I dreamed of Edward: His cool lips kissing my hand, my wrist, my arm; his smooth fingers caressing my cheeks and brow; his loving voice murmuring at my ear; his strong arms carrying me to our meadow.
When I woke, I felt disoriented and groggy. I was sore and thirsty, too, but I couldn't quite remember why. The room was very dim. I blinked in an effort to see where I was, even as my hands felt the silkiness of the sheets and plushness of the mattress.
Emmett's voice startled me, and I gasped. The harsh breath caused a twinge in my chest.
"Are you okay?" he asked, and then he was looming over me. His expression, however, was tender and concerned.
I realized I was in Edward's room, tucked into the bed. I was still dressed, but my shoes had been removed. Abruptly the afternoon's events returned to me. Automatically I checked my hand for the IV but found only a small bandage. I pulled my other arm from beneath the sheet to see that the hives were gone, although some blotchiness remained.
"Emmett," I croaked. "What time is it?"
"About seven. Do you want me to turn on the light?"
I nodded, and he switched on the small lamp beside the bed. "You slept for almost four hours," he informed me. "Carlisle said not to worry, that you needed it…" His expression showed that he had, in fact, been quite worried.
Moments after the mention of his name, Carlisle appeared in the doorway. He glided to the bed, smiling down at me.
"How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Better," I replied raspily. "Thirsty…"
He produced a glass of water from the night table as I sat up. A hint of dizziness gnawed at me, but I pushed it aside. My hand shook slightly when I reached for the glass. His fingers gently supported mine as I drank.
The water helped to clear my head completely. When I had finished, I asked, "How's Rosalie?"
I glanced at Emmett first. His characteristically jovial demeanor had not returned; he remained serious. I heard a small susurration and knew that Carlisle had said something to him too softly for me to understand. My gaze moved to Carlisle.
His smile lingered, but I saw a hint of tension around his eyes. "She's fine," he replied.
"She was really upset before," I said.
He nodded. "She was worried about you."
"She sat with you until about twenty minutes ago," Emmett informed me. "She brought you up here and made sure you were comfortable."
My chest felt tight again. "That… that was kind of her."
Carlisle's smile broadened. "It was," he agreed, a touch of pride in his tone.
"I'd like to thank her," I said. "Where is she?"
"She wanted to finish up with your truck," Emmett answered. "I'll, um, let her know you're awake." He gave my hand a slightly awkward pat then vanished.
I blinked in his wake. I knew that something remained amiss. I didn't realize I was rubbing at the mild pressure in my chest until Carlisle sat down beside me, his gaze lowering to my hand. His brow furrowed.
"Your airways are clear—are you still finding it difficult to breathe?" he asked.
Honestly, I wasn't sure. My heart was thumping harder as worry over Rose coursed through me. I shook my head.
"Sweetheart, try to calm down," he said, his voice soft and steady. "Everything is fine—really."
"But she was so upset," I said between rapid breaths. "And Edward's going to be angry with her, too, just when she and I were starting to get along better. I thought he'd be happy about that, and then I had to go and have a stupid allergic reaction and ruin it all—" I was close to panting now.
"Bella," Carlisle said gently yet firmly, capturing my gaze, "stop. Just focus on your breathing. In… out… in…out… that's it."
He coached me for a few long moments until I felt calmer.
"Better?" he asked.
I nodded, my cheeks beginning to flush with embarrassment. "Thanks."
He took my hands, his cool skin soothing away the remnants of my panic. "This wasn't your fault," he told me. "It was no one's. It was simply an accident."
"But Edward's so protective of me. He'll still blame Rose—"
"He may for a minute, before he thinks it through. But I'll be certain he knows that there was no way your reaction to the oil of bergamot could have been predicted. It's an unusual allergen. Lotions containing oil of bergamot are commonly sold and used throughout the world. You could have had the same reaction to any previously unencountered substance—something in one of Alice's countless cosmetics or shampoos…"
I shook my head. "But Rose thinks it's her fault, and Edward will know that. It will only convince him further."
"Then I suppose you'll need to convince her that she wasn't to blame." He spoke so calmly, so rationally, that I almost believed I could do as he suggested.
"I don't even know if she'll be willing to talk to me."
"I'm sure she is. Do you feel well enough to get up?"
"I think so…"
He stood and held out his hand to me. He helped me from the bed, watching to be certain that my legs were fully functional. Then he looped his arm through mine and escorted me downstairs and toward the garage.
"All right?" he asked simply.
Really, my heart was pounding again, but his confidence buoyed me, and I gave him a nod before I walked into the garage.
Rosalie was bent over the hood of my truck, but I was sure she heard me enter. Emmett was nowhere in sight, so we were alone. I wondered if that was intentional on Carlisle's and Emmett's parts.
It didn't matter, I supposed. I took a steadying breath then said, "Rosalie."
Slowly she lifted her head to look up at me. "You're all right now?" she asked. While the phrasing was terse, I could hear the sentiment behind the words.
"Fine," I assured her. "Emmett told me that you took me to Edward's room and made sure I was comfortable…" I decided not to share my knowledge that she had kept a bedside vigil. "I appreciate it."
She gave me a nod. "It was no trouble." She took a step back and closed the hood. "It was the least I could do." She did not look at me as she spoke.
"Rosalie, I don't blame you. It wasn't your fault."
"I gave you the cleaning solution, and I rubbed the cortisone all over your skin," she retorted quietly.
"You had no way of knowing the solution was going to bother me, and when you saw the hives, you were just trying to help."
I saw her eyebrows draw together before she shifted her gaze to me. "I didn't even bother to wash my hands," she said. "I should have known better."
"Rose, it was a fluke, a random event that could've happened to anyone."
"But it happened to you. I was careless, Bella. I just didn't think."
"So you've learned something. No harm, no foul, right?"
"No harm?" she repeated with a mirthless laugh. "I hardly called anaphylactic shock harmless!"
"But you knew what to do. You gave me the injection, and I'm all right now."
"Yes, after intravenous corticosteroids and antihistamines, oxygen, and an albuterol treatment."
"I'm sure Carlisle was just being cautious," I replied, trying to keep the hesitation from my voice. It did sound rather serious when she listed everything out like that.
She shook her head. "If he hadn't already been on his way home, if he hadn't been able to get here so quickly…" Her voice faltered.
"But he did. It turned out okay."
Her jaw clenched, and she swallowed. I barely heard her next words; she spoke them very softly. "It almost didn't."
Her eyes moved to the doorway, and I realized that a car had pulled up. Rosalie's posture became even more rigid and tense. Before I could question her, Edward flew through the door. His arms were around me instantly, his embrace tentative yet tender.
"Bella," he breathed, "are you all right?"
I looked up at him and smiled, hoping the calm his panic. "I'm fine."
He cupped my cheek in his hand, his gaze moving quickly yet appraisingly over me. After a few moments he took my arm and examined the faint blotchiness.
"Does it still itch or hurt?" he asked.
"No. Really, I feel all right," I assured him. "Everyone took good care of me—Rosalie especially."
Edward stiffened, turning his head purposefully toward his sister.
"I'm sorry," she murmured.
My own body froze, with the exception of my pounding heart, as I waited for the castigating tirade. To my considerable surprise, Edward simply nodded and returned his attention to me.
"Come inside, love," he said. "You should still be resting, and I'm sure you need to eat."
I was too stunned to protest as he led me away. His reaction was entirely unexpected. Was he simply waiting until later to rake Rosalie over the coals? I studied his face but found no signs of anger. He appeared somewhat worried, but I had expected that.
He escorted me to the living room, where we sank down on the couch. I noticed that all of Carlisle's equipment had been removed from the coffee table. The pillows were back in place, too, and the blanket Rose had spread over me was gone. There was no evidence of my mishap.
Edward kissed my brow and mouth gently then pulled me into his arms. His lips moved against my cheek, but I heard only a whisper of air. I closed my eyes, and for a few minutes I simply allowed myself to savor him. However, I remained concerned about his response to Rosalie.
An enticing smell drew me from my reverie. I turned my head from Edward's chest to see Jasper setting a large mug on the table. He gave me a smile and a nod then left us alone.
"He heated some soup for you," Edward informed me.
"Thank you," I said, knowing Jasper would hear me.
Edward touched the mug briefly. "It's a little too hot for you."
"I can wait," I replied.
"Are you certain you're feeling all right?" he asked.
"Yes. I'm a little tired, I guess."
"The antihistamines Carlisle gave you tend to have that effect. We want you to continue with a lower oral dose for a few days, just to be on the safe side."
"Okay," I agreed, knowing this was not the time to argue with him. His calmness still astonished me.
He caressed my cheek then moved his hand down my arm, letting it rest at my hip for several seconds before trailing his fingers over my knee. I knew he needed to touch me, to feel that I remained solid and whole. I smiled gently and snuggled closer to him. His hand settled upon my leg, his fingers kneading softly.
Unfortunately his ministrations caused a distinct twinge. I flinched against him.
"Darling, what's wrong?" he asked, his beautiful countenance contorting with concern.
"Nothing… it's just, I think that's where Rosalie gave me the shot."
He lifted his hand with a frown then carefully slid up the hem of my shorts to reveal my thigh. A nasty, purple bruise had already formed at the injection site. He brushed his fingertips beneath it.
"It doesn't hurt now," I assured him.
"I'm sorry… I didn't realize…"
"It's fine, Edward, really."
But his features remained tight. I feared this small injury would draw out his wrath at Rosalie. He had suppressed it, probably to avoid upsetting me, but I knew eventually his anger would burst forth.
"It wasn't her fault," I said softly yet firmly. "Rosalie had no way of knowing that I'd have a bizarre allergic reaction, and when I did she knew exactly what to do. Please don't be angry with her." I clasped his hands imploringly.
Once again, my fiancé surprised me. "I'm not angry with her, love."
"I wish it hadn't happened, and I do think she might have been more careful. She shouldn't have permitted you to try to help in the garage."
"But I wanted to. I asked her—she didn't ask me."
"I know. Even so, it wasn't a good idea."
"She's really sorry. I've never seen her so upset or worried. She truly feels terrible about the whole thing."
"I know she does," he replied quietly.
"So you can forgive her?"
"Thank you, Edward. I was so worried that you'd be furious with her, that her contrition wouldn't be enough—"
He shook his head minutely. "It's not her contrition that dissipated my anger," he said softly.
Confused, I asked, "It's not?"
"Then what is it?"
He exhaled slowly before responding. "She does feel terribly guilty and regretful, but part of it stems from her thoughts when she realized you were in anaphylactic shock." He winced slightly at the words. "She was afraid the epinephrine wouldn't work and that Carlisle wouldn't be able to get here in time. During those critical minutes, she considered changing you."
Utterly stunned, I could only gape at him for a moment. "She did?"
He nodded. "She knew how much it meant to you, and she knew it would destroy me to lose you—that in the long run I'd forgive her if it meant you would be with me still, so she had decided that she wouldn't let you… go. It was a wrenching decision for her. I can't hate her for that."
"I had no idea," I murmured.
"Nor did I, until I got close enough to the house to hear her thoughts. She didn't even realize I was there. She kept going over and over it… She's still thinking about it, still upset about it."
"But she would have done it? She would have changed me?" I asked incredulously.
"I believe so."
I closed my eyes, needing a moment to process this unbelievable information. "Wow."
Suddenly Edward's hands were on my face, his fingers trembling minutely. "Bella, I don't want you to think this means I've changed my mind about your giving up your humanity. I still want you to remain human as long as possible, to experience everything you can, everything you should… It's the depth of Rosalie's devotion to both you and me that dissipated my anger. The knowledge that she was willing to go against her own beliefs to do what you wanted—knowing that she cares about you that deeply—is the reason I can forgive her. Do you understand?"
I nodded and replied honestly, "Yes."
He smiled gently yet sadly in acknowledgment. "She's not ready to share this with anyone yet. I imagine she'll tell Emmett eventually, but I don't think she wants anyone else to know."
"I won't say anything," I promised.
"But knowing she'd do that—knowing that she cares that much—" I took a breath.
He gave me a nod. "I know, love. She's struggled with what she is for so long, and it's kept her from connecting with others. She's still not entirely at peace with it, but she's beginning to lower her defenses, and I think we'll all benefit from that."
I wanted to tell him how she had sat with me while I slept. But I decided this bit of information would not come from me. I would keep this one small thing between Rosalie and me.
"I think your soup is cool enough now," Edward said, reaching for the mug.
"Thanks." I took a sip. "Perfect."
"Yes," he replied a bit huskily, his gaze fixed upon me. "Always."
I wasn't sure how to interpret that last word. So I just returned his smile and had another sip of soup. Outside I heard the distinctive rumble of my truck's engine as Rosalie pulled the vehicle from the garage. I knew it was repaired and would be waiting when I was ready. Perhaps the same could be said for Rosalie.
With a brighter outlook and a renewed feeling of hope, I settled against Edward and finished my soup.
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