Written in 55 minutes. This part is rated R
Sunlight streamed through the sheer curtains covering her bedroom window, making it difficult for Elizabeth to just roll over and bury her face in the pillows. Especially when she was rolling towards the right side of the bed — empty as it had been for three months.
Everything about yesterday felt like a tremendous mistake now, she thought. From going into the bar early, staying until closing—and that ridiculous meeting with Justus. She’d agreed to help Jason get out of the mess the Quartermaines had placed him in, and even when he’d tried to back out, she’d insisted.
And now the man wearing her husband’s face was sleeping on the sofa in the next room. He looked like Jason, he sounded like Jason, he was Jason. But he wasn’t her husband.
Elizabeth rolled onto her back, stared at the popcorn-textured ceiling, considering the wreckage of her life. What would have happened if she’d managed to go to New York? To attend a real art program? What would her world look like?
Would she be a mother at twenty-three, and a functional widow and grieving mother by twenty-four? Would Jason have returned to Stanford for medical school and still be the boy she’d known all her life?
Where exactly had her life zigged so badly that it had turned out like this?
“You’re just feeling sorry for yourself now,” Elizabeth murmured, her voice barely audible, drowned out by the street sounds below. “We’re done with that. We have to be.”
She twisted her head, looked at the clock. Just before nine, so a solid six hours of sleep. That wasn’t so bad, she thought. She slid out of bed, with only one thought in her head.
She needed coffee.
Elizabeth gently opened the door, peering through the crack to find that Jason was where she’d left him last night — well, mostly, she thought. He’d stretched out on the sofa, his legs hanging off the end, and his face awkwardly squished into the pillow she’d given him. He had a blanket tossed over him, but it didn’t reach higher than mid-chest which was bare. He wore nothing but a pair of gray sweatpants visible where the blanket came to an end mid-calf.
She bit her lip. If she was really quiet she could put on a pot coffee, sneak into the shower and be fully dressed before Jason even woke up.
She left her feet in just a pair of white socks, hoping it would soften any footsteps as she carefully picked her way past the sofa to the kitchen behind it. Just when she thought she’d made it—she’d just scooped the coffee into the filter—she heard a sound from the sofa.
Damn it, Elizabeth thought, with a wrinkle of her nose. Jason was awake, his top half rising from the sofa first as he sat up, looking around blearily, rubbing his chest. He focused on her, squinting slightly, as if he was trying to understand his surroundings. Then his eyes cleared and he stood.
“Hey. Uh, good morning,” he said, bunching blanket in his hand, then tossing it where he’d found it—over the back of the sofa.
“Good morning,” Elizabeth mumbled, turning back to the coffee. She snatched the carafe from the machine and went to the sink to fill it. “The bathroom is over there and there’ll be coffee soon.”
She made the mistake of turning to see where he was, jolting when she realized he was in the kitchen now, his short hair mussed from sleep, the expanse of his bare chest only a few feet away—he’d been exercising, Elizabeth thought stupidly. His abdomen was more defined than she’d remembered—
Elizabeth blinked, then realized the carafe had been overfilled for some time, the water spilling over the edges. Her cheeks heated, and she twisted off the faucet, dumping the extra water. “Sorry,” she muttered. “Not enough sleep.”
She headed back to the coffee pot, but it was on the counter behind Jason and that meant she had to be near him—and all that skin, which wasn’t fair, she thought bitterly. She’d been so damn well up until now, not thinking about that side of her life that had been missing long before the rest of it had been destroyed.
“Um, I have to, um—” Elizabeth’s fingers tightened around the carafe handle, wondering if flames were actually visible on her cheeks. Or anywhere else. She was probably beet red, she thought viciously. And it was his fault. “Can you put on a shirt?” she snapped out, nudging him aside to set the carafe on the hot plate.
“What?” Jason blinked, stepping aside. “What?”
“You—” She gestured at him with both hands. “Don’t be stupid. Just look at you! Can you just—” She waved. “Cover up.”
Jason’s eyes widened and he glanced down at his chest, then back at her. “This bothers you?”
“Bothers,” she muttered. “Does it bother me?” Yes. But not the way he meant it. Feeling foolish, no mortified beyond the speaking of it. “Yes. Yes. It bothers me. I prefer people to be dressed. All the way—”
“You do?” His brows lifted, and he looked at her, slowing dragging his gaze from head to toe. Which made her feel violent. And tingly. All over. Bastard.
“What,” she began, gritting the words out through clenched teeth, “is that supposed to mean?”
“That.” He reached out, and slid one finger under the thin strap of her black tank top, one of her oldest shirts. The straps were stretched from overuse, and constantly slid down her shoulder. Jason adjusted the strap so that it rested correctly on her shoulder, but he didn’t remove his finger, leaving it on her skin.
Her eyes met his, and her throat tightened. “That’s not the same thing,” Elizabeth managed.
“When the strap slides like that—” Jason removed his finger, and it immediately fell out of place again. “The whole thing dips down.”
“It—” Elizabeth dropped her gaze now, looking and realizing the curve of her breast was visible. “I—”
“I’m not complaining,” he cut in, his voice low. Almost a bit rough. She licked her lips, raised her eyes to him again. “Are you?”
“That,” she said carefully, “is not the point.”
He was closer now—when had that happened, she thought, almost dizzily. His hand was at her shoulder again, two fingers hooked on the strap of her tank. Brushing against her skin. Everything was brighter and she couldn’t think anymore. It had been so long, she thought, and he was so damn beautiful, and in her kitchen.
“What is the point?” Jason asked, the words barely audible, not much more than a breath escaping his lips. His mouth. She missed that mouth. And it was attached to such a perfect body, though the thought almost felt unfaithful, she thought it with a jolt that nearly broke through the madness.
“You didn’t answer me,” he said, his fingers sliding along the length of the strap, almost stroking her shoulder.
He was going to have to stop touching her, Elizabeth decided, and she’d tell him that right now. Any minute now.
Or, she could do something even stupider.
Which was, naturally, the choice she made.
She leapt at him, dragging his mouth down to hers, and before she had a chance to feel embarrassed, he’d dragged her against him, his hands digging into her hips, diving into her mouth like a man deprived too long of water.
“This is a mistake,” she panted when he broke from the kiss to trail his mouth down her neck to her collarbone. Instead of responding to that, Jason lifted then turned them so that she was sitting on the countertop, her legs around his waist as he leaned in, kissing her again. His hands were every all at once, leaving fire and heat in their wake, beneath her tank top—
“Wait, wait—” Her chest heaving, Elizabeth found the energy to push him back, their labored breathing the only sound in the room for a long moment as they stared each other, stunned.
The moment had come out of nowhere, she thought, and it was such a stupid idea to let it continue. Not to stop it in its tracks. There was too much at stake, too much history, too much that Jason was dealing with, that she was dealing with—it would be an absolute mistake to do this right now. The worst decision.
But she’d been trying to do the right thing for months. For years. As she’d sat quietly, hoping that this time his family would accept her. Leave her alone. She’d never pushed, never argued. Never demanded respect. She’d stayed away when they’d made her. She’d gone to court instead of going to straight to him after the accident.
At every step Elizabeth had done the right thing, and she’d ended up alone. Miserable.
Jason licked his lips. “I’m sorry—”
“Are you?” she asked before he’d even finished his words. “Sorry? Would you take it back?”
“No.” Jason shook his head slowly. “No. I’m not sorry. And you kissed me.”
“I did.” And maybe later, common sense would settle in, but not right now. Elizabeth slid to the edge of the counter, curled her hand around his neck and pulled him down to her again, losing herself in something that felt good for the first time in a long time.
This time when his fingers slid under the tank, she let his hands finish the journey, dragging it over her head and tossing it somewhere, their bare skin pressed against each other. Jason lifted her from the counter, almost effortlessly holding her against him, her legs locked around his waist.
“Bedroom,” she managed, scraping her nails against the hair at the nape of his neck, nipping at his earlobe. “Now—”
They stumbled towards the bedroom on the other side of the small apartment, stumbling first into the fridge, then the sofa before finally crashing through the door. Jason dropped her on the bed, and she bounced lightly for just a second, crawling backwards so he could come on top of her, their hands grabbing for his sweatpants, her shorts—
“Wait, wait, wait—” Elizabeth’s hand wildly flung around, looking for the nightstand. “Wait—” She dug through it, wincing. “Check the other side.”
Jason rolled away for a moment, yanking open the drawer, finding the foil packets she’d been looking for. He ripped one open with the corner of his mouth, then discarded the package, hesitating for a moment. “Are you sure?”
“No,” Elizabeth admitted, “but that’s not going to stop me. You?”
“Not a chance in hell.” Jason kissed her again, and she stopped thinking altogether.