“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.”
Once Damon was done with Bella’s hair, he left her to get dressed in the clothes he picked up for her while he was out and waited downstairs. The smug smile that was on his face left Bonnie and Caroline amused. “Ladies,” he purred as he went to make himself a drink.
“How’s Bella?” Caroline asked sweetly, having heard nearly everything said upstairs.
“Isabella is just fine,” he replied but couldn’t help the smirk that came as he thought about her courageous kiss. It was just a small part of his Bella that he left in Forks but knew she was still a long way away from being where he’d like.
“Do I need to warn you to be careful with her?” she asked, prepared to go all mama bear for the girl. He looked back at her surprised and shook his head slowly.
“I know what I’m doing and I know she’s not ready for anything more than what she is already has given. You can chill out, I won’t hurt her intentionally,” he said and there was just that something that made both of them believe that he meant his word.
Before they could continue their teasing and torment on Damon, Stefan and Elena walked in from their morning out. “What’s going on?” Elena asked as she flounced through the room to get a blood bag from the cooler they kept behind their bar.
Damon scowled at her but said nothing. Bonnie luckily came to the rescue as she started talking about what she had been looking for through their records. “While Damon has been working on trying to get Bella to open up, I’ve been looking for anything about the Cold Ones. I hate to say that there isn’t much documented. I think I may have found a spell that may help mask Bella but I want to look into it more. Possibly try to contact the spirits to get more guidance before trying it.”
“Oh, so – she’s still here?” Elena asked as she looked up at Damon.
“Yes and she’s not going anywhere so get used to it,” he sneered and walked away to avoid the urge to strike her. He dropped into an armchair and saluted his brother in greeting. “What’s going on baby bro?”
Stefan had leveled a warning glare on Elena after her little display, making her pout for failing to get under Damon’s skin. “We were just out and around. I thought we had come to an understanding but clearly there are some issues that will need addressing. Has Bella said anything else about what her plans are?”
“Her plans? She’s…” He started to answer but was interrupted by the subject of the conversation.
“I’m staying wherever Damon is. If he wants me to leave, then I’ll leave but not before he tells me himself,” Bella announced from where she stood behind Stefan.
Damon’s jaw very nearly dropped at the bombshell that glared at his brother. The fire in her stare went straight to his groin and he barely suppressed the aroused groan that escaped. Her eyes flickered to him in amusement before turning back to his brother as he too took in her new appearance.
Bella’s hair was much darker than it had been before. While it wasn’t black, it was a very deep red that was reminiscent of blood fresh from the vein. Bonnie’s magic turned her eyes a bright hazel that flashed with darker hues when she was angry, as she was now. The outfit that Damon had chosen was conservative enough for her but also gently pushed her boundaries. She wore dark wash jeans that conformed to her curves and the satin red top that made her breasts look glorious had a sweetheart neckline and thin spaghetti straps holding it up. Over her arm was a fitted black leather jacket. Instead of wearing the strappy heels he got, he was still impressed with the black ankle boots she opted for. Either way, Damon was going to be a very happy man when they went to bed that night – even if was only to sleep. At least he would have this dark angel in his arms.
“That uh wasn’t what I meant,” Stefan stammered under her furious glare.
“No. You just wanted to know how long I’ll be sticking around before you can go on and rub your relationship with Elena in his face,” she snapped at him. If she was a vampire already, she might have been quite deadly in that moment and she was certainly a much different girl than the one that shown up on their doorstep the day before. Turning her attention from him, she looked at Damon. “How much did you tell them about what happened?”
“Just how you got involved with the Cullens and a bit about how they left. And your parents. I didn’t tell them about their gifts or exactly what your ex douchebag said when he left,” he replied. “I thought you might like to share that yourself.”
She nodded as she took a deep breath to calm down. “Is there anyone else that you think should be here for that? I don’t really want to have to repeat myself again after this. I’m kinda hoping this will be the last time I have to go through this.”
“Alaric and Jeremy should know,” Bonnie suggested. “Even if they aren’t capable of killing one of these vampires, they should at least be aware of what they are capable of and what to watch out for.”
“What about Tyler? His wolf senses might be able to pick up on their scents quicker than ours,” Caroline added as she began texting the rest of their group to come to the house, making Bella pale some.
“A wolf?” she asked. “What kind of wolf?”
“He’s a freaky hybrid. Too long of a story to get into right now but he’s half vampire, half werewolf. Not like your shifter friends so don’t worry. Although…I wonder if his werewolf venom would be as toxic to Cold Ones as it is to us,” Damon mused, earning him a slap to the back of the head.
“We’re not killing anyone if we don’t have to. Well, other than Victoria,” Bella said as she made a face.
“If no one else is going to ask the obvious, I will,” Elena piped up as she came up to Bella and looked her over. “What the hell happened to you?”
“Damon happened. He went out and got this stuff for me today,” she replied, looked down at herself then gave Elena a smile. “And Bonnie changed my eye color. I actually like it a lot.”
The vampire gave the girl a long look and sighed. They seemed to have held some sort of silent communication that left the rest unsure of how this was going to end. Slowly Elena gave her a smile and nodded. “Okay then. You know, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought you were a vampire right now.”
“I guess that might be why I like this new look,” the human girl admitted with a blush.
“A little bit of confidence goes a long way and I’m hoping you soon start realizing just how hot you are because after we finish business, we are going out. I should have thought this through better because now I’ll have to beat the boys off of you,” Damon grimaced.
“I am what you made me,” Bella taunted as she went to squeeze in next to him on the armchair, flashing him an innocent smile as he glared back at her, though without his usual heat that would be there if he was truly pissed. If anything, he was actually quite pleased that she wanted to be so close to him.
“So Bella,” Elena smiled, stirring another cautionary look from the brothers. “Are you going to be starting school with us soon?”
“She’ll be starting next week,” Damon said, narrowing his eyes on Bella as she started to protest. “No arguments. We’ll make sure that you’re in a class with at least one of these guys. You’ll be fine. Certainly the finest ass in the school but that’s just me,” he teased as he ran his hand over her leg, stopping at her knee to keep his touches in her safe zones.
“We’re here!” Jeremy called out as he and Alaric arrived. “Tyler just called me. He’s busy with something for his mom and will catch up later. I told him I’ll fill him in. So what’s going on?”
“Bella is going to share what Damon didn’t tell us last night,” Elena replied as she passed out glasses of liquor.
Jeremy had to do a double take at his sister at her sudden lack of venom when talking about Damon’s friend and raised his eyebrow at her in question. She only responded with a shoulder shrug and smile back. Maybe she was actually over her jealousy issues, he wondered.
“Well, if this is everyone,” Bella said, her shy and timid nature coming through again but Damon’s reassuring hand squeezed her leg, letting her know she’ll be fine. Smiling at him, she nodded. “Okay. Well last night Damon told you the essential story. What he didn’t include was about their gifts. If you’re going to help me hide from them as well as Victoria, you’ll need to know this. As he quite so eloquently pointed out to me earlier, I cannot make my decisions for myself until we know they are definitely not coming for me, or until I’m dead. Which shouldn’t be far away all things considering,” she muttered and looked away.
Damon glared at her as he tapped on her knee to get her attention back. “What did I say about talking like that. I’m not going to let you die. You have options.”
“Yeah,” she dismissed, not wishing to talk about taking his blood in front of everyone. “Anyway, they have three gifted vampires in their family. Edward could read minds, but for some reason he couldn’t hear my thoughts. It might be the same reason that Damon was unable to compel me but that’s something to figure out another day. Jasper can feel and manipulate emotions. I’m not worried about him as I am his mate. I trust Jasper to do what would be the right thing, even if his attack on me was what spurred their leaving. Alice – she can see the future but only based on decisions made. People change their minds so the future changes with it. She is familiar with me so if she is watching for me at all, then she can see what I decide. There are ways around her gift, just as there are with Edward’s. Last minute decisions, or not deciding anything at all usually helps. When I was in Forks, she couldn’t see past the pack of wolves that had been helping me until Victoria killed my father to get to me.”
“You hung out with werewolves?” Caroline asked.
“Yes and no. They were actually shapeshifters and didn’t depend on the moon. They can change at will and the ancestory of their tribe actually chose the image of the wolf for their phasing,” Bella explained. “Jake, my best friend and one of the pack, actually gave me the heads up of their council’s decision to hand me over as a sacrifice to prevent more bloodshed. I was out of there the next day.”
“That’s…fucked up,” Elena commented as she looked at her in shock. “You’re only human and between what was said last night and that your own friends wanted to give you up. You came all the way out here on the off chance that you might find the one person who might help? How did you know that Damon would even be here or would help?”
She smiled back at her. “I didn’t know but I had to take the chance. It was actually my last hope before I would have simply given myself up. In their world, humans aren’t supposed to know about vampires. It’s either die or be changed. I would have probably gone to Italy to give myself to the Volturi.”
“Who are they?” Alaric questioned curiously.
“Basically the royalty of the Cold Ones’ world. I only know what Edward told me but they aren’t exactly the friendliest group there is. He told me about two of their members, one has the ability to cause the illusion of pain in your head and her brother can make you lose your senses. Like I said, they would have been my last option because I’m pretty sure that their leadership would prefer me to be changed if their mind reader was unable to get into my memories, he apparently is that powerful.”
Elena frowned as she looked back at Bella and Damon as he continued to run his fingers over her lower leg, the light movement evidently calming her enough to keep from freaking out over all the stress and nightmare of a life she’d been living over again by sharing with them. “And here I was a bitch to you,” she said sadly. “I’m really sorry Bella. I hope you can forgive me.”
Bella raised her head and looked over at her and simply smiled. Forgiveness was easy, but trust on the other hand, she wasn’t giving the girl so easily. For all she knew, Elena was pulling the ‘keep your friends close, enemies closer’ move.
“As I said, I don’t know if the Cullens are watching me or not, but I reallly wouldn’t put it past Alice to try to sneak a peek or two. I had started to feel like I could get over their leaving when Damon found me in the woods that day and I was doing good with his help but then everything went to shit,” she sighed exasperated, causing a chuckle around the room at her language. “Now I feel like I have that chance again and I really do want to try but I know it will be hard. Until I can figure out my issues, I can’t promise that I’ll be an easy person to be around.”
“Oh that’s fine! Trust me that both Elena and I have our own mood swings with our transition. As a vampire our emotions are all out of whack, which is what I’m betting was Elena’s issue yesterday,” Caroline grinned, calling out on her friend’s behavior for what it quite possibly was. “I was mostly a blubbering mess.”
“You still are a blubbering mess Blondie,” Damon whined. “But you are good people,” he admitted reluctantly. “You’re protective of Isabella and for that you’re good in my book. Now that we got the low down on Cullens, what are we going to do? We need to know for sure what their intentions are because if they do plan on coming back, I want them to know that they aren’t getting through to Bella without a fight.”
Elena had been quiet as she was thinking about what she learned about these other vampires and one thing confused her. “Bella? If you trust that Jasper guy so much, then why did he attack you?”
Bella frowned as she fidgeted with the button on Damon’s shirt as she considered her answer. “Let me ask you this first. Have you tried just drinking animal blood instead of human blood?”
“Yes. I couldn’t keep it down but we figured out that was because of my sire bond with Damon,” she replied confused. “Stefan drinks it with no problem.”
“Really? I doubt that,” she pointed out. “How are your cravings Stefan? What about when you’re around someone bleeding? How controlled are you then? If you were given even a drop of that forbidden wine, do you think you can handle just what was given or would you fight to finish that glass?”
Everyone but Damon blanched at her response because that was what had happened the previous year. They also knew he was still having issues with his blood lust as he worked to gain his control back with restricting himself to animal blood again. “Okay. Point taken,” Elena sighed.
“I don’t have anything against drinking animal blood. I knew the dangers of being that bottle of expensive bourbon in a room full of alcoholics, and Jasper had been getting used to my scent but had he hadn’t hunted that day so it was a domino effect of disaster. Couple that with Edward’s own blood lust for my being his singer, Jasper just got the trifecta. That’s why I can’t blame him for what happened.”
“Do you still have their numbers?” Bonnie asked.
“Alice and Edward disconnected their phones, emails. Believe me, I’ve already tried.”
“Yes, but what about Jasper? Have you tried getting them through him?” she responded.
“No, I haven’t. I never had the need to call Jasper for anything,” Bella murmured as she pulled her phone out. Hesitantly she scrolled down to his name but quickly began to panic. “Maybe later. I can’t right now.”
Damon wrapped his arms around her to hold her close as she shook with nervous fear. “It’s okay. No one is going to make you try to contact him. Maybe it would be better if one of us did it? You said that his mate couldn’t see the wolves so we can have Tyler initiate contact if the number is working so her visions would be halted with him. How’s that sound?” Bella nodded but said nothing else, seemingly done with the heavy talk for the day.
“Okay so let’s go out and get drunk!” Alaric smiled, giving Bella a wink as he passed by her and Damon. “I thought I heard someone say that drinks were on Damon tonight.”
“Oh you’re so full of shit!” Damon exclaimed as he stood up, pulling Bella with him.
“No, Ric’s right. Drinks are on you. You wanted to go out tonight and have the big reveal at the same time so you’re paying for everyone’s drinks to drown out the depressing details we had to hear – no offense Bella,” Stefan smiled gently. “It’s just a lot of hurt to swallow.”
“Trust me, I know. I lived it, still am in fact. But a night out does sound good,” she smiled back as she clung to Damon as he searched her own eyes to make sure she was holding up okay. He brushed his lips along her forehead as he led her out, he tried to think of ways to get his blood into her.