Pick Your Poison

Rating: M

Song: Santa Claus Is Back In Town

Summary: Four couples gather at the McCarty home for their traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Can they overcome the stresses in their marriages and reconnect as lovers?

Disclaimer: Author does not own the song, or any public/recognizable characters, including those from Twilight, by S. Meyer

Emmett POV

"I promise."

"Swear!" she said petulantly, her blue eyes looking up at me over her glasses.

"No, a promise is enough. I don't swear." I swept her up into my arms and brought her to eye level. "I'll give him the note."

"And he'll be here?"

"Yes, I'll even drive him over if I need to." I narrowed my eyes, let my eyebrows rise and put my forehead against hers. "Deal?"

She considered the offer. She had my promise and knew if she went along with the plan, the potential was there for great reward, both tomorrow and for weeks to come. Our eyes locked on each others', both of us consummate players in this on-going game of strategy. Time for the heavy artillery.

I smiled.

I gave her the dimples.

And then I tickled the little waist mercilessly.

"Daaaaadddddddyyyyyyy!!!!!" Sophie squealed; a writhing, loose-limbed, tiny mass in my arms.

"Say it!" I said, succumbing to my daughter's snorting, full-throated laughter with my own similar mirth. "Say it, Sophie Stinker Slimy Snew!"


"I'm sorry, did you say 'OK, Daddy'?"

"Aahhhhaa..." She snorted again. " ....O...K....Da-daddy!"

I quit tickling and kissed her forehead, inhaling her sweet, little girl blueberry shampoo smell. Sophie raised her head, looking up at me in total adoration and moved toward me for a kiss.

At the last minute she grabbed my nose and screeched, "HONK!"

That's my girl.

Behind us, my mother watched the entire exchange with great relish. She'd told me I'd pay for all the hell I visited upon her as a child. She always enjoyed Sophie's antics immensely, almost sadistically, in truth.

"Nanny!" Sophie wriggled from my arms and hurtled over a snowdrift on the way to her grandmother. "Nanny! Nanny, Daddy and me..."

"I," I corrected as I shouldered her Yo Gabba Gabba overnight bag and gathered her favorite quilt and pillow.

"Daddy and I wrote a letter...a letter to Santa, and he's coming here tonight, and if he doesn't remember how to get here then Daddy is going to drive him, but I hope he remembers because I want to see Rudolph too. Daddy showed-ed me a picture of a wayne deer on his computer, and it won't fit in Daddy's Jeep. Nanny..." Sophie looked up at Mom, troubled, but miraculously with plenty of breath to spare, "Nanny, do you think Santa remembers how to get here? I mean, Daddy's so old, and you said he was naughty a lot, so he may have not even come sometimes, but I know he's coming for me because I'm very good."

"Ak! Aw!" I grasped at my heart. "Twin wounds! Old and bad!"

Mom shook her head, laughing all the while and clearly up to her chin in divine retribution.

"Sophie, your father always somehow managed to make the 'Nice' list. I think it might have been the hot chocolate and cookies he left out for Santa every year that saved him. Here, now, it's cold. Run on inside and jump on Grandaddy's lap."

I passed Sophie's bag and bedding to my mother as I leaned down to kiss her cheek. "Thanks, Mom."

"It's OK, Emmett...you know we love having her. I'll leave the side door open so you and Rose can come in when you're done at home. The blue bedroom is made up for you."

"Got it," I said over my shoulder. I was already steeped in my own to-do list for the day. Shopping at Whole Foods. Threatening the UPS guy with dismemberment if Soph's last two presents didn't arrive. Wrap gifts for the girls.

Heh. My girls.

If someone had told me five years ago not only would I be a father, I'd also own my own fitness center with one of my best friends - oh, and still be married to the smokin' hot body, Dr. Rose, I would have been thrilled beyond words.

If someone had told me five years ago having a child would make me grow a vagina, I would have decked them.

Because of my wife's extremely busy schedule as a surgeon, I cared for my daughter full-time. I also continued to accept personal training clients on a limited basis. We tried the nanny route. The first time I saw a mark on my baby's arm was all it took. I cut my schedule in half, took some of the gym's management duties over from Jasper so I could work from home, and became Emmett McCarty: Mr. Mom, Big Poppa, the fuckhottest Mrs. Daddy in the zipcode.

I discovered the vagina started to grow in when I realized I was spending time - a lot of time - with three of my neighbors talking about things like remodeling kitchens, trading recipes, good playgroups... and absentee spouses. We drank tea; they fucking had me watching Oprah if Soph was asleep. They really listened to me, I learned how to really listen to them. Soon, we were shopping together, Bella and I trading Gymboree and BabyGap coupons, Alice consulting with me on organic versus locally grown vegetables, Esme just fucking keeping my shit together when the wrong granite arrived three weeks late.

We went to lunch while Soph went to pre-school. I was a lady who lunched.

I loved my life.

I'd had more painful, gasping-for-breath laughter with those three harpies than I ever had with any male friend. I couldn't imagine a day without talking to at least one of them. After years of hounding after anything with tits, I had finally learned how to be friends, really close friends, with a woman. Three of them. All completely hot too. I still have eyes, for Chrissakes.

That's when the vag stopped growing and became permanent. They were my best friends.

As I turned the engine of the Jeep over, The King blared from the speakers: " 'Santa's coming down your chimney tonight'..." he sang.

Yeah, Santa hadn't been down the chimney at my house since before Thanksgiving. It was really starting to piss me off.

I picked up my cell and dialed Esme. The woman was an incredible cook, hostess, interior designer. Everything she did reeked of class.

I needed her opinion desperately.

"Ez? Busy?"

"Fanging curtains, farling. Fhat's wong?"

"Quick - potatoes dauphinoise or just plain old mashed with chives. I'm doing Bearnaise sauce with tarragon and red wine for the tenderloins, and I'm concerned the chives will be too much," I asked, nibbling at my thumb while scanning for a parking place. The Whole Foods parking lot was packed already at eight thirty in the morning.

"Jus do mased, Em," she replied through her teeth. "Fives are fine fift farragon."

"You sound weird."

"I have a mouft full of fins."

"OK...fins. Do you need anything from the grocery store?"

"Fey donft sell fhat at Fhole Foods, Em."

"Poor baby. They might have something to your liking over at Manuel's Pleasure Emporium."

"Em, I'mf working...."

"Later, Ezzers."

"Ververt," she growled and hung up.

Luckily, I found a space that wasn't in the next county and swung the Jeep into it neatly. I checked the contents of my Barn jacket - Esme was responsible for turning me on to the suburban comfort that is Eddie Bauer - and closed the Jeep up, ready to join the rest of humanity in the Christmas Eve grocery crush.

"They better have a decent pair of tenderloins left, or I'm gonna lose my shit," I grumbled as I took a cart and extracted my shopping list.

Alice POV

"Did you remember to pick up the extra cream cheese and heavy whipping cream? Oh, and the brandy?" I asked while hopelessly trying to style my otherwise crazy hair. Maybe I should go for the smooth Lolita, or maybe the Halle Berry spike. "Jas? Did you hear me?"

"Mmphh..." came his reply from downstairs.

I walked out of our master bedroom on the second floor wearing only a matching lacy bra and panties. From the landing I looked over the banister where I could see Jasper putting sacks of groceries on the granite top kitchen island. He held a leather key chain made by one of his martial art students in his mouth. Aha, his muffled reply was now explained.

I took a moment or two to appraise my husband's fit body. He was wearing black basketball shorts, a dark grey sweatshirt reading, "A boy and his balls are never to part," socks and black Under Armour slides. Jasper insisted on wearing the strangest shirts. It made Christmas shopping easier and more fun for me - just find the most random sayings to make that inner twelve-year-old boy giggle, and I was golden.

He was in the middle of pulling off his sweatshirt to reveal an equally obscure T-shirt underneath, but not before I glimpsed a slice of heaven while the shirt momentarily stuck via static cling to his upper body. His dusky skin pulled taut over his well-muscled arms and torso as he flexed his abs. Jesus, who made pulling off a shirt a weight lifting event? And those legs. A tremor curled through my belly. His strong calves were hard as rocks. Just standing there ogling his legs caused my toes to twitch. Yes, they remembered just this morning. Remembered it well.

Sleepy wake-up sex.

Jasper nuzzled up between my thighs, his arms wrapped around my neck and shoulders, while my face was tucked up into the hollow of his neck. Cords straining while I kissed and laved away at the thin skin greeting my lips. His heavy weight welcome as sunshine. My hands held firmly to his ass while he sumptuously glided in and out, my ankles and toes massaging up the back of those pillar calves, sliding over springy-haired skin in time with his thrusts...

Then he did the unthinkable. He opened the fridge, took out a half-gallon of orange juice, popped the cap, brought the opening up to his lips and drank straight from the bottle. It was extremely sexy watching him take deep pulls from the container, his Adam's apple bobbing with every swallow. Yet...


He put the cap back on and all but threw the plastic bottle back in the door where he got it from. Angling his head up in my direction, he said, "Hiya, Alley," a shit-eating grin spearing his strong features. "Yeah, I got everything on the list. Although, not the most healthy of ingredients."

"It's a dinner party, a Christmas dinner party. So no fat, calorie, carb, sugar or fiber counting. Just yummy goodness!" I turned from him, knowing all too well he could see my ass as I sashayed away.

.....thump, thump, thump came his heavy footsteps up the stairs. I squealed with laughter and ran en pointe into our bedroom with my hot husband after me. Dammit! We were going to be late. And I still had a brandywine cheesecake to finish.

"Well, you be a real good little girl
Santa Claus is back in town..."

Bella POV

"Free!" Bronte and Austen were safely tucked away at my cousin Leah's house for the evening, her cavernous family room a kid paradise of Disney movies, high sugar treats and sleeping bags. The kids would open stockings at Leah's tomorrow morning, and we would bring their Santa presents over for brunch. More power to her. Not in my house without heavy medication.

I pulled my husband to me by the collar and nuzzled against the delicious, creamy skin of his cheek. We would have at least eighteen hours of completely uninterrupted adult time. He promised me his studio door would stay closed, and he would stay out of it. I needed Edward time. Concentrated, naked, sweaty, unbridled Edward time. I needed him passionate and teasing, commanding and unrestrained. God, I was so ripe for Edward, my juices were dripping, and I was close to falling off the vine.

I couldn't stand the New Age Phillip Glass-ish synthesizer shit he'd been composing this fall. It started about the same time as the vegan diet and the yoga. Why couldn't Edward have dealt with turning thirty-five like most men and start to go strip clubs and ogle high school girls at the neighborhood pool? Where was my carnivorous, piano-playing, hard-loving Edward? This macrobiotic shake swilling, emotionally distant, semi-mystical piano guru was hardly recognizable as the man I married.

Just as I was getting caught up again in dissatisfaction, he smiled that crooked smile I fell in love with eighteen years ago across the high school cafeteria.

"Yes, love?" Damn flirt, there he was. A certain gleam shone in his golden-flecked moss eyes.

"McCarty's, Schmacarty's..." I pulled gently at his unruly penny-colored hair and told him all about it with my lips and teeth and tongue.

"They're expecting us, Bella. I made the salad and everything." His long, dexterous, suckable index finger traveled down the bridge of my nose. I looked up at him with the girlish pout that always made him laugh and sat back in the passenger seat. Edward put the car into drive - I was already geared up - and started back toward our neighborhood.

"Just so you know, Mr. Masen..." I whispered in his favorite breathy buttery whiskey voice and turned my eyes to his as he glided the Volvo hybrid to a sensible stop at a light. He looked to me inquiringly, and I raised the hem of my cassis velvet dress past my knee-high black suede boots to expose my plump little chewable thighs encased in black fishnet stockings. I blinked slowly, bit my lower lip and sighed as the hem traveled higher, revealing a black lacy garter belt. And nothing else.

"Goodness, you bad girl," he chuckled, then reached over and snapped the strap of the garter belt against my vanilla cream skin, his finger lingering a moment longer than necessary. He cleared his throat and started out again, licking that full cherry pie bottom lip, much to my pleasure, as he locked his eyes on the road. "Some music, perhaps, love? You need to stew in your juices a bit, I think, before you're ready for my dessert."

Bad call, Masen.

"Got no sleigh with reindeer
No sack on my back
You're gonna see me comin' in a big black Cadillac
Oh, it's Christmas time pretty baby...."


"Bella, no."

I unfastened my seatbelt and swung my roasted chestnut hair over my shoulder. "Pull over, Edward," I purred, my lids drooping as my libido climbed.

"Is..a..bella..." He shook his head, tsking, and continued to drive.

I smiled an evil grin as my chest began to heave. He knew Elvis got me wound up faster than a fourteen-year-old boy in a brothel.

"Edward, now. It's Elvis...now." I stretched my leg over his lap, all merlot and squid ink black, with tender, sweet scallops of white flesh puffing from the weave of my fishnets. My knee nudged at his ever-rising Bouche de Noel. I was so ready for that decadent yule log to slide between my marzipan thighs. I had the caramel drizzle all ready. Fuck the lonely abstinence of wheatgrass and soy cheese and little electronic beeps from behind those pocket doors.

I needed thick melting Brie, speared over and over with his warm baguette, the spice of apples and cinnamon and pecans melting over the whole gooey mess of my neglected pussy.

"I'm so hungry for you, Edward. Pull over now."

He barely got the Volvo into the deserted KFC parking lot before I was on him like a well-trained Spinoni scenting precious white truffles. Astride, the steering wheel nudging my hocks forward, I steadied myself on the headrest and lowered myself on his stalk as I licked my ripe damson lips. Time for some man pie! Nibbling at his pate sucree earlobe, I folded gently around him, then pulled back, watching his resistance reduce, gratified by his simmer. And then, yes! A full rolling boil!

"God damn....B..elllllllll..." he sighed in his Tupelo honey voice, his hands working against my twin rumps, studding me ever-harder with his long-cured beef bresaola. We were going at it like a Kitchen-Aid mixer on ten, thwaping our bodies together like a muscle-bound boucher working over a sirloin for braciole. I pushed against the seat harder as did my now fully risen Edward, and I could feel his thighs bracing against the floorboard, desperate for a deeper coring of my candy apple.

"Shit, yes!" I groaned as he worked me like sourdough, kneading and stretching, lightly slapping against the thigh he held.

Our breath was mingling, marrying. My ass, fully undressed, filled the polite suburban Volvo's window with a steamy vision of Bella Dim Sum. Edward grunted like a tusked boar; I whined like a tempestuous tea pot.


"Edwa- oh shit! -God!"

"Come... come... come..." snarled my Chef de cuisine.

And we did, the driver's seat collapsing and tossing us right into the back seat. Edward's favorite antique yellowware bowl, full of organic baby greens, flew into the air, littering us with mache and radicchio like a rainstorm of leafy B-vitamins. The bag of carefully mixed vinaigrette a la moutarde pulsed into my neck and arms as the heavy ceramic bowl fell atop it with a clang, decorating me with a necklace of mustard grains and coarse cracked black pepper.

Ding. Bella's done!

Esme POV

I banged through the screened door of the service porch, my shoulder tense under the weight of my canvas tote. God bless LL Bean; their bags never broke, tangled or tipped, unlike those ridiculously pretentious "Save the World by Not Using Plastic or Paper" horrors from the grocery store. I hit the doorbell with my elbow and waited. Soon the door filled with light and music and aroma from the kitchen. "Hey gorgeous, what did you bring for me to bite into tonight?" I smiled in relief at the words.

"Jeez, Esme, why didn't you text before you left your house. I'd have helped." Emmett McCarty had a way about him. Always made me feel like he'd been waiting all day just for me. No wonder he and Jasper were so successful with the Fitness Center. Credit crunch be damned, those boys were coining it.

Tipping my icy lips up for a kiss, "Oh, there's still a plenty big treat in the car, Em, one that's just your size. Car's unlocked; just pop the hatchback and snag that case of our favorite poison. I had too much to carry so I drove over. I just finished the Volturi installation. The house manager gave me a case of champagne for saving her job, poor Jane. I love my work, but clients who want a perfect life, without ever having to participate in creating or maintaining it, just depress me. The whole family is flying in from Italy tonight, and if everything wasn't in place, the proverbial blood would have been spilled by those venomous bastards. Hence, the case of Dom Perignon in my trunk. If you put it here on the service porch, it will stay cold. Just don't leave it out all night. You don't want any to freeze and burst. While I love to share, I hate it wasted!"

"Suh-weet suh-wag! Now take a breath, woman, you're worse than Sophie. Alley and Jas just got here anyway with a fuckawesome looking cheesecake. We were waiting for you and Carlisle before we started the next round of drinks. Damn glad we waited for the good stuff!"

I huffed past with my remaining bags. "It's a good thing I live to catch the occasional glimpse of his pretty, pretty face, because the man is a walking cliche. Dr. Frozen Chosen never misses a tee time or a tip off or a consultation. A social event is not a priority for him unless it's work related." I knew Emmett was looking at me sadly; this close-to-the-bone subject was rarely discussed between us in detail. We hid behind Alice's giggle and Bella's glow. "Is the bottom oven available? I need to heat the scallop puffs."

I settled the bags on the scrupulously clean center island, hung my coat over a high-backed bar stool and briskly began to assemble my contribution to the evening. A springform pan, several silver wrapped loaves of French bread and a brace of enormous beef tenderloins rested on the counter across the vast McCarty-Hale kitchen. Saucepans and skillets sat on the eight-burner gas range.

Trouble seemed to be rumbling once again in paradise, if the absence of Rose's red BMW in the open bay of the three-car garage was any indication. Stupid kids, these stand-ins for my lost dream babies. I wanted them happy at Christmas, damn their eyes.

With my favorite heavy duty baking sheets now lined with lavosh crackers, I heard Emmett settle the wine carton by the door with a cheerful whoop. As I spooned my previously prepared bay scallop, fresh dill and wine mixture on the flatbread rounds, I looked up at the sound of the door slamming. Em was singing, in full-out Elvis Impersonator mode, "Santa Claus is Back in Town," complete with curled lip, swiveled hip and tousled hair. Three slim-necked bottles of Dom were laced through each of his huge hands. "Admirable fingering skills, but don't drop my hooch, honey!"

"Oh, it's Christmas time pretty baby,
And the snow is falling on the ground
Well you be a real good little baby,
Santa Claus is back in town..."

He grinned at my expression as he attempted to hitch his vowels authentically. I reached up and smoothed his hair out of his pitiful version of a King-sized forelock. "Emmett, you know I love you, but how about you fetch the flutes and leave the singing to Sophie's Kinderconcert performances. Do you have a Christmas platter in mind for me to use? These puffs just have to heat through a bit longer."

Emmett opened a series of cabinets efficiently, presenting me with a holiday-themed oval platter with a smiling flourish. He arranged some stemless champagne glasses on a tray, eased open one of the bottles, and poured. "Hey bossy-boots, put four of these victims in the Sub Zero, please. We'll be draining the first one down in no time, and I'll take the second out to the great room with me." Emmett jerked his chin toward the stainless steel beauty. With a happy pat, I laid four dark green bottles on the top shelf of the fridge.

"If I weren't a respectable woman, I'd marry this refrigerator and love it all night long. Sleek and cold and efficient, just how I like my men. You've met my husband, right?"

"Yes, I certainly have. And I believe you have met my wife." Emmett handed me a flute of delicate bubbles and clinked his own glass to mine. One dark eyebrow twitched on his forehead as we toasted each other and our currently absent spouses.

As the oven pinged, I bent low to remove the tray of hors d'oeurves with oven-mitted hands. I turned to see Emmett with his head cocked to one side. "Checking me out again, McCarty? Save the shinola for those little trophy wives you train. You've had me in your pocket since you chased that nasty fruit bat out of my furnace room five years ago. Go mind your guests; I'll be out in a minute. Just leave my glass right here where I can reach it, thankya, thankya verra much."

"Hmm, Ezzers, you and your very fine assets are safe for now. But if you're not out of my kitchen soon and enjoying yourself, I'll resort to force, and who knows what goodies I'll get to grab. I need to start the Bearnaise soon anyway. Definitely trying it with red wine, instead of white, and fresh tarragon, 'cause this year I am lovin' the crazy. We suburban dads have to live on the edge somehow."

I watched him disappear down the hall toward the front rooms with the full serving tray, singing off-key about big black Cadillacs and laughing like a loon. My ass might be safe - it always was - but his was a high and hard danger zone!

Layering fresh dill fronds around the edge of the platter, I plated the hot scallop puffs. A sprinkle of paprika and the red and green color scheme, reflecting my trademark tasteful, tiresome restraint, was complete. I secured the platter in one hand, grabbed my flute in the other, fixed a smile on my face and left the kitchen. Christmas was just plain hard.

"It's showtime," I whispered.

Emmett POV

It was impossible to keep up with the conversation and listen for the garage door at the same time. I just smiled and refilled glasses as they began to look low.

Where the fuck was she? Carlisle was here now, the tight lines around Esme's eyes softer.

I made some excuse about the asparagus and trudged off to the kitchen, pulling my cell from my pocket and dialing her number.

Straight to voice mail.

I snapped the phone closed as her husky voice began the message I could repeat, even with perfect imitation of her inflections.

Was she in surgery?

Was her phone dead?

Was she fucking around?

I peeked under the foil tent over the tenderloins: perfectly browned and glistening with moisture. Jasper could microwave the shit out of his later; I refused to ruin one hundred and twenty dollars worth of beautiful beef by overcooking. What the hell kind of Texan would do that to prime beef, anyway?

I poured the pan juices into my favorite saucier and started reducing, while I deglazed the roasting pan with my favorite Mollydooker Syrah.

Piece of beef, piece of ass...

Kate Westerberg was not a piece of ass.

Pour deglazed liquid into saucier. Continue to reduce.

Jasper would tolerate nothing but a pan sauce for his shoe-leather. Prissy bitch. Edward wouldn't even touch the meat; he could suck my unsalted rice cake. Fucking relief my girls enjoyed everything. I worked it off them with individual training regimes.

Kate and I took our kids to the same playgroup. Her son, Alec, and Soph had some of the same issues.

Bruise tarragon lightly with back of chef's knife.

Three years ago we were both flushed and happy with the surprise of suddenly becoming parents.

Shallots, two, small dice.

She and her husband Garrett found themselves pregnant, naturally, eight months after Alec came to them.

Reduce red wine vinegar and shallots by one third.

Alec and Soph were both gifts, spared the kind of life they might have known if their mothers had made other choices. We watched them come off the drugs they had ingested growing inside their addicted mothers' wombs, held them through screaming withdrawals, finger fed them because they were too agitated to nurse from a bottle. Kate had even tried to rig up one of those formula-to-breast contraptions. She explained it once, but I had to shut down when she started in on the particulars of taping the tubing to her breast.

Continue to whisk vinegar and wine over simmer.

Kate had really nice tits two years ago.

Reduction is ready once it clings to the back of a wooden spoon. Nope not there yet.

We literally crashed into each other this morning at Whole Foods in the bakery.

Whisking Jasper's pan sauce, watching the vinegar, checking the clock. Now officially one hour and seventeen minutes late.

Kate looked like shit. She had been adorable in that pale perky blonde way two years ago.

Jas' sauce done...just a few lumps of cold butter to finish...it would rest in a double boiler.

Kate said Garrett had made partner at his firm. I knew enough attorneys to know this meant seventy-hour weeks. They were transplants, no family nearby.

Separate the eggs for the Bearnaise. I need four.

Garrett and their daughter going back to Omaha for Christmas, leaving Kate with Alec, didn't want to penalize little Abby by keeping her from her cousins. They were beginning to consider medication.

Whisk the egg yolks over gentle heat.

All I could do was squeeze her hand.

Add the vinegar and tarragon in a slow stream, constantly whisking, slow, slow, slow for an emulsion.

The door opened. Rose. I stopped whisking, going to her, the love of my life. I needed to touch her. She turned her cheek perfunctorily to me as she opened her latest Journal of Vascular and Cardiothoracic Surgery and leafed through the contents.

One hour and thirty-three minutes late. Still in scrubs.

"Hey, darlin'...why don't you run upstairs and have a quick shower?" I whispered against her hair. She smelled of vanilla and ginger when I met her. I hated the way she smelled when she came home from the hospital: harsh antiseptic and an odd metallic cold smell I couldn't name.

"Hmm?" She looked up at me over her journal, refocusing her eyes with several long blinks.

"Honey...we have a house full of guests. Remember?"

Her eyebrows furrowed, and I braced myself for it. That look meant one thing. "Emmett, you could have told me." The heavy medical journal flew across the counter, slammed into the double boiler, tipping my just finished pan sauce under the grates of the Viking 8 burner range. Great. Rose was in one of her moods, and I'd have to fucking clean under those grates, a complete pain in my ass.

"Hang up your pretty stockings
And turn off the light..."

I went back to my Bernaise. The sauce was broken. I'd have to start over.

Rose fished in her backpack and retrieved a cigarette and lighter. "Fucking wonderful," she grumbled and stalked out to the side of the garage, her clandestine smoking spot.

Jasper POV

Is it me, or is it just a little tense at the McCarty ranch?

Em vanishing into the kitchen with Dinah, deep in thought. Esme glowering, marring that beautiful Puma face of hers, until just a moment ago. Late blooming Rose still a no show, and the good Doctor C finally rolls in. That had to be it.

My wife keeps giving me a come hither look. And Elvis en shuffle is inspiration for this farmboy's dirty thoughts. Alley might be in for a Texas-sized treat sooner than later.

All these emotions swirling and twirling about are giving me whiplash...

Man, there are good smells coming from the kitchen...

Ding-dong rang the door chimes. Ah, the Masens.

Does anyone else smell vinegar?

Alice jumped up to hug Bella, "Oh, you do smell good!" She looked at me wide-eyed and mouthed, "Salad dressing?"

Edward nodded to us all in greeting, then stalked through the great room carrying a yellow bowl, a bag of lettuce and a small glass bottle.

"Newman's Own, Edward? What the hell kinda shit is that for my Christmas party? It better be the Organic Tuscan," rumbled Emmett, as he blocked Edward mid-stride. Edward continued toward the kitchen, radiating embarrassment.

More drinks. More talk. More scallop puffs? Nope, long gone. Still no Rose, although a door slammed upstairs.

Damn, Bella is lookin' edible tonight. Was she getting spa treatments from a competitor? I hadn't seen her name on our esthetician's appointment list. Edward, the proverbial hot mess, even worse than usual. Mind above his surroundings, sensitive artist, blah, blah. My girl would coldcock me if I went out looking like that.

Suddenly, Esme stood and walked to the loveseat where Edward sat with Bella.

"Edward, please stand for me." She deftly began to unbutton his shirt from bottom to top, twitched the shoulders a bit and re-buttoned it back down correctly. "I know you usually strip to better music than Emmett's eternal Elvis playlist, sweetie, and I'm fresh out of singles to stuff down your pants, but I can't stand to see you look rumpled. Now unless you are saving it for a snack, why don't you remove that piece of radicchio from Bella's V-neck?"

Carlisle POV

I put my knife and fork together and laid them precisely on the side of my plate. Dinner had been wonderful, every bite tasting spectacularly pure, yet blending beautifully. Flavors, textures, colors, married contentedly through my system. Even better, Esme's cheeks were the softest pink as she laughed at Alice's anecdote about her toddler class trying to hold second position while learning to make "pretty fingers." My sweet, sad girl loved stories about children.

So did I, especially at Christmas, when I missed our babies most.

Infertility. A steady blow on our bruises, high-spirited, over-achieving Phi Betes becoming bewildered endocrinological statistics. We did everything right, and everything went wrong. Our advanced degrees and long-delayed marriage vows gained us nothing. Everyone rallied round her, a woman's blood and tears the outward signs of her body's betrayal, the product of five conceptions, five dreams, failing and flowing down the drain. For a man there was little support, and I sought none. Esme's hospital file of invasive tests, each more painful than the last, mapped her journey to our childlessness. I masturbated into sterile cups when the specialists ordered it and read the maze of charts with increasing coldness in my veins. We closed the files after four years.

She worked, and I worked. Decades in tight parallel, never far apart, never fully touching. We moved three times, each house redecorated and renovated from top to bottom before we sold it on. This house, this street was our final stop, and here Esme surrounded herself with the youth we once shared. Things were better now with Emmett and the girls in our lives, at this time of year especially.

Seeing my Esme tonight, so full of fire and life, began to stir up needful feelings. Such a beauty, not a wrinkle, unless you counted the laugh lines gracing her eyes. China doll skin and a russet mane of hair. I knew she touched it up every now and again, but I would never ask. I wasn't stupid. Underneath all the velvet trappings was a body tight with years of taking care of herself. It showed in her tender but efficient movements. All lissome and lithe. Mine, still?

Now she was leaning over Edward's plate, plucking an asparagus spear from his uneaten pile.

"No, Jasper, shotgunning in our day had nothing to do with cans of beer. It was closer to a body shot, in terms of intimacy and seduction potential. The blow-er took a joint about this size." She bit off the bloom end of the spear and looked critically at the size of the resultant stub. She then dragged the bitten end through her remaining Bernaise. Turning the dripping portion into her mouth, she leaned toward Jasper and said, "Now hold still, blow-ee, because I need to get nice and close." She slid her hand around the back of his neck and pretended to send a stream of marijuana smoke into his mouth.

A sleeveless leotard, a tie-dyed skirt, a rump-sprung sofa. Her wrap-around skirt would come off easily, but the tight leotard top would make me work for what I wanted. Especially when it got damp, sweat and smoke and shivers sticking the jersey to her skin. I'd have to ease it down over her breasts slowly. Once I dragged it to her waist, my hands would trail down gently. The room smelled of mildew and bong water; she smelled of fresh young girl. I wrapped one arm around her shoulders, hot herb clenched in my teeth. The only burn on my lips would be from hers. Breathing the smoke gently toward her. Eyes shut, lips parted, so close...I would never look at another...

"Well pass it to me baby, pass it to me slow
We'll take time out to smile a little before we let it go
Cuz we gonna lay around the shanty, mama, and put a good buzz on."

The 'Friday Song,' Jonathan Edwards on harmonica. Elvis between comebacks. I would whisper, "Come back up here to kiss me, Esme."

Disbelieving snorts and giggles spread, as my elegant wife popped the asparagus out of her mouth, licked the Bearnaise off the tip and crunched the vegetable between her teeth. "Carlisle bowled the co-eds over like rabbits with his technique. After he shotgunned, he could flip the joint back around with just his tongue and lips, without burning himself. It was his favorite come on when he first dated a girl. What was your success rate, sweetie?"

"Oh, around 90%, give or take."

"How about with Ezzers; did it work on her, too?"

Esme turned to smile into Emmett's eyes across the table and laughed. "Em, I blew him straight out of his clogs. Only I didn't have smoke in my mouth when I did it."

"No way, Esme! Not oral the very first time you met?" Alice sputtered.

"Oh no. First time I met Carlisle was two years previously at a departmental mixer. He was cute, but I didn't like his taste in women. The host thought it would be fun for it to be a key party, bless his inappropriately sexist socks. Carlisle's date and my then-fiance 'keyed up' together. Pissed me off no end; it was my set of keys, they took my car and he fucked her in my bed. Useless bastard flunked out of med-school and, more importantly, my life. Last I heard he was selling real estate in Florida, and I wish him joy of it in this market."

Finally I cracked, laughing so hard I began to choke. I stood up and walked around to Esme. "Baby, where have you been? I've missed you. Hell, I've missed me, missed us. Stop scandalizing the young ones. I don't have a stash anymore, but I'm sure I can find my harmonica."

"Shall I blow you out of your wing-tips?"

"Of course."

Emmett POV

Watching Carlisle and Esme was almost too much. The emotions all hitting me at once made me uneasy and afraid. I was overjoyed to observe Ezzers and C, their sexual energy filling the room and spilling over us amateurs. These two had done their dance of seduction for years; they were professionals. I had always just assumed Rose and I would be like them: float away, but always came back together again. Tonight her empty chair in the great room embarrassed the shit out of me in front of our friends. She came down for dinner, looking like every man's wet dream, but it still stung. Then her pager went off, and she wisped away from me, my dream dissolving. Well, I still had plans for the evening with my girls.

"Ladies...could I speak with you in the kitchen?" I rose, grabbing a few empty dishes.

"Um, ah...Em? Would you care to leave the bowl of Bernaise?" Edward asked in a pathetic attempt at cool.

"Sure, bud, no prob."

"Ah, and um..." He leaned towards Bella's prim little smile as she whispered something to him. "Also, the rest of the tenderloin, if that's OK, and I wouldn't say no to a few chips if you have them and..." He began to smile as Bella's hand disappeared under the table. "Also, if you have some Cheez Whiz, it might go down well."

"Go down being the operative phrase, " Alice snarked with a cocked eyebrow.

"Lend me your woman for just a sec, Edward. I'll send her back with your provisions - and a tarp."

Shooing Bella ahead, I took as many dishes as I could carry, laughing devilishly, followed by a giggling Alice and the throatier laughing Esme.

"Girls, I've got a little token of my affections for each of you." I could barely contain my glee, wondering who I'd get the biggest kick out of teasing.

"Em, we agreed, no gifts, just the donation to the hospital's children's cancer center," Ez said, shaking her head. Then, her face broke into a wide grin. "You little stinker, Emmett McCarty."

"Whaaaa?" I said, throwing my hands up in protest. I have a good foot and some inches on her, but when Esme Cullen started backing me up against the Sub Zero, my balls crawled inside me a little.

"No 'whaaaa,' Emmett. Don't try those dimples on me, either. What do you have up your sleeve?"

"Just a thought." I passed the red bags to each of them and valiantly resisted the urge to clap with anticipation. Shit, I was such a girl.

"What...the...fuck?!" Alice screamed. Esme and Bella stopped cold at her horrified gasp and turned to see what scared the hell out of Alice. She held it as far from her tiny body as possible, her face a mask of utter revulsion.

"I thought you could wear it on the plane to Texas tomorrow, Al," I said with a mask of complete innocence.

The bright blue sweatshirt was sequined and bedazzled over every square inch of poly-cotton fleece, while dead center, Santa was depicted stepping into a chimney and showing a fair amount of ass crack in the bargain.

Bella's eyes widened and she quickly covered her mouth, her body quaking in betrayal of her laughter. Ez merely tilted her head to one side thoughtfully.

"I don't know, Alley, everyone wants a piece of ass for Christmas. Looks like you got yours early."


"Calm down, dear. Give it to me...I know just the place for it," Esme said soothingly and narrowed her eyes at me. Meanwhile, Bella had gone back to her gift bag. Alice and Esme turned just in time to see the reveal as it rose proudly.

"What the - " Alice snatched the object in question from Bella and picked up the box. "'The Dazzler. Who doesn't lust for those brooding, romantic vampires from books we all love?' Oh...my...lord! 'Guaranteed to sparkle just as mesmerizingly as your favorite creature of the night, The Dazzler has three speeds, separate hand control and can be placed in the freezer for that authentic undead experience'."

Bella's eyebrows furrowed as she yanked the vibrator from Alice. "Good. Now I have a back up," she said with a haughty toss of her chin. "Thank you, Emmett."

Esme inhaled deeply as she reached inside her gift bag.

"Now, Ez, you're the hardest to shop for," I began my rehearsed speech. "You did mention you are going to start show jumping again this spring, and I thought you might want to get in some practice at home."

"Lovely, McCarty," Esme monotoned as she held out a plastic riding crop and black leather belt fitted with stirrups.

"Carlisle looks pretty trim; I figured a 34 waist would do." I moved out of the riding crop's range of motion and nodded towards the dining room. "Wanna get him in here for a test ride?"

"No, I believe a 34 will fit perfectly, Em." She patted my cheek and smiled. Across the counter, Alice and Bella were twittering like little schoolgirls and rustling around something behind Bella's back. Esme, clearly the gang boss, stepped forward. "Em, lovie, we knew you couldn't resist a stocking stuffer for each of us, and I was quite certain we should be prepared to give as good as we got. Right, girls?"

"Mmm-hummmm," Bella nodded, flame-cheeked, unable to talk over her repressed giggles.

"Absolutely." Alice produced a large green gift bag, with store window, picture perfect twists of red and candy cane striped tissue, confetti and curly ribbon.

"Emmett...from all of us." Esme took the bag from Alice and passed it to me. "Merry Christmas, bitch."

As I reached into the bag, tissue paper and confetti wafted to the floor. It felt...squishy. I pulled it free of the bag and held it up.

A French Maid's uniform. Size 5X.

The three harpies collapsed on each other in laughter as I stood there, the man of the house, with my own big girl fantasy wear at hand.

"Try it on!" Bella wheezed.

Of course, the commotion, as they stripped off my shirt and tied the ruffled apron on me, brought the men, my brothers in arms, from the dining room.

"Oh! Don't forget the little hat!" Alice knee'd up on a stool to place it on my head.

"Gawwwd Dammmn! Now that's hot!" Jasper slapped my ass.

"Takes a whole lot of man to wear something like that around the house," Carlisle chuckled. "Damn shame it's probably too big for me, Em."

"Dear God..." Edward muttered, clearly repulsed.

"Oh, it's Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling on the ground..."

I could only pray to Elvis the snow fall deep enough to bury me and my humiliation.

"Now, darling, thank you for the lovely evening. I left Sophie a present under the tree. Kiss Rose for me, after you feed that girl. She needs a square meal." Esme bussed my cheek as she sauntered toward her grinning man. "I'm taking my husband home." Her hand trailed across his chest as she passed him.

Carlisle's eyebrows lifted and that damn shit-eating grin spread further across his face. He bowed slightly, saluted us all, and followed his riding crop wielding wife as he whistled lazily.

"Em, go watch football with the boys," Bella gave me a push towards the family room. "You worked your ass off today; Al and I will load the dishwasher and put the food away. I can't wait until Rose sees your little outfit!"

"Can I have my shirt back?" I grumbled. Alley tossed it, hitting me in the face, and I followed Jas and Edward, who seemed fascinated with Bella's gift.

"Why would you put it in the freezer?" Edward asked as we sat in front of my big screen, studying the sparkling vibrator under the nearest lamp.

"Their cocks are cold," I answered, scrolling to ESPN for the Poinsettia Bowl. Rose was MIA still, and I was grateful for the company.


"They're the living dead, Edward...thus, icy dick," Jas explained helpfully. "Yo, Em...pass me those sausage balls ya been bogartin'. Edward, you're gonna love these suckers. Just think of the fun you'll have detoxing next week."

Carlisle POV

Frankly, I couldn't get my wife inside my house fast enough. Not only was she delightful to watch as she commanded the attention of every man in the room, she made it quite clear she still had eyes only for me. I'd watched Esme work a room before, her natural humor and the bit of a bawd, just under the surface of the well-heeled suburban lady, had been turning heads for years.

And she was indeed still mine.

By the time we stepped in the kitchen I was almost beyond control. She looked over her shoulder at me, tapping the crop against her hand lightly as the faintest whisper of a smile played across her lips.

"And where, madam, do you think you're off to?" I caught her from behind, lifted her glorious caramel hair and nipped the milky flesh at the base of her neck.

"It's been a long day, Carlisle. I planned to slip off to bed..."

"Unacceptable." I trailed my tongue over the same spot and up the last few vertebrae of her spine. "Ummm....Shalimar?" I continued nipping as I moved toward her earlobe. Her hips ground against mine as her arm twined behind her and fisted in my hair.

"Did you have other plans, Doctor?"

Ah, there was that husky voice. My hands slid down the silk covered ribcage and made their way over to the pearl buttons that held her sleek shirt in place.

"Let's get you out of this first," I murmured against her ear, flicking my tongue against the petite lobe, then barely raking the delicate flesh with my teeth. The aquamarine silk fluttered to the floor, revealing her creamy skin and a tasteful ivory camisole that begged for...

"Carlisle! Don't you dare!" she exclaimed in a burst of breath.

"Too late, darling." Two shredded halves of silk joined her shirt on the floor. I spun her to face me, drinking in the vision of my wife for these twenty-five years; her flesh still heeding, an apple red flush across her delicate chest and throat. I had to taste her there. My hands slid down to her pliant ass, cupping and pulling her to me as my mouth traced the furrow of her decolletage, barely raising my lips to blow against her now damp skin. Esme's round shoulders shivered deliciously as her breath caught and her eyes met mine, glowing like sun dappled grass with her absolute arousal.

Her hands slithered inside my cashmere turtleneck sweater. "Tell me more, Carlisle..." she intoned in a lovely imitation of Nina Simone. "Show me, lover."

I tore the sweater over my head and made quick work of her tweed trousers as well as my own.

"No panties, Esme? Such the planner, aren't you?" I teased, tweaking her nipple playfully. "Come along, then, sweet." I lead her to the formal living room, sitting on the moss green, velvet covered Louis XIV chair and pulling her astride me in one quick movement.

"You do taste divine," I murmured against her full breasts that strained against the whisper-thin net and satin bra. "This must go." She obliged as I pulled her closer, teasing my cock with the heat of her so near, yet just out of reach. I knew from past experience she was far too petite for her feet to reach the floor in this position. I'd be able to control our speed and cadence.

"Lean back for me," I whispered as I laid my arm along the slope of her spine, supporting her head in my hand. A King in my own castle, a royal banquet of creamy flesh, budding pink nipples and slick wet warmth before me. I trailed languid kisses. Her eyes fluttered closed in her reverie, and she threw her head back, arching her supple body towards me.

"Are you wanting, darling?" I teased, drawing my index finger lower, ever closer to those hot folds of flesh nestled in their little cinnamon-haired nest. Although I had firm support of her, she still grasped the arms of the chair to steady herself. She was, without any need of restraints, utterly under my control. I dipped one finger inside gently, delectably close.

"More," she groaned.

"Like this?" I dipped a bit deeper, still avoiding any direct stimulation.

"Bastard" she moaned, thrusting her hips towards my fingers.

"Oh, my apologies, darling, shall I stop?"


Ah, there we are. Ready. "Would you prefer this then?" I asked her steadily as I plunged two fingers deep inside her and let my thumb ride along her pulsing clitoris.

"Yes...oh, there, Carlisle!" At this rate, I wouldn't require much more than a few thrusts: the sight of her before me, so wild and needful, was driving me mad.

"Now, Esme!" A snarling demand, gentle requests no longer possible.

We slid together easily, sighing at the familiar feel. An ancient nourishment, our own music.

Rose POV

I was so weary. Worn. Even when home, my mind was ribboned to my practice.

It was so close to Christmas, and all around me was sickness. The children were the worst for me. One in particular, six-year-old Laora, suffered from a rare genetic heart condition called cardiomyopathy, a muscle in her tiny heart wasn't doing its job. She was on the donor list, but due to her Rh negative blood, there wasn't much hope. A drain tube alleviated the fluids gathering in her chest, the grim reaper's cold hand crushing her little diaphragm.

I had yet to shrug off my caregiver mantle when I walked through the back door. My career and extreme hours were poisoning my family, and I had no idea how to make it stop. Maybe after the holidays we could swing a desperately needed family vacation. My husband sacrificed a lot for our family, for our Sophie. She suffered also, and Em overcompensated for my absence. So, I acted the ass when Emmett informed me of our dinner guests.

Had he told me? I couldn't remember. In defense, I yelled at him. God, I needed a cigarette. I escaped to my outdoor corner of medical hypocrisy. More guilt. Cigarette at my lips, lighter in hand, I became disgusted and threw it to the ground, ripping the paper under my heel.

I sighed deeply before walking back in the house. In the kitchen, Em was furiously whipping a sauce. Whipping so hard, his ass cheeks, brickhouse ass cheeks, were flexing enough to make me want to dry hump him on the spot. There were also mouth-watering scents wafting about. Esme's scallop puffs? My tummy rumbled in anticipation.

"Em, honey, I'm sorry. There's no excuse. You know how I get; I must have forgotten you told me about tonight's dinner."

After a heavy sigh, "Rosie, just go get showered and come back a bit more relaxed. Please?"

Rosie. Good sign.

I hied my ass upstairs. After a quickie shower, I came out to find a dress on my bed. Alice! The dress was knee length, flamenco red. The crepe material left no room for panty lines, so I opted for a tiny red La Perla g-string and a Sassybrax strapless bra. I quickly applied my makeup, brushed out my hair into shimmery waves and strapped on my black heels. I was vamping myself up for good reason, ready to extract every drop of forgiveness from my Emmett.

Downstairs smelled divine as I made my grand entrance. Emmett sat at the head of the table, a tableau of tastes laid out before everyone. Our best friends sat conspiratorially together. Emmett's eyes flamed in a appreciation, and he jumped to pull out my chair.

Before I had a chance to savor many mouthfuls or join in much conversation, my pager snapped its whiplike crack and drew me from the warmth and comfort. I implored Em to understand with a shrug and a nonchalance I didn't feel. Exhilaration was more like it. This was the page. Laora was going to get her miracle.

Get it together, Hale. No, I corrected myself. McCarty. I made the phone call to the attending to make sure all was in place. I would be there in fifteen minutes. I met resistance.

"Dr. Hale, Dr. McAllister will take the surgery."

"Why?" My anger roiled. "Because he's a man?"

"You know better than that! You just came off a sixteen-hour rotation. You have to be exhausted. You know McAllister is just as vested in Laora's case as you. He's fresh and already here. Rosalie? Enjoy your time with your family, and we'll call you once the child is out of surgery. Deal?"

Sigh. "Deal. But you better make a note to call me as soon as they close. Promise me?"


McAllister is completely capable. Everything will be okay.

I took a few minutes or twenty to gather my wits. Deep breaths. On my way back through the clean kitchen, the dishwasher humming, I noticed a bag on the counter. I looked inside. What the hell is this? A size 5X French maid's outfit? Em's trio of terror, I'm sure. I made my way to the dining room.

"I'm sor..." The room was empty save Emmett. A very defeated Emmett. His napkin sitting haphazardly like it had been thrown.

I pivoted to see the great room dim, the Christmas tree the only light, Elvis still playing softly in the background.

"You missed the entire dinner. They all left after cleaning up to give us privacy, in case we...got into a fight, Rosalie."

Uh oh.

"Em, I'm not going back to the hospital. In fact, I'm taking a leave of absence for the next month. I want us all to go on a vacation."

"Right. And what will Sophie and I do while on said vacation? We've tried it before. You bring your work with you."

"No beepers, no computers, no cell phone. I promise. Just us."

Emmett looked skeptical, but I could see I was winning him over as I trawled seductively in his direction. He scooted his chair back, smug, his legs spread wide. I continued toward him, a smile, just for him, playing at my lips.


"Ssh. Just relax and let Mama take care of you." I lifted the hem of my dress just atop my thighs so I could swing myself over his lap and settle in. I moved slowly so both of us could enjoy the anticipation. When my curves came in contact with the fly of his Armani trousers, he moaned. Instinct took over when Em brought his hands up, lifting and palming my ass with strong sure massages, sifting and rubbing us together, his fingers plucking at the jeweled tab sewn to the back of my g-string.

I put both my hands on either side of his face and swooped in for a melding kiss, pouring out as much love and desire for him as I could. His lips were a halo of silky skin, plump in the right places. Licking and nibbling, he opened his mouth for my exploration. Mmm...he tasted of champagne and something spicy, creamy and decadent. My tongue led an expedition of every crevice, every ridge behind his lips. When Em met his soft, slippery tongue with mine, it was as if it were connected due south to my belly button and beyond. I felt my pussy growing warmer, throbbing upon the ridge of his deliciously thick erection. Emmett lifted me slightly, tilting me towards him so our chests mashed together, popping my ass in the air. His capable hands and wrists curled around behind me, kneading the tender skin inside my thighs. Long, lean fingers played about my opening, slipping, massaging my swelling lips right before two fingers immersed themselves deeply inward. He drew his fingers in and out, basting me with my own lubrication. Readying me.

Emmett's chest rumbled against mine. He was growling and becoming more insistent. He crooked a finger and tore away my panties as if crepe tissue. I reached between us, never breaking our kiss and shakily pulled at his zipper and metal hook, opening them freely, the front of his pants painted with my juices. I cinched up his shirt and pulled his dick free of his Calvins, rose up on my four inch heels, and swiftly impaled myself.

My man.

Touch, hips rocking, crashing together like a rock slide down a mountain. Taste, greedy and absorbing. Smell, torrid sex in the air. Sound, groans of pleasure soothing and easing our bodies. Sight, two lovers embracing.

Fuck it! Two adults getting each others' rocks off!

He released my lips and buried his face into the crook of my neck and shoulder. So close. I wrapped my arms around Em's neck and footballer's shoulders, his movements becoming erratic, his breathing hitched through clenched jaws.

"Rosie... can't hold out... gonna come so hard, baby."

"Santa Claus is comin' down your chimney tonight..."


"Let loose, baby... already there." And I was. So intense, I nearly stood up off him. Thank God he had hold of me, lashing me to his wooden mast while I crashed against bulkheads of rocks, breathing out my love for him. Emmett stiffened, pushed high toward my womb, releasing as deep as he possibly could.

"I love you," I said, peppering kisses on his forehead and hair. His arms tightened around me.

"Merry Christmas, sweetling. How I've missed you."