posted by groovychicklisa
I stared at the display for a moment, and then realized what she was doing.
I was going to kill her. I was literally going to strangle her to death. That little interfering, scheming…
"I'm sorry, I must have forgotten." I apologized. No way was I letting Bella know about Alice's little deluded plan. "A bit stressed out with last minute Christmas shopping."
"I get that."
"I'll just go, you probably have plans tonight." I turned to leave, but her voice stopped me.
"No, I was just about to order Chinese food actually, if you want to come in?"
I turned around, not quite convinced that I had heard her correctly.
"Are you sure?"
I followed her into the apartment, kicking off my snowy boots in the hallway and shrugging off my jacket.
"Egg roles, chicken Chow Mein, sweet and sour pork and fried rice with shrimp?" Bella asked, glancing over her shoulder.
We had ordered from Louie's before.
"Get some extra egg roles."
"Sure." She called in our orders while I pondered Alice's insane prank.
I was sure I hadn't been able to hide the fact that I was still madly in love with Bella from my ever-observant twin sister. But why would she pull something like this, did she want to embarrass me? Because she couldn't think that Bella reciprocated my feelings, could she? Not even Alice was that crazy.
"Food'll be here in twenty." Bella said, hanging up the phone, and I pushed my thoughts aside.
"Did you finish all the Christmas shopping?" I asked, trying to make small talk to keep my own mind busy.
"Yesterday, finally!" She let out a sigh of relief. "Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, especially now that Lily's old enough to actually enjoy it, but the shopping I would gladly skip."
"How do you usually spend Christmas?" I wondered, curious about what her and Lily's holiday normally looked like.
"Either in Forks or Jacksonville, we've all celebrated together." She replied, smiling. "It's nice, having the whole family there."
"I'm sorry it won't be like that this year." She had seemed excited when I had suggested spending the holiday at the house with my family, but maybe I had been wrong and she really wanted to stay at Charlie's or go with Renée and Phil on their cruise.
"It will be. You're family's my family too, you know. At least I consider them family."
I was a little surprised, but happy, to hear that.
The food soon arrived, and we ate under comfortable silence.
When we had finished, I got up from the table and put the two paper containers that still had food in them in the fridge. She got up too, handing me the empty ones. When I took them, our fingers made contact and I felt the same electrical current I did every time I was close to her. My eyes snapped to hers, and I could see the same longing in her eyes that I knew must be in mine.
And there was no going back.
While we ate, I tried to figure out a way to ask him to stay a little longer without letting on how desperately I didn't want him to leave.
Feel like watching a movie? Too obvious.
Want to stay for a while? Too pathetic.
Please don't go! Too desperate.
I watched as he got up from the table and put away the left over food. I stood as well, holding up the empty containers for him to throw away. When he reached for them, his fingers lightly brushed mine, and the electricity that always surged between us stung me. His eyes connected with mine, and he stared at me with longing I knew was mirrored in my own eyes.
Before I had a chance to react, my back was against the kitchen counter, his body pressing me into the wooden surface, his lips hungrily devouring mine.
I didn't want to think, analyze, so I let my feelings take over and eagerly kissed him back. His arms snaked around my waist and I wrapped mine around his neck, pulling him even closer.
As our kisses became more passionate, he easily picked me up, so I was sitting on the counter, and I wrapped my legs around his waist. I could feel how much he wanted me through the fabric of our clothes, and pressed myself even closer to him. He groaned into my mouth, and I smiled, relieved that the years hadn't changed the way we affected each other. My own body was starting to react to his touch, and I untangled one of my arms from around his neck to tug at the buttons in his shirt.
He pulled back then, looking at me with desire in his eyes, as if asking permission. I could feel my heart racing, and my breath was coming in short gasps. What he saw in my eyes apparently convinced him that I wasn't going to change my mind, because when our lips crashed together again, I felt him lift me from the counter and walk out of the kitchen.
He made his way to my bedroom slowly and carefully, perhaps afraid of tripping on something, or maybe because he wanted to give me the possibility to say stop.
I had no intention to.
He kicked the door open and kneeled down on the bed, carefully laying me down on it before covering my body with his own. I again began tugging at his shirt, and he swiftly pulled it off, tossing it on the floor. My top quickly joined it, closely followed by our pants.
A moment later, he was completely naked above me, and my breath caught in my throat.
He was still just as beautiful as I remembered.
I traced a finger down the side of his face, continuing down his neck and chest. He closed his eyes, and seemed to be having trouble breathing. I smiled, enjoying the effect I was having on him.
I reached up, lightly pressing my lips to his, and he opened his eyes again, staring at me with so much naked want that I had to look away.
"God, I want you." He mumbled, his lips trailing down my throat. "So bad." I suddenly had trouble thinking.
Somehow I managed to remember the condoms that I had in my bedside table, and I grabbed one from the drawer, placing it in his hand.
He watched me intently as he rolled it on, and continued to do so for an eternal moment, immobile above me.
"Please." I whimpered, pulling his face down so I could kiss him. "I need you."
He kissed me deeply, and in one, long thrust he was inside me. I gasped at the familiar, yet new feeling and wrapped my legs around his waist, pulling him even deeper. I wasn't surprised to find that we still fit together like two corresponding pieces of a puzzle.
Our bodies started moving together in the timeless, eternal dance of life. His fingers strayed over my body, touching, caressing every available spot, and I mimicked his motions, rediscovering the body I loved so.
After a few minutes, he started moving faster, and I knew that neither of us would last much longer. It had been too long since we had been together like this.
As if he could read my mind, his hand trailed between us and his exploring fingers found my most sensitive spot.
"Oh God." I moaned, my head falling back. He kissed my neck, and I felt the first spasms of an impending orgasm course through my body. As my world started falling apart, I felt him shudder inside me. His lips found mine again, and we rode out the waves of ecstasy together.
He didn't pull away; instead he rolled around so I was on top of him. I just lay there for a moment, trying to catch my breath and regain some fraction of sensible thought.
"I love you." I mumbled before I could stop myself, and instantly regretted it when I felt him tense beneath me.
I expected him to push me away, but instead he pulled my face to his and kissed me hungrily.
"I love you." He whispered against my lips. "So much. I never stopped."
The Morning After
I shifted as consciousness started to pull me out of the darkness of sleep. Not wanting to wake up, I squeezed my eyes shut against the intruding light of the sun shining in through the bedroom window, and snuggled closer to my Dream-Edward. His arms wrapped tighter around me, his lips brushed over my hair, and it felt so real. It always did.
I knew that these dreams weren't exactly healthy for my sanity, but I didn't feel like analyzing that at the moment. If my subconscious was kind enough to give me what I wanted – if only while I was asleep – then who was I to say no?
Dream-Edward didn't speak.
I ventured to open my eyes, and there he was. Smiling that irresistible, crooked smile, his hair rumpled from the pillows. He was really in my bed.
"It wasn't a dream." I blurted out, and he raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
"A dream?" His voice was still a little drowsy with sleep.
"I thought I might have been dreaming."
"Oh." He frowned, and I felt him pinch my arm under the covers.
"Ow! What'd you do that for?" I asked, rubbing the spot.
"Just making sure you're not dreaming." He chuckled.
I sighed, laying my head back down on his chest, listening to his heart beat against my cheek. I wanted to enjoy the moment a little longer. His hand was tracing patterns on my back, and the touch made my entire body tingle.
"I'm glad you forgot." I mumbled.
"That Lily wasn't here last night." I clarified.
"Oh." He paused. "I actually have a confession about that."
I peeked up at him, eyebrows raised.
"I didn't forget." Had he planned this? Was I really that transparent? "Alice called me, saying that Catie was sick so I could pick up Lily after all."
"Alice?" I frowned, trying to connect the dots. My mind was still not working on any higher levels, so I gave up. "I don't get it."
He sat up, reaching over the side of the bed for something.
"Hey, I didn't say you could move!" I complained. "Get back here." He only chuckled at that, but soon reclaimed his spot and held up his phone. I looked at the display.
Merry Christmas ;-)
"I know." He agreed, smiling. "I was prepared to kill her, but then you asked if I wanted to come in." He pulled me down for a kiss, his fingers tangling in my hair. "And now I think I might be in debt to her for the rest of my life." He mumbled against my lips.
"That makes two of us." I murmured back. "But hang on…" I reluctantly pulled away from him. Something had just occurred to me. "When exactly did Alice call you?"
"Around six, why? I tried calling before I came over, but the line was busy."
"They wouldn't…" I trailed off as I realized that of course they would. This was exactly the kind of thing they would pull.
"What?" Edward asked impatiently.
"They ganged up on us!" I exclaimed, suddenly seeing it clearly. It was so obvious.
"Who did?" He had a confused look on his face, obviously wondering what I was going on about.
"Alice and Angela! Angela called me last night, at about ten to six, and started talking about Christmas presents and a movie she and Ben were going to last night and a bunch of other stuff." It had seemed suspicious at the time, but I had forgotten to analyze it when Edward had showed up. "I mean, we talk on the phone for hours all the time, but it seemed like she was forcing it, trying just a little too hard. And then when I said that there was someone at the door, she couldn't get off the phone fast enough, even though she was in the middle of a sentence."
We both contemplated Alice and Angela's scheme for a moment.
"It would appear that our friends know us better than we know ourselves." He eventually noted.
"Thank God for that." I reached up so I could kiss him, and he immediately responded, pulling me closer under the covers. After a moment, he pulled away from me a little.
"What would you say to having a little fun on their expense?" He wondered, a scheming look in his eyes.
"I would say that they definitely deserve that." Of course I was grateful that they had interfered, considering the way things had turned out, but it was still a little annoying that they had tricked us. I didn't like being manipulated, no matter the reason.
Edward grabbed his cell again, and quickly typed something. He held it up for me to inspect.
What the hell were you thinking? I hope you know that I'm going to kill you!
"Perfect." I smiled evilly as he hit send, and reached for my phone. It was a little after ten, Angela would be up.
"Hi Ang." I tried to keep my voice casual, normal.
"Bella, hi!" I could hear the barely concealed excitement and curiosity in her voice.
"I just called to see if you and Ben had fun last night."
"Oh, we did. The movie was really good, and we went to my favorite restaurant."
"What did you do?" She asked suggestively.
"Oh, nothing much." I couldn't help but smile, and I could see Edward suppressing a laugh. "Just ordered some Chinese, watched TV. A regular night in, you know. Enjoying having some time to myself."
"Oh." Disappointment was evident in her voice, and I had to work very hard to suppress a giggle.
"I'm glad you and Ben had fun. When's your flight leaving?" She and Ben were spending the holidays skiing in Mount Ripley with Ben's parents.
"Not until four. Do you want to meet for lunch?"
"I would love to, but I don't think I have time. I still have some Christmas present I have to get – you know me, procrastinating to the last second." I had actually planned on using this time, with Lily at Catie's, to do just that. I was glad that I had managed to finish the shopping the previous day – I had a feeling that it would be difficult to get out of bed this morning. "But we'll do our own Christmas when we get back after New Years, right?"
We always celebrated an "extra" Christmas together, since we usually weren't in the same place on the actual day. Ben, Angela and Jake would come over to my place for Mexican food and presents. It was our own little Christmas celebration. It had started as an excuse for Angela and Jake to get Lily a bunch of Christmas presents, but had turned into a nice tradition over the years.
Edward was apparently getting bored with my conversation, because he pulled me down next to him on the bed and started distracting me by placing feathery kisses along my collar bone. I tried to push him away, to be able to concentrate on talking to Angela, but he just moved further down.
"Listen, Ang, I've got to go." I managed to get out. "Talk to you soon!"
Before she had a chance to reply, I hung up and tossed the phone in the general direction of the bedside table. I hard a thump as it landed on the floor instead.
"Was that really necessary?" I mumbled, trying to focus on something other than the feel of his lips on my skin.
"Very." He breathed against my throat, causing me to shiver.
At that moment, his phone rang.
He sighed, but pulled away from me and reached for the cell.
"Looks like our little plan is working." He smirked when he had checked the display.
"Yeah." He rejected the call, then turned the phone off. "She'll think I'm too mad to talk to her."
"You realize that you will have to face her eventually, right?" I pointed out.
"I will, just going to let her stew a little first."
He pulled me close, kissing me with determination. I was about to give in to the kiss, when my phone rang.
"Oh, for the love of…" He muttered as I leaned over the edge of the bed to find the offending piece of technology.
"Hi, Alice." I winked at Edward, who shook his head, an amused look on his face.
"I was just wondering if you've seen my dear brother? His cell's turned off and he's not answering at home."
"Nope, sorry Alice. Can't help you there." Don't want to… I plan on keeping him all to myself for at least a little longer.
"He hasn't been by?"
"Well, he stopped by last night, to pick up Lily. Apparently he had forgotten that she was staying at Catie's. But I haven't seen him since then." It was a good thing we were on the phone, and not face to face; she would have caught my lie immediately.
Edward was shaking with quiet laughter, and I elbowed him in the ribs to get him to stop before I started laughing too and ruined the entire thing.
"Oh. I just thought that he might be there."
"No, sorry. You'll just have to keep looking, I guess." I bit my lip to control the laughter that was threatening to escape. "I'll tell him that you're looking for him if I happen to talk to him."
"OK, thanks." Alice sounded so disappointed that I almost – but just almost – told her the truth. But she would survive a taste of her own medicine. "I'll see you on Wednesday then."
"See you then." I managed to not start laughing until I had hung up the phone, but then I broke down in giggles. "She sounded so disappointed that her little scheme hadn't worked!"
"She can live with that for a few days."
"You want to tell them when we go up to Forks?" I abruptly stopped laughing. The thought frightened me a little. I wasn't sure I was ready to let other people into our little bubble just yet. If I was being perfectly honest, I was also a little afraid that the bubble would burst…
"I think it might be a little difficult to hide, since I won't be able to keep my hands off you." He demonstrated just that fact by pulling me down on top of him.
"Oh really?" That thought was appealing… very appealing.
"Definitely." His hands tangled in my hair again, and he kissed me, lightly at first, then with more urgency. "When's Lily coming home?"
"Donna's taking them to Chuck E. Cheese's for lunch, so not until two or so."
"Plenty of time."
"He rejected my call!" I exclaimed angrily, to nobody in particular.
"Who did?" Jasper wondered from the couch, not seeming too interested in the fact that I was clearly upset. I glared at him.
"Edward! That annoying, ungrateful little…" I trailed off, not able to think of a word bad enough.
Jasper turned off the TV and was suddenly completely focused on me.
"What did you do?" He asked sternly.
"Nothing." I replied with an innocent look on my face. Of course, he wasn't fooled by it.
"You know you can't lie to me." He pointed out, and I sighed. Sometimes the whole "knows me better than anyone" thing was a little annoying.
"Fine." I fiddled with the phone in my hand, knowing that he wouldn't approve. "I sort of lied and said that Edward should go over to Bella's place last night to pick up Lily, only she was spending the night at Catie's."
Jasper gave me a disappointed look.
"He needed a push in the right direction!" I argued.
"And you thought that it was up to you to provide that?"
"Nobody, that's who." He sighed and pulled me down on the couch next to him, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. "You just need to let them work this out themselves."
"But that might never happen!" I objected.
"In that case, maybe it wasn't meant to be." He suggested. "Did you consider that?"
"No." I said stubbornly. I ignored Jasper's sigh as I dialed a new number on my phone.
"Hello?" Bella answered, sounding a little annoyed – I hoped it was because I had called at a "bad" moment.
"Bella, hi." I pretended not to notice Jasper shaking his head at me and turned my back on him.
"Hi, Alice." She sounded a little amused when she realized it was me.
"I was just wondering if you've seen my dear brother? His cell's turned off and he's not answering at home." He had to be there, right? I hated to consider the possibility that my plan had failed – they were so right for each other.
"Nope, sorry Alice. Can't help you there."
Her words made my heart drop a little, but I persisted.
"He hasn't been by?" He'd said that he would go over there, he wouldn't have changed his mind after hanging up last night?
"Well, he stopped by last night, to pick up Lily. Apparently he had forgotten that she was staying at Catie's. But I haven't seen him since then."
"Oh. I just thought that he might be there." What the hell had gone wrong? I was going to kill him if he messed this up – again!
"No, sorry. You'll just have to keep looking, I guess." She paused. "I'll tell him that you're looking for him if I happen to talk to him."
"OK, thanks." I was almost too disappointed to get the words out. "I'll see you on Wednesday then."
"See you then."
I hung up the phone and bit my lip.
"I take it your little scheme was unsuccessful?" Jasper conjectured from the look on my face.
"I just don't know what went wrong."
"Just let it go." He insisted. "If it's meant to be, they'll find their way back to each other without your help."
"I hope you're right."
"I didn't think we'd ever get this back."
My hand, that had been tracing patterns up and down Bella's back, paused at her words.
"I know what you mean." I mumbled back. "That day… when you said that you didn't want to try the whole long-distance thing, I thought that was it."
"I didn't say that." She propped herself up on her elbow so she could look down on me.
"Maybe not those exact words, but the meaning was pretty clear." Even though I had her here, in my arms, the memories of that day still hurt. I had to look away from her as I continued. "I really thought that we could make it work, but… when you said that, I knew that it wasn't what you wanted." I kept my eyes fixed on the window, but could feel her gaze.
"You were what I wanted." At the intensity in her words, I had to look up at her. "I just…" She sighed. "When you told me that you were leaving, I panicked. I really thought that it was a way for you to get out, that you didn't want me anymore." Her voice trailed off as she spoke, and was almost a whisper at the end.
"No, never." It was her turn to avoid meeting my eyes. "I've wanted you since the first time I met you. I was completely set on doing the long-distance relationship for a year, and then come back here so we could go to college together. But then I thought that you didn't, and I…"
She cut me off with a kiss.
"I guess we both jumped to conclusions, huh?" She said when she pulled back.
"More like skydived!"
"I'm sorry." She mumbled after a moment. "If I hadn't reacted like that, maybe we wouldn't have lost contact and then you wouldn't have missed…"
"Hey." I interrupted. "Don't think like that. I should have told you that we were moving the moment I found out, so if you want to blame someone, blame me."
She contemplated my words for a moment.
"How about if we blame nobody?" She suggested. "I mean, sure, we both could have done things differently, but there were external circumstances working against us."
"I think that sounds good." I agreed.
"Good." She smiled as her hand found its way under the covers. I inhaled sharply at her touch. "Now, are we done being serious for the time being? Because we still have hours before Lily will be back…"
We didn't get out of bed until after one.
Bella insisted that I should go home before Lily came back, saying that we shouldn't confuse her. I understood where she was coming from, but at the same time I had no idea what to do with myself until they came over later in the afternoon.
I missed Bella so much it almost hurt physically the moment she closed the door behind me. It was like I had temporarily lost a part of my own body, something essential that I couldn't live without. Like my heart.
When I got home, there were six messages on my answering machine. I didn't need to listen to them to know they were all from Alice. I sighed and pressed "Play" knowing that I would have to deal with her sooner or later. And though I would prefer later, if I knew Alice, she wouldn't give up until I talked to her.
Why is your cell turned off? I tried to call you! Call me when you get this.
You're still not there? Did you forget to charge your cell or something? Call me when you get home.
I'm not kidding, Edward. Call me! Right now!
OK, I'm starting to worry now. Where are you? Call!
This isn't funny anymore. I know you're mad at me, but if you don't call me back soon, I'll come over there and break the door down. And you know I'm not kidding!
Final warning, Edward.
Sooner it was, then; the last message had been recorded just five minutes earlier, and I thought it was best to call her back before she sent the National Guard out to look for me. I wouldn't put it past her.
"Hi, Jazz. Is my neurotic sister there, or is she organizing the search party?"
"She's here. I managed to talk her out of involving the local police and fire department for the time being, but I'm not sure how long I would have been able to keep her in check if you hadn't called." He chuckled. "Hang on."
I waited as he handed the phone to Alice, bracing myself for her anger.
"Edward? Where the hell have you been?" She shrieked. I held the phone a few inches from my ear so I wouldn't go deaf.
"Christmas shopping." I lied easily. "And I also didn't feel like talking to you, so I turned the phone off. How could you put me on the spot like that? What the hell were you thinking last night?"
"I was thinking that I was giving you a shove in the right direction."
"Well, I don't need to be shoved anywhere." I didn't need to fake the annoyance in my voice; the way she had always taken it upon herself to meddle in my life did annoy me. Even if, in this particular situation, I did appreciate her interference.
"Clearly you do."
"Just stay out of it, Alice." I muttered.
"I just want the two of you to get a second chance."
"It's not going to happen." I tried to sound defeated, and somehow – I wasn't sure exactly how, since I had trouble hiding the happiness in my voice – I succeeded. Alice was quiet for a long moment.
"I'm sorry." She apologized in a somber tone that wasn't like her.
"You should be. I felt like a complete idiot last night!" For a moment, at least…
"I was just trying to help." She pleaded.
"I know, but you're just going to have to accept that it's a lost cause, OK? I have."
"OK." She paused, and I heard Jasper say something in the background. "We've got to get going now; we want to get there before it gets dark. Call me if you need to talk, OK?"
"I'm fine, Alice." Much better than fine, but no need to let her know that. She could use a dose of regret; it would only be healthy for her. Teach her not to stick her nose in where it didn't belong.
"See you in a couple of days."
I occupied myself with cleaning the apartment while I waited for Bella and Lily to come over. It kept my hands busy, while my mind was free to wander to the memories of the night – and morning – with Bella.
The relief at hearing her express the same feelings I had realized that I'd never fully gotten over had been overwhelming. I had been so convinced that she no longer had any feelings for me, that I hadn't believe my own ears at first.
But she loved me. She really loved me.
I wanted to tell the world, scream it from the roof tops for everyone to hear.
We hadn't actually talked much, preoccupied with rediscovering each other. But I realized that we'd have to take it slow, for Lily's sake; it wasn't fair to her to turn the life she was used to upside down just like that. What I really wanted to do was pack up the few personal belongings that had found their way into my sterile apartment and head over to the place I considered home. Because home was where Bella and Lily were.
We would have to discuss the future, soon. I wanted her to know that I was all in, that for me, there was no going back now. I only hoped she felt the same.
I regretted asking Edward to leave as soon as the door closed behind him. But we had to do this right, for Lily. It wasn't fair to confuse her.
I busied myself with putting a load of laundry in the washer while I waited for Donna to drop Lily off. I didn't have to wait long; fifteen minutes after Edward had left, there was a knock on the door.
"Hi, baby, did you have fun?" I asked Lily, giving her a hug.
"Uh-huh." She nodded, pulling Caitlin along into the apartment. "Come on, let's play!"
"Only for a little while, we have to leave soon, Catie." Donna called after the girls, who completely ignored her as they ran in the direction of Lily's room.
"Come on in." I stepped aside to let Donna pass.
"You look… different." She studied me, and I could feel the color rising in my cheeks. "Happier, somehow."
"Oh, well, I just… it's…" I stuttered, trying to come up with something to say.
A smile spread on Donna's face.
"About time. I was starting to worry that you'd never get your head out of your butt and do something about that! Even I can see that the guy's crazy about you."
"Really?" He had said that he still loved me, but it was nice to hear that someone else had noticed it.
"I was beginning to wonder if you'd gone blind, or something." She shook her head, a disbelieving look on her face. "The way he looks at you? And I've only met him a handful of times."
She followed me into the living room.
"So what are you going to do now?" She lowered her voice a little and glanced over at Lily's door.
"I'm not sure." I frowned. We hadn't exactly had time to talk about this. "I guess we'll just have to take things slow, for Lily's sake."
"Lily will be thrilled."
"Exactly! I don't want her getting her hopes up if…" I couldn't even finish the sentence; I got a big lump in my throat just thinking about it.
"Bella, honey." She waited until I looked up at her. "I know that he hurt you."
"It wasn't his fault." I protested.
"I know that too, but it still hurt. And I get that you're afraid to put yourself in a position to be hurt like that again." She laughed dryly. "Believe me, I get that. But if you ever want to get the happily ever after part of the fairytale, you're just going to have to trust him."
"I think I do trust him." I mumbled.
"Then what's the problem?"
"Nothing, I guess." And there wasn't a problem.
I had surrendered to the couch, the TV on to some basketball game I wasn't watching, when there was a knock on the door just after four. I turned the television off and hurried to the door.
"Daddy!" Lily lunged herself into my arms when I opened to let them in, and almost knocked me over.
"Hey there, princess." I hugged her back. "Did you have fun at Catie's last night?"
"Oh yeah!" I closed the door behind them and put Lily back on the floor. She shrugged off her coat and shoes. "We watched My Little Pony, and played Candy Land, and hide and seek." She skipped off in the direction of the living room.
I turned my attention to Bella.
"Hey." She had an almost shy smile on her face.
I took her hand, intertwining our fingers, and pulled her along to the living room. I desperately wanted to kiss her, but controlled myself. We would have to keep the physical contact to a minimum in front of Lily. When we got into the room, she had already bounded over to the pile of Christmas presents in the corner.
"I can't open even one?" She pleaded, like she had for the last week. "Just a little one?"
"Nope." I was relentless.
"I told you to hide them." Bella mumbled in my ear, her breath causing a shiver to run down my spine.
"You don't think she would have found them?" I asked incredulously. Lily was nothing if not resourceful; I had no doubt that she would have located the presents no matter where I would have hidden them.
"Maybe not right away." Bella giggled. "That's exactly why I keep my presents at A-N-G-E-L-A-S."
Lily gave me one more puppy dog look, but when I shook my head, she gave up.
"Can we make snow angels?" She wondered instead.
"After dinner." Bella replied. "I'm just starting to defrost from the walk from the car."
"Weakling." I teased her.
"You know I'm still a Phoenix girl at heart." She replied. "Or at least when it comes to the weather. Snow and rain just aren't my cup of tea. "
"How you've survived in Washington for seven years is a miracle." I shook my head in mock disbelief, and she elbowed me in the ribs.
"I like the snow!" Lily piped in.
"You would live in the snow if I let you!" Bella shook her head. "Sure you're not part Eskimo?" She turned to me.
"Hey, I was born and raised in California, don't pin this on me." I chuckled.
"California?" Lily wondered, eyes wide in astonishment.
"That's right, in Los Angeles." I told her.
"That's where SpongeBob lives!" She exclaimed, and Bella and I laughed.
"What makes you think that?" I asked.
"Catie says that they make SpongeBob in Los Angeles, so he must live there, right?"
Her logic was impeccable.
"I want to play Twister!" She announced a moment later.
"Go get it then." Bella encouraged.
We played for over an hour, Lily insisting that we start right over whenever anyone won.
"Left hand green!" Lily ordered halfway into the fifth round.
We all obeyed, and I suddenly found myself almost pressed against Bella's body beneath me. I took a deep breath, and felt my body start to react to her proximity.
"I think I'll get started on dinner." I said, getting out of the compromising position quickly. I could feel Bella's eyes on me as I walked into the kitchen.
"I think I'll get started on dinner." Edward said in a half-choked voice, getting up from the very nice position he had been in behind me.
I watched him walk out of the room, a smile spreading on my lips. It was nice to know that I still had that kind of effect on him, despite the fact that the timing might be a little off.
"Right foot blue, mommy!" Lily's impatient voice interrupted my musings, and I quickly obeyed, trying to concentrate on the game.
We continued playing as the aroma of grilled chicken spread in the room. My stomach growled in response to the delicious smell, and I realized that I hadn't eaten since our makeshift breakfast in bed that morning. The memory made me blush.
"Food's ready." Edward called from the kitchen, effectively ending our game.
It was almost seven by the time we'd finished dinner, but Lily still insisted on going to the park to make snow angels.
"You promised!" She reminded us. Since I had said that we could go out after dinner, I nodded.
"OK, but just for an hour, OK?" She happily agreed to that, and we bundled up before going out in the cold night.
Lily excitedly skipped ahead of us down the street, and I felt Edward's hand in mine through the fabric of my glove.
"Twister is a very dangerous game." He muttered in my ear, and I felt a tingle down my spine when his hot breath touched the exposed skin on my neck.
"I was wondering why you gave up so suddenly." I teased him, and he gave me a long look that told me exactly what would have happened if he hadn't. The intensity in his eyes made my breath catch in my throat.
"I might have to accidentally misplace that game." He seemed to ponder that possibility for a moment.
"We can control ourselves, can't we?" I leaned in a little closer as we walked.
"With you smelling like that? I wouldn't be so sure."
We had gotten to the park by then, and I reluctantly released his hand so he could help Lily with her snow angel. No way was I lying down in the cold snow.
I wiped off the snow from a bench a few feet away and sat down, careful to keep my parka between myself and the wood. Couldn't you catch a urinary infection from sitting on cold surfaces?
I watched them tumbling around in the snow, making snow angels, building lanterns and a snowman. At eight, I broke up a snowball fight and we walked back to the apartment. I lingered in the background as Edward helped Lily get ready for bed, not wanting to cut into his weekend with her.
"Night, mommy." She came into the living room and gave me a hug after she had brushed her teeth.
"Night, baby." She didn't question the fact that I was still there, which was a good sign for the future.
"I'll be right back." Edward said with a smile in my direction as he followed Lily into her bedroom.
Through the slightly open door I could hear him read a story to her, and recognized Cinderella. She apparently fell asleep before the end, because he stopped in the middle of the big ball. A moment later, he emerged from the room and closed the door behind him before he joined me on the couch.
"She's out like a light."
"Snowball fights will do that to you." I noted.
"Yeah." He glanced at me, a nervous look on his face. "I guess we should talk, huh?"
His lack of confidence made my own nerves calmer, somehow.
"We do need to figure this out." I agreed.
His eyes stayed focus on his hands as he spoke.
"Look, I get it if last night was just… I don't know, heat of the moment. I don't expect you to…"
"Hey!" I turned his face so I could look him in the eyes. "I meant what I said last night. I love you. I may have been able to deny it to myself for the past six years, but it's always been true. And I'm sick of having to pretend."
Relief was evident in his eyes as he let out a sigh.
"I was afraid that you regretted saying it."
"Of course I don't." I scanned his face, a little worried. "Do you?"
"No, God no." He hurried to assure me. "I love you more than I've ever loved anything in this world. You and Lily are everything to me."
"Good." It was my turn to let out a sigh of relief.
"So how are we going to do this?" He wondered.
"I'm not sure." I frowned. "My place really is too small for the three of us, but I don't want Lily to have to change schools."
"You want us to live together?"
"That is the next logical step, right?" I giggled. "Granted, we're already doing this all backwards, but not much to do about that now."
"Do you think Lily will be OK with that?" He sounded worried. "I don't want to turn her world upside down."
"I think she'll be more than OK with it." I leaned over and kissed him, pulling away when he attempted to deepen the kiss. "I mean, we won't give her all the details, of course, but she'll love it if you lived with us.""A bigger place in your neighborhood then?" He suggested.
"That sounds good." I snuggled closer. "Of course, you could stay with us in the meantime, just bring over the essentials, and keep this place for your furniture and stuff."
"I like that idea." He wrapped an arm around me, pulling my back against his chest.
"Tomorrow?" I suggested, looking up at him. "I'll come over for lunch and we can talk to Lily and then you can pack up whatever you need."
"You're not staying tonight?" He sounded disappointed.
"I want to, but I think we should probably talk to Lily about this before she finds me here in the morning." The thought of her accidentally finding us in bed together almost made me blush. That was not a conversation I wanted to have for a long time – she was only five.
"You're right." He grudgingly agreed.
"I don't have to leave yet, though." I turned in his arms. "I'm up for some make-out on the couch."
"Are you trying to seduce me?" He put on an appalled face.
"I might be." I giggled. "How am I doing so far?"
"A little too good."
It wasn't easy to let Bella go that evening, but I comforted myself with the fact that that night would, hopefully, be the last we spent apart for a long time.
I found Lily by the pile of Christmas presents when I got up the next day.
"Isn't it Christmas yet?" She wondered when I called her to the kitchen for breakfast.
"You know we're going up to Forks to visit grandma and grandpa for Christmas." I reminded her.
"I know." She sighed the impatient sigh of a child waiting to open presents. "When are we going?"
"That's so far away!" She complained, and I couldn't help but chuckle.
Only to a very impatient five-year-old with the prospect of opening presents on the horizon could three days feel like a very long time.
We spent the morning watching cartoons, and just when I started making lunch, Bella knocked on the door.
We waited until we had finished lunch to talk to Lily about the new living situation.
"Lily, honey, we want to talk to you about something." Bella said when we returned to the living room after having cleaned up in the kitchen.
"About my presents?" She asked expectantly.
"No, not about your presents." Bella replied smiling. "About something else that I think you'll like."
"Well." Bella shot a look at me. "How would you like it if your dad came to live with us?"
"All the time?" A big smile was spreading on Lily's face.
"Yeah, all the time." Bella confirmed.
"Yay!" Her enthusiasm was contagious, and we both laughed. "But where would you sleep?" Lily gave me a confused look.
"He would sleep in my room." Bella stated matter-of-factly. My heart skipped a beat; what would Lily say to that?
"Oh." She contemplated this for a moment. "You'll have to get bunk-beds, like Catie and Cole have."
"We'll have to look into that." Bella smiled at me over Lily's head, and I held back a chuckle.
I packed up the clothes and other stuff that I would need for a prolonged stay, and we headed over to their apartment a little later. Bella made space for my stuff in her closet and dresser, and I got a shelf in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. When I had unpacked everything, I stared at the three toothbrushes in the glass in the bathroom, and realized that I was finally home.
A Family Holiday
I spent the next couple of days with Lily, since school was out for the holidays and Bella still had to work. Lily seemed perfectly fine with the fact that I was there when she woke up in the morning and when she went to bed at night. I was relieved, having feared that she would have difficulty adjusting to the new situation.
The only thing she had had an objection to was the fact that she would no longer get to sleep in her "other" room. We were able to fix this by promising that, after we got back from Forks, we would move some of the stuff from her room at my old apartment to her room at home.
I already thought of my apartment as my "old" place and Bella's apartment as "home". I would have to keep the apartment until we found a bigger place – not because I was thinking about keeping any of the furniture, really, but because I needed space for my piano. It definitely wouldn't fit in Bella's living room, and I needed somewhere to work.
Bella and I tried to keep our physical contact to a minimum in front of Lily, but the little that we did allow ourselves didn't seem to bother her. She loved when all three of us curled up on the couch to watch a movie.
Bella only had to work for a few hours on Wednesday morning, because of some project that she had to finish for her boss before the holidays. When she got home, we quickly packed the car and headed towards Forks. There wasn't much traffic, but since the roads were covered in snow and, quite possibly, ice, the drive still took almost an hour longer than usual.I hadn't spoken to Alice since she and Jasper had driven up to Forks that Saturday, and I was pretty sure that she still thought that her little plan had failed. I couldn't wait to see the look on her face when she realized the truth. She would be furious that we had tricked her, but in the end, she would be thrilled. I knew the rest of my family would be happy for us, too.
The only cloud on the horizon was Charlie's reaction to mine and Bella's renewed relationship. I had no doubt that he would be less than happy about it. We'd had dinner with him and Sue when we were up looking at the renovated house in November, and he had been just as cold towards me then as he had been when we had visited a month before that. And at that point I had only been involved in Bella's life because of Lily. I could only imagine how he would feel about us being involved romantically again.
But I could deal with Charlie's resentment. As long as I had Bella by my side, I felt like I could deal with anything life threw at me. And I did actually understand where he was coming from, at least if I looked at the situation objectively. Even though he probably knew, on a logical level, that what had happened between Bella and me had been brought on by misunderstandings and unlucky circumstances, he must still remember how miserable she had been after I had left. She had told me a little about that first time, and I felt a stab of pain every time I thought about it. It would only be natural for Charlie to blame me for that; I partially blamed myself as well.
Lily fell asleep in the backseat almost before we had left Seattle, and the drive felt even longer than it should have, regardless the extra hour it did actually take. But eventually a sign welcomed us to Forks, Washington, population 3,192.
We continued through the town, heading straight to Carlisle and Esme's. We were invited to Charlie's for dinner later that night, but it was only four o'clock, so we had time to unpack and relax a little before we had to leave.
Esme and Rosalie came out to greet us, having heard when we pulled up outside the house.
"You're here." Esme exclaimed, opening the door to the backseat and pulling Lily from the car into a hug. She was still half asleep and blinked against the offending daylight.
"Tomorrow's Christmas, grandma." She mumbled happily, rubbing her eyes.
"It is, baby." Esme agreed, putting Lily down on the snow covered ground. The last remnants of sleepiness disappeared from her face and she looked up at me with an expectant smile on her face.
"And the next day I get to open my presents, finally, right daddy?"
"That's right." I agreed, giving Esme a hug. "Hi mom."
"Hello darling." She hugged me tightly before turning to greet Bella.
I grabbed the two bags full of Christmas presents that we had brought with us out of the trunk and headed into the house, Lily following closely behind me.
Carlisle, Emmett and Alice were gathered on the living room couch, Noah asleep in his bassinette next to it. In a corner, there was a huge, exquisitely decorated Christmas tree, and numerous other holiday decorations were scattered around the room. I looked around for Jasper, but he must be upstairs, because he was nowhere to be seen.
"Even more presents!" Lily exclaimed, spotting the large pile of colorful packages under the tree.
"They're not all for you." I told her, even though I suspected that the majority of them actually were. Where I had crossed the line and gotten her too many presents, Esme and Carlisle would have goon so far the line was no longer visible behind them.
"I know." She sighed and shot one last, wistful look at the pile of presents before she turned her attention to the people in the room. "Grandpa!" Carlisle extended his arms, and she jumped into his embrace. He hugged her tightly and placed a kiss on the top of her head.
"Hello sweetheart." He looked up at me. "The drive went well?"
"Roads are a little slippery, but it was fine."
I put the two bags with presents down next to the tree, for someone to unpack. Behind me, I heard Bella, Esme and Rosalie enter the house. I turned to find that they had brought in the rest of our luggage from the car.
"Come on, I'll show you your rooms." Esme said excitedly, eager to show off the now furnished house, and Bella and I followed her up to the third floor with our bags. "We had one of the spare bedrooms decorated for Lily, I hope that's OK?"
"Of course it is, she'll need a room here for when we visit." Bella assured Esme, who smiled happily.
"Good." Esme opened the first door on the right, Emmett's old room. "We're all in our old rooms downstairs, so you'll have this floor to yourselves."
The room she went into was simply, but beautifully, decorated. White walls, pink curtains and rugs, wooden furniture.
"I hope she'll like it." Esme worried, putting down Lily's small suitcase on the bed.
"I'm sure she will." Bella assured her.
We went back into the hallway, and Esme pointed to the door next to Lily's.
"That's the library-slash-office, and the other two rooms are guest rooms." She opened the two doors on the left.
Both rooms were decorated in soft colors, one in blue and one in yellow.
"I'll leave you to make the sleeping arrangements." She smiled at us and headed back down the stairs.
"Any preference?" I asked, and Bella shook her head.
"Whichever is fine."
I dropped our bags on the bed in the blue room, and took Bella's hand as we headed back downstairs.
Emmett had apparently promised to go outside with Lily, because they were by the front door and he was helping her put her jacket back on when we came into the living room.
"Not for too long, Emm, we're leaving for Charlie's at six." Bella told him.
Emmett opened the door and Lily rushed down the porch steps, immediately scooping up an armful of snow and throwing it in Emmett's direction. We watched as Emmett picked Lily up and dropped her in the nearest snowdrift. I could see Lily shriek with laughter and throw snowballs at Emmett, who made a show of ducking.
"They should have fun." Rosalie noted from the couch where she was sitting with Noah. "They're pretty much on the same mental level."
Everyone laughed at that.
I had counted on Alice picking up on the physical contact between me and Bella, but she didn't seem to have noticed our joined hands. I decided to make it a little easier for her.
Leaning against the bar counter that divided the living area from the kitchen, I pulled Bella in front of me and wrapped my arms around her waist. She gave me a curious look over her shoulder, and I shrugged, glancing meaningfully at Alice who was, at the moment, busy talking to Esme. Bella laughed quietly.
Rosalie was the first one who noticed our new position. She raised an eyebrow at me, and when I smiled she nodded approvingly.
"I hope you have a good explanation for this, because Alice will be furious." Jasper noted quietly as he passed us, having just come downstairs.
"Maybe it'll teach her not to meddle." I muttered back, and he gave me an incredulous look. "Or, then again, maybe not."
Alice looked up as Jasper approached, and froze when she spotted Bella and me.
"What the…" The look on her face went from confused, to understanding, to furious. "You told me… you… you…"
"Having trouble finding the right words, Alice?" I asked, chuckling.
"You liar!" She accused. "You had me thinking that… that…" Again, she was unable to finish the sentence.
"We were just trying to teach you a lesson." Bella explained, slipping out of my embrace and sitting down next to Alice on the couch. As if she were a magnet that I was involuntarily drawn to, I followed.
"You were out of line, Ali." I pointed out.
"But it obviously worked!" She exclaimed. "So shouldn't you be thanking me?"
"Thank you." Bella said sincerely, giving Alice a tight hug.
"That's better." Alice glared at me over Bella's shoulder.
"You were asking for it, Alice." I muttered, and she stuck her tongue out at me.
"I'm not talking to you."
"That should make the holiday nice and quiet." I said teasingly, to which I got another deathly glare. If looks could kill…
I felt Esme's hand on my shoulder.
"I knew you two would work it out, somehow." She mumbled in my ear, and I gave her a grateful look.
I couldn't believe that they had tricked me like that! Those ungrateful little…
"I'm not talking to you." I grumbled at Edward.
"That should make the holiday nice and quiet." He replied in that teasing voice that always pushed my buttons, and I glared at him.
"I knew you two would work it out, somehow." Esme said, her hand on Edward's shoulder.
"Thanks, mom." He smiled at her
"Please don't be mad, Alice." Bella pleaded with me. I was still furious, and shot another evil glare at Edward. The smile on his face only got wider when he saw the frown on mine.
"Just ignore her, she'll get over it." He suggested, an amused undertone in his voice.
"I am sorry, OK." Bella really did look sorry.
I decided to forgive her. It was really my brother I was mad at, anyway.
"I forgive you." I said, glaring menacingly at Edward again. "You, on the other hand…"
"I thought you weren't speaking to me." He smirked.
I threw a pillow at him. Immature, I know, but it felt good.
"Will you at least admit that you never would have gotten here if it wasn't for me?" I demanded. I deserved at least that much.
"We do owe you, Ali." Edward admitted. "But it's still not nice being manipulated like that."
"OK, I guess I can apologize for that part." I had tricked them in the first place, after all.
"And I'm sorry I lied to you." Edward replied.
"Forgive and forget?" I suggested.
"Well, I am stuck with you anyway, might as well try to get along." Edward joked. It was tempting to throw another pillow at him, but this time I managed to control myself.
"Forgive and forget?" Alice suggested in response to Edward's apology.
"Well, I am stuck with you anyway, might as well try to get along." He joked.
Relieved that there were no hard feelings, I relaxed on the couch and leaned my head against Edward's shoulder, his arm around my waist.
An hour later, we heard Emmett and Lily come in through the front door. They appeared in the room a moment later, both with scarlet cheeks.
"How long were we out there?" Emmett wondered, taking in me and Edward close together on the couch. "Oh, I get it." He wagged his eyebrows suggestively.
The last thing I wanted was one of his sexual innuendos with Lily in the room, so I gave him a warning look.
"Don't worry, even I have a PG-13 filter." He grinned at me. "But I can wait."
I did not like the sound of that.
"We should probably go unpack and get ready for dinner." I suggested, and Edward nodded.
"So that's what they call it these days." Emmett mumbled when we passed him. I slapped him on the arm, but he just laughed.
"Come on, baby." I took Lily's hand and we all headed up the stairs.
I unpacked Lily's things and picked out clothes for her to wear before leaving her to get dressed. When I got into our room across the hall, Edward had already unpacked everything, so I just changed into the clothes I had been planning to wear.
"You ready to take on Charlie?" I asked in a teasing voice.
"Not even close, but might as well get it over with." Edward mumbled, and I realized that he really was worried about Charlie finding out about us being back together.
"Hey." I waited until he looked up at me before I continued. "It'll be fine. Charlie knows better than to say anything."
"But he won't like it." He stated.
"No, probably not." I admitted. There really was no point in pretending otherwise – Charlie would be furious. "But he'll just have to get used to it, because I don't plan on letting you go any time soon."
"I like the sound of that."
He pinned me against the dresser, one arm on either side of my body, and leaned in for a kiss. His lips were soft against mine, his breath hot on my skin. I wrapped my arms around his neck and was about to deepen the kiss when…
We pulled apart to find Lily standing in the doorway.
"You were kissing!" She exclaimed, her nose wrinkled. "Gross!"
I couldn't help but laugh, even though Edward looked horrified that Lily had caught us.
"You think so?" I tilted my head to the side, pretending to ponder something for a moment. "What if I kiss you instead?"
I grabbed her and started planting wet kisses all over her face.
"Stop it, stop it!" She shrieked.
"See, isn't it better if I kiss daddy instead?"
"Uh-huh." She agreed, squirming to get free from my grip.
I checked my watch. It was almost six.
"OK, we've got to go, or we'll be late for dinner."
I let go of Lily and she quickly skipped into the hallway and down the stairs. I took Edwards's hand in mine and we followed at a more reasonable pace.
"See? Not a big deal." I told him. "As long as that's all she walks in on, she'll be fine."
"Did you have to put that out there?" He groaned.
"Good thing we have a lock on the bedroom door, don't you think?"