Age of Edward Contest
Your pen name: 22blue
Title: Devotions Unexpected
Type of Edward: 19th Century Vampward ala BeautyandtheBeastward
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this contest visit The Age of Edward 2010 C2 Community.
1899 – New York City
The rapid clicks from Edward's shoes echoed in the empty alley as he searched for his meal. Patchy fog billowed above the damp cobblestone walks of the city of New York just before dawn. Edward's subservient vampire, Eleazar, held a watchful eye for Edward while he, too, hunted.
Edward would feed first; this was his rule. Eleazar had obliged without complaint - he owed his life to Edward.
Silently, Eleazar alerted Edward to a pair of young men preparing an improvised newsstand as they piled bundles of dailies behind it. Eleazar hid in the shadows of a doorway, watching the men, his throat burning with anticipation, while he waited the seconds it took for Edward to arrive.
Edward was a fastidious vampire. He fed on healthy humans, not drunken or sickly men and women. Edward wouldn't waste his time drinking the blood of women who sold their bodies for profit either. Although those were the humans who would be missed the least, Edward had standards and would never taint his body with the dregs of society.
"Would you like a paper, sir? Only a nickel!"
"A nickel, you say? My… the price seems to be increasing every day."
Yeah, well, you can afford that extra two cents I'm gonna pocket. "Oh, but sir, ain't no one reports the news like The Journal! And look!" The young man showcased the front page of the paper to Edward. "We got the first story 'bout the zoo that opened over in the Bronx." Come on, buddy, just give me your damn money.
Edward took the newspaper from the young man, folded it in half and tucked it under his arm. He dropped a few copper coins into the man's palm. Working so hard for an additional few pennies. No matter, you won't need those two cents when I'm through with you.
"Thank you, sir! You have a nice day!" Sucker.
Edward's dark eyes flashed toward Eleazar who remained unseen by the men and then back to the unsuspecting entrepreneur standing in front of him. Streaks of black ink covered the man's cheeks, and Edward noticed the tips of the man's fingers, jutting out from his fingerless black wool gloves, turning red from the cold. The man's nose and cheeks had turned a lovely shade of pink as well, and Edward swallowed down a small amount of venom that began to pool in his mouth.
"You're welcome," Edward replied. He shifted on his feet slightly, and a slow, menacing smile formed on his lips.
"Did you need something else, sir?" The second man, who was taller than the first and a little plump, asked as he stepped forward. What the hell?
Edward chuckled darkly. "Actually, there is something I need, thank you." Edward paused; his lip curled, exposing his brilliantly white teeth. "Eleazar?
Deep in the Catskill Mountains, Edward sat in his home, his body lazily strewn across a plush, velvet settee. His arm rested along the back as he inspected his well-groomed nails. A fire crackled and hissed, the orange and yellow flames dancing inside the ornate fireplace across the room.
"I'm bored, Carlisle," Edward stated, flatly. "So very, very bored."
Carlisle continued to focus his hazel eyes on the notes he'd written. He dipped his pen into the inkwell then frantically logged his latest findings into one of the many weathered notebooks he kept. Should he answer aloud or simply think his response?
"Shall I accompany Eleazar, Edward?" Carlisle asked, choosing to speak as he closed the brown leather notebook.
Edward was now by Carlisle's side, flipping through one of the journals. Carlisle had grown accustomed to Edward's silent and swift movements over the past two decades. "Yes, I believe that would be best. The previous girl, though willing…" Edward smiled coolly as he reminisced. "She was weak, frail. I prefer someone who can withstand my… needs."
"Of course. When?"
"Soon, if you don't mind." Edward picked up Carlisle's arm, pushing his sleeve toward his elbow. "There won't be much left of you if you continue to treat yourself as a guinea pig." Edward pushed up his sleeve then compared it to Carlisle's. "I heal without consequence; you don't. Would you like me to bring you a human from the city?"
Carlisle brought his arm back, lowering his sleeve. "No, that would be barbaric. I don't have many years left on this earth, Edward, and I am a physician – I know my limits."
Edward laughed. "I'm merely suggesting using a few samples from someone else. Surely, you're not implying that I am savage."
No, certainly not.
Edward nodded. "I don't know what I'm going to do without you when you pass on, Carlisle. Perhaps you'll reconsider and allow me to change you?"
"I'm afraid that's out of the question. It's been over twenty years since I've seen my Esme… I don't want it to be forever." Carlisle gathered his belongings, intending to lock them in the study which was adjacent to his bedroom. Edward's home would soon welcome a guest, and Carlisle's work could not be left lying around for prying eyes.
The chance of Edward's next plaything surviving or being able to function properly in society once he was through with her was slim at best, but Carlisle would still not risk exposure. Carlisle had only witnessed the results of what had happened to a handful of young women after they were brought to Edward's home: insanity, suicide, or accidental death – Carlisle would never forgive himself for the latter. She'd been impregnated by Edward, and Carlisle had never performed an abortion before. He vowed he'd never do it again. Not all women had unhappy endings, however; there were a few who had returned to civilization somewhat unscathed.
Every few years, Eleazar would find what he thought to be a suitable woman from the surrounding towns and villages of Catskill, New York. Occasionally, Eleazar would take these women in the middle of the night. However, once or twice a destitute father had offered his daughter, hoping the legends of the enigmatic man who lived in the castle in the mountains were true and would allow his daughter to live like a queen. The women did, in fact, live lavishly… at least after they finally succumbed to Edward's wishes.
"Eleazar," Edward called quietly, tracing circular patterns on the mahogany table with his index finger. "Alert Jessica to prepare the bed quarters in the east wing… we're going to have company."
Carlisle and Eleazar walked along the dirt road, nodding and smiling toward curious onlookers. The two were strangers in this small farming village, their costly attire giving them away. They hadn't chosen to fit in with the residents; they wouldn't be staying long. Eleazar concealed his red eyes with a pair of round-rimmed glasses with dark lenses, his topper dipping low over his brow, and he leisurely swung his cane by his side. Carlisle strode beside Eleazar, his hands intertwined comfortably behind his back. The sun was hidden behind gray clouds, thus making the chilly air even colder.
Shivering, Carlisle tucked his chin further into his overcoat as the wind blew in a quick spurt; the tall wheat in a nearby field tilting and rippling. Eleazar laughed. "If you allowed Edward to change you, you wouldn't feel a thing."
Carlisle glanced at Eleazar from his periphery. "That's precisely why I choose to stay human."
"Hm. I was under the impression you wanted to remain human was so that when you die, you'd join your wife again." Eleazar rolled his eyes at the sentiment. He never did understand why Carlisle worked so diligently studying Edward. "Pity, really. You'd make a remarkable vampire."
Carlisle huffed. "Let's stick to the task at hand, shall we?" Adjusting the collar of his overcoat, Carlisle irritatingly looked toward Eleazar. "Is that really necessary?"
"The cane. Will you stop twirling it as though you're auditioning for a circus side-show? It's rather annoying, not to mention you're drawing undue attention to us."
Eleazar sighed exasperatedly. "Carlisle, you can be such a stick in the mud sometimes."
Eleazar saw her first, his acute sense of smell guiding him toward her. He led Carlisle down a narrow path, stopping so the two could watch her for a few moments.
Carlisle surmised the girl was eighteen, perhaps nineteen years of age. Her dark hair was pulled into a bun, loose strands framing her angelic face. The girl hoisted a wooden bucket filled with water from the well and then a second. Carlisle and Eleazar watched her walk from the well toward a small home which sat several yards away. She stopped as she neared the house, setting the buckets of water on the ground. She then reached into her apron pocket, pulling out a handful of grain which she tossed to the chickens pecking close by.
"Shh," she whispered. "Don't tell father." The girl quickly looked around, picked up the buckets with little struggle and continued toward the house.
"She's kind," explained Eleazar; Carlisle couldn't hear her standing so far away.
"And her scent?"
Carlisle crossed his arms in front of him. "Can you hear anyone else inside the house? Did you see a wedding band on her finger?"
Eleazar tilted his head, staring toward the house. "No ring. But that doesn't prove she's uncommitted. She smells pure, though."
"You think she's a virgin?"
Eleazar nodded. "I do, yes. The only other voice I hear is a male's. He sounds older; her father, I'm sure."
Eleazar tilted his head to the other side, pleased with his discovery. "Yes… she's quite something."
Carlisle pursed his lips; a small part of him felt guilty for what was about to happen. He turned to face Eleazar. "Take me home, and then come back for her after her father has fallen asleep."
Jessica stood quietly in the corner of the bedroom, waiting for the girl to awaken. The faint sound of Edward's fingers rhythmically gliding across the keys of his piano floated peacefully under the heavy wooden door. Her instructions were to remain quiet until the girl spoke. Edward thought the young woman would be less frightened if the first person she saw were female.
The process of welcoming an unsuspecting guest into Edward's home had been trial and error. Jessica had been Edward's maid for six years, give or take, and the last two women Edward entertained had seemed to grow fond of Jessica; they confided in her. None of them were aware, however, no matter how trustworthy Jessica was, Edward read every thought that had crossed their minds. For Edward, their bond was a moot point.
Jessica's eyes flickered from the floor toward the girl as she began to stir. The young woman moaned softly, absently tugging at the thick blanket, snuggling further into the feather ticks. Jessica inhaled deeply through her nose, keeping one hand placed over the other in front of her and fixed her eyes on the wood floor again. She wondered how much longer it would be until the girl, Isabella, would awake - her back brace was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
Isabella sat up with a start; Jessica flinched. "Where am I? Who are you? Where's my father?" Isabella rambled, her voice shrill. Isabella scrambled to get out of the bed, halting suddenly when she realized she was dressed in a nightgown clearly not belonging to her.
"It's all right, Miss." Jessica cautiously approached Isabella. "You don't need to be frightened."
"Wh- who are you?" Isabella yelled, covering her chest with her arms. "I want to go home! What have you done to my father?" she screamed, and the melody from the piano ceased.
Jessica took another awkward step toward Isabella with her hands raised. "Your father is fine, Miss. I promise. Are you thirsty? May I get you something to eat?"
Confusion and panic simultaneously swept across Isabella's face and then, suddenly, realization as she took in her surroundings. Isabella slowly sat on the edge of the bed, her head tilting forward as she covered her face with shaky hands. She began to weep. "I'm in his home, aren't I? The legend is true," she whispered.
"It's only been two days, Eleazar," Edward reprimanded, pacing across the floor of the living room.
Edward had stood outside Isabella's bedroom the nights before as well as each morning, listening to her breaths and the erratic beats of her heart. He could hear her pad across the floor in her bare feet and the swooshing of her nightgown when she turned. The only thing Edward could not hear was her thoughts. He was patient and would wait for her to calm herself so he could officially meet her. But Edward was at a disadvantage; never before had he been challenged by the inability to read someone's mind. Her sweet aroma called to him in ways he'd never imagined. For this alone, he would wait for the opportunity to glide his nose along the length of her neck and to envelope his body with hers. If Isabella's blood hadn't been so inviting, so unparalleled to anything else he'd ever encountered before, Edward would have asked Eleazar to return her to her home. He may have been bored and wanting companionship, but not so much to challenge himself against an intellectual mute.
Eleazar, on the other hand, was highly impatient. He wanted Edward to meet her immediately, to see if the block in the girl's mind was perhaps caused by distance or something else – what that might be, he didn't know. Eleazar had even asked Carlisle to give her an examination, to see if there was something physically wrong with her. Carlisle refused, stating doing so would only frighten the girl more. Carlisle believed in earning Edward's companions' trust, and this annoyed Eleazar immensely.
Eleazar huffed, indignantly placing one hand on his hip while waving the other. "Yes, Edward, that is true, but don't you think you should at least talk with her? Perhaps bring her a meal? I'm sure she's starving by now. Humans need their sustenance at least once per day."
"Why can't I read her mind? Did you know this was going to happen?" Edward asked angrily. He focused on Eleazar's thoughts for any sign of betrayal. There was nothing, simply the precursor of what Eleazar was about to say.
"Of course, not! How would I-"
Both Edward's and Eleazar's heads snapped toward the direction of the hall where Isabella was about to enter.
"Finally," Eleazar mumbled, and Edward hushed him by brusquely raising his hand.
Isabella stepped into the living room, Jessica trailing behind her. Isabella wore an emerald dress adorned with white lace. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun she had fixed herself. Isabella refused Jessica's assistance to dress save tying her corset. She stood underneath the marble archway several feet away from the men, her chin held high and her shoulders squared. Isabella's jaw was tight and her hands curled into tight fists by her side.
Edward immediately turned toward her, closing his eyes as he took pleasure in her sweet scent, which was evocative of honeysuckle and fresh pear. Oh, how she must taste, he thought, grazing his teeth lightly along his bottom lip, so decadent and satisfying. The thumping of Isabella's heart and Eleazar clearing his throat interrupted Edward's reverie.
"Welcome to my home, Isabella. I am Edward Masen and I'm very pleased to finally meet you. I do hope you'll enjoy your stay," Edward announced grandly. He steeled his feet in an attempt not to take her in that very moment. His eyes traveled over her slight yet curvaceous frame, and he was delighted with the single garment he'd chosen to leave in her closet; it fit her body perfectly, exposing just enough of her porcelain skin.
Edward cocked his head to the side, unwillingly taking a step toward her as he gazed at the features of her face. Her eyes, although brown, in Edward's experience a classically dull color, surprisingly were not. Instead, they were warm, innocent. Her cheeks held a pale blush, and Edward wondered, hoped rather, if they always looked this way.
"How long will I have to stay?" she asked, her voice shaky.
Edward lifted his hands, gesturing toward the room as he turned his body in a full circle. "As long as you'd like, sweet girl. Or until I decide when your time here is through… whichever comes first." Edward chuckled. "Is your bed chamber suitable, Isabella? If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to ask." He nodded toward Jessica who stood silently behind Isabella. "Jessica will happily tend to any of your requests."
"Is my father alive?"
"Yes, he's alive," Edward scoffed. Did she think he was a monster? "He's alive and well. You needn't worry; he's going to be just fine. Now, enough of that," he started, taking slow steps toward her. "Let's get you fed so we can begin our time together."
Isabella stepped back, staring at Edward. "Swear to me you'll not hurt my father, and I'll do as you wish."
Edward smiled, placing his hand over his heart. "You have my word, Isabella. I will not harm your father. I'm not that kind of man." He held out his elbow to her. "Shall we?"
She glanced down at his arm and then back to his eyes. Isabella swallowed thickly, taking in his red irises. Her knees weakened, and a low hum rang in her ears as possibilities of what this man… thing was who stood before her ran through her mind. He had to be something evil.
Isabella inhaled a few calculated breaths as to not lose consciousness. Then, hesitantly, clenching her eyes shut, she placed her hand in the crook of his elbow. "Fine."
Edward shook his head in amusement. "Oh, my dear, Isabella, we are going to have a fun time together."
Edward dismissed Eleazar before leading Isabella to the dining room. He pulled out a chair for her to sit at the end of the table then took the seat next to hers. Isabella sat silently, which annoyed Edward. He was beside himself with frustration not knowing what was going through the girl's mind, although, his lax demeanor gave nothing away.
Jessica brought out a single plate of roasted pork and potatoes and set it in front of Isabella. She then poured a glass of wine and asked if Edward or Isabella needed anything else. Edward excused her as Isabella stared at her plate nervously. He leaned back in his chair and casually crossed his legs, resting his elbow on the arm of the chair. Edward then pressed his index and middle fingers against his temple as he watched Isabella fidget with her napkin.
Edward wondered if he touched her, would he then be able to read her mind? He heard nothing as he led her to the dining room, though, so he wasn't quite sure. As he shifted in his seat to touch her hand, Isabella spoke. "Aren't you eating?" she asked, her eyes flitting in his direction for merely a second. Isabella felt as though she was being primed as a turkey would be for Thanksgiving Day.
Edward shook his head. "No. I don't eat… that." He motioned toward Isabella's plate as she lifted her head to look at him. "Eat, Isabella, please." Edward resumed his original position in his chair, deciding he would touch her later. He smiled, thinking of how he'd like to touch her.
Isabella drew in a breath then picked up her fork. She moved the potatoes around her plate and scraped the tines of her fork over the meat. "Must you stare?" she asked; Edward laughed loudly and she jumped.
"My apologies. It's only that you're quite beautiful. Please forgive me." She nodded once, blush filling her cheeks again. Edward held out his hand, impatiently needing to test his theory. "May I?"
Isabella looked at his long, pale fingers then back at him. Warily, she placed her hand in his; his skin was frigid. So cold! He's heartless – that's why.
Edward closed his eyes, concentrating, but still nothing entered his thoughts. Gently yet aggravated, Edward released her hand and suggested she eat her lunch.
"What is it? Why did you do that?"
Edward drummed his fingers on the table, contemplating her reaction.
"I seem to be having some trouble reading your mind," he explained with utter nonchalance.
"You can read minds?" Her voice remained even much to Edward's surprise, although, the increase in her pulse gave her away.
"All but yours." Still, she didn't move, staring at him curiously. "I hoped that by touching your skin I would be able to, but alas…" He shrugged in defeat.
During the few moments of silence that passed between them, Isabella had thought of a multitude of questions about the man sitting next to her and dreaded what those answers might be. Regardless, she needed to know.
Simply out of nervousness, she meticulously set the fork next to the china plate, ensuring it was perfectly aligned with the other utensils. Isabella focused on the gold trim of the plate and quietly asked, "What are you?"
"What do you think I am, brave girl?" Edward replied, toying with her.
"I don't know."
Edward smiled, folding his hands on top of his thigh. He began to think not being able to read her mind might prove entertaining… for a while, anyway. "Look at me, Isabella. Please."
She did, albeit hesitantly, however not in the eye.
"A myth. Demon, revenant, the Devil, wąpierz," Edward paused, gauging Isabella's reaction. "Strigoi… would you like me to continue? There are so many – I could go on for hours."
"You're a vampire." Her eyes widened slightly. "You're going to kill me." The blush in her cheeks now gone, her forehead and neck began to glisten with perspiration.
"You're more intelligent than I thought; I'm impressed. But no, dear Isabella, I am not going to kill you… at least not intentionally." Edward tittered. Isabella's face paled; she didn't see the humor in his wry sentiment.
Edward rose, stepping behind her. Placing one hand on the back of her chair, he cupped the other gently around her throat and rubbed his thumb along her smooth jaw. Edward leaned down, taking a moment to smell her hair then brushed his lips against the lobe of her ear. He whispered, "Isabella, I will do nothing but indulge you with wine and fruit and splendor – I will spoil you. I will bring you pleasure… in turn, you will do the same for me."
Edward slid his hand from her neck over her collarbone, stopping as he reached the top of her breasts. Isabella cringed, fisting the skirt of her dress while Edward kissed the side and back of her neck. Isabella's heart thrummed wildly under his palm, her blood surging through her veins, her scent heightening.
"I want to have you now." It was a subtle yet desperate plea from Edward. Her breaths hastening, Edward read this as a sign of desire until he felt a warm drop of liquid and then another splatter his hand. As she whimpered, he sighed. "You're crying. Why?"
As Edward released her, he abruptly sat back in his chair and pouted as if he were a child being sent to his room without supper. It was rather ironic.
Isabella wiped her eyes, barely shaking her head.
"Isabella, I asked you a question. Why are you crying?" His struggle to remain patient was wearing thin once again. Tapping his hand on the table, he asked, "Well?"
"You're a murderer, and you're going to make me your whore." Sobbing now, she buried her face in her hands.
A low chortle rumbled in Edward's throat before turning into a full guffaw. Isabella, obviously offended by Edward's reaction, crumpled her napkin and threw it on top of her plate. How she wanted to take her knife and drive it through his heart!
"Isabella, please. There's no need for such hostility." Regaining his composure, Edward moved her napkin aside and continued. "Do you not kill living things for food?" He waved his hand over the meat. "This was once a living, breathing creature. You need it to survive, correct? It's the same for me. I fail to see why one way of surviving is acceptable over the other."
"It's not the same," she said quietly.
"Oh, no? Enlighten me."
"You brutally take people's lives!"
Edward shifted in his chair, glancing at Isabella's trembling hands. She still hadn't looked at him in the eye, and this bothered him. "I assure you there is nothing cruel or unnecessary about the method in which I feed."
Edward sensed Jessica hovering by the doorway. He kindly asked if she would give Isabella and him a few more minutes before escorting her back to her room.
"Now, about this silly notion of you being my whore. We're going to be lovers, companions. You can erase all of your worries about me hurting you. Give it time, Isabella. I do believe you'll come to find you're going to enjoy it."
Isabella finally looked at Edward. The rims of her eyes were pink and slightly swollen, yet Edward smiled, rapt by their sincerity and depth.
Clearing her throat, Isabella said, "I'd like to go back to my room now."
"Yes," she croaked.
"Very well," Edward replied, standing, and called Jessica to accompany her. "Jessica will show you where you can bathe, and momentarily, I'll have your closet filled with things to wear. We'll meet in the ballroom at six – there's someone I'd like to introduce you to."
"Here," Jessica offered, "I warmed your lunch for you." Bending more by her knees than her waist, Jessica set the plate down on the night table next to Isabella's bed.
"Thank you." Isabella hadn't noticed the odd formation of Jessica's back before. She was completely distracted by her fear, and rightly so, she couldn't see past what she thought would be her life's end. "Is there… are you alright?"
As not to offend Jessica, Isabella picked up the plate and began to eat. Admittedly, she was famished.
Jessica nodded, grinning widely as she watched Isabella practically devour the food. "Yes, Miss. Do you like it? I made it myself."
"It's delicious. You're a very good cook."
Jessica's grin grew even wider.
Isabella squinted at Jessica, concluding she was not a vampire like Edward or the other man with red eyes who he called Eleazar. Jessica's eyes were an icy blue, and she was not nearly as pale as the men were.
"Would you like to sit down?" Isabella asked, scooting toward the top of her bed.
Timidly, Jessica shook her head. "Thank you, Miss, but I can't."
Jessica's response angered Isabella; she assumed Edward had ordered her not to sit with her.
"The bastard," Isabella said under her breath.
How would she be able to survive being his prisoner? She had to, though. Isabella had to be strong. As much as the thought sickened her, she would do whatever Edward asked of her if it meant keeping her father safe. Isabella's stomach rolled with nausea envisioning the fiend stealing her virginity. And what about her father? For the past twenty-four hours, Isabella shed a river of tears for the man. Was he dead? Was he alive? Dear God, please let him be alive, she thought. Even though threats had not been made against her father's life, she had an overwhelming feeling he would suffer should she choose to leave now. But did she truly have a choice?
No, in all probability, Isabella's intuition told her otherwise.
"Pardon me, Miss? Did you say something?" Jessica lifted her brow.
"You must hate it here," she growled.
When Jessica shook her head this time, it was adamant; her expression was pure shock. "No, I love living here with Uncle Carlisle and Edward!"
Uncle Carlisle? Isabella thought – perhaps he was the one who Edward wanted her to meet.
"But I don't understand. You're not allowed to sit even if asked-"
Jessica shyly turned her back toward Isabella. "No, Miss. I can't sit on the bed. Your bed is too high and with my brace it's just too…"
"Oh. I didn't know. I'm so sorry." Embarrassed by her assumption, Isabella stood after setting her plate down on the night table and awkwardly wrung her hands together. "That chair?" She pointed toward the red and gold high-back chair in the corner of her room. "Can you sit there?"
"Yes, Miss. Thank you."
"Call me Bella."
"Miss?" Jessica asked, carefully sitting.
"Bella… my name." If Bella was destined to live out the rest of her life - now, however short it may be – as Edward's sexual captive, she decided it would be in her best interest to befriend Jessica. What was more, Jessica was kind, almost child-like, and Bella ascertained the two of them could have been friends under normal circumstances.
"I can call you Bella?" Jessica asked expectantly.
"Yes, please. I don't really like Isabella. It's so… stuffy." For the first time since her arrival, Bella smiled.
Although the two young women began their friendship in a most inauspicious way, they soon fell into a somewhat easy conversation. Bella asked how old Jessica was, to which she replied, "Twenty-two." Bella then asked how long Jessica and her uncle had been living with Edward and why. She never thought those reasons would be tragic. Jessica shared as much as she could with Bella, as much as her intellect would allow. After Jessica explained that her parents and uncle's wife had died so many years prior and she had no recollection of the event. She then proudly told Bella how Edward and Uncle Carlisle thought when she turned sixteen, it was high-time she had responsibilities around the manor, thus cooking and tending to Edward's temporary mates.
"What about Eleazar?" Bella asked. "You haven't mentioned him."
Jessica wrinkled her nose. "He's strange. He's really serious sometimes and other times he picks at my uncle."
"What do you mean?"
Grasping the arms of the chair, Jessica turned her body slightly, maintaining her stiff posture. "They tease each other. Sometimes it's funny, but sometimes it's just mean what they say. Eleazar minds his own business except about you. Edward's nice, though. We play cards. He taught me how to play euchre. It's fun. Maybe you can play with us?"
"Yes. Four people have to play, but Eleazar isn't much for games."
So odd, Bella thought, and why did Eleazar care about her? Everything was just so… surreal. Perhaps she was dreaming. Yes, this was truly a dream, or a nightmare, and she would wake the next morning in her own bed then fetch water from the well and cook breakfast for her father. She would not wake to the bizarre dynamic of vampires and humans…
"Jessica, your uncle… is he like Edward and Eleazar?"
Jessica giggled. "No, Miss! Uncle Carlisle is not a vampire." Her smile faltered.
"I want to be changed, but Uncle won't let me. If Edward changed me, my back would be straight, and I could remember everything. I could be beautiful like him, and smart. I want to be smart, Miss."
Beautiful? Attractiveness aside, the man was a beast. "Bella," she corrected.
It occurred to Bella amending how Jessica addressed her was of little importance.
"Never mind." Bella smiled kindly.
The clock chimed four times; Bella had two hours until she was supposed to meet Edward in the ballroom. Preparing herself mentally, she asked Jessica where she could bathe. A small room attached to Bella's bedroom held only a toilet and sink. Bella had never experienced these devices before as she'd heard they'd only been available in upper-class hotels or homes of the very wealthy. Bella would gladly trade the spoils to be home again.
"Oh, Miss." Jessica's cheeks reddened. She held a towel over her arm as she led Bella down the hall to the bath room. "I'm supposed to ask you when you're due for your cycle," she whispered.
Bella halted. Shocked by the inappropriate question, she hissed, "Why?"
"Edward and Eleazar will have to leave the house then." Jessica surreptitiously glanced toward Bella's stomach.
Realizing why they would need to leave, Bella was disgusted. But then… a cool smile. "Tomorrow. My cycle is due tomorrow."
With his hands in the pockets of his tuxedo pants, Edward traced one of the small diamond patterns of the marble floor with the toe of his shoe, waiting for Bella. He'd planned the evening perfectly: chilled champagne and a platter of grapes, a roaring fire, and Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz floating from the horn of the gramophone. He would dance with her, charm her, watch as the bubbles of the drink tickled her nose, and then Edward would bed her.
Carlisle stood on the opposite side of the room; he, too, dressed in black tails. Carlisle, however, was not of the same jovial mood as Edward about the party-like atmosphere. He was annoyed. He'd rather prefer to spend the evening with his microscope, comparing the cells from Edward's venom to his own tissue and blood. He'd work night and day to discover a cure through cell regeneration for the scoliosis from which his niece suffered. And, possibly one day, determine the cause of Jessica's memory loss. Although said cause was known, Carlisle had hoped through cell regeneration he would one day be able to make his niece's brain function normally again. Unfortunately, the samples from Edward had always disintegrated those from Carlisle, poisoning them, burning them like acid until all that remained were Edward's.
"She's coming," Edward announced, straightening.
Moments later, Bella descended the grand staircase – Jessica in tow. Edward stepped to the right, the low-hanging crystal chandelier blocking his view. Something stirred deep inside Edward's stomach when he saw her completely - not hunger, nor lust, but something else, something foreign. Her silhouette was ravishing in the lavender silk gown, her delicate shoulders bare and embellishments of pearls sewn into the fabric which dipped over her upper arms. Her white silk gloves reached just over her elbows, and soft chestnut ringlets framed her face. Bella seemed to float down the stairs rather than taking slow and careful steps.
"Stunning," Edward said. He met her at the foot of the staircase, bowed, and then held out his hand. Bella accepted his hand, and Edward placed a soft, lingering kiss on her knuckles. "Dance with me," he requested.
Bella looked toward Carlisle; he smiled politely in return. Turning back to Edward, her hand still in his, she sharply replied, "If I must."
"Don't be rude, Bella," Edward said in jest. He swept her into his arms, holding her tightly against him. He was a head taller than she. As he looked down at her face, Edward glided his finger along her cheekbone. "It's unbecoming."
"Isabella," she stated, pulling her face away from his touch.
Edward pulled her even closer, wanting nothing more than to do away with the layers of crinoline and silk keeping him from feeling her bare skin. "But I thought Isabella was too… stuffy?" he mocked.
"You were listening?" she gasped. Bella gritted her teeth as Edward began to waltz with her.
Edward laughed. "I hear everything, Isabella. I must give you credit, though… what you shared with Jessica in your attempt to rid me by tomorrow was quite humorous. My senses are… extraordinary. Smell, sight… taste." He stopped dancing, released her hand then touched her bottom lip. "I'd like to taste you."
Bella huffed, casting her eyes toward the floor.
"Edward!" Carlisle shouted.
Growling, Edward snapped his head in Carlisle's direction. "What is it, Carlisle?" Edward's tenor was loud, irritated. Bella flinched.
"I apologize, but have you not heard me? I've been speaking to you." Carlisle walked toward Bella and Edward. "Through my thoughts, Edward, I've been trying to gain your attention."
Bewildered, Edward stepped back from Bella. "Interesting," he said. "Look what you've done to me." Edward picked up Bella's hand and kissed her palm. "It would seem you've completely mesmerized me. A first for everything, I suppose."
Bella dismissed Edward's response and turned toward Carlisle. "Hello."
With a quick nod, Carlisle introduced himself, and she returned the gesture. He begged her pardon for not being able to stay any longer, stating he had work to tend to. Bella begrudgingly said goodnight to Carlisle and then Jessica. Edward and Bella had opposing feelings about now being alone together. While one felt elation, the other felt dread.
Edward wound the gramophone, replaying the recording, and began to dance with Bella once again.
As he led her around the floor, he slowed their steps and caressed her back. "Isabella, we can continue to dance if you like. There is champagne for you to drink, grapes for you to eat. However, as lovely as you are in this gown, I believe we would have a much better time if you would allow me to remove it."
Bella stiffened, wanting to slap him across his face, but Edward's reaction was faster, taking her face into his strong hands and then pressing his lips against her soft mouth. Bella protested, trying to tug her head away; Edward only held her firmer, sensually dragging the tip of his tongue over her bottom lip. He then took her lip into his mouth, brushing her cheeks with his thumbs and moaned softly.
Within moments, Bella relaxed her jaw, all reason and fear vanishing. Her body giving in to him, she was lost, completely immersed in his touch and his honeyed taste. She pressed her mouth to his, encouraging him, and Edward deepened the kiss. He moved one hand to the back of her neck and the other he rested over her heart.
He wanted her badly - to wrap his arms around her, to be surrounded by her warmth, to feel her skin against his… to be inside her… Oh god, to be inside her. The stir Edward felt when he first saw her now a thousand times stronger, and he knew. Edward knew he could never allow Bella to leave him.
Bella slid her gloved hands along his chest, bringing one to touch his neck, gripping his jacket with the other. With the tips of her fingers, Bella touched the hard line of his jaw then circled his ear until cupping the back of his neck. She rolled her tongue with his, discovering a hunger she'd never known. Bella's mind was in a thick haze, her skin pricked and tingled, and there where parts of her body that ached for Edward's touch.
Their breaths quickened, and her pulse throbbed as their kiss had grown into one of ardency and desire. Edward was the one to break the kiss, his nose barely touching hers, his hands holding her warm cheeks once more.
In a low whisper, he asked, "May I come to your room?" Edward placed another kiss on her moist lips. "Please?"
Bella's eyelids fluttered and, tilting her head back, bringing Edward's crimson eyes into clear view. "No!" Bella shrieked, covering her mouth with her hands. She ran. As fast as she could, she ran to get away from him.
"Isabella!" Edward yelled, but he did not follow her. Instead, he stood frozen. He yelled for her twice more, knowing she wouldn't answer.
For over a century, Edward had never yearned for anyone – he needed no one. But it only took seconds for him to find what he never knew he wanted.
"Edward." Eleazar instantly appeared in front of Edward, pointedly staring at him. "Leave her be for now. I have something to share with you."
"I've told you, Eleazar, it doesn't matter. Why are you being so persistent?" Edward spat into a glass vial then handed it to Carlisle. "She's locked herself in her room – it's been a week. I do not wish to be away from her any longer than necessary. She already finds me hideous, and I refuse to further delay our relationship by scaring her just so you can test your theory!" Edward walked toward the door of Carlisle's study and placed his hand on the knob. "I have to earn her trust – make her realize she belongs to me."
Carlisle's eyes flickered toward Edward then Eleazar. He sealed the vial and locked it in a cabinet with the other samples. Give her time.
For the past week, Edward had obsessed over the contradicting feelings he had for this girl. Several times he had stalked by Bella's chambers, wanting to burst through the door and take her. Yet in the same instance he had the urge to court her, do silly things such as take a walk around the grounds of the manor and ask for her permission to hold her hand. An errant thought of consenting to release her to her father had even crossed his mind. Although he couldn't, wouldn't do that. Bella belonged to him and, eventually, she would come to appreciate this – he already belonged to her.
"It's not a theory, Edward. Don't you see? Don't you see the possibilities?" Eleazar asked.
"You say she's a shield. And from whom, pray tell, would we need to be protected against?" Edward turned, taking angry strides toward Eleazar. "Tell me, Eleazar, what is your ambition? What do you hope to gain if she's turned? Because the only benefit would be that I could be with her forever."
"She incapacitates you."
"She does no such thing."
"When she's near you, she shields everyone's thoughts – you hear nothing. Just imagine, Edward, she could guard you from others…" If she hinders your ability to read minds, surely, she'd obstruct those with gifts!
At once, Edward stood in front of Eleazar, seething with rage. "I do not have issues with the others, my friend, nor they with me. That was your battle – the one from which I saved you. If it hadn't been for me, you'd be dead. Make no mistake, Eleazar, you owe me your life. You will not sacrifice her will for your revenge."
"You've sacrificed her will for your pleasure."
Before Eleazar could speak again, Edward was behind him. He grabbed Eleazar by his hair, yanking his head back with one hand and squeezing his jaw with the other. In a low growl, he warned, "Do not test me, Eleazar. I have no loyalties to you."
Edward, stop! Carlisle shouted silently.
"Please, Edward," Eleazar begged, Edward tightened his grip, twisting his head slightly. "Edward! You're no better than they are if you kill me!"
Carlisle backed into the wall; he'd only seen the violence Edward was capable of once before, and horrid memories of the day Carlisle had lost his wife rushed through his mind.
Edward's head snapped in Carlisle's direction, and he released Eleazar.
"I've not forgotten my place with you, Edward. Forgive me." Eleazar looked toward the floor.
Edward scanned Eleazar's thoughts for betrayal, considering whether he may have a plan of his own. He found nothing save Eleazar's disappointment and cowardice. "You will not speak of this again."
"Of course," Eleazer groused.
Edward! "Bella's sick!" Jessica, overcome with worry and breathing heavily, yelled as she ran to the door of Carlisle's study.
It seemed as though hours had passed as Edward hovered by the door of Bella's chambers while Carlisle examined her. He heard nothing from Carlisle's mind, needing to wait impatiently for the diagnosis just as anyone else. Finally, Carlisle emerged.
"What's wrong with her?"
"She's feverish, and she's visibly lost a lot of weight." Carlisle turned to Jessica who had waited with Edward. "Has she not been eating?"
"Yes, her plates were empty when I collected them."
"That doesn't mean she ate," Edward said quietly, presuming Bella disposed of most, if not all of her food through the window of her room.
Jessica's eyes became glossy, and she blamed herself for Bella's illness.
"It's not your fault, Jessica." Edward looked over Carlisle's shoulder into Bella's chamber. She lay sleeping in her bed, her cheeks flushed and her damp hair matted around her face. "What do you need to make her well?"
"For now, she needs fluids, but first her fever must come down. Jessica, would you please get cold water and cloths? If that doesn't work, we'll need to bring in snow for a chilled bath."
Jessica nodded, starting to make her way down the hall.
"No. Jessica, bring only a pitcher of water and a glass." Edward walked into Bella's room, unbuttoning and removing his shirt.
"Edward, what are you doing?" Carlisle asked, shocked at Edward's behavior.
Edward ripped off his undershirt and crawled into bed with Bella. He gently wrapped his arms around her gaunt frame. She whimpered quietly. "The cloths will warm against her skin too quickly," he whispered. "My temperature won't change."
Throughout the night, Edward held Bella in his arms – her fever dropping slightly. The peace he felt from the quiet was undeniable; no one speaking to him soundlessly, nor unwelcomed rogue thoughts infiltrating his mind. However, being this close to her, her scent washing over him was more satisfying than he'd ever imagined.
Bella turned her body, unknowingly moving closer to Edward, and her cheek now rested on his bare chest. Edward fantasized when she woke she'd do so with a smile, content to be in his arms. Regrettably, Edward knew just the opposite would occur - she'd wake screaming, repulsed by him.
Come dawn, Bella's fever had still not dissipated entirely. Edward realized the cold temperature exuding from his torso and arms alone were not enough. Carefully, he removed his trousers, encompassing her body with his. The thin material of her nightgown and Edward's drawers were now the only thing separating them. How strange for him that his need for her to be well overrode his wanton lust.
Edward lay with Bella for several more hours, daylight turning to dusk as he lost himself in her suppleness. Her quiet, even breaths and steady beat of her heart were like a lullaby. She murmured in her sleep, simple sounds and hums. Oh, how Edward wanted to hear her say his name.
Closing his eyes, he sighed, "Isabella, this is not what I expected. I don't understand what you've done to me." Edward smoothed Bella's knotted hair. "I'm in an odd place, on foreign ground, one I've never imagined. Whatever you wish - your desires, your dreams… I can fulfill them all. I'll never harm you." Edward rested his chin on the top of her head, tangling his foot around her calf. "I would die if it spared you pain." Edward chuckled, wrapping a strand of her hair around his finger. "How droll I must sound. It's true, though, a single kiss and you've become the center of my world." He kissed the top of her head. "Wake for me, sweet girl." He pressed his lips to her forehead. "Isabella, please wake."
Carlisle knocked softly on the door before opening it and peeking in. Edward motioned for Carlisle to enter the room. Carlisle placed a worn leather bag on the night table, removing a stethoscope.
As Carlisle sat on the edge of the bed, Edward had already dressed himself and stood by the doorway. "Edward-"
"No, I should go…" Edward couldn't bear Bella's loathsome reaction if she saw him in her room. "and Carlisle, I apologize for the incident with Eleazar. I didn't mean to frighten you."
Smiling, Carlisle said, "Isn't it remarkable what we do for those we love?"
"Love?" he laughed. "A bit sudden for that emotion, Carlisle. Infatuation, perhaps." Why he denied this declaration, he didn't know.
"Perhaps. But you should know I would have gladly given my life to save Esme pain."
Edward lifted a brow. "My words were not meant for your ears."
The two exchanged a knowing look, camaraderie in their grins, and then Carlisle focused on Bella, touching her forehead and cheek. "Her fever is gone."
Carlisle looked back toward Edward, but he'd already disappeared.
"Eleazar has been gone for days. I don't trust him, Carlisle. Something isn't right – I can feel it."
"Where would he have gone? He'd be a fool to go out on his own – the ones from Italy would find him." Carlisle intertwined his fingers, laying his hands on top of his desk. "And the beasts, Edward, surely, they would destroy him."
Edward shook his head, knitting his brow. "The likelihood of them searching for him is slim, and they've never come to the area. From what I've gathered, Eleazar's betrayal of Marcus was not one to warrant a hunt to last a century – the woman chose Marcus over Eleazar. However, if they happened to come across Eleazar by chance, they wouldn't think twice about sparing his life again. I do know this much about the Volturi."
Edward walked toward the window of the study, looking down at Bella as she stood perfectly still, bundled up in a dark blue coat – the color a deep contrast to the white snow surrounding her. She tilted her head back allowing the sun to warm her face, and Edward touched the window, tracing her outline. Eleazar's sudden disappearance had everything to do with Bella, of this Edward was positive. However, what he didn't know was what Eleazar could possibly do. Edward was so much stronger than he, and faster, and not only Eleazar, but other vampires as well. Edward could easily kill Eleazar before a human could take a single breath. So, whatever Eleazar was planning, Edward made certain he would prepare for the unexpected.
"Hmm?" he responded, smiling as he watched Bella smile. He'd kept his distance from Bella over the past few days, yet unbeknownst to her, Edward knew where she was and what she was doing every second of the day. As difficult as it was for him, Edward was determined to prove he could be a gentleman… if that was what she wanted.
"The wolves – what about them?"
Edward turned. "I haven't picked up their scent in twenty years, and that was the only time I'd ever encountered their kind. I'm not even sure if any remain after the two were killed in the park."
Carlisle rose from his chair then walked to stand next to Edward. They looked down at Bella as Edward rested his hand against the window pane.
"You'll have to protect her, Edward, no matter the cost. I know what it's like to lose someone you love."
"Do you not think I realize this? I've felt your pain through your memories time and time again."
"I'm sorry for that." Edward's expression hardened then Carlisle nodded toward Bella. "She knows. I told her what you're doing for Jessica - what happened in Central Park. She's been the only woman you've brought here who has ever asked about my niece, and I told her everything. I'm surprised you weren't listening."
"I wasn't that time, apparently. When? What did she say?"
Carlisle placed his hands in the pockets of his trousers. "When she woke from her fever I examined her, and we began to talk. She thought it peculiar for you to be regarded as a hero."
"Hm." Edward turned to face Carlisle. "Is that all?"
"She wants to go home."
Dejected, Edward replied, "Yes, of course she does. My world must seem as though it's something from a Brothers Grimm tale."
"No, it's just that she misses her father."
"Does she know that he thinks she ran away from home?"
Edward loosely crossed his arms over his chest. "If I let her go, I fear Eleazar will find her. She has no choice but to stay… I need to speak with her. Excuse me, Carlisle."
Edward leaned his shoulder against the gray stone wall of the manor. From his angle, he was mostly shaded from the sun as he watched Bella, enjoying being in such close proximity to her. Her arms were tucked around her, and she hadn't noticed Edward's arrival. He imagined walking up behind her and wrapping his own arms around her waist then placing a soft kiss on her neck.
Edward cleared his throat, and Bella turned.
"May I speak with you for a moment?"
Hesitantly, she nodded. A shimmering glint reflected off his cheek when he moved, and Bella's mouth parted slightly. Edward shrugged, and extended his hand into the full light of the sun; a parade of colorful diamonds bounced off the snow.
"How did you do that? Is that a trick?" she asked.
"No, I'm afraid not. It's… how I am." Edward straightened. "Could we possibly speak inside? You can warm by the fire – if you're cold that is."
Edward followed Bella into the sitting area and assisted her to remove her coat. Bella held her hands in front of the amber flames, and Jessica brought her a warm cup of tea.
"I know you wish to go home, but I'm afraid that's going to be impossible… for now." He hated being stern, but he had no other option. She'd never believe the reason if he told her how he truly felt about her.
"For now? Does that mean you're going to free me?"
The expectancy in Bella's expression hit Edward like a battering ram. He turned his back to her, dropping his head. "I don't know if I can," he whispered, too low for her to hear. Edward rubbed the back of his neck before turning to face her again. "You're in danger, Isabella, and until I can be certain the threat is taken care of, you'll have to stay here where I can protect you."
Edward explained what Eleazar had discovered about her being a shield, how some humans held latent powers and what it could possibly mean to those in the realm of vampires. Edward shared what he thought to be Eleazar's plan to change her for his own personal benefit for revenge or perhaps even to gain power.
The two sat in silence for several moments, Edward allowing Bella to absorb everything.
Finally, Bella spoke. "I don't understand you, Edward."
"What's not to understand? I've made no secret of what or who I am."
She smoothed her hair with her palm. "That's not what I mean. You've made yourself very clear about who you are. It's your actions that confuse me, your morals. You take women against their will to use as your toy, and you murder people for their blood, yet you saved Carlisle's and Jessica's lives by killing other vampires. You allow Carlisle to do experiments on you, and you genuinely care about them."
"It's who I am, Isabella. I cannot change that. I suppose you'll never be able to get past the fact I need human blood to survive." Never mind the women.
"What about animals?"
Edward grimaced then smiled. "They're disgusting – too tangy."
Bella huffed a laugh. "Could I ask you something?"
"Why did you do it? Save Carlisle and Jessica. You could have…" She couldn't bring herself to say the words.
"As I've said before, there is no cruelty in the way I feed. Not all vampires are the same, though; some are sadistic, vile creatures. They find their prey and massacre it without regard – some take pleasure in it." Bella cringed. "I know. The two who killed Carlisle's wife and Jessica's parents were that way. They'd already drained the man and his wife, and when I stumbled upon them they were taunting Esme. I won't go into detail, but it angered me. I heard Jessica crying, and Carlisle yelling frantically for help. She was a child, Isabella, I couldn't let them harm her. To make matters worse, two wolves seemingly came out of nowhere and attacked the vampires – Esme was killed in the attack. I'd never come across anything like them before, nor have I since. They fought, and while they were occupied I tried to get Jessica out of the way. One of the vampires attacked me from behind, and Jessica was thrown into a tree and knocked unconscious. I'm sure you know the rest."
Bella stared at the floor, biting at her lip. "Carlisle said you brought them back here, and helped him nurse her back to health." Edward nodded. "What about the other things – the vampires and wolves?"
It pained Edward for Bella to refer to a vampire as a thing. Evidently, that was how she saw him.
"Dead. I killed the vampire who attacked me – the others destroyed themselves in the fight."
"Carlisle said if it hadn't been for you, my fever wouldn't have come down. Your means were very improper."
Edward smirked. "I did what I had to do."
"I didn't throw my food away on purpose. It's just that I wasn't hungry, and I didn't want to hurt Jessica's feelings by not eating."
"I guess you did what you had to do as well."
Bella smiled benevolently. "You may not as bad as I thought you were."
Edward rose then moved to sit next to her. She remained still, not showing any signs of aversion from his closeness. The minor shift in her demeanor gave Edward a small glimmer of hope.
"Isabella," he started, "how I wish you would forgive what I am." Edward picked up her hand and held it over his heart. "I know life doesn't run through my veins as it does yours, but if I were human..."
"You kissed me back. When we danced – tell me you felt it, too." Edward touched her face, his fingers gliding along her jaw. He then took her hand away from his heart, kissing her knuckles, her palm, and then the inside of her wrist. With his lips still close to her wrist, he begged, "If you didn't, please don't say anything."
Bella took her hand back, rubbing her thumb over her palm, the skin surprisingly warm from where his cool lips had touched her. "This is wrong, Edward." She stood, and he followed. "I think there are other things we need to think about: Eleazar."
Edward forced back his disappointment. "Yes… I won't let him near you. I swear to you I will protect you."
For the weeks that followed, Edward stood guard outside Bella's room while she slept. He escorted her outside if that was what she chose to do. He taught her how to play euchre with Jessica and Carlisle. Edward was by her side nearly twenty-four hours per day.
However, Edward needed to feed, his eyes darkening to a deep charcoal. Edward hadn't thought about how he would be able to do this – he'd need to leave Bella. The food supply was also running low for the rest of them. Edward had no other choice; he took Bella to a nearby farming village and paid the owner of a cow twice its worth.
When Edward's eyes lightened to a shade of ocher, Bella commented how lovely they were.
The next few days that had passed were quiet and uneventful. Edward sat in front of his piano, his fingers sliding along the black and white keys, producing a tranquil melody. Bella was curled on the settee reading, while Jessica and Carlisle were intensely playing their third game of backgammon. The full moon shone brilliantly through the large window on the northeast wall. It was bright enough to illuminate the entire room without the assistance of lamps or candles.
Edward's nostrils flared, and he suddenly stopped playing. The three humans looked up from what they were doing toward Edward. None of them saw Edward move from the piano to the window, his speed too fast for their eyes. He looked toward the ground below, seeing nothing but an untouched layer of newly fallen snow, but the stench he smelled seconds prior had grown stronger.
"Carlisle, take Jessica down to the cellar, and bolt the door shut. Use the tunnels just as we discussed." Edward ordered. "Isabella, remember what I told you?" She nodded, her eyes widened with fear. Edward was promptly in front of her, holding her hands in his. "The only way I can protect you is if you're with me and in my line of sight. No matter what you see, just know it needs to be done. Understand?"
"But you won't be able to hear what they're thinking!" Bella's eyes filled with tears, and her body shook with fright.
Edward kissed her forehead, not caring to ask permission. "Trust me," he said, his lips still touching her skin.
The thick wooden door burst open in the front of the mansion, rattling the chandelier above them. A tiny whimper escaped Bella's lips. Quick and heavy footsteps preceded their owner; a dark-skinned man with black hair to his shoulders stood towering in the doorway. He looked toward Bella and then at Edward.
Edward took a step forward, his lip curling slightly. "It's impolite to walk into someone's home without invitation."
"So is drinking the blood of humans." His voice was deep, yet crisp.
More footsteps could be heard entering the foyer, but this time there were two sets. They weren't nearly as heavy, and they moved at a much slower pace. Eleazar stepped around the corner, holding an elderly man by his arm.
"Father!" Bella screamed.
Edward growled so low that only Eleazar and the dark-skinned man could hear him. "What do you think you're doing, Eleazar?"
"Didn't I promise you'd see your daughter again, Charles?" Eleazar asked, ignoring Edward. Bella's father stepped toward her, but Eleazar pulled him back. "Edward, I'd like to introduce you to Jacob. Jacob and I made a deal. He gets you, and I take her."
"But you said I'd be able to take her home!" Charles yelled.
"I lied." Eleazar walked Charles toward Bella then stood between them.
Jacob grinned, quirking his eyebrow as Bella looked at her father, tears trickling down her cheeks; he was clearly distraught and confused. "I'm sorry," she sobbed.
Edward laughed. "So this is your plan? You're going to sic a boy on me?" But he knew something was amiss about Jacob; the boy smelled the same as the wolves from the park.
"You see, I've been searching for something that might prove fair game for you, Edward. Lucky for me I ran into Jacob while I was making my way through Vermont. There are more wolves, Edward, and they hate our kind."
Edward refused to take his eyes off Jacob. "Then why didn't he kill you?"
"Ah… good question, my friend. I told him about Italy – he got excited."
"You're a fool, Eleazar."
"I suppose that remains to be seen, dear Edward." Waving his hand in the air, he announced, "Commence!"
Jacob let out a thunderous snarl as he exploded into a wolf, bits of clothing and fur shooting through the air. Saliva dripping from its ivory fangs, the beast wasted no time before leaping at Edward. Edward spun, avoiding the wolf and it skidded into the far wall, leaving a hole and cracks spidered toward the ceiling.
Edward glanced toward Bella and back at the wolf, preparing for it to attack again. Eleazar was slowly backing Charles and Bella away, and the wolf leapt toward Edward again. Edward hunched down, grabbing onto the beast's snout with one hand and drove his other into its stomach. The wolf yelped, the sound piercingly loud. As the wolf fell to its side, Edward snapped its neck, killing the creature.
The boy was certainly not fair game for Edward, and Eleazar was, indeed, a fool. But when Edward turned, Eleazar, Bella, and her father were gone.
"Isabella!" he roared. Edward madly followed her scent from room to room. She was no where to be found.
He tracked the three of them through the snow – how Eleazar was able to carry both Bella and her father, he didn't know. Edward ran through the mountains, knocking pines out of his way as he screamed for Bella. He'd run for miles until finally her scent was strong again. Edward stopped abruptly, listening for her voice. He heard Eleazar first.
"Isabella, cooperate with me, and I won't kill your father," Eleazar threatened.
Edward followed Eleazar's voice and Bella's scent to a small cave hidden at the base of a mountain.
Eleazar knew Edward had found them.
Edward stepped into the cave ready to tear Eleazar's head from his body. He wouldn't do it quickly either. No, Eleazar would suffer.
Eleazar stood behind Bella, holding her head between his hands. Charles was not with them. "I will kill her, Edward. I won't think twice about it."
Edward smiled. "Isabella, do you remember what I told you?"
She clenched her eyes shut, unable to nod in Eleazar's tight grip. As she reached for the pocket of her skirt, Eleazar grabbed her hand. Edward stepped forward.
"You're going to kill me Edward, I know this."
"Good. I'm happy not to explain it."
"But she will die, too."
With her free hand, Bella was able to reach into the pocket, distracting Eleazar for a mere moment, but that was all Edward needed. After all, he was faster and stronger than Eleazar. Edward shoved Eleazar's head into the rock of the cave, yanking Bella away from him.
Bella lay on the ground, holding her arm which had been broken from the force of hitting the dirt floor.
Edward had Eleazar pinned against the wall. "Isabella, close your eyes and cover your ears."
"May I hold your hand, Isabella?"
"May I kiss your lips?"
"Just because you saved my life and my father's doesn't earn you a kiss."
Edward laced his fingers with Bella's as they walked around the grounds of the manor. The grass was lush, and tulips bloomed in vibrant shades of reds and yellows.
"What will I have to do to earn one?" he chuckled.
"You're going to need to start calling me Bella."
A/N: HUGE thanks to the following people who not only preread and beta'd for me, but helped develop this story through numerous emails and chats: askthemagic8ball, sncmom, katinki, bulldog girl and aciepey. I seriously could not have done it without them.
Special thanks to katinki for staying up with me until the very last second before the deadline.