Sunday, November 18, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 20

Chapter 20
"New rules!" Jasper called from downstairs. "Everyone is playing this year – ahem, Mom and Dad – so there's no excuse! Let's go!"
Giggling into the phone, I said, "I gotta go, Dad. Give everyone hugs from us, okay?"
"Kick ass and take names, kiddo," he said with a chuckle. "One day, I'll have to watch this tradition."
"Oh,'s all sorts of twisted and wrong, Dad. You really shouldn't," I warned him with a groan. "Did I ever tell you what Emmett made with snowmen?"
"Isabella Marie!" Esme growled. "Don't you dare!"
I covered my mouth to stifle my laugh because it had been a replica of Carlisle and Esme in a compromising position that Emmett had formed out of snow. He'd dressed them up in Carlisle's doctor coat and Esme's clothes. If a vampire could have an aneurysm, then Esme came damn close that day.
"Damn, she middle-named me," I huffed, smiling at my father's laughter over the phone.
"Go, Bells. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Check in next week, will ya?" Dad's amusement was loud and clear, but I told him that I'd call him, that I loved him, and then ended the call.
I tossed my phone onto the bed, shaking my head at the almost palpable feelings of excitement that were running through the house. I knew that Jasper was most likely feeding it, but there was something so damn lighthearted about this tradition. It went against the grain with what most people knew of the Cullens. I certainly hadn't ever imagined that they had played this sort of game when I'd been brought over by Edward that first Thanksgiving.
Truth or Dare.
I snorted at the thought, chuckling when I heard furniture being shifted around in the living room. Since there were so many of us this year, it had been decided that we'd all sit on the floor.
"Ready?" Edward asked from our bedroom doorway.
"Never." I grinned and squeaked when he was instantly in front of me, tossing me over his shoulder.
"Too bad, sweet girl," he teased with a laugh, popping me on the butt.
The living room was a din of happy, excited chatter as Edward dropped me down onto a pillow, only to take the one next to mine.
"How's Charlie, sweetheart?" Esme asked me.
"Scared for his life," I told her. "Apparently, Jake's got it in his head to deep fry a turkey this year, so Dad's afraid the whole reservation will go up in flames."
The room filled with laughter as most of us took our places in the center of the room by the fireplace. The only one missing was Carlisle.
"Anna told him he has to do it on First Beach. You know...close to the water," I continued, shaking my head. "And she's already warned the closest fire station."
"Oh, damn," Edward said, chuckling and shaking his head. "Didn't he test it? You know...with water? You fill it up with water first and drop the turkey in. If it overflows, then you know to adjust the level."
"One can only hope," I stated firmly, shrugging a shoulder.
The laughter settled down a bit when Carlisle walked in on his phone.
"No, Demitri, I completely understand," he stated with a nod, locking gazes with Edward for a brief second.
"I'll let you know when Marcus arrives stateside, then," Demitri told him. "Tell everyone hello, and give the girls my love..."
"Hey, Demitri..." Rose, Alice, and I all sang in unison.
Demitri's deep, full laugh could be heard loud and clear. "My girls," he crooned in his thick Italian accent when Carlisle turned the speakerphone on with a grin. "You give those boys hell today. I'm sorry we're missing it. Best holiday tradition I've ever witnessed."
"We will," Alice and I vowed.
I pointed to the phone. "I bet he'd kill us all with the stuff he could come up with," I mused to Rose.
"No shit," she snorted with a nod.
When Carlisle ended his call and sat down next to Esme, he sighed deeply. "It seems D.C. was a bigger problem than Demitri anticipated. They're bringing in Marcus as a precaution, but they think they've cleared everything up."
I frowned, looking to Edward, who was studying Carlisle intently.
"So it wasn't a human causing the problem," he surmised in a soft tone. "Was it just the one?"
"So it would seem," Carlisle replied, nodding once to Edward. "Bringing Marcus in is merely a formality. If there are any more, then it will be swiftly taken care of." Carlisle smiled brightly. "However, Marcus does want to see us, so I suspect he'll visit before the year is out."
"Excellent," Emmett hissed with a grin, nudging a quiet Archie next to him. "Bet he's comin' to see you, bud."
Archie looked wide-eyed and nervous about that as he glanced up at Emmett and then to Edward.
Edward chuckled. "No worries. Marcus is well aware of your situation. He's probably interested in seeing your talent for himself more than anything. He's not one to demand or punish unnecessarily. You've done nothing wrong, Archie."
I nodded in agreement because that part was completely true. Marcus was totally fair and just as curious as Carlisle was about talents and different immortals. He also kept a pretty open door policy, which was the opposite of his brothers. He encouraged immortals to visit Volterra, and he'd always told us that any member of the Cullen family was welcomed at any time.
"The plus side of that," Adrian added, and we all turned to listen to him, "is that Marcus can answer a lot of questions you might have. He's seen it all."
Kevin nodded. "That's true. And his own talent is pretty awesome. He can see the connections between people...see how strong their relationships are. In other words, he'll know where your loyalties lie just by looking at you."
Archie's eyebrows shot up. "That's...interesting."
"You can go all invisible, and you're sayin' that's interesting?" Emmett teased him. "Pshaw! The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it?" he muttered to no one in particular.
"," Archie countered with a grin and a shake to his head. "I meant that it would be interesting to see what that looked like."
"Colors," Edward answered immediately, taking my hand in his and linking our fingers together. "Bright colors that connect each mated couple...and then each couple to Carlisle. This particular room looks like a very bright spiderweb to him."
Archie grinned and turned to Emmett. "See? Interesting."
I buried my giggle into Edward's shoulder, feeling his own laughing kiss to the top of my head. Archie had truly started to blossom in the last few weeks. And because there wasn't one of us in the house that was afraid to tease, answer sarcastically, or give someone hell, then he was really starting to blend in. He had a subtle sense of humor, an easygoing personality, and now that he'd been feeding regularly on the blood of animals, his eyes were a dark, dark amber with a hint of red still swirling in there. Carlisle explained to him that it would take several weeks of maintaining the same diet for his eyes to turn the soft gold like everyone else's.
"Okay, family meeting over?" Jasper asked, giving Carlisle an impatient look.
"I have a feeling I'm really going to regret this," Carlisle muttered, rolling his eyes and waving Jasper on.
"Good. New rules," he repeated, holding up a finger. "No nudity...nothing less than underwear. Since we've trapped – I mean, encouraged – the parental units to join us this year, I can't imagine the amount of brain bleach we'd need if we saw Dad naked."
"Oh damn," Emmett groaned, wearing a comical scowl on his face.
"And that's different than any other" Alice and Edward huffed at the same time.
Laughing, my head fell back, because yeah, those two saw it all – whether they wanted to or not.
"I don't know whether to be insulted or thankful," Carlisle said softly to Esme, who couldn't stop laughing.
"Thankful," we all told him.
"Next," Jasper said, grinning at that whole exchange and holding up another finger. "No sexually explicit dares. No need to scar poor Archie for eternity. Hmm? Questions are fine, but no orgasms, masturbation, sexual positions..."
"Is this the fine print?" I asked Edward in a dramatic whisper.
"Yes," he said with a crooked grin. "Tag, tax, and title not included."
"Shut up!" Jasper growled, throwing a pillow at us, which Edward caught deftly with a laugh. "Let me finish!" He sighed deeply, rolling his eyes. "Last are not to use Truth questions to finalize any bets. There are a few still up in the air, and it would be unfair to settle those in this game. Are we clear?"
That made me extremely happy because it wasn't beneath my siblings to straight up ask if Edward had a fuck-hot mouth during sex. Which he did. And I didn't want to answer, simply because I didn't know who had more fun – Edward and me keeping it from them, or the whole family thinking they could figure it out. It was all a big game.
Edward laughed, his hand hitting his forehead in a loud smack. "Bella."
"What?" I asked innocently, but switched to thoughts. You can't say you didn't think it, too, Edward Cullen.
Grinning over at me, he shot me a wink.
"So I take it there are still some bets about me going back to work, hmm?" Carlisle asked.
"Hell, yes!" Kevin answered. "But don't have a few weeks for me, Dr. Feel Good."
"However, I'm out as of today," Esme sighed forlornly. "Jasper and I both are."
"I don't want to talk about it," Jasper huffed, turning to Alice. "By all means, darlin'."
Alice smiled and then turned to Archie. "Since you're new, I'll explain the rules of the game. The person up chooses someone in this circle. That person must choose whether they want to be asked a question, which they must be completely honest in answering, or...they can choose a dare. If you refuse to do the dare or answer the question, you must complete two more dares before we can move on. You'll get the idea as we go along." She smiled knowingly at him. "And I always go first."
There were grumbles around the room, but no one argued with her, and I wondered for a split second how long she'd been "going first."
"Eighty years," Edward muttered. "Eighty years of... And I go first."
I snorted into a laugh, especially when Alice growled at him, pouting a little.
Alice narrowed her eyes at her brother, who just grinned back, and then she turned back to Archie. "Are you ready?"
"No...not at all, but go ahead," Archie replied.
Alice took a deep breath and called, "Bella."
I growled, rolling my eyes. "All these people, even a new person, and you still pick me first."
"Eighty years..." Edward whispered in my ear. "Just think...she'll be picking you first eighty years from now."
I shoved him away with a laugh and looked to my sister. Taking a deep breath, I then let it out and said, "Truth."
"If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?" she asked immediately, like she'd seen my choice ahead of time, which she probably had.
My eyebrows shot up with that one, but I thought about it. I thought about Forks and London and Italy and all the places we'd stayed. I chewed on my bottom lip when I thought about places I hadn't seen, but one place offered a since of nostalgia, a beginning of sorts, and complete and totally privacy.
"Really?" Edward whispered, his brow furrowed.
"Yeah," I answered, barely looking at him. "Isle Esme."
"Why, sweetheart?" Esme asked, her eyes filled with a warm, sweet gaze.
"Umm," I mused, looking down at my hands. "It's beautiful, yes, but it represents an escape for me...and the place where Edward and I really first started. It was the first place we lived alone for a few weeks. I think we learned to truly let our guard down there...overcome some things."
Edward kissed the side of my head, saying nothing, but a low purr rumbled between us.
Alice smiled softly and nodded.
"Damn, I thought for sure...Forks," Emmett said with a chuckle.
"Second place," I told him with a grin. " turn." I narrowed my eyes on everyone, but my gaze finally fell on Jasper, who groaned when I called his name.
Raising an eyebrow at me, he said, "Dare. Do your worst, Bells."
"Trade shirts with someone in this room for the remainder of the game..." I held my hand up when he immediately turned to Emmett. "Of the opposite sex."
The room exploded into laughter, but Jasper took it in stride with a crooked grin and a glance around the room. "Give it up, Rose... let's go," he told her, grasping the back of his T-shirt and shirking out of it.
Rose guffawed, stood up, caught his shirt in mid-air, and walked into the library to change quickly. She returned and tossed her own his way. What was hilarious was to see Jasper squeeze into a bright teal, lace-topped tank top. I knew he'd picked Rose because she was the tallest. He'd have never fit into anything Alice, Esme, or I had on, so that left him with no other alternative.
"You look...precious, sweet cheeks," Emmett teased him.
"I look good in this color. Don't hate!" Jasper growled, looking around the room for his victim. He rubbed his hands together. "Dad," he sang.
Carlisle groaned, his brows knitting together, but his chin jutted out as he stated, "Dare," with a firm tone.
"No shit?" Jasper gasped, looking shocked. "I was totally expecting truth. But dare, it is..." He grinned evilly, saying, "There's something satisfying in this... Dad, you have to dance the Macarena. The whole song."
"Oh, hell..." Carlisle stood, laughing when we all called out to him, wolf whistles echoing through the room. "Okay, hit me..."
Alice played the song over her phone, and I don't know what was funnier – the fact that most of us pulled out our own phones to record it or the dance itself. Carlisle swayed his hips, his hands going through the motions throughout the entire song, but we all would burst out with, "Hey, Macarena," every time it came up.
By the time he sat back down, Esme was in hysterics, and Edward was threatening to post his dance on YouTube.
"Your turn, sweetie," Esme reminded him, still struggling to get her giggles under control.
"Ah, yes..." he sang, rubbing his hands together. "Kevin."
"I'm not sure I want a dare from you, Dr. Feel Good," he told him with a grin. "So...truth."
"Okay. If you borrowed a talent from someone in this room for twenty-four hours...who would it be and why?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest.
Kevin grinned, giving the room a long, slow gaze. Edward chuckled at whatever he was hearing but otherwise, stayed quiet. "I'm not sure I'd ever want to hear what people are thinking," he started, sounding like he was thinking out loud. "The future is iffy anyway... So...probably Archie's. That invisibility would be pretty awesome. Think of the shit you'd could get in anywhere – the White House, a bank vault, the Pentagon...anywhere. Hell, you could sneak into a movie set and watch Channing Tatum get dressed!"
"Hello, Magic Mike," Alice guffawed.
Kevin smiled widely. "Exactly!"
Poor Archie looked shocked, but he snorted and shook his head. For a moment, I was wondering what he was making of all this, but Edward simply chuckled.
"Heavy E!" Kevin called out.
Edward narrowed his eyes at Kevin, wearing a small yet sexy smirk.
"See, Arch," Emmett leaned over. "This is where Eddie boy cheats. He sees both options in Kevin's mind. If he doesn't like one, he opts for the other."
Archie laughed but looked back to Edward.
"Truth," Edward finally stated, giving Emmett a side-glance. "And he hid them both from me. He's singing 'It's Raining Men' in his head. And it's really loud, I might add!"
Laughing, I looked to Kevin, who looked rather proud of himself.
"Besides in a defensive situation, has the Goddess ever used her shield on you?" he asked, wearing a smirk as he waggled his eyebrows.
Giggling, I blinked up at Edward innocently, waiting for his answer. He grinned, grasping my face gently.
He turned back to Kevin, his face serious at first. "First of all, other than practicing, she's never had to use her shield defensively...not from me." He shook his head slowly, a smirk spreading over his face. "But yes, she has."
"Oh, yeah," Emmett cheered, grinning at us. "I bet that was all sorts of twisted...Mistress Bella."
Ignoring Emmett, I bit my lip and smiled up at Edward, remembering several different situations. I'd pinned his hands more times than I could count, but I'd held him completely down onto the top of the Volvo once in London when his temper had gotten out of control. I'd used my shield to snap him out of it.
"Mmhm, exactly," Edward purred, kissing my fingers.
"You totally take charge of that, don't you, my Goddess?" Kevin guffawed.
"Since it's not your turn, I don't have to answer you," I sang back, batting my eyelashes at him.
Edward laughed but glanced around at the players. "Emmett."
"Oh yeah... Dare, baby. Bring it!" Emmett boomed, flexing his huge arms.
My husband grinned, nodding, and pointed out the front window. "You'll have to do this outside. Old-school break-dancing," he stated, pulling out his phone.
Emmett's head fell back with his laughter, but he nodded and stood up. We all piled out onto the front porch.
Edward bent to my ear. "In the early eighties, Emmett couldn't get enough break-dancing. If I'd have heard one more Run DMC song, I might have run away for good." He shook his phone in front of me, kissing me when I laughed softly. "However, this one started it all."
The opening notes of some rap song started. It was old and slightly cheesy and frequently mentioned someone by the name of Grand Master Flash. But it was Emmett that held our attention. Despite his size, my biggest brother was really rather graceful, and it was hysterical to watch him pull out every break-dancing cliché known to man – the worm, the robot, he even tossed in the Moonwalk. Watching him spin on his back, flip, shake, and shimmy might have been the funniest thing ever.
"He totally sported the Adidas without strings and the baggy pants, didn't he?" I muttered to no one in particular.
"Yes!" Edward, Rose, and Alice all growled at the same time, wearing looks of disgust.
"I thought he was a metal head." I laughed.
"He was," Jasper answered with a chuckle. "One school, he was into rap. The next, metal. It went on for years."
When Emmett finished with a dramatic spin on his back, ending in a handstand, we all clapped and whistled. He grinned, giving us a deep bow.
"Thank you, thank you..." he chanted, following us all back inside to form our circle again.
The game went on for hours, and I swore this was the most intense game we'd ever played. We found out that Adrian stole fifty dollars from his mother one time when he wanted a video game she wouldn't let him have. Alice – thanks to Edward – had to dance the Waltz with Archie, who was pretty damn good at it.
Edward was dared to strip down to his underwear for three rounds, which scared the shit out of me because normally, he went commando. But apparently, Edward was smarter than I gave him credit. When he dropped his black jeans, a sexy pair of burgundy boxer-briefs met my eyes, and he simply said, "Wasn't taking chances," as he sat back down.
Poor Esme made the mistake of choosing dare with Edward, so he made her say the words "in bed" after everything she said for the next four turns. We all collapsed into a heap of laughter when she reprimanded Kevin for his bed. He merely grinned and told her he wasn't making any promises.
Emmett dared me to chug a gallon of milk, which I did – though it immediately came back up out in the backyard, and thankfully, Edward held my hair as he repeatedly asked me if he should beat the hell out of our brother. I said no but thanked him anyway.
Archie had to admit to the naughtiest thing he'd ever done, which was peek in on his mother's friend while she dressed once, and we were all shocked, but it earned Archie some serious back pats and fist bumps from all the boys.
"Rose," Archie called, and she looked a little shocked that he'd called on her.
"Truth," she opted.
"What do you like best about being a vampire?" he asked her, and for a moment, I wondered if he just simply needed to know.
She smiled at him. "That's something Carlisle would ask," she teased, giving Dad a wink. "Um...speed, the way our minds work, and...Emmett."
It really was the simplest answer for her, I knew that much. Rosalie had hated her life, though she'd come to terms with it. I was just glad he hadn't asked her what she didn't like because most of us knew the answer. Rose had always wanted children.
"Bella," Rose called, snapping my attention to her.
"After the milk? Ugh... Truth," I told her, leaning into Edward's hug.
"My poor girl." He chuckled softly, kissing my temple and rubbing up and down my arm with his open hand.
"Where's your favorite place you've ever had sex?" she asked, giving me the biggest and cheesiest grin she could muster.
"Oh ho!" Kevin sang, sitting forward and rubbing his hands together. "Now we're getting somewhere."
Sitting up straight, I huffed a laugh. Unfortunately, I couldn't control my thoughts, so poor Edward was subjected to a Flash Point type slideshow in my head. There were so many places! There were romantic, like our honeymoon on the beach, times when Edward had rented a hotel room and lit candles everywhere, and our home in London, where no surface had been safe. Then there were times that were out of our control – hunting, the car, alleyways, and school gymnasiums. Rainy days, grassy fields, shattered trees, fluffy beds, destroyed hotel rooms, hot tubs, the piano... Oh God, the piano...
"Christ, Bella," Edward groaned, clawing at his hair. "Just pick!"
Laughter echoed around us, but I smirked over at him. "You're just as responsible, Cullen."
"I know! But still..." he begged, much to the amusement of our family. "Baby, please?"
Grinning, I looked to Rose. "It's a tie," I stated firmly, glancing up when Edward's gaze snapped to mine, all humor gone from his face. "The Cullen house in Forks...and the meadow. I can't choose between the two."
It would've been impossible to pick. Our meadow had always been a place of comfort, truth, and love. We'd made love so many times there that there was an almost permanent impression of us in the grass the last time we'd visited. But the Cullen house in Forks was so very important. It was where we met, fell in love, got married, and made love for the first time. It was the very first place he took me the day he came back to me. There was no way to choose.
Rose rolled her eyes at me but smiled genuinely as Edward kissed the back of my hand over and over.
"What did you expect? The Aston Martin?" I asked with a grin, narrowing my eyes on Edward when he growled low. "Stop it!"
"Sue me," he muttered, giving me a cocky grin, because the Aston Martin had earned him all sorts of props from his brothers.
"You're such a guy sometimes, Edward," I accused teasingly. He merely smiled and shrugged, so I turned my attention to the room. "Adrian."
Poor Adrian's head snapped up, and he looked nervous. He and Archie were our shyest players and most always opted to answer a truth question – though we were just as relentless with those.
"Truth," he responded just as I thought he would.
"Name five things you find attractive in the same sex," I told him, laughing when Kevin blinked dramatically his way.
"Aw...Bells," he whined.
"Answer it, or you have to do two dares, Adrian," Alice warned him. "And there's another gallon of milk in there. I bought all sorts of supplies for this game."
"Eww, no!" he groaned, wincing at the mere thought. He sighed, shook his head, and gave a glance around the room, holding up his first finger. "Smile, eyes, that little v thing..." He grinned when every girl in the room whooped in agreement.
Edward tugged me over, growling in my ear. "Hush, beautiful."
"A really nice ass," Adrian continued, and Edward gently placed his hand over my mouth. "And a great big...personality." He grinned, shaking his head at the groans and the laughs that broke out.
"Oh hell no, he didn't!" Rose guffawed.
"Last one, 'cause I wanna go watch the game," Emmett stated, and we all nodded in agreement.
"Okay," Adrian agreed, looking around the room. "Edward."
"Truth," Edward replied, keeping me curled up in his lap.
"All those schools...what's the worst thing, worst rumor you've heard about someone in this room?" he asked, and Edward suddenly became very still.
Edward was quiet for a moment, but his voice had dropped to a serious tone. "Never mind. Dare. And I know it has to be two."
I sat up to look at him, but he simply shook his head at me once.
"Okay," Adrian said, dragging the word out a bit. "Umm, first one...chug two shots of hot sauce."
"Yuck," I groaned, watching as my husband stood up without complaint and walked into the kitchen. In front of us all, he poured the first shot of the fiery red liquid.
Edward grimaced before putting the small glass to his lips. Tipping his head back quickly, he tossed the liquid down his throat. He poured the next glass, following the same exact process. He licked his lips like the taste was just simply awful, but shot out the back door the same way I had when I'd drunk the milk.
I darted into Esme's bathroom, wet a washcloth with warm water, and met him on the back steps. He'd done the same thing for me. It was only fair. Kneeling beside him as he got rid of the hot sauce, I ran my fingers through his hair and then wiped his face. I was met with warm, sweet, honey-colored eyes.
"Thanks," he snorted, rolling those same beautiful eyes at me.
"It was me," I guessed in a barely there sound. "The rumor."
I nodded. "Do I want to know?"
"You already do, but they don't."
"Ah," I sighed, grimacing a little. "How I looked while you were gone," I surmised, though I didn't elaborate on the details aloud. I knew what people had thought about me – that I was suicidal, that Edward had found another woman, that I'd started taking drugs. The truth was that I was in pain, and my body was shutting down without him. But my sweet mind reader had heard it all when he returned to Forks.
"Yeah, all of that, love."
"You could've told them," I whispered, wiping his handsome face again.
"I didn't want to." His face was stern as he said those words, but his eyes were warm and sweet and filled with something I couldn't quite put a name to.
"Fair enough, baby." I kissed his forehead. "Poor thing. Ready for your next dare?"
"I have no choice," he said with a grimace.
The two of us walked back in hand in hand, only to find highly amused stares aimed our way.
"Aw, really?" Edward groaned, almost sounding like a petulant child. "A prank call?"
"To whom?" I asked, but was met with Emmett's highly amused laugh.
"Eddie here has to call the closest McDonald's and tell them he's Ronald McDonald coming in for an inspection and to be ready," he stated, nodding once and folding his large arms across his chest.
"That shit would be funny as hell to watch in person..." Kevin muttered aloud, shaking his head and huffing a laugh.
"Yeah, really funny. Wanna know why?" Adrian asked with a chuckle. "Because guess who works at the closest McDonald's..."
"Ronnie," Edward said with a laugh. "From the fair..."
"Oh hell," I sighed, looking around the room, only to land on the parents for help.
"Oh, son," Carlisle started, chuckling a little. "Unfortunately, you have to stick to the rules. However, we want no part of this one."
Not five minutes later did we find ourselves piled into two cars, minus the parents. Archie rode with Edward, Adrian, Kevin, and myself in the Volvo, and everyone else was piled into Emmett's truck.
It wasn't the first time Archie had been in a car, but it was the first time he'd left the property. Emmett had taught him the history of motor vehicles, only to drive him around the yard, down the long drive, and back to the house. His eyes were wide as he sat in the back seat with my brothers as they quickly explained who Ronald McDonald was, and I couldn't imagine what a shock all the lights, cars, and noise were to him.
Shamelessly, Emmett and Edward backed into the farthest parking spots on the lot, facing the restaurant. I shook my head at what they were about to do.
"Do I have to be Ronald? Or can I do it a different way?" Edward asked, wearing a silly-as-hell grin as they rolled their windows down.
"Whatever, dude." Jasper laughed, pointing toward the front doors. "As long as they think the big clown is comin', that's all that matters."
"This is so fucked up," Rose snorted into a laugh. "Edward, I apologize on behalf of them all."
He grinned at her and waved it all away as he studied the phone in his hands. I couldn't imagine doing what he was about to do, but anonymity was a beautiful thing. Edward laughed, glancing over at me.
"I suppose there could be worse dares," I told him, wearing a big smile.
"You mean like naked snow angels?" he countered, raising a deadly sexy eyebrow up at me.
You looked damn good making them, Edward Cullen, I thought to him with a smirk. "I can't apologize for that. You deserved it."
Grinning, he glanced back down at his phone, his thumb sweeping gracefully over the screen. Finally, he put the thing up to his ear.
You could've heard a pin drop at how quiet the nine of us were being. But all eyes were on Edward.
"Good evening. Thank you for calling McDonald's Caribou. This is Skylar. How may I help you?" a young, polite, feminine voice answered over the phone.
"Hello, Skylar. This is Stephen Carson from the corporate office," Edward started, rolling his eyes and shaking his head, but his voice sounded completely professional and as smooth as melted chocolate. "I was just calling to let you know that Ronald himself will be giving your location a brief inspection this evening. This call is just to give you a heads up. In fact, he should be arriving within the hour."
The whole lot of us – two cars full – burst into silent laughter.
"O-O-kay," she murmured, dragging out the word. "Did you want to speak with Tony, the manager on duty?"
"No, no...that won't be necessary." Edward stated into the phone, his head falling back to the headrest behind him. "But Skylar, please make sure that everything is running smoothly, that your location is looking its best. Can you do that for me?"
With that voice, even I was willing to get in there and clean, which only earned me a ginormous smile aimed my way from Edward.
"Y-Yes, Mr..."
"Carson," he finished for her. "Thank you, Skylar. You have an enjoyable evening."
He ended the call, huffing a laugh to himself as we all cracked up, but all of us turned our attention inside the restaurant, where the employees were hearing Skylar's announcement.
"Guys! That was corporate...they're sending Ronald for an inspection!" she cried out from behind the counter.
"Watch this shit," Jasper murmured, chuckling a bit.
He must have sent in wave upon wave of panic and fear because every last employee suddenly shot into overdrive...including the boy we'd taught a lesson to at the Halloween fair.
"Are you sure, Sky?" Ronnie asked her with broom in hand. "'Cause that's like the oldest prank call in the books. That fuckin' clown ain't comin'."
"It wasn't a prank! It was corporate. Stephen Carson."
I shot a look to Edward. "How in the blue hell did you know who they'd respond to?"
Edward laughed, looking young, carefree, and so very smug. "Googled it."
Jasper fed the whole building for a few more minutes, making it worse inside. Even the manager, Tony, got involved, pushing a belligerent Ronnie outside to clean the parking lot. At that point, our two cars were out of control, so we pulled out of the parking lot to head home.
I glanced back at glow of the restaurant, shaking my head. "Well, if one good thing came out of that whole prank, it's that at least the place will be cleaner."
Kevin grinned. "No shit. At least there's that."
Edward snorted and shook his head. "I'm not sure cleaning will make the food any better for humans." We all laughed with him, but he just smiled and shrugged. "Just sayin'."
"He was out of bounds!" Jasper yelled at the TV.
"Hell, no...he was in! Watch his feet, watch his feet!" Emmett boomed, pointing to the slow motion replay that was happening on the screen.
The football game simply wasn't holding my attention. Carlisle and my brothers were all engrossed, not to mention Archie was trying to take it all in, but I got up and wandered into the library. I hadn't sat down to play music in almost a week.
Twin faces of surprise glanced up at me when I walked into the room. Alice and Bella were leaning into each other on the sofa, both studying the screen of the laptop.
"Christmas shopping?" I asked with a grin because I couldn't hear a single thought between them.
"Maybe," they said at the same time, looking falsely innocent.
"Just tell me we you aren't dragging us all over this state on Black Friday," I groaned, sitting down to my piano.
Bella giggled, shaking her head. "No, baby. Promise."
"Thank God," I murmured, smirking when they laughed. "Do you mind?" I asked, pointing to the piano.
"Never," they both said.
"You're doing it again...speaking in stereo. It's frightening," I told them.
"Shut up and play, Edward," Alice snorted, looking back at the computer.
I fiddled around with a few songs, not bothering to finish them. Since my brothers weren't in the room, it really was just a way to keep myself busy. I played some Christmas carols, some Lady Antebellum, even a classical or two, and the girls stayed quiet over on the sofa. Sometimes, they sang along under their breath, but otherwise, there was simply a relaxing feel to the room.
I started on an Elton John song, something I'd heard in a movie the girls had watched a few years back, but it had been a rather successful song. Really, I just enjoyed the way he'd put together melodies and chords. When I started the first few notes, I hadn't expected the girls to sing, but once they started, I smiled and played "Tiny Dancer" just to hear it.
Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band.
Pretty eyes, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must've seen her dancing in sand
And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand
I grinned when my brothers walked in, quickly putting my fingers up to my lips as I continued to play. Emmett sat down to his drums. Jasper picked up an acoustic guitar, as did Kevin. Adrian and Archie took seats on the loveseat. When Rose, Carlisle, and Esme walked in, it was Jasper that joined in with Bella's and Alice's voices.
Piano man he makes his stand
In the auditorium
Looking on, she sings the songs
The words she knows, the tune she hums
But oh, how it feels so real
Lying here with no one near
Only you, and you can hear me
When I say softly, slowly
We all joined in on the chorus, and suddenly, Bella was at my side, giving my cheek a sweet kiss as she straddled the bench.
Hold me closer tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today
As I played alone on the bridge, I heard my family's thoughts. They loved this. It wasn't about the song, or the playing, but the moments when we all just...were. It was the one moment we weren't teasing, fighting, or worrying about anything. It was easy of mind, heart, and spirit. Even Archie's mind was calm, happy, just enjoying the sounds.
Bella, though, had finally opened up her mind to me. As usual, her eyes were watching my hands while I played. Her mind loved the feel of the family around the holidays, and listening to her, a plan started to form in my mind as to what to get her for Christmas. It wouldn't be the only thing, but it would be an important thing.
Alice met my gaze from across the room and smiled. Absolutely, Edward. She'd love that. It's been years.
When the song was over, my brothers picked up another song, and I dropped a heavy kiss to the top of Bella's head. "I love much, sweet girl," I murmured quietly into her hair.
Lifting her head from my shoulder, she smiled, and it was beautiful and sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time. "Love you, too, Edward."
"Happy Thanksgiving," Carlisle said to the room, picking up Esme's hand and kissing it.
"Happy Thanksgiving," we all called back.
I turned back to Bella, kissing her lips this time and thinking I was thankful, indeed.
"Play, baby," Bella requested sweetly. "Please?"
Chuckling a little, I nodded. "What would you like to hear, love?"
She smiled, settled back in against my shoulder, and sighed contentedly. "It doesn't matter. It never matters. Just play...anything."
As always, her wish was my command, so I dropped one more kiss to her head, whispering, "Anything for you. Happy Thanksgiving, sweet girl."
***A/N: No disrespect intended to the fast food industry. I worked it for four years through college...I would've cracked the hell up if this happened. I'm also well aware that McDonald's would have been closed for the holiday, but this was too much fun to resist.***


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