Happy Birthday Snoopylover60! This is a birthday fict written for my good friend and reader Debbie! She has been so wonderful to me that I thought I could give her a little treat.
Please be aware that Snoopy has particular taste and though I guarantee a HEA, please read at your own risk! I wrote this fict for her, not my delicate sensibilities and not yours, so if you need answers ask me and I shall tell you!
Year: 1840 Place: Yorkshire England
Lord Edward Cullen gazes over his vast estate with sadness and pride. His family's ancestral home, Cullen Palace, is the only one in England that does not belong to royalty or even a member of the peer.
It has been told through time that Marcus had uncovered the plot of his younger brother, Aro, to kill the Monarch. He revealed his brother's treachery and the rest, shall we say, is history.
A firstborn son has always ruled over the estate, and its tenants. Now, with his father deceased a year to the day, it falls to him to continue the Cullen name.
His beloved father, Carlisle, had perished, leaving him and his mother alone. Since his death, his uncle Emmett Cullen had been pressuring him to wed.
His mother, Esme, now lives her life in town, entertaining guests on a nightly basis and spending their large fortune.
Having no heirs of his own, Emmett fears that their beloved palace will go to some distant relation who is undeserving of the lands his ancestors occupied for a hundred years.
At the sound of footsteps, he turns to face his friend, Lord Jasper Whitlock. "You're late," Edward says, taking in his friend's wrinkled attire.
"I had business to attend to with Lady Graham. She wanted to give me a wedding gift," Jasper says, haughtily.
"Good God, man. I hope she has gone back to town or at least was not seen at your estate. Surely there is no business to attend to with your mistress before your engagement dinner," Edward says, raising an eyebrow and not believing his friend.
"As the blasted day is fast approaching within a sennight, I am glad for the distraction. Now let's be off before I am over an hour late to my own engagement dinner." Jasper turns to leave the terrace.
They are both dressed in dinner tailcoats and trousers, ready for an evening out.
Edward turns around, giving his friend a small smile. "Remind me again why you agreed to marry the chit if she is so disagreeable?" Edward asks his friend.
They begin walking off the terrace and into the grand house. "You know perfectly well I need her dowry to fund my family's empty coffers."
"We are a sad pair indeed. You are to be married and do not want a wife, and I desperately need a wife," Edward says, taking the steps to the foyer.
His butler opens the door for them. "Thank you, Fairchild. I shall return this evening."
Fairchild, an older gentleman, has been with the Cullen's since his younger years. Having no children of his own, he is quite fond of the young Lord Cullen and the man Edward has become.
"Very good, Sir." Fairchild bows his head.
"I was hoping I could once again stay. You know very well my estate is uninhabitable, old chap," Jasper says as they enter Edward's carriage.
The truth is, Edward has more funds than Jasper, and lives far better than he could ever dream of. The Cullen's riches are deep, and Jasper has always enjoyed being friends with Edward, knowing what it truly is like to be wealthy.
"You do realize you have to stay at Foxhill House when you are married," Edward says before tapping the top of the carriage with his cane.
"Believe me, I am aware. She has already been to Foxhill several times to assess the needed repairs." He sighs out in frustration. "There is one highlight to the evening."
"Really? What is her name?" Edward asks, knowing his friend well.
"Miss Isabella Swan. She's Miss Brandon's cousin, and I've been informed she is a great beauty. It is too bad she has no fortune. If she is as agreeable as I've heard, perhaps she wouldn't mind being a mistress or having a little pre-wedding affair," Jasper says, a small smile on his face.
Although he does enjoy his current mistress, Maria, he has to admit she is getting on in age at six and twenty.
Edward shakes his head at his friend, knowing that he will indeed approach his soon-to-be wife's cousin to be a mistress.
He and Jasper have been friends since they were boys, their mothers being the best of friends and living so close in proximity.
Edward often finds himself in great trouble when around Jasper, but he is his steadfast companion. Carlisle knew Jasper was trouble and often kept his son busy with estate business instead of free to find mischief with the young Whitlock.
"I hope this Miss Swan is smart enough to avoid that particular arrangement. Something tells me your wife would not readily allow her own cousin to be your mistress." Edward shakes his head, a little intrigued by the thought of Miss Isabella's beauty.
"You may be correct, and the benefit to having Maria as a mistress is she survives off her late husband's fortunes. I would have to somehow provide for Miss Swan, and we both know I do not have the funds." Jasper sighs, somewhat disappointed.
"There is that. Exactly how many of Lady Graham's husbands have died?" Edward wonders out loud, thinking one so young should not be a widow more than once.
"Two. Her last one, Lord Graham, died two years ago from a carriage accident. Her previous husband, Lord Blakely, died of consumption," Jasper says, relaxing back on the cushion.
"I see, and you do not find it rather odd that one so young would be widowed twice?" Edward pierces his friend with a steady gaze.
"Come now, Edward, Maria couldn't hurt a mouse," Jasper says, laughing at his friend.
Edward takes a look out the carriage window, noticing they are approaching the Brandon estate.
He finds himself nervous and wanting nothing more than to set his eyes on the beauty who is Isabella Swan.
Isabella Swan plasters a smile on her lovely face as she fights the urge to roll her eyes at her cousin, Alice. Her behavior is despicable as usual, but today it is bordering on unbearable.
She does not want to attend her cousin's wedding, but her mother insists upon it, wanting her daughter to have some opportunity at society outside of their small village in Essex.
Renee Swan hopes her daughter will have the finest things life has to offer, but having a humble gentleman for a father with nothing less than two thousand pounds a year will not afford her those opportunities.
It is a slight comfort to Renee that her eldest sister has married exceedingly well and invites her to a number of activities.
Renee is well aware that her sister, Agnes, is not fond of her, but she cannot deny Isabella's beauty and takes pleasure in having her around.
At nine and ten Isabella is well aware of how some individuals would use that beauty.
"He's late! I mean really, I could have any gentlemen I want, and he has the audacity to be late?" her cousin, Alice, says to Isabella for what seems to be the hundredth time.
In truth, the groom to be is only thirty minutes late, but to Alice, it is a lifetime.
Isabella's eyes roam the sitting room at her aunt's home, Eaton Hall. The estate is not very large, but her aunt and cousin Alice act as if it is as grand as Buckingham Palace.
Her aunt has mentioned several times to her mother that she is trying to convince Lord Brandon to purchase a larger home.
"Careful, she is sure to spit fire soon," her cousin, Angela, whispers conspiratorially to her.
Isabella puts her hand to her mouth trying to suppress her giggles.
Her cousin, Angela Cheney at seven and twenty has always been her favorite of the sisters. Though they both are older than Isabella, she has a particular dislike for Alice, as she often would pinch Isabella when they were children.
In truth, Miss Alice Brandon is an awful person, at five and twenty she is considered a spinster and no gentleman will have her because of her disposition, except one in desperate need of her dowry. Alice often finds herself in a courtship with a gentleman, but before marriage can be proposed, the gentleman suddenly disappears, only to reemerge sometime later with a new intended.
Her cousin is a cruel person who takes pleasure in making others as unhappy as she is.
"Really, Isabella, Uncle Charles couldn't afford you a proper gown for tonight? I do hope you have something decent for the wedding," Alice says, eyeing her cousin in disdain.
The other guests shift uncomfortably, their eyes moving from Alice to Isabella.
"I think the dress is lovely on you, Miss Isabella," Michael Newton, The Baron of Hastings, says looking at Isabella as if she is his last meal.
"You are too kind, Baron. In truth, Papa did offer to purchase new gowns, but I thought the funds better used in feeding the poor children of Essex." She gives him a small smile and then glances at her cousin.
Alice is livid that her attack on Isabella backfires, in turn making the girl look more like a saint than the pauper she is.
The aged butler, Philip, enters the parlor. "Lord Jasper Whitlock and Lord Edward Cullen," he says, presenting the two gentlemen.
"My Lords, we are so delighted you are able to join us. I do hope there was no trouble on your journey," Mrs. Agnes Brandon says as she rushes to the gentleman.
"Gentlemen, we are pleased you both are able to attend," Thomas Brandon says, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
He was afraid another suitor had disappeared on Alice. His only consolation is that Lord Whitlock is destitute.
"Please forgive us. I had to attend to urgent estate business," Edward says, his eyes roaming around the room.
His heart beats wildly, and his body stirs as his eyes land on the delicate form of Isabella. Her dark brown hair is in an intricate style with loose strands framing her lovely face.
Deep brown eyes widen when she finds the handsome lord staring at her. He is the most handsome man she has ever laid eyes upon, and he is looking at her as if she hung the very stars in the sky.
This cannot be real, she thinks to herself as her Aunt and Uncle begin introducing the gentlemen around the room.
"This is my sister, Mrs. Renee Swan," Mrs. Brandon says, walking over to Isabella's mother.
"Mrs. Swan, what a privilege, and who is this lovely creature?" Jasper asks, his eyes devouring Isabella.
Isabella stands in shock at the attention her cousin's fiancé is showing her.
"Allow me to introduce my daughter, Miss Isabella Swan, Lord Whitlock." Her mother's eyes shift to Alice, who is seething at the display in front of her.
"Miss Isabella, it is an honor. I have heard of your beauty, but I must say it does not do you justice." Jasper bends and kisses Isabella's offered hand.
Isabella shifts uncomfortably as she watches in horror. "You are too kind, Lord Whitlock," Isabella says, taking her hand from the gentleman a little too quickly.
Edward holds in a chuckle as he watches the beautiful girl shy away from his friend's very obvious advances.
"Lord Cullen, allow me to introduce my daughter," Renee Swan says, noticing how he is watching Isabella.
This would be a great conquest for Bella indeed, if the richest and most eligible bachelor in Yorkshire were to offer for her. Renee thinks gleefully.
"Miss. Isabella, it is a great honor to meet you," Edward says, giving a gentlemanly bow.
Isabella gives him a genuine smile as her eyes lock on the deep green of Edward's, color blossoming in her cheeks.
"Thank you, Lord Cullen, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Bella smiles and tries to take control of her beating heart.
Taking a seat, she is aware of her mother squeezing her hand in excitement, but she dares not to hope such a gentleman would want her.
Calming her nerves, she watches as Lord Cullen makes his rounds being introduced to guests. She catches Angela's eye as she gives a nod toward Edward who is engaged in conversation with her husband, Benjamin.
Dinner is announced, and they all stand to enter the dining room.
"Mrs. Swan, please allow me to escort you and your daughter," Edward says, bowing to the ladies.
"Oh, we would be delighted! Wouldn't we Isabella?"
"Indeed," Isabella says, taking Edwards offered arm.
Once they are all seated and dinner is being served, Isabella nervously sits next to Edward, unsure on how to engage such a gentleman in conversation.
"Miss. Isabella, please do tell how one can help the poor in Essex?" Baron Hastings asks, his eyes roaming her person from across the room.
He may be older, but he won't let the ripe peach be taken away from him so easily, he thinks to himself, watching as Lord Whitlock glares at him.
"How very kind of you, Baron. There are several charities one can donate to as well as orphanages, and our Vicar is very heavily involved as well. I will create a list for you." She smiles at him, not believing for a moment that he really would like to aid the unfortunate children of Essex.
Alice stares from her fiancé to Lord Cullen in glee. "Since you two arrived late you missed the conversation. The reason why my dear cousin does not have a proper gown is because she spent the funds her father offered her to feed the poor. I do apologize on her behalf. "
Edward stares at the young woman beside him with wide eyes. "That is extraordinary," he says, finding her act of kindness toward others as appealing as her beauty. "I've never heard of such kindness in one so young. Pray, what is your age if you do not mind me asking?"
"I will be blessed with my twentieth year in September," she says, looking down at her plate.
"Surely denying yourself will not feed the hungry," Jasper adds, eyeing her strangely.
He would never dream of going without for someone else. It is simply preposterous, he thinks to himself.
"Isabella has always been selfless and kind," Angela says, coming to her cousin's rescue.
"Yes, well kindness does not make one presentable at dinner," Alice says, glaring at her cousin.
She did not expect Lord Cullen to be taken with the chit. Her only solace is that she will be leaving after the wedding.
Edward glares across the table at Miss Brandon, not believing her cruelty toward the angel beside him.
"It seems to me that when among friends and family we should be comfortable no matter what," Edward says before taking a bite of his meal. "Besides, Miss Swan's gown is perfect."
"Lord Cullen, I read that Cullen Palace was one of the largest in all of England, is that true?" Isabella asks, trying to take the conversation off herself.
"It is indeed, and it is the only palace not owned by royalty or a member of the peer. A fact my father was very proud of," he says sadly, remembering his father.
"How wonderful! How long has it been in your family?" she asks, her eyes lit with excitement.
Edward loves her enthusiasm over his home and wants nothing more than to show her.
"Over a hundred years," he says, smiling at her.
Taking a deep breath, he turns to her mother. "I would love to give you and your daughter a tour of Cullen Palace, Mrs. Swan, if you so desired."
"Goodness, we would be honored, Lord Cullen," Renee Swan says, smiling at him as if he's offered her the world.
"Wonderful. My mother is coming from town tomorrow so I will send for you ladies the day after. She will be more than delighted to drone on and on about the rich history." He smiles over at Isabella.
She eyes him shyly, not believing the attention he is paying her nor the feelings this man is stirring inside her.
She has never lacked for gentlemanly attention, in fact, it often bores her and makes her feel superficial, never having a real connection with anyone.
Mr. Jacob Black, whom she has known since infancy has declared his undying love for her. The only problem is, she does not love him in return.
Jacob's father is her father's closest friend; the two families have always been intimately acquainted. Charles Swan and William Black have encouraged a union between their two children.
Unfortunately, Bella does not share the gentleman's feelings and has informed her friend she will not wed him.
"Your mother is attending the wedding?" Mrs. Brandon asks in shock.
"Indeed she is. Lord Whitlock is her godson after all. Has he not informed Miss Brandon of our acquaintance?" Edward asks, looking over at his friend.
He, of course, knows that since Jasper agreed to marry Miss Brandon, he has not once attempted to get to know the young lady at all.
"No, I was not aware your mother was his godmother. How very wonderful. I shall have her to Foxhill House often," Miss Brandon says, eyeing Jasper coldly.
"That would be lovely, but Foxhill is not up to entertain. I would hate for Lady Esme to see it in it's ruin. The last time she was there she cried for an hour over how I let my mother's flowerbed turn into weeds," Jasper says, laughing at his godmother.
"Come now, you mustn't tease Mother over that. It was mere months after your mother had passed and the first time she was there without her company," Edward says, defending his mother.
"How dreadful. Were they very close?" Isabella asks Edward, concern for his mother evident.
"They were like sisters, and when she died my mother was devastated," he says sadly.
Isabella sees the love he has for his mother and places her hand on top of his, wanting to give him comfort.
Their eyes meet as a strange feeling runs through both of them. Smiles grace their faces, and Edward boldly flips his hand over, squeezing hers in return.
All eyes are on them as the table falls silent.
Mr. Brandon clears his throat, as Mrs. Brandon can't believe that her niece has secured such a gentleman. Alice is furious, while her fiancé is jealous of the fact that his friend has possibly captured the most beautiful woman he has ever laid eyes upon.
He knows Edward will never use her as a mistress, and he envies him for the way they are both gazing at each other, but he also hates him for it. He should be the one securing Miss Isabella Swan.
Isabella's mother can not be happier
Others at the table have mixed feelings on the match, but even a blind man can see that all is lost when it comes to Edward and Isabella.
A/N: So we begin! We have seven chapters written and will post everyday. Fyrebyrd is my pre-reader, I love her long time. Sunflower Fran is my beta and old lady love of my life, she kicked ass in beta'ing this! Snoopylover stays up late with me and listens to me complain about mundane things, so for her, I came out of my comfort zone. The anxiety attack was real! LOL