"The Cullens are all evened up in numbers now. Perhaps it will be our turn next, eh, Kate?" She grinned at the blonde.
"Keep the dream alive," Kate said with a roll of her golden eyes. She took my hand from Tanya's and squeezed it gently. "Welcome, Bella."
The dark-haired woman put her hand on top of Kate's. "I'm Carmen, this is Eleazar. We're all so very pleased to finally meet you."
"M-me, too," I stuttered.
Tanya glanced at the people waiting behind her - Charlie's deputy, Mark, and his wife. Their eyes were huge as they took in the Denali clan.
"We'll get to know each other later. We'll have eons of time for that!" Tanya laughed as she and her family moved on.
All the standard traditions were kept. I was blinded by flashbulbs as we held the knife over a spectacular cake - too grand, I thought, for our relatively intimate group of friends and family. We took turns shoving cake in each other's faces; Edward manfully swallowed his portion as I watched in disbelief. I threw my bouquet with atypical skill, right into Angela's surprised hands. Emmett and Jasper howled with laughter at my blush while Edward removed my borrowed garter - which I'd shimmied down nearly to my ankle - verycarefully with his teeth. With a quick wink at me, he shot it straight into Mike Newton's face.
And when the music started, Edward pulled me into his arms for the customary first dance; I went willingly, despite my fear of dancing - especially dancing in front of an audience - just happy to have him holding me. He did all the work, and I twirled effortlessly under the glow of a canopy of lights and the bright flashes from the cameras.
"Enjoying the party, Mrs. Cullen?" he whispered in my ear.
I laughed. "That will take a while to get used to."
"We have a while," he reminded me, his voice exultant, and he leaned down to kiss me while we danced.
Cameras clicked feverishly.
The music changed, and Charlie tapped on Edward's shoulder.
It wasn't nearly as easy to dance with Charlie. He was no better at it than I was, so we moved safely from side to side in a tiny square formation. Edward and Esme spun around us like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
"I'm going to miss you at home, Bella. I'm already lonely."
I spoke through a tight throat, trying to make a joke of it. "I feel just horrible, leaving you to cook for yourself - it's practically criminal negligence. You could arrest me."
He grinned. "I suppose I'll survive the food. Just call me whenever you can."
It seemed like I danced with everyone. It was good to see all my old friends, but I really wanted to be with Edward
more than anything else. I was happy when he finally cut in, just half a minute after a new dance started.
"Still not that fond of Mike, eh?" I commented as Edward whirled me away from him.
"Not when I have to listen to his thoughts. He's lucky I didn't kick him out. Or worse."
"Have you had a chance to look at yourself?"
"Urn. No, I guess not. Why?"
"Then I suppose you don't realize how utterly, heart-breakingly beautiful you are tonight. I'm not surprised Mike's having difficulty with improper thoughts about a married woman. I am disappointed that Alice didn't make sure you were forced to look in a mirror."
"You are very biased, you know."
He sighed and then paused and turned me around to face the house. The wall of glass reflected the party back like a long mirror. Edward pointed to the couple in the mirror directly across from us.
"Biased, am I?"
I caught just a glimpse of Edward's reflection - a perfect duplicate of his perfect face - with a dark-haired beauty at his side. Her skin was cream and roses, her eyes were huge with excitement and framed with thick lashes. The narrow sheath of the shimmering white dress flared out subtly at the train almost like an inverted calla lily, cut so skillfully that her body looked elegant and graceful - while it was motionless, at least.
Before I could blink and make the beauty turn back into me, Edward suddenly stiffened and turned automatically in the other direction, as if someone had called his name.
"Oh!" he said. His brow furrowed for an instant and then smoothed out just as quickly.
Suddenly, he was smiling a brilliant smile.
"What is it?" I asked.
"A surprise wedding gift."
He didn't answer; he just started dancing again, spinning me the opposite way we'd been headed before, away from the lights and then into the deep swath of night that ringed the luminous dance floor.
He didn't pause until we reached the dark side of one of the huge cedars. Then Edward looked straight into the blackest shadow.
"Thank you," Edward said to the darkness. "This is very... kind of you."
"Kind is my middle name," a husky familiar voice answered from the black night. "Can i cut in?"
My hand flew up to my throat, and if Edward hadn't been holding me I would have collapsed.
"Jacob!" I choked as soon as I could breathe. "Jacob!"
"Hey there, Bells."
I stumbled toward the sound of his voice. Edward kept his grip under my elbow until another set of strong hands caught me in the darkness. The heat from Jacob's skin burned right through the thin satin dress as he pulled me
close. He made no effort to dance; he just hugged me while I buried my face in his chest. He leaned down to press his cheek to the top of my head.
"Rosalie won't forgive me if she doesn't get her official turn on the dance floor," Edward murmured, and I knew he was leaving us, giving me a gift of his own - this moment with Jacob.