I only smile in the dark
My only comfort is the night gone black
I didn’t accidentally tell you that
I’m only happy when it rains
You’ll get the message by the time I’m through
When I complain about me and you
I’m only happy when it rains
– Only Happy When It Rains, Garbage
Thursday, January 27, 2000
“That door looks like it should be on a bank vault,” Elizabeth said as they drew closer to her studio door. “You don’t think it’s overkill?”
Jason studied the thick, heavy, metal door that had only a small peep hole. “No. It’s not enough, actually.” He pulled keys out of his pocket. “And it’s not as thick as a bank vault. I tried to find a door that was—”
She rolled her eyes, and leaned against the wall, smirking. “Of course you did.”
He handed her a set of the keys, then pushed it open. “I didn’t change anything in here,” Jason said as she went inside. “Except the heating and plumbing. That’s been upgraded. I’m still working on the rest of the building, but I know you wanted to be back here.”
“Feels like a lifetime since I’ve been here,” Elizabeth said, turning in a slow circle. “Doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. I guess so.” The last time he’d been in this room, he’d had to dig his way into the closet to get her out, worried about the bomb under a table — He looked over to the table in question. A single wire had been a dud, stopping the bomb from detonating. How close he’d come to losing her—
“I’ll bring my paints and stuff back this weekend,” she said, drawing his attention back to her. “If you think it’s okay to come back and start working in here again. I have another week at Kelly’s, but I’m excited to have more time for this.”
“Yeah, yeah. You can start moving things back whenever you want.” She beamed, and he smiled back at her. “But Francis or another guard is on the door here, just like at home.”
“Yeah, yeah. How is Francis enjoying his art history classes?” Elizabeth asked, coming back to him, sliding her arms around his waist. “Do you think he’ll let me borrow his notes?”
“I know you hate the full-time guard,” Jason said, and she made a face. But she didn’t deny it, he noticed, and it frustrated him, too. Since Friday, they’d pushed back on plans to get her a car, and now Francis drove her everywhere. He was already sitting in on her classes, on the door at home, in her section at Kelly’s—
“Don’t apologize,” Elizabeth ordered when he opened his mouth. “I get to hate being carted around like cargo without you feeling bad. Two things can be true at once — I hate it, but I also know it’s necessary. Let me complain and make my faces, okay?”
“Yeah, I know. But—”
“But nothing.” She leaned on her toes and kissed him. “Thank you making sure my studio has heat. Did you do the same for the hallway so poor Francis doesn’t get turned into an icicle?”
“Yes.” He deepened the kiss, and she melted against him. Oh, man, if he could get Sorel and nail him down—if he could get rid of him, he could just get back to living his life and figuring out what normal could look like with Elizabeth by his side.
But his phone rang and he had to reluctantly pull back. “I won’t apologize,” he said, dragging the phone from his coat pocket.
“Good, you’re learning.” Elizabeth smirked at him, then wandered away to give him a bit of privacy, something she was good at. She started to sort through canvases while he listened to the voice on the phone.
“I’ll drop you at the penthouse,” Jason said. “I have to go to the No Name and meet with Vega.”
“All right. I have to meet Francis there in an hour anyway. I have another class this afternoon.” She paused. “Will I see you before you have to go out tonight?”
“I—I’m gonna try to make it home first,” Jason told her. “But I can’t promise it.”
“Okay. So, I’ll just order something and leave yours in the kitchen. But hey—” She raised her brows. “Wake me when you get home, okay? Because I don’t have to work until noon tomorrow.” She gripped the lapels of his jacket and leaned up for another kiss. “Let’s see if we can pencil in some time for each other then.”
“This is going to be over soon,” he promised. “Sorel can’t hide forever.”
“I know. I can be patient. Be careful.”
Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room
AJ sipped some water and perused the day’s papers, reading the sections he’d skipped earlier that morning. The house was quiet for once—his grandfather at ELQ, his parents at the hospital, and Carly had gone shopping with Michael. It wasn’t often he got to sit by himself, with his own thoughts.
“Junior. I was hoping to find you in here.”
AJ looked up, grimacing as Ned sauntered in. “Why?” he wanted to know, folding the paper and tossing it aside. “What do you want now?”
“I’ve had some time to think it over.” Ned sat on the sofa, leaning back and crossing one leg over his high. “I wasn’t going to say anything,” he continued, “but the longer I sat with it, the more I decided I should at least tell you what I’m thinking.”
“If this is about the pharmaceutical proposal—”
“It’s about Carly.”
AJ got to his feet, shook his head. “I don’t want to listen to any more of how I’m letting Carly ruin the family—”
“If you go through with pretending you’re the father of this child, it won’t just ruin your family. It’ll ruin everyone else’s.”
AJ stopped at the doorway, turned back to Ned, then closed the door. “I’m not pretending.”
Ned stood with a shake of his head. “You are. And I don’t blame you. There’s karma in this, I get it. Jason took a year of Michael’s life away from you. And we both know he’s still the ghost in your marriage. For the last year, Carly’s schemed to get Jason back. If you hadn’t made her sign that prenup, she’d already be gone.”
AJ’s throat was tight. “Maybe. But she’s here. And we’re making it work.”
“She’s not a terrible mother, so I get why you’re doing this. I barely see my daughter.” Ned grimaced. “Divorce is hell, even when it’s civil. I’ll never be the father I wanted to be for Brook Lynn, not as long as she’s in New York with Lois. I get that you don’t want that for Michael—”
“Get to the point, Ned—”
“Jason was a good father,” his cousin said softly, and AJ scowled. “It doesn’t matter that he didn’t have the right. He was good to Michael—”
“And if he were the father, which he’s not, it would mean he had an affair with my wife,” AJ bit out. “You think he needs to be rewarded for that—”
“You married Carly knowing that was probably going to happen. Jason doesn’t owe you fidelity or loyalty. Especially after you slammed his head into a rock—”
“Carly made you those promises. She’s the one that broke them. And right now, she’s the only one getting away with it. How is that fair to anyone?”
No Name Restaurant: Private Dining Room
Jason scowled, dragged his hand through his hair. “Sorel can’t keep this game up forever. I told you I didn’t need your help—”
“Two weeks of cat and mouse, and you don’t want any help?” Daniel poured himself a tumbler of whiskey. “Are you sure that’s wise?”
“The last time I had help from you or your people, it didn’t go so well.” Jason shoved his hands in the pockets of of his leather jacket. “Sorel is keeping out of public. And I’m not taking the chance that he’s trying to trap me into trying something on private property. He has to know something is coming after what he did.”
“Jason—” Daniel sat at a table. “Sit.”
“That wasn’t a suggestion.” And while the hard tone made Jason want to punch someone, he also recognized that he didn’t have a lot of power in this situation. He didn’t want to be in charge, and so he wasn’t on their level.
Jason reluctantly sat across from the older man. “What?”
“You had a close call two weeks ago,” Daniel said, and Jason grimaced. “A very close call if the story Sonny related to us was true.” Jason blinked. “He gave us the details you weren’t interested in offering. You made a mistake that night and your wife nearly paid for it—”
“Keep her out of it—”
“I’d like to, but you brought her into it.” Daniel paused, waiting for Jason to look at him. “You made her a target, Jason. By staying at that studio and letting those rumors swirl about her. And then you married her which told Sorel everything he needed to know. He looks for weaknesses. And you served him one on a silver platter.”
“I had to sit for this?”
“Cut the attitude. If you had all the answers, you wouldn’t be standing in front of me after two weeks of no progress,” Daniel said flatly, and this time Jason dropped his gaze. “I was willing to let you take the lead on this to see if it would work. And because it was your family that was threatened. I can understand the hesitancy in going after Sorel with no holds barred. You don’t wish to have any blowback. Not on yourself, on Sonny, or Elizabeth. This is admirable, but Jason, it is not realistic. You cannot do this alone.”
“I—” Jason exhaled on a quiet breath. “I don’t know who I can trust in that room.”
Daniel’s eyes sharpened. “You don’t trust Sonny?”
Jason stared at him, said nothing, and Daniel nodded. “I won’t ask if you trust me, though I’m not sure I’ve done anything to deserve that. I got you out when you wanted to be out, didn’t I? I brokered that deal with Moreno, and I lent my assistance when you and Sonny wanted back in.”
“The reception was your idea,” Jason said. “Maybe I made Elizabeth a target, but you were happy enough to use her. You think I trust you? You brokered that deal because you didn’t like me being in charge and you wanted me out. And you helped Sonny get back in because you didn’t like what Moreno turned out to be. You want sit here and act like you’ve done me favors. You didn’t. The only reason I’m taking this meeting is because I like your wife.”
Daniel nodded. “All of these things are true. I did all those things out for you because it served my own purposes. But I never pretended generosity. I never pretended to be doing it for friendship. I am who I am, Jason. I want Sorel gone because he’s unpredictable. I don’t know if he meant for that bomb to explode on New Year’s, but it told me that he doesn’t think two steps ahead. That bomb would have brought us nothing but grief and sorrow. You’d have lost your wife, but the authorities would have rained down on us like hellfire with the death of a potential witness.”
He pushed back from the table. “Sorel and I have business dealings. One of my clubs is on the border between our territories. He’s been pushing in, making trouble for me. And when I call him, Jason, he answers.”
Jason exhaled slowly. “He’d see through it—”
“He has no reason to think you’ll be involved. It’s a business meeting between associates. He’ll come to my club on my turf,” Daniel said. “He may bring some of his men. I can handle that. Your job will be to stay out of sight and take the shot.” He arched a brow. “Can you handle that?”
“Yeah. I can handle that. Set it up.”
“It might take a few days, but I’ll be in touch.”
Tuesday, February 1, 2000
Elizabeth swirled the last paintbrush in the sink, then set it aside to dry. She glanced over her shoulder at the canvas on the easel across the room, studying it with a critical eye. It was her third attempt at trying to recreate The Wind which had been destroyed the day the PCPD raided the penthouse, but she hadn’t quite recaptured the way she’d felt that first time.
That first try had been messy with some splatters and drips, but it had felt right. Every other attempt just felt like she was copying her own work.
She exhaled on a huff, then checked the clock. If she left right now, she’d might be able to catch Jason before he had to leave. He was supposed to be gone again tonight, and she wasn’t going to miss the chance to see him. It had been difficult for the last few weeks, only seeing him in bits and pieces, snatching whatever time they could together. But she was determined to prove that she could handle this.
And while Sorel had served a useful purpose in keeping Jason focused on him, and not on the secret he was keeping for Carly, Elizabeth knew it wasn’t far from the back of his mind. Carly had promised to take a paternity test after the first trimester, and then they’d have to deal with whatever happened. She wasn’t sure, even if the results came back in favor of Sonny, if Carly wouldn’t find a way to guilt or manipulate Jason into keeping the secret anyway.
But that was a problem for another day. Time to stop thinking about all of the things she had no control over and go home to her husband while she still could.
Elm Street Pier
She jogged down the steps to the pier, crossing towards Bannister’s Wharf and the parking lot where the car waited. Several feet behind her, a guard trailed. She always felt bad for the guards assigned to her — they were supposed to follow her around, but she had such short legs. How did they stay behind without basically dragging their own feet?
Distracted for a moment by the thought of the tall, blond, muscular Francis keeping the pace of a turtle, Elizabeth didn’t hear the other footsteps until two men stepped out from the steps leading up to the wharf. She stumbled to a stop, and almost as quickly, Francis stepped up and slid in front of her.
“Ah, Mrs. Morgan.” Joseph Sorel smiled, flashing his even white teeth. “What a lovely surprise.”
“Out of the way,” Francis stated simply, taking Elizabeth by the elbow. “Now.”
“This is a public dock,” Sorel murmured. “I can walk where I wish.”
“Let’s just go back,” Elizabeth told Francis. They’d go back to the studio or towards Kelly’s. Francis nodded, and they started to turn.
“I’m surprised you’ve returned to your, ah, studio.”
“Ignore him,” Francis muttered, and Elizabeth agreed. They were already at the stairs with Francis almost shoving her onto the bottom step.
Then Sorel spoke again. “Those bad manners are showing again. No greeting, no goodbye. You don’t even let a man finish his sentence before you hang up.”
Elizabeth froze, turned just a moment to meet Sorel’s eyes. Hang up.
She’d hung up on him that night at the studio, when it was clear that he’d be of no use to her. He’d claimed it wasn’t him, but she’d always known it was. She’d heard his voice that night at the reception and recognized it, the smooth lies over the oily tone. Insincerity oozing from every word.
He’d chosen his words carefully to remind her. To carry a message. He’d gotten to her in the studio. In the limo. Today on the docks.
If not for a bad charge on the bomb on New Year’s, Elizabeth might already be dead.
“When you show me a man worth respecting,” Elizabeth said coolly, “then we can discuss manners.” Then she turned away, continuing her climb, her heart pounding, Francis’s boots echoing in her ears.