A/N: It seems I am constantly apologizing these days for taking so long between updates...and I'm doing it again. I'm so sorry. Because of this, I've come to a decision regarding 'Panic' and my other story, 'Perfect'.

This will be the last update for 'Panic' FOR AWHILE so that I can concentrate on more regular updates on 'Perfect' which was my first story and is much further along. I feel I've been doing an injustice to BOTH stories by trying to write them at the same time. Maybe some writers are talented enough to do that, but I'm finding it more and more difficult to "shift gears" between the two, very different, story lines. I feel that both of them are suffering.

I hope you will keep 'Panic' on your 'list'. I promise I'll be returning to it and finishing it (it's almost completely "mapped out" now). Since it's only eleven chapters in, I'm hoping it won't be too hard for you to skim over it again as a refresher when I continue with it.

Sorry to leave it here for those of you who are really involved in this story. I assure you I am too, but I want to do it justice since things are about to get a lot more interesting and I need to be able to offer it my full attention.

In the meantime, if you haven't yet read 'Perfect', I'm told it's a pretty good story too and I invite you to check it out yourself. :)

Thanks so much for your understanding and for reading. 333


CHAPTER ELEVEN

I was afraid to move. If I woke him…what would I say? What would he say? How had I ended up in this position? How long had I…had we, I amended to myself…been asleep?

I opened my eyes and could just make out that the clock said 5:09. The first pale light of dawn was seeping between the louvers of the shuttered window in the wall behind me.

There was no getting around it. It was obvious that I had to move. It was inevitable that he would wake up when I did. I had to get back to my room. How would it look if Doctor or Mrs. Cullen found me out of my bed and then found me here? Oh God!

I might as well get it over with.

I slowly eased my head off Edward's chest and turned it to look up toward his jaw…just above me. Deliciously angular and blanketed in a layer of masculine stubble, it moved when I did and was accompanied by a deep intake of breath and a small grunt as he moved…and then stopped dead.

"Huh?" he said, as he lifted his head, turned to look down and noticed me there…tucked in tight by his side.

"Hey." I said softly. "Uh…good morning." And then I pushed myself up on the elbow that had been tucked under me. I was looking down on him now…his hair in even more spiky disarray than when I'd first sneaked in and awakened him and his eyes still a bit unfocused. "It would seem that we fell asleep."

"Yes," his voice was hoarse and he cleared it with a little cough before continuing, "it would seem so."

"I'm really sorry. I don't remember laying down." I just remembered sitting on the edge of the bed while we talked.

"Well…you sort of slumped onto my shoulder and fell asleep in the middle of my exciting discourse about my Sixth Form years. Apparently, I bored you to sleep. I should have picked you up and carried you back to your room but I…well…it seemed easier just to let you sleep here…in case you woke from another nightmare…or something." He stammered and looked a little uncomfortable.

"I'm not quite sure how we came to be like this." He added. "My plan was to stay awake."

"Well that wouldn't have been good. You obviously needed your sleep too…especially since I interrupted it. I am sorry…again."

"Please don't worry about it, Bella. I'm glad I was here for you. That's my plan, you know." He smiled down at me and my heart fluttered. He looked so cute…and so boyish…with his little smile and bed head hair. The toy train décor of this small, cozy room, only added to the effect.

"I should get back to my room now. It's starting to get light outside. I know it's early, but what if someone comes in here looking for you…or into my room to check on me?"

He shifted his position, opening his arm wider and allowing me space to scoot out from his embrace…but I was still trapped against the wall since he was stretched out along the outer edge of the bed. He stared at me, but didn't move.

"Um…you probably don't want me to crawl over you. I'll squish you."

"Oh, of course." He sat up and swung his legs around and off the bed. "Sorry. I wasn't thinking."

I climbed off the bed.

"It looked like you were thinking. You were staring."

"Sorry. Really. I do apologize. It's just that…" he let his sentence fade without completing it.

"'It's just that…'?"

"Uh…nothing. Never mind. It's not important." He rose off the bed and stood next to me. "You really should get back. It is very early though. Do you want to sleep awhile longer? I can wake you later for breakfast…or we could have something now."

"I'm not sure I can fall back asleep…but I think it's probably too early to disturb the household, isn't it?"

"We'll be quiet. Once we're downstairs, we're home free. No one would hear us from the kitchen. Are you hungry then? I can fix you something to eat…or at least some tea…or coffee?"

"I think coffee would be nice. Maybe a piece of toast? If you're sure it's not too early…or too much trouble."

"It's fine. I'll meet you in your room in a couple of minutes. You'll want your robe before you go downstairs?"

I looked down at myself…just realizing as he mentioned my robe that, in my hurry to find him after my nightmare, I hadn't even thought about it.

"Oh…right, my robe." I started backing toward the doorway. "I'll meet you in my room then."

I passed the playroom, went down the hallway and re-entered my room. My robe was where I'd left it…at the foot of the bed…and I grabbed it on my way to the bathroom.

I took a few minutes in the bathroom…taking the time to remove the clip from my hair so I could run a brush through it and to banish morning breath with a few quick swipes of my toothbrush.

Edward was leaning against the wall next to the bedroom door when I walked out. He smiled.

"Ready?" his voice was quiet.

"Umm hmm." I answered…and walked over to where he waited.

He turned to the door and opened it…silently, slowly…before peering out into the hallway. Then he turned back to me and whispered, "All clear. Follow me."

He led the way and I followed him down a long hallway. We passed two more closed doors before reaching the stairs. The hall continued, with more doors on either side and another staircase at the end. It was evident now, just how large the house must be.

At the bottom of the sweeping staircase I remembered from last night, Edward turned toward the back of the house. Another hall ended at an open doorway. Through it was a huge kitchen. He stepped aside to let me enter first.

It was lovely…a style I thought of as Country French…with creamy painted cabinets, gleaming tiled counter tops, backsplashes of simple, plain tiles punctuated here and there by ones with hand painted scenes. There were two eating areas…a bar with tall stools pushed under its edge and a traditional table and chairs tucked into the space formed by a bay window. The overall effect was one of charm and warmth.

"This is beautiful." I whispered.

Edward stepped through behind me and closed a wide multi-paneled door before answering in a normal tone of voice, "You don't need to whisper now, Bella. You really can't hear anything from the kitchen when you're upstairs. That was important for Carlisle and Esme. Doctor's hours being what they are, Esme wanted to make sure Carlisle wouldn't wake anyone else in the house if he came home from the hospital in the middle of the night and needed to fix himself something to eat. It's practically soundproofed. Now…what can I get you?"

"I don't want you to wait on me, Edward. I at least want to help. I think just some toast and coffee. I like tea…but I'd love a cup of coffee."

"Then we'll do it together." He opened a few cabinets and withdrew coffee mugs and the coffee maker, filters and an electric grinder. He had me get the coffee beans from the freezer and a loaf of bread from a counter top breadbox while he added water and a filter to the coffee maker. In a couple of short minutes the smell of freshly ground coffee beans permeated the air.

We worked in companionable silence, Edward continuing with coffee making duty while I found butter and jam in the refrigerator and popped pieces of bread into a four slice toaster.

It all seemed so…normal.

You would have thought that would be comforting and reassuring and that's why I was completely blindsided by the tears that gathered in my eyes as I stared at the shimmery reflection of myself in the shiny surface of the toaster. Memories of 'not normal', of being kidnapped and bound and frightened as I'd never been before in my life flooded my brain and made my knees weak.

I grabbed onto the counter as a small sound escaped me before I could clench my jaw and press my lips together.

Edward was beside me instantly. He stood silently by my side for a moment, once he saw that an injury wasn't the reason for my sound and my tears. And then, without words, he moved behind me, took me by the shoulders and turned me away from the counter and into his chest.

His arms went around me and held me close as soft, shushing sounds came from his mouth. I felt his hands swirl and pat on my shaking back…big, strong, safe hands. I pushed myself even closer to him.

He was my safety and I wanted to climb inside him and shelter there.

Edward held me as the shaking lessened, as the tears subsided into watery sniffles. I felt the pressure of his hands on my shoulders, pushing me away from his chest. It saddened me, but it was what I expected. What I didn't expect was that he pushed me away only far enough so that he could lean down and press his lips against my forehead. One second, two, three…and then they were gone. He rested his chin on the top of my head for a moment, before sighing and saying my name and then he moved away a bit further and I looked up into his face.

His eyes searched mine and saw what they were looking for…saw what I felt. His hands moved to cup my cheeks and I felt the warmth of his lips move to kiss away the wetness that lingered there. And then, his mouth was on mine. I tasted my own tears as they transferred from him to me and, in spite of their salt, it was the sweetest, warmest, most gentle kiss I had ever experienced.

His lips moved away and were replaced by his breath as he said two simple words that would come to mean everything to me…"I'm here."