But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human, yeah
– human, Christina Perri
Friday, March 31, 2006
Elm Street: Outside of the Brownstone
Elizabeth pulled her car to a stop in front of Bobbie’s house and just rested her forehead against the steering wheel for a moment. Instead of finishing paperwork at the end of her shift, maybe lingering for a few minutes to run downstairs and catch up with Nadine who had worked the same shift—
She was here, picking up her son.
Elizabeth had been standing in the nurse’s station, searching for a pen that wasn’t out of ink when Epiphany had given her a message from Bobbie. Not that it was an emergency or anything, Bobbie had told her, but that it was almost seven, and Lucky hadn’t picked up Cameron yet.
Elizabeth had stared at the words on the paper Epiphany handed her and fought the urge to crumble it into a ball, to fling it across the room. She’d asked him this one thing—one—thing—Bobbie was having dinner with Lucy and Kevin, who were only in town for a few days, and she’d needed Cameron picked up earlier than usual.
It shouldn’t have been an issue. Lucky didn’t have physical therapy that day, and Elizabeth had only asked Bobbie to watch Cameron because he’d said something about staying late at work. She’d wanted him to have that—to have that connection to the job he was so desperately trying to get back to—
But he’d forgotten. He hadn’t picked up Cameron. The one time all week she’d asked him to slightly adjust his own schedule—
She was trying so hard to keep things together, to put one foot in front of the other, but it just felt like the universe was against her this week. Manny and Skye, Sonny and Emily—and these insane conversations with Jason that felt like she was ripping her heart out and displaying it to him every time they spoke—
And what was the damn point? He was engaged. She was married. They’d both moved on. Why couldn’t he—why couldn’t she just let it go—
Elizabeth jumped as knuckles rapped sharply on her closed driver’s side window. She turned and blinked at Carly’s face, standing on the sidewalk, a hand on her hip. She rolled down the window. “Carly?”
“Mama was worried. Asked me to check on you.” Carly pursed her lips. “You okay?”
Elizabeth sighed, switched off the engine, then grabbed her purse before she got out of the car. “Yeah, I’m just tired. It was a long day at the hospital—”
“And you weren’t expecting to have to come over here to get Cameron, Mama said. Lucky was supposed to.”
Together they walked towards the front steps. Carly stopped her a moment before she reached for the doorknob. “Listen, you know, Mama has had Morgan a few times this week. My kid likes yours.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah, Cam said something about it. I’m—” She hesitated. “I’m glad. I’m trying to get Cam into nursery school next year, and it’s good for him to be around kids his age. I know Morgan is a little older—”
“A few months, yeah, but they’re getting to the age where that doesn’t matter as much.” Carly folded her arms. “I don’t like you,” she declared.
“I’ve never been a fan of you either.”
“But,” Carly continued, even as she tossed Elizabeth a glare, “there aren’t many parents who…are eager to let their kids hang out with mine. Because of Sonny. I’ve tried…playdates. Michael has the same issue. I know—I know Lucky’s a cop and everything, but I was hoping that you might not be annoying.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find another reason to call me annoying,” Elizabeth said dryly. “But not about this. I don’t know why Lucky would care. He grew up hanging out with Sonny, so I really don’t want to hear his crap on this anyway.”
“Fair enough.” Carly pushed open the door, and Elizabeth had to smile as she saw Cameron running after Morgan, who was a bit taller and steadier on his feet. “They’re playing…I’m not sure, but they seem to know the rules. Mama is upstairs, getting dressed for dinner.”
“Oh, well—” Elizabeth watched her son as he laughed, tackled Morgan, and pumped his fist in the air. “I should get Cam home, I guess.”
“Yeah. Or you could wait a few minutes for Mama to come down and talk to you because she’ll just hunt you down otherwise. The boys can play.”
“Mommy!” Cameron ran towards her, hugged her legs. “You say hi to Morgan.” He grinned at Carly. “Hi, Car. I like cars.”
Carly pursed her lips, but her eyes twinkled. “Car-ly,” she said, and clearly it was not the first time she’d instructed Elizabeth’s son on the pronunciation of her name. “Morgan, do you remember Elizabeth?”
“Uh-huh.” Morgan, who looked like a miniature version of his father with dark hair, dark eyes, and a dimple flashing in his cheek. “Ice cream. You buy it for me.”
“That was last summer,” Elizabeth said when Carly frowned at her. “I saw Morgan and Michael in the park with Leticia. I was getting Cameron ice cream, and…” She shrugged. “I’m glad you remember me, Morgan. You’re so smart!”
He grinned. “Bestest and most handsomest, right, Mommy?” He looked to Carly. “Cam leave?”
“Not yet, kid. You guys keep playing. We’re going to wait in the kitchen for Grammy.”
Morgan and Cameron ran back towards their pile of toys as Elizabeth followed Carly into the kitchen. “Michael isn’t here?”
“He’s at basketball practice. I like that Morgan gets to have this time with my mother. A nanny is nice for me when I’m at work, but I want him—” Carly looked at Morgan, who was giggling maniacally. “I’m trying very hard for Morgan to have a more normal childhood than Michael. Michael spent a lot of time with nannies.”
“They’re great kids, Carly. You’re doing something right.”
Carly frowned at her. “Did you just compliment me?”
“I think we’re both getting too old to fight over nothing at all.” Elizabeth sat down at the table and stretched her arm over her neck. “How are the boys doing? After losing Courtney…and with…” She grimaced. “The tabloids.”
Carly rolled her eyes. “Oh, God, right? It’s like one thing after another. They’re…adjusting. Courtney was a big part of their lives, but Morgan’s younger. Courtney will fade for him. It’s not fair—she took care of him so much when he was born because I was…in the hospital. And he won’t remember her at all.” She rubbed her face. “Michael’s managing. He looks at pictures of her, and we talk about her when he brings it up.”
She managed a half-smile for Elizabeth. “Thank you, though. For asking. I feel like Sonny has completely forgotten Courtney. I feel like—” Carly took a long breath. “I feel like everyone has. Jax hasn’t, but it’s more about John for him. And I know Nikolas is grieving. But it’s just—life went on. And it sucks.”
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. “And I’m sorry if this thing with Sonny and Emily is creating more problems for the boys. Especially Michael. He’s in school, so I’m sure it comes up.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s been a real joy. You know—” Carly shook her head. “I knew something was going on with Sonny. Jason and I knew it weeks ago. He was ditching meetings with Jason, breaking promises to the boys—” She looked at Elizabeth. “Did you notice anything with Emily?”
“I did,” Elizabeth admitted. “She called out on a few shifts, and she’s—she broke a few promises to Cameron. I guess, with hindsight, we could see it coming. But I guess I thought she was over it.”
“And it’s still going on,” Carly said, disgusted. “Like, Sonny didn’t even stop to think how the way the news came out effects his kids—they don’t live with him, so he doesn’t have to feel it. A weekend here and there isn’t the same.” She grimaced. “Jason won’t talk about it, but I think he and Emily are fighting.”
Elizabeth hesitated, but she nodded. “Emily told me she’d been…” She bit her lip. “Well, you know how sometimes people who feel defensive go on the attack?”
“Know it? It’s pretty much my entire philosophy on life.” Carly wiggled her shoulders. “So Emily’s lashing out. At Jason?”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth admitted. “And—well, everyone. She thought Jason and I might come around on the whole Sonny thing, so when we didn’t both…I don’t know—I guess when we weren’t on board, she just—” She shook her head. “Anyway. It’s not been fun. She screams at Jason and Sam—they’ve both thrown her out. Then she comes to work, screams at me—”
“Jason threw her out? Huh.” Carly pursed her lips. “I’ve been bugging him about this. Trying to make him—I don’t know—fix it. But that’s not fair. I know that. I tell him all the time he shouldn’t spend his life cleaning up after Sonny and me, but I guess old habits are hard to break. When my boys are hurting, I can’t ask Sonny to help. He won’t. But I know Jason will.”
“No, but I get it. When things are wrong, and you can’t fix it yourself, Jason—” Elizabeth closed her mouth as Carly merely arched a brow.
“Jason, what?” she prompted when Elizabeth didn’t continue.
“Sometimes, you forget that Jason can’t fix everything,” Elizabeth said quietly.
Carly tipped her head to the side, squinted at her, but clearly decided to let it go. “No, I guess not. Well, hopefully, this Sonny and Emily crap will run its course before we all lose our damn mind.”
“Carly? Elizabeth?” Bobbie’s voice from the foyer drifted back towards them.
“We’re in here, Mama!” Carly called. “I’m just having a pleasant conversation with Elizabeth, so you might want to mark down this date.”
“And it’s not even my birthday,” Bobbie said with a grin as she came into the kitchen. She kissed her daughter’s cheek, then Elizabeth’s.
“I should get going,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve been on my feet all day, and I want to get Cameron down to sleep soon.” She looked to Carly. “You should—you should call me. We’ll set up a playdate for Morgan and Cameron.”
“Yeah, that sounds great. Thanks.”
Elm Street Pier
Jason sat on the bench on the pier, stretched out his legs, then looked out past Bannister’s Wharf, towards the cluster of buildings where he knew Elizabeth’s apartment was located.
The apartment she shared with her husband and son.
I loved you, too.
He exhaled slowly. He wasn’t entirely sure why his thoughts were drifting to her more and more these days. He’d been able to go entire weeks without thinking about Elizabeth. But asking her to run that maternity test for him had been a mistake in more ways than one.
Because now it’s worse.
I loved you, too.
He heard the footsteps before he saw the man, and it gave Jason a chance to get to his feet before Lorenzo Alcazar reached the bottom of the stairs.
The two men eyed each other uneasily. There was a mutual loathing, to be sure, but at the moment, Jason had no problem with Alcazar.
“I was surprised to get your request for a meeting,” Lorenzo said with an arch of his brow. “Until I spoke with Skye last night.” The older man cast his dark eyes to the side before meeting Jason’s gaze. “I owe your friend Elizabeth a debt of gratitude. For looking out for Skye.”
“So, you already know.”
“I do, and I suppose…I had offered Skye a guard, but she didn’t want one.” Lorenzo managed a half-smile, a bit pained. “I should have pressed her more. But she agreed to one last night, and she agreed to move to Miami a little early. She’d hoped to have the baby here, with her family, but…” He shrugged.
“Miami—” Jason frowned. “So you’re taking over the Ruiz territory.” He’d wondered why Alcazar had been laying so low these days, but it made sense—
“It’s there, and…there’s no room to expand here in Port Charles. Not without a lot of trouble.” Lorenzo waited a long moment. “I’m concerned, though, about Elizabeth Spencer. If Skye told me her story correctly, Elizabeth…put herself in the line of fire. Can I offer any protection for her? A guard—”
“I’m taking care of that.”
“I see.” Lorenzo paused and looked at him for a long moment. “Well, until next we meet, Morgan.” Lorenzo offered him a nod before going back up the stairs.
Jason exhaled his first easy breath as the other man disappeared behind a corner. Lorenzo Alcazar had never been a serious threat—he’d never had the connections. He’d been in a thorn in their side since the beginning thanks to Carly and her lingering affection for him.
He’d be gone now—but he was right. Without Alcazar or Skye to focus on, Manny would either follow them to Miami—
Or stay here for his revenge.
If Manny blamed Elizabeth for Skye’s disappearance…
He took out his phone and called Cody. “Hey—do you—do you have eyes on Elizabeth—No, I don’t want to know where she is. That’s—she’s okay? Okay. Yeah, you’re just—if she’s in danger. Manny might be targeting her. Okay.”
He hung up but still didn’t feel better. He needed to get rid of Manny Ruiz sooner rather than later.
Lucky & Elizabeth’s Apartment: Living Room
Elizabeth set Cameron down on the floor and watched as the toddler made a beeline for his toybox. She put her hands on her hips and glared at her husband, sprawled out on the sofa, watching the television with a glazed look in his eyes.
“Did you forget something?” she demanded.
Lucky blinked, looked at her for a long moment as if he couldn’t quite focus. “What? What did I forget?”
“Bobbie couldn’t keep Cameron until I was done my shift. You were supposed to pick him up at six—”
“Oh.” Still not seeming to engage in the conversation, Lucky cleared his throat. “Wait. What day is it?”
Frowning now, Elizabeth sat next to him, put a hand to his cheek. “Are you okay? You look sick—”
He slapped her hands away. “I’m fine. Leave me alone—”
“What’s wrong with you?” Elizabeth demanded. “You forgot Cameron, you didn’t come home last night—”
“I crashed at the club. I was with my Dad, and you didn’t really seem to need me.” Lucky shrugged. Closed his eyes. “Therapy’s been taking a lot out of me. Double sessions.”
“I’m sorry. I forgot Bobbie couldn’t keep him.” Lucky looked at her. “Did you have to leave work early?”
“Yeah, almost a half-hour. Not only did I lose that money, Lucky, but I also have a ton of paperwork I still have to do at the start of the next shift. You know that. Bobbie is doing us—me—a huge favor by taking him so much. I just—I asked you for one thing, Lucky. One. And you couldn’t manage that.”
He just stared at her without saying anything. Exhausted, Elizabeth shook her head and got to her feet. She went into the kitchen and started to pull together a meal for Cameron’s dinner. “I’m so tired,” she murmured. “And you don’t even seem to care.”
“I do care, but I can’t…I’m sorry,” Lucky repeated. But he didn’t get up. Didn’t even take his eyes off the television.
She let the subject drop because what would continuing the argument change? He didn’t care he’d cost her money, time and energy—that he’d proven, again, how much Cameron didn’t matter to him. She wanted to believe that it would be okay when Lucky went back to work—
But would it?
She stared at the fridge, at the photograph she’d pinned with a magnet of her wedding day. Of her and Lucky. That moment in time when she’d thought everything was perfect. Elizabeth put her hand on her own face, tracing the smile.
If it wasn’t for her son, Elizabeth wasn’t sure the last time she could remember smiling.
With her brain not occupied with her job, with being irritated with Lucky, it drifted back to the previous day.
She’d gone back to work after leaving the warehouse, but she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about that terrible conversation she’d shared with Jason—of that moment he’d looked at her and told her—
“It means I loved you.”
God. He’d really thought it’d be better if they cleared the air? She’d rather go back to thinking that he’d loved Courtney. At least then she could blame someone else.
How was she ever going to face him? She couldn’t even get his voice out of her head.
It means I loved you.
I loved you.
Elizabeth took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts. “No point in thinking about it,” she reminded herself. It was over. She’d gone on with her life. She had her precious little boy and—
She looked out into the living room where her husband was sitting, She had her marriage. And Jason hadn’t exactly pined away for her either. He’d married another woman. Was engaged to a second one.
They’d both ended up where they were supposed to be, and it was no good to think about the road they hadn’t taken. It was just…she was tired. And things were hard with Lucky right now. She just needed to get through the next few weeks—
It means I loved you.
Elizabeth huffed. How many damn times she was going to have to tell herself to let this go? “I need to have my head examined,” she muttered as she set Cameron’s dinner on the table. “Cameron, come eat dinner!”
I loved you.
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Sam was packing a duffel bag when Jason came upstairs later that afternoon. He frowned at the clothes strewn across the bed. “So, I guess you’re going.”
“Oh, he speaks.” Sam raised her brows. She shrugged, then shoved a pair of jeans into the bag. “Yeah, I’m going to Florida. The job is starting sometime next week, but…” She sighed. “I need a few more things in the guest room.”
She eyed him when he said nothing. “You know, where I’ve been sleeping for the last week.”
Jason nodded. “I know. You were mad after that fight with Sonny. About how I handled it. I didn’t know what to say to you. It felt like I was always making it worse—”
“So, what—you decided to just let it go? Hope I calmed down—”
Jason winced because yeah, that was pretty much how he’d decided to handle it, but now he could see now it was a mistake. “Sam—”
“Didn’t it bother you that I was angry?” Sam demanded. “That I was upset enough to move out of our bedroom for a week?”
Jason exhaled slowly. The answer was no, it hadn’t bothered him. He knew he handled things badly, but he’d been irritated with Sam about the way she’d spoken to Elizabeth, and yeah, the fact that she’d decided to go back to being a con artist—
Sam growled and turned on him. “Let’s get this straight. I am pissed at you. You don’t get to be mad at me because I’m pulling a job. You forced my mother down my throat, you let your sister attack me, you’re calling me a mess to clean up, and you’re…I don’t know…up to something with your ex-girlfriend—” She stabbed a finger in his direction. “So just remember you’re the asshole, not me—”
Jason exhaled slowly. “Some of that is true,” he admitted. “I made a mistake with the DNA test, and I’ve apologized for that. I didn’t let Emily attack you—”
She rolled her eyes. “Sure—”
“She’s not allowed upstairs without permission from now on. I threw her out the first day, you threw her out the second day.” He shook his head. “I never called you a mess I had to clean up—”
“I know what I heard—”
“You know what Sonny said to you. I never said it.” He shook his head. “You know, I don’t know what to tell you, Sam. You’re mad at me for a lot of things that aren’t my fault—”
“What about Elizabeth?” Sam threw back at him. “You’re going to tell me I don’t have a reason to be mad at you about that?”
“I told you. Elizabeth has been passing me info about Manny Ruiz from the hospital—”
“And yesterday, she had something important I needed to know. She knew Skye was in danger, that Manny had something planned.” He grimaced. “And you wasted her time and mine by refusing to tell her where I was.”
Sam lifted her chin, her eyes a bit defiant. “She’s a big girl. She can take care of herself. And she had no problem ratting me out. What, did she come over to cry on your shoulder?” She rolled her eyes and returned to her packing.
Jason was surprised when he felt his hands fist at his side. “She’s never done anything to you. You’re angry at her about the maternity test, but she never would have run it if I told her it was for you. You’re angry at Emily, at Sonny—fine. Take it out on me. On them. But leave her out of it—”
“You don’t even hear yourself, do you?” Sam shook her head. “You know, I don’t get it. If the two of you were so obsessed with each other, why the hell did you leave her? Was she bad in bed or something?”
“I—” Jason’s voice faltered. He looked at this woman he’d asked to marry him, who just weeks ago, he would have told anyone was the love of his life. The woman who understood him. And it was like she was a stranger. “That’s not fair. And you know it.”
Sam squeezed her eyes shut, clenching a t-shirt in her hands. “I’m sorry,” she said finally. “I know you’re right. I know that—I know that you didn’t do anything. I just—it’s like I don’t even know who I am. I thought I did. I thought I had things figured out, but I don’t. And you and I—”
She looked at him, her dark eyes wet with tears. “We just can’t talk. I keep trying, and I know you’re trying. But everything we say to each other—it just feels wrong.”
Sam sucked in a shaky breath. “And then there’s this woman who’s important to you, and I didn’t even know that. I should have known that. I know about Carly and Robin, I know about Courtney. But it’s like…either she didn’t matter enough to talk about, or she mattered too much. And she’s back in your life, and you talk to her. And she gets you. I don’t get you anymore. Do you know what it’s like to watch you with her, to listen to you talk about her?”
Jason said nothing as Sam shook her head. “Why can’t you just be honest with me?”
“What am I supposed to say?” Jason asked in a dull voice. He didn’t want to have this conversation. He didn’t want to talk about Elizabeth at all, and he certainly didn’t want to get into it with Sam.
Not after the warehouse.
Because now it’s worse.
“Why didn’t you tell me about Elizabeth freaking Spencer? Did she matter too much, or did she mean nothing?”
Because I loved you, too.
He didn’t think there was an answer that would make her feel better, so Jason went with the truth. “She mattered too much,” he said finally. “It was easier not to think about her. So I didn’t.”
And we threw it away.
She waited, maybe to see if he’d say something else But he didn’t. So she nodded. “Thank you for not lying,” Sam said finally. She put a toiletry bag into her bag, then zipped it. “Are you sorry?”
Jason frowned. “For…what?”
“That it’s not her in this penthouse? That you didn’t marry her? Have a kid with her? Are you sorry that it’s me and not her standing in front of you?”
Jason scowled. “That’s—that’s not a fair question.”
“Maybe, but it’s a simple one. Yes or no. And you didn’t answer it. So maybe while I’m gone next week, you can figure out why—”
“Sam—” Jason stopped her by putting an arm on her hand. “Don’t do this, okay? Let’s just—” He took a deep breath because she’d—she’d been right. He hadn’t been fair to her or given her any real space to deal with any of this. “Just—let’s just talk. Okay? You’re right. We’re not talking.”
Sam’s mouth curved into a smirk. “You want to talk? Now? When you’ve made it clear how you feel about me doing this job?”
“I want to talk about why you don’t trust me—”
“I trust you,” Sam told him. “Hell, I even trust Elizabeth Spencer. But I don’t trust me. I’m going to ruin this, Jason. I ruin everything.”
“But sure.” She set the bag down. “Sure. Let’s trying talking again.” Sam tilted her head to the side, let her hand slide down his t-shirt. “Or maybe we shouldn’t talk at all.”
Jason hesitated, just a moment, and her eyes hardened. She snatched up the bag and stalked out of the room. “Sam—”
“You had your chance,” she told him flatly as she walked into a guest room, tossed the bag on the bed. She put her hand on the door. “You don’t want me, fine. We can co-exist until I leave on Tuesday.”
“Sam, I never said—”
“Maybe I don’t want you,” she snarled, curling her hand around the edge of the door like a claw. “When I know you won’t be thinking of me when you’re screwing me. You know, maybe if you get drunk enough, you could even pretend—”
“Shut up,” Jason snapped, and Sam’s smirk only deepened—even as her dark eyes were wild with hurt and rejection. He hadn’t meant to do that—hadn’t wanted to hurt her at all. He just didn’t think jumping into bed was going to fix anything—
But now, as she slammed the door in his face, he didn’t know if what was wrong could be fixed. Or if even he even wanted it to be.
Monday, April 3, 2006
Lucky & Elizabeth’s Apartment: Bathroom
Elizabeth enjoyed having days off during the week — Lucky was gone all day, she could take Cameron with her to run errands and get some snuggle time with him. He was racing towards his second birthday, and next year, if she could get him into a nursery program, he’d be in school. Before she knew it, he’d be grown up.
But for right now, he was her whole world, and she was determined to make up for the haphazard treatment from his stepfather. “It’ll be different,” she told her reflection in the mirror. “When he gets back to work.”
And she wasn’t going to let herself think about what would happen if Lucky’s test next Friday didn’t come back more positively—if he didn’t make it back on active duty. That wasn’t something she could allow for.
She left the bathroom, walked through Cameron’s room, and into the living room where Cameron was constructing a Lego tower. “You ready to go to the bank, Cam?”
“No, want to stay and play.” Cameron furrowed his brow. “Stay here.”
“Mommy has things to do—” Elizabeth winced as her cell phone rang. She went over to her purse, hoping Epiphany wasn’t going to call her in. She didn’t recognize the number on the caller ID but answered it anyway. “Hello?”
“Hello? Elizabeth? It’s Skye.”
Elizabeth exhaled on a breath of relief. “Oh, hey. Skye. I was thinking about you the other day—”
“I just wanted to get in touch with you—I didn’t want you to worry when you didn’t see me around.” Skye waited a moment. “Thank you for telling me about Manny, and for encouraging me to tell Lorenzo. Jason got in touch with him and told him his own concerns, so I’m glad I was in front of it.”
“I’m just sorry I waited so long—”
“It’s all right, really. I’m safe. Lorenzo and I were planning to move to Miami later this year anyway. For a fresh start with our baby. We just decided to move it up several months. Thank you again for taking the time and—” Skye hesitated. “The risk. I’m worried about you, about what happened last week—”
“Don’t worry,” Elizabeth said.
“Lorenzo told me he’d offered Jason protection for you, but Jason assured him it was being handled. I supposed I just wanted to make sure—”
“I have a guard,” Elizabeth said with a wrinkle of her nose. She’d mostly been able to forget that. Cody followed her in his car and hung around the hospital, but she hadn’t really seen him other than that. “So don’t worry about me. Manny might still follow you to Miami.”
“Yes, well, I’ve taken your advice.” Skye’s end of the line fell silent. “All of it. I thought about the life I was choosing and whether it was one that I really wanted for me. For my daughter. Thank you. For taking the time to open up to me like that. I won’t forget it.”
“I’m glad I could help—”
“And I suppose I just wanted to—” Skye paused. “I don’t know. I wish there was something I could do in return. Something I could say that would mean as much. I just—I’m glad I made the choice. That I thought about it. I don’t want Lorenzo and our family to be one—not taking the chance to be something I regret.”
“I’m glad,” Elizabeth repeated. Her throat swelled. “Life is too short,” she managed, “for those kinds of regrets.”
“It is. Thank you again for taking the chance and helping me. If you ever need anything, you only have to ask.”
Kelly’s: Parking Lot
Jason swung his leg over his bike, adjusting the kickstand so that it stayed upright. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a dark sedan pull into another parking spot, on the other side, two down from his spot.
The same sedan he’d seen at the warehouse. And parked outside the Towers when he’d left the parking garage that morning.
Jason exhaled slowly and walked towards the diner. Instead of going through the courtyard, he headed for the alley behind the building. He quickened his pace—just slightly—so that it wasn’t noticed but so that he could gain a few extra seconds.
Once he was in the alley, he ducked down behind the dumpster—and waited.
Until he heard footsteps. They stopped halfway down the alley, just feet away from him—as if the person following him wasn’t sure if he’d simply lost Jason or if he’d gone inside the restaurant using the back door.
Jason frowned, realizing he knew the man—
And when his pursuer was only two or three feet away, Jason shot out of hiding, the momentum of his movement propelling him across the alley as he crashed into the man and shoved him against the brick back wall of Kelly’s.
“Why the hell are you following me?” he demanded, as he shook the guard. He narrowed his eyes.
“Uh—uh—” Jimmy, one of the younger guards hired in the last six months—looked back and forth, his eyes bulging as Jason cut off the air to his windpipe. “Orders.”
Jason released the pressure slightly, stepping back. “Whose?” he demanded.
Jason let Jimmy crash to the ground as the younger man rolled onto all fours, gasping for air. “How long?”
“Just since Saturday.” Jimmy looked up at him, his face white. “I’m sorry—”
“Tell Francis you need to go through the training again. I made you five minutes after you started following me. You need to change cars—” Disgusted, Jason shook his head. “Do you know why I didn’t kick your ass five hours ago?”
“Because—” Jason leaned down. “I wanted you to think I was going about my day so that I could ambush you. If I’d been anyone else, you’d be dead right now. You get it?”
“Go back to Francis.”
And then Jason stalked back down the alley, back towards his bike. He had someone to see.