It seemed everyone on the Rez was heading towards the Hall, all of them smiling and happy. I was greeted with nods and handshakes, even hugs, by people I didn't know as I made my way along in the same direction.
Inside, the Hall was busy and buzzing. Crowded enough to worry me about the amount of seating we'd organized, even though we'd allowed for the entire population to attend, and plenty of guests besides. I'd expected to feel conspicuous because Bella had complained that the paleness of what little of my body she had ever seen had given her snow blindness, but there were other fair-skinned people around too. For a second, the sight of uniformed police officers startled me, but then I figured they were Charlie Swan's workmates. My painting crew were milling about, and gave me shoulder slaps in welcome. Easy, guys. I don't want to bruise. Not with my high hopes for later on tonight.
I was about to slip unobtrusively into a seat near the door when Jake materialized at my side.
"You're expected in the front row," he said. "Groom's side. Nice suit, by the way."
"Yours, too," I answered, which was only fair. He was wearing a charcoal-colored three piece in a silk-blend with a black shirt and a black tie. He looked fucking good, for a bastard. But wait a minute - front row? I had been intending to more or less skulk at the back, playing the silent observer.
"Are you sure?" I said.
"Sure, I'm sure. That's a great suit," he answered, turning to make his way through the rows of chairs.
"About the seating?" I clarified, following him.
"Yep. You're keeping an eye on Bella. If the slightest thing goes wrong, she's going to lose her shit, and if she loses her shit, Charlie will go to pieces, and if Charlie goes to pieces, Sue will have a meltdown, and if Sue has a meltdown - well, Billy will declare a state of emergency, and then the whole thing will be a fiasco."
How casual he was, asking me to mind Bella. How kind. How fucking trusting. And proprietary. You there - you look safe enough - watch my girl would you? He thought I presented no threat to him. We'll see about that. How about I watch Bella with my hands, silkboy?
Still, he was right. I knew Bella, and I knew how on edge she'd feel today, and how perfect she wanted it all to be. Sweetness - I'd make everything perfect for you if I could.
The guests were starting to seat themselves now and Jake disappeared to I knew not where while I approached the front.
Charlie Swan was standing looking stiff and apprehensive, and yet somehow as thrilled as a kid on his birthday. I'd met him a couple of times when he'd visited Bella, and he was a gruff guy with a handshake that was bone-crushing. He probably didn't get too many repeat offenders on his watch. I wouldn't like to cross him, that's for sure.
And just beyond Charlie, once he'd nodded distractedly to me, then blinked rapidly and crushed my hand, I espied a vision. There she was, Bella Bellissima, my angel. What a transformation!
Her hair was all pulled back into a high ponytail, and it had been straightened to fall like a heavy velvet curtain over one shoulder. Her face was a fucking marvel - all porcelain skin and huge limpid eyes and plump pink lips clamped into a nervous line. I went to launch myself at her and offer some reassurance that everything was going to be just fine and maybe lick her from top to toe as well, when I tripped over Billy. Oh, shit. His wheelchair was right next to Charlie - well, of course it would be, since he was Charlie's best friend. That would make him candidate number one for Best Man. In my agitation I just hadn't seen him.
"Pardon me, Chief," I said. Jesus, Edward, get your act together.
"You've hurt me," he moaned.
"Sir! I'm so sorry. What can I do? Should I call somebody?" I asked, urgently.
"I think I need medical attention," he said.
"An ambulance?" I gasped, ready to just fucking die.
"I can't feel my legs. I may lose the use of them - " he said, and was interrupted by Bella.
"God, Billy, stop it. You're freaking Edward out. Edward - relax. It's just his sick sense of humor. He hasn't felt anything in his legs for years."
Billy chortled while I tried to gather my wits and will my poor arrested heart to start beating again. Charlie was snorting quietly too. Thanks guys. Way to treat the nervous stranger.
I made my way past Billy, without giving him a kick in the shins, and stood with Bella. From having almost stopped with fright at the suggestion I'd injured Billy, my heart went to jackhammering. She was wearing an utterly stunning dress that consisted of fine lace net with red, pink and blue flowers over it. The neckline was high, but through the mesh I could clearly view her shoulders, see the shape of her arms. The dress was so tight it revealed Bella had a perfect hourglass figure, her slender waist flaring into womanly hips that sloped down to shapely thighs - and holy shitballs, Batman... The hem was barely an inch below her knees. Jesus.
I felt like a fucking Victorian, becoming excited over the sight of a woman's calves and ankles. Not to mention everything else. Fucking crap, neighbor-buddy - you've had a body like this all along and I never even suspected it? There was more of her on show than I'd ever seen before and my gaze was riveted - so much skin! She was covered in the stuff - the layer of lace couldn't disguise how pearly-white and soft it was. Lord, Bella - put on a jacket! Cover up! I didn't want anybody else so much as glimpsing that bounty.
Seconds later, music started to play through the speakers. You've got to be kidding me. The Wedding March? It was an unusual acoustic guitar version actually, quiet but still stately. Charlie fidgeted and cleared his throat while Jake appeared at the front of the room, facing the gathering, and Bella seemed to be frozen. Her bottom lip was caught between her teeth and tension was plain on her face as we awaited the arrival of the bride.
But the pretty music was suddenly interrupted by a rude mechanical noise. It sounded like somebody was riding a motorcycle outside. I looked around in concern to notice everyone else was doing the same thing. The noise got closer and I thought what the fuck? A latecomer? If you were late wouldn't you get off your fucking bike anyway and just walk so that you didn't cause a disturbance?
The sound got louder, and the music got louder, but to my surprise, the song changed. Drums and electric guitar began to blare out, and everything suddenly got really fucking weird. I knew the song that had come on because Bella had played it to me when I was at her place and her dad was there. It was called Born to be Wild, by some old biker sounding outfit from the 60's. Charlie's eyes had lit up as he watched the clip and Bella had giggled to me that he'd always fantasized about doing a road trip on a Harley.
And now shit, the music was drowned out altogether as a fucking motorbike appeared coming up the ramp, and all the way into the hall.
And riding the bike was quite simply the most spectacular woman I had ever seen. Absolutely a goddess. In fucking black leather. She had eyes of obsidian and cheekbones like clifftops. Her bearing was regal, and her form lithe. She looked elemental - like she was made of the earth, or the earth was made of her. I gaped as she nonchalantly threw her leatherclad thigh over the saddle and dismounted, tossing the bike keys to Jake and strolling with the aloofness and grace of a jungle-cat to the bride's side of the aisle. Fuck me dead.
Following her came another bike, Seth astride it in black leathers as well, looking every bit as regal as the extraordinary girl. I suddenly saw a resemblance. They were both rocking that force of nature thing, but Seth had an easy smile, whereas this girl, who I realised now must be his sister, had an expression that said, "I could kill you with my bare hands". Can you cream yourself and pee yourself at the same time? I'd never been closer to finding out.
Behind Seth sat a softer, plumper, older version of the girl, a woman radiant and lovely, and Christ on a cracker, she looked queenly. She had to be Seth's mother, and therefore, Charlie's betrothed. By this stage the clapping and cheering had died down to the point that all I could hear was snuffling. Next to me Billy's lip was trembling in sharp contrast to the stern pride in his eyes, while Charlie looked like he would either clutch his bride to his manly chest or bolt.
Sue, because of course it had to be Sue, dismounted with a hand on Seth's arm, and walked forwards with the same easy grace as her daughter, but without the ferocity.
And then of course the pillar of strength and godliness and everyfuckingthing else, Jacob, turned out to be the celebrant.
He embarked on a speech about Charlie having been an honorary member of the tribe forever but now his relationship with them all was being formalized and they were all so fucking happy to receive him and blah blah. I tuned out then. I mean, I was happy for Charlie and Sue, but that's enough of Jacob already. Next to me Bella was sniffling very prettily and I was glad I had a handkerchief to offer her, because considering the fit of that dress, there was no way she had pockets.
She continued to sniffle while vows and rings were exchanged, and while her father and Seth's mother put on a near-pornographic show for the entire town when they kissed. Obviously things were going to be fairly heated in the marital bed later on, if they managed to hold off until then. Things might well get quite heated in the Community Hall bathroom at the rate the newlyweds were going. My pretty Bella was averting her eyes and blushing as the kiss went on and on, no doubt fearing that the act that would bring about a half-sibling was in imminent danger of taking place.
Meanwhile someone had begun a song which the congregation of well-wishers all appeared to know, and all joined in on. The program I'd found on my seat had the lyrics printed on it, and I had a go at singing along, not doing too badly I thought. Bella had a go too, and that was when I discovered she could sing every bit as well as she could dance. Not that it mattered a whit to me, now that I'd seen how sexy her ankles were.
The two-member spectacle continued apace in the front row until Billy managed to prise the happy couple apart by moving his wheelchair forward so abruptly he rammed Charlie in the leg.
"We need to clear the room," Billy said sternly, and started waving his arms about in what seemed indecipherable windmills. The crew had either had prior briefings or could mind-read and the rows of chairs were swiftly and efficiently rearranged into groups around tables in readiness for the next stage of the event.
The Wedding Breakfast. Could I have a drink yet? We were all ushered outside while the preparations took place. Bella was introducing me to all and sundry as Seth's helper, and Seth's partner, and Seth's consultant until I wanted to pull her aside and have words. Well, fuck, I wanted to pull her aside and run my hands all over her hitherto unsuspected curves, but I wanted to have words as well.
"Bella," I growled, taking her elbow at a moment when we weren't surrounded. "Could you stop linking me to Seth the way you are? "
"What do you mean?" she asked, mouth adrift, eyes luminous, hair tamed and out of the fucking way, neck pale and graceful. Even her ears looked perfect. I couldn't allow my eyes to look any further down the delectable skinscape beneath her throat and beyond.
"Everyone's giving me these knowing looks. They think I'm with him."
"Nobody thinks you're with Seth, Edward. That's not what they think," she mumbled cryptically, leaving me to gaze helplessly after her as she swayed away on high heels that flexed her calves, swung her hips, and brought her mouth four inches closer to mine in height than it had ever been before. Damn.
From across the room I caught Seth's eye as he smirked.
Wingman, he'd said? So when was that going to start happening?
Jacob appeared at the door to invite everyone back in, and we were faced with a mountain of food that was positively daunting. Apparently I was seated at the bridal table, so I scurried back there after allowing myself generous portions at the self-serve buffet. The card with my name on it was placed between one inscribed with Bella, and one inscribed with Jacob. I'd rather have sat next to Seth, but I was on the groom's side and he was on the bride's side. And anyway, he was next to the scary girl. At least I was spared that. And I could completely ignore the fabulous Jacob, and fondle Bella's thigh during the meal.
The food was delectable, I concentrated on my plate, keeping my hands and thoughts to myself, and refused the wine waiter every time he came past.
Things were going great, and could only get better, right?
Um, sorry. I suck.