Author's Note: Thank you guys for reading this; I hope you enjoyed it even half as much I as enjoyed writing it.
Nice reviews are better than chocolate, unless maybe you're licking that chocolate off someone.
"My love, give me more"
We stayed in bed for as long as we could the next morning, talking about all the non-important things that entered our minds. Alice called promptly at 9:30 to tell us they were on their way. "So," I said, biting my lip, "they're going to have questions about us." We both decided to keep our relationship from them until we went back home. Neither of us was crazy about all the attention it would cause otherwise.
For some reason, this turned into a sort of sexual innuendo game of how far we could take it without revealing ourselves.
Alice and company were due to arrive around two o'clock so by 1:30 Edward and I were presentable. He'd started a fire so we were both in the living room kissing.
Hey, they weren't here yet.
We were oblivious to the rest of the world until a very bright, very familiar voice called out to us from the entryway. "Hello!"
Edward held me close for an instant longer before we quickly scooted to opposite ends of the couch.
"Well as I live and breathe, you two are in the same room!" Ben's exclamation was cut short by an elbow to the ribs by Angela. He stifled an "ouch" and smiled in our direction, holding up a bag of presents. "Merry Christmas!"
Edward and I both stood up to help them into the house. "How was your drive?" Edward asked, grabbing Alice's suitcase and gifts bag from her. We carried everything into the living room where it was unceremoniously dropped on the floor.
"She drives like a maniac," Jasper commented, a wry smile on his face; the way he said it sounded like a compliment.
"Who got the Christmas tree? That's so sweet," Alice immediately started putting gifts under the tree while the rest of the group relaxed on the couch. I went over to help her. "Did you guys get this together?" She mumbled, her eyes wide.
"No, he got it yesterday morning; I helped him decorate though."
She paused to look at me, "are you two…getting along?"
I repressed a smile, "he only attacked me once, right over there." I nodded toward the kitchen and looked up to see her expression; she had one manicured eyebrow raised in question. I put my head down and leaned forward to put another gift under the tree. "I'm kidding, it's a big house, and honestly I've hardly even seen him." I moved further away to hide the blush spreading across my face. I can't believe I said all of that with a straight face.
I don't know how we were deciding the winner of our little innuendo game, but that had to be a point for me.
Alice and I finished arranging the gifts when she pointed out that there had been one gift with my name on it when she'd started. I told her Edward was probably just trying to be nice. "See, I told you, just got to get to know him a little."
I nodded and didn't say anything.
She stayed kneeling, "what were you guys doing when we got here?"
I looked down, "nothing, just talking."
She raised both eyebrows this time.
"What? You told me to give it a shot."
Her expression softened. "I'm glad you guys are getting along," she moved to give me a quick peck on the cheek before standing up. "Jasper and I brought a turkey!" She announced to the room.
The boys all went into the den to hang out while Alice, Angela, and I went to work in the kitchen. Edward had tried to come in to help, but Alice pushed him out. "But this is where all the real action is," he said, looking at me a little too directly.
One for Edward.
The remark seemed to go over Alice's head and she kicked him out. Angela and I prepared the turkey while Alice got everyone wine. "How much did you guys have to drink before we got here?" She asked, noticing that one of the bottles was nearly empty; I stifled my laughter.
"I only had a couple of glasses," I picked up a glass while Alice picked up the other two to take to the guys. We walked into the den where the boys were in the middle of a serious round of "Bullshit". Jasper didn't appear to be doing very well; he had about half the deck. Alice went to him and gave him the glass and a quick kiss.
"It's ok, you're still in it," she smiled at him.
"It's Edward, it's like he can read minds or something."
Ben nodded in agreement; I noticed he had most of the rest of the cards while Edward only had five. I sat on the arm of the couch just slightly behind Edward and the rest of the boys around the coffee table. I leaned forward and touched the cool glass on his arm just below the hem of his t-shirt. "Wine?" He turned around to take the glass. "Looks like you're making out pretty well," I dared a quick wink at him. I didn't even blush.
Another one for me.
Edward grinned and took a sip of the wine. "Tastes good," he winked back.
Definitely one for him.
A mumbled "I should get back to Angela" was all I could come up with and I turned and went back to the kitchen. Alice followed a short while later.
"What the hell?" Alice said when she got back into the kitchen. Angela and I both turned on the island stools to look at her. "Did Edward wink at you?"
How could she have possibly seen that? "Uh, what?" I asked lamely. I prayed that I wouldn't blush, or at least that she wouldn't notice.
She was looking at me suspiciously; Edward and I weren't even going to make it a whole day without everyone finding out. "Ben saw, he said Edward winked at you when you gave him the wine." I could see a smile playing at the corner of her mouth. "You know what I think…"
I tried not to visibly swallow. "What's that?"
"I think he likes you."
I exhaled and tried to play it off as nothing. "What?" I scoffed. "He doesn't even want to be in the same room as me."
Alice stared at me; I could practically hear her wheels turning.
"So I think it's time to baste the turkey," Angela intervened, standing up, but to no avail.
"You like him!" She exclaimed.
My eyes widened at her astuteness. My first reaction was to say 'how do you know that?' but I held back. Instead I went with the always convenient, "Nuh-uh." I huffed a quick laugh, "I do not. You've seen us; we always end up insulting each other." Was I allowed to take a point away from Edward for being too obvious? Nevermind, I just did. I turned and opened the oven to baste the turkey.
"I knew something weird was going on between you two." Alice continued.
"It looks good," Angela was still trying to divert Alice's freight train of thought.
"Yeah, should be ready by seven, you think?" I asked.
Alice sat on the stool I'd vacated with a smug smile on her face which made me nervous, but not so nervous that I was willing to bring up the subject to ask what she was thinking. So Edward and I weren't quite subtle enough, I knew I didn't want to play that game. I was going to have to tell him to take everything down a couple of levels before everyone caught on. I had a sneaking suspicion by the gleam in Alice's eyes that she had decided to use the rest of our time here to set me up with Edward. I laughed to myself at the thought. When I looked up both Alice and Angela were staring at me; I hadn't realized my distraction had been so noticeable.
"You've got it bad," Alice grinned. Even Angela was holding back a smile.
"I've got nothing, go mash some potatoes."
By seven o'clock all three of the guys had come in to ask when the food would be ready at least once. We rang the proverbial dinner bell just after seven to a couple of cheers and one good natured "finally" from Ben. "Edward, why don't you sit there," she gestured to the seat next to me. I took deep breaths to keep from blushing too badly. Everyone took a seat around the big table while Alice poured more wine. The sweet smell of it was almost too much to take. Edward glanced at me from the corner of his eye and his mouth turned up in a grin too quick for anyone but me to notice. The passing of the food began then so no one noticed my sudden discomfort. I hadn't gotten a chance to talk to Edward since Alice had decided to set us up.
The conversation flowed easily around the table and thankfully, Alice didn't mention my relationship with Edward, at least not to anyone but me. The guys offered to clean up dinner afterward and we didn't protest. Alice, Angela, and I sat in the den; they relaxed while I waited for a good time to excuse myself. After a few minutes I stood up, "I'm going to get a glass of water." I went into the kitchen where Edward was dutifully rinsing off plates while Jasper and Ben were in a deep discussion on the health benefits of apple versus pumpkin pie. Edward looked up as I passed by and moved to follow me into the entryway. "I need to talk to you," I said quietly.
"What's the matter?" I must have made it seem more distressing than it probably was; I tried to lighten up a bit.
"Alice is trying to set us up."
Edward started laughing.
"Shh! It's not that funny. She knows you winked at me."
He had stopped laughing, but still had a big, silly grin on his face. "Is that why she wanted me to sit next to you at dinner?" I nodded. He sighed, "well, let her set us up then. She'll have the satisfaction of doing it and we won't have to hide or answer a million questions." He took a step closer.
I thought it over for a minute. It did make sense and this way she wouldn't ask us anything because she would assume us being together was totally her doing. And it would probably make her happy. "Ok, I'm in." He smiled and gave me a quick kiss before we went back to our groups.
After everything was cleaned up, we gathered in the living room to open gifts. Alice nominated Jasper to hand them out and she nominated herself to take pictures of all of us. I got a new book I'd been wanting from Angela and Ben and a slim fitting satin top (which was actually quite lovely) from Alice and Jasper. I saved my gift from Edward until everyone was busy opening their own things. I gave him a look asking whether or not it was appropriate to open in front of everyone and he nodded. I tore the paper carefully; it covered a box which I also opened. It was a wine glass. Edward leaned a little closer to me and murmured, "I also got one to replace the one we broke."
I couldn't fight the blush.
"I got you something else too, but that's for later." He said before he straightened back up.
I put the glass back in the box and kept it on my lap. We were all swimming in paper and ribbon by the time we were done and in no mood to clean it all up right away. Instead we talked for a little while before retreating to our bedrooms. Alice and Jasper took the bedroom next to mine while Angela and Ben decided to sleep in the loft. I was glad to hear there was another bed up there.
I couldn't sleep; not knowing that one floor below Edward was in bed too. He had wanted to sneak up to my room, but I told him no since Alice had the hearing of a bat. By 1 a.m. though, I was having second thoughts. Very carefully, I got out of bed and crept downstairs. I checked to make sure no one else was up and then very slowly, opened Edward's door.
"Bella?" His voice sounded deeper than normal and I felt my heart pick up the pace immediately.
"Hey," I walked closer, not sure what I was going to do.
Edward lifted up his blankets and made room for me; I crawled in and snuggled up to him. When my cold feet touched his legs, he jumped. "Sorry," I whispered.
He smiled, "it's ok." He wrapped his arms around me and turned so I was lying on top of him. I gave him a lingering kiss, enjoying the warmth coming off his skin. Soon it was coming off my own skin as well. We changed positions; I was on my back with Edward half over me, one arm planted on either side. "Can I give you your other present now?"
I bit my lip, "you didn't have to buy me anything."
"I didn't buy it," he got up and rifled through his bag. Did I mention how good he looked without his shirt on? He sat at the edge of the bed with a square box too big to hold a ring. "I told you before that I've had feelings for you since we met, well…" he trailed off; it looked like he was trying to gather the nerve to say something. It was an odd look for him. "When Alice told Jasper and I that you had driven up already I jumped in my car and left; I knew I couldn't wait any longer. I couldn't spend a week in this house with you and not tell you how I felt, it would make me crazy. Anyway, I brought this with me; it's been in my family for a long time. It usually gets passed down to the first daughter, but I'm an only child."
I sat up, "no, I don't want to take an heirloom from you. It belongs in your family."
"Please? I want you to have it," he looked at me with his most persuasive, pleading expression and I gave in.
"Ok…" He took my hand and dropped the box in it. I took off the lid slowly, afraid of what I might find. My eyes widened as I took in charm, it was a heart, cut to sparkle even in the almost total darkness of the room. "Edward." I didn't know what to say.
"Sorry it doesn't have a chain; I didn't know if you'd want to wear it as a necklace or a bracelet, or if you'd just throw it back at me."
"It's beautiful, I…thank you," I could feel my eyes watering; I touched the heart.
Edward pulled me onto his lap and kissed my forehead. "It's always been yours."
I left Edward's room a little after two in the morning; I could have stayed there all night but we were going to let Alice think everything was her doing. I was tip-toeing over to the stairs when I heard a floorboard creak somewhere behind me. I stopped and turned around, thinking it was Edward, but I could barely see my hand in front of my face let alone another person. It must have been my imagination, after all. But then I heard it again, followed by another noise I couldn't quite place. I was tempted to run back into Edward's room; I turned to look behind me again. "Hello?" I whispered. It was met with silence so I decided not to waste any more time and ran up the stairs.
The sudden noise surprised me and I tripped on a stair, landing hard on my knee. I recognized the voice. "Alice?" I called out, relieved. A dim light at the foot of the stairs came on, Alice stood there with her arms crossed.
"You scared the crap out of me!" She stage whispered.
"You scared me too," I got up and inspected my knee; I was probably going to have a bruise.
She started ascending the stairs, "you know, you forget how quiet and dark it is when you live in the city. What were you doing?"
I thought fast, "getting some water."
"Oh? Me too, how come you weren't in the kitchen?"
"I was…in the den. I couldn't sleep, the quiet, you know." The answer seemed to satisfy her curiosity. "Well, good night." I said, almost to the safety of my room.
"'Night. Wait, did you lose a button?" She asked before she opened her door.
I froze. "What?"
"I stepped on a button in the kitchen."
"Oh, no it's not mine. See you tomorrow." I ran inside my bedroom and closed the door before she could ask any more questions.
The rest of the week went perfectly. Edward and I moved a little closer every day, letting Alice have her fun. She was elated to see that our feelings for each other seemed mutual. She had invited more people up for a New Year's Eve party now that it had stopped snowing and the roads were cleared.
The afternoon of the party, Alice insisted on helping me get ready; Angela hung out with us to provide something of a buffer. She had finished with my make-up, which actually turned out quite nice, and was currently digging through my suitcase to find my favorite cashmere sweater. She pulled a shirt out, "Bella…it was your button."
"What?" It had become my go-to response.
"See? You're missing a button on this shirt, hmm," she kept looking, too distracted to look any further into it. "Oh, I forgot to ask, what did Edward get you for Christmas?" She pulled out the black sweater and grey slacks.
I felt my face turning a deep crimson, "a wine glass."
"A wine glass?" Angela said, tilting her head to the side.
"That's weird. Maybe he'll get better with time," she grinned. "Here, put this on and then I'll do your hair."
We were just finishing up when the first guests arrived; they were some friends of Edward and Jasper from college. After that, people poured in (despite the weather). Alice flitted through the crowd with Jasper, socializing and refilling everyone's glass. The crowd had gotten thick enough that Edward and I didn't have to pretend quite as hard not to be a couple.
"I want to kiss you," he murmured into my ear. We stood by the window a few feet from the Christmas tree. I looked at him, a mix of desire and nerves evident in my expression. "Midnight, ok? Then let them wonder or whatever they're going to do."
"Ok," I smiled, almost kissing him right then and there.
I watched his gaze move over my body. The black, low V-neck sweater skimmed snugly over my frame and Edward was taking pleasure in that fact. "You look gorgeous tonight."
I looked down for a moment before raising my face to meet his eyes, "you don't look half bad yourself." He had on black slacks just tight enough to give every woman in the room ideas and a burgundy button down shirt so dark it was almost black. I noticed right away that I could see the outline of his muscles clearly through it and now I could barely contain myself. He had rolled the sleeves midway up his forearms, the material clung to him and I found myself making any excuse to touch him.
Alice strode over with a big smile on her face, "more wine, you two?"
"No, I'm fine for now." I said.
"None for me thank you."
"One hour until midnight," she said suggestively before walking back to Jasper on the other side of the room.
We spent most of the next hour being social at Alice's insistence. She introduced us by calling me Edward's date which was basically true but still made me laugh. He led me through the room with his hand on my lower back. He'd made a tiny space between the bottom of my shirt and the waistband of my pants and every so often I could feel the tip of a finger brush across my skin.
"Ok everybody," Alice was standing on the coffee table to get everyone's attention. Jasper stood near with an arm out just in case he needed to catch her. "Thank you all for coming, I hope you all are having a good time!" This was met with a round of cheers and raised glasses. "One minute 'til midnight!" She took Jasper's hand and he helped her down before sweeping her up into a hug.
I suddenly felt butterflies in my stomach. I was about to kiss Edward, right in the middle of the room, in front of my friends and not to mention a bunch of strangers.
My worry was stalled by the look on Edward's face as he pulled me closer. It was desire and elation I saw in his eyes, plus something else. Love? He wrapped his arms around me and it didn't matter anymore who might be watching. I heard Alice start counting "10,9,8…" and then everyone else joined in except us. He kept his eyes on mine and the room seemed to quiet down and fade out almost completely. Very faintly I heard the cheers erupt in the room around us. Edward brought his mouth to mine, barely skimming my lips at first; it was sweet but tentative. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him closer. He responded eagerly and soon I felt the tip of his tongue brush across my lower lip.
We stayed that way through an entire chorus of Auld Lang Syne before parting. "Happy New Year," he said quietly. He kissed me once more softly before moving so we were side by side. Someone had opened a bottle of champagne and passed us each a glass; we touched them together and took a sip. I looked in the direction I had last seen Alice, but she was preoccupied with Jasper. He had lifted her off the ground so he wouldn't have to lean so far down to kiss her. I smiled and turned back to Edward. He hugged me and I wanted to stop time and stay there forever.
A few couples that had a little too much fun slept over that night so Edward and I helped clean up that morning and waited until they were gone before we packed up too. Since we had taken separate cars, I was going to follow Edward back to his apartment. Jasper and Alice were going to stay at the cabin one more night. We all hugged good bye and Alice gave me a quick "I told you so" before we left; she was very proud of herself.
We loaded up the cars and waved good bye one more time, thrilled to have a place to ourselves for another night.
We still had a lot of time to make up for after all.
Alice and Jasper were relaxing together in the den watching a movie. That's what it would look like to a bystander anyway. In truth, Jasper was trying to come up with the best way of coming on to Alice without simply jumping her and Alice was in the middle of an epiphany. Jasper gave it up first. He touched his fingertips to her face, turning it toward him. When she complied, he stared at her for a moment; it was always like the first time. He glided his lips over hers, fixing them instead on her neck. Jasper would never get over her taste. He leaned her back on the couch. She jumped up instead. "Wait!"
Jasper leaned on the couch over the space where she should have been. "What is it?"
Without a word, she walked quickly into the kitchen with Jasper trailing. "They were sitting together on the couch when we got here, right? Then when I talked to Bella she said Edward 'only attacked her once' in the kitchen." She made little air quotes. "The wine glass, I'm not sure….and the button…where's my phone?!" She turned on her heel and grabbed her phone from the living room.
Bella picked up on the fourth ring. "Hel..lo?"
"You had sex with Edward before we even got here! In the kitchen!"
Bella didn't say anything for a moment; Alice thought she heard a muffled laugh and some kind of shuffling.
"Don't even try and deny it! After all your talk, and you guys-"
"Good night Alice, we had a great time and we love you. We'll see you when you get back," Edward said, his voice sounded strange, husky. Alice heard a muted "good night" from Bella.
"…Good night…" Alice replied as they hung up. She turned to face Jasper who was watching her with an amused expression on his face. "They didn't even need me."
Jasper took a few steps closer until he was pressed up against her, his arms around her waist. "I need you." He grinned, waiting for her response. She reached up to wrap her arms around him.
"Maybe we can stay tomorrow night too?"
"As long as you want." With that, he picked her up.
They made it all the way to the couch.
Author's Note: I'm going back to work on Tinsel Town now, but I wanted to let you know that I'll be gone for the next week (obligatory Christmas gatherings, etc). I'll have my laptop, but I have no idea how much free time I'll have to write. So Merry Christmas to everyone that will be celebrating it!