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“Ella,” the voice calls for me. Groggily, I open my eyes to reach for Ryan. The room is quiet. He’s not moving, he couldn’t have been the one to call for me. The realization has me petrified. “Was I dreaming?” Gently, I shake his shoulder calling his name he doesn’t budge. “Ryan, come on, wake up!” I say shaking him vigorously now. Suddenly, a set of arms grips me from behind. “He’s dead, you’re mine, sunshine,” Jake’s voice whispers in my ear as the nightstand light turns on. Ryan’s body lays there covered in blood, his eyes are open but blank. “No! No! Ryan! No!” I scream in terror holding onto his rigid body. I should be scared of being so close to Jake but I can only focus on Ryan’s lifeless body. I scream and cry and scream again but he still doesn’t wake up. “How? Why didn’t I hear anything?” I ask myself. I must run. Jake is sitting next to me, laughing. “He had to die for you to realize you belong with me,” His dirty hands pull my waist to him. “No! Fuck off! Leave me alone!” The adrenaline kicks in helping me forcefully hit Jake with my elbow, the blow unstabilizes him long enough for me to get on my feet and start moving.

My feet come to a stop when I see the scene in the living room. Cooper and Max are laying on the floor. Dead. Jake who ran after me scoops me up in his arms. “See sunshine, no one will save you this time, you’re mine!” He laughs. “No! You’re sick. I’ll never be yours!” I’ve been training hard but his hold on my body prevents me from winning the fight when I start squirming trying to hit him. My voice is hoarse begging him to stop over and over again only to hear him laugh at me. My head is spinning I feel weak.

I must have passed out and woke up in a dark room again. Everything that happened before seems to be repeating itself. Jake’s nagging voice tells me it’s time to surrender and behave like a good girlfriend. The touch of his fingers lingers on my legs as I sit in the corner of the bed, rocking myself. “No! Not again! No!” I cry. I scream at the top of my lungs only to have him beg for my touch moving closer to me and I shriek.

“Ella! Ella! Wake up!” The accented voice comes from far away. “Wake up?” I’m confused is there someone else in the room. “Baby, you’re dreaming, wake up,” Ryan begs me. Now I heard him loud and clear my eyes open while my mind is still in a hazy state. Out of breath, I throw myself against his body that’s sitting next to me. Right then, there’s a knock at the door startling me. “No! Don’t let him in!” Bewilderment still controls my brain making me say words that don’t make sense. I hold onto Ryan so tightly he can’t move when he tries to go get the door. The doorknob rattles allowing Cooper and Max to bust in running to our room. Naturally, they had a key to our beach house. Ryan quickly covers my naked body before they can see anything. “What happened?” Max says, his eyes are scanning the room. They both ran after hearing me scream Cooper explains. “She had a nightmare, took me forever to wake her up,” Ryan tells them. My arms are still holding onto him, my body trembling, my breathing erratic. “You… were dead… all of you,” I sob. “It was a dream, baby. Look around, we’re all here,” Ryan coos into my ear. Sitting back on his crossed legs, I loosen my hold turning around slightly, Ryan moves the blanket around my chest. The irrational part of me is still shaken and has a hard time understanding that Max and Cooper are really standing there. Probably reading the confusion in my eyes, Cooper steps closer extending his arm to shake my hand. “Th...Thank yo..you,” I stutter. Trying to get a grip, I start over. “Thank you for coming here to check on me… Max as well,” I say, clearly this time. “Will you be alright?” Max asks. “Can… Hmm… I know it’s absurd but…” I feel so silly asking them but the fear is still controlling my mind. “Don’t feel bad, Ella, I will do a sweep of the house right now,” My devoted bodyguard answers my demand before I’ve officially voiced it. Cooper follows him to check on the place. Letting out a loud sigh, I rest my head on Ryan’s shoulder. A few minutes later, they both come back to say everything is secured. “Sorry that I woke you up,” I tell them in a small voice. “No worries, we’ll be close if you need anything, good night,” Cooper says before closing the bedroom door behind him and Max.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Ryan asks, softly. The old version of myself would have said no and tried to create a new good memory instead, however, I’m now able to open up to him. At least, more often than I did before. With my face hidden in his chest, I tell him every single detail of my nightmare. His hands are running on my back offering a calming effect until shudders take over my body when I get to the point where I was in a dark room with Jake. He moves me tilting my head up to rub his nose on mine in his signature move that I love so much.

“I saw him smiling when you were testifying, fucking asshole!” Ryan is raging. “How dare he say we had an affair? I wanted to punch him, shred him to pieces and feed him to sharks… But that’d be mean to sharks… Maybe I could…” I’m fuming, Ryan bursts into laughter. His back slouches to rest on the headboard, his body shaking. “Mean to sharks, you’re killing me!” his eyes are watering from laughing so hard. “It was a silly thing to say but it’s not THAT funny!” I stick my tongue out. Trying to control himself, his back straightens up to leave a tender kiss on my forehead. “I’m sorry, baby. We should try to sleep,” his hands help me slide off him to lay on the mattress. Soon we’re laying side to side, everything is quiet in the room but my thoughts are loud, I can’t stop picturing Jake’s smile as I was answering questions. “Hey, focus on me,” Ryan’s body turns to its side bringing his soft lips to mine, gently, forcing the images in my mind to fade away. “How do you always read my mind?” I ask into his mouth. Smiling, his nose press on my cheek caressing it tenderly. No words are needed for me to feel his love enveloping me into a safety net allowing me to find a night of peaceful sleep.
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