December 25, 2018

Hey! Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates! I had myself an incredibly lazy day, lounging, listening to podcasts, and cooking myself a really good dinner. In my family, we do a huge event on Christmas Eve so that my brother and sister can celebrate with in-laws on Christmas Day.

In case you missed it, I posted a Christmas epilogue for The Best Thing, and we’re kicking off a flash fiction marathon tonight. Every night until New Year’s Day, I’ll be doing a new flash fiction. I know some of you guys are hoping for continuations of various stories, but I gotta go where the muse wants to go 😛

This is a continuation of the Victorian story I started, Yesterday’s Past. I’ll set up a series section tomorrow. I hope you enjoy Part 2.

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Flash Fiction: Yesterday's Past

Written in 24 minutes. Continuation of Yesterday’s Past.


Her first conscious thought was the delicious, toasty warmth as she slowly forced her eyes open. She turned her head to the side, wincing—why did her head ache so?

And why couldn’t she move? Why did it feel as though her limbs were weighed down by rocks and stones?

Elizabeth Webber blinked blearily, her fingers sliding over the soft thick cotton linen spread across her. She didn’t own a blanket like this—and could not remember when she last slept on a mattress so soft—

“Oh, miss!” a lovely accented feminine voice came from the other side of the bed, and a slight blonde came into her view, coming round the end of a bed. She wore a plain dark wool dress, a cap covering her hair. “You’re finally awake! The master will be so relieved—”

“M-master—” Elizabeth managed but to no avail. The blonde had flitted out of the room without waiting for Elizabeth to respond, obviously to fetch the aforementioned master.

Where was she?

She closed her eyes—she remembered being in Wapping, at a local pub. She had counted out her last coins for a chunk of bread and ale, her first meal in two days. There had been a conversation—two men talking nearby—and a name—

Oh, God, had she gone to seek out the man who shared the name of her childhood sweetheart? It had seemed such a crazy idea at the time—of course her beloved Jason was not a shipping magnate in London. How could he have gathered those kinds of resources—

But then—a flash of a rain soaked street, startled blue eyes—

Oh, God.

The door opened, and a tall man stepped through. He wore naught but his shirtsleeves, his dark blonde hair mussed as if he had been sleeping. Was it day? Or night? She couldn’t quite tell—the curtains were drawn tight across the windows.

“Elizabeth.”

His voice was deeper, rougher than she remembered but it was him. He had always said her name differently from everyone else—had never called her Lizzie as her family had.

Tears slid down her cheeks at the sound of her name on his lips. After all she had been through in the last four months, it was like a balm to her soul.

Jason lowered himself into a chair next to her bed, his eyes on hers. “How are you feeling? I’ve sent for the doctor—”

“How—” Elizabeth coughed, closed her eyes. She swallowed hard, but her throat felt so raw and sore. She felt her upper body being lifted as Jason put another pillow behind her to prop her up slightly. Then he held a cup of tea against her lips.

She drank even as he apologized for it being lukewarm. He said something to the maid still in the room—to fetch her something to eat, some more tea, to get the damn doctor, but her mind was already struggling to stay in the moment.

“How long…” Elizabeth whispered. “Since—”

“A week,” Jason told her. He rubbed the back of his neck. “You had a fever—it broke last night.” He exhaled slowly. “Your child still lives according to the doctor.”

Her child.

Elizabeth pressed her hand to her abdomen, at the distended belly that had cost her both her position and lodgings a month earlier. Of course he knew if she’d been recovering from illness in his home. Oh, God. Was he married? What did he think about—

“I should go,” she murmured, even as her eyes struggled to stay open. “I only—I only wanted somewhere to sleep for the night. I should go.”

Jason hesitated, then leaned forward. He tucked her hair behind her ears. “If you want to go, I couldn’t stop you.” A ghost of a smile flitted across his face. “I could never say no to you.”

Her heart ached at the sweet truth in that statement. It had been her idea to elope, to run away from her parents—it had been her fault he’d been sent away. “I can’t take—don’t pity me.”

“I don’t. But I know you hate asking for help. I’m asking you to stay. Until you’re strong enough to leave without being carried out.” His fingers drifted down her face before he sat back. “Is—is there someone I should send word to? Your father—” He swallowed hard. “A husband—”

“No.” She squeezed her eyes closed. “No. I’m not married. There’s no one.” She opened her eyes again, focused on him. “Is there someone—are you—am I making trouble by being here?”

“No, there’s no one,” he repeated. “The only people who know you’re here are my servants, the doctor, and my business partner, Sonny.” Jason hesitated. “I haven’t wed.”

“I still shouldn’t be—”

“Stay,” he cut off gently. He rose from the chair. “At least until you’re strong enough to argue with me. The doctor will be here soon.”

“All right,” Elizabeth agreed, her eyes closing. “All right. I’ll stay. For now.”

December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! My Christmas flash fiction marathon didn’t start on Saturday like I had hoped — my family kept showing up and annoying me, haha. We’ll get started tomorrow on actual Christmas because all my family obligations are tonight. I’m actually hurrying to finish this post before I leave for my sister’s.

In the tradition of last year’s holiday epilogue for All I Want For Christmas, here is an epilogue for The Best Thing, taking place at Christmas in 2008, four years after the original story ended. I hope you guys like it! Have a great holiday! I’ll see you guys tomorrow!

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series The Best Thing: Salvation

Notes: Happy holidays! I’ve been toying with returning to the world I built in The Best Thing for ages – there’s a small piece of the story that I actually wrote a year ago. I don’t know if I would ever do a full-fledged sequel, but it was lovely to visit the world again. Last year I wrote another epilogue for All I Want For Christmas, so I figured it would be fun to visit another story.

The Best Thing didn’t have an epilogue initially because I didn’t really know what I wanted for their future. This was written two years after I finished the story (almost three actually.)

It’s set four years after the close of Chapter Thirty-Four. I hope you guys like this!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Morgan Home: Living Room

The room looked as if a several bags of glitter and tinsel had exploded in the alcove where the Morgan family kept their tree. The two eldest Morgan children had dived into their mother’s box of Christmas decorations and discovered a container of tinsel that she had forgotten to remove before they arrived home from preschool that day.

Elizabeth Morgan had merely turned her back to set her youngest son, Jake, in a playpen and give him his stuffed elephant—clearly forgetting the first rule of Christmas decorating with small children.  She could already hear maniacal giggles from the alcove, and when she turned back to assess the situation—

Four-year-old Evangeline already had strands of tinsel streaking through her coal-black curls while four-year-old Cameron was throwing the tinsel at their pine tree—the tree that had no other decorations yet. It had been waiting for their father’s return from an unexpected business trip.

“Evangeline Samantha Morgan.”

Evie blinked at her, her caramel colored eyes round with wide-eyed innocence. “Mommy, it’s not my fault.” She jabbed a chubby finger at her brother. “He went into the box.”

You opened the tinsy!” Cam shot back with a dark scowl.

“Cameron Hardy Morgan.”

Cam heaved a heavy sigh, then turned his own angelic expression in her direction. “I miss Daddy,” he declared, then his lower lip trembled just a little.

Elizabeth arched a brow. “I invented that look.”

The sadness vanished from Cam’s eyes and the scowl returned. “Evie made me do it.”

“Cam—”

She sighed when eighteen-month-old Jake began to wail behind her. He hated being in the playpen, and she could already hear him throwing toys. One—a plastic car—sailed from behind her and hit Evie in the cheek. She shrieked and went for her brother.

Elizabeth stopped her advance, sweeping the little girl up in her arms, ignoring the outrage shrieks and kicks as she dropped her daughter on the sofa.

“It’s not fair!” Evie screamed.

“Mommy!” Cam dived for cover as another one of Jake’s toys careened past him, hitting the tree.

“Daddy!” Jake wailed.

“Oh, man.” Elizabeth sat in her grandfather’s old arm chair and put her head in her hands. Why—why—had she offered Nora the month of December off?

The playpen shook with an ominous rattle as Jake’s chubby fists wrapped around the top edge and he frantically tried to climb out. He managed to lift himself part of the way over the metal rail, but he couldn’t quite get the leverage to haul himself completely over the top—

So, he slid back down, threw back his head, and wailed at the top of his lungs. Evie started crying, pressing her hands over her ears, and Cameron—because he clearly didn’t think his mother was paying attention to him anymore—started tossing some more tinsel at their bare tree.

She only put Jake in there to have five minutes when the kids got home from school—so she could distract them—and then Jake could run free—but of course, he was only a toddler who didn’t understand that mothers needed to breathe.

Elizabeth took a deep breath, then started to reach for her youngest child. One kid at a time—and the tinsel was the least of her worries.

The door was pushed open then, sweeping in the brittle December wind and a bit of the snowflakes that had been gently falling for several hours. Jason stepped over the threshold and was immediately tackled by her eldest children who could run—

Jake rolled, kicked, and wiggled until Elizabeth released him. Jason grabbed Jake and in his own way—managed to hug all three of them at the same time without giving one any extra attention. There were days when he made parenting look so easy, she wanted to murder him.

“Hey,” he said, as he crossed the room, dragging Evie and Cam who were both attached to a leg. He leaned over the top of Jake’s head and kissed her, his lips cold and his breath holding the scent of coffee. She’d missed him—

They hadn’t been separated for two weeks since—since never, Elizabeth realized. Since they had started dating at Nikolas and Emily’s wedding four years earlier—their longest time apart had been that terrible week after her grandmother’s death and Sonny’s psychotic break.

“I missed you,” she murmured against his lips. “How was the island?”

Jason hesitated, then sighed. “We’ll talk about it later,” he said. He kissed her again. “Why was everyone crying when I—” He blinked at the tree, the bottom half of which was only decorated with tinsel before looking down at his two children—Evie with tinsel in her hair and Cam with tinsel sticking out of the collar of his green sweater. “We got into Mommy’s Christmas box, huh?”

As Cam and Evie launched into elaborate defenses of themselves, Jason looked at his wife with a light in his eye that told her he was struggling not to laugh. For the moment, her own irritation and exhaustion lifted, and she started to laugh.

Later that evening, after they had cleaned up the tinsel, fed the children dinner, and decorated the tree properly, Jason took the boys to their room to sleep while Elizabeth tucked in Evie.

“Tell me my special story, Mommy.”

Elizabeth stroked her daughter’s dark, almost coal-black curls with a sad smile Evie couldn’t see. “Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess named Samantha who was about to become a mommy. She loved her little girl so much and would have done anything to keep her safe. But then she got really sick.”

“And she could only hold me for a minute,” Evie said, the words as familiar her own name. “So, she held me tight.”

“And she made so many wishes for you. To be safe, to be happy, to be smart. To have a good life.” Elizabeth’s throat tightened slightly. “She gave you to the best man she knew—”

“Daddy.”

“That’s right.” Elizabeth smiled, stroking Evie’s cheek. “He promised your birth parents that he would love you so much and keep all their promises for them.”

“And then Daddy fell in love with you,” Evie said, rolling on her back. “And you became my Mommy, and you gave me a brother.”

“An older brother,” Elizabeth corrected softly. “Because they’re annoying and irritating, but no one loves and protects like an older brother.”

“And now we gots Jake.”

“And now we have Jake,” she repeated. “And I know you and Cam will take care of him the way you take care of each other.”

Evie rolled over again and smiled at the two frames on her night table. One, a photo of her biological mother, Sam McCall, and the other, a picture of her adopted parents on their wedding day. “Night, Birth Mommy. And we live happy ever after.”

“Like all good fairy tales.” Elizabeth leaned over and kissed her cheek.

She met Jason in the hallway and raised an eyebrow. “Are they both asleep already?”

“Jake is, but I let Cameron watch Ghostbusters again. I’ll check on him in an hour.” He followed her downstairs and they settled themselves on the sofa in front of the fireplace and their twinkling Christmas tree.

“Evie asked for her story again tonight,” Elizabeth said. She leaned into Jason’s embrace, luxuriating in the warmth and comfort she found in him, even after all these years. She needed these quiet moments at the end of the evening when she and Jason regrouped, compared notes, and prepared for the next day.

It hadn’t been easy finding the rhythm of having three small children with two active careers of their own, and the surprise of Jake had complicated things for a time, but their world had eventually balanced out. Cam and Evie had started school this year and it was a bit easier—

Until the call had come a few weeks earlier and Jason had had to leave in the middle of the night for the island.

“She’s been asking for it a lot the last few months,” Jason murmured.  He sighed. “Is she not getting along with Cam? She doesn’t feel like she’s part of—”

“No, I think she likes it. It makes her special, and she knows she’s adopted.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Cam’s teacher asked about that—about why they’re so close in age. I told her what we tell everyone—we each brought a child to our marriage, but I worry sometimes—”

“Evie’s ours,” Jason told her. The adoption had begun in earnest six months after Sonny had been sent to the island and completed almost two years earlier. “We don’t—”

“Evie’s always known she’s adopted. We made it special for her. And she has pictures of Sam on her nightstand.” Elizabeth sat up and twisted to look at him. “But Cameron—I don’t think he realizes it. And the reason the teacher asked about their ages—” She sighed. “He looks like you. He got my sister’s blond hair—and my blue eyes. He has no memory of anyone but you.”

“And making Evie’s adoption special—you think it’ll bother Cam when he gets older that he doesn’t have that story about Zander.” Jason wrinkled his nose. “Do—should we talk to him—”

“I don’t know if I can give Zander’s story a fairy tale twist. Sam died giving Evie life—with her last dying breath, she was thinking of her little girl. But Zander—” Elizabeth twisted her wedding ring on her finger. “I don’t want to erase Zander from his life. It’s not fair. I just—I never want Cam to feel like he didn’t deserve the kind of story Evie has.”

“If we wait until he’s old enough,” Jason said, after a moment, “we can tell Cam and Evie about Zander and Sonny at the same time. They both have biological fathers who were troubled—who won’t play—” He grimaced.

Elizabeth pressed her hand against his chest. “It didn’t go well did it?” she murmured. “Was it like last time?”

Since going to the island, Sonny’s recovery had been uneven. He went through doctors and medication like candy, and at least twice a year, Jason had gone to do damage control. Unlike a lot of people living with bipolar disorder, Sonny didn’t seem to be able to stay lucid and in control for very long.

It was a vicious cycle—he would be clear and sane for months before thinking he was cured. He’d stop taking his medications—then crash. He had had another psychotic break the year before, and he’d made it as far as the private airport to fly back to Port Charles.

The dream they’d once pictured of Sonny recovering enough to be part of their lives—to know his daughter, to rebuild a relationship with his sons—every year that passed, it seemed further away.

“This time the doctor argued with me about keeping him out of Port Charles,” Jason said. He leaned his head against the back of the sofa, his eyes looking toward the ceiling. “He seems to think the reason Sonny hasn’t been able to get a balance is that we’ve take him out of his natural environment.”

“Didn’t you tell him the last time Sonny had a break in Port Charles, he nearly killed you? That he sent men with guns after two babies?” Elizabeth demanded. “We’ve talked about this, Jason. Sonny can’t come back.”

“I know.” Jason closed his eyes, swallowed hard, before straightening and looking at her. In the dim firelight, she could see the anguish in his expression. “I’m doing the right thing for you and me. For the kids. For everyone who lives in Port Charles.”

“But not for Sonny.” And he wouldn’t be the man she loved if the decision didn’t weigh on him. In so many ways, their lives would have been easier if Sonny had died all those years ago—if Jason had let Sonny kill himself.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how make it better. If he came back—” Jason shook his head. “Would he always understand that he can’t be in control? Would he be satisfied with part of the life he had before? Is that even a risk I want to take?”

Elizabeth reached for his hand, tracing her fingers over the lines in his palm, over the gold ring on his fourth finger.  In sick and in health, for better or for worse—

She’d made those promises to him. Had promised to love and cherish him. And in her own mind, she had made different vows—silent ones.

She had promised that her face would never change, and that she would always do what was needed to be Jason Morgan’s wife.

“How did you leave it?” she asked. “What was Sonny like?”

“He didn’t have another break, and he’s back on his medicine.” Jason looked at her wary eyes. “Why?”

“If it weren’t for me and the kids, you would have brought him home years ago,” Elizabeth said. “I know that. It’s me that’s holding you back.”

“No—” Jason shook his head. “No. It’s not just that. That last break here—it wasn’t just what he did here in this house—” Sending armed guards to steal Evie by force, not even caring that Elizabeth had only just lost her grandmother—that her son was in this room—

“It’s what he did to Carly. She won’t let him have a relationship with the boys. Still. And I don’t blame her for that.” Jason swallowed hard. “We decided together that Sonny had to stay—”

“It’s me that’s holding you back.” Elizabeth repeated. “And there are times when I look at Evie, and I see Sonny. I see him the way I remember him. The way I loved him once. That last night—at my engagement party—that man—I want that man back. And maybe the doctor’s right.” She bit her lip. “Maybe he doesn’t feel like he needs to stay on the medicine because he’s alone down there.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I’m not saying he should come home full-time,” Elizabeth interrupted. “But—maybe it’s time we took the kids down to the island. Maybe it’s time Sonny met Evie and we reminded him that he’s not alone.”

Jason’s shoulders slumped, and he just stared at her for a long moment before shaking his head. “I can’t ask you to do that—”

“You’re not asking me. I’m offering. You weren’t the only one who lost Sonny. Evie lost her father. Courtney lost her brother. I lost a friend. I refuse—” She shook her head, resolute now. “I refuse to believe that the man we loved is lost forever. What happened—it was traumatizing, and we’ve had to dig out of it. But I can’t sit here, celebrating Christmas with the people I love most in the world and not feel guilty that the only reason Sonny is alone right now is because of an illness that he can’t control.”

Tears welled behind her eyes and she sucked in a deep, shuddering breath. “We’ve been punishing him, scared of what might happen if he came home. You saved his life four years ago, Jason, but we sentenced him to live in prison anyway. I can’t live with it anymore. I can’t ask you to keep doing it—to keep being the bad guy who has to go down there and tell Sonny he can’t come home.”

“He told me this last time that I should have let him put the bullet in his head,” Jason said after a long moment of silence, the crackling fire the only sound in the room. “That he’s just a ghost I wouldn’t let go.”

“We promised each other at the start,” Elizabeth said as he pulled her across his lap, “that Sonny was something we would deal with together. You—the kids—this is everything I ever wanted in my life. There are days that I am so happy that I actually cry because I never thought I would deserve this.” She framed his beloved face with her hands. “We have a good life, Jason, but I don’t think I can live with myself knowing it came at Sonny’s expense. We sacrificed him to have it. And I don’t want to do it anymore.”

Jason leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers. “The way you love—the courage—” He shook his head. “I don’t have the words.”

“Every time Evie asks me her special story, I tell her about her mother that gave her away to best man she knew. I want Evie to know that her father loved just as much. We need to do this. For each other. For her. And for Sonny.”

“I’ll call tomorrow and make the arrangements.” He tucked her hair behind her eyes, his eyes on hers. “I remember the day I saw you again—when you came home. I was sitting on the docks, feeling more tired than I could ever remember.”

She tilted her head and smiled. “And I nagged you into telling me the truth—”

“That’s not how I remember it.” He shook his head, his own smile spreading. “You came down the steps, and you smiled at me. And by the time you left, I couldn’t remember why I was so tired. I just wanted to keep looking at you.”

“When we sat together, and I poked at you about Evie—I did it partly because I was hoping—” She bit her lip, sliding her fingers through his soft blond hair. “I was hoping you wouldn’t lie to me. And when you didn’t—I felt all those old butterflies. I just wanted to sit on that bench and talk to you for the rest of my life.”

“Thank you for coming home,” Jason murmured. “For not staying in San Francisco. For giving us another chance.”

“I couldn’t stay away,” Elizabeth replied. “I’d miss the smell of snow too much.”

He laughed. “Snow doesn’t smell,” he teased.

“Yes, it does,” she murmured, leaning down to kiss him again.

December 22, 2018

Apologies for going quiet after finishing up Mad World earlier this month. The end of my semester didn’t go as well as I wanted it to – my final paper was basically a disaster I was just happy to see in the rearview window.

I’ve been working on Damaged off and on but I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like. Super frustrating — but I’m hoping to get some serious work done this week once Christmas is over.

I am going to post new content during the last week of December. I’m going to do two things — a holiday story on Christmas Eve (not sure exactly what yet but something) and then starting tonight, I’m going to do another flash fiction marathon. Whether I continue old stuff or do or new stuff, you’ll be getting at least daily updates for the rest of 2018!

Stay tuned to my Twitter feed to see when I start the clock!

I can’t believe we’re actually here! Thank you so much for taking this journey with me. My goal with splitting Mad World into three parts was to redo this panic room storyline and have it make more impact than it did on the actual show. Each book is designed to be a self-contained story, so I hope you feel like when I leave you here after Chapter 19, that there’s satisfactory closure.

I don’t yet have a date for Book 2, and a lot of that depends on how the next two months of my life goes. I’m finally writing Damaged, Season 3 (which is about two years overdue), and if I finish that by the beginning of February, I’ll be writing Book 2 in Febuary and March. I already have seven of the thirty planned chapters written, so believe me, I’m working on it.

Let me know what you think of this story as a whole — what are you looking forward to in the next book? What did you like about this book? Make sure to read my author’s note at the end for some clues 😉

Thanks for following me on this journey. This book is probably one of my favorite writing experiences. I had written Chapters 1-4 about a year ago, but then, in the space of three weeks, I wrote more than 70,000 words. I can’t really remember another time a story came together quite like this.

Chapter Nineteen

December 3, 2018

Here we are at the last week of Mad World, Book 1, which is incredible to me. This was such a labor of love for me — this book went through so many revisions and drafts that I almost can’t believe we’re posting it.

In this particular chapter, I’m using some terminology and ideas I read in an amazing book called Rising Strong by Brené Brown. I’m not usually one for self-help books, but I read that one as part of a podcast called Big Strong Yes. It really helped me kind of reset my own world view so when it came time to write Elizabeth’s therapy session with Gail, it seemed like a natural fit.

Here is Chapter Eighteen. I hope you like it!

December 1, 2018

I’ve haven’t done one of these in months, so I’m bringing it back. I had another plot bunny I wanted to try out — I’m always trying to find a historical angle I can write about. (I know you guys still ask about the medieval Scottish story, it’s on my list).

I wrote a blog post about Nanowrimo and why it didn’t go well, so check that out over at my blog. I started working on Damaged, Season Three and actually made a lot of progress over the last two days. I’m putting the first eight episodes into production this week (which is a fancy way I saying — I’m gonna start writing them) and hopefully we’ll be able to keep to that promised Feb date.

For now, please enjoy a new flash fiction.

Yesterday’s Past

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Flash Fiction: Yesterday's Past

Alternate universe. Written in 30 minutes.


London, England 1853

To many in London, the smell of the Thames River filling one’s nostrils at all hours of the day would not be a welcome smell. The curious mixture of sewage and grime that turned the waters a thick muddy gray on a good day was relatively unpleasant.

To Jason Morgan, the scent only reminded him how far he’d come from his childhood in the rolling green pastures of Hampshire and how much he owed his success to the water. Four years in the Royal Navy, three more working his way up on the docks—

He now owned three ships that made regular voyages along the French and Iberian coasts, trading in the goods and luxuries that the denizens of London craved. He’d gone from a one room cottage to a four story home in Bloomsbury, and he was stepping out of a building he owned, waiting under the alcove for his own personal carriage to be brought around.

Most people would agree that Jason Morgan lived a charmed life. Certainly, his best friend and silent investor Michael “Sonny” Corinthos thought so.

They stood beneath the alcove on the High Street in Wapping as rain pounded down around them, the drops sliding along the granite paving of the street.

“It’s going to flood,” Sonny murmured. “Maybe it’s not the best night for drinks at the club.”

Jason merely grunted, putting his hand on his head so that his hat wouldn’t blow away in the fierce wind. “I told you.”

Sonny shrugged. Very few things were allowed to get between him and a night at the gentleman’s club he owned. The Paradise Lounge was a gambling hell that Sonny loved more than he’d ever loved a woman, and to him, every night ought to be capped off with drinks and a hand of faro.

Jason squinted down the dark street, hoping to see his carriage turning the corner from the mews, but all he saw was a woman swathed in a dark cloak slogging along the walk, her head bent against the wind. Jason grimaced, stepped down off the step, intending to take her out of the rain.

“Miss—”

The woman stopped in front of him, lifted her head, and Jason stopped short, his hand still stretched out towards her. It froze there, the rain sluicing down his sleeves, soaking his skin beneath, the chill sinking into his bones.

Her face was thinner than he remembered, her eyes so large in her face he could see nothing else. In the bright sun, he knew they were the color of sapphires, of the blue waters they’d grown up around. But in the dark, dim, October evening, they were as muddy as the waters of the Thames.

He shook his head. It couldn’t be—

But her lips formed a word—and he knew without even hearing the sound sucked away into the wind—he knew she had said his name.

“Jase!” he heard Sonny shout behind him.

Jason turned back to his friend for just a moment—but when he turned back—the woman had slumped to the ground, the cloak of her hood falling back to reveal matted brown curls that turned to inky black as the rain drenched them.

Jason threw himself forward to drag her into his arms, and he heard Sonny’s footsteps behind him, helping him lift her.

“Do you know her?” Sonny demanded once he’d helped Jason drag the woman’s limp form into the carriage, their clothing soaking the plush velvet interior. He threw his hat aside, dragged his hand through his coal-black curls. “What—”

Jason just shook his head, smoothing her hair away from her face. “A lifetime ago,” he murmured. “When we were children.”

Sonny said nothing else as the carriage careened through the streets of London, until they had reached Jason’s town home. Sonny helped him inside, sent one of the footman for a doctor. Once Jason had relinquished the woman to the care of his housekeeper and one of the maids, Sonny pulled his friend into the study and handed him a brandy.

“Who is she?” Sonny asked.

Jason scrubbed a hand down his face. “It’s complicated—”

They were interrupted by the butler with fresh towels and the announcement that the doctor had arrived and was seeing to the young miss.

“I told you my father sent me to the Navy when I was nineteen,” Jason said after a long moment. “He did that because our vicar was threatening to have me arrested for kidnapping his daughter.” He sipped his drink, looking younger than Sonny had ever seen him.

Sonny glanced towards the heavy double doors that separated the study from the stairwell—the woman had been taken a flight above them where the bedrooms were located. “I suppose that’s the daughter—”

“We asked for his permission, and he refused. She was only sixteen—we’d need him to agree to call the banns—” Jason swallowed. “So we decided to run away to Scotland.” He shook his head, closed his eyes. “We made it as far as the next shire.”

Sonny nodded. “And I suppose her father didn’t leave her much choice.”

“Go home with him or see me taken up on charges of kidnapping. He was a pious son of a bitch, but—” Jason hesitated. “I tried to go back to see her when she was of age—but by the time I got back to the village, she and her father had gone. The place was destroyed by typhoid—I never found her again.”

“Until tonight.” Sonny poured himself another brandy. “Seems odd she’d show up now. At night, in the rain.” Looking like death. He met Jason’s eyes. “What’s her name?”

“Elizabeth,” Jason said. He swallowed hard as he repeated the name he so rarely even allowed himself to think about. “Elizabeth Webber.”

Sonny went home after for a fresh change of clothing, and Jason’s valet also talked him into changing into dry clothes. By that time, the doctor had finished seeing Elizabeth and was awaiting him in the hallway.

“She’s in bad shape, sir,” Dr. Anthony Jones said with a regretful sigh. “She only arrived tonight?”

“Yes. Why? What’s wrong?” Jason demanded, his tone sharp.

“Well, she’s quite thin. Malnourished, I might add. Coupled that with the fever, I fear the child will be lost.”

Jason stared at him. “Child,” he repeated.

Dr. Jones raised his brows. He pushed open the door and gestured towards the bed in the middle of the room. Elizabeth lay on her back, her face pale against the blue linen, a white night dress twisted around her body.

Jason moved slowly across the room, almost as if in a daze. He could see the evidence of her illness in the sweat on her brow, the thinness of her wrist, the way her collarbone pressed against her porcelain skin.

Just as the small, tight, mound rose on her abdomen was evidence of the child the doctor now said was at risk. Jason swallowed hard, forcing the words out. “Will she recover, though?”

“With rest, with care,” Dr. Jones shrugged. “Hard to say.” Jason felt his eyes on him. “Did you say she was a relative, sir?”

“You’ll return tomorrow to look in on her,” Jason said, instead. He took a deep breath. It didn’t matter if Elizabeth was carrying a child, if she had married after Jason left. She had come to him for help, and he would not let her down.

“You will come every day until she recovers,” he said, roughly. Then he left the room.