Written in 65 minutes. Went a bit over, sorry. Ending is a bit awkward, lol, but didn’t want to take another 20 minutes.
Quartermaine Estate: AJ & Carly’s Room
AJ flipped his cell phone closed as he entered the room, finding his wife standing at the window. “The PCPD served a search warrant at the penthouse and the studio.”
Carly turned, her eyes narrowed. “And?”
“And nothing. No arrests.” That didn’t matter to AJ. He’d encouraged her to call, had sat next to her while she’d made her report. He’d grimaced, listening to her depict visiting Jason at the studio and seeing the bullet wound. She’d even thrown her own mother and Elizabeth under the bus, claiming them as witnesses.
While AJ regretted to the risk to Elizabeth and Bobbie, he had more respect for Jason’s way of life. No arrests had been made, and AJ’s source suggested something had gone wrong in the search at the penthouse that had scuttled the case but no one was sure quite what. Either way, Jason and the new wife didn’t look like they were in danger, and Bobbie wasn’t even on the table.
Not that it would matter. Carly had betrayed Jason once again, and this time, AJ hoped like hell his brother would get the picture. Carly didn’t give a damn about anyone but herself and wasn’t worth caring about.
Carly’s lips thinned. “I don’t understand—”
“You threw a grenade at Jason, thinking he’d jump to protect himself, Elizabeth, and Bobbie.” AJ smirked “He did—just not the way you hoped.”
“Did you really think the PCPD would be able to do anything with your statement?” AJ leaned against the closed door, amused. “Your word with no evidence?”
“Jason would have a scar—”
“Sure. If they could get a physical examination,” AJ replied. “Sounds like they didn’t. Your word means nothing, Carly. Without evidence to back it up, no district attorney is going to put you on the stand as a credible witness.”
Carly fisted her hands at her side. “So what was this? A test?” she demanded. “Making me choose between my son and Michael?”
“No, this was me showing Jason one last time who you are.”
“And you’re married to me,” she spat. “What does that say about you?”
“You’re what I deserve,” he said simply. “I killed my brother and destroyed my family. Even if I never take another drink again, there’s no redemption for that, Carly.”
“I am nobody’s punishment! I deserve more than that!”
“No, you don’t.” AJ pushed away from the door and approached her, her eyes, damp and furious, focused on him. “Neither of us deserve more than we’ve got, Carlybabes, so maybe you suck it up. I married you, I gave you all the money you wanted, and we’ve got a beautiful son. I’ve got my job at ELQ. What do you really have to complain about? That you don’t have the man you really love?”
Carly hissed, then looked away. “You don’t love me, either.”
“No, I don’t.” He tipped his head. “So what’s it gonna be? Are you going to keep fighting this and planning your escape? Or are you ready to be realistic?”
She narrowed her eyes. “What does that mean?”
“I mean—” AJ tipped her chin up and nodded to the bed behind them. “New start, Carly. And last chance.”
She pursed her lips, glancing at the bed, her eyes calculating when she looked back at him. Then she pushed him hard so that he sprawled across the bed. She crawled across him and ripped his shirt open.
“Could be worse,” she said with a shrug. “You could be ugly.”
AJ smirked, hooked a hand around her neck and dragged her down to him for a kiss. And when in a few weeks she announced she was pregnant, he’d let her believed she’d beaten him.
It might even be fun.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Jason grimaced as he inspected the leather sofa, sliding his fingers down the split in the cushion, revealing the padding underneath. “Alexis took pictures of this, too?” he asked Sonny as his partner came back in, scowling at the broken items scattered around the downstairs. Jason didn’t have a lot of possession, but what he had—
Glasses and mugs had been thrown around the kitchen, plates were shattered on the floor. The leather sofa hadn’t been the only furniture casualty—the coffee table had one its legs broken—the shelf of travel books had been scattered and some of the cover torn from being stepped on.
“Yeah, yeah. She took everything.” Sonny looked around. “I’m sorry about this, man—”
“I can buy a new sofa,” Jason muttered. And a table. Travel books. Plates and mugs. All of these things were replaceable.
“Not about any of this,” Sonny said, drawing Jason’s attention. “It sucks, but Alexis is right. This looks vindicative and destructive. If they’d left it at this downstairs—”
Most of the destruction had happened on their way out of the apartment—the officers forced to vacate before the search had finished. Capelli hadn’t been the only asshole on the force.
“But they didn’t,” Jason finished. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Listen, can you get some guys to clear this? I don’t want her to deal with—”
“Already on that. And they never got to the studio,” Sonny told Jason who exhaled in relief. “Taggert wanted to search both personally, but he called it off. It’s all tainted.” He glanced up to the second floor. “She okay?”
Jason opened his mouth because Elizabeth had said she was fine and she’d looked fine, but he wasn’t sure if that was true. She didn’t always say what she meant, and he knew she didn’t want to worry him. “I don’t know.”
“Yeah, the painting put it over the top,” Sonny muttered. “Could have fixed the dress maybe, but I know she takes her art seriously.” He rubbed his hands together. “I’ll go check on the clean up crew. We’ll get the furniture replaced—”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s fine. I just—” Jason started for the stairs. “I’ll get her out of here for a few hours or something.”
“Good, good. Let me make my calls and I’ll check in with Alexis. If we’re right—if this puts Carly’s story dead in the water—” Sonny nodded. “That would be good. Then we can just focus on getting rid of Sorel.”
He left, and Jason went upstairs, returning to the bedroom where he’d left Elizabeth earlier to deal with the dressers and closets that the PCPD had emptied.
“Hey.” Elizabeth dumped a pile of clothing in the laundry hamper next to the bathroom. “I’m almost done.” She made a face. “How does it look downstairs?”
“Not great,” Jason admitted. “They broke a lot of things and ripped the sofa.” He frowned when he saw the dress still laid out on the bed, the ripped strap and torn bodice evident—and now he saw the dark footprint across the skirt. “I didn’t—”
Her mouth pinched as she crossed to the bed, picking it up. “I think that’s what made me the most angry,” she murmured, sliding her fingers over the dirt and mud specks. Capelli had worn heavy boots and walked through the snow and dirt mixed out out front. “It wasn’t enough to tear it off the hanger—he threw it on the floor—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t supposed to do anything. I really just wanted to supervise, and it’s not like—I mean—” Her voice faltered and she sank onto the bed. “It’s not like it really matters,” she said softly.
Unsure, Jason sat down on the other side of the dress. “Why doesn’t it matter? It’s your dress—”
She bit her lip, her eyes trained on the white fabric “It’s my wedding dress,” she said, her voice barely audible. “Alexis brought me a few of them, and I got to pick it. Like I was really—like it was real.”
“It was—” Jason reached for her hand, laying it flat over the dress. He could feel the ring he’d placed on her finger only the day before cool against his skin. “It was real,” he finished. “Wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, but—” She met his eyes. “I mean, it’s not like we—” Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed.
“We got married,” Jason reminded her. He raised her hand, his fingers twisted her wedding ring. “This is real, Elizabeth.”
She managed a smile and reached for his other hand where she’d given him a ring, too. “I know. But it’s still just a dress at the end of the day, I guess. It’s not worth getting arrested over. Not really. But I just—I—” Her eyes met his again and her tongue darted out to lick the corner of her mouth. His body tightened. “It’s not just I wore it in the church yesterday. It’s—I wore it last night.”
Last night. When she’d stood in front of the mirror and he’d stood behind her, unfastening each button—
“And Capelli was—he wasn’t just searching. Or being rough or rude.” Elizabeth released his hands and looked over at the painting, once again propped up against the wall. “Alexis was right, and I knew what he was doing. He dumped out my underwear drawer so I’d feel violated.”
Jason clenched his jaw. “I—”
“And when I tried to stop him from ruining the dress, he stomped on it, ground his foot in—I didn’t say that earlier,” Elizabeth admitted. “I was afraid if I did—”
Jason would have rearranged his face and been arrested. “I’m sorry—”
Elizabeth sighed, shaking her head. “You have nothing to apologize for.” She rose to her feet and went to pick up the painting, her fingers tracing the rip in the canvas. “Capelli was angry from the moment I was involved in the case. The first time he questioned me, he was the one asking the inappropriate questions. I don’t feel like it was personal, either,” she admitted. “It wasn’t that it was me. Not like Taggert. He’s disappointed in me, but Capelli—I’m just an obstacle.”
“Elizabeth—” Jason got to his feet.
“Capelli wanted me to feel like I’d done something wrong. Like I’d committed a crime—and I did, I know that, but—” Elizabeth sighed. “For all they talk about the violence you and Sonny are capable of—” she jerked a shoulder and turned away, setting the painting against the wall again.
Jason waited a moment. “I am violent,” he said in a low voice, unsure why he was saying it only that he needed her to hear it. To know it. “I’ve done worse things than what happened here today.”
Elizabeth faced him, her face unreadable. Then she tipped her head to the side. “To women like me?”
“You’ve intentionally humiliated and violated a woman for not doing what you wanted? For not acting the way you expected”
“No, of course not, but—” Jason stumbled to a stop, squinting. “But—”
“But you have a gun and you’ve used it,” she said plainly. “And you have hands. You’ve used those. There are people who aren’t breathing because you still are. You’re capable of violence, Jason. Did you think I didn’t know that?”
“Your world is violent,” Elizabeth continued, and he just stared at her. “It is. And people like to act like there’s something unique about what you and Sonny do. If you were out of business tomorrow, would things really change? Would there be less violence?”
He had no idea how to answer that. How to react. “Elizabeth—”
“Would I be safe in the park?”
“This world isn’t safe for women, Jason. Look at what happened to me here today.” She held out her wrist and for the time he realized it was darkening into a bruise. “A cop did this to me in my own home because I didn’t want him to destroy my wedding dress out of spite and vindictiveness. Capelli will say it’s because I’m with you, and I deserve it because of who you are. But what happened today has nothing to do with any of that. It’s who he is. And it would have happened to any woman he didn’t respect.”
“I guess, but—”
“If you’re waiting for my face to change,” Elizabeth said, turning away and shoving another pile of clothes into the laundry basket. “You’re going to be disappointed. The night we met, you nearly tore the arm off the guy bothering me and never broke a sweat.”
He cleared his throat. “I don’t know what to say to any of that,” Jason finally admitted.
“The world you live in,” Elizabeth replied, meeting his eyes in the mirror over the dresser. “It does scare me. I know it’s dangerous. I know that the bullet you got in December wasn’t the first and probably won’t be the last. I don’t want to lose you that way, but I’m working on accepting it as a possibility.”
“And that’s okay with you?” Jason wanted to know. He stepped up behind her, his fingers lightly brushing her shoulder.
“I’m safe with you,” Elizabeth said softly. “And that’s all that matters to me.”