Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Warning: If you aren't comfortable with the idea of a Bella not fully committed to Edward from the beginning this may not be the story for you. Edward and Bella will have their HEA, and if you're willing to be patient about them getting there, it will be worth it. OOC Bella

Updates will happen on Thursdays, barring major catastrophe.

This is a collaboration story.

Notes: Big smoochy hugs to our incredible team of betas: karenec, LJ Summers, and jakeward.

Prologue: Nightmare

"Riley, no! Please, don't go, Riley," I cried out.

"Bella," he called, reaching for me.

"Don't leave me," I whimpered.

"Bella, you have to wake up. You're having a nightmare." A worried male voice broke through the muddled haze of the dream. Disoriented, I felt myself snap back into wakefulness. My breathing was harsh and ragged in the quiet room and I was sweaty and disheveled. I wiped away the tears from my cheeks with the back of my hand. Grateful that he was okay, I threw myself at him and hugged him tightly. "Riley, you're all right."

"Riley is fine. It was a bad dream." It wasn't Riley whose arms were cradling me with such tenderness.

I pulled back to see Edward looking stricken. "Oh, Edward...I'm so..."

Nightmares about Riley were nothing new, but I had managed to always hide them or play them off to Edward before.

"Please. Don't. You had a bad dream. We'll leave it at that."

Sick with guilt, I slid out of the bed and picked up my robe where it had been discarded the night before.

"You aren't leaving, are you?" His voice sounded raw and wounded.

"I need some fresh air."

I made my way down the winding staircase and out to the patio. I closed the door behind me and lifted my face to the night sky, trying to quell the sick feeling in my stomach. The air was cold and thick, the fog just starting to roll in off the bay. I heard the door open and then close, but Edward didn't speak. I wrapped the thin silk tighter around my body and stared at the glittering stars above.

I could hear him breathing in the silent night air. In and out. But he didn't say a word. I was sick with guilt at the way I was treating Edward. He deserved better. My heart screamed at me to apologize again and throw myself into his arms, but I remained frozen, afraid to even voice the words that were in my head.

Finally, I forced the words past my lips. "Why do you let me do this to you, Edward?"

He sighed and took a deep breath before leaning back against the patio wall. He didn't speak for a long time, but I knew he had heard me.

"I can't walk away," he said finally.

The guilt spiked like a knife and I clutched my chest, overwhelmed by the promise behind those words. He was telling me he would never leave me. But how could I trust that? I had been awful to Edward, and yet he was giving me everything I needed. Far more than I deserved.

"I don't understand."

"You don't have to." He stepped closer and I could feel the heat from his body behind me. "You just have to trust me."

"I do," I whispered. "It's myself I don't trust."

"I know." He touched a hand to my arm and I felt the warmth of his skin and the comfort it always provided. "Come back to bed."

"Give me a minute. I just need a minute alone."

He hesitated and then let out a heavy sigh as if reluctant to leave me there.

"Okay." He pressed a kiss to the top of my head and it was so tender that I had to close my eyes

to keep from crying. "I'll be waiting."

Chapter End Notes:

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