The Fandom Gives Back Foundation held an auction back in November '09, and the very generous Shamatt0403 donated to Alex's Lemonade to help children's cancer research.
So, some of you might remember Chapter 9, when Bella had a concussion, got all woozy and saw Carlisle for the first time, etc. For this o/s, Shamatt403's prompt was, "Bella is very medicated and has a strange dream, perhaps indicating danger or vampires, and a little lemon slice at the end." At this point of the story, Bella has absolutely no clue about supernatural beings, the dark figure in the bedroom can symbolize a monster in general, or just something unknown - an echo of her earlier dream about Phil at the hospital. Imagine it as you will.
I was fairly certain that the little purple penguins dancing on Edward's dashboard had no business being there. It made no sense. How the hell had they gotten off my underwear? But those tiny birds were gettin' low—like apple-bottom jeans, boots with the fur and all that jazz. I wished I had the coordination to move like that.
"Hey, Edward," I said, lolling my head to the side and blinking as my surroundings became cloudy. As the blur slowly faded, I saw Edward staring at me, his gorgeous eyes shining with anxiety. Maybe he was afraid the penguins were going to crap all over the Volvo's console.
I laughed hysterically, thinking of his clean, shiny car becoming the bird-shit-mobile.
"Bella, are you—are you okay?" Edward's voice sounded thick in my ears, musically enhancing the rush of blood and the beat of my heart.
"I'm gooood," I said, pressing my cheek to the leather seat. Edward was tugging at his hair, almost rhythmically raking his fingers through it in between shooting me concerned glances here and there. I squinted my eyes and tried to sound firm as I said, "You're going to go bald if you keep pulling at your hair like that."
His hand froze mid-trail and he slowly uncurled his fingers. "Yeah, probably," he replied quietly.
I giggled, mentally picturing Edward without his mass of come-hither hair. "You would look so funny. Like It, that Stephen King clown. He was bald, right?"
Edward's tense expression slowly melted into slight relaxation. "It's been awhile since I've seen that movie, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't completely bald," he said, smoothing his hair one more time. "You think I look like an evil, psycho clown?"
"I was just kidding," I said, snickering. "You don't look like a clown. You look like a…"
Sexgod. I snorted. Well, I couldn't tell him that.
"Tell me what?" Edward asked.
I glanced up at him too quickly, making my head spin. "Did I just say that out loud?" I asked, blinking through another blurry cloud between my eyelashes.
"You said you can't tell me something," he answered curiously.
"Oh," I breathed. Morphine was a nicedrug, but I had almost no control over my mouth. "I just… I guess I wanted to say… I like your hair. S'don't hurt it, 'kay?"
He gave me a comical look. "Thanks. I'll try not to."
I sighed loudly, and turned back to watch the Penguin Show. My eyes widened when I realized they were no longer getting jiggy with iton the dashboard. They weren't doing anything because they were gone. "Oh, no."
"What?" Edward asked, looking over. "You okay?"
"Shh," I hissed, bending over to look on the floor mats. Maybe they were hiding. "Did you see—?"
I focused on the glove compartment, squinting my eyes. What tricky, feathery bastards. With a quick jab at the handle, I pulled open the glove box and stared inside, fully prepared to yell, 'Aha!'
Instead of discovering the 'penguin underground', I found a bunch of Edward's junk: a little bag, a small black case, a few maps, and a pack of cigarettes started to spill out, but I blocked everything with my hands, trying to keep everything from falling to the floor.
"Crap," I muttered, strategically peeking through the objects.
"What—Bella, close that," Edward said firmly. "What are you—"
"Sorry, I thought I there might be…" I trailed off, shaking my head. No penguins. I'd been duped by cartoons. I picked up the pack of cigarettes. "I didn't know you smoked. You don't smell like it."
"I don't," he said shortly.
"Hey, you know what my teacher used to say? 'Every time you smoke, Jesus cries'." I giggled, sliding the pack back into place. "That hypocrite used to light up in the parking lot after every single class. I always wondered what it would be like to try one, but—"
"I said close that," he repeated harshly, reaching out to do it for me.
"Well, geez," I huffed, slamming the glove compartment's drawer shut before he could. "You don't have to be so bossy. What do you have in there, a mad stash of porn?"
He stared at me, the sudden annoyance in his eyes fading. "What? No."
"Well, don't be embarrassed," I said, settling back into the leather seat, licking my dry lips. I was thirsty. "Everyone feels frisky at one point or another. If you're an addict, I won't judge."
I felt like laughing, though a little voice inside me was telling me I should shut up before I humiliated myself.
Jackass. You're high, I thought.
"Never mind," I mumbled, rubbing my eyes. "Whatever's in there—rubber gloves and KY lube, or whatever… You have fun with that."
There was an awkward silence, and the soft scrape of the tires against the asphalt overpowered the faint music coming from the car's speakers. I bit my lip, wrinkling my brow, unsure if this carefree ridiculousness was a blessing or a curs, considering the evening. I got hit by a car, threw up in front of a sexy doctor, criedin front of a cute guy, was hallucinating about arctic birds and spouting off almost every thought my mind conjured, and had just accused Edward of chronically masturbating to lewd magazines.
When I peeked at him, he was staring straight ahead, his mouth parted in frozen speech. He looked a bit embarrassed, but not guilty, so I guessed I'd missed the mark about the man-handling mags. His eyes eventually met mine. "Did you really just tell me to have fun with KY?"
I dramatically pulled my hood over my face. "I'm sorry, I'm all medicated," I whined, feeling sleepy and oddly silly. "And I'm hallucinating. I won't talk anymore."
"Hallucinating?" he asked, and even though my eyes were covered by my hood, I could picture his anxious expression. Again.
"Not anymore, I promise," I assured him, though I kept my head buried under the safety of my hoodie. Maybe if I didn't open my eyes, I wouldn't see anything else that would question my sanity. "Are we almost there?"
"We're right down the street."
Right now, the lodge sounded better than a luxurious spa facility. Most of the night was still hazy and I wanted to bury myself in blankets and forget everything that had happened after dinner.
Everything went silent, but in the next second, I felt someone grabbing my hip. My eyes flew open and I flailed my arms, still stuck in the confines of my hood. "Hey!" I cried, pushing the black fabric out of my eyes, seeing Edward standing outside, leaning inside my side of the door. "What are you doing?"
He raised his hands in submission, surprised. "Undoing your—your—"
"Jeans?" I accused. Well, he could at least wait until we were upstairs.
"Seatbelt," he finished. "I woke you, but you said you were stuck. God, I would never…"
He looked horrified. I guess I couldn't blame him. I sort of just insinuated that he was a panty-snatcher. "Sorry. I believe you," I grumbled, unbuckling my seatbelt. "I don't remember falling asleep."
"I didn't think you wereasleep at first." He gave me a peculiar look, holding out his hand to help me out of the car. "You talked the whole time."
I was grateful I hadn't pushed him away and tried to stand by myself, because I immediately lost my balance out of dizziness and shock. He caught me, holding me close to his chest.
"Nooooo," I moaned into his shirt. Unfortunately, extra morphine didn't hinder my unconscious babbling. "Whatever I said, I didn't mean it." Actually, whatever I blathered, I probably meant every word.
"You kept telling me to catch the penguins," he said, no sign of strain present in his voice as he held me up with one arm, reaching to close the car door with the other. "Apparently, I have stowaway birds hiding in my trunk."
"Oh, God," I mumbled. "That's your fault. Youbrought me my cartoon underwear and I can't stop thinking about it." As long as I hadn't been pleading for him to pull over so we could have Route-66 sex, then I was okay with sounding like a simple moron.
The next minute was a blur as I leaned on the car for support, mumbling apologies for my drug-induced instability, and somehow, Edward managed to carry my bag and keep me upright as we walked to the lodge's door. I kept my face hidden, pressing it against his shirt and hoping my hair was covering the rest of my expression. In my current mind-altered state, I didn't want to be stared at, or mocked by the trashy twins if they were around. After we were inside, I heard Edward speaking and then someone else, too. I wasn't sure if the conversation was directed toward me or not, so I finally lifted my head from the refuge of Edward's chest.
Mm. Pecs. Pec pillows. Hey, it's Doris.
"Oh, hiiii, Doris!" I exclaimed, smiling drunkenly as I saw that she was standing in front of us. "What are you doing here? Oh, wait - oh, we're here." The lodge. Oops. I'd forgotten already. I glanced up at Edward and he nodded. He seemed entertained.
"Goodness, Isabella," said Doris, patting my shoulder. "How do you feel, dear?"
I giggled without restraint, wondering if there was a secret gesture for 'I'm in the arms of walking perfection and sexuality - I feel pretty fucking fantastic.' Instead, I said, "Great. Angela gave me a shot. Hey, do you know Dr. Cullen? He was my doctor. He's married and everything, but he's gorgeous, isn't he?"
Doris pressed her lips together, failing to contain a grin.
"It's okay, you can say it—I won't tell," I reassured her, looking around the room. No one was in sight and even though I had no idea what time it was, I figured it was late. "Oh, were you waiting up for someone?"
"Heavens, honey, I was waiting to see if you would make it back," Doris said with a laugh. "I was worried out of my—"
"It's Mr. Miller, isn't it?" I gasped, my eyes widening. "Are you going to have a midnight chat, Doris?"
I grinned as Doris's face pinked and she gave a giddy chuckle, waving her hand. "Oh, well, I'm sure John's asleep, dear. And while he's a very nice man, we're just good friends."
"Well, I know you said you're a sucker for green eyes," I teased, pointing to Edward. "But Mr. Miller wears red ties. Red's the color of love, you know."
At Doris's incredulous look, Edward coughed. "She's had a lot of medication," he said quickly, sliding his arm down to my waist. (Ooh. Hello there, handsy man.)"I should probably get her in bed," he continued.
I snorted. "Is that a promise?" I looked at Doris, gesturing to Edward. "This coming from the guy who wishes he never met me."
Looking baffled, she opened her mouth to say something, but I leaned forward and hugged her. "You're so sweet, Doris," I said honestly, feeling the room spin. "Don't ever change, okay?"
Doris patted my back lightly and I heard her whisper to Edward, "Do you want me to take her, dear?" Edward answered her, but I didn't care to pay attention. At the moment, I thought about asking if I could sleep on one of the sofas by the fireplace. I had no idea how I was going to climb up a mountain of stairs or wash my face without face-planting into (and drowning in) the sink.
When I finally let go of Doris, she smoothed my hair and smiled gently. "Get some sleep, okay, honey?"
I hummed my acquiescence and looked toward the stairs. Since no one else was around to watch me to embarrass myself, I supposed I didn't mind crawling up to the fourth floor.
I gave a languid murmur of "Okay, goodnight," and half-strolled, half-tottered over to the staircase. I glanced up at the carpet-covered steps that seemed to go on forever. Maybe I could climb a floor and then take a five-minute nap in between each.
"Need a hand?"
I blinked, glancing over my shoulder and seeing Edward standing behind me. Oh, right. My babysitter. "With what? You've already got my stuff," I said, reaching out to take the bag that was holding my purse and clothes. "Here. I'll take it."
He sighed, curling the plastic handles around his hand a second time. "I've got it."
We stared at each other for a few moments. Suddenly, everything wasn't so warm and fuzzy anymore. I'd given myself a reminder of Edward's earlier declaration—his words of wishing he hadn't approached me, ever.
Thinking about it gave me a short burst of energy and annoyance, and I carefully started climbing the stairs, taking precaution as I death-gripped the banister. I took slow steps and, in tandem with the rhythm of my feet, I felt my eyes and chest grow heavy and hot. As I reached the second floor, I held onto the railing and put my head down, starting to sob. I had no idea what the fuck I was crying about.
"What's the matter?" I heard Edward exclaim, and he put his hands on my shoulders, trying to turn me around. "Bella, what's wrong? Does something hurt? Are you okay?"
"No," I blubbered. "Yeah."
I heard him take a quick breath, the plastic bag crinkling as he dropped it next to us. "Which?"
"No, nothing hurts," I said, sniffling. "And yeah, I'm okay." I continued crying like a whiny little girl.
He rubbed my back for a few moments before attempting to pull me away from the railing. "Come on, let's go upstairs."
I resisted, keeping my hands firmly curled around the banister, but I did raise my head. "You go without me. It's what you wanted anyway," I said. His hands slowly slid away from my arms and only then did I move to wipe my face, soaking up all the gross wetness with my sleeves.
"Honestly, I don't know why I'm crying," I tried to explain. "I just feel like it."
Edward nodded with a small frown, taking a timid step forward. "It's okay. I kind of feel like it, too."
"Why?" I asked, sobering up a bit.
He sighed, and in the next second, I thought I might be hallucinating again. He bridged the gap between us and pulled me into his arms. "Because I'm a jerk," he muttered, hugging me.
I stood like an idiot, arms at my sides, wondering if this was for real or if the Mary Poppins' penguins were going to burst out of one of the guest rooms and start tap-dancing and singing.
"You don't forgive me, huh?" he asked quietly.
I tentatively put my arms around him, denting my hands into the softness of his shirt. "For being a jerk?" I inquired stupidly, not remembering if he had actually apologized for anything.
"Well, yes," he said, brushing my behind my ear so he could see my face. I kept my hands on his back, holding on like a pouty kid. He creased his eyebrows and stared at me questioningly. "Do you remember what I told you when we were leaving the hospital?"
I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling dizzy, and tried to think. "Uh… No. I remember Angela giving me a shot, helping me get dressed… Then we were in your car. That's when I saw the penguins on your dashboard."
Edward barely chuckled. "I should have known. When I was talking to you as we were walking to the car, you just started laughing."
Before I could ask him what he has said earlier, he traced his fingers across my cheek, just under my earlobe and under the curve of my chin. It was nice, but I suddenly couldn't stand up anymore. My knees bend involuntarily and he quickly gripped my arms, holding me up.
"You okay?" he asked again.
"I feel drunk," I confessed, holding his arms for balance, and looked up at the stairs we had yet to scale. "I really wish there was an elevator. It would make it easier to, like… not climb the stairs."
That got him to laugh, even though I felt like a jackass.
"I'll carry you," Edward said, reaching to pick up my bag and putting his arm around me before I could comment. "I know you'd probably love to choke me at this point, but do you think you can hold onto my neck without doing so? At least until I get you to our floor?"
Normally, I probably would have protested, but I felt so out of it, I didn't care. Without hesitating, I nodded and slid my arm around his neck, and when he lifted me into his arms, my head drooped against his shoulder.
"I'm drugged," I mumbled into his shirt, then giggled for absolutely no reason at all.
"I know," he answered, cradling me against his chest as he slowly started up the steps. "To be honest, I'm a little envious of you right now."
I snorted. "I can share my prescription. Dr. Cullen gave me painkillers. Oh wait, you were there, right?"
"I was there," he answered, sounding amused.
"Am I heavy?" I asked, suddenly self-conscious. The IV fluids I was full of made me feel bloated.
"Not at all," Edward said. "Two more floors. I think we'll make it."
I clung to his neck, and as I put my head against his chest, I noticed his taped hand curled around my side—the one that he'd hurt by punching out the drunken men outside the restaurant. Seeing it made me wistful. I finally asked, "What did you say before, at the hospital?"
He slowed his pace for a few moments, his chest swelling against mine as he took a deep breath. "I was trying to apologize, but I couldn't find the right words. Basically, I was trying to say that I was sorry for not being there for you tonight, and for saying something stupid—telling you I shouldn't have approached you just because I feel guilty. Meeting you is one of the better things that's happened to me in a long time. I didn't mean to screw it up."
As he spoke, gravity seemed to pull my eyes closed and the darkness was so inviting, I almost drifted off. "You didn't," I whispered, tucking my head deeper into the curve of his neck. "You smell good. I mean, it's okay."
Edward's laughter was like music, a tickling vibration against my body and sweet humming in my ear. I felt so warm and fuzzy from his arms and the morphine. I wished I could capture the sound of him and pull it into my dreams. It would definitely be an improvement from the one I'd had earlier. I knew I'd be asleep soon—whether it was in his arms or in bed, if I made it that far.
"If I put you down, do you think you can stand?"
"Hmm?" I asked, opening my heavy eyes and blinking. We were in front of my door. "Oh. Yeah, I think so." I breathed him in one more time, knowing that I'd probably never get this close to him again.
Edward gently set me on my feet and I leaned on the wall as he unlocked my door.
"Where'd you get my key?"
"From Doris, when I came back to get your things. I'll give it back to her, don't worry," he said.
I honestly didn't care at this point. Once inside, I nearly fell over trying to dig a pair of pajamas out of my suitcase and it was humiliating to have Edward ask me if I needed help in the bathroom. Needless to say, I made him wait outside while I did my nightly routine, telling him he was only allowed to come in after me if he heard me crash through the shower door. He didn't find it as funny as I did. Despite dropping my toothbrush into the sink more than a few times, almost swallowing a piece of dental floss, and cracking up at the sight of myself in the mirror, I emerged unscathed and still slightly hysterical.
"I look like I've been mugged," I giggled as I stumbled over to my bed. I felt like a pathetic crab as I tried to crawl up onto the elevated mattress, all awkward limbs and pinching sections of the comforter to pull myself onto the bed. Edward finally reached under my arms and helped me up.
"Thanks," I breathed as I fell onto my pillows, still oddly torn between the urge to keep laughing and starting to cry again. It was official: morphine was like a triple dose of bipolar PMS. As I lazily pulled back the covers and buried myself beneath the blankets, I saw Edward pick up a few of the discharge papers I'd been given.
"It says here that you should have some water or juice," he said, fanning the paper with a flick of his wrist. "Which would you like?"
"I d'care," I said sleepily, the rush and pulse of blood whooshing in my ears.
His eyes were sympathetic and sparkling like tiny champagne bubbles. Little round, green Jacuzzis. Haha. Jacuzzi was a funny word.
I snapped my eyes open in surprise, finding Edward above me. He was smoothing my hair, making my scalp tingle. "Huh?"
"I'll be right back," he said. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Mm-hmm," I hummed, wishing I had the strength to reach up and get a handful of hishair since he was touching mine.
"Okay. Try not to get up until I get back, all right?"
I snorted a chuckle. "I couldn't if I tried." I was going to be glued to the mattress until the morning.
Edward softly said something else that I couldn't hear and stepped back, walking toward the door and taking his caressing hands with him. I sighed, sliding my fingers through my hair and mimicking his touch. I told myself that the medication was probably responsible for the tingles.
Closing my eyes, I breathed in the familiar lemony scent from the linens and felt my muscles loosen one by one, relaxing further into the sheets. I lay there for awhile, waiting to hear Edward reopen the door, but instead I heard a slight rustling sound. I opened my eyes suspiciously, immediately drawn to the white, iridescent curtains covering my windows, which were rippling like silky waves. Like open mouths, the windows were breathing with wind, sending the curtains forth with little puffs of air and sucking them back with deep inhales.
I pushed back the covers and slid out of bed, the wood of the floor warm beneath my bare feet. As I reached out to close one of the windows, I was met with an intense, vivid ray of white and gold light: sunlight. I stared at the morning sunrise and swept my hair out of my eyes, amazed that I had slept so long and so soundly, that it had felt like mere moments instead of hours. Curiously, I peered around my room, noticing the evident tidiness and absence of my scattered clothes and bags.
I crossed the room, my hair flowing behind me, and opened the door to find Doris, Jessica, and Lauren bustling about the hallway. They were heaving netted material everywhere: over the banister, around the pillars, down into the opposite side of the hall. With wide eyes, I turned to Doris, who looked up with a smile.
"Good morning, dear! Don't mind us!" she sang brightly, flinging another heap of netting into the air.
"What's going on?" I asked, side-stepping as Jessica brushed by my door and twirled in a circle as she, too, tossing the meshed fabric over the hall light.
Jessica turned, a mysterious smile on her face. "We're trying to catch the fourth-floor fuckers. It's been reported that two people have been heard up here doing naughtythings. And we're going to catch them!"
I narrowed my eyes to Lauren, who was conspicuously avoiding everyone's eyes, kicking at the nets with disdain.
"Oh, well, I hope you find them." I managed to keep a straight face and limbo my way through the hallway without getting tangled. Doris and Jessica waved their goodbyes, and as I descended the stairs, I heard Lauren shriek that her foot was caught.
Ha ha, hallway hooker. Ha ha.
The sound of Jessica and Doris kicking up a fuss, along with boisterous accusations, faded as I quickly made my way to the lobby. It was empty and devoid of all sound, except for the crackling, sizzling wood in the fireplace. Flickers of orange light reflected off the polished walls, creating an ethereal glow, and I ran my fingertips over the wood, watching the firelight's dance as it brought my skin to life. The longer I held my hand in the mirrored, apricot-colored sparks, pressed against the wooden fibers, I could feel a tingle of energy, of vibrancy.
Life was in these walls.
My attention was diverted as I felt a sweep of cool air hit my legs, my neck, and I turned to see the back door undulating identically to the way my curtains had. I rushed to pull it closed, but I spotted a lone figure on the cusp of the hill, sitting stoically, gazing into the entrance of the woods. Disregarding my attire and the tranquil warmth of the fireplace, I allowed myself to be taken over by curiosity.
The grass was cushy and cool, and it bent to the power of the breeze, bowing its servitude. I breathed in the fresh air, and though I tried to be silent, in fear of startling the stranger. It was a man, and he heard me before I could get close. As he turned to face me, I realized it wasn't a stranger at all.
"Dr. Cullen?" His golden eyes seemed to radiate like a second sun, contrasting against the sparkle of the one above us, and the vision mesmerized me. It was like he had his own gravitation pull, choreographing my steps and magnetizing me in his direction. "What are you doing here?"
"Watching," he said calmly, his musical voice fitting in perfectly with the symphony of the breeze. "Waiting."
I reached his side and sat down, unable to look away from his face. "Waiting for what?"
He turned back to the trees, subtly tilting his head, as if listening for a secret in the wind. Instead of answering my question, he entwined his fingers into the fresh blades of grass and pulled the lush pieces from the ground. He clasped his hands together in a silent prayer and then separated his thumbs, allowing the little green strips to flutter away. They soared through the air toward an opening in the trees, and disappeared where a man-made path lay.
"Are you being careful, Bella?"
The question was simple, yet my heart stuttered in its rhythmic beating. I swallowed, tasting the sweetness of the air on my tongue, and shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know."
He reached over and touched my hair, pulling a small, lone leaf from one of my locks. "You should be."
I watched as he let go of the leaf and it flew directly to the same entrance the grass had. The branches swayed and rustled, moving apart and widening the archway of the forest, as though inviting us in.
"Come for a walk," Dr. Cullen said, fluidly standing and requesting my company as he offered his hand. I didn't hesitate and tightened my fingers around his cool ones. "Hold on tight."
In seconds, I felt the wind whip past my face, through my hair, and we were moving in such a rapid pace, I felt as though I were in flight. The surrounding woods were nothing but a green blur and when we finally stopped, we were in a clearing. Golden yellow, pumpkin, deep-rooted red, and ocher leaves encircled us in blankets amongst the neighboring treetops, and the amber grass around us was patterned with violet flowers.
"I've been here in my dreams," I confessed, wrapping my arms around myself as I took in the milieu. "How did you know?"
"There are things you haven'tseen," Dr. Cullen revealed, gazing at me intensely. "Have you looked closely?"
He placed his hands on my shoulders and spun me toward the opposite part of the expanse of land, where the trees were darker, more shadowed. I didn't want to look there. I resisted, trying to turn back to the brighter colors, but he held me firmly.
"Watch," he whispered, making me shiver.
So I did. I watched the branches sway and shudder. I saw as the wind picked up, ripping the leaves from their roots, and as they fell, they crumpled, turning black. The clouds swirled and raged and the blue sky and vibrant sunlight vanished, leaving nothing but a charcoal atmosphere. I whimpered, clutching at Dr. Cullen's hands, and he tightened his arms around me, protecting me.
"Just watch," he said again, and I couldn't even blink. There was a storm around us now and rain fell in cold sheets, stinging my arms and soaking my clothes. Flashes of lightning struck, crisscrossing sharply throughout the black sky, and suddenly, in the creases of the trees directly across from us, there was an additional flare. Eyes.
Red and brown. White and green. They flashed and flickered just like the flames from the fireplace and grew brighter than the lightning. I screwed my eyes shut, covering them with my hands, but even that couldn't stop the light. It was so severe, blinding me from everything else, and I was consumed. Thunder crashed and roared above, so loud, and I trembled against Dr. Cullen, wishing he would take me back.
Take me back.
Instantly, the furious wind died, the light faded, and the thunder weakened, growing to a dull rumble. My heart pounded in a frantic cadence and as I took my hands away from my eyes, I realized I was back at the lodge. My back was against a wall. My wall. My room.
Another boom made me jump and I wondered if the storm had followed me, if it was brewing above, ready to strike through the ceiling. When it sounded again, I stiffened, and looked in the direction of Edward's room.
I darted into the hallway, thinking he was in the throes of a nightmare, and rushed to his door, throwing it open without thought. Darkness flooded the room and seemed to seep out into the hallway behind me, erasing the light and, once again, leaving me in shadows.
There was someone in the corner, breathing.
"Edward?" I asked in a whisper.
It wasn't Edward. Whoever it was took a step toward me, and the breathing turned into a snarl. Maybe it wasn't a someone—maybe it was a something. I backed up slowly, reaching behind my back for the doorframe, and screamed as I made contact with something solid.
Whirling around, I found myself against something soft, warm. "Oh, my God, Edward," I breathed in relief as I took in his face and immediately turned to point to the apparition in the corner.
It was gone.
"Miss me?" Edward said, murmuring near my ear.
I faced him once again and sighed as he put his arms around me. "Where have you been?"
"I was searching for you," he explained, and he inclined his head until it was touching the crown of mine. I trembled slightly as he kissed my hair, and I reached to put my arms around his neck. "You're cold, Bella."
"I know," I said, craving the heat that was radiating from his body. He seemed to read my mind, trailing his fingers through my hair and pulling me closer, and dipped his mouth to my shoulder. His lips were warm and soft, and I tightened my hold on him, moaning softly.
I felt extraordinary alive as he continued touching me, thawing my fear and increasing my temperature with his mouth and hands, and I brushed my lips against the arc of his neck, having wanted to taste him for so long. His skin was like the smoothest silk and I longed to be wrapped up in him, to feel nothing between us but our own heartbeats.
Eager, I pulled, tugging his shirt, and soon he was bare-chested and clutching me tighter, begging me to match him. Our hands worked to remove our clothes and he inched us toward the bed until I had collapsed onto the sheets. He moved over me, lowering himself gently, and the incredible feel of skin on skin was heavenly, so desperately prized as he kissed down my neck. The slide of his lips on my breasts made me moan and lift my hips to his, wanting more.
"Shh," he hushed me, dropping to rest upon me, tucking his head against my shoulder. "Shh. It's all right."
I snugly wrapped my arms around his back, unwilling to leave this position, only wanting to feel the curve of his body and hear his breath in my ear. Sighing, I slid my hands into his hair, as he whispered, over and over, words that I couldn't make out.
My name. I knew that one.
I blinked lethargically, a newly fuzzy blanket over my eyes. A brightblanket—it wasn't dark anymore. I groaned softly, unclear of why my head was dully throbbing or why it felt difficult to breathe.
"Um… Are you okay?"
The voice scared the hell out of me. Jerking backwards, which got me nowhere, as I was still flat on my back, I released my constricting grasp on whatever I was grabbing. That was why my chest felt heavy ; something was on top of me. I looked to the side and saw arms that were not my own slowly elevating, like they were doing a push-up. Then, I rolled my head forward and came practically nose to nose with Edward.
This couldn't be happening. I'd been asleep.
"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream*," I mumbled, hoping to God that I was still dreaming.
He inhaled swiftly and stared at me, and I realized that I was actually feeling pain, which never happened to me in dreams. My hope faded into embarrassing reality. I stared back in awe and confusion, and most of all, humiliation. What the hellhad I done to him?
"Oh… I—my—m" I tried to speak, but couldn't think straight to save my pathetic little self-respect.
"Are you okay?" he asked, sounding a bit shaky.
I nodded, feeling my hands start to quake. Ohmygodohmygod. "Did I pullyou on top of me?" My voice came out in an absurd squeak, shriller than a mouse's orgasm.
Edward nodded, pushing himself up until he was sitting on the edge of the bed. "Yeah. You were, um … quite insistent."
All of my blood took a one-way trip to my face. I was a little slice of slut-cake. Shame couldn't even begin to describe what I was feeling.
"Was that all I did?" I asked, my heart pounding against my chest, remembering the last bit of my dream. God almighty, if I'd made out with him unconsciously, I was going to die, actually die, of mortification. I could already feel my heart stuttering in my chest.
Edward cleared his throat. "Yeah. I just came over because you said my name, and you… kind of took me by surprise. I fell right on top of you."
I'd said his name. For the love of God. "I'm sorry," I quickly blurted, struggling to sit up. Edward took my arm and helped me get upright, chuckling. "Bella, I'm sorry," he echoed. "Are you sure I didn't hurt you?"
Was he serious? He had unknowingly almost given me a slumborgasm. If anything hurt, it was that it had been a dream, and I hadn't gotten to finish it.
"No, I'm fine, I promise," I said, glancing around the room. "God. That was so weird."
"How do you feel?" he asked, cracking his knuckles, and I quickly looked away, trying not to think of what he had been doing with his hands in my dream.
I actually felt better, at least in terms of being a bit more lucid, and I told him I was fine. "What time is it?"
He looked at his watch. "A little after four."
"AM?" I uttered, wincing as my head started to ache. "Why aren't you asleep?"
He quietly laughed and moved to sit in his chair. "I'm supposed to watch you, remember?"
I stared at him, baffled, then finally had a vague recollection of Dr. Cullen reiterating that Edward had agreed to, more or less, baby-sit me until twenty-four hours were up. "Oh, Edward, really, you don't have to do that," I complained, rubbing my eyes. "You're probably exhausted. You should be in bed."
"Thanks, but I was just in one," he replied with a smile and I grimaced. He reached across the desk and picked up a cup. "Thirsty? I brought you apple juice. It's not cold anymore… I could get you something fresh."
My mouth was so dry, I didn't care if the cup's rim had been licked by Jessica Stanley. "This is fine, thank you," I said quickly, accepting the drink, wanting to do something other than sitting there feeling like Whore of the Year. My head was still swimming from the lingering effect of morphine and I felt a little cold, despite the comforter. As I drank, I did a play-by-play of my dream, remembering the ghastly storm in the woods and the eerie figure with raspy breath in Edward's room.
"What's wrong?" he asked suddenly, and I realized my hands were quivering and causing the cup to shake.
I leaned over the bed and placed the juice on my night table, then hid my hands in my lap, trying to conceal the evidence of my nerves. "Just after-effects, I guess," I said, thinking that was probably true. "Have you ever had a dream before, where parts of it are just plain weird or scary, and then, surprisingly, there's a good part at the end?"
Edward's eyes were thoughtful as I watched him deliberate his answer. "My dreams?" he pondered. "Sometimes they're strange. Mostly they're frightening." He looked away, then, tracing invisible circles on his jeans. "Good things don't exist when I sleep."
Maybe it was the last little remnant of drugs in my system, but my eyes started to sting with unshed tears. His answer was heartbreaking and he looked lost all of a sudden.
"What do you dream about?" I asked, aching to pull him back into my arms and comfort him.
He shook his head. "Not now, Bella. Please."
"Okay," I mumbled quietly.
We were silent for awhile, stationary as statues, and gradually I started to feel drowsy again. I was still somewhat uneasy and I wasn't sure if I was just jittery from medication or everything from the past ten hours. Or maybe because I was guilty that Edward was keeping himself awake, or just because my dream was one drop shy of a woodsy acid-trip. But I didn't feel comfortable enough to just drift back off to sleep. If I were back in Jacksonville, I probably would have dug my old, tattered bunny that I used to sleep with out of the closet and curled up with it like I was five years old again.
I glanced at Edward, who was studying his hands. "Look, I know it's probably inappropriate or something," I said, grappling for the right words. "And I know you're right here, but would you mind—"
He glanced at me with curious, heartfelt eyes. "Would I mind what?"
"I just feel weird," I confessed, wringing my hands and taking a deep breath. "I don't want to sleep by myself." I felt like such a little lady of the night. Lauren seemed like Little Miss Chastity Belt compared to me. Even so, I swallowed my dignity and asked, "Would you mind laying next to me?"
Edward didn't answer right away and the little bit of confliction in his eyes made me want to disappear. Shit. "Never mind," I said quickly, laying down and flipping over to the opposite wall. "I'm sorry."
A few beats of silence went by before I heard, "I didn't even answer you."
He never had to; I wondered if he knew how revealing his eyes were, sometimes. Eventually, I heard him sigh, followed by a few thumps and the scrape of the desk chair, and I listened to his footsteps cross the room. I guessed he was leaving, officially weirded out. I closed my eyes, hating the fact that they were prickling with unwelcome tears—too many times in one night. I hadn't cried this much since Phil, really.
"Should I stay above the covers?"
I exhaled softly, lifting my heavy eyelids to see Edward standing on the adjacent side of the bed, and, of course, nervously running his fingers through his hair. I swallowed, still on the verge of being weepy, and managed to choke out, "You don't have to do anything out of pity."
He let out his breath, too, giving me a pensive look. "You think I don't want to, don't you?"
"I could see it in your eyes," I answered, absentmindedly fisting the corner of the pillowcase.
"I'm not pitying you," he said, giving his hair a final tug before skimming his hand over the comforter. "I just wasn't sure if I should lay down at all. I'm probably going to fall right asleep and I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on you. But I promise I don't mind." He studied me for a moment longer, doubtlessly reading the skepticism in my eyes, and he continued, "Bella, if I didn't want to, I'd make up something about feeling uncomfortable or how it's not appropriate, or that I needed a shower or something stupid. And I already took off my shoes. Do you just want me to stay on top of the covers? I don't want to cross a line or anything."
"You can get under them," I said, trying to keep the happiness out of my voice. "I promise I won't roll on top of you."
He shook his head, smiling as he slid into bed. "I move a lot in my sleep, so hopefully I won't roll on top of you."
I laughed, wondering if he knew what he'd be in for if he ever did do that, then waited quietly as he got himself settled. "I don't know what's up with me," I said. "I just… want someone next to me. Does that make sense?"
"More than you know," he answered, sounding slightly sad, and reached over to grasp my hand. "You had a rough night. If I was in your place, I wouldn't want to be alone either."
I inched a tad closer to him, relishing in the warm air between us. "Thank you," I said gratefully. "Not just this, but for everything you did for me. Really."
"Of course," he said, tightening his hand around mine a bit more, and I had to take my eyes off of him before I did something skanky, like ask him for a goodnight kiss.
"So, don't worry about 'keeping an eye on me' anymore," I said swiftly, clearing my throat. "I'll be fine, really. I'll feel bad if you don'tsleep."
He creased his eyebrows, looking even more cute than normal with his stubborn face. "Will you promise to wake me if you need anything? Even if it's just to talk?"
"Okay," he said, sounding satisfied. "I'll wait until you're asleep first."
I smiled again, still a little disbelieving that he was going to be sleeping next to me. "All right. Goodnight."
It felt nice that his face was the last thing I saw before closing my eyes. I tried to relax, letting the feel of his hand comfort me as I concentrated on slowing my breath. Technically, I had his company until later tonight, and there was still time to find out what was going on in his head if he was willing to share. I'ddone enough sharing, with my whiplash of crying and giggling and wailing again. Now it was his turn.
"Bella?" came Edward's voice, breaking me out of a gradual descent to sleep. "Can I just ask you one thing?"
I lazily opened my eyes, slightly lifting my head off of my pillow to glance up at him. "Yeah?"
"What on earth were you dreaming about, anyway?"
*Line from A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe.
Side note: I totally hallucinated a dancing penguin when I was given morphine once, probably brought on by the little stuffed penguin on my bed; my mother likes to buy me ridiculous things from hospital gift shops. Anyway, I told all the nurses that my penguin was dancing. I laughed a lot. And then I cried. Morphine is a strange drug.