And rain falls angry on the tin roof
As we lie awake in my bed
And you’re my survival, you’re my livin’ proof
My love is alive and not dead
– I’ll Be, Edwin McCain
Tuesday, February 1, 2000
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
It wasn’t a coincidence. It couldn’t be, Jason thought as he closed the door behind him and faced Sonny, standing at the minibar with a tumbler in his hand. “Vega called last night night to tell me the meeting was set up for tomorrow. And Sorel just happens to pick this afternoon to show his face in public and—”
Make it clear that he’d been the one behind the bomb on New Year’s. Blood pounded in his head, the rage boiling through his veins.
“You think Vega’s setting you up and not Sorel?” Sonny wanted to know.
“No.” Jason shook his head swiftly. “No. Vega’s predictable. He doesn’t want the instability or the power play, and Sorel isn’t going to be satisfied with taking over for Moreno. He’ll keep pushing.”
“That’s true.” Sonny swirled the bourbon. “Then—”
“Sorel had to know we’ve been waiting for the chance to take him out. He’s probably surprised I haven’t done it yet.” He should have taken the chance and strangled him in his sleep, but Sorel never slept alone. Insurance, Jason thought, because the bastard knew Jason wouldn’t dispose of witnesses. “Vega calling a meeting was always going to be suspicious. I just—”
“Hadn’t thought Sorel would make it a spectacle.”
“How’d Elizabeth handle herself?” Sonny wanted to know. “All Francis told me was that he approached her and they exchanged some words.”
“He accused her of having no manners,” Jason said tightly. “Of being the type to hang up on someone. He chose the words deliberately, Sonny. She knew it, and I know it. So do you. If he’d just wanted to insult her, he would have just called her rude for walking away. We never told anyone Elizabeth hung up that night. They only know she spoke to someone claiming to be Sorel.”
“Yeah, that feels like a fuck you he wanted to toss out.” Sonny pressed his lips together, considered. “He wanted you to know it was him. Either he’s arrogant to the point of stupidity or he’s planning something—we might need to think about changing the plan—”
“If something gets triggered because he goes missing,” Jason interrupted, “we’ll deal with it. I’m not worrying about it. Sorel isn’t just a threat to Elizabeth. He’s a threat to everyone else. I’m not going to wait around for someone else to handle him.”
“I just—” Sonny shook his head. “We need to be ready for anything. I want him gone, too. That’s three times he’s gone for Elizabeth. I don’t want her in danger either. I never wanted that—”
“It was just a risk you were willing to take,” Jason bit out.
“And it’s one you were, too,” Sonny shot back. “You married her, didn’t you? You could have left. Yeah, things would have gone to hell with Carly, but Elizabeth would have been out of it with Sorel, and you knew that. You decided to stay.” His eyes burned into his. “I told you to go, didn’t I? Stop being so pissed off at me because we knew this would happen if you stayed!”
Jason didn’t have an answer for that. Of course not. He’d stayed because Elizabeth had wanted him to, and because he hadn’t wanted to go. But the only way to be sure Sorel wouldn’t use her was not to be in town. He’d put her in the middle of everything by marrying her. He’d made her a target.
“That doesn’t change what you did—”
“No, but I’ll be damned if I take any of the blame for her being in this situation in the first place.” Sonny tossed back the last of his bourbon. “You were the one that stayed in her studio even after people knew you were there. You used her to stay out of sight.”
Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. This wasn’t getting them anywhere. “I don’t want to fight about this anymore,” he growled. “It is what is.” And damn it, Sonny had a goddamn point. The reception was his fault, but everything else— “I have things to do.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Elizabeth paced the area in front of the fireplace, twisting her hands, waiting for Jason to return from Sonny’s. She hadn’t even been able to tell him more than the content of the conversation before he’d left to talk to Sonny.
Maybe she shouldn’t have stopped. Or maybe she shouldn’t have gone to the studio. They’d said it was okay, that there was security—
The door opened and Elizabeth spun around to find Jason quietly closing the door behind him. He leaned against it for a moment, meeting her eyes from across the room.
“Is, um, everything okay?”
“Yeah. Sonny just wanted to check in.” Jason flicked the lock, then approached her. “You okay?”
“I’m fine. I guess. I don’t know,” she added when he just raised his brows. “It was just…weird, I guess. I did what I’m supposed to do. You know, I just turned and left. I didn’t say anything to him until—”
“Until he reminded you of New Year’s.”
She winced. “Yeah. I don’t know why hearing him confirm it made me feel jumpy. Or why it makes you so mad. We both knew he did it—”
“Yeah—” He slid his hands from her shoulders down to her elbows, then repeated. His touch calmed the jitters in her stomach. “But today, he made sure we didn’t have any doubt. He tried to kill you. Almost did.”
“Yeah. With everything that’s happened since then—” A month ago. That’s all it had been. A month earlier, she’d been worrying herself silly over sleeping with Jason and made a nearly fatal mistake in returning to the studio alone. What a lifetime ago it seemed now. “I don’t really think about it. Everything kept happening, and there wasn’t really time to dwell on that night. Carly started making her threats—”
“And then we got married,” he murmured, “and the PCPD—” Then Carly again, but they didn’t say anything about that. Better to think of Carly as something they’d already dealt with. Elizabeth knew Jason wasn’t going to say another word about the baby until those paternity results came in. And that was if she believed Carly planned to tell the truth when that happened, which Elizabeth didn’t but Jason seemed to take for granted.
No room for that conversation today either.
“You did everything right,” Jason reassured her. “You followed Francis, you didn’t engage in conversation. Sorel wanted you to take a message. You did that.”
“I did kind of get snippy with him at the end,” Elizabeth reminded him.
“Yeah, well, he had that coming.” He kissed her forehead, but lingered, his fingers tightening at her shoulders. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not sorry we’re standing where we are,” he said, drawing back for a moment. He took her hand in his, his fingers tracing over her wedding ring. “But Sorel is going after you because of me. And Sonny reminded me—” Jason’s eyes clouded over. “The reception might be his fault, but the rest of it—”
“It’s no one’s fault—”
“When I was going to leave town,” Jason told her, “it wasn’t just because of Carly. I knew if I were out of the picture permanently, Sorel would lose interest in you. I stayed.”
“I made you,” Elizabeth insisted. “And I knew—”
“You made a case,” Jason corrected, “and I agreed. I wanted to be here. With you,” he added, and she flushed at that, but managed to smile. “But I knew that it meant you’d be still in the middle of this. That Sorel might see you as someone to use. I could have stopped it. I didn’t.”
“The only way to stop it was to lose this.” Elizabeth leaned up on her toes to kiss him. “And I’ll never be sorry I fought to keep it.”
“Me either.” He tangled his hands in her hair and kissed her back.
Quartermaine Estate: Nursery
Michael toddled towards AJ on a pair of short stubby legs, his hand clutching a block. When he reached his father, Michael dropped the block in AJ’s lap. “Daddy, play.”
“What do you want me to do?” AJ asked, hoping his son didn’t want to play fetch. But Michael was already bringing over more blocks. He then plopped down and started to build a tower.
“Play.” Michael set one block on top of the other. “Daddy.”
“I get it now, buddy.”
Michael grinned and clapped when AJ placed the block on top of the ones he’d already stacked. “Good boy.” He held out another block and AJ took it.
In September, there’d be another baby in the nursery, and Michael would be nearly three. It was crazy to think about expanding a family that still didn’t feel real, even after almost a year.
Jason was a good father.
Ned’s voice echoed in his mind, but AJ pushed it away. His cousin meant well, but this was the right choice. Jason had started a new life, and AJ wasn’t going to blow up his marriage and Michael’s life. He’d known Carly would continue her affair with Jason. He’d tried to curb it, but Jason was the one who had slept with a married woman.
Jason doesn’t owe you fidelity or loyalty.
AJ cleared his throat, smiling as Michael lost interest in the tower and toddled over to another set of toys. Michael had arrived in his life as a beautiful, bright, and vibrant little boy who could already walk and say a few words. Jason, against all the odds, had been a good father. He’d protected Michael and loved him, even when it had cost him his relationship with Robin.
Keeping the secret had felt like karma to AJ for that lost year, but was it? What did AJ owe his little brother for all the years that had been stolen through that car accident? Was it really karma for AJ to steal one more thing from Jason that couldn’t be given back?
Did AJ really think that one year of Michael’s life had balanced the ledger between them? Jason didn’t remember all the times he’d stood by AJ or tried to make him a better person, but AJ did.
Suddenly, AJ’s determination to get justice for Michael’s stolen year seemed weak and petty. There was no balancing the scales between them. AJ would always be in the red, and to claim paternity of Jason’s child would only make it worse.
Could he live the rest of his life like that?
They had plans to spend the evening together, but unsurprisingly, after her run-in on the docks with Sorel, Jason had a thousand things to do that he couldn’t tell Elizabeth about. So she’d gone back to the studio for a few more hours of work.
She’d asked first, of course, if maybe she should stay in but Jason wanted her to act like the incident on the docks hadn’t bothered her. To go about her life as normal. Easier said than done, Elizabeth thought but if that’s what he needed her to do, she’d do it.
She stared at the half-finished canvas, grimacing at the yellow splotch of paint meant to be Angelina’s House of Beauty. She’d wanted to recreate the painting Capelli destroyed, but just like this morning, it simply wasn’t working.
And maybe it couldn’t be remade. It had been a moment in time, a feeling she’d had when she’d been on Jason’s bike a lifetime ago when he’d been Emily’s older brother and the sweet, gruff guy who occasionally put up with her rambling. Being on the bike, the wind rushing past so fast and loud that she couldn’t think — when she’d felt free and young and alive for the first time in months —
It had been a wonderful feeling, and painting it had been exhilarating. But that feeling paled in comparison to how she felt with Jason now. It had just been a taste of what was to come. She’d wanted to paint what it felt like to be free.
The Wind had been about putting away her grief, and moving on with her life. To look past the pain of losing Lucky and finding out there would be tomorrows.
Now she was living in that tomorrow. She’d found love again, even if she wasn’t ready to tell Jason that. She knew what it felt like to love someone with her whole heart, and now she knew what it was to love someone with her body, too.
Elizabeth set aside the old canvas and picked up her sketchbook. It was time to paint the way she felt now.