Bella had woken herself with her screaming, thrashing in the bed as she struggled to escape the confines of the blankets. Her face was stained with tears that fell from her eyes as she looked around wildly when Damon threw her bedroom door open, looking concerned as he searched her out.
“Are you alright Bella?” he asked, his eyes darting around for some unseen threat that caused such fear and reactions from the girl.
Her mouth fell open as she tried to form the words she wanted to say, but she wasn’t sure she quite understood everything herself yet as the fog was still lifting from the bete noir of her nap. Slowly the memories of what she dreamt, experienced returned to her, increasing her heart rate that had begun to relax. Her hand reached up to her neck, inspecting, searching for traces of blood that weren’t there but she could still feel the pain of the vampire woman’s teeth breaching her skin and tearing it.
“No. No I am not fine,” she answered as she shook her head, glancing over at him as the emotions of the woman she occupied in the dream seemed to be with her, confusing her already conflicting feelings for the man. “I don’t know what just happened but it has something to do with your psychotic ex-girlfriend you told me about!”
Damon took a deep breath as he took in her appearance and nodded slowly. Moving over to the window, he peered outside, taking notice as the sun was setting in the distance. “Would you be willing to come to the Boarding House tonight? I would feel better about your safety if you were closer. I’ll see if Witchy can come by and we can all sit and discuss this.”
Bella hugged her arms around her as she tried to make some sense over his constant protective nature over her. While initially it was just the cell phone, now after what she saw and heard in that dream, if the events were real, it might explain the straight connection she felt with him. “I’m not making any promises. Especially to stay the night unless it’s absolutely necessary. Damon, I want answers. This shit is too fucked up that I’m about two seconds from packing up and hightailing it Florida to get away from this insanity.”
“I want to give you answers, but I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I have the answers you want Bella. I can’t promise something that I can’t give you, no matter how much I want to. Believe me there are questions that I want answers to as well, but let’s just make sure that you are safe and Katherine is out of our hair in the meanwhile. Can you live with that?” he asked as he walked up to her, pulling her chin to force her eyes up onto him.
She was curious as to what he wanted to know but agreed with a nod. Satisfied, Damon smirked as he stepped back. “Okay Gorgeous. Pack a bag and bring enough for a few nights just in case. Maybe even just to keep there in case you decide to become a frequent visitor one day,” he winked as he moved over to the window where he looked outside again, although listening carefully and murmured something under his breath.
“What is it?” she questioned as she started to move around to get a bag together and think of some excuse to give her father for her absence.
“Nothing to be concerned about, I think. Stephen was just filling me in on our – um, boarding issue. We have someone else that’s going to be staying with us, but I’ll make sure you will be safe.”
His choice of words made her stop short and look up. “By safe, you mean…another vampire?”
He scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Yeah. Caroline. Um, it seems that in response to being unable to kill you that night when you were by us for dinner, Katherine decided to take it out on one of our friends. She didn’t anticipate that she had vampire blood in her system and transitioned. So on top of figuring out your story Miss Bella, we have a psychotic vampire bitch on the loose and a baby vamp to train. We’re going to have fun tonight! Aren’t you excited?”
“Oh yeah, thrilled,” she deadpanned as she stared back at him for a moment, her heart skipping a beat as she took notice of his softened gaze on her before he turned away again to snoop through her bookshelf. As he became quiet in his thoughts, she gave him his privacy while she turned back to her own and continued gathering her things. “What am I going to tell my dad? I doubt he’ll be okay if I tell him that I’m going to a house with two guys overnight.”
Letting out a snort, Damon didn’t even look up from the book he was thumbing through. “Let me handle him. Don’t worry about a thing.”
“I can’t help but worry with whatever grand scheme you think of,” she muttered, as she picked up her backpack from the bed with a huff and started for the door but he had it out of her hands and was in front of her blocking her path in a flash.
“Let me make something clear to you Isabella. Whenever it comes to you, I have nothing but the purest intentions. No matter what anyone says. I haven’t lied to you, ever. Not now, and certainly not back then. If you truly are a reincarnation and you get her memories back, then you’ll realize it. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Just know that all I can be patient when it is something that I want,” he said with so much conviction that she couldn’t help but to blink back in a shocked response. His lips twitched into a slight smile as his eyes gazed over her face, his hand reaching up to trace down the side of her face ever so gently. “Just biding my time until you are ready to come to me.”
Bella watched him speechless and almost told him of the experience she had during the nap but he had turned and started for the stairs, leaving her as she ran her hand through her hair. She didn’t know what to do. The memories of the other woman, who seemed older than herself, were stronger now. She’d woken up with much more than she realized but she’d only begun to realize it as she calmed down and allowed herself to sort through the images that flowed through her mind. While the memories told her she could trust Damon, he was human in those images. Unlike the vampires she knew before coming to Mystic Falls, she was slowly learning that this breed was much different and she certainly was favoring them more than the Cullens in that they seemed to be more capable of having a stronger grasp on their humanity. If she was forced to be changed ever, she knew she would likely consider seeking Damon for assistance if the Cullens ever returned for her. A girl needed to have plans and back ups. Katherine’s attempts to kill her over the years, amongst others, did teach her something and that was becoming abundantly clear as she followed behind him.
“Okay Gorgeous. So, after you kicked me out of the house, Stefan finally showed up, but while we were upstairs he was called away to go deal with the baby vamp issue and get her somewhat fed before we get to the house. You and I will stop by the station so that we can tell Daddy that you’re coming over for movie night with the gang. Liz with back us up on it and I have a good excuse to be there because I actually need to see her for some business,” he explained his intentions as he sent out some text messages before putting his phone away and held the front door open for her with a smile and a bow. “After you milady.”
By the time that Damon and Bella arrived at the Boarding House, the rest of their group was gathered and trying to calm the very upset blond girl that was in the living room. As soon as the two walked in, he held Bella back behind him as he tried to assess the danger the girl might pose as her head snapped up and her eyes narrowed in on him.
“You! You compelled me to forget!” she yelled at Damon and started for him before Bella’s scent hit her as she got closer. She stopped short as she stared at the girl who peered curiously from behind him. “Another girl? Already? What are you going to do? Sleep with her and compel her to forget you’re using her as well?”
Bella snorted her amusement as she looked up at him as he grimaced and shrugged. “It’s been a lonely, hundred something years not knowing. What did you expect me to do?” he asked, though he kept his voice low only for her ears to hear but both Caroline and Stefan were capable of listening clearly.
“What is this?” Caroline questioned as she crossed her arms, turning to look around at everyone. “What have I missed while I was in the hospital then supposedly dead.”
“A lot Care,” Elena said with a sigh as she rubbed at her temple. “Bella just recently moved to Mystic Falls but she seems to be tied to it somehow. She’s a reincarnation of someone from the past.”
“We’re helping her learn more about her past but also protect her until she’s capable of defending herself based on the claims that Katherine was throwing at us,” Stefan added, giving her a meaningful look.
She looked back at him confused for a moment before shuddering. “The Elena look-a-like that killed me? She’s after this girl?” she asked more quietly, much calmer, as she turned to look at her again. “She did babble about some girl and getting even.”
Damon tensed up as he pulled Bella closer to him. “What did that bitch say about her? Tell us everything.”
“She was just complaining about someone not staying dead! Honestly, I thought it was Elena and that she was just ranting about some nonsense. She did make some comment about contacting someone though who might be interested in doppelgangers. What the hell? Oh my god she smells sooo good…”
“If you come anywhere near her, I will shove a stake through your heart faster than you can blink,” he snapped back before anyone can say anything. “Isabella is not on the menu. If you’re hungry, you can ask Stefan for Bambi or Thumper because she’s not making any donations.”
Bonnie and Elena had looked at him in shock at his threat. “Damon!”
“No. I don’t care. If you don’t want to help then get out and take her with you. She’ll be your problem and I won’t help,” he said, making his position clear on where his alliance was. His arm slid around Bella’s shoulders, both in protection and a need to hold her close after everything. The first time in so long he was able to hold her and he wanted to revel in it. Looking over at his brother, he saw that Stefan said nothing in response and looked back at the girls.
Bonnie looked back and forth between them, suspicion filling her as she grew uncomfortable in Bella’s presence. “I tried to speak with the spirits but they weren’t willing to give much information. I did catch whispers that you are quite powerful, that you should come into your abilities soon. Emily did manage to let me know that your family still walks.”
She looked up at Damon then over at Bonnie. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she asked. “I know I still have family. I live with my father. My mother is in Florida.”
“I don’t know,” he murmured as he ran his hand down her back, causing Elena and Caroline to narrow their eyes in confusion at his behavior with the girl. “We’ll find out. In the meanwhile, let’s get whatever questions we all have for everyone out of the way. Okay?”
Bella’s face reddened as she nodded, making him smirk as he raised an eyebrow. “Now I really wonder what caused that blush but I’ll ask that another time. Perhaps in private,” he grinned. Picking her up, he flashed them over to his armchair and made themselves comfortable with her on his lap. “I love story time.”
Stefan made his way into the living room as he passed around glasses of alcohol for everyone. “I think this will help for the nerves,” he winked as he passed Bella hers. She was hesitant as she sniffed the contents of the glass while Damon watched her, but after she took a sip, she smiled knowingly.
When everyone was settled, Bella was the first to speak as she kept her eyes on the bourbon in her glass, which also happened to be Damon’s preferred brand. “So, the first question I have is what is the last thing you remember of me? Or rather my previous self,” she asked as she looked between Damon and Stefan.
The brothers were startled and nervous as they thought of the day when Isabelle had disappeared. Stefan leaned forward, volunteering to answer her question first as the memories of the incident continued to hurt his brother. “The day that you, well Isabelle, disappeared, I had been helping Damon by gathering many of your favorite things from around town that you two would share in together that he planned to take you to after the Founders’ Day events in the town square. He was, um, after he came to check on my progress, seeing that everything was done and he was happy with it, he went to look for you. When he couldn’t find you, we ended up starting a full search that turned up nothing. No one knew what happened. It was like you just disappeared.”
“Did you check the old Swan mausoleum back on the property?” she asked, playing with Damon’s shirt collar to get his attention.
“Yes. I personally searched every inch of that property. There was nothing there,” he answered. “After hearing Katherine’s rambling, it would seem that she would be involved now and explain the lack of any trace of what happened. If I had any idea she was involved, I never would have given her a second thought when I returned from war. Stefan could have had her all for himself.”
Nodding, Bella shifted on his lap as she looked up at him shyly. “I can tell you more about that night,” she admitted. “The nap that I woke up screaming from? It was one hell of a memory I guess that hit.”
He was concerned as he hesitated. “Bella – if you aren’t ready to talk about that, we can wait…”
“No. You were obviously hurt just as much by – my – disappearance,” she insisted, stumbling over her reference of herself in that time period. Biting her lip, she met his eyes. “I don’t remember a lot Damon, but what is coming to me, I can still feel the truth behind them. It’s – weird, but for some reason, not so much at the same time.”
“That’s likely because you’ve experienced it a several lifetimes over,” Bonnie offered. “From the research I’ve been able to do about reincarnations, I’ve never heard about a recurring one like you and I’m still trying to find something or someone that might know something. We’re all out of our element here.”
Bella smiled softly as she nodded. “I understand. If you can find anyway to rush the onset of whatever I’m supposed to be able to do, I’d appreciate that because I don’t particular like this Katherine girl. Being bitten hurts like hell,” she said as she rubbed at her neck with a wince. “During my nap, it was like I was inside this Isabelle girl and she was inside the mausoleum looking at something after Damon left her, but that Katherine showed up. You should know that she wasn’t surprised by her appearance. How old was Isabelle?”
“Nineteen,” Damon answered as he pulled her hair back behind her ear, causing her to smile at the familiar gesture that he didn’t even seem to realize he was doing. “Why?”
“Just asking because she seemed to have more awareness of the memories of the previous incarnations and perhaps some gifts for her age, at least that I thought for the short ride that I was along for. I just wanted to know if maybe it was an age thing or experience and exposure theory for the advancement of the memories and abilities?”
They all looked at one another curiously. “That is actually not a half bad idea,” Elena said. “If you’re a witch, we could have you exposed or try spells with Bonnie to see if you can trigger something. Maybe keep taking you around town to trigger more memories.”
“Actually I think the best one to help with my memories would be Stefan and Damon,” Bella answered as she stiffened and looked away from the girl to the man whose lap she occupied. “Another question – what were you planning that night?”
Stefan snorted as he looked at him. “You may as well tell her. I think she already suspects something by now, if she didn’t already then. You never were able to keep a secret well from her.”
Damon rolled his eyes as he balanced his tumbler on the arm of the chair, trying to ignore the beautiful woman poking him in the shoulder. “I was…planning on proposing,” he admitted reluctantly as his other hand gripped her hip possessively but with gentle warning. “Can we not mention it again because I don’t like talking about it – at all.”
The silence was deafening as all eyes seemed to be on him except really for Stefan and Bella. She was eager to take the attention off of him, much as her previous incarnation had done. Eyeing him, she canted her head to the side. “Why do you drink animal blood?”
“I don’t want to lose control of myself,” he said, hesitating. “I don’t want to hurt people.”
“He gets blood drunk when he drinks human blood and becomes a Ripper,” Damon sighed as he finished his drink with a pout.
“Like you tear into a steak when you eat?” he explained, raising an eyebrow.
She raised an eyebrow back at him. “I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat steak.”
“You definitely are not Isabelle. Isabelle loved her meat. I know,” he said suggestively, smiling with satisfaction when she blushed as he obviously managed to catch her on a memory that she didn’t want to admit to.
Before anyone had the chance to truly recover from the comment, a voice spoke up from the doorway behind them. “Isn’t this sweet. I think I’m going to be sick,” Katherine interrupted, announcing her presence as she leaned against the frame appearing bored.
“What do you want?” Stefan questioned as he stood to move between her and the girls while Damon slowly stood to do the same with Bella.
“Stand down boys. I’m not going to do anything with your little harem here. Especially that bitch. I won’t have to. Someone else much more interested in something with that much power in her blood is on his way. All I get out of it is a little freedom,” she smirked as she walked up to Damon and reached out to run her hand over him, to taunt him as she loved to do but a thin invisible shield blocked her from making contact with him. Frowning, she looked around and scowled when her eyes landed on Bella.
Backing away slowly, her eyes darted back and forth and darkened as she sensed an increased threat within their group. “Good luck boys,” she simpered as she turned on her heels and walked out the door.
The human girls each let out the breath they had been holding, but Damon quickly turned to look down at Bella questioningly. She looked tired and pale. More pale than even him and he was concerned about whatever she might have just done, if it was her, just weakened her. “If that nut job is gone for the night, I think we should call it a night and continue Q&A in the morning if Bella is up for it.”
“Good idea,” Stefan agreed. “Why don’t you girls go choose a room. Caroline, you take the one between Damon’s and mine in case you have some issues with your cravings. Bonnie can always give you a migraine if you try to eat her after all.”
She grimaced as she was reminded of the one she had received when she first realized she had changed. “Don’t worry. I have no plans on doing anything but sleeping right now. Just keep Elena with you in case. I assume Bella is staying with Damon too?”
“Yes,” Damon answered as he already scooped the tired girl into his arms as she tried to fight him.
“Let me go,” Bella protested. “I can walk just fine.”
“Humor me Gorgeous,” he said as he carried her up to his room without so much of a goodnight to everyone else. Setting her down on his bed, he ran his hand over his face. “I know my brother is too focused on Elena and Barbie’s brain is on overdrive to focus on our discussion right now. Something happened downstairs and I don’t know what. Whatever your abilities are, something is starting to show itself. What happened? What were you thinking when she was here?”
Bella sighed as she just wanted to sleep. She knew what he was referring to but between her fear, anger, and overall exhaustion, she was done at that moment. “I’m tired Damon. I’m not even protesting about you taking me to your bed. We’re not doing anything but sleeping though. Can we talk about this tomorrow?”
Damon opened his mouth to demand an answer but only agreed. “Tomorrow,” he said gently, as he saw just how close she was to losing the battle with staying awake. Whatever she did, he didn’t want her to do again any time soon for fear of her being hurt simply for falling asleep after. He went to pull a shirt out of the closet for her to sleep in, but she was already passed out.
With a sigh, he quickly changed her into the shirt before getting ready for bed himself and crawled into beside her. Holding her to him, Damon’s emotions were all over the place as he pressed his lips to her hair. The first time in over a hundred and fifty years, he was happy to simply hold his girl in bed again.