Written in 54 minutes. Basic spell check, but not reread for typos.
Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she was happy or irritated when she turned the corner and found Jason leaning against the wall next to her door. After the day she’d just had, she wondered if he’d say something that was supposed to reassure her. The last time he’d tried that, she’d just wanted to smack him with a baseball bat.
“Uh, hey.” Jason straightened as she approached and pulled out her keys. “We have a problem.”
“Must be Tuesday,” she muttered. She unlocked her door and shoved it open. “I hope we have the same problem or else my day is going to get worse.”
Jason frowned as he walked into the studio ahead of her. He turned to face her when he reached the sofa. “What do you mean?”
“You first. What’s wrong?” Elizabeth unzipped her jacket and tossed it over the back of the sofa. She unclipped her hair, letting it spill down around her shoulders. She blinked when she realized Jason hadn’t said anything, but was just staring at her. “Jason?”
“What—” He shook his head slightly. “I’m sorry — I — Sonny told me that Nikolas went to the PCPD to try to get me arrested for the Christmas party.”
“Of course he did.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Well, that’s funny because my problem is also about the—” She stopped when he winced. “Wait, is that why Taggert and Capelli stopped me on the pier?”
“They already questioned you?” Jason made a face when she nodded. “Damn it. I was hoping to get to you first. Look—I know you were just trying to help, but—” He scrubbed his hands down his face. “What’s the damage? How bad is it?”
Elizabeth stared at him for a long moment, her eyes aching, her lip trembling as it hit her. Why he looked so worried, why he was so irritated —
“The damage,” she repeated softly. “Because I’m a silly little girl who either told them the truth or lied my ass off, right? And either way, now you think I’m in trouble because I don’t know what’s going on.”
Jason flinched, exhaled slowly. “No, that’s not—I just—”
A sharp knock on the door cut him off, and Elizabeth turned away from him, grateful for the interruption. She swiped at her eyes—she was not going to let him see that he’d upset her. First she’d throw him out and then she’d cry.
She peered through the window of the door, then growled. “What the hell—” Elizabeth yanked it open. “I told you, I have nothing to say—”
“Look, Elizabeth, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to—” Taggert froze, then tensed when he spied Jason over her shoulder. “What did you call him to compare stories?” he demanded.
Elizabeth threw open the door and stood back so that both men were facing each other. “What story?” she asked coolly. She folded her arms. “Did I tell you any stories, Taggert?”
“Elizabeth—” Taggert began.
“Let me call Alexis,” Jason said at the same time. Both men stopped talking, then glared at each other.
“Just in case Taggert tries to tell you differently,” Elizabeth said to Jason, “he wanted to ask me a couple of questions. He asked me two. I answered one of them.”
“I’m sorry about Capelli,” Taggert continued.
“He asked me if I saw you on November 30, and I told him yes,” Elizabeth told Jason, ignoring the detective. Not taking her eyes from Jason, she continued, “Taggert, did I tell you anything else?”
“No,” Taggert bit out. “But—”
Jason’s expression didn’t change, but she knew it was because of the cop in the room, so Elizabeth turned back to Taggert. “I told you, I have nothing else to say to you. Or to anyone else at the PCPD. You got two questions. It’s not my fault Capelli wasted the second one. If you want to talk me again, you better have an arrest warrant. Good bye.” She slammed the door in his face and stalked past Jason to sit on the sofa and tug off her boots.
“I’d wait a few minutes for him to leave,” Elizabeth said without looking at Jason. She tossed her boots with her other shoes. “And then you can get out, too.”
“I’m sorry,” Jason said after a long moment of silence. He sat on the sofa, careful to sit as far away from her as possible. “I just—”
“Didn’t trust me,” Elizabeth said. She jerked a shoulder. “It’s fine. You know they’re investigating you for Anthony Moreno, right?”
Jason winced. “Yeah. Did they tell you that?”
“In a roundabout way. Capelli wasted his question trying to be cute,” Elizabeth said. She turned slightly, drawing her leg underneath. “He asked me how long I screwed you before you left to kill Moreno.”
Jason’s expression tensed, and his nostrils flared. “He what—”
“I told him that my personal life isn’t relevant, so I wasn’t answering the question and I walked away. I think Taggert was trying to do good cop, bad cop again.” She rubbed her fist absently against her chest. “I’ll just stay away from them. I’ve already told them I won’t say anything without a lawyer, so we should be fine.”
“Yeah, I—” Jason pressed his lips together. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, his tone softer. “I should have trusted you. You’ve never let me down.”
“Give me time. I’m pretty good at disappointing people.” A lump rose in her throat and she swallowed hard, staring at her fingers. “And, you know, this is my fault anyway. I’m the one that told Nikolas—I’m the reason—”
“Hey—” Jason leaned forward, waiting for her to look up. “He came in and found me half-dressed on your sofa, Elizabeth. He was already thinking it.”
“Yeah, I know, but I didn’t have to throw gasoline—” She sighed. “I think it’s just frustrating. Everyone’s looking at me like I’m doing something wrong. And before you say it’s about you—it’s not. It’s me. Because they all bring up Lucky. That was Nikolas’s problem. Lucky’s only been gone eight months—and my grandmother—” Elizabeth pressed her fingers to her lips. “I wonder if this would hurt even more if it were true.”
Jason frowned slightly, shaking his head. “What do you mean?”
“If—” Elizabeth felt her cheeks heat even as she continued, “if you and I were—if I was dating anyone—” she added, “and people were judging me for moving on. It’s been eight months.” She closed her eyes. “In a few weeks, it’ll be nine months. He’s dead. He’s gone. And I worked so hard to be okay with that.”
“And I am okay with it. I am,” she insisted, when she could see the doubt in Jason’s expression. “It sucks, and it’s terrible, but I can breathe. I can see a future for myself without him, and that wasn’t true even a few months ago. And the people who love me—they don’t care. They’re not even happy—and if I were really moving on, I think—”
And maybe that was why this hurt so much. Because she was moving on. It didn’t matter that Jason wasn’t moving with her, that he was still just a friend. She knew what her feelings were, even if they didn’t matter. And maybe that’s what Nikolas, Emily, and her grandmother could see.
It hurt like hell that they didn’t want her to be happy, to date again, to fall in love again.
“I really think it is because they think it’s me,” Jason told her softly. “When you do start to—” He paused and his expression almost looked pained, “when do you start to date again, they’ll be fine—”
“But they don’t know the truth,” Elizabeth said, “so for all they know, I’m happy with you, and that doesn’t matter to them—ugh, you don’t get it,” she muttered. She shoved herself off the sofa. “I know, to you, because it’s not true, it shouldn’t matter what they think because in a few weeks—” She wrapped on arm around her waist, and bit the thumb on her other hand. “That’ll be worse,” she muttered.
“How?” Jason asked. She heard him stand, but Elizabeth didn’t turn to face him. “Won’t this be better when everyone moves on to the next thing?”
Because everyone would think he’d broken up with her. No one would ever believe she’d leave him. And for Jason, it would be over, but Elizabeth would still deal with the smirks and the pitying looks. And because telling him that would be too close to admitting that she wanted this to be more, so she closed her eyes, swallowed hard, then turned around to smile at him.
“You’re right. Everything will be better when this is just a memory.”
Jason frowned at her, searching her eyes. “Don’t do that,” he said darkly. “Don’t lie to me.”
“Then don’t—” Elizabeth huffed. “Don’t ask me stupid questions like that, Jason. You’re not a woman, so you don’t get it. This will be better for you when everyone forgets. But no one is going to forget. They’re just going to think we broke up, and—” She hissed. “I’m not doing this. This is the same stupid thing from last night, and I’m just tired. Can we just leave it at that?”
She walked over to the sink, wishing she had some brushes she could pretend to wash. Could she ask him to leave? How could she just get him to leave her alone and stop asking her questions—
“Because of what they said about you,” Jason said slowly, “people are going to think I broke it off.”
Damn, she wished he wasn’t smart or didn’t know her so well. “I know it doesn’t matter what people think. Or that it shouldn’t,” she added. She bit her lip. “But it does. And none of this is your problem. It was my lie that started this, my friends and family who made it public knowledge—”
“You lied for me.” He was closer to her now, and she could almost feel his breath on her neck, shivers sliding across her skin.
Elizabeth slowly turned around—Jason was only a few inches away from her. She lifted her chin so that their eyes met and held. “You were hurt. And I wanted Nikolas to leave so I could make sure you were okay.”
He tucked an errant curl behind her ear, a finger tip sliding around the curve of her ear. “And I am. Because of you.” There was something different in his eyes—something she’d never seen before, and the way his breathing had changed.
“The things they said,” Elizabeth said, “they’re true. I know they’re the reasons you’d never look at me, and it’s going to hurt when people say it’s why—”
“They’re wrong,” Jason told her, his voice husky, his fingertip trailing down her cheek bone to sweep across her chin. “And they don’t know anything about you. Or me.” He dipped his head down, and just before their lips met, “They don’t know anything about us.”
Then he kissed her.
This had not been the plan.
Jason had intended to get to Elizabeth before the PCPD could, and tell her not to say anything without a lawyer. Then he was going to leave because all the gossip would go away faster if they weren’t seen together.
Then he’d been stupid and said something that had hurt her—then Taggert had showed up and proved to Jason that not only had he been stupid—he’d been arrogant to assume Elizabeth would leap at the chance to tell the PCPD they’d spent the night together.
And then she’d been pissed at him, and when she’d walked away from him, upset because he didn’t understand why it mattered what people thought about them because they weren’t technically a them —
The truth had finally slammed into Jason like a freight train and he’d been left feeling slightly stunned. It hurt Elizabeth that people didn’t think she was the kind of woman that would keep him because she wanted to be, and she thought they were right.
And he couldn’t stand her to think that. To entertain it for even a second. So when she’d look at him with her beautiful eyes, and that hair he’d just wanted to slide his hands through since the moment she’d let it down—
Jason stopped thinking.
And he kissed her.
He forced himself to keep it light, to keep it soft—because if he showed her how much he actually wanted her, she might run screaming from the building—
Or maybe Jason wasn’t ready to find out Elizabeth really did feel the same.
Her lips was soft, sweet, and trembled slightly underneath his—then they parted and he dipped his tongue in to taste her, to see if she was sweet all over—
With a sound that might have been a purr, Elizabeth slid her arms around his neck and tipped her head, pressed herself closer to him. Jason’s hands dove into her hair, sliding through the soft, silky strands.
Elizabeth’s hands slid down from his neck to his chest, and then she said gently pushed. Jason stepped back, ending the kiss as they stared at each other, their faces flushed, breathing shallow.
“I—” Elizabeth began, but before either of them could say a word, there was another knock at the door. A pounding. She winced, then went over to the door. “It’s Taggert again,” she said with a mutter.
Jason swore, then yanked the door open. “She told you—” he began, but then stopped as Taggert, with a few other officers behind him, held up a piece of paper.
A search warrant.