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.
“This is for you.” He holds out a red and white wrapped gift with excitement, anticipation dancing in his beautiful green eyes.
I give the package a good shake, but the contents seem to be firmly in place. “I wonder what it could be?”
“You don’t want me to wait?”
“Absolutely not.” Edward grins, rubbing his hands together.
I slide my hand along the seam, tearing away the paper to reveal a ready-to-make gingerbread house kit. I’m a little confused at the gift idea, but he continues with an explanation.
“Since you enjoy baking cookies and all the traditional Christmas stuff, I thought it would be fun to build one together.”
I don’t share that I only enjoy baking cookies for him, but he doesn’t need to know that.
“A gingerbread house.”
“Yes. Have you ever made one?”
“No. This would be a first.”
His smile widens at my words. “You’ll love it. The gingerbread smells almost as wonderful as a freshly cut Christmas tree. My mother creates a custom one every year all from scratch. I thought this would save time, and it could be something we do together.”
My heart lifts, galloping at a frantic pace at the thought of building a home together, and it isn’t the one I’m holding made of gingerbread. But I know I’m getting way ahead of myself.
“She always says there aren’t enough candy decorations in these types of kits. So, I’m suggesting a trip to Thriftway, before going back to your house. Unless you have other plans.”
I chuckle at the thought because I’m positive if I did, I would bail on them immediately. “It sounds like we’re off to Thriftway.”
“Sure, why not? It’s like my second home.” I can barely contain my grin. He has no idea how much time I’ve spent there, trying to impress him this holiday season. “Come on, grab your bag and we’ll stop by the kitchen to get my coat and purse, then we’ll be on our way.”
“All right.” He kisses my cheek and hurries toward the wall of lockers, pulling his bag from inside without releasing my hand. “Would it be okay if I drive your truck again?”
His excitement over the littlest of things has me grinning from ear to ear. “Sure.”
Edward’s carrying our basket filled with an assortment of Christmas candies in one hand while mine is firmly in his other one. I’ve never seen anyone so delighted about grocery shopping, but I have to admit, we aren’t purchasing the normal stuff.
We have green and red sprinkles, classic peppermints, candy canes, M&Ms, and mini cookies, which he swears make the best roof shingles. I’m skeptical about layering cookies on top of cookies as it seems like an unnecessary expense, but since he’s footing the bill, I’m happy to go along with his plans.
I also question the extra gingerbread men cookies and icing. But Edward’s adamant that we not eat the house, and now, all I can think about is taking a bite out of it at some point. I’m positive it will be delicious, but especially if he believes decoy cookies are necessary.
There’s only one check-out lane open, and I recognize the cashier instantly, saying a little prayer this will all go smoothly while we wait for our turn.
“Maybe we should stop and get something to eat?” I suggest, hoping he doesn’t hear my growling stomach. But it seems like forever since I had pancakes this morning.
“Oh, yeah? What sounds good?”
“Well, we don’t have many choices, and since we had pizza last time, how about Chinese food?”
“South North Gardens?”
“Yes. That one’s my favorite.”
“Do you want to eat there or carry-out?”
“I’ll call in our order and we can pick it up when we finish here. What do you normally get?” He asks after removing his phone from his pocket and searching for the number.
“Hi, Bella. Back again?” Leah asks, as she scans the items in our basket.
“Hey, Leah. Yeah, you know me with the never-ending shopping list.” I laugh nervously because now is not the time to chit-chat over what I’ve been buying religiously for the past few weeks.
“We just restocked your favorite tubs of coo—”
“No! No! Not this trip.” I’m quick to cut off her next words, as they will blow my secret of how to make Edward’s favorite Christmas cookies. “I’m all stocked up. Thanks.”
“Your favorite tubs of what?” he prompts, looking between the two of us, no longer focusing on his contacts list.
“Uh… you know me… always purchasing supplies—tubs of this, tubs of that. I’m a busy baker these days.” He doesn’t look convinced at my explanation, so I scramble to share another explanation. “But I love the little tubs of ice cream, especially the seasonal Christmas flavors. You would probably love the Christmas cookie one, but uh, I can’t get enough of the peppermint bark. It always sells out quickly.”
Oh, God. I wish I would just shut up. I’m not sure he will buy this, as no one calls pints of ice cream—tubs, well, maybe the bigger sizes they do. But I need to throw him off this trail so we can move away from any conversation about the cookie dough tubs I’ve been buying as though they’re going to stop making them.
“Yeah, they are always so expensive that I try to limit myself not to going overboard.”
“Do you want me to run back to the frozen section and grab some? My treat.”
I glance past his shoulder at the growing line of impatient customers. “No, let’s not hold up the line any longer. We’ve got a house to build.”
His whole face lights up with the reminder of our plans, and he refocuses on paying for our supplies. “That we do.”
Temperatures are plummeting and the winds pick up while snowflakes fall on our drive back home. The smell of our food next to me on the seat has my mouth watering, and I’m ready to snag an egg roll if Edward doesn’t drive any faster. He is holding our interlaced hands on his thigh as he maneuvers the Beast through town at an amazingly slow pace.
I’ve been watching his handsome profile for a while from the middle seat where he insisted I should always sit when he’s driving, and there isn’t a chance I will ever refuse being this close to him. The early morning has me leaning my head against his shoulder as the fatigue of our breakfast with Santa catches up with me.
“I’m surprised you aren’t in a hurry to get back.” I suppress a yawn.
“Oh, I am, but I’m enjoying this moment too much to rush it.” He raises our hands to his lips and leaves a gentle kiss on the back of mine before returning them to his lap.
The heater is on full blast, but I’m still chilled from wearing my elf costume all day. It isn’t skimpy, but the material isn’t that warm for the cooler weather we’re experiencing. I’m looking forward to sliding into my comfy flannel pajamas soon.
“We may need to build a fire when we get home.” I snuggle a little closer against his side.
“I will happily volunteer my skills.”
“So, you not only put out fires, but you start them too?” I tease, because I’m like smoldering embers around him. It only takes a few kisses to fan the flames, and I’m back to a roaring fire in no time at all. “I hope you don’t mind me changing into my pajamas.”
I need to make sure I switch out my current bra and underwear for something a little sexier too—or maybe no bra at all.
“Not at all. Are you warming up?”
“A little.” A contented sigh escapes my chest. “You know, my dad is working the overnight shift tonight.”
“I know.” He squeezes my hand, keeping his eyes on the road.
“We’ll be alone.”
“He said until three or four when I spoke with him earlier.” Edward turns his head toward me, leaning closer, and presses a brief kiss on my forehead while waiting to make the last turn onto my street.
“You’re welcome to stay over. I don’t think he would mind.”
I know I wouldn’t.
We pull into the driveway, and Edward is quick to open the door, helping me down from the seat.
“I’ll get the food and our bags. Why don’t you unlock the front door?” He closes the driver’s side door and moves around to the other side of the truck.
“Wow, look at all the snow. It’s probably two or three inches.” I twirl in place, tilting my head and catching as many flakes as possible in my mouth.
I reach down to see if there’s enough for a snowball and can’t resist when there is.
“Hey, Edward?” I call out, getting his attention.
“Yeah?” He yells from the passenger seat, no doubt gathering our things, which is even better because his hands will be too full to retaliate.
When he doesn’t move where I can see him, I try again.
“Edward?” I can’t keep the smile off my face.
“What is it?” He stands upright and steps into view, waiting for my next words.
“How do you tell the difference between snowmen and snowwomen?” I don’t wait for his reply and hurl a snowball his way, landing a lucky hit on his shoulder. “Snowballs!”
“Bella!” He warns, putting whatever he was holding back in the truck and disappears.
“Oh, sorry!” I apologize, snickering while quickly shaping another, but suspect he knows better.
“You’re not sorry at all.” He reappears from the other side of the truck like a ninja and rapid fires two snowballs landing on my neck and chest.
“Aaack!” I hurl my second one, missing him completely when he ducks out of the way. “You can’t hide from me, Edward!”
“Remember you started this,” he reminds, but when he reappears, he’s closer and almost around the front of the truck.
I move toward the back, but slip in my rush, feeling two snowballs land against my lower back. I squeal and fall to the ground, taking cover, but before I can make another snowball, Edward closes the distance between us with two new snowballs already in hand.
It’s so cold that I can see my breath, panting between giggles. “I surrender! I surrender!”
“That’s what I thought.” He grins from ear to ear, drops the snowballs, and offers a cold hand to help me stand.
“Sorry about that. I don’t know what came over me.” My silly smile matches his.
“Uh-huh.” He leans closer, planting a quick peck on my lips. “I think ‘mischief’ may be your middle name.”
“Actually, it’s Marie.”
“Well, Isabella Marie, I will grab our things, unless you want to go another round? But you appear to be easily outmatched in a snowball fight.”
“Well, Edward… what’s your middle name?”
“Well, Edward Anthony, I would be happy to share with you some of my other more proficient skills, but you said no strenuous activities until eleven. So, I suggest that we get inside, because I’m starving.”
“I’ll be right behind you,” he promises, returning to the passenger side of the truck.
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.