Title: Finding your Prince Charming.
Which fairytale inspired you: Cinderella.
Rating & Any Needed Warning: T
Word Count: 9931
Pairing: Edward and Bella
Summary: Bella hasn't had much to smile about since being stuck with her horrible stepmother and jealous sisters. But will an encounter with the handsome Prince Edward at a celebratory ball turn her fortunes around or will it be the start of more woe?
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own Twilight or Cinderella... :(
Like everyone else, my life had it's fair share of ups and downs; My mother died when I was little, having caught the deadly virus that had been going around at the time. I didn't really remember her very well. It was always just me and my dad, but I had never felt wanting. From as long back as I could remember he doted upon me, loving me enough for both parents.
However, Charlie was keen for me to have a motherly figure and just after my 13th birthday he started seeing a local woman from the village named Victoria. She was a passionate woman with fierce red hair and two equally headstrong daughters, Jessica and Lauren.
Dad had spent far too long mourning my mother so I was initially delighted when their courtship led to marriage. For the first time I had a proper family. Or so I thought...
It wasn't until dad died in a tragic coach accident that Victoria showed her true colours. Far from being the devoted mother that I'm sure Charlie hoped for, Victoria was vicious and cruel. Her daughters were no better either. I was practically their slave, and all of my days were spent running around after them, cooking and cleaning, while she was busy living her new life. Unfortunately, I was stuck with her until I hit the legal age of 21, when I would be free to live my own life as far away from Phoenix as possible. I had another year to go but I was already counting down the days.
"Bella!" Victoria's voice broke me from my reverie. "We're leaving in five minutes," she barked as she came waltzing into my room dressed in one of her more flamboyant gowns.
That evening we had been invited to King Carlisle's Castle in the neighbouring kingdom of Forks. I'd been there many years ago with my father when there was peace between our quarrelling lands. In fact, my father had been our old King Harry's advisor's and had played a major part in maintaining the peace for so long. Sadly, after the Kings death, his distant cousin Billy took to the throne and despite my fathers opposition, war broke out the following year. It had raged on and off for nearly three years, but finally after significant losses on both sides, a truce had been called and a celebratory ball was being held to mark the occasion.
It was also rumoured the ball was a opportunity to find a Princess for their most celebrated son, the gorgeous Edward Cullen. I'd heard rumours about the handsome princes, but no amount of speculation could have prepared me for his perfection. He was the first boy who had ever truly captured my attention and still to this day I often found myself thinking about him. I didn't even work up the courage to speak to him all those years ago, and could only watch him longingly from a far, but the thought of seeing Edward again did strange things to my insides.
Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one with designs on the young Prince, which explained why Jessica and Lauren had been busy pruning themselves for the past three hours with all kinds of potions and remedy's to better their appearance. Victoria had even invested in expensive new dresses in an effort to lure the Princes affections.
Had it not been for my good friend Angela's intervention, I would have had to make do with one of their old castaways, but thanks to her kindness I was wearing a royal blue gown that was simply beautiful. It wasn't overly extravagant, with not too much embroidery and little detailing, but that was what I wanted. The bodice hinted at cleavage, but it wasn't too scandalous, unlike my overexcited sisters gowns I might add. I never usually bothered with make up but made an exception for the occasion. The light make up really emphasised my features, making my eyes look brighter, my skin healthier and my lips a little fuller.
I'd never thought myself beautiful, but I had to admit that I did look better than my usual dowdy self. I had a final look over myself in the mirror, before making my way to the carriage, where my so called family were ready and waiting for me.
"Well don't you look all grown up," Jessica scoffed. "Though I don't know why you're even bothering. The prince will never notice you."
Lauren laughed along with her, but I'd learnt a long time ago that if I ignored their cruel jibes they got bored very quickly.
It took over an hour of travelling through the forest before we finally reached the castle just after nightfall. My memories really didn't do it justice. The castle was bigger and grander than I remembered it to be. Inside was equally gorgeous too and the ballroom was surrounded by tall corridors, all aligned with all kinds of incredible sculptures, paintings and tapestry's and a massive fancy crystal chandelier.
As I glanced around the room I immediately spotted our king Billy in the corner, seemingly enjoying the festivities. He was a cruel and vicious man who took great pleasure in making his own people suffer. Many of whom blamed him for starting the war in the first place. His son, Jacob was equally repulsive and made my skin crawl. He'd been pursuing me for quite some time and even though I denied him, he'd become more persistent since my fathers death.
"Try not to disgrace yourself too much tonight, Bella," Victoria instructed and shoved me on my way before leading her daughters towards a group of promising young men on the edge of the dance-floor.
The hall was vast and crowded so I easily found a hiding place at the back of the room where I was content to watch the celebration from a far, while hoping to catch a glimpse of the hosts who had yet to make their grand entrance.
About ten minutes later, the royal family arrived and everyone bowed down in respect as King Carlisle and his gorgeous wife Esme began their descent down the stairwell. They were a truly perfect couple; He with blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, and she with rich, brown, wavy hair and warm green eyes.
My breath caught in my throat and my heart skipped a beat at the sight of the gorgeous Prince walking behind them. God he was beautiful. He had the most beautiful piercing green eyes I'd ever seen, luscious reddish - brown hair, a chiselled jawline and full, kissable lips that formed a breathtaking smile.
Suddenly his shining emerald eyes met mine and the corners of his mouth curled into a curious smile. My breathing hitched for a split second and the heat rose to my face. I hastily looked down to my feet, while blushing in embarrassment and kept my head down to avoid getting caught staring again while King Carlisle welcomed everyone to the castle.
Soon after, he and his Queen took to the floor to kick off the dancing and very quickly the dance floor was full of beautiful couples waltzing around the room. Meanwhile, I kept my eyes on Edward, who was dancing with his sister, Alice. There was no mistaking the young Princess. We'd spoken briefly years ago and she was such a happy, positive person that her joy was contagious.
While the dancing continued I sat in the corner on my own, looking down at my dress to avoid catching anyone's eye. I noticed Jacob watching me from a distance, but thankfully he was kept busy by other keen young women.
Steeling a momentary glance in the Edward's direction, I watched as he moved through the crowd smiling at each woman passing him by. An emotion I strongly suspected was jealously cursed through me, and I had to remind myself to stay calm. He had every right to talk with such women. They were after all the sort of women he should be pursuing: they were the right age, stature, and beauty that a future King required. A man as handsome as Edward wouldn't be interested in someone like me; I was as plain as you could get with boring, brown hair and equally dull, brown eyes.
"Bella?" I heard a voice call out my name and I turned around completely stunned to see Alice standing behind me. I hurried onto my knees in front of the Princess, but felt foolish when I heard her laughter.
"Oh do get up, there's no need for such formalities," she said trying to keep a straight face. "I was sure it was you. How have you been?"
At first I felt a little uncertain talking so casually with the Princess but Alice put me at ease straight away and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. I enjoyed spending time with her. She was fun, smart, caring and nice to everyone. We just clicked and it felt natural, like we were old friends rather than acquaintances and the night flew by with her keeping me company. I didn't have any friends besides Angela but I laughed harder than I ever had before.
"That boy he likes you does he not?" Alice asked, looking across the room. "He's not been able to take his eyes off you all evening."
Following her gaze, I noticed Jacob on the far edge of the room and shivered at the way he was staring at me.
"But you're not interested?"
I shook my head furiously, making my feelings perfectly clear and Alice laughed again. "Is there anyone?" she softly asked.
"No," I replied, feeling my cheeks heating up in embarrassment.
"No... not ever?"
I shook my head and she looked so shocked that I suddenly felt shy and self conscious again. Obviously my discomfort must have showed on my face because she was quick to reassure me.
"I didn't mean to embarrass you Bella. You're very pretty is all. I imagine plenty of young men are chasing you around," she smiled warmly.
"Hardly, my father..." I paused, feeling the lump forming at the back of my throat. "He was very protective of me."
"He didn't approve of you dating?" she asked gently.
"Not really." I smiled at the memory of Charlie's over protectiveness before continuing. "I didn't mind anyway, I've never met anyone who's captured my attention." Apart from your brother.
"I'm too much of a romantic at heart. I'm waiting for someone magical to come into my life and sweep me off my feet. Foolish I know." I sighed.
"Not at all," Alice reassured me. "I felt exactly the same way when I met Jasper. We were very young at the time, but I knew right then that he was the one for me. Of course Edward being the over protective brother that he is, made Jasper prove himself," she tutted disapprovingly.
"Edward," I sighed, unable to keep the interest out of my tone.
"He's always been fiercely protective of his family. He's stubborn and hot headed at times but that's Edward for you. I will have to introduce you to him!" She sounded so excited, but I was terrified. I could barely look at him without blushing. How on earth would I speak to him?
I glanced across and out of the corner of my eye I saw one particularly attractive girl hovering around him. And while he seemed disinterested, it didn't change anything whatsoever; he was too gorgeous, too perfect and certainly way out of my league. I didn't stand a chance with him and I needed to stop deluding myself with such foolish romantic fantasies.
"Shameless isn't she?" Alice asked braking me from my reverie. "She's only pursing Edward because she wants to be Queen one day. She could hardly be more obvious in that dress!"
"Her dress is quite daring," I agreed, trying to be diplomatic.
"Daring? It's downright indecent!" Alice was outraged.
We both turned around only to come face to face with Edward and Jasper. I froze. If it were possible he was even more beautiful up close, even with a light scowl tugging at his lips.
"You escaped I see," Alice teased, as she tucked herself into Jasper's side.
"No thanks to your fiancé," Edward grumbled, giving said fiancé a playful shove.
He looked across at me with a raised eyebrow and I bit my lip as I felt my blush return in full force. I wanting to look down, away from his smouldering eyes, but I couldn't seem to tare my gaze away from him. Instead, I held his stare, watching as a wonderfully crooked smile appeared on his lips. My own lips curved into a shy smile too.
"Edward, allow me to introduce you to Bella. Bella, this is my brother Edward and my fiancé Jasper," Alice said, drawing our attention back to her.
I smiled across at Jasper, who greeted me with a warm smile, but as soon as Edward spoke I couldn't focus on anything other than him.
"Bella," his smooth, deep, velvet voice spoke. I smiled back at him, loving the feel of my name on his lips. When he reached for my hand and gently lifted it to his lips, pressing a light kiss there, I almost passed out and my skin tingled for a long time after.
I blushed furiously and his eyes held mine for a moment until something caught his attention behind us and his smile faltered.
"I'm sorry Bella, I have to speak with my father, but maybe we could share a dance later?" He gave me that devastating smile again and for a moment I couldn't speak. I stared at him in surprise before managing a shy nod.
It wasn't until he filtered his way through the crowd that I realised what I'd agreed to. Dancing was never a good thing for me, considering my lack of coordination, but it likely wouldn't matter anyway because he was probably just being polite.
"May I have this dance maam?" Jasper said, looking lovingly at Alice.
"Why certainly kind Sir," she agreed before asking me thoughtfully, "Are you okay here Bella?"
"Yes, you go, I'm fine," I replied, sinking into a seat at one of the vacant tables nearby, thinking about Edward. I was so lost in a daydream, that when someone coughed, I jumped a mile. I turned around he was right behind me.
"May I have this dance?" He asked and I was too distracted by the teasing little smile that tugged at his lips to respond immediately.
"I'd love to, but I can't," I sighed disheartened.
"That wasn't a request," Edward smirked. He reached for me and without giving me chance to protest he had me on my feet and heading towards the dance-floor.
Everyone parted before us, looking as surprised as I felt. I spotted Jessica on the far side of the room with her mouth hanging wide open. She hated being upstaged and no doubt she would be having words with me later, but at that moment I didn't care. I was in Edward's arms and that was all that mattered. However, when we reached the dance floor panic flooded me. I really couldn't dance, I would only embarrass myself and Edward in the process.
I gazed up at him, my eyes wide and panicked.
"Really Edward, I can't dance." I started to protest but he smiled, taking my hand he slid his fingers into mine. His touch was firm but reassuring as he lifted my hand to the back if his neck. His hands tightly wound around my waist did nothing to calm my nerves.
I was not exaggerating when I said I couldn't dance. The first steps were a complete disaster. I trod on Edward's toes repeatedly and my blunders continued until I couldn't take any more humiliation.
"I'm sorry, I'm useless. Please find someone else. There are plenty of girls here who'd love to dance with you without injuring you."
Reluctantly, I started to pull away, only for his grip to tighten around my waist.
"But I want to dance with you," he said firmly and guided one of my arms back around him, while his hands grazed my hips before settling around my waist.
"Relax, he instructed and before I knew it we were moving in time to the rhythm of the music.
I laid my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes as he swirled us around expertly. I felt at ease and couldn't help smiling a little to myself. I tilted my head up to see the half smirk on Edward's face, then shivered when I felt his breathe touch my cheek.
"Were you never taught how to dance?" he asked with a smile in his voice.
"They tried believe me, but I was so useless they all gave up in the end."
"It must have been a real nightmare for you at social gatherings?" he wondered.
"Not really. I've only ever been to a few and even then I just watched from the side."
"I remember," he chuckled, shaking his head.
"I remember the first time you came here. You must have been fifteen, maybe sixteen. I'd just turned seventeen. I spotted you straight away," he explained and I didn't know how to take that. Surprised, humbled and excited to name but a few.
"Surprise, surprise, you were hiding in the corner trying to go unnoticed. You couldn't of course and Jacob Black was trying to persuade you to dance," he grunted, his face turning sour. "You refused him but he was persistent. You looked so panicked that I was about to step in when your father beat me to it."
"You remember me?" I asked disbelievingly.
"I could never forget you Bella," he said barely above a whisper.
Just when I thought I couldn't take any more, he leaned down and whispered in my ear. "I have been watching you and trying to drum up the courage to ask you to dance all evening."
Stunned by his declaration, I stumbled again, but Edward caught me and covered my flaws impeccably. Somehow dancing felt so much easier with him. It felt magical, like it was just the two of us and the music. The rest of the world melted away when Edward was holding me close.
I wanted the moment to last forever but the music ended all too quickly and he started pulling away from me. I felt a sudden sense of loss when his arms dropped away from me completely.
"Thank you," I sighed, yearning to be back in his arms once more.
"You're welcome Bella," he said, gently taking my hand is his and leading me away from the dance floor towards his parents. I stiffen but the panic I felt dissolved immediately when the Queen drew me into her arms in a warm, reassuring hug.
"Bella, it's lovely to meet you. Alice has told us so much about you," she gushed. I blushed furiously but was secretly thrilled.
"I was sorry to hear about your fathers death," Carlisle said from besides her. "I always respected him. He was a good man. I'm sorry for your loss," he said sincerely.
Esme squeezed my hand and sent me a sympathetic look. "Where are you living now?" She asked, her concern visible.
I explained the situation with Victoria, glossing over the details.
"And they treat you well?" Esme asked.
"Yes," I mumbled. I hated lying to them, but it really wasn't any of their concern.
I spent the rest of the evening with the Cullen's and I'd never felt happier. Though Alice talked my ears off all night, I really liked her and Jasper too. He was kind and friendly. Then there was Edward. He was so charming, intelligent and charismatic that I felt myself falling for him even more. He stayed with us all night, refusing the requests of many beautiful women from the surrounding kingdoms to dance. I lost track of time in their company, but as much as I didn't want to go home, the evening was drawing to a close.
"I should probably get going," I said reluctantly.
Judging by Alice's sad expression, the feeling was mutual. "Promise me you will come visit us," she said, full of enthusiasm. I didn't want to deny her, but I doubted Victoria would welcome our budding friendship.
"I'd love to but I'm not sure I can," I sighed disappointed.
"Please, I would like to show you the rest of the castle. We could take a walk into the village too. When are you free?"Edward asked and I swore his cheeks tinged pink. It was adorable and I really did want to see them all again.
"How about next Wednesday?" I suggested. It was Victoria's weekly trip to her relatives in the south so I could easily slip away without her noticing.
"Perfect," Edward smiled. Once again he reached for my hand and gently lifted it to his lips, pressing a light kiss there.
"I'll see you soon Bella," he promised, his touch lingering on my hand.
"How dare you embarrass us like that?" Victoria accused once I got inside the carriage. "Chasing around the Prince like that. You should be ashamed of yourself. And you can forget going anywhere near them again."
"No. I've made plans to see Alice and I will not go back on my word."
For the first time in a long while I stood up to Victoria, but I instantly regretted my outburst when she slapped me across the face. My cheek stung and I tried to turn away, but she would have none of that.
"That was not a request," she grabbed my chin forcefully to face her, looking angrier than I'd ever seen her before. "Do you understand me?" she demanded.
I nodded before turning back to the window, blinking back the tears as I watched the castle fade into the background.
As soon as we arrived home Victoria took me roughly by the arm and started dragging me into the house. I struggled in earnest, as her fingers dug into my flesh and she pulled me down the hallway, towards the dreaded cellar. She pushed me inside and I stumbled to my knees as the door slammed and the lock turned...
Minutes felt like hours and hours felt like days inside my temporary prison cell. Victoria had locked me in here before when I'd disappointed her or if she was in a particularly bad mood, but it was never for more than a few days. No doubt she was keeping me longer to punish me for my disobedience.
I didn't know how long had passed, but I knew with absolute certainty that I had missed my plans with Alice. Whatever did she think of me? And Edward too.He'd seemed so hopeful about our day together, but maybe that was just wishful thinking.
"You brought this all on yourself you know." I looked up to find Jessica standing at the stairwell with a bowl of food that wasn't even fit for the animals in her hands.
I turned away from her, knowing there was nothing I could do to escape. I tried to make a run for it one time, but Victoria was waiting for me at the top of the stairs and made me pay for my disobedience with one of the worst beatings I'd ever received. My body was still raw, the bruises a horrible yellowish brown colour and I ached all over.
I didn't try again. Besides, I was so weak from the lack of food and sleep that I could barley even stand on my own two feet, let alone plan another escape.Instead, I curled up in a ball on the cold floor and shut my eyes, hoping sleep would bring me some peace.
When I awoke, I felt disorientated and couldn't get a sense of my bearings. My eyes felt heavy and refused to open. But I was outside, that I was sure. I could hear the birds chirping and feel the breeze across my face. There was also I strange warmth radiating through my body.
"What have they done to her Edward?" A distraught voice I immediately recognised to be Alice said somewhere in the distance.
"I don't know," he replied, his voice sounded equally pained.
"Edward?" I croaked.
"Bella, can you hear me?" he asked, pulling me closer to him. I forced my eyes open and saw the alarm written across his face.
"You're safe now, we're taking you ..." he started to say, but my eyes grew heavy and drifted shut again. I didn't know where I was going or even what was happening. All I knew was that I was with Edward and I felt safe. Those were my last thoughts before I slipped into unconsciousness.
The next time I opened my eyes, I didn't know where I was, but one thing was for sure: I was not in my own bedroom. Slowly I crawled out of my curled up position on the bed, so that I could look around properly and saw Alice and Esme sitting on the bed besides me.
"You're awake! You had us all so worried," Alice's voice was thick with tears.
"Where am I? What happened?" I was almost too scared to ask. I couldn't remember anything and what I did was hazy at best.
Alice looked a little choked but quickly composed herself enough to explain how she'd been worried when I didn't meet them when we'd arranged. They had come looking for me a few days later and when they'd discovered what Victoria had done to me, they brought me to the castle straight away.
"Where's Victoria now?" I panicked.
"She must have heard us coming and fled before we found you," Alice speculated.
Although I had no reason to fear Victoria anymore just the mention of her name terrified me, but Esme was there to reassure me. "Don't you worry over that now, you're safe here. Edward and Jasper have taken a small army out in search of her and your step sisters."
I panicked, the though of Edward putting himself in danger because of me was terrifying and the time passed by painfully slowly as I anxiously waited for them to return.
The rest of the week passed mostly without incident. I spent all of my time recovering in bed with Alice and Esme nearby keeping me company. They'd both been so kind and thoughtful and were always checking up on me, ensuring that I was okay. They helped to restore my faith in humanity.
A few days later Edward returned from his hunt for Victoria empty handed, but the relief I felt at his return was instantly replaced with worry when he came to see me that same day looking exhausted and frustrated.
Even from a distance I could see that his skin was sickeningly pale and he had heavy, dark circles under his eyes. He looked utterly drained and worn out but Edward's only concerned was me. He came over and sat down on the bed next to me, taking my hand in his and studying me intently.
"How are you feeling now? You look much better," he sounded relieved.
"I feel much better," I answered honestly.
"There's certainly more colour in your cheeks," Esme added encouragingly.
"Do you have a mirror I could look in?" I asked. I'd never thought to look before but I was mildly curious.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Edward sounded cautious. Too cautious...
"Why not? Do I really look that awful?" I tried to cover my nerves with a laugh, but he turned away, hiding his eyes from me, effectively giving me my answer.
"Please Alice I want to see," I pleaded.
She looked conflicted but she eventually went to fetch a mirror. I gasped when I saw my reflection staring back at me. No wonder Edward found me so repulsive; My eyes were black, my face gaunt and though I suspected the bruises had faded significantly, they were still an ugly, purplish shade.
"Don't cry," Alice soothed as she reached out to hug me. I cried into her shoulder for a few minutes trying to clam myself down. Esme ushered Edward out of the room but Alice remained at my side.
"I look terrible," I sobbed uncontrollably. "No wonder Edward finds me so repulsive."
Alice pulled back and took my face in her hands. "Whatever makes you say that?"
"He can't even look at me," I cried harder.
"Bella, Edward doesn't find you repulsive at all, far from it," she soothed, giving my hand a gentle squeeze. "He's disgusted by what they did to you. Plus he's pretty angry with himself too."
"Whatever do you mean?" I asked genuinely confused.
"Before we came looking for you, I can't explain why but I just knew something was wrong. Edward thought you had changed your mind and were letting us down, but I knew you wouldn't have done that."
"Edward doubted me?" I whispered. It hurt to think he doubted me.
"His pride was wounded, that's all. He wasn't thinking straight at the time, but when we found you. We very nearly didn't make it to you in time. You think you looked bad now, it's nothing compared to the way you looked when we found you. I've never seen Edward react like that before, he just flipped. He feels guilty that he waited so long to come looking for you."
"But he had no reason to worry about me. He couldn't have known," I argued.
"You and I both know that, but Edward's Edward. He feels very protective of you. He thinks he let you down." she confessed. "Now enough of this crazy talk. Dinner won't be long so sit back and relax. I will bring it up to you when it's done."
Under Alice's orders I spent the remainder of the week confines to bed rest and though it was initially slightly unnerving to be on the receiving end of such care, I couldn't fault their efforts.
I'd never been so well looked after and I didn't understand what I'd done to deserve such loyalty. When I asked Alice about it, she said that I was a part of their family now and they enjoyed taking care of me.
As well as having Esme and Alice running around after me, I also had Edward's concerns to contend with. He wouldn't leave my side unless I needed to used the bathroom or worse still if I wanted to take a bath. In which case I couldn't get rid of his fast enough. He would blush furiously and stutter, which was adorable and I couldn't deny that his concern was touching.
The first time I was well enough to join the family for dinner downstairs I was terrified, but Edward offered me a reassuring smile. "Don't be nervous," he said, reaching out and giving my hand a gentle squeeze.
Dinner was an experience, never in my life had I seen such a feast. I was evenintroduced to Edward's cousin Emmett and his beautiful wife Rosalie, who had returned to the castle following an overseas trip.
Emmett was a huge man, bigger and broader than any soldier I'd ever seen before, but he was funny and far less intimidating than his cold wife. She was silent the entire time, except the odd sneer or grunt at one of Emmett's jokes. I tried not to take her coldness to heart. but it was hard not to when she obviously didn't approve of me.
After we'd finished dinner I decided to have an early night and excused myself from the table when an angry voice startled me.
"This isn't right," said James, one of Carlisle's advisers who'd joined us for dinner. "She shouldn't be here. How do we know she isn't a spy? I bet she knows more than she is letting on. I could find out," he sneered as he started coming towards me.
I backed up against the wall, though I didn't need to. Edward was there in an instant. He jumped from his seat and lunged across the room and pinned James against the wall.
"You touch herand I guarantee it will be the last thing you will do," he hissed.
"Cool down Edward," Carlisle tried to calm the situation. "And James, I will have no more talk this matter, Bella is welcome here as long as she likes."
I sighed in relief before excusing myself to go to bed.
After James' outburst Edward had been acting increasingly protectively toward me. He wouldn't leave my side, apart from the odd occasion when he disappeared somewhere unannounced.
As the weeks passed we shared picnics and took long walks together in the forest. He'd even promised to teach me archery after I commented on how good Alice was at the sport. Every day I spent with him I learned more and more about the beautiful man I was falling in love with.
Edward was beautiful in all ways, smart, funny, deep. He was the dreamiest, most charming guy I'd ever met and there had never been anyone who came close to the effect he had upon me. I had to hide my ecstasy at the simplest things like the way his hand always found mine or when his shoulder accidentally brushed mine when we were together in what we now referred to as 'our meadow'.
Unfortunately I never had the nerve to tell him how I felt. I supposed it was for fear of being rejected, because apart from the odd lingering look, I couldn't read him and was completely confused by his feelings. Sometimes I thought he felt more for me, but I couldn't be sure and I didn't want to make a fool of myself by pursing anything more than friendship.
It wasn't just Edward who'd been so supportive. Everyone had been wonderful in accepting and welcomed me into their home. Everyone except Rosalie that was. She always kept her distance and even when she could bare to be in the same room as me at dinner, she was constantly sulking in the background.
At least I knew where I stood with her; she despised me, she had made that blatantly obvious on more than one occasion. Edward on the other hand, I didn't have a clue how he felt. I only hoped that he wasn't spending time with me out of unwarranted guilt.
That afternoon we had arrange for my first archery practice so I'd gone to the practice field early to get a head start and hopefully avoid too much embarrassment later on. Alice and Jasper were already there, but despite their best efforts and patience, I was hopeless. All I had managed to hit were a few random trees and most embarrassing of all nearly Emmett!
"I'm so sorry. I swear it was an accident," I said as I rushed over to him, begging for forgiveness. "Please forgive me, I'm a terrible shot."
"You sure are," an amused voice said close to my ear. I flushed when I turned around to face Edward's knowing smirk.
"You stupid imbecile, you could have killed him," Rosalie shouted. She came marching over but Edward stepped in front on me, blocking her way.
"Back off Rose, it was an accident," he told her.
"It's all good," Emmett laughed, which seemed to calm her down. She backed down but not without sending an icy look my way.
"Come on Bella, I'll teach you how to shoot properly without killing anyone," Edward joked. I felt his hand on my hip, drawing me away towards a more secluded part of the field where I couldn't inflict any more potential injuries on his family.
To start with I was hopeless but as the session progressed I showed some tiny signs of improving. As I continued practising, I decide to question Edward on something that had been playing on my mind for a few weeks now.
"So Alice said something a few weeks ago that's been bugging me " I started, unsure how to broach the subject.
"What has she been saying now?" he chuckled, his lips lifting into that bright, crooked smile that made my heart flutter.
"We were talking about when you found me," I replied and saw Edward tense and look away.
"It's not your fault Edward. If that's the reason you're hanging round me...out of guilt..." I paused, voicing my concerns was a lot harder than I thought.
"I don't spent time with you out of guilt, Bella. I like spending time with you." he snapped, narrowing his eyes at me before an expression I couldn't quite read passed across his face. Sadness maybe?
"I would never have forgiven myself if anything had happened to you. If we'd found you just a day later..." His voice was so quiet that I had to strain to hear his words.
"But you didn't," I cut in, but Edward didn't look convinced.
"I don't want to talk about this any more. Can we talk about something else?" he asked, obviously frustrated.
"Okay, where do you disappear to sometimes?" I asked. He was in a talkative mood and I hoped to get a few more answers out of him.
Edward raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest, a light smile tugging on his lips. "You really are in a curious mood today," he laughed.
I shrugged back, undeterred.
"I might not have been able to protect you the first time, but I'll keep hunting them down until I find them. I will have you avenged," he promised.
Touched by his declaration, I reached up and hugged him tightly before we went back to practice.
After the disaster that was my first archery lesson, our sessions became a regular thing. Sometimes I would practice outside of my lessons with Edward, not that he would know it. To him, I appeared useless, but in truth I was much better than I was letting on. However, I didn't want him to think I was getting better in case he put an end to our lessons, so I shamefully pretended to be a lot worse that I actually was.
"Take your time," Edward instructed as he slid his arm around my waist and pulled me closer to him. "Remember what I taught you."
I did as he said, focussing on my target and keeping a steady hand. I found it much harder to concentrate when Edward was around and when I finally took my shot I only managed to graze the target.
"Well done," he praised me.
I spent the rest of the morning perfecting my aim before Edward had to go practice with his trainee soldiers.
"Alice stay with Bella. Try and keep her out of trouble," he winked at me playfully and I tried to look offended as he walked away.
"We'll be practising in the field if you want to join us," Jasper kissed Alice on the cheek, then followed after Edward.
I stayed with Alice for a while before she headed back inside the castle and I went off in search of the boys. I found them at the bottom of the field and became mesmerized as I watched Edward demonstrate a particularly difficult sequence with Jasper.
Just as I was about to sneak off, Jasper paused to catch his breathe and Edward's eyesmet mine. The intensity in his eyes startled me.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you," I quickly apologised and started backing away.
"You're never a bother, Bella. Come and join us," he encouraged, a playful grin tugging at his lips.
I couldn't refuse Edward anything, so I walked closer and perched myself down on the grass.
In the ensuring match I couldn't take my eyes away from Edward. He was so fast and fluid, with his lips curved into a gentle smile. The muscles in his arms were clenched, sweat making his shirt cling to him in all the right places, outlining his lean torso. No other man had made me feel so desperate. I remembered Angela talking about the dizziness of love, but never did I imagine it could feel this way.
"He's just showing off."
I jumped a mile as Alice's voice appeared besides me. "I love Jasper to bits but he's no match to Edward. He's not even challenging him," she huffed, while I smirked a little.
"Pair off amongst yourselves and try it out," Edward instructed before he sat down besides us for a well earned rest. Alice instructed Jasper that Carlisle wanted to see him and the two of them hurried into the castle.
Edward and I shared a look and I had to force myself away from his smouldering eyes.
"You have them well trained," I commented, as I glanced towards his trainees who were busy trying desperately to please him.
"It's funny they weren't quite so keen to obey my orders until the moment you arrived. If I didn't know any better, I'd suspect that they were trying to impress you," his face broke into a full smirk and I turned bright red.
Returning my gaze to the training field, I reminisced over a time when Charlie had taught me how to hold a sword. He'd always been adamant that I knew how to protect myself so he'd given me a few lessons. It was years ago, but I missed the weight of sword in my hands.
Edward looked sad when I stood up, but his expression quickly turned curious when I picked up Jasper's sword that lay idly on the grass.
"I want to try," I said, but he flat out refused.
"If you think I'm fighting with you, you are out of your mind."
"But Edward I really want to try."
"I'm not going to hurt you Bella."
"Who's to say you could?" I challenged, lifting my chin in a show of stubbornness.
"With your clumsiness I wouldn't have to. You'd probably injure yourself," he replied amused, before his expression turned curious again.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked suddenly, as he stood and took up his position in front of me.
"Absolutely. Don't hold back," I instructed, though I was fairly certain that he would go easy on me. No doubt he was only taking part to humour me.
"Oh I wont," he replied confidently and I blushed at the playful smirk he sent my way.
Edward wasn't kidding and he immediately sprung in to action. Our swords clashed loudly as I managed to block his strike. I'd forgotten how heavy a sword could be and how difficult it was to control. It helped that Edward was holding out on me, deliberately giving me time to adjust and striking me with very little forced whatsoever.
I would have huffed in frustration had it not been for the fact that I was stupid enough to challenge him in the first place. There was no way I would beat him on strength alone, so I tried thinking of a way to outplay him. Apparently he was onto my plan.
"I can tell what your thinking. Your pretty little brain is working hard to figure out a way to defeat me, but I hate to break it to you there isn't one. I'm too strong for you," he smirked.
As if to prove his point, Edward lunged forward suddenly. I lost my footing and fell backward, taking him down with me. We both end up on ground in a heap, though Edward was careful not to crush me and took his weight on his elbows.
Looking up, I bit my lip nervously. His eyes danced over my face, while his fingers roamed over my cheek, then my chin and finally settled on my jaw before his eyes focussed on my lips. They involuntarily twitched in anticipation.
Edward's eyes darkened and he tilted my chin so that our faces were aligned. I could lightly feel his breath on my lips, my stomach was going crazy with butterflies and my heart began pounding frantically in my chest. Then, just as his lips were about to meet mine Jasper's voice called out.
"Family meeting in the dinning room."
A quiet sigh left my lips when Edward jumped up and offered me his hand to help me up.
I followed apprehensively, unsure if the family meeting include me or not.
As if sensing my confusion, Edward took my hand in his and led me through to the dining room where everyone else had gathered. I perched myself on the chair nearest to Esme, while Edward took the seat besides me, with Rosalie and Emmett seated across the table, both wearing equally tense smiles. Even Alice who was always so cheerful and upbeat seemed apprehensive. I held onto Edward's hand for reassurance as an uneasy silence fell upon us before Carlisle urged Jasper to proceed with the meeting.
Jasper visibly stiffened, clearly apprehensive about the document he had in his hands, before he finally began. "The Blacks have issued a declaration of war. They've offered to hold off any attacks on our lands in exchange for something..."
He looked directly at me and deed filled my stomach.
"It appears that we have something they want... Bella," he whispered.
I heard Edward growl besides me and his grip on my hand tightened, while I sat in silence, numb at the prospect of going back to Phoenix.
"How can that be?" Alice wondered.
"Victoria is claiming that we took Bella out of her care. Technically she is still her legal guardian," Jasper explained. I should have known she would be come back to haunt me one day.
"But look how they treated her," Alice sounded close to tears.
"Let them have her, she doesn't belong here anyway," Rosalie snipped.
"Rosalie!" Edward slammed his fist down on the table, looking absolutely livid as he glared across at her. "Back off Rosalie, this isn't your concern," he seethed.
"To hell it isn't. If Emmett has to fight on her behalf, it makes it my business."
"How can you be so cruel? This is Bella's life we are talking about," Alice sounded close to tears.
"What's one life in the place of 1000? We have to think of the kingdom first," she coolly replied.
"Enough!" Carlisle snapped . "There is no question of Bella returning to that woman."
"Then how are we to respond? The Black's want Bella to be returned to them by Monday," Jasper asked hesitantly.
"We tell them NO! End of story," Edward yelled.
"Wouldn't it be better coming from me? If I could just speak to the council then maybe I could talk them round," I suggested.
"Absolutely not! You're going nowhere near them and that's final."
I started to protest, but Edward cut me off. "No Bella. You will not sway me on this."
"She's right Edward," Jasper interrupted. I stared at him in surprise, grateful that he for one believed in me. "It could work, and at the very least she can explain how they treated her. We can all meet him together," he suggested, sensing Edward's opposition to the idea.
"No," Edward glared at him. "I don't trust Jacob Black or his tricks."
"Then trust me," I pleaded. "You cant stop me on this Edward. I've caused this mess, I need to at least try to stop it from escalating any further."
He studied me for a moment before nodding his approval, though he didn't look happy about it in the slightest .
"Fine," he conceded, though I was sure I heard him muttered under his breath something like "This is ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous,"
I gave him a small smile before reaching over to squeeze his hand while he looked pointedly at Jasper. "Have the army ready, we're taking no chances that it's a trap."
The following mealtime was awkward and conversation forced. I didn't want to look anyone in the eye and see the hate they felt for me binging all this upon them. Instead tried to look around them, keeping my gaze focused everywhere, anywhere but on them, particularly Rosalie.
I felt a hand fall upon mine and instantly knew it was Edward's. He didn't say anything, he just squeezed my hand gently, reassuringly as if he sensed my discomfort.
Later that night, he walked me back to room and an awkward silence fell between us as I thought about what my presence here I had caused.
When we reached the door Edward turned to me. His hands came up to cup my chin gently as he brought my eyes to look at his troubled eyes. There was a long silence and I wondered if he was going to say anything.
"It's not your fault you know," he finally said. "So I don't want you to worry. I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe. I will protect you," he promised as he leaned down to kiss my cheek. "Now get some sleep you look exhausted and I need to discuss our strategy with Jasper."
That night no matter how hard I tried I couldn't sleep. I went for a walk to calm my nerves, but failed miserably. Regardless of Edward's promise, I felt uneasy and couldn't rid my mind of the trouble my presence here was causing. Rosalie was right; the Cullen's promise to protect me had implications for the entire kingdom and I couldn't bare the thought of anyone getting hurt because of me, especially not Edward.
I continued down the corridor not entirely sure where I was going, when suddenly from out of nowhere an arm clasped around my waist, pinning my arms against my side, while another hand covered my mouth. I barely managed to open my mouth to get enough air into my lungs before I was propelled forwards, towards one of the chambers.
I started to struggle in earnest but he dragged me inside with relative ease. The door slammed shut and I felt sick with fear and panic when I saw the face of my attacker; James...
He looked down at me with such anger that it terrified me. My instincts kicked in and I tried biting him, kicking him, doing anything I could to get away. Somehow, I managed to get a lucky elbow in and made a sudden run for the door, only to have him catch me around the waist and pin me up against the wall.
I gazed up at him my eyes wide and panicked. "Why are you doing this?" I pleaded.
"You blind him," he said simply, laughing cruelly.
"You won't get away with this," I threatened.
He laughed off my claims and I fought harder, but he captured my hands above my head and easily held them in place with one of his. A shiver ran through me as he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "You know I see what he sees in you. You do have a certain appeal. I will enjoy having fun with you."
His free hand touched my cheek, my neck and was heading towards my chest when all of a sudden the door burst open and Edward appeared. The relief I felt was so great, I was close to tears. He moved so fast that I didn't have time to track him. One minute he was in the doorway, the next he launched himself at James catching him around the waist, yanking him away from me, before taking him down to the ground with a loud thud. The two of them fought viciously while I watched on in horror.
When James got in a lucky shot, he lunged for me again but Edward somehow caught him from behind and threw him to the floor. He held him down and once again his first started flying, releasing an anger I had never seen in him before. I stood motionless as James collapsed on his side groaning, but Edward continued pounding his fists into him.
Even Emmett who'd appeared moments earlier couldn't pull him off him. I struggled to understand what was going on when someone took my shoulders and tried to guide me away from the scene. I was even more surprised when I realised who it was.
"Come on Bella, you don't need to see this," Rosalie urged as she guided me away, just in time to see Emmett restrain Edward, who was still positively fuming. It was actually rather terrifying to see him so angry.
"Stop it Edward! You're scaring her." Rosalie pleaded.
He paused and when our eyes met he looked almost embarrassed before he turned away from me completely. I felt completely numb as Rosalie led me toward my chamber. She gave a clean set of clothes and after I'd changed, she had a bowl of water and a cloth waiting for me.
"You don't have to do this," I said as she started cleaning up my cuts and scrapes.
"I know, but Edward would never forgive me if I neglected his precious little Bella," she said, though her voice lacked it's usual venom. In fact she didn't sound bitter at all.
"Why would you say that?" I asked confused.
"You don't know do you?" she asked, staring at me strangely.
"Why do you think Edward is always around you?" she said with a raised eyebrow. "Why do you think he is so quick to jump to your defence?"
"He's a good friend," I answered, blushing furiously, which she seemed to find amusing.
"Friend indeed. It's plain for all to see that he wants you in the way a man desires a woman."
"You are quite mistaken," I replied casually, but I could feel my cheeks getting warmer.
Rosalie gave me a sceptical look. "Don't deny it. You want him too, anyone with eyes can see that."
She was right, I couldn't deny it any longer. However, what surprised me the most was that she smiled back encouragingly.
"I thought you hated me?" I asked, shocked by her sudden change of heart.
"I've never hated you Bella. I'm very protective over my family.I think of Edward as my own brother. I had to suss you out and make sure that you were genuine for his sake. I see now how much you care for him and he you. As today has shown it would destroy him if anything were to happen to you. Now you should really go and see him. He's surely anxious to see you," she encouraged and without much persuasion I was on my feet headed towards Edward's chambers.
I paused outside and took a deep breath before reaching for the door handle and stepping inside. Edward was fast asleep as I walked over to him, but he seemed to sense my presence and started to stir. His eyes cracked open and as soon as he saw me he started to sit up. I placed a hand on his arm to halt his movement.
"You should lie down. I'll get the nurse."
He gripped my hand quickly. "No, stay, please" he anxiously said and started pulling me even closer towards him on the bed. I didn't fight him, I snuggled into his side, the need to be close to him was overwhelming.
"Are you okay?" he asked and I smiled lightly to myself. Even though he was the one hurting, Edward's only concern was me.
"I'm fine thanks to you. You're always looking out for me," I replied softly.
"It's okay, that's what I'm here for," Edward said with a smile.
It wasn't okay and the guilt I felt was overwhelming. "But look at what I have caused this time. I don't belong here," I confessed, one of my deepest fears spilling out.
"You're wrong Bella, this is exactly where you belong," he said passionately. "Alice and Jasper adore you, Emmett only teases you because it is his way of showing that he cares. Mom and Dad think of you as their own daughter. Give her time and Rosalie will warm to you to," he said offering me my favourite crooked grin.
While his words were lovely, there was one noticeable absentee from his declaration.
"And you?" I prompted. I could feel butterflies gathering in my chest in anticipation as he tilted my head up and traced my cheekbones with his thumb.
"I would think by now it were obvious that my affections for you run far and beyond that of friendship," he replied softly.
"They do?" I asked hopefully.
Edward didn't answer, he just reached for me, sliding his arm around my waist, twisting me around so I was on my back with him hovering over me. His hand grasped either side of my head, and he looked down at me with blazing eyes before his lips found mine in a hungry, fierce demanding kiss that robbed me of my breath.
I'd didn't really know what I was doing, but my hands found his back, moulding him even closer to me. There was nothing gentle about this kiss. It was strong, warm and desperate, the type of kiss I had only dreamt about. I'd imagined what it would be like to kiss Edward, but this by far exceeded my expectations. I didn't hesitate when he deepened the kiss. My lips parted beneath his and he plunged his tongue into my mouth as he pulled me hard against his body. A low groan escaped his mouth when his tongue stroked mine.
As we came to the end of our feverish kissing session we reluctantly broke apart to catch our breath. My breathing came out in pants for a few minutes as I tried to recompose myself. We rolled over and cuddled for a while, before Edward lifted his head to look down at me.
"I have loved you for so long, longer than you will ever know," he said softly.
I could only look up at him, unable to form words for a few moments. "For me too," I whispered back.
When Edward tucked me into his side and kissed my forehead, I closed my eyes, put my head on his chest, listening to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat as I drifted off to sleep.
Little did I know that this was only the beginning of our troubles...