"Bella, that's you!"
"Did you really jump?"
"How come you're wearing a wedding gown?"
Bella smiled at the curiosity of her latest group of campers as they passed the High Cliff Wall of Fame on their way into the auditorium.
"Keep walking, guys," I prompted. "We'll tell you the story after Bella's show tonight."
O – o – o – O
Bella could not have foreseen Charlie Swan and Elizabeth Whitely's unlikely yet undeniable mutual attraction, so she hadn't factored Elizabeth into her vision of our intimate wedding party. Every other prediction, however, turns out to be perfect, right down to the peony and white lilac bouquet now shaking visibly between Bella's hands.
My hands reach to cover hers, instantly steadying her with my reassuring touch.
"Do you have the rings?" the Minister whispers.
I nod confidently- that was Jasper's responsibility. If there is one thing I can count on today, it's that Bella's wedding band has made it safely up the cliff with Jasper. He gives me a supportive wink as he pulls the ring from his pocket and sets it in my hand with the precision of a surgeon's assistant.
I wait for Alice to relieve Bella of her bouquet. Gently grasping and lifting Bella's left wrist, I balance the solid platinum band at the tip of her ring finger.
"With this ring, I thee wed."
I feel Bella draw a sharp gasp as her fingertip penetrates the perfect circle representing our unbreakable union. My eyes click to her face and I tighten my grip on her wrist as her wedding band twists and slides along her slender finger until it comes to rest against her diamond. I know she is going to switch them later, but for now, I enjoy the symbolism of our marriage providing the final barrier between the sanctity of the promises represented by her engagement ring and the world outside the two of us.
I bring her rings to my lips. Sealed With A Kiss.
A serious but happy smile graces the corners of her mouth, and I reluctantly release her hand. If it were up to me, I'd never let go, but I realize it would only delay our legal joining to hold on longer.
I feel her lift my left hand with hers, a gesture so familiar to me by now that my body responds automatically with anticipation of good things to follow.
Bella flopping down on the couch next to me, lifting our intertwined fingers onto her lap, and scooting close to watch TV.
Bella absently looping her fingers around mine to pull me closer as we walk back from our morning workout.
Bella walking her fingers down my thigh to secretly hold my hand under the table as we have dinner out with friends.
Bella standing, pulling me by our joined hands to the bliss of our bed.
So it is with that unwavering trust borne of history and love that I eagerly give her my hand.
Rosalie has chosen to transport my ring on her pinkie for safe-keeping. She spins the band until it loosens and deposits it firmly into Bella's waiting palm. Rose is not one to take chances. It's a long, long way down. A look passes between them before Bella returns her eyes to my waiting pair.
"With this ring, I thee wed."
Her voice breaks as it did earlier when she invoked her mother's memory. I'd had a rough moment myself bringing my mother's spirit to the ceremony, and I'd carefully avoided any Cullen eyes during that part.
I place my right hand on her waist, taking another step closer and squeezing her gently, sending her the encouragement she needs to start the circle moving toward my knuckle and past. The metal feels foreign against my skin, and I look down and regard my hand as if it belongs to a stranger.
Bella immediately covers her left hand over mine, aligning our fingers so that metal meets metal, my mark upon her joining hers on me.
"Do you, Edward Anthony Cullen, take Isabella Marie Swan to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do you part?"
"Do you, Isabella Marie Swan, take Edward Anthony Cullen to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do you part?"
"I do." I feel my lips curl into a relieved smile as she passes the last milestone.
"By the power vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife. What God has joined, let no man put asunder. You may now kiss the bride."
"Finally," Bella exhales adorably, causing our small assembly to giggle at her impatience.
I hear the shutter of the photographer's lens as I trap Bella's head between my hands and close my lips over my wife's for the first time as a married man. I clench my eyes shut to focus all my attention on the enormity of this moment. She tastes as sweet as ever, but this time, mingled in with her regular flavor, I can discern a hint of forever.
"Mmmmmm," my wife moans.
"Mmmmmm," I moan right back.
"Mmmmmm," she moans more urgently, tapping my shoulder this time.
I open my eyes to the miraculous vision of Bella's brown eyes smiling with joy. She flicks her eyes just beyond me, and I realize I've been kissing her for a while. The natives are getting restless.
Relieved to be liberated from the formality of the ceremony, Emmett breaks formation first and closes in. He takes both of us into an energetic hug that pushes Bella a little closer to the platform's edge than I like and actually sends several loose pebbles to the surf below.
"Jesus, Em, be careful, you big baboon!"
As usual, he responds to my overprotectiveness with boisterous laughter.
"Easy, Eddie, Ty's got us covered."
I glance and wave to the broader audience now cheering 6500 feet below us. Though Tyler is dressed in his fanciest island clothing, I have absolutely no doubt that he'd be in the water in a flash should the situation call for his services. Still, I'd much prefer our wedding day not to result in a water rescue. With our kiss, the reception has officially begun, and I see the crowd begin to migrate toward Embry's makeshift bar.
While the girls squeal and hug, I allow myself to be passed around among the men-folk. Dad is in full-on mushy Carlisle mode. I can't fault him for being a sentimental fool, and I honestly can't say I even mind how tightly he's squeezing me right now.
"Congratulations, Edward." And then more quietly, "I hate that your Mother couldn't be here today." Kate joins our hug once she's given Dad his private moment with me, ever gracious about that piece of our life from which she's permanently, definitionally excluded.
"Kate, thank you so much for singing 'The Water is Wide' for us. It was so moving."
"I am honored that you asked, Edward. I've always loved that song."
I feel a firm hand on my shoulder, and I know it's Jas waiting his turn. Dad pulls Kate over to Bella and I give Jasper my full attention. "You were an excellent best man, Jas. Thank you for keeping me calm and getting Emmett dressed and here on time."
"It's what I do!" he grins, giving me his trademark response.
"And thanks for the great bachelor party last night."
He smiles and claps me playfully on the cheek. "I know it was a bit tamer than what Emmett wanted for you."
"He'll have his own turn soon enough," I laugh. "Then we can hire the finest exotic dancers in all of Boone."
"What's this about exotic dancers?" Charlie asks sternly, blindsiding me from behind.
Jasper chuckles and slips away as Charlie and Elizabeth take his spot.
"We were just…uh…discussing Emmett's bachelor party," I answer my father-in-law nervously.
Charlie forms his fingers into a 'V', aiming the tips back and forth between my eyes and his. "I'm still watching you, Edward."
Elizabeth silently admonishes Charlie with a hand on his chest. "Oh, Charlie. You're scaring the poor boy on his wedding day. Set aside the pistols today."
He instantly softens and grins guiltily. Meanwhile, Elizabeth clasps my hand and reaches to kiss my cheek. "Congratulations, Edward. You two make a lovely pair."
"Thanks, Elizabeth. We're so glad you could be a part of our day."
Alice and Rosalie attack me together, "Come on, Edward! We're missing the party and trust me, you do not want to miss this party!"
"Okay, Alice," I laugh.
"So are you sure you don't want to take the short cut?" Rosalie asks, pointing over her shoulder to the edge of the High Cliff platform.
"Let me discuss it with my wife."
I catch Bella's eye as Jasper releases her from his arms. She smiles at me with that smile that I know is just for me. And as much as she always loved my brothers, this particular smile has always been just for me. I take two steps toward her and she's back in my arms, her cheek pressed to my chest.
"Mmmmmm," she answers me.
"Apparently, we have a party to attend."
"So, shall we jump or hike?"
"I was kind of hoping you'd carry me."
"Oh, you really shouldn't have said that, Bella."
Realization crosses her face and her eyes grow wide as I slip one arm behind her upper back while I scoop the other under her knees. She clasps her hands behind my neck and rewards me with a grateful kiss. I turn us to the cliff and lead the wedding party down the footpath.
"So, how do you like being married so far, Mrs. Cullen?"
"Ah," she answers in a floaty voice. "It's dreamy."
"You're dreamy, Bella."
She smiles at my simplicity.
"Do you wish you had shoes on?" she asks me.
"A little bit, but only because I can't exactly see where I'm walking," I laugh.
"Edward, you're not really planning on carrying me all the way down, are you?" she says, alarmed.
A beautiful blush sprouts above the neckline of her white dress. It pleases me no end that after everything, Bella still possesses the innate innocence to become embarrassed.
"I just want to make sure you save your energy…you know…for our wedding night!"
"Since when do you have to worry about my stamina, Sweetheart?"
She buries her face against my chest and I chuckle. She has yet to need something from me that I haven't been ready, willing, and more than able to deliver, and I sure as hell don't plan to break my perfect record on our wedding night.
O – o – o – O
The party is in full swing by the time we reach the beach. Embry pops open the first bottle of Dom Perignon as I set Bella down on the sand. Wait staff deliver the flutes around until everyone has a glass. Jasper moves between the two of us to perform his final duty as best man. Tapping gently on his glass with a shell, he draws everyone's attention for the toast.
"My baby brother has never been too good at hiding his feelings."
I send him a warning glance, wondering just how badly he plans to embarrass me.
"Frankly, that's the trait I've always admired the most."
I relax a little, blowing out a small breath over my champagne.
"And I don't have to tell anyone here that Edward has many admirable traits to choose from."
The crowd titters and heads nod in agreement. Now I'm blushing and concentrating on the sand at my feet.
"In fact, if he weren't my brother, I might hate him just a little."
More polite laughter.
"But he is my brother; so instead, I count myself extremely lucky."
He pulls his arm around me, but I'm still not quite sure how much rope I want to give him to hang me with. I remain on high alert, though I allow him to draw me into his side.
"So, yes, I've known for quite some time how my little brother has felt about Bella. And at times, I'll admit, it wasn't the easiest of affections for the poor kid."
Oh shit. Please, Jas. Just…don't.
"But Edward is nothing if not tenacious."
Thank God, he's skipped over the jealousy, the heartbreak, the Volleyball Debacle of 2004…
"And of course, once grown-up Edward determined that what he wanted…what he needed…was Bella, the girl really didn't stand a chance."
The crowd cheers and whistles, while I glance shyly over at my bride, who is studiously avoiding everyone's eyes, especially mine.
"And I've had the unique experience of getting to know my sister-in-law…whoa, Bella, that sounds pretty funky, doesn't it?" He pauses here to catch Bella's eye. She's also unsure of what he might reveal, so she raises a wary brow in response. "I've known Bella first as a loving caretaker, and more recently, a trusted friend. And, Bella, I really hope you'll take this in the spirit in which it is intended, but even though I always knew you loved Emmett and me like little brothers, there was always a different kind of connection with Edward."
A couple of inappropriate woo-hoo's ring through the crowd.
"Okay, first of all, shame on you. And secondly, Embry, cut these guys off!" Jasper teases.
"Let me clarify for the simple minds among us." There is pointing and jostling in response. "I think it all started with Bella's rescue of little mischievous Edward. The Chinese have a proverb: 'If you save someone's life, you are responsible for them forever.' Well, Bella, you started this!"
Laughter. Bella lets her eyes drift to mine again, and I give her a shrug as if to say, 'It's all on you, Babe.'
"And of course, we all know about Bella's famous guitar lessons, which somehow just didn't take when she tried it on Emmett and me. Or the way the two of them would swim for hours together or she'd always give him a piggy back home after he got halfway around the Loop and he'd pretend to be too tired to walk."
I shook my head, vehemently maintaining my innocence. Bella smiled, knowing now what she knew then, I would have done just about anything for her touch.
"But when you came back here, Bella, my amazing little brother saved you right back."
"Su-per-man! Su-per-man! Su-per-man!"
"So now, it seems, he's responsible for you forever as well. So the marriage ceremony was actually just a formality, a chance for my sweet fiancée Alice to plan a beautiful wedding!"
Cheers ring out for Alice, and she and Jas share a glassy-eyed look, no doubt thinking about their own upcoming nuptials just six months away.
"The two of you have already proven to be a formidable business duo, starting up The Cliffs Foundation and bringing eight sessions of campers to our island in just 15 months' time. So I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that you will continue to fiercely protect and bring out the best in each other and continue to make us all proud with your joint ventures- whether they be socially responsible enterprises, musical performances, or God willing, nieces and nephews. Please join me in a toast to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen!"
O – o – o - O
Bella's final notes reverberated on stage, and the crowd called wildly for an encore. Taking my cue, I crossed the stage and climbed onto the stool behind my smoking hot, talented wife. Twisting her long brunette strands behind her left ear and around to her right shoulder, I nuzzled her neck with my nose and lips.
Placing my lips to her ear, I urged her on, "Fire when ready, Babe."
Bella's fingers launched into the manic "Jerry's Breakdown" and an appreciative buzz of laughter rippled through the audience. I joined in with what amounted to the bass and drum lines, letting my body pound the beat to hold her steady, not that she needed my help any. Still, her back leaned into my fully clothed chest (after all, there were campers in attendance now) and our muscles and our fingers and our hearts combined into one swirling symphony.
I struck my final tone and Bella danced her fingers through the solo at the end. When she finished, she turned her head to meet my lips amidst the applause, cheers, and laughter of the crowd. Pulling back, our foreheads met as we caught our breath. I gazed into those brown eyes that I have loved for so long, eyes that were now mine to behold freely, without fear, shame, apology, or limit. I listened for the separate vibrations that emanated from Bella and from me, the waves that found each other in the space between us, wound around each other and twined into one perfect hum. Turning our eyes to the audience, now on their feet, whistling and cheering, we watched as our combined perfect pitch sailed out over our family, our friends, our campers, our island, altering everything in its path with our love for each other.
O – o – o – O
"Bella, you make a beautiful bride," Riley tells her. "Good luck taming this one," he says, pointing his thumb into my chest.
Bella laughs and leans in to kiss Riley on the cheek. "Thanks, Riley."
"Listen, Edward, come see me when you get back. I've got our next routine worked out. It's my wedding present to Bella," he says, giving my blushing bride a wink.
Bella's mouth forms into an 'o' and she elbows me in the ribs. "YOU TOLD HIM?"
"OUCH! I don't remember the part in our vows where you promised to jab me!"
"That was…private!" she says indignantly.
Riley laughs at our first argument as a married couple.
"Hey, if something gets you that hot, I am going to make damn sure it happens often! Even if it means I have to spend time half-naked with this ugly guy!"
Bree turns to our conversation, interested now. "You calling my guy ugly, Cullen?"
"Wait, that's the part that bothers you? Not that we'd be rolling around the yoga studio together half dressed?"
Bree and Bella gave each other an 'OHMYGOD' look and burst out laughing. I roll my eyes to Riley and he winks, puts his arm around his girl, and gives me the 'Call me' cell phone sign with his thumb and pinky.
O – o – o - O
Rosalie has graciously curtained off her water sports shed so that it serves as our makeshift dressing room. Bella changes into her go-to summer uniform- tank top and shorts, and I'm back to a tee shirt and cargo shorts. We both slide into our flip flops.
"Just leave your clothes in there and I'll take care of them," Alice promises.
"All right. There's enough food in this picnic basket for two days. Come down when you get hungry," Rose chuckles.
"Don't forget to turn on the headlamp. And don't worry about getting any company. I've got guards assigned to watch both ends of the trail the whole time," Emmett says.
"I'm the night shift," Charlie says, somehow making it sound like a threat. He gives me the 'Eyes on you' fingers, his new favorite way to terrorize me. Elizabeth shakes her head at his antics.
Dad leans in and says, "Don't forget to use the sunscreen tomorrow. Nothing ruins a honeymoon faster than sunburn."
And Jasper, bless his heart, says simply, "Have fun!"
I take Bella's hand and lead her to the bike. The picnic basket at the back has been fitted with a large 'Just Married' sign decorated by the campers, which we'll frame and hang in our new condo. There are bells tied to the handlebars. The kids wanted to tie empty cans, but Emmett was worried we'd get tangled in the undergrowth, so he compromised.
"I drive, you play?" I ask her.
"Sounds good to me," she says sweetly, climbing on behind me and wrapping her arms around my waist. We turn back and wave goodbye to our loving family and what's left of the dwindling crowd. Emmett reminds me to turn on the light. Kicking the bike into gear, I take us to the trail. Bella's fingers waste no time creeping under my shirt and teasing the waist of my shorts. Despite her attentions, I manage to maneuver the mo-ped successfully up the dark trail, with only the single light and instinct to guide me.
Leaving everything on the bike except the blankets, I dismount and help Bella down. "Want a ride?" I ask.
She nods and smiles. I loop the blankets around her shoulders, and lift her once more, the way a man carries his wife over the threshold to their new life. She wraps her arms around my neck and we kiss for a while before I remind my feet to start marching forward. Soon, we are at the spot where it all came together for us. I drop the blankets and we kick off our shoes. Wordlessly, I begin taking off Bella's top, then shorts. I unhook her Victoria Secret bridal collection white lace bra that we picked out together, and slide the matching panties down her long muscular legs.
The moon is only a sliver in the sky tonight, so there's not much light shining on my bride's body, but I admire it just the same. She lifts my shirt off and moves quickly to the button and zipper of my shorts. Between the hum of the motorbike and her hands exploring everywhere, I'm already hard, so she thoughtfully pulls my briefs out and over before sliding them down.
She takes my hand and then we're walking to the fall. In my whole life, I've never stood naked under this water, and I cannot conceive of a better way to start our marriage. We walk slowly, cautiously picking out our steps in the dark until we reach water's edge. I wade in slightly and hold my hands out to catch her. She sort of steps and sort of falls into my waiting arms and wraps her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist. My cock bobs merrily beneath her without any agenda, floating and tapping into her and just plain enjoying the freedom of being completely naked with her in the water. I bounce us with my feet along the bottom, inching us closer and closer to the waterfall, until finally, I feel the misty spray at my back.
"Oh yeah," she answers, taking a breath.
One more step back and we're under the full force of the water. I try to keep my eyes open, but the water is too powerful. Bella finds her footing and we stand together as close as two bodies can get. The water is pounding on my back as I bend over and close my lips over my favorite spot at the base of her neck. Her hands roam my back, one is wrapped tightly around my shoulders, the other is playing with the fleshy part of my ass. My hands are busy with one breast apiece, squeezing, pulling, teasing. I take one more step so that we can find some oxygen while still enjoying the spray. Now we can kiss to our heart's content without sucking in a mouthful of water.
When I can't take it anymore, I pull us all the way through to the rock wall behind the water. It's too rough for me to pin Bella's back against, so I do the next best thing and turn her to face the wall, placing her hands against the wall above her and coaxing her feet apart. With a shudder, I realize I've just place her into position for a full-on police frisk, but she doesn't seem to mind. I pull her hips out toward me until she's just the right height. I line myself up and slide my hands to her shoulders. I push my hips up and she pushes hers back and we're moving together. My hands naturally begin to massage her neck and shoulders in a gesture that has become automatic to me. Bella drops her head and relaxes into the sensation. She's pushing into me faster and faster, and the water is hitting my back with each motion, and all I can think of is, "I'm fucking my wife," and I feel a little guilty that our first time is so rough, but I am pretty sure we'll be making slow, sweet love the rest of the night and long into tomorrow. As many times as Bella can stand it. Because I am not about to disappoint my bride. Now or ever.
We pass back through the waterfall and we're drifting along on our backs, holding hands.
"So, wife, is there anything you need to ask me while we're floating along naked in the Water of Truth?"
"Hmmm, let me see. I guess there's really only one more thing I need to know about you, my darling husband."
"And what might that be?" Curious and amused, I lift my head out of the water and turn to her.
"Are you ready to go again?"
A/N: And it is with bittersweet satisfaction that I click the Complete button on our two lovebirds and book the next launch off the island. Back to reality. Well, not really. If you're looking for me, you can either jump into my twisted Cinderella fairy tale Once Upon a Desire, or take a road trip to Holden University and sit in on Comp Sem 101. Either way, I'd sure love to hear from you! Thanks, readers, for making this first experience in fiction truly enjoyable and rewarding! ~bornonhalloween