Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I don't own Twilight – that belongs to Stephenie Meyer. I do own Eclipseward and sometimes make him do naughty things with Eclipsella. ;-)
This story is an original work of fiction, and I worked really hard on it, so please don't steal, Mmmkay?
A/N: A huge thank you to my wonderful betas, GrayMatters and rubiesymusica; they are responsible for removing my extraneous commas and attempting to tame my dash addiction. They also give me great advice and suggestions and are amazing, wonderful women whom I am so honored to call my friends. *hugs*
Many thanks to my lovely pre-readers: Edward's Erika, Billi Cullen, HRod and JPattz – your witty and amusing feedback and love is greatly appreciated! *hugs*
I had almost finished assembling the most elaborate wedding cake I had ever made when I heard it.
A high-pitched, ear-splitting shriek.
The sound was out of place in the beautiful garden that would soon bear witness to the wedding of the year: Rosalie Hale would be marrying Emmett Cullen in a little over an hour in his parents' backyard. The bustle of activity in the yard halted for a moment after the shriek died, but I shrugged my shoulders and continued with my cake assembly as the other vendors went on with their preparations. I climbed down off my step stool and stepped back to assess my handiwork when I heard my name being called.
I looked up, expecting to see Angela Cheney, the wedding photographer, or perhaps the Nazi of a wedding coordinator, Lauren Mallory. What I didn't expect to see coming toward me at an alarming pace was the bride herself and her soon to be sister-in-law, Alice Cullen.
While I'd known the pair of them practically all of my life, we'd never run in the same circles. In high school Rosalie was the stereotypical All-American Girl: blonde, beautiful and perfect; the captain of the cheerleading squad, Homecoming Queen, and she'd dated the quarterback on the football team – until he'd tried to push her into having sex on Prom night and she'd broken his nose with her perfect right hook. Emmett had given her a ride home that night and they'd been together ever since.
Me in high school? Completely the opposite. I was short, brunette and nerdy: always with my nose in a book, unless I was practicing with the choir or in drama class. Being the daughter of the Chief of Police, I'd never been invited to the wild parties thrown by the 'cool' kids, not that I'd minded. I had never been one for parties – too many people and I didn't like beer. I preferred hanging out with my small group of friends over dinner and a bottle or two of wine.
I had been taken completely by surprise when Rosalie breezed into my bakery to order her wedding cake. She said that I'd been highly recommended by Angela Cheney, her photographer. Angela was one of my few close friends from high school and we were still close; I always recommended her to brides and Ang would return the favor. Angela had several portraits of my cakes hanging in her studio and in a town as small as ours we ended up doing a lot of events together.
I frantically looked around for Angela but her calming presence was nowhere to be found. I took a deep breath and braced myself. I could see that Rosalie had been crying, but she now had a look of resolve on her face as she approached me.
"What size dress do you wear?"
"I'm sorry- what?" I was sure I hadn't heard her correctly.
Rosalie huffed impatiently. "What size dress do you wear?"
No, my ears were working just fine. "Um, I'm not really sure -"
"Just answer the question!" Rosalie demanded shrilly; I wouldn't have been surprised if she stamped her foot. Alice shot her a look and smiled at me, trying to ease the tension.
"Sorry, Bella. There's been a bit of an accident with one of Rose's bridesmaids. Her cousin Irina tripped when she was leaving the salon and she's broken her ankle," Alice informed me, as if that should explain Rosalie's weird question.
"Ooookay," I replied, still not sure where this conversation could possibly be headed. "I usually wear a six or an eight, it depends on the cut."
"Perfect!" Alice clapped her hands while Rosalie looked strangely triumphant.
"Look Bella … I know I may not have been so … nice to you in school," Rosalie began.
"She's not nice to anyone," Alice interjected, laughing.
"Anyway," Rosalie shot Alice a withering look then returned her gaze to me. "I have a huge favor to ask you – would you be my bridesmaid?"
I shook my head to clear it because I was apparently back to not understanding and took a step back. "Excuse me?"
"With Irina being out of commission, I'm down a bridesmaid and it will screw up the whole flow of the processional," Rosalie explained. "I need someone to fill in for her …"
"And you're just the right size!" Alice added excitedly. "We've got her gown and shoes upstairs, so you'd be all set, and I can do your hair and makeup."
I looked at the two of them incredulously. "Are you two out of your flipping minds? I'm here to deliver and set up the wedding cake – a cake I've slaved over for the past week, I'll have you know – and that's it. I'm sorry that your cousin fell and hurt herself, but I'm not some doll you can dress up and use to fix the 'flow' of your processional. The answer is no."
They blinked back at me, shocked, and then Rosalie grinned at me. "Wow Bella, you grew a pair since high school, good for you."
"I've always had a pair, thank you," I snapped back, before realizing what I'd just said. "I mean, I don't … you know what I meant! I've always been strong; you were just too cool to notice."
Rosalie blinked at me in surprise for a moment before throwing her head back and laughing. "Damn girl, I like you. And you're right, I was a stuck-up, prissy bitch in high school who thought she was better than everyone, and I'm sorry. I know that this is a weird request but I'm not above begging here. Would you please reconsider?"
I stared at her, flabbergasted. "You're serious? You really want me to be in your wedding?"
"You'd be doing me a huge favor, Bella, and I'm dead serious." Rosalie's face softened and she looked wistful. "I don't have any girl friends other than Alice and you seem like you're tons more fun than my bitchy cousins, please?"
"I don't know," I could feel my resolve wavering. I didn't doubt Rosalie's sincerity and it was quite possible that I'd pegged her just as incorrectly as she'd done me.
"Come on, Bella, it'll be fun, I swear!" Alice begged, bouncing up and down.
I sighed, my last bit of resolve crumbling. "Okay … fine. I'll do it."
Forty-five minutes later, I pulled the door closed behind me in one of the Cullens' many bathrooms where I'd gone to change. I hung up the garment bag with the bridesmaid dress on the back of the door and caught a glimpse of myself in the vanity mirror and did a double take. Alice had transformed me from my normal, average self into someone I barely recognized. My usually straight, fly-away hair had been tamed into shiny, bouncy curls that had been pinned in an elegant up-do, with baby's breath and tiny crystals interspersed in the strands. The makeup was subtle but made my eyes look amazing, and the simple earrings and necklace completed the look. I tore myself away from my reflection and unzipped the garment bag to reveal a gorgeous cornflower blue satin gown, with simple lines and nearly off-the-shoulder straps. I shimmied out of the simple sundress I was wearing, thankful that it necessitated wearing a strapless bra, and carefully stepped into the gown. A knock sounded on the door and I opened it to reveal Alice, who motioned for me to turn around so that she could zip me up. I held my breath, afraid that the gown might not fit, but it fit me like a glove.
"Bella, that color is amazing on you," Alice complimented me, looking just as lovely in her matching gown.
"Thanks," I replied, giving her a shaky smile as my nerves began to overtake me. I sat down on a nearby chair to slip on the impossibly high heels that Alice handed me. Thank goodness they weren't too tight or too big.
"Don't be nervous," Alice said softly, her hazel eyes kind. "You're in line right behind me and I'll help you with all the cues, and Edward knows what to do."
My stomach dropped and I stared at her. Oh God … "Um, Edward?" I tried to sound casual, but the high pitch of my voice betrayed me.
"You know, my brother Edward?" Alice cocked her head at me. "I'm sure you remember him from school, right?"
Remember him? How could anyone forget Edward Cullen? Perfect, impossibly handsome, always popular and way out of my league … and the secret crush I'd harbored since middle school? The boy who'd barely uttered ten words to me when we were Biology lab partners our junior year of high school? My palms grew clammy and my heart started to pound. "Oh yeah, of course I remember Edward," I nodded, hoping I sounded nonchalant.
"Oh good," Alice grinned, relieved. "You'll be walking with him, so he'll help you out if you need it."
Of course I'd be walking with Edward … that's just how my life went. "That's great," I responded, silently willing myself to not display any of my usual klutziness today. I had very little time to build myself up into a full-on panic attack, for moments later Alice's mother came in with the bouquets and it was time to gather for pictures. I lined up behind Alice and tried to smile somewhat naturally at Mrs. Cullen when she handed me my flowers. Her eyes were kind, just like Alice's and she patted my shoulder softly.
"Hello Bella, I'm Esme," she introduced herself, smiling. "Thank you for stepping in like this for Rose today. I know it's a bit crazy, but she's over the moon that you agreed to it."
I tried to shrug it off as no big deal but she wouldn't let me. "It's very sweet of you," Esme insisted.
"You're welcome," I said sincerely, instantly liking her.
Rosalie came down the stairs then, sending her cousins into a tizzy as they all tried to outdo each other complimenting her. She looked amazing and radiant, all smiles as she approached her soon-to-be mother-in-law and me. Her blonde hair was curled and slightly teased, pulled into a low ponytail at the nape of her neck with white roses its only embellishment. Her jewelry and makeup were simple and understated, and her gown was beyond gorgeous, but nothing outdid the shine in her eyes and the happiness of her smile; this was her day.
"Wow, Rosalie, you look stunning," I grinned back at her, her smile infectious.
"Thanks Bella, you look pretty good yourself." Rosalie pulled me into a gentle hug, surprising me. "I can't thank you enough for helping me out today."
"It's no problem, really," I insisted and Rosalie narrowed her eyes at me.
"I know Alice and I strong armed you into it, stop being so nice about it," she scoffed lightly, making me laugh.
"Okay, okay, you both owe me huge. Better?" I raised my eyebrow at her expectantly.
"Nice bitch face, Swan, I knew you had it in you," Rosalie laughed and nudged me with her shoulder. "Now let's get this show on the road!"
I fiddled impatiently with the collar of my shirt and tried to wiggle my toes in my dress shoes, a feat nigh impossible since I hadn't worn them since my college graduation and they were unbelievably tight now. I looked around my parents' backyard, taking in the last-minute preparations for my older brother's wedding that would be starting in less than an hour. I surreptitiously took a swig from the flask I had concealed earlier in the breast pocket of my tux jacket and I could feel the warm burn from the scotch travel down my throat and settle in my stomach, helping to relax my nerves.
I had been fine when I'd woken up this morning, perfectly happy to escort Rosalie's cousin Irina down the aisle and enjoy myself, despite not having a date for the wedding. My calm had continued through breakfast and held while I helped Dad, Emmett and Jasper set up chairs, hang lanterns and direct the various vendors to where they needed to be.
I'd showered and had just pulled on my pants and undershirt when I heard a knock on my bedroom door. Without waiting for an answer per her standard operating procedure, my little sister burst into my room, even more hyped up than was usual.
"Hi Edward, sorry to bug you, but there's been a teensy change in the bridal party," Alice said cheerfully, crossing the room to perch on my bed.
I raised an eyebrow at her in question. "A change in the bridal party? That's a bit odd, considering the wedding is less than two hours away."
Alice began picking imaginary lint off of my tuxedo jacket and shrugged. "It's no big deal, really. We were leaving the salon and Irina tripped on the sidewalk – frankly I suspect she had too many mimosas – and she ended up breaking her ankle. Now she's doped up on Percocet, so she won't be able to participate in the wedding."
"Oookay," I replied, not sure what she was avoiding telling me. "So I'm walking alone now?"
Alice gave a nervous little laugh and stood. "No, silly, we found a replacement, so you'll be escorting her instead."
"How… do I even want to know how you've managed to replace Rosalie's cousin?" I was thoroughly confused at this point.
"Just leave it to Rose and me, Edward; we've got it taken care of," Alice smiled tightly, crossing to the door to leave.
"Wait a minute, Allie," I said, grabbing the door before she could open it. "Exactly who am I escorting, and why are you acting all weird about it?"
"I'm not acting weird, Edward!"
"The hell you're not – you won't even look at me!" I crossed my arms and leaned against the door, blocking her exit. "What's going on?"
"Nothing, I swear!"
I glared at her.
Alice sighed and slumped back down on my bed. "Okay, fine, but you're going to be so mad at me," she whined.
"What did you do, Al?" I had to bite back a grin, she looked so guilty.
"If you had just seen how upset Rose was when she realized she was a bridesmaid short, I mean, I just wanted to help her, honest," Alice stalled, still not meeting my gaze.
"Uh huh, I'm sure you did," I rolled my eyes. "Out with it, Allie – who'd you browbeat into stepping up?"
Alice muttered out a reply under her breath, ducking under my arm and trying to open the door.
"Nice try," I grabbed her around the waist and swung her away from the handle. "Let's try that again, who, Al?"
"Bella Swan," Alice winced, waiting for my reaction.
I was so shocked I couldn't even form words. No … no, not Bella … the object of my unfulfilled teenage lust, the girl who'd sat next to me in Biology junior year and that I could never work up the balls to talk to, not that Bella Swan. Bella, whose dark hair and eyes, pink cheeks and soft smile had teased me, tortured me that entire year, mocking the fact that I couldn't man up enough to ask her out, even though I had no problem flirting with – and getting – other girls to go out with me. Hell, the smell of strawberries still gave me a fucking hard-on. I looked at Alice, silently begging her to tell me she was joking.
"I'm sorry, Edward, really -"
"No," I managed to croak out. "No, it's fine. She's… I'll be fine."
"I could always switch her with Kate, and have Bella walk with Garrett instead -"
"Hell no, I'm not letting her walk with Garrett," I scowled at my sister. Honestly, the thought of my Bella walking with Emmett's flirty ex-roommate … hold on there, buddy, since when did she become your Bella?
A small smile played on Alice's lips. "Well, if you're sure then, I'll just go finish getting ready."
"I'm sure, Alice." I watched her leave and close the door behind her before I flopped back onto my bed, fisting my hair in my hands. I'm going to need a drink…
I shook my head to clear it, tucking my flask back into my pocket as my brother and best friend came outside to join me.
"I still don't understand how you assholes managed to break into my laptop," Emmett complained. "It's password protected!"
Jasper Whitlock, Alice's fiancé and my best friend, snorted in reply. "It's not like it was hard, Em."
I slapped Emmett on the back and tried to look serious, but failed miserably. "Next time, Em, make sure you pick something that's a little harder to guess. 'I luv boobies' was entirely too predictable."
Emmett shoved me away, scowling. "Shut up, Nerdward. I'm sure your password is something stuck up and pretentious as hell."
I rolled my eyes at Emmett, fighting back a smile. Jasper and I had hacked into Emmett's laptop the week before to find the only copies of certain pictures Alice had taken of Emmett, back when she was taking classes on costuming and makeup. She'd practiced on Emmett one night, turning him into a very pretty, if very butch-looking, girl. She'd needed pictures for her portfolio, promising him that she'd let him have the only copies of the file once she was done. Once Jasper and I had heard about the pictures, we'd borrowed Emmett's laptop, found the encrypted file, copied it onto a thumb drive, rushed to the nearest Kinko's and had the best picture blown up and mounted on foam board, ready to be displayed at the rehearsal dinner. Rosalie had done the same with recent pictures of herself and Emmett, so it wasn't hard for us to have the one of Emmett switched out. His reaction had been worth it.
"Whatever, Emmie," I teased him.
"Shut the fuck up, dude!" Emmett punched me on the arm.
"Emmett – language!" Mom scolded him as she approached us, a box of flowers in her hands.
"Sorry Mom," Emmett kissed her on the cheek, shooting me a dirty look.
"Don't you three clean up nicely?" Mom smiled, passing each of us our boutonnieres. I struggled to pin mine on and she took it from me, tsking me softly. "Let me do it before you hurt yourself … there." She straightened my lapel and touched my cheek. "My handsome boy."
I blushed and squirmed a bit at her praise. "Thanks, Mom. You look beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as your soon to be sister-in-law," Mom beamed at Emmett. "She looks lovely today, dear."
"Thanks, Mom," Emmett grinned, hugging her tightly.
All too soon, we were shuffled through photos and rushed inside to wait for the processional to start while the guests filed into their seats. I took another quick shot of the whiskey in my flask, barely restraining myself from trying to catch a peek into the living room where I knew the bridesmaids and Rosalie were hiding. I'd just tucked the flask back into my pocket when my cousin Peter punched me lightly on the shoulder.
"Hey cuz, you see the girl Alice got to fill in for Irina?" He waggled his eyebrows suggestively at me.
I nodded in acknowledgement, shrugging. "Yeah, and?"
"She's hot, man," Peter smirked and I wanted to do nothing more than wipe the shit-eating grin off of his face.
What am I doing? I pinched the bridge of my nose between my thumb and first finger and tried to rein in my temper. It's not like I've got some claim on Bella … Hell, I couldn't even work up the cajones to even speak to her in high school. "Yeah, Pete … she's hot."
"Who's hot?" Garrett piped up, looking interested.
"The new bridesmaid Alice and Rose got to fill in for Irina," Peter explained, that damned grin still on his face. "Wonder if she's available?"
"Like that's ever stopped you before," Garrett scoffed.
"Un-fucking-believable," I muttered, forcing myself to walk away before I did something I'd regret … like break Peter's nose. I didn't think Mom or Aunt Liz would be too happy with me if I did that, though it sure would make me feel a whole lot better.
I moved through the house toward the living room, my earlier resolve gone. I needed to know what I was dealing with here; it was quite possible that my fantasies of Bella wouldn't live up to the reality. I slowly made my way down the hallway, bracing myself for disappointment when I saw her.
There were no words.
My fantasies had fallen short of reality, in that my fantasies had nothing on the real thing. Bella was so stunning that it knocked me breathless. Her pale skin and rosy cheeks looked like porcelain against the soft blue of the bridesmaid's gown she wore. Her long chestnut hair was curled and pinned up and I was unable to tear my eyes away from the gentle slope of her exposed neck. I watched her as she laughed with my sister and Rosalie, her movements relaxed and graceful compared with the Bella I had known in high school. I drew in a ragged breath, pulling away before she saw me like this – disconcerted and disoriented, unsure of how to handle myself. I struggled to find words to name the feelings that flooded through me, but I had no words strong enough to hold them. For a long moment, I drowned in them. But there was one thing I was sure of, if I was sure of anything.
I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with Bella Swan.
"It's time!" Alice sang out, bouncing slightly with excitement.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly to try and calm the butterflies in my stomach. I can do this. I can do this. I can walk down the aisle with Edward Cullen and be cool, calm, and collected. I can … oh, who am I kidding? My apprehension must have shown on my face, for Alice focused on me and pulled me into a fierce hug.
"Bella, you can do this," she said to me softly, her voice full of an emotion I couldn't quite place.
"Alice … I don't know …" I shook my head. "There's something that I didn't tell you about Edward and me -"
"I know, Bella."
"You see -" I began, then stopped and stared at her in disbelief. "You … know?"
Alice nodded, her eyes kind despite her serious tone. "We all know, Bella. About you and Edward and your mutual, unrequited love for each other?" She laughed softly. "The two of you couldn't be more obvious, honestly."
I gaped at her. "I… I don't … love him -"
"You and Edward are so blind," she sighed. "Can't you see where you're headed? Can't you see where you've been and already are? It's more inevitable than the sun rising in the east, the two of you are meant to be together."
I shook my head, unwilling to believe that what she was saying was true. "No, Alice, you're wrong. Edward doesn't even like me -"
"That's not true," Alice interrupted me.
"It is, Alice! We spent an entire year as biology partners where he barely spoke ten words to me!" I protested.
Alice sighed, shaking her head. "Honestly, Bella – Edward wanted to talk to you, but he couldn't … he liked you so much, he'd just freeze whenever you were near."
"Please," I scoffed. "Edward had his pick of all the girls in school. It sure didn't look like he had problems talking to any of them."
"Exactly! Edward didn't feel intimidated by those other girls, because they weren't you."
I rolled my eyes. "I doubt that Edward Cullen has ever been intimidated by anyone."
"Trust me, he was more than intimidated by you," Alice insisted. "Think about it, Bella, was his behavior towards you so different than yours towards him?"
I thought back to high school, to the year we'd spent as lab partners in Biology. To say that we'd never spoken wasn't exactly true: words had been exchanged, but they always stuck to the lab we were working on, never straying to include social niceties or personal questions. While Edward had never bothered to initiate a conversation with me that didn't involve answering Biology questions, I hadn't either. When passing each other in the hallways, we might nod to one another in greeting but we never actively sought each other out. I'd always figured that I just wasn't special enough to capture Edward's interest or that he didn't like me, I had seen no third option.
But what if…
What if you sincerely believed that was true, but you were dead wrong? What if I had been so stubbornly sure that I was right that I hadn't even begun to consider the truth? I had been so busy denying my feelings that the rest of what Alice said suddenly sunk in. Mutual unrequited love?
"Oh … okay, I see." Edward loved me … and I loved him. I loved Edward Cullen. "Oh my God, I'm in love with Edward Cullen!"
"Sshh!" Alice frantically pulled me into another room, away from the other bridesmaids who had looked up at my outburst with interest.
"Alice," I hissed at her. "What are you saying … are you saying that Edward has feelings for me? That he loves me – that's why he never even said 'hi' to me?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying, Bella!" Alice exclaimed, nearly tossing her bouquet in her excitement. "There's a reason why I suggested you to Rose when we realized Irina wasn't going to be able to be in the wedding today. It wasn't just because we needed someone to fill in – honestly, the fact that you bought that was incredible – but also because Rose and I would do anything to see Edward and you finally open your eyes and see what's been there in front of you this whole time."
My old doubts and fears about being inadequate came rushing back, making my hands shake and my stomach flutter with nerves. "I don't know if I can do this, Alice … you're sure Edward feels that way about me … it's been a long time since high school – what if he's moved on?"
"He hasn't, trust me." Alice grinned, looking entirely too smug.
"You know, you're awfully small to be so hugely irritating," I muttered, biting back a smile.
"I know!" Alice laughed, hugging me.
"Guys!" One of the other bridesmaids, Alice's cousin Kate, poked her head in the door. "It's time for the processional!"
Alice and I hurriedly checked each other's appearance before rushing back into the living room to join the rest of the wedding party. I could see the groomsmen lined up just outside the french doors leading into the backyard, waiting to escort their assigned bridesmaid down the aisle, and my breath caught in my throat when I caught a glimpse of familiar messy bronze hair. Alice winked at me before she was shoved into position by Lauren Mallory, the obnoxious wedding coordinator, and I lined up carefully behind her, taking deep breaths in an effort to calm my racing pulse.
"Okay, count to five and then follow after me," Alice whispered as she stepped outside, placing her hand on her assigned groomsman's arm and proceeded down the flower-strewn aisle.
I slowly counted to five and stepped outside, all breath leaving my body when my eyes met the mossy green orbs that had starred in my daydreams since middle school. It felt like time stood still while Edward and I gazed at each other, neither one of us daring to make the first move until I heard Lauren hiss in my ear to "Move, damn it!" I delicately placed my hand on Edward's arm and felt a warm tingle in my palm where we touched.
"I've got you, Bella." His eyes were gloriously intense, his voice smoldering. I couldn't remember how to breathe. "I won't let you go."
I couldn't speak yet, so I just nodded. We started to move slowly down the aisle, careful to stay five steps behind Alice and her escort. In what felt like seconds, our short walk together was over and Edward was gently nudging me to follow after Alice as she followed the other bridesmaids over to the left side of the altar. I couldn't help but look back toward Edward as he made his way to the right, only to find he was looking back at me, a peculiar expression in his eyes.
"I told you, didn't I?" Alice whispered with a knowing look as I moved next to her.
"Mmhmm," was all I could manage to get out, my mind reeling.
I heard the string quartet change from "Canon in D" to "The Wedding March" as Rosalie stepped out onto the lawn on Dr. Cullen's arm, looking radiant and happy as he escorted her down the aisle to Emmett. The ceremony was short but elegant, with Angela's father officiating. I couldn't see Edward well from where I stood between Alice and Kate, but every now and then I would catch his profile and my heart would give a little flutter. Before I knew it, Reverend Weber told Emmett, "You may kiss your bride," and Rosalie and Emmett were announced as husband and wife to a round of applause and cheers.
I kept my eyes trained on Kate's back as she led the recessional, slowly counting to five again before following her. My eyes met Edward's and he gave me a small smile, holding his arm out for me to take. It shouldn't have felt so familiar to me, the warmth of his body against mine, as if I'd known his touch my entire life rather than just a short few moments. The tingling I'd felt before was still there, and I wondered if he could feel it too. We didn't separate as we followed the others back into the house to wait for the guests to move into the large reception tent, but stayed connected, his hand gently on mine, his thumb making soft sweeps over my knuckles. My heart was flying, everything felt so surreal – but so right, like this moment was meant to be, like we were meant to be. Edward held us back while the rest of the wedding party filed through the living room and back towards the kitchen, giving us a moment of much needed privacy.
"Bella?" I felt a thrill go through me as he said my name and I raised my eyes to meet his. I stared into his eyes, trying to decipher the emotion that smoldered just under the surface. He gazed back, his face soft with the same peculiar expression as before.
"Edward?" My pulse quickened as I realized how close we were. His eyes moved to my lips, then back to my eyes, his tongue darting out to moisten his lips. Those lips that I wanted to kiss, desperately. I drew a shuddering breath when I felt Edward's arm snake around my waist, pulling me even closer to him.
"I'm going to kiss you now."
And then he did. His lips were so soft against mine, and I couldn't help but let out a small whimper as I felt his arms tighten around my waist, my arms wrapping around his neck, my hands playing with the hair at the nape of his neck. Edward groaned softly, moving one hand up to my face and cupping my cheek as he pulled back to look at me.
"I've wanted to do that for almost six years," he confessed, his thumb stroking my cheek softly, his green eyes gloriously intense.
"You have?" I couldn't help but smile, my heart feeling incredibly happy.
"Yes," Edward smiled back, his lips touching mine again, more urgently this time. Our kisses grew more heated, and I would have happily kept on kissing him, but he pulled away from me with a growl. "Tell me you feel this … this connection between us."
I panted as I tried to catch my breath, attempting to get a handle on myself. "I do, Edward, truly. I don't know what it is, but I feel it too."
If I had my way, I'd have continued kissing Bella for the rest of the night, but unfortunately we were interrupted by Alice a few moments later.
"Guys, I hate to interrupt – but it's time for pictures. I tried to stall as long as I could …"
I reluctantly pulled back from Bella, kissing her softly on the forehead before turning to face my sister. "It's okay, Allie – thanks."
Alice grinned back at us, looking just a little too smug at our closeness. "I told you it would all work out!"
"It's amazing how someone so tiny can be so annoying," I teased her, earning a smack on my arm from Bella.
"Be nice!" Bella scolded, biting back a smile.
Alice stuck out her tongue at me. "Listen to your girlfriend, big brother."
I couldn't contain the joy I felt on hearing Bella being referred to as my girlfriend. All those wasted years of regret and unfulfilled fantasies … I hoped Bella liked the idea of being my girlfriend, though if her matching grin and pink cheeks were any indication, she did. I laced my fingers through hers and smiled down at her. "Let's not keep everyone waiting any longer."
After endless rounds of pictures, the wedding party was introduced by the DJ and we sat down to dinner, after the toasts from Jasper and my father. I was glad that Rose had forgone a set seating chart and allowed everyone at the head table to sit where they wanted, so that I could sit next to Bella. After all, we'd been separated long enough.
Most of the reception passed in a blur. I was happy just to have Bella in my arms as we danced, laughed, and talked about everything and nothing – and kissed, a lot. I admired Bella's gorgeous cake, amazed at the level of her talent and creativity. I definitely enjoyed eating the cake, mostly because I ended up licking the strawberry filling off of Bella's fingers … which led us to sneak away behind the tent so that I could kiss her breathless.
We snuck back in time to see Alice catch Rose's bouquet and to tease Jasper about having to watch Garrett slide the garter onto her leg – he turned redder the higher it went. After the last dance and waving Rose and Emmett goodbye as they sped off for their honeymoon, I finally had Bella all to myself. I helped her break down the cake table and the various supplies she had used to assemble the cake and loaded them back into her truck.
"I think that's everything." Bella latched her tailgate shut, suddenly looking uncertain and shy. I tucked a wayward strand of her hair behind her ear, my fingers unable to keep from touching her cheek softly.
"I was thinking …" Bella and I spoke at once.
I chuckled and shook my head. "Shall we try that again?"
Bella looked up at me, grinning. "Sure. You first."
I screwed up my courage, unwilling to let the night end just yet. "Are you busy tonight?"
"Not really, but I do need some help getting this stuff unloaded at the bakery," Bella sighed dramatically, her cheeks flushed and a twinkle in her eyes. "I don't suppose you could help me, since you're my boyfriend and all?"
"Do I get anything for helping out?" I asked, my hands circling her waist and pulling her closer.
"Hmm," Bella wrapped her arms around my neck and pressed herself against me. "I can think of a few ways I might be able to thank you."
"Oh yeah?" I couldn't keep the smile off of my face.
"Yeah," Bella affirmed, tilting her face up to touch her lips softly to mine.
"Let's get going then," I whispered. "I wouldn't want to keep my girlfriend waiting."
There will be a second part to this story! If you'd like to see what happens, put me on Author Alert - I hope to update soon!