Age of Edward Contest

Your pen name: TanglingShadows

Title: Lone Star

Type of Edward: Texas Rangerward (1873)

Word Count: 11, 893

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.

I stared out into the storm. This one was almost as bad as the storms that came off the coast in Florida, and I wondered how long the inclement weather would last.

We had been driving this wagon for almost two months. It was excruciating at first. My back was stiff, my bottom was surely bruised from all the bumps along the trails we traveled, and the nights were filled with strange noises that startled me awake only to be met with absolute darkness.

I hated this wagon, I hated this trip, and right now, I was starting to hate Texas, too. It had been raining since we entered the state three days ago, and it had only gotten worse the further we moved towards the center. It taunted us with its control, and pushed my already melancholy demeanor into a low level of depression.

Our Pa had already been in Texas when he had sent for the family, and our mother died a month before we were set to leave on the trail. 'Devastated' didn't even begin to cover my emotions. I was terrified that by coming here, I would close into myself. I was terrified I would become the old spinster that lived with and took care of her father.

I was eighteen and had no prospects at all. I had never really had many friends, and no one ever came to court me. I believed they were afraid of my Pa and brother, Emmett. My mother had said I was an old soul who was keener to observe than participate in typical teenage activities. I missed her so badly, and couldn't help but wonder if things would be different for me had she lived to make this trip with Emmett and me.

I continued to stare out of the wagon into the downpour when I was jolted by the deafening crack of thunder. Everything happened rapidly after that; there was a horrible snap of leather and the braying of our horses, the wagon jerked forward violently, and I was thrown from the rear of the carriage.

Emmett started hollering into the rain asking of my well-being.

"I'm fine. Just muddy. Stay inside. I can get the horse."

He started to protest, but I cut him off.

"Really, Em. I'll be fine. I can see her."

Of course, he didn't listen and moved from the cover of the wagon, but instead of helping me, he went to the front to try and calm the other horse.

The wind was blowing so hard that the rain stung my skin as it made contact with my face. I trudged ahead despite this, and slowly made my way through the mud towards the mare. I was so close that I could touch the leather reins when another crash of thunder caused her to rear up. I moved quickly out of her way then grabbed the harness. The wind whipped my hair around my face.

I laid a comforting hand on the horse's nose right as I heard a voice. It was clear and full of concern and authority.

"Are you all right, miss?"

I turned around so quickly I was afraid I might fall over. When I looked up to see who had spoken, I was taken aback by the rider next to me. Despite the sheets of rain that separated us, I was met with the startling clarity of his forest green eyes. He was dressed in rough jeans and a blue button-up shirt. His cowboy hat kept the rain out of his face for the most part, but his body was soaking wet, and the material of his clothes clung to his torso. That was when I noticed the star. Pinned directly over his heart was a polished star encircled by a narrow band of silver. Engraved on the band in a simple font were the words Texas Ranger.

"Here, let me help you," he said as he moved to dismount his horse.

When he was finally on the ground and at his full height, I realized that he was at least a head taller than I was. The Ranger had broad shoulders and the material of his shirt stretched as he reached for the reins I was holding.

"That's not necessary. I can get her back." I spoke in a rushed voice.

He smiled then. It was brilliant, and made his eyes glow brighter.

"I have no reservations that you can take of yourself, miss."

I smiled in return and released the harness. As I did, his fingers gently grazed mine. Even in the torrential rain that was coming down around us, I still managed to hear our twin gasps at the contact. It was in that moment that my heart was lost. Without my permission, it had vacated my body and found its new home with the handsome Ranger.

As he guided the horse back to the wagon, he introduced himself as Edward Masen. In turn, Emmett explained who we were.

He spoke with a soft accent that could be heard when he said certain words, and he seemed almost shy at times. It was at complete odds with the confident man on whom I had first laid eyes on.

Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to contemplate the mystery of Ranger Masen, because soon we were heading in the direction of town. The rain had slackened to a slight mist, and the wind had dropped to an almost nonexistent breeze.

As we rode down the main street, the townspeople waved and said hello. I'd guessed that my father must have maintained some enthusiasm when it came to our moving here, or else they wouldn't have known who we were.

I noticed the Ranger looking at me several times, and despite my attempts at displaying a self-assured exterior, I would blush.

Not long after entering town, the wagon stopped, and Emmett hopped down from the seat in front. I made my way to the back to get down. As I started to sit on the edge to scoot off, Ranger Masen stepped in my view and offered his hand. I took it without hesitation. Mostly, because I wanted to feel the current that passed between us again, but also, because I was afraid I would topple over and embarrass myself in front of the whole town.

"Thank you, Ranger," I said softly as my feet touched the dusty road.

"You're welcome, Miss Swan." He cleared his throat and began speaking again. "I would really be delighted if you called me Edward. 'Ranger' is so formal." He looked at his boots as he said this and I noticed that the tips of his ears turned a light shade of pink.

It was certainly out of the ordinary to allow a woman to call you by your given name so early in an acquaintanceship, but I loved the idea of being able to address him with such familiarity.

"Well then, you must call me Bell. Miss Swan is also much too formal." Of course, the pink of my cheeks matched his ears when I said this.

"Bell is a very unusual name," Edward stated as we walked towards my Pa's office. He graciously offered me his arm, which I took without comment.

"My name is Isabella, but my Pa and Emmett have always called me Bell. It was just what everyone else started using as well." I shrugged my shoulders a little.

We were almost at the door when he replied. "I think I'll come up with a name I can call you then; something different, something to set me apart from the rest. Would that be all right with you, Bell?" he spoke quickly and quietly. It was almost as if he were afraid someone would hear his forwardness.

"I think I would love that, Edward." I opened my mouth to speak again when the office door swung open and Emmett and Pa walked out.

Pa's eyes were glassy, like he might cry, but otherwise he looked the same. He immediately noted our relaxed postures and cocked an eyebrow. This made Edward move to the side a little and release my arm.

"I got them for you, Charlie. They were in the middle of the storm just like you thought." Edward seemed flustered by the current look on Pa's face and continued to stumble over his words. "I'll just leave you be then. It was nice to meet you, Emmett." He reached out and shook Em's hand before turning to me. "It was a pleasure, Bell." He bowed his head a little before straightening up.

Pa's eyes were wide as wagon wheels at this gesture and as soon as Edward noticed, he tipped his hat in Pa's direction. "I'll be here tomorrow, Charlie. I've got to help Ma this afternoon with the cattle."

Then he was gone.

Pa let out a small chuckle. "I believe that is the most I have heard Edward speak at one time in the entire year I've been here. You must have made quite the impression, Bell. The Ranger is a bit timid when it comes to ladies. In fact, I don't think I've seen him speak to one besides his Ma."

Emmett snickered at that. They both thought this was so humorous, but as long as I was the topic of conversation we could avoid the issue that was hovering over our heads.

Finally, Pa broke the silence. "Well, let's get to the house and we'll talk there."

None of us said anything else as we made our way to the wagon and home.

The conversation was over quickly. Pa only wanted the basic facts about what had happened to Mother. He didn't talk about how he felt; he only asked how we were holding up, and if Mother was buried near the sea. Then he left us to our own thoughts.

It was then that I took in my surroundings for the first time.

We had a nice home. It was on the outskirts of the town, and just a short walk to Pa's office. The outside was painted white, but had chipped in places so the brown wood could be seen underneath. That could be fixed easily, but I doubted we would give much thought to it.

The home was two stories. The bottom floor included a kitchen, a small dining area and a parlor. The upstairs contained three bedrooms. There was an outhouse in the corner of the backyard, which was slightly unsettling. We had been one of the few lucky families to have indoor plumbing in Florida. It hadn't seemed to reach here yet, though.

My room was the last one on the right side of the hall, with a window that overlooked the front yard. I could see the town and a few other houses close by.

The only thought that crossed my mind as I looked out into the rain soaked streets of Round Rock was, which home was the Ranger's?

The first two days of my stay were calm. I got plenty of sleep, and mostly stayed indoors, cleaning and straightening the house.

Pa had never liked to clean.

It was early on the third day of my stay in town that I heard a knock at the door. Pa had gone into the office and Emmett went along too, so I wasn't sure who could be at the house.

I opened the door hesitantly, but when I saw a shock of reddish hair, I realized that it was the Ranger and I quickly opened the door the rest of the way.

"Edward." I couldn't help the small smile that spread across my face.

"Bell, I was wondering if you would like to walk with me." He seemed so nervous.

I was going to say yes, but I knew I should ask my Pa. He would need to approve this sort of activity first.

Edward must have taken my hesitation as a no and started to back away mumbling quietly, "You don't have to. I just…I shouldn't have assumed…" He ducked his head.

"No!" My hand shot out to stop him. His eyes met mine. "I mean, yes, I would love to step out with you. I just need to speak with Pa. I have never been asked this sort of thing, and I'm sure I need his consent."

I was blushing and biting my lip. I must have sounded so childish to him.

Edward gave me a crooked grin.

"I've already asked Charlie. He said that he didn't mind as long as it was down the main street, and we must remain in the eyes of others at all times. I think he likes me." That last part was said softly, with a hint of pride.

"Well, give me a moment, and I will be right out."

I quickly went to my room and straightened my dress. I tried in vain to pin my hair back, but my mother had always done that for me, and my efforts didn't look polished at all.

It took me a few minutes to make my way back to Edward. I opened the door to find him sitting in the rocking chair on the porch, playing with the edges of his hat.

"I love your hair," I gushed, then covered my mouth abruptly when I realized I had said it out loud.

Edward ran a hand through his already tangled locks and smiled shyly at me.

"Thank you. I think the only other person to say something about my hair is my Ma, and that's that I should cut it."

"Oh no, don't do that! It's beautiful." I might as well forget all propriety when it came to my Ranger, because my brain was certainly not connecting with my mouth when he was around.

"I won't." He looked at me so sweetly, and then stood up. "Let me show you your new hometown."

We walked down the street towards the center of town, where we were met with many stares and whispers. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, so I brought it up to Edward.

"Why is everyone staring? I feel like an animal at a carnival."

Edward chuckled beside me and gestured discreetly at a group of young ladies on the corner. "You see them?" I nodded my head as I saw them talking amongst themselves even more animatedly after Edward pointed towards them.

"Those girls have been trying to get in good with my mother for years. I can't stand to be around any of them. My mother is nice and speaks with them, but I have never given them any indication that I would be interested in courting them."

I blushed when I understood his point. Those girls were jealous of me. Still, I didn't know if it was Edward's intention to court me, or if he was just being polite with his offer to show me around.

In a move that I would have normally been much too timid to attempt, I took the opportunity to ask, "So you have no interest in any of the girls in town? There is no wooing in your future, Ranger?"

His ears pinked as he answered, "I'm particularly interested in one young lady."

I decided to tease him more because he was so cute when he was flustered.

"Which one of them do you fancy, Edward? I could help you, you know."

He stopped and turned me towards him on the sidewalk. The playfulness was gone, replaced by a serious expression on his features.

"I have asked your father permission to…for you and I…" He took off his hat and ran a hand through his hair. "I would like to court you, Isa. That is, if you'd have me?"

I nodded my head. "Isa? Is that your choice of a name for me?"

"It fits you. I like saying it, and I like knowing that it is my personal name for you. Is that all right?" He seemed unsure.

"I like it, too."

"What is your decision about my inquiry?" He sounded so formal that I couldn't help but giggle. He looked up at me with wide eyes. Giggling must not have been reassuring.

"Yes. I think that would be wonderful, Ranger."

Edward offered his arm again, and we began walking. The girls still looked and pointed, but they were not even on my mind anymore. I was being escorted down a crowded city street by my handsome, soft-spoken Edward. Nothing could ruin my mood.

Edward and I were sitting on the front porch in the late afternoon about two months after my arrival. Pa and Emmett were around back so we did have supervision, just not right beside us. I think my father knew that Edward would not try and take advantage of any situation.

"So tell me Isa, what's your favorite color?"

"Green or blue," I answered automatically.


I blushed. "I love the blue of the ocean from my childhood home."

"And green?"

I looked at my lap before answering quietly, "I love the color of your eyes."

He was silent, so I looked up and was met by a blinding smile. He leaned closer to me.

"I love your eyes, too; they are the color of chocolate. A rare, sweet delicacy."

A throat cleared, and Edward popped back quickly, almost turning over his chair.

Pa walked straight into the house, but Emmett stopped and laughed at us.

"I would have never thought to compare a woman's eyes to candies. I might need to write that down, Ed."

Edward's face turned as red as some of the cowboy's bandanas I had seen around town.

"Emmett Swan, get in this house. Leave the boy alone," Pa bellowed from behind the door.

After Em excused himself, Edward turned to me. "I don't mean to sound trite, Isa. I hope you took my comments as sincere."

"Of course, I did."

He moved to get up, and I stood along with him.

"I need to get home. I was wondering if you and your Pa would like to come for dinner tomorrow. My Ma really wants to meet you." He paused for a second, and then added grudgingly, "Emmett may come as well."

I laughed lightly at his obvious irritation with Em and agreed.

He left with a smile, and a promise to see me tomorrow afternoon.

I was shocked to wake up so late the next morning. The comfort of my bed had pulled me into a deep sleep the night before. So deep, in fact, that Pa and Emmett were gone when I went downstairs. Of course, there was a small note letting me know where they had gone.

Pa was certain that Emmett would become a deputy, so today would be a training day for Em. I smiled, grateful for once that I couldn't be a part of Pa's world. I had no sense of balance, and giving me a pistol would have been very bad news.

I did my normal morning chores and thought about our dinner tonight with Edward and his Mother. When I had done my tasks sufficiently, I decided to get out and enjoy the bright, Texas sunshine. I hadn't ventured out on my own since I'd arrived, and I thought a little exploring might be in order. Perhaps I could find a gift for Edward's mother.

I made my way into town with the sun beaming down on me. It was warm and a light breeze blew down the boarded sidewalks.

I passed by several small shops; all served in selling necessities. A dress shop, a grocer, a gun shop, a blacksmith, and a carpenter. I had never walked further than these stores, so I was unaware at what lay at the edge of the town. The area I was currently walking into held several saloons, and what looked like a brothel or two. I had never seen anything like it in my life.

On the steps of a two-story house stood a woman, in the middle of the day, dressed in a corset top with her bosom almost spilling out. I was almost certain that my face was a startling shade of red as I attempted to turn around and move to the respectable side of town again.

I didn't get too far before I came face to face with two very drunken men. My first thoughts were not of my safety, but the fact that it was barely noon and these men were completely tossed.

Maybe this town wasn't the safest place to be after all.

"Looky here. Pretty little thing. Gonna start workin' early today?"

He reached his hand out to touch my arm, and I pulled back quickly.

"Excuse me, sir. I'm new in town, and was out for a walk. I need to be getting home."

The other man laughed, "Sir? Think she'll call you sir when you're in her room?"

My eyes went wide, and I realized that these men assumed I was one of the ladies from the nearby brothels.

"I'm not in that line of work. If you'll excuse me, I need to leave."

The men laughed again, and walked towards me. I found myself backed into the wall of a building. I had no idea how to get out of this predicament, and suddenly realized how careless it was to wander off without my father or brother or Edward.

"Gentlemen, I suggest you move along. Right now." His voice was still smooth, but there was a distinct edge to it now. My eyes looked around my two attackers and landed on my rescuer. His eyes were not the peaceful green I had looked on just yesterday. They were dark now, full of anger, and I recoiled from the sight.

"Oh Ranger, she's just letting us have some fun. You can go away. Ain't that right, sweetie?" He moved to touch my cheek, but I turned my head.

"No," I said, my eyes finally tearing up. "Help me, Edward." I knew I sounded desperate.

When the men recognized that I had spoken his given name, they backed up quickly.

"Sorry, sir. We didn't realize that she was your missus," one stuttered.

"Ranger, we're just a little drunk. No harm, right?" The other smiled, but looked scared as he stared at Edward.

"Leave us, now. If I see you anywhere in this town, or near Isa again, I'll kill you, and you know I can do it." He still looked the same. His anger was beginning to frighten me a little, and the fact he could speak so easily of killing these men made me shudder. He was nothing like the sweet, shy man that had sat on my porch last night.

Was that how his life was? Was he a killer? How could he be so different from my Ranger?

The two men stumbled away quickly.

Edward dropped his head and took two deep breaths. When he looked at me again, he was normal. He was my blushing, rambling Edward.

That's when I noticed tears were formed on the lower lids of his eyes. He looked back down and wiped his face as inconspicuously as possible before facing me again.

"Isa." His voice broke a little, "If I didn't get here when I did—" He trailed off. "Do you know what would have happened?"

I closed my eyes and nodded. I couldn't speak the words, but I knew.

"I would have killed them, and I wouldn't have been merciful, either. It would have been painful."

I knew that if I wanted to continue our relationship, I would need to work on accepting both sides of his life and his personality, but right now it was so overwhelming.

"Take me home, please."

He offered his arm, and I took it. I needed to lean on him anyway, because my legs were shaking so badly.

We walked in silence back to my home. As we reached the gate, Edward spoke again.

"I'm terribly sorry if my actions frightened you. I can be a good man, Isa. I would never hurt you." His eyes were pleading with me to understand, to take a chance.

I forced a smile. "I know that you would never do anything to me, but it was such a drastic difference. I'm just going to need a little time to get used to it. The man I know isn't like that."

He shook his head. "I'm always that man, Isa. Your man. Always. It's the darker part that is not me. I'm forced to be that way, to be strong and intimidating."

I started to walk up the path to the door, but turned slowly. "Please, don't tell Pa."

I went inside and peeked out the window. He was staring at the door with a look of devastation marring his features. He slumped down against the fence and held his head in his hands.

I went to my room and cried.

I must have fallen asleep, because I was woken up by a loud banging on my door.

"Bell, are you in there?" Pa was calling out.

"Yes, I'm here. You can come in."

He walked in without a moment's pause and looked at me with scared eyes. I prayed Edward hadn't told him anything.

"What happened today, Bell? Are you all right?"

I closed my eyes and nodded.

He continued, "Did you and Edward have an argument? He wouldn't say, but my God, Bell, he looked horrible when he came in. All he said was that 'we would no longer be required to attend dinner this evening if Isa didn't want to be present'. Edward doesn't speak that formally unless he's nervous or upset, I know that much."

I began crying again as I let the whole story spill out for my father.

He looked just as angry as Edward by the time I had finished.

"I should have warned you about going down there. There's no good people on that end of town. If he hadn't been there…" My father looked close to tears. "Let me tell you something about us men, especially those of us with a badge, all right?"

I looked up at him expectantly, waiting for him to begin.

"There are differences in us that you won't see in a normal man. We have to be a certain way when dealing with those low-life cowboys and drunks that we wouldn't be with someone we loved. Edward has to be that way, but he has to do it twice as hard. He's a Ranger, and those guys are the best, they are the most feared and the deadliest to deal with. What you saw was how he has to be with criminals, and it was only made worse because it was you they were violating."

He took a deep breath. "I have a feeling that Edward cares a lot about you, and if I were in the same position, I would have done the same thing."

"How can I balance the two, Pa? My Edward isn't cruel, and he told me he would have killed them—tortured them. That's not my Edward."

He smiled. "You sound like your Mother, Bell. You would have never known that side of him had you not been in a bad situation. He would never be that way with you. As much as it pains me to say it, I believe the boy loves you. I've been expecting him to ask for your hand the way he smiles non-stop now."

He turned somber. "Bell, Edward was never a really happy man. He's had a lot of pressure and responsibility thrust on him. I've never seen him so carefree as he is after he has been walking or sitting on the porch with you."

I was quiet for a moment, then stood up and said, "We should get ready for dinner. I don't want Mrs. Masen thinking that we can't be on time. I wouldn't want to keep Edward waiting either." I smiled at Pa.

"Good choice." He started to walk out, but stopped at the door. "What's with this Isa nonsense? That's all Edward calls you now."

I blushed. "It's just his own little thing, I guess."

Pa snorted and closed the door behind him.

I thought about what Pa said, and how he thought that Edward might love me. The truth was I knew I loved him. I could deal with the Edward he had to be for his job, as long as the only Edward that came back to me was the one I loved.

When we arrived at the Masen home, there was no one waiting outside for us, and the only light to be seen was in the downstairs window.

"Are you sure it was for tonight, Bell?"

"I'm positive, Em."

We started to walk up the steps. I reached out hesitantly and knocked on the door.

I heard the footsteps before the door opened.

Edward looked so sad the moment I saw him in the opening. When his eyes met mine, he looked startled.

"Isa? What are you doing here?" He looked down at his clothes quickly and shook his head.

I took in his appearance; he was wearing his everyday jeans, but instead of a button up, he was wearing a simple undershirt and he was barefoot.

"I thought dinner was tonight. I must have been confused." I felt my cheeks heat up at my mistake.

A look of recognition crossed his face and then he paled considerably.

"I wasn't expecting you to come, so I…I didn't make anything. I'm sorry."

Pa and Emmett were shifting uncomfortably behind me, and I took that as a sign to leave.

"Oh, well, another time. It's not a problem, Edward."

I turned to leave, but he reached out and grabbed my hand. He looked at me with pleading eyes, "Please stay. I can fix something quick. Ma will help, I'm sure."

At that moment, I heard another pair of footsteps followed by a distinctly feminine Irish voice.

"Love, who's there? You said we weren't havin' company tonight."

She stepped around her son and stared at us.

"My God, Eddie, let the girl in. What areya thinkin'?" She pushed him out of the way.

"I'm Lizzy, and you must be Isabella. It's so wonderful to meetya finally."

I could tell immediately where Edward had gotten his hair from. Mrs. Masen had the brightest red hair I had ever seen. She was a small woman, a little shorter than me, and slim. Her eyes were a very pretty blue color, like the Texas sky I had become so familiar with.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Masen."

She patted my arm as I walked by. "None of that. I'm Lizzy, dear. We're not that stuffy."

"All right. Lizzy, let me introduce my Pa, Charlie Swan, and my big brother, Emmett." She shook each of their hands before making her way into the parlor.

"You can sit here while Eddie and I fix dinner. It won't be grand at all, but it will be better than nothin'."

Edward stood shocked in the doorway to the kitchen.

"I would love to help, if you need it. Edward could sit in here," I offered.

Lizzy smiled. "I think that's a much better idea. I don't trust Eddie around the stove very often. If we had more time, maybe, but he's too flustered now!" She laughed at her son.

Edward stepped forward then.

"I'd like to speak with Isa for a moment." He looked at Pa. "Is that all right, Sir?"

Pa nodded his head, and I followed Edward out onto the porch. As soon as the door shut, he pulled me into his arms. I wasn't worried about getting caught—I knew we couldn't be seen from the parlor or the road—but I wondered why he would be so affectionate.

His voice was muffled by my hair. "God, I thought you were done with me. I've never been so happy to see someone in my life."

I wrapped my arms around his neck and let my fingers play with the hair. I had always wanted to touch it, and it was just as soft as I imagined.

"Where did you think I would go? I'm far too attached to let you go so easily, Ranger. I asked for some time. I never said I didn't want to be with you. I don't think there's anything you could do to make me stay away now."

I titled my head and nuzzled into his neck. He gasped and pulled back, putting space between us. His eyes were almost wild.

"Isa, I love you." The pure sincerity in his voice cut right through me, and I placed my hand over my heart. "You don't have to say it back. I know it's sudden, but I need you to know. Isa, you own me completely."

I threw myself at him this time and threaded my fingers back into his hair.

"I have loved you since the moment I met you. You made me think this place was worth living in." I hugged him tighter and whispered into his neck, "I love you, Edward."

A throat cleared, and my head snapped to look over my shoulder. Pa was standing by the doorway, looking very uncomfortable.

"I think that's enough for tonight. Bell, you can go to the kitchen now."

I turned back to Edward before I released him, letting my hands linger on his chest, and then turned and walked through the door. Pa spoke as I walked by, "You can sit out here with me for a minute, Edward."

I would have loved to hear that conversation.

They came back in as Lizzy and I had finished up the soup. It wasn't much at all, just a simple vegetable soup with beef. It smelled heavenly though.

Edward looked a little guilty as he moved into the dining room. I wonder what Pa had said to him.

Dinner was pleasant. Lizzy told stories of Edward's childhood and I found myself laughing at his expense on several occasions.

"Oh dear, Bell, you should have seen him run up to his father. He was covered in dirt, and his eyes were wide as saucers." She laughed loudly, and I laughed along with her. "Edward Sr. asked him what he did, and Eddie wouldn't answer. He kept saying, 'Nothing, Pa.'"

"Mother, I'm begging you to stop, please." Edward was turning pink.

"No sir, Ranger! This is too good." I looked towards him and winked. He turned considerably darker at that gesture.

"Finally, his father said, 'Edward, real men don't lie.' Next thing we know, he was rambling about the hog. We couldn't make out a word of it, so we went to the barn, and there was our three hundred pound hog, walking around with a saddle on!"

Even Emmet and Pa were laughing at her story. Edward's placed his forehead on the table to avoid our stares. As the laugher died down, I finally asked the question that had been on my mind since I'd gotten close to Edward.

"Is your father a Ranger as well?" I knew he must be. Texas Rangers were somewhat legacy in recruitment.

Lizzy got quiet, and Pa looked at me with concerned eyes. Edward didn't move or speak.

Finally, Lizzy broke the silence.

"Edward Sr. was shot down on assignment when Eddie was five." She took a deep breath. "It's been almost twenty years. I can't believe it's been that long," she said it almost to herself.

Edward still hadn't moved, and I felt absolutely horrible for mentioning it. I couldn't believe he hadn't told me before.

"I'm sorry. I had no idea. I… I'm just so sorry." I felt tears pool in my eyes.

Pa stood up and Emmett follow suit.

"I think it's time we headed out. Thank you for dinner, Lizzy. See you tomorrow, Edward."

I pushed back from the table, mumbled another small apology, and practically ran out of the room.

Neither Lizzy nor Edward followed me.

The next day I was up before the sun, and waited patiently for Edward to call on me.

Pa and Emmett avoided me until they left for the jail. I think they were afraid I'd start crying or something equally feminine.

Finally, a little before lunch, there was a knock on the door.

"I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner." The words were out as soon as I cracked the door.

I took in his appearance. He didn't look like he slept well at all, and that made me think he was very upset about what I said last night.

"I'm sorry for bringing up something that made you sad," I answered.

He walked over to the rocking chair and sat down. I followed him out onto the porch, and sat down in the other chair.

"I hadn't thought about it in a long time. I was so little when it happened, so I don't remember him that well. I know he was a Ranger, and I know I have his eyes. That's about it."

"How'd it happen?"

"I don't really know the details, but he died in the Cortina War in Brownsville. It was a ridiculous conflict. No reason he should have died." He paused. "They never caught the man who did it."

We were quiet for a while, each lost in our own thoughts.

"You'll leave on assignments, as well?" I knew the answer before I asked, but I needed to hear it from him first.

He turned toward me and took my hands in his.

"Yes, but I'll always leave word for you and write as often as I'm able." He leaned in and rested his forehead against mine. It seemed we were losing all sense of what was expected decorum. "I love you, and I'll always return to you."

I didn't say anything back, because I knew I'd point out that he couldn't really make that promise.

He continued, "I'd like to take you on a ride this evening, Isa. Your father approved, but I wanted to ask you, too." He paused. "Would you like to go, Isa?"

I smiled at him. "I'd love to."

As I was getting dressed for our outing that evening, I decided on my blue dress that I wore the first time I had met Edward. He seemed to like the color on me and it was practical if we were going to be in the wagon.

I wonder where we would go, and finally figured that we would mostly likely go to his home and visit with Lizzy.

He came to collect me that evening dressed very nicely. He wore jeans and boots, but his button up was clean and he wasn't wearing his badge. His cowboy hat was gone as well, leaving nothing to impede my view of his lovely hair.

"Isa, are you ready?" he asked, sounding very nervous.

I glanced at Em and Pa sitting on the porch cleaning their guns and said, "Yes, let's go." I waved to Pa and Em as we headed away from the house.

When we were a good distance from my home I asked, "Where are we going this evening, Ranger?"

He looked at me and smiled. It was the first one I'd seen since he came to pick me up.

"I'm taking you to a special spot, Isa. My father showed it to me."

We arrived at a little spot of green surrounded by trees outside of town. The sun was sinking in the horizon, so I knew we wouldn't have much time before we had to be back. It was still breathtaking.

"I didn't know there was any green around here." I let my hands run through the smattering of wildflowers that covered the little meadow.

He laughed, but was looking paler by the minute.

"Are you all right? Should we head back?" I walked over to him.

He shook his head, "Um…no. I'm all right."

"All right." I smiled and touched his arm.

After a few seconds he launched into a speech, barely pausing for breath.

"There has never been a woman that has had this much of a hold over me. To be honest, I never really paid attention to the ladies that came around my Ma. Then I met you, and I was completely lost. Before you even said a word, I was yours."

I started to say something but he continued. "I love you more than you know."

We were standing in the middle of a lush green meadow when he slowly dropped to one knee. I felt my eyes go wide and my hand went to my throat.

"I want to spend every day of forever with you. It will hurt when I have to leave you, but I know that you'll be here when I return. That simple fact makes my life worthwhile. Isa, would you honor me by becoming my wife? Let me love and care for you, and I want you to do the same for me. Say yes, please."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small ring. His hands were shaking slightly as he held it there.

"I will. Yes." I was nodding and smiling.

He closed his eyes and let out a long sigh before reaching for my hand.

"Thank you," he whispered. His smile was blinding.

When he slipped the ring on my finger, I saw that it wasn't like a normal engagement ring. Not many women got a ring anyway, but this was so unique.

As he stood up he said, "It was my mother's engagement ring." He ran his thumb over the ring. "It's a Celtic knot. The symbol means eternal love. Do you like it?" He sounded so nervous that I giggled before answering.

"I love it. It's beautiful!" I reached up and hugged him tightly. "We're getting married!" I whispered to him.

"We are." He bent down and his lips met mine.

It was slow and sweet. I pulled him closer to me and took his bottom lip between mine. He pulled away then, and rested his forehead against mine and smiled.

"I've been waiting a long time to do that."

"Me too." I leaned up and met his lips again.

The next month passed by quickly. Edward spent most of his time readying the small cabin that he had been building near his Ma's home, and I worked with Lizzy on a dress.

My Pa and Em had been excited for me, but Pa seemed a little hesitant. Lizzy said it was because I was his only daughter, and I knew that she was right.

The day of our wedding was stressful. I had only Lizzy's help, and it was overwhelming to think that my mother wouldn't be there to watch me marry Edward.

"She's watching, Bell. Your mother wouldn't miss this for all the stars in heaven," Lizzy told me as she fixed my veil.

I kept that thought in mind as I started down the aisle toward Edward. My grip on Pa's arm tightened as I saw him standing there.

He was dressed in his only suit; it had belonged to his father. The sleeves were a little worn, but it was otherwise fine. My Ranger looked so nervous. I could see his hands fiddling with his jacket sleeve. Finally, he looked up and saw me.

His shoulders lost their tense position instantly, and his smile was breathtaking.

I wasn't concerned anymore about the crowd that had packed into the small church to see the Sheriff's daughter marry the quiet Ranger, or the fact that my Pa seemed to be teary eyed. All I saw was Edward.

The rest of the evening was a blur of vows, food and dancing. I never left Edward's arms, and I clung to him tightly.

It felt like it was all over in a matter of minutes and soon we were heading to our home.

My mind was running wild with questions about our first night together. I was nervous about what to expect and what to do, but my main concern was whether or not Edward knew these things.

I took the shelter of the night and silence to ask him questions that plagued my thoughts.


I knew he was smiling in the darkness when he squeezed my hand a little tighter and said, "Yes, my wife?"

"Tonight, I just want you to know that I'm unsure of the ways of physical intimacy, and if you are unhappy with it…me…I can learn. I know nothing of your experience, but I will—"

"Isa," he cut me off, sounding completely appalled by my topic of conversation.

"I'm sorry, Edward. I shouldn't have spoken—"

"I'm not angry, Isa," he said incredulously. "I'm certain that you will be wonderful in all things we do together. I have no expectations of what you should and shouldn't know. We'll learn together." He brought my hand up to his face and placed a small kiss on the top. He said quietly, "It should be addressed that I've no knowledge on the subject, only gossip and word of mouth from other men that talk about conquests after they are drunk."

"So…we're both…" I couldn't bring myself to say the word.

"I'm a proper gentleman, and I was raised by my Ma and Father to know that some things are sacred." He leaned in close to me and whispered, "You are the only woman who will ever know my body, Isa, and I will be the only man who has the privilege of feeling yours."

Suddenly, I was warm and excited. "I'm glad. I think I'd be a very jealous woman, otherwise," I said honestly.

He was still by my neck and placed a kiss beneath my ear before saying, "Only your hands will bring me pleasure…ever. I have waited for you for so long, Isa, and I'm finding it hard to control myself now that you're mine."

"Then don't." I barely breathed into the darkness.

The silence was charged as the horses pulled the wagon up to the newly furnished cabin that Edward had built.

He helped me down, and the way his hand lingered on my hip as my feet reached the ground made my body ache. Edward leaned into me then, and placed a soft kiss on my lips.

"This way, wife." His hand stayed on my waist, and as we reached the porch steps, he swept me into his arms, and opened the front door. "Tour first?"

"Tour tomorrow," I answered breathlessly.

Edward carried me up the stairs and into our bedroom. It was the only room upstairs, and was more like a loft than a real second story.

When he was in the center of the room, he placed me with my feet on the floor.

"Let me help with your hair, Isa." I turned around with my back to him and felt his hand comb through my hair, removing the pins that Lizzy had placed with such care. His fingers brushed my scalp softly, and he trailed his fingers down my neck and shoulder as he let down my curls.

I had never thought taking my hair down could be so charged, so erotic, but as Edward moved and placed his hands on my neck and shoulders, sweeping my hair to the side after he was finished and kissed down my neck, it became a sensual act.

"I do love your hair, Isa. It's always so soft and you smell so good." To emphasize his point he trailed his nose the opposite direction that his lips just went and buried his face into my now loose hair.

I turned then and brought my face to his. Before placing a gentle kiss on his chin, I said, "I can't get enough of the way you smell either. It's so sweet."

Our lips met and the kiss was full of passion and hunger. My fingers wound into the soft hair at the back of his neck, and his hands gripped my waist, pulling me into him.

I felt his hands working and trying to undo the buttons that lined the back of my gown. He growled a little when they wouldn't give.

"Let me turn around. You'll be able to see better," I whispered as I pulled away.

"My God, Isa. That's a lot of buttons." He sounded in awestruck.

"Your mother worked very hard on it, so be careful, Ranger."

He started working his way down the buttons, letting his fingers trail over the newly exposed corset.

"Yes, ma'am." He breathed as he undid the last button and pushed the dress off my shoulders. He untied the strings of the bustle so the dress slid down to rest in a slightly raised pile on the floor.

Edward took my arm and helped me step out of the dress, and then he picked it up and carefully placed it on the rocking chair in the corner.

"That's heavy," he commented before he turned around. I could tell our nerves had started to show.

"Come here," I commanded as strongly as I could.

He walked to me, and I pushed his jacket off and started unbuttoning his shirt.

Finally, he really looked at me, and I couldn't stop my blush.

"That's beautiful." He trailed a finger over the curve of my breast.

He brought his mouth to mine in a searing kiss, and I pulled his shirt from his trousers and started pulling at his belt.

Soon the rest of our clothes were in similar piles around our bed.

Our kisses hadn't really stopped as the clothing was removed; our lips just found different places to touch.

As we lay under the covers, his hands began to wander up my ribs.

"You can touch me, Edward. I want you to." I breathed as his hand rested directly underneath my breast.

That must have been what he was waiting for because his hand moved up to cup me and graze over the sensitive peak of my breast.

He groaned when I gasped from the contact.

His words were quiet, like he was talking to himself. "Soft, so soft."

Edward's body was now hovering over mine, and he lowered his mouth to the top of my breasts and placed soft pecks down until he let his tongue trace around my nipple. I arched into his mouth, and was rewarded with a moan from Edward and the feel of his arousal pressed firmly against my thigh.

I scooted my body further under him, and I could feel him pressed against my sex. He pulled back immediately, and gave me his familiar blush with an uncharacteristic stutter.

"I c-c-can make you feel good, just s-s-slow down."

I bit my lip hard to keep in my laugh. He was too sweet.

His fingers traced along my thigh to the place his manhood had just been pressed. He licked his lips before letting his finger run along my slick opening. Once he reached the apex of my sex, he pushed down subtly.

I felt myself clench, and I gripped his shoulders as he continued to move his finger in circles around that tender place. The ache grew, and my sounds were embarrassingly loud. Soon, I was bowed off the bed and calling out his name. As I relaxed back into the mattress, I'm certain I heard him whisper, "I did it."

That thought disappeared quickly as he positioned himself between my legs and started to press into me. I still felt the aftershocks of the climax I'd just had as he slowly entered me.

"It's going to hurt a bit, love."

I nodded and lifted my hips a little, which caused him to slip in deeper. We both gasped at the feel, and he dropped his forehead to mine.

"I love you." He breathed against my lips and then pushed in all the way.

There was a sharp pain and a small burning feeling. After a few seconds, it was gone. Edward was stock still above me, but his arms were shaking. I moved my hips against him like before, and he let out a shaky breath.

"Are you all right?"

"Yes," I answered, as I wrapped my arms around his neck and curled my fingers into his hair. "You can move."

He pulled back just a little and thrust in a little harder than before. It was uncomfortable, but with an edge of pleasure. I could see myself enjoying this after our initial coupling.

"My God, love. This isn't going to last long," he whispered against my cheek and he started pressing himself into me with more force.

In an effort to become more comfortable, I wrapped my legs around his waist. With this movement, my hips met his forcefully, and he slid even deeper inside me on his next down stroke.

Edward immediately tensed and let out a sound caught between a whimper and a moan. "Isa."

His arms collapsed under him, and I felt his weight on me. It wasn't unwelcome at all; in fact, I loved feeling his skin against mine.

Edward rolled away from me shortly and pulled me to his side.

I let my fingers trace random patterns on his chest while he regained his composure.

"Next time will be better, Isa. I promise." His voice held a hint of embarrassment.

I rose up on my elbow and looked down at him. His eyes were sleepy and he gave me a lazy smile.

"It was perfect, Edward. I never dreamed it could be that good." I placed a small kiss on his lips before laying back against his chest.

He turned his body toward mine and kissed me before telling me he loved me. I rolled with my back to him and felt his body in line with mine.

I fell asleep with Edward's arms wrapped around me and a smile on my face.

On a mild morning in the middle of June, nearly four months after our wedding, there was a loud banging on our door. Edward was snoring lightly with his arms wrapped around me. I snuggled into his warmth, hoping the noise would stop.

It didn't.

Edward moved out of the bed after kissing my shoulder.

"Stay here, love." His voice was rough with sleep. Secretly, I loved it; it sounded so close to the voice he spoke in as we made love. I blushed at my thoughts and pulled the covers tighter around me.

It seemed that right as I drifted off to sleep, Edward entered the room again. He sat at the edge of the bed, gingerly pushing my hair over my shoulder. I looked up at him, and he looked terrified.

"What is it?" I sat up quickly, letting the sheet fall away from my body.

Edward took a deep breath. "I've been called on. I need to go to Dallas. They are lacking in man power, and they need another Ranger. Since this area is fairly quiet, they've sent for me."

His eyes were searching mine for something, and I guessed he found it because he pulled me to him.

"I'm sorry, Isa. I'll be fine." He leaned back and cupped my cheek with his hand. "This isn't my first go around. I know what I'm doing, love. I'll be fine."

I kissed him then. It was desperate and full of passion. After several minutes, he slowed the kiss and then said, "I have to leave now. He's waiting outside to escort me to Dallas."

I spoke for the first time since he'd told me the news.

"Now? Edward, it's too early and we have to get your things together, and I haven't had the chance to say goodbye properly."

I felt my cheeks heat up and he smirked down at me.

"We'll say that last night was goodbye then." He looked down, finally appreciating the fact that I was shirtless. His expression changed again to sadness. "I'll miss you, sweet girl. I really will."

He stood up then and went to retrieve his traveling bag. I got dressed quickly and proceeded to help him locate his things and pack him some food for his journey.

I stood on the porch in the early morning sunshine and Edward gave me a lingering kiss, completely ignoring the man sitting on his horse feet away.

"Come home to me, Ranger," I spoke against his lips, as my fingers traced his jaw.

"As quick as I can, Mrs. Masen."

With one last peck, he backed away and walked to his horse.

"Goodbye, Isa." He grabbed the reins and spoke again. "Lead the way, Lt. Whitlock."

I watched as his form grew smaller as he rode off into the Texas horizon.

I received a letter from him every week for six weeks.

Each one was filled with endearments and soft words. He made promises of a wonderful life, and happy a home. In his lonelier times, he wrote of missing the intimacy of our bedroom.

I wrote to him as well. I spoke of my love for him, and my wishes of a life that was filled with his love. I accepted his promises, and made my own vow to always be waiting for him to return.

His last letter made my heart break.

My Isa,

I write this with a heavy heart. I will not be able to write for the remainder of my assignment. In the morning, I will be leaving Dallas and riding out through the plains.

I'm unsure of how long I will be away from a mail carrier, so I wished to send this to you in case it is some time before I get back.

The time I've spent here has been so lonely Isa, and your letters are the only thing that have made me smile. I will keep them with me as I leave, and read your words every night. I dream of our life together, and how I wish I could come back to you now.

I've never had something in my life that I wish to return to so quickly. My job has always been my life, but I find now that you occupy that position. I long to speak with you, to touch you.

Keep me in your prayers, love. I'll be home as fast as I can.

Yours always,

Lt. E.A. Masen, Jr.

I wrote to his address in Dallas when I received the letter, but it was sent back to me. Every day that he was gone I felt the panic growing inside of me.

What if he didn't come back?

Soon, I started visiting Lizzy. She knew how I was feeling, and offered good company. For several weeks she attempted to teach me how to sew. I gave up after several pin pricks to my fingers, and resigned myself to sit contentedly watching her work and speak about her past.

She had lived an amazing life, but I knew that her later years were filled with utter sadness.

"How did you find out?" Lizzy knew what I was asking, and probably the reason why.

"They came to the door, and told me. I was given his gun belt and a letter from the state of Texas sending their condolences, and calling my husband a hero. I think I was supposed to feel pride, but as I held his things in my hands, all I felt was ill."

We lapsed into silence, each in our own world.

One night in early September, I heard footsteps on the stairs. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the shotgun from the corner. I didn't point it yet, but kept a firm grip on it. I was ready to raise it at a moment's notice. When the door pushed opened, I tensed. Then my entire body relaxed, and I released a sob.

There was Edward, leaning against the doorframe. He looked toward the noise and saw me against the far wall, gun at my side.

"Isa." He breathed out, and I placed the gun on the floor and ran into his arms.

He kissed me roughly and moved us to sit on the bed.

Edward started to speak, but it was cut off by his own sob. I had never been as scared I was as the moment that Edward broke down while he clung to me. His head was buried in my stomach, and his words were gibberish at first, but as he calmed his words made more and more sense.

"I found him, Isa. We were so close to catching him, but he crossed the border."

"Who are you talking about?" I was so confused.

"The man who killed my father. He showed me the badge. He wears it pinned to his saddlebag like a trophy." He cried harder again.

I couldn't speak, and soon his noises quieted, and I saw that he had fallen asleep.

I laid him as gently as possible on the bed and curled my body around his.

The morning light was bright and blinding when I opened my eyes. I felt the bed dip, and I turned towards the movement.

Edward was looking down on me with a half smile.

"You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." He pushed some hair out of my face before leaning down to kiss me.

"What are you going to do?" I asked after he sat back.

I knew he wouldn't wait around for this man to come back. I knew he'd tried to find him, and worse, I knew I couldn't stop him. I would very well lose him in a matter of weeks if I let him leave.

I wracked my brain for ways to make him stay, but I kept coming up short.

Finally he answered, "I'm staying here."

My eyes snapped up to his and I felt my mouth drop open. I was not expecting or anticipating this response. Then he continued, "I'd never leave you alone Isa, and that's what would happen if I left to look for him. I saw my Ma go through that, and I will never do that to you. Not for the sake of vengeance or pride."

I wrapped my arms around his neck and tried to keep my tears at bay. He held me close and I whispered, "I wouldn't have stopped you. I wouldn't have kept you here if you wanted to find him."

He kissed my neck and I felt him smile against me. "That's exactly why I'm staying. You would sacrifice your happiness for me, so I'm going to swallow my anger and wait for him to come find me. I know he will."

Edward had been home for close to eight months and there'd been nothing but quiet in Round Rock.

Well, quiet on the crime front, not so much on the gossip one. I was happily close to six months along and showing rather nicely. Edward said the baby was going to be strong; he could tell by the kicks. Lizzy told me politely that I might be expecting two. That wasn't a fate I was hoping for. Birthing one baby was hard, birthing two, well that was terrible. Not to mention the fact of complications and survival for all of us.

I put those thoughts out of my mind, and walked down the boardwalk to my father's office. I knew Edward would be there as well, so I brought them a small snack.

I was almost there when I heard gunfire and galloping horses.

I turned and saw a rush of men coming down the main street. At first I was confused.

Had there been a stampede? Had cattle gotten out?

Then I saw red sashes, and I knew I needed to get inside. I was so close to the Pa's office, it was right across the main street. I could make it. They were halfway to it, but I was closer.

I dropped the basket and started across the street as Edward ran out of the office, followed closely by Pa and Emmett.

"Isa, go back!" he yelled.

I kept running, but stopped short as a bullet hit the ground right in front of me.

I glanced up, and Edward started out into the street, but Pa grabbed him and pulled him back, whispering something in his ear before pushing him back into the office.

Edward was tense and staring hard at me as the door shut.

I took steps back and turned back toward the basket. I got no more than two steps before another bullet hit the dirt a few feet in front of me.

The horses were on me now, the cowboys leering over their heads with slight smirks on their faces. The leader, a man with stringy blond hair, spoke. "What's your name, sweetheart?"

"That's no business of yours, sir. I'd appreciate you letting me pass; this heat isn't helping my condition." My hand had been across my belly since I'd started across the street.

He let out a short laugh. "I'll let you go in a minute. I need to know where I can find someone. I heard there was a Ranger in town, is that true, sweetheart?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about." I kept my eyes locked with his.

"Are you a Christian?" he asked calmly.

"Yes, I am."

"Lyin's a sin, you know?" His smirk got bigger, but his eyes were hard and cold.

"God forgives," I answered back just as snidely.

He swung his leg, hopped off the horse, and moved forward. My Pa walked off the steps and called, "That's my daughter. You need to back up and move along. We don't deal with cowboys here."

He didn't get far before the whole gang had pulled their guns on him. He stopped walking and the leader said, "You should just sit tight and not get in the way. We'll be gone soon."

He turned back to me. "I'm Jim, and if I'm not mistaken, I believe you're Isabella, since he's saying you're his little girl."

I didn't say anything, just stared into his eyes.

"That means that your last name is Masen. You know the Ranger I'm talking about, don't you, sweetheart?" His voice was just as cold as his eyes now. The pretense was gone. "Judging by your condition, I say you know him very well."

When I didn't say anything, he leaned close to me and whispered, "Tell him that I'll be back tomorrow at noon. Tell him that I'll be taking his badge, too." He leaned closer and smelled my hair. "Tell him that his son will never know his father."

I couldn't help the tears that started to leak out of my closed eyes.

I felt his presence drift back and opened my eyes. He mounted his horse and signaled for his boys to turn around as soon as they were out of sight the office door busted open and Edward ran for me.

"Isa?" He wrapped his arms around me. "Are you all right? Talk to me."

"Take me home."

He did as I asked, and when we were behind the locked doors of our home. I cried and told him the whole story.

"I love you, Isa." He kissed my forehead. "I'll take care of this."

I looked up at him with desperation I'd never felt. "Don't. Let's run away. You can't…"

He held me as I cried then eventually fell asleep.

He never acknowledged my pleas.

When I woke up again, it was the middle of the night, and Edward was sitting at the desk in his night clothes. He was writing something, and when I said his name, he glanced over at me and smiled.

He walked to me and kissed me sweetly before leaning me back down on the bed and whispering words into my skin that I could barely hear.

It wasn't rushed and when we came together with soft gasps, I realized what this was.

It was goodbye.

The sunlight was pouring through the window when I woke up.

The sheets on his side of the bed were cold.

I sat up and looked around. His clothes were gone; his gun wasn't on the dresser. I ran to the window; his horse wasn't tied outside the barn like normal for this time of day.

My veins felt like they were pumping ice.

I started for the door when I noticed my name written on an envelope on the desk.

I picked up with shaky hands, and read the contents of the letter.

My beloved wife,

I am sorry. I feel as if I've failed you already. I'm leaving you this letter because I couldn't stand to say this in person.

I love you. I will love you even in death. If I don't make it back home to you then know that I'm sorry. I wanted to spend forever with you. I wanted to meet my child. If I don't come home, please know that I will watch over you both.

You've changed my life, Isa. You will be a wonderful mother, and you are an amazing wife and friend.

Please forgive me.


I slumped against the door, clutching my belly, but the tears never came.

I'm not sure how long I sat there, but I was jolted out of my stupor by the sound of gunfire.

I jumped up and pulled on the nearest dress, not bothering to pin my hair, and I ran for town.

As I neared the street, movement caught my eye to the left. I turned and barely registered what I was seeing. Riding calmly in the direction of her home was Lizzy, with a pistol at her side.

I shook my head and continued on my way.

The street was dusty and the smoke was lingering in the air, but I saw him.

He was standing over a man's body, pulling something from his shirt. When he raised back up his eyes locked with mine and he walked purposefully toward me.

Once I was in his arms, he whispered, "I'm sorry. I love you."

"I love you, too."

He was quiet then so softy said, "It wasn't me."

I answer against his neck, "I know."

The crowd dispersed and the dead man's body was taken away.

"No one can ever know, Isa."

I smiled at him.

"Then no one ever will." I paused, then added. "She deserved to do it though."

Edward started to lead me back home, and when we walked through the door, I finally added, "I would have done the same thing."

It was in that moment that I realized that while there were two sides to Edward, I was also now split. I would be his wife, loving and caring, but I was also strong and somewhat hardened. I let my fingers wind in his hair and brought my lips to his jaw, comforted in the knowledge that I could be his rock and protection as well.

Thanks for reading!

I need to thank PTB for beta'ing this for me.

Also, chele the original & Jen328 for their encouragement. I can honestly say that without their presence I probably wouldn't have finished this on time.

Also, there's a banner contest this year and you can go here: http:/www(dot)ageofedward(dot)com/?page_id=102 to see the banners including one for Lone Star!

Thanks again and remember that voting starts October 3!