AN: Well, here it is! The wedding is finally upon us for those of who have to have the happily ever after…and I just want to go on record – the blue shoes near the middle of the chapter were my idea! I chuckled when I saw them in the original Sex and the City movie…that detail has always been a part of the storyline when I started this story almost three years ago! One chapter to go…see you soon!
And as always, many thanks go grumpy grizzly for being my editor and sounding board…and for those of you who have stuck through this with me! Enjoy!
Additionally, I have a Tumblr account that I am currently using to post pictures from the story - thing I found that help me write this little love fest! It'll take me a few days to finish it, but then I'll post a link on my profile page...just in case you're interested!
Chapter 54: At last - The Wedding
I walked into the stylish hotel suite, shutting the door behind Grace and me. I smiled at Jacob, who was sitting one of the elegant sofas noticing Meghan to his left. I tossed my purse on the table with accuracy and then placed the keys to the Volvo right next to it.
Jacob's face was tight and he didn't return the smile. His eyes never left my face. "Meghan, will you take Grace downstairs for a walk? Maybe a snack?" he suggested.
The tone is his voice was low, somber. The timbre of it frightened me. Jacob didn't get that look often. He was normally a happy, laid back man. I had only seen that look when he was upset or worried.
I gently hugged Grace and softly nudged her toward Meghan's direction. As she passed me I let my fingers comb through her shiny black ponytail. The door closed with a resounding thud of finality, the silence in the room punctuated only with Jacob's deep cleansing breaths. His heartbeat was rapid, the blood whooshing so quickly that I thought he might have a heart attack if he didn't calm himself down.
"What's up?" I asked as casually as possible, trying to inject enthusiasm into my voice.
"Bells," Jacob sighed, his voice flat, "We need to talk." His look intensified.
I could feel my still heart skip an imaginary beat while I held my unnecessary breath. Had he changed his mind about me seeing Grace?
Unconsciously, I slouched into sofa across from him. "Okay?" I asked hesitantly, my eyes anxiously scanning his face for any hint of what was about to come. My mind that could now think on multiple levels was racing to all sorts of negative assumptions.
"There's so much…." Jake trailed off. His tone was flat, and he was no longer making eye contact with me. My heart sank even more.
I tried to not panic. I sat up straighter. I was no longer anyone's shrinking violet. Grace was far too important to me. I had been without her for too long and even if I was still was not entirely convinced that my being in her life was what was best for her, she needed me.
Edward was right – we needed each other.
But what rights did I have? According to all those that knew me in Forks, I was dead. I functioned below the legal radar of the law. It's not like I could get a great lawyer and take Jake to court. What recourse did I have?
I tried to not ponder on these things – tried to stay focused on Jake and see if there was any way that I could figure a way to settle this amicably, so that everyone would win.
"Bella," Jake questioned, "did you hear what I just said?"
I looked back at him, my chin defiant, as I sat up straighter in my chair. "I'm sure there's a way that we can figure this out together, but I'm not giving her up," I answered calmly but soberly.
Jake looked at me blankly, his expression one of confusion. "What are you talking about?"
I tensed and braced myself. I would not back down. I could sense the answering defensiveness automatically matching mine in Jacob.
"We've only just found each other again. I need her," I swallowed, my voice beginning to break. My resolve was fading fast. "And she needs me too," I finished weakly, not sure if I truly believed my own statement.
"Bella, I have no clue what you're talking about," Jake replied sounding slightly annoyed.
"Aren't you talking about Grace?" I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.
"Grace?" Jake stopped for a second. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head before he continued. "What I need to talk to you about has nothing to do with Grace. What kind of jerk do you take me for, Bella?" he argued. His jaw tightened and his eyes flashed, though I wouldn't categorize his expression as angry. Maybe righteously indignant?
This was one of those times I really could've used Edward's ability.
I let out a gust of air from the breath I had been holding, my body slumping back into the cushions of the sofa. If he wasn't talking about Grace, what did we need to discuss?
"Bella," Jake exhaled, "before you marry Cullen, I need to tell you a few things."
Not this again…there was NO way that I was going to get in an argument about Edward.
I loved him. He loved me. End of story.
Before I could mentally prep myself for what I believed would be a knock-down drag out fight, I looked up at Jake. His body language was anxious, his face tight while he rubbed his hands together nervously. He picked up the beer he'd been nursing and knocked it back in one long stretch.
"What is it, Jake? Don't keep me guessing about this," I breathed, trying in vain to keep my unease at bay.
Jake took a deep breath, leaning forward and looked me straight in the eye. "I'm sorry, Bells," he said softly.
"Sorry for what? What have you done?" I nearly barked. I was more confused than ever. My mind was whirring through images trying to think of what he could be sorry for.
"It happened a long time ago and I should have been honest but we were so happy and I didn't want to ruin what we had but now that I know why he did what he did and with Meghan and all I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am for all of this!" he finished before taking a deep breath. He was rambling and talking faster than I had ever heard him and I was lost at what his point actually might be.
I held up my hand. "Wait." I looked deeply into his eyes as his searched mine looking very sad. " I'm lost." I sat up and leaned toward him, pausing to quell the nausea I could feel. "What exactly are you talking about?" Confusion was frustrating me. "Why don't you start at the beginning?"
Jake scrubbed his tired, unshaven face, before he fully focused on me. "I'm sorry for so many things. But if I had to start at the beginning, I'd say this all started when I went by Charlie's place to pick up your dress."
Charlie? Wow, that was going back a few years. "What dress?"
"Your wedding dress."
I stopped thinking. I stopped breathing. I was stunned. "Go on," I encouraged.
"Remember, you left your suitcase before our honeymoon at your dad's place. We stopped and picked it up and you changed there, in your old room – remember?" he ventured.
I nodded and couldn't help the smile that touched my lips. That was a memory I still retained. It was one of the best days of my life back then. After a moment and still confused, I replied, "Sure." I resumed my cautious stance.
"So," he continued, "when we got back, you were so busy with school and moving into the new house, I offered to go and pick it up and have it cleaned." The tone of his voice was bright, like he was willing me to remember. The image vaguely flitted through my brain.
"Ok," I mumbled.
"Well, I let myself in and ran up to your room and I knew it instantly." Right about then his eyes focused on his hands.
His dragging pace was killing me. "Keep going," I encouraged.
"Well," he continued, before swallowing hard, "I knew they'd been there. I could smell them. I thought for a second that I would phase, but finally realized the scent was old. But I could smell seven distinct scents, so I knew it had to be them."
After Esme's intervention, I'd learned that the Cullen's had been in Charlie's house where Edward heartbreakingly discovered that I had indeed moved on. Was Jake telling me that he knew they had been there as well?
"So?" I prompted as tension seeped into my taut body. My fists involuntarily clenched next to my legs. .
"So," he took a deep breath briefly glancing at my hands, "I knew they'd been there. I should have been honest. I should have told you. But," he argued remorsefully, sitting forward in his seat, "we were happy. We'd just gotten married and you were always smiling. I had no way of knowing if he'd hurt you again, so I wasn't about to take that chance. And I still looked at them as dangerous…" he trailed off.
Wow. Since discovering the truth about the past decade, all the good and the bad, I'd never thought about what had happened afterward. Now the pieces were coming together.
"So let me get this straight," I started patiently in the voice I tended to use with Grace. "You knew the Cullens came back and you didn't tell me?"
"Yes, but let me explain" he said as he held his hands up. The relief that he'd only kept something from me finally came into focus in my mind – he wasn't taking Grace from me. He was just confessing – coming clean. The chuckle that cut Jake off, stemming from humor or hysterical relief at that point, I wasn't sure. "Jake, I understand. I do. You should have told me…that wasn't your choice to make, but you need to let that one go. You did what you thought was best and even though I'm not sure I would have done the same, I understand. We'll never know what 'might' have happened, but I'm finished dwelling on the past."
Jake looked slightly relieved, before he looked back at me. "That's not all," he said quietly.
Oh now what?
He swallowed hard. "How much do you remember of your days on the Rez?" he asked calmly, though his eyes were tight.
"Most everything…why?" I asked. Where was he going with this?
He took a deep breath, his eyes closing as his head tipped back. "That night that you left me…that night that you tried to leave me - do you remember that?" he whispered. Every muscle in his exposed arms looked tight and stretched thin.
"Of course I remember that," I muttered quietly, though in all honesty, I wished I could forget it.
He tipped his head forward, his warm eyes snapping open to look at me directly. "I'm so sorry. I couldn't tell you what was really going on. Sam gave us a direct order and I couldn't break it. He wouldn't listen to reason…" he trailed off, his hands rubbing the rough denim that covered his legs.
"It wasn't until you ended up in the hospital because of my stupidity that he finally started to reconsider his idea on telling you about the vampire that kept coming back for you. He thought you'd be better off not knowing. He thought you could just go about your everyday life - being with me and Grace, working at the school and spending time with the Pack family. He thought what he was doing was the right thing and I couldn't fight it…and believe me, I tried."
I nodded, not sure what else to say or do.
He took a deep breath and kept going. "That night, when you were leaving with the baby, I panicked. You didn't know how dangerous it was for you to leave LaPush. I tried to get you to stay, to be on the Rez where I knew you'd be safe – you and Grace. Even with Meghan, I still loved you, Bella. I still do…" His voice was a mix of guilt and remorse. I could see that he had been torturing himself over this.
"Keep going," I urged as the image played through my mind like a movie.
"So you're walking out the door and all I could think of was you going back to Forks and getting killed - of Grace losing her mother and me losing my best friend – maybe Grace even getting killed in the process."
I winced. I couldn't bear to think of something like that happening.
He shook his head. "I snapped. I couldn't let you walk out that door and I grabbed you, hoping you would stop and we could talk about this and figure out how to make it work." His words were coming so quickly it was hard to keep up. "I never meant to grab you that hard. I hurt you and I'm so sorry for that. I don't blame anyone for that but me…not Sam, not this legacy…I did that and I'm so sorry."
He took a deep breath, his eyes refusing to even blink, while he waited. I realized he was waiting for me to respond.
"Jake, it's okay," I began, not really sure what to say. I started to reach over to comfort him but then withdrew my hand.
He was still looking at the ground when he interrupted me. "No, Bella! It's NOT okay. You had to go to the hospital because of me – Charlie should have arrested me. I had no right to do that to you." His eyes were full of agony.
"It was an accident. I knew that then, and I definitely know that now," I argued boring my eyes into his so he would know I was serious.
Jake held up a hand, halting my response. "Bella, I thought if I made it clear that Grace was staying with us, with the Pack, you would stay too. That may have been Sam's idea, but I didn't fight that – and I could have. It wasn't an order. But I didn't know what else to do. I just thought if I forced your hand, you'd stay. You wouldn't be happy about it, but you'd eventually accept it. That was so unfair and I'm so sorry." He looked up at me, his eyes moist with tears. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I wish I could take it all back."
"But Jake—" I tried to begin but he cut me off.
"If I had done all this differently, you'd still be with us at home! I could have fought the imprint," he choked, but soldiered on, "I could have protected you and we'd be together. We'd be happy and none of this would have happened!"
"And you'd be miserable," I countered knowing I had to be the voice of reason.
"I'd be fine," he retorted defensively, some of his old bravado coming back.
I stood and reached over to take his hand. "No, you wouldn't," I said calmly.
Jake clasped my hand in his. "I just couldn't let another day go by, another visit, and not get everything out there."
We just sat there and looked at each other. Was I angry? A little. Was I surprised? Not really. All my life, either human or vampire, those around me had made decisions on my behalf, most without my consent or input. But did any of it really matter anymore?
He looked at me expectantly. "Yeah?"
"You never asked for this birthright of yours, did you?" I questioned.
"No." His answer came easily, some of the anger and petulance of the sixteen year-old Jake I'd fallen love with bursting through.
"But if it hadn't happened," I contradicted him, "you would've never met Meghan, right?" The teasing in my voice was impossible to miss.
Jake's eyes widened. "But I had you. It wouldn't have made any difference."
I waved him off. "Take me out of the equation for a minute, Jake. Do you love her?"
"Of course I do!" He responded sharply, then softening his tone he continued, "but I loved you first. I was happy with you, with Grace, with our life on the reservation." His tone was a plea, hoping I'd understand.
"Are you saying that you could live without her, Jake?" I asked quietly.
We heard the click of the key, and both of our heads snapped toward the hotel door. Meghan walked back into the room, Grace beside her. Jake's eyes locked on his wife, who was tending the tiny, sleeping newborn in the stroller she pushed. Even for someone who didn't understand imprinting, the obvious magnetic draw that Jake had to her was undeniable.
I cleared my throat, hoping to gain his attention. "It was meant to be, Jake. Can't you see that? If you'd told me about the Cullens, Grace may not have even been. And," I whispered, so Meghan wouldn't hear, "Matthew William would never have been. Right?" I challenged. The baby woke with a strong cry, just to prove my point. I raised an eyebrow at Jake before adding, "I think Matthew agrees."
"I'm still so sorry for everything that you've lost." The sadness in his eyes was compelling.
"But look at everything that I've gained, Jake. I got my little girl back."
"Still," he countered.
"Jake," I rushed, as Grace was walking toward me at that second, "let it go. I have. I forgive you – you forgave me. That's what friends do…" I finished, as I wrapped Grace up in my arms. "We both have her," I whispered. "Everything else makes no difference. I'm not looking back anymore. No more 'what ifs' or 'if onlys'. Got it?" I smiled brightly at him.
Jake nodded, his eyes conveying that he understood. The time for looking back was over. Things had never been perfect, but it was time to move on, move forward…to finally be happy.
The days before the wedding flew by. Between spending all the time I possibly could with Grace, and the million phone calls from Alice going over final details, it was a good thing I couldn't sleep.
Edward, on the other hand, was getting restless.
His gentlemanly ways were starting to unravel. We never went too far (no matter how hard I tried), and now that Grace was under the same roof, he excused himself earlier than usual in the evenings. I used every trick I knew to get him to stay, but to no avail. He'd usually call me from home later in the evenings, and we would talk for hours about everything and nothing, trying to make the minutes move even faster.
Grace had a great time selecting the cake. She sat in my lap while she tested each flavor, taking heaping servings of each kind before making her final decision. Needless to say, Alice wasn't thrilled about what she picked. I believe she used the term "gaudy", but when Grace looked at her aunt with such pride in her eyes, Alice relented – besides, she was the only one eating it anyway!
When we arrived at the florist, Grace's obvious delight as she looked at every flower, commented on every shape and color, lifting each of the blooms to her pert little nose to sample their smell made us all smile. We let her choose her flowers and she picked bright pink gerbera daisies. We used the same florist we'd used for the university cocktail party. Chris, the owner, tripped over himself to keep Alice happy as she went over each bouquet in agonizing detail – lilies, roses, freesias, gardenias and lavender, with different bouquets for Rose, Esme and herself depending on their preference. The only continuity was all the bouquets were in white…Grace would have our "splash of color" as Alice described it.
Each day rushed by in a whirlwind until finally the morning of the big day arrived. We'd planned a late afternoon ceremony. We would return Grace to Jake at the hotel at the end of the small reception that would follow the big event. I asked him if he and Meghan wanted to attend, but between caring for the baby, and Jake admitting that it would be a bit weird for him, we let it go. However, we planned on bringing a bunch of food back to the hotel – a reception with only one eater was bound to have leftovers.
We got ready at the Cullen house, where Alice thought it would be easier to ply my hair into something special to commemorate the day. Each dress hung on its own dress form, to ensure they stayed wrinkle free. The tiny one that held Grace's was at the front of the room. "Mommy, look! It's so pretty!"
"You did a wonderful job picking it out, little one," Esme told her hugging her proudly.
Indeed she had. The silk shantung dress with rows or tiny pleats, a round neck and wide sash was beautiful. Alice had ordered custom made Mary Janes in the same fabric, embellished with tiny crystals. Not to be outdone, Rosalie had called a boutique in New York and worked with a designer to have a custom headband made with the same fabric, the trim made to echo her new shoes, with tiny Swarovski crystals. Grace also insisted on wearing the diamond tennis bracelet that Rosalie had given her months ago, which made Emmett smile when we mentioned it to him.
Was there anything they wouldn't do for my child?
Esme dressed quickly, her caramel colored hair swept in a smart knot at the nape of her neck, a few small sprigs of lavender placed to finish the look. She moved quickly, checking, double checking and triple checking everything that we would need before we left for the small chapel that Alice had found. Her gown was the same shade as Alice and Rosalie's…a slightly deeper shade of the pale lavender that Grace had excitedly picked out.
Esme's gown was simple and elegant, completely fitting her taste and personality, with its deep v-neck, empire waist and slightly flared skirt
Rosalie and Alice were already dressed, both in the same colors, but remarkably different styles. Rosalie's dress was classy yet daring It was fitted tighter through the hips and had a deep scoop neck. It accentuated her spectacular figure while being tasteful and chic.
Alice's dress had subtle pockets and a darling keyhole neckline. I shot her a look when I spied her slipping some chocolates into them. "What? Grace might get hungry," she defended. I could only laugh knowing she was probably right.
"You may want to carry some wet wipes too if you are giving her chocolate that could melt." I chuckled as the wheels in her head started to turn and she was picturing different potential chocolate disasters.
Alice worked on my makeup, keeping it simple and natural, while Rosalie coaxed my hair into deep waves, pinning sections of it back, near the base of my head. She took the beautiful platinum and diamond brooch that had belonged to Edward's mother and pinned it off-center of the crown. Its cool metal color and sparkling diamonds contrasted nicely with my dark hair and I hoped he would be pleased with what I had selected.
I stepped into my wedding gown over my blue bridal garments, my sisters adjusting the sleeves, the neckline, fussing over every detail.
"Mommy," Grace interjected, "that dress is so pretty," she whispered. Her fingers fluttered over the beading at the waist as her eyes took on a dreamy awed expression. "You are prettier than a princess," she whispered.
"Thank you, honey." I smiled down at her. "You look prettier than all of us combined!" She smiled up at me and them we looked at our reflections in the three-paneled mirror. I whispered to myself, "I hope Edward likes it." The butterflies were multiplying fast.
Esme appeared behind me, her hands calming on my shoulders. I felt her fingers tug the zipper upward, before hastily fastening the million or so buttons that adorned the back. She hugged my shoulders. "Edward will love it," she whispered back before retrieving my veil.
I'd fought Alice on the veil. I thought it was overkill, but she insisted saying that Edward would be disappointed if I didn't adhere to the tradition. That got me and I held still as Esme attached the cathedral length and blusher length tulle to my hair. I took a second to really appraise myself in the mirror before Alice approached me with my shoes, still nestled safely in their box.
"Ready?" she asked, her smile cheerful.
Alice lifted the first pale blue satin shoe and handed it to Grace. I lifted my skirt and she slipped it on my foot, caressing the satin finish. I chuckled at the sight of them.
"Trust me," Alice retorted. This was her clever idea of "something blue. And I had to admit, I loved them. Before they would have been death traps for me, but now I could enjoy some of the adventures of life.
"Okay," I concurred quickly. I kept taking deep breaths, trying to calm my frazzled nerves.
Alice clucked her tongue. I turned to look at her. There was a deep crease between her brows.
"What?" I asked.
"Something seems off," she murmured, but her smile was crafty. I knew she was up to something.
A firm knock on the door grabbed my attention. Esme went to see who it was.
"You're not allowed in here, young man," Esme scolded, her voice teasing.
"I know – I just need to talk to her," Edward pleaded. "Please? Just for a moment?"
"That's up to her," she answered, not taking her eyes off the door, her palm flush against the wood to prevent him from opening it.
"Bella?" Edward called, "would you permit me a moment?" His voice was tender and hopeful.
Feeling the smile spread across my face, I swished toward the door. "I'm here," I whispered.
"Nervous?" he queried.
"A little," I confessed, "but not about marrying you. I've never been surer of anything."
"Good….good," he sounded relieved. "I have something for you."
Esme stepped aside, while Edward's long, elegant fingers slipped two identically wrapped boxes through the crack in the door. I hurried to take them, but Edward clasped my fingers and gave them a gentle squeeze. The sigh from him was audible to even Grace. "I've missed you."
My smile grew bigger. "Missed me? You saw me a little more than twelve hours ago," I teased. Edward had left my house last night only a minute shy of midnight explaining that Esme would tongue lash him if he lingered into the next day.
"Yes, missed you. I can't believe that in less than an hour you'll be Mrs. Edward Cullen."
I felt his lips graze my fingertips, making me swoon. "Yep, and then you'll never get rid of me!"
"That's been my plan all along," he answered tenderly.
Esme cleared her throat. "Edward, why don't you head to the church? We'll be leaving shortly," she suggested.
"I'll see you soon, sweetheart," he stated simply, and with one more squeeze of his hand, he was gone.
I took a good look at the packages he left. They were both wrapped in lavender paper, adorned with silver ribbons and freesias. One was addressed to me – the other to Grace.
Opening the letter, I read looking for clarification.
My Dearest Bella,
I have many memories of our time together, but none will be more meaningful than when you walk down the aisle toward me to start our lives together. I've hoped for this moment, prayed for it even, thinking it might help and in just a few minutes, that moment will finally come.
Inside the box is a very special piece of jewelry from my late mother. My father gave it to her on their wedding day, and I'd be honored if you'd wear it for me. Esme assures me that it will go beautifully with your gown. And don't worry – Alice hasn't given away any of the dresses you liked in her mind.
I've also included something for Grace. Hers is new, but given the importance of today, I wanted her to not only feel included but also begin to understand how very much I love her. Please tell her that for me, won't you?
I'll see you soon and love you always,
"Grace, honey, Mr. Edward brought you a present," I told her. She ran to me stopping suddenly and handling the box reverently. She had watched Rosalie and Alice open presents so she had begun imitating their manners. But, she was still a little girl and soon she tore into the wrapping paper with abandon, while I gingerly pried at the tape. Grace gasped when she opened the box. "It matches my bracelet," she shrieked with absolute joy.
I, too, opened the beautiful velvet box with my name on it and found a large, heart-shaped crystal, suspended from a delicate platinum chain.
"Mommy, we got the same thing," Grace shouted gleefully, wagging her box in front of my face. I looked over her shoulder and sure enough, Grace's necklace was an exact replica of mine, albeit daintier.
traced the heart crystal, reveling in how beautiful it was, how perfect it looked, considering its age. Rosalie slipped mine from its box and fastened the clasp around my neck. Its length suited my neckline perfectly, as it lay in the hollow between my collar bones.
"Wow, a crystal this old and it's still in perfect condition," I remarked.
Rosalie smirked, holding her lips in to prevent a laugh from escaping.
"What's so funny?" I asked confused.
"Bella, that is no crystal," Rosalie explained.
It took me about half a second before I understood her meaning. "Do you mean to tell me that this," I pointed at the heart lying against my skin, "is a diamond?"
Rosalie simply nodded nonchalantly, while Alice fastened Grace's clasp and straightened the chain.
"Bella," Alice jumped in, "what's the big deal? I thought you would love it, especially given how sentimental it is to Edward."
I nodded absently, taken aback by the size of the stone. I knew Edward was tasteful but extravagant, but I was still stunned to be in possession of such a beautiful treasure. Suddenly, it occurred to me to ask. "Does that mean that Grace's necklace is exactly the same as mine?"
"Exactly, " Alice nodded enthusiastically and then dabbed a bit more lip gloss on me. I shook my head at Edward's lavishness, hugging my daughter to me and telling her that her stepdad loved her. It was a beautiful beginning to what I knew would be a fabulous day.
The hired car pulled up to the small white clapboard chapel adorned with the large pots of fresh flowers and garlands welcoming us with their cheeriness. Before the limo came to a complete stop, Alice had popped the handle, anxious to exit. Esme cautioned her, mumbling a reminder that Grace was in the car and we had plenty of time.
After exiting the car, we lined up ready to walk down the aisle. Carlisle met us at the door smiling broadly. Grace ran toward him and she scooped him up into her arms. "You look beautiful, dear one," he gushed.
Alice handed each of us our bouquet – heirloom roses for Esme, elegant calla lilies for Rose and perfect gardenias for herself. She offered to trade Grace for her daisies with a wink in my direction, but Grace was steadfast in her choice.
"You ready," he asked, his smile proud and his eyes soft.
"Absolutely," I replied gracing him with a contented smile. Alice handed me my large bouquet, fragrant and beautiful. The roses, calla lilies, gardenias, freesias and lavender formed a large round burst of blooms. There were clusters of crystals placed throughout the arrangement, which glittered, despite the overcast sky.
The music began and each of my ladies in waiting floated through the open doors of the tiny chapel. Alice took Grace's hand and they walked together, their gait in perfect harmony, almost skipping to the end of the aisle.
The doors closed with a quiet click in front of us and Carlisle offered me his arm. "Well, it took a lot longer than it should have, but it's time. If we don't get in there, he might break that door down and kidnap you," Carlisle chuckled. "He's been a nervous wreck all day," he spoke conspiratorially with a wink.
I nodded happily and we waited behind the closed doors. Carlisle mumbled something to Esme, and the piano music changed keys. The processional started and the doors opened. Edward waited for me at the end of the aisle, his face erupting into a beautiful smile when our eyes locked. I felt compelled to run to him, until I felt Carlisle's hand squeeze my hand, leading me down the aisle slowly and gracefully where my forever was waiting.
"Do you take this man…"
I nodded enthusiastically, before adding "I will…"
He stole a kiss, which made everyone chuckle.
"That's for after the ceremony, son," the minister chastised with a grin.
He never tore his eyes from me, just nodded.
"Do you take this woman…"
He stole another kiss.
This time the minister merely sighed.
We'd exchange our personal vows later, to keep them private and only for us.
When the clergy pronounced us husband and wife, Edward didn't hold back. One hand cupped my face, while his other wrapped around my waist, pulling my tightly to his chest. The kiss was passionate, his actions communicating to me that our love was real and unending. I kissed him back just as fiercely, until I heard a small cough from Carlisle. I pulled back, but Edward kissed me once more, his lips brushing against mine, before he smiled and greeted me.
"I love you, Mrs. Cullen."
Everyone applauded, while Emmett hoisted Grace into his arms to cheer.
The reception was well underway. Grace was so excited that she didn't notice that she was the only one eating while she happily chatted to everyone.
She scarcely sat, excitedly running around the small table where we went through the motions to make it easier for her.
She came alive when the music started, anxious to dance, and just as anxious to watch her new family celebrate. She and Emmett kept high fiving and agreeing that they loved "to party."
Edward led me to the floor for the first dance, his arm slipping around my waist, while he pulled me close to his body. The hum of our attraction to one another was undeniable, but my mind momentarily lingered on the last time Edward and I had been in this position, when the results had been much less favorable. I couldn't help but cringe.
"Oh come now, it isn't that bad," he teased, his lips lingering on my hair as he hummed along with the music.
"No, it's not. It's wonderful really – I was just thinking about the last time we," I looked at him, trying to help him remember without actually saying the words. We both chuckled quietly.
"It may not have ended well, but that kiss was so worth it. I thought I'd remembered how astonishing our kisses were from memory, but actually experiencing it told me unequivocally that my memory did not do them justice." He kissed me soundly on the mouth.
I loosened up, determined to no longer think about painful memories, but just to bask in the present.
"Do you like it?" he whispered, fingering the diamond necklace and the tender flesh surrounding it. I shivered involuntarily.
I looked up at him. "I…love…it," I stammered, while his fingers continued their ministrations.
He looked back at me, his eyes full of want. "And Grace," his voice growing husky, "did she like hers?" His other hand drifted upwards, grazing just beneath my breast.
My eyes grew wide. "Ummm," stammering again, "very much, I think."
"Well, let's go ask her, shall we?" The clarity had returned to his voice, any promise of things to come long gone, while I muttered "tease" under my breath.
"Not tonight, I won't be," he challenged back.
Teasing aside Edward took my hand and we collected Grace before the song ended. He easily hoisted her into his arms and we danced together, a new family making memories of a special day. Grace kissed Edward on the cheek, thanking him for her necklace, which reminded me that I would have to speak with Edward later about "extravagant" gifts. But today was for celebrating, and Grace loved her new accessory.
The night went on and Edward and I sampled our cake, much to my daughter's delight. She took great pride in showing everyone she could eat a piece bigger than Emmett's. Each member of the family continued to "pretend" to be human and Grace was none the wiser. Emmett asked Grace for a dance rather ceremoniously and she boldly accepted.
The most amazing part of the night was watching Jasper and Grace interact. My little girl was tenacious, and she wasn't about to let the most timid member of the wedding party get by her without some interaction.
Initially, Jasper let us know that he wouldn't be attending. He apologized, but still didn't trust himself, but Alice had had enough.
"Jasper, we're done with this conversation. You won't be the least bit attracted to her scent, but I'll be damned if you're going to miss this wedding after everything the family has gone through for it to finally happen. Do you hear me?"
Alice and Jasper rarely argued, but this was one fight that Jasper wouldn't be able to "calm" his way out of. After several days of Alice making him "sleep" on the couch, he finally gave in. Alice assured him that she could see that things would be perfect and that he and Grace would become fast friends.
And Grace wasn't about to be deterred. Though Jasper had done his best to stay out of sight in the shadows, Grace immediately noticed the unfamiliar face that was part of her new family, walked up to him, and stuck out her hand for an introduction. The look on Jasper's face was one of shock, before his nose crinkled in distaste. I knew right then that she had him, and by late evening, he was dancing with Alice and my baby girl with a giant grin on his face.
I danced with my new brothers, as well as my new father-in-law, but Edward never strayed far. He would come and collect me long before the song was over.
When it was finally time to take Grace back to the hotel to deliver her back to Jacob, Grace was sound asleep in my arms, her warmth and sleep talking bringing a smile to my face.
Jacob opened the door to the suite, looking sluggish, like we'd woken him from a deep sleep. "Hey," he greeted me, opening the door wide enough for us to walk through without disturbing Grace.
Edward waited by the door. I held her for a few more minutes and then laid her down in her bed, removing her shoes and jewelry. I slipped the pieces into their box, and then handed the box to Jacob. I'd text him later to let him know they weren't costume, so they'd be well care for. I didn't want to see his face when he learned this information.
"Well, thank you for taking the time to come here and make things so easy for us. It was a wonderful day," I casually mentioned to Jacob.
"Wow, Bella, you really look beautiful," Jacob replied from the doorway of Grace's room. I turned to look at him.
The same sixteen year-old that I had looked to for support, fallen in love with, and looked at as my best friend was staring back at me. He may have aged ten years (maybe more with all that he'd been through), but my Jacob was standing before me. I rushed to where he was standing and hugged him. I wasn't surprised that he hugged me back; rather, I was surprised that he was so relaxed. He didn't stiffen when he put his arms around me, didn't tense when he felt my cold, hard body. He hugged me with a ferociousness that made me understand that I had an ally in him again. The thought brought a lump to my throat.
Just then, I heard a small cry come from Grace's bed. I rushed back to her, and realized that she was stirring in her sleep. Jacob stepped past me and smoothed her hair, which immediately sent her back to dreamland.
Realizing that Edward was now directly behind me, I turned to him. He smiled at me softly. "Bella, we don't have to leave for our honeymoon right now. We can just stay put and you can spend more time with Grace. We'll go this fall on a proper honeymoon when she's back in school full-time. How does that sound?" He drew those calming circles on my hand just like he had all those years ago.
To say I wasn't tempted would have been an outright lie. But Edward had been so patient, so loving – I wouldn't have Grace back had he not intervened. Could he be this selfless?
"Bella, she's okay. She gets this way when she's had an exciting or tiring day. She'll be back to her normal self tomorrow. You should go," Jake offered.
My heart was torn. I looked from Edward, to Jake, to my tiny miracle lying in her bed, now at peace and enjoying her dreams, her face briefly morphing into a smile while she slumbered.
"She's dreaming about dancing." Edward commented. We all smiled toward her.
"Um…" I said noncommittally.
"Bells," Jake interjected, "how about this? You and Edward go. You'll be gone what? Two weeks?"
Edward shook his head.
"Three?" he offered again, while his eyes widened.
I could see the imperceptible nod that Edward gave him, that annoying guy nod that men sometimes use to communicate.
"Okay – three weeks. How about when you get back, we find some time for you to spend with her this summer, just as soon as you are ready," Jake suggested.
"You'd let me keep her for a few weeks?" I questioned. I wasn't going to tell him I was hoping for the rest of the summer…
"Sure. I'll miss her like crazy, but she'll be stoked to spend some time with you."
I rushed forward and hugged him again. I pulled back and looked him over. "Are you
He nodded with a trademark Jacob grin on his face, "Sure, sure."
"Thank you," I breathed.
"Now get out of here," he chastised.
"You heard the man," Edward joked, while he pulled me by the waist toward the door.
We were off to be alone together, to finally be truly together as man and wife and start our lives. We'd never be separated again.
Edward couldn't keep his hands off of me as we exited Jake's suite and made our way to the elevator, both of us excited, giggling like teenagers, until we jumped into the Volvo. Edward sped off into the ever darkening night, his hand on my knee and his love in my heart.