Rated M

It's almost midnight and I wanted to start 2020 off with a bit of fun.
Big love and gratitude to the ladies who always come through in a pinch,
my prereaders, Planetblue and Robsmyyummy Cabanaboy
and my beta, Carrie ZM.
You girls are truly the best.

"Gentlemen," Emmett says, pouring a diabetes-inducing amount of syrup on his pancakes. "We need a plan for the evening."

"Angela's having people over if you guys wanna come by," Ben offers, looking more hopeful than a grown-man should. "Some of her friends from her youth ministry will be there."

"Absolutely not." I kindly toast him before bringing my coffee mug to my lips.

"Hard pass," Emmett concurs while sawing his knife through his short stack.

"What?" Ben's brow furrows. "Why not?"

I set my cup down. "Cheney, I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but 2019 has been a shit-show from start to finish and to be honest, I can't think of anything worse than spending the last few hours of it playing Bible verse bingo with Angela's creepy friends."

Nodding in agreement, Emmett co-signs on my reasoning before shoving a forkful of food in his mouth.

"Dicks," Ben mutters.

"Frankly, I'm surprised that you're surprised."

"Well, what are you two assholes gonna do, huh? Watch New Year's Rockin' Eve and time your ejaculations to happen right as the new year begins?"

Em swallows down his pancakes and stares at Ben seriously. "Okay, that's a little dark."

I rub my chin. "It's an intriguing idea."

"Oh my God!" A voice calls out from behind me. "Emmett McCarty?"

Em's head snaps in the direction of the voice and a huge grin spreads over his face. He stands so fast he bumps the table and damn near sends his syrup with a side of pancakes flying. Seeing his reaction, I place the voice before I hear the click of her heels and girly-giggle only to have my suspicions confirmed when her name comes out of his mouth in a reverent whisper. "Rose?"

"I thought that was you! I haven't seen you in forever!" She pulls him in for a hug as a cute brunette looks on from beside them. "How are you?"

Rosalie Hale. Emmett's dream girl since our junior year of high school. The gold standard to which every single girl he's ever met is compared, yet somehow none of them seem to measure up.

They play catch-up for a few minutes, just enough time for him to tell her she looks incredible, and low-key ask how her boyfriend Royce is doing, like he hasn't wished death and disease upon him since they got together.

"Ugh, Royce." Shaking her head, she rolls her eyes. "Yeah, no. He's not in the picture anymore."

"I'm … sorry to hear that." His words come out sounding like a question, especially given his smile.

"Are you?"

"Not even a little bit."

Blushing, she peers down and notices Ben and me watching their interaction. "Hey guys."

"Hey Rose," we say in unison sounding far more excited than we are to see her.

Rose chats up Ben first, asking him about school and Angela before her eyes settle on me with the same pitying look that everyone in my small hometown of Kingston has given me since my longtime girlfriend and I split last fall. "How are you, Edward?"

"Can't complain."

"Sorry to hear about you and Jess."

"It's all good."

And it really is. Sure, losing your girl to a dork stings, but hindsight is 20/20. Jess and I had little to nothing in common other than the fact that we'd been together since our senior year of high school. Couple that with being on opposite coasts and her newfound proclivity for guys who wear 'who farted' t-shirts, it's easy to see it's for the best.

Thankfully, she doesn't fish for details and turns her attention back to Emmett. "So, do you guys have anything fun planned for New Year's Eve?"

"Angela's," Ben replies just as Em answers a casual, "not sure, yet."

She glances down at me, not necessarily expectantly, more like out of common courtesy because I'm certain she doesn't give a shit what I'm doing tonight. I grin. "Watching New Year's Rockin' Eve."

The brunette beside her laughs. Big, brown eyes gaze back at me and the corners of her pretty, pink lips turn up in a small smirk. I admit, my previous assessment of cute was way off.

This girl is gorgeous.

"Hoping for another Mariah Carey New Year's Eve 2016 performance?" she asks with a tilt of her head as she slips her hands into the pockets of her oversized hoodie.


"That's pretty much the send-off this year deserves," Rose cuts in with a sigh.

"What about you? What're you girls up to tonight?" Emmett asks, looking as pathetically hopeful as Ben did just minutes earlier.

"The Denim and Diamonds Ball."

"At the casino?"

"My dad is a co-chair on the event so I'm kind of required to be there."

Bobbing his head, he crosses his arms over his chest. "Sounds fun."

"He's got a few tables reserved. You guys should come."

"I don't want to impose," Emmett lies with a sheepish grin which earns him a playful push from Rose.

"Come on, it'll be fun. Here," she holds out her hand, "give me your phone."

Playing it cool, he slides it into her palm and watches as she types in her number. My eyes wander back to the brunette who seems as equally amused by their interaction as I am.

"There." Rose gives him back the phone. "Party starts at eight. Tickets are sold at the door. Now, say you'll be there so we can catch up."

"I'll be there."

"Great." She slaps his bicep and dips her head to Ben and me. "Gentlemen."

The brunette follows her out, giving a small wave with that same smirk on her face.

The minute the diner door shuts, Em spins in my direction. "Dude."


He plops down in his seat. "Come on!"

"Not happening."

"You're really gonna stay home and watch Ryan Seacrest and a bunch of C-list celebrities lip sync?"

"Don't threaten me with a good time."

"You're going!"

"You wish."

"This is bullshit," I mutter ten hours later, shoving my hand into the pocket of my slacks.

"Quit your bitchin'," Em snaps back, handing me my ticket. "You're drinking on me tonight."

"Small price to pay to get me here."

"Fifty bucks a pop."

"And your dignity."

"Shut up." He straightens his tie and tugs on the sleeve of his sport coat. "Now, how do I look?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

"Nah," he straightens his stance, "I know I look good. What about my breath?" He blows it into my face before I can turn away. "How does it smell? Minty fresh?"

I crinkle my nose. "It smells like desperation and Binaca."

"Good, that's what I was goin' for."

"Nailed it," I fire back when a voice sounds out from behind me.

"You guys made it."

I turn to see the brunette from earlier sitting at a slot machine. No longer hidden under a hoodie and yoga pants, she's wearing a sparkly black dress with her hair down and those pretty, pink lips are now a deep wine color. Once again, my assessment of her being merely gorgeous was way off.

This girl is a stunner.

"Heeeyyy," Em drags out the word because, like me, he has no clue what her name is.

She huffs out a small laugh and points to herself. "Bella."

"Bella." Em nods, placing his hand on his chest. "I'm Emmett."

"Edward," I offer with a two-finger salute.

Folding her arms over her chest, she grins. "You're missing Post Malone and Ryan Seacrest to be here tonight?"

"You're welcome."

"Is Rose inside?" Emmett asks, jerking his chin towards the ballroom.

"Yep. Table closest to the dance floor."

"Cool, thanks." He barely spares me a glance before taking off to find her.

"Pathetic," I mutter with a shake of my head before meeting Bella's gaze. "Why aren't you inside with Rose?"

She gestures to the flashing lights on the screen alerting everyone to her winning spin. "The penny-slots are hot tonight. I'm up a whopping seventeen cents and I've managed to dodge Rose's brother."

"Who? Jasper?"


I laugh because Jasper Hale is an arrogant prick who most females dodge. "You're winning all around then, huh?"

"Pretty much. Wanna try your luck?"

"I've never been much of a gambler."

Patting the seat beside her, she grins. "Live a little."

"Ouch! Lady Luck has left the building," she teases as the machine takes the last of my pennies. "It was fun while it lasted though, right?"

"Does losing twenty bucks in under a half-an-hour constitute as fun?" I stand and stretch. "Seems more like a cheap thrill to me."

Winking, she collects her winnings. "Those are fun while they last too."

"You don't strike me as a cheap thrills kinda girl."

Her brow lifts. "What kind of girl do I strike you as?"

"I'm not sure. I don't know much about you other than you go to Antioch University and that you live with Rose." She's also gorgeous and sharp and funny, but I can't say any of that without sounding like a creeper, so instead I snap my fingers and point at her gold, glittery eyelids. "And that you have a fondness for penny slots and sparkly eye-shadow."

"New Year's Eve is always the perfect occasion for copious amounts of body glitter."

"If you say so."

"What's your deal?" she asks as we walk to the ballroom. "Why do you hate New Year's Eve?"

"I don't hate it, per se. I just don't buy into it."


"It's all bullshit. The whole clean slate illusion and all the false optimism." I shrug. "Like at the stroke of midnight you'll transform into this magical version of yourself."

"Not a fan of 'new year, new me' resolutions then?"

"Don't get me wrong, I'm all for taking steps to make positive changes, but a little reality goes a long way, don't you think?"

"I suppose so," she twists her lips, "but I like the idea of new beginnings and possibilities."

"Has the new year ever brought a brand spanking new beginning for you in the past?"

"Sort of."

"How so?"

"This time last year I was living in New York. On New Year's Eve, I was in Times Square freezing my ass off with my boyfriend of two years." She tucks her hair behind her ear. "I stepped in a steaming pile of horseshit, watched two engagement proposals, and saw a grown man piss on a fire hydrant because the effort to find a bathroom proved to be too much of a commitment."

"That sounds awful."

"It was. But here's where it wasn't. I was cold and annoyed and slightly alarmed that I was seriously dating a guy who'd piss on a hydrant in public, but it made me realize it was time for a change."

"A new beginning?"

She nods. "Broke up with Jake the following morning and moved back to Washington a week later."

"Please tell me you didn't only break up with him because he pissed on a hydrant."

"He also excessively used the word 'yolo' and described his promotion from sales associate to assistant manager at his dad's shoe store as his journey."

I laugh. "He had it coming then."

"There you are," a male voice calls out from the crowd. "I've been looking for you everywhere."

Jasper Hale slinks up to us wearing a fitted black suit and his usual smarmy smile. His eyes pan down the length of her body then back up again before realizing I'm beside her.

The smile falls slightly as he holds his hand out to shake. "Edward, how've you been?"

"I'm all right."

"Heard about you and Jess." He sucks his teeth. "Sorry, man."


Without even letting me respond, he turns back to Bella and slips a hand just above her elbow. "We should head back to the table, my dad's getting ready to make his speech."

"We should." She meets my gaze. "Are you coming?"

The look on his face is priceless.

"After you."

Several drinks, a handful of appetizers, a long-winded speech from Mr. Hale, and Jasper getting the hint that Bella's not interested later, we're watching the mostly rhythmless party-goers cut it up on the dance floor. While the Funk Factory churns out a questionable rendition of "Single Ladies," a small circle forms around Shelly Cope who's jerking and gyrating a little more suggestively than the good people of Kingston are accustomed to.

"I need to, but I can't look away," Bella says from beside me, truly unable to take her eyes off of our town's sexagenarian librarian. "It's like it's hard to watch, but fascinating at the same time."

"Like an episode of Black Mirror."

"I wish I had her confidence."

"That's not confidence, that's three vodka-tini's too many."

She laughs.

"Maybe she's just living it up."


"It's New Year's Eve," she props her chin on her hand, "what's wrong with livin' it up?"

"Nothing, I suppose."

"So, you don't necessarily take issue with the holiday itself, just the quasi-unrealistic expectations that follow?"


"What do you mean both? It's one or the other."

"Nope," I toast her with my beer bottle, "it's definitely both."

Her eyes narrow and her teeth drag over her bottom lip. "Enlighten me, then."

"All right," I turn towards her in my seat, "answer me honestly."


"When was the last time New Year's Eve actually lived up to the hype?"

"Um, did you not hear my tale of woe from last year?"

"Doesn't count."

"Why not?"

"Because you were in a relationship and therefore it doesn't count."

"How do you figure?"

"When you're with someone there's no pending expectation like am I going home with this person or are we going to have some kind of magical evening. Most people's only expectation is that their significant other would drink their shitty wine coolers, pick a fight, and stare daggers at you from across the room until it was time to kiss at midnight."

"That sounds oddly specific."

"Maybe." I grin. "But honestly, the whole night is just an excuse for douchebags to get shitfaced and people to lower their expectations by kissing anyone willing because they're afraid of dying alone."

She gives me that smirk again. "It seems you've put some extensive thought into this."

"I have."

"Do you feel this way about all holidays?" she asks before bringing her beer to her lips.

"Not at all. Christmas I can totally get behind. All the food and presents. The general merriment and gluttony - I dig it. But New Year's Eve …" I shake my head. "Call me crazy, but I'm just not a fan of waking up the next day reeking of booze and questionable decisions while nursing a bloated liver and mild indigestion from all the Swedish meatballs I stuffed in my mouth."

Her eyes pan down to my plateful of sauce-stained cocktail toothpicks then back up to me. "I see."

Behind her I see Jasper Hale making his way to the table with purpose. He has the gait of a man on a mission, and given that the band is defiling an Ed Sheeran song, I have a feeling I know what he's planning on doing.

Setting my bottle on the table, I hold a hand out to Bella. "Care to dance?"

"Is this one of your questionable decisions of the evening?"

"Not at all."

"Are you a big Ed Sheeran fan?"

"Also, no."

Standing, she takes my hand. "Trying to work off all those Swedish meatballs?"

I laugh as her fingers slip through mine. "Maybe."

We make our way to the dance floor, dodging the swaying hips of the rhythmless, inebriated townspeople, and trying not to cringe at the way old Dr. Gerandy's gnarled hands are slipping dangerously lower on Mrs. Cope's backside.

Curling her hand around my neck, Bella steps closer and nods towards Emmett and Rose who are nearby clinging tightly to one another, making out like her father isn't in the room. "Well that didn't take long," Bella quips.

"Are you kidding me?" I lightly grip her waist. "He's been praying for that since we were in high school. It's been years in the making."

"She said he's a good guy."

"He is," I agree, surprisingly tamping down the urge to make fun of him. "He's a great guy."

She steps closer. "Rose said you're a good guy too."

I gaze down at her, smirking. "You asked about me?"

"I may have inquired."

"What do you want to know?"

She shrugs a shoulder. "The usual stuff."

"What? Stuff like my major and my zodiac sign?"



"You're a math major?"




"Well, she did mention you were a bit of a nerd," she jokes with a wink.

"What else did she mention?"

"She said you went to Seattle U with Emmett and that until recently you were the better-half of a super couple."


"You weren't the better-half?"

"No, we were hardly a super couple."

"You had Rose fooled."

"I'm sure we did. It'd be easy to get that narrative from a couple doing the long-distance thing for years and years."

"How many years?"

"Almost four years."

"That's a long time."

"We had a good run."

"So … you're not like …"

"What? Still pining for her?"

She nods.

"Not in the least. Great girl and I want good things for her, but we are never getting back together."

"Never, ever, Taylor Swift?"

"Hard no."

"On what? Taylor Swift references or getting back with your ex."

"Both." I smile as she steps closer. "What about you?"

"What about me?"



"Possibility of reconciliation with Times Square public urination guy?"

"His name is Jake and that's also a hard no."

"Current romantic entanglements?"

"Not that I'm aware of." She grins. "I'm currently self-partnered."

"Okay, Hermione."


She brushes her fingertips softly along the back of my neck as she waits for my answer. "Not that I'm aware of," I say which is a total lie.

Because I'm more than aware of how much I'd like to have a romantic entanglement with her.

We talk nonstop for the next three slow songs, swaying lightly as we pepper each other with questions and answers. I learn she's a small-town police chief's daughter who headed for the big city the minute she graduated high school. Now she's in Seattle, living with Rose about 25 minutes from my place going to school at Antioch. She also lets it slip that Rose's chance meeting with Emmett was not so coincidental.

"His name has come up several times since she split with Royce. Methinks she's all about seizing the day in 2020." The corner of her mouth quirks up. "That and stalking his Instagram, I guess."

"Better than YOLO'ing, I suppose."

She laughs lightly. "True."

We stay out on the floor as the music picks up. I sway and she twirls around me during the band's horrible rendition of "Mr. Brightside". We laugh and bop around with Rose and Emmett while the lead singer desecrates The Isley Brothers. But when she wraps her arms around my neck and dances close while we sing every single word to "American Pie" to each other, I begin to entertain the possibility of a new beginning in the new year with her.

"Good Lord, no," she says when the song ends and the band strikes up the opening chords to "Play that Funky Music White Boy."

"What? Not a fan of this one?"

Instead of answering, she turns my chin in the direction of Dr. Gerandy who's mid-crotch-grind while Mrs. Cope does a full body roll.

"Wow, that's …"


"A little bit."

"And yet I aspire to that level of not giving a single fuck."

"Considering it for your resolutions?"

"Maybe." She takes my hand and pulls me off the dance floor. Grabbing her clutch and an unopened champagne bottle from our table, she nods towards a nearby dessert cart. "Get some of those, too."

I swipe a tray full of white chocolate-covered strawberries and follow her out of the ballroom. She leads me down the hall until we reach the swimming pool area.

"Taking a dip are we?"

"I figured it's quiet in here." Kicking off her heels, she shrinks down a couple of inches. "Plus my feet are killing me in these shoes. Mind if I have a soak?"

"Be my guest."

She uses her room key to enter the dimly lit pool area and plops down on the edge of the deep end, dipping her toes in the water. "Ahh."

"That good, huh?"

"You try walking in these things."

"I'll take your word for it."

Her Christmas red polished toes kick up from the water, splashing as they go. "You wanna join me?" The 'no' is on the tip of my tongue, but then she gives me that smile and pats the ground beside her like she did by the slot machine. "Live a little."

Pulling my shoes and socks off, I'm wondering if there's anything this girl can't talk me into doing. The cocky grin on her face tells me she's thinking the same thing.

I roll up my pants, slip my feet in, and do my very best not to recoil from the freezing water, but she catches me anyway.



She scoots over until her thigh is touching mine. "Better?"

"From the knee up, sure."

Our feet swish in the water as we chat, asking each other the hard-hitting Barbara Walter's-style questions. I'm pleased to say she's nearly as disappointed with the Game of Thrones ending as I am, although I question her fondness for Cersei. In turn, she seems pleasantly surprised at my ability to recognize and respond to her Schitt's Creek quotes.

We talk a lot about the future and all the uncertainty it entails. Her wondering if she chose the right path and me wondering if I chose it or I'm resigned to it.

"Why math?" she asks, plucking a chocolate-covered strawberry from the tray behind us and taking a bite.

"I don't know. I'm good at it and it's broad enough that I can get into several fields, I guess."

"Sounds like solid reasoning to me."

"Anything to get me out of Kingston."

"I can relate."

"You not a fan of the small-town life?"

"I don't hate it, per se, but there's such a thing as too small."

"And New York was too big?"

"Too big, too fast," she stares at her half-eaten strawberry, "too much for me."

"And what about Seattle?"

"Just right," she says with a wink before taking another slow bite.

It's been ages since things felt just right for me. "Like Baby Bear's porridge," I blurt, regretting it immediately.

Her laugh echoes through the space over the faint sounds of the music from the nearby ballroom which makes me feel like less of a dork.

"Mmm." She swallows down the last of her strawberry. "Only five minutes left until the new year." Grabbing the champagne bottle, she holds it up. "Ever open one of these?"

"Yep. One of my many talents."

She places the bottle in my hand. "I know you aren't a fan of resolutions, but what if we just do our hopes for the coming year?"

I tear off the foil. "I like that. You go first, what are you hoping for in the new year?"

"So many things." She leans forward and toes the water. "More love. Less hate. Unprecedented voter turnout. Bold action on the climate crisis." Glancing at me, she smirks. "Just to name a few."

"You took all the good ones." I wrap my jacket around the bottle and pop the cork. "I hope for all the same things, too."

"That's cheating."

"You didn't let me finish." I hold out the bottle to her. "In addition to all of the aforementioned hopes, I'd like to add job opportunities with a living wage so I don't have to live in my parent's basement due to my crippling student loan debt."

She raises the bottle. "Amen to that."

"We forgot to grab glasses."


"I'm not opposed to sharing."

"Neither am I."

"Only two minutes until 2020. Are you sure you don't want to make some resolutions?"

Her voice is hopeful and her eyes nearly sparkle beneath her glittery make-up. I don't think I could say no to this girl if I tried. "You go first."

She places the bottle beside her and leans back, biting her bottom lip as she thinks. "In 2020, I resolve to get out of my own way."

"How so?"

Her eyes dart to mine and she's wearing this brilliant grin. "I don't know. Just get out of my head and stop second guessing myself and just go for it, you know?"

"I like that."

"Your turn." She bumps my foot with hers. "What do you want to do in the new year?"

I take a sip of the champagne and consider her question. I could totally go the easy route with the usual eat healthier and exercise more, but something about this girl makes me want to give more than the tired banalities the masses spew every new year. "Let's see. In 2020, I resolve to be more open."

"Open to what?"


"What kind of possibilities?" she asks, placing a hand over mine and squeezing it lightly to encourage me to share.

"Anything really. I just want to feel excited about something again. I don't know."


"Yeah. Not that I'd consider myself unhappy or anything. I'm content and all, but still something's missing, you know? There's just gotta be –"

"Something more?"


She takes the bottle and toasts me again. "To something more."

"Ten, nine," the partygoers chant as the countdown to 2020 begins.

"Here we go."

"Eight, seven –"

"Do you think Rose and Emmett are making out already?" she asks.

"Six, five—"

"Probably." I mimic her position, leaning back. "And I'll bet Dr. Gerandy and Mrs. Cope are swapping spit, too."

"Four, three –"

"Eww. Can't say I'm sad to miss it."

"Two, one," the crowd screams, followed by hoots and hollers.

"Happy New Year," she murmurs, tucking her hair behind her ear anxiously.

"Happy New Year," I reply, watching her look anywhere but at me as the band plays the first notes of "Auld Lang Syne."

"I love this song," she whispers, keeping her eyes on her feet in the water.

An awkward silence falls over us apart from the pool filter and the incoherent mumbling of the drunken masses in the ballroom. She fidgets with her hair again, looking unsure while I just stare at her, trying to get the courage up to get out of my own way. "Bella?"

My voice comes out quieter than I expected and so does hers when she responds. "Yes?"

"Can I …" My gaze slips down to her mouth then back up to meet her eyes. "Can I kiss you?"

Her mouth curls into a breathtaking smile as she nods. I close the short distance between us and watch her sparkly eyelids fall closed. Our lips are nearly touching when she speaks. "Tell me this isn't because you think you're going to die alone."

I laugh, pressing my forehead to hers. "Definitely not."

"Good," she whispers against my lips before covering my mouth with hers.

The kiss is everything I could've imagined. It's soft and slow. Strawberry and champagne-flavored perfection. Subtle, but sexy.

Her eyes darken as she pulls back slightly with a hum, but her fingertips creep up my arms.

"Too much," I ask, worried I took it too far.

"Not at all." She cradles my face in her hands. "It's just right."

And it is … just right. Everything about it.

The give and take, and the push and pull. It's just right.

The taste of her tongue and the way it feels when she brushes it against mine. It's just right.

The way she smiles against my lips when we stop to catch our breath and I repeat her words. "Just right."

Three sharp taps sound from the window and we turn to see a hotel security guard thumbing for us to get out.

"Damn," she whispers.

"Party's over."

"Not necessarily." She winks, pulling her feet from the water and grabbing her shoes and clutch as she stands. "Come on."

I hop up. "Where are we going?"

"Upstairs," she says, lowering her gaze again, almost unsure. "I mean, if you want to or whatever."

I definitely want to. Picking up the champagne bottle and my shoes, I smile. "After you."

We opt to take the stairs instead of riding up four floors with the masses of sloppy 20-somethings, tipsy 30-somethings, and the up-past-their-bedtime 40-somethings. Barefoot and smiling, she takes my hand and leads me up each flight until we're standing in front of the door to her room.

"So, this is me," she says, nervously waving her key card before unlocking the door.

Sensing her apprehension, I still her hand hovering over the knob. "Wait."

Her eyes go wide at the movement.

"This night has been …" I try finding the right words. "Better than any in recent memory for me."


"That being said, I just want you to know that I don't … Or we … don't," I motion between us, "have to do anything."

Her face is a mixture of amusement and confusion. "O-kay."

"I mean, I want to. Like a lot, but more importantly I want you to want to … too. Shit." I pinch the bridge of my nose and scrunch my eyes shut. "This isn't coming out the way I want it to."

"Edward," she pulls my arm down gently until I meet her gaze, "I know what you're trying to say."

"You do?"

"I do, and I appreciate it." She playfully taps my nose. "Nice to see someone paid attention to the enthusiastic consent lecture at freshman preview."

"I read an article on it."

"Oooh, self-taught." She grabs my tie. "That may be even sexier."

"Several articles, actually."

She tugs me closer. "Then I'll be sure to be extra enthusiastic."

My mouth crashes to hers as we stumble into her room. Shoes are tossed and the champagne bottle is haphazardly placed on the dresser. Helping me shrug off my jacket, she guides me until the back of my legs hit the loveseat.

Breaking the kiss, she takes a step backward and pulls her hair to the side before turning around. Her voice comes out soft and low. "Can you unzip me?"

I press my mouth to her neck, dropping long, open-mouthed kisses along her throat as I lower her zipper and let her dress fall to the floor. She covers herself almost shyly when she faces me. My eyes stay on hers until her arms fall to her sides.

She's gorgeous. Smiling in the moonlight with nothing on apart from the sparkles on her eyelids and dark lace.

I blow out a shaky, but audible 'wow' which earns me a light laugh and a gentle push back onto the loveseat. She climbs on top of me, straddling my lap and undoing my tie.

Her movements are achingly slow, mercilessly teasing me with her eyes and her fingertips and the way she bites her lip when she presses her center over my dick.

My name slips from her lips in a whisper followed by a panted plea to touch her. I slide a fingertip along her neck and down over her collarbone before tracing a line down her chest to her cleavage. Her eyes stay on mine as I explore each inch of exposed skin. She lowers the straps of her bra and reaches back to unclasp it. I watch it fall to the floor beside her dress.

Flipping the ends of her hair behind her shoulders, she lets me see her. I suck in a shaky breath at the sight. Creamy skin, topped with tightened petal pink tips. Fucking stunning.

We lose ourselves, her with her fingers threaded in my hair and pressing my mouth to her chest and me teasing her with my teeth and tongue. Her hips move over mine and her hands tug and pull off my shirt before slipping lower to my belt.

I groan out a 'fuck' when her fingers slip beneath the waistband of my boxers, gripping my length. "Bed?"


I pick her up, clutching her ass in my hands and kissing her lips as we cross the room. She laughs when we fall into the bed and moans when I press her hands above her head against the mattress. "I want to make you feel good," I murmur against her cheek.

"Please. Mmm" Her hips lift to meet mine. "Please."

I ghost my fingers down her body and watch her eyes fall closed when my hand dips beneath the lace to touch her. Watching her come undone is everything I'd hoped it'd be. Lips parted. Thighs clenched. A shaky exhale. "Beautiful."

She pulls me to her, kissing me deeply and rolling us over. Her hungry eyes stay on mine while she moves down my body, sucking and teasing and scratching lightly as she goes. Drawing back my boxers, she smiles up at me and mouths a 'wow'. I want to laugh, but the sight of her between my legs sliding her hands up my thighs is no laughing matter.

My hands grip the duvet when she kisses the tip and I groan as she takes me fully into her warm, wet mouth. I squeeze my eyes shut, doing my damnedest not to lose it just yet while she eases her way down my length torturously slow. It's excruciating and exhilarating and fucking sexy as hell.

"Come here," I tell her when I'm close, bringing her mouth back to mine. I grip her hips, steadying her lace-covered heat along my cock. It'd be so fucking easy to slide the material over and slip inside her.

So fucking easy, and it'd feel so fucking good.

"God damn," I groan when she licks her lips and rubs against me. "Fuck, Bella."

The lace stays put as she pushes me back down on the bed. She continues the maddening steady roll of her hips until I'm panting and tensing and shuddering through my release beneath her.

Moments later, after my breathing has slowed, she settles into my side with a smug yet satisfied grin playing at the corners of her lips. Barely able to keep her eyes open, she yawns and nuzzles into my chest. "Happy New Year," she mumbles softly.

I press a kiss to the top of her head and wish her one as well.

But for the first time ever, the words ring true, because I'm going into the new year happy.

"I'd like to keep seeing you," I murmur into her hair when she stirs beside me as the sunlight filters in from the open curtains.

She peeks up at me from beneath sparsely-glittered and mascara-smeared eyelids. "Really?"




"I guess I thought," her fingertips trace down my jaw, "you were more of an 'auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind' kind of guy."

I grab her hand and place it over my heart. "Not this year."

"New Year, new you?"



"New year with you." She's quiet for a moment and I can't quite read her expression so I second guess myself. "Too much, too soon?"

"Not at all." She smiles softly. "It's just right."

A/N: Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and safe 2020!

Thanks so much for reading!