Chapter 2

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Carly sipped a hot cup of coffee and peered out the window. It’d been two days since her club opening and she was just beginning to realize what her future was to hold.

She’d told Sonny that she and Ric had had a difference of opinion and she’d fired him. Sonny had been suspicious, but let her have her own business and run it the way she saw fit.

Sonny had been worried about her–worried that she’d gone and done something crazy when she’d found out about his kissing Brenda. He’d been so preoccupied with making her understand he loved her–only wanted to be with her–that Carly’s withdrawn and quiet behavior went almost unnoticed.

She’d had a bad dream the night before–had imagined she woke up to Ric once again, but that Sonny had caught them. She’d woken up in a cold sweat, but had managed to hide the dream from him.

She could still feel his fingers on her spine–and no matter how many showers she seemed to take, it didn’t go away. She was grateful that she’d been completely passed out to remember anything else. Otherwise, she’d probably spend the entire day scrubbing her skin raw.

She’d flirted with the idea of confiding in her sister-in-law, but she had immediately vetoed the idea. For one, Carly didn’t trust easily. Courtney had done nothing to earn her trust. For two, she was Sonny’s sister and sometimes you couldn’t guarantee the route a family member would take.

And three, Courtney was leaving town.

She heard Sonny’s footsteps above her in their bedroom and sighed. She knew this was resting heavy on him. He’d just reconnected with his sister, only to find that she’d played him. Told him that she’d been at Jason’s trial to support him–when she’d been there as Jason’s girlfriend. Carly had a few choice words for the other blonde, but before she could dish them out, Jason had done a complete 180 and broken up with Courtney shortly after the trial.

She’d been unable to talk to Jason about it–he’d been characteristically stoic and silent, but sometimes she wondered if Courtney had been a rebound relationship–a way for him to get over Elizabeth. He’d picked a helluva replacement, Carly thought with a smirk.

The breakup had devastated Courtney and she’d come to cry on Carly’s shoulder. Sonny had overheard and ripped into Jason, Carly and Courtney about the entire situation. He made his position completely clear–that Jason needed to steer clear of Courtney in the near future. She knew that the order was almost a dare to Jason, but it seemed the other man had completely made up his mind. Whatever he’d had with Courtney, he’d ended it.

Sonny and Jason were still working together, but there was a tension there. She recognized it–knew it wasn’t the first time their friendship had taken a blow. There’d been the disastrous night when she and Sonny had betrayed Jason. Jason had somehow forgiven them and even given his blessing. Carly didn’t think that either of them had ever really gotten over that night. She’d been able to forgive herself–she’d had a moment of weakness, a moment of anger and she’d given into it. It wasn’t the first time she’d done something like that, and it certainly hadn’t been the last. She’d felt guilty for hurting Jason, but no more so than she’d ever been when she’d wrecked his life.

The second time the tension had arisen had been during Jason’s search for Elizabeth when Jason had enlisted some outside help. It was the first time Carly found herself realizing that Jason had fallen in love with the younger woman. She hadn’t particularly liked it, but part of her had felt good about it. Felt relieved that she hadn’t ruined his life beyond recognition, hadn’t broken his heart beyond repair. But Sonny didn’t get it. He didn’t understand the connection–didn’t really understand that Jason and Elizabeth were more than friends. Sonny had many flaws, but Carly had decided that one his biggest these days was his inability to understand that Jason was more than just his enforcer.

The third time had been when Jason saved AJ for Courtney. Sonny had wanted AJ to go to jail, had wanted Courtney free from that albatross. Jason had done what Courtney wanted instead and helped to free AJ. Sonny had taken it a direct hit to his ego and decided that Jason was no longer loyal to him. She knew that Jason still looked up to Sonny in a way, and she believed that the second Jason’s loyalty had been questioned, Sonny had fallen the last few feet from the pedestal that Jason had had him on since they’d met.

Sonny had been unable to see the bigger picture once again. Jason had done what Courtney wanted–but she knew something else in Jason hadn’t allowed him to sacrifice the Quartermaine lush to the wolves. Jason loved his grandmother and sister deeply and knew that they still loved AJ. And she also knew that Jason didn’t approve of Sonny bringing AJ to the Oasis that night–that Sonny had given his word to his sister and had broken it. Just to prove a point.

Their friendship had taken many blows over the years, but Carly feared the latest might be the final straw. Jason was his own man–had the right to live his own life the way he chose. Sometimes Carly didn’t always agree with his choices–sometimes she tried to change his mind–but she always knew that they were his choices to make. Sonny always treated Jason’s choices as an affront to his own personal ego.

Sonny had suggested that Courtney leave Port Charles–at least for a little while. She’d been resistant–insisted that Jason was in love with her–that he was just a little confused right now. Sonny had tried to explain that Jason had made up his mind, but Courtney had merely replied that Sonny had made up his mind and in the end, that’s apparently all that mattered. She’d tried to reason with her brother and Jason, but neither budged.

Finally, she’d decided to take Sonny up on his offer and go spend a little time at the island. Carly had found out about Courtney’s vacation when she’d returned from Kelly’s, and she thought it was for the best. Courtney had been through a stressful six months or so and it would honestly make everyone’s lives a little easier if the blonde weren’t in town.

She set her coffee cup on the table and wrapped her long arms around her upper torso. She heard Sonny’s footsteps coming down the stairs and she sighed. Another morning of avoiding his touch, ignoring his words and murmuring a quick goodbye before leaving.

She was tired of the way the past few days had gone–tired of feeling like she’d done something completely wrong and unforgivable. Tired of feeling like she was dirty and alone in the world.

Her thoughts drifted to Elizabeth Webber again–much the way they’d done in the past few days. She wondered if Elizabeth had any idea about the man she was seeing–if Ric had told her anything about the night the club opening. If he’d told the other woman he’d slept with Carly. Maybe he’d put a spin on it–told her that Carly had come onto him–and that he turned her down. If she were Ric, that’s probably the way she would have handled it. Put doubt into the brunette’s mind before the other person could.

No, he wouldn’t have told her. Ric wasn’t the type to worry about damage control. He was counting on Carly not telling on anyone, and he couldn’t trust Elizabeth not to say anything to Sonny. He didn’t seem the type of person to trust anyone–not even someone he was dating.

Which made Carly wonder if she should tell Elizabeth. She felt a kind of reluctant respect for Elizabeth–she’d pulled herself together after finding Jason in the snow and had nursed him back to health. She’d also walked out on him after deciding she couldn’t handle what the life had to offer.

And no matter what Carly said to her face…she had to respect that Elizabeth put her foot down. She had apparently wanted honesty in some areas–areas that Jason didn’t agree with. It didn’t make it any easier on Jason–but Carly had to respect that.

But would Elizabeth understand that Carly loved Sonny more than anything else in the world–would have cut out her heart before betraying him with another man? Would she believe that Carly didn’t sleep with Ric intentionally?

Or would she remember what everyone in this town said about her? Would she remember the words that were often associated with her?

It didn’t matter, Carly told herself. If Elizabeth was half the woman Carly had always thought she was…she’d figure out Ric soon or later.

A nagging thought wouldn’t leave her alone. Would Elizabeth be subjected to the same treatment? Would Ric take advantage of her? Would Elizabeth be the next woman to find herself waking up next to him with little or no memory of the night before?

Before Carly could give more attention to that disturbing thought, she felt Sonny’s arms encircle her waist, drawing her close to him. She forced herself not to stiffen and pull away, but Sonny must have felt the hesitation in her body.

“You’re still mad,” he stated quietly, pulling away. Carly remained silent, taking advantage of the guilt her husband seemed to possess. Maybe it was wrong–maybe it was more than wrong. But it gave Carly a good solid reason to avoid him.

And she’d take anything right now.

“Are you taking Courtney to the airport?” Carly asked instead. She turned around and reached for her mug.

Sonny sighed. “Yeah. Are you sure you won’t come with us?”

Carly shook her head. “No. We said our goodbyes last night. Besides, I’ve got work to do at the club.”

Sonny drove his fingers through his hair. “How long are we going to live like this?” he demanded harshly.

Carly exhaled harshly and glared at him. “I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?” She pushed past him and headed for the doorway. “I don’t have the patience for this anymore.”

She jerked her coat from the closet and slid out the door, relieved to be done with her performance for another day.

Port Charles Airport

Courtney Quartermaine folded her arms tightly across her chest and stared across the corridor where her brother was making the final arrangements for her flight to the island.

She had decided that the way things had ended between herself and Jason was entirely Sonny’s fault. She didn’t care what Jason said–she knew the truth. She knew that Sonny would never approve of their relationship and he’d decided that his job was more important.

She lifted her chin and looked away from Sonny. She’d never forgive either of them. She’d go on the damn vacation and when she came home, she was leaving Port Charles for good. Find a place where a man didn’t put more value on his job than on her.

Sonny crossed over to her. “Do you have everything?” he asked.

“Yes,” Courtney told him stiffly. “And you’re handling the divorce while I’m gone?”

“I’ll send the papers when they’re ready to be signed,” Sonny told her. “Are you sure you don’t want to sue him for alimony or anything?”

“I don’t need anything from AJ Quartermaine,” Courtney said, firmly. “I don’t need anything from you, either. I’m going on your damn vacation to decide what it is I want from my life but don’t worry, I’ll pay every cent back.” She lifted her bag, shoved the strap over her shoulder. “Goodbye, Sonny.”

Sonny watched his sister stride towards the door that would take her to the doorway of the airport, where she’d board a plane to take her to the Caribbean.

He got the sudden feeling that she really meant it. “Goodbye,” he murmured before turning in the opposite direction.

Port Charles Docks

Elizabeth pulled her coat tightly around her and peered up at Ric. “Is something wrong?” she asked, finally.

He didn’t answer right away and she exhaled slowly, frustrated. No more waiting, she decided.Give him a chance to explain–maybe he’ll even come clean. She halted and sighed when he walked a few more steps before realizing that she’d stopped. He turned and frowned at her. “Elizabeth?”

“You’re in a different world tonight,” Elizabeth said softly. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Ric said quickly. Her eyes narrowed at the obvious lie.

“You know,” Elizabeth began coolly, folding her arms across her chest, “there’s something we need to get straight before this goes any further.”

“Elizabeth–”

“I don’t like liars,” she cut in smoothly. He fell silent. “I don’t like people who lie to me, who lie directly to my face and don’t see anything wrong with it. I don’t care if you think you are protecting me or whatever reason you think is good enough not tell me why you’ve barely said ten words to me the entire night, why you’ve basically been avoiding me for the past two days. All I care about is the fact that you are lying to me right now.”

“Nothing is wrong,” Ric said again. “I’ve had a long day and it’s been stressful ever since the club opened. I’ve been working all the time–you know Carly, she’s a perfectionist–”

“You don’t work at the club anymore,” Elizabeth interrupted. Her eyes grew even colder. “I’ve been waiting for you to tell me for the past two days. I figured you’d tell me eventually, when you got a chance. But I know for a fact that Carly fired you the morning after the club opened.”

Ric swallowed. Did she know? Could she possibly even suspect? “How?” he asked finally.

“Courtney told me.” Elizabeth smirked. “You see, since Jason broke up with her, we’ve been getting along a little better. Bonding over the jerk, so to speak. She thought I already knew. Carly mentioned that it was a stroke of bad luck Courtney was going on vacation just as she had to let you go.”

Ric looked away. “Look, I didn’t think it mattered. It was just a side job.”

“It didn’t matter,” Elizabeth answered. “Until you just lied to me about it.” She shoved her hands into her pockets. “Look, I like you, Ric. I like you a lot. But I don’t think this is a good time for me to be getting involved with someone.”

“Elizabeth, wait a second,” Ric said. “Look, I’m sorry I lied to you.”

“I’m not.” At Ric’s strange look, Elizabeth continued, “Because at least I got the message early on that once again, I don’t even rate a little bit of honesty. Goodbye.”

“Elizabeth!” Ric called again, but Elizabeth continued walking. Straight up the stairs, around the corner until she was gone.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Carly cut her steak neatly and ate a piece. Sonny watched her carefully, trying to discern the amount of groveling that needed to be done.

He’d messed up–he knew it. He’d kissed Brenda and had been planning on keeping it a secret from her. He’d been wrong and he’d told her as much.

And yet she was still silent–still withdrawn. Maybe it wasn’t just the Brenda thing. Maybe there was more. Maybe it was the way he’d been treating Jason or the way he’d treated Courtney.

“I’m thinking of inviting Jason to dinner tomorrow,” Sonny spoke up. “Try and clear the air with him.”

Carly sighed and sipped her wine. “That sounds like a good idea,” she said quietly. “But don’t raise your voice and keep your temper in check,” she advised.

Sonny nodded. Progress, he thought. “Right. So, what do you think I should say to him?”

“The first thing you need to do is apologize,” Carly replied. She was still staring down at the table and he could still feel her distance from both him and the entire situation. It was almost like she was in a different country and phoning in her words. “You’re sorry for assuming he’s not good enough for your sister and then you need to assure him that it’s okay to have a life separate from his job. That he can have more, have a family one day.”

Sonny frowned. “I never told him he couldn’t.”

“Maybe you haven’t,” Carly allowed. “But you did allude that he wasn’t good enough for Courtney and you know Jason, he was already separated from Elizabeth. She’d already walked out on him. Giving up another woman because of his job probably didn’t help.”

“Elizabeth chose to leave. She couldn’t handle it,” Sonny said quickly. He waited for Carly’s normal sharp remark about Elizabeth–about how Jason was too good for her or that Elizabeth was too stupid or naïve to handle the life.

Instead, Carly sighed and looked away towards the window. “I don’t know,” she replied. “The obvious reason is that she couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think that was it. Maybe it was more. Maybe it was something else completely.” Something flashed in Carly’s memory then and she met Sonny’s eyes for the first time. “While you were gone, she was…she was good to me. And I thought we might be getting along.”

“Elizabeth is a good person. She’s always there when you need her,” Sonny allowed, letting himself remember the night they lost their baby.

“She thought there was something going on with Jason and Courtney at the time,” Carly told him. “I told her she was being ridiculous. I have to wonder now…if maybe Courtney had something to do with her leaving.”

“Jason would never cheat on anyone,” Sonny said firmly.

Carly smirked. “I didn’t say it had to be happening physically. All Elizabeth would have to do is have her doubts. Add to the fact that Jason was never home, never seemed to get in touch with her…makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”

Sonny shifted, uncomfortably, having a pretty clear idea of why Jason had avoided Elizabeth. Something else he might have to apologize for tomorrow.

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