Carly stared at him for a moment. She blinked and cleared her throat. “Know what?” she asked innocently.
He shook his head. “No, Carly, I know.”
Her face paled and she stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind her. “How?” she asked. Carly crossed her arms tightly. “I don’t…I can’t believe that Elizabeth would tell you so…”
“She didn’t,” Jason assured her. He took her by the elbow and steered her across the hall. “I’ll explain but first we’re going to my penthouse and you’re going to tell me what happened.”
Once he closed the door behind him, Carly sank onto his leather couch and blew out a pensive breath. “So how did you find out?” she asked softly.
“Ric cornered Elizabeth in the club and they were arguing. She didn’t know I was there,” he explained.
Carly looked up at him. “Was she okay though? I mean…she got away from him?”
Jason nodded. “He left when I showed up.”
“I didn’t…I left when he got there,” Carly admitted. “I didn’t…I didn’t want to leave her alone but I couldn’t…he makes my skin crawl,” she admitted in a soft voice.
He sat on the edge of the coffee table and took her hands in his. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Carly blinked and swallowed hard. “At first…I thought if I didn’t tell anyone, if I didn’t even say it out loud to myself, it wouldn’t be real you know? And then…I realized that Elizabeth was dating him and I was worried because…” she trailed off and took a deep breath. “I didn’t want her to be the next one to wake up with no memory of the night before.”
“And that’s why you asked me all those questions about her?” Jason questioned. “You were trying to find if it had happened before?”
“I was scared that she wouldn’t believe me, you know? Because well…God knows, we’ve never got along but I just…I had to warn her.”
“Even if it meant she’d tell me or Sonny?” Jason asked.
“Yeah. I guess I was willing to take the chance. But I guess…it didn’t occur to me that she might say it to someone else. I just thought she’d think I was lying.” Carly sighed. “So…what did Elizabeth tell you?”
“She didn’t tell me anything. Truthfully…she was too busy keeping me from going after Ric,” Jason admitted.
Carly managed a small smile. “But she’s so small–how could she stop you?”
“She’s stronger than she looks.” He moved his thumb over her hand in a smooth circle. “Carly, I want to know what happened. I understand if you don’t want to tell me and I’m not going to push you to do anything you don’t want to do.”
“It was the night of the club opening.” Carly closed her eyes. “A-and I was so angry with Sonny. So very angry. I only had one drink but I wasn’t feeling well and I remember that Ric seemed a little concerned. I told him to call you–I wanted you to take me home. But…” she searched her memory. “He…he took me to his room and I don’t…there’s nothing after that until the next morning.” Her breathing hitched and tears started to slide down her cheeks.
He brushed them away with his thumbs. “It’s okay,” he said softly. “You’re safe here. With me.”
“He was…he was touching me–his fingers down my spine.” She shivered. “I can still feel it, Jason. I’ve taken so many showers, scrubbed my body but I can still feel his fingers.”
He pressed his lips together and fought to keep his anger in check. Carly didn’t need his anger–she just needed his support. They would deal with Ric later.
“He told me…he said that I was all over him.” Carly opened her eyes and they were pleading with him. “I can’t believe that, Jason. I love Sonny. We’re having some problems right now but I really do love him and–”
“I know,” he told her softly. “I don’t believe it either.”
“I was angry right then–angry and still a little in shock. I just…I grabbed my clothes and went into the bathroom.” She sucked in a deep breath. “That’s when I heard Elizabeth come in. She was talking about putting off a date and I just…I remember thinking that no matter how much I didn’t like her…she deserved better than Ric Lansing. After she left, I finished getting dress a-and I went back out there and told him he was fired and if he came near me again or told Sonny, I’d tell Elizabeth.”
“I’m so proud of you,” he told her in a soft voice. “You got out of there and you kept it together. You’re so strong, Carly.”
“I think if he had touched me before I left, I would have lost it,” Carly admitted. “But it stayed with me. I tried to forget about it but I think everyone knew something was wrong. You did and Sonny did but Sonny just thought it was because of Brenda.”
“I’m sorry that you felt like you couldn’t tell me,” Jason told her. “You can always come to me, Carly. No matter what. You matter to me.”
She hugged him then–tightly and he could feel her warm tears seeping down his neck. “I’m so scared to sleep,” she admitted in a choked voice. “Every time, I close my eyes he’s there. I can still—I can still feel his hands on me, his breath on my neck.”
He smoothed her hair down and closed his eyes. “You’re safe, Carly. I’ll never let anyone hurt you again.”
His cell phone rang then. He pulled away and took it out of his pocket. Without looking at the id screen, he turned it off and set it aside. Whatever it was, it could wait.
Elm Street Pier
“Shoot,” Elizabeth muttered. She shoved her phone back in her purse and glanced around nervously. She shouldn’t have called Jason anyway. He was with Carly and just because she was walking home so late and might have heard some noises–
There it was again. Almost sounded like footsteps. She swallowed hard and started up the stairs. She pulled the phone out and put Jason’s number back up so that with one push of the green button, the number would be dialed.
Hands wrapped around her upper torso then and yanked her off the steps. She yelped and pressed the button.
“You stupid bitch,” Ric swore tossing her to the ground, the cell phone sliding across the wooden planks.
Elizabeth kneed him quickly and started to crawl towards the phone but he grabbed her around the waist and yanked her back. She tried to scream but he covered her mouth with his hand. She bit down on his finger and he yelped in pain but didn’t move his hand.
Her eyes trained on the phone, hoping that call had gone through–hoping that Jason had answered this time.
“The phone is lighting up again,” Carly whispered. She pulled away from him and wiped her eyes. “Maybe it’s important.”
“Carly–” Jason protested.
“Did you leave Elizabeth at the club?” Carly asked suddenly.
He nodded and he winced. “I should have taken her home. It’s late–” he reached for the phone and cursed under his breath. “It’s her number.”
He turned the phone on then. He had one missed call and one message. Both calls were from her, two minutes apart. Jason frowned and hit the button to the listen to the message.
“You stupid bitch.”
And those were the only two words on the message. After that it was just whimpers and moans and some scuffling. Jason shot to a standing position, his face pale. Carly lunged to her feet.
“What happened?” she asked quickly. “Is she okay?”
“I don’t know,” Jason admitted helplessly. He listened to the message again but concentrated on the background sounds. She was on the docks. He hung up the phone. “I have to go.”
He was out the door before Carly could argue or even find out what was going on.
Elm Street Pier
His footsteps thundered down the stairs and he immediately scanned the area for any sign of Elizabeth. He was berating himself for not having taken her home first before going to see Carly. It was two in the morning–and she didn’t have a car. He’d never ignored her safety so completely before.
A whimper from underneath dock stairs stopped him dead in his tracks and he turned to see Elizabeth crawling slowly into view. “Elizabeth?”
“J-Jason?” she managed to choke out. Her arms wobbled but she kept herself upright. He kneeled in front of her and helped her to her feet. Once she was standing, her knees buckled a little but held.
He pushed her hair out of her eyes to see some cuts and red marks that would turn into bruises eventually. But her clothes didn’t seem torn beyond a few rips in the silk blouse she wore.
“What happened?” he asked cautiously. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders tightly.
“R-Ric…he w-was…he…heard you c-coming I think a-and he left.” She leaned her head against his chest and closed her eyes. “He w-was angry b-because y-you found out a-and I think…”
“I’m going to take you to the hospital,” he told her intently. “Can you walk?”
“I’m okay, really,” she promised him. “He just…he threw me on the g-ground and hit me a f-few times. I just…I want to go home.”
“Carly’s back at my penthouse,” he told her. “I’m going to take you there.”
“Okay,” Elizabeth agreed. She didn’t even protest when he crouched down and lifted her off the ground. She was so tired.
Carly gasped when Jason carried an unconscious Elizabeth into the penthouse. “Jason, what happened?”
“Ric got her on the docks,” Jason told her before gently laying the brunette on the couch. “He didn’t…he didn’t, I mean–she’s okay. Just some cuts and bruises and maybe a concussion.”
“I’ll get some…” Carly hesitated. “What do you need?”
“There’s a first aid kit under the sink,” Jason told her. He crouched next to Elizabeth. “Elizabeth, you need to stay awake.”
Elizabeth moaned a little but didn’t open her eyes. “I’m so tired, Jason.”
“Yeah, but if you have a concussion, you need to be awake.”
Carly came back out and handed the kit to Jason. “Are you okay?” she asked her.
Elizabeth blinked a little. “I’m okay,” she said faintly. “I just…I hit my head when he pulled me off the stairs.” She looked at Jason. “Why didn’t you answer your phone?” she asked softly.
“I was talking to Carly…I didn’t know it was you…” He sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She closed her eyes. “Let me sleep, please?”
“Okay, but I’m going to move you to your old room upstairs okay?” Jason told her. He looked at Carly. “Can you go get something from your place for her to change into?”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.” Carly left the penthouse and Elizabeth kept blinking her eyes.
“Is the light bothering you?” he asked. “I can turn it down.”
“It’s just a little bright.” She licked her lips. “Thanks…thank you coming to get me.”
He took her hand in his and kissed the palm. “I’m just sorry I didn’t get there sooner.”
“What are you going to do…” Elizabeth hesitated. “About Ric?”
He kissed her forehead. “We’re not going to worry about it right now. I just want to get you cleaned up and into some clean clothes. Tomorrow. We’ll talk about it then.”
She nodded. “Okay. Tomorrow.”