It was the first time she’d smiled.
Barely three days after she married Jason, Elizabeth stood in front of her mirror, her hand over abdomen. She could feel the skin being drawn tightly and when she raised her t-shirt and stood sideways, she could see a slight bulge.
“Laura Audrey,” she murmured. She giggled. “Or are you Lucas Steven?”
She closed her eyes and tried to image her child. A little girl with her porcelain skin, her dark hair and when a fantasy image of her daughter’s eyes flashed through her brain, Elizabeth jerked her eyes open and was startled to see Jason in the mirror’s reflection. He was standing in the open doorway.
“I thought you were at the warehouse,” she said, letting her shirt fall back in place. She turned towards him.
“Johnny called. Something came up with his sister and he can’t take you to the doctor’s.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m taking you.”
Alarmed, she shook her head. “I’ll just ask Max or Francis,” she murmured. “It’s fine—”
“Max is out with Carly and Francis is in Puerto Rico.” Jason shrugged. “I’m already here anyway.”
She bit her lip. She was supposed to be having her first ultrasound today. Now would not be a good time for him to go to her prenatal appointment. She took a deep breath. He could just wait outside in the waiting room.
“Okay,” Elizabeth replied. “We’d better go then.”
They found themselves sitting in the obstetrician’s waiting room twenty minutes later. Elizabeth was flipping through some pamphlets while Jason sat next to her in silence.
He cleared his throat. “Have you thought about names?” he asked. He cursed under his breath when the question was out. So much for staying distanced from her and this baby.
Elizabeth shifted and clutched the locket in one of her hands. “Yeah. Actually, I—I’ve decided on Laura Audrey and Lucas Steven.”
Jason grimaced. “You’d name him after Luke?”
Elizabeth had to laugh at the look on Jason’s face. “Luke has been great to me,” she replied. “He’s been more of a father to me than my own.” She looked down. “I-my father actually called a few days ago. Seems he checked up on you and he wanted to congratulate me on landing such a wealthy husband.” She shook her head and sighed. “If he shows up, can you tell the guards to tell him to go hell?”
“Your father’s an ass,” Jason muttered.
“Elizabeth Morgan,” the receptionist called. “Dr. Banks will see you now.” Elizabeth stood while Jason remained seated. “Oh, your husband’s more than welcome to go in with you, Mrs. Morgan.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. Mrs. Morgan. She wasn’t sure she’d never get used to hearing that.
She turned to Jason. He was staring at his feet, not looking at her at all. “I—”
“I’ll just wait out here,” he said quietly.
She shook her head. “No,” she told him. “Come in with me. I-I’m having an ultrasound and I don’t—” she hesitated. “I don’t want to do it alone.”
He was on his feet instantly. “Sure.”
“I’m such a schmuck,” she muttered under her breath.
“Good morning, Miss Webber,” Dr. Banks said, a large smile on her face. She indicated the seats in front of her desk. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s Morgan, now isn’t?”
Elizabeth flushed and sat down. “Yes, it is.” She waited for Jason to sit next to her. “Dr. Banks, this is my—” she glanced at him as she said it. “My husband, Jason. Jason, this is Dr. Banks.”
Jason nodded at the doctor, who smiled at him. “It’s always nice to see fathers involved in the prenatal care.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and looked away.
“Well, anyway, Mrs. Morgan,” the doctor continued. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” she admitted. “The morning sickness has been a little hard to handle. Not really fond of vomiting in the morning and in the afternoon.” She frowned. “Why do they call it morning sickness if it occurs more than just in the morning?”
Dr. Banks laughed. “Your queasiness will subside and your appetite will return within the next month.”
“That’s good to hear,” Elizabeth answered.
“Okay, so, are you two ready to see your baby?” she asked cheerfully as she stood. Elizabeth winced at the referral of Jason as the father but reassured herself that from now on she would make a more concentrated effort to keep Jason and her pregnancy separate.
Dr. Banks showed them to a small examining room and directed Elizabeth to lay on the table. Jason uncomfortably stood next to her as she got comfortable on the table.
The doctor wheeled the ultrasound over to Elizabeth and lifted her soft blue t-shirt. “Oh, look, you’re showing!”
Immediately Jason looked at his wife’s stomach and sure enough, there was a slight bulge. His hand twitched at his side but he forced himself to keep from feeling it. This was not his child and he couldn’t let himself think any differently.
“I noticed it this morning,” Elizabeth said. She moved her own hand over her abdomen. “Is it normal? I mean, am I showing enough?”
“You’re fine,” Dr. Banks assured her. “Once you begin showing, it goes so quickly. In a few weeks, you might start feel some fluttering, that’ll be your baby.” She smiled and reached for the clear gel to spread on her stomach. “This will be cold so be warned.”
Elizabeth jumped a little at the chilly sensation. She smiled nervously as the doctor began the ultrasound. “How does she look?”
Dr. Banks peered at the image on the screen. “Everything looks fine.” She moved slightly and looked to Jason. “I’m sorry, I was blocking your view, Mr. Morgan.”
Jason glanced at the screen and looked away. “I can’t really see it anyway.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and looked at the screen. She looked back at Jason and took his hand in hers. Schmuck, she told herself again as she directed his hand towards the screen. “That’s the heartbeat, right?” she asked Dr. Banks.
The doctor nodded. “Good strong and healthy heartbeat, Mrs. Morgan.” She smiled at the couple. “The head’s right there, two little arms and legs.” She watched as Elizabeth moved Jason’s hand according to her words.
“If the baby would turn a bit, we might be able to take a guess at whether you should be decorating in blue or pink.”
“You can tell this early?” Jason found himself asking curiously.
“Well, we wouldn’t know for absolute sure until the twentieth week,” Dr. Banks replied. “But I said we can take a guess.” She smiled at him. “I’m usually not wrong.”
“So, do I have a Laura or a Luke?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes sparkling. Dr. Banks frowned at the use of the single pronoun rather than the plural but shrugged it off. Until today, her patient had remained absolutely mum on the subject of the father and she’d be surprised to learn Elizabeth had married at all.
“Well.” Dr. Banks hesitated, peered at the screen for a few more moments. “Ah, there well, in my professional opinion, you’ve got yourselves a little girl.”
“A girl,” Elizabeth breathed. She looked at Jason, excitedly. “Did you hear that?”
“Now, I’m not positive,” Dr. Banks reminded her. “And I’ll want you to have another ultrasound next month. Don’t forget to schedule your amniocentesis in late September. But as of right now, Mrs. Morgan, you’ve got a perfectly healthy baby girl. Everything is developing nicely and on schedule. We’ll make another appointment for two weeks from now.”
Dr. Banks stood. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she told them as she left the room.
The image was frozen on the screen and Elizabeth could hardly stop staring at it. “That’s my baby,” she murmured. Her hand was still holding Jason’s and she clutched at it, excited. “Can you see her?” she asked. She used her free to hand to gesture towards the screen.
With Dr. Banks’ help, Jason had been able to make out some of the baby, but now that the image was just a still image, he was once again having trouble. “I could before, but she’s not moving.”
“That’s her head,” Elizabeth told him, pointing. She’d all but forgotten her resolve to keep Jason separate from the pregnancy. She was too excited. Until today, the baby had been an abstract idea in her mind, just morning sickness and some doctor’s appointments. Now, Laura Audrey—she frowned. Would her daughter be a Webber or a Morgan now that Elizabeth had changed her name?
“What else?” Jason asked, rousing Elizabeth from her thoughts.
She shook her head a little, trying to dispel her thoughts. “There’s her arms,” she continued. “And her legs.”
Her tone was considerably different from when she started, causing him to frown. “What’s wrong?”
“I was just thinking about everything,” she murmured. “If—if we’re still—you know, married when Laura’s born—” she bit her lip and glanced up at him. “Since my last name is Morgan now, will her name be Morgan too?”
Jason exhaled slowly. He’d forgotten that Sonny had insisted Elizabeth change her name after the wedding. “Probably,” he told her. “But you can always change it afterward—”
She bit her lip and looked down, finally realizing she was still holding his hand. It was his left hand, the one with the wedding band. “She’s probably better off with your name, I mean. Safer and all.”
“Right,” Jason replied, quietly. “She’d have the same protection as any of my children would.”
Elizabeth glanced up at him. God, she wished he was the father. If only things were different. But maybe…maybe it wasn’t too late. “Jason, I—”
“I’m sorry it took so long,” Dr. Banks chirped. She took her seat again and used a towel to wipe Elizabeth’s abdomen. “Would you like a picture of the baby, to take home and show everyone?”
“Sure,” Elizabeth said, eagerly.
The doctor turned back to the machine and pressed a few buttons. “Next time, bring a videotape and we can record it.” She took the picture out of the printer and handed it to Elizabeth. “There you go.”
“Thanks, Dr. Banks.”
“Well, just make an appointment with Nicole out front and you’re free to go. It was good to meet you, Mr. Morgan. I hope you’ll return soon.” She smiled again. “I’ll see you in two weeks, Mrs. Morgan.”
Elizabeth was quiet when they entered the penthouse. She was cradling her ultrasound picture in her hands and had been staring at it since the moment the doctor had given it to her.
Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Elizabeth, there’s something we need to talk about.”
She nodded absently. “I need to call Luke and tell him. He’ll be so excited. I want him to be Laura’s godfather. And Emily, oh, and Lucky.”
She glanced up at him. “Yeah?”
“About what the doctor said—”
She bit her lip. “Jason, it really meant a lot to me to have someone there with me today. It was the first time that I saw the baby…and I’m glad I wasn’t alone, but—”
“I mean about the decorating,” Jason hurried to interrupt, not wanting to hear her talk about not wanting him at her doctor’s appointments anymore. “Emily mentioned it the other day and I thought maybe the other guest room would work…for the nursery.”
She looked at him skeptically. “Jason, I—”
“I know we both don’t expect to still be…married when she’s born,” Jason cut in. “But it’s better to be prepared, right?”
“I guess so,” Elizabeth said slowly. “But I can’t afford—” She stopped. “And I’m not accepting anything else from you or Sonny. It just wouldn’t be right.”
He hesitated. “Would you consider it a gift from me…to Laura?”
How could she argue with that?
“Okay,” she agreed. “Jason, for what’s worth, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” she told him. “I know this hasn’t been easy, but it means a lot to me.”
Jason shrugged. “I’d so the same for anyone…” he gave her a tremulous smile. “Who mattered to me.”
“You matter to me, too,” she said softly. She tilted her face up a little to look at him. “You always have.”
He brushed her hair out of her eyes, letting his thumb linger on her cheekbone. “Elizabeth…”
He was going to kiss her, she could see it in his eyes. Her lips parted, she licked her lips in anticipation. She’d wanted this for so long
He ignored the ringing of the phone as he drew her closer to him. Just before their lips touched, the answering machine clicked on and Courtney’s voice filled the room.
“Jason, are you there? It’s me. You haven’t called me lately. What are you doing?”
Her face paled and she stepped away. “I need to go…call Emily,” she said softly.
“Wait a second—” he said, almost desperately.
“This—” she shook her head. “This would have been a mistake,” she said in a broken whisper. She turned and took the stairs two at a time, disappearing onto the second floor.
He stared after her for a moment before slamming his fist on the desk and swearing under his breath.
Emily wasn’t home. Neither was Luke, Lucky or even Zander. She needed someone to talk to. Now. Before she went back downstairs and faced Jason again.
She hugged her knees to her chest and took deep breaths, trying to calm her breathing. She couldn’t be putting herself through this. She had enough stress, just thinking about Ric and where he might be.
She picked the phone up again and dialed a different number.
“Nikolas?” Elizabeth licked her lips and wrapped her hand around the locket. “It’s me.”
“Hey, Liz,” Nikolas replied. “Are you okay?”
“I” She could feel the lump in her throat forming. “God, Nikolas, I don’t even know if I can talk to you about this.”
Stung, Nikolas didn’t answer for a few moments. He’d been a rotten friend to her in the last year or so, and he’d been trying to make up for it. “Elizabeth, you know you can tell me anything.”
“I thought—I thought I was over this,” she whispered. The tears began streaking down her cheeks. “I thought I was passed it, that I could do this and it wouldn’t matter.”
“What wouldn’t matter?” Nikolas asked, encouragingly. He could do this. If she wanted to vent about Morgan, he could do it with an objective ear. She didn’t need someone to bemoan his many shortcomings. For better or worse, Elizabeth was married to him.
“How I feel” Elizabeth hesitated, remembering who she was talking to. “Nikolas—I”
“I promise I won’t do the lecture,” Nikolas said immediately. “I won’t say it if it’s not what you want to hear.”
“Nikolas, I love him,” she said quietly. “I love him more now I think. I wish—I wish that this baby was his. I wish it with every breath I take.”
Nikolas exhaled slowly. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I can just listen if you want.”
“We were at the ultrasound today. He wasn’t supposed to go but something came up and then I just told myself he could wait outside. But then the receptionist said your husband can come too—Nikolas, I didn’t want the first time I saw my baby to be myself. I’m always alone. I just wanted to feel different for once.” She stopped and took a deep shuddering breath. “And the doctor was pointing out the arms and legs and her little head and I found myself falling back into the pattern helping Jason to understand what we were seeing. And then the doctor told me I was having a girl and she left, and I—we almost kissed downstairs, Nikolas.”
Nikolas blinked, even though he couldn’t see her. He shifted the phone from one to ear to the other and sat up at his desk. “What?”
“We were downstairs and I was thanking him for everything and he said that he’d do the same for anyone who mattered to him, and God, Nikolas I was just so grateful that I still mattered, how pathetic is that? I told him that he still mattered and suddenly we were just standing so close I could feel his breath and we—he was leaning towards me, I was waiting—”
Nikolas took a deep breath and rubbed his eyebrows. “What happened?” he asked quietly.
“The answering machine clicked on,” she said bitterly. “It was Courtney.”
He inhaled sharply. “Oh.”
“I felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water in my face. I told him it would have been a mistake and I left. God, Nikolas, how stupid can I be?”
“You’re not stupid, Elizabeth,” Nikolas said firmly. He took a deep breath. He could do this. “You’re in love. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.”
She was crying now, openly and hard. “I know, but why does it feel like I’m dying inside?”
“Because you’re in love and unfortunately real love is always going to hurt. That’s how you know it’s real.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” she asked softly.
“Wait out,” Nikolas advised. “Everything is weird right now. You just got married, and with the baby and Ricyou can’t deal with much more, Elizabeth. Just wait it out.”
“Nikolas, thanks—it means a lot that you were willing to listen about this,” she told him. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too.” Nikolas smiled suddenly. “Did you say you were having a girl?”
Elizabeth wiped her eyes. “Yeah. The doctor’s not positive but it looks that way. Why—why don’t we meet for lunch tomorrow? I’ll call Lucky and Emily. I’ll show you the ultrasound picture. It’ll be like old times.”
“Kelly’s, noon?” Nikolas suggested.
“Sounds perfect.” She managed a watery smile. “I’ll see you then.”
Jason was gone when Elizabeth went downstairs later. He left a hastily scribbled note on his desk for her. Elizabeth, had to go out on business. We need to talk.
She stared at it for a few moments, touched that he thought of leaving a note and then feeling stupid for feeling touched in the first place.
The door opened and she turned. “Sonny,” she said in a flat voice.
“Elizabeth—” Sonny hesitated. “Is Jason here?”
“You know he’s not here,” she remarked. She set the note back down and started digging through the drawer that Jason said she could put things in. She fished out her pregnancy journal and started flipping through it.
“You’re right,” Sonny replied. “I did know that. I need to speak with you.”
She arched an eyebrow. “What do you want this time Sonny? To marry Johnny for even extra protection?”
Sonny tried to smile but failed. “I know I’ve been asking for a lot—”
“I know, I know. You just want the baby to be safe,” Elizabeth muttered. She sighed. “And Sonny, I appreciate everything you’ve done. And what Jason’s done. It means a lot to me.”
“I’m glad,” Sonny said. “Because what I’m about to suggest could be the most important thing.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “What?” she asked.
“I want you to let Jason adopt the baby,” Sonny said without any other preamble.
She stared at him for a moment and started to laugh. “You’re crazy right? Because I know you did not just suggest I let Jason adopt another man’s baby? Do you even remember what losing Michael did to him?” she demanded harshly.
Sonny sighed. “I know. I know what this could cost him in the long run. But your child needs more protection than we can give.”
Her heart skipped a beat and she licked her lips. “What do you mean?” she asked fearfully. She took a step toward him. “Have you heard about Ric? Has he been in contact?”
“We’ve heard some rumblings,” Sonny said quietly. “From our side. Some of them aren’t thrilled with protecting Ric Lansing’s child.”
Her face paled. “What.what does that mean?”
“It means that they don’t see this as your child, they will see this is as his child. And they don’t want to chance the child growing into another Ric Lansing.”
“They don’t want to chance it?” she cried. “What the hell is that? I thought you said that by marrying Jason, we would be safe!”
“I know, I know.” Sonny ran his hands through his hair. “This is killing me, Elizabeth. I promised you that I would protect you.”
She forced herself to calm down and take a deep breath. “Okay, just give it to me straight. Worst-case scenario. If I don’t let Jason adopt her, what could happen?”
“They would see the child as a threat. Boy or girl.” Sonny squeezed his eyes shut. “And it will be dealt with like all threats.”
“They would kill my innocent little girl because her father happens to be a monster?” Elizabeth demanded.
Sonny exhaled slowly. “Yeah. They would.”