Counting Stars – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Counting Stars is set in January 2000 and picks up directly after Jason visits Kelly’s to tell Elizabeth they can’t see each other anymore. This scene is from Chapter 4. 


Studio

Elizabeth nearly fell into the room, slamming the door behind her and twisting the deadbolt, her hands shaking so badly that she nearly couldn’t manage it.

She squeezed her eyes shut, pressed the heels of her hands to the sockets so hard she nearly saw stars. What the absolute hell—

The whole, disastrous scene had taken no longer than a few minutes but it was like an earthquake had crashed through, blasting her foundation to jagged rocks. Jason had walked in, and looked at her like—had accused her of—

She’s not Carly.

A lot of pieces were falling into place and Elizabeth didn’t think she liked the picture that was emerging. Sonny had thrown that out like a missile—and Jason—

Is that the only thing stopping you—

The shock was burning off, leaving raw waves of fury. She dropped her hand to her sides and turned at the knock on the door.

He’d come after her.

Slowly, deliberately, Elizabeth crossed back to the door, leaving the shade drawn. She untwisted the bolt and threw open the door.

He was there, tension and frustration radiating from his body as he seemed to tower over her. “Can I come in?”

She almost said no, but she pursed her lips and stepped back, leaving the doorway open. Keeping his eyes on hers, he entered then stood in the middle of the studio, the silence hanging like a bomb waiting to explode.

Elizabeth closed the door, took a deep breath. She could accept whatever apology he was about to give her, and part of her wanted that. Wanted to pretend nothing had ever happened. That it didn’t matter. That it wasn’t about her. It really wasn’t. Not all the way. But it wasn’t enough.

“Elizabeth—”

“No.” Elizabeth turned to face him, an eerie calm filling her senses. Suddenly, she knew exactly what to say. “Even if you’d walked in on exactly what you accused me of—”

“I didn’t—”

“Even if it had been exactly what you thought it was,” Elizabeth said, speaking over him as if he’d said nothing. Jason closed his mouth, his lips forming an unhappy line, “you don’t own me.”

There was a bright stain of red in his cheeks now. “I didn’t—”

“I’m an adult. If I wanted to roll around naked with Sonny Corinthos on his living room floor, that’s my right.”

The flush faded from his face and now he nodded, swallowing hard. “I know—”

“I am not Carly,” she said softly and saw him flinch. “I didn’t scheme for years to make you fall in love with me and then turn around and hurt you. That wasn’t me. And you have no right to take any of what you’re dealing with out on me.” She paused for a second. “That’s what she did, isn’t it? What they both did. It’s why you’re so angry at them.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I thought it might be something like that, but I didn’t ask. It was none of my business. It wasn’t. But you made it my business when you treated me like a slut for being alone in a room with another man—”

“I just need you to—”

“Unless I missed a memo,” Elizabeth continued, brutally, “you don’t get to have a say in who I talk to. You don’t own me,” she repeated. “You’re not my father or my brother—” She forced out the next words, “and you haven’t indicated you want any other relationship that might give you that right.”

“You just need to let me explain—”

“Explain what?” Elizabeth demanded. “Is there something I’ve misunderstood?”

“No.” Jason cleared his throat, dipped his chin to his chest. “No,” he repeated, more softly. “You’ve got it—all of it. It happened that night, and I walked in—” He scrubbed a hand over the side of his face, and some of her anger faded at the misery she saw reflected back, remembering why she’d gone to the penthouse in the first place. “I don’t know if either of them ever planned for me to know, but—” He looked away. “Sonny told me at the boxcar that now I know who both of them are. Like it was some kind of damn lesson he was teaching me—” He paused. “It hasn’t been right since. I’m trying to keep my distance, to get through it. But it’s not working.”

Elizabeth sighed, irritated that she no longer felt that same stirring of righteous fury. “Okay. That doesn’t really explain why you thought—” She should really just drop it. Jason didn’t need to be pushed by anyone else tonight. But she couldn’t quite make it all fit together. There was just a piece of it— “Why did it matter?” she asked softly. And he frowned at her. “Earlier. You were so angry when you came in. But it was just me. Why would you even care?”

He stared at her for a long moment, then looked away. “I can’t answer that,” he said finally. “I’m sorry—”

“You can’t or you won’t?”

“I—”

Elizabeth took a step towards him, their eyes meeting. She took another step. Then another, until there was no space between them, the heat of his body drawing her like a moth to a flame. “Was it just because it was Sonny? Would you have acted that way if he’d been with someone else?”

“No.”

“Then why?”

He closed his eyes, dipping his head, resting against her forehead. Her heart was beating so fast that it echoed in her ears. “Elizabeth—”

“Tell me. Please.”

His thumb brushed her chin, then pressed against her bottom lip. Her tongue darted out to lick it and his body tightened, his hand curved around her neck and then he kissed her. Lightly. Just the touch of skin to skin. Lips to lips. She gripped the lapels of his jacket, tightening her grip as if she could hold him against her forever.

“I couldn’t stand to lose one more thing,” he murmured, and her eyes fluttered closed. “I couldn’t stand to lose you. You’re only piece of my life that makes sense. All that’s left.”

“You won’t,” she promised. She slid her hands up touch his face, to hold him the way she’d dreamed these last few weeks. “You tried to push me away and I wouldn’t go.”

“I don’t—I don’t have anything to give you.” Jason angled his face back, just a few inches so that their eyes met. “There’s nothing left.”

“You’re wrong about that.” Elizabeth leaned up on her toes to kiss him. Nothing quick or soft, but to remind him of everything she could give him. Too many people had taken from him for years. She wouldn’t be like them. She wouldn’t break him. If he could just trust her—just give her a chance—

She pressed herself closer to him, wrapping her arms around his neck, his hands tightening in her hair, tilting her head back, then his hands were at her hips, digging into the skin between the hem of her shirt and her pants. She fisted her hands in his t-shirt, trying to drag it up, a heat building and rising inside that was going to explode if she didn’t find some way to cool off, but she couldn’t find it—

And then there was too much cool air as Jason shoved her away—no, she thought with confusion—she hadn’t moved—he’d shoved himself, and he was by the window, his chest rapidly rising and falling, his face flushed, and the jacket she’d somehow stripped from his shoulders laying on the ground.

“I can’t—” Jason took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “I can’t.”

Elizabeth licked her lips, more from nerves than anything else, but when she saw the way his mouth dropped to her mouth, she perked up. He might not think it was a good idea, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want her.

And what an incredible feeling that was, she thought, with the strangest desire to laugh and smile. To know that someone like Jason wanted her and that she could want, too. She’d been so worried that part of her would never really come back, not all the way. And now it was here, and she wasn’t even scared or worried about what might happen next—

“It’s not you,” Jason said, pained. “It’s not—”

“I know it’s not,” she said softly.

He raked his hands through his hair, leaving it disheveled and—she needed to focus and not think about how she wanted to be the one doing that—

“I’m sorry about earlier,” Jason said. He stooped down to pick up his jacket, breaking eye contact. “You’re right. I don’t have the right to be…” He trailed off. “And even if I did,” he forced out, “I know I can trust you. I do trust you. It was just—”

“The last thing you needed to see today,” Elizabeth said, tilting her head. “Bobbie came by Kelly’s. Carly called her earlier, I guess, hoping Bobbie would take her side.” She paused. “She didn’t. I’m sorry. About what happened with Michael.”

Jason exhaled slowly, then cleared his throat. “I thought it was hard walking away last year. But this time—” He stopped, looked away. He didn’t need to say anything.

“That’s why I came over. To see you.” She stepped towards him, but he circled around her, towards the door, dragging on his jacket. “Jason—”

“I meant what I said. I can’t—” Their eyes met. “I don’t have anything to give you. I don’t have the—” His hand reflexively curled into a fist at his side, his voice roughened. “I can’t.”

And this time, she could believe it. “All right. If that’s what you need from me, we’ll put it away.”

The corner of his mouth quirked up, but it wasn’t a smile. She didn’t know how to describe the mixture of amusement, misery, and irritation in his face. “I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I can do any of this anymore.”

And then he was gone.

Comments

  • Thanks for the update.

    According to Shelly Samuel on August 19, 2022
  • Wow, that was intense. Now I’m dying to know what happened in chpts 1-3.

    According to Lisa on August 19, 2022
  • Ooh, the intrigue! So much tension and I don’t even know what happened beforehand. Excited to read this one. Thanks for the sneak peek.

    According to Xenares1 on August 19, 2022
  • Thanks for this chapter.

    According to Carla P on August 19, 2022
  • Yep I too looked for 1-3

    According to leasmom on August 19, 2022
  • Thanks for the sneak peek. This is going to be great!

    According to nanci on August 20, 2022
  • Wow, this is going to be good.

    According to Becca on August 22, 2022
  • Wow, this is going to be awesome!

    According to Becca on August 22, 2022
  • Wow! So excited to read this one! Very intense!

    According to Golden Girl on August 22, 2022