The penthouse was silent as Carly, Sonny and Jason sat at the dining room table, eating. They didn’t have to discuss the topic of Elizabeth—it was hanging over their heads. Jason practically inhaled his food, anxious to get back downstairs. He didn’t want to leave her there alone long—he wanted another chance to prove that she didn’t need to leave town.
Sonny set his fork down and wiped his lips with a napkin. “Zander called it in. Webber’s been warned. He comes near Liz again and I’m not going to wait for her approval.”
Carly sat back in her chair, and sipped her wine. “I shouldn’t have yelled like that—but I just go so angry. It’s like she’s locked herself in this place and she’s too damn stubborn to let anyone in.”
Jason shoved his chair back and stood. “I’m going back down.”
He wasn’t halfway across the room before the door flew open. Emily rushed in, Nikolas hot on her heels. “She’s gone!”
“What?” Carly yelped, standing. “We’ve barely been gone twenty minutes.”
Emily ran a hand shakily through her hair. “We just got back and I went to try her room—it was open and there were clothes everywhere and a suitcase half packed. It doesn’t look like she took anything—but she’s gone!”
“She’s out there without a guard,” Sonny said. He stood and took out his cell phone. “Johnny, I want every man searching for Elizabeth. Don’t let her know if you see her—just call me and I’ll come get her.”
“Where would she go?” Carly asked.
Emily turned wild eyes to her brother. “She…she wouldn’t go…to…she wouldn’t right? I mean, she’s not…she’s not ready!”
“Em—” Nikolas put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Where wouldn’t she go?”
Jason eyed the man warily but shoved it out of his mind. Elizabeth. She mattered more. “I don’t know, I don’t think she’d go there.’
“You think she went to the Webber Estate,” Carly said. She looked at them both. “She’s definitely not ready—I mean—I don’t know why she’d go there.”
“She’s probably…she’s probably up at Vista Point,” Emily said, trying to convince herself. “That’s where she was the last time—she’s at the point.”
“I’ll go look there. Emily, you and Carly go to the Estate,” Jason said, heading for the door. “Nikolas, wait at the apartment. Sonny, wait here.”
He was out the door before anyone could argue. Carly and Emily exchanged looks before following Jason out the door.
Nikolas looked at Elizabeth’s brother curiously. “He wants me to wait and see if she comes back, doesn’t he?”
“If she does, call Emily. She’ll get the message to everyone,” Sonny replied.
Nikolas nodded. “All right.” He turned towards the door.
“You’re not going to ask what’s going on?” Sonny asked, surprised.
Nikolas glanced back and shrugged. “If Liz wants to tell me, she’ll tell me. If not, that’s her choice. I just want to help wherever I’m needed.”
Elizabeth rang the doorbell and waited a few moments. When no one answered, she pushed the heavy oak door open.
She walked into the elegantly decorated hallway and tuned her ears for voices. She passed the first sitting room and saw Katherine Webber sitting and sipping tea Elizabeth knew was laced with whiskey.
At the sound of Elizabeth’s cold voice, Katherine looked up and saw her. “Lizzie?” She stood, and swayed for a moment. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to ask you something,” Elizabeth said. She stared at her mother and realized for the first time how much she looked like her. The dark hair, porcelain skin that bruised easily. The high cheekbones and small figures. Katherine had brown eyes though. Elizabeth had never met Mike Corbin, but she knew her blue eyes came from him. “Why?”
“Darling?” Katherine asked, slightly confused. “Why what?”
“Why…why didn’t you love me?” Elizabeth quietly. She leaned against the door frame and stared past her mother. “Why did you look the other way? Why didn’t you ever stop him? There are so many questions, Mother. I just don’t think you care enough to answer.”
Katherine’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh, my darling, I tried to stop him, I did, I promise. But…I learned my lesson. He would have killed me, took away my children. I tried not to show too much affection towards you—I knew that would only enrage your father. I didn’t want to give him a reason.” She reached towards her daughter. “But I loved you—you were born out of the only love I’ve ever known, Elizabeth.”
“Then why?” Elizabeth asked, her voice hoarse. “Why didn’t you love me enough to take me away?”
“He wouldn’t have let me leave!” Katherine cried. “I tried once—I left him for your real father. But Mike didn’t love me as much—and he was convinced to leave town. I had no choice. Sarah and Steven were here. I couldn’t leave them.”
“So you sacrificed me to save them,” Elizabeth said quietly. She turned away only to stare into Jeff’s face.
“Well, Lizzie. We meet again.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and took a step back. Jeff took a step forward. “Your little bodyguard isn’t here now.”
“Jeff, leave her alone,” Katherine pleaded. “Haven’t you done enough damage?”
“Quiet,” Jeff ordered, never taking his eyes off Elizabeth. “Isn’t it interesting to know so little has changed? That your mother will never stop me…and that you’re still as scared now as you were thirteen years go. You’re weak, Lizzie. And weak people always get what they deserve.”
As Elizabeth stared into the face that haunted her and heard the voice that terrified her, for the first time…she registered the words. And for the first time, she felt something other than terror. Other than self-loathing.
Something in Elizabeth Webber woke up that day in July. As she stared at the man who was supposed to have been her father—who was supposed to have loved her and taken care of her, Elizabeth felt an emotion she was familiar with. Something she’d felt the night she’d cold-cocked Frank Verruchio.
Elizabeth Webber discovered that she not only hated Jeff Webber, she loathed and detested the very sight of him. And for the first time in his presence, Elizabeth wasn’t a scared little girl screaming for him to stop.
Elizabeth Webber was an angry young woman who’d lost her innocence early. Who’d spent her life shutting people out—a woman who at this very moment wanted nothing more than to kill the man standing before her.
Something in Elizabeth Webber snapped that day. She stared into Jeff’s eyes and she felt the terror melt away as she saw what Jeff really looked like. He was older than the last time she’d seen him—his hair a little more gray, he was a little heavier, and he had more wrinkles. A small smile came over her face as she realized that for the first time in her entire life…she wasn’t scared.
Jeff looked at the brunette in front of him and was startled as the smile played on her face. Her expression was different—he could see it from here. She wasn’t scared—she wasn’t crying, or shrinking away. She was holding her stance in front of him—her fists clenched and her eyes cold.
With another moment of hesitation, Elizabeth drove her knee into his groin. Jeff’s face was more stunned than pained as he leaned over in pain. Without giving him a chance to recover, Elizabeth slammed her fist into his face. Jeff fell to the floor and Elizabeth wasted no time straddling him and pounding his face.
“I hate you!” she cried, feeling the blood on her hands. “How does it feel? Do you like being hit? Do you like feeling powerless? Huh? How do you like it?” she shrieked. She clutched his hair in her fingers and started slamming his head down on the floor. “I hate you!”
The next few moments were a blur as Katherine Webber came forward to try and remove Elizabeth from Jeff’s prone body and as Carly and Emily burst into the doorway. Carly took one look at the hellion beating the shit out Jeff Webber and wanted to cheer. But sensibility took over and she and Emily hauled Elizabeth off Jeff, kicking and screaming.
Jeff was unconscious and before Katherine even realized what she was doing, she gave him a sharp kick to the ribs. She looked at Elizabeth who was breathing heavily and crying. “I think…I think you’d be better off leaving. I…don’t want you to be here when he wakes.” Katherine swallowed hard. “If he wants to press charges…I’ll back you up. I’ll go to the station and we’ll make a full statement about all the years of abuse. I promise you, Elizabeth. I will do anything to ensure he never hurts you again.”
Elizabeth stared at her normally soft-spoken mother and started to cry more. Carly and Emily let go, and Katherine embraced her daughter. “I love you,” Elizabeth whispered.
Katherine hugged her daughter back. “Be happy, darling.”
Carly and Emily reported back to Sonny as the three of them drove back to the penthouse. Elizabeth made a quick trip to the apartment to clean the blood off her hands and to change. Nikolas raised his eyebrows as he took Elizabeth’s appearance in, but to his credit, as usual he said nothing.
Elizabeth went up to Jason’s penthouse to wait for him to return from Vista Point. Sonny had gotten a hold of him and let him know they’d found her.
Elizabeth was sitting quietly in the dark when Jason burst in. He flipped the lights on and stared at her. “You really beat the shit out of him.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah…and you know what?” she gave him a weak smile. “It felt good.”
“Are you all right?” he asked. He dropped his keys on the table and made his way to her. She took the first step and hugged him tightly.
“You know what?” she said, her voice slightly muffled by his chest. “I think…I think I might be finally on my way to being all right.”
Jason closed his eyes and leaned his head on top of her hair. “Good.”
“I mean…it’s not over,” she said, tightening her hold on him. “I’ll probably still have nightmares and I’ll still be slightly irrational, but he doesn’t…he can’t hurt me anymore, Jason. He’s a weak, pathetic old man and he can’t hurt me anymore.” He didn’t say anything but she didn’t need hear anything. They stood there for another few minutes before she pulled away. “I’m sorry,” she said, hesitantly. “I know…I know that I put you through a lot—especially these last few days and I…I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right,” Jason assured her. “You were dealing with this the only way you knew how—just because I didn’t agree with your reasoning…it doesn’t make it wrong or right.”
She bit her lip and looked at her curiously. “You would have let me leave, wouldn’t you?” she asked quietly.
Jason put his hands in his pocket and looked away. “If it hurt you to stay, yeah. I would have argued with you—but I would have let you leave.”
“I was going to, you know.” Elizabeth crossed her arms and sighed. “I was packing when an old family portrait fell out of one of my books. I was looking at my mother—and I was wondering why hadn’t she loved me…why had it been so easy for her to let Jeff beat me? I don’t even know why I went, but the next thing I knew…I was at the house. I was talking to her and I was going to leave—but he showed up instead. He started telling me how things hadn’t changed—that I was still scared. He said that I was weak and that weak people got what they deserved.”
Jason’s fist clenched involuntarily and he idly wondered if Elizabeth would let him finish what she started. Before he could ask, she continued.
“I should have been scared—but I just…I don’t know. Suddenly, I was angry. I mean, how dare he tell me I was weak? I endured thirteen years of his beatings and I’d made it anyway—I’d survived. I wasn’t perfect, and he still terrified me, but I’d made it. The last thing I am is weak. I’m not the strongest person—but weak, no. I was so angry—something snapped and I just started hitting him.” She smiled briefly. “I just wanted him to feel as helpless and powerless as I did. Just once…if I could show him that…than I thought I might be able to die happy, you know? If just once, he understood. I don’t think he did…but I’m not scared of him anymore. Do you know…do you know how unbelievably free I feel?”
Jason didn’t answer at first. He studied her. She still looked tired—there were still dark circles under her eyes. But her actual eyes…they were shining. There was a light in them that hadn’t been there before. She looked…free.
“Yeah,” he said, finally. “Yeah, I think I know.”
She smiled and peered up at him. “I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you, too.”
“I need a vacation,” Carly grumbled. She reclined on the couch, an ice pack on her jaw where Elizabeth had accidentally clocked her. She looked to Sonny. “I was thinking…how possible is a vacation to the island? I think we could use a little paradise.”
Sonny sat on the other end of the couch. “I’ll run it by Liz and Jason. You want to invite Emily and her boyfriend?”
Carly nodded firmly. “Emily put a lot of grunt work in with this. I think we’re due for time off. And that boyfriend of hers was incredibly understanding—he’s a good guy.”
“Emily called AJ right?” Sonny asked, pulling Carly’s legs into his lap. He started giving her a foot massage.
“Mmm…yeah. AJ told her to tell Liz that he’s proud of her, but he’s currently bankrupting Jeff Webber, so he’ll be a little busy.” Carly tried to grin but it hurt too much. “I like that kid.”
“You want to invite that part of the family, too?” Sonny asked.
“Hell, why not? I think the island can hold all of us. What do you say?”
The sun was only rising when Elizabeth stirred the next morning. She looked at Jason sleeping peacefully next to her and she smiled. She laid her head back on his chest and looked out the window as the sun made its way over the harbor.
She hadn’t had a nightmare the night before and other than her bruised fists, the only remnant of Jeff Webber’s years of abuse was the wrecked room at her apartment.
“I love you,” Elizabeth whispered, snuggling into his embrace.
The sun was just starting to rise—on the rest of her life.