Title: The New and the Always
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters used in this story nor the show from which they originated. Unfortunately.
Summary: Six months into a relationship, Jason Morgan tests his girlfriends by telling them to plan a vacation for the two of them to go on together, proving whether they are truly compatible or not. The trips are always a bust, though... until he's rescued by a woman extremely different from the types he usually dates. Six hours later, he's suddenly reconsidering his dating M.O..
A/N: Eh... I'm not sure how I feel about this one shot. It's just... not what I originally envisioned it as being, maybe. I don't know. But it's New Years Day, and it's a New Years Eve story, so it needs to posted sooner rather than later. There's definitely nothing heavy or complicated about the plot; it's just a light, fluffy piece. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the tale, despite my rather lack-luster advertisement of it. Thanks!
The New and the Always
A Liason New Years Eve One Shot
He should have fucking known.
As soon as the words Aspen, Colorado slithered from Sam's lips, Jason should have known he would end up face down in the snow, the wind knocked out of him. It had been inevitable. But he would have figured such an uncomfortable position would have been the result of tripping on the ice while carrying in all of his girlfriend's baggage... the physical kind... or by being decked a wallop of a punch in the jaw while dumping her on vacation. Because that's what it was going to come down to. Just like all the others, Sam had failed. She had failed miserably.
Rolling onto his back, Jason stared up at the crisp, blue sky above him. While he could have gotten up and started to wander his way around the Rockies, Sam, because of her wiggling and positioning in an attempt to look as attractive as possible at all times, had caused him to fall off the ski-lift, and she would no doubt send someone after him. And, sure, while he was embarrassed to be that guy who needed rescued after taking a nose dive off a metal bench suspended in the air by a freaking cable of all things (where the fuck was the guard rail, he wanted to know), it sure as hell beat getting lost in the wilderness and dying of frost bite and hypothermia. His ego wasn't that big that he couldn't wait a few minutes.
Meanwhile, though, if he had to wait much longer, he was going to be soaked through. Before this trip, Jason had always enjoyed snow. He found the sight of it refreshing, majestic, and the smell of it – that clean, natural, unique smell – called to him. However, that was looking at the stuff. There was not a single bone in his six foot body that wanted to roll around in the tiny, frozen crystals. Maybe the cold didn't bother him, but being wet sure as hell did. And, sure, perhaps it had been a poor decision to stick to his normal manner of dress when at a ski lodge – jeans, t-shirt, leather jacket, and motorcycle boots, but that's all he had packed for their vacation, and the last thing he was going to do was waste a bunch of money on some pretentious snow gear he'd wear once and, later, bitch about how much the useless crap had cost him.
Everything about the trip, though – from the location, to the cost, to the planned activities, was just par for the course. While he wasn't the type of guy to play games with the women he dated – in fact, he hated such nonsense, he did test his girlfriends. Right or wrong, it had all accidentally started years ago, but, now, it was his pattern, his M.O... only the women he dated had no idea they were being tested until it was too late. And it was always too late, because, every single time he got to the sixth month mark with a woman and asked her to go on vacation with him, it always ended in the relationship being terminated. Permanently.
First, there had been Robin. She had been the first girl he had gotten to know after the mess which made him the man he was, the mess that erased Jason Quartermaine and, in his place, presented the world with Jason Morgan. She had been patient, and generous, and extremely smart. He had really and truly loved her, but that hadn't meant that they were compatible for the long haul... which had been made perfectly clear to him when she took him to Paris. Seven days of people who spoke through their noses, of tiny expresso cups, and the nastiest cheese he had ever tasted, and Jason had been ready to leave the City of Lights... and his girlfriend... forever. However, that had been before the pattern was established, so he waited a few more weeks, but something irreparable in their relationship had snapped in Paris, and, less than a month later, they split up.
Upon reflection afterwards, he had realized that going on vacation with a woman was a good way to measure his compatibility with her. Granted, most people only went away for seven of the 365 days of the year, but those seven days were supposed to be the best, most enjoyable of an entire twelve months, so he felt that, while maybe not fair, judging the likely level of success of his relationships upon a trip was a good way to weed out the tossers. Unfortunately, though, Jason had yet to find a keeper.
His second relationship had been the complete opposite of what he had experienced with Robin. Carly Roberts... Caroline Benson, whatever the hell her real name had been... had been loose, selfish, and totally insane. But she had been fun, too... for a little while. After the seriousness that went with dating Robin, Jason, still trying to find his sea legs after waking from his coma when it came to women, had gone out and found himself the typical teenage boy fantasy. However, eventually that fantasy turned into a nightmare in the light of day – her blonde hair which looked so sexy under the dim lights of a smoky bar at night appeared too brash and fake when he woke up beside her in the morning, and her juvenile behavior – her jealousy and her petulance – quickly lost its charm.
In what was no doubt a last ditch effort looking back at the relationship, Jason had suggested a vacation to Carly. She, of course, had leapt at the chance to spend even more of his money, and they had ended up going to Los Angeles. Carly had wanted to momentarily live like a celebrity yet, at the same time, go sightseeing for the stars. Jason had wanted to fly out of the smog ridden city as soon as their plane touched down. In the end, they broke up, she stole his credit cards and wracked up a debt he had just finished paying off, and he had finally realized that, in the short span of their relationship, he had simply matured past the stage Carly had always been and would perpetually be stuck in.
Jason had picked his next girlfriend because he had believed her to be safe after the hot, trashy mess that was Caroline Benson. He had met Courtney Matthews in a little diner. The girl had been ditzy and absent minded but also sweet and innocent... or so said his first impression of her. However, six months later, the lines blurred between a childish naiveté and simple-mindedness, he had pulled out the handy vacation test and said goodbye to Courtney Matthews when she requested a trip to Disneyland. Luckily, he broke up with her before she could subject him to death by 'It's a Small World' one too many times.
And, now, there was Sam. Twenty-four hours prior to performing the worst belly-flop ever off of a ski-lift and into the snow, Jason had actually had hope for his trip with the scuba-diver, salvage-expert... whatever the hell it was that Sam did. After all, they had quite a bit in common. They were both adrenaline junkies and liked the simple things in life... or so he had thought.
Sitting up, he braced his elbows against his knees, brows furrowed. Looking back at the past six months spent with Sam, he started to question everything he knew about the woman. The first night he had met her she had been in high heels and some fancy, sparkly dress; on their first date, she showed up wearing motorcycle boots and a leather jacket... just like him. When she had asked him what he enjoyed doing in his spare time, he had answered honestly and told her. Riding his bike. Playing pool. Flying his planes. She had then gushed that she loved those things, too, but never once had Sam ever volunteered any information about herself before he did so first. Plus, there were always those glossy magazines she was reading, filled with empty-headed gossip, moronic advice, and the weirdest freaking clothes he had ever seen on what would have otherwise been attractive women. If he would have been thinking with his head rather than... well, not thinking but having sex, then he would have put the pieces together before he wasted six months of his life and a freaking shit-load of money on a vacation he hated.
Hearing the tell-tale sounds of an approaching snow-mobile, Jason finally stood up out of the snow, dusting himself off the best that he could. Fleetingly, he considered going and finding Sam, ending things between them before the farce of their relationship could become any more pathetic, but then he shrugged off the idea. His boots were soaked, his jeans were sticking to his legs, and he was pretty sure that his hair was frozen. Sam and the inevitable end of their relationship could wait. He was going to go back to the hotel and try to salvage what was otherwise a beautiful, winter's day. Maybe he'd find a local, dive bar, knock a few back, and scrounge up a good game of pool or two. Or maybe he'd just... sleep. A warm, dry bed did sound pretty good in that moment.
"You have to be fucking kidding me," a tiny woman swore when her snow-mobile came to a sudden stop before him. Tilting his head to the side, Jason watched as she peeled off her goggles, exposing a pretty face... or, at least, as much as he could see of it around the high collar of her coat, her scarf, and her hat. However, there was no doubt about her eyes. Decadently dark and a mischievous midnight in coloration, they intrigued him nearly as much as her potty mouth. There was just something so damn appealing about a woman who could swear – and convincingly so – but still remain unquestionably feminine. "It figures that I'd have to work overtime for an idiot like you. Your stupid ass has no business being at a ski resort."
"Why," he questioned, narrowing his gaze at her in challenge. "Because I fell off the ski-lift? First of all, that wasn't my fault, and, secondly, those things are a lawsuit waiting to happen."
"No, because what kind of imbecile wears jeans and a leather jacket to go skiing? And is that a t-shirt underneath your coat?" He thought she was going to curse him some more, maybe call him a few more names – most of which, he'd probably deserve, but, instead, the woman just laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more.
At first, it was cute, but then it just became annoying. Impatiently, Jason asked, "are you here to take me back to the hotel or not?"
"Hop on," she ordered, already repositioning her goggles. Before they peeled off, she turned around to look at him over her shoulder. "You wouldn't happen to be the hotel's entertainment for the evening, would you, because I'd actually go to that show." He stared at her, raised a single eyebrow. "Damn. Well, anyway," she segued, shrugging her shoulders. "Hang on tight."
He did as he was told, not because he feared the power of the machine they were riding or the driver but because it was certainly no hardship for Jason to wrap his arms around the woman sitting before him. But it was a good thing that he did, because she drove the snow-mobile like he drove his motorcycle – fast and fearless. Those five minutes back to the hotel were the best five minutes he had experienced in weeks. Months even.
Sliding off the back of the idling machine, Jason grinned. "Now, that – riding on one of those things – is worth coming to a place with so much snow."
"Why do you think I still live here?" Just as he had done moments before up on the mountain, the woman before him observed him closely. He could feel her gaze raking over him. Unlike before, though, the contempt was gone. Appreciation had replaced it. Curiously, she inquired, "you obviously don't like to ski, so why the hell would you come to a ski resort."
"Wasn't my idea," he replied simply.
"The wife's?" He flashed her his ring-free left hand. His rescuer snorted. "Yeah, like that means anything."
"A girlfriend," he clarified, "but..."
"But what – she pushed your dumb ass off the ski-lift?"
"Practically. Worse, though," he replied, "she brought me here in the first place. The bar only has light beer, the food's all tofu this, organic that – chic food, and who the hell wants to ski when they're on vacation? Vacations are supposed to be relaxing."
"Not life threatening," she added, smirking. "Did you not do any research into this place before you booked the trip? The hotel caters to the rich and famous. It's a celebrity hot spot. Of course it's only going to have light beer and disgusting, inedible food."
Despite the fact that, for most of their conversation, she had been mocking him, Jason liked the woman. She was forthright, honest – almost cruelly so at times, and she had a pair of lips on her that would only be improved if they were attached to his own mouth... or another part of his eager anatomy. But that was a dangerous way to think. He still needed to end his relationship with Sam. There was no way he should have been looking to pick up a new girlfriend already. Plus, he wasn't just 'once bitten, twice shy,' he had been chewed on and spit out four times by four very different women. To say the least, Jason was wary of even attempting a fifth relationship.
But then he thought about his test, the one thing that had never failed him when it came to judging a woman and whether or not she was right for him. What if he didn't wait six months into dating a girl to ask her where would she go if she could go anywhere in the world; what if he asked her that before the phone numbers were exchanged, before the first date, before they slept together?
Deciding to test the theory out, he yelled over the purring of the snow-mobile which had just started to pull away. His raised voice made the lodge's rescue worker stop and turn back around to look at him quizzically. "Where would you go," he asked her.
She smiled – a full, beaming grin. "I'd go to Italy. They say that the light there is different than anywhere else in the world."
"It is," he assured her, the corners of his mouth lifting up as well to match hers. "I've been there a few times but not nearly enough. There's still so much more that I want to see, to explore."
Pursing her kissable, lickable lips, the woman watched him closely for several seconds. Finally, she said, "go change you clothes. Put something dry on. I'll be back to pick you up right here in front of the hotel in twenty minutes. The snow bunny won't miss you, right, if you're gone for a few hours?"
"I fell out of a fucking ski-lift. Do you see her around here, worried about me?" She laughed at his rhetorical question. "I'll see you in twenty minutes..." He drug out his final word, hoping to hear her name.
Grinning at her one last time (and hoping he didn't look like the freaking idiot she had accused him of being not ten minutes before), he pivoted around and ran into the hotel, eager to spend more time with the woman who spoke her mind, liked to go fast, and who loved Italy, eager to be with Elizabeth again.
^ ! ^
Elizabeth – he had just learned her last name – Webber had taken him to a local, dive bar which served real beer, had peanuts – in the shells – on all the tables, and boasted not one but two pristine pool tables. She had picked him up on the snow-mobile. And, best of all, she had allowed him to drive, her little, gloved hands riding low on his hips the entire time they zipped further down the mountain and into town.
Now, leaning against his pool cue, Jason watched her as she lined up her shot. Even after attempting to wipe the crooked grin off his lips so he could take a sip of his beer, the amusement still lingered. He could feel it in the relaxed nature of his shoulders, in the easy way that his body lingered near hers, in the way his eyes followed her every movement. It felt good; he felt good... around Elizabeth.
"So, Italy and Aspen, huh? Where else have you been," she asked as she sank the ten ball. She was stripes; he was solids.
"Physically, practically everywhere, but I haven't gotten to tour all the places that I'd like to yet."
Elizabeth wiggled her eyebrows at him. "A real jet-setter, huh?"
When she missed, he lined up his shot at the blue billiard ball. "Try pilot."
"Oh, please don't tell me that snow bunny is a stewardess."
He chuckled, made his shot, and then went after the third solid. "No. She owns a salvage boat."
"Says the woman who rides around on a snow-mobile rescuing men who fall from the sky."
"We'll get to me in a minute," Elizabeth told him. "Finish your story first, though."
"There's not much to tell. I woke up after being in a coma with no memory of my past and liked the rush that came from doing dangerous things. I bought a motorcycle. Train surfed. Then I stole a plane and flew it without ever taking a single class. I was lucky when the owner of the jet didn't press charges but, instead, gave me a job. A year later, I bought my first plane. Ever since, I've been flying. Charter flights."
She stared at him, slack-jawed. "Not much to tell? Are we a fan of the understatement?" Whistling between those lips that he still couldn't stop staring at, she exclaimed, "remind me to ask you more about yourself once you have a few beers under your belt. Hopefully then you'll be more loquacious."
"I'm not a talkative drunk."
"Then you've never been drunk enough," Elizabeth returned, smirking wickedly. "Or, at least, you've never been drunk off tequila before."
As he missed his next shot, she took over the table. "Your turn."
She studied the layout of the balls, struggling to decide how she wanted to approach the orange and white striped one. Taking advantage of the situation, Jason grabbed her by a back belt loop, pulled her over to where she would need to stand to make the shot, and helped her find her stance, refusing to move even once her body and cue stick were both positioned. Together they made the shot, slowly standing up as one, synchronized form. She blushed, he looked away, and then they separated once more, Elizabeth going to attempt her next shot while he waited for her to respond.
Once she missed the fourteenth ball, she started explaining her background. "I grew up here, so, of course, I've been skiing since I could walk. And, as you've probably guessed, I like speed and snow-mobiles, so, when I started college, I figured I'd get a job where I could experience both. I got certified, got hired, and have been here ever since... despite graduating with my Art degree a couple of years ago. The hours are great, I get to stay in a suite in the hotel for free as a part of my salary, and I get complete access to all the hotel's amenities... including my snow-mobile. I work during the morning and early afternoons, and then I have the nights to myself to paint."
"No wonder you want to go to Italy," he remarked after having listened to her closely, carefully. Scratching at his brow, he admitted, "I can't really see... art – remember that coma I mentioned, my head had been hit against a tree after my body was tossed out of a speeding car, but Italy has so many museums. You'd love it."
He bent over the table to take his next shot as she started to talk once more. "Art's not about being seen, Jason; it's about being felt. You can appreciate it just as much as anyone else. You just might need someone to show you how to really look at it... with your heart."
"Is that an invitation to go to Italy with you?"
"You're the one with a fleet of private planes, Captain Morgan."
Over her snickering at the nickname, he asked her, "what are you doing for New Years Eve tonight, Co-pilot Webber?"
As she fell into a stupefied speechlessness, Jason sunk the remainder of his solids, finalizing his win by banking the eight ball off the far edge and ricocheting it into a side pocket. Game. Set. Now all he had to do was dump Sam and win over one Miss Elizabeth Webber. Suddenly, after just a couple hours spent in her presence, he had an undeniable urge to see the first sunrise of the new year over the canals and waterways of Venice. Just... no gondolas. Maybe a speedboat, though. After all, the woman who was staring at him as though she were attempting to figure out if he were for real or not loved to go fast. And he liked to go fast, too, especially when her arms were wrapped around him. He just needed to find a way to convince Elizabeth to take a little vacation with him, only, this time, he wasn't waiting six months to go away with a woman... but six hours.
^ ! ^
He had dressed hurriedly, despite the fact that Sam had left a message for him to meet her in the lodge's fanciest restaurant, opting for his typical uniform of comfort and utility. Jason was just a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy, no matter what the situation called for. If that afternoon on the slopes hadn't taught Sam that, then she was even more oblivious than he had previously given her credit for. And, frankly, he didn't care if she was pleased with his clothes or not. Whereas a week before he might have taken her feelings into more consideration, did it really matter what he had on when he dumped her?
However, he had taken the time to shower, shave – again, and pack his bags. On the way back to the hotel after spending a couple hours alone together in the dive bar playing pool and drinking real beer, Elizabeth had offered him every excuse she could think of as to why she couldn't just take off with him for Italy – her job, she didn't have a passport, he was very nearly a stranger to her and she wasn't running off to some foreign country with someone who could be a shady character – her words, not his. But he had met her every challenge with a nullifying retort of his own.
Surely she had vacation time she could use, and everyone had an elderly relative who all of a sudden could have gotten sick or could have broken a hip. While he wasn't one who usually liked lies or liars, he really wanted to go to Venice with Elizabeth Webber. As for her passport issue, he knew many a private air strips where he could land and there would be no customs officials to check her identification. Towards her last objection, he had just laughed. Though he hadn't meant to make light of her concerns, sometimes the way she spoke just tickled him as funny. She only made his humor grow when she stuck her tongue out at him in response.
Now, his bag was packed, Sam's stay had been paid for... yet downgraded to a regular room instead of suite, and he had slipped some young, pimply faced kid twenty bucks to carry her bags to her new accommodations. His plane was being prepped for take-off that very minute, too. Though no flight plan had been filed yet – after all, everything depended upon Elizabeth, whether she would accompany him to Italy or not, when one was their own pilot, the rules of the air were simply not as stringent... or maybe he was just good at getting around them. While he might have completed the proper steps to obtaining his pilot's license years before, that did not mean that Jason still didn't enjoy rebelling every once in a while and breaking a rule... or a few.
As he slid into the chair opposite of where Sam sat, he distantly noticed that she had spent quite a bit of time preparing for their dinner. Unlike him. But what he previously found attractive about her, he now saw through, dismissing it as fake and contrived rather than natural beauty. Her hair was too big, her makeup too made up, and her clothes... Well, needless to say, there really weren't enough of them sometimes to actually judge. In the past, it had bothered him because of practicality. Who would wear a mini-skirt, leather or not, to go riding, and who would wear a skimpy, string bikini to go white water rafting? But, now, maybe because he had someone who possessed real class and elegance to compare Sam to, he recognized his soon-to-be ex's fashion choices as desperate. While he had never been someone to understand trite, clichéd colloquialisms, he now understood what was meant when someone accused a woman of giving the milk away for free. Maybe he hadn't bought the cow, but he had leased her for six months. That made him feel like the dumbest SOB in the entire world.
But all of that was changing. He was changing. Jason was looking for substance before he started dating a woman. He was testing their compatibility before too much time had passed and the test became more of an excuse to unburden himself of a girlfriend he no longer wanted and couldn't understand what had attracted him towards her in the first place. And, while the change in dating perspective might have come after four terrible relationships, better late than never, right? The reassurance, though, felt hollow and left him anything but grateful. Why couldn't he have met Elizabeth right after being released from the hospital? Even though on the surface of his thoughts Jason told himself he would have been able to make a relationship work with the feisty artist years before, a deeper, more introspective part of his mind recognized the fact that, though unpleasant, his past breakups had been growing experiences, learning experiences, and, without them, he undoubtedly would have done something to mess things up with Elizabeth... no matter how much he would have wanted to hang onto her.
"Where have you been all day, Jason," Sam snapped, glaring at him, while, at the same time, leaning forward slightly to allow him – and the entire freaking room – a better glance at her cleavage. Yeah, because the previous view hadn't been generous enough already, he thought and snorted in derision to himself. "I spent all day out on the slopes, and I never saw you once after you..."
"After I what, Sam," he picked up where her sentence trailed off, smiling. He should have been annoyed - even hurt – with her lack of concern for his safety, but, really, how could he be when her abandonment to pursue her own interests allowed him to spend the afternoon with Elizabeth? "Fell off the fucking ski-lift because you couldn't keep your ass still? I told you those things were not safe."
"Millions of people ride ski-lifts every year, and no one ever dies," she flippantly dismissed his concerns. "And you never answered my question. Where did you..."
That time, he elected to cut her off. "Look, I was going to wait until the end of the trip to do this, but now... well, I can't wait." Intently, he met her cold gaze. "This isn't something that I decided rashly; it's something that I've been thinking about for a while now, but today – falling like that and everything else that followed afterwards – made me realize that I couldn't put this off anymore. Sam," he started, lowering his voice so as not to cause a scene and embarrass her in front of the entire dining room filled with other hotel patrons. While he might not want to be with the woman anymore, he didn't wish her ill-will either. "I think that we should..."
"Yes, Jason," she interjected rapturously, fluttering her lashes so quickly that moisture came to her eyes. Excitedly, demandingly, she held out her hand for him, wiggling her third finger in a tell-tale, impatient manner. "Of course I'll marry you!"
Forgetting his earlier goal of keeping their conversation private, he exploded, "why the fuck would falling out of a ski-lift make me want to propose to you?"
Before he could say more, she answered, "because, obviously, your life flashed before your eyes and you saw me in it. Because you realized that life's too short and, whatever time you have left, you want to spend it with me."
Wide eyed in denial and already standing up and back away from his chair, his hands held out before him in a defensive position, he refuted, "Sam, I don't want to marry you; I want to break up with you. No," he corrected himself. "I am breaking up with you."
"This is some kind of joke, isn't it, Jason – some really sick, really not funny joke, right?"
The cold acid curdling her voice made him pause and look at her more closely, and he realized it was definitely a damn good thing that he was a pilot who traveled with his own plane, because, otherwise, the woman across from him was mad enough in that moment to hunt him down and murder him in his sleep. However, despite her ire, he remained cool and detached. "No, I'm perfectly serious, Sam. This is something, like I said, that I've been thinking about for a while now. Today just finalized my decision."
"Then why bring me here? Why take me on some romantic vacation unless..." Her words abruptly ended and she pinned him with her glare. "Unless this was supposed to be some grand consolation prize. Hey, Sam," she mocked him, lowering her voice to represent his deeper register. "The last six months have been great. Here's an expensive trip, now get the hell out of my life." Her voice suddenly shrill, she yelled, "I thought you loved me, Jason!"
While blunt honesty might have been cruel rather than just harsh like their conversation up to that point had been, his patience with his ex-girlfriend had worn too thin for placation and sympathy. The sooner he got away from her, the better... whether he had to hurt her in the process or not. "No, I don't love you. I never did, Sam." She was shaking with unreleased wrath – funny, he would have thought a woman would be in pain – in tears – if her heart was really broken by a breakup – when he pushed in his chair. "Your room has been changed, but your stay here has been paid for. When I get back to Port Charles, I'll have anything of yours from my penthouse messengered over, but don't come by. Don't call me. We're through."
Feeling lighter and in more control of his life than he had in months, Jason fairly skipped out of the hotel's dining room and then out of the lodge itself. It was quite a relief to have his relationship with Sam over with. For good. But, at the same time, though, he smirked, Jason had to admit that most of the pep in his step came from the thought of the woman who might be waiting for him at the air field. Despite all her objections, he had a feeling that Elizabeth Webber wouldn't disappoint him, though he highly doubted her agreeing to go with him would have little to do with his appeal. Rather, he believed that she just wouldn't be able to turn up the chance to go to Italy. But that also meant that he would have a chance to change her mind, to make her like him as much as he already liked her, and what better place than Venice to worm his way into a woman's heart?
^ ! ^
She was sitting on her suitcase when he arrived, completely absorbed with the travel book on Italy that she was reading. The fact that he recognized the guide for one that he himself had in his collection just made Jason grin that much wider. No matter how much his past girlfriends had attempted to tailor themselves to fit his personality, none of them had ever read the kind of books he enjoyed, and Elizabeth did so on her own accord. Attracting him, keeping him by doing certain things, by liking what he liked, he would wager all the aircraft he owned had never even once entered her fascinating mind.
He was surprised, though, by her lack of luggage. Pointing to the roller suitcase, he asked, "is that it? Do you need me to go and get the rest of your stuff for you?"
"What rest," Elizabeth asked, standing up but only after she marked her place in the well-used much dog-eared guide. "I only have a week off from work. Why the hell would I need more than one suitcase?"
"Well," he shrugged, scratching his temple absentmindedly, "there's sight-seeing, shopping, and then going out at night. You didn't bring a change of clothes for every possible activity?"
She raised a finely shaped brow at him, smirking. "We spent our afternoon in a dive bar together, drinking beer and playing pool, Jason. Are you telling me I need a separate outfit to go out to dinner with you, because, if you are, then I'd have to say sayonara, sucker. This chick doesn't do operas and ball gowns, caviar and furs, and, while I'm no slouch, I don't see anything wrong with wearing just one outfit for an entire day, from morning until night, no matter what I might decide to do with my time."
He smiled widely. "Sounds good to me."
But she just tilted her head to the side, running her observant gaze over his face. "I didn't figure you as a man attracted to the high-maintenance type, Morgan. Are you really sure you want to go to Italy with me?"
Seriously, he responded, "even more so now than before. As for the women I was attracted to, maybe I just didn't know what I wanted until I met her."
"Or maybe you've just been picking up your dates in the wrong places. It's alright to go out with a girl to a bar, but you never want to pick one up there."
"I think I would have been fine if you were the woman I met a bar."
"Yeah, well, I'm a special case," Elizabeth returned playfully, winking at him. "But just think of our 'how we met' story now... I mean, if we ever have a cause to someday tell such a story."
"We will," he replied confidently.
She kept talking, her words ignoring his statement, but he could see the emotion flare in her eyes which told him she had heard exactly what he had said and that it had meant something to her. "Rather than just saying we met in a bar, we'll be able to say that we met when I rescued you from a frosty, imminent death and then drove you to safety on the back of my chariot on rails."
Elizabeth laughed at her own teasing, while it was Jason who rolled his eyes, moving forward to pick up her suitcase. With his free hand, he took possession of one of hers and led them both to the open, waiting door of his plane. "I think you're being a little melodramatic there, don't you? I was far from dying."
"Yeah, but it sounds so much better the way I told the story just now." Because the flight of stairs were so narrow, he insisted that she go first, not only because it was the magnanimous, gentlemanly thing to do but also so he could watch her ass as she climbed up before him. "Get an eye full if you want," she told him, obviously knowing exactly where his gaze was locked and trained on. "But there won't be any touching."
"For tonight," he warned her, his fingers itching to do just what she denied him.
Instead of being offended – not that he thought she would be by his response, Elizabeth tossed back her head, her loose hair cascading down the back of her thick, wool coat. "Confident much?"
"Some but also hopeful," Jason answered honestly.
When she stepped foot inside the plane, she stopped and turned around to face him. He was forced to stop, too, but went all the way to the very top step so that they were nearly nose to nose, eye lashes to eye lashes, and, best of all, inches away from being mouth to mouth. "And the snow bunny," she asked, suddenly serious. And he knew that, if he didn't answer the right way, she'd be off that plane and leaving him to fly off on his own, alone, so fast that he wouldn't even have a chance to prevent her from leaving.
"I ended things. It's over."
"So, it's out with the old, huh, and in with the new? You take your New Years traditions very seriously, Morgan."
"Maybe I have in the past," he acknowledged, locking their gazes together and refusing to blink so that she couldn't look away.
"What's that supposed to mean," Elizabeth asked. If he wasn't mistaken, Jason thought he detected a note of breathless anticipation in her voice.
"It means that, while I've never rang in the New Year with the same woman twice before, I have a feeling that could be changing."
"Oh," she remarked softly, though her wide eyes displayed her surprise. "So, then, I guess that means that I'm more than just the new woman in your life for you to ring in the New Years with?"
He smirked. "Yeah, I'm thinking you might be the woman I always ring in the New Years with from now on."
Her lips pursed to say 'oh' once more, but, before the sound could leave her plump, pink mouth, he shocked her further by kissing her. The embrace was light and sweet, a precursor to things that would surely come... and soon, but Jason knew that if they shared anything more than just a simple, tender embrace in that moment, they'd never make it to Venice in time to see the sunrise over the canals together. Pulling away from her, he found his arms wrapped tightly around her waist and decided to take advantage of the hold.
Slapping her lightly on her cute, little ass, he teased, "now, find your seat and fasten your belt, Co-pilot Webber. We have a city waiting for us."
"No," she corrected, returning his grin. "We have Italy waiting for us."
As she walked away to happily do as he told her to, he called after her retreating form, "you only like me for my plane, don't you?"
"Well, it certainly helps," Elizabeth returned saucily, "but I also heard you have a motorcycle, too."
"It's a Harley," he said calmly, curious as to what her reaction would be.
Her knees trembled slightly, her forward progression pausing momentarily before she righted her steps, the information obviously pleasing her.
Oh, yeah, Jason thought to himself. Elizabeth Webber was definitely a woman to always hold onto, and he intended to do just that.