I'm posting the first nine chapters that SweetestReject wrote of this story before I add my additions. And YES I have permission from her to continue. If you don't like it, TOO BAD!

Disclaimer: I own nothing. It's all Meg's. However, if she is willing to share Rob with me for just ONE night...I swear, I'm of age!!! Just kidding...

CHAPPIE ONE

What does a guy have to do to have a peaceful lunch hour? It's the only time I have to think and not look like a slacker in class, and I'm pretty sure Mastriani knows that. That would be why she insists on getting into fights on a daily basis.

One second, I'm sitting there, reading peacefully, and the next Jeff Day is moving backwards after getting hit by Mastriani. I don't see what the big deal is; she can't possibly be that strong. Jeff's just weak. There's no way a girl who's just barely over five feet can do that much damage to a dimwitted six-foot tackle. But whatever.

After Mastriani slugged Day, Coach Albright led her out of the Cafe, probably to Mr. Goodhart's office. Everyone started talking about it, and I noticed this one girl standing around, looking kind of guilty about the fight. I shrugged it off and kept reading until the bell rang.

The rest of the day was boring, except for detention. Detention is always more bearable that the rest of the day, mostly because Mastriani's usually in there. One of these days, I will work up the nerve to ask her out. I'm sure my probation officer wouldn't mind too much- she's 18, after all

After detention, I saw Mastriani walking with the guilty-looking girl from the cafeteria. Ok, Rob, just ride up to her, ask if she wants a ride. No sane girl would resist a ride home when a thunderstorm is moving in.

"Mastriani," I said, throwing my foot onto the curb to steady the cherried-out Indian I rode, "Want a ride?"

I could tell she was having a hard time resisting. Her brown eyes roved over my bike, and then over me, before she said, "No, thanks. We're walking."

You're a moron. I thought, looking up at the sky. "It's gonna pour." Maybe she just doesn't want to leave her friend hanging in the rain?

"We're walking." Mastriani said, cocking her head towards her friend. Ok, so it was the friend. You're an idiot, Rob!

I shrugged and said, "You're funeral." Then drove off. I glanced back to see that both had stopped walking, and Jess's friend seemed to furious at her for even thinking about accepting a ride from a grit like me. I grinned as I heard Mastriani say that she probably would have accepted my offer if her friend hadn't been there.

The day just got better. Despite the rain that started pouring about 2 minutes later. Lightning struck a couple minutes after the hail started to fall, and I thought about Mastriani for a minute. I hoped she had the sense to not take cover under the metal bleachers of the school.

CHAPPIE TWO

I got to work only a little soaked. Bits of hail worked their way in between my shirt and skin, and I shook it out before I started to work on the nearest car. A few hours later, Gary closed the place down and I rode home, idling a little at the top of Mastriani's street. Get over yourself, Rob. There's no way she's interested.

The next day went by in a blur. For once, I couldn't wait to get to detention. This was supposed to be my last day, but in first period I'd ensured another week or so, just by sitting there mostly, and smarting off to the teacher. I sat down in my usual spot and observed the rest of the JDs. I glanced down to where Mastriani usually sat and didn't see her. There's no way she could be done with detention- the girl's stuck in the auditorium until the end of the year. She's too smart to be skipping out, but you never know.

I started reading until I saw her start walking towards the last row of seats- coincidentally, the row I sat in. Some of the guys were being jerks, but Mastriani took care of them with kicks to the shins. I grabbed my leather jacket- the one and only thing my father ever gave me that was worth a damn- and got up as Mastriani sat down between Wendell and me. I know I was staring as she rearranged her stuff, but I didn't care.

Say something witty! I thought.

"Welcome to hell." I said. Not the best, but pretty good. And it earned me a smile.

I saw Wylie, this guy on my other side, grab his crotch when Jess smiled. That just pisses me off, when guys are like that. I turned and said, "You're dead, Wylie."

Before I could make good on that promise, Miss Clemmings told us to be quiet, or we'd extra detention. I really wouldn't mind extra, but I shut up anyway.

Jess pulled out a notebook and math book while I pretended to watch the play rehearsal. Just say something, I thought. Or don't say it, write it.

I took Mastriani's notebook and pen from her before she had time to really notice. I glanced over her geometry homework, nodded, and flipped to a clean page.

So, did you get caught in the rain yesterday? I wrote, and passed it to her.

For a moment, Jess looked like she didn't know if she should write back or not. She looked at Miss Clemmings, who was watching some chick in a trash can, and then wrote back. Yes.

It may not have been much, but it still made something weird happen to me.

I wrote back: Told you so. Why don't you ditch the fat girl and come for a ride with me after this? Then passed it to her, watching her reaction.

Shock and a little anger passed over her face as Mastriani wrote furiously. Are you mentally impaired or something? That fat girl happens to be my best friend.

Great, Rob. You are about to lose her before you get her Jesus, sorry. I had no idea you were so sensitive. I wrote. Let me rephrase. Why do you tell your gravitationally challenged friend to take a hike, and come for a ride with me after this? I passed her the book and grinned. A grin she missed.

It's Friday night, you loser. Ouch! What do you think, I don't already have plans? I happen to have a boyfriend, you know. I read carefully. Something in her eyes told me Mastriani didn't have a boyfriend, but I faked it. To get her back, I wrote, Yeah? Well, I bet your boyfriend isn't rebuilding a '64 Harley in his barn. Take that!

I saw the slightest shake in Jess's fingers as she wrote back. My boyfriend doesn't have a barn. His dad is a lawyer.

I bit back a laugh. If she was going to lie, she would make it good. So? Dump him. Come for a ride.

As I was passing the notebook back to Mastriani, I heard Wendell whisper, "Wylie. Wylie?" and saw him lean over Jess.

On my other side, Wylie went, "Suck on this, Wendell." and leaned over me.

Jess had had enough, I guess. "Both of you, shut the hell up before Clemmings looks over here." She hissed. Probably didn't want to get in trouble.

Wendell threw this paper football thing he'd been working on at Wylie, and before it could hit, I reached out and grabbed it. Ew, spit! I thought, dropping the wet paper. That's sick. Even as a guy (who's done some pretty gross stuff), that's sick.

I put on my most dangerous-sounding voice and said, "You heard the lady. Knock it off."

Jess wrote back, Ok. One condition.

No conditions. I wrote back, underlining it heavily.

Mastriani started writing big block letters. Guess she wanted me to get the point. Then I can't go.

I sighed, threw her an annoyed look, and wrote back, All right. What?

An hour later, we were headed to Paoli.

CHAPPIE THREE

I couldn't wait to escape the city limits. I'm a safe driver and all, but I love to go really fast on my bike. I handed Mastriani my spare helmet, and helped her onto the Indian. Soon enough, Jess's arms were wrapped around me so tightly I could barely breathe...In a good way, of course.

Mastriani guided me to what I could only assume was her boyfriend's place. I pulled over to the curb, and killed the engine. We were in front of a tiny brick house with crabgrass in the lawn, the blinds drawn down, and no numbers anywhere.

"Well, this the boyfriend's place, then?" I said after awhile. Jess shushed me. She was watching some kid who was walking towards us, coming home from school, obviously. Jess pulled off the helmet, watching the kid enter the lawn of the house we were in front of.

Suddenly, Jess got off the bike, crossed the street, and called out to the kid. "Sean."

The kid turned and got very white. His bright red hair was hidden beneith a Yankees hat, and a million freckles stood out against his white skin. Blue eyes glared at Jess, then at me.

Hey, don't shoot the driver!

"I don't know what you're talking about." The kid said, fear showing through.

"Oh, yeah?" Jess said. "You're name's not Sean?" So she got the wrong person. Big deal.

"No." Not-Sean said. "My name's Sam."

Jess shook her head. "No, it isn't. Your name's Sean Patrick O'Hanahan. It's okay, Sean. You can trust me. I'm here to help you. I'm here to get you home."

By this time, Jess was getting a little scary. Maybe the storm messed with her or something.

Sean/Sam dropped his things, and turned whiter. I could tell he was probably shaking badly. Then he rushed Jess. He grabbed her by the wrist, and hissed, "Don't you tell anyone. Don't you ever tell anyone you saw me, understand?"

Then he continued in a whisper: "I am not Sean Patrick O'Hanahan. So you can just go away, do you hear? You can just go away. And don't ever come back."

I was about to get off the bike and come help Jess, but at that moment the door of the tiny brick house opened, and Sean/Sam's mom, called out sharply, "Sam!"

The kid let go, calling back, "Coming." He threw out another furious fear-filled look to Jess and ran inside, slamming the door.

Well, that was a little weird.

Mastriani stood there, staring at the house, probably in shock. After a little bit, I took off my helmet and said, "Kid's a little young for you, don't you think?"

Jess turned, still in a daze. She looked like she wanted to say something, but for whatever reason, didn't. Or couldn't.

"Takes all kinds, I guess." I continued. "Still, I didn't have you pegged for having a Boy Scout fixation." I wanted to wipe that dazed look away, make her laugh. Nothing.

"Well, we can stand around out here all night, if you want too. But the smell of those burgers is making me hungry. What do you say we go try to find some of our own?" I asked. Maybe she'd feel better with food in her stomach.

Jess gave the house one last glance before accepting the helmet and getting on the bike. "Ready." She said, and I hit the gas.

Normally, I don't take girls to Chick's, unless I'm sure they can handle it, or that they'll be around for awhile. I'm pretty sure Jess fit both categories.

So, after we pulled into a space and walked in, I introduced Jess to a few people. We ordered, then I saw her go make a phone call. She was still talking when our burgers were ready, so I yelled her name and waited for her to hang up.

Everyone squeezed into a couple booths while we all ate. Since I'd only brought one girl here before, and she was nothing like Jess, no one really knew how to react to Mastriani. Jimmy asked me at one point where'd I'd gotten Jess.

She replied before I could with, "The girlfriend store."

Girlfriend? Hmm...Well...Sounds good to me.

Almost everyone laughed at that. We left awhile later. I thought it was a little weird for Jess to have me drop her off at her street corner, but whatever. Maybe her parents just aren't into motorcycles.

As I dropped her off, I cut the engine and put the spare helmet away. Before she could walk away, I grabbed her wrist and pulled her into me. Jess looked a little apprehensive, but I leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips.

Then I drove off. I figured if we were going to do something next weekend, I could talk to her about it later.

CHAPPIE FOUR

"So, Rob, how'd the rest of your night go?" I heard Chick yell the next morning as I walked in for a cup of coffee before I had to go to work. I grinned, remembering the feel of Jess's lips on mine.

"It was good." I said, knowing how they'd react if I said anymore. "One cup of coffee to go, please." I added, pulling out my wallet.

Chick went about getting me coffee and I tried not to fall asleep on the table.

"Late night, I take it?" I heard Wylie say as he plopped down in a stool on my left.

"Out with Mastriani? Yeah, Wylie, it was real late. How late can sixteen-year-olds stay out again?" Wendell added, leaning against the bar on my right.

"Boys, you don't know a-" I paused, as the information Wendell had leaked filled my brain. SIXTEEN?

"Did- did you say sixteen?" I asked, swallowing. Why had my mouth gone suddenly dry? There was no way Jess was sixteen. I mean, yeah she was short, but so what? That didn't mean anything. She was a junior, right?

"Yeah, man." Wylie said, a sick grin covering his face. "Probably should have checked with the old ball and chain before tappin' that ass."

I couldn't help it. No one talks about Jess- or any woman- like that. I got up and decked him.

And, man, was it beautiful. Wylie's punk ass went flying off his chair, and right into the back of a booth. Thankfully, no one was in the booth.

"What year is she in school?" I asked Wendell, sitting down like nothing had happened. Chick handed me my coffee and I paid, waiting for my answer.

"Sophomore, I think." Wendell said, edging away. I heard Wylie get up behind me. I just nodded and walked out the door.

I slugged the coffee and got on my bike and drove off. I was determined to not think about Jess. There was no way we could be together, not until she turned seventeen, or I was off probation.

Later that night, I sat in my room, listening to "All That I've Got" by The Used. My determination was all but broken.

So deep that it didn't even bleed and catch me

Off guard, red handed

Now I'm far from lonely

Asleep I still see you lying next to me

So deep that it didn't even bleed and catch me I..

I need something else

Would someone please just give me

Hit me, knock me out

And let me go back to sleep

I can laugh

All I want inside I still am empty

So deep that it didn't even bleed and catch me I...

I'll be just fine

Pretending I'm not

I'm far from lonely

And it's all that I've got

I'll be just fine

Pretending I'm not

I'm far from lonely

And it's all that I've got

I guess, I remember every glance you shot me

Unharmed, I'm losing weight and some body heat

I squeeze so hard

I stopped your heart from beating

So deep that I didn't even scream f me, I..

I'll be just fine

Pretending I'm not

I'm far from lonely

And it's all that I've got

I'll be just fine

Pretending I'm not

I'm far from lonely

And it's all that I've got

And it's all that I've got

Yeah, it's all that I've got

It's all that I've got

It's all that I've got

It's all that I've got!

So deep that it didn't even bleed and catch me

So deep that I didn't even scream f me

I'll be just fine

Pretending I'm not

I'm far from lonely

And it's all that I've got

I'll be just fine

Pretending I'm not

I'm far from lonely

And it's all that I've got

And it's all that I've got

Yeah, it's all that I've got

"Dammit, GET HER OUT OF YOUR HEAD!" I cursed to myself.

"Why?" I spun around and saw Jess standing near my closet. Or, what looked like Jess.

Let me tell you, I don't use drugs, so I was really freaked.

"Um, what?" Yeah, such a great response.

"Why should I get out of your head?" Jess asked, her hands on her hips. "It's pretty interesting in there, actually. More fun than real life."

"But I can't keep thinking about you." I said. I can't believe I'm going to argue with a mirage. "I mean, it won't work out between you and me. I'm eighteen, you're sixteen, and I'm on prob- well, nevermind, what I'm on, but it just won't work."

But Jess just smiled and disappeared.

Oh boy. This is going to be a fun weekend...

Monday morning at school, I didn't see Jess at first. Of course, I didn't know if I wanted too (Well, I did, but I didn't. You get what I'm saying.)

Anyway, it was lunch before I saw her with her friends. I ducked out of the cafeteria before she could see me.

I figured I could go all day without seeing her. Until I remembered detention.

Detention featuring Jess.

Well, hell.

CHAPPIE FIVE

Detention. Usually something I look forward too, although I'm not entirely sure why. For a while, it was because it was MY time. I didn't have to do anything, I could just sit and stare off blankly. Then (Well, Ok, NOW. There, happy?) the reason I looked forward to detention was Jess.

No. I'll read. Get my mind off Jess.

Things were going...Not great, but not horrible. I mean, I was thinking about Jess because she was right next to me, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I managed to focus on a couple pages of my book.

"Hey, Mastriani, what's this I hear about Wilkins slipping you the sausage last Friday?"

Until Wendell had to go and open his big mouth. I shoulda decked him when I decked Wylie...

Well, looks like Jess had the decking-thing down. I thought. Then I saw Wendell going to hit her back. And that's something that pisses me off more than trash-talking woman. No decent man should hit a woman. Ever.

So I shot my hand out and twisted his arm up. "I thought we agreed you were going to leave her alone." I said, leaning over Jess. Oh great. This position's gonna help things. I thought, noticing exactly where my belt buckle was.

"Have you been going around telling people we had sex?" Jess demanded. I glanced down and saw she'd twisted her head around to stare- uh, make that glare- at me. Her tone had that clear-cut 'I'm a woman, but I'll still kick your ass' ring to it.

"What's happening back there?" Miss Clemmings asked, trying to sound intimidating. "Mr. Wilkins, release Mr. Wendell and sit down at once!"

Well goddamn, I'm pissed off now. "Jesus, Wilkins, you're breaking my goddamned arm!" Wendell said. I guess Jess did some damage, he sounded a little hoarse.

"I'll snap it off if you don't leave her alone." I said, all scary and tough. Show Jess that I can be protective... Wait, why do I want to do that? I CAN'T BE WITH HER!

You're an idiot, Wilkins.

"Jesus, all right." I let him go and we both sat down. Well, I sat down, and Wendell kind of collapsed. Wuss.

I vaguely heard Miss Clemmings say something. I was too busy trying to read, I guess. Cool my head off.

"What did he mean?" Jess hissed a second later. "What was he talking about?"

Think quick! "Nothing." Oh yeah, really good answer there. "He's an asshole. Just cool it, will you?" Because your anger is having a weird affect on me.

"No, I will not cool it!" She hissed. "I want to know what he was talking about. What the hell is going on? Did you tell your friends we did it?"

Well, damn. I looked up from my book and said, "First of all, Wendell is not my friend."

"You got that right." Wendell grunted. Baby. I went on like he hadn't spoken. "Secondly, I didn't tell anybody anything about you, okay? So just calm down." Oh, nice save...

"Look, I don't know what's going on here. But if I find out you've been telling people stuff about me behind my back, I will pound you. Understand?"

I smiled a true smile at the thought of her pounding on me. I didn't want to, but come on...It's the thought of a five foot two girl pounding on a guy who's six foot. Kind of amusing. "You're going to pound me?" I said, amused.

"Don't, man." Wendell said, warning me or something, I guess. "She hits really hard, for a girl."

"Yeah." Jess said triumphantly. "So you better watch it."

I was going to say something like, "Yeah, okay, I'll watch it." and act afraid, but I didn't for two reasons.

One, Miss Clemmings shushed us.

And two, I didn't really want to make Jess any madder. My goal is to be able to date her someday, but it's not looking like today. I just buried my head in my book, hoping for distraction and not getting any.

After detention, I saw Jess walking home alone. I rode up next to her and said, "Jess, come on." Trying to make up for detention.

She wouldn't- or couldn't- look at me. "Get lost." She said. Ouch. Sounded like she meant it.

Too bad for her, I don't give up easily.

"What are you going to do, walk all the way home? Come on, I'll give you a ride." I pleaded. God, I hope I don't sound desperate...

"F you and your ride." Jess said. Damn, didn't realize she was that pissed. I totally and completely screwed up here...

"Look, I'm sorry." I said, completely sincere. "I made a mistake, all right?"

"You better believe it." She said. I had to explain, fast.

"I just thought you were older, okay?"

Jess stopped dead in her tracks, and turned to stare at me. "What do you mean, you thought I was older?" She demanded.

Well, hell... "I didn't know you were only sixteen, okay? I mean, you don't act like a sixteen-year-old. You seem a lot more mature." I said, then grinned. "Well, except for the whole punching-guys-who-are-a-lot-bigger-than-you-are thing."

Jess looked confused. "What the hell does it matter how old I am?"

She doesn't know you're eighteen, dingbat. Or on probation...

"It matters." I said flatly.

"I don't see why." Jess said defiantly.

"It just does." I'm not budging. She'll figure it out, right?

"I still don't see why."

"Because I'm eighteen." I stared at the ground for the next part. "And I'm on probation."

And then I waited. For the yelling, the ranting, the oh-my-god's. They never came.

"What'd you do?" Jess asked. Say what!

"Nothing." I said quickly. We're not opening that can of worms. No way, no how. Jess would want to try it. And she'd probably succeed.

Jess and I were momentarily distracted by Miss Clemmings' honking her horn. "No, seriously. What'd you do?" Jess said. Nothing can distract her for long.

"Look, it was stupid, all right?" I said.

"I want to know."

"Well, I'm not going to tell you, so you'd better just forget about it." And, just in case she wants to date still, I continued, "So, I don't think it's such a good idea. Us going out, I mean."

Just then, the lightbulb known as my brain clicked on. "Unless...When's your birthday?"

Please say soon, please say soon...

"Just had it last month." She said, dismayed.

F!

For once, I spoke my mind.

Jess went, "Look, I don't care that you're on probation."

"Yeah, but your parents will." I retorted.

"No, they're cool." Jess said, trying to play it off.

Uh huh. "Right, Jess." I said, laughing. "That's why you made me drop you off at the end of the street the other night, instead of in front of your house. Because your parents are so cool. They're so cool, you didn't want them to know anything about me. And you didn't even know about the probation thing then. Admit it."

I had her. I hated it, but I had her. "Well," Jess started to explain. "They're just going through sort of a hard time right now, and I don't want to cause them any more stress. But look, there's no reason they have to know." Stubborn as a mule, I say...

"Word gets around, Jess. Look at Wendell." Ooh, bad reference, since that kind of was my fault..."It's only a matter of time before your parents- and my probation officer- get wind of what's going on."

Jess just shrugged and said, "Whatever." Then turned and started walking.

I can't leave her like that, she'll kill me if we ever do date...

"Mastriani," Use the last name, distance your emotions... "Look, just get on the bike, will ya? I'll take you home. Or to your street corner, I guess." I said, tired suddenly.

"I don't know," Jess said, sarcasm flinging off her tongue as she batted her eyelashes. "I mean, Miss Clemmings already saw us together. Supposing she goes running to the cops-"

Now, I'm annoyed. "Just get on the bike, Mastriani."

And then I drove her home. I resisted kissing her cheek and then went to work. I dropped a wrench on my hand a couple times and then Gary told me to go home early since I was spaced out.

The next day, I didn't see Jess at all. I heard rumors going around that two FBI guys had escorted her off school property. Then I heard it hadn't been two, it'd been three, and she'd been drug off, kicking and screaming. Around lunch, I was hearing a new story: that she'd been taken to Crane Military Base for questioning a few kidnappings and a murder, but that she hadn't gone willingly and was arrested.

Personally, I think that's all a bunch of BS. I went on with the rest of my day like everything was normal. Until I saw the afternoon paper.

Featuring a blown up yearbook picture of Jess underneath a headline reading, "Touched By The Finger Of God."

Followed by a story saying Jess was psychic because she got struck by lightning and has now found all of these missing kids.

Now I understood why she hadn't come to school. I wouldn't have, either, if it had been me.

So now I understand that trip to Paoli. But one thing I didn't understand: Why didn't she tell me?

Maybe Jess was scared I'd send her to a shrink. Or freak out and ignore her. Or tell the whole school or something like that.

I should ask her about that.

CHAPPIE SIX

A/N: This isn't SweetestReject, this is Edward-guru. I'm aware of what Rob was actually put on probation for, but when this chapter was written, Missing You was not out yet. Because of that and the fact that I like this one better, I'm going to leave it and change the fifth book a bit when the time comes. Sorry for the interruption.

I decided to take a ride out to Jess's house. But I couldn't get myself to actually drive to her place, so I just drove around until five or so, when I had to meet Mike Smith, my probation officer.

Now, I'm going to let you all in on a secret. Just don't tell Jess you know, or what you know, or else.

Ok, I'm somewhat of a computer geek. A computer geek who can still work on bikes and cars, and all that mechanical stuff. Don't ask me how it happened, but it did. I'm not going to college though, mostly because I have no interest, and I'm broke.

So, anyway, this computer geek realized he was failing a few classes. Just enough to where he'd be forced to quit his job by his mother (She may appear nice and innocent, but grades are her weakness.), and there was no way that could happen.

So I hacked into the school's computers, and changed a few grades. I was in and out in a few minutes.

Of course, who knew our school had video cameras everywhere? Certainly not me.

Well, the school was mild and just put me on a year or so of detention and probation.

"So, Rob, how are things?" Mike asked, pulling out a small yellow legalpad. We were seated in a small booth at Denny's with two glasses of water. Same old routine...

I shrugged. :"Good, I guess."

"Still working at your uncle's motorcycle shop?"

"Yes, sir."

"Still in school?"

"Yes, sir." blah, blah, blah...

"Dating anyone?" I nearly choked on my water. "Um, what!"

"I said, are you dating anyone?" Mike's gaze bore into me through his wire-rimmed glasses.

"No. No, sir." I said quickly. Hopefully, not too quickly.

Mike made a few notes, and then said, "Been staying away from alcohol and drugs?"

"Yes, sir. I've always stayed away from that stuff." I said, trying to make up for the earlier question.

"Any plans for college?"

"Still no, sir." I said sincerely, sipping my water again. "I'm just not interested."

"Rob, with your computer skills," Aye, don't remind me! "You could very well be another Bill Gates." Mike said, his tone serious.

"I know, I know. But-"

"And then you can work on bikes all day long." Mike continued, ignoring me. "And make a ton of money, get out of this podunk town."

"Mike, as great as that sounds-"

"Well, then why not do it?"

"One thing, Mike: No Money." I stated simply. "College- any college- costs money. Money I don't have. Money I'm trying to save up to help Mom."

"Rob, you can get loans-"

My turn to interrupt, buddy. "Yeah, I know there are loans and such, but then I'd have to pay back those loans. And there's no chance I'd be the next Bill Gates, as you say." I said, standing up. "Now, are we done?"

Mike looked dismayed. "Yeah, I guess. Same everything next month?"

"Yeah, sure." I started towards the door.

"Rob?"

I turned to face my probation officer. "Yeah?"

"Just think about it, okay?" Mike looked hopefully at me. What's the harm in thinking? Keeps my mind off Jess, anyways.

"Yeah, alright." And then I left.

Later that night, I was listening to Unwritten Law and contemplating my life and what to do with Jess. I figured I'd call her and let her know that she doesn't have to hide from me.

I picked up the extension in my room and dialed. First, there was nothing, then an electronic voice came on.

"We're sorry, but the number you've dialed has been disconnected or is no longer in service. Please check your number and try again."

So I checked my number. 555-0484. I tried again. Still the same message. Which means her parents probably disconnected the line because of the paper.

Well, damn.

So I got back on my bike and rode to her street corner. Her blocked-off street corner. Apparently, the reporters got to be way too much and the police will only let residents on to the street.

So I drove home. And I slept.

CHAPPIE SEVEN

The next morning, I actually hurried to get to school. I wanted (okay, okay, NEEDED.) to see Jess. I had to know more about her psychic gift and all that. I didn't get a chance to talk to her until after lunch when I decided to just stand by her locker. Eventually, she to stop there and get her stuff.

Her friend- Ruth, I'd heard was her name- was walking with her. Ruth saw me before Jess did, and in turn, elbowed Jess and pointed at me. Ruth walked away, and Jess kept coming towards me.

"Hey." I said.

"Hey." she said back, completely cool.

"So, were you ever going to tell me?" Just cut straight to the chase.

"Actually, I wasn't planning on telling anyone." Hmm...Makes sense, I suppose.

"That's what I figured. And the kid?"

"What kid?" Oh yeah, Jess, play dumb.

"The kid in Paoli. That was the first one?"

"Yep." And all of a sudden, Jess's eyes looked shiny, and kind of wet. Was she crying?

"You could have told me." I said. Please don't cry!

"I could have." Jess said, pulling out her geometry book. "Would you have believed me?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I would have." and I would have too. Jess isn't the type to make up something, just to get attention.

And, suddenly, she was gone, saying, "Well, I gotta go." and slamming her locker door shut. No! I wanted to tell her about everything I'd heard.

"Jess?" I called out. She looked.

"I heard. About the kid. Sean." I said. Before she could say or do anything, I went on. "It wasn't your fault, Jess. The way he acted that day, outside his house...well, I thought there was something weird going on with him, too." Deep breath. "You couldn't have known. That's all."

Then I nodded, and smiled at her. "You did the right thing."

Jess just shook her head. And that shiny, wet look her eyes had suddenly intensified, as she said, "No, I didn't

I didn't see Jess the rest of the day. Or at all the next. I heard around school her brother Douglas had been 'badly affected by all the turmoil surrounding Jess's gift from God', as Karen Sue Hankey said, and that Jess 'had done the right thing in joining the Government at Crane Military Base.'

No wonder that girl isn't well liked by anyone her own age.

I sunk into normal everyday life after Jess left. But it wasn't the same. Things were dull, routine.

Until that first kid, Sean, went missing.

Again.

What? You think a Grit like me doesn't watch CNN?

And I got this feeling, like Jess was going to do something stupid once she found out.

Because, of course, she'd find out.

CHAPPIE EIGHT

(Please note, I'm moving up to right as Jess is calling him, at the end of Chapter 18 in the book.)

Ring, Ring!

Ugh. I was sleeping. Who's calling me at- Whoa, it's 10? When did I start sleeping before midnight again?

Ring, Ring!

"All right, all right, I'm coming." I sat up and grabbed the phone. "Hullo?"

"Rob?"

JESS? Just keep your cool, Rob.

"Yeah. Jess?"

"Yeah." And then she went quite. Her voice sounded hoarse, like she'd been crying. But that can't be it, because Jess never cries.

"So, how's it going?" I asked.

"It sucks, actually." Jess said. Then she proceeded to fill me in on everything that happened that day.

"And now, Sean has to be taken back to his Dad, who's like a meaner version of Darth Vader, and I'm a stupid dolphin for the stupid freaking FBI and it freaking sucks." She finished, only using far more colorful words than 'freaking'.

"Jess, just breath." I said, before she interrupted again.

"Rob, I'm scared." She said. Why do I get the feeling I'm the only one to ever hear those words from her lips? "I need you to help Sean get out of here, please?"

"Is Sean the only one you want out of there?"

"Well, no, I want out too, but Sean comes first."

"Jess, if you want out, then you're getting out." and then I hung up.

"If I'm going to break into a military base, I'm going to need reinforcements." I said aloud. "Better call in the best."

So I drove to Chick's and found Wendell, Wylie, Frankie, Jimmy, Chick, and a few other guys who, after hearing the story, were more than willing to help break out a twelve year old and a psychic.

A little after midnight, we pulled into the empty parking lot of the base. "Where the hell is she?" roared Chick, over the thunder of bikes.

I looked around frantically, trying to see a glimpse of Jess. "ROB!" I heard faintly, and looked in the direction of the voice.

Where I saw Jess through a basement window, her arms waving through a metal grate. I drove towards her. Once I reached the grass, I stopped, and ran towards her.

"Hey, you okay?" I asked.

Jess nodded.

Now, I'd like to think my next actions were just in the heat of the moment. I reached through the bars, wrapped my fingers around her shirt, and pulled Jess into me.

And then I kissed her like never before.

I swear, I didn't mean to. It just happened.

And it was perfect. I knew right then and there that I couldn't stay away from her. I'm pretty sure I love her.

And that's not good.

"Sorry." Sorry? I had to apologize for loving her? Well, hell.

"That's okay." Jess looked like it was more than okay, if you get what I'm saying. "You sure you don't mind doing this?" she asked.

"Piece of cake." I said, sounding all confident. I heard Sean ask who I was, and Jess replied, "Rob Wilkins." In a hazy, happy voice.

Which pissed off the kid, because he asked if I was her boyfriend.

"No." Jess said. I wish!

Chick pulled the grate out in what seemed like forever. "Come on!" I yelled, reaching for Jess.

"Him first!" Jess yelled, pushing Sean towards me.

"No, you!" Sean said, but it was too late because I'd already hoisted him up and out the window.

And then I pulled Jess out.

She was thankful, and I'm sure Sean would have been too. "You have got to be kidding me." he said, taking a good long look at us.

I handed Jess a helmet and she said, "Look, it's these guys or your dad. Take your pick."

"Boy, you drive a hard bargain." Sean said as Wendell gave him a helmet.

"Here ya go, kid." Wendell said. "Hop on."

And it seemed like everything was set. We'd escape, and I'd take Jess and Sean back to my place for the night. In the morning, we'd talk about what else to do.

Until some military guy got in our way at the gates.

Busted...

CHAPPIE NINE

"HALT!" A deep voice bellowed into a microphone. I swore in my head. Why can't I just get in and get out when I break in to a government building?

"This is U.S. Government property. You are trespassing. Turn off your engines now." The guy continued. Um, no, I don't see that happening.

Just then, Frankie and Chick high fived each other as a ball of fired ripped apart the air, followed by an explosion. "Oh, yeah. We still got it." Frankie said triumphantly.

"WHAT WAS THAT!" Jess yelled.

"A helicopter." I said simply, accelerating the Indian. "Just a little diversionary tactic, to confuse the enemy."

I heard disbelief in Jess's voice as she spoke next. "You'll blow up a helicopter, but you won't go out with me? What is wrong with you!"

All this to bust a small boy and a psychic out of an infirmary. I thought, speeding through the parking lot towards the front gates. Microphone Government guy was behind us, yelling for us to stop.

Ha! Like I'm going to stop. I can get this bike up to 125 MPH if necessary. Looks like it's finally necessary...

About a hundred yards from the gates, we all stopped. Probably stupid to do, since we were so close. Especially since it gave yet another military guy a chance to get in our way.

The guy in the jeep behind us yelled for us to turn off the engines and put our hands up. I laughed quietly and threw the bike forward.

This old guy in a bathrobe came striding into our path, holding a microphone. "HALT! You are under arrest. Turn off your engines now." He shouted.

We sped up.

"Turn off your engines." the guy said. I don't take anyone seriously when they're wearing pajamas. "Do you hear me? You are under arrest. Turn off your engines now.

How about...NO?

The guards who usually stood there appeared, flanking the guy on both sides. I was proud of my help, not one of them turned off their engines. Wendell and Wylie let out whoops and raced faster towards the gates.

I nodded, gave the bike a violent jerk and all six of us raced towards the hole in the fence a couple of guys had cut, just in case.

And then, we were sailing out, past guards and military men, Jess's arms wrapping around me tighter and tighter.

I've come to the conclusion that military men never EVER give up.

The jeep followed us, soon followed by SUVs as we darted into cornfields. After a good half hour of darting between SUVs and stalks of corn, they were either called back to the base or decided to get us in the morning.

Either way, we were free. For the moment.

We all stuck to back roads, until I took Jess and the kid to my place. The guys probably went off to get drunk or relax or something.

We were quiet in the house, so Mom wouldn't wake up. I had the feeling she probably wouldn't like it if she woke up to find two fugitives in her house.

I took Jess to my room and told her she could sleep there. I gathered a few blankets for the kid and myself so that we could go sleep in the barn. Both Jess and Sean looked a little zombie-like as I gathered stuff up.

Out in the barn, Sean woke up slightly. He kept asking me all these questions about Jess and I- Was I her boyfriend? Did I want to be her boyfriend?- and after awhile I said, "Yeah. Jess is pretty dope. I want to, but I can't."

To which Sean said, "Why not?"

"It's complicated."

"She is dope, though."

"Yeah..." My voice kind of drifted off there, thinking of the girl I love sleeping up in my room. New subject! NOW!

"Time to sleep. No more questions." I said.

Sean was already asleep.