I had the oddest feeling I was being watched. In fact, I was certain of it. Eyes narrowed, I glanced in the rearview mirror, checking the truck bed for some sign of the hunter. Nothing. A frown pulled at my lips and I turned the key in the ignition, letting the irritable growl of the truck's engine go silent. Then as soon as I opened the door, he was beside me, pressing his lips to my forehead as he took my arm.
Startled, I gave him a long look. "Were you following me?" I couldn't help myself, I was annoyed. The look in his eyes, when he met mine, didn't do much to assuage that.
"Of course not." Too innocent. Something was up.
"Uh-huh." I reached back into the truck cab for the package I'd brought with me, but he already had it in hand. His free hand slipped around my waist as he nudged the car door closed, and then we were walking towards the front door of the Cullen house, a cool breeze riffling my hair as we climbed the steps. Cool for anyone with sense, practically balmy for Forks. It was, after all, late June.
"What have you got here?" Edward peered at the bundle he held curiously. I sighed, leaning my head against his shoulder for just a moment before reaching for the door knob.
"Origami paper. I'd say 'don't ask', but there's no way I'm going to let Alice make me do this all by myself." Origami flowers, and little paper cranes. For the reception. You know, the one I didn't want. Yeah, that one.
Edward's eyes lingered on the paper a little too long as he followed me through the door. "Right. I'll go get you some gloves."
"Gloves?" I turned toward him, eyebrows racing for my hairline.
"Paper cuts." The way he said it made me want to kick him... but only a little. When you're right, you're right.
"Shouldn't be a problem." Alice breezed out of nowhere, stealing away with the stack of brightly colored paper. "I sent Jasper on an errand, and Emmett..." She cocked her head, eyes distant for just a moment. "Still hunting with Rosalie. You can bleed all you want today, Bella," she assured me cheerfully.
"Gloves," Edward repeated firmly. "I don't trust you not to cut a finger off."
"Isabella Cullen?" The too-wide eyes full of impish inquiry would have made me want to laugh in any other circumstance. I grit my teeth.
"Not for long" Oh, he was having far too much fun at my expense now. "Unless you're going to go all feminist on me?" He frowned. "You're not, are you?"
"Of course-- What?" I shook my head. He was trying to distract me, something he exceedingly talented at. "Edward, I'm not going to cut my finger off with a piece of--"
"Oh! Are you looking at cars, Bella?" Alice had been rifling through the paper I'd brought with me, sorting it by designs. She pulled a magazine out of the stack, studying the cover.
"Huh?" I was absolutely positive that hadn't been there just a minute ago. "What do you mean 'looking at cars'?" Alice flashed the cover my way. It was a copy of Car and Driver magazine with a sleek black coupe on the cover. Okay, that definitely hadn't been there before. Edward drifted her way with a thoughtful 'hmmm'.
"Is that the new Audi A5 on the cover?" My eyes narrowed at the way his voice dripped liquid innocence. Of course it was. He knew it was.
"Ah, I think it is," Alice purred. I imagined a pool of syrup sweetness with guileless sprinkles pooling on the floor at their feet. I hoped they got stuck in it. "It looks like the article is marked, too." She smoothed a folded-down page with slim fingers. "Oh, that is nice." Edward nodded appreciatively, eyes bright as he read the article over her shoulder.
I watched them in silence, waiting for them to finish. I'd like to say that I was surprised, but I wasn't. No matter how happy I was with my truck, I seemed to be in the minority with that point of view. It had only been a matter of time before the subject came up again. Apparently the time was now. Much as I was tempted to wait them out, unfortunately the two of them possessed more patience than I cared to measure.
With a sigh and a silent plea for patience with loopy vampires, I cleared my throat, calling them away from their sportscar-induced reverie. "Alice, do you want to show me what you want me to do with that paper so I can get started?"
"Yes!" She bounced over to me, colored paper in hand. "This is going to be so wonderful, I know you're going to love it!" Wedding plans trumped car plans, at least as far as Alice concerned. I glanced at Edward and caught his look of displeasure as he was forced to concede the match. I grinned as Alice shooed me towards the stairs, and his eyes narrowed.
I found myself arranged at a long worktable surrounded by rolling task chairs on the third floor. Edward sat beside me, artfully constructing paper cranes with speed and precision. I looked down at the crooked, half-finished lotus in front of me and sighed. I didn't know what Alice was thinking, assigning this to me, although I suspected it fell under the heading of 'busy work'. Squinting at the printed directions again, I eyeballed the next fold on my flower and started coaxing the paper to cooperate.
After a fierce grudge match, I held up something that looked more like a wad of paper than a flower. "Somehow I don't think this was what she had in mind." Edward glanced at it, chuckled, and plucked it from my grasp.
"I think you're right, 'used tissue' doesn't quite say wedding to me." His eyes glowed when he said the word wedding, and I found myself smiling along with him. That look alone was reason enough to suffer through all this. "There, that's more like it, I think." His deft hands had smoothed and reformed the tortured paper into a perfect flower shape. Reaching over, he tucked it behind my ear. "Perfect."
"So?" He arched an eyebrow, adding another crane to the small mountain of them at his elbow.
I toyed with my engagement ring, watching the light flash across the diamonds in their filigree enclosure. "What was that little song and dance with the magazine all about?"
Edward paused, donning his poker face. "Song and dance? I don't know what you mean."
"Sure you do," I responded sourly. "It wasn't fair for you and Alice to tag-team me like that." I gave my ring a full twist, turning it around my finger.
He took a deep breath, considering his words carefully. "It's a wedding present."
"No, listen to me." He turned his chair and took both my hands so that he could look down on me with the full force of his topaz eyes. "You don't understand just how much you're giving me." His thumb caressed the back of left hand, slid over the ring that was the tangible proof that I had agreed to join my life to his.
"I do know what I'm asking of you," I said quietly. "And that's partly why I have to wonder if that sort of gift is practical."
His soft smile turned a little strained at the mention of my impending immortality, but it didn't fade. "Don't you see? Even that is a gift. A gift I don't deserve." The arguments about it were over at least, but I knew it didn't entirely sit well with him. "Can you fault me for wanting to give just a tiny thing back?" He grinned, though it was still a little sad. "Even if it has to stay in the garage for a while."
I sighed again, trying very hard not to sound pained. "I don't exactly consider a car to be a 'tiny thing'."
"The one you've got right now certainly isn't." It was his turn to be sour apparently.
"You've really got it in for my poor truck." I glared at him, but he was unrepentant. "It's a good truck."
"I'd ask what your favorite color is today, but I think I'm already too attached to the blue," he mused. "Alice was wondering if there was enough of a back bumper on it to tie tin cans to. I'll have to check." Okay, now he was just being mean.
"You are in so much trouble." I tried to take my hands back, but he wouldn't let them go. Instead he bent his head and pressed a kiss to each of my palms.
"Wrathful grizzly trouble?" Golden eyes were positively dancing. "As I recall, that turned out pretty well for me the last time." I snarled, and he let go of my hands to grab the arms of my chair instead. "Hm, I'll have to remember these chairs for next time." He chuckled, taking advantage of the wheels to steer me closer. Close enough for him to softly kiss my lips.
"You're still in trouble," I murmured when he let me breathe.
"You're still getting a car as a wedding present." I groaned, but he kissed me again before I had a chance to regroup my argument.