Local lawman Edward Cullen knows there's more to his job than glad-handing and being quick on the draw, he just hasn't seen it yet. Bella Black arrives in Rosewood, Colorado ready to move on from her past with the freedom being a woman of means affords. Can the good marshal be the fresh start she needs, or will the Wild West be too much for both of them to handle?

Hello, gentle readers. For those of you who read the contest entry for the 1000 words contest, we're backing up a bit and working our way to that moment. But in my research after deciding to expand a few things have changed. Edward's main job is town marshal, but in those times, law enforcement jobs were like nesting dolls. A man could and often would be the town marshal, a deputy sheriff for the county, and a deputy US Marshal for when they were needed to assist in federal issues. It was how they supplemented lower wages since they could at times make less than other jobs in town. Unless you were in a big town, or close enough to one where they wanted their lawmen to take pride in the job because they were able to support themselves. You'll see the changes as the story unfolds, but nothing too jarring for the current tale, just past events for the most part.

Thanks to MarisCarro for the beautiful banner. This is being posted as a birthday gift to my dear, Shouldbecleaning. Team AGW as always, thanks for the hard work. LaMomo is taking up the red pen on this one.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter 1

January 3rd, 1871

Edward rubbed at his temple as the other men in the room began to filter out. It was an incredible opportunity, but also a much larger responsibility. The representative from the US Marshal Service had made an impressive pitch to the local law enforcement and he'd agreed to it. It was the first major decision he'd had to make in his three years as the Marshal of Rosewood, Colorado. The previous spring he'd agreed to be a deputy sheriff under Jasper Whitlock, who lived in Golden City, which was the county seat. Jasper called on him rarely in that time, but Edward had to wonder if this would be a more involved job. The benefit was that the money was good, and with the help of his two deputies, it wouldn't constantly fall to him.

Jasper walked up to the table and clapped Edward on the shoulder. "Let's get some dinner at the hotel now that the rush is over and we can ride out."

"Sure thing, Jasper."

The pair walked outside and were about halfway across the main street when one of the livery boys ran up. "Sir, is either of you Marshal Cullen of Rosewood?"

"I am, boy. What do you need?" Edward asked.

"There's a stagecoach driver looking for you."

"Go see what the driver needs, I'll get us a table," Jasper encouraged.

Edward followed the boy back to the livery stable to see the driver in question pacing. "Is this him?"

"I'm Marshal Cullen. How can I be of assistance?"

The man slipped a coin to the boy and turned his attention to the lawman he'd been looking for. "I've got a passenger I'll be transporting along with her belongings to Rosewood tomorrow morning. She's a woman of means traveling alone, so when I heard the town marshal was in town, I was wanting to hire you to secure our transport. We'll pay you fifteen dollars for the trouble."

Edward tried to hide his surprise at the offer. It was as much as his deputies made in a week. "You said we'd be departing tomorrow morning?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'll be here just after sun-up. If your passenger is willing, I would suggest an early departure. It will keep her from riding through when the sun is highest and we'll be less likely to run into any trouble."

"I'll pass along your suggestion. See you in the morning, Marshal."

Edward walked to the hotel to find Jasper already seated at a table. "What did the driver want?"

"He's got a passenger traveling tomorrow and he wanted an escort."

"Is the pay worth the extra night in town?"

"Definitely. And this trip has been on the mayor's dime since it was official business, so I can manage another night. Will you be good riding back alone?"

"Yeah. And if I get home by early evening, I'll get to sit on the porch with Miss Alice before Brandon kicks me to the dirt for the night."

"Well, I wouldn't want to stand in the way of that," Edward teased.

Jasper shook his head. "Meetings like this would be easier if everything were in Golden City."

"The Marshal's office doesn't want to deal with the county sheriff's office confusing jurisdiction. You're still the law of the land for the county, they just get involved if it crosses borders or breaks federal law. You heard Marcus. Last thing he wants is to get in a pissing contest, especially with the people he'll rely on for raising a posse."

"You're right. Now, let's get some grub so we can go our separate ways." Jasper flagged down the waitress and they ordered dinner.

The meal was pleasant. The two had always had an easy friendship, which was why Jasper had made him a deputy out of Rosewood. And the extra money for doing county work wasn't anything to sneeze at.

Once the pair was done, Edward went back to the men's boarding house to extend his stay, then took a stroll down Colfax and up towards Larimer looking in some of the stores. He picked up a few things that weren't as easily available in Rosewood and returned to the boarding house. He ate supper in the common room then bedded down early, knowing he would have an early start to his day.

It was still dark out when Edward rose. He was used to the early mornings, so waking didn't take much effort, but the bracing water from the night prior was enough to wake him fully. He was dressed and ready to head out in a matter of minutes, seeing the owner of the boarding house just starting his day when he stepped out into the street.

A girl was selling hand pies out of a basket under the watchful eye of her brother, so Edward bought two and made his way to the livery. The team from the coach welcomed him with a steaming mug of coffee and he ate his breakfast before seeing to his horse. Shadow was a good horse, bred for the trails, which meant she was good at covering distances other horses might tire at and didn't balk like more skittish animals. She'd been faithful to him, a gift from his mentor, Marshal Charles.

Edward took his time saddling the animal and strapping on the saddlebags before bringing out a few treats for her to show his appreciation. He heard the creaking of the wagon being loaded, then saw the porter bringing the luggage from the hotel. From the looks of it, this woman was traveling with all of her worldly possessions, so she'd be someone he would come to know well as Rosewood's newest resident. He began to wonder how she'd chosen Rosewood out of all places, but it was knowledge he would learn in time.

Edward offered a hand to get them underway faster and found himself atop the carriage when his charge, a woman far younger than he'd imagined, was helped into the carriage by the footman.

Honey brown eyes glanced up at him with welcoming warmth before she looked forward once more. The contrast between the coffee color of her hair, well hidden beneath a bonnet, and her pale skin added to his curiosity. A woman of means, likely from back East. It made him wonder who it was he was escorting.

With the mail bag tied to the roof and the secure box triple-checked, Edward climbed down and took Shadow's reins from the stable boy.

"Mrs. Black is ready to depart, Marshal."

"Excellent. Let's go."

The ride to Rosewood wasn't a difficult one, but Edward was vigilant as they roamed closer to the mountains. The ride took just over five hours, with them entering the town as the noon sun shone overhead. Embry, one of the hands in the livery, ran out to catch the reins as Edward dismounted.

"Take good care of her, Embry. She's had a long morning already."

"Yes, Sir. She'll be brushed and watered when you come to check on her."

"Thank you."

When Edward turned to the carriage, the men were already unloading the trunks off the coach onto the cart for the final leg of the trip. The driver approached Edward and slipped the cash into his hand with a nod.

"Thanks for the smooth ride, Marshal Cullen. We're off as soon as our horses are changed, but we appreciate the help."

"Of course, safe travels."

Edward walked past him to where Mrs. Black stood near her belongings, her arm laced through her purse strap as she watched the men work.

"Mrs. Black?" Edward asked to get her attention.

"Yes?"

"The coach will be heading out any moment. If you can tell me where you're headed, I'll let the wagon's driver know and I'll walk you the rest of the way."

"Oh, I'm going to the Yorkies'."

"That's easy to manage." Edward directed the men to the house on Fifth Street and the pair walked along.

"Are you not going on with the coach?" she asked.

"No, ma'am. I'm the local-"

Mrs. Yorkie's uncharacteristic shout cut off his explanation. "Sister? Is that really you?"

Mrs. Black took off at a run as the women embraced, looking much like they must have as girls.

Their giggles brought a smile to his face as Angela Yorkie turned to Edward. "Marshal Cullen, I'm sorry, I didn't see you there. Please come in. Have you had dinner yet?"

"No, ma'am, but I wouldn't want to interrupt your reunion."

"Hush with that. According to Emmett this morning, you were still in Denver, which means you were likely hired as a guard for my sister. We'll get you fed and on with your day soon enough."

Not wanting to offend Mrs. Yorkie with a second refusal, he entered the kitchen as she directed traffic for the trunks, then told the men to deliver the rest to her husband at the store. Mrs. Black didn't seem to say much except to ask for two of the crates to remain at the house. Once the men were off, Angela made plates for her guests, as well as herself and her husband, then they sat down in the dining room after washing up.

"Why didn't you tell us you were traveling? The weather is so chancey in the winter, I would have thought the earliest we would see you would be March or April."

"The winter has been a mild one. The man at the station said they'd yet to have much trouble passing, but his concern was that the snow would hit the plains in February. Everything was sold already and the chill in the New York air had more to do with my in-laws and Miss Clearwater than it did with the weather. When they notified me that a train leaving mid-December had room on it for my load, I booked the trip and took off. After a longer than planned stop in Chicago because some of the track west of there had to be dug out, we continued on to Denver. I arrived two days ago. After securing passage the last bit of the journey, I decided to make my arrival a surprise. I hope it wasn't too presumptuous."

"Never! Though I'm glad business brought the town marshal to Denver so you'd have a safe trip out here."

"Marshal?" Mrs. Black turned. "I thought you were an employee of the stagecoach company. Please, let me pay you for your services, Sir."

"It's Edward, ma'am, and no need. The driver paid me for the escort."

"Well then, I must insist you call me Bella, Edward."

"Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Bella." He took her outstretched hand and felt the crackle of the energy that seemed to fill every bit of her. With his meal done, he stood just as Eric Yorkie came in. "I'd best be off, but thank you for the meal."

"Anytime, Edward. You have a good day."

"You as well, Angela."

With a doffed hat and a handshake from Eric, Edward stepped out into the January afternoon, ready to get back to work.