Stephenie Meyer owns the twilight characters. This story is in a fictitious place and it is not my intent to offend anyone.

1

I stood in front of the small one room school house filled with trepidation. I knew it would be outdated and in badly need of repairs, but I had no idea it would be this run down. I began preparing a mental list of things I would ask my father to send. He wasn't thrilled about my desire to become a teacher, but he was supportive of my desire to help the poor.

The small town deep in the Appalachian Mountains was unable to pay a teacher. I committed to teach for three years and hopefully funding would be found at a later date. Supplies would be provided by my father's company and I truly hoped more than six students, who already signed up, would be convinced to attend.

I picked up my hammer and grabbed a handful of nails and got to work. I spent most of the morning on the roof and was ready to move on to the entryway when I noticed a young girl watching me from the trees.

Her hair was dark and in badly need of a brush. Her pale skin and large eyes gave her an eerie look from far away. When she noticed me watching her she immediately dropped her head, letting her tangled hair fall around her.

I went back to work, keeping an eye on her in my peripheral vision. She slowly came closer as the trees cast long shadows over the building. I moved to the interior of the school and pretended I didn't notice her leaning in the doorway.

I was working on a widow and when I accidentally hit my thumb with the hammer and screamed, "Shit." She giggled softly so I looked over at her and she let her hair fall again. "You think it's funny I hurt myself?" I asked with a teasing tone.

She didn't answer and continued to just stand there so I went back to work as I spoke. "Or do you think it is funny I used a curse word?" She raised her head but didn't speak. I pulled out more nails from my pocket and placed them in my mouth, using just the side to talk from. "What's your name?"

Her head fell to the side but she still refused to answer so I continued on. "I hope you are one of my students. I'm Mr. Cullen, the new teacher. If you are not signed up for school just come by on Monday and we'll get it handled."

She walked down one of the small aisles and ran her fingers along the desk like she was in awe of the place. I doubted she had been here before and it made me wonder just how far behind my students would be. I turned to watch her and noticed she wasn't wearing any shoes. Her dress hung on her thin frame, obviously too big. Her calf muscles were tight and well defined, looking like she was a runner or a gymnast.

"Can you read?" I asked her when she looked at the chalkboard.

She spun around to look at me and I got my first good look at her face. Her skin was flawless, considering she was covered in dirt, and her thick lips were a soft red color. Her eyebrows were natural and not too thick, but her eyes actually scared me. They didn't look like the eyes of a teenage girl. They were eyes that had seen too much in life and were trying to hide secrets. I mentally yelled at myself for making absurd assumptions. She was probably fifteen or sixteen and had never been in a real school, so she was scared.

"Can you tell me your name?" I asked softly. Her mouth formed a very slight smile and she looked at the door and back at me. I could tell she was going to bolt any moment so I quickly added, "You can come here, anytime."

She ran for the door and stopped just outside the room looking back at me with a quizzical expression. Her eyes moved upward over her head and she finally gave me a big smile before running off into the dark woods. I walked to the doorway and looked up to see a large school bell, missing a rope. I wondered what she meant by smiling up at it and decided to fix the bell as soon as possible.

I worked late into the night and finally headed to my small cabin not far from the school. I climbed into the large, hard bed, too exhausted to care and fell right to sleep.

I dreamed of the girl with the haunting eyes. She was sitting in class with a clean face and new clothes, but she looked much older in my dream. I walked over to check her work and ran my fingers through her long silky hair. She took hold of my hand and slowly brought it to her mouth. I was getting aroused by her and wanted to bring her to my cabin, to my bed, when she suddenly bit down hard on my hand. I yelled and jumped up in the dark.

"Shit, Cullen, what the hell is wrong with you," I said to myself. I had no idea why I would dream of inappropriate things about a student. I had a woman and she kept me satisfied. I chalked it up to the mountain air and tried to go back to sleep, but her face kept haunting me.

The next day I was painting the faded boards when a man dressed in a preacher's collar approached me. "Welcome, Mr. Cullen. I'm Jasper Whitlock."

I walked over and shook the man's hand. He was around my age and I knew he must be here as a missionary, this area couldn't support a man of the cloth. "What brought you here?" I asked him.

He chuckled and admitted, "I have a very philanthropic wife. She saw a movie and insisted we come here."

I laughed and didn't tell him I had a similar situation. I assumed his wife came from old money and needed to feel like she could make a difference in the world. I couldn't see myself sitting in stuffy board rooms and wanted to break the mold of Cullens being perceived as money hungry titans.

"We would love to have you for dinner sometime," Jasper added.

"Great, thank you. I have a lot to do in order to get this place opened by Monday." The thought of a home cooked meal was appealing. I was growing tired of sandwiches.

"If you ever need any help I can put you in touch with Emmett McCarty, he's a jack of all trades, big and strong, but more importantly he's trustworthy."

"I could sure use the help, please have him come see me," I said, and felt grateful the preacher stopped by.

I watched him walk away for a few seconds and then called out to him. "Hey, Jasper, do you know any of the kids around here?"

"Most of them, why?"

"There's a girl, long dark hair, pale skin, about fifteen or sixteen. She comes here and looks around but never speaks. I was wondering if she was mute or something."

He stood still trying to recall such a girl and finally shook his head back and forth. "Sorry, doesn't ring a bell. There are some families deep in these woods and she may belong to one of them."

I nodded and went back to my painting. I was hoping this Emmett person would show up soon, but by evening he still hadn't come around. I went back to working on the windows and was sanding furiously when I was startled by the mystery girl.

"You scared me," I laughed, and I saw her frown before dropping her head. "I'm not mad or anything, I just didn't hear you come up."

Just her eyes raised to look at me and I felt something stir in my gut, giving me inappropriate thoughts. She walked into the room and glanced at the chalkboard again. I walked over very slowly and picked up a piece of chalk. She watched as I wrote my name on the board and I held the chalk out for her to take.

She approached the board and stood very close to it as she wrote in tiny letters B E L L A. As soon as she finished she erased it furiously with her palm, making sure all evidence of the word was gone.

"You're name is Bella?" I asked, and noticed how she tensed. "Are you a student here?" She turned to look at me as if she was trying not to smile, causing me to smile widely. "I hope you are a student here," I blurted out a bit too honestly.

She giggled and turned to leave, "Wait," I called out to her and she turned very slowly to look at me. "You can stay. I'm just fixing the windows so they'll open."

She began backing out of the room without looking at the windows and I wanted to beg her to stay. I didn't know what words would convince her and I stood stupidly as she ran into the night. My father told me these hills would make me crazy, and maybe he was right. I forced myself to continue working but my focus was still on the dark eyed girl named, Bella.

That night I returned to my cabin to find food waiting on the doorstep. It was a casserole and some homemade biscuits from the Whitlocks and I wanted to praise the Lord for his philanthropic wife. I ate like a starving man as I read over some lesson plans.

I heard a board creak and my eyes began looking around as my head held perfectly still. I saw movement by a window and casually stood to walk over to the sink and pick up a knife. I held it under the paper I was reading and walked towards the door. I was shocked when I pulled it open to find Bella standing there, barefoot and dirty.

"Bella, it's late, are you okay?"

She nodded and looked past me into the room at the table. I left the door open and moved out of her way as I headed back to my chair. I was hopeful she would come inside and knew it was hunger bringing her to my door.

"I have way too much food, would you like some?" I asked her as she stared at my plate.

Her head dropped and she looked embarrassed, but also very hungry so I grabbed another plate and filled it with casserole and biscuits. I set it across from me and called her over. She walked slowly, like she might run at any second but her eyes remained on the food.

She finally sat down and reached out for her fork. I noticed how her hands were shaking and I wanted to feed her, but I remained still. She took a bite and I watched as she closed her eyes and let her tears fall. I felt my own eyes fill with tears and forced myself to look away.

She ate quickly and never spoke or looked at me. When her pace began to slow I stood and she jumped in fear. "I won't hurt you, Bella. I want to be your friend. Do you like candy?"

Her eyes widened a bit and dropped back to her plate. I laughed at myself and shook my head, hearing how perverted my words sounded. I walked over to a box and pulled out a candy bar. She gave me an odd look so I opened it and split it in half, taking a bite of my end.

I held out the rest to her and she slowly raised her hand to take it. She took a wary bite and then smiled up at me. "Do you like it?" I asked her and she nodded. I sat back across from her and said, "Bella, can you talk?"

Her eyes darted around and her face grew sad, again. I waited for several moments and she finally opened her mouth just slightly and said, "I have no one to talk with."

Her words and voice surprised me. They didn't match the outer appearance of the girl who seemed slightly off balanced.

"How old are you?" I asked, hoping I could get her enrolled in school.

"Twenty," she answered, and I literally gasped. She looked so young, but twenty for these parts was considered almost middle aged. She should be married with several children.

"You look much younger," I said softly, as the concept sunk slowly into my head.

"I'm not stupid," she said proudly, "I can read and write."

"No, I wasn't suggesting you were. Do you live around here?"

She jumped up from the chair and said, "I have to go."

"Bella, don't go, I don't have anyone to talk with either." My words surprised me and I realized I had been quite lonely as I worked long hours to fix the small school. Maybe it was what compelled me to take such an intense interest in this girl.

She stopped by the doorway and placed her hand on the frame before looking back at me with tears running down her face. "Thank you for the food and the candy. You are a really nice man."

And she was gone.

I wanted to smack myself for begging her to stay. Tanya would freak if she knew I asked another woman to stay and keep me company. Of course, the fact Bella didn't have designer clothes and a trust fund would upset her much more. I cleaned up the dishes and finally got in bed, only to dream of Bella in my arms.

2

Emmett showed up the next day, much to my relief. He was a fun, naturally happy guy, and a hard worker. We finished more in one day than I could have finished all week.

"I can't imagine someone willingly coming here. It's too cold in the winter, no theater or mall, and the locals are suspicious and zealous," he said shaking his head.

I had to admit my own prejudice over being shocked that Emmett used the word zealous. Someone had been here before me and obviously was a good teacher. I had to adjust my expectations or I was going to end up offending these people.

"Do you know a girl named Bella from around here, dark hair and fair skin, about twenty?"

Emmett thought for awhile and finally shook his head, "No, doesn't sound familiar."

I nodded and tried not to show too much interest. Emmett promised to show up again the next day and I decided to pay him a higher wage. I liked his work and enjoyed the company. I hoped it would dampen my obsession with Bella, but I waited all night for her to come and even made extra food, but she never showed.

I had a restless night's sleep and woke up early to a phone call from Tanya. "I can't believe you actually have cell coverage," she said with distain.

"It comes and goes, so don't be pissed if I lose you," I said with a yawn. I was used to Tanya's outburst and tried to put out the flame before a fight could start.

"How are things going?" she asked.

"Good, I've met some good people. The school was in shambles but I think I'll have it ready by Monday."

"Damn, I was hoping you would come running home with your tail between your legs."

"Tanya, stop, I told you there is room for two here." It was a low blow since I knew she wouldn't come here and I knew why.

"Get real," she said to dismiss me. "At least I know there are only ugly, toothless women there."

I didn't answer. I wasn't about to tell her about Bella, but I didn't want to lie and agree with her either. The people I had met so far were genuine and natural. I didn't find them ugly at all. Tanya tried to act confident but I knew better, she was quick to judge and usually became jealous very easily.

I yawned again and she huffed with irritation. "Why are you so tired?"

"I'm working my ass off, manual labor is tiring.

"Oh, well, I'll be gone until Sunday night so call me then okay?" Tanya had been modeling since she was fourteen, but her focus now was designing. She was making a name for herself and I was very proud of her success.

"Okay, travel safely. Love ya, bye."

I let my head fall back onto the pillow and I groaned as I stretched my muscles. I took a quick shower and headed out to meet up with Emmett. He was going to take me to a larger town where I could find a fabric shop for material to make curtains. He assured me many women around here sew and would be willing to do it for a nominal fee.

We drove through the winding forested roads to a small town on the other side of a ridge from where the school was. I got a woman to help me pick out fabric and walked out with a large bag full of material. I sat in my jeep and waited for Emmett to come back from the general store.

I saw a large dark man walk from the post office and my heart got stuck in my throat. He was pulling a rope which was wrapped around a woman's waist. The woman had her head down with cascading hair hiding her face. She wore a dirty dress and no shoes.

I felt anger building in my stomach and became a bit nauseous, too. Emmett climbed into the jeep and I nodded toward the spectacle. "Who is that?"

"Oh, that is Jacob Black and his wife. The guy is vicious and don't even think about talking to his woman. He treats her like a dog; she's barren so he's fathered a bunch of bastard kids."

They walked past the jeep and I noticed Bella glance at me through her veil of hair. I wanted to grab her and choke the man with the rope he tethered his wife with. My hands were shaking as I started the jeep and drove away.

The sight haunted me and no matter how busy I became during the dark of night I would be sickened by the memory. I didn't see Bella again for the rest of the week.

On Monday morning I arrived at the school early. At eight in the morning I rang the bell and waited in hope that kids would actually come. They filed in slowly and by noon I had nine students. They were all ages and at all stages of learning. I quickly formed them into groups and passed out notebooks and pencils.

The students would be required to keep all supplies at the school and homework would not be given. I was anxious for the kids to learn and had to force myself to go slow and not push them too hard. I was thrilled to see I didn't have any behavior issues.

I excused the kids at two-thirty and asked them to try and be on time the following morning. I was collecting all the supplies when a tiny woman walked into the school. She was well dressed and very stylish for this area.

"Hello, I'm Alice Whitlock," she said with an extended hand. "How was the first day?"

I couldn't help but smile at the tiny formidable force in front of me. "First of all, I want to thank you for the meal. It was greatly appreciated."

She smiled and waved her hand to dismiss my gratitude.

"School was great. The kids seem eager and well behaved, although there are big discrepancies between their levels."

"If you need a teacher's aide, I would be more than willing," she said with a smile.

"Seriously?" I asked in shock.

Her brow furrowed and she looked conflicted. "My husband finds plenty to do, but I want to be of service and have a hard time filling the hours. I don't need any pay; I want to contribute to the Mr. Cullen educational mission."

"You are truly an angel," I laughed, and felt the urge to hug the small woman, but seeing how her husband was a minister I refrained. "Can you work with the two youngest girls? They are working on phonics."

"I would love it," she said, as she bounced on her heels. I felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I could focus on the older kids and make sure they were performing on grade level.

I headed home with a feeling of relief and began working on lesson plans. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with a tall glass of milk. I was so focused on my work I didn't even notice when the door opened slowly. I picked up my cup and leaned my head back for the last of the milk to see Bella looking at me. I froze for a moment and then slowly set the cup back down.

"Hello," I said and she smiled lightly. "Come in, have a seat."

She walked very slowly to the table and looked at the papers I had spread all over. I watched her eyes and she stopped at the math papers. I could tell she was trying to work the problems in her head and I slowly handed her a pencil.

She sat down and began writing softly on a spare paper. I got up and made her a sandwich and poured more milk as she worked diligently. I sat the food and drink in front of her and she tensed and held perfectly still.

"Go ahead, I have plenty," I said softly, and returned to my chair and began working on my lessons again.

She ate quickly and drank the milk in two gulps before going back to the math problems. Once I knew she had food in her body I was able to concentrate on my papers. I got so lost in my work I forgot she was sitting right across from me. I looked up to see her looking very agitated and erasing constantly.

"Would you like some help?" I asked her.

She looked up with such sad eyes I felt my heart tighten in my chest. I smiled softly and said with a calm voice, "Back up one step and redo your figures," I suggested.

She looked at the paper and quickly reworked the problem and then smiled largely.

"You are very bright," I said, and observed how she blushed.

I stared at her dirty face and noticed how tracks from tears stained her cheeks. Her arms were so thin and I wondered what she would look like in a dress that actually fit her. I thought my interest in her was the same as for my students, but who was I kidding. I wanted to bath her, brush her hair and dress her up, so I could see the woman she was underneath all the dirt and tears.

"Bella, may I ask you some questions?" I asked with a pain filled voice.

She tensed and her head dropped and the curtain of hair fell into place. I looked for any sign of a response but she never gave me the go ahead. I finally spoke again.

"Does he hurt you?" I whispered.

Only her eyes moved to look at me and she blinked several times as she tried to speak. "I'm all alone," she said in a very small voice.

I moved very slowly to place my hand over hers and said, "I want to be your friend, so you're not alone."

She pulled her hand back and crossed her arms as she let her tears fall. She bit on her lip and stared at the exposed beams over my head. I gave her time to decide what to say and she finally let her eyes come back to mine and said, "This isn't your mountain, you don't belong here."

"I came to help people, Bella; I would help you, if you need it."

"How?" she asked me pointedly. I felt like she was challenging me, not asking for my opinion.

"You can divorce him," I told her, and felt stupid for suggesting something so bold without even knowing her story.

She stood angrily and said, "I thought you were a smart man, you don't know anything."

"Wait," I said, and grabbed onto her arm. She winced in pain and pulled away from me. I gritted my teeth to stop from calling her husband every name I could think of. "Why do you come here?" I asked her. "Are you hungry?"

Her chest heaved with silent sobs and she stomped her foot with anger for her own actions. She looked over at the table and I thought she was looking at the empty plate, but her words shocked me. "Imagine not using your mind for days, or months, or years."

"You want the lessons?" I asked with a stunned voice.

She lowered her eyes again and nodded, so I grabbed some papers and held them out for her to take. She took a deep breath and said, "I can't take them home."

"Oh, okay, um…you can come here anytime. I'll get you your own books."

Her eyes shot up and her mouth opened wide. "You have books?"

"I can get any book you want. Who's your favorite author?"

She whispered as if her words would break some magic spell she was under, "I've never read a book."

God, I felt sick inside. This was a bright, kind, beautiful woman longing to use her intellect, and every form of knowledge had been kept from her.

"Can you stay a bit longer, I have a book you can read," I said walking toward a stack of boxes. I dug through for something I felt she would enjoy and a People magazine fell to the ground. She picked it up and looked at the actress on the cover.

"So beautiful," she sighed, and I turned to look at her staring in awe at the cover.

"You are much prettier," I said, and she looked at me and shook her head as her face blushed a deep red.

My phone rang and she jumped in shock so I pulled it from my pocket to show it to her. "It is just a cell phone." I looked at the ID and saw Tanya was calling, "Oh shit," I said and answered quickly. I walked away from Bella to talk and she began looking through the books, touching each one hesitantly.

"Hey, I couldn't call last night, so don't get your panties in a bunch," I said, as I prepared myself for Tanya's temper tantrum.

"I told you I would not support this self imposed exile if you didn't stay in touch. For all I know you could be dead and I am not coming to that God awful place to look for your body."

I stopped listening and watched Bella pick up a book and open it. I was so curious which one caught her eye and watched her brow furrow and then soften into a slight smile. She sat on the edge of my bed and continued to read as Tanya screamed at me over the line.

"I'm losing the connection." I said, and turned off my phone. I knew somewhere deep in my cognizant brain I should be ashamed for treating Tanya so rudely, but I was mesmerized by the creature in front of me.

I watched her for several minutes as she read page after page, unable to tear herself away from the story. I could see her mind working as the story came alive for her, taking her far from this mountain and the rope that kept her tethered to that dreadful man.

I left her alone and worked on my lessons as she continued to read. It was almost two hours later when I heard her breathing deeply and glanced over to my bed. She was lying on her side with her feet still hanging off the bed, holding the book against her chest. Her eyes were closed and a hint of a smile was on her face.

I finally got to see the book she was reading, 'Wuthering Heights.' I stared at her dirty, worn feet and wanted to wash them clean. I had no idea how she ran around these woods barefoot. I walked over and knelt next to the bed and moved her hair from her face. She was so beautiful and I let my thumb move back and forth over her cheek.

She mumbled something softly and I leaned closer to decipher her words. She took a deep breath and said, "Please love me."

"Bella," I called out softly.

Her eyes fluttered and finally opened slowly. She looked around and her eyes widened when she realized where she was.

"You can stay, I just need to know when you should leave," I said hoping she wouldn't run off.

Her face reddened and she quickly sat up and looked at the book in her hands. "I shouldn't come here," she said sadly. Her hand extended the book toward me.

"You can take the book with you, if you like."

"I can't," she said adamantly, and my heart ached for her.

"Well, you can come read whenever you want. Consider my books, your books."

She looked into my eyes with such a sad expression and said, "You are too kind."

"No, I'm selfish, I enjoy your company," I admitted to her and to myself.

"I want…can I…."

I could tell she wanted to say something and I tried so hard to anticipate her words to spare her any further embarrassment, but I was at a loss. I finally smiled and said, "We're friends, you can say anything."

She let her hair fall in her eyes again and said, "Do you have more candy?"

I had to fold my arms to stop myself from pulling her to me. She was a married woman, twenty years old, and only now finding the enjoyment of a simple candy bar. I walked to my box and pulled out several.

"You can hide these in the woods," I said as I held them out for her.

She took them and let her eyes flash up to mine for just a moment before running off into the darkness.

3

The following morning I arrived at the school to find children waiting. Three more showed up and I was able to put them into study groups. Alice took the younger kids and I worked with the teens. I was waiting for them to work some problems as I stared out the window into the massive forest.

"Mr. Cullen?"

"Mr. Cullen?"

A hand touched mine and I startled, causing all the children to laugh. "Are you going to ring the bell?" Alice asked me.

I stood and instructed the kids to put away their supplies and walked onto the porch to ring the bell. When I returned to my desk Alice was giving me a thoughtful look. "You are either having money problems or women problems," she stated knowingly.

"I have a feeling we both know what it is like not to worry about money," I said, and watched her nod and smile with understanding. "My woman is confused as hell why I would want to come here, but overall supportive."

"So what has you so distracted today?" she said looking directly into my eyes. "My husband may be the minister, but I'm the one with intuition."

I ran my hand through my hair in frustration. I was becoming obsessed with another man's wife and as much as I wanted to believe it was strictly concern for her wellbeing, I knew deep down it was more than that. Maybe it was her uniqueness I was finding attractive. She was nothing like any women who moved in my circles. Most of them had advanced degrees and could care less about exercising the mind. None of them would care to read Wuthering Heights in place of food.

"Do you know Bella Black?" I finally asked her.

She gave the same response everyone gave. She thought about it and then shook her head.

"Her husband ties a rope around her waist and pulls her like a dog," I said with disgust and Alice's mouth dropped open wide. "Emmett knows the husband, but didn't know too much about the wife."

"I think Jasper should pay him a visit. I'll go too and check on her," Alice said, as she shook her head sadly.

"I…um…I've been feeding her and letting her read my books," I finally admitted, and Alice gave out a loud sigh.

"Oh Edward, you can't be a good Samaritan to everyone. There are lines and I think you've crossed one."

I let my head fall into my hands, knowing she was right, but also knowing there was no way I would ever send Bella away. She needed help and she deserved a chance at life. "Please check soon and let me know what you find."

She agreed and headed home as I continued to work on grading some papers. When I left for the night I walked to the tiny general store to purchase some soap and deodorant. I saw a box of licorice and I picked it up, then I saw some bubble gum and grabbed it, too. I was ashamed of myself for making plans for seeing Bella again, but I was more ashamed for wanting it so badly.

I took the time to cook and made some chicken enchiladas, knowing she would have never tasted them before, and waited anxiously for her to show up. It was almost nine when the door opened very slowly. My heart was beating rapidly and I smiled when she peeked in.

"Come in, Bella. Your book is waiting for you," I said with a smile and nodded to the chair.

She took a couple of steps and stopped as she raised her nose into the air and took a deep breath.

"I made enchiladas to eat, would you like to try them?" I asked her with anticipation.

She gave me an almost imperceptible nod and let her hair fall again. I jumped up and pulled the pan from the oven and placed a large portion on her plate and some on mine. I got the cold glasses of milk from the refrigerator and placed them next to the plates.

I looked at Bella when I sat and she was smiling as she looked at her hands. It wasn't a normal smile, she was finding something amusing so I asked her about it.

"Are you laughing at my cooking?" I teased.

"You waited for me?" she asked softly.

I realized how planned everything appeared, and how I did wait for her before I ate. I smiled, slightly embarrassed and saw her eyes glance at mine.

"I hoped you would come," I admitted.

She looked at her plate and wrinkled her nose before picking up her fork and stabbing the red concoction.

"It tastes better than it looks," I assured her.

She finally took a small bite and I held my breath, waiting for a positive reaction and praying a negative one didn't come.

"What is this called," she asked softly.

"Enchiladas, it is a corn tortilla filled with chicken, rice and various peppers, covered with a spicy sauce," I tried to explain but doubted it sounded appetizing.

She took another bite and smiled up at me, "I like it."

I let out a loud rush of air and smiled back at her. "You worried me," I admitted.

Her bites became quicker and larger and I found enjoyment in simply watching her eat. She took drinks of milk often and I hoped she wasn't forcing herself to eat my meal. I liked how her full lips would close around the fork and wondered what it would feel like to kiss her.

She finally caught me staring and let her hair drop again, making me chuckle. I saw her smile behind her veil and it made me have a desire to touch her. Instead I asked her about the licorice.

"Have you tasted licorice before?" I asked, and knew by the way her forehead furrowed she hadn't.

I pulled out the box and pushed it towards her. She stared at it and finally looked at me. "Why are you nice to me?"

"I only want to be your friend," I said, knowing I wanted to be so much more. "I think you need a friend, Bella."

Tears formed in her eyes. My heart ached for her as my arms twitched with the need to hold her. She spoke very softly and asked, "What do you want, for the food…and stuff?" I saw how she glanced at the bed with fear in her eyes.

"Oh God, Bella, no," I said in shame. "I would never touch you. You never have to worry about that, okay? I know you're married."

Her head dropped and she took a shaky breath, so I gathered the dishes and left her alone to read. She opened the licorice and ate a few strands but became too engrossed in the book to continue. When I saw her lean onto her arm, I moved from the sofa and offered it to her.

"I should go," she said with a sad voice.

"Just one more chapter," I said to convince her to stay.

She moved to the sofa and continued reading. I looked at her dirty feet and wanted nothing more than to buy her some shoes and socks. Her dress had small blood stains from menstruating and I had to look away before I refused to let her walk out the door.

I busied myself emptying boxes and looked over at the couch to see her sleeping. I got most of the books put in my bookshelf and finally went over and knelt next to Bella. I looked at her callused hands and ran my hand along her tangled hair. I didn't know what it was about her that had me so captivated, but I was enthralled with her.

"Bella," I called softly.

Her eyes opened slightly and she smiled at me, "Are you real?" she whispered.

I picked up her tiny hand in mine and leaned my forehead against her fingers. "I want to help you, so badly," I whispered, and I felt her fingers twist into my hair.

"I can't come back for awhile," she said softly.

"Will you be okay?" I asked, and hoped she would tell me the truth.

When she didn't answer I looked up to see her face. I moved closer and I held her face in my hands. "Bella, I am begging you to let me help you. Stay here, don't leave," I pleaded with her.

She held onto my wrists and shut her eyes before saying, "I can't."

I felt disappointment run through me and realized how absurd my statement was. I couldn't waltz into this community and start breaking up marriages. Tanya would never understand my desire to have Bella stay here. My relationship at home was another matter I was going to have to address, but I kept pushing that topic into the far recesses of my mind.

I stood and helped her up. She handed me the book and I wished I could send it with her. I noticed how her eyes darted around my cabin and she finally asked, "Do you have an outhouse?"

I almost laughed, but remembered just how few places had indoor plumbing around here, so I reined it in. "I have an indoor bathroom, let me show you," I said, leading her to the little room next to my bed. I could have easily pointed it out to her, but it gave me an excuse to hold her hand.

I saw my clothes and towel from my earlier shower lying on the floor, so I quickly gathered them in my arms and placed them in the hamper. She entered the room and waited for me to finish cleaning. I smiled and scooted past her, causing her to lean against the sink and she caught her reflection in the mirror.

She stood frozen as she stared into the mirror in horror. Her hand rose slowly and touched her face very lightly. She swallowed hard and began to breathe heavily, before turning to face me. I didn't know what to say to make her feel better. I wanted to offer her the use of my shower, but that alone would be insulting.

I finally said the only thing I could, "It doesn't matter to me."

She tried to run past me and I caught her around the waist, but when she screamed out in pain and I instantly let go. "Don't go, you're hurt," I said, holding my hands out in an effort to calm her.

She held her arms to her waist as tears rolled through the soot on her face. "Bella, I won't touch you, I promise, but you have to let me check your injuries."

She shook her head adamantly and I finally said, "Can I get the preacher's wife? She won't tell anyone and she can make sure you are okay."

"No, only you," she yelled quickly as her eyes became panicked.

"Okay, only me. Just lift your dress up enough for me to see the wound. Do you want a towel to cover your body?" I asked her and she looked confused.

I finally pulled out a blanket and sat it on the couch, "Sit here and pull the blanket over your lap, then pull up your dress."

She sat down and pulled the blanket over her. She looked into my eyes as she pulled her dress slowly upwards. I wasn't sure if she was watching for any signs of lust or if it gave her strength to look at me. I let my eyes move to her abdomen and forced myself to remain calm.

Rope burns circled her waist and pockets of raw skin were beginning to ooze. I looked up at her eyes and bit my lip for a moment to compose myself. "Bella," I said very softly, "if I don't treat your wounds you will get very sick, and possibly die."

Her eyes filled with tears and she whispered very softly, "I don't care."

I wasn't sure if she was giving me permission to treat her or telling me she wanted to end the nightmare she was living. I pretended it was permission. "I need you to take a shower and clean the skin with soap. I have some medicine I can put on it afterwards, okay?"

She finally dropped her dress and shook her head, "I can't, he'll know."

"We can make up a story," I said angrily. "We'll tell him someone found you, sick with fever. The preacher, he came by and found you sick and took you to his wife. They will help you, Bella. They are my friends."

I could tell her resolve was waning and I took advantage of her hesitation. I jumped up and turned on the shower before grabbing one of my t-shirts and a clean pair of boxers. I sat a towel on the sink and made sure a fresh bar of soap was in the holder.

When I turned around I found her standing in the doorway, completely naked. I couldn't stop my eyes from looking at her body. Her bones protruded from her hips and you could visually see each of her ribs. I could feel the anger rising like bile on my throat and I stepped out of her way.

She climbed into the shower as I rummaged through my school calendar to find the phone number Alice gave me. It was after midnight, but she answered right away and I could hear noise in the background.

"Alice, this is Edward, I need you here right away. Please come as fast as you can," I said in a panic.

"Are you at the school?" she asked.

"No, at my cabin, bring your husband and please hurry."

I hung up and took a few calming breaths. I got a drink of water and rinsed my mouth. It was dry and I couldn't even form enough saliva to spit. I heard a car pull up and I ran to the front door.

"What's wrong?" she asked, and I noticed Emmett and a pretty blonde were with the Whitlock's.

I grabbed Alice's arm and pulled her to my bathroom door. "I need you to help the woman in there. You'll see what I mean," I said, and opened the door. Alice entered hesitantly and I shut the door.

"Jasper, I need you to help this young woman. I need you to say you found her and brought her to your wife."

"Edward, what are you mixed up with?" he asked suspiciously. I was asking a minister to lie and saw nothing wrong with it.

"She needs medical help, she needs our help," I said knowing full well I needed to back up and explain from the beginning.

I could tell he wanted no part in my lie and was ready to decline when his wife stepped out of the bathroom. Her eyes were wet with tears and she walked up to me and gave me a hug. I felt my whole body relax. I wasn't alone in this fight. Alice would insist on her husband helping Bella.

"Do you have ointment?" she asked.

"Yes, and bandages," I told her.

"Okay, I'll get her dressed and you can treat her wounds while I run and get her some undergarments. And please feed her," Alice said, with tears falling.

She returned to the bathroom and I began gathering supplies. "What's going on?" Emmett asked.

"Remember the woman we saw tethered to Jacob Black?"

The blonde woman gasped and covered her mouth. "You have one of his girls here?"

I nodded, wondering exactly who the stranger was when Emmett introduced her as his wife, Rosalie.

"Are you crazy?" she yelled. "You can't have her here. You don't cross Jacob, ever."

"I'm very close to removing both of his arms," I said to her stunned face. "I don't give a damn who he is, she is not an animal."

I picked up the large, filthy dress Bella left on the floor and handed it to Rosalie, "Throw this in my washer."

Alice came out and nodded to me, so I took the antibiotic ointment and hospital dressing, and went into the bathroom to find Bella sitting on the edge of the tub in my clothes. Her hair was wet, but combed, and her face was clean. She smiled when I entered and I felt my heart speed up in my chest.

"You look beautiful," I told her honestly, and she blushed before lowering her head.

I sat my supplies down and got some Q-tips from the cabinet. She stood and raised the shirt and I noticed how Alice had to roll the waist of the boxers to keep them on her thin hips. "I'll be gentle," I promised her and noticed how she blushed again, making me smile knowingly.

I covered the raw flesh with the greasy ointment and gently wrapped the dressing around her waist. I stood erect and looked down into her eyes. She looked at me with so much trust I felt the need to touch her. I ran my fingers through her wet hair and held her head as I kissed her forehead softly. I was surprised when she threw her arms around my waist and hugged me tightly. I inhaled sharply, smelling her moist clean skin as I hugged her back.

"Some of my friends are here, they won't hurt you; they want to help."

I felt her tense so I kissed her head a few times before reaching for the door.

"Edward," she said softly."If I don't get to tell you later, you are a good man." I saw her lip quiver and I realized how terrified she was at this moment. She honestly didn't expect to live when Jacob got a hold of her.

"You'll have plenty of time to tell me," I smiled, and she smiled back. I took hold of her hand and led her into the other room. Alice had returned and took her right back into the bathroom, where she dressed her in panties and a flannel nightgown, as I made her some eggs and toast.