Author's Note: We apologize for the notification, as this obviously is not a new chapter. Something funky happened with one of the earlier chapters, so we've been forced to re-upload quite a few of them.
A light knock sounded on my door. I took a breath and turned to see Dad standing in the doorway, a strange look on his face. Paternal, I decided after a moment. He smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry to disturb you."
"S'okay," I said.
He stepped inside and closed the door behind him, sighing quietly. His expression changed suddenly. The look of profound sadness on his face moved me.
"Daddy?" I said, moving towards him with a frown. "What's wrong?"
He forced a tiny, morose smile. "Don't worry about me, darling. I'm being…"
He chuckled. "Yes, that's an apt description."
"Daddy, you know I'll always love you. I'm always going to be your Nessie."
He smiled and brushed a hand across my cheek. "Yes, I know. And you know that I will always love you as well. It's simply hard to wrap my head around the fact that you will no longer be just my Nessie. You will be Jacob's Nessie as well."
"I think I've always been Jacob's Nessie."
"Well, yes, I suppose that's true," he conceded. "But as of tomorrow, it will be official." He sighed again. "Well, I hadn't actually come here to be sentimentally parental. I have something to show you."
My interest was sparked instantly. "Oh?"
"Indeed. It's a wedding gift to you from your uncles and me."
"It's a car, isn't it."
He laughed. "Come and see for yourself."
He led me to the main floor. As soon as he turned to the garage, I knew that my suspicion had been correct.
"Hurry up, Jazz!" I heard Uncle Emmett hiss. "I can already hear them!"
There was the sound of fabric being tossed into the air and then a soft whisper as it settled over something smooth.
"Are you quite ready yet?" Dad asked, stopping in front of the closed door.
"It's Jazz's fault," Uncle Emmett said, opening the door but standing directly in the doorway and succeeding in taking up most of it.
"I'm sure," Dad said dryly. "Can she see it now?"
"Yes," Uncle Jasper said from behind Uncle Emmett.
Uncle Emmett grinned at me. "You're going to love it, kid."
I grinned at his exuberant expression.
Dad placed his hands lightly over my eyes. "I am sorry about this, but we need you to fully appreciate it." He guided me into the garage.
My other senses took over for my lack of sight. I was overwhelmed by a complex array of scents. I immediately recognized rubber, gas, paint, plastic, metal, glass, oil, antifreeze and coolant.
"Here we are," Dad said, stopping me suddenly. I heard Uncle Jasper and Uncle Emmett shuffle up behind us. I could practically feel their anticipation.
Dad moved his hands away from my eyes. I was standing in front of what was obviously a car beneath a sheet with our family crest on it. Dad stepped forward and tore the sheet off with a flourish.
My jaw fell open. "No way," I gasped. Parked before me was the only car I had ever taken an interest in. It was a black Maserati Quattroporte, and it was absolutely beautiful.
I whirled around to look at my father and uncles, all three of whom were smiling broadly. "I love you all!" I said, throwing my arms around Uncle Emmett first.
He boomed a laugh and hugged me back. "'Love you too, Ness."
I hugged Uncle Jasper next. "You are the greatest uncles ever," I said. "And father," I added quickly, looking at Dad.
"Oh, you like it, do you?" Uncle Jasper said with a chuckle.
"You have no idea," I said and then rushed over to hug Dad. "You're the best, Daddy."
He kissed my forehead and passed me the keys. "Enjoy it responsibly."
"Can we go right now?"
"Of course," he smiled.
I squealed childishly and flashed over to the driver's side. Dad got into the passenger seat while Uncle Emmett and Uncle Jasper got into the back. I turned the key in the ignition, my smile broadening as the engine hummed to life. I placed my hands on the silky steering wheel, shifted into drive and slowly applied pressure to the gas pedal. The car purred out of our cavernous garage and onto the winding drive.
I sped at an ungodly velocity around the back roads, to the delight of my passengers. I caught a glimpse of Jacob and Seth running astride us in wolf-form several times, both grinning broadly. I shot a wink at Jacob as I careened around a corner. I was beginning to understand their attraction to such lethal speeds.
"Yes!" Dad cheered in response to this thought. "Brothers, I believe we have a convert!"
My uncles whooped in response.
When we returned, everyone was watching us from the windows with broad smiles. I parked the car in the garage and got out as Jacob and Seth appeared on the front lawn in human form, both dressed in only cut-off shorts.
Jacob's grin lit his whole face. "Isn't it awesome?"
"You knew about this?" I asked.
"Yes! I thought I was going to explode if I had to keep it from you for another day," he said, picking me up and spinning me around the garage.
I giggled and wrapped my arms around his neck. When we stopped spinning, I pressed my lips to his.
Uncle Emmett cleared his throat slightly.
"Shut up and go away," Jacob muttered against my lips.
I twined my fingers in his hair and sighed happily. "Today rocks."
Jacob grinned. "And why is that?"
"Because I just got my dream car," I said, glancing at my Maserati, "And because tomorrow, I'm going to marry you."
He smiled and kissed me again. My heart rate exploded instantly, my breaths becoming shallow and uneven. And then, all too soon, the kiss ended.
"Want to go for a walk?" he asked.
He lowered me to the ground and then took my hand. We strolled across the lawn and disappeared into the forest. Tall, majestic Douglas Firs rose on either side of us. Even Jacob, who towered at six-foot-seven, seemed small in comparison. The sky was as cloudy as ever and a light drizzle was beginning to filter down through the canopy.
"I can hardly believe the big day's tomorrow," he said.
"Yeah," I agreed. "I considered staying in bed this morning to make it come faster."
We fell into a comfortable silence for a time, contented to listen to the birds in the trees and the animals nearby. Everyone had hunted the night before in order to make everyone more comfortable around our human (and partially-human) guests. The wedding crowd had become quite full. From Washington came both of the packs and their families as well as Billy, Grandpa Charlie, Sue Clearwater (although she was only coming after being subjected to a considerable amount of griping from Seth, Grandpa Charlie and Billy), Emily, Jacob's sisters, Rachel and Rebecca, Claire, Emily's niece and Quil's seven-year-old imprint, although at this stage, he was more of a third parent, as Jacob had been to me when I was a child.
We also had a slew of vampiric guests that would be attending, most of whom I had met at the first confrontation. All of the Denali were coming, and had arrived the previous week. Zafrina, Kachiri and Senna were also expected, as well as Nahuel and his aunt, Huilen. Rob and Ian's six friends, Austin, Adair, Cael, Julianna, Henry and Dahlia had arrived almost two months earlier and had been staying at the Winter's home ever since. They were a very interesting group, and each seemed keenly (though perplexingly) fascinated by us. Emily and Tara had invited four friends of their own. They, too, had arrived early. They were a slightly disconcerting group. The young Canadian vampire Evan and his Persian mate, Kamaria (or Kam, as she insisted upon being called) were quite warm and friendly, whereas the Russians, Ivan and Elizaveta, were very reserved and almost cold. They had a dangerous demeanour about them. I had done my best to steer clear of them, with little difficulty since they appeared to take little interest in us.
"They are pretty weird," Jake agreed. "They look like they'd be buds with the Draculas."
I chuckled as his mention of the Romanians. I hadn't gotten to see them as much as the other witnesses at the confrontation. Inexplicably, Mom had always seemed to have some reason to keep me away from them.
"I wonder what the Italian creepers will send this time," Jacob muttered.
I frowned slightly and looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"Well, when your parents got hitched, Creep-Face sent your mom this hugely-expensive necklace and a box. I think Carlisle mentioned something about them being the crown jewels of England or something. I don't know. I was only half-listening. Anyway, you know them. They know everything that goes on with everyone. And Creep-Face read Emily's mind, so he knows that we're getting married."
A chill passed over my skin. I hoped Aro didn't feel the need to pay a personal visit. That would put a damper on the festivities pretty quickly.
"And now they really need to score brownie points with us," Jacob said. "They've tried to kill us twice."
I sighed and shifted closer to him instinctively. His reminder of the Volturi had created a tiny fissure of fear in my excitement. The last thing I wanted was any sort of congratulations from them. I'd spent months wondering if Jacob and I would live long enough to see our wedding day because of them.
"Sorry," he said quickly. "I wasn't trying to freak you out."
"I know," I said. "But you've got a point." I sighed.
"Anyway," he said, changing the subject quickly. "Alice still won't tell me where she's sending us for our honeymoon. Any ideas?"
"You know Aunt Alice," I said. "She'll probably be ridiculous and send us on a world tour or something, since we're pretty much the only ones who don't have to worry about glittering in sunlight."
"Probably. It was pretty awesome of her to organize everything for us, though. I know how much you would've hated to have had to plan a wedding."
I shuddered at the thought.
My phone rang suddenly. I frowned and tried to remember when I'd decided to bring my phone. I withdrew it from my pocket and flipped it open. "Hello?"
"Nessie, it's Aunt Rose," she said. "Sorry to bother you, but we need you back at the house as soon as possible, if it's not too much trouble."
"Yeah, sure. But would you happen to know why my phone is in my pocket?"
"That was me, I'm afraid," Aunt Alice said from the background. "I slipped it in this morning in case of an emergency."
I ought to have known. "Of course you did. I'll be right there." I flipped the phone shut and shot an apologetic look at Jacob. "Duty calls."
He chortled. "Let's get back, then."
When we returned, I could hear the house buzzing from almost half a mile away. The Winters had brought their friends over to help with preparations. As I ascended the stairs to the door, I passed Tanya, who was cutting flowers to length with one of the Winter's friends, Cael. He was a dark-haired, strikingly-handsome Irishman with a pleasant smile and a charming lilt. He wasn't as obvious about his admiration for our family, for which I was grateful. Out of their six guests, I liked him the most. Tanya smiled at me as I walked by, her honey-coloured eyes warm. I glanced from her to Cael and gave her a thumbs-up behind Cael's back. She grinned and then dropped her gaze.
I smiled to myself as I opened the front door. I was glad to see that she was taking to him so well. She was now the only single member of our entire family.
"There you are!" Aunt Rose smiled as I made my way into the living room. Everyone seemed to be milling about doing something. "Esme and I were hoping to try out some hairstyles on you so we're ready for tomorrow."
I shrugged. "I'm all yours."
Aunt Rose and Grandma Esme experimented with my hair for a sizeable portion of the afternoon as they tried to decide what to do with my hair tomorrow. It was dinnertime when they were finished. Dad and Grandpa Carlisle made fettuccine alfredo for Jacob, Emily, the pack and me. Emily politely excused herself and ate alone, citing wedding details as the cause for her departure.
"So," said Seth, his mouth full of dinner as he spoke, a fact which I tried to ignore. "Any pre-wedding jitters, Nessie?"
I glanced at him and shrugged as I stirred my pasta around my plate. I would have been lying if I'd said I wasn't nervous. I was terrified, in fact. Marriage was much more complicated than I had initially realized, a fact for which I had not been prepared. My fears were not that that Jacob didn't love me – such a thought would have insulted him and even at that, he'd shown me that he'd loved me for my entire life – but what troubled me more than anything else was the idea of the unknown, as irrational as I knew it was. "Not really. I don't have any doubts."
Jacob smiled at me. I returned it.
Leah made a disgusted noise.
"I can still kick you out of my wedding, Leah," Jacob said warningly.
"Go ahead," she said. "At least I'd be spared the disgusting gushy fluff."
"Don't think I won't take you up on that," Jacob cautioned her.
"Jake," I said, laying a hand on his arm. I don't mind her, I told him mentally.
"Oh, but I do," he muttered as he returned to his food.
"Are you psyched?" asked Embry asked me.
"Not that I can see why," Quil teased. "He snores like a chainsaw."
"This coming from you," Jacob shot back.
I chuckled. "Yeah, I'm psyched," I replied.
After dinner, we made our way to the living room to watch TV on the flat screen. Emily, Tara and Ian joined us after a while, though they sat on the other side of the room from us. Grandma Esme, who had just finished with the hors d'oeuvres for the reception sat down adjacent Emily and watched with us.
The doorbell rang presently.
"Oh dear," I heard Dad mutter from the kitchen. He wandered into the living room and called, "Kate!"
Kate flashed into the room. "Yes?"
"I would be very grateful if all of you could go upstairs for a moment. I'm afraid a rather unexpected visitor has just arrived, and I think it would be best if he doesn't know we're entertaining for the present."
She blinked. "Oh. All right."
She relayed the request to the rest of the Denali, and all five made their way up to the second floor quickly.
I frowned. "What is it?" I asked Dad.
"Jeff," he replied as he moved to answer the door.
Ian stood up instantly, his black eyes narrowing. "Allow me."
"Crap," Tara muttered as her cheeks began to turn pink.
Leah frowned. "What's the deal with the Jeff kid?"
"He's got this thing for Tara," Jake told her.
"Which one's Tara again?" asked Leah beneath her breath as she glanced from Emily to Tara.
He gestured to Emily first, who was reading a magazine. "Emily's the puny one," Jacob whispered.
"I heard that," she muttered without glancing up. "I believe the politically correct term would be 'petite', Jacob."
He chuckled. "Whatever you say." He looked at Leah again. "Tara's the tall one."
Tara's blush deepened at the mention of her name.
I heard Ian open the front door. "Hello, Jeffrey," he said in a strained tone.
"Hey, Ian. Is Tara there?" I heard Jeff asked timidly.
There was a pause.
"Well, can I speak to her?"
Another pause. "Um…may I please speak to Tara?"
Ian sighed. "Come in." Beneath his breath I heard him mutter, "But I can't guarantee that you will be going back out alive."
Even from three rooms away, I could hear Jeff's heart hammering. His breaths were quick and shallow. He stopped in the doorway and cleared his throat slightly.
As soon as he came into view, I noticed Leah looking at Jeff strangely. I'd never seen her look at someone like that. It was like the way Jacob looked at me…
Seth, Jacob, Quil and Embry gave collectively appalled gasps.
"No way!" Seth cried.
"Aw, man, Leah, you have no taste!" Jacob exclaimed.
"Whoa!" Quil yelped.
"You have to be kidding!" Embry laughed.
But Leah's eyes remained on Jeff, who now met her eyes. He smiled back nervously.
It took me half a beat more to understand. I nudged Jacob. "Please tell me she didn't just imprint on Jeff," I whispered.
Jacob nodded disgustedly.
I glanced at Jeff, who was shifting his weight uncomfortably, perplexed by their sudden outbursts.
"Of the billions of guys in this world, you imprinted on that one?" Seth was growling at his sister.
"There is something seriously screwed up in your head, Leah," Embry said, still chuckling.
Leah ignored them all and continued to stare at Jeff. She rose finally and extended a hand to him. "Leah Clearwater."
He smiled nervously. "Jeff Whitman."
The day of my wedding dawned early. Fortunately, a dense layer of cloud shielded us from the sun. Aunt Alice's prediction had been right.
Before I knew what was happening, it was four o'clock in the afternoon and I was sitting in the bathroom, having my face perfected by Aunt Alice and Aunt Rose. I was an hour away from walking down the aisle and becoming Mrs. Renesmee Black forevermore. And for some reason, it was at this time that all of my fears chose to overwhelm me.
"Nessie?" Mom asked worriedly as I felt myself beginning to hyperventilate.
"Are you all right, honey?" Aunt Rose asked concernedly.
My heart hammered uncontrollably in my chest. "I have no idea what I'm doing," I whispered in horrified realization. What did I know about being a wife? And there was this evening to consider. That thought made my breath hitch.
"Ness, everything's okay," Mom reassured me.
No, everything was far from okay. I began to tremble violently. What if I didn't meet Jacob's expectations? The last thing I ever wanted to do was disappoint him. I knew that I had his love unconditionally, but I didn't want to make him unhappy.
I wasn't sure how long they all took turns trying to soothe me when finally Mom jumped up with a defeated sigh. "Fine," she said. "I'm getting Jacob." I didn't really grasp that she was serious until she returned with Jacob moments later. He looked beyond stunning in his tuxedo.
"No, no!" I wheezed. "You can't see me before the wedding. It's bad luck!"
"Technically, I've only ever seen you before the wedding," he pointed out. He glanced at Aunt Alice. "Can I have a minute?"
She nodded and got up, patting his shoulder as she left. Mom and Aunt Rose followed her.
Jacob sat down across from me with a sigh, his eyes drifting over me. "Wow, you look incredible."
I burst into tears.
"It was a compliment!" Jacob said quickly.
"Jake, I have…no idea how to do this," I sobbed. "I don't know how to be a wife."
"Well, this is my first time being married too, Ness," he reminded me. "So I think I'm probably about as nervous as you are."
"But…but I don't want to disappoint you," I admitted tearfully.
Jacob sighed and lifted me into his lap, careful not to damage my dress. "Renesmee Carlie Cullen soon-to-be Black, you've never disappointed me in your entire life, ever, do you understand me? And marriage will be no different. Is that what you were really worried about? Did you really think I was going to have unrealistic expectations?"
"No," I sniffled. "I thought you'd have reasonable expectations that I wouldn't be able to fulfill."
"Well, sorry to sound harsh, but that's absolutely ridiculous, sweetheart," he told me softly. "But…you still want to get married, right?"
I looked at him in surprise. "Of course I do. This is not me trying to back out, Jake. I was just having a human moment. Well, half-human moment."
I sighed and laid my head against his chest. It took a few more moments of his comforting for me to calm enough to remember how to breathe properly.
"Crap," I muttered, remembering only now that I was wearing make up. Aunt Alice was going to kill me for making in run.
"What?" he asked.
I glanced in the mirror and then flinched in surprise.
The fact that my make up wasn't smudged in the slightest was the first shock. The second was that I was truly staring at my own reflection. I scarcely recognized myself. "Oh," I murmured quietly.
Jacob chuckled. "See what I mean now?"
"There are advantages to having a clairvoyant aunt," Aunt Alice said, appearing in the doorway. "I used waterproof make up."
"Thanks," I breathed as I continued to stare at myself in disbelief.
She grinned. "You're welcome." She looked at Jacob. "It's time for you to go now. You've calmed her down, which I'm sure we all appreciate, Jasper especially," she said, glancing over her shoulder. I caught sight of my uncle standing just down the hall, massaging his temples. "But you really do have to leave. There is still far too much to be done."
I grimaced. "Woops."
She chortled darkly. "You've managed to give him more headaches than even Bella did when she was a human."
"I am sorry."
"He knows that," she said, patting my head reassuringly. "Jacob?" she reminded him.
"Right," he said.
I shuffled out of his lap to allow him to stand.
"See you in an hour," he said.
I gave him a small smile. "Yeah."
Mom and Aunt Rose returned then, and busied themselves with making the final touches. They managed to finish the entire ordeal a full half hour before the ceremony was to begin.
Mom turned to my aunts. "Rose, Alice, can I have a minute with her? Alone?"
"Of course," Aunt Rose said. She and Aunt Alice left once more.
Mom sighed and cupped my face lightly in her cold hands. "You know, when you were born, I hadn't imagined we'd be having this conversation for at least a good decade or so. And now look at us," she said, chuckling lightly. "I'm giving you away only six years after getting you."
I felt my eyes tearing up again. "I know. I'm sorry that it's so soon for your sake, Momma."
She shook her head and laid a finger over my lips. "He makes you very happy, and you make him happier than you can possibly know. Finding someone that could make him as happy as you do is something that I've wanted for him ever since I realized that I wasn't the one that was going to be able to fill that place in his heart. And, of course, I have only ever wanted you to be happy. I wish I could've had longer. I wish I'd had more time to prepare you for today, but I'll just have to go with what I've got." She exhaled. "I don't need to tell you about Jake. You've known him just a few years less than I have, and you know him better than even he knows himself. You two connect on a level that I will never be able to fully fathom, so that part of my job is taken care of. But as for the wife part…it takes work, Nessie. That's for sure. You have to want to work things out, and you have to be willing to accept that he won't always give you what you want. You have to be able to listen and always be willing to compromise. Things won't just work out all on their own. I know that you know that."
"And you know that if it were anyone else waiting for you down there, I would be strongly discouraging this. Well, not like I'd have to. Your dad probably would've already killed him."
I smiled and nodded again.
"But it's not just anyone down there, is it?"
"It most certainly is not," I agreed.
"I hadn't even factored a daughter into the equation when I was trying to work through my complications with my feelings for your father and Jacob, but now that you are a factor…there's no one else in the world that I would rather see him end up with than you, Nessie."
A small tear escaped down my cheek.
She pulled me into her arms and kissed my forehead. "I love you so much, Renesmee."
I hugged her fiercely. "I love you too, Momma."
We talked and cried for a while longer before being interrupted by a light tap on the door.
"Nessie? Bella?" Dad said from the other side.
"Come in, Edward," Mom replied.
Dad opened the door. A flicker of sadness flashed across his face for the briefest of moments, but was swiftly replaced with a smile. "Nessie, you look wonderful."
I blushed. "Thanks."
"Bella…" he trailed off, shaking his head in disbelief as his eyes trailed over her.
Mom smiled and made her way to his side. He wrapped an arm around her waist and leaned down to kiss her.
"Ew, please don't," I said quickly. The last thing I needed today was to watch my parents make out.
Both laughed. "All right, all right," Dad said, straightening up. "Are you ready?"
I nodded. I had waited a year for this day, and I was as ready now as I ever would be.
"Wait, wait!" Aunt Rose said, hurrying into the room. "I wish you'd have told me you were ready. She still needs her veil."
"Sorry, Rosalie," Dad chuckled.
She opened a small white box and retrieved a small white band. It took me a moment to realize that it was a garter. "I'm sorry," she said apologetically.
"Oh please don't," I begged, horrified. The redness of my cheeks intensified.
"Please?" Aunt Alice said from behind her, giving me a puppy-eyed look.
I sighed irately and took it from her. I hated it when she played my conscience like this. I took it from her and turned away to put it on quickly.
"Excellent," Aunt Alice said. She passed Aunt Rose a pearl earring to put in my left ear while she secured one in my right ear. "Now those are both old and borrowed. Those were your Grandmother Masen's. Edward gave them to me a long time ago."
My eyes widened. I glanced at Dad.
He nodded. "I inherited quite a bit of jewellery from my mother."
I touched them lightly. "Thanks."
"And here is something that is both new and blue," Aunt Rose said, withdrawing a sapphire necklace from yet another box. She fastened it around my neck.
My aunts stepped back to admire me with my parents. "Oh, you look perfect, Nessie," Aunt Rose said proudly. She and Aunt Alice exchanged satisfied expressions.
My blush deepened even further.
Grandma Esme knocked on the door lightly. "We're ready. Oh, Nessie!"
I smiled and hugged her. "Hi, Grandma."
"You look exquisite, darling!" she exclaimed, kissing my cheek.
"Thanks. You look beautiful, Grandma," I said, looking at her. Like my mother and my aunts, she was dressed in red to match the fall theme.
"Thank you," she chuckled, and then she and Mom left to join the crowd downstairs.
Aunt Rose and Aunt Alice set my veil in place then before fastening the tiara on top. "All right," Aunt Rose said. "Edward, if you would."
Dad held an arm out to me. I took it and followed him out of the washroom. Aunt Rose passed me a bouquet once we were in the hallway before taking up her own. She and Aunt Alice took their places in front of me.
Now that I was paying attention, I could hear Rob playing Pachelbel's Canon on Dad's piano downstairs. My mind was strangely blank as we slowly descended the stairs to the main floor. We turned the corner and then slowly made our way into the living room, although it looked nothing like it normally did. White, red, brown, orange and yellow flowers were everywhere; floating in water-filled bowls with small white candles, petals scattered all the way down the aisle, in breathtaking floral arrangements on almost every table in sight, attached to the backs of the chairs. The scent was incredible.
Everyone rose as Aunt Rose, Aunt Alice Dad and I came into view. My heart hammered faster as I caught sight of Jacob at the end of the aisle. Seth, Quil and Embry stood beside him. A minister that Grandpa Carlisle had treated at the hospital had agreed to marry us, and stood behind the four.
Dad gave a small sigh as we reached the end of the aisle and lifted my veil to kiss my cheek. "I love you, Nessie."
"I love you too, Dad." I kissed his cheek and then turned to Jacob.
He smiled at me and took my hand.
The ceremony was a simple, traditional one. I tried to pay attention as the minister spoke, but my mind continually wandered. I managed to murmur my vows at the right time and smiled as the minister declared us to be man and wife. Jacob mirrored my smile radiantly. He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me tenderly.
And then I was Mrs. Jacob Black.
Cheers and applause broke out the moment our lips parted. He answered my smile with one of extraordinary brilliance. At long last, he was mine for eternity He slid an arm around my waist and turned me to face the crowd. Everyone was on their feet, smiling broadly. We took a step towards them, and then were lost into the crowd. I tried to focus on who I was being congratulated by, but my excitement level made that nearly impossible. I was however, very aware of when I was hugged by Grandpa Charlie. The scent crashed over me like a wave and instantly made my throat burn. I winced slightly. Thanks to the wedding preparations, it had been a while since I'd hunted.
"Congratulations, kid!" He squeezed me tightly. "I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a little sooner than I would've liked, but Jake's a good kid." He cast a glance at my new husband and muttered, "Usually."
"Well, Gramps," Jacob grinned, slinging an arm around Grandpa Charlie's shoulders. "Looks like I managed to get myself related to you after all. It was a generation later than expected, but hey. It's never too late, right?"
Grandpa Charlie chuckled. "Just be good to her."
"Naturally," he said, smiling at me.
I smiled back.
Mom and Dad walked up to us next. Both looked emotional. Mom pulled me into her arms and held me closely. I smiled and hugged her back.
I hugged Dad next, and then looked up at Jacob. I felt like I was floating. I hadn't imagined ever being this happy.
"Jacob," Dad smiled, clapping his shoulder. He was smiling, but there was something scary about the way he was looking at him. "Take care of my daughter, or…well, fill in the blank."
Jacob gave a nervous laugh. "Gotcha." He swallowed.
I sighed. "Father."
He smiled lightly. "Just a friendly word of caution."
"And whatever my brother does to you, know that it will be sweet and merciful compared with what I will do if you so much as–" Aunt Rose started to say.
"Thank you, everyone," I said, cutting her off. "It's good to know you care. Jake, let's go find the rest of the family."
I heard my parents chuckling as we moved on. We found my grandparents next.
"Congratulations, sweetie!" Grandma Esme said emotionally, hugging me tightly and kissing my forehead.
Grandpa Carlisle hugged and kissed me next. "You look beautiful, darling."
"Thanks, Grandpa," I smiled.
"We wish you both the best," he said, glancing at Jake as well.
"Thanks, Carlisle," Jacob said, shaking his hand.
The Winters were the next to congratulate us. Ian pulled me into a crushing embrace. "Congratulations, Nessie!" he said, beaming widely.
"Thank you," I gasped as I felt sure that my ribs were cracking.
"Forgive my husband," Tara said, smacking his arm. "He forgets his own strength sometimes."
Ian let me go. "Sorry." He grinned sheepishly.
Tara smiled and hugged me, but far more gently. "You look lovely, Nessie."
"You too," I told her.
"My turn!" Emily said impatiently as she hovered behind her sister.
Tara rolled her eyes and stepped aside. Emily pounced on me instantly. She embraced me tightly. "I'm so happy for you!" she said. "And you look so incredibly beautiful!"
I laughed. "Thanks. You did a great job with the decorating."
She shrugged. "It was a team effort."
"Well, thanks anyway."
She chuckled. "You're welcome."
She gave me a wide smile and then stepped back to allow Rob to hug me. "Thanks for doing the music today, Rob," I said.
"It's my pleasure entirely," he replied. "And as Emily said, you really do look lovely."
The Winter's friends congratulated us next. Cael was the first. The next was their charming British friend Adair, and then their brooding Italian friend Dahlia. She was one of their stranger guests. She seemed perpetually wary, and treated Grandpa Carlisle with inexplicable disdain, which had done nothing to warm my feelings towards her. But I forced myself to smile as she thanked me for inviting her (I tactfully ignored the fact that she had sort of invited herself) and moved on to Julianna. She, too, was British, and was almost as beautiful as my Aunt Rose, but seemed to have a slightly inappropriate fascination with Ian, which Tara had clearly noticed. I didn't get the impression that they were particularly fond of each other. The last of their friends was a quiet, congenial vampire named Henry. He and Cael seemed to be the most normal of the lot.
"It's lovely to be here on this joyous occasion, Mrs. Black," Cael said, smiling. "Congratulations."
I smiled. "Thanks."
"Marvellous party," Julianna said, glancing around.
I gazed at her. "Oh. Uh…well, I can't take credit. It was my aunts, Emily and my grandmother."
"Well, I suppose not everyone knows how to hold a proper celebration. You were wise to let Emily do it. It is always best to leave it to those who know what they're doing," she said.
I glanced at Jacob, who raised an eyebrow.
"As socially graceful as ever, I see," Adair snorted, nudging her.
"Do forgive Jules," Cael said, chuckling. "She's not the most enchanting of souls."
Julianna rolled her eyes.
Evan, Kam and the Russians followed them, and them and then the Denali. It pleased me to notice Cael and Tanya had been spending an awful lot of time together over the past two days. Emily had told me that he'd spent the past three hundred years mourning his human wife, whom he'd accidentally killed after being turned. I wondered if anything would develop there.
Once Jacob and I had greeted everyone, Aunt Alice whisked us off to the backyard where the reception was set up. The trees had been strung with thousands of white lights.
"Wow," I murmured. "We're going to have a nice utility bill at the end of the month."
Jacob chuckled. "Alice, Alice, Alice. You're as practical as ever," he said sarcastically.
Aunt Alice snorted as she guided us to our seats at the head table. "Jacob, please. Do you really think a utility bill is going to be an issue for a pocketbook the size of our family's?"
"Especially since we've pooled our bank accounts with yours," Emily said. "We're not exactly poor, either."
"I know. I've seen your house. And your garage," I reminded her.
The evening was a blur of food, laughter and happiness. Each of my aunts and uncles gave a speech, as well as my parents, and even Seth.
As twilight descended, Aunt Alice and Emily transitioned the celebration back into the house where a dance floor had already been set up, with Dad's grand piano against one wall.
Dad wove his arm around me as we walked into the house. "Do you remember what I asked you when I first gave you my blessing?"
I thought for a moment. "Oh. Right. You wanted the first dance."
"Of course, Daddy. Just let me tell Jake," I said, turning to find him.
He caught my arm. "Jacob knows, Nessie. He has a little gift for you."
I blinked. A little gift for me? We'd agreed not to give gifts. "What do you mean?"
He pointed to the piano.
My eyes widened as Jacob slid onto the piano bench, cracked his fingers and inhaled deeply before beginning to play the lullaby that my father had written for me as a baby.
"Come on," Dad said, leading me onto the dance floor. The rest of the guests watched as we began to twirl around the floor. I stared at Jacob in wonder as he played. "How?" I breathed. As far as I'd known, Jacob had never touched a piano in his life.
"He asked me to teach him after you two got engaged," he told me. "He wanted to play it for you tonight."
Tears pooled in my eyes. "Thanks," I murmured.
He smiled. "You're welcome."
Jacob played the song flawlessly. But then, anyone who had studied under my father would. When it was finished, he shuffled back over to us quickly. A blush rose in his face as everyone applauded him. "How'd I do?"
"That was…that was…" I stammered.
"Perfect," Dad finished for me. He smiled warmly at his pupil. "Well done, son."
Jacob mumbled his thanks, his cheeks going redder still. "Thanks, Dad."
My father chuckled.
Mom walked up to us. "May I have this dance?" she asked Dad.
He smiled. "This dance and every other."
"Hey, Mom," Jacob grinned. "You look nice."
She gave him a look. "Jacob Black. Never call me 'Mom' again."
He laughed. "Sure, sure, Ma."
Her eyes narrowed. "If this weren't your wedding day…"
"What, you'd spank me?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of grounding."
"Oooh! I'm scared now."
I sighed. "Don't you get enough of this from antagonizing Aunt Rose?"
"I'll never have enough of this," Jacob grinned.
The evening finished in dancing, with Rob providing the music. He was a truly amazing pianist, as Emily had said. Dad provided another surprise when he took over the piano halfway through the evening, with Mom and Aunt Rose accompanying him on the violin. Apparently they'd been writing me yet another song over the past few months. As I listened, I realized the extent to which I had been blessed by being placed in the Cullen family, or the Cullen/Winter family as it had become.
I wandered out to the backyard with a sigh. The night had a slight chill to it. Fall was approaching.
I heard Jacob behind me. He slid an arm around my waist. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" he asked.
I looked at him, and then followed his gaze up to the sky. Aunt Alice had turned off the lights to make the stars clearer. The clouds had parted just enough to give us a window to the boundless firmament above.
"Ian, I swear I didn't know!" I heard Cael shouting suddenly, disrupting my thoughts.
There was the whistling of air, and then Emily streaked past me, screaming and laughing at the same time. "You can't kill me in this dress, Ian! I don't want blood on it!"
"I don't give a damn about the dress!" Ian snarled after her. "Besides, I am going to snap your neck! There's no blood involved!"
"I'll rip it off!"
"What'd you do this time?" Jacob called after her.
Emily laughed in reply, and then shrieked as she ducked a rock that Ian hurled at her.
I shook my head as they disappeared into the forest.
"They're special," Jacob muttered.
"No kidding," I replied. I sighed and turned to face him. "Well. This is different, isn't it?"
"Mrs. Renesmee Black."
He smiled. "I like the way it sounds."
"Me too." I played with his tie for a moment and then sighed quietly.
"What?" he asked, tilting my chin up so that I was looking into his perfect russet face.
"I was just thinking about last fall."
He winced. "Why would you think about that now?"
"Well…I was just thinking about how grateful I am for today, and for you. I've taken you for granted my whole life, and that's why last fall…happened. So, I'm sorry."
He laughed. "Well I know that, Nessie. That's pretty much all you said for two days after I got back."
"Yeah, but…I really am sorry. I've been selfish; about everything, really, but especially about you."
"It's all in the past, Nessie. There's nothing more to forgive."
"Thank you," I said sincerely. "I was also thinking about how without all of…that…we wouldn't be here today," I said.
He nodded. "Makes it all seem worth it, doesn't it?"
"Yes," I agreed fervently.
He pressed his lips to mine lightly and then smiled again.
I shifted to stand beside him and then looked back at the heavens. I leaned into Jacob's side as we gazed up at the perfect, silver new moon.
Author's Note: And that is the end. Thank you so much for reading. We have deeply appreciated your support over the past year. We hope you've enjoyed reading the story as much as we have enjoyed writing it. Thank you again!
Midnight Sapphire Eyes and Elizabeth Watson