“What’s something that you’ve always wanted to do, but weren’t able to?
”A smile spread across my lips. She seemed so carefree today, her feet swinging from her perch on my workbench. I’d recently cleaned off part of it for her since she enjoyed sitting and watching me work.
“I had quite the active Rumspringa, so I’ve done a few things already.” I flashed her a grin knowing that she was about to bombard me with questions.
“That’s right! You told me once that you had stories to tell me. So, what was the most adventurous thing you did? Did you ever think about not joining the church during that time?”
“I always thought I’d join the church. I had no reason not to.” I shrugged “I don’t know if I’d call any of it adventurous. I imagine I did a lot of stuff that most typical teenagers would do. I wore jeans and t-shirts, sneakers. I went to parties, smoked, drank, and got high. Oh, and there was a time we went skinny dipping.”
Her jaw dropped before she burst into peals of laughter. “You? You went skinny dipping? Were any girls there? Did you peek?”
“Jah, there were girls. And I peeked, yes.” The heat rose in my cheeks, coloring them. I turned away from her, leading the horse I’d been working on back into a stall. She’d stay until her owners came for her the next day. Clearing my throat and turning back to face her, I hoped that my blush had lessened. “That’s what you pick up on though? You constantly surprise me. I would have thought the weed or my getting drunk would have piqued your interest more.”
My feet led me toward her, and I nestled myself between her thighs, my hands splayed out on either side of her lap.
Her eyes darkened as she bit her lip, shrugging. “Oh, they do, but…” Her cheeks flushed a deep pink.
I had to know what she was thinking now. “But?”
“But none of the other ones made me picture you naked,” she whispered, her cheeks heating further.
A growl rumbled in my throat before I leaned down and pressed my lips against hers. It was becoming increasingly more difficult for me to control myself with her. I wanted her so badly, but she had been right the last time when she’d said that there was no need to rush anything. Still, it didn’t abate my desires for her. She filled my thoughts—the things I wanted to do with her… to her—from the minute I woke 'til the moment I closed my eyes at night. “You can’t say things like that.”
“Well, don’t make me think about your cock then.” She huffed before slapping a hand over her mouth.
Her words shocked me. “My—oh.” I suddenly felt as though I’d run a mile and couldn’t catch my breath. “I, uh, wow—” ‘My tongue was tied as I was unsure of what it meant that her words had aroused me so much.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” There was no need for her to apologize, but I didn’t know how to respond. How did I tell her that she hadn’t offended me, but that her thoughts and her words had created a great need within me? I had to think of another way to show her it was all right. “I’m done for the day. I’m not much of a cook, but would you care to join me for dinner?”
“Oh, God, I totally thought you would tell me to go home.”
My fingers gripped at the flesh of her waist, helping her to hop down from the workbench. “Over a word? Do you not understand that my love for you doesn’t have conditions?”
Her eyes widened as they usually did when I expressed my love for her. “I—”
“You don’t have to say it back. I told you, when you don't think you love me, but know that you do, then you’ll tell me. I don’t tell you that I love you to hear you say it back. I simply say it because it’s how I feel and I want you to know it. You care for me, that’s enough for now.”
“I more than care. I just don't know what my hangup is.”
“There’s no hangup. We move at different speeds, but soon you’ll catch up.” Lacing my fingers with hers, I pulled her toward the rear exit of the barn. “Don’t worry about it now, let’s go have
She sat at the table, her eyes following me as I pulled different ingredients from the refrigerator. Her voice was unsure when she spoke. “I can cook, you know.”
“Ach, you can, can you? Or are you just that terrified of my cooking?”
She shook her head, looking dejected. “No, I just… Never mind.”
Switching the stove off, I walked over to where she sat, slipping a finger under her chin and tilting her face toward mine. “Tell me, please?”
Her sigh was heavy, her gaze never meeting mine. “I know that your wife used to take care of all the household chores, and I guess I wanted you to know that I could also take care of you. Sometimes—even though you’ve never made me feel this way—but sometimes I feel like I’m competing with her ghost. Maybe that’s my hangup. Maybe I’m just worried that I won’t be good enough. I couldn’t even raise my own baby.”
My eyes squeezed shut as I inhaled deeply, willing myself to calm down. I wasn’t angry per se, but I was frustrated, not only with her, but also with myself.
Opening my eyes, my heart clenched at the sight of her. I hated seeing her so overwhelmed with sadness. “I’m not always a man of many words, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, but it’s inexcusable that I haven’t reassured you sooner. I am not looking for a carbon copy of my wife, of my relationship with her, or in any other way. If that is what I wanted, I would have stayed Amish and married the next Amish woman who looked my way.”
Kneeling down on the floor in front of her, taking her hands in mine, I kissed her knuckles lightly. “As for not raising your baby? Bella, I know your heart still aches, that it feels fresh after all this time. But you were not prepared for that baby, you didn’t plan on having a child then. So what did you do instead? You carried her inside of you, nourished her and loved her mightily. You gave her the best life you could imagine for her. You did take care of her. You are an amazing mother.”
Her tears were streaming down her face from my words. “Edward, I love you.”
“Thank you. I love you, too.” I reached up, swiping the tears from her cheeks with my thumbs. A warmth filled my chest that I couldn’t describe. I never wanted to be apart from her. “Now, may I cook and take care of you?”
She pushed out a breath, wiping at her face before nodding. “Yeah, I’d like that.”