So, I noticed that a lot of you thought I was done, but I'm not quite. I've got this last chapter left in me. I think I just need to wrap things up a bit more before I finish. You know, explain what happens to Derek and incorporate that long-awaited kiss! I'd also like to apologize for my long absence I had friends fly in for 10 days, and before that I was at camp for a few days, and before that I couldn't seem to shake my writer's block. You guys have no idea how hard it is for me to finish a story. I almost never do!

Chapter 19

I glanced at the glowing numbers on the clock. 11:50 pm. Fiddling with the seatbelt, I glanced out the car window watching the house flash by. I was going to be late. Mom reached over and shook my leg. I looked back at her. She had a huge smile on her face and tears glistened in her eyes.

"I can't believe how well that went," she whispered excitedly. Kyle was asleep in the back seat.

"I know," I answered quietly, smiling broadly. I looked back out the window. "Mom could we go a little faster?"

I heard her laugh quietly and she accelerated. I turned the radio on and jangled the charm bracelet on my wrist. Ty had given it to me for Christmas. It had three charms- a tiny guitar, a heart, and a small silver daisy. A few minutes later, we pulled up in front of Ty's house.

"Thanks Mom," I called, hopping out and shutting the door, "I'll see you in a few hours."

She pulled away and I headed up the walk to the front door. Through the windows, I could see all of the people gathered in the living room. I wasn't too excited about the New Year's party. I still wasn't a big fan of huge groups of people, though I was getting used to it.

I opened the door and everyone looked up. Many people shouted hellos and inquiries as to how everything went, but I simply waved and searched the crowd for Ty. He suddenly appeared out of the kitchen, holding a cup in his hand. I called his name and he looked around. When he saw me his face lit up in a huge smile. He passed his glass off to someone else and made his way through the crowd towards me. Grabbing me gently by the arms, he steered me back out onto the porch.

"So, what happened?" he asked anxiously, "How'd the trial go?"

I groaned and rolled my eyes. "Brutal. I felt like Derek's lawyer was just trying to prove that I was some sort of delusional teenager who was just lying to seek attention."

"And?" he prompted.

I couldn't suppress the smile the spread across my face. "Guilty!" I exclaimed, "Of all charges!"

"Yes!" he shouted and threw his arms around me, holding me tight. The ever-so-familiar feeling of safety rushed over me.

He pulled away and held my hands in his, looking down at me. "Tell me everything."

I sighed. "There's not really much to say. It was all boring legal talk, then they put me on the stand and bashed me, more legal talk, more bashing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

"Hey, come on. I know there's more than that."

"Alright. It all went through pretty quickly. There was too much evidence against him for his lawyer to put up much of a fight. His only tactic was to prove me a liar, which he didn't do very well since I had so much backup. They had the police officers there from the night he was arrested to verify the threats and gunshots. Then, there was my mom and Kyle and 'physical evidence'."

"You're scars?"

I nodded. "Then, earlier on there was you and your family, so we had your guys' testimonies too. So, after everything, he was found guilty of two accounts of child abuse, one account of battery, resisting arrest, harassing a police officer, and one account of sexual harassment. That all added up to ten years in prison."

"That's fantastic, Jess. So, it looks like it's finally over. You're finally free."

"For ten years anyways. Who knows what'll happen after that?"

Ty hugged me again and I buried my head against his neck. "It doesn't matter," he said quietly, "No one will let him near you again. I promise."

We could hear chanting from inside the house. "Ten! Nine! Eight!"

"Looks like the countdown started," I said.

Suddenly, I realized something. What would have happened if I hadn't been able to get away from Derek? I would have lost something special to me. I wanted so badly for my first kiss to really mean something that I had grown afraid. Of course, I didn't know how long things with Ty would last, but I did know that I wouldn't regret having my first kiss with him. He had done so much for me and meant even more.

"Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!"

There were shouts and cheers from inside the house. I pulled back in the hug and looked up at Ty, my heart pounding. He smiled. "Happy New Year, Jess."

Without a second thought, I leaned in and kissed him. For half a second, Ty didn't move, but then his arms tightened around my back and he enforced the kiss. I closed my eyes, savoring every moment and every sensation- his smell, his taste, and the way his arms felt around me. I allowed my fingertips to trail through his hair. I have no idea how long it lasted, but we finally pulled apart.

I smiled. "Happy New Year, Ty."

I could see his breath in the cold air as he seemed to gather his thoughts. He laughed. "I was right."

I frowned, extremely confused. "About what?"

"I while back, Jay was asking me if we had kissed yet. I told him no, but I knew that if we ever did, it would be worth waiting for. And it was."

I could feel happy tears prickling at the back of my eyes as I hugged him again. I suddenly found my lips forming words without even thinking about it. "I love you," I whispered to him.

"Good," he answered with a small laugh, "Because I don't know what I would have done if you didn't feel the same way I did."

I kissed him again, a much shorter kiss and, his arm around my waist, we headed back into the house. People called out 'Happy New Years' to us and I realized that they were right. True, I didn't know exactly what the future would hold, but it was a new year. Derek was gone, my family and I were safe, and I could start over. A new life, new hopes, a new future, and a new year. And so far it had been very happy indeed.

I know, it's super short, but I figured that it was better to keep the ending short, sweet, and to the point. I hoped that you all enjoyed my story. I know that I enjoyed writing it very much and enjoyed your reviews even more. Keep an eye out for any more stories that I'll be coming out with. I've got one slowly piecing together in my head. Now it's just a matter of writing it down! Lol! Well, I hope to see all of my faithful reviewers responding to my other stories as well. Thanks for your dedication and patience!

Love you all,