A/N: This was a story I was working on pre-Breaking Dawn and had originally posted on TwilightArchives (dot) com. I abandoned this story for two reasons, 1) the mods on the site were making me angry 2) I didn't feel right writing a Breaking Dawn story after the real one came out. BD kind of disappointed me, so... I moved on.
I'm posting this now because some readers of my other story "A Simple Twist of Fate" have asked about my other writing.
Just be aware, this story is incomplete and will more than likely remain that way. If you like this, check out A.S.T.O.F.
It was just one week before the wedding, and despite my reservations at first, excitement was growing inside of me with each passing day
It was just one week before the wedding, and despite my reservations at first, excitement was growing inside of me with each passing day. Every time I thought about what was just a few days away, my heart would start to race and the butterflies in my stomach would surge violently again and again. Because of all of the planning, I'd had to spend less and less time with Edward as the big day drew nearer, and I spent much of my alone time either getting in some last minute bonding with Charlie, or deeply immersed in my own daydreams.
My daydreams usually revolved around my wedding. Our wedding, mine and Edward's. The idea of it, the very words, got easier and easier to wrap my mind around every day. I vaguely knew the details of the whole event, mostly because Alice could hardly keep the information to herself or else her giddiness might make her explode. I still protested every time she wanted to tell me about the caterer or the decorations, but secretly I added each addition Alice made to my own personal private fantasy.
One more week of waiting. It seemed like it would never come, but at the same time my future seemed to be rushing towards me at an unfathomable rate of speed. Today, I'd spent most of the afternoon watching a Mariner's game with Charlie, even though I'd barely been aware of even the score through my daydreams. As the game entered the 9th inning, I could hardly stand being stationary anymore; I had to get out of the house. I kissed Charlie on the forehead and grabbed the keys to the car Edward had insisted I drive. I got behind the wheel and drove, just drove, not having any idea as to where I was going or what I'd do when I got there. The engine on my Guardian was quiet, much quieter than my ancient truck had been, and again I slipped into my fantasies, despite my best efforts to stay focused on the road in front of me.
In my dreams, it was sunset, and the clouds had cleared out to let the pinks and oranges of the setting sun cut through the gloom. I stood with Alice just inside the front door of the Cullen's house. Through spaces in the curtains, I could see the scene stretched out on their expansive front lawn; simple white chairs adorned with crimson satin ribbons formed rows on either side of a white aisle strewn with rose petals. Around the seating area and at the end of the aisle were hundreds of crimson candles, flickering gently in the cool evening breeze. I caught, for the briefest of moments, sight of Edward standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me. Even in that short moment, I could see the nervousness on his usually calm face. He chewed anxiously on his bottom lip and wrung his fingers together behind his back. I looked back at Alice standing in front of me, fluffing my veil. She smiled at me and said, "Okay, Bella. This is it. Ready?" I looked to my right and there was Charlie looking more handsome than ever and yet a little worse for wear than I'd like. He offered me his arm and gave me a watery-eyed smile. I took a deep breath and Alice opened the front door, causing every eye in the gathered crowd to focus on me.
In the midst of my fantasy I had driven outside of Forks. I snapped back to the present as I unconsciously turned off of the main road and onto the familiar winding drive leading up to the Cullen house. It had been three days since I'd even laid eyes on my husband-to-be, longer than we'd ever been apart from each other since… I needed to see him. I needed his constant serenity to calm my nerves.
I guess Alice had seen me coming and he'd been able to read her mind because he was walking out the front door as I killed the engine of the car in front of the house. He was the same calm that I had expected and needed, but with a distinctly worried expression on his face as he opened my door for me.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?" he asked me, his worried look softening after he saw that I was still in one piece. All I could do was smile at him, a sense of calm washing over me like a tidal wave. I stepped out of the car and wrapped my arms around his waist, burying my face in his frozen stone chest. He pushed the car door shut and wrapped his arms around me, holding me close, kissing my hair. After a few long moments, he pushed away from me and looked down into my eyes, searching for something that was the matter. I smiled weakly up at him.
"I'm fine, I swear," I said. "I just… I don't know, I just needed to see you." He smiled at me again, my favorite crooked smile, and pulled me close.
"I'm sorry I've stayed away so long. I've just been so nervous, and I've been hunting to pass the time, to clear my head." At this, some unseen cloud seemed to drift across his expression, and he suddenly looked preoccupied.
"What do you have to be nervous about? I've already promised you everything I have to give," I remarked, looking up at him again, amused.
"You could still change your mind. I know you're not too keen on this whole marriage thing." He stared off into setting sun, clearly intending his comment to be taken as a joke, but his expression showing his true feelings.
"Honestly, Edward. When will you realize that I wasn't kidding when I said I wouldn't leave you at the altar?" I tried to make my tone light, but in truth, his nerves were starting to rub off on me, and that was the last thing that I needed.
Normally it was Edward who pulled me out of my funks, but tonight it was clear that I'd be the one doing the pulling. I kept one arm around him and started to walk toward the house. He, like a gentleman, opened the front door for me and we walked inside together. He still seemed preoccupied, and that was certainly not helping my mood. Off to the left of the entryway Emmett and Alice were watching TV, while Jasper read a book, and Rosalie sat painting her nails next to a lamp.
Alice jumped up and danced over to me. "Bella!" she exclaimed in mock surprise. "We didn't have any wedding stuff tonight. What are you doing here?" She looked from me to Edward and back again.
"As if you didn't already know, I just needed some quality Edward time tonight." She smiled a knowing smile and kissed me on the cheek, as she always did, and went back to her place on the sofa next to Emmett. Edward and I walked up the two flights of stairs in silence, arms still around each other, until we reached the door to his bedroom. I turned the knob and walked into the room that was lit by the glow of the rising moon coming through the wall of windows on the far side. He silently closed the door behind us and wrapped his steel hard arms around my waist again. He pulled my back against his chest, and put his lips to my ear. "I'm sorry. I know I'm acting a bit off tonight. I've just got a lot on my mind." His voice was smooth and velvety, as it usually was, his nerves seemed to melt away as he stood there in the dark holding me close to him.
I twisted around in his grasp and looked up into his moonlit face. "You have a lot on your mind? What about me?" He smiled at me again, a little bit weaker this time. "I know, I know," he said. "I'm being selfish. I didn't even let you answer when I asked you why you came over tonight. So again, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
He deep golden eyes were smoldering in the dimly lit room, and I could hardly focus on forming a coherent sentence. When was this trick ever going to loose its effect on me? Did I really want it to? I forced myself to look away before I answered.
"It's been three days since I've seen you. I just needed to make sure you were okay," I pouted.
"I know. I'm sorry I've been away so much lately. Alice has had you so occupied with wedding preparations and I can't seem to keep my focus on anything for too long these days. Hunting seems to be the only thing I can do for any length of time, and Emmett certainly doesn't mind the extra sustenance." He smiled at me again, his expression much less burdened by some unseen emotional baggage than before. "It's been killing me to be away from you, love." He leaned down and brushed his lips against mine, sending chills down my spine, taking my mind millions of miles away from any thoughts at all, good or bad.
When he released me, I walked over to the mammoth bed in the center of the room and flopped down onto the soft golden comforter. In an instant he was laying beside me, smiling again, his golden eyes still smoldering. He kissed me again, his icy lips tracing a line across the left side of my jaw bone and up to hollow below my ear. His teeth gently grazed my ear lobe, sending a fresh wave of goose bumps over my entire body. He continued to kiss my neck and throat, and over the curve of my shoulder through my t-shirt.
"I love you," he whispered against the skin of my neck.
"Mmm…" I breathed, closing my eyes and letting the ecstasy wash over me.
"Are you sure I can't convince you to collect on your demand a little early?" I could feel his lips curving into a seductive smile against my ear, as he referenced my one request before allowing him to turn me into a vampire.
"Edward, if you're trying to test my resolve, it's working," I replied, breathlessly, struggling to keep my voice even and controlled despite my racing heartbeat and trembling hands.
"I know," he whispered before crushing his lips to mine, his kiss hungry and warmer than I'd ever experienced before. I snaked my fingers into his gorgeous bronze hair and kissed him back with equal urgency and hunger. In one swift motion, he had rolled us both over so that he was on his back and I was lying on top of him, our lips never parting even for the smallest fraction of a second.
Before I knew what was happening, he had his icy hands under my t-shirt, tracing soft circles on the skin of my lower back.
Yes… Oh my god, yes… the voice in my head manually shut down all of my self control and I lost myself in his kiss. Our mouths opened simultaneously and our tongues gently started to explore the new spaces in front of them. He slid his hands down my back, over my hips and thighs to the back of my knees and he hitched one leg up so that it hung on one side of his hip. His motion was so fluid and quick that it momentarily jarred my brain out of the fog he had placed me under. I sat up as quickly as I could, causing all the blood to rush to my head making me dizzy. I put my hands over my eyes to keep the room from spinning. I heard him chuckle softly in front of me.
"You're really terrible, you know that?" I asked, my hands still covering my eyes. The room had stopped spinning but I was afraid that if I met his burning eyes again I might loose what little self control I'd suddenly regained.
"I'm terrible? Who's keeping whom prisoner?" he asked, there was a smile in his voice that I didn't understand. I opened my eyes and quickly realized what he meant by keeping him prisoner. In the midst of my haste to break our kiss to clear my head, I had managed to position myself on my knees, straddling his lap in the middle of his bed. I flushed crimson, perhaps every drop of blood in my body rushing to my face in my embarrassment, but I was too mortified to move.
He chuckled again and ran his hands up my legs to rest on the hips of my jeans. I closed my eyes as tightly as I could; trying to somehow muster the strength of will to remove myself from this compromising position but it was nowhere to be found. He then sat up, letting his icy hands slide up the back of my shirt and rest on my shoulder blades. He started kissing my neck again, his smooth marble forehead resting against my cheek, keeping my budding fever at bay. I exhaled loudly, ruffling his hair and I could feel him smile yet again. The room spun and surged again and I hardly realized he was sliding my t-shirt over my head until it was lying on the floor next to the bed. He brought his lips to mine again, and he twisted his fingers into my hair holding me to his kiss, as if I'd try to protest.
The tiny voice of reason in my head had been drowned out by the sound of my rushing blood and pounding heartbeat, and it couldn't tell me to stop as my hands started unbuttoning his shirt. It took much longer to get it off of him than I'd seen it done in the movies, but when I slid it off of his broad stone shoulders; I let my fingers linger on his alabaster skin for just a bit longer than necessary, trying to memorize every contour of his perfect body.
He lifted me up just enough to get enough leverage to roll us both over again so that I was now on my back and he was on top of me, but I couldn't feel his weight. I wrapped my arms around him, tracing the tenuous lines along his muscular back. He moved his lips away from mine again, kissing a soft line down my chin, throat, and down to my breasts, still covered by my simple white lace bra. Self consciousness suddenly nudged its way back into my brain. Shopping for wedding night lingerie had been on Alice's list of things to do that we hadn't quite gotten around to yet and I was suddenly embarrassed my by everyday under garment. He seemed to be unaffected by the lack of sex appeal of my bra because he lips still traveled softly over the exposed skin of my cleavage and breast bone. My breath caught in my throat, and my head started to swim yet again. I felt him trace a thin icy line from my navel up my stomach and then let his finger tips gently graze the thin fabric over my left breast.
I covered my mouth with my hand to keep from giggling out of nervousness. He seemed so self assured except for the almost undetectable tremble in his hands as he slipped one hand under my back to undo the clasp of my bra. In one try he unhooked the tiny clasp and slowly slid the lacy fabric off of my chest and the straps off of my shoulders. I was completely exposed to him now, yet I was comfortable and the spinning of the room started to slow.
He gazed down at me lovingly for a moment, a gentle smile playing across his perfect lips. His finger tips brushed over my newly exposed flesh, covering me in fresh goose bumps. He kissed me again, softer, gentler, slower this time. I felt like I was falling; tumbling out of control into an uncharted blackness. My pulse was racing and I could feel my skin burning against his cold exterior.
Suddenly, there was a momentary stiffness that came over his entire body, and then he relaxed again.
"Damn…" I heard him whisper, halting my dissent into the unknown, bringing me back into the present. "I think we may have to finish this some other night, love," a slight hint of disappointment in his smooth voice. Frantic tears suddenly started to burn my eyes.
"What? Why?" I begged. Why did this always have to happen? Was he having second thoughts about what we were doing?
"Calm down," he soothed in my ear. "Charlie's getting worried. He's wondering where you are."
I groaned. Leave it to my father to ruin the impending love making of his teenaged daughter. Edward sat up and retrieved my bra and t-shirt from the floor, and handed them back to me.
"I think you're really enjoying this, you know?" I said as I redressed myself.
"Where you not enjoying it?" he asked sarcastically, with a single raised eyebrow.
"Of course I was," I shot back, much too quickly. I felt my cheeks heat up. "I meant, I think you're enjoying toying with my emotions like this."
He laughed a hearty laugh and pulled me into his arms again. We laid there on his bed for another few minutes just listening to each other breathing before I finally sat up.
"When will I see you again? Please tell me it won't be days."
"No, I promise I won't go days without seeing you again," he assured me. "But I don't think my sleeping over tonight will do much to help either one of our self control." He flashed me that amazing crooked smile again.
"You're probably right about that. But can you promise me one thing?"
"Be there when I wake up. I've missed that."
He smiled again, his eyes locked into mine. "Of course."
He walked me back downstairs and held open the door to my Guardian for me. He kissed me one last time before shutting the door and watching me drive down the winding lane back to the main road.
As I drove my, thoughts raced with more intensity than they had before I'd gone to see Edward. The encounter had gone the completely opposite direction I had expected and now I was filled with more relief and confusion than ever before. I drove absent mindedly back to Charlie's house, not even realizing that I'd arrived until I was walking through the door. Charlie was standing in the kitchen with the phone against his ear. When he saw me he said, "Never mind, Billy. She just walked in the door. Yes, I'll tell her if she doesn't already know. Thanks. Bye." He hung up the phone with a loud crash.
"Just where have you been, young lady? Don't think that because you're getting married in a few days, you can just throw my rules out the window. As long as you live in this house…" he trailed off, surely remembering the last time he'd tried to use that on me, and I'd threatened to move out.
"I know, Dad. I'm sorry. I just lost track of time. I'm really sorry." How long had it really been? I still hadn't bothered to look at a clock to find out just how long I'd spent with Edward.
Charlie's face softened at my apology, and he said, "Have you heard the news?"
I looked at him, slightly perplexed. "What news?"
"I'll take that as a no. Billy said that Jacob's home." He smiled at me, obviously thinking that this news would make me happy, perhaps it was Charlie's last ditch effort to get me to reconsider my decision to marry Edward. But the news did little to raise my spirits.
"That's really great, Dad." I said, trying to sound cheerful, but I was painfully aware that my tone left much to be desired in that department. Now I had more thoughts to crowd my already overstuffed brain. "I'm really tired. I think I'm going to turn in. 'Night, Dad," I said as I trudged upstairs deep in contemplation.
I grabbed my bag of toiletries and went into the bathroom for a shower. I ran the water as warm as I could stand it and stepped into the steaming stream. Immediately, I forgot the day; forgot my intimate encounter with Edward, the news of Jacob's return, my apprehension and nervousness about the wedding, everything. I washed my hair, and took care to thoroughly wash every inch of my body, making sure to scrub away all of my needless thoughts as I did. When the water started to turn cold, I got out, wrapped myself in a fluffy blue towel, brushed my hair and teeth, and went across the hall into my bedroom and shut the door. I half expected Edward to be sitting on my bed waiting for me, but then I realized that we'd both agreed that a sleepover tonight would probably not have been the best idea.
I dressed in the dark, pulling on a pair of black cotton panties, black shorts, and a baggy t-shirt, and climbed into bed, hoping that it would be that simple to fall asleep. But sleep did not come easily; I tossed and turned, not with thoughts of Edward, but of Jacob. His return had brought with him all of the doubts I'd had about what I was preparing to do and the sacrifice I was preparing to make. I could see his face, the face of my Jacob, smiling at me, begging me with his eyes to stay with him, but we both knew that I'd made my choice. The tear in my heart had begun to heal in his absence, and it hurt much less now to tell him no. I wondered about where he'd been, what he was thinking, why he had suddenly come home. After several hours, I finally slipped into a dreamless sleep.
When I woke up, the familiar cold steel grasp that I loved so much was wrapped tightly around me. He had kept his promise, and was there when I woke up.
"Good morning, beautiful," he whispered softly in my ear. I smiled, drowsily, all thoughts of Jacob slipping away at the feel of his breath on my skin.
"Good morning," I replied rolling over to face him. At that moment, I didn't care if I had morning breath or how my hair looked, all I wanted was to kiss him, hold him tight and never let go.
"I'll be good today, I swear," he said, kissing my forehead and tightening his grip on my waist.
"You'd better be," I replied teasingly. He laughed, a quiet, light-hearted laugh, and smiled at me. "So I've heard you've got a full day with Alice today."
"Yes," I sighed, and he just pulled me closer. "Do you have anything fun planned for today?"
"That depends on your definition of fun. Final tux fitting, now that is a barrel of laughs. Actually, it might be. Emmett is less than cooperative when it comes to these things, it will probably be hilarious to watch." I thought about Emmett's hulking size and silently agreed that it would probably be a sight to see, him being poked and pinned into an uncomfortable tux. After a few long minutes, I begrudgingly sat up in bed, knowing that I had a full schedule for the day. He was beside me in an instant.
"I should probably leave you alone. I know you'd got a lot to do." The truth was I didn't want him to leave, not now not ever. I turned my head to face him. I kissed him as passionately as I could without getting too carried away, trying to express every feeling I had for him in one kiss. He was surprised but seemed to understand as he placed an icy hand on my cheek and kissed me back. When we finally pulled away, my heart was racing again.
"I guess this would be a good time for me to leave," he murmured with a sheepish smile. And after one final kiss to my forehead, he swept out the window and was gone.
Though Edward kept his promise by making sure to see me everyday, I would hardly say that we really got to spend much time together over the next few days. Renee and Phil arrived two days before the wedding and we went over to the Cullen's for cocktails the night of their arrival.
Esme and Carlisle were gracious hosts as always, and Renee seemed to warm up to them immediately. While the parents chatted in the living room, Edward stealthily stole me away into the dining room. When we were finally alone, we pushed me against the wall by the door and crushed his lips to mine, kissing me deeply, the excitement of our stolen kiss making my pulse pound. He pulled away and looked down at me with that familiar smoldering fire in his eyes. I wrapped my arms around his neck and he kissed me again, pressing his body against mine with a ferocity that almost frightened me, but sent my pulse racing.
"Edward?" Carlisle's melodic voice interrupted our embrace from the next room. We broke apart, both of us breathless.
"Coming!" he called back. We glanced at each other and started laughing uncontrollably together for a brief moment. Then he steadied himself, took a deep breath, took me by the hand and walked us back into the living room where Renee, Phil and the Cullens were waiting for us.
"Sweetheart, I think we're going to head back to the hotel," Renee said to me as Edward and I walked back into the room. I went over to hug her and Phil goodbye and walked with Carlisle and Esme as they escorted them to the door.
"Bella, honey, you should probably head home as well, its going to be a busy day tomorrow," Esme cooed as we watched them pull off down the lane. Of course she was right, and despite my urge to never leave Edward's side, I said my goodbyes to my new family and Edward walked me to my car. When Carlisle and Esme had gone inside and Edward and I were alone in the dark by my Guardian, that wonderful smoldering look in his eyes returned. I couldn't help but smile, my giddiness was starting to get the best of me and his playful teasing was beginning to be too much for my reserved attitude.
"Just one more day now, Mrs. Cullen," he whispered in my ear. I smiled as I wrapped my arms around his neck, the sound of those words made me feel like someone had released a million angry butterflies inside my stomach, their wings batting wildly against my insides.
He opened my car door and guided me into the driver seat. I looked up at him and he was still smiling mischievously as he closed the car door and disappeared inside. Once I was alone, I exhaled loudly and sank into the soft black leather of the seat, before starting the engine. I carefully drove down the twisting drive back to the main road. It was nearly midnight, and the clouds kept the moon hidden along with much of its light. The only light that could be seen was my headlights, and the fluorescent glow from my dashboard. I didn't turn on the radio and just listened to the sound of the road beneath my tires. I drove slower than usual, enjoying finally having some peace of mind and the gentle silence inside the car.
I jumped and swerved slightly on the road when my cell phone started to chime from the passenger seat, cutting a wide gash in the soothing silence. I fumbled in the dark to flip open the tiny thing. I looked at the screen to see a number I didn't recognize. I had programmed the numbers of all of the people I wanted to talk to into the phone's memory, so my first reaction was to not answer, thinking that it was probably just a wrong number. But after a few rings, curiosity got the best of me, so I mashed a button and pressed the phone to my ear.
"Hello?" I asked, not expecting anything more than a simple 'click' when the person on the other end of the line realized I wasn't the person he was trying to reach.
"Hey, Bells," a familiar, kind voice answered back.
It took me a moment to swallow the lump that had suddenly risen in my throat. "Jacob?" was all I could stammer out.
"Who else?" I could tell that he was trying to keep his voice light, but there was definitely something lurking beneath the surface of just a casual chat. A few painstaking moments passed with neither of us speaking. Finally, he broke the silence.
"Umm… listen, I-. I mean I just-" he broke off and without thinking I let all of the anxiety and frustration that had built up inside of me in his absence bubble over my already overfilled plate.
"What the hell, Jake?" I spat, angry tears burning my eyes.
"I-" he tried to answer back but I cut him off.
"Save it! Do you have any idea what it's been like with you gone? I had no idea where you were, if you were okay. You could have been dead somewhere and nobody would have even known!" I was shouting now, hot tears spilling down my cheeks. It took me completely by surprise when I heard him trying to stifle a laugh on the other end of the phone.
"You don't think I could take care of myself for a few days? Besides, if I had died in some freak accident that I wasn't already equipped to handle, Sam would have known." The laugh was still in his voice and I could hear him smiling.
"A couple of days? Try a couple of weeks, Jake!" I shouted back.
"Lets not get hung up on the details, Bella," he laughed again. "Besides, you can blame your fiancé," he spoke the word with venomous articulation, "for sending me over the edge anyway."
"What are you talking about?" I hissed through a clinched jaw, trying in vain to keep anymore tears from spilling out.
"Hmm, I thought he'd have told you by now. Since he hasn't, I guess he didn't expect me to come back so soon," the amusement was clearly rising in his voice.
"Damn it, Jake! What are you talking about?" I shouted again as I killed the engine of the car in front of Charlie's house.
"He sent me an invitation," he said, a tone of seriousness taking over. "I guess he thought he was 'doing the right thing' by inviting me. Probably thought he was just one upping me again by being the nice guy," he scoffed.
"That still doesn't explain why you left," I seethed.
"I freaked, okay! Even though I knew you'd made up your mind- I always knew, actually- this whole wedding thing seemed like something in the distant future, like it would never happen, or something. And then the invitation came and there was no 'Bella' in any of it. I felt like, I don't know- like he was pushing you, like this wasn't really what you wanted, and no matter what I said or did, it wouldn't change anything. So, I left. It was easier to deal with what I was going through without having to see you." He finished with a sigh.
"You're right it wouldn't change anything," I replied, trying to make my voice sound as definite as I could, but still, I sighed. "It was Edward's idea to get married, yes. And no, I wasn't happy about it at first, but it was what had to be done in order for us to be together. But you know what? The more I think about being a wife- his wife, Jake, the more I can hardly wait for the rest of my life to finally get started." I couldn't stay mad at him, and I couldn't keep secrets from my best friend either. Besides, he deserved to know the truth of it all, anyway.
I could hear him breathing on the other end of the line, but he remained silent for a few agonizing moments.
"I haven't decided whether or not to come," he finally said, his voice distinctly somber. "I thought I'd wait to see what you wanted before I made my decision."
"Oh Jake, you know I'd love to have you there. You're my best friend, for God's sake! But I also know that it would be really hard for you, which is why I didn't invite you myself. Come if you want, but if you decide not to, I'll understand." My own resolve startled me a bit; there was absolutely no doubt behind what I had just said, perhaps for the first time in months.
"I'll keep that in mind," he said, sounding defeated.
"Goodnight, Jake. I hope I see you soon." I hung up the phone before he had a chance to respond. I sat in the car in the dark for several minutes, letting the reality of my conversation with Jacob to sink in completely. In truth, I was proud of myself, really; proud for finally making my decision final, in words and in action. I knew that I'd hurt Jacob, and I hated that, but it was a necessary evil.
Finally I got out of the car and walked up the front steps into the house. Charlie had already gone to bed, all the lights in the house were off, except one lamp by the front window. I turned off the light and walked upstairs in the dark. All I wanted to do was sleep, to make tomorrow come more quickly, so that my wedding day would be that much closer. I opened the door to my bedroom and gasped when I saw Edward sitting on my bed.
In half a second's time, he was standing in front of me, his arms wrapped securely my waist. "I'm sorry, love. I didn't mean to startle you." My heart restarted and I exhaled in relief. He kissed my cheek soothingly and pulled me close to his chest. "I hated to see you leave tonight," he whispered against my hair. I smiled and melted in his frozen arms. He scooped me up in his arms, my legs slung effortlessly over one arm, the other cradling my torso against his chest, my head coming to rest on his shoulder. I didn't protest at all, because this was exactly the position I needed to be in at that moment, I needed my will power fortified with his presence.
He carried me over to my bed, and gently laid me down on the old faded quilt. He sat on the edge of the bed next to me and began stroking my hair and forehead. "I love you, Bella," he said, his voice dripping with sincerity.
"I love you, too," I responded, suddenly feeling my eye lids drooping with fatigue.
"Sleep now, love," he whispered as he slowly and deliberately slid on the bed next to me, wrapping his arms securely around me. "I'll still be here in the morning," he promised. "I'll always be here."
I smiled in the darkness, forgetting that I was still in my jeans, forgetting I still had my boots on, forgetting that I had rebroken Jacob's heart. All that mattered was that I was one day closer to becoming Edward's wife; one day closer to my new life. I took a deep breath and quickly fell into a deep, peaceful sleep in my true love's arms.
The next morning, I awoke as the sun was just beginning to peek over the tree tops through my window. I knew Edward was still there as I could feel the cold radiating off of his skin through the back of my shirt. I lay perfectly still for a few moments, listening to Edward's slow, controlled breathing, savoring the sweet scent of his breath. I noticed that, at some point in the night, he had removed my boots and placed them in the corner by the window.
"Is there any particular reason why you're still pretending to be asleep, Bella?" he whispered softly in my ear. I smiled, but remained perfectly still. How did he always know what I was up to, even without being able to read my mind?
"Come on," he pressed, "I know it's early but we both have an insane amount of things to do today. But it'll all be over tomorrow." I could feel his perfect lips curve into a smile as he said the last part and planted a soft, chilly kiss on my exposed neck.
"No," I pouted, keeping my body still frozen, facing away from him.
"No?" he asked, the inflection in his voice rising with the question.
"No," I said again. "Emmett can just come and marry us right here in this bed. I'm not leaving here for anything," I stated.
Edward laughed. "You want to get married in bed?" he chuckled. "Its fine by me, of course, but could you imagine the reaction from Alice if you didn't go through with all her meticulous planning?" He chuckled again, and buried his face in my hair, breathing me in.
"I don't care," I groaned pathetically and scooted backwards toward him a little further, pressing my back tightly against his chest.
"Hmm…" he replied. "This could be slightly problematic. Perhaps if I gave you the proper motivation…" he trailed off.
"Motivation? What kind of motivation?" I asked, his comment piquing my interest.
"You'll just have to find out," he whispered mischievously against my ear. "Do you still not want to get up?" I lay there thinking for a moment. Was I curious enough to find out what he had in mind? Or would I chicken out and face the day I knew I had to face one way or another? He took my silence as an affirmative response to his question and whispered, "You asked for it." My body stiffened, preparing for whatever torture he had up his sleeve.
He slowly slid the hand that had been resting on my hip forward onto my stomach, tracing the waist band of the jeans that I was still wearing from the night before. His nimble fingers stopped at the button in the center, he hesitated, obviously waiting for me to stop him. But I continued laying stock still on the bed, calling his bluff. He pressed his mouth close to my ear and let out a gust of air that slid across my skin like silk, and intoxicated my senses. As I breathed in his scent, he carefully unfastened the button on my jeans, and slowly released the zipper. My breath caught in my throat, and I could feel my pulse quicken at his touch.
He slid his fingers just inside the waistband and pushed it down over my hip. I held my breath and my head spun. He gripped my hip firmly with one hand and rolled me onto my back beneath him. I looked into his face for the first time that morning; he was smiling my favorite smile but with a playful hint around the edges, his eyes two lakes of liquid black fire. He pressed his icy lips to mine, letting his cold tongue trace the outer edge of my bottom lip. As he kissed me, I could feel his strong hand move the other side of my jeans down over my other hip and slide them down my now exposed legs. I didn't protest, and even helped by kicking the heavy fabric off of the bed, and across the room. They landed on the floor with a soft thud.
Faint pops of light started to explode in front of my eyes and I realized that I was still holding my breath. I broke our kiss and gasped for air. I threw my hands over my head and clawed at the soft cotton pillowcase. My want for him was burning every fiber in my body but still, I had to keep my hands away from the dangerous temptation. He kissed my chin, my jaw, my neck, my throat, blazing a trail of frozen fire as he went, all the while gliding his icy index finger delicately along the skin above the waistband of my panties, from hip to hip.
"Edward," I breathed, my voice trembling with anticipation. He moved his hands up my sides and pushed back the hem of my blouse, exposing my stomach as he went. The wild butterflies in my gut suddenly awoke and seemed to be trying to escape by the way they surged inside of me. My chest rose and fell with my ragged breathing as he started to kiss his way down the front of my shirt. He moved from button to button, kissing it first and then unfastening each one with his quick fingers. Eventually my blouse fell open, clinging to my body only by the fabric over my shoulders. He continued to kiss downward, letting his marble hands hungrily roam over my hips, thighs, and down to my calves.
He pressed his cool cheek against the blazing skin at my navel and breathed deeply. I swallowed hard, struggling to master the speeding pulse of my heart, while the voice of reason in my head screamed at me to make him stop.
This isn't right…the voice raged.
How can something that feels this good, be bad? My conscious self argued.
He continued to move his lips downward over the thin cotton that wrapped over my hip and kissed along the top of my thigh. Suddenly I felt his stone hand against one of my knees, firmly but gently pushing it away from the other, spreading my legs apart a few inches. My heart hiccupped at this new development, stopped and restarted within a fraction of a second. I saw his eyes turn upward toward my face, one eyebrow raised. When he was sure that I wasn't having a heart attack, he began moving his lips again, softly brushing them against the delicate skin of my inner thigh.
At that moment, my desire peaked. I could feel all the blood in my body rushing to the surface, my skin flushed crimson and my back arched involuntarily. My body shivered from the contrast of my heat and his cold meeting on my delicate flesh. He slowly, gracefully slithered back up the length of my body. He allowed his face to hover over me, his lips barely half an inch above mine. My lips throbbed with want, my skin tingled from where he had touched me with his perfect mouth, my eyes pleaded with him to close the distance between us. His eyes no longer seemed playful, teasing. Instead they were hungry, as filled with desire as mine were. He crushed his lips against mine, allowing me for the first time to feel the weight of his body on top of mine. I welcomed the pressure that pressed every inch of my exposed skin against his statuesque form.
I couldn't breath, he was holding me too tightly but I never wanted him to let me go. I could die in his iron clutches and never feel happier than I did at that moment. Without warning he pulled away from me, much too soon. He stared down at me, breathless. His chest was heaving in rhythm with mine. His eyes were still black with passion, but the playful smile had returned and I knew that it was over. I clamped my eyes shut and clinched my jaw, grinding my teeth together. I concentrated with all of my might to slow my heartbeat and force my breathing to return to normal. When I'd finally achieved my goal, I opened my eyes to see him smiling at me still. There was laughter in his eyes.
"I hate you," I groaned as I sat up on the bed, effortlessly pushing him away from me. He choked back a laugh as he traced the angry lines on my face with his eyes.
"You're so cute when you're angry," he chuckled.
"Shut up!" I hissed through my still clenched teeth. I swung my legs off the side of the bed and thumped my feet on the floor with more force than I had expected. I made sure that my wobbly knees could support my weight before standing up. I walked over to the closet to pick out something to wear for the day. The rehearsal for the wedding was later that day, and I had so much to do I was sure there would be little time to come back to Charlie's house to change, so I decided to dress for the most important occasion.
As I rummaged through the hanging clothes, I shrugged off the blouse that still hung open over my shoulders. I didn't really care much now about walking around my bedroom in my underwear in front of Edward. He'd already seen practically everything I had to show, yet still he denied me the one thing I craved. I tossed the blouse backwards so that it landed on the bed next to where Edward sat. As I stood there with just my simple cotton bra and panties to cover me, I glanced at his face and was suddenly very aware of how he was looking at me. I guessed that now that he was no longer in control of the situation, he was also having a hard time controlling his passions. His eyes roamed my body with greedy lust. I sensed an opportunity to get a small degree of revenge for what he had just put me through.
I pulled a dress that Alice had gotten for me off of its hanger in the closet. The dress was sleeveless, v-neck, knee length, white with a black art deco pattern on it with a bright green sash around the middle. It was not something that I probably would have picked for myself but I liked it just the same. I pulled the zipper on the back of the dress down and slid the garment over my head. I then turned and slowly walked towards Edward, making sure that there was an innocent smile on my face. I stopped a few inches away from him, his eyes still roaming over me. I gathered my hair into my hand and lifted it up. I turned around and asked, "Would you mind zipping me up?" I made sure to keep my voice as breezy as I could. A low growl rose in his chest as he begrudgingly pulled the zipper up to close the dress.
He then grabbed my waist and pulled me tight against his marble hard body. "You know, I could just tear this off of you?" he whispered as he ran his hands along the thin linen of the dress.
"Yes," I replied. "But you wouldn't," I paused for a second and then continued, "or maybe you would. But then you'd probably get us both worked up and just stop before we got to the good part." I dropped my hair, and I knew I had sent a fresh wave of my scent in his direction because he staggered back a half step. I seized the opportunity and broke away from his grasp on me. I smiled the same playful smile he'd given me, back at him as I slid on my comfortable black ballet flats.
"Well, I'm off to have breakfast with my parents, and I'll see you later this afternoon," I said. I stood on my toes and kissed him quickly on his lower lip, then turned and skipped to the door. I glanced over my shoulder one more time before crossing the threshold, and he was still staring after me, his mouth hanging open in disbelief. I smiled to myself and knew that I had gotten some small amount of retribution. I closed the door behind me and went to go tell Charlie that I was ready to leave.
I stopped at the top of the stairs and leaned against the banister for support. My insides began to quiver as something rose inside of me, rushing quickly upward toward my mouth. Laughter. It was bubbling higher and higher up my throat with each passing second. I tried to keep the hysterics at bay but, despite my best efforts, they would not obey. I suddenly let out a noise that sounded like a 'honk' when my laughter refused to stay inside of me, followed by a series of snorts and coughs as I tried to keep my outburst from raising any red flags with Charlie. I clamped my hand over my mouth to muffle the noise. I knew that if Edward was still standing in my room he'd surely be able to hear me, which brought about a fresh wave of laughter.
After a few moments, I had quieted myself enough to venture downstairs where I saw Charlie sitting at the shabby kitchen table reading the paper. He folded down a corner and watched me bound down the stairs.
"Morning, honey," he said. "You seem a little worked up this morning. Excited about tomorrow, huh?"
Yes. More excited about anything than ever before and probably will ever be again.
"I guess you could say that," I replied and smiled at my gross understatement. He checked his watch and folded the paper on the table.
"Ready?" he asked. I nodded, afraid that if I opened my mouth more laughter would spill out and I didn't think the explanation of it would make Charlie too happy.
Charlie opened the door for me as we walked outside onto the front porch. The clouds were lighter than usual, but still blanketed the sky in a dismal gray. But there was no rain and I wondered if my good mood was keeping the inclement weather away. We walked silently out to the cruiser and Charlie opened the passenger door for me. I was about to get in when I caught a look at his face. He seemed like he was trying to say something but couldn't quite find the words. Instead of waiting, I made it easier on him; wrapped my arms around his midsection and rested my cheek against his shoulder. He stood still, stunned for a second and then folded me into a warm, fatherly hug. We stayed like that for a long time and I knew Charlie was having a hard time letting me go, physically or otherwise. Finally, he pulled back and locked his eyes with mine.
"Are you sure about this, honey?" he asked. I smiled because I knew he was only worried about my happiness, like a father should be.
"Yes Dad. I've never been more sure about anything."
He smiled weakly, "Okay. If you're sure you're sure." He kissed me lightly on the forehead and guided me into the front seat of the cruiser.
We drove for a while until we reached a small diner in downtown Forks, if such a place existed.
"You look really nice today, Bells," he said sheepishly as we walked inside the restaurant. Renee and Phil were already sitting at a booth in the corner sipping coffee when we walked in. She waved Charlie and I over with exuberance, and smiled wider than I think I've ever seen her smile as we slid into the booth across from them.
We ordered breakfast and the conversation was light. Charlie was visibly feeling awkward in the present company, but he laughed and chatted politely for my sake, I'm sure. I knew he'd never gotten over my mom and I'm sure sitting in such close proximity to his one love and her new love was extremely difficult for him.
"Dad, what time is it?" I asked after the food was long gone and Charlie's leg was jiggling under the table from 4 cups of coffee.
"Shoot, Dad, do you mind? I have to meet Alice soon."
"No, of course not," he said, obviously relieved to have an excuse to leave the table. Charlie reached for his wallet, but Renee stopped him.
"Please, Charlie. We'll get it." A faint blush burned at his ears and he seemed even more anxious to leave. Phil dropped a few bills on the table, and we all slid out of the booth. When we got outside I hugged Phil and thanked him for breakfast then turned to Renee. She was already smiling and teary eyed when she pulled me into a tight hug.
"You're so grown up," she whispered, her voice cracking. She pulled away and held my face between her hands. "You've always been my little grown up." She smiled again, a mix of happiness and sadness, before kissing both of my cheeks and walking away to her rental car with Phil. I walked back to the cruiser with Charlie, trying not to cry myself.
Charlie dropped me off at the only nail salon in Forks where Alice was waiting. She danced over to the car to say hello to Charlie and her presence immediately brightened his mood. He pulled away in the cruiser as Alice and I walked through the door of the salon. The harsh smell of chemicals burned my nose, but Alice just giggled. She knew I hated to be fussed over and pampered, but she insisted on us both getting our nails done and pedicures just the same.
"So," she asked, "are you even the tiniest bit excited yet?" With all of Alice's infinite knowledge of the future, how could she not see this? I guessed she could only see events not emotions.
I smiled despite my previous reservations, "Maybe a little." She squealed with glee.
"I knew it, Bella! I knew it!" she laughed her silver, musical laugh, and launched into a recap of all the things that lay ahead of me the following day.
I laughed with her, forgot about the harsh chemical smell and simply enjoyed myself. Once my nails were filed and given a French finish, and my toes were painted a soft rosy pink, we walked out into the parking lot and climbed into her yellow Porsche. It was the first time I'd seen her drive it around town before.
"What's Edward been up to today?" I asked innocently.
"Hunting. The boys went with him, sort of a male bonding thing, I guess. Sort of like a bachelor party," she and I laughed together.
"Carlisle, too?" I asked.
"Yep. They all went. Esme and Rosalie are at home, getting things ready for the rehearsal tonight," she stated, anticipating my next question.
She drove us back to the house nestled in the woods, and I was starting to get used to, and maybe actually enjoy, the break-neck speed at which she and Edward drove. We walked to the front door through the rows of white wooden chairs that were already lined up on the front lawn.
For the rest of the afternoon Alice, Rosalie, Esme and I sat around the expansive dining room table making center pieces, and bouquets and having 'girl talk'. It sort of made me uncomfortable actually. I'd never been able to really talk to anyone about the way I felt about Edward except for Alice, and even then I usually censored myself in order to spare his sister the gory details. Of course I knew she wasn't really Edward's sister, but it felt strange just the same. But today, everyone seemed to be putting it all out on the table. Even Rosalie participated in the conversation, gushing about Emmett and how immature he could be, and how endearing she actually thought his immaturity was. I mostly just listened, and laughed at how alike all of the Cullen men seemed to be, and yet how different they all were.
Alice told me about the time she and Jasper had spent together before they came to live with the Cullens; how they fell in love instantly when she told him she'd been waiting for him. How he leaned on her for support when his thirst became overwhelming and how he always said that she was the piece of his life that had always been missing.
Rosalie talked about how she carried Emmett away from the sight of the bear attack and how she had fought with herself over what was the best decision to make; letting him die or keeping him forever? I could tell it was a very painful memory, but that she was happy with the choice she had made.
Esme spoke about Carlisle's compassion and determination to make the best out of the hand he'd been dealt, how it inspired her to be a better person as a vampire than she'd been as a human. Not that Esme was a bad human, but much different than the woman I knew now as my second mother.
Each of them had a match, a perfect fit and soon I'd have mine- forever.
The time flew by, and before I knew it Carlisle, Jasper, Emmett and Edward had returned home and all seemed to be in high spirits. Edward flashed to where I stood and ensnared me in his solid arms.
"May I speak with you alone?" he whispered as he stroked my hair.
"Sure," I shrugged. When had I ever passed up a chance to be alone with him?
We took a few steps up the stairs when he decided that my human pace was much too slow. He had swept me into his arms and placed back down again on my feet in front of his bedroom before I'd hardly had a chance to realize what had happened.
He took my hand and led me into his room, soon to be our room, and shut the door. I walked over and sat on one end of the plush leather sofa and he, to my surprise, knelt down on his knees in front of me. I looked at him with a quizzical expression but he only smiled back at me, that beautiful, perfect, amazing smile.
"Bella," he began his voice so soft I had to strain my feeble human ears to find the sound. "I want to start by apologizing for this morning; I know that that was not fair to you in the slightest. I'm only 17, after all. I guess I just can't help myself sometimes." He smiled a slightly embarrassed smile, but it was still breathtakingly beautiful. "I want you to know," he continued, "that I'll be very good tonight, a perfect gentleman. I know you want to wait, and I completely respect that, so I won't push you tonight when we don't have much longer to wait as it is." I was the one who smiled this time. He was too perfect. I put my hand on his cold marble cheek; he then turned his face under my hand and kissed my palm. "I love you, Bella," he whispered against my skin.
I leaned forward and placed my forehead against his and cradled his face in my hands.
"I love you, too," I whispered. He moved his perfect stone lips to mine and kissed me softly. My heart leaped in my chest, and he broke our kiss as he chuckled at my erratic heartbeat.
He shifted his eyes to the door, and said, "Thank you, Alice." He turned his eyes back to mine, "Renee will be here in a few minutes." He stood up from his kneeling position and pulled me up to stand in front of him. He brushed his knuckles across my cheek. "Have I told you how beautiful you look in that dress, by the way?" he asked.
I blushed slightly. "No actually, you haven't."
"Well then, you look absolutely stunning. Remind me to give my compliments to Alice." He kissed me softly on my forehead, the tip of my nose, and once more on the lips before taking my hand and walking me down the stairs.
The rehearsal was nice, but pointless in my opinion, just another one of those formalities that Alice had insisted upon. The guests included all of me, Charlie, Renee, and Phil. It took less than 10 minutes for Alice so show Edward and I where to stand at the end of the aisle, where Emmett was to stand in front of us, and where she and Jasper were to stand as my and Edward's attendants. When that was finished, Esme served a vast array of h'orderves instead of a formal meal. The reason for which, I guessed, was so that she and the rest of the Cullens could get away with eating as little as possible without drawing any unnecessary attention from my parents. Champagne was served as well, and despite my father being Chief of Police in Forks, he seemed to turn the other cheek when he saw Emmett pouring glasses for those of us who were underage, or at least appeared to be.
The six of us went outside into the cool night air on the back porch with our champagne and left the parents to talk inside. The clouds had blown off to the east and the night sky was painstakingly clear and littered with millions of twinkling stars. I stood quietly on the porch marveling at the beauty of the night around me. Edward wrapped his arms around me and kissed my neck.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he mused.
"Mmm.." I replied, relishing in the feel of his perfection wrapped around me in the midst of such amazing scenery.
"Not half as beautiful as you," he whispered back. I smiled. How was he even real?
"Seriously, after tomorrow you guys are going to really have to cut down on this lovey dovey crap," Emmett groaned playfully. Rosalie slapped him hard on the chest
"Honestly, its not like you two aren't like that when you think nobody's looking," Alice fired back.
"If nobody's looking, then how do you know?" Emmett teased.
"Honestly, it kinda gets to be a little much sometimes," Jasper said, making a bit of a wincing face as he did. I remembered how Jasper could pick up on the feelings of others, in addition to his ability to control them.
"Great! Now I'm going to have to go away somewhere every time I want some affection from my husband!" Rosalie exclaimed. Her face was still perfectly porcelain white, but I was sure she'd be blushing if she could.
"We all do it," Edward said calmly, smiling down at me. It was my turn to blush then.
"Some more than others," Emmett smirked.
Edward glared at him and continued, "Aren't we mature enough to just not let it get to us? Because I'm sure it'll be a long while, if ever, before I get tired of Bella's company and I think you guys will just have to deal with it." He kissed my neck again and pulled me possessively closer to him.
"You'd better not ever get tired of me," I teased.
"Never," he whispered, gently brushing his lips against my ear.
We sat outside, all six of us, for a long time. Laughing, joking, and talking. Rosalie and I spoke, for the first time, about things other than my decision to become a vampire, and she seemed to smile at me with loving affection. It was complete; the Cullen family with my addition would officially be complete in less than 24 hours time. I loved them all, mostly because I knew that they accepted me so wholeheartedly.
It was after midnight when Esme came out onto the porch to announce that my parents had finally decided to call it a night. We all went inside to say our goodbyes.
"Bella, honey, I'm beat. I've got to get home. Are you ready to go?" Charlie asked as he stifled a yawn.
"Actually Charlie, I was thinking I'd take Bella home, and maybe spend the night tonight, if that's okay." Alice smiled a persuasive smile at my father. Not that she needed to be overly persuasive; to my knowledge Charlie had never denied Alice anything. I shot her a questioning look, this was the first I'd heard of a sleepover. She winked at me and turned her charming golden eyes back to Charlie
"No, not at all. Just not too late, girls," he said as he hugged me and waved goodbye to everyone. Renee and Phil followed very soon after, leaving me alone with my new family.
Esme pulled me into her arms and hugged me tightly, but gently, against her stone frame.
"You have no idea how happy you've made us, all of us," she said, her voice heavy with emotion.
When she released me, Alice caught me by the arm and started to tow me out the door.
"See you guys in the morning," she called over her shoulder as she pulled me through the screen door and out into the yard.
"A sleepover? Tonight?" I asked.
"It's the night before your wedding, Bella. I have to make sure that my darling brother doesn't ruin everything by sneaking into your room tonight," we both laughed. Then, seemingly out of nowhere something caught my other arm and pulled me backward. It was Edward; his iron hand was gripped tightly around my elbow as he pulled me away from Alice and into his arms.
"Honestly Edward. You can't live without her for a couple of hours?" Alice complained.
"I'm not letting her go without saying goodbye, at least." He smiled down at me, that crooked smile that sent chills down my spine, and pressed his lips against mine. He pulled me closer, and our kiss deepened, as he cradled my face in his icy hands. The vision of the yard spun around me and all I could feel was his perfect mouth against my lips. He finally released me, his eyes were blazing topaz.
"Goodnight," he whispered before kissing my forehead and steering me toward Alice's car. I staggered forward, the yard was still spinning in front of me, and then Alice caught my arm and steadied me. We drove in silence for a little while on the way back to Charlie's house.
"Are you nervous? About tomorrow?" she asked.
I thought for a minute. "Yes and No. Yes because the whole marriage thing, I don't know… I didn't think I'd ever get married until I was 30 or at least close to it. But since it looks like I won't ever hit 30…" I trailed off and Alice smiled. "But that's exactly the reason why I'm not nervous at all. I'm ready for this, Alice. I really am."
"I know, Bella." I was sure that she could see that my transformation was still on.
When we got to the house, Alice stayed in my room while I went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. When I went back into my room, she was sitting cross-legged in the middle of my faded old quilt, smiling. She patted the covers next to her and smiled. When I sat down, she flung her arms around my neck, her body practically trembling with excitement,
"Oh Bella, this is all going to be so great. I know you're just going to love it. I didn't go overboard just like you said. Tomorrow we're going to be sisters!" she kissed my cheek and squeezed me even tighter against her. "Edward will kill me if I keep you up too late, so you should get to sleep." I really was tired, exhausted actually. She released me from her iron hug and I curled up under the covers with Alice laying close by.
"Goodnight, Bella," she whispered as she clicked off my bedside lamp.
"'Night, Alice," I whispered back and then let myself drift off into my last night of sleep at a single woman.
That night, my dreams came from all over the place.
First I dreamed that I was having lunch with Renee in a sunny café somewhere in Florida. Wherever we were, I could see the ocean through a large window over her shoulder.
Then I dreamed that I was sitting behind the counter at Newton's. It was a normal rainy afternoon and there were no customers. Mike was there, cheerful as always, asking me to go to Port Angeles with our lunch table group.
I dreamed of a familiar faded red house that resembled a tiny barn, with small windows and an open front door. I remembered that I was cold and there was an intense feeling of longing to go inside the house and shut myself inside the warmth. But I thought better of it and walked away.
Finally, I dreamed of Phoenix; the scorching sun, the scrubby plants and trees, the flat expanses of never ending landscape. All of these were things that I knew I would never see again outside of photographs. I was flying, soaring over the dull brown rocks and pastel colored houses, through the heat waves, higher and higher into the crystal blue sky. I blinked in the blinding light and when I opened my eyes again, I was sitting alone on a flight from Phoenix bound for my exile in Forks. The same flight I'd taken every summer until I was 14. The plane was full of people, businessmen and families, but I was alone. I was holding onto my parka for dear life, like it was keeping me afloat in the sky. I was crying. I remembered that day like it was yesterday, yet somehow it seemed like it was from another life. I hadn't known what kind of life I'd have in Forks; if I had, I'd never have shed a single tear. I would have left Phoenix and never looked back. When I landed, I exited directly from the stuffy airplane cabin and directly into the shady canopy of the Washington forest. The other passengers disappeared and I was alone again. The spongy, moss covered earth beneath my feet bounced as I started to walk into the dense forest. It was strange, but I knew where I was going, or at least my feet did. They carried me forward without hesitation. I still held my bulky parka in my hands as I trudged through the foliage.
After a few moments, my brain caught up with my feet and I knew where I was headed, and I knew what waited for me there. Without warning, I stumbled through a break in the trees into a beautifully round meadow, symmetrical and perfect with a fine dusting of orange and white wildflowers over the wet ground. I stopped and looked around, taking in the contrast of the brilliant green of the trees set against the misty gray of the sky. This place was worth leaving Phoenix for; worth leaving my mother for. This was our place. I looked up suddenly, as suddenly as if someone had called my name in the silence. Emerging from the trees on the farthest side of the meadow from where I stood was my angel; my perfect, beautiful, miracle in the flesh.
He flashed me that heart stopping crooked smile and stepped forward at a human pace. He kept his eyes locked on mine, even across the vast distance, and never broke it. His eyes were bright and golden, completely free of any sort of burden. I walked toward him too, but my strides were painfully less graceful. When we met in the middle of the clearing, the full force of his smoldering eyes was released on me and I felt my knees grow weaker by the second. He wrapped his marble strong arms around my waist and supported most of my weight, keeping me on my feet.
"Bella," he whispered. His voice fell over my ears in soft velvety waves. His eyes were still locked on mine. He pulled me closer until I could feel his icy chest come into contact with mine. He slowly, gently traced his finger tips over my cheek bones, and jaw line and over my lips. And then his were on mine, kissing me softly but with an eagerness lurking just below the surface. When we broke apart he placed his soothingly cool forehead against my feverish one. "Forever," he whispered. I closed my eyes to take in the full meaning of the single word.
When I opened my eyes I was flying again, this time along the surface of the forest clinging tightly to Edward's back, the wind whipping violently through my hair and across my face. The trees sped by in a green and brown blur. When we stopped we were standing in front of the beautiful white house by the river. He slid me off of his back and onto the ground beside him. He took my hand and stared directly into my eyes again.
"Isabella Marie Swan, I will love you forever. I will cherish you always. You are my perfect match in every way." His voice was trembling slightly, as were his hands, but I'd never seen him look more confident. Why was he saying this? It didn't need to be said, I knew it with every fiber of my being- I knew it. His lips parted into a gentle smile and glanced to one side. I followed his gaze and realized that we were no longer alone.
Sitting in familiar white chairs was everyone I knew; Charlie, Renee, Phil, all of the Cullens, my friends from school and… Jake. My sun, my best friend, Jacob Black was there. He wasn't smiling, but he didn't seem angry either.
A jovial booming voice interrupted my survey of the gathered crowd, "Edward, you may kiss your bride." I turned my eyes to see Emmett grinning like a kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar. His dimples were more pronounced than I'd ever seen them. I shifted my gaze back to Edward. He looked… unbelievable, even more breathtaking somehow. His golden stare was tender, so full of love that it made my heart swell to the point that I felt like it would burst from my chest. He kissed me, more passionately than before but he was still careful.
"I love you," I heard myself whisper when our lips parted.
"Forever," he replied, all traces of his earlier trembling gone.
When I woke up, there was an overwhelming sense of peace that still hung in the air around me. I opened my eyes to see Alice smiling down at me.
"It's about time!" she exclaimed, her smile expanding. "I was just about to wake you myself!"
I sat up, the details of my dreams already becoming hazy in my mind, and focused on Alice's smiling face. She was practically bouncing up and down in excitement.
"Get up, get up!" she said as she playfully pushed at my shoulders. Her touch was gentle but hard enough for me to know that she meant what she said. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and stood up. The action woke the swarm of angry butterflies and I clutched at my stomach.
"Hungry?" Alice asked.
"Not at all. Please don't mention food…" I trailed off.
"Ew… there will be none of that today." She wrinkled her nose in disgust. "A shower will probably make you feel better, and then we've really got to be going."
Alice was right; the shower did make me feel better. The butterflies went back to sleep and my head was clear. I felt exhilarated, ready for anything and everything all at once. I opened the door of the bathroom to head back into my room and was surprised to see Alice standing at the top of the stairs.
"I laid some cloths out for you. I'll be waiting in the car," she said just before kissing my cheek and skipping down the steps. I heard her call a cheerful greeting to Charlie when she reached the bottom.
Sure enough, when I opened the door to my bedroom, my favorite jeans and a flannel button up shirt lay folded on my pillow. I knew how impatient Alice could get, so I dressed quickly so as to not keep her waiting too long. Once I was dressed, I hurried down the stairs, and sprinted for the door.
"Bye, Dad. I'll see you later," I called, one hand already reaching for the door knob. There was only silence from the kitchen. Charlie's lack of response struck me as odd, so I turned on my heel and went to say goodbye face to face. Sure enough, he was sitting in his usual chair, reading the paper when I walked into the tiny room.
"Dad? Did you hear me? I'm going with Alice to start getting ready."
"Okay, Kiddo," he replied, without removing the paper from in front of his face. His response seemed strange and I was about to press him further when I noticed that the paper he held was quivering ever so slightly in his hands. Charlie was never one to display his emotions openly and I knew he was using the paper as a shield from something he didn't want me to see.
"I love you, Dad," I said, my voice a little softer this time.
"Love you too, Bell," he said quickly. I smiled at him from the other side of his shield. I knew he couldn't see it, but I hoped that he could feel it. I then turned and rushed out the door to where Alice was already revving the engine of her Porsche in impatience.
"Could you have gone any slower?" she said, smirking. I knew she meant for her remark to be playful but there was a definite edge to her words.
"Sorry, Charlie was… sad, I think."
"Oh…" she hesitated for a second, staring through the windshield. "Don't worry; he'll still be there to walk you down the aisle." Her voice turned into a high pitched squeal on the last three words and she clapped her hands. She then threw the car in reverse, backed out of Charlie's driveway, and sped off down the main road and out of Forks.
Edward's house was abuzz with activity when Alice and I arrived; Esme and Rosalie had worked through the night, no doubt, to transform their beautiful home into an even more gorgeous reception hall. Emmett, Carlisle and Jasper were answering the women's every call and running back and forth from room to room, following Alice's detailed list of instructions. The rows of white chairs on the lawn had each been adorned with crimson ribbons. Wrought iron candelabras stood at each end of the long aisle, topped with matching crimson candles. Beside the candelabras were large bowls of blood red roses, dozens upon dozens nestled together. It was, literally, my dream come true.
Alice rushed me into the house, visibly irritated by my sluggish human pace. As she dragged me up the stairs to ready myself, I searched each passing room and open door for Edward, but he was nowhere to be found. She pulled me inside her cavernous bathroom and locked the door. I looked at her quizzically.
"Just a precaution, incase you decide to bolt." She gave me an innocent smile.
"You'd know if I were going to do that."
"Snap decisions, Bella. They get me every time."
For the next few hours, Alice worked on my hair, curling and pinning it into several different styles before deciding on a simple romantic look, pulled half up with gentle curls framing my face, cascading downward. She then pinned a thin delicate lace veil to the crown of my head and smoothed it down my back.
It took another hour for her to decide just how to apply my make-up; bold and dramatic or soft and natural? She finally decided on a combination of both, applying a smoky look to my eyes, a soft rosy blush to my cheeks, and a slippery pink gloss to my lips. She had stepped back to admire her handiwork when her face suddenly tightened and her eyes narrowed.
"No, Edward. You are not ruining this," she said through clenched teeth.
"Alice, I just want to talk to Bella for a second," Edward replied. I could tell that he was standing right outside.
"No! You wanted traditional, and tradition says that you can't see the bride!" The tone of her voice was menacing enough to have frightened anyone, but I could hear his soft chuckle through the thick door.
"I don't have to see her; I just want to talk to her…alone."
"Ugh…" Alice grumbled. "Five minutes!" She trudged off towards the door, mumbling something to Edward about staying safely outside. When Alice had left the room, I crossed over to the door and pressed my cheek gently against the finished wood.
"Bella?" he whispered. His voice was soft and smooth, calm, beautiful.
"Hi," I squeaked back.
He sighed through the door. "How are you feeling? Alice isn't torturing you too badly, is she?" I could hear the smile in his voice now.
"I think I'll manage," I replied.
The door knob turned slowly. "Edward…" I whispered, apprehensively. Instead of it opening completely, the door fell open just a few inches and Edward slid one hand through the open space. I wound my fingers through his, the heavy wooden barrier still standing between us, separating me from what I wanted more than anything in the world. We stood there for a long moment, taking comfort in the feeling of each other's touch, before I heard Alice shooing Edward off down the hall. His fingers slid out of mine, but not before giving me a final gentle squeeze.
Alice grumbled before slamming the door and locking it once again.
"That wouldn't keep me out if I really wanted to get in," Edward laughed, his voice moving farther away down the hall.
Alice's bad mood passed quickly when she looked at her watch.
"It's almost time, Bella," she smiled. "Let's get you dressed." She flounced over to the closet and came back holding a box tied with a black ribbon.
I eyed the box inquisitively. "Alice, did my dress shrink or something?" I asked.
"No, silly. This does underneath." She handed me the box with a devilish smile playing cross her lips.
My stomach dropped. I'd been dreading this. Being intimate with Edward was what I wanted, what I craved, but having the inevitable events of our wedding night brought up in conversation by someone else threatened to awaken the swarm of butterflies inside me. Alice's eyes bore into me, urging me to open her gift. I'd done everything up to this point to make Alice happy; there was no point in stopping now. I took a deep breath before I released the silky black ribbon and let it flutter to the floor. Inside the box was a layer of thin tissue that smelled of expensive sweet perfume. I tentatively pushed back the tissue and stared down at a piece of complicated white satin lingerie.
Like my dress, it was not a modern style; vintage, like something from a 1950's pinup calendar. I lifted it out of the box, it was heavier than I expected.
Alice stood beside me and ran her delicate fingers over the detailed embroidery. "The boning will complete the shape of the dress," she said, almost wistfully.
Alice- always fashion conscious.
"Go ahead, put it on. I already know it's going to fit." She smiled again and left me to put on my present. I stared at it for a long while trying to figure out how to even begin putting it on.
"Alice," I called, "I think I'm gonna need some help with this." I could hear her laugh as she walked back into the room holding the long white garment bag that contained my dress.
"I know," she sang, smiling back at me as she unzipped the long bag.
It took several minutes for Alice to securely lace me into the corseted top, while I clung to a chair for support against her constant tugging. My mind wandered; if Edward and I had been married in his time… I laughed to myself at the thought.
"Done!" Alice finally exclaimed in mock exasperation. I turned to look at myself in the mirror, expecting to be ashamed of what I saw, embarrassed, like a little girl playing dress up. Instead, I gasped at my reflection; the support of the boning in the fabric made me stand up impeccably straight with my chest up and shoulders back. I actually had cleavage, which was a rarity. My waist, though already slim, was more defined; the garment provided me with a perfect hourglass figure. The little girl I had expected to see was not looking back at me from the mirror.
"Do you like it?" Alice asked.
"It's perfect, Alice. Thank you. Do you think Edward will like it?"
She laughed, "Of course he will. But I wouldn't be surprised if he sees it as just a temporary road block." I flushed scarlet as Alice patted me lightly on the shoulder and went to retrieve my dress from its hanger in the bag.
She slid the dress carefully over my head so as not to mess up my expertly tussled curls, and began buttoning me into the beautiful gown. A few small changes had been made since I first laid eyes on the gown Alice had picked out for me; where there had once been a high neck and long billowy sleeves, now was a sweeping neckline that left my neck and chest exposed, and spread over into delicate, slightly off-the-shoulder, capped strips of sheer fabric. The bodice was fitted and covered with intricate beadwork and delicate antique lace which flowed into a long A-line skirt with a train that extended a few feet past the rest.
"Perfect," Alice whispered before kissing my cheek. "I'm going to go get dressed. Renee will be in, in a minute. She wants to see you." She grabbed her crimson maid of honor dress from its hanger and disappeared through the door that led into her bedroom, unlocking the door as she passed. As soon as she was gone, there was a knock on the door that led in from the hall.
"Bella, honey, can I come in?"
"Of course, mom," I replied, still transfixed by my own reflection in the mirror.
"Oh my…" she breathed when she saw me. "Bella, you look absolutely beautiful." Her eyes immediately started to swim with tears. She came to stand next to me and I met her gaze in the mirrored reflection of the two of us.
"I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of you, sweetheart, for so many things. You've proven yourself to be so responsible and mature, and…" her voice broke. "I know you're going to be so happy; you and Edward together. It just seems right." We smiled at each other for a moment before Alice returned looking model-esque and perfect.
"Alice!" Renee exclaimed. "You've done such an amazing job. Everything is so beautiful."
"Oh, it was nothing," Alice replied, winking at me. "Let's get you downstairs, Bella."
I took a deep breath. It was time. This was actually happening.
Renee walked behind me carrying the train of my dress. Alice kept a wary eye out for Edward to make a snap decision and surprise us out in the open, but the house was strangely calm. I knew everyone must already be assembled outside on the lawn.
We reached the first floor landing, when Alice suddenly wrinkled her nose, as if she smelled something foul. She glanced at me quickly before turning to my mother.
"Renee, lets give Bella just a minute alone, shall we?" she said as she took my mother by the arm and lead her off into the kitchen.
A moment alone to collect my thoughts. That was good, I needed that. But I wasn't alone for long.
"Bella?" a soft, deep voice asked from behind me. Startled, I turned to see who was occupying the room with me.
Jake; dressed in dark slacks and a white dress shirt with the first two buttons undone, and no tie. My heart thudded in my chest, the butterflies attempted another escape.
"You look…" his eyes traveled down my body, "beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it."
"Thanks," I blushed.
"I just…" his voice trembled, and he took a breath to steady himself. "I just need you to know that… I'm happy as long as you're happy. That's all I ever wanted, you know? It may be a while before I can be your friend again, but I will be someday. I promise. I want nothing but good things for you, and if this it then… I know you'll be safe with him and that he'll love you." He swallowed hard, obviously trying to keep his demeanor carefully under control.
I crossed the distance between us and threw my arms around his waist. I didn't care about smudging my make-up, or messing up my hair. At that moment, all I wanted was to comfort him in a way that I hadn't been able to in far too long. He wrapped his arms around me and held me close. I could feel the burning fingers of one hand twine into my curls and the other trace the buttons down the back of my gown.
"He's not going to like the way you smell," he whispered.
"I don't care." I squeezed him as tightly as I could.
"I love you, Bella." His voice broke again.
"I love you too, Jake." He kissed my forehead with his too-hot lips before letting his arms drop from around me. He kissed my hand and I saw his eyes glistening.
"Bye, Bells," he choked, before turning and walking out of the room.
I stood still in the place where he left me until Alice and Renee returned. Alice immediately pulled me into a hug to hide my ashen face from my mother.
"It's going to be alright," she whispered.
"I know," I replied. I meant it, and the emptiness I felt in Jake's absence began to be filled with the anticipation of the man who was waiting for me.
The next few minutes seemed to go by in slow motion, like I was under water. Alice made sure I was shielded from Edward's view as he walked out the door and down the aisle. Then Renee left me to take her seat in the front row. Alice fluffed and adjusted my veil before taking Jasper by the arm and gliding down the aisle after them. Then Charlie was there, looking just as I remembered him from my dreams; extremely handsome in a dark suit and red tie, eyes tired and watery with tears, smiling at me. I kissed him on the cheek and took a deep, calming breath before taking his arm and stepping out into the evening air.
Everything around me seemed to be moving slowly, but I was still at a normal pace. I had time to look around and see that, also like in my dream, the clouds had cleared slightly and silvery pink and orange ribbons of light were cutting through the gray. Everyone was there, Jessica and Mike, Angela and Ben, people I knew well and some I didn't. And then my eyes locked on Edward, standing like a personified statue of perfection.
He was positioned so that he, Alice, Emmett, and Jasper were standing in the long protective shadows of the trees, safe from the dazzling sun light. He was wearing a perfectly tailored tuxedo, the black perfectly contrasted against his pale white skin. I forgot about everything else around me, all that mattered was him. When Charlie and I reached the end of the aisle, he kissed my cheek and cupped my face in his hands briefly before taking his seat next to Renee.
I was vaguely aware of Emmett speaking, but I could only concentrate on Edward's eyes; golden and smoldering. He was dazzling me again, with more force than he'd ever thrown at me before.
"Bella, do you take Edward to be your husband? Do you promise to love him, honor him, for as long as you both shall live?" He winked at me.
"I do," I said.
"Edward, same thing." Edward broke our gaze to glance at Emmett as everyone laughed.
"I most certainly do," he said as my favorite smile spread across his perfect lips.
"Well then," Emmett laughed, "Edward, you may now kiss your bride."
His smile widened as he placed an icy hand on my cheek and pulled me into an earth shattering kiss. Everyone clapped and cheered as they rose to their feet. We broke apart and turned to face the gathered crowd. Renee was crying, Jessica was clinging to Mike's shoulder, Angela and Ben were smiling lovingly at each other. Edward took my hand in his and walked me back down the aisle toward the house.
My heart swelled and thudded in my chest. Edward was mine and I was his, forever, literally until the end of time.