Written in 53 minutes. Basic spell check.
Elizabeth stared at the search warrant that Taggert dangled in front of her, struggling to process not only what was happening in front of her but what had happened less than five minutes ago.
Jason had kissed her.
Jason had kissed her.
Jason Morgan had kissed her.
She knew she should be focusing on the search warrant and the police officers standing behind the irritated detective, but her brain was screaming at her that she needed to shut the door on him, turn around and ask Jason what the hell that had meant before they lost the moment—
“Last chance,” Taggert said, drawing Elizabeth’s attention back to him. She frowned. “Answer my questions—”
Behind her, she heard Jason make a sound that might have been a mixture of a growl and a hiss, and she knew that he never ever showed Taggert any reaction — except when Taggert was harassing her.
Because she didn’t want to explain to anyone why Jason was arrested for committing assault against an officer, Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Do you mind if I read it?”
“Excuse me?” Taggert frowned, letting his hand fall slightly. “Read it?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth said. “I’d like to read it so I know what you’re looking for and so that I can make sure you don’t touch anything or take anything you’re not supposed to.” She held out her hand.
Taggert squinted. “Did you go to law school this semester or something?” he demanded. “Or is Morgan giving you lessons?”
“Uh, this is the state of New York and I watch Law & Order,” Elizabeth said with a roll of her eyes. “Reruns are on, like, all the time. So I know that if I request a copy of the search warrant before you come in, you have to give it to me. I’m not allowed to stop you, but I am—”
Taggert glowered but shoved the paper at her. She unfolded the paper and frowned at it. “You’re looking for bloody clothing, firearms, and any other evidence that suggests involvement in a crime.” She wrinkled her nose. “That seems really vague, doesn’t it?”
“Oh. You have a mistake on your warrant.” Elizabeth beamed at him. “My studio is on the fourth floor. You have it listed as the fifth floor.” She handed it back to him. “You need to correct that or anything you find might be thrown out of court.”
Taggert stared at her. “Who are you?”
“You heard her—” Jason began but Elizabeth waved him off. She could handle this.
“I mean, if you execute this search now with incorrect paperwork,” Elizabeth explained to Taggert, “I’m just going to tell the lawyer I hire to sue the PCPD that you knew it was incorrect and that you verbally, in front of witnesses that include your fellow officers, made it clear that you were planning to illegally search my studio for vague evidence because I was exercising my constitutional right to remain silent. It’s your choice.”
Taggert pressed his lips together. “I will be back with corrected paperwork,” he told her. “And they’re standing right outside to make sure you don’t throw anything out—”
“I would think you’d want me to throw things out,” Elizabeth said, opening her eyes wide with feigned innocence. “Because then I’ve abandoned the property and you don’t need a warrant. Is that why they’re staying?”
He stared at her for a long moment, then turned to the officers. “Let’s go,” he muttered, snapping his fingers. Elizabeth watched them go down the hall and head into the service stairs. She closed the door, letting all of the air out of her chest at once. She felt slightly dizzy and light headed.
“How—” Jason paused. “How did you know to do that?” he asked.
She turned. “What? Oh. I meant what I told him. They have reruns on Law & Order on one one of those cable networks all the time, and I spent like half the spring watching them over and over again.” She folded her arms. “I watched them a lot when I was home sick, and—” Elizabeth squinted at him. “Do you think he’ll be back with corrected paperwork? I wonder if he thinks the canvas knives count as a evidence.”
“I’ll call Alexis,” Jason said, still staring at her as if he’d never seen her before. “Elizabeth—”
“I know it must come as shock to you, and clearly to the rest of the world, but I know how to take care of myself. I’m not helpless,” she told him. “I’m sorry if that’s a problem—”
“It’s not.” Jason gritted his teeth. “I’m sorry,” he added. “I just—I hate that you’re being dragged into this. Alexis will make it go away. You’ve told Taggert you’re not answering questions, and I know she could get a search warrant thrown out.”
“Thanks.” She bit her lip, then tucked her hair behind her ears. “I don’t think they can force me to answer their questions, right?”
“You mean Law & Order didn’t cover this?” he asked with half a grin. She rolled her eyes. “No. Unless he decides to be really stupid and make it seem like you’re an accomplice—but that’s not going to happen. No one knows I was shot or that you took care of me.” He hesitated. “Except Sonny and Bobbie.” He sighed. “And Carly.”
“Oh. Well, Carly’s not going to do anything that…would…get you arrested,” Elizabeth said. Then winced, remember what had happened earlier that year when Carly had accidentally had Jason briefly accused of kidnapping Michael. “Not again, right?”
“Probably not on purpose, but Carly isn’t predictable. Let’s not—” Jason took out his phone as it rang in his pocket. He grimaced at whatever was showing up on the screen. “It’s Sonny. I have—I have to go.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth rubbed a finger against her lip and watched his eyes drop to her mouth. Feeling a bit bolstered by that, she decided not to get mad they couldn’t talk about it right now. It had still happened, and it wasn’t like they could forget it entirely.
“I’ll see you later, then,” she said.
“I’ll see you later.” Jason waited a minute, then walked past her, and with another look over his shoulder, left.
Wednesday, December 29, 1999
Elizabeth hummed to herself as she refilled sugar canisters behind the counter and kept an eye on the door to Kelly’s, wondering if Jason would come by at closing like he used before the shooting. He knew she was working the closing shift because she had met her new guard, Francis, who had walked her to work from the studio that morning. She wasn’t sure how she felt about having a guard but it also wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Bobbie smiled at her as she sat down with the evening’s receipts in her hand as well as the ledger for the diner. “You’re in a better mood than the last time I saw you.”
“Oh, well, that was at the Christmas Party,” Elizabeth reminded her as she finished the last canister and started to refill the ketchup. “Nikolas made things a little annoying for a while, but it’s starting to get better.”
Maybe if Jason came by, they’d go on a ride and he’d kiss her again. Or could she kiss him? She grinned to herself. It was so silly to think about something like, but she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt silly—
“I am so sorry,” Bobbie was saying when Elizabeth tuned back into the redhead. “That I didn’t realize earlier. I should have talked to Jason before.”
Elizabeth frowned, tipping her head. “Before?”
“Well, I suppose I didn’t know that Nikolas or Audrey had been by,” Bobbie continued, “or that they knew about Jason. I never imagined anyone would believe you and Jason were dating.”
Elizabeth’s stomach rolled slightly as she swallowed hard. “Well, Nikolas can be impulsive,” she said faintly.
“I know. But it wasn’t until the party when I realized that it would be a problem. It didn’t help that you left with Jason and Sonny,” Bobbie said with a shake of her head. “Everyone believed it then.”
“I was supposed to stay at the party with Nikolas and my grandmother? After he’d humiliated me?”
“Well, no, I suppose not. I guess I just wish I had anticipated how messy it would be. And it’s dying down, just like you said. I should have talked to Jason before the party, when I realized he was probably well enough to leave.” Bobbie smiled at her, a warm smile that still felt slightly wrong. “I feel guilty, Elizabeth. I should have seen that you were getting a bit of a crush.”
“A crush,” Elizabeth repeated. “I—”
“When I realized it, I went over to talk to Jason, and he realized it was awkward, too—”
Oh God. “Did you—” Elizabeth swallowed, horrified. “Did you tell him I had a crush on him?”
“Of course not, sweetheart.” Bobbie squeezed Elizabeth’s chilled hand. “I would never do something like that. I just told him it wasn’t a good idea for you to be known as Jason Morgan’s girlfriend, and he agreed.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “You did this the day after Christmas.” The day Jason had seemed fine with her, and then had abruptly left the studio and not called her or spoken to her for nearly twenty-four hours.
“Yes. It’s all right, Elizabeth. Jason’s a good man, and I can see how you could get your head turned a bit. With you at college, you’ll meet someone who will make you forget all about this little crush.” Bobbie beamed at her, then looked down at the receipts. “Oh, damn, I forgot to carry the one.”
“I need to go—” Elizabeth forced a smile. “I need to go in the back for a minute.”
Leaving the smiling woman at the counter, Elizabeth ignored DJ behind the stove and went over to the walk fridge.
“Lizzie, don’t go falling asleep in there—”
Elizabeth turned to him, her hand on the metal handle of the door with a sigh. “DJ, what was after locusts again?”
“Darkness, Lizzie,” the cook offered. “But I told you, you don’t want to be tempting none of that.”
“Maybe I do,” she muttered and went inside to let the cold air hit her cheeks and force some common sense into her silly little brain.
Jason shoved his hands into his pockets, feeling strangely anxious as he walked towards the double doors of the diner, seeing the closed sign on the door. He knew she was still there—he’d called the new guard just to make sure.
But he couldn’t see her inside the diner, only saw Bobbie talking to Francis and putting on her coat. A moment later, the redhead emerged and smiled at him. “Jason! We’re closed. I just sent DJ home—”
“I’m here to pick Elizabeth up,” Jason said. “She’s still here, right?”
“Oh, she’s in the back with that guard you sent her. I guess you’re more worried about those rumors than I thought.” Bobbie hitched the strap of her purse higher on her shoulder. “I’m not sure this is a good idea,” she told him.
Jason frowned, shook his head. “What’s not a good idea?”
“Spending all this time with Elizabeth, alone,” Bobbie said, stressing the last word. “I mean, we talked about this, didn’t we? Elizabeth didn’t need a reputation that isn’t true, and well—” Bobbie pursed her lips. “I really shouldn’t say anything, but you’re a nice man. And you don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
Baffled, Jason shook his head again. “No, I don’t—”
“She has a bit of a crush on you,” Bobbie told him. “Now, she knows it’s not going anywhere. She and I talked about it—she knows we talked after Christmas, but I think—”
Jason put a hand up. “Bobbie,” he said, cutting her off. “What do you mean, Elizabeth knows it’s not going anywhere?”
Bobbie pursed her lips, squinted her eyes. “Well, I told her what we talked about after the party. About how you agreed she didn’t need to be known as your girlfriend—”
For the life of him, he would never, ever understand women. “Bobbie, did you tell Elizabeth that I don’t have feelings for her?”
A bit taken aback, Bobbie hesitated. “Not in those words, exactly,” she said, drawing the words slowly, “but I’d be surprised if she didn’t take that view.” Her mouth formed a little circle. “Oh. Oh, dear. I was trying to help, but—”
“But you did the exact opposite,” Jason muttered, dragging his hand over his face. First all the dumb customers in her face about how she wasn’t his type, and the idiot warehouse workers, and Nikolas and her grandmother—the cops—
Not to mention Jason couldn’t have handled any of this worse than he had.
Now Bobbie was trying to help.
“Jason, are you telling me you’re interested in Elizabeth?” Bobbie asked skeptically. “She’s eighteen—”
“And technically I’m twenty-five,” he bit out. “I know that. But I don’t exactly remember all twenty-five of those years, do I? Why does that matter?”
“Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way,” Bobbie said. “And she’s been through more in the last two years than most adults deal with in a life time.” She sighed. “I’m sorry. I just—I love her so much. I want her to be happy. I just don’t see how this—I mean, can you imagine what Carly is going to do?”
He didn’t have to imagine—he knew exactly what Carly would do if Jason publicly showed interest in another woman. “It’s my life, Bobbie. And it’s Elizabeth’s choice. Not anyone else’s.”
“Of course, of course. Well, she’s in the back. I’m sorry,” Bobbie said again, but Jason ignored her and went into the diner.
Elizabeth emerged from the pantry, the last of her closing responsibilities completed and walked out into the front of the dinner—stopping when she saw that Francis was gone and Jason was standing at the counter. “Oh.” Nervous, she tucked her hair behind her ear. “I wasn’t sure if you—”
“I thought you might want a ride home,” Jason said. He paused. “If that’s okay.”
“I parked the bike in the alley.” He gestured towards the back of the diner. “I’ll get the lights and the door.”
“Okay.” Flustered and not really sure she was comfortable with any of this, Elizabeth went behind the counter to get her purse and coat. Jason flipped the locks and turned off the light.
In the alley, Jason went out first, and Elizabeth followed letting the heavy security door fall shut. She started towards the bike, but then he turned to her and Elizabeth barely had a minute to register what was happening before his mouth was on hers and she was pressed against him, his hands in her hair.
Elizabeth’s purse dropped to the ground and her arms went around his neck. She leaned up on the tips of her toes, returning his kiss with everything she could manage in her limited experience.
“I’ve been thinking about that all day,” he murmured as he drew back. Her eyes fluttered open and she stared at him, not really trusting her own ears. “Since yesterday. Longer.”
“Really?” Elizabeth said, a bit breathless, her heart pounding. “You’re not…” She licked her lips. “But Bobbie—”
“She was wrong.” He dipped his head to kiss her again and Elizabeth decided not to argue anymore.