Disclaimer: Twilight and all recognizable characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer.
On The First Day...
Bella awoke to a pounding on the front door. She looked at the clock on her bedside table, the flashing red numbers read 6:47. It was Friday morning, so Bella knew Charlie would have already left for the station. Jumping out of bed as the pounding started again, Bella stumbled her way down the stairs, pushing her tangled hair out of her face as she went. Peeking through the peep-hole, Bella was surprised when she didn't see anyone on the other side. She cautiously opened the door and looked around, but there was no one there. Annoyed, she was about to shut the door when she glanced down to see a small gift wrapped box lying on the welcome mat. Bella picked the box up and looked for a tag. All it said was her name. She didn't recognize the writing, so she brought the gift inside. Bella was curious, but she was also a cops daughter. She decided not to open it until Charlie came home from work.
Bella went into the kitchen and grabbed a cup of the coffee Charlie had left in the pot and headed back upstairs to get ready for her morning classes. She had an hour long drive to Port Angeles Community College and her first class was at nine o'clock. After her shower, Bella grabbed her school bag and a pop-tart and climbed into her new (to her) Chevy Silverado. Her old red truck had finally quit on her not long after graduation. Charlie and Renee and Phil had helped her buy it and Jacob had checked it over to make sure the engine was in good shape.
Today was the last day of final exams and she had the next couple of weeks off. Instead of focusing on the tests she would soon be taking, Bella spent the drive to Port Angeles trying to figure out who could have left the package on her doorstep. Maybe it was a little dramatic, waiting for Charlie to get home to open it, but with her track record it could be a bomb or anthrax or something. Yeah. Better to wait.
After her finals, Bella returned her school books to the campus book store and drove back to Forks. It was still several hours before Charlie would be home from work, so she decided to take a detour and headed out to the reservation. Jake and the others would still be in school, but she could visit with Emily for a while.
Bella pulled up in front of Sam and Emily's tiny cottage and climbed down from her truck. Sam would be working and Emily would probably be cooking for the pack. She knew Emily would appreciate some help since she was about six months pregnant. She knocked on the door and entered as Emily called out to her.
"Hey, Em. How are you feeling," Bella asked as she entered the kitchen where Emily was peeling a massive amount of potatoes. Now that the threat of Victoria was gone, the pack could be more like the teenagers they were. They still patrolled, but they were able to live their own lives and thus, Sam and Emily had more privacy. They always showed up for Friday night dinner, though.
"Oh, Bella. It's good to see you," She replied with a tired smile. "I'm worn out, but otherwise okay. How were your finals?"
Bella shrugged. "Eh. Okay, I guess. I won't know my final grades for a about a week. So would you like some help? I've got a while before my Dad gets home."
"Sure. Some help would be great. Can you stay for dinner? It would be nice to have everyone here for a change," Emily said.
"Can't," Bella said, picking up a knife and starting to peel potatoes. "Friday dinner with Charlie."
"Oh, yeah. I forgot. Well you're at least coming to the Christmas party right? It's on Christmas eve."
"Wouldn't miss it," Bella said, dropping the last of the potatoes into the large pot on the table between them.
"That reminds me," Bella said as Emily filled the pot with water and placed it on the stove. "I found a present on my door step this morning. All it had on it was my name, no signature or anything."
Emily gave her a look. "You have a secret admirer? What was in it?"
"I have no idea," Bella looked sheepish. "I was worried about what it could be and decided to wait until Charlie got home to open it. It could be a bomb!"
Bella was red faced and Emily was giggling uncontrollably when the pack started trickling in.
"Bells," Jacob called when he saw her. "What's so funny?"
Bella got hurriedly to her feet, called out "Nothing," and headed for the door. "Call me if you need help with the party," she called out to Emily as she left. Okay, maybe it was a little dramatic, but better to be safe than sorry.
Bella was sitting at the table, staring at the brightly wrapped package, when Charlie came home from work.
"Hey, Bells. How were finals," he asked as he hung up his gun belt.
"Fine, Dad," Bella responded not looking up from the table.
"What have you got there?"
"I found it on the doorstep this morning. I was afraid to open it," she told him.
Charlie gave her an assessing look. "Why?"
"I don't know who it's from," Bella said, chewing on her fingernail. "There could be anything in there."
"Well why don't you open it and find out," Charlie replied reasonably.
"What if it's a bomb or anthrax? Or a severed human head," she exclaimed.
"You watch too much TV, Bells. Besides, that box is too small for a severed head," Charlie replied, trying to hide a smile.
Bella huffed out a breath. "Fine. But if this thing explodes, it's your fault."
That being said, Bella began to unwrap the package. Very slowly. Finally, she opened the small cardboard box and looked inside. Bella pulled out a small, carved wooden statue and a card. She set the statue on the table and opened the card. 'On the first day of Christmas...' was all it said. She looked at the statue and realized it was a carving of a tiny bird in a tree.
Charlie, having read the card that Bella had handed him, gave her a smile and said, "Looks like you've got a secret admirer, Bells."
"Huh," was her intelligent reply.
On The Second Day...
The next morning, Bella was scheduled to work at Newtons. Since Mike had gone off to U-Dub, Bella was able to pick up more hours and she didn't have to put up with Mike following her around. Except on breaks from school. Which this was. Shit, she thought, as Mike began his usual impersonation of a golden retriever.
"Bella! How are you," he asked as I picture a wagging tail.
"Oh. Hey, Mike. I'm good. How's school," she asked without much interest.
"Oh, it's great. They have the best parties..."
Bella did her best to tune out Mike's chatter about college life. She had never been so grateful that thanks to her zombie-like senior year, she forgot to apply to any decent colleges and thus found herself attending PACC.
Finally, after hours of Mikes prattling and very little in the way of customers, Bella was able to leave. She grabbed her jacket and purse from under the counter and with a quick wave at Mike, headed out to her truck. She had opened the door and climbed inside before she noticed the small gift box on the dash. She sat there and stared at it. She suddenly had a horrifying thought. Mike had just returned from Seattle. Could he be the one sending these gifts?
It didn't take her long to rule that out. Mike didn't have the imagination to come up with something like this. But who could it be. She knew it wasn't Jacob, he had finally accepted that he and Bella would never be more than friend. Good thing, too seeing as how he imprinted not long after the pack had taken out Victoria.
Bella didn't really associate with anyone outside of the pack. Could it be one of them, she wondered. Who else could it be? It wasn't Sam, Jared, Quil or Jake; they were all imprinted. That left Paul, Embry, Seth, Collin and Brady. She couldn't imagine any of them doing this, though. She was pretty sure Paul hated her, and the others all treated her like a sister. Bella gave up. It could be anyone.
It took her a minute to realize that she had been sitting there staring blankly at the gift as she thought of who could be the culprit. She took it down, having a pretty good idea what she would find. She removed the wrapping and opened the box. Just like last time, there was a small wood carved statue and a card. The card, as predicted, simply said, 'On the second day of Christmas...' The statue was a small carved wooden heart with two tiny birds perched on a swing hanging from the top of the heart.
Bella placed the card and the statue back in the box and headed home. She went inside to find Charlie sitting on the sofa watching ESPN. She walked past him to the fireplace and placed the statue on the mantle with the other one and took the card upstairs, all the while ignoring the knowing smirk plastered on Charlie's face.
On The Third Day...
Sunday morning, Bella was able to sleep in. She got up and showered and headed downstairs for her morning coffee. She had just settled at the table with a bowl of cereal and her coffee when Charlie wandered in from outside. He walked up behind her and sat a brightly wrapped package on the table next to her cereal bowl. Bella just looked at it. With a sigh she pushed her bowl away and scooted the gift closer. She quickly ran through what she knew of the song. Three French hens. What does that even mean, she thought.
Bella opened the gift and pulled out the little wooden statue and the card. 'On the third day of Christmas...' And sure enough, there were three little hens nesting in a basket. The work was very detailed. Whoever was carving these little statues was very talented.
Bella placed the statue with the others and proceeded to get ready for lunch at Sam and Emily's. The whole pack would be there, eventually. The wolves were going for a run and the imprints (and Bella) would be fixing lunch.
Bella was the last to arrive. All of the imprints were already there, including little Claire. Bella knocked lightly on the door before walking in. Emily turned from the stove as Bella greeted the other girls in the room.
"Oh, Bella," Emily exclaimed as she came forward to hug Bella. "I'm so happy you're still alive. I was so worried!"
Bella heard laughter coming from Kim and Jacob's imprint, Aimee. Emily was fighting back a grin. Bella just rolled her eyes and sat down at the table.
"I suppose you told everyone," she snarked at Emily.
"Of course not," Emily responded, with a falsely innocent smile. "Just the guys. They told their imprints."
Bella dropped her head onto the table with a thunk. "I give," she mumbled.
"So what was in the box," Kim asked once Bella was settled at the table, chopping vegetables.
Bella paused in her chopping. "A partridge in a pear tree," she said, hesitantly.
"You mean, like, from the song," Kim asked.
"How did he get the bird to stay in the tree," Aimee asked.
Bella just looked at her. It was a good thing she was pretty, because her brains weren't going to get her very far.
"It was a small wood carving of a partridge in a pear tree," Bella replied.
"Oh! Isn't that unique. But I wonder why it was a partridge in a pear tree," Emily wondered out loud. Then she gave Bella a look. "Have you received any more?"
Bella sighed. "Saturday it was two turtledoves and today was three French hens."
"Oh my gosh," Kim exclaimed. "He's going to send you one every day until Christmas! That's so romantic."
"Or just creepily stalkerish," Bella replied.
"Who's creepily stalkerish," Bella heard, just before a stampede of shape-shifting wolves entered the kitchen.
"Bella has a secret admirer," Aimee answered Jacob as he entered the room followed by the rest of the pack. Everyone made their way to the table or their imprints.
"Or a creepy stalker," Bella mumbled in response to Aimee's observation.
"Oh, come on Bells. Someone gave you a gift. At least it wasn't a severed head," Jacob answered her with a huge grin on his face.
Bella's head snapped up. "I swear those two gossip like old women. What else did he say," Bella demanded.
"Just that you received another one yesterday and he expected you'd get one today, too."
"Whatever," Bella mumbled under her breath.
Bella and the girls helped Emily get dinner on the table and they all sat down to eat. The conversation, thankfully, turned from Bella's 'secret stalker' to general topics. Bella used the time to observe the guys. None of them seemed to be paying any extra attention to her. Bella wondered if she should rethink her idea that it was one of the pack. It really could just be a random stalker, someone she'd never met. Yeah, that wasn't something she wanted to think about just now.
After lunch the guys were in charge of cleaning up and the girls got to relax. Bella said goodbye to everyone and headed home. Charlie would be at Billy's watching whatever game was on TV on a Sunday, and she could just take a nap.
On The Fourth Day...
On Monday, Bella didn't have to work until the afternoon. She got up and went through her usual morning routing and decided to do some housework. She cleaned the house from top to bottom and then started gathering up laundry. She stripped Charlie's bed and made her way back to her room. She started pulling the sheets off her bed, but something caught her eye. There on the window sill, was a brightly wrapped package. Someone had been in her room. Or at least had opened the window.
She grabbed the package and ripped off the paper. Inside she found the requisite note and carving. 'On the fourth day of Christmas...' The carving was an intricate bird cage with four tiny birds inside. Absolutely brilliant. Bella decided to rethink her creepy stalker theory. A creepy stalker would probably leave her four dead birds on her window sill. Bella placed this one with the others and left for her shift at Newtons.
When Charlie came home he looked at the mantle and just smiled.
On The Fifth Day...
Tuesday, Bella was on the morning shift at Newtons again. She was relieved to see that Mike wouldn't be in until the afternoon. It was another slow day, with just the occasional Christmas shopper coming in. Bella sighed a happy sigh when Mike showed up for his shift. It meant she could go home.
Grabbing her jacket and purse she hurried to her truck. She was loathe to admit how excited she was becoming about her daily gifts. She hoped she wouldn't be disappointed when she found out who it was.
Bella opened the door and was disappointed when she didn't find the expected package sitting in her truck. She climbed in and headed home, practically bouncing in her seat with anticipation. As she approached the porch, she saw the box sitting on the welcome mat and hurried her steps. She tripped on the last step and went sprawling across the porch. Bella sat up slowly, checking to see if she was injured. After ascertaining that she had done no permanent harm, she reached for the package and ripped it open.
'On the fifth day of Christmas...' She pulled out a carved wooden wreath with five circles in the center. Each circle contained a thin golden ring. Bella carried it inside and placed it on the mantle and went in to start dinner for her and Charlie.
On The Sixth Day...
Wednesday was Bella's day off, again. She decided to pull out the Christmas decorations. She spent the morning setting up the Christmas tree and testing all the lights. She realized there wasn't very much in the way of outside decorations and decided to head to the store to see what she could find. She spent a couple of hours shopping and managed to find some decorations that she liked, without having to drive all the way to Port Angeles. She decided to hang the wreath and ribbons, but leave the lights for Charlie. She didn't need to be falling off the ladder.
Bella had laid out all of the decorations for the tree and had just started making dinner when there was a knock at the door. Bella's heart picked up. She rushed to the door and flung it open with force. There was a delivery man standing there.
"Isabella Swan," he asked.
"Yes, that's me," she told him.
"Sign here," he said, handing her an electronic gadget and a stylus.
Bella signed and took the package. With disappointment, she noted that the return address was Jacksonville, Florida. A Christmas gift from her mom. Bella opened the box and took out several brightly wrapped presents and placed them under the tree.
By the time Charlie got home, Bella was as jumpy as a cat on hot tin roof. She was dropping things and forgetting what she was doing, listening for any little sound that might be her stalker.
Charlie came in sat down at the table without saying a word.
"Hey, Dad," Bella said, without turning from the stove. "How was work?"
"Same as always. Not much excitement."
Bella turned to set the food on the table and stopped when she saw the package sitting at her place at the table.
"Your secret admirer is getting bolder," he said with a smile. "I found that in the cruiser when I left the diner at lunch."
Bella opened the gift and pulled out the card and a carving of six geese sitting in a nest. There were five in a circle and one in the center. On the card, 'On the sixth day of Christmas...'
On The Seventh Day...
Thursday was a slow day at Newton's. Bella was working the register and Mike was stocking shelves.
"Hey Mike," Bella called out. "I'm going to take my break, now."
"Okay," he called back from where he was restocking coats and gloves.
She headed back to the small break room and pulled a salad out of the tiny refrigerator the Newton's kept there. A few minutes later the door chimes announced that someone had entered the store. Bella heard Mike call out to the customer to let them know where he was if they needed anything. Apparently they didn't need anything, because the door chimed again a few minutes later.
Bella returned to the front after her break and found Mike lounging against the counter.
"Hey, Bella. I just found this sitting on the counter. It has your name on it," Mike told her, pushing the gaily wrapped box toward her.
Bella's eyes lit up as she opened the gift and pulled out a carving of seven swans swimming in a stream. You could see the ripples in the stream and the grass lining the bank. It was beautiful. And the card, of course, 'On the seventh day of Christmas...'
On The Eighth Day...
Friday was spent much the same as Thursday. Working. Bella made it through the entire shift without a visit from her 'secret stalker.' She gathered her things, excited for the end of her shift. She wouldn't have to work until after Christmas, since Saturday was her day off and they would be closed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for Christmas.
Bella was happy when she climbed into the truck to find another package sitting on the seat. Bella opened the package as she wondered how he would manage to carve 'eight maids a milking.' Bella pulled out the card first with the expected, 'On the eighth day of Christmas...' Setting it aside, she pulled out a carving of two cows, back to back with two maids (complete with bonnets) on each side of the two cows. Bella giggled, placed the carving and note back in the box and headed home with a smile on her face.
On The Ninth Day...
Bella got up early on Saturday to meet with Emily, Kim and Aimee down on the rez. They were all heading to Port Angeles for last minute Christmas shopping. Bella parked her truck in the driveway and went inside to see if everyone was ready.
Emily met her at the door, one hand on her pregnant belly and the other holding a very familiar wrapped box. She was practically bouncing in place, she was so excited. She handed the box to Bella and pulled her into the kitchen. It was only then that she realized that the entire pack was taking up places at the table scarfing down the breakfast that Emily had made.
"Aren't you going to open it, Bella," Emily asked her with a grin.
Bella blushed scarlet. "Um, no. I don't think so."
"Come on, Bells," Jacob said. "We want to see what your stalker, I mean your admirer sent you today."
The rest of the pack shouted out in agreement. Bella huffed a sigh and sat down in an empty spot between Sam and Paul. She very slowly and carefully removed the wrapping paper, knowing that the anticipation was driving them nut. She opened the box and took out the card first. 'On the ninth day of Christmas...' She laid it on the table and pulled out todays gift. It was a wood carving of nine ballerinas forming two circles, five on the outside and four in the center. Bella sat it on the table so everyone could see.
"Well, at least you know it's no one from the pack," Quil piped up out of nowhere.
"Why is that," Emily asked him.
He grinned. "No stripper poles."
"No that just means it's not you," Sam piped in. "It could only be someone from the rez, though. I've only seen that kind of skill here on the rez."
"Yeah," Embry joined the conversation. "I've seen Billy Black do this kind of work."
"Yeah, Dad's pretty good," Jacob chimed in. "Hey, Bella? You could be my new mom."
Everyone in the room cracked up at that. Bella was not amused.
"Okay, well, as much fun as this has been, we've got shopping to do," Bella said, putting everything back in the box and heading out to her truck. She put the box in the glove compartment and locked the truck up tight.
On The Tenth Day...
Sunday morning found Bella wrapping the last of her presents. She placed them under the tree with the ones from her mother and got busy cooking. Monday night would be the pack Christmas party. All of the pack, imprints and elders would be attending. Even Charlie would be coming. All of the imprints, Bella, Sue and Leah Clearwater were doing the cooking. Except for the meat. The men were smoking several hams, turkeys, salmon and even some venison for the party. Bella was working on desserts. She was making pies, cakes, cookies and brownies. Enough to feed a small army.
The party was being held in the council building, since no one had a house big enough to hold everyone.
Once she was finished cooking, Bella left a note warning Charlie not to touch any of the desserts and headed to La Push. She was meeting Emily and Sam and some of the others at the council building to decorate.
Emily and Sam were the only ones at the council building when Bella arrived. Emily was smiling and Sam had a knowing look on his face. Emily pointed to a table in the middle of the room. In the center sat a small wrapped package just like all the others.
Bella felt a smile forming on her lips as she made her way to the table. She opened the gift and pulled out a carving of ten men in varying stages of leaping. 'On the tenth day of Christmas...'
Bella put the box in her bag and got to work. Helping with the decorations. Paul, Embry and Seth showed up a little later to help and Emily put some Christmas music on the old radio they kept in the back of the room. It was a festive atmosphere as they hung twinkle lights and icicles and transformed a drab room into a winter wonderland.
Bella said goodnight to everyone and headed home to place her newest gift with the others. Only two days left. Bella wondered if he would reveal himself on Christmas day.
On The Eleventh Day...
Christmas Eve dawned just as cloudy and gray as most other days. Bella jumped out of bed, excited for the party tonight. She had more cooking to do for the party and for Christmas dinner the next day. Charlie and Bella along with Billy and Jacob would be having Christmas dinner at the Clearwater's.
After her cooking was done, Bella took a shower and laid out her clothes for the party. She put on a pair of jeans and a long sleeved top. She would be taking the food to the council building and getting ready for the party at Sam and Emily's. She left a not for Charlie, reminding him what time the party started and headed for the rez.
Bella dropped the food off with Sue and the guys at the council building and headed to Sam and Emily's. Emily was waiting at the door again.
"Oh, Bella! Sam knows who your secret admirer is and he won't tell me," she wailed.
"What? How does he know," Bella asked her.
"He smelled it on the package. Wolf senses, you know. He said he didn't notice that day at our house because the entire pack was there, but we were the first ones there last night, so he smelled it then," Emily confided.
"And he won't tell," Bella asked.
Emily just shrugged. "He says it's not his place to say."
"I agree," Bella said, surprising Emily.
"I thought you'd want to know," she said.
"I did, at first. But now I just think it would ruin the surprise. I want to see where this ends," Bella told her.
"I guess that makes sense," Emily replied. "Come on let's get ready."
Bella and Emily took Bella's truck to the party, since Sam was already there, helping to cook the meat. Bella parked in the small lot next to the building and she and Emily climbed out of the truck and made their way inside. Many of the guests had already arrived.
Bella was wearing a simple black halter dress that ended about mid thigh. Her hair was down and flat ironed straight. She was slightly self conscious, but the other women were dressed similarly, so she let it go. Emily's dress was silver, empire waisted and flowed over her baby bump, down to her knees. She looked radiant. They joined the other women setting out the food and when the meat was brought in, everyone fixed their plates and found a place to sit.
Bella and Emily were sitting and chatting when Sam, Seth, Paul and Embry joined them. The rest of the pack and guests were scattered around the room enjoying the food and conversation.
After the meal everyone gathered around the Christmas tree where the secret Santa gifts were. Everyone who was invited had been given a sealed envelope with another person's name and interests inside. Bella received a lovely sweater from Sue and her gift was a video game for Seth.
All the gifts were unwrapped and everyone was socializing when Sue called out to Bella.
"There's another gift here, Bella, with your name on it."
Bella turned around, slowly, from where she was talking to her dad and Billy. Sure enough, there was a gift in Sue's hand, the same size and same wrapping paper at all the others. Bella made her way over to Sue, noticing the looks of confusion on the faces of the guests who weren't in the know. Everyone else had looks of amusement on their faces.
Bella took the gift and sat down in a chair. She knew there was no way they were going to let her get away with taking it home to open. She pulled off the wrapping paper and opened the box. She pulled out the card first. 'On the eleventh day of Christmas...' The wooden replica of eleven pipers piping was just as finely detailed as the others. There were two rows of men with flutes, six in the back and five in the front. Bella held it up so everyone could see and then placed it back in the box and put the box in the bag that her sweater from Sue had come in.
Fortunately, someone took it upon themselves, to turn up the Christmas music that had been softly playing in the background. Couples started making their way to the dance floor. Bella noted Charlie dancing with Sue Clearwater. The imprinted couples were all dancing as well.
Bella felt a shadow fall over her glanced up to see Paul standing there.
"What do ya say, Swan. Wanna dance," he asked, his usual cocky self.
"Oh," Bella fidgeted. "I'm not really very good."
"No matter," he said pulling her to her feet. "You're the only unimprinted girl here under thirty. Besides, it's all in the leading."
Bella danced with all of the unimprinted wolves, her dad and even Old Quil. Finally, the party was over and Bella was able to head home. Charlie had left some time ago, along with most of the other adults. Those left did a quick clean-up and put away the few leftovers in the refrigerator. They would come back after Christmas to take down the decorations and give the place a thorough cleaning.
Bella put her gift with the others and went to bed with a smile on her face.
On The Twelfth Day...
Bella woke on Christmas day with an intense sense of excitement. Today was the day, she just knew it. After a quick shower, Bella got dressed and bounced down the stairs. Charlie was cooking breakfast, the only meal he could cook without setting the kitchen on fire. Bella grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down at the table.
"Merry Christmas, Bells," Charlie Said as he placed a plate in front of Bella and sat down with his own.
"Merry Christmas, Dad."
After breakfast, Bella and Charlie exchanged gifts and Bella opened the gifts from her mother. Charlie received fishing gear from Bella. Bella received clothes from Renee and Phil and an e-reader, preloaded with her favorite classic novels.
After opening their gifts, Bella and Charlie started gathering things together to take to the Clearwater's. Bella had made several desserts since Seth, Leah and Jacob would be there. Charlie helped her load them into the truck and followed behind her in the cruiser.
They arrived to find Billy and Jacob already there, watching television. Sue came to greet them and helped Bella carry the desserts into the kitchen. Leah and Seth were both there, helping Sue with dinner preparations. Bella dug in and started to help out as well. It wasn't long before dinner was on the table and everyone was sitting down to eat. Extra chair had been pulled up to the table and everyone was elbow to elbow, but no one seemed to mind.
Bella noted that there was an empty place at the table and asked Sue about it.
"Oh, that's for Paul. He should be here soon. He doesn't have any family. His parents divorced when he was eight and his dad brought him here to live. His dad died just a couple of years ago, so we always make sure he's invited to someone's house on the holidays," Sue answered.
"Oh," she said. "I didn't know."
Bella went back to eating her dinner as the conversation flowed around her. It was interesting to watch the interactions of these people who had known each other their whole lives. It could be said that her father knew these people better than he knew her.
Paul showed up a few minutes later, apologized for being late and took his seat at the table. He filled his plate up with enough food to feed three people. Bella and Seth were discussing the merits of the video game she had got him for Christmas when Jacob interrupted.
"Hey, Bella. Did you get a gift from your secret admirer today," he asked with a grin.
Everyone looked at her with curiosity, except for Paul, who was still shoveling food into his mouth. Bella looked at the table as a blush suffused her face.
"Uh, no," she responded.
"Oh. Well, maybe he had something else to do today. It is Christmas, after all," Jacob said.
"I don't think so," Charlie joined the conversation. "Whoever it is has been very inventive about getting them to her. I found one in my cruiser when I left the diner after lunch one day. I parked that thing right in front of the window. Never saw anyone."
"Well," Sue said. "There's nothing like a little holiday mystery to keep things interesting."
"Well, if you really want to know who it is, ask Sam," Bella added to the conversation. "He apparently figured it out Sunday night."
This got everyone's attention, even Paul's.
"He didn't tell you," Jacob asked.
"Nope. I didn't ask," Bella shrugged. "He refused to tell Emily, though. He said it wasn't his place."
No one seemed to know what to say to that and instead resumed their meal. The men took their desserts and coffee to the living room so they could watch some sporting event. Sue, Leah and Bella had their dessert in the dining room.
Paul came in a few minutes later and dropped his dishes off in the sink.
"Thanks for inviting me for dinner, Sue. I've got patrol," he said before heading out the back door.
Bella and Leah were helping Sue with the dishes when Seth came running into the kitchen.
"Bella, he called out, sounding excited. "This was on the porch."
Bella turned and saw Seth holding a very familiar gift wrapped box.
"I know who it's from, too," he said, grinning.
Leah came up beside him and sniffed. A look of complete disbelief crossed her face.
"I don't believe it," she said. "Him."
Bella took the gift from Seth and opened it. She removed the carving of twelve drummers drumming, turning it around in her hand. As she looked closer, she realized that there were twelve Native Americans with drums.
"It's you," Bella said with awe. "All of you. Look Seth, it's you and next to you is Leah. There's Jacob, Quil and Embry, and right there; that's Sam, Paul and Jared. There's Collin and Brady and that's Emily and Kim.
"Who would have thought he had that kind of talent," Leah said, surprised.
Bella set the carving on the counter and pulled out the card. The expected 'On the twelfth day of Christmas...' was there, but there was a note underneath it. 'Please meet me in the gazebo at the park.'
Bella just stood there staring at the card. She hadn't noticed everyone follow Seth into the kitchen. The were all waiting expectantly.
"Well, Bells," Jacob asked. Are you going to go or not?"
"I...I don't know," she stammered. "If I go it'll make it all real."
"Bella, it already is real. He's obviously put a lot of thought into this. You don't do something like this as a joke. If you don't go you could be missing out on something great," Sue told her gently.
Bella debated with herself for a few minutes more. She realized Sue was right. If she didn't go, she could regret it for the rest of her life.
"I'm going," Bella said with conviction.
Grabbing her jacket, Bella set out on the short walk to the La Push park. She had passed it many times, but never paid much attention. The sun had already set on this cold Christmas day and as Bella got closer, she could see the gazebo. It was covered with twinkling lights and there were candles set on the steps. Bella could see a shadowy figure standing near the center with his head down and hands in his pockets. From this distance, all she could see was that it was one of the pack.
Bella made her way carefully up the steps, so as not to trip and fall. As Bella stepped inside the gazebo, he raised his head. Their eyes met and Bella gasped.
"Paul," she asked, unsure. "I don't understand. You hate me."
Paul lowered his head again. "I don't, though. I never did, really. I was just angry. I never wanted this life. I wanted to leave here and never return. Then I met you. You were so beautiful and so broken. I just wanted to be with you, but Jacob was in love with you and I didn't think I was good enough for you. And I was afraid," he whispered the last part.
Bella stepped closer and asked, "What were you afraid of?"
Paul looked at her and said, "I was afraid of you. No one really has the power to hurt me, anymore. Except you. I imprinted on you that day up by the cliffs. If I told you about the imprint and you rejected me, I wouldn't have been able to go on. You held my heart, my life in your hands and you never knew it."
"And now," Bella asked.
"I'm still afraid," he said softly. "I'm afraid of living the rest of my life without you."
Bella took another step closer and asked, "How did you keep this from the pack all this time?"
Paul smiled ruefully. "No one wants to be in my head. Besides, I'm pretty good at blocking my thoughts. I would only allow myself to think of you when I wasn't phased."
"So," Bella said, slowly. "I guess this makes me a wolf girl, now."
Paul smiled, a real smile, not his usual smirk. "It does, if you want it. If you want me."
Bella smiled through the tears filling her eyes. "I think I do."
With that admission, Paul took the final steps separating them and pulled Bella into his arms. Bella wrapped her arms around him, reveling in his warmth.
Bella pulled her face away from his chest and looked up at him. Paul slowly lowered his face to hers, giving her time to pull away if she chose. Bella threaded her fingers the short strands of his hair and pressed her lips to his.
Bella knew that everything wouldn't be moonlight and roses. Paul was still a hot-head and she was still as stubborn as a mule, but she knew they'd make it work.
Bella and Paul were drawn out of their private moment by whooping and hollering. As they looked around, they realized the entire pack, imprints, elders and even Charlie were standing around the gazebo. Bella just smiled. This was their family.
Paul looked down a Bella with a smile. "Merry Christmas, Bella."
"Merry Christmas, Paul."