Lauren thought back to her wedding to Joey. Despite the fact it was very soon after their engagement, none of the family had put up any objections. Joey had had everything in place; got all of the necessary paperwork ready and they had told their parents on Boxing Day. Lauren had been a little concerned that they would all kick off about it; that they'd say it was too soon but they'd just smiled and said it was a lovely idea. She'd had a great day, going shopping for a dress with her mum, Abi, Sarah and Alice. None of them knew about the baby as Joey and Lauren had decided to keep that news a secret until after the honeymoon. There was only so much they could throw at everyone without something coming back to bite them on the bum.
In the end the dress had practically chosen itself. Given the immediacy of her need for it, there were much fewer dresses available to her which in some ways was a blessing. Lauren only found a couple that she really liked but it was her own and Joey's mum's reactions which made the decision for her. She'd fallen in love with the dress immediately and although it was a little more than she'd intended to spend and it was definitely a one-off purchase she felt so graceful in it and it hid her tiny bump beautifully. It was made from the softest satin Lauren had ever seen that fell in gentle pleats from the bodice. The bust of the dress was boned and there was lace on the sheer panel at the neck. She felt like a princess wearing it and she was certainly going to be marrying her prince.
She'd stood in the centre of the shop once she came out of the changing room and both her mum and Sarah had had tears in their eyes as they looked at her. Alice and Abi were smiling at her too. Lauren spun round and then her mum rushed forward and hugged her tightly, telling her how beautiful she looked. Lauren hoped Joey would love it as much as everyone else seemed to. Lauren knew that she loved it... so she hoped he would too.
Lauren remembered the moment her dad had walked her towards Joey, early in the afternoon of New Year's Eve. Joey had turned to look at her and again, there was that smile; the one she'd seen on Christmas Day. The smile he saved only for her. The ceremony had passed in a blur, another ring was added to her finger and she'd got to put one on his hand too. Then he'd kissed her and everyone else just faded into the background.
The reception was at Scarlett's, which was a little awkward with Jake still working there but Lauren didn't care. She had who she wanted with her forever so she ignored him, which was surprisingly easy to do as she had Joey now. Part of her wondered if Joey had booked it there on purpose, knowing Jake would be there... but then Lucy walked into the room, waitressing at the event, and the awkwardness escalated further. She knew Joey wouldn't have done that to her... or himself.
She lost those feelings of doubt when Joey pulled her into his arms and kissed her deeply. All thoughts of their previous relationships disappeared in an instant as his lips met hers. She moaned into his mouth and heard him chuckle as he pulled away... although that may have had something to do with the fact his hand was on her bum.
The meal at the reception had been lovely but Lauren ate very little of it... she couldn't stop staring at Joey. Her eyes couldn't move away from him. She'd realised how gorgeous he looked in his suit... but it wasn't just that that caught her attention. He had an inner sexiness that was literally oozing from him and she could feel her pulse starting to race. Honestly, this baby had a lot to answer for... her sex drive was sky high at the moment and the morning sickness that she'd been trying to hide so valiantly for the last two weeks was a motherfucking bitch she hated as well.
She reached across to her husband... those two words had such a nice ring to it and they made her smile as she thought them. Anyway, she reached across to Joey and took his hand in hers, lacing their fingers together and squeezing it gently as she looked into his eyes. It was her dad that broke the moment between them by tapping on the side of his wine glass. He got to his feet and started to make a speech, as father of the bride. Lauren had hoped they could skip this bit but as it turned out what her dad said moved her and brought tears to her eyes... in a good way. He'd spoken about how proud of her he was; how she'd changed her life and faced up to her issues, dealing with them head on. Then he moved onto the subject of her and Joey and Lauren held her breath... she remembered clearly how her parents had reacted to the news of her relationship with her cousin. She needn't have worried though because her dad had waxed lyrical about how the two of them had suited each other so well, how Joey had given Lauren the stability she needed; how he had loved her and looked after her which was all a father could ever ask for his daughter. Lauren couldn't help thinking that he was glossing over some of the bad times they'd gone through but the sentiment was there... and in many ways her dad had been their biggest fan. He'd got them back together just over four years ago after interference from Derek and her own mum had tore them apart.
Lauren had danced in Joey's arms that night, her head resting on his shoulder, feeling completely at peace and so very happy. She had her arms wrapped around his waist... and one of her hands may have slipped down the back of his trousers, touching his hot skin tenderly. His hands were on her bum again... this was becoming a habit... but Lauren didn't care. She liked that her husband found her sexy... she hoped that remained the case over the coming months.
"Have I told you how stunning you look, babe?" he murmured in her ear, his lips caressing her skin softly.
"Not today," she breathed with a small smile.
"You are practically glowing, Mrs. Branning... I'm surprised our mums haven't guessed our other bit of news." He whispered to her. "I'm really looking forward to taking this dress off you later."
"I'm looking forward to that as well, Mr. Branning..." she giggled.
Joey lifted his hand and pulled the hair slide from the top of her head, her hair fell around her shoulders in curls that she knew he liked. He put the slide in his jacket pocket and then pushed the hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear, "That's better..." he whispered, winking at her. "I've wanted to do that since I saw you at the registry office." He breathed as his mouth kissed her cheek.
"I love you too..." she whispered, looking up at his face.
Someone cleared their throat behind her and Lauren lifted her head, turning to look at the intruder, "Would you like a drink?" Lucy said, a small smirk on her face as she held a tray of full champagne glasses in her hands.
Lauren turned back to her husband, refusing to take the bait and ruin her day. Joey scowled at the blonde and then turned them away from her, ignoring her presence and concentrating on his wife.
"Lucy, what are you doing?" Ian hissed, having heard what his daughter had said.
"My job, dad..." she said innocently.
"Kitchen... now!" he said, his voice sharp despite its lack of volume. Lucy stomped off into the kitchen and Ian apologised to the bride and groom.
"I'm sorry, babe..." Joey whispered a few minutes later.
"It's fine, baby... I'm not letting anything spoil today. There is going to be no drama from Lucy or Jake to put a dampener on our day." She whispered back. "Kiss me, Joey..." she breathed, staring into his eyes.
"If I must..." he teased her with a smile. His lips met hers in a tender kiss that didn't take long to deepen.
Joey had carried her over the threshold, into their flat. He carried her through to their bedroom, then lowered her to her feet and moved to stand behind her. He swept her hair to one side and kissed the back of her neck, his fingers gently undoing the back of her dress. She heard him inhale when he saw the delicate underwear she was wearing. Her bra was practically see-through and when her dress pooled around her ankles she knew he would be able to see the thong she was wearing... what little of it there was. He growled against her neck and tore the knickers from her. The bra was removed with slightly more care and then she stood there, naked, in front of him. He pressed his body behind her and Lauren could feel he was still fully clothed. He brushed his lips in front of her ear, his hand running down her body and curving onto her stomach. "Did our baby have a good time today?" he whispered to her.
"I think he or she is too small to have any feelings one way or another..." Lauren giggled, "but I'd like to think that as mummy and daddy were both happy, it stands to reason that 'it' would've had a good time too." She breathed.
"You are so gorgeous..." he murmured, his thumb stroking her stomach softly.
Lauren turned to face him, "So are you," she told him, smiling as she saw him roll his eyes. Her hands lifted to his tie and she undid it, pulling it from around his neck. Her hands made quick work of his shirt and soon it was on the floor beside her dress, Joey having removed his jacket while she sorted his tie. "I think it's time you made love to your wife, Joseph..." she breathed. Her hand ran down his chest and squeezed his impressive length through his trousers.
"Do you know how much I want you right now?" he moaned as her hand tightened on him. She shook her head, leaning forward and kissing his chest. "So much... I've wanted you since this morning, when your dad was walking you towards me... Fuck it, babe, I want you all the time... but right now, you're mine... my wife... the mother of my child... I've never felt this way about anyone before and I know I won't again."
Lauren smiled up at him, "I thought you weren't one for fancy words?" she teased him. She looked into his eyes, both of them getting lost in that moment briefly. "Show me..." she said softly.
"Are you sure?" he asked, his hand cupping the side of her face.
"More than I have ever been..." she whispered.
Joey lifted her off her feet and she wound her legs around his waist, clinging to him as she kissed his neck. He lowered her carefully to the bed then pulled away from her and removed his trousers. Lauren lay on the bed watching him and she could see the desire on his face as he crawled across the bed so he was hovering above her. "I won't hurt you or the baby?" he whispered. She shook her head, biting her lip as she saw his eyes darken. He thrust inside her quickly as soon as she answered him and they both moaned, the sexual tension that had built between them throughout the day being released with that one quick move. The passion between them really escalated with each forceful thrust of Joey's hips. His hands were gripping her hips tightly and each thrust seemed to get a little bit deeper than the one before.
"I love you... I love you... I love you..." she gasped each time he buried his length back inside her, her hands clawing at his back as she neared her peak. Lauren had come first, closely followed by Joey. Lauren's scream had echoed around the flat while Joey made less noise as his face was pressed into her neck. They had made love several times that night, only falling asleep in the early hours of the New Year.
The new Mr. and Mrs. Branning flew to the Maldives on the 2nd January for ten days. Lauren had been surprised as this was the holiday location they'd discussed when they were at the House of Lords... it transpired that Joey had been sounding her out about the location he'd booked for the honeymoon. The resort they stayed at was beautiful, surrounded by white sandy beaches and although there were quite a lot of people there it didn't feel crowded or too busy. Their villa had a Jacuzzi outside it, filled with cold water, that Joey and Lauren spent most evenings in so Lauren didn't get too overheated. They spent a day in the spa at the resort getting pampered and had also gone snorkelling. Lauren had loved their time away, catching some sun and just relaxing. She'd loved spending the time with her husband and getting used to married life... although they were still caught up in their own little bubble of newly wedded bliss. She'd also really enjoyed the sex... which had been plentiful, more than enough to keep her hormonal needs satisfied. Joey treated her like a princess and worshipped her from head to toe.
Looking back at it now, the most amazing experience had been one of the last few nights they'd been there. They'd had a lovely meal in one of the restaurants but had left relatively early. They'd walked along the beach, paddling their feet in the water as they wandered back towards their villa. Neither of them was ready to call it a night though and they'd ended up in a far part of the resort, at the end of a beach. Joey had found this place on the map of the resort at the start of the holiday and he led her over to one of the large hammocks, lifting her and placing her in the centre of one. She'd shifted across it and then watched with a smile on her face as he carefully climbed onto the hammock with her, a small pulse of fear ebbing through her when it tipped and she thought she was going to fall out. There was definitely an art to getting in one of these things. They lay together in each other's arms for some time, watching the sun setting across the water. Once it was dark Joey made his move, kissing her tenderly as the hammock swayed with them. He ran his hands up her legs, slowly peeling her bikini bottoms from her so his hand could explore beneath her sarong. Joey pulled off his shirt and undid his shorts, shoving them down his legs as far as he could without getting out of the hammock. They managed to move so Lauren was straddling him, losing her sarong in the process and she lowered herself onto him, moaning as he brushed against her insides. Their pace was slow as they couldn't go very fast in case the hammock tipped them both out but that suited them both. They stared into each other's eyes as Lauren moved on him, the thrill of getting caught as they did this made it an even more intense experience. The cool, gentle breeze from the sea blew across their naked bodies and added another facet to what they were feeling as well.
His hands crept up her body, cupping her breasts; breasts that seemed to be increasing in size on a daily basis at the moment – much to Joey's joy. She liked him touching them though... because not only were they larger, they were also much more sensitive. A simple brush across her nipples with his thumb and she was off like a rocket on Firework's Night. Joey knew this as much as she did so when he did just that, he knew the result he was going to get and it worked like a charm because Lauren broke apart around him, his name falling from her lips. Her body gripped his cock so tightly and it pushed him over the edge too.
Lauren collapsed on him, laying on top of his body, a little scared to try moving until she'd regained some energy. "This little munchkin is going to get us in so much trouble, if we carry on like this, baby," she whispered.
Joey moved them slightly and his hand brushed over her stomach, "It's never going to happen, babe," he whispered. "Anyway we're perfectly capable of getting ourselves into trouble without having to blame it on the baby." He chuckled.
A few days later they'd returned to the UK and Albert Square. They went to see Lauren's dad after they'd been home for a day, having caught up on their sleep and with bits around the flat. During their honeymoon they'd made the decision, now Lauren was past the twelve week mark that they should tell him and the rest of their parents about the baby. Lauren was a little apprehensive about how he would react... she just hoped he would see how happy the two of them were. She was surprised to find her mum and Oscar there too.
"I didn't think you'd be here, mum..." Lauren said after she'd hugged her parents.
"We came up for the weekend. I told the school Oscar was sick. He wanted to see you and Joey after the honeymoon and I thought he should see your dad too." Her mum said. "Did you have a good time away, sweetheart?"
"It was great... we had a really relaxing time." Her dad went to get them all cups of tea or coffee and Lauren spent a few minutes with her brother, giving him the present she'd brought him back. He loved his bongos... she wasn't so sure that her mum was quite as pleased with them though from the look on her face. After a short while, Oscar was doing some colouring in the dining room and the four adults were sitting in the lounge. "Mum, Dad... we wanted to talk to you..." she said as they sat on the couch.
"What is it, babe?" her dad asked.
Lauren glanced at Joey and smiled at him as he took her hand, squeezing it gently. "We're having a baby..." she whispered.
"I knew it..." her mum exclaimed.
"You did?" Lauren and her dad both said.
"I'm your mother, Lauren... I suspected when we went dress shopping but I knew when you walked in the door a few minutes ago." Her mum said.
"Are you saying I already look fat?" Lauren asked in horror.
"No, sweetheart... but I've been pregnant three times and I know the signs." She said softly, "You're almost glowing, darling."
"Told you so..." Joey whispered as he hugged her.
"Is this why the wedding was so fast?" her dad asked.
"No, dad." Lauren whispered, "Joey organised that before I even told him about the baby. And he'd made plans to propose too, you know that... I only told him about the baby on Christmas Eve."
"How far along are you, darling?"
"I was eleven weeks on Christmas Eve... I'll be fourteen weeks on Saturday..." she said. "Would you like to see a picture?" she asked them both. They nodded and she picked up her handbag, pulling out a slight worn scan picture that both her and Joey had looked at on a very regular basis since Christmas Eve. Both her parents looked at it... not that there was very much to see, of course. It was apparently about the size of a kumquat when the scan was done. "So are you okay about this, dad?" she asked him softly as he studied the picture.
"Of course, I am, babe... you're making me a granddad... what's there not to be okay about?" he said, "Of course, I'm far too young to be a granddad but there you go." He said with a wry smile.
"Course you are, dad..." Lauren giggled, "You'll be the coolest, hippest granddad in the square."
"So when's it due?" Max asked.
"The middle of July," Joey said, kissing Lauren softly on the mouth. Both parents could see how happy they were with their news and that made them both happy too.
Joey and Lauren settled into married life easily. It wasn't really that different to how it had been when they were just living together. That's not to say it was all plain sailing. With Lauren being pregnant, it was fair to say she was prone to the odd mood swing as the hormones kicked in. She felt awful; she knew she was being irrational but she just couldn't stop her temper from flaring. The first time it happened was probably the worst time because she'd been a little less aware of what was going on... and as for Joey, he was even more unsuspecting. Lauren could remember it clearly... because it was also their first row since they'd got married.
They had officially been married for two months and Lauren was going to the club with some lunch... and a cake for a small celebration. She'd walked down the stairs and looked into the office. He wasn't there, which meant he was in the bar. She remembered he'd said something about someone new coming in today and that Joey would be training them on serving and working the till. Lauren walked into the bar and saw Joey behind the bar. He always looked so at home there and Lauren had a flashback to when they were first dating. He hadn't seen her yet and Lauren felt the tension increase in her body as she saw the person he was training. A pretty blonde who happened to be ultra skinny – a pretty lethal combination as far as Lauren was concerned... and she reminded Lauren of Lucy... which was never a good thing... and in her opinion Joey was standing far too close to her for Lauren's liking. The fact the girl was stick thin didn't help Lauren's rationality, given she felt like she resembled a beached whale at the moment... which was far from the truth but there was no convincing her.
"Am I disturbing something?" Lauren said, her voice hard and yet showing more emotion than she would've liked. Joey spun round to face her and his face lit up but Lauren's attention was focused on the blonde; who she automatically distrusted. "I bought us lunch... but I can see you're busy..." she whispered. She spun on her heel and ran back up the stairs and out of the club. She made her way quickly through the square, her free hand unconsciously rubbing her small bump. She didn't want to go back to the flat so she sat on the bench in the middle of the gardens. Had it really only been just over two months since she'd sat here last? When Joey had proposed to her... and already he was looking elsewhere. Why was she so surprised? He had previous...
"I don't know what you think was happening, babe... but I can tell you, you were wrong..." She looked up and found him standing in the same place. She began to cry, which later she would realise was a complete over reaction on her part... as was many things she'd done in those few minutes. Joey sat on the bench beside her, his arm wrapping around her shoulders and pulling her close to him. "Did you say something about lunch?" he asked her with a soft smile.
"I've lost my appetite..." she whispered, passing him the bag.
"I'm sure Munchkin is hungry..." he said softly, pulling out the sandwiches and passing her hers.
"I know what I do and don't need, Joseph!" she snapped, her hand flying up to her mouth and covering it as soon as she'd said the words. "I'm sorry..." she whispered, "I don't know what's going on with me today..."
"I'm guessing it's your hormones, babe... but it doesn't matter..."
"It does, Joey... the things I was thinking about you... You must hate me..." she whispered, clutching her sandwich in her hands.
He took her lunch back from her and took both her hands in his. "I could never hate you, babe. I love you more than I love anything else. I would do anything to make you smile because seeing you cry like this kills me." He wiped away her tears and kissed her softly, seeing her eyes flutter shut. "Now shall we go back to the flat and eat our lunch?" he asked her. Lauren nodded. Joey packed away the lunch and passed her back the bag. He stood and then lifted Lauren into his arms, laughing when he heard her shriek.
Over the next few hours, they ate their lunch and talked. Lauren apologised again for over reacting the way she had. Joey forgave her, realising that it was the baby affecting her in addition to her own insecurities. He loved his wife and he would never stray – he just needed her to believe that.
Lauren put a candle in the cupcake she'd brought for them to share and lit it. She carried it back over to him and placed it before him, sitting on his lap and putting her arms around his neck. "Happy two month anniversary, baby..." she whispered, kissing his jaw.
"May we have a gazillion more, babe." He said softly, leaning forward and blowing out the candle with her.
Lauren opened her eyes and looked at the two most important people in her life sitting in the chair beside her bed. It had been a long day but she wouldn't change it for the world. Today was the day their little munchkin was born. Their daughter. Despite the fact it was her due date she'd still managed to surprise them; Lauren, in particular. In some ways Lauren had been trying to pretend today would never come. She'd enjoyed her pregnancy so much there was a little bit of her that didn't want it to end. Lauren smiled as she saw her husband lower his head and kiss their little girl on the forehead. He was already completely smitten with her, Lauren could tell. Although Lauren was pretty sure she was exactly the same too.
He glanced up at her just as she was thinking that and her special smile was present once more. Both of them were so happy now. Tired but very happy. She shifted on the bed, wincing as her body protested any kind of movement.
"Do you need something, babe?" he asked, watching her as she shifted onto her side.
Lauren shook her head, "I have everything I need in that chair there..." she whispered, smiling as she nodded her head at him.
"I have everything I need here too..." he said, "She's so beautiful, Lauren... she's the spitting image of her mummy... I fell in love with her the first time I saw her too." He admitted with a smile.
"She looks like you too..." Lauren protested softly.
Joey moved closer and they spent several minutes looking at their sleeping daughter. Joey leant towards Lauren and kissed her softly. "I'm so proud of you, Lauren..." he whispered. "And I love you very much. You've made me the happiest man in the world." A tear ran down her face, "What's wrong?" he asked her in concern, his hand lifting and brushing her hair away from her face and tucking it behind her ear.
"I was just thinking the same thing, baby..." she whispered. "I didn't think I could be this happy..." she told him, "When I think about how close I came to losing it all..." She wiped at her eyes, "I nearly made the biggest mistake of my life and if I had, we never would've had her... and the thought of that hurts."
"Well, she's here now, babe." He reminded her, "And as for what you've just said, I think we would've got back together. I loved you, Lauren and I know you loved me. We would've made it work... I know it in my heart." He kissed her again and her hand brushed the side of his face. "Would you like to hold her?" he asked her softly.
"Please..." she breathed. He got to his feet and bent down to give their daughter to her. "Hello Munchkin..." she whispered, her finger brushing the side of her face, "I guess we should start calling you by your proper name now though, eh?" she said softly. She glanced at Joey and he nodded his head. They'd agreed the name a couple of months ago. "Mummy and daddy already love you very much, Eve Branning." She said. It was Joey that had suggested the name and said his reason for it and she'd agreed quickly. It was a beautiful name and when he told her why he'd thought of it, she loved it even more. He said Eve was appropriate because he'd found out about her on Christmas Eve and then they'd got married on New Year's Eve so Eve seemed like the right name for their little girl when they'd been choosing names. Adam had the boys name they'd come up with... because it went so well with Eve.
Lauren looked down at Eve as she tucked her into her cot. It had been a whirlwind few months, she couldn't believe that their daughter was already four months old. Joey walked out of the bathroom as she walked back into the lounge. He'd been clearing it up after bath time for Eve... which was usually a messy experience as she liked to kick her feet and splash her daddy. She was a little bit of a daddy's girl but she shared beautiful smiles with both her parents.
"I was thinking, babe." He said as she put the baby monitor on the table and then curled up on the couch beside him.
"That's what that noise was," she teased him, kissing his jaw softly.
"I'm being serious..." he said. "It'll be Christmas soon... and I thought maybe we should keep up with tradition... another 12 days..."
"Won't it get a bit old, if we do it again?" she asked.
"I thought maybe we could switch days this time... I do day 1 and you finish with day 12..." he said, watching her face and trying to see if she liked the idea.
"Hmm... that's sounds good..." she said.
"Then maybe next year we can do the 12 days together... but we buy the gifts for Eve..." he said.
"She'll be old enough to understand everything a bit more by then..." Lauren agreed. She laughed, "Of course once we start that tradition, she will expect it every year."
"That suits me fine, babe..." he said. "Nothing but the best for my girls, right?"
"What did I do to deserve you?" Lauren whispered.
"You took a risk and followed your heart... you made me fall in love with you even though I knew it would never be easy for us to be together."
"Well, you did tell me you liked a challenge, baby." Lauren giggled.
"You, babe, are most definitely a challenge." He chuckled, kissing her and grabbing her hands when she tried to hit him. He pushed her backwards, deepening the kiss as he leaned over her. Lauren wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him close. It wasn't often they got to do this... not with a four month old daughter who had impeccable timing. "I love you, Lauren Branning."
"I love you too, Joey... Here's to another great twelve days of Christmas."
AN: I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading this story and I hope that you enjoyed it.
I would also like to thank Crazy Chick 74 for agreeing to write it with me at very short notice and for her amazing, beautiful, stunning chapters. It has been so much fun writing this with you, and I think we have done an amazing job, the words and ideas just seemed to flow and flow and flow from each of us. Wanna do it again?
Thank you all for taking the time to read 12 Days of Christmas and for your reviews.
For those of you who have asked, Yes I am writing another story and I hope to begin posting it soon….. It's called Revelry (thank you Crazy Chick 74 for the title)
And Crazy Chick 74 is also going to have a new story for you all to read very soon and I have to tell you it's AMAZING!