Age of Edward Contest
Pen name: Shahula
Title: White Lightning
Type of Edward: Prohibitionward
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this contest visit The Age of Edward 2010 C2 Community.
Word Count (excluding a/n and heading): 11,989
A/N: The language/dialect used in the Appalachians is very distinct; having its own set of rules and grammar patterns that differ from the Southern dialect. I've tried to convey that in this story by spelling some words phonetically rather than accurately, and using Appalachian grammar in place of proper English. I hope that isn't too confusing for you.
Disclaimer: I'm not Stephenie Meyer and don't own Twlight or its characters. I just like dressing them up in early 20th century U.S. costumes, and giving them funny accents.
"We find many things to which the prohibition of them constitutes the only temptation." -William Hazlitt
The day's light was fading from the sky; the dusky pink, purple, and dark blue of twilight stealing across the wide Tennessee horizon. Isabella sighed, her eyes cast out of the window as she watched the trees pass by, her body jolting along the bumpy dirt road as her father steered his prized automobile towards their final destination.
Though it was late, the heat of the early summer was still high, and being enclosed in the car for such an extended period of time was wearing on Isabella. She fidgeted in her seat, her skit sticking to the bottom of her calves with sweat, the curls in her hair becoming more pronounced as the humidity rose. The paper fan she attempted to cool herself with was more work than it was worth, so she tossed it to the side with a slight huff.
"Now, darling, don't fret. We'll be there soon, I assure you," her father, Charles, remarked from beside her, a jovial and light tone to his voice. His mustache twitched in excitement as he thought of the journey and life ahead of them.
It had been a difficult decision to leave South Carolina, the place of his birth and of his happy life; where he'd courted then married the most bonnie girl around and started a family with her. Renee had past three years back however, leaving him with a young and impressionable daughter he hadn't known what to do with.
His brow furrowed as he thought of the trouble his little girl had found in the city after her mother's passing; falling in with those girls who had no respect for themselves or their families, wearing shortened skirts and cutting their hair to their chins. It made him sick to think his own child had been consorting with them, using their language and flaunting her knees for all to see.
The final straw for Charles Swan had been finding his daughter packed tightly into a closet in one of the dark, disreputable, and illegal drinking taverns on one of his raids. It had been enough to boil his blood, forcing him to put in a transfer request with his superior at the Internal Revenue Service. He was most grateful when his plea was granted, sending him off to Cocke County, Tennessee, where a man of his talents and impeccable record was needed.
The rumors of men who not only created and consumed the devil's drink, but also ran it across city and state lines, clearly in violation of the Volstead Act, were many. Charles had a reputation for shutting the likes of those individuals down quickly and fixedly in Charleston, so he felt confident he would be able to do the same here. The added bonus of keeping his daughter out of the clutches of the disparaging youth of the city was icing on the cake. Charles knew it would be an adjustment for Isabella at first, unused to the ways of country folk, but she'd adapt and he hoped eventually thank him for saving her immortal soul.
"Yes, Father," Isabella dutifully replied, though her heart was heavy with sadness and it reflected in her tone.
Isabella had tried to be a good daughter to her parents; always attentive to her studies, proper and respectful to her elders, and lending a hand to those in need as any good Christian ought to. But after her mother died, she felt lost and alone, having lost her closest friend suddenly to a fever sickness. When she'd finally made friends her own age, a lively and bright bunch of girls, Isabella felt relief and happiness, comfort and freedom like she'd never known.
She'd begun to try things she'd always been told were sinful, immoral, and wrong, but she never could understand why after she'd experienced them. Kissing a man, drinking a glass of whiskey and wearing her dresses at her knees didn't seem to hurt anyone at all, save for her father.
Oh, how she'd wished he'd never found her in that speakeasy. If he hadn't, Isabella might still be in Charleston with Victoria and Maggie now, laughing and dancing to the peppy jazz music and sipping a drink of alcohol in the underground joints. She may have even let Peter Matthews kiss her some more, if the mood had been right.
Now, she'd never know what it was like to feel a man's lips against hers again, she was sure of it. For there was no way a hillbilly of Tennessee could ever compare to a Charleston gentleman's finery.
As Isabella sat contemplating her many troubles, her father drove on merrily, humming a tune under his breath as he made his way to the small Appalachian town of Cosby, where their new life would begin.
Edward Cullen sat under the full moon's light, his fingers picking lightly at a banjo as the jarflies and crickets sang their song, the creek bed babbling softly beside him. His long legs stretched out before him, the cotton of his pants and shirt soiled from a long day's work in the fields, his rusty brown hair its usual mess that curled and clung to his neck in a mixture of dirt and sweat.
Not that any of it bothered Edward as he attempted to accompany the bugs around him, waiting for his cousin to be finished so his job could be begin.
"What'r yew playin'? I ain't knowing that thair tune," Emmett asked while tending to his still, his hands busy with a connecting hose that appeared to leaking, letting some of the vapors out. He couldn't let that happen, or else the alcohol wouldn't turn out right. And as a long time moonshiner going back generations, all the way to when his Grandpappy McCarty first settled in the Appalachian foothills from Scotland, it just wouldn't do to produce a bad batch of moonshine.
"Nuthin' of particular," Edward answered, still strumming softly. "Just keepin' the woods company."
"Well, yew best not be getting to settled, I'm fixin' to be done here," Emmett told him, walking over to get a mason jar ready to catch the distilled alcohol that would pour out of the spout of the warm barrel.
Edward chortled, his head tipping back to the sky as he let loose. "I'll believe that load of codwallop when I see it! Ain't never seen yew get that liqker done fast in all my twenty years."
"Watch yer tongue, boy. Some things take a right time to get good and done," Emmett scolded, turning to give Edward a warning glare. "Yew best be payin' attention, too. If somethin' were a-happenin' to me, you'd be in charge of makin' the hooch."
Edward shook his head, waving a hand dismissively. "Naw, I ain't no good with that, cozin. I'm just here to get it to where you need it gettin' to, and fast-like."
Emmett smiled, nodding in agreement. "Now I knowed that's the good Lord's truth. Ain't nobody run white lightnin' like you do, Edward."
"Wouldn't have too if yew was quicker." The men both broke out in laughter, a rich, deep sound filling the night air as they continued to tease one another.
Emmett was correct of course; there wasn't a man in all of Cocke County who could make runs faster than Edward. It was one of the many reasons the boys had such a profitable business, despite the hard times. Not only did Emmett produce high quality liquor, but Edward was able to get it quickly to customers without alerting the authorities.
McCarty-Cullen moonshine was in high demand all across East Tennessee, not to mention Georgia and South Carolina. Customers paid high dollar for their liquor, and it helped keep both men afloat when their other monetary venues were failing, as often happened on the farm.
"Yew heard 'bout that new bull they's bringin' in to Cosby?" Emmett asked later, while they were placing the full mason jars into crates that they would pack into the back of Edward's Model A Ford.
Edward nodded, his lips pursing. "Yep, sure did. T'anit nothing be afeared of, I reckon. He'll likely be willin' to turn a blind eye, just like the rest of them. With enough cash, o'course."
Emmett wasn't so sure however, having heard rumors coming down through the hills that this new Revenuer was a staunch Prohibitionist, and couldn't be bought. He said as much to Edward, fearful his cousin might soon be meeting the wrong side of the law. And while the moonshining business was highly profitable, Emmett was much more concerned with his cousin's safety than the extra dollars he could earn.
"No need to worry, Emmett," Edward said lightly, sliding the last crate into the secret compartment hidden in the backseat of his car before getting in. He cranked the engine, smiling broadly when it roared to life.
"Even if we ain't got us a new friend, I won't get caught. Me and this 'ole girl can't be touched," he laughed, slapping his hand on the side of the automobile to emphasis his point. "Best be getting' on, before the sun gets up. I'll be seeing you at the meetin' tomorrah."
Emmett shook his head as he watched Edward pull away into the night, so sure of himself and his untouchable status. It was a good thing they were both God fearing men, or else Emmett might have thought Edward had made a deal with the devil to have never been snatched up before.
Then again, Edward had had some close calls once or twice, yet he wiggled his way out of them at the last second. Emmett decided he'd have to ask his cousin about that in church the next morning, just in case.
Isabella meandered slowly down the aisle, her eyes scanning the rows of canned goods. The air was sticky and hot, her hair clinging to her neck underneath her bell-shaped hat. She wished more than ever she'd gone ahead and cut it into the short bob Maggie tried to persuade her to get. Of course, not wanting to tip her father off to her evening activities, Isabella had demurred and told them perhaps another day.
Now that she was experiencing the Tennessee heat, and had been found out by her father regardless, Isabella longed for the shorter style, little finger waves around her face and the cool breeze on her neck. It might make this small town more bearable, if she could find respite from one of its travesties somehow.
Sighing, a newly acquired habit as of late, Isabella proceeded with her chore, picking up provisions for the week. The Cosby Grocery was small, dusty and rather run down. Isabella thought it reflected the town perfectly, as far as she could tell. If she'd had her choice, she never would have set foot in the decrepit building, but as she and her father did not have the means to grow their produce, she had to make the sacrifice.
She placed a few sweet smelling peaches into her basket, deciding she'd make a pie later as they were a favorite of her father's, and she did feel poorly that she'd been surly and unpleasant over their move. She understood her father's need to leave Charleston, where so many memories of her mother remained; she missed her, too. And perhaps he was right, she thought wryly; maybe this would be a turn in the right direction for their lives, even if it did seem to be the world's most dull town. She only wished he wasn't so busy with his new work; it left her with too much free time of her own, with no friends to be had since Isabella was sure they would have little in common.
Turning back towards the front, Isabella looked into her hand basket to see what else she needed. She would need more sugar to make the pie, and perhaps the store had some ice cream as well. With her head down and lost in thought, she didn't see the figure come around the corner and directly into her path.
The two collided; their bodies flush against each other as a mess of limbs. Peaches, sugar and baskets tumbled to the ground around them while they attempted to remain upright.
"Oh, beg pardon, ma'am," the man spoke, his rich, honey voice floating in the air as he steadied Isabella by the shoulders.
"Excuse me, sir. I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there," Isabella remarked, allowing her gaze to find his. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of him, tall and handsome. He had a regal face, with high cheekbones and a patrician nose. Beautiful pink lips and wild, reddish brown hair that stuck up despite the pomade he'd attempted to use. Somehow, the wildness suited him, she thought. But most startling, were the deep green eyes that stared down at her, surrounded by long lashes which should be sinful for a man to have.
Simply put, Isabella was captivated.
"No, ma'am, t'aint no fault by my own. I should be watchin' where I were going," he said, his eyes sparkling. Isabella noticed his thick Appalachian accent, which she'd found to be quite frustrating to understand. But with his sweet voice speaking, it didn't seem to matter nearly as much.
"It's not a problem at all, sir," Isabella said with a shy smile, a blush rising to her cheeks when he returned the gesture. The shade deepened when she realized he continued to hold her close, their combined packages still scattered on the floor.
"Oh, forgive me," the man said, releasing her and bending down to grab their fallen items. Isabella felt a loss when his hands moved from her, but smiled at the way he frantically righted the mess on the floor, standing after he'd put all her goods back in her small basket.
He held it out for her to take, holding the peaches against his chest. With a chagrined, half smile he apologized. "I'm right sorry for bumpin' yew like that. Let me get yew some new peaches, these'uns seemed to be bruised by my cluzminess."
"That's mighty kind of you, Mr…," she trailed off.
He took the hint, a smirk pulling at his lips. "Cullen, Edward Cullen, ma'am." He gave slight dip of his head, always the proper gentleman his mama taught him to be. "It's a pleasure to meet yew…"
"Isabella Swan," she offered, tipping her head and smiling coyly.
"It's a pleasure to meet yew, Miss Swan. Now, should we go get yew them peaches?" Edward extended his arm, which Isabella graciously took, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow. The two walked back down the row, finding the peaches in a crate at the end. As they picked through them, they began a light conversation.
"How is yew finding Cosby, Miss Swan?" Edward asked, turning a peach over and checking for imperfections. He didn't want to offer the pretty girl anything but the finest, even if it was just a peach.
Isabella didn't wonder how Edward knew she was new to Cosby; it was obvious to everyone she hailed from a more affluent city. Of course, the small size of Cosby itself alerted natives to when a new family arrived.
Isabella selected her words carefully, not wanting to disrupt the pleasant mood which has settled between them as they chatted.
"It's rather different from Charleston," she tentatively explained. "I don't much care for the heat, to be honest, Mr. Cullen."
"I reckon it do take some gettin' used to," he said, smiling warmly when he locked eyes with her again. She had such lovely brown eyes, he thought. She was as keen as any of those dolls he'd seen in the picture show over in Asheville. Maybe even more, with her red cheeks and soft looking lips, smooth skin and bright smile. She was easily the most beautiful girl his eyes had ever be held.
"Yes, among other things," Isabella agreed, but remaining silent on what those other things might be. Instead, feeling bold by their friendly remarks, she chose to ask him a question.
"Mr. Cullen, what is it that you occupy your time with? Your wife and children perhaps?" Isabella placed a peach in her basket, keeping her eyes away from his as color filled her cheeks.
Edward chuckled lowly, knowing exactly what this young woman was after. A spark of respect filled him, admiring her courage for asking such a forward question. Though to be honest, he was just as curious about her circumstances as she was his.
"Naw, can't say I has much of a family left, Miss. My Maw and Paw done passed back when the fever hit, and now I'm just a lone farmer up near the ridge."
Isabella offered her sympathies for his loss, relating deeply to the sorrow of losing a parent. But secretly, she was pleased to hear he was unattached to a wife of his own. When he asked after her family, she was quick to fill in the blanks.
"I've just moved with my father, actually. He transferred from Charleston for work."
Edward stopped, his hands poised above a juicy looking peach, a furrow to his brow. "Yer father, uh? What work he got here, if yew don't mind me askin'," Edward questioned, a hesitancy in his voice Isabella couldn't understand.
"Well, he's a Revenuer. The best in South Carolina, actually. That's why they sent him here. There is a quite an underground liquor business, from what I hear," she giggled, leaning in close as though sharing a secret.
Edward laughed, but it was uncomfortable and stiff. He forced a smile on his face, handed Isabella her peach and then stepped away from the crate.
"Well, I best be gettin' on," he explained, eyes tight. "My cozin'll be needin' his supplies right soon. Yew have a good day now, Miss Swan." Edward nodded goodbye, stepping away to the register at the front of the store.
Isabella was stunned at his sudden departure. She'd thought they'd been getting along so well; she didn't understand his sudden change in demeanor. And she'd so hoped to have found a new friend.
For Edward, he couldn't seem to get away fast enough, knowing who the bonnie girl was. The daughter of the new bull, come to take away the only profitable thing left to his name.
It was a sad thing indeed, he considered as he stacked the bags of sugar and yeast in the back of his automobile, preparing to haul it to Emmett's farm. He was half a mind to court the girl, she'd been so fetching.
Of course, now that was out of the question. He couldn't get tangled up with her, knowing who her father was. To do so would only ensure he'd be left holding the bag when Swan came to bust up their distillery.
He couldn't do that to his family, no matter if his heart might be carrying a torch for Isabella Swan now.
Despite his best efforts, Edward was unable to get the sweet, pretty Isabella out of his thoughts; she had even managed to star in a few of his dreams.
It was very disconcerting for him as he attempted to go about his normal routines; working the corn fields on the farm, tending to the few pigs and chickens he owned each day. Her image would swirl through his mind and dance across his imagination as he picked an unknown song on his banjo, waiting with Emmett for the mash to ferment so it could be sent through the distiller and jarred before he'd take it on the next run.
It didn't help his resolve to keep his heart from becoming hers when he continually ran into the girl on every corner it seemed. First in the grocery, then down at the soda shop buying a coke. He'd smiled politely but kept his distance, knowing it was better to avoid her than get twisted up in mess. Then Isabella showed up at his most scared of places, prim and proper with a hat covering her face, sitting in his favorite pew at church.
It was all he could take, seeing her sitting in her white lace dress, her skirt folded neatly against her legs as she leafed through a hymnal. Edward had to swallow hard and avert his eyes at the sight of her smooth calves, her dress riding a touch higher than he was accustomed to seeing on young ladies. It made his body flush with heat, hot lust burning in his veins as he sat in God's house.
He found himself focusing on her instead of the sermon; the way she held her fan, flicked her wrist to stir the air, or how the dark strands of her hair tumbled loose from the simple twist at the nape of her neck. He watched as she tucked those strands back behind her ear, wishing his own fingers could have had the honor.
It all became too much for him to bear, leading him to do perhaps the dumbest thing he possibly could. He'd asked Miss Swan to take a walk with him, his intentions to win her affections clear in his eyes and in his own heart.
Consequences be damned.
Falling for her charms was as easy as breathing after that fateful day. They shared many things with each other, learning about one another as the early afternoon stretched into twilight. After having spent one such outing together, Edward and Isabella were unable to keep the welling feelings for each other inside. They spent as much time together as possible; taking walks in flower covered fields, riding in Edward's car over to Asheville for an ice-cream scoop and the picture show, and stolen moments where their eyes connected over Cosby's citizens in a busy town meeting.
Edward struggled in the beginning, trying to ease his conscience as he sought out Isabella's affections as often as he could. He was worried and concerned over growing too close, of falling too deep and losing himself in her. He knew if that were to transpire, he would never be able to turn away from her if and when her father came looking for him.
Yet he couldn't turn off the emotions pulling at his heartstrings any easier than he could stop breathing. It seemed no matter what, he was being bound tightly to the young girl from Charleston, his heart tied up on a string that dangled from her finger.
It was lucky for Edward that Isabella felt the same, her own emotions swelling and expanding with each date they shared. Though she wasn't unaccustomed to men's interest in her, she had never enjoyed them so much before as she did with Edward's.
They attempted to keep their blossoming relationship private, a difficult thing to do in such a small community. Edward feared Emmett finding out about his Isabella, and forcing him to give her up, which he no longer knew if he could do. And Isabella feared her father's reaction towards Edward and his humble upbringing, Charles being keen on her marrying a society man.
Still, as they walked along a worn path to their favorite shaded cove along Forks Creek, the feelings between them outweighed any hesitancy, worry, or doubt the outside world placed upon them.
"Edward," Isabella said, her cheeks pinking slightly; she loved the feel of his name on her lips. "What do you think that one is?"
Edward crinkled his brow in thought, his gaze scrutinizing the clouds above as they laid together on a blanket spread across the grass. Their arms were pressed against each other, and Edward relished in the feel of his sweetheart so close. He reached out with his fingertips, letting them lightly brush across the smooth skin of her knuckles while he answered.
"Might could be a-apple, if anythin'."
"A what?" she asked, turning her face to look at his better. It pleased Edward to see that the movement brought her pretty mouth closer to his. He was dying to feel her lips; touch and taste her, and see if she was as sweet as he imagined.
"Yew ain't seeing that thair stem on top? Right thair, its a-apple," he said, pointing at a spot in the sky.
Isabella giggled, loving his accent and how it fell from his mouth. She'd grown rather fond of the wayward sound, the way his words often seemed to come out backwards. She especially loved it when he would get frustrated with her for teasing him about it; the way his brow would crinkle and his lips pursue when she pretended to not understand him.
She liked it even more when her name rolled of his tongue, changing the way it sounded to something unique and distinctly Edward.
"Oh yew just a mean lil' thing, ain't yew?" Edward asked, rolling over and facing the giggling girl beside him. He pouted, though the shine in his eye was bright enough to let Isabella know he wasn't truly sore at her. "I think I best be leavin' yew out here, Izabella. Makin' fun of my roots like that."
"You wouldn't!" Isabella gasped, her brown eyes wide. "It's too far a walk without your automobile, and I'd likely get lost."
"Yeah, I reckon so. So yews best be keepin' that little teasin' mouth shut," he teased, placing his finger to her lips.
Isabella stopped, her next protest dying the instant he touched her. Her eyes flew up to his, dark and wanting. Breathing heavily, she leaned into him, her hands finding purchase on his chest as she kissed his fingertip with light pressure.
Edward groaned lowly under his breath, his pulse racing at the feel of her soft lips. He wanted them on his own, tasting and touching him like that.
"Izabella," Edward huskily said, his green eyes steady on her lips, flicking up briefly to gauge her reaction as he leaned in close. His hand settled on her waist as he pulled her closer to him, hovering inches away from her mouth with his own.
They'd never been so close to each other, never having risked so forward a move. But the emotions and feelings that had developed between them seemed unwilling to be contained any longer.
"Can I kiss yew?" Edward asked softly, hoping for a yes. When Isabella nodded, his smile pulled up one corner of his mouth in a crooked grin that filled Isabella's heart with joy before his lips found hers.
Though it wasn't her first kiss, Isabella knew she'd never felt anything like it before. Edward's lips fit perfectly, sliding and pressing chastely to hers. His kiss shook her to the core, sending her head spinning like a whirling top, and her heart racing like a derby horse.
Edward moved his mouth firmly over Isabella's, relishing the taste of her, sweet like honeysuckle and warm like a June night. He could sense himself losing the battle to keep things respectable as his hand gripped her waist firmly, his arm's flexing and pulsing with the need to pull her closer, tighter against him.
He wouldn't do that, however. She was no mere conquest, a roll in the haystack between lunch and supper. Isabella meant more to him than just about anything, and he wanted to do right by her.
Slowing the kiss down, Edward placed a soft peck to the corner of her mouth before dusting one to her cheek as well, leaning his forehead against hers to catch his breath.
Isabella reeled from the heated exchange, her fingers curling into the tops of Edward's shoulders as she held onto him. The hot and needy feelings coursing through her were very new, having never experienced them with a man before.
But she'd never known anyone like Edward, either.
"Thank yew," Edward told her softly, stroking her arm in a light caress. "That were the best kiss I'd ever had."
Isabella blushed, but managed to keep her eyes locked on Edward's as she responded in kind. "I agree. I hope we can do it again sometime."
Smirking, Edward pecked her lips and said, "I reckon I'm gonna need to be doin' that everyday now, lil' darlin'. If yews agreeable, o'course."
"Nothing would make me happier," Isabella responded. Her own boldness came rushing up, pushing her forward to press her lips to Edward's once more.
After the kiss finished, Edward decided he should probably take Isabella home; else something more might happen out in the shade trees. And while his body was willing, he knew in his heart it wasn't yet time.
They packed up their things, strolling back to the automobile hand in hand. The ride home was quick, and over before either one was willing to part with the other.
"I hope to see you again, soon," Isabella dejectedly said after releasing Edward's hand once he'd helped her out of her seat.
Edward kicked the ground lightly when an ache in his chest grew at the thought of saying goodbye.
"Yew wun'dt be interested in going to the barn dance tonight with me, would yew?" He didn't even know he was going to ask until the words were out of his mouth, and he cringed slightly having said them. While taking Isabella wouldn't be a problem, it would cause their otherwise private relationship to become public knowledge. Edward knew that could be disastrous. He considered resending his offer, but the big, happy smile on Isabella's face changed his mind once again.
"Oh, Edward! Yes, that would be lovely," she gushed, squeezing his hand tightly in her own. She dearly loved to dance, and so far had found no occasions or places for it in Cosby. Now she would get to enjoy some fun like she was used to. Knowing going with Edward as her companion, thus putting their relationship out for all to see, only made her want to go more. Unable to restrain the excitement she felt, Isabella stood up on her toes and gave Edward a quick kiss to the lips, melting any further resistance he had.
"Alright then, darlin'. I'll come and pick yew up after supper," Edward said with a smile. Isabella agreed, squeezing his hand in hers for another brief second before rushing up to her front porch, her giggles trailing behind her.
Edward chuckled to himself, shaking his head. He must be crazy to be contemplating what he was, but then he'd do just about anything to get that reaction from his girl.
It wasn't until he was half way home before Edward realized what he was supposed to be doing that night while the rest of the town was distracted. It was the perfect time to make a run, with so many people otherwise occupied. He and Emmett had been planning their largest haul for weeks now.
He swore to himself, slapping his hands against the steering wheel. He'd have to go back and tell Isabella he couldn't go. But as he thought of doing that, the ache in his chest flared up, burning him from the inside. He rubbed at the spot absently as his mind conjured a picture of her disappointed face and sad eyes.
No, he couldn't have that.
Maybe Emmett would be willing to wait another night. But he knew the next batch of moonshine was going to be ready that night, and it wasn't safe or smart to keep it on hand longer than necessary.
He didn't know how, but he would just have to find some way to take Isabella to the dance and run moonshine.
It would be tricky, but he could do it.
He was Edward Cullen, after all.
Fastest bootlegger in all of Tennessee.
The music was high and giddy, rolling in the cool night air as Edward helped Isabella out of his automobile, careful to keep her from slipping in mud from a late evening rain. Once she was safely on both feet, he squeezed her hand before tucking it into the crook of his arm, and escorting her towards the happy occasion in front of them.
Isabella was smiling widely, her face warm from the excitement she felt. She was finally going to get to show Edward something she enjoyed and fancied herself to be good at doing.
"Yew ready, sugar?" Edward asked, smiling at the sparkling light that shined in Isabella's eyes as she looked at the busy barn before them. Though he'd had his reservations, and a few worries still nagged at him, seeing her so happy made his chest swell with pride at being the one to have made her look that way.
"Yes, let's go," Isabella said with an excited giggle.
The two walked into the bustling barn, arm in arm. Their unexpected arrival caused a wave of whispers and gawking to ensue; gossiper's tongues beginning to wag as they made their way further into the barn. Edward simply ignored the crowd, use to having his name on their lips for some reason or other.
Isabella didn't find she minded much either, so long as she was with Edward. After all, most of the young eligible women in town had their sights set on him, and would find ways to put themselves in his path at any given opportunity. She was glad to show them he was unavailable to entertain their frivolity, as it was clear that she was going steady with him.
Edward took Isabella to the back corner of the room, knowing his cousin would be there waiting for him. Edward and Emmett had agreed earlier in the day to make an appearance at the town's function in order to have an alibi, in case things didn't turn out as they hoped later that night.
Emmett had been quite sore at Edward for introducing a new complication to their business, and tried to warn Edward off from continuing to see Isabella. But Edward was undeterred, sure in his feeling for the pretty South Carolina girl who had stolen his heart.
Reminding Emmett of his affections for his own unobtainable lady didn't hurt, either. Rosalie Hale was the fairest and wealthiest girl in all of Cocke County. She was refined and dignified, smart as a whip and pretty as a picture. She had Emmett half in love with her before he'd been out of his short pants, and his feelings had only grown stronger with each passing year.
"Izabella, this here is my cozin, Emmett McCarty. Emmett, this is my sweetheart, Izabella Swan," Edward introduced the pair.
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. McCarty," Isabella said, shaking his hand daintily. She was a little surprised at his large size, but hid it well. She knew if he was related to Edward, she had nothing to fear.
"Yewz right, cuzin," Emmett said, smiling broadly as he released Isabella and looked back to Edward. "She done be as pretty as a dove. I reckon she's too good fer the likes of yew. Maybe I best be a-showin' her how a real Tennessee man treats a lady," he joked, waggling his eyebrows in jest.
"Watch yer mouth, boy," Edward said hotly, his temper flaring at the insinuation despite knowing Emmett teased in good fun. "T'anit nobody good enough for Izabella, but I aim to try."
Leaning in close so only Emmett would hear, Edward finished his threat. "And if yews get in the way, I'll string you up by your laces and leave you hog tied in a holler for a mountain lion to eat'cha."
Emmett laughed loudly, the sound booming around the room and mixing with the other noises of fun and entertainment. He patted Edward on the shoulder and shook his head. "Yew done sealed yer fate, I reckon. Ain't no way to knowed how serious yew was until now 'bout her. I ain't gonna be a-gettin' in yer way. Yew just best not be forgettin' 'bout family, yew hear? 'Cause we got to stick together," Emmett said with pointed look.
Edward exhaled slowly, realizing he was overreacting. He also understood what Emmett was saying; Isabella may not choose him over her father if such a choice ever had to be made. "Yep, I hear yew," Edward said stoically.
"You boys are making me feel like a wet blanket," Isabella complained, pouting playfully at Edward after she gotten his attention again. "Can't we just cut a rug?"
Edward laughed, and nodded. "Looks like I need to be a-taken my doll here for a spin. I'll be seein' yew afterwhile."
Emmett waved them off, his own joy at seeing his cousin so happy with the girl of his dreams inspiring him. "Yew go on and do it, but I'll be join' yew shortly out thair. I'z just gotta find Miss Hale and then we can show yew up."
"Says you," Isabella playfully huffed, grabbing Edward by the arm and beginning to pull him to the dance floor. There was no way she was letting some hillbilly show her up, even if he was Edward's family.
Emmett laughed loudly at them as they left, shouting loud enough for too many curious ears to hear, "Yew got yew one heck of a bearcat, thair Edward. Must make fer some right good neckin'!"
Isabella gasped but Edward twirled her onto the dance floor, pulling her into his arms, and leading them across the floor to the sounds of a banjo picking and drum thumping in the corner.
"Ignore him, sugar," Edward said as they moved around the floor gracefully. "It's what I do."
"But Edward, people will think the worst of us," Isabella worried, her bottom lip tucked into her teeth. Edward groaned, wanting to pull it free with his own lips, but knew it would be inappropriate.
"Naw, ain't nothin' to be afeared about. T'aint nobody heared him over the music, anyhow."
Isabella was somewhat satisfied with this answer, but more so with the feeling of being in Edward's arms so she let the matter go. She smiled and laughed gaily as Edward pushed and pulled her across the floor, showing her the moves to dances done by those in the mountains, and she taught him a few of her own fancy foot works.
Emmett was able to persuade Rosalie to join him in a dance at some point in the night, and made sure they took a turn near Edward and Isabella to show off.
Isabella smiled and laughed at them heartily. She knew Rosalie from a few weeks before, when she and her father made a social call to the Hales' home. Isabella had been introduced to Rosalie, whom she rather liked and her older brother James, whom she didn't care for as much.
Something about his cold demeanor, the forced way he spoke, and the calculating look in his eyes didn't sit well with her, but her father had wanted her to make the right connections in Cosby, and the Hales were it.
It was during that visit that a friendship with Rosalie bloomed, and how Isabella learned the quiet and often misunderstood woman harbored a deep and long standing affection for Emmett McCarty; the dandy boy she'd met once during a Sunday baptismal when they'd been playing in the field by the creek bed.
Isabella gave Rosalie a secretive wink when they caught eyes as they twirled in their partners' arms. Rosalie looked like a live and dapper girl, flushed and excited like never before. It warmed Isabella's heart to see her friend so goofy.
Lost as she was in the fun and festive night, Isabella didn't realize James was present until later when Edward slipped outside to smoke for a minute, leaving her to catch her breath at the refreshment table alone.
James took the opportunity, quickly running up on Isabella and cajoling her into a dance. Isabella hesitantly agreed, her manners keeping her from denying him as she'd wished, and walked stiffly onto the floor with him.
"Yew are quite the dancer, Miss Swan," James breathed into her ear, stepping too close for Isabella's comfort. She forced a polite smile at him, and tried to put a little distance between them.
"Thank you, Mr. Hale," she said tightly, stepping back from his arms.
"Please, call me James."
James didn't fail to notice she didn't offer him the same courtesy, but kept his displeasure from showing. "How do yews like our little shindig?" he asked, hoping to get her to speak more freely.
Isabella smiled, a genuine happiness taking over her features as she thought of the amusement she'd had tonight. She knew it was all thanks to Edward, and the small touches of affection he'd shown her, or kind words he whispered in her ear throughout the night. She blushed a little with the memories, but pulled herself together to answer.
"It's been a splendid evening. I've had great fun dancing and enjoying the music."
"Yes, it does seem to suite yew. Yew've been up for almost every tune, it seems."
Isabella's eyes widened, surprised to hear he had been paying such close attention to her. "Oh, well, yes I do love to dance. And I've had an excellent partner," she said, her eyes soft as she spoke of Edward.
She glanced over James' shoulder, looking towards the doors in hopes of seeing Edward coming back in. She was ready to be back in his arms, and far away from James Hale.
"Tell me, Miss Swan, how do yews find yerself mixed up with the likes of Cullen?" James asked.
Isabella cut her eyes back to James, his face hard and sharp. She didn't know how to respond to his clear displeasure of Edward. "Mr. Cullen is a friend. He and I met at the grocery when he helped me pick out some peaches to bake a pie for my father."
She didn't offer more than that, like how she and Edward had been dating in secret almost since their first meeting, or how her heart belonged to the lanky mountain man already. Something about James' stiff posture told her to keep it quiet.
"Yes, well. Yew might want to rethink that friendship, Isabella. He isn't the kind of man yer father would want to see yew with."
"How would you know the type of man my father would want me with?" Isabella asked incredulously, almost coming to a stop in the middle of the floor. James gripped her more firmly, his fingers digging into her skin as he pushed her backwards in time with the fiddle that played loudly beside them.
"Why did yew think he introduced us, doll? He knows yew'd be much better suited to a life I can give yew as a Hale than some rag-muffin hillbilly. Besides, he knows Cullen's trouble. It's only a matter of time 'till yer father catches him."
"What do you mean, catches him?" she questioned, confused.
James laughed, a short and hard burst of noise in her ear. "Don't yew even know? Cullen is a criminal, Isabella. He and that large stump of a cozin of his sell hooch. Don't yew worry, though. I've done told your father all about it and given him what he needs. He'll nip it in the bud soon enough. And as long as yew steer clear of that scoundrel, yew should be fine."
Isabella had heard an earful, and wanted no more. She pushed away from James, breaking his tight hold on her as the song came to an end. "Thank you for the dance, Mr. Hale," she stiffly said. With a curt nod and a sharp turn, she left James on the floor and headed outside to find Edward.
She had no idea if James' wild accusations were true, but she needed to find out. She couldn't believe Edward would keep something like that from her. How he could, after all they'd shared, baffled her. She was brought up short as she heard voices coming from the side of the barn. She paused, listening intently when she recognized them.
"Yew know yew can't keep her form a-findin' out, don't ye?" Emmett said.
"Yeah, I knowned it. But what would yew do, Emmett? If it t'were Rosalie, could yew walk away?"
"Naw, I reckon I wudn't be able tah," Emmett replied. "But Rosie ain't the daughter of a Revenuer either, so I ain't sure it's the same."
The men fell quite again, and Isabella tried to keep her breathing under control. She knew they were speaking of her, and she was confused why it seemed Edward needed to stay away from her.
"Whelp, I need to be headin' up to the holler. Yew still goin' up thair later?" Emmett asked.
"Yeah, I ain't goin' let yew down. I just gotta get Izabella home first, then I'll meet yew at Forks bend directly."
"Alright, cuzin. I'm right sorry for yer situation, but yew know how much this means to me. The corn ain't selling like it should, and I can't seem to keep my sisters fed if we ain't gettin' this 'shine money."
"I know. I'm in a hole down at the farm, too. Paw didn't leave it in good shape when he died and I gotta do what I can to protect it. But I wish thair were another way, s'all."
The men shuffled around the corner, their heads low as they made their way. When Edward saw Isabella, his eyes lit up and he smiled wide. When he noticed her furrowed brow and upset demeanor, he waved goodbye to Emmett and stepped over to her.
"What's eatin' yew, Izabella? Did somethin' happen while I was out here?" Edward asked with concern.
Isabella looked at him, taking in his worried eyes and the slight frown on his face. She knew now what James told her before was true, and that Edward was a criminal. She also knew James' threat that Edward would be taken care of, and by her father's hands, was correct. If Edward was a bootlegger, then Charles Swan would find him, she had no doubt.
He was the best Revenuer in the South, and he took his job seriously, as not only as a countrymen, but as a God fearing Christian.
Isabella was scared to lose Edward, having just found him. She knew she should tell Edward about what James said, but she wanted to be sure first. She needed to speak with her father, find out how close to closing in on Edward's operation he actually was. Maybe there was still time for it to be stopped.
Shaking her head, Isabella said, "No, no. I'm just feeling worn out, after all the dancing and what not. Do you think you can take me home? I don't want to be around anyone else tonight."
Smiling softly, Edward cupped her cheek with his hand and peered down into her warm eyes. Isabella's breath hitched, seeing him look at her so tenderly. "'Course, lil' darlin'. I hope you ain't growed tired of me just yet," he teased.
Isabella laughed lightly, her hands reaching up to hold Edward's wrist while he caressed her jaw with his thumb. "Never, Edward."
With a crooked smile, Edward leaned forward and gave Isabella a soft kiss. "Never," he agreed. They shared a long and meaningful look, saying without words how much they cared for one another.
After a few minutes, they clasped hands and walked back to the automobile, Edward helping Isabella before going to his side and jumping in. He gave Isabella another warm smile before turning to the road and driving off.
"Father?" Isabella said quietly, watching as he bustled about his study. Charles turned to the door, offering his daughter a half smile as he thumbed through a large book, his attention divided.
He had been quite busy lately, working late into the night to gather information on the criminals that seemed to swarm like wasps in a hive over Cosby. He had no idea the area was so rife with degenerates when he accepted his transfer, but he could understand why the bureau had sent him; the area was in desperate need of his services.
He spread a large map over his desk, pencil scratches and colored lines scattered all over it. Isabella couldn't tell what it was a map of, but she had a fair idea. It sent chills down her spine. She had to get the answers to her questions and soon, in case she needed to warn Edward.
"Is there something you needed, girl?" Charles asked, looking up to see Isabella waffling in the doorway.
"Yes, sir. I was hoping to speak with you about something James Hale said to me this evening," Isabella began.
Charles stopped, looking up with a happy expression. "James Hale, eh? That's a fine man there, Isabella. Where did you see him at?"
Isabella swallowed nervously, but answered honestly. "I went to the barn dance tonight."
Charles laughed, shaking his head. "I should have known, you were awfully gussied up to be going to a church meeting," he said with a cluck of his tongue. "Well, I suppose I can forgive you for your dishonesty since you were with James. No harm done Isabella, but please don't deceive me in the future. If you want to go out with your beau, just let me know beforehand. I'll speak with James as well, he should know better than to let you run off without informing me of your plans first."
Isabella shuddered, the thought of her and James as a couple deeply disturbing. But she refrained from saying anything, hoping to use her father's misconception to her advantage.
"I'm sorry, Father," Isabella respectfully apologized. "But I had a question about something James said to me earlier," she said, walking to her father's bookshelf and pretending to look at the titles for a moment. "He mentioned you might be going after some of the local boys soon, that they had been caught distilling. I know I shouldn't be, but I'm worried…"
Charles waved his hand at Isabella, brushing off her words. "Don't concern yourself with it, daughter. James should have kept that information to himself after he spoke with me, but I suppose it won't hurt you knowing. I am after a few men, and very close to finding them. You needn't worry about me, however. I'll be as safe as I always am, darling."
"But where will you be going? The mountain roads are dangerous, and you don't know them well yet. When will you be going?" Isabella pressed. She honestly was concerned for her father and his well being, but her trepidation over Edward still prevailed.
"Shush now, Isabella. I'm a capable driver, and I know my way around well enough. You shouldn't be worried about me. It's those outlaws that need your prayers," Charles said, focusing back on his map.
Seeing an opportunity, Isabella swiftly took it. "That's a swell idea, Father. Who should I pray for?"
"Hmm? Oh, I'll be out looking for the McCarty-Cullen boys. After speaking with James, I have a strong idea where they've hidden their operation, and plan to catch them tonight."
Isabella inhaled sharply, her hands beginning to tremble as her fears were confirmed. Her father was after Edward, and if he found him, her life would be ruined. She had to find a way to warn him. "I'll pray for them," she said quietly. Isabella turned to leave, but her father's voice stopped her before she reached the doorway.
"Isabella," he called out, no warmth or humor in his voice. "Don't think I haven't heard the rumors going about town, young lady. I know they're saying you've taken up with that Cullen boy. You had better pray that I don't give into the gossipers tales, or else you will need more help than prayers can offer. I didn't move us from Charleston just so you could fall in with a criminal, and ruin your future."
The warning was clear, and Isabella shuddered at the cold tone of her father's voice. She knew not to test him, as he was a firm believer that sparing the rod spoiled the child. He hadn't done it in many years, but Isabella knew he wouldn't be above taking her across his knee to teach her a lesson, even at her age. She swallowed thickly and then shakily replied, "Yes, sir," before scurrying from the room.
Even though she knew she shouldn't, since a serve punishment would likely follow, Isabella had to warn Edward. His safety was more important to her than her own. It was what led her to slip out of bed that night after she heard her father's car sputter and chug down the lane, rushing out of the house and into the forest where Edward was about to be found, holding the bag.
Unless she could find him first.
The night was cold, the air having cooled off considerably thanks to the earlier rain, and the wind kept things cool as it rolled down the mountains. Edward sat on a stump, his eyes cast into the dark as he waited for Emmett to finish. The steady thump thump thump of the barrel working, the jarflies singing their favorite songs, and a scurrying sound of a small animal were the only noises in the cove that night since Edward wasn't playing his usually joyful tunes.
He was more focused on the uneasiness he felt, heavy and hanging from his neck like a yolk. He couldn't pinpoint what it was; he just knew the feeling was wearing on him and making him more distractible than he'd been in recent days, which was saying a great deal since he'd been spending so much free time with Isabella.
"What yew stewing on?" Emmett asked gruffly, his irritation at Edward's mood clear. He knew his cousin would have preferred to spend more time with his girl, but some things had to come first. Besides, he'd had to leave his Rosie, too. It wasn't like Edward was the only one suffering, and at least he'd been spending the past few weeks with Isabella, necking and petting, Emmett was sure. He'd only just gotten Rosalie that night, he huffed internally.
"Somethin' don't feel right," Edward said, glancing at the surrounding trees and babbling creek bed. "I ain't sure what, but somethin' don't feel settled. Maybe we should sit on this fer a-day."
"Horsefeathers," Emmett shot him down. "Ain't nothin' different 'bout tonight then any other. Yew just didn't want to leave yer girl behind, s'all. And her relation to the Revenuer is givin' you the heebie-jeebies."
Edward shook his head. "Naw, t'ain't that. Well, just that. Just a feelin' I'm gettin'. Yew don't feel it in the air?"
"Only thing I feel is my fingers gettin' burned by this here fire since yews ain't helpin' me keep it lit," Emmett complained.
"Quit yer belly achin', yew spit-git. I'm not here for the distilling, just for the runnin' and yew knowed it. But if it keeps a bee outta yer bonnet, I'll work the fire for yew."
The boys continued to tease each other lightly, but the feeling of unease continued to settle in Edward's gut. He didn't know why, but something told him to stay alert. He was grateful for that inclination when he heard rustling in the woods, the sound of approaching steps distinct as they trampled on fallen branches and rocks.
"Emmett, get the shotgun. Somethin's comin'!" Edward whispered loudly, ducking down to blow the flames out below the mash barrel, and douse the few lamps they had placed around their distillery plot. He and Emmett stepped back into the dark shadows of the trees, holding their breath, hoping it was merely an animal Edward heard.
Isabella stumbled along the littered forest floor, her delicate leather boots not accustomed to such rough terrain. The low branches and briar of the bushes pulled at her dress as she walked along in the dark, a small kerosene lamp casting a soft glow a few feet in front of her. She was sweating, her clothes sticking to her despite the cold night, and mud was clinging to her long skirt, but she didn't stop to wipe it clean. She knew she was close to where Edward must be, the distinct smell of rough alcohol wafting in the breeze.
Isabella knew if she could smell it, her father would be able to as well. She knew she had a slight lead over him, but it couldn't be by much. He was in an automobile after all, and despite knowing exactly where to go, she was having trouble finding the picnic spot she and Edward frequented in the dark.
It was the only area she could think of where to find him, remembering he once mentioned that he and Emmett visited it often, and thought the cove was perfect for their needs. At the time she hadn't put much thought into his words, but when she started to pull the pieces of the puzzle together that night, it was the only place that fit.
Finally, she reached an inlet that looked familiar, and the smell in the air was much stronger there. She went to the creek, and found sets of footprints in the mud. Smiling, Isabella followed them up into the cove, moving deeper into the forest. The trail was fresh and easy to see, so she wasn't worried about going the wrong direction. She could feel in her bones she was close to Edward, and rushed in her hurry to reach him as fast as possible.
Her boots however, had had enough, twisting and slipping in the mud, causing Isabella to fall. She cried out, a sharp sound that broke the silence of the otherwise still night.
Edward's heart lurched in his chest at the sound, knowing that delicate voice's cry anywhere. "Izabella!" he shouted, jumping from his hiding spot despite Emmett's hand trying to hold him back.
"It could be a trap, yew idjit! Stay put!"
"Let go of me, Emmett! It's Izabella, she might be hurt and needs me." Edward tore his shoulder free; rushing out to find Isabella sprawled across the forest's muddy floor, her lamp turned over and clothes rumpled as she held onto her ankle.
"Izabella," Edward cried, rushing to her side and bending down to inspect her injury. His fingers grazed lightly along her skin, feeling the zip of energy that always seemed to burn through him when he touched her. He gently massaged the area, checking for a break as best he could.
"Izabella, sweetheart, what is yew doin' here? Have you flipped yer lid? Yew plum crazy girl," he chastised, though his heart wasn't in it.
Isabella sighed in relief as Edward's arms wrapped around her, pulling her in close to his chest. She inhaled deeply, the smell of his musky scent calming her. She held him tight about the shoulders, her fingers twisting in the short hairs at the nape of his neck. "Edward," she breathed into his throat, resting her lips against his salty skin. "Oh Edward."
"Lil' darlin', what was yew thinkin', comin' out here all by yer lonesome? Yew could've been seriously hurt. Thank the good Lord yew ain't."
"Don't be cross with me, Edward, but I had to find you, I had to tell you!" Isabella began to shake and sob, relieved as she was at finding Edward. It had been an overwhelming and harrowing experience, traipsing through the woods at night. She had been terribly frightened, though she hadn't let herself feel it until that moment.
"Tell me what, sweetheart?" Edward cooed, sitting down and pulling Isabella into his lap. He needed her close, feeling better when she was near. "What's got yew all twisted up, love?"
Isabella sighed, her head resting on his chest as she tried to calm her racing heart. She'd been so worried she wouldn't find Edward. But he was here, holding her tight. She could warn him of the danger he was in now.
"She alright, Edward?" Emmett asked, stepping close to the couple and peering over Edward's shoulder down at Isabella. He didn't intended to be distrustful of the girl, but her father was the law. And in Emmett's business, anyone associated with the law was one to be wary of, even if she did make his cousin happier than a tick on a dog.
"I'm alright," Isabella answered, sitting up to see both men better. Once her breathing had steadied, she looked up to Edward's eyes to tell him her news. "Edward, you have to stop this. You can't be up here tonight."
"What yew goin' on 'bout?"
"It's my father, he knows. He knows about the moonshine, and he's coming for you."
Edward stiffened, his worst fear being realized. His hands stilled on Isabella's wrists, no longer seeking to comfort her as his own fright overtook him.
Emmett kicked at the ground, throwing mud into the air with the toe of his boot as he cursed. "Damnit! I knewed it was a bad idea to get tangled up with her, Edward! I told yew she'd get us caught. She done gone and told her daddy all 'bout us!"
"No! I didn't tell him, I swear! I didn't say a word! I didn't even know until today what you were doing up here. And after I found out my father's plan, I came to warn you. I swear it, Edward," Isabella pleaded, staring into Edward's green eyes and hoping he would she spoke the truth.
Edward studied her, his gaze intense as he watched her dark brown eyes in the moonlight. After a few silent minutes, he nodded, his hands returning to the soothing motion's he had been making on her arms before. "I believe you, lil' darlin'." He pressed a kiss to her cheek, and then gently lifted her from his lap, standing to face Emmett.
"She ain't lying, Emmett. She ain't said nothin'. Yew need to be apologizin'."
"Like hell I do! She ain't one of us Edward, she ain't family. I don't trust her."
"Well I do. And if she say she ain't led her Paw to us, then she ain't done it. Yew hear me?"
Emmett stopped in his frantic pacing, squaring his shoulders up to Edward. The two faced off, fists and jaws clenching. Isabella jumped to her feet, a little wobbly on her sore ankle, but more worried about the two angry men in front of her than it.
"Stop it! This isn't solving anything. I didn't mean to cause trouble between you two. I just wanted to warn you. My father is on his way, Emmett," Isabella said, moving to step in front of him. Edward grunted with displeasure at her action, but she held a hand up to stop him from speaking.
"Please, no matter what you think of me, you need to go now. I don't know how long it will take him to find you, but he will find you. James give him directions and a map, he'll be here soon, I'm sure of it."
Emmett stopped, his eyes widening as he stared at Isabella. "James? James Hale?" he asked, a wary tone to his voice. If it was Hale, Emmett knew there wasn't a chance. He hated both Emmett and Edward passionately for being successful bootleggers when his own venture went bust.
"Yes. James told my father everything, even gave him directions to find you. If my father catches you, he'll lock you both up for good," Isabella said, turning to face Edward. She fell into his arms, hugging herself to his chest as she finished her plea. "Don't let him catch you, Edward. He knows about us, and he'll punish you worse for it, too."
Edward inhaled sharply, holding Isabella close, nuzzling her hair with his nose. "Don't worry, love, he ain't gonna catch me. I won't be put away."
The two held each other for a long moment, the world of danger that nipped at their heels fading away as they sought comfort from each other. Unable to help himself, Edward reached down and touched Isabella's chin, lifting her face up to his. With eyes locked, he wet his lips and slowly lowered them to hers. Isabella reciprocated, pressing firmly against Edward's mouth and moving her hands to his hair, pulling on it to bring him closer.
Edward groaned at the feel, causing Isabella to gasp at the sound. Edward slipped his tongue in, rough and needy against hers before he sucked it into his mouth. Isabella whimpered, but didn't pull away. She reveled in the new sensation, her body seeming to catch fire at the exotic kiss.
A cough beside them separated their passionate embrace, and they looked towards Emmett, who was sheepishly looking at the ground. When he lifted his eyes, an abashed expression had taken over his feautres.
"Izabellar, I'm sorry I weren't believin' you. I can see now you ain't meaning no harm to us, and I apologize for thinkin' otherwise."
"It's alright, Emmett. I understand why you'd think that. But I would never do anything to hurt Edward, I promise you."
Emmett nodded. "I can see that now. I'm sorry for doubtin' yew both."
Edward gave a slight nod to Emmett, letting him know he was forgiven. He then looked at Isabella, the warm happiness in her eyes reflecting in his own as he held her in his arms. He pressed another kiss to her lips, but was stopped from deepening it when Emmett cleared his throat again.
"We'd best be gettin' if we goin', Edward. If Izabellar's right, her daddy will be here soon."
Edward sighed, his forehead dropping to Isabella's as he closed his eyes. "Just give me a minute," he said softly. Emmett nodded, and retreated to the automobile parked not far away, already loaded with a few crates of moonshine.
"I ain't wantin' to leave yew, Izabella," Edward told her, the words a mere breath between them.
Isabella choked, air catching in her throat at the tender words and gentle touch Edward was using with her. His hands held her close, running up and down her back and twisting in her hair. She allowed her fingertips to trace the muscles of his chest hidden beneath his vest and shirt. She didn't want to say goodbye anymore than Edward, her heart already aching at the thought of not seeing him again.
But he wouldn't be safe if he stayed, not now that she'd officially been seen out in public with him and James gave him up to her father, his own designs for Isabella's affections apparent.
"I don't want you to either, but you can't stay here. It's not safe," she said. She turned her nose into the hollow of his throat, leaving a moist kiss there. "I'll always be waiting for you to come back to me," she whispered.
"Lil' darlin'," Edward murmured, cupping her jaw and pulling her lips to his in a slow and reverent kiss. He wanted another taste of her on his tongue; one last moment to memorize the way she fit in his arms as he held her close, and the feel of her heart beating wildly in her chest as it pressed against his.
After too short a time, Isabella stepped back, her eyes wet with tears as she looked up at Edward. He give her a weak smile, placing one last kiss to her forehead before stepping away, his hands holding hers until they fell apart from the distance.
"Goodbye, sweetheart. I'll come back fer yew when I can," Edward promised.
Isabella nodded, her fingers pressed to her lips as she watched him climb into his car and start it. Her shoulders trembled as she tried to contain the grief consuming her, knowing it would likely be the last time she saw him. The odds of him returning, and her being available to go with him, seemed as dim and bleak as the woods that surrounded her.
"Goodbye Edward," she softly said, tears falling as she stared at the place he vanished from and into the night.
Isabella sat on her front porch steps, her head leaning against a post as she looked at the fading moon. Her tears had dried, leaving trails of dirt on her face, but she didn't bother to clean them off. Her clothes were torn, muddy, and heavy but she didn't care. Her heart was broken, empty and bereft as she wallowed in her loss.
She didn't want to go inside and rest on her bed, waiting for the next day to dawn, when she'd be forced to face her father. He was the reason Edward had to run, and leave her behind. Isabella wasn't sure she'd ever be able to forgive him.
Giving in with a sigh, she pulled herself up from her slumped position and moved towards the door. As she pulled open the screen, she heard the unmistakable sounds of a car coming down the lane.
She closed her eyes, holding back the anger she felt. She knew it would be her father, returning from his raid. Well, at least he hadn't gotten Edward, Isabella comforted herself. She'd made sure of that.
"Izabella!" a honey smooth voice called, stopping her dead in her tracks. She spun on her heel, her eyes frantically searching the early dawn light.
There, climbing out of his idling automobile was Edward.
Isabella ran forward, leaping off the porch and into Edward's waiting arms. She squealed and laughed, pressing kissing all over his face and neck as he twirled her around.
Once Edward set her on her feet, he captured her lips with his and gave her a passionate kiss, leaving them both dizzy and breathless. He pulled away, taking her hands in his as he spoke.
"I couldn't do it. Yer my heart, lil' darlin' and I couldn't leave yew behind. Emmett understands, he's goin' to get his Rosie and make a run for Kentucky. But I had to come back fer yew," Edward explained. He moved in close, holding Isabella's face between his palms as he whispered his heart's deepest desire. "Come with me, Izabella. I need yew with me always."
Isabella laughed, throwing her arms around Edward's shoulders and nodding vigorously. "Yes, yes, of course! I'd go anywhere with you!"
They exchanged more kisses, the joy and happiness of being together again washing over them in waves of delight. Before things could get too out of hand, Edward ushered Isabella into her house and helped her pack a suitcase of her things.
Once they had gotten back in the car, Isabella reached over and placed her hand in Edward's, threading their fingers together. He smiled and lifted her hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss to her knuckles.
"It's goin' be a hard life, but I promise to be good to yew, Izabella," Edward said.
"I'll take any life as long as it's with you, Edward."
Edward leaned over, his lips finding Isabella's for a brief moment. When he pulled back, his eyes were full of the emotion that filled his heart. He had to tell her, unable to hold it back any longer.
"I love you, lil' darlin'."
"I love you, too."
They shared another kiss before Edward turned back to the road, his smile broad. He took off into the dawn's light, racing his car down the winding roads as fast as if he were running white lightning.
But he knew his cargo on that night was more precious and valuable to him than any he had ever run before.
(~ The End~)
A few words/phrases of Appalachian English used in the story:
Meetin: a gathering of people for religious purposes
Directly: in awhile, shortly, soon
If you have questions about any of the rest, feel free to ask.
Thank you to my beta, RobIsForLovers, for her help, and to Dolly Reader for prereading! You ladies rock mucho!
I hope you enjoyed the story, and will consider leaving me some review love. And be sure to vote for your favorite stories in the contest, starting February 16, 2012!