Hear the thunder and rain
Feel our heart fill with pain
Travel through time and space
Where did love lose it’s place?
Can we find who we are
If we stare at a star?
And the silence, it screams
There is nothing that is as it seems
– Nobody Listen, Lifehouse
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Lulu pulled the door open and glared over her shoulder at her ex-boyfriend. “You know, you look like a fish when you make that face.”
Dillon narrowed his eyes, dumping his books and coat at a table, and scowled at her. “The only reason I’m not telling you what you look like is because you failed another algebra quiz, and there’s a twelve hour delay—”
“You make the dumbest rules—”
Georgie hesitantly approached the duo with her order pad. “Hey, sorry to interrupt—”
“Hey, I forgot you were coming back to work today.” She sighed happily. “That means I don’t have to pull doubles anymore unless I really want to.” She waved Georgie closer. “He did that when you were together, didn’t he?” she asked. “Made up stupid rules—”
“Stupid—” Dillon shoved a finger at her. “See, that’s why we broke up—”
“I thought it was because I made a snotty remark about Citizen Kane,” Lulu offered with a fluttering of her eyelashes. They both knew why they’d actually broken up, but it was nice to be back on sparring terms with Dillon after the last few months.
“That, too.” He nodded. “I made a list—”
“Of course you did, nerd.” Lulu huffed. “I’ll have a burger,” she said to Georgie. “And Oscar Wilde over here will have—”
“Oh my God, please do not tell me you think Oscar Wilde directed Citizen Kane.” Looking actually distressed now, Dillon stared at her. “Please. Tell me I did not spend four months dating someone who doesn’t know the difference between Pygmalion and Citizen Kane.”
“Oh, wow, this I didn’t miss,” Georgie admitted to Lulu. “He gets very cranky over this kind of thing, doesn’t he?”
“He really does. No woman is ever going to be good enough for him,” Lulu said with a tragic air.
“You didn’t answer the question. That’s not a good sign.” Dillon narrowed his eyes. “It’s not a crime to have standards—”
“No, but it’s clearly a mental disorder we’re going to need to add to the book. I’m gonna be the first to name it. Citizen Kane disease, inspired by Henry Ford.”
“He didn’t direct it either!”
Lulu snickered as Dillon’s face flushed again. “You are really too easy to wind up. You’re like one of those idiots who listened to War of the Worlds and thought aliens were really invading.”
“Isn’t that being remade? I think they said Tom Cruise is supposed to be in it,” Georgie said, tapping her pen against her pad. “We should go see it. I love Tom Cruise.”
“Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise?” Dillon repeated. He got to his feet, gathered his things, and huffed. “I’m going to go find friends who aren’t insulting me.”
And then he actually left — which, Lulu had to admit— was an impressive exit. “You know, needling him really does perk me up. How long do you think it’ll take him before he realizes I dropped War of the Worlds on him because I know damn well Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane?”
“It’s really too easy,” Georgie agreed. She flashed Lulu a shy smile. “We should, though, you know, go see a movie sometime. I mean, I know—I know we haven’t really talked a lot since—”
“Since,” Lulu agreed.
“How’s your brother?” Georgie asked as Lulu picked up her things and followed her to the counter. “They said on the news that they arrested the guy—”
“Yeah, they did. He’s back at work which makes my mom kind of antsy.” Lulu flicked her eyes towards the stairs, and Georgie smirked.
“He’s not here. He left a little while ago, but he has the closing shift.”
“I didn’t say anything.” Lulu studied the menu, feeling an itch between her shoulders. She and Dante were still in the beginning stages of whatever it was, and she wasn’t sure if she was ready to tell the whole world.
“Uh huh.” Georgie put in her order, then folded her arms with a smirk. “He’s very cute, you know. That dark hair, the dark eyes—I like a New York accent—”
Lulu scowled at her. “Dibs.”
“Oh?” Georgie snickered. “You dated my ex-boyfriend, and, uh, I didn’t see a sign on this one—”
“Ugh, I hate you again,” Lulu muttered. She hesitated. “Okay, fine. We’re sort of dating, even though we never seem to have the same shift off. We’ve been trying to plan a movie date for more than a week. You’d think with my aunt owning the place, I’d get a break.” She bit her lip.
“Is he why you broke up with Dillon?” Georgie asked. She winced. “That’s none of my business—”
“No, but—maybe a little,” Lulu admitted. “I mean, look, Dillon’s great. And we had fun for a while, but it just fizzled out. For both of us. We both had a list of things that drove us crazy about each other. We broke things off before we slid from irritation to hate, which I’m glad about. It means we can be friends again now.” She wrinkled her nose. “You’re not mad because I dated him right after you, are you?”
“I was,” Georgie admitted. “But we only dated for a few months, and I really…didn’t handle everything well. I should have been more supportive about Brooke.”
“Mac’s basically your dad, Georgie. Dillon always understood that. We all did. You stood by your family. I respect that.”
“Didn’t feel like it last year,” Georgie murmured.
“No, I was an idiot last year. We were all messed up after what happened with Brooke, then Dante’s cousin got arrested. It’s put a lot of things in perspective.” Lulu paused. “You and Dillon are friendly again.”
“Sort of.” Georgie looked out the door wistfully. “But it won’t ever be like it was.”
“Nothing ever is.” Lulu glanced down at her phone, smiling as she read Dante’s text. shift covered. Movie tonite. “But sometimes it gets better.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
There was a brief knock on the door, and Elizabeth looked over from her hourly lap around the sofa. Oh, man, everything still hurt, and she was really tired of it, but she needed to move around. “Yeah?”
“Hey, Mrs. Morgan.” Marco poked his head in. “You said you wanted to see Cody when he got back from Puerto Rico.”
“Oh. Yeah.” Elizabeth grimaced, then nodded. “Yeah, thanks.”
“You still need me?”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth said as Cody walked past Marco. “Cody’s not working today.” She waited for Marco to close the door, then looked at the man who’d been guarding her since the day after Carly’s kidnapping.
He’d stood outside her studio every day—had sat in a car, watching over the house—hung out in the lobby of her condo building. Had driven her to doctor’s appointments, to the hospital, everywhere—
She’d felt safe with him—and he’d betrayed them.
“It’s good to see you up and around, Mrs. Morgan.” Cody stood in front of her but couldn’t meet her eyes.
“I was very lucky. Thank you for getting me to the hospital so fast,” Elizabeth said, wincing as she sat down.
“Take a seat, Cody.” Elizabeth inched back so that he could sit on the sofa. He perched on the edge, as far away as he could. “Jason told me that what happens next is up to me.”
“I know.” But he still didn’t look at her.
“You sold my husband and Sonny out to the Zaccharas who’d be happy if they were both dead.” Cody flinched, but she continued. “You also rushed me to the hospital the day I almost died last summer and protected me every day since Carly was kidnapped. So I guess I’m having trouble trying to link these two things together. When Jason told me—I couldn’t believe it. I know—I know you work for Jason and Sonny. That you get paid to protect me, but I always—and maybe I was wrong—” She hesitated. “I always felt safe with you.”
“I—” Cody swallowed. “I never took a cent from the Zaccharas. I wouldn’t. And I didn’t do anything until after—” He looked at her. “I don’t want to make excuses. There are none. But if I could just tell you why.”
“When I was a kid, I had an older sister. Um, not that—I mean, I’m older than you, so it’s not—” Cody closed his eyes, took a deep breath. “She had this guy she was living with at college. And he was—he was abusive. I saw him hit her one time, and I was just—I couldn’t stop it. I tried—he pushed me, and I broke my arm.”
“I’m sorry.” Elizabeth tipped her head. “What happened to your sister?”
“She got out of it, and she’s okay. But I just—I never forgot what it was like—I thought maybe I’d be a cop or something. I went into the army—but it just—it wasn’t a good match, and I found out that guy—that abusive piece of—” He grimaced. “He became a cop. I didn’t know how they didn’t see what he was capable of. So when Francis was hiring security, I thought it might be a good fit.”
“It was because of last December, wasn’t it?” Elizabeth asked softly. “What happened with Carly—”
“Sonny pushed you,” Cody said, his eyes flashing, then he looked away and swallowed. “I’m supposed to protect you. That’s the job. And Mrs. C. The kids. Francis made that clear. That Jason and Sonny were good men who stayed good because they had families. And I knew that was true the first time I got assigned to you.”
“The job is also to be loyal to Jason and Sonny,” Elizabeth said slowly. “But I can see—I can see how that might have been hard. Especially these last few months.”
“After what he did to Mrs. C, to you—I just—I thought something would change. But no one did anything. Mrs. C just left, and you were still here, but Sonny—he didn’t even seem sorry.” He cleared his throat.
“How did that lead you to the Zaccharas?” Elizabeth asked. “I don’t understand, Cody. Why didn’t you say anything? To me? To Jason—”
Cody hesitated. “I thought if we could just—if we could just get rid of Ric, it would be better. So I went to Trevor Lansing. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“And Trevor told you what happened to Ric?” Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m just—I’m surprised it was that easy.”
“I—” Cody made a face. “There was an open call for any of us to go to Lansing. For enough money, you know, any of these guys might turn. But Jason makes sure we get paid pretty well. I didn’t do this for money. I told Lansing that Jason and Sonny wanted to find Ric and get rid of him, and I guess—I thought he might help. I told him Sonny was out of control. I don’t know what I thought would happen. I just — I didn’t know what Sonny was going to do next. Mrs. C was gone, and it was just me here with you a lot. I didn’t know if Max and I could stop him, and we almost couldn’t.”
“Jason told me that I could decide what happened because, at the end of the day, we both believe you did it because of that night in December. Because you thought this would protect me. You wanted Jason in charge.”
“Yeah. I did. I thought—I just—thought we’d all be better off.”
“Cody, the only way I can breathe sometimes when Jason walks out that door is because I know the guys he works with—men like you and Max—Marco—Francis and Johnny—I trust the men who are supposed to be loyal to him. Going against Jason? That can’t happen. Because the next time, it might get him killed.”
“You know better than that.” Elizabeth waited for him to look at her again. “You either accept this life, or you don’t, Cody. Thank you. For wanting me to be safe. For wanting my family safe. For caring about Carly and her kids. I know that was at the root of what you did. But we can’t go back.”
“You’re firing me?” Cody nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, okay, I get it. I should be lucky it’s not worse.”
“I’m not firing you,” Elizabeth said softly as he stood up. “I’m telling you that you were hired to do a job. Yes, protecting me was part of that. And you did that. But you put my husband in danger to do it. Trevor and Anthony could have used your information to hurt him.”
“I never wanted any of that. I just—” Cody swallowed. “Something had to change.”
“For now, I think maybe you should let Francis reassign you.” Elizabeth slowly stood, wincing. “Whatever Jason and Francis decide. But I can’t have you on our door.”
“I understand.” He started to leave, then turned back. “Thank you for letting me tell my side.”
Ferncliffe: Conference Room
Jason frowned when the door opened, and Sonny entered alone. His former best friend looked better than he had the week before. He’d clearly been sleeping better, so his eyes weren’t red and bloodshot anymore.
Jason cleared his throat, got to his feet. “Your doctor isn’t—”
“I didn’t think you wanted the doctor sitting in on this.” Sonny took a seat, leaned back, and waited for Jason to sit down. Almost as if they were back in the warehouse, and Sonny holding court.
Jason slowly sat back in the chair. He said nothing. After a long moment, Sonny scowled. “Well?”
“Well, what?” Jason asked bluntly. “You called this meeting.”
“Didn’t Carly talk to you?” Sonny demanded. “Didn’t she tell you there’s an explanation?”
Jason closed his eyes. Carly was right—Sonny was just going to use this to pretend nothing was wrong, that nothing had to change. Then he opened his eyes. “She told me.”
“And what? What you do want from me, Sonny?” Jason retorted. “Why am I here? I should be at the hospital—”
“Carly said your kid was fine—”
“He’s in the NICU, Sonny. For at least three more weeks, if not a month,” Jason snapped. “And Elizabeth is recovering from a c-section and coughing up blood—”
“None of that is my fault. None of that justifies what you did—”
“What I did? You think I’m sorry?” Jason got to his feet, his chest tightening, his blood running hot. “You should just be glad Carly came when she did!”
“I was sick!” Sonny roared. He shot out of his chair, slammed his fist on the table. “And you choked me—”
“That’s not how this works,” Jason said, his tone quiet. Dangerously quiet. “You think that nothing you did matters because of the bipolar disorder. That Carly and I should pretend nothing matters. I told you to get help. In July. August. November. December. For months. And when you refused, I told you to stay out of my home and away from my family.”
Sonny narrowed his eyes. “I was out of control—”
“Really? The whole time?” Jason shook his head. “No. Not every day. And you didn’t go after everyone. You didn’t go after me. You didn’t go after the guards. You targeted Elizabeth and Carly. Because you blamed them.”
Sonny scowled. “That’s—that’s not fair—”
“You think I don’t know the difference between an episode or when you’re you?” Jason cut in. “The night when you locked Carly up? You were out of control, and I knew it. But on my wedding day when you called my wife a freeloader? When you blamed her for Ric? You’ve blamed her for what’s going on with Carly since the day I told you Elizabeth didn’t want a deal—”
“It’s her fault!” Sonny roared. “She did this to Carly—she made Carly think this was different!”
“Elizabeth didn’t do any of that.” Jason looked at the doctor who came in, her eyes wide and her face a bit panicked. “We’re fine. I’m just leaving—”
“You don’t get to walk out on me, Jason!”
“Why don’t we just start over,” the doctor said. “Mr. Morgan, please—I thought Sonny was ready to do this—”
“He wasn’t,” Jason said flatly. “And I don’t have any more time to waste.” He looked at Sonny. “If you think I’m sorry for putting my hands around your throat and making you feel—for a moment—what Elizabeth felt when she was gasping for air while you were screaming at her—if you think I have an ounce of regret for that—”
Lainey Winters looked at Sonny with confusion. “What’s he talking about?”
“He tried to kill me,” Sonny said, his eyes flashing. “The day I threatened to kill him—because he threatened me first—”
“Is that—” Lainey blinked, looked back at Jason. “Is that true?”
“You want to press charges against me, Sonny? Go for it. You had to be physically removed from my home. My wife almost died. My son almost died. Let’s see who the PCPD listens to.”
He looked at Lainey. “Don’t call me again. He and I have nothing to say to each other.”
Buffalo, New York
Joyce House: Driveway
Kelsey pulled her car in behind her mother’s Cadillac and stared at the bumper for a long moment. She had driven two and a half hours to have this conversation, but she knew if she went inside the house to force the truth from her mother—
There would be no going back.
Right now, only a few people knew what she had found. She could still let it stay buried. What good would it do to drag out another scandal for the PCPD? Would it bring her father back? Would it mean justice?
Lucky had wanted to turn things over to Anna immediately and kick up an investigation. He’d been horrified by the reports and lack of investigation. He still believed that things could be made right. It was one of the reasons Kelsey had fallen for him in the first place —
But since moving to Port Charles nearly a year ago, Kelsey herself was more cynical. Justice was a word that rarely offered anything more than nightmares and more unanswered questions.
She looked at the bag, thought of her beloved father, slumped over the steering wheel, blood trickling from the gunshot behind his ear. Would she be able to erase that image?
Kelsey reached for her bag, then the door.
“Kelsey!” Angela was smiling as she opened the door, then embraced her daughter, but her eyes were quizzical. “It’s the middle of the week—”
“I called in sick,” Kelsey said, clutching the strap of her bag more tightly over her shoulder, her fingers digging into the material. “We need to talk.”
“Okay.” Angela stepped back and closed the door. “What’s wrong, baby?”
“After you came up a few weeks ago,” Kelsey began, setting the bag on the table and flipping it open, “I started to ask myself some questions.”
Angela’s face, framed by her shining dark hair laced with strands of gray, went still. “Kelsey.”
“I went to talk to Scott, but he didn’t make me feel any better, so I went down to the archives at the PCPD.”
“You shouldn’t have done that—”
“It took me so long to find the file.” Kelsey removed it from the bag and set it on the hall table. “It was in the wrong place. Not the first time we’ve had that problem at the department.”
Angela closed her eyes, looking every inch of her fifty-three years for the first time in Kelsey’s memory. “You know.”
“Yeah, Mom. I know that Dad was murdered, that the PCPD covered it up, and that instead of fighting it, you took me and ran. You’ve been running ever since.” Kelsey stepped towards her mother. “And until right now, I was telling myself that maybe you didn’t actually know what had really happened. That you thought it was an accident—but I was lying to myself. Just like you lied to me entire life—”
“What should I have told you, then?” Angela demanded, her eyes snapping open, anger flashing. “Should I have told my daughter that her father’s mistakes had caught up to him? That a job he’d taken out of law school ended up killing him and putting us in danger?”
“What are you—” Kelsey’s lips pressed together. “Lucky’s dad told me that Daddy worked with some real tough guys, but he said Daddy was legit. That he worked the business side—”
“He did.” Angela fisted her hands at her side. “He never once stepped over the line. He wouldn’t. But—” She took a deep breath. “He knew others did, and he didn’t say a word.”
Kelsey’s chest tightened. “Who?”
“I don’t know. He wouldn’t say, and every time he came close to leaving, something changed.” Angela folded her arms and walked towards the fireplace at the end of the living room, looked at the photo of Oliver Joyce that sat on the mantel. “First, it was just Frank Smith going to prison. Ollie managed the clubs and properties while Smith was gone. The son wasn’t old enough. That seemed fine.”
Angela picked up the photo. “Then the Jeromes came to town. Your father never told me much, but he knew if he lost any ground to them, Frank Smith or his son, Damian, would make him pay. Your father wanted to leave then. When the turf war was happening with Sonny Corinthos and Frank Smith—” Angela looked at Kelsey. “They killed him for it, baby. He knew too much.”
“Who is they?” Kelsey demanded, her voice tight. Her father had been in the mob. Jesus Christ. Even if he’d been a low-level adviser and lawyer like Bernie Abrams or Justus Ward—how could she ever accept that—
“I don’t know. It happened so fast,” her mother murmured. “The police came to tell me that your father had died in an accident—”
“They told you—”
“It was early morning, and that detective—” She nodded at the file. “David Case. I’ll never forget his name. He came to tell me that Ollie had died. Probably fallen asleep at the wheel,” Angela said bitterly. “I couldn’t believe it. Your father never—he wouldn’t have—” She dragged a hand through her hair. “I demanded to see proof. I wanted to know for sure. I needed to see him—so he took me to the morgue. I thought they’d bring me to Ollie’s body, but there was a man there.” She closed her eyes. “Don’t ask me who. I won’t tell you that.”
“And the man told me that if I said nothing, if I let it be an accident, he’d make it worth my while. He’d make sure that we were taken care of.” Angela looked at Kelsey. “He’d give you a trust fund for college. But if I fought it, if I tried to make the PCPD investigate, he’d kill me. And you’d be alone. And then they showed me Ollie’s body. And I saw what they’d done to him. I knew he was telling me the truth.”
Kelsey’s throat tightened. “Mom.”
“He told me to leave Port Charles and never come back. So I did that. And for a decade, I listened.” Angela set the photo back on the mantel. “You need to put that file back where you found it—”
“Because the men who killed Daddy are still in power?” Kelsey demanded, her voice sharpened.
“I don’t know. But men like that—they never die. Not really. Another one just takes their place.” Angela faced her daughter. “I’m asking you to let it go. Your father would never want his way of life to come back and hurt us. If you push this—if you tell people—” Her skin looked gray and sick. “I lost your father. Don’t put me through this. I can’t do it again.”
Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Jason’s Office
Jason scribbled his name at the end of yet another contract, eager to finish this and get back to his family. He wanted to shove Ferncliffe out of his mind for as long as he possibly could.
“Hey, Boss—” Francis tapped the slightly ajar door. “The kid finally turned up.”
Jason clenched his teeth, then got to his feet as Francis pushed the door open further, and Johnny Zacchara finally slunk in, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his dark jeans. “I told your father a week.”
“Yeah, he, uh—” Johnny cleared his throat. “He thought you might be bluffing.” The younger man swallowed hard. “But he got your package and thought better of it.”
The package had been the body of one of the estate security guards. When Johnny Zacchara hadn’t shown up in Port Charles last Monday, Jason had debated how to strike at Anthony Zacchara. Reminding him that Jason could get to the head of the Zacchara crime family anytime he wanted had seemed like the best option.
“You’re here because your father can’t be trusted,” Jason said flatly. “You know what he did.”
“I do.” Johnny exhaled slowly. “But I also know he could only do it because one of your guys turned on you. That’s the business, man. You don’t trust anyone.”
“That’s the way your father does the business, and that’s why he has more enemies than allies.” Jason paused. “My guy wanted Sonny out of the way. Your father was hoping we’d kill each other and save him the trouble.”
“And because of that, my wife and son ended up almost dying, and Sonny’s institutionalized. Ric Lansing has been dead since November.” The words felt like ash in Jason’s mouth because it still felt wrong that everything had ended so anti-climatically. He’d never been able to do more than punch Ric that day in Elizabeth’s hospital room. The monster had deserved more. “This could have been over months ago, but your father wanted to play games.”
“I told you that night I don’t want a damn thing to do with my father’s business—”
“But you’re the only person he might actually try to protect,” Jason cut in. “Yeah, I know he gets fits of rage. Everyone knows that. I know he tried to kill you and ended up murdering your mother.”
Johnny lifted his chin, defiance sparkling in his eyes. “Then why the hell would you demand me as leverage—”
“Because he doesn’t want you dead. People do things in fits of rage they wouldn’t do when they’re lucid.”
“So if my father breaks the truce, you’ll kill me.” Johnny scowled. “And I’m just supposed to put up with that—”
“No. You’re supposed to let your father think that. Your father breaks this truce, he’ll be the next body I dump.”
Johnny furrowed his brow, thrown by that. “Wait, what? I—”
“I don’t attack women and children. That’s your family. Your family sent Ric Lansing here, and he preyed on Carly, Elizabeth, and Courtney,” Jason added as an afterthought, remembering the botched kidnapping and engagement attempt Ric had orchestrated. “I don’t have to go after the vulnerable.”
“No, I guess not.” Johnny nodded. “Okay, fine. What keeps me from telling my father that I’m not in any danger?”
“You already told me. You don’t want a damn thing to do with this business. I don’t want my son near it either. You stay in Port Charles, you stay out of trouble, and your father keeps the truce, maybe you find a way out of this.” Jason reached for his keys. “I’ll send you over to Tommy. He runs the clubs and can find a place for you there. You’re not a warehouse guy, and you wouldn’t want that kind of work.”
“That’s it? I’m just supposed to set up shop here and stay out of your hair?” Johnny asked skeptically. “That seems too easy.”
“That’s your problem. Not mine. I have things to do.”
Luke raised his brows as he came out from his office and saw his niece at the bar. “Caroline. Haven’t seen you in here for a while.”
“I have my own place to get a drink,” Carly said with a wistful smile. She sipped the gin and tonic that Claude had poured for her. “But I wanted one tonight, and I didn’t feel like checking on the management.”
“Ah. You’re a better business owner than me.” Luke wagged a finger at her, then went to pour his own drink. “I ignore whatever I want when I want.”
“Part of your charm.” Carly swirled the liquid in her glass. “Did Mama talk to you? Have you heard about Sonny?”
“I have. Barbara keeps me in the loop. Bipolar disorder.” Luke let the words roll around in his head. “Makes sense, I guess. The extremes, the mood swings, the dark moments, the high moments—fills in a lot of the holes.”
“It does. I went to see him,” Carly murmured. “And he wanted to see the boys.”
“And you said no.”
“And I said no,” she repeated. “Mama says it was the right decision, and so does Jason. But you know, they’ve got a bias. Mama hates Sonny. Always has, even though she’s tried to hide it,” Carly added. “And Jason’s still working through his anger over what happened.”
“And he may never get there,” Luke told her. “He might have some regrets about not pushing Sonny harder to get help when Sonny might have listened, but the man nearly lost his family. Don’t expect Jason to ever feel that bad.”
“I know.” Carly smiled faintly, just a slight curve of her lips. “I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not that I do feel this bad. A few years ago—” Her voice was tight. “I was part of the reason Tony went over the edge. I mean, I know it can’t really be on me how bad it got, but it’s wrong if I don’t at least…acknowledge my part.”
“You didn’t load the gun, but you pulled the trigger,” Luke confirmed as Carly blanched. “Tony never got over BJ—”
“Which I knew. And used.” Carly looked away. “That’s what happened to Sonny. I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you. Elizabeth’s guard—the main one who’s been with her since the beginning—he made sure Sonny got the messages about Ric.”
“I did know that. He wanted Sonny gone and Jason in charge. He figured driving Sonny over the edge would do it.”
“He wanted Elizabeth to be safe. And me, too, I think. He was probably there the night I was locked in that room.” Carly shuddered. “Mama said some of the guards helped break down the doors. Probably Max and Cody, I guess. Maybe he saw that and thought…”
“When your job is to protect the family, and the threats are coming from within—” Luke shook his head. “Not sure how anyone would have been able to thread that needle. Sonny was already teetering on the edge, Caroline. This guy just shoved him over.”
“I feel terrible about what Sonny’s going through. About what he’s been through. How terrified he must have been to see Lily—and his mother. I can’t imagine it. And part of me—part of me thinks that it might be worth putting everything else on hold. What if he gets therapy and medication, and he’s that man again? I keep going around in circles. What if he’s the man I loved? Jason’s best friend? What if we can have Sonny back?”
Luke said nothing, and Carly sighed. “Every time I ask myself that question, I have this voice in my head that answers. I don’t want him back. Because he wasn’t always hallucinating or going through psychosis. When he fired Leticia, when he refused to give access to security to let me out of the penthouse last fall—that wasn’t the disease.”
Carly picked up her drink. “I used to be different. I used to do what was right for me and screw everyone else. It was easier,” she murmured. “Simpler.” She flicked her eyes to his. “Lonelier.”
“True. I’ve lived that way myself. Then I met Laura and had years of being happy thinking of someone else. I got lazy,” he continued. “I thought I was getting too soft. That family had made me soft. I did what Sonny did. When Laura told us about Nikolas, I didn’t let myself think about her and what she’d gone through. I never did,” Luke added. “Even when we fell apart, I blamed her. It was always her fault. She should have been honest with me.”
“And then she got sick. Like Sonny—”
“And then she got sick, and I lost my mind. My sanity. I lost any part of me that was worth knowing. I wanted to disappear. I nearly did.” Luke paused. “Laura isn’t Sonny in this equation, Caroline. She’s you. Something terrible happened to her. She buried it so far inside of her that she was terrified to let it out. Instead of seeing her pain, I made it about me. About how she was betraying me.” He arched his brows. “Sound familiar?”
“A little,” Carly said softly.
“I came back to myself last spring. I looked around and realized I was right back to where I’d been all those years ago before Laura. A low-down hustler without a person who gave a damn. I had a choice. Just like Sonny. I could keep going down that road, or I could make a u-turn. I went to London, forced them to let me be part of Laura’s recovery. Because I realized that it didn’t make me less to put her first. It didn’t make me weak or soft. Laura and my kids have always made me stronger. I just didn’t see it until it was almost too late.”
“Sonny won’t ever get there, will he?” Carly said with a wistful smile. “He’ll always see me and the boys as a weakness. I tried to put him first, Luke. But he just kept taking and taking until I couldn’t give anymore.”
“One day, Sonny might be the man he was again,” Luke said. “Or even a better version of that man. And maybe there’s a chance one day. But it doesn’t make you selfish or wrong to not to be there for that journey.”
“Still a lesson I’m learning.” Carly finished her drink. “Sometimes, I think of everything I’ve lost since Ric kidnapped me.” She tossed a twenty down next to the empty glass. “But I think I should start thinking about everything I’ve gained.”
“I have a better relationship with my mother and the beginnings of one with Lucas. I have my club. I think Jason and I are better friends than we would have been. AJ and I are finding common ground.” Carly paused. “And I’ve liked having you around. I lost Sonny, but I like who I’m becoming. That’s not such a terrible tragedy, is it?”
“No, it’s not.” Luke pushed the twenty back at her. “You don’t pay here, niece. Family drinks free.”
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Elizabeth sighed with happiness as she snuggled against the pillows, then grinned at Jason. “Look at him! I know he’s not smiling yet, but he looks like he might—” She showed him the pictures again. “And you said he’s gained five more ounces? Already?”
“Yeah.” Jason nodded at the stack. “Emily had everyone take a photo every ten minutes for you until around six, and then I picked them up on the way home.”
“I have the best friends.” Elizabeth stared at her baby with bright eyes. A tear slid down her cheek. “He’s being held in so many of these—I hate that I’m not there, and I know Kelly’s right, I know that I need to rest and get my strength back so I can have the surgery—”
“Hey.” Jason slid next to her on the bed, kissed the top of her head. “He knows you love him. You did the hard part. You carried him for seven months and took care of him. It’s our turn to do some of the work.”
“I know…” Elizabeth touched the photos. “And I know he won’t remember this. Gail—” She looked at him. “I called her just like I promised. She’s going to stop by, but she said it was normal for me to be…well, she didn’t say freaking out but to be all over the place. You know, being okay with it in one minute, and then being ashamed the next—” She exhaled slowly. “And you’re right. The most important thing is that Cameron is healthy, that I’m going to be able to take care of him when he comes home until the surgery. He has someone with him all the time.”
“Yeah. I think—” Jason looked at the clock on the nightstand. “It’s Alan’s turn, and then Emily will be with him until the morning.” He looked at her with a half smile. “I talked to Kelly. She said that maybe she was a bit too strict by keeping you at home for a week.”
Elizabeth sat up, then winced— “Oh, man, no sudden movements. I can go sooner?”
“Yeah. She said she’d be okay with you going in tomorrow—just one shift,” he warned her as Elizabeth practically bounced off the bed. “And then, after your appointment with her on Monday, maybe you can go more.”
“Oh, that’s great. Thank you.” She kissed his cheek then looked back at the photos. “This is the best news.”
Then she sighed, her smile fading slightly. “But we have other things to talk about, you know? Um. Cody came today.”
“Yeah, uh, Marco said something about it.” He looked at her. “How was it?”
“Terrible,” Elizabeth admitted. “He seems really sorry, and I get it.” She told him about Cody’s sister, which just made him sigh. “I guess, maybe with hindsight, we should have said something to him after that night. I mean, he and Max helped me with Carly—they saw her up front and personal. I’m surprised that neither of them said anything.”
“What…what did you end up deciding?”
“I trust him to protect me, but I don’t trust him to protect you, so I told him you and Francis were going to reassign him.” She put a hand against his chest. “Is…is that okay?”
Jason cleared his throat, then nodded. “Uh, yeah. I guess—” He couldn’t seem to form a full sentence. “I guess I wasn’t expecting that. I thought…”
Elizabeth squinted. “You thought I’d keep him as a guard? After what happened? You would have been okay with it?”
“I would have tried to be,” Jason admitted. “If it’s what you wanted. But it would have been hard. Still, after today, I can almost understand why Cody would think something drastic had to happen.”
“I went to see Sonny.” Elizabeth didn’t say anything. Just reached over to squeeze his hand. “Carly told me he has bipolar disorder. You know what that is?” Jason asked, and she nodded. “He wanted to see me. I went in, thinking he’d say he was sorry or something.”
“No. He was waiting for me to apologize.” Jason shook his head in disbelief. “He still—he thinks everything can be explained by the disorder, and it’s just—no. It still happened. And he was in control sometimes. The things he said to you, the way he treated Carly—I can understand how some of it was made worse—but no, I’ve known Sonny long enough. Some of it—he meant.”
“The day you went to the hospital—when you almost died—” Jason grimaced, looked away. She waited for him to gather his thoughts. “I left the hospital and went to the penthouse. When Cody told me that Sonny had been in there, screaming at you while you were struggling to breathe. When Nikolas said they’d needed guards to get him out of there—”
“He didn’t make that happen—Jason—what happened was bad timing—”
“If Sonny hadn’t been there,” Jason said tightly, “then Cody would have been in the room when you started coughing up blood. Not three minutes later. You could have been at the hospital three minutes earlier. You might not have been put on the ventilator. I might not have—”
He dipped his head. Elizabeth slid her fingers through his hair, lightly dancing the tips down the back of his neck.
“I had to sign papers to deliver Cameron first. Even though it meant you couldn’t be treated until it was over. You could have died. Because the guards were distracted by Sonny.”
She wasn’t sure that the extra time would have really made that much of a difference, but she could see how Jason thought so. “So you went to the penthouse.”
“I went to the penthouse,” he repeated. He met her eyes. “I shoved him against the wall, put my hands around his neck, and choked him so that he could feel the way you did.”
Her heart simply broke for him—to be pushed to that kind of violence against a man she knew he loved like a brother. “Jason,” she murmured. Elizabeth touched his cheek again—knew it was important that he didn’t think she was disgusted or repelled by the revelation. “But you stopped.”
“Carly stopped me and reminded me I needed to be with you and Cameron. So I left, and she…took care of things.” He exhaled slowly, closed his eyes. “I might have killed him.”
“But you didn’t.”
“I thought I should feel guilty about it. Learning later about Lily—that he was seeing her—I thought I should feel bad. I didn’t. And then today—when he sat down, and he wanted an apology from me—” Jason shook his head. “No. I almost lost everything because of him. I’m not sorry.”
This he said to her with an air of defiance, as if he expected her to argue. “Do you think I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong?” Elizabeth asked. “Because you’re not. How many times did we tell Sonny to stay out of the penthouse? How many times did you and Carly beg him to get help? You’re right. He wasn’t out of control all of the time. And those times—he chose to think he was invincible. He never understood the damage he did to Carly—the damage he continues to do—I’m just sorry it ever had to come to this.”
“Carly—Carly thinks he’s not planning to take any medication.”
“Probably because he’s afraid it’ll make him look weak,” Elizabeth muttered. Jason sighed, then nodded.
“And he doesn’t know you’re staying in charge.”
Jason nodded. “I wasn’t able to tell him. He’s going to get out—”
“And think things should get back to the way they were.”
“Well,” Elizabeth said with a deep breath. She looked at him, her eyes determined. “He’s wrong.” She leaned closer to him and kissed him. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now—” She picked up her stack of photos again. “I want to look at Cameron again.”