“Hey,” Jack whispered. He’d been sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, but when he saw me waking up, he came over and climbed on the bed next to me. “How are you feeling?”

“Really, really tired,” I groggily, and when he smiled, I saw there were tears in his eyes.

He brushed the hair from my eyes, and his fingers traced down the side of my face, past my jaw line, and lingered on the trace of the bite Peter had left on my throat. His expression hardened painfully, so I swallowed and looked away.

“Am I gonna have to go?” I asked.

“You can stay as long as you want.” He moved his hand from my neck, resting it on the covers over my stomach.

“Peter said that I wouldn’t be allowed to see any of you anymore,” I told him thickly. A deep pain welled in my chest at the thought of it, and even without Peter here fogging up my mind, suicide didn’t seem like that bad of an idea.

“No. That’s not going to happen,” Jack said firmly. “I had agreed to it temporarily, until we could get things sorted out better. Peter was convinced that he couldn’t be around you, and apparently, that wasn’t far from the truth.” Just mentioning Peter made his voice fill with a deep anger, and I felt a jealous protectiveness radiate from him. “After what happened, we decided that was a horrible decision. So Peter’s gone.”

“What do you mean he’s gone?” I looked at him plaintively, and Jack tried to hide that it hurt him that I was even asking about Peter.

“He’s going to go out on his own for awhile. He’s done it before.” Jack shrugged, like it wasn’t anything for me to concern myself with. “We all just think it would be better for him not to be around you, at least not while you’re still human.”

“So he just won’t see you guys for three or four years?” I was tearing their family apart, and that did little to make me feel better. Admittedly, I wanted to be around Jack and his family more than I wanted to be alive, but not at the cost of ruining their lives.

“No, he won’t see you for three or four years,” he corrected me. “And maybe me too. But trust me, I don’t really have any urge to see him.”

“It’s not his fault,” I insisted quietly. Jack scoffed and looked away from me. “It’s really not. I asked him to do it.”

“He knew better.” He shook his head seriously. “He knows how much…” Just the thought of me dying agonized him. “If you had died, I would’ve killed him. It would’ve completely destroyed everything we had here, and he knew that.”

“You can’t kill him over me,” I said. “I don’t want to be the cause of your family’s destruction.”

“Well, then don’t do anything stupid like getting yourself killed.” He had meant to sound joking, but it came out more as if he was pleading with me. “It’s too late, Alice. You already mean too much to us. Dying doesn’t change that.”

“How am I still alive?” I attempted to change the subject.

“Ezra gave you a blood transfusion with the blood bags we have,” he explained casually.

“He can do that?” I felt wide eyed. Blood transfusions probably weren’t the most difficult of procedures, but still, he’d saved my life with one.

“He can do anything.” Brushing it off, he smiled at me. “When you’re around for three-hundred years and you’re life revolves around blood, you pick up a thing or two about it.”

“So what happens now?”

“You need to get some rest, because the blood loss makes you tired and weak. And then I’ll take you home in the morning, so you can go to school.” His blue eyes looked softly at me.

For the first time, I could really feel how much he loved me. It was like a warm, safe blanket wrapped around me, and I tried to ignore the aching pain in my chest that still went out for Peter.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

“There’s nothing to thank me for.”

Settling more into the bed, he reached out and pulled me over to him. Wrapping his arms securely around me, I rested my head on his chest and listened to the slow, faint sound of his heart beat.

I felt totally and completely safe with him, and I wanted to stay that way forever.

Nothing between us had really been solved. For now, our best solution was simply to send Peter away, but who knew how long Peter would really be gone for?

Until things were in place, I would just have to go about living my life as normally as possible. Going to school because it made my mother and Milo happy and hanging out with Jane so I didn’t become too dependent on Jack for my happiness (even though I had a feeling that it was already too late for that). While I still had the chance, I would spend as much time as I could with Milo.

But really, it was only a matter of time before everything changed. I snuggled deeper into Jack’s arms and tried not to worry about any of that now.