Is that why they call me a sullen girl, sullen girl?
They don’t know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea
But he washed me ‘shore, and he took my pearl
And left an empty shell of me
– Sullen Girl, Fiona Apple
Friday, December 31, 1999
Harborview Towers: Hallway
“Wait here,” Jason told Elizabeth as they stepped off the elevator. “I need Sonny to get guys to your place.”
“Okay.” Feeling exhausted, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. She couldn’t think about it yet. Couldn’t really understand how it had happened — in less than five minutes —
“They did what?” she heard Sonny demand. Then he appeared around the corner, following Jason. “Elizabeth, you okay? What the hell?” Without waiting for her to respond, he turned back to the guard on the door. “Get a team to down there. Grab Mikey and Paulie. They got explosives training. I want to know if that was a dud —” He turned back to Elizabeth. “What happened?” he bit out. “How did you find the bomb?”
“Sonny—” Jason began.
“He called me,” Elizabeth said at the same time, her voice faint. Jason broke off and looked at her, stunned. “I got home from work and maybe two or three minutes later, the phone rang. He said he was Joseph Sorel. I heard something at the door, and then I couldn’t open it. I couldn’t open it. Then he told me to look under the table.”
Sonny hissed. “He was watching you.”
“I guess so. There was a bomb under the table. And while I was looking at it, the timer started. Five minutes.” Elizabeth lifted a hand up, intending to rub her temple, but it was shaking. Instead, she curled it into a fist. “He told me that if I promised not to alibi Jason about that night with Moreno, he’d tell me how to deactivate it.”
“That doesn’t—” Jason narrowed his eyes. “It wasn’t on a remote timer then. He couldn’t stop it.”
“Risky as hell,” Sonny muttered. “If it was a live—” He bit off his words. “What happened then?”
“I realized it wasn’t a bomb he could turn off, so I hung up on him,” Elizabeth admitted. “I didn’t think it was a great use of my time. Then Jason called — but when he told me the studio was blocked—”
“Back and front—they’d nailed boards to the front,” Jason said, flexing his hands.
“I didn’t think he’d make it in time, so I hung up on him, too,” Elizabeth said with a wince. “I thought about going out the window—”
“That’s four stories down to the alley—” Jason began, clenching his jaw.
“Yeah, so I piled a bunch of stuff in front of the bomb and then hid in the closet. I thought it might block some of the shock waves.” She rubbed her fist against her collarbone, restless. “I read that somewhere.”
Sonny grunted. “Not a terrible idea. Would it have worked?” he asked Jason.
“I don’t know. I got through the door and heard her in the closet. I didn’t stop to look.” Jason paused. “Is that all Sorel said to you?”
“That’s all I gave him a chance to say,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sorry—”
“You did the right thing,” Sonny said with a wave of his hand. “We’ll get some guys down there to look at it. I’ll go supervise,” he told Jason. “You get those hands taken care of.”
“Yeah—” Jason paused. He looked at Elizabeth. “Can you go inside? I’ll be there in a minute.” He reached into the pocket of the jacket she still wore and drew out his keys. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I mean, well, no, but I can manage,” she clarified. Her fingers fumbled as she slid the key into the lock, but then she went inside and closed the door.
She was tempted to press her ear against the door, but she knew she wouldn’t need to do that. Jason and Sonny would make sure she was safe, but she knew she’d made a mistake. She hadn’t taken Jason’s safety concerns seriously, and—
She went over to the sofa, sat down, and clung more tightly to the jacket. She was such an idiot.
Back in the hallway, Jason looked after Elizabeth, his brows pinched together. Was she okay? Was she angry at him? She was going to change her mind, he decided. This wasn’t what she wanted—
Jason blinked, realized Sonny was looking at him. “Sorry.” He cleared his throat, flexed his hands again. Now that some of the adrenaline was fading, he could feel the stings. “What were you saying?”
“Something about this feels wrong,” Sonny repeated. “Sorel calling her? Leaving her a warning? And then the bomb doesn’t go off?”
“There’s also the chance that he meant it to go off and it didn’t. Which means he tried to kill Elizabeth,” Jason said. He swallowed hard. “Because of me—”
“Don’t go there yet,” Sonny warned him. “He wanted her to refuse to alibi you. Whether the two of you are together or not — that doesn’t change the fact that she’s involved. People know it. The PCPD has her in their sights over all of this. Moreno and her part exists either way.” He paused. “You’re scared, but this isn’t the first time people you know have been targeted because of you.”
But it was the first time with Elizabeth. “Sonny—”
“Don’t be stupid, and don’t do anything you can’t take back. You could walk away from her,” Sonny said, and Jason grimaced, “but it won’t change anything. Don’t make my mistake. Sorel had guys watching that building. Guys who just saw you rip your hands apart and bust down doors to get her out.”
“I know all of that,” Jason retorted.
“Okay. Then I’m going to go see what I get from the studio.” Sonny jabbed the elevator button. “Get those hands looked at,” he repeated. “And make sure she’s okay. You’ll feel better when you know she is,” he added.
Jason watched him step on the elevator, and then looked back at the penthouse. He took a deep breath and headed for the door.
Elizabeth was sitting on the sofa, staring blankly at the television that wasn’t even switched on. She turned when he came in, rising to her feet. “Um—” She stripped off the jacket and handed it to him. “I forgot to…”
“It’s okay.” He tossed it on the desk, then went to the closet for the first aid kit. He really didn’t know what to do or say to her. He had that ridiculous conversation with Alexis rolling around in his brain, the threats from Carly — and now Elizabeth was standing in the penthouse, a place she clearly didn’t want to be after a bomb had been set in her home.
“I’m sorry,” she said again. “I—you didn’t want me to be at the studio tonight. You asked me not to go back there.”
Jason remained silent, setting the kit on the desk. That was true, but he also knew if she’d run into Carly — Carly had a way of making people do destructive things. “It’s okay,” he said finally.
“It’s not. You need to know that I know it’s not. You—you need to be able trust that I’ll do what you need me to do with things like this. With safety—and your job, I mean.” Her voice was shaking, but the words made sense to him. “I was going to do that. I was just—” Elizabeth faltered. “I was going to do it tomorrow. Emily had plans tonight, and I just—”
“Didn’t want to come here,” Jason finished. He cleaned off the last of the blood on his hands, then started to close the kit. Instead, Elizabeth came forward to grab it.
“You didn’t clean—” Elizabeth bit her lip and reached for his hands. “It wasn’t about not wanting to come here,” she finished. “I mean—” She took one of the antiseptic pads and pressed it against a particularly nasty gouge in his palm.
“Then what was it about?” Jason asked. “I’m not mad,” he reassured her when she didn’t reply. “I didn’t think the safety thing was such an issue,” he admitted. “If I thought things were bad enough there’d be a bomb, I would have said something. I’m not mad,” he repeated. “I just want to know what I did wrong, so I don’t do it again.”
“Nothing.” Her eyes flew up to meet his. “Nothing! It’s just, um, I thought—staying at the penthouse for a few days—I thought it would mean—” She bit her lip, color staining her cheeks. “I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that—”
Jason started to frown because he didn’t really understand, but then with her next words — “I was going to talk to you about it, and then Carly—”
“Carly,” he muttered. “I knew it.”
“She just…I don’t know. She just has a way of saying things that get in your head,” Elizabeth said in a quiet voice. “Things you know aren’t true the way she means them, but they are a little bit—”
Knowing some of the vile things Carly had spewed to Robin in the past, Jason steeled himself. “What did she say?”
When Elizabeth started to pull back, he wrapped his hands around her wrists to keep her in place. “Elizabeth.”
“She just reminded me that I’m not…” Elizabeth looked away, broke eye contact as a tear slid down her cheek. “I’m not…I can’t—I don’t know if I’ll ever able to trust anyone—even you—because of what happened to me.”
Jason stared at her for a long time, trying to absorb it—trying to wrap his head around all the implications. Elizabeth had been nervous about the penthouse because she thought it meant he expected sex, and then Carly—
“What,” he said, “exactly did she say to you?”
“Why does that matter?” Elizabeth asked. “I just told you—”
“We’ll talk about that,” he told her. “Because that’s important, but I can’t—she came to me first,” he said finally. “And when I didn’t give her the reaction she wanted, she went straight to you. I need to know what she threatened you with.”
“Threatened—” Elizabeth’s eyes were wide. “Is that what she did to you?”
“Yeah. That’s something else we need to talk about,” he admitted. “But she did, didn’t she? She threatened you.”
“Not—not in so many words—” Elizabeth tried to edge away again.
“We need figure it out, Elizabeth—”
“This is just like that night at Vista Point,” she muttered. “You just keep pushing—fine—fine—” She twisted until he released her hands. “Fine. She reminded me that I’m fragile and I’m damaged, okay? Because I don’t like sex, and according to her, you do. Which just means you’ll go back to her when you get bored. Happy now?”
Jason just stared at Elizabeth as she stalked across the room, her back to him. Fragile and damaged. If that’s what Elizabeth had taken from the confrontation with Carly, it meant that somehow, Carly had thrown Elizabeth’s rape in her face and used it to make her feel less.
He exhaled slowly. “Elizabeth,” he began, not having the slightest clue what words he would use to follow that.
“Let’s just not talk about it,” she muttered. “I don’t want to.”
“I get that.” He waited. He knew he couldn’t leave it like this. “So let me talk and then we can drop it, okay? You don’t even have to look at me.”
Fair enough. Okay, so now what? “Carly has an idea of who I am,” he said finally. “Based on how we met. It was only a few months after my accident, and I was still—I don’t know. I was understanding how things worked. She thinks that because I had sex with her while I was interested in Robin that it gave her power over me—and Robin.” And it was humiliating to recount that, to remember how Carly had used that knowledge to try to lure him back to her bed. How she had used it to hurt Robin.
And he remembered that Robin had forgiven him even when he hadn’t really deserved it.
Now Carly was doing it again to hurt Elizabeth. He wouldn’t make the same mistakes. He couldn’t.
“I don’t know why she still thinks that’s true now,” Jason continued. “Robin always knew I couldn’t be Michael’s father because Carly and I haven’t been together that way in three years.” He paused again. “Yeah, I like sex, Elizabeth. That’s not something to be ashamed about.”
“I didn’t mean—” Elizabeth turned to him now, her voice quiet. “I didn’t mean you should be—”
“I know that.” Relieved that she was looking at him now even though she was still across the room, Jason took a step towards her. “You’re not fragile or damaged—”
“Really? You’re not living in my head, Jason, okay? I know—” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her torso. “I know what goes through my mind when we’re together.”
“You’re right. I can’t tell you how to feel about yourself.” And knowing she felt both of those things—that Carly had forced them on her again just to get herself out of trouble—it left a sour taste in his mouth. “I can only tell you how I feel about you. I know you’re—I know you haven’t been with anyone. You told me that about Lucky—”
“I mean technically—”
“Technically doesn’t count,” Jason said with a shake of his head. “And I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that.”
“No. Bobbie said so. And I’ve been to therapy. I get it. But knowing it and feeling it—” She rubbed the side of her face. “I don’t think about it all the time,” she offered. “Days go by, and I don’t. But lately, now we’re—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I knew it would come up—”
He took another step towards her. “What scares you about it?” he asked. “I mean, if you can or want to—”
“I don’t know. That I won’t like any of it,” Elizabeth admitted. She twisted her fingers together in front of her, staring at them. “Or maybe worse. That I will, and then there will be a moment, and then I’ll be back there. It’s the hardest part of it, you know. You never know what’s going to trigger it. Um, sometimes people say something or, once, DJ—the cook at Kelly’s—he just bumped into me in the kitchen and I thought he was grabbing me—” Her throat closed. “I’m scared that if we try—If I try—then it’ll put me back in that night and it’ll ruin everything—”
Her eyes met his, tears still glistening in her lashes. “It’s not about trusting you. I wish it was that simple. I trust you. I trusted Lucky. It’s about trusting myself, and I’m not there yet. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” he demanded, wincing when he heard the roughness of his tone. She flinched. “I didn’t—I just meant this isn’t something you did to yourself, Elizabeth. It was done to you.”
Elizabeth swiped at her tears. “I know. I’ve been in therapy. It’s not my fault. None of it is. But it still feels like there’s something wrong with me.”
Jason had been slowly crossing the room and now he was just in front of her. “You said you trust me.”
“Do you trust me when I tell you that I don’t care if or when we sleep together?” he asked.
Elizabeth made a face. “Jason—” She took a deep, watery breath. “See, I know you meant that to help, but now—”
“What?” he reached for her hands, stopping her from twisting them. “Do you think because I don’t care that it means I don’t want to?” he asked and from the flush in her cheeks, he knew he was right. “I’ve been scared,” he admitted in a low voice, “to show you how much I do want you. Maybe saying I don’t care isn’t the right way. Because I do,” he continued, “and I hope one day you’re ready. But it’s not a dealbreaker. I just like being around you.”
“Jason—” She squeezed her eyes shut. “It’s so frustrating,” Elizabeth muttered.
“Because most of me wants to—” She sighed. “I think maybe I didn’t really believe you were—I mean, that you wanted to have—you know, this is ridiculous. It’s frustrating,” Elizabeth repeated, meeting his eyes and now he saw the flare of irritation, “because if you want me, and I definitely want you, that I don’t get to have that, you know? It shouldn’t be this hard—”
“It’s been less than a week,” Jason cut in. He cupped one of her cheeks, letting his thumb slide over the tear-stained skin. “I can be patient.”
“Yeah, well, patience has never been one of my virtues.” But some of the sadness had dissipated and he knew that he’d managed to reassure her. She smiled at him. “This has been a really weird day.”
“Yeah, and it’s not over yet.” Sensing the storm had passed, he leaned forward to kiss her, but she put her hands on his chest. “I’m sorry—”
“No, no, I just realized—” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “You never told me how Carly threatened you. You said she had and that you’d turned her down so she came to me. What did she say to you?”
Jason winced because he really didn’t want to have this conversation since it just put that insane conversation with Alexis back in his head.
Fortunately for him, before Elizabeth could press further, there was a slight knock on the door and then Sonny pushed it open. “Hey, hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
“No.” Elizabeth cleared her throat and put some space between them. “Do you—um, should I go upstairs? Or whatever—”
“No, I think since the bomb was in your studio, you should at least get to know about it.” Sonny glanced at Jason. “Don’t you think?”
“Yeah. Yeah. The guys already looked?”
“Didn’t take long. The studio isn’t far from the warehouse.” Sonny rocked back on his heels. “Good news and bad news,” he continued. “Bad news, it was a live bomb. It should have detonated.”
Jason exhaled in a rush as he reflexively tightened his grip on Elizabeth’s hand. “But it didn’t.”
“No. Uh, Paulie said you might have made it out with minor injuries,” Sonny told her. “In the closet, I mean, but tough to know for sure. The thing is — there was a wire crossed. The bomb could count down but detonation wouldn’t trigger.”
Elizabeth squinted. “So, was that a mistake?” she asked. “Did he want the bomb to go off or did he just want to scare me?”
“It’s hard to say,” Sonny said slowly, and Jason could tell he was impressed that Elizabeth had made that leap. “The thing is—we don’t know. I’m getting a meeting together, so we’ll see tomorrow.” He hesitated. “You can’t go back to the studio.”
“No, I didn’t think I could. Um—” Elizabeth flicked her eyes to Jason. “I was gonna stay with Emily while you got the door and lock replaced, but I don’t feel—I mean, he could go after her, too.”
“If you were there, yeah. He wanted you to refuse to alibi me,” Jason reminded her. “He doesn’t know you weren’t planning to.” He looked at Sonny. “Do you need anything else from me tonight?” He really didn’t need the other man for the rest of this conversation.
“No, no. You’re good to go. Uh, Happy New Year’s,” Sonny said, gesturing at the clock which had clicked over to midnight when they hadn’t realized. “Call me if you need anything.”
When Sonny was gone, Jason turned back to Elizabeth. “I know everything we just talked about, but—”
“You want me to stay here in the Towers which has better security,” she finished. “I figured.” Elizabeth bit her lip, glancing around the room with its spare furniture. “Um, I’m also guessing maybe the guest rooms aren’t furnished.”
Jason scratched the back of his neck. “Uh, no. Just the one bed. But you take that and I’ll take the sofa—”
“No, no.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “When we were in the studio, you were on the sofa and I was on the floor. I know how to share a space with you Jason.” Her cheeks flushed. “I mean, if you want—”
“If you’re sure.” His skin felt like it was stretched too tight all of a sudden. He cleared his throat. “You can change your mind. Even in the middle of the night.”
“I know. I just—I trust you,” she said. She hesitated. “I guess we should—I mean, unless you don’t have—”
“No, we can—” Go to bed, he finished silently, but saying it out loud didn’t feel right. “Yeah.”
“Right.” Neither of them moved for a minute, then she laughed—with a mixture of embarrassment and nerves. “Can I borrow something to sleep in? I guess a t-shirt or—”
“Yeah. I’ll get you something,” he said immediately, starting for the stairs relieved to have a task. He heard her footsteps behind him and hoped like hell they weren’t making a mistake.
Maybe he should just take the sofa after all.