Chapter 1:


I held the page down with my thumb as my eyes flowed across the thin paper. I felt a small smile curve at my lips as I read about the antics of the characters in the novel that my Uncle Alec had gotten for me.

He was the only one who truly understood my passion for books.

My Father would likely scoff and tell me that reading should be limited to entail only letters, messages, and posters. And my Mother would probably take away the book faster than I could hide it so that I didn't get ridiculous ideas from what I had read.

So I thrilled in times like these where I could read unrestrictedly.

Uncle Alec, like me enjoyed reading books. It was one of the many common hobbies that we had. How fun Uncle Alec and my stiff Mother could possibly be siblings was beyond me, but I tried not to question it.

Adventurous as he was, he liked to travel the seas, always bringing me back curious little trinkets from lands that I could only dream of.

My fingers travelled up the back of my neck and in to my untamed tresses. I felt around for the band that was holding the curls together and pulled lightly, allowing my hair to fall around my shoulders.

I absentmindedly tugged at the ends of my hair that lay next to my waist.

The book was absolutely enthralling as it described the adventures of a man and his best friend. Reckless escapades and close encounters with authority seemed to be the theme of the book. I couldn't count how many times my heart had been in my throat while I read, anxious to see how they would escape.

A light knock on the door shook me from my thoughts. My head jerked up and my eyes widened as I stared at the door.

No, no, no!

If my Mother knew about this book, she'd surely take it from me.

"Um, hold on a second!" I cried as I scrambled out of the bed and allowed my eyes to scour the room, frantically looking for a hiding place.

"Ma'am, may we come in?" I heard Angela's sweet voice enquire from outside.

I bit my lip and dropped to my knees, shoving the book under the bed. I coughed as some dust from underneath the bed rose up in a cloud and tickled my nose.

I rubbed my nose with the back of my hand and straightened up.

"Yes, come in!" I smoothed my dress down with my hands and sat down on the edge of my bed.

The door opened slightly as Angela entered the room, with not my Mother but a scowling black-haired girl.

"Oh, Allison!" I sighed with relief, "You scared me!"

I dropped down to my knees and reached under the bed to grab my book once more. I looked at her as I got up and smiled.

"You made me wait!" She pouted as she sat down on a chair at the far side of the room. She glanced at the book in my hand. "And for a book, of all things!"

I shook my head at her, amused yet slightly frustrated.

Allison was my best friend yet sometimes she could be incredibly naïve. I wished that I could show her how amazing reading a book could be, but she always refused.

"It's a very good book," I informed her as I took a seat opposite her, glancing wistfully down at the novel.

Allison rolled her eyes. "I will never understand how you can spend so much time simply reading words on a page."

"They aren't just words on a page, Allison." I told her emphatically.

She simply waved me off. I sighed and looked down at the book.

"Would you like anything, ma'am?" Angela asked from beside me. Angela was my handmaid, but she was more of a friend to me than a servant. She had brown hair just like me, but it was cut far shorter than mine and tied up in a tight bun. I had grown up with her and her Mother had taken care of both of us when we were young.

"No, thank you Angela." I smiled in thanks. She nodded and retreated, shutting the door softly behind her.

I turned back to Allison who was observing the sleeves of her dress critically.

She smiled as she looked up at me. "Have you seen your dress for the gala your parents are holding?" Her eyes flashed with enthusiasm.

Allison was the Duke's daughter and had grown up with galas and fancy dresses, yet it seemed that she would never get enough of it.

I frowned as I remembered the particular gala she was talking of. It was one that my parents had decided to throw in order to increase their reputation and find a suitable husband for me.

'Two birds with one stone,' my Mother had remarked enthusiastically when my Father had proposed it.

"No, Allison," I sighed, "I haven't seen my dress; nor do I want to."

Allison frowned. "Would it kill you to show a little enthusiasm about it? It's only a gala. You go to one every other week."

I cringed. "Please stop. You sound like my Mother." I took a deep breath, "And one every week is far too much. It's one of the reasons that I'm dreading this one."

Allison sighed. "I don't understand why you and I are so different, yet such good friends." She smiled wryly at me.

I laughed as I realized the truth that her statement held. "You're right. But I enjoy our friendship, and at least my Mother approves." Sarcasm filled my voice over the last few words.

It was true, though. She had approved of Allison, but only because it was impossible not to.

Allison was the kind of daughter that my Mother wished she had. She was beautiful, lady-like, and her parents had a very good reputation around town.

Not to mention, her Father was the cousin of the Prince.

Allison laughed lightly. "Well they do say that opposites attract."

I smiled and nodded. "How are your parents?"

"Well," She responded with a smile, "They ask about you quite a lot."

Allison's parents liked me as much as my parents liked Allison. I was over at their manor often and they were very nice people.

They were not at all the stuffy, aristocratic people you would expect them to be.

"And yours?" Allison asked, referring to my parents.

I scowled. "Fine." I thumbed the pages of the book lightly.

"That doesn't sound too good." Allison remarked, frowning. "What happened?"

I sighed. "All they can talk about these days is marrying me off." I said, sneering. "I'm eighteen!"

Allison raised an eyebrow. "Most women are married years before that."

"Are you implying that I should get married now?" I asked her incredulously.

"Well," Allison began hesitantly, "It's not exactly a bad age to get married. After all, your parents only want the best for you."

"No, they want what's best for their reputation." I muttered. I knew that it was not at all proper to be talking of my parents this way, but I couldn't help it.

It had been boiling up in me for quite a while, and as it always did when I was with Allison, it came out.

I sighed and shook my head.

Allison bit her lip as she stared at me warily.

She didn't understand. She enjoyed the life that she lived. She went along with everything that society expected of her and never questioned it.

I, however, couldn't live like that. Whenever Uncle Alec would come back from distant countries with new stories and gifts, every part of me yearned to go with him. I wanted to experience everything he did.

But I knew that my parents and Uncle Alec would never approve.

There was another light knocking at the door, but this time the person outside didn't wait for an answer before they opened the door and walked in.

Allison and I turned to see my Mother walk in, her lips pursed and her eyes narrowed. Her face contained vestiges of great beauty, but all that was now hidden under her sour expression. She was of a tall stature that was enhanced by her stiff posture.

"I need to speak with you, Isabella." She said curtly. She spared a glance at Allison and smiled warmly. The smile was so rarely present on my Mother's face that it looked as if her facial muscles were actually struggling to perform the gesture. "I hope you'll excuse her for a minute, Allison. It won't be but a minute." She promised.

Allison smiled back politely. "Of course."

I exhaled heavily as I got up, not making an effort to disguise my reluctance to follow my Mother.

Her eyes narrowed, but she didn't say anything as she turned and headed to the door. "Come, Isabella!" She called, imperiously as she exited the room.

I rolled my eyes and turned to Allison. "You'll wait for me, won't you?"

"Yes, I will." Allison ensured, smiling at me. "Go!" She urged when I hesitated.

I nodded and hurried after my Mother.

She was walking a few steps in front of me and I made sure that it stayed that way. I had no desire to walk with her and begin yet another talk about the upcoming gala.

As we walked through the cold corridors of our far-too-large house, I wondered what my Mother wanted to talk about.

I wasn't particularly afraid about the curt tone in which she spoke to me. It was normal for her.

I glanced around me at the expensive old vases and paintings that littered the hallways, making sure that everyone who walked them knew exactly how rich we were.

It was disgusting.

I thought of a book I had read a while book. The main character in the book associated home with thoughts of comfort, warmth, and safety.

I associated home with thoughts of dreary hallways, reputation-obsessed parents, and expectations that were set far too high by society.

I glanced down at my feet bitterly as my Mother rounded the corner and opened the door to a small chamber.

I followed, knowing that she was leading us in to my Father's study.

My heart sunk, knowing that this was going to be yet another conversation about how I should behave myself during the gala in order to attract the perfect husband.

The study was regal, with a mahogany desk in the corner. There were plush chairs seated in the center that definitely cost a lot but they looked far from inviting to me.

"Sit." My Mother commanded, gesturing towards the couches.

I sighed and sat down, staring up at my Mother with a raised eyebrow.

"I'm going to go fetch your Father, we have to talk about a couple of things," She told me. I nodded. Her eyes narrowed as she took in my hair that was hanging loosely around my shoulders. "And for goodness' sake, do something about that hair of yours. You look like a streetwalker."

I glared at her as she spun on her heel and left the room in search of my Father.

I exhaled hard and forced myself to calm down. I got up and walked over to the mirror above the fireplace.

I narrowed my eyes as I took in my appearance. I didn't see what Mother was talking about.

I definitely didn't look like a streetwalker.

I rolled my eyes but ran my hands through my hair before braiding it to one side. Sometimes it was better just to let it go.

I heard footsteps and turned to see my Father enter behind my Mother.

Like my Mother, my Father had a very strict face. The frown lines that littered his face made him seem much older than he really was.

"Father," I greeted stiffly. He nodded at me and sat down on one of the chairs. He gestured for me to do the same. I sat down and glanced over at Mother.

Had she forgotten that Allison was waiting for me? Why wouldn't she just tell me why she had called me?

She took a deep breath and nodded at Father. "Do you remember a handsome young man named Jacob Black? I am sure you two have met at the last ball." She raised an eyebrow impatiently as she waited for me to recall who he was.

I furrowed my brow. Jacob Black...Jacob Black...

Sudden memories filled me and my head whipped up to look at her, horrified. He was the absolute most arrogant and lecherous man I had ever had the misfortune to be in the presence of.

He had pressured me all night for a dance, and when I finally gave in, his hands had constantly strayed below my waist. I would never forget his twisted smirks and his eyes that couldn't seem to stay above my neck.

"What of him?" I whispered.

Please, please, please don't be saying what I think you're saying...

Mother smiled, looking very pleased. "He asked for your hand this morning."

My heart sank.

"He is a very respectable man," Father offered, "Very rich, obviously..."

"He wants you, Isabella," Mother said, with an insulting amount of surprise, "We said yes, obviously."

"You've agreed, already?" I demanded, incredulously. "Without even consulting me?" My voice cracked on the last word as the injustice of it all filled me.

Father chuckled as though my shock was completely ludicrous. "Of course we did, Isabella. You aren't saying no?" His smile started to fade slightly when he realized that I didn't find this nearly as funny as he did.

"I am." I affirmed, getting up and glaring at them both.

How could they?

How could they fix my marriage to someone that they barely even knew? I would never marry a pig like Jacob Black.

They could talk about marrying me off all they liked, but actually fixing my marriage to someone was crossing the line.

"Don't be ridiculous, Isabella." Mother said, dismissing my remark with a flick of her hand.

"Oh, Renée calm down," Father said, "Obviously she's joking."

My eyes flickered from my Mother to my Father in shock. "No, I am not joking! I will not marry him!"

Father gaped at me while Mother snorted derisively.

"Of course you're marrying him!" She exclaimed, "This is absolutely ridiculous! You're actually refusing to marry a man as respectable as Jacob Black?"

"Respectable?" I laughed humorlessly, "That man is a pig!"

Mother gasped while Father simply stared at me in shock.

"You will accept this proposal, Isabella!" Mother said forcefully, "It's certain that no one else will ever marry you with a filthy mouth like that!"

"I would rather remain unmarried my entire life than marry someone like him!" I cried, finally loosing it.

"Enough!" My Father thundered, getting up. It seemed he had finally lost it as well.

He glared at me, absolutely furious. Even my Mother retreated slightly.

"You will marry this man," He said, his voice low but holding the anger that was clearly reflected on his face, "You will stop acting like such a spoiled brat and accept his proposal gratefully. How much longer will you continue to be a burden on us?"

His question was obviously rhetorical and it stung harshly.

A burden...

I had never spent much time with my parents. I had been raised by Angela's Mother and knew more about my books than my parents.

I knew that they didn't care awfully much about me, but I never thought that they would regret having me like that.

A burden was all I was to them.

That's why they had been so eager to get me married to someone. And marrying me off to someone rich was just a bonus for them. It would help their reputation.

'Two birds with one stone,' I recalled bitterly, hearing my mother's words echo in my head.

"A burden," I repeated quietly in to the silence of the room. I stared straight at my Father, "It seems I don't have much of a choice but to marry this man, do I?"

Father was taking deep breaths, slowly regaining his composure. It was Mother who answered me.

"No." She affirmed, her tone impassive.

"Fine," I took a deep breath, "If you'll excuse me, I'm going back to my room now. After all, I wouldn't want to burden you any longer." I shot bitterly at my Father.

I whirled on my heel and strode out of the room, not stopping to see their reaction to my words.

Tears built up in my eyes as I hurried as fast as I could through the corridors.

I tried desperately to push the tears back, but a few evaded me and slipped slowly down my cheeks.

I wiped them away roughly but more slid down my cheeks, taking their place.

They started to blur my vision and I slowly stopped walking. I was ridiculously clumsy on a normal day, blur my vision and there was no predicting what I would find to trip over.

I let myself cry silently in the quiet corridor. I walked over to the wall and leaned against the cool stone.

I sat down on the ground, bringing my knees up to my chest. I wrapped my arms around my legs and buried my face in my dress.

"They don't care about you, Isabella," I whispered to myself, "They never have."

"Well, I don't know who you're talking about, but I'm sure there's little truth to it." Said a very familiar masculine voice.

I lifted my head out of my arms to see none other than Uncle Alec standing in front of me with a broad smile on his face. Tall, strong, and cheerful Uncle Alec was easily my favorite person in the family. His brown hair had traces of gray spattered here and there, but he was still very handsome.

"Uncle Alec!" I exclaimed, scrambling to my feet and launching myself in to his arms.

He laughed loudly, hugging me tightly and spinning me around before gently setting me down on my feet.

He shook his head as he grinned down at me. "You get taller every time I see you."

I laughed with him, all of my sad thoughts from before disappearing at the sight of my favorite Uncle. "Maybe one day I'll be as tall as you!"

He ruffled my hair playfully. "Maybe." His eyes flickered across my face, taking in my bright cheeks and red eyes. He frowned. "Were you crying?"

I bit my lip and lowered my gaze. "No."

"Isabella, what's wrong?" He asked, concerned.

"Nothing." I replied quickly, wiping away any traces of my tears.

His eyes narrowed. "Have your parents been making you think about marriage again?" He demanded.

I sighed. "A little." I admitted.

Uncle Alec glared and shook his head angrily. "I'll be having a word with them. You're only eighteen!" He thundered, turning to storm off in the direction of my Father's chamber.

My eyes widened and I rushed forward to stop him. "Please, Uncle Alec, it doesn't matter." I insisted.

He stared at me for a couple seconds before sighing. "They have to learn when to let go." He grumbled, "You're far too young to be getting married."

I felt guilt flood me. He was my favorite Uncle who was so concerned about me, and here I was lying to him.

"They've already promised me to someone." I told him, quietly.

His eyes snapped back to mine. "What?" He cried incredulously, "Who?"

"Jacob Black." I said, letting the name roll of my tongue with a hint of disgust.

Uncle Alec was quiet for a long time, simply staring at me. He shook his head slowly. "Jacob Black," He muttered faintly, "And you do not like this man, correct?"

"Not at all." I said immediately, not being able to stop myself.

Uncle Alec smiled briefly before his expression turned pensive once more.

"Perhaps," He began slowly, "It's best that you give in just this once, Isabella."

My jaw dropped as I stared at him. "Give in?" I repeated, "I'm giving in my life! I'm giving it to someone I barely even know!"

"Isabella," Uncle Alec sighed, coming forward to rest his large hands on my shoulders, "I know. I do not think this is fair, nor do I approve in the least, but-"

"Then take me with you," I begged, interrupting him, "Take me with you on your adventures! After all, you care about me more than my parents ever could."

Uncle Alec chuckled, shaking his head. "You are just a child, Isabella. You do not understand everything about my little 'adventures'."

I frowned. "You said that they are wonderful."

"They are," He agreed, "But they're also very dangerous. As you said, I care about you very much. I would never put you in that kind of danger."

I sighed. "I don't want to get married to Jacob Black. Please, Uncle Alec..."

"I'm sorry, Isabella," He said, cupping my cheeks and wiping away my tears, "But I think it's better for you to just go along with it for now. I'll talk with your parents." He assured me as he leaned down and kissed the top of my head. "Okay?" He bent down slightly to catch my gaze. I nodded reluctantly. "Good. Now go get some sleep."

He shot me one last smile before striding in the direction of my Father's study.

I walked to my room, feeling worse than ever.

My last hope was Uncle Alec. But even he had said no. I knew that he just wanted me to be safe, but I couldn't help the sorrow that welled up in me.

I opened the door and slowly walked in. I glanced up to see a very annoyed-looking Allison, tapping her foot impatiently.

Her head whipped up to look at me as I entered and she narrowed her eyes.

"How long am I supposed to wait for you, Isabella?" She demanded, hopping to her feet. "I mean seriously-" She stopped abruptly when she noticed the tear tracks on my face, "What happened?" She asked immediately, exchanging her annoyed tone for a concerned one.

"I'm getting married," I choked out, unable to meet her gaze, "To Jacob Black."

Allison's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. "The man that danced with you so inappropriately at my parents ball?"

I nodded, collapsing on to the nearest chair and burying my face in my hands. "He asked for my hand in marriage, and my parents accepted," I looked up at Allison, "Without even asking me."

I shook my head and bit my lip.

You will not cry again. Your face already looks like an overripe tomato.

"But," Allison said hesitantly, "They can't...can they?"

"They already have." I laughed humorlessly.

"Oh, Isabella." Allison said quietly, coming over to wrap her tiny arms around me tightly. "You know that you can always come over, right? We'll talk."

I nodded. Allison hesitated before speaking again. "I have to go, Bella," She said, "My parents will worry."

"Of course," I said immediately, letting go of her.

Allison shot me a sad smile and bade me goodbye before leaving quietly.

I got up and pulled at my braid, letting my hair fall around my shoulders once more. I didn't care what my mother said. I liked having it down.

I walked over to my bed and collapsed on top of it, rearranging the pillows behind me so that they cradled my head more comfortably.

I stared up at the ceiling, laying my hands across my stomach. I was still in shock over what had happened.

My parents had all but told me that they didn't care for me, and I was getting married to the lewdest man on the planet. Even Uncle Alec couldn't help me, which was a first. He always found some way to assist me.

I took a deep breath and let it go softly, allowing my tired eyes to shut.

As soon as darkness filled my sight, my imagination started running wild.

I started thinking of all the ways that I could possibly avoid this marriage.

All my life I had been forced in to a life that was constructed, not by me, but society. My choices were never mine and my life was run by my parents.

I imagined sneaking out at the dead of night and hiding away in a stranger's house in town like in some of my books.

I smiled at that thought.

I would cover myself up with a cloak and sneak out of the house while everyone was asleep. Once I was out of the gates of the manor I would run. I would run as fast as I could till I saw the lights of the town. I would seek refuge at a local inn and get a job and...

I froze when I realized I was no longer thinking of characters from a book, but myself.

I had inadvertently planned my escape from both my marriage and my strict life.

I bit my lip and opened my eyes.

Pushing myself up, I slowly leaned against the headboard of my bed.

Could it actually work? I knew that really escaping would be a lot more dangerous and complicated, but given the right could work.

"Ma'am?" I looked up, surprised to see Angela standing in front of me with a tray of food in her hands. She bit her lip. "You never ate your dinner," She said softly, "I thought I would bring something up for you."

I smiled gratefully at her as my stomach rumbled. "Thank you, Angela."

She nodded and placed the tray gently on the nightstand. She made to leave once more, but I called her name.

She turned back towards me. "Yes, ma'am?"

I exhaled, sitting up and crossing my legs underneath me. "I need to talk with you."

"Of course." She said immediately, approaching me.

"Sit." I told her, gesturing towards the bed. She sat down staring at me with a confused look on her face.

"I assume you have heard of my..." I grit my teeth, "Upcoming marriage?"

"Yes, ma'am."

I nodded. "Angela, I want to tell you this in utmost confidence, can you promise me...that...?" I trailed off, not knowing how to put it.

She stared at me, slightly hurt. "I would never tell your parents anything you did not want me to."

I immediately regretted my words. Angela was first and foremost my friend, and I didn't want her to think that I didn't trust her.

I scooted forwards slightly on the bed and placed my hand over hers. "I'm sorry, Angela. I didn't mean it like that. It's just that this is dangerous and I don't even know what I'm going to do..."

I knew that inside I had already decided that I was going to run away. It was my rebellious nature rearing its ugly face once more. My Mother had always cursed me for it.

"Dangerous?" Angela repeated, more confused than ever.

"Angela," I said, lowering my voice slightly, "I'm planning to run away."

Silence filled the room as Angela's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. Her lips formed a perfect 'o' that was almost comical.

"But, ma'am..."

"Angela, please support me on this," I begged, clutching her hand tightly, "I know that if there is anyone in this house that will help me, it is you."

She hesitated. "But how are you planning on running away?" She questioned, "How will you sneak out? Where will you stay? You do not even have money!"

I sighed as she voiced all the concerns that I had, but did not wish to acknowledge. "I don't know," I confessed, "I was hoping that you could help me on that."

Angela sighed. "This is suicide." She informed me.

I grinned and laughed lightly. "I have you on my side, don't I? I'm not afraid."

Angela returned my grin with a small smile of her own as she remembered our adventures when we were little.

We would play in the gardens, pretending we were pirates. Angela's brother who was quite a bit older than us claimed that he had seen one. The way he described him made it seem like he was the most fascinating man on the planet. Angela and I would sit on the grass for ages, simply contemplating what it would be like to go out on the ocean and meet 'an actual pirate'!

My Mother couldn't comprehend why I wanted to spend all my time with a servant girl, but to me Angela was no servant.

"I will help you, of course I will help you." Angela told me quietly. Her eyes turned pleading as she looked up at me. "But I'm begging you to consider the consequences. You are so sheltered here, Isabella. Out there it's nothing like this. There are murderers, and kidnappers, and truly awful people. If you do not have money or shelter, it is likely that you will be dead before sunrise."

My head swam as I listened to everything she said. I knew that all she said was true, but somehow in my mind it didn't sway my decision one bit.

I had made my mind and nothing would change it.

I was possibly the most stupid girl on the planet.

"I know, Angela," I said, "But I promise you that I will be alright. If we plan this all of this out properly, I could be gone tonight and all will be well."

Angela sighed, but nodded. "I will help you." She said. She got up and opened my closet, searching inside for something. "You will need to disguise yourself," She called out, "You can not possibly go around with a dress like that. People will recognize you, and even if they don't they will probably kill you for your jewels."

I felt my heart pump loudly in my chest as Angela began planning out my escape. A wide grin settled on my face and I resisted the urge to bounce excitedly on the bed. It was all so new to me and the danger attached to my little adventure made the adrenaline run ferociously in my veins.

She came out with a tan-colored scarf that Uncle Alec had bought a long time ago. The color was conspicuous enough so that no one would give it a second thought, which was no doubt why Angela had chosen it.

She laid it gently on the bed and glanced around her, placing her hands on her hips. "I will need to get you some of my dresses," She nodded, "It is better that you leave disguised as a servant."

I nodded. "I won't possibly be able to leave through the front door, though. How else...?" I trailed off as Angela's eyes sparkled mischievously.

She hurried over to the balcony door and slowly pulled the latch, allowing the light breeze from outside fill the room.

My eyes widened as I got up to follow her outside in to the night. Angela walked over to the railing and leaned down to look at the wall below.

She brought herself back up with a satisfied smile. "The walls aren't too rough, and they are slightly layered. If we found a rope, I would be able to lower you down."

I grinned widely. "I think I can make a rope with some of my bed sheets. They're black, after all. They would blend in with the night. Why don't you go get the dress while I tie them together?"

Angela nodded and smiled at me. "I feel as though I am enjoying this way too much."

I laughed.

She left to go and grab her dress while I pulled off the sheets and the bedspread from my large king-sized bed.

I stretched them out, laying them on the ground before winding them up tightly. This took much longer than I had expected, with the sheets slipping from my grasp.

When I finally got them rolled up appropriately, Angela entered the room quietly, shutting the door behind her.

In her arms she held a dress identical to the one she wore, however this one was quite a bit more worn. She bit her lip as she placed it one her bed. "I thought it would be best for you to have a more weathered's more conspicuous."

"Angela," I shook my head with a smile, "You don't have to explain yourself to me. I trust you."

She beamed proudly at me and dropped to her knees to help me tie the two sheets together tightly. This was incredibly important because if it wasn't tight enough I was likely to go falling to my death.

She got up and carefully observed the cloth that weaved it's way around my room. She nodded. "That should do." She glanced up at me. "I should tie your hair as well."

I nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed as she braided my hair carefully before tying it in to a tight bun.

"You should eat," She said, picking up my cup of soup and handing it to me, "You're going to need it."

I nodded and took small sips of the warm soup. "Angela," I frowned as I realized something, "We still don't know where I'm going to stay."

Angela nodded slowly. "I was thinking about that as well. I was going to suggest that...well..." She bit her lip, "Maybe you would like to stay with my family?"

I stared up at her, surprised.

"I mean," She immediately continued, "It's nothing like this house at all...quite small, actually...but for a place to sleep-"

"Angela," I interrupted. She snapped her mouth shut and gazed at me anxiously, "Thank you so much for the offer. I would love nothing more than to stay with your family. It's been a while since I've seen your Mother."

I smiled gratefully at her. She blushed and nodded. "Well, that's settled then." She said, avoiding my gaze. She placed my empty soup bowl on the tray and picked it up. "I'll return this to the kitchens while you change your dress. It's quite late, and your Mother has already retired. Your Father is in his study with Uncle Alec, so no one will know. This is the perfect time."

I nodded, feeling the adrenaline fill my veins once more. Angela left, shutting the door behind her with a small click.

I got up and shed my dress quickly. I picked up the worn dress that Angela had given and slid it over myself, adjusting it so that it fit comfortably over my body.

I walked over to the mirror in the corner of the room and observed myself curiously.

It was slightly unnerving to see myself like this: my hair pulled back in a bun, dressed in this dress.

My Mother had always made sure that I was dressed in the finest clothing and she would have probably fainted if she had seen me in this.

I, however, found it strangely liberating.

I smiled at myself in the mirror, my brown eyes sparkling back at me excitedly.

I smoothed my hands down my dress and picked up the tan scarf that Angela had taken from my closet.

I wrapped it around my neck and up to cover the lower half of my face.

I raised my gaze to stare at the mirror and was shocked my what I saw.

I, of course, knew it was me but only because the eyes looking back at me were the ones I saw everyday when I glanced in the mirror. Otherwise, I knew that no one would be able to tell who I was.

I would be just another servant.

When Angela came back she grinned widely at my appearance. "No one will know." She said, excitedly. "Well, let's not wait any longer."

Saying this, she grabbed the bed sheets that we had tied together and bunched them up in her arms, carrying them out to the balcony. I followed her, growing more and more nervous as the time passed.

Angela stopped in front of the railing and turned to me, biting her lip.

I furrowed my brows at her sudden change in mood. "What's wrong, Angela?"

Angela sighed. "You've always been my friend, Isabella," She said quietly, "I will miss you."

"Oh, Angela..." I strode quickly to her and wrapped my arms around her thin frame. "I will miss you too. Dearly." I tucked my head in to the crook of her neck. "But I will be back. You will visit me one day." I promised her with a smile. "And when you do I'll have a job and my own house."

I could feel anticipation building up in me at the mere thought of that.

"Yes, I will." Angela smiled as she pulled away from me. She stepped back and leaned over the railing to make sure no one was there before throwing down the sheets.

They hung above the grass, barely grazing the tips. I smiled. The bed sheets were the perfect length.

Angela took the other end of the bed sheets and fastened it tightly to the railing, grabbing it firmly with her hands just in case.

I took a deep breath and nodded. "This is it," I said softly.

Angela glanced up at me. "Be careful." She whispered, grasping my hand quickly to give it a squeeze.

I smiled nervously and gathered up my dress in one hand. I clutched the railing and slowly raised one foot over it. The dress stretched slightly, but held as I brought my other foot over as well.

Grabbing the bed sheets tightly, I glanced down. My heart thumped loudly when I realized how far down the grass was.

"The sheets will hold," Angela assured softly. I nodded and wrapped the bed sheets around both my wrists.

I placed my feet just below the railing on the wall and inched down slowly, never letting my grip on the bed sheets loosen.

I focused on breathing normally and before I knew it, I was mere feet away from the ground. I slid the rest of the way and hopped on to the soft grass.

A wide grin spread across my face when I realized I had done it.

Angela clapped excitedly above me. "Go!" She urged, "Before any of them see you!"

I nodded and hurried along the side of the house, staying close to the wall.

I was almost at the final stretch before the gate when I heard loud footsteps echoing behind a door to my right.

My eyes widened and I stopped abruptly.

The footsteps grew closer and I heard the door open. Acting quickly, I retreated, hurrying to crouch behind a bush.

My heart felt as though it was about to pound right out of my chest and I worried that I would be caught if I so much as breathed too deeply.

I nervously leaned to the side so that I could see what was happening.

A tall figure walked out slowly in to the darkness. Even from here, I could realize that it was Uncle Alec.

He sighed heavily and shook his head, pressing the tips of his fingers to his temple.

I frowned. He looked as though he had the worries of the world upon his shoulders.

His eyes browsed the night sky as he placed his hands on his hips. His eyes landed on the bush that I was crouching behind and his eyes narrowed.

Oh no! He knows!

"Alec?" I heard my Father's voice boom from inside the house. Uncle Alec's eyes slowly tore themselves away from where I was hidden.

My Father came out and clapped him on the back. "What are you doing out here? Out for a stroll in the night?" He chuckled lightly.

Uncle Alec smiled tightly and said something in response that I couldn't hear.

"Well, you better come in," He glanced around himself, "It's starting to get chilly."

I held my breath as Uncle Alec nodded. His eyes flickered towards the bush that was covering me briefly before following my Father back inside.

I sighed in relief, making sure that no one else was out before getting up and hurrying towards the gate.

I opened it, careful not to make too much noise. I took one last look at my home for the past eighteen years.

It was incredibly intimidating, large and looming over me. I shook my head and faced the gate once more.

As soon as the gate was wide enough for me to squeeze through, I hurried out and ran as fast as I could down the road.

The wind rushed through my hair, stinging against my cheeks as I sprinted hard.

I didn't stop. I just kept running just like I had imagined.

When I finally couldn't keep running and my lungs were begging me to slow down, I came to a stop.

I panted heavily as I leaned my hands against my thighs. I turned to look down the street and smiled widely when I realized that my house was no longer in sight.

I laughed gleefully.

I was free!

I wasn't going to marry Mr. Black and I was free!

I sighed happily.

From now on I was going to live my life on my own terms.

My life was finally my own.

AN: Hi guys! So if you've been reading my other story Mio Cuore you'll know that I promised a one-shot, but I'm currently experiencing serious writers-block with that one. But this was a plot bunny that I just had to get down on paper.

This is going to be another multi-chapter fic and yes, there will be lemons. ;)

So...what do you think? Yes? No?

Leave me a review to tell me if I should continue it or not. :)