Submission to the Mistletoe Contest.

Thank you for Emergency Beta Service for cleaning this story up.

Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.

The Mistletoe Project

The school cafeteria buzzed around me as I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I tried to ignore all the gossiping that was going on around me. I couldn't wait until the year was over, and I was out of here. I had moved to Forks, Washington at the beginning of the year hoping things might be different in a small town, but they weren't—this school was also filled with the typical cliques. I was hoping to get to know people for who they were at my new school. However, since I was new, everyone wanted to be my friend. I quickly found out that some weren't as genuine as they pretended to be.

The biggest new 'friend' was Tanya Cullen, Queen Bee. I suspected she was jealous that I was getting all the attention from being the new girl. It didn't matter that I didn't ask for any of the attention—just that I was getting noticed.

When I didn't bend over to kiss her ass like the rest of the school, she had decided that we needed to be BFF's—or maybe it was more like frenemies. The more I tried to ignore her and avoid her, the more she seemed to latch on. She had made it difficult for me to make any real friends.

"Oh-em-gee. How can he do this to me?" Tanya whined as she tossed her strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder before she ducked her head, and tried to hide behind her manicured hand.

I barely glanced in her direction. I didn't want to find out what was bothering her this time it was always something with her. Last week it was because she forgot that she had a paper due, and the teacher didn't give her an extension, or the time the soda machine was out of diet cola. I continued to read, hoping to avoid her latest drama.

"He's a freak. He shouldn't even be allowed at this school," Jessica, or, as I liked to call her, 'Puppet One', responded as she popped her bubble gum loudly.

"Don't worry, Tanya. Most people don't know that you two are related." Puppet Two, Lauren, soothed Tanya by patting her arm. "Would you like me to get you a diet soda?"

Tanya waved her off.

When I realized who they were talking about I glanced around the cafeteria to look for her sweetheart of a cousin, who she was always complaining about. I found him immediately; Anthony Cullen was walking across the cafeteria dressed normally for him. His pants were too short so that his red socks were visible, and he had a dark green button down shirt with a red bow tie. His bronze hair was in a chaotic mess with thick framed glasses around his deep, green eyes. The only thing different from any other day was the Santa hat that extended a sprig of mistletoe just above his forehead. On the front of the hat it read 'Kiss me'. The only way to describe him was adorkable.

Anthony had arrived at the school at the beginning of December. Unlike me, he quickly became an outcast after the other students dubbed him a nerd. I would bet money on it that it had been Tanya's doing. I thought that Anthony was shy, sweet, and rather cute. On the several occasions that we've talked, his intelligence had impressed me. I always found myself interested in what he had to say, compared to the rest of the student body.

He greeted a few girls with a crooked smile, but they just giggled and quickly walked away from him as they whispered with their heads together. Instead of looking rejected, he smiled and moved on to the table where he usually sat alone.

"How desperate can he be?" Mike Newton scoffed. He put his foot on the table, right next to my tray of food then rested his arms on the top of his raised leg. His shoes were covered with mud and slush, which he was getting on the table, only making me more repulsed.

"I know, right? Completely desperate." Puppet One agreed quickly with him with a nod of her overly-permed head as she batted her eyes flirtatiously.

He tossed her a grin and she giggled annoyingly. I rolled my eyes, aggravated. Mike was like a fly that I couldn't shoo away.

"Mike, can you remove your shoe, please? I'm not really into sole food," I asked politely, wrinkling my nose. He laughed, like a braying donkey, but I found the situation far from amusing.

"Sole food… that's a great one." Mike removed his foot from the table; however, he chose to sit down in the seat next to me.

I grabbed a napkin and wiped the mess that Mike left behind. I balled the napkin up and left it on the table.

"I don't get it." Jessica scowled at me for stealing Mike's attention. Her arms were crossed in front of her resting on the table.

Tanya rolled her eyes. "Sole as in a shoe sole." She tapped her fingers on her tray. "Bella's a comedian now." She smiled as she tilted her head to the side, but she didn't seem pleased.

I looked away from the table with a sigh. I glanced at Anthony, who was still sitting alone with a book. A few kids from the tables around him were whispering and looking towards him. I was appalled because he was a sweet guy and didn't deserve to be ridiculed for being different. He glanced around, no longer looking happy as he realized that he was the focus of everyone's laughter. I caught the gaze of his dark green eyes and smiled warmly at him. His lips twitched upward slightly before he ducked his head. I would love to join him, but the last time I did that, Tanya followed me with her puppets. They harassed him the entire lunch, and I felt guilty since I should've known that I would be followed by the vipers. Nothing that I said in his defense had made the situation better— only worse.

"So, Bella, how about it?" Mike waved his hand in front of my face. I fought the urge to swat it.

"How about what?" I glanced back at him in irritation. His smile faltered a bit then he tried to force a bigger smile. If he was trying to be charming, he was failing miserably.

"Me and you. The semi-formal." He gestured back and forth between us with his pointer finger. The way he had implied it indicated it wasn't the first time he had asked me.

"I don't…" I started about to turn him down as politely as I could muster, but Tanya interrupted as she answered for me.

"She'd love to," she said, batting her blue eyes, and smiled widely to him.

"Sweet." He winked at me before walking away with a swagger.

"Wait…" I tried to call after him, but he was already at another table talking to Tyler Crowley. I turned back to Tanya, who still had a wide, false grin on her face. "What did you do that for? I can answer for myself, you know. I don't want to go to the dance with Mike." I glared at Tanya.

"Are you dumb?" The statement was so ironic coming from Jessica that I almost started to laugh.

"Seriously, Bella, when the hottest and most popular guy at school asks you out, you say yes, not no. Surely, even in Phoenix they knew that." Tanya tossed her hair over her shoulder as she lectured me.

"Being popular shouldn't be a reason to date a person. It should be the person that they are. If you like Mike so much, you go with him, or, Jessica, why don't you? I don't think I'm going to go, and even if I did I'd rather go with someone else." I got up and collected my trash. I decided to head to class early, so I slipped my book into my bag before zipping it up. I made a mental note to just go to the library during lunch in the future.

"Who?" Tanya looked incredulous. She scanned the cafeteria, filled with other students. She suddenly honed in on her cousin. "Tell me that I'm wrong and it's not him. You can't do that; it would be social suicide. Do you know how that will make me look?" Tanya whined. She looked like someone told her the world was ending.

"Get over yourself, Tanya. Not everything is about you. If you actually talked with your cousin, you would know that he's a very nice, and a very intelligent guy; that doesn't make him a horrible person." Her mouth dropped opened. I doubted that anyone had spoken to her that way before. Lauren gave me a hateful look before she angled her body towards Tanya.

"She doesn't mean that. You have every right to be upset. Anthony is a nuisance to society." Lauren consoled her by rubbing her arm.

I swear the girl had a thing for Tanya. I shook my head at her slight against Anthony; it made no sense to me. How could he be a nuisance to society? He might be a bit nerdy, but he was a great guy. He was far better than someone who was obnoxious, like Mike. In fact, the more I thought about him, the more I realized how much I liked Anthony.

I walked away from the table to dispose of my trash. Just as I got to the trashcan, there was a loud clatter from a tray hitting the floor. I looked up, and Mike was standing in front of a red-faced Anthony.

"Oops, didn't see you there, Arthur." Mike smirked condescendingly at him.

"My name is Anthony." Anthony pushed his glasses up his nose to keep them from slipping off his face. He glared back at Mike, who seemed to find it amusing.

"Sorry, again." Mike shrugged. Anthony sighed then quickly bobbed his head in confirmation before he bent down to pick up the dropped tray. Mike kicked it away from him, causing more things to scatter across the floor. "Oops, I guess I'm clumsy today." Mike snickered.

What an asshole. Where was the teacher in charge of the cafeteria? I glanced around, and the teacher on duty was absorbed with something on his laptop, completely oblivious. I would intercede, but with someone like Mike, it would only make things worse for Anthony if he was defended by a girl.

Mike turned and spotted me. He glanced back at Anthony and smirked before he looked at me again. He was going to try and make things worse, just as I had guessed.

"Hey, Bella, so what time should I get you for the dance?" Mike grinned at me. Anthony stiffened, then seemed to move faster.

"I'm not going to the dance with you," I answered for myself this time. Anthony paused in the middle of grabbing a spoon. He glanced up, raising his head slightly.

"You said you would just a few minutes ago." Mike scowled at me.

"No, Tanya said that I would. I never said that. I don't date jackasses," I pointed out with a shrug not caring to be polite, not after how he treated Anthony. I heard Anthony snicker quietly. Mike glared down at him and kicked the tray a second time. Since Anthony's hand was on it, didn't go far this time. Mike glowered before turning back to me.

"Bitch," he sneered before stalking away in a huff.

I bent down to pick up an apple that had hit my feet. "Would you like some help?" I offered as I picked up a napkin and tossed both things onto the tray.

"No, I think I've got it all. Thank you, Bella." Anthony pushed his glasses up his nose before he stood up. I stood as well, then waited as he dumped his tray. Up close, I could see that there were small Christmas trees on his bow tie. My eyes drifted to his hat that had been knocked slightly askew.

"Great hat, by the way. Any takers?" I asked with a smile. He touched the top of his head as if to check that it was still there. He straightened it so that it sat better on his head.

"Thanks and no. Not unless you count Mrs. Cope. But I hadn't." He blushed slightly, looking nervous.

"Well, allow me to change that." Moving closer to him, I raised up on to my tip-toes and pressed my lips to his. I had meant for it to be a simple, quick peck, but the instant my lips touched his, it was as if a surge of desire and longing had hit me. A simple kiss wasn't enough. I craved to be closer to him. His soft, smooth lips were frozen against mine at first, but then he started to kiss me back. Damn, the boy knew how to kiss. My hands rested against his chest to balance myself, and I was surprised to find how firm his abs were underneath his baggy shirt.

I ignored the hoots and the cheers from the cafeteria and deepened the kiss as I pressed myself against him. I felt his bulge in his pants press against me, and I let out a small moan. His chest rumbled with a low growl as he grew bolder; his hands slipped to my ass, and he licked my bottom lip. Before I could open my mouth, someone cleared their throat loudly. We pulled apart, both breathing heavily and blushing. His glasses had been knocked slightly askew. I had to stop myself from reaching over to fix them. Most of the students in the cafeteria were clapping and whistling at our public display.

"I'm only going to remind you once that the school has a PDA policy. Next time, it will be detention," Mr. Hines, the school counselor, warned us with a stern look. Where was he a few minutes ago when Anthony was getting bullied?

"Yes, sir," I mumbled.

Anthony just nodded as he shifted his bag in front of him. I glanced down and noticed what he was trying to hide. I blushed and looked away feeling mortified for him since the entire cafeteria was still watching us. Tanya looked furious, to the point I was surprised steam didn't come out of her ears. Jessica's mouth was opened wide, and her eyes bulged like a fish. Lauren once again was petting Tanya's arm trying to calm her. Mike looked disgusted and frozen in his spot by his table. At least, most of the rest of the students appeared happy or amused by the scene.

"Come on." I grabbed his hand and pulled him along, careful to walk in front of him to help shield his front. I pulled him out of the cafeteria, down the senior hallway, and into the alcove by the soda machines.


We stood there as we looked at one another silently for a moment. His glasses were still crooked, so I reached up and fixed them myself, with him watching me wordlessly.

"I'm sorry about that, I didn't mean to get carried away," I apologized to him dropping my hand to my side. I looked up into his hooded green eyes that appeared to be full of questions. He glanced down at our still joined hands; our fingers were laced together snugly. I let go of his hand and missed the warmth, the instant I had let it go.

"That's okay; it wasn't just you. But why did you kiss me?" He still looked puzzled.

"Isn't that what you wanted?" Now I was confused. Who wears a 'kiss me' hat with mistletoe and not expect to get kissed? Or was it me personally?

"I guess, I didn't really expect anyone to. I was just wondering why you did." Anthony looked down at me. He looked confused and uncertain. My guess was that he had been an outcast long enough that even he had started to doubt himself. I wanted to prove to him that the other students were wrong. There was nothing wrong with him.

Feeling bold, I reached up and kissed him again. Once again, the passion ignited between us. This time, his lips moved against mine almost immediately. I found myself pressed against the side of the soda machine and his very alert body as he leaned into me. The hum of the machine vibrated against my body. His hips bucked forward, causing his body to rub against mine. He let out a small growl. I wanted nothing more than to wrap myself around him. I moaned as I reached up, and tugged his soft, thick hair, knocking the hat off of his head.

I pulled away breathless before we got into trouble again or that I pushed him too far. My chest heaved up against his as we caught our breath. I noticed his eyes drifted down to my chest. He quickly bent down to grab his hat then backed away. I touched my still tingling lips with my fingertips.

"I kissed you because I wanted to," I explained with a shy smile; it fell when he frowned back at me. He had to have felt what I did; didn't he?

"So your boyfriend and Tanya didn't put you up to this," he questioned cautiously.

"First, I don't have a boyfriend; I wouldn't have kiss you if I did. I'm not that type of girl. If you're talking about Mike, I can barely stand him so I would never date him. Second, no. Tanya had nothing to do with it." I sighed in defeat, trying to remind myself not to get offended by his response, since it seemed like the whole situation was new to him.

"I like you, Anthony, and I wanted to do it because you're sweet, nice, and an intelligent guy. It's just a shame that the rest of the school is too blind to see it." I felt myself blush as I admitted my feelings to him. He still didn't look quite convinced. Not that I blame him he's been bullied for so long that he was probably skeptical when someone was nice to him. I spotted a blue flyer with snowflakes on it behind him. It made me think about something that could, hopefully, prove it. "Will you go with me to the semi-formal?"

"You want to go to the semi-formal with me?" He said it slowly, like I had given him a complex physics problem, and he pointed to himself.

I nodded. "That's what I asked. We could have a lot of fun together." I fidgeted with the strap of my bag nervously as I waited for him to answer. I didn't know why I was trying so hard since I hated dances.

"I'll have to think about it," he blurted out. He glanced around and pushed his glasses up his nose. My smile dropped as my stomach did a flip-flop.

"Oh… oh, okay." I bit my lip trying not to feel rejected for putting myself out there. My heart thudded unevenly and I felt slightly sick.

The bell rang, and he fled, leaving me in the hallway alone, staring after him until it filled with students getting to the next class.


At the end of the day, there was a mass exodus of kids trying to leave. Everyone seemed excited that there were only a few days before the holiday break. I had stayed late to put the finishing touches on an article for the school paper. The school seemed deserted when I left.

Outside, the air was bitter cold, and I pulled my coat closed and zipped it up. I glanced up at the sky. It was dark gray and looked like we might get some snow. Before I went to my truck, I spotted Anthony across the almost empty parking lot leaning up against his Volvo.

I paused for a moment until I got the courage to go talk to him before heading home to cook dinner for my father. Anthony had his phone pressed to his ear, and his back was to me. I stopped to wait for him to be done. While I waited, I couldn't help but hear what he was saying.

"Project Mistletoe was a success. pause One. pause Actually, it was interesting, I'm trying to figure out what she is going to do next." I was confused, was he talking about me?

"I can't decide if she just pitied Anthony or if she is setting him up for something bigger to embarrass the guy at the school semi-formal."

I burned with raged since I had never been so insulted. How could he think that I would do something like that?

"Or maybe, she was being honest and truly liked the guy and wanted to show that to the rest of the school." I interrupted him by speaking up. He whirled around, and I was caught off-guard that he wasn't wearing glasses. His green eyes scrutinized me as he pulled his phone from his ear and shoved it into his pocket.

"So it was pity." He scowled at me. Either he didn't hear me, or just didn't believe me.

"Weren't you listening to me? It wasn't pity. But, does it even matter? Was this just all some game to you? Is your name even Anthony, or do you like referring to yourself in the third person?" I demanded, starting to feel like I had been tricked.

"My name is Edward Cullen," he answered. So I assumed that meant he was still related to Tanya. So she had to know that she didn't have a cousin Anthony and that he was really this Edward guy. Or maybe this was all her idea.

I crossed my arms in front of my chest. "So tell me, Edward, was all this a plot of yours and Tanya's to make a fool out of me in front of the school? All because when I first got here I didn't bend over and kiss her ass like everyone else? Why would I, when she is no different than…" I stopped, realizing I was giving him too much information to give to Tanya.

"Go on," Anthony, or I guess Edward, prompted.

I shook my head before turning away, fighting the tears of anger and frustration that came to my eyes. I tried taking a deep breath and squeezed my eyes shut.

"Are you crying?" His voice was softer and sounded more apologetic. My eyes snapped back open, and I turned back to him. He was watching me, no longer looking irritated, but concerned and ashamed.

"No, I'm pissed off. I thought you were this sweet and nice guy. I thought I could actually like you, but you're a fraud and I'm just a big fool," I said through clenched teeth as I glared at him. I wiped the tears angrily away. He was looking contrite and ran his hand through his hair. He opened and closed his mouth, seemingly frustrated as he tugged on his hair, making it look wild.

Finally, he spoke in a calmer voice to me. "It's not what you think. I'm not working with Tanya. I was definitely not trying to set you up. I thought you might be working with Tanya, to set Anthony up for embarrassment, since she hates the guy so much," Edward started to explain.

"I wouldn't ever do something like that to someone," I responded defensively. He studied me with his eyes appraisingly for a moment. Though what did it say of Tanya, that we both thought so poorly of her.

"No, you wouldn't," he admitted, his shoulders slumped in defeat. "I owe you an apology."

"You can start by telling me about this project that I heard you talking about. If it wasn't about me, I want to know what it was about." I met his eyes holding his stare.

"I can't…" He shook his head and took a backward step.

I huffed in irritation when he refused to tell me. "Fine, I'm out of here." I turned and headed for my truck.

"Wait, I'll tell you, but you can't tell anyone else." He reached out and touched my arm sending sparks up it. I shook him off as my mind started to cloud up. I wasn't going to allow him to distract me.

"Is it illegal? My father is the Chief of Police, and I will tell him," I threatened before I turned back to face him.

"It isn't illegal. Mr. Hines and Principal Greene know why I'm here. Which is why we didn't get a detention earlier. I'm a senior at U-Dub. Myself and two of my friends are working on a project about the stereotypical social patterns of high school students interacting with their peers.

One of my friends went back to school as the stereotypical high school jock. The other went to another school as a stereotypical skater boy. Obviously, I was the stereotypical nerd. We wanted to see what the results would be if all three of these stereotypes wore hats with mistletoe to school. I hypothesized that the nerd would receive little to no kisses. Any kisses he did receive would've been out of pity," he explained.

"That is so wrong. You believe just because someone who tends to be, by your definition, a nerd, means a girl couldn't like him? And if she did kiss him that it could only be out of pity?" I took a backward step and shook my head in disappointment.

"It's funny," I continued. "Anthony seemed like an intelligent guy, but Edward— not so much. The irony of your project is evident. You are so sure that everything has to be stereotyped that you can't see another way being possible. The problem with stereotypes is you form opinions on a person without actually seeing them for who they really are. I kissed Anthony 'cause I liked him and felt a connection to him. It is as simple as that. No hidden motives, except I hoped that if I kissed him in front of everyone, they too would look past the stereotype, and get to know the great guy that he is. I guess, the joke is on me, because that great guy doesn't exist."

He watched me quietly, seemingly dumbfounded.

I turned and walked away. At some point during our conversation, it had started to snow. My truck had a very light dusting on it that would be easily taken care of by the wipers, so I opened my door to get in.

"Bella," he called from behind me.

"I won't tell anyone about your project," I promised him without turning back.

"Not that. I'm sorry that I hurt you. That was never the intent of this." He seemed to be sincere, but he had been lying since I met him and I didn't know how I could trust him. He tugged at his hair before he gave me a pleading look. "Look, if you still want to go to the dance, I will take you."

"I don't want your pity." I scoffed before I closed the door hard and drove off, leaving him standing there.



I watched as the taillights of her truck left the parking lot. I fucked up, and the guilt started to eat away at me. My phone rang and I pulled it out of my pocket to answer it.

"Yeah," I answered, still watching the spot she left from, the tracks in the snow were starting to get covered up.

"I think I lost you? I was waiting for you to call me back. Is everything okay," my friend, Jasper, asked, sounding annoyed.

"I had to hang up. The girl I was talking about overheard my end of the conversation," I explained as I kicked a small rock away. I opened my car door and got in.

"So how did that go?" He sounded intrigued.

"She was pissed, to say the least. I think I really hurt her feelings." I started my car and adjusted the heat.

"So it wasn't out of pity and she wasn't trying to embarrass you?" Jasper asked.

I was silent as I replayed everything in my mind. Her hurt brown eyes burned a hole in my mind. I didn't doubt that she was being sincere when she said that she actually liked Anthony. I had fucked up, and let my past screw with my assumptions.

"Ed-ward, are you there?" he called impatiently.

"She said that she liked me," I mumbled. "I've got to go." I hung up on him. I grabbed my glasses from the seat next to me and put them on. I picked up the hat from the passenger seat and tossed it into back seat not wanting to look at it at the moment. The windshield was covered in fluffy snow, so I pulled the lever to turn on the wipers to clear it off. I watched the wipers work, for a moment, before I took a deep breath, and shifted the car to drive.

I drove carefully to my parents' new house after discovering that the roads were slick and not sanded yet. I hoped Bella had made it home okay, her truck looked old and unsafe. I wished I had thought to follow her earlier.

My parents had moved here, by coincidence, last spring, which is why I chose Forks for my school. How Tanya didn't know she didn't have a cousin Anthony showed how self-absorbed she was. She will probably be relieved that Anthony will transfer to another school by next semester. In fact, there was no real reason for me to go back.

When I pulled up to the house, it was already lit up. I had helped my father decorate it for the holidays earlier last week at my mother's request with white lights around the trim and big wreaths with blue bows, everywhere. My parents were hosting a party in a couple of nights so they wanted everything to look perfect.

I parked next to my mother's car and entered the house through the garage. Immediately my nose was hit with aromas of baked goods and pine.

My mother had worked hard over the last few days to make the house look festive. Everywhere you looked it was decorated for Christmas, but yet, it was tasteful and not overdone. Soft instrumental Christmas music was playing in the background, adding to the atmosphere.

"Edward, is that you? We are in the kitchen, come join us," my mother called from the kitchen. I entered and stood in the doorway to watch them for a moment.

My mother was rolling out cookie dough at the counter and my father was sitting on a stool across from her, watching her. He tried to sneak a cookie but she slapped his hand away without even looking up.

I snickered, alerting them to my presence.

My mother looked up with a smile, but it quickly dropped. She put down her rolling pin and wiped her hands on her gingerbread printed apron as she headed over to me.

"What's wrong? I haven't seen you look like this since you were in high school. I knew this was a bad idea." She placed her hands on either side of my face as she looked at me worriedly. "Carlisle, drop that cookie, they are for our guests," she scolded him without turning around.

My father dropped the cookie again with a sheepish smile.

"Can't you see that your son is upset? What happened, do I need to call someone's parents? Was it Tanya? I swear, Eleazar and Carmen let her get away with too much as an only child when she was younger, and now they are paying for it." She clucked her tongue against her teeth.

"Esme, the boy is in college now. I doubt he wants you to call someone's parents." My father rolled his eyes in amusement.

She turned, placing one hand on her hip, and glared at him.

"He's right, Mom, besides, I'm the one who screwed up." I brushed the flour off my face. "I let my past catch up with me. When a girl actually had the guts to kiss me in front of the whole cafeteria, I accused her of not having good motives. I ended up hurting her feelings." I winced shamefully.

My mother eyed me appraisingly, while my father grinned hugely. "She kissed you in front of the whole cafeteria? Nice!"

My mother stood in front of me with her arms crossed. "What did you accuse the girl of? I'm assuming that you were wrong, whatever it was." I may be a mama's boy, but that didn't mean I got away with anything.

"I accused her of doing it out of pity, or that she was trying to set me up to embarrass me," I admitted with a sheepish shrug and rubbed the back of my head with my hand.

My mother was even more upset with me, now. "Oh, Edward, why would you think that?"

"Well, she kind of hung around Tanya, so I thought the worst." I explained. "But she never seemed like Tanya. She was always friendly to me. She would talk to me in class or in the hallways, all the time. She actually was usually the one to approach me most of the time. She even seemed interested in what I had to say. The last person who did that…"

My mother placed her hand on my cheek again to stop me.

"This girl isn't Maggie," she informed me in a calm, but stern voice.

"I know that. I think I had an involuntary reaction due to a sense of déjà vu. Bella claims, she kissed me because she actually liked me, well she actually liked Anthony. She thinks Edward is a jerk right now." I sighed heavily, turning down my eyes. I knew my mother would be disappointed in me and I had trouble facing her.

"Bella? As in Bella Swan?" She closed her eyes briefly and was frowning.

I glanced up in time to see her hide something that was in her eyes from me.

"Yes. Why? Am I missing something?" I asked, starting to feel worse. I knew my mother was a therapist that dealt with teenagers. Did she know something about Bella? I immediately thought of when Bella stopped abruptly during her rant.

"Nothing." She waved her hand dismissively. She headed back to her dough on the counter. "You'll apologize to her, right?" She picked up her rolling pin, and started rolling it across the dough. She left it as more of a command than a question.

"I did, but she didn't seem to want to hear it." I responded. "I even offered to take her to the semi-formal." I thought that would make things better, but I had to admit my experience in the area of girls was sorely lacking.

"You offered to take her to a high school semi-formal?" Dad looked up from playing absentmindedly with one of the bottles of colored sugar, used to decorate the cookies.

"Um, actually, she invited me after she kissed me for the second time," I mumbled.

My father started to shake with silent laughter. The bottle fell out of his hand, spilling some of the red sugar. I didn't think that this was that funny.

"Carlisle," Mom scolded him and snatched the bottle away from him. She wiped up the sugar, giving him a dirty look in the process.

"Come on, Esme. It's a little funny how someone so smart can be so dense. The girl kissed him not once but twice. Was it a quick peck or more?" He glanced at me.

My cheeks heated in admission. The kiss was the best I have ever had. I thought the term 'seeing fireworks' was cliché, but damn my body came alive during that kiss like never before.

"I thought so. So the kisses weren't so innocent. The girl asks him to the dance, and even tells him straight forward that she likes him. I don't see how much bigger of a sign he needed." He folded his hands in front of him.

"Carlisle, you remember what Maggie did in Chicago. It's not surprising he was so hesitant to believe her," my mother reminded him softly.

"Yes, but Maggie never kissed him on the lips or ever asked him out." My father pointed out.

"Seems to me, I remember a boy in college who was oblivious to a girl liking him since his nose was always stuck in a book. Sure, he would take the cookies she made for him. Eat the dinners she made for him. It took for her to surprise him with an oral project under the library desk, when he was studying for him to catch on. Like father, like son, I would say." She roughly cut out the dough with a Christmas tree cookie cutter.

My father's face turned bright red and looked sheepishly down at the table.

It didn't take long for me to catch on. "Whoa… did you forget I was standing here."

My mother turned her stare to me. "Edward, you're an adult now. Surely you know that your parents had more sex than when you were conceived." She rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I want to hear about it." I shifted uncomfortably. "Besides, Bella is in high school and I'm in college. It's not like we could actually have that type of relationship."

"She's eighteen and you're twenty. Two years isn't that big of a deal," my mother pointed out, reminding me that I had graduated high school two years early.

"But still, she doesn't like me very much," I answered back.

My mother gave me a gentle smile. "She's mad at you right now. Once she has a chance to calm down, apologize to her again. She already told you that she likes you, and the best part is that she likes the part of you that you thought others wouldn't. And from what I can see, you like her. You're just afraid, but I think you should give it a chance. You two will give me beautiful grandbabies." Her smile lit her whole face now. She arranged the dough cutouts on the tray.

"Isn't it a little early to worry about that?" Surprised she seemed so sure of it.

"A mother always knows." She picked up her tray and placed it in the oven, closing it with a smug grin.



It had been a few days since the confrontation in the parking lot. Anthony…or I guess Edward, wasn't at school anymore, but since his project was done, there was probably no need for him to continue on with his farce.

Tanya was overjoyed that he was gone. The one plus for me was that she wasn't speaking to me, either. At least, some good came out of this.

As much as I was still upset that I had felt used, a part of me missed him. Which then upset me that I missed him. I doubt that he has given me a second thought after I left. It was all just a stupid project to him.

Tonight, I was going with my dad to the Cullen's for a holiday party. Charlie had to work on Christmas Eve, to make up for it, he insisted that I went with him. I was nervous, since I assumed that Edward was going to be there. I was conflicted on how I felt about him now. He probably had a beautiful girlfriend anyway who laughed when she heard how I fell for his project.

"Wow, they really go all out," Charlie mumbled.

We had followed a long driveway with trees decorated on either side making a lighted path. The house looked gorgeous decorated with white lights. The snow-covered roof was decorated with icicle lights and the windows and porch were outlined in lights. The wraparound porch also had several small wreaths along its sides. A few yards from the house, right by the pond they had set up deer, covered in white lights. You could see a Christmas tree decorated in blue and white through a large window. The house looked like it had fallen out of a Christmas movie.

Charlie's lights consisted of a strand of colored lights on the side of the roof facing the road. He didn't even like having a tree near a window. He said it would only tempt thieves.

He held on to my elbow, while I carried a pie that I had made, up the front stairs. The sign on the door invited us to come inside without knocking, so we entered and stopped near the doorway looking around us. Charlie let out a low whistle.

The inside was stunning. I've only seen things like it in magazines. There was even a fire in the fireplace with red velvet stockings hanging, each one with a name neatly embroidered on it in gold thread. On the mantle, there was an evergreen bough with red berries and white lights. From inside the house, the Christmas tree looked even more beautiful. Closer up, you could see crystal ornaments that caught the light with a delicate-looking angel on top. I made the decision to stay away from the tree since I was clumsy.

On top of an entertainment center was a Christmas village, complete with a train circling it and a backdrop of snowy mountains on a starry night.

The rest of the room was nicely decorated as well. There was even a kid's corner where kids were watching Frosty tell everyone 'Happy Birthday' as they colored holiday pictures or strung popcorn and cranberries on a long string.

"Chief, it's good to see you." A blond haired gentleman approached with his handout.

I could tell right away that he was Edward's father due to the similar facial features. He was dressed nicely with a silk Christmas tie that had Santa on it.

"Carlisle, thank you for having us. This is my daughter, Bella," my father introduced us.

"Nice to meet you, Bella." He reached for my hand and smiled.

"You too, sir. You have a lovely home," I answered, shifting the pie so I could shake his hand.

"That would be all my wife's doing. I just do as I am told." He chuckled.

"Bella, Chief, thank you for coming. Bella, you look very pretty. I love that color on you," she commented on my dark emerald green, sleeveless dress.

I liked Esme, she was a sweet woman. I had had a few sessions with her when I first moved here. I still saw her periodically.

"Thank you. I love your home," I told her.

"Thank you, dear. Is that pie for us?" She grinned looking at the pie in my hand.

I nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

"Pecan? That happens to be my son Edward's favorite." She smiled widely. "He's right over there if you want to go say hi to him."

I glanced where she had nodded her head and found Edward. The second I saw him, it was like I was being pulled towards him.

He was in a group of four others about his age. He was paying attention to a tall blonde, who looked like she could be a model. She was speaking to him with one hand on his arm. I felt a twinge of pain in my heart seeing him in an intimate position with someone else. As if he had sensed me staring, he looked over and our eyes met.

I glanced away quickly, needing to get away. "Where should I put the pie?" I asked.

"I can take it into the kitchen. Right now, I have appetizers and hot dishes out. I plan to bring out dessert later." Esme reached for the pie.

"I can bring it into the kitchen for you. I don't mind." I really wanted an excuse to leave the room for a minute so I could gather my thoughts.

Esme hesitated, eyeing me thoughtfully before she warmly smiled. "The kitchen is right through there. You will see other desserts on the table." She gestured to the door towards the back of the room.

I made my way to the kitchen weaving through people and feeling his eyes on me. I sighed with relief as the door swung shut behind me. I spotted the table and placed my pie in an empty spot among the other goodies.

Their kitchen was huge, not that I was too surprised. I was slightly jealous, though. Charlie's kitchen was so tiny in comparison.

I grabbed a cookie shaped like a candy cane from a tray and wandered around the kitchen as I tried to delay going back. I had seen a glimpse of Tanya while I was in the other room, and I wasn't looking forward to talking with her, either.

I spotted a glass door that went out to a deck that had also been decorated with white lights and a couple of heat lamps. I ventured out, leaning against the railing, as an instrumental version of "I'll be Home for Christmas" played out of the speakers, mounted on the side of the house. It was lightly snowing again; the type where the flakes drifted down in small swirls, making their backyard look pretty with its blanket of white. I shivered, realizing that despite the heat lamps I wouldn't last too long out here.

I felt someone place something on my shoulders, and glanced up to see Edward looking down at me. He had pulled off his jacket and placed it around me.

"You're gutsy, sneaking a cookie. My father's hands are covered in small welts from my mother smacking him over the past few days for trying." He looked at the cookie in my hand.

"Oh, I didn't think anyone would mind. I can put it back." I started to turn away, but he placed a hand on my arm.

"I was just teasing." He smiled playfully. "Please, stay."

"Thank you for the jacket." I pulled it closer around me.

"You're welcome, you looked cold," he murmured softly, playing with what looked like a picture frame, that was now balancing on the railing.

"Won't your girlfriend mind?" I asked then glanced back out at the yard, to watch the snowfall. I had a hard time focusing with him this close.

He was dressed better than his counterpart, Anthony. His clothes fit him. He wore a green shirt that matched my dress, as well as his eyes. He wore a tie that had Santa in a sleigh being pulled by reindeers.

"I don't have a girlfriend," he answered as he leaned against the railing, so close to me that our arms brushed.

"Oh, she looked like she was close to you. I guess I shouldn't have assumed." I blushed in embarrassment but was also relieved.

"If you're referring to Rose, she is pissed with my friend Emmett, because of our little project, and was trying to make him jealous. He didn't warn her beforehand what he was up to. She's pissed off that he would go around and kiss other girls," he explained.

I nodded in understanding. There was a beat of silence before I spoke again. "So how did your friends make out, in all curiosity?" I asked and I took a bite out of the cookie.

"Well Emmett, who was the jock, got kissed by about thirty girls—hence why Rose is all upset. Jasper got about twelve kisses. His girlfriend Alice was all put out since she thinks that she and Rose should've been included in our experiment. In her opinion, we should've seen how the opposite gender would've reacted, or even if one of them or us, should've been gay," he explained.

"She has a good point. You didn't explore all stereotypes, since that was what you were going for." I clucked my tongue against my cheek.

He sighed heavily and looked regretful. "If it's any consolation, you reminded me that not everyone falls into a stereotype. Can we talk more about this, please?" He gestured to a bench swing behind him.

"Sure." I nodded in agreement. I went to sit, but he stopped me, so that he could brush the snow from the seat. I sat down while he opened the lid to a box that was also acting as a table, and pulled out a thick brown blanket. He draped it over my legs.

"My parents like to sit out here when it's not raining. If you're too cold, we can go inside." He appeared to be nervous.

"This is fine," I answered. He sat next to me, angling his body to see me.

"Here, I wanted to show you this." He handed me a framed photo, our fingers brushed sending sparks up my arm. It looked like him as Anthony but with some acne and braces. "That was me in high school. So Anthony wasn't too far off from how I really once was," he explained the photo to me.

"I owe you an apology for how I acted and the things I accused you of. I let my past catch up with me. You see, when I was in school in Chicago I was treated much like Anthony was. Only somehow, this time around, I avoided being shoved into lockers and getting a swirlies." He wrinkled his nose before he continued. "There was this one girl named Maggie. She was basically the only one nice to me in school. She used to kiss my cheek and say that she liked me. She would tell me how she wished that she was as smart as I was, because she was bad at school. So I had offered to tutor her. Things seemed great until I asked her to prom, and she laughed in my face. I found out she was using me the whole time to get a better grade. She was dating a member of the football team." His voice became strained.

"What she did was cruel. I'm sorry that happened to you," I whispered. I handed the picture back. He placed it face down on the box next him.

"I'm sorry that I took what she did out on you. You were right to call me out for not seeing past stereotypes. You're nothing like her or the kids at this school. I wish I found someone like you when I was in school," he apologized again, seeming sincere.

"I hate cliques with a passion. I've tried to avoid Tanya, but I haven't had any luck. It seems the more I don't want anything to do with her, the more she tried to attach herself to me," I lamented while I picked at a pill on the blanket.

"She feels threatened by you, would be my speculation. With how beautiful, sweet, and kind you are, you could easily be more popular," he reasoned. His hand inched towards mine then pulled it back suddenly. He tilted his head back and closed eyes briefly, shaking his head.

"That's the thing, I've never wanted popularity. I came here hoping I was escaping cliques and the drama, but it seems to be everywhere." I sighed and looked back out at the yard.

"Did something happen back at your old school?" he asked abruptly

I looked up sharply, and he ducked his head sheepishly.

"Sorry, you made it sound like something had happened, the other day. You don't have to tell me." He ran his hand through his hair, looking embarrassed. I suppose if he could open up to me that I could do the same.

"The high school I went to in Phoenix was large. I was probably considered a loner, if you want to categorize me. I spent my time with my nose in a book and not involved with others around me. I wasn't the only one, either, so why they singled out this one girl to bully her relentlessly, instead of me, I don't know. She was a sweet girl but just painfully shy. They even went as far as to elect her to the Homecoming court as a joke. It became so bad that she ended her life. I was the one who found her in the locker room." I looked at my hands. "I always felt guilty that I didn't speak up. I was too afraid too, since I didn't want them to focus on me.

When I saw them turning on you, I thought of her. I wanted it to be different this time around, so I tried to become your friend. Then I started to really like who you are, and I wanted them to like you too. Maybe, it can be seen as pity, but that wasn't my intent." I twisted the blanket in my hand. He reached out and brushed my hand with his finger before resting his on top of mine. My hand relaxed under his gentle touch.

"You're right, it's not pity. I think it was more like compassion." He raised his other hand and brushed my cheek softly. My cheek tingled with warmth under his touch.

"So, maybe, we could be friends now?" I asked. His smile waned as he dropped his hand from my face and he shifted in his seat and was now sitting forward. His other hand still rested on top of mine.

"Friends…" He tried out the word like it was foreign to him.

"Or not," I mumbled, blushing, and tried to pull my hand away, but he held on to it tight.

"What if I wanted to be more than friends with you? What would your father say to you dating a twenty-year-old college student?" he asked shyly.

"Well, I'm not sure, but since I'm already eighteen, he wouldn't have much say. I do know that he likes and respects your parents, so you would have that in your favor. And two years really isn't that bad." I looked up to see him looking at me fondly. "You want to be more than friends?" I repeated to see if I heard him right.

He ducked his head a bit and I saw the shy and unsure side of him. "Yes, I really like you, Bella. You've seen the side of me that I normally keep hidden and you still liked me for it. My new friends may have helped me come out of my shell, but I'm still that nerd." The tips of his ears turned pink. My heart melted because he seemed so cute.

"I really like you too. Both sides of you." I smiled up at him.

He smiled then leaned down initiating a kiss for the first time. His lips touched mine lightly and sweetly. I returned the kiss but allowed him to have control over it. I felt him pull me onto his lap and the blanket fell at our feet as the swing started to sway slightly. A gust of wind blew by, and I shivered as I felt it toss up my skirt and the cold air hit my thighs.

He pulled back and bent over to grab the blanket. He tucked it around us and held me close, resting his forehead against mine.

"So that was our first kiss without the aid of mistletoe." I grinned.

He looked up at a small decorative ball that hung on the arch of the swing, and then back at me with an apologetic smile.

"Actually, that is a Kissing Ball. It has mistletoe on it." He looked so guilty that I started to laugh. "It's actually sort of a family tradition. It was originally started with my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother made one for a holiday party, decorating it with mistletoe. My great-grandfather gave her first kiss under it. A year later, he proposed to her by placing the ring on the kissing ball for her to find on Christmas Eve. My grandfather and my father proposed the same way. Each year the mistletoe needs to be replaced, but we always have one. If it's any consolation, I didn't know my mother had placed it there, until you said something." The history behind his family's kissing ball was very sweet.

I untangled myself from the blanket and stood up. I moved to the center of the deck, and spun in a small circle with snow swirling around me.

"No mistletoe here." I stopped and faced him. He chuckled as he stood up, and pulled me to him then kissed me. This time, I felt the kiss down to my toes. He pulled me tight to him like he did in the cafeteria, only this time, there was no one to stop us. He licked my lower lip and I parted my lips to allow him to slip his tongue into my mouth. Our tongues entwined and danced together. When he pulled back, we were both breathless and grinning like mad. I wasn't even a bit cold anymore.

I recognized the song "It Must Have Been the Mistletoe" on the speakers as he still held me to him, slightly swaying.

"Dance with me?" he asked softly.

I nodded. He slipped one hand to my waist and held the other lacing our finger together. We danced and spun in the falling snow on his parents' deck. He sang along softly with a velvety a voice that was making me swoon. Every so often, we exchanged small kisses gently on the lips and silly grins. I was falling for him. I only hoped that he felt it too.

"I haven't told you yet, but you look very beautiful tonight. I wish could've taken you to the dance, like you wanted," he murmured softly, his eyes shined as he stared into mine, making my heart skip a beat.

"Thank you, but the truth is I'm not much for dances. How I haven't stepped on your foot yet is beyond me," I admitted, shyly.

"It's all in the leading." He kissed my forehead before twirling me around him.

"You look very handsome yourself. Why aren't you wearing your glasses? Or was that part of just Anthony?" I asked, curious. I liked in him in glasses, not that he was any less handsome without them.

"I need them for reading or driving. I don't need to wear them all the time. That was part of Anthony," he answered.

"Too bad I liked them." I pouted slightly and reached up to play with hair behind his ear.

He swallowed hard and the tips of his ears turned pink. "What are you and your father doing for Christmas?" He stammered slightly.

I shrugged. "Charlie has to work, so I'll probably watch Christmas movies all day."

"That's not right. Come here. My mother would love to have you," he insisted then blushed slightly. "I would love to have you here. You shouldn't be alone on Christmas."

"I don't want to intrude." I was hesitant to agree.

"You won't. I promise the minute my mother knows of your plans, she's going to insist too. Besides, Alice and Jasper will be here as well." He kissed my nose. "Please," he asked sweetly.

I nodded, feeling a bit dazed being so close to him.

"What are you doing for New Year's Eve? Do you have plans yet?" he asked as we swayed.

"No plans yet. When do you leave to go back to school?" I asked, nervously. I was hoping we would have some time together before he had to go back.

"The next quarter starts on January 6th. The previous semester ended on December 6th which was why we were able to do this project now," he explained as he spun us lightly. "Can I… Will you…" He stumbled over his words.

"Can you…Will I…what?" I giggled slightly at his adorableness.

"May I, take you out on a date on New Year's Eve?" He managed to ask.

"Yes, you may. I love to go on a date with you. Only if you promise me one thing." I smiled and kissed his smooth chin. He tensed and I felt bad for teasing him. "You have to promise to kiss me at midnight." I played with the collar of his shirt.

His body relaxed again and he smiled. "Do I have to wait for midnight?" he asked as he leaned down for another kiss.

We stopped swaying, and I wrapped my arms around his neck while his arms circled my waist pulling me tight to him.


I heard the porch door open loudly. "There you are."

We pulled back slightly. At first Edward kept his hands around my waist, but dropped them when he saw who approached. I reached over to grab his hand.

Tanya sauntered forward in a black dress that looked like it had been painted on. She glanced from me and back at Edward with narrowed eyes. She eyed him up and down, and licked her lips.

"So this is where you have been hiding, and I can see why. Hi, I'm Tanya. I'm Bella's best friend." She held her hand out to Edward.

He glanced down at it strangely, looking almost offended. I, on the other hand, snorted with laughter.

"What's so funny?" She scowled at me.

"Well first, I don't even consider you a friend, let alone my best friend. Second, you would think you would recognize your own cousin."

She looked sharply back at Edward.

"Excuse me, love." He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket that I was still wearing. His hand brushed my breast, and my heart fluttered. He pulled out his glasses then slipped them on. Tanya sucked in her breath sharply and her jaw dropped.

"Better?" he asked her. She stood there fuming, when she fully realized who he was.

"Are you kidding me? If you could actually look like that, then why do you show up to school looking like a social reject? Are you two plotting against me?" Her accusing eyes darted to me. She was building up to unleash on him, from the look on her face. She just needed a reason to make herself the victim.

"No, of course not. I graduated high school four years ago. I was there to conduct an experiment on the social structure of the school. It had nothing to do with you at all. I didn't meet Bella prior to it. But I'm happy that I have now," he explained, giving me a shy grin in the end.

"Well, you can make it up to me by introducing me to one of your college friends." She huffed tapping her foot impatiently.

"Why should he? You went out of your way to be horrible to him and make him an outcast. He did nothing to you that he should be ashamed of. If anything, you owe him." I scoffed.

She tossed me a scathing look before looking back at Edward. "Well," she demanded.

"Well, what?" Edward's voice had a nervous edge to it. "She's right. I wouldn't even introduce you to my worst enemy, let alone a friend."

"I could make Bella's life miserable. She's still in school. How about introducing me to that big guy, that was in there?" She crossed her arms with a sinister smile she tried to threaten me.

"That big guy belongs to me," a new voice cut in. Rose appeared out of nowhere, and stood toe to toe with Tanya. Tanya flinched back from her as if she had been shocked. "Now see here, little miss thing, I've heard a lot about you and I heard you for myself, just now. I don't like you. You're a mean, spiteful bitch. I don't like bitches who think they are better than everyone else. So stay the hell away from my man, and stay away from my friends. You're lucky it's Christmas time and I've decided to be nice. I won't be the next time. You may think you're the queen bee, but you're just a sorry excuse for an insecure girl. Peddle your crap somewhere else," Rose hissed at her.

Tanya stomped her foot and flounced away. She slammed the door entering the house.

I didn't know whether to be impressed by Rose or intimidated. I definitely knew that I didn't want to be on her bad side. She turned to us and her posture relaxed.

"I know she's your cousin, but that girl better watch herself." She looked at Edward before she focused on me. "Hi, I'm Rose. I'm assuming by the way Edward here is looking at you that you're Bella." She smiled warmly, a polar opposite of a moment ago.

"Yes, nice to meet you, Rose." I held out my hand.

She ignored it and stepped forward and gave me a small hug. "I'm not normally such a bitch. Only when the people I care about are being threatened, but I can be brutally honest at times. I think we will be good friends from what I have heard about you so far." She looked at Edward's and my linked hands with a smile. "I know you're the first girl that caught this bookworm's attention, so you must be something special."

"Rose." Edward's ears turned pink, again.

"Oh, Edward, I'm just teasing you. I'm happy that she's seems perfect for you. Besides, it's better that I found you than Bella's dad. He had to leave because of a work emergency; I had volunteered to find her. I'm sure you won't mind giving her a ride home." She winked at him.

"Of course not." He shook his head.

"Good, in the meantime stop hogging her. The others will like to get to know her too. It will be easier for her to visit in Seattle, if her father thinks she has girl friends to stay the night at." She linked her arm with mine. She started to walk to the house. I pulled him along with us.

"One second, Rose, we will be right there." I stopped right before going into the house.

"Okay, but if you're not in there in three minutes, I will send Emmett out for you." She grinned slyly before stepping into the house.

"Are you alright? I know Rose can be a bit…"

I cut him off with a kiss. "I just wanted one more. I like kissing you; I may be addicted," I whispered against his lips. I pecked them one more time and I looked up at him through my eyelashes.

"That won't be our last kiss tonight," he vowed as he touched my cheek. "Merry Christmas, Bella."

"Merry Christmas, Edward," I responded with a smile.



Merry Christmas!

Thank you all who voted for my story.

This story will be extended from where this left off. I don't plan on a full-fledged story, but there will be handful of chapters looking in on the couple. The second chapter will pick-up when they go in, but the third will jump to Valentine 's Day. After that I'm not too sure but at least two past that.

If you noticed, I took off the epilogue and will post it again at the end.

Thank You For All Reviews!