Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or it's characters. I just play with them.

Summery: When Bella's father goes missing, she is afraid, but determined to find him. She finds his police car in front of a presumably empty house. What she finds inside the house is not what she expects. She makes a horrifying deal with the 'beast' of the castle, trading herself for her father. Can she break a century's old curse and help a heartless 'man' learn how to love again? Darkward.

A/N: This first chapter is kind of an introduction of sorts. Please review and let me know what you think so far!


1.

My life was anything but a fairy tale.

I know what you're thinking. Who's life is anymore? I guess it all depends on your point of view. From where I was standing on that dreary Monday morning, I was in a hellhole.

Jess was late picking me up. Again. Nothing about that girl has been punctual ever since we started high school. We've been best friends ever since the first day of kindergarten when I beat up a scrawny boy who was teasing her because of her hair. It was cut in a boyish style because her mom was terrified that she would come home with lice. That boy and some friends of his were teasing her and calling her a boy. I'd heard it from nearby and came rushing to her aid. From my little five year old perspective I beat the hell out of him. In actuality I just punched him in the nose, causing it to bleed. The teacher called my dad and when we went home he gave me my first ever grounding.

Jess and I have been friends ever since.

She's kept her hair a safe length, never letting it get any shorter than her shoulders. I tell her it doesn't matter, but she's scarred for life now. I guess it doesn't really matter.

But Jess has sort of gotten into a phase where she doesn't want to hang out with me anymore. Or be seen with me in public. Which is weird because I never really did anything to piss her off. At least, that I know of. Our relationship has never been perfect, but I'd like to say our bond is strong. I defend her a lot because she tends to get herself in situations that she can't get herself out of. Nothing serious, but still. I don't know what I did to offend her.

I peered through the window for what felt like the millionth time and rolled my eyes to find the street empty. I'm aware of my cell phone in my pocket and try to decide whether or not I should call her. Normally I wouldn't, but first period started in fifteen minutes, and if she didn't get here soon, I was going to have to walk.

Two minutes later, just as I had resigned myself to watching the news just to keep myself preoccupied, I heard the familiar horn of Jessica's car honk impatiently. Finally. I grab my backpack and throw it over on shoulder as I turn off the TV. Jessica is sitting behind the wheel, not paying me any attention as she looks through the thousands of texts she has probably already received this morning. Did I mention she has become sort of popular? At least she thinks so ever since she joined cheerleading.

I open the door to the passenger side and pretend not to notice the over-the-top eye roll Jessica gives me as I climb in. "Finally. I've been waiting for, like, ten minutes!" she complains as she speeds away from my house before I even have my seat belt on.

"No, you haven't." It's my turn to roll my eyes. Jess notices.

"What's your problem? Don't you have a sense of humor?"

"I don't know. I must've lost it waiting for you." I had much choosier words for her, but they all guaranteed a fight, and I was not in the mood to fight with her. It used up enough energy just trying to stay on the same side as her.

Jess rolls her eyes again. "Whatever, Bella."

The rest of the ride to Forks High School is full of awkward silences. It never used to be like this. Before high school Jessica and I would spend all day and all night talking about nothing and everything, annoying the hell out of her parents and my dad. Now we're lucky if we get more than two pleasant words out of each other.

Jessica parked in her usual spot near the front of the gym. She had cheerleading practice there and didn't like to be parked too far away from it. We both got out quickly, slamming our doors shut. Jessica locked it and hurried away towards the gym to drop off her cheer bag. I headed in the opposite direction towards the cafeteria.

I immediately spot Angela in the far corner of the cafeteria, munching on a muffin and talking to Alice. I smile in amusement as they both wave me over enthusiastically.

The cafeteria is never packed in the mornings, which is why it is our choice meeting place. Angela, Alice, and I met during freshman year. We all had first period gym together and were timid as could be. We were all chosen for the same team for basketball, not wanting to participate, and got to talking. Ever since then we stuck together, even though we are all vastly different. I'm just glad they're as annoyed with Jess as I am.

"Hey, Bella!" Alice greets me cheerfully. I don't know how, but she is always so chipper in the morning. And she doesn't even drink coffee.

"Hey, Alice. Hey, Angela," I mutter as I take a seat beside Angela and across from Alice. Alice giggles at me.

"Aren't you just the regular ball of sunshine today," she remarks, then takes a sip of her orange juice. As she does, I notice that her nails are a very bright shade of orange. She gives herself a manicure every day to match her mood. She must be feeling extra peppy today.

Beside me, Angela laughs. She isn't as outgoing and hyper as Alice, but I'm not either, so we get along great. She can keep up with Alice better than I can, though. "Give her a break. She had to get a ride from Jessica."

They both shudder from the thought, as though getting a ride to school from Jessica Stanley was like having a run in with Hannibal Lecter.

"She is such a bitch. I don't know how you stand her, Bella," Alice says disgustedly.

"Our relationship is a little complicated right now. Hopefully this bitch mode is just a phase," I reply, though I'm fooling no one. They laugh at my choice of words and don't get a chance to respond because just then the bell rings.

"So begins our seven hours of torture. See you guys at lunch?" I ask even though I already know the answer.

Angela and Alice nod, and we all head in our separate directions.

First period calculus is absolute torture. Not only is Jess in this class, but so is Lauren Mallory, Mike Newton, and Tyler Crowley. The four of them banded together during freshman year, just like Angela, Alice, and I. Only they formed the 'in' crowd and spent their free time rubbing their popular status in the rest of our faces. I did my best to ignore them, especially Jess, but I seemed to have a neon sign tattooed to my forehead that said, "Hello, my name is Bella Swan and I am an easy target."

Today wasn't any different. All four of them were already in class by the time I entered. They were all seated in the front of the room, crowded together and laughing together about something. Jess was in the middle of them, looking as though she belonged there, but not quite as enthused as the rest of them.

I tried to stay as invisible as possible. I always considered myself lucky if the Gruesome Foursome were too busy talking shit about other people to notice me. I tried to blend in with the other students who were coming in, but with my awesome luck, Lauren happened to spot me.

"Hey, Bella, did you not have time to look in the mirror this morning, or is your wardrobe always that hideous?" she sneered, causing her pack of mutts to explode with laughter.

My cheeks flushed with embarrassment. No matter how much I told myself that their words would never get to me, they always bothered me more than I admitted to myself. I knew Jess played a big part of it because she'd known me for a long time. Like, preschool age. She knew what my home life was like, my past, my secrets. Everything. She probably told Lauren, Mike, and Tyler all of it.

Like I said. Bitch.

I didn't have a clever retort, a fact which I hated with every fiber of my being, and instead went to sit down as far away from them as possible.

"Oh, look everyone. Isabella's gonna go cry now!" Lauren went on, never taking her eyes from me. "Does anyone have a tissue?"

Mike snorted and Tyler let out a huge laugh.

Was there a hole I could crawl into?

I sunk down low in my seat, trying to ignore the few sympathetic glances from people who knew all too well what it was like to invoke the wrath of the Gruesome Foursome. Then Mr. Varner entered and everyone sobered up, including Lauren. To the teachers, Lauren Mallory was the golden child who could do no wrong.

If there was one good thing to come out of calculus class, it was that Mr. Varner didn't pick on me at all. He praised Lauren and Jess like they were the only geniuses who could keep up with his lectures, though. I had to sit through fifty minutes of praise and admiration where it didn't belong. That was a little irritating, and did nothing to help my mood throughout the day.

I was losing strength fast. It took so much out of me to keep up this lonely charade. Angela and Alice nodded understandingly when I told them I would not be eating lunch with them, but rather, going into the library for some much needed alone time.

I know hiding in the school library during lunch hour isn't exactly a cool thing to do, and only the bookworms and/or bullies hang out there. But books are my solace. My refuge. After my mom died when I was six, my father took me upstairs to his room and pulled out Wuthering Heights, my mom's favorite book. Yes, it's too complicated for a six year old to understand. My father knew that. He wasn't an idiot. But he didn't know what to say to make me feel better, so he decided that by reading to me, the sound of his voice might comfort me. It was something familiar. And it did help.

I've loved books ever since.

The librarian, Ms. Cope, smiles at me as I enter. I smile back faintly. She's sitting at her desk doing a crossword puzzle. Since it's lunch hour there aren't any students except me and a couple boys who come in to play chess everyday. Weird, I know, but who am I to judge?

I sit at my normal table near the back of the library and take out my copy of Wuthering Heights. I must've read it about twenty times, but I never tired of it. The story of Heathcliff and Cathy's love spoke to me. That and the fact that it was also my mother's favorite book made me never want to stop reading it.

Books in general are my passion. My hideaway. My safe place. Whenever my life gets too stressful or overwhelming I always find a book and escape. I know it sounds corny, but it's the truth. Some people have chess or painting or writing. I have reading.

The normal circular table I sit at is big enough for six people. I sit with my back facing the wall, overlooking the rest of the library. The library itself isn't big; about the size of two classrooms. It's organized neatly with the fiction in the front and all the nonfiction towards the back. There are four computers, two of which are occupied a few feet away from my table. The library always smells like roses because Ms. Cope always brings in fresh ones every day. No one knows why she does it. We just assume she likes them.

I take out my ipod from my backpack and put it on shuffle. Seether's song Broken comes on first, causing me to automatically turn the volume up a little. It's one of my favorite songs, and it puts me in the right mood for Wuthering Heights.

I only get in about ten pages before the bells goes off, signaling the end of our precious break. I hate the thought of going back to class and putting up with Jess and Lauren and the rest of them. Even worse, my next class is with Mike Newton.

Mike Newton is the reason Lauren hates me so much. She's had a crush on him ever since the second grade. We all had a class together- Jess, Lauren, Mike, and I- and when Mike didn't return any of her affections, she started becoming this mega bitch. Mike didn't like me right away, though. He was still of the mind that all girls had cooties. Lauren didn't necessarily hate me because Mike didn't like me, and Jess was my friend and I wasn't even aware of this whole love thing until freshman year when Mike began to make advances toward me. That's when Lauren set her claws in me. And Jess, for whatever reason, went with her and turned on me.

Sounds like some super cheesy soap opera, right?

Mike laughs at all Lauren's jokes at my expense and hangs around with her because Tyler does. But he'd leave that group in a heartbeat if I told him his feelings toward me were mutual.

Then what would the Gruesome Foursome be called?

Angela and Alice have some theories that this whole Lauren-Mike-Bella 'love triangle' is the reason why Jess turned on me. She has a crush on Mike, too. Seriously, I don't know what the deal with Mike is. He isn't anything special, though he certainly thinks he is. He's quarterback of the football team and has the muscles to prove it. He's the tallest boy in school and soaks in everyone's praises as though they are oxygen to him. He flirts with every girl he sees, and most of those girls make it no secret that they are absolutely infatuated with him.

No one, including me, can understand why Mike wants me so much.

And now I'm about to go to English with him. And Lauren. Should be fun.

With a heavy sigh I tuck Wuthering Heights back into my backpack and stand up, pushing in my chair so that Ms. Cope doesn't have to. She's told me on numerous occasions that she hates the sloppiness of students, and I don't want to get on her bad side. I follow the boys who were playing chess out of the library, catching parts of their conversation, something to do with the logic of chess. Whatever.

As I enter Mr. Berty's dark classroom, I notice immediately that Lauren and Mike aren't here yet. It takes most of my self control not to breath a huge sigh of relief. One less thing I have to contend with at the moment.

I spot Alice in her usual seat in the far corner of the classroom, right near the window. She smiles when she notices me. I want to go over and sit next to her, but Mr. Berty gave us assigned seats, and we're in the opposite corners. But at least Mike and Lauren aren't anywhere near me, either.

They come into the classroom together, Lauren chatting away in his ear. Mike is trying really hard to look as though he's paying attention, but whenever she isn't looking at him he rolls his eyes and a pained expression crosses his features.

I almost laugh.

Mike sits down two seats in front of me, shooting a sloppy smile my way. It goes unreturned. Lauren notices and her cheeks flush red in her obvious anger. She is three rows away from us, right in the front, and it irritates the shit out of her. Mr. Berty enters right when Lauren opens her mouth to spit an ugly remark at me, so she quickly moves to sit down in her haste to keep up her charade.

I roll my eyes and cast a furtive glance in Alice's direction. From the amused look on her face, she has seen the exchange and is trying not to laugh. I smile faintly at her to show her I'm not bothered. Annoyed, mostly. And my annoyance is only added to when I realize the girl who sits between Mike and I is absent today, giving Mike fifty minutes of free sideways glances at me.

I open my notebook and pretend to be completely absorbed in note taking.

We're studying Romeo and Juliet and Mr. Berty is completely into it. I think Shakespeare is his hero because he gets so passionate whenever we enter our Shakespeare unit. I had him last year for accelerated junior English, and he got so wrapped up in our readings of King Lear that sometimes he wouldn't hear the bell and everyone would be late to their next class. So far that hasn't happened yet this year, but with my luck today will be the day.

Every so often Mike raises his arms in that mock-stretch thing guys do as an excuse to look over their shoulder in order to look behind them. Mike does this every ten minutes, and always lingers his gaze on me, not turning away until I look at him. When I do look at him he smiles smugly and asks with his eyes whether I want to go out with him. And every time I roll my eyes and go back to taking notes. Seriously, has this guy had one too many concussions and no longer able to take hints?

When I'm not dealing with Mike's vexatious behavior, I have to pretend that I don't see Lauren's jealous glares out of the corner of my eye. Do these people have nothing better to do than let their hormones get the best of them? Is high school merely a social playground for them? For the millionth time, I wonder how the hell Lauren manages to make all our teachers believe that she is some sort of virtuous honor student.

I feel like I've just been released from prison when the bell rings and Mr. Berty yells tonight's homework at us as we hurry to the door. Mike stands from his desk and lingers for a bit, waiting for me to pack up so he can walk with me. I go as slowly as possible. Mike hates to be kept waiting. I know that if I keep him waiting long enough, he'll leave in a hurry so he won't be late for his next class.

I feel complacent as I watch him hesitate for a moment longer before hurrying to leave the classroom. Alice joins me and laughs. "Well, Bella, at least I can't say you aren't amusing."

I roll my eyes and stand up, swinging my backpack over my shoulders. "I'm glad one of us was."

"Oh come on. If you'd lighten up for, like, five minutes you'd realize just how funny this whole thing is. You have Mike Newton drooling all over you! He'd be your own personal slave if you asked him to," Alice chirped.

"I don't want a slave."

It's Alice's turn to roll her eyes. "You know what I mean. I'll call you later for Romeo and Juliet help."

And before I can object Alice skips off down the hallway towards her last class. I roll my eyes again and start in the opposite direction towards mine.

By the end of school I feel like I've run a marathon. A person can only take so much drama before they're bound to explode. I feel as though I'm nearing my limit. Jessica has cheer practice after school, so I have to walk home. It's not that I mind, but I feel on the verge of collapsing. I want to lay in my bed and never get up.

The bad thing about Forks- as if there's a good thing- is that it is always cold and dark. Having a clear day where the sun gets a chance to shine is like a celebrated holiday here. Today is as overcast as possible, and windy. I zip up my jacket as far as it will go and pull my hood up. My dad loves this weather, which is part of the reason why we never moved away after my mother died. He thought about it, trying to decide if a complete fresh start would be the best thing for me. He even went to a grief counselor and asked her opinion. But she told him that it was a bad idea for both of us, especially me, to make huge changes after the death of a loved one. It would confuse me, disturb the grieving process, etc. In the end we stayed here. At first I didn't mind because I felt like I was closer to my mom's spirit somehow. But now I want to know what it's like to feel the blazing hot sun on my skin.

I'm shivering by the time I get to my house almost half an hour later. Charlie isn't home, but that's nothing new. Ever since he became the chief of police, it became normal for him to come home late.

I contemplate whether I should call Angela and see if she wants to come over, but decide against it. After the nightmare today had been, all I want is to do my homework, fix dinner, take a long hot shower, and crawl into bed.

Reading the assigned section of Romeo and Juliet doesn't take too long. The play itself isn't difficult to understand since everyone has heard the story. That and spark notes. They're a godsend. I spend more time on calculus. It's complicated and hard and in the end I give up, deciding that I'll get Angela to help me in the morning. I'd call her now, but I don't feel like getting sucked into a conversation.

With my homework 'finished' I go into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Charlie will get home any minute, and he gets a little grumpy if he doesn't eat right away. I decide to make lasagna. He likes it well enough and it's pretty easy to make. I put it in the oven for the required amount of time, then decide to take a shower.

When I'm finished showering I go back into the kitchen to check on the lasagna. Charlie isn't home yet. I frown and look at the time. It's almost seven. Normally he gets home around six-thirty. He probably got stuck on a case or something. It's not as though he hasn't been late before.

But he usually calls.

I rub my hands together and try to shake off the pessimistic voice in the back of my head telling me something is wrong.

The timer for the lasagna goes off, and I put on the oven mitts and take it out. I let it sit for a few minutes to let it cool, then go into the living room, turning on the television and tidying up just to keep myself busy and my mind occupied. I can't dwell on my father being late. It'll drive me crazy if I let it.

As I go about tidying up the living room, then putting a load of laundry into the washer, I try to ignore my steadily increasing heart rate. He should be home by now. When I start the washer I go back into the kitchen and glance nervously at the clock on the microwave.

It's nearly eight.

I bite my lip to keep from crying out. I don't know what to do. Charlie has never been this late before. Should I call his office? I'll feel really silly if I do and hear his voice telling me that he got stuck at work and to not worry. But what if I don't and something's wrong? Isn't it better to be safe than sorry?

I'm just about to dish myself some lasagna, as my stomach is grumbling at this point, when my cell phone rings. The shrill ringtone interrupts my peaceful silence and I jump, startled. I look at the number, not wanting to answer it if it's someone looking to just talk. I'm definitely not in the mood to talk.

When I see Charlie's name, I almost sigh with relief. I wipe my sweaty hands on my jeans as I flip my phone open.

"Dad?"

"Bella! Thank God! Stuck...can't...escape..." The line is full of static, as though it's about to cut out, but that's not what bothers me. It's my father's words, and the note of hysteria in his voice. Any relief that I'd let go of vanishes instantly.

"Dad? What's going on? Where are you?"

"No...stuck...help...just outside town...get help, Bella!"

He stops talking for a second, then a loud thump can be heard in the distance from his end and I hear my dad gasp in surprise.

"No!...Please...don't...!"

Then a loud crashing in the distance painfully fills my ears and I reflexively take my phone away from my ear for a second. When I hastily put the phone back to my ear a second later I hear what sounds awfully like a loud roar, and then the line goes dead.


A/N: Dun dun dun! Like it? Hate it? Please review and tell me your thoughts! I'd love to hear them!