The Christmas Book

Summary: After the loss of his best friend and his wife, Edward is responsible for their little girl. Unable to get the child to open up, he takes her to a bookstore. Inside, he finds a loving young woman, hurting from past regrets and the owner of a magical book.

Chapter One – Edward and Alyssa

"Alyssa," Edward said softly. "You have to eat, sweetie." Dark, gleaming curls shook around a small round face, as the little four-year old pushed her plate away. Her dulled blue eyes implored him silently, tugging at his heart. She was still so broken, and it had been months since Edward's best friend Jasper and his wife Alice had died in a horrific car accident.

Tulle fog was notorious for February in the valley, and the pile-up had claimed eight lives, including Alyssa's parents. Jasper and Alice hadn't had any family and had requested Edward to care for their daughter if something should happen to them. He never imagined when he became her godfather just months before the accident that he would actually become the sole caregiver to a child so soon.

It was a good thing that Alyssa had already known Edward since she was born, so they weren't strangers. However, with the loss of her parents, Alyssa was no longer the vibrant, talkative little girl he'd once known. Edward had been abroad in Africa for a month before he received the news of Jasper's death. And as he packed his bags that night, he cried for his friend of more than twenty years, and for the loss of the only family Alyssa had.

Edward knew all too well what the death of one's parents did to a child. A mark forms on their heart—scarred forever. It was a mark that took a loving, supporting family to lessen the pain to be able to move on. If it hadn't been for his Aunt Esme, Edward would've never survived the months that followed the boating accident that killed his parents.

The moment the little girl was in his care, he felt out of his element. He remembered the day clearly—he had managed to get Alyssa to bed in her bedroom, but only after she had cried herself to sleep. And when her breathing had finally slowed, he had called his Aunt Esme.

He remembered her advice and it was what got him through the months since that first night. "All you can do is open your heart, love her unconditionally and the rest will follow."

Edward had done that, he loved the little girl who was so reminiscent of her abundantly cheerful mother, Alice. However, those blue eyes of Alyssa's reminded him daily of the dear friend he had lost.

"May I be excused?" she asked in a voice that was a mere whisper. Since the accident, she had been reluctant to talk to anyone besides Edward. Even then, it was very little, and only spoke when spoken to. She had yet to utter a word to his aunt, who, whenever he worked, took care of Alyssa. The problem was that the following fall she would be attending kindergarten and if she refused to talk, he feared she wouldn't thrive.

Edward watched as Alyssa fidgeted in her seat, a trait she inherited from Alice. "I need you to eat," he said sternly. He wished that he didn't have to be so harsh with her, but her health was important to him. "Tell you what. If you finish your dinner every night for a week, I'll take you to a bookstore."

Her little lips stretched and twitched at each corner, lifting a bit into a small smile. It was the first one he'd seen in the last nine months. Her brows furrowed and she scrunched one eye closed as if she were considering his offer.

"Will you buy me a book, too?" she asked, her eyes widening, her bottom lip protruding.

He grinned, leaned over and ruffled her hair. She smiled up at him again and filled her spoon with some corn, waiting for his answer.

"One book," he promised. "I'll buy you one book, but you must eat every bite I serve you."

"I'm little," she said shyly. "You need to serve me littler."

He laughed and nodded. "All right, I'll serve you littler next time."

She shot him a toothy grin and stuck out her pinky, but snatched it back for a moment, as if shocked by her own actions. It was something he had seen Jasper do with her on several occasions, so he understood her hesitancy. For a few tense seconds she held back, but then tentatively held out her pinky again. Edward gave her a small smile and linked his own small finger around hers.

The deal had been officially sealed.

After putting the little one to bed, he went outside to his large porch in the backyard. She had refused his offer to read her a story, as she had since she was in his care. He knew it was something that Jasper had done every night, no matter what. Edward wanted to continue Jasper's dedication to the nightly ritual, but Alyssa's refusal hadn't allowed it.

Perhaps it reminded her too much of what she had lost. Nine months and there was little change in that sweet little girl since that first night.

The air was cold, and a quick glance at the thermometer indicated it was only thirty-three degrees. However, the sky overhead was perfectly clear and filled with stars. He sighed and closed his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was soft and carried through the light breeze.

Edward held a hand over his heart, so that whoever heard his words would know from where it was coming from. "Please help me. Guide me so that I could find a way to heal her."

AN: Betaed by kyla713. Another update tomorrow.