Flames of Desire

I want to thank my Beta, Princess07890/RAH07890, who has been by my side through this entire story. I also want to thank her for taking it on, and making it shine. To my best friend, dj071688, words can’t thank you for your words of advice and expertise.

I own the storyline for Bound to the Family, but I borrowed the characters’ names from Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringements are implied.

 

Chapter 1

Another day, another stack of papers to read through; this is not how I saw my life. Most people would have figured that I had the perfect life: a nice home with my wealthy family, and a good job as an attorney in my father’s law firm. However, I had dreams of my own, dreams of becoming a concert pianist. My father demanded that I take a real job at his firm, and discard my childish dreams of making it big in the music industry. Playing the piano came as naturally to me as walking. From the very first time I sat down at the keyboard at the age of four, I was able to put notes together and blend them into whatever tune that I wanted. By the age of ten, I was writing my own compositions and had received several offers, actually earning a modest income, which I put away in an account that my grandmother had set up for me. She had been my biggest supporter and I missed her terribly. Her sudden death due to pneumonia had been a shock to the family, but I believe that her death impacted me more than the rest of the family due to the close bond that we had shared. She had purchased my piano for me, and would sit for hours listening to me play. The smile of contentment on her face whenever I played was something I would remember for a lifetime.   Unlike my grandmother, my father did not, nor would he ever, understand my love of playing. It was as if a part of my soul would blend with the notes as I played them, dancing around in the air. If I closed my eyes, I could almost visualize them as a beautiful waltz. ­

The only thing that I loved more than my music was the sweet Isabella Swan, the courthouse clerk, who worked in our building. The first time I saw her, she was walking up the courthouse steps and a gust of Chicago wind blew around the building and up her dress, causing it to lift ever so much that I caught a glimpse of the top of her dainty lace up boots, showing off her delicate ankles. I was unaware of just how arousing an article of clothing could be. Along with many men my age who had carnal desires, I often found myself locked away in the water closet, my cock in my hand, picturing Miss Swan’s delicate ankles and imagined the rest of her body just as delicate. However, unlike some men, I would never demean Miss Swan in that way.

Miss Swan was a hard worker; I had seen her many times rushing from one side of the courthouse to the other to deliver important legal documents to the attorneys and judges who had offices within the building. I was in love with her penmanship and how the letters seem to dance upon the documents. Inside my billfold was a note that she had attached to one of the documents; her signature was beautifully scripted on the page. I felt close to her every time I looked at it. She was well liked and admired by all, especially the men in the building. I came upon several conversations about Miss Swan that were more than inappropriate; in fact, at times, they were downright lude in their details of what they desired to share with Miss Swan.   I was even embarrassed by their remarks and was shocked by the details they shared. A dignified and respected lady such as Miss Swan did not deserve these remarks.

As the months progressed I finally became brave enough to say hello, and each time I did, a beautiful shade of pink would blossom across her cheeks as she would return my greeting. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to reach out and feel the warmth of her blush and wondered if her skin felt as smooth as it looked, but a gentleman would never take such liberties, and dishonor a lady like Miss Swan. She was to be courted properly and the first step was asking her father’s permission, which I had intended to accomplish, but, again, my father intervened, crushing another of my dreams.

My father had arranged for me to begin courting Miss Tanya Denali, the daughter of his law firm’s partner. If there was one thing that could be said about my father, it was his adherence to the rules of society. With him, appearances were everything, and everyone was a means to be used in a most advantageous way. Miss Swan’s father was the Fire Chief in our fine city, however, in my father’s eyes, Miss Swan’s degree of acceptability with in our social circle was diminished and below our station in life. Essentially, he would never permit me to court her. However, I knew Miss Denali, and she would never be the type of woman that I could see myself marrying. The few times that I was in her presence, the conversations centered on the latest fashion and how I would need to keep her happy with the correct purchases of jewelry and furs.

Looking back down at the papers of my father’s current case, I was reminded of my father’s machinations with his representation of James King. Over the years, James continually found himself on the wrong side of the law. His first offense was a drunk and disorderly charge, which came after he was found slapping his then girlfriend at a fine dining restaurant and now he was being charged for running an illegal gambling ring. His father, Royce King, was president of the city’s wealthiest bank and a longtime friend of my father’s. He was also a large benefactor of many charities in the town.

“Edward, do you have that brief completed on the King case?” Jasper asked as he walked into the office. Jasper Whitlock was my best friend and interning at Masen & Masen. He was also secretly in love with my younger sister, Alice. The first time he saw her was a goner. However, unfortunately for him, my father had other plans for Alice. I had overheard a conversation between my father and Royce King, where it was agreed that, if our firm managed to get James out of this last bit of trouble, my father would give Alice’s hand in marriage to James. I was sickened with the thought that father would do this. He knew of James’ reputation. He was known around the city as someone who bedded anyone and everyone that was willing, and I feared what he might do to my sister, if this marriage were to happen. I so wanted to sabotage the case, but I knew my father would find out and then there would hell to pay.

“Just putting on the finishing touches; I still can’t believe we are defending him again.” I grumbled.

“Edward, you know why.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.”

Jasper looked over his shoulder, and then turned back to me. “How is she?”

“Sad. Father told her of his plans.”

Jasper walked over to the window overlooking the city, mumbled something to himself, and, after a few moments, I saw him reach up and wipe the tears from his eyes. My father was making another person’s life miserable and there was nothing I could do about it. Wiping away another tear, Jasper cleared his throat, then walked back to the desk. “Please tell her that I am sorry.”

“I will; Jasper, please know that it is not my wish to keep you two apart.”

“I know. I am leaving for the evening.”

“Have a good night.”

Giving a small nod, he walked out the door, his shoulders slumped in defeat. Over the next few hours, I finished the brief and researched other cases that could be used as precedent in aiding our efforts to win James’ case. I finally looked up and saw that the darkness of the evening was encroaching. Pulling out my pocket watch, I saw that it was already past eight. Standing up I stretched my back and started putting away my desk for the evening. After making sure everything was in its correct place, I put on my coat and hat, and blew out the lantern on my desk. Walking out of the office and locking the door, I proceeded down the hallway and to the stairs. As I descended past the second floor, I caught sight of a light down its hallway. Curious to see if someone had left a lantern lit, I walked down the hall towards the light. When I reached the door, I found that it was, in fact, the Clerk of the Court’s office. Turning the doorknob, I was surprised to find that it was unlocked. Opening the door slowly I poked my head in and I saw her, Isabella Swan. Her head was resting on the desktop, with books and papers scattered all about. Quietly, I walked over to where she slept and stood, just relishing being in her presence. An angel from heaven is what is she is. As I looked closely, I noticed a small patch of freckles around her delicate nose. Otherwise, her skin was of the whitest porcelain. Her mouth was pulled tight, making her plump lips even more pronounced and oh, how I wanted to kiss and taste them to see if, in fact, they tasted of honey. I couldn’t stop staring at her and I knew I should make myself known, but I just wanted a few more minutes of heaven. I saw her eyes flutter and then the sweetest smile came upon her face. I wondered what she was dreaming that made her smile; because, if I could, I would ensure that she did it every day for the rest of our lives.

“Edward.” She cooed softly.

Backing up suddenly at the sound of my name coming from her lips, I tried to comprehend what it meant. As I backed up, I hit a book on the table behind me, making it fall to the floor with loud thump, and, in doing so, Bella jumped, her eyes whipping back and forth, and then they came upon me.

“Edward, I mean Mr. Masen, sir. I am sorry; I must have fallen asleep.”

“No, Miss Swan, it is I who is sorry. I should have knocked, but I saw a light on and came to investigate. It is very late.”

“Oh my. My parents will be so worried.” She said, standing up and gathering up her coat and hat. “What time is it?”

“It is after eight.”

“Oh my.”

“Please allow me to escort you home. I would not feel comfortable allowing you to walk these streets alone after dark. A lady such as yourself would be a prime target of the vile people of our town.”

“Thank you very much, Mr. Masen.”

“Please call me Edward, Miss Swan.” I begged.

She ducked her head down and a bloom of pink came upon the apples of her cheeks. “Edward.” She stuttered softly. “May I be so bold to ask you to call me Bella?”

I couldn’t believe I was going to be able to say the name that I dreamt about so much. Licking my lips, taking in a deep cleansing breath, I muttered the name that I held so dear, “Bella, let us be off before your father sends out a search party.”

Giggling sweetly, she picked up her coat to put on. I took it from her and opened it up to allow her to slide her arms in and adjusted it snuggly on her shoulders. Turning to me over her shoulder, her deep brown eyes sparkling like twinkling stars, she thanked me for the help. She picked up her hat, placed it over her long chestnut curls, tying the ribbon under her chin, then placed her gloves over her delicate hands.

Ensuring that the light was out, we proceeded out the door and down the dark hallway. I was very careful of our distance to each other, but the warmth of her arm linked through mine, prompted me to want nothing more than to pull her as close as possible and never let go. As we walked down the stairs, she grasped even harder to my arm. As we neared the last two steps, she tripped; if her arm had not been around mine, she would have surely fallen.

“Bella, are you okay?” I asked, looking at her, then noticing the pink hue had turned bright red of embarrassment.

“Yes, I am so sorry, Edward. I am very clumsy.”

“Well, I’ll have to remember that.” I jested.

“Kind Sir, are you making fun of me?”

“No, my lady, I was not, just wishing that I might have the honor of catching you during those times.” I blurted out.

She looked at me with a look of surprise; her eyes searching mine for an answer.

Just before we walked out of the courthouse and onto the street, I stopped, turned, and looked down at her. At that moment, I made the decision not to do as my father wished and to follow my heart. “Bella, I would very much like to court you.”

“You would?”

“Yes, but you must know my father has someone else in mind for me, however, I find myself unable to be with someone when my heart already belongs to another.”

Her face wrinkled up with an uncertain look. “I don’t understand.”

Taking her gloved covered hand, I brought it up to my lips, and placed a kiss upon her knuckles. “If I may be so bold, my heart is now, and has always been, yours, ever since the first day I laid eyes upon you.”

She gasped and tears filled her eyes; she stared into my eyes. At that moment, I knew she might feel the same way. “Oh, Edward, if I may be so bold as well, my heart is yours as well.”

“Then let us get you home; I will need to have a conversation with your father. But, as much as I would love to court you properly in public, I need to be careful until I set my father straight and make preparations, should he decide to fire me for my disobedience.”

“Edward, truly, do you think he would take such drastic measures?   I would not feel comfortable should that happen. How would you survive without a job?”

“Bella, dear, don’t worry, I have enough money for us to live off of for at least ten lifetimes. My mother’s father left me his entire estate and he was a very wealthy man. I promise to give you a life full of everything you might wish or want.”

“But, Edward, the only thing I wish or want is just to be with you.”

“And you will. I promise you, with everything I have, you will. Come, let’s get you home.”

We stepped out of the courthouse and began to walk down the dirt street toward her home. I couldn’t remember the last time that it had rained. The road was so dry that, when the wind blew, it easily lifted the dry dirt, swirling around passersby, coating them in dust and dirt. The housekeeper at home was always fussing about how she could never could keep it clean. Ever so quickly, we had made it to the front steps of Bella’s home, where I fought an internal struggle to let go of her arm.

“Thank you, Edward, for walking me home.”

“It was truly my pleasure.” I said, looking up at her house. It was a modest home and I could imagine myself living in a home just like this with Bella. Unlike my father, I really didn’t care for extravagances, the only two things I cared about was Bella and my piano.   “Do you think your father is at home?”

Bella looked at the house and back at me. “I’m not sure, but I could check.”

“Please; I would like the privilege of speaking with him for a few minutes.”

Bella went to open her door, but took one last look over her shoulder and gave me a smile that made my heart beat faster than I thought it could. “Goodnight, Edward.” She said.

“Sweet dreams, Bella.” I sighed.

I watched as she walked through her door, then, a few minutes later, Charles Swan walked out the door. He was a tall, slender man with brown hair and eyes which he obviously shared with his daughter. “Mr. Masen, you wanted to speak with me.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Bella said that you walked her home.” He questioned, raising his eyebrow in an accusing manner.

“Yes, sir. I noticed she was still at the courthouse when I went to leave and I couldn’t permit her to walk the streets unescorted at this time of the evening.”

“Thank you, Mr. Masen; that was very thoughtful. She sometimes gets lost in her work and loses track of time,” he said, looking back toward the house. Turning back, he looked me straight in the eye. “She said you wanted a moment.”

“Yes, sir, I would like to speak with you concerning an important matter. Do you have some time tomorrow morning that we may talk?” I asked, stilling my shaking hands.

“And may I ask what this is about, Mr. Masen?” Mr. Swan requested with a slight gleam in his eye. I suspected that he was aware of the subject matter.

“It is about Miss Swan, sir.” I responded tactfully.

Charles Swan’s eyes pierced me where I stood; now I couldn’t read anything on his face. I usually could read a man’s thoughts by his facial expressions, but this man was a blank book.

“Be here at ten a.m., then, sir.”

“Thank you, sir, thank you. I will be here.” I gushed. Shaking his hand, I turned and began my walk home with a spring in my step. I quickly made my way to the street where my home was located. As I neared the house, I became nervous about the conversation I knew was coming with my father. I knew it was not going to be an easy one. However, I was determined; I refused to give up Bella.

 

Chapter 2

Walking up the steps that lead to the front door of our home, I noticed how different my house was compared to Bella’s. Ours was large and slightly ostentatious, but father had wanted only the very best in everything. His obvious display of wealth provided anyone who visited to view him as a man of power and prestige. I never liked my home, other than my piano, but, knowing my father, this might be the last time I would call this place home and I was actually feeling comfortable with that fact. Thinking of Bella’s home, I could imagine a home similar to that for us to start our lives together. A place that was warm, comfortable, and full of love, with Bella meeting me at the door with her sweet smile on her face and an adorable baby on her hip, and one tugging on her skirt.

Opening the front door, I walked into the marble-floored entryway, took off my overcoat, gloves, and hat, and laid them on the bench that was by the door. I knew my father was probably in his study; I could no longer delay stating my position on his arrangements. Walking up the stairs to the second floor, where father’s study resided, I knocked on the door.

“Come in.” He barked.

Opening the door, I found him behind his desk, a cigar in between his lips, and a glass of whiskey in his hand. “Edward, my boy, come in.”

I walked over and sat in one of the chairs in front of his desk.

“Do you want a drink?” He asked, holding up the glass.

“No, sir.” I answered.

“Well, I talked to Mr. Denali today and he is in agreement with you courting Tanya. I was thinking we could have a dinner party tomorrow evening so that your intentions will be made public. It is in agreement with Mr. Denali that it will be a short courtship. We would like the engagement to occur within the next month, so the wedding can take place before the end of the year.”

“No, father; that will not be acceptable.”

“What do you mean no?” He asked with a sneer on his face. “I don’t see the need for a long courtship, since we both know that it is only a formality for appearance’s sake. Hell, if I knew we could get by without a scandal that you were only marrying her because she was pregnant, I would have you both at the courthouse tomorrow. Oh, that reminds me, her father and I expect her to be pregnant right after the first of the year.”

“I have no intentions of courting Ms. Denali.”

“Well, that is a shame, because you damn well will.”

“No father, I will not. My heart belongs to someone else and I will not court someone other than her.”

He jumped to his feet; his chair flew back, hitting the wall with a large bang. Slamming down his glass, he looked like he could kill me at that moment. “You will do as I say and court Tanya Denali, and you will forget about this other girl. If, after you wed Tanya, you want to have a mistress on the side, I am sure that would be acceptable. Courting and marrying her is my wish, and you will comply, or I will wash my hands of you.”

“No, father. I have my own desires, and they do not, nor will they ever, include courting Ms. Denali.”

“Then remove yourself from my house. I am through with you. And don’t come back, either here or the office. Your services at the firm are no longer required.” He bellowed.

“Fine, if that is your wish!” I yelled back and left the room.

I ran up the next flight of stairs to my room, grabbed a suitcase, and began stuffing my clothes into it. I had never felt so free in my entire life. After getting several shirts, ties, undergarments, and trousers, I pulled out the drawer that held my grandmother’s jewelry box. She had given several pieces to Alice, but the remainder of her collection had been willed to me. She had written me a letter that went along with it, and I opened the box to ensure that the letter was safely inside. I wanted to share it with Bella one day, because I knew that Nana would have loved her as much as I do. Putting the box in my case, I collected my toiletries, and, after placing my shoes in the case, I was ready to go.

Walking out of my room, I turned to look back one last time. Shutting my door, I proceeded down the steps and was met by Alice.

“Oh, Edward, what happened?” She glanced down at the suitcase in my hand, and pleaded, “Please don’t go.” She cried.

Setting down the case, I wrapped my arms around her tiny frame and hugged her tightly. “Alice, I will not be bullied into a courtship or marriage to a woman I don’t love. And I promise you that you won’t either.” I was determined that father would not make her marry the vile James King. “I will send you a note as soon as I am settled.”

“Oh, Edward, I will miss you.”

“And I will miss you. Love you, Alice.”

“I love you, Edward.”

Letting her go, I picked up my suitcase and walked down the stairs. After donning my coat, gloves, and hat, I opened the door of my childhood home and left to begin the future I desired.

I began to make my way to the house my grandparents bequeathed me. It was located on Hudson Street, several blocks away from my parents’ home. Looking back, I had made a good decision in having the upkeep of the place maintained.

It didn’t take me long to arrive at the home. After finding the key that I had placed under one of flower pots, I unlocked to door and pushed it open. As I walked in, the stale air of neglected use hit me. Sitting down my suitcase, I lit a lantern and proceeded to look around the room. Unlike my father’s home, this house had a homier feel to it. I could see Bella and me starting our lives together in this home. Walking into the parlor, I was happy to see the Steinway sitting proudly in the room. It would need a good cleaning and tuning, but I knew it was a fine piece of equipment and would last for years. This is where I would start my new profession, composing and teaching music. It might not bring in much income initially, but we would be happy. Bella would be taking care of our children, filling the home with love and joy. Collecting my case, I walked upstairs to the master bedroom and prepared for bed, wanting to be refreshed for my conversation with Mr. Swan. My sleep was filled with dreams of the brown-eyed beauty that had captured my heart.

After I woke the next morning, I quickly completed did my morning ablutions, making sure I was cleanly shaved, and my best suit was pressed so I would look presentable. This meeting with Mr. Swan was so important. He held my future life and happiness in his hands.

After finishing getting ready, I felt hungry; so I needed to go find something to eat. I would need to go the market after the meeting with Mr. Swan to stock food for the house. Slipping on my overcoat, gloves, and hat, I proceeded out the door. I would stop at the local restaurant to have some breakfast. There was a wonderful cafe not far from the courthouse where I had eaten on several occasions. Walking in, I found a small table free over in the corner, and sat down at the table.

“Mr. Masen, so good to have you back.” The owner said.

“Thank you, Mrs. Jones, I just want eggs over easy, toast, and coffee.”

“Coming right up.”

As Mrs. Jones walked away I began to plan what I was going to say to Mr. Swan to convince him to permit me to court Isabella. I hoped I could convince him of my good character, and my ability to care for his daughter’s wellbeing. I also wanted to convey my desire for a short courtship. I had every intention of making Isabella my wife as soon as possible.

“Here you go, Mr. Masen.” Mrs. Jones said as she placed the plate and mug of coffee on the table.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

As I ate my breakfast, I couldn’t help imagine what it would be like when Isabella and I were married and shared all our meals together. I understood that some women enjoyed working, but secretly I hoped that Isabella was not one of them. I really wanted her to run our home. We would, of course, have housekeepers and a nanny, but Isabella was to be in charge. Once I start composing music again, we could host a few small soirees, as well as attend different society events. I would make sure she had the finest dresses and my grandmother’s jewelry would look wonderful on her. I, of course, would also be buying her new pieces of jewelry.

Finishing my breakfast, I pulled out my billfold and placed the amount of the bill on the table. After donning my outerwear, I walked out of the restaurant and continued my walk down the street toward the Swan residence. As I neared the house, I pulled out my pocket watch and checked the time, five minutes to ten, perfect. I knocked on the door and I waited with baited breath. Suddenly, the door opened, and there stood the man that held my future in his hands.

“Mr. Masen I see that punctuality is another one of your strong suits, come in.”

I followed Mr. Swan into his home, which was warm and inviting, unlike my parents’. Mr. Swan sat down in a small parlor to right of the front entrance. I removed my overcoat, hat, and gloves and sat down across from him. Taking in a deep cleansing breath, I was ready to start my plea. “Mr. Swan, I would like your permission to court Isabella.”

“I see. And why would you want to do that?” Mr. Swan asked.

“Sir, for many months I have been privileged to witness several of the attributes that are reflective of what a wonderful young lady Miss Swan is, and I can picture myself devoting my life to her. I am a dedicated worker, I currently own my own home and am the sole recipient of a large inheritance that was bequeathed to me by my grandparents. It is my plan to start teaching music and composing. Isabella would never want for anything, but, more than that, she would be truly loved, cared for, and adored until my last breath.”

Mr. Swan remained stoic as he continued to stare at me. I silently prayed that he would see that I spoke the truth with every word. He leaned back in the chair, stroking his mustache. “Mr. Masen, what does your family think of your desire to court Isabella?”

I thought carefully about my response. “Mr. Swan, my father is not happy. You see, sir, my father made alternative arrangements with one of his firm’s partners for me to court his daughter. A courtship that would prove to be advantageous to him. I spoke with him, and informed him that my heart already belonged to another, but he did not agree with my wishes. You see, sir, my heart belongs to Isabella. He has fired me from his law firm, but, as I said earlier, money is not the issue. I am sure once my mother and sister meet Isabella they will fall in love with her as I have.”

“Hmm. Mr. Masen, I think you are a very responsible and respectable young man. You seem to have a level head on his shoulders, and your feelings for Isabella seem to be true, so I give you my permission to court Isabella.”

“Thank you, sir. Thank you. I promise to always put Isabella’s needs and concerns above all else.”

“Remember that, sir, or I will make it my duty to remind you and I promise you it will not be pleasant.”

I looked at Mr. Swan and could tell he was extremely tired and wondered why. “Mr. Swan, if I may, you appear very tired. Is everything okay, sir?”

“Yes, Mr. Masen, unfortunately we were called out for a very large fire yesterday evening and I have only returned home a few hours ago.”

“I hope everyone got out safe, sir.”

“Yes, they did, but we were very lucky. With these extremely dry conditions, a fire could start at any moment with the littlest spark. We have been trying to pass the word around warning everyone to be watchful with the use of fire, but so many don’t seem to heed the warnings.” He said, a fatigued and dejected expression upon on his face. I could only surmise that he truly cared about the people of Chicago and knew he was the source of kindness and compassion that I had discovered in Isabella.

“Sir, I will be leaving now, but I hope to call upon Miss Swan later this evening to escort her to dinner and a stroll through the city.”

“That sounds fine, Mr. Masen; I will make Isabella aware.”

We rose up and walked toward the front door; through the opening to the right of the doorway, I glanced into the kitchen where I saw Isabella sitting at the table peeling potatoes. The bright autumn sun was shining in the window and glowed upon her lovely alabaster skin. She was so lovely; I couldn’t believe I had her father’s blessing to court her. I don’t know if he had figured it out, but one day, as soon as was socially acceptable, I would be asking for her hand in marriage. Isabella Swan was the only woman I would ever love.

“Bella, Mr. Masen will be calling on you this evening.” Charlie said through the hallway.

I watched as her cheeks began to blush a rosy glow. Standing up and wiping her hands on her apron, she walked over to her father. “That sounds very nice, father. What time would you be calling, Mr. Masen?” She asked demurely.

“I will call upon you at six o’clock. I’m planning to escort you to dinner and a walk, Miss Swan.” I said as I willed myself not to take her in my arms and place a kiss on her pouty lips. Turning to Mr. Swan, “Sir, I hope you are able to get some rest today; I will be here promptly at six.”

“I will try, Mr. Masen, and I will see you then.” Charlie said.

Walking out the door and down the stairs, I felt like I was walking on air because I could feel my future beginning. The future I desired.

*********************************Flames*****************************************

Edward Anthony Masen, Sr. was sitting in his office going over the court case for James King. He couldn’t believe Edward had walked out of the house last night, but he was sure he would come crawling back soon enough. Edward had always been a disappointment. His wife’s mother was the cause of much of the contention since she was the one who introduced him to that damn piano. Sure, he played well enough, but the old woman had filled his head that he was some great performer and could make a living off his music. Crazy old woman; he was glad she died so he wouldn’t have to hear her nagging him to be kinder to Edward and Alice. Reading over the notes of the case, he was aware that he was going to have a difficult time getting his client acquitted of the charges. He felt sure that, through his connections, he could find the right people to bribe into seeing the case his way. He was aware of the importance of concluding this case as promptly as possible in order to proceed with the marriage between James and Alice. At least Alice will finally be worth something other than an expense. Once their union was sanctioned, he could secure his standing in the community, further elevating his position for his anticipated campaign for governor of Illinois.

Anthony would need the social backing of Royce King to be successful. However, he also needed Mr. Denali’s vast wealth to help fund his campaign. Unfortunately, he needed Edward to stop acting like a child, and follow the plans he had implemented, and marry Tanya. She was a very beautiful young woman; if Edward didn’t want to share her bed, perhaps, he could assume those duties for his son. He was sure he would be able to keep her satisfied. She wouldn’t be the first woman whose bed he kept warm, and she wouldn’t be last. He had only married Elizabeth because her father had offered him a large dowry. Her appearance was pleasing, she was slightly on the large size and always prim and proper. Hell, he had never seen her naked, even after all these years of marriage. She always wore a nightgown when they were having relations, which was always at night with the lights off; when they were finished, she would go to her room to sleep.

Elizabeth had not been his choice for a wife; he had desired the beautiful Esme Platt, but Carlisle Cullen came along and swept her away before he had a chance to offer his courtship. She was the most beautiful woman he had even seen, and, even after all these years, she remained so. Damn, Carlisle was a lucky man. Looking up at the clock, he noticed that it was getting late, but as he looked out the window, the night sky was alight in a bright reddish orange glow. Getting up to get a closer look out the window, he saw something that struck fear to his very soul. Chicago was burning.

Chapter 3

Walking down the steps, I could have sworn that I was floating on billowy clouds instead of wooden steps. Chief Swan had given me his permission to court Isabella. Looking up to the heavens, I said a silent thank you to God for giving me the opportunity to show her that I was the type of man who would take care of her and love her until my last breath. As my feet finally touched the ground, my mind was filled with what I needed to do to make this first date special for Isabella. I needed to make a reservation for dinner, but where should I take her? With my station, I knew I could afford to take her to the best restaurant in Chicago, but, I learned while watching Isabella, she would not be one who would enjoy fine dining for sake of appearances. North Water was one of the finest of establishments in the city; it had printed menus, cloth napkins, and varied cuisines, but it was also the place that people looked at you for what you had, not what was on the inside, which meant more to me. Then, I remembered the restaurant that I went with Alice, Lake House, which overlooked Lake Michigan. Unlike North Water, Lake House was still a nice restaurant with wonderful food, but the atmosphere was more acceptable and inviting. I quickly made my way to Lake House, happy to see that they were opening and prayed that they would have availability for my reservation.

Opening the door, I was elated to see that nothing had changed and I could see Isabella and myself having a wonderful dinner here.

“Welcome to the Lake House.” The maître d’ said. “How may I help you today?”

“Good day, sir. I would like to make a dinner reservation.” I greeted him.

“Certainly.” He responded as he located his reservations book.

“I desire the reservation for this evening, at 6:30 pm, if possible.”

The maître d’ looked down at his book and looked back up. “I do have availability at that time. How many in your party, sir?”

“Two, and I would like a table somewhat away from the crowd, but not too far.” I said. As much as I would like the privacy, I did not want anything to tarnish the reputation of my sweet Isabella.

“I understand, sir, and your name?”

“Edward Masen.” I stated, noting that he obviously was familiar the name and knew it well.

“Oh, Mr. Masen, I am so sorry I didn’t recognize you. Please accept my apologies for my oversight.” He said, stumbling over each word.

“Please, it is no problem at all; do not concern yourself with it further.”

“As you wish, but I will personally make sure that your evening will be perfect for you and your companion.”

“Thank you very much. I will return at 6:30 pm, then.” I said, then turned and left the restaurant. Walking down the street, I wanted to stop by the barber to get a trim and a shave. The streets were busy with people rushing around; many of the horses and carriages trotting by on the dusty road caused the dust to whirl around and land on everything and everyone. I could not remember the last time we had had some rain and hoped we would very soon.

Wanting to look my best, I headed to the barber shop to get a haircut and a shave. Mr. Rodney had been the only man to ever cut my hair. As a young lad of two or three, my grandfather took me for my first haircut with Mr. Rodney. I remember even at that young age being lifted up into the chair, where Mr. Rodney had placed a wooden box and, once seated upon it, he draped a cape around me. He must have known I was frightened, because I remember he started singing Old Dan Tucker. I thought it was so funny, that I forgot all about the scissors in his hands, and, by the end of the song, my hair was cut. Mr. Rodney would always say. “Young Edward, you need to stop allowing Mrs. O’Leary’s cows to lick your head. Your hair will never lay down if you keep allowing this.” For a long time after that, I was scared to death of cows and would scream and run at the sight of one. As I turned the corner, I spotted Mr. Rodney’s shop, he had one man in the chair with two others waiting. Pulling out my pocket watch, I noticed that it was getting close to lunch and decided to grab lunch at the diner and hopefully after that Mr. Rodney would be available. As I opened the door to the diner, I noticed Jasper sitting at a table all alone looking very sad with a large wooden box sitting beside him. As I neared his table, I noticed it contained my personal possessions that I had left in my office.

“Jasper!” I called out to him.

He looked up and gave a small smile. “Edward, so glad to see you. I wondered what was going on when I came in this morning and your father was throwing all the items from your office into the hall. He was grumbling under his breath about how ungrateful you were and that you would be crawling back soon, begging for his forgiveness. Have a seat, and tell me what happened.”

Sitting down at the table, I thought a moment on how to convey what had transpired the previous evening. “Jasper, you are acutely aware of just how manipulative my father is in attaining his goals, correct?” Jasper nodded his acknowledgement. “Well, my father was demanding that I begin my courtship of one Miss Tanya Denali. He also shared his plans for our marriage before the end of the year, and the beginning of our family by the first of next year.” Looking around to make sure no was listening in on our conversation, I continued, sharing information that no other was privy to. “But I have already given my heart to another and refused to submit to his demands. We had a huge argument about the matter, where Father then proceeded to remove me from the house, the firm, and his life. I packed my belongings and left his home.”

“Edward, do you need a place to stay?” Jasper asked.

“No, but thank you. The truth is, Jasper, I own my own home. I inherited it from my maternal grandparents. They also bestowed upon me their entire fortune. They came from old money and were very cautious about how they used it. They lived in a nice, but modest home and never squandered their money on useless things. However, this is information that has been kept within the family. Since, one day, I am hoping that you, too, will be a member of our family, I feel safe in sharing this information with you.”

“And what about Miss Alice?” Jasper inquired.

“Unfortunately, she is still at home. But I swear to you, Jasper, I have every intention of finding a way to get her out of the arrangements that my father has made.”

“I don’t know what you can possibly do, Edward. This morning I overheard a conversation between your father and James in regards to the unethical actions he plans to take to ensure that all the charges against James are dropped.”

“Jasper, I would plead with you to keep your eyes and ears open. If you think there is anything that could help our cause, please let me know post haste. This may be the avenue available to us to thwart Father’s plans and prevent that courtship.”

“I will Edward, on my honor.” Jasper said as he pulled out his pocket watch. “I must return.”

“My home is at 612 Hudson Street. Please feel free to come by tomorrow so that we may discuss this matter further.” I said. As Jasper prepared to depart, there was a sudden ruckus at a nearby table. As I peered over my shoulder, I saw James King in the company of several companions. One of the young men I recognized as Patrick O’Leary, who had been previously incarcerated for running a gambling ring.

“Patty, are we all setup for tonight? I have this new guy coming, who has some deep pockets.” James quipped. “And I have those special dice all set for the game.”

“You are going to let us in on the numbers that will be coming up?” Patrick chuckled.

“You know that I am, partner.” James snickered. “Once I get this damnable case dropped, I will have a fine lady on my arm and, I hope, a wild cat in my bed.”

“Oh, and who may I ask would that be?”

“Miss Alice Masen, as it were. Her father has made a gentlemen’s agreement with my father, that if Mr. Masen can ensure the charges are dropped, he will give him a pile of money and I get his little daughter. She is so prim and proper. I’m hoping that when I get her naked in my bed she will be a wild cat. If not, that is okay, because I going to enjoy pounding into that little pussy.”

“You will have to tell us all about her.”

I looked back at Jasper who was now standing with his fists drawn and look of murder on his face. “Jasper, don’t do this. Please think of Alice and calm down. I promise you I won’t let that happen.”

Watching him take several deep cleansing breaths, I continued,   “I will use everything at my disposal to ensure that he never touches her.”

“She is an angel who certainly deserves to be treated as such.” Jasper seethed. “I am sorry, Edward, but it is paramount that I leave this very instant. I’ll certainly be by your home tomorrow’s eve.”

“Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

I ordered my food and quickly ate. Pulling out my billfold, I paid my bill and prepared to leave. Looking once again over to the table occupied by James and his friends, James looked up and smirked. I could only image what vile thoughts were ruminating through his demented brain. Quickly leaving the diner, I walked back toward Mr. Rodney’s shop. As I passed a ladies apparel shop, I noticed a delicate lace handkerchief in the window display. Stopping to get a better view of the item, I knew I needed to purchase it for my sweet Isabella. I entered the shop and was greeted by a young woman. She was tall, with blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and white alabaster skin. I was sure that most men would find her very attractive, but since my eyes had glanced upon Miss Swan, no other woman could compare to her beauty.

“Good day, sir. How may I help you?” The young woman asked.

“Good day. I would like to purchase the handkerchief that is displayed in the window.”

“Which one, sir?” She inquired.

“The delicate lace one with the swan on it.”

“Oh, that is one of our lovelier pieces. Please wait here and I will retrieve it for you.”

After the woman walked away, I looked around the shop, and noticed that it was filled with lovely, fashionable dresses, hats, gloves, and shoes and imagined myself bringing Isabella to peruse their shelves and filling her closet. She would be the best dressed woman in all of Chicago.

“Here you go, sir.”

Gingerly taking the handkerchief, I was elated to see that it was made well and that the detailing of the embroidered swan truly was beautiful. “I love it.”

“Wonderful, sir and, if I may say, the young lady who receives it is truly lucky. It was made in Italy by a well-known lace maker.”

“No, ma’am, I am the lucky one.” I boasted.

The young woman collected my money, then carefully wrapped the handkerchief in tissue paper. “Please come again soon.”

“I plan to.”

Carefully placing the package in my jacket pocket I made my way to Mr. Rodney’s. I was happy to see that there were no other customers waiting and that his chair was available. Walking in, he looked up and gave me one of his biggest smiles.

“Young Edward, so good to see you.”

“Mr. Rodney, same here. I believe that I am in need of a haircut and a shave.”

“By the look on your face, am I to believe there is reason for the cut and shave?”

“You know me so well, Mr. Rodney. I have the extreme pleasure to have gained the approval of Chief Swan to court his beautiful daughter, Miss Isabella Swan.”

“Chief Swan is a good man and I have had the pleasure over the years to meet Miss Swan and her brother, Emmett. He’s a strapping young man who has followed in his father’s footsteps and become a fireman in our fair city. If I am correct, he belongs to the brigade located near your father’s law firm.”

“I have not had the pleasure to meet her brother, but I was fortunate to make Miss Swan’s acquaintance; she has worked at the courthouse for a while.”

“She is a sweet young lady and I can’t think of anyone who would be better suited to court her than you. Edward, I have known you since you were knee high to a grasshopper and knew your grandfather to be a great man and your make and manner, I feel assured that you are following in his footsteps.”

“Thank you, sir, but what if I should misstep, or displease her in some manner?” I groaned, feeling the threat of inadequacy upon me.

“You will, of course, make mistakes young man, lots of them, but you are only human and a man. We are not infallible creatures, young Edward. We are only as good as the woman we love, so I believe you will be fine. What you must remember is that there will be matters in which you each must weigh the importance of imposing your opinions. Compromise is the key, Edward. I am sure of your choice with Miss Swan, but you must relax, and permit the growth of your courtship.”

“I thank you for your encouragement, Mr. Rodney. My problem stems from the fallacy of my confidence that Miss Swan is the woman I feel destined to spend the remainder of my life with. I have watched her from afar and am confident that she is the only one for me. And I also had the pleasure to overhear a furtive whisper when she accidently slumbered at the office that indicated that she thinks of me also.”

“What do you mean furtive whisper while she slept? Please tell me you didn’t do anything inappropriate.” He questioned in a rough tone.

I quickly responded, “Of course not, sir. I was departing for the evening when I noticed a lantern was left lit in one of the offices. As I went to investigate, I found Miss Swan had fall asleep while working late into the evening hours. It was then I heard her whisper my name. I immediately make my presence known, then escorted her home for the evening.”

“Well, I truly did not think you would, Edward, but your statement initially caused me a small degree of alarm. Let me get your haircut and shave finished, so that you are looking quite dapper for the fair Miss Swan.”

As Mr. Rodney cut my hair, I could hear him humming the tune that he had sang to me all those years ago as a child. Before I knew it, my haircut was complete and he had the chair leaned back and was applying a hot towel around my chin, preparing it for my shave. He continued to hum as he brushed the straight edged razor against the leather strap that was attached to the chair. The aroma of the shaving cream he was mixing permeated the air. He removed the towel and placed it back into the bowl of hot water for later as he slathered the shaving cream upon my face.

“So, tell me, Edward, what are your plans for Miss Swan this evening? Perhaps you can take a stroll to the park after a nice dinner. My Cora always appreciated a nice evening stroll after an evening meal.”

I waited until Mr. Rodney took a pause to rinse the razor before daring to speak. “I have made reservations for dinner and had planned for a small stroll afterwards.” I was enjoying the easy conversation with Mr. Rodney as I always did, however, it occurred to me that this type of conversation usually took place between one’s father and oneself. It occurred to me that that would never happen between father and me. Although I was slightly saddened by this revelation, I was saddened more for my father; he would never share in the opportunity. I was even sadder that he was not cognizant enough to realize what he was missing.

After Mr. Rodney completed my haircut and shave, I noted that the time was now edging towards five in the evening. I had an hour and a half to complete my preparations and escort Miss Swan to the restaurant for our reservations. After paying my bill, and bidding Mr. Rodney a good day, I quickly walked back to my home and began to prepare for the evening, donning my best suit and tie. Opening my jewelry case and selecting the perfect set of cufflinks to match my attire. Selecting my black onyx set, I noticed my grandmother’s engagement ring when I picked them up. As I held it in my hand, I wondered what it would look like on Isabella’s finger. It was a Georgian cut ruby and diamond ring. My grandfather had it specially made for my grandmother for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. She wore it every day until the day she died. In her will, she expressed her desire that it was to be bequeathed to me, in order to permit me to give it to the woman who would own my heart. Placing it back into the case, I finished preparing ready and alighted down the stairs. Donning my overcoat and hat, I opened the door and stepped outside. Hesitating for a moment, I said a silent pray that tonight would be everything that Isabella would hope it would be. My future was waiting and I was anxious for it to begin.

 

Chapter 4

On my way to Isabella’s home, I began to ponder various ways that I could extract Alice from my father’s machinations for her and James. It was inconceivable to me that my father was literally intending to sell Alice to the King family for their financial support. James was an insidious cad who needed to be horsewhipped and permanently removed from all good society. I could barely believe what my ears were hearing when the plans were being made at the diner to intentionally break the law again, this evening, by running an illegal dice game. The man’s reasoning was beyond my comprehension.

Mrs. O’Leary was an amiable lady, who was known for her kindness and generosity to those in need. She had my sympathy, as it appeared her son was turning out to be a low life scoundrel.   I felt assured that Mrs. O’Leary’s son’s acquaintance with James would lead to his eventual incarceration as well. If I wasn’t sure that the police would recognize me, I would go into the first precinct I came upon and report the lot of them. Unfortunately, with James’ arrest history, and my position as his previous attorney, and the damn client and attorney confidentiality clause, which prohibited me from reporting my current and previous clients, I couldn’t.

Looking up, I saw that I was nearing Isabella’s home. I felt my heart palpitations begin to speed up, and the sudden euphoria encompasses me. I was beginning my courtship of Miss Isabella Swan.   I was silently praying that, during this courtship, I might convey to her that I was the only man that would ever truly love her with the amount of admiration and respect that she deserved. Running my hands over my jacket and straightening my hat, I walked up the steps to her portico and knocked on the door.   After a few moments, the door was opened by a shockingly large man. I was unfamiliar with him, so I was taken aback.

“So, sir, you are the man who is courting my sister.” He growled.

Swallowing the extreme amount of saliva that had suddenly formed, I found my voice to respond. “Yes, sir, I am.” I held out my hand in cordial greeting, as the giant took it and squeezed it with a great deal of strength as he shook it. “I am Edward Masen.”

“Emmett Swan.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you.” I said, trying not to give any indication of the pain I was suffering from the excruciating handshake. Hopefully there would not be any damage, and I would still be able to play the piano after this.

Leaning into me, he snarled. “You listen here, my sister is a precious jewel and you better treat her as such, because, if you harm one hair on her head, or take any liberties with her innocent virtue, I can assure you, sir, your body will never be found. Do we have an understanding, sir?”

Nodding in agreement, I tried to gain my wits about me so I could assure him that my intentions were nothing but honorable. “Mr. Swan, I can assure you that I have nothing but the highest regards for your sister and my hopes are that I can be the man that she deserves.”

“Isabella is too good for anyone.” He said.

“That she is.” I assured him of my agreement.

He released my hand and scrutinized me from the toe of my shoe, to the top of my head. Then, suddenly, his face broke out in a huge grin and two large dimples were displayed on his large cheeks. “Mr. Masen, I think we are going to get along just fine and dandy.” He said, and then proceeded to slap me hard on the back, knocking the breath out of me.

Coughing and gasping, I looked up and nodded at him again in agreement.

“Emmett, stop that this instant.” Mr. Swan said as he walked into the foyer. “Mr. Masen, my apologies for my son.”

“That is perfectly fine, sir. I would prevail upon a suitor in the same fashion, were my sister involved.”

“That is good to know. Isabella will down shortly, perhaps we can have a seat in the parlor, and you can share with me your plans for this evening.”

After unbuttoning my jacket and having a seat on the divan, I shared my plans for the evening. “I have dinner reservations at the Lake House, after which I thought we might enjoy a leisurely walk around the lake. I intend to have Isabella returned home by nine. If these plans meet with your approval, sir?”

Smoothing his mustache with his fingers, Isabella’s father appeared thoughtful as he considered what I had proposed. “Make sure you are within public view of others at all times. I will not have her character impugned by the local gossips.”

“Of course, sir.” He had to know I would take great care to protect Isabella’s reputation.

Looking at Mr. Swan, I noticed a slight smile and recognized that he was getting considerable pleasure at my expense. Upon hearing light footsteps descending the stairs, I glanced to the doorway to see Isabella at the entrance. She was a vision in green. She was wearing a soft green gown that fell slightly off her shoulders and displayed her miniscule waist. I noticed, coincidently, that the color happened to nearly match that of my eyes, hoping that she had selected it for that reason. Her mahogany hair was curled tightly and laid on top of her delicate shoulders. Around her neck she wore a cameo necklace. She was truly a vision of beauty, and left me feeling breathless as well as fortunate.

“Good evening, Miss Swan.” I offered in greeting upon rising from my seat.

Immediately a rosy hue bloomed across her cheeks as she demurely hid her face slightly to the side. “Good evening, Mr. Masen.”

“You look exquisite.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“May we go?” I asked.

“Yes, please.”

I picked up my overcoat and slipped it back on and picked up my hat. As I turned, I noticed that she had her hat on and her coat in her hands. “May I assist you with your coat, miss?”

“Certainly, kind sir.” She answered with one of those sweet smiles that I had come to admire. I opened the coat, allowing her to slip her delicate arms into the sleeves as I pulled it up over her shoulders, barely brushing the bare skin with my knuckles. She was so soft and smooth, causing my mind to wonder if all of her skin was the same. Lowering my hands quickly, I shifted my feet, trying to will the stirring of my affections to settle.   I certainly did not need Mr. Swan to notice that I may have been entertaining unsavory thoughts about his daughter. I didn’t want to think what Emmett’s response would have been.

As we turned to depart, I noticed that Emmett had donned his overcoat and hat as well. This made me wonder if he was going to chaperone us for the evening. I was fervently hoping not. It would undoubtedly cause Isabella to remain rather formal, and restrained. I was truly hoping to become better acquainted with her.

“Don’t fret, Edward. I, too, have a date.” Emmett joked. He must have read my mind from the expression of disappointment upon my face.

“Oh, how wonderful. Who is the lucky lady?” I asked, breathing a sigh of relief with that knowledge.

“Miss Rosalie Cullen. She is employed at the dress shop on Monroe.”

Shop on Monroe, I thought of the familiarity; then, it occurred to me, I was just there this afternoon. She must have been the woman who helped me with the purchase of the handkerchief, but the last name Cullen also sounded familiar. “Cullen?” I asked.

“Her father is Doctor Carlisle Cullen.” Emmett proudly answered.

“Oh yes, Doctor Cullen is a much respected physician. Well, I wish you a wonderful evening.”

“Yes, Emmett have a great evening, and tell Rosalie I will be calling on her soon.” Isabella said.

“I certainly will. Good evening.” Emmett said and walked out the door.

“Goodbye, Father.” Isabella said sweetly.

I opened the door and as we stepped out on the portico, where I offered my arm. She smiled one the most beautiful smiles and placed her dainty gloved hand into the crook of my arm.

“Shall we?” I asked. Isabella smiled and nodded.

“I hope you are okay for a little walk to the restaurant.”

“That is fine.”

“Wonderful. I made reservations at the Lake House.”

“Oh. I have never dined there before. Am I dressed appropriately?” She fretted.

“Miss Swan, you look wonderful and I am so honored that you are on my arm for the evening.” I confessed.

“Mr. Masen, that is so kind of you.”

As we walked down the sidewalk, we spoke about the weather and about Chicago. It was apparent she loved living in the city as much as I did. “Did your father get some rest today?”

“Yes, yes he did. How kind of you to ask. But I am afraid until we get some rain, he is going to be attending to many more fires.”

“You may be correct. I can’t recall it having ever been so dry. Unfortunately, there are many who are not heeding the warnings of the firemen.”

“My father said that the fire last evening was horrible and they were very lucky to quell the flames. I worry about his safety every time he responds to an alarm.” She murmured.

“Your father is a very honorable man. I wish my father was of such good character.”

“But he is so well respected in the court system.”

“That may be, but as a father he is not. I’m sorry, Isabella, let us not discuss such unpleasant topics this evening.”

I patted her hand, which was still firmly placed on my arm, and pointed to the restaurant up the street.

Upon arrival at the front of the restaurant, I opened the door for Isabella and I removed my hat before walking in. I noticed the maître-de I had set up the reservation with earlier that day was standing at the podium.

“Good evening, Mr. Masen. I am so glad to have you and your guest this evening. May I take your coats?” He asked.

I removed my coat and turned to see the man reaching toward Isabella to help her remove her coat. I don’t know what possessed me, but I growled at the man. “I will assist Miss Swan, if you please.”

Isabella appeared startled and confused, but allowed me to assist her in removing her jacket and handing it to the maître-de, who handed the coats to another gentleman. “Please follow me to your table, Mr. Masen.”

The table was situated off to the side; while it did permit a bit of privacy, as I requested, it was still in clear view of the staff and other patrons.   It was paramount that I ensure that Isabella’s reputation would remain unquestionable. I pulled out the chair and Isabella gracefully took her seat and proceeded to remove her hat and gloves. Taking the chair across from Isabella, I placed the serviette upon my lap as the maître-de handed us our menus. Isabella looked at menu and carefully opened it up. She appeared mesmerized by the delectable selections before her.

“Your waiter will be along momentarily, sir, ma’am.” The maître-de stated, skirting away quickly.

After his departure, I looked up at Isabella. “Is anything the matter, Isabella?”

“I must confess, I have not been privileged to have dined at a restaurant such as this before, and am slightly overwhelmed by the abundance of selections on the menu. Usually the menus have limited choices.”

“Isabella, please, you may choose whatever you like.” I said.

“But everything sounds so delicious and there are so many choices.”

“True, there are.” I said as I perused the menu. Thinking that, if I made my choice first, perhaps it might make it easier for her to make her decision, I quickly stated my selection. “I think I am going to order the penne chicken with asparagus, and dinner rolls.”

Isabella peered at the menu. “Actually that sounds wonderful. I think I will order the same.”

Laying the menus down, I noticed that Isabella was cautiously glancing around the restaurant. I knew her family was not from the same social circles as mine, and that she was slightly out of her element in this restaurant, but my Isabella was in a class above most of the young women I have known. She possessed a refinement I am sure would be envied by many. She knew that gawking was not proper, however, Isabella peeked so discreetly that if I had not been so aware of her every move I would have missed it.   “It is very nice here.”

“It is. Actually, it is my mother’s favorite restaurant.”

“Oh really?” She questioned.

“Yes, she is in love with the hummingbird cake.”

“I’m unfamiliar with it, but it sounds delicious.”

“We may have to order a slice after dinner.” I smirked.

Soon, the waiter arrived to take our order. As we waited for food, I took the opportunity to ask Isabella questions about her and her family. She began speaking hesitantly with only a few words to answer each question, but soon she became relaxed enough to speak freely and in depth about her family. Her answers reflected her adoration for her family and the life they shared. I inquired about her decision with regards to her employment at the courthouse and again she was very forthcoming with her response.

“It was important to me to be productive, so, once I had finished school, I put the skills I had acquired to find some rewarding employment. It is not in my nature to sit idly by and let my mind wander. My father had an acquaintance, who happens to be an officer of the court. Father spoke with him and he found me the clerk’s position. It is a very fulfilling position, which I feel fortunate to have.”

Hearing how much she enjoyed working at the courthouse, caused me to worry. What if her desire to continue her employment at the courthouse conflicted with the plans that I had been making for us?

“But, as much as I value my current position, I must admit that I look forward to the day when I can maintain a home with my husband and children.” She said, her cheeks lightly blossoming with a rosy hue.

Hearing that statement caused an immense feeling of relief. She desired the same future that I had been meticulously planning. “That is so good to hear. I do need to inform you, though, that I will no longer be employed in my father’s firm at the courthouse.”

“Oh, may I inquire as to what happened?”

I thought carefully before responding. Although my decision was greatly weighed by my desire to court Isabella, it was not my intention for her to feel any guilt or remorse for my current situation. I needed to tread delicately with my words to ensure she felt comfortable with my decision. “Isabella, after a discussion with my father last evening, he revealed to me that he had made arrangements for me to court the daughter of one of his business acquaintances. He had, without my prior knowledge, made arrangements for my future. I took the opportunity to inform him that I did not intend to follow his instructions, and that I had met someone that I deeply cared for and intended to begin courting. He, of course, became very upset that I was not going to comply with his wishes for my life, and threatened to have removed from his house and his law firm. I chose to assert my independence and gave him notice that I would be terminating my employment with his firm and left his home last evening.”

Isabella remained quiet for several minutes, absorbing the information I had just imparted, I am sure. “Oh my. Edward, I am so sorry, where are you staying?”

“I own my own home, which I inherited from my maternal grandparents. It is a comfortable home, a perfect place to raise a family. Since I received the house, I have been paying to maintain the upkeep until the day that I would be married and bring my wife home. I have made arrangements to hire a small staff and stock the home with all the necessities.” It was my desire to convey to her that it would be her as my wife and the mistress of my house.

“It sounds like you have made some very detailed plans. I am so pleased that you have a place to stay.”

The waiter returned with our dinner. We remained almost silent, except for stating how delicious the meal was. I was unaware that a woman could be so attractive just eating their food. The way the morsels disappeared into her pouty lips and then ever so gracefully the napkin would be raised to dab any remnants on her lips.

“Edward,” A voice spoke to my right. As I looked up I saw my mother and sister standing beside me. Quickly, I stood from the table.

“Mother, how are you this evening?” I graced both of mother’s cheeks with a small kiss, as well as Alice.

“I am very well, thank you. Alice and I decided to enjoy a dinner out because your father is working late at the office.” She said as she looked down at the table and saw Isabella. “Oh my, forgive me, I was unaware you had a guest. Please forgive my intrusion.”

Looking back at Isabella, I smiled lovingly at her. “Mother, please allow me to introduce my date.” I said, extending my hand to Isabella who took my hand and rose from her chair. “Miss Isabella Swan, this is my mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Masen and my sister, Miss Alice Masen.”

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintances.”

“The pleasure is all ours my dear. Swan? You wouldn’t happen to be Chief Charles Swan’s daughter, would you?” My mother inquired.

“Yes, ma’am, he is my father.” Isabella responded proudly.

“He is such a wonderful man, and a true credit to his position as Chief. Your mother has been a godsend to the volunteer program at the hospital. Alice, do you happen to know Miss Swan?”

“No, mother. Miss Swan, it is a pleasure.” Alice extended her hand in greeting.

Isabella accepted Alice’s hand and continued, “Likewise, I am sure. Mrs. Masen, my mother so enjoys providing any assistance she is able at the hospital. Actually, she was planning to attend there this evening to help.”

“What a coincidence; we are as well. Doctor Cullen’s wife, Esme, is also planning to be in attendance.” My mother stated.

“I didn’t know you volunteered at the hospital, Mother.” I said, wondering how I was unaware of this fact, but, then again, I had been spending a great deal of hours at the office and was unaware about much of the concerns of household.

“It gives me a fulfilling purpose. I am sorry, I regret interrupting your dinner. Miss Swan, I do hope to see you again sometime soon.”

“I would look forward to that, Mrs. Masen.”

Leaning over I gave her another kiss on the cheek. “Enjoy your evening, Mother.” Then, I looked over at my sister. If the smile on her face was any indication, I knew that I had some explaining to do when we were alone. “Alice.”

“Good evening, Edward, Ms. Swan.” They said in unison.

I waited for Isabella to sit back down and followed after her. “That was certainly a surprise.”

“They seem very affable.”

“My mother is wonderful and Alice is very energetic. It is hard to believe she spoke so few words. Normally, she would still be talking. My mother is always trying to control her verbal outbursts.” I jested.

“Oh, Mr. Masen, you jest.” Isabella giggled.

The waiter returned and I ordered hummingbird cake for both of us. Isabella tried to refuse, stating she had eaten such a filling meal, but I assured her that we would be walking off our meal with our stroll around the lake afterwards. She gave me a quirky smile and I wondered what she was thinking about. The cake arrived and, as expected, it was delicious. We finished our cake and I asked for the check. Opening my billfold, I gave the waiter sufficient funds for the dinner, plus a little extra for his wonderful service. We collected our coats and I once again assisted Isabella back into hers and opened the door for us to exit the restaurant. Offering my arm, we began our walk around the lake.

As we walked, I was amazed at how bright the stars were and how they seemed to glisten in Isabella’s eyes. The park was occupied with numerous couples who were also enjoying the evening.

“It is so beautiful tonight.” She sighed.

“Yes, you are.” I honestly responded.

Even in the dim moonlight I could the slight blush upon her cheeks. I noticed we were approaching a bench next to an oak tree, and turned to face her. “Would you like to rest for a moment?” We both sat comfortably upon the bench, and I took the opportunity to continue. “I don’t wish to be too forward, but I wanted you to know that my feelings for you are most enamored. I have a small token for you to convey my feelings.” I said as I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out the wrapped package. I handed it to Isabella and waited for her to open it. She pulled the ribbon and unwrapped the tissue paper as she lifted the embroidered handkerchief from its wrapping. I could see her eyes glistening in the soft lantern light.

“Oh, Edward, it is so lovely. Thank you so much.” She held the handkerchief in her hand and ran her gloved finger over the delicate embroidered swan.

“I saw it today as I passed by the store front, and it reminded me of you. You do know the history of the swans?”

“No, I can’t say that I do.”

“It is said that a swan will only ever have but one mate. Once they meet their mate, they will stay by them, loving them, caring for them, until the day they die. And, if by chance their mate dies young in life, they will spend the rest of their lives alone. Isabella, you are my swan.”

“Oh, Edward! You are mine as well.” She gasped.

My heart felt so full of joy that I thought it would pound out of my chest. I did not know how I had become so fortunate. With the evening getting late, I knew I needed to escort her back to her home. “This evening has exceeded my expectations, Isabella. As much as I would love to spend more time with you, I promised your father to have you home by nine.”

“I, too, wish we had more time.” Her response was so sincere.

“I will ensure that we are able to do this again very soon.”

Slowly, we started our walk back towards her home. As we exited the park, I noticed the sky in the distance was burnished in an orange glow. “What is that?”

Isabella looked toward the direction I indicated and quickly raised her gloved covered hand over her mouth. “Edward…that is a large fire.”

 Chapter 5

Unbelievable is the only word that comes to mind when looking at the location that was selected to hold our game of craps. To think that, with my social standing, I am with these lowlifes, in a cow barn, gambling. What a heinous place to hold a game. From the looks of it, it is blatantly clear that they don’t clean it often. Looking around at the lunkheads who showed up, I have the feeling that my take of this evening’s game will be considerable. There is the police commissioner’s son, Jeremy, who I know for a fact was a horrible craps player, but he had deep pockets. I remember that the other two boneheads had been at a few games that I held, but I wasn’t exactly familiar with the tall blonde fellow who was standing by the barn door. He looks familiar, but I’m unable to place him. Perhaps it was at another game I was at and am too tanked up to remember. By the cut of his suit, he is well-to-do, and I plan to roll him before the night is over.

“Welcome gents, pass the hooch, plunk down your money, and let’s get this game started. It is an eagle buy in and 12-bit per game.” I commanded. I needed to weed out the ones with money and those who didn’t.

“Ah, James, those are pretty high stakes.” Jeremy whined.

“Come on, Jeremy, I know your pockets are heavy with your father’s money.”

“Hmm. All right, let’s play.” Jeremy groaned.

A few hours later, I couldn’t believe what was happening. Instead of winning, I was losing and losing big. The blonde fellow, who said his name was Jazz, was winning almost every game. He was an oddball, asking questions about my family and if I had a girl. I told him that I was to be betrothed to one Miss Alice Masen. The thoughts of Alice always made my thoughts drift to having a good grind with her.

I had no more money and the pot was one of largest I had seen in awhile. I knew if I could stay in, I could finally make some money. Reaching into my vest pocket, I pulled out my grandfather’s pocket watch. “This here, gentlemen, is a gold watch.” I said, placing it on the pile.

“That is not money. You wouldn’t be trying to hoodwink us, now would you?” Jazz asked, pushing the watch back to me.

“It is better that money. This watch is worth more than the bet.”

“I can’t use that.” Jazz barked.

“I don’t care; this is my bet. Roll the damn dice.”

Jazz picked up the dice; when they stopped rolling, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He had won yet again.

“You no good four flusher, you cheated!!” I yelled. That had to be the reason why he was winning so much.

“No, I did not, but if you want a chance to win it all, I have a proposition for you.” Jazz said.

Knowing that I needed some way to make the money back, and seeing I had nothing else to bet with, I was willing to do anything. “Sure, state your terms?”

“If you win, you get all my winnings. But, if I win, you break off your betrothal to Miss Alice Masen.”

“Why would you be concerned about my betrothal to Miss Masen?” I asked.

“It is none of your concern. Those are my terms; do we have a deal?”

A chance to win a load of money or chance to lose Alice. Well, she is only a woman and there will always be someone better that will come along. “Deal.” I said, holding out my hand. After a firm handshake, I was ready to win.

The dice was rolled; to my utter amazement, I lost again. In one roll of the dice, I had lost all my money, my grandfather’s pocket watch, and now Alice. My father is going to kill me. I went to get up, but my pant leg was caught on a nail under the table and, as I jerked to try to get it loose, the lantern overturned and landed on the hay. The flame of the lantern caught the hay on fire and in a matter of seconds the fire began to spread quickly. I was trapped and the flames were descending upon me. Looking up, I noticed that everyone was rushing out of the barn, leaving me to fend for myself. In their rush, they didn’t even pick up the money or my pocket watch. If I could get loose, I could still have the money. I yanked and pulled on my pant leg, but to no avail. The smoke and heat was becoming unbearable. My eyes were watering, I couldn’t stop coughing and my clothes were on fire. Blackness fell.

***********************************FD*****************************************

Edward’s main concern was to escort Isabella to safety.  After just a few minutes of seeing the fire, he knew it had already grown in size and was growing more quickly by the minute.

“Edward, I am worried about my parents.” Isabella cried.

“I know you are, my dear, but your mother is at the hospital, which is on the other side of the town and your father is an experienced firefighter.”

“I understand, but I am still worried.”

“Let me get you to a safe location.”

They began walking toward the east end of town and with every step the reddish orange glow of the flames grew brighter and brighter. The smoke was swirling around them, as the wind began to blow. The streets were filling with panicking people, who were fleeing their burning homes.

Edward knew he needed to get Isabella to safety, but couldn’t tell where that was in the chaos. They continued down Canal Street, but, as they neared, Edward noticed that all the buildings were on fire. He quickly pulled Isabella aside, and headed down Adams, but, it, too, was engulfed in flames.

Isabella began to cough from the smoke, so Edward pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her. “Place it over your mouth and nose.” he implored.

“What (cough) about (cough) you?”

“I will be fine, I need to take care of you, my dear. Please allow me to do that.”

Placing the handkerchief to her mouth, she gave him a nod and gripped his arm even tighter. He stopped and looked around, trying to find the best way to get them out of the fire. Edward couldn’t believe his eyes; down the street it looked like a tornado, but it was engulfed in swirling flames, devouring everything in its path. It was blowing from one side of the street to the other, catching all the buildings on fire. Finally, Edward could see that down Adams Street it looked clear and he knew that it would lead toward the courthouse, where they could hopefully find safety. “Come, let’s go this way.”

Edward made sure that he had a secure hold of Isabella’s arm as they rushed down the street. A large puff of wind dislodged Edward’s hat; as he looked around, he saw it flying down the street towards the fire. He knew there was no way he was going after it. As he looked over at Isabella, he noticed her once beautiful green dress was now more black than green. Even the lace was covered in dirt and soot. He loved this dress, so he would take the first opportunity to replace it. The future Mrs. Masen would not want for a fine garment to wear. As they rushed, they passed Mr. Rodney’s shop. Edward stopped to look inside; he could see flames in the back of the shop.

“Isabella please wait here, I must check on a friend.”

“Edward, please be careful.” She cried.

“I promise, just remain here until I return.” He said, bringing her gloved cover hand to his mouth and kissing it sweetly. Edward tried to convey his love for her with his eyes. With one more kiss, he let go of her hand and was touched when she pulled it up to her chest. Quickly opening door to the shop, he was hit by a huge plume of smoke. He covered his mouth with his hand and proceeded into the shop. Looking around as best as he could for Mr. Rodney, hoping he was not here. Just as he was about to leave the shop, he saw a foot poking out from behind one of the chairs. He rushed over to discover Mr. Rodney lying unconscious on the floor. The fire was quickly moving closer and closer to them, and Edward knew he needed to get Mr. Rodney out of the shop. Grabbing him under his arms, Edward dragged him toward the front of the shop. Just as he neared the door the back wall collapsed onto the spot where he had been lying. Suddenly the door opened and Edward was able to drag him out and onto the sidewalk.

Isabella was immediately beside me. He said a silent prayer that he had gotten to him in time. Mr. Rodney’s face was black with soot, but Edward didn’t see any evidence of burns anywhere. He suddenly began to cough and take in deep breaths.

“What happened?” He whispered roughly.

“Mr. Rodney, the city is on fire, as is your shop. I am so sorry.”

“Mr. Edward, it is only wood; you got me out, and I will be always grateful for that. Thank you, son.”

“You are welcome, Mr. Rodney. We need to move quickly, the fire is growing.”

Mr. Rodney sat up and, when he did, he saw Isabella standing behind Edward. “Is this the young woman you are courting?” He asked as Edward and Isabella began to help Mr. Rodney stand. “Yes it is. Mr. Rodney this is Miss Isabella Swan. Miss Swan, this is Mr. Rodney, the best barber in the city.”

“Glad to meet you, Mr. Rodney; I believe my father comes to you.” Isabella said as she held onto Mr. Rodney’s arm.

I looked around and saw that we needed to proceed post haste. “We need to leave now. Mr. Rodney do you have anywhere to go?”

“Yes, my sister lives on the eastside. I will make my way to her house.”

“Are you sure you are able to walk?” Edward asked, worried about his health.

“I should be. Thank you again for rescuing me son.”

“It was my pleasure, please be careful.”

“I will try. Miss Swan, a pleasure.”

“Likewise.”

Edward offered his arm to Isabella and they hurriedly continued down the street toward the courthouse. Edward looked back over his shoulder to see the fire had grown so large. The weather had been so dry, that the fire was able to devour everything in its path. Edward became worried that they might not make it, but he didn’t want to share those suspicions and worry Isabella.

As they came upon the courthouse, Edward saw it was ablaze. Fire was bellowing out the windows and through the roof. A small brigade of firemen were trying to douse the fire, but Edward could see there was no chance in saving the building.

“Oh, Edward, the courthouse. What will I do now for a job?” Isabella cried.

“Don’t worry about that now.” Edward said, trying to comfort her. If he had his way, she would never have to work again.

Then, suddenly he heard his father’s voice. “You are a group of incompetent men. Put out this fire.” He bellowed in his uppity demanding tone.

Edward heard a loud cracking noise and looked up to see the courthouse bell that was positioned on the steeple of the courthouse begin to fall to the ground. The firemen ran for cover, but his father just stood there ranting and raving at the firemen. With a mighty crash, the bell fell on top of him.

Edward and Isabella stood there, momentarily in shock at what they had just witnessed. The firemen, who, moments ago, were being berated by father, were now running to his aid. They removed the bell from on top of him as they ran across the street to assist, but it was too late, his father was dead. Edward quickly turned Isabella’s face into his chest to protect her from the sight of his father’s dead body. All he could hear was her constant chant of, “I’m so sorry, Edward, I’m so sorry.”

“You kids need to get to safety.” One of the firemen shouted to us. We glanced towards the courthouse, which was now fully engulfed in flames. Edward quickly gathered Isabella, and, together, hurried further down Adams Street. But as they were leaving they heard someone yell out.

Edward turned and saw Emmett running towards them.

“Isabella, oh thank God you are okay. Edward, thank you for taking care of her.” Emmett said as he looked Isabella up and down, making sure she was truly okay.

“It is my pleasure. What is the news of the fire?”

“Not good, not good at all. The fire has jumped the river and we just found out the waterworks building is on fire. If we can’t put it out, we will be without water; if that happens, God help us all.”

“Have you heard anything from father?” Isabella cried.

“The last report was that he was with a large brigade fighting the fire on Dekone Street.” Emmett answered, with a worried look upon his brow.

“We are trying to get over to the hospital to check on Mrs. Swan and my mother as well.” Edward said.

“Please check on Miss Hale for me. When the alarm sounded, I had to leave her at the restaurant not far from the hospital. She was going to go to the hospital to see if she could help.”

“Oh, Emmett, we will find her and keep her safe.” Isabella answered.

“Thank you so much. I will come find you when I can, I promise.” Emmett promised.

“Emmett, we need you.” A fireman yelled.

Emmett turned and quickly returned to his brigade. Edward looked down at Isabella and could see that she was crying. Pulling her into his arms, he held her close trying to reassure her. He know that it went against decorum, but this was not a normal situation. “He will be fine.” Edward said, trying to reassure her.

“I am so worried that I may never see my father and brother again.” She sniffled

“I promise you that I will do everything I can do make sure you are all reunited.”

As they continued down the street, they saw that the fire seemed to be everywhere; the heat and smoke was overwhelming. Edward knew he needed to find them shelter, but somewhere that would hopefully withstand the fire. He glanced along the street until he saw it, St. Michael’s Church.

“Isabella, we have to seek shelter. Let’s go into the church. The bricks should protect us.”

“That, and God.” Isabella said.