A/N: Yes, yes, this is late, again. I have been sick for like, a month now and have recently been visited by a stomach virus, among other things. Yippee skippy. Anywho! Come join the TwiFandomNews Group on Facebook! We have all the prompts up there for our January Pick-A-Prompt Contest (Formerly known as the PostSecret Prompts Contest). We're also on Twitter: TwiFandomNews & tfnEditor. Come visit and chat with us!

"The tragedy of life is not death; it's what we let die inside of us while we live"

-Norman Cousins

The house, a once great living, breathing beast was now dead and almost empty. Much like a part of me was now dead and empty.

I talked to Garrett a couple of times a week. It was different than what I expected it to be. I had this idea constructed in my mind about how these sessions would go, that there would be this very rigid regimen that we would adhere to. Specific questions that I would give certain answers to, etc. It turned out not to be like that at all. Sometimes we talked three times a week or more, sometimes just two.

I found that I liked going to the library and flinging all the curtains open and making sure the skylights were uncovered and letting the light chase the darkness from every inch of the room. I would lay in the middle of the giant empty desk and proceed to have my conversation while basking in sun. Garrett let me talk about whatever I wanted, encouraged me to even. It could be memories of my old life or my hopes for the future. He usually would prompt me, ask me a random question and we'd go from there.

I wouldn't be able to talk to him so freely if he hadn't insisted that whatever we talked about would stay between us. He stressed how he was a firm believer in doctor patient confidentiality. What did I have to lose at this point anyway? Not a whole hell of a lot.

Jasper never mentioned anything from our conversations even though I'd said some derogatory things about him in one of my early rants. Garrett had pushed a couple buttons too many with his questions and I let him have it. Some of the things that I said would have definitely landed me over Jasper's knee had it gotten back to him. I guess that proved to me that he would keep silent like he promised.

While perhaps I was feeling lighter by getting to open up and speak my mind to someone who wasn't part of this house or this whole debacle, I was still struggling with a lot of things. It was hard to go into the kitchen. Sometimes downright impossible. If I did go in and the pantry door was open, I would hightail it back out of there and go become Jasper's shadow for hours at a time. I wouldn't open closets with doors if they were the walk-in kind. Jasper resorted to taking ours off the hinges and putting the doors themselves in the garage. It was the only way he could get me to keep picking out my own clothes. Which was really a moot point because I'd taken to wearing coveralls and t-shirts during the day and silly onesies at night. I was still convinced they came about because of Peter.

I couldn't sleep in a dark room at night either. I'd had two meltdowns the two times Master had forgotten and turned the lights off while leaving the bathroom on his way back to bed. I always knew when he left the bed and when he got back in it, so the moment the lights went out I flipped my shit. The only thing that helped was jamming my face against his shirt and inhaling the smell of him. Between it and the feel of him, solid and warm with his strong arms squishing me to him, they were the only things that planted my feet back on this planet again.

I had just hung up with Garrett for the third time this week. I had almost had a meltdown on him when he'd said that he'd spoken to Jasper the day before. The only thing that stopped it was that he'd rushed to assure me that it had just been to gain an outside perspective of how I'd been doing. Checking on my eating and sleeping and the like, he said. I still hadn't been punished for anything, so I took him at his word. He said he'd suggested something to Jasper and had wanted to present it to me, too, before anything was done.

That had piqued my curiosity. After the first night of taking the sleeping pills, I had taken them on and off sporadically, after I just couldn't stand the exhaustion from piss poor sleep anymore. To his credit, Jasper hadn't made me take them despite how often my bad dreams would wake him up. It had been a choice so far. I suspected that unless it got worse than the first time, he wouldn't trick or force me into taking them. I imagined Charlie or Renee being in the same position with stress and sleep, and even I couldn't say that I would be above a little trickery after a certain point. Ugh, to put myself on the same thought lines as Jasper was annoying.

Garret had said that since part of my biggest struggle was the dark, then perhaps we should try staying up at night and sleeping during the day. If I woke up, it should be light enough for me to be able to see clearly. The drapes throughout the house kept the light out for the most part. Usually there was just enough that crept through around the edges to see where you were going without turning the light on or tying the curtains back. If it worked, then great. If not we'd work on coming up with other ideas.

Seeing as my nightmares had moved beyond the pantry and onto James having the rest of the darkened house as his playground to chase me through and torture me in, this idea appealed to me greatly. Hopefully Jasper wasn't too awful picky about when he slept.

I let the idea roll around in my head and wondered what he was doing right now. Now that he rarely spent time the office he actually visited other parts of the house now that it was devoid of people, seeing as he'd banned everyone from the main house. Much of his time was spent in the room attached to ours that I had started referring to as the Secret Lair. This gave me the freedom to roam back and forth between the bedroom and the Lair. I liked the confinement it provided, it felt secure. I was free to go hang out with Char, which I did sometimes if it didn't involve the kitchen, as well as the library. I seemed to only go there to have my conversations with Garrett but sometimes I picked a book or two out to take back with me after we were finished. Mostly I just stayed close to Jasper.

If I closed my eyes I could imagine him contemplating in front of his mind map he'd made with pictures and notes he'd pinned to the wall and joined together with string. He and Peter had been working diligently to work backwards from James. Jasper had said they'd gone through James's possessions and had found an additional cell phone. On that phone had been some useful information. Not a ton, but enough for them to have a firm footing in expanding their intel at least.

So far they'd been able to work out the general structure and several members of the cartel that had been attempting to spy on us. Well, attempt was too loose of a word. James had been a mole, but apparently one that didn't check in frequently enough. From the way Jasper and Peter talked, Peter had monitoring going on within their network that would pick up on the contents and encryptions in messages sent or received while they were logged on to one of their systems should it be anything but a sophisticated code. Or something like that, Peter's explanation was well over my head.

There were no contacts in the phone, nor were there any text messages. Just a sparse amount of emails. Jasper had reasoned that if he was meeting even semiregularly with his contact, few would be needed. I was inclined to agree with him.

I'd had a full night's sleep last night, so my thoughts were more in order than usual. It occurred to me, out of the blue, to wonder how thoroughly they'd searched James's space. My mind went back to the loose floorboard in my bedroom at Charlie's. I'd stashed some of my most secret things in there that I absolutely did not want found.

The thought flitted like an irksome fly but of course no matter how much I shooed and swatted at it, it kept coming back. There was nothing else for it then. I was just going to have to go get Charlotte and investigate, else I'd never be rid of the pesky idea. I already had enough to keep me up at night, there no need to add this curiosity to the list.

I hauled myself off the desk and left the overly bright room, headed for the kitchen. As luck would have it she was just coming out of the kitchen, which was for the better because I wasn't exactly thrilled with the thought explaining my mad plan to Jasper. Before she could say anything to me I popped my finger up in front of my lips. Also known as the universal Shut Up! Motion.

One confused look later and she was following me back to the library. I took up pacing in front of my favored lounge area. This all sounded so good in my head, but now that Charlotte was here, I was sure she was just going to think I was a fruitcake. Which, she was probably right to do so. That was neither here nor there though.

"Bella, what's wrong?" she asked, concern coloring her features, as it so often did anymore.

I sighed and stopped, perhaps it would be better if I took the approach of ripping off a band aid.

"How thoroughly did they search James's room?" I asked, watching her closely.

She shrugged, "Pretty good, I guess. Why?" Curiosity began to take over where concern was.

"Well, back at my dad's house I had a secret area where I hid things from time to time that I didn't want anyone to find…" I said, biting my lip afterwards.

"And you think there could be a place like that here," she picked up where I had left off.

I nodded, "I would, if I did what he did."

She let it roll around in her brain for a second before nodding her agreement. She then tipped her head back towards the door and I followed after her. I felt unafraid of roaming the house now that everybody had been evicted, as long as it was daylight.

We left the library and went up the staircase, past the open door of the bedroom and to the very end of the hall. On the right was the staircase that lead to the room that had been prepared for me so long ago. The gilded cage that I had never been kept in. Oh no, I'd earned myself a much smaller cage, one much more intimate to my keeper. Keep close those you can't trust and all that. I had never been trusted to not attempt escape, and with good reason.

On the left, however, took you up a U shaped staircase that landed you in a hallway that ran straight down the middle of the floor with rooms on either side. Giant floor to ceiling windows on either end of the floor let in more than enough light for us to see without turning on the hall lights. I'd never been up here before.

"Which one?" I whispered to Charlotte, motioning to the sea of doors before us.

She pointed.

Of fucking course.

The last room on the right.

She took off towards our objective before I could suggest that maybe we should go get the guys, because in the deafening quiet this floor was turning out to be eerie. Like, think you heard something or saw something move out of the corner of your eye, mind playing tricks on you type creepy. It was too late to back out now, so I quickly caught up and marched right along beside her to the last room on the right hand side. We stopped when we got there, looking around inside first. Glancing under the beds and inside the smallish closet out of cursory habit to ensure that we were alone in the room. My skin crawled regardless.

"What now Bella?" Charlotte asked, looking to me for ideas.

"Check for loose floorboards, loose wallpaper, behind drawers, stuff like that," I said.

So we searched and we searched. We felt along the floorboards and checked the wallpaper for any loose corners. We pulled the drawers out of the dressers and nightstands, and searched the closets from top to bottom, looking for any sort of nook or cranny that would give us any clues. We tore the room apart and then put it back together. We even looked on the undersides of the dresser and the nightstand both. Looked under the beds and checked behind the shared desk in the room.

"I give up, at least we looked though," I said with a huff, flopping down onto the bed. I rolled to my side and tucked my arm underneath my head.

Wait, something felt odd. Not quite uncomfortable, but not quite right.

"What's wrong Bella? You look confused," Charlotte asked from her perch on the desk.

I got up and ripped the bedding off without another word, looking for the stitching.

"Bella?" Charlotte asked, twin thuds sounding a second later where she'd hopped down.

Where? Where? There! Along the seam there were some small, fine black stitches holding the mattress closed. Similar to the others, but just different enough that I could spot the difference.

"Charlotte do you have a knife?" I asked, glancing back.

She nodded and fished one out of her back pocket, handing it over to me. With a flick of my thumb I was performing gentle surgery on the mattress, popping open the stitches that didn't belong and moving them out of the way. After removing them I cautiously stuck my hand in and began to feel around.

There! I grasped whatever it was and pulled it out. It was an envelope, a thick envelope at that.

"What's that?" Charlotte asked, picking it up from where I'd tossed it down on the mattress.

I slid my hand back inside, hoping for more. It was strange, looking for something by feel rather than by sight. I had almost given up when I felt the corner of what had to be a book. By this time my arm was in almost up to my arm pit and I had to squash myself against the bed to grasp it with my fingertips. A bit more determination gave me a very old Bible. It was written in Spanish of course, but I could tell without having to do much deciphering what it was.

There were a few folded notes I saw as I flipped through, but it was obvious that Revelations was the most heavily used and highlighted text from both the wear on the page edges and the amount of highlighted verses. I had no idea what any of this said but from my faint knowledge of the Book of Revelations I knew that it couldn't be anything good.

I looked over to see Charlotte sitting on the end of the bed, reading her way through a stack of folded letters.

"I believe I'll be having both of those, if you please," A very familiar voice said from the doorway.

I'm certain that every single hair on my body stood on end. It wasn't possible. It couldn't be. Jasper killed him for trying to rape me. Stephan and Vladimir buried him. I saw Charlotte's mouth moving but couldn't hear much from the slamming of my heart in my chest. Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, what were we going to do?! I looked to Charlotte for guidance on how best to handle the situation rather than my impending meltdown was about to dictate how I handled it for me.

She looked totally calm, annoyed if anything. How could she be calm now?! We had this motherfucker here who was back from the dead. I wasn't sure about anybody else's reality but in mine, once you were dead you stayed that way. The last I checked anyway.

"John, how did you get back in the house?" Charlotte asked, ignoring his initial request.

John? Who the hell was John?

Then a hazy memory floated to the surface of long ago, when I'd had to spend the day with Peter. A man who'd looked exactly like James that had given me the note from Charlotte, yet hadn't acted like James at all. Stephan and Vladimir talking about making sure to pick the guilty one after the first incident with James. Twins! This was James's twin!

"Hard to get back into somewhere you've never left, Charlotte. Now, I'm not like James, but I'm also not above doing what I must to get that stuff back," he said, bringing us back on course, while taking a step towards us. His face morphed into one of hard determination and it brought me right back to seeing James.

My brain kicked in and I finally did what I should have the instant I saw him and let out the loudest, most hair-raising scream of my life. His eyes latched onto me, causing my wails to get even louder even though I wasn't aware that was possible. I saw his mouth moving but thanks to my heart slam-slam-slamming in my chest and my screaming I couldn't hear jack. He advanced a couple of steps before his head jerked back to the hallway. With a snarl he shoved his way past both Charlotte and I to the window, yanking it open and climbing out quickly.

When Jasper appeared at the doorway, panting heavily from what I assumed was a sprint, I finally shut up. He was here, so I was safe. It was then I noticed that Charlotte and I were standing and clinging to one another. I couldn't tell you when or who moved, but I'm pretty sure it would have taken the Jaws of Life to pry us apart if we had been unwilling to part.

"What happened? Why was she screaming? Was it another episode?" he came over and began to look me over.

"It was John, Jasper. We found some things here in their room. Then he showed up in the doorway and demanded them back," she said, voice quavering.

For the first time since John had appeared, Charlotte looked visibly affected. Peter appeared in the doorway a moment later after peeking around the frame. Not surprising that he would take the stealth route after what Jasper had shared with me about him. It was then that Charlotte broke away from me and bounded over to Peter, wrapping herself around him.

My eyes drifted back over to Master. He was currently looking out the still open window for any sign of John, fingers drumming against his thigh. I felt numb. He'd been here in this house while I'd spent time in the library alone. While I'd been in different parts of the house by myself. While Charlotte and I had watched Telenovelas together in the dark. Oh God, oh God, oh God-

I was pulled into another solid embrace, my nose going straight to his chest before I did a breathing exercise. Now was not the moment to have a breakdown, I'd had enough of those in the past week to last me a lifetime. I had to focus on the here and now and listen for the plan on what we were doing next.

"What did he say Charlotte? How did he get back in?" Master asked.

She gave a recap of the brief encounter, causing Jasper to heave a sigh.

"We're going to have to move. The house has been compromised and there's no telling if or when he'll come back. I'm not sure if John is a traitor or the traitor or if both of them were. Either way, I don't regret executing James. He never would have stopped coming after Bella," Jasper said.

"Why exactly are the two of you up here anyway?" Peter asked suddenly, dashing my hopes that all of this would have been looked over in the excitement.

"I thought it was strange how little you'd found. Back in Forks were some loose floorboards in my bedroom where I would hide things from time to time. Nobody else knew about it. I thought there had to be something here," I trailed off.

"Did you find anything?" Peter asked gently.

I both loathed and appreciated his handling me with kid gloves. I hated that I needed it, but I appreciated his kindness.

"Yeah, she found an envelope of letters and an old Bible. There are several passages highlighted and notes written in it," Charlotte supplied helpfully.

"That was good thinking Bella," Jasper said quietly, stroking my hair.

I could tell that he was upset, but instinctively knew that it wasn't at me. Even after my ordeal Jasper had insisted in keeping close to our routine. Eating meals together, though now in the dining room, and having our evening drinks and conversation together were still staples of our day. While he hadn't pretended nothing was wrong, he kept putting one foot in front of the other in our quest to get to know one another. I found that having some sense of normalcy helped more than I thought it would.

It had given me new things to think about and wonder over while I was alone in my head when he was working. Our evenings together had given me a new feel of him. Now that I had indisputable proof that he was human I began learning his nuances and inflections. All the little bits and pieces that came together in the culmination that was him.

"Let's get back downstairs. We need to pack things we can't live without and put things that can't be compromised in the vault. Everything else can be packed up and brought to the other house by someone else. We'll leave late tonight under the cover of darkness. I'll give you two the address and you can go ahead and freshen up the place, get groceries and the like. I have something to take care of before we leave this part of the country," Jasper ordered.

Charlotte and Peter nodded, turning to go get their stuff. Jasper tilted my head back with two fingers underneath my chin to look me in the eye.

"It's all going to be ok, Bella. The only people who know about this house is Rose, Emmett, Eleazer and his family. Not even Peter, Charlotte, the twins nor Balthazar know where this place is," Jasper reassured me, giving me one last squeeze before leading us back downstairs.

I certainly liked the sound of where we were going. Away from the place that all the awful shit happened, primarily. Maybe in the new house I could bear going in the kitchen again.

Once we were in the bedroom and I had packed the clothes, shoes and books that I wanted to take I sat on the bed and gathered my nerve. I was going to have much less time to deal with part this than I'd planned. Once he said we were leaving I knew that I needed to do this here so it wouldn't sully my experience at the new house right off the bat.

Another thing Garrett had expressed concern over recently was that I had yet to cry over the situation, or cry at all over anything since the near-miss. Not over my trauma, my nightmares, my overall situation, desperately missing my parents and friends, and not even over the frustration I had. I told him how I'd wanted to, but couldn't seem to get there. I described how it seemed like a corked in a bottle, holding back any sort of relief. How I wanted to start trying to live what little life I could without being a basket case, but how the devastation was trapped inside of me. Rotting me from the inside out. The only advice he could give was to do any sort of non-harmful activity that would elicit tears to begin with. A sad movie, he'd suggested, to break the dam. Once I could complete the simple act of shedding tears, then I could move on and do so over the things I really needed to.

I knew one thing above all others that would make me cry, if nothing else in this whole world would. Now I just had to ask for it, which was the fucked-up part. I'd thought about acting up or showing out to goad him into spanking me, but I wasn't sure that he would with my recent state of fragility. Scold me maybe or do something like put me in a 'time-out'. That wouldn't work. If anything it would get my privileges yanked.

The curtain had been tied back so that I could have a constant line of sight to him if he was in there working and I was here in the bedroom. I huffed out a breath, psyching myself up. He was sitting, typing away on his laptop while the old Bible lay open next to it. I got up and snuck into the closet, stripping my coveralls along with the rest of my clothing off and putting my collar on. I'd always been punished wearing my collar and I needed that, I felt like. Back when I wore it constantly, I was a different Bella, and he was certainly a different Jasper. I needed that Japer now.

Leaving the closet, I made sure to lock the bedroom door. I absolutely did not need an audience to spring up uninvited. There was no telling where Peter and Charlotte were, but I knew they would come running if they heard anything that sounded like I was in distress. I ignored how the constantly cool air pebbled my nipples and raised gooseflesh all over my body. I ignored the near compulsion to run back into the closet and layer on as many clothes as I could fit. I shoved all of that down, because I needed this first.

Before I could back out, I went to his makeshift work area and knelt next to him. The movement caught his attention entirely. I hadn't knelt next to him since the day the spies were caught and executed. I never had willingly knelt next to him, ever. I had done it to avoid punishment, but never for any other reason.

The glimpse of him I'd caught out of the corner of my eye was of complete and total shock. He didn't say anything though, sensing that whatever was going on was something that had to happen and thus letting me make first move. I kept my eyes trained on the ground between my knees and thought about how I must make the perfect picture of submission right now.

"Master, I need…" Ugh, it was like trying to pull off my own fingernails. I took a deep breath and tried again, "Master, I need to be spanked."

And there it was, hanging between the two of us. Me, sitting here naked and devastated, begging for him to put me across his lap and him sitting there confused as fuck. I could almost feel it rolling off of him in waves. Before I could hyperventilate a strong hand grasped my jaw and gently tilted it up for me to look at him.

His blue eyes held confusion and a tinge of sadness, "Why is that, Isabella? You have done nothing wrong that I'm aware of. There is no reason to punish you. I've never given out a punishment that wasn't deserved."

I licked my dry lips. How did I put into words that I had this boil inside of me that needed to be lanced and drained so that I could really start getting better? That it had all festered inside of me as much as I could stand and that this was the only way. How could I do that without him wanting to commit me? Because no sane person asked for this after what I had been through.

I felt the tears gather along my lash line as I stared at him, "I need… I need…" but before I could try forcing anything else out comprehension clicked in his brain.

"I see. If that's what you need, then I shall give it to you. I take my responsibility of you very seriously, Isabella. Know that. Stay right there," he said quietly, stroking my cheek before getting up and retrieving something from a drawer, keeping it hidden until he was seated again.

"Did you lock the door?" he asked, pulling the ball gag into view.

My breath hitched, he'd never gagged me before. I nodded in answer as I stared at it.

"Good girl. I don't want to risk Peter and Charlotte hearing, but I also don't want you to hold back any noise you may need to make," he explained as he slid to the edge of his seat, "Open, like a good girl."

I did as I was told, testing the ball with my teeth as he got it situated in my mouth and buckled behind my head. He pulled my face up to look at him and simply stared at me for a few moments before checking to see if it was too tight. Then his eyes changed, shuttering like they used to constantly be. He sat back and got comfortable. Here was the man that tried to break me.

"Isabella, place yourself over my lap," he commanded, tone hard.

I rose from the floor with trepidation and did as he said, crawling across his lap until he stopped me and rearranged me to where my ankles were crossed. A whisper of fabric and something silky looped around my knees, binding them together. Lastly he gave me a throw pillow to hang onto. His thoughtful actions belied the harshness that had been in his face.

I felt a hand settle between my shoulder blades, a firm weight meant to hold me in place. His thumb stroked my skin for an instant before a sharp slap rang throughout the room. I jerked from the unexpected and painful smack, a muffled squeak issuing from around the gag. I thought he may at least give me a warning or something. I had no time to think however as he began in earnest, filling the room with the sound of his palm contacting my cheeks, over and over. My fingers squeezed the pillow as my pleas and screams were muffled by the gag. His hand kept me in place and his silk tie kept my knees locked together, preventing me from flailing.

My ass was on fire and my humiliation was at a record high. I had long lost count of the licks he'd given and idly wondered how much more I could take before chalking this up to a monumental failure. Then suddenly, finally, when I thought I could take no more, something inside of me broke. I felt hot tears begin to stream down my face, causing me to sob that much harder. Finally! As he continued to spank me, I let everything out. My anguish over my near rape, my homesickness for my parents and friends, my frustration over not even being able to have normal sleep. I cried rivers over everything.

I was so caught up in my head that I couldn't tell you when he'd stopped his assault on my bottom. I only realized that my legs were free and that the gag was loose when he was turning me over in his lap and pulling me against his chest. My jaw was sore from biting down on the rubber ball and I was pretty certain that I wouldn't be comfortably sitting for a few days but it was worth it, this feeling in my soul. It was as if my tears were a cleansing deluge. Maybe not washing away all of the infection, but certainly washing away what had been festering and loosening the roots of the rot.

My arms snaked around his neck, where I also buried my face as I let it all out. Even though he carried out the act, he was now rocking me and stroking my hair, whispering that it was going to be ok. Telling me that he was proud of me for overcoming the obstacle that I had and promising that he would always take care of me.

Even though he'd just spanked me, his words gave me nothing but relief. I could tell that he hadn't wanted to spank me, but when he recognized that it was what I needed,he gave it to me. Just like he would get me clothes, soap, professional help or whatever else my need might be. Some pieces fell into place and I had an epiphany.

When he made up his mind to take me in order to keep me alive, and thus Charlie by proxy, he was knowingly agreeing to be my provider and protector for the rest of my life. I had experienced everything I had to get to the point of acceptance without resentment. Because if he'd told me about the arrangement he'd entered into from the get go, I would have felt that he was dangling Charlie's life over my head and that would have bred more hatred and resentment than I could currently comprehend. He would have had to constantly remind me of what was at stake to get my cooperation. Peter had been right in what he had said. After I decided to go along and get along, things changed drastically.

From the conversations we'd had I gathered that women had three places in this life. They were either wives, slaves or staff. Rarely was there a daughter that wasn't married to someone already in the life. I could tell that my place wasn't going to be as a staff member but after my experience and everything I saw at the auction, I knew that I didn't exactly fit into the slave category either. I didn't entertain the notion that there was that third slot open. I was still leaning towards the whole ward idea, even if it did come with the title of 'Cherished Pet' as Makenna liked to call it.

He had also explained the expectations of the Italians and the Russians from this arrangement. That should we ever have to be 'guests' of theirs or vice versa that I had to behave in the way that he'd been training me before. Completely obedient with rules and consequences in place. He wasn't a fan of intermingling with them, so we should be able to avoid that for the most part. Had we not gone through everything we had so far, I wouldn't have the experiences I needed to successfully be convincing.

We sat there until I was all cried out and was reduced to sniffles. Then without warning he picked me up and took me to the bathroom, setting me down on my feet next to the shower before reaching it in to start the water. The idea of him leaving even after consoling me was unbearable.

"Don't leave, please," I asked, embarrassed.

He paused and thought for a few moments before nodding his assent. He waited until I was under the water to gather my towels and robe, taking a seat on the chair outside the shower door when he was done. Again, it was what I needed and again he understood and provided.

The hot water felt so good and never had I felt cleaner despite the fact that I had showered just that morning and had at most laid around all day. Only when my fingers became wrinkled and I felt the cleanest I had ever been did I shut the water off. I had almost forgot that Jasper was still sitting there, quietly making plans in his head.

He met me at the door, handing me a towel for my hair but keeping the other to dry me off himself. It seemed as if he needed this, for whatever reason, so I let him have it. There was nothing sexual in the act of drying me, nor was there when he brought clothes out and helped me dress, nor when he sat me down and styled my hair. I had somehow also come to the understanding that this was something that soothed him, so I went with it. The tone had went from forcing me because he owned me, to doing it because caring for me made him feel better. Aftercare, in short, for both of us.

While not coveralls, I didn't reject the stylish, sleeveless black jumpsuit. It was comfortable, and I didn't feel exposed as I would have in a dress. It would also be good for travel.

We ended up back in the Lair where his laptop was. He finished packing his things into several duffle bags and a couple of briefcases. While he was packing I spied the envelope I'd found upstairs. He covertly watched as I picked it up and began to thumb through the papers inside. I read through half a dozen of them to make sure they were what I thought they were.

"Love letters?" I asked, shocked, gesturing to the stack I was holding.

"Yep. No telling who they were to though. I'm sure if we picked through them enough we'd be able to figure more out, but the Bible told me what I needed to know. We're going to run an errand before we meet up with Pete and Char. It may take a few days but it's something that has to be done," He said, coming back over to sit next to me.

"How are you feeling now?" he asked lowly. If I didn't know better, I would have thought there was a bit of trepidation in that question.

"Better, now that I let that all out," I answered simply.

He nodded, looking me over one last time before getting up and beginning the chore of carting stuff downstairs to load in the cars.

I got up to follow him. Suddenly, I stopped and looked around the bedroom for the final time, noticing how stripped down it was of anything truly personal and went downstairs. I ended up watching from my seat on the bottom stair as Jasper, Peter and Charlotte carted all the antiques and valuable paintings down to the vault. I guessed this was in case retaliation was on the table.

The moon was high in the sky by the time we were ready to go. Jasper led me to the garage I'd never been inside of and plucked three sets of keys from hooks next to the door. The keys to the white Bentley went to Charlotte, the keys to the big black Suburban went to Peter. The keys to a boxy green Ford truck from what had to have been the 80's were the ones he kept in his hand.

"We'll see you guys in a few days. Be careful and text me to let me know you got there," Jasper instructed after tapping the address into both of their phones.

Charlotte and Peter both hugged me before getting in their respective, loaded vehicles and driving off into the night.

"Ready?" He asked, looking over to me.

I had no idea what we were doing or where we were going, but it wasn't going to be here and wherever our destination was had to be better than what had become my own personal hell.

So I nodded and allowed him to lead me to the truck and open the door for me. We buckled in, then pulled out into the darkness ourselves.

I turned in my seat and watched the house as it got smaller and smaller in the distance. Maybe this change would be good. Maybe we could build something better at the new house, something fresh and new. It took a minute to recognize the feeling welling up inside of me as I covertly watched Jasper drive in the glow of the radio lights.

For the first in a long time, I felt hope.