I woke up with my legs wrapped around Jacob's and my face against his chest. I quickly pushed away and he turned over with a groan. I got up quietly and got my bag so I could shower and get ready for the big day. My stomach was full of butterflies and I knew the day would end in celebration or despair.
When I came from the bathroom Jake was waiting by the door, "Thank God, man you take a long time."
"Nice way to greet someone you just slept with," I laughed and he rushed into the bathroom.
When he came back out I asked him, "Am I free to leave?"
"I'll take you to the breakfast area, pass you off there," he said as he grabbed a shirt.
"Pass me off?" I said as I rolled my eyes at him.
"He said I could sleep with you, not keep you," Jacob teased and I was suddenly so anxious to see Edward and try to judge how he was feeling.
Jake pulled on his boots and walked with me to the breakfast room behind the arena. I saw Alice first and ran up to ask her if she had seen Edward. She said he was in Emmett's trailer and Rosalie was sick. I turned and ran, without looking for Jake to escort me.
I knocked on their door and Esme opened it. "Is Rose okay?" I asked in a panic.
She pulled me inside and I flew into Edward's arms. He spoke into my ear, "Bella, I didn't mean to say what I said last night."
"I think we are just too high strung right now. I'm worried about breaking your focus; everything will be fine when this is over."
"How was your night," he asked and I could detect a slight bit of jealousy in his voice.
I cupped my mouth with my hand and whispered, "He could only do it twice in an hour."
Edward began taking off his large buckle and I grabbed his hand and laughed. "Are you ready for today?"
"I've never been so ready," he smiled and I wished I could believe him.
"What's up with Rosalie?"
"We're not sure; Esme's going to take her to the hospital."
I watched as Emmett helped her walk into the room and something came to mind. "Edward, you don't think they would try to get to Emmett by doing something to Rose, do you?"
Emmett and Edward glanced at each other with a worried expression. "I didn't get the last two minutes of the training video, so they know I'll stay close. Maybe they want to make sure I'm not there to do…what? What would it do to have me there?" Emmett asked.
"You come in close, something about having a bullfighter close would give me the advantage," Edward said.
"It is only speculation," Emmett said, but I plan on staying in close.
Rosalie rushed over to the sink and began to vomit. Esme pulled her hair out of the way and Emmett watched with painful eyes. Rosalie suddenly grabbed her stomach and cried out, "My water just broke."
We all stood completely stunned until Rosalie looked at Emmett with tears. He ran to her and helped her to his truck. "I'll be back in time Edward," he yelled before taking off.
I saw a hint of panic in Edward's eyes and I wrapped my arms around him. "Edward, you don't have to do this if it doesn't feel right."
"No, I'm good. In fact, it's better not having Emmett to worry about."
We went to find Carlisle and told him what happened. He assured Edward he would notify the Rodeo officials and talk to the bullfighters about staying close. I was growing nervous and felt a new tension. I could only imagine how Edward felt. It hurt to know I spent what could possibly be his last night in the arms of another man.
He got ready for his bronc ride and I stayed within a few feet of him the entire time, watching his every move. He didn't talk much, but I wasn't sure if that was normal or not.
I headed to the family box to watch with Carlisle and Tanya. I felt better when I saw how calm Carlisle was. Of course Edward often said a bronc was easy. I cheer for Jacob when he jumped down not too far from where I was sitting. He waved at me with a big grin and I blew him a kiss.
Edward was next and I crossed my fingers and sat on them. He took his time with his rigging and I looked to see who the pick-up man was. I felt sick when I saw the man talking to someone in the audience, not concentrating on Edward at all.
The chute opened and I held my breath as the bronc ran kicking and bucking to the middle of the ring. Edward held on with his free hand high for the whole time and when he freed his hand and got ready to jump the bronc kicked, sending Edward's feet out from under him and his hand swiped hard along the rowel of his spur.
He rolled when he hit the ground and I saw his glove land after him, telling me it had been knocked off in the dismount. He grabbed his hand in pain and Jasper came running into the ring and applied pressure on the bleeding cut.
Carlisle let his head fall and my heart was beating wildly as I ran down the steps to see how bad it was. Paramedics were looking at the wound and I stayed back until they were finished. Edward walked out of the ambulance with a devastated expression.
"Are you okay?" I asked and noticed the look between him and Jasper.
"I just needed a few stitches," he said. "Can you get my dad, Bella?"
"Sure," I answered and ran toward the steps. I saw Jake walking from behind the curtains and I looked to see who he was with. I saw two bullfighters and hoped Emmett would get here soon. I found Carlisle and told him Edward wanted him, and then remained to watch Alice ride.
"Is Edward good?" Tanya asked.
I gave a quick nod and concentrated on action in the arena.
"Bella, I'm sorry, can we get past this?" she said sounding very sincere.
"Too little, too late," I said softly.
"Edward needs us all together on this. I don't want to fight with you when he is in danger,' she said to truly give me pause.
"Fine, I forgive you," I said and she smiled at me.
I moved over to sit next to her and we both cheered loudly for Alice. She would keep her title and she actually leaned over to kiss Sarsaparilla's neck. In less than four hours bull riding was scheduled and I was feeling sick to my stomach from worry.
I saw Jacob head behind the curtain again and I wondered if he was up to something. I decided to tell Edward. I found him in his parent's trailer trying to decide what strategy to use. Emmett was on the phone going crazy over Edward's injured hand.
"You have to use your real hand, Edward. There isn't any other choice."
"I can get a shot to numb it," Edward offered but Carlisle quickly interjected, "It will make you lose control of your wrist."
I sat down and listened as they totally ignored me. I tried to picture the whole scene in my head. Jasper was handling the flank strap so he would be behind Edward and wouldn't see his hands. Emmett wouldn't be there to stay close to confuse the bull. Edward would be forced to suicide wrap if he uses his good hand or his hurt hand.
"Edward," I said softly to get his attention.
He looked at me and I smiled. "I've seen Jacob with the bullfighters twice, do you still trust him?"
He looked at his father and Jasper before looking back at me. "At this point it doesn't really matter. I either do this, or I don't."
He looked at the picture on the wall of him riding Man-o-war and his eyes grew determined. "I do this."
"Okay," I said, trying to keep my emotions in check. "If a bull is trained to throw a rider, not just by instinct but by training, what happens if he can't throw him?" I asked.
"What are you talking about, Bella?"
"I mean, if the one thing you can't do on Diablo is use the suicide wrap maybe that is just what you should do."
"I'm not following, love."
"When the buzzer sounds what if you don't try to get off, what if you just stay on."
The three men looked at each other with a stunned expression.
"We could be in the alley," Jasper said to Carlisle.
"Instead of climbing down, I could be lifted off after the flank strap is removed," Edward said with a glint in his eye. He looked at me hesitantly and said, "Bella, are you telling me to wrap?"
"You were going to anyway and you know it," I said as I rolled my eyes.
"I never do that," he laughed and pulled me to my feet and kissed me with a renewed passion.
"I can do this, Bella, I know I can," he said with absolute confidence.
"You make this ride and we'll marry right here in Vegas, right now."
He spun me in a circle as he laughed hysterically. "I can feel it," he yelled into the air.
"I'm going to let you get ready," I said and held his face in my hands. "I love you, Edward Cullen, and you go show Tattorsal Ranch how it's done."
"You better find what you want to wear to your wedding, because I'm holding you to it," he laughed.
I left the trailer and leaned against the metal as I finally let my tears fall. He was going to do it anyway, I wanted to show him my faith and not leave room for an inch of doubt, but inside I was terrified and wasn't sure I would be able to watch the outcome this evening.
My phone rang and it was the gate security asking me to come to the front of the lot. I couldn't imagine why they would want to see me and headed up front to find out. I was searching suspiciously as I walked to make sure it wasn't a trick when I saw Eric and Ben smiling at me.
I screamed and ran to them as we all hugged and jumped up and down. Eric had on old jeans and Ben was wearing wranglers. I grabbed their hands and pulled them into the back lot and into a whole different world.
"What are you doing here?" I asked with joy.
"We couldn't let you be here alone," Eric said.
"Edward called," Ben admitted to my stunned face.
I knew at that moment he wasn't as sure of a successful ride as he pretended. He wanted emotional support here for me in case it turned out badly. We all got a beer and I showed them around the back lot and the arena. So much was familiar to Eric, due to all the concerts he had been involved with. But the animals seemed to captivate him.
I saw a crowd, five people deep, surrounding a fenced area with fascination. We headed over to see what was so interesting and my heart dropped when I saw a banner with the Tattorsal brand on it. I pushed my way to the front and gasped at the sight of the biggest bull I had ever seen in my life.
He was solid black with a huge hump on his shoulder. His long horns looked so white against his black hide and his large eyes smoldered. He let out a rushed breath and the dirt under him blew wide. He walked to the far end of the pen and his legs rippled with muscle. His back was longer and he stood taller than other bulls.
"Oh my God," I whispered.
A handler stepped into the pen to fill the water and Diablo turned, using lightening speed, and lowered his head to advance. The cowboy immediately backed out and decided to just leave the water in the bucket. The large bull turned to face the crowd and we were all told to back up quickly.
I turned and ran as fast as I could to find Edward. There was no way I was letting him near that beast. I couldn't find him in any trailer so I ran to the arena. I ran down the hallway coming around the corner and crashing into Jacob.
"Bella, are you okay?" he asked as he held me steady.
"No, I need Edward," I cried. "He can't ride that bull, it will kill him, I can't let him ride."
He chuckled and pulled me to a chair and made me sit. "Bella, Edward is a pro; he's the world champion for heaven's sake."
"No, this is different, Jacob. This thing isn't an animal; it's a beast from hell."
Jacob laughed at my drama and I began to cry loudly.
"Bella, I talked to Edward. He's ready and whenever he has a moment of doubt he remembers his horse lying in the dirt with his throat slit."
"He should call the police and have them arrested," I said adamantly.
"Arrest who, the farm hand? You know damn well he was only the lackey. Edward is going right for the top by taking away their prized bull. This is a serious fight he's waging, and he's just the man to do it."
I let my face fall into my hands and I cried hard. I wanted Emmett here so badly to talk some sense into Edward. Eric and Ben finally caught up with me and stared like I had lost my mind. They helped me into the family box and Eric held me in his arms as I continued to cry.
The bull riders began the event to a sold out crowd, all here to witness Edward's victory, or his death. I couldn't focus on anything and stared vacantly at the swirl of colors before my eyes. When Jake rode I buried my face in Eric's side. I knew he would ride well, but his ride meant Edward was next and I didn't know if I had the strength to watch.
Jacob scored high and was guaranteed the title. The crowd gave him a standing ovation and he walked slowly to the railing and climbed up to watch Edward.
Diablo was loaded into the chute and you could hear the gasps around the arena. Edward stood on the rails and pointed at me, so I raised my hand and pointed back and watched him place his hand over his heart, as I sobbed my heart out.
He began buckling down and took a long time to prepare his rope. I saw Carlisle on the railing helping him and noticed how all the bullfighters backed up in the arena. I screamed for Carlisle, trying to get his attention so he would tell the bullfighters to move in.
Edward talked to his father and I watched him kiss his son on the forehead and then lower his hat for him. My arms and legs were shaking beyond control and I noticed Ben and Eric were silent. Tanya sat quietly with her head down refusing to watch.
Tiny Alice was perched on the railing in the alley just as she was before. I felt a bit of relief knowing Esme was at the hospital with Rose and Emmett. The ride was being televised, but she was spared from having to watch it in person.
The huge stadium was silent and the chatter of the men around the chute was echoing off the walls. I saw Jasper reach up and swat Edward on the ass and then pat the leg with the image of Man-o-war. I looked up and the jumbotron to see the horses picture and prayed he was with Edward right now.
Edward let his weight fall on the bulls back and Diablo began to bang his body against the gate in protest. Edward kept his legs tucked to keep from being injured as the bull continued to battle confinement.
Carlisle yelled for the bullfighters to come in, but they looked down at the dirt and ignored him. They had been either threatened or paid off, but Edward couldn't expect any help from them.
I watched as his arm came up slowly in the air and his head gave a slight nod. The latch was sprung and the gate flew open.
Eight seconds sounds like such a short amount of time. But when it is spent watching the man you love more than anything being abused, it feels like an eternity.
Diablo shot from the chute, bucking so quickly, and so hard, the arena filled with screams. The bull's head lowered to the ground, his hind legs shot up so far I honestly though he was going to flip completely over.
Edward's arm was jerked harshly as his body rose up off the back of the bull. He luckily came back down squarely and dug in his spurs. The bull began to spin as thick streams of saliva shot from his mouth and nose. I could hear Jacob screaming, "stay centered," over and over again, until the bull quickly changed directions.
Edward's free arm flew wildly over his head, knocking his hat to the ground and causing him to lose his balance for a moment. He leaned into the spin and Jacob screamed, "lift your arm." Instead, Edward stuck his free arm out to the side and the next kick centered his body back onto the bull.
Diablo was wild with rage and threw his head trying to find the intruder with his horns. Edward actually smiled and my heart soared. The buzzer sounded and the crowd went insane. Everyone jumped up and cheered so loudly it left my ears ringing.
I watched with fear as Edward brought his free hand to the rope handle and continued to hold on without trying to free himself. Diablo continued bucking and Edward was being tossed around aggressively.
I watched the bull fighters run around, pretending like they were helping, but they remained back and out of the bull's way. I looked over to see Alice screaming at a man standing by the alley gate and realized the gate wasn't opening. Diablo wasn't being allowed to leave and I screamed for Carlisle.
Jasper ran up to the gate and began pushing with all of his might as Carlisle screamed at the judges. But the stadium was too loud and nothing could be heard.
I watched in shock as Jacob jumped from the railing and ran at them, just as Edward was tossed high in the air and over the side of the bull. His hand stayed in the tight wrap and he tried desperately to climb back on.
He was being dragged like a rag doll as his feet tried to keep up with the fast bull. Diablo began to spin and I screamed as Edward hung lifeless from the side. Jacob ran up to the bull catching his attention and bringing him out of the spin.
The bull lunged at Jake and ran right at him. Jake didn't jump on the railing as I expected, but ran the length of the fence, with Diablo following. He finally jumped up just in time and ran his hand over the back of the bull as Diablo passed him, too big to make a sudden stop.
Edward's bull rope fell to the ground, releasing him from Diablo. There was no movement from him and the bull was coming back around. Jasper had the gate opened and both he and Carlisle were waving their arms to get Diablo's attention.
Jake jumped down and ran the length of the fence again, as the bull set him as a target. The large beast ran right over the top of Edward and headed down the railing. Carlisle jumped onto the rails, holding out his arm for Jacob, pulling him off the ground and out of the way, just as the bull reached him.
As soon as Diablo headed into the alley everyone ran for Edward. Eric and Ben were both holding onto me tightly with pale faces and terrified eyes. I was yelling loudly, "get up," without any knowledge of what I was saying.
I looked up at the image of Man-o-war, begging him to find some way to help Edward. "He moved," Eric yelled and I looked over at the sight of Edward's hand rising into the air. The crowd exploded in cheers again.
I watched Edward being helped up and gasped at the sight of his arm hanging limply in an odd way. Carlisle and Jasper were talking to him, and the entire arena watched as both men moved in tightly, holding him from the front and the back, and jerked his shoulder back into the socket.
I screamed and buried my face in Eric's chest. An ambulance was backed into the alley and Edward refused assistance as he walked slowly towards the waiting vehicle. The sound from the crowd was thunderous and when the video of Man-o-war began playing overhead again, there wasn't a dry eye in the place.
Edward looked up at me, with blood dripping down the side of his head, and pointed at me. I used both hands to blow him a kiss and cried with pride. I told Eric and Ben to wait and ran to the back of the arena, behind the chutes. I found Jacob first and ran into his arms.
I tried to thank him, but I couldn't stop crying enough to speak. Alice came up and threw her arms around us both so we pulled her into the hug. "How did you do it?" she asked Jacob.
He pulled a scalpel from his pocket and said, "I think your husband will be looking for this."
I didn't know which question to ask first and Jake began talking to fill in the gaps. "I'm buddies with one of the bullfighters. They were told to stay back and not to run along the railing. Seems old Diablo can't resist a chase if you run along the rails. When I found out Emmett wouldn't be here, I knew someone had to be ready."
"Bella," somebody called out and I saw Jasper waving me over to the ambulance. I yelled a quick thank you to Jacob and ran to find Edward.
I was afraid to touch him as they worked on stitching his head and re-stitching his hand. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, and I wasn't sure if it was from pain or pride, "I did it, Bella. It would have been flawless if they would have opened the gates."
"They're cowards," I said firmly and he smiled wider.
Carlisle walked up and held up a phone with Emmett on speaker, "You crazy son-of-a-bitch, Edward. The way you countered the spin was perfection, but you got freight trained while you were down, so we need to work on that."
"Right before the final spin, I kissed him with my head and it all went dark," Edward said.
"You have to give Black your title, since he saved your ass," Emmett said with conviction.
Edward looked at me with a blank stare and I said, "He used a scalpel to cut you free."
"He cut Diablo pretty good," Carlisle added.
I watched as Edward's smile fell and he looked at his father with a heavy heart, "Too bad it wasn't across the throat."
We all stood in silence until Emmett said loudly, "Well, at least I don't have to name my son Edward now."
"He's here?" I asked with excitement.
"Yeah, get your asses down here," Emmett yelled and then added softly, "Edward, mom really needs to see you."
"You should have x-rays," the paramedic said to Edward and he rolled his eyes.
"I'm fine, I've got a baby to meet and a girl to marry," he said with a big smile.
I looked around the circle at all the staring faces and said, "Oh shit."
They all laughed loudly and I suddenly remembered I left Eric and Ben sitting alone with Tanya. Carlisle agreed to wait for Edward and the rest of us made plans to meet up at the hospital. I ran off to find my friends sitting in shock as they tried to make sense of the world they had been thrust into.
We watched the closing ceremonies as Jacob and Alice got their titles for the following year and then left to explain everything to my friends. I was so focused on Edward that I never noticed Eric and Ben had been holding hands as we left the arena.
We waited for a cab and someone called them a dirty name but Eric wasn't fazed at all. "It's Vegas, tighten your belt if it scares you," he yelled at the cowboy. I laughed and hugged him, knowing he would always be my best friend.
When we got to the hospital the press was all over the place, everyone wanting a piece of Edward and to hear what was going through his mind as he rode. He smiled when he saw me and held out his good arm, the other resting in a sling.
I walked over and sat on his lap, making sure to stay free from his arm. We kissed and stared into each other's eyes as the cameras flashed like crazy.
"Are you keeping our deal?" he asked me quietly.
"Are you up for it?" I asked.
"It's not my first rodeo," he said and I smiled at the man I loved, knowing I would marry him covered in mud if he wanted.
"It's on," I said and watched his face light up and his eyes close in thanks.
I was asked about the possible television show and announced it was not something I was interested in pursuing. I wanted to sing, and that was something I could do as I built a life with Edward. I knew somewhere in the country Mike's head was exploding.
Edward was asked about going after his title again and he shocked me by shaking his head back and forth. "I have nothing left to achieve. I rode to win, and I rode to fix the tear in my heart. I want to be a simple rancher now."
"There it is," I whispered and he looked at me with confusion. "There's your compromise."
He was finally asked about Tattorsal and I watched as he took a few steadying breaths and chose his words wisely.
"There won't be a day I don't miss Man-o-war. He was literally my best friend. I wanted to ride Diablo to take money from their pockets, but the more I think about it, I am angriest over the fact they bred and trained a bull to seriously hurt cowboys. He would have been a honker on his own, but they turned him into a killer and that isn't right."
"What's a honker?" I said without moving my lips.
"It's a tough bull to ride," he answered and laughed loudly.
The press conference went on for close to an hour when Carlisle announced his son needed to be seen by a doctor and got us out of there. I brought Eric and Ben with me to see the baby. I laughed at the sight of a small stuffed bronc sitting in the crib with him and a gold sheriff star with the name, Lawrence Cullen, hung on the outside.
Eric was practically drooling on the glass and Ben looked very nervous. I finally brought them up to speed on my plans.
"I'm marrying Edward, tonight, here in Vegas. Can you guys stay?"
"Did you bring a dress?" Eric asked and I simply shook my head.
"It doesn't matter what I wear," I said to his shocked face.
"Oh, no way, girlfriend, I knew there was a reason for me to be here." He pulled out his phone and began making calls.
I looked at Ben and laughed. "I'm glad he's here, and not for the wardrobe help, I would never get married without Eric being there."
"He's really happy for you, Bella. He wants things to work out for you and Edward," Ben admitted.
I felt tears fill my eyes and I nodded in agreement. "He'll always be my best friend, and I want happiness for him, too. You make him happy, so thank you."
We hugged each other tightly and Alice came running up to see the baby. She jumped up and down and made baby talk until Eric walked over and said, "Everything is arranged. I just need to know where to have the wedding stuff sent."
Alice looked at me in shock and screamed, "You and Edward are getting married?"
I nodded and laughed as she ran off to do…something. I assumed she was telling the rest of the family, but the men already knew. When I finally saw Edward he gave me the good news, he only had one cracked rib. I held his beautiful face in my hands and kissed him gently.
"Bella, if you want your father to walk you down the aisle, I understand," he said softly.
"You're not leaving this city still a single man, so cowboy up, Cullen."
He smiled and blew out some air before kissing me passionately. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. Nothing I had ever done compared to this feeling, because this was real.
"Rose will be released around midnight, can we wait for her?" he asked.
"Of course, exactly where are we getting married? Eric has the wardrobe handled," I laughed and Edward gulped loudly.
Alice ran back toward us, with Eric in tow. "We have it all arranged. You're getting married at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar, inside Harrah's. Get back to the arena and get your truck, we have a lot of work to do," she said to Edward.
"Bella, come with us," she said pulling me away.
I was taken into a dark costume closet and met by some dancers Eric knew. They showed me a rack of various wedding dresses, most very risqué, but I found one very similar to what I had always wanted. It was simple satin, with a halter neckline, hugging my hips, and it fell into a small train around my feet.
One dancer worked on my hair, adding a long train tucked under a messy bun in the back. Eric insisted on doing my makeup and I trusted him completely.
"What did you plan for Edward, and be nice, Eric?"
"He'll feel right at home, I promise," he said but I wasn't so sure I trusted him that completely.
"Oh, my God, I need a ring," I said in a panic.
"Tell me what you want, and I'll get right on it," Ben asked and I didn't have a clue. I gave him Edward's number and told him to get some ideas from him and also the size.
A dancer brought in some white cowboy boots and held them up for me to look at, "Not on your life," I laughed. "I want a simple slipper."
She smiled and ran back for another choice.
"Eric what are you wearing, I want you in the wedding?" I said and he rolled his eyes.
"I have something set up, of course I'm in the wedding; don't be so stupid, chica."
I wanted this whole thing to be over and done with. I was growing more nervous as time went on and wondered if Edward was as sure about marrying me as he pretended. He left to get ready and the dancers kept me company by doing my nails and helping me pick which fake bouquet I wanted to carry.
Ben came back and handed me a ring box. "That was fast," I said as I stared in shock.
"It's Vegas, every hotel has a jewelry store…and I used your credit card," he laughed.
I opened the box to see a simple silver band with a ring around the center. "It's perfect, Ben. Did Edward pick it out?"
"No, I couldn't reach him, but his sister gave me the size."
"Thank you so much," I said and had to fan my hands in front of my eyes to stop the tears.
Eric came walking in wearing a black tux with a white scooped next satin shirt underneath. He gave me a spin so I could see the whole effect, and then unbuttoned the suit coat to show the shirt had a bare midriff. I laughed and shook my head.
"Edward already almost died once tonight, let's not push it."
He buttoned the coat and held his hand out for the ring.
Esme came into the room with a photographer and smiled when she saw me. "You look beautiful, Bella."
"Is Edward still on pain pills, so he'll go through with this?" I asked nervously.
"All his dreams are coming true on the same night," she said and I knew I would always love my mother-in-law.
She pulled me to my feet and had the man take several pictures of me. "This should temper the anger from your mother," she whispered and I laughed.
We were all told it was time and everyone headed to the bar except me and Eric. "I can't believe this is happening," I told him.
"Edward is over the moon, he's crazy over you, but he would have to be, wouldn't he," Eric teased.
I held out my hand and Eric took it and led me to the bar. My heart skipped a beat when I saw Edward. He was dressed in a white western shirt with a black tie, black wrangler jeans, covered by gorgeous silver chaps, and the most shocking thing was a smaller buckle on a black western belt with silver tacks.
His left arm was still in a sling and I reached out and took his right hand he was offering me. "You're stunning," he said as he stared lovingly in my eyes. "Eric picked out the chaps."
"I love you," I said with a breathy voice.
"Enough to keep me forever?"
Emmett stood next to Edward and Eric stood next to me, although Emmett's shirt didn't stop above the bellybutton.
I can't remember a thing that was said, but I remembered telling Edward "I do," when asked if I agreed to be his wife. I had to be very careful when I placed the ring on his finger and smiled at the similar band he placed on mine to go along with my diamond.
When we kissed it was soft and gentle. He held my head in his hand, deep into my hair, and refused to let me pull away. His lips brushed against mine several times so lightly I actually sighed and felt weak in the knees.
The bar cheered loudly and drinks began to flow. "Jasper, Alice, you're up," Edward yelled and Alice shook her head adamantly.
The photographer took several pictures of Edward and I together and I had a feeling they would be all over the internet by morning, but I didn't care.
Emmett headed out to get his wife and child on an early flight with Esme. He gave Edward a cautious hug and told him how proud he was and then kissed me and welcomed me into the family. We both congratulated him on the birth of Lawrence and hugged Rosalie goodbye.
"I added a little surprise to your rings. I hope you don't mind," Emmett said before walking out the door.
Edward and I both looked down at our hands in confusion until Alice came over and said, "There is an inscription in both rings."
We took them off and held them up to the light, to see the words, "Ride of my life."
I thought having both me and Edward semi retired we would be able to spend a lot of time together. It wasn't the case. As soon as we got home the phone calls started. Everyone wanted him to come tell his story. All the major networks did satellite broadcasts from the ranch asking the same questions each time.
We were finally approached by a production company wanting to turn the story into a movie. Edward insisted on only two things, final approval of the script and only my songs could be used. Every spare moment we had was spent on construction of our house and movie details.
Edward wanted to be there the day the sensitive subject of Man-o-war was filmed. He had taken me to his grave many times, each one filled with tears. We ordered a sculpture of his image made of stone, to serve as his marker. I never brought up the issue of getting another horse. I knew he would be ready someday.
We arrived on the set apprehensive and the actor playing Edward pulled me aside to ask some questions.
"That night was your husband like, out of his mind angry, or shocked, or what?" he asked me.
It hurt my heart to even think about it, but I knew this part had to be just right. "Imagine having the one thing that loves you unconditionally and it is your job to care for, being killed just because you may, or may not, do your job."
He thought for a moment and I added, "His heart was ripped apart, that night."
"I want to get the riding down perfectly," he said. "What did his face look like when he rode his horse?"
"Totally content, not a care in the world, and proud of every single thing Man-o-war did."
The man looked into my eyes and said, "This is going to be tough."
"He really needs you to get it right," I said adding pressure I'm sure.
I found Edward over with the horse, which looked so much like Manny. His eyes were sad and when he reached out and touched the horses head, his eyes closed in pain.
We watched as they filmed the scene in the stable where Edward groomed his horse for the last time. When the actor held out the sugar cube I noticed Edward smiled. They took several takes and we finally all moved into a sound stage for the night scene.
The deck of the house looked so authentic and when I heard Edward gasp I looked down to see a fake horse lying on the ground in a pool of blood. Edward turned away and walked off several yards before leaning his head against the wall and punching the hard blocks.
The room was silent as everyone gave him a moment to work through his grief. I walked over and hugged him tightly before leading him back behind the cameras.
He stood with his jaw tight and his arms crossed as they filmed the scene over and over again from every angle. The actor captured Edward's emotion perfectly and I was totally drained when we finally left.
We both spent weeks in the studio. I recorded songs for the movie and Edward's voice was used as the narrator in various parts. Actual footage from finals as he rode Diablo was used. I stared at the film moving in slow motions and couldn't believe Edward lived through the whole ordeal relatively unscathed.
The night of the premier we walked the red carpet together. I still cringed at a few of the remarks Edward made, like, "Bella had a hard time getting me to accept the queers, but when I saw how much her friends loved her, I couldn't help but like them, too."
"Oh, God," I said to myself and quickly moved down the line.
A reporter I recognized asked me about the video Tanya had released I laughed and looked at her hand for a wedding ring. "Do you worry about who your husband fucked before you met him?"
Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open. "Then don't asked me about mine," I said and walked off with a big smile on my face.
We sat together as a family and the tension rose as the lights dimmed and the music began. I was stunned at how close the script was to what actually happened. I refused to look at my father when the actors ended up in bed first thing.
Edward chuckled, "I knew I had you eating from my hands."
"Yeah, 'just take a walk,' my ass," I said shaking my head and he laughed loudly.
My parents, Mike, and my friends, all turned to stare at me when they saw how I really got my black eye and swollen nose, I only shrugged at them. Watching Edward and I bounce back and forth in our relationship seemed a bit ridiculous when it happened in the space of two hours and twenty minutes.
But the parts with Manny were the most painful. We could hear sniffling throughout the theater and Edward kept his eyes down the entire time. I knew he would watch it alone later, but he was still my tough cowboy and wouldn't cry in front of all these strangers.
I was shocked to see exactly what happened when Edward and Emmett took off that night. I didn't realize how closely Edward came to murdering someone. It took Emmett and three other ranch hands to pull Edward off the newly hired man.
I was so relieved when I watched the scene with me and Jacob in his trailer, and it had him sleeping on the couch. I would let that bit of information remain between me and Jacob forever.
I thought I was prepared to watch Edward ride, but hearing the sound of his voice over the action on the screen pushed me over the edge.
I pointed at my girl, the only thing I had to live for, and watched her point back at me. She knew I could do this and I felt selfish for wanting to do it so badly. I didn't look into the arena; I knew Emmett wasn't there because everything felt different when he was. I never rode alone when Emmet was standing in the dirt. But this was my fight, not his, so I had to ride alone for it to mean anything. My father handed the men my rope and I looked down at the bull that had caused so much pain in my heart. I looked into my father's eyes and he told me a real man doesn't worry about the possibility of failure, he only worries about never trying. It was the trying that made him proud of me. He kissed my head, a tradition between Cullen men, and I felt his spirit pass me strength. I heard my sister call out to me, she used the name Eddie, knowing how angry it would make me. Her fiancé was working the flank strap, and he told me to make it though the ride, and kick her ass.
The theater broke into laughter and Alice smacked Jaspers shoulder.
I put my gloved, stitched up hand into the strap and felt the rope tighten around my grip. My father took the ropes tail from the cowboy's hand and told me very softly to look at him. I stared into my father's eyes as he wrapped the rope. I didn't need to see it; I wasn't planning on bailing out. I told him I would be bearing down and for him to make it good. I trusted him. I felt the rope in my hand and my father nodded so I sat my full weight on the bull. He instantly snorted and tried to rattle me. I pulled the image of Man-O-war into my mind and focused only on him, as I held my hand into the air and nodded.
It felt good for the first few seconds. He tried to dump me, feeling my strength on both sides. The bull bucked, but I felt him hesitate before the spin, he wasn't sure which side was my weaker one. He tried the left side, but I remained evenly balanced, so he quickly turned to the right. I didn't adjust fast enough and it sent my free arm into me. I warned myself not to panic. I had to think through this ride and not rely on instinct. I was leaning into the spin and didn't want the bull to feel me trying to balance in the other direction, so I held my arm out to the side. It stopped my leaning, but it didn't sit me up straight. Diablo's own kick put me back into the right position. I could feel the confusion in the bull's muscles and he slung his head, trying to find me. The buzzer sounded, I won, I faced the fight head on and I told that two thousand pound mother fucker he was done.
The image on the screen froze showing Edward on Diablo with the clock reading 8.6 in the background, and Man-o-war on the jumbotron reared up in triumph.
The theater was silent and I looked at Edward in concern, when suddenly everyone stood and cheered loudly. He didn't stand, but pulled me into his arms and we had our own private celebration.
I was glad they didn't add anything further to the movie. The story really ended when the horn sounded. A totally different story began after that point. And it belongs only to me and Edward. We were no longer the cowboy and the pop star; life treated us no differently than anyone else. We had our ups and downs, days where we wanted to strangle each other, and moments we would never forget.
Rosalie was pregnant with her third baby, finally a girl. Her boys were perfect little cowboys. They were polite to their elders and tipped their hats to women.
Edward and I had a son who was hell on wheels. We named him after Edward's father, but called him Lisle. Everyone assured me the land would tame him in time. My parents enjoyed telling me how much he was just like me. I think Diablo is having the last laugh.
Emmett was now a judge for some of the largest events. Alice and Jasper finally married and we were all awaiting baby news. She kept her title for five years before taking a year off to plan her wedding. Eric was a constant fixture on the Ranch. Alice and Rose loved him, but Emmett and Edward still acted like it was something they could catch. Jasper and Carlisle were indifferent.
One particular tragedy changed Edward the most. Jacob died when his truck was hit by a drunk driver on the way to an event. Edward spoke at his funeral and on our way home he told me it was time to get a horse.
Pepper had been put down years ago; her tired, worn-out body just couldn't walk any further. I was still much more comfortable on the quads.
I walked out to the arena to find Edward working with his horse, Lightening. The young colt was black like Man-o-war, but would end up being as large as Colossus, with a white bolt down his forehead. I wanted Edward to name him Harry Potter, so I called him Harry to myself.
I loved being able to see the bond form from the very beginning this time. I lay my chin on my crossed forearms and watched Edward standing in the area with a rope tied to Harry. He would make different noises and whistles and Harry would respond. Edward would give him a sugar cube for each correct action.
"Watch this," Edward said when he saw me standing there.
He clicked his tongue and the colt stood still for a moment and then took a tentative step to the side. I cheered appropriately and Edward came over to me.
"Doing cannonballs in the hot spring, probably," I groaned.
"He can't swim yet," Edward laughed.
"Well, don't tell him that, he'll just do it to prove you wrong. He's with Esme baking cookies."
I ran my hand down the face of the anxious horse wanting attention. "I don't know, Edward, I think he's too pretty to be straight."
"Bella, don't make me divorce you," Edward said with frustration.
"I'm just saying, you might get more than you bargain for riding this guy."
"I guess I'll just stick to riding you," Edward said, and leaned in to kiss me with his slow, deep way that took my breath away. I put my arms around his neck and pulled him to me, cursing the railing between us.
Harry thought he would take advantage of Edward's distraction and tried to find the sugar cubes from his pocket. Edward jumped, like it was Eric nibbling on his jeans, and I Iaughed loudly.
He gave me a disapproving look and led the horse back to the middle to continue the training. "I told you, Edward, you better work on being open minded, right now," I yelled to him.
I stayed to watch a bit longer with a smile unconsciously on my face. Lisle came running up, holding a bag of cookies out for me.
"Thank you, are these for me?" I said to his cookie covered face.
"Yeah, can I ride him yet?" he asked looking at Harry.
"Not yet, jump on my back and I'll play horsy with you," I offered, and he quickly climbed onto the railing and jumped without any fear onto my back.
He grabbed my shirt with one hand and raised his other hand high in the air. "Come on Mommy, be a wild bull," he begged.
"He's a natural," Edward yelled.
"Be quiet and keep working with your gay horse," I yelled back as I galloped off, trying to convince Lisle I was trying to throw him.
"You're not going to ride bulls and scare mommy, are you?" I asked my son as he laughed on my back.
"I'm going to ride big, mean bulls, like daddy," he announced.
"Mommy will cry," I told him honestly.
"You can be the Rodeo queen," he told me, and I laughed loudly.
Deep down I was still the girl whose big mouth got her sent to Canada to sing, the outsider, ignorant of cowboy ways. But Emmett was right; life with Edward was the 'ride of my life.'