An Alternate Universe story that I was inspired to write after hearing Two Pina Coladas by Garth Brooks on the radio one day. The Captain Morgan in the song may refer to rum, but my muse thought to go in a whole other direction. Thus, this little story.
Elizabeth Webber sat in the first class section of the airplane sipping the complimentary glass of champagne the steward had served her earlier. She could get used to flying first class, but this would probably be the first and only time she ever would. After all, she couldn't afford it on her meager salary and the occasional money she got from selling one of her paintings. Any money she made went to paying the bills and buying more art supplies.
The only reason she was ever sitting in first class was because her fiancé had paid for it. Well, technically her fiancé's father, owner of Luke's Club and hoarder or more money than she ever thought, had paid for it. And for the rest of the honeymoon that she was heading off to enjoy without Lucky. Because in actuality her fiancé was her ex-fiancé. But when she'd called the wedding off yesterday two hours before the ceremony and thus humiliated her poor mother, Luke had insisted she still take the trip. He picked it out, planned some fun things, and he said somebody deserved to get his money's worth.
"It might as well be you, darlin'," he told her with a wink and a grin. "And since I'm likin' you a whole lot more than the Cowboy right now, you get the prize."
Elizabeth had refused at first, and Laura had stood there and sputtered in shock that Luke would even suggest giving the trip to the woman who had just stood her son up and broken his heart. But when Elizabeth's mother had come in to the bridal chamber at the church and started railing on her for embarrassing them in front of the whole town by calling off the wedding, she began to see some wisdom in Luke's plan. And so while her mother had gone on and on about all the money they were out and how could she face the ladies in her bridge club, Elizabeth had snuck out of the church and headed home. It hadn't been hard to sneak out; Jessica Webber wasn't even looking at her anymore. Her mother loved to hear her voice, and at that point her mother was in classic "Why me?" mode. The roof could have caved in and her mother would still be bemoaning her humiliation.
There she sat in the middle of her room, surrounded by the boxes of her packed up belongings and cried until her brother Steven found her. He sat beside her and held her as the tears ran down her face and she told him why she'd called off the wedding. She described going to Lucky's apartment to put some of her things in there when she found pictures of him with other women. Pictures he'd taken with the camera she gave him for Christmas last year, the one with the handy date-stamp feature.
There were pictures of him with in very cozy and loving poses, taken while they were dating and after they'd gotten engaged. There were birthday cards signed by Kiki, Courtney, Gia, Maxie and dozens of others. But what hurt most were the cards consoling him on his upcoming wedding and how each woman was going to miss him and their special moments. They were giving him their sympathy because he was marrying her.
She hadn't wanted to believe it, and she foolishly would have gone through with the wedding if she hadn't run out of dental floss and gone down to the drug store to pick more up. Funny how her life changed over her obsession with her gums. As she walked down the street and approached the parking lot, she thought she saw Lucky's car so she started towards it instead of the front door. He looked anxious and kept glancing at the entrance to the store and she wondered what he was doing and why wasn't he at his bachelor party like he told her he'd be. Then his eyes lit up and she wondered if it was because he saw her, but instead it was because her sister Sarah had come running out of the store. Sarah jumped in the car and Lucky leaned over and gave her a kiss that left her hair mussed and the windows steamed.
Elizabeth stood stunned in the parking lot, feeling ill, as Lucky and Sarah drove away. Her sister and her fiancé. It hadn't just been nameless women; Lucky had been cheating on her with her own flesh and blood. She had forgotten about the floss and returned home where she cried herself to sleep. The next morning, the day of her wedding when she should be happy beyond reason, she had avoided everyone while she tried to decide what she should do. Finally she gathered her family and Lucky's together and told them there would be no wedding. Lucky had squirmed and Sarah had looked down at her hands that she was wringing in her lap as Elizabeth explained exactly why she refused to marry Lucky. Why Laura had continued to be mad at her for not marrying her cheating son was beyond her, but then again, most things Laura Spenser did were beyond her. She had a feeling that instability ran in the family.
Steven sat there, his arm around her and told her she did the right thing and their mother was a fool for trying to convince her to continue on with the wedding. He urged her to take Luke's offer and stay in the Bahamas just as long as she wanted. If she didn't want to come back when the reservations Luke made ended, he would pay for her to stay longer. After all, he was a single doctor and his money would be better spent on his baby sister than some useless thing for his apartment.
Elizabeth had finally started to smile, and when Luke showed up to give her all the information for the trip a tiny laugh bubbled out. Then when Steven and Luke had started giving her money, trying to outdo each the other, she sighed as she choked back new tears and hugged both and told them how much she loved them. Both men had helped fill the void left in her heart and life that her father's death when she was seven had created. She was so glad she had them there to look out for her and care about her.
Elizabeth was pulled from her thoughts by the captain announcing they were on their final approach and everyone needed to fasten their seatbelts. Butterflies took up residence in her stomach as she realized that for the first time in her life she would be on foreign soil. She was ready to set out on an adventure for once. But her adventure would only be half over when they landed. She had to catch a charter plane that would take her to another island where she would then take a boat to the island she would be staying on for the next three weeks.
Luke had come across the small, laid back island while on one of his many grand adventures and thought it would be a great place for her and Lucky to go. Elizabeth had thought the quaint main village; the roads around the island to explore and the charter ocean trips they could take sounded great. From the couple of pictures Luke had shown them, she knew she would get plenty of inspiration for sketches and painting. And now since it was only her on this trip, she had made sure to pack plenty of sketch pads, pastels and charcoals. She would have to find some way to occupy herself.
Finally the plane touched down and Elizabeth stood up to gather her belongings. She slung her heavy winter coat that had been necessary in the harsh Colorado snow and cold, but would be out of place in the balmy tropics over her arm and slowly made her way off the plane. She couldn't wait to get to her final destination and hang the coat up out of sight. For the next three weeks she planned on forgetting Lucky, Sarah and everything else connected with her life in Colorado.
Jason Morgan walked down the sun-bleached pier and sat down at his normal table outside his favorite restaurant. It was in fact the only restaurant of any worth due to the exceptionally good food and the fact that most of the tourists that managed to find their way to this island flocked to the more upscale restaurant in the village. He nodded a thanks to the waitress when she brought his beer out to him and didn't waste any time in taking a long swallow.
"Sonny said your usual will be right out."
"Thanks," he said, when he finished swallowing. Then he looked up at the woman and smiled. "How are you doing?"
She looked down at her swollen belly as she absently ran her hand along the necklace that had held her wedding ring for the last six weeks since her fingers had started to swell. Letting out a heavy sigh she admitted, "I'm tired. I can't wait to get home and put my feet up, that is of course if I still have feet since I can't see them anymore."
Jason laughed and then pushed out a chair with his foot before finishing off the rest of his drink. "Take a seat. I'm sure Sonny won't mind. And I sure don't care if I have to get my own food from the kitchen."
"Thanks, Jason," she said as she sank down onto the chair. Then she looked around before turning her gaze back on him. "So, you seen my husband around anywhere?"
"He was tying up his boat last time I saw. Had quite a large catch today," Jason commented. "He's sure been putting in a lot of hours."
"He wants to have some money saved up so he take some time off when the baby's born," she smiled as she linked her hands over her stomach.
"Zander's a good man," Jason told her honestly. Though there was a time he thought otherwise, he now honestly liked the man, and was glad he was around. "I've never seen anyone so excited to be a father."
The two looked up as Brenda Corinthos came out of the restaurant, carrying a tray towards their table. She placed another bottle of beer in front of Jason along with his combo platter and a glass of water in front of the waitress. "Hey, Jase, good to see you this evening. Emily, go home already. Go put your feet up and wait for your man to come and pamper you."
"But my shift isn't over," she said, struggling to get to her feet.
"Relax," Brenda laughed with a warm grin. "Sonny said to go. And he's going to give you some time off. Said you need to just take care of yourself."
"He doesn't need to do that," she said in a voice that conveyed just how much she really wanted to go.
"Girl," Brenda chided playfully, "you're due to have a baby a couple of weeks. Take the time, or at the very least cut back on your hours. When I was expecting Michelle I hated being on my feet."
"Well, sitting is nice," Emily admitted with a sigh.
"Then that settles it," Sonny announced as he arrived outside, his apron still on over his chinos. "You're taking some time off. So get your husband to take you home and take care of you."
She looked over her shoulder to where Sonny was indicating. Zander, fresh from a quick shower, was rapidly making his way towards the group. He gave everyone a quick hello before he bent at the waist and gave his wife a meaningful kiss.
"Alright," Jason grumbled as Brenda and Sonny laughed at his pained expression. Wasn't he just thinking he liked the man? He might rethink that position if he kept playing tonsil hockey with his baby sister. "Alright. I know you're married, but she's still my baby sister. You take care of her, you hear?"
Zander nodded as he helped Emily stand and then hugged her to his side. "You know I will."
"Yeah, I know," Jason said waving his hand through the air. "Go on now."
"Call us if you need anything," Brenda said hugging the younger woman.
And then it was the three friends, left sitting at the table in the fading light as they had countless times before. Jason finished his dinner, and then pushed his plate back with a content sigh. Sonny looked over at him as Jason picked up his beer and the two friends shared a knowing look. The same look they had since Jason wandered onto the island and up to Sonny's restaurant. It said 'thank you for the meal' and 'anytime old friend' with just a nod and a smile.
The sun continued its descent toward the ocean, as it became a glowing red ball. Still the trio sat in companionable silence as they watched the birds dart and dance over the water. The sound of a boat nearing the pier caught their attention, and slowly they turned to see the newcomers Francis Donovan was brining to their little island.
The boat gently glided up alongside the dock, as Francis killed the engine before leaping out and securing the boat. Passengers began climbing out and gathering up their bags. There were a few Jason recognized from their previous trips, and he only absently took them in. Who cared if the Australian tycoon Jasper Jacks and his wife Carly showed up? They'd spend their time and their money in the village and never at Jason's charter boat service. Mrs. Jacks got seasick and had once declared loudly that the trip over was enough, besides who wanted to be on a boat when she could be in bed with her husband?
"Francis must have given it a burst of speed and hit the waves," Sonny laughed.
"I do believe your right," Brenda snickered. "She looks a little bit damp. Do you think she's ruined her make-up?"
"It's hard to tell," Jason said dryly as he watched the blonde huff off, "considering how green she is."
The three friends turned to each other and laughed. As Jason looked from his friends back to the boat where he expected Francis to be, he was surprised to see him handing one last bag to a petite brunette. He thought everyone had already headed off to the village. The woman didn't look like she'd gotten her sea legs, or maybe it was her land legs, back. She wobbled slightly on her feet and Francis reached out a hand to steady her. Then the woman straightened and pushed her hair out of her face revealing skin that was pale in the moonlight.
"Looks like another snow princess has arrived," Sonny commented, his voice laden with disgust. All three were now watching the woman who was gesturing wildly, and her animated voice, but not her words, carried towards them.
"Yep," Jason said, smacking the 'p' as he finished the last of his beer. He remembered the last snow princess he'd been involved with. Robin Scorpio had been a pretty woman, kind, sweet and he'd really cared about her. Then things had changed. They'd grown apart, yet tried to hold on to the past. The break-up had been messy and it was after that Jason swore off winter visitors forever. "Can't we put a ban on them or something?"
"Honestly," Brenda huffed in annoyance. "Are the two of you forgetting that I was a snow princess? Are you saying that I should have never come here? That Sonny should never have gotten involved with me? Not all of them are as bad as Robin or Lily."
Then she got up and stormed into the restaurant. Sonny and Jason looked at each other before Jason finally let out a low whistle and said, "Looks like you're on the couch tonight."
"You think?" Sonny mused as he flashed a dimpled grin.
"Put 'em away for someone who likes 'em," Jason chuckled. "But I don't think they'll even work on Brenda right now."
"Yeah. You know what'd even be worse?"
Jason groaned as he realized what Sonny was getting at. "She'd probably do it just to spite us."
"She would," Sonny nodded gloomily. "But you can always head out on your boat or just eat at home. But me? I'm gonna be suck with the snow princess who is about to become Brenda's new best friend."
"Sucks to be you," Jason laughed without sympathy. He was glad he didn't have to face the wrath of Brenda. Sure he'd miss the food and the company, but at least he'd gotten one last good meal before he had to start subsisting on his own cooking.
"Hey, fellas," Francis called out as he approached their table, the string of electric lanterns overhead illuminating the man's sandy brown hair.
"Hey, Francis," Jason replied.
"Saw you brought over a new load of tourists. Mrs. Jacks looked a bit ill," Sonny laughed.
"Didn't she?" Francis cackled. "Wish I could take credit for that, but that was all Elizabeth."
"Webber," Francis answered Sonny. "Supposed to be on her honeymoon, but I didn't see a ring or a guy. Maybe she'll need a little consoling while she's here."
Jason glanced over at the lecherous look on Francis's face. "You're welcome to try, man. But you should know by now that you can never thoroughly thaw an snow princess."
Jason dropped several bills on the table and stood as Francis burst out laughing. "Morgan, if there's anything Elizabeth Webber is, frigid and cold is not it."
Elizabeth walked out the French doors and onto the beach, a relaxed and very content smile on her face. The house that Luke had rented for her from a sweet, yet quirky woman named Jake, was gorgeous. Right on the edge of a white sand beach, full of lots of doors and windows that let in lots of light, and quiet. The landscape was providing plenty of inspiration for sketches, and she was taking lots of photographs so she would have a perfect record of the colors for when she got home.
Home was still two weeks away, and in the meantime she was going to enjoy herself. She had spent the first week sketching and staying close to the house. She hadn't really wanted to go anywhere as she'd cried and said good-bye to her relationship with Lucky. It still hurt, but mostly she was just embarrassed that she'd been so easily misled. Well, she'd had her week of self-pity and hiding. She had two more weeks before she had to go home, more if she took up Steven's offer, and she was intent on enjoying them.
So, dressed in a pair of frayed denim shorts, a turquoise tank top and a white camp shirt, she headed for the front door grabbing her canvas bag filled with art supplies. She was almost out the door when she remembered her hat. The large straw hat went on her hair, which was responding to the humidity by springing back into the natural curls that she had fought against all her childhood.
On the walks she'd taken on the beach seeking out places to sketch she'd already determined that if she wasn't careful she'd end up looking like the lobster Jake had prepared the first night. She slathered on the sunscreen every time she left, and after a week she no longer looked translucent but she was still a long way from being tanned. Not that it was truly in her nature to glisten like a Hawaiian Tropics beauty, but she didn't want to look like some incandescent freak.
Trudging slowly along the path, she headed towards the little cluster of wooden shacks on the pier she remembered from when she arrived. She knew there was a main village towards the center of the island, but after hearing the way Mr. and Mrs. Jacks had gone on and on about it, she was really in no hurry to go there. The way the snooty blonde's nose had wrinkled as she talked about the waterfront businesses, Elizabeth knew that's where she wanted to go. It seemed like the kind of place Luke would hang out. And any place good enough for him, well it may not be the Ritz, but it was bound to be colorful.
She stepped onto the wooden pier and stopped at the first little hut. It was a jewelry stand, filled with strands of opal, coral and shells on silver and leather. The craftsmanship was exquisite and sang to her artistic nature. No two pieces were the same, and she was having a hard time deciding which one she liked best.
"I'll be right with you," a voice called from the back. Elizabeth nodded, even though she knew the person couldn't see her. She was leaning over a case, studying a set of earrings that contained a beautiful blue-green stone. She ran her fingers lightly over the delicate silver-encased swirl that looked like a conch shell and noticed that it changed colors in the light.
"Find something you like?"
She looked up in time to catch a flutter of blue curtain fall into place along the back wall. Then a pair of khaki encased legs stepped into her line of sight, causing her to look up. She was greeted by a golden stomach and chest covered with a light smattering of brown hair. She noticed that one of the man's nipples was pierced - Ouch! Didn't that hurt?- before she finally rested on the man's face. Green eyes twinkled in amusement at her as if he could read her thoughts, and she watched as he scratched his goatee, showing off his coral bracelet.
"Find something you like?" he repeated, as he leaned a trim thigh against the counter.
"Umm, yeah," Elizabeth got out after clearing her throat. "I was...uh, looking at these earrings. The stone is really pretty."
"Oh, that's sea opal," he said as he picked up the delicate earrings in his large hands. "They'd look great with your dark hair and fair complexion."
She tried not to blush as he reached over and held the earrings up to her ear. "Yeah, just like I said. Here." He thrust the jewelry at her before turning and rummaging on the counter behind him. "I think I've got a mirror here. Ah."
He turned, beaming in triumph, and held it up for her to see. The small earrings that would dangle maybe half inch below her ear did look good with her coloring. They also looked really good with her top.
"I like them," she told him. "How much?"
She listened as he told her, and was surprised at how inexpensive they were. She would have guessed the price to be much higher. She happily agreed and then looked down at the rest of the pieces.
"Anything else?" he asked, his tone easy and relaxed, making her feel like an old friend instead of a stranger.
"Well I was thinking of an anklet," she told him as she once again studied the pieces. Each one was beautiful, ranging from bold and chunky, to thin and delicate. It was hard to determine which one she liked more, and she pulled her bottom lip into her mouth as she tried to figure it all out.
The man peered over the counter and looked down at her feet. "Hmm, nice slender ankles. You probably won't want something too big that overpowers it. There's a nice one that goes with the earrings."
"Well," she said hesitantly, and he paused and looked at her, "I kinda liked the jade one over there."
A broad smile crossed his face. "Jade is a beautiful choice. Plus it's always good luck."
"Well, I certainly could use a little luck," she mumbled more to herself than to him before looking up. "You don't think I should get it to match?"
"I think you should get whatever you like," he said as he reached for an electric blue button down shirt and slipped it on. "I personally like an eclectic feel to what I wear. Get whatever you like and wear what you want."
Elizabeth took in the jewelry maker' appearance and decided he was the living personification of that remark. She liked him, and she could imagine Luke sitting around drinking with him and smoking cigars. She was suddenly wanted to sketch him. Capture every unique detail about him. She decided right them that she had to know, needed to know this man's name, his history, buy him a beer and let him tell his story.
The man's head shot up and Elizabeth looked over her shoulder as the captain from the boat that brought her to the island approached. He looked relaxed and tanned, windblown but more put together than O'Brien who she couldn't imagine having a suit in his closet.
"Hello, Donovan," O'Brien answered with that ever-present smile.
"Hello, Elizabeth," Francis grinned at her as he joined them. "Nice to see you out and about. See you've met O'Brien here."
"Yeah, I guess it was time to explore a bit more than just the beach," she said, a little uncomfortable now as the friends outnumbered her. She always liked one on one meetings when she was first getting to know somebody. "Bought some jewelry."
"Ah, yes, Johnny's a talented guy," Francis told her. "What'd you get?"
Elizabeth showed him her earrings as Johnny reached for the anklet she'd been interested in. "This one, Elizabeth?"
She turned, a little startled by him using her name, but nodded. "Yes, that's the one."
"Why don't you try it on and see what you think."
As she knelt down to fasten it on, Francis turned to Johnny. "So, I see you met Elizabeth."
"Well, I didn't know she was Elizabeth until you came. Hadn't gotten around to names yet."
Francis laughed like it was the most natural thing in the world for them to introduced after the fact. And as Elizabeth looked up at Johnny and thought about the way he'd made her feel instantly relaxed and at ease, she could see how that was possible. "Elizabeth, Johnny O'Brien. My oldest friend in the world. Johnny, Elizabeth Webber. She's the one that made Carly Jacks nearly lose her dinner."
"So you're the brilliant woman," Johnny exclaimed. "Been looking forward to meeting you ever since Francis told me about your little driving adventure. Just for that, the anklet's on the house. Oh, looks right lovely."
Elizabeth stood, looking down at the silver strand fastened around her ankle. She did like it. The silver and jade caught the light and twinkled at her, the strand looked delicate and yet felt strong. But she couldn't just let him give it to her. "Oh, no, really, that's too much."
"Nonsense," he shook his head, a frown marring his features for the first time. "For what you did to Mrs. Jacks, I insist."
"Why?" she blurted out before she could stop herself.
He gave a half shrug and almost looked embarrassed to tell her, and that made her want to know all the more. Francis stepped close and lowered his head conspiratorially; she leaned towards him unconsciously. "She's a snob who shunned his jewelry here at the shack. But when we got his work into that snooty little artsy store in town, she snapped it up like a kid at Christmas. And the kicker is that she's paying three or four times more than she would here, all because he's a 'reclusive artist' who refuses to give his name."
"Adds to the mystique," Johnny laughed.
Elizabeth joined him, throwing her head back as a deep laugh boomed out. "Which one of you came up with that?"
"Sonny," both men chorused.
Then Johnny crossed his arms over his chest as he looked thoughtfully at her. "Though to be honest, Jason had some good ideas as well."
"Hey," Francis said, snapping his fingers. "We should take her to see Sonny. She'd probably love him and Brenda. Brenda'll definitely love her."
Johnny vaulted over the counter in one swift move, and Elizabeth stepped back as she gave a nervous laugh. These two men were suddenly making plans for her and she could only guess that something interesting would come about from this trip to meet Sonny and Brenda. The two men quickly closed and locked Johnny's shack, and then Johnny linked his arm through Elizabeth's as he started down the pier. "Francis, how right you are. Elizabeth dear, prepare yourself for the best meal you have ever tasted.
He was tired, he was dirty, and he was surly from spending nearly all day fine tuning the engines on his boats and trying to repair the motor that had nearly caught fire this morning. And most of all, Jason was hungry for some company and an extra large helping of Sonny's shrimp and pasta. Or, maybe he'd go for a nice swordfish dinner. After spending a week at his house or out on the ocean he just wanted to spend a relaxed evening at Sonny's diner. Heck, he'd eat a greasy hamburger just as long as he didn't have to cook it himself. He may know how to cook, but he hated having to do it all the time.
It was really pretty silly, as he thought about it while scrubbing the grease out from under his nails. He was hiding out because he feared Brenda would befriend the little snow princess, Elizabeth Webber. Sonny said she hadn't been seen outside of the house Jake had rented out to her last week. So in addition to being a princess, she was also a snob. Or a recluse. But that didn't fit with the things Francis had told him the couple of times they'd gotten together during the week.
Francis said she was funny, and easygoing. She had sat up beside him and chatted during the ride to the island. Everything about the boat and sailing had fascinated her, and that's why Francis had let her drive a bit. He said she took it like a natural. Robin had always hated the boats he had and never really wanted to go out on them, or too fast. Robin. Right, the reason he was not going to sucked into the plans he was sure Brenda had. And no matter how many times he thought about her, the cute figure she cut on the pier talking with Francis, and how she was so small she'd probably fit right under his chin while they danced, he wasn't going to go.
Except for tonight. He was out food, except for one measly jar with a little bit of peanut butter in the bottom and some stale bread. Shopping hadn't been high on his list of things to do, and after the day he had, he wasn't going to make do with a peanut butter sandwich.
So pulling a clean pair of jeans out of his dresser, apparently laundry would need to be done tomorrow after shopping, and slipping on a casual green button down shirt which he partially buttoned, he quickly ran a brush through his hair, untangling his bangs. The damp strands tickled his cheekbones, but he knew by the time he got to Sonny's it would be dry. And then he could get some good food, kick back a few beers, and put his feet up. Sounded like the perfect end to a thoroughly rotten day.
When Jason arrived at the diner after dark, the first thing he noticed was a poker game was underway. Perfect. He could sit with Francis, Johnny and Sonny, smoke a stogie, drink some whiskey and lighten everyone's wallets. If they were lucky Max Kozimor, the harbor master, would join them and the men would sit around swapping stories until Brenda put her foot down and sent them all staggering home at three in the morning.
A cloud of smoke hung over the corner table, and several empty bottles and glasses cluttered the area around it. It looked like tonight was going to be a fun night after all. Max was already there, and Brenda was playing. Brenda, though he loved her dearly, couldn't hold her liquor and couldn't play poker worth beans. He would enjoy taking her money.
Johnny looked up at Jason approached the door and waved at them. "Hey, Morgan. Grab some grub and join us. We got a lively game going tonight."
"And see if you can drag Sonny away from that kitchen," Francis yelled after him.
"I'll see what I can do," he called back as he opened the door. The empty dining room was cooler than outside, as rattan ceiling fans turned lazily stirring the air. Soft sounds of dishes clanking together drifted out from the kitchen, and Jason's mouth watered immediately as the delicious aromas bombarded him.
"Hey, Jason," Sonny said as he came out of the steamy kitchen and walked to the counter where Jason had taken a seat. "What can I get you tonight?"
"How's the swordfish?" All the way over the pan seared swordfish had been calling to him.
"Excellent, if I do say so," his friend grinned. "Nice and fresh."
"Sounds great," Jason told him.
"Want me to bring it out to you?" Sonny asked. "You're joining the game right?"
"Yeah, looks like it's going good." And he was certainly up for a good game, and some good company, tonight.
"I'll bring it out, and then I'll join you. Brenda's not really up for playing tonight."
Jason figured he'd better get out there and win some of her money before she decided to call it quits. He stood and then paused when she walked out of the back, carrying a large tray of drinks.
"Hey, Jase," she smiled at him. "Glad to see you came out of hibernation tonight. I was just going to take some drinks to the gang outside. Should I tell them you're coming?"
"Yeah, sure," he told her before she was out the door. Then he turned to Sonny, his forehead creased in confusion. "How'd I miss her coming in? She was playing when I walked up."
Sonny grinned at him and began to laugh. Jason looked at him puzzled, and then cringed and shook his head. No. It couldn't be. The brunette in the white shirt wasn't Brenda. And it wasn't Emily since he knew his sister's hair was shorter and she wouldn't be around all that smoke. It could only be one person. Just his luck after the day he'd had. A perfectly good evening was going to be ruined.
"No, you're kidding me, right?" he pleaded. "The one night I finally come out and she shows up. The snow princess, Elizabeth Webber?"
The door slammed shut behind him and Sonny looked over Jason's shoulder and gulped. The room had suddenly gone ten degrees colder. Crap.
"Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt. Just needed to see a lady about a hat," she said as she walked closer. Jason knew she was walking only because he could hear her shoes moving across the floor. He refused to move his gaze from the small scratch on the wooden bar. "I'll be out of your way soon enough and then you can return to taking cheap shots at me behind my back."
Then she was down the hall and Jason looked up when he heard the bathroom door close.
"I'll go make your dinner," Sonny told him quietly and disappeared into the kitchen.
Jason sighed and shook his head, then went behind the bar to grab a bottle of beer before going outside. Great. He'd probably hurt the little thing's feelings. Now she was going to come out all teary-eyed and everyone'd ream him. This night simply was going downhill, and fast.
"Hey, Jason, there you are," Max said as he walked outside.
"Elizabeth'll be right back," Johnny grinned before he took a bite of his chili fries.
Francis, who was shuffling the cards, looked up as asked, "Is Sonny coming out?"
"Yeah, when he brings out my dinner," Jason said as he sat down in the seat Max indicated. He couldn't quite work up the enthusiasm they had, knowing that any minute Ms. Webber was going to come out and ruin it all by going home.
"Hey, Francis," she called out as she opened the door. Jason looked up, saw her for the first time and gulped. That was an amazing amount of skin she was displaying. He watched her in what he hoped was a casual manner, as she walked towards the table. After all, where else was he supposed to look but straight forward? And they had seated him directly across from her apparently, as she reclaimed her seat and reached for her Coke. Or was that a Coke and rum? She looked decidedly relaxed. And remarkably dry-eyed. Where was the anger, the hurt, the insistence that she wasn't going to play cards with him?
"Now this time, Francis," she grinned, not even acknowledging Jason, "try not to deal me such a sucky hand. You sure you weren't dealing off the bottom of the deck?"
"One hand, Elizabeth, one hand," the ferry pilot said as he turned to laugh at her. "The rest of us needed a break from you robbing us blind."
"Jason," Johnny said, causing Jason to look up from the table he'd been focusing on. "I don't think you've met Elizabeth Webber. Elizabeth, this is Jason Morgan, boat captain and all around good Joe."
"Jason Morgan?" she questioned, and Jason's stomach oddly clenched. When was the last time his name had ever sounded that amazing passing through another person's lips?
"Yeah," he said, nearly in a grunt.
"I think I'm supposed to go out on a ride with you later this week," she said, her forehead lightly scrunched as she tried to remember.
"No," he said with certainty. "I know my schedule. No Webber on it."
"No," she said with a small laugh. "There wouldn't be. Luke made all the arrangements for the honeymoon. So it would be under Lucky and Elizabeth, or Spencer."
The table went dead silent. The men looked at each other and then Elizabeth. She blinked, shifted in her seat and nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Sonny arrived at that moment and looked at everyone as he set Jason's food in front of him.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"What?" Elizabeth asked at nearly the same time. "Do I have food in my teeth? Why are you staring at me like that?"
"Luke Spencer," Max said to the table at large. "S'pose it could be another person with that name."
"Sure," Francis shrugged half-heartedly. "I mean there's more than guy out there with that name, right?"
"Yeah, but how many give their kids the name of the family dog?" Jason asked.
"Elizabeth, darling," Johnny asked as he leaned forward and crossed his arms on the table. "Were you engaged to Lucas Lorenzo Spencer, Junior from Colorado?"
"Yeah, I was," Elizabeth said slowly, looking uncomfortably. "How'd you know his name?"
Sonny pulled a seat up to the table and sat down as he started to laugh. His teeth flashed brilliant in the night and he pointed at Elizabeth. "You're that Elizabeth."
"You're Lizzie!" Johnny exclaimed, and then winced when Elizabeth smacked him on the back of the head.
"Only Luke or my brother Steven can call me that. I wouldn't let Lucky call me Lizzie, what makes you think I'll let you?"
Jason and the rest of the table took one look at Elizabeth, eyes sparking, arms crossed defiantly in front of her and couldn't help but laugh.
"Luke was right," Jason chuckled. "You do have spunk. I've never seen Johnny look so surprised."
Elizabeth groaned and covered her face with her hands. "I am so sorry, Johnny. I can't believe I hit you. It's just an instinctive reaction to whenever I hear that name. Are you alright?"
"Ah, don't worry about Johnny," Max laughed. "O'Brien's got a hard head. And he's constantly getting smacked upside it."
"Oh yeah," Sonny confirmed with a nod. "Brenda's always hitting the cheeky bugger. I figure it's probably better her than me for him hitting on my wife."
"It's called charm," Johnny winked. "Some men just have it in spades."
"Oh, I think I need a spade alright," Francis grumbled at him.
"It is getting awfully deep around here," Max winked.
Jason looked up at Elizabeth who was silently laughing so hard that tears were rolling down her cheeks. "You might want to breathe," he told her. "If you pass out these mokes will probably duke it out to see who gets to do mouth to mouth. And by the time they're done with that, it'll be too late."
"I know," she squeaked out as she wiped her eyes and then waved her hand in front of her face as if that would help her catch her breath. "I just could so easily see you guys sitting around like this with Luke. Now I know why Luke loves this place so much."
"Luke hasn't been here in a while," Sonny lamented. Then he added with a wink, "But when he is here, the authorities usually have to get involved at least once."
"Well, I can see why he'd send Elizabeth here," Francis said. "She's a natural and fits right in."
"Yeah, but why would he want to send Lucky?" Johnny questioned.
"What?" Elizabeth asked.
"The last time Luke came down here, he brought Lucky with him," Max explained. "And that little punk whined and complained the entire time."
"And he hit on Emily," Jason grumbled, remembering how he'd wanted to punch the little blond in the nose.
"Who's Emily?" Elizabeth questioned.
"Jason's baby sister," Sonny explained. "Who was married, and he knew it. In fact, she'd just found out she was pregnant, and that little punk still hit on her."
Elizabeth gasped in surprise and her glass slipped out of her hand and crashed to the wooden planks. Everyone turned to look at her, but her eyes were locked on Sonny. "Wait. Is she the waitress you were telling me about?"
"Yeah," Sonny nodded, sitting up and leaning towards her.
"So they were here in the last eight months?" she asked, a sheen of moisture rising in her eyes. Her hand trembled slightly as she pushed her hair out of her face. "Did Luke know about Lucky?"
"Yep," Johnny said, shaking his head. "Though the old man gave him an earful about respecting women, marriage and love it never seemed to phase him. It wasn't until Jason and Zander, Emily's husband, threatened to make Lucky into crab bait that he backed off."
"Then he was off chasing every other skirt on the island," Francis said in disgust. "It was pathetic."
Jason had been watching Elizabeth closely this time, and saw her chin quiver slightly as she blinked rapidly. Now she dropped her chin to her chest and buried her face in her hands as a curtain of hair shielded her from view. "Elizabeth? Elizabeth, are you okay?"
A shaky nod of her head was all he got in response. Francis turned towards her and put his hand lightly on her shoulder, a look of concern on his face. She pushed back her chair abruptly, breaking contact. She looked up, her eyes wide and her face pale.
"Elizabeth," he said.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I have to go. Th-thank you for t-tonight. I-I..."
And then she was gone, running as fast as her chunky sandals could take her in the darkness. The men stood and looked in the direction she'd gone, then back at each other.
"One of us should probably-" Francis started.
"Yeah. Who?" Max asked.
"None of you," Brenda said as she closed the door. She crossed her arms over her chest, willing any of them to disagree. "Right now she's not going to see any man. She just found out her fiancé was slime and cheating on her. I'll go."
"Oh man," Francis groaned as he sat down. "She said that she'd been engaged for a year."
"So he was hitting on Morgan's sister when he was engaged," Sonny said, his features darkening.
"Not only that," Jason stated as he pinched the bridge of his nose, "Luke knew about it, and from the looks of it never told her.
He knew. That no good, slimy, lying, cheating man knew that Lucky had been cheating on her. He knew. And he let her go on like a blind fool.
How could he do that to her? He claimed he loved her like a daughter, and yet he'd kept Lucky's dirty little secret. Probably took Lucky aside with a wink and a nudge and told him that if he was going to carry on he should at least learn discretion.
Arriving at the house, Elizabeth could barely see through her tears to unlock the door. Finally it opened and she didn't even care about closing it behind her as she blazed a path through the house, turning on every light in her wake. She found the phone and somehow managed to follow the operator's instructions to place an international call. She was going to have it out right now with him.
Hearing the manager's voice through the line she took a deep breath and said, "Claude, it's Elizabeth. I need to talk to Luke."
After a brief moment she heard Luke's jovial voice boom at her. "Lizzie, darling. How's life on the island?"
"You knew," she accused in a strangled voice as fresh tears rushed forward. "You knew he was cheating on me, and you never said anything. How could you?"
"Liz, dear," he said, his voice full of guilt, "you're right. And I'm sorry."
Hearing him confirm it cut her to the quick. She suddenly couldn't hear his explanations and she screamed and threw the phone across the room. It skittered across the floor where it ran into the slender foot of Brenda Corinthos. The older woman picked it up and hit the talk button to end the call.
"Men are slime," Elizabeth cried as Brenda came forward and wrapped the shaking woman in a hug. "I hate them all."
Brenda stood outside the restaurant wiping down the tables with vigor. If Luke Spencer were here right now she'd dump a pitcher of margaritas over his head and snap his foul cigar in half. He knew Lucky had been cheating on Elizabeth. He'd admitted it last night when Elizabeth called him. She could kill him for ever doing that to the young woman who had connected with her at the poker game last night. Sure she'd just met the woman, but there was just something real and genuine about her, and after watching her rush off, she couldn't stand back and not do something.
When she showed up at Elizabeth's place the petite brunette had been heartbroken. She told Brenda about the pictures she found, calling off the wedding and Luke giving her the honeymoon trip. Brenda rung out the rag and turned back to the table with vigor. The slime had probably been trying to assuage his guilt over the whole situation. Brenda made some hot chocolate for them and they sat around talking until Elizabeth finally calmed down enough that Brenda knew she'd be all right.
Arriving back at the diner that night she saw that the men were still there. The poker game had been abandoned, and coffee had replaced the liquor. Immediately they all asked if Elizabeth was all right. Brenda told them she had been pretty upset, but was doing better. She also told them Luke had told Elizabeth he knew, but she didn't tell them about the pictures and the aborted wedding. She knew it wasn't her place. But she made it very clear that if she saw Luke she was going to hurt him.
Dropping the rag onto the table she straightened and gazed out over the water. It sounded like a boat was approaching, but she knew Francis was inside with Max and Sonny. Must be a private boat. Finished clearing the table, she picked up the bin full of dirty dishes and headed inside. When she came back out with new silverware and napkins she stopped dead in her tracks and clenched her hands into fists causing the utensils to bite into her palm.
He has some nerve she fumed as she saw Luke Spencer finish tying up his boat and picking up his duffel bag before starting down the pier. She turned around and went back inside, ignoring the looks of the three men. She picked up the phone to call Elizabeth, but slammed it down in frustration when the other woman didn't answer.
"Uh, Bren?" Sonny asked. "Something wrong, sweetheart?"
"Luke," she hissed.
"Look, Brenda, we're all mad about what Luke did, but you gotta calm down," Max told her.
"Alright, Max. But if I were to tell you that Luke was here on the island, what would you say?"
The beefy man's faced turned a purplish-red and he pounded his hands flat on the counter so hard that the silverware jumped. "He's here?"
"Yeah," Brenda nodded shortly. "I saw him tie up a boat out there."
Francis wiped his mouth with quick, precise movements that belied his furry. He stood and looked at Brenda with a quiet intensity. "Call Morgan and O'Brien. Come on guys."
The other two stood up and Brenda looked at her husband. "Where are you going?"
"We're going to have a little chat with Luke," he told her with his jaw clenched.
"Call," Max instructed, and then they were gone. Confused, she merely shrugged and picked up the phone.
He was being followed. He knew it, though he didn't look back. He was pretty sure he picked up his shadow shortly after he passed by O'Brien's shack. By the time he was trudging down the dirt path to the beach house, he could tell the tail had grown. He didn't understand why, but he didn't have time to worry about it because Luke Spencer was on a mission.
He had to find Elizabeth and explain to her what she wouldn't hear last night. She must think he hadn't tried to stop Lucky when he found out what his son was doing. His heart splintered when he heard her anguish, and he knew that in her hurt she would never talk to him on the phone. Which is why he'd kissed Laura good-bye and caught a flight out that night. If Lucky hadn't already split town he probably have beaten his blockhead of a son senseless. Instead, he had something to look forward to when he got home.
Stopping at the door, he knocked and waited. The footsteps behind him stopped a short distance away, and he only absently took note of it. It was probably the guys. He wanted to see them, play some cards, and share the stogies he got for Christmas, but that would have to wait. He had to take care of things with Elizabeth first thing.
"Liz, darling," he called out. "Sweetheart, open the door. Let me explain please."
There was no answer. Maybe she was down on the beach. He turned around and saw the five men standing there. "Hey, boys. I'll be with you as soon as I find Elizabeth and talk to her."
"Yeah, you should do that," Sonny said in a voice that caused him to snap his head up. It was then he noticed the scowls on the men's faces. "And when you're finished," Sonny continued, "we'd like to talk to you."
"What's up fellas?" Luke asked, a little bell going off in his head.
"We met Elizabeth yesterday," Francis said.
"And she ran out on our poker game," Johnny added.
Lizzie left 'em without paying? No, she wouldn't do something like that. And while he knew these men took their poker very seriously, he knew that wasn't the reason these men were glaring at him like they'd gladly remove a few of his limbs.
Max shifted and scratched his chin. "She was a little upset after hearing Lucky had hit on Emily when he was down here with you that time."
"Especially," Sonny said, his smile like a malevolent Cheshire Cat's, "when she did a little math and realized she was engaged to the worthless slime at that point."
"And," Jason said, speaking for the first time. His blue eyes were cold as ice and Luke remembered that even though Smith may have been joking about dumping Lucky's body near the crab traps, Jason gaze had said he was truly serious. He was a little unnerved to see that same gaze directed at him. "More than that, you knew."
Now Luke understood the looks. In one little night, Elizabeth had endeared herself to these men and they had become big brothers going after the bastard who'd broken their baby sister's heart. Luke's gaze drifted toward Morgan. Partly to see if he should run for his life, but also because the younger man's glare was different. If it wasn't such a serious moment, he would have smiled. Jason probably had no idea.
He held his hands up in defense and started to plead his case. "Yes, I knew. But, but it's not what you think. Or what Elizabeth thinks."
"Really?" her angry voice came from behind him. "Why don't you enlighten me on how it really was. Tell me that Lucky wasn't out chasing after every skirt while playing me for a fool."
"Liz, darling," he said as he turned to face her, taking in her cheeks flushed red with sun and anger. Her slight tan agreed with her better than her winter pale skin. His son had been a fool to ever think there was someone better than her. "I thought you knew."
He never saw it coming, and he should have. After all, he'd taught it to her. Her fist connected with his jaw, and as it swung to the side his vision rattled. He brought his hand up to cradle his jaw and heard appreciative murmurs from the others.
"Remind me never to get on her bad side."
"You already did, O'Brien. She smacked you last night, remember?"
"Liz," Luke tried to speak.
"You thought I knew? That somehow made it all okay? You think I approved of Lucky sleeping around on me?"
"No," he shouted, and took a step towards her when Max and Johnny took a menacing step towards him. "When I saw how he behaved down here, I talked to him. I did. Elizabeth, do you think I would ever approve of anyone treating you that way?"
She studied him for a minute before slowly shaking her head no. He breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed somewhat. Now maybe he could talk to her without having to worry about getting cracked across the jaw. Well, by her at least. The goon squad behind him was a different story.
"When we got home I told Lucky he needed to tell you. Just because you didn't catch him did not make it okay. He owed it to you, and to let you decide what to do. But the day of your wedding I realized I was too trusting when it came to The Cowboy and he got very good at lying."
"Yeah," she said, her lips drawing into a straight line.
"Liz, darling, I'm sorry," Luke said. "He said he told you during that time I was in Thailand. I was gone for a month, so..."
"It's alright, Luke," she said. "You were looking out for me, and you tried. Guess it's not your fault we were both too trusting of him. Besides, you sent me to paradise. How could I stay mad at you?"
"You have a good heart, Elizabeth. But just don't give it back to Lucky. Especially since he took off with Sarah."
"Sarah?" she asked in surprise. "Well, guess I should have seen that one coming. Trust me, there were no plans to go back to Lucky. Even less so now."
Luke could see it was true. Elizabeth would never be the same little girl who had looked up to him after her father died, and ended up engaged to Lucky because it was what everyone expected. She'd had a cold of dose of reality regarding Lucky, and it appeared to have shaken her out of the loyalty, or maybe it was obligation, she had toward his son. He'd become pretty good at reading people, and Elizabeth certainly wasn't the heartbroken woman he'd seen just over a week ago.
He didn't think she'd even realized it yet, but he doubted she'd be returning to Colorado any time soon. The island was certainly agreeing with her. She looked free and relaxed, and very much at home. He bet she'd found a new passion for her art again, something Lucky had almost squelched in her.
"So, we good?" he asked with a lopsided grin.
She smiled back, and shook her head, as if she was agreeing against her better judgement. "Yeah, we're good. Like I could ever really stay mad at you."
Giving her a hug he spun her around and was relieved to see that the five men had relaxed. Nice to know that when he took off, Lizzie would be in good hands.
"So, what have you been doing with yourself?" he asked, steering her towards the group of self-proclaimed protectors.
"Some sketching," she told him. "I brought my pastels, and they're nice for the oceanscapes, but I'm gonna wait 'til I have my acrylics, or my oils, to do the landscapes."
He wanted to tell her he couldn't wait to see them, but as they neared the group and he could feel the smile radiating up from her, he was even more convinced that she wouldn't be coming home any time soon. As they stopped, he looked at the men and asked, "Well fellas, am I safe, or do you need to protect Liz's honor some more?"
"What?" she asked, looking between him and the others. "What'd you guys do?"
"Nothing," Francis said.
"Oh, that was certainly too quick and didn't sound guilty at all," she chuckled.
"I think they were ready to rearrange my face for thinking I'd approve of what Lucky did, and for keeping it from you."
"They were? You were?" she asked them. "Why? I mean you've known Luke forever and only met me last night."
"Well," Johnny started, then stopped.
"Luke's told us a lot about you," Max said with a shrug. As if that explained everything.
Clearly it didn't, because at her confused look Sonny jumped in, "We like you. We had fun with you."
"And you were hurt," Jason concluded, his voice slightly more intense than the others were. Luke decided his one bit of fatherly advice to Lucky would be to forget about ever coming back to the island. And if Jason ever came to Colorado, say accompanying Elizabeth, Lucky should just leave the state until he was gone.
"So the testosterone was running a little high?" she smirked with a shake of her head. "Now I see why you get along so well with them, Luke."
"It's a gift to find people like me."
"I'm not sure if I should be flattered or insulted," Johnny laughed.
"Who cares," Max shrugged. "Now that we know Elizabeth is okay and we don't have to kill Luke we can have a little fun."
"Food, booze and poker. Sounds like a good way to spend my one night on the island," Luke enthused. "You gonna join us, Lizzie?"
"She better," Francis declared. "I never got a chance to win my money back last night."
"You skunk 'em?" he asked her.
"I had a good teacher. What can I say?"
"That's my girl." Then he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and the group headed back to Sonny's.
Halfway through the evening of poker, Elizabeth decided that she'd had enough of the game and pulled out. She stayed close to the table though, listening to their stories and laughing at the tall tales. Reaching into her canvas bag that she hadn't put away after she came back from her walk on the beach and found Luke waiting for her, she grabbed a sketchpad and a pencil.
People had never been her choice of subjects; she'd always preferred landscapes. But sitting around, watching these six men, she had to try and capture it. The long time friendships, the ease, the fun, the camaraderie. Soon her pencil was flying over the paper and she filled page after page with scenes. Luke would glance at her occasionally and give her a wink as if he could sense exactly what she was feeling.
Some time after midnight, the interest in cards waned and the cigar smoke drifted away as Luke's supply ran out. More stories were exchanged, and the growing trend, at least among the Three Musketeers - or was it Stooges? - seemed to be who could tell the most embarrassing story about another. Would she ever be able to look at Francis the same way knowing he had been arrested for indecent exposure in downtown Nome when he was a streaker for All Hallows Eve? And she was especially glad that it only took one swift kick under the table to Luke's shin to convince him that keeping quiet about her was in his best interest.
Finally, around two, the general consensus was that they better head home. Luke planned to fly back in the afternoon, but asked Jason if he could go out on the boat in the morning for a quick spin around the island. The younger man readily agreed, and Luke happily declared that he and Elizabeth would see him around eight...or nine. No sense rushing anything, right?
Long after she went to bed, Elizabeth lay awake, her brain refusing to shut off. Why had Luke invited her along on the trip? Sure she had a blast on the trip over, and when she pulled out her itinerary she'd been excited to see that there was an afternoon boat ride on there. But that was until she met the boat captain.
Sure he was gorgeous. She wasn't blind. Lucky was cute, but he never made her mouth go dry, or her tongue feel like it was tied in knots. Tan, trim, muscles developed from honest work and not some yuppie gym, Jason Morgan could easily be a beefcake model that college girls and housewives alike would snap up calendars of.
It seemed a pity that such good looks should be marred by such a rotten attitude. From the snow princess remark to the way he almost studiously ignored her, she understood loud and clear that he loathed her presence. Sure there had been times he talked to her, but she wasn't holding her breath that he would ever seek her out to talk to her. And why did that thought make her frown in disappointment?
No matter, she would figure it out after some sleep. Maybe she would just go with Luke tomorrow and skip the private tour. Even if it made her feel like she was twelve and tagging along on a business trip with Luke. Perhaps the best way to deal with Jason Morgan was to keep lots of people with her.
He was being punished. He wasn't sure why exactly Karma had decided to make his life miserable; all he knew was that he was obviously being punished for something in his past. After being stuck on land for three days because of a winter storm, the sun broke through and Max lifted the harbor closing. So now here he was, about to get on a boat with Elizabeth Webber. Alone.
For three days he'd been around her, and everyone else. Luke had been unable to get off the island so they had gathered together to play cards and such. They ate at Sonny's, played cards at Elizabeth's beach house late into the night, they even sat on the pier and fished in the rain because Luke somehow convinced them it would be fun. Actually, Elizabeth decided it sounded like fun and like sheep they all agreed as well. He hadn't spent so much time with his friends or Luke in forever. And he knew it was because of Elizabeth. The others were having a lot of fun getting to know her, and Jason was beginning to think his declaration of having nothing to do with her been a bit hasty.
She was funny, she was smart, and she was completely at ease on the island and with his friends. His mind kept betraying him by comparing her to Robin and liking the obvious differences. His body had joined in on the betrayal as well. His heart sped up around her, when their hands touched he was very aware of the shock that traveled through him, and if he brushed up against her in the kitchen or heading to his seat his body reacted in a very male way.
His only saving grace he'd figured was the rain had forced her out of the shorts and tank tops he'd seen her in before. Maybe if he didn't have to try and avoid staring at her smooth, flat stomach and wasn't confronted by her trim and amazing legs he'd be okay. However, he'd suddenly been struck by the fact that he'd never seen jeans and a t-shirt look so amazing. He was in deep trouble he decided late one sleepless night.
But now, now he was in serious trouble. And wondering why the Fates had taken to hating him so. That and the next time he saw Luke Spencer he was going to put his Merchant Marine training to use and show the older man he knew the exact use for two point two pounds of pressure.
Elizabeth Webber stood before him; ready to go on the ride Luke had paid for, and swore up and down that he'd be there for. Funny how he was no longer on the island anymore, having taken off before dawn. Jason was ready to come up with an excuse, anything to avoid being alone with her for the next few hours. But the lie died on his lips the minute he saw her frayed denim shorts and hunter green bikini top. Skin. Lots and lots of smooth, creamy skin. He wondered if it felt like silk or satin.
"Jason," he corrected automatically. Luke always called him Morgan, and she seemed to have acquired that habit. He wanted to hear her say Jason again. Needed to hear it. What was happening to him?
"Jason," she said with a shy smile. "Are we going to go?"
He couldn't help but chuckle at her enthusiasm. Her eyes sparkled with hope, she couldn't keep her heels from bouncing on the wooden pier, and her hands twisted in anticipation. How could he say no?
"Yeah, we're going. Which boat do you want to take?" Please don't say the speedboat. "There's the-"
"Can we take that one?" she interrupted, her eyes lit up and pointing straight at...the speedboat.
Yeah, he was being punished. In another boat he could have space and distance. He could send her up on to a different deck. She could sketch. Sketch. Did she have her artist's bag? Yep, she did. Time to appeal to her artistic nature.
"Well, we could," he said, sounding perfectly disinterested. "But I see you brought your bag you carry all your art stuff in. If we take that one there," he said pointing, "you'd probably be able to do more sketching."
There, that sounded nice and reasonable. And not at all like a man who wondered if he could control his raging hormones. Then he chanced to look at her, and he nearly swore. The set of her jaw told him her mind was made up. She looked like Brenda, and he knew that when Brenda looked that way there was no changing her mind.
"Well, I do want to sketch," she said taking her bottom lip into her mouth and nibbling it. When she released it and swept her tongue out to sooth it he hoped he managed to suppress the groan that rose in his throat. "But I want to go fast."
Oh dear, merciful Heaven. She wanted to go fast. Robin never wanted to go fast. Ever. Brenda would laugh if he hit the gas, but she never suggested it. Why did Elizabeth have to be the first woman to actually be excited about the whole thing?
"Besides, if I see something I want to sketch, we can stop. Can't we?" Her deep blue eyes looked up at him in hope.
"Yeah," he found himself agreeing. "Of course. Anything you want."
"Great," she giggled. "So, we can go now?"
"Yes. We can go now," he chuckled and reached for her hand to help her into the boat. Her small hand fit perfectly inside his. It felt delicate, yet strong all at the same time. And it made shivers run up his arm and pool right in his stomach.
Oh yeah, he was in deep, deep trouble.
She was being punished. The Gods of Love had apparently decided to torture her for walking out on her wedding. Where was her reward for Lucky cheating on her? She was alone with quite possibly the most handsome man she had ever seen, and probably ever would, and he hated her. Thought her nothing more than a pretentious, rich snob and wanted nothing to do with her. Who exactly in life had she pissed off to deserve this?
Elizabeth had thought that if they took the speedboat she'd be too excited to care about Jason Morgan. But no such luck. She was acutely, and painfully, aware of him. His sun-bleached hair blew back with the wind, the spray of water that came from the front of the boat clung to his shirtless chest and she found herself longing for a towel so she could dry him off.
In fact when they'd stopped so she could sketch a portion of the coastline she found interesting, she had concentrated to the point of digging her blunt nails into her palms to keep from touching when she moved to his side to get a better view. He merely looked out over the water, his boredom quite apparent. Finally with a sigh she flipped her book closed and stood up.
"Done?" he asked casually.
"Yeah," she said. "With the whole thing."
"Let's just go back," she said, scurrying away from the wheel he was walking towards.
"I've been paid for another hour," he said.
"Well, great. When Luke comes back you can give him what he paid for." Arms folded across her chest she refused to look at him.
"Something wrong?" he asked, challenging her.
"Not at all. Nothing for you to worry about."
"So there is something wrong."
"Brilliant deduction there, Watson."
"I think you mean Sherlock."
"Nope. Wouldn't insult the great mental acuity of Sherlock Holmes by comparing you to him."
"So what's wrong? Did I burp and forget to say excuse me?"
"No. I just want to go back. Does Francis do tours, or just he just ferry passengers?"
Oh, direct hit based on the way his eyes narrowed and his hands clenched at his sides. "You - you wanna go out with Francis? Why, 'cause he let you drive? I told you, nobody drives my boats but me."
"It has nothing to do with driving," she snapped. "I would just rather be with someone who didn't act like he'd rather rip off his fingernails than be with me."
"Look, I get that you don't like me. You think I'm some rich priss who's down here spending Daddy's money. What was the phrase you used? Oh, right, snow princess. Which is an absolute laugh because I hate the snow, hate living in Colorado. We visited my Uncle Rick in Arizona once, and I absolutely loved it. And look around, Morgan, you have more money than I do. So what I want is to be around someone who likes me for just me. Elizabeth Webber, mediocre artist and competent waitress."
Jason crossed his arms over his chest and sighed deeply. He looked back towards her and she blinked at the sudden intensity she saw in his eyes. "You forgot smart."
It was her to turn to ask, "Pardon?"
"In your list of qualities you want someone to like you for. You forgot smart. And funny, an excellent card player, someone who likes those silly little island drinks, and," he drawled, then stopped.
She swallowed once, then twice trying to get enough moisture in her mouth to ask, "And?"
"And the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on." He finished and flashed her a rakish grin.
Her stomach did an odd little somersault, and her heart leapt and took up lodging in her throat. "Beautiful? You, you think I'm beautiful?"
He also said smart, but after that less than stellar attempt at speech he may be rethinking the whole thing. But if the sultry grin he was now giving her as he stepped closer was any indication, she could be wrong.
"Yes, I think you're beautiful. And everything else I said. Not only that," he said as he framed her face with his large hands. His thumbs were softly brushing the apples of her cheeks and he seemed more focused on that sensation than on what he'd been saying.
"N-not only that?" What that her voice? When did she start sounding like Mae West?
"Not only that," he repeated as he lowered his mouth near hers. "I can't wait to see how many other qualities I can discover."
His lips whispered over hers so faintly that she wondered if it actually happened. And yet there was this amazing sensation tingling through them. "You might run when you discover I can be pretty stubborn."
"Determined," he corrected, then kissed her lightly again. "Admirable trait."
"I lose all track of time when I paint."
"Focused." Another kiss, this one slightly longer.
"I'm kinda messy."
"Socks on the floor?"
She shook her head. "Three days of dishes in the sink and laundry piled up."
"Well," he shrugged his shoulders. "Nobody can be perfect. We'll work it out."
Then his lips fused with hers and all talking was forgotten.
Sonny lowered the binoculars in his hands and turned to the man on the boat beside him. They had shadowed Jason and Elizabeth since the pair had gone out, and were beginning to wonder if they would do anything beside drive and then sit there not talking. Finally they got a little spark of something, but the two men had groaned when it looked like the pair was only going to fight. Then they got actually sparks, and Sonny had suddenly felt like a voyeur.
"Well, it appears Morgan finally got his act together," Luke chuckled as he took a puff on his cigar.
"What do you think she'll say when she realizes you set them up this morning?"
"If I'm lucky, she'll invite me to the wedding."
Sonny shook his head as he laughed. "Pretty confidant of yourself."
Luke sobered somewhat and withdrew his cigar. "When I began to suspect Lucky was still stepping out on Liz I began planning. I told them I would pay for the honeymoon and send them somewhere great. I figured if I was going to have to stand there and break her heart by telling her about Lucky, then I could at least send her somewhere to mend it."
"Somewhere, or someone?"
Luke raised his eyebrows in a shrug. "I knew Morgan is a good man. And that Liz would be a woman who could challenge and inspire him. And he would always treat her like an angel."
"You caught a break," Sonny chided. "They could have just as easily hated each other."
"Maybe," was all he said. "But now that my work is done, I gotta go. I'll drop you off."
Sonny nodded his acceptance, then looked up when he heard the engine on Jason's boat start. He raised his binoculars, wanting to get another look at his best friend who finally seemed happy. What he saw made him drop his jaw in shock. "Well I'll be."
"What?" Luke asked, scurrying back to his own binoculars.
"Thought Francis said she drove his boat on the ride over."
"She did. But Jason doesn't let anyone drive his boats. I've known him for six years and I can count the number of times I've driven his boats on one hand.
"Have fingers left over?"
"One or two," Sonny smiled. "He's obsessive about them."
Luke laughed and stuck the cigar back in his mouth. "Fifty bucks says they're married in a month."
"Spencer, that's a sucker bet. I personally say they won't make it past two weeks."
Jason stepped off his boat, and nodded to the passengers who thanked him again for the trip. Summer was just starting and the tourists were flocking to the island. They brought their money, excited to experience island life, and all the residents were prospering. Sonny's diner was packed most nights, Johnny's jewelry was in high demand, and Elizabeth's scenes of the island were flying off the gallery walls.
"Hey, Jason," Zander called out as he tied up his boat.
"Zander," he replied. "How are the girls?"
The younger man's smile was infectious. "They're great. You and Elizabeth should stop by again soon. Little Katie's started trying to roll over."
Jason smiled at the thought of his niece. Born the night that he and Elizabeth got married, they had spent the first night of their honeymoon sitting in the little clinic waiting for news on his sister. The following morning he and Elizabeth took out the cabin cruiser and spent two weeks touring the smaller islands in the area.
"I'll talk to Elizabeth," he said. "Maybe we'll come over tomorrow."
"Just give us a call," Zander said, anxious to head home. "Say hello to her for me."
"Will do. Give the girls a kiss."
Jason waved as the new father practically took off down the pier in a sprint. He found a certain eagerness in his own movements as well. Soon he had the boats tended and secured for the night and was heading home.
When he walked in the door of their house, he couldn't help but shake his head and laugh. The dishes still sat in the sink, despite Elizabeth's promise this morning to wash them. He called for her as he walked down the hall, but he knew she wouldn't be inside. When he entered their bedroom he saw piles of laundry half sorted, and the sheets stripped off the bed but no new ones in place. As he expected, his shirt that she had commandeered for painting was missing. He stepped over a pile of dirty clothes and went out the double doors that opened to the path that led to the garage and studio behind the house.
Leaning against the doorway he watched Elizabeth in her domain. At first he'd balked about giving up half his garage so she could paint. But now he wondered how he'd ever made do without the smell of gasoline and turpentine, motor oil mingled with oil paint. He liked the days they worked out here together. She would paint and he would work on one of the boat engines or on the motorcycle. A small amount of pride welled up in him; she loved the motorcycle nearly as much as she loved flying over the water in the speedboat.
"I know you're there," she said, the smile evident in her voice. She stood back and looked at her painting before nodding her head in satisfaction.
Smiling, he walked towards her. Of course she knew he was there. She always did, no matter how quiet he tried to be. He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and placed a kiss on her temple. She leaned her head to the side and he accepted the invitation to trail kisses down her neck, pushing his shirt out of the way. "Hi, honey, I'm home."
"Welcome back," she said. "How was it out there today?"
"Booked solid. Same for tomorrow. Zander invited us to come by tomorrow night to see Katie. Said she's trying to roll over."
"Ooh, okay," she answered with excitement. "I'll call Emily tomorrow and let her know we'll be there."
Then she frowned and looked up at him. "Good thing they won't be coming here. Sorry about the house. I got an idea finally for how to finish this painting."
"It's okay," he said as he pushed the shirt farther off. He seemed unable to resist the area of her shoulder not covered by the spaghetti strap of her top. "I'll help you tonight. What do you say we heat up the baked ziti from the other night and then we can get started?"
"Sounds great," she said, then tipped her head back and looked up at him coyly through her lashes. His stomach clenched and his heart sped up. He knew that look only too well. "But let's make sure to leave a little time for a ride."
"Mrs. Morgan," he laughed huskily, "you are incorrigible. You definitely have the bug."
She turned and wrapped her arms around his neck. "That may be Morgan, but you know you love it."
"Nearly as much as you," he said before lowering his mouth to hers and welcoming her kiss.
Elizabeth stood, hands on the wheel, the wind streaming her hair out behind her as she steered the boat across the moonlit water. Jason had his arms wrapped around her, his head down nuzzling her neck. He was driving her to distraction and soon she cut the engine, allowing the boat to slow and then bob gently with the ocean swells.
"Why'd you stop?" he smiled against her neck.
"I was afraid I'd either crash or get us lost. It's a little hard to concentrate."
She laughed and turned in his arms. "No, you're not."
"Okay, maybe I'm not," he shrugged. "Can I help it that I find you beautiful? I especially love it when you wear these tank tops."
"After being bundled up for so long in Colorado, I love the island," she enthused.
"It shows. I'm just glad Luke sent you to this island."
"So am I. Remind me to thank him the next time I see him."
"You already did at our wedding."
"So," she shrugged with one shoulder. "He knew to send me to you. I'll thank him for the rest of my life."
"I will too," he said, punctuating his words with kisses. He looked down at her and brought one hand up to let his fingers skim over her cheek. "We can go visit him if you want. See Steven too. We could go after the summer's over, but before it gets too cold."
Elizabeth closed her eyes and leaned her head against Jason's bare chest. She did miss Luke and her brother. They brought down her belongings when they came for the wedding, so that she didn't have to go back and get her things. Sarah and their mother claimed to be too busy and couldn't possibly attend on such short notice. Apparently they were too wrapped up in planning Sarah's wedding to Lucky that took place a month later. She was a little sad that they hadn't come, but with Steven and Luke both there to walk her down the aisle she found that she didn't much care.
Maybe after over six months her mother would forgive her for following her heart and marrying the man she loved. Then again, this was her mother, so chances weren't too good.
"Maybe," she sighed. Maybe in three months she'd feel like visiting. Especially since she knew she'd be returning to the island. Her home. Hmm, she would need to check with the doctor about traveling…
"We don't have to," Jason said, rubbing his hand along her back in reassurance.
"I'll think about it," she said sincerely. "Maybe I'll feel up for it by then. According to the doctor I should feel better by then."
Jason leaned back and peered down at her in concern. "Elizabeth? What do you mean? Is something wrong?"
"Nope, not at all," she smiled. "I'm perfectly fine. Probably'll be nauseous and tired for the next couple of months, but it'll pass. But by the end of the summer I should be fine, and we can spend some time with Katie in the meantime. Maybe we could take her for a weekend, give Emily and Zander some time alone and we could get some practice."
"Practice?" he questioned. Then she could see him processing what she'd said. She could practically hear the click as the last piece fell into place, and she watched his eyes brighten as they locked onto hers. "Are you...?"
He leaned back; his arms still wrapped around her and gazed down at her stomach. "Are you pregnant?"
He looked up at her expectantly, and she could see tears rising in his eyes. Her own watered as she nodded her head vigorously. Tightening his grip, he lifted her up as he spun them around, laughing with excitement.
"A baby," he smiled.
"A baby," she smiled back, with a nod of her head.
He dropped his hand, placing it on her stomach, lightly caressing the bare skin. "I guess we didn't waste any time did we?"
She loved that smile, the one that curved one half of his mouth and made her knees feel like warm butter. She matched it with one of her a slow, lazy one of her own. "Well, we did talk about having our own racing crew some day. How many exactly do we need for that?"
He shrugged, even as his grin got wider. "We'll just take 'em as they come. I just hope they like the water."
"How could they not?" she asked, the concept foreign to her. Sure, she'd never really been on the water before she got here, but she loved it the moment she set foot in Francis's boat. "Between the two of us, our kids will be born ready to sail."
"As long as you and me still get to have our own moments like this," he said, his voice dropping to a seductive tone.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and brought her lips to within a whisper of his. "Give up sailing with you? Never."
Then their lips fused, and all was forgotten except the gentle motion of the boat with the waves.
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