< 3 >

"Brandon." Ashley said as she walked up to him. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough." he bluntly replied with a stern look on his face.

"Why are you here?" she asked quickly.

Brandon looked at Christina and then back to Ashley. "We'll talk about this later when we are alone. Oh, and make sure you tell me all the details about Justin when you get home. I'll be waiting." he winked at her and walked back out the door.

Christina went to the door and watched Brandon walk out the building. "Are you okay?" she asked as she turned back around.

Ashley shook her head as a tear escaped her eye. "Close the door and tell me about your conversation with Justin."

Christina smiled lightly as she closed the door and sat down in front of Ashley's desk.

An hour later Christina found herself back at home, ready to lounge around the house for the rest of her vacation day. The house was empty and quiet as she walked through the kitchen. Her mother left a note on the table telling her that they had gone out for the evening. She ran to the living room knowing that she would get first dibbs on the big screen tv for the rest of the night. Before she got to the couch, the blinking red light on the answering machine grabbed her attention.

"Hey Christina, its me, Justin. Call me back on my cell. Later." the machine blurted out as the tape stopped and then rewound.

Christina grabbed her cell off the coffee table and quickly speed dialed Justin's number. After a few rings he finally answered.

"Justin! It's Christina."

"Oh, hey. Sorry about earlier. I didn't mean for it to sound like it did."

"That's ok." she finished and changed the subject. "I got something important to tell you. I'm so glad you called back because if not I would have called you anyway."

"Oh. What's up? Is something wrong?" he asked as he started to become concerned.

"There might be. I started to tell Ashley about my conversation with you when Brandon showed up and I don't think he was too happy." she said as she sat down on the couch.

"Shit." he cursed under his breath. "What's he gonna do? Is he gonna hurt her?"

"Well, I don't want to sound like I'm freaking out or anything, but, probably." she winced at the thought.

Justin sighed before he continued. "Did you ever get to tell her about you talking to me?"

"Yeah. At first she didn't want to hear about it but after Brandon left I told her everything. She is a bit afraid to see you because she is afraid of what Brandon will do but on the other hand she wants to see you more than anything and she knows that if anyone can help her, its you." she finished all in one breath.

"Ok." he paused to think. "Is she at home yet?"

"No. She'll be at work for another half hour."

"Do you have another phone? Can you call her there and tell her not not to go home." he said as he tried to think of how to plan his schedule.

"Where is she supposed to go?" Christina questioned.

"Your house. Keep her safe until I get there."

"You're coming!" Christina exclaimed.

"Yeah, but not right away. That's why I want her to stay with you." he said as he flipped the pages in the group schedule.

"Hold on, let me call her." Christina said as she put her cell down and grabbed the portable phone.

"Ok." Justin finished as he heard her scrambling around in the room.

"Hey is Ash there?" Christina asked the front desk.

"No she's not. May I take a message?" the woman asked.

"No. Can you just tell me where she is?"

"May I ask who is calling please?" she asked politely

"This is Christina, Ashley's friend."

"Oh, Christina. She went home about fifteen minutes ago."

"Shit!" Christina cursed loudly.

"Excuse me?"

"Um, nothing. Thanks for the information." she said quickly as she hung up and went back to the cell phone. "Justin!"

"Yeah. What's going on?"

"She's already at home!" Christina started to panic.

Justin grumbled a few words under his breath before continuing. "Go get her now! I'll fly out as quickly as possible."

"How long will it be?" she asked as she was already out the front door.

"Give me about an hour and a half."

"Ok. I'm going now." she said as she hopped in her car.

"Me too. Be careful." he finished.

"I will. Cya!" she said as she hung up and peeled out of the driveway.

Christina arrived at Brandon's about five minutes later. She pulled up along the street and noticed that Brandon's car was gone and Ashley's tires were slashed on her car. Panic ripped through Christina as she neared the front door of the apartment. The screen door was wide open and the front door was slightly ajar.

"Ashley!" Christina yelled as she opened the door and found the whole house destroyed. The coffee table was smashed, lamps were on the floor and everything that was on the walls was now laying among the scattered things on the carpet.

Christina received no reply after yelling her name and preceded to the kitchen where most of the dishes were smashed on the linoleum. She pushed open the door of the bathroom and found nothing except that it was now the cleanest part of the apartment. She then looked in the bedroom where she found Ashley laying on the bed.

"Ashley!" Christina yelled again as she ran up to her bruised and battered body. She lifted her head up a bit and was releaved when Ashley opened her eyes slightly.

"Christina?" she mumbled lightly.

"We need to get out of here now!" Christina demanded as she looked at her bloodied face that was almost unrecognizable.

"No, I cant leave." she said as she used most of the strength she had to push Christina away.

"We have to go. You can't stay here, Ash!" Christina yelled as she pulled Ashley up off the bed.

"He said he's coming back."

"I don't care. Justin is coming soon." she said as she put Ashley's arm around her shoulders and helped her walk out of the bedroom.

"Justin?" she said sleepishly.

"Yeah, Justin. We need him right now." she finished as they walked over the mess on the floor and made their way back to Christina's.

An hour later Ashley was cleaned up and in some of Christina's clothes and watching tv. She hardly said anything the whole time that she was there and Christina was getting nervous. The phone rang and everything stopped as Christina and Ashley stared at it. Christina was afraid to answer it but picked it up and was relieved when she heard Justin's voice on the other end.

"Please tell me she's okay." Justin's voice quivered on the line.

"He beat her up pretty good. She is here with me now. I'm afraid that he will come looking for her any minute." she said as she looked out the windows.

"Ok. Don't worry. I'm at the airport now. I'll be at your house in about twenty minutes."

"Ok. Cya then." she finished and hung up.

"Was that Justin?" Ashley asked from her curled up position on the couch.

"Yeah. He will be here in a few minutes." she said as she sat down beside her.

The twenty minutes went by and Justin had still not arrived. It was now a half hour since he called when there was a knock on the door. They were both so excited to see him.

Christina quickly ran to the kitchen door and opened it when she realized that it was not Justin, but it was Brandon who greeted her with a smile.

"Get out of here!" she yelled as she tried to close the door.

"I know she's here! Let me in!" he shouted as he pushed the door back and shoved his way in.

"No! Get out!" Christina exclaimed as she kept trying to push him back out the door but he was too strong for her and he made his way through as she hit the hard cold kitchen floor with a thud.

Christina got up slowly as Ashley screamed from the living room. Things in her own house were being broken and she could clearly recognize the crack of the screen on the tv.

Brandon pulled Ashley up off the couch by her hair and dropped her harshly on the floor as Christina ran into the living room and jumped on him from behind. She knocked him to the ground giving Ashley a quick get away but he grabbed her ankle, tripping her up before she could escape.

"Let her go!" Christina shouted as she tried to hit him with everything close to her that she could find but Brandon elbowed her in the face so that he could get out of her grasp.

"No! Leave me alone!" Ashley cried out in defense before he pounced on her and wrapped his hands around her neck.

Christina turned around with her bloodied nose just as Justin finally arrived to gave Brandon a quick kick to the face which landed him a few feet back to the couch. The kick instantly knocked him out and he lay on the couch in stillness.

"Call the police!" Justin yelled to Christina as he got down to Ashley's side.

"Justin." Ashley mumbled as she gasped for air.

"It's ok. I'm here." he said as he took her in his arms. It was the first time that he had held her or seen her in two years and he didnt want to let her go. Her tears rushed down over her swollen face as she sobbed. He remembered the face that he fell in love with and now it was scarred and bruised.

"I'm sorry." she cried into his shirt.

"For what?" he asked as he gently rocked her in his arms.

"For everything when I was in school." she replied as she looked up at him.

"Don't even worry about that anymore. It's ok." he smiled lightly as he brushed her hair away from her face.

"They'll be here in a few minutes." Christina said as she joined them.

They sat together and kept an eye out on Brandon for another five minutes until the police showed up. They quickly put Brandon in hand cuffs and escorted him out the house.

"Would you like to press charges?" The officer asked as they all stood in the kitchen.

"I would, for univitingly entering my house and destroying it." Christina demanded.

The officer wrote everything down and directed her attention to Ashley. "And you, ma'am?"

"I, uh, don't know." she studdered.

"Ash, you have to. He hurt you and I know more than once already." Justin demanded.

"I know. But, I'm afraid." she confessed as she wrapped her arms around Justin tighter.

"Well, we can get a restraining order for you so that he can't come near you." she suggested.

"So, that means you are going to let him go?" Ashley asked with fear.

"Well, he will probably go in front of a judge tomorrow and will most likely get out on bail." she said bluntly.

"Great." she sighed.

"So, would you like to go forward with the restraint?" she asked as she made her way out the door.

"Yes, please."

"Ok." she smiled. "I'll get ahold of you later. Take care now."

"Thank you." Ashley finished as they watched the police cars pull away and the crowd disperse.

"I hope no one knows you are here. We don't need this all over the news." Christina said to Justin as she watched the crowd walk away.

"I don't think anyone's seen me." he replied as Christina closed and locked the door and then made her way to the living room to clean up the mess.

"Thank you for coming here. He could have killed me." Ashley said as she looked up at Justin.

Justin pulled her in closer and sighed. "I'm glad I got here when I did. I won't let him hurt you again."

"I'm so glad I got to see you again." she smiled.

"Yeah, me too. Although the situation was unfortunate with me coming here, if it wasn't for this we might have never seen each other again."

"Well, I'm glad you are here now." she said as she looked at his soft lips. She wanted to touch them again so badly but she knew it wasnt the right time and in the back of her mind she wondered if he still even loved her.

"Do you still love him?" Justin changed the subject.

"What?" she asked as he caught her off guard.

"Brandon. Do you still love him?" he asked as he looked in her eyes. He knew she wouldn't lie to him.

"Unfortunately I do a little bit. Although, I have just been afraid of what he would do if I left, so I stayed and put up with everything."

"Oh. Ok." he said bluntly as he put his head down.

Ashley lifted his head up with her hand. "Don't worry, Timberlake. I still love you. I always will."

Justin remembered when she used to always call him by his last name. He missed hearing it, he missed her touch, he missed everything. He smiled as he leaned over and kissed her passionately. All they both wanted was to have things go back to the way they used to be, when things were innocent and everything was perfect.

< Chapter 4 >