Title: It Must Have Been the Mistletoe
Rating: M for language and implied sexual situations.
Summary: Edward has avoided Bella—and her annoying crush—for three years. This year, an encounter under the mistletoe at the Chief's Christmas Eve party will change everything, in ways that neither of them ever expected. O/S for the Under the Mistletoe contest
A/N: So… An idea for a Christmas o/s came to me last weekend, and I decided to just go for it. Nothing serious or overly-meaningful here; just a little bit of fluffy holiday holiday fun. Hope you guys enjoy!
Voting for the contest starts 12/26. To vote and see other entries: (http) mpfcontests. blogspot. com / p / under-mistletoe. html
Special thanks to wonderful team of betas/prereaders, including coreenc, HollettLA, Kaydee1005, and Viola Cornuta for their speedy skills (a few hours each)! You guys are the best.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight; all respective characters belong to SMeyer.
* * * * * It Must Have Been the Mistletoe * * * * *
Not this shit again.
I'd been here less than ten minutes, and already, history was repeating itself. Bella Swan was standing in the doorway across the room, glancing shyly in my direction with huge puppy dog eyes and a look of intense longing on her face.
Rolling my eyes, I huffed in frustration and turned away from her. Hell, I should be used to this; I'd been the object of her not-so-secret crush for the past three-and-a-half years, ever since she moved in next door right before the start of her freshman year. That first summer, her never-ending attention had been novel, cute almost, and I'd enjoyed making her blush and stutter just by talking to her. But once school had started, her constant attempts to get my attention—the yearning gazes, embarrassed blushes, and stilted attempts at conversation—became annoying. It was especially irritating when she did that shit in front of Lauren Mallory, the popular girl I'd had a secret crush on at the time. And when both Emmett and Jasper began to tease me in front of the entire football team about the new girl's constant attention, the awkward exchanges weren't cute anymore. In fact, they pissed me the fuck off.
After that, I'd done my best to discourage her, to the point of being quite mean about it. I cringe now to think of some of the horrible things I'd said. But none of it had mattered anyway… Even if she hadn't spoken to me anymore, I'd still felt her watching me all the time. Sometimes I would catch her; if I turned quickly or unexpectedly, she couldn't mask that look of longing on her face before she'd look away, and a heated blush would tint her cheeks pink. Other times, she'd been quicker, but I'd still known.
For three years, I'd managed to avoid Bella at school and, for the most part, at home, even though she lived right next door. I'd honestly believed that my going away to college this year would provide the separation that we both obviously needed at this point, that distance from me would help her to move on. But I guess that was way too fucking much to hope. Even though I'd only come home twice during the semester, both those visits happened to coincide with certain events that I couldn't avoid—certain events where I was forced to be in her presence—such as the Labor Day cookout and Thanksgiving gathering that our family hosted every year. The annual Christmas Eve gathering at Chief Swan's house was another such event.
That was how, on December 24th, I found myself inside Bella's home, attempting to ignore her while she stood across the room eyeing me longingly from underneath a God-damn sprig of mistletoe.
Of course, my mother made it hard to carry out my objective.
"Go talk to Bella, honey," she cajoled. "She looks so lonely standing over there all by herself, and you know how much she looks up to you."
I gritted my teeth in frustration at my mother's words.
Looks up to me, my ass! More like, she wants to hook up with me.
I knew that Mom was just looking out for Bella, trying to make sure that she was included in the festivities. She meant well. She just had a bad habit of trying to mother-hen anyone and anything that seemed lost. And at the time of her return to Forks, Bella had obviously been lost, so my mother had naturally gathered the young girl under her wing.
The Bella I recalled from childhood, the one who came to visit for two weeks every summer, was all big-toothed smiles, freckle-spattered nose, wild hair and mischievous hot chocolate eyes. The Bella that moved back here to live with her father the summer her mother had died was someone completely different. There'd been no smiles, the freckles had faded away due to lack of sun, she'd chopped all her hair off, and her eyes had been dull and lifeless—except for when she looked at me. Of course, my mother had noticed that shit straight away and had done her best to include Bella in all gatherings our family hosted that summer. She'd been treating her like a daughter ever since.
My eyes slid to the side to look covertly at Bella. I shoved my hands into my pockets as I took in everything about her. Senior year seemed to be agreeing with her; she smiled a bit more now, and her hair had grown back. While the distance between us prevented me from telling anything about the freckles or her eyes, I couldn't help but notice the subtle differences that I had missed at Thanksgiving; her face was thinner and her body curvier, although that might've been an illusion created by the tight-fitting jeans and sweater that she was wearing. She had changed physically, but I had no doubt that Bella was now playing to my mother's sympathies, same as always. Over the years, she'd learned how to manipulate every situation so that we ended up in the same room at the same time. It'd happened more times than I could count. Case in point: right now, Bella and my mother were having some sort of silent conversation from across the room that involved a lot of blushing and sly glances from the former and small smiles and encouraging head nods from the latter.
Clenching my jaw, I turned away and excused myself to the restroom, where I took fifteen minutes to just… be. Alone.
When I finally reemerged into the Swan's living room, more people had arrived. I sighed in relief when I spotted Bella talking to another girl by the dining room table—a nice, safe distance from the mistletoe that hung in the doorway. My eyes quickly scanned the room and landed on Jasper and Emmett, who were having a conversation by the fireplace. For the first time that night, a smile broke upon my lips. Damn, I'd missed my two best friends!
The missing spring returned to my steps as I crossed the room.
"Fuck, it's really great to see you guys!" I clapped them both on the shoulder. "It's been way too long!"
"Dude!" Emmett greeted enthusiastically with a wide smile and a fist bump. "Man, it does feel like forever. But still, I can't believe we've finished our first semester of college already."
"I know," Jasper admitted as he pulled me in for quick man-hug. "We're officially adults now!"
I laughed. "Jas, I think we've been adults for a while now."
He rolled his eyes. "I know, but moving out made it all real. Honestly, it feels kinda strange being back. I know that everything is the same, but it's different somehow, if you know what I mean?"
I nodded. I knew exactly what he meant. After almost five months of freedom, I was chomping at the bit after less than a week in my parents' house. Not that they asked where I went or what I did, but I knew my mom still worried.
"We've gotten a taste of independence, boys," I announced. "Nothing sucks worse than going back to jail after you've been roaming the world completely free."
"Yeah…" Emmett sighed in agreement. "My mom gave me a curfew over the weekend. Can you believe that shit?"
Jasper and I both laughed at the disgusted look on Em's face, but yeah… I totally believed it. Mrs. McCarty was a hard-ass of epic proportions. She'd always been on Emmett's case about something, whether it be grades or girls. I suspected that she just didn't want him to end up like his father—a good-for-nothing loser who had left them for another woman when Emmett was ten—but still, he'd had it a lot rougher than any of the rest of us.
"Told me to be in by midnight, or else she'd 'ground' me for the rest of vacation."
"You're kidding, right?" Jasper asked.
"Sadly, no. And you guys know my mom… She was waiting up for me when I got home—on time, I might add, because there was no way I was gonna piss her off on my first night back."
He sighed dramatically, and I did my best to not laugh, but fuck, was that shit funny! Emmett towered over his mother by at least ten inches and outweighed her by more than eighty pounds, but he was still scared shitless of her. I turned to Jas, and once again, we busted out laughing.
Emmett's scowl deepened when Jasper and I continued to chortle, rather than come to his defense. He crossed his arms on his chest and looked away. I should've recognized the sly look that crossed his face, but I was too busy laughing about his troubles to focus on anything else.
"Obviously, I'm not the only one dealing with baggage from the past," he snarked.
"Huh?" I asked between chortles. "What are you talking about?"
The two words he spoke caused me to stop laughing immediately and stiffen in annoyance.
He chuckled evilly at my response.
"She's staring at you, Cullen." While waggling his eyebrows at me, he waved at someone over my shoulder—I can only assume it was Bella—and winked. He laughed at whatever response his actions elicited. "Oh man, that girl still has it fucking bad for you."
Jasper joined in with Emmett's enthusiastic chuckles, which caused me to scowl.
"What are you laughing about, Whitlock?" I sneered. "Did you happen to see who Bella is talking to?"
That shut him up pretty fucking quickly, his eyes darting nervously towards the dining room. I saw the "Oh, shit!" look cross his face and smirked. If Bella was my nemesis, Alice Brandon was Jasper's. Only unlike Bella, Alice wasn't shy about her affection. Not to mention, Jasper actually had hooked up with her one night at a party over the summer, right before he left for college. He'd been too fucked up to even remember what had happened the next morning, but Alice had been chasing after him ever since, begging for a repeat performance.
"Fuck!" he cursed under his breath as he contemplated his means of escape. Before he could even take a step, Alice's screeching voice rang out across the room.
"Um… Later, guys," he called over his shoulder as he bolted from the room.
Emmett and I collapsed in a fit of laughter when Alice took off after Jasper.
"I guess some things never change, huh?" I asked ruefully.
"Nope," he replied. "Maybe I should be happy that it's just my mother giving me a hard time, rather than unrequited love."
"Maybe," I drawled. "But love's not all that bad, is it, Em? How's Rose?"
Rosalie Hale was Emmett's girlfriend. They'd been together since they were fifteen, and she was the one girl who didn't annoy the crap out of me with all her girly bullshit. She was hard-nosed and prickly, but straightforward and honest, and she knew how to dish it out as well as receive. In other words, she was a great friend and perfect for Emmett.
He smiled brightly. "Dude! She's great. She'll be home in the morning, and I can't fucking wait to see her! We haven't seen each other since Thanksgiving."
Rosalie was attending college in Texas, while Emmett had gone cross-country to Tennessee. They had only seen each other a few times this semester, and the frustration and longing in his voice informed me that he was finding the separation hard.
Suddenly, a flurry of activity by the door caught my eye, and I looked over Emmett's shoulder to find more people entering the house, brushing snowflakes out of their hair. It was a large group of very large guys and one girl. When the tall blonde raised her finger to her lip in a plea for silence as she tip-toed our way, I smiled. Sliding my gaze back to Emmett, I decided to fuck with him a bit.
"So, Em… what you gonna do first when you see Rose tomorrow?"
"After I show her how much I've missed her?" he asked, making a crude gesture indicating sexual activity.
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, so that comes first, huh?"
"Fuck yeah! It's been over a month. A man's got needs right?"
"And what needs might those be?" Rose asked as she punched him lightly in the waist.
"Baby!" he exclaimed in surprise as he turned to her. Sweeping her up in his arms, he kissed her deeply. "What're you doing home? I didn't think you were getting in until tomorrow?"
"I wasn't supposed to be, but I found someone to cover my last shift and caught an earlier flight. I wanted to surprise you. Did it work?"
"Hell, yeah. Best surprise, ever! God, baby, I've missed you!"
More kisses followed his declaration, and I think that Emmett might have tried to cop a feel. I rolled my eyes and laughed softly at their over-exuberant antics. Usually, public displays of affection annoyed the shit out of me, but for some reason, seeing Emmett and Rose reunited made me smile. And possibly feel a bit… jealous?
Not to be smug, but I was a good looking guy. I'd never been short of female attention—far from it. Most times, I could have whomever I wanted whenever I wanted them. However, looking around, there was no one there that I had any desire to hook up with tonight. Lauren was there, beautiful as always and eyeing me speculatively, but she was my ex, and that was a can of fucking worms I did not want to re-open, for many reasons. Jessica Stanley was obviously trying to flirt, but she'd banged Mike Newton junior year, and there was no way in hell my dick was going anywhere near pussy that had been even remotely associated with that douche-bag. Angela Weber was looking hot, but she was obviously here with Ben Cheney. Hell… even Bella appeared to be flirting with one of the tall, dark-skinned guys from the pack that had entered the house with Rose.
Five minutes later, Em and Rose were still kissing, while I was still alone. A twinge of… something… tickled at my gut and caused me to frown. In the past, I'd never been bothered by the fact that I'd had no real long-term relationships. I'd been perfectly content with random hookups and meaningless sex. But witnessing the obvious love and genuine affection between my two friends made me realize that something was missing in my own life. Correction: not just something. Someone.
It was well after eleven o'clock before the party began to wind down. The parents were all really fucking smashed and were singing off-key and off-color carols by the fireplace; the lyrics had lost all semblance of appropriateness about an hour ago. Needing a break from the horrendous noise and sexual innuendo, I wandered to the dining room table—being careful to skirt the mistletoe that hung in the doorway—where I scarfed down some food in an attempt to counteract the booze I'd been drinking on the sly. There was a lot beer and liquor, but since this was the Police Chief's house, no one underage was partaking in the Chief's offerings. That said, Emmett had stashed a fifth of authentic Tennessee whiskey in his car, and we'd been covertly sipping it from his trusty—and hidden—flask all evening.
Rose and Emmett had quietly disappeared about half an hour ago. Jasper had left shortly afterwards, and I'd chuckled when Alice followed him out. However, this time, he didn't seem quite so averse to her attention or affection. The liquor probably helped. And speaking of alcohol, a substantial amount of Jack Daniels was now humming through my bloodstream, making me feel warm and carefree. So much so, that I hadn't even noticed Bella was on the other side of the room until I heard her speak.
Her voice was breathless, but not in a good way. I turned towards the sound, but my view of her was blocked by a large body. She spoke again, and even in my intoxicated state, I could sense her distress.
"You've been drinking, haven't you? You only bring this up when you're drunk! You already know my answer."
"Aw, Bells. C'mon," he slurred. "It's Christmas. Besides, you know that our fathers want this. That's why they keep throwing us together all the time. Why do you think I'm here tonight, huh?"
His voice was slightly rough, like he was trying to sound sexy and convincing at the same time. I took a step to the side, bringing Bella into view. She didn't pay me any attention, but that was probably because she was completely focused on the guy from the reservation. He was tall—much taller than my own 6'2" height—and dark—dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes that stared at her intently. I frowned at the boldness of his gaze, as well as her uncomfortable expression. Then he reached down and grabbed Bella's hand. He took a step forward before he answered his own question.
"Your dad invited me. Told me to 'keep you company' tonight."
The way he said it suggested another, deeper meaning, and Bella scowled at him. She tried to yank her hand away, but he wouldn't relinquish it, instead stepping closer. Her eyes widened, and she stepped backwards in response, tugging her hand again.
"Jake," she warned. "Let me go."
But he didn't. She continued backing up, and for each step she took, he followed, until she was standing in the doorway that opened into the main room of the house. A wide smile lit his face.
"Aw, Bells… Look at that. You're under the mistletoe. You know what that means..."
She looked up, horrified to find that she was indeed under the mistletoe, and he stepped forward to take advantage of her up-turned face. The look of sheer panic that flashed across her features as she realized her mistake caused me to react involuntarily—nobody deserved to be manhandled like that. My hand clenched in anticipation, but when I took a step forward, I tripped into the table, knocking several serving bowls to the floor. The resounding crash as the ceramic smashed to the floor caused them both to jump. In the second that his attention was diverted, she yanked her hand away and ran from the room. He growled in frustration.
I was buzzed, not drunk, but one look at his face was enough to let me know that I needed to be careful. Deciding to play up my drunken state, I leaned heavily against the table and slurred my words when I spoke.
"Sorry about that, man."
He glared at me. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
Then he stomped out of the dining room and into the den where the pack of tall, dark-skinned guys was laughing loudly. He shot them a dirty look, and the middle finger, before he stormed out the front door. They laughed even louder, then followed him out. As soon as they were gone, I went in search of Bella.
I found her in the kitchen, curled up in a chair at the table, her chin resting on her knees.
She looked up, frowning in confusion when she saw me standing in the doorway.
"You okay?" I asked.
She nodded, but a tear leaked from the corner of her eye. She wiped at it furiously, then took a deep breath, which turned into a sob. She didn't look okay at all to me. Unsure of what to do, I stayed motionless in the doorway and continued to look at her questioningly.
"Yeah," she replied.
Her voice was dull, lifeless. The way she looked reminded me of her first summer back, when she was fourteen. Right after her mother died. She was once again acting like she had died, too, and it fucking bothered me.
"You sure?" I finally asked.
She took another deep breath. "He's not normally like that. He's usually sweet and kind, and he does look out for me. But when he drinks… Well, you saw."
She lifted her head and pinned me with a steely look. "It's okay, Edward. This is my problem, and I'll deal with it."
"That looked like more than just a problem. Bella, he wasn't listening to you. You said 'no'…"
"Yeah. I tell him 'no' every time he gets like this. I also manage to escape relatively unscathed every time, so no harm done."
"This has happened before?" I asked incredulously.
She nodded. My jaw clenched.
"Does your dad know that he's… that he pushes you like that?"
She shook her head.
"Bella, you can't let that continue. You need to tell your dad. It's not right. Especially if he is pushing you to…" My words trailed off, and I made a gesture with my hands to indicate togetherness.
She snorted. "It's not as bad as it seems. Is it annoying? Hell, yes. Do I wish he would knock it off? Of course! But he is my friend. He just wishes it was more—he's got a crush. It won't kill me. But I know how he feels, unrequited love is a bitch…"
I inhaled sharply. Her eyes flew to mine, widening in surprise as she realized what she had just said, and to whom.
"Oh, God…" she whispered, her hand lifting to cover her mouth as she continued to stare wide-eyed at me. Emotions danced across her face—embarrassment, regret, acceptance, resolve.
Suddenly, she was laughing. And crying. All at once. Loud snorting sobs accompanied by more tears that left me feeling paralyzed, not knowing how to respond. When her head dropped back to her knees, my feet moved of their own accord, carrying me across the room until I was standing by her side. I reached out, and she jumped when I laid my hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry," she cried into her knees. "So sorry."
I sat down in the chair next to her, not moving my hand. "Why are you sorry, he—"
Her head snapped up, and my hand fell from her shoulder at the suddenness of her motion. "I'm not sorry about this, him. I'm sorry about what I did—what I've been doing—to you. It's the same. Worse, maybe."
"No," I cut her off. "What you did wasn't remotely the same. You had a crush. But you never did anything like what he did to you tonight. And I should be apologizing to you, anyways."
She swiped at her eyes.
"Huh? Why should you apologize to me? I was the one making a nuisance of myself."
"Bella," I sighed, sinking further into my chair. Raising my hand to my head, I plunged it into my hair in frustration. "I was horrible to you. I've felt guilty about that for quite some time."
"I deserved it."
She shot me a pointed look. "I did. I was a complete nuisance, following you around, staring all the time."
"Well, you did do those things, but I still should have been nicer."
"You're being nice now," she announced. "I think that makes up for it."
Her words caused me to freeze in my seat.
I was having a nice, normal conversation with Bella Swan.
How the fuck had that happened?
For the first time, ever, she wasn't stuttering or looking at me with puppy dog eyes. In fact, the expression on her face was completely different than the one she was wearing only a few short hours ago. It was… friendly.
"Well, you're being nice, too." I shot her a suspicious look. "This is weird."
She laughed—a real laugh this time. A throw-your-head-back and laugh-from-the-bottom-of-your-stomach laugh. It sounded nice. Hell, it sounded more than nice, and awareness shivered down my spine at the sight and sound of Bella laughing.
"Yeah, it is a bit weird, isn't it? For as much time as we've spent together over the years, we've never really talked."
I smiled wryly. "That might be because you could never form a complete sentence whenever I talked to you in the past."
Hot pink color tinged her cheeks at my statement, and she looked down in embarrassment.
"Um, yeah… Sorry about that."
"It's okay," I quickly reassured. "But I'm just curious… what's different now?"
She looked up and frowned slightly. "I don't really know. I mean, even earlier tonight—when I first saw you—I still felt the same way I always have when it comes to you. But now, after… well, you know… it's just different. I can't explain it." The frown slowly morphed into a smile. "I like it better like this."
At my words, her smile brightened even further. In that moment, I realized that I'd never seen Bella truly smile before. Her lips curled up at the edges in a way that changed her entire face, making her look… beautiful. I was a bit shocked by my response, but I couldn't deny the appeal of that smile. It was infectious, and I couldn't help but smile in response.
We spent the next hour hiding out in the kitchen and talking about everything—our families, mutual friends, school, where she had applied for college. Now that she was no longer stuttering and could carry on a real conversation, I was surprised to find that we had a lot in common. And that I actually enjoyed talking to Bella Swan.
I shook my head in disbelief.
Who woulda thunk it?
"What?" she asked, with a small smile.
"Well…" I shook my head wryly. "I'm just surprised, that's all."
I took a deep breath. "This has actually been fun."
Her smile faded, and her eyes pinched into a confused frown. "It has, hasn't it?"
"Well, you don't have to look that… put out about it," I joked, leaning forward a bit.
She immediately dropped her eyes to her lap, and a rush of color flooded her cheeks. In the past, her blushing had annoyed me, but tonight, for some strange reason, I found it endearing.
"I'm kidding, Bella," I stated, willing her to look back up at me.
When she did, I was rewarded by the color that still heated her skin and made her eyes appear as if they were twinkling. In an attempt to reassure her, I smiled. A real smile, not the fake shit I had always thrown her way. One I meant. One I felt in my gut. Her eyes widened, and she parted her lips on a shaky breath, her tongue darting out to swipe across her full, bottom lip. I couldn't help but watch the wet, pink tip as it peeked out, which caused me to suck in a suddenly shaky breath. At the sound, her tongue was replaced by her teeth, and suddenly, I was feeling something unexpected in a place much lower than my gut.
I was concentrating intently on her mouth, which appeared to be getting closer and closer, and my hand had just begun to inch in the direction of her face when the kitchen door flew open and Chief Swan walked into the room carrying an armload of dirty dishes. We both jerked upright, suddenly aware of how we had leaned into each other over the course of the last few minutes.
"Bella!" He smiled at her. Then his eyes landed on my face, and a confused frown replaced his smile. "Edward?"
Bella rolled her eyes, breaking eye contact. I fell back into my chair and looked away, finally free from the intense connection that had been holding us captive. I turned to Bella's father.
"Chief Swan," I greeted.
He was still frowning. "Your parents left a while ago, Edward. I think they thought you had already gone."
I didn't exactly know what his point was.
"Well, I've been in here for a while. Bella was upset earlier, and she and I got to talking…"
Chief Swan turned to his daughter. "Why were you upset? Did something happen?"
She shot me a dirty look and crossed her arms defensively on her chest, but addressed her father.
"Jake and I had a misunderstanding."
"It looked like more than just a 'misunderstanding' to me," I muttered under my breath.
The dirty look turned into a frosty glare, and I had to work hard to keep from laughing out loud at the outraged look on her face. This was supposed to be a serious discussion, about a serious breach of trust between Bella and her so-called friend, but she just looked so… cute… when she was angry.
Once again, I was shocked by my thoughts and feelings.
"Bella? What does Edward mean?" her father asked, thankfully interrupting my inner musings.
With one last glare in my direction, she sighed. "We'll talk about it later, Dad…" At my raised eyebrows, she added a whispered, "I promise."
Satisfied that she would discuss what happened with her father, not to mention thrown for one hell of a loop by all of the events of the evening, I pushed to my feet and turned to Bella's father.
"Do you need some help cleaning up?"
"Nah," he answered with a friendly smile. "I can get it." Then Charlie addressed his daughter. "Bella, why don't you show Edward out? I'm sure his parents are wondering where the heck he is about now."
He turned to me and raised his eyebrows questioningly. A quick glance at my watch revealed that it was now 12:45am.
Damn it to hell.
My mother would be wondering where the hell I was. I sighed, and the Chief laughed softly. After living next door for almost twenty years, he obviously knew my mother pretty well.
"Good call," I muttered. "Thanks, Chief."
He smiled again. "Sure thing, Edward."
I swear his moustache twitched.
Not wanting to face any more awkward questions, I turned to leave the kitchen. The sound of Bella's chair scraping against the floor let me know that she was following. Pushing through the door, I walked through the dining room. Just before I reached the doorway to the main room, her voice halted me.
When I turned to look at her, she was eyeing the ceiling warily. When I followed her gaze, there it was. The mistletoe. Her next words wiped the near-smile from my lips.
"Would you take it down?"
Nodding, I grabbed a chair from the table. After stepping onto it, I reached up to remove the sprig of plant from the doorway. I held it out to her, but she shook her head vehemently.
"I don't want it anymore," she stated sadly. "In fact, I'll probably never hang another sprig of mistletoe ever again. Nothing good ever comes of trying to trick someone into kissing you."
I just nodded again. Not knowing exactly what to do, I clenched my fist around the now-offensive sprig—pretty much squashing it—and continued to the front door.
When she opened the door, the biting cold penetrated my thin sweater. The air was crisp and fresh, and it smelled like snow. When I looked, I gasped at the view that met my eyes. Everything was completely white. It had obviously been snowing all evening—several inches were on the ground—and flakes were still swirling frantically in the air. It was peaceful and pristine. Breathtaking.
Turning to look at Bella, I was captivated by her awestruck expression—eyes wide and twinkling, another breathtaking smile on her face that completely transformed her.
"It's so pretty," she whispered, turning to look at me.
"Yes, it is."
I didn't mean the snow.
At my response, her eyes searched mine, her smile fading, the steamy puffs of her breath informing me just how quickly and shallowly she was breathing. Unable to resist, I took a small step forward. Unlike earlier with Jake, she didn't retreat from me; her eyes remained locked on mine, and our steamy breaths mingled in the air between us. A gust of wind blew across the porch, causing us to move even closer together and dislodging a lock of hair from her loose ponytail.
I lifted my hand to brush it away, only to find the now-crumpled mistletoe still crushed between my fingers. Without thought, I lifted it above her head and leaned down to brush my lips gently against hers. The gesture was simple and innocent, but electric awareness shimmered where our lips met, causing both of us to suck in gasping breaths. Lifting my head, I stared down in awe at the girl who I had considered the bane of my existence for the past three years. With her head thrown back, eyes closed and mouth opened slightly, she was stunning.
When she finally opened her eyes, I smiled shyly at her. A fiery blush colored her cheeks, but she was smiling widely, and her eyes were twinkling in a way I had never witnessed before. I dropped my hand, offering her the sprig of mistletoe. She hesitated, but eventually took it from my hand.
"That wasn't so bad, was it, kissing under the mistletoe?"
She shook her head, a small furrow appearing on her brow. Before she could say anything, I leaned in once again, capturing her lips with my own. This kiss wasn't quite as innocent—my now-empty hands came to rest on her hips, pulling her closer, and I sucked her bottom lip into my mouth. She tasted sweet and rich at the same time, like strawberries and honey. It was simultaneously simple and decadent, and needing more, I pushed my tongue into her mouth. She shivered and moaned softly as I stroked my tongue gently against hers, and her hands moved to grasp my arms.
With a small groan of my own, I pulled back and waited once again for her to open her eyes. When she did, she looked at me in a daze, eyes full of questions.
"No mistletoe that time," I stated in a serious tone. "No trick."
Her eyes widened in understanding. I chuckled and took a step back, needing to put some distance between us while I was still able to do so.
With one last smile, I turned to leave. Something on the ground caught my eye. Reaching down, I picked up the sprig of mistletoe that was now lying in the snow at our feet. I held it out to her, and this time she accepted it willingly.
"Thank you," she whispered.
She wasn't talking about the mistletoe.
"Anytime," I replied with a tender smile.
I was amazed to realize that I meant it.
"Merry Christmas, Edward," she stated softly.
"Merry Christmas, Bella."
As I walked home, I felt different. New. Pristine, just like the new-fallen snow that I was walking in—there were no footprints ahead of me, and only my own behind me. I had been given a new chance. No, wait… Bella and I had been given a new chance, together. It was a chance to start over. A chance to be real friends, and possibly much, much more, if that kiss was any indication.
Later that night, as I lay in bed trying to wrap my head around all the crazy shit that had gone down tonight, I found myself softly humming one of the Christmas tunes that the parents had been singing (very badly) earlier. I laughed when I realized what song it was, although even I had to admit that the lyrics were quite fitting.
For the first time, ever I was actually looking forward to Christmas dinner with the Swans and another chance to see Bella.
"It Must Have Been the Mistletoe"
It must have been the mistletoe,
The lazy fire, the Fallin' Snow,
The magic in the frosty air
That feeling everywhere
It must have been the pretty lights,
That glistened in the Silent Night.
Or maybe just the stars so bright
That shined above you.
Our first Christmas, more than we'd been dreaming of.
Old Saint Nicolas had his fingers crossed that we would fall in love.
It could have been the holiday,
The midnight ride upon a sleigh,
The country side all dressed in white,
That crazy snowball fight.
It could have been the steeple bell,
That wrapped us up within its spell.
It only took one kiss to know
It must have been the mistletoe.
Our first Christmas, more than we'd been dreaming of.
Old Saint Nicolas must have known that kiss would lead to all of this.
It must have been the mistletoe,
the lazy fire, the fallin' snow,
The magic in the frosty air
That made me love you.
On Christmas Eve a wish came true-
The night I fell in love with you.
It only took one kiss to know
It must have been the mistletoe.
A/N: Merry Christmas, 2010!