Chapter 1

Devon, England


Like the finest silk threads twisted and crossed to form a net of gossamer lace, Bella Swan's plan had to be executed perfectly or it would unravel into a thousand strands. The seedcake must be steaming, the ripe quinces baked to perfection, the tea piping hot. The Limoges cup and saucer must gleam in shades of blue and gold on the black lacquer tray. Every facet of the silver teapot must reflect the fire crackling on the grate. Nothing could be out of order, for this afternoon Jasper Cullen, son of the Duke of Marston, was taking tea alone.

A shaky breath clouded the creamer Anne took down from the Welsh cupboard at the back of the large, dimly lit kitchen. Lifting the hem of her apron, she buffed the silver vessel. She must not tremble when she poured Sir Jasper's milk. Her voice must not quaver when she offered the sugar. Above all, she must remember to shut the door behind her when she went in. if anyone heard her speaking to him . . . if anyone knew what she had planned . . .

"Bella, do stop your dawdling." Mrs. Smythe slid a dish of baked fruit down the slick boards of the scrubbed pine worktable. The glass clinked as it hit the tea tray. "Sugar those quinces, and be quick about it. I shall not have Mr. Errand screeching at me because the tea was late and His Grace complained at it being tepid. The duchess cannot bear cold toast, and you certainly know how their son demands punctuality."

"Of course, Mrs. Smythe." Bella glanced at the pink-cheeked and wondered what a portly woman would do if she knew about the roll of delicate Honiton lace tucked into the pocket of her housemaid's dress.

Mrs. Smythe must never know. If she found out, Bella would be forced to sell her work to the laceman who came out in his chaise every month from London. The long, narrow panel of lace had taken her three months to design, its pattern two months to prick onto parchment, and its silk threads another ten months to weave with her pillow and bobbins.

In France, where it is illegal to own lace, such a panel would be worth a king's ransom. Even in London, the laceman could sell her work for a small fortune, though he would pay her only a fraction of its value. Thus she had designed the pattern for the Cullen family alone, prying that her plan would succeed. Into this bit of lace she had woven her future.

Quickly Bella took the nippers and broke several lumps from the hard sugar cone. She slipped one lump into her pocket as a treat for Theseus the duke's mastiff; then she sprinkled a spoonful of sugar crystals across the peeled quinces.

Dear God, she lifted up in a swift and silent prayer, please let these satisfy Sir Jasper's exacting tastes.

As she carried the dish across the kitchen, the chill of the black-and-white-tiled floor crept through her thin slippers and around her ankles. Her toes ached. She had been on her feet since before dawn, and she would work at the Slocombe House until the last dinner plate was cleared and washed that evening. In between, she must pray that the duke's son would have the temper to listen to an impertinent, headstrong housemaid, that her would have the patience to inspect her length of Honiton, and that he would have the wit to realize the value of the lace.

As she set the dish of quinces on the tea tray, Bella squeezed her eyes shut. Lord and father above, this is my only hope, she reminded him. God already knew her dire predicament, of course, but she still felt it behooved her to call it to his divine attention one more time. If Sir Jasper paid her even half the market value of the Honiton, she would have enough money to quit her position at Slocombe House and return to her family's home in Nottingham. She could hire a barrister to secure her father's release from prison and save her sisters from the mills.

Satan's workshops, her father called the drafty, machine filled buildings with their deafening clatter and sooty windows. The mills, he had preached in more then one sermon, caused woman to sicken and children to die early deaths. As the eldest child in the Swan family, Bella knew that what her father said was true, and she had supported his association with the Luddites even though their activities had landed him in prison.

Now the family's only hope rested in her hands. Could a length of lace, more air then thread, be their salvation? Bella swallowed at the gritty lump in her throat. It had to.

"Head in the clouds, as usual," the cook huffed as she bustled past with a plate of steaming cinnamon and currant scones. "Have you remembered to put tea in the pot, Bella?"

"Yes, Mrs. Smythe."

"She probably put in coffee." Jessica Stanley, the first kitchenmaid, eyed Bella as she sifted salt into a copper pot of soup on the stove. In the scullery a cluster of maids giggled at the notion while they scoured stewpans, colanders, and utensils.

"Will not Sir Jasper be surprised," Jessica continued, "if he sips up a mouthful of coffee when he is expecting his afternoon oolong?"

"No more then when his oxtail soup tastes as though it were made with water from the English Channel," Bella returned

Mrs. Smythe's wooden spoon cracked across Jessica's knuckles, and she let out a shriek.

"Have mercy!" Jessica cried.

"Then stop your chatter and pay heed to the supper, girl! Shall we all be tossed out on our ears thanks to your heavy hand with the salt? Have this as a reminder!"

Forcing herself turn a deaf ear on Jessica's wails as the cook added another whack for good measure, Bella laid a starched cloth over the tray and set the tea things on it. She knew the kitchenmaid was envious of her position. Under normal circumstances, Bella would have joined the staff as a scullery maid. After several years, she might have worked her way up to second kitchenmaid, first kitchenmaid, and then, possibly, cook.

Circumstances were not normal. After the Luddite riots and her father's subsequent imprisonment in Nottingham, Bella had journeyed by coach to the south of England. In London, she had found a position at Trenton House on Cranleigh Crescent in the tony Belgravia district. Hired as a housemaid, she displayed a wit and propriety that soon elevated her to the station of lady's maid to the widowed homeowner's sister, Miss Prudence Watson. Not long afterward, Lady Delacroix had returned from a sea voyage to the Far East. When the young, wealthy baroness took up residence in Trenton House once more, Bella became her trusted assistant and companion.

In that position, Bella had hoped she might earn enough money to pay for a legal defense for her father. But it was not to be. To the shock of the London society, Lady Delacroix fell deeply in love with a common tea tradesman. Their winter wedding stripped her of her title-though not her immense fortune-and she was known simply as Mrs. Charles Locke. Sadly, she had informed Bella that their association could not continue, for she intended to travel with her husband. He had formed a partnership with two men, one of whom was Sir Jasper. Because of the relationship between the two families, Mrs. Locke had penned a glowing referral that led to Bella's joining the staff of Marston House, also on Cranleigh Crescent.

Despite Mrs. Locke's commendation of the clergyman's daughter, the housekeeper at Marston had intended to put Bella into the kitchen, until Mr. Errand intervened.

"Look at the girl, Mrs. Davies," the butler had intoned, one bushy white eyebrow arching as he inspected the newcomer. "With that face she will be wasted in the kitchen. She has kept all her teeth, her eyes are clear, and though she is no grant beauty, she has a certain grace to her carriage. The letter from Mrs. Locke indicates she may have a measure of wit, as well. Put her in the house, and you will please His Grace, for you know the duke despises the fishermen's daughters we normally get."

Thanks for reading! =)

I would like to state that I am not the author of Twilight (we all know who is) and also I am not Catherine Palmer who wrote the Bachelor's Bargain I have just typed her story here and changed a few names. If you would like you can go on for a full summery.

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