Over the next two weeks, Coop and I saw each other a lot more, plus my dreams began to have less and less of the horror that they usually contained. The vision of Edward in the meadow continued to block out more and more of the nightmare.
Though I couldn't speak to him any other night, my dream at the end of those two weeks started out with seeing him in the meadow, instead of shifting to it. I felt my eyes tear up as I whispered, “Edward... oh, Edward.”
He smiled while holding his hand out, “Come, Love. I've missed you terribly, and we have so much to talk about.”
My breathing hitched, my eyes widening before I asked, “You can hear me? Edward, you can talk to me?”
He nodded with a grin, “I can now, Love. It's time. Come and let me hold you among the flowers like I used to.”
I felt the first tear fall as I walked forward, but I bypassed his outstretched hand to reach up and stroke his cheek. He closed his eyes with a smile as he leaned into my touch. When I felt the familiar tingle of his skin against mine, I let out a sob and I buried myself against his marble chest. “Oh, God, Edward. I've missed you... so much.”
He cooed to me, calming me for a few minutes, then I saw the unshed tears in his eyes when I finally looked up to him. He wiped my tears away gently, then placed a tender kiss on my lips as he said, “I know, Love. I've been watching over you. I'm sorry I couldn't come to you before, but the timing was wrong. I hated watching you battle the nightmares. It tore my heart out every time you woke screaming, but you need to understand that it wasn't safe before. It wasn't safe for me to come to you until you were safely away from the states... specifically, safely on the island.”
I didn't understand, but took my natural position lying between his legs with my arms folded on his chest. “I was on the island for a month before you came to me, though. Why so long?”
Edward shook his head sadly, “I've been trying since the first night, Isabella. I promise you. I fought so hard to reach you the first night, but it seemed as if it just made the nightmares worse. I reformulated and thought. That’s when I realized I had to slowly find the weak spots in the nightmare, then work my way from there. When I was able to get through to you at the very end, I knew I could work backward and take over a bit at a time until you automatically saw me first.”
I nodded, then thought over what he said. “Wait... what do you mean 'specifically on the island'? You mean you couldn't come to me if I moved somewhere else?”
Edward shook his head no sadly, then offered, “It's hard to explain, but I'll try. Aro knew every place you had been in the states; he saw it in my memories of being with you or you telling me about it. He would have been able to track you, no matter where you went in the states, through Charlie. He doesn't know the exact whereabouts of the island, so he is safe. You hadn't really talked to Renee or Phil much before I left, as he was so busy being recruited, so they're safe.”
He sounded like he was editing, so I looked at him for a long moment. Though I wanted to just lose myself in him and the fact that I could feel him underneath me, I said, “There's more, isn't there? There's something specific about this island alone. Something that would deter any of the Volturi from ever coming near it.”
Edward gave me his signature crooked smirk, then said as he cupped my cheek, “Always perceptive, Love. Yes, there's more. I can't tell you, though... and it's not because I don't want to. It's against the rules. If I tell you, the higher-ups will take away my privilege of checking on you. All I can tell you is that you can trust Coop. Trust him with our story, Love, and let him in.”
I shook my head, refusing to hear what I knew was coming. He stopped me by kissing me and holding my cheeks. When our lips parted, he whispered as he looked deep into my eyes, “I loved you more than I can ever tell you in any language, Isabella. I always will... just like I know you loved me, and will always hold a place in your heart for me. It's time, though, Love. I know you don't want to hear it, but please, hear me out. I've seen the way Coop has cared for you these past weeks. I've known of every hitched breath and sped up heartbeat by you, along with every second of his heartache while he wonders when you'll be ready for him, because he's trying to respect your grief over me. Let him in your heart, Isabella, and you won't ever regret it. If anyone is to have your heart when I can't be there to love you, I'm glad it's him.”
My tears fell again, so Edward wiped them away tenderly. I choked out, “But it was supposed to be us, Edward. You and me... the lion and the lamb. How can I let someone else have what should have been yours forever? I can't even contact Carlisle or Esme, because I know I'll fall apart at the sight of them, yet you're asking me to let myself love someone that's not you?”
Edward smiled sadly, “I know you can't see them yet, Love. That's okay. They truly understand and will wait for you to be ready, no matter how long it takes. As for Coop, there's a reason, but it goes back to me breaking rules if I tell you. Please, Isabella... if you ever believed anything I told you, please believe me now. Trust Coop with our story. At least let yourself be open to the possibility of loving him in the future.”
There was a slight breeze that rushed through the clearing. It carried the tinkling sound of bells with it. Edward sighed, “I must go. My time is up for now, and you're about to wake. I promise I'll come to you again as soon as possible. I'll be watching over you, Love.”
Edward leaned up to press his lips to mine, and...
I gasped at the tingling feeling against my lips as I woke. Tears spilled readily from my eyes, my fingers tracing my tingling lips as I remembered my dream. I smelled coffee already brewing, from the automatic timer being set, so I hopped out of bed and rushed into the bathroom.
My eyes actually sparkled as I took a look at myself in the mirror, plus I could almost still feel the cool temperature of Edward's skin against mine. Right then, I vowed to do as Edward asked... well, at least part of it. I would trust Coop with our story, plus I would think about slowly letting Coop in, if he even had feelings for me. I would have to take notice of his body language and see if his feelings for me would show in his eyes, like his other emotions tended to.
After my shower, I dressed in a charcoal pair of lace boyshorts, my charcoal deep V ruched top, a pair of destroyed and faded low-rise jean shorts, and my Ed Hardy beachcomber flip flops. I plopped my hair in a messy bun as I walked out to the kitchen, snatching my phone off the dock on the kitchen island as I made my way to the coffee pot. I poured my coffee, then texted Coop as I walked to the fridge for the creamer. “Need someone to talk to. You up for hearing a long story/secret?”
I knew he was probably still sleeping, so I took my phone and coffee to the laundry room with me. As I started the load of wash, my phone vibrated in my back pocket. I pulled it out to see that Coop had replied. “I'm on the mainland for meetings today, but can be back by sundown. Want me to get take-out so you don't have to fuss with dinner?”
I chuckled while typing, “That sounds perfect. I'm all out of white wine, though... and getting low on red... so would you mind picking some up? I was going to replenish when I went to the mainland at the end of the week.”
He replied by the time I reached the kitchen again, “I'll grab a few bottles of each from my wine room before I head over with dinner. See you just after sundown.”
I puttered around, drinking my coffee until I heard the washer beep, then switched the load over to the dryer before picking up my sketch pad. I took it and my pencil set, along with a fresh cup of coffee, up to the observation room. I sat down in the swing chair as I looked out at the ocean but immediately got a brilliant idea. I hummed as I started sketching out the light and airy canopy beachside lounge bed.
Forty-five minutes later, I put the last pencil away, grinning at the result. It would be perfect. I got up and stretched, then decided I could lounge with a good book in the sun that was outside calling to me. Renee had gotten me several risque bikinis, so I looked through my drawers to figure out what I felt comfortable with. I dressed a striped halter bikini with a brazilian bottom, then tied a pink fringe sarong on over it. I walked out to pluck the latest book that Renee had sent me from the shelf, 'Mona Lisa Awakening' by Sunny, then took three bottles of water out of the fridge.
I laid reading on one of the patio loungers for an hour and a half, until the sun was finally in the right position in the sky to reach my skin passed the trees, then decided to eat some lunch and fold laundry. Once I was done with those two things, I decided to catch a small cat nap, then go back out to let the last couple of hours of the sun's rays work their golden magic on my skin.
My cat nap didn't happen, unfortunately. I finally gave up after 2 hours of tossing and turning. When there were about 2 ½ hours until sundown, I went back out to the lounger, positioning to lay on my back. I could feel the sun on my skin, making me hum as I settled in with my book. The alarm on my phone rang after an hour. I took several minutes to use the restroom and get a glass of iced tea, then plopped back down on the lounger with my book in hand. This time, I laid on my stomach, making sure to place my long hair up so it was off my neck.
I was loving this book that Renee had sent me, so I made a mental note to ask her to send the rest of the series. I must have fallen asleep at some point, because one moment I was getting to a really steamy part of the book, then the next second I felt a hand tenderly stroking my cheek.
Coop's voice registered slowly, causing me to blink sleepily as I asked, “Coop? What... oh, shit, I must have fallen asleep.”
He smiled softly, curled a stray hair around my ear, then said, “It's fine, Bella. Breathe. Yes, you fell asleep, but you aren't burned, so it couldn't have been too long before sundown when you did.”
I shook my head as I sat up and stretched, “Only about 45 minutes, I think. Can you give me a minute to get washed up and changed? You can set the food out on the kitchen island while I get a shower, then we can dig in. You got the mix, right?”
Coop laughed, “Yes, I got the mix. I've come to know your devious food-stealing ways, Miss Swan, so I ordered a bit of all of our favorites.”
I hopped up, kissing his cheek as I passed him on my way into the house, “You wouldn't have it any other way, Mr. Jackson, and you know it.”
He chuckled in response, shooing me toward the bedroom, “Hurry up, woman, before your stomach tries to break free and bite me. I swear sometimes it acts as if you never feed it.”
Once I took a quick shower, I braided my hair down to the middle of my back, then let the rest fall in its natural chunky curl. I pulled on my clothes from earlier, then padded barefoot into the kitchen.
I caught the barest hint of desire in Coop's eyes as they took in my form, but then he seemed to shake himself free of it to smile at me, “You ready, Sweetheart?”
I nodded, “I'm famished, yet I didn't even explore today. I knew I'd need a ton of energy if I was going to get through telling you everything tonight.”
Coop looked at me hesitantly, so I patted his cheek as I picked up my plate. “I know what you're going to say, Coop, but don't. I wouldn't have asked if I wasn't sure, though I need to tell you how I came to my final decision before I tell you my story. Let's get our plates, then I'll explain, okay?”
Coop kissed the inside of my wrist, then nodded before letting my hand go. He didn't say a word, but his eyes were swirling again. They seemed to be overflowing with curiosity, worry, and protectiveness.
Once we were settled with our food and wine in the living room, I dug into my plate. I hadn't realized how hungry I was, but I had eaten half of my dinner before I slowed enough to wipe my mouth and say, “I had another dream last night. It didn't shift like it had been lately. Instead, it started out with just Edward in the meadow. No gore, no horrifically tragic death. I tried to talk to him again, and he actually was able to hear me. He asked me to come lay in the flowers with him like we used to because we had so much to talk about. I could feel him, Coop. I cupped his cheek, and could feel him leaning into it... feel the tingle that having skin-to-skin contact with him always brought. I broke down as I clung to him. It took a while before he got me calmed back down.”
Coop looked at me warily, but I smiled a watery smile, “We laid in the middle of the meadow like we used to, surrounded by wildflowers, as he told me a few things. He said he'd been watching over me... that he wanted to come to me before now, but it wasn't safe... wasn't the right time. He said he had to wait until I was safely out of the states, but more specifically, safely on this island.”
I saw a flash of recognition light in his eyes, so I said, “He said that certain people, who I will explain during my story, would find out if I was anywhere in the states through my dad. See, they couldn't have known I was close to my mother and Phil, because Mom and Phil were too busy with his recruitment into the majors to talk at the time when those certain people would have gained information on me. Charlie -my dad- doesn't know exactly where the island is, so all three of them are safe. Now that I'm here, I'm safe from them, too.”
I took another bite of my food, along with a sip of wine, then continued. “He seemed to be editing things, so I asked him about the 'specifically this island' part of his explanation. He said he couldn't tell me... that it was against the rules... that he could lose the privilege of watching over me if he did. He said that I needed to really listen to him, which he only did when it was important. He told me to trust you with our story… said I needed to tell you, and that you would explain what he couldn't.”
I left out the other parts; there was no way I was telling Coop about Edward practically giving Coop and me his blessing.
I let out a breath, then said softly, “I could still feel the spark between us when I woke up. I could feel the tingle on my lips from where he kissed me, so I knew I needed to do what he asked and tell you. You think I'm crazy now, don't you?”
Coop looked at me horrified, then said seriously, “Jesus, Bella. No, never... I could never think you were crazy. Hell, it was my idea for you to try talking to him in the first place. I promise I think you are completely sane, okay?”
I nodded, then we both finished our meal in companionable silence.
When the cleanup was done and the leftovers put in the fridge, we both took the wine bucket and our glasses out to the patio. We took our usual spots, then I sighed, “This is hard for me to talk about, so please let me get through it all in one go, or I won't be able to finish. If you want to leave after that, I'll completely understand. I know you'll probably have a ton of questions, too, so please save them until I finish. I promise to answer any that I can.”