Written in 63 minutes. Sorry, went a bit over.
Harborview Towers: Hallway
The moment the elevator had arrived at the top floor, Elizabeth told Jason she wanted to talk to Alexis alone about the prenuptial agreement. He opened his mouth to argue, but Elizabeth just lifted her chin.
“I’m the one that has to sign it,” she said, repeating what she’d said at the registrar’s office, “so wouldn’t it be better if we started with what I wanted it to say?”
“I think Jason’s just worried you won’t even take gas money,” Sonny said dryly as Jason bristled.
“Well, I won’t. I don’t have a car. I take the bus.” She folded her arms. “So if you want to negotiate bus fare—”
“I’ll see what we can come up with before tomorrow,” Alexis told Sonny and Jason. “My job is to protect your interests, so I’ll do that.”
“I don’t care—” Jason began again but Elizabeth turned and disappeared into the penthouse, ending the conversation. “Alexis—”
“This is not the worst problem in the world,” his lawyer told him. “I’ll talk her into something you can live with. Trust me. You and Sonny should make sure you have everything for tomorrow and I’ll let you know when we’re done.”
Jason grimaced as Alexis followed Elizabeth, leaving him alone with Sonny. This was all happening too fast, and he was starting to think it was a massive mistake.
“Let’s just get whatever we have to do done,” Jason muttered, brushing past him and Max to go into Sonny’s place. Sonny sighed and followed.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
“You know he’s not going to make you take millions of dollars,” Alexis said.
Elizabeth turned to find the other woman stripping off her coat and setting it over the back of the chair. “That’s not—”
“Considering this was accidentally my idea,” Alexis cut in, “let me first apologize for putting this in Jason’s head. If you’re not comfortable with this, I can find you a criminal attorney—”
“I talked Jason into it,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head. “He was ready to leave town forever, and I just—all his ways of solving this doesn’t stop Carly from destroying everything. She’s threatening me and Bobbie, too. If he left—”
“She’d know he did it to protect you. I get it. All right, so you’re on board with the reasons.” Alexis tipped her head. “If you and Jason were planning this for other, happier reasons, can I tell you what I would probably start negotiations at?”
“I don’t want—”
“Happier reasons might include a future family, and Jason’s estate is complicated. There are layers,” she continued. “So, yeah, I get it. You’re not doing this for the money. But you are doing this to protect him.”
Elizabeth sighed and perched on the arm of the sofa. “Yes. I want to protect Bobbie, too. And myself. But I don’t want him to get hurt by Carly again.”
“A marriage damages Carly’s credibility and it complicates any attempt to leverage you against Jason or vice versa,” Alexis said, “but it’s not foolproof. If the DA or the PCPD can prove you’re doing this to circumvent the law—” She paused. “This needs to look as real as it can.”
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “What does real mean?”
“Sonny and I discussed this. He doesn’t want Jason to leave any more than you do, so he’s pulling strings with Father Coates at St. Timothy’s.”
“Wait—” Her eyes widened. “Sonny’s making it so we can get married?”
“At the church Jason attends and where Michael was baptized. There will be witnesses. Pictures. But that’s the ceremony. It’s afterwards that we need to worry about. You getting married will make everyone suspicious. There might be search warrants for the studio, for here at the penthouse. They will assume you have something to hide.”
“We do, but there’s no physical evidence.” Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip as the gravity of what Alexis was saying sank in. It would be important that everyone outside these walls saw them as being in a real and committed, if hasty marriage. People already thought she was a gold digger—that wasn’t going to change after tomorrow. It would only be worse. And if Jason’s enemies, the men who may or may not have put a bomb in her studio only a few days ago—if they thought this was a legal fiction—
Elizabeth bit her lip. “Okay. If this was happening for other reasons, how would you write this prenup?”
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Jason felt like he was crawling out of skin as he paced the room, waiting for Alexis to tell him she’d finished talking to Elizabeth.
“Alexis will get it sorted, Jase. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, and she’ll talk some sense—”
Jason whipped his head around to glare at Sonny who stopped talking. “Elizabeth isn’t an idiot. Don’t talk about her that way.”
“No, I know.” Sonny put up his hands in surrender. “I’m sorry. It was a poor choice of words. She’s just very proud, and she doesn’t want you to think she’s using you. If this were happening for other reasons, you’d probably still be fighting with her to take a nickel.”
“Money doesn’t matter to me,” Jason said, rolling his shoulders. “I’ve lived without it, so I don’t need it. But it’s there and it’s just—” Collecting dust in his accounts. He barely touched it most of the time, and the last time he’d talked to Benny about his share of the warehouses, the accountant had looked appalled by the lack of investments.
“When I say Alexis will convince her, I mean that she’ll remind Elizabeth that prenuptial agreements might start as private documents, but leaks happen. And she’ll need to accept more than bus fare.”
Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “This is a mistake,” he muttered. “There should be another way out of this.”
“If there was, we’d be taking it, Jason. Elizabeth was right to remind us that Carly doesn’t go away because you do. She absolutely would still throw Elizabeth under the bus to punish her, and she’d drag Bobbie with her. If you sent Elizabeth away, Carly would still be a factor for you. Still using Michael against—”
“I don’t want to talk—”
“We’re going to talk about it because it’s business,” Sonny said flatly. “You don’t want to talk about December, I get it. I haven’t said a damn word about it—”
“You had no right—”
“Maybe not, but it’s done. You don’t trust me anymore, I can live with that. But what I did—what Carly and I did—it’s the reason you were dying out in the middle of nowhere. Elizabeth and Bobbie wouldn’t be at risk if I’d been a better man.”
Jason exhaled slowly, looked away from Sonny. “There’s no point in talking about this—”
“There is. Because in less than twenty-four hours, you’re supposed to be marrying that girl across the hall, and you need it get it out of your head that you’re making a mistake. She’ll see it, and she’ll think the worst.”
Jason blinked at Sonny, unsure where the other man was going with this. “The worst?”
“It would be one thing if you and Elizabeth were doing this before things had changed between you. You’re not strangers getting married. I get it—you hate that it’s happening. You wish there was another way. But this is the only way we can clear everyone, stop Carly, and protect Elizabeth from Sorel. Do you see anything that does all three things and keeps you in town?”
Jason grimaced. “No.”
“That—that right there—” Sonny stabbed a finger at him. “You make that face one more time, I’m gonna deck you. Elizabeth Webber is making a massive sacrifice to get you out of trouble and to keep you in town. To keep you with her. You know that’s why she’s doing it, don’t you?”
“I—” Jason paused. “But—”
“And it’s why you’re doing it. This is not a mistake. It’s awkward, it’s frustrating, but none of this is a mistake, Jason. Elizabeth is an adult capable of making her own choices and mistakes. You keep making that damn face, she’s gonna think you want to be anywhere else but with her.”
Jason fell silent. There were so many things that he didn’t always see right away when it came to personal relationships, he realized. He could read people in business all day long, but when it came to the women in his life that he’d cared for, they were often a baffling mystery. But Elizabeth had been upset when he’d told her was leaving—she’d insisted on finding another way out. He’d thought it was because Carly would still be a threat—but had she been as upset as he’d been at the thought of never seeing each other again?
“We both know it’s not true,” Sonny continued, his tone more gentle now. “But she’s been through a lot, and she’s taking on the big leagues now. She needs your support, not your doubts. Trust Alexis to convince her to let us both protect her, and do whatever you can to make this work. There’s no going back after tomorrow.”
There was a knock at the door, cutting off whatever Jason would have said next. Max opened the door, and Alexis came in.
“Well?” Sonny asked. He poured himself a bourbon. “How did negotiations go?”
“Not as well as you’d like,” Alexis told Jason, “but I’m happy. She’s agreed to letting you buy her a car, knowing you might assign her a driver at any point. She also agreed to a bank account with whatever you want to put in there, except she said she won’t use it unless she doesn’t have any money of her own.” She pursed her lips. “She offered a payment plan for the car and the account after dissolution, but I talked her out of it.”
“Christ,” Sonny muttered, rubbing his temple. “She probably wanted a used car.”
“I talked her out of that, too. I reminded her you’d need to upgrade it for security.” Alexis paused. “But she wouldn’t budget on dissolution, Jason. You both walk out with what you came with.”
“What about property acquired during the marriage?” Sonny asked. “You can buy her a house and then make her keep it,” he suggested to Jason. “Property during—” He saw Alexis shake her head. “Oh, man.”
“She was ready for it. All property purchased with Jason’s assets stays with him.” Alexis sighed. She raised a brow at Jason. “Do you want to counter?”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Elizabeth was perusing a takeout menu, considering the twenty dollars in her account and wondering if she was being too stubborn when Jason came back from Sonny’s. She offered him a weak smile. “Hey.”
“Hey.” He reached for Elizabeth’s jacket, stripped off his own, then hung them both up in the closet. Then he sat next to her on the sofa, took the menu from her, and set it on the coffee table.”
“You’re mad,” Elizabeth said, her stomach twisting. “About Alexis—”
“No, not—” Jason paused. “Thank you.”
She frowned, then narrowed her eyes, looking for the catch. “For what?”
“Money doesn’t matter to me. I like having it,” he admitted. “After I left the Quartermaines, I didn’t have any. It wasn’t fun, but I didn’t need much. I just need a place to live and food to eat. I live here because it’s better for business, but I was happy in the boxcar, too.”
Elizabeth shifted on the sofa to face him, tucking a leg underneath her body. “I can take care of myself. I make good tips—”
“I know, but—” He paused. “Thank you,” he repeated, “for doing this. I know it might seem like I was okay with leaving, but I didn’t want to. I told you that before, but I wanted to make sure you knew that I meant it. I didn’t—” He paused. “Yeah, Alexis suggested this, but I still thought it was asking too much of you, but I should have given you all the options before I made a decision on my own. I’m sorry.”
“Oh.” A weight slid from her shoulders, and she smiled. “I can do this. It’s a lot, but—”
“It is, but it won’t be that bad if we talk to each other. That’s what we do best, right?” he asked her softly. “We listen to each other.”
“Yeah.” Feeling a bit brave, she slid closer to him and was rewarded when he tucked her against him. It was so warm and soft and lovely to be cuddled up together on the sofa. “I guess you’re about to do some talking and I have to do some listening.”
“Yeah.” He touched the edge of a curl, pulling it down and letting it pop back up. “I know the paperwork is a lot, and I wasn’t expecting Alexis to bring it up, so I’m sorry for that, too.”
“It’s okay. She explained it—”
“Still. Thank you for agreeing to let me buy you a car,” he continued. “You can pick it out, it’ll be in your name, but it would make me feel better if you had a safe way to get to school and work.”
“I can do still do both of those?” Elizabeth asked hesitantly. “I was worried—”
“Yeah. I already took care of Kelly’s,” Jason told her, “or Sonny did when you started taking care of me and going back and forth. We added extra security after I left the studio. You have a guard — I’ll get Francis registered to audit your classes, and I’ll make sure he leaves the suit at home,” he added when she wrinkled her nose.
“Okay. That’s good.” She bit her lip. “Is that it?” she asked hopefully. She smiled. “I mean—”
“I know you want the studio for painting,” he told her. “But it needs to be secured. Will you let me do what needs to be done there?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Does that mean buying the place?”
“It might.” He paused. “Alexis is drawing up the paperwork the way you asked her to, but there’s something I asked her to change.”
“I don’t know how long this is going to last,” Jason said after a moment. “And I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next year. It’s important to me that you’re protected. Not just because of this, but because I care about you.” He reached for her hand, his fingers surprisingly soft against her own.
Somehow Jason had made it seem like whatever he wanted in this stupid agreement would be a favor to him. Sneaky bastard. “What’s the change?”
“Anything income either of us makes while we’re married,” Jason began, “gets split equally at dissolution.”
She scowled. “Oh, okay, so you’ll get half of my tips and I get half of the million you’ll make this year? That’s not going to happen—”
“I don’t want—”
“I know that. And I’m not doing it because I think you want it. Or need it,” he added. “It’s because you deserve it.”
Somehow that sounded wrong, and she was trying to pinpoint why. “How do you figure? I’m not exactly some great bet— ” She could be a terrible investment after all. What if she really did hate sex? She certainly wouldn’t deserve money then.
“I’m alive because of you,” he told her. “Every day I’m here, it’s because you dragged me out of the snow and forced me to live. I can make all this money I don’t even want or need because of you. I want to share what I have with you. Will you let me?”
“I knew you’d find a way to make this feel like a favor.” She sighed and slumped back against the sofa. “Fine.”
He was quiet for a moment, and she opened her eyes to find him smiling at her, his expression amused. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Because I can.” He leaned down to kiss her. She touched his jaw, spreading his fingers over his skin, marveling at the fact that in twenty-four hours, he’d be her husband. And in moments like this, the reasons why they were doing this seemed a million miles away.