I am still in shock to have received Judges Choice, Awarded by Dreamweaver94~ Literotica Runner Up in the Age of Edward contest! In this fic you will find one of my very first literary loves, but I won't spoil it for you. You must read to find out! Huge thanks to Midnight Cougar for beta'ing this bad boy. And to Cared, for keeping me on track both historically and with my Britishisms. I couldn't have done this without you two!

This story is dedicated to my bosom friend. My kindred spirit both in RL and the fic world. She is my "Diana", or "Angela" as the case may be, and I am so honored to have her in my life. Midnight Cougar, you are more than I ever could have thought possible with finding an "online" friend. The years we have known each other have only grown us stronger and I am looking forward to many more with you. I love you! Thank you for all you do for me both in fanfic and out. Thank you for being my bosom friend.


Medicine from His Heart

August 1892

The heat felt nice, warming Isabella's cheeks as she walked the dusty roads toward town. In no time at all the air would start to cool and the leaves would turn from bright green to beautiful reds and golds. Summers were always a peaceful time in Meadowlea, Prince Anthony Island, filled with picnics on the shore, clam bakes and bonfires, but Isabella welcomed fall like no other season. She loved the return of her previous students and the excitement of new children to her one room schoolhouse every year.

This trip in particular was one of the things Isabella looked forward to; shopping for last minute school supplies, buying fabric to make a couple of new dresses, and to stock up on food items so as not to make too many trips to town at the beginning of the school year. Usually she had her adopted father, Charlie, bring the wagon to carry her heavy supplies back. But he was getting on in years and she didn't want to be a bother, so she was determined to do it all herself. After all, she was a healthy twenty-two year old woman who ought to be able to carry an armload of packages.

Isabella made her way to the front counter to start her first order of business in the store, choosing her fabric so Mrs. Whitlock could cut it from the bolts while she shopped. The ringing of the bell over the door alerted the older woman to Isabella's presence and she quickly bustled her way from the storage area in the back of the store.

"Good morning, Isabella," Mrs. Whitlock stated brusquely as she wiped her hands on her apron. The apron strained over her large, heaving bosom as she walked and her gray hair was tucked tightly into a bun at the back of her neck, trying its hardest to adhere to the wishes of this brisk lady. "Shopping for the new school year, I presume?"

"Yes, I am, Mrs. Whitlock. And I would like to have a few yards of your beautiful fabric, as well. But I do need a few moments to decide which ones, please."

Mrs. Whitlock nodded and moved to straighten the bolts of fabric so Isabella could easily peruse her options.

After careful consideration, Isabella pointed out the patterns she had chosen and informed the proprietor of the amounts she needed of each. As Isabella started to turn her head to collect the rest of her wares, a wagon with an unknown family pulled up outside the window.

Noticing her gaze, Mrs. Whitlock glanced out the glass pane as well and, being the nosy busybody she was, she couldn't wait to tell Isabella about the new family that had arrived.

"Those are the Cullens," Mrs. Whitlock said as she nodded toward the folks climbing off their wagon. "They moved here from across the pond, somewhere in England, if I'm not mistaken."

Isabella nodded absently; her attention fixed on the younger of the two men. The man appeared to be fairly young, and she watched as the muscles under his shirt and suspenders stretched as he helped two small children to the ground. His hair was hidden beneath a flannel cap but there were curls of bronze escaping over his forehead. Isabella stared for a moment longer as he took off his cap and wiped the sweat off his brow, revealing a close cropped head topped with curly, penny-colored hair.

Apparently, Mrs. Whitlock was still speaking. "Both brothers will be taking over the practice once Doc Marshall officially retires next week," she was saying. "And I'm sure you'll have the elder brother's children enrolled in school. I believe Mrs. Marshall told me they were nine years old."

Knowing Mrs. Whitlock's propensity for chatter, Isabella knew she better stop her while she had the chance. Although she would love to hear more about the younger, new doctor, she had business to take care of and didn't want to be stuck in there all day.

"I can't wait to meet the children. They'll be charming, I'm sure," she said kindly. "But I need to pick up some other items before I leave. Oh, and one more thing, I'll be needing a pound of rice as well, Mrs. Whitlock."

"Jasper!" the woman yelled toward the back and waited until the older gentleman shuffled his way from the back. "Isabella is in need of some rice; can you fill her up a bag please?"

The man sighed quietly before he spoke. "Of course, my dear, I'll be back in a jiffy." And with a small smile in the direction of Isabella, he turned around and left the front of the store once again.

Isabella then perused the rest of the shop, filling her small, metal pail with a few of the necessities. All the while her eyes couldn't help but glance out the window every now and again. She chided herself with how easily distracted she had been and told herself it was due to curiosity of newcomers to town. She would not let herself think anything of the good looks of the young man.

No, she would keep her mind on her task at hand and not the handsome stranger with the rugged jaw, high cheekbones, and luscious, pink lips. Nor would she think about how sweet he seemed with his nephew and niece as he unloaded them from their perch on the back of the wagon. No, she had much more important matters with which to occupy her mind.

Bringing her purchases to the front once more, Isabella waited until Mrs. Whitlock informed her of the total that would be put on the Swan's account. Isabella dearly hoped this season would be better for her aging father. They needed to keep as much of the farm going as possible this year; Isabella's teaching position wasn't nearly enough to cover the mortgage of the home they shared.

As Isabella gathered her purchases in her arms and said her goodbyes, Mrs. Alice Whitlock, of course, had to have the last word.

"We'll be seeing you on Sunday for the all church picnic, correct? We want to give the Cullens a big Meadowlea welcome."

"Oh, yes, I'm sure mother, father and I will all be there. We'll see you then." Isabella knew nothing of this Sunday's picnic. It seemed that Renee's mind wasn't all it used to be these days.

"Give my best to Renee and Charlie!" Mrs. Whitlock called out as Isabella walked out the door. She nodded her assent and waved with the only thing she had free, her elbow, as she made her way out the door and down the steps. For once it seemed Mrs. Whitlock's gossip had been useful.

She had barely made it a ways down the dirt road back toward Blue Ridges, as her home was lovingly called, jostling her precarious armful, when she heard footsteps making their way at a run behind her. Before she could turn around to see who was so intent on catching up with her, a man's voice called out.

"Miss, let me help you with that!" The posh, English voice was so close to Isabella's ear that she jumped in surprise, knocking her newly acquired items into the dirt below.

"Pardon me, Miss. I'm so sorry," he continued on. "I didn't mean to frighten you. I was merely trying to offer my assistance."

Isabella was already on the ground, gathering as many objects as she could and stuffing them back into her pail. She looked up when the man, who was now kneeling in front of her, dusted off the brown wrapping, thankfully covering the fabric, and handed it to her. She reached toward the offering and as their hands touched, the air seemed to crackle between them. Her eyes flashed to his.

His eyes were a brilliant, green color, the same shade as the leaves in spring and the meadow after a heavy rain. They were filled with chagrin as he ducked his eyes back to linger on his hand, his long eyelashes resting on his prominent, now flushed, cheekbones.

"I think you've done more than enough to help," Isabella said shortly, knowing she was more upset with herself than him and there was nothing she could do about it. "I think I can take it from here, Mr.…?"

"Cullen. I'm Edward Cullen," the posh man answered. He straightened his long frame, and for the first time Isabella could see precisely how tall this gorgeous man was compared to her. There was no denying his good looks any longer either, but Isabella would not be swayed by appearance or charm. She knew more than most how deceiving those could be.

"Seemed like you weren't managing all that well earlier; from the looks of it." He chuckled as he spoke and there was a gleam in his eye. How dare he laugh at her, Isabella thought, her temper flaring.

"It's a pleasure making your acquaintance," Isabella spoke haughtily as she stepped to the side so she could pass this disarming stranger, before she was any ruder to him. She hated acting this way, but her guard was up and it would take more than an offer of assistance to dissuade her. Besides, it wasn't proper for a woman to walk alone with a gentleman she had just met.

She left the man standing there slack-jawed for a moment until he got his bearings again and she heard him call, "I hope to see you at Sunday's picnic!"

Isabella turned to see him lifting his cap in farewell; she shook her head in disbelief at the gall of this man and continued on her way. Hopefully it would be easy enough to keep herself from his company the day of the gathering.

Taking a sip of lemonade from her cup, Isabella's eyes roamed over the green lawn surreptitiously. It was awfully hard not to let her attention drift toward the crowd of young women congregating around a certain handsome doctor. The airs they were putting on were quite preposterous and Isabella couldn't help but roll her eyes at them.

The elder Doctor and Mrs. Cullen were making the rounds with Reverend Black and his wife, introducing themselves to the townsfolk. They entered the small group of chairs where Isabella and her family were seated and made their introductions.

"Charlie, Renee. This is the new doctor fresh off the boat from England, Doctor Carlisle Cullen and his wife, Esme," Reverend Black informed them.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Charlie returned as he stood up to give both Cullens a hearty handshake. Renee quickly followed suit with a more demure shake of her own.

"And this is our daughter, Isabella," Charlie continued, his voice filled with pride and he puffed out his chest. "She's the finest teacher Meadowlea has ever had."

"Oh, lovely," Esme Cullen cooed, her voice as refined as her brother-in-law's. Isabella's mind couldn't help but recall his voice from their earlier encounter. "Our twins, Emmett and Rosalie, will be starting with you in the fall."

Esme pointed to two small children playing relay races across the lawn. The children held no resemblance to twins. Rosalie with her petite frame and long, blonde hair tied with a ribbon, and Emmett who was thick and stocky with a mop of dark brown hair. Isabella wondered briefly what their personalities were like and how they would fare in a new school setting.

"I am delighted to have them," Isabella returned with a smile. "They seem to be making friends already."

The women chatted for a moment about the joys of children, the men about farming and who knew what else, but they were quickly interrupted when Doctor Cullen saw his brother passing by.

"Edward!" he called out in a fatherly tone. "Come meet some more of our new neighbors."

The tall, lanky man came to a stop and introductions were made again, but when he reached Isabella there was a twinkle in his emerald green eyes.

"It's so good to see you again," Edward spoke as he took Isabella's hand in his own and raised it to kiss her knuckles lightly. "I'm glad to see you made it home unscathed the other day. Or at least, one can presume you did, seeing as here you sit."

The smirk on his face was too much, and Isabella quickly pulled her hand away, heat rising to her cheeks. The nerve of this man, she thought to herself, he must think so much of himself.

"Yes, I did. Thank you very much, Mr. Cullen."

"Doctor," he said simply, his eyes boring into hers.

"Excuse me?"

"It's Doctor Cullen. Not mister. Now if you'll excuse me I have some ladies waiting for me. I'm trying to persuade them to partake in the three-legged race with me. That is, unless you would care to accompany me, Miss Swan?"

Isabella couldn't believe how flustered she was becoming in this man's presence. How could she have forgotten he was a doctor? Of course, he wouldn't go by "mister." But there was absolutely no way she would join him in a children's race; the two of them tied together at the ankle, their bodies pressed impossibly close as she felt his muscles move next to hers.

She barely repressed the shiver that was longing to shoot through her body at the thought and she stiffened her posture at his eager smile.

"I'm sorry, but it would be completely unladylike for me to join you in such frivolity," Isabella said, the frost in her tone evident to everyone around them.

"Your loss!" the young doctor called out as he raced off to join the wanton hussies awaiting him. For, in Isabella's mind, that was exactly how they were acting.

It was no surprise that Lauren and Jessica Stanley were the first in line vying for the eligible bachelor's affections. Those two women were shameless, and Isabella shook her head at the obviousness of their intents. Just because they were rich and their father owned the town's bank, the two thought they could have whomever their hearts desired. And it appeared they wanted the new doctor.

"Isn't he the dreamiest thing you've ever seen?" a quiet voice whispered into Isabella's ear, as her friend Angela collapsed dramatically next to her.

Isabella looked at her in shock. Here was level-headed Angela, her bosom friend, sitting there mooning over the newest town member as if he were a piece of meat, just like the rest of the girls in attendance.

"I think he's full of himself," Isabella stated, matter of fact. "And besides, what about your handsome beau, Ben Cheney? Did you forget about him?"

Angela sighed. "Of course I didn't forget about him. But you can't deny the new doctor is absolutely dazzling."

Isabella rolled her eyes again but stopped when Angela gave her a pointed look. "Fine, he is very pleasing to the eye, I'll give him that," she conceded. "But looks aren't everything."

"Isabella, I know you're hurt over what James did to you, but you can't rebuff perfectly fine people because of it. And it seems Doctor Edward might have his eye on you."

Isabella shook her head in disbelief, first that this man seemed to have a nickname already, and secondly, at the preposterous idea from Angela. "What are you talking about? He only came over here because his brother made him."

"Then why is he staring at you right now?" Angela asked with a smug smile, her arms crossed over her chest in satisfaction.

Looking over to the games across the lawn, Isabella could see that indeed Edward seemed to be looking in her direction. He gave her a lopsided grin as he tied his leg to that of Lauren Stanley's and took off toward the starting line of the race.

"It means absolutely nothing," she replied. But it was difficult to keep her eyes off of this infuriating man, especially when she heard his melodic voice ring out over the crowd moments later.

"Bloody hell!" he yelled as he and Lauren toppled to the ground. The laughter coming from them both grating on Isabella's nerves, especially when she heard Edward giggle like a schoolboy.

Quickly, Isabella got up and turned in the opposite direction to leave.

"I think I need to return home and prepare for the new school year," she said to no one in particular and marched off toward home without another word.

The next few weeks were extremely busy for Isabella, or Miss Swan as her students called her. They settled in to the daily routine and it seemed Emmett and Rosalie Cullen were adjusting to their new school with little trouble. At least after the first few days when the other children made fun of their accents, like typical children were wont to do when new students arrived. But soon after there were no issues and the two made friends rather quickly.

Washing the blackboard one fall day, Isabella mused over the arrival of the twins to her school and was more than pleased with their addition to her classroom. They were bright, intelligent children and little Emmet had quite the witty humor. It had been a struggle, on more than a few occasions, for Isabella not to laugh during class. She was enjoying them immensely and managed to steer clear of their uncle since the Sunday picnic a few weeks past.

Unbeknownst to Isabella, Emmett Cullen was going to bring that streak of avoidance to a crashing halt.

The screaming from outside caused Isabella to drop her rag on the floor and sprint, in a most unladylike manner, as fast as she could out of the one room schoolhouse. It took only seconds to assess where the sounds were coming from, and Isabella raced off toward the back of the building.

She pushed her way gently through the crowd of children gathered around what she could only assume was the source of all the ruckus. What she saw made her blood run cold.

Little Emmett Cullen was lying on the ground, pain etched through his chubby face. His arm was twisted at an unnatural angle but oddly, there were no tears on the poor boy's pale cheeks. Isabella knelt down on the ground, careful not to jostle him, and smoothed a lock of sweaty, brown hair off his face.

"Emmett, what happened to you?" Isabella asked in shock, all the while trying to remain calm.

"They dared me," he spoke quietly. "I just had to do it."

Isabella knew there would be plenty of time to hear the whole story later, but right now this boy needed a doctor. And quickly.

"Michael, go find Doctor Cullen and bring him back here. Now!" Isabella directed the older boy standing nearby. She knew from Emmett's injury that moving him would be unwise and calling on his father was the best thing for him at this moment in time.

Michael took off at a run, and Isabella tried to soothe the injured boy, who was trying his hardest to be brave. The tears were starting to pool in his eyes, and he quickly blinked them away.

"The rest of you ought to head on for home now. You don't want to worry your parents," Isabella spoke, her voice filled with authority.

All of the children left with a slowness to their step, not wanting to miss out on the excitement. Seconds later, only Emmett's sister was left, standing there looking as white as a ghost.

"He's going to be okay, Rosalie," Isabella told her reassuringly. "Your father will fix him right up."

Rosalie nodded and sniffed, wiping her face with the back of her hand.

"How did this happen, Emmett?" Isabella asked him quietly.

"The older kids told me I couldn't jump as far off the top of the outhouse as Jane Pye did a few years ago. And I just had to prove them wrong!"

"Oh, Emmett! You should know better than to listen to them," Isabella chided him softly. "It doesn't matter what they tell you. Doing something that seems like a bad idea, most always is."

"I know. I'm sorry, Miss Swan."

The pounding of footsteps from behind brought immense relief to Isabella. She wasn't sure how long Emmett could stay in his present condition without passing out.

"Thank goodness you're…here," Isabella stuttered when she looked up and her eyes were met with not Doctor Cullen, but Doctor Edward Cullen. She had hoped that calling for Doctor Cullen and not Doctor Edward would bide her more time away from this exasperating man's presence.

"I came as soon as I heard," he spoke quickly, his eyes roaming over his nephew, assessing the seriousness of his injury. He tenderly touched Emmett's arm and the boy gave out a loud yelp. "Yes, it's definitely broken. We're going to have to take him back to the office and put a cast on it."

"Yes!" Emmett answered cheerfully. His uncle merely shook his head and chuckled, carefully scooping up the small child in his arms.

Isabella was enthralled, watching this egotistical man treat the small child with such love and gentleness. Her heart swelled involuntarily as she took the scene in.

"Thank you so much for calling me," Edward finally spoke to Isabella.

"Well, I actually asked for the boy's father. But I'm glad someone came quickly."

"My brother is not in the office, currently; he is out making rounds," Edward stated. "Besides, children are usually my forte."

The smirk he gave was annoying, especially knowing he was right. Isabella tried her best not to blush at her forgetfulness. She should have known Edward would be the one to come, and she should be more thankful. After all, it was the child's welfare that should be most important, not her own insecurities.

"I'll see Rosalie home, while you take Emmett to your office. I'm sure Esme will be worried sick," Isabella said, glossing over Edward's last words.

"I appreciate that, Miss Swan. It was a pleasure, as always." The mischievous glint in his eye was back and his face was filled with mirth. Isabella wished she could slam one of the children's slates over his head to wipe it off his face.

Instead, she turned toward Rosalie who still looked like she might faint at any moment.

"Let's get you home, my dear," Isabella spoke to her kindly and placed her arm around the small girl's shoulder. Rosalie rested her head on Isabella as they walked silently toward the Cullen residence.

After dinner that night there was a knock on the door, but Isabella was busy marking grades in the kitchen and didn't pay much attention until her name was called.

"Isabella! You have a visitor!" Renee called from the front of the house, and Isabella sighed. She smoothed the brown wisps of hair that had escaped her loose braid and made her way to the door.

Rounding the corner, Isabella should have known something was unusual by the giddy expression gracing Renee's face. But nothing could have prepared Isabella for the caller she saw on the front porch.

Doctor Edward Cullen stood there, nervously. His hands were stuffed into the pockets of his fitted trousers, his crisp, white shirt accented handsomely by the tight suspenders. His eyes were on the wooden floor of the porch until he heard the small gasp Isabella emitted at the sight of him. That sound brought his full attention on to her astonished form.

She had tried to rein in her shock but to no avail, the gasp escaped her lips before she could stop it. Quickly, she schooled her features into a much more neutral expression.

"Good evening, Isabella," the velvet voice spoke to her. "I was wondering if I could possibly have the pleasure of your company on a quick stroll."

Isabella's eyes widened in bewilderment at his offer, but before she could even answer, Edward continued. "Please," he begged her. "I wanted to speak with you about my manners recently. Apologize, really."

Isabella nodded in defeat. She knew Renee was close by listening to every word and would not let her treat this newcomer with anything less than politeness, especially after her haughty departure at the Sunday picnic. She grabbed her shawl off the hook and stepped out on to the porch.

The two strolled down the path toward the woods, both of their bodies close but not touching. Isabella was on high alert, her body coiled, ready to strike out at any moment. Edward, on the other hand, was trying to figure out this infuriating woman who he could not seem to keep out of his thoughts.

After several minutes of silence, Edward decided he needed to speak. Isabella obviously wasn't about to.

"I feel like we got off on the wrong foot the first day we met and I would like to try and remedy that. I am deeply sorry if I offended you with my candor."

Isabella raised one eyebrow at the man, wondering if this was another one of his charming schemes or if he spoke the truth. Edward's eyes seemed genuine enough and Isabella knew it was as much her fault as his. Her temper was her greatest weakness.

Edward sensed her uncertainty but also felt her more open to him than on previous occasions. He turned, gently grabbing both of her small hands in his calloused ones. Isabella gasped at the sudden contact and tried to wrench her hands away, but his hold was steadfast.

"Isabella, I'm sorry. Can we start over? Maybe get to know each other better?"

The shock on her face was undeniable, but Isabella knew what happened when her heart was on the line. She couldn't stand for it to be broken again.

Images of the small, white chapel in Orangewood, white flowers adorning every surface, flooded Isabella's remembered the moment as if it were yesterday instead of a couple years past, her heart hammered at the memories.

She was waiting in the small room attached to the foyer, dressed in the most wonderful, white gown she had ever seen. Renee was with her, placing the small veil on Isabella's head and tucking it into the baby's breath that adorned her brunette hair, just as Charlie burst through the doors.

Isabella knew in that moment something was very wrong…

"Is he all right?" she stammered, tears starting to swell. "What's wrong? Is it James?"

The look on her adoptivefather's face told her that something was dreadfully wrong. He strode forward and embraced her, soothing her as best as possible with his words.

"He's fine, Isabella," he started, holding this girl who belonged to him more than he ever could have imagined. "But he won't be if I ever see him again."

Isabella's head jerked up in surprise. "What do you mean?"

Charlie took a deep breath before he broke the news to her. "It seems he's run off with one of the barmaids from town. Some red-headed wench named Victoria, they say. I'm so sorry, my dear, but he's not coming back."

The tears streamed down Isabella's face as her heart broke and the mortification of being left at the altar hit her like a ton of bricks. Renee took the weeping girl off Charlie's hands, who still had trouble with women's tears even after all these years, and held the girl in her arms.

Edward saw Isabella's face change from shock to fear to resolve in seconds and he let go of her hands quickly.

"I'm sorry, Doctor Cullen. But that is not possible. I have my parents and my students to look after and I see no time for suitors in the foreseeable future."

It was Edward's turn to be shocked, as he watched this beautiful, stubborn, intelligent woman turn and stalk off in the other direction.

Fall changed to winter and winter into spring. Signs of new life were springing up all over Meadowlea, but Isabella was immune to it all. She was disheartened by the feelings she had tried to quell for Edward Cullen to little avail. The man was as charming as ever, but never to her. Bella felt the distance between them was much more than the actual few miles apart that separated their residence. But, of course, they were always polite and proper whenever they happened to be in each other's presence.

It sickened Isabella to watch the young townswomen throw themselves at the eligible doctor. The Stanley sisters seemed to be in the doctor's office at least four times a month for some ailment or another. Mothers too, were inviting him over for Sunday suppers, or sending pies and packed lunches to the office all in hopes Edward would finally settle down with their daughter. But Edward wasn't interested in courting, at least that was the impression the town received.

Not until he was seen out and about with Katherine Marshall on more than one occasion. Katherine, or Katie as she was known when Isabella and Angela were in school, was old Doc Marshall's only daughter. She had worked with her father as a nurse and secretary of sorts and had stayed on when the Cullens took over to help the transition be a smooth one for both the doctors and the patients.

Carlisle Cullen adored her and was more than pleased when Edward decided to be Katherine's beau. Katherine was one of the few females, besides Isabella, of course, who hadn't thrown herself at Edward. And it seemed that was just what the doctor had ordered.

They appeared to be the perfect couple, and Isabella tried to wish them both every happiness. She knew deep down her feelings for Edward couldn't be more than a crush. After all, she hardly knew the man. But it didn't seem to relieve her of them.

Isabella busied herself around the house when she wasn't at school. Both Renee and Charlie were unable to do the same amount of activities as they used to, and Isabella wished, not for the first time, the Swans had adopted a boy who would have been more help. Her parents always chided her nonsense, reminding her how much they loved and adored her, and picking up the slack where they could. For once, Isabella was grateful to have her mind preoccupied and delved into the chores, as well.

When the spring Ice Cream Social came around, it was Angela who persuaded Isabella to attend.

"You've been cooped up in this house all winter, Isabella. It will do you some good to get out in the fresh air."

"I'm out in fresh air quite enough, thank you very much," Isabella said, knowing this fight was a battle she would lose.

"You know what I mean," Angela continued, not to be swayed. "Being out with people your own age will be fun, and help you loosen up a bit."

Isabella just stared at her incredulously. She couldn't have been that miserable, could she? But she knew she couldn't hide from Edward any longer. She needed to face him and move on from this schoolgirl crush.

"Fine, I'll go," Isabella conceded reluctantly. "But don't you dare leave me alone with Peter Barry. That boy makes my skin crawl."

"He's hardly a boy, Isabella. He just hasn't grown into his limbs yet, it makes him more awkward than he really is."

"Either way, I do not wish to spend my time out being cornered by him. If I must go, then I want to have fun tonight."

"All right, all right," Angela agreed. "Ben and I will come by in the wagon at seven. You'll be ready?"

"Yes, Angela. It's not like you'll have to pull me out of here kicking and screaming. I said I'd go and I am a woman of my word."

As soon as Angela left, Isabella was faced with the intimidating task of deciding what to wear. Being a teacher at Meadowlea did not afford one the same luxuries as one whose father was a well-established doctor. But Isabella told herself not to dwell on such thoughts and she promised instead to make the most of the evening.

The sounds of wheels turning up the dirt path in front of the house informed Isabella that Ben and Angela had arrived and she quickly raced downstairs, grabbing her shawl as she went. Renee and Charlie were sitting on the wraparound porch, enjoying the evening air; Charlie with his ever present pipe and Renee with a piece of mending. She was of the mind that idle hands were indeed the Devil's tool.

"Have a wonderful time, Isabella," Renee said as she hugged her daughter tight. The two had some trying times as Isabella grew up and, on occasion, struggled with being adopted; but they were kindred spirits now, no doubt about it.

With a quick peck on the cheek to Charlie, Isabella was off and being helped in to the wagon by Ben Cheney. He was the perfect man for Angela, funny and sweet, endearing and confident; and Isabella couldn't be happier for friend. Any day Isabella was expecting news of their agreement to be married, it was obvious how smitten Ben was with Isabella's lovely friend.

The ride to the church lawn was filled with chatter and laughter, even with Ben, who always had found conversations easy with Isabella. Even before he was old enough to start courting Angela. The camaraderie the three of them had together was simple, and Isabella hoped if she ever had a beau that he could fit right in with them.

She sighed at the thought. The only way to have a beau was to accept someone's advances, and Isabella Swan had a difficult time letting go of the heartache in her past to be able to do that. No, maybe it was best for her to remain an old spinster; helping Charlie and Renee run the house and farm. She knew the time would come when they would be forced to find help and Isabella hoped her extra savings now would be used to pay an able-bodied young man to do the job.

Putting all of those dreadful thoughts out of her head, Isabella promised to enjoy the night. It was beautiful, with a small breeze blowing, the stars were shining and fun was clearly being had already on the lawn. Ben helped both ladies from the wagon and they headed over to find their friends.

The homemade ice cream was utterly divine, and Angela laughed as Isabella let some of the cream dribble down her chin. She took a napkin from the table and mopped up her friend's face, all while her eyes were on the man staring intently across from them.

"Isabella Swan, I do believe we may have put on quite the show for Doctor Edward over there," Angela said mischievously as she nodded her head in his direction.

When Isabella turned her head to look, Edward Cullen's head quickly turned in the opposite direction. But Isabella was sure she saw his hand make a slight movement over his man parts and her face immediately grew heated at the thought. Before she could make a fool of herself, she grabbed Angela and headed over to the middle of the lawn where a bit of dancing was going on.

Swinging each other around on the makeshift dance floor, Isabella and Angela were having the time of their life.

"He can't seem to take his eyes off you," Angela whispered in Isabella's ear, and she swung her around to face him.

"Whomever are you talking about?"

"Doctor Edward, of course! Are you blind? The man has been keeping a watch on you all night."

"You are being ridiculous, Angela Weber. Edward is here with the gorgeous Katherine Marshall. There is no way he is even thinking of me."

"Well, I beg to differ. I really think you shouldn't have turned him down. I don't think he ever got over it. It's like he's forcing himself to stay away from you."

"That last part I can certainly believe. Besides, you know perfectly well why I can't allow myself to fall for someone like that."

"Isabella, it's been two years," Angela said earnestly. "You need to put your past behind you and move on. Not every man is a James Blythe waiting to break your heart in two."

Isabella would have stormed off at that moment if she could, but Angela held a tight grip on her shoulders. Suddenly, they were standing stock-still with dancers swirling around them.

"I know you aren't as self-efficient as you pretend to be, Isabella Swan. Deep down, you want a man to hold you at night and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. You can't fool me; I've known you for way too long."

The words Angela spoke hit Isabella to the core and she lowered her eyes in defeat, willing herself not to finally let it all go and cry her eyes out there, surrounded by her peers. She had been holding onto the pain for so long, using it to keep her heart guarded, it felt good to let someone in.

Angela pulled her in closer for a tight embrace, deeply wishing her bosom friend the happiness she felt when she was with Ben. Angela let her go, holding her at arm's length to make sure she hadn't truly upset her longtime friend. Isabella answered back with a small, watery smile.

"Hey, can I cut in and dance with my lady? You've been monopolizing her all night." Ben's boisterous voice broke through the intimate moment, and Isabella laughed. She gladly released her friend with a squeeze and made her way off the dance floor.

Before she could make her escape to the dark confines of the woods, for a moment to collect herself, a large hand grasped her elbow.

"Now that you are finally free, I was going to ask if I could have the pleasure of the next dance with you, Miss Swan."

The velvet voice wasn't the only thing accosting her senses; Isabella could feel his warm breath hitting the side of her face as he spoke. It sent an uncontrollable shiver down her spine, one that Edward noticed immediately.

"Are you cold?" he asked sincerely. "I can grab my coat for you?"

Isabella knew it was time to start letting people, especially men, into her life. But this man was taken and his girl was mere feet away from them.

"What about Katherine?" Isabella asked; her tone sharp. "Didn't you come here with her? I wouldn't want to cause strife between you."

"Katherine is busy at the moment, and she won't have any issues if I dance with someone else." There was more Edward could say about the situation, but he didn't feel Isabella had earned the right to know. "Come on, no more excuses."

He grabbed her hand and dragged her to the dance floor, standing on the edges of the crowd as he pulled her close to him. He was ever the gentleman the entire dance, hands perfectly placed at the small of her back, just the right amount of distance between them. But the energy that flowed in between their bodies was like a magnet, and they slowly drifted closer to one another.

The song came to an end and Isabella found herself pressed precariously close to Edward's hard body. His cheeks held a tint of red, either from the cold night or the exertion, Isabella couldn't be sure. But his dark eyes were what held her attention more than anything. They shone with excitement but also a look Isabella recognized as lust, and it caused her body to stiffen in his arms. She would not be the kind of woman who would come between a woman and her beau. No matter how much said beau attracted her.

As if on cue, Katherine descended on the pair like a wolf. Her claws drawn in obvious display. Isabella drew back graciously before the situation could become worse.

"Thank you for the dance, Doctor. It was mighty kind of you to offer, but I need to get back to my friends."

Isabella made her way to the group sitting nearby, but she heard the voice which was obviously meant for her.

"Oh, there you are, Edward! I've been looking everywhere for you. It's my turn to dance!"

The rest of the evening Isabella did indeed catch Edward making furtive glances at her, but she ignored them to the best of her ability. Now that she was beginning to warm up to the idea of finding a suitor, she wouldn't settle for anyone but the best. And the best was certainly not one currently attached to Katherine Marshall.

The next week was filled with surprises and not all of them good. But when Angela Weber came bursting in to Blue Ridges with a beaming smile on her face, Isabella knew this was going to be a good one.

"He did it! He finally did it!" Angela yelled as she made her way up the stairs and in to Isabella's room. She threw herself on the small, wrought iron bed and placed her left hand in Isabella's lap.

More importantly, she placed her left ring finger on her lap. There sat a nice sized, diamond engagement ring and Angela's cheeks were practically glowing.

"Oh, I am so happy for you!" Isabella exclaimed, dragging Angela's hand up for a closer inspection, and then wrapping her arms around her friend in a tight squeeze. "I knew you two were meant for each other! When's the big day?"

"Well, we don't have an exact date, but I really want a summer wedding. I don't want to wait any longer to be Mrs. Benjamin Cheney. Besides, we're not getting any younger."

Isabella shook her head at the notion. Everyone in Meadowlea was married at such a young age and made snide comments if you weren't. It nearly made Isabella's blood boil. She knew from experience that getting married so young could have severe consequences, and she was glad her friend waited a bit.

"A summer wedding will be beautiful; the weather is perfect that time of year. Oh! You could get married by the sea!" Isabella exclaimed, the excitement of planning a wedding growing on her.

The girls chattered away, swapping ideas and giggling about the night after the wedding.

"I'm sure Ben will be a most attentive lover," Isabella stated, while Angela buried her head in a pillow nearby. "I'm serious; he is kind and compassionate, gentle but strong. He will treat you right."

Before Angela could say anything more on the subject, Renee's voice was heard calling from outside Isabella's window.

"Isabella!" The urgency in her voice made Isabella jump from the bed and race to the window; her body nearly falling out to look down at Renee. "I need you to fetch the doctor! Charlie collapsed in the field!"

Isabella stood in shock for just a moment and Angela quickly came to her side. "I'll go fetch the doctor. You go see Charlie," she said and ran out the door, reassuring Renee on her way.

When Isabella arrived at the field with Renee, she dropped to her knees immediately. Charlie's face was ashen and he was barely breathing. She cradled his head in her arms, unsure of what to do as she had no idea what ailed him. As far as she had known, Charlie was just growing old as folks do, but there was no logical reason for this plight.

"What happened to him?"

"I'm not sure," Renee spoke quietly. "I was in the garden picking vegetables for tonight's supper when I heard him yell. I rushed over as soon as I heard, and he was on the ground like this, clutching his head in his hands."

Isabella reached over and grabbed her mother's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "It will be all right. Angela has gone to fetch the doctor and the Cullens will know exactly what to do."

The minutes that passed felt like hours as the two sat helplessly by, watching the man they loved take shallow breaths with his eyes closed tight in pain. They worried that each breath might be his last and they sat in silent vigil waiting for Angela and one of the doctors to return.

When the sounds of horse hooves and wagon wheels finally reached their ears, both women let out a breath of relief. But when Isabella saw which doctor had come to their rescue, she had to stop herself from running to him and throwing herself into his arms, her relief was so profound.

Without any of the formalities, Doctor Edward went straight to work; asking pertinent questions and checking the fallen man. After several moments he spoke the words both women were dying to hear. "I think he's safe to move now. Let's get him into the house and into bed."

It wasn't exactly the best news, but it was better than the alternative. Both Angela and Isabella helped Edward carry the poor man to the house and laid him on a guest bed downstairs.

After Edward gave Charlie a teaspoon of a dark liquid, he settled him as comfortably as possible and motioned for the women to follow him into the living area. They did so willingly with just a small look at Charlie before they left.

"It appears that Mr. Swan has suffered from a stroke," Edward spoke quietly. "I have given him some sarsaparilla to help purify his blood, but it will be a long road of recovery for him."

Renee let out a small sob, and Isabella cradled her mother's head to her chest. "How could this happen to him? He seemed in fine spirits earlier today?"

"The reason is unknown, but usually there is a blood clot in the brain that causes the body to shut down. He may have felt dizzy right before, or had blurred vision, when he called out to Mrs. Swan, but it was most likely nothing unusual in a man of his age until it hit him."

Edward hated breaking news like this to families, but this one was dear to his heart for other reasons and he hated watching them suffer.

"I'm going to be on watch here over night, to make sure there aren't any complications. And after that it will be constant care. He may have memory loss or be unable to move some of his limbs, but we won't know until later. I suggest you get some rest while I'm here."

Isabella said goodnight to Angela and thanked her profusely for all her help. She then ushered an exhausted Renee to bed and made her way back downstairs to the guest bedroom.

Seeing Edward there, his hands working diligently to check on her father, was a sight to behold. His bronze hair fell just over his eyebrow and the furrow in his brow showed the intensity of his actions. She knew her father would be in good hands tonight.

"Do you, um, need anything? A cup of tea? A blanket?" Isabella asked softly, as she regarded her father who seemed to be resting comfortably at the moment.

"A cuppa would be wonderful, thank you," he answered her, and she left swiftly to make some for him.

The night had flown by and Isabella realized that none of them had any supper. While the water was boiling, Isabella made two plates of biscuits, butter and cheese to help tide them over 'til morning. She wasn't sure she could eat, but she knew that Renee and Edward both needed some sustenance.

When the tea was ready, Isabella softly padded up the stairs to bring a tray to her mother, only to find her fast asleep. She didn't want any creatures visiting in the night so she brought it all back down with her, hoping she might be able to coerce Edward into eating both portions.

Picking up the second plate on her way, Isabella walked to the guest room and quietly knocked. Edward was sitting there motionless; his hands in his hair.

"You don't have to knock, Isabella. This is your home." He turned his eyes on her and smiled at her thoughtfulness. "Thank you for bringing me some food. That was very kind of you."

She set the tray down on the table next to him and pulled up a chair of her own. As tired as she was she wasn't ready to leave Charlie's side yet.

"It's the least I can do for you looking after him all night." She nodded toward her sleeping father. "We really do appreciate it."

Edward gave a small smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. "You really should eat something."

"I don't feel hungry at all. I couldn't possibly eat."

He lifted a piece of biscuit to her mouth as an offering, "Please. It will make me feel better if you do. Besides, you can't take care of your father if you let yourself get knackered. Eat a few bites and then get some rest. You're going to need it."

Isabella looked like she was about to argue but instead took the bite from his long fingers. If the situation wasn't so dire, Isabella might have swooned at the intimacy of it.

"That's a good girl," he said, but his tone was encouraging, not patronizing, for once. "Promise me you'll go rest after this. I swear I will wake you if his condition changes at all."

Isabella nodded her acceptance and the two ate their small meal in companionable silence. When she was done with her food, she brought Edward a large quilt with which to cover himself in the night and rested her hand briefly on his shoulder before leaving.

"Thank you again, for this. All of this," she said as she gestured to the room. Knowing he was there with her father would help ease some of her burden and let her sleep, but she also had to wonder, "Edward?"

He turned to her and cocked his head. "Yes, Isabella?"

"I thought you said your forte, as a doctor, was children. If so, how come you are here and not your brother?"

Edward sighed deeply and ran a hand through his hair, debating whether to be completely honest. "When Angela arrived at our residence and said it was your father in need of help, I knew I had to come myself. I am a General Practioner; first and foremost, so more than capable of looking after Charlie, and," he looked at her beseechingly, "I also care deeply about you and your family, Isabella, so I wanted to be here."

Isabella didn't know what to say; she was overwhelmed with gratitude and something else, which she wasn't willing to analyze at that time. She just nodded her head, and said a quiet, "Thank you," before redirecting her thoughts and the conversation. "Good night."

"Good night, Isabella," he answered back and gave her small hand a squeeze. It was going to be a long night and he prayed desperately that Charlie Swan would make it through.

The night was a restless one for all of its inhabitants, but Charlie Swan did survive, a little more worse for wear, though. His memory seemed to be intact for the most part, but he was still unable to move freely enough to assess the real damage. Time would tell.

Days turned into weeks, and still Charlie was confined to his bed. He had movement in the left side of his body, but the right side wasn't cooperating nearly as well as anyone would have liked.

Renee took care of him during the day while Isabella was at school. Then every evening after work, Doctor Edward came and made his rounds. He stayed for hours, allowing the two women time to rest or attend to the house and farm. Not that there was much they could do with the farm. The animals they attended to duly, but there wasn't enough time in the day to properly care for the crops as well, although they tried their best. Isabella would be thankful this year for the coming of summer, allowing her more time to pick up some of the slack Charlie would undoubtedly be having.

One thing Isabella learned was there were only so many ways to say thank you. It seemed the more she spoke them to Edward, the less they meant. She knew it wasn't true, and he always returned her sentiments with a wave of his hand or a shrug, but Isabella knew he was going above and beyond the call of duty. She wanted him to know how much she appreciated it and she started saying her thanks in tangible ways.

"I thought you might like a treat," Isabella spoke quietly to both men one evening. She handed Edward a plate of steaming berry cobbler and placed herself on the opposite side of the bed with a small portion for Charlie. His appetite was still very slight, but he managed a few bites of everything put in front of him.

"It smells delicious, Isabella," Edward replied as he grabbed his plate and dug in. "And it tastes divine. Thank you."

"You're welcome. We can't very well have you starve while you're here." While Isabella spoke she could have sworn she saw a twinkle in Charlie's eye, but she ignored it. Instead she fed him small bites of the dessert, keeping her own eyes off Edward. The noises he made while eating would be her undoing. Not to mention, the way his mouth devoured the food, licking his lips as he went. The man was lethal.

When Charlie fell asleep once again, Isabella walked Edward out the front door and on to the porch. Before Edward descended down the steps he turned and looked at Isabella, tugging on his bronze curls as he did.

"Thank you again for the lovely pudding, Isabella," he said with a shy smile on his face. Isabella had never seen him look so out of place and it emboldened her.

"Pudding? That was cobbler, Doctor Cullen," she chided him.

Edward chuckled at his choice of words. "Oh, yes, I forgot; you here in the States call them by individual names. To us from across the pond, they are simply pudding."

"So pudding isn't necessarily pudding?" Isabella asked in awe.

"Nope." Edward laughed at the look on Isabella's face. She was adorable.

There were many things Isabella really didn't know about Edward and where he came from, but right now she was willing to find out. If only one thing didn't stop her.

And this time, it wasn't herself.

"I'm sure you need to get home. Katherine's probably worried about you since you spend most of your evenings with us. I'm sorry we take up so much of your time. You really don't need to stay with us as long as you do."

In a flash, Edward was back up the steps and had his hand on Isabella's cheek.

"Katherine has no say where I spend my time," he said a bit gruffly, his eyes filled with passion. "Not that she would have the right to anyway, as we, uh, were only ever friends."

"But I thought…?"

"That's just it. Everyone thought we should be more, that we were more. Katherine made it appear that way. But I knew my feelings for her would never grow any deeper and I needed to let her move on."

He gave Isabella a pointed look and whispered, "Besides, I likebeing here," and then was off into the darkness. She watched as his pale arms shone in the moonlight and disappeared. It was then she allowed herself to touch her face. She felt as if she was on fire, from his news and his intensity; it started from her cheek and went down to her very core.

Angela's wedding was right around the corner, and it would be the first time Isabella left the house other than for work or groceries. Neither she nor Renee wanted to have Charlie out of their sights for long. Charlie was up and about now but still moving slowly, and he insisted that Isabella attend. He would not be the reason she missed her bosom friend's special day.

School was over and summer had officially arrived. It was the perfect season to have a wedding, especially in Meadowlea. The service was sweet, the reception full of fun and good cheer. Isabella enjoyed being out with her friends and celebrating, after practically being cooped up inside for the past month.

But no matter how much fun she was having, she grew tired toward the end of the night. The extra work around home was taking its toll on her. Physically and emotionally. Isabella said her goodbyes to the happy couple with tears of joy in her eyes and she started off toward the road to head for home.

"I have a wagon here; I'd be more than glad to escort you home." Isabella hadn't needed to turn around to distinguish the voice. It was one she had grown accustomed to almost as much as her own. The soft but gruff sound with an accent that was out of this world. Well, at least, Isabella's world.

"I don't want you to go out of your way for me, Edward. You've done more than enough for me and my family."

His hand was on her elbow, turning her to face him and keeping a tight hold so she couldn't escape him.

"I told you I like being there," he said simply, but his eyes were telling her something more, and Isabella wasn't sure she was ready to hear it.

Instead of fighting it, she simply nodded her head in acceptance and permitted him to help her into the wagon. The ride was a quiet one and Isabella marveled at how their silences always seemed so comfortable. Neither felt awkward or unsure in those moments anymore.

Inside though, Isabella's heart was racing. She knew this was a turning point in their relationship, and although she had come to grips that Edward was the one she wanted, it scared her to death. When he had been unattainable the past few months, Isabella was more confident and easy going with him. She had nothing to worry about because she knew there was no way the man could be hers. But now, that safety net wasn't there anymore.

When the wheels rolled to a stop in front of the Swan residence, Edward hopped out to help Isabella down and proceeded to follow her up the steps. Isabella's heart rate quickened in expectation and fear.

"I want to check on Charlie right quick before I go. If that's okay with you, that is?"

"Of course, but it's late. Hopefully he will be sleeping."

The two made their way quietly inside the house, and Isabella roused a sleepy Renee from Charlie's bedside, sending her to bed. Edward checked Charlie's pulse and took in his other outer signs: skin pallor, breathing and the like. He didn't want to disturb the man who lately had gotten so little rest.

When Edward was satisfied with Charlie's present state, he smiled at Isabella and made his way back to the door. Before Isabella could say or do anything, Edward leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek.

"Good night," was all he said, leaving Isabella standing there in surprise, and for the first time in a long while, the desire for more.

For the next several weeks, Edward still made his daily calls. But, this time he made it obvious he wasn't coming solely as a doctor. The front porch became Isabella and Edward's favorite place, as they would enjoy the summer air; sipping ice cold lemonade or telling stories of the crazy situations that children put themselves into as they learned the world around them. Both of them, in their professions, had tales that could rival the best. And some nights they would see who could outdo the other.

The problem was no one was willing to take it any further. Edward had already scared Isabella off on more than one occasion and this time he was willing to wait. Slow and steady was his motto. Isabella, of course, was still unsure and was waiting on Edward to make a move. She wouldn't put her heart on the line unnecessarily. Charlie and Renee could see the love blossoming between the two, but Renee forced Charlie to keep out of it. The youngins could figure this out on their own.

Summer was nearing its close, and it seemed that life couldn't get any better for Isabella and the Swans. Sure, the farm was struggling a bit, but now that Charlie was moving about much better, more things were taken care of on a daily basis. The financial burden was lessening, but they were barely making ends meet.

It was on one of those evenings when Isabella awakened abruptly to the sound of moaning coming from downstairs. Ever since Charlie had fallen ill, Isabella had become a light sleeper; the slightest sound rousing her, even from the deepest slumber. She leapt from her bed and raced downstairs to see what the matter was.

Charlie was lying in his bed, his face and arms covered with a sheen of sweat. His body thrashed uncontrollably and Renee was trying to lay cold cloths on his body.

"He's burning up!" she cried, her eyes never leaving her husband's face. "Get me some more cloths and a bucket of water. Then fetch Edward."

Isabella did as she was told and took off toward the barn. She knew deep down there was no time to hook up the wagon, or to walk. Riding bareback was the only thing to do.

She pushed the horse as hard as she could and was at the Cullens' in record time. Her fists banging on the door, hoping to awaken someone. Finally, the door was wrenched open and there stood Edward; hair in disarray, standing in only his trousers. But Isabella didn't have time to ogle the half-naked, attractive man in front of her.

"Charlie!" she managed to call out, her chest heaving from the excursion. But it was all Edward needed to hear. He grabbed his black medical bag and a shirt, flinging it on his back as he went, and headed toward Isabella's horse.

The two of them rode through the empty roads and Isabella filled him in on what little she knew. Edward nodded tersely but spoke no encouragement and that frightened Isabella the most.

When they arrived at Blue Ridges, Edward made a quick assessment and set to work. He poured liquids, popped some pills and tried his hardest to keep Charlie Swan alive. Isabella became his trusty assistant and moved about, handing Edward whatever he needed. The two worked long into the morning, Edward forcing Isabella to take brief rests to keep up her strength. She begrudgingly obliged, knowing she would do her father no good later on.

It was after one such break where Isabella found Charlie lying still on the bed, Edward whispering quiet words to him. At the sound of her footsteps, Edward looked sadly at Isabella.

"You should go get your mother," he said, the reason evident in his sad tone. "The pneumonia is just too much for him to overcome. I'm so sorry."

Renee and Isabella returned to the room, both trying to hold themselves together. Edward left to give them some privacy and waited in the kitchen with a cold cup of tea. The sounds he heard as the women made their tearful goodbyes ripped his heart in two.

The funeral was, as expected, a somber affair and unfortunately things went downhill from there. With school starting again and the dire need of extra income, it left only aging and grieving Renee to do the work. Isabella was beside herself with the lack of help she could offer, so Edward decided to step in and do what he could.

Every day after his rounds, Edward continued to come to the Swan residence. He worked in the fields, fed the animals and did anything he possibly could until the sun went down. Many nights he would eat in silence with Renee and Isabella, all of them too worn out to do much more.

But it seemed, despite all of their efforts, it was all for naught. There was no way the two women, no matter how determined, would be able to run the farm well enough to keep up with their payments. Isabella also knew her time with Renee was limited; there would come a day when Renee would no longer be with them. Soon it would all be on Isabella to keep this farm going and the task was daunting.

The news broke that the Swans were on the verge of losing their home, and buyers came out of the woodwork to make offers on the place. It hurt Isabella's heart to watch her mother contemplate selling Blue Ridges. But the question remained: where would they go even if they did sell? There were more questions than answers those days.

That was, until the day Edward Cullen arrived on their front porch and asked Isabella for a stroll down to the meadow, instead of toiling in the fields. He might as well have ridden in on a white horse, his sword drawn, with the news he offered. They walked in the companionable silence they had become accustomed to, until they reached the meadow.

There they stopped as Edward turned and grasped Isabella's hand tightly in his own. Without speaking he pulled out a piece of paper from his back pocket and handed it to Isabella.

The words on the top caused Isabella's heart to stop for a moment. It was the deed to Charlie and Renee's home.

"I don't understand," she managed to speak after a moment. "How do you have this?"

"It's a gift for you," he answered simply. "For you and Renee. And me, if you'll have me."

The words swam through Isabella's brain, but they didn't seem to make any sense. The look of confusion on her face spurred Edward on to do this the proper way.

He dropped on one knee and spoke clearer this time. "Isabella Marie Swan, I want you to be my wife and live with me forever in Blue Ridges. I want our children to have what you had and so much more. I love you with all my heart; will you marry me?"

Isabella gasped in surprise. "You bought Blue Ridges for me? For us?" she questioned him.

"Yes, I spoke with Charlie before he left us, asking for your hand in marriage."

He was still eagerly awaiting her response to his question, but it seemed as if he wouldn't get an answer. Instead, Isabella threw her arms around his neck, mumbling incoherencies the entire time.

Gently he pulled her away. "Is that a yes, Ms. Swan?" he chuckled as he saw the smile on her face. "Either way, the house is yours. Blue Ridges will always be your home."

The walls Isabella had built around her heart had slowly been coming down during these difficult months. Edward had been her rock and she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she could trust him. This wasn't merely a schoolgirl crush, this was the real thing.

It was true, honest to goodness love. And she was ready to embrace it.

"Oh, yes, Edward. Yes," she exclaimed, this time attacking him not with her arms but with her lips. She kissed him repeatedly, her hands holding his face to hers. Finally, they broke apart.

"I love you, Isabella," Edward spoke softly but fervently.

"I love you too, Edward Cullen."

The rest of the fall was spent planning the Cullen-Swan wedding. Both Renee and Esme were having the grandest time planning the event. And with Edward hiring an extra hand on the farm, they were able to focus solely on the upcoming nuptials.

One bright, crisp, winter day, the entire town gathered in the church to witness the joining of two of the most admired townspeople: Ms. Swan and Doctor Edward. Children were the main attraction, as was to be expected given the wedding party's affinity for young ones, and the laughter they brought made the day even more memorable.

Rosalie and Emmett were excited to have their teacher become their aunt. Isabella was thankful to have the entire Cullen family be hers, as well. The way they welcomed both her and Renee into their lives was absolutely astounding. Isabella's eyes were wet with tears of overwhelming happiness the entire day.

But, finally it was time to say goodbye, at least for a while. Isabella hugged Angela fiercely and kissed her cheeks in farewell. She had missed her bosom friend during Angela's honeymoon days, but she had realized she had a kindred spirit there with her all along. She just hadn't seen it at first.

Edward helped Isabella into the decorated wagon and they drove off to enjoy the first night of their life together. Tomorrow they would board a ship to England, to see Edward's hometown and a little bit of his previous life. Isabella couldn't be happier.

They arrived in their room for the evening and Edward set Isabella down in front of him, his eyes filled with love and adoration. He clasped her tiny face in his hands and kissed her passionately.

"Mrs. Cullen, you make me the happiest bloke alive."

Without another word, he brought his fingers around her back, unbuttoning her wedding gown; his eyes full of admiration and desire. Isabella's hands loosened his tie and she stared in awe at the man before her. Never in her wildest imagination would she have thought she could have a man like Edward. He was charming, sweet, wildly intelligent, terribly handsome and good with his hands.

It was those hands that were doing a number on her right now as they left a sizzling trail from her cheek to her collarbone. Isabella quivered at his touch, her body melting into his. When they were completely undressed, they made love slowly to each other; reveling in exploring their lover's body.

Their skin was slick with sweat as they slowly glided along one another. Edward thrust slowly but deeply into Isabella, her hips reaching for his. It was the most intense pleasure either of them had ever experienced and Edward longed to give her more. He reached his hand between them to touch the little bundle of nerves waiting to give Isabella her most longed for orgasm. She instantly found her release with the pressure, her body convulsing around Edward. He followed along shortly after, overcome with sensation.

Gentle touches, filled with love. It was a learning time for both of them, but no words were needed. The whimpers and moans that escaped their mouths the only sounds needed to convey their desires. Both of them savoring this first intimate experience to the best of their abilities. There would be plenty of times for heated passion in the years to come.

Lying in each other's arms, fully sated, Edward lazily moved his fingers up and down Isabella's arms. She snuggled closer to his chest, her head resting under his chin.

"Thank you for finally letting me in," Edward spoke in the stillness.

"Thank you for waiting for me and for being my kindred spirit when I needed it the most. I love you from the bottom of my soul, Edward Cullen."

"As do I, Mrs. Cullen. As do I."


Any guesses on my inspiration? I sincerely hope I did it justice and that you enjoyed this little fic. I loved every minute of writing it. I would love to hear what you think!