Full note at the end but for now, enjoy, and I only own the plot. Ms. Meyers owns the characters.

Chapter 1:

One night, long ago….

Just as the sun began to rise, a young woman scurried about in the dark of a tiny, single room cottage deep in the dark woods, trying desperately to gather her few belongings without waking the man snoring softly from a pile of straw in the corner. At every chirp and snap outside, she froze for what seemed an eternity before ascertaining it was nothing and continuing her task. She was almost certain her pounding heart was loud enough to wake the dead from their slumber but as of yet, nothing stirred.

She shoved the last item into an oilcloth sack and heaved a great sigh only to clamp her hand over her mouth and stare wide-eyed over at the sleeping man who remained blissfully unaware of her doings. Looking around at the Spartan surroundings one last time, she tried to remember when this had been enough, but that seemed so long ago. Sure she had been happy and in love in this little space but somehow, some way, it had ceased to be enough. Bitterness and regret took root in her heart and started to grow and once it did, it refused to let go.

Then word came that an arrangement could be made and a better life could be hers if she would only be at the docks in time. The decision did not take long to make. Memories of more had flooded her brain when the message came and she had to accept-even when the caveat was placed that she came alone and immediately.

One last quick look around assured her that she had all of her worldly possessions as meagre as they were. It would be as if she had never existed, she thought, and that would truly be for the best. Cradling the bag to her breast, she took a step toward her freedom.

"Farewell, Charles," she whispered, lightly kissing her fingertips and waving them toward the sleeping man before quietly closing the door behind her.

No sooner had the door shut than the man rose up on one elbow, his eyes filled with the deep pain of one watching their reason for living walk out the door. He had known of her disappointment and he also well knew of her stubbornness. Once his wife's mind had been made up, nothing could sway her. At one time, that had been an endearing quality; now it only broke his heart.

"Farewell, Renee et ma belle," he murmured, falling back onto the dry straw in despair.


Charles started, uncertain his ears were functioning properly. Surely Renee would not have left…


The cry was more insistent this time.

Jumping to his feet, Charles bolted across the room to a small box and the source of the sound. His heart lifted as he gathered the small wiggling bundle into his arms. It took every ounce of restraint he had not to smother the babe in his arms.

"Mama's not here," he soothed, cradling his almost year-old daughter as if any moment she would vanish. "She had to go. I couldn't give her everything she wanted, ma belle."

A sob bubbled forth and nearly escaped the man's lips before he choked it back. He took only a moment to recompose himself and cleared his throat before speaking.

"I can only pray I'll be enough for you, ma belle Isabella."

Meanwhile, Renee carefully ran down the path leading away from her old home. The docks were not too far away, but in the foggy, early morning light, she needed to be wary of puddles and mud holes. Not knowing when or where she would meet the interested party, she wanted to look her best at all times.

She did not even cast a glance back at the tiny house. There was no use in it, after all. Her choice had been made, and she was not going back. She would rather die than spend one more night in amongst the squalor.

The surrounding woods blocked most of the sun on a clear day, but the low cloud cover created an even darker, damper atmosphere. Every sound seemed amplified in the oppressive silence and for a moment, Renee thought she heard footsteps.

Charles would be well within his rights as her husband to hunt her down and drag her back if he had a mind to do so. While he had never so much as raised his voice in all their years together, she was not willing to give up a dream of servants and fine clothes and quickened her pace. Escape was all that mattered to her.

A low laugh echoed through the trees. With eyes wide, the memory of long ago told tales of creatures prowling the woods flooded Renee's mind.

"Whither thou goest?" the very trees seemed to whisper.

Clutching her cloak tighter around her, Renee redoubled her efforts and ran even faster, now not caring that the hem of her dress was now soaked and caked with mud.

The fog broke as she crested a hill. She could see the lights of the nearby town and almost hear the ringing of the bells on the ships at the dock as they rose and fell with the waves.

"Just a little further," she murmured to herself.

"To where?"

Renee froze in her tracks as a young man came around one of the trees. He was of above average height with long, blond hair pulled back in a queue and smiled peacefully at her, but something about his appearance made her wary. His features were sharp and regal and for a moment, Renee wondered if this was who she was supposed to meet at the docks.

"Master of the Seas?" she asked quietly, noting his fine clothes. They were much like those her grandfather had worn.

"Master of all," he replied haughtily. "But I doubt that is what you were asking."

He moved to block her way.

"Pardon me, Sir, but I must be at the docks so please…" She ducked her head and tried to press on but to no avail.

He smiled broadly—as if he had been told the best of jokes and nodded slightly.

"Or, you could come with us," came a lilting woman's voice from directly behind Renee.

She spun around to face a woman with fiery red hair where she was certain no one had been just a moment before. Renee clutched her bag to her chest and began to murmur a prayer beseeching protection.

"Ah, now," came a third voice.

Renee turned to see a man with a swarthy complexion emerge from the mist. He watched her carefully, his red eyes taking in every movement.

"Let's not play with our food, James."

Renee's eyes widened as the three drew closer and her prayers grew more fervent until they were silenced forever.

Greetings, my friends! I hope you enjoyed chapter 1 of my latest story, based on my Twilight 25, round nine entry for the word 'innocence.'

A little info:

I don't have a beta so please forgive any mistakes I make.

I don't have a banner for the story, sorry.

The story will post every Monday morning until complete (hopefully before I take the girls to school, but it's Monday. Morning.)

This story is influenced greatly by the original fairy tales…not the watered down all is light and roses ones. It's a different path for me, and I hope it works. Thanks for taking a chance on it. That said I'm still a HEA addict.

I'd love to hear what you think so drop me a line! I intend to answer every review so please be sure to log in.