"Oh, my God!" Ellen gasped in shock, as she stood still in Matt's doorway. She hadn't known what to expect, but nothing had prepared her for the condition he was in. He had told her that he had a family emergency. She hated to think of what he would have come back looking like if seeing his family had been even more urgent.
"What is she doing here, Grace?" Matt demanded. He struggled to sit up and was overcome by a coughing fit. His brown eyes shot angry daggers at Grace as he clutched his blanket and fell back onto the sofa.
Matt's distress put Ellen in action. She pulled the door closed and moved quickly inside the apartment to his side. While Matt tried to dodge her hands, she began her examination.
"I asked her to come," Grace explained. She pressed the back of her hand against his forehead. A look of dismay crossed her face and she shook her head. "He's burning up."
"He has an infection," Ellen said, "and it will only get worse if we don't get him to the hospital ASAP. Grace, hand me the phone."
"Who are you calling?" Grace asked as she moved to grab the cordless from the end table.
"The Paramedics. The sooner the better."
"NO!" Matt shouted before another coughing fit consumed him. He reached for Ellen's wrist and held on as tightly as his strength would allow. "No."
Ellen wiped his forehead with the handkerchief that she carried in her purse. Her touch appeared to calm him as his coughing died down. Softly, she spoke to him, "Matt, you know as well as I do that we don't have the equipment to care for you properly here. You need an IV, you need round the clock care and you need to be in a sterile environment!"
"No," he disagreed, his voice little more than a faint whisper. "No, Ellen, I'm fine here. Just give me some antibiotics. I'll be fine."
"Dammit, Matt!" Ellen replied, suddenly angry. "You won't be. Penicillin is a wonderful drug, but it's not a miracle worker. Your infection is too advanced for that. If you don't want proper treatment, I can't help you."
She grabbed her belongings and strode to the door. Her heart thudded wildly in her chest at the prospect of leaving him and what that could do to his condition, but he wouldn’t listen. And she couldn't watch him die. She wouldn’t go through that again.
"Ellen, wait," Grace called out. "There's gotta be something that we can do to help him. Look at him."
"I did look at him," Ellen said, speaking through the catch in her voice. "He needs proper care and he doesn't want it."
"Maybe he has a good reason."
"No reason is good enough to further risk his health," Ellen told the other woman.
"Ellen, come on," Matt said, reaching out his hand to turn. Ellen turned at the sound of his voice and slowly went back to him. He grabbed her hand as soon as she reached him. "Please, there must be something you can do to help me. But whatever it is, you gotta understand that I cannot go to the hospital. I just can't."
"Why?" she questioned as she sat beside him on the sofa. "Why are you so adamant about not being admitted? Tell me something that makes sense, Matt, or I'm walking. I mean it."
Shaking his head, he averted his eyes. "I would just feel more comfortable here-"
"That's bull and you know it," she said. She took a firm hold of his chin and turned his head so that he had no choice but to look her in the eyes again. Looking at him, she said to Grace, "Could you go to the Recovery Room and get some soup for Matt and something for us? Have Mike put it on my tab."
"Okay. Fine," Grace muttered with disappointment. "I can do that."
When the door closed quietly behind Grace, Ellen gave Matt her full attention again. "It's just you and me. Tell me the truth. That wound didn't come from helping your cousin in his garage, did it? What happened to you?"
Again, he shook his head. "It doesn't matter what happened."
"I think it does," she said. "I think whatever caused it is the reason behind your refusal to be admitted in a hospital. And since it's not a gunshot wound, I can't figure out what that reason is."
"Why do you need to know?" he demanded harshly. "What difference does it make?"
"It makes a big difference to me, Dr. Harmon. If I'm gonna risk my career to aid you, I think I have the right to know the truth. I wasn't kidding before. If you're not straight with me, I will walk and I won't look back. The decision is yours, Matt. What will it be?"
"Do you always play hardball?" he asked, his brown eyes twinkling with admiration and irritation.
She nodded. "Always."
"I can't tell you everything," he said through gritted teeth as if he was in pain. "I can only say that you're right. It didn't happen at my cousin's garage. And if I let you admit me into a hospital, what could happen next would be much worse than this. I can guarantee that."
"Ellen, please," he begged, tears beginning to glisten his eyes, "don't. I can't say more than that. I've already said too much, but you were right. I couldn't ask you to risk your career without being honest with you. You mean too much to me for me to hurt you like that."
Ellen shook her head at the tender sentiment. "Ssh. Okay, I'll help you. As best as I can, I will."
"And no matter what, you won't take me to the hospital." His hand gripped hers. "Promise me, Ellen."
Against her better judgment, Ellen nodded. "I promise."
Jax, the ever-graceful host, was everywhere at once. He greeted each guest with a smile. He encouraged them all to drink and eat as much as they wanted. A live DJ was spinning hits and old favorites in the den and several guests had already spilled onto the dance floor. Jax smiled and waved at them before he bounced down to the mid-floor landing. Standing before the large picture window, he found Alexis. He took her hand and asked, "How are you holding up?"
"I'm doing okay," she said softly. "The party is going well. You will be the hit of the society pages tomorrow."
"As I should be," he joked. When she didn't laugh on cue, he squeezed her hand. "Are you sure that you're okay? You don't have to pretend with me, you know. I can take the truth."
"I know," she said, returning the pressure of his hand, "and the truth is that I'm not really in a party mood. I think I'll go now. You understand, right?"
His arms encircled her in a warm embrace. "Of course," he said against her dark, chestnut brown hair. "I understand. I'll call you later, okay? I have a few leads about that other matter and I think we'll be closer to something soon. Try not to let it all get you down."
"I'll try" she promised as she placed a light kiss onto his cheek. Giving his hand another squeeze, she said, "Goodbye," and left.
Jax watched her leave and mentally noted to himself that he'd have to work harder in finding out the truth for her. He already felt like he was on the tip of the iceberg, but with more digging, he'd know for sure if she were truly Natasha or the pawn in another battle of the Spencer/Cassadine war.
A waiter passed by with another tray of champagne and in his distraction, Jax nearly missed the vision of beauty who suddenly materialized in front of his fireplace. He removed two flute glasses from the tray and with a broad smile in place, made his way to her. Making sure to touch her fingers as he handed her the glass, he murmured, "So we meet again."
"So, we do," the lady said as she raised the glass to her mouth.
The small act entranced Jax, immediately drawing his gaze to her full, wine-colored lips. His perusal didn't stop there and his gaze devoured her from head to toe. Soft brown curls bounced against her mahogany cheeks. A silver sequined calf-length dressed clung to her luscious curves and made him appreciate her assets all over again. Ignoring the crowd, he focused solely on her. "Where have you been keeping yourself?"
A perfect eyebrow shot up. "I wasn't aware that you were looking."
"Oh, I have been," he informed her with a bright smile that did little to conceal his interest. "I've been searching endlessly for you all to no avail. The least you could have done was leave a glass slipper for me to use as a point of reference."
Long, curly lashes fanned her high cheekbones as her gaze dropped down to the bubbly liquid in her glass. "So, we're in a fairy tale? I'm Cinderella…" She raised her eyes to his again, as she said, "…And you're my Prince."
Jax shrugged. In low, deep voice he murmured, "I could be."
To his surprise, she moved close to him and whispered against his ear, "Well, if the position becomes available, I'll be sure to let you know. Great party."
With hips swaying and Jax's interest at an all-time pique, she walked away. The challenge had been given and he knew that he'd look forward to whatever happened that would bring him into that mystery woman's orbit again.
"So, what can you tell me about Lynn?" Thomas asked Mac as they covered the grounds of Peter's estate. "Do you talk to her?"
"Do I talk to her?" Mac repeated with a strong hint of male pride coming through. "Of course. I can barely get rid of her. She adores me."
"Oh, really?" Thomas asked, unsure of how much of Mac's boasting to believe. If the other man's track record was anything to go by, he shouldn’t believe any of it. Nodding as if he was taking everything Mac said under consideration, Thomas asked, "So, it wouldn't be any problem in getting her to talk to me?"
"Um…well," Mac hedged, "You know how teenagers are. All I can do is ask. They have minds of their own."
Thomas smirked and couldn't resist the urge to tease. "If she adores you…"
"She does!" Mac quickly affirmed. "And I have to respect that. I can't take advantage of her feelings. What kind of man do you take me for?"
"I don't think you want me to answer that," Thomas said, chuckling.
The two men continued their perusal of the grounds. The security system was elaborate and that surprised Thomas. Everything seemed to be new, too, so he guessed that it was all recently installed. He didn't know much about E-commerce and wasn't sure if it required such high-tech reinforcements. He decided to give Rick a call to see what he knew about it and to find out if Peter O'Rourke was into more than the world wide web.
They parted ways along the shore. Mac actually had duties to perform and Thomas needed the time alone to process the information he had gathered so far. Not that it was much. Not by any means, but it was a start.
Shoving his hands inside the front pockets of his tan khaki shorts, Thomas watched his moccasins sink into the sand as he made his way up the beach and his head filled with investigative thoughts. First, he considered Peter. A firm, handshake and piercing gray eyes came to mind when Thomas thought back to their initial meeting. The younger man had seemed distracted at first, but he quickly recovered and advised Thomas on what was needed from him. Soon after, he left and Mac appeared.
His buddy had been helpful and told Thomas a few things that the picture had left out. Lynn's hair was now short. She was about 5'6 with an athletic build. Her voice was even-toned with a husky quality to it. Thomas chuckled when he remembered how Mac's eyes lit up when he mentioned that. Without meeting her, the young woman had already intrigued him. With Mac, her list of admirers had grown and he wondered if by the end of it, if he would be on it, as well.
A glance at his watch told him that evening was soon approaching. He figured that his thoughts were gathered enough that he could talk to Lynn without giving too much away. He moved to head back to the estate when a trail of footprints in the sand caught his eye. The plan to go back to the estate was forgotten, when he impulsively decided to follow the prints.
For 3 miles, the prints guided him. The white 3-story mansion was behind him and a large rocky form was before him. The trail led inside the rock form and Thomas moved quietly towards the entrance.
He reached the opening without incident and took a deep breath before peaking inside. Walking sideways, he moved carefully so as not to block the sun, his only source of light. He could hear the soft sighs of deep breathing and moved steadily towards it. Without a weapon, he hoped that his gut was right and that whoever or whatever was inside was asleep.
As he moved deeper inside the cavern, the ceiling dropped. Thomas stooped down to accommodate his large frame and soon got a cramp in his left calf. A little irritated that he hadn't found anything, he nearly gave up when he saw a familiar object. A Detroit Tigers cap lay on the ground beside a worn knapsack. Taking a closer look, Thomas found its owner, asleep beside it.