Age of Edward Contest

penname: bellasunderstudy1

Title: Embracing Fate

Type of Edward: Scottish Highland Edward

A/N: Note to the reader. Just to clarify so it is not confusing a few chapters into the story there will be dialogue when the men are speaking Gealic in company of English speakers. This dialogue is differentiated by being in Italics in hopes that it will make it easier to know when they are speaking in Gealic and when in English.

Beta'd by the wonderful Jessica1971. Huge thanks to her as always for her help in making the words so much prettier.

Now, on to Scottish Highlander Edward and his English Lady.


Chapter 1

The Missive

Scottish Highlands, The year of our Lord 1710

He crossed the stone bridge leading to Castle Didyme only to be stopped short of the castle doors by the most massive individual he had yet encountered. Near to frozen solid from the harsh, unpredictable weather during the early Highland spring, Alec was mere moments from completing his mission. He simply refused to allow this hulking Highlander to keep him from doing so.

Taking a deep breath, he gathered what little courage he possessed and then near swallowed his tongue when the barbarian—for there was surely no more fitting description— crossed his enormous arms over his chest. The man's sharp blue gaze made his blood run cold. Dark hair lay loose about corded shoulders, save the plaits (warrior's plaits, he'd heard they were called) hanging from each temple alongside the cut features of cheek and jaw.

This was not a man to trifle with, but the mistress' instructions had been clear enough; he was to deliver her missive to no one but the chief himself. With more self-possession than he truly felt, Alec squared his thin shoulders and raised his eyes to meet those of the very large man before him. "I-I must see the chieftain," Alec stammered. "I carry a message that is only to be delivered to Himself. It is of greatest import and I should be shown him with utmost alacrity."

Alec's eyes rounded when yet another large imposing man joined the first. The second man slapped an enormous hand upon the first giant's shoulder. Alec felt paralyzed with fear when a pair of green eyes regarded him with a speculative glance. Like the first, this man was undoubtedly descended from the bloodthirsty Norse and spoke in the same gibberish Alec often heard his mistress use but never understood. Although a bit leaner, more sinewy, there was an undercurrent of danger to this one, which served somehow to make him more intimidating, if that were possible.

"Och, Emmett man, what mischief is this?"

"Ah, the prodigal returns." Emmett grinned at Edward.

"No so much a prodigal but returned all the same," Edward said then nodded toward the tiny Sassenach. "So?"

Emmett's eyes sparkled as a wicked smile spread. "I've had a bit too much fun wi' making him near piss himself to concern myself owermuch as to his true purpose. Alas, he says he has a message to be delivered to Himself and no other."

Edward turned to study the man more closely. "Where's this message?" he asked, in English, though it galled him to do so.

The little man blinked. "Y-you speak the Queen's English?"

A deep scowl creased Edward's forehead; his eyes narrowed. "I asked you a question, man. I'll have an answer."

"I-I can only say," Alec stammered, "as I've said to your good man here, that I possess a message to be delivered to none other than Marcus Volturi MacLean."

"And why should I not reveal your innards to the moonlight and deliver the missive myself."

The man's Adam's apple bobbed with the working of his throat. "I-I am but a messenger, sir. I do not pretend to know what you should or should not do."

Edward snorted. He had to give it to the little chit; the man had ballocks. Whoever sent him had chosen well. With a shrug of feigned indifference, Edward barked, "Come." Then turned on his heel and stalked away.

~O~

Marcus set aside the parchment holding the latest tallies for the clan's coffers and scrubbed a hand over his face. He didn't toil with the task in the normal course of things, but as his foster son was not yet arrived from a short visit to his own clan, Marcus had a mind to try it. Abysmal business, that, and he quickly remembered why he had turned the job over to Edward.

A wry smile curled Marcus' lips at thought of his foster son. A good braw man he was, and would make a good chief one day to be sure. At two and twenty, Edward had more than earned his place as his father's successor and as the situation was with Marcus' own family, it seemed that Edward would be his choice for tannin as well.

Marcus looked up at the sound of a knock. He smiled when the door opened to reveal Edward standing just beyond. "Ah, you've arrived. I was beginning to think your father had cozened ye in to staying for good."

Edward chuckled. "No not as yet, but it was a near thing."

Marcus frowned as Edward stepped further into the study followed by a small light haired man, with Emmett close behind.

"What's amiss here?"

"Aught but the man says he's a messenger. Says he must deliver his missive to no one other than Himself. As he's a Sassenach, and no mistake, thought you'd want to see him straight away." Edward crossed to stand before the bookcase at Marcus' left.

"Think you it's from Renee?" Marcus asked, a notable hesitation in his voice.

"Aye."

Marcus' deep brown eyes flicked to Emmett, then back to the smaller man. Closer inspection of the messenger's countenance only served to concern him more. "An expression such as the one you wear cannot bode well for what news you carry. Get on with it and tell me what it is that has brought you into my home at this late hour."

With trembling fingers, the man-boy searched in his pouch and removed a worn piece of parchment. A sharp pang of apprehension shot through his heart upon seeing the dark red wax seal.

Chapter 2

A promise kept

They were alone inside Marcus' study. This conversation did not warrant the hearing of others. As he sat back in his chair, Marcus regarded Edward with barely suppressed humor and a small amount of trepidation. He watched as the man paced from one side of the room to the other, muttering to himself.

Edward turned to face his foster father, his eyes ablaze with indignation. "I'll know why no one thought to speak of this until this moment."

"We dinna speak of it, no, and perhaps it was wrong to keep it from ye, I can see that now. You have my apologies."

Edward scoffed. "Aye, well, you'll understand if I'm no in such a forgiving mood just now."

A chuckle rumbled deep in Marcus' chest and he nodded. "Perchance you'd be more of a mind to forgive an auld man his foolishness if ye knew more of the reasoning behind it." Marcus smiled up at Edward from his chair. "As Renee is my only child, she's my rightful heir. She married that damned Sassenach and … Och, well, after a time, I accepted her decision and welcomed the man. And so, Renee and her husband returned to the castle. They lived among us until my darling Isabella was two summers. For all his strange ways, Charles Swan was a fair husband and a good father to my granddaughter."

"Beg pardon," Edward interrupted. "While I appreciate the story, what the hell does any of that have to do with me?"

Marcus' eyes narrowed. "Patience never was one of your virtues."

"Not particularly, no. I'll ask Father Aro for penance, again, when next I see him." Edward folded his arms over his broad chest and leaned against the corner of the desk. "Be on with it, if you please. I'm verra interested in the remainder of the story—in hopes of its pertinence to me being revealed soon, of course."

Marcus released an amused snort and continued. "In effort to strengthen the good will of our clans, an accord was reached between your father and myself. Part of it was I would foster ye to raise as my own until ye took your place as chief in your own clan."

"Aye, of that I was aware."

Marcus nodded and released a heavy sigh. "The other part was that you'd marry my granddaughter, tying the clans together in a way that my fostering alone could never do."

"Reasonable enough," Edward said. "I'm still no sure why I wasna told—"

"If ye'd quit yapping and listen, I'm trying to tell you," Marcus snapped.

"Beg pardon," Edward muttered and rolled a hand for him to continue.

Marcus took a deep breath and released it through his nose, slowly. "Charles Swan is an English marquis, at least his father before him was and when Isabella was two, his older brother passed on and his father was ailing. The title would become Charles' responsibility on his father's death.

"He removed my daughter and granddaughter back to the north of England where the Swan family seat is located. Once gone, he wasna of a mind to accept the union for his daughter any longer. He no longer wished her joined with a Scotsman—future chieftain or no. "

"If he dinna wish the match then, what has changed?"

Marcus reached for the letter from Renee. He handed the parchment to Edward. "If you read this, I think ye'll understand that much has changed."

Marcus watched the change come over Edward as his eyes scanned the page. The brooding frown turned into an expression of disbelief and then one of thunderous fury.

"I'll run the bloody bastard through myself."

~O~

Her father's study was once a safe place, a piece of heaven. Isabella had spent long hours in silent companionship with the man she completely adored inside these walls. From the window where she stood, there was a perfect view of her mother's herb garden. The small space between the main house and kitchen was just beginning to wake with spring's warmer weather. Pain and longing shot through Isabella's chest with the thought of her mother and the immense joy she received from tending that patch of earth. Over the last few years, she had shown Isabella the secrets of the tiny plants, teaching her which were used for various ailments and how to prepare them properly.

Together, they had worked tirelessly to ease her father's suffering during his illness. In the end, it was all for naught.

Her own image in the glass of the window caught Isabella's attention. The sorrow and weariness in her eyes was blatantly apparent, even in but a reflection. Her father had many times commented on their color as resembling the most decadent of Belgium chocolates. Her hair, an unusual shade of sable, held little of its previous life. No wild curls sprung from their pins as had been her cross to bear since her first season when she no longer wore it about her shoulders as a maiden.

The terrible blow of her father's death compounded when her mother married Phillip Dwyer—now the seventh Marquis of Swan. The arrival of a long lost cousin at the time her father's illness began had not—at the time—piqued suspicions. His advances toward her continued after his marriage to her mother, though Isabella thought it her imagination. The intensification of his innuendo was not an occasion Isabella could easily ignore as it coincided with a change in her mother's health, as well. The accident, as it was ruled, just three weeks before sealed Isabella's assessment of the entire situation. However, it mattered little. She was but a woman; no one would listen to her claims of foul play.

A winter's span since the man had entered their life and Isabella found herself an orphan. As if that fate were not cruel enough, she found herself in dire straits financially. Everything — her home, her lands, her very person — all bequeathed to that wretched man.

A frown pulled the corners of her mouth down. All her memories were tainted, her sense of safety and security shattered. Tears she refused to allow to fall stung behind her eyes. Better she were dead than face a future with the man who she held responsible for the complete ruination of her life.

"Come now, Isabella." The marquis' voice caused Isabella's skin to crawl as if insects were burrowing underneath. "You'll find I'm not such a bad sort. I believe, if you will but allow me, I can assure that your days will be spent in utter bliss."

Isabella swung round. Her stomach rolled and the gorge rose higher in her throat. She swallowed the unpleasant taste and glared at the man her parents had the bad grace to place within such trust. "I can't imagine that at all to be the case, my lord."

The marquis sighed. A patient, yet insincere smile graced his face. "Your mother was a much more biddable woman than you are proving to be." He closed some of the distance between them and Isabella quickly found a mode of escape lest he trap her—again. "Once we're wed, Isabella, I will have to ensure you are versed, as she was, in the proper way one regards a husband."

"As you well know, my lord, I am nothing like my mother," Isabella replied with a haughty lift of her chin. Much as she desired to keep up the bravado, even she heard the tremor in her voice. "You should reconsider your proposal and allow me to join a convent as I have made it clear was my wish."

"It is a great disappointment that you insist on continuing in this ilk, my dear. It was your mother's wish, as well as your father's—God rest their souls—that I watch over you. Surely, you can see how our marriage is the best way for that to be accomplished."

"I can see no such thing," Isabella snapped. "You disgust me more at every turn."

The marquis' face darkened and for a fleeting moment, Isabella feared he would truly strike her. As though he read her thoughts, a perfectly ghastly smile spread across his thin lips.

The clearing of a throat sounded from the door. The blessed interruption could not have come at a more opportune time, Isabella thought. Alasdair stood in quiet dignity, waiting. His eyes met Isabella's. The sympathy she saw there was almost too much, and she looked away. Alasdair and his wife, Siobhan, had been with her family since she was a child. They were well aware of the goings on within these walls and it sickened her to see it.

"What is it, Alasdair?" The marquis' words were more clipped and terse than usual.

She had unnerved him. Isabella almost—but not quite—smiled with that small triumph.

"There are some …gentlemen requesting an audience with Lady Swan."

"She's not receiving this afternoon," Phillip said, waving in dismissal.

"Who are these gentlemen, Alasdair?" Isabella asked.

Alasdair looked incessantly uncomfortable, his eyes shifting between the marquis and Isabella. "I believe …that is, if I may—"

"You may," Isabella interjected before the marquis could refuse.

"It's your grandfather, m'lady."

To say that statement shocked her would be a gross understatement of the true impact upon her person. Charles, the sixth Marquis of Swan, and her grandfather, a powerful Scottish chieftain, had a dreadful row when Isabella was just a child. Her father had forbidden her mother to have any further contact. Though Isabella had little recollection of her grandfather, she knew they had lived with him when she was a small child. Her mother, however, had spared no detail in the retelling of stories of growing up in the Scottish Highlands.

The very idea of seeing her grandfather made her heart quicken, her breath come short. Squaring her shoulders, Isabella spoke but was still more breathless than she cared to admit. "Show them in."

If she had not known better, she would have sworn Alasdair smirked when he looked at the marquis, but he turned on his heel before she could be certain.

"Surely, you do not intend to entertain that barbarian. The man disowned your mother because of her marriage to your father. You disgrace your father's memory with such a thing. I should forbid it entirely." Though his voice held the perfect mix of indignation and horror, the true emotion behind his words was clear.

A strong sense of satisfaction coursed through Isabella's veins when fear slid behind Phillip's grey eyes. Isabella reveled in any instance that put him at the disadvantage after all that he had put her through. This situation most definitely did that.

Isabella gave the marquis a cold glare. "Do not speak of my parents in my presence ever again."

Her mother once told her there was very little more beautiful, or intimidating, than a highland man in belted plaid. Isabella realized her mother's description had been sorely lacking a very short moment later when Alasdair appeared at the door once again. When he stepped away and four exceptionally large men entered the room, all vestiges of what precious little air she had in her lungs left her completely.

The pit of her stomach quivered when her gaze alighted upon the man who could be no other than the great chieftain who sired her mother. Though his long hair held more grey than the dark chestnut he'd passed on to her mother, his identity was undeniable. Every inch the mighty warrior her mother reported him to be, Isabella thought him resplendent. His eyes, the same chocolate brown of her own, warmed as he looked her over.

"Och, you've the look of my sweet Renee." The rich sound of his voice caused Isabella's thundering heart to leap fully into her throat. He held open his arms and waved her forward. "Come here, child. You've nothing to fash over now. Your grand-da will make it right."

Isabella's feet were moving without her telling them to do so and she found herself wrapped in impossibly strong arms. Tears burned behind her eyes and this time she did not fight them. The sensation of being safe once again filled every pore and she buried her face in his chest. Instantly, she knew this man would do exactly what he said—he would make it right. She would not be forced into marrying that horrid Phillip Dwyer. Nor would she suffer further from his insipid threats and innuendo.

Chapter 3

Secrets revealed

"No so opposed to your lot now, I'll wager, are ye, Edward?"

"I should cut your tongue out and feed it to the dogs, ye horse's arse."

Isabella pulled back at the sound of the deep burr of the men's voices. One held a definite undertone of devilment. The other caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand up; not from the menace in his tone, but the voice itself.

They had spoken Gaelic. She felt sure it was because they assumed she would not understand. Unsure which of the other three men had spoken, Isabella regarded them warily. She could not ask who or what they meant without giving herself away. Regardless of their relation to her mother, she saw no need for them to know—at least for now—that she not only understood, but also spoke their language fluently.

The dark haired giant wore a mischievous smirk and so she easily discerned he was the one doing the teasing. She sucked in a startled breath when he winked at her. Before she could investigate more, the marquis was making his demands clear.

"I will ask that you leave at once, gentlemen, as Lady Swan and I have business to attend." To Isabella's great enjoyment, the marquis' voice pitched high in obvious anxiety. "I will send for the magistrate and have you forcibly removed from my property."

Isabella blinked in confusion when she suddenly found herself standing behind her grandfather. She watched as the other three men flanked him. As her grandfather stepped closer to the marquis, she realized these men were protecting her, not her grandfather. The sense of safety from a few moments ago bloomed warmer and deeper inside her chest.

A smile pulled her mouth up and she looked at the men surrounding her with gratitude. She startled to find one of them watching her intently. His eyes were the most unusual color of green — clear, unfathomably deep, like the sea, and ringed with long dark cinnamon lashes. They were so beautiful your heart ached with the sight. Her skin heated and flushed under his gaze. Suddenly, Isabella became aware of herself in ways that were wholly unfamiliar, yet not unpleasant in the least. It was quite disconcerting.

He was tall, taller even than her grandfather, and broad about the chest and shoulders. Muscular, but not bulky like the dark haired man who stood at her back, yet more so than the blond man to her left.

Long, thick, wavy tresses, a color that could only be classified as bronze, fell unbound past his shoulders. One thin plait hung along the left side of his handsome face. A straight patrician nose and full, sculpted lips drew her attention. The corner of his mouth quirked into a lopsided grin, and Isabella gasped at the sight.

Embarrassed by her unladylike perusal of this stranger, she lowered her gaze. She startled, her eyes widening when that action allowed her an unrestricted view of bare knees above the sheep's wool boots. The deep chuckle that rumbled in his chest caused her cheeks to flare and she jerked her head back forward.

Her grandfather's voice drew Isabella back into the conversation swarming around her. "Ye'll understand I've no intention of going anywhere before I've secured my granddaughter's holdings."

What did he mean by her 'holdings'? Isabella frowned. She peeked around his shoulder. The marquis looked pale. A light sheen of sweat covered his forehead and upper lip. Never had she seen him appear so uncomfortable. It was delightful.

"I am sorry, sir. You've been horribly misled." He laughed heartily but there was a note of unease in the sound. "The estate belongs to me. So you see, Isabella has no property. That is, of course, until we're properly married. This is set to occur later today."

An angry rumble sounded from the other men within the room.

Her grandfather quieted his men with the flick of his hand. "Now that's where ye're wrong, sir," he said with what, under different circumstances, might have been a sympathetic tone. "Were that the true state of the matter and were I to allow such a thing to occur, I might give ye leave to say such. As it is, I'm no inclined to do so. Isabella will be marrying this day, make no mistake, but it'll no be to you. It shall be to the man she rightfully belongs."

Married? Rightfully belong? What in the name of all that is holy did he mean by that? Isabella took a step forward and opened her mouth to ask just that question, but stopped abruptly when a large hand wrapped firmly around her upper arm. She spun to face her captor. The sharp retort on her tongue died a quick death when she met with a pair of green eyes flashing with anger.

"Hold ye're tongue, woman." Though his words were harsh and uttered in little more than a hiss, she somehow knew that his ire was not truly directed at her.

The intensity of her reaction to him took her by surprise. At another time, Isabella might have investigated further why her skin tingled where his hand held her arm. She may have also wondered about the way her heart lurched at the thought of how those lips would feel pressed against her own. Or how her abdomen clenched with anticipation at the way he looked at her. Anticipation of what she did not know, but felt sure he could explain it to her.

As it were, she had had quite enough of men asserting their dominance over her in recent weeks. She jerked her arm from his grip and glared with a raised chin. "I'll have you know I am a lady, sir, and you will do well to remember not to lay hands upon me again."

"And you'll do well to mind what I say and keep quiet until this matter's settled, m'lady."

Isabella's mouth dropped open and she stared at him in utter shock. He nodded and turned away.

"Indeed," Phillip said, uncomfortably. "Well, as there was an arrangement made between her father and I just before his death, there is little you can do to change things. It was the topic of our conversation just as you arrived. These last weeks, living together as we have, has been a hardship on us both."

Isabella gasped. It was a blatant lie but the insinuation alone that they had been living in sin was like a slap to her face.

"Isabella's reputation is at risk, you—" His words were cut off when the green-eyed man moved so quickly as to appear as little more than a blur. Steel sliding from its sheath sounded a moment before a dagger pressed to the side of the marquis' throat.

"Say another word to slander my wife and so help me God, it shall be your last."

So … this was the man that she 'rightfully belonged'. Indeed.

Chapter 4

A heart to heart between friends

After the magistrate had taken Phillip away, Edward and Marcus explained the situation to her fully. Phillip's duplicity was astounding. Isabella was, in fact, not alone in her suspicions of his hand in both her parent's death. The magistrate was particularly interested in the forgery of documents procured enabling him to take control of the Swan estate.

Her mother's letter, sent but a few days before her death, was damnable evidence indeed. Through her grandfather's retelling of the circumstances, Isabella was comforted to learn that her mother had not abandoned her to that perfectly horrid man. However, that same letter set into motion Isabella's binding to another man.

A few life-altering hours later, Isabella found herself alone inside her own bedchamber pondering that very situation as she awaited her husband's arrival.

Husband.

She rolled that word inside her head. Siobhan had drawn a bath and Isabella had soaked until the water became too cold to stay in any longer. A soft linen chemise laid upon the bed for her and she slipped the garment on before sitting at her vanity. She picked up her brush and began the arduous task of combing out her hair. The bristles of the brush whispered through thick locks, the repetitiveness of the action lulled her into a semi-conscious state. Then soft light from the candle glinted from the silver band on her left hand. She froze.

Though the image in the mirror was familiar, it was of a woman she did not recognize. With no more than the speaking of a few words, Lady Isabella Swan had become someone else entirely. She was now and forever Lady Isabella Cullen, wife of Edward Cullen, heir to the chieftain of the Cullen clan.

It was no secret what the Scottish felt toward the English. Regardless of her heritage, would the people accept her? Even if they did, she knew nothing of their ways, save her mother's stories from childhood. How was she to live in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands?

Isabella scoffed at her reflection and stood. She smoothed a hand over the soft linen of her chemise. Though the room was warm, the stones of the floor were cold beneath her bare feet as she walked to the hearth and knelt on the rug. The flames danced along the edge of a log while she tried to recall anything from her life that would have prepared her for this twist of fate. Nothing whatever came to mind.

A soft knock sounded just before the door opened. Her heart quickened at the sight of Edward's impressive frame filling the doorway, still dressed in kilt and bright white linen shirt he had worn earlier. The collar of his shirt was open, showing a tantalizing glimpse of smooth chest. A lock of bronze hair had escaped his queue, falling across his forehead when he ducked to step through the door. Isabella wondered if it was as soft and silky as it appeared. Her fingers twitched with the desire to find out. She startled at the path her thoughts had taken and returned her gaze to the fire.

The door closed with a soft thud. As though she could not stop herself from glimpsing him once more, Isabella glanced over her shoulder. A bottle of wine and a chalice in one hand, a tray of cold meat and cheese in the other, he crossed to where she sat. Edward lowered himself onto the floor with the food and wine between them.

"Ye dinna eat verra much at the evening meal. I thought you might desire to do so now when there's a bit more privacy about it." He met her gaze with a hesitant smile.

Despite her own nervousness, Isabella returned his smile. "That was very thoughtful."

The corner of Edward's mouth curled up into a lopsided grin. "Well, I'm aware this isna exactly how a lass might imagine her wedding day and I'm that sorry for it. But … I swear to ye, Isabella, I'll do my best to be a good husband." He cleared his throat uncomfortably. He bent his left knee, resting his forearm on it while bracing his weight on the other behind him. "I've no taste for forcing myself upon a woman, wife or no, but you should know, I intend for this to be a marriage in truth."

Isabella's eyes grew wide for a moment, and then she looked away back to the flames. She knew a man such as this one would not desire a marriage in name only. Nevertheless, to have the man lay the matter out in such a way was a bit unsettling. She wasn't accustomed to such plain speech.

"I thought we could talk while you eat, get to know one another a bit before, ah …" He tilted his head toward the bed across the room.

"That's very kind of you, Edward. However, as no one seemed particularly concerned of my choices before, I am unsure how talking at this juncture will change the course of events. "

His eyes snapped to hers with an expression of open shock. After a few moments, he made a low harrumphing noise deep in his throat. "Well, so … Be that as it may, it will make things a bit more pleasant if we can approach this situation closer to friends than strangers."

Isabella blinked at that statement. Edward dropped his gaze to the tray and chose one of the larger pieces of meat. He held it out, looking deep into her eyes. When she reached for it, he shook his head and motioned toward her mouth. The fluttering of a thousand butterfly wings exploded low in her belly at the idea of him feeding her from his own hand. She leaned forward, her lips parted, and he gently placed the morsel on her tongue.

In the dim fire light, his dark eyes appeared nearly black as he watched her mouth. His nostrils flared, his chest rose and fell in a rapid rhythm.

He then chose a chunk of cheese and repeated the same motions as before. While she chewed, Edward poured the wine. He held the chalice to her lips, allowing her to drink her fill before taking it to his own mouth. His gaze burned into hers as he placed his mouth over the place hers had touched. Isabella swallowed with some difficulty as she suddenly felt completely out of breath.

As they ate, they began to talk. Edward related stories of growing up in the Highlands. The way in which he described them was as if he painted a picture with his words. He told her what it was like growing up with her grandfather and her clan. It made her anxious to see the mountains he so obviously loved with her own eyes. She told him about her parents and her childhood.

After a lull in their conversation, she cleared her throat and then spoke quietly. "You were not aware of this arrangement until recently?"

"No, not until the day Marcus received your mother's letter." He held out the last piece of cheese and when she shook her head, he tossed it into his own mouth.

"I'm sure you would have chosen to marry someone much more suited to be your wife."

Edward chuckled and shook his head. "Honestly, I never gave the matter a thought one way or another." He regarded her with a thoughtful expression, sipping at the wine. "If I had," he said, lowering the chalice, "I would have imagined her to be verra much like you."

He had pledged himself to marrying a woman he'd never met. There had been no great expectations held as to how he would respond to his intended. He had hoped she would not be unattractive. It would be most unpleasant to lay with a woman every night for the rest of your natural days ye could not countenance to look upon by the light of the day.

When he laid eyes upon Isabella, he was done for. He'd known to his very core, this woman was the personification of everything he'd always wanted but never knew existed.

Edward reached out to trace a fingertip across her plump bottom lip. He slid his hand under her jaw, gently tipping her face up as he lowered his head. He had burned for her since their first chaste kiss as husband and wife in her father's study.

Fire ignited his blood at the soft, hesitant touch of her lips. The sensation was unlike anything he had ever experienced. Never had he known such desire. He was fair consumed with it.

He framed her face between his palms and deepened the kiss. She parted her lips at his bequest and he tasted her for the first time. A quiet whimper escaped Isabella and the innocent sound was nearly his undoing. Her hands trembled as they slid up his arms, coming to rest on his chest. Her fingers twisted in the fabric of his shirt.

Breaking the kiss, Edward stood abruptly, taking her with him. The thin material of her chemise could not hide the pebbled tips of her breasts and he bit back a groan when she pressed herself against him. Every fiber of his being called out to be inside this woman, but Isabella was a virgin. Above that, she was his wife. He couldn't swive her like a boar in rut. He would need to be gentle with her initiation into this side of their relationship.

He swept her up into his arms and crossed to the bed, laying her down across the soft, clean sheets and hovered over her. With unsteady hands, he pushed the delicate fabric of her chemise up her body. As it slid higher, the breath caught in his chest with sight of the creamy white skin and the triangle of dark curls at the apex of her thighs.

"My God, wife, but ye're beautiful," he murmured, bending to kiss the silken skin of her lower abdomen.

Isabella's fingers clenched the sheets at her sides; she writhed beneath his ministrations, causing him to smile. She was so responsive to his touch it was beyond difficult to remember to take things slowly. The knowledge that by doing so it would prolong both their pleasure was his only saving grace as he followed the hem the garment up Isabella's body with his lips.

A chuckle rolled in Edward's chest when she squeaked as he took a nipple between his teeth. She lifted just enough to allow the chemise to slip easily over her head. Her arms came down around his shoulders and she clung to him, arched against him, as he gently suckled her flesh, circling the taut peak with his tongue. Kissing a path across her chest, he paid the same homage to the neglected breast. One hand slid down the slope of waist and hip. Fingers slipped over the firm rise of her arse and pulled her tightly against his arousal as he moved his mouth to hers in a searing kiss.

Breaking away from their kiss, he leaped from the bed. Isabella's lids flashed open with a mix of hazy lust and confusion. Understanding lit her eyes as he quickly divested himself of his plaid and boots, and then whipped the shirt over his head before settling in the cradle of her hips once again.

He slid a hand between their bodies and positioned himself, trying desperately to control his urge to bury himself to the hilt. She was wet for him and that did little to bolster his resolve to take it slowly or be gentle. He kissed her forehead, each lid, and cheek before finding her lips in a slow kiss. His tongue slid past her lips, tasting pure nectar from heaven inside her mouth. Unable to hold off any longer, he pulled away from the kiss to look down into her eyes. "I'll be as gentle as I can, Isabella, but I'll hurt you all the same. I'm that sorry, but there's no other way. Not this first time."

She stared up at him for what seemed an eternity. He thought he would lose his mind from the need to bury himself within her body.

"Did your mother explain—"

"Yes, I-I know what's to happen," she whispered and placed her dainty hands on either side of his face. "I trust you, Edward."

An emotion he could not put name to filled him with those words. Unable to hold back any longer, he entered her slowly until he reached the restriction of her maidenhead. He dropped his mouth to hers as he pushed through. She gasped and stiffened. He deepened the kiss in hopes of distracting her from the pain.

His muscles quivered under the restraint to hold still until she relaxed and he could begin to move. He broke away from her mouth to trail soft, wet kisses along her jaw to the tender skin of her neck down to where her pulse thrummed.

"I-I …it's okay," she said. "You may move now."

Edward sighed and pulled back slowly. Pushing forward again, he felt it entirely plausible that he had died and was now in the hereafter. It was not earthly possible to feel such completeness as he did at that moment, wrapped in and around this woman, his wife.

They soon found a rhythm, their bodies rocking gently together. Waves of rapture shot down his spine with every slide of his body inside hers. A growling expletive escaped him as his orgasm spiraled out of control and he stiffened in release.

Edward collapsed beside his wife and gathered her into his arms.

"I'm sorry," he said on a rasping breath some long minutes later. "I promise ye, it will be better next time." He kissed her cheek and squeezed his eyes closed when he tasted the salt of her tears.

She nodded against his chest and whispered, "I trust you, Edward." His chest filled with that same contentment, and another emotion he wasn't quite ready to name just yet. He kissed the top of her head, tightening his hold upon her.

Chapter 5

The final journey

"It's was your mother's," Marcus said.

Isabella reached out with an unsteady hand and touched the fabric with the tips of her fingers. Her eyes burned with tears and she blinked furiously in an effort to stop their falling. "It's beautiful."

"The weather's still somewhat biting so far north is Castle Didyme," he continued. His smile was full of mischief as he looked from her to Edward, who stood at her side. "You'll need more than the warmth of your husband as we travel."

She glanced up at Edward with wide eyes. He smiled down at her and winked. Placing a hand between her shoulders, he said, "Ye need not worry so, Marcus, I dinna plan for my wife to be out of reach long enough for the cold to cause her discomfort."

"I canna say as I blame you that, Edward," Emmett said from where he leaned against the wall at the opposite side of the room. "As fine a wife as ye have, you'd be fool and sure to do so. O'course, I had nae doubt you'd be a most accommodating husband once you'd set your mind to the task."

Embarrassment flooded Isabella when they erupted in raucous laughter. Edward had promised on their wedding night that that part of their relationship would improve after the first time. She had proclaimed she trusted him and that had not been a mistake. He more than delivered on that front.

In the days since these men entered her life and turned the world upon its ear, she had tried desperately to become acquainted with their occasionally unrefined manners. No matter how much she desired it, she could not reconcile herself to find comfort in the speaking of such intimate subjects so openly. Or loudly, she thought as more bawdy comments came from both Jasper and Emmett.

"The horses are saddled. We'll leave as soon as ye're ready, but the sooner the better," Jasper said, still laughing as he and Emmett made their way out.

Isabella lifted the woolen garment that once belonged to her mother and with a murmured, "If you will excuse me," she slipped from the room.

Edward watched his wife's retreating form and frowned, wondering why she appeared upset.

Marcus clasped a hand to Edward's shoulder, drawing his attention. "My granddaughter isna accustomed to such teasing of men. Dinna fash. She'll adjust soon enough."

Edward nodded his agreement though he wasn't sure that were true. His wife was a lady, raised genteel. It concerned him to no end how she would fare. The travel home alone was a grueling one and once they reached Castle Didyme? He couldn't fathom how she would be welcomed. Half Scots or no, it would be a difficult adjustment.

Making his way up to the room they had shared since their wedding night, Edward felt less sure than ever of how prepared she was for what lay ahead.

He knocked once before opening the door only to find it empty. Surprised and somewhat concerned, he turned and made his way back downstairs. On the way out the back door to the kitchen, a movement from the area of the herb garden caught his eye. He walked in that direction to investigate further. The site of Isabella huddled on the ground wrapped in her mother's arasaid shot a bolt through his heart.

Quickly, he knelt beside her and took her into his arms. She turned to him and pressed her face against his shoulder. Her tears quickly soaked through the fabric of his shirt. Isabella wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. Holding her to his chest, Edward lifted her and carried her to the bench in the shade of the arbor. Sitting down with her firmly held in his lap, he murmured nonsense in her ear until she began to calm. When she had, he smoothed a hand over the side of her head, brushing the loose tendrils of hair from her face. He smiled and leaned forward to kiss both her tear stained cheeks and then her lips.

"Och, mo mhurninn, ye can't let the men upset ye in such a way. They dinna mean anything by their teasing."

"That wasn't … that's not …" She shook her head and waved a hand, her mouth pressed into a thin line. The folds of his plaid seemed suddenly to be very interesting as she ran her fingers along the material, avoiding his eyes.

Edward grasped her chin between finger and thumb and gave her no choice but to look at him. "Mo chride," he whispered, "If it's no that, then why do ye weep so?"

She looked at him with such an expression he could near feel the anguish pouring from her. Isabella shook her head and pushed to her feet, keeping her back to him. "It's of no significance. Just being a silly woman, really."

Edward stood, frowning. "Of no significance, ye say."

"No, none at all," Isabella said, visibly squaring her shoulders and stiffening her spine. "Truly, you shouldn't concern yourself with it in the least."

It took a considerable amount of self-control to not take her by the shoulders and shake the matter into words. Instead, in an irritated tone, he said, "Aye, I can see that." He cleared his throat. "Well then, if I'm not to concern myself with what caused my wife to be on her knees weeping like a Bain-shidh, I'll ask what ye were doing out here when by all accounts you should be preparing to leave this place as you were told."

Isabella swung round to face him. Her fists clenched. Her chest rose and fell with gasping breaths. Her red-rimmed eyes glittered dangerously with anger.

Good, he thought. Anger he could handle. A weeping woman he had no idea what to do with. Especially one who did not trust him enough to confide in him what was truly upsetting her.

"How dare you! Who do you think you are to speak to me so?"

"As of two days ago—your husband."

The corner of his mouth twitched. Like a hawk spotting prey, she saw it and her dark eyes narrowed even further. Blessed Michael but she was beautiful.

"Well, husband." She near spat the word out of her mouth as though it tasted rancid. "As you so graciously and eloquently instructed, we must travel light and I may carry none but the most necessary of possessions upon the saddle, as I should hope to cause you only the smallest of inconveniences." Her breath caught and her lips trembled as she looked up at him. "I am ready, husband. Let us not tarry in this place any longer."

Edward winced at the pain laced through her words and realization dawned. "Isabella—"

"Don't," she said in a choked whisper and moved out of his reach. A single tear slipped from the corner of her eye. Shaking her head, she turned and walked away.

Edward whirled at the sound of a derisive snort from just behind him. Emmett, stood with his arms folded atop the garden fence, with an expression Edward had only seen him wear when faced with disciplining one of his weans.

"She dinna say what the matter was and by the time I understood ..." Edward tossed both hands into the air, his tone defensive though Emmett said nothing.

"Look around you, man." Emmett waved a hand at the area where they stood. "It's her mother's garden. The lass is having a difficult time with the leaving of her home. If you dinna see that, well, you're a bigger clot-heid than I ever gave ye credit for." He turned away with a shake of his head.

Scrubbing both hands over his face, Edward groaned in frustration. Resigned to the fact he had some amends to make, he made his way round the corner of the house to find his wife.

~O~

Edward stopped short just as he reached the stable yard to find Emmett speaking with Isabella near her little chestnut mare. It did not matter that from that distance, he could not hear their words when Isabella swiped at her eyes but laughed at something Emmett had said. No one should be comforting his wife but him. Edward's eyes narrowed with the sense of irrational jealousy that shot through him. It was more than he could stand, and before he had another thought was crossing to them.

"I asked that your man servant pack away a few more of your wee plants," Emmett was saying and nodding toward his own saddlebags. "My own wife is a healer of sorts as well. She'll be most glad that there is another to help with the caring of folk."

"I thank you, sir. I can only hope to be of some service once we arrive. I pray the people will—" The smile Isabella wore slipped as she noticed his approach.

"I'll thank ye to step away from my wife," Edward said, menace clear in his voice.

Emmett met Edward's gaze. The corner of his mouth twitched as if he found something amusing. "Afraid she'll no be warming your bed now that you were the one behaving as a horse's arse, eh?"

"Do not goad me, cousin. My patience is sorely tried today as is." Edward took a step closer to Emmett. Emmett snorted.

"Cousin," Isabella murmured.

Both men went still as they gaped at her. After a moment of charged silence, Emmett guffawed. "You speak the Gaelic," he asked.

Isabella's eyes went round as she looked between the two men. Slowly, she nodded her head. Emmett's laughter rang out again and he slapped Edward on the back, hard.

"I do not envy you the handling of this one, cousin," he said, shaking his head as he walked away.

The laughter of the other men filled the air as obviously Emmett had shared the unexpected turn of Isabella's understanding of their language. Edward continued to stare at his wife in disbelief. Though he did not suffer from the delusion of knowing all her secrets after but a few days of marriage, this revelation came as a shock. It was a strong reminder for him that while she had given him her body with openness and trust, that same sentiment obviously did not extend outside the marriage bed.

He was unfailingly angry but could not deny that there was a measure of hurt behind his reaction. That emotion must have been foremost in his expression because Isabella's eyes filled with tears once again and she reached for him.

Edward grasped her hands. "I may not be the man you wished for to take as a husband, but that's what I am. Above all other things, I'll not have dishonesty in our marriage, Isabella. I've given you nothing but honesty. Now I discover that, while perhaps not in words but by omission, ye've lied to me."

"No, I—"

"Aye, ye did," he interrupted. "And by doing so, ye've made me appear a fool before my men. If I am not aware of such a thing in my own wife …" He swallowed the bitter taste in his mouth and shook his head.

"I'm sorry," she said on a choked whisper.

"Aye, as you should be, but the fact remains you shamed me before their eyes and those of your grandfather."

"That was not—"

"'Tis no matter your intentions, wife," Edward's voice was harsh and cold as he glared down at her. "I realize that you have little experience with the ways of men, but that's the truth of it. If it weren't that they may be able to excuse the disrespect as a by-product of your Sassenach raising, I'd be forced to punish you for both our sakes."

Her wide-eyed astonishment and slight gasp placated him a small measure.

"You wouldn't," she said.

"Aye, I would."

They stared at one another for a long moment. Isabella's eyes glimmered with tears. Her bottom lip trembled, but she did not cry. Edward had to give credit where it was due. She just might be cut from sterner stuff than he expected. Before they could move on, there was one more thing they needed to air.

"Isabella, I understand ye hold me responsible for the reasons you must leave your home. Though there is no help for it, we must return as soon as possible. Still, I had not meant it to be such a hardship for you and I'm sorry."

Isabella's expression softened and she stepped toward him, snaking her arms around his middle. Edward held himself rigid in rebellion of the emotions that flooded him at the feel of her soft curves pressed against his body, although he knew it was a venture in folly. When Isabella raised those fathomless dark eyes to him, he was lost.

"I am truly sorry, husband." Her melodious voice was thick with contrition. "I would not endeavor to disrespect you purposely. I never meant to hurt you with my actions."

His voice was rough when he spoke. "Och, blessed Saint Michael, ye'll be the death of me yet, woman."

Edward framed her face between his palms and slowly lowered his head until his lips met hers in a scorching kiss filled with both dominance and supplication in equal measures. Which of them was dominating and which was supplicating was not entirely clear.

~O~

Bright orange and fiery red lit the western sky as the sun dropped lower. It was just beginning to kiss the tips of the mountains on the horizon. They had traveled for days and those mountains seemed no closer than they had when Edward first proclaimed them as their final destination. She closed her eyes and bit back the groan that rippled in her chest. As anxious as she was for a more hospitable sleeping arrangement, Isabella wasn't so sure she was ready for what lay within the walls of the clan's stronghold.

The sound of laughter wafted on the air and Isabella's eyes landed on her husband. Her stomach fluttered at the sight of him just ahead, astride that vicious brute of a stallion he rode. His head tilted to the side as he listened intently to what Jasper was saying. Though it was in profile, his smile caused Isabella's heart to stutter with its beauty.

Edward shifted in his saddle then, looking over his shoulder. When his gaze met hers, his smile grew into a full out grin. A responding grin crept across her face. Isabella gasped, flushing crimson, as heat bloomed low in her abdomen when he winked at her. How was it possible for him to cause such a riotous amount of turbulence in her body with no more than a simple look? It surely must be a sin to have such intense reactions of the flesh. Even for one's husband.

Jasper pulled his mount to a halt just then and addressed the men. "We'll make camp here for the night. By this time on the morrow we will be home."

The men let out a whoop of excitement and all began to dismount and go about the job of setting up camp for a group of their size. Isabella had been surprised at the number of men who accompanied her grandfather on the journey to retrieve her. Edward had explained that as chieftain, Marcus needed protection even during peaceful times as they were in at present. As such, he always traveled with a private guard of at least fifteen men. Emmett and Jasper were two of the elite guard. Edward, as Marcus' foster son, was his most trusted man. Now that Edward was her husband and she was the only living heir to the clan's chieftain, it was a forgone fact Edward would lead both clans one day—with her help, of course.

In truth, as she had discovered, that had been the plan Edward's father and Marcus had set out to achieve all along. According to both her grandfather and Edward, their union was, or would be, a widely accepted and joyous occasion. Isabella would have found this a comfort had she not overheard their conversation a few evenings before when they assumed she was fast asleep. It seemed a few of the larger neighboring clans had not always been so sanguine with the joining of two such powerful clans. They were not at all sure how the news would be received.

"They must all have arses of iron," she grumbled under her breath as she dismounted.

Never had she felt such pain. After so many days of travel, there were places in which Isabella hurt she had not realized existed. As accomplished a rider as she may be, these highland men, especially her husband, caused her own skills to pale by comparison.

Isabella squeezed her eyes closed, wishing for all the world the ground would open up and swallow her, when she felt Edward's presence even before he spoke.

"What was that?" His voice was full of amusement and he closed in on her.

"Nothing," she said, facing her horses shoulder.

A moan rolled in her chest when his large hands cupped her derriere. He dipped his head low to speak directly into her ear. "Are ye a wee bit sore, wife?"

"Perhaps a little," she admitted on a sigh.

"Hmm… there's a wee possibility I have a remedy for such an ailment."

She released a stuttering breath at the sensations of his warm lips pressed to the nape of her neck. Edward slid his palms over the curve of her hip to encircle her waist. Isabella's body was on fire. Sore and travel weary or not, she could hardly deny her reaction to this man. His hands moved over the flat expanse of her belly and erased all doubt—though she'd had none—of what 'remedy' he spoke when he pressed his arousal into her backside.

He took the lobe of her ear between his teeth "There's a loch just over that rise."

"Is that so?"

He hummed a response and caressed her bottom once more before abruptly stepping away. Isabella spun to find Edward walking in the opposite direction.

Edward turned and winked. "Ye might want to try taking a dip, a leenan. The cold water does wonders for a sore arse, or so I've been told."

"Oh, you miserable …" Isabella fought the urge to throw a very large stone at the insufferable ass when the sound of him whistling a jaunty tune filled the air.

~O~

Edward may have teased about the benefits of the cold water on her sore body but the thought of bathing was more temptation than she could resist. The weather was much cooler this far north than Isabella was accustomed. Still she untied her laces and allowed her gown to pool at her feet.

Taking the few steps to the edge of the loch, she dipped a toe into the water. An icy chill sparked through her system.

"Well, if you're to become a highland lass …" Isabella took a deep breath and dove into the water.

The temperature of the water was enough to numb a body to the very core. She gasped for air when her head broke the surface.

Oh, how glorious! She had never felt so free. So alive! Isabella flung her arms out to her sides and twirled. She laughed, loudly. Falling back, the frigid water sluiced over her body. Her eyes closed and she just floated.

A loud splash startled Isabella. She sat up, treading water and searched for whatever had made the noise. She frowned when she found nothing.

A scream ripped from her throat when large hands encircled her waist just before they pulled her below the surface. She was spun and pulled into a very solid, very masculine chest.

Were it not for the familiar spark in her blood at the touch of the man who held her, Isabella would have been terrified. All further coherent thought left when his full lips met hers in a searing kiss. Wide palms slid over her back and then lower to cup her bottom. Her arms wound around his neck, her legs immediately circled his waist.

Isabella blinked when they broke above the surface. Completely without her notice Edward had moved them to where the water was shallow enough he could stand. Though it would no doubt still be well over her head, he held her high against his chest.

"Och, what you do to me, Isabella," Edward said, dragging his lips along the column of her neck, leaving a hot trail of kisses. Edward sucked at the pounding pulse at the base of her throat. His arms were around her, supporting her as her head fell back to allow him complete access. Her hair floated in sable waves all around her. Suddenly, Edward's hands seemed to be everywhere. They were on her back, at her waist, cupping a breast, caressing her bottom, kneading the sore muscles of her thighs, all at once. At each place he touched, she caught fire.

Isabella cried out when he took a taut nipple between his lips. He suckled languidly and the now familiar ache low in her abdomen bloomed into a raging inferno.

Edward released her breast and pulled her to him until they were eye level. His big hands framed her face when his mouth covered hers. Oh, his mouth … the delicious and surely sinful things he was capable of with those lips and tongue. There were many, many things she would confess when next she had the opportunity. Not now … no, now she was far too consumed with the pleasures of the flesh she knew her husband could provide.

She buried her fingers in his hair as their kiss deepened. A gasp escaped her at the feel of his turgid member pushing against her sex. Edward groaned deep in his throat when she rocked her hips and he slid along her most private womanly flesh. His breathing rasped in his chest. His voice was rough and broken when he spoke, "I must have ye, wife. I think I shall die if I cannot be inside ye this minute."

"Mon Dieu," she said on a breathy sigh. "Please … please."

She sucked in a startled breath when he pulled her down, swiftly entering her. Edward dropped his forehead to her shoulder. A groan rumbled in his chest. He held still for a moment as she adjusted to the sensation of his filling her so completely. Then he began to move.

Isabella moved against him, with him, tightened her legs about his waist, and tried to draw him further inside. She couldn't get close enough, couldn't taste his skin enough, and couldn't feel enough. It wasn't enough and too much at once. It was a conflagration inside her body and she was lost to it.

The level of desire she felt for this man, her husband, could not be normal. Surely someone would have explained this to her if it were truly possible to feel so much for another.

"Ah, Edward!" White light burst behind Isabella's closed lids and she lost all control as the fire scourged her entire system. In its wake was nothing but a trembling mass of wanton.

As she shattered, Edward held her, murmuring words of devotion into her ear as his own release ripped up his spine. He went rigid, his arms holding Isabella tight to him as he spilled his seed deep inside.

He buried his face in the crook of her neck. Their ragged breaths were the only sound. In that moment, it suddenly occurred to him that he had well and truly fallen in love with his wee prickly bride.

"Tha gaol agam ort …" (I love you) he said, his voice little more than a rough whisper.

Isabella went completely still in his arms. She pulled back to stare at him with wide-eyed astonishment. Her chest rose and fell in a rapid staccato. "Did you just say … y-you love me?"

"I did and I do."

Her deep brown eyes shined with tears and moved back and forth between his, searching. "Truly?"

"Aye, truly." What had been an unnamed emotion on their wedding night had grown over the last several days and with everything in him, he meant every word. He reached up and brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face, then leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. "Isabella, I told you we would have honesty between us. I've no plan to change my mind on that, especially when it comes to something as important as telling my wife I love her."

With a sob, Isabella threw herself into him. Her mouth sought and found his in a passionate kiss. "I love you, too," she said, pulling back and placing her delicate hands on either side of his face. "If you had not arrived when you did … that day … and Phillip …"

"It would have not mattered had he married ye or no," he said with all seriousness. "I would have slit the blackguard's throat. No court would have held me in fault once they knew the full story of that man's wickedness."

She shook her head. "No, I'm sure you are right, but he would have taken something that will only ever be yours."

Edward grunted. "I should have gutted the bastard for the threat of such while I had the chance."

"My gallant warrior," she murmured, kissing him softly.

Edward smiled against her mouth when he felt her shiver. "Come on, mo nighean donn, let's get you dressed before you catch an ague."

They were quickly dressed once again and on their way back toward the camp. Edward draped an arm around Isabella's shoulders, tucking her into his side. He kissed the top on her head and sighed in contentment. She looped her arm around his waist and leaned into him.

"My parents had a marriage built from love," she said. "It cost them much to stand with one another, but I always desired what they had. I never expected it, of course. As you know, most marriages have little to do with love." A sheepish grin crept onto her face when she looked up at him from the corner of her eye. "Ours was not, but …"

Edward chuckled, pulling her to a stop so he could kiss her beautiful mouth. He rested his forehead against hers and looked deep into her eyes. Isabella wrapped her slender fingers around his wrists and continued. "You are the most irritating of men, at times." She laughed and caressed his cheek when he frowned. "Even so, it is difficult and I do not seem capable of explaining it fully … I only know that what I hold inside my heart for you can be nothing other than love. It is too powerful to be anything but."

He slid a hand along the curve of her jaw and pulled her to his lips for a sweet kiss.

"Our first night as husband and wife," she whispered. "I told you I trusted you—do you remember?"

"Aye, I remember,"

"I did not speak simply of the care of my body. My heart has been yours since that night. I was not mistaken with entrusting either to you." Her smile was radiant and her eyes shone with unshed tears. "I thank you for providing me the gift of yours, as well."

Edward drew her into the circle of his arms, holding her ever tighter. "You humble me, Isabella."

Raised with the knowledge he would carry the responsibility of a clan upon his shoulders, the thought of what that meant for his future bride had never entered his mind. As he stood on the small rise just above their camp with Isabella in his arms, Edward knew that no matter what they faced on the morrow, he would protect this woman, his wife, his love, with every fiber of his being.

"Come, love," he said, kissing her once more before pulling away and taking her hand. "Let's go down and see what the great fool Emmett has prepared for the evening meal."

Edward's heart grew light and his smile wide with the sound of his wife's laughter on the air.


End note:

Translations for the Gealic terms used.

mo mhurninn- my darling

Mo chride - my heart

a leenan - darling

Bain-shidh - mourner, crier at a funeral.

I hope you've enjoyed this little jaunt into the Scottish Highlands. Please remember to vote at the Age of Edward page between February 5 and February 12.

xoxoxoxoxo

bellasunderstudy1