I own nothing.
A while ago, I read a book ("The bride" by Julie Garwood) that I loved very, very much. Ever since, I have been thinking about a story between ExB in this scenario and I absolutely loved it. I hope you do, too, because I'm really excited about it.
She remembered a time when everything used to be calm and easy. But that seemed so long ago ... With her fingers firmly pressed against her temples, Isabella struggled against the urge to throttle her sisters. She did not know why they were arguing about, but she did not care, either. The manuscript in her hands fell to the floor when she stood up, but the noise did not draw their attention ...
... until their father came through the front door.
"Papa, tell Rosalie she can not have the dress Father Mason gave me. She wants to wear it to church," Angela cried out, her cheeks burning with anger.
"'Tis not true, Papa. She knows Father Mason gave me that dress, and she now wants to take it away from me." Rosalie knew her father had a soft spot for his most beautiful, older daughter. Isabella tried to step in between her sisters and their father, but Angela was faster.
"She is turning you against me. You know I have never lied to you."
"Please, girls. Do sit down, and we shall talk about it," he said. Isabella saw how tired her father really was. She was angry at her sisters for exhausting him further, but did not voice her thought out loud, knowing they would never listen to her.
It was not like they did not love her, but their mother's death had changed them. She knew all too well how hard it was to grow up without her mother by her side, but she had not known her as well as their sisters did, for she was the youngest of them three.
She halfheartedly listened to their complaints about their dress, her thoughts miles away.
"You would wear the dress first, Rosalie. Angela, the dress would be yours next week," her father sighed, relieved to be over and done with this.
"But, Papa ..." Angela wailed in frustration.
"Thank you." Rose kissed his cheek.
Then, her father's eyes focused on Isabella's face, and she rolled her eyes in amusement. She knew something was wrong, though, when his expression suddenly changed and darkened.
"Why the sour face, Papa?" she asked, worried.
"We need to have a little talk, my darlings." He told them to sit down, while he nervously fidgeted in his own seat. Isabella did not like it. Neither did Rosalie or Angela.
"You fidget when there is something very important, Father. Tell us now, and we shall listen to you," Angela whispered.
"I do not know if you will understand what I am about to say. It is very important, and I am afraid you will not like it. Especially you, Isabella."
She suddenly felt sick to her stomach.
"'Tis about Baron Michael, is it not, Father?" Rosalie jumped at that suggestion.
He shook his head. "Nay, lass. Baron Michael will not bother us again, after that short encounter with him last summer." When he almost killed Angela because he had caught her trespassing, Isabella thought.
Charlie Swan, the father of the three girls, had given him a great sum of money to get rid off him and his soldiers.
"Then, what is it so awful that you fear to tell us?" Isabella asked, suspicious, desperately trying not to panic.
He wrung his hands. "All of you know that ever since your mother died, we have had some ... financial problems." Angela was the only one to nod her head. "But we got through them, and we moved on. Now ... it is different, for I did something that will have serious consequences."
Isabella noticed how hard it was for her father to continue. Her heart pounded inside her chest. He had said that this 'something' would affect her.
"You took out a loan, have you not?" she asked, while both her sisters turned to her in surprise. As her father's eyes widened, and he stared at her, she realized she was right. It did not take her long enough to understand what really happened. "You took out a loan, but you did not give the money back to that man. King Marcus found out, and he is angry with you."
Charlie's shoulders slumped in defeat. Rosalie gasped and shook her head in shock. She was scared for her father, but did not want to think about those serious consequences.
"I am afraid that happened, my darlings. I am sincerely sorry about it."
"But that will not change things, Papa," Angela whispered. "Tell us everything. What did King Marcus say?"
The anguish and despair was back in his brown eyes, Isabella noticed. Her own breath stopped in anticipation.
"He knows I can not give the money back to that man, because I do not have any. The only solution he came up with was to ... marry one of my daughters."
Isabella's mouth popped open, and she stood up. "You sold me?" she shouted, her cheeks burning with fury. Rosalie and Angela were in shock, for they both were staring at their father.
Charlie's eyes pleaded with her to understand that he did not have another choice.
"Isabella?" Rosalie whispered in a daze. "But she is the youngest."
"Who is she going to marry?" Angela's voice mimicked Rosalie's.
Isabella frowned. "I do not want to leave you."
Charlie sighed, scared to look up and see the anger, the disappointment in his daughter's eyes. He did not want to marry Isabella, because he knew he would never see her again. But King Marcus was firm on his decision, and he could not be deterred.
"You are pledged to marry Laird Edward Cullen."
All of them gasped. "A Scot?"
"You can not make me," Isabella yelled, running out of the room.
"Papa, you know we hate the Scots. How could you ..."
"This decision does not belong to me. The king is more powerful than I am. Of course I do not want to let Isabella marry a Scot, but this is beyond me."
Rosalie did not like the idea of her little sister marrying a Scot, more than Angela did. Although Isabella was the youngest, she was the one who had suffered the most, because of their mother's death. She was only two years old when she died, and she never got to feel the love of a real mother.
She deserved to be happy, Rosalie thought. She hoped this laird would be capable of making her happy, though.
"Despite the fact that he is a Scot, he must be rich." Angela shrugged, thinking the wedding would not be such a bad thing, after all.
"You know Isabella does not care about the money, Angela," Rosalie pointed out. "But I do think he is a very powerful man. Papa, when is this laird coming here?"
The sadness she saw in her father's eyes upset her. "Tomorrow. Billy Black, one of King Marcus' soldiers, told me they were on their way here."
"Laird Edward Cullen and his warriors."
"Warriors? Are they going to attack us or something?" Angela panicked, wringing her hands.
"No. They are here to protect their laird."
Rosalie looked at Angela for a second in worry, and then she sighed. The silence that followed their father's words overwhelmed them, and their eyes suddenly filled with tears. Rosalie was the only one to stop them from spilling over.
"I shall go talk to my sister," she said, walking up the stairs.
Isabella felt betrayed, and she was extremely angry at her father and her king for making her do this. She did not want to leave her home, her family, England. She was not quite ready for marriage. And a marriage to a Scot was more than she could bear. Everyone had told her they were very cold and distant, that they hated their own wives and treated them like dirt. She did not want to live like that. She would rather die.
She threw herself on the bed and buried her face into a cushion. She was not going to cry. Tears would not help in this situation.
"How are you feeling?"
She expected Rosalie to come looking for her. And for some unknown reason, that single question angered her more.
"I will not accept it, Rosalie. I do not care what the king said. I will not marry that man." Her voice was calm and even, but her eyes were burning.
"Come here. Let me brush your hair. You look a mess," she changed the subject and waited for Isabella to sit down on the stool, in front of the looking glass. She waited until her sister obeyed her, and then Rosalie grabbed a brush, gently taming Isabella's wild, long curls.
A couple of minutes later, when it was obvious that Isabella had calmed down a little, Rosalie whispered "Mama used to do this when I was little."
Isabella sighed. "Tell me more about her."
She could see Rosalie smile in the looking glass. "She was very beautiful. As beautiful as you are. She had chocolate brown hair, down to her waist, but the most green eyes I have ever seen. More lighter than mine and almost at loving as Papa's. She loved us so much." She wrapped her hands around her neck and leaned forward. "Of all three of us, you resemble her the most."
This time, Isabella's eyes watered. "I wish she was here to guide me."
"I am sure she would have wanted that, too."
"Do you think she would have accepted this marriage?" Isabella turned around and looked up at her.
"If she thought you were going to be happy, of course."
"But I will not be happy."
"I believe you should give this man a chance. You do not know him. He might be the one for you, Isabella."
She could not believe what her sister was telling her. Isabella stood up and paced back and forth in an attempt to not get angry again. Rosalie noticed that and put her hand on her shoulder.
"I do not want to say goodbye yet. You are my family," Isabella mumbled.
"And we will always be your family."
"He will not let me see you again."
"You do not know that."
"He is a Scot. I know that."
"Your stubbornness is your greatest flaw, sister."
"I am counting on that." Isabella frowned and folded her arms across her chest. "Maybe he gets tired of me, before we get to the Highlands, and then he decides to bring me back."
"I hope you know you are daft."
Isabella did not answer her, but she did shrug her shoulders in arrogance.
A second later, someone opened the door without bothering to knock first. Angela stepped inside, closing the door after her. She sensed the tension brewing between her sisters, but decided to ignore it. With a smile, she plopped down on the edge of the bed.
"Papa left to talk to Father Mason," she said.
"'Tis not the time to talk about it, Angela," Rosalie mumbled.
"He will be here first thing in the morning," Angela continued, ignoring her older sister.
"First thing in the morning? Good God!" Isabella blinked, her anger quickly turning into sadness.
"Why did you have to tell her?"
"Because she deserves to know, Rosalie. She has to be prepared for the wedding, and it would be better for her to know the truth now, than find out tomorrow, five minutes before the ceremony."
Isabella was too worried and anxious to say something. She sat down next to her sister and stared off into space. In less than twenty hours, she would be married. She could not believe it. It seemed too surreal.
"Look at the advantages, at least." Angela raised her eyebrows. "He is a laird. He is rich. And he is probably very handsome, too."
Rosalie shook her head in disbelief at her sister. "Why do we not enjoy our remaining time together?" She suggested, joining them on the bed. "God knows when we will see our little sister again, and we should not sit here, crying and wasting our time dwelling on something that will never change."
Rosalie grabbed Isabella's right hand, while Angela took the left one, both of them smiling.
Isabella looked at them, and with an inaudible sigh, she agreed. "You are right. I ... I should definitely stop thinking about it. At least, today."
"That is more like it."
The three of them stood up, but stiffened as soon as they heard three or four horses galloping toward their house. Isabella squeezed her sisters' hands. Angela and Rosalie exchanged a quick glance, and then Rosalie ran to the window and took a look outside.
Isabella knew what she was going to say, but she did not want Rosalie to say it, nonetheless.
"They are here."