December is always hectic, and I'm sure you can relate. Mine consisted of decorating, school parties, recitals, an unexpected Major Daddy visit, and then a road trip from GA to NJ for the Christmas holiday with our families. Thank you for your patience while I celebrated all that was on my plate this past month. I hope you enjoy the chapter on this very special date...after all, it's December 29th...Bella and Edward's wedding day!
"Hey, before she comes back, have any boxes arrived yet?" Lauren whisper-shouts at the computer screen.
"Yes, I've been collecting packages almost every other day from Amazon, Toys 'R' Us and Gymboree."
"Okay, good. There might be a few more from those companies and one from Shutterfly, as well. I made Mom a photo calendar of Bailyn."
"No worries. I figured there'd be lots of stuff you'd be shipping instead of lugging it in your suitcase." I take a gulp of coffee. "Is Mom around?"
"Yeah, she's just putting away all her Black Friday purchases. She walked in with about seven bags from four different stores," she snorts, "and I know none of them are for me and Bay. She's shipping all our gifts, too. I have a feeling Bill's getting spoiled this year."
I can't help but smile. "She deserves to have fun. I hope he spoils the shit out of her, too. He's good for her."
"They're good for each other."
"Speaking of good for each other…will Ben be getting spoiled this year?"
Her eyebrows challenge me. "Do you really want to know what I'm putting beneath my man's tree?"
"No…probably not," I groan. "But thanks for planting the image."
Her obnoxious smile has me rolling my eyes as Mom appears on camera beside her.
"How was your Thanksgiving, honey?"
"Oh, man…it was awesome," I boast with a pat to my gut. "Bella and Rosalie outdid themselves, but we all contributed." I catch a glimpse of my fiancée coming out of the bathroom, looking peaked. Poor thing. So much for hoping this baby was going to treat her kindly. That wish lasted about thirty-six hours before going right down the toilet, literally and figuratively.
"How 'bout you? Whirlwind day in the kitchen?"
"Actually, your sister and I only made a few side dishes and the desserts. Ben deep fried the turkey for us and Bill did everything else. We were treated like queens yesterday while Hadley and Bay played together."
"I'm glad. I know Dad and Eric are up there with big smiles seeing how happy you both are."
"Thank you," my mother chokes out, "…that means a lot."
Bella curls up next to me on the couch and waves.
"Hey Bella! How are you, sweetie?"
"I'm fine, Mrs. Masen…a little tired, but fine."
"No more Mrs. Masen, you hear? It's Liz and you know it. Or Momma Liz if you feel comfortable with that." She winks, and it bolsters me for our big announcement.
"You got it," Bella replies, threading her fingers in between mine.
"So listen," I start. "We wanted to tell you that you'll have to pack a few more things when you're preparing to travel."
"Hiiiiiiiiiiii Belle!" We see Bailyn running up to the camera and plopping onto my mother's lap. Bella waves and blows her a kiss.
"What am I, chopped liver?"
Bailyn giggles. "Ewww, chopped liverrrrrr?!"
I raise my eyebrows. "I'm waiting!"
"Hi Uncle Edward Silly Willy!" My new title, apparently.
"Better," I nod. "And now that the goofball is here, we'll tell you the latest and greatest."
Bella leans in a little closer, reassuring, helping my nerves settle.
"We want to get married on December 29th when all of our closest family and friends will be here."
My mom and sister look a little happy and a lot surprised while Bailyn starts hopping around in the background and breaks out into song with "Be Our Guest."
A knowing smile crawls across Lauren's face. "Well, I'm thrilled for you, and I love any excuse to get dressed up and go dancing…but is there something further you'd care to share with the class?"
"Now that you mention it, yeah." I squeeze Bella's hand tighter. "We're moving the wedding up from June 29th, because we might be preoccupied with some other details…what with our baby's due date the following week and all."
Screeches of joy erupt from the other end of the monitor, and Bella, now giggling, tucks her head into my neck as we watch the insanity unfold. Bailyn's look of confusion slips away with a few clarifying words from my sister.
"You have a baby in your belly, Belle?" My niece squeals. "I'M GONNA HAVE A BABY COUSIN?!"
"You sure are, Bay. Do you think you can be a good big cousin?"
"Yeah! I'm gonna go get the baby some of my old toys RIGHT NOW!" In a blonde pipsqueak-flash, she takes off and we're left with my Mom and Lauren, both of whom are giddy and teary.
"Normally, I'd kill you for pulling such a fast one and trying to throw together a last-minute wedding, but this is pretty much the best reason I can think of for such an occasion." Mom covers her heart with her hands. "A baby, my God, you two…I couldn't be more excited."
Bella and I smile, sighing deeply in relief.
"This is the best news ever," my sister sings out. "You two are lucky you're an ocean away or you'd be getting crushed in an endless hug right now!"
"Well, we'll take a rain check on those hugs and claim them in three weeks when you arrive." I pause for a few beats. "So my next question is…what are the chances we can convince Pops and Gran to make the trip?"
Two weeks later, I find myself in Rosalie's bedroom standing on her upside-down laundry basket as my wedding gown gets tucked and pinned along my sides. The mamasan Rose and Emmett use as their housekeeper told us she's also a seamstress and would be willing to do the fittings for me. My belly has yet to pop at all since I'm still less than three months pregnant, but my boobs have inflated overnight. They're sensitive, but not to the point of pain, and thank God for that, because Edward can't keep his hands off, let alone his mouth.
"Oh, Bella…" Rosalie trails off, shaking her head, "I don't think I've ever seen a more perfect dress for your wedding up in Okuma. So elegant, like it was meant to be worn on a beach. And the way it's hugging your body, Jesus…Edward's gonna stroke out."
We both laugh as Poshiko stands with a smile. "Feel good?"
"Yes, perfect. Arigato gozaimasu."
She bows before adding a wave. "Iie."
"Veil?" Rose questions, pulling my hair back as we look in the mirror together.
"No veil. I wore one at my first wedding, and I feel like they're meant more for the demure and virginal bride." I shrug. "Second marriage. Wedding taking place beach side...I don't know. Plus, with the way the material of the straps just cascades down my back, I think a veil would be overkill."
"Yeah, I can dig it. It doesn't need the veil. And your hair will be up?"
I nod. "Mallory came over last night and we did a dry run of my hair and make-up. I'm using this gorgeous antique rhinestone clip that Edward's grandmother wore at her wedding."
Rosalie's look tells me she's swooning over that news. "I'm so excited that they're able to come. I love his grandparents so much. After Eric passed away, they were such a source of strength…for all of us, really," she recounts, a wistful look in her eyes.
I smile, remembering how thrilled Edward was when Pops told us he and Gran wouldn't miss the wedding for the world.
It's all coming together, almost feels too good to be true. But I refuse to worry. After everything we've all been through, the only way to live at this point is to trust that our happily ever after is right around the corner.
"So, when is everyone getting to the island?" she questions, helping me down from my perch on the laundry basket. Once I'm on steady ground, she starts unfastening the two dozen buttons that lie beneath the chiffon ruffles.
"My parents arrive on the fifteenth and his family including your in-laws fly over the following week on the twenty-second. Hey, have you seen the place Edward rented for the family while they're all here? It's got tons of space. I'm so glad he found it, especially once Gran and Pops decided to come."
"It's really generous that you're paying to put them all up."
"Please, they're paying to fly across the ocean for this little shindig, the least we can do is pay for their lodging. Which reminds me, will you help me at the commissary so we can stock their place before they arrive?"
"Of course," Rosalie chirps, just as the gown loosens around me now that she's arrived at the last few buttons.
"And my parents are staying at my apartment, so I'll be crashing at Edward's the whole time."
"Has your new housing been squared away yet?"
"Edward started filling out the forms, but until we're married, they can't guarantee any units will be available. Last we checked there were four empty townhomes, so hopefully we'll snag one as soon as we put in the paperwork after the first of the year."
"SEXY MOMMA, WHERE YOU AT?" We hear Emmett bellow from downstairs just before the front door slams.
"Upstairs! But don't come up because Bella's naked!"
"Say WHAT?!" Edward booms, trampling up the stairs like a herd of bison.
Rose slams the bedroom door before my fiancé gets a look. "Bug off, Masen!" she scolds. "Her wedding gown is right here. This place is off limits to you and your eyes. Go back downstairs!"
We hear him whimper. "But honeeey," he whines. "…you're naked!"
"Nothing you haven't seen before, Major!" I tease from the other side of the door.
"Cockblocker," he spits back while I giggle.
"I'll see you back at my place. Did you find a rotisserie chicken for me in your travels today?"
"Yes, two, in fact. Lemon pepper seasoned and Italian seasoned. I couldn't decide which you'd want so I just bought both not wanting to anger the pregnant lady."
"Smart man," Rose adds her two cents.
"So…I'm really not getting a peek? Can't you flash me a boob or something?"
"Go home!" I cackle, pulling my dress back over my head.
"You two are made for each other," Rose chuckles, zipping my gown back into its bag. "Have I thanked you for coming into our lives?"
I pull her into a hug. "Only about a million times. And I'm thrilled to be here…so thank you, too."
As soon as I push open the front door, the aroma of dinner assaults me to the brink of foodgasm and I'm salivating in an instant. I was in bed pouting a few nights ago, desperately craving rotisserie chicken from Boston Market. Edward felt terrible when he sent me careening into the obvious that the closest Boston Market was in California. He promised me he'd figure something out, even if he had to stand over a spit and roast the damn thing himself. So, the fact that my treasure-of-a-future-husband not only bought two rotisserie chickens for me, but is also currently slicing vegetables at the kitchen counter with several pots simmering on the stove in order to complete the whole spread is above and beyond thoughtful. The iPod is set on our Christmas playlist as John Lennon sings about Happy Xmas and our little Christmas tree with its sparkling white twinkle lights just adds to the ambiance and the perfect feeling of home.
At this moment, I honestly cannot decide which is more of a turn-on: the sight of his sexy ass in those jeans while cooking for us or the smell emanating from the oven and stove top. Maybe it's both combined with the fact that Edward doesn't have a selfish bone in his body and he's doing all of this for our growing family.
I rest my hand over my belly, feeling like the most lucky and blessed girl in the universe. We've got it made, Peanut.
The music is pretty loud, and he hasn't turned around, so I walk up behind him, weaving my arms through his and wrap them around his stomach.
"Mmmm, delicious," I purr, kissing his shoulder blade, my eyelashes fluttering at the intoxicating scent of his cologne.
"Would that be the dinner or me?" He lays the knife down on the cutting board and wipes his hands with a dish towel.
"If I say both, would that hurt your ego?"
Turning in my arms, his crooked smile greets me, and I melt. "Not at all. In fact—"
His soft lips find mine, caressing me, and I go lax in his arms. He must be cooking with brown sugar, because I can taste a hint of it on his mouth. Walking me backward, he helps scoot me up onto the table as we kiss without ceasing.
"You teased me back at Rose and Em's," he scolds, his finger meandering from below my ear all the way down to my exposed thigh.
My hands begin to roam his solid chest until I find his buckle. "I was a bad girl."
His eyebrows rise. "Glad you admit that," he snarks, lips pulling at mine.
Once his buckle and zipper are undone, I reluctantly end our kissing and lie back on the table in invitation. "Feel free to punish me."
He pulls my hips toward his until my ass is hanging off the edge of the table. Determined fingers ghost their way up under my black and white print dress until they reach my panties. Slowly, he pulls them away from my body, our eyes locked in a standoff of desire and destiny.
You're mine forever. The moment doesn't need words. The rise and fall of my chest, the gentle passing of his lips across my skin, our mutual looks say it all.
Once I'm free of my panties and his cock has sprung from beneath his boxers, his knuckle grazes my wet center and I hiss.
"Ready so soon, sweet girl?"
I swallow tightly. "Doesn't take much when it comes to you, Major Masen."
Fuck, that smirk again. I ache for this man. If I weren't wet by now…
"Well, in that case." He bends his knees and lifts my hips slightly, lining us up before sinking in with ease.
Slow, deep strokes have me breathing audibly, sighing and moaning with every thrust of his pelvis. He's holding my knees against his ribs, and his eyes never leave mine. It's hypnotizing.
"Do you know how goddamn sexy you are, lying here, spread open for me, carrying my child…ready to walk down the aisle and take my name for the rest of your life?"
I can only nod, the sensations of him filling me, faster and faster, rendering my speech useless.
"Stretch those legs up to my shoulders, baby." When I do, we both groan at the newness of the angle, and his pistoning speeds up. His hands, which have been gripping my hips and squeezing the flesh of my ass, move up to my chest where he pulls my breast free from my dress. His thumb scrapes along my nipple and my gut reaction is to squeeze my inner walls.
"Fuuuuck, Bella," he moans, his head tipping forward.
Just wanting to drown in the moment, I raise my arms above my head, arching my back and giving him complete control. His motion picks up and before long, he's back to grasping my ankles and pumping quickly, chasing our highs.
My body shudders as my orgasm rips through me. Edward falls forward, my legs collapsing down to his sides and wrapping around behind his back. He dives toward my lips, his tongue seeking out mine. After moments of wet, open-mouthed kisses and grunts, his long strokes stop and he presses his forehead to mine.
"It's gonna really suck when we have to use condoms all the time and can't be spontaneous like this."
"It is…but then again, with my big ol' belly in the way, I doubt we'll be getting down and dirty on my kitchen table," I snort, peppering his face with kisses.
"I guess we'll just have to make the most of the next three condom-free weeks."
"We should be happy we won't be restricted from having sex altogether," I add when he pulls out and helps me to sit up. "I've read some women get put on strict bed rest and can't have intercourse at all."
"Bite your tongue." We readjust our clothing and walk toward the bathroom hand-in-hand.
"I'd rather you do that," I giggle. "But in this case, I think we're extra lucky."
"You here with me. You carrying our baby. You agreeing to marry my sorry ass in a couple weeks. If that's not lucky, then I don't know what is." His soft kiss expresses all the sincerity of his words if there was ever any doubt in my mind.
"I can't wait to start the rest of my life with you."
"Deny it if you must, but the rest of our lives together started the moment you walked into that meeting," he says with confidence. "I wasn't letting you get away from me. I would've chased you all over this damn globe if I had to."
"I'm glad it didn't require that much leg work," I admit. "Besides…everything happens for a reason. We've had angels looking out for us every step of the way."
"I'm beginning to believe that." His lips dust across mine. "Let's not make them work so hard anymore, deal?"
I'm on such an emotional high, I don't think anything can bring me down right now. Spending the last week with Bella's parents has been exactly what I needed to squash the last of my unease. I've never been confused about Bella, nothing like that. I've just been concerned with what her parents thought of me…especially because of the way things ended in Hawaii. Granted, her father was really great with me when I called back in October asking for his blessing to propose to Bella…but a face-to-face meeting is a whole other ball game.
On our first night out together as a group, he pulled me aside and put my fears to rest.
"Listen Edward, I know you've been a little unsure of how this 'Christmas-get-together-slash-surprise-we're-pregnant-and-getting-married' soiree would go…but you've got no reason to fear Bella's mom or me. You and Bella are old enough to know what you want…we're just glad you both went after it. And yeah, maybe other people might think this is slip-shod and too fast…but I learned all I needed to know about you three and a half years ago when we buried Mike. You stood there next to my daughter and only ever offered her words of comfort and peace. You were a stranger, but you were a pillar of strength that we all leaned on. And then when—"
He stops abruptly to clear his throat, the emotions flooding our memories.
"When my daughter was lying in a hospital bed after the baby came too early," he gruffs, shaking his head. "Nobody ever dreamed you would've stayed as long as you did. You spoke with her, bolstered her, hell, I remember you had her laughing at one point. You kept coming around for days." He nods, as if trusting his instincts. "Your character shone through those couple of weeks and I never, ever forgot you. When Bella told us she ran into you again in May, I'm not gonna lie, son, I said a prayer that night asking that you two would find a way to spend time together because I knew there could be something more between you kids."
I nod, listening respectfully, but inside I start to feel as giddy as a kid in a candy store. This man's approval means so much to me.
"What happened to your friends in Hawaii…well it's a damn shame. I'm terribly sorry your friend lost his fiancée and that you lost her, too. I understand you two were very close. And what happened between you and Bells was your own personal journey. It sure as shit sounded painful. And I hated watching my little girl cry, needing to stay silent because every time she started talking, she'd end up teary-eyed again. But it is what it is…or was, I should say," he chuckles. "Point is…sometimes the path between A and B isn't necessarily the quick, straight line. Sometimes you have to zig-zag a bit, or even go in circles before you find out where you belong. As long as you get there…it shouldn't matter to anyone else how quickly you made it or why you're there. That fact is that you're there, and that's the heart's bottom line. Nothing else should matter."
Getting to know Bella's parents this week has helped me see exactly why she's so spectacular. These two people are kind and generous, well-spoken, open-minded educators who raised Bella to be the same type of person. The love they have for their daughter is evident in everything they say and do; it reminds me of the tight-knit family I come from as well. Renee and Charlie have welcomed me with open arms, and I couldn't feel more comfortable. I've gained a new set of parents, for sure.
Now we all stand in the Naha airport waiting for my family to arrive. I don't know who's more excited or nervous…me or Bella. It's a toss-up…but no matter what, I know we're gonna be okay.
"I see my dad!" Emmett calls out, eyes aimed straight into the crowd coming toward us. "Yup, they're all there."
The sea of people parts and Gran and Pops are the first that I spot. Next, my eyes find Emmett's mom and step-dad, Sheila and Dan, followed by my mom, Lauren and Bailyn, who's pulling a little pink suitcase behind her.
"Uncle Emmett! Uncle Edwaaaaaard!" Bailyn does a running leap into Emmett's arms and he spins her around, nibble-tickling her neck as she dissolves in a fit of laughter. "Hi Aunt Lee Lee!" She leans down from her high perch in Emmett's embrace to wrap her arms around Rosalie's neck.
Bella is scooped into hugs from my mom, sister and Gran, needing no introductions from me. I wrap my arms around Pops's shoulders, and he smacks my cheek lovingly a few times. "You did good, kid."
"Thanks, Pops. Thanks for being here."
"C'mere, you!" I pull Bailyn out of Emmett's arms and squeeze her, tickling her sides till she's giggling uncontrollably. "I missed you, Goofball."
"I missed you, too, Uncle Edward."
We've created gridlock for the exiting passengers in need of claiming their luggage, so we all migrate over toward some chairs where we finish greeting each other.
I turn around to find Bella kneeling on the ground in front of Bailyn, who can't take her eyes off her princess.
"Hi." My niece's voice is barely a shy whisper, and her cheeks are almost as pink as her Disney Princess, light-up sneakers.
"How was your super-long plane ride?"
"Ummmm...it was good. I got to see lots of movies on the TV screen. And Mommy and Pops took me on walks so I didn't get bored."
Bella laughs. "Yeah, I got bored on my flight, too."
My niece continues to smile, her little body frozen in place.
"I'm so glad you came to visit us, Bay. Can I get one of those awesome hugs now?"
Bailyn nods, stepping closer, before throwing her arms around Bella's neck. Her eyes close as she hugs Bay tightly, rubbing her back. When Bella reopens her eyes, they're glassy and she's shaking her head. I understand her feeling overcome with emotion. Seeing everyone I love most in the world, together at the same time gives me such a feeling of peace and contentment. I almost believe I don't need to be in therapy anymore. But there's no way I'm letting that slide. My demons have been quiet for a while now...I want to make sure it stays that way.
"This is going to be a terrific vacation. And thank you for agreeing to be our flower girl in our wedding. Are you excited?"
Bay's eyes widen and she nods furiously before she speaks up again. "How's my baby cousin in your belly?"
"Your cousin is perfect. And so excited to meet you next summer."
"Will it be a boy baby or a girl baby?"
Bella and I exchange smiles while I crouch down with them. "Well, we don't know yet, Bay. Do you have any guesses?"
"I think it'll be a girl. I want her to be my new little princess."
"I think you'll do a great job, no matter what kind of baby Bella has," I assure.
"Okay. And I think Flynn is a good name for a boy, Uncle Edward."
"Oooooh, that IS a good name, Bay!" Bella interjects with a pinch to my side, knowing damn well I'm jealous of her cartoon crush.
"That's enough, you two. Or else I'll throw you both down and give you belly bites right here in the airport."
"Belly bites! Noooooo!" Bailyn runs away laughing, covering her stomach and inadvertently slams right into her Uncle Emmett's tree trunks of legs.
His eyebrow rises to a mischievous point. "Did somebody say belly bites?"
Rather than my usual ninety-second shower, I actually take my time, stretching my muscles, rolling my neck, allowing the suds to slide down my body instead of me scrubbing and rinsing them off at lightning speed. At this leisurely pace, I'm relishing the relaxation and peace I feel, and why shouldn't I? I'm leaving in two hours to drive to the resort where tomorrow afternoon I'll marry Isabella Newton…nose-breaker and dream-maker extraordinaire.
My dog tags clank on my chest as I wrap the towel around my hips and swipe my eyes before stepping into the bedroom. From here I have a perfect line of sight to my girl enjoying some breakfast. She looks too cute, her foot perched on the seat, her knee bent up near her face. Reminds me of the way Bailyn sometimes sits at her picnic table. Bella's crunching away and occasionally tapping at her laptop, unaware that I'm studying her because I can't turn away. Her hair is piled on top of her head, she's wearing her glasses and one of my bulky USMC sweatshirts over her leggings.
She's adorable. She's perfect. She's my home...and I need her in my arms right now.
When she glances up to find me approaching, I hear her protest through a moan. "Quit looking at me with that sexy smile and rockin' body, all freshly showered and smelling orgasm-y, Major. I've got no time for sex. This baby is craving Cinnamon Life like it's nobody's business. I'm on my third bowl already. If he or she comes out square-shaped with a light coating of sugar and cinnamon, I won't be surprised in the least."
I laugh at her assessment of our growing peanut and kiss her forehead.
"So yeah, even your hot-as-hell swagger can't deter me from shoveling this food down my gullet." After she takes another spoonful, I lean back against the counter, crossing my arms. I have to see if I have any kind of sway to lure her, trumping her desperate need for the pound of cereal she's consuming. "Anyway, you wouldn't want me. I have milk breath. And there's nothing sexy about milk breath."
She stands and places the bowl in the sink, running some water over it. I grab her arm when she's done and pull her into me.
"Don't you tell me what's sexy and not sexy about you," I murmur through gentle pecks on her lips. "You make everything desirable…including your affinity for multiple bowls of Cinnamon Life cereal. And if, by chance, this little one does comes out shaped like a square with a sweet coating, I'll forgive you."
We both snicker, exchanging pecks before I bury my face in her neck and press my lips against the warmth of her skin.
"You ready for this, baby?"
She hums, the sound vibrating on my damp chest before she places a kiss over my heart.
"More than I ever thought possible." She pulls back to find my eyes. "I can't wait."
The weather couldn't be more perfect for a December day on a tropical island, but I'm still sweating like crazy in my uniform. My pants are a little snug, probably because I ate like it was my last meal four days ago on Christmas. Then there were the daily samplings from the countless tins of Christmas cookies Bella's been baking like a mad woman. As usual, my Adam's apple is getting choked by the damn collar clip, but none of it seems to matter as I watch Rosalie and then Lauren take their places on the opposite side of the altar across from Riley, Emmett and me.
Soft, instrumental music continues to play throughout the beachfront Felicia Chapel here in Okuma. With walls and a vaulted ceiling made almost entirely of glass, it showcases the setting sun reflecting off the spearmint sea, enhancing the mood. The glass aisle makes it appear as if we're walking on the sand toward the altar. The entire scene seems as if this was all carved from a fairy tale.
Next down the aisle is Kalia, who looks to be about sixteen-years old with her hair up and sparkling earrings dangling. Bella made sure to be choosy about the dress Kalia would wear as a junior bridesmaid so as to not give Riley cardiac arrest, and she picked well. Even in the most conservative dress though, Kalia is a natural beauty who will always have the boys at her beck and call. I look over at Riley as she walks toward us with an enormous smile on her face, and his is a mirror image. A lump forms in my throat, wishing Nalani were here to celebrate with us, and then I simply tell myself that she is. She's here, watching over us, watching with us, making this day beautiful.
Bella and Charlie must be standing off to the side because I can only see Bailyn nodding, listening to directions, I assume, before she plasters her dimples in place and begins tossing orchid petals along the aisle as she floats down toward me. When I met her in the vestibule earlier, she was glowing with excitement over her sangria dress. According to Bailyn, everything for the last few days had to be labeled sangria. Nothing else on the color wheel would do. Not burgundy, not wine, not any version of cranberry, maroon, red or purple, but SANGRIA. Needless to say, she's in full-on princess mode, especially after being given a tiara to wear today in addition to her sangria flower girl gown.
When she gets to the altar, she offers me another enormous smile and stands in front of Lauren. I catch a glimpse of my mom, who's already weepy and sniffling.
Suddenly the music changes, and everyone stands just as I get my first look at Bella. She's breathtaking. I don't know anything about the material or the cut, but I do know that her sleeveless gown is hugging her body perfectly and the smile she's giving me will make my knees buckle if I'm not careful. She never takes her eyes from me, and it makes my heart soar. I commit this moment to memory knowing there will be much of the day that might slip away from my mind. But this right here- watching my girl walk toward me with grace and confidence- this will be unforgettable.
She's all mine and I'm entirely hers.
Charlie shakes my hand once we're all in front of each other, and I thank him, unable to look away from Bella.
"Stunning," I whisper, rubbing my fingers over her knuckles. She smiles again, her eyes glassy, but not on the verge of tears…just as high as can be on happiness and love, and it thrills me.
I haven't been able to take my eyes off this man of mine. Gorgeous in his dress blue uniform, and flanked by his best friends in their matching uniforms as well, I'd pinch myself to ensure this is all real if I didn't think it would leave a bruise.
After reciting our vows, ready to exchange rings, Edward steals the breath from my lungs when he asks the chaplain to allow him to read something to me.
He pulls a small piece of paper from his pocket and holding both my hands in his free one, he begins.
"I found this doing some research a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to share it with you, Bella." His voice is shaky, and I just want to wrap my arms around him in comfort, but I let him continue. "I never believed I was meant to love anyone forever, but in no time at all, you had me rethinking everything I ever told myself. And if I could go back to a younger version of me, I'd whisper this into my ear," he takes another deep breath, "and bear with me through this first part because it sets the stage. These aren't my words, this actually comes from The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach…but what he says is exactly how I feel about this romance of ours since the moment you broke my nose back in May."
The chapel erupts in laughter, and still holding his hand, I dab at my eyes through my giggles before he continues.
"I had grown up in a house with a fence around it, and in this fence was a white smooth wooden gate, two holes bored round and low together so the dog could see through. One night, the moon high, late for me home from the school dance, I remember that I stopped, hand on the gate, and spoke so quietly to myself and to the woman that I would love that not even the dog could have heard.
I don't know where you are, but you're living right now, somewhere on this earth. And one day you and I are going to touch this gate where I'm touching it now. Your hand will touch this very wood, here! Then we'll walk through and we'll be full of a future and of a past and we'll be to each other like no one else has ever been. We can't meet now, I don't know why. But some day our questions will be answers and we'll be caught in something so bright...and every step I take is one step closer on a bridge we must cross to meet."
"I'm here not because I am supposed to be here, or because I'm trapped here, but because I'd rather be with you than anywhere else in the world."
He holds my gaze for a moment and swipes the streaming tears from my eyes. The chorus of sniffling behind me is apparent as is the tissue action I can detect in my periphery from our seated families and friends.
"Bella, what we have is so bright…and it's all because of you. Our individual paths leading up to the day we met years ago weren't easy ones. Our journey as a couple leading up to today hasn't been without tears and major potholes in the road. But I can't remember what my life was like eight months ago, and I don't even want to…because nothing can compare to where I am now. Thank you for picking me up, dusting me off and loving me. You're the reason my heart beats. I love you."
He chokes out the last bit and swallows tightly, attempting to remain as stately an officer as possible. I mouth back my I love you to him, because if I try to put a voice behind it, I'll sound like a blubbering idiot.
With another deep breath, he squeezes my hands and we exchange rings and light a candle, and with a blessing followed by a kiss, we become Major and Mrs. Edward Masen.
I'm excited for the next part when I see Emmett and Riley stand in formation, Riley barking orders as the eight Marines draw their swords into an arch. Our guests are standing on the terrace, watching the scene, as Edward and I walk hand-in-hand from the chapel under the arch and are abruptly stopped by lowered, crossed swords held by Emmett and Riley.
"Bride must kiss the groom to pass," Major Riley Biers commands.
Turning with a grin, I kiss Edward gently to the claps of the crowd just as an unexpected sharp swat comes across my ass.
I turn to my right, staring in astonishment at Emmett who seriously just smacked me with his sword. His smirk gives him away. "Welcome to the Marine Corps, Ma'am."
Our guests are happily drinking and nibbling on hors' d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour. I've laughed and cried more times than I can count while greeting almost everyone. I invited many colleagues and their significant others while Edward sent out invitations to all the officers at the MLG. There are almost as many Marines in their full dress uniform here today as there were at the Marine Corps Ball last month.
I approach one of the last guests who stood toward the back of the chapel during the ceremony, but deserved to be in the front as far as I'm concerned.
"Jasper." I hug him tightly before kissing him on the cheek. "I can't believe you came. You amaze me."
"I wanted to be here, Bells. You were getting married, and you're one of my best friends." He shrugs. "It was a no-brainer."
Our unspoken white elephant has to be addressed, even though her absence is anything but muted.
"So, no Alice then?"
He shakes his head subtly. "No Alice. I'm sorry."
"This isn't your apology to make," I assure. "She's made her decision. I'm just sorry you're caught in the middle of it all."
"I know today's not the best time to tell you, but I've removed myself from the middle. I moved out in October."
My eyes go wide as my jaw slackens. "Oh my…oh my God. Jazz…I—I…"
"Don't worry about it. I don't think it's permanent, but I needed my space and she needed— needs— help. And I refuse to live with her while she's so unhealthy. Obviously, I still see her at work. And we've gone to dinner a few times. But until I know she's turned a corner, I can't put myself in that environment anymore. And when she showed me your wedding invitation, I knew I wanted to be here."
"Does she know you're here?"
He nods. "Yeah, I told her a couple weeks ago when I realized my traveling dates included New Year's and I had to cancel our date."
I hug him tightly again. "I love you, Jasper. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming all this way."
"You deserve all the happiness your heart can hold, Bells. I'll always be on your side. Congratulations."
The sun has dipped below the horizon and tea lights line the waist-high rock wall that surrounds the dance floor. Tinkling of forks against champagne flutes have Edward and I kissing over and over, but we're not complaining at all. Everything about this moment is spectacular.
"Time for the couple of the hour to dance their first dance as husband and wife!"
Edward wraps his arm around my lower back and pulls me into his chest as "I See the Light" from Tangled starts playing, much to the delight of a squealing Bailyn.
"We did it," I rasp in his ear.
Edward dips me and goes in for a kiss before responding. "We did, Clementine. You're all mine now. I even have a legal piece of paper to prove it." He winks and kisses me again.
"Thank you for this incredible day. When I agreed last month that we should push the date of the wedding up, I never dreamed our day would look like this." I rest my head on his chest. "It's all because of you."
"You're the love of my life. I wanted to make our wedding as close to perfect as could be."
"Well, you did," I sigh. "Are you having a good time?"
He smiles and pecks me gently. "The best. I'm ready to dance a little more and then walk over that bridge right there," he whispers, dipping his head to the side "…and take my wife back to our private honeymoon cottage, and worship her for the next three days without any interruptions or distractions."
I get chills when he kisses me under my ear. That familiar ache and the desire he ignites rising within. "Ready when you are, Major," I hum.
His responding look tells me he's feeling the exact same way.
"After you, Mrs. Masen."
Military & Japanese Terms:
Mamasan - commonly used term by the military to describe maids and house cleaners. ADDED 6/19/2014- I've gotten two very nasty guest (coward) reviews in the last couple of days telling me I'm an idiot and didn't do my research regarding this term. First of all, I'm not an idiot, I'm an intelligent and informed woman. Second, if you ask any, and I mean ANY military member or their dependent to define "mamasan", they'll tell you it's a term for a maid. And third, if you Google mamasan, Wikipedia will first say it's a woman in a position of authority, perhaps in charge of a geisha house or bar...but then if you scroll to the final description it says this, and I quote: "While the context may be referred to as a sex term in some parts of Asia, in others the term has a much different connotation. The term mama-san is commonly used to describe maids and house cleaners." So to "Leila" and "Mai", who refused to sign in under legit accounts so that I couldn't tell them how incorrect and unkind they were to me, here's your answer.
"Arigato gozaimasu" - means 'thank you' in Japanese.
"Iie" - 'no, no' also meaning 'not at all.' A very casual way to say 'you're welcome' in Japanese.
MLG - Marine Logistics Group; the major subordinate element (MSE) that provides combat service support for Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF). IIIMEF is Okinawa, Japan. IMEF is at Camp Pendleton in California and IIMEF is at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
A/N: Hoping that your holiday season has been bright and that an even healthier, happier and more prosperous new year awaits you all in 2014. Thank you so much for continuing to support this story. I'm thrilled that it's been received so well by so many. You honored me once again when you named Tip of the Spear your favorite work-in-progress story for 2013 on the Rob Attack site. Thank you so, so much.
Lots of love and thanks to Team Cabana as they've continued to work tirelessly for me and this story. My Major Hubby is my military technical advisor for terminology and all that goes along with it. To all my readers and those who continue to review...I appreciate you so much. Thank you for your love and support.
Our Major Spearward and his Clementine are ringing in the new year at their private cabin in Okuma in a post-wedding, blissful haze...how are you spending your New Year's Eve? Oh, and there are some fantastic pictures of the Felicia Chapel and Bella's wedding gown in the Cabana group on Facebook. Come take a look!
See you all in 2014 as we say goodbye to our favorite Marine Corps couple and wrap up some loose ends in the final chapter/epilogue/outtake.
Happy New Year, dear readers.