Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment own all things Twilight-related.
A/N 1: For the first time ever, I am actually going to post a story in installments...as it is created. This inspires much terror in me, but I'm more than willing to step outside my comfort zone if it will challenge me as a writer. Thank you, StormDragonfly, for your keen insight on this matter!
A/N 2: Thus far in the Twilight fandom I have tackled angst and an odd bit of humor. This time, I am in more familiar territory: fluff and romance. This story represents the ultimate Carlisle/Bella first time for me – one where all the proverbial trials and tribulations are over with, leaving only the couple's romantic culmination. Some might call it a PWP. I prefer to think of it as an exploration of love and intimacy through Bella's eyes. The story as a whole is definitely rated M, but the intimacy is lovingly described, and is between consenting adults.
Many, many thanks to Carol for her insightful comments and suggestions. All mistakes in the final draft are mine alone.
For anyone concerned about the tone of the beginning, never fear – this really is a Carlisle/Bella story.
The doors to the opulent suite opened at my prompting, and I stepped inside, grateful for the brief moments of silence I had before the others caught up to me. My God, it was beautiful; every conceivable amenity was at one's fingertips, including a small swimming pool and attached jacuzzi dominating the entire northeast corner. It even had its own poshly decorated foyer that I traversed with my jaw practically scraping the floor. Leave it to the Cullens to spare no expense whatsoever.
Like I should have been surprised – Alice and Esme had handled just about everything after I'd sheepishly admitted the thought of large-scale event planning made me break out in hives. Metaphorically speaking, of course. It just wasn't my thing. Like dancing in heels. Or dancing at all, for that matter.
But, I'd danced tonight, that's for sure. I'd felt pure, unadulterated joy without caring one bit how gawky I might have looked. Tonight I was on top of the world. It was the start of a new chapter, a time to put the past, with all its pain and turmoil, behind me once and for all. And I was so ready for that.
I smiled as cool hands suddenly brushed my bare shoulders. Craning my neck, I glanced up at Edward. "Hello, Mr. Cullen."
"Hello, Mrs. Cullen," he responded warmly, wrapping his arms around me and bending down for a kiss.
I snuggled back into his embrace before turning to gaze around the room once more. "This place is incredible."
"Esme found it. In Architectural Digest."
"I don't want to know how much it cost."
He chuckled in my ear. "Neither do I."
We stood like that for a while, just savoring the moment, until he finally let go and turned me to face him. The look in his eyes easily conveyed his concern.
"Are you sure you're ready for this, Bella? Because if you're not, just say the word, and we can all pile in here, watch movies, and take turns holding you while you sleep..."
Though I was trembling on the inside, I shushed him with a remarkably steady finger against his cool lips. "I'm ready, Edward. Really." He was so sweet. And so unbearably handsome in formal black and burgundy with his signature flyaway hair still holding on for dear life. His gaze searched mine, warming slightly as the honesty of my words must have finally hit home. "I love you," I whispered.
Someone cleared his throat softly before Edward could respond, and we both glanced toward the door. I grinned as Emmett peered expectantly around the corner. He bounded inside the room as soon as I held out my hand to him.
"You look really beautiful, Bella," Emmett murmured so earnestly it made my heart clench. It looked like he was fighting to keep himself in check, and I had a pretty good idea why.
Tugging playfully on his lapel, I said, "You can kiss me now, Emmett."
Leaning down, he did just that, foregoing all the quick, chaste pecks we'd shared in the past for a much longer, much deeper one this time around. It actually left me a bit breathless by the time he pulled away.
Edward clapped his brother's shoulder as I took a deep, steadying breath. "Feel better now?"
Emmett exhaled loudly. "Ohhh, yeah!"
I couldn't help but laugh at the two of them. From this day forward, life was going to be very, very interesting. And that was putting it mildly.
A loud squeal interrupted my thoughts as Alice flew into the room and made a beeline for me while the rest of the Cullen family filtered in leisurely behind her. Within seconds I was gathered into the tightest hug I'd ever experienced. "You looked like a princess today, Bella!"
"Thanks to you and everyone else, I felt like one too," I whispered back, struggling to breathe through her exuberance and Clive Christian perfume.
"Human, Alice," Rosalie piped in.
Alice immediate loosened her hold, looking apologetic. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Bella. I'm just so happy!"
I looked around at my new family as I accepted a surprisingly sincere hug from Rosalie who, to my utter astonishment, even smiled and kissed me on the cheek. They were all such beautiful people under normal circumstances, but now... Honestly, having all the Cullen men in one spot, impeccably dressed in tuxes, was truly a sight to behold. I was so taken by all the gorgeous masculinity surrounding me that I'd missed half of what the pastor had said during the ceremony.
I was one of them now. A very plain and ungainly swan to be sure, but one who somehow appeared flawless in their eyes. And I loved each and every one of them for it.
Jasper approached wearing a huge, lopsided grin. "You look magnificent, darlin'," he drawled, taking one of my hands in his own.
I grinned. "Why, thank you, sir." My humor melted into a puddle of intense and unexpected desire when he lifted my hand and placed a soft kiss against the pulse-point on the inside of my wrist. Oh. Oh!
"Jasper, knock it off!"
Edward's voice shook me out of my daze.
Ever the gentleman, Jasper had the good graces to look somewhat contrite, even though his eyes still radiated amusement. "My apologies, ma'am," he whispered, bending closer to finish, "but I meant every word."
This time the shudder that passed through me was definitely natural, and I blushed. Deeply.
"All right, Mr. Smooth, let's go." Edward playfully punched Jasper's arm while tossing a wink in my direction.
"Yes, I'm sure Bella would appreciate some quiet time now," Carlisle announced. "She's had a long day."
"And it's about to get even looonger," Emmett sing-songed.
I buried my face in my hands, mortified beyond belief yet unable to keep from smiling at the laughter and cat calls that ensued.
Esme approached as everyone began making their way out. The long, warm hug she gave me spoke volumes. "Oh, sweetie, I hope this day was everything you hoped it would be."
"It was. More than I could have hoped for, actually. Thank you, Esme, for everything."
I could tell by her expression that she would have been all teary-eyed had it been possible. "You're so welcome, Bella." She pulled me back into a hug and then whispered in my ear, "I slipped a small tin of ibuprofen into your luggage. You'll probably need it later."
God, the embarrassment! She was so thoughtful – they all were, really – but I still wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole for a few minutes until I could regain my composure. I was probably as red as a cherry.
Okay, bad choice of words.
When Esme pulled away, she winked knowingly at me. "Have a good night, honey. See you in the morning."
"Thanks," I murmured, fanning my face. Yeah, way too hot in here. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Get a grip, Bella. It's your wedding night.
My wedding night...
And then I heard the door close. Silence, followed by quiet footfalls approaching. I'd half expected him to whisk me up into his arms and carry me straight to the bed in a passionate display, but the rational part of my brain that still worked told me he was far too much of a gentleman for something so presumptuous. Instead, I felt him take my hands, squeezing gently to get my attention.
"Bella? Are you all right, love?"
I nodded, finally opening my eyes. He'd turned down the lighting; it was now just a subtle warm glow, punctuated only by the brighter lights lining the inside walls of the pool. "I really need to get out of these shoes," I mumbled, my nervousness forcing my focus everywhere but where it should have been.
He chuckled, a wonderful, musical sound that I'd never fully appreciated until now. "Allow me."
Within seconds, he had me lifted and safely seated on the nearest countertop, and was making short work of the flats I'd worn most of the day. There was a light in the ceiling right above where we were, and I watched, fascinated, as it glinted off his hair. There were so many shades of blond there, an array of gold and yellow as unique as Carlisle Cullen himself. I longed to touch it. And tonight I would be able to for the first time.
That was part of my anxiety, I suppose – that everything with Carlisle would be a first time, right down to the simple gesture of just touching in a non-sexual manner. We'd shared several affectionate moments over the past year that may have qualified as something more than friendship – a few hugs here and there, and he'd kissed me twice on the top of my head – but that was it. He'd kept everything overtly platonic, I'm guessing out of respect for Edward, who had felt the connection in me first.
As far as the rest of the world was concerned, I'd dated and married Edward Cullen. He was now my legal husband, but he wasn't the only one I'd wed today. According to coven tradition, I now had seven spouses, not one, and the Right of First Night was a privilege extended only to the coven's leader.
...which is why I was now sitting here in this incredible honeymoon suite, having my sore feet massaged by one of the most gorgeous creatures on the planet...
Carlisle glanced up at me, a touch of curious concern in his expression. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Why, are you eager to play doctor?" I joked, trying to cover my unease.
The richness of his laughter did wonders to relax me. Or maybe it was the mischievous smile he flashed when he let go of my foot and edged closer, invading my personal space for the first time. "Do you want me to play doctor, Isabella?" Carlisle whispered, lightly dragging the back of one of his fingers down my cheek. "I'm actually rather good at that particular game."
I felt my jaw go slack as he winked, every nerve ending in my body suddenly humming with desire. It would have been so easy for him to lean in and claim my lips, to guide me to the next level of intimacy between us. But, again, that would have been less than gentlemanly given the nature of our relationship until this point. Instead, he gently tickled underneath my chin, obviously relishing in how deeply he could make me blush, and then held his arms out to help me down. His smile never faded and his gaze never broke from mine the whole time, the heat of his stare making me shake with anticipation.
Good Lord. More than five minutes of Carlisle's passionate flirtation could easily give me heart failure long before I lose my virginity tonight. And I would still die a very, very happy woman.