Summary: When he asked for her hand, she refused him. Now a scandal throws her on his mercy, will he marry her or leave her to her fate? Will she let him?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Twilight.
Chapter One: Scandalous Sorbet
"You . . . would not have me?"
"I would not."
He stared at her, perplexed in the extreme. All his nervous energy for this moment silenced abruptly by her direct refusal. She fidgeted under his gaze, rocking slightly on her feet, her dress skirts rustling distractingly.
Her breaths seemed slightly faster than normal, her cheeks flushed a healthy pink. How he was entranced by her even as she denied him he did not understand. Her dark eyes darted around his face, everywhere but his eyes.
"If you'll excuse me, sir." She curved into a fitful curtsy and stepped away.
He could only nod as she fled the room.
Six months later
Edward hated garden parties. It was all pastel fluff and rose gardens, full of tittering socialites and tiny sweets. Worst of all it was often hot. And humid.
He wouldn't be here except his mother had insisted. Ever since the disastrous Fall Ball at his parents' estate months ago he had refrained from any party where Isabella Swan might be in attendance. He had been so successful in his cowardice—though he called it aversion—that he had caught only the fleetest of glimpses of the girl.
Now here he was, at a garden party standing outside in the heat paranoid that the next giggling debutante wandering by might be her. He could feel the small hairs at his nape curling with the humidity. He desperately wanted to remove his jacket and obtain a damp cloth.
Spotting his mother unescorted across the lawn Edward approached her. He was not mingling, per say, but had been wandering through Mrs. Stanley's primroses to appear as if he was.
"Mother." He greeted, noticing for the first time the small glass she held in one hand.
"Edward, my dear, have you tried this wonderful sorbet?"
His interest was piqued. An iced treat was rare enough, but on such a hot day he half believed it a mirage. And if he wasn't mistaken . . .
"Is that strawberry?"
Esme hmmed as she scooped a dainty silver spoon into the treat. Savoring the bite, she responded, "It is."
Edward nodded as if there had been a question, "where is it?"
At this Esme shifted her eyes to look at him, enjoying the predictable way her son was entranced by her dessert.
"It's inside. It's much too hot to store it outside, of course. Go on in, son, Mrs. Stanley has a table set up with it inside the rear parlor."
Edward left at that, thanking his mother.
Suddenly this party was looking up.
He greeted the guests he passed crossing the patio, stopping for a moment to direct Miss Webber toward his father, and entered the house. It was not much cooler in here, but the humidity was lower and the shade was nice even if the breeze was gone. He'd been to the Stanley's a handful of times and so knew the basic layout of the house. There was a small parlor near the rear of the house, right by the kitchen.
Reaching the parlor he did indeed find a table set up with glass cups and silver spoons arranged artfully around two large covered bowls surrounded by ice chunks on a silver tray. The cold radiating from the piles of ice made him want to scoop some up and relieve his overheating, but he fought the urge and focused on the covered bowls.
Peeking in to one revealed an orange colored sorbet, peach perhaps. The second was the strawberry.
Edward was just reaching for a cup when a faint hissing sound drew his attention. It was followed by a rustling, and seemed to be coming from behind a closed door to his right.
Curiosity peaked, Edward approached as silently as he could. Sure enough, he could hear the strange noises even better from here.
A thought grew in his mind that perhaps some of the guests had nipped into a room for privacy, and he was just turning away when he heard it. A pained whimper.
Well, that changed things.
Without another thought in his head Edward pushed the door open and stormed into the room.
"What is going on in he—" his voice caught and choked on the 'r' as the sight before him dawned.
Bella Swan was sitting in this room. Her wide eyes stared up at him in shock from her position on a small bench in the storage room.
But it wasn't her eyes Edward was looking at, huge though they were in her face at the moment.
No, Edward's eyes were focused on entirely different areas.
Her skirts were hitched up, higher than he'd ever seen anyone's skirts, one pale, dainty leg crossed over the other, one calf laying across the opposite knee, her underclothes pushed aside to reveal flesh from the knee down.
One hand rested lightly on her own thigh, but the other, oh, that was were Edward's stare stayed.
In her right hand Bella held a large ice cube, much like the ones cooling the sorbet just outside this room.
Only she was holding it against the side of her neck.
It was dripping. Slow drips forming a current over her clavicle and staining the front of her bodice dark between her breasts.
Edward took a jerking step forward, called to the sight before him by everything but his brain.
He was right in front of her when a clamor drew his attention back to the door.
Mrs. Newton stood at the door, one hand above her heart the other over her mouth as if to muffle the noise she was making.
Edward watched as if through water as more people popped up behind her, drawn by her exclamations and frenzy.
His movements were slowed as if by honey as he turned back to Bella. She was frantically righting herself, the ice cube long dropped but the red mark still on her skin, her bodice still stained with wet.
She attempted to stand, only to fall with a yelp.
Edward caught her, of course, ever the gentleman.
His first coherent thought as he righted her was as loud as if Mrs. Newton herself was yelling it.
This looks very bad.
The garden party dispersed rapidly following the incident. The guests likely running home to regale the rest of the neighborhoods with what had been seen. Bella Swan having to be carried out of a broom closet, rumpled and with marks on her neck! It was certainly scandal enough to keep the town atwitter for weeks.
Edward found himself lingering at the Stanleys, though his host had to be consoled elsewhere. He sat with his mother and sister Alice, while his father Carlisle checked over Bella in the study. Which was on the other side of the house.
He wanted to scoff at the ridiculous notion that he would be so arduous as to attack the girl as his own father tended her wounds. But derision wasn't the reaction he was experiencing.
This was bad, very bad. Perhaps not for him, honestly, though he might be called a rogue or some such minor offense at the next party. But for Bella, this was huge.
The way these things spread, her virtue would be in question by dinner time. If it wasn't already. Her father was an admirable man, but even he would not be able to save her from this disgrace.
The pieces were falling in to place for Edward. After the initial clamor, Miss Angela Webber had appeared, the usually calm and collected girl visibly on the edge of tears.
Bella had twisted her ankle, the girl said, and was only sitting down to cool it. Angela had been with her, but had gone to fetch Carlisle.
That explained the disarrayed skirts and the lowered stocking. It even explained the ice, and Edward himself had thought of cooling himself with a piece.
Surely all those skirts and petticoats were even worse in the heat?
He could not get the image of her flushed face and rumpled state, the water drifting down her neck, out of his head.
So even as he understood the innocence of her situation, he could not escape his wanton enjoyment of it, all the same.
The door opened and Carlisle joined his family. He had a grim look on his face.
"Carlisle?" Esme questioned, so much in the one word.
"Miss Swan is being taken home." He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "Her ankle is indeed twisted, though the ice took some of the swelling down." A small tug on the corner of his lip was as close to smiling as he could manage. "It seems after all my visits she's nearly ready to simply doctor herself."
They sat quietly for a moment, none sure what to say.
"Her reputation is ruined." Alice finally spoke, pointing out the uncomfortable obvious.
Edward grimaced at her words. Frustration making him short. "She didn't even do anything!" He stood suddenly, needing to walk his energy out. Tugging a hand through his hair he said in a pained voice, "if I hadn't opened that door, everything would be fine."
"Or if Mrs. Newton could keep her mouth shut for once until she actually knows what's going on." Alice added harshly. She was not terribly fond of their acquaintance, having been the brunt of her exaggerated comments before.
"Perhaps," Carlisle said, rising himself. "We should be getting home. I expect we may have visitors this evening."
With that the Cullen family filtered out of the Stanley estate and took their carriage home. It was a quiet ride all round.
Edward wondered how he had managed to make this most recent interaction with Bella Swan the worst yet. He had really thought that impossible.
Author's Note: New story! I'm planning to update this one about once a week, maybe more frequently if the chapters continue to be easy to write. Please review and let me know what you think!