I can’t really tell you
What I’m gonna do
There are so many thoughts in my head
There are two roads to walk down
And one road to choose
So I’m thinking over
The things that you’ve said
– Thinking Over, Dana Glover
Monday, May 6, 2002
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Nico leaned back on the sofa, sipping his bourbon. “I know it goes against tradition,” he told Sonny as the other man lounged in the arm chair. “But I figured if I set Smith up in Miami, he’d be more likely to get out of town and stay out of trouble.”
Sonny nodded and glanced at Benny. “You talk to Hector?”
“I did,” Benny said with a nod. “It checks out.”
Nico hissed, sitting up. “You think I was lying?”
Sonny shrugged. “You were pushing Zander pretty hard, and you were angry when I shut down his promotion.”
“Angry at the little shit,” Nico bit out. “He ruined everything. Now I gotta groom another bastard to take over. I don’t belong here, Sonny. I belong in Vegas. I belong in the big-time.” And if Sonny didn’t trust him, damn it, how was he going to get out from under him?
“I’m sure that’s true,” Sonny said evenly. He set the tumbler of bourbon on the coffee table and took a cigar from his pocket, offering it to Nico, who shook his head. “You never made a grab for this job, though. I wonder.”
“I want the money,” Nico retorted. “Not the power. I can make all the money I want in Vegas. Casinos are a cleaner way to make money, and I can run more bookies out of them—” He shook his head. “You get shot at too much.”
“He’s not wrong, Boss,” Benny said with a half-smile.
“I told Smith to stay away from Morgan’s property,” Nico said. “I told him to stop fucking with Morgan. But the kid is a hothead. I didn’t know how much he hated Morgan. Probably for the best that Morgan’s home, so I could see what a little bastard the shit turned out to be. Saved me from making a huge mistake.”
Fuck that, he’d been counting on Zander’s temper to get him killed when the bad numbers were caught. He’d had the perfect fall guy, but the very thing that had made him so right for the job had made him a catastrophe waiting to happen. Damn that bitch Carly for driving off a cliff and forcing Jason home.
“It’s not personal, Nico,” Sonny said. “The kind of power you were pushing at him—” He sighed. “I mean, maybe I should have made it clear when you came on board that I kept Zander working for me because I wanted him where I could see him, but I never had any intention of moving him up. He’s only loyal to himself.”
And that’s what made Sonny soft. Thinking anyone had more loyalty to Corinthos than they had to himself. Nico would wager even Jason Morgan had his limits when it came to blind obedience. Not that anyone had discovered that particular off switch—even Corinthos fucking Jason’s woman years ago hadn’t been more than a blip.
But Sonny was living in the stone age. No one valued the organization above themselves. Not anymore. And Nico was ready for a change.
He’d play along as long as Sonny needed him to, but once he was in Vegas, he’d make his move and be free of the bastard for good.
“Thanks for meeting with me,” Jason said as he took a seat across from Alexis the following afternoon. “I know I didn’t have an appointment—”
Alexis held up her hand to stall him. “Hey. I’m on retainer.” She cleared her throat. “I actually expected to hear from you sooner. After I found out about Edward and his visits.”
Jason hesitated, tilting his head. “Who told—” He sighed. “Ned.”
“Yeah. He mentioned it. AJ stormed over a few days ago, angry at Edward. Lila talked them both down, but I can imagine how angry you are. Ned called to give me a heads up.” She tapped a pencil against her desk. “You have a pretty solid case against the school, and you might convince a court that Edward isn’t good for—”
“I don’t want to go to court,” Jason cut in. He swallowed, knowing he was breaking every promise he’d ever made to Carly.
But she was gone now, and he had to deal with the situation as it stood now.
“I know my chances would be slim, and I don’t want to drag Michael through something when I don’t—” He paused again. “When I don’t even believe in what I’m fighting for.”
He looked past her, at the window that held a view of downtown Port Charles. “You know, in the beginning…I lied because the Quartermaines would have taken Michael from Carly. They had the clout, the power. She was nobody to them. And I didn’t—no, I know AJ would have let them control Michael’s life. To prove himself, to get their acceptance.”
He didn’t remember being Jason Quartermaine, but something in AJ’s words about their shared childhood had rang true. And he’d seen the pressure they exerted first hand.
“I don’t want to go to court,” Jason repeated. “But I don’t want AJ to have sole custody. Not yet, anyway. I’m not sure—I’m not convinced—” He dipped his head.
“There are things we can offer,” Alexis said. “We can suggest visitation at first, so Michael can adjust. He doesn’t remember the year he spent with AJ, I imagine. But he knows Courtney, which should help.”
Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Can we…. try supervised at first? I mean, it doesn’t have to be me. I trust Bobbie, Elizabeth, or I guess, Courtney. I don’t know her well, but Elizabeth does—”
“We can ask. I’m sure it’ll help Michael become more comfortable with AJ.” She was quiet for a moment. “I know how difficult this is for you, with Carly just…with everything happening so suddenly. It’s been less than a month since she died. Everything’s changing so fast.”
“I just want to do what’s best for Michael,” Jason said firmly. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Dragging him into court—that’s not best. I could…I mean, hypothetically,” he said when he saw Alexis’s brows lift. “I could talk to people. Give some money. But one day, Michael—” He shook his head. “Michael will grow up, and I’d have to answer for it.”
“I’ll draft an agreement. I don’t know who AJ is using for representation, but I’ll ask Ned if he knows.” Alexis leaned forward. “When that day comes, Jason, you won’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
“He’s meeting with Alexis today?” Courtney asked, dumping the remnants from a table into her tub of dirty dishes. It was finally closing time and she just wanted to finish this shift, go home, and soak her aching feet in a hot bath.
“Isn’t that, like, the opposite of keeping things out of court?” Gia interrupted before Elizabeth could open her mouth. “Why involve lawyers at all?”
“Gia, don’t help,” Elizabeth retorted as she tossed aside a pile of receipts and frowned at the ledgers. “Son of a bitch.”
“I imagine he’s talking to Alexis about drawing up a legal agreement that protects them all. It’s an out of court settlement.” Courtney shrugged. “I doubt AJ will care as long as it gets him Michael.” And then what?
“Jason didn’t really say anything about the specifics…” Elizabeth trailed off, muttering under her breath. She flipped back to the preceding page. “God damn it.”
“You know,” Gia said, ignoring their friend who had surely forgot to carry a number in the ledger and would spend fifteen minutes swearing at the inanimate objects, “she didn’t come home last night.”
“Really?” Courtney moved through the archway into the kitchen and dumping the dishes into the sink. She wrinkled her nose. “Hey, why did we decide to let the kitchen staff go early?”
“Because I’m going to do the dishes,” Elizabeth called back to her. “Jason isn’t picking me up for another hour, and…” She sighed.
Courtney emerged from the kitchen in time to see the brunette slam the books shut. “Hey, now that you’re sleeping with him, maybe he should take over the books.”
“I can do this,” Elizabeth insisted. “I’m majoring in business, so I can take care of this place better. I just…” She huffed. “I don’t know how we go through so damn many cartons of eggs—”
“I need to get more exciting friends,” Gia decided. “We should be out a club, but nope. We’re balancing books in a greasy diner.” She sighed. “I was fun once.”
“And a blackmailer, but let’s not quibble,” Elizabeth mused as she dug through the invoices, probably looking for the receipt for the stupid eggs.
“Fair point.” Gia propped her chin up on her hands across the table from Elizabeth. “So was the sex good?”
Courtney snickered as she dumped the last bit of coffee into the sink and put the carafes into another tub. “She was twenty minutes late for her shift this afternoon.”
“I had to go home and get clothes,” Elizabeth said with a delicate sniff. “I don’t kiss and tell.”
“Ha, that’s because there was nothing to kiss and tell about,” Gia said with a snort. “Before, no one gave a damn about your sad sex life. It was nonexistent. Now…” She wiggled her eyebrows. “He has long fingers, you know.”
“I hate you all so much,” Elizabeth muttered.
“It was probably really bad,” Courtney said in a mock whisper. “You know, high expectations—she was probably rusty—”
“That’s not going to work,” Elizabeth replied. “You’re not going to break me.”
“He looks like he’d know what do with those hands,” Gia sighed. She perked up. “The sex is good with AJ, isn’t it?”
Courtney just raised her eyebrows. “What, you think because they’re brothers there’s some of relation there?”
“Did Lucky and Nikolas have anything in common?” Courtney challenged slyly. Take that.
Gia frowned, closing her mouth and then looking at Elizabeth who looked back at her. “Huh. Never thought about it.” She pursed her lips. “I’ll tell you…he wasn’t very generous, if you know what I mean. Not much build up, and you know, if he was done first…” She lifted a shoulder. “He’d just roll over and go to sleep.”
Elizabeth opened her mouth, and then bit her lip. “I don’t think we should—”
“Oh, by all means, Elizabeth,” came a drawling and mocking voice from the staircase. The three women looked over to find Lucky standing at the foot, one arm braced against the railing. “Tell them how I stack up against your new fuck buddy.”
“Oh, here we go.” Gia rolled her eyes. “Look, pal—”
But Elizabeth held up her hand to cut off her friend. Courtney glanced between Lucky and Elizabeth, uncertainly. She had seen the blowout arguments after the wedding had been called off—Nikolas had had to physically restrain Lucky from going after Elizabeth the day she’d moved out.
Not that anyone thought Lucky would hurt Elizabeth, but he’d been so angry…
“What happened between us,” Elizabeth said coolly, “is no one’s business. Like my life now is no one’s business.” She sent Gia a hot look. “Right?”
“Right. I’m sure Lucky is a dynamo in the sack.”
Elizabeth rose to her feet. “I don’t appreciate you eavesdropping, Lucky. There’s a private entrance to the rooms upstairs after hours. You’re not supposed to use the restaurant or come here after closing.”
“You only have this job because of me!” Lucky shot back as he released the railing and strode into the dining room proper. “Don’t forget that my aunt gave you this job because she felt sorry for you.”
“Hey, let’s just finish closing,” Courtney said with a weak smile. “We’re all tired, I’m sure Lucky had a long day—”
“No one asked you,” Lucky retorted, with searing glance in her direction. “You’re just Elizabeth’s latest project. Take it from someone who knows—she’ll move on to someone more pathetic.”
“Is that what this is about?” Elizabeth demanded. “You’re mad because I moved on—”
“You know what this is about,” Lucky retorted. He took another step towards her, and the anger in his eyes had Courtney slipping her cell phone from her apron and opening it to AJ’s contact information. Just in case.
“I really don’t. We’ve been over for months.” Elizabeth crossed her arms. “And you damn well know we’ve been over for longer than that. You’re just pissed because I walked away first.”
“Actually,” Gia drawled, “it sounds like Sparky is pissed because you took so long to walk away.” She walked towards Lucky, putting herself in between him and Elizabeth. “Seems like he’s finally woken up to what we’ve all known for ages. You stayed with him out of pity—”
“Gia, that’s not what happened—”
“Gia,” Courtney protested. While she loved Gia, the woman had a penchant for stirring up trouble just to see what would happen. “Come on—”
“No, that’s exactly what happened.” Lucky eyed Gia with a mixture of relief and bitterness. “She saw it. My brother did. My parents. Aunt Bobbie. Everyone but me. You were fucking Jason back then—”
“You wanted to,” Lucky cut in.
And Elizabeth closed her mouth at that, her cheeks flushing. “That’s not how it happened, Lucky—”
“And now you’re shoving him in my face again—”
“No different from you screwing her sister,” Gia said calmly, causing all eyes in the room to look at her. “You think I haven’t seen you two here? Around town? You’re sleeping with her sister and still giving Elizabeth grief. She did you a favor, Jackass, by walking out of that wedding. You’re just too dumb to admit it.”
Lucky scowled. “Whatever. You can all go to hell.” He brushed past Gia and stormed into the courtyard. Gia walked over and firmly locked the door behind him.
“You didn’t have to make it worse,” Elizabeth said, but her words were weak. She sat down. “He’s right to be angry. I’m still angry at the mess I made—”
“Hey, no one forced him to stay.” Gia looked at Courtney with her brow raised. “You can put your phone away.”
Courtney flushed. “I just…AJ’s finishing up his shift, you know? He was only a few minutes away. I thought…if it was like that day you moved out, Elizabeth—”
“I appreciate it.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I guess I should be grateful it doesn’t happen more with me working here and him upstairs.”
Courtney shoved her phone in her apron pocket and rounded the table. “All the same, I think—maybe we should stay here until Jason picks you up.”
“Lucky isn’t going to hit me.” Elizabeth reached for her invoices. “That’s not who he is. He’s just…he’s angry at how his life turned out.”
“And he’s too weak to do anything to change it.” Gia lifted his chin. “I don’t blame him for being pissed. I was pissed when I realized what Nikolas was going to do to you. What he would let his brother do. You were pissed when you figured it out. But we didn’t sit around waiting for someone to change it. We got gone. It’s his own damn fault he’s wallowing in his own misery. He wants someone to blame, Elizabeth. Stop letting it be you.”
“I’m not innocent in all of this,” Elizabeth insisted.
“Last year, no. You were cruel to stay with him when your heart wasn’t in it,” Gia said coldly. Courtney gasped, but the other woman continued. “And you knew it, too. You knew it was different, but you lied to him and yourself—”
“And the sooner you forgive yourself, the sooner you’ll stop letting him walk all over you when he takes his bullshit out on you. You were wrong last year,” Gia stressed, “but you made it right. Maybe it was later than it should have been, but you got yourself together and out of that mess. He’s just pissed because he didn’t do it first.”
“You don’t have to be so mean,” Courtney protested, but Elizabeth held up a hand.
“No, this is—” She took a deep breath. “This is exactly why we’re friends now. It’s nothing less than what she told me at New Year’s, Courtney. I knew it was true then, but I didn’t want it to be. I need someone who won’t lie to me. Even if it sounds harsh.”
“You worked hard for this new life,” Gia said, sympathy replacing the anger. “You deserve this chance with Jason. But it’s never gonna work if you can’t let go of what happened before.”
“I’m working on it. I promise.”
Jason stepped into the courtyard and paused when he saw AJ leaned against the doorway, a cigarette in his hand. He lifted his brow. “When did you start to smoke?”
AJ offered a half-smile. “When I needed a way to deal with stress. This—” He held up the cigarette. “It might cause cancer, but it’s a hell of a lot less dangerous than alcohol.”
Jason nodded and started towards the double doors but paused when he caught a glimpse of the women inside. Some sort of music was filtering out, and he could see Elizabeth and Courtney dancing and singing to each other while Courtney filled the sugar canisters at the counter and Elizabeth mopped. Gia was nursing some sort of drink at the counter, a grin stretched across her lips.
“I thought they’d be done by now,” Jason said after a moment.
“They do this sometimes,” AJ replied. He flicked his ashes at the ground. “Listen. Courtney told me that she and Elizabeth—that they were fighting about all of this. I don’t…” He looked away and shifted, standing straight up. “I want my son. I want a chance to do right by him, but Courtney’s my wife. And her happiness matters, too. Elizabeth—their friendship matters—”
“I know.” Jason exhaled slowly. “And I know how much Courtney matters to Elizabeth. I don’t want either of them in the middle.”
“I wanted to keep the peace,” AJ admitted. “I thought if I asked Courtney to talk to Elizabeth—it would keep us all from arguing, but I was wrong.” He met Jason’s eyes. “It’s tempting to let someone do the dirty work. To take the risks. It’s a weakness to avoid confrontation, and I’m working on it.”
He didn’t want to respect AJ Quartermaine. He wanted to remember all the horrible things AJ had done, but at the moment, Jason couldn’t seem to make any of them worse than what Jason had done. Or what Sonny had done. Or Carly. No one was innocent.
He approached the window a bit closer and watched Elizabeth with her friends for a moment. She might want to think she was damaged from everything had happened over the last few years, but the way she danced and laughed with Courtney and Gia—she was so happy in there. With those women. With her friends.
He didn’t want to be the reason Elizabeth was unhappy.
“I don’t want to argue with you,” Jason said, finally. “I know what my chances are in court. I know if I dragged Michael through it all, I’d probably lose. I know that.” He turned and faced his brother. “That doesn’t change the reason I would do it.”
“To protect him.” AJ nodded. “Yeah. I know. And I wish to God I could give you guarantees, but I’d be lying. I’d be making promises I don’t know if I could keep. I can’t promise to never take another drink. I’m always gonna be an alcoholic.”
He dropped the butt of his cigarette and ground it with the heel of his work boot. “And I won’t lie and say that sometimes I miss it—the way everything falls away, the way my problems disappear. Living like that—in a constant haze—” He swallowed hard. “It makes some things easier. I don’t have to care about how much I disappoint people.”
“Listen—” Jason shifted, uncomfortable with how direct the older man was being, how vulnerable he was making himself.
“I have to be honest about why I drank the way I did,” AJ said, holding up a hand. “Because if I don’t recognize the triggers, I’ll never be able to avoid them. Some people drink just to make their problems go away for a few hours. Alcoholics drink to keep them away. But they never leave. I don’t want to ruin Michael’s life the way I nearly ruined mine.”
“Look.” And because if nothing else, Jason respected honesty, he said, “I believe you. I’ve seen you since I’ve been home. And I trust Elizabeth. I’ve met your wife. I know you’re trying. I know you’re sober. You don’t have to keep—” He shrugged. “You don’t have to keep telling me this, okay? It’s not just—I made Carly a promise,” he admitted. “She was selfish to ask for it, and I was wrong to do it, but I promised her—”
“Yeah. Well…” AJ rubbed the back of his neck. “She’s not here anymore. I wish she was. I never wanted her out of the picture. I just…I wanted to be in it.”
The door opened then, and the music poured a bit more clearly as a flushed and slightly apprehensive Courtney stood in the door way. “Um. Hey. We—we just noticed you.” Her blue eyes flicked back and forth between them. “So, um, what’s up?”
“Everything is fine,” AJ said leaning over to kiss wife’s cheek. “Jason and I were just enjoying the show.”
“Oh.” Her flush deepened. “Um. You—” She pursed her lips and whacked his shoulder. “You’re kind of a jackass sometimes.” She looked back inside. “Hey, are we done?”
“You are,” Gia said as she joined Courtney at the door. She handed the blonde her purse, her own under her arm. She eyed Jason for a long moment, a cool look in her eyes. “I know we don’t have to talk about what I’ll do to you if you mess with her. I’ll break you into little pieces.”
Jason merely raised an eyebrow at this threat, but said nothing. While Elizabeth seemed to like Gia now, he was still reserving judgment. He remembered the other woman as an opportunist and wasn’t entirely convinced by the turnaround.
Gia followed AJ and Courtney out of the courtyard while Jason went into the diner to find Elizabeth sighing over ledgers and invoices as she packed them away in her bag. “You use a calculator, don’t you?”
“I do,” Elizabeth said with a scowl as she shoved the last folder of invoices in the bag. “Which is why I can’t understand why I screw it up so much.” She wiggled her shoulders and leaned up to kiss him. “I thought you’d never get here.”
“I got hung up at the warehouse.” He cupped her jaw in his hands and kissed her again, slowly this time. “What’s wrong?”
Elizabeth sighed and rested her forehead against his chest after he’d let his hands fall down to her shoulders. “You know, I used to think it was great how well you knew my moods. Now it’s a pain in the ass.”
“You don’t have to tell me—”
“No, I just—” She glanced at the stairs. “Can we just go? I want to get out of here.”
“Okay.” Jason reached for the tote bag with the ledgers. “You want to go to Jake’s?”
They paused at the threshold of the diner as Elizabeth turned off the lights and locked the doors. “Eventually, but can we go for a ride first?” She looked at him. “I don’t want to think about anything for a little while.”
Elizabeth sat on the bench overlooking the harbor and eyed Jason for a long moment, wondering if she should tell him about the fight with Lucky earlier.
She hated that Lucky was still a factor in her life—she didn’t want him to be a part of this new experience—this step she’d taken with Jason.
But while she didn’t think Lucky would actually hurt her, she had been relieved Courtney and Gia had hung around as long as they did, and that Courtney had asked AJ to come pick her up in case Jason was late.
“I think I’ve made it clear that the wedding—” Elizabeth bit her lip and looked down at her fingers. “When Lucky and I broke up, it was bad. Really bad.” She peeked up at him.
Jason had turned away from the guard rail, leaning against it, but he remained quiet.
She sighed and continued. “I’m not sure—I think maybe he thought he could convince me to forgive him, to go back. I guess he had reason to think that—I mean, I always had before.” She bit her lip. “But I was done this time. I’m angry at myself for letting it continue so long, you know? I mean, I knew…”
Elizabeth shoved herself to her feet. “I knew what you said last year was true, but I wasn’t—I don’t know. I couldn’t face it. I didn’t think I was strong enough to be alone. But I was standing there that day, staring at myself in the mirror, in this wedding dress, and I knew—I knew even before Gia came in to tell me the truth—I knew I couldn’t do it.”
“Okay,” Jason said when she was quiet for a moment. “So, what happened after you walked out? Sonny—he just told me the wedding was called off. He never said—”
“I knew if I was going to make it stick, if I was going to respect myself, I had to make a clean break,” Elizabeth continued. “Gia was so angry at Nikolas and they were already on the rocks because of the stupid plan—” She shook her head. “Bobbie was pissed, too. At Luke and Laura because they wanted me to change my mind. They thought—this latest brainwashing—that I could fix it. That I was the key to bringing their son back to him, and I was…I was just staying with her at first, and Bobbie eventually had to throw them both out of the house. She stood up for me.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “And I know it cost her. But she told me I had to do what was right for me and to hell with everyone else.”
She folded her arms across her chest and joined him at the rail, looking towards the water. “So, Gia and I decided to rent the other apartment, and Taggert said he’d make sure to keep Lucky out.” She saw Jason scowl slightly next to her and managed a weak smile. “Taggert was pissed about what we’d put Gia through, but you know, he’s always had a soft spot for me. I hate the way he treats you, but—”
“Yeah, I get it.” Jason shook his head. “Did Taggert need to keep Lucky out?”
“When I moved my stuff from Kelly’s—” She closed her eyes, remembering that. “We were in the hallway, and I had my bag with me. Nikolas was there—he was trying to talk to Gia, to me. She’d given him back the ring, and I’d given him mine to give to Lucky—when Lucky showed up. And he just…he lost it when he saw me with my stuff. Without the ring.”
A muscle ticked in Jason’s cheek. “Did he—”
“He didn’t. I don’t know if he would have. Once, I would have said he’d have thrown himself off a cliff before hurting me or any other woman. Before. You knew him then.”
“I think one of the hardest things I’ve had to accept these last few months is that…that Lucky…my Lucky…” Her eyes burned, but she held the tears back. She’d shed too many tears for Lucky Spencer. “He died that night, and he never came back. I wasn’t in love with the man who returned, and he wasn’t in love with the woman I grew up to be. And we hurt the hell of out of each other pretending otherwise. The man he is today? I don’t recognize him. And that man…” She bit her lip. “He might be capable of hurting me.”
She cleared her throat. “Anyway. After that day, he came to the Brownstone a few times early on, but Taggert and Bobbie kept him away from me, and he started to avoid Kelly’s altogether once I took over managing it in February.”
“Okay,” Jason said slowly. “Then what changed tonight?”
“He came down after closing. He’s not supposed to—Bobbie made it clear to the tenants that they should use the private entrance as often as possible, but well…Lucky thinks he’s exempt.” She sighed again, sick and tired of thinking about Lucky. “He found out we’re…” Elizabeth glanced up at him. “That we’re seeing each other. And he’s angry at me. He’s angry because I moved on, and especially that I moved on with you. Gia thinks he’s more pissed at himself for not walking away first, at me for taking so long, for staying with him when I didn’t love him. It’s all bad, and it just…. I can put it out my head most of the time, but every once in a while…” She lifted a shoulder. “It sneaks back up on me.”
“It’s not just the fight with Lucky,” Elizabeth cut him off. “Yeah, it worries me that he’s still angry. Because I don’t know what he’ll do. But it’s me. I haven’t…I haven’t really forgiven myself for what happened. For what I did to him—”
“I did,” She interrupted again. “I stayed with him when I knew I didn’t love him. And I did it out of obligation. God, Jason—” She closed her eyes. “Last spring, I wanted to go with you. I wanted to run after you. I nearly did. And I thought about finding you a thousand times, begging you to forgive me—”
“And every time I did that—every time I wished I were anywhere else with, with you—and I stayed with Lucky—I was lying to him. To myself. And it was wrong. And it was weak.”
“Okay.” Jason nodded after a moment. “Okay, yeah, I get that.” He tilted his head. “But you’re done with that.”
“I am. But I don’t trust myself all the time,” she admitted. “When I came to your room last night—I was going to walk away. Because it would be easier to do that than to take a chance on myself again.”
He reached for her hand and took it in his, letting his thumb rest in her palm. “But you didn’t.”
“Because I’m tired of taking the easy out,” Elizabeth said, raising her eyes to his. “Every time I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell you how I felt. Every time you nearly kissed me, and I didn’t let you—even though it was the only thing I could think about. When I let you walk away last year. When I tried to push you away when you came home. I’ve spent most of my life being afraid. Letting fear rule my life—” She shook her head. “I’m not going to do that anymore. I can’t. I have to—” She swallowed hard. “But I’m not sure I know how to stop. I might still—I might still do it. Sometimes. I wasn’t going to tell you about the fight with Lucky.”
“Because you don’t want to talk about Lucky anymore,” Jason said. “Because of everything that happened before—” He touched her chin. “He was a part of your life, Elizabeth. Good, bad—he helped shape who you are. Like Robin and Carly did for me. You never have to worry about that. Not with me.”
She felt the coolness of a tear as it slid down her cheek. His thumb caught the second one. “Jason—”
“You never—ever—” he stressed, “have to hide from me. I want you just the way you are.”
She kissed him then, this miracle of a man who had seen the worst of her, had been the victim of her cowardice and selfishness—and had still stood by her.
And for the first time in years—she began to believe she deserved the happiness she felt right now.
Their mingled breath was shallow as she drew back, letting herself slide back down his body and rest on her feet. “Let’s go,” she murmured, kissing him again. “I want to be with you. I want to feel your hands on me. “
His hands slid down from her hair, framing her jaw, his eyes—she could drown in them— “Elizabeth—”
“What did you say last night?” she asked, warmth spreading all over, her lips curling into a smile. “I think we’ve talked enough.”