Stephenie Meyer owns the Twilight Saga. Any characters and plots points associated with Twilight do not belong to me and I do not derive any financial gain from this story. No copyright infringement is intended.
Taming Lord Cullen, its content, and intellectual ideas are all mine.
Prologue: The Beginning of the End
Cullen Manor, 1837
"His lordship requires your presence in the Blue Room milady."
Peter stood silently, appearing pained as he delivered Edward's summons.
Isabella did not blame him.
After all, it was no secret that the Earl and his Countess were estranged.
She had avoided this confrontation long enough and they were long overdue a conversation.
Although Isabella was sure that it would be more like an inquisition.
At first she had been panicked, fraught with worry that he would actually think her a participant in this sordid scheme.
Over the past few days the worry had dissipated, slowly evolving into white-hot anger.
How dare he judge and condemn her?
Had she not done enough to prove her loyalty?
After everything, how could he not trust her?
It was time that she found out, because she would not allow him to persecute her any further.
"That will be all, thank you Peter. Please let the Earl know that I shall be along shortly," Isabella said blandly. She dismissed the loyal servant, taking a deep fortifying breath as he closed the door behind him.
Lady Isabella struggled to summon her courage. Edward was a powerful man, truly a force to be reckoned with.
Once she had been captivated by that trait, yet now she feared it.
If the past few months had meant anything to him, surely he would have to know that she was innocent in this!
But what would she do if he truly thought her guilty?
She refused to believe that it would come to that, and she was tired of cowering in the Countess' suites as if she had committed a crime.
Isabella had nothing to hide and therefore, she would confront the devil head on.
It was time to face the music.
As she maneuvered her way through the corridor towards the Blue Room, she was struck by the irony of their situation.
The Blue Room was her favorite place in the house next to the kitchen. She found the deep rich blues of the tapestries warm and comforting, and the lovely antique furniture added to the historical ambiance of Cullen Manor.
Isabella and Edward had shared numerous evenings in the Blue Room, sitting by the fire or sipping sherry while they played a round of cards.
But that was when he had actually enjoyed her company.
Oh how things had quickly changed!
Lately his emotional state had been erratic, seeming to change with the wind.
Isabella had once thought that she had tamed Lord Edward Cullen and she had been presumptuous and naive enough to believe that her feelings had been returned.
Now she saw just how foolish she had been to succumb to his charms.
Edward had summoned her to their safe haven…the place where they had shared so many happy memories.
Isabella was fairly certain that after tonight, nothing would ever be the same.
Several deep breaths later, she grasped the door knobs and threw open the doors to her beloved sitting room.
Isabella entered, shutting the doors behind her. The sound of the doors clicking shut resonated through the room, interrupting the heavy silence that permeated the air.
Tension was thick between them as she spotted him at the opposite end of the room. He stood with his back to her, arms akimbo as he gazed out of the windows into the lush gardens below.
Isabella recognized his rigid stance and instantly knew that he did not believe her.
Inside, she began to despair.
The stillness in the room was unsettling.
Minutes passed in awkward, uncomfortable silence.
Finally, he spoke.
"You lied to me."
Edward's voice was heavy with accusation.
Isabella took an involuntary step back at his lethal tone.
He was so cold, nearly arctic in his treatment of her.
"I never lied to you Edward!" Isabella fired back heatedly. "I just didn't—"
"Tell me the entire story?" Edward interrupted.
Isabella's blood ran cold at the implication. He was so sure of himself!
Or was it that he was so unsure of her?
Did he truly believe that the last few months had been a lie? That she had deceived him in their home?
In his bed?
"Why didn't you tell me about him after he first approached you at the Forks estate?" Edward asked icily.
Isabella did not fail to remark upon the fact that he still had not turn to face her and she was quickly growing weary of his tone.
"Well I would have, husband, if you had given me the opportunity to do so before you ran off to the properties in Phoenix!" she spat.
How dare he?
He had married her and immediately fled Cullen Manor, leaving her alone with a house full of servants to fend for herself.
Edward had abandoned her like rubbish on the street!
Yet she was to blame?
"Pray tell milord! Exactly when was I supposed to inform you of his visit? Before or after you deserted me to drink and game with your unsavory consorts?" Isabella seethed.
"And when you finally returned," she continued, "you could not bring yourself to stomach my presence! So exactly when was I supposed to make this grand confession?" she demanded haughtily.
Isabella smiled to herself, knowing that she had a point. She finally felt as if she might be gaining the upper hand and she was tired of being solely held accountable for this marital nightmare.
It was time that Edward looked into the mirror and took responsibility for his own failings.
But then her husband turned to face her, glowering at her hatefully.
His face was completely devoid of expression except for the fire in his steely green eyes.
Isabella could tell that she had struck a nerve.
Edward clenched his jaw and balled his hands into fists as he glared at her with enmity.
Satan himself would have been afraid.
In that very moment, Isabella knew that Edward had her at a disadvantage.
He alone was in control of this situation.
Legally, her husband could take everything from her... he could confiscate all of her belongings and cast her out into the streets with nothing.
And he knew it.
"Do enlighten me Isabella. Did you honestly think that I would never find out about your little indiscretion?"
His voice was calm and collected…cold and deadly.
By God he was so angry with her!
Yet she had done nothing to deserve his disdain!
"Indiscretion!" Isabella cried, immediately outraged at his choice of words.
"You forget yourself Edward! He is a dear friend, and nothing more!" She screamed hotly.
Suddenly, the tension between them became insufferable.
Isabella felt like she was close to snapping. Her sardonic laughter ricocheted off of the walls, making her feel destitute and weak.
"Find something funny?" Edward seemed surprised at her show of amusement. Isabella watched as he walked to the sideboard, retrieved his favorite liquor and proceeded to pour himself a decanter of whiskey.
"Hardly," Isabella snapped in an insipid tone before rolling her eyes and taking a seat on the expensive brocade sofa.
Edward continued to stand, swirling the amber liquid in his glass and openly glaring at her with distaste. He appeared to be waiting for her to make her next move.
"Listen Edward," Isabella began, hoping that they could start anew. "I thought I was doing the right thing—"
"By lying to me?" Edward cut in nastily. Isabella was momentarily stunned speechless.
He was magnificent in his anger, stunning in his appearance. The sunlight from the windows highlighted the brown, blonde, and red tones in his unruly auburn hair. His mossy green eyes, though hard and accusing were still uncommonly beautiful.
Isabella was ashamed that in spite of his poor opinion of her that she could still want him so unabashedly. The intensity of her feelings was staggering, and she was aghast that she was unable to brush them aside in the face of his allegations.
"Answer me!" Edward roared, abruptly interrupting her ogling and bringing her back to the painful reality of their disturbing state of affairs.
Isabella sighed, bracing herself for his wrath before responding. "I never intended to lie to you Edward," she whispered sadly. "I am sorry for how this appears, but things are not as they seem," she murmured quietly.
She unintentionally closed her eyes, shutting out the fear that he believed her capable of such a dastardly deed.
"You still have not answered my original question Countess," Edward reminded her frostily. He took a sip of his spirits, eying her curiously over the top of his glass.
"Why did you see the need to keep this from me?" he inquired, determined to seek out the truth.
"He asked me for time!" Isabella answered nervously, wringing her hands together in a sign of agitation. "He said in his letters—"
"LETTERS!" Edward nearly screamed, his eyes narrowing dangerously. He was clearly startled, surprised by her admission. Even so, he refused to let her know that she had caught him off guard.
Edward struggled to reconcile the fact that he had been so wrong about his wife's intentions.
"Do you mean to tell me, my dear wife, that not only did you invite him into my home without my implicit consent, but you exchanged letters with him behind my back?"
Edward was so livid that his chest heaved in exertion.
Isabella feared that he may actually strike her.
She knew that it looked bad, just as she knew that she had just dug an even larger hole to climb herself out of.
But surely it was better to come clean and hope that Edward's trust in her was not so lacking that all would be lost.
"How dare you!" Edward spat. He was quaking with rage, literally about to explode with the force of his anger. He squeezed his hands together in an effort to stop them from trembling.
Clearly, Isabella was not who he had thought that she was.
"Not again," he thought.
He had been a fool to trust another woman.
It was just as his father had said: they were all the same.
He could not believe that he had thought that Isabella was any different.
Isabella was becoming more horrified by the second.
She was desperate to make him believe her, yet it was becoming obvious that he had already deemed her guilty.
"Edward please," she begged, mortified that she sounded so culpable when she was entirely innocent.
"I can explain!" Isabella cried, disgusted that she was on the verge of tears. "He said he had proof! He asked me to wait until he acquired the ledgers from the solicitor!"
Isabella's eyes flickered across the room as she tried to conjure up a singular, solitary piece of evidence that would make him believe her.
She walked towards him and tried to take his hand but he backed way, withdrawing from her touch.
Isabella felt her heart begin to break at his rejection.
Clearly trust had been broken, shattered into a million tiny pieces.
Could there be love without trust?
Edward walked to the large desk in the corner of the room, taking a seat in the leather wingback chair. "Bring me the letters," he commanded, raising his left eyebrow and smirking in her direction.
It was as if he was daring her to refuse his demand.
Righteous indignation bloomed inside Isabella's chest and seeped into her veins.
She could feel herself flush as red as a rose with the intensity of her anger.
Before she had cowered before him, afraid of his stature as an Earl.
His name alone elevated him to one of the highest positions in the peerage.
But never again would she allow herself to be intimidated.
Edward watched as she straightened her chest, lifting her chin defiantly.
"No," she stated simply. Isabella had nothing to hide, and she refused to lay herself bare.
She had confessed her love for Edward in their correspondence and she could not allow Edward to know that she cared for him so deeply, especially when he did not feel the same.
As he absorbed the significance her words, Edward could not believe her audacity.
She would deign to refuse his request when this was his sole means of proving her innocent?
Without warning Edward bit down on his tongue, drawing blood.
The coppery taste sickened him almost as much as Isabella's deception.
He stood slowly from his chair, allowing her to visually grasp the full brunt of his fury.
"Excuse me?" Edward replied, advancing on her slowly. He was all muscle and sinew as his long, lean legs began moving in her direction.
His stance was restrained, as if he was trying not to unleash the full force of the unholy war that he held within.
Isabella jumped from the sofa, standing to face him. She took one step back for every step forward that he took in her direction.
He was like formidable lion encroaching on a terrified lamb.
Edward could see the fear in her eyes and somehow it empowered him further.
"Let her be afraid," he remarked to himself.
She should be.
Isabella found herself backed into the doors of the Blue Room, Edward's hands on either side of her head. She was trapped, forced to lean back as he lowered himself down to her height and glared at her viciously.
They were nose to nose, engaging in a battle that neither wanted to lose.
For the first time in their marriage, Isabella was afraid of what her husband was capable of.
Could hands that had touched her, worshiped her, also inflict unimaginable pain?
Isabella was conflicted. Edward had always been a beautiful man, but he was even more so in the midst of his fury. With his eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, and eyes blazing, he inspired a visceral reaction…a deep seeded heat that blossomed low in her belly.
Ashamed, Isabella turned away from his intense gaze. In spite the contentious circumstances, how could she want him so much?
Isabella was unaware of the fact that Edward had watched her traitorous nipples harden before his eyes.
Her immense desire for him, coupled with the intensity of his threat to her well being caused her heart to pound...
And the effect on her body it was obvious.
Isabella literally shivered with the ferocity of the physical want that arose within her and Edward knew that it would take only one touch, one flicker of his tongue and he could embark on his desire to fully satisfy her...
Literally taste and hear her as she reached completion, basking in the experience of her fulfillment...
As usual, Isabella denied the lustful nature that she could feel pounding in her femininity as a result of the alluring sexual danger that he posed.
At the same time that she craved his intensity, Isabella hated it.
Deep down, she despised how her body betrayed her.
She was affronted by the juxtaposition of her want and the intensity of her ire, crippled by her contempt for his actions.
Isabella knew that she was right in this…she would not back down and she could not show her debilitating fear.
At the same time that Edward looked at her heaving breasts and rock hard nipples, he was amazed at her temerity.
He was confused, staggered by his lust and hindered by the facts...
And beyond those feelings, he was unmistakably aroused.
In spite of her sexual allure, begrudgingly, he respected her ability to stand her ground.
Still, her boldness and overconfidence threatened to provoke the beast that he struggled to contain.
She dared to defy him when he had blatantly caught her in multiple lies?
As he looked into the eyes of his beautiful wife, Edward struggled to recall why he was so angry with her.
He asked himself if he was wrong to doubt her sincerity.
He shook his head to clear his lust-filled haze and forced himself to come back to reality.
Taking a step away from her, he allowed his plump pink limps to morph into a sneer of disdain. He was still her husband and by God…
She would honor him.
Isabella watched the myriad of emotions that crossed her husband's face. All at once, she was determined to show him that she meant business. She was tired of being subjected to his demands and she resolved to let him know it.
Today had not been the first time that he had given her an ultimatum, but she made an oath to herself that it would certainly be his last.
"Those letters are personal and private," Isabella whispered. "I will not allow you to violate me in this manner Edward. Either you trust me, or you do not."
Her eyes desperately delved into his, searching for any sign that he would open his heart and truly hear her.
She did not wish to lose him over something that had started out so innocently.
But all things considered, Edward had never been so disgusted with her.
Deep down, he yearned to take her at her word but regardless of his overwhelming lust he could not bring himself to overlook the evidence against her.
"Surely my ears must fail me!" Edward seethed. Isabella could feel his sweet breath rush across her face as she absorbed the vehemence of his tone.
"If you have nothing to hide, then why withhold the evidence of your innocence?"
Edward knew that she could find no argument with his logic.
Isabella remained silent, and as the seconds ticked by, Edward became more and more convinced of her guilt.
Pain like he had never experienced before ripped through his limbs, crippling him.
The force of his agony nearly brought him to his knees.
He wanted to crumble with the realization that it had all been a lie.
Her brilliant smiles, reserved only for him.
Moonlight walks around the gardens.
Cozy romantic dinners in this very room.
The innocent kisses and tender touches.
Soul searing nights in his bed where he swore that he couldn't tell where he ended and she began…
Isabella knew the exact moment when all was lost.
His cold, steady gaze never wavered from her entreating brown orbs and she could literally see the last remnants of light leaving his eyes.
She could practically feel the distance growing between them.
How had everything slipped from her grasp so quickly?
It was completely and utterly hopeless.
Edward had been the sole administrator of her tribunal and she had clearly been tried and found guilty of this crime when she was totally innocent.
"Get out of my sight!" Edward roared into her porcelain face.
Isabella was so stunned by his violent declaration that she could not move. Her legs felt leaden, heavy with the weight of her anguish.
Was this the beginning of the end, when she had just begun to acknowledge that she loved him so deeply?
As she looked up into his beautiful sneering face, she knew that it was unequivocally over.
Dejected, she turned away from him, opening the door and walking numbly down the hall.
"Isabella," Edward called through the open door.
She paused, turning to face him and waiting for him to deliver his coup de grace.
The blandness of Edward's tone belied his intent.
He wanted to wound her, make her hurt as deeply as he did.
"I don't want to see or hear you until I am ready to lay eyes on your lying, treacherous countenance. You will confine yourself to your quarters until I seek you out!" her husband hissed like a venomous snake.
Isabella recoiled as if he had physically struck her.
She was so devastated that she was unable to respond, so she simply nodded her consent. Turning away in defeat, she began to flee the scene.
"Oh, and Isabella," Edward called again.
Isabella paused but this time she did not bother to turn and face his hate.
She could not bear to break apart in front of him; after everything, her pride would not allow him to see how much that he had hurt her.
Edward stared at her back, preparing to cleave her heart in two.
He knew that his next words would break her heart…
If he had not done so already.
He told himself that it was nothing less than what she deserved for making him love her in the first place.
Isabella watched helplessly as he unleashed the full force of his cocky, mocking sneer.
"I will see you dead before I allow you to cuckhold me," Edward vowed. He heard her incredulous gasp, and watched as her hand flew to her mouth in outrage.
Isabella flinched, unable to believe that he could be so malicious, hateful and vindictive.
Her eyes were suddenly brimming with tears at his words.
This was nothing short of hell on earth, and she alone was Lucifer's prisoner.
"I mean it Isabella. Do not speak to him again under any circumstances," Edward commanded.
There was no turning back from this.
Her chest constricted until she thought that her heart would burst.
Edward stood there expressionless, as if he had not just uttered the cruelest words imaginable.
"You are your father's son," Isabella whimpered before bolting down the corridor.
Sobs wracked her body as she raced up the stairs to her rooms. Her tears were blinding, and she was horrified to realize that her limbs were failing her.
She was in danger of collapsing onto the floor and dissolving into a puddle of inconsolable goo.
Somehow, she managed to make her way to her rooms before flinging herself face down upon the bed, the tears coming in torrential waves that soaked through her expensive duvet.
As she cried herself into oblivion, Isabella was left with one frantic thought:
How the devil had they come to this?
Thank you for reading.