Text Size Large SizeMedium SizeSmall Size    Color Scheme Black SchemeWhite SchemeGrey SchemePaper Scheme        

A Cullen Family Christmas

Summary:
Hey Guys! THIS IS EDWARDSOUL!! The author of LOST and LOST 2.HOW IS EVERYBODY??? Guess what? I have taken over GW's story for a day and I just wrote the second chapter!!!!Come read about Alex. He's sexy, smart, a detective, AND a vampire! There will be romance AND adventure!!! GW is the COOLEST GUY EVER! He has some really great stories and I want you to come check out his stuff!You will be with the whole Cullen family, the Denali clan, and Alex - what more can all of us ask for!! See ya at the story...... The entire Cullen Clan (and I do mean the ENTIRE Cullen Clan!) is gathering for a Christmas celebration in Denali, Alaska. And things get a bit...awkward.


Notes:
Yeah, so this was yet ANOTHER story pounding against my brain to be let out, and it too will be a bit shorter than most of mine. And never fear, those of you who actually care--I have not given up on my other stories! More will be coming from them soon, too. But for now, enjoy Tanya's happy ending! Or, will it be a happy ending for her??


2. Chapter 2: Tanya

Rating 5/5   Word Count 8018   Review this Chapter

Tanya's POV

I was obsessing.

I was completely aware of that fact, yet I was still standing in front of the Christmas tree searching for the perfect spot to hang the last ornament. This ornament was special. Of all the decorations that would go up this holiday, this one was the most important. It had been sitting there on the side table in its carefully packed box patiently waiting, and I wasn't about to put it just anywhere on the tree.

I moved one of the many round silver balls, and a lovely gold bell that had been a gift one year from Esme, and gently hung the long slender crystal on a sturdy branch right in the front of the tree. I stood back again to get a better look at my work, and smiled in satisfaction. It was perfect.

My smile lasted for a moment, until I was cruelly reminded that it wasn't supposed to be like this. There was a time, countless ages ago, when there were four of us decorating the tree. We were a family then, and on occasions like this there was laughter and love. But then in an act of spite and arrogance the Volturi had callously taken mother from us.

For so long there had been just the three of us. Irina, Kate, and I. Now, Irina was gone, and our numbers were down to two. And once again, the Volturi were to blame.

I fingered the beautiful crystal and watched how the morning sun shone down on it and shot prisms of light throughout the room. I closed my eyes and swallowed back the familiar pain. How Irina had loved decorating the Christmas tree.

What made this even more painful, was the fact that Kate wasn't here. She was off on an extended vacation with her new husband Garrett and wouldn't be back until Christmas Eve. So, here I was. There were too many memories, too many stories wrapped in every ornament on this tree. No one should ever have to decorate a Christmas tree alone.

I gathered up all the boxes and carried them back to storage. The one thing I didn't want was to wallow in self pity. I would dab my toe in it every now and then, but wallow....never.

And if I was being truthful, I wasn't completely alone in this house. Carlisle and Esme were living here, and he was working in the hospital in Anchorage. But doctor's hours are long, and Esme spent much of her time in the greenhouse that Carlisle built for her. Her greenhouse was taking much of her time these days, in fact she had been gone for almost a week gathering supplies for a shipment of plants that were soon due to arrive.

And then of course, there was Alice and Jasper. They were staying here as well, and Alice was great to have around the house. She brought some life back to this place, and she loved to decorate. The house was decked out more for Christmas this year than ever before. There was hardly a space left that wasn't covered in red, green, or tinsel. But, she and Jasper were very close. They spent much of their time alone, and I always felt like a third wheel when it was just the three of us. In fact, that is how I often felt these days, like a large, clunky, awkward, third wheel.

But thankfully, today there was much more to keep my mind occupied. Decorating the Christmas tree was only the first item on my list. There was going to be a large gathering here tonight. Bella, Edward, Rose and Emmett would be arriving and so were many of the friends we met when we were all trying to protect Renesmee. Carmen and Eleazar, who had their own home a few miles away, would also be here. This house would be full of laughter again.

As I busied myself with getting the rooms ready, I realized how sitting in this quiet house was driving me to the brink. It was true what Esme had been trying to tell me. The best thing to do was to keep busy; to keep my mind occupied with matters brighter than Irina's death and the revenge that kept playing in my mind for those damned, arrogant Italians. She was right. Those thoughts weren't helping anyone.

I was just finishing the last room, when I heard a car coming up the drive. It was Esme. She was back sooner than I expected, and I was so happy to see her. At least there were would be someone else in this large house and I wouldn't have just the clock ticking incessantly in my head to keep me company.

She walked in, and I met her with a smile. "Hello, Esme. How was you trip?"

"It was wonderful!" She said enthusiastically. "I found everything I needed, and unfortunately, quite a bit more." She chuckled as she sat down her purse and thumbed through some envelopes she'd brought from the mailbox. "I hope that the plants arrive soon, I am quite anxious to get started," she replied.

I stood up and said, "Well, how about I help you get all your supplies out to the greenhouse."

Esme smiled eagerly and I followed her out to her SUV. She wasn't kidding, it was packed full of boxes and bags. We each gathered armfuls and quickly had everything in the greenhouse. Esme's smile lit up her whole face.

"I'm going to go in and change, and then start organizing everything in here," she said with excitement.

We started walking back to the house when Esme's eyes grew wide. "How could I forget to tell you? I got some good news on the way home today."

"What is it," I asked eagerly. Anything out of the ordinary was welcome.

"There was a message from Alex on my voicemail, telling me he will be with us for Christmas," she said happily.

"A...Alex?" I breathed.

She nodded. "I actually haven't spoken with him yet. Apparently he is trying to track down Carlisle. A few weeks ago, Carlisle left him a message inviting him to spend the holidays with us. But he must not have told him we were staying here. Alex is coming here to ask you if you have any idea where we are."

"He is coming...here.....today?" I said, barely masking my delight.

Esme raised a conspiratorial eyebrow at me and said, "That's what his message said." She took a hold of my arm. "I had no idea that he would really come. With the rest of the family coming tonight, this will be just perfect. Won't it be wonderful to have him here?"

I nodded my head. I was afraid if I said anything, it would give away how I really felt.

Esme pulled out her phone to see if she had missed a call. "I've been trying to get in touch with him ever since, but the call won't go through. He must be heading through The Pass right now."

I followed her into the house. "What time do you expect him to be here?" I asked. She walked quickly through the living room and headed for the stairway.

"I'm not really sure," she said. She checked her watch as she began climbing the stairs. "I'm guessing in the next few hours. I'm going to change and get some things done out in the greenhouse before he arrives."

I heard her bedroom door close, and I stood there in shock. Alex was coming here. Sexy, mysterious, devastatingly handsome Alex. I took a deep breath to calm myself down. I had to think clearly. I had two hours to prepare for Alex's arrival, and I needed a clear head. Luckily, I had spent the morning straightening up the house, and the decorations and tree looked perfect. Now, all I had to work on was myself.

I ran to my room to get ready.

The problem was finding an outfit that looked like you weren't trying to pick out an outfit. Like you just casually happened to look great. I perused my closet and finally found something that I thought would work, then I ran for the bathroom to get started on my hair and face.

Alex was 28 years old when he was changed. He had short dark hair that always looked perfect. I once had the urge to mess it up just to see what he would do. He had a strong nose, and a perfectly angled chin, and in the rare moment when you caught him smiling, dimples appeared and deepened in each cheek. His eyes were .....well, his eyes were red.....a matter of tension between him and Carlisle, that somehow their friendship had been able to overlook. The thing was, I knew he drank the blood of humans, yet he was refined and genteel in his actions. For me, it just added to the package that made Alex all the more mystifying.

I remembered the first time I saw him. There had been a gathering of several covens at a large mansion in Sicily. The room was full of beautiful men. Edward was there, but by then I knew that any hopes I'd had of there being anything between us was a lost cause. Several men approached me. They were handsome and charming, but I simply wasn't interested. Then, in the corner of the room, I noticed a man.

I was intrigued by the sheer boredom on his face. It wasn't so much that he was bored with the party, it was more that he was bored with his whole existence. Bored with whole idea of just being.

I watched him throughout the night, there was just something about him...something about his powerful shoulders, the way his tailored suit fit him like a glove, the way he talked with people, but yet managed to remain aloof and apart from the group. He talked to many beautiful women that night. The most beautiful women this world had to offer. They would move in close and make their "intentions" known. But each time they walked away without the prize.

I wanted to know his story. I was gaining up the courage to ask Jasper or Emmett if they knew him, when as if by providence, Carlisle walked up to him and shook his hand as if they were old friends. And indeed, it did seem that they were close. For the first time that night, I saw animation in the mystery man's face. He smiled and I almost melted. Even from their dark corner his dimples were clearly visible. They talked for the better part of an hour, and when I could sense that their conversation was coming to an end. I gathered my courage. It was now or never.

I walked over and put my hand on Carlisle's arm and said hello. Immediately, I saw the shadow return to the man's features. The hard shell was back.

Carlisle smiled and introduced me. "Alex, this is Tanya. She is a member of my family."

I put out my hand, and Alex took it. His grip was light as he held my hand up and slightly bowed. "Nice to meet you Tanya," he said perfunctorily. Had he not felt obligated by Carlisle, I was sure that he never would have made the effort to talk to me.

I tried to start a conversation. I noticed he had a southern accent, and I asked him about that, but after being evasive in all his answers, he told Carlisle that he had to leave. He then made a quick exit out the door. I stood there with Carlisle, trying not to show my disappointment or hurt that I had been shut down by only the second vampire that I'd had any real interest in for the last 500 years.

I checked my watch. It was almost time. I gave myself one last appraising look in the mirror, and went back out to wait in the living room. The large windows would give me a birds-eye view of anyone coming up the drive.

Now came the hard part; waiting. With every minute I became more anxious, and I knew it was a mistake to let myself get so worked up. If I had any chance of impressing Alex, I would have to act cool, perhaps a bit mysterious. After all, his chosen profession thrived on just such a personality.

After Alex left the party, I asked Carlisle about him. What he told me only served to intrigue me further. Alex was a detective. A very good one. In fact, he was quite famous in certain circles. His job took him all around the globe, which meant he didn't really have a place that he called home. Carlisle seemed to feel that he was a bit of a loner.

Carlisle had mentioned one more thing. It was a fact that didn't mean much to me at the time, but now, it definitely interested me. Alex was quite powerful. So powerful in fact, that even the Volturi tried to steer clear of him. They were, "leery" was the word Carlisle used, of Alex and the power that he had.

Since that night, I had seen Alex twice. Several months after the party in Sicily, I was visiting a large coven in my hometown of Sochi. There were so many of us there, that I never had the chance to meet them all. In the middle of the night, I felt the need to be alone. I walked to my favorite place, the beach. I was sitting at one of my favorite spots, when I heard someone behind me. I turned, and to my complete shock, I saw Alex. I called to him and he came and sat by me.

From the start of our conversation something was different. His mood was quiet, almost contemplative, as if he was thinking about something that was troubling him. He asked me about my family. When I told him that I had grown up in Sochi, and described to him my love of the beach, he dove into another whole line of questions. Each inquiry was more probing and intuitive than the one before it. He smiled at something I said, and I could see the hint of the man he was inside. I could see goodness, compassion, and the need for something more than his life was giving him. I yearned to know that man, to have him know me in the same way, but all too soon, he stood and after saying a quick good-bye, he was gone.

After that, I couldn't get him out of my mind. I thought about him all the time. When I found out that Alex was coming to Forks for a short visit, I knew I couldn't let an opportunity like that pass me by, and I shamelessly invited myself to stay with the Cullens. But this time, I was severely disappointed. He was as detached and indifferent to me as he had been in Sicily. I tried everything I could to engage him in conversation, to find that same man I had talked with on the beach that night, but he made it clear that I was an intrusion. It was obvious that he had not been thinking of me, that for him, the night in Sochi had meant nothing. I left Forks as soon as possible.

My thoughts were interrupted when I heard a vehicle coming up the long drive. As soon as I saw the sleek European sports car, I knew it was Alex. I made myself take a large breath. It had been over two years since I had seen him. I wondered what man would be stepping out of the car. The one that captivated me, or the cold, reserved one. Someone like Alex only wanted what he thought he couldn't have. Be cool, I told myself. Be mysterious, I demanded. Be smooth, I insisted.

But then, once he stopped the car, he just sat there. He made no effort to get out of the car, he was.....he was reading! He was actually sitting in the car reading a book! Who does that? The longer he sat there, the more agitated I became. I was pacing back and forth. All of the sudden I began to worry that he would never even come in the house. What if he changed his mind? What if he started the car and turned and left? I had half a mind to just walk out to the car and get him.

No. I couldn't do that. That would definitely ruin my plan to be cool, mysterious, and smooth.

I had just decided that I was going to walk out there, when his car door opened. My breath caught as I watched him walk towards the house. He was wearing those sexy sunglasses and his suit.....and the way he walked.....I couldn't stand it any longer. I flung the door open and he jumped back a step as I ran out to greet him.

"Well, what a surprise!" I said. "Alex, it's been too long!" Before I knew what I was doing, I was hugging him. I was hugging Alex. I had never done more than shake his hand and even that seemed to cause him anxiety. Why was I hugging him? His arms haltingly went around my middle as he half-heartedly hugged me back.

I pulled away and said, "What are you doing here? How long are you staying?" I ran my hands along his strong shoulders and said, "Wow, I love your suit." Did I really say just that? I thought. Just keep talking, Tanya, I reminded myself.

"Oh, everyone will be so happy to see you! We've so much to tell you! A lot has changed since you were last here! We could have used your help a couple years back. We were down visiting your brother and his family, trying to help them out with a...problem, when those damned Italians showed up, causing havoc and nearly ruining everything, as you can imagine."

I had put my arm around him, oh my....he had an amazing body, and was pulling him towards the front door. There was a look in his eyes that made me afraid he was going to turn around and leave, so I wasn't taking any chances. But halfway there, he stopped. I turned and looked at him and he said, "Um, actually I was just looking for my brother, and I was wondering if y'all knew where he was?"

I waved my hand dismissively as I resumed guiding him into the house. "He's working at the hospital down in Anchorage. He'll be home this evening."

He stopped again and I set my teeth. Was I ever going to get Alex into my house?

"He-he's living with y'all now?" He said.

He had a look of apprehension and shock on his face. It was almost as if he were afraid. He was thrust into danger all the time. I didn't understand what could be causing him such anxiety now.

I laughed lightly, hoping it would lessen his concerns, and said, "Yes, he and Esme are living here, and Alice and Jasper. The rest of them have scattered for the time being. But they're all going to be here with us for Christmas. In fact, we are planning a big party tonight! And now you're here! Oh, what a lovely surprise!"

He remained silent, so I thought I would give him more good news.

"Oh, and Kate has found a husband finally! His name's Garrett. Oh, you'll love him-he's an adventurer, just like you! And he used to be a nomad, too, so you guys should have lots in common!"

Once again, I began pulling him towards the house.

"I'm a detective, not an ‘adventurer'." He said. He made air quotes with his fingers. "Nor am I a ‘nomad', so can we please just..."

He stopped walking again, and I thought I was going to have to pick him up and carry him into the house.

"Wait," he said with surprise. "Did you say Kate is married to this guy?"

His face looked angry. His hands were balled into fists, and his jaw was set tight. I watched him swallow hard, and I wondered what I'd said that could have set him off so badly.

In my nervousness, I giggled. I actually giggled. I tried to think of something to lighten the mood. "Yes, and they're so cute together! It's fun to see Kate so deeply in love after all these years! She deserves the happiness she's having."

I was acting like an idiot. I was talking incessantly and I hadn't asked him anything about himself. Think, Tanya.....ask him about himself. Before I could stop myself, I said, "How about you? Any special women in your life?"

Of all the stupid things I could have asked him....now he was sure to think I was desperate and trying to trap him. There was no way to get the words back in. I could tell from his face that I'd said absolutely the wrong thing.

"Nope," he said with conviction. "Don't think there ever will be. My work is my passion. My brain needs problems to solve, my mind rebels at stagnation. I could never just settle down in one place, either. Women want stability, they want permanence, and I move around too much for that. So there's really no room for a woman in my life."

And with that, I knew exactly which man had come here today. You had to give him credit. He certainly left no room for doubt in my mind. A man who knew what he wanted. He was perfect. Except for the fact that he had just made it absolutely clear that he didn't want me. There were plenty of men out there. I had my pick. Then how? How in the world did I manage to be so deeply attracted to the only two men in the world who could care less about me?

I didn't want Alex to see how much his words had hurt me. I quickly put on a smile and began my incessant blabbering again.

"But anyway, I'm so glad to see you again, Alex!"

It wasn't helping. I could still feel the sob rising in my throat. I felt so vulnerable, and there he was with those sunglasses on, hiding his face and emotions so well. Hiding everything underneath that cold and calculating exterior.

"Silly boy," the words just stumbled out. "You don't have to wear those sunglasses! Your red eyes don't bother us."

I was getting more idiotic by the second. This was a disaster. When everything had happened with Edward, Irina had been the one who pulled me through. She had been so kind and understanding. She had always known exactly the right thing to say, and seemed to sense what I was feeling. Now, she was gone. Well, now that I knew that there was no hope for me and Alex, perhaps he could still help with something else. The Volturi.

"We've heard rumors that those damn Italians are concerned because of our family Christmas," I stated. "They think that we're plotting something against them, because our joint covens are so big now. But they daren't try anything now that the most powerful vampire in the world is here!"

"I am not the most powerful vampire, Tanya," he said. "Why do we always have to go through this? It's embarrassing. And if anything, my presence here will probably only confirm their suspicions that you are up to something."

And yet again, I had somehow managed to say the wrong thing. But I knew that he was being modest. The Volturi did not like Alex.

"Well, perhaps, but those damned Italians are still scared of you, you know!" I knew that I sounded bitter, but at this point, I didn't think it really matter how I acted.

Miraculously, we had managed to make it to the front porch. I assumed that at any moment he would make a run for his car and drive as far away as he could get from desperate, babbling Tanya.

Instead, he turned to me again and asked, "Why do you keep calling them, ‘those damned Italians'? I mean, I know you don't like them-who does, the way they lord it over all the other vampires?"

I looked at him wistfully. He really was so handsome. I wondered what would have happened if he had been there the day that Irina was taken from me.

"They don't lord it over you, Alex," I said softly.

He simply shrugged. "Like you said, I suppose they prefer to just leave me alone after our last...little encounter. Besides, like I said, I move around a lot so I figure it's probably hard for them to get an accurate fix on me. But seriously...you never used to call them ‘damned' before. What's the story with that?"

I bit my lip and looked down at my hands to keep him from seeing my face. Desperate, babbling, and emotional would probably be too much for him. When I felt I had my feelings under control, I looked up at him and said, "Remember when I told you that we had been down at your brother's? Well, while we were there, those Volturi...those bastards...they-they killed Irina!"

He finally took off those damn sunglasses and looked at me. His eyes were wide, and he looked......furious.

"The Volturi killed Irina," he said with a seething snarl.

"Yes," I replied.

I'd had enough. I had made a complete fool of myself in front of Alex, and now I wanted to be as far away from him as I could get. Besides, it didn't matter how angry anyone was over Irina. Anger wouldn't bring her back.

I looked at him and sighed. "As I said before, Carlisle will be back tonight. Esme is in the greenhouse. Take the path and follow it to the backyard, and you'll find her."

I didn't wait for a reaction. I turned and walked into the house. I looked back and saw that he was still standing there. "It's great to have you here, Alex. Truly it is. You are welcome to stay as long as you like. There is a bedroom across the hall from Carlisle and Esme. You are welcome to have it." I gave him a small smile and walked away. I didn't close the door. I would let him make the decision of whether he wanted to stay or not.

I walked past the dining room and heard Alice in the kitchen. I found her and Jasper washing their hands.

Alice looked at me and rolled her eyes. "Jasper and I were hunting and Esme caught us on our way back to the house. We just helped her install the sprinkling system for all her roses."

I gave here a small smile. Esme definitely had a passion for all things green. Suddenly, Jasper stopped and looked out the kitchen window.

"Is that Alex?" He said with surprise.

"Oooh, let me see." Alice playfully pushed Jasper aside so she could get a good look at him. She hadn't been surprised at all that Alex was walking through my backyard.

My eyes narrowed. "Alice, how long have you known that Alex was coming here?"

She got that innocent look on her face that told me that she was far from innocent, and said, "A few weeks."

"Why didn't you say anything?" I cried.

"Because you would have been a nervous wreck," she said simply.

"Why would I be a nervous wreck?"

Alice rolled her eyes. "Really Tanya, we're not blind. We know that you're interested in him. And, I for one, don't blame you a bit." She rose up on her toes and looked out the window to see if she could see Alex again, but he was gone.

Jasper flicked soap at her. "Hey, I'm standing right here!" he teased.

She flicked soap back at him, and then he grabbed her up in his arms and she laughed lightly as he buried his nose in her neck. And there I was feeling like a desperate, babbling, emotional third wheel. I turned to leave and Alice called to me.

"Hey Tanya, don't worry about what just happened." Jasper started to kiss her face and she playfully slapped him on the shoulder. She wriggled out of his grip and flitted over to me. She got close and whispered softly, "Wear that green dress tonight."

"What?" I asked in confusion.

"You have a light green dress in your closet. I've seen it, but I haven't actually seen it, if you know what I mean. It shows off your shoulders, and is really tight right here." She put her hands on her hips and shimmied back and forth while she playfully made her eyebrows go up and down.

I blinked in surprise at her. After my disastrous performance today, wearing my green dress wasn't going to make a bit of difference.

She must have seen the doubt on my face because she looked at me sincerely and said, "Trust me."

She turned back to Jasper but turned her head back around to me one more time and said, "And after....I want details." She got a wicked smile on her face and then walked back to Jasper.

Details....details of what an idiot I am? I turned and walked frustratingly to my room. But I knew better than to bet against Alice. No matter how futile my actions might be, I would wear the green dress. But for now, I would be staying far away from Alex. I would make sure that I wasn't seen by him, or anyone until the family gathered tonight when Carlisle came home. Of that I was sure.

I had made a conscious effort to stay upstairs for the last few hours, but now I could hear the commotion downstairs. I knew that rest of the Cullens were arriving, and that I was being rude in not being down there to receive my guests. I was so fearful that I might run into Alex again, that I was tempted to stay in my room all night, but I would have to come out eventually, and Christmas was still a few days away. If Alex was going to stay that long, I was going to have to deal with him at some point.

I walked down warily, looking for him down every hallway, but I made it to the Great Room safe and sound. When I got there, I was met with a loud welcome.

True to form, Emmett picked me up and hugged me. Rosalie was shaking her head in laughter as I came back down and she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. Next, I saw Renesmee. She ran up to me and wrapped her arms around me, and I was amazed by her beauty and how much she had grown and changed in the short months since I had seen her. Bella and Edward greeted me warmly, and I saw so much happiness on their faces.

Standing behind them, I saw Jacob Black. I had not known he was coming, but I supposed that there was nowhere else he would be but at Renesmee's side. I wondered how Alex would feel about his presence here. I casually let my eyes skim the room, but I didn't see him. I was then gathered in hugs by friends that I had not seen since that horrible day when Irina was taken from me. It was so good to see them now, under much happier circumstances. I embraced them all warmly, and began to guide them to their rooms. Edward and Bella were staying with Carmen and Eleazar, and they left to unpack.

The plan was to meet back at 10:00 for a celebration. It may not have been the conventional idea of a Christmas party, but if love and friendship accounted for anything, then we were right in there somewhere. As everyone left to get settled in their rooms and get ready for the party, I walked by the large living room window and searched for the sleek European sports car. My breathing froze as I saw that his car was still there, parked in the same place. I knew it was foolish of me to care; to be relieved that he was still here, especially since I never planned to talk to him again, but even though I would be giving him a wide berth at the party, I was also glad that he would not be alone for the holiday. That he would be surrounded by all this happiness, and the friendship of Carlisle.

I could see light snowflakes beginning to fall, and I smiled. I loved snowstorms. Irina had loved them too.

I stood in front of my mirror and took three deep breaths. I turned and looked at myself from the side and appraised what I saw. I decided Alice was right. The light green dress was a good choice.

I was wearing a small silver necklace and earrings that shimmered when I moved, and I had pulled my hair back on the sides. The whole effect, with my hair falling in curls down my back was pretty good, if I said so myself. Although, I still needed three more deep breaths before I left my room.

Esme had brought in Poinsettias that she had been growing in her greenhouse, and they were lovely. She had placed them around the Great Room and they only added to Alice's beautiful decorations. I walked over and turned on the Christmas tree lights, and dimmed the chandelier enough to make the mood even more festive.

"Beautiful."

I turned and saw Edward standing on the other side of the room. "Yes," I said with a smile. "Alice and Esme definitely have a talent for decorating."

"I wasn't talking about the room," he said with his crooked grin. "I was talking about you."

I looked down, embarrassed and shook my head. "Don't even start, Edward. I mean it."

"Hey, I know Christmas is hard for you," he said softly. "I have never experienced such a loss. At least that I can remember. I do, however, understand that holidays can only serve to amplify what you are feeling."

"Yes," I said with a sigh. "I am definitely missing Irina more right now."

He chuckled. "Remember the year that she made us all go out and make snow angels?"

I laughed in spite of myself. "I do remember. That's part of the problem. Being what we are, I can't forget. I want to push everything back, but my mind remembers everything as vividly as if it were yesterday."

He walked over, and stood in front of me. "I know that's not the only reason you are in pain," he said quietly.

I looked up at him sharply. "Listen to me, Cullen. You will not read my mind. It's my mind, not yours. Stay out."

He smiled unapologetically. "Hey," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "I just think that you are misunderstanding a few things."

"What are you talking about?" I said impatiently.

"Give him another chance," he said.

My mouth opened but nothing came out. My brow was furrowed in confusion as I finally asked, "Give who another chance?"

Edward's hands went in his pockets as he looked at me soberly. "He's not as brave as you think he is." I was staring at him wondering if we could both be thinking about the same thing when Alice suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs. She was motioning wildly for me to come up to her.

"Fashion emergency!" she said through clenched teeth. "Help!"

As I started to walk around Edward I said, "Would you put on some music, please?"

"Of course," he reassured me.

I found Alice standing in the middle of her room with dresses all around her. They were lying on the bed, the chairs, and one was hanging off the knob on her dresser.

"What's wrong, Alice."

"I can't decide what to wear, and.....Wow! You look amazing!" She was standing back, looking me up and down. "I was so right about the green dress," she said with pride.

"Thank you," I said with a smile. "Now what seems to be the problem?"

"Well, I want to be formal, but not too formal." She looked around the room, then pulled a pale yellow dress off her bed. "For instance, this one is too....yellow."

"Too yellow?" I repeated.

"MmmHmm," she nodded.

"Then choose one of the other thirty dresses here that isn't yellow," I said simply.

"Well, then there's this one here." She took another one off the bed and held it up for me to see.

"What's wrong with that one?" I asked.

"It has too many ruffles," she said with disdain.

I rubbed the side of my temple. This was going to take a while, and the guests would start arriving at any minute.

"I'll tell you what," I said with as much patience as I could muster. You pick your five favorite dresses, and try them on for me, and I'll help you pick one of them."

"That's a great idea!" She said excitedly. She walked around the room and while tapping her finger against the side of her face, she began holding up her dresses. After two minutes, she had chosen only one dress. I heard the doorbell ring, and then I heard Edward answer it, and I began to get very restless. After another minute she had three dresses in her hand, and I said, "Let's start with those."

She gave a long sigh and said, "Okay." Then she walked into the bathroom. I could hear more voices, and I was sure that everyone was here. I looked at my watch and began pacing around the room, when all of the sudden, I heard Alice say, "You can go now!"

"What?" I asked through the door.

"I've decided," she said quickly. "You can go now. Thanks! I couldn't have done it without you!"

I stood there for one confused moment, and then I thought that I should probably leave before she changed her mind. As I walked down the hall, the music drifted up to me, and I could hear Dean Martin singing, "I'll Be Home For Christmas." From the second floor, I could see that everyone had arrived. Carmen waved up to me, and I smiled and waved back as I began to walk down the stairs. Without thinking, my eyes were drawn to the far side of the room, and that's when I saw him. Alex was looking directly at me, and he had the most peculiar look on his face. My hand gripped tighter to the railing as my steps slowed. I could not stop looking at him. He began walking in my direction, and for one brief moment, I thought he was coming to talk to me, then he abruptly turned and walked towards the front door. My heart sank again as I watched him grab Carlisle and quickly pull him outside.

For a moment I felt it again. I was vulnerable and alone and unlovable. Was I so repulsive that he couldn't even be in the same room with me? It suddenly occurred to me why Alice had been acting so strangely upstairs. She was trying to orchestrate the perfect moment. She made me stay in her room until she was sure Alex was here, and he would see me come down the stairs. I was through betting on Alice. I squared my shoulders and began to meet my guests. I had been looking forward to this night for a long time, and Alex wasn't going to ruin it for me.

I spent the rest of the evening talking and catching up with my family and friends. It was so great to have them all here. I did notice that Alex did eventually come back into the house, but it was painfully obvious to me, that he was doing his best to avoid me. When I went into the living room, he went into the kitchen. When I went into the theater room, he went into the family room. If he was staying until Christmas, this was going to be a long three days.

Edward and Bella were the first to leave. They took Renesmee back to Carmen's house to sleep. Just before dawn, I noticed that most of the couples had left. Carlisle and Esme were just saying their good-byes to the last of the group, and I was in gazing at the tree. The sun would be up soon, and Christmas trees always looked their best when it was dark.

"This was a great party, Tanya. Thank you so much," Carlisle said.

"It was a night to remember," Esme added.

"I love having everyone here," I said softly. "This house is happiest when it is full of people."

"I think that Esme and I are going out for a walk, would you like to join us?" Carlisle asked me.

"No, but thank you," I replied. Carlisle was always so generous.

The front door closed, and I could hear Frank Sinatra quietly singing Christmas carols in the next room. I leaned against the wall and stared up at the lights, thinking about Irina, and the scant, hazy memories I had of the Christmases with my parents and sisters.

"Hello."

I jumped at the voice. I thought I was the only one still here. I turned and saw Alex standing beside me. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't even notice him standing there.

"Hello," I answered. I was so thankful he wasn't able to hear my heart pounding right now.

"This is a beautiful Christmas tree," he said quietly. "Every ornament seems to tell a story."

I smiled at his insightfulness. I watched his face as he looked at the tree. The red and green lights shown onto his face and I was mesmerized.

"You're right," I replied. "Most of these ornaments have been on our tree for centuries."

I walked up to the tree and pointed at a wooden doll. "This one came from a coven in Gdansk that took us in shortly after my father was killed and the rest of us were changed."

I pointed higher at a red angel and said, "This one was from a woman in Catania, Italy. We lived by her for a time in the early 1700's."

"And this one." I pointed to a small snowflake made out of silver and glitter. "For some reason, this one was Irina's favorite. She made sure that she put it on the tree every year. We bought it at a little shop in a village in Poland, and she just said it reminded her of her sisters."

Alex walked up to the tree. He was standing so close that our shoulders were almost touching. He raised his hand and pointed it at the crystal ornament that meant so very much to me. "And this one. What is its significance?"

"Ah. That's my favorite one," I sighed. I turned to look at him, and our faces were very close. I looked into his eyes as I spoke. "When I was just a little girl, my mother and father took my sister and I on a trip into town. My memories have faded, but it was very cold, and I remember huddling close to my father in the wagon to keep warm. I remember walking through many shops that day, buying supplies that we needed, and I also remember eating hot bread and honey from a bakery. I can still recall how it tasted in my mouth. And then, at the end of the day, we passed a glassmaker's shop." I stopped for a moment; reliving the memory and smiled.

"My father came and knelt down beside me and we watched the man for what to me seemed a very long time. I was amazed at how he would blow the glass out of the little tube, and the bubble would form on the end. It was like magic watching him shape the hot glass into something beautiful. That day, he was making these crystals. People were hanging them in their houses for luck."

I was silent long enough that Alex felt the need to step in. "And did it bring you luck?" He asked.

I shook my head before I answered. "No. Two weeks later, a ravenous vampire came into our home in the night. My father was killed trying to protect us, and in the struggle the coals from our fire spilled onto the rug and started a fire. We had already been bitten, when the vampire ran away. My mother dragged us out of the fire; I don't know how she did it. When the change was over, and our home lay in ashes, this was the only thing we found that survived the flames."

I touched the ornament, running my fingers over its smooth, cold surface. It was much like me. "It reminds me of just an ordinary day," I whispered. "A normal, human day."

We looked at each other for a moment, and then he whispered, "That's quite a story."

"We all have our stories," I whispered back.

We continued staring at each other. I don't know why, but I couldn't stop looking at him. His face did something to me; he made me feel things that no one else had ever been able to make me feel. He suddenly cleared his throat and said, "I feel the need to apologize. To say I'm sorry for how I acted today, and perhaps other times as well.....I.....do tend to...well, that is to say...."

What Edward had said earlier about him not being as brave as I thought he was came back into my mind. I fought the urge to help him out; to finish his sentence for him and instead I just let him speak.

He took a deep breath and said, "I do tend to keep to myself, and I can be......a little hard to be around at times."

I turned to him and said, "I need to apologize too, I was not really myself today."

"You had every reason," he said quickly. "I'm sorry about Irina. The Volturi have gained more power than anyone ever intended them to have. They are pushing things too far."

There was anger and bitterness when he spoke, and I haltingly put my hand on his arm. He looked down at my hand in surprise, but he didn't try to pull away. His eyes looked into mine and I said, "Thank you."

"For what?" He said softly.

"For giving me someone to talk to while I looked at my tree, for staying even though I acted slightly crazy today, and for being such a good friend to Carlisle."

He swallowed hard and said, "You're welcome."

The sun was starting to rise over the mountains. I pulled my hand away and said, "I am going to change so that I can clean up and get ready for a new day." I smiled and began to walk out of the room.

"Tanya."

"Yes," I turned back to him. I loved hearing him say my name.

"Thank you for letting me spend Christmas here, with all of you."

There was so much that I wanted to say. "You're welcome," I replied.

I walked out of the room and felt my chest expand to the point that I thought it would explode. He was here. The Alex I yearned for, the one I had been waiting for, was back. And I hoped he would want to stay for a long, long time.