Special thanks to jadsmama, twicrazreader, ladysharkey, and 1redsoc for ideas and nudge to write this. Kikikinz and lexiecullen17 made this pretty. I love you guys!
Have a very warm and happy holiday season!
"Thanks for ruining Christmas, Edward!" Bella yelled as she walked out and slammed the front door.
I stared at the back of the door, completely befuddled by what had just happened. I glanced at the open box in my hand, the door, and then down again before pulling back the glittery, silver tissue paper.
Not just any ornament. The ornament. The one she'd clearly made for me this year.
My stomach twisted. No wonder she was so upset. Making these ornaments was one of the highlights of our Christmas season, and even though it was unspoken, after four years, we both knew it was a competition to see who could come up with the best design.
Everything inside me told me to put the lid on the box and put it back where I had gotten it, but I sort of hated surprises. It had always been like that, and Bella knew it was better to just tell me. This tradition of ours had almost killed me every year, and now that I had her ornament in my hands, I couldn't let it go. I grabbed the delicate silver ribbon she'd attached to it. It was a cube, about two inches tall and wide. At first, I couldn't quite figure out what I was seeing. But when I looked closer, I was stunned to find black and white pictures of Bella… in barely-there lingerie.
I swallowed and adjusted myself, already feeling the effects of her gift. I dropped the cardboard box the ornament had been in and studied the cube with intrigue and excitement. Bella was absolutely stunning. Every pose exposed a little more of her, but none seemed to cross the line of appropriateness. I instinctively wondered who had taken these pictures and had to take a breath before my inner Neanderthal came out. I knew Bella, and she would never have done anything like this without having thought through it.
As I rotated the cube, examining each side carefully, I fell in love with my wife a little more. In every picture, her gorgeous chestnut hair was loose and curled softly. I couldn't see her whole face in any of the images, but I caught glimpses – the bottom of her mouth and jaw, the slope of her nose from an angle, or her profile in shadows. They were all different. In some, she was wearing a simple satin negligee with scalloped lace on the bodice, others she was wearing a black corset and garters with bows, another one had her in my favorite black bra and lace panties with thigh highs, and in one, she was naked except for a black sheet draped lazily over her hip with the curve of her breast just slightly showing. In every single picture, I could see the necklace I'd given her. Seeing it on her like that did something to me; it was like she was making a statement that she was mine. Damn right she was.
I took a breath and plopped down on the sofa. I sat there, trying to process everything. Guilt slowly started to set in. Bella had done this… for me. And I'd ruined her surprise. I wanted to know what she had been thinking in each of those pictures. I could only see glimpses of her face, never full on. The way her lips were slightly bent upwards in a sort of secret smile, almost as if she knew something I didn't, caused my jeans to tighten. I desperately wanted to know what she was thinking. The subtle ways her body bent or twisted was such a turn on, and I couldn't help but wonder if she'd been thinking about me when these were taken. Was she turned on, knowing how much I would fucking love this?
I looked at it again, the image of her lying on her back, her hand caressing just above her breasts calling to me. She exuded sensuality, beauty, and grace. She was stunning. She was mine. And I'd really screwed things up.
A sense of shame and regret welled up inside me. I hated that I had hurt her, that I had ruined her surprise, especially since she'd so clearly orchestrated this whole thing for me. I needed to go get her, beg for forgiveness, and then spend the rest of the night worshipping every inch of her gorgeous body. I need to make this right with her. Now.
I walked into the kitchen at The Farmhouse and looked around. Embry was standing behind the stove, his back to me and a towel slung lazily across his left shoulder. He turned, looked at me, and smiled in greeting.
"Hey, Chef. What's up? I thought you weren't coming tonight."
"I wasn't. Have you seen Bella?" I asked, trying to hide the nervous desperation that was threatening to break through the surface.
I had spent the last two hours driving all over town, stopping at all the places I thought she might have been. I had saved the restaurant and bakery for last, hoping she would be here and also thinking it might have given her time to cool off.
"No. Haven't seen her," he said as he turned back to the sizzling burgers on the griddle in front of him.
I brushed my hands through my hair and groaned in frustration.
Where the hell could she be?
Looking down at my watch for what felt like the thousandth time today, I felt my inside twist. The old fears I felt from the day she'd gone missing were vying for my attention. I knew they were irrational. James was still in prison in Arizona, and there was no way he could get to her, let alone hurt her, but that feeling of doubt and unease persisted as I walked back to the car without even bothering to say goodbye.
I drove around town again, passing by the bookstore, grocery store, and even the place she sometimes went with Alice and Rose for pedicures. Dejected and frustrated, I drove home. I knew she would be home at some point and decided it made sense to just wait for her there.
The next several hours passed at a snail's pace. There had been no sign of her. No one had heard from her, and the longer she was gone, the more anxious I became.
Where the hell was she? I wondered yet again.
The box sitting on the coffee table was a glaring reminder of what had caused this whole mess. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made.
Maybe I'd stumbled—okay, snooped—and found the box. And maybe I'd opened it just as she was coming out of the kitchen, but her anger didn't seem to be on par with the offense. I mean, we we're only talking about a Christmas ornament, albeit an important one, but still.
I looked at the clock and then outside. It was starting to get dark, and that did nothing for my nerves.
I wracked my brain for where she could have gone or what could have set her off, but all I could think about were the words she'd yelled as she walked out.
"Thanks for ruining Christmas, Edward!"
The longer I thought about it, the more I realized how strange her behavior had been over the last couple of weeks. She had been moodier than usual, quick to cry and easy to anger. It seemed the littlest things set her off.
I had chalked it all up to her workload. With Christmas fast approaching, she had been swamped with orders. Her staff had been working insane hours, and she'd even gone so far as to hire a new girl to help run the shop so that everyone else could work at full capacity in the back.
But now, in light of what had transpired, I wondered if there wasn't something else going on. Had I done something to push her away or upset her, beyond the obvious ornament debacle?
Shaking my head and standing up, I knew I hadn't. This wasn't about me. I had to tell myself that constantly. Not everything was about me.
No, something else was going on, and I desperately wanted her to come home so we could talk... and to apologize for ruining her surprise.
I walked into the kitchen and looked around. The house seemed so empty without her, especially that room. I could see where she had left off baking Christmas cookies. Everything was ruined, and that certainly wouldn't help smooth things over. I decided to clean up and maybe even try to finish up what she had been working on.
The next thirty minutes were spent doing the dishes, cleaning the counters, and scouring her notebook for what she had been planning to make.
Mint Chocolate Marvels.
Mexican Wedding Cakes.
She had placed check marks beside the Crinkles and Marvels, and I looked around to see Tupperware containers sitting on one of her baking shelves. So, next on the list - Toffee. I grabbed the recipe book sitting next to her mixer and quickly found the instructions. I pulled out the ingredients and got to work.
I started the butter, sugar, salt and water in a heavy saucepan and stood there, stirring constantly for what felt like twenty minutes. A glance at the clock revealed, that it had in fact been almost twenty minutes. I loved this stuff, but I had never realized how time intensive it was to make. When the mixture had reached the right temperature, I poured it onto the jellyroll pan and waited for it to set.
While it cooled, I turned my attention to melting the chocolate, but after adding water and watching it curdle, I had to throw it out. Bella would have been howling with laughter watching me do this. I was a disaster with chocolate. It was the one thing that I had never seemed to get right in culinary school, and as a result, I almost never worked with it. On the second attempt, I was just about to pour it over the cooled toffee when I heard the front door open. Quickly dousing it with chocolate, I set the pan aside and walked as slowly and calmly as I could.
Bella was standing in the entryway, shrugging off her coat. She turned when she heard my footsteps and just stared blankly at me. I could see she had been crying; her eyes were red and puffy. Seeing her like that, clearly so upset... still... a part of me died. I had sworn to myself and her that I wouldn't hurt her again, and I had.
"Bella," I called, my voice cracking from underuse, tension, and nerves.
"I'm sorry," she blurted out, just as I said her name.
We both looked at each other, surprised. Three strides was all it took to get to her and crush her in my arms. Sniffles and her wet tears soaking through my shirt told me she was crying again, and I stood there, holding her against my chest, stroking her hair. I whispered how much I loved her and how sorry I was for ruining Christmas.
I knew how much it hurt to see her walk out, but there was nothing like holding your crying wife in your arms and knowing you were the one responsible for making her that way.
"I'm sorry, Bella. I didn't mean to find the ornament. I should never have even opened that box. Please stop crying," I pleaded, pulling her even closer and tucking her head beneath my chin.
She sniffled again and tightened her grip around my waist. With a few deep, quivering breaths and a little squeeze, she let go and stepped back.
"Edward, I'm so sorry for walking out like that. I shouldn't have done that, I just... I was so upset, and the whole thing is just stupid."
"Baby, what are you talking about?" I asked. "What's stupid?"
She reached up, grabbed my hand, and pulled me over to the couch. I sat down and pulled her onto my lap, wrapping my arms around her again before burying my nose in her hair. I inhaled, relishing her strawberry-Bella scent, and said a little prayer of thanks that she was back with me.
I waited for her to talk. I didn't want to push her, especially when she was still clearly upset.
"Well, you're probably wondering what happened, huh?" she asked with a nervous laugh, still not looking at me.
"I am, but I'll wait until you're ready to tell me what happened."
She nodded. "Can I tell you tomorrow morning? I know you're probably dying to know, but… there's still part of that I'd like to keep a surprise, and if I tell you now…"
My heart sank. Tomorrow morning? Just the thought of having to wait that long made my stomach twist into knots. I couldn't imagine having to wait that long to find out what was really going on, but I also knew I couldn't force her to tell me. My only consolation was that there was still a surprise buried in all this, and I knew that meant it couldn't be all bad.
As much as I hated it, I murmured my okay and kissed the top of her head. We sat there for a good while longer before I remembered what I'd been doing when she walked in.
"So, I hope it was okay, but I started working on the toffee. I knew you'd be upset if you didn't get to finish everything before tomorrow."
"Really? You picked up where I left off?" She sounded surprised. "How did you even know what still needed to be done?"
I laughed. "Well, honey, it's not like you aren't super organized. I cleaned the kitchen and found your notebook. I was actually just pouring the chocolate on top of the toffee when you walked in."
"Oh, wow! I can't believe you did that, Edward." She turned to face me, and a bright smile lit up her tear-streaked face. My stomach untwisted a little, and my heart started to puff up again when she laughed easily. "Thank you for doing that. You know me too well."
"Do you want to go finish everything together? I can help, and since it's almost—" he paused and looked at the clock "—eight, it seems like we could probably get through it if we divide and conquer."
Her eyes were bright, the way I loved them, and without a thought, I leaned down and pressed my lips against hers. They were soft and tasted of chocolate, probably remnants of a hot chocolate she'd had while she was out. She had been downing that stuff left and right for the last few weeks, especially when she had been feeling emotional.
"Mmmm. You taste like chocolate, baby. Hot chocolate?"
She laughed, a smile pulling the corners of her lips up and into a huge grin. "Yes, I have been craving that stuff like crazy."
"Come on," I said, pushing her off me so that we could both stand up. "Let's get to baking."
The next two hours were spent in constant motion. She and I moved seamlessly around the kitchen, enjoying the occasional bump or rub against each other. Compared to her, I was like molasses being poured out of the jar as she flitted around the kitchen like a pinball with purpose. A lot of times, I found myself staring at her, watching the way her hips pressed against the counter so she could get a closer look at the batter or the way her tongue flitted out as she licked her tasting spoon. I loved watching her in her element. There was nothing as sexy and powerful as a woman who knew her way around the kitchen, and trust me, Bella knew how to work it. Plus, when she was wrapped up in her "Mrs. Cullen" apron, it was all I could do not to throw her over my shoulder and have my way with her.
"You're supposed to be breaking up those candy canes, Chef," she said with a wiggle of her ass and a hint of sass.
"I got distracted by the view," I said, quirking my eyebrow up at her.
"Oh, did you now?" she asked as she turned off the mixer and crossed the kitchen.
I backed up instinctively, hitting the counter, as Bella pressed herself against me.
"Now I'm really distracted, Mrs. Cullen," I said breathily.
"Not nearly as distracted as you'll be when I'm done with you," she purred, her voice low and deep as she traced her tongue along my jaw.
My body tensed in anticipation, knowing exactly where this was heading. I shifted against her, pressing my hips back against hers, and she let out a soft moan.
Encouraged and wanting the upper hand like the control freak I was, I grabbed her hips and whipped around, pressing her flush against the counter. My hands roamed freely up and down her shoulders, breasts, and stomach, feeling, touching, and groping easily before following the same path with my lips.
Her hips gyrated against mine as she quietly pleaded for more. I pulled the apron string and slowly untied it, loosening it from around her waist and lifted it over her head, before making quick work of her purple sweater.
I stepped back, taking a minute to check out my gorgeous wife. No matter how long we'd been together or how many times I'd seen her like this, it never got old, and I knew I would feel that way forever. She was utterly breathtaking in her simple purple lace bra and flushed, creamy skin, and I leaned in to feast on her.
"You are so beautiful," I whispered reverently against her neck as I left a burning hot, wet trail of kisses.
Her low hum was all the acknowledgement I needed. I knew she loved it when I kissed her neck and sucked on the tender skin behind her ear. Slipping her bra off, I traced the tips of my fingers against her delicate bones and smooth skin. Her nipples puckered as my thumbs brushed across them. Needing more, I gently sucked one into my mouth while cupping the other, feeling the weight of it in my hand. I tugged and rolled her nipple between my fingers and felt her body thrust against mine.
"Please, baby," she whimpered, her eyes dark and needy.
Hearing her beg while I took the other one in my mouth brought out my most primal urges. I wanted to taste, nip, and suck every inch of her body right here in the kitchen. The knowledge that she wanted it hard and fast, even when I wanted to take my time and savor every detail of her exquisite body, had me devouring her veraciously. My tongue laved against her nipples before I gently nibbled, and she cried out.
Her hips were pressed up against mine instinctively, and I met her thrust for thrust. As our bodies grinded against each other, I could feel the heat radiating between her legs, even through the stiff fabric of her jeans.
More. More. More.
That was all I could think as her moans and whimpers filled the air. I flicked the button of her jeans and tugged them off as she hurriedly pawed at mine. In a matter of minutes, we were naked, her legs wrapped around my waist and I was pushing into her. She hissed as I filled her, and her mouth found mine, devouring and claiming me as her own. Together, we grunted and moaned as I pounded into her, her ass shifting on top of the counter with each thrust. Her legs tightened, and her nails bit into the skin on my shoulders, but I didn't care. I wanted her. I needed her, and as I slammed into her over and over again, she cried out just as we both found our release.
Heaving breaths were the only sound in the kitchen as I laid my head on her shoulder, kissing it tenderly, reverently, breathing in the scent of our passion, and whispering my love. God, I loved this woman, more than my own life, and I couldn't imagine anything that would ever change that.
"I love you, Chef," she said as she placed a tender kiss on my cheek.
I looked up at her and grinned, tired and lazy. "And I. Kiss. Love. Kiss. You. Kiss. Too," I said, punctuating each word with a loving peck to her cheeks, nose, and lips. I lingered there, and allowed my lips to fuse softly with hers as our tongues languidly moved against each other.
She shivered, and I untangled myself from her legs and leaned down to pick up her shirt. I helped her get dressed, tossing her bra across the room, before sliding her pants back up her legs.
"Hey…" she said, laughing.
"You don't need that," I said with a smirk, "especially since I might want to have my way with you some more tonight."
"I see," she replied with a grin. "Well then, we better get this stuff finished, so you can have your way with me."
We spent the remainder of the evening wrapping up everything, cleaning, and packaging all the goodies. Of course, Bella really did the work because I was preoccupied with her ass, slapping it playfully as she dropped cookies onto the baking sheets, or tweaking her erect nipples as she was mixing ingredients. We laughed and giggled and spent Christmas Eve having fun together. As the evening drew to a close and Christmas was upon us, I relished being on the same page again. The day had certainly been different that we'd planned, but it had ended perfectly, nonetheless.
Christmas morning arrived, overcast, dark, and with the promise of freezing rain. I pulled Bella closer and felt her burrow her naked body against mine. I cupped her breast and savored her soft smooth skin, relishing the quiet way she breathed in each breath. She shifted, turning to face me, and opened her eyes.
"Morning, my love," I said with a peck on her lips.
"Morning," she drawled as she stretched, hitching her leg over my hip, inviting me in. It had been like this all night – hot, fast, slow, and easy. We'd gotten little sleep as we gave into our needs and came together repeatedly through the night. Trailing my hand down, I pushed into her, and we made love – quiet, gentle, and perfect. I could feel her body tensing, and when she called out my name, it only took two easy thrusts before I found my own release, whispering her name in the crook of her neck.
Content and sated, we lay cuddled together, until Bella broke the easy silence.
"I wanted to tell you what happened yesterday."
Bella's back was pressed against my chest, and I tightened my arm around her waist, instinctively wanting to keep her next to me. I wasn't sure if she was going to pull away.
But she didn't. Her hand brushed against mine reassuringly, and she continued.
"When I saw you with that box yesterday, it completely caught me off guard. I had been planning to give you that ornament for a while, and I even had something else to go with it. It was going to be sort of a big deal. So, yeah… seeing you with it, knowing the surprise was ruined… well, it was just so upsetting, especially since you know how I love surprises," she said with the tiniest hint of resentment.
I was just starting to respond when she pressed on. "And you also know how overly emotional I've been lately. I just freaked out and had to get out of here. I was upset, but that wasn't the only reason I left."
She pulled at my arm, signaling me to let her go. I tightened it again, not wanting her to pull away. She patted me again, and I begrudgingly loosened my arm.
She got up and walked into our closet and brought out a small, silver and red wrapped box. She set it on the bed and then walked out of the room. I waited, staring at the box, until she came back in carrying another box, this one much smaller and in green and gold paper.
She grabbed my shirt off the floor, pulled it over her head and climbed onto the bed. She set the larger of the two in front of me and motioned for me to open it. I sat up, crossing my legs, and pulled the sheet onto my lap.
I picked up the package and shook it softly.
"Hey, just open it," she chided sweetly.
Without missing a beat, I tore off the bow and ripped off the paper to reveal a simple, unmarked white box. Setting aside the paper, I opened the box and pulled out a black, leather-bound photo album. I looked up at her questioningly, but she simply nodded at me to open it. I could see the hint of shyness on her face, but I could also see the anticipation in her eyes, bright and alight with mirth.
Slowly, I flipped the album open to the first page and felt my breath catch. They were the images, the pictures on the ornament, except bigger and so many more. I turned the page and was immediately sucked into the moment. I wanted to take my time, but each one was amazing, and I eagerly turned each of the pages until I came to the very last one. Some were sassy and fun like her posed in an apron and frilly panties looking over shoulder holding a spatula that said "Naughty" or sexy and erotic like the one where she posing with her leg hiked up on a chair wearing only black panties, thigh highs, and a garter belt. But it was the last one that caused me to pause, stunned once again at how beautiful my wife really was.
I wanted to look up at her, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the subtle curves and bends of her hips and waist, the way her hand laid across her chest, just above her satin and lace clad breasts. Her stomach was bare, and my eyes roamed greedily down to her lace-topped stockings and tiny black panties. Her hair was pooled around her, spilling easily across the surface she was lying on, and her other hand rested above her. I couldn't see her face fully, but the gentle slope of her nose and jaw were visible. She was… beautiful, stunning, sexy as hell, and so many other words that escaped me. I was speechless. I sat there staring, unmoving, as I took every inch of her in, over and over again.
"I take it you like it?" she asked hesitantly
I looked up at her and in an instant had set aside the album and attached my lips to hers. I needed to feel her, every bit of her again. There was something so raw and primal about seeing Bella vulnerable and so openly erotic… for me… that I couldn't wrap my mind around. All I could think was want, want, want.
Breathless, she pulled back, her eyes dark and lust-filled. "I was hoping you'd feel like that," she said, motioning toward the album.
"I do, baby. So fucking much." But something was still bothering me. It didn't make sense that she had gotten so upset over the ornament. I mean, I got that both gifts were related, but this one wasn't ruined because I'd seen the ornament first.
"Can I ask you a question, Bella?"
"Of course, love. Anything."
"I guess I'm still not sure why you got so upset."
She nodded. "Yeah, I think that's where this next gift will make more sense," she said, handing me the tiny green box.
I took this one, apprehensively, and gingerly pulled off the ribbon. I felt something akin to nervousness and stopped once the gold bow was lying on the bed. I looked at her again, my eyes full of questions. I desperately hoped this all made sense.
Slowly, I pulled off the paper. I opened another nondescript white box and shifted the tissue paper to the side. I saw the tiny silver ribbon she always used for her ornaments and glanced at her quizzically. Like before, she nodded for me to continue, and I gently pulled the ornament from the box.
At first, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. It looked like a patchwork quilt with little diapers, bottles, and storks all over it. I turned it over and saw that she had written, "Surprise! I'm pregnant," along with the year.
Confusion washed over me. Pregnant. And then like a flash of lightening, all the pieces – her being overly emotional, tired all the time, and her cravings for hot chocolate – started to fall in to place. My heart started to pound, and tears formed in my eyes. I ran my fingers over the words again and took in a deep breath.
"Really?" I asked so quietly I was almost sure she hadn't heard.
She nodded, tears in her own eyes.
"But, when did you find out?"
"Well, I had an idea about two weeks ago, but it wasn't until I went to the doctor this week that I was sure."
"You've already been to the doctor?" I asked, feeling a slight sense of loss. She knew and hadn't told me. But then again, here she was, telling me in a way that was uniquely ours.
"I'm sorry, Chef. I wasn't sure how you'd react to me keeping it a surprise, but I just…" She looked down, and I couldn't let her think I was upset with her in the slightest.
"Baby," I said, tipping her chin up to meet my eyes. "I'm not upset at all, surprised, yes, but definitely not upset. I feel so many emotions right now and stunned is number one among them."
I pulled her into my lap and kissed her gently, my hand sliding across her belly. Our child was in there.
"Holy shit, love. We're going to have a baby," I said, as she stared up at me.
"I know! I seriously can't even believe it. I'm sorry I've been so emotional, and that I freaked out over nothing."
"Shhh. Stop. None of that is important. Tell me everything," I soothed.
I could hear the excitement in her voice. As she detailed all the things that had happened so far, I felt my own excitement start to build. We were having a baby. In seven short months our lives would change for the better. We would be parents, and I couldn't wait. I couldn't wait to see Bella's stomach round and swollen with our baby. I couldn't wait to hold him… or her… for the first time. I couldn't wait for our family to grow.
Tugging her down beside me, I wrapped my body around her protectively. My hands ghosted across her belly, and I knew with every fiber of my being that the love I felt for Bella was only the tip of the iceberg. I didn't know how, but I knew I would love this child more than I even thought possible.
After lying together in the still quiet morning, Bella twisted slightly to look up at me. "Oh, and Edward, just so you know, I win this year," she said happily.
I laughed and kissed her sweetly before she turned back around. "Yes, you definitely do."
"Merry Christmas," Bella said as her hand rested on top of mine.
"Merry Christmas, love."