Written in 62 minutes.
Miller & Associates: Conference Room
For the last week, Elizabeth had met with Diane every daily, going over her marriage in painstaking—and even humiliating—detail. Diane wanted no surprises in this meeting, and Elizabeth knew that everything she said would remain confidential, even from Jason. But it didn’t make it any easier to answer questions like, “Why did you continue the lie after Jason wanted to be a father?” and “Why did you keep involving Jason in your child’s life?”
Questions that reminded Elizabeth how much damage she’d caused, how much hurt and pain she’d inflicted on Jason who had never done anything except say one wrong thing the day he’d learned about the test the results. Sure, Jason could have refused — but she’d known he wouldn’t. Had she taken advantage of that? Diane had asked. Used her history with Jason, his role in Michael’s paternity and belief that Carly had the right to choose for her son?
Not on purpose, Elizabeth had attempted to explain. It sounded so callous. Cruel. Calculating. But it all amounted to the same thing, and was why she was taking a seat next to her lawyer, watching Lucky do the same. His lawyer unpacking his briefcase, retrieving a thick file.
Had Lucky had those same conversations with this man? Did Lincoln Frazier now know every intimate detail of their marriage, every piece of Lucky’s thought process? Between the two lawyers, they should surely know every piece of information. Maybe they could explain to Elizabeth how a marriage that begun with such happiness that day in October 2005, as she’d stood in front of Lucky, her first love, with love and kindness radiating—before plunging into the terrible fights just a year later—and now this—
She hadn’t wanted this — but it felt like every she’d taken that day after leaving Jason’s penthouse—every choice—had led them here.
“Good morning, Lincoln,” Diane said with a breezy smile. “How are you?”
“Not nearly as well as you. Are those new shoes?” the other man asked.
Diane beamed. “So nice of you to notice. You always had an eye for such things.” She picked up her pencil, the sharpened tip poised over her yellow legal pad. “We filed in superior court last week, so I’m sure you’ve had a chance to review our initial proposals.”
“Yes. Your client seeks a dissolution of the marriage with no property or financial entanglements. They both walk away with what they entered the marriage — custody to be determined later.” Lincoln’s dark brows raised. “You’re asking to bifurcate the custody arrangements?”
“With the family court docket being what it is, we anticipate some delays in getting some of our hearings on the docket,” Diane said. “I see no reason why Mr. Spencer or Miss Webber should have to wait to be declared legally single.”
Lincoln nodded. “Yes, my client did anticipate that his wife was eager to be single again for the purposes of other hearings.”
Elizabeth frowned, looked at Diane whose bland expression did not change. “Whatever the motivations, does your client have any problem with that?”
“Yes. The financial situation will take some time to deal with. There is serious credit card debt in Mrs. Spencer’s name—”
Elizabeth’s fists clenched in her lap, but Diane was ready. “Yes, there was a very large charge a year ago to a credit card belonging to my client — a card on which Mr. Spencer was an authorized user.” She picked up a copy of the bill and her reading glasses. “Ah, Promises Recovery and Rehab. Mrs. Spencer is willing to forgo fighting over that charge in order to streamline the dissolution of the marriage—”
“As I said, there are financial issues that I think bear closer study. At this time, we are not looking to join the petition for bifurcation. Mr. Spencer would rather wait for all aspects of this marriage to be litigated before final dissolution.”
Elizabeth exhaled slowly, looked at Lucky who just met her eyes with a sullen glare. She looked back at Diane.
“All right, we’ll let a judge handle that.” Diane set that paperwork aside. “As for the financial situation, we’ll be employing Harris & Son as financial auditors to prepare a report as to what Mrs. Spencer’s share of the marital assets and debts would be so that we can make a proper recommendation to the judge.”
“We’ll make everything available from our side, so long as our financial auditors have access to your documents.”
Auditors digging through her records. Refusing to let her just walk away — Oh, God, Lucky was really going to make this difficult, wasn’t he?
“The marital home on Charles Street belongs to the Spencer family,” Lincoln began.
“Mrs. Spencer is already waiving any claim to it. She understands that it was loaned to them for the duration of the marriage and that it remains in trust for Laura Spencer and her children.” Diane slid that waiver across the table. “It should have been in the original filing, but in case you overlooked it—”
“Of course.” Lincoln paused. “I bring up the subject because it allows for a segue into our most important concern. Custody of the minor children. Mrs. Spencer took the children from the marital home without any discussion of visitation. My client is the legal father of Jacob Martin Spencer and stepfather to Cameron Hardy Webber. He would like to arrange for joint custody, with a fifty-fifty share. One week with him, one week with their mother. That would eliminate the need for child support.”
“As it pertains to Cameron Webber,” Diane said, “my client is in support. Cameron loves his—” She paused and with the slightest sneer in her tone, “stepfather as Mr. Spencer is the only father figure he’s ever known.” She slid another set of papers across the table. “As for the younger son, Jacob, this is an unfiled copy of the paternity suit Jason Morgan will be filing in family court if we cannot mediate the issue today. He will be presenting evidence of paternity and petitioning for Mr. Spencer’s legal status to be terminated. Mr. Spencer is well aware of this fact as Miss Webber already informed him—and the world—of this fact.”
Lincoln did not pick up the papers. He looked at Lucky, who just nodded. The lawyer returned his attention to Diane. “We did anticipate that possibility, and we’ve prepared an answer for that. While Mr. Morgan’s alleged biological connection may add a wrinkle to custody negotiations, in answer to that paternity suit, Mr. Spencer will be ready to defend himself as the child’s legal father.”
“A court—” Diane began.
“Blood relatives are preferred, but not guaranteed,” Lincoln cut in, and Diane closed her mouth. “Mr. Morgan knew of this child’s paternity months ago, according to your client. He also knew it was a possibility before the baby was born. He sat for a paternity test. A fact that no one informed my client about. Mr. Morgan’s failure to provide for his son has given my client serious pause to investigate his fitness as a father.”
Elizabeth clenched her jaw. So Georgie had heard correctly. Lucky was going to attack Jason—
“Mr. Spencer and I have been reviewing his knowledge of Mr. Morgan this last week, and, well, Diane, I must admit I’m bit confused as to why Mrs. Spencer would want this man anywhere near her or the minor children. His arrest record, the recent trial—”
“All irrelevant as Mr. Morgan does not have have an actual criminal record,” Diane said coolly. “As law enforcement officer, Mr. Spencer is well aware of that fact.”
“Yes, well—my client has a proposal to make. He does not wish to cause anyone any more undue pain or embarrassment or legal trouble. There are some facts Mr. Spencer is aware of that would put Mr. Morgan’s fitness as a father into stark contention—and Mrs. Spencer’s fitness as a mother, as well, since she is quite aware of these facts.”
Elizabeth frowned, shook her head. “What—” She closed her mouth as Diane looked at her.
“Please, enlighten us, Lincoln, as to the facts you think my client is ignoring.”
“As you know, last year, my client became addicted to the pain medication subscribed to him after an injury—an injury sustained as he attempted to rescue Mrs. Spencer from the clutches of a villain who had kidnapped her. As a result of that addition, Mr. Spencer made some mistakes I’m sure you’re going to bring up. And one of those mistakes,” Lincoln said coolly, “was allowing Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Spencer to convince him that Manny Ruiz died as a result of Mr. Spencer’s heroic actions. However, Mr. Spencer is quite aware that it was Mr. Morgan who inflicted the deadly blow, and Mrs. Spencer acted as an accessory after the fact.”
Diane stared at him for a long moment. “I’m sorry. Are you attempting to argue that your client participated in the cover-up of a murder and that somehow makes my client look like an unfit mother?”
“I am previewing the case I intend to make before a judge in any paternity or custody hearing,” Lincoln said. “Mrs. Spencer convinced her husband that Jason Morgan had nothing to do with Manny Ruiz’s death. That Mr. Spencer was the hero, for which he was celebrated for in the press. She did this to cover up the murder committed by her lover — the affair that you plan to use to prove paternity also corroborates Mr. Spencer’s events. She took advantage of an officer with a tragic addiction to pain pills to keep her lover out of jail. The same lover who was recently on trial for a different murder. Who has a long arrest record for felonies and misdemeanors. That is the argument I’ll be making to a family court judge as to why Jacob Spencer should remain in the legal custody of Lucas Lorenzo Spencer, Jr., with supervised visitation from his mother—should she not be charged with any crimes relating to these incidents. Questions?’
“I don’t know why you’re even bothering with this conversation,” Nikolas told Emily as he went around his desk, took a seat. “Lucky isn’t going to listen to you anymore than he did me.”
“I still have to try,” Emily said with a sigh. “I understand how angry and hurt he is — I’m not making excuses for Elizabeth. I wouldn’t. She should have told me last year — I mean, I knew about the paternity test. I just didn’t know the results.” She rubbed her arms. “I can understand what she did. How things unraveled last year, and I hate to think I put any pressure on her—”
“She likes to put herself in the center,” Nikolas muttered, and Emily turned to look at him, confused.
“All the weight for Lucky’s recovery — she puts it on herself. The baby—which she carried—got him clean. As if Lucky didn’t do the work—”
“That—” Emily shook her head. “That’s not what she means when she talks about the pressure. Lucky’s the one that linked his recovery to the pregnancy. He didn’t even check in until he found out—”
“Still. She didn’t even try to talk to either of us,” Nikolas said. “We would have been there for Lucky—”
“Maybe. But maybe it wouldn’t have helped. We were there for him before that, weren’t we? That didn’t seem to stop him from relapsing, continuing the affair with Maxie—God, Nikolas—why are we arguing about this? It happened. We can’t fix it. We can’t take it back or change anything. All we can do is try to get them through this next part—”
“And that’s what I’m doing. Lucky deserves the best representation,” Nikolas said. “I saw that Diane Miller is taking Elizabeth’s case. He needs someone to stand up for him—”
“What about what he’s asking? Is he really going to drag them all through court just to hear a judge say the same thing we’re saying now? You think it’ll be better for him if it takes six months for a judge to take Jake away?” Emily demanded. “Don’t you think that puts him a greater risk for the relapse?”
“Maybe. But he says this is what he needs—”
“He’s being selfish—”
“To hold on to his own child?” Nikolas snorted. “Blood doesn’t matter, Emily. You’re adopted, that doesn’t matter—”
“Really? If blood doesn’t matter so much, why is he threatening to walk away from Cameron?” she wanted to know. “You and I both know that the only difference between those two kids is that Lucky thought Jake was his biological son. He’s fighting to hold on to the baby he barely knows and ready to throw out the child who adores him.”
“That’s not fair—you know he loves Cameron—”
“He loves him the way you do. The way I do. As an adorable child we’ve watched grow up. He doesn’t feel any kind of sense of belonging. If he truly saw Cameron as his own, he wouldn’t be using this way. You know that. He’s using that precious child as leverage — banking that Elizabeth will push Jason away so that Cameron doesn’t get hurt.”
Nikolas exhaled slowly. “Maybe that’s true,” he said, “but—”
“No matter how much this hurts, we have to do what’s right. What’s good for everyone, including those boys. Lucky is going to lose Jake. You know that. But he’d rather put Cameron in the middle. What kind of father does that?”
“A desperate one—”
“You’re a fool if you support him in this.” Her eyes burned with tears. “You’re no better than the man I divorced two years ago. You and your brother are alike. You run from reality and find something else to fill the pain. He used pills, you used another woman—”
“That’s not fair—”
“I’m not interested in fair,” Emily bit out. “I don’t have the luxury for it. I only care about what’s right. And Lucky’s gamble is going to fail. It deserves to. He’ll lose them both, and you know what he’s not even taking into consideration?”
“Cameron is barely three years old. If he keeps pushing this, if he keeps hurting Cameron, Elizabeth has options. Does Lucky even think about that? Jason is right there, stepping up for Jake. Do you think he’d walk away from Cameron? Really? Lucky’s going to lose, but you know what? He deserves to.”
“It’s all about Jason with you. Just like it is with Elizabeth—”
“Because my brother is the better man. And you and your brother have hated him for years because of it.” Emily’s lips curved into a sick smile. “Or did you think I forgot that Christmas party when you announced to the world he was sleeping with Elizabeth? Go to hell. You and your brother.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
It was getting easier to handle both kids, Jason reflected as he descended the stairs after putting Jake down for a nap and watched Cameron loop around the pool table again on the miniature bike he’d carted down from the playroom that morning. Even if Cameron never ran out of energy.
“Zoom!” The toddler chanted as he raced past Jason again, but then the corner of the bike caught the desk and it tipped over. Cameron fell off with a thud, then sat up with a scowl.
“You okay?” Jason knelt down, righted the bike and checked Cameron for bumps. “You need to go a little slower,” he told him.
Cameron grinned at him. “Slow sad. Happy fast.” He climbed back on the bike and continued the lap as if nothing had happened. The resilience of children.
The door opened then, and Diane came in, followed by Elizabeth, and Jason’s smile faded as he got to his feet. Neither of them looked happy.
“I guess it didn’t go well,” Jason said, his heart pounding. Diane had made the mediation sound like nothing—just an annoying box to tick off as they marched towards custody and paternity hearings.
“That depends on your definition of well,” Diane said. She looked to Elizabeth. “I’ll draw up another waiver of conflict of interest. The previous one only protected us in civil court. It’s different wording in criminal—”
“Criminal—” Jason echoed, not even feeling the pinch as Cameron’s bike rolled over his foot. “What happened?”
Elizabeth folded her arms, smiled grimly. “Well, Georgie definitely heard correctly. Lucky’s going after both of us. He claims you—” She took a deep breath, lowered her voice so that Cameron couldn’t hear her. “He claims that you killed Manny Ruiz, and I helped you cover it up by convincing Lucky, my poor, tragic, pain addicted husband, to take the credit. If we file a paternity suit, Lucky’s going to tell everyone that it was the fall from the roof that killed Manny, not Lucky’s bullets. And—”
“And the autopsy reports Alexis buried support that,” Jason finished.
“The only way to avoid all of this,” Diane said, “is if we drop the paternity suit and agree to Lucky’s custody demands.”
In other words, if Jason wanted avoid jail and keep Elizabeth from being charged as an accessory, or hell, even an accomplice—
He’d need to give up his son.