A/N: Hello! Long time, no update. This story is completely written, so I will be posting it about a chapter a week from now on. So, unlike my other stories (I suck), you won't have to wait for me to get my ass in gear to update - because anyone who reads my stories knows, I am a terrible procrastinator. Anyhoo -- on with it:
Thanks to Citikitti for the beta.
Chapter 1 – My Best Sister's Wedding
My little sister was getting married. This was a subject she'd talked about and obsessed over since the age of four, which, incidentally, was also the first time she had watched Cinderella. Though my older brother and I had tried our damnedest to get her to shut up over the years – me by politely attempting to steer the conversation in another direction, him by telling her that she looked more like one of the seven dwarves than she did Cinderella (he always did mix up his fairytales) – she never did stop. Not for one moment.
And finally, after all of her planning and all of her sibling torture, it was nearly here -- her day, as she called it -- because who gave a crap about the groom? All that mattered was that my sister was happy. Luckily, her fiancé agreed with that sentiment.
But today – one week before her impending nuptials, one week before the self-proclaimed "best day of her life" -- my sister was stressed and worried. The reason for her uncharacteristic stress? The arrival of her soon-to-be groom's best man. His best man who, it just so happened wasn't a man at all, but his female best friend since childhood -- a woman whom my sister had yet to meet; a woman for whom we were now waiting at the arrivals gate at Logan Airport.
Alice was clasping my hand in a sweaty vice-grip, watching her fiancé Jasper pace back and forth in front of us, his nerves and excitement evident on his face and in his posture. I was both nervous and excited just watching him. If there was one thing I had learned about Jasper over the past three years, it was that his feelings were catching. The guy was enthusiastic to the extreme, his copious amounts of energy only surpassed by his overt charm. He was Alice's perfect match, which was exactly what she told me over the phone ten minutes after having met him while in Pennsylvania for an architectural conference.
Our older brother Emmett and his wife Rosalie were standing on Alice's right, arguing about football. I concentrated on their conversation for a moment, trying to block Alice's nervous muttering from my mind, but they were even more irritating so I looked back towards Jasper.
He was checking the arrivals board for the hundredth time, and once again, having found that the 4:40 flight from Athens was on time, he resumed his pacing, the big stupid, grin that spread across his face causing Alice to gouge her French manicure into my hand.
Five minutes later Alice had yet to disengage her claws, and Jasper was searching every face that passed through the double doors in front of us for any sign of Bella.
He let loose a tremendous whoop when he finally spotted her fighting with the zipper on the bag she had slung across her body.
Her head sprang up at his boisterous greeting, and they ran to each other, just like in a scene from a cheesy film, complete with into-the-arms leaping and theatrical spinning around.
Alice's grip on my hand increased. When did she get so freakishly strong?
"Oh," she moaned dejectedly. "The photos didn't do her justice. She's even prettier than I thought!"
Pretty wasn't a word I would have used to describe the creature in Jasper's arms: gorgeous, perfect, angelic, Goddess -- any of those would have been more appropriate.
My sister was looking at me reproachfully; she had been hoping for a sympathetic ear and all I was doing was confirming her insecurities. "Yeah, she's certainly beautiful," came out of my mouth. I hadn't meant to say it; I had meant to say something along the lines of "she's all right", or "not too shabby." I tried very hard to look remorseful.
Alice's worried eyes swung back towards her fiancé and his best friend.
"God, look at her boobs," she continued in a melancholy tone. "She has amazing boobs."
I didn't want to objectify the girl, but Alice had told me to look. And she was right of course; they were perfectly round and perky and jabbing into Jasper as he swung her about. "Uh-huh… amazing boobs…" I cleared my throat, embarrassed.
Alice smacked me hard in the side. "Edward! Not helping!" she scolded in a loud whisper.
"You told me to look!" I tore my eyes away from perky boobs and brown hair to look down at my sister. "Al, seriously, what's gotten into you? You're being silly."
I heard Jasper's hearty laugh, followed by a deliciously low, rumbling chuckle. Whisky voice. My eyes snapped towards the, er, stimulating sound. I had always been a sucker for a voice like that.
"She's funny, too. Just look at him laugh!"
"Alice, you already knew she was funny. We've all heard Jasper's Bella stories. It doesn't mean anything. This isn't like you; it's freaking me out, quite frankly. You've just got to trust Jasper. Don't you trust Jasper?"
She sighed heavily. "Of course I do, but… but look at how she holds onto him, Edward. What if she tries to pull a Julia Roberts on me? What then?"
The saddest part wasn't that Alice was relying on movies to construct theories on male/female friendships so much as it was the fact that I knew exactly to what she was referring.
"She's not going to pull a Julia Roberts on you, sis. Jasper is not the kind of guy who's friends with Julia Roberts, now, is he?"
"I suppose you're right," she muttered, but she didn't sound as if she truly believed it. "Oh God, here she comes. She's going to hate me."
I rolled my eyes. No one had ever hated Alice before in her entire perky little life, and I was sure that this (gorgeous, sexy, luscious) best friend of Jasper's would be no different.
I heard her voice as they drew nearer – I was right, she did have a whisky voice. It was low and gravely and, fuck me, so damn sexy. She was laughing again at something Jasper had said.
"I've missed you, Globe Trotter," he said with a grin.
"What, do I play choreographed basketball now?" She started humming the Harlem Globetrotters theme music and pretended to keep the ball away from Jasper. Alice shot me a nasty glare when I erupted into laughter along with him.
Jasper ruffled her hair playfully and she ducked under his arm. "No, I was referring to the fact that you have been traipsing around the globe with no thought for the suffering of your dear friends at home."
She studied her hands in mock boredom. "I am very revered and important; I have no time for the likes of you."
Jasper snorted and grabbed the hand she'd been studying. "Well, Ms. Revered and Important, you have dirt under your fingernails."
"Jazz, I'm an archaeologist; I always have dirt under my fingernails."
"Pssh, you had dirt nails before you even started grade school."
She shrugged and pushed Jasper away with a grin. "Fair deuce."
He placed his hand on the small of her back and turned her in our direction. "Well, Bella, this lovely lady right here is my Alice."
Alice finally released me from her death grip and stepped forward. Bella smiled brightly. "It's so great to finally meet you, Alice," she said, and held out a hand for my sister to shake. But, Alice being Alice, she forwent this common introductory courtesy and flung her little arms around Bella's neck.
"I can't believe I'm finally meeting you either! I feel like I know you already with how much Jasper talks about you."
Bella's eyes were comically wide; she looked well out of her element. She patted Alice's back while my sister continued to squeeze her and gush. "You're so pretty! The way Jas talks about you, you'd think you were a guy! Oh, we're going to have so much fun…"
I looked over at Jasper to find a mischievous grin on his face. He knew exactly how uncomfortable his best friend was, and he was loving it.
If no one else was going to come to her rescue… "Alice, okay now. Disengage. You're squeezing the life right out of her. Seriously, her eyeballs look about ready to pop out of her head."
I pulled Alice's arms down from around Bella's neck and they stepped apart. Bella was blushing and attempting to smile at Alice, but she still looked a little freaked out.
"Oh, Edward, don't be silly," Alice scoffed.
Jasper cleared his throat and Bella turned to face him. I couldn't see the look on her face, but Jasper was trying his damnedest to hold in a laugh. "Bell, this is Edward, Alice's brother," he said, motioning to me.
Bella kept her back to me for a moment, she and Jasper seemed to be engaged in a silent conversation that he found quite amusing. She finally turned and smiled at me, holding out a hand.
She glanced down at her offered hand with a smirk. "Unless you want to have a turn molesting me, too."
Very tempting. "Umm…" I laughed. "I think I'll stick to the social niceties for the time being. But thanks for the offer all the same." I reached out a hand and captured her small one in it as she laughed.
She stared directly into my eyes for a moment, before wrenching her gaze away. "And who are these lovely, tall people?" she asked, turning towards Emmett and Rosalie.
As Alice was making the introductions, I barely made out Bella whispering to Jasper between clenched teeth, "I hate you so much." He patted her on the back with a quiet chuckle, neither of them having taken their eyes off of my brother and his wife throughout the entire exchange.
"Okay," Jasper said, rubbing his hands together, "let's get your luggage and get out of here. We're going to be smack in the middle of rush hour as it is."
We collected Bella's luggage – Alice was floored that she had only one suitcase – and headed to Emmett's massive Jeep.
I climbed in the back, expecting Alice to join me in order to allow Jasper and Bella time to catch up, but after a few seconds of fumbling and dirty looks passing between them, Jasper forcibly pushed Bella onto the seat beside me, where she landed with an "oof". I held out my hand to steady her; she was slipping sideways off the seat.
"Is he always so pushy with you?" I asked her.
She looked up at me, blowing her messy brown locks out of her face with an exasperated huff. "He's such a bastard," she replied. "I hope he hasn't conned you into thinking he's a good guy."
Jasper twisted in his seat to grace her with a wide grin. "I've missed you too, Ding Dong."
She gave him the finger and he began to cackle.
"So, Bella," I said, "how long will you be in town?"
"Two weeks. I'm flying back to Athens after the wedding."
Jasper once again turned around in his seat, but this time he wasn't smiling.
"Don't you say a word," she warned him. "I told you that was the deal. I have work that needs to be done."
"Don't you always."
Bella turned her head abruptly to stare out the window. I could hear her teeth grinding together.
Alice's large eyes met mine; she was silently pleading with me to do something.
I widened my own eyes in response and shrugged my shoulders infinitesimally; I had no idea what to say.
"Bella, your dress fitting is tomorrow – I can't wait until you see it! I designed it myself. I thought it would be difficult, but buildings, dresses, it's really not that different."
Bella turned her eyes towards my sister's worried ones. "I'm sure it'll be lovely, Alice. Especially if that house you designed for the Brazilian model is anything to go by. Jasper sent me pictures."
"Thanks! That was a personal best. It matches the tuxes – the dress, not the house," she giggled nervously. "I can't really describe it; you have to see it in person."
Bella smiled and nodded her head, then yawned hugely. She clapped a hand over her mouth and looked from me to Alice, her cheeks flushed. "Sorry, it was a very long flight."
"Well, it looks like you're going to have plenty of time for a nap," Emmett bellowed from up front as he merged into traffic on the interstate and came to a dead stop. It was backed up as far as the eye could see. We all settled into our respective seats, sighing.
Thirty minutes later we began moving smoothly again. I stared morosely out the window – I was hoping to be trapped in the Jeep for a little longer. Bella had heeded Emmett's advice to nap and her head was currently resting on my shoulder as she snoozed peacefully. She had originally dozed off leaning against the window, but after much tossing, turning and muttering, she had landed on me.
Jasper laughed at my startled expression. "Poke me if she says anything funny. Or potentially embarrassing," he added as an afterthought.
If she says anything? I looked down into her face; her full lips were pushed out in an adorable pout and her brow was furrowed.
"But I don't like cabbage, Edward," she whined.
Jasper burst out laughing.
I should have been amused, but I was far too taken aback by the feelings that coursed through me upon hearing my name on her sweet lips for the first time. I scolded myself for even recognising the fact that it was the first time she had uttered my name; when had I become a teenaged girl?
Emmett pulled into my parents' driveway and turned off the engine. I leaned my head down to whisper in Bella's ear that it was time to wake up, when Jasper poked her ungraciously in the side of the head.
"Wake up, Ding Dong. Jesus Christ, you're drooling all over Edward."
Her head snapped up, face reddening. She began wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand. "Oh shit, did I? I'm so sorry." She looked over at me, her eyes apologetic.
I had just opened my mouth to contradict Jasper's claim when he interrupted me again.
"I think you were having one of your dreams," he said, stressing the last word.
She widened her eyes, and then closed them, rubbing her hand through her dishevelled hair and over her face. She let out a low, gravelly sound before standing up and exciting the Jeep on shaky legs.
I stared after her with longing. Jasper was smirking at me when I turned towards him. He reached back and clapped me on the arm. "Come on, man. Let's go in."
Dinner was a quiet affair, and I somehow found myself seated next to Bella again, not that I was complaining. Everything about her was fascinating to me – from the stories of her nomadic life to the simplest mannerism. I caught myself watching her jaw as she chewed, the long column of her throat as she swallowed her wine.
My parents both loved her – asking question after question about the digs she had been on, the things she had seen. My father was especially taken with her, having a vast knowledge of and interest in anthropology.
After dinner my brother suggested that we all watch a movie. There was a Godzilla marathon on the monster channel, which began a heated discussion on the attributes of each Godzilla incarnation – something that both Jasper and Bella were very passionate about.
"Godzilla vs. Mothra? Pssh! Everyone knows Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is far superior."
"Whatever, Jasper. How many times are we going to have this argument when you know I'll win?"
"You don't win if your opponent doesn't agree with you."
"It's a victory if you make all of the most valid points, which I do. 'Bitch please, it's way cooler' does not a valid argument make."
Emmett was grinning from ear to ear; he rarely had anyone to discuss monster movies with. "Why don't we just watch them both and put it to a vote?" he suggested. "Then you guys can settle it once and for all."
"Great idea, since I will win," Jasper said with a smirk at Bella.
"You wish," she retorted, and popped a bite of cheesecake into her mouth.
"But first I want to play you something; I learned a new song."
Alice groaned. Jasper's banjo was the bane of her existence.
"Not a fan of the banjo?" Bella asked her. "Sorry about that – it's sort of my fault."
"How is it your fault?" I asked, laughing at the long-suffering expression on my sister's face.
"The first summer Bella and I spent apart, we each set forth a challenge for the other. Kind of a contest," Jasper explained. "Mine was to learn to play the banjo. I challenged Bella to ace the Thigh Master." He laughed in remembrance.
"What happened?" I asked, directing my question at Bella; her face was turning that delicious colour of red again.
"Well, Jasper learned to play the banjo... and I dislocated my kneecap."
I cringed. "Ouch."
"Yeah, I'm not the most coordinated person in the world. Which was why Jasper chose the Thigh Master in the first place. He knew he would win."
"I am a devious man," Jasper agreed, giving Bella a significant look. She quirked an eyebrow at him, but said nothing.
"But look at you now, Bells! You've got muscular thighs better than a Thigh Master could tone, and look at those pipes!" he reached over and grabbed her arm, wrapping his fingers around the upper portion as she flexed the muscles. "Those are pretty impressive for a former string bean."
"It's from lifting the lids off of sarcophagi," she said, before laughing at the collection of impressed faces surrounding her. "Not really. I like to pretend I'm Indiana Jones, but unfortunately I'm not that exciting."
My seating arrangement luck unfortunately didn't hold out – Bella squeezed in beside Jasper on the couch as soon as we all settled in the living room for the Godzilla marathon. I took a nearby loveseat with a sigh.
We munched popcorn and drank more wine through Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again. Alice and Jasper were becoming more amorous with each mouthful of wine that my sister consumed. I could see Bella eyeing them with a look of repugnance. I caught her eye and crinkled my nose. She laughed, then grabbed her wine glass and moved over to sit next to me.
"It's like watching your parents make out, isn't it?" she whispered. "I could hear their tongues slurping around. Gross." I laughed as she shuddered.
Jasper sat up straight when the opening titles of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla flashed across the screen. "Now this is a Godzilla movie."
Bella rolled her eyes and tucked her feet up under her, the movement causing her to shift closer to me; she smelled divine.
I tried vainly to pay attention to the movie and not stare at Bella's profile in the blue glow of the television. After a short while – I couldn't be sure how much time passed as I studied her – she threw her head back against the loveseat with a groan, then rolled it to the side until she was facing me. She looked irritated. I cursed myself – had she noticed my rapt attention was not focused on the horrible film, but entirely on her? Was she going to tell me off?
"Well, you've certainly got my vote," I said, blurting out the first thing that came to me, hoping to make it seem as if I had indeed been watching the movie.
"Hmm?" she asked lazily. She looked sleepy, her eyes heavy with exhaustion and alcohol.
"This one is terrible – Godzilla is hardly even in it."
She visibly perked up. "I know! It's the worst one!"
"I don't know," I pretended to muse. "I've got some pretty strong feelings about King Kong vs. Godzilla," I teased.
She giggled; she sounded tipsy from the wine. Hell, I felt a little drunk myself.
"Edward –" Ugh, my name again. I wanted to ask her to repeat it; I loved the way she pronounced it, the way her mouth moved around the word. "I'm sorry about falling asleep on you in the car. I hope I didn't make you uncomfortable."
"Of course you didn't." At least not in an unpleasant way. "I didn't mind even a little bit. I rather liked it, if I'm being truthful."
I flashed her a grin and she giggled again, slapping me playfully on the chest.
"But I drooled on you." She made a disgusted face.
"No you didn't; Jasper was lying to embarrass you. You were perfect."
She looked away shyly.
"All you did was mumble about cabbage, and that was adorable."
"Oh, God." Her large eyes flashed back towards me, looking mortified. "I didn't say anything else, did I?"
I shook my head. "Was there something specific that's worrying you?"
"No… well, yes. It's just that Jasper said I was having one of my dreams, and I thought he meant… like, a dream dream, you know?" Her face was so flushed I swear I could feel the heat radiating from her skin.
Dream dream – what was she… Oh, dream dream. I started to laugh. "Um, no, not one of those dreams. Not unless they sometimes involve cabbage, or me, or you informing me that you don't like it."
"That I, er, don't like it…" she stuttered. "Oh, cabbage, right. Yeah, I really, really hate cabbage. Yuck." She looked so adorably flustered. "Well, I should probably go to bed. Try to get some sleep, adjust to the time zone and all that…"
I tried not to sound as disappointed as I felt. "Right. I can show you to the guest room if you'd like. Jasper put your things in there earlier."
Bella nodded and with a smile, followed me up the stairs.
Please let me know what you think of this new one; I'd appreciate the feedback ever so much. :)