The Course of True Love: Pirate Talking Twilight One-Shot
I don't own Twilight but I do have a big booty.
I'd spent all day doing the washing and still there was no end in sight. My hands ached, my skin raw and red. I hummed to myself as I hung the wet laundry out to dry. No doubt it would take an age, being that the air was always muggy. Rain threatened to pour down at any moment as was the usual state of the weather here in Barbuda.
I didn't know any other way of life. I came to the West Indes as a tiny babe in my mother's arms. The Lord saw fit to take her from us when I was a little girl. My father, Charles Swan, was a constable in London before being given a deputy position here, reporting straight to the Governor himself. It earned him a better wage and status, but the costs were high. This was no place for a family. The various tradesmen, soldiers and other riff-raff were a constant fixture here. There were few 'real' ladies of society—mostly fishmongers' wives, lonely widows of drowned sailors and harlots who walked brazenly in the streets.
I didn't normally do the washing but we'd not been able to keep servants on a regular basis. Many of the gentry farmers had slaves but the thought of that sickened me. My mother was deeply spiritual—from a Protestant French Huguenot family. They were persecuted in France and were often sold into slavery themselves. Maman would cringe at the sight of these poor African souls being made to work nearly to death in the hot sun. She'd say that our Lord Savior was the only master of men. We couldn't 'own' one another like chattel.
It took more time finding a new maid than it did for me to do the work myself. My father objected at first but when I told him it was me doing it or no clean clothes, he didn't argue anymore. This life was full of sacrifices and he knew that better than I did.
While my thoughts drifted to and fro, I failed to hear footfalls behind me. Before I knew it, a large, calloused hand covered my mouth and I started violently, instinctively trying to pull myself away from whoever was grabbing me with such force.
"Oh ho ho, I got me a live one here, as true as the risin' sun. Listen here lassie, if ye like yer pretty little neck the way it is and free from any…injury, you'll heed me words and not make trouble, ye savvy?" I heard behind me. His breath made my skin crawl. I reeked of the foul rum he no doubt imbibed regularly.
I felt the sharp edge of a knife against my throat. It cut into me slightly, only enough to cause me pain and bring me to my senses. I froze in fear, simply nodding my head.
"That's a good lass. Now, yer just goin to take a wee nap fer me," he said with a menacing chuckle.
I felt an incredible pain to the back of my head and there appeared a blinding constellation of stars before my eyes. In a flash, I crumpled up as my legs went out from under me and everything went black as pitch.
I woke some time later, my head throbbing. My panic rose immediately as I realized my hands and feet were bound and my mouth was gagged with a putrid strip of cloth.
I was lying down on my side, on rough planks of wood with a filthy piece of linen covering me from tip to toe. I felt the ground move beneath me and could tell that I was in some kind of wagon, most likely meant for carrying goods to and from the massive trade ships that regularly dropped anchor at our port.
My fate now was surely doomed, for I no doubt had been abducted to be sold off as a slave. This wasn't too common an occurrence in Barbuda because of how well my father and the other lawmen patrolled and protected the island, but it happened regularly elsewhere. I knew awaited me now and what I would soon become.
Men would pass me around like a bottle of rum, using me whenever it suited them. I had to suppress a strong urge to be sick. My mouth was gagged and I could very well choke from it. Perhaps it was better if I let that happen and simply died rather than endure what was going to be done to me.
The wagon stopped and I felt sunlight against my blindfold as it was snatched away. I struggled against my bindings and screamed into my gag. I tried uselessly to sit up and perhaps stand, but my awkward position and bound limbs made it impossible.
Someone grabbed hold of me and I was hoisted up and set upright upon my feet. I strained to keep the sun's rays from my eyes. I thrashed my head, willing my hair to cover my face. Someone must have pulled the pins from hair when I lie unconscious.
"I told ye she was a lively little filly. Jagged James will enjoy taking his pleasure from her," I heard. It was the voice of the same villain who'd captured me as I hung the laundry.
"Aye, me matey. I can see that," I heard another voice say.
I cried out against my gag as a hand grabbed my hair, pulling me back roughly.
"Let me see yer pretty little face, ya tart!" yelled the man clutching my hair in his filthy hand. I growled as he pressed his disgusting cheek against mine before stepping back to inspect me like I was a dairy cow.
"Oh aye, ye will do right nicely fer me master, ye will!" his gravelly voice said with a cruel laugh. He turned to talk to the scoundrel who'd captured me.
"Heed me words, Crowley, I'll offer ye ten doubloons for the unbroken filly here. Ye shan't do much better than that, fer certain," replied the man holding fast to my hair.
"Master Laurent, we've been doing business for many a year now. This here wench, judging by her skittishness, no doubt still got her precious maidenhead and when takin' that into consideration, I'm afraid I'll have to be askin' ye for twenty doubloons," my kidnapper said. They were bargaining over my price. It filled me with disgust to the very depths of my soul.
"Crowley, I'll give ye fifteen doubloons, and that's me final offer," Laurent replied. "I think I'm bein' right generous with ye—this here spitfire's goin' to give Jagged James many tastes of her temper a'fore he tames her," he added with a deep laugh.
Money changed hands, and Laurent quickly cut the binding round my ankles with a dagger he extracted from a strap on his leg, but left my arms tied. We boarded a ship anchored in a hidden cove away from where any of the patrolling soldiers would happen upon it. I saw the black Jolly Roger flag with its menacing skull and crossbones waving high on the ship's mast—the pirates' flag. My life now laid in the hands of utter miscreants, men who'd sooner kill me than show me kindness. I thought it best to welcome death so that I may enter Paradise and join my mother.
Soon I began to cry in earnest, not from fear, but sadness. I would never see my beloved father again. He'd tried convincing me many times to sail to London to live with my Uncle Philip but I'd adamantly refused. There would be no one to look after my father, to cook his meals and tend his household. My mother's passing left him heartbroken and that wound never healed rightly, not even with time. I couldn't abandon him. But now, I'd simply vanished, and he'd never see hide nor hair of me again. The pain this would cause him was more than I could bear contemplating.
I was roughly pushed and pulled as we made our way on deck. My own feet betrayed me, causing me to trip and fall time and time again, and I was rewarded with a sharp tug of my hair at every instance. The pain to my body was no match to the damage to my spirit, my sense of pride, and my honor.
The crew crowded round me, shouting and attempting to lay their hands on me. I screamed and flailed as Laurent commanded them all to cease.
"This here be James' wench. He'd happily slit the throat of any of you scurvy dogs fer touchin' his property," he shouted. This seemed to quell them, and they stepped back so that I had a wider path in which to pass.
Laurent shoved me into a dank, foul room which looked to be the ship's brig. Cutting my wrists free, he departed the room and locked the door.
I was alone.
Dropping to my knees, I immediately started to pray, beseeching our Heavenly Father to spare me, to simply take my mortal life as soon as He saw fit.
I remained on my knees for several hours. The ship had left the cove; I felt it push off and heard the commotion of the crew adjusting the sails according to the direction of the winds. There was no window in the tiny room but I could tell it was nightfall. I smelled torches burning and the ship had quieted down. I heard less footfalls and less movement in general.
My hours of prayer had soothed me. I felt less panic and more peace; I was ready to die. In fact, I would do little to spare my life if it came to that. Of course I would never die at my own hand lest I be denied entrance into the Lord's kingdom, but when death came for me, I would not fight it.
I continued to pray, pulling from my memory everything I could from the Book of Common Prayer and our family Bible. I had my mother's cross, the one she wore until the day she died. Luckily, the chain it hung from was long enough that it was tucked deep inside my shift and unseen by my captors. It was my only possession now and even before today I deeply treasured it.
Closing my eyes, I took myself back to when I was just a girl of six years and my mother lay in her sickbed.
"Isabella, my precious girl," she whispered, trying to stroke my cheek. She was too weak to lift her hand. I took it for her and pressed it against my face.
"Yes, Maman?" I asked.
"Take my cross. Wear it when I'm gone," she instructed in a soft voice.
"Where are you going?" I questioned innocently.
"I will be in Heaven singing hymns with our Savior. I won't need it if I'm sitting right beside him," she explained with a smile.
A long, wracked cough rippled through her frail body. The kerchief at her mouth was stained with pink blotches. When the cough ceased, she began to speak again.
"Take good care of my cross. It is your constant reminder that even though you cannot see me, I will always be with you, watching over you. Be a good girl and heed your father. Remember to say your prayers," she advised. I simply nodded.
She took her cross from her neck and hung it round mine, its long chain dangling almost to my waist. I picked it up with my little fingers and kissed it like I'd seen my mother do so many times before.
"And Isabella—one final advisement. You're just a little girl so you'll not understand my words until you are older, but please, remember them. If a man says he loves you, make certain his actions prove it so," she told me cryptically. I was very perplexed by her instructions but she pressed me to repeat them until they were etched into my mind permanently.
If a man says he loves you, make certain his actions prove it so.
I would never have the opportunity to hear such words of affection or attempt to discover such proof, not if I were going to die or become some vicious monster's plaything. Thinking of it disrupted my pleasant memory of my dear mother and the last time I spoke to her. But if my hours of prayer were heard, I would be seeing her again soon.
I heard footfalls then, and the door was unlocked suddenly. Laurent returned with a torch in his hand. He seized hold of my arm and pulled me onto my feet roughly.
"Get up, wench. Time to meet yer new master. He's had his dinner. Now he's pinin' for a little dessert. Ye should make him a fine little morsel to feed on," he said with a laugh.
He led me down a series of corridors and upstairs. We came to a room with an ornately decorated door. I surmised that it must be the entrance to the Captain's quarters. Laurent used a special knock to identify himself. A muffled voice granted us access to come inside.
"Sir, I've your new little pet. She'll make fine company for ye, no doubt," Laurent said with a leery grin, dragging me across the room. It looked to be a study, with a desk in one corner. A large leather chair behind it faced the other way, its back to Laurent and me. A figure rose from it and stood—a lanky man, with wiry arms, his light blond hair tied with a ribbon at his neck.
He turned round and I could not suppress a gasp. This man's visage was what nightmares were made of. There was a long diagonal scar that started well above his right brow, over where his eye should be, down the length of his cheek and all the way to his jaw. His skin was ruddy, scarred by the pox. He smiled at my gasp, revealing wretched, pointed teeth that were rotted and yellow. The sole pleasant aspect of his face was his left eye. It was a beautiful bluish gray color. He had a patch on the right side to cover the spot where he'd lost the other.
"My gratitude to ye, Quarter Master. She's a fine specimen," he said, approaching me and stroking my hair. I flinched at his gesture and he merely smiled again. He was a hideous sight and I felt I might be sick.
"By yer leave, Captain," Laurent replied, bowing his head.
"Yes, that'll be all," the Captain replied.
Laurent quickly exited, shutting the door behind him. I was now alone with this hideous abomination.
"I'm so very pleased to make yer acquaintance, dearie. Me name's James Bellamy, but I'm known in most circles as Jagged James," he explained by way of introduction.
When I didn't offer my hand, he simply took it and kissed it. My skin turned cold and clammy at his touch.
"And what be yer name?" he asked.
I stared at him, too disgusted to speak before finding my voice.
"You shan't disgrace my good name by uttering it from your mouth," I spat.
He laughed as if he were greatly humored, then struck me across the cheek with the back of his hand. It stung bitterly, but I welcomed it.
One slap closer to my death.
"Ye shall answer me when I ask a query of ye, lest ye taste my hand again," he warned. "Now, dearie, what is yer name?"
"You shan't disgrace my good name by uttering it from your mouth," I repeated. He struck me again, harder this time, on the other cheek. I tasted blood from my lip.
Rather than ask a third time, he gave up. Instead he placed his attention on my body, seeing that my mind would not cooperate.
"Ye are a lovely little creature, ye are," he hissed as he ran his hand along my burning cheek. "I'll partake of ye several times in the night," he said, his voice menacing. He stood behind me and placed the flat of his palm against my middle. "Mayhap I shall leave ye a little bastard to suckle in nine months' time. Would ye like that, dearie? Bear me a son?" he taunted, rubbing my stomach. My insides lurched as I felt the acidy bile rise up my throat and into my mouth. I looked away, staring at the wall, and turned my mind to happy memories.
"I've a wife, but her womb is barren. She was a harlot, and became with child. But so many men had known her that she'd suffered a fever and bled almost til death. The fever passed but it took her unborn babe's soul with it. Poor little thing lay inside her in its own tiny tomb. She bore the child still and the damage was done, forever," he explained, smiling as if he were telling a happy tale. This man was evil incarnate, and I would sooner die than lay with him.
The door to one of the adjoining rooms opened. In the doorway stood a tall woman with blazing red hair, the curls cascading down her shoulders. She didn't bother to pin it up and cover it with a cap like a modest lady would. Her face was comely, but twisted in a cruel smirk and painted with bawdy artifice.
"Ah, here she is. Me little lamb herself. This is me wife and me very heart, Victoria," he said, striding over to her and taking her hand, kissing it. He led her back toward me and I thought of how absurd they appeared, trying to walk and imitate the manners of gentry folk when both their faces had been ravaged by a cruel, bitter life of immorality, strife and misery. No amount of wealth could take back what the past had done to them, not even if they possessed every last doubloon in God's creation.
"Well, what have we here, now?" Victoria asked, staring at me angrily. "Have ye brought another whore into our quarters?" she hollered, her face furious.
"Come now, me sweetheart, she's but a wench to do the cleanin' and the cookin'. I won't lay a finger upon her person, I give ye me oath," he said, the words oozing from him as he tried to bring Victoria to a more peaceful disposition.
"Yer oath?" she replied with a hearty laugh. "Yer oath ain't worth a fart from a pig's arsehole, it ain't," she spat. Her foul words disgusted me and I could barely contain the look of contempt upon my face. Victoria took notice of my expression and was enraged.
"How dare ye look at me like that! Don't think ye fer a moment that yer me better, ye harlot!" she screamed, pulling my hair and kicking me. She pulled my head all the way back, straining my neck until I cried out. "I'll let the crew have their way with ye, that'll humble ye!" she bellowed as she let loose my hair and I fell to the floor.
"Oh dearie, ye upset me wife's delicate constitution, and she gets mighty cross when that happens. I do confess, Vicky, me love, that it does entertain me to witness ye expel yer wrath the way ye do," he said, smiling in a hideously adoring way.
He walked over to her and hugged her close.
"What would put yer little heart in a softer temperament, me love?" he asked, fawning over her in complete excess.
"I wish fer ye to hold tight to that wench by the arms so that I may beat her for her impertinence towards me person," she whined, resting her head on his bony shoulder.
"Whatever ye wish, me love," he cooed.
James tightened his fist round the back of my dress and lifted me up so that I stood again. He took hold of my wrists tightly and pulled my arms behind my back. Victoria walked toward me and sneered, holding a knife in her hand.
"I'll make yer pretty face so ugly, no man'll have the stomach to touch ye," she threatened. "Shall I carve ye up nice and proper?" she taunted, pressing the point into my cheek. I didn't answer.
Please Lord, make the wounds deep so that I may die.
Victoria pressed harder on the blade, but a frantic knock at the door interrupted her. It was the same special knock that Laurent used but done much faster, over and over again. James called for the person to enter, but the knocking didn't stop. He took a pistol from his under his long coat and opened the door slowly.
A figure entered, his gait unstable, and collapsed on top of James. They both stumbled to the floor, and I recognized the figure as Laurent. He was on his knees, his eyes looking wild and his hand holding fast against his neck. There was blood pouring from between his fingers. I tore my eyes away lest I fainted. He tried to speak but nothing came except strangled groans.
Three men dressed all in black rushed in through the open door. The last to enter closed it behind him. The biggest man quickly seized James' pistol, exploiting the distraction caused by Laurent. He immediately held the pistol to James' temple.
"I would hold still if I were you, laddie," he ordered. He spoke with a thick Scotsman's brogue, like the one I'd heard from the wool tradesmen who came to Barbuda.
Victoria, noticing her husband's life in peril, immediately charged toward the large Scotsmen. He hardly took notice of her until she was within his reach. Making a fist, he stopped her from hurling into him by merely holding his enormous closed hand up before she even saw it. It struck her square in the nose, making a hideous crunching sound. She fell to the floor, but was undaunted and rose up. This time she clutched the knife she used to torment me. She charged toward the Scotsman, screaming like a banshee.
A shot rang out and Victoria reeled back, her limp body crumpled to the floor. There was a wound on her chest, a black hole with her blood quickly spreading across it. Her eyes were wide in shock but there was no life in them. She was dead.
One of the other men stood with his arm outstretched, a pistol still smoking in his hand.
"Been waitin' on doin' that. Mighty gratifying," he said with a raised eyebrow. He had a slow drawl to his speech and I knew it to be from the American Colonies—Virginia or the Carolinas. Many of our sugarcane farmers did business with these Americans and their fur trappers would stop here on their way to Europe.
James screamed in abject horror at the sight of his dead wife, his already ugly face twisted with pain and fury. He collapsed on top of her still form, and began stroking her hair.
"Oh me sweetheart, what have they done to ye?" he choked, pressing her eyes closed with his fingers.
The third man approached James and grabbed him by the scruff of his collar.
"My apologies, Mr. Bellamy, but I'm afraid we must cut short your period of mourning. The brig aboardThe Twilight awaits you," he said with a smile. He spoke like a proper English gentleman, which confused me greatly. I had no inkling what a man of his stature would be doing associating with the likes of Jagged James, even if it was to capture him.
Unbeknownst to the Englishman, James had furtively taken the blade from his dead wife's grasp, holding it up high above his head, ready to plunge it into his flesh.
This time, it was the Scotsman's pistol that rang out, striking James in the temple. He staggered a few steps and fell exactly at my feet. I screamed, disgusted by the sight of his bloody face just inches from me. His chest let loose a death rattle, blood dripping from his ear.
My scream seemed to startle the three men. It was as if they only just noticed my presence in the room. My eyes fixed on the knife in James' hand. I quickly knelt down and snatched the weapon from him. I held it in my fist with a grip so tight, my fingernails dug into my palm.
All three of them stared at me.
"Do not dare touch me!" I hollered, my eyes blazing. My fury came not from the instinct to survive, but to keep from enduring what James and Victoria inflicted on me and the other terrible things they were going to do. "Do not dare come near my person, I will kill all three of you!" I warned.
They turned and looked at each other in bemusement. The Englishmen stifled a chuckle. The Scotsmen and the American laughed without concealment.
"Do not tempt me! I have endured enough. With God's mercy, I shall die before I'm made to suffer any longer," I said, my voice beginning to break. My mind was about to crumble for I had no resolve left. I began to lose all composure. "I shall die before my father's good name be shamed," I said in a small voice, closing my eyes as tears fell down my face.
I felt a strong hand pry my fingers open and take the knife from me. I didn't fight it. I simply hadn't the will any longer. I opened my eyes and saw the Englishman standing before me, his long fingers curled around my hand. His bright green eyes looked at me with compassion.
"No one will harm you, little one, you have my word. You're safe now," he said. I nodded my head lightly and tried to steady my ragged breath.
Not letting go of my hand, he turned to the Scotsman.
"Mr. McCarty, you owe me 500 doubloons for killing Bellamy and forfeiting my bounty," he said with a raised eyebrow.
"Ach, Cullen, ya son of a whore, is that me thanks for saving yer posh arse?" he replied angrily, furrowing his brow and making his hands into giant fists.
The American stepped over to Mr. McCarty and boldly smacked the back of his head with no hesitation.
"Look here, you Scottish dunce, that's no way to talk in front of a lady," he snapped.
Mr. McCarty, instead of being angry, looked…embarrassed. He awkwardly glanced down at his enormous feet.
"Beggin' yer pardon, Madam. Or is it Miss?" he asked me.
"Thank you, Mr. McCarty. It's Miss," I answered slowly.
"We haven't time for proper introductions. Come with us, little one. I'll see you safely aboard my ship," Mr. Cullen beckoned gently. I was reluctant to follow his heed but I hardly had any alternative. I couldn't stay among the knaves on this ship.
Mr. Cullen turned to the American and then to Mr. McCarty.
"Mr. Whitlock, instruct the others to come aboard and seize the remaining officers. They may use whatever force necessary," he ordered. "Mr. McCarty, take a dozen of our men to assist you in organizing Bellamy's crew to empty the hold of its cargo. Once finished, they may join us or walk the plank," he added. They both nodded quickly and left the room. He then turned his attention to me once again.
"If you please, Miss, what is your name?" he asked.
His gentle disposition comforted me and I answered him softly.
"Isabella Swan, of Barbuda. My father is Charles Swan, deputy to the governor," I replied.
"Miss Swan, I am Captain Edward Cullen of The Twilight. My men and I operate the largest privateer vessel in the name of our Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Anne," he replied, bowing his head. "Come now, I shall show you to my ship and ensure your safety," he added, pulling my hand, which he still held.
We exited the room and he gestured for me to stay silent by placing his forefinger over his lips. I nodded my head in understanding and I allowed him to navigate our way above deck, his hand gently clasped to mine. My heart began to race as I thought of what could happen should we be discovered. I clutched Mr. Cullen's hand tightly, needing some small comfort to soothe my nerves. I felt his thumb stroke the back of my hand in response.
We made our way to the deck without detection. He led me to the edge of the broadside where there hung a small rope ladder. He bent over the railing and gave a hand signal, presumably to a waiting boat below.
"Miss Swan, please allow me to lift you over the railing so that you may climb down. The ladder leads to a small cutter that will return us to my ship," he explained in a soft voice, trying to be as quiet as possible.
Grasping me gently by the waist, he effortlessly lifted me over the railing and then let me go. In that instant, I could go no further. I could bear no more. Mr. Cullen was kind but the thought of being tormented again like I was by James and Victoria made me utterly despondent.
Instead of placing my feet in the rungs of the ladder next to me, I shifted over, away from cutter below. Mr. Cullen's eyes grew wide and he attempted to grab hold of me but I scurried away from his reach.
"Thank you, Mr. Cullen. And I am terribly sorry," I said, before pushing off and jumping into the water.
The fall was over faster than I expected, and I plunged feet first into the sea. I jumped from such a height that I found myself deep underwater. My heavy dress weighed me down and I hastily let all the air from my lungs so that I may sink deeper.
I reached for my mother's cross so that I could pray and think of her in my final moments, but when I put my hand to my neck, it was gone. It must have slipped from my head when I fell into the water. I became frantic. I lost my one connection to the mother I hardly knew but sought comfort from through that cross. I needed it now more than ever. I searched in vain in the dark water, hardly able to see anything.
My lungs began to burn and I felt myself sinking further downward. I resigned myself to dying alone and feeling afraid because of it. I closed my eyes and waited for the darkness to come, but it didn't. Instead, I felt an arm wrap around my waist and a body next to me, pulling me up to the surface. I wanted to fight but lacked the strength.
We reached the surface and my body instinctively drew in as much air as my lungs would hold. The person who had fetched me did the same. I wiped the salt water from my eyes as my chest heaved. My body burned from exertion and being deprived of the air it needed. But my thoughts were fixed on one thing: I had lost my mother's cross. In my current state of mind, I could think of nothing else.
When the person next to me placed an arm round me again and began swimming toward the ship, I found the energy to struggle.
"My mother's cross!" I gasped, crying. "I lost my mother's cross!" I yelled, pushing away and skimming my hands against the water in a desperate yet futile attempt to find it.
"When I dove into the sea, the cross I wore round my neck separated from me. I need to find it, it was my mother's. She died, it's all I have. I want to die with my mother's cross in my hand, please. Have mercy upon me, I beg you," I cried, sobbing.
My rescuer seized my arm and pulled me back. I turned to look at this person. It was Mr. Cullen.
"Miss Swan, listen to me, you must calm down," he insisted, clutching my arm. "If your mother's cross is dear to you, than surely you know that taking your own life is a sin in God's eyes," he said. I didn't answer; I simply covered my face with my hand and continued to weep.
"If I find your cross, will you come with me and cease this? Do you give me your word?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered. "I promise."
He let go of my arm and unfurled something from his wrist. He dangled my chain and cross before my eyes. I took it from him and closed my eyes, pressing the metal against my lips and kissing it.
"It floated past me as I was descending toward you. I took it as a sign that you needed to be rescued more than you knew," he explained.
"Thank you, Mr. Cullen, thank you," I sobbed.
"Not at all. Now, you'd made me a promise. We must board my ship. Come," he beckoned firmly. He took hold of my hand like he had in James' quarters, pulling me through the water. I held him tightly with one hand and my cross in the other.
A small row boat was lowered and we climbed in. The tiny boat was lifted up by a pulley and we were able to climb aboard. The Twilight was a massive vessel with giant sails billowing in the night air.
A large group of men gathered round us to see what had happened to their Captain and why he'd jumped into the water. When they saw me, they reacted with surprise and eyed me up and down lasciviously.
"Alright, men. Bellamy's ship has been seized without resistance. You're all to assist in loading the cargo and assuring the other crew joins our ranks without ill will on either side," he ordered.
"This is Miss Swan, she's to be my companion and I expect you all to treat her with the same deference as you would me. Any man on this ship who is discourteous toward her shall answer to me," he warned.
My heart sank. The implication was clear. I was now in another man's possession, just as I had been in James' just a short while ago. Mr. Cullen was a privateer—often there was so little distinction between privateering and piracy. Privateers were hired by the Queen to capture cargo and vessels not just belonging to pirates, but of merchants from enemy countries. My father would discuss these issues with the gentlemen who came for tea after church on Sundays. I would listen from the other room, my father unaware that I was doing so, for the subject matter was inappropriate for a lady to hear.
"Miss Swan, allow me to show you to my quarters," Mr. Cullen said, taking my arm by the elbow and leading me away before I could protest. I was so cold from my soaking wet clothes that I began to shiver and didn't have the energy to resist.
We entered a lavish cabin which included a large study that also served as a dining room, with a generous oak table in the center; a bedroom; a private washroom and even a small area for preparing the food that was brought up from the galley. It was all quite spacious considering it was on a ship. It was decorated much like a proper gentleman's home.
Mr. Cullen led me to the bedroom and shut the door behind him. He went to his chest of drawers and pulled out an item of clothing.
"I'm afraid I won't be able to find you more suitable attire until the morning when things are settled. I believe we've ladies dress items amongst the hold's inventory, but it will take time to locate them. Please take this until your own clothing is dry," he offered, handing me one of his nightshirts. It looked long enough to fit me like a shift, which was fine for me to wear when I was alone, but I'd never wear so little clothing in front of a stranger, and a man no less.
"I can't," I said, holding the shirt in my hand. "This isn't proper for me to wear in your company. In fact, I should not be in your quarters. This is not at all a suitable arrangement for a lady. I desire my own quarters, if you please," I insisted.
He let a deep sigh and stared at me, running his hand through his hair. He looked at me with a very serious, very stern expression, his brows knitted in frustration.
"Miss Swan, my patience is not limitless. This is not a country manor you're visiting for tea and biscuits. This is a ship full of men who've not had any sort of female companionship in quite some time," he stated. I blushed crimson at his implication.
"I run a very organized, dedicated crew and they respect my commands, but I also recognize my men's limits. Giving you your own quarters would be as if I were dangling a mutton chop in front of a ravenous dog. Keeping you here ensures your safety. You're not to leave this cabin unaccompanied at any time. Do you understand?" he asked, his eyes glaring into mine.
"Yes," I answered simply, casting my eyes down.
"Thank you. You may take that into the washroom to change into and then hang your clothing from any of the hooks you find on the walls," he said.
I entered the tiny room and removed my wet clothing. My skin was ice cold and my fingers horribly wrinkled. I pulled on Mr. Cullen's night shirt and next attempted to arrange my hair in a suitable plait of some kind in spite of the tangled mess it was in when there was a knock at the door.
I opened it and Mr. Cullen stood there, holding a dressing gown out to me but with his head turned away, keeping his gaze averted, respectful of my modesty.
"Something for you to wear over my nightshirt," he offered politely in a soft voice.
"Thank you kindly, Mr. Cullen," I said, taking it from him. I put my arms through the sleeves and tied the belt round my waist. It was entirely too big, the sleeves hanging limply past my fingers. I rolled them back toward my wrists.
He'd changed out of his wet clothes and into a plain white shirt and black britches. He gestured toward the dining table where two place settings had been assembled and serving bowls filled with food awaited us.
Mr. Cullen pulled my chair out for me and I sat down. It was then that I realized how tired I was. I stared blankly at my empty plate, too wearied in mind and body to do anything.
"Please Miss Swan, you must eat something," he said. I nodded my head but still didn't move. Mr. Cullen ladled some sort of a stew into a bowl and placed it in front of me.
"If you don't eat it, I shall feed it to you," he threatened in a plain, calm voice. I turned and looked at him. He was smiling at me. Picking up my spoon, he tried to dip it into my bowl but I took it from him and set it down.
I clasped my hands together and began the Lord's Prayer. Mr. Cullen stopped his spoon in mid air and quickly placed it down. He bowed his head but did not recite the scripture with me. When I finished, I looked at him and smiled slightly in gratitude.
We ate in silence and I was glad for it. I was far too weary to engage in conversation. After our meal, Mr. Cullen ushered me into the bedroom and insisted I lie down. His senior officers would be arriving to relay a status report and they required use of the study. I relented, feeling more fatigued than I ever had in my life. No sooner had I closed my eyes that I was fast asleep.
I woke with a start, my sleep haunted by nightmares of James and Victoria. Sitting up, I struggled to calm my breathing and racing heart. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and noticed a form lying next to me. I sprang from the bed, my eyes wide with shock.
"Why are you in the bed?" I asked nervously.
"I'm sleeping on it. Why else should I be in bed?" Mr. Cullen asked back, stretching as he sat up.
"Mr. Cullen, you quite understand the meaning of my query. It is most forward of you to sleep in this room while I am here. I find it very objectionable," I sternly answered.
"Miss Swan, I find your objection to be objectionable," he said with a smirk. "Truth be told, I intended on sleeping on the settee in my study but after my officers departed I came to check on you to find you sobbing in your sleep. I tried to soothe you and it worked for a time but then you began to cry out from your nightmares. This went on for quite some time. You would become distressed, I would hum to you and you'd again be peaceful. Eventually I could fight slumber no more and my eyes closed of their own accord. You'll notice that I am in my day clothes," he says, gesturing at his shirt.
My face flushed with guilt. I'd made a harsh assumption about him when he was, in fact, only trying to help me.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Cullen. I'd judged you wrongly," I said, looking down nervously.
"It's quite alright. Come, it won't be dawn for some time," he replied, getting out of the bed. "I shall sleep in my study."
I lay down again as Mr. Cullen was about to exit. I stopped him before he shut the door behind him. I nervously willed myself to speak.
"Yes, Miss Swan?"
"I'm…frightened. My dreams were very vivid. Will you…stay with me?" I asked, my voice a soft hush.
He smiled and lay down next to me. He began to hum and I quickly drifted off.
"Miss Swan?" I heard. My eyes were shut. I felt a hand gently nudging my shoulder.
I came to and saw Mr. Cullen standing over me, already dressed.
"Oh, I've slept too long," I said, yawning. He laughed at my persistent drowsiness.
"It's still early. I usually rise before dawn. Breakfast will be arriving. I'll dispatch someone to find some clothing for you shortly," he said.
"Mr. Cullen, thank you again for everything you've done for me. I will try to repay your kindness," I replied, feeling an abundance of gratitude to him for saving my life—twice.
We sat eating our breakfast a short time later. I felt rested and my nerves had calmed considerably. Mr. Cullen was looking over some papers as he drank his tea, his face fixed in concentration. It was then that I noted that I hadn't properly looked at his face before. He was, in fact, quite handsome. His hair was unkempt but perhaps it was due to his habit of putting his hand through it. The color was nice, a cross between ginger and brown. He had a strong jaw, long nose and pursed lips. I'd noticed his eyes before, how they showed his emotion so clearly. They were framed by long lashes and thick, expressive brows.
He looked up at me and smiled, his mouth curving only on one side in a cheeky smirk. I dropped my head down and felt the blood rush to my face. He'd noticed me staring. I pretended to eat my food, pushing it round my plate.
"I'll be with my officers and crew most of the day but I will return for meals," he said, breaking the silence. I nodded my head.
"Mr. Cullen?" I asked. "When will we be arriving at Barbuda? I am anxious to be reunited with my father."
"Yes, well, unfortunately we aren't able to sail there straight away. We'd set a course for the American colonies in pursuit of James and that is where we'll be docking first before going back to the Indes. It will take several weeks, more than a month," he explained. I was most disappointed to hear this but there was nothing to be done about it. I was grateful to have been found and away from harm.
"Have you any books to read?" I asked, hoping to find a way to pass the time.
Mr. Cullen laughed, tilting his head and looking thoughtful.
"I do, but I doubt you'd find them interesting. They've mostly to do with nautical pursuits. I've a few from the great poets and historians. You should be able to find them on the shelves," he said, gesturing toward the bookcase.
"Thank you," I replied.
"Not at all. Do you enjoy reading?" he asked, making polite conversation.
"Yes, I do. I can read French and Latin as well. My governess was a former Catholic missionary from France. She was my tutor since I was a small child, but also much like a mother to me," I replied, smiling at my recollection of Madame Marie-Therese and her kind treatment of me.
"Latin? To learn scripture?" he asked.
"Well yes, that was her intent," I explained. "But I really wanted to read Ovid," I added sheepishly and blushing. The ancient poet was best known for his poetry about love and seduction—hardly subject matter suitable for a lady. He chuckled at my confession.
"And how would a proper girl such as yourself come across a book like The Ars Amatoria?" he asked with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.
"One smuggles it out from one's father's study," I replied in a low voice, blushing furiously but also trying to suppress a smile.
"Smuggling, I see. A book pirate. Most unusual, Miss Swan," he quipped with a serious face before smiling. I laughed despite my embarrassment.
A crewman from the galley arrived to clear the table and soon it was time for Mr. Cullen to see to his duties on deck. I bade him farewell after promising more than once not to answer the door lest I heard his voice.
I spent time perusing Mr. Cullen's book collection. I'd not had so much idle time before and it felt odd. Noticing the amount of dust that was collecting, I set about doing some cleaning. I was certain Mr. Cullen would give strict instructions that no one enter his quarters while he is absent, so whoever usually cleaned for him would not come. The least I could do was make myself useful. Using a rag from the washroom, I dusted everywhere and then began to try and sweep the floors as best I could, considering I had no broom. I shed my dressing gown since I was exerting myself and getting quite hot.
Just when I was on my hands and knees, sweaty and puffing, trying to rub away a scuff on the wood floor, in walked Mr. Cullen. I was so mortified that I froze in place. He stood there, first in shock, then his expression softened and he almost looked sleepy. His gaze meandered from my eyes to my lips and finally to my chest. Looking down, I noticed that Edward's large night shirt was hanging open, exposing my bare breasts. This shook me from my stupor and I scrambled to my feet.
"I was, um, cleaning. I wanted to be helpful," I stammered, my face feeling as if it were on fire.
"Yes, that was…thoughtful of you," he replied, obviously trying to compose himself. He cleared his throat several times. "Oh, I have this for you," he said, holding up something that was draped over his arm. It was a ladies' petticoat and jacket. It looked to be servants' clothing, but it suited me nonetheless. The jacket laced up the front, so I'd no need for a corset. I could just wear these items over the night shirt.
"Thank you kindly, Mr. Cullen," I said, looking down. I was too mortified to look at his face.
He approached me, stopping a good distance, and held the clothing out. I took them and all but ran to the washroom.
Lunch was served while I put on my new clothing. I joined Edward at the table and quickly said prayers before beginning my meal. Our food was just barely palatable—some sort of broth with a biscuit, or 'hard tack,' that very nearly broke my teeth. I gave up on it and drank the broth instead.
"Is it always this horrible?" I asked, exasperated at how dreadful the fare was.
"Worse," Mr. Cullen replied with a laugh.
"If I could use the galley, I'm sure I could make something better than this," I said, hoping he'd allow it.
"I could ask the cook to let you have use of it after he's finished for the day, if you like," he offered.
"Thank you, I would like that. I often prepare meals for my father. I do enjoy it," I said with a smile.
We ate our meal in silence and Edward returned to his duties. Our days passed this way for a time. We'd dine together and he'd return for the evening when we'd have our last meal of the day and I'd withdraw to the bedroom so that he could tend to the last of his work and meet with his senior officers in the study. When he finished, he'd come to the bedroom and we'd read together, sometimes out loud.
Some evenings he'd show me his maps and charts and how to decipher them. Occasionally, he'd take me on deck to the Captain's station, showing me how to use a sextant to use the stars as a guide while navigating. I found it all very interesting, as I'd never studied such things and I did have a rather curious mind. Every few days I would cook in the galley which I knew Edward appreciated because he'd smile happily all through the meal and thank me profusely. During those meals, I'd take advantage his jovial mood and pepper him with questions concerning his upbringing and background.
One evening, we'd been enjoying a nice game of chess in the study. I was quite a formidable opponent, my father having taught me to play when I was a little girl. Mr. Cullen, I came to learn, was not a gracious loser.
"Mr. Cullen, I am curious. How does one such as you become a privateer?" I asked, after making my move during our game. I was feeling bold after we'd both indulged in a little too much ale. He looked at me and drew a long breath, expelling it slowly.
"Well, I was quite a headstrong youth. My father wanted me to follow him and pursue a university education but I resisted. I had a strong desire to see the world, to escape the tedium of society. I joined the Royal Navy at seventeen," he explained. "My father was livid," he added with a laugh. "I came back after a two years at sea and all I could think about was returning to life on the water. I went to Oxford for a time just to study astronomy and mathematics so I may become a better navigator and return to the Navy as an officer," he explained.
"It's strange," I began thoughtfully. "You don't strike me as a rash or emotional person," I expressed truthfully. Mr. Cullen seemed a very calm and rational person to me.
"I've changed, to be sure," he said with a smile. "Military life will do that to a man, and I'm glad for it," he added.
"Check," I said, making my move on the chessboard. I had anticipated Mr. Cullen's strategy and was able to best him. I had a very cheeky grin on my face, gloating conspicuously.
He stared at the board and then at me. He seemed quite put off by losing.
"Miss Swan, I may become quite rash at this moment," he said, his eyes darkening.
"Mr. Cullen, it's just a game," I replied innocently. It was clear that he wasn't talking about chess. I felt my heart race and my hands shake.
"Is it?" he asked, and then he simply got up and walked away. I returned the chessboard to its usual place on the bookshelf and changed for bed. I thought to myself that I enjoyed our time together more and more and it was as if we were man and wife, with him tending to work during the day and me taking care of the quarters. Maybe this pretend 'game' wasn't one at all, like Mr. Cullen questioned.
After my nightly ablutions, I knelt at the edge of the bed as I did every night and said my evening prayers. Mr. Cullen sat nearby on his side of the bed, reading a book.
"Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night. Lord, please guide Mr. Cullen's hand so that it is steady as he commands his ship. Please grant him a peaceful mind so that he may be a wise and judicious leader of his crew, for the love of thy only Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen."
I looked up and saw him watching me, a small smile upon his face.
"Do you pray for me every night, Miss Swan?" he asked. His was voice barely above a whisper.
"Of course, the fate of many people lays in your hands. It must weigh on your mind heavily, so I pray for your hand to be steady and your decisions prudent," I answered with a smile. I sat on the edge of the bed, mindful of our close proximity.
"Thank you," he said, looking humbled. I'd never seen his face look quite that way and it was…beautiful.
"Mr. Cullen, I'm sorry for my poor manners during our chess game. I took a little too much delight in winning," I said, feeling guilty.
"It's alright. I took too much umbrage at losing," he replied with a smile. "Miss Swan, would it be too forward of me to ask that you call me by my Christian name?" he asked, looking sheepish. I confessed to myself that I couldn't resist the way he was looking at me and decided to overlook the overly familiar way in which he wished me to address him.
"I think it would be alright, if it were only you and I," I replied. "And you may call me Isabella, if you like," I added softly.
He looked at me for a moment, his expression kind. Ever so gently, he put his hand on top of mine. I wanted to move my hand away but couldn't. He'd been nothing but a gentleman since we'd met all those weeks ago. It was a sweet gesture, one that I couldn't resist or help but find pleasant.
"Good night, Edward," I said as I slipped under the bed covers.
"Good night, Isabella," he replied as he snuffed out the candle beside him. He then settled in next to me, on top of the covers, and hummed to me as he did every night. I simply could not find slumber if he didn't do this. I had yet to fully recover from my ordeal with being kidnapped and mistreated by James and Victoria.
I slowly eased out of a deep sleep, aware that I'd been having yet another nightmare. I felt a hand on my cheek, stroking it. My face was wet—I must have been crying in my sleep.
"Isabella, please wake up. It's only a dream," I heard him whisper.
"Edward? It was horrible. Their souls haunt me in my sleep," I whispered back, still weeping. He gently wiped the tears from my face.
"They can't hurt you. I'll keep you safe," he soothed. I was lying with my head on his shoulder, his arm curled around me. I could feel his chest rise and fall as he breathed. Impulsively, I rested the flat of my palm on it.
"Isabella," he began. "I must tell you…I dread the thought of bringing you back to your father in Barbuda. Forgive me for my presumption in saying so," he confessed.
"I shall miss you too. I enjoyed our idle time together—reading, helping you with your charts and maps," I replied.
"You are perhaps the most unique girl I'd ever met—sweet, but brave, ready to die. You've a sharp mind and quick wit, but you are kind and thoughtful," he said.
"Thank you. You've been very gracious and…you saved me when I myself no longer cared if I lived or died. I shall be indebted to you for that for all my life," I said, feeling new tears well up at the thought of how grateful I was to him.
"Isabella, we shall be reaching the Carolinas soon—tomorrow, if my calculations are correct. Mr. Whitlock and Mr. McCarty have been urging me to give up privateering; they've both wives and families there, and this is their final voyage on The Twilight. I resisted the idea of giving up sailing because there was nothing to keep me on land and I knew I'd grow restless for the sea like I always did. But if I had you with me, I would happily never step foot on another ship again. You would keep me grounded," he said, his words making my heart skip a beat. He took my hand and kissed it lightly.
"Would you come with me, Isabella? Would you become my wife?" he asked in soft voice, his words hesitant. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you," he professed.
I lifted my head and looked up at him then, just studying his face. His expression was so hopeful and earnest. And then I remembered my mother's words—the ones she'd insisted I commit to my memory eleven years ago.
If a man says he loves you, make certain his actions prove it so.
Edward saved my life twice and took care of me when I had no where to go. He treated me with respect and even extended his friendship to me. Now, he was willing to give up a life at sea, the one thing he loved more than anything, in exchange for my hand and to spend his life with me instead. I think my dear mother would agree that Edward's actions did indeed prove his love. And I loved him for it.
"I love you too," I said finally. "I accept, with all my heart," I added with a shy smile.
Placing his hand on my cheek, he lowered his lips toward mine and kissed me gently. I moved my head back, afraid of what might happen if we allowed the kiss to last too long. I wanted to be a maid on the eve of my wedding.
"If we were to marry as soon as possible, I will accept full responsibility for your father's disapproval in not seeking his permission first. I will also make every effort to assure him that I will always provide for you and care for you," he added.
"I know you will," I replied. "My father will be grateful beyond measure that you saved me from certain death at the hands of James. I'm sure he won't begrudge you your impatience," I added with a smile.
We kissed a second time with more urgency. I forced myself to pull away once again.
"I think it best if I slept on the settee," Edward said with a light laugh. I drew a deep breath and nodded.
"My first objective after we land will be to find a chaplain," he said with a smile. Mr. Whitlock's people have lived in the area for some time, he would be of assistance with this, I should think," he added.
Edward gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek good night and retired to the study, not trusting himself to show restraint given our professions of love.
Sure enough, we reached land early the next day. I had written a letter to my father while we were still aboard the ship, explaining how I'd been kidnapped but rescued. I assured him that I was alright and met a gentleman who'd asked for my hand. I gave him details on how to send word back to me so that we may be reunited as soon as possible. Edward made certain that the letter would make its way to Barbuda on the next privateer ship to leave the harbor.
We were met onshore by Mr. Whitlock's wife, Alice, and Mr. McCarty's wife, Rosalie. They were both very kind and happy to see that the bachelor friend of both their husbands had found a wife of his own.
"Miss Swan, I'm sure our chaplain would be more than happy to perform a wedding ceremony for you and Mr. Cullen. Mr. Whitlock's relations have been his parishioners for a good many years. Have you a dress?" she asked.
"I don't, sadly. I have just this one," I replied, gesturing at the dress I wore the day I was kidnapped.
"I'd be happy to loan you one of mine," Rosalie offered graciously. "I believe what I have would fit you nicely," she added.
That night, I stayed with the McCartys, and Edward with the Whitlocks. Mrs. Whitlock arrived early the next morning to help me dress. Rosalie had kindly offered to host the wedding feast afterward, and so she was hurriedly seeing to all those details. Her nicest dress and shoes fit me perfectly. A short time later, we all arrived at the church.
As Edward and I exchanged vows, I thought of my mother and how much I wished she'd been there. But it was her words, her guidance, which helped me understand Edward's feelings for me, and so she was with me, in a sense.
Our feast was a simple yet very ample meal, with friends and neighbors from all around coming to share their good wishes. A fiddler played and we all partook in ale and whiskey. It was a lovely gathering that I shan't ever forget, even though I was surrounded by strangers. Their warmth and kindness touched me deeply. That evening, Edward and I were shooed off to a private cabin kept on Mr. Whitlock's estate, deep in the Carolina woods.
I readied myself for bed, nervously taking the pins out of my hair. My hands shook, making it take much longer than usual. I entered the bedroom, where Edward was already waiting, looking just as nervous as I was.
He stood up and met me at the door, closing it gently behind me. Taking my hand, he kissed it lightly.
"Hello, Mrs. Cullen," he said, smiling broadly at me.
"Hello, Mr. Cullen," I replied, smiling back.
"Shall we sit for a moment?" he asked, motioning toward the bed. I nodded, too nervous to speak.
"You've made me a very happy man today," he said, stroking my cheek. "I'll strive to make you just as happy."
"Thank you. I, too, am pleased that we're wed," I admitted with a blush.
"Isabella, if I assured you that you've nothing to be afraid of, would you believe me?" he asked, his head tilted to the side, his expression tender. "When we found you with James, I told you that you'd be safe and I held fast to that. I'll always keep you safe. You know that, don't you?" he added.
"Yes, of course I do. Thank you, Edward," I replied. He would always be good to me, I knew that for certain.
He stroked my cheek then, so softly and slowly. I felt his tenderness and love in that one small touch and I felt less nervous. Pulling my hand, he laid me down on the bed and lay next to me.
We simply looked at one another for a moment and studied each other's faces. He kissed my forehead lightly, then both my cheeks, then my lips. His mouth pressed against mine while his hand stroked my shoulder and arm. His touch gave me a sensation I'd never felt before, it was all at once extremely satisfying but also left me desiring more. I sighed when his lips left mine to trail down the length of my neck. His hand moved to my middle, gently caressing it. Slowly it crept up and rested gently on my breast, but kept still. I felt the peak of my breast harden against his palm and fought the urge to press myself into his hand and move my body from side to side.
"Isabella, my beautiful wife," he murmured as he began to caress my breast. He lightly tugged the taut pebbled flesh with his fingers and I gasped softly.
He sat me up then and pulled my shift up over my head. Without thinking, I crossed my arms over my bare breasts, the idea of being so exposed in front of another person still very new to me.
"Please, let me look at you," he said gently, pulling my arms down from my chest. I relented and dropped them to my sides.
"Do I please you?" I asked awkwardly, having no idea whether a man would find me pretty or not.
"More than I could ever tell you in words, my love," he murmured, pressing his hand to my cheek. "You're perfect in every way," he added, lifting my chin so that I'd look at him.
Edward then made fast work of removing his night shirt. His unclothed body sent a shiver through me—I was both scared and excited. He was beautiful, muscular and strong. He smelled of soap and the pine trees outside our little cabin. Intrigued, I shyly touched my hand to his arm, noticing a scar there.
"Stabbed by a Spaniard," he explained. I looked back at the line on his skin and frowned. I didn't like that he'd been injured. I placed a quick kiss on it. Raising my palm, I showed him the little crescent-shaped scar inside it.
"I tripped and fell on a bit of broken glass," I revealed. He took my hand and kissed the small mark tenderly.
Continuing my perusal of his body, I saw another raised area of skin that was round, like a coin, just below his collarbone.
"Shot by a Dutchman. Luckily it was from a fair distance away," he said with a laugh. I stroked it with my fingertips and pressed my lips to it. I sat up and pointed to a scar on my shin.
"Fell out of a tree when I was eight," I said. He furrowed his brow, his hand moving over it softly before kissing it.
I noticed another mark, this one rather large, on his side. I sighed when I saw it. I couldn't imagine how painful it must have been.
"Swordfight with a Frenchman. He lost," he explained with a smirk. I'd grown to love that devilish smile of his that only rose on one side. He looked so charming yet so cocky; the allure of it was irresistible. I rubbed the scar on his side with the back of my fingers before kissing it. I lifted my foot and gestured to the little line below my largest toe.
"Dropped a plate. It shattered and cut my foot," I said. He gently took my foot in his hand and caressed it.
"You're a clumsy girl, Mrs. Cullen," he joked before kissing the spot I'd shown him.
"You've been in too many skirmishes, Mr. Cullen," I replied, but with less humor. He was giving up that life now, and I was ever so glad for it.
I let my eyes roam his body once more, over his neck and to the contours of his jaw. There, right below his ear, was another small line. I'd never noticed it before. I rubbed it with my thumb.
"German with a bayonet. My pistol was faster than his musket," he said, sounding slightly boastful. I smiled before leaning into him to kiss it.
My body was so close to his, my lips pressed to his face. He laid me down again, and kissed my lips, more passionately this time. I felt his lips part as his tongue swept against my lip and I instinctively opened my mouth to it. It lightly touched my own, softly pressing and nudging. A moan escaped from deep within me and I suddenly felt the urge to touch him everywhere. My hands skated up and down his chest, and then went to his hair, my fingers playing with it.
"Isabella, I want to show you how much I love and treasure you. My body will demonstrate it with yours," he whispered, no doubt to put me at ease in the event that I was still fearful or nervous, but I wasn't. Edward and I had been spending so much time together before now that our feelings had become quite deep, even though we'd resisted admitting it, even to ourselves.
"I desire the same," I confessed. That was all he needed to hear. He looked relieved that I wasn't reluctant or scared.
He lay next to me, kissing me everywhere—sometimes with soft bites or little licks that felt indescribable against my skin. Lowering himself to the foot of the bed, he took my feet in his hands and rubbed them, easing the ache I'd been feeling from standing and dancing at our wedding.
"I love your dainty little feet," he admitted with a shy smile. He rubbed each toe individually. "I'd carry you for miles before I'd let them blister," he said lovingly.
He moved up to my calves, stroking them with the back of one hand while the other rubbed circles into my tired muscles.
"Your calves are beautiful, shapely," he said, admiring them. "I'd gladly wash them if they got muddy on a rainy day," he promised. Next, he gingerly kissed the top of my knees.
"Your knees should never ache. I'd fulfill your every hope and wish so that you'd spend less time praying on them," he told me. I felt as if my heart would burst, such was my growing affection for his beautiful words and loving promises. He raised himself up higher and took my hands, kissing both palms.
"I love your soft little hands. I remember holding your hand when we freed you from James' clutches. I'd hoped that grasping your hand gave your some comfort, some assurance that you'd never be harmed again. I'll hold your hand every day for the rest of my life," he professed with a smile.
He then kissed the top of my arm, where it met my shoulder. Rubbing it gently, he looked into my eyes and smiled again.
"I'd carry the heaviest burden before I'd let you tax your arms with any weight. The only things I long to see in them are our beautiful children," he said, making me blush. He laughed at my modesty given that we were in our marriage bed and had already been sleeping next to one another for more than a month.
Moving slightly higher, he stroked my hair and kissed the side of my head.
"I cherish your mind. You've a natural curiosity and a keen sense of observation. I'll see to it that it never become clouded with worry or sadness. I would suffer those things ten times over before letting them plague you," he promised.
He kissed my lips then—a passionate, deep kiss that showed how he longed for me. I returned his ardor with everything that I had.
"Your beautiful, red lips. I've wanted to kiss them since the moment I first saw you. I'll kiss them as many times as you'll permit me, and I'll never let a single word of sorrow pass through them," he said, running his thumb over my bottom lip.
Moving down now, he kissed the top of my left breast, close to my heart.
"I love your heart—it is kind and giving. I'm honored that you've chosen to share it with me, and I'd sooner my own stopped beating than injure yours in any way," he murmured, his words touching me so deeply and profoundly that I knew I could never love another the way I loved him.
Next he focused his attention on my flat belly, peppering it with light kisses.
"I will always provide for you, Isabella. You shall never feel pangs of hunger so long as I am caring for you," he promised, his expression earnest. And then a mischievous smile crept across his handsome face.
"I shall derive much delight from seeing to it that a generous amount of babies are nurtured here," he admitted without any shame or sense of propriety. I couldn't be offended, his charm was too overpowering for a susceptible young girl like me.
His hands gently touched my bare breasts and I could barely contain the feeling it gave me. It made my heart race and my mind cease all thought. Edward's words became more seductive and their effect on me was undeniable.
"Your breasts are beautiful—more beautiful than the ancient sculptures of pagan goddesses or paintings of enchanting nymphs by the Italian masters. One day I shall watch you nurse our children from them, but until then, they're mine to admire," he said, grinning at me. I blushed and lightly smacked his arm, admonishing him for his cheek.
He moved down again, leaving a trail of kisses from between my breasts down to my sex. His hands lightly grazed my skin alongside his soft lips. He gently eased my thighs apart, kissing them while doing so. His hand lightly touched the flesh between my legs, sending a shock through me. I started but when he murmured words of love and tenderness, my nerves were quieted, and I submitted myself to him.
"This part of you, my love, may be my favorite part of all. And I will prove it to you, over and over again," he said with a smirk. I smiled back despite myself.
I felt his mouth on me and the sensation of it nearly sucked the air from my lungs. His tongue probed everywhere, very softly and slowly. Gradually, I began to move against him, my body craving more. His licks became more urgent, pressing my flesh in a controlled rhythm. I felt his mouth affix to me, his lips tugging and sucking. I cried out his name, and put my hand over my face as I was overtaken by wave after wave of pleasure that rippled through my entire body. After a moment, my breathing gradually slowed and I was completely lax, as if floating on water.
He stretched out above me, laying his body on top of mine. He kissed my neck and face, and whispered promises to be gentle and loving as he wedged his body between my legs. I felt him push into me slowly until my maidenhead was broken, the pain causing me to bite my lip and shut my eyes tightly. Eventually, he was completely inside me. It was something I'd never felt before—our bodies so close to one another that we were joined. Despite the pain, it was a beautiful moment that I'd never forget.
"I'm sorry for the pain, it will stop," he reassured me, pressing his lips to mine. He slowly rocked his hips, easing himself back and forth against me. The stinging burn I felt lessened gradually, and my own hips worked against his in turn. He curled his hands round my shoulders, pushing himself into me deeper and faster. His face darkened into a sort of scowl as his excitement grew. His eyes locked with mine.
"I lay claim to you now, as my wife, and you shall always be mine—every part of you," he growled possessively. His passionate words excited me and I moved faster with him.
"I love you, Edward, I will always love you," I promised. I put my hands on his face and pulled him close. He hissed through clenched teeth, his breath coming in puffs.
"I love you, Isabella," he moaned, his body growing tenser.
With a loud grunt, his head fell forward and he stilled himself as he spilled his seed deep inside me. He lay that way until he caught his breath, and then rolled onto his back, pulling me with him to rest my head on his chest.
We lay there for a time, curled against one another in silence.
"Edward?" I said, hoping he wasn't yet asleep.
"Yes, my love?" he answered sweetly.
"Will you hum to me?" I asked, hoping he wouldn't mind.
"Every night for the rest of our lives," he replied before kissing me again and beginning the tune that so easily coaxed me into a deep slumber.