These feelings won’t go away
They’ve been knockin’ me sideways
I keep thinking in a moment that
Time will take them away
But these feelings won’t go away
– Sideways, Citizen Cope
Thursday, April 25, 2002
“I loved my daughter,” Bobbie murmured, “but I’m not sure I ever understood her.” She stirred her tea a bit restlessly. “To set up a scene like that—”
Elizabeth bit her lip, her heart aching for Bobbie, but she was unsurprised to learn that the reading of Carly’s will had been a disaster. Carly had designed it for shock value — in the event she passed before Michael was an adult, she asked that Edward and AJ be invited to the reading of her will along with Jason, Sonny, and Bobbie.
Not there had been any surprises—Even Elizabeth knew Carly had set up a trust for Michael with Jason and Bobbie as executors, that Jason had been left guardianship, but…
“I know Edward can be difficult,” Bobbie continued. “He’s cantankerous, stubborn, arrogant—but he didn’t deserve what she wrote. What she said about him.”
“Is Jason legally bound to what Carly wrote?” Elizabeth asked. “To state that Michael is to never have a single piece of contact with anyone in the Quartermaine family before his eighteenth birthday—can that even be enforced?”
“No, not likely.” Bobbie shook her head. “Jason and Alexis are meeting about it today, but it just makes this situation more tense. AJ hasn’t filed yet, but I know he wants visitation at the very least, and truthfully…”
“You’ve considered it,” Elizabeth murmured. “You know that’s why Carly didn’t leave you guardianship.”
“I’m too soft, she used to tell me. But, yes, I’m sure she knew that my loyalty isn’t hard and fast. I often tried to get her to soften her stance on the Quartermaines.” She touched Elizabeth’s hands. “But I’m worried that Jason may dig his feet in the sand over this. Has Emily spoken to you about the fallout after his accident?”
“In some ways, but I know Jason…” She bit her lip. “He’d never admit it, but I think he felt rejected by them. They kept looking at him, wanting him to be this other person. Wanting him to be their idea of who Jason used to be. And the more they pushed, the more he drew away.”
“When you add in the fact that the one trait all Quartermaine men possess is their stubborn nature—it’s just become worse since Jason went to work for Sonny. Edward saw him denying all the advantages their family offered. And when this business with Michael happened—”
“It made everything even worse.” Elizabeth bit her lip. She didn’t want to be involved. She didn’t want anything to do with this, but she could feel herself being sucked in anyway. “Bobbie—”
“I feel awful asking this, but I don’t think Jason will listen to me about this.”
“You have influence with Jason. You may not want to see it, but—”
“You do.” Bobbie squeezed her hand. “Jason has to see that a long drawn out custody battle isn’t in anyone’s best interest. He may drag Michael through this and lose—”
“I can’t ask him to change his mind about AJ,” Elizabeth cut in, her tone sharp. “Don’t ask me to use what little connection I have with Jason to do that. I know AJ isn’t a bad person, I know how much he’s worked on himself, but I can’t pretend Jason’s fears aren’t real—”
“I just want Jason to be realistic about his chances. Elizabeth, if you care about Jason—”
“I have to get to work.” Elizabeth got to her feet. “I’ll talk to him, Bobbie. But this has to be his decision.” She bit her lip. “Did you tell Jason that you wanted him to make a deal with the Quartermaines? Does he know this is how you feel?”
“I mentioned it at the reading,” Bobbie admitted. “Just…be his friend, Elizabeth. He needs someone on his side.”
The trouble was, Elizabeth though as she left the kitchen and grabbed her purse from the front room, that she couldn’t very keep her distance from Jason and preserve a light, superficial friendship with him if she was constantly feeling pressured to be more.
And it was important that she stayed light and easy this time. Like the first few months of their friendship—she couldn’t afford anything more.
Not now. And not ever again.
“You don’t think I’d win in court,” Jason said after a long moment, tossing his copy of Carly’s will on Alexis’s desk. “You agree with Bobbie.”
“I have to be honest with you,” Alexis said, her eyes understanding. “I think it depends on the next few weeks. At the moment, AJ is sober, with a good, steady job. A stable marriage to a perfectly lovely young woman. He comes from a well-respected family. Yes, he’s had issues with alcohol before but nothing on his record. You can bring up the accident, but that’s six years ago and he was never charged.”
“Because the Quartermaines covered for him—”
“When you add in the fact that AJ voluntarily surrendered his parental rights in order to give Michael a stable life after not being involved for so long, it makes him look like he has Michael’s best interests in heart. He hasn’t filed yet, he’s giving Michael space—”
“And the next head he bashes into a rock might be Michael’s,” Jason said, his teeth clenched. “Only he might not ever wake up. Is that a risk you want to take?”
“What we do have on our side is that AJ did agree to give up Michael a year ago. He did allow Carly to have full custody after the divorce. He’s only been in his son’s life for about eight months out of five years.” Alexis hesitated. “However—”
“They’ll mention that first year I was lying about Michael’s paternity, which isn’t going to look good for me.” Jason rubbed his face. “Even if we tried to spin that—”
“AJ could ask Robin to come in from Paris and testify to exactly what you told her about why you were lying. It’ll show you knew.” Alexis bit her lip. “What about character witnesses? Elizabeth Webber lives at the Brownstone. Does she have anything to offer about AJ not being suitable? The two of you are friends, aren’t you?”
“We haven’t really talked about it, but she’s also friends with Courtney, and I think—” He was pretty sure Elizabeth half-agreed with Alexis and Bobbie. She might even think AJ was a good person. She had a soft heart.
But good people didn’t destroy lives.
“Jason, I know how much you care for Michael, and I want to do right by you. I just—I’d be giving you bad legal advice if I told you we had a slam dunk on our hands. We have to hope AJ screws up before this comes to court. Or you have to come to another agreement with him. Supervised visitation—”
“No, I’ll—I’ll figure something out.” Jason rose to his feet. “Thanks, Alexis. I know you didn’t like Carly much, but—”
“I like you,” Alexis said after a long moment. “You’ve always been a good client, Jason. I’ll do my best for you and Michael.” She bit her lip. “And I hate to admit it, but this time—”
“It might not be enough,” he finished. “Yeah, I’m getting that.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
The beauty of having an actual best friend who knew all the dark places inside, who argued with you when you were lying to yourself was that somehow, she was always on your side.
Elizabeth sighed as she finished relating the conversation with Bobbie to her best friend and hoped they weren’t going to argue again.
“So, what are you going to do?” Gia folded her arms and leaned over the counter. “I mean, Bobbie’s not wrong. There’s, like, no way Jason can win in court. He’s the biological uncle, yeah, but he doesn’t exactly scream stable father.”
“Jason was a great father when he had Michael,” Elizabeth retorted. “Michael should be so lucky—” She stopped and shook her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t—”
“I challenged your man’s honor. I got what I deserved,” Gia said with a wicked smirk. So maybe they weren’t going to argue today, but Gia would still get her licks in.
“I really hate you.” Elizabeth poured water into a coffee pot as she considered for a moment. “I don’t know. I mean, Jason’s getting the same spiel from Bobbie and Alexis. What could I even add? Am I supposed to make it worse?”
“You’re supposed to be his friend,” Gia said. She tilted her head. “You say that’s all you are now, but you’re not exactly acting that way. Friends get involved when people are about to get their lives shattered. If Jason goes to court, if he loses, that’s it. AJ will never let him see Michael.”
“I know.” And if that happened, not only would Jason lose Michael to AJ again, he’d feel guilty about letting Carly down, about not protecting Michael. And if something happened to Michael because of it…
“You’re going to have to stop pretending you’re going to be able to stay neutral,” Gia continued. “There is no neutral. You can be with AJ and Courtney—and that’s fine. You can be with Jason, that’s fine, too. But you can’t be on both sides.”
“Why can’t I be on Michael’s side?” Elizabeth asked, exasperated. “No one is one hundred percent right here, you know? I think AJ would be insane if he kept Michael from Jason. That’s a connection, a link to Michael’s mother that’s necessary. Important. And Jason’s not wrong for being worried that AJ might not stay sober. That Michael might be put in danger. But—”
“But maybe Jason isn’t thinking about Michael.” Gia shrugged. “AJ’s never hurt Michael as far as we know. Or anyone else, not really. Other than himself. You know who he did hurt? Jason Quartermaine. He killed his brother. And the man in his place has spent his entire life so far knowing he’s only here, that he’s only in existence because AJ crashed that car. When he pictures what might happen to Michael, he’s thinking about that—about rebuilding his life from the bottom up.”
Elizabeth bit her lip. “I know that people might think Jason is being unreasonable—”
“Who said that?” Gia lifted her brows. “First of all, I think Jason has a fantastic reason to never want to lay eyes on his brother again. Did you not hear the part where I said AJ destroyed Jason’s life? I’ve only lived in Port Charles for five minutes, but I see the way people talk about Jason Quartermaine. It’s the way my mother always talked about Marcus. Why couldn’t I be like my brother? He was smart, kind—he was going places.”
“The way my parents treated Sarah.” Even now, after all these years, she knew Alan and Monica Quartermaine hadn’t really reconciled themselves to the son they had now no matter how much they tried.
“Exactly.” Gia jabbed a finger at her. “It’s easy to look at Jason and only see the hot guy with a fast bike and a lot of money. But he worked his ass off to be someone else. Do you remember when Tony came over the other day and tried to talk Bobbie into cooperating with the Quartermaines? It’s not the first time they had that conversation, based on how much yelling we could hear upstairs. But the way he talked about Jason—the words he used—”
“Tony’s an ass,” Elizabeth muttered. She could still hear the rage, the bitterness in Tony’s voice as he’d called Jason a brain-damaged thug. A nothing. A nobody. Whatever sympathy Tony had had for Bobbie was clearly not as fervent as his hatred for Jason. He would always loathe the man who had stolen Michael from him. “Gia—”
“I know the way my brother talks about him. He makes him sound like nothing. Anger Boy, right? From before Jason figured out how to control himself.” Gia shrugged. “Jason Morgan has been around for six years, and for every one of those years, he’s been seen as less by the people in this town who should have had some damn compassion for him. I don’t blame Jason for wanting to protect Michael from that. I mean, is he overreacting? Maybe.”
“But, in his heart, he’s still Michael’s father, and that’s his job,” Elizabeth murmured. “Damn it.”
“You’re going to have to get involved, Webber.” Gia arched her brow. “What are you so scared of?”
Elizabeth bit her lip and sighed, because it was pointless to keep pretending there wasn’t more behind her desire to keep her life simple, and Gia knew that better than anyone. And it didn’t serve either of them for her to lie about it anymore. “I think you and I both know the answer.”
“That you’ll find yourself broken and have to rebuild from the ground up all over again for, like, the twelfth time? Yeah. I get it.” Gia leaned forward, a wicked glint in her eyes. “Aren’t you tired of playing it safe?”
“Not even a little bit.” Elizabeth offered her friend a half smile. “I’ll do what I have to do, but it stops there. Jason wants to protect Michael, and I’ll help him do that. But I have to protect myself. No one else will do it for me.”
“As long as you know you’re doing it. I don’t care if you stay away from Jason, Elizabeth. I care if you’re lying to yourself. You’re not doing that, so we can shelve it for now.” Gia reached in her bag, “Now excuse me, I have my last final tomorrow, and I might survive it if I have enough coffee.” She stopped and looked at Elizabeth. “Don’t think this conversation is over. You can play it safe all you want, but you know that’s not going to work for long.”
“But I do have a final tomorrow, and I have to go worry about my life for bit. I’ll come back to yours when the semester is over.”
Quartermaine Estate: Living Room
Edward Quartermaine was flirting with a heart attack as he raged at his two eldest grandsons. He was berating AJ for ever getting involved with that damned floozy, for Ned for talking him out of filing his own custody suit and just having the temerity to be in this room and not out there fighting for Michael—
“Mark my words, if we wait much longer, Jason will take him out of the country and that will be the end of it,” Edward jabbed his finger at AJ.
“Jason isn’t going to do that,” Ned said, his tone calm. Even disinterested. AJ wondered how his cousin managed to stay detached from Edward’s bullshit. Because he hadn’t grown up in this house? Is that why Ned seemed to escape the worst of the poison?
“Why the hell not?” Edward demanded. “He’s done everything he can to keep that boy from this family—he has legal guardianship—what’s stopping him?”
Ned hesitated and looked to AJ. AJ shrugged. He didn’t know how to explain his own conviction that his brother didn’t intend to steal Michael away in the night. Since the moment the truth had come out, Jason had done everything by the book. He’d gone to court to keep custody, yeah, but when the time came to surrender it, he’d done so.
Except when he’d blackmailed AJ into giving Carly full custody after the divorce, but AJ had himself to blame for that after setting the warehouse on fire. He had deserved that punishment.
It had been Sonny that hung him on the goddamn meat hook and threatened his life for no other reason than Carly wanted him out of Michael’s life for good. But Jason had never threatened AJ’s life.
“Grandfather, I just don’t think Jason would do that,” Ned continued when AJ had nothing to offer. “He wouldn’t do it to Bobbie for one thing.”
“Oh, I’m counting on the kindness of thugs—” Edward dismissed this theory with a wave of his hand.
AJ had heard that phrase, or a variation of it, a thousand times since Jason had gone to work for Sonny. Thug. Criminal. Degenerate. Worthless. And yet, somehow, in this moment—he couldn’t listen to it anymore. He’d reached his boiling point.
“Don’t call him that,” AJ said.
At his grandson’s quiet command, Edward broke off his rambling rage, blinked, and looked at him. “Excuse me?”
“Thug.” AJ swallowed. “That’s why we’re in this mess. Because you—because we drove Jason away. All of us. I may have destroyed Jason Quartermaine, but the reason Jason Morgan isn’t part of this family has very little to do with me.”
“Oh, hell.” Ned closed his eyes. “Here we go.”
“Say that again,” Edward demanded. He strode toward AJ. “Blame me again for this mess—”
“You drove him away. You rejected him. If you hadn’t treated Jason like garbage, if you hadn’t made him feel damaged and like nothing, then maybe he would have told Carly to go to hell when she wanted him to lie—” AJ pressed his lips together and swallowed. “Jason didn’t think much of me back then, but he didn’t hate me. Not me. Not then. It was this family. This house. This suffocation. The constant pressure to be someone we’re not—”
“You and your brother had potential!” Edward boomed. “I just pushed you, tried to make you reach it—”
“You’ve never let me forget that I killed my brother! That I destroyed him! I drank to shut all of you up! And I killed the only member of this family who ever gave a damn about me—” He closed his eyes, his throat tight. “And now that same brother can barely stand to look at me. I’m done looking for your approval. For wanting to be part of this family.”
“AJ—” Ned said, holding his hand out. “Hey. Listen—”
“Why the hell have I tried so hard?” AJ demanded. “What’s the point? You know, I may not agree with the way Jason lives his life, but I sure as hell understand the direction he took. Away. And that’s where I’m going to go.”
He turned on his heel and stalked away, telling himself it was the last time he was ever going to pay lip service to his grandfather. He’d get his son back, and he would make sure Michael knew every day of his life that he was loved just for who he was, and not for who he might be if only he were a better person.
His son would be a better man than his father if it was the last thing AJ did.
Gia and Elizabeth’s Apartment: Living Room
“This isn’t even English,” Gia declared as she slammed her book shut in disgust. “How am I supposed to absorb this in time for a test next week?” Before Elizabeth could open her mouth, Gia stabbed a finger at her. “And do not tell me that if I had kept up with my reading and notes all semester—”
“Hey, I don’t seem to have your problem and I’m a double major,” Elizabeth said sweetly as she highlighted a passage in her textbook. “You think learning the principles of finance in this country is fascinating? You picked your major, suck it up.”
“I don’t even remember why we’re friends,” Gia muttered. She grabbed her coffee mug. “You need a refill?”
“Nah, I think I’m switching to some herbal tea.” Elizabeth rose. “I’ll make it.”
Just as Elizabeth set the tea kettle to boil, there was a knock at their door. Gia scowled. “Didn’t we warn everyone in existence that we were studying this week? I will have someone’s head—”
She yanked open the door and blinked. “Oh. Jason. Hey.”
“Hey.” Jason hesitated as he took in Gia’s pajama pants and tank top. “Is this a bad time?”
“Well, finals are next week and as your friend and mine loves to remind me, I’ve spent too much time partying and not nearly enough with the books.” She sighed. “Webber? You got a visitor!”
“Oh.” Elizabeth bit her lip as she stepped out from the small kitchen area into the living room. “Hey, Jason. Gia and I were just—”
“I should have called,” he said after a moment. He shifted his weight from one foot to another, looking uncertain. “But—”
“No, I was gonna—” Elizabeth said. She glanced down at her jeans and t-shirt before handing Gia a fresh mug of coffee. “Mind if I bail on you?”
Gia waited a beat, wondering why people worked so hard at making themselves miserable. She could see the way Jason was looking at Elizabeth, trying not to let his interest show, and she saw how Elizabeth flushed and avoided his gaze. Idiots. Well, she was going to do her part and kick them out. “And not have you smugly sailing through your study guides while I drown in reading? By all means, abandon me to educational psychology and constitutional law.”
“You mind if we go outside?” Elizabeth asked Jason as she took her purse and a light jacket off a chair.
“Ah, no.” Jason stepped back to allow her to leave the apartment in front of him. He looked once more at Gia. “Uh, good luck?”
“I’m going to need it,” was the reply as Gia closed the door, but she flashed a smug smile of her own.
Jason followed Elizabeth down the steps and out the side entrance of the Brownstone. She slid her jacket on and turned to him. “What’s up?”
“I didn’t mean to bother you,” Jason said, his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “I know how busy you are—”
“Hey. You don’t show up on my doorstep at eight at night without a reason, Jason. We’re friends,” Elizabeth said. And she meant that. She might want to avoid any emotional entanglement with the man, but she would never pretend they didn’t have history.
And she liked that Jason could count on her. She didn’t have so many friends left in the world that she could afford to jettison a loyal one.
He tipped his head toward the road where his bike was parked. “You want to take a ride?”
Elizabeth bit her lip, and almost said no. Talking here, outside her warm, safe home—that was smart. Protected. Climbing on that bike, wrapping her arms around his broad chest, riding close to him—
But he looked concerned, and she knew he was dealing with a blow after losing Bobbie’s support earlier that day, so she swallowed her misgivings. What was the harm in one ride?
Vista Point: Cliff Road
Elizabeth was unsurprised that Jason was taking the turns with a bit less recklessness than she remembered. These were, after all, the last roads Carly had traveled before plunging to her death. She trusted Jason’s driving—she knew he’d never be truly reckless with her along, but still she could feel the difference as they leaned into the final curve before reaching the summit at Vista Point.
But instead of revving the engine to make the last climb, the bike began to rumble and slow. He pulled to a stop in front of the mangled guardrail, and turned off the engine.
Silently, they both climbed off the bike and Jason pushed down the stand, taking the helmet from her.
“You haven’t been back since you came home, have you?” Elizabeth asked softly, her words nearly disappearing in the winds and sound of water rushing as the lake currents swirled below.
“Couldn’t.” Jason turned and looked at the guardrail. At this evidence that Carly hadn’t merely disappeared, but had, in fact, died.
“Bobbie told me about the will reading.” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her torso as they walked toward the dusty shoulder where Carly’s car had, presumably, hung on the precipice. “I’m sorry.”
“It wasn’t anything I didn’t expect.” Jason braced his hands on the guardrail and looked out over the harbor. “Carly hated the Quartermaines. It was just like her to try to one up them even when she wouldn’t be here to see it.”
Elizabeth bit her lip “Bobbie wanted me to talk to you,” she said.
“I thought she might.” Jason turned, and they continued their silent walk. He’d stopped just short of the turn off for the parking lot for Vista Point’s summit view and park, but neither of them suggested they climb back on the bike and take it to the top.
“I’m supposed to, I don’t know, make you see that it’s going to be painful and there’s no guarantee you’ll even win.” Elizabeth sighed. “I’m not gonna do that, Jason.”
She heard him sigh as they crossed the highway, empty now as it usually was this time of night. There was nothing up this way save for the views at Vista Point, and it wasn’t a popular location anyway. It wasn’t high enough to be truly impressive, and there were more majestic views of the lake and harbor elsewhere in town.
So, she wasn’t surprised to find the parking lot deserted or the see empty benches and walkaways that dotted the summit of the hill.
He was quiet until they sat on one of those benches, the view of the harbor comforting to her even with the Gothic mess of Wyndemere looming out of the mists of Spoon Island.
“Why not?” he asked. “You’re not wrong. Alexis has described in great detail that I’m not likely to keep the guardianship intact when AJ challenges it.”
That thread of defeat, even resignation in his tone, stirred her. Jason didn’t quit. He didn’t give up. “Bobbie means well, and you know Alexis is on your side.”
“What about you?”
She didn’t answer at first, because she could feel, maybe for the first time, that maybe she did have influence over Jason. What if she told him right now that he should give in? That AJ wasn’t all bad, and maybe Jason was being too protective?
“I think you have to do what’s right for Michael,” Elizabeth said carefully. “He’s what matters.”
Jason leaned back against the wooden slats of the bench, stretching his arm along the side. “You’ve spent time with him. What do you think is right?”
He would have to ask the difficult question. “I don’t know,” she said. “He’s a bright little boy, you know? He loves living with Bobbie. He loves Lucas. I mean, the kid is his uncle technically, but Michael looks up to him like an older brother. And Lucas is so good with him. He never had much use for Carly—I can’t blame him there—but he’s been kind to Michael. Whatever happens, I hope Bobbie and Lucas can remain a vital part of his life.”
She waited a moment. “But that’s not what you want me to tell you. You want me to tell you’re right to keep Michael from AJ. That you should fight tooth and nail to keep custody.”
“I want you tell me what you think,” Jason said. He looked at her, his eyes sober and steady. “I’ve been home two weeks, and I’ve seen you. I know you spend time with Michael. That you care about him. But I know you’re friends with Courtney, that you know AJ as her husband and not just—”
“Emily’s older brother.” Or the devastating drunk, but that she left unspoken. Elizabeth hesitated, considering her words. “I can tell you honestly that the AJ I’ve known since Courtney came into his life is the best version. I haven’t seen him slur his words, there’s no hint that he’s drinking. I know he fought with Edward, Alan, and Monica after he married Courtney and stopped going after custody. Courtney isn’t sure, but she thinks that they left the mansion because he wouldn’t leave her. They found an apartment with his savings. He studied hard to get a license to operate a forklift, and as far as anyone knows, he’s doing well at his job.
“But,” she continued, “I’m worried he married Courtney to dig at Sonny. That his motives weren’t altogether pure. He’s been good to her, he treats her well, but I worry that it’s a smoke screen. That if his marriage falters, it might change things. I honestly don’t know, Jason. I worry that his sobriety is temporary. That he still struggles with the Quartermaines. I think we both know they’re a heavy trigger in his drinking.” She leaned against the back of the bench, propping her elbow on the top, and sliding her fingers through her hair. “I honestly can’t tell you what I think should happen.”
“A court may still decide to give him custody.”
“They might,” Elizabeth admitted. “I don’t have a lot of experience with this, but Gia’s been asking some friends of hers who intern in a family law firm. With Carly gone, and without any good reason, a family court judge might err on the side of the father. She said that courts also don’t…they don’t appreciate when one parent goes to extreme lengths to cut a biological parent out of their life, and—”
“Carly did that in spades. Yeah, Alexis mentioned that, and the fact that I helped—” He scrubbed his face. “How long do you think AJ will wait before he files?”
“Honestly? Maybe until Memorial Day. Michael finishes his school year then, and I know part of the reason he’s waited is to give Bobbie space and keep Michael’s life relatively stable. Not having to move during the school year would be a good idea.” She bit her lip. “I’m sorry, Jason. I don’t feel like I’m being much help.”
“You are,” he assured her. “And I’m not mad at Bobbie or Alexis. If I make AJ take this to court, then Michael gets dragged into counseling, into court rooms. He’ll spend weeks talking to people. It’ll upset him. If I do any of that, it has to be for the right reason. I can’t— I can’t do that to him just because I—”
Because he wanted to keep him, Elizabeth finished, but she offered another suggestion so Jason wouldn’t have to admit how much he just wanted to be Michael’s father. “Because it’s what Carly would have wanted.”
“This is harder than I thought it’d be,” Jason admitted. “I thought—when I found out Carly was gone—I knew she’d leave me custody, but I always intended to leave him with Bobbie. I mean, I’d be around if he needed me, but I didn’t expect—” He hesitated, but this time Elizabeth didn’t step in to finish his thought. She had a feeling he was struggling towards a conclusion he didn’t want to admit, but it would be the best thing for him if Jason was the one to articulate this.
“I didn’t expect AJ to be…” He paused again and looked at her, but she wouldn’t do this for him. “Doing well,” he finally managed, which was close enough to the truth.
“You have time to consider this,” Elizabeth told him. “As long as AJ waits to file, you have time.”
“Yeah.” Jason exhaled slowly. “There’s—there’s another reason I came over tonight. Why I wanted to see you.”
Despite herself, her heart began to race slightly. “Oh?” she asked, hating how breathless her voice sounded. “What’s up?”
“Zander,” Jason said, his face tightening. “The other day at Kelly’s—”
“We talked about it,” Elizabeth said dismissively, feeling a mixture of relief and disappointment that it was a mundane reason after all. “He’s an ass.”
“Who might be getting worse,” Jason told her. “I can’t give you many details, but until I came home—Zander was—” He hesitated, probably trying to think of how to explain something illegal to her in a way that wouldn’t sound illegal. “He was up for a promotion.”
A smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “Oh, yeah? A corner office with a view of the harbor?”
Jason, despite himself, offered a half smile. “Something like that. It would have—it would have been lucrative for him. I shut it down. I don’t trust him, and I don’t want him in a position to do more harm.”
“Okay,” Elizabeth drawled. “So that explains why he was pissed at you.” She sighed, sitting up straight and tucking her leg underneath her. “Let me guess, he can’t come at you directly for derailing his climb up the ladder, but harassing me is a handy way to deal with his annoyance.”
“He didn’t know yet for sure that I was…going to block him,” Jason told her. “He probably suspected it, but now he knows for sure.”
“Which means he might amp up his annoying behavior.” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “Yeah, I don’t have time for that in my life. We have a week to week tenant lease on most of the rooms at Kelly’s, except for Lucky, because he’s Bobbie’s family. But I can give Zander a week’s notice.” She looked at him. “Or should I not evict him? If he’s at Kelly’s, you know where he is. You can keep an eye on him.”
“I’d rather he be anywhere but Kelly’s,” Jason admitted, “and I was gonna suggest you might kick him out, but I don’t know if I like giving him a concrete reason to dislike you. Not when he’s already going to be pissed at me. Don’t—don’t do anything about it yet. I’ll put some eyes on the diner. You’ll let me know if he bothers you?”
“I can handle him, Jason,” she started to protest.
“You shouldn’t have to when it has nothing to do with you,” Jason told her, holding up a hand to stop her. “I know he’s not likely to do any serious harm to you. He’s an idiot, but he has enough street smarts to know—” He stopped short, but she wondered at what threat he might have leveled to Emily’s ex-boyfriend if it became necessary. Better she be left in the dark.
“I’ll let you know,” she said finally. “I should be getting home. I have an early class.”