She's No Princess
He wasn't at all what she had pictured. Bella had imagined Edward Cullen to be some oily, weasel-faced little fellow. But when she saw the British diplomat standing in the drawing room, his looks were so unlike the image in her mind.
He wasn't oily, and certainly wasn't little. His wide shoulders and chest improved the immaculate fit of his striped waistcoat and buff-colored jacket. Dark blue trousers of an exact fit covered his lean hips and long legs. His linen shirt and silk neckcloth were snowy white. Looking at him, Bella had an almost irresistible urge to disarrange his perfectly combed dark hair and untie his perfectly knotted cravat. He probably wouldn't like that, she thought.
This man had a hard line to his jaw and chin, showing obedience. His appearance showed he had no patience for any sort of teasing, which made the desire to do so all the more tempting. Still, Bella admitted he was quite handsome for an Englishman. Although when she looked into his eyes, her appreciation towards him evaporated at once. His green eyes were a tragedy. She couldn't find a spark of passion in any of them.
"Sir Edward Cullen," he said with a well-bred English accent. "How do you do, Miss Swan?"
When he bowed, she reacted with a curtsy that was little more than a dip of her knees. She moved over to sit down on the settee, and indicated for Edward to take the chair opposite of her. "You came to see my mother, I understand, but she is unable to receive you at the moment. You will have to make do with me."
"I wouldn't describe your as making do," he said, oh-so-politely. "Even though your mother is unable to receive me, I have been aware she was expecting my arrival."
"She forgot about you," Bella was pleased to notify him.
"May we expect her to join us?"
"Hmm." Bella pretending to think it over. "I could not say."
"I see," the British diplomat didn't seemed please.
This gave Bella more desire to needle him. "Dear me, I believe the gentleman disproves." Bella paused and then continued, "Why do you wish to see my mother? The usual reason men visit her, I suppose?"
"I came to see both of you."
"Both of us? What a wicked man you are, Sir Edward, to make such an interesting suggestion."
He stiffened, hardly a detectable flex of his broad shoulders. "I hope you will find my suggestion interesting, once you stop making assumptions and learn what it is."
"Tell me, are you always so haughty?"
"Are you always so impudent?"
"Only to men who are haughty, since you won't tell me why you came, I shall have to guess." Bella reached into her pocket and pulled out his card, "Sir Edward Cullen," she read "G.C.M.G Ambassador-" She stopped and looked at him. "What do these letters mean?"
"The Knights Grand Cross, of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George."
"That sounds very impressive." She lifted the card again, and continued, "Ambassador of His Britannic Majesty, King William IV. Arranger of marital alliances that are none of his business, destroyer of happiness and person who solves the inconvenient problems of princes. Bella winked at him, and she tucked his card into the crevice between her breasts, "I have no doubt that I am Prince Charlie's most inconvenient problem. At least, I hope so." Leaving the tiniest corner of the card showing, she leaned back in her seat to see his reaction.
There was none. His expression did not change. Bella decided that Edward Cullen had no sense of humor.
"From the imagined titles you have given me," Edward said, "I can see you know my purpose for coming here. You are correct that I have come at the request of your father, and the command of my government."
"Ah, the English stick your nose in this affair, too."
"Your father has asked my government to assist him in finding a British husband for you, and I'm to negotiate the terms of your marriage settlement."
"I see no need to marry simply to save my father from embarrassment."
"Most women are eager to marry."
"True, however most women have this strangest idea of finding their own spouse."
"You are the daughter of a prince with royal blood."
Bella didn't have anything to remark on what Edward said.
Edward continued on, "Illegitimate or not, you are born with certain duties. One of those duties is to marry well and appropriately."
Bella boiled over at that statement. "What is my father's duty to send me to a convent and nuns beating me?"
"Your father deeply regrets that action."
She rolled her eyes. Bella would not want him to continue discussing the intolerable duties she is bound to obey "Anyway, would my preferences have any decision in selecting my future husband?"
"I regret that my orders to find you a husband do not include a consideration of your preference, Miss Swan, however, you may be at ease he will be a catholic."
Her future husband's religion was not worrying her. If her father and this diplomat thought she was going to marry a man of their choice and not her own, they were very much mistaken. Bella would not be bullied. "What a relief to know a man is in charge of my future. The pressure of choosing my own marriage partner might have proved too great a strain for my poor, muddled, feminine mind. Who is the fortunate bridegroom?"
"I do not have any specific one in mind as of yet, but he will be a peer, a gentleman of breeding, with an impeccable background and connections. In addition-"
"What about love?"
"I believe you will develop a fondness for whichever gentleman is chosen for you."
It was such an absurd answer, "I did not ask about fondness," she said. "I asked about love."
"Real love takes time to develop, and we do not have that luxury. It is mid-June, and your father will be arriving in London for a state visit in August. My orders are to have a final marriage partner for you and his desire to marry you."
Shocked, Lucia could only stare at him. "Six weeks? I am to be betrothed to a man in the next six weeks?"
"Your father's wishes are clear. In addition, I have duties elsewhere, and you-"
"I am to be rushed into matrimony so that my father's schedule and your duties do not suffer?"
"No, you are being rushed into matrimony because of your own reckless behavior. We hope the news of your exploit with the French blacksmith will not come to light."
Bella was convinced he would not understand. She'd wager he had never been in love in his entire life. "And your point?"
"Rumors have an unfortunate tendency to grow, similar to the bubonic plague. The only way is for you to marry as soon as possible and marry well. Your father is offering an enormous dowry and annual income for you and your children, which helps. In addition, it is still the London season; so many suitable gentlemen will have the opportunity to meet you."
With each dispassionate word he spoke, Bella could feel her fury rise. "I am to be paraded before an audience of men and you are to choose one desperate enough and greedy enough to take me off my father's hands for the price of a dowry and income! I am not to be sold, nor even given away."
"I perceive your bitterness and it is understandable," he said. "However, your father-"
"Charlie has never cared about me. I have seen my father half a dozen times in my life. And what gives you the right to dictate to me or control my life?"
Sir Edward looked at her with the patient expression of an adult tolerating the tantrum of a bad-tempered child, which only enraged her more. "While you are becoming acquainted with suitable gentlemen, I will do what I can to contain the damage and prevent your reputation from becoming soiled here in Britain. Given your illegitimacy, your mother, and your past, if you do anything further to damage your reputation, even I may not be able to save it."
"What a tragedy that would be."
"Young woman, do you not understand the seriousness of your circumstances? Your reputation is on the verge of collapse, I advise you to behave yourself. Is that clear?"
Here was one more person to order her around. Could she not simply live her own life? "How could it not be clear? You explain it all so diplomatically." She said with a mocking smile.
Her sarcasm was ignored. "Good. Now, there is still the matter of your mother to be discussed. You cannot go on living with her. I will make arrangements for you to stay with suitable people."
"What?" She got up from her seat.
"You must realize you cannot continue to stay under your mother's roof. I have no doubt your mother would agree with me. In any case, you will be severing all ties with your mother-"
"I will do no such thing!"
"You must. Your husband will require you to do so in any case."
"Any man who marries me accepts my mother. It is as simple as that."
"No, it is not as simple as that. No British gentleman will tolerate it."
Bella wondered what would happen to her reputation if she slapped Britain's most famous ambassador across the face.
"My orders are to have you removed from this house as soon as I can make suitable arrangements for you to stay elsewhere. As for love, marrying for love is a luxury those of royal lineage can rarely afford. You certainly cannot."
"You are wrong. I can afford to marry for love. I will make no loveless marriage for my father's sake or yours. And damn my reputation!"
"You cannot hope to defy your father. You must marry."
"I am perfectly willing to do so. Write to my father and tell him I shall marry when I find a man I love and who loves me. That is a task I am quite capable of managing without any help from you!" Bella turned and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Edward Cullen, a diplomat? If that vile man was a diplomat, the world was in serious trouble.