled, took the book back. “You’re eating enough fruit? That’s what the book says about this week.”

“Plenty.” Robin tipped his head. “You’re…really into this, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I am.” Patrick took a deep breath. “But I talked to Elizabeth and I get it. You need to be sure, so I’m not pushing you. I just—I want to be what you need. So if what you need is me to back off—”

“What I need…” Robin tipped her head back, considered the question. This baby had been conceived on a night she’d been at her lowest, desperate to stop thinking and feeling. Her sweet little cousin was gone forever. And now so was Emily—

Life was short. How many times did Robin need to learn that?

“What I need right now is a bubble bath and a nap.” She leaned her head against his shoulder. “I’m tired all the time. And it’s hard in the morning. Do you really want to be there for morning sickness?”

He slid his arm around her shoulders, tucking her more firmly in his embrace. “I want to be there for everything, Robin. Whatever you’re ready for.”

“You might regret that tomorrow when I’m hanging over the toilet.”

His arm tensed. “Robin?”

“You’re getting shades for the windows. I can’t be woken up like that every morning. It’s not negotiable.” She lifted her head. “I love you. And you love me. And I think we both already love this baby. That’s enough for me. Let’s go home.”

Spencer House: Living Room

“I’m just worried about him,” Lulu said, pacing in front of the fireplace. “He won’t return my calls, he banned me from the island, and you’re probably right there, too. And if that’s not enough, Spinelli’s acting weird, and Dillon’s pretending everything is normal, and I’m—” She frowned, looking at her brother sitting at the table by the chairs. “Are you listening to me?”

“Sure.” Lucky crossed off another name from the campus access list. “Every other word. Sometimes I get two in a row.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You told me earlier that you were going to help—”

“And I tried.” Lucky leaned back, stretching his arms over his head. “I went to the island, and it didn’t work. So we’re just going to have to let this play out—”

“You went over? What happened? Did it look like he’s sleeping or eating?”

“He’s definitely drinking.”


He sighed, set down his pencil, and looked at her. “Listen. I don’t want to get into it with you. You love him, and you’re concerned. I’m not doing anything to get in the middle of that.”

“But—” Lulu bit her lip. “Is he still blaming you?”

“He—” He grimaced. “He threw a bottle of pills at me and told me that was all I was good for.” And it had taken everything in him to set those pills aside. To push away the chance for it all to go away. To lose himself in nothing.

If he went under again, he’d never drag himself back out. Couldn’t give in.

Lulu’s hands fell to her side. “He—he threw pills at you.”

“I didn’t take them. You can call him. I left them on his desk—”

“Lucky. Don’t act like this isn’t important—”

“It’s—” Lucky rose. “Lu. This is who Nikolas is. Who he’s always been. When he gets angry, he lashes out. He always apologizes later. He’ll let you back in soon, okay?”

“That’s not what I meant.” Lulu’s eyes were dark with concern. “That was a cruel thing he did to you, and I’m sorry. You lost Emily, too. He’s not even thinking about that.”

“No, he’s not. Because Emily was his one true love.” Lucky’s smile was wry. “Just like Elizabeth was mine. We sure have a hell of a way of treating the women we profess to love, huh? We both cheated on them.”

Lulu folded her arms. “Are you, um, are you okay?”

“Yeah. I went to a meeting. I’ll probably go to another tomorrow. It’s fine, Lu. I’m not going to crack. Not this time.” Lucky flexed his fingers. “I don’t have much else to lose, you know? I lost my wife. My kids. My best friend. My brother. If I can lose all of that, and still stay clean, that’s a good thing.”

“It’s a very good thing. And I’m proud of you—no, don’t do that. Don’t like it doesn’t matter. Like what you did wasn’t hard,” Lulu said. He met her eyes. “Every day you stay clean is important. It matters. You had pills in your hand, Lucky, and you put them down. You walked away. A year ago, you wouldn’t have done that.”

“A year ago—” Lucky sighed. “Yeah, okay. I guess I would have.”

“I love you. Can I—can I go to a meeting with you, or something? Is that allowed?”

“Yeah.” He went to her, drew her in for a hug. “Yeah, that’s allowed.” He kissed the top of her head. “I love you, too.”

Greystone: Living Room

“Hey, sorry for the late night—” Sonny said, tossing a folder on the desk. “A few more things, and you can head out—”

“It’s fine.” Jason checked his phone, but there wasn’t anything new. “Shipment was all set, and we’re good for tomorrow, too.”

“Yeah, this one just needed your hand on it. Zacchara was getting bitchy about letting my underlings handle it.” Sonny rolled his eyes. “I hope he has another stroke,” he muttered. “Anyway—uh, I wanted to let you know that I checked with our guy at the PCPD. About the case.”

Jason grimaced. “And?”

“Nothing. They’re working some leads, but they don’t have much more than they did before. The guy’s DNA isn’t in the system, and there haven’t been any good sightings of him.” Sonny shook his head. “I was hoping we could get something we’d be able to work with. A way to help track something down, but—” He looked at Jason. “I’m sorry. There’s a chance they don’t catch this guy before he gets someone else.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “What about motive? I mean, they don’t have any idea why he’s doing this?”

“No, and the profile of the victims is too broad for them to do anything else,” Sonny said. “Otherwise, they’re telling every women between the ages of 19 and 40 not to travel alone or even in pairs. How do you do that without scaring the shit out of everyone, you know?”

“Yeah.” Jason scrubbed a hand over his face. “Elizabeth has a guard when she goes out with the boys, but she really don’t go anywhere else. Ford won’t let her have a guard in the hospital, so Cody meets her in the parking garage by the elevators. I don’t love it, but the alternative is having her driven to work and dropped off and picked up—”

“Which still gives someone an opening if they want it. No chance we can get her to quit her job? Tell her to go back to her art or something.”

“She likes nursing,” Jason said. “And I’d rather save that kind of question for when we need it. Like if Anthony Zacchara goes crazy again, like the time he killed his own wife.” He shook his head. “Plus, why would this guy hit the parking garage again? He didn’t go to the college again.”

“Yeah, there’s that.” Sonny nodded. “Okay. Well, it was worth a shot.”

“Yeah, thanks for checking on the case.” Jason paused. “I asked her that night, you know. To marry me.”

“I wasn’t—” Sonny paused. “I knew you were planning it, but I wasn’t sure. And I didn’t want to ask. I figure the answer was positive?”

“Yeah. Um, I’m brining it up because we’re going to—December 21 is the date. You know usually you’d be my best man, but—” Jason’s chest was tight. “Elizabeth doesn’t want a maid of honor. Because…”

“It was supposed to be Emily.”

“Yeah. So if she’s not going to have anyone—”

“That makes sense. I’m sorry. You’re sure you don’t want to wait until you’re feeling a bit more…” Sonny squinted. “I guess happier isn’t the right word…”

“The divorce is finalized at the end of this month, and Elizabeth and I just want to move on. I don’t need anything but her at the wedding. She might—” Jason sighed. “She might regret it later, but maybe she won’t.”

“Then you renew your vows or something. Throw a party.” Sonny went to the door, opened it. “But right now, maybe she’s right. Maybe it’s enough to just have each other. You’ve definitely earned it.”

August 21, 2023

Update Link: Watch Me Burn – Part 42

Well, today is the unofficial last day of summer vacation for me. Tomorrow, I have orientation with my new district, and Wednesday is the day when I’m supposed to start reviewing my new curriculum and program, which means after that — I can start prepping for the first day of classes which is two weeks from tomorrow. Next week is Staff Development.  I have one more Monday off which is Labor Day, but I’m not committing myself to updating that day since I am planning to update September 1-3, which is that Fri-Sun.

The other piece of news I wanted to share today is that I’ve mostly figured out how to format in Adobe InDesign, but I’m having some issues getting converting the file to specific formats. If you’re interested in helping me test out of a file, check out this post on Patreon which has a test file to download. If you want, download it, test it on your computer or reader of your choice, then let me know what you used and how the file looked.

I’ll see you guys for the next update on Friday!

This entry is part 42 of 56 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 59 minutes.

General Hospital: Locker Room

“Okay, you need to explain women to me, because I’ve clearly lost my touch.”

Elizabeth didn’t even look up from tying her shoe. “Women or pregnant women?”

Patrick dropped onto the bench beside her. “Both. Robin and I love each other. We knew that before we broke up. We said it. So it was accepted and understood. But then she decided she wanted kids basically now, and I wasn’t there, so we broke up.”

“Yeah, and?” Elizabeth straightened.

“Well, now we’re having kids and we still love each other, so—” He made a gesture with her hands. “Why does it feel like we’re still broken up? Shouldn’t it be null and void?”

“Ah. I’m starting to follow.” She rose, closed her locker, and pinned on her staff badge. “Did you propose or something?”

“No. I thought that would be too fast. I asked her to move in with me. Because you know, I need to be there. Every day. And she’s going to need me—”

“And she said no.”

“Yes.” Patrick raked a hand through his dark hair, disheveling it. “Can you tell me what I did wrong?”

“You know, Jason proposed to me when I got pregnant last year.” Elizabeth frowned. “He asked me to marry him three times, actually. And I said no every time. Even though all the things you just said were true. I was pregnant. It definitely would have been nice to have someone with me because I mostly did that single. But I still said no. Even though I loved him.”

“Women.” Patrick muttered. “You’re different—you were married to someone else—”

“I wanted to say yes,” Elizabeth said wistfully. “But I knew he wasn’t asking for the same reason I would have said yes. You’re asking Robin to move with you because she’s pregnant. She wants to be asked because you’re in love.”

“And both can’t be true at the same time?” Patrick said skeptically. “Yeah, women are the worst.”


He exhaled slowly. “I don’t mean that. I just—I messed everything up so much. I should have just said yes when she wanted kids, and then we’d be in a different space. But I messed up. I never get it right the first time with Robin, and I guess she’s out of patience now.”

Elizabeth sat down again, next to him. “Did you know you wanted kids when she brought it up?”


“Then you did the right thing. I did the right thing last year. And now—” She held out her hand. “Now I have everything I ever wanted, and I know Jason loves me the way I wanted to be loved. You want everything right now. And Robin isn’t there. She doesn’t want to live with you because she’s pregnant. Because she’s going to get cramps and cravings and have trouble sleeping. If that’s the only reason you want to live with her, that’s not enough.”

“It’s—” Patrick furrowed his brow. “But I want to take care of her because I love her. Why can’t that count?”

“It can and it does, I’m sure. You might just need some patience.” Elizabeth stood again. “How are, um, feeling about the kid thing? Now that it’s had time to settle.”

“I don’t know.” He leaned against the locker. “I’m mostly focusing on the pregnant part of it. What comes after — that feels almost too big to think about. Thinking about having a whole person to take care of. But sometimes I think about it. You know, what will the kid look like? Will it be a boy or girl? Do I care which? And personality. Will they be like me or Robin, or a mix? Or maybe completely different—” He broke off, laughing a bit nervously. “Sorry. I didn’t meant to ramble.”

“I think maybe you’re a little excited about this,” she said, tipping her head.

“Maybe,” he admitted. “Terrified. But yeah, thinking about the baby is kind of cool. This whole person that didn’t exist before, but they do now, and you got to be part of it. Like—” Patrick held out his hands. “This human wasn’t here before, but now they are, and they’re a piece of you, and a piece of Robin, and it’s like, almost proof. That you can bring something good into the world that isn’t about being a doctor. I want—I don’t know if I’ll be a good father, but I want to be. That counts.”

“It absolutely counts.” She squeezed his hand. “I’m happy for you, Patrick. And for Robin. You’re both going to be amazing parents.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

“DNA should be back early next week,” Robert said, knocking on Mac’s slightly ajar door. “We’re lucky. Getting it in before the lab shuts down on Wednesday for Thanksgiving.”

“Thanksgiving.” Mac blinked. “I forgot about that. It’s next week.”

“Yeah.” Robert came into the office. “I talked to Robin last night. About the baby. What are you thinking about this?”

“Cautiously optimistic,” his brother said. “You?”

“Not entirely sure how my little girl got old enough to drive much less bring life into the world, but—” Robert sat down. “It’s a bright spot. Something good to focus on. And you and I will make pretty good grandfathers.”

“I would never—” Mac shook his head. “I’m her uncle, Robert. I would never—”

“You’ve raised my daughter. Finished off the job I didn’t get a lot of time to do,” he admitted. “And helped her navigate through some of the toughest pieces. Anna and I are in debt to you for the rest of our lives.” Robert sighed. “I had my reasons for not coming home, I promise you that. And I still mostly think they were good ones, but it cost me time with Robin I can’t ever have back. I thank God you were here.”

“Taking care of her—of Felicia’s girls—it was a privilege. An honor. Patrick—” Mac paused. “He’s a good guy. I didn’t always think so, but he’ll look after her. And he’ll be a good father.” He looked at the photo on his desk of his three girls. “You’re sticking around though, aren’t you? Not going back to the WSB or—”

“No. I don’t want any more regrets. I want to watch my daughter continue to move forward in her life and be part of it.” Robert got to his feet. “I was, however, thinking of reaching out to some old friends at Quantico. In the Behavioral Sciences Unit. We might want to get a profile to help us sift through what we have.”

“Anything to get this done,” Mac said. “I don’t want to bury another woman.”

Quartermaine Estate: Family Room

“Gammy—” Cameron raced past Jason’s legs and straight at Monica who swept him up in her arms, kissing his face as he giggled. Jason remained at the doorway, smiling faintly. Cameron’s shyness a few weeks ago had disappeared, and now Monica was one of his favorite people to visit.

“This is a wonderful surprise.” Monica tucked Cameron on her hip, then beamed as Jason held Jake out so she could kiss his cheek. “All three of my favorite people!”

“Then I guess I don’t have to apologize for just dropping by—”

“Never.” Monica squeezed Cameron again, then set him on his feet. She hugged Jason briefly. “How are you? Elizabeth?”

“Okay. The boys keep us distracted. Elizabeth wanted me to thank you again for watching them the other day when we finished Spinelli’s room.”

“Oh, more than happy to do that. Did he like it?”

“He seemed to.”

“I thought I heard voices—” Edward came into the room behind them, rubbing his hands together. “Is that my great-grandson I see there?” He reached into his suit pocket, and had a piece of candy ready as Cameron raced over to him.

“Hi, Grampy.” Cameron unwrapped the piece of chocolate and shoved it in his mouth in one quick gulp. Jason just shook his head. His grandfather was definitely conditioning Cameron to associate Edward and chocolate with each other, making Cameron thrilled to see him. Smart old bastard.

“Well, you’re welcome whenever you want to come over, but I’m sure that packing up two kids isn’t really a social call.” Monica sat down, and Jason put Jake in her lap. “You know I’d come to you—”

“I know. But elizabeth’s at work, and I don’t like to keep them in the penthouse all day every day. Cameron—” Jason looked over to find the toddler reaching for a knick knack on the shelf by the desk. “What are the rules?”

“Look, no touch,” Cameron grumbled. He came around the sofa and started to go through the bag Jason had brought with Jake’s diapers and found a set of cars. “I play right here. You see me.”

“Thank you.”

Cameron heaved a sad sigh at Edward who sat on the sofa next to Monica. “Daddy and rules. Too many.”

“Ironic to watch you enforcing rules in the same room where you rode your motorcycle,” Edward told Jason. “God certainly has a sense of humor.”

Jason made a face, but Edward had a point. “Don’t tell him that story until he’s at least thirty.” He sat in the chair by the sofa. “Uh, we came over because—” He paused. “Elizabeth and I set a date. For the wedding. We want it to be small. Quiet. She’s not—neither of us really want anything big. And she doesn’t want a party or anything. Just the ceremony, and maybe dinner or something.”

“I understand. Is it soon?”

“December 21, a few days before Christmas. You’re both invited,” Jason added. “Uh, Ned and Dillon, too, if they want to come.”

“Thank you, I appreciate that.” Monica squeezed his hand. “I’m very happy for you both. And grateful that you’ve—” She pressed her cheek to the top of Jake’s head. “This has helped so much. They’re a godsend. And having you. It doesn’t—it doesn’t replace what we’ve lost, but—”

“But it helps to have some light and joy,” Edward finished, a bit gruffly. “I’m sure they’ve been a comfort to you and to Elizabeth during these last few weeks.”

“It’s easier than it would have been.”

“I need to—” Edward rose. “I’ll return in a moment.” He left, and Jason talked to Monica about Jake, and how he was starting to move around. Once he told her that, Monica insisted on moving the coffee table to see it for herself.

Edward returned a few moments later, and they all enjoyed watching Jake wiggle his little boy and Cameron tried to demonstrate walking again, as if that would help.

Then it was time to leave, to be home for Elizabeth’s return from work. Edward followed them into the foyer.

“I wanted to—you obviously don’t have to—” He reached into his suit jacket, drew out a velvet ring box. “This was your grandmother’s.”

Jason shifted Jake to one side, and took the box, flipping it open with just one hand. Inside was the slim gold band that he’d seen on his grandmother’s hand once. She’d stopped wearing it a few years before she’d died, her hands a bit too swollen to fit it anymore. “Her wedding ring.”

“She always liked Elizabeth, and you were—well, she’d never have admitted, but you were her favorite. Before and after. You don’t have to use it,” he repeated.

“No. I mean, of course.” Jason exhaled slowly, his throat tight at the memory of beloved grandmother. One more person he’d lost. “I’d be—thank you.” He met Edward’s gaze. “It will mean a lot to us both to have it.”

“And—” Edward looked at his hand, then slowly slid off his own wedding ring. He stared it for a long moment. “I wasn’t always the best husband. But our marriage endured many difficult days and tough times. The day Lila put this on my finger was the best day of my life.  She bought it herself.”

Jason slid his grandmother’s ring box into his pocket then reached for the one his grandfather held. “I’ll ask Elizabeth. I don’t know if she has something from her grandfather, or—but thank you.”

“All right, we cleaned off all the chocolate,” Monica said, emerging from the bathroom off the foyer, Cameron’s hand in hers. “He’s ready to go.”

“One more?” he asked Edward.

“Uh, I think that’s enough candy for the day.” Edward ruffled Cameron’s curls. “Next time.”

“Never enough candy,” Cameron grumbled. “More rules.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Spinelli spooned up the last bite of his chili. “The Jackal protests the choice of any class where he must read another book. The Blonde One must take that into account.”

Lulu glanced up from the brochure with PCU’s spring semester schedule, then looked at Dillon. “What about you? Thinking about re-enrolling? You can help me outvote Spinelli, and we can take German Lit. It’s supposed to have the weirdest readings.”

“If it’s anything like German cinema,” Dillon said dryly. He folded his arms on the table. “But no. I’m still heading out after the holidays.”

“Spoilsport.” Lulu fluttered her eyelashes. “Please—”

Spinelli scowled. “The Blonde One must not use that look. The Jackal—” He stopped when the bell over Kelly’s door jingled, and Sam came in. She spotted the trio, and smiled brightly.

“Spinelli! It’s been a long time. How are you?” Sam came over to the table. “Lulu, hey. Dillon, right?”

“Right,” Dillon said, then pulled out his phone, pretending to very interested in it. Sam frowned, then looked at Spinelli.

“How are you? How’s school?”

“It is fine.” Spinelli shoved the uneaten spoonful of chili.

“What classes are you taking? Are you still—”

“The Jackal regrets that he must leave,” Spinelli said abruptly. He snagged his bag from the side of the table. “Much homework to do.” He started for the door.

“Spinelli,” Lulu called after him, frowning, but he’d call her later. He’d explain then.

But he wanted to go. He had to go—

Sam followed him into the courtyard, snagging his arm as he reached the parking lot. “Hey. What’s the problem? We used to be friends—”

He turned to face her, swallowing hard. He did not enjoy confrontations. “The Jackal—” No. No. He didn’t have to do this. “I know what you did, and I don’t want to talk to you.”

Sam stepped back, her mouth falling open slightly. “Spinelli—”

“I know what you did with Maureen Harper. And I know you tried to hurt Stone Cold by working with Detective Dingus—” No. No, he could handle this like an adult. She had to take him seriously. “You tried to make Lucky hurt Stone Cold and his family. We are not friends.”


“Goodbye.” He nodded, then hurried out of the parking lot, leaving her speechless in his wake.

August 19, 2023

Update Link: Watch Me Burn – Part 41

Flash Fiction Schedule

It actually works out that I delayed until today — going forward, Saturday is going to be part of the update schedule. The Flash Fic schedule is going to be a little up and down for the next weeks as we close out August. Next week, I’ll be updating Monday, Friday, and Saturday. Then the week of August 28, I’ll be updating on that Labor Day Weekend — Friday through Monday. After that, it’s time to go back to school, and we’re doing one update a week. I know I keep talking about that, but I know that not everyone reads my updates, so I figure if I mention it every update, you’re more likely to catch it.

Next Flash Fiction Series

I was happy to see a few people interested in the story I posted yesterday (and thanks for the comments on Twitter, too!) That particular story idea was inspired by watching a lot of true crime. There’s a series on Oxygen about medical-related murders, and one of the episodes talked about a doctor who was basically a glorified drug dealer. She was prescribing what they called the “holy Trinity” of drugs that were the most lethal combinations. I took that plot idea, and looked around the GH timeline for a place for that kind of story, and the Connor Bishop story seemed like a good place because Jason and Elizabeth are between stories, so there’s no real baggage or stuff for them to handle. I ship off Sam in the prologue, and we can just have them enjoy their romance, deal with Emily, and go into investigation mode.  Anyway — story ideas come from weird places.

I have stories in development that might be a good fit for the next Flash Fiction series, so maybe it might be fun to do another poll as we wind down Watch Me Burn, which should be around the end of the year.


I decided to go with Adobe InDesign to work on ebooks after playing around with some tutorials. I finished up the basic tutorials yesterday, and I’ll be starting the page layout ones today. I already pay for the Creative Suite, so I can have Photoshop, Premiere, and Dreamweaver, so I might as well utilize something I already have.  I should finish the tutorials this weekend and start formatting ebooks for it this week. My priority is to get Fool Me Twice, Book 1 out in ebook first because Book 2 is on its way.

Speaking of..

Fool Me Twice, Book 2

I will definitely be moving the publication date. I don’t think it’ll be ready for November. I had hoped I’d be able to use substantial pieces of the first draft in the first round of edits, but the story is just better with me rewriting most of it. I have used scenes, and there’s a storyline later in the book that can lift right out of the first draft. But pretty much everything that’s not Jason/Elizabeth needed to be rewritten.

This is honestly the best choice — and those of you on Patreon who followed the alpha draft and are now following the beta, I hope you’re reading along and seeing the benefits. I absolutely love this draft so much more, and it’s just the best choice for the book.

The original deadline for this round of edits is September 30. I might still make that, but I need an extra round of editing before I do the final polish. I’m thinking December at the earliest, January at the latest.

Fall Release Schedule

Luckily, with weekly updates for Flash Fiction and Signs of Life coming this fall, I won’t disappear like I usually do! You might have read Signs of Life during its Flash Fiction phase, but it’s been substantially revised in edits. I added around 40k, scenes were moved around, lengthened, or even changed. I can’t wait for you guys to read the new material!