I don't own Twilight. all Stephenie Meyer.
"Perfect." He picked up the two trays I'd pointed to and headed out of the kitchen. Before he left, though, he turned back around. "I have a bottle of cider for you in the fridge instead of wine. If you prefer." He nodded to the refrigerator before leaving.
I blushed and went to check it out. Not only was it a bottle of cider, but it was one of those specialty made kinds that are found at cider houses, like vineyards for wine. He was truly thoughtful.
Just as I poured myself a glass and brought it out to the living room the doorbell rang.
Edward smiled at me. "Are you ready?"
I nodded and watched as he went to answer the door.
Flyway With Me
Esme and Carlisle were the first to enter, warm smiles lighting their faces. They passed their coats to Edward and then came over to greet me. Esme's soft caramel locks fell around her shoulders, a few curls pinned back out of her eyes. She wore an elegant gold and cream dress suit that complimented her skin.
Though Carlisle was dashing in a gray suit with the collar undone, he looked a bit more relaxed with some scruff on his cheeks and his hair falling around his eyes.
"Bella, darling, don't you look lovely this evening." Esme kissed my cheeks and embraced me warmly.
"Thank you." I blushed as she let go. "It's wonderful to see you and Carlisle again."
Carlisle leaned forward and pressed his cheek to mine. "Hello, sweetheart."
I felt a familiar hand on the small of my back and glanced over my shoulder to see Edward. The fact that his touch felt so familiar worried me, but I pushed those thoughts aside and moved a bit closer to his side. His arm curled around my waist and I noticed his lip quirk up in an almost imperceptible grin.
"Mom. Dad." Edward greeted his parents. "Would you like something to drink?"
They both mentioned the name of an expensive wine I'd never heard of and settled onto one of the couches. They exuded such grace and poise with each movement, almost as though they were timed perfectly together.
Edward rubbed my back lightly. "Water?" he asked me.
It surprised me how easily we stepped into the role of tenderness and affection with each other and how right it felt. We hadn't necessarily avoided such displays before, but I found myself more aware of them. How natural they seemed, and how I found that I craved more.
The doorbell rang as I helped Edward with the drinks, and Emmett and Rosalie came in.
Rosalie said her hellos to Esme and Carlisle as Emmett put their coats away. Even in a somewhat simple, form fitting black dress, Rosalie radiated beauty. She held her self with confidence and fierceness.
Yet Emmett was more laid back. He did lack a verbal filter and came off as boisterous and loud, but there was something about him that made me feel comfortable and safe near him.
"Bella, great to see you." Emmett pulled me into a hug, lifting my feet off the floor and squeezing me almost too tightly. "You keeping my brother on his toes?"
I gasped, trying to find the breath to speak.
When Emmett finally set me back down, I wobbled a little on my feet and he had to reach out a hand to steady me. "Looks like you've got your hands full with this one, brother," he said, barking out a laugh.
I ducked my head in embarrassment, chewing on my lip absentmindedly.
"Ah, don't be shy, honey. I actually think it's kind of cute." Emmett winked.
"She's not interested, Emmett." Edward glared at his brother as he handed me a wine glass of ice water. He sat down beside me, motioning for the two of them to get their own drinks. The feel of his thigh pressed against mine, his hip, his hand, warmed me to the core. I could feel any leftover tension slowly leaving.
"Her loss," Emmett called.
I laughed quietly and shook my head at his playfulness. My fingers inched toward Edward's without a conscious thought, twining together. The pull to be close to one another felt so natural.
"So, Dad, how is the hospital treating you?" Edward asked.
Carlisle sipped from his glass before answering. "Fairly well. I've got an excellent surgical and office staff that have been keeping on top of things. Sometimes I feel a bit redundant, but if it allows me to spend more time at home," he said with a grin.
"And playing golf," Esme teased.
"Only when you are busy, dear." He winked at her. I guessed that was where Emmett had picked it up.
Rosalie made her way into the living area, sipping from a tall glass filled with a clear liquid. "You have been looking a bit more tan than usual, Mr. C. How much time do you spend on the golf course?"
Carlisle pointed his finger at his daughter-in-law and eldest son, a good natured expression on his face. "I play to relax. After nearly thirty years of working nonstop, I think I've earned a few hours here and there to myself."
They all bantered back and forth as they ate the hors d'oeuvres and finished their drinks. I simply sat back and listened, smiling along with them and enjoying their fun. Since I'd only ever had my father who, like me, was quiet and reserved, I wasn't used to such a family being so… at ease with one another.
Even Edward, who tended to be on the quiet side, joked and laughed with them. The smile that lit up his face and the hint of color on his cheeks was breath taking. He was relaxed and happy.
I checked on dinner while everyone continued conversing, happy that it was ready to be served. As I dished everything out onto the plates, I lifted my head to see Edward leaning back against the counter.
"Need any help?" he asked.
Nodding, I pointed to a few of the plates. "Would you please take these to the dining room and let the others know that dinner is ready?"
He pushed off the counter and I assumed he was coming to get the plates, but instead he stopped at my side. Tucking his finger under my chin, he lifted it until our eyes met. Affection rested on his features, soft and gentle, and something else I couldn't quite decipher. "Breathe, Bella," he murmured.
I took a second to consciously breathe in and out slowly in an effort to pacify him.
"You have nothing to worry about. They adore you," he said. With that he reached down and picked up some of the plates, adjusting them on his arms so he could carry more.
His words and the way he'd looked at me had left me… dazed. After I'd signed the agreement, it was like a switch had flipped with Edward. He was still a complete mystery and moody, but it was as though part of the wall he held steadfastly to crumbled and he decided to allow himself to be content. I hadn't really seen him happy, at least not until a few moments before with his family.
When I managed to pull myself together, I grabbed the remaining plates and brought them to the dining room. Everyone else had gathered around the table, but waited to sit down until I arrived. Their compliments of how wonderful the food smelled and how delicious everything tasted made my cheeks heat with pleasure.
It wasn't until after dinner that Edward and I decided to give them the news. They all gathered back into the living room while we went into the kitchen to get dessert. I got the pastries and Edward pulled out some plates while we talked softly.
"Are you ready for this?" he asked.
My heart sped up slightly and I shrugged.
Edward stood by my side. "We can just tell them about the engagement for now."
I bit my lip. There he went being all sweet and caring again. I just didn't understand him when he said things like that. Keeping on another at a distance was the main reason behind the arrangement. We both weren't ready to allow someone in, and then he had to go and say things that made it even more difficult to keep him at bay.
Closing my eyes for a second, I took a steady breath and shook my head. "No. We can tell them about the baby, too."
The light pressure of his hand on the small of my back calmed me down slightly. He smiled reassuringly at me and we made our way into the living room with dessert.
Once everyone was served, Edward sat beside me with his arm across the back of the sofa. He didn't touch his dessert which was a surprise, but I figured he wanted to wait until after we'd given our news.
Esme must have noticed as well because I saw her eyes narrow slightly, a hint of suspension in her eyes. "Is everything all right, Edward?"
He smiled at her, his jaw tensing slightly. "Of course, Mom. Why do you ask?"
The look in her eyes told me that she definitely knew something was going on. "Edward, you are my son, so I think I know you pretty well. When there's a plate of your favorite pastries sitting untouched in front of you, I know something is wrong." She didn't sound hurt or angry, just firm.
Everyone else's eyes darted back and forth between the two, their curiosity evident.
With a deep breath, Edward took my hand in his. "All right, I do have a couple of things to share with everyone." I squeezed his fingers gently in an effort to comfort him, and I could see his lips quirk up in his crooked grin. "First, though it might seem a bit soon, I asked Bella to marry me… and she said yes." He looked down at me to continue.
"And, I'm pregnant," I said.
For a moment nobody said anything. It was as though time froze. Then a rush of excitement filled the room and everybody rushed to us. I was hugged, kissed, and spun around as choruses of squeals and congratulations filled my ears.
Rosalie surprised me the most with her genuine words. I could see the sting of hurt in her eyes at the mention of the baby, but she fought hard to tamp it down. Emmett wrapped his arm around her shoulders and nodded to me.
The expression of fatherly affection in Carlisle's eyes before he kissed my forehead brought tears to my eyes. "Congratulations, sweetheart."
I carefully ran a finger under my eyes so I wouldn't mess up the eyeliner I'd put on.
Esme's exuberance wasn't nearly overwhelming. She hugged both Edward and I tightly before she pulled back to look at us. "When did this all happen? I had no idea that the two of you were so serious." She literally bounced in happiness, reminding me of Alice.
"Well," I started, "we actually found out about the baby first. And Edward waited until things settled down before he proposed. It actually wasn't planned or anything."
Edward kissed the top of my head. "And I have some champagne to celebrate."
As he made his way to the kitchen with Emmett behind him, Esme pulled me into another warm embrace. She smelled of delicate flowers and vanilla. "I couldn't be more thrilled, Bella. Edward hasn't been this happy in quite some time. You've been really good for him."
Her words surprised me and I pulled back to look at her.
She correctly identified the confusion on my face. "Edward has come out of a pretty bad place since meeting you, my dear. He still has a ways to go, but I've seen how happy he is around you. Thank you," she said with such sincerity.
I ducked my head shyly and was about to respond when a champagne flute of cider was placed in front of me. I took the glass from Edward's hand and waited as he handed one to Esme.
Once everyone had a glass of champagne, Edward wrapped his arm around my waist and raised his flute up to toast. "First, I want to thank you guys for celebrating our engagement with us. Being able to share this with family makes it even more special." When he glanced down at me, I felt myself gasp at the heat in his eyes. "Second, I can't believe how incredibly lucky I am that this amazing woman agreed to marry me. She's given me her trust and her heart, I promise not to break it."
My chest tightened and I felt a piece of me break as we clinked glasses and drank.
If I'd thought Esme had been thrilled to learn of the engagement, it was nothing compared to her excitement when we asked to have the wedding and reception at the Cullen manor. Their home was beyond anything I'd ever seen and she and Carlisle had been more than happy to open up it up to us.
When the date had been officially set, I'd called Alice and given her the details. Since she couldn't be with me to help plan she'd insisted on video conferences to discuss the details and wouldn't take no for an answer.
After my classes and a group meeting to discuss an upcoming project, I drove to the Cullen's to meet with Esme, Vanessa, and Alice. I setup my laptop for the video call and smiled when Esme and Vanessa came out with snacks and bottles of water.
I munched on some apples dipped in peanut butter as the program we needed came up and her a soft chuckle beside me. Glancing up I saw Vanessa covering her mouth as she giggled. "What?" I asked around the bite of apple.
She just smiled. "You're just so adorably pregnant."
I blushed and took a moment to finish chewing before I answered her. "You don't know Alice. If she thinks there's food anywhere near the wedding binder, she'll spend this entire meeting giving us a lecture. I, for one, want to avoid that." I kept the binder on the couch, away from the food. Vanessa looked at me like I was crazy. "Just wait. She may not be here, but you'll get a good look at the Bridezilla that is Alice."
"But it's not even her wedding," Vanessa pointed out.
"Exactly." I took another bite of peanut butter and apple.
She shook her head and rolled her eyes at me. "Okay."
I knew Vanessa didn't believe, but she would have to see it to believe. Even Esme knew what I meant and we exchanged a look as she settled down beside me.
The call thankfully came through as I finished my snack and cleaned my hands with a wet paper towel. I answered the call and grinned as Alice's bright face filled the screen. She was dressed in pajamas with her hair pulled back by a stretchy head band.
"Oh my goodness! I can't believe you're really getting married," she said with a squeal. "There's so much to do and only a few weeks to get it all done. Why didn't you guys wait until next year to give yourselves more time?"
Before she could continue, I held up my hands to calm her down. "We didn't want to wait, and with the baby it just seemed like a good idea to get married now. I know we only have a short window to get everything done, but that's why I have you."
Alice's smile widened even more so at my words and she settled back. "Lay it on me."
Esme, thankfully, started us off as I opened the wedding binder. "I think it would be wise to discuss the decorations first. That way we'll have an idea of the color scheme and can move on to the flowers and such." When we all nodded Esme continued. "Now, I'm not sure what your taste is Bella. Do you have an idea in mind of what you want?"
I shook my head. "All I really know is that I want it to be elegant and tasteful. Nothing too over the top." I knew that if I didn't get that out of the way, Alice would try to bring in swans and people dressed like faeries. That just wasn't me.
"How would you feel about lanterns and those icicle type twinkle lights for part of the lighting? It creates a romantic, hazy atmosphere and would be just right, I think, for the reception." Vanessa suggested.
"That actually sounds perfect," Alice agreed.
We went on from there, going over as much as we could before Alice had to call it a night. After a to-do list was made, specific items were marked, and vendor phone numbers were written down, we agreed to meet up again in a few days to discuss progress. Alice smiled at me before we ended the conference call, a tender expression on her face.
My eyes pricked with tears and I said good night to her before any sobbing could start. I walked Esme and Vanessa to the door, agreeing to meet up with me the next day to begin placing orders. The hug that Esme gave before she left sparked a longing in me for the comfort of my own mother, though I hadn't seen or heard from her in years.
I locked the front door and curled back up on the couch with my cell. After taking a deep breath, I pressed one of the speed-dial buttons and listened as the phone rang.
"Hello?" answered a familiar gravelly voice.
More tears filled my eyes and I struggled to get ahold of myself before answering. "Hi, Daddy."
"Bells? Are you all right?" The concern in his voice was evident.
I hurried to reassure him. "I'm fine. I just… I really miss you."
He chuckled slightly. "I miss you too, honey. How are your classes going? You're set to graduate this spring, right?"
"Yes. As long as I can stay on schedule with my thesis project and have it ready to turn in on time, I should graduate in May." Although, with the baby due in March I probably wouldn't be able to walk or go through the ceremony, but that wasn't something I was really ready to think about.
Charlie didn't say anything for a moment, but when he did his words surprised me. "I hope you know how proud I am of you, Bells."
"Thanks, Dad," I said softly.
For an indeterminate amount of time, neither of us said anything. His words hung in the air like a beacon, more meaningful than he probably could have guessed. I loved Charlie, he was the only parent I'd had since Renee left when I was seven, but he was not the emotional type. I understood that, and probably had the same problem expressing emotions myself.
So instead of commenting, I figured it would be best to just keep on going. "There's, umm, something else I wanted to talk to you about." I bit my lip, trying to keep from falling into a sobbing mess.
He cleared his throat. "What is it, honey?"
"Well, you see, I'm sort of getting married." I cringed, hoping I didn't sound as idiotic as I thought.
"That boy finally popped the question, huh?" he said, a hint of amusement in his voice. "I guess I'm not really all that surprised. You two have been dating for over a year now."
"Actually, it's not Jake. We broke up a few months ago." I closed my eyes. Thinking of Jacob only confused me more. "I, um, met a man not that long after and he's the one I'm marrying."
Charlie, in typical dad gruffness, asked, "What's this man's name?"
"Edward Cullen. Dad, he's a wonderful man. Kind and generous. Selfless. He's going to take good care of me, Daddy." I knew he couldn't refuse me when I called him 'Daddy'. It was like his kryptonite or something.
He grumbled under his breath. "When's the big day, Bells?" he asked reluctantly.
"The end of this month. October 27th."
"Oh, honey, I don't know if I'll be able to make it. Things have been a little tight around here lately and I don't think I'll be able to get a ticket." He sighed.
I'd had a feeling that he wouldn't be able to make it. Tickets were expensive, especially around the holidays. "It's okay, Dad. I just… I just wanted you to know."
"Maybe the two of you can come over for Thanksgiving. Give me a chance to make sure he's good enough for you," he said, a bit teasingly.
"Sure. I'll make sure and let him know. I love you."
"I love you too, Bells."
Warm arms circled around me and lifted me up. I burrowed in closer and breathed in the heady scent, feeling safe. "Mmm."
The arms tightened around me. "Sleep, sweetheart."
I lost myself to the world as I dreamed of flowers, long white dresses, and a beautiful man waiting for me to meet him. Though it was all blurt, I felt oddly comforted. As if I was right where I was supposed to be.
When I finally woke, it took me a few minutes to realize where I was. The sheets I lay on were cream and incredibly soft, while the comforter was gold. Definitely not mine. Then I noticed the hand resting on my tummy, right on the baby bump that had formed. The hand, while masculine and much larger than mine, looked smooth and soft. A gentle breath blew against my hair and I couldn't help the smile that spread across my lips.
In an effort not to wake him, I turned carefully on my side until I face the man that had held me all night. Edward slept soundly, his face peaceful as he breathed deeply. I brought my hand up to his face and ran my fingers lightly over his cheek.
More than anything I wanted to be able to open up to him, to let go of the hurt and fear that Jacob had caused, but neither of us was ready for that. Edward still kept so many secrets from me. Until we were able to do that, perhaps it was better to have our arrangement. It was unconventional and terrifying, but it might be just what we needed.
Just as I was about to pull my hand away, Edward's darted up and he twined his fingers with mine. He opened his eyes sleepily and breathed in slowly. His eyes, wide and hopeful, dark and yearning, pulled me in deeply.
I gasped. No one had ever looked at me that way before. Not even Jacob.
Edward, without a word, leaned forward and pressed his lips to my forehead.
A tear slid down my cheek at the tender gesture.
"How'd you sleep?" His voice was husky with sleep and he kept his arm around me.
I felt my cheeks warm. "Wonderful. You?"
"Best night I've had in a long time." Edward settled his head against the pillow.
Laying side-by-side, we took advantage of our morning off. I didn't know what to think of Edward Cullen. He always managed to surprise me. Just when I thought I had him figured out, he'd do something I never expected.
"Jasper and Emmett are coming by at noon. My brother won't let me out of it," he grumbled.
"It's a bachelor party, Edward. Most men would jump at the chance to let loose and enjoy the ritual." I teased, ducking my head to cover a yawn.
"Well, I'm not most men," he declared.
That was an understatement.
"I'm beginning to realize that." I looked up into his eyes again, unsure of how to feel.
He squeezed my hand that was still pressed to his cheek and lowered it to his chest. "Why don't you stay here? Sleep a bit longer if you'd like, and I'll see about breakfast." With a wink, he gently released his hold on me and climbed out of his bed.
I closed my eyes, allowing myself to be surrounded by Edward's scent and leftover warmth on the sheets. Not having to scramble around and rush was heavenly. There was a week until the wedding, but thanks to Alice's masterful planning and Esme and Vanessa's help, I really had nothing to worry about.
Somehow, in spite of the strangeness of the situation, I had a feeling it would all work out.
Taking a deep breath, I brought my arms up over my head and stretched. Bringing my arms back down, I opened my eyes and glanced around the room. Edward had placed my favorite sweater on a chair beside the bed, along with my boot slippers. My heart thumped slightly at the gesture.
I sat up and waited to be sure my stomach wouldn't turn, but putting them on. Then I freshened up in the bathroom before making my way downstairs. The smell of freshly brewed coffee filtered up to me as the dulcet tones of Edward's voice reached my ears.
"The Volturi gala is in two weeks, so please R.S.V.P. for plus one and call Gianna personally. Also I'll be out the week of Thanksgiving so you'll need to setup the voicemail message in case anyone calls." He glanced up as I slid onto one of the stools at the counter, his lips quirked up in a barely there smirk. "Tia has been helping Ben with research for our case, so make sure that they have access to my office while I'm out, too. Thanks, Heidi."
As he ended the call I noticed a strawberry muffin on a plate before me with a dab of cream cheese on the side. I unpeeled the wrapper and broke off a piece. Edward set a cup of tea down for me, just the way I liked it, and flipped through his phone for a moment.
I ate quietly for a moment, scooping up some of the cream cheese on my finger and bringing it up to my mouth, unsure of what I was feeling. There was a part of me that knew he didn't purposely say or do things just to confuse me, but I couldn't understand why.
Edward was a contradiction.
He said he was selfish, but Edward opened to me when I had nowhere else to go. He said that he couldn't let anyone else in, that he wasn't ready to, but Edward was doing everything to ensure that my baby and I felt loved and cared for. Just as before, I didn't know what to think of Edward Cullen.
"What are your thinking so hard about over there?" Edward's voice brought me back.
I could feel my cheeks blush and ducked my head, finishing the rest of the cheese on my finger. "Nothing really. Just thinking," I said softly.
Edward tucked a stray curl behind my ear, warmth spreading over me as his fingers grazed my ear. He looked down at me, something there I couldn't quite decipher. He cleared his throat, but didn't move away from me. "Should I even ask what Alice has in store for your bachelorette party?"
My head swam at his close proximity, so I shook it in an effort to clear it before answering him. "It won't be as exciting as what you boys have planned. An afternoon at the spa, more 'shower' presents from them, and then an old-fashioned slumber party which will include fluffy pajama's and true girly movies."
He tried to hold back his amusement, but ended up tossing his head back as he laughed heartily. "Does that really happen?" he asked, his laughter quieting down.
"That and doing each other's hair and makeup. And we shamelessly talk about boys." I said haughtily, at least I tried to.
"Oh really?" Edward leaned in a little more to me, a hint of challenge in his eyes. "Will you discuss me?"
I struggled to remain focused on what he said, his nearness and scent too much. "Maybe."
Grinning, Edward pressed his lips to my forehead gently. "So will I." With that he tapped my chin lightly and stepped back. He picked up the mug of coffee he'd been drinking when I came down and took a long sip from it.
I narrowed my eyes at him as the fog in my brain began to clear, he knew exactly what he'd been doing, and returned to eating my breakfast.
Alice showed up at eleven with a frilly prink "Maid-of-Honor" tiara on her head and a matching "Bride-to-Be" one for me that also had a veil on it. She insisted that I wear it and some flashing plastic necklaces and rings that looked like something little girls would wear. Alice told Edward that he was not allowed to call me until that evening to say goodnight.
He simply rolled his eyes, but nodded his acquiescence. Then he stood in front of me, one hand on my hip and the other resting on my tummy, and lowered his forehead to mine. "Try not to overexert yourself too much, okay?"
I nodded, holding back the shiver I felt so close to him.
We stood like that a few more seconds before Edward let me go, his lips forming a crooked grin that looked both shy and secretive. I knew he was up to something, but let Alice pull me out the door after her. Edward waved after us as we climbed onto the elevator, chuckling at Alice's excited squeal.
I stood in front of the mirror the following afternoon, my hair and makeup finally finished, and could hardly believe my eyes. Alice had a hair stylist and makeup artist that she knew from school come for the wedding. They didn't go overboard, everything was done tastefully. I just couldn't believe it. They made me look beautiful.
My hair was curled and pinned up with a few pieces falling loose around my face. My skin glowed and had a light flush to it that only seemed to enhance the makeup that had been applied. It was subtle but elegant.
"Okay, Bella, it's time to get into your dress." Alice clapped her hands.
I stepped back from the mirror and smiled as Esme came to help. Her delicate hands took ahold of mine as Alice and one of the attendants helped me slip into my wedding gown. Alice had made some minor alterations to do the dress to accommodate my baby bump, but had kept the integrity of it intact: the beautiful beadwork and lace, the strapless bodice, the full skirt.
"Perfect," Alice squealed.
Esme squeezed my hands before letting them go. Her smile was watery as she leaned in to kiss my cheek. "You look lovely my dear."
"Thank you, Esme." I held back a sob at her loving expression and offered a watery smile of my own. She'd been more of a mother to me for the past several weeks than my mother ever had been and I hated lying about why Edward and I were marrying.
"I better go find my seat." Esme blew a kiss as she left the room.
Alice got something from her bag and brought it over to me. She slipped it onto my left wrist, hooking into place. "Carlisle and Esme wanted you to have this. A gift for their new daughter-in-law." It was a diamond bracelet with flowers and tiny leaves from the gems.
It took my breath away.
Just as I was about to say something, there was a knock at the door. It opened slightly and the one person I did not expect to see poked his head inside. "Daddy?"
He stepped into the room, looking uncomfortable but handsome in his suit. His mustache twitched slightly as he took me in. "You look beautiful, Bells."
Tears filled my eyes as I made my way to him, hugging him tightly. "What are you doing here? I didn't think you were going to be able to make it."
Charlie patted my back awkwardly and then let me go. "Edward. He called me a couple weeks ago to find out when I was coming in and when I told him the situation he insisted on flying me down."
I bit my lip, so many different emotions surging through me.
"You did good, Bells." He nodded.
Alice greeted Charlie excitedly, holding a bouquet of flowers in each hand. "It's just about time guys. I hate to rush you, but I have everything time perfectly. We don't want to be late." She handed me my bouquet and slipped out the door.
Charlie just chuckled at her and held his arm out for me. "Ready?"
I linked my arm through his. "Just don't let me fall."
"Never." He kissed the top of my head lightly before leading me out the door.
The ceremony was taking place outside, just before the patio, and then further into the backyard a tent was set up for the reception. Dad had us stop at the bottom of the stairs and we waited for Pachelbel's Canon to begin playing.
My entire body trembled as we took our first steps down the aisle. It hadn't been until that moment that everything felt so real. I breathed slowly, deeply, and finally lifted my eyes to find Edward. Nothing else mattered.
He stood at the altar, just in front of the patio doors, with Pastor Weber on one side of him and Jasper and Emmett on the other. The tuxedo he wore was classic with a black bowtie and silver buttons. His normally rumpled hair looked somewhat toned down and he had a light layer of scruff on his face.
I could hardly breathe as I stared at him, anxious to reach his side. We were in this together and I needed his touch as a reminder.
Charlie turned to me when we finally reached the altar and pressed his cheek to mine. "I love you, Bells," he whispered.
"I love you, too," I managed to say.
He kissed my cheek and turned back to the front. He placed my hand in Edward's, shared a silent exchange with him, and then stepped back.
I took another deep breath and let it out slowly before I lifted my head to finally meet Edward's gaze.
Everything in that moment stood still.
The rest of the world melted away.
All I could see was the deep green of Edward's eyes, feel the warmth of his skin.
I heard Pastor Weber speaking, but didn't really register what he said.
When it was my turn to speak, to exchange our vows, to give him his ring, Edward gently squeezed my fingers as a silent reminder. He kept me grounded in that moment and lost at the same time.
"You may now kiss your bride."
My cheeks burned at the thought of Edward's lips on mine. We'd only exchanged a few brief, chaste kisses since the arrangement became official. This kiss, though, I had a feeling would be different. Somehow more.
Edward wrapped one arm around my waist to pull me up against him and brought his other hand up to cup my face before he leaned down to capture my lips with his. Again, the world around us just melted away. His lips were soft and tender, but firm and urgent. He grunted slightly as his tongue slid against mine, as fire erupted between.
The grip of his hands were in contrast as he held me, tender against my cheek while firm and gripping against my waist.
I wanted to deepen the kiss, to never come up for air.
Clapping and cheering filled the room. Heartfelt congratulations called to us.
We were brought back to the present. The look in Edward's eyes as he pulled back was one of surprise and confusion. But he smiled and nodded to our guests as they praised our happy moment. With his arm around my waist, Edward led me down the aisle. He held me pressed securely against his side, tingles and shocks shooting between us.
Just before we made it all the way down and out of the room, I caught sight of Vanessa. She laughed and waved at me, holding on to the arm of her boyfriend.
It was the sight of him that had me stop completely in our tracks. I hadn't officially met Vanessa's boyfriend, but in that moment I knew exactly who he was. Someone I thought I'd never see again. Someone who had broken my heart and left me right when I needed him the most.
Thank you so much to everyone who continues to read this story. You encourage me more than you know and I hope this chapter was worth the wait. And, I want you to know that I do read each and every review even though I haven't been able to respond.
I love this Edward and Bella and will finish them. Even though it will take me some time.
Let me know what you think and I'll see you all next time :)