Title: Dear Santa

Author Penname: busymommy

Rating: M+ for adult situations and language

Summary: Jasper and Bella have been married for ten years, with 7 year old twin sons. But, when evidence of infidelity appears, they separate. Can the fervent wishes of two little boys, a letter to Santa, and the magic of Christmas restore a marriage where all hope seems lost?

Warnings: broken relationships/angst

Banner Link: on profile

Banner Designer Name: hobee1971


Dear Santa

"No, Jasper! I'm done!' Bella hissed, her voice low in an effort to keep from waking up their sons sleeping down the hall. "I don't want to hear it. I've seen everything I need to. You need to leave, now."

"Bells," her husband pleaded with her. "It's not what you think, I swear."

Whirling around from where she stood near the window, Bella swiped the angry tears from her eyes. Jasper's heart ached at the sight, desperate for her to give him a chance to explain that she'd misconstrued what she'd seen. Meeting her eyes, he winced at the anguish he saw in their depths. Taking a step toward her, he tried again to get her to listen.

"Bella, please, listen to me. I don't know who—"

"I said leave. Do it now, before I call Emmett to help you find the door." Stiffening her spine, she clenched the damp tissue in her hand, a talisman to remind her of the betrayal she felt. "I warned you, before we were married; this was the one thing I'd never forgive."

When he continued to stand there, she brushed past him to go to their room, stepping wide of the hand he put out to stop her. Pulling her cell phone out of her pocket, she dialed Rose's number, while jerking his clothes out of the dresser and tossing them haphazardly into the overnight he'd left on the floor when he returned from his business trip. She stopped when her friend picked up, collapsing onto the bed, sobs overtaking her to the point that she could barely speak. From the living room, he heard her side of the conversation, the broken cries tearing into him at the thought that she didn't believe him, wouldn't even listen.

"Rose?" She hiccupped through her tears. "I need you, please. Can you come over? Bring Emmett, too. No, the boys are fine. I…Jasper…just, please come as soon as you can."

The house returned to silence, broken only by her gasping breaths and the slamming of the drawers. Returning to the living room, she dropped the bag in front of him. Confusion was replaced by shock when he realized she'd been serious about him leaving.

"You'll have to get the rest another time. I'm taking the boys to visit Charlie for the weekend. I'd appreciate it if your things were gone when I get back."

Before he could answer her, the front door opened, Bella's best friend, Rosalie McCarty swept in with her husband Emmett right behind her.

"Bells, what's wrong? We got here as fast as—" she stopped short when she saw the two of them caught in a stand-off in the middle of the room, the overflowing bag on the floor between them. Looking between her best friend and her cousin, she formed her own conclusions. Striding across the room, she cold–cocked Jasper before anyone could stop her. "You shit!" She pulled Bella to her, ignoring the man now holding his jaw that stood across from them. "Get him out of here, now, Em."

Bella collapsed against her, no longer able to maintain her composure. Rose hustled her down the hall to the bedroom, stroking her hair, and murmuring soothing words. Reaching the door, she helped her onto the bed, then curled up next to her, allowing her friend to cry through her heartbreak.

Emmett stared after his wife, dumbstruck by the chain of events. The last thing he'd expected when Bella called was that he'd be asked to throw his best friend out of his own home. Raising his hand to rub the back of his neck, he sighed, then walked over to where Jasper had sunk onto the sofa.

"Dude, what the fuck is going on? What the hell did you do that upset Bella so much?" Sitting down next to Jasper, Emmett tried not to make any snap judgments.

"Em, I swear, I didn't do anything. It's all a misunderstanding, but she won't even give me a chance to explain. I love her, I love the boys. I—I'm…what…," he stuttered over the words, then dropped his head in his hands, the implications of Bella's words hitting home. His shoulders shook with silent sobs.

At a loss, Emmett awkwardly patted him on the back, trying to offer comfort where he feared none could be had. When he'd sobbed himself out, Jasper dragged his arm across his face, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes. Whispering a thank you to his friend, he scrubbed his hands across his legs, unsure what to do next.

"I need to talk to her, explain what happened."

Pushing himself to his feet, he cast his eyes toward the ajar door down the hallway. Emmett grabbed his arm, stopping him in his tracks.

"I think you need to talk to me first. Rose isn't going to let you anywhere near her right now, you know that. Come on. Grab your bag. You can stay in the spare room while we sort this out. I'll deal with your cousin on it." His normally affable face was stoic, brooking no argument. With a resigned sigh, Jasper nodded.

"Give me a minute." He turned toward the hallway again, shaking off Emmett's restraining hand. "I'm not going to do anything crazy, Em. I just need to go see the boys."

Emmett let him go, watching the dejected man walk toward the closed door at the end of the hallway. Jasper turned the knob, the nightlight Jackson wouldn't sleep without casting a warming glow into the darkened hallway when the door opened. Stepping into the quiet room, filled only with the low breaths of the sleeping boys, he walked closer to the bunk beds. Though there was plenty of room for the boys to each have their own rooms; they refused to be separated. On more than one occasion he'd found them both tucked in together, Monroe having clambered down from the top bed to sleep with his brother. That night was no different. Their little faces were turned toward each other, their hands clasped above the blanket, sharing everything the same way they had from the time they were conceived. They were identical to the unknowing eye, but even in sleep, Jasper could tell them apart. Kneeling next to their bed, he adjusted the covers, trailing a shaking hand across the brown curls so much like Bella's and stifling another sob.

"I'll fix it guys, I promise," he whispered, silent tears rolling down his cheeks.

He watched them sleep a few moments longer, then stood and left, pulling the door shut behind him. Pausing at the door to the room he shared with Bella, he heard the murmur of low voices. Shooting a look toward the living room and seeing Emmett glowering at him, he turned back to the door and laid a hand on it.

"Bells, sweetheart." The voices stopped, and he steeled himself for another attack from Rose. When the silence continued, he cleared his throat and continued, "I'm going to leave – not because I want to, but because you asked me to. I'll call you tomorrow, we need to talk. Know this, no matter what you think happened, I love you, I've always loved you." He waited in futile hope that she'd open the door and let him explain. The oppressive silence persisted, weighing on his heart like an anvil. With a nod of resignation, he continued to the living room, the low hum from the room returning when he walked away.

Picking up the overnight bag, he shoved the clothes deeper inside, then walked to the front door. Looking around the home they'd created together, he prayed it wasn't the last time he'd see it. The tree twinkled in the corner, gifts mounded around the base, another pile in the closet waiting for Thursday night to be added. If only…

Chasing away the thoughts, he chastised himself. He couldn't change what had happened; he could only make it right going forward. Dropping the bag into the back seat of his F-350, he hauled himself into the driver's seat and cranked the engine, waiting for Emmett to join him.

*****DS*****

Emmett directed him to a bar on a narrow side street not far from either of their homes, a small hole in the wall where they could talk in neutral territory. Quietly, he complied, knowing it would only be the first of many times that he'd have to explain what had Bella so upset. Emmett would be the best place to start; he always tried to see both sides of things, and Jasper had always valued his perspective. Trying to sort it out with his friend would be the easiest conversation he had to face. Knowing he'd been an idiot for getting pulled into someone else's fuck-up wasn't helping anything, either. While Bella might believe him when he told her the truth, given her personal feelings, he also knew she still might not forgive him. She and Lauren were friends, and what Mike had done was reprehensible.

Entering the dimly lit, raucous room, Emmett waved Jasper to a corner table, while he headed to the bar. Slouching into a chair, Jasper contemplated the jovial room around him. The waitresses scurried between the tables, delivering drinks with a smile, moving agilely bewtween the dancing, laughing patrons. A shabby tree teetered in the corner, garland and decorations covering the walls, a garish reminder of the season. They had planned to take the boys driving around to look at the decorations this weekend. Not now, not if he couldn't get her to talk to him. Sadness engulfed him again. Would he even be home with them for Christmas? Emmett cleared his throat then, drawing Jasper's attention back to the large man sitting across from him.

"What's going on, Jas? Why is Bella so upset that she called my wife at eleven o'clock at night? What did you do that would make her throw you out?" Shaking his head, he took another swallow of his beer then set the bottle down on the table. "I can only think of one thing that would set her off like that, and hell, you'd never do—" His voice trailed off, shock filling his features. Jasper pulled in on himself, waiting to be punched for the second time that night, and knowing it would hurt a hell of a lot worse coming from Emmett than it had from Rosalie. "You didn't! Jas, what the hell were you thinking? Never mind. Obviously you weren't thinking at all." Shock was replaced with disgust.

"It's not what you think, Em, I swear. Bella saw something on my phone and jumped to assumptions, but I swear, I had nothing to do with it. My only mistake was in trusting someone I considered my friend." Jasper slammed the bottle in his hand on the table. "Fuck! That ass, Mike Newton, asked to borrow my phone while we were in Chicago for the conference, saying he needed to call Lauren and he forgot his at home. He probably borrowed it a dozen or so times over the four days, but he said one of the kids was sick, so I didn't think too much of it. I have unlimited minutes, anyway, and if it had been one of the boys, I'd have called just as often."

"Wait, Jas. I'm not sure I'm following where this is going. What the hell does Mike Newton calling home have to do with your wife tossing you out on your ass?"

"Gah! This is so fucking ridiculous!" For the first time that night, Jasper began to get pissed off at the events of the day. "Well, he borrowed my phone again, yesterday while we were at lunch, telling me he'd lost his. I never use the damn thing, just keep it on me in case there's an emergency. Other than the basics, I don't even know how the fucking thing works."

He picked up the beer bottle to take another drink. Realizing the bottle was empty, he waved it at a passing waitress to ask for another. Then, unable to look at Emmett while he confessed his stupidity, he stared back over at the tree, so bright and cheerful, a beacon of hope and promise, even in such an unlikely location. Seeing it there only reminded him of what he stood to lose if he couldn't work things out with his wife. Heaving a sigh, he rubbed his eyes.

"Apparently, though, Bella knows all kinds of things about cell phones that I don't. While paying the bills, she noticed a bunch of calls to the same number, one she didn't recognize, made while I was on the Chicago trip. Since she'd gone online to pay the bill, she checked the recent call log, and the number appeared again, with a couple calls back and forth yesterday. Being Bella, curiosity got the better of her, and she called the number. That's where shit went fucking crazy. A woman answered using some type of endearment, and Bella lost her shit."

Emmett stared at Jasper, his expression incredulous. Slowly he shook his head, then a large boisterous laugh escaped him. Seeing Jasper's lack of amusement, he sobered quickly, attempting to compose his features into some semblance of empathy. Despite his best efforts, the corner of his lips twitched while he tried not to smile. Frustrated, Jasper slammed his hands on the table and shoved himself back, drawing the attention of others with his outburst.

"I'm about to lose everything that's important in my life, simply because I was stupid enough to trust a friend, and you're sitting there smirking at me? I'm so fucking glad that my life falling apart amuses you!" Tossing twenty dollars on the table, he got to his feet. "You know what, forget it. I'll go find a hotel room for the night. I'm calling Newton, too. He fucking needs to fix this shit. Too damn bad if it fucks up his life, he's doing that anyway, Lauren just hasn't found out yet."

Emmett stopped him. "Honest, Jas, I'm not laughing at you, just at the clusterfuck of the entire situation. If you were on the outside looking in, you'd have to fight not to laugh, too. It's just frigging crazy, and if it weren't for the fact that I've known you for forever and I doubt you could make shit like this up, I'd have a hard time believing you." He gave his friend a light shove back toward the chair. "Come on, sit back down. Let's figure out how you are going to convince Bella, 'cause she isn't going to believe that story, no matter how true it is. Not after what she went through with Renee and Charlie."

The two men spent the next two hours brainstorming, downing beer after beer, until the bartenders shouted last call and they had to leave. Staggering out to the truck, they looked at it and each other, both knowing the other was in no condition to drive. Shrugging, Emmett pulled out his cell to call Rosalie. He didn't go out often to drink, but he knew she'd rather he calle then risk driving home. Jasper winced when he heard her voice get shrill, tearing Emmett a new ass for spending the night drinking with "that lying, cheating asshole." Yeah, his cousin wasn't going to be an easy sell on the truth, either.

*****DS*****

The blaring of the alarm clock dragged Jasper out of his alcohol-induced stupor the next morning. His eyes stung when he opened them, the lashes tangled together from the tears that had soaked his pillow when he fell into bed. Yawning, he crinkled his nose at the sour taste of stale beer that lingered on his tongue, fighting the bile that rose in his throat. He had little memory of the car ride home, other than the disgusted look Rosalie gave him when he fell into the back seat, dropping the bag he'd remembered to retrieve from his truck on the floor. Following Emmett to the spare room, he man-hugged him good night, holding onto his reassurance that things would work out as if it were Gospel. Crawling into the bed, he vaguely heard the hissing, harsh whispers drifting from the master bedroom next door before he passed out.

Lying there on the edge of coherency, Jasper contemplated calling out sick from work. If he didn't need to confront that dick, Newton, he probably would have done it. Instead, determined to get all the evidence he needed to prove his innocence to Bella, he got out of bed, straightened the covers, and stumbled into the bathroom. Turning on the shower, he pulled out his toothbrush and cleaned his teeth and tongue while the water heated up. After spitting away the remnant taste of the night before, he wiped his mouth with a washcloth. He stepped under the steaming spray, the water waking him up a bit more, then quickly washed and stepped out to dry off. Wrapping the towel around his hips, he returned to the bedroom and sorted through the clothes Bella had haphazardly shoved into the bag, pulled together something he could wear to work, then left the rest of the clothes sorted out on the bed to deal with after work.

When he reached the kitchen, Rose already sat at the table, a cup of coffee in front of her; a dose of righteous indignation feeding her ire. She didn't speak when he entered, merely waving toward the coffee cup that sat on the counter in front of the pot. Jasper took his time, attempting to forestall the shitstorm his cousin waited to unleash on him. Staring at the counter once he'd mixed the sugar and milk into the coffee, he steeled his nerves to face the onslaught before joining Rose at the table. The silence was palpable, a giant elephant tap-dancing in the corner. Rose glared at him, settling back with her arms crossed over her chest.

"So," the venom in her voice almost struck him dead on the spot, "you may have snowed Em with your bullshit story, but I'm not buying it. The only reason you didn't find your ass on the street last night is because you're family. But understand this, if you can't convince me you're telling the truth, you'd better make reservations at Motel Six. Start talking."

Swallowing against the lump in his throat, Jasper again related the explanation he'd given his best friend the night before. Rose glowered at him through the entire retelling, interjecting nothing. Her lack of reaction unnerved him, not giving away any reaction to whether or not he had made any inroads to gaining her support. He paused halfway through, making another cup of coffee, and still she didn't say a word. By the time he finished, he began to doubt the veracity of his words, despite knowing them to be the God's honest truth. The only sound to permeate the room was the hiss of steam from the coffee pot. Nervous, knowing Rose could be his only link to Bella, Jasper rubbed the seam on his sleeve, plucking at a loose thread. The chiming of the large grandfather clock in the living room broke the stalemate, causing him to jump when the first bong rang out. Eight o'clock. He had to be at work in an hour, and he still needed to retrieve his truck from the bar. Rosalie coughed, slid her chair back, and stood. She walked around the table toward him. He didn't look up to meet her gaze, unsure what he'd find there. The sudden smack in the back of his head had him seeing stars.

"You stupid fuck! I always knew you were too trusting, but this? It's nearly impossible for me to believe you, but knowing your penchant for naïveté, I'm inclined to accept that you actually are telling the truth. The question remains, how do you plan to prove it? I can't imagine Mike's going to be too forthcoming, knowing it will fuck him in the end, and not in a good way. Not that he deserves the consideration, but without him to verify your story, I don't see you having a snowball's chance in hell of fixing this."

He turned in the chair, craning his neck to look at her, pain etched in every feature. "Oh God, Rosie, don't say that. Please, don't even think it. I have to get her to believe me. I have nothing without her and the kids."

"Well, the first thing you need to do is get your ass to work. Newton needs to own his shit, no matter what the personal cost is to him. That's only the first Everest you have to scale, but without that, you might as well give up on the rest. Adultery is the one thing Bella can't handle, not after what it did to her family."

"I know. Please Rose, you have to help me." Standing, he hugged his cousin. "I want to talk to her, to see the boys. She'll listen to you. If she's not ready to talk, I'll live with it, but I need to make sure the boys know I still love them, no matter what."

"Jas, my hands are tied. Bella's halfway to Forks by now. She called me when she got on the road. They're spending a few days with Charlie." She squeezed him tight, feeling his pain wash over her and wishing she could offer more comfort. "I can call her, but I don't know that she'll even answer the phone." He nodded into her neck, tears spilling down his cheeks again. Pulling back, Rose took his face in her hands. "I'll help, cuz, but you have to do your part." Brushing aside his tears, she placed a kiss on his cheek. "Besides, it's the week before Christmas; even you deserve a Christmas miracle."

*****DS*****

Bella drove toward Forks, the early morning sun stinging her already burning eyes, brought on by a night of tears and very little sleep. She hadn't told Charlie why she was coming, too embarrassed to admit what had happened, too embarrassed to admit that, like him, she hadn't been enough, either. The boys dozed in the back seat, their excitement over seeing their grandfather not enough to combat the lulling movements of the car. School had finished the day before, Christmas was a week away. She wouldn't let the situation between her and Jasper ruin their holiday. She glanced at them in the rearview mirror, her fears for their little family bringing on another wave of grief.

Her hand pounded on the steering wheel while sobs shook her shoulders. She thought by now shed be cried out, that she'd have ran out of tears, but they still fell. Like she'd promised, Bella called Rose when she got on the road. Rosalie had told her that Emmett had talked to Jasper; that things may not be what they seemed, but until she talked to him she wouldn't know. Bella told her that she'd be turning off her phone the minute she pulled in Charlie's driveway and it would stay that way until she headed home. She needed time to think, to figure out what to do next. Jasper's betrayal had shattered her heart and their family. Distance would give her clarity and a chance to catch her breath, while she weighed her options.

She'd wanted to believe him, wanted to believe he hadn't done it, but the evidence had been there. Besides, there was that woman. Bella shuddered at the memory of the icy, sultry voice that had answered the phone when she called it from Jasper's phone the evening before. The remembered "Hello, lover, I wasn't expecting to hear from you," hit her in the gut again, the pain real and wrenching an anguished gasp from her lips. He'd lied, her mind screamed over and over, while her heart begged her to wait. She couldn't do it. She wouldn't let herself hurt the way Charlie had when her mother bounced in and out of their lives, her numerous affairs slowly eating away at their family. She had to be stronger than that for the twins.

Turning into Charlie's driveway, she shifted into park, sent Rose a text that she'd arrived, then shut off her phone. By the time she'd roused the boys and stepped from the car, Charlie had reached her door. His searching eyes didn't miss the shiny tracks on her face or the way she held her arm across her stomach, as if trying to keep from falling apart. Hustling the boys into the house with promises of a new game for the XBox, he told them to leave the bags until later. Once they were gone, he pulled Bella into his arms, smoothing her hair and whispering promises that things would be all right, while she once again let the reality of her discovery overcome her.

Charlie held her until the tears subsided, then sent her upstairs to wash her face and lay down, while he dealt with the boys. With a wordless nod she snuggled close for one more hug, then did as he said. Charlie shook his head. Bella had stuttered out the story in between the sobs, and though she seemed convinced, the pieces weren't adding up for Charlie. Jasper wasn't Renee; he'd settled into married life with joy, embracing every part of it. He wanted to call his son-in-law and get the whole story. Bella wasn't one to jump to conclusions, but he knew how much Renee's choices had hurt her over the years. Maybe, just maybe, her perspective was too skewed to hear the facts.

While the boys played he popped frozen waffles in the toaster, adding syrup and glasses of juice to the table while they cooked. Once he had them settled at the table to eat, he stepped outside to make a few phone calls. Jasper's cell phone, the source of all the chaos, was off. He tried Rosalie's next, having saved her number years before—during Bella's pregnancy—in case of an emergency. When she answered, he told her that Bella had told him what happened, then asked for her take on things. Rose told him she knew a bit more, after a conversation with Jasper, but it wasn't her place to say anything. Passing on Jasper's work number, Rose also assured him that while the evidence seemed damning, there was more to the story.

"Charlie, Jasper's biggest fault in all of this is being too gullible for his own good. He trusted a friend and it bit him in the ass. He's my cousin, I love him, but Bella is my best friend, the sister of my heart. My feelings mirror hers when it comes to adultery. He didn't do it."

Holding onto that assurance, Charlie thanked her, then dialed the number Rosalie had given him. Jasper's secretary answered, connecting the call after he identified himself. He heard the trepidation in the younger man's voice when he picked up the line.

"Charlie? Before you say anything, I promise you, it's not true."

"So your cousin tells me, but my daughter is upstairs in bed with her heart broken by the man who promised me he'd take care of her forever. I'd suggest you start at the beginning of the story, son, and remember, I'm licensed to carry a gun in the state of Washington."

Jasper repeated the same story he'd already told twice, sticking to the facts and trying to keep his emotions in check. Charlie allowed him to talk, offering few interjections. When Jasper finished, he waited, his fingers white from clenching the phone, knowing that Charlie could sway the balance in getting Bella back. He heard a sigh on the other end of the line and prepared himself for the certain tirade about to be delivered.

"That's one helluva story, Jasper, and you are in a big mess. So, what's this Mike guy have to say for himself? I gotta say, you need to pick better friends, son." Jasper's shoulders slumped with relief. Charlie's next words, though, brought some of the fear back. "I'm not going to interfere here. You kids need to work this out between yourselves. I'm not even gonna tell Bells we talked; she may just take off my head. She said her phone's turned off and she's not turning it back on until she figures out what to do, so don't expect to be able to reach her for the next few days. You need to get your ducks in a row. Then, when she's ready, you'll get your chance to talk, but you may only get one, so you better make it good. I'm thinking she will be here until Monday or Tuesday. At the latest, she'll be home on Wednesday evening, for Christmas Eve. Do what you need to. In the meantime, I'll give her the support and love she needs."

"I'm working on it."

"I hope so. I expect to see you when I come to Seattle on Christmas Day."

Thanking his father-in-law, Jasper hung up and tackled the work on his desk. He'd hunted down Mike the minute he entered the office that morning, only to be told by that he'd taken the day off. With a desk piled with reports that needed to be completed by Monday, Jasper couldn't leave, but he planned to bring the man to ground right after work and confront him about the mess he'd created. The plan proved to be easier in theory than in practice.

Leaving the office a little after seven that night, Jasper had tried calling Mike before he left. The cell phone went unanswered, and calls to the house were equally futile. On the way back to Rose and Emmett's, he drove by the Newton's. The driveway was empty, the porch light and tree on but the house otherwise dark. Cursing his luck, he returned to his cousin's house to pick up his things. He wasn't giving up, and he wasn't moving out. He'd go home and wait for Bella there.

The weekend passed in a blur of phone calls and plans. He tracked down Mike on Sunday, demanding they meet somewhere to talk about a situation he needed his help with. Jasper wouldn't tell him what it was about, fearing Mike would bail, forcing him to go to Lauren. While Mike needed to come clean, Jasper wouldn't be the catalyst to that confrontation. The two men met at a local diner, taking an out of the way table. Ordering coffee, Jasper waited until the waitress returned with it, before launching into Mike about what had happened.

After two hours of begging, pleading, then threatening, Jasper finally had what he needed. Knowing Bella might not listen to the message, he still had Mike call her phone and confess everything that had happened. Mike left the diner a broken man, knowing Lauren would find out the truth soon enough, Bella would see to that. He'd been borrowing Jasper's phone because Lauren already suspected something was going on. He'd denied it all, then took measures to cover his tracks, while still hanging onto his affair. Jasper advised him to figure out what he wanted, then tell Lauren the truth before his world imploded. The only silver lining to that fiasco would be that there were no children to be hurt if—or when—Lauren threw him out.

Jasper itched to call Charlie. They talked at least once a day, the older man keeping him up to speed on what was happening with his family. Their last conversation had left him in tears. Bella had told the boys that things would be different when they went home, that Daddy wouldn't be there, but he still loved them. The boys had whispered to Charlie that their Mommy cried at night, thinking they couldn't hear. They asked him to help them write a letter to Santa, asking him to make Mommy and Daddy happy. Jasper had heard the emotion in Charlie's voice when he relayed the story. Charlie told him that he'd assured the boys that Santa would do everything he could to make things better, then made sure Bella saw the letter they wrote. It was the first time he saw her doubt her decision.

The pain of hearing that Bella had already told the boys he'd moved out, along with knowing that she still wasn't ready to talk, left him feeling lost. Having Mike's confession in Bella's voicemail was all well and good, if she would listen. Charlie had been overjoyed, believing that Bella would be ready to listen when she returned home. The proof of Jasper's innocence would help tip the scales in his favor. Charlie had warned him to be cautious, though. Yes, Bella had overreacted and jumped to conclusions, but the facts had been enough to convince a lot of others. It was only their faith in Jasper that had allowed them to dispel disbelief and give him the time to explain. While Bella had seemed to lack that faith, Charlie was seeing signs of her wavering on her convictions. The two of them had spoken at length about marriage and commitment, and Charlie had pointed out, in a roundabout way, how different Jasper had been from her mother. The proof might not be needed if Jasper gave her time to absorb the story.

The inaction killed him, though. He felt like he wasn't doing enough to make things right. He contemplated driving up to Forks and confronting Bella at Charlie's, but he worried that would only make things worse. Instead, he shopped. An unexpected bonus from work enabled him to do something for Bella he'd always promised, but they hadn't been able to afford before. Enlisting Emmett and Rosalie's help, he set to work. By Tuesday evening, the transformation was done, it merely waited the unveiling. Closing the door on the spare room, now converted to a home office for Bella, complete with a paint job, new computer, printer, and furniture, he settled in the living room for Charlie's nightly call.

*****DS*****

Waiting anxiously in the living room, Jasper paced, checking the time repeatedly on the TV. Bella would be home any minute. Would she panic when she saw the truck in the driveway? Had she listened to her messages? Could she forgive him? The sound of the car in the driveway, followed by the gleeful shouts of the boys running for the door stopped him in his tracks. The time had come to face the music.

Jackson and Monroe tumbled through the door, scrambling to hug their father. Kneeling down, Jasper scooped them into his arms, hugging them until they squirmed to be let go. Their voices lifted louder, trying to be heard over each other while they asked why he was there, why Mommy had said he'd left, was he coming home. Over their tousled curls he met Bella's eyes, noting the dark circles underneath them, certain they matched the ones under his own. He shushed the boys.

"Okay, calm down." The boys settled, looking at him expectantly. "Santa's coming; let's get you guys to bed." He looked at Bella, silently asking permission to handle it. Without a word she nodded, turning toward the kitchen. He held onto hope; she hadn't thrown him out yet, but then again, she wouldn't in front of the boys. He allowed Monroe to clamber up on his back and tucked Jackson under his arm, football-style and carried them to their room. Dumping them on the bed, he helped them get ready for bed, take care of their bedtime routine, and read them a story. Once he'd kissed them goodnight, tucking the covers around their chests, he watched over them while they drifted off to sleep. Placing another kiss on each little brow, he stroked their hair, then left the room, pulling the door closed behind him.

Jasper found Bella on the sofa, her cell phone in her hand, while she stared at the Christmas tree. Even after ten years of marriage, she remained as beautiful as she'd been the day he met her. Watching her from the hallway, he tried to figure out what had happened. Through the years, they'd struggled with hard times, but they had let their love help them through it. When had she lost faith in him? Clearing his throat to alert her to his presence, he walked over to where she sat.

"Bells?" She looked up at him, confusion swimming in her eyes. "I know you told me to leave, but…" His voice trailed off when tears began to roll down her cheeks.

He ached to hold her, but settled for sitting next to her on the sofa. The minute he did, she reached for his hand, grasping it tightly, while she studied his face. Taking a chance, Jasper wiped the tears from her cheek, then rested his hand on the side of her face, his thumb stroking away the tears that continued to fall.

"I'm so sorry, Jas. You tried to tell me that night, and I wouldn't listen. I jumped to conclusions, I didn't believe in you—in us." She turned her face into his hand, kissing his palm.

"You heard the message?" He wrapped an arm around Bella to pull her closer, settling her head against his hammering heart.

"I heard them all, but they wouldn't have mattered. I'd already made up my mind to call you so we could talk before then. The messages only saved you the trouble of having to repeat it all again. Can you ever forgive me?" She looked up at him, her lashes still wet with tears, her eyes shining with hope.

He answered her with a kiss, pouring ever bit of the longing and undying love that he had for her into it, accepting the apology and love she offered. They spent the waning hours of Christmas Eve on the sofa, holding each other, talking, and making promises for the future, while calming the others' fears, until Bella drifted off to sleep in his arms. The whirring of the cuckoo clock chains sliding through the gears filled the quiet room, preceding the little bird chirping the time. Twelve times his little head pooped out of the clock. Midnight. It was Christmas. Picking Bella up, Jasper stood and woke his miracle with a kiss.

"Merry Christmas, darlin'."


As one of the organizers of the Toys4Tots Christmas Wishes compilation, I can't express my thanks enough to the 30+ authors who donated their time and talents to this worth cause. We raised $750 in donations to help the Toys4Tots organization continue their efforts to ensure every child experiences the joy of receiving a gift from Santa on Christmas. We will be running the campaign again this year and have already received confirmations from many authors who will be joining us again. I hope you will consider it for your donations this coming winter. I will make sure the information is available on my profile for anyone who is interested.