Written in 32 minutes.
Elizabeth wanted to call the words back nearly as fast as they’d fallen from her lips — refusing to marry the man she’d traveled across the country to wed was the absolute height of insanity, and clearly, she wasn’t in her right mind.
In fact, she opened her mouth to say so, but then closed it. She’d come here to marry the man who had advertised for a wife. Not the man who stood in front of her, with kind eyes. He pitied her, nothing more, and Elizabeth could not—would not—be someone’s wife out of charity.
“Miss Webber,” Jason Morgan began, his brows drawn together in surprise. “I think we should discuss this further—”
“There’s nothing to discuss.” Elizabeth rose to her feet and crossed to the window overlooking the dusty street. Port Charles was so different than the world she’d left behind, with its close and cramped buildings. She could look out this window and see the world beyond the handful of streets. The mountains, the water of Grand Lake—
She’d wanted this to be hers, but it had been nothing more than a dream. How strange to learn that she was still capable of those—
“I feel responsible,” he began, and she closed her eyes. “And, as I said, I did make a promise—”
“To your grandmother.” She turned, jumping slightly as she found him no more than a foot away. He moved quietly. Elizabeth cleared her throat. “You made a promise to your grandmother, and it’s admirable—”
She stopped speaking when he took her hands in his, the roughness of his skin startling her. She curled her fingers inward, embarrassed at their condition—
But Jason had already noticed her injury. “What happened?” he wanted to know.
“Textile loom,” she murmured. She pulled her hand away, fisting it behind her back. “I was fortunate not to lose more.” She cleared her throat. “Mr. Morgan, I thank you for your consideration—”
“I don’t understand why we can’t at least talk about it,” Jason cut in. She closed her mouth. “You came here to start a life with me—”
“With the man from the letters,” Elizabeth insisted. “You make it sound as if—” She took a breath. “That was quite different. I thought that I was coming here to marry someone who had actively looked for a wife. Can you truly not see the difference?”
Jason pressed his lips together, nodded. “I do. But I was looking—”
“You said your grandmother asked you a year ago,” she reminded him. “You must not have been looking hard—and don’t tell me that you decided once you saw me,” she added when he opened his mouth. “You feel responsible. You said so yourself—”
“I was looking, but not very hard,” Jason admitted. He reached for her hand again, resting her balled up fist in his palm. “Do you want me to arrange for transportation somewhere else? Back to New York? Maybe in San Francisco?” He tilted his head. “I will, of course. You’re free to do as you wish.”
She stared at her hand in his, then slowly uncurled it, allowing it to lay flat against his palm. If she returned to New York or anywhere back in East, there was little respectable work outside the mills and factories. She knew that was no life for Cameron. Would it be different in San Francisco? Or anywhere else?
She closed her eyes, then slowly drew her hand away once more. “I thank you for your consideration,” Elizabeth said softly. “For your kindness in handling a difficult situation,” she continued. “I must rely on your good nature a day or two more while I consider where to go next.”
Jason tipped his head to the side. “You’ll have the rooms along as you need them, but—” He squinted. “Can I speak bluntly?”
She frowned. “Yes, of course—”
“I find you physically attractive,” Jason said, and her eyes widened. “I would not be asking you out of pity or offering a marriage in name only. In fact, I came here to offer you exactly what you’re asking. A few days to get yourself together and then to help you go wherever you chose.”
“You—” She couldn’t form the words. “I don’t understand.”
“But I think that we could help each other.” Jason reached for her hands once more, but this time, he laced his fingers through hers, tugging her just an inch closer so that their bodies brushed. “I do want a family,” he continued. “And you want one for your son. For yourself. I can give you that.”
“And you—” Her voice was nearly breathless as she absorbed this turn in the conversation. “You would want to—” He wanted her? “I mean—”
“I changed my mind the moment you decided to reject me,” he murmured. Her eyes flew to meet his. “I’m sorry for what’s happened. Back in New York. With my cousin. But we can make the best of it. I’m asking you to let me try.”
Make the best of it. Hardly a romantic proposal. But she hadn’t expected romance, had she? And she hadn’t expected this—this feeling—this swirling, fluttering pull that had been gone so long— She’d hoped for friendship, for warmth, and companionship. She’d hoped for Cameron to have someone he could look up to.
She wanted somewhere to belong, someone who wanted her. And this man she scarcely knew was offering it.
“I—” She licked her lips. “Are you sure?” she breathed. “I would not want you to feel obligated—”
“Then—” Elizabeth nodded. “All right. Yes. I can—I will.”
Jason dipped his head, closing the short distance between their mouths and kissed her, softly, gently. She melted against him, sliding her arms around his neck, letting herself feel for the first time in years. Maybe this was a mistake, maybe she would regret it—
But, oh, just maybe — this was the answer to all her prayers. Did she deserve that much?