All characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to the author. Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight.
Thanks as always, to my incredible beta xrxdanixrx.
A very special thanks to the amazing Lattecoug for betaing this chapter.
Many Thanks to Robbsweetangel, my wonderful Twilighted beta.
A million thanks to my dear friend and partner in crime, MizzezPattinson who pre-reads this story. Much love, hun. Your support means everything to me. XO
Thanks to all who have read, reviewed, and recommended this little story. Thank you for your patience as I rebuilt it, having lost it and my other uncompleted stories in a computer melt down.
We have arrived to the final chapter for our Numberward. It's always emotional to finish a story, particularly this one. It's difficult to describe the sheer frustration of having to rebuild something that you had already completed. I thank you for not giving up on me or Edward. I hope that you have enjoyed his journey. Please read the end notes for an announcement on a new story which is coming soon.
Let's check in and say goodbye.
"I don't get it," Emmett says, looking confused as he stares back at me.
Rosalie hits him hard in his bicep, rolling her eyes. "He's going back for Bella, you moron."
"Yeah…With us for Jake's wedding in a couple of weeks, right?" he asks, furrowing his brow as Jasper just shakes his head, wrapping his arm around Alice who is still bouncing with excitement.
"No, Emmett. Tomorrow, actually," I clarify.
His eyes widen in disbelief. "Tomorrow? Like tomorrow, tomorrow?"
I chuckle while Rosalie hits him again. "Yes, Emmett. Tomorrow, tomorrow," I repeat. I'm taking the first flight out at six."
"In the morning?" Rosalie looks horrified. I nod at her, realizing that, for Rosalie, six am is unwelcome hour to be waking for the day.
"Does she know you're coming?" Jasper asks.
I shake my head, smiling at him. "No. She doesn't."
Emmett looks as if he's been hit by truck, and yanks one of the dining room chairs away from the table, sinking into it. "Seriously?" he asks, looking up me anxiously.
"Yes. Seriously." I glance over at Jasper with a look of concern before pulling out the chair beside Emmett and sitting down. "Emmett, I've thought about this… actually, this is all I've thought about since we returned. I don't want to live without her."
He nods at me slowly. "I know how that feels," he says, looking up at Rosalie who actually blushes. Silence falls over the room while we all stare at her in disbelief. I've never, in the entire time I've known Rosalie, seen her blush.
"What?" she asks, trying to hold back her smile, moving to slide her arm around Emmett's shoulder. "Can't I like lovey-dovey shit too?"
The room erupts with laughter, effectively taking the edge off the conversation. "What's with these?" Emmett asks once the laughter has calmed, lifting one of the large, white packets from the dining room table.
"Your e-tickets for the flight for the upcoming wedding, travel itineraries, and a safety pack," I start to explain.
"Safety pack?" Jasper asks, moving to the large envelope on the table with his name on the front.
"Pre-paid gift cards for Granola bars from the Natural Food Pantry," I begin again.
"Oh, those were good!" Alice says happily.
"I thought you said it was a safety pack?" Emmett asks, looking puzzled.
"It is. You know how I feel about the horrible food they serve on airplanes. Mrs. Cope hand makes her granola bars. They're organic and are filled with omega-three and fiber. Trust me; it's better for you than anything they will try to give you on the plane."
Rosalie grins, shaking her head as she opens her envelope.
"There's also a small bottle of hand sanitizer for each of you, and Jasper- I've given you a travel first aid kit, just in case it's required."
"Hey! Why does he get to have to that?" Emmett asks, looking wounded.
I chuckle, shaking my head. "Because I've been on the receiving end of several of your attempts to administer first aid."
"Says the guy who passes out from the sight of blood," Emmett fires back at me, smirking.
I adjust my glasses. He does have a point, but still, I think the first aid kit is best left with Jasper.
"Fine, you can have the stupid first aid thing," Emmett grumbles, waving his hand dismissively at Jasper who grins back him. "What do I get?"
I grin, reaching for the Garmin GPS device beside his envelope, passing it to him. "You get to be in charge of the GPS unit."
"Sweet!" Emmett yells, taking the device and turning it over in his hand.
I chuckle at his excitement before continuing. "And I'm hoping that you'll be able to make arrangements for my apartment."
His face falls. "What do you mean? What arrangements?"
"Well, if things work out and I end up staying-"
"They're going to work out," Alice interrupts confidently, leaning against Jasper.
I smile back at her. "If they do, I'm going to want to rent out the apartment."
"And you want me to figure all that shit out?" Emmett asks apprehensively.
"I'd like you to find a suitable tenant."
Rosalie furrows her brow. "Why not just sell it?"
"I'm looking at it as an investment property. It's worth more if I hang on to it," I explain.
Emmett smiles at me, nodding his head. "You're always thinking, bro."
"Most of the time, yes," I say, raking my hand through my hair.
"You're really sure about this?" Emmett asks seriously.
"I'm sure that I have to try. Everything is just… different now since I met her. And I need to know I have your support, Emmett," I say, staring back at him. "All of your support." I glance at each one of them "I've never done anything that doesn't involve one or all of you, and certainly never anything like this before. It's the first time I'm doing something where I'm not entirely sure what the outcome is going to be."
"That's bullshit," Emmett responds firmly, causing my mouth to drop open at his words.
"Did you know that you were going to be able to play that stupid Beethoven song on the piano after only hearing it once?"
I smile at him, shaking my head at the fact that he remembers. "It was Brahms, and no, I guess-"
"Did you know that you were going to have to drag my ass to bed after I passed out at that keg party we had in second year?"
Rosalie rolls her eyes at the mention of Emmett's shady university days.
"You had a lot of keg parties, Emmett, which one?" He laughs loudly; despite the fact that I know he's trying to be serious. "I thought you might get intoxicated, but no, I didn't know I'd have to that."
"Did you know for sure that going into the business with us would turn out the way it did?" He lifts his eyebrows, staring back at me intently.
"Certainly, I had hoped, done the research, and determined that the probabilities of success were in our favor, but I guess no, I didn't know for certain."
"What about Alaska, huh? Did you know you were going to fall in love? Or think you were going to do all things you ended up doing? No! You didn't, Edward. You need to start realizing that you do things you're not sure about every day. You can't plan every single thing in your life. Fuck, you'd go insane if you tried. Sometimes the best things happen because they're not planned."
I'm stunned into silence. It's probably the longest speech I've heard Emmett give outside of his commentary on the status of various sports teams.
"Of course we support you, bro." His firm hand cups my shoulder. "We would support you no matter what you decided to do."
I feel a wave of relief wash over me. "Thank you. You don't know what that means to me."
"I think we do, man," Jasper says.
"Okay! Stop, stop! I'm going to cry!" Alice says, sniffing into Jasper's shirt. "Let's go over what else is in the packages, and then we can celebrate!"
"Do you think I'm doing the right thing?" I ask Rosalie as we work together to continue to pack up my clothes. I've decided to take one large suitcase in addition to my carry-on bag... for now.
She smirks at me, pulling out one of my sweater vests and lifting a brow before tossing it in the 'donate' pile she started forty minutes ago.
"I really like that one," I protest, gazing down at the blue vest.
"You have like seventeen packed already," she says flippantly, reaching back into the closet and tossing me a blue button down shirt.
"I only have nine packed," I murmur, grinning as I take my time to properly fold the shirt that she has just haphazardly tossed to me.
"What does your heart tell you?" she asks, turning from the closet to study me.
My hands still over the fabric of the shirt. "That I love her." She nods, smiling as she moves in front of my chest of drawers. "What did your heart tell you with Emmett?" I inquire.
She pauses, considering my question before answering, "That he was a big goof ball."
I laugh, setting the folded shirt into my suitcase on top of the pile. I frown slightly, knowing I can't fit much more in. Alice will just have more to ship to Alaska... I hope.
"A big goof ball that I couldn't live without," Rosalie adds. I smile at her words as she crosses the room to me, setting her hand over my heart. "Trust this, Edward. It's usually not wrong."
She turns back to the dresser and hauls open the top drawer. "Oh hell no!" she yells. "I draw the line at packing your underwear!"
"I have to give you kudos, Edward. This is a bold, bold move." Jasper leans back in the chair at the dining room table, grinning at me.
"For me, yes it is."
"For anyone," he says while we finish going over the contents of his envelope.
I've asked that Jasper take over the measuring associated with our contracts. That's really all I need in order to provide accurate costing for our clients. I've tested the concept on five of the more in-depth projects that we have already completed, rerunning calculations in order to ensure that my theory is correct.
His package contains instructions on measuring, some tricks I've developed over the years to ensure accuracy, along with sketches and measurements from previous jobs we've completed for him to use as a reference.
"Are you comfortable with sending measurements to me via email along with photos? I should be able to cost things out as long as the measurements are accurate."
He nods, grinning at me. "I can handle that."
"Measure twice, then measure again," he interrupts.
I nervously run my hand through my hair. "I'm sorry. I just want to make sure that you're comfortable with taking this on."
He claps his hand on my shoulder, squeezing in reassurance. "You'll walk me through the first few, and you're only a phone call away."
"Yes, I suppose I am."
Alice shakes her head, waving her hand frantically in front of her face. "No. No crying. Let's talk about what you want me to do with all of those clothes! I've never seen anyone with as many ties and vests in my life!"
"What did mom and dad say?" Emmett asks as he leans over the rail of my balcony, sipping on a Heineken, looking out into the early Seattle evening.
After Alice suggested that we celebrate, she had moved into my kitchen, muttered unintelligibly, and then promptly went out to purchase wine and beer. I don't do any entertaining, and I would never sit with a beer and watch Jeopardy in the evening, so why bother keeping them on hand?
"They were shocked, but they said the same things you all have. They want me to be happy."
He takes a long pull from his beer. "Bella's one lucky girl."
I shake my head at him. "No. I'm the lucky one, or I hope to be in any case. She may run screaming for the Alaskan forests when see she's me. Which reminds me, I need to ask another favor." He turns to look at me. "I know I've left you in charge of the GPS and sorting the apartment, but I need something else that I think you may have."
Turning from the balcony, he regards at me seriously. "Whatever you want, bro. You know I've got your back."
"Do you have Jacob Black's phone number?" He furrows his brow. "I'm going to need his help."
"Come on in!" Rosalie yells, splashing water at Emmett as they frolic in the roof top pool.
I adjust my glasses, running my hand through my hair, standing nervously beside the diving board. "We're not supposed to be up here," I whisper-yell while Jasper takes a running jump, cannon-balling into the deep end, soaking me in the process.
"Says who?" Emmett asks he stands in the shallow end, grabbing a shrieking Rosalie around the waist, tossing her effortlessly, watching as she sinks under the surface.
I slide my glasses off, pulling my button down from my slacks and using the fabric near the hem to dry the splashes of water from the lenses. "Says the sign on the door which clearly lists the hours of operation as being ten a.m. until nine p.m."
Alice tugs on my arm, trying to pull me in the direction of the pool. "Come on, Edward. Jump in with us! It'll be fun!" she urges.
I shake my head, taking a step back beside one of the circular patio tables, slipping my glasses back on. "You go ahead. I'll keep watch," I suggest, glancing anxiously at the door and wondering when security will burst through.
I've had an exemplary record as a tenant over the four years I've lived here, and now, that may be shattered with Emmett's infantile suggestion that we 'take a dip.' "And besides, I don't have my suit."
"Dude! None of us have our suits! We just jumped right in. And the door was open. If they wanted to keep us out, they should have locked it!" Emmett shouts for all of Seattle to hear.
"Would you keep your voice down?" I hiss.
"It's okay," Jasper says as he floats on his back, looking up into the darkened Seattle night. "You're up here with us. That's all that matters." I smile at Jasper, thankful for his ability to see reason on this issue. "It's been a great last night together."
"It's not our last night," Alice says, looking up at me worriedly, her tiny hand squeezing mine.
I smile at her, overwhelmed by the amount of support I know I have. As Alice watches, I let go of her hand, slowly slide my glasses off, and set them on top of the patio table, before taking her hand once more.
Alice practically squeals, causing everyone in the pool to turn their attention to us.
"One!" she yells, vibrating with excitement beside me.
"Two," I say calmly, grinning as I take a step with her to the edge of the pool, while Emmett hoots with excitement, my heart hammering.
"Do it! Do it! Do it!" Rosalie chants as she bobs in the water.
"Three!" Alice hollers, gripping my hand tightly as we both leap into the air, sinking quickly into the deep end.
The chilled water ignites every cell in my body, soaking through my slacks and button down as I kick quickly to the surface, hearing the four of them cheering like fools.
It's certainly not our last night together, but it is one of the best.
"Well, there it goes," I state, turning back to the four of them as my luggage disappears down the conveyer belt, into the depths of the unknown where it hopefully will find its way onto flight 823.
I was shocked when Emmett pulled up to the curb in front of my apartment in his oversized sport utility vehicle with Rosalie, Jasper, and Alice at four-thirty this morning. Apparently, they all wanted to come with him to see me off.
It was heartwarming gesture, particularly for Rosalie who is anything but a morning a person. Emmett compared her demeanor this morning to that of a "PMSing bear." Those are his words, not mine.
Their presence has helped greatly to calm my anxious nerves as I listened to their familiar bantering while Emmett navigated to the airport. Apparently, Rosalie is convinced she can traverse through the streets of Seattle better than Emmett or the barrage of engineers at Garmin who program the GPS system, and was quick to bark directions from the passenger seat.
"I can't believe you only packed one bag," Alice says, still in shock over that fact, I think.
Jasper chuckles, kissing the top of her head while we move as a group to the security area.
With only taking the bare essentials, I'm leaving Alice and Rosalie in charge of shipping the remaining items... I hope. Even though Isabella and I have spoken and texted several times since my return, and those conversations have been nothing but positive ones, there is still the looming thought that she may not react positively to my unannounced arrival.
"Okay. So this is not goodbye," Alice starts, vaulting herself at me as I adjust my carry-on bag over my shoulder. "It's 'I'll talk to you tonight, and I'll see you in a few weeks at the wedding.'" She buries her face against my shirt, sniffing in the process.
I wrap my arms tightly around her small frame. "That's exactly what it is, Alice. Thank you," I whisper in her ear. "For everything."
Alice tries to stealthily wipe tears from her cheek as she releases me, taking a step back while Jasper holds his hand out. I take it, shaking firmly, well as firmly as I can, before he pulls me against his chest. "Go get your girl," he says, patting me on the back before I am engulfed in a hug from Rosalie and Emmett.
"Remember what I told you," Rosalie murmurs in my ear. "Trust your heart and you won't go wrong."
"We're going to miss you at Sunday dinner, bro." Emmett's voice cracks slightly as I try to maintain my composure.
"Maybe I can video conference in," I suggest, swallowing back the lump in my throat as they unwrap their arms from around me.
"That would be cool," he says excitedly, his arm wrapping around Rosalie.
"I need to see about a connection that is better than dial up." I frown, thinking about the archaic modem that serves to connect the Lodge to rest of civilization. It's something I will need to look into... if I'm staying.
It's a bittersweet feeling as I make my way through the short security line in a virtual haze, turning to give them a final wave. They stand together, a united front, waving back frantically at me, Emmett shouting at the top of lungs for me to call him when I get there.
I nod to him, chuckling at his booming voice before I'm ushered through the security clearing process, each step taking me closer to her.
Sitting at the gate, waiting for the boarding call, I scroll through the text conversation Isabella and I had last night, after I dealt with my chlorine-soaked clothing.
It's become somewhat of a pattern for Isabella to text me once we disconnect from our telephone conversations. It's extremely sweet and endearing, and I dare say, occasionally erotic.
I've chosen not to pull up those particular conversations as I'm fairly certain an erection while in first class is something that would be frowned upon by the passengers and flight crew.
I smile to myself reading the final messages from last night.
She was describing how Jacob has been driving Leah to the brink of insanity with his constant meddling in the wedding plans, and how they both would be glad to be rid of him as he would be gone the next day to Anchorage.
What's Jacob doing in Anchorage?
I shake my head at the blatant question I asked.
Who cares! Some business and a pick-up or something. He's out of our hair which = good!
It took everything in me not to tell her that I was the pick-up.
Sweet dreams, Isabella.
You're in them – they are always sweet. XO
A monotone voice crackling overhead breaks my review of the conversation, and I switch off my phone, moving to impatiently join the queue of boarding passengers.
I'm a bundle of nervous energy, my entire body humming with anticipation as I gaze out the tiny oval window onto the tarmac. I turn my attention to the flight attendant as the safety protocol pipes through the cabin of the plane, and we roll slowly into position on the runway.
I'm glad to have something to at least try to focus on. I don't ever remember being this nervous in my entire life, and that is saying something. I slip the safety card out of the seat pocket in front of me, and study it as suggested. I note that none else in the seats around me follows the instructions to do so.
Committing the card to memory, I slide it back into the pocket, turning to the window on the right, my heart hammering frantically. I feel the engines thrust, the tarmac becoming a virtual blur as the plane taxis down the runway, and I leave Seattle behind.
I've been staring out the misted cabin window as the plane levels out smoothly above the cloudbank. Everything looks drastically different from thirty-seven thousand feet.
The clouds appear to be alive in an otherwise clear blue sky, bunches of cotton balls tumbling together in random patterns, and each one we pass, brings me closer to seeing her again.
"Sir?" The squeaky voice of the ever-present flight attendant garners my attention once more, and I turn to see her leaning in, rather close, I may add.
"There must be something I can get for you," she presses, looking at me hopefully. I've already refused two offers of beverages, some sort of horrific, freeze-dried breakfast meal, and two bags of nuts. Perhaps they are being graded on their customer service skills during this flight.
"Perhaps a water?" I suggest, resulting in a triumphant smile from the attendant. "I have my own bottle." I lean forward to pull my BPA-free water bottle from the side pouch of my carry-on bag, passing it to her as her brow furrows.
"You have your own bottle?" She turns it over in her hand, looking at it as if it is from another planet.
"Yes." I adjust my glasses, glancing back at her.
She grins, blinking several times in succession before disappearing with my bottle. The blinking is probably another case of wearing contact lenses. With planes as dry as they are, I wonder why these attendants wouldn't chose to wear their glasses. I make a mental note to suggest it when she returns.
Needing something to calm my racing heart, I pull my iPod from the zipper pouch of my carry-on, gently setting the ear buds into my ears and selecting my three B's playlist. Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms – you really can't go wrong. If this won't do something to settle my nerves, I'm not sure what will.
"Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged in." Jacob's greeting causes me to laugh as he stands with his bulging arms crossed at the arrivals gate, a smirk clearly etched on his face.
"Jacob." I set down my suitcase and extend my hand. He ignores it, deciding to clap me on the back with so much force, it actually borders on painful. "Thank you so much for meeting me," I say sincerely. "I can't begin to tell you what it means to me."
"Sure, sure. I don't get up this early in the morning for just anyone, you know." I furrow my brow. It's only just after nine. Normally, I would have been up and in the office, already working for at least an hour by this time. "And it'll cost ya, Eddie."
I realize in my haste to ask Jacob to pick me up last evening, we did not discuss payment. Not that it matters. I just need to get to her as fast as humanely possible, no matter what it costs. "Payment isn't an issue."
He grins, shaking his head and reaching from my suitcase. "Don't be too quick to say that until you hear what it is." He turns, rolling my luggage behind him while he moves through the terminal towards an exit sign. I follow along and we make our way through the doors and out into the crisp Alaskan morning.
"I can arrange for funds to be transferred to you once we are the Lodge," I offer while we move towards the dock, my lungs exploding with an intake of fresh air.
Stopping in front of his yellow float plane, he turns back to me. "Tell you what. You play at the wedding and we'll call it even."
I feel the blood drain from my face while I stare back at him. Surely he can't be serious. "Play?" My voice sounds like a whisper. "Jacob, I don't-"
"Or, I can just leave you here... it's a long drive to Cooper Landing, Ed," he says with a smirk, opening up the side door on the plane. "I can have you there in under an hour."
"Jacob… I've never played at a wedding before. Prior to what I played at the Lodge that night, I hadn't played for anyone but my family." I feel my heart quicken at just the thought.
"Mhmm..." he murmurs. "Here's the thing. I love Sam and all, but Leah really liked that song that you played. You wouldn't want to disappoint a bride on her wedding day, would you?" He leans against the door of the plane smirking and I frown for a moment. Who knew that he could be so shrewd?
We exchange a silent stare down, and before I can stop myself, I'm extending my hand to him. "You drive a hard bargain, Jacob Black." His grin widens as he engulfs my hand with his. "And you have a deal."
He looks beyond pleased with himself while he squeezes my hand tightly… very tightly before releasing it. "Come on, let's load up and get you where you need to be," he says, tossing the suitcase into the back of the plane as if it weighs nothing. "It's a great day to fly."
"Jeez, Ed you really need to learn to relax, especially on a day like today," Jacob shouts over the deafening roar of the engine.
I grip the arm rests of the seat, my knuckles turning white as I fight to steady my queasy stomach. That's the last thing I need…to arrive onto the dock at the Lodge; only to spill the contents of my stomach at Isabella's feet. "I know I should!" I holler. "But this plane makes me nervous." I squeeze my eyes shut, taking a series of deep breaths.
Jacob laughs loudly beside me, banking the plane to the left only slightly, but enough for my stomach to plummet yet again. "It's the safest way to travel!" he yells happily.
The cramped confines of the cockpit shake and rattle as I open one eye, watching while Jacob guides the de Havilland to soar closer to the rocky edges of the mountains than I would like. Why I decided to agree to Jacob's suggestion to sit beside him up here is a baffling mystery, and quite frankly right now, I'm seriously starting to question my sanity.
"Bear to the right below!" he yells, and I turn my head, pulling down the aging red life vest from around my neck as I tentatively peer out the window.
I feel a smile break across my face, seeing a large brown mass moving slowly through a clearing below. Emmett would love to see this. The sight of the bear has a somewhat calming effect, and I take a moment to appreciate the vast untouched wilderness that stretches out before me. It is truly remarkable, and I suppose on some level, I can understand why Jacob enjoys flying so much if these are views he is treated to.
"Here! Take the controls!" Jacob suddenly shouts.
I turn my head quickly to him, my mouth gapping open. "What? No. Jacob!"
"You gotta learn sometime!" he says loudly, prying my hand from the arm rest and setting on the weathered leather steering handle.
My heart hammers in my chest and I think my eyes may actually pop out of the sockets as Jacob removes his hand from the controls, pointing to one of the dials on the control panel in front of us. "Just keep an eye on this."
"What is that?" I ask, my eyes darting across the dizzying myriad of controls to focus on the one he is pointing at.
"It's the horizon indicator," he starts to explain. "Just keep it level and you won't crash us."
With my heart in my throat, my eyes drift from the dials back to him. "I won't crash? Jacob, I really don't—"
"Eyes in front!" he yells with a grin, his hand reaching forward to adjust a lever as I turn back to the front window. "You're flying, Eddie! It's not rocket science. Trust me. If I can do it, anyone can!"
Somehow, his words do not instill confidence, but I focus on the horizon dial as he instructed, keeping it level. My hands grip the steering column as if my life depends on it. I suppose it does. Still, despite the fact that I feel as if I pass out at any moment, I can't deny the excitement coursing through me.
Lifting my eyes to the front, I glance out over the turquoise water stretched out below us like a crystal pane of glass. My shaking palms start to sweat with my ever-growing anxiety and I turn to glance at Jacob.
"Is that Kenai Lake?"
He grins, nodding his head. "The one and only."
Hearing the blood pulse behind my ears, I stare back at him, taking a series of deep breaths.
"Eyes on the controls! I really don't want to die before my wedding," he shouts.
I whip my head to the front. "Then I shouldn't be doing this!"
He laughs, as he manipulates a series of levers while I lean across, trying to keep us steady as he instructed. It's quite impressive, actually to see him in his element. The sheer amount of dials and switches that adorn the control panel is staggering to me. He's clearly competent and extremely sure of himself. Qualities I admire a great deal.
After a few moments, I feel Jacob's hands reclaim the steering controls. "You did great, Eddie. I'll take it from here," he says calmly.
I nod as a sense of relief washes over me, and I close my eyes. I'm honestly not sure how I am not passed out on the floor of the plane at this point. Emmett will never believe what I've just done.
Shifting back into my seat, I feel the thrust reduce, the deafening roar of the engine quiets, and I snap my eyes open as the trees get closer and closer. Adjusting the life vest from around my neck, I watch as the water inches its way towards us until the floats touch down, water shooting out from the sides while Jacob guides the de Havilland effortlessly towards the dock at the end of the lake.
Feeling the interior of the cabin spin before my eyes, I bend over at the waist, trying desperately not to pass out. While the plane bobs in the water, the adrenaline spikes through me as I will my racing heart to calm.
Swallowing thickly, I feel Jacob lean across my lap, throwing open the door and letting in a blast of much needed fresh air which I inhale greedily.
I tentatively open my eyes, feeling his strong hand on my shoulder. "Edward? You alright there, man?" Jacob asks quietly.
I raise my head, adjusting my glasses, staring back at him. "You just called me Edward," I say quietly in disbelief.
He grins, chuckling slightly. "Thought it was about time." His eyes drift to the dock as his smile widens, and he motions with his head to the open door. "Somebody's waiting."
I close my eyes before turning my head slowly and stretching my legs out, unfolding from the plane and taking a tentative step onto the rickety dock.
Please do not let me pass out. Please do not let me pass out. If I repeat the mantra continually, perhaps I'll manage to stay upright.
Lifting my eyes to the Lodge, I stop breathing altogether when I see Isabella stopped on the dock, her hand flying up to cover her mouth as she shakes her head.
My pulse thunders in my ears, obliterating every other sound around me, my memories clearly failing me on just how incredibly beautiful she is. And then, it begins… the draw that I cannot rationalize, the smile that I feel break across my face immediately, the intense desire to be near her as our eyes lock.
I take a few shaky steps forward, the dock creaking and swaying, doing nothing for my already unsteady legs, and then she is sprinting towards me, her hair flowing behind her as she leaps at me, her torso connecting with the life vest as she tries to wrap her arms around my neck.
My eyes slide shut, my arms engulfing her as best I can while I breathe her in, burying my face in her hair, soaking in the feeling. "Isabella…" Any further speech is elusive.
"I'm dreaming, right? This is a dream?" she whispers.
"One that we're in together," I manage to say as she slips from arms, her hand rising to cup my cheek .
"You're really here?"
I nod, brushing her falling tears with the pad of my thumb. I only hope they are happy tears. "If you'll have me."
"But… Seattle and your life…" she starts, her eyes searching mine.
"Someone once told me it's good to break from routine, and to never look back and think about what ifs." Her eyes widen at my words as she shakes her head in disbelief. "I know what she meant now. In Seattle, I had my job, and things that I had to do that were and are important to me." She brushes her thumb over my cheek, her eyes intently on mine. "But when I got home and had to get back to that reality, I realized I didn't want to live in it without you," I admit, brushing a wayward strand of hair from her face.
She takes a shaky breath in, tugging on the bottom of the life vest. "Get this off!" Her trembling hands somehow unfasten the tie in the middle of the vest, and we both push it frantically up and over my head, leaving my glasses askew while the vest falls with a thud onto the dock.
Ignoring my disheveled state, she cups my face between her hands, lifting up on her toes, the barrier of the life vest gone as she closes the distance between us.
I close my eyes, my nose brushing against hers, her breath warm against my skin, and with my heart in my throat, I gently press my lips to hers, lingering, savoring the way she feels; soft, warm, and inviting.
Her fingers twist in my hair, our mouths moving more urgently, a low hum emanating from her as the kiss deepens. My entire body is on fire; the feeling that only she can provide of being alive and electric, courses through me once more.
My hand presses against the curve of her neck as I reacquaint myself with the softness of her lips, the feel of her hair between my fingers, the warmth of her body as it presses against mine.
"You stole my t-shirt," I murmur as she pulls back, resting her forehead on mine, her fingers toying with the hair at the nape of my neck.
"What?" she asks breathlessly, extracting one hand from my hair and skimming it down my back.
I sigh at the feel of her touch, my fingers trailing across the sleeve of the grey Hanes t-shirt that I immediately recognize.
"This is mine," I say, tugging on the hem of the shirt as it hangs on her denim clad thigh.
She grins, her lips hovering over mine. "And so am I."
"Yes, Mr. Modina. I can grade the student's assignments once they have been submitted online," I explain to the Dean of the college as we review arrangements for the rest of the term for my marginal accounting students.
With virtual classes and digital submissions being commonplace, the discussion which I was worried about having with the Dean has actually gone very smoothly.
As I sit at Isabella's dining room table, which is strewn with more correspondence than it was when I left, I feel a sense of calm wash over me. My smile, that now seems a permanent feature, widens as her arms wrap around my shoulders from behind, her lips skimming my neck while her hand flattens over my chest.
I clear my throat, leaning back in the chair, my eyes sliding shut while her fingers release the first button on my dress shirt, her breath fanning over skin.
I slide my free hand down her arm as she moves to slip into my lap, straddling my waist and popping the next button on my shirt free, her eyes intently on mine.
"Of course," I squeak out, my mouth going dry, watching as she wets her bottom lip. "I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. I'll speak to you soon." Whatever parting words the Dean is saying are lost to me as she rolls her hips, a quiet groan emanating from me while I slide my free hand around her waist.
I shake my head slowly at her, disconnecting from the call, reaching around her to place the phone on the table. "You, Isabella Swan, are very dangerous."
"Who? Me?" She grins, lifting a brow, circling her hips once more as the situation in my trousers makes itself known.
"Yes. You." I smooth my palm up her back, pressing her forward as her fingers curl around the collar of my shirt. She tugs gently, bringing my lips to hers.
"And do you like me dangerous?" she mumbles against my lips.
I hum in response as she places her palms behind her on the table, hopping up, pulling me to stand between her legs. Pressing my torso to hers, she leans back, her hand skimming across the table, resulting in most of the correspondence ending up on the floor.
"Is it wrong if my answer yes?"
She laughs, her legs wrapping around my waist. "No. It's not."
"What words would you use to describe me?" I ask much later, lifting a pink envelope from the floor as we attempt to sort through the myriad of papers and receipts that were swept from the top of the dining room table.
"Well, you called Eric here cute," I mutter, holding the envelope aloft.
She grins, jumping up to steal the envelope from my hand, turning it over and rolling her eyes before tossing it back onto the table.
She takes a step towards me, flattening her palms up my chest. "Mmm… Sexy," she mumbles.
I try to contain a chuckle, pulling back from her slightly, brushing her hair from her face. "Isabella, I'm a lot of things, but sexy isn't one of them."
"You asked me what my words are. Do you want to hear them or not?" she asks, lifting a brow.
I kiss the crease in the forehead. "Forgive me. Of course I do."
"Mmm…" She presses her lips to my jaw. "Intelligent." Her lips skim across my collarbone as my heart races. "Caring." Wrapping her arms around my waist she rests her cheek against my chest. "Warm and perfect."
I kiss the top of her head, tightening my arms around her. Once again, speech isn't an option.
Eighty-four-The number guests currently sitting in white folding chairs in the clearing at the Lodge, awaiting the arrival of Leah and her bridal party.
One properly tuned black Steinway piano, currently sitting on a wooden, raised platform to the right of Jacob Black as I play a selection of classical pieces from the three B's, and try not to pass out.
Normally I am content to stay in my usual place of invisibility that I typically occupy. Today, however, I am literally front and center at one of the most important events to take place in someone's life.
I'm grateful for the hours I spent with my mother sitting at the piano, learning and playing these songs. That is time that was very well spent.
I'm also trying to focus on Emmett's words of encouragement when he said, "Just pretend you're playing for us, and if you get nervous, look for me. I'll be in front with Rose."
I've looked over to him eight times, and each time, as he said he would, he offers me a reassuring thumbs up, or makes some sort of face which he thinks will calm me. Even though my heart has been hammering a rapid beat since well before the ceremony started, the pieces I've chosen to play are at least soothing in their familiarity.
It could have been disastrous as Jacob's first request was that I play an instrumental version of Motely Crue's Girls, Girls, Girls. Isabella wisely steered him clear of that ill-advised suggestion, stating she would make sure the DJ played it during the reception.
With Brahms, Romanze in F completed, my gaze lifts to the grass aisle between the lines of chairs. In a last minute idea, Jacob decided to desecrate several of the white roses from the flower arrangements, throwing them on the aisle. I was horrified at first, but had to agree with him that it did look wonderful when he was finished.
My breath catches at the sight of Isabella as she moves slowly, her hands clasped around a small bouquet of Forget-Me-Nots, her eyes clearly locked to me.
My fingers still over the keys as I watch her, the hem of her black strapless dress brushing the rose petals strewn on the grass while my mouth goes dry. My heart races as I take in her creamy skin, her hair as it falls in waves around her shoulders, the slight blush to her cheeks while her eyes widen when she sees me.
Jasper's throat clearing brings me out of my haze, and I glance at him, his eyes drifting pointedly to the piano keys and back to me until it dawns on me that I'm supposed to be playing. I shake my head, feeling more than flustered as I immerse myself in the task at hand.
I close my eyes, rich vanilla icing mixing perfectly with nutty pecan essence as I bite into the delightfully warm pastry beside the dessert table. The wedding was lovely and proceeded without a hitch, despite my momentary slip at the piano which seems to have been long forgotten.
The Alaskan weather cooperated, providing a cloudless sky and relatively warm temperatures as Charlie, acting as the official photographer, snapped pictures of Jacob and Leah by the float plane, and in various places surrounding the Lodge.
After a rowdy dinner in the restaurant, which included Jacob disappearing under Leah's dress only to emerge moments later with a black garter in his teeth, the party moved into the bar.
Now, Isabella's mystery drink, which she refuses to divulge the ingredients of, is being consumed faster than Charlie can make it.
"Enjoying my buns?" Isabella's voice causes me to choke, my eyes flying opening as I choke and swallow the pastry.
She grins up at me, patting me on the back and offering me a glass of the mystery punch. "You know, you can have Bella's Buns whenever you want," she says, wrapping her arm around my waist as I take a tentative sip of the beverage.
It reminds me vaguely of Emmett's legendary Killer Kool-Aid, and I decide quickly that one sip is all I need. I do not wish to relive the one and only time I was intoxicated.
"I can?" I ask, my tongue darting to the corner of my mouth to catch some wayward icing.
She squeezes my waist gently. "Mhmm…"
"Have I told you tonight that I love you, Isabella Swan?" I ask, staring down at her.
"Because of my buns?" she asks, lifting a brow in amusement.
"Because of a thousand reasons. Only one of which is your buns."
She gasps dramatically. "Edward Cullen! Are you flirting with me?"
"Is it working?"
"Yes," she breathes, her fingers tracing up the buttons of my vest.
"I love you too," she says while my heart explodes at her words as she presses her lips firmly to mine, humming in contentment.
I'm vaguely aware of Sam and his wayward band of marginally talented musicians, breaking into an ear-piercing guitar riff, followed by Sam's shrieking.
Out on the street, that's where we'll meet
Isabella whips her head to the stage, jumping with excitement beside me, and I chuckle at her enthusiasm.
"It's your Ratt with two T's!" I shout above Sam's warbled voice.
Alice and Rosalie emerge from the crowd of pulsating bodies on the dance floor, desperately tugging on Isabella's arm.
"Come on! Dance with us!" Alice yells, effectively pulling Isabella from my arms. She gives a wave to me, and they bounce off to join the rest of the crowd as I return to peruse the sweets.
"Great job today, Edward," Charlie claps me on the shoulder as I reach for a chocolate brownie, setting it onto my plate.
"Thank you, sir…er… Charlie. It's the first time I've played in front of so many people. I'm afraid I made a few mistakes." I grimace, thinking of the three misguided notes in one of the Bach pieces.
He waves his hand dismissively, taking a sip of the lavender colored punch. "Mistakes are all part of life. We learn from them, we move on. You did great, and I'm happy you're here. We have a lot to celebrate."
I smile at him as he holds his glass out and I clink mine to his. "That we do, Charlie."
Charlie's eyes drift to the bar where a few of the guests seem to be motioning to the empty punch bowl. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. "I'll be back, Edward. Duty calls."
As Charlie moves back to the bar, muttering under his breath, I see Emmett and Jasper jump up onto the stage and I furrow my brow. Nothing good usually comes from this intoxicated duo when placed in the presence of a microphone and a room full of people.
I try to shoot Emmett a warning look, but he is ignoring me completely, talking into Sam's ear.
Oh dear Lord. What on earth are they planning?
Sam nods his head as I set the mystery drink down along with the plate, and Emmett takes the microphone.
He's going to sing.
I shake my head, searching frantically for Rosalie. Perhaps she can talk some sense into him.
Unfortunately, Rosalie and Alice are both leading the crowd, chanting unintelligibly in front of the stage.
The drummer starts a rhythm – at least he can hold a beat, most of the time- and then, Emmett does a hip gyration on the stage, sending Rosalie and the rest of the woman in the room into a round of cat calls.
Emmett flashes Rosalie a grin, and then his booming, slightly intoxicated voice echoes through the bar.
We got it together, didn't we, baby?
I shake my head at his attempt to sound like Barry White while I try to disappear behind the dessert buffet as Jasper leans over towards the microphone.
We definitely got our thing together don't we, baby?
Alice squeals at the sound of Jasper's voice, and I laugh at the two of them while they try to make their way through the prelude to the song, fumbling the words in the process. The crowd couldn't care less, rather, every mistaken lyric seems to only urge them on while they all dance and sing along to the parts that they know.
Staring in disbelief at the stage, I notice Isabella move through the crowd, laughing while she stops at the edge of the dance floor, crooking her finger at me enticingly. My heart accelerates as my gaze locks to hers.
You're my sun, my moon, my guiding star
My kind of wonderful, that's what you are
In a haze, I make my way to her, my hand wrapping around her waist, pressing her against my torso, my free hand placing hers over my heart. She smiles up at me, sliding her hand around my neck, her fingers teasing my skin.
"I don't dance well," I murmur, brushing my nose against hers.
"Yes you do. I taught you. Just sway."
"I glance up to the rest of the crowd who is hip grinding and gyrating to the upbeat tempo, the floor pulsating underneath our feet.
"Everyone else is dancing fast," I note, my hand sliding across her lower back while we start to slowly sway.
"I don't care," she murmurs, her eyes never leaving mine.
I see, so many ways that I can love you
We share a laugh, hearing Emmett's voice.
"You look pretty damn fantastic, Edward Cullen," she says sincerely.
"Mmm… It's the suit," I reply dismissively.
She shakes her head slowly as we start to move in a leisurely circle, lost in our quiet moment. "It's you in a suit."
She slides her hand from my neck, placing her fingers over my mouth. "I know there's only, only one like you," she mouths, her fingers drifting back into my hair. "There's no way they could have made two."
Skimming my lips under her ear, I slowly whisper along with Jasper and Emmett's off key singing. "Girl, you're my reality. But I'm lost in a dream."
Resting my forehead on hers, we continue to sway under the white twinkle lights that Emmett and Jasper helped to hang from the exposed beams of the bar earlier today.
"You're the first, you're the last, my everything."
1:38- The fuzzy time that reads on Isabella's digital alarm clock, perched precariously on her nightstand.
Eight – The number of times I've ghosted my fingers down the curve of her spine as she sleeps beside me, her hair fanned out on the blue pillow that is adorned with tiny bears.
One strapless, black dress, currently in a heap on the floor beside my suit.
One person who can change what you thought you wanted. A person who takes the time to look beyond the surface to see what's underneath, and by some miracle, not only accepts what they find, but doesn't want to live without it.
In the morning, Jacob and Leah will leave for their honeymoon, embarking on the next stage of their lives together. I suppose that's what every morning brings you; a new experience, a new adventure. It may not always be what you planned, but I intend to take each journey that may come my way with Isabella by my side.
Smoothing my hand over the creamy skin of her back, I close my eyes, ready to take our next step together.
Chapter end notes:
Do yourself a favour and take a listen to
Brahms – Romanze in F
You tube - watch?v=5T6mmVMd5f0
My First, My Last, My Everything – Lyrics by Peter Radcliffe, Tony Sepe, Barry White
Youtube - watch?v=2zfxZRBm3EY
I hope you have enjoyed this Edward's journey.
It's always extremely emotional to finish a story. I have laughed and cried, and I'm not going to lie, there were times I almost completely melted down after I lost my work.
But through all of that, I would receive messages of support and encouragement from readers and friends. I'm not sure people realize how important their words of support are, how those words can help in immeasurable ways. I thank each and every one of you who has read, reviewed, and recommended this story.
A very special thank you to: MizzezPattinson, Lattecoug, xrxdanixrx, robbsweetangel, justmestace, lynzylee, jadapattinson, nillaswan, coachlady12, nn813, m_474, FrostysWiff08, ordinary_vamp, kygirltwo, azucena34 and all the Twitterloves.
For those of you did not figure out the sequence of Isabella's chapters, it was every 5th one. Numberward is proud of those of you who did.
Coming soon: Kink – A ridiculous summer-time romance between one very cocky Edward Cullen and one tough Bella Swan.
There's too much angst and stress in our real lives. Let's have some fun for a change! It's summer in Canada, and time for lots of drinking, warm days on the beach, and long, hot nights.
I hope you enjoy it.
Until then, drink ice wine and watch Jeopardy. Numberward will be doing the same.
Much love, Leslie