Thanks for the reviews guys. A lot of you reviewed very quickly. And to those who are worried about nothing really happening, don't worry; I'm getting there. Right now as a matter of fact.

Chapter 17

Christmas Eve was bitter cold and the sky was heavy with snow. It seemed to constantly be threatening to overflow, and yet nothing fell. I sat beside the downstairs window late in the evening, staring out at the heavy sky. No moon or stars were visible through the thick blanket.

We had a tradition in our family every Christmas Eve. We would stay up all night and at midnight, everyone got to pick one gift from under the tree to open. For as far back as I could remember we had done it. I remembered doing it with my father before he died. We would watch those popular Christmas movies and sing Christmas carols. Kyle had never made it through the night.

The tradition had continued after my mother married Derek. He would always sulk in a corner as we opened our midnight gifts. It was really the only time that we enjoyed ourselves with him around.

The fire was blazing in the fireplace, it's warm glow the only source of light in the living room. Christmas music was playing softly in the background and my mother was humming to it as she clacked away at her keyboard, finishing up a sales report for work. Kyle was lying on his back, sprawled under the Christmas tree, poking the ornaments so that they swayed hypnotically. I knew that he was just doing something to occupy himself so that he wouldn't fall asleep. Derek was nowhere in sight.

About twenty minutes until midnight, Mom, Kyle, and I piled onto the couch as I pushed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer into the VCR. As our all-time favorite movie played, I heard a car pull into the drive. I glanced away from the TV as Derek came in through the front door with two six-packs of beer in his arms. So that's where he's been.

He paused for a moment to look at us in the living room, then went into the kitchen to spend Christmas Eve with his precious alcohol. The movie ended just before midnight and the three of us sat cross-legged near the Christmas tree.

"Kyle, you pick one first," Mom told him.

His eager eyes lit up and he immediately dove under the tree, searching for a gift that caught his eye. He pulled out a brightly wrapped gift and tore away at the paper, revealing a new game for his game system that he had been wanting for ages. He thanked us both, holding the game tightly to his chest.

"Jess, you next," Mom urged.

I sifted through the gifts that were under the tree. I finally found a small box wrapped in green paper with my name on it. I opened the present with a little less zeal than Kyle, but still eagerly. Inside of the small gold box was a silver necklace with a music note charm. A smiled and lifted it out of the box.

"Thanks Mom," I said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

I clipped the necklace around my neck and examined it in the Christmas lights. As Mom reached for a present for herself, Derek came out of the kitchen. We all froze and stared. He had never tried to participate in our tradition before. And yet here he was, coming towards the tree.

His tall frame toward over us as we sat on the floor. He smirked. "No present for me?"

I could tell that he didn't really want a present. He was just finding something else to torture us with. He knew perfectly well that we never had a present for him.

"But you hate Christmas," Kyle pointed out.

Derek's eyes snapped over to Kyle. He took one step forward and Kyle recoiled. I was about to set myself between them when Mom jumped up.

"I just remembered," she said, "I got you something just the other day, but I left it at the office. I'll go get it right now."

Derek returned to the kitchen to get another beer. I followed Mom to the front door and stood beside her as she put on her jacket and shoes.

"You don't really have a present for him do you." I knew I was stating the obvious.

She shook her head and glanced into the kitchen nervously. "No. Do you have any idea what store would be open at this hour?"

I shrugged and guessed, "Wal-Mart?"

Mom sighed and grabbed her keys. "Let's hope so. I'll be back as fast as I can. Clean up the house and then you and Kyle get to bed."

I nodded and shut the door behind her as she hurried out to the car. The things we do to keep him from killing us… I peeked into the kitchen. Derek wasn't there. An empty beer can lie on the kitchen counter, along with some other things left out from dinner. I decided to send Kyle to bed first.

I went into the living room. Still no sign of Derek. Kyle was lying on the couch on the verge of sleep, a Christmas special on the TV. I walked over and switched it off. His eyes fluttered open and he yawned.

"I was watching that," he muttered.

"Yeah right," I chuckled. "Time for bed."

He stretched and stood, muttering something about not being a baby anymore. I left him, knowing that it would be a few more minutes before he grudgingly climbed the stairs, and headed back into the kitchen. I picked up the beer can between to fingers, holding it away from my body, and dropped it in the trash. Disgusting stuff.

I began to put away the rest of the stuff. As I was returning the spices to the cabinet, when I saw Kyle heading up the stairs. He called goodnight and I answered with the same. I picked up the saltshaker and heard a voice behind me.

"Why didn't you get me a present?"

I turned and saw Derek standing close behind me. I hadn't heard him come into the kitchen and I had no idea where he had come from. I gripped the saltshaker tighter.

"I didn't know that you'd want one," I answered.

He clucked his tongue in a mock disapproving way. "How inconsiderate of you."

Something was not right. This was completely out of his character. There was never any playful banter when Derek was involved. Either he completely ignored you, or he yelled at and beat you. Nothing like this.

He stepped forward, bringing himself closer to me as I pressed my back against the edge of the counter. Without even thinking, I tipped the saltshaker so that some of it poured into my hand. I suppose self-defense had just become an instinct over the years.

Derek moved even closer so that he was almost up against me. The rancid smell of alcohol invaded my nostrils, making me feel nauseated.

"You've changed since we've been here Jessica," he said in a hoarse voice.

I could feel myself shaking. What's going on? "What do you mean?" I asked.

He placed a coarse hand on my cheek and I felt like vomiting. "I guess it doesn't really matter," he answered, as he set the half-empty beer can on the counter beside me.

He now placed both hands on my waist. I froze. From the corner of my eye, I could see that Kyle was frozen as well, standing on the stairs, watching me with wide eyes. His filthy hands toyed the edge of my shirt. I could feel his rough fingertips against my skin.

A hungry light appeared behind Derek's eyes. "Since you didn't give me a present, I'll just have to take it from you."

His arms tightened around me as he moved his face in closer to mine. Realization suddenly hit me. My first kiss… He's going to take my first kiss. I corrected myself. He's going to take more than that. But what could I do? My mind was suddenly filled with images of Ty. Ty laughing, smiling at me. Ty being there to comfort me. Ty…

Burning anger coursed through my veins. My first kiss was not meant for a worthless slime ball like Derek. It was meant for Ty. I remembered the fist full of salt behind my back. In one swift movement, I pulled my fist from behind my back and rubbed the salt into his eyes. He screamed in pain. For good measure, I added a kick to the groin and he doubled over on the kitchen floor, shouting curses at me.

I didn't wait any longer. I sprinted towards the door. Kyle was still standing on the stairs, watching the whole thing. "Kyle, come on!" I screamed.

He bolted down the stairs after me and we ran out the door. I didn't know how long it would be before Derek came after us, but I knew it wouldn't be long. I darted down streets and in between houses until I came to Ty's. Every light was out. It was no wonder, since it was after midnight.

Dragging Kyle after me, I ran to the front door and began pounding on it frantically. I saw lights come on and a minute later, Ty's mother opened the door. She looked extremely harassed at having to wake up at this hour, but the look was immediately replaced my shock when she saw me.

"Jessie?" she said, "What are you doing here?"

"I'm really sorry Ms. Tracy, but I need to talk to Ty," I was on the verge of tears, and she saw it. "Please. It's an emergency."

She nodded, looking worried, and stood aside. "Come on in. I'll go get him."

Kyle and I stepped into the house as Ms. Tracy headed up the stairs to Ty's bedroom. We were quiet for a moment before Kyle asked, "What are we gonna do?"

"I don't know," I replied honestly.

Ms. Tracy returned a moment later. "He'll be down in just a second. Are you two going to need to spend the night?" I nodded. "Then I'll just take your little brother and we can make up the guestroom."

She and Kyle disappeared just as Ty came running down the stairs, still pulling on a T-shirt over his bare chest. He grabbed me and pulled me into the living room where there was more light. He looked frantic.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "Did he do something to you?"

I looked up into his worried face, then threw my arms around his neck and did something I hadn't done in nearly two years. I cried. I cried into his chest, my entire body shaking with every sob. I was scared. Scared of what might have happened had I not stopped him.

Ty wrapped his arms around me and pulled with him down onto the couch. He said nothing, just held me safely against him and let me cry. I spilled every painful and heart-breaking thing that had happened to me out, allowing it to run down my cheeks and onto his shirt. Finally, I had cried myself out. There were no tears left.

He whispered, "Are you okay?"

I didn't move, didn't even look up at him. "He touched me," I muttered. "He tried to kiss me. I was so scared."

"Oh Jess…" he said it so quietly that I barely heard him.

My body shuddered as another sob escaped me. "He's going to come after me Ty. He's going to kill me."

"No he won't," Ty insisted as he softly and reassuringly stroked my hair. "I won't let him ever touch you again. I promise."

"He's going to kill me," I repeated. "And if you try to stop him, he's going to kill you."

"We have to call the cops Jess."

I shook my head against his chest. "No."

"Jessie, he tried to rape you. You have to call the cops."

I paused. I hadn't thought of it that way, but he had. Derek had tried to rape me. "I have to call my mom first. I have to tell her not to go home."

I sat up and rubbed at my reddened eyes. I stood and went over to the telephone, closely followed by Ty. I punched in Mom's number. After two rings, she picked up. "Hello?"

"Mom, it's Jess. I'm at Ty's. Don't go home."

"Jessie? Why? What happened?"

I didn't feel like explaining it again at the moment. "I'll tell you later. Just come over to Ty's. I'm calling the cops after I hang up with you."

She didn't try to stop me. "Okay. I'm on my way."

I hung up, then picked it up again. 9-1-1. Almost immediately, an operator picked up.

"I need a police officer," I said over her pointless introduction.

"What's your name?" she asked calmly.

"Jessica Baldwin."

"Where are you?"

"I'm at my boyfriend's house." I gave her Ty's address.

"And what's your emergency Ms. Baldwin?"

"My stepfather just tried to rape me."

"We'll send a squad car over immediately. Do not leave the house you are at."

I agreed and hung up. "Someone's coming over," I said, turning to Ty.

He put his arms around me. "You did what you had to do Jess," he reassured me. "Everything's going to be okay now."

"I hope so…"

I know you all hate me for stopping now, because you were so hoping for that kiss, right? Well, you'll have to wait a little bit longer! This is the last week of school, so I'm not sure how my schedule will be just yet, but I should be able to update faster. At least for a while. Well, hope you enjoy. Read and review!