A thick fog lifted and he opened his eyes, blinking them a little. He felt groggy and unable to move.
And completely unaware of his surroundings.
A rustling to the side caught his attention and he turned to see Elizabeth sitting at an easel, sketching.
He blinked and shook his head a little. For a moment, he felt as though the past four years had drifted away and he was staying at the studio with a gunshot to his side.
But the lack of pain defied that explanation. Her long straight hair rather than the tight bouncy curls. The flash of rings on her hands as her hands moved over the paper.
The bulging of her abdomen. His Elizabeth of three years ago hadn’t been carrying anyone’s baby much less Ric Lansing’s.
He started to sit up and his movements caught her attention. Elizabeth abandoned her seat and came to the couch. “Are you okay?”
Jason shook his head. “I don’t–what happened?”
“You came here last night,” Elizabeth explained, helping him to a seated position. “You said that you’d been at Shadybrooke trying to get Carly out and she’d accidentally jabbed you with a sedative meant for her. You’ve been sleeping for the past twelve hours.”
“I came here?” Jason repeated. The entire previous night felt blurry. He remembered the hospital, he remembered Carly.
He didn’t remember coming here.
“Yeah, I was surprised myself. But it’s not like I was going to turn you away.” Elizabeth smoothed her hands over her pants, feeling awkward. “I’m–I’m glad you still feel that you can trust me.”
Jason nodded. Trusting her went without question. He’d always trusted her. But why’d he come here? Why not the penthouse? The warehouse? Anywhere other than here? “Did…did I say why I came here?”
Elizabeth looked away. “You said you wanted to feel safe.”
“Safe?” Jason rubbed the back of his neck and tried to relax some of his tense muscles. He glanced around the studio–the place where she’d taken care of him so many times–saved his life. Let him stay while she lied to everyone in her life for him. It was the only place he’d felt safe. Where he didn’t feel guilty for being or feel like it was too big and he didn’t belong. “Yeah, okay. Look, I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble or whatever. I wasn’t thinking clearly–I just…”
“Instinct?” Elizabeth asked. She stood and crossed to the shelf next to the sink. She grabbed an extra key and tossed it at him. He caught it. “You gave that back to me when you moved out two years ago. You’re always welcome here, Jason.” She shrugged. “Truthfully…it’s always felt more like home when you were here,” she confessed.
He looked down at the silver key in his hands. “This doesn’t even unlock this door anymore,” he reminded her.
Elizabeth laughed and rolled her eyes. “Geez, Jason, it’s a symbolic gesture. And anyway…you still have the extra keys to this door? Remember? I made you keep a set after you installed it.” She bit her lip. “At least…you never gave them back.”
“I still have them,” Jason assured her. He took his keys out of his pocket–with the one for his penthouse, his lockbox at the penthouse, the warehouse office and his motorcycle. And there were two keys for Elizabeth’s locks. He added the new silver key and stood. “Thanks. I should go though–I need to check on Carly.”
“I hope she’s okay,” Elizabeth said as he pulled on his boots and his jacket. “Jason–don’t be a stranger, okay?”
He stopped in front of her and kissed her on the forehead–another symbolic gesture from days past. “I won’t. I’ll see you later, okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll see you later,” Elizabeth agreed with a tiny smile.