Even in the peace of the early morning, with dawn breaking outside our sliding glass door, I find that I can't turn my brain off to allow myself those cherished extra minutes of sleep. The weight of Edward's arm over my waist and the warmth of his naked body, protectively curled around mine, give way to a wistful smile. I want to feel completely comforted, but I'm discovering that I'm getting more anxious with each passing day. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. I started this vacation independent, confident and headstrong, fully prepared to allow myself the adventure of a lifetime. And then Edward happened.
Opening that email from the DODEA secretary on Saturday was scary and exhilarating at the same time. A new position for a first grade teacher is available, and it's mine if I'm interested. After applying last month for the transfer, I had tried desperately to put it out of my head. However, every day I'm away from North Carolina just proves to me that I'm better off without the lingering weight of sadness that's been repeatedly heaped upon my shoulders. I've been happier, freer, and actually able to embrace the mentality that I've wanted for the last eighteen months or so. It took a good chunk of time for me to move on from the desolation of losing Mike and our son, but once I did, few people, if any, have allowed me to spread my wings. So moving away from that place, anywhere away from North Carolina, seemed to be the perfect antidote. And then Edward happened.
I was willing to blindly relocate without concern for the next destination, but as these days and weeks with him have unfolded, I've found myself praying harder and harder that somehow we'd end up close by each other. Possibly on the same base, even. The news that I was offered a position in South Korea was both a blessing and a curse, I guess. DODEA didn't turn me down, I'm being offered an overseas position on a silver platter…but I won't be within daily hugging distance of Edward; and I seem to have recently become addicted to those hugs.
I'm able to read him a little bit more every day. I saw his wheels turning when I said I was going to Korea. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't hoped he'd launch into a speech about Okinawa not being too far from Korea and what that could mean for us. But I quickly talked myself out of pouting over his non-reaction because this is all so new for him. I want to believe that he's trying to figure out on his own how we can make this work before he comes to me. If he's not totally ready to put himself out there, that's okay. Personally, I think the things he's been saying and doing are light years away from who he proclaimed himself to be just a few short weeks ago. Mr. "Relationships aren't for me," seems unrecognizable in comparison to how he's been acting since that first kiss we shared on Kauai.
For his peace of mind though, in his presence, I've tried to keep things light, because he was so clear in the beginning that getting tied down wasn't in the cards for him. And I was fine to go along with that at first…before last week's initial intimate encounter which has only led to us being stuck together like glue ever since. When I look at him now, he's become an even more desirable, sexy, genuine, compassionate man—damn him—and now he has me yearning for things that I know I shouldn't.
It's not fair to put that pressure on him. To utter the deadly words, "We need to talk," that so many men fear. I've tried to keep things breezy between us, this relationship/non-relationship thing…but the last thing I want to do is lie to him. Lie by omission—by not telling him that my feelings are getting more intense. I don't know if I have the strength to say goodbye to him when I have to leave in August. The thought causes an ache in my chest that I can't rub away.
I refuse to regret anything on this vacation. I just have to be strong and be the person I've always been. When the time is right, I'm going to be completely honest. This life isn't a dress rehearsal. Our tomorrow is never a guarantee; both our lives have taught us that lesson the hard way. Leaving Oahu without putting myself on the line would go against every fiber of my being. I won't cower just because I don't want to get hurt. For all I've been through in my twenty-seven years, I didn't get there by not being true to myself, and I won't stop now.
If I want to kiss him, I will. When I want to hug him, I will. Hold hands, play footsies, give him massages…whatever the spirit moves me to do in that moment, I'm going to do. There's no sense in holding back. I'm going to show him in my actions how much he means to me, and then, I'm going to tell him in my own words.
If we're meant to be, then no matter the distance or the obstacles, we will be. I'm going to trust what he's been saying, that he's never felt this way before, that this is all so new to him. Based on what he's confided in me, I'm going to put my heart on the line.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
It's that final determination that actually helps to settle my brain and allow sleep to take over once more. I wrap my hand around Edward's arm and hold it securely to my chest. Maybe if I hold on tight enough for the both of us, he won't ever let me go.
I feel a gentle woosh of cool air and a dip behind me as Edward returns to the bed, enveloping me in his solid, warm arms. His body is pressed up against mine from our heads to our feet. The stark contrast of Edward's soft lips surrounded by his pinchy scruff while he kisses me tenderly never fails to send shivers up my spine. It makes me squirm in happiness, earning a sexy, vibrating chuckle from the perpetrator himself.
"Morning, beautiful," his groggy voice rumbles as he dusts his lips over my shoulder blades.
I hum in contentment, bending my neck back, inviting him to trail his kisses closer to my face.
"Sleep okay?" he asks and then rests his lips against my flushed skin.
Honesty, here we go. "Yeah…sorta."
"Oh?" he questions. "Restless? Bad dreams?"
"Just…feeling a little sad that we're leaving tomorrow afternoon. This island holds a special place in my heart, you know."
Edward responds by searching for my hand and threading his fingers through mine. "I know." I feel him nod slightly against my shoulder. "This place has been like a rebirth for me."
A lump forms in my throat as I squeak out, "Any regrets?"
"Mmmm," he stops to think, "…maybe just that I didn't get a chance to take you to a luau on this island."
I huff, smiling. "Don't you worry about that. Ditching last night's luau plans and instead convincing you to come skinny dipping with me was a way better idea anyway."
He chuckles into my neck, his lips ghosting along my skin. I can feel his erection begging for a morning tryst. It'll hear no argument from me.
"I still can't believe I did that."
I lift our hands and bring his palm to my lips. "I can. You said it yourself the other night. You're a changed man, Cap'n."
We're silent for a moment.
"That I am. I meant what I said earlier; this place has been like a revival for me. Hell, I've been changing slowly but surely since that close encounter with your backpack on the tarmac in California. Aside from a bloody nose, you've ended up giving me more of a jumpstart to my heart."
I smile, feeling my eyes get watery. "I've just tried to open your eyes a bit." I squeeze his hand. "Your amazing heart was pumping long before I walked down that aisle on the plane, Edward."
"Maybe," he pauses, "…but now there's a rhythm and a beat— a soundtrack with your name that plays on a loop."
A tear falls over the bridge of my nose and I try to sniff quietly, but apparently loud enough that it alarms him and he leans over to look at my face.
"Hey," he speaks gently and rolls me toward his body. Swiping his thumb across the tear stain, he shakes his head. "No tears, Clementine."
I nod and swallow, my eyes brimming with more after hearing his comforting voice.
"We still have Maui and then Oahu again." He raises his eyebrows, asking that I acknowledge his well-made point. "Lots more opportunities for making memories, just like you said. That's what this trip is about; no regrets, right?"
I shake my head, freeing a few more tears. "Not a single one."
He leans down and kisses me chastely. It lingers for a few seconds, and then he gives me another soft peck. His gaze is locked on mine as our eyes fill in the blanks for everything we haven't had the courage to say yet. With confidence and sincerity he ensures, "We'll figure it out."
Somehow, those simple words create another flow of tears through my pinched eyes. Sweet, caring, admitting he doesn't have the answers, but there has to be a way. It guts me and fills my heart all the same.
"I promise, Bella." Those final soft-spoken words from him cause me to raise my head from the pillow to capture his lips in mine.
Our tongues lazily drift in and out of each other's mouths with soft sighs in between breaths. Edward eventually settles his hips between my legs as I wrap them around his waist, rubbing my feet up and down the backs of his thighs to his calves.
The sensuality of the moment is magnified while our eyes continue to study each other as he slides inside. I clench my walls to heighten the sensation for us, causing him to breathe out a stuttered, "Ahh."
He moves unhurriedly in me with deep, long strokes. My hands travel up his back and shoulder blades, then around to his face. I take my time gently tracing his lips, over to his ear, and I brush my fingers down to his lobe. His jaw tenses and releases while my mouth moves to his neck to kiss and suck.
Edward hisses in pleasure when I raise my pelvis and meet him thrust for thrust. I allow my head to fall back on the pillow, and we stare at each other, his pounding coming harder and faster with each passing second. His dog tags make a tinkling sound as they drag up and down my chest with his powerful motion. The rubbing of his pubic bone against my clit is creating the friction I need, and I feel my belly start to burn and tighten, my breathing now labored.
He dips down, kissing me hard. Our lips and tongues are urgent and needy, gasping sounds and moans becoming more audible as our pace quickens. My hands, which were framing his face while we kissed, rapidly move back down and grasp his ass to pull him into me. I can feel his muscles clenching and working so hard for our pleasure.
With each thrust of his hips, his tongue delves further into my mouth; it's erotic; it's marvelous.
"Baby," he whispers. I smile through our searing kiss when I hear him call me by that term of endearment for the very first time. He made it sound almost like a prayer.
My orgasm explodes through my body causing my hips to drop back to the bed, and I freeze while the waves of pleasure pour over me. Edward's crooked smile tells me he's thrilled I've come first. He speeds up with several more pumps and then buries his face in my neck with a moan as I feel him spill inside me in pleasure and relief.
We lie there unmoving, sweaty and sated, waiting for our breathing to return to normal. Eventually, he kisses my neck tenderly and then raises his head.
Silent moments pass, and I get lost again in his entrancing gaze. He nods ever so slightly, almost as if he's internally agreeing with himself. In my periphery, I see his Adam's apple bob beneath the delicious scruff before he whispers once more, "I promise."
I grab two spoons and the half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream from the freezer. Edward meets me on the couch after having just popped in the Tangled DVD I rented from the Redbox outside Walmart.
"Bailyn's going to be so proud of you, Uncle Edward," I croon, snuggling up next to him.
We clink spoons and start digging in as Zachary Levi, the actor's voice behind the character of Flynn Rider, starts his opening narration.
"I can't believe I've agreed to this," he mumbles, shoving a heaping green spoonful into his mouth. "Spending my final night on this tropical island, with a gorgeous girl I could be taking out on the town and instead we're watching a Disney movie to appease my niece."
I cluck my tongue. "Hey! And me! You're forgetting that this is my favorite Disney movie. Bailyn's favorite is Beauty and the Beast," I correct and add for good measure, "I seem to remember you getting a little jealous of my cartoon crush. Could that be the crux of the issue, here?"
He rolls his eyes and continues his excavation of the carton of ice cream. "Are they gonna sing the entire time?"
"Oh, my word, would you relax? Behave or you're not getting lucky in the tub tonight."
"You wouldn't dare," he sneers with narrowed eyes, making me dissolve into laughter.
"And quit only picking out the chocolate chips, Cap'n…you get what you get, and you don't get upset," I scold.
He cracks up. "Another elementary school saying?"
"Yes," I laugh right back, wrestling his hand for the extra large cluster of chips we've both spotted.
The next scene is Flynn and his two thuggish cohorts breaking into the palace to steal the princess's crown. He's just so dreamy.
"Did you just sigh, Clementine?"
I admit it proudly. "Yes, I did. Look at how cute he is!" I shout, pointing my spoon at the television. "All rugged and manly, running for his life…he makes me swoon."
He chuckles and nuzzles his face into my neck. "You make me swoon." He plants a quick peck under my ear, his lips chilly from our late-night snack. "Now quit making me jealous."
"There's no need to be jealous. He actually reminds me of you— well, if you grew your hair out like a hippie, I guess. Strong jaw, great body, panty-dropping voice…plus you both do that smolder thing."
He raises his eyebrows at me, thinking I've lost my mind.
"No, really! When you're concentrating, your face gets this broody scowl because you're hyper-focused." I tip my face up toward his. "It's kinda sexy."
"Quit saying words like swoon, panty-dropping and sexy to me or else I'm not going to be able to concentrate," he chastises. "Bailyn is probably drawing up a written test I'll have to take when I report back to her."
"You're probably right," I laugh and curl my body into his while we continue to battle for the scoops of ice cream containing the most chips.
As long as I have one of the Men in Black on hand to use that memory zapper gadget immediately after, I will happily admit to anyone, including Bella and Bailyn that Tangled is pretty damn good. Flynn Rider has some great lines and I've chuckled more than a few times.
I'm sure it's the extreme makeover I'm experiencing, but I found myself truly listening to the lyrics being sung by the lead characters as they realized they were falling for each other. I'll never admit it out loud, but I swear the words the guy was singing could've been written with me in mind, regarding how I've always lived my life and how I've completely changed since Bella arrived. Now the guy's dying, of course…it's how all love stories end; my bitter inner monologue takes over for a moment.
"Rapunzel…you were my new dream."
"And you were mine."
I hear Bella sniffling, and I nudge her head off my shoulder to get a better look. She has tears gathering at the corner of her eyes.
"Aww, c'mere, you." I curl my arm around her and pull her body up to mine. She straddles my lap and leans her head against my chest as we watch the conclusion of the movie. Rapunzel's tears glow, magically curing her hero and, as with every other Disney tale, they go off into the sunset for their happily ever after. It's a nice change of pace from what I've come to expect in real life. Gotta love those movie endings.
As the credits roll, she sits upright on my lap. "So?"
I nod with an appeasing smile. "It was a very good movie. You heard me laugh…I really did like it."
She cocks her head with a mischievous look in her eyes. "Like it enough to own it? What if I gave it to you as a birthday present?"
My head falls back, and I can't help but guffaw. "Don't push it, Clementine. That won't be necessary."
"But you just said you really liked it! What if you want to watch it again sometime?"
I tuck some wayward strands of hair behind her ear. "Well…don't you own it?"
"Yeah," she nods. "I watch it whenever I need a love story pick-me-up!"
I smile at her answer. "Well, there ya go! I'll just use your copy if I ever feel the need to see it again." Yes, I said it; it implied the future, and I didn't break out in hives. This is a good thing.
"Well, if I'm in Korea and you're in Japan, that's not very convenient for sharing movies, you know."
I smile at her and shrug. "So bring it with you when you visit." Aaaand there it is. Sometimes you've just got to rip the Band-Aid right off.
She huffs and leans forward with a happy grin, kissing me softly. "Deal."
I suck on her pouty bottom lip before she attempts to end what began as a chaste kiss, and we're instantly making out like it's our last night on earth. Just as Bella starts trailing wet nibbles down my jaw and onto my neck, my cell rings from the kitchen counter.
"Fuckers," I groan when she pauses and looks up at me. "Just ignore it," I whisper and reclaim her mouth with mine, but she pulls back again.
"You can't say that! It's probably your niece who has a sixth sense about you and can tell, even across an ocean, that you now have first-hand knowledge of the smolder." Bella shoves back off my lap, deflating my rapidly-hardening dick and I scrub my face in frustration at the joker who's disturbing my groove.
She gets to the counter and checks the screen. "Oh, it's Riley!" She unplugs it and throws it over to me.
I clear my throat. "Ri."
"What's goin' on, big dog? Not interrupting a candlelit dinner, am I?"
"As a matter of fact…"
"You're fuckin' kidding me. I knew you were a goner…first time I laid eyes on Bella. I love it."
"Do you, now?"
"Fuck yeah. I know some stuff. You'll have to fill me in later, but that's not why I'm calling."
I laugh. "Okay, hit me. What's up?"
"Where are you guys right now?"
"The Big Island, but we're leaving for Maui tomorrow afternoon."
"Excellent. Now, what are the chances Nalani and I can crash your party over the weekend? We need a change of scenery."
"You mean meet us in Maui?" I widen my eyes, shrugging, looking to Bella for help.
"Yeah, would you mind? Do you even have the room?"
"Hang on, Bella's been booking our suites. Gimme a sec." I mute the phone as Bella finishes microwaving a mug of tea. That's one of her habits I've noticed. Multiple cups of coffee in the morning, but decaf hot tea at night.
"He wants to know if he and Nalani can stay with us this coming weekend. I guess they're just looking to get away."
Her eyes brighten. "Hell yeah, I'd love for them to come visit." She walks over and wraps her arms around my waist. "And this weekend is perfect. It'll give us a few days alone, visit with them for a couple days; then we'll be on our own again." She brings her lips up to mine.
"So, they'll just crash on a pullout sofa or something?"
"No, actually they can take the other bedroom! I forgot to tell you the only place they had available at the resort I wanted for us was a two-bedroom suite."
I kiss her a few times. "You're incredible. I owe you big time."
She contorts her face in confusion. "Owe me? What are you talking about? He's one of your best friends, right?"
"Right," I nod with a smile. "But you're still the best for allowing them to horn in on our vacation."
"It'll be fun! Besides, I want to spend more time with Nalani. That girl's a trip!" She smacks my ass. "Now go talk to him…don't keep him waiting."
I put the phone to my ear and walk back to collapse on the couch. "Ri…it's all good."
"That fuckin' rocks, thank you so much. I'll owe you."
"Ha! That's what I just said to Bella," I chuckle.
"Well, I'll owe the both of you."
"Just text me your flight info, and we'll get over there and pick you up."
"Will do, and thanks again, man. Out here."
I hang up and toss my phone on the coffee table, realizing Bella's not in the kitchen anymore. I hear the bath water running, so I pick myself up off the couch, double-check the locks on the front door, and when I turn back into the living room, Bella is standing there naked.
Oh, sweet Moses on the mount.
"Is this how we're greeting each other from now on? 'Cause I'm totally on board with such a plan," I say, ripping my shirt off, stalking toward her.
She giggles and unbuttons the top of my jeans. "That is a promising idea. We should explore that more once we get back to Oahu." She kisses me softly under my jaw and down my neck as she lowers the zipper down. "Perhaps I'll surprise you when you come home from work one day." Her brows wiggle for effect.
"I love the thought of you being at my house, naked and waiting for me," I growl, walking her backwards toward the garden tub, filling with water and bubbles.
Bella smiles and sits on the stone edge that surrounds the tub, tugging my jeans down the rest of the way.
"Actually, let me amend what I just said there. I simply love the thought of you being at my house waiting for me."
She continues to stare up at me as she runs her hands up my thighs, grasping my hips. There's a longing in her eyes that causes my chest to tighten. She's just so fucking beautiful.
I drop to my knees, placing my arms on either side of her. "Does that scare you?" I whisper, worried my declaration was a little too hasty.
Bella swallows hard, but then allows a hint of a smile to play on her lips. "No," she replies as her shoulders rise and sink on an exaggerated breath. Her head bows slightly, but then she picks it right back up, sure of herself. "Does it scare you?"
I pause for only a second and then do what comes naturally. And in this case…in this instance…with this girl…the only girl who's ever found her way to the core of my heart…I smile. I smile huge, because no, it doesn't scare me. Her waiting at home for me doesn't scare me and saying it out loud, admitting it to her and the universe doesn't scare me. At this point, the only thing that does scare me is the thought that I could screw this up and lose her…lose this...us.
"No, Bella. It doesn't scare me. Actually, I can't wait to see what you look like in my house. I think you belong there," A brief moment passes before I take it one step further. "No, I know you do."
A/N: Oh boy, oh boy! Bigger and bigger declarations from Spearward! Wonder how far they'll take it?! ;)
Big thanks, as always to Team Cabana: my MFEO beta, LaMomo and my pre-reading Cabana Girls: Born Onhalloween, Cejsmom Twifan & Jules Twifanawesomesox.
So, you'll all be happy to know that I'm almost at 3500 words for the next chapter! Hopefully I'll get that to Team Cabana before the weekend is over.
I have to apologize for not responding to review replies to the last chapter, but like I said above, instead I have two-thirds of a chapter written! I won't always have to skip, but I may have to again this time around because my Kayla Rae of sunshine is turning 5 years old next week. She requested a...wait for it...Tangled birthday party! So we are ALL about Rapunzel and Flynn these days. And her Yummy Mommy is actually constructing a tower cake, Heaven help me! I promise to post a few pics of the cake when I'm finished.
Come on over and join us at The Cabanaboy's Playground FB group. Lots of pic teasers, music that inspires chapters, a TotS photo album of the sites they've seen and other fun chatter. And CaraNo already made a new banner/teaser for the upcoming TotS chapter. You'll definitely want to catch a glimpse of that deliciousness. ;)
Do you know what a thirty-four and a half is?