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Being Mrs. Black

Summary:
BMBEdward/Bella, Implied Jacob/Bella. Imagine that the Cullens were late in returning to Forks. Bella arrived on schedule, but her life proceeded normally. She and Jacob become the best of friends and with no vampires to awaken them, the wolves don't mature. When he turns 18, Jake and his friends enlist, going to look for adventure in Iraq. He proposes, and Bella can't imagine ever loving someone more than she does her best friend. They quickly marry and he leaves for war. Two months later she gets some news that will turn her life upside down. And on that same day, a beautiful, dangerous stranger appears. From the moment their eyes meet, Bella begins to question those solemn vows she made. Will Bella Black do the right thing? Banner art and banner by Seisei


Notes:


14. Lancelot's Curse

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 2606   Review this Chapter

PART FOURTEEN: Lancelot's Curse

Bella POV

When I was a little girl, I loved fairy tales. You know the stories, a beautiful princess meets a dashing knight, they fall in love, slay dragons, break curses and live happily ever after. All girls dream of being the princess, of meeting a knight and finding that happy ever after. But little girls grow up, and gradually they learn that, more often than not, the ever after isn't happy at all. I still loved to read of course, but I turned to different stories with more complex meanings, and in time my impractical fantasies became sturdy realities. So when my best friend got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife, I didn't see a dashing knight or a handsome prince. I saw a good man, a wonderful man, and I was a very ordinary girl who would be crazy to turn him down. So I didn't. I loved him, after all. As much as I had ever loved anyone. A simple, ordinary girl who had put aside her fairy tales couldn't ask for more.

Bella Black was a wife, an expectant mother, she worked as a teacher's aide while finishing her own degree. You could search the Brothers Grimm from cover to cover, and not a single one of those things would meet the qualifications for heroine. At best I might have been a supporting character, a milkmaid or perhaps an ugly stepsister. With my ordinary looks and my ordinary life, I never could have anticipated finding myself on that staircase, in my flowing dress and borrowed gems, looking down into the face of the dashing knight.

I wondered if this was this how Guinevere felt, looking down on Lancelot? Did her heart race, her body trembling as she recognized the whisper of Destiny in her ear? Had she taken those last few steps and put her hand in his?

It was not Lancelot that held my hand, but I felt no regret at that. Not even Lancelot could outshine Edward Cullen. My memory held only the palest reflection of the reality; the chiseled perfection of his face, the gleaming bronze of his hair and the molten gold of his eyes were so much more than the memory. The cool strength of his hand tightened around mine and he led me away from the stairs into the large, open space of the Cullen great room. It was beautiful, open and airy, filled with tasteful furniture and light colors designed to emphasize the space. The entire rear wall was glass, looking out on an expanse of green.

"Carlisle should be home in about half an hour," Esme remained on the stairs, and when I turned back toward her, Alice was just disappearing up the staircase behind her. "Why don't you show Bella the garden, Edward?" Her expression was oddly somber, and as I looked at Edward, there was a tension in his eyes that hadn't been there before. Something was wrong, I could feel it, another mystery to add to the growing pile that seemed to surround this man and his family.

"I'd like to see it," I said quietly.

An unreadable look flitted across his face, but then he smiled, tucking my hand into the crook of my arm. "Of course, as my lady wishes." As we traveled the length of the room toward the kitchen, I couldn't help but be aware of the fact that the smile had never reached his eyes.

#

POV Shift- Edward

It can't be helped, my dear. If she remains here for any length of time, for her own safety, she must know. My mother was right, of course. That didn't make the thought of telling Bella the truth any less daunting. Events were moving forward at a pace that made them hard to predict and even harder to control. Bella's near-disastrous flight through the woods and our timely rescue hadn't helped that. Not in the slightest.

Of course, the meddlesome women in my family weren't making things any easier, either. I glanced down at the lovely creature at my side, and wondered again if I had stumbled into a waking dream. Even in the muted light of evening, she glowed. The vivid blue of her dress was a perfect contrast against her fair skin, I couldn't imagine her in a more beautiful color. The gems at her throat, the way her hair fell loose down her back were simple and natural and yet incredibly beguiling. It wasn't so much that she was impossible to resist, although she was that, but more that I lacked any will to fight.

As we stepped outside, a breeze stirred the silken fall of her hair, and I closed my eyes, a tremor going through me as I was left awash in her scent. For a moment I could do no more than stand very still, intensely aware of her warm hand on my arm, listening to the rapid beat of her heart as it moved to some unknown anxiety. Did she sense that she had stumbled into a den of monsters? Could she possibly suspect that the very worst of them stood at her side even now?

The moment passed and I breathed out, hoping she hadn't noticed my lapse as I guided her down the porch steps. A short distance down a path paved in white stones lay the beginnings of Esme's garden. In every place that we had lived, she always had something like this. Depending on the length of our stay, they became increasingly more elaborate, and some of the gardens she had tended in the past were impressive by any standard. This one had a fountain at its center, with an edge wide enough to sit on, and terraced beds that surrounded it in a circle. The lowest beds held whatever annuals had caught her fancy this season, a riot of bright colors and fragrance. Above them, however, were Esme's pride and joy. Roses, dozens of them, in every imaginable color, lovingly groomed and tended. Most of them were in full bloom right now, and their perfume would normally have been enough to overwhelm any other scent. But not even they could dilute the call of Bella's blood.

I sat down on the edge of the fountain, trailing my fingertips in the water as I watched Bella take it all in. "This is amazing," she said quietly, reaching out to lightly touch the petals of a crimson blossom.

"This is actually one of her smaller gardens." I smiled, enchanted by the vision of Bella leaning forward, eyes closed, to breathe in the rose's fragrance. "Careful of the thorns."

"Oh, right." She pulled her hand back, thankfully unscathed, with a sheepish look. "I suppose I shouldn't be touching them at all."

"It's not that." I hesitated, unsure of how to say what needed saying. "I just don't want you to hurt yourself... It could be bad if you started bleeding." I thought, I hoped, that I was strong enough to withstand a simple thorn-prick. Last night, when the fear of losing her to the dogs had been stronger than anything, I'd been able to resist her blood. But I was uncertain of whether that would continue to hold true.

"Mm, that's true; I'm not good with blood." I blinked, unable to help myself as I arched an eyebrow at her. "It makes me nauseous. I think the smell bothers me the most." she explained quickly, uncomfortable under my scrutiny.

"People can't smell blood," I said cautiously, frowning at her.

"Well, I can." She frowned back. "It smells like rust... and salt."

"I see." Ironic, that. I merely watched her for a few moments more, closing my eyes to savor her sweet laughter when she disturbed a flight of butterflies from a cluster of snow-white asters. How easy it was to pretend I was just an ordinary man, watching a beautiful girl at play in a garden. But no amount of pretending would change the truth. "Bella..." My soft voice carried to her, she paused but didn't look up. "I'm sure you've noticed that both I and my family are unusual."

"Yeah... I've noticed." She turned toward me, and she could have been an earthbound goddess in her flowing dress and soft sandals, crowned by my mother's beloved roses. "You moved across a parking lot in the blink of an eye and stopped a truck from crushing me with your bare hands." A wry smile curved her lips. "It was hard to miss." Her narrowed eyes dared me to challenge her, but I simply nodded for her to continue. "You're incredibly beautiful, all of you. Bad circulation and strange eyes seem to go along with that."

"Observant."

"Also..." She hesitated. "I'm still not sure what happened last night... but somehow you knew where to find me. You knew, and you stopped whatever was chasing me."

"Wolves, Bella. There were wolves chasing you." She shook her head and frowned at me, sure that I was mistaken.

"That's not possible." Though I could not read her thoughts, I could see in her eyes that not even she was convinced. "They were huge. Not just that..." A shiver went through her, and I was afflicted with a sudden longing to hold her, to comfort her, but I didn't move from where I sat on the fountain's edge. "They were herding me." She went still, looking up at me as realization dawned. "They were trying to stop me from getting to you."

"Probably," I agreed quietly. "Werewolves and vampires are natural enemies."

"Werewolves and vampires?" I waited for the horror, the fear, but it never came. Instead, deep in thought, she turned away and walked along the flower beds, making a slow circle around the fountain where I remained, waiting. "The tribal legends," she whispered. In what seemed an absent gesture, she reached out and touched another rose blossom. This one was white with crimson edges, like blood on pale skin. A petal fell when her fingertip brushed against it, and she captured it in her hand, turning to face me. "Well, that certainly explains a lot." She met my eyes then without flinching, her expression guardedly curious but not afraid.

"You're taking this far too calmly." My eyes narrowed. "Think it through, Bella."

"I have." A smile curved her lips. "If anything it's a relief to know there's some form of logic to all of this." She tilted her head. "Though I can't say knowing what you are makes you any less remarkable."

"What I am?" I rose to my feet, a sudden, desperate anger sparking to life in my chest. I couldn't walk away from her, I was in too deep. But she still had a choice, she was still capable of making a sane and safe decision. How could she be so blind to the truth? "You have no idea what I am."

"Not completely, no." Even in the face of my anger she was calm. "But it's easier to believe that you and your family are vampires than to try and accept the idea that you're normal."

"That's it, then?" I stared at her, incredulous. There was no way she was completely grasping the gravity of the situation. "You find yourself in a house full of monsters and you shrug it off?"

"If you intended to hurt me, you've passed up a number of opportunities." Her eyes dropped to the rose petal she still cupped in her hand. "In fact you've put yourself at risk more than once now because of me, haven't you?"

Raking a hand through my hair, I looked away. "You're entirely too trusting of my motives."

"Maybe." Bella nodded. "I can't deny that. But I can't be any other way." She stepped toward me, and I took a step back. Shaking her head, she sighed. "I feel safe with you, Edward. Safer than... well, than I ever have."

"We're predators." Leaning down, I picked up one of the river stones at my feet. "Everything about us is designed to make us more attractive to our prey. Our appearance, our voices, even our scent. All it takes is luring the prey in close and--" I calmly crushed the stone to dust in my hand. "There is no escape. Your feeling of safety is an elaborate ruse."

Those clear brown eyes studied me for several long moments, and I wondered if at last I'd gotten through to her. "No," she said finally. "I don't think so." Eyes determined, she approached. I backed up another step, but she never paused. My fists clenched, and I looked down, unable to bear the sight of her face, unable to control the need that raged inside of me and had absolutely nothing to do with her blood. "It wouldn't matter if you were a demon, or an angel." She was so close now, I could feel the warmth of her radiating against my death-cold skin like sunlight. Then her hands curled around one of mine, and I was trembling. "You could be Superman or Darth Vader, and I wouldn't care."

"Darth Vader?" I tried to make my voice light, but it was too rough for lightness.

"An appropriate villain." She arched an eyebrow, daring me to say more. In any other situation it would have been funny. "My point is, it doesn't change anything." Bella still held my hand between both of hers. I stared at them, counting her heartbeats, and then very slowly and carefully pulled my hand away.

"That's a dangerous way to think, Bella," I whispered. "A very dangerous way."

She bit her lip, resting her hands on her stomach as her thoughts went somewhere I was frustratingly unable to follow. When she spoke, her voice was soft, with the faintest note of... bitterness? regret? "Maybe I'm tired of making the safe choices, Edward." She closed her eyes. "Even with her life and the kingdom at stake, Guinevere chose love. She chose her knight, Edward. With his bloodied armor and his death-dealing sword, she still took him in her arms."

I clenched my jaw. "Lancelot's curse was to fall in love with the unattainable woman."

"But Guinevere didn't make the safe choice." When she opened her eyes, she looked at me with those dark and velvet eyes that pulled me down and swallowed me whole. "She chose him." My choice had been made long ago. I could fight its shackles all I liked, all I had to do was look into those fathomless eyes to know it was still binding. In my weakness I had damned myself, and perhaps her as well, but I didn't care. Bella was here, she knew at least a little of the worst of me, and here she remained. This time it was I that reached out and captured her hands, lifted them to my lips, and pressed a kiss to the soft skin of each.

"Lancelot's curse is mine," I breathed. "But I beg of you to make the safe choice."

Bella gently pulled one hand from mine and turned it over. In it she still held the white rose petal with its crimson edge. Holding it delicately with her fingertips, she pressed it to her lips, then with the smile of the goddess curving her sweet mouth, she lifted her hand and pressed the soft, fragrant petal to mine. "I think... it may be too late."

Too late... Far too late, for us both.