"Seth knows that he's not in any danger. He understands the Cullens better than Sam does."
"Sure, sure," Jacob said, making peace before it could turn into a fight.
It was strange to have him being the diplomat.
"Sorry about those voices," I said. "Wish I could make it better." In so many ways.
"It's not that bad. I'm just whining a little."
"Close enough. But enough about me. You're the star today." He chuckled. "I bet you're just loving that. Center of attention."
"Yeah. Can't get enough attention."
He laughed and then stared over my head. With pursed lips, he studied the shimmering glow of the reception party, the graceful whirl of the dancers, the fluttering petals falling from the garlands; I looked with him. It all seemed very distant from this black, quiet space. Almost like watching the white flurries swirling inside a snow globe.
"I'll give them this much," he said. "They know how to throw a party."
"Alice is an unstoppable force of nature."
He sighed. "Song's over. Do you think 1 get another one? Or is that asking too much?"
I tightened my hand around his. "You can have as many dances as you want."
He laughed. "That would be interesting. I think I'd better stick with two, though. Don't want to start talk."
We turned in another circle.
"You'd think I'd be used to telling you goodbye by now," he murmured.
I tried to swallow the lump in my throat, but I couldn't force it down.
Jacob looked at me and frowned. He wiped his fingers across my cheek, catching the tears there.
"You're not supposed to be the one crying, Bella."
"Everyone cries at weddings," I said thickly.
"This is what you want, right?"
I tried. He laughed at my grimace.
Tm going to try to remember you like this. Pretend that..."
"That what?That I died?"
He clenched his teeth. He was struggling with himself - with his decision to make his presence here a gift and not a judgment. I could guess what he wanted to say.
"No," he finally answered. "But I'll see you this way in my head. Pink cheeks. Heartbeat. Two left feet. All of that."
I deliberately stomped on his foot as hard as I could.
He smiled. "That's my girl."
He started to say something else and then snapped his mouth closed. Struggling again, teeth gritted against the words he didn't want to say.
My relationship with Jacob used to be so easy. Natural as breathing. But since Edward had come back into my life, it was a constant strain. Because - in Jacob's eyes - by choosing Edward, I was choosing a fate that was worse than death, or at least equivalent to it.
"What is it, Jake? Just tell me. You can tell me anything."
"I - I... I don't have anything to tell you."
"Oh please. Spit it out."
"It's true.It's not... it's - it's a question. It's something I want you to tell me"
He struggled for another minute and then exhaled. "I shouldn't. It doesn't matter. I'm just morbidly curious."
Because I knew him so well, I understood.
"It's not tonight, Jacob," I whispered.
Jacob was even more obsessed with my humanity than Edward. He treasured every one of my heartbeats, knowing that they were numbered.
"Oh," he said, trying to smother his relief. "Oh."
A new song started playing, but he didn't notice the change this time.
"When?" he whispered.
"I don't know for sure. A week or two, maybe."
His voice changed, took on a defensive, mocking edge. "What's the holdup?"
"I just didn't want to spend my honeymoon writhing in pain."
"You'd rather spend it how? Playing checkers? Ha ha."
"Kidding, Bells. But, honestly, I don't see the point. You can't have a real honeymoon with your vampire, so why go through the motions? Call a spade a spade. This isn't the first time you've put this off. That's a good thing, though," he said, suddenly earnest. "Don't be embarrassed about it."
"I'm not putting anything off," I snapped. "And yes I can have a real honeymoon! I can do anything I want! Butt out!"
He stopped our slow circling abruptly. For a moment, I wondered if he'd finally noticed the music change, and I scrambled in my head for a way to patch up our little tiff before he said goodbye to me. We shouldn't part on this note.
And then his eyes bulged wide with a strange kind of confused horror.
"What?" he gasped. "What did you say?"
"About what... ? Jake? What's wrong?"
"What do you mean? Have a real honeymoon? While you're still human? Are you kidding? That's a sick joke, Bella!"
I glared at him. "I said butt out, Jake. This is so not your business. I shouldn't have... we shouldn't even be talking about this. It's private - "
His enormous hands gripped the tops of my arms, wrapping all the way around, fingers overlapping.
"Ow, Jake! Let go!"
He shook me.
"Bella! Have you lost your mind? You can't be that stupid! Tell me you're joking!"
He shook me again. His hands, tight as tourniquets, were quivering, sending vibrations deep into my bones.
"Jake - stop!"
The darkness was suddenly very crowded.
"Take your hands off her!" Edward's voice was cold as ice, sharp as razors.
Behind Jacob, there was a low snarl from the black night, and then another, overlapping the first.