As we drove down the long, winding driveway, Edward looked at me like a man seeing the sunrise for the first time. The love and adoration was humbling and, quite frankly, a bit embarrassing.
"Seriously, it's not that big of a deal," I mumbled.
His golden eyes smoldered even more at that statement. "She loves you more than you know," he told me. "This is a gift only you could give her."
"I know," I sighed with a small smile on my lips. While I adored my soon-to-be sister, what was coming this afternoon was on the border of my comfort zone. However, I knew a lifetime of thank you's would never repay her for all she had done for me. With all of the wedding details and the fact that she was my maid-of-honor, I felt like it was time to give Alice a gift.
As we pulled past the house and into the garage, I was surprised that Alice wasn't on the front porch, ready to pounce me. I was sure she would've saw my plan...
As if he could hear my though, his smooth, velvet voice informed me, "She is waiting in her bathroom for you."
I took a deep breath and put on a shaky smile. "Here goes nothing."
The smile quickly vanished as his smoldering eyes locked on mine. Ice cold fingertips brushed the back of my neck, causing goosebumps to appear on the trail his fingers made. He slowly touched his forehead to mine, the cold of his skin a sharp contrast to my hot blush. Just as I was expecting his lips to touch mine, he chuckled. "Alice is yelling at me; we had better go on in." Before I could respond, my door was being opened and Edward's hand was waiting to help me out.
We entered the Cullen house, and as usual, it felt like coming home. I smiled at the rest of the family who was scattered throughout the first floor in various pursuits. I mouthed "Thanks" to Jasper when he sent a wave of calm confidence to me. Edward quickly kissed my cheek as we reached the bottom of the staircase, then he let go of my hand after a very gentle squeeze.
I entered Alice's bathroom to see my sister, a huge pixie grin, and all of her 'Bella Barbie' cosmetics on her vanity. I good-naturedly muttered something about fortune-telling vampires, but I was secretly happy she had everything ready.
"Bella, I—" she started, but little Alice was so excited that she could not think of anything to say. She bounced instead.
"I see how you are," I teased her. "You can dish it, but you can't take it."
This made her laugh her tinkling, pixie laugh. I continued in a mock- firm voice, "Sit down and no complaining."
Alice sat down, and I took a deep breath. With unlimited money and time, there was little I had that my sister did not. Getting her a maid-of-honor gift was something that I had thought about for weeks. I imagine Alice had fun watching the future shift as I decided and then undecided many different presents. Eventually, I realized I had one gift I could give her that her money could not buy--my warmth.
I remembered back to the first day Edward had taken me to our meadow, and he told me that the warmth of my hands felt amazing. Taking courage from that memory, and trying to remember all of the pedicures I watched Renee get, I walked to Alice and grabbed her ankle. I took off her designer sandals and grabbed a bottle of what I hoped was lotion off of the vanity.
I squeezed what looked like a reasonable amount and started massaging her foot. Since her skin was impermeable, the lotion did not actually enter her skin, but it did rub into my hands. But it wasn't the lotion I was hoping to give her, but the warmth of my hands.
"Edward's right, that does feel good," she laughed.
By this point, her foot was not ice cold anymore (although not warm, either), so I moved on to the other one. The lotion and friction was keeping my hands warm, even though it felt like I was massaging something frozen.
After warming both feet, I wiped my hands and studied her toenails. I knew that usually the pedicurist would trim Renee's toenails next, but I doubted any of those clippers would cut vampire nails. Besides, I tried to avoid sharp objects when I was in a house of vampires. Her nails looked fine to me, so I wisely decided to move on to polish.
I looked at the row of colors lined up on the counter. My eyes passed over the deep reds and landed on a bright pink bottle that reminded me of Alice's bright personality.
"Oh, good choice!" Alice cried before my hand even reached for the polish.
Smiling, I opened the bottle and looked at the end of the brush. Until that moment, I did not think too much about the fact that I had never painted nails before. Oh, well, I thought. It couldn't be that hard.
I drug the brush across her first toenail and frowned. It did not look like Renee's toes after her manicures. I tried again, hoping more paint would help.
I finished one foot, and if I squinted my eyes and looked at her foot sideways, it didn't look too bad. As I started on her second foot, a peculiar look came over Alice's face. "Oh!" she exclaimed. Then she smiled. "Awesome."
Knowing she was not commenting on my nail-painting expertise, I assumed she foresaw something that would be happening. I gave her a questioning look, bit before I could ask what she saw, I got my answer.
A soft knock on the doorframe of Alice's bathroom door alerted me to some stealthy vampire's presence. However, Rosaile was the last one I expected to see standing there.
"Can I come in?" she asked tentatively.
My skin colored at the thought of perfect Rosalie seeing my childish attempt to paint Alice's toenails. Rosalie noticed my hesitation and a look of hurt quickly crossed her face, almost gone before I noticed. Almost.
"Please do," I answered, trying to hide my shame. "I am afraid I am not doing a very good job."
I expected Alice to contest my claim; instead, she just grinned.
"No, you are doing a fine job,'" Rosalie lied. "The first coat is the hardest. Maybe I can help with the second coat."
Relieved, I handed the brush to Rosalie who quickly and expertly applied another coat of pink polish, covering up my feeble attempt. Stupid perfect vampire . She finished both feet in the amount of time it would have taken me to shakily paint one toe. Alice wiggled her toes with a giggle, making both Rosalie and me smile.
I jumped with surprise when I heard the 'click' of the Cullen's rarely used camera. With perfect recall memory, and the need to hide their never-aging status, pictures were rarely taken. "Sorry to interrupt," Esme said. "I just had to get a picture of my three girls together."
I smiled at my future mother-in-law, wondering at the blessing I was getting. Most new brides dreaded inheriting a mother-in-law. However, I could not wait until I could call Esme my mother, too. Especially considering that very shortly, I would not be able to see Renee anymore.
Edward's face appeared over Esme's shoulder. "Thanks Edward!" Alice exclaimed. Edward looked at me and said, "Alice just asked me to take one of you three with Esme." Another case of my...fiance's...mindreading abilities coming in handy. Eternity with a mind-reader and a future-seer was going to take some getting used to.
Esme was beside me before I could blink, and the four of us posed and smiled at Edward, who snapped the picture. When he lowered the camera, a look of wonder was on his face as he looked at the four of us, arms around each other, smiles on our faces.
Alice wiggled her toes again. "I have to go show Jasper!" She was gone in an instant, followed by Rosalie who appeared to be getting uncomfortable with all of the mushiness. I could relate. Esme quietly excused herself when she noticed that Edward's gaze of awe had not left my face. As the door softly clicked behind her, Edward walked toward me.
I smiled to him, "Well, that went better than I feared. And I think Alice enjoyed it."
He slowly shook his head. "You have no idea how happy you have made our family today. Not just Alice…but Esme, Jasper….Rosalie…"
"Rosalie?" I asked skeptically.
Edward looked thoughtful for a moment. "I know Rose doesn't show it, but she loves her family fiercely. She loves Alice, and you have made Alice very, very happy today. That's why she came upstairs to help—er, work with you," he finished, a guilty grin on his face. You made my mother and sisters happy, and we men are happy when our women are happy," he finished with a grin.
"Oh, I'm your woman now?" I asked with a sly smile on my face. I marveled at the way my stomach fluttered at the sound of Edward calling me "his woman." While I was starting to feel uncomfortable with the emotions swirling around (still too much Charlie in me—where was Jasper when I needed him?) I was unable to hide the love in my eyes, both for him and for my new family.
As Edward leaned forward to kiss me, he whispered right before his lips touched mine, "Ignore her." I was confused for a few moments both by his cryptic statement and because of what his lips were doing to mine until I heard Alice behind me. "Hey, I heard that!" she pouted. "Besides…you two are in MY bathroom."
Edward chuckled and replied, "Well, I can fix that. We'll go finish this in my bedroom."
The blush on my face made both Edward and Alice laugh, and before Edward could pull me from the room, Alice danced over and kissed me on the cheek. "Thank you, Bella. It is the best gift I could've asked for. I love you, Bella."
I smiled back at my future sister and best girlfriend. "I love you too, Alice. Thank you for being my maid-of-honor and for all of the hard work you've put into the wedding." I saw her wink at me as Edward whisked me from the room, taking me away to show me his gratitude in the pseudo-privacy that we enjoyed in a house with my new family of vampires.