Did you think that this would
Make everything right
Did you know the price you’d pay
Is your own life and now
You’re screaming out to me
To make things right tonight
How will you end your pain
– Angry Situation, Save Ferris
Thursday, May 1, 2004
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
The alarm jerked Elizabeth out of a light doze and she blinked blearily at the clock. It was just before midnight which meant she’d only laid down twenty minutes ago.
“It’s not time,” she said, confused and rolling over to see Jason sliding out of bed and pulling on his sweatpants. “Jason?”
“It’s not the alarm,” Jason said, leaning over to brush his lips across her forehead. “Go back to bed.”
“What—” Elizabeth sat up. “What’s going on?”
Jason pulled on a t-shirt, then went to the cradle, pressing two fingers against his cheek to check the temperature. Cameron’s eyes fluttered but the newborn slept on and hopefully would for at least a while longer. “Call from Richie at Kelly’s.”
“Richie?” Elizabeth pushed back the comforter and got out of bed. She wrapped a robe around herself. “What happened? Is Carly all right?”
“I don’t know. He just said there was a problem and he was bringing Carly by to talk about it.” Jason paused. “I need to go make sure they get upstairs without Sonny finding out—”
“But why is Richie bringing Carly here?” Elizabeth asked, grabbing the baby monitor as she followed Jason down the stairs, her brow wrinkled in confusion. “Why aren’t you going there?”
“That’s the first question I’ll be asking.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Dante clicked the lock in place after Richie hustled Carly out the front, then stared out the window.
“This doesn’t feel right,” Lulu said from behind. Dante turned, frowned at her. “All of this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Richie just called Jason and told him he was bringing Carly to the penthouse, then hung up.” Lulu’s brow creased into a frown. “That’s not how it’s done.”
Dante switched off the lights. “Maybe he knows something we don’t—”
“Maybe, but—” Lulu trailed after Dante as he went into the kitchen. “What made you come outside? We weren’t even gone that long.”
He paused as he lifted his jacket off the peg. “I heard a car in the staff parking lot. We’ve been closed almost an hour. No one should be out there or leaving since I knew you and Carly were outside.”
“It just struck me as out of place, so I wanted to make sure you were okay.” He helped her into her own jacket, then held her tight, running his arms up and down her arms. “You are, aren’t you?”
“I guess. I still—The car came up right to us, Dante, so whoever was in it knew Carly wasn’t alone. Why didn’t the driver get out to help? And she gave up too easily—I don’t know. It just…” Lulu shook her head. “It felt wrong.”
“Well, Carly’s on her way to see Jason. I’m sure he’ll figure it out whatever it is. Carly didn’t want to talk to the PCPD—” He winced. “Not that I’m the PCPD—”
“No, but—” She tilted her head. “But you ran towards the danger just like a cop would. And you still have instincts.”
“I’m not saying anything. You’ll know better than anyone when you’re ready to go back.” She paused when he didn’t say anything. “And the fact that you’re not arguing tells me that you know it’s a matter of when, not if.”
“I’m getting there. Helping Carly tonight felt right,” he admitted. “And I miss it. I like working here—with you,” he added, “but—”
“But it’s not your dream. It’s not mine either, but it’ll do until Dad lets me take over the club.” Lulu slid an arm around his waist as they headed for the kitchen exit. “Your place or mine?”
“Mine since your dad has a shotgun.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
The universe was not on Jason’s side that night. He opened the door to let in Richie and Carly, only to see Sonny lurking behind them. He gritted his teeth. “Do you need something?” he asked.
Sonny dragged a hand though his hair. “To find out why my wife is being brought here in the middle of the night by a guard.” He pushed past Jason and went into the living room.
Elizabeth was standing by Carly, and both women tensed when Sonny appeared. Jason put himself between Sonny and them. “Why did you bring Carly here?” Jason demanded.
“I thought it was better to get her out of there as soon as possible.” Richie folded his arms. “There was a kidnapping attempt in the parking lot—”
“What?” Jason demanded as Sonny growled behind him. “Carly, are you—”
“I’m fine.” Carly rubbed her elbow, wincing. “It was almost over as soon as it began. I was in the back alley, talking to Lulu—she and Dante were closing down—and this car pulled up. A woman grabbed me, but Lulu tried to hold on to me. Then Dante was there, and they left.”
Jason frowned, then looked at Richie. “Where were you?”
“You put me on the Cellar,” Richie reminded him. “Not Carly. The club is still open, and I came up when I heard the shouting—”
“You just left Kelly’s?” Sonny demanded. “What about Dante and Lulu? What if they circle back?”
Jason wanted to tell Sonny to be quiet, but he had a point. “Dante and Lulu both tried to stop it. Did you call any extra security?” he demanded. “To make sure they get home and that no one follows?” When Richie grimaced, Jason stalked towards the landline and snatched it up. “Francis, I need someone on Dante Falconieri and Lulu Spencer. Check Kelly’s and their houses to make sure they got home safe—” He saw Elizabeth gesturing at him. “What?”
“Dante and Lulu are dating,” Elizabeth told him. “I doubt he let her go home alone after that. They’re probably at his apartment.”
“Right, I can—” Carly fumbled in her bag. “I have Lu’s number. I can call her—”
“Okay.” Jason turned back to the phone. “Francis, I’m going to find out where they are. I’ll call you back—”
“You’re going to let them help?” Sonny demanded of Jason. “Just send the guards—”
Carly rolled her eyes and went over to the terrace doors as she pressed the phone to her ear. “Lu? Oh, good, you—I’m fine. I’m okay. I was just worried about you and Dante. Are you together? Okay. Jason’s going to send someone over just to sit outside the apartment building tonight. Don’t argue, Lu, or I’ll have Mama call Laura. Okay.” She hung up. “Dante took her to his apartment.”
“That saves us time, thanks.” Jason reported the location to Francis, then turned his attention back to Richie. “You know the protocol. Why did you break it?”
“I—” Richie blinked. “I don’t know. I just thought Carly was the priority. Isn’t that what you always say—”
“The priority—” Jason bit off whatever he was going to say next. “The protocol is to call me and wait for instructions. Not to decide on your own. You left two witnesses and potential targets unguarded. Go downstairs with Francis. I’ll deal with it later.”
Richie scowled, then shoved past Sonny, slamming the door behind him. He was definitely going to be a problem. Jason turned his attention back to Carly. “Let’s start over.”
“I was at the Cellar, working on some paperwork. The club was, and still is, open,” she told him. “It doesn’t close until two. I parked out back in the staff lot at Kelly’s, so I left through the kitchen.”
“Where the hell was your driver?” Sonny snapped.
Carly closed her eyes, looked over at Sonny. “I don’t have one right now. Jason and I discussed this. Things are quiet—”
“I bet his wife still has a driver—”
“Not that I owe you any explanations,” Jason said, flatly, “But it’s for medical reasons, Sonny. She just had a baby and almost died. In case you forgot.”
Carly lifted her brows at the sarcasm dripping from his voice, but thought it was earned on Sonny’s part so didn’t comment. “It doesn’t matter what Elizabeth or you choose,” she told Jason. “I asked to drive myself, and you agreed. So this is on me. I cut my own security—”
“Why the hell—”
“Because Ric is dead, and he’s not the one I have to worry about anymore,” Carly retorted. “Jason told me it would be suicide for the Zaccharas to come after me. Stop acting like we always have guards and drivers every damn day, Sonny. No threat, less security. Ric is dead,” she repeated.
Sonny clenched his jaw, closed his eyes again, forced another deep breath. “I know that,” he said, his voice more quiet when he spoke again. “I know that. It’s—it’s just been a year of worrying about him. Of knowing he’s coming for my family. It’s hard to readjust.”
“We’ve had a little more time than you,” Carly told him, softening her own voice. “I went to the kitchen to take the back way out,” she told Jason. “Lulu was there with Dante.” She shot Sonny a side glance, but he didn’t comment on Dante’s presence.
“I wanted to talk to Lulu about doing something for Mother’s Day,” Carly lied, “so she walked me to my car. Dante offered, but I wanted to talk to Lu alone. We were outside, talking . Then a car drove up fast—their headlights blinded us. A woman jumped out, tried to drag me into the car—Lulu grabbed my arm, then Dante was there. It happened really fast,” she said. “The car got away and it was too dark for license plates.”
Jason frowned. “She only grabbed you? The woman?”
“Yeah. Barely even left a mark—” Carly held out a wrist. “And it was definitely a woman. That was different. I don’t know anyone who sends a woman to do this stuff.”
“Not unless it’s personal.” Jason folded his arms. “A woman does sound strange. You didn’t see the driver? Was that a man or a woman?
“Can you describe the woman?”
“She was—I think a bit taller than me. Long hair—I remember it swinging out—but all I know it is that it was kind of dark,” Carly continued. “I’m sorry, Jason. I wish I could say more. I was scared, but it was over so quick—”
“All right.” Jason paused. “Can you both go upstairs for a while? I’m sorry—”
“No, it’s fine,” Elizabeth said. She looked at Carly. “Cam is going to need a bottle soon. We’ll go warm it up and maybe Carly wants to feed him.”
“Absolutely.” Grateful, Carly followed Elizabeth into the kitchen, and Jason turned to Sonny.
“You can go—”
“Call Bernie! Call someone! Get these people out of bed—”
“To do what?” Jason cut in, sharply. “Some woman made a grab at Carly in a parking lot. Anthony and Trevor aren’t going to send a woman to do anything. You know that. A woman tells me this is personal.”
Sonny hesitated, then nodded. “You’re thinking of Faith. Of what she did to Elizabeth last year.”
“This was sloppy, Sonny. And it’s not worth dragging anyone out of bed to do anything that can’t be done tomorrow. It’s after midnight—” Jason frowned. “How did you know this happened? Why were you in the hallway?”
“I didn’t know,” Sonny muttered. “I can’t sleep at night anymore. It’s too dark. So I was walking around and sometimes I pace the hallway.”
Jason opened his mouth, but Elizabeth and Carly returned, Elizabeth holding a bottle, and then they went upstairs. He looked back at Sonny. “I’m going to do a security check at Kelly’s, Sonny. I need you to go home and promise me you won’t come back over tonight. Carly will be with Elizabeth and Cameron, and I’m going to have Francis send up a guard.”
Sonny clenched his jaw, then stormed out. Jason sighed, rubbed his hands down his face. He wasn’t going to Kelly’s, but to find Johnny Zacchara. He didn’t think Sonny needed to know that Anthony’s only son was staying in town under Jason’s protection.
The Star Lounge: Club
Johnny Zacchara wasn’t behind the bar or in the office when Jason arrived almost a half hour later, but somewhere on the floor. The club was still packed an hour, meaning Jason would have to fight his way through the partier—the absolute last thing he wanted to do tonight.
He didn’t have a choice. He’d let the teddy bear go, allowing it just to be a coincidence, but an attempted kidnapping by a woman with long dark hair?
That sounded like Claudia Zacchara.
While Jason didn’t think Anthony was the type to let his daughter take on any important jobs in the organization, he wanted to verify that. After all, the mobster had let her sit in on meetings and Claudia had known about Ric Lansing’s death.
He might buy Johnny Zacchara’s claim not to give a shit about the business, but he’d never believe Claudia didn’t want power.
He finally located the kid in a back booth, curled up next to a blonde that Jason dimly recognized. “Johnny.”
Johnny blinked and then alerted to attention when he realized Jason was standing there. “Uh, Jason. Hey. Um—” He glanced over to the blonde. “I need a minute.”
“Okay,” she drawled, sliding out of the booth. “Um, nice to see you again, Mr. Morgan. I hope Cameron’s doing well at home.”
“He is,” Jason told the NICU nurse. “Thank you.” When Nadine Crowell melted back into the crowd, Jason sat down. “Did you know that she was my son’s nurse?”
“No—” Johnny cleared his throat. “No, of course not. I just knew she was a nurse—is that what this is about? It’s just a few dates—”
“No, it’s not that.” But Jason filed the information away for later. “Your sister.”
Johnny closed his eyes and his shoulders slumped. “What did she do?”
“I don’t know. Maybe tried to kidnap Carly.” Jason cocked his head to the side. “Would your father send her?”
“No way my father would put Claudia on something like that, but—” Johnny swallowed. “Maybe she’d try it. You know, deliver Carly on a platter to my father.” He sat back. “You sure it was her?”
” I don’t know a lot of dark-haired women who have a reason to try to grab Sonny’s wife,” Jason bit out. “I’ve given you a lot of freedom up here. Does Claudia know I’m not planning to hurt you?”
“Not in so many words, but yeah,” Johnny said after a minute. “Dad believed it, but Claudia thinks—” He paused. “Claudia thinks you might be a bit soft on kids being used as collateral damage. She said as long as I stayed clean, I’d probably be okay.”
And if Claudia knew that, was it possible Anthony was testing him? That thought didn’t sit well, but neither did the idea that Anthony would come at him through Carly. And Richie’s strange behavior was also something to think about. Why had the guard rushed Carly to him? To make sure Jason got the description that matched a Zacchara?
Did Claudia want the truce to be broken? If Jason removed her father and Trevor—
Jason shoved himself to his feet. “If your sister comes to you for help, you tell her no. Stay out of this, Johnny. She’s right. I don’t go after kids just because of their father, but if you get involved—if you come for my family, then all bets are off.”
“I won’t,” Johnny said but Jason was already disappearing back into the crowd.
Cruz & Dante’s Apartment: Bedroom
Lulu peered out the window, some of the tension easing when she saw a familiar SUV parked across the street. Dante stepped up and looked over her shoulder. “I don’t know if I like the mob putting a guard on me,” he muttered.
Lulu folded her arms, letting the curtain fall back into place. “It’s not the mob, and it’s not Sonny. It’s Jason, and I know it’s because of Carly and Elizabeth. They’re just worried about me. And you’re not a cop right now, are you?” she reminded him.
He scowled, wandered over to the bed and sat down. “That’s not fair—”
“Doesn’t make it less true.” Lulu sat next to him, curling a leg underneath her. “You’re cop inside where it matters, Dante, but you don’t have the badge right now. And the bad guys out there know it. I feel safer knowing someone is watching the building.”
“Okay. Okay,” he repeated when she just sighed. “I don’t want to fight about this. I know Carly was shaken up, so if it makes you both feel better, this is fine.”
“Okay, then.” Lulu pulled her other leg underneath her body. “How’s it feel being back home?”
“I like the bathroom better.”
“Good,” he said, offering her a half smile. “It feels right. I missed it. It’s only been a few nights, but—” He looked back out the window. “I meant what I said earlier. Running towards the fight. Helping Carly—I missed it.”
“Go see Anna,” Lulu said gently. “You’re ready. You know you are. And, God knows, the PCPD needs you. So do Lucky and Cruz. You’ll never be all the way back until she gives back the badge.”
“I’m thinking about it,” Dante told her. When she scowled, he added, “That’s better than saying I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Maybe, but—” She squealed when he tackled her and lightly shoved her onto her back. “Not fair—”
“I’m tired of talking.”
“That never happens to me,” Lulu said, but she flashed a grin and reached for the snap on his jeans.
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Carly sighed as she gently burped Cameron, patting his back. “He’s so still small,” she murmured.
She handed the baby to Elizabeth who reswaddled him. “Until he catches up developmentally,” she told Carly, “we have to use an adjusted age. So even though technically, he’s eight weeks old, he’s more like two weeks because that was my original due date.”
“It helps us set better expectations of when he’ll start to crawl or walk.” Elizabeth cradled him close to herself, swaying slightly as she rocked him. “But Dr. Devlin says he’s coming along really well. No complications so far. He might need glasses or something later, but—”
“But you’re still in the clear?”
“For the most part. And we might have behavior difficulties. A lot of kids who are born at Cameron’s age develop ADHD or have learning disabilities. But he could also not have any of it. We won’t know until we get there.”
“He’ll be lucky, though, to have all the support.” Carly looked at the little bundle fondly. “He’s so beautiful. I’m relieved that he’s healthy. Jason—he was really wrecked at the thought of losing either of you.”
“I know.” Elizabeth set Cameron down in the cradle, checking his temperature one more time. “I felt the same.” She paused. “Are you really okay? You’re not having any symptoms?”
“Of the stress disorder? No.” Carly pressed a hand to her chest. “No. I don’t know why,” she added. “I think maybe I didn’t have time to really take it in while it was happening. It was over so fast, and—” She paused. “It didn’t even feel real, you know?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean—” Carly extended her wrist. Her arm was scraped from where she’d fallen on the gravel, but her wrist was unmarked. “You’d think I’d start to see bruises or feel sore from where she grabbed me, but I don’t think she was holding on too tightly. Like she wanted me to get away.”
Elizabeth folded her arms and frowned. “But why? Why pretend a kidnapping—” Her eyes widened. “Why pretend to see Ric?” she murmured.
“Exactly. Someone’s using the same play book hoping Jason would finish the job this time. If Jason had found out about the Zaccharas screwing with us about Ric any other day, would he have done things differently? Probably. But you were still on a ventilator and Cameron wasn’t in the clear.”
“But instead of wanting Jason and Sonny to worry about Ric, they’re making Jason worry about Anthony Zacchara?” Elizabeth sat on the bed. “Who would want that?”
“I don’t know. There’s always someone out there,” Carly said darkly. She rubbed her eyes. “I just want to go home and get into bed. It’s been a long day.”
“I know. Jason will be back soon.” She hoped. He was only supposed to go down to Kelly’s and check on things.
She heard a door close downstairs and went to the hallway. “Jason?”
“Yeah,” he called back, appearing at the top of the stairs. He came down the hallway and kissed her. “Cameron down again?”
“Just now. He had some trouble with the bottle,” Elizabeth told him, “so it took longer. Everything okay?”
Carly got to her feet as Jason entered. “Jason?”
“It’s fine. I’m going to have a guard take you home,” Jason told Carly. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on right now, but the Cellar is secured. Someone is going to sit outside the Brownstone tonight, and we’ll talk tomorrow if we need to add more security.”
Carly wrinkled her nose. “All right. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night,” she said to Elizabeth.
“I’m going to walk her down,” Jason told Elizabeth.
Elizabeth cleaned up Cameron’s bottle in the bathroom sink, putting it aside for a deeper cleaning in the morning, then went back to climb into bed. Jason came back up a few minutes later and slid into bed next to her, drawing her close.
It had been quiet for weeks, Elizabeth thought as she snuggled closer to her husband, and she desperately hoped that what had happened tonight didn’t mean it was coming to an end.
But her question to Carly still echoed in her head.
Who would want Jason to go after Anthony Zacchara?