Thank you to those who alerted/favorited :')
Thank you to: ellaryne, ammsim7, xxlovethisxx, BabyA (Guest), Blue-Eyed-Mutant, and Lydiaa0x for reviewing! :) Your reviews make me smile.
I was finally ready to walk downstairs into the large ballroom, but my inner procrastinator kicked in, forcing me to stay back in my bedroom for a little bit longer. I fidgeted with my dress and exhaled loudly. I knew that I shouldn't care, that I should feel confident despite all else, but I kept wondering what Edward would think of my attire.
I was wearing a black, boat neck Elie Saab dress, with the sleeves reaching my wrists, but appearing to arrive at my elbows because of the see-through detailing. It was embellished with tiny, floral designs, cinching in at the waist, and flowing elegantly to the floor. My shoes were velvet black, peeping through the parts of the dress that remained blank of embellishment – see-through like the arms.
I wasn't fond of heels that much, but I was forced to wear them for formal occasions like these. Heidi, the fashion expert here, had made sure that I dressed appropriately for different occasions, so I had gotten the hang of properly dressing myself for each event.
For jewellery, I kept things minimal, leaving my neck bare while my ears were adorned with teardrop diamonds. My dark hair was parted down the middle, straighter than usual, and tucked to the back so as to not draw any attention away from the dress.
Makeup was simple enough: I dabbed on some silver eye shadow, smoked out with a hint of black, along with mascara. Even though I didn't need the coverage, I applied a thin layer of the sheerest foundation I had, before applying a coat of tinted lip balm onto my lips – I would've gone with a bold color, but again, the dress was the main attraction, and I didn't want to deviate from that.
I had remained pleasantly surprised with the outcome in the mirror, having never dressed up this much. It had been a bit intimidating looking at that cleaned-up version of myself.
I blinked, shaking my head out of daydreaming, deciding that I had put the walk off long enough. I paused at the large oak doors, hearing the sound of music lightly playing in the background, making sure that my hair was manageable before opening the doors as soundlessly as I could, before walking in.
Several heads turned in my direction, keeping their eyes trained on my attire, before beaming and turning back to their conversation. Some of the males continued staring, particularly at my bare neck and shoulders. Rather than focus on the unwanted attention, I began shifting my eyes around the room, looking for a familiar mop of bronze hair, but in my search I caught sight of Jace who was talking to the Denalis. He waved me over, grinning in his tailored black tux, allowing me to take his place as he moved onto the other covens.
"Hi," I greeted Kate and her family. They all looked beautiful - which was nothing new – smiling back and greeting me with enthusiasm.
Despite the fact that Tanya seemed to be obsessed with Edward, she still appeared to be a really nice person and we got along relatively well. Her strawberry blonde hair was tied up in a bun, while her burgundy, two-strapped satin dress hugged her body. Her sisters, after a few minutes of chatting and complimenting, went off to mingle with some of the guests, leaving Tanya and I alone.
"So Bella, has anyone here caught your attention? From what I can see, you have a lot of admirers," Tanya grinned, as I giggled nervously.
"Um, I guess?" it came out as more of a question, considering the fact that this was a topic I definitely did not want to discuss with her, of all people.
She quirked an eyebrow, amused at my blushing, asking the one and only question I was dreading to hear, "Oh? Which one?"
Tanya looked around, before I too scanned my eyes throughout the room, soon resting them on a pair of topaz ones in the corner having a conversation with his parents.
He felt my eyes on him and looked up, drifting his own eyes from my face straight down to my heels, opening his mouth as his eyes widened. He continued gazing at me, and I bit my lip, extremely charmed at his inability to tear his away. Carlisle and Esme, after moments of silence from their son, gazed over in the direction his focus was, immediately wearing knowing smiles on their faces once they spotted me.
I waved in their direction, seeming to break Edward out of whatever trance he had been put under, finally being greeted by a lopsided grin, which I reciprocated.
I could feel Tanya observing the interaction in my peripheral, and I looked back over towards her as realization dawned on her face. I hadn't meant to make my interest in Edward that obvious, so I felt a little uneasy when she picked up on it at once, "You like Edward?" Her voice had dropped, and I rather than deny it, I simply nodded shortly, mentally cringing in anticipation of her reaction.
I could've lied to her, denied it, but she was a good person who didn't deserve that two-facedness. Plus, I didn't want there to be any conflict between us if she ever happened to find out from someone else.
Noticing my anxious expression, she rushed in, "Bella, no. It's okay! I'm over him. It took me a of couple decades, sure, but I realized that I'm just wasting time on him, when I can be with someone who actually wants to be with me as well," Tanya turned her attention in the direction of a blond-haired guy who appeared as if he had just jumped out of the cover of a GQ magazine. He winked at her, and she wiggled her fingers in his direction.
I was surprised, to say the least. So, she had really gotten over Edward, then?
I exhaled visibly, feeling slightly relieved but still needing to be reassured, "So you don't care? I really thought that you were in deep…" My eyebrows creased, looking at Tanya, who sighed, "Bella, of course not. I hope you'll have more luck with him than me… though I wouldn't doubt that you will from the way he's been glancing over at you non-stop." She smiled at the end, looking pointedly in Edward's direction, while I kept my eyes trained on her, too nervous to confirm her observation.
She continued, "The reason I flirt with him so much is because I really enjoy making him uncomfortable. It's just for fun. I honestly don't mean anything by it anymore."
I felt my lips turning up into a smile, "I'm really happy for you, Tanya. I hope everything works out with you and…" I looked over at the guy she had gestured to, as she filled in his name.
I allowed that revelation to stew for a moment in my brain, fully absorbing the fact that I had been misinterpreting Tanya's actions with Edward entirely. Although, I couldn't help but think that if someone like Tanya was off his radar, that there was no way I could possibly be on it. My shoulders slumped slightly, but before I could get too down, I took a deep breath, saying my goodbyes to Tanya as she made her way over to Tristan, and I walked to Rosalie, Alice, and their respective husbands.
The room was so crowded with vampires that it took me a while to find them, but once I did, I was met with an immediate gasp from Alice, "Bella, you look incredible," I blushed, looking self-consciously down at my dress. "Thank you, Alice. You look gorgeous, as well." It was true; she was wearing a form-fitting, spaghetti-strapped silver dress that had a black ribbon tied just above her hips. It looked adorable on her petite figure. Her black heels gave her some added height as well.
Rosalie looked striking in a silk, blood red, v-neck dress with rhinestone beading at the waist. It went all the way to the floor, just like mine. "You look regal… which, I guess, is fitting," she smiled wide as I laughed, willingly accepting the compliment.
Jasper and Emmett were both in similar tuxedos with navy and grey ties respectively. They looked handsome, no surprise there, greeting me with a 'hello' as they remained attached to their other halves.
"How are you guys enjoying the ball?" I asked.
Rosalie smiled, "I'm actually having a good time… but more people should be dancing," I followed her gaze, looking around and noticing that she was right. Most people were carrying on conversations with each other in corners of the room, leaving the middle empty, save for a few brave couples.
"Maybe they just need a bit of encouraging," I hinted, and thankfully, Emmett and Jasper received my message loud an clear, about to lead their dates to the dance floor, before Rosalie interrupted.
"Uh uh, you're coming with us," Rosalie stated. I widened my eyes at her command, stuttering my protest, "No, I can't."
My coordination skills came and left strictly on the battlefield - ballroom dancing just wasn't my forté. I always ended up looking like I had been born with two left feet.
It wasn't pretty.
Alice pouted, "Why not? C'mon, please?" then her eyes trailed to look just behind me, "Oh look, Edward's coming this way. Perfect."
Oh, dear Lord.
My cheeks flamed, "No, seriously. I cannot dance. At all."
Edward reached his siblings and me, raising his eyebrows at the group of us seeming to be having a serious group discussion, "What's going on?"
Seeing him up close for the first time tonight, I felt as if my knees were going weak. Dressed in a black suit, a matching tie, with a white shirt underneath, he easily gave Tristan and all the other GQ-esque men here a run for their money. But then again, I could've been slightly biased.
His hair was in its usual bronze disarray, and once again, I felt myself having that overwhelming urging to slip my fingers through and feel if it was just as soft as I imagined it would be.
Alice, thankfully, interrupted my train of thought, calling my attention back onto her and away from her swoon-inducing brother.
"We're planning on heading to dance, but Bella doesn't seem to want to partner up with you," Alice explained to Edward, whose face immediately fell at her words.
My cheeks burned even warmer, and I rushed in, "I never said that! I'm just… I'm a terrible dancer, and I really want to avoid embarrassing you." I assured Edward, sending a quick glare to Alice for throwing me under the bus there. She just beamed at me, an evil glint in her eyes. That pixie was really something else.
"Bella, I'm sure you're not that bad," Edward gave me a look, shaking his head. If only he knew.
"Believe me, I'm awful. Don't waste your time, just dance with someone else," I tried to convince him, but he didn't seem to want to take 'No' for an answer.
"It's all in the leading, trust me," Edward's eyes were pleading and just one look into them had me melting. Coupled with his outstretched hand, it was physically impossible for me to deny him. I really hated that he had so much power over me without knowing.
I sighed dramatically, "Fine. But please don't hate me if I accidentally trip and drag you down with me." I stared seriously at him, and his eyes soon softened at my words.
"I could never hate you," Edward said seriously, his voice lowered, making my heart rate increase radically. I took a breath, calming myself down and slowing my heartbeat before Edward began to worry if I was having a stroke or something.
As I took his hand in mine, I felt an electric charge course through my veins, nearly pulling my hand away from the shock. Edward wore a similar expression of confusion on his face, enlightening me that I hadn't been the only one who had felt that.
Nevertheless, he began leading me onto the dance floor, a little ways away from his family, stepping in towards me. "You look absolutely stunning, by the way, Bella," he looked me up and down once again, causing my cheeks to go up in flames, once again, as I digested his compliment and tried not to feel too inflated by it.
"Thank you. You look very put-together yourself," I joked, hoping that he understood that my words were an understatement. He appeared happy with my compliment, so I assumed he did.
As soon as we found a good spot on the floor, one of Edward's hands rested lightly on my waist, while the other held one of my hands firmly in his grasp. I had to keep telling myself to breathe deeply before all of this contact began frazzling me, but oddly enough, as more time passed, I relaxed into position as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
My left hand automatically went to his shoulder, and as the music shifted to another waltz, he posed a single question, "Ready?"
I nodded slowly, and he smiled once more before starting to move in time with the music. His steps were simple, and although my instinct was to look down at my feet and make sure I was moving in accordance with his, I kept my eyes trained on his. I was a little shocked - I hadn't remembered ballroom dancing being this effortless.
He grinned, "See? Easy," causing me to smile and nod, "Yeah, I guess I just needed a good partner." He was flattered at my words, but still glided me to the music, his eyes burning straight into mine, leaving me a bit breathless.
Before we knew it, more people started flitting to the dance floor, and I looked over at Rosalie who grinned towards me. Our plan had worked out, after all.
Edward and I continued to waltz easily, and the music only ended after a few more twirls, which were terrifying at first, but I quickly adapted.
The clearing of a throat made everyone in the room look up.
Edward gave my hand a squeeze before releasing it, then removing his other hand from my waist. I felt a little pathetic after feeling dejected from the sudden loss of contact, but I distracted myself by guiding my attention to the raised platform.
My father sat between Caius and Marcus, smiling from his throne at the crowd before him. They were all dressed in matching black robes with dark suits underneath. Athenodora stood beside Caius with a hand on his shoulder, while Marcus sat by himself, looking depressingly lonely from his lack of partner. I bit my lip, hoping desperately that that wouldn't be me in a few centuries.
I was surprised to see a woman with messy dark hair standing beside my father. Sulpicia.
They had met last summer when she came to the Volturi with information regarding the creation of a newborn army, which needed our most skilled guards' attention. It had come as a surprise to both Jace and I when she had stayed in the Volturi's company following the demise of the army. We had both immediately noticed how Aro and Sulpicia had easily hit it off, and how our father had grown less and less depressed as more time with her passed. I was pleased that he was getting over my mother, but I hadn't expected it to happen quite so soon. I was envious of the fact that his pain had subsided, while mine had simply been buried deep under the surface.
Aro's voice boomed clearly throughout the grand ballroom, "First off, I would like to thank each and every one of you for coming to this celebration. I haven't seen some of you in years and others in a few centuries. I'm pleased that you all made the trip." He bowed his head, and everyone smiled towards him, nodding back.
He took a deep breath then, a smile playing across his lips, "So most of you are wondering why my brothers and I held this ball so out of the blue," the crowd stood still, waiting. My father continued, standing up and taking Sulpicia's hand in his as he did so. My heart dropped straight down to my stomach, figuring this whole thing out with that one action.
"Well, my mate, Sulpicia and I have decided to get married. I'd like to invite each of you to our wedding, taking place on October 19th." It felt like a gigantic slap to the face, and I looked to Jace whose expression had visibly darkened.
The entire ballroom exploded in cheers as Sulpicia and my father turned to one another, meeting each other in a kiss. Jace and I were completely out of place, standing stock-still, emotionlessly looking on at the excitement.
Jace looked to me, shaking his head in disappointment and shock. His lips moved and I used my vampire hearing to catch the words, "I'm going to Lainey's. I need some time to cool off." I nodded to him, showing that I understood.
Unlike my brother, I didn't know what to feel. The most prominent emotion was hurt - that my dad didn't tell us of his plans before. That we had to find out along with everyone else. That he didn't at least consult us and confirm that we would be comfortable with his decision.
Shock was another emotion standing out; I hadn't expected him to do something so drastic just two years after my mother's passing. I mean, I was still adjusting to seeing someone other than my mom with my dad. Now, she was going to be living here permanently, joined at my father's hip?
She was going to be our step-mom. And don't get me wrong, there wasn't anyone better I could imagine my dad being with, but it was still a hard blow to take.
I knew that my mom would've wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to be happy, but I also felt this nagging feeling at the back of my mind that clearly their relationship hadn't meant a whole lot to him if he had moved on so easily.
The festivities continued, but I was completely and utterly confused about how I felt. What I did know was that staying in this room, seeing them together, seeing that glistening stone on her finger, wasn't helping.
I let out a loud sigh, pressing my hand to my forehead, already feeling a headache coming on.
"Are you alright?" I jumped slightly, too wrapped up in my own thoughts to realize that Edward was still standing right next to me.
"Sorry," he quickly apologized for scaring me, as I shook my head, feeling just that little bit better at his thoughtfulness.
"Yeah, I, um, I'm just going to go get some air," I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded, and I knew the break from this noisy atmosphere would make me feel that little bit less claustrophobic. I made a move to turn around, expecting him to let me go, until I heard his velvet-smooth voice, "Do you mind if I join you?"
I hesitated, looking back over to him, and seeing that he wasn't just being polite – he actually wanted to come. I looked around, feeling the guilt set in for wanting to take him away from the party.
""Are you sure you don't want to stay?" my eyebrows pulled together, needing that confirmation from him.
"Honestly… you're the only reason I'm still here," and as soon as the words came rushing out, his mouth clamped shut. His expression showed just how surprised he was that he had said what he had said.
I could feel myself gulp, wondering for the millionth time if I really was as oblivious as Jace pegged me to be, or if Edward meant his words innocently, in an "I enjoy your company as a friend" sort of way.
"Okay, if you're sure," I looked over at him once more as he nodded with a smile, walking with me out of the obnoxiously large doors and into the empty hallway. We walked for a little while longer until we reached the indoor greenhouse within the castle, and I opened the door, leading Edward inside. Beautiful plants of every color and scent surrounded us, and soon enough, I found my place on the wide bench in the middle of the room.
I sighed as he took a seat next to me, explaining, "This was my mom's garden. She got bored a lot, having so much free time on her hands as a vampire, so she would get a new hobby every week," I gestured to the room. "She was pretty eccentric," I smiled at the end.
"I always come here to think," I explained, looking up at Edward, who was giving me his undivided attention, listening intently. I was always surprised when he showed such a great amount of interest in what I had to say. It wasn't something I was used to.
"What about?" he questioned, looking around and taking in his surroundings. Vines covered most of the greenhouse, and there was a mini waterfall in a corner of the room. I could understand why his eyes kept wandering.
"Everything," I said softly, feeling that speaking loudly in this peaceful place would be somewhat disrespectful.
"How do you feel about the engagement?" Edward asked, gauging my reaction.
My eyebrows creased, "I'm not entirely sure."
He nodded, encouraging me to go on, "I mean, I'm happy that he's found someone. Sulpicia is a really lovely woman. It's just that, I feel like he's being a little self-centered about the whole thing. That was the first time I even heard about his plans to marry her. It just bothers me that he didn't even ask if we would be okay with it. He's obviously gotten over my mom, but I'm not entirely over it as yet. I don't know... Am I making sense?" I asked, looking at Edward who looked to be in deep thought.
"Of course you're making sense. You feel like you're father's only thinking about himself right now. I understand what you're saying... Maybe you confront him about it," Edward raised both eyebrows.
I shook my head, "I don't know. I don't want him to feel the need to cancel the wedding or anything. I just wish he could've told us," I looked up at Edward, shaking my head, "Anyway, I'm being really annoying, sorry for rambling."
He knit his eyebrows together, "You're not rambling. I want to know what's going through your mind."
"Why?" I couldn't for the life of me understand why he enjoyed listening to me talk. I could easily crown myself one of the most boring people on Earth.
"Because you're interesting... And I care about you," Edward's voice lowered at the end, causing a stream of butterflies to flutter inside of my stomach. There it was again – that look, and I just couldn't figure out what it meant. His eyes shut briefly as he looked away, before looking towards me once more.
I held my breath as he spoke, the response coming automatically. "I'm… I'm leaving soon, and every time I think about that, I realize that I'm leaving you. And," he took a breath, "That thought physically pains me. So, at the risk of ruining our friendship, I need you to know how I feel. I need you to know that you're the only person in my years of existence, who has made me feel… alive again."
"I need you to know that for the past few days, I've been wanting – desperately – to kiss you."
I decided to leave you guys at a little cliffhanger…don't you just hate those? :p haha but you guys can figure out what will happen next :)
That's not how I originally imagined Edward telling Bella, but I decided that I liked it this way. So excited to write the next chapter! Hopefully it'll be finished in two days, cause I hate making you all wait long :(
I absolutely love reading all of your reviews, so please send some ;)