She felt like a priced animal: nothing important about her, just there, unnoticed by those around her who were willing to pay the price. It took all her strength to shut the conversation that was happening, out, but it didn't last and as soon she heard his velvet voice, her attention was turned to them.
"I'm not sure if you have noticed it, Mr. Dwyer, but we are living in the 21st century now, where arranged marriages doesn't happen. In addition, human trafficking is against the law! If you so badly wish for you daughter to marry, I suggest you contact a marriage agency to help you with that instead of forcing her upon willing buyers of the property!" Edward stated heatedly, rising from his chair to pace in front of Phil.
She could imagine Phil as he leaned calmly back in his chair, his hands folded in front of him, "You know Mr. Cullen, one of the first things my father taught me when I joined sis business, was how to think practically. It seems that young men like you can't practice the virtue of practicality. If you are willing to be reasonable, you will see that you will get the property you desire to a very reasonable price and in addition, you will get the wife you need to produce the children you wish for."
When Edward spoke again, he growled, "If you think Mr. Dwyer, that anyone will marry someone they do not know for a piece of property, you are mistaken." Bella wanted so badly to correct him; there was a line of men who were more than willing to take on a young wife as long as they got the land they so greatly desired, but Phil wouldn't be able to milk them for money as he was doing to Edward at the moment.
"It hurts me that you believe so Mr. Cullen, but if that is how you really feel then I see no reason continue our conversation. Good day, Mr. Cullen. I can inform you that I have a fine line of men who are willing to pay the exact amount you are, maybe even more, for the land you claim to want." Phil's voice was cool and smooth as the ice that was his heart. He had skilfully played every card he had to play against Edward Cullen and he was winning, even though Edward himself didn't know he was losing yet. He needed Edward Cullen to get rid of his stepdaughter. Without him, he couldn't marry his own young wife, and he wasn't going to marry her off to any man; it had to be one who could keep a tight leash on the woman, one who knew how to handle a disobedient wife, and Edward Cullen was the right man for that job.
"This is ridicules! Mr. Dwyer, we both know that I am offering much more than the land is worth!"
"Maybe, but to me, you seem uninterested. You may leave so I can take care of my business."
Bella thought she was about to faint; she knew very well who was next in line and every man after that. The next man was Alec Volturi, a short, fat and disgusting man who had on more than one occasion informed her that he wished to bend her over somewhere and plow her like a farmer plowing his field. She looked briefly away from the window she had been looking through so intensely for the past thirty minutes, and met the cold, hard stare of Edward Cullen. She clutched the silver blue curtain with her left hand and quickly looked away; he was her last choice to get away from Phil and his horrid friends.
"Doesn't she have a say in any of this? After all, it is her life we are talking about," Edward asked angrily and she didn't dare to look back him, not just yet.
"My stepdaughter have already made her choice and she will marry the man I choose. What remains is for you to make your choice, Mr. Cullen. Don't you worry though, she is a very determined young woman and she has made it very clear to me that this is what she wants," Phil spoke loudly, making sure to rub it in extra hard that she had next to nothing to say and if she did, it wouldn't count for nothing.
The silence that filled the room became too much for Bella and she dared a glance at them in the reflection of the window she was staring through. Edward Cullen was still glaring at her and she quickly averted her eyes again, focusing on the curtain she was still clutching so hard in her hand.
"Very well," he said, his velvet voice drilling its way into her mind as he spoke with authority, "But I would like to have a little time alone with Isabella. I'll let you know my decision once we have concluded out conversation." Bella swallowed thickly and her hands started to tremble as she clutched the curtains even tighter, her knuckles turning white.
Phil's low chuckle echoed through the room. He knew he had won; there was no doubt. Not only would he get a nice chunk of money by selling a piece of property that meant nothing to him, he also had the chance to get rid of his stepdaughter, a liability to his future wife. All around, it was a fabulously perfect deal.
"I see no other reason than to let the two of you have your little discussion. Come find me when you are done so we can go over the details for the contract before you leave; you can find me in the lounge." At the door, he cast one last look at the young woman he at last would be able to get rid of.
When the door was closed, Bella swallowed and turned slowly, alone with the man who she knew could be just a ruthless as her stepfather.
When she first met Philip Dwyer, he had been a rather pleasant man who had managed to woo Renee out of her darkness after the loss of her late husband, Charlie, who had been killed in a car accident. Like many men who found themselves in a relationship where the other half had a fourteen year old daughter, he had been a tad cold towards Bella, but for her, it had not mattered; he was not her father, only a love interest of her mother. Bella hadn't dared to think that their relationship would go any further so when Renee had announced after two years of dating that Phil had asked her to marry him and that she had said yes, Bella had felt as if her mother had betrayed her father.
However, the smiles and laughs from Renee filled the house again and Bella couldn't find herself telling her mother that she didn't like her new husband, but Phil and her had come to an agreement to be pleasant to each other when Renee was around. All of it had happened so quickly for Bella, who was still mourning her father.
A few years later when Bella left for college, she had kept her contact with her mother and they traveled together whenever a vacation allowed it. They bonded once again so when the news of Renee's pregnancy came at the beginning of her final semester, Bella had been over joyed. Her phone calls to her mother became more frequent and she couldn't hide how much she was looking forward to become a big sister.
When the news came on her graduation day, Bella had been devastated; Renee, who had been five months pregnant at the time, had decided to drive up to Bella's graduation to surprise her, a small present resting on the seat next to her containing a sonogram of her little sister.
Renee never made it to the graduation. Hit by a drunk driver in a Hummer, the driver's side of the car had been smashed and both Renee and the baby had been killed. After the funeral, Bella had moved in with Phil to sort through everything that Renee owned and as the time went, Phil pressured her into working for him, holding the money she would inherit form her mother over her head. Eventually, Phil had realized that Bella had nowhere else to go, no other family but him. There was no longer a need for him to keep the money that was hers by law, away from her anymore, knowing fully well that she would be doing his biding with or without them.
When it came to Edward Cullen, she had first met him two months prior at a fundraiser. Not fond of social gatherings like fundraiser, dinners and galas, Bella had walked around in her boring black dress that didn't fit her body at all, trying to make the time go faster so she could leave. It had surprised her greatly when a man, tall and handsome, at asked her for a dance and the look of determination had surprised her even more when she declined. He had chased her around most of the night an whenever she thought she had managed to get rid of him, he had popped out of nowhere, asking her for a dance. In the end, Bella had coldly turned him down and accepted the dance from another man less handsome than he.
She still had a tight grip on the curtain behind her as she avoided his stare, a nervous tremble going through her body.
"You haven't said a word the whole time I have been here and I can't help but wonder why. Why will you not talk to me, Isabella?"
Surprised by the softness of his voice, she blinked and tried to comprehend what he was asking her, "Excuse me?"
"I asked you why you won't talk to me. I find it rather rude that you didn't greet me when I arrived and I found it especially rude when you repeatedly turned down my offers for a dance only to agree to the ogre that came after me," his gentle tone was gone and replaced with a harsh and cold tone that chilled her. "However, what seemed simply cruel was how you ignored my phone calls, the messages I left you and the emails I sent you; you didn't answer one of them and now, you stand in front of me like a priced animal to be sold."
Phone calls? Bella didn't understand what he was talking about; she hadn't received anything from him and now he was claiming she had been ignoring him. "I'm sorry, Mr. Cullen, but there are no messages on my phone or on my computer from you and I have never received calls from you. If you had in fact contacted me, I would have answered."
His eyes flashed with something unfamiliar to Bella as he slowly walked closer to her, "That night at the fundraiser, among all the beautiful women, I saw you walking aimlessly around, alone. Your hair was up in an unflattering tight bun and your dress did nothing for your body, but there was something about you that drew me towards you. Then it turned out that you're just like any other woman running in these circles. I would have gladly taken you on a date and seen which way things would have taken, but you coldly turned me down." The night of the fundraiser, she had been surprised when he didn't take no for an answer and now, he told her that he had been contacting her.
As if turning on a light, Bella understood; Phil. His hater for her went far, she knew, but she had never thought that he would hack into her computer and phone, removing anything that could give her a life outside his rule.
"Is this all a game to you?" he asked, coming closer, "Is that the kind of woman you are, Isabella? You enjoy turning men down only to have the coming crawling back on their knees? Or do you get off knowing that you're being sold?" he sneered at her and before she knew what she was doing, her hand was raised and ready to slap him, but he was faster than her and quickly stopped her.
He looked down on her arm, how the fabric of her frumpy black suit crinkled underneath his touch, before looking into her eyes. Bella squirmed uncomfortably under his gaze and stared out of the window. He wouldn't have it though, and took hold of her chin, turning her head to look at him.
"Your face is rather pretty, just as I thought that night, but just like the dress you wore then, this suit is doing nothing for your body and I am sure that you are hiding something underneath these horrible clothes you choose to wear. Are you really so repulsing that you need to be sold to get a husband, and by your father?"
"Phillip is not my father, nor will he ever be," Bella corrected quickly, ignoring his comments about her appearance; she knew she was nothing special to look at. "My father died when I was fourteen, a heart attack, I would like for you to remember that."
She also wanted to correct him, tell him that she wasn't that kind of woman he had described, that she didn't know what kind of woman she was, but she held tongue. Her first and only sexual experience had been a horrid affair that had brought no pleasure to her at all.
"You still haven't answer my question," his tone was slightly gentler and brought Bella out of her daze.
"What question?" she asked, blinking, and his face turned back to anger.
"Do not play coy with me, Isabella, because I will not have it. Why will you not talk to me?"
Why wouldn't she talk with him, greet him and share pleasantries? She was afraid that if she did talk with him, he would daze her with his masculinity, his beauty, and she would spill ever bean about her life, how she had agreed on letting Phil sell her like a piece of meat; to have him out of her life, to get away from his rule. Instead, Bella told him what she knew Phil wanted her to say.
"Why speak at all? Clearly, you already have a picture of what kind of woman I am, so I don't see how anything I might say can change that. Besides, I'm only in this to get the money I inherit from my mother when she died." His face quickly transformed from anger to disgust and he let go of her arm, leaving Bella the chance to make some much-needed space between them. Ashamed of her own words, she rested a hand against the fireplace, wishing that the fire was burning so she could throw herself into the flames and disappear.
The calm and self-possessed faced she had built up through the last three years had started to crumble under his stare and Bella found it difficult to concentrate.
"So that's what this is about? Money?" he sneered into her ear and she could feel the heat from his body, "You want your mothers money and I bet Phillip will pay you a big chunk as soon as we are married. Am I correct?" He wasn't correct; as soon both Edward's and hers name was on the contract, he had no plans on giving her as much as a penny more than the inherit was because she would no longer be his responsibility.
"Yes," Bella said, her voice slightly unsteady.
"Well then, if this is all about the money, I would like to have a look at what I am buying." Bella turned to look at him, her walls crumbling. "Before you claim that you're not a priced animal to be sold off, I will have you know that by letting Philip do this, you are a priced animal and like any buyer would have done when buying a cow, horse, sheep, any kind of animal, I would like to see what I'm putting my money into. Take off your clothes, Isabella, or I will walk out that door without a second glance behind me, I promise you that."
Shaking like a leaf in the wind, Bella took a deep breath and started to remove her clothes, letting her jacket and her pants fall to the floor. Standing in front of him in only her boyshorts, bra and black heels, she took a step away from her clothes, letting him see what she really looked like.
There was nothing special about her; her eyes was a dull brown color, like mud after a rainy day, her hair the same boring color of her eyes and her pale complexion made her look constantly sick. Without the magic of makeup, no one would ever look at her, not even once.
She kept her eyes closed as she let him look at her, so embarrassed that she couldn't look him. When she suddenly felt the warmth of her body against her, she gasped and opened her eyes; he was right in front of her.
Without warning, he pushed her backwards until she was leaning against the wall, her balance off and she grabbed hold of his upper arms to keep herself from falling.
"I knew you were hiding something underneath those clothes," he smirked at her as he looked down at her nearly naked body. "I would like one more thing from you before you get dressed, Isabella," his voice was barely as whisper as he leaned closer, his head lowered so his hot breath fanned over her face.
"Bella," she murmured, her eyes on his lips.
"Bella, I want you to kiss me," she glanced between his lips and eyes, unsure of what to do, apart from the obvious: press her lips to his.
She hesitated too long and he roughly pressed her up against the wall, his lips covering hers. At first, she just stood there, but as his hand ghosted up her arms, sending a tingling feeling through her body, she kissed him back, wrapping her arms around his neck.
The only reason their kiss was broken was that Bella needed to catch her breath. She leaned her head against his chest and tried to calm down her heart and she felt Edward stiffen underneath her.
Panicked, she straighten up, "I know that wasn't anything special, but please, keep in mind that I don't have much experience in kissing." With a gentle hand, he brushed a few strand out of her face and Bella leaned in to kiss him again.
"Mr. Cullen, I don't have all day," Phil's voice echoed through the room and Bella gasped when her stepfather entered the room. Edward quickly spun around and covered Bella's body with his, hindering Phil from seeing how lush and curvy Bella's body really was underneath her clothes.
"I will be with you in a minute. Now, if you please, can I finish my discussion with Ms. Swan?" Phil only smirked at Bella and left the room.
Bella relaxed and breathed out as she rested her forehead between Edward's shoulder blades, but all too soon to her liking, he stepped away from.
"Get dressed," he called over his shoulder and left her alone in the cold room, half-naked.
Edward had left when she left Phil's office and Phil himself was waiting for her in the hall, a smirk plastered on his face.
"Well, now I know how you managed to persuade Mr. Cullen to sign the contract," Bella didn't dignify his lecherous comment with an answer but walked past him and up to her room. "You will be a horrible wife," he called after her and Bella couldn't help but answer him this time.
"What is it to you, Phil? In a few days my things will be packed and I will be out of your hair."
"Not a day too soon."
"I couldn't agree more with you."
After her brief conversation with Phil, later the same night and the next morning, Bella ran her laps, pushing herself so hard that she was shaking and unable to walk a straight line without supporting herself.