FOR THE MUSIC JUNKIES: I've created a account for this fic (awesome site where you can create playlists and 'play DJ'). The playlist includes the original two disc soundtrack (as best I could manage) and some of the new songs influencing this arc, and it will keep growing.
Again, user=velvetrecords (of course)
Time to wrap this bad boy arc up.
As always Meyer owns all things Twilight.
Suggest a future one shot epilogue in the reviews! I have a couple of requests and ideas lined up already, but I'd love more.
Suspicious Minds Part 4: Closing Time
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
Closing Time - Semisonic
Bella found herself frozen momentarily, stunned by Jacob's boldness. Quickly, she ran through a mental checklist:
Did I say I wanted this? Nope.
Did I ever give him crossed signs? Not since that last kiss years ago. No, I've been clear.
Do I want this?
The last question, she did not answer in her head. She answered it with a shove at Jacob's shoulder and a slap across his face. Jacob stared at her, almost amused by her reaction, which quickly turned her shock into a tempest of indignation.
"Wow, Bella. You hit like a girl."
"Screw you, Jake! What the hell?"
"Bella, I can't help how I feel. I just wanted you to consider it-"
"So you forced it on me? Jake, I'm with Edward. And whether or not that will last, and whether or not you like him, I love him, and I have promised him my fathfulness. You've completely disrepecting me by putting me on the spot like this, especially when I'm upset!"
Jacob frowned, "I didn't.... Just, I had to be bold. Go all in. And like I said, you can reject me."
Bella averted her eyes to her hand, which stung more than she suspected Jake's cheek did, "I think I just did. Please, don't ever do that again."
"I won't. Bells, let me walk you back-"
"No thanks. I want to stay here."
Bella turned her back on Jacob, unable to look him the eye, lest he see the tears beginning to fall over Edward and Skye, whoever she was. Yes, Jake, I want to be here. In the forest, alone, all ready to be eaten by whatever wild animal finds me tasty. Because I don't want to see anyone. That's perfectly rational. Yes. Bella heard Jacob hesitate, sighing deeply, then his footsteps plodded away from her. Bella heaved a sigh of relief as he departed, shaking her head at his actions, her fingers moving to her lips, wiping them as if they were somehow stained by his touch.
A sudden rustling of trees along the path startled her, sending her diving to the earth in a crouch. Yeah, Bella, you know that whole " not going with you" bit? Might have been a bad idea. A small rock met with her left hand and she embraced it, the only weapon she had. Her mace, Charlie's favourite accessory for his daughter, lay useless in the store inside her purse. Maybe it's just an animal? Oh, wait. Alone for a wild animal to eat me, yadda yadda. Watch it be the first mountain lion ever seen in Forks. Girl mauled by freak mountain lion on the loose from Seattle Zoo; family and friends dumbfounded at her crappy luck. Story at eleven. Rising slowly to her feet as the rustling grew, Bella raised her hand over hear head, preparing to strike...
Emmett passed the joint to Carlisle, amused that the boss was partaking on the clock. Things have definitely relaxed around here since James hit the pavement! Carlisle took a small hit, his brow furrowing as he carefully weighed out the dilemna Emmett had presented him with. As usual, Dr. Carlisle was willing to be on-call, for which Emmett was truly grateful. Carlisle wasn't like his parents, a set of old-fashioned homebodies with very little willingness to discuss anything beyond school work or the weather. Emmett's sex talk at age 14 consisted of his father anxiously wandering into his bedroom, clutching a pharmacy bag in hand, shuffling his feet and then mumbling, 'Well, be safe' and fleeing, his face crimson. With Carlisle, he could be blunt and to the point.
Exhaling slowly, Carlisle passed Emmett back his trusty cure for all worries, "Emmett, you definitely have a valid concern with the flirting, considering where a lot of that behaviour stems from. At the same time, you both knew each other walking in, and that's how she's always been to some degree. Would you say that's fair?"
"Yeah, I know. But if I knew she was really dealing, then I wouldn't worry so much about things going further than a comment here and there. But then I feel like a schmuck for bothering her about something so heavy."
Carlisle nodded, "And you jumped in quickly."
Emmett nodded, inhaling deeply. Yes, yes we did. Taking time turned into a week of constant contact, followed by, "Well, it's inevitable" and making it official. Bad idea, maybe. Carlisle definitely had a point, one Emmett had already considered.
"My advice, Emmett? Just talk to her. Be easy on her. Maybe you're not ready to be as serious as you think you are. Both of you have some things to work through."
Emmett sighed, putting out the joint and shoving his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans, "I think I kind of knew that. Thanks, Carlisle. As always, you've put things in order in my scrambled head."
Carlisle smiled, patting him on the arm as he made his way for the stairwell back into the store, "Anytime, Emmett. You're all family around here. Except Jessica; she just works here."
Emmett chuckled, watching Carlisle throw open the door, his bemused expression at the thought that even Carlisle loathed the trainee quickly turning to a guilty one as Rosalie collided with Carlisle.
"Oh, hey! I was just looking for..."
Carlisle smiled, "He lives up here. Back to packing for me."
Rosalie smiled weakly, her left hand running nervously through her hair as the door shut quietly behind Carlisle, the dull thump punctuating the awkward silence between them. As if afraid to be near him, Rosalie took a few short steps closer, then halted, rocking back and forth slightly on her heels.
"Haven't seen you in a few hours," she said quietly.
Emmett nodded, "Boss man's been making me do all the heavy lifting with Jake. How's a guy supposed to be lazy around here?"
Rosalie shrugged, "I hear overdosing on speed earns you a paid evening on the futon."
Emmett couldn't help himself; he burst out laughing, shaking his head as Rosalie began giggling too, her eyes shyly meeting his. Trust Rose to find a joke in a disaster of a day - and a good one, too. He watched as Rosalie's right hand, tightly coiled around some object, suddenly unfurled, revealing a small figurine of a panda, his eyes widening in wonder.
"Is that -?"
"Found little Po in the Lost and Found. I even sanitized him," Rosalie said, stepping forward, her hand outstretched, "Peace offering?"
Emmett reached out his hand, his face falling, "Rose, babe, you don't owe me... It's not... Thanks. I love Po."
"You think you are Po, I think, right down to being cuddly. And obviously you're upset about something, and that means I'm upset, too. Help me fix it, Emm."
Emmett sighed, "I just don't want to drive you into your shell over something that really is probably a lot of my own crap."
Rosalie nodded, inching closer, their bodies a foot apart, "But it's my crap, too, right? You have a problem with me flirting."
Emmett averted his eyes, the panda in his hand breaking his heart, "Maybe I'm not as okay with what happened a few months ago as I've thought. Maybe I just worry, because you don't... talk to me."
"Emm," Rosalie said softly, "I can never be sorry enough for that. Not ever. But I've always been a flirt. You know that."
"And I talk to you all the time. You're the best friend I have."
Emmett swallowed hard, "But you won't talk about... you know."
Emmett winced at the pain in that simple syllable, his eyes raising to find her closed and moistening, "Not that you have to talk about it with me, or all the time. I just worry that if you don't talk at all..."
"I do talk. About that. Just... Not with you."
Rosalie sighed, "Emm, it has nothing to do with trusting you. It's just with Alice, she... Well... She knows. And it helps her, too. I'm so, so sorry."
Emmett shook his head furiously, "Wait, wait! That's not something to apologize for! Rose, you're talking to somebody. You're not holding it in. That's all I've been worried about!"
"It's just that when I'm with you, I want to focus on the good things about men - about you. Feel safe, again. I sleep at your place, Emm. That was incredibly hard for me, for a while. But I love you, and you're rght. I should be able to talk to you..."
Emmett's hand reached out for her face, tilting it up, his eyes meeting hers, "Hey, it's okay. I was just so worried that you weren't dealing, and I know that you used to act out because of feeling bad about yourself after what those bastards did to you. I guess I was afraid that if you didn't deal..."
"I'd cheat on you? Emm, God, never. I couldn't! Can't you trust me?"
The indignation and fear in her eyes told Emmett everything he needed to know, Wordlessly, he pressed his lips to hers, gently, his hands finding their way into her blonde locks, pulling her closer. He felt her arms snake around his waist, hands slipping beneath his t-shirt, her fingers grazing the small of his back and sending shivers down his spine. How had he ever worried about her ability to be faithful? He was, without question, a jealous ass.
"Emm," Rose said softly, drawing back slightly, "I don't want you to worry. But I also want you to love me as I am."
"I do. Like I said, I think I'm still processing myself."
"And that's why I'm going to tone down the flirting a notch. Because you mean more to me than any amusement from tormenting stupid boys who dare think they are worthy of my time. None of them stand a chance against you in my heart."
Emmett blushed slightly, "You sure about that?"
Rosalie giggled, "Sweetheart, I have never been so sure. That blush alone has me hooked on you for life."
"Then I guess you're stuck with me! Kung Fu Emmett with the bear hug attack!"
Emmett pulled Rosalie into his arms, holding her close against him. She murmured happily into his shirt, her face buried against his chest. Stroking her hair slowly, Emmett inhaled the scent of her lavender shampoo, his heart racing happily. She wasn't running away; she was clinging tightly to him, literally and metaphorically. That sort of devotion earned trust in his eyes, a trust he would work hard to provide.
"I think we kinda rushed into this. And I think we knew that it could be a problem. But you're right; you've always been a flirt. So I'm going to work harder at relaxing, and having faith in you."
Rosalie gazed up at him, grinning, "That sounds fair. Now, at the risk of sounding like a flirt, can we get to the part where we kiss and make-out?"
"Kiss and make-up, you mean?" Emmett suggested.
"Nuh-uh. I know exactly what I said," Rosalie replied coyly.
"Your wish," Emmett murmured, his hands sliding to grip Rosalie's hips, "Is my command..."
Bella winced and began to swing, barely catching herself as Edward stepped into the moonlit clearing in which she stood. With a gasp, she dropped the rock, shuddering as adrenaline continued to course through her veins. Edward's jaw dropped as the stone hit the earth, his feet shuffling backwards in surprise.
"Bella! What the hell?"
"I thought you were an animal," she mumbled, flushing bright red.
Edward's face broke into a bemused smile as he stepped forward, tucking a strand of hair behind Bella's ear, "So you were going to pummel it to death instead of running away? Cave Bella?"
"My mace is in my purse," Bella muttered, "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you. I saw Jacob walking the other way and he said you were out here. Said you seemed upset. Everything alright, love?"
Bella bit her lip. No, nothing is alright. Jacob was a jerk who kissed me without asking, my hand is throbbing from smacking his stupid jaw, and you're cheating on me with one woman, maybe two, right before we're supposed to move across country together. Her silence was enough to elicit a frown from Edward, who reached out to graze her cheekbone with his fingertips. Involuntarily, she winced, and immediately regetted it.
"Bella, are you mad at me?" Edward asked quietly.
"Should I be?"
Edward sighed, his hand falling away to his side, his eyes averted, "I suppose you have the right. I told her that you were far too clever. Or maybe I'm lousy at keeping a secret."
Bella felt the air rush from her lungs, his words slamming into her chest with the force of a truck. Then it's true? He's really... Oh God. I'm going to throw up. Fighting back tears, Bella heard a hushed voice speaking, and suddenly realized it was her own.
"So it's true? How could you do this?"
"Bella, I can explain everything, if you let me-"
Bella shook her head sadly, "I don't know if I want to hear it."
Edward's eyes narrowed, "I promise, when I explain, it will make so much more sense than what you've already surmised-"
Edward's pale face somehow turned a whiter shade, his eyes blinking hard at the single syllable that had plagued Bella for hours. In that moment, she knew that this was the secret, that Skye was the source of the phone calls and mystery "errands". But Jessica knew, then? How did she know?
"Bella, before I answer that, I have to tell you-"
"Fine," Bella said softly, "I'll just go back to the store and ask Jessica."
Bella attempted to push past Edward, but found herself ensnared in his arms, her own struggling desperately to break their hold. So lost in her anger, in her determination to know everything, even if it would make her sick, she scarcely made out Edward's protests.
"...Not from her! It should be from me. Bella, stop!"
"Are you going to tell me, then?" Bella asked angrily.
Edward nodded, "It's why I came looking for you just now. Please, Bella. I know you have every right to be mad that I've hidden something from you-"
"Something? Edward, you're cheating on me! That's a little more than something."
"Bella, what in the hell are you talking about?" Edward shouted.
Stunned, Bella stopped struggling, an enormous lump growing in her throat. Was he going to lie about it now? How could he be so cruel?
"I heard you and Jessica. She knows, too."
Edward sighed, "Jessica is Skye's niece. It was, unfortunately, unavoidable."
Bella sputtered now, her mind whirring with this latest tidbit, her knees weak, "You're cheating on me with someone's aunt?"
"Bella I am NOT cheating on you! My God, how could you not understand that you are my soul, my reason for breathing?"
Bella stumbled backwards, her eyes searching Edward's, desperate to find truth in this statement. Nothing made sense. Jessica had said... The calls... The notes, the errands, this Skye person... Sound seemed to recede, and her knees finally gave way, her eyes fluttering closed as the world began to spin violently. She felt Edward catch her, his arms swiftly moving beneath hers, pulling her against his lean body, steadying her as she struggled to breathe.
"Bella, please, breathe... God, if I had known the conclusions you would come to... Bella?"
Bella murmured, her head resting against his chest, the swirling kaleidoscope of colours in her mind bursting into a radiant light. Her head throbbed as she ordered her lungs to take in air, ordered her legs to hold her weight. Edward held her, his lips pressing against her hair, mumbling how much he loved her against her damp scalp. Conclusions she would draw... Was there another?
"Bella, look up at me. Please."
Bella rolled her head backwards, her chest tightening at the expression of hurt upon Edward's face. And in that instant, she knew two things: Edward had lied to her, without question, and was sorry for it; and secondly, that lie was not cheating on her. Shit. Bella cursed herself inwardly, her legs stabilizing as the steady chirping of the crickets grew louder, less surreal.
"I've lied about something pretty big. You're probably going to be upset. But I swear to you, on Carlisle's life - and you understand how much he means to me - that I'm not cheating on you. I could never even think of being with another woman, loving you as I do. Can you let me explain?"
Bella willed the contortions of her stomach to subside, nodding slowly. She needed to believe there was another explanation. To lose Edward would destroy her.
Edward took a deep breath, "I'm going to have to back up about a month. It's a long story, but it's all necessary..."
He'd been eyeing the glistening object on her stubby finger for an hour now, admiring the craftsmanship of the band, the unique cut of the stone and setting, astonished that someone generally so cliche and tacky had managed to choose an accessory that was so unique, so beautiful. He'd seized his opportunity quickly to determine its origin.
"Going for lunch. You coming, Edward?"
"I'll be there in a sec, Bella," he replied softly, kissing her forehead.
As she walked away, waving at Emmett struggling with a new display rack, Edward had rushed to Jessica's side, whispering in her ear.
"Where did you get that moonstone ring?"
Jessica beamed, "Oh my GOD, is it NOT incredible? I can't believe how amazing this ring is! And it fits so perfectly, too! I was saying to Lauren-"
"Jessica, what store?"
Jessica frowned; she hated being denied the opportunity to tell a story, "I didn't buy it."
"Oh. Any idea where it came from? I've wanted to get Bella a present and it seemed just the sort of taste I was looking for."
Jessica giggled, "Ooh! That's so sweet of you! My aunt made it for me, actually. She designs all sorts of things - rings, necklaces, chokers, bracelets. It's all handmade and incredible. She makes pretty decent money for her orders. Did you want her business card?"
"That would be tremendously helpful! But not a word to Bella, understand?" Edward stressed, accepting the card Jessica yanked from her purse.
"Oh I'll never tell! Romance is so exciting!"
Edward headed for the back of the store, anxious to join the woman who brightened his every day. As he began to push through the swinging doors, he heard Jessica call out to him.
"Have her check the cards!" Jessica shouted.
"You'll see!" Jessica laughed.
"I went to see her aunt, Skye, a few days later. You were out with Alice and Rosalie, so it was perfect timing. She has a gorgeous home and studio near the border to La Push. She showed me several pieces and a few raw stones, and I settled on a few designs to mull over and get back to her on."
Bella stared at Edward, "You wa-wanted to b-buy me jewellry?"
Edward smiled softly, "Yes, as a graduation gift. Before I left Skye's home that day, I found out what Jessica had meant by 'have her check the cards'. Skye reads the tarot - prides herself on her accuracy - and she was adamant she check my future..."
"I've never really believed in this sort of thing, Skye. I mean, it all seems a little... Unsubstantiated. Isn't it like astrology, where every fortune is so vague you're just bound to find some truth in it?"
Skye chuckled, "The cards are a little different. Things are left up to chance, and I'm the first to admit a deal is muddled if the cards are contradicting each other. But usually, they're pretty spot on... And there we are! Simple 3 card spread, Mr. Cullen. You ready for your fortune?"
Edward shrugged, "Sure. Lay it on me."
Skye smiled, "The past influences are ones of secrets - something left unsaid for reasons of fear, of being afraid to face them. That seems to have resolved in the present, but there are still obstacles to face. You're going to be facing a tough challenge ahead now that these secrets are out. You following me, sugar?"
Edward nodded, somewhat fascinated. Today was the day he'd promised Bella he'd discuss their idea to move in together with Charlie, a huge obstacle that likely wouldn't be as bad if they were still 'just friends'. But he'd confessed his secret love weeks ago and now, anyone with a quarter of a brain could tell they were an item. Charlie struck him as rather old-fashioned and a hard sell, but Edward was armed with arguments about finances and 'protecting Bella from the big city'... and the plan to get a two-bedroom apartment.
Skye eyed the final card in the spread with interest, her eyebrows raising, "This is a love matter, I think. It concerns you and the lovely Bella. And I'm not just saying that because this card is called 'The Lovers'. This seems like the sort of puzzle only love could bring. You're going to hit a road block in your romantic plans, Edward. But you will have a major creative insight, a grand solution, which, in turn, will bring you closer together. Just keep on your toes, and remember that you're going to have to be ballsy. You understand?"
Edward nodded slowly. This was crazy. Maybe there was something to it, after all. Or maybe Skye had a knack for conning unsuspecting twenty-somethings.
"Thanks, Skye. That was... Strange."
Skye rose, offering her hand, "You just let me know about that band design, and I will get straight to work on your lady's special gift. I'm pretty quiet for custom orders right now, so putting it together before you leave should be a breeze."
"I never told you how I convinced Charlie to allow us to move-in together, exactly. That's the biggest thing I've hidden from you in all of this, because to convince Charlie, I had to make a pretty enormous promise. I had to be bold, just as Skye had predicted. A lot of her predictions have come true, actually. It's kind of creepy."
Bella blinked hard, her face breaking into a smile that gave way to giggles, "I'm... I'm still confused and upset but... Oh God, Edward. Tarot? Fortune telling?"
"Hey, you let Skye read for you once and tell me she doesn't have some weird freaky insight. I need to ask Alice if her mom's called her or something; last time I asked about Alice, something about a troubled relationship reaching a crossroads came up and Skye thought maybe it was a parent."
Bella gasped, "You're totally addicted to this tarot shit, aren't you?"
"You're getting me away from my story, Bella," Edward protested, reaching out to hold her hand, "And I owe you the truth. Can I finish before we continue my emasculation?"
Bella nodded, her fingers interlacing loosely with Edward's, reluctantly beginning to accept his words, but still curious about this huge promise with Charlie. What on earth could Charlie have made Edward swear to that would have him this terrified? For it was terror; behind the smiles and light jokes, Edward's eyes were shifting about in the way he did when afraid of a reaction, his palm damp and clammy.
"You knew all of the ammo I was going to walk in with: saving money, the big bad city, two bedrooms for propriety, how long we've known each other. I told you that in the end, Charlie understood how much I cared for you and consented. What I didn't tell you... was how I proved I meant it."
His hand clutching her tightly now, he leaned in and kissed her, softly, Bella's heart racing at the contact. Only Edward could make her feel this way; only he could turn her anger into reverence with a simple touch. Pulling away, he swallowed hard, gazing into her eyes with a nervousness she'd seen only once before: the moment he'd confessed his love for her on the roof. Bella's bewilderment turned quickly to a dizzying understanding as Edward, hand still laced with hers, lowered himself slowly to one knee. Her kness swayed slightly, her eyes blurring with tears.
"Bella Swan, I've watched you blossom from a tomboy absorbed in her studies and Sarah McLachlan Cds to a woman with incredible taste in music, a body that leaves me breathless each time my eyes behold it, and someone with the most loving and selfless heart ever known. I've witnessed the tears, the scars, the drunken dancing and the giggling over movies and Twizzlers. We've fought, we've cried, we've laughed, and you've enthralled my very soul the entire four years I've known you. I grant you, the dating hasn't been long, but you know me, more than anyone ever has or ever will. And I know what I want for the rest of my life: you, beside me always. Will you consent to being my partner, my love, my wife?"
Bella gasped for air, her left hand reaching up to brush away tears. Edward looked up at her, his face clouding with worry as he realized she'd said nothing, but had merely cried. Bella struggled to speak, finding herself mute, her lips in motion but no phrases parting from her suddenly parched lips. Edward quickly looked away, his voice barely a whisper.
"I know it's sudden, and we can have the longest engagement ever known-"
"Yes." Her reply was barely a whisper, not enough to pierce the panic of Edward's rambling mind.
"- And Charlie agreed that even if you said no, that it was okay -"
Bella tugged lightly on Edward's hand, licking her lips and concentrating deeply on her speech. As he looked up at her, those incredible green eyes that mesmerized her, she smiled, tears still streaming down her face.
"Yes," she said again, scarcely louder.
It was loud enough. Edward rose slowly to his feet, eyeing her in disbelief until she finally had the intelligent idea to nod furiously, at which point he embraced her tightly, his own body shaking with nerves and excitement, the two of them a trembling mess. Bella's mind flooded with the implications of the single word she'd barely choked out.
Marriage? Oh, God. Didn't I say I would never do it after Charlie and Renee? Oh God, Renee. What will she think? Oh my God, I have to plan a wedding? I feel sick. But I love him, so very much. He said long engagement. He said. Really long, more like.
Edward drew back slowly, his face flushed and glowing as he gazed upon her, and Bella felt... worshipped. There was truly no other word for it. And even as she knew that she was elated in this decision, she still had to ask just a few things.
"The late night calls?"
"Skye, calling to confirm details of the ring. I told her I was a night owl, but she didn't take into account the fact that I prefer to keep you by my side at all times."
"And Jessica knew about... about..."
Edward smiled, "Me proposing? Unfortunately, Skye let it slip. I'm shocked that twit kept her mouth shut, actually."
"And those papers I found with addresses and numbers?"
"One had Skye's home address and number on it. One was a prospective apartment for us I turned down eventually."
Bella frowned, looking away, "I can't believe I thought... I don't deserve someone like you, Edward."
Edward caressed her cheek, shaking his head, "It looked bad. And I did keep something huge from you, Bella. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The only thing that kept me silent was fear of rejection. Fear that you would leave me in a panic."
Bella's eyes widened, "I couldn't... I... NEVER! I love you, Edward. I'll always want you."
With a swift and smooth motion, Edward produced a ring box from within his hoodie pocket, "May I?"
Bella nodded furiously, and Edward opened the box slowly, revealing a ring as beautiful and atypical as the path of their relationship. The white gold band wove as if it were a creeping vine, tiny leaves between sprawling roots that encircled it. The centrepiece, however, was the brilliant pale blue stone in the centre, a smooth oval shape, a cut she had never seen before. And within the stone lay an imperfection that she couldn't quite discern. Catching her stare, Edward withdrew the ring from the box, reaching for her left hand.
"I wanted something as rare and unique as you are, Bella. This stone is a star sapphire. Before sapphires are processed, many of them have the illusion of a star within them. As you are the star in my sky, the light I follow everywhere, I thought it was perfect for you. For us. I know you hate diamonds."
"Oh Edward... It's so beautiful... And symbolic..."
Bella splayed her fingers, more tears tumbling to her blouse as Edward slipped the ring onto her finger, an act that both thrilled her and terrified her. My God, I said yes to marriage. I swore I would never marry. But him... Just for him. The ring settled perfectly into place, the moon above lending a gleam to the stone. She then watched as Edward withdrew the ring box again - no, this one was a different colour - and opened it, revealing a large white-gold band with the same vine-like woven pattern upon it. Bella eyes Edward in confusion.
"I know you've always said marriage scares you, because of your parents. I decided that to make things equally scary, I would have Skye make me a ring as well. The same little reminder of wonder and anxiety to gaze down upon each day until we take our vows," Edward explained, placing his ring upon his finger, "Skye wanted to check the sizing today; that's where I went after lunch."
"That's so... You remembered that?"
"I remember everything you've told me, Bella Swan. There's one more thing I need to confess, though."
Bella nodded, taking a deep breath, "Okay."
"In addition to Charlie, Skye and Jessica... Esme, Carlisle, Renee and Phil have all known about my intentions for two weeks. Carlisle says we're welcome to do the ceremony at his house, whenever that may be."
Bella gasped, "Renee knows?! She can't keep a secret to save her life! I... Oh my God. She hasn't called in weeks. I thought she was busy with Phil's baseball, but now... She's been dodging me?"
Edward chuckled, "She told me that it was the only way she'd manage not to tell you. She gave her phone to Phil and everything, so she couldn't text you."
Bella shook her head, "Edward Anthony Cullen, you overwhelm me."
"That's a good thing, right?"
Bella's answer was reaching up on her toes, throwing her arms around Edward's neck and kissing him passionately, her tongue beckoning his deeper into her mouth, her body pressing against his with desperate need. She suddenly felt the urge to make love, right now, in the woods. Her body ached for Edward, ached to feel his palms against her pale skin, to feel his mouth upon her flesh, hot kisses burning along her thighs, her breasts, her waist. From the way he moaned against her lips, his shaft hardening in his pants as she pressed closer, she knew that the electricity went both ways. But the store...
"Damn it," Bella gasped, "Alice is throwing us a party in like, minutes."
"We'll be fashionably late," Edward muttered, his lips meeting Bella's bare collarbone as a hand slipped beneath her skirt.
"Oh Edward.... Hey... Come on! Mmm fuck yes.... I mean, NO. She'll be hurt!" Bella protested, willing herself to ignore the single finger slipped inside her panties that circled her clitoris in painfully slow circles.
"Alice will understand," Edward mumbled, nipping Bella's neck playfully.
"Edward, fuck, you know what my body wants... But we are moving away in two days."
Edward sighed, "You're right..."
Suddenly, he scooped Bella up into his arms, cradling her in such a way that... No, he wouldn't... fuck, yes he would... his finger found its way back inside her panties, still stroking her, driving her insane, as he walked slowly along the pathway towards the store.
"But I'll be damned Bella if I don't hear you gasping my name first."
Alice skipped merrily to the store's glass doors, flipping the locks into place and clapping her hands excitedly.
"No more work! Party time! Everyone haul ass up to the roof!"
Rosalie shook her head, laughing, "Isn't it wonderful how the rest of us slaved all day to box this joint up, while Alice played with food and pretty lights?"
"Planning the best goodbye party for your best friends is incredibly hard work, thank you!" Alice replied, skipping lightly to the stereo and inserting a CD.
"And where are the guests of honour, anyway?" Esme asked, "It's been a while since I've seen either of them."
"They were out walking along the path," Jacob mentioned absently from the spiral stairs, upon which he sat, somewhat sullen.
Emmett chuckled "Oh they were walking, huh? I'm sure it was a very pleasant walk."
Jasper groaned, "Not everyone is a nympho like you and Rosalie, Emm. Some of us can manage to make it to the bedroom."
"Or at least a room!" Alice added slyly, dancing about to Bouncing Off Clouds by Tori Amos, the driving piano beat soon taking hold of Rosalie's hips as well.
"Who needs a room?" a familiar voice asked from the back of the store.
The staff turned in unison, hooting and clapping as Bella and Edward entered the storefront, the two of them blushing at the attention. Alice reached behind the counter, rushing towards her friends with glowing necklaces.
"Roof party! Put these on!" Alice insisted, attempting to reach high enough to adorn Edward.
"Let me help," Edward protested, taking hold of the glowing blue band as Bella adjusted her own necklace with her left hand.
Alice froze for a moment, her eyes widening as she looked to Edward, to Bella, and to the ring upon her finger. Without warning, she threw her arms around Bella, squealing in excitement.
"I told you four years ago!" she crowed trumphantly, "I knew it! Oh my God, when?"
"When what?" Jasper asked, stepping closer.
"Just now. Outside," Edward replied.
Esme clapped excitedly, "Oh thank goodness! I was about to burst!"
"What's going on?" Emmett asked, confused by the commotion.
"Ladies and gentlemen of Velvet Records," Alice proclaimed, "Bella and Edward are ENGAGED!"
Rosalie gasped, "Shut up! That's awesome!"
Bella flushed bright red, burying her face in Edward's shirt, "Come on, calm down -"
"Oh my GOD! It's about time!" Jessica exclaimed, pulling out her cell phone, "I have to text Skye!"
"RING." Rosalie declared, rushing forward to look at Bella's hand, "Oh, WOW. That is so unique! Love it!"
"Thanks," Edward said, flashing his own hand, "We kinda match."
"Dude, you're so whipped!" Emmett joked, reaching out to shake Edward's hand, "No, for real, this is awesome dude. Congrats!"
Bella pulled herself away from Edward and found herself face to face with Carlisle. With a warm smile, he embraced her, whispering 'welcome to the family' in her ear, which made Bella's heart skip. Thanking him, she caught sight of Jacob on the stairs and her face fell slightly. This can't be easy for him to find out. Jacob rose slowly, forcing a brave smile as he joined the mob surrounding the couple, his hands tucked deep into his jeans.
"Congrats, Bells. He better make you happy, or I reserve the right to beat him down!" Jacob's tone was light, even those his eyes were clouded over.
"You can be first in line," Bella said quietly, smiling.
The music shifted suddenly and Bella froze, her jaw dropping open. Alice burst into a fit of giggles as Edward and Rosalie shook their heads, knowing the wrath of Bella would soon be near.
"Wanna go for a ride?"
"Alice Brandon! Turn this off right now!" Bella demanded, making her way for the stereo.
Emmett, sensng amusement, picked Bella up off the floor, her feet kicking in the air, "Why the Barbie Girl hate, Bella? It's a classic!"
Alice began singing along, skipping around the store, waving a price gun in lieu of a microphone. Rushing up to Bella, she held it out, her fierce look making her intentions clear.
"Alice," Bella whined.
"You're leaving me!" Alice countered, "You can brush my hair! Undress me everywhere!"
"Damn it," Bella cursed, knowing it was hopeless, that Alice would have her way, or else.
Right on cue, in such a male voice Jacob clutched his gut laughing, Bella rolled her eyes and sang: "Come on Barbie - let's go party!"
"Upstairs! I've rigged speakers out there from here!" Alice announced, leading the charge for the back of the store.
Edward threw an arm around Bella as Emmett released her, stroking her wavy hair gently, "There's booze upstairs. I won't even cut you off tonight."
"Only for Alice," Bella grumbled.
"Cheer up, love. We have a whole lifetime to look forward to, and plenty of time to dream up revenge for Ms. Brandon."
"I heard that!" Alice yelled from the front of the group.
"Oh I'll punish her for you," Jasper quipped, earning a smack from the pixie as they made their way upstairs.
"Life without this place will be surreal," Bella mused, "Even more surreal than Harvard."
"But we'll be together," Edward said softly, "We can face anything. Even boring jobs."
Bella smiled, "Yes, I think we can."
As the group emerged onto the roof, eyeing the star-shaped patio lights, the enormous spread of goodies on trays along two folding tables and the ridiculous supply of alcohol, Bella felt all fears, all worries, fading away. Tonight was about Velvet, about friendship - no, about family. Staring down at her ring finger, she smiled. There was plenty of time to worry tomorrow, to fret over moving trucks and wedding dresses and keeping a 4.0.
"No day but today, right?" Bella said, tapping Alice on the arm.
"Viva la vie Boheme!" Alice exclaimed, hugging her best friend, "Happy going away, you two. And happy engagement! Now, we dance!"
Edward laughed as Alice dragged Bella out further onto the roof, twirling her around to the bouncy music surrounding them, speakers nestled among the glowing stars. As much as he wanted time with his fiancee - God, she'd really said yes, just like Skye thought she would - he was content to watch her shine, surrounded by the people that loved them. The light bounced off the silky locks of her hair as she and Alice spun, both girls giggling with the same enthusiasm as the day they'd met, the day he'd trained them for the store, and Edward grinned. His eyes wandered the roof, watching as Jacob tormented Jessica in a corner... Emmett fed Rosalie strawberries, their eyes locked upon each other.... Jasper being dragged into the dancing fray by Alice, shaking his head but secretly loving it... to Esme and Carlisle, popping champagne and pouring 10 glasses, murmuring softly to each other.
There was no other word for a night like tonight, he mused. Perfect.
This story has been nominated at the Indie Twific awards! Thank you so much! Stay tuned for your opportunity to vote!