Chapter Seventeen

September 9, 2003

Morgan Penthouse

Elizabeth was upstairs in her makeshift studio when she heard the downstairs door open and close.

She stood and immediately crossed the small hallway the connected her studio and the bathroom Jason had finished for her last week. In the hallway, there was a small door—a safety measure he’d insisted on. She pulled it open as quietly as possible and crouched to get inside.

Someone was inside the penthouse that should not be there. She’d spoken to Jason only moments ago and he had not been on his way home. The guards had been instructed to announce all visitors—no matter whether they were Laura Spencer or Sonny himself.

Just one of the many security measures that Jason had insisted on when Elizabeth moved back in a few weeks ago.

She reached for the cell phone that was on a shelf in the room—along with some different sorts of food and a blanket and a pillow on the ground. He couldn’t make it much more comfortable than that and Elizabeth was grateful for the consideration he’d shown her.

“Morgan.”

“Jason—someone’s downstairs,” she said softly. “The door opened and none of the guards called out.”

“Are you in the room?” Jason asked immediately.

Before she could answer, she heard footsteps in her studio. Heavy footsteps. “They’re in the studio,” she breathed—terrified.

Jason, who’d been at the warehouse, was already out the office door and halfway to the parking lot. “Elizabeth, I need you to hang up and call Sonny—”

“No, please don’t—” she broke off as the steps came closer to her little hallway.

“Elizabeth!” Jason nearly shouted in her ear.

“He’s coming closer,” she said almost inaudibly.

“Elizabeth…” it was his voice. She closed her eyes and tried to control her breathing so that he couldn’t hear her. “Come out, come out, wherever you are…”

“Elizabeth—” Jason tried to get her attention.

There was another sound from downstairs. The door open and closed again, “Elizabeth?” Emily called out.

The footsteps in the hallway paused. “Elizabeth, are you? We need to talk!” Emily called out. “There’s no guards on your door but—Elizabeth?”

The footsteps moved rapidly now and exited her studio. She heard them going down the stairs. “Elizabeth?” Emily called out again. There was a scream and then a loud crash and there was nothing.

“Emily,” she breathed, terrified.

“Elizabeth, what the hell is going on?” Jason demanded.

“He was here but Emily came in downstairs. I don’t know what happened—I need to go look—”

“You need to stay right where you are.” He fished his keys from his pocket. “Hang up and call Sonny. I’m on my way home now.”

“Jason, Emily—”

“Stay where you are damn it and don’t come out until Sonny opens the door,” he ordered.

He hung up then and started his bike, praying that she would be safe when he got home.

Elizabeth had no sooner dialed Sonny’s number than the small door was yanked open and Sonny was there. “I heard the crash—where are your guards? What happened?”

Elizabeth launched herself into his arms. “Ric was here. I heard his voice and he kept coming closer and then Emily came in. She screamed and there was this crash—”

“Emily’s not here,” Sonny told her. He sighed. “I guess he got her. Come over to my place—”

“Jason told me to stay where I am,” Elizabeth said softly. Her hands were shaking. “What do you mean he’s got her? What does he want with her? How are we going to get her back?”

“Slow down and take deep breaths. There’s no point in getting yourself upset,” Sonny said. “Jason would want you out of here until we can secure the place and figure out what the hell happened.”

“Okay, okay,” Elizabeth took his arm and he led her out of the room and back down the hall way into the studio. “He knew I was here. He knew I was hiding up here. Sonny—no one is supposed to know about this room.”‘

“I know, I know. We’ll figure it out.”

They were in the hallway when the elevator doors opened. Jason lunged out and breathed the first easy breath since she’d called. “Elizabeth.”

“Jason.” She pulled away from Sonny and went into his arms. “I’m okay.”
He smoothed a hand over the back of her head. “Are you sure? Maybe we should take your blood pressure or take you to the hospital?”

“I’m okay,” Elizabeth repeated. “But I think he’s got Emily.”

“I’ve already got men searching the building,” Sonny interjected. “No one saw him come in or go out but her guards are gone and we’re going to call Zander when we get into the penthouse. He’s supposed to be on her at all times.”

But Jason wouldn’t take his arms from around Elizabeth and even after they were in Sonny’s penthouse and seated on the couch, he still kept his hands on her as if reassuring himself that she was there and she was safe.

They hadn’t announced it or even spoken of it, but the decision to remain married had been an easy one to make even if they hadn’t really made it yet but Jason had called Dara and told her that the annulment was off permanently.

Carly was at her mother’s and it was just as well since her friendship with Elizabeth had come under a lot of strain since Courtney’s return home a few weeks ago.

Sonny called Zander first who had been locked in a closet when Emily snuck out. “He reported that Emily has been talking about clearing the air with Elizabeth for a few days but he’s kept her from doing that because we ordered him to do that.”

“Emily got tired of waiting,” Jason murmured.

The cell phone Elizabeth had used was still clutched in her hand and it jarred her when it rang. No one had that number except for Sonny and Jason so she stared at it for a moment before answering it.

“Don’t listen to him!” she heard Emily shriek in the background.

“Emily!” Elizabeth cried.

“If you want her back, you’ll come to the docks on Friday night,” Ric said smoothly. “Eight sharp, beautiful.” He hung up and Elizabeth started to tremble.

“What happened?” Jason asked immediately. “What did he say? Elizabeth?”

“He’s got her and he wants me to come to the docks at eight on Friday,” Elizabeth whispered. She looked at him. “I have to go.”

“No—you’re not going near him,” Jason said sharply. He stood. “I almost lost you to him twice. I won’t lose you again.”

“Jason, we can set up a trap,” Sonny suggested.

“No—not using her as bait.”

“Jason, I get to make my own decisions,” Elizabeth argued.

“Yes, yes, you do but I get to make some for Laura, don’t I?” Jason remarked. “And I’m not putting our daughter in danger. End of story. No.”

“I can’t argue with that, Elizabeth,” Sonny said with some regret. “We will have to come up with another solution.”

“There is no other solution,” Elizabeth began to protest. But Jason shot her a look and she immediately quieted. She’d work on him later.

“We’ll put men on the dock. They’ll grab Ric—” Jason began.

Elizabeth sighed impatiently and stood. “And he’ll have men waiting in case that happens and if you grab him, they’ll kill Emily. Jason, you’re not thinking clearly and you know it.”

He stared at her for a moment and swallowed hard, looking away. “I won’t hand you over to him, Elizabeth.”

She shook her head slowly. “Jason—Emily may have done something you can’t forgive but she’s your sister. And she loves you. She’s like a sister to me. I can’t ignore that because she hurt me. She needs me to come through for her. She needs to know that I still love her.”

“We’ll find another way,” Jason said stubbornly. “We’ll find where Ric and Faith are and we’ll rescue Emily.”

“And if I don’t show up on Friday, he’ll kill her,” Elizabeth protested. “You can’t find them before that.”

“If I have to lock you inside the penthouse until then, you’re not going,” Jason said bluntly. Sonny coughed loudly to get his attention.

“I think you’re being too rash—”

“You wouldn’t let Carly within a hundred feet of Ric, would you?” Jason challenged.

“No,” Sonny admitted. “But—”

“But nothing. Elizabeth is my wife just as much Carly is yours. She’s pregnant with our child and I am not putting either of them in danger.”

Sonny sighed and shook his head. “Elizabeth, I’m going to have to agree with Jason. I can’t expect him to do something I wouldn’t do in his place.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “Jason, this isn’t just about me or Laura, it’s about Emily and—”

I will find Emily,” Jason told her. “You told me that you didn’t leave me because of my job. That you understood it. Well, trust that I know what I’m doing. That I can handle this. You either trust me, Elizabeth or you don’t.”

“I do trust you,” Elizabeth whispered. “But I know that you believe you will find her and I believe you will try. But this isn’t just about that. Ric and Faith are not your normal enemies. They’re desperate. Ric broke into this building twice and I trusted you to protect me from him. And I believe that you did everything you could stop him. But he made it past the guards and he knew about the room in the hallway and he knew the number no one else is supposed to. Ric is not just any other person, okay? Jason—I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t go on Friday. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do something.”

Jason sighed heavily. “I don’t know how Ric got in here. I know that the penthouses aren’t safe anymore.”

“If this place isn’t safe, no place is,” Sonny said quietly. “The safe houses are too isolated. And we can’t take her out of the country. Too many eyes watching.”

“Then I’m putting a guard inside the penthouse and he’ll go everywhere with you,” Jason said stubbornly. “He’ll stand outside the bathroom if he has to. I will do anything to protect you, Elizabeth and I don’t care if you hate me for it.”

She shook her head. “No! I could never hate you. I told you both at the beginning of this that I will do whatever it takes to keep my baby safe. But I can’t ignore my part in this. You warned me about Ric, Jason. And I didn’t listen. Now everyone around me is paying—”

“None of this is your fault,” Jason cut in sharply. “None of it.”

“Jason—”

“We’ll figure out something else,” he told her. He looked at Sonny. “Right?”

“I’m sorry, Elizabeth. You told us that you trusted us to take care of you.” Sonny shrugged and looked at his feet. “You’re staying home Friday night.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to tell them she’d never forgive them both if something happened to Emily but she knew it would be said out of anger and that she wouldn’t mean it.

For the first time, she bit down and didn’t say the first thing that came to mind. She nodded and looked away. “Fine,” she whispered. “I’m kind of tired,” she told Jason. “Can we go home now?”

He kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry,” Jason said quietly. “I know you’re angry.”

“I’m not angry,” Elizabeth remarked. She looked away. “I’m just tired.”

And guilty.

Unbelievably guilty.

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