Noah skims a hand down the side of my body and when he reaches the curve of my butt, he nudges himself farther up. Only a slight discomfort this time and in the dark private areas in my mind, I liked it more than I hated it.
The thought causes warmth to return to my lower sections, and I’m able to kiss Noah back when he reclaims my lips.
“You’re so beautiful,” he murmurs.
I internally hold my breath. “Am I doing it right?”
A glint sparks in his eyes. “You’re perfect.”
And I smile.
Another kiss to my lips; another nudge forward. “Keep relaxing for me.”
Instead of concentrating on relaxing, I focus on the heat of his body against mine, his spicy scent and how the light of the camping lantern strikes the few gold pieces in his dark hair. And I especially fixate on how when Noah shifts up, it creates addictive sensations in certain areas that I really, really…I mean really like.
As Noah moves again, his grip on me tightens yet he possesses the same amount of gentleness. Like I’m precious glass he’s afraid of breaking.
He drops his head, and I kiss his shoulder while wrapping my feet around his. A rough sound leaves his throat, and a thrill sweeps through me that I have the ability to twist him inside out.
“Jesus Christ, Echo.” His fingers dig into my shoulders. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“It’s okay,” I whisper into his ear, and squeeze my body to his.
Noah holds his breath and with a few final sharp pushes, he shudders. He breathes hard and fast, and my body completely absorbs his weight as he gains his bearings.
“I love you,” he whispers. And he says it again. And again. Then each uttering of the statement is followed by his lips pressing against my body.
There’s a split second when he rolls away, takes care of certain business, but then he’s quick returning to me. “Are you sore?”
“Kind of, but not as bad as I thought I’d be.” I skim my fingers along his face. “I love you.”
So much. And giving him this, it feels like a forever sort of thing.
My body is in this strange teetering state. There’s a surge of adrenaline that I made it to the other side unscathed. Then there’s a stream of desire still crying out to be released. A huge part of me acknowledges that I’m nowhere ready to do that again…yet.
Noah grabs a blanket, covers us both and adjusts the pillows so that I’m completely surrounded. As I snuggle next to him, Noah’s fingers trace up the inside of my thigh and when my eyes roll back in pleasure, he kisses my lips and appears to begin again.
“Not again,” I beg, though I’m loving his touch. “Not yet.”
“Not again,” he says. “Just for you.”
Noah kisses and touches and declares his love through intimate whispers, and he becomes a man determined to finish what I had started.
Echo flinches in her sleep, and my eyes snap open. She’s been restless with her arms flung over her head and the blanket bunched between her legs. Little lines form in the space between her brows, and she sucks in a sharp intake of air.
A flash of panic rips through me. No. Not tonight. Not after we made love. A night terror isn’t the memory I want her to have. It’s not the memory I want to carry.
I wrap an arm around her, and my fingers slide against the wide scar on her back. Anger ripples along my muscles. I’ve touched her scars hundreds of times, but after what we’ve shared, the emotion evolves into a monster.
I know how much I love Echo. After what we’ve done…my heart aches…I fucking worship her now. How the hell could someone that claimed to love her do this? Leave her scarred? Mentally…physically.
Echo’s body jolts as if she was zapped by electricity. I lean down and kiss her neck. “Echo.”
“Please,” she begs, still lost in her dream. “Don’t do this.”
It’s hard to pull her out of the world she’s stuck in once she’s there. The dream becomes alive and vicious and grows tentacles that cling to her and drag her deep. When I talk, she talks back, but not to me. Never to me. It’s to her mother, and each time it makes me hate the bitch more.
Echo’s face is cool to the touch, even though sweat beads along the roots of her hair. I peel back a curl smothered to her cheek. “Baby, I need you to wake up.”
Before the screaming starts, because those shrieks tear out a part of my soul. It’s like watching her die, and I’m behind a glass wall, unable to save the girl I love.
She jerks her head back and forth. Large, hot tears pool in the corners of her eyes then spill down her face. Fuck me. Just fuck me.
“Echo.” The desperation increases in my voice, grows in my body. “Don’t do this. Wake up. Come on, wake up.”
Her arms fly out to shield her face, and I can see how the glass slashed across her arms. How a scar on her right arm begins then ends as a scar on her left. I’ve considered showing her because I don’t think she’s noticed the pattern. Her two arms create a whole picture of the nightmare she experienced.
I grab on to her wrists, pull them away from her face and kiss her lips, lips that can’t kiss me back. “Please, wake up. I’m right here.”
I take in her bottom lip, and it’s hard to do when her body trembles and her arms shake for freedom. As I move away, Echo briefly stills. My heart pounds hard once. She heard me. “It’s a bad dream, Echo. It’s not real.”
Her arms relax as she stops fighting, and when I link my fingers with hers, she holds me back. Behind her closed lids, her eyes dart. She still belongs to the dream, but for the first time, I’m in there with her. I lower my forehead to hers. “Come back to me, baby.”
Echo turns to the sound of my voice, and her eyelids flutter open. A few more drops fall down her face, and her body jerks as she realizes that she’s awake. I’ve held her enough times throughout this summer to know that even though she’s rejoined reality, the demons will continue to scream at her from the back of her mind.
Her body quakes as Echo tries to prevent the sobs, and she throws her hands over her face. “It wasn’t supposed to happen tonight.”
Like I have so many times, I scoop her up, tucking the sheet around her, and cradle her in my lap. Echo buries her head in the crook of my shoulder as she releases the pain, the frustration, the hurt.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “We’re going to be okay.”
“She was there, and there was blood, and I couldn’t stop it.” Echo wraps her arms tighter around my neck, and I draw her closer, wishing I could steal the nightmares that torment her.