Edward finally rolled off of me and lay for a moment with his arm over his eyes. I didn’t move for fear of provoking him again. After a couple of minutes he got up and turned to look down at me. His eyes traveled over me getting darker again before he shook his head. He held out his hand for me to get off the bed.
“I guess we should move back to the sofa to talk Bella. Seeing you lie here makes it impossible for me to think clearly,” he smiled.
He leaned down to kiss me gently before leading me back to the sitting room. He sat on the sofa stretching one leg out like he had before. This time when he pulled me down instead of having me lay facing him; he sat me down between his legs with my back against his chest so he could wrap his arms around me.
He pushed my hair back from my shoulder and growled seeing James’ marks again.
“Your mine Isabella,” he whispered in my ear. “Only mine. I won’t allow anyone to ever put his mark on you again. I don’t share what’s mine. I will kill anyone who ever tries to mark you or take you from me.”
He started kissing my shoulder lingering on every bruise and bite. His words scared me, but the feel of his mouth on my shoulder sent a chill down my spine that had nothing to do with fear.
“Say your mine Isabella,” he demanded tightening his arms around me in a vice. “Say only I can mark you from this day forward. Say it.”
I felt rigid and anxious as I whispered back to him. “I’m yours Edward. Only yours to mark from this day forward.”
I shivered when I finished and he felt it. He sighed and turned my head so I was looking up into his eyes.
“Don’t be afraid of me. I never want you to fear me Bella. I just want you to understand that I will not share you with anyone. I never want another man’s hands on you ever again. It was a mistake to let Charlie and James have you. I know it’s what’s done to prepare you to become my wife. I know Emmett and Jasper allowed it for Rosalie and Alice. Hell, I know my father even allowed it a few times with Esme in the beginning. I thought I could handle it. I know my father and brothers are extremely happy with their wives. I know Charlie’s training methods work. I’ve seen the results with them and with our extended family and friends.”
He stopped for a moment, kissing me again. I kissed him back while my mind tried to process what he was telling me. And then I was so worried. These ‘methods’ were being spread like some disease. The Cullen’s were passing this… this lifestyle… from family to friends, who would pass it to… I would pray that this psychotic state the men were being consumed by could be cured. But how? What, if anything, would be the catalyst?
Wait, even though he just made me declare I was only his, he also said he didn’t want to continue Charlie’s line of training didn't he? Did that mean I had choices now that I thought were gone for me? I swear the more he says the more I don’t understand.
He finally raised his head to look in my eyes again. I waited until he spoke.
“I guess I should start explaining things to you now,” he said. He sighed thinking a moment before continuing.” I need to readjust my thinking with you. It’s not natural for me, so it will be difficult. Can you understand that?”
I nodded my head like was expected. I didn’t really understand. If anything I was even more confused.
He sighed again, frowning at me. “Bella I may not be able to read your mind, however, I am learning to read your eyes. You’re lying to me. Do not ever lie to me. If you do I will be forced to punish you. Tell me what you’re really thinking.”
“I’m sorry Edward. Please don’t punish me.” I begged.
I sat up turning my upper body so I could look at him. This was my big chance and I was going to take it. I may never get this opportunity again. After all he said not to lie to him.
“I just don’t understand any of this. I’m so confused with everything that is happening to me. My mom and Phil never treated me the way I’ve been treated since I came here. I was raised in a loving, safe home. They taught me to voice my own opinions, thoughts, you know? Have some freaking dignity! ‘Be an individual, kid’. That’s what Phil told me. They wanted me to go to college and pursue a career. They wanted me to marry someone I love; they wanted me to make sure I took the time to know I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Then I came here. This hellhole! Since I’ve moved here I’ve been made to walk around my father and brother naked, forced to perform unnatural acts, tied to my bed, beaten and gagged. What the hell is wrong with you people?! You’re all nutcases! Sociopaths, all of you, you’re ruining my life! And to top it all off I’m told that this is all part of some sick, twisted education program. My father is gift-wrapping me into some present to sell to you. Like you’re in a department store searching for the right pair of shoes! Humans aren’t purchases, sorry to break it you, but women aren’t presents for you narcissistic… egotistical…bastards! This is so wrong on so many levels. And I have no say in whether I even want you!”
Once I started the dam broke and I couldn’t stop. My voice rose the further I went until I was yelling at him, calling him names. I couldn’t deny the fact of how damn liberating it felt. I felt a weight lifted from me for finally speaking out, but at the same time I was terrified what his reaction was going to be.
I knew I’d gone too far. I could see it in the narrowing of his eyes and how dark his face got. He looked like a monster right now. Charlie had warned me that talking back was severely punished. Even though I didn’t technically talk back to Edward, I just told him off. I held my breath and waited. It was worth it, though.
How wrong I was when he spoke.
“Isabella,” his voice was dripping with venom at me, “I don’t give a damn how you were raised. That life is over for you. You can get all your nonsensical ideas out of your pretty little head. You belong to me, now and forever. This is your life so you better get used to it. You are my ‘gift wrapped present from the store’ as you so eloquently put it, make no mistake. You are being bought and paid for and if I want Carlisle and Esme to stick a bow on you for Christmas morning, they will.”
I was trembling. I was about to apologize when I stopped myself. I couldn’t apologize to him for the truth. I could however, try to defend myself.
“You asked for the truth…” I whispered.
“Oh please, Isabella. Spare me your excuses. There’s no getting out of this now,” he spewed at me, drenched in sardonic sarcasm.
My last resort seemed to be apologizing, begging.
“I’m sorry Edward. Please don’t be angry with me. Please forgive me.”
I tried to reach up to pull him into a kiss to ask him to forgive me. He grabbed both my wrists and held them in a vice. It hurt, they were so tight, suffocating.
“Oh no, Isabella,” he said shaking his head at me. “A kiss isn’t going to fix it this time. This isn’t some little slip you’ve made. We will deal with this later tonight. However, right now I think I need to paint a pretty little picture so you will have no confusion or misunderstanding ever again. This is what your life is and will be.”
I had my life explained to me. Every word, sentence he spoke crushed me. It broke my heart- it was a death toll for every hope or dream I ever had. Carlisle and Esme were going to adopt me before Christmas. I would be paid for and gift wrapped at that time. He had sneered at me using my expression to press that point home.
The reason for the adoption instead of just marrying me outright is how it would look to the trustees of the hospital. With the adoption it would give them time to accept his desire to marry me and I would be a little older so it shouldn’t cause him any problems with his career. He would decide when we married.
When I started back to school Edward would drive me to and from. This would be the only time I was away from him or his family. Each morning I was expected to be up early enough to help Esme prepare breakfast and serve him while Esme served his father. After school he would bring me home (this was my home now) before he went back to the hospital. This was the only thing I was glad for. I didn’t want to go back to Charlie and James. Obviously the same scenarios would occur, just minus the incest components.
After dropping me off at home I would have a couple of hours with Esme to learn how to run a proper home and prepare his dinner. Then I would work on any schoolwork until he came home in the evening. After dinner would be whatever he had planned for the evening until it was time to retire for the night. Then I would continue the education Charlie and James had started. The only difference is that he would be my only instructor now.
When we married the only change would be that I wouldn’t be learning any longer. I would be expected to know what to do and do it right. I would not attend college he continued to explain. College was for women who wanted careers. My career was to be a dutiful wife, to raise his children when they came, and to take care of our home and his needs.
“Do you have a clear picture of what your life is now Isabella?” he demanded. “Is there any more confusion?”
“No Edward, I understand perfectly what you expect of me,” I whispered. “I will learn to be everything you want me to be.”
“We will deal with your punishment for your outburst later. Right now we are expected for dinner. You need to change and fix your makeup.”
I got off the sofa and walked into the bedroom to wait for him to pick out my clothes again. He went in the closet and pulled out a white baby doll style dress with black straps and a black bow tie at the center of the bust where it dipped. He handed me white lace boy shorts and black heels to complete the look. He had also brought out a fresh white shirt and black jeans for himself.
I turned around so he could unzip my dress and stepped out of it as it fell to the ground. He turned me around to look at him while I stripped out of my panties and dressed in the white ones he handed me. He helped me zip up the white dress then gestured to the bathroom so I could freshen up while he got dressed.
As I stood in front of the mirror brushing out my hair I caught a glimpse of him through the door. He was built like a mountain lion. He was tall, sleek and powerful. He was pulling his jeans up and didn’t have on a shirt yet. He may not be built like a house like Charlie, but I could see the defined muscles of his arms and chest. He had a six-pack abdomen that disappeared in the waistband of his jeans.
I came back out as he buttoned his shirt tucking it into his jeans. I slipped on the heels he handed me and waited for his approval.
He looked me over before saying, “The dress is beautiful on you Bella. You need to freshen your lipstick before we go though.”
“I don’t have any makeup here, Edward. Everything I have is at Charlie’s,” I said. I didn’t care about most of it, but I did want my Phoenix shirt, my pictures and books I’d brought with me.
“I’ll run you over tomorrow and you can pick up your things,” he said. “You won’t be going back anyway.”
“Yes Edward,” I responded quietly.
He guided me to the door and we went downstairs. I could hear male voices below us laughing and talking as we came downstairs. When we got to the foyer he told me the kitchen was down the hall and I would find Esme, Rosalie and Alice there. Then he turned and went toward the sound of the voices.
I walked toward the kitchen feeling nervous. I’d only met Esme briefly and I’d never met his sister-in-laws. I was afraid they wouldn’t like me.
I could smell food cooking and heard women talking. I listened for a moment before making my presence known to them. I hoped it would give me an idea of what to expect in my life listening to them. What I heard gave me some glimmer of hope. They were laughing.
“Rosalie,” Esme was saying, “I swear that boy broke more furniture growing up.”
Another voice, I assumed was Rosalie answered laughing, “Well he said he was king of our home and all he surveyed, so he had to jump up on his ‘mountain’. He should have known the coffee table wouldn’t hold him.”
I guessed they were talking about Emmett. I heard another voice laughing with them. “I’m just fortunate Jasper is so calm. I don’t have to worry about him breaking everything in sight like Emmett. I guess though since it was Jasper that egged him on we owe you a new coffee table, Rose. Esme would you like to go shopping with us to pick one out?”
“Yes, actually I would like to go. I’ll talk to Carlisle tonight and get his permission. I’m sure it will be fine. Maybe Edward will allow Bella to go along too.”
I started feeling guilty standing there now so I continued into the kitchen. I saw Esme pouring spaghetti onto a platter. There was a tall blonde woman who looked like she should be on the cover of Vogue pulling plates out of a cabinet. A petite woman with black spiky hair was putting ice in glasses.
Esme looked up as I came in. “Oh Bella, I’m so glad you’re here.” She came over and hugged me keeping an arm across my shoulders as she turned to introduce me. “Bella this is Rosalie, Emmett’s wife and this is Alice, Jasper’s wife,” she said pointing each of them out to me.
“Hello, it’s nice to meet you both,” I said.
Rosalie stood and gave me a critical look before shaking her head and continuing pulling out the plates. Alice sighed at her and ran up to me hugging me and giving me a kiss on the cheek.
“Hello, Bella. I wish I could say I was glad you’re here, but I’m just sorry. You seem like a very bright girl. We’re going to be good friends, don’t worry about anything. We’ll take really good care of you.” She turned back to Rosalie. “Won’t we Rose?”
Rosalie stood and sighed before walking over to me. “It’s nice to meet you too, Bella,” she said. She didn’t try to hug me.
“Rosalie, you know it’s not her fault,” Esme said softly to her. “Remember neither you nor Alice chose this life, but you’ve learned to be happy. She’s going to need your help just like Alice needed you. Just like you needed me.”
I stood and listened to the conversation taking place around me. I was gaining more hope listening to them.
“I know Esme and I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just that she’s only seventeen. She had a family, a future. Still in high school… she’s just a child. It was hard enough being eighteen and with no family when Emmett got me. And you know how hard it was for Alice after what James did to her.”
Esme moved to hold Rosalie. “I know how you feel Rosalie. Believe me I wish Carlisle would see how wrong this is. I wish my children didn’t follow his pattern.” She was stroking her head trying to soothe her. “But you know deep down in spite of everything, leading up to your marriage that you are perfect for Emmett- and you do love him, don’t you?”
Rosalie sighed and stepped back to look at Esme. “Yes I do. I love him with all my heart. I can’t imagine my life without him. I just wish he were less like Carlisle. No offense, Esme.” She smiled in apology.
“None taken Rose. I’ve wished the same thing over the years about all my children.” She turned to Alice next, “And Alice, you know you’re perfect for Jasper and love him as well. You’ve both been so good for them.”
“I know Esme,” Alice answered, “sometimes I feel like he kept me waiting my whole life until he found me. I love him with my whole heart as well.”
Esme then turned to me with understanding and compassion in her eyes. She, Rosalie and Alice came to stand around me.
“Bella, I know what you’re going through is not what you were brought up to ever expect.”
I looked at her in puzzlement. She smiled.
“You didn’t know that I knew your mother, did you?” she asked. “You don’t remember me. She and I used to be very close friends a long time ago. I was heartbroken when I heard she and Phil died and you would be coming to live with your father and brother. I knew your mother would never have wanted that if there was any other way. She fought her hardest to bring you up in a nurturing home.”
I could feel a lump starting in my throat and a tear slipped out.
“I knew you too.” She reached up to stroke my head, smiling at her memories. “You were such a beautiful baby and a bright, inquisitive child. I loved you like a daughter even then and hoped you would marry one of my sons when you grew up… never like this though.”
She took a moment to glance at the clock on the wall. “We don’t have time to talk anymore right now. We need to get dinner served right now. Tomorrow Rosalie and Alice are coming over to help teach you and we’ll find the time to talk more then, okay? Edward should go to the hospital with Carlisle in the afternoon.”
“Thank you Esme,” I smiled. I felt my first true ray of hope now. I had allies in this life to help me. “So what may I help with?”
“Bella, you can toss the salad. Rosalie, you and Alice set the table quickly.” Esme instructed.
Rosalie and Alice left the kitchen with everything they needed. I tossed the salad as Esme pulled bread out of the oven before turning back to me.
“Bella, when you take the salad to the dining room do not sit until Edward allows you. He will serve his plate and yours as well. You eat the food he gives you and don’t ask for more unless he offers. You will bring his glass to him along with the tea pitcher so you can serve both your drinks. You don’t need to sit on his lap tonight in front of the family. That is only for when it’s just the two of you or if he tells you. Don’t speak at the table unless someone asks something of you. Do you think you can handle it dear?”
I nodded, “Yes, I’ve got it. Thank you so much Esme. I appreciate all the help you can give me. I want to make Edward happy.”
She smiled back at me and sighed, “Bella, when it’s just us or Alice or Rose, you can be yourself. I know what Edward expects of you and over time, with help, you’ll get your balance, don’t worry. Now, let’s get this meal served so we don’t have any angry men tonight.”
My bubble burst as I remembered we were already going to have one angry man tonight.
She sensed the change in me. “What’s wrong, Bella”?
“Edward is already angry. I’m being punished after dinner. I kind of told him off earlier.” I felt my eyes welling up again and fought them back.
“Oh Bella, I’m so sorry. I wish I could stop it. Try to do everything right at dinner and maybe he’ll be more lenient with your punishment.”
I knew Esme was only trying to cheer me up so I wouldn’t worry, but we both knew there was no out for my punishment. We took the food to the dining room to set on the table just as the men came into the room. I set the salad and breadbasket down where she indicated and stood back with Esme, Rosalie and Alice.
I got my first look at all the Cullen men. Individually they were gorgeous, but together they took your breath away. They were impressive to say the least. One, I guessed was Emmett from the conversation I’d overheard about breaking furniture, looked like a bear with dark hair. He was massive just like Charlie. The other, Jasper I assumed, was built more like Edward, tall, lean and powerful with blonde hair.
Emmett was putting his wallet in his back pocket as they all walked into the room. He handed
Jasper several bills. Carlisle and Edward were laughing at them.
“Thank you Emmett,” Jasper said putting the money in his wallet now. “That was probably the easiest $500 I’ve ever made off of you.”
“Yeah yeah, don’t go getting cocky,” Emmett replied. “Who would have thought Edward would pick a seventeen year-old. I don’t care how hot she is. He’s the most impatient of all of us. Now he also has to wait the longest. Don’t you Eddie-Boy?” He slapped Edward on the back laughing.
“Don’t call me Eddie,” he growled. “Yes I am going to have to be patient now. But trust me she’s worth it,” he said as he came over to me.
He pulled me forward to stand behind me wrapping his arms around my middle.
“Just take a good look and tell me you would have chosen any different.”
Emmett pulled Rosalie into a bear hug before responding. “Nope, can’t tell you that. No one is as good as my Rose here.” He kissed her soundly before setting her back down on her feet. I saw love and adoration in his eyes as he looked at her. She was looking at him with the same expression.
I glanced at the other couples in the room Carlisle was looking at his sons with pride while Esme stood quietly beside him. Jasper was holding Alice whispering in her ear. She smiled up at him touching his cheek.
“All right boys enough of that,” Carlisle told them. “Let’s eat before it gets cold and your mother has to start over. I don’t want to wait.”
They all sat down and I waited for Esme to direct me. She took a tea pitcher off the sideboard and walked over to Carlisle. He put his arm around her waist as she poured two glasses of tea.
She leaned down to kiss him before moving away to set the pitcher back down. Then she sat at her place while Carlisle served her plate for her. I watched the same repeated for Emmett and then Jasper.
It was my turn now. I got the tea pitcher and went to Edward. I poured two glasses of tea as he put his arm around me. As I leaned down to kiss him like the others had done he moved his hand down to cup my ass startling me. I jumped and flinched, but didn’t pull away. As I stood back up
I looked into his eyes. He seemed pleased but I knew he was still angry with me from earlier.
I took the tea pitcher back to the sideboard and sat next to him. He served my plate after fixing his. I glanced at Alice across from me, looking for any queues I needed to be aware of. She was watching me and gave me a brief smile and nod letting me know I’d done well.
I started eating when I saw Alice start. The conversation ranged from sports to Emmett’s gym and Jasper’s club. Jasper suggested everyone coming to his club soon. He had managed to book a popular band and wanted us to attend. They discussed Edward’s residency starting in January.
No one ever asked for our (the women’s) opinion and so we stayed silent through dinner.
When we were finished Carlisle leaned over to kiss Esme’s cheek.
“You did a wonderful job as usual, love. When you’ve finished in here, why don’t we have a movie night in the family room?”
“That sounds wonderful. The girls and I will bring some snacks in with us,” she replied.
Edward spoke up, “I’m sorry Carlisle, but Bella and I are going to need to bow out of the movie tonight. We have some things that need to be dealt with.”
The clocking that had been ticking in my head abruptly stopped, setting off the alarm.
My time was up.
Emmett started laughing. “You sure you don’t just want to send her back to Charlie and let him take care of training her? It would make your life a hell of lot easier, man. You may have bitten off more than you can chew, you know.”
“Back off Emmett.” I could tell he was getting angry with his brother.
“Emmett, leave Edward alone,” Carlisle was playing referee. “I already tried to tell him he needed to leave her with Charlie.”
“Carlisle, you saw what James did to her this morning. There is no way in hell I’m leaving her with him. She’s mine and he marked her. I will train her. I can handle it just fine, so everyone just back off.”
With that he stood up and pulled me up with him. He took me by my elbow and led me out of the room back up the stairs. I was already scared of being punished by him tonight, but at least during dinner he had time to calm his initial anger. Now between his father and brother, he was boiling again. I wanted to dig a hole and crawl in it, hiding from these nightmarish demons.