An hour or so later, Jason came down the steps to meet with Sonny in his office. Elizabeth was standing in the foyer, reapplying her lipstick in the mirror. Her hair had been pulled up into some sort of complicated twist with some pieces hanging down.
She wore a strapless silk red gown that clung to her upper body and flowed her hips and legs. He paused halfway down and took a deep breath. “You look incredible.”
She turned to face him, and he swallowed hard. How could she have grown up so fast in just three years?
“Thank you,” she murmured. She glanced at the clock on the wall. “Alexander’s picking me up for the opera in a few minutes.”
“So, you like this guy?” he asked after a moment. He stepped off the step and went towards her.
“I’m marrying him, Jason. Of course I like him,” she remarked coolly. She slid the tube of lipstick in her purse.
“We both know why you’re marrying him.” Jason braced a hand on the wall next to her. “I…Sonny told me about the arrangement three years ago.”
She paled. “T-three years ago?”
“I wanted to…I need to talk to you about it actually.” He stepped towards her. “That’s the reason–” He broke off when the doorbell rang. “Elizabeth–”
“I have to go,” she said, hurriedly. She smiled at him briefly before heading for the door. She pulled it open, giving Jason a tiny glimpse of the dark-haired man waiting for her on the step. But then she was gone.
Elizabeth smiled nervously. “Hello.”
Alexander Castellano smiled and offered her his arm. “Good evening, darling. Are you ready?”
She nodded and put her arm through his. “I’m looking forward to it.”
He escorted her to the limo and the driver opened the door for them. Once they were inside, Alexander placed his hand on her knee. “You look lovely.”
She shifted uncomfortably. “Thank you.”
“Have you thought about what we talked about?” he asked her.
“I just don’t feel comfortable…I mean…” Elizabeth hesitated. “I don’t think I should spend the night until after wedding.”
He laughed. “Don’t be old-fashioned, love. No one waits until after marriage.”
“I want to,” Elizabeth said firmly. She shifted away from his touch. “Please don’t pressure me, Alexander.”
“I’m not pressuring you, Elizabeth. I merely just wish to sample the goods.” He grinned at her–the expression sending a strange chill down her spine. His hand settled on her knee again and started to slide up her thigh. She tossed it off.
“I don’t know what you’re holding out for,” he complained. “I’m going to have you one way or another.”
“Then I don’t know what the rush is,” Elizabeth said shortly. She took a deep breath and forced the nauseous feeling down. Not a date had gone by without Alexander touching her in some way or trying to persuade her to go further than a goodnight kiss. She was scared to death of her wedding night–the night she couldn’t tell him no or to wait.
“Alexander, I said no. I want to wait.”
“And I don’t want to,” Alexander argued. He slid a hand over her breast and squeezed it possessively. Elizabeth twisted away from his touch and he ended up pinning her against the window. She yelped and brought her knee up to his groin. He gasped and rolled away from her.
Tears streaming down her face and not caring that the car was moving, Elizabeth opened the car door and luckily for her, they weren’t moving very fast due to traffic and hadn’t left Brooklyn yet. She launched herself out of the car and started running back towards the house, kicking off her heels when they slowed her down. She could hear the car screech to a stop and footsteps behind her.
But she was at her door before Alexander reached her and she shoved it open and slammed it shut behind her, sinking to the floor in tears.
The sound of that as well as Alexander pounding on the door brought Sonny and Jason out of his office.
Jason halted in his tracks at the sight of a disheveled Elizabeth on the floor. Sonny frowned from behind him. “Honey?”
“He…” Elizabeth choked back a sob and fumbled with the lock–scared to death that he’d get inside. “He tried to…”
Sonny’s eyes went deadly flat but his voice was calm and even when he spoke. “Jason, take her upstairs while I deal with Mr. Castellano.”
Jason nodded and strode forward to pull Elizabeth to her feet. She was trembling so badly she could hardly walk so he lifted her off her feet and headed up the stairs. Once he heard his daughter’s door shut, Sonny unlocked the front door to see a furious Alexander Castellano on his step.
“Your daughter is out of control,” the younger man spit out.
Sonny nodded. “My daughter who just ran in here like she was running for her life, who was crying and barely able to speak…she’s out of control?” He shook his head–almost sounding amused but there was an edge to his voice that said differently. This was the man he was marrying his little girl off to.
Over his dead body.
“There are a lot of things I can overlook,” Sonny began calmly. “In our line of business, we’re certainly not good men. But the one thing that I cannot tolerate is a man who doesn’t respect a woman’s right to say no and I think that’s exactly what happened.”
“What are you saying, Corinthos?” Alexander demanded. “That because I tried to take what’s mine–”
“Elizabeth is not yours,” Sonny seethed. “And nothing about her belongs to you. Get away from my house.”
“I hope you’re not doing what I think you’re doing,” Alexander said coolly. “You know it’s in your best interest to go forward with this wedding.”
“And it’s in your best interest to get away from my house,” Sonny repeated. He slammed the door and looked towards the stairs with regret in his eyes.
He sat down on her bed with her still clutching at him. Her arms were wrapped around his neck so tightly he could barely breathe but he didn’t care. As long as she was safe.
When Jason could feel her body start to calm down, he eased her away a little to look at her face. “Hey, you okay?”
She nodded, her lips pressed firmly together. “Just don’t…don’t let me go, okay?”
He cupped the back of her head and pulled it back down into the crook of his shoulder. “I won’t. I promise.”
“He didn’t…he didn’t really hurt me,” Elizabeth whispered. “He just…he touched me a-and I was scared that he wasn’t going to stop and he–he pushed me against the door b-but I kneed him and jumped out of the car.”
“You jumped out of a moving car?” Jason said. He immediately started moving his hands up and down her legs, looking for injuries.
“We weren’t going very fast…” Elizabeth took her hands from around his neck and stared at them a little confused. “I just scraped my hands.”
He slid her out of his lap and kneeled in front of her to take her hands in his. “I should get a first aid kit or something.”
“Jason…” she stopped him before he could stand. “You found about this…arrangement three years ago. Was that…is that why…” she trailed off and looked away.
“That’s one of the reasons, yes.” He touched her cheek and sighed. “You were fifteen, Elizabeth. You were so young. I was twenty–”
“You were right though,” she interrupted. She stared at some of the blood pooling in her cupped palms. “I was too young then. You were older than me–you would have gotten into a lot of trouble.”
“I’m just sorry that I didn’t see that then,” she said softly. “Maybe you wouldn’t have left.”
“No, no, I didn’t leave because of you.” He hesitated. “Well, you had something to do with it but it wasn’t your fault. Elizabeth, I realized–”
There was a knock on the door and Sonny edged his way in. “Honey?”
Elizabeth took a deep breath and quickly hid her injured hands. “I’m okay,” she told him.
“Alexander is gone.” Sonny took a deep breath. “But we’re going to have to discuss the future soon.”
Jason frowned. “The son of a bitch put his hands on her. The only future we need to discuss is whether or not he has one.”
“Jason,” Elizabeth protested. She started to reach out for him but remembered her scraped hands and resisted.
“It’s not that simple and you know it,” Sonny told the younger man firmly. “But we’ll talk about it later. I’m sure Elizabeth just wants to get some sleep.”
There was some silence as Jason waited for Sonny to leave so he could finish talking to Elizabeth and eventually the older man understood. He kissed his daughter on the forehead and reluctantly left the room.
“We’d better get your hands cleaned up.” He crossed to the bathroom and reached underneath the sink for a first aid kit.
He sat next to her on the bed and started cleaning her hands. “You know what my first memory of being here is?”
“What?” she asked, wincing as the peroxide stung her a little. He brought her hands closer to his lips and blew it on a little to take the bite of the sting away.
“You hugged me,” Jason told her. “You were five years old–I still remember it like it was yesterday, y’know?” When she didn’t say anything, he went on. “You were so tiny–you still are but, wow…I think I could have picked you up with one hand back then.”
“You weren’t so big yourself,” she teased. She glanced up from her hands to meet his eyes. “I didn’t really understand then, you know? I just thought Ric was bringing me home a new play toy.”
He laughed and applied a bandage to her left hand. “Your mother had done your hair in these little sausage kind of curls. And you had a white lacy dress on with ribbons in your hair to match.” He finished her second hand. “You hugged me and I…you smelled like chocolate and vanilla.”
Her eyes teared a little. “You smelled a lot like dirt,” Elizabeth replied.
“That was the first time I could remember anyone touching me in affection,” he admitted. “I never knew my father and my mother wasn’t that kind of person. But you hugged me. Without reservation–didn’t even care where’d I been…it…it meant a lot to me.”
He turned her hands over and moved his thumbs in tiny circles over the back of them. “A lot of people would think it was stupid or just…not possible but…your mother understood it.”
“What?” she asked faintly.
“That it was possible to fall in love when you’re ten years old,” he confessed in a quiet voice. He heard her breath hitch. “Not only is it possible–but for guys, you practically have to be hit over the head with the knowledge, you know?”
“Jason…” Elizabeth licked her lips. “I don’t…understand.”
“It took a long time for me to accept that and even admit that to myself.” He released her hands and took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. “But I have now and I just thought you should have that information in hand when you talk to your father about that jackass.”
She hesitated, her eyes darting down. “I…I don’t…I don’t know what to think. I…”
“I don’t expect you to make any kind of decisions tonight–it’s been a bad night but I just needed you to know the truth.” He kissed her forehead and stood. “Your hands are gonna sting but you’ll live.”
He left then and she stared at the door for a few moments wondering if she’d just been hallucinating.