Pop the Question Contest Entry

Title: Stealing the Bride

Word Count (without the A/n and header): 7573

Pairing: Edward and Bella

Rating: M for language and possibly more graphic lemons in the future continuation

Summary: Edward realizes that he wants to spend the rest of his life with Bella. Only problem is that she's set to marry someone else. Can he steal the bride for his very own?

Warnings (if any): N/A

Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephanie Meyer. I'm just borrowing her characters. No copyright infringement intended.

Stealing the Bride

"I have to go," I expressed to my best friend, Jake, as I continued to throw random items into my bag. "I can't let her go through with this. She's going to regret it for the rest of her life."

"And you're going to do what exactly?" Jake responded back, just casually leaning on my bedroom door sill with his arms crossed, as he watched me pack in a frenzy, without so much as even a thought to help me.

"Of course, I'm going to stop her wedding," I answered, looking at him with incredulity.

Jake began to laugh. "I kind of figured that. I'm asking what your plan is. You can't just expect to show up and then voila, her wedding is stopped."

I paused for a moment. It then became obvious to me that I hadn't really thought things through thoroughly because I didn't exactly have a plan. I really did just expect to show up and figured that the wedding would not happen after that.

Jake laughed again. He then rolled his eyes at me. "Edward, forgive me for saying so, but you're such an arrogant bastard. You don't have a plan, do you? You want to stop Bella's wedding, but you have no real, concrete plan to do so except to show up. That's rich. I wonder how that'll work out for you."

"Well, I kind of figured that was a good enough plan," I told him.

"Oh, of course. Bella's going to take one look at you and call off her wedding. Great plan, bro," Jake teased.

"No...not exactly like that. Obviously, we're gonna talk and then she'd realize she was making a big mistake and call off her wedding."

"Oh, so it's that simple, huh?"

"Yes," I responded back and resumed my packing. "Well, it's gotta be that simple. I don't exactly have much time here."

Jake laughed some more. "Well, you have a point. Her wedding is in a week. You don't have much time. Um, forgive me for pointing this out, but you had no problem with her getting engaged a year ago. I mean, you had all this time to stop her wedding. Why are you only planning to do it now?"

"I never actually thought she'd go through with it," I explained. "Now, I realize that she just might if I'm not there to stop her."

Again, Jake laughed. His mocking was really starting to get on my nerves.

"Uh, what exactly told you that she wasn't going to go ahead and marry the dope? You found out she got engaged, she actively planned her wedding, an announcement was even put in the society pages of the paper, and now she's in Vail with the rest of her family and guests about to have the wedding of her life. Probably a wedding that only most little girls dream of."

"I really thought she'd come to her senses. Until...she didn't." Jake just continued to chuckle heartily. I chose to ignore him and continued, "See, that right there...the way you described her wedding to be, is already all wrong. Having this big, destination wedding...that isn't Bella."

"Seems like it is her to me," Jake answered back. "She planned the whole darn thing."

"No...it isn't her," I insisted. Jake didn't know Bella like I did. "First off, she'd never have such an extravagant wedding and least of all have a destination one at that. And, what's worse, she's going to Vail of all places to get married. She hates the cold and Vail is known for skiing. Bella doesn't ski. She'll be miserable. I've known Bella for a long time and all this wedding stuff can't be what she wants. I just know it."

"How do you know that, Edward? It's been a while. She might've changed. Maybe she did. She did plan this wedding, and for all intents and purposes, it's happening."

"Bella isn't the type of person that'll change on a dime, Jake. You don't know her like I do. Believe me, all of these frills, flash, and extravagance is not her. She's more of a simple girl, and I don't mean that in a bad way. I don't exactly know why she's planning on going through with all of it, but it's all wrong. She was probably just trying to make everyone else happy, sacrificing what she actually wanted. Bella always did have a good heart. She'd put others' feelings first before her own. So, she'd go through with the flashy wedding, a smile on her face, but inside she would be cringing and just praying to get through things... just biding her time till it's over. I'm willing to bet, more than anything, that her idiot of a fiancée is mostly responsible for putting Bella in this position. As usual, he probably hadn't considered any of Bella's feelings with regards to the wedding she had wanted. But that's why I need to go stop this stupid wedding in the first place. It's a farce. I can't let Bella do that to herself, and more importantly, that dope she's supposed to marry isn't who she's supposed to be with. Their relationship is a joke. She's going to ruin her life if she marries him."

"Oh, I get it now," Jake responded in a knowing tone. "And tell me again why you only chose now to make Bella realize she's making this huge mistake?"

"Like I said, I didn't think she'd actually go through with things. I thought Bella was smarter than this. I know that she doesn't love the guy. I kept expecting her to call off her engagement months ago."

Jake interjected, "But she didn't. If there's any truth to anything you've spouted, she must have good reason to continue with the wedding. Maybe she's smarter than you think."

I just glared at Jake. I knew what he was insinuating about Bella.

"Bella isn't that type of person. She would never even dream of tying herself down just out of convenience. So, you get all those thoughts about her being that way out of your head right now. Like I said, I haven't figured it all out yet, but if there's one thing I do know, Bella is not just using Newton. She may not be in love with him, but she probably cares about him enough. There's at least a deep affection there."

"Okay, maybe she feels that's enough to make a go of a marriage."

"Maybe. But, Bella should never have to settle. Y'know, I started panicking about a month ago when she still hadn't called off the wedding. I just kept hoping. Well, now the time has come to stop her. I can't let her go through with it."

"Just say it. You're still in love with Bella," Jake tried to coax from me.

He didn't have to try very hard. Admittedly, I am very much in love with her. Bella is my perfect girl. She is now and forever will be the only one for me.

"I'm not going to deny it. I am. I already had that epiphany. Bella was exactly the right girl for me. She is the one. I just hadn't seen it back then. Chalk it up to stupidity, but I'm not going to make that mistake again. To be perfectly honest, even apart, I realized that I never stopped loving her. That's why no other girl after Bella ever worked out. Bella and I are meant for one another. I'm sure of it. Like I said, she doesn't love that guy. I have a feeling she's still in love with me too. I want us to make a go of things again. This time it'll be right. That's why it's imperative I stop that wedding," I exclaimed, as I finished packing and zipped up the duffel bag.

"Okay, granted that Bella may not actually love the dope that she's planning to marry, but how do you know that she's still in love with you?"

"I just know," I told Jake honestly. "I just have this gut feeling and if there's one thing I've learned, it's to always trust these gut feelings. I haven't before and I've found that I've seriously screwed things up when I didn't listen. I'm going to trust my gut from now on."

"Well, for what it's worth, I always thought you were an idiot for letting Bella go," Jake proclaimed proudly. "Bella is one great girl. Even I knew that just from the way you kept going on and on about her. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone realized Bella's worth and snapped her up."

"And why didn't you tell me this before?" I asked, a bit annoyed that Jake was only telling me this information now. Maybe if he had let me know that I was an idiot for having let Bella go in the first place, then maybe I wouldn't need to be stopping a wedding now.

"You had to figure it out for yourself, bro. I knew you would, eventually. Although, I thought you'd figure it out much sooner than now."

"Well, at least, I did figure it all out before she actually got married. What would I do then if I was too late and she already married the dope?"

Horrible thoughts then crept into my mind about Bella being miserable and stuck in a loveless marriage. It was a terrible thing to imagine and I quickly shook my head to clear those thoughts.

Thank God I finally came to my senses. Granted, I would've loved to have come to my senses sooner. A week before Bella's nuptials didn't give me a lot of time to sweep in and rescue her from the terrible fate of being married to Mike Newton.

Jake joked, "You'd then be encouraging Bella to get a quickie divorce." He started to laugh again and I just glared at him once more. Jake was having fun at my expense and I didn't like it.

Jake continued, "Y'know...in light of new information, I'm wondering if Bella hadn't called off the wedding yet because she's been waiting on you to come save her. She always did consider you her white knight."

"Well then I better live up to my name and go and rescue her from this wedding travesty. I'm not going to let her give up on me...on us," I proclaimed.

"In that case, you better help me pack," Jake stated, already heading out to his room.

"Pack?" I asked as I followed him, my own luggage in tow.

"Yeah. I'm coming with you," he said, as if it was obvious.

"There's no time," I exclaimed.

"We have time. For something this big, you're going to need my help. There's a lot of things I'm guessing you haven't thought of, but I'm already aware of. Seriously, I don't believe that you could just sweep in, disrupt the wedding, and magically Bella's going to change her mind and be yours. She has come this far. You don't know...she might not even want to see you. So how are you even going to talk to her and convince her that she'd be making a mistake by marrying Newton? Or worse...Newton might keep her from you. He's a perceptive bastard. He'll smell you trying to take Bella away from him a mile away. He could very well keep you away from her, and she'll never even know, and then he knows he's free and clear once he puts that ring on her finger."

"Hmm...how do you figure Newton will know what I'm up to?" I inquired.

Admittedly, Jake was smart as fuck. He'd thought about things that never even entered my mind. I really figured I could just stroll into Vail, find Bella, we'd talk, she'd call off the wedding, and then end of story. Jake had just let me realize that it might not be that simple. That there might actually be obstacles in my way.

What if Bella didn't want to talk to me, let alone see me at what's supposed to be one of the biggest days in a girl's life? What if Newton kept her away from me?

Fuck, I hadn't thought of any of that.

"Edward...how else would he explain you being at his wedding festivities?" Jake retorted, as if it was plain to see. "Uninvited, I might add. You're lucky you even know about the event because of how it's been well-publicized."

"Shit! I hadn't thought of any of this," I admitted.

"Yep, I figured as much. That's why you need me to come along. If anything, you need someone with a clear head to lead this mission of yours. Like I said before, this is a big, fucking deal. You can't just go into it half-cocked. Pardon the pun."

Jake had a point, so I nodded to him in agreement. This, in turn, meant that I spent the next thirty minutes packing Jake's things while he was on the phone making arrangements. He told me that he'd taken care of everything when he was all through.

The next thing I knew, Jake, his boyfriend, Sam, and I were at the airport and in no time at all were on a flight bound for Denver International Airport. Once in Denver, we caught a small charter flight that took us up to Vail.

Jake kept telling me that he had a surefire winner of a plan in mind, complete with a little insurance policy, and so, if I followed along like a good little boy, then everything should work out in my favor. Jake didn't really elaborate much further on his plan, just stating that all will be revealed in due time. I decided not to pry. I'd leave the details to Jake and all I was going to worry about was what I was going to say to Bella once I had the chance to talk to her.

Jake was treating this like some sort of covert mission and that he was some sort of 007 James Bond character. He was certainly enjoying himself far too much. Sam lapped that shit up, though, like the lovesick puppy he was. While I was nervous as heck, he and Jake were more excited than anything.

I didn't exactly know why Sam had to come along, but Jake insisted he'd be useful. I suspected it was more like Jake didn't want to be sleeping alone for however long we'd be gone. He and Sam had been practically inseparable ever since they had gotten together. Either Jake was at Sam's place or Sam was at ours. I suspected I'd be out of a roommate soon.

I was immediately curious as to what exactly Jake had up his sleeve when he told me that we'd be meeting our so-called insurance policy in Vail. I guess I should've been saying who he had up his sleeve that would be helping us out with the plan. I couldn't think of anyone who was attending the wedding and would've been willing to help me stop it.

If I knew Jake, though, his plan had to be something good. The man was really a genius, although no one would ever know it just by looking at him.

Jake's genius status was never confirmed to me more than when we arrived in Vail and met Jake's insurance policy-Jessica Stanley. I spent a good amount of time laughing like a lunatic once I caught sight of Jessica Stanley sitting in the lobby of the hotel we were going to be staying at, then Jake confirmed she was indeed the person he had been going on and on about.

Jessica wasn't in town as a guest of the wedding. We had just gotten lucky that she also happened to be in Denver at the exact same time and was willing and able to make the trek up to Vail. She was also perfectly willing to crash Newton's wedding.

Incidentally, our hotel just so happened to be the hotel where Bella's wedding was supposed to take place. Another genius move on Jake's part. Of course, there wasn't going to be a wedding now, if I could help it.

Jessica Stanley was the town hottie back in the day. Bella, Newton, and I all grew up together in the sleepy, little, logging town of Forks, Washington. We had all since left the area, but somehow we all managed to find ourselves forever running into one another. It was how Bella got together with Newton after our break-up in the first place-a chance run-in at a charity event. Now, exactly a year and a half later, Bella planned on marrying the dope.

As you can imagine, Jessica had gained a reputation to go with her bombshell status. I believe that reputation was mostly the reason she hightailed it out of town.

From the look of things, Jessica only got hotter with age, not to mention bigger breasts. I hadn't seen her in ages, but she's the type of girl you'd never forget.

This world was indeed very small if Jessica had found her way inside Jake's inner circle. That was a strange coincidence.

What were the odds that he'd also know the same Jessica?

From what Jake had later told me about Jessica, it looked like she was exactly the same type of person she had been back in the day. She hadn't seemed to change any of her ways.

Granted I knew how to appreciate Jessica's assets, she never held a candle to my Bella. Even back then, I was still head over heels for Bella. But, it wasn't like she needed me to be crazy over her too. She already had more than her fair share of admirers.

It was no secret around town that Mike Newton totally went ga-ga for her. She had always been Mike's dream girl and while Jessica was friendly toward the dope, she never really gave the poor guy a chance. It never stopped Mike from trying, though.

I must've relayed the story to Jake at least a dozen times, and I guessed he had pieced together the other pieces of the puzzle. Like I said, the guy was smart as fuck. But, I guess if Jessica hadn't changed whatsoever, then it wouldn't have been difficult to peg her as the same girl.

According to Jake, Jessica would be showing an interest in Mike Newton now. Apparently, she was some sort of gold digger and would like nothing more than to sink her claws into Mike Newton, who happened to have made himself a success in the corporate industry. Jessica hadn't thought much of Newton then, but now that he had made a name for himself, he was clearly on her radar.

Newton had turned his small family-owned sporting goods business into some sort of corporate phenomenon once he took over the business from his father, with Newton Sporting Goods stores having expanded in other cities. His small, family sporting goods store was now a nationwide chain making Newton somewhat of a self-made millionaire.

Millionaires were apparently all that Jessica dated and Jessica made no distinction between whether or not the man was even available or not. To her, any rich man was available.

Jake was banking on Mike still having this huge crush on Jessica. He told me that he had it on good authority that Mike still thought about Jessica. In fact, Mike considered Jessica as "the one that got away."

It just went to show that Bella wasn't the great love Mike claimed her to be; especially, if he still pined away for another girl.

I didn't know how Jake got his information, but I trusted it. Jake wasn't a guy you wanted to bet against, because more often than not, you would lose.

I always knew that Mike Newton was a grade A scumbag, undeserving of Bella's affections. In light of everything that Jake had just found out, I figured Newton would be ready to pounce on Jessica once he laid eyes on her.

Mike and Jessica would certainly be a couple deserving of each other. They had a mutual attraction after all; she to his money, and he to her, erm, assets.

I still question how Bella even got involved with a guy like Mike Newton. I must've screwed her up even more than I thought after our break-up if she was willing to rebound with a guy like him.

The guy was already unsavory back in high school. Now that Newton had money, a mansion, and designer suits, he was just better able to hide his sleaze. Despite all the supposed charity work that he did, the guy still hadn't done one thing to convince me that he still wasn't the jerk we knew back then. Ever since I found out that he had gotten together with Bella, I had been keeping tabs on him.

I shuddered at the thought of Bella being Mrs. Mike Newton.

I wouldn't allow myself to think that way. I also wouldn't allow myself to think about anything going wrong with the task at hand.

Bella was meant to be a Cullen. If it's the last thing I do, Bella was going to be my wife.

She is going to be Mrs. Edward Cullen.

That certainly sounded a heck of a lot better than Mrs. Mike Newton.

We arrived in Vail in the middle of the night, so it was too late to start enacting the plan to stop Bella's wedding. I went to bed that night looking forward to what laid ahead and a promise to myself that Bella would be mine again, and mine forever. With dreams of Bella dancing in my head, I fell into sleep.

While Jake, Sam, and Jessica ran interference, I was able to get Bella alone and away from the madness of the last-minute wedding arrangements. I think she was grateful because when I found her, she looked seriously flustered.

"Bella," I gasped out her name, momentarily stunned by her beauty. Even flustered, she still managed to be the most beautiful girl I'd ever laid eyes on.

Bella also had a great personality and the best heart to match her attractive looks. I couldn't say that about a lot of the other girls I'd been with.

"Edward? Edward, what the hell? Oh my God, what the hell are you doing here?" Bella cried out.

"I'm not going to beat around the bush, I'm here to stop you from making the biggest mistake of your life," I told her honestly.

"What?" She nearly shouted, causing stares in our direction.

She quickly composed herself, minding where we were at the time. She had been finalizing details for the wedding reception which was supposed to take place there.

She dismissed the person she was meeting with, then signaled for me to follow her. We ended up taking a walk into the woods behind the lodge. There was a nice trail that led out from behind the lodge into the densely wooded forest. I guess Bella didn't want to be making a scene out in the open.

We walked in companionable silence until we were far enough inside the forest to not have to worry about an audience. She led and I followed, going over in my head all the things I needed to say.

When Bella found a good place to stop, she whirled around and began bombarding me with questions. "What are you doing here again? Why did you come? What do you mean? A big mistake? What are you talking about, Edward? What's going on here? How did you even find me?"

Bella could've gone on and on, but I suddenly felt the need to kiss her and so I did. That effectively shut her up.

Like I had figured, Bella didn't push me away. In fact, she kissed me back, and so, for an all too brief moment of time, we were lost in our passionate kiss.

We pulled apart when we were both out of breath. To my surprise, as I stood there panting for air, she slapped me.

For such a tiny thing, she certainly knew how to put all her strength into that one action. Naturally, I was stunned.

"Why do you always do this to me, Edward? Why do you affect me so?" She uttered softly, but before I could answer, she kissed me again.

Before I spoke, after we broke apart from our second heated kiss, I made sure that she didn't have anymore inklings to bring her hand back up to my face again. I rubbed at the spot on my cheek where her palm connected.

"Don't worry, I won't be doing that again," she maintained.

"Then why did you do it in the first place?" I asked.

"Because...because you deserve it. You're here again turning my life upside down," she exclaimed.

"I disagree. I'm here to make your life right again," I began. "I guess there's no need for me to answer any of your questions. You seem to already know the answers."

"Yeah, your motives aren't exactly that hard to figure out," she retorted. "You came here to stop my wedding. A wedding you think would be a big mistake on my part. You feel you were an idiot, you've finally seen the light, and you want me back."

"That about sums it up," I said plainly.

"Oh, Edward. My life was in a good place till you came back around. Why did you have to come and turn everything all topsy-turvy?"

"I think the two kisses we just shared proves that you're wrong. How can you say that your life was in a good place? You obviously still have feelings for me, but yet you're ready to marry someone else. There's something wrong with that. Don't you see it? Admit it. You're still in love with me like I am with you."

"God, you know that I never stopped loving you. No matter how much I've tried, I still can never get you out of my heart. But, Edward, our time has come and gone. I'm ready to marry Mike."

"Again, you're wrong," I told her, and she raised a lone eyebrow at me.

I moved myself closer to her, so that there was now almost no space between our bodies. I felt her breath hitch.

I continued, "You're not in love with Mike, so how could you be ready to marry him? It's just a lie you keep telling yourself to make what you're about to do all right. And our time hasn't come and gone, Bella. I'm right here, baby. I know I'd let this thing between you and Mike go on for far too long. That was my fault, but I fully intend on remedying that right now."

"I may not be in love with Mike the way I've been in love with you, Edward, but I do love him in my own way. If anything, I have great affection for him. He loves and cares for me. There's a lot he's done for me, my family, and my charity work. I'll be living comfortably. He'll make a good husband. I could live with that," Bella explained.

"So, what? You readily admit that you're not in love with the guy, but you're willing to marry him anyway? Why? Out of some sense of gratitude? This is so unlike you, Bella. Why are you willing to settle?"

"Because you weren't an option for me anymore," she answered, her voice trembling. That made my heart clench.

I caressed her face and moved a stray strand of hair away, tucking it behind her ear. I said tenderly, "Like I said, I'm here now," then wrapped her up in an embrace. She seemed to melt in my arms. "I'm sorry, baby. I was such a fool. I never should've let you go. Do you know that I've been kicking myself for leaving you then letting you fall prey to the likes of Newton? I've been such an idiot. Y'know, I figured that you had to rebound, but I never actually thought that you'd agree to marry the guy. I saw the news of your engagement, but in the back of my mind I always figured that you'd never actually go through with it. Now, I understand why you feel you have to marry the guy. You felt that you had no other choice."

I felt her nod in agreement against my chest and then felt the wetness start on my shirt. Tears were starting to fall from her eyes, and again my heart clenched.

Through her tears, Bella mumbled, "I was waiting for you to come to your senses. I thought you knew that we were meant to be together. You...you never did. I got tired of waiting. I decided to give Mike a chance. In the back of mind, though, I was always still waiting for you. When you still didn't come I figured we were truly done."

"I'm so sorry, baby," I apologized over and over again. I stroked her back like I always used to do whenever she was upset, in hopes of calming her tears.

Her tears abated a little and she continued, "I didn't want to accept his proposal. In fact, I was getting ready to call things off, but then he asked me to marry him in front of a room full of people. You could imagine I was taken by surprise. I couldn't say no. I couldn't embarrassed him like that. After we were alone, we talked about our relationship extensively. He asked me not to leave him. In fact, he begged. Told me, no, insisted that he'd be a better boyfriend. For the most part, he didn't disappoint. He gave me a lot of freedom and involved himself with my charity work. He agreed to wait a year till the actual wedding. Then I was just practically thrown into the wedding planning. Everyone around us got so excited. My parents actually learned to like him. I had grown accustomed to us being a couple. But you...you were still always there in the back of my mind. I still thought about you every single day. I was still waiting. It was stupid of me, I know. I just couldn't help myself, though. There was still this spark of hope inside my heart."

"What can I say? I was stupid. I never should've left you in the first place. For the rest of my life, I would never forgive myself for that mistake. It made us lose so much time. It was that way for me, too. I could never make a go of any relationship with another girl because I was always still thinking about you. I was always comparing those other girls to you and I kept realizing that none of them would ever compare. Then I had the epiphany that you were the one, baby. You were always the one meant for me. But, then you agreed to marry Newton. For a while, I just didn't know what I should do. I moped and mulled things over and over. I was prepared to just let you go on with your life, but then I didn't know what I would do with mine once you were finally out of it. I realized that I couldn't let that happen. I finally told myself that I wasn't going to lose you that easily. I just knew in my gut that you loved me too. So, that's why I'm here. I'm prepared to fight for you."

"Now? Edward, after all this time, you want me back now? I walk down the aisle in five days," Bella screeched.

I pulled us apart slightly from our embrace and lifted her head up so that I could look her in the eyes. "But, don't you see? You don't have to marry Newton now. We can get back together and put this whole mess behind us."

"God, you're such a bastard, Edward. I'm set to marry Mike in a few days and you want me to just call off the whole thing. Just like that?"

"It's already a given that we both love one another, so there's no reason why we shouldn't make things work between us again."

Bella pulled away from my arms and started pacing. "Dammit, Edward. Why can't I quit you? You're like a drug to me. My own brand of heroin. It would be so easy just to marry Mike."

I had to chuckle. It was true that our relationship with one another was never easy. However, I believed that part of the reason things were so hard was because Bella and I did love each other way too much. But isn't that the way things should be?

"I'm addicted to you, too, babe. Pardon the cheesiness, but you're a hard habit to break for me as well. So, why fight it?"

"Inside I'm already screaming to damn this wedding to hell. It isn't even the kind of affair I had wanted. It got so out of control and then I just let it be."

"I kind of knew that this big, flashy, wedding wasn't you," I interjected.

"It isn't me, but I felt like I had no choice but to give into all of it."

I interjected again, "So, now you don't have to put yourself through any of it."

"But, Edward. What about all the plans, all the effort it took to get here, the costs, and all the guests? I'm suppose to throw all that away for you? What about Mike? He hadn't really done anything wrong to warrant me leaving him at the altar. He doesn't deserve me to shaft him like that."

I couldn't help but chuckle. "And you think he deserves to be married to someone who doesn't love him? Or that you deserve to be stuck in a loveless marriage? Due to a warped sense of obligation, no less."

"Well, no...," Bella responded. Her tears had since dried.

"Then what's the problem?" I asked. Bella was looking contemplative.

"The problem is that I'm supposed to call off my wedding, throw my relationship with Mike out the window, and disappoint a whole lot of people to take up with you again. Both my parents and Mike's parents won't be pleased. Not to mention, the humiliation that both Mike and I would have to endure...and I'm supposed to do all that for what could just be another fling with you, Edward. I might be throwing all this away for nothing. You say you love me and that you were a fool to have left me, but how do I know that you won't walk away again?"

"No...it won't be for nothing," I said adamantly. "We won't be just a fling this time. This time it's different. We're not just any casual relationship, or two people that just can't seem to get over each other. It's true love, Bella. We're meant to be together. I plan to truly make us work and I'm never going to make the same mistake of leaving you again."

"You say that now, but..."

Bella had a right to be concerned. I didn't have the best track record with her. Even when I claimed to have been head-over-heels in love with her, I still managed to walk away.

I needed to prove to her now that I was serious about us. I needed to let her know that I was indeed going to be in this relationship with her for the long haul.

She wasn't going to be throwing this whole comfortable relationship she felt she had with Mike Newton for nothing. She was giving it up for something better-us.

I knew what I had to do.

I walked over to where she stood and encircled her in my arms from behind. I laid a soft kiss upon her neck before I whispered in her ear, "Bella, do you love me?"

She nodded vigorously. "It's obvious that I do."

I then asked, "Do you want to be with me?"

"I do, but...," she paused, trying to find a reason for countering.

I interrupted, "No buts. Just tell me if you want to be with me. Despite everything, do you want us to be together?"

"Yes. Okay, I do. God help me, but I do," she proclaimed.

That was all the confirmation I needed. I knew that what I was going to be doing was going to be the right thing for us.

I unwrapped her from my arms and went around her to face her. I then dropped to one knee and took her left hand in both of mine.

"Isabella Swan, I love you. I think I've loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you and I probably loved you even before I knew you. I do believe we were destined to be together. I love you now and for always. I promise to love you forever; every single day of forever. I promise to spend the rest of our lives together making up for the mistakes I made in the past. I promise to spend every day of my life making you happy and ridding of you any doubts of my intentions to be with you the rest of our days. If you'll have me. So, Bella, will you do me the extreme honor of becoming my wife?"

Bella audibly gasped. Tears once again began flowing from her eyes. I was hoping that they were happy ones.

"Edward, that was the most beautiful proposal that I had ever heard uttered."

"Better than Mike's?" I had to ask.

"Oh, a hundred times better. And even made more special because there is that true love between us."

"So, is that a "yes" then?"

"Edward...I can't. I'm already engaged to Mike. I'm set to marry him."

Instead of staying on my knees, I stood up. Being on one's knee out on the hard ground wasn't the easiest position to be in. I looked her straight in the eyes and held each of her hands in mine.

"I thought we had gone over this already. Just think about us. For a change, Bella, do what's right for you. Forget about Mike. I'm sure he'll survive. In fact, I know that he'll bounce back. Forget about this wedding that you don't even want. Marry me. I promise you won't regret saying yes." I wiped the tears that were flowing down her cheeks with the pads of my thumbs, then gave her a soft kiss to affirm everything I had told her.

Bella momentarily closed her eyes. She looked as if she was debating within herself.

I stood there silently praying that I had said enough to convince her that marrying me was the right thing to do.

She then opened them and uttered the words that made me the happiest man in the universe. "Yes," she said simply, then she removed the diamond that was already on her left ring finger and stuck it inside the pocket of her coat.

I had the biggest smile on my face. I felt like I was on top of the world. I picked up my Bella and twirled her around and around until she urged me to put her down.

We then high-tailed it out of the woods, left the lodge quickly, and practically sprinted back to my hotel room to consummate our new engagement. As much as I had wanted to take her right in the woods after she agreed to marry me, it wasn't very practical. It was cold out and it wouldn't have done either of us any good to catch pneumonia because we didn't have any self-control.

As soon as we were inside my room, I could not get her clothes off fast enough and while in bed, I could not get enough of her. In fact, we were both insatiable. We had spent the whole rest of the day lazily making love and reconnecting with one another again.

Not surprising, our bodies still fit perfectly together and knew just how to react to one another. It was as if we hadn't loss any time at all.

As we laid in the bed cuddling after a much needed shower, Bella told me how she was going to be in so much trouble for blowing off all the rest of her responsibilities for that day. She was sure that people were probably out looking for her and wondering what had happened.

You see, even in our frenzy to make love to one another, we still managed to remember to turn off both of our cell phones, so that we wouldn't be disturbed.

It then occurred to me that we would have a difficult road ahead of us. She still needed to officially call off her wedding and break things off with Newton. Then she'd have to tell those closest and dear to her about me and how she was going to be marrying me instead. It wasn't going to be an easy task and I knew that I didn't want Bella handling all of it alone. It would be better if I was by her side, and I planned to be.

I also knew that now that I had her, I didn't ever want to be apart from her again. I knew that she would have to leave eventually and take care of the unpleasant business, but I couldn't bear to let her go. I also couldn't bear to have her go back to Newton, even if it was just to break up with him.

"Bella, I just realized I don't want to wait. I've wasted enough time. I don't want to waste anymore. Let's get married now...tonight."

"What?" She shrieked and looked at me with incredibly wide eyes.

"Now that I have you, I don't want to let you go. I can't bear to think about you having to face Newton. I also can't bear thinking that you'd go through all the unpleasant business of calling off the wedding all on your own. I'd rather be by your side while that is all taken care of and I'd like to do that as your husband."

"Edward, I love you and I agree that we shouldn't waste anymore time, but putting together a wedding is not easy by any means. I should know. Even if it's just going to be a small, intimate one, it'll still take some time. I'd like nothing more than to marry you as soon as possible, but that seems like an impossible task to me. And, don't you think, I need to break things off with my other fiancée and cancel my other wedding first?"

She had a point, but knew what I wanted. I also knew of a way to get what I wanted.

"Bella, do you want to marry me tonight?" I asked her.

"I guess I would if I could, babe," she answered.

"Okay, trust me then. It'll happen. But first, I need to reacquaint you with someone." I then dialed Jake.

As expected, Jake made things possible. Again, I didn't know how he got things done, but he did. Within a matter of minutes, Jake had the wedding all set up in a little all-night wedding chapel in Vegas. The guy was truly amazing.

Bella was able to notify her best friend and, incidentally, her maid-of-honor at what was to have been her wedding with Newton, Alice, of our impending nuptials and got her on-board. Apparently, Alice never approved of Newton, so she was happy to support Bella in her new start with me. She also found our story extremely romantic.

Bella just knew that Alice was the right one to explain things to. I was glad she was there for Bella.

I was also grateful to Alice for taking care of Bella's needs with regards to our impromptu wedding ceremony. She managed to snag Bella a simple, yet beautiful dress for Bella to wear for our wedding and she was a whiz with make-up and hair and managed to make Bella look even more stunning than she already was, despite the simplicity once again.

Everything was exactly the way Bella would've wanted it. Simple, yet elegant, even though it was a quickie wedding in Las Vegas. With Jake and Alice's help, we still managed to accomplish that.

I promised Bella that we'd have another small and simple ceremony in our hometown of Forks for our closest family and friends once we got settled. That was good enough for her.

Before dawn broke out in Las Vegas, Bella became my wife.

For a moment in time, we forgot about all that was waiting for us upon our return from this blissful time. We had time to deal with all that unpleasant business later.

On that day, I just looked forward to a long and happy life with my Bella. I knew that no measure of time with her would ever be enough, but we would start with forever.