Huge thanks to Mommakat who went above and beyond to help be with this story. Her hard is has improved this story amazingly and I am forever grateful!
I may have moved too fast as I reached over to place my hand on top of Bella's. I didn't care but I quickly scanned the minds around me to make sure that I hadn't been noticed. When I was sure I was in the clear, I slumped in my seat, pinched the bridge of my nose, and took a calming breath. Bella had been tapping the damned pencil rapidly on her notebook for the last five minutes. I tried to ignore but I just couldn't anymore. The sound was really grating on my nerves.
We glanced at each other and smiled at our simultaneous apologies. I adjusted my hand so that I was ) no longer holding hers down but holding it. I ran my thumb over her knuckles hoping to soothe her. Even though she had been back on our vegetarian diet for over three years now, she was still having an exceptionally hard time. I knew that it had a lot to do with losing Lucas.
I had stuck to my promise to help her through. We had plenty of good days but there were no shortage of really bad days either. Sometimes she yelled at me. Sometimes I yelled at her. Other times we laid in bed unable to let each other go. In light of all the problems we had to work through, our bond was stronger than ever. I had never been more sure that nothing would tear us apart.
I found myself marveling at Bella's strength on a daily basis. Even though she was suffering in more ways than one, she refused to give up. She kept her head high and pushed forward. This very moment was a perfect example of that. Her grip on my hand had long passed painful but I kept my mouth closed. We were in a crowded lecture hall and the smell of human blood was even bothering me a bit. We had been cramped in the warm room full of warm sweet blood and I knew that it had to be killing Bella. Her eyes were black as coal and every so often she'd whimper and whine like a kicked puppy.
I'd suggested a million times that we just leave but Bella wouldn't hear of it. She wanted to stick it out. She wanted to push herself. I knew that doing so was a bit foolish and dangerous but I had full faith in Bella. She'd slipped three times but all things considered she was doing very well and I was proud. Of course she tried to beat herself to a pulp every single time but I wouldn't allow it. Our lifestyle was difficult and she was doing a lot better than she was giving herself credit for.
I turned my head to look at her as the hand that I was holding began to grip so tight I was afraid she might take my hand clean off my wrist. The glare on her face was fierce enough to burn the skin off every single human here. I would have just left her alone if things had stopped there. This was not unusual classroom behavior for Bella. What really worried me though was the fact that she had unconsciously dropped her hold on my gift and her thoughts were racing so fast that they were nonsensical. I knew it was time to get out of there before my phone buzzed in my pocket with Alice's call. I packed up our things as quickly as I could without raising suspicion.
"Get up," I said doing so myself. Bella didn't fight me at all. She was on her feet before the words completely left my mouth and we were out the door two minutes later. Once we were outside the fresh hair helped Bella plenty but not by much. She was in control but we needed to hunt really soon.
It was times like these when I wondered if there was a downside to mating. I wanted to give Bella everything she wanted so badly that reason played no part in my decision making. Back when we were in France, I told Bella she could make her own rules, and that was exactly what she did. She's made getting back on her diet her first priority but we'd decided other things as well.
A big part of being in the Cullen family meant pretending to be human. Bella hated that idea but agreed to do so for my sake. We'd had to make some compromises though. She said under no uncertain terms would she repeatedly attend high school. When we went back to Forks after France, I was in my senior year of high school. Bella used that time and the following summer to acclimate herself back into our vegetarian lifestyle. After I graduated we broke away from the family to do some traveling and then finally rejoined the family about eighteen months later when they moved back to Rochester New York.
While Bella refused high school, she had no qualms about college. When she suggested Julliard, I was extremely hesitant. New York City had plenty of sunny days where we'd be trapped inside. The city was crowded with people and our hunting options would be extremely meager at best. These were pretty serious complications, especially for a vampire still having a difficult time abstaining. I wanted to tell her no but she was so excited about it. She had this whole plan that we would go to the best school where we could study our music together. She gushed about it with starry eyes and enthusiasm that I'd only seen from Alice during fashion week.
I made her aware about the things I was worried about but she hadn't been bothered at all. Her response had been, "But Edward the most beautiful people in the world reside in New York City. It's where you belong!"
The little bit of flattery had crushed my already weak resolve. Not to mention, I remembered Lucas saying that New York was one of Bella's favorite places to be. I just simply couldn't deny her. While the rest of the family stayed in Rochester, Bella and I bought a townhouse in Carnegie Hill. We were apart from the family but still relatively close. I worried all the time about whether we'd made the right decision to come here but this was what Bella wanted to do. She'd had so little control over her life before we met that I didn't have it in me to restrict her again. Things had been well enough so far and I felt that as long as we were together nothing else really mattered. We could get through anything together.
I moved toward the curb ready to hail a cab and get us home but Bella stopped me by squeezing my hand and shaking her head. "Let's just walk home, okay?"
"Of course," I nodded kissing her lips and leading the way. We walked in silence most of the way. I knew that she needed some time to get herself back under control. We were just starting to pass Central Park which was just over a block away from our home when she finally spoke.
"It's getting easier," she said looking up at me with a smile. "I mean it's still hard as all hell but it's better. I can manage better."
"I can tell. I was really proud of you. You should be too," I told her.
"I am," she nodded releasing my hand so that she could wrap her arm around my waist.
Once we were back at our place we changed our clothes as quickly as possible and jumped in the Vanquish. I opted taking her instead of the Volvo because she could be faster. Even though Bella had started feeling better on the walk home, I knew that her thirst was still raging. We had neighbors on both sides of our townhouse and I knew that she could smell their blood just as strongly as I could. I didn't want her to lose control again before we got time to hunt. I knew from experience that containing Bella was not a job easily done…some might even call it impossible. It was a six hour drive to Vermont but me and the Vanquish got us there in half the time. There were actually pretty decent hunting prospects in Vermont. The only catch though was that we had to be extremely careful due to the hunting regulations. We tried to stick to the animals that were in season except during rabbit season. Neither Bella nor I were too keen on rabbits. Bella said feeding from them just made her feel…wrong. I knew what she meant so we steered clear of them most of the time.
When we got to the forest, we stopped moving just after entering the trees. Bella expended my talents until my range covered the entire forest. We needed to be aware of humans that might also be hunting in the area. I was elated to find that we were completely alone today. It was a rare treat. I turned to Bella with a smile and held her face in my hands before kissing her sweetly on the lips.
"We're alone," I told her. "Go hunt, baby."
I smacked her ass to put her into motion. She squealed in surprise and took off into the trees with a brilliant smile. I followed but hung back. She needed to hunt and I didn't want to be in her way. I kept my distance and watched in fascination as she drained two foxes and a small herd of deer. She was a ferocious yet elegant hunter. Her movements were lithe and graceful. She was captivating.
Once she'd had her fill, I helped her dispose of the remains. Then it was my turn. I fed quickly, wanting to get home. I was incredibly aroused after watching Bella hunt and I wanted her in our bed. I wanted to be inside her and feel her warmth surrounding me. When we were done, we ran back to the car and I gunned it back to New York. My thoughts had been focused solely on making love to her but after a few minutes of Bella's complete silence on the way home, my focus was brought back to the present. I glanced over and found her body completely still and her face completely devoid of expression. She was staring straight through the windshield but her eyes were unseeing. This wasn't really cause for alarm but it definitely meant something was going on inside that head of hers which I currently had no access too.
My mind was officially off sex. I didn't ask Bella what she was thinking because I knew that she would tell me soon enough. That didn't stop me from obsessing though. Things had been pretty perfect for us over the last two weeks and I was worried that we might be approaching another bump in the road. I went over everything that had occurred today and tried to decipher what might have caused a shift but I couldn't really think of anything Having to leave class abruptly because of thirst was old news so I knew it couldn't have been that. The hunt had gone without incident and there was really nothing else that could have happened.
My uncertainty put me on edge and my whole body was stiff in preparation for some sort of impact. When we got back home, Bella and I headed to the shower to wash off the hunt. It was there that she finally spoke.
Edward was so good to me. He took care of me as if I was some priceless treasure, a deity that deserved to be worshipped with his every breath. He kept every promise he made to me in France. Even when I was a complete bitch, when I lost control of myself and became a force of nature destroying everything in my path, or when I got so lost I couldn't even move, Edward stayed by my side. He put me before himself constantly and loved me with his whole heart.
When we went to hunt, he let me hunt first. He put his own thirst aside so that I could gorge without interruption. Allowing me to hunt first made it harder for him, when I was done. It would be harder for him to find prey but still he waited. When we had been in class, he knew what I needed before even I did. He protected me from everything, including myself.
I loved him for his devotion to me and it was only because of my devotion to him that I could understand his actions. I loved him in ways that boggled even me. There isn't a thing I wouldn't give to him or do for him. Our love was insanity at it's very best.
Back at the house, Edward stepped into the shower before me. I held back a little wanting to watch him undress. He was so effortlessly sexy. It wasn't until he tilted his face up to meet the water raining down on him that I finally undressed myself. When I joined him, I encircled him in my arms and kissed his chest above his heart.
"I want to take your last name," I said abruptly.
His body stilled and he turned into a statue in my arms. I looked up at his face and found him staring at me with his mouth agape and his eye bulging. I couldn't help the giggle that bubbled up. His expression was way too comical and unEdward-like. His body relaxed at the sound and his face erupted into a breathtaking grin.
"You want to get married?"
I knew instantly that my ardent exclamation had been misunderstand and had cut Edward deeper than anything in this world ever could. His face literally crumbled in despair as his shoulder dropped damned near to the floor.
"Wait," I said clasping his face in my hands and making him look at me again. "I didn't mean that as a rejection of any sort," I assured him.
"Then what did you mean?" Edward asked in a pained voice. He was searching my eyes pleadingly, begging me to help him understand.
"You know how I feel about pretending to be human. There's only so much of the charade I can take and marriage I just can't do," I explained. "I don't want some human minister there sealing a bond for us that he can't even understand. Mating transcends marriage. The vows don't even qualify for us. There is no sickness or health to worry about. Death will never do us part. Better and worse has already happened and we're still together and stronger than we ever were. I think getting married would belittle what we have heinously. Our love was designed by fate, by destiny. We were assembled for one another. There's no need to make the promises that humans have to. I don't want to get married and make a mockery of the love between us," I said earnestly.
By the end of my ran, Edward's grin had returned and subsequently mine too. He brought his lips down to mine and kissed me slowly and deeply. I felt it all the way down to my toes and moaned at the sensations he awakened inside me.
"So you do want to be Mrs. Cullen. You just don't want to have a human ceremony?" he asked for verbal confirmation.
He sighed and a thoughtful expression covered his face. "I think we still need to honor this in some kind of way. Make a memory of the event to keep for eternity," he said.
"Like what?" I asked as my brows knit in contemplation.
"We could just write our own vows and exchange them. No minister or anything, just us putting into our own words what our bonds mean to us," he suggested.
I smiled, loving that idea, "The family could be there. It wouldn't be right excluding them. They helped bring us together," I said.
Edward nodded, "We could do it in Forks. In our meadow."
"And exchange rings too. A visual symbol that will last forever, just like us."
"Oh this is just perfect!" Alice squealed from the other side of our bathroom door. "Please let me help plan this! I have so many ideas but I promise you'll get the final say!"
Edward and I stared through the glass shower at the closed door in shock. Neither of us had heard Alice even come into the house. The little imp could be truly terrifying at times. Edward shook his head and sighed in exasperation and laughed burying my face in his chest.
"Okay Alice," I said hoping I wouldn't regret it. I groaned at her responding shriek of excitement. Edward pulled me closer to his body and ran his fingers through my hair.
"Don't worry, love," he murmured. "At the end of the day, it's just me and you."
I was surprised that Alice actually kept her word. She didn't go overboard with anything. When spring break came around, we all got on a flight back to Washington. There really wasn't much to be done, since we already had a location, a guest list that didn't warrant invitations, no catering, and very minimal floral arrangements. Edward and I had approved of a plan to erect a gazebo for the occasion in the meadow. Esme had designed it and Emmett and Carlisle constructed it. Alice and Rose personally outfitted the beautiful white structure with long strands of sewn together cherry blossoms and white roses. The floor of the gazebo was then strewn with red rose petals. I don't know how Jasper managed to set up music in the meadow with no electrical sockets for miles around but he did and I was ever so grateful.
The day of the ceremony was sunny and that made me extremely happy. Edward looked his best when he was illuminated by the sun. We didn't want to follow any of the marriage superstitions like not seeing each other on the day. Alice however refused to let Edward see me in the dress she picked out for me. When the time came for me to get dressed, Edward was hastily ushered out of the house with Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper.
Alice of course had chosen everyone's attire. The men all wore suits while the ladies wore cocktail dresses. My dress was a bit more of an evening gown though. It was floor length with just the hint of a train and a split that reached high on my high. Edward loved my legs. It was made of the finest royal blue silk with short off the shoulder sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. It fit me like a glove and played up my subtle curves. Rosalie styled my hair keeping it down but out of my face by twisting back the front and holding it in place with silver butterfly hair pins. The rest cascaded down my back in ringlets. Make-up was also applied ever so slightly with only a dash of blush on my cheekbones, pale pink lip color, and dark eye liner and mascara. Even I had to admit I looked stunning despite the fact that my scars were more visible than I would normally like.
Rosalie, Esme, Alice, and I drove as far as we could into the forest and then got out to trek the rest of the way. We moved at a human pace, not wanting to risk getting ourselves disheveled in anyway. Esme and Rose walked on either side of me while Alice stayed behind me to hold up my dress.
"I'm so excited," Esme said, looking as if she was near tears. "For both you and Edward. The happiness you've both been searching for has been found," she sniffled.
I smiled and wrapped an arm around her waist. I was so happy that I felt like I would burst at any moment showering rainbows, sunshine, and candy hearts down on the whole town.
"I'm just happy the boy finally got laid," Rose shrugged. I delivered a quick and painful elbow to her ribs and she laughed as she massaged the spot. I wasn't angered at all by what she said though. She and Emmett shared an insanely physical relationship. Sex played a major part in bonding for her. She'd said it jokingly but I'm pretty sure she meant it seriously. "I'm also happy that you two both know what it feels like to finally be whole," she added.
I knew exactly what she meant. As cheesy and clichéd as it was, Edward completed me and that was a feeling of contentment that couldn't be superseded.
When we reached the meadow, my breath was completely taken away. The sun was pouring down as if the event was being blessed by the heavens. The gazebo was designed and decorated gorgeously but more dazzling than anything else was Edward. He was standing in the center of the gazebo wearing a black suit, looking more debonair than I'd ever seen him. His skin collected the rays of sunlight and gleamed like a beacon for all to behold. He was perfection and knowing that he was mine pleasantly overwhelmed me.
His eyes lit up when he saw me and placed a hand over his heart with a gasp. I had literally taken his breath away. That made me extremely proud yet at the same time bashful. I gave him a smile and proceeded toward him as Alice dropped the back of my dress. She, Esme and Rose followed me in to stand behind me as the men stood opposite them and behind Edward.
Edward took my hands and kissed them both. Shivers of delight raced through me and he smiled gleefully. It was decided that I would deliver my vows first. I took a deep breath as a recording of the song I'd composed for Edward began to play and began…
"When I awakened to this existence, I was thrust into a world of mayhem, destruction, and death. I was raised and groomed to be a person full of hatred, distrust, evil, and malice. It was all I knew. I was without options, so with a heavy heart I held my held high and accepted my fate. It wasn't until four years ago that I realized it had not been my fate at all. My fate stands before me, right here. My fate is you, Edward Cullen. It wasn't until I met you that I was struck with new terrifying and brilliant hope. I'd thought my past had ruined me, broken me beyond repair, but it didn't. You came into my life with determination and vigor, willing and ready to show me that all was not lost. You showed me that I was a person deserving of love, a person capable of love, and most of all, a person who despite her terrible mistakes is still good. You made apparent the beauty not only in me but in the world.
"I am so grateful that it was with you that I rebuilt my life. You are a man whose character, loyalty, kindness, selflessness, care, belief, trust, and love is what I need and want as guidance for myself. With you, I have faith in myself. I have the confidence and strength to be a better person, to be my own person. You didn't force my hand into being what you wanted me to be, but merely gave me options for me to choose who I wanted to be. I cannot thank you enough for your trust, your help, your devotion, and your love. You are my very best friend. You are my light in the darkness. You are the love of my existence. I trust and love you with every ounce of my being. I know that with my hand in yours I will never be alone. I know I will always be safe, that my future is bright and burns away the past. So I am here today with a heart that's soaring above the clouds with joy, ready to eagerly and blissfully accept my true destiny and my true mate, Edward Cullen."
Venom welled in my eyes as I looked into Edward's own venom filled eyes. He was my future and nothing else that happened before him mattered to me. Things had been awful then but they never would be again. Not with him at my side. Rosalie slipped a simple platinum band into my palm and I slid it onto Edward's finger. We had both agreed on simple bands, neither of us want a stone interrupting the symbol a band represented; our unending love, happiness, and existence together. I brought his ringed finger to my lips and kissed it sweetly before looking back into his eyes. His expression of elation was radiant and sparked my own.
When the music adjusted from my composition for Edward to his for me, he cleared his throat and stood a little straighter.
"For years I hated myself. I loathed who I was and what I was. I had family who loved me, who saw things in me that I couldn't. I loved them. I loved being with them. Underneath it all though, I was lonely. I watched the bonds of the mated couples around me. I saw the expression in their eyes and the truth in their actions. The love they shared I could not comprehend or relate to. It baffled me and while I felt someone wretched as me did not deserve that love, I still craved it none the less. My heart ached for it. It did not take me long to give up on ever finding that love but when I was least expecting it, it found me.
"Bella, you came into my life and before I could even learn your name, see your eyes, or hear your voice, you changed everything for me. Your presence filled me with emotions I'd never experienced. I was unprepared. I was confused. I was in love. I didn't know it at first but I do know now. When I finally got the chance to get to know you, hope swelled inside me. There was hope that I could help you, that you could help me, that we could help each other. Upon meeting you, my eyes were opened to the blessings in my life. I was able to realize all the great things my family had given, taught and shared with me. I wanted to give those same things to you. I wanted to embrace the good around me with you.
"You made it possible for me to know love as I'd never known it before. I was able to comprehend and relate to the very love I'd thought I'd never find. I was redeemed in your love because someone as majestic as you loved me. I am thrilled to be the man you want, the man you trust, and the man you love. I am thrilled to know that I am embraced by your perfection. You have made my existence worthwhile with your love. I want to pledge my allegiance to only you and strive to bring happiness into your every day. On this day I dedicate myself, my existence, and my love to you."
Carlisle gave Edward a platinum band to slide onto my finger. It was identical to Edward's and he too kissed the ring after securing it on my hand. A sob of happiness escaped me as I threw my arms around his neck. He held me tight to his body with his arms around my waist and continued to whisper words of love into my ear. I was thankful that my vampiric memory would not allow this day to fade from me. I would remember this day with perfect clarity forever.
"I love you so much, Edward," I whispered to him.
"As I love you, Bella," he responded.
After thanking and hugging our family, for being there and all they'd done for us they made their exit. They were heading back to New York and giving Edward and I the rest of spring break to spend in the Forks house alone. Edward and I stayed in the meadow for hours under the gazebo though. It was too beautiful to walk away from. Jasper had left the iPod dock that had played the music during the ceremony and Edward and I let it continue to play. He took me in his arms and led me into a slow waltz as Cass McCombs "You Saved My Life" began to play. It was the perfect song for us.
I rested my head on his shoulder and enjoyed the feel of his body knowing that I'd never have to be without it again.
"I wish we could live in this day forever. It was perfect," Edward murmured.
I looked up into his beautiful face and smiled, "This is only the beginning, there is no end, and that's what's truly perfect."
I want to thank all of you who have read this story, reviewed it, and added it and me to your favorites. I know I didn't get to respond to many of the reviews but I read and appreciated them all. Your kinds words served as encouragement and inspiration as I wrote. If you are interested I do am currently writing another fic called The Difference Between Love and Obligation which is AH that is already published. I will also be starting another fic that will be entitled Survivor's Guilt. If you have any interest in those fic just add me to your alerts. Again thank you all for reading and sticking with me through this journey!