It turned out there were actually lots of people I hadn't danced with yet, and that gave me a chance to truly compose and resolve myself. When Edward claimed me again, I found that the Jacob-drawer was shut nice and tight. As he wrapped his arms around me, I was able to unearth my earlier sense of joy, my certainty that everything in my life was in the right place tonight. I smiled and laid my head against his chest. His arms tightened.
"I could get used to this," I said.
"Don't tell me you've gotten over your dancing issues?"
"Dancing isn't so bad - with you. But I was thinking more of this," - and I pressed myself to him even tighter - "of never having to let you go."
"Never," he promised, and he leaned down to kiss me.
It was a serious kind of kiss - intense, slow but building....
I'd pretty much forgotten where I was when I heard Alice call, "Bella! It's time!"
I felt a brief flicker of irritation with my new sister for the interruption.
Edward ignored her; his lips were hard against mine, more urgent than before. My heart broke into a sprint and my palms were slick against his marble neck.
"Do you want to miss your plane?" Alice demanded, right next to me now. "I'm sure you'll have a lovely honeymoon camped out in the airport waiting for another flight."
Edward turned his face slightly to murmur, "Go away, Alice," and then pressed his lips to mine again.
"Bella, do you want to wear that dress on the airplane?" she demanded.
I wasn't really paying much attention. At the moment, I simply didn't care.
Alice growled quietly. "I'll tell her where you're taking her, Edward. So help me, I will."
He froze. Then he lifted his face from mine and glared at his favorite sister. "You're awfully small to be so hugelyirritating."
"I didn't pick out the perfect going-away dress to have it wasted," she snapped back, taking my hand. "Come with me, Bella."
I tugged against her hold, stretching up on my toes to kiss him one more time. She jerked my arm impatiently, hauling me away from him. There were a few chuckles from the watching guests. I gave up then and let her lead me into the empty house.
She looked annoyed.
"Sorry, Alice," I apologized.
"I don't blame you, Bella." She sighed. "You don't seem to be able help yourself."
I giggled at her martyred expression, and she scowled.
"Thank you, Alice. It was the most beautiful wedding anyone ever had," I told her earnestly. "Everything was exactly right. You're the best, smartest, most talented sister in the whole world."
That thawed her out; she smiled a huge smile. "I'm glad you liked it."
Renee and Esme were waiting upstairs. The three of them quickly had me out of my dress and into Alice's deep blue going-away ensemble. I was grateful when someone pulled the pins out of my hair and let it fall loose down my back, wavy from the braids, saving me from a hairpin headache later. My mother's tears streamed without a break the entire time.
"I'll call you when I know where I'm going," I promised as I hugged her goodbye. I knew the honeymoon secret was probably driving her crazy; my mother hated secrets, unless she was in on them.
"I'll tell you as soon as she's safely away," Alice outdid me, smirking at my wounded expression. How unfair, for me to be the last to know.
"You have to visit me and Phil very, very soon. It's your turn to go south - see the sun for once," Renee said.
"It didn't rain today," I reminded her, avoiding her request
"Everything's ready," Alice said. "Your suitcases are in the car - Jasper's bringing it around." She pulled me back toward the stairs with Renee following, still halfway embracing me.
"I love you, Mom," I whispered as we descended. Tm so glad you have Phil. Take care of each other."
"I love you, too, Bella, honey."
"Goodbye, Mom. I love you," I said again, my throat thick.
Edward was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. I took his outstretched hand but leaned away, scanning the little crowd that was waiting to see us off.
"Dad?" I asked, my eyes searching.
"Over here," Edward murmured. He pulled me through the guests; they made a pathway for us. We found Charlie leaning awkwardly against the wall behind everyone else, looking a little like he was hiding. The red rims around his eyes explained why.
I hugged him around the waist, tears streaming again - I was crying so much tonight. He patted my back.
"There, now. You don't want to miss your plane."
It was hard to talk about love with Charlie - we were so much alike, always reverting to trivial things to avoid embarrassing emotional displays. But this was no time for being self-conscious.
"I love you forever, Dad," I told him. "Don't forget that."
"You, too, Bells. Always have, always will."
I kissed his cheek at the same time that he kissed mine.
"Call me," he said.
"Soon," I promised, knowing this was all I could promise. Just a phone call. My father and my mother could not be allowed to see me again; I would be too different, and much, much too dangerous.
"Go on, then," he said gruffly. "Don't want to be late."
The guests made another aisle for us. Edward pulled me close to his side as we made our escape.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
"I am," I said, and I knew that it was true.
Everyone applauded when Edward kissed me on the doorstep. Then he rushed me to the car as the rice storm began. Most of it went wide, but someone, probably Emmett, threw with uncanny precision, and I caught a lot of the ricochets off Edward's back.