Pick a Pic Challenge
Title: High Seas
Pairing: Bella and Edward
Genre: Romance/Historical (?)
Rating/Disclaimer: M/ I publically recognize that none of these characters are mine. They belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: It's the eve of Isabella Swan's wedding to Lord Aro Volturi, a close 'friend' of her father, Charles Swan, the governor of Isle Esme. Her marriage is arranged and she's not happy about it. In swoops Captain Edward Cullen, the mistaken pirate, to kidnap Isabella in retribution for taking his ship and crew from him. Will she fight against Captain Cullen or join him eagerly to escape her arranged marriage? Will love blossom on the high seas?
"Miss Swan, it's time for you get ready for bed. Your wedding day is tomorrow," said my hand maiden, Lauren. "Aren't you excited? Lord Volturi is a very handsome man and will provide for you for the rest of your days."
Not really, I thought to myself. Lord Volturi was as old as my father and he smelled like he bathed in rum. "I am excited, Lauren," I said as slipped my nightgown over my head. I grabbed my robe and tied it around my slender body. "Lord Volturi will care for me like a father cares for his child."
"What does that mean?" Lauren asked, scratching her head.
"It means that he's older than dirt and I don't want to marry him," I pouted, stomping over to my dressing table. "I need you to braid my hair, Lauren."
"Yes, Miss Swan," she said with a frown. She quickly released my brown curls from the intricate up-do on my head. She carefully combed my mahogany tresses until they shined. Once she finished brushing my hair, she plaited it down my back and tied it with a white, satin ribbon. "Is this to your liking, Miss Swan?"
"Perfect, Lauren," I smiled. "Don't forget to clean out my chamber pot before you leave."
"Yes, Miss Swan," she curtseyed. Lauren turned down the bed and dimmed the lamps in my large room. With another curtsey, she grabbed the chamber pot and replaced it with a clean one from the closet. Lauren ducked out of the room. I removed my robe and climbed into my large bed. I wrapped my arms around my pillows, frowning. This was my last night in this room.
My father, Charles Swan, was the governor of the colony on Isle Esme, a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea. He was stationed here shortly after my mother, God rest her soul, died from scarlet fever. Being in England was too much of a tragedy for him and he jumped at the chance to make a brand new life for himself and me, his twelve year old daughter. That was nearly six years ago. I was now eighteen and getting married tomorrow.
To some old geezer who drank like a fish and looked like a damn pug. They were adorable dogs. But seeing that look on a grown man was not so attractive.
I heard a quiet knock on my door. "Who is it?" I beckoned.
"It's your father."
"Come in, Daddy," I smiled. The door hitched open and the regal gait of my father entered my room. He was still in his daytime clothes of a light wool jacket, frilly shirt and knee length trousers. He had, however, removed his wig and his brown hair was pulled back into a low ponytail at the nape of his neck. "How was work today?"
"It was good," he sighed as he sat down on my bed, pressing a curl behind my ear, "Well, not that good. Have you heard of the pirate, Captain Edward Cullen?"
"I've heard of him. Apparently, he's a scoundrel," I said, wrinkling my nose.
"You will not talk of such things," my father admonished. "But, he is a scoundrel. He was caught by the British Navy and brought in front of the court today. We gave him leniency for this was the first transgression he'd been accused of, though, he is a known pirate. Alas, his ship and crew were confiscated and are now property of the British Navy. He bellowed like a heathen. I scoffed and said that at least he still has his freedom. Next infraction and he's going to be thrown into the gallows. He'll be hanged for his crimes."
"Do you think he'll retaliate?" I asked, touching my father's arm.
"I should hope not. Now, my beautiful daughter, tomorrow, I give you away to be married. Are you excited about being a bride?"
"Of course, Daddy. Lord Volturi will care for me, just as you have," I said as I kissed his cheek.
"I hope that you give me a grandson or granddaughter," he smiled.
I have to make love with him? I think I'm going to be ill. "We'll try, Daddy. Now, it's late and I've got to look beautiful for my groom tomorrow. I love you," I smiled, kissing his cheek again and hugging his neck.
"As I love you, my daughter," he replied, hugging me back. "Let me tuck you in, one last time before you leave my house to be with your husband, my sweet girl." I eagerly nodded and moved back on my bed. My father took my heavy duvet comforter and pressed it down, securing me safely in the bed. "There we are. Snug as bug in a rug. Sleep well, my Isabella. Lauren shall fetch you in the morning for your bath. She and Jessica will dress you for your big day. If only your mother could see you…"
"Daddy, she is watching over me. From heaven," I replied.
"That she is, my sweet girl. Good night," Charles murmured, pressing a kiss to my forehead.
He turned off the lamps in my room before ducking out of the room. I smiled wistfully before my eyes drooped. I was unsure how long I slept but a sound woke me up. I sat up and looked around my room. "Anybody there?" I asked. I reached next to me and found the poker of the fireplace next to my bed. "Come out, whoever you are."
"Bloody hell, Isabella. Just calm yourself," I mumbled. "You've just got wedding jitters." With one more cursory look, I put the poker back in its holder. I gripped my pillow and firmly shut my eyes.
I felt the bed dip. My heart stammered against my ribs. I was NOT alone. A large, warm hand clasped over my mouth. "Such a foul mouth for a pretty little thing," purred a velvety male voice, heavy with an accent. "It's not proper for a lady to use such language."
I squirmed against my attacker, whimpering against his hand.
"Now, lovely, you're going to be coming with me. No arguments. No screaming. Nothing. Do you understand?" he asked as he ran his nose along my jaw. "Oh, this will be fun. Governor Swan won't know what to do now that I've got his precious daughter. Nod if you understand, lovely."
I nodded against his hand. He lithely jumped over me and crouched in front of me. I was greeted with the most beautiful pair of emerald green eyes. His coppery hair was pulled into a low ponytail that was held with a leather throng. His face was clean-shaven and despite his raggedy clothing, appeared to be clean. He even smelled good. "Do you want to change into something more, um, appropriate? I'm certain a woman of your station would not want to go out in her bed clothes."
"Yes, please," I whispered. "Are you going to hurt me?"
"No, lovely. I just want Governor Swan to realize that I'm not to be toyed with," he said, standing up. He was tall. Taller than my father. He gave me his hand and assisted me out of my bed. I hastily grabbed my robe and tied it around my body. I scurried past him and grabbed a dress that I could put on without any assistance. I slipped behind my screen and stripped out of my nightgown. I put on my undergarments and petticoats. Grabbing my most comfortable blue dress, I put it over my head. I tied the laces and slipped on my shoes. I walked out to find my abductor perusing my bookshelf. "You read?"
"I do," I sputtered.
"I wish I could. Grab two books," he said, turning to me. "I want you to teach me how to read."
"I'd like to know your name before I give you lessons, sir," I said, putting my hands on my hips. "Surely your mother taught you your letters."
"No mother. I'm an orphan," he shrugged. "Anyhow, an introduction should be proper," He dipped low. "Captain Edward Cullen, at your service."
"You're the pirate," I squeaked.
"Pirate. Ne'er-do-well. Bastard," he chuckled. "Two books, Miss Swan." I stumbled past him and chose my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, and after some careful consideration, I chose Robinson Crusoe and The Bible. "Three?"
"Yes, Captain Cullen. One is for me and the other two are for you," I said as I grabbed a small satchel, placing the books inside.
"Okay, call me insane, but you are too calm for someone who is about to be abducted by a pirate," Captain Cullen chuckled. "Do you want to be taken?"
"As odd as this sounds, yes," I cringed. "I'm to be married to a man that is nearly twice my age tomorrow. I'd rather go with you than be married to him."
"Well, okay, then," Captain Cullen smiled crookedly. His teeth were white and straight, framed by pink lips and tanned skin. "We will have fun, Miss Swan. And I promise to be a gentleman. I may be a bastard, but I'm not completely ruthless."
"My father would disagree, Captain." He arched a brow and placed his hand on my waist, guiding me to the balcony outside of my bedroom. "How are we getting down?"
"I climbed up," he said simply. "I've got a man waiting in a boat beneath your home. We're going to my ship, the Volvo."
"Odd name for a ship, sir," I said.
"'Tis bad luck to have a ship with no name, Miss Swan," he said. "Now, how good are you at climbing?"
"I may be a woman, but my father raised me. I wear dresses but I can be a tomboy if need be." I grabbed my dress and fashioned it so it was like pants, tying it to my bodice. I looked over the edge of the balcony and grimaced. I'm going to fall and break my neck. I shimmied down the rope attached to the white marble of my balcony. Once I was a few feet from the soft grass below, I hopped off the rope. Captain Cullen looked at me with shock. I smirked and crossed my arms over my chest. "Your turn, Captain."
He cleared his throat and easily and gracefully flew down the rope. With a flick of the wrist, the rope tumbled to the ground and he coiled it around his lean torso. "You surprised me, lovely. I'd figure a woman like yourself; you would scoff at the prospect of shimmying down a rope."
I released my skirt and smiled at Captain Cullen. "My mother died when I was twelve, Captain. My father secretly wished for a boy and in turn, raised me as such. It wasn't until I came here that he realized that I needed a woman's guidance. My father's maid, Mrs. Cope stepped in when she was needed and her niece, Lauren, who is a few years older than me, have been invaluable in molding me into womanhood. Though, it is fun to 'let loose.'"
He pursed his lips and nodded toward the edge of the property, near the beach. A large, beefy man was waiting next to a small row boat. He appeared to be taller than Captain Cullen and obviously had more muscles. "Sam, please help Miss Swan into the boat," he barked.
"Of course, Captain," he nodded as he swept me into his arms and gently placed me inside the large boat. Captain Cullen tossed the rope into the boat. He and Sam pushed the boat into the darkened sea silently. Once in the water, Captain Cullen gracefully jumped into the boat and helped Sam. "So, what are we going to do with her, Captain?"
"Take her aboard the Volvo and sail south to Tortuga," he said, "My apologies, Miss Swan. This is Samuel Wolfe. He's my first mate and dearest friend. Sam, this is Isabella Swan, the most accommodating abductee I've ever known."
"How's that, sir?" Sam asked.
"I wanted to be taken," I answered. "This kidnapping is a blessing in disguise. I was to be married tomorrow. My betrothed will be beside himself but I couldn't be happier. If given the choice, Lord Volturi or the infamous Captain Edward Cullen, I'd choose the Captain."
"Lord Volturi is your fiancé?" Captain growled. "That makes things much worse. He's the one who said that the Vanquish was to be commandeered by the British Navy. Thankfully, we have this smaller vessel, the Volvo. Lord Volturi knows not of that ship."
"How will you inform my father and Lord Volturi of my abduction?" I asked as they started rowing. "You said yourself that you cannot read. I did not see a ransom note."
"That's where you come into play, Miss Swan," Captain Cullen smirked. "We'll need you to write that. Aboard the Volvo, you will find all that you need to write your ransom note. I think it will add to the drama of your disappearance if your own letter is in your own handwriting."
"What shall I say, Captain?"
"Let me think about that. But for now, you need to lie down. We're passing one of the larger ships we don't want rouse suspicions. And cover yourself with that tarp, Miss Swan." I nodded and wrapped the tarp over my body. I stayed covered until Captain Cullen gently pulled it away. "You're safe, Miss Swan. We're at my ship." He offered me his hand and when our fingers touched, a jolt shuddered through my system. I pulled my hand away, and blushed a deep crimson. "I'm sorry, Miss. I don't know what that was. Perhaps there's a storm coming."
"Perhaps," I murmured. The jolt that I felt when our hands touched filled my very being. I was excited at the feeling. I felt warm and there was dampness between my legs. I blushed even more and took Captain Cullen's hand. He helped me up and I clumsily climbed the ladder to his ship. On deck, there were six crew members, Sam, who was working on pulling up the row boat, plus five others.
Captain Cullen managed to climb the ladder and stood next to me. "You all know what we're doing. The British government has no right to commandeer our ships without just cause. The one act of piracy that we do, we get our ship taken away. Now, this is retaliation for their cowardice. This is Miss Isabella Swan. She's the daughter of Governor Swan, fiancée to Lord Aro Volturi. She is our prisoner until the Vanquish is released."
"Sir, didn't you try to reason with Governor Swan during your trial? You were avenging your sister's death," came a quiet, female voice.
"I was not given the opportunity to discuss my indiscretions," Captain Cullen said sadly. "Now, let me introduce you to my crew, Miss Swan. Obviously, you've met Sam. My navigator is Jasper Whitlock." A tall man with scraggly blonde hair that hung to his shoulders nodded in my direction. "My chef is Jacob Black." Jacob snarled and stomped away. I stepped back, looking at Captain Cullen. "He's a bit of a grouch. I'm sorry. My lookout is Alice Brandon, who happens to be Jasper's, um, lover." A short woman with long black hair pulled into a braid bounced up to me, hugging me close. Her eyes were an iridescent violet color and she smiled.
"We're going to be great friends, Isabella," she giggled.
"Go to your perch, Little One," Captain Cullen chuckled. Alice saluted him and flew up the mast to her spot nearly fifteen feet above the deck. "My go-fer is Seth. He's a bit shy and a little slow. However, he's a hard worker and very loyal." Captain Cullen indicated to another large man who was really boy but you could tell that he wasn't all there. He ducked his head and averted his eyes before pulling out a mop and bucket. "The last member of my crew, I want you to avoid. That's Emmett. He's our brute force and he works with the weapons. He's not a pleasant man to be around. Plus, he's grieving."
I looked to where Captain Cullen was pointing and I saw another large man staring out across the sea. "Grieving for what, Captain?"
"His wife," Captain Cullen uttered. "Come, let me show you to your quarters. It's nothing fancy, but it's private." He offered me his arm and we walked below deck to a small room with a tiny bed, a small desk and closet. "It's across the hall from my quarters, Miss Swan. Though we will be close to each other, I do want to reiterate that I intend to be a perfect gentleman. I do not want your father thinking that I took you prisoner for your virtue."
"I trust you, Captain," I said, looking up at my captor, my incredibly handsome captor. "Now, I'm confused as to why you were accused of piracy. If it's due to an unfair reason, you should get the opportunity to defend yourself, sir."
"The story is not for a woman's ears," he said, dropping his gaze to the floor. "It's not a pleasant story, Miss Swan."
"Captain, I've come aboard your ship under my own volition. You do not need to keep calling me Miss Swan," I chided.
"I may be an orphan, Miss Swan, but I've always been raised to respect women," he answered.
"Captain, please call me Bella," I whispered, putting my hand on his shoulder. He shuddered and looked at me, arching his brow. "My mother used to call me that and I've missed hearing it. I long to hear it fall from your lips, sir."
"Bella," he whispered back. "That's beautiful."
"Thank you," I blushed.
"If I can call you Bella, then I insist on you calling me Edward," he said, giving me his crooked grin. "It's only fair."
"Of course, Edward," I replied, smiling in return. "Now, can you please tell me what happened? To your sister?"
"Please forgive me, Bella. As I tell the story, I will be forced to use words that are not for a woman's ears but I only say them to share the terror of this tale," he said as he led me to a small sitting area in my quarters. I removed my satchel with the books and sat down. He did the same, frowning slightly. "My sister was Emmett's wife."
"That's who he grieves?" I asked, pouting.
"Yes. My sister was taken prisoner by a true pirate named Captain Royce King," Edward explained. "The Vanquish and the Volvo are cargo ships. We are rum runners. Not pirates. Also, Emmett used to be my first mate. Anyhow, we were making our usual run towards Jamaica to pick up the latest shipment when we were attacked by Captain King. His crew attacked mine and Emmett, Jasper and I were rendered unconscious in the attack. My sister, Rosalie, was taken by the captain and our cargo of rum was stolen as well. We searched the Caribbean for Captain King and his ship. We eventually found them near the Mexican coast.
"We had put the Volvo to dock in Tortuga and consolidated our crew, leaving a skeleton crew on the Volvo. With the Vanquish, we attacked Captain King for kidnapping Rosalie. She was still aboard his ship but she was wearing nearly nothing. Her face was unrecognizable due to the beatings she received from Captain King and his crew. He called her his whore and proceeded to, um, take her in plain sight of Emmett."
"Without her permission?" I frowned.
"Yes," Edward said, a few tears slipping down his cheeks. "Emmett lost all control and he was a man possessed. Rosalie begged Emmett to not do anything rash, but, Captain King didn't want to hear from her anymore. He spat that she had been used by all of the men and was therefore useless. He pulled a knife and sliced her throat, killing her instantly. I, then, lost control and we murdered Captain King. The British Navy found us giving the captain his final retribution of stuffing his manhood in his own mouth and we were taken into custody under the pretense of piracy."
"And you were never given an opportunity to share your tale?" I asked, falling to my knees in front of Captain Cullen. "Surely, my father will listen to you once he knows…"
"Bella, he won't. I've been branded as a pirate," he growled. He rolled up his sleeve and on his forearm was a new tattoo, displaying his transgression.
"Edward, you should not be punished for taking a pirate out of our lives. For trying to save your sister," I said, taking his hands in mine. "I shall write that in my ransom letter. Not your story, that's yours to tell, but, the fact that you never got your fair trial. You never got the opportunity to tell your side. Surely, the naval officers saw the body of your sister?"
"Yes, but they dismissed her as if she was a common whore," Edward said as he gently picked me up and guided me back to my chair. He got up and walked to the window, staring out and looking at the sea. "My sister was not that. She was a good woman who practically raised me since our parents had died."
"She was older?"
"By five years," Edward murmured. "I have another sister who still lives in England but obviously, we do not talk at all since Rosalie and I left to come here. I was just turning eleven and she was sixteen. Emmett was heading to the new world for a fresh start and asked if she would come with him. They were married before the voyage to the Caribbean."
"How long were they married?" I asked.
"Ten years," Edward answered, looking back at me. "Now, you must be tired, Miss Swan. I've told my sordid tale. You need to rest."
"I'd rather write the letter so it can get delivered," I pouted.
"It's your choice, Bella," he said. "There's paper and a quill in the desk."
"I do have one more question, Edward. You're well-spoken for someone who cannot read," I said.
"My parents never saw the value of giving a girl lessons and by the time it came for me to go to school, my parents were too sick to even care. However, I can talk a good game. My sister teased me that I was too 'smooth' for my own good," he snickered. "I can recognize some letters and I can sign my name, but understanding it is a different story. I shall take my leave, Miss Swan. I'll send Alice in to wake you when breakfast is served. Good night and I do apologize for…"
"Don't apologize, Captain," I said. "Like I said, between the choices, I'd choose you any day."
He blushed and ducked his head. "Sleep well, Bella. I'll be across the hall should you need me. Jasper and I need to plot a course after we've delivered your letter." He smiled again and left my quarters.
I took the small lamp that was on the table and walked to the desk in my quarters. Dipping the quill pen into the ink, I began formulating my letter.
Dear Governor Swan,
My name is Captain Edward Cullen and I've abducted your daughter. She came willingly into my custody on the eve of the twenty-third of June. She is not harmed and nor will she be. In my custody, your daughter, Isabella will be safe until my terms have been met.
In recent events, my ship, The Vanquish, was confiscated by the British Navy and I was branded a pirate. I was never given the opportunity to fight the charges brought forth against me in trial. You and your tribunal, consisting of Lord Aro Volturi and his brother, Caius Volturi, found me guilty without just cause.
My terms for your daughter's release are this: a meeting with you and you alone to discuss what happened when we were captured by the naval officers. You were hasty in your decision to label me as a pirate. I am not. I am a rum runner captain who is dealing with an overbearing loss.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience for discussion of terms. I shall be on the seas, trying to redeem my good name in the city of Tortuga.
Captain Edward Cullen
I blew on the ink before I went to knock on Captain Cullen's, Edward's door. "Just a moment," he called out. I waited patiently until he opened his door, pulling on a shirt over his taut, toned body. "Miss Swan."
I arched a brow.
"Sorry, Bella," he laughed nervously. "What can I do for you?"
"I've finished your letter," I said. "Would you like me to read it to you?"
"Of course. Please come in if it's not too presumptuous," he blushed, moving to the side.
I skirted past him and entered his quarters. They were slightly larger than mine and very well kept. Neat, almost. Perhaps Daddy should take some pointers from Captain Cullen on cleanliness. Mrs. Cope has her work cut out for her. Edward offered me a seat at his table and sat down next to me. He was close. Extremely close. I could feel his body heat emanating from him. "I'd like to see what you wrote as you read," he murmured. "Start my studies early."
"Of course, Captain," I smiled. I read the letter to Edward and he watched me as I traced my finger along my script. He asked a few questions about the words I had written but was overall pleased with what I had put down. "I just need you to sign it. You did say that you can sign your name, right?"
"Yes, Miss Swan," he said as he got up and grabbed a quill and ink pot. Dipping the quill into the pot, he gracefully signed his named underneath where I printed it. He then folded it and sealed it with wax. "I'll have Seth deliver this immediately and we can be underway."
"Can you trust him? You said that he's slow. An imbecile," I frowned.
"He's very loyal. Sam became his caretaker when his parents kicked him out of their home. He loves Sam and will do anything for him. That loyalty spilled over to me when Sam became first mate," Edward explained. I nodded and tried to stifle a yawn. I was excited but my weariness was taking its toll. "Come, Miss Swan, my lovely. You're dead on your feet and you need your rest. I insist you sleep now."
"Of course, Captain, um, Edward," I mumbled sleepily. He pressed his hand to my lower back and guided me back to my quarters. He gently took my hand in his and pressed a soft kiss to my knuckles. I blushed and stared at this beautiful man before me. He looked up at me. His mossy green eyes were framed by long, dark eyelashes and beneath his gaze, there was a fire burning. "Good night, Edward."
"Good night, my lovely," he whispered as he stood up, watching me intently while I slipped inside. My heart was pounding against my chest. Never before had I felt like this. Each glance. Each touch. Each interaction with Edward drew me closer into him. His quiet confidence to his humble admissions made me care for him more and more. And his lips on my knuckles; they were so soft and tender, just like the man who gave me such a tender kiss. I shook my head and removed my dress. I crawled into the tiny bed and curled around one of the pillows. The last thing I remembered before sleep overcame me where a pair of loving but sad green eyes.
xx HS xx
Persistent, but quiet knocking woke me up the next morning. I rolled over and groaned, falling promptly on the floor. "Ow," I grumbled.
"Are you okay, Miss Swan?" asked the tinkling voice of Alice.
"I'm fine, Alice. I've just forgotten that I'm not in my room and I fell out of bed," I said as I sat up.
"Can I come in, miss?"
"Of course, Alice," I replied, heaving my body off the ground. I went to dress behind the screen and put on my dress. However, I noticed that there were more dresses in the closet. I lightly fingered the beautiful material, amazed at the workmanship and care of whoever made these. I came out from behind the screen after I had finished dressing and taking care of 'business.' Alice was sitting on my bed. "Not to sound ignorant, but what do I do with this?" I asked, holding up the chamber pot.
"Out the window. But make sure no one is below. Jacob has been peed on so many times since no one really checks. He hates it," Alice giggled. I nodded and checked to see if there was anyone or anything out the window. Only open seas. I dumped the contents of the chamber pot out the window and placed it back behind the screen.
"Alice, whose dresses are those?"
"Rosalie's," Alice answered sadly. "This used to be her and Emmett's quarters."
"Oh," I replied, frowning. "Surely, there's somewhere else I can stay."
"With the captain," Alice smirked. "He's quite taken with you, Miss Swan."
"Please, call me Bella," I urged. "And he's taken with me?"
"Yes. When he's at the helm, I can see him mumbling in the wind. He's saying your name over and over again. 'Bella, my lovely Bella.'"
"Nonsense, Alice," I chided. She just smiled knowingly and dangled her feet off my bed.
"Come on, Miss Bella. Breakfast is ready for you and Captain Cullen asked you to join in at the helm," Alice said as she eagerly grabbed my hand. "I've only got a few more moments before I'm back in the bucket."
"My perch atop the mast," she answered. Together, we walked up to the deck of the ship. It was bustling with activity. My jaw dropped at how efficiently the men worked together. Alice tugged on my hand and led me to a table near the helm where there was a cup of tea and some biscuits. "Help yourself and then talk to your captain."
"Alice," I warned. She giggled and skipped to the mast. Nimbly, she scampered up to her bucket. I sipped my tea. I was grateful that it was ginger tea. It settled my stomach. My sea legs were non-existent at this point in time. I ate half of my biscuit, deciding to wait on eating the other half if I could keep it down. I walked up to the helm where Edward was standing, watching the horizon. "Good morning, Edward."
"Good morning, Miss Swan," he said with a crooked grin. "How are you feeling this morning?"
"A little green, sir," I said as I gave him a pitiful pout. "It's been several years since I've been on a ship of this size."
"That's why I had Jacob make ginger tea," he said as he ducked his head. "You are unaccustomed to this life. I want you to be comfortable."
"Thank you, Captain," I said, resting my hand on his bicep. "I truly appreciate your hospitality. I should hope that you treat all of your captives the same."
"No, lovely," he chortled. "Just you. Seth delivered your ransom letter to your father's home. Lauren was the one who took it to him, Seth said. We shall see what he has to say."
"My guess is that he'll probably send the entire British Navy at his disposal to get me. But, honestly, I do not want to return. At least not to what was waiting for me. Ugh, Lord Volturi is…is…I cannot say it, for fear you would think me unladylike."
"He's a pompous asshole," Edward smirked.
"Took the words out of my mouth, Captain," I said, arching a brow. "My marriage is not one of love but of convenience."
"He needs a child. An heir?" Edward asked.
"Precisely. Lord Volturi is close friends with my father and they agreed that when I became of age, I'd become Lord Volturi's wife. Lady Isabella Volturi," I snorted. "I'd rather eat horse manure."
"It's not pleasant. Eating horse manure, Miss Swan. Emmett stuffed my face in a pile when I was around thirteen and it was most vile thing ever," he shuddered. "Now, what will happen when I release you, if I release you?"
"I don't know. I'm getting to the age where I'm close to being a spinster," I shrugged.
"You're what, eighteen? Nineteen?" Edward asked.
"I'll turn nineteen in September," I replied. "My mother had had me by the time she was nineteen. She and my father wanted more children, but there were complications with my birth that rendered my mother barren. I'm fearful that I'm doomed to the same fate."
"I'm certain you will bear your husband many beautiful children," Edward mumbled, then paused. "I was hoping that we could begin our lessons," he continued, " I was able to recognize most of the letters in your note. I'd like to continue with that, Bella. You are very patient and seemingly must be a good teacher."
"Don't you need to drive this?" I asked.
"Jasper can take the helm. So can Sam," Edward said. "Besides, you should not be outside in the heat of the day. It's going to be a scorcher. Come, let's go into my quarters and you can teach me my letters."
"With your mind, you will be a very apt pupil, Captain. If I can teach Lauren, who is dumber than a door nail, then you shall be a breeze," I replied. Edward gestured to Sam to take the helm and we ventured to the lower deck to begin his lessons. We spent nearly all of the morning learning the alphabet. After lunch, Edward was able to construct simple words and sentences. He was actually very smart but never had the opportunity to learn. We were finishing dinner and I was going to have him attempt to read some verses in the Bible when a bell rang on deck.
"Bloody hell," he barked.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Alice must see something from the bucket," he growled. He flew out of his chair and stomped up the steps to the main deck. "Report!"
Alice hopped down and handed him a telescope. "A ship, due north, gaining on us fast, sir. It's not a naval ship, though," Alice rattled off.
"Hmmm, it's not. Miss Swan, look through this spy glass and tell me if you recognize the ship that is following us." Edward said as he handed me the telescope. I held it up to my eye and peered through it. Edward stepped behind me and pointed off to where the ship was. "Do you see it?"
"I do, sir. I also recognize it," I whispered. "It's Lord Volturi's vessel, Volterra. It appears he is coming after his bride." My face was pulled into a sneer and I handed Edward back the spy glass with a little more force than I had intended. "It will be a cold day in hell before I go to him willingly. I cannot continue the charade of caring for him when I know there's more."
"Isabella, you need to go back to your father and to your fiancé," Edward said with a sad smile. "They both love you."
"I love my father but not Lord Volturi," I said. "I told you my choice. Lord Volturi or you? I'd choose you."
"You don't even know me, Isabella," he said, arching a brow. "I've killed a man…"
"In retaliation for the crimes against your sister," I said. "I see it in you, Edward. You're a good man with a good heart. Hopefully my father is on that ship and you can make your plea." Edward smiled, and his face softened.
"Sir, they're getting closer," Alice chirped. "Shall we ready the canons? Prepare for a fight?"
"No," Edward answered. "We need to handle this appropriately. Like gentleman and ladies. With our words. Not our fists and force. Drop anchor."
"Sir," Jasper hissed. "It would not be prudent to do so. Lord Volturi's ship is heavily armed and can easily sink the Volvo."
"NO!" Edward roared. "Like Bella said, I'm a good man and I refuse to continue this. Perhaps Lord Volturi and Governor Swan will be able to see reason. Drop the damn anchor, Jasper."
"And if there is need for punishment, I will take it for you, sir," Emmett said quietly. "You are my brother and I shouldn't have let you take the blame for my battle against Captain King. They surely would send you to the gallows for kidnapping Miss Swan but I will go in your place. You look at her like I looked at your sister, like she's the only woman in the world."
"Emmett," Edward hissed.
"I may be grieving but I'm not blind, Edward," Emmett replied. "You deserve happiness, my brother."
"She's engaged," Edward mumbled dejectedly.
"She's right here," I spat, slapping Edward in the arm. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm not engaged, betrothed or promised to anyone. I've told you that it was a marriage of convenience, not of love. Besides, my father said that if I find someone that I can see myself with that is more suited to me than Lord Aro Volturi, he'd end the engagement."
Edward looked at me and narrowed his eyes. He took my hand in his and we went back into his quarters. He shut the door and caged me with his arms. His green eyes were dark. His nostrils were flaring and he was staring at me intently. I was breathing heavily, returning his burning gaze. One of his hands moved down my cheek, to my neck. My eyes fluttered shut and I pressed my cheek against his hand. "Isabella," he whispered. He moved closer and his other hand moved to frame my face.
"Please," I begged, staring into his emerald green orbs. "Please, Edward."
He moved ever closer, licking his lips. His thumbs were gently caressing the skin on my cheeks. His calloused hands that were so rough but in the same way, so beautiful. A tendril of hair fell out of his ponytail and across his cheek. I tentatively brushed it away, gliding my fingers across his stubbled skin. He whimpered quietly.
Our noses were barely touching. His eyes were still gazing into my eyes, penetrating to my very soul. Edward angled his head and his nose slid down my jaw. His lips were gently caressing my neck. I gripped his biceps, trying to stay upright. I was melting with his soft touch of his lips. "Please, Captain," I pleaded. "Kiss me, sir. I desperately need to feel your lips on mine."
He pulled away and looked again into my eyes. "Isabella, my lovely, do you know what you're asking for?" he asked roughly, his voice strained. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Once I reopened my eyes, I nodded confidently. The need to feel his lips move against mine was overwhelming. I wanted this. I wanted him. His thumb moved from my cheek to my lips, swiping over my lower lip slowly. He dipped his head and stopped a hairs-breadth away from my mouth. "My lovely," he murmured before his mouth descended onto mine.
His mouth was incredibly soft and despite his gruff appearance, very gentle. He suckled my top lip between his lips and I moaned quietly. My hands moved up to his neck, tangling them into his hair. The leather thong that held his bronze locks unraveled as my fingers touched it and his hair fell to his shoulders. He moved his head, still keeping his lips on mine.
Soft and teasing.
Tender and loving.
Gentle yet strong.
Edward's hands moved from my face to my waist, wrapping his arms around my body and holding me as close to him as we could allow. His grip was painful but I welcomed it. I felt safe in his embrace, our lips moving in tandem. Tentatively, Edward's tongue caressed my lower lip. I jumped at the feeling, unfamiliar with such an act. The kisses I'd seen from my parents were small and chaste. Nothing like this.
He pulled away and leaned his forehead against mine. "I'm sorry, Bella," he whispered huskily. "It's not proper…"
"No, I liked it. I never knew that you could kiss like that," I said breathily, playing with his soft, silken locks. "I've made my choice, Edward…"
He pulled away and looked into my eyes for something. Hesitation? Determination? I was not sure. "I have, Captain," I pressed, moving my hand to his jaw. "I choose you."
"My life is not an easy one, my lovely," he frowned. "This is my home. And if Lord Volturi and Governor Swan have anything to say about it, my life is forfeit because I took you."
"I'd rather spend the rest of my life on this ship with you than a moment in Lord Volturi's home," I said as I kissed his nose softly. "I choose you."
A knock interrupted our moment and Edward's head dropped to my shoulder. "Our destiny awaits, Bella," he whispered.
"And I shall be by your side, Captain," I whispered back. He lifted his head and smiled crookedly. He tightened his arms around my waist and dipped his head again, crushing his lips against mine with ardor. I moaned as I held onto him. His tongue slid past my lips and into my mouth. I did not jump away or fight the intrusion, but instead welcomed it. Reveled in it. Enjoyed it. And bloody hell, I wanted more of it.
As quickly as our kiss began, it ended. Edward found the tie for his hair on the ground and haphazardly began fussing with it. "Allow me, sir," I said as I guided him to the chair. He sat down and handed me the thong. Using my fingers, I pulled his hair back and tied the leather tightly at the nape of his neck. He took my hands and kissed each of my knuckles before getting up. I smiled as he held me close to his body until we reached the stairs to the main deck. He followed me up the stairs and we were greeted by my father, Lord Volturi and his brother, Caius.
"So it is true," my father shuddered. "You were taken captive. Cullen! Your life is forfeit. You will hang for your transgressions!"
"Father!" I yelled, narrowing my eyes at him. "You do not know the story. Captain Cullen rid the seas of another, more brutal pirate when he was taken into custody by the navy. However, you never gave him the chance to rebuke the claims made by the officers."
"Isabella, now is not the time," Lord Volturi growled. "Come here, my love and stand next to your intended."
"No. I am standing next to the man who is right and whom I love," I said as I looked up at Edward. His eyes widened. His arm reached around me and pulled me flush to his side.
"Governor! Talk some sense into your insolent daughter's brain," Lord Volturi screamed. "She was to be married to me. Today!"
"Isabella, my daughter, please," Charles begged. "Do not make a foolish decision."
"Just like you did when you let an innocent man be charged with piracy?" I challenged. "Did Captain Cullen get the chance to speak at his own trial?"
"No…" Charles began.
"That's not the point. He was found on board another ship, attacking another man," Lord Volturi snapped. "The naval officers can attest to that!"
"Lord Volturi, we were aboard the ship that belonged to Captain Royce King but it was not for the purpose of piracy," Edward said in a quiet but confident voice. "He attacked us initially, raided our cargo holds of the rum we were bringing to Isle Esme and kidnapped my sister. My first mate's wife. You have heard of Captain Royce King?"
"He's notorious," Caius said in a bored tone. "We lost three ships to that scoundrel."
"I fail to see why you attacked them," Lord Volturi growled.
"Because, sir, Captain King kidnapped and repeatedly raped my wife," Emmett said. "My brother, Captain Edward Cullen, is innocent in this. He was there but he did not kill Captain King. I did. I wanted retribution for what he did to my wife. For what his crew did to my wife."
"That whore in her undergarments?" Lord Volturi scoffed. "She got what she deserved."
"Father, the woman, her name was Rosalie and she was taken by these men without her permission. She was taken in the presence of her husband and her brother by Captain King. She was not a whore, Daddy. She was attacked, embarrassed and brutalized by these men for their pleasure. What would you do if it were me?"
"The exact same thing as Captain Cullen," my father whispered. "What is your name, sir?"
"Me?" Emmett asked. "Emmett McCarty."
"Mr. McCarty, while you were acting out retribution, your actions were of just cause," Charles began.
"Governor Swan!" Lord Volturi screeched. "This is unheard of! You cannot overrule the findings of the tribunal."
"I assure you, I can," my father said. "We never gave Captain Cullen an opportunity to share his story and we hastened to brand him a pirate rather than give him the benefit of the doubt. Moreover, while he was there at the scene of the crime, he was not an active participant."
"What does that mean, Daddy?" I asked.
"It means we made a mistake. I made a mistake. However, the ruling will be overturned if one other member of the tribunal agrees with me. Aro?"
"No. The ruling should stand and Cullen should hang for abducting Isabella," Lord Volturi snarled.
"Brother, I'm sorry but we were wrong," Caius said, frowning at his brother. "Mr. McCarty should receive a punishment, but Captain Cullen is innocent."
"This is horse shit!" Aro screamed at the top of his lungs, drawing his sword. He barreled toward Edward who twisted his body, blocking me from the assault and drawing his own sword from his scabbard on his hip. But, it was Seth who strong armed Aro, knocking him on his back and rendering him unconscious.
"Thank you, Seth," Edward chuckled.
"He was loud," Seth shrugged. "I shut him up."
"Men, pick that up and bring him back aboard his ship," Charles said as he pointed to the groaning Aro. The officers picked up Lord Volturi. As they were crossing the gang plank, a wave crashed against the ships and Aro was unceremoniously dumped into the water with a girlish shriek. "Oh my…"
"What about Mr. McCarty?" asked Caius.
"Six months in prison on Isle Esme," Charles replied. "You did kill a man. Take him into custody. Once we return to dock, his sentence begins."
"And what of your daughter?" Caius questioned as he followed Emmett and the officers off the Volvo.
My father turned and looked at me, a frown gracing his features. "You've made your choice, Isabella?" he asked.
"I cannot, in my right mind, marry Lord Volturi," I whispered, walking to my father. "You may think I'm mad but, in the short time that I've known Captain Cullen, Edward, I've grown to love him. Very much."
Edward walked up next to me and looked into my father's eyes. "As I love her. I'm not a rich man or educated, but I will love and honor your daughter forever, sir. She's the most cherished person I know and I cannot imagine my life without her."
"Do you want to marry my daughter?"
"I do, Governor Swan," he whispered.
"Oh, I get to do the fun part of my job. Marriage!" my father said as he clapped his hands. "Isabella, do you consent to marry Captain Cullen?"
"I'd be honored, Captain," I replied breathily.
"She cannot get married in that," Alice shrieked from her spot in the bucket. She clambered down the mast and took my hand. "Give us fifteen minutes. And Edward, put on your dress jacket."
"Who's the captain here?" Edward teased Alice as she dragged me away from my fiancé.
Alice responded by sticking her tongue out and pushing me down the stairs. She then guided me to my quarters and rummaged in the closet filled with Rosalie's clothes. Alice squealed and pulled out a simple, but elegant cream dress with a tight fitting bodice. Together, we changed and dressed me in my wedding gown. Alice twisted and coiled my hair into an up-do. "Much better," Alice said. "Are you ready?"
"I am," I replied. "Thank you, Alice."
"You're welcome." She took my hand and we walked up the stairs. The deck had been cleaned and my father was standing near the helm with Edward, wearing a deep blue waistcoat and fresh shirt. Standing next to him, in shackles, was Emmett. Emmett's eyes began to water when he saw my dress.
"Alice, is this alright?" I asked as I plucked at the gown.
"He's crying since you're wearing Rosalie's wedding dress. They were together for ten years but they were so happy," Alice replied. "Now, go. Your beloved is waiting for you."
I nodded and walked toward my father and my soon-to-be husband. However, my eyes were trained on Edward. He looked so handsome and nervous, but happy. Once I reached him, Edward's hand reached for mine. When our hands touched, my heart stammered and I knew that this was the right decision. He was it for me.
"Today is a blessed day," my father began. "It's the day that my daughter has chosen to give herself to a man in marriage…" His words faded away and I just stared into Edward's eyes. The love there was plain. Our hands were joined in between us, twined together.
"Captain Cullen, please repeat after me," Charles chuckled. "I, Captain Edward Cullen…take you, Isabella Marie Swan…to be my lawfully wedded wife…to have and to hold…to love and to cherish…in sickness and in health…for richer for poorer…for all the days of my life, I will love thee."
"Isabella, please repeat after me. I, Isabella Marie Swan…take you, Captain Edward Cullen…to be my lawfully wedded wife…to have and to hold…to love and to cherish…in sickness and in health…for richer for poorer…for all the days of my life, I will love thee."
"Governor Swan, I have a small token of my love for Isabella," Edward said quietly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring. "It was my mother's. She gave it to me before she died so that I would give it to my wife. It's all I have left of my family and now, Isabella is my family."
"Go ahead, Captain."
"Isabella, my lovely, I give this to you as a symbol of my everlasting love. I promise you that I will always honor, respect, and love you forever. Please accept this ring as my gift to you as your husband, your friend and your soul mate." He picked up my left hand and slid the ring over my knuckle. I bit back a sob and looked up into his eyes. His mossy green orbs were also filled with tears as he looked down at me, kissing my ring as it sat on my hand. I looked down at my ring and I gasped at its beauty. It was a vine fashioned in gold with diamonds scattered in it. The stones flashed in the fading sunlight as it dipped closer to the horizon.
"It's so beautiful, Edward," I breathed. I smiled brightly until I realized, "I don't have anything for you."
"Your love is all I need," he replied, cupping my face in his hand.
"Now, I'd like to get to the best part," my father urged. We laughed quietly and turned to face him. "By the power vested in me by the sovereignty of Isle Esme and of our homeland, England, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss your bride, Captain."
"With pleasure," Edward smiled crookedly, taking my face in his hands. He gently kissed me with the touch that I was growing to love and cherish more and more. However, his enthusiasm got the better of him and he scooped me up, twirling me around. His laughter was infectious as his lips found mine. "My lovely…"
"My captain," I mumbled against his lips.
My father cleared his throat and we broke apart. I blushed as I nestled closer to Edward. He laughed, kissing my forehead. "I'm assuming you're not coming home, Isabella," Charles said with a sad grin.
"No, Daddy. My place is with my husband," I replied.
"I want you to know that you will always have a place in my house. You too, Captain, along with your crew. I do apologize for our hasty decision…we will do all that we can to make right our mistakes. The Vanquish will be returned to you as soon as you return to Isle Esme." Charles sighed and looked at us. "I know you will make my daughter happy and provide for her. But, please, do not put her in harm's way. She's my little girl…"
"I promise, Governor Swan. I'll protect Bella with my life," Edward said solemnly.
"Where are you going next, Captain?"
"Tortuga and then back to Isle Esme," Edward said. "Then, perhaps, Bella and I will go on a brief trip on our own to celebrate our marriage. It's up to her."
"Be safe, Captain. You're carrying precious cargo," Charles said as he gestured to me. I scampered to my father and hugged him closely. He kissed my forehead. "I love you, my daughter."
"Love you, too, Daddy," I replied. He kissed my cheek and turned to leave. He and Emmett crossed the gang planks and they were brought back to Volterra. The ships dislodged from each other and the Volterra began sailing back to Isle Esme. A few tears escaped my eyes as I watched my father and the ship move away.
"Please don't cry, my lovely," Edward said as he wiped my tears away with his thumbs. "I do not wish for you to be sad."
"I shall miss my father but I'm so happy that I'm with you, Edward. The world is ours for the taking," I grinned. "Are you ready?"
"With you by my side, I'm ready for anything, on the high seas."