Chapter 14: Standing on the Edge of Everything
The drive with Damon was one of the most pleasant ones Bonnie had ever experienced with the moody vampire. Excitement definitely rippled under the surface along with anticipation for what lay ahead for them, but overall, the doubt that had hung heavy between them had begun to fade. But there was one thing she had to clear up. One detail that he had to understand—
"You're too quiet."
She lifted her gaze from the passing scenery to find his glacial blue eyes fixed on her. Occasionally, he directed his attention to the road, but mostly he stared. In the past, that unwavering fixation unnerved the hell out of her. She remembered running from him on sight or at the very least wanting to until she came unto her own. In those early days, just the slightest touch of his knuckles across her cheek made her tremble. Oh, hell. He still had that effect.
"I was thinking."
He smirked. "Oh shit."
"He has jokes."
His response was a light chuckle. He reached out with his right hand to take her left. Only a slight hesitation hinted at the newness of this for him…for her. But she surrendered to him all the same.
"Out with it," he said. His thumb drew circles on the back of her hand as his fingers slid between hers. The hold was quite possessive. Very Damon.
"This is not me being judgey…"
"Fuck," he grumbled under his breath.
"Are you listening?" She moved to pull free, but he wouldn't let go.
"Stop," he said. "Don't. I'm listening. What is it?"
Another expletive escaped and she could have sworn she heard the bones click as his jaw clenched.
"I'm not a saint or an angel." He heaved as if he required air to live. "I'm not Stefan."
"I'm not asking you to be any of those things. I know who you are."
The car swerved onto the shoulder suddenly. He kept his foot on the brake as he shifted to look at her. "Well?"
"You can't kill Jeremy—"
"Jeremy!" He spat her ex's name as if it was a curse. "You're still hung up on him." He released her and gripped the steering wheel with both hands. "He's a fucking kid. A boy. He has no idea… If that's who you really want—"
"Damon." Bonnie closed both hands over his. She spoke gently like he was a small child or a wounded animal. His ego was so fragile, but she wasn't about to back down to save his feelings. "I don't want Jeremy. He and I will have to talk, but… You'll have to deal with that, but this isn't about him being my ex."
"What is it about?"
"It's about you snapping his neck when you're angry or lashing out in general when you're mad at the world," she stated. "I don't like it."
"I know. You set me on fire."
"I'll do it again," she warned.
He looked down at their hands. Where hers rested on his. "So that's the deal breaker? Jeremy must live."
"It's not just Jeremy. It's your anger issues and killing people for the hell of it—"
He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the headrest. "I'm a vampire, Bonnie. It's in my nature."
"That's bullshit, and you know it."
At that, she pulled away from him and curled against her seat. The world was already against this relationship. For them to have any chance of making it to Day 2, they had to reach an understanding.
"I'm a witch. We're here to protect and serve nature, not harm it. Going against that is harmful to me," she said quietly. "I can't fully explain it other than…I'm here to protect. I don't want to have to use my powers on you anymore. I don't want to be put in that position."
His eyes blinked open. "And Jeremy was the first person that came to mind."
"I won't hurt him unless I have to—"
"Look, shit happens," he said. "If there's ever a situation where it's you or him, I'm choosing you. That goes for anyone. I mean it, Bonnie. That's my deal breaker. I'll choose you."
The text from Bonnie had to be Divine Intervention. Dawn wasn't sure what the damage was between Jeremy and Tyler, but she knew that she didn't want to be caught in the middle. The text offered the perfect excuse to find some degree of common ground between the two boys before they whipped out their dicks and started measuring or pissing all over the place.
"She's headed back to the boarding house," Dawn said, paraphrasing. "I guess it worked."
Tyler's dark gaze swept over her again. He seemed not to miss anything. Subconsciously, her hand went to her zipper to make sure it was secured. A faint smirk hinted at his full lips, alerting her that the move hadn't gone unnoticed. In turn, her primal instinct flared. She jerked toward him, but just as quickly, Jeremy closed his hand around her waist and drew her against him. Manhandling had never been her thing. However, this felt anything but. Her heart raced and it wasn't in anger. Confusion rattled her senses. She was torn between wanting more from this simple touch while also wanting to lash out against him for taking liberties.
What the fuck?
"We'd better get back." Jeremy exerted the slightest bit of pressure to emphasize his point.
Dawn moved out of his grasp to march in front of both males. The snapping of twigs announced their movement behind her. Coming to Mystic Falls had seemed her only recourse. Her dad was dead. Her brother was gone. Her mother was a big money lawyer in New York who didn't really give a damn. And the rest of their family had long left south Mississippi. Their friends didn't know the secret of their family "legacy" so they offered zero protection. Besides, her dad had always told them to go to their cousin Chris if anything happened. But this was starting to feel very wrong. Bonnie had problems and that kid Jeremy—shit. He looked at her like he knew everything and understood. And now, Tyler? She already had 99 problems. She wasn't on the hunt for more.
"Who?" Tyler asked, falling into step beside her. "What worked?"
Good grief. Dawn silently counted to ten and waited for Jeremy to nut up.
She didn't make it to three.
"Get the fuck off her, man."
"What the hell, Gilbert?" Tyler asked. "Aren't your hands full with Bonnie? Chill, man. You can't have all the sistas."
Oh no, he didn't.
Her footsteps came to an abrupt halt.
"Lockwood, you are a fucking piece of—"
"I got this," she said, cutting Jeremy off. "Did you really just say 'sistas'? I mean, really?"
"You know," he said with a shrug. "I'm down." He moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue as he boldly eyeballed her yet again.
"Down with what?"
Dawn felt both the wolfsbane running through her veins and her dad's words of warning playing in the back of her mind. Unbridled anger would change her entire life. Nothing was worth awakening the curse. Nothing. Especially not even an arrogant asshole.
"You know," he said in a low voice as he stepped inside her personal space, "with whatever."
"You're a sonuvabitch," Jeremy muttered. He stepped between them again, grabbed her hand, and led them back to the Salvatore backyard.
As they neared the clearing, two things struck her. One was Jeremy's possessiveness and the way she didn't dislike it. The second was Tyler's claim that Jeremy was involved with her cousin. Okay, maybe that was three. On top of that, she'd spent the afternoon downing a bag of wolfsbane followed by an unexpected challenge to her patience. She felt hazy. She didn't want to let go of Jeremy, but she didn't want to hold on to him either. Again, she began to wonder if coming to Mystic Falls had been a mistake.
Then she saw Bonnie. Her cousin moved away from the crowd and the brooding guy in black. Their eyes connected and Bonnie smiled, beckoning her over. The smile was like her brother's. She tugged free of Jeremy's hand and met Bonnie at the fountain.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Bonnie said. "The spell worked. Emily's gone." She jutted her chin toward the looming, quiet males in the distance. "Looks like you're making friends."
Dawn frowned. "About Jeremy…um…I don't know…what's going on with that. If he's yours—"
"He's not, but he and I need to talk," Bonnie said. "But if you're wondering, he's a great guy."
"I'm not. I didn't come here looking for a boyfriend."
"I know." She gestured toward everyone who was relieved that Bonnie had survived her ancestor's possession. "They're not your friends, yet, but they will be. We'll help you find Jordan."
"You can't speak for them."
Bonnie's eyebrows shot up, but she smiled with the gesture. "True, but I'll help."
"I will, too," Jeremy said, joining them.
"You don't even know what we're talking about," Dawn said with a twinge of heat. His butting in had finally gotten to her.x
"I don't care."
"Okay, truce," Bonnie declared. "Besides, we need to talk."
She grabbed Jeremy's arm and hauled him away.
Jeremy had a good idea of where Bonnie's "talk" was headed. It didn't take a genius to figure it out with the way Salvatore was hanging all over her. The asshole hadn't stopped glaring at him since Bonnie led them away. He had half a mind to kiss her just to piss the vampire off, but that didn't sit well with him. For several reasons.
"Jer?" Bonnie touched his wrist. "You okay?"
"I should be asking you that." He frowned, remembering how hard spells took a deep toll on her. "How was it?"
"It was fine. Everyone else did all the work."
"Is it true that Emily's really gone?"
She nodded. "Lucy called before we pulled in. The spirits are all where they should be. All of them."
"I wondered where Anna and Vicky had disappeared to."
"Did you really?"
He shook his head. "Not really. I had already made my peace with them. Having them around was not peaceful at all. They were not…at rest."
She gave him a half smile. He knew instinctively that she understood. There was more that he hoped she'd understand.
"Listen, about your cousin—"
The words had tumbled out simultaneously. Jeremy rubbed his hand through his hair as he looked down into her expressive green eyes. This was awkward, but it didn't feel too weird. At least, not yet.
"You go first," she offered.
"I know you saw us holding hands," he began. "Tyler was being a dick and I… Well… Okay, that's not totally it. I kinda dig her, but it's soon. She's not so bad. Pretty wary, though, but I get that."
He stopped when he realized he was rambling and Bonnie's smile widened.
"Do you want to date my cousin?"
"Bonnie." Heat rushed his face and he hated it.
"You just met her today," she said, a hint of laughter in her voice.
"I didn't say that."
"But you like her—"
"What were you saying about Damon?" he asked, hurriedly to deflect the attention from himself.x
She sobered immediately. "You and I… Our breakup was weird and towards the end, a lot of that was Emily."
Jeremy nodded. "I know, but some of it wasn't."
"Our friendship means everything," she said, taking his hands. "I don't want to lose it."
"I love you, Bonnie," he said, honestly.
"Before you freak, let me finish," he said. "Things have changed for both of us. I really didn’t expect it. Am I happy to see you with Damon? No. Hell no. Maybe I'm a little jealous, too, but in the end, I'm just glad that you're whole."
He squeezed her hands gently and then let her go.
"It's probably none of my business…"
"Go ahead." He shoved his hands into his jeans pockets and waited.
"My cousin has been through a lot lately. Take it easy."
He nodded. They'd all been through a lot lately. The thing in the woods with Tyler when Jeremy grabbed her…all that had been on reflex. He hadn't even thought twice about it. Now that he had time to reflect, he doubt if he would have done things differently. Something was brewing between him and her cousin and it didn't give a damn about a clock or a calendar.
"What is it?" Bonnie asked.
"I don't know." He would have voiced his thoughts if he had the right words. Instead another concern tumbled out. "Are you sure about Damon? He's been on Elena for awhile."
"He says that's over."
"And you believe him." Jeremy tried to keep the suspicion from his voice, but hell, Bonnie was his friend. And to be completely honest, he'd die knowing that she was way too good for Damon Salvatore.
"Says the guy who was just holding hands with a girl he just met—"
"Okay so I'm a hypocrite."
"That's not what I said."
"That's what you meant," Jeremy said. "I can't explain that. It felt right. I'm sorry if that hurts you."
"It doesn't. Okay, maybe a little, but I know you."
"And I know you."
"Then you know that I can't explain me and Damon any more than you can explain mooning over my cousin—"
"I'm not mooning," he grumbled.
"You're something and she is, too." Bonnie sighed before she continued. "All I'm saying is some things can't be explained, at least not easily. That's how it is with him and me. I know you guys have history. I respect that."
"I don't want him to hurt you. He has a habit of hurting people."
"I know, but I think it'll hurt more if I don't see where it can go with him." She poked his chest. "Deep down you know what I mean."
They regarded each other in silence as the words sunk in. Yeah, he knew exactly what she meant. But it wasn't something he wanted to acknowledge out loud. As if she knew, she gave him one of her conspiratorial half smiles and they rejoined their friends.
Mystic Falls, 1864
The acrid smell of smoke and the loud shouts of vengeance guided Damon through the forest. He didn't have to reach the little shack to know he'd find it empty. His gut told him that Emily had been taken. He followed the haze of violence that led him deep into the woods. His keen eyesight pored through the smoky fog that drifted down from the rich, roaring blaze that lit the dark night. Soon the aroma of burning flesh would war with the scent of smoke. The thought sickened him, but no bile rose to his throat. Leaving her had been a mistake.
He slid from his horse, making sure to tie it securely to a large oak. Fire spooked horses and he didn't want to be left without one if for some reason anyone noticed him lurking about.
Numerous ideas for saving her came to mind, but none of them seemed logical. There were far too many. They were all armed with daggers and swords. He couldn't take them. In the end, both he and Emily would both lie victims to hatred.
Then he considered moving closer. If she knew he was there, maybe that would lessen it somehow. Again, logic intervened. Everyone knew he and Stefan had been shot. Maybe even dead. An appearance now would only raise suspicion. It would be best to remain out of sight.
So after some ruminating, he decided to climb a tree. The vantage point offered him a view that would haunt his dreams for a time to come. He'd read the accounts of the Salem witch trials and how the women and some men were either hung or stoned to death. Watching them burn Emily alive was much, much worse. The Founders accused the vampires of being barbaric and inhuman, but this action made their accusations questionable. Emily was a mother. She was a good person, who'd had most of her choices taken from her. She didn't deserve this.
It pained him, but he watched until there was nothing left. To her credit, she did not shed one tear. Or utter one cry. She remained stoic to the end. He doubted if he'd ever forget that.
Mystic Falls, Present Day
"Are you ready?"
Damon had had enough of the celebration party. He wanted Bonnie to himself. The others could hang at the boardinghouse all night if they wanted to—um, maybe not. He had good booze and expensive shit that he didn't want to see fucked up, but on the other hand, kicking everyone out would definitely piss the little witch off. He wouldn't walk on egg shells for her, but he was willing to compromise. Somewhat.
"Ready for what?" she asked taking a sip of something that bubbled and fizzled.
He took the glass from her and tasted. It was some kind of punch concoction minus the alcohol. Who in the hell made that? "What is this shit?"
"You didn't answer my question," Bonnie countered as she reclaimed her drink.
"Ready to go." He contained his glee at the idea of finally being alone with her. The real her. He felt the interested gazes boring into his back. Caroline and Jeremy's stares carried the most heat, but he didn't give a fuck about them. During all the festivities, Elena had ducked in and ducked out. Sooner or later, he'd have to deal with her wrath, but not now. He allowed a half smile to slip out as he rested his hand on Bonnie's waist. "Let's get out of here."
"Jeremy offered to give us a ride home."
He fought for neutrality at the mention of her ex and chose to focus on the "us" portion of her statement. "Who's us?"
"My cousin and me. I introduced you."
"Oh, yeah." He'd been so focused on his goal he'd forgotten about her. "They can go alone. It looks like they'd prefer it anyway."
Bonnie laughed and shook her head.
"You're not aiming for subtle."
He shrugged. "I usually don't."
"Okay. Fine. You can drive me home."
"Home?" His plan didn't call for home.
"Yes, but if you can't, Jeremy can—"
"I'll take you home."
He took her hand. The responding giggle made him smile, but he quickly wiped it off his face. He wasn't ready for everyone to know how happy being with Bonnie made him. Too many times he'd worn his heart on his sleeve and it had been trampled. He didn't want to risk giving anyone the outside advantage. Let them think what they want. They were going to anyway.
Bonnie insisted on hugging and saying goodbye to everyone and making sure that her cousin had a ride. To Damon's amusement Jeremy seemed adamant that he had it covered. Little prick. Then finally, Bonnie joined him and they were off. Alone. Not quite what he had imagined, but something was decidedly better than nothing.
"My dad may be there so you can drop me off at the corner."
"Is this because of Jeremy or because of me?"
"What?" she asked, frowning as their gazes locked. "What are you talking about?"
"Being ashamed to introduce me to the great Christopher Bennett."
"My dad isn't great…he's a good attorney, but he's…okay, maybe he is great."
"You're dodging my question."
She sighed. "I don't know. He hasn't been around much, but he was around enough to know about Jeremy. We just broke up and now, boom."
"You know what I mean. Don't be an ass."
"Damon, come on. It's quick." She fiddled with the radio controls while she spoke. "He has no clue about the Emily thing. I doubt if she ever emerged when he was around. She saved her appearances for you and Jeremy."
"I'm sorry about Emily," he said, taking her hand. All that nervous energy was getting to him.
"Her actions were not your fault, so don't apologize for that." She chuckled. "Save your apologies for later. You'll probably need to have some stored up."
"She has jokes." He smiled as he lifted her hand for a kiss.
A comforting silence followed. The tree-lined road gave way to streets bordered by two-story homes and fancy cars. Damon lowered his speed and cruised the rest of the way to her neighborhood.
"Are we at an impasse?"
"About my dad?"
He shrugged. "I don't want to be your dirty little secret. When I come for you, I'm walking to the door. Hell, this isn't a way for you to renege on inviting me in!"
"No!" She groaned. "Okay, I'll introduce you. But be prepared. My dad is in full-dad mode and you may or may not pass muster."
"I'll do better than Gilbert, flip-flopping between cousins." Damon chuckled.
"You laugh now."
"I'm enjoying this, Bonnie," he said softly as he braked in front of her house. "For the first time, I'm really enjoying…this. I know it won't last. Stefan is out there, and tomorrow, I'll have to go get him. But right now, I'm enjoying you and the hell out of this."
Her eyes widened at the mention of his brother. Ideas were forming that he knew he wouldn't like. Ideas that would put her in danger again. Ideas that he knew she believed would help him, her cousins, his brother, and Elena. Ideas that he didn't want to hear. At least, not yet. Not before this.
So he cupped her face. His thumb skimmed the fullness of her bottom lip. A soft gasp escaped and he claimed it. With his tongue and hungry mouth, Damon captured Bonnie's will and accepted her surrender. The passion that he explored and awakened made him almost feel possessed by her. As the kiss deepened, everything shifted and the control was now hers. When they parted, he rested his cheek against hers, listening as she inhaled each breath.
He was now several things at once. Thankful that he had banked his anger over her knowledge about Stefan's whereabouts. Grateful that he'd had the good sense to accept her right to put family first. Overjoyed that he could finally kiss Bonnie Bennett and know that it was truly her kissing him back. Whether she liked it or not, he'd protect her. He'd already lost too much.