The crowd erupted into applause, and he turned our bodies to face our friends and family. I couldn't look away from his face to see them.
My mother's arms were the first to find me, her tear-streaked face the first thing I saw when I finally tore my eyes unwillingly from Edward. And then I was handed through the crowd, passed from embrace to embrace, only vaguely aware of who held me, my attention centered on Edward's hand clutched tightly in my own. I did recognize the difference between the soft, warm hugs of my human friends and the gentle, cool embraces of my new family.
One scorching hug stood out from all the others - Seth Clearwater had braved the throng of vampires to stand in for my lost werewolf friend.
The wedding flowed into the reception party smoothly - proof of Alice's flawless planning. It was just twilight over the river; the ceremony had lasted exactly the right amount of time, allowing the sun to set behind the trees. The lights in the trees glimmered as Edward led me through the glass back doors, making the white flowers glow. There were another ten thousand flowers out here, serving as a fragrant, airy tent over the dance floor set up on the grass under two of the ancient cedars.
Things slowed down, relaxed as the mellow August evening surrounded us. The little crowd spread out under the soft shine of the twinkle lights, and we were greeted again by the friends we'd just embraced. There was time to talk now, to laugh.
"Congrats, guys," Seth Clearwater told us, ducking his head under the edge of a flower garland. His mother, Sue, was tight by his side, eyeing the guests with wary intensity. Her face was thin and fierce, an expression that was accented by her short, severe hairstyle; it was as short as her daughter Leah's - I wondered if she'd cut it the same way in a show of solidarity. Billy Black, on Seth's other side, was not as tense as Sue.
When I looked at Jacob's father, I always felt like I was seeing two people rather than just one. There was the old man in the wheelchair with the lined face and the white smile that everyone else saw. And
then there was the direct descendant of a long line of powerful, magical chieftains, cloaked in the authority he'd been born with. Though the magic had - in the absence of a catalyst - skipped his generation, Billy was still a part of the power and the legend. It flowed straight through him. It flowed to his son, the heir to the magic, who had turned his back on it. That left Sam Uley to act as the chief of legends and magic now___
Billy seemed oddly at ease considering the company and the event - his black eyes sparkled like he'd just gotten some good news. I was impressed by his composure. This wedding must have seemed a very bad thing, the worst thing that could happen to his best friend's daughter, in Billy's eyes.
I knew it wasn't easy for him to restrain his feelings, considering the challenge this event foreshadowed to the ancient treaty between the Cullens and the Quileutes - the treaty that prohibited the Cullens from ever creating another vampire. The wolves knew a breach was coming, but the Cullens had no idea how they would react. Before the alliance, it would have meant an immediate attack. A war. But now that they knew each other better, would there be forgiveness instead?
As if in response to that thought, Seth leaned toward Edward, arms extended. Edward returned the hug with his free arm.
I saw Sue shudder delicately.
"It's good to see things work out for you, man," Seth said. "I'm happy for you."
"Thank you, Seth. That means a lot to me." Edward pulled away from Seth and looked at Sue and Billy. "Thank you, as well. For letting Seth come. For supporting Bella today."
"You're welcome," Billy said in his deep, gravelly voice, and I was surprised at the optimism in his tone. Perhaps a stronger truce was on the horizon.
A bit of a line was forming, so Seth waved goodbye and wheeled Billy toward the food. Sue kept one hand on each of them.
Angela and Ben were the next to claim us, followed by Angela's parents and then Mike and Jessica - who were, to my surprise, holding hands. I hadn't heard that they were together again. That was nice.
Behind my human friends were my new cousins-in-law, the Denali vampire clan. I realized I was holding my breath as the vampire in front - Tanya, I assumed from the strawberry tint in her blond curls - reached out to embrace Edward. Next to her, three other vampires with golden eyes stared at me with open curiosity. One woman had long, pale blond hair, straight as corn silk. The other woman and the man beside her were both black-haired, with a hint of an olive tone to their chalky complexions.
And they were all four so beautiful that it made my stomach hurt.
Tanya was still holding Edward.
"Ah, Edward," she said. "I've missed you."
Edward chuckled and deftly maneuvered out of the hug, placing his hand lightly on her shoulder and stepping back, as if to get a better look at her. "It's been too long, Tanya. You look well."
"So do you."
"Let me introduce you to my wife." It was the first time Edward had said that word since it was officially true; he seemed like he would explode with satisfaction saying it now. The Denalis all laughed lightly in response. "Tanya, this is my Bella."
Tanya was every bit as lovely as my worst nightmares had predicted. She eyed me with a look that was much more speculative than it was resigned, and then reached out to take my hand.
"Welcome to the family, Bella." She smiled, a little rueful. "We consider ourselves Carlisle's extended family, and I am sorry about the, er, recent incident when we did not behave as such. We should have met you sooner. Can
you forgive us?"
"Of course," I said breathlessly. "It's so nice to meet you."