"Oh, Jacob." I was crying now; I couldn't get the words out clearly. "Thank you."
"Stop blubbering,Bella. You'll ruin your dress. It's just me."
"Just? Oh, Jake! Everything is perfect now."
Hesnorted. "Yeah - the party can start. The best man finally made it."
"Now everyone I love is here."
I felthis lips brush my hair. "SorryI'm late, honey."
"I'm just so happy you came!"
"That was the idea."
I glanced toward the guests, but I couldn't see through the dancers to the spot where I'd last seen Jacob's father. I didn't know if he'd stayed. "DoesBilly know you're here?" As soon as I asked, I knew that he must have - it was the only way to explain his uplifted expression before.
"I'm sure Sam's told him. I'll go see him when... when the party's over."
"He'll beso glad you're home."
Jacob pulled back a little bit and straightened up.He left one hand on the small of my back and grabbed my right hand with the other. He cradled our hands to his chest; I could feel his heart beat under my palm, and I guessed that he hadn't placed my hand there accidentally.
"I don't know if I get more than just this one dance," he said, and he began pulling me around in a slow circle that didn't match the tempo of the music coming from behind us. "I'd better make the best of it."
We moved to the rhythm of his heart under my hand.
"I'm glad Icame," Jacob said quietly after a moment. "I didn't think I would be. But it's good to see you... one more time. Not as sad as I'd thought it would be."
"I don't want you to feel sad."
"I know that. And I didn't come tonight to make you feel guilty."
"No - it makes me very happy that you came. It's the best gift you could have given me."
He laughed. "That's good, because I didn't have time to stop for a real present."
My eyes were adjusting, and I could see his face now, higher up than I expected. Was it possible that he was still growing? He had to be closer to seven feet than to six. It was a relief to see his familiar features again after all this time - his deep-set eyes shadowed under his shaggy black brows, his high cheekbones, his full lips stretched over his bright teeth in the sarcastic smile that matched his tone. His eyes were tight around the edges - careful; I could see that he was being very careful tonight. He was doing all he could to make me happy, to not slip and show how much this cost him.
I'd never done anything good enough to deserve a friend like Jacob.
"When did you decide to come back?"
"Consciously or subconsciously?" He took a deep breath before he answered his own question. "I don't really know. I guess I've been wandering back this direction for a while, and maybe it's because I was headed here. But it wasn't until this morning that I really started running. I didn't know if I could make it." He laughed. "You wouldn't believe how weird this feels - walking around on two legs again. And clothes! And then it's more bizarre because it feels weird. I didn't expect that. I'm out of practice with the whole human thing."
We revolved steadily.
"It would have been a shame to miss seeing you like this, though. That's worth the trip right there. You
look unbelievable, Bella. So beautiful."
"Alice invested a lot of time in me today. The dark helps, too."
"It's not so dark for me, you know."
"Right." Werewolf senses. It was easy to forget all the things he could do, he seemed so human. Especially right now.
"You cut your hair," I noted.
"Yeah. Easier, you know. Thought I'd better take advantage of the hands."
"It looks good," I lied.
He snorted. "Right. I did it myself, with rusty kitchen shears." He grinned widely for a moment, and then his smile faded. His expression turned serious. "Are you happy, Bella?"
"Okay." I felt his shoulders shrug. "That's the main thing, I guess."
"How are you, Jacob? Really?"
"I'm fine, Bella, really. You don't need to worry about me anymore. You can stop bugging Seth."
"I'm not just bugging him because of you. I like Seth."
"He's a good kid. Better company than some. I tell you, if I could get rid of the voices in my head, being a wolf would be about perfect."
I laughed at the way it sounded. "Yeah, I can't get mine to shut up, either."
"In your case, that would mean you're insane. Of course, I already knew that you were insane," he teased.
"Insanity is probably easier than sharing a pack mind. Crazy people's voices don't send babysitters to watch them."
"Sam's out there. And some of the others. Just in case, you know."
"In case of what?"
"In case I can't keep it together, something like that. In case I decide to trash the party." He flashed a quick
smile at what was probably an appealing thought to him. "But I'm not here to ruin your wedding, Bella.
I'm here to .. ." He trailed off.
"To make it perfect."
"That's a tall order."
"Good thing you're so tall."
He groaned at my bad joke and then sighed. "I'm just here to be your friend. Your best friend, one last time."
"Sam should give you more credit."
"Well, maybe I'm being oversensitive. Maybe they'd be here anyway, to keep an eye on Seth. There are a lot of vampires here. Seth doesn't take that as seriously as he should."