Title of Story: Murder Under Trust
Word Count: 12,413
Type of Edward: Scottishward
Story Summary: Scotland, 1692. A pretty Highlands maid and a handsome Lowlands officer. Their romance burns in spite of the harsh winter surrounding them. But why has the regiment really come to Glen Coe and will their love survive the aftermath of the devastation created? Loosely based on real events.
Standard Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
Glen Coe, Scotland
February 2, 1692
A knock rang out at the door, startling Isabella from her thoughts of the last letter she'd received from the man who'd stolen her heart. Who would be at the door in the middle of the afternoon? She set aside her sewing and rose from her chair by the dwindling fire. Crossing the packed dirt floor of the large main room, she straightened her stay and bodice, ensuring the ring brooch pinning her plaid was secure. Isabella braced herself for the biting cold of the Highland's winter as she opened the door.
"Good morrow, Guidwife Swan. Is yer father or mother at home?"
Isabella blinked at the officers crowded in the doorway. Anxiousness filled her belly at the sight. Why were soldiers at her door? Were the rumors of the Laird's late pledge to the King true? Was the King retaliating due to his tardiness? "N-Nay, sir. My father is working at his smithy and my mother is with the McCarty family until the babe is born." She swallowed and wondered if she should have said less. "May I be of service?"
"Aye, ye can. I am Captain Campbell of the Earl of Argyll's Regiment of Foot. We've been stationed here and the fort is full. I am beseeching the homes under the MacDonald clan to billet them."
A silent puff of air left her lungs. Billeting a soldier? Isabella twisted her hands together, her brow furrowing. She knew her mother would be mortified to find she hadn't extended the expected Highland hospitality, but it would appear unseemly to welcome a man into the house as an unmarried daughter. Suddenly, a head of bronze hair bobbed and shined briefly in the bleak, winter sunlight and her breath caught. All thoughts of propriety flew from her head.
"Of course we are happy to aid ye," she hastily replied, her gaze firmly fixed on the temptation at her doorstep. "Which of yer men will be housed with us?" She asked and schooled her expression to avoid tipping off the Captain.
"Lieutenant Cullen. I believe he is familiar with the town as he was here a winter ago. He should give ye no trouble at all, and if he does, come straight to me, bonny lass."
Isabella blushed at his words and dropped her gaze. "Thank you, sir. Lieutenant Cullen is quite welcome here."
With a perfunctory nod, Captain Campbell roused his men and carried on to the next home. A straight-faced Lieutenant Cullen stood at attention in her entry.
"Please come in, Lieutenant. I'm sure ye'd enjoy a reprieve from the bitterness outside." Isabella gestured with one arm as he stepped past her. She shut the door and turned to face the handsome officer only to be swept up in his strong arms.
"Bella," he reverently whispered into her long, chestnut hair.
A rather un-ladylike peal of happy laughter fell from her lips as she clasped her hands around his neck. "Edward, thou are back!"
He leaned back and she let her doe eyes drift hungrily over his features. His crooked grin and sparkling green eyes caused her heart to flutter like a sparrow in her chest. She'd not seen him in nigh over a year. She was thrilled to her toes to have her love with her again.
Their relationship had sparked after a chance meeting at the village alehouse when she and her parents had taken a rare noon meal there during his last tour. After subtle pursuit from Edward and a few secret rendezvous, the couple had covertly been exchanging letters through a trusted companion of Edward's ever since. Isabella's heart felt ready to burst with love at the fine sight of him.
Edward glanced quickly at the door and then back at his ladylove. She was so enticing with her dark hair cascading in waves over her shoulders, soft brown eyes glowing at him, and her full pink lips parted slightly. With a stifled groan, he cupped her jaw with one hand and captured her sweet mouth.
Isabella's hands fell to his chest and she leaned into his kiss. Together, their lips slid and caressed over the other's, eliciting a breathy sigh from Isabella.
Edward rested his forehead to hers before he was carried away by her innocent charms. Isabella languidly lifted her lids.
"I dinnae ken when I would see thee again. How long will ye stay this time, Edward?" She bit her lower lip, afraid of the answer.
"I cannae say. Our orders havenae come through, but we are thinking it's the Cess tax. As long as that takes, I suppose."
Isabella nodded and reluctantly stepped away from his embrace. "We shall have to make use of our time together while we have it. My Da should arrive home soon, though."
"Of course. I should like to stay in his good graces." Edward's deep timbre caused a shiver to dance down Isabella's spine. He rocked on his boots and clasped his hands behind him to keep from reaching out to her sweet silhouette again. "Perhaps I could be useful and replenish the wood for the fire."
"Yes. I am certain Da would appreciate yer aid." She glanced up at him once more, warmth blossoming in her chest. She could scarcely believe the vision in front of her. Her love was truly here! "Edward?"
"Sweeting?" he answered and her lips twitched up at the endearment.
"I am mending a few things, have thee any need of it?" She wanted nothing more than to be able to give something, no matter how small, to her Edward. To provide a task traditionally reserved for a wife.
His grin was wide and joyful. "Aye, Bella. That would be grand. I have two breeches and a leine in need of repair. Is that asking too much of ye?"
She shook her head with a glow to her cheeks. "I'm glad to be of help." Edward rifled through his sack and she held out her hands to take the pants and shirt from him. "I shall have these fixed swiftly, in case…" her voice faltered and she swallowed down her tears. "In case ye are called away soon."
"I thank thee, mo gràdhach."
His beloved? Isabella was surged through with love and she pressed her lips as well as her body to his. Edward's arms held her securely as she melted under the fire of his kiss.
Her body responded in ways she'd never felt before meeting Edward, but Isabella welcomed the lustful sensations he incited. Her breasts felt heavy and full, nipples tingling and pert. Her skin was flushed with desire and between her legs the most delicious aching bloomed there.
When his tongue traced the line of her lips she gasped. Edward took advantage of the opening and in a bold move, slid his tongue into her mouth. Isabella gave a wanton moan while their tongues learned one another's texture and taste.
Their very few stolen kisses before has been chaste and brief, Isabella never imagined the possibilities kissing could hold. But now, oh, how she yearned for this moment to last forever. She craved to explore the sinful urges scorching between them.
Of its own volition, her soft female body rubbed along his hard male one. With a deep inhale, Edward pulled away and made a small gap between them. "I am sorry, Bella. I forgot myself and acted abhorrently. Please forgive me," he asked in roughened voice.
Isabella blinked rapidly, attempting to clear her thoughts of the hazy passion muddling them. "There is nothing to forgive." She paused, butterflies swooping in her stomach as she gathered her courage to tell him the words she knew in her heart to true.
"I love thee, Edward. I am yers." Isabella spoke in a voice barely heard above the winter wind outside.
Edward crushed her to him, lips and tongues dancing together once more. All too soon for Isabella, he stepped back. He cradled her face in his hands, "I love thee, too, my Bella."
His eyes held such adoration that Isabella was overwhelmed by the onslaught of emotions. She was helpless to stop the happy tears that traced her cheeks and he kissed them away. After a deep sigh, Isabella brushed her hands across her skirts to straighten them. "We should take care, Da will arrive any moment."
"Aye. Ye are right, sweeting. I will busy myself with the firewood. Is there any other chore ye need of me?" He ran a hand through his disheveled hair and attempted to regain his composure.
"Nay, Edward. Thou have given me all I could ever ask." He ducked his head at her warm words and stepped out into the blustery weather and Isabella hurried back to her chair and mending.
No sooner had five minutes passed, than Isabella's father burst through the door, stomping his snow covered boots in the entry. "Evening, daughter mine. I see Captain Campbell has been here. I'd heard talk of his men being in need of shelter." He nodded his head out to where Edward was hard at work, splitting logs to keep the hearth burning throughout the night.
"Aye, Da. Lieutenant Cullen has been placed with us. He offered his aid in exchange for our hospitality. I thought wood for the fire best." Isabella answered without looking up from her sewing. She did not dare meet her father's eyes for fear he would see her feelings plainly on display.
Charles grunted his agreement and turned back outside to approach Edward. Isabella had completed the small rip in one set of breeches and was now mending Edward's second pair. With a content smile on her lips, she placed the pants back on her pile and checked the hearty turnip and venison stew bubbling in a deep pot over the flames. Deeming it ready, she rose and stuck her head out the door.
She spied her father and her love in a heavy conversation and hesitated if she should interrupt. Not wanting either man to put off quashing their hunger, she called aloud. "Good sirs! Supper is awaiting thee. Come in out of the cold."
The Swan family counted themselves very fortunate indeed. They owned their house, surrounding land, as well as the smithy. The family was by no means wealthy, but none had ever gone to bed hungry and Isabella's parents had a bedroom with true walls to separate them from the rest of the home. Isabella herself had cloth-covered frames to partition off her sleeping quarters.
Long after supper had been eaten and Charles taken to bed, Isabella laid on her own bed as her mind whirled with thoughts of Edward and the sensations he caused in her. She fleetingly wondered if this was what her closest and newly married friend, Katie, had told her about in hushed whispers. Katie had said her husband Garrett incited a fire in her body the likes of which she'd never dreamed.
Isabella decided she needed to investigate more to know for certain.
She silently slipped from around her makeshift wall. In the soft glow of the small fire still burning to keep the warmth, Edward's eyes grew round as his ladylove appeared in only her thin linen shift to lie next to him on the pallet she'd made up for his bedding.
"I ken I shouldnae be here," she bit her lower lip, "but I couldnae longer stand the temptation of ye so close. I'll go back if that is yer wish."
He ran the backs of his fingers along the apple of her cheek. "Nay, sweeting. A moment spent without thee is something I'd never wish."
Isabella flushed and a soft smile crossed her features at his pretty words. She sighed contently to be so close to her heart's reason for beating. Edward leaned up on his elbow and lowered his head to hers. The lovers' lips met, followed by the greeting of tongues.
These kisses were slower, a smoldering ember compared to the roaring flames from earlier, but no less fraught with emotion. Every sweep of a tongue, gentle nip of teeth, and caress of lips communicated steadfast and devoted love, sweet promises of a future entwined, and soul-satisfied elation at finding one's mate.
While the frenzied passion was reigned in, there was no denying how intensely aroused Isabella was becoming. She tugged at Edward's shift to pull him closer while arching her back to feel his body on hers.
Edward choked back a loud groan when he felt Isabella's perky nipples brush against his chest. Thus far, he had been able to hold tight to his want-need-desire to explore Isabella's body in the most carnal way. However, his control fractured with such a simple touch and he jerked back from her.
Isabella's eyes popped open as she gasped at Edward's abrupt departure. Edward looked at her with nearly black eyes, his chest heaving under his labored breaths. He had never been so grateful as he was in that moment to have a thick blanket covering his turgid manhood from Isabella's innocent eyes. He'd no wish to scare away his love.
"I fear I am far too tempted by yer charms, my Bella. I do not wish to cross a boundary reserved for a time when we've God's blessing," he lowly whispered in a deep, gravelly voice.
She flushed and cleared her throat. "A-aye. Tis best we bid good night, then." She looked up at him through her dark lashes and Edward's staff twitched.
"Good night, sweeting." Edward rushed the words as his careful restraint strained once more.
Isabella's low chuckle was knowing. "Good night, my heart."
February 7, 1692
Isabella hummed to herself as she trudged through the snow. The weather this winter had been particularly brutal and she could see dark clouds looming over the peak of Sgurr na Cìche. Another winter storm was brewing and she wanted to get home before it crested the mountain.
She could not stop her silly grin as she kept herself warm with thoughts of Edward from the past five days. He'd been attentive and congenial while in her home, the most upstanding gentleman. But at night, after her Da was sound asleep, the couple always managed to steal a few moments giving in to the sinful urges warring within them both.
Isabella loved the feel of Edward's lips, his taste on her tongue, the heat trailed by his hands as they ghosted over her back and dip of her waist.
So lost in those tantilizing thoughts was she, Isabella yelped aloud when a hand touched her arm. Her right hand flew up to her throat as she whirled to see the owner.
"Edward," she gasped, still trying to settle her nerves.
Laughter bubbled up inside him, despite his best efforts to stifle it. "I apologize, Bella. I dinnae mean to startle thee. I thought you would hear my approach."
She waved her hand, "Dinnae worry yerself. My mind was preoccupied with... other things."
Edward's curiosity sparked as he spied the telltale pinkening of Isabella's cheeks. This was not caused by the cold, he bemused. His eyes settled on her plump lower lip and Edward knew exactly what had distracted his ladylove so. His breeches tightened as his staff was wakened by his own memories.
"Bella, I would speak with thee, if I might?" He fiddled with the belt around his kilt and lightly rocked on the balls of his feet.
Isabella cocked her head to the side at his fidgeting. It was so unlike him. "Aye, of course." She grasped one of his hands, trepidation filling her belly. "What weighs on ye, my heart?"
Edward twisted his hand and held hers with both of his. "This tour will be my last. My obligation to the regiment will be complete at the end."
"Oh, I see," Isabella whispered and drew a shaky breath. She turned her face downcast so he would not see the tears pooling in her eyes. Would this be the last time she ever saw her love?
Edward gently lifted her chin up to him. "Mo gràdhach, I beg thee not to cry," he pleaded with her. "I dinnae wish to be parted from ye. I have spoken with yer father. It is my most fervent desire to be wed. Would ye do me the tremendous honor of becoming my wife?"
She began to cry in earnest, great hiccupping sobs. Frantically, she nodded, "Yes! Yes, Edward, I will marry thee."
Edward let out a resounding whoop that echoed in the quiet forest trail and then grabbed his beautiful bride-to-be around the waist and spun them gaily.
"My Bella, ye've no notion of how happy ye have made me," Edward murmured in her ear.
She beamed at him, "I might ken a bit." She giggled again with delight. It was too much to believe at this moment that she and her Edward would be together forever. She would keep their home and bear Edward's children. The simple thought of a green-eyed, copper headed babe in her arms set her heart racing. Isabella prayed for a brood of children with Edward's fine features.
With a glance at the ominous clouds, Edward tucked Isabella's hand in the crook of his elbow and led them onward to her home. "How soon might ye desire to wed, sweeting? When shall the priest return to Glen Coe?"
Isabella was crestfallen. "The priest left three days before the troops arrived. He'll not return for at least another fortnight. Do ye think ye will still be here?"
Edward furrowed his forehead. "I dinnae ken for certain, but I fear not. Word has it our orders will arrive very soon." Isabella's heart sank all the way to her knees. "Bella? How would ye… That is, would ye be opposed to handfasting with me?"
She snapped her head to face him with startled eyes. Handfasting had become less and less customary as the Church pushed for weddings sanctioned by a man of the cloth.
"If we were to say our vows in present tense instead of future, and we c-consummated the m-marriage," he stuttered, "it would be legally binding. If we so wish, a priest can bless the union as soon as we are able."
"Aye, I will handfast with thee," Isabella softly agreed.
Edward gently squeezed her hand. "Thank ye, sweeting. I ken it is not what is traditional, but I dinnae want to leave Glen Coe without thou as my wife."
Isabella smiled and ducked her head. She could not wait to call Edward husband.
"Are ye all right with leaving the Highlands, Bella? My Da will give us a parcel of land to build a house upon. I have trained with him as an apothecary and will help run his shop."
She nodded with a serene smile. "As long as I am with thee, I care not where we abide. I am certain the Lowlands will be a fruitful dwelling for our family."
Edward's cheeks flushed red as he pictured his lovely Bella round with child. It was a vision he was most anxious to bring to fruition. "Ye are so kind and amenable, sweeting. Thou shall have to beat me about the ears should I take advantage. Make certain I ken my place."
February 8, 1692
Isabella knocked on the door of the McCarty home and was greeted by her mother. Renee embraced her daughter. "This is pleasant surprise, Isabella. What brings ye here on this doorstep?"
"Mama, 'tis good to see you. I have news to share," she relied with a shy smile.
"Have ye now?" She ushered Isabella inside where Rosalie was knitting a blanket by the fire.
"Good afternoon, Rosalie. How fair thee?"
She looked up, "Hello, Isabella. I waddle like a duck when walking and have the urge to use the chamber pot every time the babe kicks, but I am otherwise fairing well. Please, sit. To what do we owe this visit?"
Isabella lowered herself next to the hearth, leaving the open seat for her mother.
"She has news," Renee said with a quirk of her eyebrows as she sat in the chair. "I wonder if it has to do with the handsome soldiers about town."
Isabella's heated skin gave her away. What would her mother think of the engagement? "As ye ken, Lieutenant Cullen and I became acquainted last winter season." Her mother nodded and Rosalie raised a hand to cover her grin. "Well, he is billeted with us and we've, um, formed an attachment. He has asked me to marry him and I accepted."
Both ladies exclaimed in excitement and Renee rushed forward to hug her daughter. "Oh, dearest, that is wonderful news! Lieutenant Cullen will make a fine husband for thee."
Rosalie stood from her chair and squeezed Isabella's shoulder. "Grand news, indeed. Forgive me, Isabella. In my excitement, I pissed myself a bit and need to use the chamber pot again."
"Oh," Isabella said in surprise. "Of course, Rosalie." She turned to her mother with eyes round as saucers.
Renee chuckled. "Ah, my daughter, I am pleased for ye. "I will be sad to see ye go, but the Lowlands can be lovely. I should like to hold my grandchild when the time comes. Yer father and I will visit."
"Thank ye, mama. Ye've no idea how that puts my soul at ease."
"He is a lucky man to be wedding ye. Now, when is this marriage to take place?"
Isabella bit her lip. "Lieutenant Cullen has expressed his desire to wed before the regiment leaves. As the priest is not expected through town for at least a fortnight, we thought handfasting would be best."
Her mother lifted her eyebrows. "Oh, did ye?"
Isabella battled the urge to squirm under Renee's stare. "We would have the union blessed by a priest as soon as we could, but – "
"Be still, child," Renee teased. "Handfasting will be fine, dearest. When do ye plan to vow?"
"Two days time at our home. Do ye think ye might be able to attend? If Rosalie is not laboring?" Isabella fervently wanted her mother present for the ceremony, but knew she had obligations to the McCartys first.
"Aye, she'll be there," Rosalie announced as she waddled back in. "Renee'll not miss the wedding of her only child. Even if I am birthing this babe."
February 10, 1692
Isabella's wedding day dawned bright and crisp. The cold still clung to the air, but rare sunshine blessed the day. She rose early, as the exchanging of vows was to take place before the noontime meal. Isabella could not keep the soft, happy smile off her face for even a moment.
She washed with lavender water, rinsing her hair before sitting in front of the fire to let it dry while Renee brushed it. Renee had come back to their home last night and Edward was sent to the Yorkie's neighboring farm.
"Now, my daughter," Renee began as she pulled the bristles through Isabella's thick, dark tresses. "I need to inform ye of yer wifely duties to yer husband in the marriage bed."
Isabella blushed furiously, her cheeks felt like they were aflame. "Mama, I – "
Her mother tsked at her. "There are certain intimacies shared between a husband and wife. It is yer duty to submit to him when he wishes, but if he is a good and considerate husband ye will enjoy coupling and want to join with him as well."
Isabella's heart pounded. If it was anything close to the seductive sensations Edward caused her when they kissed, she would likely be the aggressor to engage in such activities.
"The first time he takes ye, there will be some pain, but it'll not last long. Ye simply need to keep as relaxed as ye are able and all will be well," her mother continued as she worked to plait sections of Isabella's mahogany locks to weave them together on the crown of her head.
"Aye, mama. I understand and thank thee for yer words of wisdom." Isabella interrupted, anxious to end the conversation.
"He's not already made the two of ye wed in the physical sense?" Renee sternly asked, tugging on her hair.
Isabella winced at the sharp sting. "Nay, mama. Lieutenant Cullen has behaved with the utmost propriety."
"Hmm, as he should. Ye may not be of noble blood, but ye're a good girl and should be treated as such," Renee stated as she finished styling Isabella's hair. "There, my daughter. Thou are beautiful and ready to be given away."
Isabella turned and faced her mother. "I thank thee, mama." She fluttered her hands at her waist. "I feel I might to fly to pieces from excitement and anxiousness. I am ready to become his bride."
"He couldnae chosen a fairer lass. Ye will make a fine match together."
~~ MUT ~~
Edward placed a firm knock on the door of the Swan home and waited to be given entrance. The door opened to reveal Isabella's father. Charles ran his eyes over the young officer in full regalia come to marry his only child. There was an additional officer with him to serve as Edward's witness.
"Good morn, Guidman Swan. How fair thee and thou family?" Edward asked.
Charles grunted at his formality. "We're all well and one is especially anxious to see ye. Come in, son."
Edward bobbed his head once and stepped inside. He waved one hand toward the other officer. "This is Lieutenant Jasper Whitlock, fellow solider and my sister's husband. He's come to stand as my witness so he may retell each detail to my family."
Charles nodded and the men greeted one another. "Well, let's not keep my daughter waiting, eh?"
They moved to stand by the hearth and Charles knocked on the door to his bedroom where Isabella and her mother waited. It opened and Renee exited first, followed by Isabella. Edward's heart faltered for a moment as his radiant bride walked to him. With glowing cheeks and a sweet smile, she was vision to behold in a dusty lavender gown.
Isabella placed her right in his, happiness humming under her skin. This was the moment she would be bound to Edward as his wife. She never dreamed she would be so lucky as to be so deep in love with her husband, but God had truly smiled upon her.
Her mother approached and placed four cords around the couple's joined hands. White for purity, red for fertility, blue for devotion, and pink for romance. She wound and crossed them several times before knotting the cords tightly. The couple was now bound for life.
"I, Edward Cullen, take thee, Isabella Swan, to my wedded wife, till death us depart, and thereto I plight thee my troth," Edward solemnly vowed staring into his beloved's eyes.
"I, Isabella Swan, take thee, Edward Cullen, to my wedded husband, till death us depart, and thereto I plight thee my troth," she swore in return with a serene smile.
As soon as her words were spoken, the couple both grinned and stepped forward to one another. Edward raised his free hand to cup his new bride's cheek. "I love thee, my wife."
She leaned into his touch, blushing prettily. "As I love thee, my husband."
Edward leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on her lips, mindful of the eyes watching. "Shall we walk into town for our wedding meal?"
"Aye, husband, that would be lovely."
Neither Isabella nor Edward could stop grinning at one another and neither minded in the slightest. They walked a few steps ahead of their witnesses, hands still bound as they would stay until they were alone that evening.
Her parents and Edward's brother-in-law chatted quietly as they followed, not wishing to intrude on the newlywed's happy bubble. However, when they reached Glen Coe's alehouse, Charles, Renee, and Jasper entered first.
As the group arrived at the start of the midday meal, the room was crowded with townsfolk and visiting officers alike.
Charles cleared his throat and yelled loudly to be heard over the din. "Clansmen and friends, I have an announcement!" The room quieted as everyone turned to face him. "This morn my daughter, Isabella, was wedded to Lieutenant Edward Cullen!"
The room cheered as Edward and Isabella entered and held up their bound hands for all to see. They were set upon by well-wishers, all clamoring to congratulate the couple.
"Happiest of tidings, Lieutenant and Guidwife Cullen!" Guidy Denali said with a sly grin. "Ye've caught a right fine husband!"
"Aye, and from the looks of this peach, she's ripe for the plucking! Ye'll have a grand time with her tonight," a leering solider added much to Isabella's discomfort. She shifted closer to her husband, seeking out his comfort and protection.
Edward fixed him with a stony glare. "That will be all, Ensign James. My wife and I wish to enjoy our meal in peace."
He stumbled off and Edward guided his new bride to the table where a meal of turnips and lamb stewed with preserved apples and plums was served to them. As Isabella's dominant hand was bound to Edward's he took care to feed his wife and himself throughout the meal. It gave him great satisfaction to provide for her needs, even in such a small way.
"Where will ye spend yer wedding night?" Guidy Mallory inquired as they ate.
Isabella blushed at the audacious question, but answered regardless of her embarrassment. "We will stay at my home until the Regiment leaves and I will accompany Lieutenant Cullen. We will be able to stay in married billeting on the way back to the Lowlands and our home."
"Aye, I've sent word to my father and mother to prepare for a new daughter-in-law. We will build a house in time, as the weather warms," Edward added.
"Oh, as newlyweds ye should have time to yerselves," Guidwife Cope interjected. "I've a small cottage next to my inn, come stay there until it is time for ye to depart. It will be my wedding gift!"
"That is most generous of ye, Guidwife Cope. We thank thee for yer gift," Edward accepted and Isabella beamed. While she would not have minded being in her home, it would be less awkward to have their wedding night and the nights to follow out of her parents' earshot. She was certain neither of them wished to know exactly when the consummation of the marriage took place.
"Edward," she murmured quietly.
"Why has yer sister not joined Lieutenant Whitlock on his tour? Is it not odd that she dinnae accompany him like the other officer's wives?"
"Yes, but Alice is…in a delicate condition at the moment."
"Oh," Isabella said as the meaning behind his word sunk in. "How exciting for them! Will this be the first babe in yer family?"
"Aye. We are all looking forward to April or May to meet the child."
Isabella's mouth turned up in a small smile and she leaned closer to her husband. She wondered how long it would be before she was in the family way. Her mother's delivery of Isabella had been long and complicated, leaving them without the ability to conceive again. Isabella prayed she would not have the same fate and would bear several children with Edward.
Captain Campbell approached their table. "Congratulations, Lieutenant and Guidwife Cullen. Lieutenant, ye may have the next days free of duty. I shall have someone call on ye when we are in need of thee again."
"Thank ye kindly, Captain. Tis very charitable of ye." Edward saluted his commanding officer before the Captain turned and left.
There was one last chunk of plum sitting on Isabella's plate and Edward picked it up with his fingers to place it at her lips. She parted them, accepting the sweet fruit in her mouth and flicking her tongue up to slide along Edward's fingertips.
Isabella looked up at her love through her lashes and melted inside as she saw the fiery passion in his eyes as he gazed at her. She smiled innocently. "Should we retire, husband-mine? I confess to feeling… overwhelmed from the festivities. A bit of quiet would be welcome."
Edward stared lustily at his vixen wife. She was his siren and he would gladly follow wherever she might call. He leaned in close to her ear and whispered, "Of course, temptress. Though I hope not to be too quiet when we are alone." He nipped her earlobe and Isabella whimpered.
The lovers stood and exited the alehouse to many cheers and teasing catcalls. They wound through the main street of town, and after stopping by Isabella's home to pack a small sack of personal items they reached Guidy Cope's inn and the small cottage behind it. Edward pushed open the door to reveal the inside.
An empty hearth was off to the left and next to it was a straw-stuffed bed large enough for two covered by a sapphire blue quilt. There was a wash bin and chamber pot in one corner and a table with two chairs in another. The cottage was simple and cozy, exactly what two newlyweds would need.
Once his bride entered, Edward quickly shut the door against the sharp, cold wind blowing outside. Isabella lifted up and pressed her lips to her husband, grateful to finally be able to kiss him properly as she wished. Edward's free hand wrapped around her waist and drew her flush to him while he tangled his tongue with hers.
With a sigh he looked down at their bound hands. "As much as I would enjoy never separating, it does make performing simple tasks a bit cumbersome."
"Tis all right, my love. We may join in other ways once our hands have been freed," Isabella saucily teased.
Edward's already on edge body, stiffened at her sweet yet wicked words. He was more than ready to claim his bride. He dipped his mouth to hers once more, this time the sparks between the lovers exploded and could no longer be contained.
With heavy breaths from them both, Edward and Isabella worked swiftly to untie the knots binding the cords. Finally they loosened and fell from their hands. Isabella carefully set them on the small table and then Edward instantly had her in his arms.
He trailed his lips along her jaw and behind her ear, which caused Isabella to moan her pleasure. Edward's large hands spread wide and caressed over her waist and hips before one travelled up to thread into her hair and the other curved over her bottom to bring her in full contact of his needy body.
Isabella gasped at the sensation of feeling Edward so familiarly and in return kissed him with all the lustful passion pulsing within her. When he tugged at the laces of her dress, Isabella broke their kiss and turned in his arms to give better access.
Edward made quick work of the laces and Isabella's hand came up to hold the fabric in place. Nervousness skittered along her limbs. What if he found her lacking somehow? Had he ever known another woman in this way? She was merely acting on instinct and fuzzy, vague comments from other women. She had heard the occasional sound coming from her parent's bedroom, but tried to block those out whenever possible.
"Bella?" Edward's gentle voice asked. She sank her teeth into her lower lip and turned, slowly this time. His fingers caught her chin and lifted her face so brown eyes met green. "What is it, mo gràdhach?"
"I… it's – Edward, have you… before?" she stammered out in a quiet voice.
In an instant, Edward understood what was troubling his beautiful bride. "Nay, sweeting. All I ken is of other tales told by indiscrete men and a theory of the female anatomy. I will never ken any woman but ye, my love." He brushed a soft kiss across her lips. "Please believe me when I tell thee, I am as apprehensive as ye."
Isabella smiled in relief and let the fabric of her gown fall to the floor with a muted whoosh. She was left standing in her petticoats, stay, and shift. Without breaking eye contact, she loosened the ties on her petticoats and they too billowed to the ground. Her fingers trembled as she unlaced her stay, the boning eased around her ribs as she pulled the corset away.
Edward could no longer stop his eyes from wandering, as they took in his love in her linen shift. The fire behind her exposed her silhouette, causing his mouth to water. Though he had seen her in this attire during the secret nightly rendezvous, this time there was nothing to stop the couple from crossing that well defined line of propriety. Now they were wed and could partake of one another as they yearned.
And Edward yearned.
He held his inner feral beast in check, not wishing to frighten his bride. Instead, he lifted his hands to undress, but Isabella gently knocked them away. "It is a wife's privilege to aid her husband in dressing and undressing," she told him in a quiet voice.
She unpinned Edward's plaid from his shoulder and drew the tartan fabric down to where it belted at his waist. Once the belt was undone, she drew the fabric away from where it encircled his hips. Placing it on the floor, Isabella then drew his shirt over his head, leaving her husband in his shift as well. Isabella met his verdant eyes again and boldly pulled the hem of her shift up and over her head, leaving her completely bared.
Edward's prominent erection bobbed under the fabric of his shift and he swallowed hard. He'd never seen such beauty; his hands longed to explore the lily-white soft skin and luscious curves that had been hidden from him. He knew the dark curls nestled at the juncture of her thighs held the Heaven he desperately wanted to enter.
A strangled whimper broke the silence of the room and Edward realized it came from him. "So beautiful," he whispered and watched Isabella's fetching blush creep all the way down past the tops of her full breasts.
Again, he made that noise and grabbed his Bella to hold her close. Edward's mouth found hers and he greedily explored with his tongue. His fingers pressed into the soft flesh of her body, traveling over the curves of her hips. Isabella melted in his arms, swept up in the whirl of love and desire and passion he incited within her.
Her own hands gripped the linen of his shift and tugged. She wanted to see her husband and the insistent member that was poking her stomach. Edward pulled away and let her draw his shift up and over his head.
Isabella's eyes and fingertips wandered over the hard planes and lines of his contoured body. She traced the ridges and valleys of his muscles until they tapered off into a v at his hips. Edward watched her eyes grow wide as she focused on his cock standing tall and alert pointing straight at her.
Her tongue peeked out to lick her lips and the sight caused his staff to twitch again. She examined with rapt attention as the purplish head poked farther out from the skin covering it. Isabella trailed her hand along the velvety skin, startled to feel how hard he was beneath.
Edward hissed at her touch and locked down his muscles to keep from ravishing her. He kept reminding himself to go slow and be gentle. His wife was precious and deserved to be worshipped, not mauled.
With his palms on her hips, he guided Isabella over to the bed and laid her across it. Her hair had become lose when she undressed and he ran his fingers through the tresses to spread them across the pillows and sheets. She was stunning.
"My Bella, thou are breathtaking." His lips caressed a sensitive spot behind her earlobe. "I cannae believe thee are mine." He shifted to her throat. "I swear to adore and revere ye, soul and body, for all the rest of our days together." Edward's warm, wet mouth enclosed on one pert nipple and Isabella cried out, arching her back.
She'd not felt anything like this electric tension zipping through her body. Hot, wet pleasure pooled at her center and she shifted her thighs together on instinct to seek out friction. Edward's gentle fingers grazed over one thigh to slip between them, coaxing her to part her legs. The heady scent of her arousal slammed into him, bringing Edward ever closer to the edge. His cock was weeping with the need to claim his bride, but Edward denied his own satisfaction. Only his Bella mattered right now.
He sat up and Isabella whined. She wanted his mouth back on her breast, teasing and nipping, sending tendrils of jolting pleasure to her core. Edward shifted her legs to spread them wide so he could kneel between. The very sight of her laid out on the bed, thighs parted to reveal glistening curls, and her intoxicating scent hanging in the air made Edward growl out loud.
"Aye," Isabella confirmed with eyes so dilated with lust only a small rim of brown was visible. "Take me, my husband. Make me a true wife."
Edward gnashed his teeth and gripped the sheet covering the bed. "Soon, my love. First, I wish to try to give ye the pleasure I ken I will receive from yer body. I dinnae think I will last long when coupling with ye. Will ye let me touch ye?"
Her breasts heaved with labored breathing. "I am yers, Edward. Do with me as ye will."
Edward crashed his lips to hers, wildly plunging his tongue in to tangle with hers. One hand shifted to the dark curls covering her sex while the other gripped her hip. Isabella yelled into Edward's mouth as his fingers found her for the first time. He traced her slick folds, dipping to circle her entrance before sliding up to seek out the nub of her pleasure Edward had heard about.
His own father had told him about a woman's pleasure when he came of an age to partake in those kind of activities. It was then he'd also impressed upon him the importance of waiting for the woman he chose to be his bride.
Isabella's sharp cry and buck of her hips was the confirmation that he'd found it when his fingers flicked across the small nub. He brought his thumb to circle against it and Isabella thrashed her head on the pillow.
Moans and stammered pleas fell from Isabella's mouth as Edward teased her into a frenzy. She did not understand what was happening to her body, hot tension coiling tightly at her apex. It was delicious and wonderful, yet bordering on painful all at once. She could sense something more waiting just beyond her reach. "Please, please, Edward," she begged, but for what Isabella did not know.
Edward probed on finger at her entrance and slid it into her slippery heat when he met no resistance. Isabella cried out loudly, pressing her hips hard into his hand. Edward kept the circling of her bundle of nerves constant while pumping his finger in and out. After a few moments, he added a second and groaned aloud as her body stretched to accommodate his invasion.
Pressing his thumb a little harder, he felt her walls tighten around his fingers and rubbed faster. Isabella's breath seized as the coil snapped and she was flooded with the most intense, brilliant pleasure she'd ever felt. Ecstasy sang through her blood and Isabella chanted Edward's name like a prayer.
As she floated back down to Earth from the Heaven Edward had taken her to, she languidly opened her eyes to see her lover staring with hooded eyes at her. "Bella," he whispered and pulled his hand from her sex.
She rose to sit up and grabbed his head, kissing him hard. A low rumble vibrated in his chest. She brushed her lips along his skin to his ear. "Oh, my heart, twas incredible and sinful and I will crave ye to give me that euphoric bliss everyday of eternity. Take from my body the same pleasure ye have just given me. Have me, Edward."
Edward flipped Isabella onto her back with a low roar. He could no longer hold back the blazing desire he had for his wife. He gripped her thighs and caressed down to her knees. He hitched her legs up around his hips and he looked down into her molten chocolate brown eyes.
"Forgive me the pain I will cause thee, mo gràdhach," he pleaded.
"There is nothing to forgive. It is part of my gift to thee," she murmured and lovingly ran a hand through his hair.
Edward aligned his cock with her entrance and pressed inside. All the breath left his lungs in a long, low moan of pleasure as he sheathed himself in liquid fire. Her slick, heated core stretched around him until he paused when he encountered her maidenhead.
With a small nod from Isabella, he pulled back slightly to surge forward and bury himself completely to the hilt. He heard his bride's sharp inhaling and whispered his apologies while he waited for the tension in her body to drain away.
After a moment, Isabella kissed him tenderly. "I love thee. Please, I wish to give thee back the pleasure ye gave to me. Show me how to love thee with my body, Edward."
He moaned and drew back his hips before thrusting inside again. Edward felt his orgasm building at the base of his erection and knew it would not be long. Isabella surprised him by pushing her hips up to meet his and her own fluttering mewl of pleasure from the motion sent Edward spiraling into the abyss.
~~ MUT ~~
February 13, 1692, 12:00am
The wind shrieked and moaned outside the tiny cottage, whipping snow and ice through the air. A blizzard was bearing down on the quiet town, but the lovers ensconced in a small cottage, with a fire blazing in the hearth and in the bed, felt not one second of the chill. For two days, Edward and Isabella had partaken of wine, cheese, bread, and one another's bodies. All else ceased to exist in the world, save the love and insatiable lust between them.
Edward had learned his bride's body quickly. Her sweet sounds and fluttering touches as he teased and licked and plundered her gave him the roadmap for her completion. He loved seeing her head thrown back, hearing his name fall from her lips, and feeling the clenching of her walls as she rode out her pleasure.
And in turn, his generous and loving wife always gave back with a voracious intensity. Edward's shy, sweet Bella disappeared when she was intimate with him. Whatever wicked deed he or she could think of, the lovers turned from fantasy into reality.
When Isabella had first straddled her husband, it brought her first orgasm during intercourse as Edward's clever fingers had easy access to the small bud that was the seat of her pleasure. Every time after, no matter if Edward was above, below, or behind as they curled like spoons on their sides, he always found a way to travel his hand to where their bodies were one to ensure his bride found her Heaven with him.
Now in the dead of the night, a noise had awoken Isabella as she lie tangled and naked with her husband. She sighed with contentment and snuggled deeper into his warm body. She counted herself as the luckiest of women to have such an adept and giving husband both in and out of the marital bed. She wiggled her bottom a little and Edward grunted in his sleep. His hand clamped down on her hip and she felt him thrust his hardening staff that was nestled between her cheeks.
To her utter surprise and delight, Edward's hand slipped down to cup her throbbing sex. She moaned wantonly when even in his sleep Edward's fingers pressed on her pleasure spot. When her sounds woke him, Edward jerked into a half sitting position, leaning protectively over his wife.
His emerald eyes darted over her enticing form and he realized where his hand and his cock were. He jumped back to give her a small measure of space. "I'm sorry, my love. Even sleep does not allow ye a reprieve from my salacious beast's craving of yer body."
Isabella rolled onto her back with a wicked lick of her lips. "I should be the one begging pardon. I was arousing ye while ye slept." She ran the tips of her fingers along his shaft and caught her lower lip between her teeth. "I've need of ye again, Edward."
He released a pleased rumble from his throat and pounced upon his wife. "Temptress," he suckled her earlobe. "Vixen," his hands cupped her breasts. "Siren of my heart," he ground his hips to hers, cock nestled between her folds.
"Edward!" she cried out, "Take me, please."
"Oh, aye, my wife. I will fill thy body with mine until we are both satisfied," he growled in her ear and felt her shiver of want. Edward rose up on his knees in a sudden motion causing Isabella's eyes to pop open.
He smirked at her and reached down to turn Isabella onto her front. He griped her hips and pulled her bottom up in the air, giving him a spectacular view of her glistening, pink core. Edward caressed one hand over her bottom. "I wish to have thee like this, sweeting."
Isabella pushed up on her hands so she was on all fours. Tossing her hair over one shoulder, she looked back at him and pressed her backside into him. "Please do," she answered as if politely offering a cool refreshment on a hot summer day.
Without hesitation, Edward grabbed her hips and plunged into her wet heat. As always, the feeling of being sheathed inside her sweet body made Edward loose his mind and he pounded repeatedly into his Bella. She moaned and uttered scandalous words of encouragement as each thrust wound her higher and higher to the precipice of the fall.
Edward felt his entrance to Heaven barreling down on him and reached a hand around to tease his wife into oblivion. As soon as Isabella felt Edward's fingers press down on her sensitive nub, she shattered into a thousand pieces. Her walls clamped down and she sobbed out his name, lost in the oblivion of pleasure. Edward groaned and thrust one last time, letting her body milk his.
Drained of his strength, Edward withdrew and collapsed back to the bed, taking his Bella with him. Cupping her glowing face in his hands, he slowly kissed his bride. She completed him in ways he never imagined. She was truly his soul's match in every way.
The couple was still kissing and catching their breath when a booming knock landed on the door. Isabella jumped with a gasp and Edward instinctively held her close. They both stared at the door in disbelief. Who would be calling at this hour of night? Had they heard the couple's wild lovemaking just moments before? The knock sounded again.
"Lieutenant Cullen! I ken ye're in there. I heard ye fucking yer pretty wife. She's a feisty one."
Isabella covered her mouth in horror and closed her eyes as shame and humiliation poured over her. The officer at their door had heard her brazen, sinful words and sounds as she let Edward take her in the manner of mating beasts. She grasped the blankets with her other hand and pulled them over her bare flesh.
Edward was on his feet as soon as the words met his ears. Caring naught for the blizzard raging outside or the fact that he was naked as the day he was born, he yanked open the door and swung his fist with the full force of his weight. He connected with the man's temple and the man dropped to the ground.
Edward gave a roar and lifted the man he now recognized as Ensign James by the front of his shirt with one hand. He repeatedly punched the Ensign's face until blood flowed freely and Edward threw him to the ground, when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder.
Edward snapped his head in that direction and glared menacingly. "Easy now, brother," Jasper calmed. "I mean ye no harm and I'm sure Ensign James doesnae either."
Huffing through his clenched teeth, Edward snarled, "Ye dinnae hear what he said about my Bella. What he heard transpiring between us. He deserves worse."
"Edward?" Isabella's soft but tearful voice called out to him.
Edward spun to aid his wife, but Jasper paused him. "Take a few moments, but the Captain has called for us all. Hurry before ye catch frostbite in places ye'll regret." At the teasing words, Edward was hit with the fact that he was shaking not just from anger, but also the freezing cold outside.
He hurried back inside, firmly shutting the door and rushing to Isabella's side. "Are ye all right, sweeting? Dinnae heed a word that louse uttered. We've nothing to be ashamed of. We are wed and may partake of our marriage bed at any time and in any way that pleases the both of us."
She nodded with a small sniffle and then grabbed his hand. Inspecting it, she asked, "Did ye hurt yer hand, my love?" There was some light swelling and hints of purple, but nothing that Edward couldn't handle.
"I'm well, mo gràdhach. Do not fret over me." Edward leaned in to kiss her quickly. "I must go. The Captain has ordered all men to gather."
Isabella worried her hands together as he dressed in a hurry. "What would he want at this time of night? Surely it must be dire to call on ye now?" Her stomach was in knots of worry.
"All will be well, Bella. Worry not," he reassured her, but also could not think as to why they would be called in the dead of night.
He finished with his clothing and pulled Isabella to him. Edward pressed his mouth to hers, letting his tongue invade. He lifted his head, "I must go, they are waiting. Please sleep, my love. I will be back in yer arms quick as can be."
"I love thee. Be safe and hurry back."
"Aye. I love thee, too." And with those words, he was gone.
~~ MUT ~~
"Isabella," Edward urgently said and shook her shoulder. She woke in a daze, blinking up at Edward.
"Ye're back," she smiled.
"Ye must dress. Quickly!" Edward began gathering items into a small satchel for Isabella to carry. "I– I've terrible news. We received our orders. Tis not to collect the tax…" his voice trailed off as he looked at her with an ashen face.
She crossed over to him, grasping his hands. "What is it, my heart? Whatever it is, we will face it together."
"By the King's special order, we are to slaughter the town."
She jerked back from him. "What? No, no! That cannae be true! Why? What have we done for all to deserve murder?"
"Yer clan Chief, MacIain, was late in pledging his oath to the King. The King will not stand for it," Edward whispered.
"But… but thou will not slay my kin? They are yers now, too." Tears fell in silent tracks down her face. Her entire village massacred? She could not contemplate such evil.
"Nay, never! But you must hurry, Bella. It is set to start at five in the morn, 'tis not long from now. I must get thee to safety and warn as many others as I can. I am so very sorry, mo gràdhach. I swear on my own life, I dinnae ken this was our purpose. None of us did!"
She nodded and dressed in a blur of thoughts of how to get to her parents fastest, where to hide, and whom else she might warn on the way. Her breaths became rapid and shallow, teetering on the edge of hyperventilating. Finally, she whirled to face Edward. He was pacing by the door, a small bundle waiting on the table.
"Ye are wearing yer warmest clothing? Have ye any extra cloaks to layer over? That damn blizzard out there will only make things worse." Edward darted his eyes over his love. He had to keep her safe above all else. If anything should happen to her… He couldn't fathom a life without her in it.
Isabella nodded, her face pale. "I've my thickest wool on and have my cloak. I also have a spare at my parent's home.
"Good. Come, sweeting, we best go as quickly as possible." Edward grasped her hand and led them out into the whiteout blizzard conditions. The couple trudged through the building snow as fast as was possible.
The echoes of the first gunshot reverberated in the air for a moment. Isabella stumbled with a scream.
Her body felt like it vibrated with adrenaline and terror. How would they ever survive this?
"Hurry, Bella!" Edward urged and she found the strength to run in the heavy snow. When her parent's home came into view, she nearly wept with joy. Edward fell upon the door, banging his fist furiously.
Charles answered, yelling loudly. "I'm coming, quit that racket!"
"Da!," Isabella sobbed. "Th– the regiment… shooting everyone! W– we must g– go!"
"What are ye talking about, child? Yer speaking nonsense," Charles replied with a frown and furrowed brow.
"The regiment received orders, sir. The Chief was late in his oath to the King, the King has decreed the town be slaughtered." Edward hastily spoke, but used a steady and sure voice, never looking away from Charles' eyes.
"Surely, they'll not follow through…" Charles breathed in disbelief.
The sudden sound of another round of gunshots made them all startle. "Aye, sir. Some are."
Charles sucked in a deep breath and then spun to dress. "Ye mother, she's still at the McCarty's. I must go to her."
"Da, go up onto the mountain. I'll meet thee in the cave of Ossian with mama," Isabella objected. "I can leave now!" Her heart pounded in her chest, thinking of nothing but her family's safety.
"Nay, Isabella. 'Tis my duty as a husband to protect Renee and as a father to protect thee. It will be safest for ye to leave now. I'll not delay in warning the McCartys and bringing yer mother up the Pap to the cave." Charles spoke with authority and Isabella knew it was fruitless to argue.
"Please, be safe, Da," she begged and threw her arms around his neck, hugging tight.
Charles returned the sentiment affectionately. "Aye, my daughter. I will."
She allowed Edward to escort her back out into the blustery weather. They rushed to the edge of the village, locating the entrance of the trail up the mountain. The shots of gunfire grew more frequent, and the shouts and wails of the townspeople could be heard over the wind.
Edward gathered his precious bride to him. "I must go back, mo gràdhach. I have to aid others if I can. Will thou be able to find the cave on yer own?"
With trembling lips, Isabella nodded. "Edward… what if ye are killed?"
He shook his head. "I am an officer with them, they will not harm me."
She blinked and tears fell to her cheeks. "But– "
He placed his fingertips on her lips. "Do not fret, my Bella. I shall return to find thee. I swear."
Reluctantly, she nodded. Edward placed a burning kiss to her lips. "Stay safe and warm. Hide yerself well, mo gràdhach." He pressed a small pistol into her hands. "Protect yerself at all costs, Bella."
She flinched at the feeling of the cold steel, but nodded. "Ye keep yerself safe, Edward. I have not had my fill of a lifetime with ye as yet." She pressed her mouth to his one last time. "I love thee, Edward, with all my heart and soul."
"I love thee, too, my Isabella. Ye are my life now," he whispered and let her go. She whimpered, but turned and started up the path. Edward watched her silhouette disappear into the darkness before returning down to the village.
Chaos reigned below and he was glad Isabella was safe from it. He banged on every door he could to alert anyone who had yet to realize the danger that had set upon them. Sobbing women with their children ran through the streets and he directed them to hide up on the Pap.
Meanwhile, Isabella struggled up the hill seeking out the crooked pine that marked the trail to the cave. She was losing hope that she hadn't already passed it when suddenly it was before her. She darted off the trail, happy to be more hidden from view. The cave was not far, and within a quarter of a mile she was at the mouth. Isabella hesitated for a brief moment; what if there was an animal in there?
Hefting the weight of Edward's gun in her hands, she decided to chance it. Thankfully, she was the only inhabitant of the cave. Isabella burrowed at the back of the cave; snuggling under her extra cloak and a blanket Edward had packed. She jumped every time a gunshot rang out and they sounded as often as fireflies blinking in the summer twilight. Isabella shivered and forced herself to take deep, even breaths.
It felt as if she had been waiting hours when only minutes had passed as the first sounds of life on the mountain reached her ears. Footsteps came closer and she froze. Isabella didn't move or blink or breathe, only her heart fluttered like a hummingbird behind her ribs. She waited to see who was entering the cave, hands at the ready to fire the gun if needed.
The single flame of a candle came into view. Isabella's throat constricted with fear, until a quiet baby cry sounded. A shuddering sigh of relief whooshed out of her lungs. "Who is there?"
"Guidwife Swan? I mean, Guidwife Cullen?"
Isabella beamed with happiness. "Aye, Guidy McCarty. Come closer, I am alone here." Rosalie and her hulking husband, Emmett, appeared in view, their features flickering in the faint candlelight. Rosalie cradled a tiny baby in her arms.
"Oh, the new babe! How fair thee?" Isabella asked glancing between the sweet, chubby face and Rosalie's.
"We both are as well as can be expected. Hiking up this mountain was near impossible for me having birthed a baby yesterday. Emmett had to half carry me. But we are here and safe." Despite the circumstance, Rosalie glowed with new mother's pride and love as she looked at her child. "This is little Henry Dale McCarty."
Isabella leaned closer to examine him. "Ye've a fine boy there. Congratulations to ye both."
"Thank ye, Guidy Cullen," Emmett replied with a dip of his chin. "We owe our lives to yer father and husband. They led us safely out of the village."
"Where are my parents? Is my husband with them?"
Emmett shook his head. "We thought it best to separate in case we were pursued. I imagine they shall be here soon."
The baby gave a small whimper again and Isabella jumped up to help make Rosalie more comfortable. She wrapped her blanket around the both of them and settled her on a small ledge that could double as a bench.
Emmett stood over them for a moment before turning back to Isabella. "Yer mother and father should be here soon. They were not far behind."
"That is good," she murmured, ringing her hands. The nearness of her clansmen helped keep her terror at bay, but tiny rivulets of it leaked past her defenses bit by bit. She would not rest easy until both her parents and her husband were whole and with her again.
The sky began to lighten almost imperceptibly at the mouth of the cave. The clouds of the storm masked the dawn, but slight shades of gray could be seen. Occasional gunshots were still heard, but slower than before.
Rustling of tree branches and footsteps echoed close by. All three of the cave occupants stiffened and Isabella wordlessly held out the pistol to Emmett. His eyes widened in surprise for a moment, but he grasped the hilt with a sure hand. The baby made a snuffling sound and Rosalie quickly soothed him.
"Look lively, men. There's plenty a folk hiding away up here," a male voice rang out. "We'll finish what we started."
Isabella's terror erupted through her veins. Her palms began to sweat, her breathing was shaky, and her body trembled silently.
"There is nothing that way, I've already investigated. Come, search this side of the mountain," Edward's voice rang out. "That's an order!" He shouted after a moment of silence and the footsteps fell away from the cave.
Isabella exhaled the breath she'd been holding and gasped in great, shuddering breaths of relief. Her Edward was still alive and well, protecting her always. Rosalie reached out a hand to touch Isabella's. Isabella returned the gesture with a watery smile. He was close, but still out of her reach.
From around the other corner, Charles and Renee stealthily entered the cave. "Mama! Da!" Isabella whispered and ran to them. They embraced their daughter and Isabella wept silently into her mother's shoulder. She was overjoyed to see them, whole and hale.
"My darling girl," her mother murmured into Isabella's hair. "Thou are safe, just as yer husband promised."
"Aye," Isabella said in a wobbling voice. "I heard his voice diverting others away from here."
"He is a good man. Too few of his brothers in arms are the same," Charles growled lowly. "Men and women lie dead in the streets or their beds. Houses set alight to burn to the ground. How many more shall perish up here on the Pap? This blizzard will not be kind to those exposed to it."
"How long do ye think we shall need to hide?" Rosalie whispered and Renee moved to check on the new mother and babe.
"Edward will come for us, when it is safe," Isabella answered. She had a meager portion of food in her sack and began to divvy it up into small rations for five adults. As the sounds of gunfire and screaming slowly ceased, she began to have hope that her husband would soon reappear.
As the time passed and the storm moved on, the group huddled together for warmth, too afraid to light a fire. The main concern was keeping Rosalie and little Henry warmest and comfortable. Isabella tried not to imagine the possibilities of why Edward had not come for them, as it had been quiet for some time.
The day slowly ebbed away and Isabella found herself nestled in with her mother and father to sleep for the night. Emmett and Rosalie were on her other side, snuggled tight to keep little Henry warm.
As the night wore on, Isabella lost her fight to the fears she'd kept at bay. Where was her husband? Why had he not come for her? Had the other troops discovered he had been aiding the townsfolk and taken him prisoner or worse? She could not stop shaking and knew it wasn't due to the cold. She closed her eyes as tears leaked from them.
~~ MUT ~~
February 14, 1692
"Isabella? Bella, are thou all right?"
Even in her dreams, Edward protected her.
"Bella!" he called again to her and Isabella jolted upright.
Shaking off her sleepy stupor, she jumped to her feet. "Edward?" she whispered. Heart racing, she dared allow herself a small measure of hope. Her handsome husband stepped into view as dawn was breaking outside.
"Edward!" she cried and threw herself at him. He caught his bride and held her as tightly as he dared without hurting her.
"Bella, mo gràdhach. Thee are safe and well. Thank the Lord above!" Edward said with fervent relief.
Isabella wept openly in his arms. She sobbed for happiness that her heart was back with her. For the utter sorrow at the clansmen she'd lost in the massacre and exposure to the harsh elements yesterday. Choking, hiccupping cries strangled in her throat and released in stuttering, mournful wails. All Edward could do was hold his love and whisper soothing words in her ear. Eventually, the tension and terror of the past day's events subsided and Isabella was able to calm herself again.
She cupped her husband's face in her hands, looking him over for any signs of injury. Finding none, she kissed him hard and with a desperate edge.
When they broke their kiss, Isabella rested her head on his shoulder, unable to part from his embrace yet. "Where have thou been, my heart? I dreaded the worst!" Isabella chastised Edward and tilted her head to let him see the tears sparkling on her lashes.
"Aye, I ken and I am sorry, sweeting. I dinnae want to draw attention to where ye hid, just in case. But 'tis all over now. I am loathe to tell ye, but yer village lies in ruins. I am truly sorry for all yer pain and loss." Edward rubbed soothing circles on her back as he spoke.
"What will happen now?" she softly asked, hearing the stirring of the others behind her.
"Tis over. The orders have been deemed filled and all troops are pulling out. No more shall fall. If it pleases thee, we shall return to my home in the Lowlands. Build our house and live the rest of our lives in peace. I resigned my commission and Captain Campbell was forced to accept it. We are free to leave."
Edward's answer soothed Isabella's soul. "Aye. I would like that very much."
Isabella's parents and the McCartys stepped closer. "What shall all of ye do?" she asked them.
"We will rebuild our town. We're a strong lot and willnae let the English triumph over us. Glen Coe will thrive again." Charles answered with one small, but definitive nod.
Isabella hummed in agreement. They would all pick up the broken pieces of their lives and fit them back together again. She had lost much, but gained a love that was irreplaceable in exchange. Isabella was all too happy to be at her husband's side, where together they would build a home and, she hoped, a large family to fill their lives and hearts to bursting with love.
~~ MUT ~~
One year later
Isabella panted as she rocked her hips over her husband's staff. Her protruding belly had made being intimate difficult of late, but Edward loved nothing more than a challenge. He found her round stomach and fuller breasts enamoring and was more than happy to help satisfy her ravenous hormones.
"Edward," she keened and ground harder into him, and it was almost Edward's undoing. Fortunately for both of them, his stamina had grown in bounds since the start of their marriage. "That's it, my Bella," he murmured as his fingers stroked her most intimate spot, "Let yer pleasure come."
With a sharp yell, Isabella lost herself to the abyss, bringing her husband along with her. She leaned over him wearily as she surfaced again and Edward lifted his arms to cradle her into a laying position next to him. Isabella sighed loudly with satisfaction and brushed a kiss along his jaw.
"Mmm, husband. Thou are always more than accommodating in filling my carnal hunger," she giggled. "I suppose we should rise and tend to our guests?"
Edward grunted, all too content to hold his sweet and very pregnant wife in his arms. "Aye. I might have a thing or two to do at the shop as well."
"Ye'll not go too far, will ye?" Isabella asked, feeling a tightening of muscles across her abdomen. Her lips lifted up in the hopes that their little one would make his appearance soon and did not want Edward too far to be reached in time for him to witness the arrival.
"Nay, my love. My da will make any deliveries so I shall be at the apothecary, should yer father come to find me if needed." His hand rubbed over a lump where an elbow or knee of their child poked out from beneath Isabella's skin. He leaned over and kissed her belly, making Isabella grin with delight. He helped her out of bed and they dressed, Isabella still insisting on wrapping Edward's plaid around his waist and pinning it at his shoulder.
As the lovers exited their room, they were greeted with the smell of fresh cooked bacon. "Mama, that smells wonderful," Isabella complimented and moved closer to steal a slice.
"Morning, daughter." Renee glanced knowingly at her. "Isabella, ye might have to keep a bit more quiet once the babe comes. Wouldnae want little ears hearing such sounds."
"Mama!" Isabella cried, blushing and whirled away to tend to setting the table for breakfast. Charles entered with firewood in hand to see his wife smirking as she cooked, his daughter muttering under her breath as she placed out plates, and his son-in-law standing in a corner and looking for all the world like he wished to be anywhere else on Earth.
Soon enough breakfast was ready and the four gathered round the table to eat. Isabella looked around at her parents whom she hadn't seen in a year and her husband whom she fell more in love with everyday. A smile graced her face as happiness bubbled in her soul.
She gently stroked one hand over her belly to soothe the wiggling child inside. Her little Masen Charles Cullen. A boy, she was sure of it. She never would have guessed how full her life would be this time last year. Her world had been turned upside down, but now life was starting anew and she couldn't have asked for a more perfect outcome.