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After the Nightmare

       Sam awoke silently screaming.
       She gave a panicked yelp aloud when she realized she was not in bed alone.  Turning quickly she was tormented by the sight of Nick Cooper.   Much to her amazement he rolled over, sat up, and hugged her to his broad chest.  Unable to hold her anguish inside, she began to sob uncontrollably.
       “Shh.  What’s the matter, Sammy?” he asked, concerned.  He rubbed circles on her back as he did for Chloe when she had nightmares.
       “I thought you were dead!”
       “I’m right here, darlin’.  It was just a bad dream.”
       Several hiccupy sobs later, Sam stammered out a short explanation.  “Oh God, it was so real!  Jack had a partner, Jill.  And they killed you.  And then he kidnapped Chloe and brainwashed her into thinking I’d killed her father.  Only she didn’t look like Chloe and she was older, but it seemed like she was Chloe.”  She gave all the details she could recall.
       Nick kept up his soothing through her account, murmuring assurances that he was alive, that everything was all right, and that Chloe was safely asleep down the hall.  Once Sam was finished with her story, Nick kissed her softly on the forehead and offered to make absolutely sure Chloe was okay.  Sam seemed to need the reassurance, so they climbed out of bed and quietly made their way down the hall, to Chloe’s bedroom.  Satisfied her daughter was indeed safe and sound and still looking the age she should, Sam turned into Nick’s embrace once again began to cry.  He carried her back to bed and climbed in beside her.
       Uncertain how to proceed, he simply held her, stroking her back and once more rubbing circles on her back.  Sam eventually quieted.  “It was so real.”
       “I know, Sammy.  But it was just a nightmare.  I’m fine.  And Jack isn’t going to kill me.  And he’s never going to get his hands on Chloe either.”  He gave one of his little-boy grins.  “This doesn’t mean you’ve had second thoughts about agreeing to marry me is it?”
       The question reminded Samantha of the picnic dinner they’d shared earlier and Nick’s heartfelt proposal after asking Chloe for permission to propose to her mother.  The whole incident had been funny, romantic and straightforward, just as Nick usually was.  She’d agreed immediately and they’d all had sparkling apple cider to celebrate.
       She looked deep into his eyes.  “No.” she sniffled “I still want to marry you.  I guess the thought of Jack still out there trying to kill us all just scared me.  But I’ll be okay.  The dream just shook me up.  It seemed so real.”
       “No getting rid of me that easy.  We’re taking our vacation to Lake Tahoe tomorrow and we’re getting married.  We’ve got the private plane, and we haven’t told anybody where we’re going.  I’m not underestimating the threat he poses, Sam, but I’ve taken lots of precautions.”
        “I know.  We’re going to be okay, Nick.”  Thinking of their turbulent courtship she added, “I’m through pushing you away.  And I’m through running.  We’re getting married tomorrow.”
       “And honeymooning at Disneyland?”
       “And honeymooning at Disneyland.  How could I say no to a man who loves my daughter as much as he loves me?”
       “You can’t.  Thank God, you can’t.”
       She reached up to kiss him and they made love.  The images of her nightmare receded as he cherished her slowly.  She fell into a surprisingly restful sleep.  In the morning she was treated to breakfast in bed.
       The sight of Nick, healthy and happy, as he carried the tray of French toast and orange juice was a balm to her wounded heart.  Chloe followed closely at his heels.  She jumped onto the bed with her mother and Nick set the tray between them.  The three of them all ate heartily.
fini


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