Carly stood in the hallway glaring at Johnny. “Let me in.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Corinthos. Sonny said no one was coming in.” Johnny shifted. Staring down the boss’s wife was almost as dangerous as guarding the boss.
“I’m not just anyone,” Carly gritted her teeth, her eyes narrowed. “I am his wife. That is my home.”
“Please, Mrs. Corinthos. He said it wouldn’t be long.” Johnny fidgeted. Carly heard the elevator ding and a few moments later, Elizabeth appeared around the corner.
“Hey, Johnny. I’ve got some information for Sonny,” she said. Johnny stepped aside to open the door. Carly smacked him in the arm.
“If I don’t go in, she doesn’t.”
Elizabeth smirked. “Johnny, open the door.”
Johnny stared between the two women. The boss’s wife. The boss’s sister. Good lord. He’d rather take a bullet.
“Johnny, let me in,” Elizabeth repeated. “Sonny needs this information.”
“I need to go in and take a long bath. I am exhausted,” Carly whined. “You let her in; you won’t be able to keep me out. ”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and knocked on the door. “You could have knocked, Johnny.” She turned to Carly. “How long have you been waiting?”
“Too long,” Carly muttered.
“Oh, and you and me need to have a serious talk,” Elizabeth said. “But it’ll have to wait.”
Sonny jerked the door open. “Damn it, Johnny-” He stopped. “Oh, Liz. Come in.”
Carly barged in before Elizabeth. “Don’t mind me, just going upstairs. See ya later.”
Elizabeth moved past Sonny and waited until he closed the door. She took a deep breath. “The contacts in Florida agree with me. It’s more than likely Verruchio moving in.”
Sonny nodded. “Why?”
“Well, I found out that that Chosky wanted Verruchio taken care of because he tried to take over the territory there. He moved in the dealers first, then prostitutes. He got as far as trying to plant drugs in one of their warehouses before Chosky put out the hit. But it went wrong and Verruchio went underground. He showed up here before Sorel was arrested and he was running the territory there briefly, but after Sorel went to Death Row, we took over the territory. Which is probably why Verruchio’s back.”
Sonny nodded. “Makes sense. So we can expect prostitution next?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Oh, and just before I left the warehouse, Chosky called personally. He says if we get a hold of Verruchio, he’d like to fly up and witness whatever happens.”
“Not a problem,” Sonny agreed. “Chosky’s been good to us, keeps the island safe.”
Elizabeth nodded. “I’ll call him back and let him know.” She hesitated. “What else do you need?”
“I want to you get all of Verruchio’s financial records. Find out where he might be vulnerable. I want to eliminate him before he makes any real trouble.”
“I’ll head back to the warehouse now,” Elizabeth said. “Could you tell Carly to call me later? We have something we need to discuss.”
“I’ll give you a ride back.” Jason took a step forward.
“No, I’m fine, really,” Elizabeth said, smiling. “Thanks. I’ll call you if I find anything.” She walked out of the penthouse.
Sonny eyed Jason strangely. “Things certainly have changed.”
Jason immediately went on the defensive. “What? I don’t want her walking around the docks.”
Sonny nodded. “Mmm-hmm…just remember…she’s my sister.”
“I know that.”
“And I want her to be happy.”
“Of course you do,” Jason replied, a little unsure where this conversation was heading.
“And you know I think the world of you.”
“All right.” Suddenly, Jason had a pretty good idea.
“And I want you to be happy too.”
“Okay, Sonny, stop right-”
“And I think Liz is just the girl to make that happen.”
Jason just shook his head. “Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“Why? Did you already make a move on her?” Sonny demanded, switching into big brother mode. “What did you do?”
“Hey, I didn’t do anything. Carly’s trying to set us up and we figured it out at the warehouse today. She’s the one who told me it wouldn’t work.”
“Oh.” Sonny nodded. “Well, all right then.”
“Okay,” Jason said, slightly confused. “I think I’m going to go now. I’m going to go check in with Emily.”
Before he reached the door, Carly flew down the steps, “Oh, Jason! You’re still here!” she said, grinning. “I need to talk to you.” She eyed Sonny, “Privately.”
Jason and Sonny exchanged looks before Jason shrugged, “All right. Come over to my apartment.”
She followed him across the hall and into the penthouse. Once the door was closed, she pounced. “How do you feel about Liz?”
Jason groaned, “Carly-”
“No avoiding the question. We’re friends. I love Sonny. So, you know how I feel about him. How do you feel about Liz?” Carly repeated.
Jason shook his head. “I knew how you felt about Sonny and I’m not telling you anything.”
Carly crossed her arms. “I thought we were friends.”
“Then why don’t you trust me?” Carly asked, carefully injecting a note of hurt into her voice. “I always tell you everything. I just want to help.”
Jason sighed and sat on the couch. “Do you really want to know?”
She grinned and flopped on the couch next to him. “Yes.”
He leaned in. “None of your business.”
Carly swore and smacked him with a pillow. “Come on, Jason.”
He let his head fall against the couch. “Can I trust you to keep this to yourself?”
Carly bit her lip. That didn’t bode well for the plan – but hell, she was curious! “Yes.”
Jason was silent for a few minutes. Carly knew this was typical Jason behavior and did her best not to fidget. She’d keep the details to herself—of course. But she would let Emily know if their plan had a pray of working. She had a sneaking suspicion Liz may be on them.
“I care about her,” Jason said finally. “It’s not that I feel sorry for her – because of what happened at the hospital. I mean, I do feel sorry for her. Whatever she’s going through has got to be difficult, but that’s not it either. She came to me the night she had the panic attack and apologized for the way we’d been acting towards each other. She just blamed herself, said it was her fault. I disagree. Yeah, she’d shoot the first remark out, but I gave as good as I got.”
Carly cracked her knuckles. “Liz apologized?” she asked, skeptical.
“She said it was because before the accident, she and Jason Quartermaine related on a sarcastic level and that she’d been doing the same with me. That apparently I didn’t have the sense of humor – and she’s right. I don’t. So we agreed to try and be friends the normal way.”
“And then she had the attack,” Carly said, prompting him to continue.
“Yeah, I still don’t know what’s going on and she says she doesn’t want me to help like I did before. That she couldn’t handle losing me again. I don’t know how to tell her that I’m not leaving. That I want her to trust me and I want to help.”
Carly covered his hand with hers. “You can’t make her believe that. You helped her once, right, before the accident?”
“Yeah. But she won’t tell me why. I mean, I know she used to sneak into my room, but I just feel like there’s something I’m missing. She’ll tell me bits and pieces but I’m missing the thing that connects them.”
“I think – and I’m only speculating because I know less than you do – that she let herself depend on you a lot. I mean, the fact that she asked for you at the hospital tells you that you were her support system. I also don’t think Emily knew anything and I know for a fact Sonny has no clue, which means you were the only person she trusted. And when you didn’t remember after the accident, she had to learn to deal with it by herself.” Carly sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “And she probably just tried to pretend nothing was happening. I know Liz. She’s good at hiding things. She also probably got used to pretending by herself.”
“And here I come, offering to help again,” Jason said. He eyed Carly. “I’m going about this all wrong. I know it. But I know that somewhere inside my mind, I have the answers. I can feel it like it’s just there, within reach but I’ll never get it. Do you have an idea how frustrating that is?”
Carly frowned. “No. But I’ll try to imagine for your sake. I know you’re frustrated. But be patient with her. Maybe she’ll keep telling you little things and one day, the truth will hit you.”
Jason shook his head. “I just feel like something’s wrong. You know, Emily told me that Jason Quartermaine liked her – had worked up the courage for months to ask her to the senior prom.”
Carly smiled. “That’s so sweet.” Her eyes gleamed. “Do you think you still have those feelings?”
Jason shook his head. “Not the same ones. It’s all weird, you know? Two days ago, we were fighting in the hallway and now I’m trying to get her to confide in me. I’m probably rushing it and I know I shouldn’t.”
“Jason,” Carly began carefully, “do you think you could care about her again that way?”
Jason didn’t answer at first. He stared straight ahead the wall for a long time. Carly did begin to fidget this time – this was the answer she’d needed all night. This was the answer that was going to make or break their plan. And damn it, after all the people she and Emily had recruited, it better make the plan.
“Yeah,” he said finally. He turned to look at her. “I think I’m probably already on my way. But it wouldn’t work.”
Carly’s moment of elation conked out almost as soon as it started. “Why?” she asked disappointed.
“Well, because I don’t think she sees me that way,” Jason replied. “She said so tonight, which reminds me, she knows what you’re trying to do.”
Carly gulped. “You know, sometimes I think Liz scares me more than half the guys Sonny goes up against. I think he’s making a mistake not letting her into the business. She’s got some good intimidation techniques.”
Jason looked at her oddly. “Why do you say he won’t let her in?”
Carly shrugged. “I’m only assuming. Personally, I think she’d do a great job. Anyway, you think you could try to explain to her that I love her very dearly and I only want the best for her and that right now I think you’re the best?” she asked weakly.
Jason just shook his head. “Uh uh. You’re dealing with her, not me. I just got on her good side. You think I’m in any hurry to get my head bitten off?”
“Wussy,” Carly muttered. She brightened. “But you did say you cared about her.”
“Yeah,” Jason said, warily.
“What do you like about her?” Carly asked.
Jason shook his head. “You’d better not use this conversation against me at a later date.”
Carly pretended to be hurt. “Who, me?”
“Yeah, you.” Jason took a deep breath. “You’re lucky I’m in a mood to talk – and you know that’s rare.”
Carly nodded. “The last time that happened…” she paused. “I can’t remember. Anyway, you were saying?”
“She’s not afraid of the bike,” Jason stated. She grinned. “I’m serious. She loves to go fast. I told her if she was trouble sleeping, just to call me and I’ll take her on the cliff roads.”
“That’s why you like her?” Carly said, disappointed. “You have some low standards.”
“She’s also strong,” Jason said quietly. “She could have broken down at any time and told me the truth. But she’s determined to do this on her own and I have to respect that even if I don’t agree. She cares about people. You should see the desk at the warehouse – it’s covered with pictures of her and her friends. ”
Desk at the warehouse? Carly frowned slightly. “What kinds of pictures?”
“Mostly of all of us growing up…she has this one of the two of going to Homecoming my senior year.” Jason shook his head. “She gave me some story for why we went together…but didn’t sound right. If I had been waiting for months to ask her and the accident happened in April, I must have at least been attracted to her. So why wouldn’t I just ask her?”
Carly mentally cheered herself and Emily. They had struck gold – at least with Jason. The boy he’d been had been in love with her and the man he was now was falling for her. Now if only Emily could get some similar information. She concentrated on the conversation. For some reason, Jason completely trusted her with his feelings. It had never happened before – but she liked it.
“Maybe she’s afraid if she tells what you really happened, you won’t let it go.” She shrugged. “I love Liz, but I can’t claim to know what she’s thinking. You need to ask her.”
“She wouldn’t tell me. I know that. She says she trusts me, but I doubt she really does.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I think she trusts you – but I also think she doesn’t want to.” Carly bit her lip. My, she was sounding philosophical tonight.
“Why wouldn’t she?” Jason asked, bewildered.
“Well, the more she trusts you, the more she wants to let you in. See, that I do understand. See, four years ago I knew this arrogant son of bitch who thought he knew everything – especially about me. You remember me at the time. Loud, obnoxious, manipulative…” Carly trailed off.
“You had your reasons, Carly,” Jason said quietly.
“Well, a bad childhood doesn’t give me the excuse for the way I treated you, but Sonny seemed to understand. God, I thought he was being condescending until he told me about him. See, he wanted me to trust him too, to tell him everything. I thought he just wanted me to spill my guts and satisfy his curiosity when all he really wanted to do is help.”
“You think Elizabeth doesn’t want to tell me because she thinks I just want to know?” Jason asked.
Carly shrugged. “I also remember it took me a year to tell Sonny.”
Jason swore and she tried to hide her smile. Oh, yeah, he had it bad.
“But, in the end, I trusted him,” Carly reminded him. “And you’ve got an easier fight on your hands then Sonny did.”
“How do you figure?”
“Well, she already trusts you. She wants to tell you – she begins to tell you and stops herself. A person can only fight themselves for so long. She’s giving you bits and pieces right now. And maybe part of her is hoping you just connect the dots.” Carly sighed. “But, Jase, if and when she does let you in, don’t ever make her regret it.”
“All right,” AJ straightened his shoulders. “Wish me luck.”
“Where are you going?” Courtney asked, amused.
“To see Jason,” AJ checked himself in the mirror next to the door. “Do I look okay?”
Courtney and Emily traded looks. “For a guy going to see his brother,” Courtney replied.
“What’s wrong with you, AJ?” Emily asked curiously.
AJ took a deep breath. “Look, every time I see him, I wonder if he’s changed his mind, if he hates me and especially so this time. Because that accident didn’t only hurt him, he just found out it somehow destroyed Liz. I can’t help if it I always feel apprehensive about it.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Courtney stood and handed Kyle to Emily. She wrapped her arms loosely around AJ’s neck. “We just saw Jason two weeks ago at home, remember?”
“Yeah,” AJ replied.
“And didn’t you guys sit out in the backyard, barbecuing? You made chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and we all sat out there and talked for hours. I went inside and four hours later, the two of you were still out there talking. Jason does not hate you.”
“And he never will,” Emily said firmly.
Courtney gave AJ a light kiss on the lips. “Now, go see your brother.”
“I’m going,” AJ said. He pulled out of Courtney’s embrace and opened the door. He closed it behind him.
“You’re good to him,” Emily said.
“You say that every time you see me,” Courtney said. “But it means a lot to me anyway. You are not only his sister, you’re one of his closest friends. Your opinion means a lot to me.” She smiled at her sister-in-law. “I think the kids need a nap.”
“We can put them in my room. I want to try and get a hold of Sonny so he can get some rooms at the hotel. The four of you will never last with me and Beth. We keep odd hours.”
“Plus, there’s your boyfriend,” Courtney replied. She picked up Melanie and Emily got Kyle.
“Oh, crap. I forgot to call him today. I’ve been so caught up in this thing with Beth and Jase that I completely forgot.” They entered Emily’s and got the kids settled. After leaving, Emily headed right for the phone. She dialed Nikolas. “Hey…I’m sorry. Things have been crazy here…All right…I’ll meet you at Kelly’s in ten minutes. Love you.” She put the phone down and turned to Courtney. “If Carly calls, tell her that I had to put my love life in front of Beth’s for an evening. I’ll call her at Deception tomorrow.”
“Not a problem.”
“And I’ll stop by Sonny’s before I come home,” Emily said. She grabbed her purse, and left.
Emily slid into the seat across from Nikolas. “I’m sorry about not calling. It’s been crazy.”
“You said so on the phone,” Nikolas replied. He gestured for the waitress. “It’s okay. I understand.”
Emily smiled, relieved. “Good. Then we’re on for the show tomorrow?” she asked, hopefully. As important as Elizabeth was to her, Nikolas was too. And their routine was important to her, too. She’d missed arguing with him the past two days.
“Of course,” Nikolas replied, grinning. The waitress appeared. “I’ll have a number three.”
“Number seven,” Emily said. “Thanks.”
“So, how’s Liz been?” Nikolas asked, “You and Carly still scheming?”
Emily sighed. “I don’t know how Beth is. She opened up to me that day before the panic attack, but she’s closed back down. She’s not letting anyone in.”
“Well, you just have to keep trying,” Nikolas replied quietly. “She’s in a rough place. I can see that much without knowing any details.”
Emily nodded. “As for me and Carly, it seems Beth and Jason are doing the job by themselves. Carly hinted that Beth was going to walk to the warehouse by herself today and Jason showed up to ride her there on his bike. And Beth accepted. They’re getting along better. Whatever’s happened between them has obviously helped their relationship.”
“Any signs that you’re succeeding?” Nikolas asked.
Emily nodded. “Jason’s worried about her. And he wants to help. I’ve told you about Jason liking Beth before the accident right?”
He nodded. “Something about the senior prom.”
“Well…the way Jason was talking about her yesterday…it reminded me of the way he used to talk about her.”
“So you think you’re succeeding where he’s concerned.”
“Honestly? I really think he’s doing it by himself.” Emily smiled. “I don’t care how they get together, as long as they’re happy. And I think they could be happy together.” She shook her head. “I’m a hopeless romantic.”
Nikolas reached across the table and took her hand in his. “Nah. You just want everyone to be as insanely happy as we are.”
She sighed happily. “You really are the best, Nik. I’ll always be grateful to Lucky for introducing us.”
“The best thing my brother ever did for me,” Nikolas replied.
“How is he?” Emily asked. “Have you heard anything?”
Nikolas shrugged. “He’s still on some mission for the WSB. I swear, he’s not happy if he’s not undercover.”
“I miss him,” Emily said. “But at least he’s got Luke with him. Laura’s the most understanding person I know. To have her husband and her son on these adventures all the time, doing god knows what. Never knowing if they’re coming back…” she sighed. “Nutty.”
“Well, my mother’s strong. She’s also used to it where they’re concerned,” Nikolas reminded her. “Not only that, but I think Carly keeps her occupied. Those two always fight.”
Emily grinned. “Yeah, I know. Carly’s always complaining to me or Beth. The only thing they’ve agreed on is Gia Campbell for the Face of Deception.” She wrinkled her nose. “She’s beautiful but she’s also snobby as hell. She’ll make a perfect model.”
The waitress brought their food and they dug in. Emily was grateful Nikolas understood why she hadn’t called. The fact that he trusted her and that he was that understanding were only two of the reasons she loved him. Was it wrong to want the same thing for Elizabeth and Jason?