It wasn’t until late in the night, Forks time, when Bonnie and Damon were able to complete the spell to prevent Cold Ones from entering the small house. Even then, neither of them were positive it would work until it could actually be tested and without having one of the other race on hand to give it try, they would be forced to wait and see should it become needed.
When Bonnie went up to Bella’s room to bunk with Caroline, Damon was soon joined by an exhausted Alaric. He didn’t look up from the papers of scrawled notes that had been used for the spell until a glass tumbler half filled with liquor appeared in front of his face. Accepting it with a silent toast, he pulled a healthy sip back with a grimace. “She’s not coming back tonight, is she?”
“Nope. She isn’t happy with me right now for springing everyone on her like that,” Ric sighed. “Stefan was supposed to make sure that you were going to come alone.”
Damon raised an eyebrow at him. “And what? Leave a newbie vamp Elena back home to snack on random humans in case she got a case of the munchies? What if it was Jenna? I just let her think it was her own idea to follow me out because anything else would just become a damn headache.”
Alaric’s face scrunched up painfully and he waved his hand to end the argument, knowing he’d been beat. “Alright, alright. You win. I haven’t a clue about what to do about Bella now. She’s up on that reservation, doing god knows what. It’d be easier to protect her if she was here when I can get to her but the locals up there would just hide her away if I tried to go get her.”
“Aside from the fact that she’s an adult. Sure Ric. Go piss the girl off some more and drag her stubborn ass back home,” the vampire suggested in a distracted tone.
“She would just kick us all out if I pulled something like that I think. I don’t know what to do!”
With a sigh, Damon rubbed the back of his neck and stretched it out. “Once I figure out what the Cold Ones want, then I’ll see what I can do. I have some things to take care of tomorrow. In case Bella does decide to kick everyone out, or force the problem children into the corner, I may know of a place for them other than the motel.”
“Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like where you are going with this?”
His lips pulled back and blue eyes looked up at him through dark lashes. “Normally, you wouldn’t. But it’ll be fine. I just have to check things out first, make sure there aren’t any surprises around. It’ll be fine!”
“That’s always what you say, right before a supernatural shitstorm hits.”
“Blame your hot niece for this storm. I have a feeling she’s in it up to her eyeballs,” Damon started jokingly before growing serious. “We’ll take care of it once we find out what she is hiding. I’m already all over her…”
Alaric pinched his nose before addressing his friend’s comments. “Can you not be all over her? She has enough problems in her life at the moment, that she doesn’t need your special attention on her as well.”
He grinned as he leaned back on the couch and eyed him. “It’ll happen eventually. I could see it in her eyes. She wants me. We have a – magical connection,” he taunted. “You’ll see.”
“Isn’t that what you say to all the girls before you compel them? Newsflash: Bella can’t be compelled. So you’ll have to keep your ‘magical connection’ zipped up for now.”
Damon looked at him sharply with renewed interest. “She can’t be compelled? Did you give her vervain already?”
“No. She saw it and us taking it before we could lace her coffee with it. Your brother tried compelling her-”
“Well it’s more likely that his bunny diet, while in abundance here, he’s not exactly the best candidate to try something like that and it work without some level of failure,” he scoffed. “I’ll take a crack at her. If I can’t get in her pretty little head then she’s likely already on some and none of you know it.”
“And if she’s not, then what? She’s already surrounded by wolves, possibly these Cold Ones you told us about, and now original vampires. I mean, come on Damon. What more is she going to have to face in her life?”
“And her little display outside earlier doesn’t scream that she’s more than capable of defending herself when the need arises? Come on now, Alaric. I know you’re not that naive. Remember. Stefan told you that you needed me for this little pile of shit your family stepped in. I’ll do the honorable part and get you your answers but that doesn’t have to mean that I’m playing by your rules. I have experience with these parasites and if Saint Stefan trusts me enough to take care of this problem, then you need to back off and let me handle it. I’ll tell you what and when I need you and right now, I need you upstairs getting some decent rest because you’ll be no good to the rest of us, oh great vampire hunter,” Damon sneered as he turned to look over at the window where a crow had landed on the window sill. He stared at it for a long minute before letting out a breath through his nose. “And if you want to know, your niece is sound asleep on one of her friends’ couches on the reservation. She’s just fine right now but I want to see more about that place soon…”
Giving his friend a sharp nod, Alaric made his way upstairs to try to get some sleep, hoping he would be able to fix the tenuous relationship between him and his niece. He’s all the family she has left, not including that mother of her’s, and he’d rather them be on at least amicable terms, so that means apologizing as soon as she comes home.
Instead of going straight home the next day, Bella took some extra time on the reservation with her friends and by herself. She was the first to wake in the small house, which was unsurprising to her. Especially after the long night of nightmares that she had kept Jacob and Billy up with. Pulling her hoodie and jacket on, she slipped out of the house so that she could take a walk; try to clear her head after the stress of the previous day.
She could not believe what her uncle had done. Granted, she did see the remorse on his face and the surprise that he hadn’t anticipated the presence of the girls. She was simply angry that he hadn’t considered giving her any warning for any of it. It was bad enough that she had to think about him and Jeremy being hurt because of what was going on, but now there were five new faces involved. One of them questionable.
That Damon had her confused, having first met him in the woods. Since everything that had happened, the changes in her life, the self preservation that she lacked in high school had finally kicked in after the Cullens had left her and it certainly was running on overdrive. While she had the urge to flee around these strangers, mostly, she also was so pissed at most of them she just wanted to take her father’s old baseball bat to them and ignore her instincts.
As she carefully made her way through the fallen branches, attempting not to fall and injure herself more than necessary; Bella could not help but stop to look around frequently in a panic. Despite her increased balance growing up, she was still a bit on the clumsy side, and the woods would forever be a danger zone for her, no matter the solitude she found in it.
Her eyes sharply darted around, high and low, searching for the familiar flaming red hair only to see a few crows flying around high up in the trees. Trying to calm her breathing down as she eyed the birds, she knew they would never have been near the area if a vampire was in the vicinity.
“Fucking paranoia is getting to me,” she muttered to herself, trying to shake the images of the nightmares that plagued her. Shaking her head, she tried to ignore the squawking of the birds above as she pushed her way through the woods, seemingly too familiar with the route she was taking before it brought her to an open clearing.
She went straight to a large boulder and crawled up on top of it to make herself comfortable before pulling out a book that had been tucked inside her hoodie. Looking around briefly, she still hadn’t shaken the feeling that she was being watched. Bella pulled a pen from her back pocket and started writing in the book and had been so lost in her words that she hadn’t heard movement from the trees behind her.
The crow sitting in the tree across the clearing that had been watching curiously, kept an eye on the girl as several large wolves emerged from the brush and slowly sniffed the air before largest of the group, a mammoth of a black being, released a bark that sent them all running back into the trees.
It wasn’t long before a bunch of boys came running out, struggling to pull their shorts up, and laughing. Looking up with a smile, Bella shook her head and put her book away as they made their way to her, pulling her into a hug and tossing her between them.
“So when is that uncle of yours leaving town Bells?” the one that had picked her up from the house asked as he sat beside her after they all began to calm down.
Not one of the group took notice of the crow that flew closer to perch above them to get a better eye and ears on the conversation as she answered with an irritated sigh. “Not anytime soon. I can’t exactly just tell him to get the fuck out of town. He’s suspicious of Charlie’s death and went asking questions in Seattle. Of course they don’t know anything and he came back annoyed but made plans to stay longer. Even some of his friends came out and it looks like they are planning on spending some time now. I thought I had only the two of them to deal with, now I have seven!”
“We’ll do the best we can to make sure none of them get hurt,” the oldest looking one announced.
A random boy laughed and shook his head. “It’s almost like another coven of Cullens! There were seven of them, now you got seven more!”
“Embry!” Bella grimaced. “Last thing I need is more Cullens. They can burn in hell for all I care. Once we take care of Victoria, I intend on going after them eventually but on my terms. And with a blow torch or flame thrower or something. That asshole won’t live to see another day if I have anything to say about it.”
“You’re only human, Bella,” the largest male said, causing the crow to focus closer.
She was quiet as she looked up at him and shrugged. “I know. I don’t know if word of my knowing about them got back to their royalty either. They told me enough about them that if they do know about me it’s a turn or die scenario, so it’s something to be concerned about guys. If it comes down to a choice, I’m going to have to make a decision.”
“They’re the enemy, Bella,” he said slowly.
“I know,” she replied. “I also know that it’s not a decision that I would make lightly. I don’t exactly want to die either, Sam. I’ve been fighting them for the last four years because of what they did. I want to make their lives as miserable as they made mine for as long as I possibly can.”
Jake bristled next to her. “So because you want your revenge, you’re willing to die and become one of them!?”
Bella sighed with boredom as she rolled her eyes. Letting out a breath, she narrowed her gaze on him. “I told you this already. I can do a lot more to them if I was one of them. They think I would have a gift if I was turned, a strong one if Edward can’t get read my thoughts as a human now. So whatever I would get would be pretty damn strong if I was one of them. I heard Jasper mention something of a shield once, though they didn’t know I heard them. Supposedly it’s pretty fucking rare in their world and I’m banking that it could be used against them. They ruined my life. I already lost mine when Victoria killed Charlie. They are just as much to blame. They are going down as well.”
Jake shrunk back as her voice rose, looking very much like a scolded puppy. “Look, I get it. I just, if you become one of them, you become our enemy.”
“I’d be one of them, killing my own kind then, Jake,” she pointed out with a raised eyebrow. “Enemy of my enemy and all. I think we’d be able to get along. You all had that treaty with them for generations. I’m sure you can make one with lil’ ol’ moi as an exception.”
Sam, the large one that Bella had been speaking to before that the crow noticed, hesitated. “And what would you believe you would feed on? Animals or humans?”
“Not fucking animals for certain, Sam. They were barely able to control themselves. You didn’t see Edward in school and Jasper… He even admitted to having issues. I’d travel to Seattle or up to Vancouver to hunt criminals or junkies or something. No one truly innocent. I’ve thought about this if it were to happen, but it all hinges on finding one of them to turn me for it to work and I don’t know any of their kind like that.”
Sam sighed, dragging one of his big hands down his face, before locking eyes with the girl that has become a sister to him. “I suppose it’s something we can consider, if you do in fact find one of their kind to change you.”
“Great. So that’s settled. Victoria. What the fuck is she doing?” she asked bluntly as she stared at them. “The bitch has been getting away from you guys too often.”
Jake and a few of the boys exchanged worried looks before he answered her. “We think she might be gifted, Bells. We don’t know with what but she is always able to get away, no matter how we go at her.”
“How close have you’ve gotten to her? Or her to you?”
The crow cocked his head, seemingly interested in this answer as well.
“We haven’t let her get to your house. We’ve managed to steer her away each time she’s attempted a go for it,” one boy voiced, trying to be helpful but only received a rueful expression from her.
“She plays games with us, Bella,” Jake said with irritation, annoyed by her attitude. “We’re not happy with this any more than you are. You can chill with the bitchiness.”
Bella stood, the anger she has been holding back since losing Charlie, making it’s way to the surface. “Excuse the fuck out of me, Jake! I just buried my father and the person responsible for it, has been running laps around you!”
She gave them all a withering glare as she shoved her way past them for the treeline, taking a different route she came and headed for the direction of the main road instead of the reservation where she stayed overnight. “Fucking dogs,” she cursed under her breath. “Can’t do a simple task to take out one fucking vampire that they were born to do.”
The crow that had been watching her let out a squawk and flapped its wings as it gave one last glance over the group of boys before flying over the girl, following her as it flew from tree to tree as she made her way through the woods as the day passed. In her anger, she pushed through, stumbling and cussing over vampires and wolves, leaving the raven bird highly amused in its observation.
Once she reached the main road, luck seemed to be on her side for once, as she saw on of her father’s deputies taking the curve right before where she stood. Waving him down, she breathed a sigh of relief that she made it without one of the pack catching up to her. After he asked her where he was dropping her off, Bella gave it some thought and told him her house, figuring she needed to talk to her Uncle and try to convince him to leave sooner rather than later.
Seeing that Bella was safe and enroute back home, the crow took off to the sky, disappearing past the canopy of the trees. He would see her again soon and he would be eager for that encounter.
When Bella arrived home and thanked the officer for the ride, she scowled at the sight that awaited her. As her eyes glossed over from one person to the next that stood on the porch, the two that exited the car that pulled up behind her as the patrol car that just drove off certainly rained on her parade.
Now she had to decide if she wanted to deal with these morons or that idiotic wolves she just ran from.
“What the hell is going on here? This not some high school hang out,” she snapped as she glared at her uncle. “What happened to respecting people’s privacy and personal boundaries?”
Alaric cleared his throat and looked around uncomfortably before his gaze settled back on his niece. “We, well I wanted to talk to you about this, them, actually.”
Bella’s eyebrow raised skeptically. “What about them? I won’t have more people staying here. I am uncomfortable with the amount that are already here now! I’ve lived by myself or taken care of Charlie for years, which is essentially raising another person myself. What makes you think that I would be okay having other people around me like this? What do you want to hear Uncle Ric? You want me to say it? I will! I don’t like people! I don’t want these people here! Happy?!” She hissed as she waved her arms at the two that offended her the day prior before she pushed her way into the house and slammed the door shut behind her. Glaring at it behind her, she smiled to herself and reached out and turned the deadbolt before doing the same to the back door then continued up to her room with a satisfied smile on her face.
It wasn’t normal behavior for her but she was beyond pissed still from her friends and overwhelmed that it was about the only sense of control felt she was able to have. Throwing herself onto her bed, she waited to hear if there would be any shouting as the window was still open.
She didn’t hear any shouting but what she did hear were a pair of boots hitting the floor in her room. Sitting up she looked towards her window and really wasn’t surprised to see the one friend of her uncle’s that has been irking her.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she asked as she eyed him cautiously as she sat up against her headboard.
Instead of answering her, he just gave her a lazy once over before smirking, which seemed to infuriate her more. He moved around her bed slowly as he glanced around curiously before he spoke. “It would seem that Princess here is keeping some big secrets,” he smiled at her before he stopped at her dresser. “That’s fine because I happen to have a big secret of my own that I might exchange…” he murmured, glancing at her as he toyed with the handle of dresser drawer.
She didn’t even realize she got out of her bed, before she marched up to him and swatted his hand away from her dresser. Giving him a once over, she sneered. “I don’t want what you’re offering.”
Damon leaned in until his face was a breath away from hers and smiled. “I doubt that very much,” he whispered, and stepped back. He went and laid back on her bed and smiled up at her. “You know, nature is really peaceful up here. I can understand why some would want to move here. People like Alaric. I can see him living here full time. What do you think, Isabella? You told me it wasn’t safe, right?”
She eyed him skeptically. She gets the sense that he knows more than he is letting on, but she’s not stupid enough to give him any information, especially if it will do the opposite of what she wants, which is to get them all the hell out of her house and her town.
He only continued to smile as their attention was drawn to her window as Ric’s voice started calling her name and banging on the door, pleading for her to let them in. “Eh, they can wait,” he shrugged. “Are you planning on going for your thrill seeking, moonlit walk in these dangerous woods Gorgeous?”
“What’s it to you?” Bella questioned.
“What is it to me?” Damon repeated slowly as he stared up to the ceiling. “I can answer that for you – in detail tonight. Just not here. Trust me Princess, with what I now know, your uncle would find some other solutions. I happen to know my way is best.”
He looked back at her and smiled before standing up from her bed, starting for the her door. Pausing in front of her, his lips pulled back in a smirk as she watched his every move silently. He reached out and swept her hair away from her neck, his fingers lightly brushing over her neck as they slowly drew back. As her breath caught in her throat and her heart raced, he admired that her gaze never faltered. “Hm…” he hummed. “I’ll go let the children in. We’ll talk later Carina.”
Bella narrowed her eyes on his back as he casually walked out of her room without a care in the world. As she listened for his footsteps disappear down the stairs, only then she felt it safe enough to breath and move. She slammed her door closed and locked it as she glared at it, wondering what the hell this Damon was up to.
Sure she appreciated his support in her not wanting everyone around the day before but the invasion of her privacy of her room was something she did not appreciate. Added to the fact that he seemed to know that he knew more about her than he implied worried her deeply. Especially if it would come to affect her family and the rest of the town. As the thoughts circled in her head, she wandered over to her window and looked out absently. The action only spurred on more questions in her thoughts, causing her to look down to the yard where he was now standing, talking amicably with her uncle.
As if feeling her eyes on him, Damon looked up to her window and waved his fingers tauntingly. Bella looked away from the group and back at the tree that her friends, and her ex, used to climb to get into her window throughout high school. The branch that had extended close enough to reach her sill had been cut before her high school graduation so there was no way he could have been able to humanly climb in without a concerted effort.
Pressing her lips together, she had questions that demanded answers. And she would get them on that walk he requested. If not for herself, then at least for the safety of her uncle and his young friends if they didn’t know what they were involved with themselves. But she would continue to play the game, she knew. Looking back at them, she knew even among their group, all wasn’t well and she certainly did not care for what she saw.
Even though Bella had finally emerged from her room, she was stubbornly refusing to welcome Stefan and Elena into the house after they had insulted her the day before. She failed to understand why Alaric attempted to convince to invite them in, leaving her to stand there in the kitchen as she was cooking dinner angrily.
“You’re making this sound like something out of Dracula. What the hell? I said I don’t want them in here!” she argued as she glared at him.
Caroline and Bonnie sat in the living room listening with concern. Damon stood in the doorway between the rooms, leaning on the wall watching with amusement as his friend was getting cut down by a girl half his age and who actually wasn’t far off from the truth without actually knowing it yet.
“Bella…” Ric tried to speak but she slammed the frying pan she had in her hand down on the stove. The reverberations caused each of the vampires to jump and cover the ears, even the two on the porch, unable to enter the house.
“I don’t know them! I don’t trust them!” she admitted as she stood there. “You take me for naive. You think I’m an idiot? I’m not blind. I may not know Damon or – Barbie – in the other room, but Damon doesn’t know me either and he understood what my issue was with all of you rather quickly. I saw you all attacking him for agreeing with me and the only one to defend him was her and she doesn’t even look like she likes him much! Tell me how that works out!”
“Bella, you don’t understand the kind of person Damon is,” Elena voiced from the door, making the young woman’s face to twist in disgust. “The things he’s done. You can’t trust him. Not completely.”
“Oh cry me a river,” Bella sighed. “I don’t want to hear your shit you little bitch,” she said as she made her way out of the kitchen to the hall to be able to look at her. “Until you learn some respect, I don’t want to see your ugly faces.”
Elena opened her mouth to speak but Alaric shook his head quickly as he came up behind his niece. “I’ll call you later. Just head back to the motel or sight seeing or something.”
At his suggestion, the girl tensed up and hesitated to protest. Her eyes instinctively jumped to Damon after their conversation in her bedroom and found him staring back at her with smirk firmly placed on his lips. “Yes. That sounds like an excellent idea Ric. I heard there is a great hiking trail that Stefan can take Elena on in fact. Takes you pretty deep in the woods for some scenic shots,” he challenged as he held her gaze.
Stefan eyed the exchange between them with concern. Knowing that despite calling his brother in because of his experience with Cold Ones, he knew it would be a gamble when it came to Alaric’s niece and he felt they were losing that one. “I don’t think a hike would be the best idea right now…”
“Actually it’s a great one. Why don’t you two take a long one and not come back. Maybe you’ll get eaten by some monster that lurks in the woods,” Bella bravely answered as she stared them down. “Leave. I might feel more welcoming in a day or two. Don’t come back unless I ask.”
Damon smiled proudly as he looked to Alaric who appeared surprised and confused. “Uhh…” the human hunter muttered. “Bella?”
“I’m hungry. I’m going to continue cooking dinner now then I’m going to go for my walk. Do you have a problem with that?” she asked as she turned to glare at him.
“Uh, no. Carry on,” he stammered as he waved her back to the kitchen, watching her as she walked past Damon, whom kept a silent eye on her the entire time. His own eyes narrowed with suspicion as the vampire closed the door on his brother and girlfriend on his way into the living room to join the girls.
Something was up and he didn’t know what.