Disclaimer: Twilight and Aladdin belong to their respective owners. The idea to intertwine them belongs to me.


Chapter III

Realization


The sound of her enchanting voice, the feel of her small hand upon his face, the wide and trusting innocence of her eyes, these things were too much for Edward. Edward's eyes shot open at the pressure of her flaming skin upon his mouth.

What am I doing?

Edward abandoned her hand, her heat, and slammed his back against the stone wall as he held his breath. Bella was staring at him, disbelief and hurt evident in her eyes. If she only knew the danger she was in, those wide brown eyes would hold fear.

"Edward?" Bella took a step toward him, causing Edward to press himself harder into the wall as if he could mold himself to the stone and hide from the inquisitive maiden.

"Leave," Edward choked out.

"Edwa—"

"LEAVE!" Edward spat, his eyes deep with fury, twin volcanoes close to eruption.

Bella hesitated in her next step, flinching as if he had struck her. Edward glared at the tempting maiden. Had he not once claimed himself to possess more willpower than any other? Had he not claimed himself to be superior to the remainder of his kind?

Edward had led the maiden to her doom with every intention of draining her, but after gazing into the depths of her soul, how could he steal the light from her eyes? How could he drag the glorious beacon of light into his world of darkness?

The maiden's legs gave out, but this time Edward did not stop her from falling to the ground. He was powerless, afraid of her shocking touch and the effect it would have upon his resolve. She needed to leave. He was willing to sacrifice his pleasure to preserve the life of Bella, but he could not handle anymore temptation.

She was a crumpled heap upon the black velvet, the contrast of light and dark more evident than ever before. Her glorious curls concealed her face, both frustrating and merciful to Edward as he watched the maiden.

"I do not know the way," she mumbled brokenly.

Edward felt terrible for the way he spoke to her, but it was all he could think to do to break this siren's spell. Edward had thought of himself as the wolf in sheep's clothing, leading her to hell, but in truth it was her seduction that had blinded him.

Edward pried himself from the wall and opened his trunk to find the tool he would need for this journey. Of course she would not remember the way back and even if she had, Edward would never have allowed her to make the trip back on her own. Any of the vampires lurking outside this room would snatch her away in an instant if the opportunity presented itself. The maiden had even tampered with Edward's common sense.

With his hands protected by his gloves, he went to the maiden and offered her his hand. Bella did not look up at him as she took his concealed hand, for which he was both hurt and grateful for. She must hate him now that the sick and misleading melody had worn off. His thoughts were confirmed when he caught a glance of her pale cheek and the salty tear that trailed down it.

Edward led her back through the tunnel and through the sea of questioning glances and thoughts of those surrounding them. Some had even placed bets upon how long it would take for Edward to entirely drain her, but none had expected her to leave alive. No one ever had.

Through the cavern and through the woods they kept a steady pace, perhaps a little faster than the average human, but it mattered not. A few times Bella had lost her footing, but refused any assistance from Edward every time.

Yes, she must loathe me, Edward thought sadly.

They were almost to the apple tree when Edward heard them. Thoughts that did not belong clouded his mind, each filled with a sense of duty and readiness. They were prepared in the chance that they came across a vampire.

Edward did not fear for himself, however, having proved his combat skills on many occasions. His only worry was for Bella, whom would be in grave danger if such men were to find her. Having privy to the thoughts of others, Edward knew what some soldiers did when they came across a lost maiden. They demanded payment for the rescue and more often than not, sought far more precious treasures than that of gold or silver.

"There are men close by, most likely guards from the castle," Edward informed her.

Bella's eyes widened in fear. Ah, yes, Edward thought in amusement, now she exhibits the correct reaction.

"They're after me," Bella whispered, her heart rate elevated into a state of panic.

Very perceptive.

"I will not let them touch you, but you will have to trust me."

Bella contemplated his offer and Edward knew that no matter her answer, he would protect her. It would only make his duty easier if she would comply with his wishes.

"I trust you." Her tone and eyes rang with truth and Edward could not help but grin sadly at her. She should not trust him, but somehow he was glad she did, especially in the current circumstances.

Edward tugged Bella over to his apple tree, giving her instructions to hide no matter what she sees or hears. The men were closing in on them, there were eight and they were running out of time. Edward made sure he was hidden from the maiden before he climbed into one of the trees with ease. It would be simple to eliminate the threat with his vantage point.

Edward leapt from the branches when two of the men were in his sights and he quickly knocked them out. He hid their bodies in a pile of discarded leaves before returning to his cover.

Six to go.

Another man wandered from the group in search of privacy to take care of a few bodily functions. The man was unconscious before his trousers had even made it to his knees.

Five.

Isabella's breathing was labored as she waited and strained to hear the voices of the approaching men. They seemed to be heading straight for her, as if they could somehow hear her rapid heartbeat. All thought of the night with her stranger was hidden away for observation later when she is safe.

When he is safe.

Isabella worried for Edward and felt completely useless. Once more she was the weak little princess, needing a man to protect her. She loathed the idea, but some part of her couldn't deny the tiny spark of happiness she felt when she realized the implication of his actions.

He cares enough to protect me.

The rustling to branches alerted her to the expanse of darkness before her. She had walked here on her own earlier in the day, but despite the sun's permanent position in the sky, the woods seemed darker than before.

"Edward?" Isabella mumbled uncertainly into the darkness, wondering if making her presence known was wise. Edward had told her to keep quite no matter what she should see or hear, but in her adrenaline rush, she could not seem to manage to keep the words at bay.

"Edward is that you?" she questioned the darkness again.

A man jumped down from the trees, pressing a hand covered with dirt and sweat to her mouth before she could release a scream of warning to Edward. The man turned her away from his form, gripping her tightly around the arms and pushing her body into his chest. She knew all of the faces of the guards, but she could not make out his while hidden in the shadows.

"What is a poor maiden such as yourself doing in a wood so sinister?" the man's gruff voice sneered into her ear, causing her to shudder. Twice tonight she had been touched by men, but while the first had been reverent and alluring, this one was harsh, demanding, and a little sickening.

The man roughly pushed Isabella forward to lean against the front of the tree. Two men were hiding behind one of the trees on the left and another two were hiding behind a tree on the right. Isabella's heart sank as she realized it was a trap.

And I am the bait.

Edward listened to the remaining heartbeats and after determining their closeness, he realized his failure.

Six heartbeats. Bella.

Edward leapt from tree to tree, drawing closer to his once sanctuary and the maiden that had tormented him. Her scent mingled with another that smelled as terrible as horse manure. He would snap his neck if he had touched her.

Edward landed on the ground between four heartbeats in a crouch. He could see Bella pressed against the chest of another and this angered him beyond all sense of self-preservation. The awaiting men emerged from their poorly constructed hiding places, charging at Edward.

Swift and deadly like a wild cat, Edward slammed one of the bodies into the trunk of a tree. Another man doubled over to a blow to the gut.

Three.

Isabella struggled against her captor, trying desperately to do something to help Edward.

"Settle down. It'll be dead shortly," the man chuckled.

Isabella released a whimper at his words. Edward may not have had any interest in her, but she did not wish him to die. She immediately regretted her noise when Edward's alarmed gaze snapped up to meet hers.

Isabella watched in horror as one of the men stabbed a wooden stake into his chest, sending him toppling to the ground. Thinking that victory had been achieved, the man carelessly threw Isabella to the ground and ran to his comrades.

A man grabbed each of his arms, pulling him up to a kneeling position. Blood was seeping through Edward's shirt, but fortunately the wound was in his side—the man had missed his heart. The man that had held Isabella only moments ago, removed a sharp wooden stake from the back of his trousers, ready to rectify the other's mistake.

Seeing no other option, Isabella rose from the floor and addressed the men.

"Release him!" she commanded in a rarely used formal voice.

The man turned toward her with a sloppy smile and sneered, "We are the royal guards. We do not take orders from a worthless wench such as you."

Isabella removed her necklace from the confines of her dress, raising it to the eyelevel of the horrible man.

"I said release him. By order of the Princess."

***