"Oh!" Bella gasped as we came across the kittens. "I love them." She sighed, and a smile once again formed on my lips.
"What girl doesn't love puppies or kittens?" I teased, and she rolled her eyes at me. "Afternoon, William," I greeted the older man who sat inside the fenced-off area where about 5 or 6 kittens were scampering about. It was hard to keep track of them with their constant movement.
"Edward, hello! And a good day to you, miss." William nodded in Bella's direction.
"Hi. Can I step in and pet them?" she asked eagerly, and William chuckled.
"Come on in." He waved her over. "That's what they're here for."
She stepped over the gate, crouching down and petting an orange and white striped kitten who was now in heaven from all the attention he was receiving. It wasn't long before the other kittens took notice of his good fortune and bounded over to her.
"Oh, Edward, look at them!" she gushed, sitting down and holding a few of them on her lap.
"Would you like one?" The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
"What? No, I couldn't."
But she longed for one, I saw it in her eyes. While a kitten could never replace the child she'd given up, it was obvious she needed someone to care for.
"Why not? Cats aren't much trouble. They take care of themselves." I shrugged, turning toward William. "How much for the cat?"
"I'm asking forty dollars, just reimbursement for the shots they needed."
I pulled out my wallet, handing him the cash. "Sold. Pick yourself a cat." I grinned at Bella.
"No, that's too much, Edward!"
"He's already paid, English, no sense in arguing," William said.
"Her name is Bella." I laughed, and William shrugged.
"I don't know which one to choose." Bella sighed before looking up at me. "Which one do you like?"
I nodded toward the first cat she'd picked up. "That orange and white one looks like a mighty fine cat."
She picked up the kitten, holding it against her and stroking its fur. "I think you're right. I think she's my cat." Bella stood, and as she climbed over the gate, a piece of hair fell in front of her eyes. My body moved on its own volition as I reached out and tucked it behind her ear.
"Come on, English." I smirked. "Let's go buy a blanket for your kitten and then have a look around some more."
She narrowed her eyes at me before breaking out into giggles and slipping her hand into mine. My eyes widened at the gesture, knowing every person there watched us, but I couldn't find it in myself to care.
She smiled up at me. "AIl right, that sounds like a good idea."
We spent the next few hours wandering from booth to booth, Bella's kitten snug in its blanket inside the basket she carried.
"Have you had your fill?"
"I think so." She nodded. "It's getting late."
"I should probably get you back to your car so you can head home." I gave her hand a squeeze. We hadn't let go of one another since she'd taken my hand in hers earlier. I was sure I'd never hear the end of it once word of my behavior reached my family.
She looked down into the basket, seeming to admire her kitten, and her voice was quiet as she spoke. "Yeah, probably."
The ride back to my workshop was a quiet one. Bella appeared as if she were a thousand miles away. I brought the buggy to a stop, hopping down and helping Bella climb out.
I couldn't let the day we'd had together end on such a horrible note. "Bella, have I upset you? You've been awfully quiet."
She shook her head, wrapping her arms around her body and hugging herself. "No! It's not you, I've just been lost in my thoughts."
"Do you want to help me put Twilight back in her stall, and then we can talk for a few minutes if you'd like?"
She gave me a faint smile. "Sure."
"Care to tell me what's on your mind?" I asked as I stroked a brush through Twilight's mane.
"Earlier, you said you had intentions toward me. I assume you meant you want to court me—as you'd probably put it—but how will that work? I'm not Amish."
It wasn't an unexpected question, and I knew we'd eventually need to have this conversation. I just hadn't thought it would be so soon. "You're right, I like you a lot and I want to court you. And, yes, me being Amish would put a hitch in that. If I'm being truthful with you, and really with myself, I don't know how it would work. I took vows to the church, ones that are rarely broken, if ever."
"Edward, what are you saying?"
I sighed, dropping the brush into a bucket and taking a few steps closer to Bella. "I don't know what I'm saying, exactly. When I met Maggie, I decided I would join the church. I'd done my running around, I'd tried the things I wanted to try, and there wasn't anything out there calling to me. Then, we thought Maggie was pregnant, but she wasn't. It was ovarian cancer; all at once, I lost my wife and a baby who never existed. I'm forever a changed man, and now…" I trailed off, fighting the lump in my throat.
"And now you don't know if maybe there's something or someone out there in the world for you."
"Yes," I whispered, stepping closer and placing my palm against her cheek, staring at her lips as they parted. "Except I know there is someone. I can breathe again around you, and you make the darkest days seem brighter. I want to kiss you. May I kiss you?"
"Yes," she breathed, and I didn't waste any time. I leaned down, pressing my lips gently to hers. Bella reached up, wrapping her arms around my neck and increasing the pressure of the kiss.
We stood like that for a little while, just enjoying one another, but when she let out a soft moan, I knew it was time to pull back. I smiled at her, brushing her hair off her face. "I'll see you tomorrow for my afternoon coffee, jah?"
She looked up at me from under her lashes, a shy smile on her lips. "Yeah, that sounds great."
I can't wait to hear what you're all thinking after this chapter!