This ended up being a much bigger chapter than I'd planned – of course, I also didn't plan on it taking me ten months to get back to it. Real life sucks in a not nice way.
I'm splitting the chapter, so the third verse will be in two parts. I'm making no promises on when the second part will post, only because every time I do promise, something happens to kill my flow. Suffice to say—if it's a WIP and it's posted, it will be finished. My goal – finish before Cullen818's NEXT birthday – gives me a month and a half. Wish me luck.
My eternal gratitude to texasbella for the pinch hit on beta.
Something in White: Part One
I'm looking for something in white
Something that shimmers in soft candlelight
Everyone calls us the most perfect pair
Should I wear a veil or a rose in my hair
Well, the train must be long and the waist must be tight
I'm looking for something in white
Five months later:
"The Crawford contracts are in this file, here is the proposal for Elite, and you have an appointment at eleven with Mr. McCarty to go over the final plans for the Whitlock-Hale Foundation's Holiday Benefit Concert. Also, don't forget that your final fitting is this afternoon," Angela ran through the list, handing a folder to Bella with each item.
Before Bella could respond, a knock sounded on her door jamb, followed by Charlotte entering her office.
"Do you possibly have time in your busy schedule to have lunch with your future mother-in-law?" she teased, stepping through the open door.
"When did you come to town?" Bella smiled and jumped out of her chair, rushing around her desk to hug the older woman. "You didn't mention anything about it when we were at the house last weekend."
"I drove in last night; Peter and I had dinner at the Plaza. I was going to call, but I had some errands nearby, so I thought I'd just stop in, instead. I'm not interrupting anything, I hope?" She returned the hug, before resting a hand on Bella's cheek.
"No, Mrs. Hale, not at all. Ms. Swan is all yours, at least until her appointment with your son-in-law. Would you like me to close the door?" Angela replied, crossing the room to leave.
"That's fine, Angela, thank you. Please buzz me when Mr. McCarty arrives." Turning her attention back to Charlotte, Bella motioned to a chair, before sitting on the edge of her desk. "Please, sit! I'm so excited you stopped by. After I meet with Emmett, I'll be free for lunch. Does that work for you?"
"Yes, dear, that's fine. Did I hear Angela say you have a fitting?"
A wistful smile crossed Bella's mouth, a peaceful glow lighting her face. Charlotte couldn't remember a time she'd ever seen her more happy. The girl deserved happiness, and it thrilled her that it was her son that brought it to her.
"Yes, my final one is scheduled for this afternoon at four. Would you like to join me? You'll be the only one, besides Kate, who will see my dress before the wedding," Bella cajoled, hoping Charlotte would agree.
"Really? You'd share that with me?" Charlotte's eyes brightened, a light sheen of tears filling them. "What about Ro? I'm sure she'd love to go with you."
"Charlotte, I'd be honored if you'd come with me. I don't have any family of my own, and you and Peter have always treated me like another daughter." Bella fought back her own tears, knowing her parents would have loved Jasper and his family. "Please say yes."
"Oh sweetheart, how can I say no to an invitation like that?" Reaching for Bella's hand, Charlotte comforted her. "Your parents will be there in spirit. I know there's no way they'd miss your special day. But, I do love you as if you were one of our own. I'm so glad Jasper came to his senses before he lost the best thing in his life." Dabbing her eyes with her free hand, she continued, "Now, that's enough tears, unless they're going to be happy ones!" The two women exchanged watery smiles, then settled into talking about the final wedding plans.
Even with the wedding only ten days away, Bella still had to pinch herself to believe it was true. The night Jasper proposed, she'd been preparing to confront him about his recent secrecy. What happened, instead, had been the furthest thing from her mind, and the realization of her greatest dream.
"Married? Are you sure?" Bella had stammered over her question, the box still laying on his chest, demanding an answer. Her fingers shook as she picked it up, hesitating to open it, knowing the symbolic weight of whatever was inside.
"Bella, sweetheart, I've never been surer of anything in my life. It's you, it's always been you. You bring completion to my life." He kissed her again, taking her free hand in his and lacing their fingers together. "I don't want to ever risk losing you again."
"But what about Alice? And London?" Her fingers tightened on the box, already knowing she couldn't let go, but needing answers first.
"Alice means nothing to me, love. She's just someone I work with. Would she like it to be more? I'm sure she would, but it's never going to happen. I lost my heart the minute I met you. I just fought it tooth and nail, until I finally realized it was a fruitless effort."
Uncurling her fingers from where they clenched the box, he flicked open the lid, revealing a flawless full carat marquis cut diamond, set in platinum and surrounded by intricate swirled hearts centered with smaller round cut diamonds. In the soft glow of moonlight, the ring sparkled with antique charm. Removing the ring, he held it in his fingers and sat up, lifting her onto his lap.
"Isabella Marie Swan, you are the reason my heart beats, the reason I breathe. I couldn't imagine spending another day of my life without you in it. Please, say yes and end the torture I've been in for the last two weeks."
She flung her arms around him, burying her face against his shoulder while tears streamed from her eyes, all the while nodding her head.
"Is that a yes, love?" His hands stroked across the delicate chiffon fabric of her dress, while castigating himself for his impatience. He'd planned out a big romantic proposal, in front of their friends and family. Instead, he'd all but assaulted her, dragging her into a pool house, and allowed his emotions to get the better of him.
She leaned back, lifting her eyes to meet his, her heart shining out from them. "Of course it's yes! Jasper Whitlock, it would be an honor to spend the rest of my life loving you, being loved by you."
With another kiss, he slipped the ring on her finger, knowing it would be a perfect fit. Her fingers tangled in his hair, their questing mouths building an unquenchable fire between them. When he began easing her back down to the chaise, his fingers seeking the zipper of her dress, she pulled away, her breath escaping her in quick pants.
"Jasper, wait. Your mom's party, we have to –" His mouth closed over hers again, the cap sleeves sliding down her arms when his hand slid inside to cup her breast.
"They can wait; I want to make love to my fiancée."
He did, too. By the time they returned to the dinner, Bella's hair swirled around her in disarray, her lips swollen from his mouth, a slight abrasion on her neck from his five o'clock shadow, and his ring on her finger. Seeing it, Charlotte squealed with excitement, willing to overlook their disappearance when she saw the glow of happiness surrounding both of them. Alice had slunk away, knowing she'd lost her chance, if she ever even had one. Once she returned to England, neither of them gave her another thought.
The two women enjoyed a delightful hour in conversation, until Angela announced Emmett's arrival. While Bella told her to send him in, Charlotte stood, gathering her purse from the floor next to her chair. They solidified their lunch plans, with Bella agreeing to meet her at Tavern on The Green in an hour and a half, where she'd already made reservations. Charlotte hugged her again, and then hugged her son-in-law when he entered.
"Char! What a surprise! Does Ro know you're in town?" the ebullient man exclaimed at seeing her.
"Not yet, but I will be calling her shortly. It wasn't a planned trip, but I intend to make the most of it. I have some shopping to do and I'm hoping she can accompany me on it."
"Well, you won't have to do much arm-twisting, you can be sure of that. She's been chomping at the bit to do some decorating at the condo. You'd be just the person she'd want with her." An errant blush tinged his cheeks, making Bella suspicious, but she let it go until Charlotte left the office. The minute the door closed behind the older woman, though, she spun around to meet Emmett's sheepish gaze.
"All right, spill it McCarty! You NEVER encourage Ro to go shopping, and she's certainly never had an interest in redecorating on her own, she always hires a professional." She crossed her arms across her chest, her foot tapping out an impatient staccato on the floor. "What gives?"
"I swear, B, if you tell her I said anything, you'll have signed my death certificate. Promise me anything I say won't leave this room," he implored, tugging at his tie with nervous fingers.
"Deal. Now, cough it!" Bella demanded, striding back to lean against her desk.
"Shit! I told Ro we needed to tell everyone, that I sucked at keeping a secret, but nnooooooo, she wanted to wait until after the wedding, didn't want anything to distract from you and Jasper." Seeing Bella's annoyed expression at his hesitation, he took a deep breath, before letting it all out in a rush. "Ro's pregnant. The baby's due early next summer."
Emmett barely managed to finish his sentence before Bella launched herself at him, wrapping the big guy in a hug and planting a kiss on his cheek.
"Oh my God! Emmett! That's wonderful! I'm so happy for you guys!" Tugging his hand, Bella pulled him to the chairs in front of her desk. "She shouldn't be keeping it a secret, though. The whole family will be thrilled for you two."
Stretching out his long legs, Emmett slouched down in the chair. "While I know you're right, I can see Ro's point. This is a special time for you and Jasper, nothing should overshadow it. We've got plenty of time to tell everyone, but you guys are only getting married once. Let the focus be on you for a change, okay? You deserve it."
Blushing, Bella cleared her throat, before standing to move behind her desk. "Okay, you win. I won't say anything to Ro, but I expect the entire family to know when we get back from our honeymoon."
"Where are you going for your honeymoon? Ro said she hadn't heard a peep about it from either of you."
"Your guess is as good as mine." Bella shrugged. "All Jasper would tell me was that I needed two weeks off of work. I'm not even packing my own suitcase. He's apparently been conspiring with Kate to ensure I have everything I need. It doesn't matter. So long as we're together, the locale doesn't mean a thing." Picking up a folder off her desk, she passed it to Emmett for his perusal. "Anyway, enough about that. Here are the proposals for the Metterhohn deal. Let's go over the details, then we can hammer out anything that needs to be fixed."
The two friends spent the remainder of the morning working through the documents, Bella making notations where changes needed to be made, until they were both satisfied with the finished product. Excusing herself, Bella walked out to her assistant, making sure she understood the notes, before returning back to her office. She spent a few more minutes talking with her soon to be brother in law, promising once again when he left, to not let on that she knew about the baby. After he'd left the office, she gathered up her briefcase, laptop, and phone, pausing to check in with Angela, before leaving for the day.
Stepping out of the lobby, she asked Jared, the doorman, to hail her a cab. While she waited, she called Charlotte to let her know she'd left the office and would see her shortly. The crisp late autumn air blew through the streets of Manhattan, a tacit reminder that winter waited right around the corner. Bella drew her long, cream, woolen coat tighter around her, her mind working around Emmett's secret. She'd been surprised, but excited for her best friends; they'd be wonderful parents. Looking up when Jared called her name, she walked over to slide in the back seat of the waiting cab, letting the driver know where she needed to go, before settling back to take a mental inventory of the wedding plans still left to be completed.
Bella had been surprised to see Ro with Charlotte when she arrived at the restaurant, but managed to keep quiet about the baby. In an effort to distract herself, Bella reached into her briefcase, pulling out the album the wedding planner had given her, eager to share the final plans with Rosalie and Charlotte. Lunch passed in a flurry of conversation about the wedding and the guests who would be attending.
When they'd announced their engagement, Jasper had insisted on hiring a wedding planner to help Bella. He knew how demanding her career could be, and wanted her to enjoy the preparations, not be stressed out of her mind. Laurent had been a Godsend, knowing what they needed before Bella could even ask most of the time. He'd met with Jasper and Bella, together and separately, to get a feel for their interests and personalities. Out of those meetings, he'd begun his planning and that was how the wedding locale came to be decided on.
The Metropolitan Library had a beautiful second floor gallery, with a gracious sweeping stairwell that led up to it. Bella and Jasper had both been enchanted by the idea, and from there Laurent had created a refined, classic theme with seasonal touches that could only be described as breathtaking.
Laurent had even assisted Charlotte with organizing a dinner party for family and close friends after the rehearsal, ensuring that the same theme from the wedding carried over into all the festivities. It would be held at the Hilton, where most of the out of town guests would be staying. The morning after the wedding, the bridal party had a brunch planned for the guests that were still in town, though Jasper and Bella would have already departed for their honeymoon.
Like Emmett, both women were surprised to discover that Bella still knew nothing about the honeymoon. In an effort to ensure no one gave away his secret, Jasper apparently hadn't confided in any of the family while making his arrangements.
"But, aren't you the least bit curious, Bella? I would've been a basket case wondering what Emmett was up to if he'd done something like that," Rosalie insisted.
"True, Ro, but that's Emmett. He considers extreme sports a fun family activity," Bella teased. The three women laughed, knowing she was right. "This is Jasper we're talking about. Anything he has ever planned for the two of us has been perfect, I'm sure this will be, too. Besides, the most important thing to me is time alone with him; the location is the least of my worries."
When the server returned with the bill, Charlotte made note of the time and brought up their appointment. Bella felt a brief flash of guilt over not inviting Rosalie to come with her to Kate's for her fitting. Turning toward her friend, she extended a last minute invitation, but Rosalie brushed it aside.
"No, Bells. Go enjoy the time with Mom. I have an appointment for a manicure, but then I think I may go home and just lay down for a bit." Charlotte looked at Rosalie, concern evident on her features, and asked if she had been sick. Bella squirmed, knowing why Rosalie was tired, and then silently cursed Emmett for swearing her to secrecy. Patting her stepmother's hand, Rosalie answered, "No, I'm fine. I've had a few busy days and didn't sleep well. With Emmett out, I don't have to contend with his snoring and hogging the bed."
Accepting the answer with a nod, Charlotte stood and gathered her purse and shopping bags. "Well, then you go home and rest. Your father and I will be in town all weekend; maybe we can have dinner together tomorrow night." Rosalie and Bella stood also, and followed Charlotte out. While the doorman held the cab, they all exchanged hugs, then parted ways.
The cab fought its way through Manhattan traffic, depositing Charlotte and Bella at Kate's fifteen minutes later. Kate greeted them at the door and quickly whisked them away to the fitting area. Settling her packages on the floor, Charlotte sunk gratefully into one of the brocade armchairs provided for the shop's clients, while Kate instructed a sales girl to bring the older woman a cup of tea.
"I have your dress and all of your foundation items in the large dressing room. Are you ready to do this one last time for practice?" Kate smiled at Bella, pleased to see the excited blush that filled her friend's cheeks. If anyone deserved happiness, it was Bella, after everything she had already lost.
Charlotte waved them away, and the two women entered the dressing room. Bella's wedding dress hung to one side, the skirt already steamed, the train draped across the floor. Bella had fallen in love with the exquisite white satin dress at first sight, and up until that point, the only other people to have had even a glimpse were Laurent and Kate.
A strapless sweetheart neckline topped a fitted bodice. It had been intricately embroidered with silver threads and embellished with Swarovski crystals, rhinestones, and sequined bead work that would shimmer in the candlelight during the ceremony and reception. The basque waistline and inverted pleats made Bella's waist look wasp thin, while the full skirt fell gracefully over the swell of her hips. Beaded buttons accentuated the back of the dress, running the full length of the skirt. Using a delicate scrollwork crystal tiara for a base, Kate had created a matching headpiece with a full veil, including the traditional blusher veil Bella had wanted.
Kate stepped out to allow Bella to change into her foundation garments, then came back to assist her into the dress. Bella stood with her eyes closed, not wanting even a peek before she could take in the whole effect in the main room's three-way mirror. Once the dress had been fastened, Kate used a few pins to twist up Bella's thick wavy hair, then settled the headpiece on her head.
"Don't forget, you need to take your veil with you to the hairdresser's the morning of the wedding so they can fasten it in place once your hair is finished," Kate murmured around the hairpins in her mouth.
"I know," Bella whispered, her eyes still closed. "Are we almost ready?"
"Just . . . one . . . more. There, that should hold you for now." Kate shifted the headpiece, pulling a tendril of hair loose to curve across Bella's shoulder. Bella heard a breathless sigh when Kate stepped back. "Okay, I'm going to turn you away from the mirror, and you can open your eyes to walk out. I had the drape dropped over the mirrors until you're positioned on the dais."
Kate opened the curtains on the dressing room, then handed Bella the wrist strap for her train. Hearing a gasp, Bella looked up to see Charlotte cover her mouth with her hand, her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, Bella," she whispered. "Jasper will be speechless."
A wistful smile lifted Bella's lips, a nervous blush tinting her cheeks a soft rose. She followed Kate to the dais and stepped up on the block, then waited while the seamstress and Kate straightened out the train of the dress. Charlotte stood to one side, silent tears coursing down her smiling face. With a nod, Kate and the seamstress stepped back, the drape lifted away, and Bella saw her wedding ensemble all together for the first time.
"I – I – Oh, Kate, I don't know what to say!" Bella exclaimed, mesmerized by the reflection in front of her. Her hands shook while she smoothed them across her stomach.
Twisting her torso slowly, she stared into the mirrors, entranced by the image reflected back at her. Charlotte stepped closer, the movement catching Bella's attention from the corner of her eye, and she turned to face the older woman. With a watery smile, Charlotte took her hand.
"Thank you for sharing this with me, Bella. I promise I won't breathe a word to Jasper, but I can't wait to see the look on his face when you walk into the ceremony. You look . . . exquisite. My son is a very lucky man."
Bella leaned down and kissed Charlotte's cheek. "He's not the only lucky one. All he gets is me, I get a whole family."
Next chapter - the wedding . . . and honeymoon. *waggles eyebrows*