Elizabeth sat on the curb outside Jake’s and let herself get lost in the memories. She could see her self three years ago, dressed in next to nothing and waltzing into the bar looking for trouble. She could remember talking to Jason as if it were yesterday. At the time, he’d been Emily’s older brother and nothing more.
And now… she drew in a deep breath. Well, she wasn’t quite sure what Jason was to her. He’d been her best friend, the only person who’d been able to get through to her. At one point, before her kidnapping, she’d even let herself wonder what it would be like to if they could be more. Well, she’d ruined that chance. Ruin wasn’t the right word. Decimated, shattered…those words were more like it.
She hugged her knees into her chest and sighed. What she wouldn’t give to be here, three years ago. She’d do the entire thing over. At first, she’d make the same decisions. But if she could…she’d handle the whole Lucky/Jason situation completely different. She would tell Lucky from the start that she’d been attracted to Jason the first time around. And she would tell him that he couldn’t choose her friends and she wasn’t going to stop hanging out with Jason.
She would take his hand that day in the park. God help her, if she could do that day over again, she’d take his hand and follow him anywhere he wanted to go.
“What’re you doing here?”
She didn’t need to look up. She knew it was Jason. She could see his boots, she recognized his voice. She loved his voice.
She sighed. “I’m reminiscing. You don’t live here anymore, so I figured I wasn’t breaking any rules.”
He sat down next to her on the curb. She had to smirk. She was small; she could curl up on the curb. He was too tall to sit comfortably. Good. “Reminiscing about what?”
“The day my life turned around,” Elizabeth replied, quietly. “August 27, 1999. I came here trying to forget my pain and I found you instead.”
“I didn’t realize,” Jason said. She still didn’t look at him. “I’m glad I could help.”
She shrugged. “Back then, I like to think our friendship was a bit more equal. You listened about Lucky, I listened about Michael. You pulled me back from the edge, took me riding. I found you in the snow.” She sighed. “Our friendship had so much potential.”
“Potential?” Jason asked, confused. “You say that like we didn’t keep on being friends.”
“We didn’t,” Elizabeth replied. “Not really. You left that January and you weren’t back that long the second time. When you came back in 2001, we were still on an equal footing. I gave you a place to stay and you listened about Lucky. And then I started using you. That’s when it went all downhill.”
“What do you mean?” Jason wanted to look into her eyes. See what she was thinking, feeling. She was still staring straight ahead–at a row of motorcycles.
“I started jerking you around. Telling you I couldn’t see you, running to you the next, not believing you–” she broke off. “Tell me, what did I do for you that was any good?”
“You were confused,” Jason replied. “You were dealing with Lucky and he wasn’t right. You knew that. I knew that. You did what you had to do.”
“All right. Then what about this time around?” Elizabeth asked. “I think, once again we were off to a good start. Then I got kidnapped. You searched for me, saved my life again and how I do repay you?” She could feel the tears in the back of her eyes and willed them back. This was not about how she felt. “I sleep with a man that I’m not in love with and he throws it in your face. Instead of throwing him out, I defend him every chance I get. I use our friendship,” she said saying the word sarcastically, “to keep him safe. He sets you up, breaks into your apartment, shoots me and I still went home with him.” She shook her head. “The only thing I’ve done right is tell Zander that I won’t go to Florida with him. Not that he took that well. I haven’t seen him since.”
“I don’t blame you for any of those things,” Jason said.
She laughed, bitterly. “Of course not, Jason. You never do. Which makes this worse. God, why can’t you just be mad at me?” She angrily swiped at her eyes. “If you could be mad, I could be spending my energy on trying to get you to forgive me and instead, I hate myself. I’m mad at myself.” She drew in a shaky breath. “But if you’re not mad at me, that’s your choice. I can’t change that. I just wish…” she trailed off. “I just wish I could do things differently.”
“What–” Jason stopped and breathed deeply. “What would you do differently?”
She looked at him then–met his eyes for the first time. Her eyes were watery and full of pain. “There so many things I’d do differently but the biggie?” She sucked in a breath. “The one thing I wish I could over more than anything else in the world…” She reached a hand out and touched his face. “I would have taken your hand and followed you anywhere.” Her hand traced his jaw line. “You mean so much to me, Jason. I don’t think you know just how much.”
He reached up and took her small hand and grasped it in his larger ones. Her hand was cold against his warmer ones. He stared at her pale hand, so small, so fragile and soft–completely different than his. “Tell me.” He looked up and met her eyes. “Tell me,” he repeated quietly.
She took a deep breath. Once she told him there would be going back, no taking the words back. She took her other hand and put on top of his. She stared at their joined hands. She raised her eyes and met his. “I love you.”
His blue eyes burned into hers. “Say it again,” he said, urgently.
“I love you,” she repeated, her eyes searching his for some indication of what he was feeling.
A moment later, he’d pulled her towards him and kissed her. The surprise Elizabeth felt melted away as she opened her mouth and let her tongue trace his lips. He wrapped his arms around her waist to drag her closer and opened his mouth to deepen the kiss further. She snaked her arms around his neck and tried to get even closer to him.
They pulled apart after a while, their breathing erratic and ragged. She kept her arms wrapped around him and buried her face in his neck unwilling to break contact with his body. He rested his head next to hers. Jason was the first to recover. “I love you,” he whispered, his breath warm against her neck. “God, I love you so much.”
She pulled away and kissed him gently. She took his hands in hers and stood up, bringing him with her. “Take me for a ride,” Elizabeth said, her eyes gleaming. “Let’s take the cliff road and go fast.” She hesitated. “Unless…you have somewhere else to be.”
Jason paused. It was nine-thirty. Courtney’s shift started in a half hour. He couldn’t let Sonny down–he’d promised him. He looked down at the woman in front of him. They’d been through so much, both together and apart and despite all of the pain and suffering and the separation and the obstacles…here they were. Three years later, back at Jake’s. He couldn’t walk away from her. Not again. She wanted to be with him. They could worry about the danger tomorrow. Tonight…tonight was theirs. “Give me a second, okay?”
She nodded. He walked away a few steps and took out his cell phone. He dialed Sonny’s number.
“Sonny, it’s me. I can’t watch Courtney tonight.”
“Something came up.”
“What? Jason, this is important to me.”
“Yeah, well, so this is important to me. You can get someone else to do it, can’t you?”
“That’s not the point, Jason. You told me you’d do this.”
“Well, I gotta do this. It’s one night, Sonny. I don’t ask for much.”
Sonny hesitated. “You’re right. You don’t. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jason hung up the phone and turned back to Elizabeth, who was smiling hopefully. “You ready to go?”
She nodded eagerly and he led her to his bike. He handed her the helmet. As she was putting it on, “Are you sure there’s no where you have to be?”
He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “There’s no where else I’d rather be.”
She smiled. “Good. Go really fast all right? I love those turns.”
“Yeah, I know.” He straddled the bike and she got on behind him. She wrapped her arms around him tightly and he turned on the bike.