Disclaimer: Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond own the adorable little mouse whose needs inspired this very adult version of their story. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
“I thought Bella’s truck was on fire.” Emmett glances at Edward, grinning. “It looked like the cab was filled with smoke from the station door. Little did I know… it wasn’t smoke.” Emmett jerks his head in our direction, while unloading my cooler of food in the kitchen. “But it was you two steaming up the windows of her truck.”
“We didn’t need rescuing.” I scoff, setting the slow cooker full of gravy on the counter next to the mashed potatoes Edward brought inside.
“Obviously. Edward had the mouth-to-mouth covered and not even a sprig of mistletoe in sight.” He winks and hurries to hold open the door for Lauren when he sees her struggling.
“I’ll be back.” Edward smiles and pecks my lips briefly.
I can’t resist watching him walk away, joining the rest of the guys standing around the dessert area. A sigh escapes my lips while my mind is quick to recall our increasing levels of hot and bothered, before we were interrupted by Emmett’s concern for our well-being.
Emmett follows Lauren into the kitchen. “I hope those are your grandmother’s tamales.”
“You know it. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.” Lauren grins, setting the large foil-covered rectangular pan she’s carrying next to the other food.
He puts his palms together in prayer, raising them and speaking toward the ceiling. “Amen! Lauren is making you proud, Grandma.”
“Emmett, you’re ridiculous.” Lauren chuckles.
“You know that if I didn’t push, it would be another family recipe lost for the ages.”
“Hey, Alice. Bella.”
“Hi, Lauren.” Alice smiles and clears her throat. “Uh, Deputy Crowley was looking for you earlier.”
“He was?” Her eyes brighten.
I point toward the back door. “I think he stepped out back to get some fresh air with Jacob.”
“I should probably go say hi.” Lauren giggles, departing the kitchen area as quickly as she arrived.
Emmett watches her walk away and shakes his head. “There must be something in the eggnog this year. First, it’s Edward, and now, Lauren and… Ty?” he asks incredulously. “You saw how she lit up with the mention of him. Man, what am I doing wrong?”
Alice pats his shoulder. “Oh, Emmett. It will happen. You need patience. She’s out there, and please, stop teasing Edward and Bella. I think it’s great that everyone is getting along and making new connections. I have a good feeling they’ll all work out.”
I smile at her words. “Thanks, Alice.”
“Oh, they’re getting along all right. I have a feeling that Bella will be sliding down Edward’s pole before the night is through.”
I bite my lip, trying to contain my grin that widens at the possibility. How does Emmett know me so well? It’s like he can read my mind, or maybe Edward has said something to him. I’m about to see if I can get him to spill the beans when Alice chastises him.
“Emmett! Stop being so naughty. Santa’s watching.” Alice tsks. “Ignore him, Bella. There’s no rush. I think it’s great the two of you are taking your time and getting to know one another. Jasper!”
“Yeah?” He glances in Alice’s direction.
“Emmett needs something to do.” She gives Emmett a little shove toward Jasper.
Jasper nods with a new job in mind. “Can you bring more bags of ice from the back freezer?”
“You got it, Cap.”
With Emmett focused on another task, I help Alice remove the lids and add serving spoons to each dish.
“Alice, what did you and Jasper bring?”
“Lord have mercy, Bella. Jasper smoked a twenty-eight pound turkey.” She pauses noticing my gaping mouth. “I know, dear, I know.”
“It’s delicious too. I snuck a few bites when he was carving it earlier, but there better be a serving on everyone’s plates, or I’ll be eating turkey until Easter.”
“I’m sure if we leave everything here, the guys will love having the leftovers.”
“Good idea. Jasper fixes one every year, but a much, much smaller bird. It took everything I had to keep him from overdoing it and adding a brisket, because he claims a meal isn’t complete without his beloved Texas brisket. I brought macaroni and cheese, and one of his favorites: pumpkin-pecan cheesecake. It’s a great combo of cheesecake, pumpkin, and pecan pies all in one.”
“I can’t wait to try it.” I lean in close, lowering my voice. “Between the two of us, I’m maxed out on baking Christmas cookies this year.”
Alice chuckles, well aware of how I’m trying to impress Edward with all things Christmas, but especially cookies, when I confided in her my sweet intentions during our time as Santa’s elves. “That’s okay, Eric made some to share.”
My eyes seek Eric and find him standing next to Edward who is holding a very familiar-looking Christmas cookie.
I can’t be certain, but if my eyes are correct, Eric’s going to expose Grandma Cullen’s and my secret recipe. I’m distracted from Edward’s furrowed brow as he listens intently to Eric, when Alice steals away my attention again.
“Bella, have you met Garrett’s wife, Kate?”
“Uh, no, I don’t believe I have. Hi, Kate. I’m Bella.”
“Nice to meet you. You’re Chief Swan’s daughter, right?”
“Kate’s a professional snowboarder originally from Alaska,” Alice shares.
“I’m semi-retired, but still known to shred the slopes for fun now and then.”
“She’s an Olympian and medaled several times in the… half-pipe. Did I get that right, Kate?”
“You did, Alice. I don’t compete any longer, but I’m active working with the U.S. Olympic team prospects and with several charities, like the Special Olympics.”
Garrett appears suddenly, leaving a kiss on her cheek. “Kate also posed for the Sports Illustrated winter sports swimsuit issue—that’s how we met.”
“I know I’ll never forget it.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “She was at Whistler to do the photo shoot, and I was there on holiday with my buddies. One look at this sexy woman wearing not much more than a bikini, mittens, and snow boots on the side of a snow-covered mountain had me hooked in an instant. I knew right then I would follow her anywhere.”
Kate chuckles. “I’m lucky I didn’t get frostbite that day.”
“Garrett, I remember you saying you were Canadian, but I didn’t know you were from Vancouver.”
“I’m not. I’m from Halifax, which is over six thousand kilometers away from B.C.”
“Wow, almost the other side of the world.” I chuckle. “How did your family react to you moving so far from home?”
“They weren’t happy at first, as I’m from a long line of firefighters and Halifax is the oldest fire department in Canada, so of course, they’d hoped I’d stay there. But I love what I do here and where I am, and don’t want to give that up or Kate.”
“Why Forks?” I wonder.
“I was looking for a job in the Seattle area because Kate was already living there and saw an advertisement that Clallam County was searching for firefighters. I met with Cap, and the rest is history. We love it here.”
“We still return to Halifax regularly to visit with Garrett’s family. His grandmother insisted on our first Christmas together that I learn their Acadian French family favorites—so Garrett would always have them no matter where we live.” Kate points toward a large golden brown pie nestled among the other food. “His father taught me how to make Acadian Christmas Meat Pie, which is absolutely delicious. This recipe was handed down through Garrett’s family for years, and it is basically a pie filled with ground beef and pork, spices and potatoes.”
“I love it and also her for having the patience to endure my father’s meticulous instructions.” He leans down, wraps his arms around her shoulders while standing behind her, and places a sweet kiss on the top of her head. “Thanks to Kate, Gran’s famous meat pie will live on forever.”
It’s easy to see the love Garrett and Kate have for one another, causing me to wonder how others see Edward and me. Do we look at each other like they do?
Kate pats his arm. “I hope you like it. Garrett’s father is such a sweet man. If you ever meet him, you will understand that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“We also brought butter tarts. You’ll have to try one, Bella. They’re delicious too. I’m going to go sneak one before we eat.” Garrett glances around the full room. “It looks like everyone is here, but I think we’re waiting for your father to return.”
At the mention of my dad, I scan the room and my eyes find Sue talking with Billy, Jacob’s father. “Save a butter tart for me. I need to say hello to a few faces I recognize too.”
But before I can make it across the room, I’m intercepted by one of the sexiest firefighters on Earth who pulls me out of view and behind one of the trucks with a growing smirk on his handsome face.
“Bel-la,” he taunts. “I know your…”
I crash my lips to his, cutting off what he’s about to say. I’m determined to wipe that smug all-knowing, crooked grin from his face, even though there’s no chance of un-jingling those sleigh bells. But maybe with a little extra holiday spirit, I can distract him by stoking the embers and convincing him to add a log to our growing fire.
If you give a firefighter a Christmas cookie, he will want the perfect cup of coffee to go with it.
The cookies and coffee will remind him of his favorite Christmas songs, and while hanging Christmas lights, he’ll agree to a date decorating a tree.
The decorated Christmas tree will fill him with Christmas spirit, which will give him the courage to kiss the naughty new friend who he’s had his eyes on for a while.
Sharing kisses with her won’t be enough. So, he’ll find other ways for them to spend more time together, like building a gingerbread house and playing in the snow.
He’ll wish for his favorite Christmas dinner foods but arrive late to the meal, because he’s sharing steamy kisses in the parking lot.
After arriving, he’ll learn unexpectedly the details of a secret family recipe…