One Enchanted Evening: A Regency Edward & Bella Story
By Cassandra Lowery
Completed April 30, 2014
I started writing this story as a dream sequence in Chapter 12 of Only by Moonlight. But it began to take on a life of its own, so much so that I had to remove it from the chapter and write a different dream/nightmare for Bella. But this story had a sweet series of misunderstandings, so I kept writing, expanding the story eventually into six parts and nearly 10,000 words. Although I had originally written the dream to parallel Edward's 1918 real life, I moved this one into the Regency time period, the time of Jane Austen's writings.
I revised this story into an original fiction story for Watpad's Story Contest, but once I posted it there and started re-revising it back into a fan fic, I found myself adding a few extras here and there. So if you read the OF story on Wattpad, know that this version is a little different, and I plan to add a little more to Part V which was rather short.
The good news is that this little gem is all written (except for a few extras here and there), so I'll post twice weekly until all six parts/chapters are up—Wednesdays and Weekends (probably Saturday evenings).
I hope you will enjoy this little tale. It is unbeta'ed and un-pre-read…except in its infancy by my dear ladylibre when it was part of ObM and was taking over the chapter, rather like kudzu…. ;)
And yes, I'm still plugging away on Only by Moonlight. Chapter 14 is roughed out, so it will be going to the lovely ladylibre this weekend after a preliminary revision….
Now, after this gargantuan A/N, to the story….
Dreamily I relaxed into his arms—into Edward's arms—as he whirled me across the candlelit ballroom. My midnight blue gown flared around me beautifully with every turn and twirl of the intricate waltz, still considered somewhat scandalous here in London because the couples danced so closely, so intimately, with one another. Smiling widely, I gloried in my proximity to Edward, my frequently clumsy feet never hesitating as I followed my partner's confident leading.
The most lavish ball of the Season was being held at the Earl and Countess of Allanham's townhouse. Anyone who was anyone coveted an invitation. And through my Aunt Jane Carville's social connections, she had been able to obtain one of the treasured cards which had graced the mantel of the blue parlor since its arrival, announcing to all visitors that we had been invited to attend the exalted engagement.
Pushing all other thoughts out of my mind, I tilted my head, smiling up at Mr. Edward Masen, Esquire, as he grinned back almost mischievously. But too soon the orchestra drew the waltz to a graceful close, the dancers twirling to a stop and the murmur of low conversation filling the beautifully-mirrored ballroom as the gentlemen returned their partners to the chairs along the edges of the room before seeking fresh faces and feet for the next set of dances.
As we vacated the center of the ballroom, Edward offered me his strong forearm which I gratefully accepted after the exertions of the dance. Extending my fan to waft cooler air toward my face, I could feel my face glowing pink due to the exercise, the heat of the crowded room, and my excitement at Edward's kind attention.
"Would you prefer to step out on the balcony for a moment, Miss Swan?" he asked, noticing my need for fresh air.
"Thank you, yes, Mr. Masen," I replied with a small smile. During this, my first London Season, I was being presented by my Aunt Jane, Lady Carville, sister to my father, Sir Charles Swan. Fortunately, I had become a moderate success thus far; of the several suitors who vied for my attentions, Mr. Edward Masen was by far my preference. Although not titled, his family was ancient and well-known for their philanthropy. In addition to a fashionable townhouse in London, they owned a large estate in Yorkshire, Brandon Abbey, home to the Masen family since the thirteenth century. The only son and heir, Edward Masen was already, at age 24, known as an astute and innovative landowner as well as a champion of several worthy causes as he carried on the unspotted reputation of the benevolent Masen family.
Edward Masen was also nephew to Carlisle, Lord Cullen, and his lovely wife, Esme, his mother's sister, who were known for their efforts in halting the slave traders from kidnapping the peoples from Africa. Not content to only work legislation through the House of Lords here in England, Lord and Lady Cullen were at present in America, campaigning for similar laws to be enacted in the United States now that we were at peace with our former colonies once again. Despite the Southern States' refusal to listen to Lord Cullen's appeals, he and his wife still possessed great hope for the worldwide abolishment of the slave trade. Edward admired his uncle and aunt greatly, often discussing their work with me at some of the previous parties and balls we had attended over the course of the Season.
Despite his abhorrence of the crowded and polluted city, my father, Sir Charles, had traveled to Town earlier in the Season to meet my suitors. As expected, he had taken a decided liking to Edward, informing me that he would unreservedly approve our match should Mr. Masen approach him for permission to marry. Even now I tried to quell my excitement over the possibility of my bright future with Edward, forcing my mind and heart back into this moment in which I gloried in my position on his arm.
Escorting me toward the open French doors which led outside onto a second-story balcony, Edward grinned more widely as I gratefully breathed in the cool air (as best I could as my corset, which although extremely figure-flattering, prevented my taking deep breaths). Deftly he navigated the crowds, guiding me to the railing of the long balcony overlooking the most beautiful gardens I had ever viewed. Despite the fact that they were lit only by the shimmering illumination of the nearly-full moon and by the brightness streaming from the windows of the mansion, the gardens were simply exquisite in the muted light.
As we gazed over the meticulously-shaped topiary bushes, the varied roses with their sweet-spicy scents, and the lawns undulating toward a small lake, I smiled in utter contentment. Such beauty always awed me into silence as I absorbed the sights before me.
"Miss Swan?" Edward's voice was tight, tense; I glanced up at him, confused by the tone of his voice.
His green eyes burning fiercely into mine, his beautiful jaw clenched and his hand, as he took mine, trembled ever so slightly. Confidence in almost every situation was one of the many qualities I admired in Edward, and its absence alerted me to the importance of this conversation.
"Yes, Mr. Masen?" I whispered, barely able to speak as his eyes filled with deep emotion.
"Miss Swan," he repeated, swallowing hard. My heart melting in sympathy, I lightly squeezed his gloved hand with mine in a comforting gesture. Looking up into his shadowed face as he towered above me, his warmth enveloped me despite the fact that we were not touching skin-to-skin, and immediately I became as breathless as I had been during our waltz.
His gaze mesmerizing me, he took a deep, calming breath. "While propriety dictates that I speak to your father before I address you, I must know," Edward's words were rushed, his cheeks flushed, yet his eyes were focused and strangely calm as he gazed down at me. "I love you, Miss Swan, and I wish to approach your father to ask permission to marry you. But I must know if such a step would be pleasing to you, for if it is not, I would never desire to make you unhappy in any way." He swallowed hard again. "Do you…do you wish me to pursue this conversation with your father?"
The fierce light in his eyes diminishing, he ground out the next words between clenched teeth. "Or do you wish us to remain as we are, more than acquaintances yet not quite friends, so that a different gentleman of your preference may apply to your father for the honor of your hand?"
Edward turned his gaze to the gardens thirty feet below us, and while he tried to mask the emotions racing through him, the way in which he painfully tightened his grasp on my gloved hand and the tick that throbbed in his temple revealed the depth of his feelings.
Needless to say, I was delighted beyond words that Mr. Edward Masen, Esquire, among the most eligible bachelors of our social circle, was asking to marry me.
But my happiness was not based on his handsome features, his manly figure, his position in society, his ancient family line, or his financial worth. Although these attributes were nice to have, it was Edward's heart that I coveted most. His innate fairness, his goodness, his humor, his compassion, his intelligence—these were the qualities that drew my heart to his, and I was thrilled to no end that Edward loved me.
My lips curved into a smile so joyous that I could barely contain myself. But my response was unseen by Edward as he kept his gaze trained on the beautiful gardens spread below us, his hand gripping mine tightly as he apparently dreaded my reply.
"Mr. Masen," I started, but I could not keep my voice steady. Still refusing to look at me, he nodded his head in encouragement for me to continue.
"I-I do not have the w-words," I whispered breathlessly, trembling with excitement and joy.
Dropping my hand as if it had burned him, Edward responded quickly, his voice monotone yet curt, "You need not bother, Miss Swan. I understand completely. I wish you all health and happiness in the future." Still refusing to look at me, he bowed abruptly, as courtesy dictated, and spun on his heel, rapidly covering the length of the balcony and starting down the rod-iron spiral staircase that led to the gardens below.
My head swimming with the abruptness of Edward's exit, I pressed my palms against the restraining corset which would not allow me to take the deep breaths needed to clear my mind. Blast the ridiculous thing! What I would not do to burn every single whalebone in my wardrobe!
But obviously I had a much more problematic matter before me.
Edward had misunderstood me. He must have thought that I was refusing him.
But refusing his proposal was the very last thing I wanted.
I hope that you'll enjoy this little tale. I've always loved the Regency time period, especially when I discovered Georgette Heyer's fluffy romances set in this time when I was a young teen. I tried to recapture some of the spirit of Heyer's strong heroines and courageous gentlemen; I hope that this Isabella and this Edward suffice.
Thank you for reading! And please let me know what you think!