I wanna go home for Christmas
Let me go home this year
I don’t know what my future holds
Or who I’ll choose to love me
But I can tell you where I’m from
And who loved me to life
– Home for Christmas, Maria Mena
Dublin, Ireland: The Brazen Head
It had taken Nikolas longer than he wanted to track down his wanderer of a brother. Nikolas had chased him through Cork, Belfast, and the West Counties before learning that Lucky had drifted back to Dublin and the Temple Bar district he called home these days.
He walked into the oldest pub in Ireland and wound his way through the cramped, dark hallways until he finally found the idiot in one of the back bars, grinning at the bartender as the man built him a Guinness.
“You could check your messages once in a while,” Nikolas said dryly as he sat on the stool next to his brother.
Lucky turned to him and clapped him on the shoulder as if it was no surprise at all to find Nikolas there. “Rory! Here’s the man I was just telling you about. Will you have a Guinness?”
“No,” Nikolas said flatly, but not wanting to draw attention to himself, he looked at the bartender. “Just a cider.”
“Aye, you be the prince, then?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Nikolas muttered. “Lucky, we need to talk—”
Lucky frowned and straightened, some of the mirth fading from his face. “Rory, we’ll grab a table.”
When they were tucked away in the corner, Nikolas rubbed his face. “We’ve got a problem. Maybe.”
“Is Mom okay? Elizabeth and the boys—they didn’t call—”
“How would you know?” Nikolas snapped, then bit it back. Took a deep breath. “You don’t check your messages, Lucky. How would Elizabeth even tell you if the boys were okay?”
“I—” Lucky exhaled slowly. “What happened?”
“The boys are fine. You should just be a better father maybe,” Nikolas muttered. It wasn’t Lucky’s fault that he was here. Lucky didn’t know the Faustian bargain Helena had forced him to accept.
He had too many balls in the air, and he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to keep juggling them all.
A few more months. A few more weeks. He could do this. The most important part of all of this — Jake — it was finally going to happen. Helena was finally going to send the boy home.
Nikolas could handle anything else as long Elizabeth had her son back.
“I think it’s Helena.”
Lucky closed his eyes and sat back in the chair, his shoulders slumped. “Oh, man. I thought she was finally—we haven’t had any trouble in years.”
Idiot. A quiet Helena still breathed. She’d only been mustering her forces, gathering her army. “You know better.”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Lucky glanced up, grinned weakly at Rory as the man set their drinks on the table. When he’d left them, Lucky sighed. “What’s the problem?”
“I’d keep you out of it if I could,” Nikolas lied, “but I can’t get on the island without her knowing. It’s not in my skill set. You and Luke? You know that place backwards and forwards.”
“Nikolas, just tell me what the problem is,” Lucky said. “You’re dancing around it—”
Because as much as he wanted Jake at home with his mother, Nikolas knew returning him was just the next stage. He didn’t yet know what Helena was planning and he was terrified he wouldn’t find out until it was too late.
But he’d gone along with all of this to get Jake home. He’d sacrificed a piece of his soul—if not the entire thing—for this moment. “I don’t know what’s going on, but the last time I was there, she was being secretive. She didn’t want me there, and I found out a few days ago she’d reopened the west wing.”
“The west wing,” Lucky repeated.
“We haven’t opened that part of the house since Uncle and I stopped living there full time,” Nikolas told him. “Since we moved to the States.” His mouth was dry as he finished it. “It’s where my father kept our mother.”
Lucky’s mouth was grim and he nodded. “Okay. Okay. So whatever she’s up to, I’ll find out. I’ll let you know.”
“Thanks.” Nikolas smiled weakly. He’d done it. He’d given Lucky the road map to finding Jake, just as Helena had wanted.
He only hoped he hadn’t made everything else worse.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Greystone: Living Room
Drew turned away from Patrick and Robin to find himself face to face with Oscar, Jake, and Aiden — he frowned when he saw Jake’s worried face, and Oscar’s brows drawn together with concern. “Hey,” he said, nodding at them, putting a hand on Aiden’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“Uh—” Oscar stared at Drew blankly as if he hadn’t realized that he was so close to them. “Nothing. I mean—” He looked at Jake and Aiden. “Nothing, right?”
“We’re looking for my mom,” Jake said, tentatively. “Oscar said Cam is mad about something, and Jason went to talk to him, and Michael was supposed to get Mom, but he didn’t—”
Drew pressed his lips together. “I thought I saw her in the foyer earlier—” He craned his neck to see into the foyer, and caught sight of Michael’s blonde hair rising above the people around him—including Carly, Elizabeth, Spinelli—and Nelle. He winced. “I think she’s in the middle of something. How bad is it?”
“Uh, I don’t know really,” Oscar admitted. “Emma knows, but won’t tell anyone and I don’t really know why but I also don’t know her—”
“And Cam yelled at Trina.” Aiden’s eyes were wide. “He never yells at Trina.”
“He yelled at Joss, too,” Jake volunteered. “And Joss started yelling at Emma which only made Trina more mad, so Oscar said we should go somewhere—”
“Great,” Drew muttered. He’d been around the group of teens long enough to know that on a good day, Joss and Trina usually managed a level of civility because of Cameron. If it wasn’t Carly making a scene somewhere, he wasn’t surprised that her daughter was picking up the slack.
He searched the room for the trio of girls, but then exhaled in relief. He didn’t see Joss, but Trina and Emma looked upset.
“Oscar—” Drew looked at his son, feeling his frustration. Oscar was the new member of the group—he didn’t know the dynamics or personalities that made it function. “Does Jason have it handled or should I go get Elizabeth?”
“I think maybe—” Oscar paused. “I think it’s about that guy Lucky,” he said slowly. “Cam’s…um…” He squinted. “Whatever he is.”
“Daddy said something that made Cameron feel sad,” Aiden said glumly, and Jake put an arm around his younger brother. “Emma heard it, too, but no one will tell us what it was.” He rubbed a hand under his nose and sniffled. “Cam doesn’t call him Dad anymore. Maybe Daddy was sad about that,” he said to Jake. “And Cam felt bad.”
“Maybe,” Jake said dubiously. “But Cam stopped calling him that like two years ago and he didn’t seem to care.” He shrugged, then looked at Drew. “I don’t know, Uncle Drew. Cam’s weird sometimes. Maybe Mom can do something.”
“All right, I’ll get her.” Drew turned to Oscar, put a hand on his shoulder. “Thanks for getting your cousins away from whatever was going on. You know sometimes Trina and Joss go overboard, and they don’t need to hear everything.”
“Yeah, I do,” Jake muttered. “How else do I get to know the good stuff?”
“No problem.” Oscar’s face brightened when Drew had called the younger boys his cousins. “We were thinking about raiding the desserts in the kitchen.”
“That’s a great idea,” Drew told him. “I’ll get Elizabeth, and we’ll get it take care of.” He started towards the foyer, then turned back to Oscar. “Hey, make sure you stick around. I’ll drive you home. I have something for you for Christmas.”
Oscar nodded. “Yeah, okay. That—would be great.” He paused. “Dad,” he said, testing out the word. “Maybe we could do something over the break. Like, a movie or something.”
“That sounds like a great idea. We’ll talk about on the way home,” Drew promised, and then went to extract Elizabeth from whatever drama Carly was creating.
Carly could hardly believe that Elizabeth Webber of all people was coming to her defense, and man did it piss her off that there was a slight chance Michael would believe the goody two shoes but she’d deal with that later.
“Nelle,” Michael said, slowly, “I know you and my mom don’t get along. I know she starts fights—”
“Oh, come on!” Carly said, throwing up her hands. “You just heard Elizabeth tell you that Nelle is lying—”
“No, I heard Elizabeth say Nelle came up to you. Which she admitted,” Michael told his mother. He looked at Elizabeth. “Did you hear the whole conversation?”
“Most of it,” Elizabeth said. “Nelle said something about attacking Carly because you love her. And Carly wanted her to admit that Nelle was lying about whatever happened before.”
“See!” Carly jabbed a finger at Nelle. “I told you! Nelle started it last time, and then lied about what happened. She told me you were moving in together—”
“I did not!” Nelle retorted. “And I get you’re trying to help,” she told Elizabeth with a roll of her eyes, “but you weren’t at the hotel. And you know how Carly can get! And how she tries to make herself look like the victim! Come on, Michael told me that she just did the same to you—”
Elizabeth hesitated, then looked at Carly who closed her eyes. Damn it. “That’s true,” the brunette said slowly. “But I don’t think that’s the case here. What’s between Carly and me—that’s between us. You were baiting her, Nelle. You admitted to exploiting her problems with Michael—and clearly, you know that Carly can be pushed into a confrontation. You just admitted it. So why did you come over to talk to her when she was avoiding you?”
Carly pursed her lips. That didn’t sound like a full-throated defense, but maybe it was best Elizabeth could muster given the circumstances. “Michael, I really was going out of my way tonight to be nice,” she said, shifting her tone but then scowling as she heard a whine in her voice. Damn it. “I promised you—”
“Yeah, well—” Michael exhaled slowly, then looked at his girlfriend. “Maybe you should just stop trying to make things better,” he told Nelle, and Carly wanted to murder her. Just grab the candelabra that was on the table by the stairs and bash the little bitch’s head in—
“Not worth it,” Elizabeth muttered, and Carly squinted at her. How did she know—
“Fine. Obviously, your mother only believes in second chances when it comes to her,” Nelle said darkly, folding her arms. “No one else ever gets to make a mistake or hurt anyone without having to pay for it forever—”
“You didn’t just make a mistake—” Carly stopped because it wasn’t going to change anything. Michael knew everything Nelle had done—how much worse she’d made that terrible time after they’d lost Morgan, and if he didn’t care—if that didn’t matter to him—
She couldn’t force him to see what Nelle was trying to do to them. He’d have to learn this lesson on his own.
“Let’s go,” Michael said to Nelle. “This was a bad idea.”
“I’m sorry,” Nelle said as he led her away. “I just wanted to help…”
Carly glared after them, watching as Michael and Nelle put on their coats and scarves and left.
“I don’t know her, but I also don’t think I like her,” Spinelli said finally as Elizabeth sighed and looked at Carly.
“I’m sorry. I really thought Michael would listen to me. I know Nelle was baiting you, Carly—”
“I knew she was, too,” Carly said, rubbing her temple. “But I let her do it anyway. And Michael—well, if he’s not going to take it from you, there’s no way he’ll ever believe me.” She didn’t understand it—she knew that she’d never been the best person, and the lie about AJ had been a terrible one—but did she really deserve to be treated like this? To have the woman who had caused her so much misery and grief shoved in her face?
“Thank you,” Carly told Elizabeth. “For trying. I—you didn’t have to do that. I’m surprised you’re not on Nelle’s side.”
“You and I have our history, Carly,” Elizabeth told her. “And it’s always going to make it hard for us to be around each other. We know too much,” she said with a rueful smile. “But I also know what it is to grieve a child, and what Nelle did to you was unforgivable. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Michael.” She winced. “Not that I have a lot of room to talk with my history—”
“What history?” Drew asked as he joined them. He frowned “What happened to Michael and Nelle?”
“Oh, big bad Carly chased them away,” Carly said with a huff. “You know how I am.”
“Yeah, but—” Drew frowned at her, then looked at Elizabeth. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but Cameron’s upset about something. He yelled at Trina and Joss, then went onto the terrace—Michael was supposed to get you—”
“What happened?” Elizabeth asked. “Is he still out there?”
“Yeah, Jason went after him, but he wanted you brought in. Elizabeth—” Drew stopped her as she started across the room. “It’s about Lucky. He overheard something, but I don’t know what. Apparently, he and Emma both aren’t talking—” As Elizabeth’s face paled, his eyes narrowed. “You know what it is.”
“Lucky and I had a fight the day Emma came over to visit. I thought she and Cam were upstairs playing video games with the boys, but—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, pressed her hands to her face. “Oh, God. Oh, please tell me he didn’t hear it. Please.”
“I hate to tell you, but based on how he’s reacting—he overheard something pretty damn terrible.”
Greystone Manor: Terrace
Cameron couldn’t believe he’d said any of that crap to Jason of all people and as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wanted to call them back—he wanted to crawl inside of himself and shrivel up. To die of mortification and embarrassment.
“I’m fine,” Cameron said tightly as Jason just looked at him. “You don’t need to talk to my mom about this. I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine,” Jason said slowly. “But it’s not my place to tell your mom about anything you just said. But she needs to know, Cam. And you need to talk to her.”
“She’ll just feel bad,” Cameron muttered. He stared out over the city, wishing he was anywhere else. “She’ll feel bad for wanting to be happy, and she already feels bad enough about what happened with Franco. And with Drew a few years ago. Mom’s been messed up since Jake’s accident. I’m not sure she’s even okay now.” He grimaced, feeling the sting of shame. “That’s not fair. She’s fine. She’s great—”
“Jake came home, but that doesn’t take away the years we lost,” Jason told Cameron. “And how it changed all of us. I know your mom struggled, and I wasn’t there for her. You’re right. I walked away from Jake. From you and your mom. And I—I wasn’t much better when I knew Sam was pregnant with Danny. None of what you said was wrong, Cam—”
“It’s not my business—”
“It is when it affected you,” Jason told him, and Cameron was stunned into silence. “My choices made your mom unhappy. I know that. I thought they were the right ones, but by the time I realized they weren’t—it was too late. And then Jake had his accident, and I just felt like I’d done enough damage. But not all fathers leave.”
“I know that,” Cameron said. He rubbed the side of his face. “That was stupid to say. I don’t even think that. It’s just—” He shook his head. “I should be relieved. Lucky stopped giving a damn about me because he’s a shitty person, not because I wasn’t a good son. But—” He paused. “But I can’t seem to really let it go.”
“Because you still wonder why he couldn’t look past the biology and love you anyway,” Jason said in a rough voice, and Cameron looked at him. “I’m sorry, Cam. That he couldn’t.”
“Yeah, well, I feel stupid now,” Cameron confessed. “I should have just told Trina and Joss all of this. Instead, I made a scene, and I just—” He looked at Jason. “Look, you’re right. I’ll talk to my mom. But Christmas—it’s her thing, you know? She loves this time of year. And Aiden still believes.” He paused. “Can you just—can you leave it at that?”
“Yeah,” Jason said with a slow nod. “Yeah, I can leave it at that. Come on, let’s go back into the party—”
“I—” Cameron put up a hand. “I just want to go in alone. I gotta find Trina and talk to her. And I just—no offense, but you’re not my dad. You never pretended before. Don’t start now. I’m glad you’re home, and that you’re here for Jake. And I’m happy to hang out with you because Jake likes it. But I’m not your son.”
“All right.” Jason nodded. “I’ll wait out here for a while.”
Cameron went inside, closing the terrace door behind him, not even noticing the shadow in the corner that moved.
“Joss,” Jason said with a sigh as Carly’s daughter stalked towards him. “Did you follow me out here?”
“Uh, yeah, because Cameron wouldn’t tell me what was going on, and now I am pissed,” Joss said through clenched teeth. ‘That no good, lying rotten, piece of crap—” She yanked out her phone and pulled a group text.
“Joss, Cam wants to handle this on his own—”
“Yeah, well, he’ll have to suck it up.”
To Trina, Emma, and Oscar, she texted, i got the story don’t tell cam bc we need to talk after xmas we got a little bitch to destroy
Trina: emma told me truce back on we gotta fuck this boy up
Jason sighed as her fingers flashed across her phone, typing furiously. “Just don’t do anything you need to be bailed out for. It’s Christmas.”
“Don’t worry, I never get caught,” Joss said confidently as she sauntered back into the party.
Greystone Manor: Living Room
Elizabeth wound her away through the crowded living room, making her way towards the terrace—but halfway across the room, she saw the door open and Cameron came in. She stopped, trying to take in his mood—
He went over to talk to Trina and Emma, and said something to Trina. Trina rolled her eyes, then hugged him. Cameron smiled and—Elizabeth couldn’t tell from where she was — but maybe this wasn’t the time or place for this conversation.
“You okay?” Sonny asked, coming up to her with a glass of wine in his hand. He held it out. “You look worried.”
“I’m—” Elizabeth sighed, took the wine. “I’m fine. I think Cameron and I need to talk about something, but it’ll keep for tonight.” She looked back at him, squinting slightly. “You need to keep an eye on Nelle.”
Sonny tilted his head, quizzical. “What?”
“I have my issues with Carly, you know that. But Nelle—” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “She’s manipulating Michael and Carly. I just watched Nelle corner Carly, attack and push her into a fight, and then by the time Michael got there, she found a way to make herself the victim, and she didn’t even have to lie to do it.”
Sonny sighed, then sipped his bourbon. “It’s been hard for Carly to see Michael with Nelle. You know she’s not always the most—” He hesitated. “Well, stable isn’t the right word, but—”
“I know. And I told Carly that our problems are what they are, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see what Nelle just did. You need to keep an eye on it,” she repeated. “Because Nelle’s working very hard to put a wedge between Carly and Michael. And—well, I know you and Michael are mostly okay now—”
“But she won’t have to work very hard to separate Michael from either of us,” Sonny said with a slow nod. “Yeah, you’re not wrong there.” He frowned. “You think she’s planning something?”
“I just—I don’t know. It kind of—oh, man this is going to sound terrible—” Elizabeth sighed. “But it kind of reminds me when Sam—when she and Lucky had the affair the summer Jake was kidnapped? Not that I was innocent in any of that,” she added hastily, “since my marriage was pretty much over anyway, and I nearly left Lucky for Jason until the thing in the park happened with the guns—” She huffed. “That’s not what I’m talking about. It was just the way Sam always manage to twist everything I said or did to make me look like the bad guy. Maxie used to do it, too.”
“Uh, yeah, well, Sam was a damn good con artist, and I think the steal a married man thing was her bread and butter,” Sonny reminded her. He frowned. “Wait, what gun in the park thing?”
“Oh. I was in the park with the boys, and these guys with guns showed up—” Elizabeth waved it away. “It spooked Jason, and me a little bit, so we just—it was a million years ago.”
“In the park,” Sonny repeated. “What, broad daylight? Jason never told me about any of this.”
“Well, this was like eight minutes after he’d gotten acquitted at the trial, so—” Elizabeth shook her head. “It’s not important, Sonny—”
“Uh, if one of my enemies is accosting you in broad daylight with your kids, it was my business. And why? Do you think someone didn’t believe you at the trial?” Sonny asked.
“Sonny—I don’t know—” Elizabeth hesitated. “It was ten years ago. It really isn’t important right now. Not like Nelle.”
“No, you’re right. I just—I can be selfish,” Sonny said. “Especially at that point in my life. And I hate that Jason was worried about your safety and I didn’t do anything to help. Sometimes I think if I’d been a better friend—” He shook his head. “Well, anyway — you need to make sure he doesn’t let Sam get away with this crap.”
Mystified, Elizabeth frowned at him. “What? I know she filed for divorce before he could, but—”
“Jason didn’t tell you?” Sonny asked. When she shook her head, he muttered something under his breath. “One of these days,” he said, his voice normal again, “I’m really gonna smack him. Look, he might not bring it up, but you need to know that Sam’s using Jake in all of this.”
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed, and her fingers tightened dangerously around the stem of her wine glass. “Oh, really? I think you’d better tell me what the hell is going on.”
Davis House: Living Room
Sam forced a smile on her face as Danny glumly unwrapped the new video game that Molly and TJ had given him. “That’s pretty cool, right?”
“Yeah.” Danny sighed, then smiled at his aunt. “It’s cool. I played it at Jake’s the last time I was at his house.” He looked at his mother. “Maybe Jake could come over and play it with me now.”
Alexis raised her brows as Sam sighed. “Yeah, maybe. I’ll call Elizabeth,” she said finally. “We’ll see what we can do.”
Danny brightened. “Great! But Daddy should do it. He probably misses Jake a lot, too.” Danny looked at Molly and TJ. “TJ, do you gotta big brother?”
“No, I’m an only child,” TJ said, “but you’re lucky. You get to be a little brother and a big brother, right?”
“Right,” Danny nodded as he reached for another gift. “Jake told me that the most important job for a big brother is make sure no one ever hurts Scout. Only I get to mess with her. Cam told him that. Cam taught Jake everything about being a big brother.”
“Right,” Sam said faintly. She pulled out her phone and pulled up Drew’s name in her text messages. With a sigh, she started to type.
Miss u. Come to my mom’s, please?
Almost two minutes later, the delivered message beneath the text changed to Read at 8:08 PM. Then nothing.
Drew didn’t respond, and Sam’s heart felt heavy. She’d tried so hard to protect herself, to protect the life she’d built—
But her mother was right. The only thing Sam had ended up doing was taking a flamethrower to everyone else. Danny was miserable without his brother, Drew was sleeping in the guest room, and Jason—
Jason had been probably been devastated by the papers she’d sent him. Even if Sam still thought he deserved them—maybe she could admit to herself that the Jason of five years ago had deserved them. The Jason that had abandoned her and hurt so badly after she’d been raped by Franco and thought Danny was his son—
The Jason that had been kidnapped and trapped inside his own body and mind — well, maybe he’d deserved a little bit better from her.
“I’m heading over to Dad’s now,” Kristina told her softly. Sam looked up at her. “You want me to say anything to him?”
“Just—” Sam sighed, looked over at Danny helping Scout unwrap her gifts with a gleeful smile. “Just that the kids miss him. And that we need to get Danny and Jake together.”
“Thanks, Krissy,” Sam said as Kristina got to her feet.
“It’s Christmas,” Kristina said with a shrug. “Even I can’t be a bitch twenty-four seven. I’ll text with you any news.”
Greystone Manor: Master Bedroom
It was nearly midnight before the party had broken up, and Sonny found himself in his bedroom, watching as Carly sat at her vanity table, carefully removing her jewelry and makeup.
“Elizabeth said something happened with Nelle tonight,” Sonny said, sitting on the edge of the bed, meeting his wife’s eyes in the mirror. “She said I need to keep my eye on things because Nelle reminds her of Sam going after Lucky, the way she’d twist things in her favor.”
“I think…” Carly said after a minute, “I almost understand why Jason keeps her around.” With a slight smile that didn’t reach her eyes, she continued, “She doesn’t like me. I’ve never given her much of a reason to, and after what happened at her house, I wouldn’t expect her to help me across the street. But she came over to and tried to tell Michael Nelle was lying.”
Carly twisted on the bench, her dark eyes somber. “But if Michael doesn’t even believe Elizabeth—someone I know he does trust—what use is there in me even trying to get through to him? Nelle will just keep making me look like the bad guy.”
“Michael has to make his own mistakes,” Sonny told her. “I’m not wild that Nelle is the mistake he’s choosing to make, but all we can do is watch out for him and be there when it’s over, you know?”
“I know. I think—” Carly sighed. “He doesn’t believe me, Sonny. Even when I’m telling the truth.” Her eyes were damp as they met his again. “And I don’t have anyone to blame but myself, do I?”
“No,” Sonny admitted roughly. “But he doesn’t trust me either, Carly, and that’s on me. We really messed up three years ago. I just hope like hell it’s not Michael who ends up paying for it.”
Penthouse: Danny’s Bedroom
“Good night,” Drew said as he tucked the covers under Danny’s arms and knelt down next to him.
“We put out the cookies, right?” Danny asked, his voice slurred as he shifted, already sliding into slumber. “And the milk?”
“We did, but I’ll check again,” Drew told him, sliding his hair off his forehead. He looked across the bed at Sam who tucked in another corner of Danny’s comforter. “We’ll see you in the morning, buddy. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry…” But Danny was already asleep, and the final word was lost to dreams. Sam switched on his night light, then the two of them went into the hallway and carefully closed the door.
Drew followed her down stairs. “I put the presents in the closet under the stairs,” he told her. “Yesterday, when you were at the park with Danny—”
“Oh, good.” Sam folded her arms, then bit the corner of her thumb. “We should wait a few hours to put them out,” she told him. “You know, in case he wakes up.”
They stood there in awkward silence, and Drew finally broke it. “Krissy told me you want to get Jake and Danny together. Does that mean you’re ready to talk—”
“I don’t know what I’m ready for,” Sam said. “But Danny loves Jake. And I know—” She sighed. “I know if you ask Jake not to talk to Danny much about what’s going on, he’ll do it for you.”
“I don’t want to fight, I really don’t. Not tonight.” She closed her eyes. “But I just—I don’t know how to tell Danny that you’re not his father. I don’t want him to lose you, Drew. I don’t think blood makes a father—”
“And we can argue all you want after this is over,” Sam told him, opening her eyes again, meeting his gaze. “But not tonight. I just want to pretend that everything is okay?”
“I know what you’re going to say,” Sam said. “It’s not okay, and we can’t keep pretending. And I get that. But if this—” Her eyes were damp. “But if this is it, Drew, if we can’t make this work, then can we just give Danny the next few days?”
“Yeah,” Drew said finally, with a slow nod. “Yeah. I’m not saying we can’t make it work, Sam—”
“No, but I think I might be saying it,” she murmured. “You’re right. We can’t go back, but I’m not sure I want to go forward either.”
Webber House: Living Room
Elizabeth decided not to talk to Cameron or Jason that night about what had happened at the party. Cameron had looked tired, and Jason hadn’t looked like he was in the mood to talk about the custody arrangements with Danny—
So instead, she put it aside. Cameron and the boys went upstairs, and Elizabeth waited until she knew Cameron had done a good job of distracting them so she could drag the gifts out of the crawl space to arrange around the tree.
Jason had volunteered to put together new bikes she’d bought for Jake and Aiden—they’d both outgrown their old ones, and she didn’t want Aiden to feel like he was always getting hand me downs the way Elizabeth had growing up.
“There’s a baking set,” she told Jason as he rolled Jake’s bike in front of the tree. “In the crawl space. I can’t lift it—”
“I got it.” A minute later, Jason set the large box near the bike, then looked at the tree for a long moment as Elizabeth finished arranging the gifts under the tree, making sure the gifts were arranged haphazardly to slow the boys down as they raced through them.
“Jake and Aiden always crash with Cameron on Christmas Eve,” Elizabeth told Jason. “I mean, they always did when they were little, but Cameron made it a thing when Jake came home to help him that first year. So their rooms are free. If you wanted to be here when Jake wakes up—”
“I’d like that,” Jason said as he sat on the edge of the arm chair. “Thanks.” He paused. “Thanks for coming tonight. Sonny said you and Carly were okay?”
“We managed. We’ll never be close—not really—but we love our kids, and we both—” Elizabeth looked at him. “You matter to both of us,” she finally said. “So we’ll figure it out.” She hesitated. “I know something happened with Cameron tonight, but I decided not to ask him. Should I?”
“Make some time for him in the next few days,” Jason told her. “He doesn’t know how much he’s gonna need it, but he needs to get it out with you. I kept trying to get you, but he wasn’t ready tonight.”
Kneeling at the base of the tree, Elizabeth looked up at the twinkling lights, at the paper chains she’d made with her boys, at the angel on top, looking over things. “He heard Lucky, didn’t he?”
Her throat felt impossibly tight as she squeezed her eyes closed. “Oh, God.” She pressed her hands to her face. “Oh, God—”
“Hey—” Jason slid off the arm chair and joined her on the floor. “Hey, don’t—”
“I never ever wanted any of my kids to feel the way I did—” The sobs bubbled up, but she tried to force them down. “To feel like they weren’t loved, that there was something wrong with them, some reason they couldn’t measure up—but I did it—I did it to them—”
“You didn’t do anything—”
“I brought Lucky into Cameron’s life, didn’t I? Into Jake’s? I promised you he’d be a good father, and he was—he was for a long time—” Elizabeth pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes. “But I don’t know what I did wrong—he loved Cameron, he did. And I know he loved Jake. I don’t believe he just saw Zander one day and stopped. I can’t believe it—”
“I don’t know what what the hell was going through Lucky Spencer’s brain, I never did understand him,” Jason muttered. “But I know he loved them. I saw him with the boys, Elizabeth. I never would have agreed to let things stay the way the way they were if I didn’t think Jake had two parents who loved him.”
“Yeah, well, I keep making those mistakes, don’t I? Lucky, Drew—God, Franco—what an idiot—” She closed her eyes. “And I tell myself that I’ll do better next time, but Drew—lying about Jake Doe was such a selfish choice. Such a terrible, destructive thing to do, and I told myself every day that it had to stop, but he was here, and I thought—he was supposed to be you, and it was supposed to finally be my chance, and when Jake came home, I thought it was a sign—” Her shoulders started to shake, and Jason drew her close, putting an arm around her shoulder.
“And it’s insane because he was never you, and I never really felt like he was—but he loved the boys—”
“But everything blew up, and it kept spiraling out of control—Jake was in another car accident, he almost died again—and then the house blew up, and Tom Baker, oh, God, he came back—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, forced herself to stop. “I’m sorry. This—this isn’t about me. This is about Cameron. And making it about me is how I got him into this mess—”
“Cameron knows how much you love him, Elizabeth. The last thing he’d ever want to do is hurt you—”
“He’s just a baby, Jason. He shouldn’t be worried about protecting me! It’s not his job to make sure I’m all right! That’s my job! I’m supposed to protect him!”
“And you do. Every day, Elizabeth.” Jason took her by the shoulders, forced her to look at him. “I remember how scared you were when you left Ric, and you were having Cameron. You came back from California, and you were determined that you’d give him the best life. And you did that. You became a nurse, and I know you and Lucky were happy before the drugs.”
“We were—he was a good father.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “He was. He loved Cameron. I might have ruined everything with Lucky by trying to put our family back together, and with Nikolas—but Lucky was the one that let it sour things for him with Cameron and Jake. He’s the one that left town. Not me.” She exhaled slowly. “I can take on the guilt for what happened to my relationship with Lucky in the end, but he’s the one that started it all. With Maxie, the drugs, with Sam—”
Jason winced, as he sat back. “Yeah, well—I never liked him.”
Elizabeth laughed, though it sounded more like a hysterical sob. “No, I know that.” She sighed, wiped her cheeks. “Well, I’m glad I had to chance get my hysterics out before Cameron talks to me. He doesn’t need my crazy.”
“You would have dealt with with it, Elizabeth,” Jason told her as he got to his feet, then pulled her up. “You always do. You’ve made mistakes, but no one can say you’re not a great mother. The reason Cameron wants to protect you is that you taught him that’s what family does. You’re nothing like your parents. Not one of your boys has ever doubted for a minute that you love them.”