Forsaken In My Mind's Past
Chapter 54, An Imperfect Man

A/N: Mad love to all of your who've stuck around, continued to read, left amazing reviews and just been all-around awesome. Ya rock, that is all. P.S. Erick Baker is my new crush. His music is PHENOMENAL. Check out the song on my FB group tonight.

Major mad love to my betas, who continue to put up with my crazinesss and help me make my blathering actually readable. I heart you both…hard.

I do not own the Twilight characters, nor do I own the songs used in this fic. But I hope you enjoy the twisted roller coaster ride I've created. Remember to keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times until it comes to a full and complete stop. The crazy plot below, I do own. So please respect.

Song: Unbroken Promise~ Erick Baker

~*fOrSaKeN*~

"Baby, take off your coat. And I'll loosen my tie,
Well, you are far too beautiful for us to turn off the lights,
Your December skin, and a trail of our clothes,
You can keep your socks on if your feet are cold,

But I don't want to have to ask permission,
Give me a chance, it won't be perfect,
Just and unbroken promise from an imperfect man,

Your red wine tongue; my sudden loss of breath,
You like the sound of my heartbeat…
when you lay your head on my chest,

But I don't want to have to ask permission,
Give me a chance, it won't be perfect,
Just and unbroken promise from an imperfect man,

So draw all the curtains; all the goodbyes are gone,
Love found through love gone wrong,
And unbroken promise from this imperfect man,
To love you the best that I can,

So baby, please take off your coat. Oh, and I'll turn on the lights,
'Cause, baby, I made plans to stay the rest of my life."

~*fOrSaKeN*~

~Edward~

My girl was quiet after a while of us lying in her bed, bundled up with our arms and legs intertwined. I knew she wasn't sleeping, though. I could tell by her breathing. They weren't steady, restful breaths, and her body seemed a little tense. It put me on edge. I didn't know what was wrong with her, and I had to make sure that nothing went unsaid tonight. I pulled her impossibly closer to me, her back flush against my chest, and brushed her hair out of the way, kissing her temple.

"Baby, what is it? Talk to me."

She let out a shuddering breath and turned in my arms, looking with trepidation into my eyes. It scared me, but I trusted her to tell me what was going on in her beautiful head. She reached up, brushed a stray hair away from my eyes, and leaned in to place a soft, sensual kiss on my lips. Just when I was about to ask her to talk to me again, she did.

"Tell me about Kendyll. You're adopting her?" Her blue eyes searched mine. Questioning, but I didn't see an ounce of animosity. No anger, just sadness. Maybe sadness because I hadn't shared this with her. Because she had to hear it from someone else. I felt like such a fucking asshole.

"Bella, I know it seems like a lot to take in, but..." I trailed off, unable to look her in the eyes. I was afraid of what I would see there. Afraid she would reject my decision. Reject her, and I wanted them to know each other so much it hurt. "Look, I didn't want to make this decision without you, but I-I ran out of time. Baby, she was going to be tossed aside. Another kid in the system. I just couldn't...I couldn't..."

She placed her hand gently on my cheek and I stopped talking. I lifted my head slightly, resting it on the palm of my hand and locking eyes with her. I didn't want her to see the tears there, just waiting to spill over, but they were there nonetheless, and there wasn't a fucking thing I could do about it. She took a soft breath and smiled sadly. Tears welled in her eyes too, and my newly-mended heart nearly fractured again.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, her voice cracking. I touched her face with the tips of my fingers and reached up to kiss her forehead.

"Baby, don't be sorry. It's not your fault."

"But it is, Edward. If I would've just—"

"Bella, all I care about now is that one day we can all be a family. You, me, Kellan, Krissy, Robby, and even Kendyll."

"Really? Are you sure?" She sniffed. Her tears had won the battle and spilled over, creating jagged streams down her cheeks. I nodded, swallowing the giant lump in my throat. Goddamn it, I hated seeing her in pain like this.

"One hundred percent."

She smiled and a couple more tears squeezed their way through her eyelids. "Can I tell you something?" she asked, a little apprehensive.

"Of course. Anything."

"Kellan is so great. He's amazing, actually. But..."

My heart thudded to a stop. What was she about to tell me? "It hurts...right now...to see him." Her face suddenly reflected the same thing mine had earlier. Fear that I wouldn't understand. But I did understand., completely. "I still remember the day I found out about him." She shook her head as if to ward off the memory that must have been devastating to her.

"Bella," I started, trying to find the right words. "I know. Don't you think I feel the same way when I see the twins?" She seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. "But I know I can love them. I already do, because they're a part of you." She pulled me towards her; her arms like vice grips around my shoulders, and it felt like home. "Can I tell you something now?" I asked, pulling back to look into her eyes. She replied just as I had. "That day at the park, when Krissy went missing." Her eyes flashed and darkened, but I continued. "My world almost ended. My heart stopped, and baby…that's when I knew. There's nothing I wouldn't do for those kids. Nothing at all."

She smiled, that brilliant, watery-eyed smile and my heart lodged itself in my throat. I couldn't speak. I didn't need to say anything else, though. She said it all with those three little words that I longed to hear from her for the rest of my life. All I could do was crush her body to mine, kiss her deeply, and roll us over so that I was hovering above her again.

"I need you," she whispered, looking up at me, caressing my face with her fingertips and sending sparks of pleasure and joy through every inch of me. That was all I needed to hear. All I would ever need to hear. And, as I made love to her again, I silently thanked every god, every goddess, Mother Earth…hell, even Santa Claus, that this night had, in fact, turned in to a very, very long one.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

I woke in a haze. That kind of half-asleep/half- awake state where my eyes were still fused shut but I could hear sounds. I wasn't sure if they were real sounds or if I was dreaming, but one thing was for certain. I heard giggling. Sort of faint, but definite giggling, and I felt a light tickle on my nose. I swiped at whatever that was...and more giggling ensued. My eyelids blinked and I squinted, opening one eye a fraction, enough for a bright light to stream into it and feel like my retina was being scorched.

I groaned and tried to roll over in the bed, but something was obstructing my movement...something soft and cushiony. I felt another tickle near my ear and swiped that away as well, but there was nothing there except the sound of more giggling. Racking my brain, I decided that, in my hazy state, I might as well try to figure out what the fuck was going on. And then it hit me...like a bolt of lightning.

The night before...

Bella's house...

The gifts...

Bella's body; her hands caressing, lips touching, tongues tasting...

I stayed the night, just like I'd promised, like I would always promise. So, that meant I was still here...with her. I rolled back over, eyes still closed, but my mouth curled up into a mischievous grin.

"Bella," I whispered, reaching out for her, but my hands just touched air. The giggles fell silent, but a sudden cackle of laughter had me blinking my eyes furiously to get them open.

"He said 'Bella,'" a little, tinkling voice said. "I think he wants to talk to mommy."

Yeah...again...bolt of lightning moment. Shit.

A sudden image of Bella's smiling face reluctantly kicking me out of her bed at, what had to be, at least two o'clock in the morning flooded my mind. I watched her, still aroused and hungry for her, as she had gathered up a pillow and blankets for me and nearly buckled my knees with another searing kiss before sending me off to the sofa.

So, to recap...amazing, mind-blowing sex with my girl, and then I was exiled to the living room so the kids wouldn't catch us in bed together. Awesome. And there I was a circus sideshow for said kids as they obviously tickled me and then laughed about it. Little punks. But there was no way I could be upset about it; I was pretty sure my hair had to have resembled a clown of some sort. Still, I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to think about how fucking awkward this was.

One of them gasped. "Hey Robby, do you think he's Santa Claus?" Ah, Krissy, of course. I pressed my lips together, trying not to laugh, pretending to be asleep still.

"He's not Santa, duh, Krissy. He doesn't even look like him!" Robby, the one who looked the most like his mom, blurted. Well, at least I didn't look like a swollen, hundred-year-old man. That was a plus.

"But, member that movie we watched...with Santa and Kris Krinkle? Santa had red hair...duh! Look at his hair!"

"He isn't Santa. Look..." I felt a poke on my stomach. Um, ouch. "He doesn't have a big fat belly, and his face isn't even round like a bowl of grape jelly, like that book says! Besides, his hair isn't even the same color, dumb-dumb."

I couldn't fucking help it. I laughed at that one. One thing was certain those twins were most definitely entertaining. They both sucked in a breath, as apparently my chuckling startled them – go figure – and when my lids finally opened, I found myself staring at Bella's vaulted ceiling.

"Edwarrrrrd?" That was definitely Krissy. I cut my eyes to the side as I saw the top of her dark, wavy hair – sticking out in all directions – approach me timidly. I smiled warmly at the beautiful little thing.

"Hey, sweetheart." My voice was gravelly and rough with sleep.

"Hi, Edwarrrrrd!" She giggled again. "Why are you at my house...sleeping on my sofa-cushies?"

Oh boy. It was way too early, at least I thought it was, for my groggy brain to think of a logical excuse. But then I remembered the snow storm. I sat up slowly, realizing that I was naked from the waist up and clad in only my boxer briefs below, so I quickly gathered the thick quilt I'd been hibernating in around my midsection. Robby plopped down next to me and began bouncing on the seat. I was pretty sure he was more excited about the day than seeing me, but he seemed happy enough.

"Hey, Edward. Whatcha doing here?"

I scrubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands, running them through my unruly hair and scratching. Jesus, it felt like someone had taken a crowbar to my neck. Think...think. While turning my head this way and that, trying – to no avail – to get the fucking crick out of it, I caught a glimpse out the window. Christ, it was still dark outside.

"What time is it?" I yawned.

"I dunno," Robby hopped off the sofa with entirely too much energy, and padded into the kitchen quickly. Seconds later, he trotted back into the room and hopped back on the cushion next to me...two chocolate chip cookies in hand. He crammed one in his little mouth, and shoved the other one toward me.

"Are you supposed to be eating these?" I asked, taking a bite. Robby shrugged, chewed some more, then swallowed. He had chocolate smeared all over his mouth.

"I'm hungry," he said simply, licking his lips. Didn't really make a difference to the chocolate on his cheeks.

"Hey! Where's mine, Robert?" Krissy frowned. I had to admit, she looked so cute when she did that...and resembled her mother.

The boy shrugged again. "These are man cookies."

"Is not!" she whined.

"Okay, okay," I picked her up and sat her next to me on the other side. She giggled again. "Sweetie, I'll go get you a cookie, alright?" She nodded and stuck her bottom lip out, giving me these irresistible puppy-dog eyes. I shook my head and smirked. When she got older, those poor boys weren't going to know what hit them. Wrapping the blanket around me as I stood, I walked into the kitchen to retrieve a cookie – fully understanding that Bella was probably going to kick my sorry ass – for the little princess. As I picked it up, I glanced at the clock. It was six-fucking-fifteen in the morning.

Oh hell no.

"Guys," I half-whined as I made my way back to the living room. "It's...really early. The sun hasn't even woke up yet." Krissy hopped up off the sofa and snatched the cookie out of my hand, bouncing on the balls of her feet and reminding me of a certain overly energetic aunt of hers.

"But it's Christmas, Edwarrrrrd! And you still didn't say why you was at my house on Christmas!" She sang the word like she was in an opera. I laughed.

"Well," I cleared my throat. "I came over last night to visit your mom, and you, but you guys were sleeping..."

"'Cause we were waiting for Santa Claus," Robby interrupted, pumping his fist in the air reminiscent of Bender in the last scene of The Breakfast Club. Yeah, I laughed again.

"Anyway, I wanted to give her, uh, her presents..."

"Ooooooooh, did you give her the one with our squishy hands? That was so gross!" Krissy squealed. Robby made a gagging sound.

I nodded. "Yes, and she loved it. And I'm so proud of you guys for keeping it a secret." Krissy beamed at me. Robby had taken to doing some karate moves I wasn't even familiar with.

"So, then...I got stuck here because...guess what?" I widened my eyes and grinned.

The twins' eyes matched mine as they both said, "What?" in unison.

"It snowed," I said, smiling, "a lot."

They gasped, ran to the huge picture window and squealed, loudly. It made me cringe. But it was so damned cute. But it was loud. I glanced up the stairs wondering if – hoping that, rather – Bella would come down and make them stop being so...loud. But she didn't. Shit.

"Hey, guys...guys," I tried to chide them gently. That shit didn't even faze them.

"And you know what else, Edwarrrrrd?" Krissy cooed with her adorable baby-like voice. Of course, she didn't give me a second to respond. "Santa Claus came!" she exclaimed, pointing toward the tree and running over to reveal to me – Vanna White-style – a giant Disney Princess castle that the little girl could probably live in herself.

"Look at this, Edward!" Robby said with equal excitement as he jumped on the large red and black mat – with little footprints showing proper stances, and the brand Black Belts in large print across it – punching his little fist into the kick bag that was nearly as tall as he was.

I chuckled. Indeed, Santa had come, or in other words, Edward and Bella Claus, since I helped her put the things together a few hours before...delirious and exhausted to say the least. But the fruits of our labor paid off, apparently, if the twirling around and fist-pumping was any indication.

"Wow!" My eyes widened in faux surprise. "You must've been very good this year."

Krissy stopped twirling abruptly and eyed me, her little head cocked to the side, studying. "Edwarrrrrd? You're not Santa Claus, are you?" Robby was oblivious to his sister's curiosity this time, instead kicking and punching and saying, "Edward, watch this!"

I grabbed my chest, letting my mouth fall open and shaking my head...appalled that she would ask me such a ridiculous question. Well, that was what I was trying to convey anyway. "Of course not, sweetheart." I grabbed my chin. "No beard..." I patted my belly. "Well, it's bigger than it used to be, but I'm not that fat, am I?"

She giggled, and then looked at me seriously. "Did you eat some of Santa's cookies?" Oops, busted. Because I had to admit, I definitely ate some of that shit.

"No way! I would never eat Santa's cookies," I lied. But it seemed to satisfy her as she smiled and nodded.

"Come see my princesses!"

Kill me now.

"Hey Edward, look at this!" I turned to see Robby do this spinny-thing to try and kick the bag, but fell right on his little ass. I hopped up without thinking and plucked him off the mat, only to hear Krissy's squeal again.

"Edwarrrrrd! I see your underpants!"

Like I said, kill me now.

"Shit!" I muttered, grabbing for the blanket and wrapping it around myself.

"Oh no, you said a baaaaaad word. Now you gotta put a hundred dollars in the swear jar, Edwarrrrrd!"

I looked at her. This little girl was as serious as a heart attack. And then I laughed...hard. "Swear jar? A hundred doll— kid, you hang around me enough, and you're gonna make a fortune!" She cocked her head to the side, perplexed, which only made me laugh harder.

Looking around, I finally found my jeans tucked underneath the quilt at the end of the sofa, and pulled them on swiftly – under the blanket I had around me, of course.

"C'mon, we gotta go get Mommy!" Krissy grabbed my hand and tugged. "So we can open our presents!" She sang the last word.

"Yeah, presents!" Robby cried with another punch and kick to the poor bag. I chuckled. Wasn't really sure that inflatable thing was going to last very long with his energy level.

"Maybe we should let Mommy sleep a little while longer. She was up late, and I bet she's really tired," I offered, smirking on the inside because, oh, she was definitely exhausted.

Krissy's eyes widened. "Do you think she saw Santa?" she asked in awe.

I shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe."

"No way!" Robby exclaimed. "Santa's way too fast, and he's magic. Like a ninja!"

I shook my head and laughed, knowing the kid was going to love what I got him.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

An hour later, I'd dozed off a few times while watching the kids play, only to be awakened each time to participate. Said participation consisted of being crowned 'Prince Edward the forty-second' – whatever that meant – by 'Princess Kristen' as she was calling herself, and having to break up a near brawl when Robby proclaimed that I was not a prince, but Kung Fu master (which I secretly liked better, if I was being honest). Needless to say, I was more than ready for their mom to wake up.

"Okay, it's time," I announced standing up. The twins stopped abruptly and stared at me. "How 'bout we go get your mommy?"

The bouncing up and down ensued along with shouts of delight. I bent down, scooping 'Princess Kristen' up and over my shoulder as she squealed and kicked her little feet, giggling. Then I turned and scooped up the little ninja in the other arm, carrying them both up the stairs like a couple sacks of potatoes while they giggled loudly as I sang 'Santa Claus is Coming To Town.'

Bella hadn't stirred at all by the time we got up there, and she looked so peaceful that I felt a pang of guilt for letting even the twins wake her up. Still, I leaned against the door frame and watched in awe as the kids, while rambunctious monkeys with me, crawled gently onto her bed and began stroking her hair and her face, whispering sweetly for her to wake up. She groaned and rolled over, blinking her eyed rapidly and smiling when she saw her babies.

"Mommy, wake up!" Krissy squealed when she saw Bella's eyes were finally opened. "Santa came! And look! We found Edwarrrrrd!"

Bella's sleepy but gorgeous blue eyes cut to mine and even from where I was standing, I could see the blush creep into her cheeks. She smiled at me apologetically, but all I could do was grin like an idiot and shake my head, silently telling her not to worry; that all was well. I really just wanted to crawl into bed with her and hold her.

Another time.

I ushered the kids out and sent them back down to their awaiting presents, turning to my baby long enough to give her a quick kiss and squeeze on her sexy ass, and then left her so she could dress.

Pride swelled in my chest again as I watched the twins open the gifts I gave them. A Little Mermaid princess dress-up outfit thing for Krissy, along with some tickets to Disney On Ice, and a real karate gi complete with yellow belt for Robby. I figured I'd give him a step up from the beginner white belt for his enthusiasm. Little Krissy jumped into my lap and gave me a kiss on my cheek, making my heart swell to the point of bursting. She snatched the outfit and immediately ran from the room and up the stairs to put it on. Robby froze when he opened his. His little eyes wide and his mouth a distinct 'O'.

"Wow! Mom, look!" he finally spoke – well, shouted, actually. "A real karate uniform! This is so cool!" He ran over to me and threw his arms around my neck, startling me a little. I looked over at Bella, wide-eyed, and she smiled broadly, nodding her head as if to tell me I nailed it. Yeah, I was a proud motherfucker at that moment. "Thank you, Edward!"

"You're welcome, buddy," I replied, patting his back gingerly. He hopped down and began putting it on over his pj's. "It's called a 'gi'," I said as he walked over to me again and handed me the belt. I tied it around his waist. "And if you let me teach you sometime, there are more belts where this came from." The little guy jumped up and threw his fist in the air again. I heard Bella giggling.

"Yessss! I'm gonna be a black belt, Mom! Edward's gonna teach me Kung Fu!"

Bella giggled again. "Yes, honey, but you have to listen to him. Got it?" He nodded.

"And how 'bout some Jiu Jitsu, instead of just Kung Fu?" I chuckled.

"Yeah, got it...Jit su-su!" I laughed at his mispronunciation as he spun around and kicked his leg out. He landed it smack in the middle of the bag, which swayed to the side but popped right back up. I was impressed. Had to admit, for never having been taught anything, the kid has some skills.

About that time, Krissy came dancing down the stairs, in her Princess Ariel garb – yeah I did my homework – and began twirling around in front of us. She couldn't move her arms, though, as they were affixed to a bright red pillow case she'd apparently found and draped over her head to give herself red hair, like the character.

"Look at me!" She spun around again. "I'm a princess! And I have red hair like her too!" I stole a glance at Bella, whose eyes flashed dangerously. Uh-oh. Krissy moved her arms down to do some princess-y wave thing, and the pillowcase fell to the floor. "Mommy!" she whined. "Fix it!"

Bella picked it up and eyed it precariously. "Krissy, you don't need this thing, your hair is beautiful just the way it is."

"But I wanna look like Ariel!" The child whined some more.

Bella huffed. "Okay, fine. Go and get me some bobby pins." Krissy squealed in delight and flew back up the stairs with lightning speed. Shaking her head, my girl looked over at me. "All the Disney princesses there are, and my daughter just has to be in love with the redhead."

"Well," I said, leaning in to whisper in her ear with a mischievous grin, "I've heard some nasty rumors about that Ariel from the other princesses. I think her reign is coming to an end soon."

"I hope not too soon!" She laughed and smacked my arm playfully. It made me fucking giddy in the manliest sort of way. "I spent a fortune on that stuff!" We shared a moment. A brief moment, and oh how I wanted to pull her to me and just kiss her senseless. But that obviously wasn't going to happen right now. Not with the little ninja eyes staring in our direction. We both cleared our throats and turned away from each other quickly.

Someday soon, I hoped, we wouldn't have to hide it.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

It did make me feel a bit like the king of the world when, as I was preparing to leave, the kids begged me to stay and eat green eggs and ham with them.

"G-green eggs and ham?" I questioned. Apparently, Bella made them this special breakfast every Christmas day. Honestly, the thought grossed me out a little. I may or may not have made a gagging sound.

"It's just food coloring, Edward," Bella said, rolling her eyes. I might have gagged again. "You handle blood and guts nearly every day, and you couldn't handle a little green eggs?" Well, when you put it that way... But Bella explained to the twins that I needed to spend Christmas with my family, and that Kellan and Kendyll were probably missing me. It made my heart lodge in my throat that she'd mentioned Kendyll.

"Mommy, I wanna see Kellan Kellan!" Krissy announced. "Can we go see him? Who's Kendyll?"

"Yeah, I wanna see Kellan too!" Robby yelled.

"Not today, guys," Bella raised her voice over their incessant yelling. "And Kendyll is a very special girl that I hope we can meet soon." She smiled at me when she said that, and my heart lodged further into my throat. Goddamn, this woman was amazing to me, in every single way.

"When can we see them?" the twins asked in unison. Alright that twin thing really was pretty fucked up.

"Well," she looked at me, contemplating, and then back to the kids. "Maybe soon...maybe at your birthday party?"

The twins both began bouncing up and down, chanting, "Birthday party! Birthday party!"

"Uh, sure," I replied. I was a little leery of the company that would be at the party. I wasn't sure if Jake would be there, and a run-in with the chief didn't sound so appealing. Bella sent the kids upstairs to get dressed, turning to me with a timid smile.

"You don't have to come to the party if you don't want to." She must've seen my reluctance.

"It's not that I don't want to, baby," I replied, wrapping my arms around her waist and pulling her to me, glancing up the stairs to make sure the kids weren't peeking. "It's just that...it might be a little crowded. I don't know." I shrugged and dipped down to capture her lips with mine. Damn, she tasted good.

She pulled back breathily. "Jake won't be there," she whispered, pulling me down to her waiting lips again. "He can't...not with the restraining order I have against him."

"Restraining order?" She nodded. I wanted to laugh so hard. Poor Captain Douche. But then, I could hardly imagine him adhering to something like that. He was definitely more of an asshole than that. And besides, he wasn't the only one I was concerned about. "Let's talk about it later, okay?" She nodded again in understanding, and I lifted her up, kissing her passionately. She hummed and smiled in response. "Merry Christmas, Bella, I love you."

"I love you too, Edward, so much."

~*fOrSaKeN*~

I almost came crashing down from the high I was on as I left Bella's place, once I picked up Kel from his mother's. Luckily, I stopped at my apartment and got in a quick shower and change of clothes so she wouldn't notice I had the same clothes on I'd been in the night before.

Oh, but the succubus definitely came out this time. I knew the nice little Rose wouldn't last long, but I was a little surprised by what she said. She invited me in, which was my first fucking mistake. No, actually, my first fucking mistake would've been expecting an eight-year-old to keep mum about things I discussed with him, especially when I hadn't told him to. Therefore, my second mistake was walking into the lair of the succubus under the pretense that Kellan wasn't ready to go. That was obviously bullshit, as when I walked in, he was standing in the foyer, bag packed, bundled up, arms crossed in front of him, and looking a little bit smug.

"Hey, little man, "I greeted him cheerfully, sensing something was amiss. "Merry Christmas! Did you get a visit from the fat man?"

"Yeah," he said, extremely unenthusiastically. I furrowed my brow in concern. It wasn't like him to be so blasé about Christmas.

"So," the succubus started, eyeing me carefully. "How was your Christmas Eve, Edward?"

I was taken aback. She usually didn't give a shit about how any of my days – or nights – went. "Oh, it was great!" I couldn't help it. I grinned this big, toothy grin, thinking about just how great my night was. Rosalie's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "I thought you said he wasn't ready." I waved my hand toward our son. "He looks ready to me." Yeah, I'd had enough of the goddamned small talk. I was ready to get the hell out of there, get to my parents' house, and spend time with my family.

"Kellan, honey, don't you have a game or something in your room you wanted to take?" Her tone almost gave me a cavity.

"I got 'em all, Mom," he countered in an irritated tone. I scowled at him, because even though his mother was the bane of my existence most days, I still expected him to be respectful.

"Kellan," she said slowly. "I need you to go to your room for a few minutes until I tell you you're ready to go."

I could tell she was choosing her words carefully, but damn, the woman couldn't have been any less subtle. Like I was a fucking moron who didn't know she obviously had something to say to me. This ought to be good. The truth was I was torn. Part of me wanted to lash out at her; tell her the kid was ready and we were leaving; that I had absolutely nothing to say to her. But when Kellan began to protest and talk back, the dutiful father in me took over.

"Kellan, do as your mother says." My tone was stern, but soft, and my son answered me with a scowl of his own before rolling his eyes and abruptly heading toward his room. Once he was out of sight, I turned to the succubus with a raised brow, clearly conveying my impatience.

"So, Kellan tells me he's getting a sister," she began, her tone short. Real fucking nice. My hackles went up instantly.

"Did he now?" My brow shot up to my hairline because this conversation was not fucking happening. If she thought I was going to even think about entertaining her opinion on the matter, she was sorely mistaken.

"Well..." She tossed her hair over her shoulder. "He didn't go into detail or anything, just said you were adopting some little girl." She said 'little girl' like it disgusted her. I just stared at her, hoping she'd get the hint through my silence, that I wasn't interested in telling her a fucking thing. "Is that true?" But no such luck.

"Are you kidding me? Why does it matter?" I said, incredulously. Because...seriously?

Her eyes narrowed and her upper lip curled over her teeth, succubus, in full effect. As if that would intimidate me. "So it is true," she said victoriously. "It matters because it involves our son, Edward. You didn't think to even ask me what I thought about this?"

I fought...really hard...not to burst into hysterical laughter. Instead, I lowered my voice and leveled an evil glare on her. "It's none of your business, Rosalie. It doesn't concern you...at all," I hissed.

"Like hell it doesn't concern me!" She began to raise her voice, typical succubus behavior. "When it comes to my son, everything is my business, Edward!"

"See, that's where you're wrong, Rose." I kept my voice low but cold, calculating. "I've already talked to our son about this, and he's fine. Excited, even. So your opinion doesn't even matter. It has no bearing here."

"That's bullshit!" she snarled.

"Is it?" I shot back. "Or were you too busy with your own self-involved bullshit to notice that he's happy about it?" She stared at me, her face getting redder by the second. I didn't give a shit. She knew it was the truth. "Ya know what, Rose, maybe if you spent less time on yourself and more on your son, he might want to spend more time with you!" She rolled her eyes; again, typical succubus behavior.

"Whatever," she muttered. "You don't pay me enough child support anyway. Maybe I'll see you in court, Edward."

That time, I did laugh. "Oh, indeed you will see me in court, Rose. You think I don't know what you're doing? That you're still seeing that disgusting excuse for a man that has a record of preying on women?" (None that I could prove, of course, except for the one incident with Bella. But the succubus didn't know that.) "Oh, I look forward to it, believe me." Her eyed widened and she sucked in a breath to, no doubt, begin another string of lies that I didn't have the time or patience for, so I didn't let her. "Kellan!" I yelled only so he'd hear me. Immediately, he came running.

"Yeah, Dad? 'Sup? "

"Get your stuff and let's go. We've got family waiting for us."

He let out a little squeal of excitement, grabbed his bag and nearly skipped to the fucking door. I smirked at the succubus as I turned to leave. Yeah it was immature, but I didn't give a shit. She was lucky it was the goddamned holidays and I couldn't serve her ass with papers right away.

When I got into the car, I let out a long, exasperated sigh and gripped the steering wheel tightly. Kel was quiet in the back seat. I didn't mention the Kendyll thing to him, though the twisted part of me really wanted to know what she'd said to him. I did, however, want to know what was up with his attitude. I hoped he hadn't heard the argument between his mom and me. The poor kid didn't need that kind of stress.

"So, what's up, little man? Why are you so cranky on Christmas?"

He sighed and looked at me through the rear view. "I don't think Santa Claus is real, Dad."

I forced a stunned look on my face. "Why would you say that?"

"Because," His voice took on a bit of a whine. "Santa knows what I wanted for Christmas. I told him I wanted skate boarding stuff, ya know?" I nodded in response, not really sure I liked where this was going. I didn't necessarily want to dash my child's dreams of Santa being real on Christmas day. I had already decided, however, that whatever the issue was, I was blaming his mother...in my head at least.

"Well, I got Transformers. TRANSFORMERS!" he yelled. And that was when the ranting of my almost-nine-year-old began. "I don't like Transformers, Dad! I mean, I guess they're kinda cool...they're cool in the movies, but dude, I don't wanna play with the toys! I want skate stuff, damn it!"

"Whoa, Kellan!" I screeched. He slapped his hands over his mouth immediately, his eyes wide and round with shock. "You wanna rephrase that, kid?" My eyes narrowed at him through the rearview as he lowered his little hands looking sheepish and remorseful.

"I'm sorry, Dad."

"You don't talk like that!" I chided. That was it. The kid spent way too much time around Emmett, and I was going to have to have a talk with that motherfucker about his language around my son. Hypocritical? Maybe, but I tried to keep my mouth clean around my kid. "So, I take it Santa brought you Transformers toys." He frowned and nodded. "What did your mom get you?"

"Clothes," he groaned, rolling his eyes." And not even the cool kind!" he continued, throwing his arms up.

"Kel," I said with a sigh. "You know the gifts aren't what it's about...Christmas...right?"

"Yeah, I guess," he answered sheepishly.

"Because you're sounding a little bit like a spoiled brat right now." His eyes widened again, but he didn't reply. "Think about Kendyll. She doesn't even have her mother, and you're griping about what yours got you." I shook my head, disappointed. "So sad."

"Okay, fine! I'm sorry!" he blurted, my guilt-trip having done the trick.

I smiled. "That's what I thought." Though, I did feel rather victorious, knowing I'd gotten him what he wanted, and I knew he'd be excited about the ones Bella shoved in my hands right before I left. She'd told me what they were, and I'd told her that there was a strong possibility she would be my boy's hero after he opened them. She'd giggled when I said that. Damn, how I loved that sound.

Christmas day at my parents' house would've been just like any other year, had it not been for the stunning little girl I found in the kitchen, helping Esme with dinner. They both turned to greet Kellan and me as we walked in, Esme giving her grandson a squeeze and a kiss on the cheek, while Kendyll ran to me and wrapped her good arm around my waist. The poor thing's left arm was still securely cocooned in a thick cast. I was both shocked and elated.

"Doctor Edward!" Her voice was soft, tired maybe, but full of love. I smoothed her wavy hair away from her face and bent down to kiss her forehead.

"Hi, beautiful," I greeted in return. My brow furrowed a little as I looked her over. She looked too pale, and the sleepless nights the poor child had endured were showing prominently in the bruising under her eyes. "Merry Christmas." Her bright, aqua eyes met mine and I smiled. She merely nodded and looked away, not returning my sentiment, and I understood why. Despite her smile, her eyes told another story. Today had to be incredibly difficult for her, and I just hoped we could make it bearable.

When she saw Kellan, her mouth split into an even wider grin. "Hi, Kellan! Can I give you a hug?" She never ceased to amaze me, such an old soul in her little body. Kellan nodded sheepishly as Kendyll wrapped her arm around him. They looked like they belonged together as brother and sister, and my throat thickened with emotion at the sight.

"Honey, you look wonderful," Esme said, turning me around, pulling my attention away from the kids. She placed her hands on my stubbled cheeks – I hadn't had time to shave this morning – and pulled me in for a hug.

"Thanks, Mom, so do you." It was a given. My mother was beautiful. She always looked wonderful, even when she was tired and cooking Christmas dinner for a million people.

"I take it your night turned out well?" she asked, a little gleam in her eyes. I nodded, feeling my face flush, and told her that it had turned out amazing. Of course I couldn't lie to her when I was rushing off the night before, so she knew exactly where I was going – after dropping Kel off – and what I had planned. Did she need to know all the gory details? No, but she was a smart lady. If I was being honest, it was a little awkward, but the look on her face showed me nothing but pure joy. She pulled me in for another hug, whispering in my ear. "I'm so happy for you, Edward." The kids went off to watch whatever Christmas program was playing on repeat for a while before time to open presents, and as they left, I looked Esme in the eyes.

"How's she doing?" I asked, worried about the answer.

Esme sighed, her eyes reflecting sadness. "She's having a hard time." My stomach dropped. Damn it, I wished I could take all the hurt away. I wanted so much for her to feel the joy that Kellan felt, when he wasn't being a spoiled brat, of course, and that the twins felt...that all children should feel this time of year. It just wasn't fucking fair.

"More nightmares?"

She nodded. "Once she finally got to sleep. It took almost all night of me reassuring her that everything was okay, that her parents would be watching over her today. That she wasn't alone...and then after she fell asleep, she woke up crying a couple hours later." Esme shook her head. "The poor baby's exhausted. I think we need to look into a crisis counselor for her, Edward."

My heart felt so heavy, I wanted to fucking cry for her. "I should've been here," I muttered through clenched teeth. I was angry at myself, but torn at the same time. If I'd been here, I wouldn't have been with Bella. The whole situation was eating me alive.

"Honey, it wouldn't have made a difference," my mother soothed. "She needs more than just our love can provide."

Esme was right. The only thing I could do today was make sure she knew I was here for her, that I cared for her and I wasn't going to let anything bad happen to her again. I made a mental note, though, to talk to Tanya about the crisis counseling. After trying to get my stubborn mother to let me help her in the kitchen, and after she shooed me away a couple times, I headed in to hang out with my kids. That put a cautious but proud smile on my face. As I made my way to the living room, Carlisle came bounding down the stairs whistling the tune of White Christmas, bearing a huge grin and greeted me with a handshake and a half hug.

"Merry Christmas, son! You look well-rested." That was interesting, considering I'd hardly slept. "And happy. I take it my good-luck wish worked to your advantage." His smile grew, and if I hadn't known better, I would've sworn the man was smirking.

My eyes narrowed. "Esme told you." It wasn't a question. Not that it bothered me, but if it hadn't gone well with Bella, today would've been beyond awkward. He nodded. "Yes, your beautiful, gracious, heavenly mother told me. And I'm sure she would be happy if you referred to her as that rather than 'Esme' today." He sighed wistfully. "Because she is, in fact, your mother…and what an amazing woman she is." He was...beaming. My eyebrows shot up to my hairline because...oh God, this shit was indeed becoming more awkward than I could deal with, and if I was given anymore indication that my father had gotten a little Christmas 'gift' of his own, I was going to throw up in my mouth a little bit. No wonder my mom looked tired.

Gross.

Therefore, I couldn't quite understand what came out of my mouth next.

"Guess you didn't get replaced by Santa Claus, huh Dad?"

Open mouth, insert fucking foot.

He chuckled and clapped me on the shoulder. "No, son, I did not. And..." He turned to walk away. "I just got a very interesting phone call from Tanya."

"Wait, what? Dad!" I hissed as he trotted away...

"Kids! Let's open some presents!" he exclaimed.

What the fuck...was up with my father? Was sex that nonexistent for him? Oh God. (Cue my nausea.) And what the hell was he talking about, an 'interesting' phone call from Tanya? Goddamn it, I hated being out of the loop.

I glanced at my parents – Carlisle's arms were wrapped lovingly around Esme as she leaned into him in their loveseat – while they watched the kids open their gifts. Kendyll was careful, meticulous. It reminded me of the way Bella opened hers. And she was so gracious; smiling almost timidly and saying 'thank you' after each and every one. But Kellan tore into his without patience, only wanting the prize inside...much like me. He cheered and shouted things like, "dude, this is so cool!" and "score!" and "sweet!" It made me laugh. He was thankful too, of course, just with his own flair. Kendyll, though, it was as if she wanted to savor the moment...the look on her little face...it was like she wanted to hold on to it forever. Just like Bella. It gave me a strange feeling, comparing the two of them, but I couldn't help it. I knew it was because I wanted so desperately for them to be in each other's lives. I decided I had to get Bella over to Tanya's soon. It would be weird, yes, but I needed my girls to meet like I needed air in my lungs.

"Kendyll, honey, if you don't like any of those clothes, don't be afraid to say so. We can always take them back." Esme broke me from my reverie, and I looked at the little beauty, who seemed to be swimming in a sea of new clothes. I smiled. Kendyll looked, for an instant, genuinely happy...not a trace of sadness as she looked at all her gifts. Yes, for an instant, a carefree little girl took the place of the devastated one who'd lost her parents and was missing them so terribly today.

"No, I really like them," Kendyll replied with a big grin. "I like all of them."

We had loaded her up, my parents and I. We went in together and tried to think of anything and everything a little girl would need to start a new life when she'd lost everything...and damn it, we got it. From clothes, to shoes, to books, to hair things; even a bedding set that was pink and black – because she said she liked those colors – complete with several decorative pillows, stuffed animals, and a jewelry box. She was going to need that for what I got her. Though, seeing her so happy made me rethink it. I was suddenly terrified to give them to her, worried that these heartfelt tokens would send her spiraling downward, so I put it out of my mind, only for my fucking mind to revert back to what Carlisle had said to me. And I wanted to know what the hell he was talking about. I narrowed my eyes at him, trying silently to get him to look at me, but he was too busy kissing Esme on the temple, pulling her closer, and smiling at the kids, lost in this bubble. I suddenly found myself not wanting to interrupt them. I found myself staring at them, longing to have Bella here with me...to hold her like that...kiss her. And then I remembered the gifts she gave me for Kellan, so I called him over to me.

"Thanks for the skating stuff, Dad, it's awesome!" He gave me a big hug.

"You're welcome, little man, and someone special asked me to give these to you." I handed him the gift bag and wrapped poster and watched with amusement as he tore into them. He froze, his mouth forming a little 'o' and his eyes wide when he opened the signed Rob Dyrdek picture Bella had put in a frame for him.

"Oh man, this is awesome!" he squealed. "Bella got this?" I nodded. "Can I call her and tell her thank you?"

I chuckled. "Maybe tomorrow; she's probably really busy today, okay." He nodded. "Kel, I know you're happy about your presents, but remember what I said...about what Christmas is about?" He nodded. I lowered my voice so only he could hear me. "I know Kendyll got a lot, but, well it's because—"

"I know, Dad." And then my boy leaned in to whisper in my ear. "We're all she has now. It's okay." I gave my baby boy a kiss on the cheek, which he immediately wiped away with a frown on his little face, and sent him off to play with his new stuff, smiling like the proud motherfucker I was.

"Edward, honey, don't you have something else for Kendyll?" Esme caught my eye and raised her brow. Kendyll looked over at me quizzically.

I sighed. "Yes, but I think we should eat first. Come on, Mom, I'll help you in the kitchen."

She followed behind me, and once we were out of sight, she grabbed my arm, spinning me around to face her. "What's the matter?"

I ran a hand through my hair. "I don't know, Mom. I don't think it's a good idea to give her those things right now. What if it upsets her? Ruins her Christmas? I couldn't..." I trailed off, shaking my head.

Her palms were warm and gentle on my cheeks. "Oh, Edward, I understand. But it's special to you, and it will be to her. Even if she gets upset, which she might, eventually she'll treasure them forever, baby. And she'll treasure you too."

I nodded, letting my head fall onto her shoulder, as she patted the back of my head like I was a little boy needing my mom's reassurance. I did, after all. "Okay, after dinner."

We went back into the living room to call everyone in to eat, when there was a loud pounding on the door. We all jumped, and I thought poor Kendyll's eyes were going to pop out of her head. Good thing I knew exactly who it was. Carlisle walked to the door and opened it quickly, coming face-to-face with Emmett, who held a giggling Nicci, clutching onto a pie pan in his arms, and a soft-sided cooler slung over his shoulder. Big shocker there.

"Damn!" he bellowed. "It's colder than a witch's t—"

"Emmett!" Esme and I both shouted at the same time. Carlisle was nearly doubled over, laughing, and Nicci proceeded to pop the Neanderthal in the back of the head. Yeah, I liked her more and more.

"Ow! What?" He looked around before smiling like a goofy motherfucker. "Merry Christmas, family!"

"Merry Christmas!" We all chanted in unison.

"Uncle Em!" Kellan ran to him and hugged his leg. I chuckled, shaking my head. "What's a witch's tuh?"

"Oh dear God," Esme groaned, turning toward the kitchen.

"Yeah, Uncle Em," I said mockingly. "What is that?" He opened his mouth to speak, but Nicci – still in his arms – cut him off with a pointed finger in his face.

"Careful," she chided. I laughed. Out loud.

"Well, uh, I was just saying that it's colder than a witch's, uh, t-tooth. Ya know, witch teeth are very cold." He shivered dramatically. "Those things are like ice." Then the fucker winked at me, to which I responded by flipping him the bird before Kellan had a chance to see. Unfortunately, I was busted by Kendyll, who broke into a fit of giggles. I smiled sheepishly at her.

Shit.

"Oh," Kellan said. "Who ya got there?" He looked at the super model Emmett was cradling. She waved.

"This beautiful lady, little dude, is my girlfriend, Nicci."

"Put me down, baby." She wiggled a little and Emmett set her on her high-heeled boots. She immediately bent down to Kellan's level and extended her hand. "Hi, it's a pleasure to meet you, Kellan. I've heard so much about you. Your Uncle Emmett adores you." I could tell by my boy's profile that he was staring at her, smiling from ear to ear. Couldn't really blame the kid. The girl was stunning.

"Don't tell him that, woman! He'll think I got him a present or something," Emmett teased.

Kellan giggled. "How come he was carrying you? Can't you walk?"

Nicci started to respond, but Emmett cut in. "Let me tell you something, little dude." He set the cooler down and took Nicci's coat off of her, revealing her slender body draped in skinny jeans, tucked into calf-high gray boots and a very stylish silver, scoop-neck sweater. Carlisle immediately walked over to greet her, making me snort, and then made a beeline for the kitchen. "This right here..." Emmett continued, waving his hand from her head to her feet, "is precious cargo. When you're an older dude and can appreciate precious cargo like this, you'll understand. I didn't want her to fall down and hurt herself." Alright, that was pretty fucking sweet, I had to admit. "And I spent a lot of money on those boots. Couldn't have 'em getting ruined." Until he said that. I shook my head at him as Nicci smacked him in the arm.

"Hey!"

"What? Come on, baby, you know I'm kidding!" He planted a kiss on her cheek, making a loud smacking sound and humming as she giggled.

"Emmett," I walked up to my best friend and shook his hand, pulling him into a manly hug. "I want you to meet someone." I turned toward Kendyll and watched her quietly stand and smooth out her shirt nervously. "Come here, sweetheart." I smiled at her and nodded toward the asshat I called my best friend to my left. She walked over, staring at Emmett with wide, brilliant eyes as he knelt down to her level. He studied her face for a moment, seemingly mesmerized, before his lips split into that Cheshire cat grin he was known for.

"Hi, Kendyll," he said softly. A far cry from the boisterous Emmett that had walked in the house. "Edward was right; you're so pretty." Well I never said he didn't have a way with the ladies...young and old. "It's good to meet you finally. I'm your Uncle Emmett." She giggled and looked up at me.

"He's your brother?"

"Not exactly," I said, winking at her. I cut my eyes to him and noticed he was still staring at her, almost awestruck. He shifted his eyes to me and then back to her twice before shaking his head like some sort of weird cartoon character. I blew it off. Dude was weird anyway. "Unfortunately, this guy is my best friend," I continued. "I've known him since I was about your age, but we're sort of like brothers. As close as, anyway."

"You're...you're an only child like me?" Her face changed slightly, and the sadness crept back into her large eyes. My heart fractured. I knelt down, gazing into those eyes, and as I knelt, Emmett quickly stood.

"Yes," I whispered. "I'm a lot like you, actually."

Sensing the heaviness of the situation, Em clapped me on the shoulder. "Yep, Edward here has always looked up to me. I taught this man everything he knows."

I looked up at him and smirked. "Everything? About what?"

"Dude." He looked at me incredulously. "About everything, duh!"

Kendyll laughed, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Nicci greeted her with a warm hug and a smile, introducing herself as 'Nicolette' Rousseau, to which Kendyll's eyes widened.

"Are you French?" My heart sank. I was so worried that any reminder of her parents would upset her. Surprisingly, though, her eyes lit up and she grinned.

Nicci nodded. "Oui," she replied musically. "On my dad's side, at least."

"Me too! Bonjour!"

Nicci laughed and launched into a never-ending diatribe about her parents going to France and blah, blah, blah. It wasn't anything I hadn't heard already, so I made my way to the kitchen to see about setting the table, only to be confronted by Emmett halfway there. He was eyeing me precariously with a goddamned smirk on his face.

"What?"

"Whadya mean, 'what'? Bro, you've got this glow about you tonight. You're practically shimmering with sexual bliss! Spill." He did this weird, jazz-hands thing, waving at me.

I glared at him but he just stared back, his eyebrows raised, no doubt wanting every gory detail – which he was not going to get. Still, I couldn't help but smirk myself. "Now's not really the time, man," I said, shoving my tongue into my cheek. I tried to walk around him but he blocked my path, mirroring my movements. I sighed. This motherfucker... "What are you, twelve, Emmett?"

"I knew it!" he proclaimed. "You saw her. Come on, man, spill. How was she? How was the make-up sex?" He wiggled his eyebrows. I rolled my eyes.

"You're worse than a woman, Emmett, you know that? His only response was that goddamned Cheshire cat-looking grin. "Fine! She's amazing and the sex was phenomenal. That good enough for ya?"

"Not really." He shook his head. "You know I want details, my friend." There were the wiggling eyebrows again.

"You're a sick bastard, you know that?"

He patted his chest. "Aw, man. I love you too." Then the asshole grabbed my face and kissed me...kissed me, right on the fucking lips. I shoved him.

"Get off me, motherfucker!" I snarled. "Seriously, you've got problems." I shoved past him into the safe haven of the kitchen.

"I just love you so much, man!" he called after me, laughing.

Asshole.

Once we were all in the kitchen, Esme apologized to Nicci for not introducing herself when they first arrived before cutting her eyes to Emmett, who smiled sheepishly, waved, and then sauntered over to Esme to give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I rolled my eyes when she turned away and he smirked at me, mouthing 'MILF' with more wiggling eyebrows. Lucky for him, Nicci didn't see it, as she was too busy talking Carlisle's ear off about the fascinating world of orthopedic surgery. Esme asked about his mom, as she always did, and he mumbled something barely audible about her dumb, drunk ass. And when Nicci looked over at him with sad eyes, damn, I felt sorry for the guy. At the same time, though, I was glad he had Nicci to be there for him. And I was glad he had my parents as surrogates. As much as we goofed around, and as much as I wanted to donkey punch his ass for putting his lips on me, I really did love him like a brother.

Dinner was full of animated conversations by both Emmett and Nicci. Emmett, who kept us all laughing by occasionally shoving food in Nicci's mouth because she just wouldn't...stop...talking. I kept glancing at the kids. Kellan was shoveling food into his mouth like there was no tomorrow. I couldn't really blame the kid. His MeMe's food was incredible. But Kendyll had barely eaten a bite. She was pushing her fork around her plate despite the smile on her beautiful face, and she looked incredibly tired.

"Kendyll, you okay?" She looked at me like I was crazy. "Are you not hungry? Is your arm hurting?"

"I'm fine, doctor Edward. I just feel really full already. You worry too much." She giggled.

"You know you don't have to call me 'doctor' Edward anymore, right?"

"I like calling you that." She shrugged.

"Well, when I adopt you, it might be kinda weird to call me that. Are you planning to refer to me as 'doctor' forever?"

"Well, Doctor Spock was called 'doctor' forever. Nobody thought that was weird." I guess she had me there.

"You're a Star Trek fan?" Carlisle asked. He looked like he'd just hit the lottery. Yeah, he was a bit of a closet Trekkie.

Kendyll nodded. "My dad used to watch that show all the time." She glanced at me when she said 'dad' as if it would upset me. "I watched it with him. I really liked it. I liked their funny outfits. Oh, and Uhura was my favorite. She was so smart."

"Me too! I think I know what we can watch tomorrow." Carlisle said, smiling. "Oh, I almost forgot. Speaking of adopting," he cut his eyes to mine and my stomach flipped. Who knew what was going to come out if his mouth, but it was obviously what I'd been wondering about. He quickly returned his gaze to Kendyll. "You know how we've been trying get a bunch of paperwork on you from Florida, and get them to sort of release you so Doctor Spock over there can move forward with the adoption?" She giggled and nodded.

"Carlisle?" I asked, trying not to get excited.

He turned to look at me. "They released her. Tanya found out late yesterday and knew we were busy, so she called me earlier today." My breath caught in my throat and my stomach flipped again.

"What about the medical records? The other...stuff?"

"All released." He beamed. "The information should be here in about a week, two at the most."

"What does that mean?" Kendyll asked, her eyes glistening.

"It means," I said, blowing out an excited breath. "That we're so much closer now, sweetheart." A slow grin spread across her face until all her teeth were showing. I ran my hands through my hair. "Oh my God," I whispered, "this is...amazing news." The entire room was silent as I slowly stood and walked over to my little girl. She turned to me and I picked her up, holding her against me, careful of her casted arm. I was scared she wouldn't reciprocate, but as soon as I felt her little arm wrap around my shoulders and her head nestle into my neck, I released a shuddering, relieved breath.

And I just held her.

"Kendyll?" Carlisle cleared his throat. I could tell his emotions were getting to him. She pulled her head from my neck and looked over at him, her right arm still gripping me. "Tanya wanted this to be your decision. She's loved having you, but Esme and I, well, we've been approved to let you live here with us until Edward can get the stuff done he needs to, and get his place ready for you. It-it's up to you, but it would allow you to see Edward and Kellan easier and more often. What do you think?"

My mouth fell open. I was stunned. I had no idea he and Esme had even considered it, but the thought that they had almost brought me to tears. Kendyll was quiet. She looked at me, and then back at Carlisle, and then chewed on the corner of her bottom lip, contemplating. I smiled because it reminded me of the only other person in the world I wished could be here now with us.

Bella.

"Tanya won't be sad?" Kendyll finally spoke.

Carlisle shook his head. "I'm sure she'll miss you, but you can see her anytime you want. She won't be sad. She wants what we all want – for you to be happy."

Kendyll looked at Kellan. "What do you think, Kellan?"

"I think it's awesome!" he yelled, jumping out of his seat. The room erupted in laughter and Emmett held out his fist to my boy.

"That's it, little dude!"

"So what do you think," I whispered in her ear.

She gazed at me, her brilliant eyes shining with unshed tears, and she smiled. "I want to stay here." There was a collective cheer around the room. Esme came over and hugged both Kendyll and me, as did Kellan. It was sort of this Norman Rockwell fucking Christmas moment that I didn't want to let go.

Reluctantly, I set her on her feet. "Come on, let's clean up. I have something else to give you." I looked over at my mom, who gave me a smile and a nod of approval.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

We all sat in the living room as she began to open the first of my two gifts for her. I sat on the floor with her and everyone else sat around watching TV, pretending not to pay attention, not wanting to make her uncomfortable. Her little fingers were careful, methodical as she pulled the paper apart without ripping it. She pulled out the charm bracelet and studied it. It was gold with pearls inset. The centerpiece was a heart locket and the bracelet was affixed with charms of pink roses, crystals, angel wings and other girlie things. She smiled at me.

"It's so pretty! Thank you, Edward!" I was a little taken aback that she hadn't plugged a 'doctor' in front of that Edward. "Will you put it on me?"

"Of course, sweetie." I clasped it onto her tiny wrist, and placed the other box in front of her as she admired the bracelet. "You've got one more," I said softly, stealing a glance at Esme, who nodded her encouragement. Kendyll picked it up and repeated the process of delicately opening it. She pulled out the little silver necklace and held the pendant in her palm, close to her face. I held my breath. There was no other meaning for it, other than for her to keep her mom and dad close to her forever. The pendant was two platinum hearts, a hollow one above affixed to a solid one below, and each heart held a single golden wing. I had the words, 'Watching over me from Heaven' engraved around the outline of the top heart because I wanted her to know that I believed they were. And I believed, for some weird, karmic reason, that I was supposed to be behind their car that night.

She finally looked up at me and, as soon as she did, my heart shattered into a million pieces. The anguish on her exquisite little face was crippling. All of the loss, all of the pain, all of the horrors she'd been through evident in the tears that filled her eyes, and her lips that were quivering uncontrollably.

"Oh no," I whispered, though I didn't think she heard me.

"I...think…I need to go upstairs," she blurted out brokenly. She clenched the necklace in her hand as she tried to stand, and I reached out, lifting her to her feet.

"Kendyll?" I turned her to face me, but she pushed my hands away, running to the stairs as watched in stunned silence. This was what I had hoped, with all my soul, wouldn't happen, yet it was happening and I didn't know what the fuck to do. I gripped my hair with both hands and squeezed my eyes shut, wishing there was something, anything I could do to take away the pain that I now knew I'd caused her, and coming up with nothing. I looked over at Esme and shook my head. "I knew this was a bad idea," I mumbled, disgusted with myself.

"Honey..." She walked over to me and touched my arm gently. "She'll be okay. I'll go up there and talk to her." She started toward the stairs, but I reached out to stop her.

"No, let me." I took a deep breath and started up the stairs, my stomach churning like a rip-tide in the ocean.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

When I reached the spare room that Esme had deemed as Kendyll's, it was dark. The light from the hallway shone in slightly, and I saw her shadow on the wall, following it to her barely visible outline. The sobbing, however, was unmistakable. My shattered heart thudded, and I swallowed the thick lump in my throat in order to speak.

"Kendyll?" I entered the room with trepidation. "Honey, can I come in?"

"Yeah," she answered between sniffles, her voice shaking violently.

I went to the side of her bed and knelt down on the floor next to her, switching on the lamp so that I could see her. She quickly covered her eyes with her right hand. The charm bracelet, hanging loosely on her tiny wrist, seemed to glow from the soft light of the lamp. I sighed silently, shaking my head, already feeling emotions I was all too familiar with. I hoped I hadn't lost her over this.

"Oh sweet girl, I'm so sorry, " I nearly choked on my words. The goddamned lump had returned ten-fold. I brushed the back of my hand across hers and smoothed her hair back. "I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to make you upset. Will you please look at me?" As much as I wanted that, I wasn't prepared for it when she finally did. Her beautiful little face was bright red, eyes swimming in the tears that relentlessly streamed down her cheeks, and the pain in her eyes was too much for even me to bear, let alone her. I immediately tried to wipe the offending tears away with my thumbs, but it was futile. Noticing the box of tissues on the nightstand, I grabbed a couple and went to work capturing tears as they fell. "I only wanted you to have a special Christmas, and I don't know what to do to make it better for you," I admitted.

She sniffed. "I just...miss...them...so much."

"I know you do, sweetheart, I know." I took a deep, painful breath and let it out slowly. "And I wish so much that I could bring them back for you. I wish I could've saved them." I should've saved them. "I would give anything...anything, for you to...not have to go through this...for you to be happy. You...shouldn't have to endure this. I wish...I wish you could understand how much I wanted things to be different for you."

She looked into my eyes, hers clouded with more sadness than any child should ever have to endure, as I gently caressed her soft waves and tucked some strands behind her ear. It felt like my heart was fracturing repeatedly. Never, in a million lifetimes, should a beautiful soul like hers ever have to go through the amount of loss this poor baby had. It was beyond fucking unfair. Nevertheless, my emotions were getting the best of me, and I had to rein them in, for her. She needed me to be strong for her.

"Could-could I have really died in that car, like my momma and daddy?"

I was taken aback by her question. All this time, she'd barely spoken of the accident, rarely mentioned her parents, and here it was, the mother-load. I knew it was coming. I knew I should've been prepared to talk to her about it, answer any questions she had, but I didn't know how. I knew this was some sort of test, to see if I could handle myself in a way that wouldn't damage this poor girl even further.

But I wasn't fucking prepared for this! Goddamn it, I didn't know how to not hurt her anymore!

So I studied her face, wondering whether I should tell her that she would've been okay, knowing she wouldn't have, or if I should tell her the truth, that she would've been with her parents right now if I hadn't gotten her out of that car. And how selfish I was, knowing that thought alone gutted me. Somehow I decided to go with the truth because I couldn't bear to lie to her.

I nodded my head, very slowly, watching her stunning, aqua eyes widen. "Yes," I said, my voice thick and hoarse.

Her little lips trembled. "You saved me, Edward. You-you got me out."

"How could I not?" I whispered, cupping her cheek. She was so small, my hand swallowed it.

"I think..." her voice broke again, and a fresh set of tears broke free, travelling over my thumb, down onto my wrist. I tried again to wipe them away. "My momma and daddy..." Her little body shuddered with her sobs. "...would be so...happy that-that you saved me."

"You do?" I couldn't say anything else. My entire jaw was aching as I tried desperately to keep my own emotions from overwhelming me. She nodded, letting loose a wail that tore my resolve into pieces as she launched herself into my arms, gripped my sweater in her little fist and held me tightly, sobbing into my collar.

I clenched my jaw so tight, I thought it might crack it, and squeezed my eyes shut, fighting with everything I had. All I could do was rub little circles on her back until I had swallowed down all the sobs that wanted to escape me.

"I hope so," I whispered. "You're so special to me, Kendyll, so special. If I hadn't gotten you out of that car, I would never be able to forgive myself. You...you're a blessing to me, and I thank God every day that I was there to find you." It was funny how true that was, and I hadn't realized it until just now.

"Do you think my momma and daddy are with God?" she asked, her voice muffled by my shirt.

"I sure do, baby girl." I kissed the top of her head. "They're keeping an eye on you; I'm sure of it."

She pulled back to look at me, leaning back against her pillow again. "Sometimes...I get so scared that I'm going to forget about them." Her chin trembled.

"Oh no, sweetheart, you could never forget about them." I touched the area of her chest that encased her heart, and tried to smile. "They'll always be right here." Then I tipped her little chin up to look into my eyes. Christ, this child was ripping me apart inside. "That's why I got you that pendant, so you'll always have something to remind you of them, even after it stops hurting so much. I know it's hard to believe, but after a while, it won't hurt as much, I promise. But I know they're still with you, and they always will be." For the first time since I walked into the room, she smiled, though it was small and barely reached her eyes. Still I felt the pieces of my shattered heart begin to come back together. "And this," I touched the heart on the bracelet gently. "This is a locket." I opened it to show her. "I thought sometime we could get a picture of your mom and dad to put in it." She nodded, and her small smile widened a little.

Suddenly she gasped and pointed at the bracelet. "These are like the pink roses you always brought me in the hospital!"

"Yes, they are. I saw that and all I could think about was you."

She reached over and wrapped her little arm around my neck, giving me a kiss on the cheek and hugging me. "I love you, Doctor Edward. Thank you."

I wiped a single tear away from my cheek after that. She didn't need to see it. She only needed to hear the words I spoke in reply. "I love you too, Kendyll."

I sat with her for a while after that, listening to her calm breaths. And then out of the blue she asked me something that, again, almost rendered me speechless. She asked me if I knew she was adopted. I hesitated at first, but told her that, yes, I did. I told her I hadn't said anything because I didn't know if she knew, and she said her mom had told her a few years before. Apparently, Esme had told her about me, and Kendyll said she felt like we were special because of it. I couldn't have agreed with her more.

We talked about that for a while. She asked me if I remembered my real parents, and I told her I only remembered bits and pieces about my birth mother. She said she didn't remember anyone but the parents she lost, and I told her that was okay. That was the way it was supposed to be. Then she asked me about Bella, and it made me long for her again. We talked about her until I thought I'd lose my voice, and Kendyll listened with rapt attention. Finally, we talked about Kellan, and I told her about Bella's twins. She said she wanted to meet them too and, had my heart been any fuller, it would've burst.

When she'd been quiet for a while, I looked down to see her eyes closed; long lashes fanned her cheeks and she had the most peaceful expression. My phone buzzed in my pocket, startling me, and I decided it was time to let her rest. I pulled the duvet over her and kissed her forehead, reluctantly leaving her to sleep.

I felt exhausted. Scrubbing my face with my palms as I walked down the stairs, I was met by my worried mother who had, no doubt, heard me coming.

"Is everything okay?" she asked, wringing her hands together.

I nodded, running a hand through my hair and pulling out my phone. "She's asleep." Kellan had walked up to his MeMe and leaned against her side.

"Is Kendyll sad, Dad?" He looked just as concerned as Esme. I leaned down to him.

"She's okay, buddy. She'll be okay."

"Can I stay here with her tonight?" My eyebrows shot up. "In case she needs a friend. Besides, I can show Grandad my new skating game. He wants to see it." I looked over at Carlisle, who winked at me and smiled. Christ, these kids were going to be the death of me tonight. Death by enlarged heart. I'd never been so fucking proud of my boy in all my life.

It was still fairly early in the evening, maybe around seven or so, but it was so dark outside, and the feeling in the house was so subdued, that it felt like midnight to me. I plopped down next to Emmett and Nicci on the sofa, silently watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and listening to Nicci giggle, but my mind was elsewhere. I smiled as I noticed Kellan dragging my parents off to the game room to give them a crash course in skate boarding X-box style.

Emmett nudged me. "You straight, man?"

I nodded. "Yeah."

"She alright?"

I nodded again. Funny thing about Emmett; he tended to clam up when it came to heavy situations. I could appreciate that.

"She's just beautiful, Edward, inside and out," Nicci offered. I hesitated, waiting for her to continue talking because, well, it was Nicci. But she didn't, so I nodded yet again.

"I know." Seemed I was a man of few words as well tonight.

"And I can tell she adores you," she added. Christ's sake, these short sentences of hers were throwing me off course.

"She told me she loves me tonight." I chuckled sadly.

"Aw, Edward, that's amazing!" Nicci reached over Emmett and patted me on the leg. Emmett growled playfully at her.

"Watch yourself, little lady."

"Oh, whatever." She rolled her eyes. "So when's Bella gonna meet her?"

"I'm not sure," I said, watching Clark Griswold down some egg-nog out of a reindeer cup and chuckling. "Hopefully soon."

"Well, ya got your phone in your hand, numb nuts. Call her up," Emmett interjected. This motherfucker...

"No, I got a text or something. I was just gonna check—" I stopped mid-sentence. I had pressed the notification button as I was speaking and, as the message popped up, I realized it was definitely not from Bella. Adrenaline coursed through me instantly, and I clenched my teeth, fucking fuming.

I told you to stay the hell away from my wife, asshole. Now you're messing with my kids? You better watch your fucking back.

Jacob Black, that cock-sucking piece if shit. As if he had any fucking say over what Bella did with me. Oh, Captain Douche had a motherfucking death wish.

"Son-of-a-fucking-bitch!" I hissed between my teeth.

"What, dude? What is it?" Emmett asked, reaching for my phone. I let him take it, clenching my hands into fists as he read the text from that piece of shit. "Oh shit!" His voice raised about three octaves. Then he burst into laughter. "What a dumbass!"

"I'd like to kill that motherfucker," I snarled in a low, menacing voice.

"Come on, dude, he's a desperate man. Desperate men do stupid shit. He's just trying to get under your skin. You know he's not a threat. Let it go."

I grabbed the phone from him and stood up, marching into the kitchen.

"What's going on?" I heard Nicci ask as I paced back and forth in front of the breakfast bar. I didn't give a shit about what he told her. I was seeing red, and I needed to talk to Bella. I dialed her number, tapping my fingers impatiently on the counter. She answered on the second ring.

"Hi handsome," she greeted cheerfully.

"Hey." My greeting wasn't quite so cheerful. It was quite terse, actually, but she didn't seem to notice.

"What are you up to tonight?"

"Oh, not much. Just getting random text messages from assholes." I was being an asshole myself. I didn't want to be, but goddamn it, I was pissed. I should've just kept the message to myself and let it go, like Emmett said, but obviously, I wasn't thinking straight.

"Whoa," she sounded alarmed suddenly, finally catching on to my sour mood. "What happened? Who sent you a message?"

"You don't know?" I asked, incredulous that she really had no idea.

"Um, no. What's this about, Edward?" Now she sounded scared.

Fuck.

"Jacob sent me a goddamned message saying to stay away from you and the kids, and to watch my fucking back!" I blurted.

"Oh my God!" she screeched. But then she began to laugh. Laugh. Really? Was she drunk?

"Baby, have you been drinking?"

She laughed harder. "No, Edward. He's just...being ridiculous. He had a little meltdown today at Charlie's while we were having Christmas dinner." She continued to giggle. "I can't believe he messaged you. What an idiot."

"Wait a minute, what the fuck? He was there? With you? Why?" I hissed, gripping the phone a little too fucking hard. I heard that shit crack. "I thought you said you have a restraining order against him, Bella!"

"Oh boy...Edward, it's okay."

"No, the fuck it isn't!"

"Edward, listen to me." She sighed. Annoyance crept into her tone. Damn it, I really didn't want to fight with her. Not after the night I'd had, and not after the night we'd had together. I inhaled and exhaled slowly, counting to ten in my head. "Charlie was there, my mom, Alice, even Jasper. Everyone was there. It was fine. I just let him come for the kids, so they could have Christmas with both their parents together. It had no other meaning to me than that. Please calm down."

"Well, it obviously meant more to him! He obviously thinks you still want him or something," I hissed again. I really needed to get a hold of this jealousy shit. I fucking knew that, but again, I wasn't really thinking clearly.

"Well I don't," she said calmly.

"You sure about that?" God, I was such an asshole. That was a low blow and I knew it. I cringed as soon as I said it. "Baby, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I've just...it's been a crazy night." I sighed. She was silent for a beat, and I started to panic. Because I was a hellacious moron. Finally, I heard her sigh.

"Well why don't you come over here and I'll show you just how much I care about Jacob Black."

She was pissed; I could tell, but it was hot and I liked the sound of that.

"Aren't the kids with you?" I asked, hoping – as much as I loved to see them – that they weren't.

"No, they wanted to stay with Renee and Alice tonight at her apartment. So...I have the house all to myself." Her voice took on a low, sultry tone. I swallowed, and a mischievous grin slowly spread across my face. "What about you?" she asked.

I shook my head, and then rolled my eyes at myself because, like she could see that. "No, Kellan wants to stay here tonight and Kendyll's asleep."

"Oh you got to see her? That's great!"

"Yes, listen..." I said impatiently. "I'm gonna get ready and leave. Let me tell everyone goodbye, and then I'll be on my way. I..." I sighed. "It's been a rough night, baby, and I...I need you."

"Okay," I could hear the smile in her voice. "Drive safe. I love you."

My heart stuttered. "I love you too, baby."

I walked back to the living room and Emmett's head snapped in my direction. "Hey, man, what's up?"

"I'm going to Bella's"

"Well alright!" He clapped his hands together and laughed. Nicci said to tell her hi, and I just nodded in response, heading to the game room.

I told my parents goodbye, kissing my mom on the cheek and quickly hugging Carlisle. Then I knelt down to talk to Kellan. "Hey little man, I'm gonna go see Bella. Is that okay with you?" He nodded and smiled. "Mind your granddad and MeMe, okay, and I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Yeah, Dad. Tell Bella I loved my presents, okay?"

"Of course. Tell Kendyll I'll see her tomorrow too." I kissed him on top of his head, told him I loved him, told Emmett I'd see him later, gave Nicci a hug, and left the house.

I tried to take my time, calm myself down a little, but no matter what I did, no matter how fast I went, I couldn't get to Bella fast enough.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

As soon as she opened the door, I kicked it shut behind me, locking it behind my back, and shrugged my jacket onto the floor where I stood before cupping her face with both hands and brushing my thumbs over her temples repeatedly. God, she looked so beautiful, it almost hurt. She placed her hands on my triceps, seeing – no doubt – the mixture of anguish and relief on my face, and her smile fell.

"Baby, what is it?" she asked, moving her fingers up to my hair, gently running them through it.

"I just..." I kissed her lips, gasping and pressing my forehead against hers, "...need you." I gasped again, letting my emotions go, letting them overwhelm me. "I need you." My lips met hers again furiously. "Please, I need you."

She kissed me back, pulling me close to her and gripping my hair. "It's okay," she cooed. I squeezed my eyes shut and breathed her in, like fresh air after nearly drowning. I couldn't stop myself from lifting her off her feet and pressing her against me, running my lips along her collar bone, gasping again. I was straining, fucking painfully, and I had to have her. I needed to feel her, inside of her, her body all around me. Fuck, I needed her to consume me. "Baby, it's okay," she stroked my back, my hair, scratching her fingernails gently against my scalp, the back of my neck. "I'm here…I'm here."

"I love you," I whispered, capturing her earlobe between my lips. She moaned. "I love you so much, baby." I took her jaw between my teeth and nibbled delicately. She gasped and wrapped her long legs around my waist.

"Oh, Edward, I love you too. Are you okay? You're scaring me, baby." I shook my head, avoiding her question, kissing her forehead, her nose, her eyes, and taking her lips again, deepening the kiss, brushing my tongue across hers. "Mmmmm," she hummed as I reached up her back and grabbed a fist full of her hair, pulling her head back and attacking her neck.

"I just…have to…have you right now, Bella. I can't…wait…I need you," I said between kisses. "Please…please." I spun us around and pressed her against the door, grinding my hips into hers, feeling myself begin to come apart at the seams.

"Yes," she moaned. "You can have me…anytime you want, baby. Edward," she gasped as I reached down, gripping her ass and pressing her against my aching cock. "Oh God," she panted.

She had some kind of wrap-around shirt on that tied in the back and was low-cut in the front; sexy as hell, but I wanted it off of her immediately. I tugged on the tie and leaned back a little to yank it off of her. She helped, furiously pulling her arms out and grabbing my face to pull my lips to hers again. Her hands reached between us, tugging up on my sweater. I pressed against her with my hips to hold her steady – pleasure rocked my body – and lifted my arms to allow her to pull it off of me. Once it was on the floor, I attacked her lips again. I couldn't fucking get enough of them. Our tongues collided fervently as I kneaded her supple breasts through the offending material of her bra. I was being rough, paying little attention to whether I was hurting her or not, but she didn't seem to be in pain. Though I knew I'd probably have to apologize in the morning.

I trailed my lips down her neck as she let her head fall back, giving me full access to her exposed flesh. She cried out softly as my lips reached the swell of her breasts and my teeth grazed her taut nipples through the goddamned silky material. "Fuck," I groaned. "I need this off, now."

She leaned against me so I could reach the clasps, and I unhooked them impatiently, throwing the thing on the floor as if it burnt my fingers. I splayed my hands out across her back, gently pinching her smooth flesh and following her rib cage to the front of her. Bella arched her back, gasping as I took her bared nipples between my lips and stroked them with the tip of my tongue. She tangled her fingers into my hair and yanked it, disconnecting my mouth from her breasts and pulling my head up. It was painful, but I didn't give a fuck, it felt fucking amazing and my knees nearly buckled as she attacked my jaw with her lips, nibbling, sucking on my skin and tracing the crest of my ear with her tongue, biting down on my earlobe and making my dick weep, swelling impossibly more.

My hips surged forward, pressing her harder against the cold door and I felt her body vibrate with need. Fuck, there was too much material between us, in the way and just fucking frustrating as hell. I tried to slow down a little, taking her top lip between mine softly, gently this time, and tracing it with my tongue.

"Edward," she sighed, turning her head to deepen the kiss, slowly our tongues touched, deeper, so much deeper we delved into one another, and I wanted to take her…right now. I wanted to go slow, though; I wanted that so desperately, to show her all my love with my body, with my hands, my mouth. But as I traced my fingers down her bare back, down to her denim covered ass and pressed her forcefully into my steel erection, holding her there, the fire began to consume me unbearably from the inside out. I needed her right-the-fuck now, or I was going to come in my fucking jeans, and that wasn't happening.

"Please," she whispered in my ear, licking where she spoke.

That was it. I pulled her away from the door, cradling her head against my neck, turning us and deciding at the same time that the bedroom was entirely too far away. So, I moved quickly but carefully into the living room and gingerly laid her down on the sofa I'd slept on the night before. I followed her immediately, pressing her into the cushions and kissing her lips as I reveled, again, in the feel of her body against mine. I pulled away, looking into her eyes and sighing as her beautiful lips curled into a smile.

"I need you, Edward," she whimpered, arching into me. I nodded, grinding into her again, making her gasp and swallowing that gasp as I kissed her deeply. I sat up, fumbling with her jeans, quickly releasing the button and pulling them, along with her panties off and onto the floor. I was in awe of her. She was exquisite from head to toe. Flawless. Her body did things to mine that nothing else would ever, in a thousand years, compare to.

"You're so beautiful," I whispered, caressing the porcelain skin just below her navel with my knuckles.

She hummed again, smiling. "So are you," she whispered back, tugging on my jeans to pull me toward her. I bowed toward her, taking her top lip, then her bottom one as she unbuttoned the fly of my jeans. She shoved them down – along with my boxer briefs – as far as she could reach, and I lifted, finishing the job for her. As I settled myself back down into the cradle of her body, I felt the burning begin again. Every ounce of my flesh was on fire, I was dying for her. She grabbed my neck and pulled me to her forcefully, our lips crashing together, our tongues dancing furiously. I thrust against her and she lifted her legs to wrap around my body, continuing the kiss with unbelievable passion.

When I entered her, it was swift, rough, but I stopped, gasping as was she. "Ah, baby," I groaned. "You feel so fucking good." I could hardly catch my breath. She didn't say anything; didn't have to. Her eyes said it all, as did her body, arching into me, making me lose my mind. I thrust slowly, drowning in the sounds of her breaths, her pants, her moans each and every time. I was coming undone too soon, I could feel the coiling of my muscles, but I couldn't help it. I tried to slow down again, but when she arched once more, I was fucking done for. I reached down, gripping her hips and thrusting hard into her.

"Edward," she moaned loudly, panting, digging her nails into my shoulder blade. I felt her body shudder under mine, and then the grip of her muscles around me as her orgasm began. I pulled out and thrust back in again, and again, feeling myself reach the edge…and careen over it so fucking hard it rocked my entire body violently.

"Bella…oh baby," I groaned, holding her against me as she arched impossibly more and cried out. I came undone over and over again, I couldn't stop; it was so intense I wanted to cry…just fucking cry. I almost did.

Once we came down from our high, I collapsed onto her, panting, laying my head against her chest as she slowly massaged my scalp with her fingertips. "I love you," I said softly, closing my eyes and breathing in her scent that was all around me.

"I love you too," she whispered her reply.

I removed myself from her reluctantly, my body immediately feeling the loss, and turned her on her side to face me, so as not to crush her. Her incredible blue eyes bore into mine and I gazed into them, getting lost and feeling punch drunk. She reached above us, pulling the throw blanket that I hadn't noticed down over us and showering my face with soft kisses, over my eyebrows, my forehead, my eyelids which were now so heavy, they were impossible to keep open.

"Go to sleep, my love," she whispered, brushing my hair back away from my face. I pulled her closer, settling my lips against her neck before I did just that.

~*fOrSAKeN*~

It had to have been hours later, when I felt her stir against me. It roused me, and caused my body to come alive instantly. She moaned in her sleep, which only made the situation that much worse...or better, actually...and then she hummed against my chest, pressing her lips into my skin. I shivered, not because I was cold, because this was – hands down – the best way to wake up in the Entire. Fucking. World.

I buried my fingers in the back of her thick, tousled hair and massaged gently. She released a sigh and another soft, sleepy moan, the sound alone setting my body on fire. I kissed the top of her head, letting my hand roam from her hair down her bare back to the firm swell of her ass where my fingers tickled and caressed. She giggled at my touch, letting me know she was awake, and when I pressed her flush against me, my dick pulsing and hardening impossibly more, we both moaned. God, she felt so good. She was ready for me. She was barely awake and already, she wanted me. My girl was fucking amazing. I held her tight and rolled over, pinning her beneath me and framing her head with my arms. Honestly, I never wanted to stop looking at her like this. Her eyes sleepy but bright; her mouth curled into that beautiful smile I loved so much.

"Hi," I said, my voice slightly rough from sleep.

"Hi," she replied, touching my jaw tenderly with her fingertips.

"You look incredible. This view is...spectacular. I wish you could see it." I kissed the tip of her nose.

"I doubt it." She smirked.

"And you feel..." I rocked my pelvis into her, making her gasp. "Like nothing else on this earth. Your body is like paradise, baby." She arched into me and I dipped my head down, licking the valley of her breasts, kissing my way over to one of her pebbled nipples and pulling it between my lips.

"Edward," she whimpered, sliding her hands beneath the blanket, down my sides, kneading the flesh of my ass and hips. I groaned, trailing my lips along the cords of her neck to her waiting mouth and licking her top lip before sucking her bottom one between mine. Her hips surged into me and pleasure coursed its way through my belly, down into my groin, swelling me to the point of explosion. So I lifted and lined myself up to enter her painstakingly slowly until our bodies met again.

I exhaled harshly – the sensation as overwhelming as it always was with her – kissing her forehead, her nose, and finally her plump mouth. She parted her lips and sighed, meeting my tongue with hers halfway and deepening the kiss as I pulled out to the tip and slowly back into her. White heat spread relentlessly through me, consuming me as I repeated the action again and again, making love to my baby like she deserved. We didn't speak; no words were needed as our bodies did all of the talking for us, but her sounds...her gasps, her whimpers, her mewling hums, the sounds of our lips sucking, smacking, and skin sliding together deliciously were like fuel to the fire ignited between us. Sweat beaded between my shoulder blades and along her hairline as she arched into my thrusts more and more, and my movements took a desperate, feverish turn.

I was so close, and I knew she was too. The tell-tale signs were there. Her breathing was erratic, she was pulling me closer, her moans becoming louder and more rushed, her legs tightening around me as she arched and grasped at my hair, my jaw and my shoulders. I kissed her desperately; moaning into her mouth as my balls tightened and the boiling heat coiled and settled in the base of my throbbing cock. My release was eminent but I needed to feel her come undone first.

"Baby," I groaned, thrusting into her hard and pulling her knees farther up my sides. She unraveled with the next, equally hard thrust, arching her back and crying out my name over and over again. I didn't stop; I couldn't, riding her orgasm and attacking her mouth as the coiled heat snapped inside of me and released wave after wave of fucking incredible euphoria.

"Bella," I cried out as I grabbed her pelvis and thrust once more, then stilled, pulsing inside of her. Our chests were heaving together as I gazed into her eyes, unable to look away. She caressed my forehead and eyebrows, all over my face before she pulled me down for a slow, tender kiss.

"I love you," she whispered, smiling.

"I love you too, baby." I rested my forehead against hers. "Bella, I want to wake up with you like this every day for the rest of my life and all of forever."

She kissed me again, deeper, our bodies still very much fused together. "I want that too, Edward. I..." she sniffed, and I pulled my head up to see tears in her eyes. "I want that more than you can imagine…more than even my own life."

All I could do was kiss her, kiss the tears away and promise her that I would stop at nothing to make that happen.

~*fOrSAKeN*~

"So tell me what happened...with Jake." I took a bite of my Eggs Benedict and a sip of coffee as I gazed at the beautiful woman across the table from me. After our night, and more out-of-this-world love-making right before we decided to get up and actually become part of the living, we were both starving. I was worried, at first, that asking her out for breakfast wouldn't go over so well, but she said yes, and to my astonishment, here we were.

She insisted on this little dive-like restaurant in north Jefferson Park called The Yellow Rose Café, that didn't look like much but, damn, the food was incredible. I tried to ask her about her Christmas dinner earlier, before we left, but she wouldn't talk about it. We'd been here less than half an hour and the suspense was killing me. Not that I necessarily wanted to talk about Captain Douche, but I fucking digress.

"Edward," she whined, rolling her eyes. "You really wanna talk about this now? Why does it matter? He's an ass."

"Well, Bella, I'd like to know for two reasons. One, did he threaten you? Because if he did, so help me—"

"No!" She rolled those beautiful eyes again.

"And two," I continued, "The narcissist in me thinks that it had everything to do with me."

"And Jake's delusions," she muttered under her breath.

"See, exactly what I said to you on the phone last night," I growled low in my chest.

"Edward." Her tone became scolding. It was fucking hot. "This is why I didn't want to talk about it. You're gonna get all pissy and protective, and puff out your chest like some kind of rooster or something." She waved her hands in front of her breasts and I smirked. She glared at me, which made me grin like Emmett.

"I'm just curious, is all." I shrugged. "His jealousy amuses me. Unless he hurts you," I amended with another low growl. "And besides, I'll always protect you, baby."

She smiled and reached over to run her fingers lightly over my knuckles. "But you don't always have to. I can handle myself."

Yeah, I fucking smirked again because, damn if I didn't know she could...in more ways than one.

"Clearly," I mused, thinking about the night I asked her to...and she let me watch. My dick twitched and swelled at the memory, making me suddenly uncomfortable, so I tried to subtly adjust myself.

"What are you thinking about?" She narrowed her eyes, lacing her fingers through mine. That gesture didn't help the situation in my jeans much.

I dipped my head down, looking at her through my lashes. "You."

She ran the fingers of her free hand along the side of my face down to my chin, making me shiver, and pulled my head up to face her. Cocking her head to the side, she smirked back at me. "You, Doctor Cullen, are a perv...and so very narcissistic," she said dramatically.

I finally got it out of her, what happened with the douche bag, and it honestly made me laugh my ass off. I made a mental note to thank Alice later. So of course I had to tell her about Emmett, the son-of-a-bitch, and his antics. She obviously found it more hilarious than I did.

"He kissed you? On the lips?" I nodded, nearly gagging on my eggs just thinking about it. "He's insane!"

"Tell me something I don't know," I mumbled. "If I didn't love that motherfucker so much, he might've gotten his ass kicked."

"Aw, he just loves you," she said playfully, sticking her bottom lip out. That was a dangerous gesture. I wanted to lean over the table and suck it between my lips.

"So he says." I shook my head. "And stop doing that."

"What?" she asked, all innocent and shit.

"That lip thing, damn it! Or these poor patrons are going to get a show they definitely didn't expect on this lovely Saturday morning." Crimson crept into her cheeks and damn it if it didn't make me want to kiss her more.

"Oh hey, what did Kellan think of his presents? And tell me more about Kendyll," she said, her tone exited; her blue eyes bright. It made my heart slam against my ribcage. "And what had you so upset last night?"

I sighed. It made me so happy that she wanted to know about Kendyll, but to relive what she had gone through the night before was hell. I did it anyway, tackling her questions in order. When I told her Kellan now thought she was the best thing since, well, skateboards were invented, she clapped her hands together and giggled. And then I talked about Kendyll. I talked and talked, telling her how the little girl oddly reminded me of her - which made Bella smile wistfully - and how amazing she was, but that I worried about her because she seemed so tired and sick all the time.

"Well, babe, she's been through so much. She probably just needs time."

I nodded. "You sound like Esme."

She touched her temple, winking at me. Again…a very dangerous fucking gesture. "Great minds."

I laughed. But then I finally told her about my gifts and the disaster that ensued after, and Bella's face fell.

"I'm so sorry, Edward," she murmured, taking my hand in hers and brushing her thumb across my palm soothingly. "It has to be so hard for both of you." All I could do was nod. She reached over and cupped my cheek. "I really want to meet this little girl who's stolen your heart." I couldn't keep the stupid grin from spreading across my cheeks.

"What are you doing today, Ms. Swan?" I tilted my head to the side and gave her my best sexy-face. She licked her lips.

"I just have to go pick up the kids. No plans, really."

"Well, why don't we go get them together and head over to my parents? I'm sure Kellan's just itching to give you a big hug anyway."

She smiled and nodded. "Okay, let's go. I'm excited!"

I paid the check, much to Bella's chagrin, and headed to the car. Just as we had gotten in, her phone rang.

"Speak of the devil. It's Alice."

"Tell her I'm madly in love with her," I grinned, showing all my teeth.

"Um...I don't think so," she retorted, quirky her eyebrow. "Hey Alice. Yeah, Edward and I were just headed your way. Yes...again last night, Alice." She looked at me and rolled her eyes. I couldn't help but chuckle. "I'm gonna take the twins to meet Kendyll," she continued. "What? Why?" She sighed. That didn't sound good. "Oh no. Okay. I'll see you soon." She ended the call and looked at me apologetically. "Change of plans."

"What is it?"

"It seems I have a sick kiddo." She sighed again. "Krissy woke up with a sore throat, and Alice says she's running a low-grade fever. Ugh. I hope it's not the flu. Their party's next weekend on Saturday, the second."

"New Year's babies, huh?" I hated to admit it, but I'd forgotten what the actual date of their birthday was. Maybe I'd just tried to put it out of my mind all those years.

"Close," she replied, smiling. "Their birthday is actually on Wednesday, the twenty-ninth. But I can't really have a party mid-week. Besides, I want to get through the New Year."

"New Year's Eve," I mused. "Don't make plans without me, baby." It was her turn to look at me through those incredible lashes as she placed her hand on my thigh and leaned her head on my shoulder. "Listen; let me take a look at Krissy. Make sure it's nothing serious."

She lifted her head. "Are you sure? I mean, I can just take her to urgent care since Doctor O'Neal's office isn't open on Saturday."

Great, someone else we had in common.

"You take them to Doctor O'Neal?" My tone must've reflected my distaste for the woman.

"Yeah, why? Is there something wrong with that doctor?"

"No, just...a personality conflict of sorts." She raised a suspicious eyebrow. "I wouldn't mention that you know me to her. She's...not my biggest fan."

Her other eyebrow joined the raised one. "Okay, thanks for the tip."

"Anyway, it's no problem, to check Krissy I mean. I have my bag in the car. I want to help. And I miss the princess and the ninja."

She shook her head and laughed. "You're a glutton for punishment."

She finally agreed to a "house call" from me, and we headed back to her house to get her car, then to Alice's apartment. When we entered, Robby greeted me with a hug around the leg and Alice smirked at me. I responded by winking at her and mouthing 'thank you,' to which she rolled her eyes. But I felt the love.

"Where's Renee?" Bella asked Alice.

"Oh, she went to the market to get chicken noodle soup and popsicles for the princess."

"You let her go grocery shopping by herself?" Bella looked at her sister incredulously. Alice shrugged. "You realize she'll be gone for hours."

Alice shrugged again. "She was getting on my nerves anyway."

Bella shook her head. "Where's Krissy?"

"She's right there." She pointed to the sofa in the living room, where there was a bundle of blankets and dark brown bed-head hair sticking out of it.

I tried to push the memory of the last time I was in this apartment out of my mind.

"Oh, my poor baby," Bella cooed as she walked over and pulled the blankets down. The poor thing did look pretty peaked, and her nose was bright red.

"Bobby," Krissy said weakly. "I feel like poo-poo." She was clutching a giant stuffed...fish?

"Is that a...a fish?" I asked.

"Hi Edwarrrrrd," Krissy sniffled. "Dis is by fish Grappa got be at da big fish store." Yep, definite nasal congestion. "Her dame's Pedelope." Ah, Penelope. It was the ugliest goddamn thing I'd ever seen, but I smiled anyway.

"She's...beautiful," I said. Bella raised an eyebrow at me and shook her head. I shrugged. Did she want me to tell the kid it was hideous?

"Baby," Bella said in a soothing tone. "Edward's gonna take a look at you because he's a doctor, okay?"

Krissy nodded and looked up at me with her huge puppy dog eyes. "Will you bake be feel better, Edwarrrrrd? 'Cause I'b sick." She stuck her little bottom lip out in a pout.

Goddamn it, she really was adorable.

"I'm gonna try," I replied softly.

"Okay, Edwarrrrrd." She snuggled into that ugly-ass fish pillow.

I opened my bag and pulled out my stethoscope, inserting the ear-pieces and tapping on the drum lightly as Robby came over to check out all my cool doctor equipment.

"Can you sit up for me, sweetie?" I hadn't been in pediatrics for a while, but hell, I handled newborns on practically a daily basis, so I figured this would be a breeze. I figured wrong. She whined and fidgeted more than any child I'd ever examined, and it was like extracting teeth to get her to say 'ah' so I could look at her throat. It was an exercise in futility, for sure. Nevertheless, I got the job done, painlessly. I even gave her a cherry-flavored throat lozenge for being such a good girl.

"Ouch " she groaned after she'd put it in her mouth. "I wadt a popsicle. Where's Grabby?"

"Honey, we have to get home. Aunt Alice can bring her over later with your popsicles."

"But, I wadt a popsicle dow. By throat hurts," Krissy whined. I touched Bella's shoulder and when she looked over at me, I motioned for her to come out of earshot of her daughter.

"You can stop on the way back to your house and get some if you want. I'll wait in the car with them."

She sighed. "Okay. How did she look, doc?" That sexy smirk was going to be the death of me.

"Nothing serious," I replied, fighting the urge to caress her cheek. "She's congested, but her lungs sound clear; her ears look fine, no infection. And her throat is red, but no signs of strep. Looks like she just caught a virus. It'll be the usual treatment for a few days: rest, lots of fluids, cold medicine."

Bella breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you." And then she made my heart slam against my chest again by mouthing, 'I love you.' Goddamn it, I wanted to kiss her so much right then. She asked her sister to bring Renee over whenever she made it back, and once we got back to her house, loaded up with popsicles, ice cream – as ordered by Princess Krissy – children's cold medicine and Pediasure, Bella tucked her sick child into bed. I walked in tentatively to check on her, and to my surprise, Krissy reached for me.

"Cob'ere Edwarrrrrd." I smiled at her sickly little voice and sat down next to her. She was still reaching, so I leaned over her, stunned when she circled her overly warm little arms around my neck. I hugged her back and looked over at Bella with wide eyes. She was grinning from ear to ear and looking like she was about to burst. "Thank you for looki-g at by sick face."

I chuckled. "You're welcome, sweet heart. Lots of rest for the princess, and listen to your mommy. She knows how to make you all better, okay?"

She nodded. "And lots of ice creab?"

I chuckled again. Sly little thing. "That's up to your mommy."

Robby held his hand up for a high-five as I reluctantly went to leave, and said, "Bye Kung Fu Master," which made me laugh.

"Bye, buddy, take care of your sister." He nodded and Bella took my arm, walking me to my car. As much as I did not want to leave her, I needed to check on Kendyll and Kellan.

She climbed in the passenger seat and I noticed her glance at the house quickly. But as I turned to talk to her, she grabbed my face and pulled me in for a passionate, searing kiss that set my insides ablaze.

"Shit," I muttered as she pulled away. "Are you trying to kill me? I thought we had a good thing going here."

"You are an amazing man, Doctor Cullen." Her eyes were hooded, fiery.

"Why thank you Ms. Swan. You're pretty amazing yourself. Now I'm going to have a very uncomfortable ride home." I smirked and reached around her head to pull her in for another kiss. Our tongues lingered, stroking as our lips continued to move. She slid her hand over my thigh and cupping me, making my dick twitch and my body jump in response. "Fuck, Bella, you can't do that. I was serious about that uncomfortable ride."

"If the kids weren't here, I take you back in the house and—"

"Stop," I groaned. "I'm gonna have to take an ice cold shower now."

"I'm sorry." She removed her hand and smiled all sultry. Riiiight. She didn't look sorry. At all.

I cupped her face, stroking her cheekbone softly with my thumb. "God, I fucking love you."

She took her finger and ghosted it over my lips. I kissed it. "I love you too, Edward, so much."

I did stop at my apartment and took a shower, but it wasn't cold, and I took care of...what I needed to take care of. It was less than satisfying, to say the least.

~*fOrSAKeN*~

Kendyll seemed to have come out of her depression for the time being and greeted me with a big hug, sporting both her bracelet and the necklace. I was elated, but she still looked exhausted, and her stomach appeared to be a little distended, which made me crazy with worry again. I asked Esme if she'd been complaining of pain in her stomach, and she said she had a little. Shit. As much as I didn't want to, I asked her to make an appointment with Lydia O'Neal on Monday. I needed to figure out what the fuck was going on with this kid. Hopefully in two weeks or less, I wouldn't have to guess so much. I smiled as I walked into the game room to see Kellan and Kendyll playing Rock Star together. Kendyll was on lead vocals, and my boy was rocking the guitar.

"Hey Kendyll," I said sitting down on the leather chair. She walked over to me smiling. "Esme says your stomach's been hurting."

She shrugged. "A little bit. But I think I just ate too much or something."

Not likely. The kid barely ate a bite the night before and Esme has said she hardly touched her breakfast. "Well, Esme is gonna take you to see Doctor O'Neal on Monday, okay?" She nodded. "Have you talked to Tanya?" I wondered if she'd called, perhaps.

"Yes, I told her I wanted to stay here." She smiled at that. So did I.

"Was she sad?"

"A little, but she was more happy for me than sad. She came by here with Journey. They brought the stuff I had over there to me."

"That's great, sweetheart." I touched the pendant on her necklace gingerly, and she covered my hand with hers. I couldn't help myself from pulling her in for a hug, and kissing her on the top of her wavy, light auburn hair.

"Where have you been today?" she asked innocently.

"Well, I was with Bella." I felt the familiar yearning in my belly for the woman I loved. Kellan, who had been eyeing us but eventually turned back around to practice his "rocking out" skills, snapped his head in our direction at the mention of Bella.

"You were?" Her eyes widened. "And you didn't bring her?"

"Actually, we were going to, and bring her kids to meet you too, but her little girl is sick. It's just a bad cold, though. She'll be okay."

"Oh, bummer." She frowned. But then she sucked in a rapid breath and her eyes lit up. "Doctor Edward, you should give her some pink roses, like you gave me in the hospital! They always made me feel better."

Ah man, I wanted to squeeze the shit out of her for that. She had such a beautiful soul.

"So you're feeling better now?" Kellan continued to watch us curiously. It was a loaded question, and somehow, he seemed to know. She, however, didn't seem to catch on, or ignored it; one of the two.

"Yeah." She walked back over and took hold of the microphone. "Me and Kel are playing this game...and I'm kicking his butt!"

"Yeah, right!" Kellan snapped back. "In your dreams, Kendyll. Dad, watch me rock this one out!" I laughed. I was fucking elated that, A. She called him' Kel' and B. They were interacting like actual siblings. I watched them intently as the music started. It was some pop song I didn't recognize, probably Justin Bieber or something. But when she started to sing it, my jaw dropped. For a ten-year-old, this kid could sing. I was in awe. Her voice was incredible. Jesus, the beautiful girl never ceased to amaze me. When they finished, I clapped and whistled. But left them to argue about who was winning.

"I totally just won that round, Kellan."

"Oh no you didn't! I took that down...to China Town!"

I laughed loudly, shaking my head. Pulling out my phone, I gave Tanya a quick call...thanked her from the bottom of my heart, and asked if she could check into a therapist for Kendyll. As happy as I was, I knew that eventually, the nightmares and the tears would return.

As I started into the living room to talk to Esme, my phone buzzed with a call. I looked at it and was confused. It was McGregor, my attorney, calling me, which was fucking odd since he rarely worked on the weekends, let alone the day after Christmas.

"Edward, I hope I'm not disturbing you being with your family today."

"Not at all. What's going on?" I was worried he was going to tell me there'd be an even longer delay. That wouldn't work for me, as by the time he got around to the paperwork, I'd probably be rotting in prison after having committed succubus-icide. And the bitch was so twisted, she'd probably come back and haunt me for more motherfucking child support.

"Well, I wanted to let you know I found some extra time in my schedule...unfortunately, my flight to sunny Cancun got cancelled, so I didn't necessarily get my Feliz Navidad."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that...but?" I asked anxiously.

"Of course. Well, I've been able to draw up the paperwork we talked about, and I can have it finalized Monday. I can have the woman in question served most likely by the end of the week."

I nearly dropped the fucking phone. I didn't even mind the cryptic, lawyer-esque language he spoke, I was so fucking thrilled. Seriously, I wanted to make out with the old man, Emmett-style.

"That's...wow!" I exclaimed. "As much as I'm sorry about your vacation, Eleazar, I have to be selfish right now and say that you've made my day."

"Great! Tell you what, why don't you come by the office, say, Tuesday? And we can discuss everything...you can go over it; see if it's to your liking."

I agreed almost before he even finished talking. I ended the call, and damn near jumped up and clicked my heels together like the dude in Mary fucking Poppins or something. I was that ecstatic.

I couldn't believe it. This day just kept getting better and better.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

*Chapter End Notes: Thank you so much for reading!

If you haven't 'friended' me on Facebook and joined my group, 'Stories with a Wickedcurveball' please do. I'm having fun posting teasers and pictures and I'd love to share with more of you! My FB link is on my profile.

Until next time! XOXOXO