I'm baaaaack! I was so touched by the outpouring of response for the ending of For the Love of Alice that I couldn't wait to get back into it. For those of you who read it from beginning to end, I simply adore you. Sticking with it for forty-nine chapters is true dedication and I'm so appreciative of your support.

Now on to something different. This was a story that I started for the Summer Review Contest. The object was to see how many reviews a story can get in one summer when it's anonymous. While technically I came in second, I hardly think 31 reviews for seven chapters is a success. Once the contest was over, I kind of put it on the back burner. RL made it difficult to update FTLOA consistently and throwing this story on top of it would have definitely been too much for me. I have reworked this story a bit and have several chapters ready to post so it will be updated regularly. I would really love for you to read this and tell me what you think. So without further adieu, I give you A Second Chance At Life.

AN: I do not own anything Twilight, but it's always fun to pretend that I do.

*Parts of this chapter deal with abuse.

Chapter 1

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

"I, Isabella Marie Dwyer, take thee, James Christopher Bennett, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to OBEY, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance."

-Traditional Christian Wedding Vows


"Mom, please. You need to calm down." It was a major understatement. She really did need to calm down. I could not stand to do this…again.

"Don't you dare tell me to calm down, Isabella. I think I have been extremely patient considering what you have put father and me through. We have not seen you for two years. Two years, Isabella. I could live with it if I thought you were happy, if I knew you were safe. But I have had this feeling, this overwhelming feeling, that something is just not right. He's not right." I cringed as she spoke the words. It was one thing to hear the same rant that I had been hearing for months from her, but she threw my dad into it as well. That was simply not fair. She knew he was my weak spot. Even if he wasn't my biological father, he had been my dad in every sense of the word since I was three. I had always been his little girl and I'd like to think I still was even though at this point I probably didn't deserve to be.

"Mom, I would appreciate it if you would stop talking about my husband that way. I chose him. I am happy with him and he would never hurt me." I lowered my voice even though there wasn't anyone home to hear me. "He loves me."

Honesty was the best policy. It was the mantra I had grown up with for years. I had never been a liar, at least not until recently. Apparently it seemed the more lies I told, the easier they rolled off my lips, because what I just said to my mother was the most blatant of lies.

And Renee knew it too.

"Isabella, please. We both know he is not the man he appeared to be when you two first met. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing and he preyed on your kind heart and your innocence. He doesn't love you. He wants to control you, there is a big difference."

I hated her words. I hated that she made me angry at her for saying them. I hated that she didn't approve of the man I married. And worst of all, I hated more than anything that she was right.

When I didn't say anything, Renee took the opportunity to continue her pushing. "Why don't we come to see you? I've never been to Chicago." Her tone had turned whimsical and carefree. It sounded like a perfectly natural question a mother would ask of her daughter, except I knew what she was doing. At first it was easy to put my parents off with excuses of James' demanding career. They made it clear that they weren't happy when we didn't come home for holidays or even just for a few days to visit, but they had accepted it…for awhile. Now they were just desperate to see if their suspicions about what my life had come to be were correct. It didn't matter, though. They would never come see me. James would never allow it.

"Mom, you know you and Dad don't like to fly and it's too far to drive. James is going to make partner real soon. I promise we'll come see you after he does. He'll need a vacation."

Another lie.

My mother sighed and I could tell she was beginning to give up, but not before one last ditch effort. Her tactic changed and her voice became softer as she began to plead with me. "Isabella, you know you can come to us, for anything. We can help you. Please. Let us help you."

I shook my head willing myself to dislodge the thoughts. It was at this point in the conversation that I would usually start to waver. I would let her words slip into my mind and for a brief moment I would allow myself to believe them. Could they really help me escape this enormous hole that I had dug for myself?

Not without falling in with you. The hole is just too big. You know that.

The reality of what was happening assaulted my brain like lightning. I was slowly losing the upper hand in this conversation because I allowed myself to let in these miniscule slivers of hope. I needed to shut this down before I did something incredibly stupid. Clearing my throat I firmly dismissed what she was saying. "I don't need your help and I don't want to talk about this anymore. I need to get going anyway and start dinner."

Renee's voice became all quiet and I knew she was starting to get emotional. I did not

want to listen to my mother cry. I swallowed hard before speaking trying to will back my own tears. I did not want my voice to give me away. "Okay, Mom. I'll talk to you soon. Tell dad I said hi. I love you both." I ended the call before she had a chance to respond and placed my phone in the shoe box labeled 'Family Pictures' on the floor of my closet. James didn't want me making long distance calls because they were too expensive, but I needed a way to talk to my mom. So when I got my part-time job at the local library, I used a portion of my first paycheck to buy one of those phones that you just add minutes to when needed. I wasn't exactly hiding the phone from James. I just didn't think it was something he needed to know. No big deal.

Yeah, right. Who are you kidding? He would fucking flip.

Ignoring my inner thoughts, I started working on dinner. James would be home in an hour and he would want to eat almost immediately after. Cooking on auto-pilot, I began thinking about what my mother said.

"He's a wolf in sheep's clothing and he preyed on your kind heart and your innocence."

Was that really how it happened? It didn't seem like it at the time. I had been twenty years old and studying to be an English teacher at the University of Florida. I had never been an overly outgoing girl, preferring to focus on my studies and hang out with the couple of good friends that I had. I wasn't into the party scene and I certainly didn't feel comfortable around boys. I wouldn't call myself an introvert, just cautious and responsible.

That was until I met James Bennett.

I was in line at a coffee shop waiting to get my daily caffeine fix when I had a distinct feeling that someone was watching me. Trying to be discreet, I casually looked behind me to see the most piercing blue eyes on the most gorgeous face staring right at me. He smiled at me and all I could do was shyly smile back and then turn around as fast as I could. I continued to feel his gaze on my back even while I was silently going through all the reasons why he couldn't possible be interested in me.

When it was finally my turn to order, I was an incoherent bundle of nerves. But it didn't stop the jerk behind the counter from trying to coerce my phone number out of me by threatening to withhold my beverage. I tried to tell him that I just wanted to get my coffee and be on my way, but he wouldn't take no for an answer obviously thinking he was God's gift to the female population.

"I believe the lady said no." The voice behind me rang out and I froze, not knowing what to do. The boy at the counter looked past me to see who the voice had come from. There was not doubt he was intimidated from the deer-in–the-headlights look that spread across his face. "I suggest you get her what she asked for, on the house of course, and apologize for being such a douche. And don't even think about fucking looking at her in the process." This beautiful man towered over the coffee guy and pretty much scared the ever loving shit out of him. I was in awe. He was standing up for me and defending my honor, and I just…swooned.

From that moment on, James and I were inseparable. He was finishing up his law degree and would soon be taking the Bar Exam. He was my first in so many ways: my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first lover. He spent all his free time with me and made me feel special, something that I hadn't ever felt before. I even secretly reveled in thoughts of being wanted and desired when he would become jealous over the most insignificant things. At the time I found it endearing and just a sign of how much he loved me.

I adored him completely.

About six months after our initial meeting, things began to change. James passed the Bar and was offered a job at a law firm in Chicago. I knew he had to take it and I was crushed that he was leaving me. I was so wrapped up in being distraught over our inevitable breakup that it never even occurred to me in my wildest dreams that he would ask me to marry him. But he did and I stood there in total shock, ignoring every impulse that screamed things were moving too fast and said yes. We made love that night and he showered me with kisses, attention, and promises of a wonderful future together.

Renee and Phil had been absolutely furious when I announced that I was dropping out of school to get married and move to Chicago with James. They had never really warmed up to him. My mom constantly worried about my heart getting broken and my dad just didn't trust him. I tried to assure them that he was nothing but good to me and begged them to have faith in my judgment. I promised to transfer all my grades to a university in Chicago and finish my degree just as soon as we settled in. That seemed to appease them along with the fact that James was likely on his way to a successful law career.

The excitement I felt for the new life I was about to embark on had been overwhelming. The possibilities of what was to come were endless. Yet, here I sit, two years later. I still haven't enrolled in school. I haven't even gotten an application. There has always been some reason as to why the time wasn't right. As newlyweds, I put all my energy into the marriage that, in all honesty was tense and strained right from the beginning. James had passed the Multistate Bar Exam in Florida, but had to pass the essay portion of the Illinois State Bar Exam in order to be able to practice in the state. His days were spent trying to prove himself in his new job and his nights were all about studying for that damn test. A lot was riding on it and it took its toll on James' mental health. It was exhausting just trying to keep up with his mood swings. We had a lot of arguments and most of them ended with me giving in because I didn't want to stress James out anymore than necessary and I also trusted him to know what was best for us.

As time went on, supporting James in his career clearly took precedent over everything else. He worked endless hours and was frazzled all the time. He took it out on me, spewing insults that focused on my appearance, my intelligence, and my competence. I kept telling myself that he didn't mean the horrible things he said, he was just under enormous pressure. At the time I couldn't really blame him for randomly snapping at me like that. I was the one who needed to be more understanding and sympathetic to what he was going through. I should have been more in tune to his needs.

You would think that now, since James' career is about to take off, that it would be my turn to get my professional goals back on track. However, according to him, there just wasn't any point in pursuing the completion of my degree. James was on the verge of finally making partner and talks of starting a family had been becoming more frequent. He never even asked me if I wanted children. He just made it clear that that was what was expected of me. End of discussion. I could hardly imagine subjecting an innocent child to all of this, but it looked more and more like I was destined to be a devoted wife, loving mother, and committed home-maker. Slowly, I watched my aspirations of making a real difference in the lives of kids simply disintegrate into dust. That shy girl of two years ago who dreamed of having her own classroom one day had all but disappeared.

I sighed wistfully at the future that probably would never be. The more I thought about everything that had happened in the last two years and my mother's words, the more solemn I became. I didn't want to acknowledge that she was right; because that would mean I would have to admit that my husband doesn't love me. He only wants to possess me. No, this is not what I expected my life to be, but there wasn't any reason to dwell on it. It wasn't like there was anything I could do to change it. James had methodically taken every last piece of independence from me. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late to take it back. He owned me. At least I could pretend that I had it all back when I was working at the library. It was easy to become lost in the world of books and just…forget.

Dinner was coming along nicely. My cooking skills had definitely improved since marrying James. He made it clear that he wanted dinner on the table when he got home and simple things just weren't acceptable. If I was going to be home all day while he slaved to bring in the paycheck that I enjoy, the very least I could do was try to be fucking useful and provide him with a fucking home-cooked meal every night.

His words, not mine.

I had thrown myself into making his favorite dinner, chicken parmesan. I even cut the chicken paper thing just how he liked it. Of course he would never actually tell me how much he enjoyed it or that he appreciated the trouble I had gone through for him. Those days were long gone and watching him shovel it in faster than his mouth could move would be the only acknowledgement that I had actually done something right.

I looked at the table one more time to ensure that everything was just perfect and then turned my attention to the pasta boiling on the stove. It had to be al dente. Anything more than that was failure. As I lifted the pot to drain the water I heard the door open and close.

He was home. I set aside all my thoughts and kept my eyes on the sink. I took a deep breath as I tried to put a happy expression on my face.

Pretending I didn't hear him come in, I focused shaking the colander back and forth as I rinsed the starch off the pasta. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I knew he was in the doorway, watching me. This time it didn't excite me or make me feel special. My skin started to crawl as I felt his eyes rake over my body. I didn't even attempt to make it known that I knew he was there. The longer I could go without talking to him the better. Finally, he crossed the kitchen and I felt his arms wrap around and grip me tightly as he kissed the back of my neck. I faked being startled and jumped a little.

"You know, Isabella, there was a time when you greeted your husband from a long day of work at the door. Yet, now you can't even be bothered to stop what you are doing to acknowledge my presence. How do you think that makes me feel?" Most wives would take that comment as a joke and retort with something witty and sarcastic. Not me. I wasn't falling for it…this time. I put on my best remorseful face and turned twisted myself around in his arms.

"I'm so sorry, James. Really, I just got caught up with dinner and I didn't hear you come in with the water running. I'm sorry, it won't happen again, I promise." Resorting to begging was something that I did often.

"I'll let it slide, this time. You can make it up to me, babe…later."

So not looking forward to that.

"Looking forward to it." I smiled and looked at him from underneath my lashes trying to give my best come-hither look before returning my eyes to the pasta. The strands of spaghetti looked up at me with mixed pity and jealousy. Even they knew that they weren't the only limp noodles I would be attending to tonight.

I'm giving human emotions to pasta. What the hell is wrong with me?

"Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes. Why don't you get changed into something comfortable and I'll pour you a glass of wine." He didn't say anything as he headed up the stairs. I let out a deep breath as I reached in the cabinet for a wine glass. I had chosen his favorite merlot to go with our dinner.

I dished up our plates and was putting them on the table when James arrived in the dining room. I took a moment to take in his appearance, trying to remember what his initial appeal was to me. Once upon a time, everything about him made my body tingle. He had that bad boy look that just made your toes curl. His long, blondish hair was carelessly taken care of and hung in disheveled layers that framed his face perfectly. His body was chiseled and strong. The t-shirts he wore showed off his rippling muscles in the most tantalizing way. And his eyes, those crystalline, blue eyes were piercing and had hypnotized me more than once. I thought he was the epitome of gorgeous. And by today's standards, most women still would.

However, over time, the things that I had loved about him now made me a little sick. Spending most of his time in a professional setting had forced him to wear his rebel hair in a slicked back pony tail that just looked downright greasy. The muscles I had once seen as sexy were now just weapons that he used against me from time to time. And those eyes. They used to look at me with what I thought was love and adoration. Now all they do is switch between disgust, possessiveness, and indifference. They scare the shit out of me because they never give anything away and I never know just what he is going to do next.

"How was your day?" I asked, not really caring, but wanting to seem like I cared.

"Same shit, different day. It's not worth getting into. You couldn't possibly understand or relate." Insulting my intelligence had become so natural to him that he didn't even have to think about it. "That reminds me, there's a work event tomorrow, just appetizers and cocktails. I need you to be ready by six." Hearing him say that made me want to gouge my eyes out with a fork. I hated his work events. He usually ignored me, his co-workers hit on me, and their wives sneered at me. All in all, these things were fucking fabulous.

James must have sensed my hesitation. "What is it, Isabella?" He looked annoyed.

"Oh, nothing, I'm just a little caught off guard. I didn't see anything for tomorrow night on the calendar."

"I just found out about it today, but we need to be there. At this stage of the game, we need to show how committed we are. I want that partnership and we won't do anything to fuck that up. So if Garrett invites us to something, we're there with fucking bells on." He said 'we' like we were really in this together. Like we were a team.

Yeah, right. Can I request a trade?

I felt a snicker start to bubble up at my own lame ass joke and knew that it wouldn't go over well. I suppressed it instantly and poured James some more wine. "Well, then we'll go. I'll be ready at six." He didn't acknowledge me even though I knew he had to hear me. We spent the rest of dinner in silence and I was mostly thankful for that. The rest of me just felt the lack of conversation was making the time go by agonizingly slow and just wanted it to end.

When it was evident that James was just about done with eating, I started clearing the dishes from the table and began getting everything cleaned up. James went into the living room and turned on the television to some baseball game. He never offered to help, but I was fine with it because it meant that I could pretty much keep to myself until I finished. However, once the dishes were done, all bets were off. Sometimes I was lucky and he passed out in the living room, never making it to bed. Those nights I would quietly cover him with a blanket to make him more comfortable and increase the chance that he wouldn't wake up. Then I would go upstairs and read a little before going to sleep. Other evenings I could sense him waiting for me to finish in the kitchen. I knew on those nights, I would have to perform.

This one was one of those nights.

As soon as I pushed the button to start the dishwasher he was in the doorway. Lust filled his eyes as he held his hand out to me. "Come, babe. Let's go have some fun." I responded by taking his hand and letting him lead me up the stairs to our bedroom.

I used to love having sex with James. When he found out I was a virgin, he was so patient and waited until I was ready. When I finally gave him the green light, he went out of his way to make it as special as possible. Flowers, candles, love, tenderness: the works. Even as recent as a year ago, James had been a thoughtful lover. It confused me because one moment he could be so cruel with his words and then the next be making the most sweet and passionate love to me. It wasn't long after he started being physical with me that his compassion in the bedroom ended as well. Now, it was all about him and the only good thing I could say about it was that it didn't last that long…at all.

He took his pants and boxers off and sat down on the edge of the bed. He motioned for me to come to him and I complied. He pushed his hands down onto my shoulders and I kneeled in front of him. He pulled the hem of my shirt and I lifted my arms so he could pull it over my head. I felt exposed, but that was nothing compared to the repulsion I was feeling from knowing what I was going to have to do next.

"I will never get tired of seeing you like this, kneeling before me. You're ready to serve me, aren't you babe?" I cringed as the word 'babe' fell off his lips. Something about the way he said it went right through me. I just didn't like it.

"Of course I am, James." Like I had a choice.

"That's what I like to here. Now put that pretty little mouth of yours to good use." He grabbed me by the back of my hair and shoved his dick inside my mouth and started thrusting. I tried not to gag, but he was so forceful he hit the back of my throat hard. "That's it, babe. You take everything I give you, my little bitch." My eyes pricked with tears as I realized I had no power over what was happening. There was nothing I could do. He controlled everything: the pace, the angle, the forcefulness. My mother's words rang in my ears.

"He doesn't love you. He wants to control you, there is a big difference."

James began to grunt as he came and I quickly swallowed so I wouldn't choke. "Mine, you are fucking mine." He said as the last of his orgasm overtook him. He pulled out of my mouth, grabbed my chin harshly, and looked right into my eyes. "You remember that, babe." And that was it. He crawled back and slid underneath the covers leaving me kneeling at the bottom the bed. After about a minute, I slowly rose to my feet and looked at the clock on the nightstand.

Seven minutes. Seven fucking minutes of my life that I will never get back.

I walked to the bathroom, shut the door, and reached for my toothbrush. After my final rinse I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I hated what I saw. My face was blotchy from the tears I had shed and my lips were chapped and swollen. My hair was disheveled from James' hands being wrapped in it. My skin was pale and my eyes were vacant. I didn't recognize the girl looking back at me. I didn't have the faintest idea of who she was and how she came to be. With one last glare, I turned my back on her misery and stepped into the shower.

The water cascaded down my body as I just stood there. I needed the water to cleanse me and wash the filth from my body. Even though James had not been inside me, I still felt dirty and unclean. I had already brushed my teeth until they bled, but that wasn't enough to erase the feeling of pure disgust over what I had just done. I didn't always feel this way. I had given James tons of blow jobs in the past. There was a time when I actually enjoyed giving him that type of pleasure. I had no idea when it had gone from an act I did out of love for James and a chore that I was obligated to do. But it had changed, and now it felt unnatural and just wrong. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the warmth of the water.

A small waft of cool air hit my skin. I heard the door to the bathroom open, but I never saw him coming.

The shower door flung open and there was James, seething. His eyes were filled with anger and he was showing his teeth like a rabid animal. I immediately backed up into the furthest corner of the shower stall knowing that there was no where I could go. I was trapped. Clothes on and all, he stormed into the shower and grabbed my throat while slamming my head against the tile. Stars started to form behind my eyelids as I tried to figure out what the hell just happened.

"What. The fuck. Is. This?" His voice was venomous as he demanded an answer. Instinctually my hands flew up to his as I tried to claw them away from my throat. His grip only got tighter and I could feel my body begin to seize from the lack of oxygen.

"Answer me, Isabella!" I forced my eyes open and tried to concentrate on the small object he was holding in his hand. Everything was blurry but I fought through it so I could give him a response and hopefully get him to let go. I could see it now. It was small. It was black. It was my cell phone.

I. Was. Screwed.

Okay, you guys know what to do. I'd love to hear what you think. Thanks! ~Isannah