September 9, 2003
Elizabeth slipping her feet into a pair of sandals when Jason came home twenty minutes later. She looked at him, slightly guilty. “I was only going to Sonny’s,” she told him.
“I know. We’re all meeting there in about a half hour.” He took her hand and led her back to the couch. “We need to talk.”
“We really said it all before—” Elizabeth began but he shook his head.
“Maybe you did, but I didn’t.” She sat down and he sat on the edge on the coffee table. “Part of what you said is right. The reason we got married was because you were in danger. But that’s how I justified it to myself.”
She furrowed her brow and shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“When Carly came up with this plan…my first instinct was to volunteer because…” he hesitated. “I wanted to. Even before we got into the details of who to marry because of their standing in the organization. I wanted to be the one who married you.”
“I told myself that I was just protecting you—that I had promised you once to always look after you but the day of the wedding…when you walked down the aisle—part of me wished that you wanted it, too.”
“I did,” she said softly. Elizabeth stared at their joined hands, his gold wedding ring resting next to her matching ring. “I do.”
“Before I met you, I didn’t understand people who had regrets—who didn’t do or say the things they wished they had because I thought it just made life easier if you told the truth all the time every time.” He shifted and struggled to put this into words. “But I understand that the truth can be…it can be scary because you’re not just being honest with the other person, but with yourself and I wasn’t ready to face how I felt about you.”
“Why not?” Elizabeth asked, her voice catching. “What was so wrong with me?”
“Nothing,” Jason replied instantly. “It wasn’t…it’s not you. The way you make me feel—it’s not like anything I’ve ever felt before. For anyone. There were times when you lived here last year that I would come home in the middle of the night and you would have fallen asleep on the couch—waiting for me, I guess, and I would just think—I don’t deserve someone who waits for me like this.”
“You do,” Elizabeth said fiercely. “But—”
“I wanted to keep you in this penthouse for the rest of our lives, to keep you away from anything that could hurt you,” Jason confessed. “I didn’t want my life to touch you, to change you.”
“You can’t protect me all of the time,” she murmured.
“No—but I can try. And that’s why the thought of you going to meet Ric terrifies me. Because you’ll be stepping into a situation that I can only control to a certain extent.”
“I went to Laura, hoping she could tell me what I could say to you but I found Luke instead,” Jason admitted.
“Luke gave you advice?” Elizabeth asked with a wry smile.
“He told me that he loved you like a daughter—that he just wanted to see you safe and settled. And happy.” Jason hesitated. “And I realize that you need more than just an agreement to stay married.”
“Staying married was the easiest decision I ever made,” Elizabeth told him. “I don’t need more—”
“But if I had just told you everything, maybe it wouldn’t have had to be a decision,” Jason interrupted.
“I don’t understand.”
“I love you, Elizabeth.” He said this to her hands but the words still knocked the breath out of her and she just stared at his bowed head for a moment. He raised his head and met her eyes and repeated it. “I love you.”
She blinked and tried to open her mouth to reply. She closed it after a few moments and swallowed hard. “I told you that I loved you today but—I didn’t do it right.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I love you, Jason. I love you so much.”
He exhaled in a quick breath as if he’d just been holding it in—waiting for her to return the words. “In twenty years, when we look back on our marriage, I don’t want you to think that we stayed together because it was easier than being apart.”
“I won’t,” Elizabeth promised.
“Because if you love me and I love you, then this is a real marriage,” he continued, “and neither of us can walk away from that.”
“If you need us to get married again—or just renew our vows, I can do that—”
“Jason—” Elizabeth pressed two fingers to his lips. “I don’t need anything but you.” She replaced her fingers with her mouth and kissed him long and deep, trying to convince him that by saying the words—he’d healed whatever wounds had been ripped open again.
Carly tapped her fingers against her water glass impatiently before tossing a glare at her husband for finding her cookie stash and confiscating it.
“As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t see any other solution,” Nikolas said. “We can take all the precautions necessary but Elizabeth has to go on Friday.”
Elizabeth nodded but Jason resolutely shook his head. “No,” he repeated.
“Jason, it’s not like he’ll have much of a chance to hurt her,” Carly tried to assure him. “I mean—you’ll be like four feet away behind a bush.”
“Elizabeth is too far along in a very difficult pregnancy to put herself through something like this,” Laura argued. “I have to agree with Jason.”
“I think having Elizabeth go is the best solution—” at a dark look from his wife, Luke hastened to continue, “but I can’t tell her to do it. Not when she’s pregnant.”
Lucky nodded. “I love Emily and I want her home safely but not at the risk of Elizabeth and the baby. I think even Em wouldn’t want you to do this.”
Nikolas snorted. “Emily lost her rights to have a say when she turned Elizabeth over to the wolves,” he muttered.
“She had her reasons,” Lucky shot back.
“I can’t ask Jason to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do,” Sonny said. “And you wouldn’t send Laura either, Luke.”
“I would respect my wife and allow her to make up her own mind,” Luke said diplomatically.
Carly rolled her eyes. “You mean Laura would tell you she was going and that would be the end of it. It must be nice to have some control in your marriage.” She shot another look at Sonny.
“You’re not getting the Oreos,” Sonny retorted. “Sending Elizabeth is the best solution—we’re all in agreement. But it’s not a solution that’s viable. The purpose of tonight is come up with another one.”
“It’s clear that someone else was working with them on the inside,” Luke said. “Someone who knew the guards and could get past them. Who had knowledge of all the security improvements we made in the penthouse. Is there anyone who knew?”
“No. We only told those who had to know. The only people who had that cell phone number were myself, Elizabeth and Jason.”
“Well, that’s not true.” Carly sat up. “I knew it.”
Sonny swung to look at her. “How?”
“When you got the phone in, you wrote the number on a piece of paper on the desk over there and left it sitting there for a few days until you had it committed to memory.” Carly shrugged. “Anyone who came in during that time would have seen it if they looked. You didn’t label it but it was a cell number and it’s not a huge thing to drop some money to the cell company you use to find out whose number it is.”
She looked to Elizabeth. “Did you ever get any hang ups? Or missed calls?”
“Once,” Elizabeth admitted. “Not long after I got the phone. I said hello and they hung up.” She sighed. “I thought it was just a wrong number.”
“What about the secret room?” Sonny asked pointedly.
“Well, anyone could have asked the construction workers. Especially if it’s someone who works for you.” Carly sighed. “You’re very naïve, Sonny, if you think just telling people not to talk about it works.”
“It can’t be just one of the guards. There’s no one we trusted except for Andrew and he’s loyal,” Jason said slowly. “He’d lay his life down for you,” he told Elizabeth.
“It really can’t be Andrew,” Elizabeth agreed. “Well—Emily showing up here like she did can’t just be a coincidence. Maybe someone called her over here as a distraction.”
Lucky frowned. “No. She was the intended victim all along,” he realized. He looked to his dad. “Emily was here and Ric only grabbed her. He could have knocked Em out and still gone for Elizabeth but he only grabbed Emily.”
“He’s right,” Laura nodded. “They know grabbing Elizabeth would never work—not after failing so many times. The only way to do it is to get Elizabeth to come to him.”
“Which I would never do without a reason. And Emily’s the reason.” Elizabeth looked to Jason. “I have go on Friday, Jason.”
“Elizabeth, I thought we settled this.”
“I trust you,” she told him. She looked around the room. “I trust all of you to keep me safe and take all the necessary precautions. We have to buy some time to figure out who betrayed us. I have to go on Friday and find out what terms Ric wants to set.”
Luke sighed. “I don’t like it, kid. I don’t like it at all.”
“Elizabeth—” Jason began.
“I know you won’t let anything happen to me.” She took his hand in hers. “I have to do this. Can you support me?”
After a long moment, Jason finally nodded. “I can support you. But you have to promise you’ll do it our way. What we say goes. If we tell you to get out of there, you have to promise you’ll listen.” He hesitantly rested a hand on her protruding abdomen. “We’re risking so much.”
“I promise,” Elizabeth pledged.
Babies come first. Liz should not but her child in danger. She has to start thinking like a mom.
I admire Liz for wanting to help Emily but she needs to think about her baby. The baby should come first. Jason is right. Great story