"This is ridiculous," I groaned, and Alice sighed cheerily before grabbing my hand and pulling me forwards. "You promised that I wouldn't have to deal with the wedding, and then you guilt me into going shopping with you." The words came out harshly, with a guttural edge.
"Well, I can't exactly do this part without your help," Alice replied, dragging me through the parking lot and towards the shopping center, her heels making click-clicking noises on the pavement. She had used the same argument all morning, and I was getting more frustrated by the minute.
"What part?" I growled, and she laughed merrily.
"If I tell you now, you'll run away," she replied with a bright smile. "Trust me, I've seen it," she added in a sing-song voice.
I grumbled under my breath, but I knew resistance was futile. I'd been trying to get out of the excursion all morning, but Alice would have none of it. Then Edward, sweet, wonderful Edward, had pointed out that it would be a sunny day, and had suggested that we wait for another time. I had grinned in triumph, turning to Alice with a smirk on my lips.
But then Alice had heaved out a sigh, and stared directly into Edwards eyes. I don't know what it was that he read in that idiotic little mind of hers, but it was enough for his expression to change and his eyes to smolder. "Take her," he had managed to choke out after a moment's time, and Alice had grinned at me cheekily.
So now here we were, Alice swathed in clothing from head to toe- and still managing to look more stylish than I do on the best of days- and in the middle of an obscure shopping center in Seattle. "The suspense is killing me," I grumbled, and Alice laughed again. The sound was far too musical, and it darkened my already foul mood.
"Only a few more minutes," Alice replied, and I could tell that she was rolling her eyes behind those large, dark sunglasses that she wore. We stepped off the pavement and onto the walkway, and I glanced at the stores around me in confusion.
There was a jewelry store that I'd never heard of before- no, she knew better than to try to get me anything that expensive, Coach- luggage for the honeymoon maybe?, Godiva Chocolate- they don't cater, do they?, and finally… I felt my eyes grow wide with horror, and when I swung my gaze back to Alice I was already shaking my head.
"Aw, come on Bella! Don't spoil my fun!" Alice whined as she pulled off her dark sunglasses and tucked them into her purse. We were in the shade now, and in no danger of her skin giving her true nature away.
"A…Absolutely not!" I cried, mortified. I stared in horror at the store she had led me to. The name seemed perfectly normal, so I hadn't thought much of it when we had pulled into the shopping center. It was the merchandise that the store carried, however, that set the capillaries in my face to bursting. Lingerie.
Alice pouted, and then clasped her hands in front of her in a pleading fashion. "Pretty please, Bella! The guy who makes them is an absolutely amazing designer! Jasper always loves the stuff I get from here!" she exclaimed, and I made a face.
"No!" I exclaimed, pressing my hands to my burning cheeks. It wasn't that I had an aversion to lingerie, of course. It was just the thought of being so…exposed in public that horrified me. Not to mention that Alice would probably make me parade around the store in whatever she picked up off the racks.
"Come on Bella!" she cried, and grasped one of my hands in both of hers. When I refused to back down, her look turned sly. "Edward likes the idea," she said, tossing me a saucy wink. I'm sure my blush intensified tenfold.
"How would you know?" I grumbled miserably, even as I felt my resolve start to falter.
"Did you see the look on his face when he read my mind earlier today? He would love it if you got something." I knew that she realized my resistance was crumbling. "Come on, Bella. Do it for Edward. Think of it as your wedding present to him," she wheedled.
I hung my head in defeat, and heaved out a harsh sigh. "Fine, fine. I'll get some stupid underwear," I grumbled. Alice jumped up and clapped her hands in delight before she pulled me into the store.
"So what do you think?" she was asking even before we'd crossed the threshold. "Do you think we should do the whole white lace bridal thing, or should we do something a little different? Edward loves you in blue doesn't he? Maybe we should go that route…or would pink be better- you know, fresh and innocent, or…"
I turned her rambling out, ducking my head to avoid the clerk's amused expression. And then Alice was draping lacy garments over my arms, rambling on and on as she did so. Finally, when my arms were weighted down, Alice ushered me over to the dressing rooms.
"Now I want you to try them on- every last one of them. And you have to let me see; no hiding!"
And then I was pushed into a stall and the door was swung shut behind me. I stood stock still for a moment, taking several seep breaths in an effort to ease the heat in my face. When I finally felt the blush receding, I picked up the article at the top of the pile. I closed my eyes as I stripped and pulled it over my body, repeating Edward's name like a mantra in my head.
Then, I made the mistake of opening my eyes and looking in the mirror. It was the skimpiest piece of clothing I've ever seen. A sheer, black strip of fabric ran from the underwear- if you could call it that- over my belly button, and to the space between my breasts. My back and ribcage were exposed, and the bit of lace that served as a bra of sorts left little to the imagination.
"No!" I shouted, shaking my head furiously. Alice was outside the door in a moment's time, and her incessant knocking drove me crazy.
"Come on, Bella. Let me see!"
"Come on, Bella!"
I should have known better to resist her, with all her vampire talents. Somehow, she had gotten the door unlocked, and was running the outfit over with a critical eye. "This is humiliating," I hissed, the blood practically boiling beneath the surface of my skin.
"It looks nice on you… but you may be a little to inexperienced for that one," she said with a cluck of her tongue. "Edward might not be ready for it yet, either," she added under her breath. "Next one!" she then chirped happily, and I stared after her retreating back.
When the door had swung closed again, I searched through the pile for the most decent looking article. Alice promptly announced that it covered too much, and what good would that do for Edward? She then forced me into another one of her choosing, which I then argued showed too much.
Finally, after a long and heated debate, we were able to compromise. The piece we agreed was a shade of light blue, and completely sheer, despite the delicate, swirling lace pattern. Therefore, Alice felt that it was "sexy" enough to be a decent wedding present. However, the panties that went along with the halter baby doll- or so Alice informed me it was called- covered up just enough for me to feel comfortable. Well, somewhat comfortable.
Alice chattered the whole drive home, in her typical fashion. I, however, was too tired and too humiliated to even try to keep up with the endless flow of words. When we finally pulled into the Cullen's driveway, I grabbed my bag and marched towards the house, desperate to get away from Alice's presence long enough to breathe.
When I went to get out the door, however, Alice's face went completely blank. The sight was enough to stop me for several moments, and turn towards her in concern. As soon as the look came, it went, and she looked back to me with a positively wicked gleam in her eyes.
"Edward's going to love it," she said, her voice filled with confidence.
I made a noise in the back of my throat- somewhere between embarrassment and horror- before I grabbed my bag and scrambled out the door. Edward was waiting for me, his face a mask of confusion when he saw my distress. But I ran past him, for once preferring to avoid the comfort that his stone arms would bring.
"Just don't look at me for a little while, okay!" I called as I hurried towards my car.
Edward looked to Alice, the confusion etched into his features morphing into worry. Alice merely grinned as she skipped by him, and then she planted a kiss on his cold cheek. "You'll thank me," she said before bouncing into the house, obviously pleased with herself.
I stood in front of him, fidgeting with the hem of the lacey little number I wore. Edward was silent, his pale body gleaming and rigid in the moonlight, his face unreadable. I saw his hands clench together, and for a moment, I was terrified that he hated it.
But then he was stalking towards me, lifting me into his arms and crushing me into his cold, stony embrace. And then his lips were on mine, and his hands were everywhere, and I found that I could no longer breathe, much less think.
Later…much later, when the sweat on my body had cooled and I was laying in the cocoon of his arms, I felt the rumble of his laughter.
"What?" I demanded, propping myself up on one elbow and looking down at him. He chuckled again and pulled me down against him, molding my body against his own again. He pressed his lips to my throat and then glanced towards where the outfit I'd been wearing earlier had fallen to the floor.
"Just...thank God for Alice."