“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world:
someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
Bella hadn’t known just how truly exhausted she was when she settled into Damon’s bed. As much as she should feel uncomfortable there, the plush blankets and mattress surrounded her like a warm hug allowing her to nod off peacefully. So when the dreams started, she once again prayed for the end of the suffering.
In the dream, she was running, but it wasn’t the one in her waking hours chasing her. It was Edward and his eyes were as red as blood that spilled from her vein. He had others with him, wrapped in dark cloaks and when he reached out, telling her that she would always he his, she let out a scream. It hadn’t lasted long that scene because as soon as a pair of arms wrapped around her, Edward faded away and she was left with peace.
When she woke many hours later, she looked around initially confused as to her surroundings. The room was in tones of dark red woods that reminded her of the novels she loved. The fireplace in front of the bed was burning, allowing the air to warm. Looking over to her left, she saw an open bathing room, the large white soaking tub an easy view from the bed. The memories from the night before returned to her finally and she fell back onto the bed as she thought about Damon’s concern for her. A small smile flitted her to lips as she remembered him holding her to his skin and despite the turmoil going on, a blush filled her cheeks.
She wasn’t blind or stupid. She knew he was attractive and she certainly was drawn to him. They understood one another and she had been able to keep up with his sexually charged jokes after he helped her get into a better mind space to want to keep fighting. After Charlie was killed, she lost that will to fight again until she thought about their unlikely friendship and her promise to him.
Pushing the blankets off of her, Bella shuffed her way over to her bags where he had set them on a couch and pulled out her clothes for the day. Eying the open bathing area, she wasn’t quite comfortable with getting naked and him just walking in – yet. If something was meant to happen, it would but she wasn’t about to go chasing down a teenager crush on a man like that. Locking the bedroom door, she hoped it would be enough to let him have the space she needed until she found her way downstairs.
Damon knew she wasn’t going to wake early for breakfast so when he heard her start to move around, he got up from his book to start on lunch. Pulling his phone out, he called his brother. “She’s waking up so I’m making lunch. We should probably keep the group small,” he said.
“That’s a good idea. Elena and I will be back shortly.”
He didn’t think that would be a good idea considering how things went down the night before. “I was actually thinking of just Blondie and Witchy. Isabella seemed to be okay with them more than you two and she doesn’t need more stress than she’s got already.”
Stefan was quiet on the other end as he tried to understand why his brother was being so protective of the girl. Granted she had a hard time of it but she got herself involved in a world that was too big for her. Though it wasn’t like he had any right to make comment because he did the same thing with Elena even if she was meant to die for the supernatural. “Fine. I’ll give them a call to meet you at the house.”
Rolling his eyes as he hung up, Damon set about making lunch. While he was working on a dough for pizza, he smiled as he heard Isabella’s feet bringing her closer. “In the kitchen!” he hollered out.
Moments later, after following his voice, she stopped at the doorway, peeking in. “Come on. I don’t bite – wait no. I do bite, but I’d ask you first if I could have a bite. How’d you sleep?” he smiled as he moved about effortlessly.
“Surprisingly – well. Probably the best sleep I’ve had in months. What are you making?” she asked as she slowly made her way to a stool to sit out of the way.
“Lunch. I figured you’d appreciate something homemade so I am making you a pizza. Salvatore style,” he smirked. “A couple friends are coming over to join us soon. They were here last night. Blondie and Witchy?”
Bella nodded as she continued to watch him. “I remember. Your brother going to be there?” she asked, her eyes expressing her nervousness.
He looked up at her to judge her mood and slowly shook his head. “No. I told him and Elena to stay away. I didn’t think you’d be comfortable around him considering how much he can be like the Cullens from what you told me. Elena – she’s recently transitioned and she’s having a hard time with her blood lust.”
She could understand the caution there and his keeping his brother away. “Thanks. So – how’ve you been?”
“I’ve been. I think it might get better now that you’re around,” he flirted shamelessly. As he started spreading the ricotta mixture he made over the pizza dough, he was quiet for a minute. “You know you’re welcome to stick around as long as you want. You should still be in school, right? We can get you registered as soon as you’re ready so that you can finish.”
Bella shrugged as she played with a napkin that had been within reach. “I don’t know what I want to do. Is going to school again really worth it if I’m going to likely be dead before I finish? I’ve had too many close calls to not care anymore.”
Damon dropped the knife he had been using to slice tomatoes and went over to her, looming at his full height over her. “I don’t want to hear you speak like that again. Just because you had some close encounters with death doesn’t mean you should stop living,” he pressed as he stared down at her large eyes. Swallowing he looked her over before taking a step back. “That just brings us to my next concern. I want you to start drinking some of my blood every day. If something does happen – if I’m not there in time, I want you to be able to make the transition. If you still want to give up, you’ll have that option but know that there are those that will still want you around.”
She was stunned into silence at the amount of emotion and sincerity he revealed to her, letting her believe that it wasn’t just others that wanted her. He wanted her around. And just as quick as she saw that desire in his eyes, it was gone and he was back to working on their lunch. “Just think about it,” he added, closing the subject for now.
“So tell me about these two coming so that I’m not going into this blind,” Bella requested, reaching across to swipe a piece of tomato as he started to turn away.
He smacked her hand playfully and winked. “Bad girl!” he scolded before getting a tray of cherry tomatoes out from the fridge for her to snack on. “Blondie was changed a little over a year ago. She’s a human drinker but primarily from blood bags. I’ll kill you myself if you tell anyone this but she’ll probably be the best for you to stick around if I’m not here. She’s strong considering how young she is and she has the best control over her blood lust and emotions. Witchy – she’s hit or miss. If you let her touch you, then she already knows your story but she’ll also respect you in letting you share it unless she thinks there is something the rest of us should know or if it involves everyone’s safety.”
“Is she really a witch or just clairvoyant?” Bella asked.
“She’s a witch from one of the strongest lines in the area. Bonnie and I don’t always get along but we have an understanding. Now, before they get her, can you tell me what happened that your dogs refused to help you anymore?” he questioned, leaning onto the counter.
She grew sad again, looking around as if there was some magical way out of the mess. “Charlie was close to the members of the tribe’s council. Instead of acknowledging that they were incapable of cornering Victoria, they blamed me for getting the into the mess by being friends with the Cullens. After Charlie – they wanted nothing to do with me even as far as told me that if she came back before I left, they would hand me over willingly just to have no one else hurt in the area.”
“Of all the idiot bullshit!” Damon screamed, his hand slamming down on the wood cutting board, effectively splitting it. Before either of them could blink, Caroline had flashed into the room, throwing him into the wall furthest from Bella. She moved to stand in front of her protectively, believing that he was a threat to her due to his outburst.
“Oh for the love of – I’m not going to hurt her!” he complained, stretching out his arm that she twisted on him.
She raised an eyebrow in challenge. “How the hell am I supposed to know that? For all I know you were going to snack on her against her wishes,” she snapped.
“Oh geez. Isabella, tell her I wasn’t doing anything!”
“It’s true,” Bella said softly. “He was just reacting to what made me come out here.”
Caroline glared at Damon lingered before she softened her eyes on her. “Okay. I want to know the story. I know what this idiot told us last night but what was so bad that set him off? Not that he doesn’t have a short fuse to begin with.”
“Her pack of puppies were willing to sacrifice her to the psychotic fairy vampire bitch,” Damon answered for her, narrowing his eyes. “So I’m sure you can understand my reaction now.”
Her head bobbed slightly and her large eyes turned to their new friend. “Okay then. Wow, you really are a danger magnet, aren’t you?” she said lightly.
“I’ve heard that one before,” Bella sighed, glancing back as Bonnie walked in with a small smile. “What is it you guys want to know now because I don’t know just how much I can answer anymore.”
Damon watched her as he finished up with the pizza before throwing it in the oven. He made his way over to her side. “I told you we can do this at your pace. We won’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with short of killing any son of a bitch that tries to kill one of us first,” he said as he pushed her hair back from her face. His eyes looked over her and pursed his lips. “Maybe we should do something small to change your appearance. It might help cover you if she’s just glancing for you in a crowd. Icky Vicky will be looking for brown hair, same if your mind raper ex shows up. He’d see the way you look now in everyone’s thoughts.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Anything you want. Colored contacts and some hair dye is enough. Live a little on the wild side. I think you should go darker. Black or burgundy. It’ll be hot!” he waggled his eyebrows suggestively making her laugh as she pushed him back.
“I don’t know Damon. I don’t think that I’d look good like that,” she blushed and took a deep breath. Eying him, she could see his disbelief at her words and wasn’t sure if she could actually trust what he said knowing just how easy she was to be thrown away. Not just by Edward and the Cullens, but also Jake and the Quiletes.
Bonnie reassured Bella that it wasn’t a bad idea entirely. “I could change your eye color with magic so that you won’t have to deal with the contacts. Your hair might be better going with dyes instead in case you want to change it later down the road.”
Bella took a deep breath as she let what they were suggesting sink in. In truth, she was also seriously considering Damon’s offer to help change her. It was something that Edward was always strongly against, which should have been a flag that he didn’t want her for eternity, that he didn’t love her enough to want to keep her. That was something that she was having a hard time accepting, or even considering, because Damon offered to change her and they’ve only known each other for such a short time and didn’t have that kind of history. Changing would give her the ability to defend herself and not count on anyone but she was fearful that now that she was in the position to get to know Damon, and his friends here, she didn’t want to be abandoned by them as well. It would be the third strike and she knew she wouldn’t be able to come back from another rejection of that magnitude.
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore,” Bella murmured, her voice shaking with emotion.
Damon furrowed his brows as he considered the quote. If his heart still beat like that of a human, it would be racing with anticipation. “Faulkner. You know I have a few of his works around here somewhere.”
“Okay. I’ll do it,” she said, looking him in the eye. He slowly gave her a blinding smile that made her heart melt and nodded. “I just don’t want green eyes. I always associated green with Edward. Make them blue or hazel or something. Just not green.”