Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any similarities to the original characters or themes from the books or media franchise are used here for entertainment purposes only.

Rated for serious (not really) adult content and language.

WARNING: This story will contain drama. This could be, but may not pertain to, the drama surrounding a couple entering a relationship with a twenty-two year age gap and how those around them will react to this news. Please consider this before continuing.

A/N: I know I had a Bella-Edward-Bella-Edward routine going chapter-to-chapter, but this chapter was much better told in Bella's POV, so we'll hear from Bella again.

The site for downloading fics was WWW FLAGFIC COM. Sorry about that, guys. I didn't realize until after the fact that FFn deleted it from my AN!

In other exciting news: Forgive me, Father, for I will Sin has been recommended as for one of the Fic of the Week entries over on the Lemonade Stand! How fun! I've had a couple of stories in the past recommended, and even had one in the top five once, and it's always a pleasant surprise! To be grouped in with some truly amazing and talented authors and their stories is always so flattering and humbling! So, if you've got the time, please head on over to the site and check out all the entries. And don't forget to vote for your favourites!

And, here we go.

Chapter 6 | Home for the Holidays

Over the next few weeks, Edward and I prepare for Christmas at my dad's. There are certain rules that we have to set between us in order to keep our relationship under wraps. Yes, I feel awful plotting to keep something that makes me this deliriously happy from my father, but I know—we both do—that it's for the best. He won't understand right away, and neither of us wants to upset him this close to the holidays. I am confident that his desire to see his little girl happy will eventually win out over the initial urge to be upset about this, but it'll take time to get there. And we'll give him as much time as he needs.

Sure, it's going to be difficult to pretend like nothing is going on between us, but I'm really hoping we'll be successful. I think I worry most because whenever we're in the room together, it feels as though the air is charged with the energy and desire for one another, and everything except the two of us seems to just slip away. What if others pick up on this?

So, in hopes of keeping that from happening, rule number one is to try to keep as much distance between us as possible without it seeming unnatural. Edward and I have always been close before embarking on this relationship, so if we avoid each other entirely, that's sure to raise a suspicious eyebrow or two, as well.

You see the dilemma? Get too close and chummy, and risk people suspecting we're sleeping together. Avoid each other entirely, and also risk people suspecting we're sleeping together.

Rule number two—which kind of goes hand-in-hand with rule number one: no sex. Since we'll both be staying under Dad's roof, and he usually has a few days off around Christmas—barring any emergencies that demand he go into the department—it'd be too risky. In fact, we're lucky we didn't get caught at Thanksgiving—though there was that close call the day that Tanya showed up where my dad almost caught us making out in the kitchen.

We're grown–ups, though. We can abstain for a few days. I'm sure of it . . . Though, if I'm being entirely honest, we haven't really been able to do this successfully since we got together. Even the weekend when my dad showed up, the result of us not being together those three days was an explosion of sexual frustration as soon as Edward touched me. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; we'd just have to be careful to keep that sexual tension in check until we're sure it's safe.

Which circles right back up to rule number one: keeping our distance without being too damn obvious.

This roundabout way of thinking makes my head hurt a little, and I come to realize that this is going to be a lot more difficult than I'd originally thought. But not impossible.

Edward arrives at my apartment at nine in the morning on Christmas Eve. He'd wanted to leave the day before, but wound up having a few things to do at work, which kept him later. This means we didn't get around to getting each other out of our systems (repeatedly) like we'd planned, if you know what I mean. We'd figured that if we had one last really good romp in the sack before heading to Forks that we'd be able to follow our carefully laid out rules a little better. That plan was shot to hell the minute Edward called to tell me he wouldn't be coming over.

I've just finished packing my bag when there's a knock on the door before it opens. "Hey," Edward greets, closing the door behind him. "You ready?"

I drop my bag by the door and wrap my arms around his neck. Hey, I'm not breaking any rules; the "no touching" doesn't take effect until we pass that "Welcome to Forks" sign. I'll take full advantage up until I absolutely have to stop. "Just finished," I inform him, tilting my head toward his for a kiss.

He pulls me close, his arms circling my waist as he appeases my silent request by gently pressing his lips to mine. "How was your night?"

Pushing my lower lip out into a playful pout, I sigh. "Lonely . . . But things are starting to look up."

Edward chuckles breathily when I press my lips to his neck, working my way up and along his jaw. "Well, if we don't head out now, there'll be a hell of a lot more things 'looking up.'"

I nibble on his ear lobe. "Who says that's not on my itinerary?"

"Bella." His voice is low and gruff, a warning that he's on the verge of losing control, and I take delight in my triumph. "We really don't have time."

"Just give me three minutes," I tell him. "I promise it'll be the best three minutes of your existence." And, with that, I hear him lock the deadbolt behind his back before he grabs my ass, lifting me off the ground so my feet dangle, and carries me to the bed.

Of course, three minutes turns into thirty awfully quick, but neither one of us seem too saddened by this fact. We're too caught up in each other to really care, quite honestly, and I lose all sense of time as his hands explore my skin. His lips and teeth follow the path his hands make over my body as he strips both of us naked and takes me in almost every way imaginable. Once both of us are satiated for the moment and breathing heavily through the wake of our orgasms, we hop in the shower. Naturally, this brings on a round of hot and steamy shower sex where Edward has my back pressed against the cool tile wall and my legs wrapped tightly around his waist as he thrusts into me until I'm screaming out his name. Say goodbye to another thirty minutes on the clock

If we keep this up, we won't be arriving at my dad's until sometime late tonight. This means we'd miss Dad's Christmas Eve party, and I'd hate to risk that considering we've been throwing it together for as long as I can remember.

We get dressed and head down to the car after peeling ourselves away from each other. I wish I could say this was merely a figure of speech, but considering we'd just spent the last hour with our sweaty bodies pressed so tightly together that not even a breeze could pass between us, I'd say it's a fairly accurate description.

Once we're out of the city, and Edward doesn't have to shift gears every time we hit a red light, he takes my hand in his; apparently he's going to take advantage of being in contact with me right up until we hit that Forks sign, too. Gotta love him.

"So, did your dad tell you that Sue and her kids would be joining us?" Edward asks once we hit the highway.

Smiling, I lean my head back on the headrest and stare at him. "I figured as much," I reply. "It's been obvious for some time that he's had feelings for Sue. I think it's great."

"Yeah, my sister will be happy," Edward announces. "She's been saying for a while now that they're perfect for each other. She'll be thrilled when she sees them together."

I snap out of my ogle-fest and lift my head, the very real possibility of our not being able to keep this secret finally coming to light. "Alice is coming tonight." It's not a question, because I already knew this since Dad had told me he was inviting her.

"Yeah, but you already knew that, sweetheart," Edward says, confused.

Don't get me wrong; I love Alice. She's the best. She's always taken me shopping, and she was there for me through my teen years when I had questions about sex and boys. Mom and Dad split up when I was seven. Neither one of them harboured any ill-will toward the other, and everything was pretty amicable, right down to who retained custody of me. They'd presented me with my options—Forks with Dad or Phoenix with Mom—and I made my choice to live with Dad in Forks, visiting Mom whenever school would allow for it. I'd heard stories growing up about parents who split up, and it all sounded so . . . ugly. Even watching Edward and Tanya go through this—without children, even—makes me so thankful that my parents were both grown-up enough to admit they just weren't meant to be together forever.

They're both happy now, and that's all that matters.

Because I was so young when they divorced, my mom wasn't around to talk with me about sex and boys when I was ready. Sure, my dad tried to be all "hip and happening" (his words, not mine), but there was just something deeply disturbing about your dad trying to have "the talk" with you. That's where Alice came in.

She's always been deeply intuitive about what's happening around her, and this is what worries me. I don't know how she does it, but she's always been able to read me like a book, asking about the boy I'm seeing before I've even told her I've met someone.

And now she's going to be at my dad's house. With Edward and me. Who are together.

We're so screwed.

"She's going to figure it out," I inform him, panic rolling around in my stomach and making me more than a little uneasy. "She'll know something's up. She'll say something."

Sensing my panic, Edward pulls the car over onto the shoulder of the highway, putting his hazard lights on before turning to me. "Hey, hey, hey," he soothes. "Everything is going to be fine."

Sadly, I don't hear his words of assurance right away. Various scenes of how Dad might find out and react play out in my mind instead. "We were fools to think we'd get away with this. We should have just told him a few weeks ago. He could have been okay with it by now." Realistically, I'm not entirely sure I believe this myself, but I know that if he finds out now, it'll ruin his Christmas and possibly sour the holiday for him altogether. What have I done?

"Bella, listen to me," Edward says, reaching over and forcing my eyes to his. Once they lock, I feel a small wave of calm wash over me, and I exhale slowly. "Yes, she'll probably suspect you're seeing someone—and she's already told me she suspects as much with me—but if we go about like everything is normal between us, that's as far as she'll get." He pauses, his thumb moving along my jaw soothingly. "But, we can tell him when we get there, if you want."

The calming tone of his voice continues to soothe me, my rationality returns, and I shake my head. "No . . . I mean, yes, I want to tell him. Keeping something this big from him is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But I just don't think telling him now is a good idea." I second-guess myself again, so I ask, "Do you? You've known him way longer, and in a way I don't. Am I wrong?"

Edward's expression turns sombre, and he shrugs. "It's tough to say. I definitely think that if he finds out on his own, it could be so much worse than if we just tell him. But I don't think you're wrong in wanting to wait until the New Year. He's got so much planned over the next few days, and there'll always be company over. We need to tell him alone . . ." Edward pauses, and then adds on, "And when he's not so close to any of his weapons."

I laugh, and when Edward's eyes soften, I know this was the reaction he was hoping for. "So we stick to the plan," I say, feeling a little bit of my confidence in our decision returning.

Once things have been resolved, Edward puts the car in gear and we pull back out onto the highway when it's safe. Because we're already running a little behind, Edward decides to drive a little over the speed limit. The roads aren't so bad, and there's very little traffic in our way, so we figure it'll be pretty smooth sailing.

Until we see the flashing red and blue lights in our rearview window.

It would figure that an hour and a half away from our destination would have Washington State's finest pulling us over. Edward puts the car into park and rolls his window down, waiting for the cop behind us to approach. He grabs his license from his wallet and his registration from the glove box, having it ready for when it's requested.

The crunch of gravel and snow outside is heard as the highway patrol officer approaches, and then he's right outside Edward's window, leaning over and peering inside. "License and registration, please." Edward hands it to him, and the officer thanks him. "So, where are you headed to in such a rush, Mr. Cullen?"

"Forks, Officer," Edward replies respectfully.

The officer peers into the car, his eyes catching mine. "Speeding sets a bad example for your daughter there, don't you think?"

Inhaling sharply, my eyes widen in shock as they move to Edward. He's still facing the officer, but I can see that the man's assumption bothers him by the way his jaw clenches as he reaches for his ID and the ticket. But when he fails to correct the officer, I step up.

"He's not my father, actually." Sure, I could probably be a little more polite, but I'm mildly insulted. How dare he just assume this? Yes, there's a definite age gap between us, but it's not like our situation is entirely uncommon. Maybe girls don't go around seducing their father's best friends on a regular basis—or maybe they do, I don't know—but it's not like a twenty-plus-year age gap is unheard of. I mean, you can even pick up any celeb magazine and see a laundry list of names in a similar situation.

Celebs; they're just like us, indeed.

The officer continues to look between us, possibly trying to figure out the nature of our relationship. Unable to take his scrutinizing gaze anymore, I reach over and take Edward's hand in mine, being sure to go that extra mile and thread our fingers together. It's a brazen move that I'm not sure will be fully embraced by Edward, but I want the officer to eat his words.

Never one to disappoint, Edward turns to me and smiles—and not one of those shit-eating grins like we've just put this presumptuous officer in his place, but one that I've grown accustomed to seeing on an almost daily basis these last few weeks. This is my smile, and it's full of admiration as it reaches his eyes. He brings my hand to his lips and kisses it, my cheeks warming slightly.

The second realization crosses the officer's face, he clears his throat, and we turn our attention back to him. "My apologies," he tells us, his voice nervous but sincere. "Just, uh, pay attention to the posted speed limits."

"Of course, Officer," Edward agrees, sounding somewhat smug now. "Won't happen again."

Once the officer is back in his cruiser and he pulls back out onto the highway, Edward follows suit, and I pick up the ticket. It's not too bad, but I offer to pay for half since we're road trip buddies. After a lot of his "no, you're nots" versus my "yes, I ams," I win.

"That officer was a dick," I blurt out, putting the ticket and Edward's registration in his glove box so we don't misplace them.

"Maybe, but it was an honest mistake," he replies, defending the officer. "I mean, I am the same age as your father."

I know he's right, but I'm still pissed, and I can tell he is, too; he's just trying a lot harder than I am not to dwell on it. Maybe I should follow his lead.

We change the topic of conversation back to the party tonight. I'm excited to see everyone again, even though it's only been a few weeks since I saw most of them at Thanksgiving. And while Alice and Jasper both live in Seattle, too, it's rare I ever see them with our schedules never lining up.

The remainder of the trip goes by pretty quickly, and when we slip by the "Welcome to Forks" sign, Edward and I break our rule. But only for a couple extra minutes. Can we really be faulted? We're going to have to spend several days without any major contact, so what's a little hand-holding?

By the time we roll to a stop outside Dad's house at two, we're feeling pretty good about the plan. Or, as good as can be expected. Sue's car is already parked next to Dad's cruiser, and the Blacks are here, also. Other than Alice and Jasper, I'm not sure who else Dad's invited tonight, but I know he usually likes to go all out at Christmas time. It's his favourite time of year—hence why I can't risk him finding out about Edward and me right now.

Edward shuts the car off, and I look toward the house, taking several deep, calming breaths. I tell myself over and over again that everything will be fine. I feel a light touch on my shoulder—an innocent touch that's not uncommon between the two of us—and I look over at Edward. He looks just as nervous as I am.

"You ready?" he asks.

Smiling, I nod and unclip my seatbelt. "About as ready as I'll ever be."

We grab our bags from the trunk of his car and head up the front steps together. I take one last steeling breath and push the door open. Dad's got all the decorations up, a fire roaring in the fireplace, and the tree in the living room right in front of the big window, covered in a variety of store-bought as well as hand-made (by me) ornaments that we'd acquired over the years. I take a second to let the nostalgia of the holiday pour over me, but it's short-lived as everyone emerges. Jake takes our bags from us and sets them down near the stairs, while Seth and Leah both chatter on a mile a minute about everything they've been doing to get ready for tonight. Sue steps forward, wrapping me in her warm embrace before Billy takes a turn, and then finally my dad. I hug him just a little bit longer than everyone else because I miss him that much more.

"You guys are late," Dad says, looking between Edward and me.

Before he can ask why and force me to lie—poorly, I might add—I shrug. "Sorry. My fault. I had a few last minute things to do." What? It's not an outright lie. I did have things to do if I was going to successfully keep my hands to myself over the next few days.

"No worries," Dad assures me. "Seth, Leah, and Jake have been very helpful."

I run my things upstairs to my room, and when I turn around after hanging the garment bag in my closet, I'm surprised to see Edward in the doorway. "What are you doing up here?" I ask in a hushed tone.

He sets his bag down next to the door and smiles. He's not staying in here, is he? I mean, that would be awesome, but would make our plan harder to stick to. "Your dad said I should stash my things up here. He doesn't want them in the way once everyone else arrives."

Disappointment floods my veins, and I nod. "Right. Makes sense."

Reading my expression, he smirks slyly. "What did you think was happening?"

The deep tenor of his low voice sends a quiver beneath my skin. "I figured maybe Dad was so oblivious he was going to make us bunk together. That, or he figured it out and is just that much cooler about it than I thought he'd be."

Edward laughs, and I can see that he wants to reach out for me. I want this too, but I know it can only lead to one conclusion, so I look away and run my fingers through my hair. "We should head down and help set up for the party."

Edward stays in the doorway, and as I brush past him, he lightly grabs my arm, his thumb gliding over the crook of my elbow slowly. That same familiar charge of desire shoots through me, and I look up into his deep green eyes, breathing deeply. He's far enough away that anyone who'd come upon our exchange might not suspect more than a regular conversation between us, but close enough that I can feel the heat of his body and the warmth of his breath on my skin.

"This isn't how I wanted us to spend our first Christmas together," he whispers, his eyes moving between mine, shining with remorse.

Smiling in an effort to mask the desire I feel in such a close proximity, I shrug. "It's hardly our first." Pausing, I decide that if he can break the rules and make me feel all warm and fuzzy—even if he doesn't realize he's doing it—then so can I. Leaning in as close as I can without running the risk of throwing myself at him, I tilt my face up to his ear and whisper, "And it won't be our last. We can celebrate the way you'd envisioned when we get back to the city." I remove myself from the door and turn back to him as he stands there, stunned. "You coming?"

His eyes widen, and I laugh when I realize my dirty double entendre. "Not what I meant, but also a good question, I suppose."

"You're not going to make these next few days easy, are you?" he asks, his expression telling me that he might just be up to the challenge.

"I'm not trying to make this difficult, I swear," I assure him honestly, holding back a laugh that could draw attention to us, even up here. "I promise I'll be on my best behaviour from here on out, okay?"

Once we agree on reinstating the rules—not that we really broke them all that badly—we head back downstairs to help with the party preparations. Turns out, Sue had been busy all morning preparing the food, leaving a few things for me to do since they were, as my dad told her, my specialty. It was a tray of homemade, no-bake treats. I swear a monkey could make them if they followed the recipe cards. But Sue agreed to leave them for me while she got the rest of the food together.

While we work together in the kitchen, Dad and Edward head out to the liquor store for the beer, wine, and various hard liquors we'll need tonight. It suddenly occurs to me that Edward and I should have probably set a drink max. The last time the two of us were wasted, we'd unknowingly messed around in our sleep. I'll have to talk to him when he gets back. If we can find a moment alone together.

When they return, they grab the folding tables from the basement and set them up in the living room so we can lay out all the food and drinks. I begin to realize that maybe Edward and I didn't have to worry so much about this because we've both been so damn busy since arriving that we've barely even looked at each other, let alone talked.

Once my platter of goodies is ready, I take them into the living room to put them on one of the tables against the wall, stopping dead in my tracks when I see Dad and Sue canoodling on the couch. It's not something I expected to walk in on, but it's not completely surprising, either, considering the flirting they've done the last two years.

They don't notice me at first, but then again, I don't stand there and stare for more than a split second before I go back to my task of putting the plate out. Dad must hear it hit the table, because he turns around to look at me, his arm still casually draped around Sue as though it's the most natural thing in the world, while she laughs into his shoulder about something.

"Hey, Bells. How's everything going?"

"Good," I tell him. "Everything's going really well. You two go back to . . . whatever it is you were talking about." I offer them a big smile that tells them I'm more than happy for the both of them. And I am . . . but I'm also kind of hoping Dad will remember this moment and take it into consideration when Edward and I finally tell him about us. I won't put too much stock into that idea, but I can hold onto a little bit of hope for the very slight possibility.

It's almost seven o'clock when I run upstairs to change into the red dress I bought for the party tonight. While we're pretty laid back most of the time, we like to dress up for our Christmas parties. I always buy a new dress for the occasion, and this year, I may have spent a little more than I normally would. But only because this year I have someone I'm dressing up for—even though no one else knows this. I lock my bedroom door and strip down, pulling the red chiffon dress from the garment bag I'd hung in my closet. I pull it on, putting the slightly off-shoulder straps in place. I'd bought the dress, not only because it hugged my upper body all the way down to my hips before it flowed out in a soft A-line skirt to my knees. The neckline was high enough it wasn't trashy, sloping into a very shallow scoop that sat against my chest while showing off the lines of my collarbone and shoulders. It's a classy dress, and I have a feeling that Edward is going to lose his mind.

Which, in hindsight, I'm starting to think, maybe, this isn't the best time to test that theory. Shit.

It's too late, now; it's the only dress I have here, and every other piece of clothing is far too casual for tonight. It'll have to do. I'll apologize to him later if I have to. After getting dressed, I pull my hair away from my face, save for a few face-framing tendrils that refuse to cooperate, but they look all right, so I leave them instead of fighting an impossible battle. I've never been a big makeup wearer, usually only bothering with the basics, but tonight, I apply eye shadow for a dramatic smoky-eye effect and a red-tinted lip gloss. Once I've finished up, I smooth the lines of my dress one last time and look in the mirror before grabbing the solid black pumps I brought along. I'm just pulling the second shoe on when there's a light knock on my door.

"Bella, it's me," Edward calls softly through the door. "I just need my things so I can get ready."

Smiling, I swing the door open to let him in. His eyes widen as they travel down my body, and he inhales a slightly ragged breath. "You look . . . that dress . . ." He's at a loss for words; score one for me. And also, crap, because, while I'm thoroughly enjoying his reaction, I still worry that the dress is a mistake when it comes to keeping our secret.

"Thanks," I say, a soft blush filling my cheeks.

His eyes snap back to mine, full of seriousness and desire. "No, really," he says, lowering his voice. "Wow."

I can see that he wants to kiss me—I want that, too—but before either of us gets swept up in the moment, I grab his things and hold them up between us. "Here's your stuff. I'm done with the room, so please feel free to change in here."

As I descend the stairs to the main floor, I feel Edward's eyes on me for a few seconds, and I shoot him a quick glance over my shoulder before my door clicks shut. Part of me regrets us not manning up and telling Dad about us right after Thanksgiving, because maybe things would be different tonight. Maybe Dad would let us bunk together (doubtful), and maybe he'd look at us and smile as I looped my arm through Edward's and laughed at all his jokes (ha!). Deep down, I know that had we told him after Thanksgiving, the possibility of tonight even happening would be low, but I'm still curious about the "what ifs."

I give the food and beverage tables another once-over as the doorbell rings, signalling the arrival of the first few guests. Dad's invited a few of his coworkers who I've only met a couple of times, and Sue's invited her sister and her family, as well as a few people from her workplace. The Newtons show up minus their son, Mike, who's at his girlfriend's parents' house tonight. The Stanleys were invited but couldn't make it, which I already knew because Jess wouldn't stop talking about her Christmas in Mexico. Was I jealous? Maybe a little at first, but not enough to want to give up my yearly tradition with my dad.

Dad turns on the music as the doorbell rings again, and I offer to answer it. I don't even contain my squeal of excitement when I open the door to find Alice and Jasper there, and I wrap my arms around her, pulling her into the house.

"Alice! It's so good to see you!" I momentarily forget how nervous I was to have her here, instead letting my excitement take over.

She returns my embrace, laughing. "It's nice to see you, too, Bella. We really do need to make a habit of seeing each other more than a few times a year. How've you been?"

We pull apart, and she shrugs her jacket off, handing it to a waiting Jasper. Slowly, her eyebrows knit together and her dark brown eyes search mine carefully. Just like that, my nerves return full force, and I squirm like a worm on a hook under her scrutinizing stare. "I've, uh, been good. You?"

Then, out of nowhere, her expression changes from curious to excited. "You've met someone!" she squeals, drawing the attention of a few guests. Including my dad. "You're going to tell me everything!"

"Tell you everything about what?"

I turn toward the sound of Edward's voice, and practically combust upon seeing him dressed in a nice pair of jeans, white dress shirt, and red tie. He looks positively lickable, and I struggle to keep my composure. Aside from wanting to devour him, the first thing to go through my crazy mind is that we match. Unknowingly, we'd coordinated our wardrobes.

"About the guy she's been seeing," Alice chirps.

Her reply catches him off guard, and I don't know what I expect his reaction to be, but it sure as hell isn't slipping on the stair and stumbling slightly. He manages to catch himself, but not before both Alice and I gasp and reach out for him.

He laughs it off, his face reddening a little, and runs his hands through his hair. "Man, that last step came out of nowhere, huh?" He slaps his hands together, a look of resolve on his face as he sets out to change the topic. "Now, who wants a drink?"

Shit. I still need to talk to him about us not drinking too much. I look around at all the guests and decide that a couple now can't hurt, so I follow him as he leads Alice and Jasper to the living room to get them set up.

With my glass of red wine in-hand, I go around the room and mingle. Naturally, I catch both Seth and Jake with a couple bottles of beer and have to take them away. It's not that I'm entirely innocent when it comes to having a good time before the ripe old age of twenty-one, but if my dad were to catch them . . . well, shit would hit the fan. We can't condone underage drinking in the home of the police chief. It just can't happen.

After talking with the Newtons, I migrate my way back to where Dad and Sue are talking with Edward, Jasper, and Alice by the Christmas tree. Edward looks uncomfortable, and naturally, my curiosity piques. I slip between Dad and Alice, standing across their little circle from Edward and shooting him a quick smile.

"What're we talking about?" I ask, taking a sip of my second glass of wine. My arms and legs have that delightful warmth running through them, signalling that I'm well on my way to being a little bit drunk, and my head feels only slightly fuzzy.

Dad barks a laugh, and Edward inhales deeply. The look in his eyes as he averts them tells me that he wishes this conversation would be over, and I don't understand his reaction until my dad opens his mouth. "Remember when I was in the city a few weeks ago? Well, after I went to your place to find you'd gone out, I decided to stop by Edward's place to see if he wanted to go for dinner . . ."

Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.

". . . and I'd arrived at the worst possible time. Apparently he's met someone."

"Not apparently," Alice piped up, making Edward groan and my palms sweat around my glass. "I've noticed he's been acting differently, but he refuses to say anything about her."

I repeat: oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.

I glance around the room, trying to remain nonchalant about all of this, but my heart pounds like a jackhammer against my ribs, and my mouth feels like it's full of cotton balls. Not even finishing my wine seems to be helping. When my eyes catch Jasper's, I smile weakly, but he eyes me almost as intensely as Alice had earlier, so I decide to throw them off. Or, I hope that's what I do.

"Well, who is she?" I ask, really hoping that no one notices the tremble in my voice.

Edward's gaze snaps to mine so hard, I fear he might get whiplash. "I'm sorry?"

"Well, it's been a few weeks, right? Is it serious?" I'm not saying any of this in hopes he'll answer, I just don't think that my remaining silent on the matter will help us keep the fact that I'm his mystery woman a secret.

"Serious . . ." he says, almost uncertain if this is something he should attempt to dance around. "I suppose it's showing promise."

Dad laughs, taking a swig of his beer. "Well, you should have brought her! I think it's safe to say we're all curious to meet her."

I can honestly say that I'm not. I already know she's awesome.

Looking down into his glass of scotch, he exhales a breathy laugh, the outer corners of his eyes crinkling. "She's celebrating the holidays with her dad, actually."

Oh, he's fucking hilarious. A regular stand-up comedian, this guy is.

"And what about you?" Alice says, nudging me with her elbow. "I suspected you were seeing someone, and your dad told me I was right."

I narrow my eyes in my dad's direction. "Oh, did he, now? And what exactly did he say?"

Dad tries to backpedal his way out of this. "Hey, I only told them that I ran into your neighbour the night I was in the city and he told me you were seeing someone."

"An older someone," Alice amends, causing Dad to grimace. Not a good sign for when I tell him about Edward and me, but we'll jump off that bridge when we come to it. "So, is it true?"

"I . . . um . . ." Stammering isn't a good sign, but it's all I've got. If I lie, they'll all see through it. "Well . . . yes?"

Fuck. I don't think I meant to say that out loud. This brings on a bout of nervous rambling.

"He's really great, and I know you'd all really like him." Dad doesn't look so sure, but I know he's wrong. In fact, he's known him longer than I have, so it's not like he can say that Edward's a bad guy, right? Yeah, let's go with that.

"How much older?" Dad asks, his tone serious, all signs of his earlier joking with Edward gone.

Double fuck.

"Does that matter?" I ask. "I mean, if I'm happy, what does age really have to do with it?"

"It matters," Dad says, emphasizing his words, "because he could be taking advantage of you."

"Charlie, stop," Edward says, and I can hear by the tone he uses that he's trying not to be insulted by my dad's assumptions.

"He's not," I tell my dad, my voice low and harsh.

Dad looks across at Edward and shakes his head. "I won't stop. This guy can't find a woman his own age, so he heads out and manipulates young girls? My daughter?"

I roll my eyes at his stupid double standards. I guaran-damn-tee you that if it came out that Edward was dating a much younger woman, Dad would be high-fiving the shit out of him. How do I know this? Because of his previous advice to go out and find some "hot young thing to help him forget about Tanya." But because it's me dating an older guy, it's all of a sudden forbidden and the guy is "taking advantage of me."


Before I can let my simmering anger, or this conversation, escalate to a full-out raging boil, I force a smile and excuse myself. I head over to the table that houses all the booze and find that the wine bottles are empty. Knowing that Dad has a spare fridge in the basement where he stored the alcohol because the one in the kitchen is full, I head down there.

I grab a bottle of wine and set it on the counter, not quite ready to go back upstairs yet. It's quiet down here—a little cool, sure, but I'm okay with that. I'm far enough away from everyone that I can let my dad's words roll off my back and get a hold of my emotions. I know he doesn't mean to be an asshole, and I'm sure this is the last conversation he'd wanted to have during the holidays. But it's out there now, and I handled it as best I could.

"Hey." Even though his tone is soft, concerned, it still startles the hell out of me, and I jump.

"Edward," I say, breathless, as I slap a hand over my fluttering heart. "You scared me. I didn't hear you come down here."

"Sorry," he says, stepping closer to me as I lean against the washing machine across the small room from the spare fridge. "You okay? What he said . . ."

"Was complete bullshit," I finish for him. "I'm not . . . You would never . . ." Apparently I'm still pretty upset about this, and I struggle to breathe through my rising anxiety.

"Never," is all he has to say, and I'm instantly reassured. "He just . . . he worries, Bella. I get that."

"Fine," I agree. "I get it, too. But if you were out there boning some hard-bodied twenty-year-old—"

Edward laughs, distracting me for a minute before he interjects, "Which I am, remember."

Unable to keep the stupid smile from my face, I roll my eyes. "Okay, fine . . . but if he knew that—without knowing who she was—you'd be a fucking hero. What the hell kind of logic is that?"

"Guy logic. Dad logic."

"It's stupid."

Edward steps closer, so close I can feel his warmth and smell his cologne. I want him to pull me in his arms and make this all go away. But we can't . . . can we? I reach out for his hand, and he takes it without a second thought.

"I realize it doesn't make any sense, sweetheart." His thumb moves back and forth over the back of my hand in its usual soothing way. "But we'll do whatever we can to make him understand. Okay?"

I nod, stepping closer to him without thinking, and I place my other hand on his hip. I know I shouldn't, and something in my brain tells me to back the fuck away, but I just can't. I need to be near him right now as much as I need air to breathe.

At least, that's how it feels.

Edward must feel the same way, because his free hand comes up and cradles my jaw tenderly, his long fingers teasing the short hairs at the nape of my neck as he leans down to brush his lips over mine.

"I know we shouldn't," he whispers, his warm breath tickling my skin, "but I just can't help myself."

"Good," I tell him, pressing my mouth to his firmly before either one of us comes to our senses.

It doesn't take long before we're completely lost to each other again. Edward's tongue slides along my lower lip, and I sigh, giving him just enough room to slip past it. I can taste the scotch on his tongue as it sweeps over mine, his fingers curling behind my neck to hold me close. I loop my fingers into the waist of his pants, pulling him forward to deepen our kiss and fully welcome him into my embrace. He doesn't try to pull away; in fact, he goes with the momentum of the movement until he's got me pressed hard up against the washer.

Something in the recesses of my brain screams at me to end this before it gets out of hand. I choose not to hear it, my desperation to be reassured of Edward's intentions winning out and making it sound like no more than a whisper that eventually fades into nothingness.

It's clear he's just as anxious to show me how he really feels as his hands move to my ass and he lifts me onto the washer, pushing himself between my legs. My skin feels like it's on fire as his hands move down my thighs to the hemline of my dress, and I tremble when they slip beneath the soft fabric and begin to push it up toward my hips.

The second his fingers hook into the sides of my panties and tug—too light to be removing them, but hard enough to make the pulse between my legs intensify—I throw my head back and moan. "Oh, god. Edward . . ."

He kisses his way down the column of my throat and along my collarbone, and my heartbeat grows louder and louder with every pass of his warm lips.

Thump thump thump.

Growling, he tugs on my panties again, forcing me closer to his body until I can feel his erection pressing against me.

Thump thump thump.

I'm about to beg him to never stop when I realize the pulse in my veins doesn't match the one I'm hearing in my ears, but when he tugs on my panties again, I forget all about it.

Right up until I hear, "What the hell is going on down here?"

A/N2: I know, I know . . . ANOTHER cliffie.

I'm curious to hear who you all think it is! Since they're at a Christmas party with a huge group of people, it could really be ANYONE! So, who do YOU think it is?

Remember, Forgive me, Father has been nominated to be one of the top five Fics of the Week over on the Lemonade Stand! Please go and check out all of the other AMAZING entries and vote for your favourite ones!

WWW tehlemonadestand COM

Until next time!