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Edward and Jasper curled up on the couch together and Alice and I exchanged a glance. A wide, naughty smile took my crooked grin's place and suddenly, I was eager to leave. She cut a piece of the cake for us to take back to my house and share later, then grabbed the open champagne bottle. A round of hugs and kisses later and we were on our way.
Once inside the house, I kicked my shoes off as Alice put the cake in the refrigerator. She came out of the kitchen with one champagne flute and the bottle.
“Ready to unwrap your gift?”
I tugged the bow at the front of her corset, pulling her closer to me. I touched my lips to hers softly at first, and then with more pressure as the desire built up again. I tugged her hair gently as I kissed her and she moaned. Alice's hands went to the front of my shirt and began undoing the buttons slowly. Once she had it completely open, she kissed along the swell of each of my breasts. I shrugged out of the shirt and flopped back onto the couch.
Alice sat, bringing the champagne bottle between her knees, and popped the cork off. As she filled the glass carefully, we exchanged a smile.
“You know, I don't think you've told me yet which birthday this is for you.”
“Ooh! I'm dating an older woman,” her eyebrows waggled.
“How old are you, baby?”
“When is your birthday?”
Alice took a sip of champagne and handed me the bubbling glass as she answered, “March.”
“Ali, I was thinking at the party, I never expected you to hire a caterer and go to such great lengths. I know you don't have a job,” I reached my hand out to stroke her cheek. I wanted her to know that I wasn't pointing this out to make her feel bad, I was just concerned about the realities. “Won't you let me help you pay for it just a little?”
I tipped the glass back and swallowed a few gulps of the icy cold champagne. Alice shook her head no.
“I know I don't have a steady job, but I've sold a few sketches to my mom and had odd jobs here and there, Bella. I promise, no money came from my parents or anyone else. It was my pleasure to spend the money on you. I only wish you would have let me do more.”
I laid down on the couch and brought her between my legs, my hands on her arms as I tugged her up above me. “Next year,” I muttered against her lips between soft, slow kisses. I could feel her lips turn into a smile at that, and mine did the same. Next year.
Alice pulled my cami top down slightly to expose my breasts and my breathing picked up. She moved slowly, her fingers and palms teasing and torturing me. Her hands moved down to the waist of my jeans and she unbuttoned and unzipped them so quickly I didn't have time to warn her. A low growl came from her throat as she slipped the pants from my body, leaving me naked.
Once again, she moved too quickly for me for me to answer, leaning down to place a long, slow lick between my lips that left me breathless.
“Sit up, and take your tank top off. I want to see every part of you.”
A shiver went through my body at her tone and the sexy look on her face. I did as she asked, sitting up first, then criss-crossing my hands to remove my top. Alice hummed and smiled at me. She slid off the couch and onto her knees on the ground, turning my body with her. I set one foot on either side of her, resting them on the coffee table.
She turned her head and kissed my left calf, then the right, before pulling on my thighs, forcing my body to recline further. Alice slid a hand up my leg, teasing with just her fingertips at the spot where my leg joined my torso. I leaned my head back on the couch back, closing my eyes. I could feel her other hand mirror the movements of the first, and then she lightly teased me with one fingertip on each of my labia, stroking up and down.
Her lips began to trail the same path her hands just had, up my inner thigh and I pressed my hips forward, scooting myself closer to her. As her mouth made contact with the upper part of my pussy, she slipped a finger inside me. I moaned and pressed against her, seeking more friction. Her lips opened and closed against my clit, tongue flicking out against me periodically. I felt her nipping and nibbling as she slowly moved her fingers in and out of me.
Looking down at her between my legs sent me flying; I came hard and loud. The hand that wasn't slowly fucking me was stroking my thigh and helping to hold me to the couch as I arched up. I could see the small creases at the corners of her eyes and knew she was smiling as she brought me such wickedly delicious pleasure.
As Alice slowed her movements and I began to breathe normally again, a glow of happiness crept over my body. I was sure I looked drunk in that moment - the goofy smile I couldn't seem to take off my face, my unfocused, satiated eyes.
Alice stood in front of me and reached for my hand. “Come on, sweetheart. Let's go to bed.” We curled up under the covers together, whispering soft words back and forth for a few minutes. Mostly, we talked about Alice's parents and what it would be like to meet them. I was eager, excited and nervous. I never cared what parents thought of me before. Hell, I'd never met parents before, but I already knew I'd jump through hoops of fire for Alice.
* * *
We were in our familiar positions when I woke up the next morning. Alice's head was buried between my breasts and I laughed again. I still couldn't figure out how she wasn't suffocating, but I let it go and enjoyed the moment. As I placed a soft kiss on her mostly-tamed hair, I pulled her body closer to mine.
I don't know how long I sat there in the quiet, listening to her breathe and occasionally hum or make some odd noise in her sleep. Finally, I got restless so I began to stroke her cheek, hoping to wake her gently. After a few moments of running my fingers from her cheek, into her hair and then back to the beginning of my circuit, she tilted her head up to look at me, then smiled.
I smiled back and ran my finger across the apple of her cheek, raised up from the grin on her face. “Morning.”
We showered together slowly, after we each texted our boy – me, teasing Jasper about meeting the 'rents just like I was, and Alice sending something that made her chuckle to Edward. It was nice to have someone important in both of our lives. I knew that Edward was for Alice what Jasper was for me, and I was glad she appreciated just how necessary that outside friendship was.
Once we were done in the shower, we dried off and got dressed. Alice had on jeans and a white tank with an orange t-shirt over it. She was dressed and ready by the time I came out of the closet. I had on a black and white plaid sleeveless dress paired with a black cardigan, and a black and white scarf with black flip flops, since it wasn't freezing outside yet. Of course, I also wore my heart necklace from her. When she saw my outfit, she frowned. “You wear too much black, baby. But thank you for wearing the necklace.”
We hopped into my Mini Cooper and drove to Alice's parents' house. I wanted to take my other car, but Alice insisted we drive “the fun one,” as she called it.
As we pulled into the driveway, I realized Alice had grossly misreported the family wealth. We were at a house on a sprawling piece of property, not a cheap purchase anywhere in the valley, even if it was bought years ago. I spotted Jasper's Audi, then Rose's BMW and realized we were the last to arrive. Alice took my hand in hers as we walked in, giving it a quick squeeze. “Stop worrying, it'll be fine, I promise.”
Not bothering to even knock, Alice walked in the front door, only to be almost immediately tackled by a flash of blonde. The little girl had flowing blonde hair held back by a white headband. She was bouncing up and down in her hot pink clogs. Alice bent at the knee to look at her face as she spoke to the little girl I assumed was Hannah.
“Hannah banana, how are you?”
“Good Auntie Alice. I've missed you,” the little girl hugged her tightly again.
“Aw, I'm sorry baby. I promise I'll try to spend more time with you this week, okay?”
Hannah bounced in place and then looked at me suspiciously.
“Han, this is my girlfriend, Bella. Bella, this is my favorite niece, Hannah.” Alice winked at her as she spoke.
“Oh come on, Auntie. I'm your only niece,” she giggled.
I could hear voices from the other room, and then soft footsteps approaching. My heart started to beat faster as I realized that it must be Esme walking to us. Rose usually wore the highest heels she could find and they would certainly clack against the beautiful marble floor in the foyer.
The beautiful woman walked to Alice with a warm smile and they hugged wordlessly for a moment before she pulled back and turned to me.
“You must be Bella.”
I nodded and she pulled me in for one of the softest, most loving hugs I've ever had. Only when she pulled back did I notice the rainbow bead earrings she was wearing. My eyes move to the flash of metal at her wrist and I noticed she had a rainbow bracelet on. As my vision moved back up to her face, I noticed the rainbow flag pinned onto her pink cardigan and I bit my lip to hold in the giggle.
“It's okay Bella, we tease her all the time,” Alice said, then turned to her mom. “Mom, this is Bella.” My knees went a little weak at the way she said my name, and it hit me that she was saying it with reverence and love. “Bella, this is my mom Esme, obviously the chapter PFLAG President and flag-waver extraordinaire.”
The laugh slipped out and I could see Alice rolling her eyes at her mom.
“It's very nice to meet you, Esme. Thank you for having us for brunch.”
“Oh, the pleasure is all mine, Bella. I'm so glad to meet a girlfriend of Alice's, and we met Jasper today, too. It's a big day in the Cullen house,” she laughed a light, carefree giggle.
Esme led the way into the house and I marveled at the design. It was huge. Open and airy, with windows everywhere. I was so busy looking around that Alice had to tug on my hand to get me to stop walking once we reached the living room and everyone else.
“This is my dad Carlisle, Bella.”
I stood face-to-face with a beautiful man, there was no other way to describe him. He was handsome, for sure, but had strikingly delicate features. I could see structural similarities with Edward and some features of his Alice had, as well. I smiled and extended my hand to him.
“I may not be wearing a flag, but a handshake just won't do, Bella.”
As he pulled me into a hug, I laughed. Alice's family was the complete opposite of mine. Before he died, Charlie would get squeamish every time we discussed my future, or any potential girlfriend of mine. I learned to just avoid topics about my love life. Renee? She had been an easier sell to the idea that I was gay, but she nagged me near non-stop about babies and husbands and having a full life, blah blah blah.
“It's nice to meet you, Carlisle.”
Rose was sitting on the couch next to Jasper and Edward, so I made my way over there for a round of hugs. Once I had hugged the three of them, I turned to the only person left in the room I didn't know. He was sitting in a solitary chair wearing khakis, a button-up shirt and a tie. Hannah climbed into his lap, confirming my suspicions.
“You must be Emmett.”
I extended my hand to shake his, the expression on his face telling me clearly that this was not a hug-it-out moment between us.
“Nice to meet you, Bella,” he said calmly as he shook my hand, his voice betraying no emotion at all.
Once he released my hand, Alice grabbed my other and tugged me into the adjoining kitchen area. She backed me into a corner and wrapped her arms around my waist. “Don't worry, he's...” she sighed. “He's a tough nut to crack. Worth the effort, though.”
Alice nuzzled her face into my neck and I suddenly felt all eyes on us.
“Alice,” I whispered. “Stop, please baby. Everyone's looking at us.”
Her head shot up and she scowled. “Stop it! It's not 'gawk at the lesbians' day in the Cullen house. Stare at the homos if you're bored.” As she nudged her head toward Edward and Jasper, I felt my face flush. I rested my forehead on her shoulder and let the embarrassment wash over me. Her hand squeezed my hip and it was her turn to whisper. “Don't worry, they're just not used to seeing me with a woman.”
As we both pulled back she saw the confusion on my face and blew me off with a quick “tell ya later.”
“Mom, what are you making? It smells yummy.”
Alice put an arm around her mom and rested her head on her shoulder. They couldn't have looked more opposite from this angle, Esme with her butterscotch-colored waves and Alice with her short, jet-black whimsical hair. Alice was smaller and shorter than Esme, but you could almost see the love between them.
“Oh, I made some cinnamon rolls earlier, and there's fruit, muffins, bacon, a few salads...” I tuned out as Esme rattled off the brunch menu, turning my attention back to the living room. There was quiet conversation between everyone and they seemed to be getting along okay, but Rose and Emmett weren't immediately drawn together like magnets, as Alice and I hoped they would be.
“Hannah, you wanna go swing?”
Alice skipped over to the little girl and took her hand, tossing me a wink over her shoulder as they walked out the large door and into the expansive backyard. Her smile invited me along with them, but I was torn. I wanted to get to know Esme, Carlisle and Emmett, but watching Alice with her niece was something I didn't want to miss; especially not after Edward's words about how much Alice loved kids. What if this was her only opportunity to watch someone small grow up around her?
I passed through the living room to walk out the same doors Alice and Hannah had, giving Emmett a quick smile on my way. I spotted the girls at the swing set, although it was really more of a huge playscape than anything. Alice was smiling and cheering Hannah on, as she learned to kick her legs and pump herself higher on the swing. Alice's face held so much joy and happiness and my heart sank just a little. I knew I'd have to really think about whether or not I wanted kids, seeing Alice in her element.
Walking next to Alice, I took her hand in mine and gave it a quick squeeze. She smiled at me, then wrapped her arm around my waist, snuggling in close to me.
“Hannah, how old are you?” I was desperate to make some connection with this little person who clearly had a big piece of Alice's heart.
“Six! Are you in first grade, then?”
She nodded and smiled, then I noticed she was missing a tooth. I stood there with Alice, watching Hannah swing, thinking about the future.
“Come on inside girls, time for brunch.”
I hadn't even noticed Esme come outside, but she was staring at us in a funny way. Hannah jumped off the swing and ran inside, leading the group. Esme was side-by-side with Alice and I saw her take Alice's free hand in hers, then heard her whisper, so faintly, I was sure I wasn't meant to hear.
We sat at a large table in the dining room, Edward, Jasper, Alice and I on one side. Carlisle was at the end, then on the other side was Emmett, Hannah and Rose with Esme at the other head of the table. There was a huge spread of food on the table, so we all passed each dish and took what we wanted, passing it on when finished.
It was mostly quiet as we ate, although every now and then a lively discussion would open up. I realized how nice it would be to have family around, for lazy Sundays just like this. When we were finished eating, Alice and I helped Esme clear the table and then Carlisle came in and helped load the dishwasher and washed what couldn't be fit.
“Go, sit down, talk with the rest of the kids.” He winked at Alice and she gave him a peck on the cheek before we sat down in the other room.
I curled up next to Alice and realized Jasper was trying to get Rose out of her shell by telling a funny story from when we were all kids together. Everyone laughed, but there was still a palpable tension. I don't think anyone was surprised when Rose excused herself, thanked the Cullens for having her over, then left.
It took all of two seconds before Alice asked Hannah to go get something arbitrary from her room, distracting the girl, then laid in to Emmett.
“What the hell, Emmett? Are you really going to be like this forever?”
His eyes went wide, then narrowed in anger.
“Don't you fucking lecture me on how I live my life. I have a daughter to consider. I refuse to put her anywhere but first in my life. When are you going to realize that?”
Alice looked like she had been slapped across the face, tears pooled in her eyes and I could see her body hitch, a shallow attempt to hold in the tears.
“Em,” Alice's tone softened considerably. “I do realize that honey, but you can't be alone forever.”
Emmett chuckled darkly and smirked. “I'm not alone, Alice. You know that.”
“DIS-gusting, Emmett. It's fucking disgusting. You say you put Hannah first, but wouldn't finding a nice mother-figure be a better idea for her instead of just nailing the Nurse of the Month?”
His simple reply conveyed even to me that the conversation was over. The look in his eyes was such a scary mix of anger, hurt and resolve, I couldn't help but wonder what had driven him to such a place. Of course I realized the irony of me, of all people, wondering what would drive someone so far away from seeking a human connection, but I still let it roll around in my brain.
Carlisle made a pot of coffee and we sat around talking about local politics, medical information, fashion design and almost every other topic we could think of. We talked about jobs, houses, kids and managed to completely side-step the issue of relationships and marriage. I felt bad for Esme, to be honest. It couldn't be easy to have two gay kids and one that clearly didn't want to be married. I wondered what it might feel like to be her, but she seemed so positive and upbeat, I couldn't help but love and admire her.
Late in the afternoon, Emmett explained that Hannah needed to get ready for school the next day, so he said goodbye. He stood and hugged Edward, then shook Jasper's hand, hugged Alice and shook my hand, then took Hannah downstairs. Once he was gone, Alice explained they had the whole bottom floor of the house to themselves.
Edward and Jasper were ready to leave at the same time we were, so we all got up and exchanged hugs again. Esme and Carlisle walked us to the door and I reminded Jasper and Edward that I'd see them both the next day; Jasper at the gym, Edward at work.
Once we were buckled in and Alice reminded me of the directions to her place, I turned to ask the question I had in my mind the entire afternoon.
“Alice, what did you mean when you said your family wasn't used to seeing you with a woman?”