Chapter Twenty-Five: Pillow Talk

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Chapter Twenty-Five: Pillow Talk

As I rocked my warm and sleepy Bella in my arms, I knew that I had to ask.

“Love?”

“Hmmmm?” she mumbled.

I paused, knowing the answer but needing to hear it anyway. I was such a glutton for punishment—for my own punishment. But still I asked, “What was your dream about?”

Bella stiffened in my arms, all signs of utter relaxation and sleepiness disappearing the instant my question registered. Hiding her face against my chest, she didn't answer.

But I knew. And I spoke his name so low that I wasn't sure that she heard me at first. “James?”

After a pause of her own, Bella nodded ever so slightly against my chest, right where the ache of her pain struck at my silent heart.

“I'm so sorry, love. I wish I could stop the dreams. Or better yet, that I had prevented the actual circumstance.” I pressed a kiss into her hair, trying to calm her back to a near-sleep state, cursing myself inwardly for causing her stress by asking the question that I damn well knew the answer to. And then cursing myself for not protecting her in the first place when James pursued her. I never should have put her in danger by dragging her off to that damn baseball game. It was incredibly idiotic of me....

“Stop,” came Bella's soft whisper.

“Hmmmm?” I replied, stalling.

“I can feel you berating yourself. I know you're doing it, no matter how many times I tell you that it wasn't your fault.” I felt her smile against my chest, but I knew it wasn't a happy smile; it was ironic, wry. “You need to start believing me, Edward.”

With her index finger, Bella drew circles on my chest, through my shirt...trying in her own way to calm me. Despite the fact that she was the one who woke from a terrifying nightmare mere moments ago, despite the fact that she had nearly died in Phoenix, no thanks to me...I cringed as the thought passed through my mind, as I always did when I thought of her death, a vision that had been sidestepped for now but would occur sometime in her future...in fifty, sixty, seventy years, if I was lucky....

I closed my eyes and swallowed hard, fighting the lump in my throat. Bella continued her calming touch, and I slowly succumbed, following her to a more peaceful state of mind.

“I will make you a deal,” I suggested, whispering into her strawberry-scented hair. “I will start believing you when you tell me that what happened in Phoenix wasn't at least partially my fault, when you, my love, will start believing me when I tell you how beautiful you are and how much you mean to me.”

I pulled back, and she raised her head to look at me, grinning wickedly. “Yeah, right,” she scoffed.

“See?” I teased. “We're both impossible.” And I smiled at Bella's answering giggle of assent.

Realizing how late it was, I lifted Bella and carried her to her bed. After setting her down, I swiftly straightened the sheets and light quilt that her restlessness had bunched up at the foot of her bed. The early morning summer breeze wafting in her window was cool, and I wanted her to stay warm enough.

Bella lifted her arms to me, and I obeyed her unspoken plea by laying next to her, drawing her into my arms once again. She pillowed her cheek on my chest and sighed happily. As did I.

As her breathing began to slow in preparation for returning to sleep, my mind wandered to our teasing “deal” of mere moments ago. I raised myself up on my elbow to see her face better, and she looked at me curiously, despite her now-relaxed state.

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