A/N: Gah! It has been so long since I last updated this story. After going back through and reading the reviews for it, I gained a newfound passion for updating it. I am truly grateful for each and every one of your reviews and your support for this story. I am glad you have been enjoying it and I hope you enjoy this chapter as well. If you have any suggestions or comments just leave me a review.
My eyes slowly opened to greet the morning sun peeking through the curtains. I turned my head back over to my husband as he continued to sleep. He looked so content and peaceful. My thoughts drifted to the night before, and I realized our entangled bodies were still connected in the most intimate of ways. I hugged Eric's body closer to mine, surrounding myself in his warmth. His arms instinctively tightened around me, and I could feel his soft breath on my face.
Moments like these were rare nowadays. With raising our children, especially the twins, we hardly ever found time to spend with each other. Most of the time we are too preoccupied with being parents. I am truly grateful that God has blessed us with this time together. It feels so good to be given a break, to temporarily forget all of our routine worries, and to just be husband and wife again.
Lost in my thoughts, I did not notice that Eric was now awake. I looked up to see his ocean-blue eyes gazing down at me, a content smile on his face.
"Good morning," I said, still quite dazed from sleep.
"Good morning yourself. Did you sleep well?" He asked, knowing that I had.
"I must say that I did, probably the best I have slept in a while. What about you?" I asked in return.
"With such a beautiful woman lying next to me, how could I not sleep well?" He smirked. He made me blush with his compliment, just as he always managed to do.
"Oh, you never told me you had that woman at the front desk of the airport in here last night. She must be pretty sneaky if she left before I woke up," I teased, causing Eric to laugh.
"Ah yes, that she is. That is why I am so fond of her. She always surprises me," He replied coyly.
Before I could even think of a reply his hands cupped my face, his eyes boring into mine. He kissed me softly on my lips before wrapping his arms fully around me, hugging me to his chest.
"You know, you might want to be careful. You don't want your lady friend walking in on this. You never know when she may nearby," I replied, playing with the hair on his chest.
"You are right, but you need not to worry. She has taught me a few sly things of my own in our short time together."
"Oh, and what may those things be?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
"They are things that are to be kept between her and I only."
"If I am good, will you tell me what those things are?" I pouted.
"No," He replied simply. I then stuck my bottom lip out in a child-like pout.
"However, if you are good, I may show you what those things are," He replied with a suggestive twinkle in his eye.
"Did your friend show you these things?"
"Yes. I must say I learned from the best."
"Well then, since you had such an amazing night with your friend, how do you want to spend this day?" I asked, hoping to get off the subject of the other woman.
"That would be up to you, my dear."
"Do you want to go down to the beach?" I asked him.
"If that is what you want to do, then yes." He kissed me one last time before untangling our bodies and pulling himself out of me. I instantly missed the feeling of having him inside of me. Despite the fact that several hours had passed since we made love, feeling him inside of me made me feel closer to him. So when he pulled apart from me, I was overcome with a small sadness; I felt disconnected from him in a sense.
We crawled out of bed and walked over to the closet to find something to wear. Eric found his swimsuit and pulled it on. I went to grab my red one-piece when Eric's hand wrapped around my arm.
"Wear your two-piece," Eric suggested, surprising me. I hadn't even known why I bothered to bring my two-piece. It had been years since I last wore one, and I never felt attractive in one, even when I was younger. However I tossed the one-piece back into the closet and picked up my two-piece instead. If it would make Eric happy, I was willing to wear it. It too was red, and it featured a studded red and gold rhinestone border on both the top and bottom pieces.
I finally managed to get it on after some assistance from Eric with tying the top piece. When Eric's eyes fell upon me I could have sworn I heard a whimper escape his lips.
I grabbed a couple of towels before Eric picked me up into his arms and carried me downstairs. He continued through the back door and set me down in a spot in the sand near the water. He took the two towels I held in my arms and laid them out next to each other in the sand. He sat down on one of the towels and motioned for me to do the same. He then pulled me into his lap, my back against his chest, and wrapped his arms around me.
I cannot think of a single word to express just how much I love being in his arms. For the last twenty-four years Eric has held me in his arms who knows how many times. And each time has never felt any different. His embrace is always warm and makes me feel secure and loved. I always feel a small butterfly-type feeling when I am in his arms, especially when we are alone at a time like this.
"Hmm, we forgot the sunscreen. I'll be right back," Eric murmured, breaking the peaceful silence between us. I missed his presence as soon as he stood up and walked back towards the house.
It was then that I realized just how much I have missed that man. Granted, he never left. But I realized just how long it has been lately since we took time to focus on the small things in our relationship. Yes, we never left the house without kissing each other goodbye, and we always kissed each other goodnight before we went to bed, and we always said good morning to each other when we would wake up in the morning. But it has been a while since we simply stopped what we were doing to hold each other or to spoon on the couch in the middle of the day. And don't even get me started on how long it has been since we had sex prior to last night.
"What has got you so wrapped up in thought, honey?" Eric inquired as he returned with the sunscreen.
"I was just thinking about how occupied we've been with Sam and David. We rarely have any time to ourselves anymore. I can remember when we would always have spare moments for a hug and a kiss, accompanied by discussing how each other's day was going so far, at the least. We even had time for a couple date nights here and there. Now we are lucky if we get to kiss each other goodbye. Those moments seem to have become our last priority ever since the twins came," I explained softly.
"You're not the only one who has noticed that. I guess it is just because we've always expected to handle only one baby at a time. We didn't expect to have twins. Two babies are a lot more work than one. We always had some kind of rhythm when the other kids were babies. It was easy to spare a moment or two for ourselves when one of them was sleeping. But twins are different. We're still trying to find a rhythm with them. They are never usually on the same schedule, so it's harder to find a free moment with both of them," Eric concluded.
"You sound like such an expert on the subject."
"Ha, no. But it's not like it all hasn't crossed my mind before."
"Well, I am glad that I'm not the only one that feels that way."
"Maybe you don't have to feel that way." He murmured quietly.
"I don't?" I asked shyly.
"Come here," He whispered as he pulled me into his lap once again, this time facing him.
He wrapped his arms around me and stroked my back. I closed my eyes and rested my head on his shoulder. I felt perfectly content at this moment, focusing solely on what I could feel. I wished this moment, this vacation would never end. I knew we would have to go back home at some point; I mean, we have seven children to take care of. But until then I was perfectly content spending each and every moment of our time on the island with my husband and he alone.
After several minutes had passed, Eric finally suggested putting on sunscreen since we had been sitting directly in the sun for a while. I pulled myself off of his lap and sat in front of him on the towel, my back facing him so he could apply sunscreen to it.
Eric opened the bottle and squirted a small amount of the sunblock into his hand. He rubbed it together in his hands to warm it up before spreading it over my back and neck.
I then turned around to face him so he could apply sunscreen to the rest of my body.
He squirted more sunscreen into his hand and repeated the ritual of warming it up.
He first started at my shoulders, and I watched him as he worked his way down my arms. He seemed so focused, like he was a carver or an artist perfecting his craft. His hands were incredibly warm and the way he rubbed them over my skin was incredibly sensual. I become lost in watching – and feeling – his actions. It wasn't long before I felt his hands move to my stomach.
His hands. Oh good heavens, those hands. I felt a passion building in my lower abdomen as his hands worked from his stomach up to my breasts. If only this man knew just what he was doing did to me. Or… maybe he did.
"Eric…" I whispered, barely audible.
He then applied sunscreen to my legs and eventually reached my feet. He may know just where to touch me to drive me wild for him, but he also knows where I am the most ticklish. Sadly.
His fingers danced over the soles of my feet, causing me to laugh almost hysterically. Eric then laughed, obviously amused at the torture he was causing me.
I pulled my feet away from him and quickly stood up, taking a few steps away from him.
"You're forgetting one important thing," Eric stated as his placed his hands on either side of my face and gently stroked my cheeks with his thumbs. I smiled and handed him the bottle of sunscreen. He squirted a small amount into his hand and gently applied it to my face. He then tapped my nose with his finger, leaving a spot of sunscreen clearly on the tip of it for what he called a "finishing touch".
"My turn," I said, taking the bottle of sunscreen from his hand.
"Sit," I demanded, pointing to his spot on the towel.
"Yes, ma'am!" Eric replied, sitting down on the towel once again.
I squirted a large amount of sunscreen into my hands before performing the same ritual Eric did with warming it up. I moved my hands over his broad back, massaging his muscles along the way. I felt him relax under my touch.
He then turned around so I could apply sunscreen to the rest of his body. I decided to start with his legs and work my way up.
"You need to shave," I commented as I worked the sunscreen over his legs and feet. I then moved up to his arms and eventually his chest. I slowly massaged the sunscreen onto his skin, going from his stomach up to his nipples.
I worked the sunscreen over his handsome face last, and my eyes took notice of every feature. From those gorgeous blue orbs to his cute, innocent dimples. My Lord, I love this man.
All Eric did was have his eyes set on me the entire time, watching my every move. He seemed to be enjoying this as much as I was.
When I was finished with the sunscreen, I tossed it onto the other towel as Eric embraced me once more. This time he kissed me immediately with a greater passion.
When our lips separated, we simply just held each other as we had done only a few minutes prior. Eric rubbed my back again, and I gently stroked my fingers through his hair. We were lost in the moment, finding comfort in each other's touch. We were silent, but not unspoken.
We both knew we needed this. This moment, this feeling, each other's touch. Just knowing the other is still there. The past ten months have been rough for both of us. Not only because of the stress of having two more members added to the family, but also Eric's heart attack.
It was something neither of us had really talked about, especially being preoccupied with our kids. But now that we were alone, the memory of Eric's heart attack came rushing back to me as we held each other. I realized I was very blessed to still be holding my husband in my arms, and I was very fortunate to still hear his voice and feel his touch.
I realized just how close I had been to losing the man that I loved the most. I had been able to hold everything together for the past ten months, only because of being around my children and wanting to be strong for their sake. But now that it was just the two of us, alone on an island thousands of miles away from home, I wasn't sure I could hold it together any longer.
I'm sure it was pointless to cry, or even come close to crying, over what had happened, because Eric had survived. He is alive. But all I could think about was watching him collapse to the ground in pain, and holding his cold hand in the ambulance. His hand was so cold. His hands are never cold. All I could think about was helplessly watching him on the hospital bed, paler than I had ever seen him before. Seeing his body lay nearly motionless on the hospital bed, hearing nothing but the darn heart rate monitor. That thing was my greatest fear. Everything about it, from the normal beat tone, to the normal silent pauses in between made my heart jump, fearing that it was about to project the one, continuous tone that no one wants hear.
The worst part was what I had said to Eric before he left to go back to work after his lunch break that day. We were both stressed, both tired. And I was irritable.
All Eric had done was try to hug me. During his lunch break he had asked me to do a couple of chores for him, such as iron his suit for a meeting the following day with Lou and other deacons from the church, and to get all the notes on his desk together. I had been upset the whole day, and I felt like he was dumping even more burdens onto my shoulders at this point, so I told him to do his own work and left it at that. I was annoyed with him because of it, and so when he tried to hug me, I snapped. I had shoved him away from me and basically called him an incoherent, selfish pain in my neck, and told him to just go. I am constantly reminded of this memory, and the look on Eric's face after I said those things breaks my heart every time. All he had done was try to hug me, to silently apologize for asking me to do something that would stress me out even more than I already had been. But I had to be a jerk, and I know my words stung him. I figured I would apologize when he got home later that evening, when we were getting ready for bed, when all the kids had finally fallen asleep. Maybe we would have some alone time then.
Eric did return home. But when he was helping his father and brother-in-law grill dinner, he had his heart attack. I was so terrified when it happened. I absolutely hated myself for being so mean to him, and I was so scared to potentially lose him. I was terrified that I would never get the chance to tell him just how sorry I was, and how much he means to me and how much I love him.
I never fully forgave myself for what I had said. I know Eric knows that I never meant a word of it. But I never apologized for it. I had been so close to losing him then. And if I had lost him…
These are the thoughts and emotions I have been bottling up for the past ten months. I wanted to wait for a special moment to confide in Eric how I felt, but until now we never really had a special moment for me to tell him anything like this. At the same time I was terrified to wait. All I could think about was coming close to losing him again…
I could not stop the tears from flowing from my eyes this time. No, I could not hide my true feelings from Eric. I never could bring myself to do such a thing. I love and respect him too much to hide that from him.
Eric could sense I was about to cry long before the first tear fell. He squeezed me tighter in his embrace and stroked my hair as an attempt to comfort me. All I could do was hold him as tightly as I possibly could. The more I thought about his heart attack the greater fear I had of losing him.
"Shh, it's okay, sweetie," Eric whispered as he rocked me back and forth in his arms.
"No, it isn't," I sobbed in response, tears freely flowing down both of my cheeks.
"Yes, it is. I'm here now, aren't I? I wasn't meant to die that day. If I had been, then I wouldn't be here right now."
"You don't understand."
"Then help me to understand," Eric whispered, holding my face in his hands and wiping away the tears with his thumbs.
"I've held all of this in for the past ten months, so our kids would stay positive and move on, and not think about the "what if"s. But all I can think about are the "what if"s.
"Eric, I completely despise myself for everything I said to you that day. I never meant a word of it. I planned to apologize to you later that day, but then you had your heart attack, and, all I could think about was losing you. I didn't want to lose you, and I didn't want your last thought of me to be that I hated you. I'm just so sorry, Eric," I sobbed, completely blinded by all the tears that were flowing from my eyes.
"Annie, I know you could never hate me. I know you didn't mean what you said. I know you love me too much to ever mean a thing like that," Eric replied gently, still stroking my cheeks.
"But what if I never got the chance to tell you how I felt? What if you hadn't –"Eric placed his finger on my lips to hush me.
"Annie, we're not playing that game. If the world operated on "what if"s, then everything would be a complete mess. If "what if"s were real, then they would not be "what if"s. I'm here. I'm alive. God chose to keep me alive that day. Annie, I know you only said those things without thinking clearly. You're stressed out. We both are. That's why we are here, on this island today. We need a break from everything. God has a plan for everything, and he never planned for me to die then. He has blessed us with this vacation for a reason, just to forget all of the stressful things and to rebuild our relationship," Eric explained, looking deeply into my eyes.
"I know, I know. It's just I can't believe I let myself come so close to losing you without telling you how I felt."
"Shh. It's okay. I know you're sorry. I know you didn't mean it. Annie, never for one second did I think that you hated me," Eric replied solemnly.
"I just love you so much," I whispered.
Eric then kissed me hard on the lips. It was full of raw passion, bringing new tears to my eyes. His hands then covered mine, holding them against the ground as he shifted his body so that he was hovering over me. He deepened the kiss, making love to my mouth. My hands tangled in his hair, pulling his mouth even closer to mine.
Eric pulled away after a couple minutes, eliciting a whimper from me.
"And that, Annie Camden, is how much I love you," He whispered in response.
"I'm sorry I held on to this for so long. It's just…I know my words stung you at the time. And if I never knew whether you truly forgave me or not…I would never have been able to forgive myself."
"Well, I forgive you. So you can forgive yourself. You don't have to worry about that anymore. I know you love me and I love you just as much, if not more. I know you didn't mean a word of it. We're not perfect. But we can always overcome it. We've survived seven children. Well, so far at least. We've survived my heart attack, Mary's accident, when I got shot in my church office, when you and Matt got robbed at gunpoint. We're always going to be faced with hard times at some point, Annie. And we're sometimes going to say things we don't mean."
"I know. And I didn't mean to turn our vacation into a sob story. It's just…I had to get everything off of my chest. I had to know that you really did know that I didn't mean what I said," I replied softly.
"I understand. Really, I do. That's why we are here. To talk about these things, and to take advantage of the time that we do have together," He said, hugging me tightly.
"I'm so glad you're okay," I whispered, hugging him back, only more tightly.
"I am too. How about we celebrate my okayness with a swim?" He suggested.
"A swim sounds nice," I smiled.
Eric then helped me up and chased me into the water.
A/N: This chapter is so much longer compared to the other ones in this story. xD I apologize for those of you who are used to the short and simple chapters. When I started this chapter I didn't intend to add as much "fluff" as I did. When I read back over this chapter I felt like that part kind of strayed away from the rest of the story, but I decided to throw in a sensitive moment, so that this vacation wouldn't be only rainbows and butterflies. And since Annie has already confided in Eric about something on her heart, I will probably use this as an opportunity to bring the whole thing with the Colonel into focus. Then, after all the touchy stuff is taken care of, things will go back to kind of how they started out at the beginning of this chapter. These are only my thoughts on the story so far, and when I go to write the next chapter things may change a little. I hope you will take time to review this chapter, and if you have any suggestions for me to consider then feel free to include them in your reviews.
These are only my thoughts on the story so far, and when I go to write the next chapter things may change a little. I hope you will take time to review this chapter, and if you have any suggestions for me to consider then feel free to include them in your reviews.