Six years, six weeks, six perfect words. A summer wedding provides the perfect opportunity for everything to finally fall into place for Edward and Bella.
This was my entry for the Share Your Inspiration Contest held by AgoodWITCH and Rosalynn.
It won first place in the Readers' Choice and tied to win the Judge's (Mizzdee) Choice.
Thank you to everyone who read, reviewed and voted! I nearly fell out of my chair in shock when I saw that I'd won.
Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer, but Dockward is mine.
Edward looked in the mirror as he attempted for the third time to straighten his damned tie.
I will tell her today; no matter what happens, I will tell her today, he thought to himself as he struggled to get the silk knotted just right. After the wedding, maybe during the reception I'll…
There was a loud and impatient knock on his door. A split second later it opened and his mother stepped into the room.
"Oh good, Edward, you're almost ready. Do you need help with that tie? What is it with you Cullen men and bowties?" Esme Cullen asked, with a grin on her lovely face. "Your father can't tie his either."
Edward smiled down at his mother as she helped him straighten the bow around his neck. "I don't know Mom, but thanks. I'm just about ready."
"Good," she said. "Get downstairs and calm your sister down before I have your father medicate her. That's the last thing we need today." Esme rolled her eyes at her daughter's drama.
"I'm on it, Mom." Edward chuckled. "Let's try not to dope up Alice today, ok?"
Edward kissed his mother on her cheek and headed downstairs to find his little sister.
Downstairs in the kitchen Bella was doing her best to calm down the bride. "Everything's fine, Alice. It's just a flat tire; they'll be here in a half hour. The ceremony doesn't start for more than an hour. Calm down or you're going to frighten Jasper away."
"Pft, please," Alice scoffed at her best friend. "I couldn't frighten Jasper away with a Halloween mask and a butcher knife, and you know it." Bella laughed out loud at the visual this conjured up. "I just need everything to be perfect. Jasper's parents stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire isn't quite my idea of perfect, Bella," Alice quipped.
"It will be fine, sweetie." Bella hugged her best friend. "My dad was already halfway to them when he called. Just relax, you're getting married! To the love of your life, with all your family and friends here as witnesses… sooner or later." She smirked as Alice smacked her in the arm. "No matter what happens, it'll still be perfect."
Alice squeezed Bella back. "You're right, you're right. Today will be perfect."
Bella grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and handed it to Alice just as Edward walked in. She did a double take at how handsome he looked.
"Wow, look at you!" Bella whistled at Edward, who turned a slight shade of pink, but smiled back at her.
"Thanks, gorgeous," Edward flirted back. He stepped back and held out his arms. "So, what do you think? Will I do?"
Bella's mouth watered just a little. "You'll do," she said with a smirk and a wink. Gah, I'd like you to do me, she thought with a silent groan, admiring in his ridiculous good looks, pouty lips, sparkling green eyes and thick auburn hair. Mmm, those lips… Bella lost herself for a moment.
She had always been attracted to him, ever since the day they met six years ago when she arrived at the dorms to find her roommate Alice had already moved in. Bella's father Charlie considered this very fortunate indeed, because it meant that Edward was able to help move Bella in as well. Edward's help gave Alice and Bella extra time to get to know each other, and it didn't take long before they were fast friends. It also gave Bella a chance to flirt with her roommate's hot older brother, who was busy carrying her things from the car.
By the end of the day, Bella was completely smitten with him. Well, she'd thought to herself at the time, as smitten as I will allow myself knowing he's leaving for medical school in New York in four days. He was easy to be around and fun to talk to, he had a contagious grin that made you want to laugh yourself. And he was rather delicious, from the angle of his jaw to the grace of his hands. But because of the physical distance between them, Bella was happy to have his friendship. And they stayed friends, while Bella and Alice roomed together in the dorms and then later once the girls got an apartment off campus.
Bella snapped out of her memories at the sound of Rosalie's heels clicking their way into the kitchen. Jasper's sister was older than Alice and beautiful as the day was long; she was tall and curvy with wavy blond hair and pale blue eyes. She and her husband Emmett had been married for three years and spent a great deal of time with Alice and Jasper. Rosalie was Alice's bridesmaid and Emmett was Jasper's groomsman.
"I'm going to go check on Jasper," Edward said. "Bella, your dad's on his way to get the Hales?"
"Yup," Bella answered with a smile. "He said they should be here within a half hour. Charlie's got the cruiser; he'll have no problem getting them here on time." Charlie Swan was the chief of police in a little town a few hours west of Seattle, and took his cruiser everywhere.
"Great," Edward said, as he headed toward the backyard. "I'll go let Jasper know."
Edward passed his mom as he was leaving the kitchen, but his mind was still on Bella. God, she's so fucking beautiful, he thought. He made his way outside to where the Cullen backyard had been transformed for the wedding ceremony.
Chairs, covered in the palest of gold fabric to match the tea-length dresses that Bella and Rosalie had chosen to wear, were set up in rows on either side of a short aisle. Down the center of the aisle lay a runner of traditional white with a pale gold border and it led the way to a beautiful arch, covered with a waterfall of summer wildflowers, where Alice and Jasper would exchange their vows. Alice was all about the details.
Off to the left of the arch, Jasper stood with Emmett, Rosalie's husband. He was already dressed in his tuxedo, and was sporting a perfectly tied bowtie. You know damn well Rosalie tied that tie, Edward thought to himself.
Edward approached them, wondering idly where his father was hiding. As he approached, he heard Emmett say his name.
"There you are. Dude, where have you been?" Emmett asked jovially. Jasper's brother-in-law was one of the nicest guys Edward had ever met, and although he was enormous and appeared a bit on the simple side, he was actually very intelligent. Edward always had a lot of fun with Jasper and Emmett.
"Inside with the girls," Edward answered with a smile. "They're so much prettier to look at than the two of you."
"Hey!" Emmett looked affronted. "I clean up nice!" Jasper just sat back and laughed. One of his best traits was that he was ridiculously laid back and easy going.
"So, did you mention Charlotte to him yet?" Emmett asked Jasper.
Edward looked confused, his eyes moving back and forth from one friend to the next. "Charlotte?" he asked. "Who's Charlotte?"
"Jasper's and Rose's cousin, she's smokin' hot and single," Emmett said with a leering grin on his face.
"She'll be here this afternoon," Jasper added, thankfully without the leer. "She's a nice girl, and it doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous; blonde hair, blue eyes..."
Edward wasn't sure what to say. He certainly wasn't ready to mention anything to them before he had time to really talk to Bella.
"Yeah, guys, I'm not really interested in dating anyone right now, you know?" He managed to stumble through the words. "I'm just getting settled here, and I, um, I'm not really into blondes."
Edward was saved from any more matchmaking by the arrival of his father. Carlisle Cullen was smiling broadly as he addressed his soon-to-be son-in-law.
"Esme sent me out to tell you that Charlie just called. Your parents will be here in about 15 minutes, everything's fine." He let out a chuckle. "Your Dad is enjoying the ride in the cruiser. Apparently your Mom said it 'brings back memories'? Anything you'd like to tell us, Son?" Carlisle looked like he was doing all he could to keep from laughing.
Jasper turned an interesting shade of pink and looked at his future father-in-law, bewildered. "Um, no. Just… just no."
Edward and Emmett laughed hysterically at Jasper's discomfort as Carlisle shook his head and walked back into the house, chuckling and muttering something that sounded distinctly like "I'll just have to pry that story out of the Hales myself."
On a rare sunny Saturday in June, Alice Cullen floated down the aisle on the arm of her father, a vision in a simple, strapless white wedding gown. Instead of a veil, a delicate band of crystals held her dark hair away from her radiant face, and in her hands she held wildflowers to match the colors in the arch at the end of the aisle. Her green eyes sparkled with joy as she found Jasper standing next to her brother and Emmett, and kept her focus on his face as she walked.
As Alice and Carlisle reached the arch, Carlisle kissed his daughter on the cheek and placed her hand in Jasper's. He turned and gave Bella and Rosalie a cheeky wink before finding his seat next to Esme. Carlisle lifted her hand, kissed her palm and whispered, "I love you" in her ear.
As the minister spoke beautiful words of love and commitment, Bella watched Carlisle and Esme. I want that kind of love, she thought, that kind of commitment. I want a love to last a lifetime, like theirs. Bella's parents had divorced early in her life, and while they got along great, she missed growing up with parents who obviously adored each other.
Bella sighed and returned her attention to the ceremony. As she looked back toward the bride and groom, her gaze stopped at the Best Man. He caught her eye and sent a crooked grin her way. She returned his grin and added a wink of her own, watching his beautiful green eyes light up with delight at her flirting. Maybe now is our time, she thought. God, it's never been the time for us. Maybe now is the right time. Last night sure seemed like we were on the same page with that…
Edward watched as several emotions flashed across Bella's face, and finally settled on what appeared to be hope. He gave her one last smile and turned his attention back to Alice and Jasper. He was just in time, luckily, as he turned his head back toward the minister as he began the most important part of the ceremony.
Alice and Jasper exchanged traditional vows amidst tears and laughter; they had to stop several times so that Alice could gather her emotions together. After their vows were recited, they moved toward the left of the arch, each lit a single candle and together they moved to the thick white unity candle. As one, they took their single candles and lit the unity candle, symbolizing the joining of their individual halves into one whole. Then they blew out the single candles, to represent the end of their single selves.
Edward watched this ritual with his thoughts on Bella. I want that. I want that with her. I want to go to sleep with her, wake up with her. I want her deep, bottomless brown eyes to be the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night. I want her. I love her. He looked up at her during the unity ritual and caught a glimpse of something on her face that told him he wasn't alone in his desires. They had been friends for years; it would have been hard not to be since Bella was his sister's roommate all through college and then even after graduation.
But it was easy to be her friend, she was loyal, funny as hell, had a glass-half-full outlook on life, loved his sister, and she was absolutely stunning. He would had been lying if he said that the attraction wasn't there; it had been there since that very first day he saw her moving her stuff into her dorm. But the timing was always off. When Bella was starting college in Seattle with Alice, Edward was starting medical school on the east coast. Bella spent the summers as an intern in Florida to spend some time with her mom, and to earn some money since scholarships only went so far. Even on holidays when Edward came home, it seemed like either she was dating someone, or he was dating someone; so they silently agreed to remain friends.
Six weeks ago everything changed. Edward remembered so clearly the moment he told Bella he was moving back to Seattle permanently. Rosalie and Emmett had thrown Alice and Jasper an impromptu engagement party the weekend he was visiting. Edward's visits were almost always last minute due to his hectic hospital schedule, but when the job offer from Harborview Medical Center came, he frantically called in all the favors he could to get the weekend off to go home. He had been ridiculously excited to share his news with his family and friends, but most of all, Bella.
The party was at Emmett and Rosalie's apartment downtown, and it had been a chance for everyone to get together and go over the details of the wedding. Alice and Jasper had invited the parents, who had come for dinner, but left shortly after having made plans to meet friends of their own. Several of Alice's and Jasper's other friends were there as well, but as the hour grew later, the crowd grew thinner until only the six of them remained.
Edward sat next to Bella on the couch after dinner with a beer in his hand, while she sipped from her wine glass. He knew he'd been monopolizing her all evening, but he couldn't seem to summon the urge to care. It was as if knowing he'd be living close to her threw open the curtains in a dark room and let the sunlight stream in. Edward felt warm and happy inside. Some of it could be blamed on the beer and the food, but most of his happiness came from just being with Bella.
The other four friends were still in the kitchen cleaning up while Edward and Bella sat alone on the couch, their thighs brushing against one another. As Edward turned to look at her, his knee pressed into her leg.
"Hey, I've got some news I wanted to tell you before I told everyone else," he said seriously.
Bella looked up at him with her fathomless dark eyes, a hint of hesitation there. She chewed on her lower lip before she replied, "Okay?"
Edward smiled. "It's good, I promise. Well, at least I think it's good, I mean, to you it doesn't necessarily have to mean anything, I guess, I mean…" Edward wondered where all his cocky self-confidence went when faced with telling this beautiful creature that he would be living ten minutes away from her in six short weeks. Suddenly he was tongue-tied and nervous.
Bella giggled at his discomfort, relaxed from an evening of friends, food and a few glasses of wine. "Um, Edward, you're babbling. What are you trying to say?"
He put his beer down and ran his hands through his hair, wondering why he was so nervous. He took a deep breath, looked at Bella and told her his news. "I've accepted a job at Harborview Medical Center. I'll be starting the week after the wedding." He let out a long, drawn out breath.
Bella looked stunned. She said absolutely nothing for what seemed like hours, but was probably only half a minute or so. Edward felt as though his heart had taken up residence in his throat and he was suddenly a little sick to his stomach. Bella blinked once, then again, her eyes refocusing on his, and then the most amazing look came over her face. Slowly the stunned look disappeared as a myriad of emotions crossed her face. Disbelief morphed into what he could only dream was hope, mixed in with obvious happiness; and if he wasn't mistaken, quite a bit of desire darkened her already warm chocolate brown eyes.
"Really?" Bella whispered. "You're coming to Seattle permanently? Not just for the weekend every now and then?" Her voice got stronger. "Not just for a week during Christmas and Fourth of July weekend?" Edward could swear her eyes grew larger and more animated with every word until it seemed she was humming with excitement. Her face literally glowed with happiness, and Edward felt a hundred feet tall for being able to make this spectacular woman this happy.
He reached out to grasp her hand, feeling the usual electricity pass between them. "Really," he simply said. He stared at her beautiful face wondering how he'd managed to live his life without her for so long.
"Wow," she said. "That's wonderful Edward. Does that mean that…" Bella was cut off as Alice and Jasper came out of the kitchen, announcing their plans to leave. The spell between Edward and Bella was broken and they regretfully moved apart from each other on the couch. Edward shared his good news with the rest of his friends. Alice pulled him off to the side before they were ready to leave, and smacked him on the back of his head.
"Shit Alice, what was that for?" He whined. She really did pack a punch.
"Why am I the last to know?" She complained. "I'm your sister. Isn't there some rule or something that says you have to tell me first?"
Edward froze. "Um, I wanted to tell Bella first?" he said. He looked everywhere but at his sister.
"Oh, really?" Alice searched his face, and apparently found what she was looking for, because she nodded and said, "Good, it's about fucking time, jackass."
Edward looked at her dumbfounded. Alice simply smiled at him and whispered, "Go say goodbye to her, idiot. You'll see her in six weeks. There's email, phones, texting, gchat. It'll be fine."
Edward made his way to Bella, who was looking for her coat. He took it from the back of the chair it was resting on and helped her into it, which gave him another reason to touch her and be close to her. As she slid her arms in, he breathed in the scent of her hair, hoping the memory would hold him over for the next six weeks.
When she was done she turned to thank him. Edward gazed at Bella and swore he saw an emotion in her eyes that he'd never seen before. He wished they'd had more of a chance to talk, but they'd have plenty of time soon. He'd just have to deal with it until then.
"I'll see you at the rehearsal, ok?" he asked. "I'll call, email, text, like always, ok?"
Bella smiled at him. "Of course you will. Nothing's changed; we'll still talk like we always have." Her smile grew larger. "Only now you'll be home in six weeks." Home, he thought. Yes, home is here.
"Ok, good," he said. "I'm sorry I'm leaving in the morning, I wish we had more time to spend together this weekend."
"Me too," she whispered. "But you'll be back before you know it. It's all good." She added a wink to the already enormous smile on her face.
That smile helped Edward summon up the courage to ask her the question he wanted to ask. He took both her hands in his. "Are you planning on bringing a date to the wedding?" he asked quietly.
"No," she answered just as quietly.
Edward was visibly relieved. His relief gave him courage. Courage to act on an impulse he'd been trying to squelch all evening. He bent his head closer to Bella's, until his mouth was a breath away from her ear. He inhaled deeply, savoring the floral scent that was Bella. He hummed a low growl right up against her ear that shook Bella to her toes.
With those words, he placed his lips gently against her neck once, and then her cheek, before lifting his head away to look into her eyes. He was pleased by the glazed look he found there.
Edward chuckled as he gave her hands a final squeeze and turned to get his coat to leave. He had to catch an early flight back east in the morning, and although he was feeling a bit high from his conversation with Bella, he knew that the relief of finally being able to move forward with their relationship, or whatever it was, would help him get a decent night's sleep.
With one final blessing the minister ended the ceremony. Jasper kissed Alice once, then twice, before she threw her arms around his neck and squealed with delight. The guests laughed at Alice's jubilation as two by two, the wedding party made their way back up the aisle. As Bella turned toward him, Edward squeezed the hand she slipped through the crook of his elbow. As they headed away from the arch he whispered to her words he'd been holding back for hours. "You are absolutely stunning." Disregarding all the other people around them, he moved his lips closer to her ear, breathed in deeply and said, "Mmm, you smell delicious, too."
Bella looked up at him with a flirty grin and said, "I know." Edward barked out a laugh, causing several heads to turn their way. Bella giggled at his response, he really was so easy to play with.
"I really, really want to talk to you later, ok?" Edward asked, searching her eyes for her understanding.
"That sounds like a great idea," she said in a surprisingly serious voice. "After the reception? It is Alice's day, after all…" she added in her normal teasing voice.
Edward brushed a tendril of silky hair out of her face and put his lips back to her ear. "Perfect." Bella felt gooseflesh up and down her arms as first his warm breath and then very lightly his lips touched her earlobe. The hand that had been resting on his arm squeezed in reflex to the sensations he caused, and she felt a warmth travel from her ear all the way to her toes. WANT HIM, her body yelled.
She smiled in silent agreement, and they continued to make their way up the aisle and over to the part of the lawn where the reception was being held.
Caterers had set up an enormous tent on the grass of the Cullen's expansive yard, and a band had set up their own stage far to the left, so that the music could be enjoyed, but none of the guests would be overwhelmed by the sound. Scattered within the tent were tables laid with linen of pale gold, to match the bridesmaids' dresses. The center of the table held thick white candles, similar in fashion to the unity candle that Jasper and Alice had lit during the ceremony. Woven around the candle were wreaths of wildflowers and crystals to pick up and reflect the delicate light.
In the center of the tent was a dance floor, where Jasper led Alice for their first dance as husband and wife. Emmett and Rosalie stood to the side, arms around each other's waists, as if remembering theirfirst dance. When the song was over, the band invited all the members of the bridal party to dance. Emmett and Rosalie stepped onto the dance floor and were immediately lost in each other's eyes.
Edward took Bella's hand and led her to the dance floor. With a cheeky grin she protested, "Be careful of your feet, you know I can't dance."
"It's all in the leading." Edward pulled her just a little tighter than was platonic. His large hand curved around her waist toward the small of her back as he moved them gracefully around the dance floor. While they danced, Bella felt her body react to his closeness, her nipples tightened and a slow ache started low in her belly. He felt so warm, so hard, and so good that she was almost drunk with the sensation. And his smell - Bella could close her eyes and lose herself in his scent.
Bella looked up into his fiery green eyes. "Apparently." She felt a low moan work its way up her throat.
Edward bent his head and brought his lips closer to hers. "See, you're dancing."
"Oh, is that what this is?" Bella asked coyly. She could tell the song was almost over, and they had so many things left to do before their time was their own. "It felt like foreplay to me," she said just as the song was ending, giving Edward a quick kiss on the cheek as she flitted away.
Edward stood there dumbfounded for a minute, before he laughed out loud, realizing what she'd done. Now's not the time, he thought. Later.
As he watched Bella saunter off towards her father, Edward felt another chuckle bubble up out of his chest, and the smile she left him with remained plastered on his face the rest of the reception. He danced with various old ladies who thought they were stealthy as they pinched his ass. He dodged Emmett who spent half the reception trying to hook him up with one of Jasper's cousins. He also avoided the question written on his mother's face, since she had apparently caught some of the interaction between him and Bella out on the dance floor. I am not ready for that conversation yet.
But the smile stayed on his face, and each time he looked up and caught Bella's eye, she gave him a smile that cause a heat to spread throughout his entire body. He watched her move around the reception, stopping here to visit, stopping there to chat, until it was time to eat. Edward had never been so happy to see a covered plate as he was when his was placed in front of him. He looked up to see Bella crossing the dance floor to join him at their table, and he felt his heart stop beating for a second before it started again, this time at a faster pace than before.
Bella smiled to herself as she crossed the dance floor. She'd spent most of the reception dancing with her and Alice's friends, visiting with Esme and Carlisle and flirting with Edward. Even when they weren't within speaking distance, she'd catch his eye across the lawn and the heat from his gaze would turn her insides to pudding. Chocolate pudding, mmm. I'd love to lick chocolate pudding off of him, she fantasized.
Laughing at herself, Bella shook her head and sat down with Edward at their table. With the exception of the official dance, they had barely had ten minutes together. She was looking forward to a few minutes if not alone, then at least in the same general vicinity as him.
"Hey," he greeted her as Bella sat down beside Edward.
"Hey, yourself," she teased back. "Man, I'm so happy to sit down. My feet are killing me in these shoes."
"Well, you look amazing, shoes or no shoes." Edward indicated the plate that was placed in front of her. "Why don't you eat something?" he asked with a smirk. "Keep your energy up."
Bella laughed lightly. "Oh really? What on earth could I need to keep my energy up for?" she asked with a flirtatious grin. Please, oh please, oh please give me something here, she thought to herself.
"You never know," he said. "Maybe a certain someone has some special plans for you later."
Bella raised an eyebrow and decided it was time to take the risk and put a card or two on the table. She lowered her voice and leaned closer to Edward. "Maybe I'd be interested in some special plans if that certain someone was a particularly hot doctor I know."
A bit of pink seeped into Edward's cheeks at her words. Bella really enjoyed when she could fluster him with her bluntness, especially when it was about his looks. There was so much about him to love; he was loyal, funny, smart, and yes, he was hot. Wait, what? Love? Bella was stunned for a second as she reacted to her inner musings. Holy shit, I'm in love with him. We've never been on a proper fucking date and I'm in love with him.
"Bella? Hello? You in there? Where'd you go?" Edward was a little perplexed at her change in attitude, but then she looked up at him with a radiant smile that lit up her face, and he forgot all about her mood swings.
"You were saying something about special plans, mister hot doctor?" Their faces were close together as they spoke. Her realization made her brave; she let her hand move from the table to his leg, and felt his body tense in reaction. Bella watched the desire flash across his face as she touched him. She squeezed his thigh gently, to judge his reaction. He didn't disappoint. Edward's eyes darkened with desire, and his breathing deepened significantly. He laid his hand on top of hers and squeezed back.
"You're killing me," he said. "And you know it." His voice was low and husky as he whispered close to her ear, "Maybe I should return the favor?" His hand slipped from hers onto her thigh. Bella's breath hitched at the feel of his hand on her fabric-covered leg and then stopped altogether as his hand slowly slid down to the hem of her dress.
Bella began to breathe again when his hand reached the skin at her calf, and it quickened as Edward began to draw his hand back up her leg, tracing over the skin of her knee, to rest on her thigh under her dress. "What do you think, Bella?" Edward asked quietly as he brushed his fingers ever so softly against her skin. "Do you like when I touch you?"
"Fuck yes," she said nice and clear, lest he misunderstand. She wanted him to touch her more, to continue to touch her for the rest of the reception; she wanted him to throw her down and fuck her on the table, actually. Well, she reconsidered, maybe not right here in front of everyone.
As Bella considered how to put these not so polite thoughts into polite words, Rose's voice rang out from the other side of the table.
"If you two are done with your foreplay, I mean dinner, I believe Alice and Jasper are ready to cut the cake."
Neither Bella nor Edward was embarrassed by Rose's words. If anything, they were a little annoyed at the interruption. Again.
"Let's go have some cake," Bella said as she stood up and straightened her dress. Emmett's eyes bugged out of his head when his wife's words hit him. He was a pretty smart guy, but the champagne was delicious and had been flowing freely.
"You two?" He turned to look at Edward. "Oh shit man, I'm sorry. No wonder you weren't interested in cousin Charlotte. "
Bella looked at Edward with a confused, yet happy smile. "No worries Em," Edward said. "No one knows."
At this comment Bella laughed out loud. "Not even us," she teased as she linked arms with Rose and sashayed toward the cake.
"Nice," Emmett said in apparent approval as they walked over to join the ladies at the cake.
Edward just shook his head and laughed. Once again, their private time had been interrupted, but he couldn't really be annoyed, the atmosphere of the wedding was too enchanting to let any other emotion overrule it. By the time they all arrived at the cake table, any lingering annoyances were gone and silly smiles were back on their faces.
Alice and Jasper cut their cake amidst flashbulbs and songs of brides and grooms. There was no cake smashing into faces; this was Alice, after all. But they posed happily while people snapped off shots of them feeding cake to each other. From the other side of the table, Bella caught Edward's eye and sent him a saucy wink that held promises for later.
Once the cake was eaten, the serious drinking and dancing began. Bella couldn't remember a time when she'd been more relaxed or at peace in her life. She, Alice and Rose danced in one big mass of arms and legs, laughing and almost falling to the ground in their hilarity. She danced with Charlie, amazed to find out that he was a pretty good dancer. They turned around the dance floor, not really talking about much, until he asked her about Edward.
"So, what's up with you and Edmund?" Bella was unable to stifle a giggle.
"Edward, dad." She laughed. Bella hadn't realized her father had been paying attention. I hope he wasn't paying that close attention during dinner, she thought with an internal groan.
"Edward, right. So, what's up with you and Edward, Bells?" Charlie asked.
Bella wasn't sure how to answer her father. She and Edward had been friends for years, her dad knew that. Obviously the unspoken shift in their relationship that started at the engagement party was more noticeable than she'd realized.
She took a deep breath and looked up at Charlie. "He's important, Dad."
Thankfully, this was enough for Charlie. "Are you happy, Bells?"
"Yeah, Dad," Bella said softly. "I am happy."
The song was almost over when Bella saw Edward walking across the yard into the house, and a sneaky thought came to her. "Will you excuse me for a minute, dad?" Charlie nodded, and Bella hurried off toward the house.
Bella entered the house through the French doors that led straight into the family room, but didn't see Edward. She moved through the family room into the kitchen wondering where he'd taken off to, and then crossed the kitchen, intending to visit the restroom while she was in the house.
As she turned the corner into the hallway, she ran smack into something warm and hard. As she bounced off his body, Edward caught Bella, wrapping his arms around her tightly in reflex. His left hand wrapped itself around her upper back, while his right wound up lower. Much lower.
Startled, Bella gasped, "Oh shit, Edward, I'm sorry. Are you ok?" Her hands grasped his upper arms, free of their tuxedo jacket, the soft cotton of his shirtsleeves cool against her fingers. She smoothed the fabric absently as his lips parted and his tongue peeked out quickly to moisten them, his eyes darkening as they gazed into hers. His left hand reached up from behind her to tuck a lock of her hair behind her ear as he said, "Perfect."
"Is that your hand on my ass?"
"Nope," he said, squeezing her ass a little for effect and attempting to stop the stupid grin from taking over his entire face.
"Oh, ok," she laughed. "Just making sure." Edward began to laugh as well and soon they were both giggling like teenagers in the hallway of his parents' home.
The giggling slowed until they were simply smiling into each other's eyes. Edward's hands moved up until they cradled the base of her head. He gently drew circles with his thumbs on the skin of her neck, sending ripples of want throughout Bella's body. Bella rested her hands at the waistband of his tuxedo pants, her thumbs dipping below to seek his hipbones, caress them, just feel him. At her touch, Edward growled deep in his throat and pulled her up tight against his body. Bella's arms wrapped around his waist and she moaned low and needy as the evidence of his arousal pressed against her. Mmm, want him, she thought.
Edward's hands slowly moved from her back up to cradle her head again, his eyes filled with longing and desire. That look was reflected in Bella's eyes as her tongue came out to touch her bottom lip and she waited, her breath held, as Edward lowered his head to hers.
Just as his lips touched hers, the sound of heels on tile drew them up and out of their trance. They pulled back from their embrace enough to breathe, but did not let go of each other. Instead, Edward leaned his forehead into Bella's and said, "Meet me at the dock in fifteen minutes, ok?"
Bella was puzzled by the change in Edward's attitude, but went along with him. "Ok?"
He saw the question in her eyes and was quick to reassure her. "I need to be alone with you. Fifteen minutes, ok?"
Reassured, Bella's playful nature returned. "Ok." With a quick kiss on the cheek and a wink, she turned and sauntered out of the house.
Edward was a bit slower to leave the house. He adjusted himself to a less painful position and made his way back through the kitchen where he found the owner of the heels he'd heard on the tile a few moments earlier.
"I just saw Bella rush out with quite a smile on her face, Edward," Esme said with a grin. "Now I wonder what that's all about."
Edward smirked and rolled his eyes at his mother. "I have no idea."
"Of course not, dear," she said. "Of course not." Esme turned her face up to her son, and gestured to his cheek. "You've got a bit of lipstick right there, Son"
Edward reached into his pocket to retrieve his fancy handkerchief. Now I know why Dad insisted I carry this stupid thing, he thought idly as he wiped his cheek. With a chuckle, Esme turned to leave the kitchen. As she got to the door she stopped and said softly, "Edward?"
Edward looked down at his lipstick-streaked handkerchief and then back to his mother; his heart warmed at the look of happiness on her face. "Yeah, Mom?"
"It's about time." Esme blew Edward a quick kiss and returned to the reception.
Edward shook his head and laughed. He had a very astute mother.
He looked at the handkerchief in his hand again, amazed at the way the day had turned out so far. Admittedly, things hadn't gone exactly the way he'd hoped, but he really couldn't complain. However, Edward had one last idea.
Edward ducked into the refrigerator and grabbed one of the bottles of champagne that he'd snuck in there earlier. With a goofy grin on his face, he hurried out of the house and around the side of the yard, amazingly avoiding his family. Once he was clear of the reception tents, he picked up his pace and raced down to the lake and onto the dock, where he prayed the rowboat was still tied off.
The rowboat was indeed still there when Edward made it to the dock, thankfully before Bella arrived. He looked down at the ropes twisted up in knots and laughed at how they represented the way he felt inside at that very moment. He'd known Bella for six years; they'd been acquaintances and then friends. And then, once he knew he'd be returning to Seattle for good, it was like the lock he'd kept on his feelings for her broke free and everything changed. Have I felt this way all along? He wondered. Have I been in love with her all this time?
As he loosened the rowboat's moorings he thought about the rehearsal dinner the previous night. It had been a relatively large dinner party of ten: Mr. and Mrs. Hale, Esme and Carlisle, Alice and Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett, and Bella and him. Carlisle and Esme hosted it at their favorite restaurant, which conveniently had a private room for such occasions.
Edward had been running late all day; he had wanted to offer to pick up Bella and bring her himself, but he'd made arrangements to look at apartments in the afternoon. Amazingly enough, he'd actually found one he liked that was close to everyone else, so he'd gone with the agent to sign the lease and wound up late for the rehearsal. The minister had met them at the house earlier to walk them through the ceremony, and then everyone headed to the restaurant for dinner.
As they all arrived at the restaurant, he found himself fighting Alice to be near Bella. He'd tried to get her to ride with him to the restaurant, but somehow he wound up with Rosalie and Emmett in his car. Frustrated, he took advantage of every opportunity to touch her, whether it meant placing his hand on the small of her back to guide her to her chair or brushing her hair back from her face. All through dinner, he leaned as close to her as he dared. They spoke in low tones about his new apartment, her excitement shining in her eyes. She told him how happy she was that he was finally home, that their group was finally whole, her cheeks tinged a wonderful shade of pink the whole time.
On the way out of the restaurant Edward physically steered Bella toward his car. He knew that she was staying at his parents' house with Alice, so Jasper could easier give Rosalie and Emmett a ride. He gave Alice a dirty look as she said goodbye to Jasper that told her to catch a ride home with their parents. Alice smirked as she watched Edward open Bella's door and help her into the car.
"What is with her?" Bella asked with a chuckle in her voice. "It's like she doesn't even want us to have a private conversation. Is she still pissed at you for being late?"
Edward shrugged his shoulders. "Who knows why Alice does what Alice does?" More like she doesn't want me defiling the maid of honor at the rehearsal dinner, he thought with a grin.
Edward drove back to the house slower than normal, trying to extend his time alone with Bella. While he drove they talked about his new apartment, his new job, her job, things friends talked about when they hadn't talked in a couple weeks.
"I'm so jealous about your apartment," Bella said, excitement obvious in her voice. "It's in a great area, close by, and you've got great views, too."
"What about you?" Edward asked. "Are you keeping your apartment now that Alice has moved out?"
"No, I don't think so. It's too big and too expensive for just me. My lease is up in September; I'm going to look for something smaller then." She continued. "You'd know all this if you weren't too busy to call, Mister Big Important Doctor." Bella loved to tease Edward. She loved to watch him blush.
Blushing wasn't the only reaction her words caused, however. Hearing Bella say those four words together turned him on more than he could ever remember, and caused his pants to become more than a little uncomfortable.
Edward glanced at Bella: her bottom lip was caught between her teeth and she watched him intently. She can feel the tension too, he thought.
"Was there anyone in New York?" she asked quietly as they pulled into the driveway. "You haven't mentioned anyone in months, maybe more…"
"I could tell you what I tell everyone else," he said seriously. "I'm really busy at the hospital, and I have no time to date anyone. But it's not the truth."
Edward held her gaze with an intense look of his own. "The truth is there's no one in New York who has ever been able to hold my interest."
"I know what you mean," she whispered softly.
Edward reached over to take her hand while they talked. He traced her fingers, splayed their palms together, and finally laced their fingers together on his leg. Her hand was so small and so soft, and it fit his perfectly. She sighed in contentment when their palms joined on his lap.
"I'm really glad you're home." Bella smiled up him and gave his fingers a gentle squeeze.
"Me, too," he said brushing a lock of hair out of her face. He wanted so much to ask her about them, but he knew that now wasn't the time. Alice and their parents had just pulled into the driveway and he expected an interruption at any moment.
Two seconds later, Alice knocked on Bella's window, breaking the spell they were under. She opened Bella's door, hauling her out of the car with a strength that belied her small stature.
"You had her all night, it's my turn now, Romeo," Alice teased as she dragged a giggling Bella into the house.
Edward followed after them, unable to hold in his laughter. What is it about her laughter? He thought. It's so contagious. It just makes me feel good. I want to hear it all the time.
Bella's bags were sitting in the entryway as Edward entered the house. He heard Bella and Alice giggling as they climbed the stairs, so he grabbed Bella's things to carry them up to 'her' room. Bella spent more time in this house than he did, so it was no surprise that she had her own room here.
At the top of the stairs, he found Alice and Bella whispering in each other's ears. Edward brought Bella's bags toward her room, teasing her on how much stuff she had.
"Good Lord, woman, how much crap do you need for one night?"
"Not all of us can be as naturally beautiful as you are, Edward," she teased. "Some of us need a suitcase full of cosmetics to achieve natural beauty."
Bella came toward him as Alice turned and walked down the hall toward her own room.
Edward lowered his voice dramatically. "Trust me Bella, you don't need an ounce of any of that crap. You are stunning." He put her bags down and moved closer so that she was backed against the door.
Bella raised her eyes to his as Edward's hand ran up her arm, over her shoulder and came to rest on the side of her neck, his thumb gently rubbing back and forth along her jaw line.
"Thank you," she said softly as she laid her hands lightly at his waist, feeling the strength there, the lean muscle expanding and contracting as he breathed.
Edward placed his other hand against the wall next to her head and ducked his head to let their foreheads touch for a moment, soaking in the happiness that came from simply being near Bella. They stayed there, quiet and unmoving for several minutes, until the urge to kiss her became too strong, and Edward shifted his face lower.
Alice chose that moment to make her presence known, and once again, the moment was lost.
"Goodnight, Bella," Edward whispered in her ear and then kissed the very corner of her mouth. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Goodnight, Edward," Bella answered, looking at her feet. "I'll see you tomorrow. I'll be the one without a date." She looked up, a sparkle in her eyes.
"You have me," he said, his gaze intense as she backed away from him toward Alice's room.
With a smile and a wink, she turned the corner and was gone.
Edward laughed a little at himself as he set aside the rope for the rowboat. He had berated himself for days for not actually asking Bella to be his date to the wedding. He'd known his last few weeks on the east coast were going to be crazy and he wouldn't have much time to talk to her. And it had taken all his nerve to just ask if she was bringing a date. But still he had second guessed himself several times.
During the reception it seemed like Bella felt the same as Edward did. Although they didn't spend every minute of the day together, it really did feel like a date; more than a date actually. It just felt like they were together. Every time he looked for her, her eyes were shining their light in his direction. Every time he touched her, he could feel the electricity between them dance from her skin to his. One of his biggest fears was that the energy he felt growing between them every time he saw her was something that only he felt. From Bella's reactions to him, Edward was almost certain that she felt the same. Edward felt the anxiety drain out of him as he realized this.
Edward looked up, drawn from his musing by the sound of Bella rushing down to the dock. She was an absolute vision, her eyes glowed with laughter and her cheeks were flushed from her hurry, not to mention the alcohol she had already consumed during the reception. Edward noticed the bottle of champagne she held in her hand as she reached the dock, and he laughed out loud. She really is perfect for me, he thought.
When Bella reached him, she threw her free arm around his neck with a laugh and nuzzled her face into his throat. She breathed in deeply and sighed. "God, you smell delicious." She took another deep breath and squeezed him tighter.
Edward caught her in his arms; bending his face to her hair and feeling himself harden as she buried her face in his throat. He tightened his arms around her when she squeezed him harder and moved his face from her hair to her neck, where he placed several small kisses. Once he got to her ear he whispered, "What ya got there?" as he gestured to the champagne bottle in her hand.
Bella looked up at Edward with a mixture of trepidation and expectation. "Um… I thought maybe we could have a celebration of our own?" Edward's eyes lit up with happiness. "Great idea," he said as he gazed into the depths of her eyes. "What are we celebrating?"
"This," Bella said as she took a deep breath and pulled his face back to hers. Edward recognized her motion for what it was and his heart soared. He let her pull his head down to hers and gently pressed his lips to hers. He felt the groan work its way up his throat at the feel of her lips against his. He tilted his head slighted to the side and deepened the kiss, running his hands up her back and into the silky mass of her hair. He growled at the pins holding her hair up and away from her neck, frustrated at not being able to feel the weight of it fall around his arms.
Bella felt Edward's hands sink into her hair and hold her head steady as he deepened their kiss. His lips felt like heaven, firm and pouty, as they opened and gently he licked her bottom lip. Bella accepted his invitation and parted her lips to let him in. Oh my God, his taste, she thought. Bella moaned low in her throat at the feel of Edward's tongue in her mouth. She reached out with her own, and they slid together sensuously. Slowly she let her hand fall until it dangled above the dock. She let go of the champagne bottle and heard the thud as it landed on the dock. Oh good, it didn't break, she thought absently. Oh dear God, can this man kiss…
Once Bella's hands were free, she drew them up his arms, over his broad shoulders and into his hair where she anchored them and tugged lightly. She pulled herself up tighter against Edward and threw herself into the kiss. Never had she experienced a kiss like this before. Her nipples grew hard and ached to be touched. A warmth settled low in her belly and began to spread south.
Edward moaned as he felt Bella's hands tug at his hair. His hands skimmed down her back and settled on her ass, where he sunk his fingers into the luscious flesh and squeezed. He used her ass as leverage to pull her even closer to him and pressed his aching erection against her. Bella whimpered as she felt the heat of him press right against where she needed him. "Fuck…" she moaned, as she pulled her mouth from his to draw breath.
"Oh my fucking God," Edward whispered as he settled his forehead against hers. He felt everything in his life fall into place in that moment. "Perfect, absolutely perfect. I knew it."
Bella opened her eyes to look at him and saw the emotion shining in his eyes. "That was amazing," she said. "Wow, just… wow." She smiled up at Edward and let everything she was feeling show on her face. She had never been so happy and she wanted him to know it; wanted him to know that it was because of him.
"Edward?" Bella asked with a grin, "Can we celebrate now?"
Edward chuckled and kissed her again, hard. "I think we definitely have something to celebrate now."
He reached down to pick up the champagne bottle that Bella had dropped earlier, astounded to find it still intact. As he stood up, he reached for Bella's hand to direct her to the rowboat where he'd planned on taking her for a romantic row across the lake. On his way to the dock, Edward had had the most romantic vision in his head of taking Bella out in the rowboat, where he would declare his feelings for her amidst the romantic setting sun.
All those romantic visions flew out the window when Edward looked past Bella to see that the rowboat had floated into the middle of the lake without them. He gaped in horror at the boat as Bella giggled at his expression. He looked at her with a question in his eyes, and she just smiled at him.
"Why are you surprised?" She gently placed her hand on his cheek. "This is the way things work with us. Our timing is never right, and when it finally seems like it is, everyone and everything is constantly interrupting." She giggled. "Did you really think a boat was going to cooperate?"
Edward laughed. "When you put it that way…" He took a deep breath. The nerves had returned in full force, but he was going to tell her today. He was sure of how he felt and fairly certain she felt something for him, maybe not exactly the same, but strongly.
Most of all, he just needed her to know how he felt. They'd spent too many years not together. He didn't want to waste any more time. He wouldn't. At least one thing would go as planned.
"Bella?" He hesitated again, but just for a moment until she lifted her sparkling eyes to his, and he knew the time was right. He mirrored her gesture and cupped her face with his hand. He took a deep, cleansing breath and uttered those six perfect words.
"Bella, I'm in love with you."
Bella's eyes lit up like a beacon, and a grin slowly spread across her face. "Really?" She whispered in an awed voice. "You love me?" She silently gazed at him, but moments later her face turned petulant. She looked to the ground, chewing on her lip, and Edward felt his stomach turn over in fear.
"What is it, love?" he asked worriedly.
"I wanted to say it first," she mumbled in the direction of her feet, and Edward wasn't sure he understood what she was saying. Then she looked up at his face with a radiant smile and said, "I love you, Edward."
Edward felt the breath rush out of him as her words sunk in. She loves me? She loves me! The knot that had grown in his stomach at her odd expression loosened and unraveled. As gently as he could, he drew her face close and touched his lips to hers. He kissed her softly at first, and as the kiss grew, he put all his emotions into it, emotions he had been keeping to himself for so long.
Tears pricked behind Bella's eyelids as Edward kissed her gently, with so much love. When she felt the kiss begin to grow in intensity, she threw her arms around his neck and gave him everything she had. She kissed him with all the pent up frustration from years of wanting and longing. She drew away from him and whispered quiet words of love to him, words she hadn't even known that she had longed to say.
"We wasted so much time, Edward." She looked a little frustrated at this realization.
"Everything happens for a reason," he told her. "Maybe the last six years were necessary to get us where we are now. We can't go back and change anything, can we?"
"No, I guess not," she relented with a smile. Edward always was the wiser of the two.
"That's my girl," he said with a grin, and gave her one last kiss. "Now I really think we have something to celebrate."
Together they sat down on the edge of the dock and watched as the rowboat floated toward the opposite side of the lake. It was almost as Edward had pictured it: the rowboat, the lake, the setting sun. Edward popped the cork from one of the champagne bottles, and they took turns toasting each other. The toasts became cornier and cheesier as the champagne bottle emptied. And they had never been happier. Finally, he thought. It's only been six years.
Thanks for reading! The photo used as inspiration is on my profile page, as is the link to the rest of the fantastic stories; go read them!
If you liked it, put me on author alert. I am writing something for FGB for Autism and hope to post it this Spring.
Thank you to tanglingshadows and ladysharkey1 for pre-reading/beta-ing.
K, ILY - vry srs nod. Thank you for sharing a brain with me.