He kissed me back, but not in a way that made me think I was winning. It was more like he was being careful not to hurt my feelings; he was completely, maddeningly in control of himself. Gently, he pulled me away after a moment and cradled me against his chest.
"You are so human, Bella. Ruled by your hormones." He chuckled.
"That's the whole point, Edward. I like this part of being human. I don't want to give it up yet. I don't want to wait through years of being a blood-crazed newborn for some part of this to come back to me."
I yawned, and he smiled.
"You're tired. Sleep, love." He started humming the lullaby he'd composed for me when we first met.
"I wonder why I'm so tired," I muttered sarcastically. "That couldn't be part of your scheme or anything."
He just chuckled once and went back to humming.
"For as tired as I've been, you'd think I'd sleep better."
The song broke off. "You've been sleeping like the dead, Bella. You haven't said a word in your sleep since we got here. If it weren't for the snoring, I'd worry you were slipping into a coma."
I ignored the snoring jibe; I didn't snore. "I haven't been tossing? That's weird. Usually I'm all over the bed when I'm having nightmares. And shouting."
"You've been having nightmares?"
"Vivid ones. They make me so tired." I yawned. "I can't believe I haven't been babbling about them all night."
"What are they about?"
"Different things - but the same, you know, because of the colors."
"It's all so bright and real. Usually, when I'm dreaming, I know that I am. With these, I don't know I'm asleep. It makes them scarier."
He sounded disturbed when he spoke again. "What is frightening you?"
I shuddered slightly. "Mostly ..." I hesitated.
"Mostly?" he prompted.
I wasn't sure why, but I didn't want to tell him about the child in my recurring nightmare; there was
something private about that particular horror. So, instead of giving him the full description, I gave him just one element. Certainly enough to frighten me or anyone else.
"The Volturi," I whispered.
He hugged me tighter. "They aren't going to bother us anymore. You'll be immortal soon, and they'll have no reason."
I let him comfort me, feeling a little guilty that he'd misunderstood. The nightmares weren't like that, exactly. It wasn't that I was afraid for myself - I was afraid for the boy.
He wasn't the same boy as that first dream - the vampire child with the bloodred eyes who sat on a pile of dead people I loved. This boy I'd dreamed of four times in the last week was definitely human; his cheeks were flushed and his wide eyes were a soft green. But just like the other child, he shook with fear and desperation as the Volturi closed in on us.
In this dream that was both new and old, I simply had to protect the unknown child. There was no other option. At the same time, I knew that I would fail.
He saw the desolation on my face. "What can I do to help?"
I shook it off. "They're just dreams, Edward."
"Do you want me to sing to you? Ill sing all night if it will keep the bad dreams away."
"They're not all bad. Some are nice. So... colorful. Underwater, with the fish and the coral. It all seems like it's really happening - I don't know that I'm dreaming. Maybe this island is the problem. It's really bright here."
"Do you want to go home?"
"No. No, not yet. Can't we stay awhile longer?"
"We can stay as long as you want, Bella," he promised me.
"When does the semester start? I wasn't paying attention before."
He sighed. He may have started humming again, too, but I was under before I could be sure.
Later, when I awoke in the dark, it was with shock. The dream had been so very real... so vivid, so sensory.... I gasped aloud, now, disoriented by the dark room. Only a second ago, it seemed, I had been under the brilliant sun.
"Bella?" Edward whispered, his arms tight around me, shaking me gently. "Are you all right, sweetheart?"
"Oh," I gasped again. Just a dream. Not real. To my utter astonishment, tears overflowed from my eyes without warning, gushing down my face.
"Bella!" he said - louder, alarmed now. "What's wrong?" He wiped the tears from my hot cheeks with cold, frantic fingers, but others followed.
"It was only a dream." I couldn't contain the low sob that broke in my voice. The senseless tears were disturbing,
but I couldn't get control of the staggering grief that gripped me. I wanted so badly for the dream to be real.
"It's okay, love, you're fine. I'm here." He rocked me back and forth, a little too fast to soothe. "Did you have another nightmare? It wasn't real, it wasn't real."
"Not a nightmare." I shook my head, scrubbing the back of my hand against my eyes. "It was a good dream." My voice broke again.
"Then why are you crying?" he asked, bewildered.
"Because I woke up," I wailed, wrapping my arms around his neck in a chokehold and sobbing into his throat.
He laughed once at my logic, but the sound was tense with concern.
"Everything's all right, Bella. Take deep breaths."
"It was so real," I cried. "I wanted it to be real."
"Tell me about it," he urged. "Maybe that will help."
"We were on the beach. ..." I trailed off, pulling back to look with tear-filled eyes at his anxious angel's face, dim in the darkness. I stared at him broodingly as the unreasonable grief began to ebb.