Emily passed Elizabeth’s slightly open door and paused. She slid it open and looked in. Elizabeth was sleeping in her own bed for the first time in nearly a week. She frowned. Not a good sign.
Nikolas came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “What’s wrong?”
“Beth’s home,” Emily replied, pulling the door shut. She turned to face him. “She hasn’t spent the night here since last Friday.”
“She’s not allowed to come home?” Nikolas asked. He led her down the hallway and towards the kitchen.
“It’s not that. It’s just…I guess I thought she’d be staying with Jase a little longer.” Emily reached into the fridge and pulled out the carton of eggs and a package of bacon. “Will you start the toast?”
“Sure.” Nikolas opened the cabinet and removed the loaf of bread.
As Emily started frying the bacon, she looked at Nikolas and felt a little guilty. Last night had been her first night back at the apartment since Saturday. She’d fully expected Elizabeth to stay another few days. She wondered if Nikolas felt left out. She knew her friendship with her brothers and Elizabeth could be intimidating—it was like this whole separate thing that was difficult to share with other people. Add to the fact Nikolas had no idea what Elizabeth was going through and that she’d been neglecting him…it made her feel all the more guilty.
“What’s wrong?” Nikolas’s voice broke Emily’s train of thought.
Emily flipped the bacon and turned to him. “What?”
“You’ve got that look on your face. What’s wrong?”
Emily sighed. She moved the bacon around; the sizzling sound was oddly comforting. “I’m just feeling guilty. You’re so good to put up with me.”
“Why do you say that?” Nikolas asked, pulling the finished toast out of the toaster and putting more bread in.
“Because I’ve been spending so much time with Beth and Jason these last few weeks…because I haven’t been able to tell you what’s going on,” Emily murmured. She started putting the bacon on the plate.
“Well…I’ll admit,” Nikolas began, pulling a butter knife out of the drawer. “I’ll admit that I have been a little irritated.” He started buttering the toast. “But I know something’s wrong with Liz. And I know she’s your best friend. So I do understand.”
Emily cracked two eggs into another frying pan. “You’re amazing, do you know that?” She sprinkled some salt and pepper onto it. “I mean, most guys would have, like, made ultimatums by now.”
Nikolas put the butter down and pulled Emily into his arms. “Listen, Quartermaine,” he began. “One of the things I love most about you is that you do drop everything when a friend needs you. You have such a big heart and I know how much Liz means to you. And how much being with your brothers means to you. I also know that asking you to choose between me and them…that would be a dumb thing…because I know I wouldn’t win.”
Emily kissed him softly. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” He glanced at the eggs. “You’d better get back to those.”
Emily smiled and turned back to flip the eggs. After a few more minutes, she put them on a plate and cracked two more in.
“So, Em…I’ve been thinking,” Nikolas said, buttering more toast.
“Dangerous past time,” Emily murmured, grinning at him.
“I leave for school in a few weeks,” Nikolas continued ignoring her comment.
“I know,” Emily said, wrinkling her nose. “And you won’t be home until Thanksgiving.”
“Hey, we made it through last year,” Nikolas reminded her. “And we need to work out the weekends I’m coming home and the ones you’re coming down.”
Emily nodded, flipping the eggs. “Yep.”
“And I was thinking…I graduate in two years.”
“Yes…?” Emily prompted. She put the eggs on another plate. “You done with the toast?”
“You’re not going to make any for Liz?”
Emily shook her head. “She doesn’t eat eggs.”
“I’m done then.” Nikolas grabbed that and the plate of bacon. They moved to the table and Emily got them glasses of orange juice. “Anyway, like I was saying…maybe after that…we could…”
“Could what?” Emily asked, sipping her orange juice.
“Get married,” Nikolas finished in a rush.
Emily stared at him. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah….” Nikolas hesitated. “Unless you don’t want to…and then it’s a complete joke.”
Emily grinned. “Of course I want to!”
Nikolas let out a relived breath and grinned back to her. “But I want to make this clear—this isn’t the official proposal…we’re just discussing it.”
“Oooh, we’re saving that huh?” Emily asked.
“I want it to be perfect.”
Emily tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Will you be there?”
“And I’ll be there.”
“Then it’ll be perfect,” Emily said firmly.
Carly glared at the answering machine. “You stupid little twit.”
“Uh, Mrs. Corinthos?” Elton asked, poking his head in the door. “The photographer called. Ms. Campbell hasn’t shown.”
“And she’s not going to,” Carly said, gritting her teeth. “Laura just left me a message. The little brat took off to London last night to elope with Laura’s son.”
“Laura’s son?” Elton said. “I thought he was dating Miss Quartermaine. Pity, she’s a lovely girl.”
“Not Nikolas. Lucky,” Carly clarified. “We just launched her on Friday! How could she do this!”
Emily poked her head in the office. “Hey, I guess you’ve heard.”
“You knew?” Carly demanded.
“Found out yesterday.” Emily wrinkled her nose. “Never saw Gia as Lucky’s type.”
Carly glared at the prints of Gia that were on her desk. “What am I supposed to do now?” she demanded. “We need a Face and we went through dozens of applicants. Gia was the best for the job!”
“And now she’s gone,” Emily said. “I know it sucks.”
“That stupid….” Carly trailed off and studied Emily. “You know, you’re a pretty girl.”
“Wait…what?” Emily stared at Carly like she’d grown a third head. Suddenly, Carly’s intentions became clear. “Oh, no…no, no…”
Carly stood and smiled. “Yes, yes, yes. I don’t know why we didn’t see this before! Emily, you’re gorgeous! You’d be perfect!”
“Carly, you’re nuts.”
“Please, Em!” Carly pleaded. “Just do a test shoot! It’d only be until we found someone else! Please!”
Emily sighed. “If I do this…test shoot…and I suck, you’ll drop it right?”
Carly nodded eagerly. “Definitely. But you won’t suck, I promise.”
Emily folded her arms, irritated. “I can’t believe I’m letting you talk me into this.” She checked her watch. “Listen, I need to go. AJ’s coming back today, and me and Jase are meeting him at Kelly’s.”
Emily paused at the door. “Beth isn’t home. She was sleeping there when I got up, but when I got back from walking Nikolas out of the building, she was gone. I checked with my brother, but she’s not there either.”
Carly frowned. “Didn’t you sleep at home last night?”
“So did Beth,” Emily replied.
“She went home and Jason hasn’t seen her since?” Carly asked. Her frown deepened. “That can’t be a good sign.”
“She’s had a rough week,” Emily said. “I don’t think we should analyze her actions.”
Carly nodded. “You’re right.”
“Anyway, I’d better get going. I just stopped by to let you know about Gia. See ya.”
Emily entered Kelly’s and spied her brothers sitting at a table. “Hey!”
AJ stood to receive his sister’s hug. “Hey!”
Emily pulled away and they say down. “You’re back for the rest of the summer, right?”
“Right,” AJ confirmed. “How are things here?”
Emily looked at Jason. “Did you tell him yet?”
Jason shook his head. “I was waiting for you.”
“What’s going on?” AJ asked, looking at them. He turned his head back towards the door. “Where’s Liz?”
Emily bit her lip. “Beth…Jeff Webber’s back in town.”
AJ’s fists clenched on the table. “Did she see him?”
Jason looked away. “Yeah. She didn’t take it well.”
Emily tucked her hair behind her ears. “I’m worried about her, quite frankly. She had a rough first night and then seemed to be coming back a little. But she’s disappeared today and no one’s seen her.” Emily looked to Jason. “Why did she come home last night?”
Jason looked down at the table. “She’s—uh—trying to get her life back on track. Going back to the apartment, going to work, etc.”
“That’s a good thing,” AJ said. “Right?”
“But Webber’s still in town,” Emily replied. “How can we keep him from seeing her?”
“He’s looking for her,” Jason said, his teeth clenched. “He came to the Towers last night. Carly fended him off.”
“What in the hell does he want?” Emily demanded. “So help me god when I see him…” She shook her head. “It doesn’t do any good to think about that. We’ll only make ourselves go nuts.”
“You’re right,” AJ agreed. “We’ll wait until Liz is here.” He took a deep breath. “We still planning on stopping by the mansion?”
“Yes,” Emily said. “In fact, Mom and Dad are still probably at the hospital, so the best time would be to go now.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Jason asked as the trio stood. “The last time you and Grandfather were in the same room…”
AJ shrugged. “I went to see him in the hospital when he had the heart attack. If it hadn’t been for Dad, I might have patched it up with the old man.”
“Well, we’d better get going. Wouldn’t want to run into the rest of the family,” Emily said.
They called from the car so Lila was waiting in the living room when they arrived. The three of them sat down after greeting her.
“Where’s Grandfather?” Emily asked.
Lila laughed. “Old fool wanted to wait until you got here. He wanted to make sure you really wanted to see him.”
Emily laughed. “Where is he? Is he on the terrace?”
Edward Quartermaine entered—from the terrace doors. “Hello.”
Emily stood and for the first time since she moved out, she hugged her grandfather tightly. “It’s good to see you.”
Jason shook his hand and then AJ stood.
“Hello,” Edward said.
“Grandfather,” AJ said stiffly.
“I’ve forgiven you for blackmailing me,” Edward said firmly.
“And I’m pretty much over the whole wanting to get me arrested thing,” AJ replied.
“As long as we’re straight,” Edward replied. The siblings reseated themselves and Edward took a seat in the chair across from Lila. “I’m very glad to have the three of you here.”
“We’re glad to be here,” Emily replied, sincerely. “I’ve missed coming here.”
“It’s been a lonely place since you moved out, dear,” Edward said. “I didn’t realize how much I was used to greeting you and Elizabeth after school.” He looked around. “Where is she? I’ve hardly seen Jason without her.”
Jason looked at him oddly. “You’ve only seen me once since I’ve been back.”
“Around the town,” Edward clarified. He cleared his throat. “Her father and mother are living in their home again.”
“We know,” AJ said, stiffly.
“I’ve never liked Jeff Webber,” Edward mused. “Very cold man, didn’t have a lot of affection in him.”
Jason studied his grandfather and wondered if Elizabeth’s suspicions about Edward knowing about the abuse were right. Edward saw Jeff only socially and in business meetings. Was it possible?
“I don’t like him either,” AJ replied. “I think that’s the first thing we’ve agreed on.”
“Has he seen Elizabeth?” Edward asked.
Emily and AJ traded looks. “Why?”
“I know that he and Elizabeth didn’t get along—I know she’s not fond of him. He came here. Wanting to know where she lived. Alan told him she was at the Towers, but I cut him off before he said anything else.”
“Thanks,” Jason said gratefully. “And he has seen her.”
“Poor girl. She’s lucky—she’s not his biological daughter,” Edward said firmly. “But Corinthos and his wife—they seem to take good care of her.”
“They do,” Emily assured him. “Elizabeth couldn’t ask for a better family.”
“Make sure she knows she’s always welcome here,” Lila said. “We consider her part of the family.”
“I’m sorry,” AJ said suddenly. All eyes turned on him. “I’m sorry I ever took a drink. I’d do anything to take back what I’ve done to this family. I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right, darling,” Lila said, reaching to pat his hand. “No one blames you.”
AJ’s eyes shifted to Edward. “That true?”
Edward shifted in his seat. “Yes. It took a long time…but it’s true for me. What happened to this family…we let it happen. We self-destructed. We let the three of you walk away and until my…episode two years ago…I was ready to believe it was it was all your fault. But since then, I’ve had a lot time to think. I’m…I’m not as young as I used to be.” He suddenly glared at them. “But I’m not going to be dying any time soon.”
Emily grinned. “I believe that.”
“But I’d like to have my grandchildren and their family around me. So, I’m ready to bury the hatched if you are, AJ.”
AJ stuck his hand out. “Deal.”
Edward shook it. “Welcome home.”