Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight
A Betting Man
"In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as sorrow."
I take a deep breath and meet Edward's gaze, and he winks at me from across the aisle.
"I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live."
My eyes drift back to Rose, and I focus on how beautiful she looks in her beige silk dress with the red trimming, her hair hanging in wide, golden rings down her back. Her complexion is glowing, her eyes bright, and I don't think she's ever looked so lovely.
Also, Edward and I made a bet as to when Emmett would do something embarrassing. Because it wasn't really a matter of if, we decided. Edward guessed he would say something during his vows, but I wagered that it would be during or after the kiss. And it was easy thing to make, this bet. A simple little gesture between two people who care for each other that's no big deal, because he's everything to me now.
And bets aren't always so bad. They get me lots of back massages.
Emmett's eyes twinkle and he gets through his vows without a hitch. Edward catches my eye and smirks; he knows he's lost, but only if my intuition doesn't let me down.
And then it happens. Rose finishes her vows and she's suddenly being dipped backwards for an exaggerated kiss, the shock sending her leg flying into the air. She nearly takes out Emmett's cousin with her bare foot before her dress flips up with a tricky gust of wind and she flashes the entire party of groomsmen. They all step backwards in surprise and several eyes zone in on her hoohah before they shift away again in shame.
I hope she wore good underwear. But it's her wedding day - I think you're damned or something if you don't. Or maybe you just should be. I can't remember.
I suppress a grin, rejoicing over the back massage that's to come, and I see Edward shake his head in disbelief.
Emmett scoops Rose up and carries her down the aisle, but then has to come back again to take pictures. It's all very funny; neither can stop smiling and I'm not so sure Rose is even aware she flashed the entire male wedding party. Or else she just doesn't care.
Everyone is standing and excited as they congregate near the happy couple so that they can hug and give well wishes and talk. I feel someone brush against my arm, and I turn.
"Oh my God. Can you believe how gorgeous she looks?"
Alice can't control her smile; it dominates her tiny face, persistent and never wavering. She met Rose once before the wedding, and they hit it off right away. We went to lunch and then shopping and Alice spent hours upon hours scouring bridal magazines for ideas and dresses. The red rose pinned in Rosalie's gorgeous curls was all her doing, but her ideas were never imposed or unwanted. Rosalie was grateful for the help.
It's a shame Alice lives so far away in Texas.
"I know," I reply. "And Emmett doesn't look half bad himself."
"Tell me about it. Talk about a shocker. I never thought he'd clean up so well."
"Where's Jasper?" I ask, looking around. Alice just shrugs.
"Off talking to Edward somewhere, I think." She looks at me, her expression serious. "Have you and Edward gotten settled in yet?"
After months of discussion, Edward eventually gave up his home in Seattle in lieu of a large apartment in Tacoma. And though it terrified me to do so, I gave up my apartment and moved in with him.
Things made more sense this way. Always eager to spend our nights together, we found ourselves doing a lot of traveling in order to stay with each other at night and still make it to work in the morning. Tacoma is a beautiful city that serves as a good middle-ground; it's less than an hour's drive to Seattle and only a short half-hour drive to Olympia.
I was able to talk Edward into getting an apartment instead of a house, against his better judgment. It just seemed impractical to buy real-estate when we may not live there long. I've currently been seeking jobs near Olympia while Edward has talked of extending his company to Seattle. We've yet to find a final resting place, or to reach a final decision, but the process has been a happy and worthwhile experience. I've never been happier than now, living in Tacoma with Edward, even if we are missing out on the joys of equity that he insists accompany home-ownership.
"Oh yeah. Nearly everything is unpacked," I confirm with a nod, and Alice smiles happily.
When the pictures are finished, we pile into our cars and drive to Rose's parents' house for the reception. It's all kind of surreal, seeing Rose get married. It's not something we ever really talked about; I never imagined her in a shiny dress with flawless makeup, her hair blowing in the Washington breeze as the sun sets on the coast. I never contemplated the feel of crushed seashells and sand beneath my bare feet as I stand beside her, the taste of salt in the air as my dress bunches and blows around my knees. And yet it's perfect, and everything I would have hoped for my best friend and more. And she's so happy it makes my heart ache.
We park on the street outside Rose's house and it's just me and Edward inside his car as he leans over to kiss my neck. Goosebumps erupt on my flesh before I slip away and let myself out of the car, a smile permanently plastered on my face.
Edward joins me, stepping onto the cool pavement. We've both put on the shoes we brought and the bottom of his pants are slightly damp from the wet sand, even though they were rolled up for the majority of the wedding. They must have dragged against the ground at some point.
"What, I don't get anything?" he pouts at me. I roll my eyes and take his hand before leading him down the paved driveway.
"You're a very greedy best man," I say. "It's not like you won't have me to yourself tonight."
He releases my hand and pulls at a strand of hair that's fallen from my twist. "I guess I can be good," he says, and the words are low and hot in my ear. I shudder just as the wooden gate is wrenched open and I'm ushered into the backyard, his hand on my back guiding the way.
Rosalie's parents have outdone themselves. The entire backyard is decorated with paper lanterns and matching red and beige silk ribbons; a live band is set up by the pool, a mellow Reggae pouring from their instruments. There are small tables with two chairs each, a skinny vase with a white lily set in the center, and an elegant table covered in hors d'oeuvres and a chocolate fountain. Rose's father is currently grilling steaks and shrimp over his massive gas grill, the smell wafting through the yard and even discernable near Edward's car.
We mingle and dance, and Edward gives a toast to the couple about good times past and good years to come - about the joys of finding someone to trust, someone to love, and his eyes meet mine with nearly every heartfelt word.
When it's late, and Rose and Emmett are saying their goodbyes, I excuse myself to the bathroom and disappear inside the massive three-story house. Their home is quiet and empty and pristinely clean, and I easily find the bathroom in the long hallway, my memory serving as my guide. It's locked, so I patiently wait on the other side of the door.
When it finally opens a tall, pale woman with a peak of fiery red hair steps out. She sees me and smiles, quickly excusing herself from the door.
Her face is familiar, but I can't place where I've seen her before.
"Hey…you're Bella Swan, right?"
I turn in surprise, because I remember her voice. And suddenly, I remember her.
I went to high school with Victoria Burns, but she was heavier then and used to dye her hair an awful blonde. With her pale eyes and translucent skin, the resulting look was washed out and unattractive. She was hardly noticed and seemed to prefer it that way, often hovering behind notebooks and art projects and always preferring to eat alone.
But things are different now. Now, she's gorgeous, a tall, slim figure with full lips and perfect skin. Her smile lights up her entire face, her pale eyes stunning as she gazes down at me with a pleasant expression.
I'm taken aback by how much she's changed.
"The one and only," is her easy reply.
"You look great," I say quickly, smiling. "How have you been?"
"I've been good. I've actually been working in the art gallery on Pike Place for a few years."
"That's wonderful. You've always had such an interest in art," I say. "I didn't realize you and Rose were still in touch."
"Well it's kind of funny, but I actually just ran into her and her husband last week at a coffee shop downtown," she tells me, and I think of how funny it sounds hearing of Rose's husband. "She told me how she was getting married and invited me to the wedding…said we could catch up later after the honeymoon. She was always very nice to me."
This is true. Rosalie hasn't always been nice to every stranger, nor every classmate in high school, but she once defended Victoria when a guy called her the love child of Carrot Top and Rosie O'Donnell and made her cry. Rose said no one deserved to be called the love child of Rosie O'Donnell. No one.
"Well it's really nice to see you," I say truthfully. "It's been a while. Maybe we can get lunch sometime."
"I'd like that."
I move to pass her, but her voice stops me again. "Bella…I heard you dated James?"
I turn to look at her, suddenly wary and admittedly curious. "Yeah?"
Her accompanying smile is shy and a little sheepish. "I dated him for a little while, too," she tells me. "A few months ago. I ended up hearing about you from one of his friends."
"Okay," I say slowly, unsure where she's going with this. "Well, I hope he was better to you than he was to me." I don't count on this, but I really don't know what else to say.
"He wasn't, actually," she says with a chuckle, but there's no humor in her voice. "He was always trying to move our relationship really fast. I didn't want to, not really, but I…" She trails off and looks ashamed. I immediately feel sorry for her.
"God, Victoria. I'm sorry," I say sincerely. I can't even imagine what the ass did to her.
"It's fine," she says, waving off my concern. "I'm fine. We were actually good for a few weeks, but then things got kind of ugly and we broke it off. What I really wanted to tell you was that he's in prison now."
"Really?" I ask, unable to contain my pleasure. But I can't celebrate until I know what the creep was put away for. "What did he do?"
"Insider trading," she says, shaking her head in disbelief. "Can you believe it? I had no idea he was even into that kind of thing. Apparently he was doing it the entire time we were together."
Insider trading. Wow, that's…sophisticated, considering it was done by a guy like James.
Well, technically, he must not have been sophisticated enough to pull it off. He did get caught, after all.
Sophisticated and James really don't belong in the same sentence. Ever.
"Do you know how long his sentence is for?" I ask hopefully. Even life without parole would be too soon, but I know I could never get so lucky.
"Nine years with parole. He'll probably get out before then, but…you never know. Maybe it'll do him some good."
Right. I've seen the movies. People in prison lift weights and get tattoos via ink pens, and then when they get out they hijack planes or murder their husbands. I'm no fool. James is to never be trusted.
"Well I'm sorry you've had to go through everything with him," I say, my voice sincere. "We really should get together soon. Apparently we have a lot in common." I smile to let her know I mean this in the best possible way, and her expression mirrors my own.
"I saw you with that guy," she says. "You seem really happy together."
I can't help but bite my lip and grin in return. "Yeah," I reply. "We are."
"Remember, she eats a lot, so if she bugs the shit out of you all day then just throw some wet cat food down and after a while she'll get so full she just passes out."
"I know, Emmett, I know. I've got this."
I've heard these instructions before, but Emmett is overly anxious and feels the need to repeat himself. But I figure if I can handle one fat cat, I can handle them all.
"And if that doesn't work, just give her a little catnip. She'll get stoned and pass out for half the day. It really mellows her out."
"She heard you the first fifteen times, Emmett," Rose suddenly snaps. They're saying their last goodbyes and getting ready to load into the car, where they'll drive to Seattle and stay at a hotel for the night. Tomorrow, they'll board a plan and fly to Greece for their honeymoon.
"I'm just making sure, Rose," he argues, irritated. "She's never taken care of little Heidi before."
Emmett named the cat Heidi after Heidi Klum. How any cat shat from Ursula's big ass could be compared to Heidi Klum, I'll never know. And it already seems like an oxymoron, considering Heidi is already over twenty pounds and just as round and angry looking as her mother. But Emmett loves her just the same.
I think he has some sort of secret fat cat fetish. He literally pounced on Ursula's kittens when he found out she was pregnant, adopting Heidi and bringing her home without even asking Rose first. Of course, Rose was pissed off and told him he'd have to return her, but apparently fat cats are much cuter when they're babies and the ball of fur grew on her.
Now I'm stuck cat-sitting, and I'm getting nightmarish flashbacks as I remember the clogged toilet and near suffocation in the middle of the night. I really need to remember to lock the bedroom door this time.
"You ready to go?" Edward's arm slides around me and he kisses my temple affectionately.
I no longer hear Em and Rose bickering, so I turn around and discover they're practically making out against the side of her car. And their parents are here! But on a more scandalous note, they must have some pretty awesome makeup sex. God knows it has to be frequent, considering all the arguing they do.
"Oh gross," I whisper to Edward, but I can't stop smiling at their embarrassing display. "You'd think they'd at least wait until they got to the hotel."
"They're newlyweds, Bella. They're allowed to be disgusting."
"I guess. It's no longer a sin, anyway."
Edward looks at me, incredulous. "You're worried about being a sinner now?"
I match his stare. "Are you saying I'm not allowed to worry over my sins?"
He leans forward, his breath hot against my ear. "No. I'm just saying it's a shame, because I plan on doing some very…sinful…things to you tonight."
I shiver, and suddenly waiting around for the Tommy Lee twins to peel themselves away from Rose's car is no longer an option. I grab Edward's hand and pull him towards the horny duo so that we can say goodbye and get the hell out of here.
"No more talking, Edward. Let's go."
We can hear Heidi howling through the door when we get back to the apartment. She's pacing around the room and I guess she's hungry or something, so I have to stop and feed her before our sinful acts can occur. I imagine this is what it would be like to have kids – there would always be someone around howling over food while constantly being a clitblocker. I think I'm starting to get flashes of my future.
As long as Edward never insists on adopting any of Ursula's kittens, I should be fine.
I set Heidi's food on the floor, and Edward is behind me before I even stand back up. He brushes my hair to one side and kisses my bare shoulder, then my neck before murmuring, "Have I told you how beautiful you look in this dress?"
I shudder before turning and wrapping my arms around his shoulders. His green eyes are scorching.
"Have I told you how hot you look in this linen suit?"
I pull at his collar while he kisses me, and then I begin unbuttoning his shirt. His mouth presses against mine, hard and insistent, and soon his clothes are being discarded as I push him towards the bedroom, far from Heidi's smacking.
By time we're in front of the bed, he's wearing only his boxers. Her turns me around and pushes my hair aside again, then slowly begins lowering the zipper of my dress. He pushes the silk material off my shoulders and it falls at a puddle around my feet.
I slip off my shoes before I'm pushed onto the bed, his lips still hot against my own. I can feel my heart racing, my breathing accelerate as he showers heated kisses along my skin - from my neck, down my chest, to the lace-clad fabric of my strapless bra.
He kisses my nipple through the fabric. My hands wind through his hair, holding him to me.
"We'll have to go to church and repent after our sinful acts tonight," he murmurs, and I can't hide the smile that appears. I'm very much looking forward to it.
"I want to try something new tonight," Edward says suddenly, and he brings his face back to mine so that only inches separate our lips. His eyes meet mine and I can see the heat, the sincerity that they hold.
"Okay," I say eagerly, bringing my fingers up to touch the stubble of his chin. I love trying new things with him. "What did you have in mind?"
"Do you trust me?"
I frown at him, slightly confused, but nod my head nonetheless. Of course I trust him; that's what we've worked on all these months. We've worked on being honest, on building a foundation in our relationship on which we both can rely and be comfortable.
Edward leans over and opens the drawer of the bedside table, reaching towards the back before eventually pulling out something shiny and silver. But these are different; they're padded, the cloth around the metal serving as a protective barrier, and the sight of them creates excitement instead of the anguish that haunted me before.
He holds the handcuffs in front of me, and I know he wants to hear me say it.
I give another nod and meet his eyes, and my decision never wavers.
"Yes, Edward. Of course I trust you."
His resulting smile is wicked, and I bite my lip, anxious to begin the fun.
*Wipes eyes* I can't believe it's actually over. Thanks to everyone for all your kind words while writing this story. You truly, truly made this an enjoyeable experience. I feel like I've learned a ton. Writing school papers are a fucking breeze now - I mean, what more could I ask for? And my thank you's from last chapter still stand. ms-ambrosia and passionmama did their thang with this chapter, as usual, and I'd be nothing but a confused, gramatically incorrect mess without them.
I got the wedding vows from here: http:/(slash)weddings(dot)about(dot)com/cs/bridesandgrooms/a/vowwording(dot)htm
I'm mybluesky1 on twitter, where I'll give teasers and updates on my new story. Hope to see you all around.