My Original by wizardtho
I became quite happy on the island over the next month, and slowly the nightmares became less and less. I had gotten to where I only had the nightmare once a night, and it didn't wake me up until just a few hours before dawn, which meant that it wasn't plaguing me all night long anymore. I was even able to think about my Edward without clutching tightly to my midsection, as if to hold myself together, and smiled tenderly as I set out a few pictures of us together in pretty frames. I touched each picture as I set it in it's new home, and whispered, “I love you, My Lion,” before kissing my index finger and touching his cheek in the picture.
After the first month, I finally started to venture a bit further toward the center of the island, dressed in my bikini and distressed cutoff shorts, armed with a compass and my phone, and carrying a backpack of food and water. It also contained a first aid kit, incase my clumsiness reared its head. I hoped I didn't need to, but I made sure my phone was fully charged so I could contact Coop, in case I happened to get lost.
After about an hour and a half of hiking through the forest on the paths, I heard the trickling of water off to the side, and ventured off the path to investigate. I made sure to tie a red handkerchief to a sturdy tree branch right where I turned off the path, check the compass to make a note of the direction I was going, and watch carefully as I made my way toward the sound of water.
Ten minutes later, I gasped as I came across the most beautiful sight. There was a fresh water stream that split and wove around the trees, then it fell from the multilevel waterfalls into two of the clearest ice blue pools I had ever seen. One of the pools was higher than the other, and more mini waterfalls spilled into the lower pool. It was an extremely romantic sight, and I pulled my camera from my back pack to get as many pictures of the severely secluded spot as I could. The light streamed down in spattered rays onto the pools and falls, and as I took the last of the pictures, I got the most brilliant idea.
I found a large, dry boulder to set my backpack on near the highest stream's waterfall, and hurried to disrobe. When I was nude and sure my clothing was safe on the boulder, I ran and jumped with a giggle into the higher of the two ice blue pools. The water felt amazing on my overheated skin, and I hummed loudly as I surfaced and smoothed my hair out of my face. I thought I heard a branch breaking off in the distance and whipped around, but chuckled and brushed it off as my fear of being caught nude in the open by someone. I wasn't one to ever do something like this, especially when I had been wearing my bikini to begin with, but the water was calling me to skinny dip. It wasn't as if there were a bunch of people around, so I calmed and played in the water for a few hours before I knew I needed to head back to the house.
When I got back to the house, there was another note on the back door, and I smiled at Coop's smooth writing:
It looks like I missed you again. I guess you must be exploring, since your boat is docked. I hope you have fun and let yourself explore to the fullest. Should I draw you a map soon? Let me know when you are safely home, please. I'll worry that your danger magnet (as you call it) has reared its head until you do.
I chuckled and shook my head, then pulled out my phone as I opened the door. I texted him as I pulled the iced tea pitcher from the fridge. “Home safely, and don't have a scratch. Took the path on the left side of the front porch today, and hiked for about an hour and a half until I heard water, then veered off path and found the most amazing place ten minutes later.” Coop replied almost as soon as my glass was poured, “I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, and am relieved you're safe. I believe I know the place you're talking about, and agree that it's amazing. I was sad to sell that bit of heaven with the house, but as it's on that half of the island, I couldn't see keeping it. I couldn't have sold it to someone more worthy, Bella, and I hope you find it as peaceful as I did.”
I smiled at my phone, gulped down a few cool sips of tea, then sat down at the kitchen bar and typed, “Thank you, Coop. I couldn't help but take a zillion pictures, then swam in the water for a few hours. It was truly a peaceful spot, and the seclusion of it felt almost as if it was made for lovers. Speaking of lovers, I have finished 'Unmasqued,' and am eager to speak with you about it. Will I ever meet you in person, or will we always speak through notes and texting?”
That was a bold move for me, but I felt like I would never meet Coop. Part of me was screaming that it was a dangerous idea, with the feelings just his scent caused in me, but the rest of me was saying that I had mourned my Edward for so long, and it was time to try and live again. I was brought out of my thoughts when my phone vibrated with Coop's response. “I have a few things to attend to, but would you like me to stop by later tonight? Say around 9?” I looked at the time, then smiled and knew that I had just enough time to fix dinner and eat, then shower and dress. I smiled as I typed, “That's perfect, Coop. I'll see you then.”
I grilled some chicken, then let it cool as I washed my adventurous day away in the shower. I thought over the exhibitionist streak that seemed to suddenly come out today by skinny dipping in the pools, but chuckled and smiled brightly, because I knew I would be going back to do the same exact thing many more times. It was totally freeing to be able to strip down and let myself go completely while there.
Once I dressed in my white crochet sweater with the crop tank, my white lace boyshorts, and my multi-color white/pink tiered boho skirt, I pulled my long hair into a messy/sexy twist as I walked back out into the kitchen. I finished preparing my chicken caesar salad, then poured myself a glass of white wine and took my fare out onto the back stone patio. I lit the tiki torches, and went back inside to turn on my Ipod. I ate listening to the soft music, and had just heard the knock on the open back door as I finished cleaning up my dishes.
I smiled as I finished drying the last dish, then heard a silken voice call out, “Bella? It's me, Coop. I saw the torches lit and thought you'd be out back.” I took a second to calm my suddenly racing heartbeat, then turned my head toward the living room. “Come on in, Coop. I'm just drying the last of my dinner dishes. I laid 'Unmasqued' on the coffee table for you. Would you like a glass of wine or something?” I heard a sexy chuckle, then Coop saying, “I'd love one, if you're offering. Is there anything I can help you with?” I smiled slightly, then said, “Nope, all good. You can head out to the patio, and I'll meet you out there with the ice bucket and wine.”
I filled the clam shell shaped ice bucket half way, then placed the wine bottle in it before grabbing my empty glass and one for Coop. When I reached the back porch, the sight that greeted me made my breathing hitch slightly. Coop was standing with his back to me at the edge of the patio near the sand, looking out at the ocean. He was wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of multi-colored board shorts, but I could see he was extremely well-built. His board shorts hugged his ass in the most delicious way, and his fitted tee was a contrast to his short dark hair, which seemed to curl at the tips. He was sex personified from the back, and I suddenly realized that I couldn't wait to see the front.
That thought shocked me, and I pushed away the butterflies in my stomach as I thought about Edward. I took a deep breath, then walked the rest of the way down the steps to the patio loungers. I set the bucket and glasses down on the low table between the loungers, poured our glasses, then carried them over to where Coop was. I smiled as I held out a glass to him and looked out at the ocean. “This has become my favorite time over the last month... when the moon's gaining strength, but isn't at its peak yet. Kind of like me...”
Coop took his glass from my hand, then turned to me. I felt him smile at me, then he said just the thing to finish calming my sudden nerves. “It's nice to finally meet you in person, Bella... and don't worry. Whether it takes you another month or another year, you'll find your inspiration to keep going. That doesn't mean you need to forget him all together, though.” I smiled up at him tentatively, and suddenly felt like he should know. I whispered softly, “Thanks for that. I feel like I'm split in two lately... like I can slowly let go, the more I'm on the island... but then I feel like I'll be betraying what we had, if I start noticing other men.”
Coop gave me a sad smile, then led me to the loungers. Once we were seated, he asked softly, “I'm no expert, but do you think he would want you to hide your heart away from finding love again? Would he want you to be alone for the rest of your time on earth?” I shook my head, then chuckled wryly, “Definitely not. He once tried to say he wasn't good for me, and left, saying he wanted me to have a full and happy life. We were parted for several months, and it was torture on both of us. It took me going to Italy and stopping him from committing suicide to bring us back together. He had thought that I died, since one of my friends answered the phone and told him my dad was planning a funeral. He told me he couldn't live in a world where I no longer existed, when explaining his motivation for the attempt. I was so pissed that he would do something like that, that I made him promise me that he would keep going if something ever happened. It took me quite a bit longer than him to promise the same thing, but eventually, I did. It's just been so hard, with the nightmares and all.”
Coop nodded and took a sip of his wine. He turned after a second to face me in his lounger, then asked, “Are they getting any better? I know you said they were down to twice a night when we last talked about them.” I smiled and nodded, “Yes, thankfully. Once a night, now, and they don't wake me up until just a couple of hours before dawn. The contents are starting to change, too. Usually, the last thing I see is him dying, but last night, as soon as I saw him dying, the fire light flashed, and I saw him standing in the center of our meadow with his signature cocky smirk.”
Coop hummed, then took another sip of his wine at the same time as me. “I think the change in the dream is a good thing, Bella. You said 'our' meadow, which means it was a special place for the two of you, right? If you can see him standing there in a good mood, then maybe he -or your subconscious- is trying to tell you something. See if the scene changes the next time, and try to talk to him in your meadow. Maybe you will find your answers.” I smiled and sighed, “I'll try just about anything to stop reliving his death every night. I was just able to put out pictures of us together. Would you like to see one?”
Coop didn't let Bella see it, but a flash of jealousy rushed through him at the thought of seeing her happy with someone who wasn't him. That didn't stop him from wanting to look at the picture, though. He was curious to see the man who had so thoroughly captured her heart. He smiled and left the decision up to Bella, offering, “Only if you want to. I don't want to pressure you if you aren't ready to share, Bella.”
I smiled at Coop and stood up, “Come on, Lazy Bones. There are a few in the living room, on the book shelves. You can see what little I've done to the place while inside.” Coop chuckled and said, “Did you finally figure out what didn't feel right about the observation room?” I grinned and nodded as we both walked inside with our wine, “I did. I found a bunch of matching rattan pieces... a couple of chairs, a few side tables with glass tops, a round papasan chair swing, a matching oval double on a rattan base that looks like a love seat, and a small glass top coffee table. I'll show you in a few minutes. The swing isn't up yet, though, because I'm not very tool-savvy.”
I showed Coop the pictures of Edward and I, and noticed the slight widening of his eyes as he took in each picture. When he was done looking, I was sure that Coop knew about vampires, and was even more so when his only response was to brush his fingers across my cheek as he looked at me with swirling blue/gray eyes, “When you're ready, your secret is definitely safe with me, Bella. You can trust me, whether you believe that yet or not.” He held my gaze for a second before his finger touched the gold of Edward's eyes, then he set the picture in the exact spot that I picked it up from, making it seem as though the picture had never been lifted from its spot.
He seemed happy with the additions and slight changes that I had made to the house, and when I showed him the observation room, he grinned widely. “This is amazing, Bella... the swing will be perfect, and I can have it secured into the overhead beams in just a few minutes, if you want. I just need to know where you want it, and if you've moved the step ladder and tool box.” I chuckled and shook my head, “I've used the step ladder, but they are both still in the laundry storage closet. Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, I didn't plan on putting you to work when I okayed 9 o'clock.” He just chuckled, patted my shoulder, and told me he'd be back in a minute.
I curled up in the oval papasan and looked out to the dark forest, but was broken from my thoughts when Coop made his presence known. He had put down both the tool box and the step ladder, and was leaning in the doorway with a small smile as he said, “This room suits you, you know. You looked so at peace just now, and I didn't have the heart to disturb you. Since the love seat is facing the forest, I take it you want the swing facing the beach?” I grinned and nodded, “Yes, please. Then the low table can go in the center of the grouping. I don't want the swing too high up off the ground, though, if we have enough chain to work with.” Coop smiled and set up the latter, then said, “You tell me when to stop lowering, and we'll see how it works once it's bolted in. If you want it adjusted, it's a simple fix.”
Once the swing was in the perfect spot, which only took one adjustment, we both went back out to the patio loungers, and ended up finishing the bottle of wine as we laughed and talked. Coop was easy to talk to, and I found myself wanting to get to know more about him. He was extremely sexy, too, once I took the time to let my mind go and really look. That was dangerous, because once I looked, I couldn't take my eyes off him.
It was after 2 a.m. when I couldn't fight the yawn in the middle of my sentence, and Coop chuckled, “To bed with you, Little One. I think you've been fighting it for the last 45 minutes or so.” I yawned again, and he chuckled as I said sleepily, “M'kay. I think I'll just stay right here. This lounger is too comfy.” The next thing I knew, Coop was swooping me up bridal-style as he whispered, “Not as comfy as your bed, and you know it. Now let's get you inside.” He carried me directly through the house and into the master bedroom, then laid me down on the bed against the pillows. I had actually fought sleep for more than an hour, and was barely able to whisper out, “Thanks, Coop... I think I do... trust you. Sorry I can't... tell you about it.” I thought about Italy and how I was marked for death as I drifted off, and how if he knew, he would be, too.
Coop laid Bella down on top of her covers, pulled the light throw blanket up to cover her, and curled a stray hair around her ear. He listened to her sleepily mumble, “Thanks, Coop... I think I do... trust you. Sorry I can't... tell you about it.” Her eyes slipped closed half way through her mumbled words, and he smiled softly down at the sleepy beauty. Just as he went to leave the room and close up the house doors for her, he heard her mumble, “Italy... marked for death... can't risk... you too.” Coop stopped in Bella's bedroom doorway, turned around, and whispered seriously, “Those Italian wannabe rulers will never get to you, Isabella. I won't let them... I promise you that.”