Author's Notes: What's this? Two updates in one week? How can this be? Well, aside from the fact that I had a sudden burst of ambitious inspiration, I kind of wanted to thank everyone who's still following this story for sticking around while I worked out my RL issues. So instead of waiting a week as I normally would, you get it today. Thank you all, you guys rock my world. To my Muse, I love you more than I can ever say. I'd be lost without you, and some of the events of this chapter (*wink, wink* you know which ones) are my very special treat for you.

Chapter 23


The bank accepted our offer on the house and we were just waiting to close on it. It would be at least a month before we signed the papers but I couldn't help being excited. I didn't really have much in the way of belongings with me at Alice's, just what Jay and I had accumulated in the last year, but I started packing it up anyway. We also did a lot of packing at Bella's house. She was less than thrilled about the moving part of buying the house, but since she refused to let me hire a moving company for her, I helped her out with most of it. We decided to donate the furniture I had put up in storage and use the things from her house until it was time to pick out new stuff, which we agreed to do together.

A few days after we started the paperwork on the house, Bella suggested we invite James and his girlfriend over for dinner. She wanted to let him know that we would be moving in together and give him and me a chance to "get to know each other." It actually went pretty well. At first, I had to force myself to forget about the terrible things he'd said and done to her in the past, but once I managed that, we seemed to get along all right. He informed us that they too were looking to buy a bigger house, as he'd just proposed to Victoria. All in all, the afternoon went off without a hitch. I was glad to see Bella getting along with him, not only for Vanessa's sake, but for hers as well. I had been a little afraid of complications between them arising due to her relationship with me, but as it turned out my fears were completely unfounded.

Christmas was only three weeks away, and I had yet to buy any gifts. In years past, Angela did all of our Christmas shopping. I was always just as surprised at the gifts I gave as the people receiving them. I was just never much of a shopper. Bella and I had agreed to keep it simple, since we would be moving soon anyway, but as I found myself roaming the isles of the toy store, I couldn't seem to resist buying all the newest toys for our children.

Our children…

That phrase had such a ring to it. I knew I'd never replace James as Vanessa's father, but I did tend to think of her as my own. The same way that Bella did with Jay. In a way, I was glad that he'd been so young when we'd lost Ang. He won't have to carry the memory of her for the rest of his life, knowing that she'll never come back. While I'd never hide from him the fact that Bella is not actually his mother, I was relieved that she'd stepped up to that plate so willingly, and completely on her own, to fill that void in his young life. I couldn't have asked for a better stand-in for his own mother.

I heard my cell phone ring from my pocket and the familiar tone brought a smile to my face.

"Hello, beautiful," I said, answering it.

"Edward," she said with a giggle. "I thought you were meeting us for dinner?"

"What time is it? I haven't even picked up Jay yet," I replied, looking down at my watch. "Damn, I didn't even realize how late it was getting."

"Don't worry, I got him when I picked up Vanessa," she answered. "Where are you anyway?"

"Oh, I was just doing a little bit of shopping," I said. "I'm actually at the checkout right now."

"You didn't go overboard did you?" she asked.

"No, of course not," I said nervously.

"The total comes to two hundred, eighty four dollars and nineteen cents," the cashier said, a little more loudly than was quite necessary.

Bella all but shrieked into the phone. "You spent almost three hundred dollars! Edward, what the hell did you buy? We agreed—"

I ran my credit card and forced a smile at the girl behind the counter before taking my things and heading for the car. "I know we agreed, love, but I honestly couldn't resist."

"Oh, Edward," Bella laughed. "I should have known you couldn't stick to keeping it simple."

"This isn't all stuff for our kids, Bella," I said defensively. "I got Emelie's gifts as well."

That one really got her. After she finished laughing, she answered with "I think you are more excited for Christmas than the kids ever will be, Edward."

"You're probably right," I said with a laugh. "I'm getting into the car now; I'll meet you guys at Alice's in a few minutes okay?"

"Okay," she said. "Love you."

"Love you, too."

"Baby, wake up," I whispered. "It's Christmas."

Bella groaned and rolled over, trying unsuccessfully to ignore me.

"Come on, love, let's go have a cup of coffee before all the kids wake up and madness ensues," I said, rubbing her back gently.

"What time is it?" Bella asked as her eyes fluttered open.

"Seven," I answered simply.

Bella groaned again and sat up on the bed. We'd stayed the night at my parents' house- along with my brothers and sisters- as was tradition in our family. My mom still liked to have us all together to open gifts and have breakfast as a family.

I stood up and pulled Bella into my arms as she got up. "Good morning."

She stepped up onto her toes and kissed me, soft and gentle as always. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you," I said, smiling. "Come on, the coffee is ready, I can smell it from here."

We walked hand in hand down the stairs and into my mother's kitchen, where we were greeted by my sleepy eyed sister.

"Good morning, Ali," I said, ruffling her hair a little bit.

"Don't," she whined, swatting at my arm playfully.

"Good morning, children," my father said as he walked into the room. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Daddy," Alice said as she embraced our father tightly.

"Where is everyone else?" he asked, looking around.

"Mom's taking pictures of the tree. Emmett and Rosalie are feeding and changing Emelie, and Jasper is in the shower," Alice answered. "And I'm assuming Edward has yet to wake his kids up."

"I wanted my coffee before all the paper shredding and shrieking," I laughed.

Bella poured two cups of coffee and handed one to me. I smiled and thanked her before taking a sip of the black, steamy goodness. Esme walked in then and looked around the room.

"Lose something, Mom?" I asked.

"Where are my grandchildren?" she answered. "I want to take their picture in front of the tree."

"They're still upstairs," Alice replied.

"Well go and get them," mom said. "It's time."

Bella laughed and looked up at me. "Okay, now I know where you get it from."

"She loves Christmas," I shrugged.

"I see that," Bella said. "You finish your coffee; I'll go up and get the kids."

"Are you sure? I could help," I said.

She kissed my cheek, "No, it's fine. I got it."

Alice and my father shared a glance as Bella walked out and then both turned back to me. My sister wore a smug expression on her face.

"What?" I asked.

My dad just shook his head. "Nothing."

"You two are just so cute, Edward," Alice replied.

"Come on everyone, out into the living room now," my mom said, saving me.

Emmett came down the stairs carrying his daughter, with Rose and Jasper following right behind him. He set the baby down in her bouncy seat in front of the tree, as per our mom's orders and stepped aside. The process was repeated a moment later when Bella came down with Jay and Vanessa. My mom not only took pictures of all three children separately, but all three together as well.

"I think you got it covered, mom," Emmett said. "Can we stop with the photographic assault now and let them open their gifts?"

"It's not assault," she huffed as she picked up Emelie. "Is it, precious?"

"Whatever you say," Emmett replied, putting his arm around her shoulder.

"You can't blame me for wanting lots of photos of my grandbabies," she said, defending herself. "Come on now, everyone sit down."

Mom handed Rosalie the baby and then proceeded to play "Santa" and hand out gifts to everyone. She of course stopped to take plenty of pictures in between, not wanting to miss anything. Emmett began opening the baby's presents, making sure to hold up each one in front of her as if he expected her to get excited or clap her hands.

"She's not very good at this present stuff yet," he said.

"She's only two months old, Em," Rosalie said, laughing. "She'll be more into next year I'm sure."

Emmett looked from her to Jay, who was half buried in wrapping paper scraps and had bows stuck all over himself, and laughed. "Yeah, I guess so."

We had to stop and clean up paper three times before the kids were finished opening their hordes. I noticed that I wasn't the only one not to follow the "keep it small" rule. Bella looked up at me sheepishly and shrugged as Jay and Vanessa opened box after box.

"Just think," she said. "We get to do this all over again tonight with my parents.

"We're going to need a whole truck just for the things they've gotten here," I said, kissing her cheek.

Once the tree was completely devoid of all the glittering packages, my mother, Alice, and Rosalie excused themselves to go start breakfast. Emmett took a nap with Emelie in a lounge chair, while Jasper stretched out on the couch. Jay and Vanessa had an impromptu tea party, using the new set Alice had bought for her, with Grandpa Carlisle. Bella and I watched for a few minutes, laughing now and then when my dad would pretend to eat the plastic muffins or hold his pinky out daintily as he sipped his tea.

"I'm going to go get dressed," Bella whispered.

"I'll come with you," I said, smiling. "I have something for you upstairs anyway.

"What?" she asked. "Something else? What is it?"

"Come on," I said, pulling her to her feet. "I'll show you."

She followed me up the stairs and sat on the corner of the bed, closing her eyes and putting her hands out in front of her. "Let me have it."

I leaned in and pressed my lips to hers, caressing her cheek with one hand while the other tangled into her hair. She sneaked one hand up the front of my shirt, lightly stoking the muscles of my chest. Her lips parted a little and my tongue met hers anxiously, the gentle give and take increasing into a sense of urgency and need. She scooted back further onto the bed and I climbed up, following her. With shaky hands she lifted my shirt up over my head and threw it to the floor. I smiled lovingly at her and watched her nervousness dissipate. Bella pushed me down on the bed and moved to straddle my lap as she kissed a soft trail from my ear, down my neck, nipping occasionally at my skin, and back up to my lips.

"Are you sure you want to do this here?" I asked breathlessly.

Although we'd come close a few times, Bella and I hadn't yet made love. I wasn't sure if she wanted our first time to be at my parents' house.

"Are the kids okay with your dad?" she asked in between kisses.

I gulped as she lightly ran her fingernails down my chest and stomach and nodded.

"Then yes, I think I do," she whispered, tilting her hips ever so slightly, grinding against me.

My eyes rolled back for a second as I fought the urge to thrust back. I put my hands gently on her hips, holding her there for a moment before sitting up. She looked at me questioningly and I nodded to the open door.

"Oh, right," she said, sliding herself off of my lap.

Bella strutted across the room and shut the door, locking it. She reached up and removed the hair tie holding back her long locks and shook out her hair. I sat and watched, transfixed, as she slowly pulled the camisole pajama top up and over her head, dropping it next to the bed before crawling back up and into my lap once again.

"I love you," she whispered.

I wrapped my arms around her, nuzzling my face into her neck. "And I love you."

He hands ghosted up and down my spine, making every nerve in my body tingle. Her touch, as light as it was, caused my whole body to react. I brushed my knuckles slowly up and down her ribs and waist as I kissed my way from her neck, up the line of her jaw to her ear, sucking lightly on the lobe for a brief moment. He eye lids fluttered as she sighed, arching her back and pressing her chest tightly against mine. I reached around her back to unclasp her bra, needing to feel the heat of her skin against my own. I traced the line of one strap with my finger, and gently pulled it down over her shoulder, repeating the process again on the other side, before completely removing it. Bella looked up at me, her eyes full of love and passion, and pressed her lips to mine. The intensity of the kiss grew quickly as rational thought left us and lustful need took over. I shivered as I felt her nails running down my back. She ground her hips again, brushing her warm center against my stiff and aching cock. Unable to control my own reactions to her anymore, I bucked up into her. I ran my fingers around the top edge of her lounge pants, from her hips around to her back, causing her to tremble lightly. I plunged down inside them, gripping her ass cheeks in my palms and pulling her even tighter against me as my hips bucked again.

Bella pushed softly on my shoulders, silently telling me to lie down. She dragged her fingers down my chest and stomach again, following the invisible trail with light kisses and nips.

"These need to go," she whispered, tugging on the drawstring of my pants.

I rolled us over quickly and pulled off my pants and boxers with stealth like moves and she laughed. I cupped her cheek with my hand and leaned down to kiss her lips.

"I think yours need to go as well," I said.

Not waiting for a response, I pushed her pants down her hips and over her thighs, tossing them out of my way when they were off. I took in the glory of her naked body, the gentle curves and softness, her pale, ivory skin, all of her took my breath away. My hand grazed up her thigh and hip, almost of its own volition, up to her pert and perky breast. Palming and massaging it before kissing the tip of her nipple, I swirled my tongue slowly around it, sucking it into my mouth. Her back arched as she shivered with pleasure and a tiny moan escaped her lips. I moved on to her other breast, paying it the same attention as the first. My hand was on her stomach, thumb rubbing lazy circles around her belly button. She rubbed her thighs together, searching for some sort of friction to ease the ache of longing. I dragged my hand down slowly, grazing the outer edge of her already wet entrance. I slipped a finger inside of her, pumping a few times before adding another. Her body writhed with the excitement and I watched in amazement as she closed her eyes and let the feeling take her over. I continued to pump my fingers in a slow pace in and out of her, rubbing her clit gently with my thumb, until I felt her walls start to tighten and the beginning of her impending release.

I removed my fingers, leaving her on the edge of her climax. She whined at the sudden emptiness but sat up and straddled me. She hovered just above the tip of my cock and took it in her hand, stroking up and down my length as she teased her entrance with it. I sighed heavily, aching to be inside of her, needing that ultimate connection to her. Sensing my longing, she released her grip on me and slid herself down onto my throbbing dick, rolling her hips in a slow, deep motion. I arched my hips up, following the pace she set. My hand ran up her back and over her shoulders, pulling her down to me. I kissed her, long and hard. Our breathing became more and more ragged as she sped up her pace. My every thrust met hers with perfect timing. She sat up again, leaning back slightly, allowing me to get even deeper inside of her with each and every plunge. Her body began to quake and I felt her inner walls constricting again, my own release was not too far off. I sat up then too, wrapping her ankles around my waist. I pumped in and out of her, faster and faster until she closed around me. Her entire body shuddered with the force of her release, in effect causing my own climax. We both stilled, my forehead resting against hers, huffing and puffing, until we caught our breath again.

"Wow," she whispered.

I nodded and kissed her softly. "You know that wasn't what I meant when I said I had something upstairs for you."

"No?" she asked. "It was still perfect regardless."

"Indeed," I whispered. "I love you."

"I love you too, Edward," she answered, stroking my cheek with her hand.

E/N: So who wants to guess what the gift is? Tell me what you think in the reviews.