“Bella, where are the-” Alice starts as she rushes into the kitchen and bumps right into me. “Oh! Sorry! Here, let me.”
Alice grabs the tray of glasses that narrowly avoided crashing to the floor, putting it on the counter and righting the glasses. Rolling my eyes, I sigh. “Alice, what do you need?”
Bella giggles from her place by the sink.
“What?” Alice asks. “Oh! Sorry, Edward. Umm…” She frowns, her eyes unfocused. “I forget,” she murmurs after a minute, pouting.
Bella and I both laugh as I take Alice by the shoulders and steer her back to the living room. Settling her down by Rose, I caution her, “No more alcohol, I think. You’ve had enough.”
Rose and Emmett, who’s sitting next to her, both protest and in near unison say, “There’s no such thing!” and “Aww, come on, Eddie! It’s New Year’s Eve, for crying out loud. Live a little!”
Alice simply giggles as she grabs her glass of wine and takes a hearty swallow. Rolling my eyes at the lot of them, I retreat back to the kitchen to help Bella – my sister from another mister. My best friend since Kindergarten.
Every year since we were sixteen, we host a big party for our friends. At first it was at her dad’s home, and later at the apartment we shared during college. Tonight, it’s at my place, as Bella’s long since moved cross-country for her work, while I stayed in New York.
Everyone’s here, except for Jasper since he was working tonight, though he’s supposed to be here any minute to join us. Bella and I are up to our elbows with last minute food prep when the doorbell rings and my heart stutters with the knowledge that it’s him. Emmett bellows, “I’ll get it,” before I’m so much as able to wash my hands, let alone answer the door.
Bella nudges me in the side, casting me a knowing glance as she carefully arranges the crab salad on top of some crackers. Thankfully, she doesn’t say anything. Not that she needs to. We both know I’m head over heels for Jasper – and too chickenshit to do anything about it.
I concentrate on carefully putting the finished snacks on the dishes, trying my best not to listen to the warm welcome Jasper’s getting from our friends. To not let the comforting drawl of Jasper’s voice get to me like it inevitably does.
Swallowing hard, I attempt to retain my composure as I hear Jasper walking toward the kitchen – I know it’s him. I’m far too attuned to that man for my own good. Bella reaches out, placing her hands gently over mine, her eyes asking a silent question. Are you gonna be alright?
I nod, closing my eyes briefly to steel myself. When I glance at her again, I see the follow-up question there. Why don’t you tell him? Do something?
The thing is, I can’t. After Bella, Jasper’s one of my best friends, and I’m far too afraid of losing him altogether to risk it. Frowning, I shake my head minutely, hoping she won’t push it further. Despite having heard Jasper coming, I’m still startled when he places his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it as he leans between us and kisses Bella’s cheek. “Hey there, sunshine. Hey, Edward. Sorry I’m so late. Is there anything to eat besides those snacks? I’m starving. Didn’t get the chance to eat anything at work, we were so busy.”
Clearing my throat, I carefully extract myself from his grasp in order to grab a covered plate I’d set aside for him, knowing he’d likely be hungry. Popping it in the microwave, I turn to catch the appreciative grin as he says, “Thanks, Ed. Bella, you didn’t have to do that.”
I cringe, shaking my head even as Bella quickly stammers, “Oh, no, Edward-“
Emmett walks in, asking for more wine for the girls and beer for him, derailing the conversation. I breathe a sigh of relief when Jasper and Emmett both go back to the living room, Jasper with food and a glass of wine in tow.
Bella scowls at me as she smacks my arm. “Coward,” she mutters.
“I know, I know… just… please, B?” I beg, hoping she’ll drop it so we can all enjoy the evening.
Bella huffs. “Fine, fine… here. Take these out to the table,” she says, handing me two serving dishes laden with all sorts of canapes. It’s become a tradition of sorts for us to go all out on New Year’s Eve. It’s our one special night, so we figure it’s worth it.
The evening passes with laughter, plenty of wine, good conversation, and great food. I even manage to interact with Jasper without giving myself away – at least, I think I do. Every now and then, I catch him looking at me with an expression I can’t place, but then Emmett, Rose, or Alice will do or say something that causes everyone to laugh, and the moment is gone. I’m just a little too drunk to really think about what it could mean… or even truly care about it.
At a quarter ’til midnight, Bella and I disappear into the kitchen to grab the champagne and the flutes. I use those few minutes to brace myself for what’s coming – my least favorite part of the night, the inevitable New Year’s kiss between the couples: Rose and Emmett, and Alice and Bella. I wish I could ring in the new year with someone… with Jasper, if I’m completely honest with myself.
Quickly shaking my head to rid myself of that thought, I nod at Bella before heading back into the living room, where Jasper’s just turning the sound up to watch the festivities in Times Square. The closer to midnight it gets, the more predictable everything becomes. Rose settles on Emmett’s lap, her arms wrapped around his neck as they watch the screen. Alice and Bella claim the loveseat, cuddling close together, leaving Jasper on the couch with me.
In an attempt to not think about how close he is or how much I would love to give in to my fantasies and kiss him, I busy myself opening and pouring the champagne. Jasper hands the others their glasses, his fingers brushing mine a few times, making me blush. I pray he either doesn’t notice or writes it off as caused by alcohol or something, but when I look up after putting the bottle down, I find him staring at me with that curious expression again.
Before I can decide to ask about it, all hell seems to break loose on the screen as they start the countdown. My friends join in as always, and I’m resigned to sit back and toast the new year in while watching the two couples kiss.
When shouts of “Happy New Year!” blast through the speakers and the ball is all the way down, I almost drop my glass as Jasper’s suddenly right there, his lips inches from mine, his eyes boring into mine with such intensity it takes my breath away completely. I hear his breath catch as he whispers, “Happy new year, Ed,” and the next thing I know, Jasper’s lips brush against mine.
Once – I’m too stunned to do anything, let alone think.
Twice – I gasp and blink.
On the third pass, my brain finally kicks into gear and I kiss back, moaning softly into Jasper’s mouth as he tangles his fingers into my hair and all tentativeness flies out the window on both our parts. How long we’re locked in that blissful moment, I don’t know, but we don’t break apart until the cat-calls and whistles slowly filter through the haze.
Blinking stupidly at Jasper, who’s grinning and cupping my cheek, I blush when Emmett says, “About bloody time, you two!”
Jasper rolls his eyes, his attention still solely on me even as he gives Emmett the finger. The others all laugh. Ignoring them, I whisper, “Jasper?”
He leans in, kissing me softly again before breathily murmuring in my ear, “I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, Ed. I figured… if not now, then when? Time’s too precious, and I’m sick of wasting it away hoping and thinking ‘what if?'”
I cringe a little at the ineloquence of my response, but it’s all I’m capable of right now. Jasper grins knowingly, brushing his thumb along my cheekbone as he nods. “I want to start this year on the right foot, Ed. Be mine?”
This time, my lips find his, and I pour everything I have into it, whispering in between kisses, “God, yes, you have no idea…” and “Please.”
Another round of laughter follows my enthusiastic display, and then Bella raises her glass to us, a grin of her own plastered on her face as she says, “To 2012. To happiness, health, and lots and lots of great sex!”