I ran down the stairs eagerly, today was the day my father, Captain Charles Swan, was due to arrive home from sea and I was almost bursting with excitement.
Father had been at sea ten months this time and I couldn't wait to hear stories of adventure and pirates, he embellished on the details naturally but I didn't mind. I was a fool for a good story.
I was in such a hurry that at the bottom of the stairs I tripped over the hem of my blue silk gown and sprawled in an unladylike heap in the grand hallway. My maid, Angela, hurried to my side to help me up and blushing with embarrassment I continued in my rush to get to the quayside and meet father. Why did I have to be so wretchedly clumsy?
Something was wrong.
As I watched the Kathleen and May make port there was not the victorious cheering that usually rang from the decks, only sombre silence. My brows furrowed as I watched the ropes being cast and gang plank secured. My cousin Emmet stepped down first, his normally bright eyes downcast and saddened.
"Emmet? What's Wrong?" My voice betrayed a hint of panic
"Isabella. I bring you grievous tidings. Whilst at sea your father caught a terrible fever, there was nothing to be done. I'm so sorry."
I let out a strangled gasp "No, no,no,no" My chest heaved and a desperate sob escaped. Emmet reached out and caught me as I swayed, breaking down in a flood of sobs that overtook me.
Everything became a blur, other officers disembarked, followed by a small procession of crewman carrying the box that had become my fathers casket at sea. Emmet held me upright and walked me back up the cobbled main street to our manor. The procession followed
I sat in the parlour and sobbed into Angela's shoulder. I was inconsolable, there had been no warning, no word sent to allow me to prepare for the dreadful sight of seeing my father carried from his beloved Kathleen and May. I was lost. My father was my only family bar Emmet.
The next week passed in a blur of condolences and servants running hither and to arranging the funeral. My father was a celebrated admiral in the East India Trading Company and so they had become involved, wanting to give him a grand naval send off. I just wanted this to be over. To wake up again that morning, run to the quay and throw myself into his arms has he disembarked.
As unprepared as I was to face the passing of my father nothing prepared me for the life changing events that were set in motion following the reading of his will the day after the torturous funeral.
My fathers fortune was placed in trust for me until I was 25, I expected this, and was barely listening when the attorney announced that in the event of his death I was arranged to be married to Edward, the son of Carlisle and Esme Cullen, thereby ensuring I was properly taken care of.
I sat bolt upright in my chair, my eye's widened and I gasped. "I have not the pleasure of understanding you? My father never told me of this?" My chest heaved and my eyes filled. "An arranged marriage?"
The Cullen's had been my mother's closest friends, but we had had no contact with them since my mother died delivering me. Why would my father insist upon such an outrageous settlement?
The attorney explained that it was now his duty to notify the Cullen's of this turn of events so that arrangements could be made for them to take over management of my father's estate and, subsequently, myself.
I returned home dazed. I felt detached and slightly nauseous as Emmet hurried to greet me, a concerned look on his face. I gushed the whole tale immediately, stifling sobs as I did.
Emmet's expression hardened as my fate became clear to him. "I have heard of Edward Cullen. He is considered a heart throb by most of the ladies at court, but he is spoiled, selfish and heartless to those who love him. I cannot let you marry him Isabella. I cannot."
I sniffed. "What am I to do Emmet? Wheels are already set in motion."
Marry me. Now, by special licence, that way he can never get his hands on you, or your father's estate."
I smiled wanly "Oh Emmet. I could never do that to you. I know you are in love with Lord Hale's daughter Rosalie. We could not make each other happy. Beside's the Swan's have never run away from their responsibilities. I will honour my father's arrangements."
It was three days later, as I sat in quiet contemplation of my predicament that he came…