A/N: MATURE CONTENT – UNDERAGE READERS PLEASE DO NOT READ.
This chapter is dedicated to Hugh Jackman aka Mr. Drover, and Baz Luhrmann for directing the movie Australia. A swoon-worthy bit in this chapter was heavily inspired by Mr. Drover.
Please review! We love hearing your thoughts!
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns all twilight characters. Plot and such for this story belongs to Melolabel and Bellamadonna. Westward is ours. No stealing.
They kissed all the way to the preacher's house.
Goin' to the Chapel
At least, that had been Ward's intention when he had scooped Bella into his arms and headed down the boardwalk toward the church. He managed to walk about twenty yards before his legs collapsed beneath him. He had been running on sheer will-power alone, rushing into town, bound and determined to make Bella his wife before the day was out. Imagine her surprise when he landed on his knees just seconds before she landed on her bottom on the hard boards in front of the bank. She was still sitting in shocked disbelief when the limp body of the most feared gunslinger in the territory fell across her lap.
"Edward!" Her high-pitched wail brought Jasper running to the front door of his establishment. Alice, hearing her friend's scream, was soon trotting down the boardwalk toward them as well.
By this time, Jake had caught up with Ward just in time to see him go down. At first, Jake thought he had been shot, but he realized he hadn't heard the report of a gun and figured that the former gunman had just collapsed from exhaustion. After all, he had ridden like a man possessed all the way here, especially for the last fifteen miles, leaving Jake to choke on his dust.
Jake jumped from his horse and ran the last few steps to the man that had fast become his friend and explained to a frantic Bella that her man had just passed out from exhaustion, lack of sleep, and not taking care of his injuries.
At the mention of injuries, Bella had begun to cry even harder and continued to do so as Alice attempted to console her. By this time, Emmett had joined the fast-growing crowd surrounding the unconscious man and, together with Jasper and Jake, managed to carry Ward to the room above the saloon. After a visit from the town doctor, Bella was reassured that all Ward needed was some peace and quiet and rest for about a week and he'd be good as new.
Once the injured man was safely tucked into bed, Bella was reluctantly persuaded leave him and join Jasper, Alice, Emmett, Rosalita, and Jake downstairs in the saloon to hear the entire story of Ward's time in Phoenix.
After Jake finished his tale of Ward high-tailing it towards Devil's Fork, Jasper gave Bella a puzzled look. "What I don't understand is why was Ward carrying you down the street? I saw him from the window just before he collapsed."
Emmett gave a loud guffaw and Bella turned several shades of red, each one darker than the last. Alice's eyebrows nearly flew off her face as she looked at her friend in astonishment before she crossed her arms over her tiny chest and began a tapping rapid tattoo with her small, booted foot.
"Okay, Bella, let's hear it. What are you not telling us."
Bella had now turned an almost painful shade of crimson and her situation wasn't helped by the fact that Emmett was nearly doubled over with laughter. Finally, her embarrassment turned to anger as he seemed to be enjoying her discomfort just a little too much.
"Alright, Emmett, enough is enough. It isn't that funny!"
Alice was still waiting impatiently for an answer and her foot was now nearly pounding a hole into the floor. "Fine, we know it's not as funny as Emmett seems to think it is. What I want to know is... what is it?"
Bella's embarrassment returned before the aggravated glare of her best friend. She bent her head, fixing her gaze on a suddenly very fascinating spot on the floor. "Weweregoingtothepreachers," she mumbled softly.
"What?" asked Alice, her impatience getting the better of her. "What did you say? I couldn't understand you."
"Weweregoingtothepreachers," Bella mumbled hurriedly.
"What?" Alice and Rosalita said together.
"WE WERE GOING TO THE PREACHER'S! There! Are you happy now?" Bella raised her head and nearly shouted the words.
"Going to the PREACHER'S? As in GETTING MARRIED?" Alice was doing a little shouting herself. "WITHOUT ME!" She was getting her knicker's in a right fine twist now. "Well, it's a good thing he collapsed. Saved me the trouble of killing him if he had married you without me being there."
Bella wasn't sure just how serious Alice was, as she replied, a bit more calmly now. "Then I'm glad he collapsed."
Alice gave her a 'so there' look that quickly transformed into a beaming smile as she said, "It looks like I have a wedding to plan."
Bella knew better than to try to thwart Alice when she got her mind set on a task, so she just gave her friend a wan smile and threw up her hands in surrender.
# # # # # # #
Three weeks later...
Bella was standing in her borrowed bedroom at Alice's the night before her wedding. She had to admit, Alice had out-done herself with the preparations. The dress she had insisted on presenting to her friend was the most beautiful thing Bella had ever owned. The pale blue silk dress, trimmed in white lace at the bodice and along the flounced skirt, looked lovely when she had tried it on earlier that afternoon.
She could scarcely believe that by this time tomorrow evening she would be Mrs. Edward Cullen. Finally, she would be wed to her beloved Eddie. She couldn't help the smile that graced her face as she remembered the way he had courted her these past few weeks. Taking her for buggy rides, picnics, and even a church social. Presenting her with bouquets of wildflowers and, in every way, being the perfect gentleman – except for a few passionate, stolen kisses when they had ridden out to survey the cleanup of their property. The townspeople were soon captivated and quite taken with the beautiful, not-so-crazy, Bella Swan, and her handsome, charming suitor, Edward Cullen. Having the extra time for a proper courtship had been Alice's idea, and even though she had scoffed at the necessity of one at the time, Bella was now glad her friend had convinced them to take the time needed to adjust to being a normal couple; not a pair of souls thrown together amidst desperate circumstances and peril. And, as Alice had so eloquently put it, it also gave time for Bella's monthly visitor to come and go.
So, here she was, on the day before her wedding, missing Edward something fierce. That was also Alice's doing. Alice had some convoluted notion that it was bad luck for the groom to see the bride the day before the wedding. Really, where did she come up with these things? Bella had thought the notion was ridiculous, but Alice was adamant, so she had gone an entire day without seeing Eddie. Considering how much she had enjoyed his company for the last few weeks, forcing themselves to stay apart had proved to be quite difficult. But Alice had made sure that Jasper was up and out of the house early, with strict orders to keep Ed out of Bella's vicinity, before she would even let Bella leave her bedroom. Bella chuckled at the thought of Edward's name. He decided to go back to using Ed and the change was giving Jasper fits. He always wanted to call him Ward, but it usually ended up an awkward and halted Ed-Ward.
She turned the wick down, putting out the light of the oil lamp, and prepared herself for bed. She realized, with a twinge of apprehension, that tomorrow night she would be sharing a bed with her new husband. She bit her lip as she wondered how it would be to sleep with a man. Alice had explained everything to her, so it wasn't like she would be going to her marriage bed completely unprepared, but still, she couldn't help but be a little nervous. Then she thought of the tender way Eddie looked at her and realized that she was being foolish to worry.
It was just barely twilight; the first evening stars were twinkling in the night sky, and Bella was missing Eddie more than ever. She moved closer to the window, peering up at the sky, as she thought again of the the upcoming wedding and wedding night. As she looked out the west-facing window that overlooked the back of the property, she saw Eddie and Jasper walking toward the barn, leading their horses.
Alice would be livid if she knew that she was spying on her soon-to-be husband, but Bella couldn't help herself. She watched as he disappeared into the barn and kept her gaze glued there until he reappeared a few minutes later after bedding down his horse. She watched intently as Eddie walked slowly toward the water trough, pulling his shirt off as he moved.
The breath caught in Bella's throat as she watched in helpless wonder, the play of muscles across his hair-roughened chest. He paused for a moment, turned his head up and rested his eyes on her bedroom window. She involuntarily drew back a step even though she knew he couldn't see her through the darkened window. He continued to stare at the window, almost as if he could feel her eyes resting on him. He splashed some water over his face and neck and then reached for the cake of lye soap lying beside the water bucket. He then quickly rubbed his soapy hands over his neck and chest and grabbed the bucket that rested next to the trough. With ease, he dipped the bucket into the trough, filling it with water.
A glint of mischief flashed through his eyes as he turned his body to face Bella's window more fully. He then raised the bucket and poured the water over his head, neck and shoulders. Bella watched, mesmerized, as the water ran in rivulets over his head, plastering down his unruly hair, before dousing his shoulders and streaming down his muscular torso to disappear into the waistband of his trousers. He placed the bucket back on the ground before giving a fling of his head, slinging water from his face and hair and then running his fingers through the wet mess.
Again he peered up into her darkened window, hooked his thumb into his waistband tugging his trousers a bit lower and blew her a kiss with his other hand. He winked and turned to head back to Emmett's place for the night.
Bella felt herself grow dizzy shortly before she realized that she was holding her breath. Taking a unsteady gulp of air, she moaned a little at the beauty that was her Eddie. She backed slowly away from the window on trembling legs and sank onto the bed as she thought... just a few more hours... just a few more hours...
# # # # # # #
Bella was awakened bright and early the next morning by an impossibly cheerful Alice. It seemed that Alice had slept well. Bella groggily wished she could say the same thing. However, as her mind was filled with memories of water troughs and make-shift baths, she knew wouldn't have given up the sight of her Eddie, in all his wet and masculine glory, for a dozen good nights of sleep.
And today they were getting married.
Bella's brain went numb.
Today she was getting married. To her Eddie.
She was in a daze for the rest of the morning, allowing Alice to pamper her. She sat meekly by while Jasper carried buckets of steaming water to fill the large metal tub Alice had dragged into her bedroom. She continued to sit obediently as Alice helped her bathe and then doused her with powder and sweet-smelling perfume. She sat quietly while Alice styled her hair into an elaborate coiffure before helping her into the beautiful, blue silk dress. The final touch was a lovely matching blue and white lace hat that Alice lovingly pinned to her hair.
Bella didn't recognize the person staring back at her from the mirror. Who was this beautiful woman with the stars in her eyes and her best friend Alice peering over her shoulder?
"Oh, Bella, you are so lovely," Alice whispered, tears forming in her eyes. "Edward Cullen is one lucky man."
Bella turned and hugged her dear friend as tears of her own fell silently down her cheeks. Alice drew back and tsked at her, before drying away the moisture with a lacy handkerchief that she then tucked in Bella's sleeve.
Time seemed to move by Bella like a dream as she faintly registered that she was in a buggy, seated beside Alice and being driven by Jasper. They drew up before the church, where she was greeted by Rosalita and Emmett, before they moved inside.
"Okay, sweetie," Alice said softly in her ear. "It's time."
Bella nodded slightly and let Alice lead her to the front doors of the church, before the smaller woman slipped inside. Jasper had accepted the honor of escorting her down the aisle and now took his place at her side.
He smiled down at her and asked, "Are you ready?"
Again, Bella nodded briefly and allowed Jasper to help her across the church threshold. They stepped inside and it took a moment for Bella's eyes to adjust to the dimness after the bright sunlight outside. She paused, which caused Jasper to halt for just a moment, waiting for the interior to become clear.
Then, she saw him. Her Eddie. Though he was no longer the boy who protected her. He hadn't been that since he'd knocked her into a trough full of water. But he was still the same caring soul, and my, if he didn't look so terribly handsome in his black suit and string tie. Suddenly it was as if she had tunnel vision as her chocolate gaze locked onto his emerald green one. Their eyes never faltered, nor did her steps, as she walked down the aisle until she was at his side.
Edward's breath caught in his throat when she entered the church. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He saw her hesitate for a moment and felt his heart skip a beat until her eyes focused on his and he knew his life was complete.
They stood before the preacher, never taking their eyes from one another, as they repeated their vows before a church filled with their friends and acquaintances. When the preacher finally pronounced them, Mister and Missus Edward Cullen, the crowd witnessed a kiss of pure love and then the faces of the two happiest people on the face of the earth.
# # # # # # #
The wedding supper was over and the guests were finishing their drinks downstairs in the saloon. Bella was a bundle of nerves. Alice and Rosalita had just left after helping her into her bridal nightgown, a beautiful creation of gauzy linen that Rosalita had insisted was a wedding present.
Now, she was lying here, waiting, getting more nervous by the minute. She had bit her lip until it was nearly bleeding, but she couldn't help herself. It was a nervous habit. And Bella was very nervous.
Her mind was swirling with questions and doubts. Would Edward be disappointed with her? Would she be able to please him? She desperately tried to remember everything Alice had told her about what to expect about tonight, but suddenly her mind felt as if it was made of mush and she couldn't remember a thing Alice had said. Should she turn the lamp down or leave the light up? Should she be lying in bed or sitting on the edge? She jumped to her feet to stand by the bed just moments before the knob rattled and the door swung inward.
Edward was again struck dumb by the lovely sight before him. Bella stood by the bed in a filmy white gown, made almost transparent by the lamplight shining behind her. He could see the nervousness and fear on her face as he watched her teeth torture her bottom lip. Raising his eyes to meet hers, he walked slowly into the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
He moved on silent feet to her side, reaching his hand to softly brush his thumb across her lip and release it from her teeth. As he continued to gaze at her with all the love in his soul shining from his eyes, he saw all her features relax and the fear slip away.
"I love you more than life. You are my life, Bella. I will love you forever."
"You're everything I've ever dreamed of. You're my Eddie, and I love you with all my heart."
Gently, Edward drew her into his arms, bending his head to place a soft kiss on her lips. He continued to kiss her gently until he felt her melt into his arms and thread her fingers through his hair, drawing him closer.
Edward needed no more encouragement to deepen the kiss, as he opened his mouth and caressed her maligned lower lip with the tip of his tongue.
Bella moaned softly, parting her lips to grant him entrance. Their tongues moved softly against each other for a few minutes as Edward took his time. There was no rush. Bending his knees, he gently lifted his bride into his arms, never breaking their kiss. He laid her upon the soft quilt and fresh linens that covered the feather bed, before drawing back to gaze once more into her eyes as he sat beside her.
"Sweetheart, don't be afraid. You know I would rather die than ever hurt you."
She lifted her hand to cup his cheek, her eyes darkening slightly as he turned his head and pressed his lips into her palm. She felt the tingles run up her arm from his touch. She could see the love and tenderness shining from his eyes.
"I'm never afraid when I'm with you, Edward. I know you won't hurt me."
He kissed her once more before drawing back and standing to remove his clothes. Bella rolled to her side and watched as he bent to turn the lamp down, leaving just a small flame burning to give the room a dull glow. She was clutching the neck of her night gown together tightly as she watched him carefully remove each item of clothing, folding them across the bedside chair, never rushing, taking his time.
Bella didn't know what control it took for Edward not to fling his clothing aside in his haste to be with her. But he knew she was a virgin and he knew she was scared. The last thing he wanted was for this night not to be everything it should be for her. For that reason, he would keep himself under control – for his Bella.
Edward sat back on the edge of the bed under Bella's watchful gaze and removed his boots, one by one. At last, when he was clad only in his trousers, he turned back to his lovely bride.
Bella's breath caught in her throat as she took in the beauty that was her husband. She sat up on the bed and faced Edward, blushing as she remembered watching him bathe in the water trough the night before and how she had dreamed of him all night. Slowly, she relaxed her grip on the delicate fabric and reached out a tentative hand, brushing it over the hair-covered skin on his chest. She felt her breathing pick up in gasping little pants as she let her fingers wander up to the hollow of his throat, along his neck, and over his smoothly-shaven jaw.
"Seems to me, Mrs. Cullen, that you're already familiar with this part of my anatomy."
Bella's hand stilled as she looked into his eyes, her own wide and embarrassed. "Wh..what do you mean?"
"I mean last night. You. Watching me from the window while I bathed."
Bella then moved to jerk her hand away but he covered it and held it over his heart with his own hand.
"You knew I was up there the whole time?" she gasped.
"I figured as much," he replied with a soft smile.
"Well, that wasn't very nice to tease." Bella puffed out her swollen lip in an exaggerated pout and began to bat her eyelashes at her brand new husband.
"I promise not to tease tonight darlin'."
Bella felt Edward's hands reach around her, ghosting up her arms until they cupped her face just moments before his lips again met hers. She found her fingers clinging to the thick hair at the back of his head, pulling him closer to her and begging him silently for... she knew not what. His kisses were making her body feel weightless yet powerful at the same time. She didn't know what to make of the feeling, she just knew she didn't want him to stop.
Slowly his fingers moved to the satin ribbon that held the neckline of her gown together. He tugged at the bow until it unraveled in his hand. He parted the fabric and was surprised to feel his hands trembling slightly. He raised his head back to look at the pale, ivory flesh now exposed to his gaze. Reverently, he bent his head, placing a kiss on the soft skin of her bosom as his hand moved down to gently cup the fullness of her soft breast. It was so much more exquisite than the accidental groping that had occurred on their journey back to Devil's Fork.
Bella sucked in her breath at his touch and he could feel her heart racing beneath his lips. His touches continued, soft and hesitant, as he fought to hold back and be gentle with her. He gently smoothed the fabric of her nightgown from her shoulders. She moved her arms, one at a time, removing them from the sleeves and the gown fell to her waist.
Edward felt his control crumbling as he looked at her naked body, so soft and lovely in the dim light. With a strangled groan, he pulled her tightly to his chest, as his lips sought the creamy skin of her throat. Her arms were clasped tightly around his neck as his hands lifted her and brushed her gown away from the rest of her body.
Bella removed her hands from Edward's hair, running them down his chest and circling under his arms to stroke her fingers over his broad back. She felt a shiver run through him as she ran her nails along his spine and she reveled in the thought that she was having an effect on this wonderful man. Slowly they sank back into the soft feather mattress while Bella kissed every available bit of Edward she could reach. His hands were shaking as he moved them down her body, caressing her abdomen and the tops of her thighs. As his hands moved up her inner thigh, Bella's breath drew in with a sharp gasp. Edward immediately stilled his hand, and made to remove it.
Suddenly, he felt Bella's small hand cover his own and he pulled back to look into her eyes. His heart did a flip in his chest when she whispered, "No, please. Touch me."
Edward needed no further encouragement, as his head dropped once more to her tender breast and his fingers moved gently across her silky skin. His mouth closed over her rosy nipple just as his fingers found a highly sensitive spot and he heard her moan deep in her throat. He kept up his ministrations, touching her and suckling, feeling the tension building within her, slowly at first, but then rushing through her like a stampede. He covered her mouth, catching her moaning scream, as she came apart in his arms.
Her eyes were slightly dazed when she finally opened them to look at the wonderful man above her. He kissed her tenderly before asking, "Are you okay, love?"
She gave him a lazy smile and nodded, unable to speak at the moment. Edward gave her another kiss before rising to divest himself of his trousers and under garment. As he turned back to the bed, he saw Bella's eyes grow wide as she got her first sight of his completely nude body. Her mouth drew up in a perfect "O", as she watched him slowly crawl back onto the bed. She swallowed as she tried to calm the nerves that had once again rushed through her. Alice had explained the mechanics of making love, and Bella thought she knew what to expect, but, frankly, as she looked at the swollen fullness of Edward's manhood before her, she wondered... how?
Edward saw the flash of fear in Bella's eyes when she first saw him nude, her eyes drawn to his lower body. He saw the unspoken question as her gaze met his. He moved until he was lying on his side next to her, lifting his hand to cup her face as he asked, "What is it, love?"
He saw her swallow again as she plucked up the courage to ask, "How?... Will it fit?" Bella's face turned bright pink as she avoided his eyes.
Edward was having none of that. He gently curved his finger under her chin and raised it up until she met his gaze. He gave her one of his beautiful, crooked smiles that set her heart tripping in her chest. "Yes, love, it will fit. And quite nicely, I promise you."
Bella continued to look into his eyes until, seeing the pure devotion shining back at her, she slowly relaxed. Edward dipped his head and captured her lips with his, allowing the passion to once again build between them. He found, much to his liking, that it built much faster this time. Within minutes, Bella was writhing beneath his questing fingers, begging him for release. He pushed her to the brink several times, only to draw back at the last moment. Soon she was a quivering mass in his arms. Only then did he lift his body above her and settle his weight between her thighs, resting his upper body on his forearms, braced on either side of her shoulders.
He looked into her eyes, wild and glittering with need, and felt a surge of desire rush through him, the strength of it nearly his undoing. Edward shifted his weight, pushing against her until he was poised at her entrance. He leaned down and covered her lips with his, and laced his fingers through her hair. He felt her hands on his back as he slowly pushed into her.
Bella felt her body stretching to accommodate him, then felt him hesitate as he reached her natural barrier, before pushing deeper. She felt a sharp sting and dug her nails into his back. He paused, giving her time to adjust, and released her lips long enough to ask again, "Are you okay, love?"
Bella slowly opened her eyes to him as he pressed his forehead against hers. "Um-hum. Just go slow."
He nodded and kissed her softly as he pushed deeper, and with one last undulation of his hips, he filled her completely. Again, he stilled his movements, giving her time to get used to the fullness.
Looking at her once more, he asked again, "Is it okay?"
"It's wonderful," she said truthfully. The initial pain was quickly dissipating, to be replaced by the new sensation of being filled by him. He smiled at her before kissing her again and moving his hips into hers. Edward reveled in the feeling of being one with her, just as she marveled at how well they fit together. He had been right; he did fit quite nicely.
As he continued to move inside her, Bella heard him whispering his love, over and over, and she answered him with breathless gasps. Soon, the wonderful feeling she had experienced before began building once again. With every thrust of his hips, Edward was bringing her closer to that precipice. This time, he was climbing it with her. Instinctively her heels lifted up and pressed into Edward's muscled buttocks, her body's way of trying to draw him even closer to her. The playful growl that Edward let out tickled her neck and sent delicious shivers down her spine. Just when she thought she would surely die from the tension, it broke inside her, rolling across her body and causing her to bite into his shoulder to stifle her scream. He quickly covered her mouth with his, just as his body exploded, spilling into her in powerful waves.
Edward wrapped his arms protectively around his new bride as she rested her head on his chest. Then he pulled the covers over them as they drifted into sleep.
# # # # # # #
9 months later, to the day, Masen Edward Cullen was born.
Bel: Hey, Melly.
Mel: Hey, Belly.
Bel: If that love scene had been any sweeter, we would have all had to have insulin shots!
Mel: No kidding! I think I just might slip into one of the most delicious sugar comas ever.
Bel: Can you believe the story is almost over?
Mel: No! I'm sad that it's coming to an end. Westward has been way more fun than I ever thought!
Bel: Just the Epilogue to post and then Westward and Izzy will ride off into the sunset.
Mel: And it's such a fun epilogue too. I can feel it coming on. Do you feel it? It's those sweet, sweet dreams of a very wet, shirtless gunslinger...
Bel and Mel: * sigh *