Dylan held Heaven close, noting the way her body trembled. He did his best to block the cool air coming in from the window, hoping it would comfort her. And himself. Burying his face in the nape of her neck, he lost himself in the scent of sandalwood. The fear paralyzing his mind dissipated the moment she relaxed into him.
She was safe. That much he knew. But whatever caused the turmoil within her heart remained there. Their bond thrummed with it even though he sensed her trying to mask her feelings.
“Are you okay?”
Silky curls brushed against his chest when she nodded. What a relief. After the wave of panic woke him, he didn’t know what state of mind she’d be in. Even with her coherency, her body spoke anything but. Whatever happened shook her to her soul.
Refusing to release her from his embrace, he cradled her back in one arm before hooking the other behind her knees. Lifting her was effortless. He did it with one swift movement.
Holding her made everything okay, even for a split second. Maybe he just wanted her to be all right, to believe this was in his head. Because admitting something was wrong would mean Heaven felt the need to keep something from him. The way she avoided eye contact only confirmed his suspicion. What a kick in the stomach.
Pushing back his disappointment, he took a step toward the bed when she wrapped her arms around his neck. The sooner he got her back in bed, the quicker he could find out what happened. He needed answers, now. If the vibes she emitted didn’t diminish, he would lose his mind.
After a few short strides, he reached the edge of the bed. But as he kneeled into the mattress, he knew he’d have to release her. That would be the hard part. With the erratic pulse of their connection, he’d rather hold her until their hum returned to normal, or she felt safe enough to entrust him with her troubles.
He couldn’t make this about himself. She came first. He’d made her that secret promise long before they’d become a couple. No matter what, he’d keep that promise until his dying day. Especially right now, when she needed breathing room, not him smothering her with his concern.
Once the mattress cradled her body, he wasted no time in walking back to his side of the bed. The cool sheets helped alleviate his anxiety as he curled up beside her. Normally he’d relax into the comfort of their bed and meet her in their dreams, but that would have to wait. Tired or not, Heaven needed him.
His eyes trailed a path over her body as he looked for any sign of physical stress. There were none, at least, none that he could see. He rechecked their connection, hoping to get a better sense of what internal battle had her heart racing.
Damn it! Whatever upset her had their bond fluctuating. He couldn’t get a good reading on her. Guess he’d have to get his answers the old fashioned way.
He moved in closer, spooning her body to his. When his arm rested on the curve of her hip, she released a sigh. He hoped it was a positive sign.
Tucking a curl behind her ear, he planted a kiss just beneath it. “Heaven?”
She placed her hand atop his, nestling back into him. “Yes?”
“What’s going on?”
Her body tensed again, as did their connection. He struggled for a breath. After all they’d been through, why would she try to keep something from him? Unless she thought he would be upset.
“You know you can talk to me about anything. Please. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, leaning up long enough to pull the sheet to her waist. “I didn’t want to burden you.”
“Burden me?” he questioned, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. “Nothing about you is a burden. Besides, what affects you affects me, too.” His voice caught when golden eyes peered over her shoulder. What he couldn’t pick up from their bond played like a familiar song in her eyes. Worry. Uncertainty. Regret.
She still worried about their engagement and felt uncertain how everyone would take the news. But the regret…the vibration of their bond steadied just enough for him to confirm what he suspected. She didn’t regret being with him or accepting his marriage proposal. She regretted trying to hide her stress from him.
Caressing her cheek, he kissed her shoulder before moving to her lips. While her kiss always affected him with a range of emotions, it was good to know he had the same affect on her. Even though the hum between them hadn’t returned to normal, the conflict within her began receding. He could breathe again.
“This is about tomorrow, isn’t it?” He waited for her to respond. But words never came. Only a slight nod of her head. “Are you having second thoughts about marrying me?”
“No!” she said, flipping over to face him. “Of course not. Can’t you sense how much I love you? Check our connection if you have any doubts.”
He’d like to, but the way their bond kept fluctuating…
Something kept causing a disturbance. He’d felt her emotions since they first met, probably even longer. The more powerful her feelings, the better he could sense it. So what changed? Her love for him? He prayed not. If she ever stopped loving him, he’d never survive.
“Hey.” The warmth of her hand on his cheek lifted all the negative thoughts. He met her gaze, doing his best to put on a smile. “You’re not doubting what I said, are you?”
“I’m fine. But you…you’re not.”
“Tomorrow is a big day for us. I’m nervous. I can’t help it.”
When she buried her face into his chest, he held her tight. “It’s just your sisters and our friends. You know they’ll be happy for us.”
A grunt vibrated against his chest as she twisted her head from side to side. “Everyone but Layne.”
He leaned against the bed, pulling her up on his chest until her breath tickled his face. “Don’t take Layne’s reaction personally. He’s protective of me. Always has been. Once he sees how committed we are, he’ll come around.”
“I hope,” she said, letting out a yawn.
Though he could sense there was more bothering her, their connection steadied. He decided not to pressure her for more answers. She would talk when she was ready. Right now, she needed sleep. As did he.
“Get some rest. Tomorrow will be great.”
“Okay,” she sighed.
A touch of disappointment pulsated within his heart when she settled back against her pillow. But he wasn’t ready to lose their physical connection. Instead of rolling over, he tucked his head between her shoulder and neck.
Each time she took a breath, he felt his eyes getting heavier. Damn. He wanted to make sure she fell asleep before he did. But his brain refused to cooperate.
“I love you,” he whispered cradling her body in his arms.
“I love you, more,” she answered. At least, he thought she did.
Excerpted from "What the Heart Needs: Soulmate Series: Book Two" by Kelli McCracken. Copyright © 0 by Kelli McCracken. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.