The world’s on fire, it’s more than I can handle
Tap into the water, try to bring my share
Try to bring more, more than I can handle
Bring it to the table, bring what I am able
I watch the heavens but I find no calling
Something I can do to change what’s coming
Stay close to me while the sky is falling
I don’t wanna be left alone, don’t wanna be alone
– Worlds on Fire, Sarah McLachlan
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Greystone Manor: Living Room
Inside the house, Sonny and Carly were waiting. Sonny sat in his armchair, a bourbon in his hand, Michael was on the sofa playing a handheld video game while Carly was pacing from the terrace doors to the double doors, back and forth.
As soon as the gunshots had been reported by the news, Sonny had called Carly for a lockdown at the estate. She’d gone without an argument. It didn’t matter how long they had been divorced—she knew the procedure. Jason was with Morgan, and if he was okay, he’d be coming there as possible. She just wanted to be with her boys.
Morgan started crying almost as soon as Jason and Elizabeth crossed the threshold. He released Elizabeth’s hand and ran across the room so that his mother could sweep him up into a bear hug.
Sonny launched to his feet to join mother and son. “Hey, kiddo,” he said, running his hand down Morgan’s back. “You okay?”
“I ‘kay, Daddy.” Morgan sniffled. “Scared. Big ‘splosion.”
Jason exhaled slowly. “Sonny, I need you to get Richie here. Elizabeth was grazed, and we didn’t wait for the paramedics—”
“Oh my God, you were hit?” Carly looked at Elizabeth over Morgan’s head. “Is Cameron okay? What happened?” She looked at the other toddler, who had tucked his head into the space between Jason’s shoulder and neck , his cheeks tear-stained. “Cam, it’s Aunt Carly. You okay, baby?”
“Yeah,” he offered in a small voice as he looked suspiciously at Sonny. “Jason squished me. Morgan okay, too. Mommy squished him.”
“Mommy—” Carly’s face paled as she took in Elizabeth’s blood-stained bare arm. Jason was pushing her towards the sofa where a silent Michael just moved over. “You—got—you got shot with Morgan—” He set Cameron down next to her.
“It was just the sides of the table we were on,” Elizabeth murmured as some of the adrenaline began to wear off. Her knees felt like they were made of water, and she gratefully sat down. “We had gone to the food court to get something to eat, and—I just grabbed Morgan and went under the table.”
“Thank you,” Sonny said in a quiet voice. “I’ll go get Richie.”
Cameron tucked himself against her good side. “Mommy, does it hurt?”
Morgan perched on one hip, Carly came around to stand next to Jason. “What the hell is going on?” she demanded. “I thought Sonny said things were quiet—”
“They are. We don’t know what happened.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck, watching as a pale Elizabeth reassured her son. “Jesse Beaudry was hit. Headshot.”
“Beaudry,” Carly repeated. “That’s a cop, right? Was he near you?”
“He was at the table, yelling at Elizabeth,” Jason muttered.
“Well, maybe it was because of him,” Carly said. She pressed her lips to Morgan’s cheeks again. “Hey, baby. Talk to me. You must have been scared.”
“It was loud,” Morgan said in a small voice. “And the angry man was bleeding. Aunt Em tried to help, but I think he hurt real bad.”
“Elizabeth,” Carly said, turning back to the sofa. “Why don’t I take the boys upstairs to get settled? You can get cleaned up.” She sighed. “I brought a bag with a few changes of clothes. I didn’t know how long—but you can borrow something from me if you need it.”
“Thanks,” Elizabeth managed. To Cameron, she said, “Do you want to go see Morgan’s playroom? Maybe Aunt Carly—” the words fell a bit more naturally from her lips than she thought they might—“can get the Spiderman DVD from my bag.”
“Wanna stay wit’ you.” Cameron wrapped his arms around Elizabeth’s forearm and pressed his forehead against her shoulder.
“Well, Sonny and Jason are going to get someone who can clean my cut, Cam. And make sure it’s okay.” She pressed her lips to his head. “Go upstairs. I bet the playroom here is bigger than Aunt Carly’s.”
“It’s two rooms, Cameron,” Michael told him with a reassuring smile. He got to his feet, held out his hand. “Come on. We got lots of movies to watch. And Mom always has candy in her purse.” He was clearly a pro at this, and beyond the lack of color in his face, didn’t seem all that fazed by what was going on.
“Thanks for ratting me out, Mr. Man,” Carly muttered as Sonny returned in time for that last remark. “Sonny, I’m taking the boys upstairs.”
“Yeah, yeah, Richie’s on his way up from the guardhouse.” Sonny scrubbed his hands over his face. He waited until Carly had disappeared up the stairs with all three boys before turning back to Jason and Elizabeth. “Justus is on his way over. He’s already fielding calls from Mac. Seems like they know you were there, Jase. It’s only a matter of time before you get an official request to come in for questioning.”
Jason grimaced. “Any word on Beaudry? What about other injuries?”
“A few other bullet grazes,” Sonny said as a guard came in and sat down to look at Elizabeth’s arm. He pulled out a bag and started to unpack a few things. “But Beaudry is the worst. He’s still in surgery, but the guy at the hospital didn’t think it looked good.”
“That’s what Emily said on the scene,” Elizabeth offered, wincing as Richie carefully began to clean the wound. “But he made it to the hospital.”
“Can you guys tell me what happened?” Sonny asked. “Were you the target? How close were you to Beaudry?”
“It’s like we said. We were at one of the picnic tables,” Jason said. “Beaudry and some of the other kids he hangs out with were right there. The shots started, and Elizabeth and I just grabbed the boys and went for cover.”
“I was standing closest to Jesse,” Elizabeth murmured. “With Morgan. On one side of the table. Emily was next to me. Jesse was right in front of me.” She met Sonny’s eyes. “Jason was at least three feet away.”
“That is interesting,” Sonny mused, “and something to think about.” He eyed Jason, who pressed his lips together. “Richie, how does it look?”
“Just a superficial wound,” the guard told Elizabeth as he placed a bandage over it. “It bled a lot, but that serious. You won’t even need stitches. Might be some skin discoloration, but it’ll probably disappear with time.” He packed his things up. “You’re a nurse, right? You know to clean this if you have supplies?”
When Richie left, Elizabeth sighed. She knew Sonny probably wanted her out of the way, so she got to her feet. “I should call my grandmother to let her know we’re okay. Can I tell her where we are?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine. But if it’s okay, Elizabeth, I’d like you and Cameron to spend the night. To make sure we know who the target was.” Sonny hesitated. “I’m…kind of concerned that Beaudry was the hardest hit, and he was next to you. I don’t know what that means, but you—” He looked at the remains of the blood-stained sleeve in her hands. “That bullet came close to my son, and he’s okay because you took care of him. Thank you.”
“You’d do the same for mine.” She looked at Jason. “I’ll go and call her. I’m sure you and Sonny have things to talk about that I don’t need to hear.”
“Yeah.” Jason looked at her for a long time as if he wanted to say more as if he wanted to do something. But he remained rooted to the ground, not moving towards her. Elizabeth just sighed, shook her head, and went upstairs.
“I called Mateo,” Sonny offered once Elizabeth was out of earshot. “He doesn’t know what the hell is going on. This isn’t from him.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not from the guys he can’t control,” Jason muttered. “Something isn’t right about this, Sonny. There were two shooters—they both got away because I couldn’t—the kids were there—”
“I didn’t think you should abandon Elizabeth and Emily with toddlers so you could go get shot by someone else,” Sonny said dryly. “You did what needed to be done. The kids come first. Two shooters?”
“Unless the guy had a machine, definitely more than one shooter. But opening fire on crowded carnival?” Jason shook his head. “I don’t think the shots were coming from far away. A decent shot would have taken me out—I wasn’t expecting any trouble. But I didn’t even get grazed. Elizabeth did. And the cop took the full brunt.”
“You think Beaudry was the undercover working Courtland Street?” Sonny asked. “Maybe we weren’t the targets?”
“I don’t know.”
His partner frowned at him. “Are you sure you’re not just hoping it wasn’t about us?” Sonny asked. “You’re out in public with Elizabeth and her kid for the first time. He ends up in danger—that’s not a good sign.”
“She’s handling it,” Jason said flatly. “Better than most. No, I don’t want this to be about us. Because it means we missed something. We knew there were issues with the Escobars, but this is an escalation that we didn’t see coming. Do you want to admit we missed it?”
“No.” Sonny frowned as the front door opened, and Max shoved open the door to the living room. “What’s up, Max?”
“Uh, Lucky Spencer is at the guardhouse, demanding to talk to his wife and son.” Max winced as he looked at Jason. “I didn’t know what to say to him. He said if I just turned him away, he’d have the PCPD here to come get Cameron. I don’t know if that’s a thing he can do, but I thought Miss Webber ought to know.”
Jason sighed, nodded. “Yeah, I’ll go get her. See how she wants to handle it.”
He went up the stairs and found Elizabeth coming out of one of the guest rooms, her blood-stained tank top exchanged for a long-sleeved shirt that covered her wound. “Hey—I didn’t think you’d be done with Sonny so quickly. I didn’t even get to call Gram yet—” She frowned. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Lucky’s at the guardhouse,” he said after a long moment. “Demanding to see you and Cameron. He threatened to bring the PCPD to get Cameron. I’m sure he threw the words kidnapping around.”
Elizabeth hesitated. “The last thing I want to do is deal with Lucky,” she admitted.
“I’ll make him go away—”
But as Jason turned to go, she caught his sleeve and stopped him. “But I think I should go down myself.”
He frowned down at her, shaking his head slightly. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do—”
“No, I—” Elizabeth pressed her lips together and looked at him. “No, I don’t. But I need to do this. Plus, if I don’t send him away myself, he’ll just make more trouble at the PCPD.”
Greystone Manor: Guard House
Lucky was pacing back and forth in the driveway that led up to the estate, his car parked haphazardly behind him, one of the wheels on the curb.
Elizabeth folded her arms as she approached the gate, Jason on her heels.
“Let me in!” Lucky yelled. He pulled at the gate again, but the iron bars didn’t move. “Damn it! I’m a fucking a cop!”
“Yeah? No warrant, no service,” Max Giambetti shot back with a smirk. “Try again—”
But Lucky had seen Elizabeth walk up behind Max and another guard. His eyes were bloodshot, and she grimaced, wondering if he’d been at Jake’s drinking again. “Elizabeth, you have to come with me!”
“I don’t have to go anywhere with you.” Though the gate was between them, Elizabeth stayed behind the guards. She didn’t want to get within arm’s reach of Lucky—
She didn’t trust him not to grab her through the bars.
“Elizabeth, Elizabeth, you need to be safe—you need to come out here now!” Lucky stretched his arm through the bars. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to do it—”
“I’m safe right where I am,” she said flatly. “You need to go.”
“God damn it—” His scowl deepened, his face flushed even darker as he focused on Jason behind her. “You ran straight to him, didn’t you? You fucking whore—”
“Let’s go back inside,” Jason told her as Elizabeth shook her head. She met his eyes. “He can’t get through the gate without a warrant, and he can’t tell the PCPD we’re keeping you against your will.”
“No, but he can still find a way to make trouble,” she murmured. She looked back at Lucky, at the man that, until yesterday, she’d been trying to save. Her husband. “He always does.”
The boy she loved was gone, and she couldn’t even find a trace of the man she’d promised to love forever, barely six months earlier. It was the first time she could look at him and not feel the choking weight of obligation, guilt, and regret.
She felt nothing.
“Go away, Lucky. And don’t come back.”
She turned and walked back to the house.
Greystone Manor: Foyer
Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair as she walked into the foyer. Jason closed the door behind them. “Well, that was fun.”
“You didn’t have to go,” Jason told her, cocking his head to the side. “You knew he couldn’t come on the grounds without a warrant. And if the PCPD tried to take Cam, you’re here to stop that.”
“Yeah, I know that—”
“So, why did you go?” Jason asked, his tone quiet, his eyes searching hers. “I would have made him go away—”
“I needed to do it,” she admitted. “And maybe I didn’t even understand that until I went out there and saw him. Yesterday—” She blew out a breath. “Yesterday, he was the one that left. It should have been me. I should have left him weeks ago. I shouldn’t have gone back in the first place.”
Elizabeth bit her lip. “I needed to be the one who left,” she said again, more to herself. Then she met his eyes. “And I think maybe I needed you to know that. To see that.”
“Because I know the conversation—” She forced a smile on her face. “The argument we’re going to have later—when this is—when things are calmer.”
Jason looked away, and she just sighed. Elizabeth wasn’t sure she had it in her for that particular argument, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to happen all the same.
“But I needed you to see that I’m the one walking away from him this time.” Elizabeth’s chest eased. “And I’m not going back.”
Jason nodded. “Okay—”
They both turned when the double doors to the living room opened, and Sonny peered at them. “Lucky gone?” he asked.
“I’m sure he is by now,” Elizabeth said.
“Good. Jase, we got work to do. Elizabeth—”
“Got it.” She looked at Jason as Sonny went back into the living room, the doors still open. “Come find me later when you and Sonny are done talking, okay? We’ll have that argument.”
“Yeah,” he repeated. He kissed her forehead, lingering for a moment. “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too.” She squeezed his hand, then let him go. She went up the main stairs while he closed the doors.
Greystone Manor: Living Room
“She okay?” Sonny asked. He retrieved his forgotten bourbon from the coffee table and offered Jason a drink of his own. Jason didn’t usually drink with Sonny, but this time he accepted. Sonny went to the minibar to pour him a glass.
“She’s dealing. She’s—” Jason hesitated, sipped his drink. “She’s always been good under pressure. And she’s a nurse.”
“Trained to think in a crisis,” Sonny said. “Well, that’s your issue to deal with as long as Spencer doesn’t make any more problems for us.” He was quiet for a long moment. “You think this is any kind of payback for Manny?”
“Who’s left to get payback?” Jason asked. “The only brother left alive is a priest, and Roy said he never had anything to do with the family. We can call down to Miami, but I doubt anyone is missing the Ruiz family.”
“Fair. There’s always Alcazar. He’s in Miami now—”
“He owes me a favor,” Jason said. “And he knows Skye likes Elizabeth. He’s not going after her for Manny. Not after what happened last month.”
“Then I don’t know what the hell is going on. If it’s the Escobars committing suicide by going after an undercover cop, well…” Sonny shrugged. “I’ll do what I can to turn the PCPD towards them. It’d be nice to know if you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“First time for everything.”
Greystone Manor: Guest Suite
Jason and Sonny stayed holed up in the living room for several more hours as guards came and went to check in. Just after Carly and Elizabeth had fed the boys dinner and put Morgan and Cameron down to sleep, they got the word from the hospital that Jesse Beaudry had died from his injuries.
They’d gone to a guest suite with a bedroom and sitting room attached to it to eat their own food. She’d called her grandmother shortly after Jason told her Lucky was at the entrance, and Audrey had been livid to learn she was at Greystone with no plans to leave.
And now…to learn that Jesse had died…Elizabeth didn’t know what to think. She’d hoped that the worst was behind her, but somehow she knew that his death would only make things worse.
She was tired of thinking she’d hit bottom only to learn there were several levels of hell beneath it.
Carly shook her head as the guard left, having reported the news to them. She crossed to the window that overlooked the main drive leading down to the guardhouse and gated entrance. “The PCPD will be back, probably with an arrest warrant.”
“But Jason wasn’t the shooter. There will be witnesses to that. I mean, I know Maxie is probably too upset, but the others—” Elizabeth grimaced. “But yeah, they’re not going to let this go.”
Carly bit at her nails, staring out the window. “What do you think? Do you think this was about Jason and Sonny?” She turned back to Elizabeth, who was pouring herself a glass of wine. “I mean, this isn’t your first shooting.”
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “No, it’s not. Jason made us both stay at the penthouse when Alcazar shot at me and Zander in the hospital. It was a few days before he’d let me go back to work at Kelly’s, but even then, I had a guard and stayed with him. This isn’t like that. And I guess there was the warehouse fire that year, too. And the kidnapping.”
“Yeah, that was a busy couple of months.” Carly huffed. “This does feel different. We’re in lockdown, but it’s like—do you think it was even about Jason or Sonny?” she repeated.
“I don’t know. I can’t—” Elizabeth sighed. “If it was, they sent the wrong guys to do the job. I think Jason said something in the car about it being more than one guy. They were a terrible shot if Jason was the target.”
“Or you. Your back was to the shooters, yeah? Because Jesse got hit in the head.” Carly started to pace. “They could have hit you. They didn’t. You got grazed, but the cop got shot.” She wrinkled her nose. “The PCPD isn’t going to care about any of that.”
“No, they won’t.”
“Especially since you were there with Jason. Crappy ending to a date, huh?” Carly raised her brows as Elizabeth recognized she was fishing for information. Elizabeth handed her a glass of wine.
“It wasn’t a date, but no, that’s not how it was supposed to go. It was just supposed to be fun. I wanted Cameron to have a good day without me rushing off to work or him going to sleep somewhere else without me. And he loves Jason. I wanted that for them.”
Carly sipped her wine. “And now, you’re remembering why you ran away in the first place.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Good God, does everyone think I’m some kind of idiot? Carly, the first time I met Jason, he was leaning over Nikolas’s bleeding body because Nikolas got shot standing next to him. I’ve taken care of his bullet wounds. Hid him from people who wanted him dead. I got kidnapped because of him. This is actually the second time I’ve been almost shot standing in the same area as him.”
“Uh huh.” Carly nodded. “But you didn’t have a kid before. And I’m not interested in watching Jason fall in love with a kid only to have you walk away—”
“A little hypocritical coming from you, don’t you think?” Elizabeth asked coolly.
“Starting to remember why I don’t like you,” Carly muttered as she took another sip of her drink.
“Because I have a long memory?”
“Because you are annoying,” Carly said through clenched teeth. “I’m just—Yes. I hurt Jason a long time ago. I’ve been trying to make up for it, okay? So if you’re going to use this as an excuse to run away again, I’d rather you did it now instead of later. Before Jason can get more attached.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I didn’t run the last time. Jason shoved me out the door because of the danger. And if anyone walks away because of this, it won’t be me.” Elizabeth sat down. “Can I eat my dinner now, or do you have anything else irritating to say?”
Carly narrowed her eyes, then sat down across from her. “Thank you, by the way. For taking care of Morgan.” With a sigh, “I’m never going to like you, Elizabeth, but you’re a good mother. I know I can trust my boys with you.”
“That might be the first thing we can agree about.”
Blue and red lights flashed through the sheer curtains. They went to the window as Carly sighed. “Well, the PCPD are back.”
“And they got through the gates.” Elizabeth let the curtain fall back in place. She exchanged a troubled look with the blonde because they knew what that meant.
Port Charles Police Department: Squad Room
Jason scowled when he and Sonny walked through the double doors of the room. He didn’t mind the dirty looks from the cops. He’d expected to be dragged to the station once they’d learned Beaudry hadn’t survived the trip to the hospital. He’d been an asshole, but Jason knew a dead cop would only make all of this worse.
No, what he really wasn’t in the mood for was seeing Lucky Spencer and Audrey Hardy standing with Mac Scorpio.
Sonny followed his gaze and sighed. “Well, this should be fun. You think Justus is here yet?”
“You need to send a car out,” Lucky told Mac, his face flushed. He threw his hands up, gesturing at Jason and Sonny. “They’re keeping her locked out there—I can’t see my wife or son—I don’t know if they’re hurt—”
Jason scowled. They couldn’t get a search warrant for the estate, but if Mac thought he had exigent circumstances, they could get onto the property.
“Damn it,” Sonny muttered. He twisted around. “Where the hell is Justus—”
As Lucky continued to rant, Jason watched Elizabeth’s grandmother because he had a bad feeling if she backed up Lucky’s demands, Mac might be swayed. Tempers were running high, and Lucky was clearly irate. But Audrey knew Elizabeth had moved out—
“Tell them, Audrey! Tell them they wouldn’t let me see my own kid!” Lucky growled. “You need to let me get them, Mac! I need to know they’re safe!”
Mac hesitated, looked over at Jason and Sonny with an irritated look, then looked back at Lucky. “Look, I can’t just search the property, Lucky. I need proof that they’re hurt or in danger.”
“Audrey—” Lucky looked at his wife’s grandmother, pleading. “Tell them. You know Elizabeth needs me. She’s making a mistake. She’s not safe there.”
Audrey hesitated, looked at Lucky again, then frowned at him. Jason wished he knew what the older woman was thinking, if she was at all disturbed by the rage shaking Lucky’s shoulders, the trembling of his hands, the fury glinting in his eyes.
This was not a man that Jason wanted near anyone, much less Elizabeth, but Audrey Hardy had always thought any man would be safer for her granddaughter than him.
“If she says yes,” Sonny muttered, “I am not in the mood for this bullshit. I told you not to fuck with a cop’s wife.”
Jason sent him an irritated glare but said nothing.
Finally, Audrey sighed and looked at Mac. “I talked to Elizabeth no less than an hour ago, Mac. She was shaken up, but she said she was fine. She and Jason took Morgan home to be with his parents. The little boy was upset. Elizabeth stayed there because Cameron and Morgan are close, and she wanted them to feel better.”
Jason released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He hadn’t expected Audrey to back Elizabeth up, but they’d gotten lucky. For tonight, at least, Audrey had decided to take Elizabeth at her word.
“Finally!” Sonny said as Justus entered the room behind them. “Can you get us out of here?”
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Greystone Manor: Guest Room
It was after midnight before Elizabeth saw the gates open again. She should have gone to sleep hours ago, but she’d hoped Justus would get Jason and Sonny released quickly.
And she wasn’t going to be able to rest until she and Jason were able to talk.
Carly had left her after dinner, leaving Elizabeth to pace the confines of the room, switch the television off and on, getting annoyed every time the news mentioned the shooting and seemed to blame it on Jason.
She’d talked briefly to Emily, to Robin and Patrick, to check on them. She’d gone to check on Cameron, but he and Morgan were snuggled in Morgan’s bed and sleeping like the dead.
She’d sent Jason a text message telling him that she’d wait up to talk to him as soon as he could see her.
Not long after the gates opened, there was a light knock on her door. She pulled it open, relieved to see Jason standing there—even if he looked like he’d rather be anywhere else.
“Hey,” he said as she closed the door behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and he pulled her tight against him—she just wanted to be close to him. To know he was okay. They stood in silence for a long moment. “You okay?”
“Yeah. I was just worried they would keep you overnight. Carly and I knew we had to stay upstairs, but—” Elizabeth sighed, pressing her forehead against his chest. “I hated not knowing.”
“Justus came pretty quickly,” Jason told her. He hesitated. “Your grandmother was there. I think she was waiting to talk to Mac, but—Lucky was there. He was trying to get Mac to come back here and get you.”
“I guess I’m just glad Mac didn’t try—”
“That’s because your grandmother told Mac she’d already talked to you and that you were fine.”
“Really?” Elizabeth raised her brows. “I would have thought she’d want Mac to drag me out of here kicking and screaming—”
“I think Lucky made her uncomfortable.” Jason exhaled slowly. “I also think your grandmother didn’t want you to be in the middle of that.”
He crossed the room to the sitting area, and she followed him. “I appreciate you—that you just did what I needed you to do today. I know you don’t like being told what to do—”
“I don’t, but that wasn’t an ordinary situation. When it comes to my son’s safety, I’ll do what has to be done.” She sighed. “I know you feel guilty about today, but—you never would have gone out with us in the open if you’d thought there might be violence.”
“That’s just it—I can’t ever know—” Jason scowled and sat on the sofa, putting his head in his hands. “I can’t ever know for sure—”
“No one can.” She paused, remembering what she and Sam had talked about earlier. “You’re not Superman, Jason. I keep telling you that.” She sat next to him, pulling his arm down so he’d look at her. “You can’t control the world. You can’t save everyone.”
“I don’t—” Jason stopped, shook his head. “That’s not what I’m trying to do—”
“No? Jason, you and I were at a carnival full of people. Someone took a shot at a cop, and he died. I get why you have to take precautions, but—” She lifted a shoulder. “I think you also have to admit there’s a decent chance this was about Jesse.” Elizabeth winced. “This sounds terrible, but it’s not that hard for me to believe he pissed someone off to the point of violence.”
She took his hand between both of hers, waiting until he met her eyes. “I know all the things you want to say to me. It’s the same conversation we’ve been having since we met. And my answer is still the same. You’re the one that keeps wanting to choose for me.” Her eyes burned. “You said that you were sorry you’d made that choice for me. You said that. Months ago, when it was about Emily and Sonny, when it was about Sam.”
“I—” Jason just stared at her. “How can you want this? Forget about you. What about Cameron?”
“We’re really back to this.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. Had it only been yesterday that she’d ended her marriage? Was she doomed to repeat the same mistakes forever? She’d gone through the same cycle with Lucky as she had five years ago. Now she was having this conversation with Jason again.
Was Ric next? Was she really that stupid?
“I wish I could wrap my son in a bubble and protect him from the entire world. I can’t. Because there is danger everywhere. Yeah, some of it comes from standing next to you. But it also comes from fire, from car accidents, from illnesses, from people who are supposed to love you—” She broke off as she realized what she was really saying.
Cameron had been in danger every day she’d let him live in a home with an abusive husband. Because one day, Lucky’s anger might have turned to her son. And she’d let it happen. She’d let Cameron watch Lucky hurt her and done nothing.
“I can’t control the world, Jason. I just can’t. All I can do is surround my little boy with love. With people who want the best for him and love him.”
“I do love him,” Jason said in a low voice. “Elizabeth—” He shook his head. “Maybe this isn’t the right time.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I should let you get some sleep—”
She grabbed his arm as he started to walk past her. “I told you yesterday I wasn’t—that I wasn’t ready to go anywhere with this. Not yet. But we need to get this out of the way because I don’t want to push this conversation down the road five more months. I am tired, Jason, of standing in front of you, begging you to love me.”
“Elizabeth—” Stunned, he turned to face her. “That’s not what this is—”
“Then what is it? Why can you take a chance with other women but never with me?”
“I—” Jason swallowed. “I don’t know. I just—” He looked at her arm, where the bullet wound lay hidden beneath the shirt she’d borrowed from Carly. “I don’t want to watch you bleed. I just want you to be safe.”
“Safe,” Elizabeth repeated. She didn’t even know what that word meant anymore. She couldn’t remember that last time she’d felt truly safe. She exhaled. “Fine. Fine.”
“I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. Because I’ve told you over and over again—I’m willing to take that risk. And you’re not. Maybe you never will be.” Her chest hurt as she turned away, putting her hands over her face. How many times was she going to do this to herself?
“I’d rather you be alive and hate me than stay with me and get hurt,” Jason said finally. “I can live with that. I need you to be safe. I can’t—” He just shook his head. “I can’t get this right.”
“And what does safe mean?” she asked softly. “Because Manny kidnapped me, went after me—” Elizabeth stabbed a finger at him. “And don’t tell me he only went after me the second time because of you—because he was always going to come for me. And that happened while I was with Lucky. Was I safer then?”
“I—” Jason exhaled slowly, looked away. “No. I guess not.”
“What about the crap I went through with Cassadines—with Helena trying to kill me for years because of the Spencers? Was I safe then? What about Ric? Was I safe then—what the hell does safe mean?” she demanded. “Does it mean alive? Well, great. I’ve been breathing for the past four years. You got what you wanted. I’m safe.”
She stalked away towards the window, dragging her hands through her hair, digging her fingers into her scalp. And he didn’t even know the worst of it.
Would he really be standing here telling her she was safer away from him if she told him about how much Lucky had really hurt her? If he knew about the bruises she’d hidden—the cuts she’d lied about—
“How long do you think I’ll have to stay here?” Elizabeth asked dully.
“We’ll hear back from Mateo Escobar tomorrow,” Jason said. She turned at the sound of his voice—realizing he’d walked up behind her. “He runs a small gang out of Courtland Street. He’s the only one who could have done this, and we don’t even think it’s likely to be him. Not directly.” He sighed. “You’re right. Beaudry was probably the target.”
“Well, he really was an asshole, but I’m sorry that he’ll never get the chance to grow up. And I’m sorry for Maxie. She’ll have a tough time ahead of her.”
Elizabeth turned to look up at him. “I get it, Jason. You don’t want me to get hurt because of you. You don’t want anything to happen to me, or to Cameron. But that’s my choice to make. Not yours. You either respect that, or you don’t.”
“I do.” Jason traced the line of her jaw. “I’m sorry. I keep messing this up. I don’t want you to walk away. I don’t want to lose the chance that, at some point, you’ll be ready. But I won’t apologize for not wanting you hurt. For wanting you to be safe.”
“Then you need to redefine what safe means to you,” Elizabeth told him. She fisted her hands in his shirt. “Because safe shouldn’t mean unhappy. And that’s all it’s ever been to me.”
He leaned his forehead against hers, their breaths mingling as their lips brushed against each other. “Elizabeth—”
“And tonight…I don’t want to be safe.” She slid her hand around the back of his neck to kiss him fully, to press her body against his. His breathing was shallow when their lips parted. “Stay with me.”
“Elizabeth—” His hands, tangled in her hair, tightened a bit, lifting her chin so he could deepen the kiss. “Are you sure—I don’t want to rush you—”
“I’m tired of not taking chances.”
Jason drew back slightly, his thumb brushing the bottom of her lip. His eyes searched hers. The air around them seemed to crackle with electricity as her breath quickened. Elizabeth’s heart pounded an erratic rhythm. He reclaimed her lips, crushing her against him.
They stumbled towards the bed as she clumsily reached for the bottom of his t-shirt. Elizabeth fell backward against the soft mattress. Jason was more careful as he stripped the shirt from her, easing it over her shoulder. He brushed his lips against her bandage, trailing his mouth from her wrist to her shoulder, then to her collar bone.
She wrapped her arms around his neck as he lifted her with one arm, settling her back against the pillows. She couldn’t help but giggle breathlessly as her jeans joined his on the floor.
Jason looked at her with a wicked grin she’d never seen before. “What’s so funny?” he murmured, his breath hot against her neck.
“Just—” Elizabeth moaned slightly as that mouth drifted lower again. “Just that I wish I’d worn something more interesting if I’d—I’d known it was going to be seen by someone else—”
He brushed her hair out of her face, pausing to look at her. “You’re perfect,” he told her in a gravelly, rough tone that sent shivers cascading throughout her body. “Just the way you are.”
She slid her hand around the nape of his neck and pulled him down to her, kissing him hungrily, the way she’d always wanted to, the way she had in all her dreams over the years.
This was what she deserved, and Elizabeth didn’t want to waste a minute of it.