Chapter 9: If I take you from behind…push myself into your mind…when you least expect it…
will you try and reject it…
Mystic Falls, 1864
Trusting him would no doubt be her downfall, Emily thought as she followed Damon along the wooded path. The glimpse of his true self reminded her again that nature would have its due. He was a vampire. She was a witch. Her existence thrived on life and accepted the give and take of what the world had to offer. Never taking more than what was allowed and always giving back in turn as gratitude. But he on the other hand would only take.
An abomination of nature, he had nothing to offer that nature wanted. In order to survive, he had to consume the very essence of living creatures. His very existence went against everything she knew in her heart to be right, yet she could not turn away. There was still something in him that resembled humanity and that was what she clung to.
Watching his lithe movements—he was so careful of the twigs and branches, barely making a sound—it amazed her how quickly he adapted to his new form. She’d witnessed other transitions before. Many latched onto the evil side, going for the kill. Bloodlust empowered them, making them mighty conquerors. Terrorizing the weak left and right. Others hated themselves. Even as they craved the taste of blood, they despised the act of drinking it. In turn, that hatred turned inward and became a form of self-torture. She supposed it was their due for what they’d become.
Now here were the two Salvatore brothers. She knew with full certainty that Stefan’s acts would torment him in the end. Of the two, he wore his heart on his sleeve. That unyielding sympathetic nature had captured Katherine’s attention. And Damon’s silent, yet passionate need for acceptance had captured Emily’s.
“We’re almost there.”
His calm, assuring voice freed her from her thoughts. She blinked and found him staring back at her. His now pale hand held a branch away from her. She increased her pace to reach him. A faint smile parted his mouth.
“I know where you’re taking me,” she told him. Familiarity bolstered her confidence.
“You recognize the path.” Laughter danced in his light eyes. “It’s the safest place I can think of.”
“But your father—”
“My father is of no consequence.”
The words took a moment to register. Once they did, Emily’s blood ran cold. Giuseppe Salvatore had been no saint, but that kind of death—at the hand of a vampire once his own very flesh and blood—made her skin crawl. Suddenly, her vision blurred. Her steps faltered. Like a shot of cannon fire, Damon reached out to right her. Unthinkingly, Emily flinched from his touch.
Hurt then anger blazed across his face. Alone in the woods they came to a standoff. Emily had a few spells that could control the situation. Unlike before with the Confederate deserters, she fully had her wits about her. With her grimoire clutched to her, she stared hard at Damon, ready for him to make a move.
Bit by bit, the fire died out of him. To her amazement he relaxed. “It wasn’t me,” he said.
She continued to stare, not trusting herself to speak. Her heart racing as she allowed the words to sink in.
Damon nodded. His jaw clenched. He rubbed a hand over his face and turned away from her.
Emily never imagined Stefan would be the one to take the first taste and definitely not of their father. But once the urges took over… A faint sigh brought her out of thoughts of the younger brother. The older one continued to stand still as a statue. Urges threatened to be everyone’s downfall, she reasoned, as she allowed hers to move her toward him. Before she could consider the consequences, she placed her hand on his back and rubbed gently.
“He was a bastard,” he said. “I don’t understand this…feeling. All these feelings…hating that he’s dead and loving it at the same time. Explain that to me, Emily.”
“That’s all part of it.”
“Katherine said that being a vampire is different.”
She pulled her hand from his back. “You don’t have to feel. You can choose not to.”
“What would you do?”
“I would never have to make that choice.”
He cocked his head to the side. Then, he grabbed her hand and pulled. “Come on. Someone’s coming.”
Mystic Falls, Present Day
“Want something to eat?”
Before Bonnie could respond, Damon took her hand and half-pulled, half-dragged her through the boardinghouse. They passed massive, ornate cherrywood furnishings. Her ballet slippers skidded along the beautiful, plush Oriental rugs. Still, he kept tugging until they reached the kitchen. Once there, she blinked against the shiny stainless steel appliances and yanked herself free of his grasp.
“What?” He tried for an innocent smirk, but when her hard look didn’t falter, his brows furrowed together. “I’m being a good host. The least you can do is be a gracious guest.”
“I don’t have time for games,” she said, folding her arms across her chest. Would an aneurysm make him see reason? Or maybe a spark of flames at his feet would do the trick?
“I know that look,” he bit out.
“Then you should know—”
“You’re serious,” he finished for her. “Yes, I know.” He headed to the fridge and began pulling out massive amounts of food.
The sight of it made her stomach grumble. Frowning, Bonnie pressed a hand to her stomach. He laughed softly, letting her know that he’d heard. Jerk.
“You can’t run around Mystic Falls like you’re invincible, witchy,” he murmured. “Sit down. Relax. We’ll have dinner while we hash over the latest, impossible, improbable deed.”
“It’s easy for you to make fun,” she muttered. “It’s not happening to you.”
“Isn’t it?” His crystal blue eyes held hers. Hurt flickered through for the briefest moment then he went all indifferent and focused on giving Emeril LaGasse a run for his money. “I hope you like spicy.”
“I do,” she said. She moved around the counter to the sink to wash her hands. Behind her, she sensed Damon’s stare. When she turned to meet it, he glared. “What?” she asked, slightly taken aback.
“Sit. Down.” He grabbed a stool and planted it in her path. “Now.”
“I was washing up to help—”
“I know.” The muscles in his jaw flickered. His clear blue eyes sparkled dangerously, but not with threats of harm. “I don’t want your help. Do you ever let anyone do anything for you?”
“It doesn’t happen often,” she said quietly, mostly to herself.
Then she thought about it. Since her Gram’s died, few bent over backwards to put her needs first. Matt gave her a ride home. And there was Jeremy who risked his life for her. As she slid onto the stool and her legs dangled freely, she watched Damon devein shrimp and chop okra, garlic, green pepper, and celery at record speed. Then, she added Damon to the list. The plan to save her from death and hide her out at the burial house had been all his. It struck her how all that bickering and threats had led to this. Whatever this was.
“You’re too quiet.” He wiped his hands on a dish towel. He lifted a cast iron pot off an overhead hook and set it on the stove. Next, he poured flour and oil into the pot. As he stirred, he watched her. “You’re never this quiet. Talk. What’s going on in that little head of yours?”
“Okay, so we know that Klaus possessed Alaric. So whatever is posses—”
“We're not talking about that, yet.”
Bonnie frowned. “Damon.”
“Don’t use that tone with me,” he said. “Tell me what you were thinking about.”
Letting her guard down with Damon Salvatore…was that even wise? The mistrust between witches and vampires ran deep. It began before she existed and would continue long after she was gone. Yet, time again if they needed her, she was there. She’d read the same in her ancestor’s grimoire. Emily had been just as tied to vampires as Bonnie. Only her grandmother had seemed to escape their pull until Bonnie dragged her into their mess and look where that got her. Over a year had passed, but Sheila Bennett’s death still hurt. And here Bonnie was contemplating her pull to the man who indirectly caused her grandmother to die?
Dammit, Bonnie, what the fuck are you doing?
“You’re judging,” he said quietly.
“I haven’t said anything,” she snapped.
“You don’t have to. I can see it. All over your face.”
While she had gotten locked into her thoughts, he had continued cooking. Incredible aromas filled her senses, awakening her tastebuds and settling on her tongue. She recognized the flavor. Her paternal grandfather used to cook it at family gatherings when she was little. Christopher Bennett didn’t know how to boil water so her dad hadn’t inherited his father’s cooking gene. But if the taste matched the smell, Damon definitely knew what the hell he was doing.
“You’re making gumbo.”
“Damn straight.” A seductive grin played at the corners of his mouth. He dipped the wooden spoon into the pot and cupped his hand underneath as he offered her a taste. “Careful. It’s hot.”
The dark liquid beckoned and Bonnie didn’t hesitate. She parted her lips and accepted his offer. Utter deliciousness slid down her throat. A low moan emitted from deep within. Their gazes locked. Pure want erupted in his pale orbs. Like a tractor beam, Bonnie felt herself being drawn in. Moving closer to him. Her lips parting once again.
Then suddenly, he was gone. Back at the pot, stirring, and murmuring in a foreign language.
Bonnie shook herself. What the hell? She couldn’t. No. Had she really? Truly…wanted to kiss him?
“If you really must help, you can set the table,” Damon said. With his back facing her, he seemed to sway to his own rhythm. A low hum emitted from his spot in the kitchen, but he didn’t bother with turning around. “You’ll find everything in the… Hell, you’re a witch. I don’t have to tell you.”
If he was going for animosity, he failed miserably. Bonnie heard the mixture of humor and tension in his voice. It was so fucking odd how he managed to pull it off. After all the sudden weirdness between them, she really should be on edge. But with a deep breath and focused concentration, she cast a spell that assisted her in setting the dining table in short time. Once done, she sat there. Alone. Away from his crazy magnetism and her confusing reaction.
Truth told, she couldn’t blame her response to whatever had possessed her. Damon had, for better or worse, intrigued her from the beginning. Yeah, it began with repulsion and fear. Bonnie couldn’t forget the fear and how running away from him had seemed the best option. And now she wanted to kiss him.
“Insanity,” she murmured.
“Yeah, if you’re talking to yourself.” He placed a full wineglass in front of her before claiming the seat at the head of the table. He sipped from his glass as he looked at her.
“The same could be said of you.”
He smirked. “It’s a little Cajun tune.”
Bonnie raised the glass to her nose and sniffed. Yep, alcohol on tap. With things going well with her dad, she wasn’t sure about risking it over a glance of wine. She set it back on the table and leaned back.
“Oh, come on,” Damon groaned. “It’s Sauvignon Blanc.”
She shook her head. “I can’t.”
“One sip.” He even pursed his lips together in an adorable pout.
Bonnie laughed. “Does that usually work?”
“Yeah,” he admitted, laughing. His laughter faded, but a smile continued to light his eyes. “But not with you. You’re not…”
She resisted her first instinct to bristle or defend herself or attack him. “I’m not what?”
“Like most girls… Sorry. Females…ladies…women.” He frowned. “Dammit, Bonnie, you know what I mean!”
She bit back a smile. That was easy. But now fun times were over. They could dance around each other and play flirtation tag all night, but none of that would get her anywhere closer to finding out the truth. Maybe Damon didn’t have all the answers, but he was as big a component in this mystery as she. He had to know something. Whether he wanted to or not, he had to help her. Bonnie inhaled a deep breath and dove in headfirst. No hesitation and no sugarcoating.
“Why in the world would you think I’d have sex with you?”
Jeremy heard the sounds of movement in the kitchen. Even his headphones couldn’t block out the loud clanging of pots and pans, Elena’s muttered curses, and Alaric soothing tones. Just as he’d taught Jeremy how to slay vampires, their history teacher slash guardian was doing his damnedest to teaching Elena how to cook. Soon the sweet scent of roasted garlic drifted upstairs, straight to Jeremy’s bedroom. He shot straight up on his bed. Maybe wallowing in heartache would hurt less with a full stomach.
He found them hunched over Elena’s laptop. Marinara sauce bubbled in a sauce pot on the stove. Steaming hot pasta sat in a bowl. Salad was already in three bowls. Alaric smirked when Jeremy grabbed a stool and sat.
“Told you…spaghetti works every time,” Elena said, giving Alaric a smirk and extending her open palm toward him.
He pulled some bills from his wallet and slapped them on her hand.
“Damn,” Jeremy murmured under his breath. “I feel so used.”
Alaric laughed as he rubbed his shoulder. “Get used to it. It’s the fate of man.”
Elena turned to grab plates from the cabinet and cutlery from the drawer. Jeremy took their glasses from the other cabinet and both siblings headed to the table. Alaric followed with the food. The familiar routine of dinnertime had slowly become a ritual with the three of them. It seemed that Jenna’s death had reminded them how badly they needed some semblance of normalcy to keep them balanced.
With his stomach half-full on spaghetti, meatballs and yummy garlic bread, Jeremy remembered the intense expressions that been on their faces when he first entered. He glanced back at the laptop then at them. “What were you doing before?”
“Cooking,” Elena grumbled, tossing her napkin at him.
He caught it and threw it back at her. “No, brat face. At the laptop. What’s going on?”
Elena shrugged. She picked up her fork and avoided his stare. Jeremy turned to Alaric. The older man took a sip of wine before he answered. “Stefan could be in south Mississippi.”
Jeremy gulped. “Mississippi?”
Alaric nodded. “There’s been significant bloodshed along the Natchez Trace with the more vicious reports happening in Biloxi.”
“What makes you think it’s Stefan?” Jeremy asked.
“The M.O.,” Elena said quietly.
Just like that, his appetite left him. He pushed his plate away. Even the smell started to bother him so he took the plate to the garbage disposal and dumped the remains out. As the appliance garbled and ground up his offering, he dug deep to ask the next question without profanity or regurgitating his dinner. “Does Damon know?”
“I texted him,” Alaric said. He inhaled more wine.
“Well?” Jeremy turned off the disposal and waited. “What? He didn’t answer? What the fuck, man?”
“Don’t Elena,” he cut in.
“He’ll get back to me,” Alaric said, his tone even and calm. “He always does.”
“So, what’s the plan?” His gaze ping ponged back and forth between his sister and the experienced vampire hunter. “And don’t tell me there isn’t one because I know better.”
“I’m going to ask Bonnie to do another locator spell.”
“No, you’re not,” Jeremy said.
Elena fixed him with a hard look. She started clearing the table. “She doesn’t mind. It will be easier than us taking off down there and it being a waste--”
Jeremy grabbed her arm. “I’m serious, Elena. You’re not going to her with this. The last time she tried it didn’t work so leave her alone.”
“You don’t understand her abilities,” Alaric said. “It was too soon, but now she’s had time to rest up and re-energize. She can do this, Jeremy.”
“I don’t want her to,” he said. “Leave her alone. She’s got other stuff going on and she doesn’t need this! So keep her out of it.”
Why in the world would you think I’d have sex with you?
The question stunned Damon into silence. The first answer that came to mind was Why wouldn’t you? But knowing Judgy, that wouldn’t go over well. A closer inspection of her caused him to ignore the initial stab that nicked him, making him want to do the usual. Lash out. Inflict pain. The typical spread-the-hurt in the hopes that his would ease somewhat.
His keen observation skills made him recognize the tremor in her voice beneath the false bravado. The glimmer in her emerald eyes that promised tears were on the brink. The rapid pounding of her heart that screamed of her fear and confusion. In the midst of all that, he cast aside his own bullshit and leaned close, taking her hand even when she first resisted his touch.
“Because you came to me…you acted like you wanted me,” he said quietly. “I had no idea it wasn’t you.”
“If you had known, would you have done it anyway?”
He didn’t have to think twice before he answered her. “No. Because we’d be here. With you not trusting me. Again. Too much has happened for us to go back there.”
She dipped her head until he could no longer read her eyes. Instead he had to rely on his senses to read her. The normal pace of her heart. The quiet swallowing of breath. The hollowness in her voice. “I don’t know why this is happening to me, Damon. It used me.”
“No, you’re not,” she said, shaking her head. “You’re glad it was you and not Jeremy. That’s what you said. It’s not fair. I didn’t get to choose!”
“I-I-oh, fuck.” He knelt beside her chair and pulled her into his embrace. Holding her as she sobbed. Amazed that she let him. Feeling like a dick because he said the words out loud, never once thinking what it meant to her. She should have been able to choose. Even knowing that she probably would have chosen that fucking squirt, at least in the end it would have been her choice when she finally came to Damon.
When the tears subsided, she moved away from him. “Tell me about this person. Is she like me?”
“In some ways,” he answered. He stood but kept his distance. When she finally accepted that there was more to them than some entity inhabiting her, he’d be ready. But until then, he had to go against his instincts and give her space. That would be hard.
“In most ways, she is you. So much so that I didn’t notice…” He frowned. “Sonovabitch.”
“There was this thing with your eyes.”
“My eyes?” She cocked her head to the side and frowned. “Jeremy didn’t say anything about that? What? Do they glow?”
He shook his head. “No, they change colors.”
“You didn’t think that was weird?”
“I thought it was some witchy juju thing!” The accusation in the air stung. “How was I supposed to know?”
“How long have this eye color switch and you and me…whatever…been going on?”
“No, wait.” He started to pace. The dance was when he started to change…melt actually when it came to her. But the clandestine meetings didn’t happen until after that. “After Stefan left with Klaus. A little after that.”
A buzzer sounded from the kitchen. They both jumped.
“Dinner’s ready,” he said.
“I can’t eat.” She rubbed her stomach. “I feel sick.”
He didn’t know what to say or what to do. How could he fight an unseen being that wanted them together when he wanted the same thing?
“I’ll turn it off so it doesn’t burn,” he mumbled as he strode from the room. To his surprise he heard her right behind him.
“You went to a lot of trouble,” she said. “I’ll try, but I can’t stay long. My dad’s waiting for me.”
“The great Christopher Bennett,” he said.
“I didn’t know you cared.”
Damon shrugged. “He dated an ex of mine. Her name was Bree. He left her heartbroken until I came along.”
“No, it’s true.” He dished the gumbo into a beautiful serving bowl while she plated the cornbread muffins that had been warming in the oven. They headed back to the dining room and sat. The meal looked meager, but he cooked a hearty gumbo. If she dug in, she’d be full by the time her bowl was empty.
“Your dad met your mom and Bree met me.” He broke off a piece of bread and dipped it in the gumbo.
He laughed. “Well, I’m no spring chicken.”
She began to eat. He couldn’t help the smugness that struck his ego at the smack of appreciation that came from her lips as she heartily dug in.
“This is good.”
“I learned from the best. Then I taught them a thing or two.”
She rolled her eyes, but the spoon to mouth movement didn’t slow its course.
He hated to do this while she ate, but putting anything off slowed their momentum down. They needed to know about it so that They could proceed to their happily ever after.
“Your eyes looked like shiny pennies,” he said in a conversational tone. “Bright pieces of copper. Your speech pattern changed just the slightest bit and you… You and I…”
The spoon hit the bottom of the bowl with a clatter. “What? We…what?”
Damon shrugged. “Connected and it wasn’t about spells. It was man and woman stuff. Just you and me, or so I thought. Well, there were times your eyes were emerald green like the sea.” Off her deadly look, he quickly added, “We have this thing, you and me. There was no way I could tell it wasn’t really you!”
“Bonnie, you can’t tell me you were never there for this.” He wagged his finger between them for emphasis. “This can’t be one-sided. That time behind your grandmother’s house…on the dance floor…in the woods… All those times? It couldn’t have been some crazy bullshit possession! I don’t believe it!”
“This isn’t about whatever it is you want from me!” Her eyes, brightly emerald, blazed as she stood. Energy vibrated around her. “I have to know what’s taking over me and I have to stop it!”
She stormed from the dining room and Damon matched her pace. When she reached the door, he caught her upper arm and flung her around. She looked two seconds from smacking him down with that head vise thing that made him want to cry like a little bitch.
“Don’t.” he said, releasing her and stepping back. “I’m trying to help.”
“You’re trying to fuck me again.”
The crassness came as another surprise. He shook his head. “No.”
“I’ve seen your remains. Girls walking around in a trance because of you. Not having a clue what hit them.” She shook her head. “I won’t ever be that girl. Not ever. I’ll find out who’s fucking with me with or without your help.”
Bonnie stumbled into her house, whipped. Her hardest spells didn’t leave her feeling as drained as the last few minutes at the Salvatore boardinghouse. Dammit! It happened every time she let her guard down around Damon. She walked away feeling…feeling too damn much and not able to control her mouth.
She dropped her purse on the coffee table and plopped onto the sofa. She was contemplating camping out there when her dad came from his study, a slice of pizza in one hand and the box in the other.
Food? At a time like this? She shook her head.
He claimed his favorite spot in the recliner. Amid chews, his gaze took her in from head to toe. “Wanna talk about it?”
Yo, Dad, your ex-girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend slash vampire and I had sex but I don’t really remember because I was possessed. Hmm…she didn’t see that going over well.
Instead, she gave him a faint smile and said, “Not yet.”
“Okay, well I’m here—”
A series of strong knocks sounded at the door. Chris dropped his half-eaten pizza slice on top of the cardboard top and stood. “What the hell?”
“Daddy, wait!” Bonnie beat him tp the door.
“I don’t think so.” He easily pushed her aside.
“No, you don’t know what’s on the other side—”
“I’m more than capable of answering my door. Move.”
She stepped aside, tense, and ready for whatever was out there. Sheesh, would it always be like this?
The knocks sounded again. Chris opened the door. A young woman about Bonnie’s age stood on the other side. Short-cropped curls adorned her head, giving emphasis to her high cheekbones and round light-brown eyes. Her skin tone was a shade deeper than Bonnie’s but since her t-shirt and jeans were darkened with dirt and debris, complexion was debatable. As father and daughter peered at the stranger, Bonnie noticed a scuffed backpack rested beside her feet and those round eyes darted back and forth with anxiety and fear.
“Chris and Bonnie, right?” she asked, her voice husky carrying a Southern accent. “This is the address he gave me. You’re the Bennetts, right?”
“Yeah,” her dad answered. He moved aside as if he was about to invite her in and Bonnie slid in front of him.
“Wait,” Bonnie said. She took hold of the girl’s arm. The girl just stared and waited. The eerie darkness that appeared whenever she touched vampires didn’t come. Instead, Bonnie saw wooded trails, flashing scenery and lots of blood. Too much blood. Then the body of a man who looked a lot like Bonnie’s dad. At that, she dropped the girl’s arm and pressed back against her dad.
“Who are you?”
“You’re not a witch.”
The girl shook her head. “No.”
“Dawn?” Chris asked. “Bobby’s little girl?”
He stepped out onto the porch. “Where is he? I know he didn’t send you here by yourself.”
“He’s dead, sir,” she said in choked whisper. “He always told us if anything ever happened to him to come straight here. He said you’d help.” Her gaze rested on Bonnie. “That you’d protect us.”
Bonnie and her dad guided Dawn into their house and closed and locked the door. She set her backpack on the floor and she sat beside it, drawing her knees to her chest. Her body shook with unshed tears. Bonnie heard her dad pad to the first floor bathroom. As she knelt on the floor beside her cousin, her father returned with a damp towel and a box of Kleenex.
“What happened?” Bonnie took the towel from her dad and gave it to Dawn. He set the Kleenex on the floor close beside their guest.
“It killed him. I wasn’t there.” Dawn clutched the towel. “Some friends and I snuck over to NOLA, you know. Just messing around. But Jordan wouldn’t go. He stayed home with Dad.”
“Who’s Jordan?” Bonnie asked.
“He’s her twin brother,” Chris said. “Go on. What killed Bobby? Your dad was… Well, he was pretty strong. I can’t imagine anything—”
“It wasn’t just anything, and I know what my dad was,” she said, wiping her face with the towel, “he explained it to Jordan and me a long time ago. Dad said it wasn’t animal attacks on the Natchez Trace and he wanted us to stay close to home. He said it was hunting people like us, but I didn’t listen—”
“Honey, you’re alive,” Bonnie’s father said softly. “Bobby wouldn’t have wanted you and your brother both to die with him.”
She became still. “Jordan isn’t dead. Haven’t you been listening? They took him. That’s why they killed Dad. He fought for Jordan and they killed him, ripped him apart…and then put him back to-together like a ji-jigsaw puzzle. Who does that? Animals can’t do that! Even on the biggest full moon, my dad n-never…”
As Chris wrapped an arm around the grieving girl, Bonnie sat back and pressed a hand to her mouth. “Oh, no,” she whispered.
“What?” her father asked softly.
She shook her head. This wasn’t the time to let them know she knew the murderers. Had been friends with one of them. Had tried her best to keep this moment from happening—Klaus and his quest for hybrids—and despite her best efforts, it had happened anyway. And that he was using the only vampire she had fully trusted to help him in his quest. Stefan.
(Song Credit: “Erotica” by Madonna)
Bobby Bennett, Jordan Bennett and Dawn Bennett are original characters created by niklovr.