ExcerptAt water’s edge, I try to let the cool evening breeze wash away my anxieties. I barely hear myself or understand myself as I say the words I’m asked to repeat.Two words, for sure, I know by heart.By my heart."I do."You may now kiss your bride.There’s a lingering kiss, a wandering hand. He’s as needy as I am and I smile against his lips for letting himself feel it.Clapping and cheering, teasing and laughter erupt all around us as we turn and face the world together. The scattered faces of all our friends are a blur, but I can tell they’re happy to take part in the ceremony.Happy for us.A declaration of matrimony is made, then we’re hurrying through the small crowd.People toss rice; they blow bubbles.The rest of it, I hardly remember.The dance.The kiss.The cake.It’s all in fast forward.I hope someone’s getting it on video.The car ride at the end of the night is as swift as it’s not even happening.I watch landscapes speed by, clouds swirl.My mind wanders.Three words bring me back to him."You're mine now." His voice is low and vulnerable, rough and sultry.I always was.A soft glow shimmers from a window as we pull up to our new home and I shiver from anticipation.He whisks me into his arms. He carries me across the threshold. He gazes at me with nothing but adoration.His smile is disarming. His lips even more so as they travel along my jaw, underneath the soft curls that dangle against the back of my neck, then finally, near the upward tilted corners of my mouth.He’s everywhere.Soft fabrics fill the bedroom. Against the windows, on the floor, in our bed. Deep purples and reds. Sheer curtains ripple from the breeze like they’re reaching out to me.Candles flicker and dance. Their scents romanticize the mood, as though it needs any help."I want you,” he murmurs.You have me. Forever.Clothes are gone in an instant. He hovers over me, trailing soft, tender, needy kisses. He follows a map of some sort to my lips.The backs of his fingers graze my skin. Along the dip between my breasts, then my belly, between my legs, stopping when I squirm and giggle.Wrinkles crease at the edges of his eyes as he grins down at me. My heart wants to burst.Oh, the intensity in that smile.I know him.Better than he knows himself."I'll always protect you,” he promises.I believe him.His fingers trace. They tease. They dip. They do things I’ve never known fingers can do.I gasp from the overwhelming bliss of it all."So good," he whispers in my ear. The stubble from his beard scratches lightly against my cheek.I agree. “So good.”Soft, desperate hums raise flesh along my shoulders, down my back. Experienced hands guide my body, leaving me breathless underneath him."I will always love you."I'll hold you to that.He presses himself against me, and I meet him, hungry for more.Then I beg him to stay.He answers like he always does."I can't."Not again.The beginnings of loss prick at the corners of my eyes. I hold on to him for dear life. I can’t stifle the sounds that escape me as his strong arms surround me, making promises I know better than to hold true.Colors fade.Soft touches subside.Scents diminish.And then he's gone.xxxMy eyes flutter open. I wipe away the tears.My thighs tighten and I throb between them as consciousness creeps back.I breathe in and out. I roll to my side. I sigh as morning glints through the trees.I try to recall details, but it’s useless.I can never quite make out his face, only the sound of his voice. What I imagine it sounds like, anyway. Just thinking about it now makes me shiver underneath the covers.It’s been haunting me for weeks.Every time, he sweeps me off my feet. Every time, he loves me. Every time, he leaves me.“Ugh.”"Sydney!" Even from down the stairs and out the door, I can hear my grandmother calling me, as clear as if she’s in my room.I force myself out of the warmth of my bed with a stretch and a yawn. No need to check the time. Gran is my alarm clock.I peer down at her from my window and watch her for a moment. She’s always told me to listen to my subconscious, to try and hear what it’s telling me, but honestly, even I have to laugh as I think about it.What can a reoccurring sex scene be trying to tell me other than, “you really need to get laid”?She catches me spying down at her, and Gran summons me in her typical way. Two fingers placed strategically inside her lips, then a whistle that’s louder than those old air raid sirens from back in the fifties.I roll my eyes but smile. I wave to her to let her know I'll be down soon to help with breakfast. Then I push the imaginary stranger out of my thoughts and head for the shower, feeling silly.After all, it was just a dream.
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