Chapter 03

When she had freshened herself up, she packed up her backpack and brought it with her to the living space but the sight of what was on the table made her drop it in shock. “Holy shit!” Bella couldn’t believe her eyes. There was a Wonderbox and new cameras and everything she had on her wishlist. This was unbelievable. It didn’t look second hand either, and she was floored.

Kol walked in shirtless and grabbed a pastry, biting into it. “Morning!”

“Morning,” she said, fighting to urge to touch the equipment, but not taking her eyes off of them, missing Kol walking around without a shirt. “I know this is your stuff but can I please take a closer look?” Oh fuck it.

He laughed as he looked at her, she looked like a little child at Christmas as she was sitting on her hands and knees at the coffee table, wiggling around in excitement. “My stuff?”

“Yes. Can I please touch your stuff?”

“Oh, that’s a loaded question, darling,” Kol sucked in a breath as he squatted down next to her, smiling from ear to ear. “I don’t think you’re ready to touch my stuff yet,” he teasingly ran a finger up her arm. “However, if you’re referring to the equipment on the table, it’s yours.”

“What?”

“You heard me, this is all yours.”

“Are you serious? This must have cost a fortune!”

“A drop in the bucket when you’ve been around as long as my family. Nik had a blast finding that thingamabob,” he replied, gesturing to the one his brother compelled off a local crew.

“Well yeah,” she gently caressed the box. “These things are made on order and they’re so freaking awesome. Almost every decent paranormal show uses it – that’s how I discovered its existence. I like how it’s quiet and only speaks up when there’s something to be heard. The other thing makes so much noise it’s hard for me to keep hearing them. I can’t believe your brother managed to get his hands on this so fast.” Bella was so excited, and then her face fell. “I can’t afford all of this, Kol.”

He smiled and shook his head. “I’m working with you so it’s beneficial for me too, right? You wanted the stuff and I need it to help you. Don’t worry about it,” he replied and moved to set up his new laptop to check out the features over breakfast. “How’d you sleep?”

“I slept great,” Bella replied, forcing herself to look away from the new toys. She couldn’t wait to try them and see if they’d truly bring something extra. “I mean… I never woke up during my sleep. No sounds, no noises, no feelings, no… nightmares. And your bed felt like heaven.”

“It’s a bed. Anything feels better when you spend your time in a box for a century or two,” he replied, his tone just a touch icy. “But yes, you were more dead than a rock when I got in. Glad to hear you got good rest.”

She took a pastry off the counter and gestured to the guest room. “Last night I saw you had a guest room, why didn’t you put me in there?”

“You wanted to make sure I was close and you could only see me across the street from my room. It’s fine,” Kol assured her. “It’s not the first time I’ve lost my room to a lady.”

“You’re not going to lose your room to me. I was just really freaked out last night and-”

“Shush! No arguing on this. Topic is finished,” he playfully scolded. “Now what’s the plans for today?”

“Well…” she smiled as she took a bite off her pastry and gestured to the new equipment. “I’m due to upload a video, a small one. Like… five minutes. Just as a taster for what’s to come, I guess. And since I originally had thought I’d take potential new partners out to test them during their interview… How about we find some place we can test those out? Play with it and get to know the equipment? Make it the subject of the video?” When she saw his surprise, she continued. “It’s like… just playful. Not even doing it for the camera, but you got us new camera’s and all…”

Kol nodded, thinking about locations. “Sure. We could go to Lafayette Cemetery. I’m sure you would get a kick out of the ancestors there. I wonder what they’d tell you actually.”

“Ugh, cemeteries,” Bella shuddered. “You know how many dead people there are on those?”

“What? Ghost girl afraid of cemeteries?” Kol laughed.

“No, but filtering all those voices is hard and draining. Imagine being in a bar and hundreds of people wanting to talk to you at the same time.”

He raised an eyebrow and brought a finger to his ears. “Vampire darling. Imagine all the voices I pick up, on top of the passing sounds you aren’t capable of hearing. A creaky door is enough to drive one insane.”

“Right, sorry. Stupid me,” she let out a breath with a nod. “Fine, cemetery it is,” she walked over to her backpack and retrieved a sachet she got from Ann. “Can I make some tea?”

“Yeah, knock yourself out. It’ll be fine. Besides, I’m sure only a few will be around. The majority of the witches aren’t big fans of my family and I.”

Bella walked over to the kettle and poured some water into it as she mulled over his words. “Does this have something to do with the balance thing? Or do witches think vampires are abominations?”

Sighing, he leaned back in his chair, closing the laptop. “Yes and no. You must understand that being around as long as we have, with unstable temperaments, we gain a fair amount of enemies. While I was more friendly with the witches than the rest of my siblings, as I had missed our magic the most after we turned, they were often ruled by their anger and emotions. Many witches distaste vampires no matter the argument you give, even if we had helped numerous times in their favor against the wolves.”

“Jeez, what are they? Nazis?” Bella scrunched her nose as she put the bag into a mug and poured hot water over it. “I mean… we all need to get along, we’re all different in many ways.”

“Easier said than done. I told you I was no angel and I make no promises to behave all the time. It’s not who I am. But I do promise to protect you and be there, to give you what you need of me.”

“I know you’re no angel, neither am I. I sensed that when you came to me at the hotel. Hence why I was a little standoffish. I guess I make the same mistake as the witches sometimes. Taking things face value and I apologize.”

“Nah. It’s fine. I believe you would have come on your own eventually. I’m more irritated at Myriam for telling me you would be more open than you were. That’s between her and I,” he stressed. “Now, you ready?”

“Oh, I used to be very open to new experiences and new people, but Jake and I have had some encounters over the years that changed my mind,” she pointed at her tea. “I still need to drink this nasty concoction and I suppose we need to put some of our new stuff into my bag.”

Kol sniffed the air and went over to take a look at her tea before pulling back as he shoved the cup back at her, hissing as it splashed on his hand. “Which shop did you get that?!”

“Ann’s, are you alright?” Bella said panicked as she saw steam coming from his hand.

“I will be. Demented midget is still playing her games. You could just wear the vervain and it’d work just the same.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were allergic to Vervain… Ann said it would protect me from evil spirits. It’s even in my little protection bag.”

“All vampires are allergic, love. It’s a poison to us. It’ll heal, but hurts like a bastard,” Kol explained as he shook his hand before inspecting the damage and watched as the blistering slowly healed over. “She’s always pulling one over on us, especially me since my mother planted me in a human body for a short time. She never got over my lack of interest.”

“I didn’t know, I’m sorry. Ann told me it’s for protection and healing, purification,” Bella apologized, pouring the tea down the drain. “I was referred to her by a friend, mainly because she was worried about me and my health. I have a little herbal bag Ann told me to have on me when I go and chat with the spirits, so I have extra protection.”

“Yet she should have seen you would have crossed paths with me eventually as she had the gift of premonition.”

“I’m so sorry,” Bella said as she rushed through her bag to find the little herb bag. “I’ll go throw it out, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Another person I need to have a talking to. Don’t toss it. Just – keep it away from me. She wasn’t wrong vervain would help some in other areas. Just not me like that…”

“Are you sure? I-I could go to Ann and ask her for a different bag without vervain in it.”

“I’m sure. Now, what are we going to bring to the cemetery? The camera, of course. And the box, yeah?” He smiled at her as he ducked into a cupboard and found a messenger bag for him to use. Kol had already seen she was extremely careful with her stuff, so he knew he had to adopt that same sentiment. He carefully slid the box into the bag, with the camera and smiled at her. “Anything else we need?”

“Flowers, just a bouquet of flowers. Sometimes a spirit really needs something bright and colorful to lift their spirits.”

“Very well,” he said as he curiously eyed her. “Now, as you have noticed, I’m answering all of your questions, can I ask you something about how you work?”

“Yep,” Bella made sure her bag was closed and put it on her back.

“Why aren’t we doing this in the dark? I mean, it’s daylight out.”

She smiled then. “All of the shows you see on TV or videos from other amateurs like myself, happen in the dark because they want to see the spirits, hope to catch an apparition or orbs or whatever. And yeah, if you want that kind of stuff, or at least to have a chance, you go out at night,” she wanted to take his bag from him, but he firmly held on to it with a cheeky smile on his face. “What we’re after are voices. Stories. We don’t need the darkness to get the stories, they’re always around.”

“But we are going to do this at night as well, yes?”

Kol was a vampire, of course he had a thirst for adventure. “Of course, night time is always more fun because there’s usually no activity outside that could ruin a recording.” She followed him down the stairs and out the door and she had to take a breather then as the familiar feeling of emotions swirled around her and invaded her. “Okay, enough of that please,” she muttered and felt it all disappear again, only a small linger remained. “Thank you.”

“It’s because my apartment is very clean, isn’t it?”

“Your apartment is a bubble that I totally love. I was afraid of it at first because I couldn’t connect with anything but wow, I totally love that about your apartment,” Bella smiled at him. “Stepping outside that bubble is a new experience for me. I’m fine.”

“So you can even feel my emotions?”

“Yeah, if I open myself up to it, but I’m not going to, because the city is very busy and it can get overwhelming, I mean, you know what it feels like. It’s my control.”

“Yeah, but we’re quite old, Bella, we have learned to mentally protect ourselves.”

“Yeah, but you’re technically dead,” she pointed out. “Don’t worry, I’d never abuse what I can do on anyone. Maybe in my sleep, but that’s my subconscious. However, you’re safe from little accidents in your apartment, don’t you worry.”

Kol was quiet as he mulled over her words and steered her towards the cemetery. Granted, she had to deal with him, a vampire, and soon his family of vampires, but they could control themselves. He believed she could control herself too, but if she was able to pick up on their emotions like she’d pick them up from ghosts, then they’d have a problem. But it was trust, wasn’t it? Yeah, it was trust and he was definitely not going to tell Nik about this tiny thing.

“However, with your permission, I want to keep an emotional tab on you while we’re out and dealing with the spirits. I’ve done the same with Jake, and I want to do it with you too. Especially with you because sometimes I miss something and they could influence you despite all the precautions we’re taking.”

“I told you, I have ties with Myriam, the voodoo queen.”

“Yeah, I know, but I just want to know when your mood changes. Nothing more. Very superficial,” she looked at him and reassuringly brushed his arm. “Just as I trust you to protect me by introducing me to your corner of the world, you need to trust me when I introduce you to my part of the world.”

Damnit, she was right. “It’s alright. It’s a safety precaution for the both of us.”

“Exactly,” she smiled as they passed a flower store. “Oh, wait, flowers. What are you in the mood for? Shall we go for all colors of the rainbow?”

“Wait, you had an empathic link to Jake? But he’s human?” She wasn’t a witch, but he wasn’t so sure now. Everything about her was contradictory.

“Yeah, but we grew up together,” Bella explained as she picked a few flowers from the buckets to create a lovely bundle. “So I knew him very well. I don’t know if I can do it with other humans, though. I hope not. That’d be scary.” She paid for the flowers and continued to follow Kol through the streets of New Orleans. She liked the colors and the buildings and she couldn’t help but wonder. “So did you and your family help build this city?”

“My siblings did, yes,” he replied after giving it some thought. Sure, he’d been ‘present’, but not in a good way. He’d rather forget about it all, to be honest. It was even a miracle he was still out of his box in the first place! He supposed he had Myriam to thank for that. His partner in crime. “I’ve been here for short periods of time, but I didn’t do anything of importance here until … oh, I don’t know, 1910? When I befriended some witches and set them up against my brother Niklaus just for kicks. You know, the usual brother on brother fighting? In our family we tend to throw huge fits of rage and it was basically a war, in the end.”

“Who won?”

Kol huffed. “I did, of course. Eventually. Not at the time, but yeah. I won.” Well, in his mind he had won. After all, he had created a weapon which could take down his brother but because his mother was such a bitch upon her most recent return, she took it from him and destroyed it. Bitch. Absolute bitch. Thankfully, Myriam and he became friends and Myriam still has the power to put Nik down if need be, and that was all Kol wanted. A way for Nik to be given a time-out too. “Just don’t be surprised that once you’ve gotten to know my family, physical fights do happen and not lightly. We’re able to take a punch. We try to remain civilized, but… we can get pretty violent and it can get scary, but know I take my job in protecting you very seriously and no harm will come to you whenever that happens.”

Bella hummed as a response. “I wanted to know for how long you guys had been around in New Orleans so it won’t come as a surprise to me if we run into some of your victims. Either yours or your family’s. I’m well aware of the fact you won’t want it broadcasted you’re a vampire or not possible so I can tell the spirits who know you to back off.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that, that’s creative editing.”

“That’s cheating and I don’t like creative editing. You can edit out silences or boring stuff, but no messing with the footage. Ever. When we’re validating what story has been told, I want sources from the library or newspaper or historical archives,” she said seriously. “I mean, I know that what I do – what we do – is not for TV, but that doesn’t mean it has to be messed with. That we don’t validate stuff if there’s stuff that needs to be validated.”

“You ever considered doing TV?”

“Ugh,” Bella rolled her eyes at him. “Not that I don’t respect those who do, I’m merely afraid of losing control over what I do. Truth be told, I kinda like it that they try to debunk almost every video of mine and come up empty. Like… I’m an amateur, I don’t earn money by the buckets and I only get money when people support me. But everything gets put back into the videos. The traveling, the stays at hostels, the equipment, the food… I don’t keep any of it because it’s not mine.”

“But it is. They decide to give it to you.”

“I haven’t done anything to warrant keeping that money other than performing a service to the dead while recording it for others to see.”

“Okay, so now you don’t have to pay for your hotel or food, or new equipment, what will you do with what’s left? Return the money? Invest the money?”

Bella shrugged. “We’ll have to ask my supporters.”

“Stop being such a saint,” Kol shook his head, laughing. “It’s okay to keep the money for yourself. Maybe you need new clothes or something. They are supporting you because they like you, you don’t have to account for every penny they give.”

“Just drop it, okay?” she sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration. “I hate talking about finances. It’s not important. What is important is we reacquaint you with the energy of spirits and you to remain calm and respectful around them even if they’re not.”

“Ha,” Kol laughed. “If they’re going to bully you or me, I’m going to bully back.”

“And make a peaceful situation explode?”

“Yes, if that protects you, yes. I’m fast enough to pick you up and rush you out of the situation,” he replied seriously. “But got it, don’t act out if they don’t. I can behave until provoked. We should get a high quality cooler before we leave town. Maybe Jeremy could steal the Salvatore’s? That’s a thought.”

“A cooler?” Bella blinked at him. “Like… the one you’d bring to a camping place or a cook out?”

“Yep. You see… we vampires have a blood lust and most of us have control over it. Like… I don’t want to suck you dry even though you smell heavenly. I feed off of criminals these days and so many blood bags… Vampires also have heightened emotions that I told you about. Now, when I get angry or pissed off, I can get hungry. We need a cooler if we’re going somewhere for a lot of hours when there aren’t humans around.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh, because like hell will I bloody hell feed on animals,” Kol thought for a moment. “Definitely getting that cooler.” He stopped in front of the cemetery and pointed at it. There were tourists already roaming the paths between the graves, which was unfortunate but given the time of day not unexpected. “Welcome to the City of the Dead. The Ancestors live here. They’re spirits that give the witches their power.”

Bella leaned against the brick wall and looked at Kol. “I really don’t like cemeteries.”

“I don’t think it would be too bad for you here. You see, mediums are a sub-class of witch, so they may work with your senses on their own. If you can’t handle it, we’ll go somewhere else. Do touristy things,” he replied, promise in his voice. “But hey, I thought you wanted an adventure.”

Bella stuck out her tongue to him as she closed her eyes and sighed. “Alright, whomever is in there, you’re not going to hurt me or my friend. We come in peace and light-”

He leaned down into her ear and whispered. “Don’t stick it out if you don’t plan to use it.”

“Fuck that, him you can have,” Bella opened her eyes and locked with Kol’s. “Jerk.”

“I’ve been called worse things, Darling,” he shrugged and moved around the fence until he was standing on the other side. “I could show you my playhouse…”

Bella let out a breath. Oh, he was going to drive her insane, wasn’t he? He was hot, sure, but damn, he really needed to stop. “Down boy,” she countered as she stepped onto the cemetery. She was half expecting to feel the ground shake or the graves bursting open, but nothing happened. Which was good. “So, tell me more about these Ancestors then,” she said as she started to slowly walk around and looked at the mausoleums.

“They are really nothing more than dead witches that hail from New Orleans. They practice a very specific type of magic, referred to as ancestral because the power is connected to the consecrated witches buried in town. They are more uppity than others I know of, one of the reasons it’s not my favorite but I ran with a couple years past. She would likely be one of the angry spirits that don’t like me anymore. Shame. I’m the life of the party!” Kol smiled as he took her arm in his, leading her away from the tourists.

“Sounds more like sacrificial magic to me,” Bella quipped, as she allowed him to lead her away from the beaten path. “Hey, this witch is dead! Let’s bury her and suck the magic out of her so we can give back to the living!”

Kol’s smile faltered as he nodded. “It can be that way,” he agreed, thinking about their harvest ritual.

“What cruel society would ever allow that, though?” Bella wondered as she looked at him. “What a strange world you live in, Kol.”

“It is what it is. Customs are strange for many of the humans as well and can be questionable. As vampires, we try not to leave enough of a mark to make a significant change. I would be glad to take a run through the Middle East and make a meal of every terrorist that exists, but I can’t,” he replied, looking around. “Blasted witches! Stop the illusions!”

“What’s wrong?” Bella asked him. “Other than the obvious of me not getting anything.”

“They likely aren’t talking to you because of me, which we expected but they have done something to the cemetery and it’s all turned around to the eye. My mausoleum would be here, should be, but I can’t see it.”

“I hid it,” an unfamiliar voice sounded as she stepped around from the mausoleum. “Heard you were running with something unfamiliar, best to protect your goodies and Kaleb.”

Kol’s lip twitched. “Davina Claire. This is Bella. A new friend. She’s a medium and is an online blogger researching the paranormal. If you could fix this, it’d be much appreciated.”

“No, why would I fix this?” Davina said as she leaned against the stone and looked at Bella. “She’s pretty, though. Of course you always go for the pretty ones. Don’t let him ruin you.”

“Enough Davina. We aren’t even involved like that,” he snapped. “Even if we were, you said you couldn’t be with me because my control issues.”

‘Yet.’

“Oh, hello,” Bella greeted the unfamiliar voice and let go of Kol to follow the voice away from the bickering exes. “I’m Bella,” she introduced herself. She always did. It was nice.

‘I heard. The others won’t come. Don’t expect any to talk to you here. Especially with a Mikaelson.’

“Mikaelson? That’s his last name?” Bella sat down on some steps as she watched the tourists walk about.

Kol growled at Davina when he heard his friend and turned to face her, his face scrunching in confusion. “Who you talking to?”

“I don’t know,” Bella replied with a smile as she leaned back. “He hasn’t introduced himself yet. Kinda rude.”

‘He would know.’

“Says you would know.”

Kol cocked his head before sighing. “Only one I can think of here would be Kaleb. I inhabited his body for awhile. I mentioned this to you already.”

“Kaleb? Like… with a C or a K?” Bella asked as she saw the shocked look on Kol’s friend face. “You might want to take care of your friend, Kol.”

He glanced at Davina and shrugged. “She’ll get over it. You do your thing and make friends. Now that she dropped the spell, I’m going to go inside. Let me know when you’re done.”

“Yeah, okay,” Bella replied and watched Kol go inside a mausoleum. “Ugh, that’s creepy,” she said with a shudder. “Kaleb, is there anything you need me to pass along to someone you left behind?”

‘Why the hell is Davina so obsessed with me? She was involved with Kol. I didn’t even know her. For fuck’s sake! I’m gay!’

Bella let out a snort. She wasn’t sure if she was going to relay that message. Maybe to taunt Kol or something. Oh, that would be just great. “Are you sure you want me to tell her that?” Bella couldn’t stand the hopeful look on the witch’ face, but she was glad she was out of earshot anyway. “I’m sorry you were a victim of the whole body inhabiting thing, that must have sucked royally.”

‘Eh, if it wasn’t me, it would have been another witch. I accepted it. Kol wasn’t too bad and he respects magic which made it less aggravating. Sure he has impulse issues as a vampire, but I can verify his heart is in the right place.’

Bella smiled at that. “Thank you for that. I mean… I don’t feel he’d do anything to harm me, but it’s good to hear it from someone else.”

‘No. If he’s invested in something, or someone, it’s 100%. He was with Davina until he came back as a vampire and she turned him away. He likes you, I can tell, and he would likely sacrifice himself before he sees harm come to you. I actually wish I could follow to see the hell you put him through.’

“That won’t be healthy for you, you know. To follow us around. Besides, I feel like you’re stuck here,” Bella leaned back on the stairs a little and smiled at the passing tourists. “But what I can do is come here every once in awhile and show you the videos Kol and I made of our adventures, if that’s what you like.”

‘You’re really quite something special, aren’t you?’ Kaleb laughed warmly. ‘Sure, why not? It would alleviate some of the boredom.’

“I don’t wish to hurt anyone, Kaleb. You can tell your Ancestors that. I always try to be respectful of the dead because that’s what they deserve. I’m not like the others.”

‘Oh, I have no doubt about that, Bella. However, the Ancestors are concerned about you and I’m not sure why.’

“Me neither,” Bella said with a grunt. “Truthfully that sounds like the stupidest reason to avoid someone.”

‘You’re absolutely right. So, how about this? You come here every once in awhile and show me your adventures with Kol as long as it’s not porn because damn, not being able to have sex sucks, and I’ll see if I have some information for you in turn.’

“Porn? Come on, I only met the guy yesterday.”

‘Maybe, maybe not,’ Kaleb laughed and Bella could feel a slight brush against her cheek.

Kol stuck his head out through the doors and looked around. “Who asked about porn? I’m sure Elijah has a stuffy collection from the 70s.”

‘Okay, mood gone. Thanks, you moron,’ Kaleb replied with a sigh. ‘Be well, Bella, and watch your back.’

She could feel how Kaleb’s energy went away and needed a moment to recover from the interaction with him. While the conversation had been civil and kind, it had been intense and his energy had been intense. Bella could feel why Davina might have liked the guy’s appearance. It had a presence. And with Kol inside of him? Oh yeah, doubly so.

She got to her feet and walked back to the Mausoleum to pick up the flowers she had dropped when she followed Kaleb. “Hey, where’s he buried?”