A/N: I do not own the characters from the Twilight saga. They are the property of the gifted and very talented Stephenie Meyer. I do own the plot of this story, however, and I'm warning you that if you are not comfortable with sexual content, this fiction is not for you. Please, do yourself a favor and don't read it.

Also, I purposely left all the nobility titles in French. I hope you won't mind.

Chapter 1

Isabella Marie Swan, marquise de Courville.

This morning when I woke up, I was still Isabella Marie Swan, marquise de Courville. In two days, after nightfall, when it's time to go to bed, my name will be Isabella Marie Newton, duchesse de Cresson. I would be married to Mike Newton, duc de Cresson d'Alembert, lieutenant in the royal army and military adviser for the king.

I had never seen this man before. My family had made an alliance with his the day I was born, when they realized I was not the male heir they expected. I was just a girl, and I had no will of my own. My condition made me vulnerable to all my parents' decisions. I had to accept whatever they decided was best for me. After all, they only had my best interests at heart.

So, even if I was very sad to leave my lands located near the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, southeast of France, to travel to Corsica where my fiancé lived, I wasn't going to complain.

It was not time for me to leave the castle and board on the ship yet. I was waiting for my two friends to eat some refreshments in my boudoir. They had spent the night in one of the guest rooms because they were accompanying me to Corsica to be my maids of honor during the wedding that would take my freedom away forever. Esme Platt, my nanny, had brought some pastries and tea; the delicate scent of jasmine was all over the place. I heard the noises of footsteps and playful voices coming closer, and a few seconds later, Alice Brandon, comtesse de Marillac, and Rosalie Hale, duchesse d'Essanges, entered my little private room. It was probably the last opportunity for me to spend time with them as a carefree young girl. I would be nineteen tomorrow, and all my happy days were behind me.

"Please, Bella, stop looking like you're going to a funeral," Alice said, trying to make me smile.

I knew the expression on my face was not especially joyful.

"In two days I will have to share my bed with a perfect stranger, Alice," I justified myself.

"You know, a lot of young ladies would pay a fortune to trade their fate with yours, Bella," Rosalie added.

Rosalie was a stunning blonde with a voluptuous body who had once told me she wasn't going to wait until she gets married to have sex. But at the moment, I was having a hard time trying to understand her ambiguous comment.

"My dear Rosalie, aren't you the one who told me the other day that you wouldn't accept being put inside a cage?" I asked innocently.

"I'm talking about your future husband's place in society, Bella. You will have everyone at your feet, thanks to him. Do you realize how close he is to the king?" she questioned me, more excited than I was by the prospect of meeting Louis XIV and all his court. I didn't give a damn about being introduced to that despot who cheated on poor Marie-Thérèse d'Autriche with all the attractive women following him around like poodles.

"Rosalie," I said calmly, "my future husband owns land on a remote island in the Mediterranean. I seriously doubt that I will have numerous occasions to sympathize with the king's mistresses between two of Molière's performances."

Alice wanted to have her say. She was small, but she was sparkling and she didn't like being left aside. "Your future husband doesn't live on his island. He is too busy serving the king…"

"And he will almost certainly keep on living the same existence after the wedding, Alice," I agreed, "but I'm convinced that he will leave me behind and that I'm going to die of boredom before I reach my thirtieth birthday."

"Crap, my poor Bella!" Rosalie replied sadly while eating a share of pastry filled with custard.

"Let's be realistic, shall we?" I began to explain. "I'm barely nineteen and I'm going to start living like a nun in a secluded convent. I won't see you again and my only comfort will be the castle's library, which is quite big, if I have been told correctly."

Books had always been my passion, to my parents' despair. They didn't appreciate the fact that I was an intellectual young lady. They wanted me to play the harpsichord, to make my own quilts, to be able to cook even if we had plenty of servants to do that for us. I had learned from Esme, who was also in charge of the kitchen. And I had learned to ride and groom horses from Jacob Black, who was in charge of the stable. He was my best friend.

"Lord Newton will certainly give you a bunch of kids, Bella," Alice continued, attempting to cheer me up. "They will keep you occupied for the next twenty-five years."

Alice meant to encourage me, but her comment had the opposite effect and depressed me even more. I had absolutely no desire to get pregnant repeatedly just for the purpose of avoiding neurasthenia. I was barely out of childhood myself.

"You are very kind, my dear Alice and Rose, to try to help me see a bright side in my situation, but I think nothing is going to make me see one. I just can't envision any positive aspect in this union," I sighed.

I watched my friends eat the rest of the pastries, but I couldn't join them. I was beginning to feel apprehensive about my wedding night.

"Rosalie," I said after a few minutes of silence, "did I hear wrong when I heard you have already slept with a man?"

My friend almost choked on the piece of bun she was still chewing. She regained her composure and addressed me like she was going to reveal an important secret.

"No, Bella, you didn't hear wrong. I have indeed had the privilege of sleeping with a man. More than one, actually," she whispered with a smile.

"Tell me, then, for I need to know how it is the first time…and the next," I said, my voice breaking on the last words.

Did I really want to know the details of what happened between a man and a woman once they were alone in the privacy of their bedroom? Was it appropriate for a virgin to ask technical questions about sex? My mother had only told me that I had to be obedient to my husband in all occasions. But what did that mean exactly? That I had to submit to him and do whatever he wanted without complaining? And what if the duc de Cresson didn't behave himself in bed and treated me without any respect, as if I was just there so he could get his release?

"The first time was not memorable, Bella," Rosalie answered to my question. "Or, I'd rather say, it was memorable in terms of discomfort. But don't panic yet, dear, it won't necessarily be like that for you. I was told, afterwards, that I had chosen a bad lover."

Of course, I should have known that men were like wine; some of them were delectable, and some tasted like vinegar.

"The duc de Cresson has the reputation of being a sex maniac, if you know what I mean," Alice stated gleefully. "So you will have a lot of fun with him."

I didn't know what Alice meant. I was so naïve and innocent about love and sex that I blushed scarlet. And I realized, then, that I would be unable to enjoy my wedding night, if something enjoyable was actually waiting for me there. All of a sudden, I thought of Jacob. He was the only man who, if there was justice on earth, deserved to know me in an intimate way. Maybe he would deflower me to spare me the shame of bleeding in the sheets of a king's lieutenant. After all, Mike Newton was twenty-seven years old. If he was so experienced when it came to sex, he wouldn't be satisfied with a startled young virgin. I wouldn't know how to please him well. I decided to pay a visit to Jacob before he got too absorbed with preparations for the trip. He was accompanying me as well, as my personal lackey.

This chapter was posted a long time ago, but if you're just discovering this story and you like it so far, please, let me know...