Summary: The story all started with a missorted letter, but will it have a happy ending?
Edward Anthony Cullen was obnoxiously rich and it showed. Not only in the perfectly tailored suits he preferred that cost more than most of his employees' annual salary. It was in his personality, meaning he had none. At least, that was the general consensus among the staff, especially his personal assistant Heidi, and her personal assistant would agree. Most would call him a workaholic, and that included his family. He hadn't visited home in over ten years.
Since he started his company, no one had ever dropped by his office for a visit, leaving many of the office staff pondering if he had any friends. His "relationships" seemed to center around galas and important dinner meetings with clients and rarely lasted any longer than that.
Which was probably why the word around the office was that he hired his dates.
Edward didn't give a damn about rumors and silly office gossip. He was used to being a popular subject, but he rarely gave it any thought. To him, the only opinion he gave a shit about was his own.
It didn't matter that he would be spending the holidays alone again, for the tenth year in a row. His older sister, Alice, tried as she did every year to convince him to fly home to Chicago, to see the family. Their father, a stubborn old man, made excuses as usual about coming out to see him.
Edward believed his father was still angry that he chose to open a company away from home. Their mother had visited, equally hard-headed, determined to not allow their feud to come between her and her child. He knew how hard it was for Alice to fly out with three kids and her husband, but he wouldn't visit as long as his father continued to undermine any of his accomplishments.
"Why are you so determined to spend the holidays alone?"
Edward sighed, looking out the window of his condo. The beauty of the dark, chilly night reminded him that it only appeared that way so far up in the sky. However, when you took a closer look, the beauty was only skin deep. Under the starry layer, there was betrayal, deceit, and true evil.
"You know why, Alice." He was beyond his limit of listening to his sister try to guilt him to come home.
"It was so long ago, Edward."
He closed his eyes, the memories of that dark night fifteen years before were stitched to his eyelids. They'd always be there; no amount of therapy helped the nightmares or allowed him to forget…to move on from the incident.
"They wouldn't want you to hate Christmas. You loved Christmas growing up."
"I was a child then and watching your sister and niece die, does tend to force a teenage punk to grow up." Edward could hear the tears in his sister's soft sigh. He couldn't take much more of it. "Besides, I don't hate Christmas. I do what I can to show my Christmas spirit every year."
"You pay someone to show your Christmas spirit. On paper, with checks with a bunch of zeros, you look like Father fucking Christmas. You have crews come to decorate the office, give lavish office parties for your employees, and even give them mandatory paid holiday leave on top bonuses, but take one look at your ice castle in the sky and you might as well be a modern-day, CEO Scrooge."
Edward's patience had snapped, but at least Alice's voice had lost its sadness. "If that will be all, I must be going."
"Wait!" she said before he had a chance to end the call. "Look, I'm sorry. All I ask is for you to do one thing this year if you won't come home. Don't ask your assistant to do it for you, either."
He wanted to tell her that his assistant had little time to give toward another project.
"Or her assistant," Alice was quick to add. "I want you to personally make a child's Christmas wish to come true."
The "no" was on the tip of his tongue.
"If you do it, I promise to come down after the start of the new year with the kids."
It was a cheap shot, Edward thought. He loved his niece and nephews, and it had been months since they met up in Florida for a mini vacation together. Marcus, the oldest of the three, called him once a week to discuss his cases for mock trial at his high school. Alyssa often Facetimed him to ask him advice about reading body language, something he was an expert in. Edward was still in denial that it was likely about boys. The youngest, at only six years old, Jayden was growing so fast and already in advance math classes, and a possible piano prodigy.
He missed them.
Edward Anthony Cullen wasn't so heartless after all.
"Have you found a child?" Alice asked as they Skyped, Edward's least favorite method of communication. His assistant often saw him gesturing wildly since talking to his sister made his old habit of talking with his hands more prominent.
There's an ounce of personality in him, Heidi thought as she noticed her boss from the corner of her eye. He looked angry from where she sat behind her desk, watching his hands go through his hair at the same time. She never knew with whom he talked to in such a manner; she was just glad it wasn't aimed at her.
Edward Cullen in a tirade was never pleasant.
Heidi smiled as one of their newest team members approached with his cart, toting the daily mail and interoffice correspondences. Riley returned the gesture and winked as he dropped the huge stack she'd have to comb through for the next few hours. It would be a long day, she thought, sighing at the sight of the two-foot stack.
"Sorry, Heidi," Riley said with a shrug. "Everyone is trying hard to leave as little work before the holiday weekend." Thanksgiving vacation for most of the staff started on Wednesday and Mr. Cullen usually allowed them to leave a couple of hours early on Tuesday.
"At least it's early today," Heidi stated with a roll of her eyes. "I might just be able to leave by lunch now."
Riley, with his cute dimpled smile, nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I hear you. We were surprised as hell down in the basement. Usually, the mail doesn't arrive until after ten, but it was two hours early today." He offered to pick up another cup of coffee for her in the employee lounge, which she gratefully accepted.
He returned with her coffee, just the way she loved it. How he remembered how she liked it, she wasn't sure. She appreciated it and hoped he'd ask her to lunch again. "Thanks."
Riley ran a hand through his dark curls and tipped his chin up at Edward's door. "Heard the party is supposed to be bigger than ever."
Heidi groaned, barely refraining from hitting her forehead on the table. "I am so happy he agreed to allow me to hire an event coordinator to help this year. There was no way I had time to handle the extra forty guests on top of the potential clients. Why did he decide that he had to entertain new clients and the office staff at the same time?"
"Because I can, Miss Roberts," Edward said, leaning against the doorframe. He enjoyed the way Riley's eyes widened. No one on his staff had any idea that Riley was his nephew, his late sister's Kate and Emmett's oldest. He had concerns about Riley coming to work for him and to start from the bottom in the mail room. Riley had insisted on it.
Heidi wanted a hole to open up from under her and take her away. "I apologize, sir." She turned to face him, stopping short at the sight of an amused tilt to his lips, but it disappeared in an instant. As if she wasn't meant to see.
"I need the mail at once." Edward grabbed the top few, rolling his eyes as holiday cards were already starting to pour in, and it was barely late November. "Once you're done flirting and gossiping with this young man, of course."
Riley snorted, shaking his head. "Good morning, Mr. Cullen."
Edward only offered a similar greeting, handing him a few poorly sorted envelopes. "These go to Ben's office."
Riley's shoulders slumped. "I think Aro and Tony need glasses. This keeps happening. Sorry, Mr. Cullen."
"Have Irina pick up a few magnifying strips that they can use. I'd hate to lose them. They've been with the business since its inception." Edward continued to sort, and then a slightly crumpled letter caught his eye. He held it a moment, but before he could decide on what to do with it, Riley spoke up again.
"Good idea, I'll do that. Thanks." Riley tipped an imaginary hat at Heidi, adding another wink before leaving them to continue with the mail.
"What is that?" Heidi noticed the letter in Mr. Cullen's hands. "That doesn't look to belong to anyone here."
She was right, the letter was addressed to Santa Claus. The addressee was written in a bright red scrawl, but the actual address wasn't clear since it had been stamped over several times. Strange, considering their local post offices usually took care of them.
The opportunity to keep his promise to his sister had presented itself. "I'll take care of it, Heidi." He looked over to the empty desk across from his assistant. "Where is Jessica? Is she late again?"
"No, Sir, she's currently battling the copy machine again."
Edward pinched his nose, shaking his head. "Can you please tell Mike to come by with some suggestions for a new one. This is beyond ridiculous. After the call, have Jessica handle it."
Heidi tried not to show her surprise and simply nodded. Weren't most bosses' cheap assholes when it came to copy machines and printers? Her last two sure were, her eyes narrowed as she watched her boss walk into his office without another word. Under the cold exterior, was there something lurking that resembled a heart?
Edward stared at the letter and photos inside with both skepticism and trepidation. What were the chances that something like this would come to him after the promise he made his sister? He had to wonder if somehow Alice had done this, dragging poor Riley into one of her schemes.
Riley hadn't given me the letter, it was missorted, he reasoned with himself.
He reread the letter again.
I'm not sure I really believe in you anymore, but the past year has been tough on my family. You see, my mother has cancer and my father was shot in the line of duty. He's fine, by the way, and mom says he's probably on your naughty list. He's the worst patient ever. Right now, I'm living with my sister, Bella. She's put her life on hold to take care of us, moved in next door to my parents, and started to work from home. But I know she's unhappy. I overheard her say that she'll never get a happy ending now.
For Christmas this year, instead of the usual video game or book, can you please give my sister a Happy Ending?
William T. Swan
P.S. My best friend's mother helped me write this, I'm only six.
P.S.S. If you can get me a new Switch, too, that will be awesome. But if not, Bella's happy ending will be fine.
William had not only provided a few photos of his sister, but also her blog page, and all of her social media information. She had a YouTube channel, too. The business card stated that she was a photographer.
Bella Swan was classically beautiful. Long, dark hair with matching eyes and a smile that made a man like him want to do the same. Her skin was sun-kissed, which indicated that she moved from somewhere sunny to come home and care for her parents. Her family was important to her; enough to drop everything to help. In other words, exactly what Edward looked for in a woman.
This had Alice Joy Cullen-Whitlock written all over it.
Yet, the letter couldn't be ignored, though he had tried several times over the next several hours. He left his office, was almost in the parking garage when he realized he'd forgotten it. Once it was in his hands again, he felt better and decided he would do some sleuthing before he decided on what to do.
What exactly did a happy ending entail?
Bella Swan wanted to hunt down her neighbor and friend, Tanya, and kick her ass. Her new best friend and little brother were up to something, had been for the last ten days. She just knew it. Will would act all cute and innocent whenever she inquired about what he asked from Santa Claus. Tanya would giggle, and her husband, Alec, would be just as bad.
They're dead to her.
She was going to give them all coal for Christmas.
It was too bad Will had her wrapped around his little finger, and Tanya was one of the few friends she made since she moved back to Washington. Making friends at twenty-seven shouldn't have been that hard, but it was—especially for her, since she had the innate ability to stick her foot in her mouth or lose her filters.
She was nothing like her father, who kept everything contained and close to his heart. Her mother was an open book—a little too open, in fact. As in she would gladly tell someone they weren't having enough sex to satisfy them, which messed with their chakras. True story, she said that to her prom date, which pissed off her father and made Bella realize her boyfriend was a fucking liar.
He had stated he was a virgin, like her. It didn't take long for her to find out he'd been cheating on her for the three months they'd been together. In a way, she was thankful for her mother, losing her virginity to a lying asshole would've been awful. Instead, she lost it to a Yoga master studying to be a masseur in college, and had plenty of happy endings during that wonderful, but short relationship.
It was too bad she hadn't had a happy ending in a long time. Long enough to wonder if she was a born-again virgin. Tanya and Alec seemed to think so—assholes. She loved them, but they were still assholes, who were hiding something from her. She would find out; she had excellent skills in manipulation and interrogation, thanks to her father.
"Bella!" She heard her father call from the living room, followed soon after by a grunt and curse.
"Just use the bell, or else I'm going to ignore you!" She happily went back to working on a future blog post, wanting to get as much done as possible before the holidays were in full swing. Her father knew she was just as stubborn as he was—she would win this round. "If you try to get up again, I won't give you any more cookies!"
"You don't fight fair," he grumbled, and rather loudly, too.
"I don't hear that bell." She smiled as she added a photo to a mixed media collage she created the previous week. The harsh ringing of the bell was music to her ears. She had won, for now. "Coming!"
"Just grab me a soda and some chips while you're in there."
Bella rolled her eyes and grabbed what her father wanted, even put a flower in a vase to put on the tray; something her father would never admit to liking. Stubborn old man. "This is your last one of the day," she said as she set the tray on the side table she had to buy while her father was recovering.
Charlie wiped at his bare jaw and upper lip. "I know, no caffeine after four so that I'll be able to sleep."
"We both know Will gives you another one after dinner." She winked at his shocked face. "He should be home soon."
"Thought he had practice." Charlie looked out the window, the sky dark and menacing outside of it. "It's raining again."
"Yup, Coach Black said it's supposed to get pretty bad, so he let his players head home today."
"You and Coach Black are getting along well?"
Bella smirked, shaking her head. "He's engaged. Give it up, Dad." She ruffled his hair, making him blush. "I'm going to check on Mom, and then head home to start on dinner."
"How long do you think she'll be asleep?" The worried look on her father's handsome face made her heart melt. He didn't look like himself, or at least the way he used to. He had to shave since it was too hard to maintain his mustache and beard while unable to stand for very long. He hadn't wanted it to be another burden on his daughter.
"She'll be asleep for the rest of the day, maybe stay up long enough to have something to eat for dinner with us."
"All right, I'll call if we need anything."
Bella cocked an eyebrow, picking up the walkie-talkie she insisted on getting and handing it to him. "You better, if I get another frantic call from mom that you tried to get up without your crutches or chair, I will not only cut out cookies but caffeine from your diet."
"You wouldn't dare." His dark eyes narrowed, his lips pursing, but soon gave up. "This is hard for me. When my wife needs me the most, I'm stuck in a freaking chair, unable to help."
Bella knelt beside her father's chair and leaned her head against his arm. "You only have three more weeks, then the three of us will be able to take care of her." Tears sprung in her eyes when she felt his warm lips kiss her hair.
"I just want to help already, but I'll behave, I promise."
She rose to her feet, kissed her father's blushing cheek. "That's all I ask."
After checking on her mother, Bella was able to head back to her house to await her brother and get some more work done. She whistled as she locked her parents' front door and started to walk over to her place, but paused when she saw an unfamiliar black Mercedes in her driveway. She checked her phone, indicating she had no photoshoots that day, or any meetings, either.
She wasn't expecting anyone, but if she was, she was glad it was this man. He was pacing on her porch, seemingly undecided if he should knock. His hair, a burnished brown and red, resembled something she'd often read about in her favorite books— sex hair. She had never seen it in person, but it was rather sexy. As if the man in question had just tumbled out of his bed after a night of hot, sweaty sex.
"Oh man, I need it bad." Bella shook her head and put a smile on her face as she approached her house. "Hello? Are you lost, sir?"
The man swirled around so fast, and on a wet cement ground, wasn't the best of ideas. He fell on his well-tailored ass, in a suit that probably cost more than her Charger.
"Oh, that looked like it hurt." See, no filter.
"Thank you, Captain Obvious." The man said, groaning as she helped him to his Italian shoe-clad feet. "I knew I should've changed before coming out here."
"Not your usual area, I'm guessing." She stepped back, fighting the urge to pull up her hand to see if it smelled as good as the man himself. If she thought the sex hair was hot, it didn't compare to his eyes and striking face. It could stop traffic.
Too bad he screamed Metro. She wasn't much into men that dressed to the nines for an outing to their little suburb. Not that Redmond was small; just nothing compared to Seattle.
"Nonsense, I grew up in an area like this, sort of miss it. It's just that I couldn't get out of the city early enough to stop at home and change." He dusted himself off and held out his hand. "I'm Edward Cullen. I'm looking for William Swan."
Bella's eyes narrowed, wondering if her brother broke someone else's window with a ball again. "Did he break a window or something?" She shook his hand, probably lingering in the large palm for a bit too long, not that he seemed to mind.
"What?" Edward shook his head, looking away and clearing his throat. He swallowed hard before returning his dark green gaze to her. "Break my window? No, that's not it."
Bella shrugged. "I'm going to invite you inside to dry off, but I should warn you, I'm a black belt and could bring you down with the same efficiency as an agent from Quantico. Don't try anything funny."
Edward kept his smile from surfacing, but just barely, holding up his hands. "No business of the funny kind, I promise."
She looked hesitant, but unlocked her door and gestured for him to follow her inside.
"You shouldn't be so trusting, though, to be honest." Edward closed the door behind him, removing William's letter from his coat when Bella offered to take it. "You don't even know me."
"I'm not worried. I can kick your ass."
He didn't look offended at least, more like concerned. "What if I was armed?"
Bella put down her laptop bag and some mail on her coffee table and took Edward's nice charcoal pea coat. "I'm as efficient as anyone trained in Quantico, I'm not kidding. My father is a cop and my godfather is…let's say he's well trained, which he shared with his only goddaughter." She winked, removing the gun she kept on her hip.
Edward hadn't even noticed it.
Bella opened the closet near the door and proceeded to lock away her weapon.
Not only was Edward concerned, but worried. "Is there some kind of threat?"
"Yes, though until I know who and why you're here, I'll keep that to myself." She gestured toward the kitchen, walking toward the fridge first.
Edward suddenly felt out of place. "I have some clothes in the car, maybe I should clean up before I explain." The house was homey and warm, inviting in a way that no interior decorator had ever been able to achieve in his apartment, no matter how much he paid them to create for him.
"I think before you start taking off your clothes in my house, I should get to know you first." She walked over to set of folding doors out in the hall and brought him a towel. "You can change once you tell me why. My brother is on his way home as we speak, so before he gets here, I need to know what's going on."
Edward took the towel and ran it down his back and ass, ignoring the woman's snicker. He must look awful and idiotic. "It's nothing bad, but I'm starting to think I should've called first."
Bella smirked as she took a sip of the juice she'd taken out of the fridge. "Maybe, but you're here, so out with it, please. What did my brother do?"
"Write a letter." Edward laughed when Bella's brow furrowed in confusion as they took a seat at her kitchen table. "Not to me personally, but to Santa Claus, but somehow it ended up in my office."
Bella's dark hazel eyes softened, her lips quirking up into a smile. "I really thought last year was going to be the last time he would believe in Santa. Glad to hear it's not." She pursed her lips, tapping her fingers on the table. "Did you open it? You had to have, if you're here."
Edward handed her the letter. "I did open it, only because I made a promise to my sister and I thought this was my chance to keep it." She didn't seem to understand. "She made me promise to personally help a child in need this Christmas."
"And this letter happens to land on your desk?"
"Not on purpose, it was mistakenly sorted into my company's office mail." Edward shrugged, tapping on the letter. "I thought I could help, in whatever way I can."
"Why does your sister believe you have to do something like this?" Bella wasn't exactly sure why she was giving him a hard time, only that she needed to be sure he was safe to be around her brother. "Are you some kind of Scrooge or something?"
"Something like that," Edward said, wincing. "My company donates a lot of money and time for local charities, but my sister said that this year, I should do something personally, and in exchange, she would come visit in January with my niece and nephews."
"That's so mean!" Bella started to laugh. "Aren't older siblings the worst?"
"You have more siblings?" Edward was positive that he hadn't read anything that suggested she had any other brothers or sisters on any of her social media accounts.
"No, just William, but I've had roommates and friends with some questionable older brothers or sisters." She grinned. "Okay, so in other words, you're helping to help yourself."
His quick reply was soft, a little wistful. "That sounds bad, but yes, I miss my family."
"Why not go up there?" When he didn't reply right away, she continued. "I know it's a personal question, but again, I need to be sure you're not an asshole."
Edward nodded, understanding where she was coming from, especially since she was only doing it to protect her young brother. "My father and I had a falling out years ago, I haven't been back since then." He wasn't ready to admit to a stranger that the memories of his sister and niece's murder stifled him back home.
Bella said nothing for a moment, as if she knew he was holding back something. Edward wondered if he should leave. It was a mistake to come out there to befriend a stranger and ask if it was okay to give her a happy ending. She hadn't read the letter yet.
"Okay, I'm going to offer you a piece of advice, then we'll never bring up that sore subject again."
Edward had no idea what she saw on his face when he mentioned his father, but it must've been awful if she felt the need to say something.
"You only have one father. Life is too short to hold onto grudges." She waved her hands around for a moment. "Enough with the sad part. Tell me what my brother is asking for before he gets here. That way, we can make sure he gets it."
"That's the reason I needed to discuss it with him." He snagged the letter from her hands, deciding it was best if she was surprised. "I needed clarification."
"If we want him to continue to believe in Santa, then you can't admit to having it." She held out her hand for the letter.
Edward thought for a moment. "I can say I'm one of Santa's helpers." He nodded, proud of the idea.
"Maybe I can help, so you can still get clarification and I can still have him believing in Santa."
Edward's dark gaze narrowed, as he handed her the letter again. "Do you always get what you want?"
"Not always," she murmured, opening the letter and taking another sip of juice. At first, she looked sweet, her lips a soft pink that made him wonder what they tasted like, then she looked murderous. "I'm going to kill her!"
That was not what Edward was expecting. "Are you saying I can't help you get a happy ending?"
Bella started to choke.
Edward Cullen sat in his car down the street from Bella's house a couple of hours later, still red-faced and feeling rather stupid. In a few minutes, he had to walk to her front door and knock to meet her brother, the original author of the letter.
When she explained what her brother overheard, he had to leave, but not before he promised to stop by after dinner.
Bella's happy ending, her brother innocently understood as a storybook ending was actually, an orgasm. The neighbor that helped him write the letter had known it all along, too. She happened to be Bella's good friend.
He hit his head on his steering wheel a few times. "Kate, something tells me you have something to do with this." His late sister was the prankster of the family—her favorite day of the year was April Fool's Day. This had her written all over it.
What were the chances that someone he found attractive, a breath of fresh air, charming and equally disarming, was looking to get laid?
After choking and laughing for a full minute, Bella explained. "My brother shouldn't have been listening to a very adult conversation I was having with my neighbor while he was supposed to be in bed."
"What kind of adult conversation?" Is it hot in here? Edward thought as he loosened his collar, grateful he had removed his tie before the drive.
"The kind little ears shouldn't listen to." He thought he should go, this was not where he expected their discussion to go. "I was talking about an ex I had bumped into and how good he was at…you know. Anyway, he's happily married, and expecting child number three, in two years, by the way. And I mentioned that all I wanted was a chance for those kinds of happy endings, something like that."
"I made a huge mistake."
Bella's eyebrows rose. "How huge?"
They both laughed, while Edward tried not to adjust his problem due to her proximity. There was something about the glint her eyes, combined with the lushness of her lips and laughter that made him want to deliver exactly what she wanted, often, and more than once. He should leave before he did or said something stupid.
"Maybe I could still help?" Before he had a chance to further explain he could help with expenses or even get him the Switch thing William said he wanted, the sound of the bus down the street could be heard.
"How about you stop by later and introduce yourself to Will?" Bella had him get up, since she picked up her brother at the corner down the road. "Tell him, like you said, that you're Santa's helper. Maybe work together to give me a more Disney version of a happy ending. It would make him feel better to help in some way."
"I really am sorry for intruding." Edward walked toward his air, grateful the rain had stopped for the moment. "Are you sure? We don't have to do this."
"And not keep your promise to your sister? Not on your life, mister." She crossed her arms over her chest, her top of her head barely reaching his chin. Her finger poked his chest. "You want to see your family, I want you to see your family. Besides, this might be good for William, too. It's been a tough year. Just please promise not to spend too much money on whatever he comes up with to give me my happy ending."
"I promise not to spend too much money on you."
Bella smiled holding up her pinkie finger. "If you have a niece, you know exactly what I want."
"Besides a happy ending?" He chuckled when she blushed, but hooked his finger around hers, using it to pull her a step closer to him. The breaths mingled between them. "I promise not spend too much money on you."
She smiled and started down the driveway to meet with her brother, walking backward. "Don't think for a second you had me fooled, Edward Cullen. You promised not to overdo it for me, but not my brother."
Edward only smiled in return, watching her laugh and then take off in a run. He cocked his head to one side, his eyes on her spectacular ass in those dark jeans. Happy endings, huh?
Was he really going to pretend he was Santa's associate to help a little boy make his sister happy?
"Yes, I am." He left the warmth of his car, pulling out his red scarf and adjusting his matching beanie. He lifted the finger to his ear and wondered for the tenth time if he had gone too far with the elf ears, but Alice insisted it would help William believe him. "Wish me luck, Kate." He looked up at the surprisingly clear, starry sky and smiled. "And you, too, Elizabeth." His little niece would've loved how he was dressed.
He wasn't in tights—that would've been a step too far and he knew it. But he donned the festive red and green colors, elf ears, and the typical Christmas sweater worn to parties. It was about three weeks until Christmas and he was determined to make the little family's holiday a special one.
AN: I mentioned I was trying to finish something for Christmas, a one-shot, but it's rather long ;) so I cut it up. I'm working on the next half and hope to have it posted just after Christmas, possibly sooner, but no promises. Thanks to kyla713 for your help dressing this up for me, thanks for understanding I needed a distraction right now. My chronic hives have returned and no answers to the cause either. Writing is rather hard while on very strong allergy meds, so I don't take them when I plan to write, writing does distract me from the itch. Well after that bit of TMI, I want to wish everyone a happy holiday, safe travels for you and your loved ones, and a Happy New Year!