Chapter Twenty-seven:

He loves her.

Somehow, the words didn't scare her as much now. Sure, she still thought it was too soon, and the idea that he could've been infatuated with her for years was much too hard for her to comprehend, but she wasn't intent on running away anymore.

His arms were tight around her waist and her body was flush against his, and she was more than comfortable. She never believed she could feel this content, this happy, this loved, with a man. But she did. And, as she felt his tongue slip out and start kissing and caressing her neck and shoulder, she knew she could very easily fall in love with him as well.

She already knew she couldn't give him up, she figured that out over the past week. Pushing him away, even just the tiny bit she did, had been hell on her. When he wasn't around, she thought of him, and when she saw him, she only wanted to walk into his arms, to smell him, to touch him, to feel, for that one moment, that everything was perfect in the world.

She moved her hands from their entanglement in his hair, to the back of his neck, lifting his head just enough to meet his gorgeous, dark eyes. His face was slightly flushed and his eyes were even darker than normal. He smirked, his slow, sexy grin, and Shelby couldn't help but take it away by pressing her lips to his.

He moaned, or she did, they really weren't sure. His warm hands slipped under her shirt and teased their way along the hem of her jeans. Her tongue traced his lips, dipping inside at the corner, then slipping back out. He pulled her even closer, his hard bulge pressing intimately into her front and causing her entire body to flush all at once.

He bit lightly on her bottom lip and she hissed in pleasure as her fingers deftly worked their way down to the buttons on his jeans. With their mouths firmly attached, she fumbled a few times until finally undoing his button. The zipper was much easier, and as she slowly drew the metal teeth apart, the sound of her cell phone ringing caused them both to jump.

"Crap," she hissed, kissing him lightly one last time before pulling out her phone and looking at the number displayed. "Shit, it's Emily," she told him before pressing the button. "What's up?"

"Where are you?" Emily's voice came through loud and clear over the small phone.

"I'm at Christian's. What's going on?"

"You need to go to the police station. The cops broke up the fight. They arrested Jake and took Mike, Paul, Justin, Elliot, and Eric in for questioning. You have to go there and tell them Jake was harassing you."

"Okay, I'll ask Christian to take me," Shelby told her and then looked up at Christian. He nodded his acquiesce and she told her sister she'd meet her there and quickly hung up.

Not only were the aforementioned boys at the police station, but so was half of her graduating class. The defensive line who had stepped up against Jake with Eric were laughing and joking in the reception area when Shelby and Christian walked in, along with several eye witnesses who had seen the fight from the beginning and were there to defend the students.

When the people in the reception area saw her walk in, a loud cheer erupted. Shelby really wasn't sure why, but seconds later, her father appeared at the door and motioned for her to follow him. She gripped Christian's hand tightly and he nodded, agreeing to her silent plea, and walked out of the room with her.

"What's happening?" she asked her dad as he led them along the hallway in the back of the police station.

"Several people have already confirmed that Jake Morris approached you at the festival and harassed you. Your restraining order from before is still in affect, and because he violated it, plus violated his probation by drinking alcohol, he is being booked. The police just need you to write a report of the incident."

"What about the boys?" Shelby asked, squeezing Christian's hand as she did.

"They wrote up their accounts. There were so many people involved, the police don't really know who swung the first fist, so they can't adequately charge assault charges on anyone. The boys were brought in, but no charges will be filed, they're free to go."

Shelby let out a sigh. "Good."

It took about an hour to get everything situated at the police station. Most of the boys were still all hyped up over the excitement, but Shelby was exhausted. Her dad gave her a few minutes to say good-night to Christian and went to pull the car up to the front doors of the station.

"I'll pick you up tomorrow at noon so we can spend a few hours at the festival before you have to get ready for the dance," Christian whispered after pulling her into his arms.

She smiled against his shoulder. "Okay, sounds good. I can't believe all of this happened."

"I'm glad it did," Christian confessed. "I know he'll have to go in front of a judge and have him ultimately decide what his punishment will be for violating probation, but the cops seemed sure he'd get actual jail time out of it."

Shelby nodded against him, too tired to reply.

"There's your dad," he softly announced, and pulled open the door as her dad stopped in front of them. He helped Shelby into the car and then kissed her quickly on the lips before glancing at her father and then shutting the door.

Shelby went to sleep that night with a smile on her face and a warmth in her heart she had never felt before. Her dreams were filled with fluffy, gooey, romantic nonsense, and she woke the next morning with that same, dreamy smile on her sleepy face.

"Shelby?" her mother's voice called from the opened bedroom door.

Shelby opened her eyes and looked up at the distraught look on her mom's face. "Yeah?" she asked groggily as she pulled herself up to a sitting position.

"I need you to get dressed and come downstairs. There are reporters all over the front lawn."

"What? Why?" Shelby hoarsely yelped.

Her mother sighed. "The incident last night was seen by too many people. Your entire ordeal with Jake Morris has been leaked to the press, from your dating to the gun incident, to last night. The DA called this morning to warn us, and when your dad looked out the window, they were already arriving."

"What am I supposed to do?" she asked in a moan.

"Our lawyer is on his way here. We'll work it all out."

Needless to say, when Christian arrived at noon, the last thing on anyone's mind was the festival. He was attacked by reporters as soon as he pulled up in the driveway, and had to practically push them out of the way to get to the front door and bang on it until Mike opened it and let him in, sending a glare at the cameramen who tried to get pictures of the inside of the house.

Shelby sighed in relief when she saw him, and just having his presence near seemed to lighten her mood drastically. By two o'clock, everything was finally situated, and Shelby stepped out on her front porch and gave the reporters a detailed speech she had rehearsed a thousand times that day.

She told them everything. From her self-esteem issues and the belief that she couldn't get anyone better than nerds and mega-losers, to her frightening experience with Jake and a gun. She hadn't expected to tell the world so much, but once she started talking, she found all of her secrets and fears slipping right out of her mouth. She couldn't take it back now, some of the cameras were actually recording live, so she just remained as calm as she could, and let it all out.

Christian stood by her side the entire time, falling that little bit more in love with her as each word left her mouth. For so long, his obsession with her was mostly based off of his fantasy ideal of her, but the real Shelby Thornton was even greater than his dreams of her. She was every bit as beautiful as all the photographs he had seen of her, but the inside, her personality, that was one hundred times better than he had ever imagined.

Even after her speech was complete and she was whisked back inside her house, several reporters remained camped out in the front yard. Shelby was happily hugging Christian when Nicole appeared beside her and yanked her away. "Are you crazy? Do you have any idea what time it is? The dance is starting in an hour and look at you!"

Shelby gaped at her blonde sister. With everything going on, she had completely forgotten all about the Homecoming Dance. With one fleeting look at Christian, Shelby allowed Nicole to pull her up the stairs to get ready.

Their hair appointments had been missed, so Nicole had to do her best to do both her hair and Shelby's, but by the time she was finished, they both looked exquisite. Their dresses were carefully put on after their hair and make-up were perfect, and the two girls made their way downstairs.

Shelby was beyond shocked to see Christian waiting with Shane at the bottom of the staircase. "What are you doing here?" she asked in just over a whisper.

"You look beautiful," he told her before kissing her lightly on the lips.

"Thank you, but that didn't answer my question," she told him, humor now dancing in her eyes.

Christian smiled tenderly at her. "Well, with all the press outside, I arranged transportation a little differently. "The limo's outside. We're going to Claire's, where Eric, and Emily and Elliot will be waiting for us." He offered her his arm. "Are you ready?"

Shelby smiled and easily nestled into his side, her arm wrapped lovingly around his. "Very," she sighed, and the two couples soon left, giving the reporters a slight burst of energy, and many new pictures of the most famous of the Thornton sextuplets on the arm of a handsome, young man.

a/n: I'd just like to thank all of you who have reviewed once again. It is such a pleasure to hear that you are enjoying my little humorous tale. The next chapter should be the last, and I will probably be doing at least one sequel to this story with another sextuplet as the main character. I will more than likely not do one story per sextuplet, but I did like mia's idea of doing a couple of one-shots for some of the sextuplets, instead of long-drawn out stories, so I'll keep that in mind.