Chapter 10

December 31, New Year's Eve

The grand chandeliers in the ballroom loom overhead, their dangling crystals alive and reflecting tiny drops of multi-colored light over the walls and floor. The sixteen piece band is loud and on point, playing hits and oldies alike, something to make everyone in the room get up and dance whether you like to or not.

The kids are out there too, shoeless, hanging onto their parents while dancing and sliding across the shiny, waxed floor in their party clothes. Jasper and Alice hold Oscar between them, doing a weird sort of ring around the rosy, while Emmett and Rose hold each other close and try to ignore the pulling on their clothes from their over-sugared spawn.

There's a celebratory mood across the whole party, guests and employees alike feeling festive with anticipation as the night charges towards the reason we're all here. In two short hours, the countdown to another year begins, giving us the chance at something new or another opportunity to succeed at something we failed at last year.

The room is full of it, that energy, that excitement. That push to the finish line where we'll toot horns and yell, kissing loved ones as the band plays Auld Lang Syne, while we sway and sing along in our tipsy state. We'll tell the people we're with we love them and the people we just met that we'll be friends forever.

Everyone's feeling it.

Everyone but me.

I know I'm wasting my last night to be with my family by sitting at the table by myself, nursing a drink and watching Bella as she zips through the tables, always rushing with a tray full of champagne or empties looking for a refill at the bar.

I watch her talk to everyone, smiling and chatting, laughing and handing out liquor in her black outfit with the gold bowtie. She moves around the tables efficiently, but gives everyone a moment of her time - the old couple celebrating a New Year's anniversary, the group of women all recently divorced and on a girls' weekend, the kids running around probably getting in her way, and the few that have had too much already and are hard to talk to. She's friendly and enjoying all of them.

All of them but me.

Two mornings ago when I kissed her goodbye at her door, told her I'd talk to her later while she hummed and held me close, well, that was the last time I've had the pleasure of Bella's attention.

We didn't make concrete plans to see each other before the party, knowing she was going to be working both days including pulling a double last night, but how could she not think I'd want to spend a few stolen moments with her? How could she not want to spare five minutes to come say hello, or stop by to complain about someone pinching her ass or even just look my way with that sweet smile and wink from her beautiful face?

But more importantly, how could she not answer my texts at all? Three, at last count. Plus one phone call.

My time here is running out, there's only hours left, and my stomach twists at the thought as I push away the plate of appetizers my mother set down in front of me. My family's been side-eyeing me all night, filled in I'm sure by Emmett who I confided in while on the slopes today. He seemed as confused by Bella's silence as I am, but did what brother's should do, he tried to reassure me that it's just work-related.

Thinking about it, I try to reason with myself. Maybe that's all it is. I was with my family yesterday, skiing with Emmett today, she knew that was my plan, and didn't want to interrupt any time I had left with my brother or family. She would be perceptive and caring that way, I'm sure of it. She must know that something has to be said, has to know that some sort of vague plan has to be made, but just hasn't had the time.

Feeling slightly better and determined, I walk around the perimeter of the room, taking a few pictures of my family on the dance floor and hoping to get near Bella. I catch glimpses of her through the crowd, but every time I get closer she glides away and is suddenly elsewhere. It's like chasing down the appetizer lady carrying the one tray of pigs in a blanket at a wedding.

Spotting her at the bar getting a new tray ready, I walk directly across the dance floor between the moving couples and get right next to her as she's about to lift her now full tray. "Hello, beautiful."

She turns towards me, a blank expression on her face. "Happy New Years, Edward. Champagne?"

"Yeah, sure." I take one from her, suddenly feeling very awkward. "Having fun?" I ask, stupidly.

"It's always a fun party. Are you?" She asks in return, smiling at a lady that fetches a glass from her tray.

"Sure. It's very festive." She's looking around the crowd, and I know I'm keeping her. "Listen, I've been wanting to talk to you since Thursday. Do you think you could find five minutes-"

"I can't, you know, people waiting. But have a good time tonight." To my complete and utter shock, she turns her back to me and starts serving partiers around her.

This is not the girl I know, the one I've come to have real feelings for, the one who was warm as cookies out of the oven to me forty-eight hours ago. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, I want to believe that she's just really swamped with work and demanding guests, but rude is rude. "Excuse me, but did I do something to upset you?"

She hands off her last glass and her tray gets pressed against her chest so she's cradling it. "No, everything's fine."

"It doesn't seem that way. I'm sorry we haven't had a moment alone. I know I've been spending time with my family, and you were working-"

She cuts me off, distractedly looking around the room. "What do you want, Edward?"

I stare at her, eyes wide, starting to get pissed. "What do I want? I've been texting you for two days, expecting you'd want to answer. And I've been trying to get your attention all night. I thought-"

"We had fun, but you're leaving, and I knew I'd be busy working, so what's the point?" She interrupts, picking up a few champagne-filled glasses and placing them on her platter while I'm flapping my lips like a fish out of water.

"What's the point?" I ask, hardly believing the way this conversation is careening out of control.

"What time's your flight tomorrow?" she asks, turning directly towards me with a hand on her hip.

"Eight-thirty, but-"

"Then it's been really great knowing you, and have a safe trip home." With that and a smile, she turns on her heel and walks away from me.

"Bella!" I yell towards her back, but she doesn't turn, just leaves me standing there like I just got slapped across the face as she goes through the double doors that lead to the hallway.

I'm left staring at her, at where she just was and I look around me to see if I've fallen in some alternate universe. I've had a couple of one-night stands in my time, regardless of what Emmett thinks. I did go to college and all that, so I know what a one-night stand looks like.

It doesn't look like two people giggling and making bad jokes while touching each other under the warmth of blankets. It doesn't look like Bella with big, watery eyes looking at me while I listen to stories about her parents as we sit next to her small Christmas tree. And a one-night stand sure as shit doesn't look like the girl that couldn't separate herself from me for even a moment so she clung to my back, kissing my neck the whole time I made her hot chocolate.

And if it is, if I'm utterly mistaken and that's all it was, then I'm truly the stupidest person on Earth.

I contemplate going to find her, to try and make sense of what just happened, but I've been a pussified fool before in matters of the heart, and I refuse to be one again by chasing after a girl that clearly doesn't want me.

Storming back to the table, I grab another champagne off a passing tray and sit back in my chair. Downing it in one gulp, I beat myself up, asking how I could've seen it so wrong, how did I let my stupid heart fall again just to be hurt by someone who turns out to be the exact opposite of what I thought they were?

How could I have been so fucking blindsided? Twice?

Agitated, I call a waitress over and take another glass of bubbly, ordering a scotch from her before I even drink the champagne I have.

My father ambles over, and I close my eyes, not in the fucking mood for company, especially whatever nonsense he's got in his head this fine evening. "What are you doing over here all alone? I figured you and Bella would be all over each other."

I raise my glass to him, my sour mood making me snarl. "I just spoke to her. Apparently, I was just someone to have fun with. I've been officially used."

He frowns. "That doesn't seem right."

"Trust me, I know a blow off when I see one."

"Maybe you misheard her, it is loud in here, go figure it out."

"She made herself clear. There's no way in hell I'm going to chase after her across the fucking ballroom. Unlike six months ago, I'm not going to be a chump for a second time." Bitter, I down my champagne.

"You might want to slow down, Son," he says, eyeing my drink as he sits and leans back in the chair.

"You might want to consider a new wardrobe stylist." I nod towards his sweater. "You've outdone yourself."

Looking down and pulling at the fabric, he smiles, either not getting or disregarding my sarcasm. "You know why I've been wearing these all week?"

"To embarrass Mom and the rest of us?"

"Did I ever tell you about a New Year's Eve party I went to when I was nineteen?"

"No, but I'll bet it's a rambling story full of nothing that has anything to do with whatever's going on at this table right now." Even as it leaves my mouth, I know I'm being a dick.

He looks at me, eyes narrowed as his lips purse. "I was an ugly kid. Truly heinous. Nerdier than any nerd you've ever seen." He grins and looks around the room before continuing. "I was pledging Alpha Epsilon Pi with absolutely no hopes of ever getting in, but my roommate was so I figured I should too unless I wanted to be the one guy on my floor that gut stuck in the dorms, doomed to a life of no parties and no dates. Things were different then, nerds weren't as 'in' as they are now. You're lucky."

"Gee, thanks."

"I mean that in a good way. Anyway," he says, waving his hand. "So I go to a rush party, an ugly sweater party, and proceed to get absolutely shit-faced drunk."

"So, the moral of this story is that nothing has changed?"

He ignores me. "I'm in the bathroom, on my knees, heaving up about a gallon of Wild Turkey and Hawaiian Punch, when the door opens and there's this girl there, looking at me like she's about to vomit just looking at me."

Realization begins to dawn, the story somewhat familiar but not so exact in detail. "Mom?"

"Yup, your mother. Well, I took one look at her and was smitten. I'd never seen anyone more beautiful. No girl had ever appealed to me instantly the way she did. But of course, I'm on the floor puking up my insides so it wasn't really a great opportunity to declare my love."

"I would think not."

"Your mother, there was something about her. Even as loaded as I was, I knew, and decided that as soon as I sobered up, I was going to pursue her, but right then, I was trying my best to just get her to leave the bathroom so I could be sick in peace. Well, imagine my horror when moments later, my dream girl begins to try and help me up. I'm protesting, but there she is, putting her arm under mine and trying to lift me off the floor. I stumbled, bumped into her, got puke on her-"


"But you know what? She didn't seem to care about that. She helped me out of that bathroom, walked me down the stairs, across the road to her sorority, where she led me to the washers in the basement and stripped my soiled clothes off of me, leaving me in my underwear and t-shirt."

"And it was love at first tighty-whitey?"

"Oh, hell no. As soon as she realized the sweater I'd gotten violently sick on was a gift she'd given her boyfriend to wear for the holidays, she was horrified."

My eyes go wide. "You had on her boyfriend's sweater?"

"Yeah, turns out my roommate was her boyfriend's brother. He 'borrowed' the sweater for me so I could go to the party."

"How…?" I ask, leaving it there and shaking my head in confusion.

"Well, I knew I had to make it up to her, you know, 'cause she was the love of my life. So when I went home for spring break that year, I learned how to knit from my mother and made a replacement."

"Hold on. You learned how to knit from Grandma?"

"Sure, who do you think taught Alice? Anyway, so I get back to school and present the sweater to your mother, who proceeds to throw it in my face. Me being a stupid little shit, didn't give up, and knitted a new sweater, which she promptly returned. I knitted about ten sweaters that semester, until she finally agreed to go out with me."

"She probably agreed just to get rid of you."

"You'd think so, but you know what she said to me on that first date?"

"I can't even guess."

"She said she finally said yes because the last sweater I made, made her laugh. You see, I'd been knitting my guts out, perfecting my stitch with increasingly difficult patterns and designs, and was about to give up. I decided the last one I made should be as memorable as possible because I figured it was probably my last shot."

"What was it?"

"Let's just say it had nipples and leave it at that."

Laughing, I shake my head incredulous. I'd never heard this version before. I nod towards his sweater. "So why now? Why go down memory lane this particular Christmas?"

"To an extent, Alice."


"She's got a new kid, a soon-to-be new husband. If I could help her on her way with her new business, why shouldn't I do all I can and order some things for her to knit? But it's really for all of you. Your mother and I haven't had the entire family together for Christmas in a very long time. We have new grandkids, we have you back with us for the first time in years, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the joy of our lives than to go back to where it all came from."

I sit staring at him, speechless. Every thought I had of him this week being insensitive and out of touch with reality has been completely off the mark. He leans forward and takes a sip of the drink the waitress delivers for me. "I saw Bella crying out in the hall about fifteen minutes ago."

My eyes widen. "Bella's crying? You told me this whole story and wasted my time instead of telling me that right away?"

"I was sharing my wisdom."

My brow furrows in confusion. "That story has nothing to do with me and Bella."

"Sure it does." He takes another sip and stares at me, like it's supposed to be obvious. "You're going to let a little figurative puke on a sweater ruin any chance you have at happiness?"

"She's basically told me it was nice knowing me."

"I think a crying girl speaks volumes." My father puts his hand on my shoulder. "Like your old man, you're no quitter, and I think you need to make the girl of your dreams realize you're the man of hers. Just like I did with your mother."

Finally understanding the grand finale to his tale, I stare at him, this man I assumed was oblivious to everything around him. "When did you become such a perceptive bastard?"

He puts a finger to his lips. "Shhh! Don't ruin the facade I've created. Let's just chalk it up to the fact that I'm pleasantly drunk."

"Secrets safe with me."

"Go get your girl, Son."

Standing to go find Bella, I pause before leaving and smile, nodding towards him with a new appreciation for his sweater of Baby New Year getting spanked by a dominatrix. "Thanks, Dad."

A quick scan of the ballroom results in no Bella sighting, so I hightail it out to the hallway to see if she's still there.

Crying. My dad said she was crying. I don't care what she said to me, how she acted or whatever shade she threw my way, I knew she wasn't being herself when she said it'd been nice to know me.

Edward Cullen should've known he's no dummy.

Pushing through the double doors, I see the plush reception area outside the ballroom dotted with various guests and employees, people looking to take a break from the music or make phone calls away from the noise. What I don't see is Bella. Scanning the outer hallways and coming up empty, I go back into the ballroom.

The band is playing a loud dance song that makes the lights pulse, making it hard to see especially with all the waving arms and gyrating bodies of people that aren't even near the dance floor. I circle around by the bar we were at earlier, and then cross over to the other bar, but neither have Bella standing nearby. Nearing the bandstand, I consider grabbing the singer's mic to call out to her but then see her back at the other bar, leaning on it and resting her cheek in her hand.

Determined not to lose sight of her again, I walk directly across the dance floor, dodging couples as the band slows, and the singer starts to croon that depressing Dan Fogelberg song about lost loves drinking beer in grocery store parking lots. Getting nearer, the dim lighting conceals my presence until I'm right next to her.


She straightens immediately and puts both hands on the bar. "Edward, did you want something? Another glass of champagne? Something else?"

"Yes, I want something else. I want you, Bella. I've wanted you since I saw you wearing pointy ears and a stupid pair of shoes."

She stiffens. "You had me."

Her eyes are slightly puffy, obvious even in the bad lighting, and I can easily see through her act now. How could I have doubted us so thoroughly before? "You think one night was enough? You think that's the entirety of this whole thing?"

"I'm working really late tonight, so thanks but no thanks…" She moves, ready to go back to serving, but I stop her with a hand on her arm.

"Not just for tonight, Bella. I want you for a really long time, if you're willing."

She looks at me, a slight frown on her face. "You're leaving."

"I am." She stiffens again, so I continue quickly. "But I'm coming back."

"I'm not that girl, Edward. I'm not the girl that can be a hookup whenever you get to town." She breaks my grasp and walks away, not stopping at a couple that clearly would like champagne, leaving their hands up grasping at air. She charges across the floor and serves a woman sitting this song out.

I'm not letting her get away again, and march right up to her, interrupting whatever she's saying to the lady. "Bella, just hear me out. It doesn't have to be one night, that's what I'm trying to tell you!"

"Yes, Edward. It does." Her voice is dripping with acid as she talks over me.

"What? Why?"

She waves her hand. "Please, you think you're the first guest to use the 'I'm moving here' line on one of us?" She storms away, leaving her tray on the table as I follow, chasing after her again.

"Line? No, Bella, I am. It's true. You don't believe me? I've been thinking about moving here this entire week!"

She begins picking up empty glasses at another table, but with no tray, puts them down before turning to me. "Edward, you're a really great guy. A good guy. And I don't blame you at all, but really, you don't have to say these things. It's okay, I should've known." She walks to the dance floor to cut across it, dodging dancing couples.

"Will you just stop walking away from me, dammit?" The tone in my voice makes her falter, but she stops. "What should you have known?"

"I thought I could do it, I thought I could sleep with you and be happy I had that for just one night, but I wasn't. I'm not. So just leave me alone."

My heart twinges. "Why did you sleep with me if you thought I was just like any other jerkoff? I can't believe that night didn't mean anything to you!"

Sighing, she turns and I can see tears in her eyes, sparkling in the light like the glistening chandeliers above us. "It meant more to me than you could possibly understand."

"So explain to me exactly why you're shutting me out?"

She swallows and looks up at the lights, the band, the dancing around her. "My parents met here, Edward. At this resort. My mother worked here and my father was a guest." She shakes her head. "They fell in love and when he left to go home, he took her with him. It's something that I've had in my head for so long, it was such a… dreamy romantic story to me. So when they died, the only place I could think of was to come here."

"You came here looking for a guy?" I ask, confused.

"I came here because I had no one at home and thought that maybe, just maybe I would find someone here to not be so alone with. But I quickly found out from the girls here that you have to watch out for those guys that say they're staying for you, or that they're going to come back. I should've known my parents story wouldn't be mine, but I guess holding onto this place was holding onto the ideal of what they were. So I stayed anyway." She wipes at her eye with a cocktail napkin.

I rub my temples, willing my stupid brain to act already and not make this worse. "Bella, this week… this week has been everything. Why don't you believe me?"

"I gave you so many opportunities to tell me you were thinking of staying. At dinner, I laid it out for you perfectly when I said it wasn't a quick trip here. You basically said that no, it wasn't. And then you said nothing else." She turns on her heel and takes a few steps away, suddenly doubling back with ferocity in her eyes. "Oh, wait, you did say something. You said you would like to 'see' me again when you visited," she says with a sneer. "Why should I believe you?"

I close my eyes and place my hand over my face, thinking back to the conversation and realizing I did say exactly that. "I wasn't ready to tell you something that I wasn't sure about myself yet. If I'd said that to you and then nothing came of it, I would be that shitty guy you'd been warned about." I point up, motioning to the song. "I don't want to be these two, running into each other years later and reminiscing about what could've been."

"What could this possibly be?" she wails, waving a hand between us.

"I thought maybe you had the feeling there's something between us like I did. More than just a fucking fling! Bella, I've got-"

Right then, the resort manager taps the microphone and asks for everyone's attention. The band behind him starts a drumroll, and I see everyone surrounding us on the dance floor scattering to find their loved ones. "Ladies and gentlemen! The time has come!"

"Goddamn it!" I yell over the announcement, irked at the interruption. "Bella, I've got an interview on the horizon at the lab I visited, I've been waiting to tell you for three days!"

She looks at me, a stunned expression on her face until it falls and she looks away. "That's nice, but I have to go, Edward. I'm working, I have to serve champagne and-"

"Bella," I say and grab her so she can't walk away again.

Because she doesn't get to end it this way.

I press my lips right up to her ear, so she can hear me over the yelling. Her Christmas scent overwhelms me, intoxicates me, and I've never been more sure that I've already given her my heart. "You know there's something really good between us. I know you can feel it. You know there's more to this."

"Let's all raise our glasses and begin the countdown to a brand new year!"

Her head bows, and I feel her body shake. My hand moves up her arm, until I'm cupping her neck. I let my lips brush against her hair, smelling the sweetness there. Swallowing, I know it's time to go for it. "I think I'm in love with you, Bella." Her body stiffens, but she turns to me, her lips pressed together and silent, giving me nothing.


We're getting jostled by the crowd around us, everyone helping to countdown at the top of their lungs, but I only have eyes for this girl in front of me, this girl that's turned my world upside-down. "I know it's quick, and I know we just met, but when you know, you know. And I know, Bella."


I see more than hear a sob escape her mouth, and her hand moves to cover it. I move from her neck and my fingers gently touch her wet cheek, brushing away the hair that's captured there. "You've wanted a fairy tale since your parents left you, and I know you're afraid that you'll never get it. You're putting up a wall, trying to save a heart that's been broken since they left you."


My other hand rises to rest against her cheek, and her head tilts slightly, her eyes closing shut. "But I'm not afraid, Bella. I'm not afraid to move here and take a chance." The crowd is increasing in volume, liquor is being spilled down my shirt from the excitement around us, but I barely notice.


"I'm a practical guy, Bella. A true scientist at heart." I laugh suddenly, and she opens her watery eyes, searching mine. "I don't have a job secured or a place to live. It's scary as fuck that I have no plan at all, but I don't care. This is one of the smartest decisions I've ever made." My thumbs brush away the tears that are falling to her chin. "I want to be here, I want to move here. I want all of it with you."


The manager at the mic increases his excitement as we get nearer to midnight, the crowd surrounding Bella and I shouting in our ears. Taking a deep breath, my adrenaline is soaring as the lights overhead start to twinkle and somewhere, an overenthusiastic party guest toots his horn too soon. "I take it back, Bella. I don't think I love you." Her eyes fly between mine, searching, as someone rocks into her from behind and she gets bumped right up against me.


"I know I love you."

It feels like forever as she stands there staring at me, and my heart is thumping as fast as the drums are pounding their countdown. The drunk behind us yells as loudly as possible into my left eardrum, and I'm about to beg her to say something when she throws herself at me, flinging her arms around my neck. The crowd gets rowdier and squeezes impossibly closer together on the dance floor, but somehow, she manages to jump up, wrapping her legs around my waist and plants her beautiful mouth on mine.


Pulling back to look at me, the sweet smile I've come to see in my dreams slides across her face, the white lights from the chandelier moving across her eyes and making them shine.

"I know I love you, too, Edward Cullen from Miami."

One Year Later


"This is it buddy, you nervous?" Emmett whispers directly in my ear even though it's so loud in here no one would hear him if he were to yell. I look around the ballroom, same in its decorations and music, but completely and wholly changed in my eyes. Smiling, I just shake my head at him and yell with the crowd.


Everyone raises their glasses, getting ready and watching the manager of the resort wielding the mic. "Still time to back out," he says, and I quickly elbow him in the gut, causing him to spill a bit of his champagne which he hits me on the arm for. "Don't say I didn't warn ya!"


Ignoring my brother, I turn to look at the girl standing next to me in a silver bow tie this year, taking a break from working the festivities so she can celebrate midnight with me. She's screaming along with the crowd, arms high up in the air ready for the big finale, ringing in a brand new year. It's a finale I've been waiting for myself, but for completely different reasons.

Because I got my new beginning last year.

"Happy New Year!"

The horns start their wailing and everyone cheers as silver and gold balloons fall from the ceiling amidst shiny, fluttering scraps of tissue confetti. Bella and I turn to each other at the same time, and I raise both hands to her face and kiss her solidly on the mouth while the balloons bump us in the head and confetti falls onto our cheeks.

Reluctantly pulling my mouth from hers, she smiles sweetly as I move to hold both her hands, swinging them between us. I'm semi-aware my family is there with us, hugging and kissing and cheering along with everyone else.

But I don't turn to them to wish them a Happy New Year, instead, I drop to one knee.

"Bella Swan," I yell over the band playing Auld Lang Syne, off-key singing from the revelers and some crying from the drunks, I mean my family, as I pull the box I've had a grip on all night from my pants pocket. "Your folks met here, where we did, and from what you've told me and from what I've seen in pictures, they loved each other as much as two people could."

Bella's free hand flies to her mouth, her hand quivering in mine as I flip the lid open with my thumb. "I want you to have the fairy tale. I want this to be the happy ending for both of us that your parents, and mine, had - finding that one person that makes you feel complete. Marry me, make the next sixty years of our lives as happy as this last one has been."

Her hands are shaking and her knees are wobbling, her whole body jumping up and down as she holds her hand out. "Yes! Yes!" It's hard to put the ring on with all her movement, but I manage and once I stand, she leaps into my arms much as she did exactly one year ago in this same spot.

There's loud, obnoxious cheering right near us, and we break apart to see my mom and dad with their arms out, waiting to hug their soon-to-be daughter-in-law. "Oh, Bella. Edward's a lucky man. Welcome to the family!" My mother embraces Bella warmly, until my father pulls her away.

"I'm so happy you have a thing for nerds." He hugs her while she laughs, and gives me a thumbs up behind her back.

"Your sweater seems so much more fitting, now," Bella says rubbing her hand across the green sweater with one solitary gold ring on it, with the words, 'Who needs five golden rings when you have one good cock ring?' horrifically stitched across it.

Alice and Jasper are next, and I swear I hear the girls already starting to plan as they squeal and Alice grabs Bella's hand to look at the ring she helped shop for.

"Congratulations, you two!" Rosalie hugs us both as best she can with her protruding belly and a two year old asleep on her shoulder. "But it is now officially way past bedtime for this pregnant lady. Emmett, take your children and do whatever you want with them. And don't wake me up when you come to bed." She hands off Jackie to him and he begins the ritual of looking for Alex.

We accept congratulations from Rose's parents who decided to join us this year, and they move off to help Emmett round up his brood. Shaking my head, I can't help but laugh thinking about when Emmett called with the news, boasting about how virile he was. Looking down at Bella under my arm and pressed to my side, I smile, and picture us a year or so from now, hopefully with a baby of our own on the way.

The music starts up again and the crowd goes back to dancing and drinking. "I better get back to work." Bella stands on her tiptoes and kisses me. "I'll see you in three hours."

I hold her around the waist, pulling her close. "Do we have to stay in the hotel tonight? Can't we go back to our house? I don't think I'm going to want you to get dressed until at least noon."

"We have brunch tomorrow, it'll be the first time we've seen Jasper's dad since the wedding, and Oscar will be leaving to go camping with him for a week. We should say goodbye to everyone."

"They won't miss us." I nuzzle her neck. "Besides, you're going to be exhausted."

"Not too exhausted to be waited on instead of being the waiter."

"Fine." I reluctantly let go of her, pressing a kiss against her lips. "I'll wait for you."

She smiles. "If you want."

"I want."

She walks away, our hands holding each other until the last possible second. Right as our fingertips are about to slide away, she grabs me and hugs me around the waist, nestling her face against my chest. "Thank you, Edward."

"For what?"

"For giving me the one thing I've wanted for a very long time."

"A sweater with a poop emoji wearing a Christmas hat?"

"That was your dad."

"That's how you know you're accepted." I smile.

"Well that's good, but no." She looks up at me, her eyes sparkling under the lights. "For giving me a family."

"It can't compete with what you gave me." I lean down and kiss her again, holding the hand with the ring on it and pulling it between us.

"You gave me you. Happy fucking New Year to me."

The End

Well, that's it! I really hope you enjoyed this little Christmas story, it was so much fun to write and I had a great time posting every day. That being said, as many of you know, I love answering reviews. This posting schedule and the holidays didn't allow me to do that, and for that I apologize, but I will make sure to answer each one for this last chapter. Just know I've read them all, and loved them. You made me LOL for real, and you touched me deeply with your sweet compliments.

Thank you to Lolypop82, for giving me such a sweet Edward in the banner. It was exactly what I didn't know I wanted. So again, you read my convoluted mind and delivered!

Layathomemom is an amazing pre-reader and friend. She has her own little baseball team of children and managed to fix this thing for me while having to get ready for the holidays, and for that I am thankful. Her insight is truly invaluable to me and I couldn't imagine ever posting anything without her seeing it first.

And much love goes to my CarrieZM, who constantly gives me ideas. Last year, she said she wanted a Christmas story, so I started to write one and just couldn't make it happen in time. So I made sure she got it this year. She also has a family and took time away from them to work on this for me even though she had a lot going on in her life. I am truly blessed.

Happy New Year, everyone! Be safe, and I'll see you in 2017!

xoxo PB