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Chapter 10

Holy Ground.

"Are you guys going to the Cullen's New Years party?" I asked Sue and Charlie as I flipped pancakes on a skillet. The aroma of blueberries filled my senses.

"No. We're gonna' stay home and celebrate with Clara this year. You're welcome to go, if you promise not to stay out all night." Sue told me, squeezing my forearm encouragingly. I could tell that she meant it, and wasn't just giving me the option to go out to be nice to me.

"Okay. Well, I'll probably go then. Emmett and Alice asked me if I was." I shrugged, lying. Alice did ask if I was going, but I was more concerned about Edward's invite. He had texted me three times asking if I was going to attend. I couldn't tell him no, so I prayed that Charlie and Sue didn't have any family plans for the night.

"You're talking to them now?" Charlie asked, his eyes curious.

"Yeah. We hit it off at the Christmas party."

"I don't understand. The kids your age make fun of you, but you make friends just fine with all of these adults!" Seth commented. Everyone gasped and Sue smacked him on the shoulder. I shrugged at all of them, letting them know that I wasn't offended by what he said.

"He's only saying what we were all thinking." I explained and Sue glowered at me.

"That doesn't make it right, Bella." Sue gave me a threatening glower as well.

"It's still true. I don't care anymore anyway. I've come to terms with the fact that the students of Port Angeles Prep are just mean and growing up to be a bunch of sociopaths." I continued, sighing softly. "I have friends who accept me and love me for who I am. That's all that really matters."

"I'm happy you've found good people, Bella." Charlie nodded. "I mean, you could be doing much worse than hanging out with McCarty, Alice Brandon, and the Cullens."

"I'm glad we're all on the same page." I shut the skillet off and began placing the breakfast food onto plates for everyone. "Now, grab some food and dig in."

"Gladly!" Seth swiped the plate with the biggest pancakes on it and took it back to the table, where he slathered them in syrup and butter.

Sue made herself and Clara a plate, cutting up two of the pancakes for Clara, and then sat down. I put four on a plate for Charlie and then put three on one for myself. I watched as my family sat around the table and ate with a smile. Charlie snatched his plate, kissed me on the cheek and then sat down across from Sue and Clara. I quietly followed and sat down across from Seth.

"These pancakes are really good, Bella." Sue complimented, taking another large bite.

"The secret is a pinch of cumin and just a little bit of cinnamon." I explained, grinning.

"Do you just sit at home and make up recipes?" Seth asked and, again, got smacked on the shoulder by his mother. I giggled.

"Actually, I used to. I had a lot of time and a lot of resources. I had no reason not to." I shrugged. "I haven't really had time to cook lately. Except with you guys." I shrugged once before continuing. "Even at the Cullens' house. Esme doesn't let me cook because she thinks that it is the mother's job, or father's, to feed the kids. I think that rule is absolutely silly, but you know..."

"Didn't Esme say that the party tonight was themed?" Sue asked, randomly changing the subject as she fed Clara a bite of pancake.

"Yes. The girls are to wear 'little black dresses' and the guys are going in bright colored shirts and black ties." I explained, shrugging. "Esme got me a dress already. We basically have a deal where if she's hosting something and wants me to go, then she has to supply my outfit for the event."

"That should be cute!" Sue exclaimed, her eyes excited.

"So long as that 'little black dress' isn't that little." Charlie muttered and I laughed.

"Don't worry about me, Dad. I'll be in Esme and Carlisle's house." I sobered up from my laughter and shot him a glare.

"And Edward will be there?"

"Of course." I sighed. "Please, Dad. Don't worry."

"I always worry." He stated matter-of-factly.

"I promised Esme that after I finished eating that I would come over and help get ready." I told them and Sue nodded, smiling softly.

"Well, don't choke on your food before you go." Seth told me as I ate too quickly, having to stop and breathe a little.

"Sorry. I'm just excited." I laughed and everyone let out a chuckle.

My phone began ringing then. I stood, a pancake hanging out of my mouth, and ran to it. I had left it charging in the living room. I quickly slid the small bar on the screen to the right, not even looking at the caller I.D.

"Hello?" I greeted, attempting to swallow my food at the same time.

"Bella?" Edward laughed on the other end. A smile broke out on my face.

"Sorry, I was eating." I giggled, wiping my arm across my mouth.

"Pancakes?" He gasped and I affirmed his guess. "How dare you make my special pancakes for somebody else?"

"I do have a family, you know." I grinned. "Don't worry. I'm staying at your house tonight...we'll make some in the morning."

"Score!" He laughed. "I'm calling to let you know that Esme will be over to pick you up around ten. You're mine the rest of the day, though."

"I do not object...I'll see you in a bit."

"See you then. I love you."

"Olive juice, too." I whispered, not wanting my family to hear me tell him that I loved him. It probably would have been a bit too much to say that I was telling Esme that I loved her.

After I hung up, I plugged my phone back in and went to the kitchen to begin cleaning up. I explained that I was going to go get dressed and then hit the road, before running back up the stairs. I slipped into a pair of jeans, a deep blue sweater, and grabbed my shoes before running to my bathroom to do my makeup. I went light, only applying mascara and pulling my hair into a bun. I was ready in twenty minutes.

"Bella, Esme is here." Sue called and I rushed down the stairs. I planted a kiss on Clara's head before going out to meet Esme.

"Good morning." She smiled, sliding her sunglasses to the top of her head as I climbed into the other side of the Mercedes. "And happy New Year's Eve."

"How has your post-holiday been?" I asked her, buckling my seat belt.

"It's been really good. I think Edward's bored though. He's been staying at our house and wandering around. Either that or calling you." She tossed her head back with a laugh.

"He says that he wants to go back to school simply because he needs an excuse to hang out with me." I rolled my eyes. "We'll have all of this week to hang out though."

"I know! I'm so excited to have you stay tonight!" She nodded eagerly. "You two will have so much fun at this party. I'll even let you have a little wine, if you promise not to tell your father."

"I think I can keep a few things to myself." I gave her a look and she simply shook her head.

"Clearly."

"I wish things didn't have to be a secret." I told her, speaking nothing but the truth. "I wish I could tell Sue and Charlie and that we could all be one, happy family."

"I know, sweetheart." She chuckled. "Just wait a few months. I'm sure they'll understand once you can prove that you two were responsible about this."

"But will they think that this is responsible? Me basically sneaking around behind their backs, spending the night at an older guy's house?" I explained and she pursed her lips, shrugging.

"I know it seems eery, but you two will stick it out. I am positive of that much." She assured me seriously and I nodded. I sure hoped that she was right.

When we got to her house, I quickly climbed out and shut my door. When I looked up, Edward was waiting with his arms open in the doorway. I didn't wait for Esme when I ran up and practically jumped into his arms. Edward stumbled back a few steps, but didn't lose his hold on me. I kissed his neck and just sat there a moment, taking him in. I always forgot how much I really missed him up until we were together again. It was then that it would hit me like a tidal waive.

"I missed you." He whispered and I smiled.

"I missed you more!" I looked up and into his green eyes.

"We're going to help Ma decorate, okay?" He was asking me this question while running his long fingers up and down my back. I could barely concentrate as I nodded in agreement.

"Edward, that poor girl doesn't know what she just agreed to. Stop touching her and talk for a moment." Esme scolded as she walked up the steps, waiting for us to get out of the way of the entrance. Edward pulled his hands back and we both stepped back a bit. I watched in a daze as Esme walked past me, her chin up and a devious twinkle in her eye.

"Sorry." Edward laughed and turned to me. "We're going to decorate for a while. We'll be doing stuff, but still have time to hang out."

"Don't worry. I don't mind helping." I squeezed his hand and he nodded.

I spent the afternoon helping Edward and Esme set up for the party. Carlisle got off of work around three and joined in, making sure to help Edward with the heavy stuff.

"Look at that. Our men decorating for a party." Esme commented as we watched them hang up lights. I couldn't help but giggle at her observation.

"This should be photographed!" I joked and she just winked, pulled out her iPhone, and snapped a photo.

"Mom! Delete it!" Edward whined but Esme saved it to one of her random albums before walking over to pat his lower back. I watched, feeling smug, from behind.

"You know, I honestly can't wait for you to graduate. That's an awfully selfish thing for me to hope, because you only go to high school once, but you two will be so happy in a year." Esme whispered as she curled the ends of my hair.

"It's not selfish. High school has been miserable for me." I shrugged and she smiled.

"I can't wait until I can show my new daughter-in-law off and invite you and your family to all of our dinners regularly." She continued with her little story and I raised my eyebrows.

"Daughter-in-law?"

"Well, yes. I'm sure Edward will have at least proposed by then. I don't know what his plans are, but I guarantee that you're in them." She chuckled and I smiled, thinking back to Thanksgiving when Edward told me how he pictured us a year from then.

"I can't tell you how happy that makes me feel." I admitted sheepishly, feeling the butterflies take off in my stomach.

"I was always fearful that my son wouldn't find someone who fit in with us, you know." Esme told me as she ran her fingers through my curls. They began loosening up at her touch, framing my face softly. I smiled at my reflection, once again shocked by Esme's miracle doings. She had given me a dark, smokey eye and let my hair fall in curls down my shoulders.

The dress that I wore was a little black one, to accommodate the theme. It was long sleeved, fitted, and had an exposed back. Aside from that, it was a very simple and, I thought, pretty style. I didn't say it out loud, but it was also a very sexy and chic style. I knew that Edward would appreciate the contrast between my pale skin and velvety, black dress. He also loved it when I wore my hair down.

"He's going to love this." I stated proudly, standing up.

"Just try to refrain from being too handsy on the dance floor." Esme poked me in the side, her smile teasing. I rolled my eyes and stepped back. She could tell that I was only joking as well.

"Noted." I sighed in defeat after thinking it through. As much as she was kidding, we did need to keep our eyes peeled. Esme had a decent, clean guest list. That didn't mean that people in the area couldn't crash the evening. Edward said that there was always a number of people that they didn't want to come that showed up anyway. Edward promised that he would keep an eye out and that if he noticed anyone suspicious, we could just go upstairs and hang out there.

I was more than okay with that idea.

"You look lovely this evening, Bella." Carlisle greeted me as I exited Esme's room.

"Thank you. I could say the same for you." I grinned. His golden hair was combed and tamed, framing his soft face nicely. He wore a deep blue, button-down shirt with black slacks. Carlisle always looked nice, but there was just something a bit more classy about him when he wore his hair like that.

He held his arm out for me then, offering to escort me down the stairs. I linked my own to his, like a lady, and walked down the stairs with him. I wasn't surprised by his slow pace. Everyone went slower when I was involved. He probably didn't feel like treating any broken limbs. We made it to the bottom of the stairs, where he kissed my hand and then parted to go check on the catering.

"You, my beautiful girl, look absolutely ravishing tonight." Edward came from around the corner, his eyes dark with love and lust. I smiled at him, trying to appear more confident than I felt.

"Thank you. I could say the same about you." I eyed his dark green button-down and black skinny tie. His hair was its usual mess and his eyes shone with a certain amount of happiness that I adored.

"I'm so excited for this party." He grinned. "Every year, I have dreaded it because I have been dateless and felt so out of place. You make me feel like I fit in, Bella."

"That's because you do fit in. You fit in right beside me." I reached up and cupped his face, pulling his face down to look me in the eyes. His lips parted into a smile, which I leaned up to kiss softly.

"That was sweet." He chuckled and Carlisle laughed.

"I think the two of you might actually be worse than Esme and I were...and that's saying so much." He smirked at us, making me laugh.

"No one is worse than we were, my love." Esme walked in, wearing a swishy black dress. Carlisle walked over to greet her with a soft kiss and a smile. "But our son comes to a very close second place."

"No one is worse than you two are. You haven't changed." Edward shivered dramatically. Carlisle and Esme kissed again, just to prove their point. "Just kidding. You have changed – you got even more gross."

"Our marriage is a constant work in progress. You'll understand in a few years time." Esme smirked at me and I just smiled back. I should have been concerned, but really I just loved the idea of being married and having marriage issues with Edward.

The doorbell rang then, signaling to all of us that their first guest had arrived.

"That should be Carmen! I made sure that she and Eleazar were invited for an earlier time, that way Bella wouldn't look strange already being here." Esme declared, walking to the foyer to answer the door. Carlisle followed suit. With a shrug, Edward and I followed both of them, knowing that Carmen was a safe guest.

"Edward! Bella!" Carmen giggled as we stepped in. "Don't you two look sexy tonight!"

"Carmen, that's my mother over there." Edward glowered at her and she rolled her eyes.

"Please. Esme dressed both of you. It's not like she doesn't know." Carmen rolled her eyes. She was right about that. Esme dressed us like chic, sexy adults and she did so on purpose.

The rest of the party arrived shortly after that.

"It looks like nobody from school came this year." Edward laughed with relief as he lead me out to the dance floor. He had been standing guard at the door, making sure that nobody we knew showed up. As long as the coast was clear, we were free to dance and act as a couple.

"So, that means I can do this?" I asked and leaned in to press my lips to his.

"That's exactly what that means." He smirked into my lips, making me giggle.

"I love you, Edward Cullen." I sighed, pulling him into my chest.

"Testing, testing, 1...2...3..." Esme called, tapping the microphone. It was almost midnight and everyone had been getting fairly entranced in the night. The crowd turned to face where she had set up at the bottom of the staircase. "I always like to end the year with a quick prayer and moment to set your goals and resolutions. So, if you would all bow your heads..."

I said a prayer for my friends, family and anyone who may need it before looking up. When I looked up, my eyes locked with Esme's. There was something devious behind them and I wasn't sure what to think. After everyone else looked up, Esme cleared her throat.

"I think now is the perfect time for a song. Bella, if you would come up here." She gestured for me to come to her. I immediately turned red and didn't want to comply. "Come on. Don't be shy."

"What would you like me to sing?" I asked softly, letting Edward go to the piano.

"Sing that Little Black Dress song that you were playing this morning." She nudged me. "It's perfect for the night. Please?"

"That's not fair because you know I can't say no to that face." I pointed at her, making her clap excitedly.

"This is Bella Swan, a wonderful girl that I am so glad to have in my family right now. She's going to sing us right into the new year." Esme announced before running right off of the stage.

"Okay, I can see it now. It's all the same thing. Just different wrapping around it. No need to soften your words, they're still gonna hurt. So, don't pull punches. I tried to be everything you'd ever want, and sometimes I even stood on my heart and stomped. Now I'm finally alone and dressed for the show, but going nowhere. They don't need to see me crying..." I let the power in my voice raise as I sang louder.

"I'll get my little black dress on. And if I put on my favorite song, I'm gonna dance until you're all gone. I'll get my little black dress on." I sang the chorus and locked eyes with Edward, who was playing the piano like the perfection that he was.

"You came, lifted me up but then you dropped a hurricane. Now I'm fighting to find the ground again, to steady my feet. Get up off my knees and just remember that I am more than just somebody's puppet. I can find the cord and then I'll cut it. I stand a pretty good chance to dust myself off and dance." I sang, moving around a bit more. "I'll get my little black dress on. And if I put on my favorite song, I'm gonna dance until you're all gone. I'll get my little black dress on. I got my little black dress on. And if I tell myself that nothing's wrong...this doesn't have to be a sad song. Not with my little black dress on."

"It's time to connect the dots and draw a different picture up. And paint it with the colors of everything I ever was. Return to the scene of the crime, the day I let the music die, and rewrite the final lines cause this time I...I'll get my little black dress on. And if I put on my favorite song, I'm gonna dance until you're all gone. I'll get my little black dress on. I got my little black dress on. And if I tell myself that nothing's wrong...this doesn't have to be a sad song. Not with my little black dress on."

When the song finished, I was breathing heavily from dancing around the stage area. I could see, on the TV screen, that the final thirty-second countdown had begun. Edward stood from the piano and we met in the middle. He was counting down out loud, making me giggle with him.

"Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three...two..." Before reaching one, he reached out and pulled me to his chest. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips. He was my first New Years kiss and he made it perfect.

He was perfect.

"Here's to another, one of many, beautiful year with you in my arms." He panted when we broke apart.

"I love you. Happy New Year." I laughed, hugging myself tightly to him.

After the party, when everyone had cleared out, I helped the Cullens clean up. The house was a mess and I was staying the night, so I had no reason not to help out.

"Did you have fun today, Bella?" Esme asked with a grin.

"I really did. It was nice." I nodded encouragingly. "I'm so thankful you invited me."

"I'm very glad to hear that!" She clapped and bounced on her heels. "You're invited to everything, by the way. With or without the formal invitation."

"I appreciate it." I giggled.

"Bella," Carlisle walked over with Edward in tow. "I got many compliments on your performance tonight."

"Thanks, I think." I felt my skin grow hot. "I was shocked when Esme asked me to sing."

"I just had the idea when I saw you standing out there. You sing so well, honey. I took advantage of the situation." She admitted, looking a bit sheepish about her little stunt. I couldn't hold a grudge against Esme if I tried with everything in me.

"You did a magical job, Bella." Edward commented and I rolled my eyes.

"You should have sang with me!"

"You want me to sing about my little black dress, Bella? I thought we were keeping that from my parents." He retorted and I burst out laughing.

"I guess I didn't think about that." I teased. "Esme, Carlisle, there's something Edward has been keeping from you."

"Oh, no you don't!" He poked me.

"I'm only teasing." I winked. "I'm sure your little black dress is very cute."

"You two may as well go to bed." Esme announced, after looking at her phone for a moment. I knew it was after two in the morning at that point. "Thank you for helping me clean, but I think Carlisle and I have it from here."

"If you're sure." I shrugged. Edward leaned in to kiss his mom and hug his dad. I waited on the side, smiling at the sight. When he pulled away, the couple just stared almost expectantly at me. "What?"

"Why are you still standing there? Come here." Esme laughed, making me hug her. I hugged her tightly before moving over to shake Carlisle's hand. He pulled me into him, hugged me to his chest, and kissed the top of my head. "You're in this family now, dear. Stop being to hesitant."

"Sorry." I blushed.

"Let's go upstairs, Bella." Edward laughed, taking my hand.

"If you insist." I joked, following him upstairs.

"Tonight was a lot of fun." Edward handed me a shirt to wear to bed and then trekked off to the bathroom.

"It was. I'm glad we got to spend some time as a couple. As a family." I agreed, thinking of dinner with Carlisle, Esme, and Edward. I truly felt as though I belonged.

"I know that this sounds cliché...and that everyone says this...but I seriously plan on spending every new year, for the rest of our lives, with you." Edward announced, walking back over to the bed. I had changed while he did in the bathroom. "I love you so much, Bella."

"I love you too."

"Let's go to sleep. You're cooking breakfast in the morning." He tapped my nose with his index finger, making me grin.

"Of course." I pulled myself to his chest and let my eyes slip closed.

Author's Note:

Not only was this the shittiest chapter I have ever written, but I am the shittiest person for not updating in so long. It was a rough summer and I didn't really have it in me to write for a while. I'm really pushing myself back into it though. I miss this story so much! ALL THE TIME. And although I'm still very busy with school, I'm still here and plan on writing a lot more and a lot better.

*Reviews are better than kissing Edward Cullen from one year to the next.