It was New Year’s Eve. We all had to work of course: me, Zach, Kate and the usual staff we went to the clubs with. Luckily, we close at 9:30, so we were out the door, all side work completed, by 9:45. Kate and I drove home, took turns in the shower, and then god dressed. I put on a pair of skinny, dark denim jeans, a white cami with a shimmery silver overlay, and a pair of low cut black boots. I blew my hair dry, curled it, put on makeup, a rarity for me, and waited. Jacob was picking me up.
Five minutes later the doorbell rang, I was at the door before it had finished it’s ding. He stood there in a pair of fitted black jeans, a white muscle tee with an Ed Harley graphic under his black leather jacket, and his broken-in motorcycle boots. As I let him in, his eyes grew wider and his nostrils flared a little bit. “You look amazing. You sure we can’t just stay here?”
I laughed, and said, “No way.” As I worked my way into his arms and pulled his head down to kiss me.
Kate has just come down the short hallway and into the living room. She was also wearing dark denim, but she had on a glittery gold tank and gold ballet flats. “Wow,” she said. “Did you guys call each other to coordinate your outfits? You match perfectly.”
“Synchronicity.” Jacob replied . “You want to ride with us?”
“No,” said Kate. “Phil is coming to pick me up.” Phil used to work at the brewery with us, but he quit a couple of weeks ago, having gotten his dream job as an accountant in a local law firm. He and Kate had dated on and off again. And it looked like it was back on.
“When did that start up again?” I asked.
“He called me last week and asked for a clean start. The last time I saw him was the night you paid a visit to the emergency room, and we sort of toyed with the idea that night.”
“Oh,” I said, “Well here’s hoping.”
“And if nothing else, I’ve got someone to kiss at midnight.” Kate said with a laugh.
Phil was a nice guy, steady and true. But Kate, for all of her commitment to our friendship, was skittish about serious relationships with the opposite sex. Her parents had been through a very nasty divorce, and she never really got over it. Phil was smart though, he knew better than to push Kate and who knew, maybe one of these times, she would actually stick it out with him for more than a few weeks.
Milo, Steve, Sarah, and Michelle were meeting us at Club Lulu. Jacob was handed me his jacket to wear for the ride over. I about swooned when I saw the way his arm and chest muscles pulled at the t-shirt fabric. I don’t think I had ever seen him in anything but long sleeves before. He caught me staring at his bicep, and I blushed. “Guess you like what you see?”
I blushed harder. “I knew you were ripped, but I had no idea you were that ripped.”
Jacob laughed, “It’s in the genes.” He said. Which make me look at his thighs.
“Yes, it is.” I said.
He laughed again. “Not those jeans.”
“Oh.” I laughed out loud and he held out his hand for me to take.
Just as we were heading out the door, Phil pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. “Hey Rowan.”
“Tell him not to come up, I’ll be right there.” Kate, who was right behind me, said.
“Hey Phil.” I said. “Kate’s right here, she’ll be right down.”
The three of us bounded down the stairs, and I introduced Jacob and Phil. We got in our respective car and truck, and drove over to Club Lulu. It was Steve’s pick. They were having a Tiki themed party, with plenty of Mai Tais and assorted other drinks on special. I didn’t care where we went, I was just happy I was with Jacob. It was the first time we were going clubbing together. I was looking forward to lots of physical contact on the dance floor.
Jacob was in the lead, and he found two spots in the back of the parking lot right next to each other. He slid the truck into the left one, and Phil parked alongside him on the right. I took off the jacket he had lent me, and handed it back to Jacob. He tossed it in the rear of the cab. I could feel the goosebumps on my skin and rubbed my hands up and down my arms while we half walked, half ran to the club entrance. Since it was already after ten, there was no line at the door, so we were able to pay the cover charges and go right in. Kate and I scanned the crowd until we saw Zach’s tall physique and his spiky blond hair. He saw us and waved us over. Kate led the way, with me right behind, followed by Jacob and Phil. As we sauntered over to the small table they were standing around, I saw Milo’s eyes widen and Steve’s chin drop. Sarah and Michelle both immediately stood straighter, thrust out their chests, and pouted their lips. They were all looking at Jacob as he came into full view.
Zach had noticed too, he turned to Jacob and said, “You sure know how to make an impact.”
“Hey everyone, this is Jacob,” I said. The color high in my cheeks, I could feel the heat of it.
Steve reached over with his hand and shook Jacob’s. “How do you know our Rowan?” He asked.
“Oh, we kept running into each other around town.” He said. “And I finally decided to say hi.”
“Wow,” said Sarah, “I wish that would happen to me.”
Milo just smiled and shook Jacob’s hand, “Nice to officially meet you.” Then he turned to Phil and patted him on the back, “Good to see you, man.”
Phil smiled back, “Same here, bro, same here.”
Michelle said, “What’s everyone drinking? Here comes one of the servers.”
Jacob came up behind me, and put an arm around my waist. He bend his head down to my ear, and asked, “What are you drinking, baby?”
I turned around to face him, as he circled his other arm about me, and held me. “I really want to get you out on to the dance floor, first.” I said.
“Whatever you want, boss.” He replied, released me, grabbed my hand and said out to Michelle, “I think we’ll pass for now.” He began leading me out onto the dance floor.
I head Zach say, “Well, there goes my dance partner.”
And someone else said, “Who the hell is that guy?” But I wasn’t sure if it was Milo, Steve, or Phil.
Jacob reached the floor, pushed his wait through several bodies until we found the middle of it, and swung me into his arms. I laced my hands around his neck and met his hips with mine. He leaned his face in and I reached mine up, until our lips met, and we kissed, as we swayed to the rhythm of the music. I felt completely filled up, and ready to explode, as heat rushed through every part of my body. I closed my eyes and just felt the bass beating into me, while I held on to Jacob and our bodies moved in unison. He slowly wound the kiss the down and released my lips and tongue. I leaned my head against his chest, and said a silent prayer of thanks for a song that could be fast or slow.
By the second song, Kate and Phil had made their way to us, and by the third the rest of our little crowd had followed. When the forth song, and one of our favorites came on, Zach asked Jacob, “Hey, can I still my old dance partner for this one?”
“Sure.” Jacob said. “I’ll go order us some beers.” I grabbed Zach’s hand, and said, “Don’t be jealous.” And gave him a teasing smile.
“Ugh, Rowan, I’m just not looking forward to finding another dance partner who doesn’t think they can straighten me out with enough gyrations.”
I laughed heartily on that one, “Oh baby, they would be a fool to think they could.” And I threw my arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I know your heart is true to your one true love. If things with Kate and Phil don’t work out, she could be in the running.”
Zach smiled and said. “Looks like you found yourself a good one.” We danced to a couple of songs, along with Steve, Milo, and Sarah. Phil, Kate, and Michelle had gone back to the table to grab a drink or two.
Steve asked Zach if he could cut in, and Zach handed me over. I put my hand on Steve’s shoulder and he put one on my waist. Zach, Milo, and Sarah left the floor for a drink, and Steve pivoted me around with his hand, pushing me further up the dance floor. We finished the dance and before the next one came on, he leaned down to me ear and said, “I need to tell you something.”
“Okay,” I said, not having any idea what he would want to tell me.
He grabbed my hand and led me off the dance floor and down the narrow hallway toward the bathrooms, and near the back exit door.
“Where are we going?” I asked him.
“I want you to be able to hear me.” He said.
I wasn’t sure going through the exit door was a good idea, so I stopped walking. He tugged on my hand, but I refused to budge. He swung around behind me and shoved me against the bar on the door, causing it to open. The next thing I knew I was outside in the freezing cold, and the door was shut behind me. I had my little silver purse slung across my body and was mentally scolding myself for not buying a mini bear spray can that would have fit in it. My big can was snuggly at home, dangling from a clip on my backpack. I looked around. We were in the back alley, with a few dumpsters every hundred feet and not much else. I looked down at my boots and wondered if I could outrun Steve to the front of the building. But I knew my boots were slick and I had a better chance of skidding and falling and doing some serious injury to myself than of actually making it there safely.
“Look Rowan, you don’t need to be afraid of me. I just really need to talk to you and I need you to hear me.”
“Okay, Steve,” I said, not believing him for one minute. He still had my hand in his and wasn’t letting go. He swung around and took my hand as well.
“What are you doing with that guy, Rowan? Who is he? Don’t you know, you’re supposed to be with me?”
“You’ve never said anything to me, Steve.” I said. Hoping logic might work, but not really thinking it would. “How was I supposed to know you were interested in me?”
“Who do you think sent you the roses? And the card on your car? I’ve been following you, watching you. You’re beautiful Rowan, and you belong to me.”
“What?” I said. “You’ve been stalking me? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Not stalking, Rowan, just following, just keeping tabs on you.”
“I hate to break it to you, Steve. But that’s pretty much the definition of a stalker.”
“No, Rowan, it’s not. I’m an admirer, not a stalker.”
As we were talking, he had been slowly pushing me backward and now I could feel the brick of the building, hard and cold against my back.
“ The other day, you told Gary, you know Gary, the customer at work, that you were in love. I thought you were in love with me. With your secret admirer. Wasn’t it romantic enough for you? I was going to tell you weeks ago, but I needed you relaxed, so I spiked your drink with valium, but I put too much in, and well, now I’m out of time. Tell me you’ll get rid of him. Get rid of that guy Jacob. He doesn’t know you. He doesn’t own you. You’ve only known him a little while. I’ve known you for a whole year. Doesn’t that count for something?”
“Sorry Steve, but no. I’m with Jacob now.”
Then he yelled in face, “No! Take it back! You’re not with him. He’s not good enough for you. You belong to me.” And he shoved me hard against the wall and I heard my head crack against it. I slipped down the wall and held my head in my hands.
“Stop it, Steve. This isn’t helping your case.”
He grabbed me and stood me up again. He moved in close and fast, pinning my legs between his and holding my wrists against the wall. He moved his mouth in close to mine and put the moved his hands from my wrists to my throat and started squeezing. My hands went up to grab his arms, but I couldn’t get his hands off of my neck. I knew I was going to black out, I couldn’t speak
Steve said, “You’re mine or you’re no one’s.”
That’s when I heard the door burst open, I saw a streak of black and white, and the next thing I knew, Steve was on the ground with blood gushing out of his nose, and mouth. Jacob was standing over him. He picked him up, held him over his head, and threw him against the dumpster. Steve’s head lulled back and his body slipped down to the ground.
“God Jacob, stop, you’re going to kill him.” I yelled.
He stood up and turned slowly toward me. Then he was suddenly there, right next to me, my face cupped gently between his two large brown hands. “Are you okay, Rowan?”
“I’m okay, I’m okay. “ I said. “Just totally freaked out.”
We both heard a scraping against the pavement and heard a grown. Jacob walked back over to Steve and leaned down in his face. “If you ever touch her again, if you even look in her direction, I will kill you, do you understand? You are quiting the job at the brewery, leaving this great state of Tacoma, and never coming back. If I ever see you anywhere near here again, I will hunt you down and kill you. Then I will dismantle your body and make sure it is never ever found. Do you understand me?”
Steve nodded his head. I could see a stain spread in the crotch of his pants. And I knew he would follow the directions Jacob had just given him. I stood there, shaking against the wall. I had never seen this side of Jacob before and I didn’t know what to think. I never wanted to see that side turned against me. The weird thing was, he was totally calm, the whole time, he seemed relaxed. He wasn’t red in the face, or sweating profusely, nothing. I stared at the back of Jacob. I didn’t know what to think. I mean, Steve was strangling me, and could have killed me, and Jacob could have killed him.
Jacob picked him up off the ground. “You have 24 hours to get out of town. That’s it.”
Steve, who I was amazed could actually stand on two feet, skittered away to the parking lot.
I slid down the wall and started to cry. “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.”
Jacob crouched down next to me. “Rowan, Rowan?” He said. “I’m sorry you had to see that. I’m sorry, I was afraid he was going to kill you. I’m not going to hurt you. I swear.”
“You were so fast and so fierce.” I said. “I don’t understand it. It’s like you are trained fighter.”
“I have to take you to Forks, Rowan. I can explain it there. I promise. Not here, not now. You just need to know that I will never ever hurt you. Can you trust me?”
I looked up at him, looked through my overflowing eyes and saw the intensity of his promise in his dark chocolate eyes.
“I can trust you.” I said.
He reached out and scooped me up into his arms I clung to him. I was a shaky mess and tears were still streaking down my cheeks. He felt warm and safe.
“I want to go home.” I said.
“I’ll text Kate and let her know we’re leaving when we get to the truck.”
He walked with me in his arms to the truck, placed me in the passenger seat and locked and closed the door. He got out his phone, texted Kate to say that Steve took off, and he and I were going home. He opened the driver’s door, grabbed his jacket out of the back of the cab, and handed it to me. “Please put this on.”
I took it, and slowly, shakily put my arms through the sleeves. He climbed in the driver’s seat, started the engine and turned on the heat. “We’re stopping for a cola for you on the way back. You should probably eat something, too.”
“I think I might be sick if I eat.” I said.
“We’ll do fast food Chinese. Wonton soup. Trust me.”
“I trust you Jacob. You probably just saved my life.” And I burst into tears again. “God, I need to stop this.”
“You’re in shock, Rowan, you’ve just had someone try to strangle you to death, and then you watched your boyfriend beat the shit out of someone. It’s been a pretty traumatic night.”
Through the tears I started laughing, as Jacob backed out of the parking spot, and headed out to the street. I closed my eyes and rested my head against his shoulder, while he navigated the roads, went through the drive-thru of the Chinese takeout chain, and finally ended up in the driveway of my apartment. He parked the car and turned the car off. “Can you walk, or do you need me to carry you?”
“I think I can walk.” I said.
He got out of the truck, came around my side, opened the door, unbuckled my seatbelt, and helped me out. I stood on shaky legs, but I could do it. He grabbed the Chinese food bag with one hand, and grabbed me under the armpit with the other, shut the door and walked me up to my apartment. When we got inside, he sat me at the kitchen table, turned on all the lights, and began to set out the food. “Give me your foot.”
I swung my left foot out to him. He unzipped my boot and took it off, then I swung my right foot out to him, and he unzipped my other boot, and placed them both against the wall. He washed his hands, grabbed some silverware and napkins and sat next to me, coaxing me to drink some cola and eat some bites of food. The more I ate and drank, the better I felt. I could feel my body and mind start to relax and the shaking begane to subside.
“So much for a happy new year.” Jacob said.
“Well,” I said. “We might have missed the midnight kiss, but I’m alive, and you’re alive, and we’re here together.”
“Yes, we are.” He replied.