The sound of my alarm clock used to be my least favorite sound in the world. It is now the sound of my cell phone ringing at four thirty in the morning.
“What?” I growled into the phone. There had better be a damn good reason for this person to be calling me this early.
“Jess? It’s Sam?” I sat straight up in bed automatically thinking that there was something horribly wrong.
“Sam? What’s wrong? What’s happened?” I began to panic.
“Everything’s fine. I just got off the phone with Dean. He told me what happened this morning. I just wanted to make sure that you are really ok.”
“Samuel Winchester! The next time you call me at four-thirty in the morning someone had better be dead.” I hung the phone up. I love Sam to death but damn it, he interrupted my sleep.
The weeks following my early morning conversation with Sam fell into an easy rhythm. I worked four days a week at Twilight, and I spent my days off hanging out at home or with Alice. She was quickly integrated into our tight circle of friends. Her energetic nature endeared her to me and to Jasper and I watched their relationship blossom. She had him wrapped around her tiny fingers in a matter of days and spent every free moment she had at our house.
Emmett was also let into to our tight knit group without any second thoughts. He had Jasper and Dean’s respect from that first encounter with James. His willingness to protect me and his unexpected love of books landed him right up there with Sam and Dean on my list of guy friends, not that I had many of those with Dean and Jasper around. It was a good thing that Dean liked him because Danielle had a huge crush on him. And from what I could tell Emmett really liked her too. Matchmaking isn’t really my thing an I made Alice promise to stay out of it so that I could sit back and watch the fun.
The only hang up for me was Edward. He had been so sweet to me in the couple of days following the incident with James but had quickly retreated and I had barely seen him since. I wasn’t sure why it mattered to me that he was avoiding me but it did. I was intrigued by him. Alice told me that something bad had happened right before they left their home in Forks, Washington, but said that it wasn’t her place to tell me what. I understood that but it still made me sad.
Thirty days after James’s arrest he was released. A friend of mine at the sheriff’s office called to let me know that they had released him. I reluctantly let Jasper and Dean know that he was out. Jasper immediately set up a guard duty schedule. I didn’t mind for the most part because I was terrified of what James might do to me if he got to me. This was the first time he’d ever spent more than a night in jail because of me, and he was bound to be furious with me.
The first week that James was out of jail was very quiet. Jasper, being the wanna-be military strategist, thought that James was waiting for them to relax the guard around me. Victoria told me to take the first two weeks that James was out off. She said that way she could honestly tell him that she hadn’t seen me and didn’t know where I was. I knew that it was really because she didn’t want the violent confrontation that we all knew was coming to happen at the store. I didn’t blame her at all.
I took to spending my days in Dean’s auto shop. This had two benefits. One it kept me under twenty-four hour surveillance and two it gave him someone to do all of the office work that had been neglected since Rose had died. She did all of the office work at the shop and he didn’t want to replace her.
Ten days after he was released, James showed up at Twilight. He demanded that Victoria and Emmett tell him where I was. When they refused to do so, James threw a temper tantrum and threw books around the store. I quit that afternoon. I loved that store and I wouldn’t let him destroy it. I would work for Dean since I didn’t actually need a job. I was glad the Emmett had called to tell me what happened. He gave us the heads up that James was looking and it didn’t look like he was going to give up anytime soon. I refused to stay home and cower. For one, that was probably more dangerous because it would leave me in a place that he knew well. Two, James no longer had that kind of power over me. He did at one time, or at least he thought he did. That ended the first time he hit me. That night was the last time I ever willing spoke to him. I went to Esme’s house with a black eye, a split lip and two cracked ribs that night. If I hadn’t been in such bad shape and begged them to stay with me, I think Jasper and Dean would have killed him that night.
James waited a few more days and then he tried again. He left the bookstore quietly this time. Something that I took to be the calm before the storm. A few more quiet days went by and I began to panic. I, and everyone else knew him well enough to know the there was no way that this was over. Jasper had security cameras installed on the house. He wanted video evidence of James doing whatever it was that he was going to do.
Exactly thirty days after James was released from jail, I woke up to find my bedroom on fire. It took me a minute to realize what was going on, but once I did, I jumped out of bed, grabbed my cell phone and dialed nine-one-one a I dragged a very sleepy Danielle, a subdued Alice and furious Jasper out of the house. I took a good look at the house once we got out side a realized that the entire east side of my house was on fire. I was horrified. Threatening me was one thing, threatening my family was another. I was going to kill him if Jasper and Dean didn’t beat me to it.
Jasper was absolutely livid. I had never seen him so angry. H was absolutely silent which is a very, very bad sign. A talking angry Jasper is easy to read. He’s usually telling you what he’s planning while he’s ranting. With a silent, shaking Jasper there is no way of knowing what he’s going to do. I had a feeling that he was trying to decide where to hide the body. I had honestly never seen him that angry, not even that night James beat me. I think that part of the reason that Jasper was so angry was because James didn’t just try to hurt me, he tried to hurt Alice too.
The fire department finally arrived and began trying to put the flames out. I watched in silence, standing next to Danielle. She was crying, and holding on too the Care Bear she had managed to grab out of her room. I felt so bad. All of this was about me and it was ruining everyone else’s lives now.
I almost screamed when I felt someone’s arms go around my waist. I spun around to find Edward standing behind me. He pulled me into a hug and kissed my hair. “Are you ok?”
“Not really. My house is on fire. James has now crossed one too many lines. Threatening me is one thing. Messing with my family is another”. I pause to take a breathe just in time to hear the outer wall collapse. “God Damn it!” I yelled. “All of the pictures of my parents were in there. That son of a bitch, I can’t believe he set my house on fire. God, I want to hit something.” and with that I finally broke down and burst into tears. It didn’t escape my notice that this was the second time in as many months that Edward had held me while I cried over something that James had done.
‘Hey, hey. Its going to be ok. I promise.” He whispered in my ear while he rubbed my back.
I took a few minutes to regain my composure before I spoke. “I’m not too sure about that. He set my house on fire. Jasper and Dean are going to kill him this time. I haven’t ever seen Jasper this mad. Not ever the night that James beat me. He hasn’t said a word since we got out of the house. He’s just standing there shaking. James may as well of pinned a huge target on his back tonight. He didn’t just come after me tonight. He could have killed Danielle or Jasper or Alice tonight. This is all my fault.” I started to cry again.
Everyone must have heard my little rant because the next thing I knew, Jasper had pulled me out of Edwards arms and into his. “Jessica Ann Whitlock. None of this is our fault. James is totally unbalanced. None of us blame you. He deceived you at first but you eventually saw through him. He will go to prison for this. Four counts of attempted murder and one count of felony arson. The police already told me that they’ve arrested him just two blocks down the street. He’d better hope that he stays in jail because if he ever gets out and comes near you again, Dean and I will kill him. I won’t even think twice about it.” Jasper was growling, but I heard every word. I took comfort in the fact that I knew that Jasper would make James pay for this one way or another.
It was several hours before the scene was cleared and we were told that we could leave. I hadn’t been paying much attention to what was going on around me since Jasper’s rant. I had been standing there by myself just watching them try to clean up the mess. When they finally told me that I could leave, I finally looked around to see where everyone else was. Alice was asleep, between Edward and Emmett, her head on Emmett’s shoulder on the tailgate of Jasper’s truck. And Jasper was sitting behind her, rubbing her back. Danielle was sitting next to Dean on the curb. I realized that I hadn’t said a word to her since we had left the house. She had tear tracks on her face and he was holding on to that Care Bear for dear life.
I walked over and sat down next to her. She leaned over and laid her head on my shoulder. I laid my head on top of hers. “Hi.” I whispered, my voice hoarse from the smoke.
She laughed a little. “Hi. This really, really sucks. But like Jasper said, its not your fault so don’t start blaming yourself.”
“I know its not my fault, but I still feel guilty. It almost makes me wish I’d stayed with him, if only to prevent this one moment in time.”
“Don’t you ever say that again Jessica! You’d be dead if you had stayed with him and you know it.” She was livid.
“I know. I know. I said almost. Where are you going to go?”
“Dean wants us to move in with him. The Cullens have invited us to stay with them. Jasper is leaning towards staying with them. What do you want to do?”
Jasper staying with the Cullens was news to me, but not a shock. I knew he wanted to be where ever Alice was. My staying with them was out of the question. There was too much awkwardness with Edward. He confused the hell out of me. I hadn’t seen him at all in the last two months and them all of the sudden he’s holding me and kissing my hair while my house burned. I didn’t know what to think but I knew that I couldn’t stay with them, it was hurting my heart already.
“I think I want to go to Rosalie’s cottage. James is going to jail but even if he wasn’t there’s no way he could get to me there. It’s completely walled in on three sides. Plus he doesn‘t even know it exists. She only went there when she wanted to hide.”
“That’s true. Jasper won’t like it, but I think its for the best. It’ll be quiet there.”
I nodded. “You can come too, if you want. I’m not sure I want to be by myself right now.”
“Of course. I don’t think I could live with Dean right now. He’s going to be crazy with the security.” We both laughed thinking about the things that the boys were going to demand happen in the next few weeks. Jasper had already been talking about making me get a gun. I knew that he was going to bring that up again. I would acquiesce because I knew it would make him feel better about me living away from him.
I noticed that Edward was walking towards us. He sat down next to me and leaned back on his elbows. “Alice is insisting that you come and stay with us. Jasper seems to agree.” He told me solemnly, but his facial expressions and body language told me that my staying with them was the last thing on earth he wanted to have happen right now.
“Jasper can say whatever he wants. I won’t impose on you like that. I’m going to go stay in Rosalie’s cottage. It’s a perfectly safe place and James doesn’t even know it exists.” I snapped, not liking his tone or his posture. His eyes widen and he looked taken aback for a moment. I just looked at him. I didn’t need his attitude right now.
“There is no reason for you to react like that.” He snapped back. “You can do whatever you want. Get yourself killed.” He jumped to his feet and stormed off.
“Wow,” Danielle whispered, “you really pissed him off.”
“ I know,” I sighed. “but his body language told me that he doesn’t want me there. I couldn’t have done it anyway. He hurts my heart.”
I heard a gasp and turned to find him standing right behind me. He sat down again and took my hand. ‘I am so sorry Jess. For more than you know. I don’t want to hurt you, but I think that this is for the best. I’m not good for you and I’ll just hurt you more in the end.”
It was my turn to gasp. I reached over and turned his face towards me. “Edward,” I spoke quietly, “you don’t get to decide what’s best for me. I appreciate that you care about hurting me, but I’m the only one who gets to decide that.”
He exhaled loudly. ‘Jessica, I’m damaged goods. My last relationship ended very, very badly….”
“And mine didn’t? My ex just set my house on fire, Edward. It doesn’t get much worse than that.” I interrupted.
“True enough. But, Bella, my ex-fiancée, she left me for my best friend six days before we were supposed to get married. She shredded my heart.” The pain in his eyes made me want to cry. James had hut me physically but I had gotten out before too much emotional damage had occurred.
“Ok, so we all have baggage. But we aren’t talking about a lifetime of commitment here. We are talking about being friends.”
He just looked away and I got frustrated all over again. I gave up and crossed my arms over my chest. I had almost forgotten that we were sitting in the middle of the street with all of my family close by until I saw Dean’s face. He’d heard the whole conversation and was giving Edward ‘the look’. I knew that look well, every boy Danielle and I had dated in high school that broke up with us got that look. It’s his, ‘you hurt my girl, I’m going to kill you’, look. I had to stifle a laugh. Edward was in for one hell of a lecture once Dean repeated this to Jasper.
Jasper finally came over to see what was going on. “Jess, are you ready to go to? The Cullens have invited us to stay with them.”
“I know they have and I’d like to thank them for the offer but I don’t think that’s the best idea right now. I’m planning on going to Rose’s cottage. I need the peace and quiet, and most importantly, the solitude. I always feel closer to her there anyway.”
Jasper was silent for a moment and I could tell that he was debating all of the pro’s and con’s of my plan in is head. I knew the exact moment that he decided that I was right. “I think you are right. It’ll be good for you. Do you ant me to stay with you?” I knew he was offering because that’s what my big brother was supposed to do, but that his heart wasn’t in it. He wanted to be with Alice and there was no way I was going to share the cottage with them right now. That was the whole point of my plan. I needed to escape Edward just as much as I needed to hide from James.
“No. Danielle is coming with me. We’ll be ok. Go with Alice, I know its what you want.” I gave him the most authentic smile I could muster. “You can come and visit everyday if you want.”
“Ok,” He smiled back. “Lucky for us nobody’s truck was actually in the garage so at least you have a car to drive. I’m sure you both have at least one change of clothes there. You can go to New York to shop in a couple of days. I think that getting out of town for a few days will do us all some good.”
I made a face. I hate shopping in New York ad he knows it. Alice had been threatening to take me for weeks. I would go because it would make them happy, but I was determined to spend as much time in the museums as possible.