Chapter 2 – Long night

"I miss you already."

"I don't need to leave, I can stay..."

Our breaths came irregularly, Bella's heart was racing the way only I could trigger it to. We interrupted our kiss only for the shortest of times for that exchange. When Bella didn't answer, I looked into her beautiful brown eyes, inhaled her wonderful scent that still, after all this time, set my throat on fire. But I had learned to cherish the pain rather than to regret it. It meant that Bella was alive and close to me. She was the most magnificent, unbelievable person I ever met. I could not understand how someone so special could have chosen someone like me. I knew that she thought I had that backwards but I didn't care.

Bella started to kiss me again.

"Definitely staying," I breathed against her face.

"No, no. It's your bachelor party. You have to go." Although her words were clear, her body said something else, she didn't let go of my hair and kept pulling me close to her.

My hands caressed her face.

"Bachelor parties are designed for those who are sad to see the passing of their single days. I couldn't be more eager to have mine behind me. So there's really no point."

"True," Bella whispered against my throat. We were lying on her bed, as close to each other as possible while Bella was wound up in a blanket to be protected from my icy skin. I regretted that this was necessary but here we had no other way to make sure she wouldn't freeze. My shirt had found its way to the floor in the progress of our fooling around.

To avoid the necessity of a blanket around Bella on our honeymoon, I had chosen a place with high temperatures and a very humid climate where the coolness of my skin might even come in handy. But I kept our destination a secret from Bella.

She stroked one hand down my naked chest, her warm skin sending chills of pleasure through my whole body. I closed my eyes and kissed her lips again. Very cautiously her tongue traced my lower lip and I couldn't hold back a sigh. The fire in my throat burned hotter which was my cue to slow things down. Although my desire tried to push me to go further. It was always a battle between my desire to keep Bella safe and my hunger for her body.

I pulled away but as usual, Bella tried to pull me close again.

"Wait," she bared one leg and swung it around my hip. "Practice makes perfect."

"Well, we should be fairly close to perfection by this point, then, shouldn't we? Have you slept at all in the last month?" I laughed silently.

I had pushed the boundaries of our physical contact I had carefully set up a long time ago. Just a little, so that I had the chance to get used to being closer to Bella gradually rather than all in one night when the time came for me to make good on my promise. Desensitizing I had once called it. She had enjoyed that very much. But to her dismay we would wait for the real thing until after the wedding.

"But this is the dress rehearsal," she tried to argue, "and we've only practiced certain scenes. It's no time for playing safe."

Her choice of words reminded me of the burden I had been carrying around, trying to push it to the back of my mind all the time. My body went rigid in response to the stress the sudden reminder brought on.

"Bella," I breathed, trying to discuss it all for the thousandth time.

"Don't start this again," she stopped me indignantly. "A deal's a deal."

"I don't know. It's too hard to concentrate when you're with me like this. I – I can't think straight. I won't be able to control myself. You'll get hurt." I tried to make her see reason. But she was totally set on the only thing she had demanded when she had agreed to marry me.

"I'll be fine."

"Bella..." I tried once more.

"Shh!" She silenced the anxiety that was building up inside me by touching her lips to mine. She wouldn't let me out of our agreement.

I kissed her back but more cautiously than before. My mind was revolving around the almost impossible task I had promised to take on.

"How are your feet?" I asked her to put an end to the discussion we had before.

"Toasty warm," she assured me.

"Really? No second thoughts? It's not too late to change your mind."

"Are you trying to ditch me?" she teased me.

I snickered. "Just making sure. I don't want you to do anything you're not sure about."

"I'm sure about you. The rest I can live through." She said it very convincingly but I knew that whatever would happen tomorrow had not really been her idea and that she would endure it to make sure, everyone else would be happy. I hoped that Alice was right when she said, that Bella would appreciate it one day soon.

"Can you?" I went on in a low tone. "I don't mean the wedding – which I am positive you will survive despite your qualms – but afterward … what about Renée, what about Charlie?"

The wedding was her goodbye to her family and friends, to let them know she was happy even if no one would ever see her again afterwards.

She sighed. "I'll miss them."

"Angela and Ben and Jessica and Mike?"

"I'll miss my friends, too. Especially Mike. Oh, Mike! How will I go on?"

Although I knew she was making fun of me, she was still hitting a nerve. Mike Newton was the first boy I ever felt jealous of, because, in the beginning, I thought Bella might be interested in him. I snarled.

She laughed a short laugh then turned serious again. "Edward, we've been through this and through this. I know it will be hard, but this is what I want. I want you, and I want you forever. One lifetime is simply not enough for me."

She sounded confident and I knew she was. Still I wanted her to know that it was not too late to change her mind about everything.

"Frozen forever at eighteen," I breathed into the darkness.

"Every woman's dream come true," she said lightly.

"Never changing … never moving forward."

"What does that mean?" Bella sounded a little confused.

I was reminded of the pang of regret I had felt when we had announced our engagement to her father.

"Do you remember when we told Charlie we were getting married? And he thought you were … pregnant?"

"And he thought about shooting you," she tried to keep it light. "Admit it – for one second, he honestly considered it."

I kept quiet, not sure how to make her understand what I meant.

"What, Edward?"

"I just wish … well, I wish that he'd been right."

"Gah," Bella wheezed.

"More that there was some way he could have been. That we had that kind of potential. I hate taking that away from you, too." Not that Bella had ever talked about wanting children and she didn't seem particularly drawn to children when she met them. But still, I would want her to have the opportunity to decide. Even if she stayed human, as long as she was with me, she would never have a baby.

She deliberated for a minute. "I know what I'm doing."

"How could you know that, Bella? Look at my mother, look at my sister. It's not as easy a sacrifice as you imagine." Every now and then, when Rosalie's thoughts didn't revolve around her looks, I could feel a deep regret and some kind of emptiness inside her. Rosalie had always wanted a baby, more than anything else. Maybe even more than she wanted Emmett.

"Esme and Rosalie get by just fine. If it's a problem later, we can do what Esme did – we'll adopt."

I sighed, she made it sound too easy. My voice was very intense when I tried to make her see what she was giving up. "It's not right! I don't want you to have to make sacrifices for me. I want to give you things, not take them away from you. I don't want to steal your future. If I were human -"

She sealed my lips with her hand. "You are my future. Now stop. No moping, or I'm calling your brothers to come and get you. Maybe you need a bachelor party."

"I'm sorry. I am moping, aren't I? Must be the nerves."

"Are your feet cold?"

"Not in that sense. I've been waiting a century to marry you, Miss Swan. The wedding ceremony is the one thing I can't wait -" I stopped there, hearing Emmett's thoughts from outside the house.

Get dressed and come out immediately or we'll help you out of the bed and into your clothes and it's not going to be pretty.

"Oh, for the love of all that's holy!" I choked out.

"What's wrong?"

I clenched my teeth. "You don't have to call my brothers. Apparently, Emmett and Jasper are not going to let me bow out tonight."

Bella hugged me to her once more, then let me go. "Have fun."

There came a noise from the window, Emmett scratching his fingernails across the glass, making Bella shiver.

"If you don't send Edward out, we're coming in after him!" Emmett's threatening voice seemed to come out of nowhere.

Bella laughed at his menace. "Go! Before they break my house!"

A little annoyed I sat up, put my shirt on and kissed Bella goodbye. At least this was the last time I would ever have to leave her behind.

"Go to sleep. You've got a big day tomorrow." I whispered.

"Thanks! That's sure to help me wind down," Bella complained.

"I'll meet you at the alter."

"I'll be the one in white." She wanted it to sound indifferent but didn't quite manage.

"Very convincing." I launched myself out of the window and landed between Emmett, who swore because I took him off guard, and Jasper.

"You'd better not make him late," we heard Bella mumble from her bed.

In a fraction of a second, Jasper had jumped up to look inside the window.

"Don't worry, Bella." I knew he was sending her some calmness inside. "We'll get him home in plenty of time."

"Jasper? What do vampires do for bachelor parties? You're not taking him to a strip club, are you?"

I had to chuckle when I heard Bella trying not to sound concerned. Well, I wouldn't put it past at least Emmett to do exactly that. But then, I knew they wouldn't embarrass me. Or, at least not in public.

"Relax, we Cullens have our own version. Just a few mountain lions, a couple of grizzly bears. Pretty much the ordinary night out." Jasper assured her.

I couldn't help but imagine going on a hunting trip with Bella once I would have changed her. Not the easiest thing to see, the woman you love fighting with wild animals. How did the others do it? But the difference might be, they never knew their wives to be as vulnerable as Bella was now, human.

"Thanks, Jasper."

Jasper dropped down and I knew, that was our cue to leave. I realized that moment that this was probably the last time I would ever have to climb through a window to be with Bella. Bella Cullen. I never heard anything that sounded so wonderful.

Emmett woke me from my reverie. "Can we leave then? Or do you want to spend the night watching her window?"

"It's really tempting, but no. I'd like to take my mind off things a little." There was still a lot of time until tomorrow night.

Jasper and Emmett laughed as we took off at maximum speed.

They took me to a resort just south of Portland where there was an overpopulation of mountain lions and grizzlies. After each of us had brought down two animals, we sat on the ground in a little circle. The forest around us was dark and quiet.

"So, tomorrow. Big day!" Emmett began the conversation.

"You should know. How often did you put that ring on Rose's finger?" Sometimes I thought they just married again every decade so that Rosalie could wear a wedding dress again. She just loved being the center of attention. The total opposite of Bella.

"And it pays off every time. There's nothing like a wedding night." He winked at me meaningfully.

Well, there it was, the unavoidable part of the night where I would be mocked, embarrassed and condescended to.

"Don't you think so, Jasper?" Emmett asked when I refused to answer.

"You know, Alice and I don't need occasions to make our nights special." Jasper wasn't as frank as Emmett.

"Don't get worked up about it, little brother. In just a few days time you'll know what we're talking about." Emmett cackled.

"Our baby brother will finally become a man." Jasper took the same line as Emmett.

And you'll get the most precious gift of all. You and Bella will be together forever.

"Hey, my offer still stands. If you want to know how to please a woman, you just have to ask. I'd like to see my new little sister happy." Emmett's innuendos became more distasteful by the minute.

"You mean the way we can all hear Rosalie's happy every night?" Jasper asked with a grin.

"That's why we had to kick them out when they were newly wed." I couldn't hold that one back.

"Well, Rose isn't one to enjoy in silence, you know what I mean." We all did. "But you two kids can learn how to have fun together. As long as you know where everything goes. Or maybe we should have taken you to a strip-club, after all. At least you would know what a woman looks like. I'm sure you're too much of a gentleman to have taken a look at your bride before the wedding." Emmett bent over laughing.

"He's been reading so much over the last 90 years. I'm sure he's come across some pictures. By the way, you'll see, there's better things to do at night than studying. But well, old habits die hard. So you could start studying female anatomy and the Kama Sutra." Jasper winked, being spurred on by Emmett, becoming more raffish himself.

I'd had enough right about then. I tried to bring the conversation around to a safer topic.

"When will the Denalis arrive?" Tanya and her family were kind of like cousins to us.

Bella was a little nervous about them attending our wedding, since she found out that Tanya, a long time ago, made a move on me. I tried to assure her over and over that I was never the least bit interested in Tanya or anyone else, for that matter, before I met her.

"You want to practice a little with Tanya, first? Well, there must be a lot of experience to benefit from." Emmett wouldn't let the topic go.

He was right, though. Tanya and her sisters Kate and Irina had probably the most insight into my particular problem. The three of them had indulged in sexual relations with human men for centuries, so they should be authorities on the subject of how to accomplish a safe wedding night with Bella. But Tanya was the last person I would discuss such a delicate topic with.

"No, of course not. I'm just wondering if everything will go smoothly with them and the Quileutes in one room."

This spring the Quileute-werewolves took out Laurent when he tried to kill Bella. Irina considered Laurent her mate. The fact that our family was on neutral if not friendly grounds with the wolves had not made our association easy recently.

"Irina is staying away. Tanya, Kate, Eleazar and Carmen are quite embarrassed about the way they let us down when we had the newborn problem." Jasper was more willing than Emmett to be done with the teasing part.

"Anyway, there will only be one werewolf. And he's just a kid." To Emmett everything was always easy. But his words reminded me of another werewolf that should be in attendance tomorrow but had gone missing about two months ago.

After Bella had ultimately decided to marry me and to have a big, traditional wedding, she hadn't had the courage to invite her best friend, Jacob Black. Jacob had been the one to help her stay sane when I had left her, the biggest mistake of my very long life. The two of them had gotten very close. Jacob was irrevocably in love with Bella and some part of her loved him, too. But since she had learned the hard way that she could not live without me, as I had experienced that I couldn't live without her, either, she had said goodbye to him.

When I thought about it all, I knew that, if Bella had chosen him over me, I would have wanted to see that she was really happy with her decision. So I had sent Jacob an invitation to the wedding. I wanted him to have the choice, to either come and witness Bella's happiness, or to stay away. Unfortunately his reaction to my message had been running off to live as a wolf full time. That way it was easier for him to handle the pain he felt over loosing Bella. I knew that it hurt her to know in how much pain Jacob was, and that she regularly checked in with Seth Clearwater to find out if there were any news.

Miraculously Seth and I had, against all odds, become friends when we had fought Victoria and her puppet Riley in June. Seth was the one werewolf who was happy to be invited and would attend the wedding as some kind of substitute for Bella's missing best man.

"Are you mulling over tomorrow, I mean, today, again or are you thinking about accepting my offer from before?" Emmett brought me back.

Honestly, I would be happy to let you in on a few little secrets...

That was enough. I elbowed Emmett in the ribs.

"The sun is rising. If we want to hunt a little more, now is the time. You promised Bella to bring me back in time." I put a stop to the discussion, here and went off after a cougar's scent I caught in the distance.