Chapter 7: What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way…

“Bonnie!”

She didn’t know how long she’d been on the tree-lined paved road or much of anything beyond the overpowering need to get away from the boardinghouse. Several cars had already driven past her. Each one made her heart race in trepidation that Damon would be behind the wheel. So far, each carried strangers who ignored the panic-stricken girl until now. Gravel crunched as the vehicle pulled to the side and its speed dropped to a pace comparable to a petite person’s fast-footed getaway.

“Bonnie! Hey! Slow down a minute.”

Since the realization hit her full blast, Bonnie’s thoughts had been swept away in a tailspin of emotions. Confusion and fear demanded center stage and left little room for anything else. Other than the whole urge for flight. Nothing compared to her instincts telling her to run. Again that thought picked up speed that gave a direct order to her legs.

So intent on simply moving and getting away, she didn't hear the vehicle stop, the door slam, or the rubber soles pounding the ground to reach her. The sudden touch on her shoulder almost made her leap.

“Bonnie? You okay?”

A pair of warm blue eyes frowned with concern. The hand at her shoulder squeezed gently. Another hand cupped her face. “What’s wrong?”

Recognition filtered in slowly. Sunlight transformed his blonde locks into a dazzling halo. Even his white t-shirt appeared strangely angelic. Matt Donovan, an angel? The comforting sensation of normalcy seeped in as the thought oddly calmed her.

“Matt…hey.”

“You’re hauling ass on the side of the road while clutching an overnight bag and all you got is ‘hey’?” He released a short laugh. “Don’t tell me you’re running away again.”

“I, um, not exactly.”

“We made a pact, remember?”

She nodded. How could she forget? They were eight-years-old and in Mrs. Patridge’s third grade class. For some reason, the crotchety old hag had it out for them from day one. Telling her dad and his mom had done nothing until the two kids decided to kiss Mystic Falls goodbye. Bonnie made their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Matt put air in their bicycle wheels. They got as far as her grandmother’s house and an enclave of trees that hid them for most of the day. In that afternoon of sticky camaraderie they vowed to be friends forever. Later when Sheila found them and coerced their stories out, she promised to handle the wicked witch of 3rd grade if they’d go home. Bonnie had never known her Grams to lie to her so she convinced Matt of the same. In the end, Grams was true to her word and the friends created a pact that if they ever ran away again, they’d do it together.

A car suddenly swerved around the curve. Matt drew her close. “This road is no place for a walk. Let me take you home.”

“Okay.”

He shouldered her bag and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Bonnie had witnessed his protective streak a few times and knew that he was in full-mode. She could imagine the sight she presented. Looking wild and crazy on the side of the road. She’s lucky he didn’t call Caroline’s mom. They reached his truck. Ever the gentleman, he opened the passenger door and waited for her to get inside. Once she was settled, she watched him through the sideview mirror as he tossed her bag in the back before moving around to join her inside the cabin. Soon, they were back on the road and she knew that the interrogation was imminent.

“First, do I need to take you to a doctor before I take you home?”

“No, I just want to go home.”

“Were you running away?”

“Matt—”

“Bonnie,” he sighed. “Look, you’re always the one who makes sense. That wasn’t the you I know back there, you know.”

“I know—”

“And don’t tell me your car broke down. I know for a fact that it’s parked at Caroline’s.” He glanced at her, fixing her with a hard look. “So don’t lie to me.”

“I won’t,” she answered, “but don’t question me either.”

“I have one more question and then I’ll stop.”

“Fine, but I reserve the right to privacy.”

He grunted. “Fine.”

“Well?”

“Are you okay?”

Bonnie considered the option of lying but where would that get her? Matt had always been a good friend. While she could not divulge everything, she could give him this.

“I’ve been better.”

He nodded. True to his word, the questions stopped. They talked about the weather, the latest Facebook updates, and their upcoming Senior year. By the time he braked in front of her house, she had begun to recognize herself. That felt good.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to get your car?”

“I’m sure. I’ll get it later.”

She gave him a half-hearted smile and moved to exit the truck. When she touched ground on the sidewalk, he was already there with her bag in hand. To her surprise, he walked her to the door and waited as she unlocked and crossed the threshold.

He set her bag inside and stared down at her. “This is my last bit and I’m gone.”

“Matt, come on. I’m home—”

“Bonnie, please. Let me finish.”

She sucked in air but kept opposing thoughts to herself.

“I know there’s a bunch of crazy shit that happens around here and you’re often in the middle of it. You have to be careful, Bonnie. I already lost Vicky…I can’t lose someone else I care about.”

“It’s not like that—”

“You didn’t see your face.”

She had no response to that. Her life had flipped and she didn’t know what end was up.

“So if you need help, tell me or somebody.” His phone buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket and paused to read the display screen. “Work’s calling me. I gotta go.” He backed off the porch, staring until she nodded.

“Okay, Matt.”

“Okay.” On that, he turned and jogged back to his truck.

She watched from the doorway until he turned the corner.

“Why does that Donovan kid think you need help?”

Bonnie didn’t expect her father to be home while the sun was up or not while there were still innocent and oppressed people being victimized. As a Civil Rights attorney, Christopher Bennett’s intelligence and dedication were often sought after. The worse the case, the more he was needed. Bonnie respected his accomplishments and was proud of him, but that didn’t mean she needed him any less. Turning to face him, she thought it was ironic that now he chose to take interest.

“Hi, Daddy.”

He set his yellow legal pad and pen on an end table and crossed to her. At the doorway, the six foot man towered over his daughter and a worried frown darkened his brow. He closed the door and leaned against it.

“Bonnie?”

“You’re home early.”

“And you’re avoiding my question. Follow me.”

“I’m kinda tired. Maybe we could—”

“That wasn’t a request,” he said. He headed toward his home office.

Shit! There was no way she could avoid this without raising suspicion. Every now and again, he played the present parent, showing up at events and grounding her when her grades slipped. It looked like he was back in full form today. Shoulders-squared, she pushed down everything until nothing mattered but getting through the next few minutes with her father.

Bonnie found him sitting on one of his overstuffed easy chairs. He gestured for her take the other one. His steady brown-eyed gaze followed her every move. Of course this is how he did it in the courtroom. She’d never seen him in action in person, but she’d read enough articles about him. Her dad had skills and he was about to use them on her.

“So why do you need help?”

She shook her head. “I don’t need help.”

“You know,” he said, looking away, “Sheila and I didn’t always get along.”

“Daddy—”

“No, you need to hear this.” His voice cracked with raw emotion. “I blamed her for Abby leaving. I shouldn’t have…I knew about Abby. I didn’t enter our marriage blind, but I hoped that when you were born… I don’t know. One thing’s for sure, I never expected she’d leave us…leave you. I’m sorry about that, Bonnie.”

“I don’t blame you. I never have.”

“Anyway, Sheila gave you what I couldn’t and things I didn’t really want her to.” He gave Bonnie a long, assessing look. “But I was wrong. You needed your grandmother and my gut says that you need her now.”

She had been strong until he said that. Tears poured from her eyes like a floodgate had been lifted. Her dad went to her and wrapped his arms around her.

“I know what you can do and I know it’s not easy…having that and not having someone to guide you,” he said, rubbing her back. “I wish I could. I wish I hadn’t been so closed off when Sheila was with us. She could have prepared us both better.”

“I miss her so much, Daddy.”

“I know, Sweet B.” He kissed her forehead. “She’s not really gone…not to you. There are ways that you can reach her.”

“I don’t know—”

“Baby, you can start a fire and create a windstorm. I know nothing can stop you from communicating with Sheila.”

After the tears subsided and mugs of tea warmed their palms, she regarded her father with awe. “I didn’t expect this from our talk.”

“It’s been on my mind for awhile.” He stirred honey and added lemon to perfect his brew. “I had a case where this girl had been brutalized and hurt and the system that should have helped her failed. It hit me that I am your system and I’ve been failing you. Just because I’m not here all the time doesn’t mean I’m clueless.”

She gestured her hand for him to keep going.

“Mystic Falls has always been a hotbed for craziness. Weird shit happens here and then there’s your cousin Bobby…”

“What about Bobby?”

“Let’s just say, he and full moons don’t exactly get along.”

-%&%&%&-

Boxes of cleaning supplies bordered Jeremy on one side while cases of beer, wine, and spirits blocked the other. The Mystic Grill storeroom looked like a warzone and Jeremy was right at the center of it. He thought it was weird how this part of his new job mirrored the chaos of his personal life.

By all rights, he shouldn’t even be there. Sweating and grunting and carrying heavy shit. If things had gone the way he’d planned, he and Bonnie would be skinny dipping in the lake or preparing to head back home. But instead, he’d spent the last day and a half wallowing in hurt and trying his best to dodge Elena and her insistence to butt into his life. Hell, working his ass off in the stockroom was a welcome change to ignoring his sister’s questions. So far, he’d kept his mouth shut. He had to sort everything out for himself. The Bonnie he knew and loved wouldn’t have called their relationship a mistake. She for damn sure wouldn’t have thrown herself at fucking Damon Salvatore.

“Fuck!” He kicked a box of straws and the contents flew went toward the back door.

“Watch it!” Matt scowled as he grabbed the empty box. “This isn’t the soccer field.”

“I know,” Jeremy grumbled.

“What the hell is your problem?”

“Nothing.” Jeremy started picking up the straws, silently cursing himself for his outburst. “I got this. You don’t have to watch.”

“Get over yourself.” Matt began to help him. “Why are you here? You’re not on schedule.”

“I asked if I could come.”

“You have better things to do than this dumb stockroom,” Matt said.

“Not really.” Jeremy dropped a bunch of straws into the box and grabbed more. At this rate, he’d be cleaning the stockroom at midnight.

“I disagree.”

Jeremy stopped to look at the older teen. Matt’s jaws were clenched and his body was tense. They had always had an easy relationship. Even after Elena and Matt broke up, Jeremy got along with her ex. Today felt like everything was about to change.

“What’s your problem?”

“I ran into Bonnie today.”

It was Jeremy’s turn to tense. His mouth tightened. His hands clenched. “Oh, yeah.”

“She looked wrecked, man. What the fuck?”

Jeremy frowned. “What?”

“I said she didn’t look right and she was acting strange. She tried to play it off, but I know her,” Matt answered. “You’re her boyfriend, so what the hell?”

Am I?

Jeremy held that question in, swallowing the doubt that circled around it. Instead, his thoughts returned to Matt’s words. A broken heart aside, he couldn’t stomach the image of Bonnie that Matt had created. It didn’t coincide with the reasons why his phone had remained silent of her special ring tone and why she hadn’t stopped by to explain herself. To say running off with Damon was a mistake. To say she was sorry. To say she loved him—Jeremy.

“Are you listening? I’m telling you I found her on the side of the road—”

“What?” Jeremy dropped the stuff he’d been holding and moved to stand just inches from Matt. “Where?”

“Off Old Barton Road…back where that crazy curve is.”

“Was she okay?”

“No.”

Jeremy ran a hand through his hair to calm the shaking that threatened to overpower him. “Where is she now?”

“I took her home.” Matt stared at him. “What’s going on?”

“She’s at home,” Jeremy repeated. His hand reached for the phone in his pocket. Should he call her? What would he say if he did?

“Jeremy?”

“I can’t, Matt,” he said in a quiet voice. “It’s not me. I didn’t…”

“Jeremy!”

Both guys jumped at the sudden intrusion. Jeremy groaned. He didn’t need this crap with Elena right now. Maybe Bonnie needed him, but since he wasn’t sure, he had to figure out what to do. He couldn’t do that with his sister breathing down his neck.

“Hey, Elena,” Matt said.

“Hi,” she answered. “Do you mind if I talk to him for a minute?”

Matt grunted. “Be my guess.”

After he walked out, Elena turned on Jeremy, but he was ready for her.

“Leave me alone.”

“I won’t let you shut me out,” she said. “I can’t…not after losing Jenna. We’re all we have.”

“So I came home earlier than expected,” he replied, trying hard to sound neutral when he felt anything but. “Big deal. I’m at work. You’ll get me fired. You can’t be back here.”

“I used to come back here with Matt all the time,” she muttered.

Jeremy rolled his eyes. Work seemed the best distraction so he finished gathering the remaining straws. After that was done, he dusted the shelves. The original goal was to reorganize the stockroom and dammit, he was gonna do it. If he focused enough on that, Elena would get the point and leave.

He hoped.

“Did you and Bonnie have a fight?”

“Elena, don’t.”

“She’s my best friend and you’re my brother—”

“And your boyfriend is gone so you want to make me your project,” he cut in. “I’m not. Whatever happened between Bonnie and me is between Bonnie and me. Stay out of this.”

“I can’t—”

“Dammit, Elena!” Jeremy drew in a ragged breath before he turned to face her. “Not everything is about you. Okay?”

She reared back as if he’d struck her. “You don’t have to be so mean. I just want to help.”

“I don’t want your help,” he answered quickly. “There’s no help you can give me except to leave me alone. Oh, wait. I know what you can do—”

“What?” she asked eager to do anything.

“You can tell your friend Damon that he’d better watch his back.”

“What does Damon have to do with anything?”

“That’s a good question.” Jeremy folded his arms across his chest. “See you later. I have work to do.”

“But I…okay. I’ll go.”

He didn’t watch her leave, but he heard her shuffle out. The look on her face when he said Damon’s name was telling. Whatever she felt for Stefan, she definitely felt something for his older brother, too. Jeremy sighed. This one was one fine fucking mess they were in. He returned to putting order to the stockroom, but thoughts of Bonnie were never far from his mind. And the need to help her refused to give him peace.

-%&%&%&-

Mystic Falls, 1864

Emily had witnessed vampires having their first feed before. The obsessive drive to consume was not a pleasant sight to behold, but she had endured it. Her lineage had blessed her with powers to protect herself, for the most part, so that wasn’t why she left. Simply, the thought of Damon taking that first bite drove her away. She didn’t want to see the humanity that still clung to him vanish because of that one act. The first taste often overpowered the strongest person’s will.

No doubt Damon found Betsy Tyler’s blood irresistible. Soon after, he would be powerless against the inhumane urges that drove vampires to prey, hunt, and kill. That transition from human to beast was not something she wanted etched in her memory. Besides, there was an unsettling sensation resting on her spirit. Tending to the Salvatores had taken her mind from it, but once she walked away, the feeling returned. She could not ignore her ancestors’ warnings that her safety was at risk.

Although leaving Mystic Falls had seemed impossible, the deeper she moved in the woods the more it felt like the right thing to do. But first, she had to get her grimoire. Learning to read and write had been a dangerous undertaking. Many times she feared getting caught, but Katherine had protected her. Emily did not for one moment believed the vampire did it out of the goodness of her heart. Their relationship was based on servitude, debt, and an inevitable bond. Even if Emily wanted to get away, she couldn’t, but now that the townspeople had captured Katherine and the other vampires, maybe now Emily’s chance had come. Yes, foolishly she had wished for the possibility of disappearing with the older Salvatore brother. It was a silly dream, but sometimes silly dreams were all an enslaved person had to get through the hour, the day, or a lifetime.

The grimoire written in her own hand contained all her secrets. If it somehow got into the wrong hands, her life would be over. The townspeople feared the unknown. Since they had no hesitation about burning the vampires—many of whom had been friends and lovers—she knew with full certainty, her fate would be much worse. Only two centuries ago, her ancestors barely escaped Salem and the relentless witch hunt and executions. She could not allow the same to happen to her.

She had to get to her secret hiding place!

The barren forest provided little protection from slave patrollers or any other hunters, but somehow, Emily reached the Gilbert estate without trouble. Many times the young master Gilbert had requested her help and without Katherine’s knowledge, she had answered. He was a handsome, gentle man. Unlike the Lockwoods and the elder Salvatore, Gilbert did not look through her. He seemed different, but she did not for one moment believe that her secret was entirely safe with him. She had hoped. Then when he alerted the others to his beloved Pearl, she knew that he would sacrifice her, too.

Days before the upheaval, Emily hid the grimoire in a box in the Gilbert barn. She crouched behind a tree and watched. Nothing stirred. The few servants who remained on the plantation did not mill about and no animals roamed. The stately black carriage was vacant from the yard. Maybe they were in town or had gone with the young master for one of those council meetings. Wherever they may be, she could not ignore this opportunity. She ran for the barn.

The back stall did not appear disturbed. Digging under the hay, she found the patch of ground that was still soft and loose. With her hands, she scooped the dirt away until she found the square wooden box. Her hand had just fallen flat onto the top when she sensed them.

“Oh, God,” she murmured under her breath.

“What have we here?” A heavy masculine voice drawled.

Footsteps shuffled behind her. Her heart began to race. She couldn’t think, but she had to! A spell—any spell would do! Her mind flittered with different combinations and none of them worked. If there was a pail of water nearby, she could start a fire or she could—

“Got you!” A different voice murmured in her ear. The foul stench of uncleanliness consumed her senses as the man grabbed her and dragged her into the opening.

“Oh, she’s a sturdy, little wench,” a third added his thoughts.

“She’ll do,” the first one said. “That’s for sure.”

“No!” Emily kicked, scratched and hit.

“This will be a fun one.”

They tossed her to the ground. The second one, skinny but strong, landed on top of her. The others stood around, touching themselves and watching. The faded gray uniform of the Confederacy hung from their thin, ravished frames in dirty tatters. They looked hungry. And not just for food.

The more Emily fought, the more the men enjoyed it. Vile desires boomed from their voices in boisterous disorder. As the soldier hitched her skirt, they only got louder, more insistent and eager. Emily cursed herself for her weakness. She had done so much to help Katherine and her vampire friends and later created spells to help Gilbert. Why now when she needed to help herself, her powers failed her?

Just as the thought took hold in her mind and she reconciled herself to violation, silence filled the space. The man was wrenched from her body. A loud thud rattled the wooden structure as his broken body slammed against the wall. She looked over and saw that he had landed on top of his two cohorts.

This was the time to run, but Emily couldn’t move. Fear had overtaken her. Her body trembled with it. Whatever killed them would get her next. Of that, she was certain.

“Emily,” the familiar voice whispered.

Then she was standing, held still within an embrace that she had longed for.

“Damon.”

Just as suddenly as he held her, he released his embrace and held her at arm’s length. His vibrant blue eyes bored into hers. A muscle flicked at his jaw. She said the first thing that came to mind.

“Thank you. It was kind of you to come for me.”

-%&%&%&-

Mystic Falls, Present Day

If Damon could have found answers in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon, he would have gone straight there. The confusion on Bonnie’s face brought out his protective side, but it was the shock bordering on disgust at having had sex with him that cut him to the quick. The parting shot about being glad he had been her first instead of Jeremy was true. But he hadn’t said it for its value of honesty. It was the only way he could get inside her again and he needed her to know that he’d been there. Unlike her, he didn’t regret a damn thing.

With the words said, he had stormed to his bedroom…away from her judgey eyes and stricken face. Enclosed with his familiar possessions, he listened to her whirl around the guestroom like a madwoman. When she ran from the boardinghouse, he fought the urge to follow. Instead, he headed back to the room he had camped out in for over twenty-four hours, watching her. The only thing that had driven him from the room was hunger. After indulging in a few bags of A-positive warmed to ninety-eight degrees, he had raced back to his perch in the dark corner.

The stillness of her slumber had intrigued him. She barely stirred. If he hadn’t heard the steady thump of her heartbeat, he would have been frightened. He hated to admit that he cared that much, but over the years she had grown on him. He’d told himself that he didn’t regret anything, but that was a lie. Watching her lay so still and serene made him rue all the times he’d been so willing to let her die. For every time he’d said the words, he had truly meant it. But never again. She was too whole, too earthy and too everything that he missed about being human.

The last few days of clandestine meetings had changed things. But maybe things had changed before then…in the gym on the dance floor. She had looked sexy as hell in her go-go boots and beehive ‘do. He could have found a million different ways to let her know that he’d overheard her conversation with Gilbert and the cost of using her powers to kill Klaus. He didn’t have to interrupt her dance. He didn’t have to twine his fingers with hers. He didn’t have to hold her close to him and whisper in her ear. Yeah, if Damon was truly honest with himself, he’d admit the clandestine meetings were just the steak and potatoes, but it was the dance that was the gravy. It whetted his appetite for her but he was too much of a dick to admit it even to himself. Until now.

His perusal of the guest room led him straight to a pair of panties laying crumpled near the nightstand. He picked them up. Close inspection revealed a missing crotch.

“This would have been wasted on Gilbert,” he muttered, slamming the underwear into a drawer.

He strode from the room and headed out. Instinctively, he followed her scent. The wildness of her departure screamed of recklessness and Damon knew a thing or two about that. Even if she couldn’t admit to wanting him, he didn’t want anything to happen to her.

Tracking her was easy enough. However, keeping his distance was torture. Then he saw the Donovan kid arrive. Through a haze of jealousy, he witnessed the affection between them. Although lacking romantic heat, Donovan handled Bonnie as if he had every right to. The kid took her home and even walked her to the door. Once she was inside, Damon raced back home on feet that sped through the streets in a blur.

Again the bourbon-induced oblivion called, promising refuge from his warring emotions. But he was done with dulling his feelings in a haze of hurt. Hurt got him nowhere and since he did want Bonnie, hurting himself and others would only guarantee he’d never get her.

So, he moved past the shelves of alcohol and started to pace. There had to be a reason for her coming on to him and knowing it had nothing to do with “I’ll shag the vampire for kicks” gave him a glimmer of hope.

It dawned on him right at that moment. The eye thing again…with the copper and the emerald. Copper meant she wanted him, but the emerald sparked with confusion and denial. What the fuck was that? How could she be so all about him one moment and the total opposite the next? That wasn’t totally true, though.

At the 60s dance, her eyes were the brightest shade of green and when they locked on him, awareness rippled. Their bodies flowed in unison. They connected. And it had felt right.

He had to talk to her. Things couldn’t just end with her running out and him letting her. He grabbed his keys and headed for the door.

As he wrenched it open, he discovered a surprise waited for him on the other side.

“Elena, now isn’t a good time,” he said. For once wanting to get rid of her instead of wanting her to stay. The acknowledgement of being over his brother’s girl was liberating. However, she was not budging. “Elena, I have to go.”

“Not until you tell me what’s going on between you and Bonnie.”

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