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When Edward opens the front door, we're not bombarded with people like I was expecting. Which is perfect. Because I still need a minute or so to collect myself after that kiss.
We walk into the dimly lit entryway, and Edward closes the door behind us, shutting out the cold air. I glance around, taking everything in. There's a coat rack by the front door, and a table against the wall, littered with a tiny Christmas village. There's a staircase straight ahead, the banister wrapped in garland, and family photos cluttering the opposite wall.
Somewhere in the house we hear muffled conversation and light laughter. Edward takes my coat, giving my hand a quick squeeze. I'm not used to this type of affection, but I think I like it. A lot.
I follow him through the house, eyes bouncing around. The living room is small. It's a Wonderful Life is silently playing on the television. There's a Christmas tree in the corner, the top of it free of any star or angel because it touches the ceiling.
We round the corner, and as we enter the kitchen, I try to hide behind Edward as long as I can.
I nearly jump the fuck out of my skin when a loud voice yells out, "Eddie man! You finally made it, you fucking tool."
"How many times do I have to tell you, Emmett? Watch your language," the woman standing at the stove scolds. Her back is to us. Her chestnut hair is pulled back into a low bun and she's wearing an apron, so naturally I assume she's Edward's mom. "Rosie won't wanna marry a man with a dirty mouth," she adds.
"Yeah, Ma. Alright, Ma," Emmett, mumbles, then stands to hug Edward.
There's some weird bro hug thing going on when a dark-haired woman, who's sitting down and rubbing her swollen belly, notices me.
"And who's this?" she asks, eyeing me.
Everyone's eyes are on me now. Edward turns around and begins to speak, but I panic and interrupt him.
"Hi." I wave. But then feel really dumb. Do people even wave anymore? I haven't seen anyone wave in the past five years. "I'm Bella, Edward's friend. Sort of. I mean, we are friends, but we basically just met two days ago. That's where the sort of part comes in. Not because of anything else."
I cut my eyes to Edward, who's just standing there, grinning at me. I try speaking to him telepathically. A little fucking help would be nice, dude.
"Yeah, this is Bella," Edward says.
Not what I had in mind, but whatever.
"Well, no fucking shit. She just told us that," Emmett says sarcastically, slapping Edward's chest.
Edward moves across the kitchen, a little closer to me. "Bella was supposed to be flying to Seattle, but when they cancelled our flight, I offered her a ride."
"Yo, dumbass. You forgot to drop her off in Seattle," Emmett snorts.
"Actually, plans changed at the last minute," I offer. "And Edward was nice enough to invite me here."
"My boy is a sweet one. And you're more than welcome here. I'm Esme." The woman in the apron walks toward me with open arms. Like, literally, her arms are open. I have a sneaking suspicion she's about to hug me.
"Nice to," her arms wrap around my shoulders, "meet you, too. Thanks for letting me… be here."
"Of course. My children are crazy and fight like they're five, but you'll soon get used to it. Would you like some wine?" she asks, already heading toward a bottle of red on the counter. "It helps."
"Um… sure. Yes. That'd be great."
The woman who's sitting at the table stands, with the help of the blond dude next to her. "I'm Alice. This is Jasper," she introduces, then slaps the back of Edward's head. "Why the hell didn't you tell us she was coming, you jackass?"
Edward winces, rubbing his head. "When I last talked to you, she wasn't part of the plan. And Jesus, Alice. You're pregnant. Aren't you supposed to be less violent?"
"I've already had to give up alcohol," Alice says, staring longingly at the glass of wine Esme just placed in my hand. "Let me at least keep one thing that makes me happy."
"Abusing me makes you happy?" Edward says flatly. "And Mom wonders why I never come home."
"Drama queen," Alice mutters under her breath.
Esme turns around, pointing at them with her wooden spoon. "Stop it. The both of you. We have a guest. Pretend you have manners."
I laugh quietly when Edward looks down at me, shaking his head. His family is much more ridiculous than I had imagined. And even though they've been bickering since we arrived, it's obvious they love each other.
Edward peers into the fridge and grabs a beer, popping open a can of Rainier. "Where's Dad?"
"Upstairs taking a nap. You know how he gets," Esme replies.
Edward chuckles. "And Rosie?"
"Ma didn't want to accommodate everyone's diet needs," Emmett mutters. "So we're gonna have dinner at her parents' place."
"Emmett wanted tofurkey," his mom interjects. "I put my foot down after he requested beet salad."
"That's perfect," Edward laughs, catching my eye. "Bella said she wouldn't come with me if we were having tofurkey."
I cringe, shooting him a look, because I don't want to fucking offend anyone.
"Well I'm glad." Esme winks at me. "We'd much rather have you here than Emmett."
I answer a few more harmless questions before Edward asks if I want to head out to the porch for some air. We grab our coats from the rack, and Edward holds my glass as I button up. Wood creaks beneath our shoes as we walk to the end where there's a porch swing.
He lets me sit down first, making the wine jostle in my glass when he finally sits.
"How you holding up?" he asks.
"Fine, I think. Your family is really nice. And fucking funny." I take a sip of wine. "And abusive," I add as an afterthought.
He barks out a laugh, staring out into the yard. "All true things."
We're quiet for a minute before I say, "Hey, uh… thanks for bringing me. Seriously. And for not killing me. I really appreciate it."
He smirks, bumping my shoulder with his. "I wouldn't kill you before giving you your Christmas present. What a waste of money that'd be."
My eyes narrow. "What present?"
"It's nothing big. Kind of a joke, really. Just something I think you'll like."
"How'd you pull that off?" I wonder. "I've basically been with you the entire time."
"I have my ways," he murmurs, smiling gently. "You can have it after dinner."
I swallow, not able to take my eyes off his mouth. "Okay."
"Okay." He leans closer. "Can I admit something?"
I nod. It's all I can do with him being so close and staring at me like that. And it's fucking crazy to me that I was so unaffected by him in the beginning. Because now it's like… it's just… stupid. I'm an incoherent mess. Clearly.
He clears his throat, then says, "I'm glad you took me up on my offer. I don't think I was ready to say bye to you just yet."
I inch closer, and before our lips meet I whisper, "You're kind of growing on me, too."
Thanks for reading and for telling me that y'all won't hate me for updating a Christmas story after Christmas. I love y'all.
Kimmy & Vickie are my favorite.