Chapter 6: Somewhere just beyond my reach, there’s someone reaching back for me…
Mystic Falls, 1864
Blood seeped from the gaping wound like water gushing from a waterfall and Damon was a man dying of thirst. His throat constricted. The smell of the pumping red fluid was so intoxicating. He clenched his hands into fists in a futile effort to stave off the urge to tear into her. Meanwhile, his brother stared at him with devilish delight. Darkness that went deeper than mere color had seeped into Stefan’s eyes. Blood spilled from his mouth in an unseemly fashion. His fingers dug into the woman’s flesh as he thrust her into Damon’s arms. That one final move made it impossible for him to resist.
Thought escaped him. Instinct took over. He tore into the woman’s neck. Like a beast, he ravaged her. Somewhere buried beneath the overwhelming need to sate his hunger lay his humanity and its disgust at his actions. In a matter of seconds, his decision to die an honorable death was defeated. The salty, crimson sustenance consumed him and he lost the power to turn away until his victim lay limp in his arms, her last breath swallowed by him.
Only as the final trickle slid down his throat did Damon return to his senses. The woman fell to a heap at his feet. With her blood pumping anew in his veins, the full impact of his transgressions struck him. He looked down at the lifeless figure and realized she was no stranger. Her father owned a tavern on the outskirts of town. She baked bread for the soldiers. Her caring smile gave them courage while her hearty bread sustained them. Before he quit the war and a cause that he questioned, he had witnessed how her small offering had given hope to the soldiers whose background did not share the same comforts as his. All the while he thought of this, he felt the strength of Stefan’s gaze pricking his skin like needles digging into his flesh. Unrivaled rage coursed through him.
“I knew you’d like her,” Stefan said, an unholy grin stretching his mouth. “There’s more. The Lockwoods are having a ball tonight.”
“Yes, perhaps the ball would be too dangerous, but it would be our best option.”
Damon didn’t care for the risk. Excitement danced around Stefan. Damon found the emotion threatening to take hold of him, too. In fact, many emotions were stronger than they had been just moments before. Courage coursed through him with intensity when moments before it had waffled on the edge. And need… An insatiable need that surpassed hunger lurched through him. The scent of honeysuckles hovered in his memory. He wanted to taste honeysuckles. He wanted to feel it slither across his tongue and slip deep into his abyss.
He wanted to taste Emily.
With Stefan fast on his heels, Damon turned and headed back to the shack. But it was empty. The small, intimate fire was nothing more than a pile of ashes. He drew in a deep breath. There she was again. That delicious, earthy fragrance. He felt his face contort and the fangs rip from his gums.
No! Not like this.
He pressed a hand over his face. Shallow, deep breaths returned his features to normal. All the while, Stefan’s stare trapped him with its ferocity.
“Come with me, Damon.”
“Not now,” he said.
“We can’t stay here forever.”
“No,” he said, becoming impatient. “Listen, you find us a place and I’ll go look for Emily.”
“Why don’t you just come with me?”
“Because I need to find her.”
“I’ll come with you—”
Stefan’s jaw clenched. “Why not?”
So many questions!
Damon had no intention of being interrogated by his younger brother. He pulled his stare from the pile of dust to meet the wild-eyed stance of the younger Salvatore. Annoyance rattled inside Damon’s chest.
These questions are a hindrance, dammit!
“Just find us a place.” Off Stefan’s look, he added in a gentler, more controlled tone, “She helped us when she didn’t need to. I want to make sure she’s safe.”
Stefan raced off in one direction and Damon, following Emily’s scent, raced off in another.
Mystic Falls, Present Day
An enigma, Damon thought, casting a glance at the quiet woman-child who huddled before the roaring fireplace. Witchcraft aside, Bonnie Bennett was a crazy little mystery that begged to be unraveled bit by bit.
He handed her a steaming mug of hot chocolate with a heaping helping of whipped cream on top. She accepted his offering with a half slant to her full lips. Gold and orange reflected like a masterpiece against her caramel cheeks and reminded him of autumn and all its majestic beauty. Mesmerized by the glow of copper in her over bright orbs, he found himself joining her on the hearth, ever mindful of how easily she’d once turned the flames on him.
The drive from the lake house had been quiet, yet the silence was far from uncomfortable. He couldn’t explain it, but he sensed peace had settled over her within the small confines of his muscle car. A couple of times he felt her gaze lock onto him. When he redirected his attention from the rain-drenched road onto her, she looked away. The sudden rapid pounding of her heart echoed in his eardrums. Surely, nerves hadn’t come into play between them now?
Then they were in Mystic Falls. The option of her place or the boardinghouse appeared at the traffic light. Not a word nor objection passed from her lips. If anything, she seemed to hold her breath, as if waiting for him to make the decision. Of course, he took her home. To his home.
So here they were. She with a mug of cocoa in her hand and he with a mug of blood in his. For the first time in—well, maybe ever—a female rendered him clueless. Was she playing him? Or was she playing Gilbert? If so, why? She didn’t strike him as the fantasy type. If anything, she was that wholesome girl next door. The one guys like him avoided like the plague or sought out to corrupt until the girls no longer recognized themselves.
He sipped from his mug and watched in fascination as she did the same. Ecstasy danced in those dazzling eyes as she inhaled the steaming chocolate. A bit of whipped cream latched onto her upper lip. She wiped it off with a slow, tantalizing swipe of her tongue. The low moan that emitted from her throat vibrated through him and went straight to his dick. Damon’s senses went on instant alert.
“It’s soooo good,” she murmured. Somehow, she’d made drinking an erotic pastime. Damon wanted nothing more than to be a mug of chocolate in her grasp.
“It’s just Swiss Miss,” he ground out, forcing himself to remain still as he enjoyed the vision of her in the throes of pleasure.
“Mmm…” She licked her lips. “It tastes like heaven.”
He pushed from the hearth and headed straight for the bar. What-the-fuck-punch sure would do the trick right now, but it wouldn’t be wise. He poured some bourbon into his mug and took a deep drag. Behind him, he heard the distinct sounds of more swallowing and savoring of every drop. As if she’d never had hot chocolate before. Dammit, Bennett. He added more bourbon and downed the rest of the mug.
All of that moaning and sighing took him right back to last night and him pounding her slick, liquid heat. Willpower had never been one of his strongest traits, but he’d promised himself no more sex with the witch until he had a crystal clear understanding of what it meant to her. Shit, even though he was loathe to admit it, the sex had awakened something in him and he’d tear the place down before he let the caramel-hued honey play him for a fool.
“Want some more?” he asked when the hollowness of the empty cup echoed with her disappointment.
He turned just as a yawn overtook her. The sleepy smile she gave him chipped away at the wall he was working overtime to erect.
“That was good.”
She stood and took the mug to the bar. “Thank you. It was kind of you to come for me.”
A memory fought to resurface in the back of his mind, but he couldn’t grasp it. Yet, he had the strangest feeling those words had been said to him before. With the same lilt in a sweet, husky voice and a flirtatious tilt of the head. Eh, déjà vu. Whatever. He shrugged.
“You shouldn’t have run off with Jeremy,” he said.
“It was a mistake,” she agreed. She held his gaze for a second before she looked away. A self-recriminating frown darkened her smooth brow. “I couldn’t stop it.”
Damon frowned. He took her chin. Tender and gentle was the last thing he felt as vivid images assaulted him. Yet, with tenderness, he cupped her face and gently, he coerced her to meet his eyes. “He forced you to go?”
She shook her head. “It wasn’t like that.”
“Tell me.” Again, he held himself taut, ready to spring if his darkest thoughts came tumbling from her luscious, little mouth. His voice came in a deceptively soft murmur. “How was it?”
Another yawn escaped her and he couldn’t determine if it was real or forced. Was she hedging? If Jeremy played Captain Caveman with her, she had to know that Damon wouldn’t put up with it. Any consideration that her status as a witch could protect her against her mere mortal human boyfriend flew out the window. Instead, Damon saw red. As in Jeremy’s blood. Flowing effusively from the boy’s body as Damon beat him to a pulp and sucked him dry.
“I’m so tired.” She released another yawn. “All of this has been so very tiring. I never imagined…” She wandered to the long, leather sofa. “May I?”
“No, you may not.”
His refusal cut her to the quick. Even if Damon didn’t have keen observation skills, the sudden flare of hurt would have been hard to miss. She actually recoiled as if he’d struck her. Something akin to guilt—not quite like it because Damon Salvatore never felt guilty about anything—perched on his shoulder or maybe lurched in his gut. He couldn’t be sure which. He tried to ignore it, but the damn feeling wouldn’t show him mercy.
“I mean,” he said with a jerky half smile, “you’ll be more comfortable upstairs.”
She did that seductive glide thing that brought her just inches from him. Her head tilted in an angle of gentlewomanly acquiesce and her elbow extended ever so slightly from her in silent invitation. Damon cocked an eyebrow as he took her elbow and led her to the staircase. This was a side of Bonnie that he had never seen before. She usually wore her independence with that haughty tilt of her head and deadly glint in her eyes. But this petite little thing who rested her hand on his reminded him of the women of his youth. Their feminine wiles and coquettish flirtatiousness blindsided many of his peers because underneath many of those women resided will of steel. The 1860s created a unique generation and if he didn’t know any better, he’d wonder if they had somehow breached a time warp.
They reached the second floor. Damon’s preoccupation with his thoughts and slow, measured steps allowed him to observe Bonnie’s path. She was leading them straight to his bedroom. As much as he’d like that scenario, he wasn’t having it. He caught her wrist and pulled until they stood in front of the first guest room.
“We almost passed it,” he said, just barely containing the humor in his voice.
“This is your room tonight. The bed is freshly made and the bathroom is clean. You’ll find everything you need inside.”
“Oh.” She mustered a smile and noticed how it didn’t fully reach her eyes. Then, she suddenly sagged against the doorframe.
On instinct, he reached out for her. “Are you okay?”
“I’m so very tired.” Her head fell against his chest.
He bent and lifted her into his arms, her head still resting heavily against him. Imitating a groom on his wedding night, Damon carried Bonnie to the large queen-sized bed. He placed her in the middle and moved to sit at the foot of the bed. To his surprise, she was fast asleep. The little witch…
Shaking his head, he whispered to himself, “An unbelievable enigma.”
The white two-story framed house appeared even less a sanctuary than it had after his parents’ tragic car accident. A large, solid lump lodged in Jeremy’s throat as he contemplated the success of entering the structure without discovery, without questions, without notice. His hands gripped the steering wheel until they ached from the exertion. If he had somewhere else to go, he would. Staying at the lake house had been out of the question. His normal stoner hangouts no longer had the same appeal. And upstairs in his bedroom the memories of the girl who just hours ago broke his heart lingered.
Rain had left the streets slick and the street lamps created an eerie reflection on the glistening street and sidewalk. Clouds covered the moon, leaving the few adventurous stars to fend for themselves. That’s how Jeremy felt. Like he was fending for himself. Dammit, this hurt. It cut deeper than when Vicky wavered between him and Tyler Lockwood and definitely more than when he discovered Anna only made moves on him to get her mother out of the tomb. Yeah, they connected later, but in the beginning it was all about what she wanted. Same as with Vicky. Both girls only saw him as a means to an end.
But not Bonnie. She’d seen him from the very beginning as a bratty little kid to the man he was becoming. He didn’t want to believe that she had used him, too.
Jeremy sighed. It was late and he was tired. He couldn’t hide out forever. The maneuver from the SUV to the second floor of the house would have to have to be remembered for future use. Silence had greeted his every step. He released the breath that he’d been holding and pushed inside his room.
His bags fell from his grasp as he crawled into bed. Sleeping would be a miracle. He pulled his cellphone from his pocket and turned it on. No messages from Bonnie. What did he expect? Would she suddenly come to her senses and beg him to rescue her from that prick, Damon Salvatore.
How many times had that sonuvabitch been so willing to let her die to save Elena? Didn’t Bonnie realize the vampire only saw her as an instrument? Her witch powers were a tool to him. That fucking asshole didn’t appreciate Bonnie Bennett, the person. He only saw her as someone to manipulate for his will. To get to Elena.
Jeremy grabbed a pillow and pulled it over his face. One deep breath and she was inside him again. That beautiful scent that was all Bonnie claimed him in the way that only she could. He rolled over onto his side, curving his body against it as he hugged the soft, malleable object to his chest.
The first thing Bonnie noticed upon awakening was her overall languid state. Since danger and doom landed in Mystic Falls and her powers were in constant need, rest had become a long lost friend. Exhaustion always hung on the fringes. She usually ignored it and kept on keeping on. Everyone needed her. Taking a break to catch up on shuteye wasn’t an option she allowed herself. Now as she rolled onto her back and burrowed deep into the cool, silky sheets and—
Wait. Silky sheets?
Complete relaxation gave way to utter shock as both eyes flew open and she shot up ramrod straight. Memories collided inside her brain like a kaleidoscope with none of it forming a cohesive picture. She and Jeremy went to the lake house, but this huge four-poster bed with its sinfully addictive bedding was not a part of the Gilbert vacation home. Where the hell was she? She opened her mouth to call out for him, but then the slightest movement in the darkest corner of the room caught her full attention.
Ice-blue eyes regarded her with the strongest intent and calculation. She resisted the urge to bring him to his knees and instead, she focused on her heart to return to its normal pace.
“Damon,” she said, gathering the covers to her.
“Bonnie,” he said, as he moved with feline precision from the window seat to stand at the foot of the bed.
“We’re at the boardinghouse.”
His answer to her pathetically disguised question was a smirk. She counted to ten to stop herself from reacting.
“I don’t want to play games—”
“Finally, she says something that makes sense.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Why am I here? Where’s Jeremy?”
He released a low growl that made her jump. “Don’t.”
“Don’t act like you don’t know.” He moved so swiftly that she didn’t have time to catch her breath before he was in her face. His hands gripped the covers as if he would tear them from her at a moment’s notice. “You’re here because you want to be.”
The intensity of his glare told her that he believed every word. She could dispute it, but her sixth sense warned that nothing good would come of it. And if she had to admit the truth, there were blocks of time that she had no way of fully accounting. What happened during those moments that only came to her in hazy patches? Were those dreams about her and Damon true? Sure, since the 60s Dance, she had grudgingly come to an acknowledgement of attributes that she found marginally appealing.
Oh, fuck, Bennett! Admit it. The way Damon pressed his body against yours on the dance floor made your pulse beat a little faster and you haven’t been as oblivious to his hotness as you once were.
Damn, how she hated admitting any of that to herself, but once done, she could move on. Process. Figure out what the hell was going on now.
So, she tried a different, less confrontational tactic.
“How long have I been here?”
“You’ve been asleep for one day, ten hours, and thirty-six minutes.”
“No, seriously, Damon.”
His eyebrows quirked and his mouth tightened. His grip on the covers slackened. “I am serious.”
All the fight left her. She slumped against the pillows. The bed barely moved as he sat, facing her. With surprising tenderness, he brushed her hair from her face. His large, cool hand pressed against her cheek. She didn’t know what to make of his caring gestures. Her brain was on the brink of shutting down, but she’d never been that weak girl. Bonnie fought for control and won. Only straight thinking would produce answers.
“Okay…um…obviously, I’m a little confused,” she confessed with difficulty. Fuck, she hated showing weakness! “Was I casting a spell? If Klaus returned with Stefan…or if Elijah’s back…look, I don’t remember, okay.”
“No spells and no returns,” he said, continuing to caress her cheek. “You really don’t remember.”
Dammit, he was so caring and understanding! It scared her. Tears pricked the backs of her eyes. She refused to let them spill. She could not let him see that weakness. Not Damon. Being vulnerable with him was not an option she wanted to consider. She’d already done it once and it would be far too easy to do it again.
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
The question threw her off guard. She’d been so busy building her defenses that she hadn’t prepared herself for him taking the logical stance. Okay, then. Logical was good. She understood logic where she and Damon were concerned. Bringing emotions into this was just the result of too much sleep. She met his penetrating stare and knew immediately that her rationalization was way off base. Somehow, emotion had created a cocoon around them. Even though she didn’t know how or when didn’t make it no less real or true. Damon Salvatore actually cared about her distress and that touched her more than she ever thought possible.
“Um, the lake house…” She searched his face, hoping whatever she read there would tell her that her words made sense. That the memory of being there wasn’t based on fantasy. At some point, she was actually there. Whatever caused her to be here in bed in the boardinghouse somehow came from that moment there at the Gilberts’. “Jeremy had just started a fire and then he found the…he found the bite mark.”
She raised her hand to her neck. Her fingertips traced the raised flesh. Right on cue, her heart started its hectic cadence again. “He said you did this to me. Did you?”
“If you were faking, I could be angry,” he murmured.
“Is that the last thing you remember?”
She nodded. “What do you think I’m faking?”
“Nothing, Bonnie.” He gave her one last caress and then stood.
“Will you tell me what’s going on?”
“Which time?” he asked, releasing a humorless laugh.
“I don’t understand.”
“That makes two of us.”
Vulnerability be damned. She needed something. Anything that would get her out of the hazy abyss of confusion. “Dammit, Damon! You’re so fucking cryptic. I have a bite on my neck. I don’t remember getting it. I’m here and I don’t remember how or why you would bring me here. If you have the answers, tell me!”
“I was hoping you’d tell me!” His pale blue eyes glowed with feral intensity. “Yes, I bit your neck! And I brought you here because you wanted me to!”
Because although he stopped abruptly, the glint in his eyes told her there was more. Maybe more than she wanted to know, but she had to know. He seemed to hesitate for a fraction of a moment. Then true to the Damon Salvatore way, he went blazing in with no hold barred.
“And I made love to you because you came to me,” he said quietly. “I wanted you and you wanted me. Then the next day you ran off with Gilbert. And now you don’t remember any of it.”
“I…we…” She shook her head in disbelief.
“Yes, Bonnie. We did.”
“I would never—”
“You did,” he cut in. “Don’t look at me with those judgey eyes and that innocent act. If you regret it now, it’s too bad. Some things you can’t ever take back.” He stormed to the door and flung it open. Without turning around, he added, “I’m glad it was me and not Gilbert.”
The full impact of his parting words hit her after he vanished. The soreness between her thighs and the accusations she’d tossed at Jeremy broke through her memory haze. That part was real. But not with Jeremy. She and Jeremy had never, but she and Damon had.
Me and Damon?
“Oh, God.” She choked back a sob. Did Jeremy know? But that was the least of her concerns. Damon accused her of coming on to him. Then like a dam bursting, memories flashed before her. Of the vampire on top of her. Of their naked bodies writhing together. Of Damon’s hardness buried deep inside her. The pain…the pleasure…and the sudden return to darkness.
The memory kept returning and playing back over and over again. She could feel his mouth and his tongue sliding over her. His hands discovering every inch of her body. She opening herself to him and dammit, he hadn’t lied. She wanted it. She wanted him.
It was way too much. Bonnie tumbled from the bed and made a mad search for anything presentable. She found her overnight bag in the closet. Caroline’s parting gift of crotchless panties fell out and Bonnie threw them across the room. She dug past the sexy lingerie from the girls’ shopping spree to pull out jeans and a t-shirt. After quickly dressing, she slung the bag over her shoulders and ran.