TITLE: How to Save a Life
Fandoms: Twilight/Vampire Diaries
Summary: She had dreamt of Niklaus since she was ten. However, now she was seventeen with a brain tumor and had four months to live. The Cullens provided a perfect opportunity to give her eternity to find him
Warning: Death, Cancer, Mass Murder, Vampirism
The doctors gave her six months to live. It was horrifying. Bella had known something was wrong, so she had gone to the hospital on her own, not telling her Mom or her fiancé Phil, and had an MRI done. What she found made her sick.
She knew her parents didn’t have the money for chemo. Bella wasn’t even going to ask. When she decided to go to Forks to live with her dad, Charlie, she made another appointment at Seattle Grace and had her records transferred.
That’s when she met them. Their skin was cold and hard as rock. They sparkled in the sun. They could be saved from the brink of death and were never sick. They lived forever. Yes, they had to drink blood, but they were also impossibly beautiful.
The Cullens—vampires—were her cure. Now, she just had to convince one of them to turn her before her time ran out.
Bella thought she was really getting somewhere when that December Edward invited her as his date to the Volturi’s annual Yule Ball.
Alice, of course, had purchased her clothing. It was all violet, light blue, and white of all things. Esme explained that as a human she was simply Miss Isabella Swan of the Cullen Coven. In fact, none of them had titles. Bella was to curtsey to everyone. She even practiced.
When she got ready for the first night, she chose her ivory gown. She would be dancing with Edward, or rather stepping on his toes.
Bella sighed at the thought. He was handsome, in a charming, school-boyish way. However he wasn’t him. He wasn’t Niklaus.
When she was ten, Bella began to dream of this handsome man. At least, she thought he was a man at first. He was wealthy and would travel. He would go to the opera and to art galleries and balls and escort various women to them. He would then take them to his bed. Then, after a time, they began to all have long dark hair and deep brown eyes, just like hers.
At first, Bella didn’t make the connection until she saw what he really was. A vampire. He would drink from them while they were intimate and make them forget or he would drain them dry. When she was about twelve, she began to think that they all looked like her, just grown up. Perhaps he was dreaming of her like she was dreaming of him. So, for Christmas, she made him a card since she couldn’t afford a present and stared at it long and hard. Three nights later, Niklaus entered his room and took out a pair of diamond earrings with a note that read ‘For Isabella.’
And so it continued. When Bella finally got tired of the seductions of women who looked like her, she wrote a message on paper that simply read, “STOP!”
It did. He didn’t sleep with another woman again. Of course, he still fed, and those women still had dark brown hair and deep brown eyes, but it was still getting somewhere.
They still exchanged gifts as Niklaus travelled the world and Isabella stayed in Phoenix and then moved to Forks. She saw Niklaus cry when she got her first MRI scan back. She wished she could comfort him, she just didn’t know where he was. She just knew he was intent on some ritual somewhere else in the United States.
They could never seem to find each other and Bella was running out of time. So, she clung to the Cullens and hoped Niklaus would forgive her. She would find him, she promised herself. She just had to live long enough to do so.
She was on Edward’s arm when the great doors opened. Aro, the Volturi king, had been delighted by her mind when she had been presented, but now the Mikhaelson kings and queen were entering. It was rumored that they were the first vampires—nightwalkers, actually, and much older than the cold ones—and even the Volturi were afraid of them.
“Presenting, King Niklaus—“
Bella didn’t hear another word. She untangled her arm from Edward and began to slip through the crowd, hoping to see if it was him. Then she caught a glimpse of white. Military white with a sash and blond curly hair and that smirk she had come to love over the last few years—
His eyes turned to her and he stopped. “Isabella,” he gasped, unwinding his arm from a girl Bella knew to be his sister.
The crowd seemed to part for her and she just stood there before she spoke. “When I wrote ‘STOP’ all those years ago, I meant brown hair and brown eyes, Niklaus. It’s rather disturbing to see your copy being fed from.”
He smirked at her. “And here I was thinking you were jealous of my amours.”
“When I was thirteen?” she teased back.
There was a pause and it was clear that everyone, even Niklaus’s siblings, were listening intently. Bella briefly wondered what the Cullens were thinking.
He took both her hands in his. “How long?” he murmured, but they both knew that everyone could hear them.
“Four months,” she answered back just as quietly, “if I’m lucky. I’ve started making—arrangements. I thought it would be nice if I were cremated—“
“That won’t be necessary,” Niklaus said very firmly. “We’ll fake your death and you can have exactly the kind of funeral you desire, but you’re coming out of this on the other side, Isabella. I haven’t dreamt of you since you were a child of ten to lose you to something as ridiculous as an inoperable brain tumor. I’ll feed you my blood tonight. That should give you a few more months.”
Bella looked at him incredulously. “Niklaus—I—it’s wrapped around everything—there’s nothing—you’ve seen the scans. I know you have.”
He put a gloved finger to her lips. “Hush. Dance with me. I don’t care if you have two left feet.”
At this the music started and Niklaus put his arm around her waist. Bella’s breath hitched and he smirked at her.
“Not a word,” she warned and his smirk only became a grin. They began dancing, the other nightwalkers and cold ones forming a circle around them before other couples joined them.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” Niklaus whispered against her hair, which Alice had put partially up. “You’re real.—Who are you with?”
She looked up at him, startled. Her large brown eyes showed just how confused she was. “I thought you knew.”
“No, I just saw that they were cold ones, and that one of the boys believes that he loves you.”
“Everyone’s listening,” she reminded him. “I can’t talk about that here.”
“Very well,” he agreed. “Just tell me who you are technically at this gathering.” His hands played with her hair as her cheek lay against his shoulder.
“Miss Isabella of the Cullen Coven.”
There was dead silence between them.
“With your permission,” he said, gritting his teeth, “I would like to change that to Lady Isabella of the Mikhaelson Coven.”
She pulled back and they stopped dancing. “What are you saying?”
“You’re coming home with us. We’ll find you the best doctors on the East Coast and when there’s no more time, we will turn you. We—we no longer have to just dream about each other, Isabella. I can give you the gift I have up in my room instead of storing it in my trunk as I do every year.”
“Why do we dream?”
“Not here,” he murmured. “Later,” he promised.
When she wasn’t dancing with Niklaus, she was on a balcony with him, sipping champagne or, briefly, being introduced to his brother Elijah and his sister Rebekah.
Rebekah had looked between the two of them, a question in her eyes. Niklaus nodded and she had instantly decided to like Bella and managed to pull her away from Niklaus for a good half hour before she was reclaimed.
They played a silly game of rating which vampire was the most attractive on a scale from one to ten. Bella had been a bit wary at first, but soon warmed up to it, with the more champagne she drank. When it came to the Cullens, however, she was silent.
“He’s definitely a ten,” Rebekah said, pointing at Carlisle.
“Rebekah!” Bella chided. “He’s my boyfriend’s father.”
“Doesn’t mean he’s not attractive—for a cold one.” She winked. “Anyway, he’s not your boyfriend anymore. Nik is officially claiming you in front of the whole gathering tonight, Lady Isabella.”
Bella could only groan.
That night, she was shown to a different room other than her own. “Everything’s been moved,” a guard named Jane said. “I hope Lady Isabella does not find it unworthy of the Mickhaelson name.”
Rebekah was beside her, holding her shoulders in support.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Bella said. “No one told me before, but—how do I get a human breakfast tomorrow?”
“A special telephone has been installed in this room. Press zero and it will connect you to the front desk and you can place an order. You may do this any time of the day or night. The Royal House of Mikhaelson is most revered by the House of Volturi.”
Bella looked at Rebekah before thanking Jane and entering. The suite—there were several rooms—was lavish and simply stunning. It quite took Bella’s breath away.
“Need help?” Rebekah asked. “It’s only, you’re laced up the back.”
Of course she was. Typical Alice. “If you don’t mind, Rebekah. Alice Cullen chose all my gowns and clothing for this holiday. I swear she just wants to torture me.” She took off her five inch heels and sighed in relief.
“Well,” Rebekah said, “we can’t have that.” She began to unstring the dress. “You know, I’ve always wanted a sister.”
Bella looked back behind her shoulder. “Sorry?”
“Niklaus has been in love with you for years,” Rebekah told her. “I thought—aren’t you—?”
Blushing, Bella looked away.
The dress fell off of her in a puddle. Bella felt exposed but Rebekah quickly handed her a robe. She hadn’t seen it before in her life. It was blue and light purple silk. Oriental, probably. Strange.
“Are you seeing Nik tomorrow?”
“We’re walking in the gardens after I wake up. I need to tell him why I associated with the Cullens.”
Rebekah looked at her. “I wouldn’t want to come between you, but may I ask why? I know you’ve been dreaming of my brother for years. You knew what he was, that he cared and that he would try and save you from your brain tumor.”
Bella shook her head and her dark hair swished around her. “I couldn’t find him,” she whispered. “I have just a few short months to live. I thought if I could get Edward to change me, I could just leave and search for Niklaus on my own. I couldn’t very well do it while dead.”
Rebekah nodded. “I can understand. And Nik will fight for you if it comes to it. I believe he and Elijah are planning your supposed death right now. I think you’re officially dying tomorrow or the next day.”
“No goodbyes then.”
“No,” Rebekah agreed. “It’s better this way. You’ll be Isabella Mikhaelson once we get back to the states. Any of your old personal items can be stolen back.”
Bella nodded and then, after Rebekah left, dreamt of dancing and being in Niklaus’s arms.
“It’s strange,” Bella admitted as they walked through the large winter garden in the back of the castle. “Before, no one seemed to care about me. As long as I wasn’t someone’s snack, it didn’t matter if I starved. Now, everyone is curtseying and is kindness itself. Are you really that powerful?”
Niklaus looked over at her. “There are two sets of royalty in the vampire world. There are the Volturi for the cold ones, and the Mikhaelsons or the Originals for the nightwalkers. I happen to be an Original, and even the Volturi fear me and my brother Elijah.”
She nodded and nervously pushed her hair behind one ear.
He carefully grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand forward so he could kiss the palm of her hand. “Part of me was in such desperation to meet you, but I was afraid you’d be too young, yet I was terrified you were going to die. But now you’re on the cusp of womanhood, and if you’ll let me—I’ll give you forever. I know that’s what you wanted from the Cullens.”
“I wanted to find you,” she argued. “I just needed more time.”
Bella looked into his eyes and was startled when she felt a ring placed on her left ring finger. She glanced down. It was lapus lazuli but it was made to look like an engagement ring. It was absolutely stunning.
“I bought this and had it enchanted before I knew I would see you here,” Niklaus said quietly. “I’ve known for several years that I want you to be mine. For eternity. I think the dreams—I think they were telling us each other’s lives so we could love each other unconditionally. You saw all of the destruction I do, and yet you still danced in my arms happily—“
“And you saw what a boring school girl I am, who takes care of her mom and—“
He kissed her, soft and slow and chaste. Bella leaned forward and gasped when his hands wrapped around her waist, pulling her so close that they were almost touching. He pulled away slightly.
“Is that a ‘yes’?”
“How could I possibly say ‘no’?”
Their foreheads rested against one another.
“You know I need you to drink. Every day counts,” he murmured against her hair.
She looked into his startling blue eyes. “When will I be turned?”
“Shortly after we get back to Mystic Falls, just in case. Elijah and I discussed it and waiting for death would probably just be as harrowing even if you knew you would live after it. I’d do it here, but you deserve to enjoy the ball and I don’t want to put a newborn on a flight back to the States. You might drain the captain dry.”
She couldn’t help but laugh a little at that.
At her laughter, Niklaus bit into his wrist, and offered it to Bella. She looked at it, clearly feeling a little sick, but drank from it nonetheless until Niklaus gently pulled her away.
“How’s that constant headache you never complain about?” he asked her knowledgeably as he wiped a trail of blood from her mouth.
“Gone,” she said in astonishment. “You should feed.” She paused. “No brunettes.”
“Blondes and redheads only,” he promised, kissing her lightly once more. “I may even throw in a man.”
Bella laughed at him. He reached behind him and gave her a copy of Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. “In case you want to stay outside and read,” he whispered. “I dreamt you were reading it just the other week, so I bought a copy.”
She startled. “You really do love me, don’t you?”
He smiled at her sadly. “I haven’t touched a woman since you were thirteen years old—not only because you told me not to, but also because I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to fuck someone. I wanted to make love to you.”
He slowly got up and Bella realized their fingers were entwined. They slowly untangled as he walked away and she sat in the greenhouse gardens, looking out at the snow, surrounded by warmth and the scent of flowers.
Bella didn’t realize how long she’d been out there until Carlisle came and found her.
“I’ve told the others to stay away now you’re a member of the royal household.”
She looked at him, astonished. “If you want me to pay you back for the clothes,” she began, referencing all the dresses Alice had bought her.
Carlisle put up his hand. “No, no. Of course not. I hear you’re dying in about an hour.”
Bella shrugged. “I wasn’t given an exact timeline. I think my phone was replaced this morning, though. It still had the same alarms set and everything. All the old contacts are gone, though, as I’m obviously supposed to be dead. Oh, and it’s now an iPhone. That kind of gave it away.” She shrugged.
He leaned forward. “Bella. What happened?”
She sighed. “I’ve had dreams since I was a girl of Niklaus. He’s had dreams of me. I couldn’t find him and I have an inoperable brain tumor neither of my parents know about. I was running out of time. I begged God every night for more time and then Edward began to stalk me when I slept and I thought—perhaps this was a strange answer to my prayers.”
Carlisle seemed genuinely surprised. “He stalks you in your sleep?”
“He comes in through the window and watches me,” she explained. “Personally, I think it’s a bit creepy and takes obsession one step too far. He could have just stayed in the tree, but beggars really can’t be choosers.” She looked at him pointedly. “I never meant to hurt anyone. I just didn’t want to die. I wanted time to find Niklaus.”
“Of course you did,” Carlisle said. “I’m only sorry I didn’t know sooner and you had to put up with my son’s disturbing tendencies to try and find a way to live longer.” He sighed. “Have the royal family offered?”
“As soon as we’re back on U.S. soil,” she told him. “I’ve been given Niklaus’s blood so I no longer have a chronic headache. Hopefully the tumor’s growth has been stopped, even if I will only remain human for less than a week.”
He nodded. “Edward’s on the next flight out. So is Alice. She’s quite torn up and Jasper, well, he’s never cared for this sort of thing.”
“So it’s just you, Esme and Rosalie and Emmett.”
She nodded. “I should probably order lunch. I wonder if they’ll bring it to me here.”
“They’ll bring it to you anywhere,” Carlisle informed her. “You’re a Mikhaelson now.” He tapped her finger where she was wearing a family crest that Rebekah had loaned her. Apparently she had two. “The Volturi will do anything short of killing themselves for you.”
Rebekah was in her room again that night. “Perfect,” she squealed. “She bought you lavender. It’s close enough to deep purple, the royal colors. I brought you a coronet, by the way.”
“You’re royalty, Bella. Get used to it.”
It happened on the plane. It was a privately chartered flight and she went to sleep. When she woke up, she was on the floor with Niklaus hovering over her.
It was too bright. Hissing, she covered her eyes.
“The windows,” Niklaus called, and soon all the windows were being shut.
The burning in her throat was present but not unbearable. “I—what—?” she began to ask, utterly confused.
“The brain tumor,” Niklaus explained. “You died in your sleep.” A small smile twitched the corner of his mouth. “But you came back to us. You need to feed for the transformation to be complete.”
“I—no animals,” she begged. “I know you don’t feed on animals—but the Cullens—“ The thought, for whatever reason, horrified her.
“No animals,” Rebekah promised, as she came up on her other side. “We have two flight attendants. They might not be to your personal physical preference, but they’ll do in a pinch. Let us get you up off the floor.”
Bella was hauled up and she stood, trying to get her balance. Alice had only packed wedges or heels for her so she teetered a bit. She took in a steadying breath. “All right. Bring them in.”
“This shirt,” Rebekah said, tugging at the bottom of it. It was a pink peasant top. “I don’t care if you don’t like it: it’s gorgeous and can be used to humiliate people.”
Niklaus stared at her. “Really, Rebekah?”
“I’m a girl, I know these things.—Lift up your arms.”
“There are men around,” Bella hissed. “Niklaus, Elijah.”
“Elijah will go and hide,” which he promptly did. “I’m sure Niklaus has seen you in states of undress before.”
Niklaus was smiling to himself. Well, that answered that question. She had seen him fully naked when she was a child when he was with his lady friends, so it made sense that he had seen her change at some point in the past seven years.
Bella lifted her arms and the peasant top was pulled over her head. The flight attendants were brought out, clearly compelled, from what Bella knew of her dreams of Niklaus.
She took the wrist of the first and daintily drank until she felt that the woman would be harmed. Finishing, she licked her lips and moved away. Niklaus just stared at her. She performed the same act on the man.
“I think she has the same control as Elijah,” Niklaus said in absolute shock.
“Is that not how I’m supposed to do it?” Bella asked in confusion as her shirt was passed back to her. However, she soon couldn’t speak. She found herself in Niklaus’s arms, his lips on hers, gently but firmly, and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“There’s not a drop of blood on you,” he breathed.
“Don’t be, love,” he murmured, before he kissed her again. “Everything will be well. I promise.”
She nodded and he released her so she could put on her shirt. They sat back down. He fiddled with the ring on her hand, and she breathed out slowly. She was going home soon. Her new home. What an odd adventure she had been on for the past few months.
It turned out there was another brother. Bella had dreamt of him, but hadn’t quite made the connection. He looked uncannily like Elijah, though. His name, strangely, was Kol.
“Ah,” he greeted. “This is the human beauty.” He got out of the car and came over to them at vampire speed, taking her hand. Then he looked at the daylight ring. “Not a human?”
“I unfortunately died on the flight over.”
“That must be a new one,” he said. “You’re too young to have a coronary.”
“Much,” she agreed. “At least I never have to suffer that, now that I’m a vampire.—Bella Swan.”
“Bella Starling,” Elijah corrected. “Klaus has something in the works and we have to hide you for a few months. I hope you don’t mind the name we chose for you.”
“Well, I chose,” Rebekah said. “I thought it was close enough for you to like it, and there’d be none of the ‘Isabella’ nonsense you seem to hate unless it’s coming from my brother.”
Bella laughed quietly. “No, that’s fine. I get to live with all of you, right?”
There was a shift. “I’m going undercover,” Niklaus explained. “That doesn’t mean I won’t be watching over you.”
She looked at him with her large brown eyes and breathed. “How soon?”
“Perhaps you can teach me how to hunt before then,” she murmured.
He took her hand and squeezed it.
Mystic Falls was beautiful. Bella really couldn’t believe it. They drove in a blue Mercedes from the private airport a few hours south and they came upon a mansion.
“It’s just like I dreamed,” she murmured. “Do I still have the violet room?”
Elijah looked at her strangely as they stepped out of the car. “How can you possibly know about that?”
“I saw Niklaus prepare it for me,” she answered. “I chose the paper through dream messages; I went to museums to show him what kind of art I liked; I had an entire conversation with a girl at my school about what type of dream bed I had imagined as a little girl. She was rather confused, I must admit. I had technically asked her over to do homework and we barely got anything done.”
Niklaus had taken her hand and led her up to the doorway. “We can pick out your car once you have a bit of control and here are your house keys,” he said, handing her some keys on a Tiffany’s keychain.
Rebekah and Elijah smiled at each other. The siblings must have discussed it.
Of course, it was Rebekah who helped her unpack. Bella had a monstrous walk-in closet and Rebekah organized everything. She only had designer clothes, which Alice had purchased for her, saying it would be expected by the Volturi.
There was a trunk at the end of her bed, and Bella carefully opened it. There, in carefully wrapped boxes, were all of her Christmas and birthday presents. She smiled to herself and ran her fingers along them. She decided to open one each day until she saw Niklaus again.
Her identity papers were waiting for her when she came down to breakfast the next morning.
“Bella Starling,” Kol teased her. “I understand you went hunting last night with such precision you could even put Elijah to shame.”
“Yes,” Rebekah agreed. “She’s going to high school with me after the break. It’s thought that she might be able to infiltrate that horrible doppleganger’s crowd more than Elijah has. She just has to show off that pretty daylight ring of hers.”
She sighed and took up a folder which had a profile of everyone in the crowd. “And Niklaus goes today?”
“He’s already left.”
Without saying goodbye. He hated goodbyes. It was so bloody like him.
“So,” Bella said, setting down the file. “Tell me. Why are you all undaggered? I mean, I asked Niklaus to, but he usually has his own reason.”
Kol looked at her startled. “Well, I think we just found our mysterious answer. We’ve been trying to figure it out for weeks. It seems like you have quite the considerable amount of power over Nik.”
“Hmm.” Bella didn’t comment. “You like rampages, don’t you?”
“I’d like to try one. Especially now. I’m a bit angry—given everything.” She meant Niklaus leaving her, of course. There was a slight tension in the room. They probably guessed her reasoning. “Why don’t we try a mall? I need more clothes.” She took a bite of her toast. Rebekah looked at her oddly. Elijah ignored the conversation completely.
They went down to Savannah. Rebekah insisted on coming although she wouldn’t “partake of the horror.” They went to shop after shop and Bella was allowed to try on anything that she liked. Kol and Rebekah would make suggestions, of course. It was also all designer, but Bella found she couldn’t care. The materials were softer and she looked—more enhanced in them. They fit her being a vampire and the unnatural beauty she now held. She didn’t want to be plain old Bella Swan anymore.
She never really thought about it, but she wanted to make Niklaus proud. Catching the glint in Rebekah’s eye, she somehow guessed that her new friend knew it, too.
Then the fun began. Handing the clothes off to Rebekah, who would be waiting in the car, Kol took Bella’s hand and whizzed off with her to security. He ripped the guard’s head off. “Now,” he said, disabling the cameras. He looked over his shoulder. “Neat trick, huh? One of the first things I learned when I woke up.”
Next, he initiated an emergency shut down. “Let the fun begin.”
They didn’t even let the children survive. Bella didn’t personally feed off of them. That was all Kol. “Do we want to leave them orphans?” he said as Bella moved away from a screaming five year old, which he quickly took and bit into.
She stared at him for whole minute before grabbing the mother, ripping her arm off and drinking the blood that poured from the wound. She was dead within minutes.
What was really funny was when the police came and decided to barricade all the exits. They ended up in Macy’s.
“Here,” Bella said, throwing Kol a new shirt and jeans. She was pulling on a dress herself and using some white wispy thing to cleaning of her face. They were changing so that they didn’t look so conspicuous.
“I think I like you in dresses,” Kol murmured. “No wonder you bought so many of them.”
“Niklaus seemed to like them,” she murmured as they got up and headed for the roof. “More often than not he tended to choose girls with brown hair and brown eyes who wore dresses.”
“Playing to his fantasy, then?” Kol teased.
“I’m playing at being grown up,” she snarled, as he offered her a hand at the top and she jumped up high into the air and landed gently. “I may have the body of a seventeen year old, but I’m engaged to a vampire who is centuries older than I am.”
They made their way over to the edge of the building and Bella looked down. She could see the policeman with their rifles and gulped.
“Don’t think about it,” Kol said, taking her hand. He moved them so they were several feet away before whispering, “Run.”
And that’s what she did. She ran to the edge of the building and then jumped with Kol, landing on the roof of some skyscraper. They ran and jumped and ran and jumped until they climbed down the fire escape of some apartment building. They found Rebekah waiting with the car.
“Well, this was well planned,” Bella complimented as she slid into the passenger seat.
“Nice dress,” Rebekah observed as she began to drive back toward Virginia. “I’m afraid we’re in for a long night.”
“Don’t forget to turn on the news on the hour,” Kol said mischievously, coming up between them from the backseat. “I want to hear what they’re saying about our little—escapade.”
“Of course you do,” Rebekah sighed. “It’s just like old times, isn’t it, Kol?”
“Except now I have a partner in crime,” he said, smiling at Bella. “The girl with control who has a streak of destruction a mile wide. The perfect balance between Elijah and myself.”
“What is Nik going to do?” Rebekah teased, looking over at Bella.
“Love me with all of my faults,” Bella responded. “I love him for all of his, after all. I wonder when we’ll be getting married.”
“Well, for a vampire that would be when you share blood during sex,” Kol answered. “But I take it that hasn’t happened yet.”
Bella looked back at him, clearly confused.
“That would be a ‘no’ then.” Kol smirked. “Well, you’re already Princess Isabella given your status in the Coven, and you can’t rise any higher given that you’re not an Original yourself. Klaus is undercover. Just don’t do anything with that body.—That would be…”
“Disturbing,” Bella answered for him. “I wonder if he’ll make contact.”
“If I know Nik, and I know him,” Rebekah answered, getting onto the highway, “he definitely will. He’s too protective of you and he’ll want you to know where he is so you can go to him for help.”
Bella nodded and sank down into her seat. When the news came on, she couldn’t help but smile. They were calling it a massacre by anarchists. Apparently, they had gone in and shot up the place, leaving no survivors. That’s what happens with vampire hearing when you can hear even the faintest of heartbeats. She wondered how they would fake the autopsy reports.
She supposed there wouldn’t be.
Bella and Kol had taken their bloody clothes with them. They’d left nothing behind so that there was nothing linking them to the crime. The two had also been very careful about leaving bloody fingerprints. The two of them would just appear on videos before the tapes went out, supposedly leaving with Rebekah. All was safe.
Plan well played.
Kol registered her. “Bella Starling,” he said. “You should have her records.”
They, of course, had been stolen from Forks High and then tampered with so that the name had been correct. She also had her personal affects, minus pictures of the Cullens, including her old boot up computer, whose files and hardrive had been transferred to her new MacBook Pro.
“Yes, let me see. Ah, here.” The woman looked up. “I.D.”
Bella looked in her leather satchel and pulled out her designer wallet. Rebekah had insisted as every little detail counted. She handed it over.
“Ah, yes. I understand you are friends with Elena Gilbert, so you’ve been placed in almost all of her classes.” There had been a bit of compulsion then. How hilarious. She wondered who had done it: Kol, Rebekah, or even Niklaus. “Your first class is math. Your locker number and code are on the bottom.”
She nodded and then turned to Kol. “I’ll catch a ride back with Rebekah or call you.”
“All right, little sister,” he teased. “I think you’ll find a certain someone you’ve been missing in these halls.”
She arched a brow. “Keeping secrets, are we, Kol?”
“Never. You’re my partner in crime.” He winked at her.
“Aren’t I just,” she murmured, heading to her first class. She had nothing to put in her locker yet.
Math was boring, as usual, although she was uncommonly good at it. She ended up sitting next to Stefan Salvatore, fortunately, and had a short conversation of what it was like being the “new kid.” She kept it vague, mentioning about how before her father died, she’d moved in with him after her mother got married and how everyone had stared at her and wanted to date her just because she was new, and she was terrified that was going to happen again.
“Everyone considered me plain back down south,” she explained. “It was so weird heading up the coast and then not being plain. I kind of developed a complex and barely spoke to anyone for weeks.” She blushed. “I have absolutely no idea why I’m telling you this. Did this happen to you?”
“I had my first—well, only—girlfriend within the week, so I suppose I can see where you’re coming from. Everyone would whisper about the hot new guy with the sexy accent.—I think it’s the newness.”
“New shiny toy,” she laughed. “Oh, new equation.” She quickly wrote it down and started working. She realized that Stefan was staring at her for several moments before going back to his work.
Then she met the football team. That was interesting. “New girl!” one of the jocks called. “Coming to the game on Friday?”
“Isn’t it a bit cold?” she asked, glancing out the window. “I realize this is Virginia, but still…”
“Last game,” the player said. “More of a farewell to the season. We’ve already won the championship.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Hadn’t thought about it,” she answered.
“I’ll dedicate a touchdown to you,” he promised. He had short black hair, a strong build, and deep piercing eyes.
“Tyler,” Stefan’s voice said. “Leave her alone.”
This Tyler looked up and scowled. “Ah, the Quarterback.”
Bella turned around to see Stefan walking with Elena on his arm. She recognized the doppleganger from the folio she had been given.
She turned back to Tyler as the bell rang. “I have history,” she apologized. “Nice to meet you, Tyler.”
“Are you coming?” he yelled after her.
“I might be going dancing with some of my friends,” she called back. “Apparently I need to live a little, and going to balls doesn’t count.”
She could just imagine the strange face Tyler gave the others.
Walking into the history class she smiled at the professor and gave him the slip, showing she was a new student. He looked at her and then at the slip before glancing at his hand. She followed the look. There, on his right ring finger, was the Original signet ring in black. Each Original had two—one rectangular, one oval shaped. Hers were white because she was a mate.
Nodding, she smiled.
“Would you like to introduce yourself?” he asked, his accent not quite gone, and she looked at him in horror.
“Just a name—and I’ll arrange seating.”
Almost everyone had filed in at this point.
Nik—a Mr. Saltzman on this schedule—ordered Stefan to move to the free chair so Miss Starling could sit with girl her own age and not feel so isolated. Stefan nodded and vacated the place next to Elena who smiled encouragingly at Bella.
Right. Now was the time.
“Hi,” she began. “I’m Bella Starling.” She looked at Not-Nik, who gave an indication for her to continue. “I’m new to Mystic Falls—um, my parents just died and I’m living with friends. They have custody.” She looked back and he nodded.
Sighing in relief, she sat down.
Elena smiled at her.
She saw Rebekah from the back row give her a reassuring nod of the head.
What happened next was the most fascinating history class she had ever gone through. Clearly Not-Nik was teaching from outside of the textbook and from actual knowledge of the time. Bella wanted to drink it all in, just sit there and listen, but she quickly took notes. When the bell rang, she put her things away, only to feel Elena touch her arm.
“I know you’re new to town, but would you like to come to dinner tonight?”
“Dinner. It will be me, my boyfriend Stefan—you met, right?—my aunt, her boyfriend, Mr. Saltzman, and maybe my brother Jeremy. Heck, I might invite my boyfriend’s brother, Damon.”
This was her “in.” She just wasn’t sure she wanted to see Not-Nik with another woman. Clearly she had paused for too long.
“If it’s too soon—“
“No,” she said quickly, “I’d love to come. I’m just surprised. Er, what’s your number?” she took out her phone.
Rebekah was positively cooing on their way home. “You ate with them at lunch and you’re having dinner at the little doppleganger’s house. I love it. Plus, Nik will be there.”
“Yeah, in the body of someone much less attractive. I wonder if he still has to drink blood.” She looked out the window.
“No idea,” Rebekah murmured. “Anyway, I’ll drop you off. See if you can get Nik to drive you home, otherwise I’ll pick you up as well. Don’t get any of the humans to bring you. I don’t think any of us want them to know where we live.”
“Excellent point,” Bella mused.
She didn’t bother dressing up. She figured her Georgian styled dress was nice enough. Better than nice. Everyone seemed to wear jeans just like Forks.
“There she is!” a man said, opening the door. He was handsome with crystal clear blue eyes. He was dressed completely in black with a leather jacket. “Aren’t you just edible?”
“Sorry,” she quipped, noticing the lapus lazuli stone on his hand. “My blood is reserved.”
His eyebrow rose in obvious interest. “Elena!” he called. The girl came rushing. “Your little friend is here.”
Bella held out a bottle of expensive Merlot. “I know we’re underage, but I didn’t want to bring chocolate or flowers. Flowers are just—well—I hate them, and chocolate is for girls’ night.”
“Too true,” Elena agreed, taking the bottle. She waved her in. “Come on in.”
Bella crossed the threshold and nodded to the man.
Elena was chatting about the football game, apparently she was a cheerleader along with Rebekah, which made Bella think that perhaps they were going dancing Saturday night. At her eyebrows furrowing, the man leaned against the counter and asked, “What’s wrong, beautiful?”
“Oh, I’m supposed to go dancing with a couple of friends this weekend, and I assumed we were going Friday, but one of them is a cheerleader at Mystic High. I guess we must be going on Saturday.” She shrugged. “I must admit when she grabbed my hands and started twirling me around and was talking that quickly, I might have missed a few of the details.” She smiled at him.
The man laughed. “Well, enjoy yourself.”
“I’ve never been dancing,” she admitted. “It should prove interesting. Then again, I went to my first ball over Christmas. This seems to be the year for first experiences.”
She looked over at Elena who was cooking.
“What are you making?”
“Lasagna,” she replied. “Is that all right?”
“More than. Haven’t had it since November, I think.” She paused, thinking. “Yeah, November.”
The man looked at her. “So this ball…”
“I don’t even know your name,” she told him.
“Damon Salvatore,” he replied.
She looked at him quietly and then made a quick decision. This should play things up a bit. “Princess Isabella of the Original Coven.”
Stefan, who must have come in, started coughing. “Oh my God. Did you just say—?“
Elena was frozen.
Damon was looking at her with more interest. “A princess.”
“A princess,” she agreed. “I mean no harm. I merely wish to discover what is happening with the Curse of the Sun and the Moon. I think it’s highly dangerous.”
“Dangerous?” Elena asked carefully.
“There’s a balance,” Bella lied carefully. “Would you like to see it upset?—Now, who else is here?”
Damon offered his arm. “Princess,” he said, and she took it. He led her into the dining room where Not-Nik was waiting with a woman with red hair. “Alaric, Jenna, this is Bella. I think you know Mr. Saltzman, and Jenna is Elena’s aunt.”
“Pleasure,” she said, holding out the wine she brought. “I don’t know what your rules are about supervised drinking, but I brought a bottle of Merlot.”
Not-Nik’s eyes gleamed.
“Well,” Jenna’s eyes glimmered. “How kind of you. I don’t see how one glass would hurt.”
Bella smiled. “Perfect! My brother assures me it’s his favorite.”
“I thought your parents died in a car crash,” Damon said. “At least that’s what Elena said.”
“They did. I call my new guardian and his family my brothers and sister,” she informed. “They have made me a part of the family in every sense of the word. Now wasn’t there going to be a Jeremy?”
“He’s out,” Jenna put in.
Not-Nik’s eyes were following Bella closely and she snuck the occasional glance at him, trying not to be obvious about it.
“Well,” Bella said, “I hope he’s doing something fun and not stuck at the library doing homework.” She smiled again. “Is there anything I can help with? Set the table perhaps?”
Stefan came in with plates. “Just open the wine and let it breathe,” he suggested.
“I’m on it,” Damon said, releasing her.
Bella stood for a few moments, looking between Jenna and Not-Nik, before sitting down. Not-Nik took her cue, and sat directly across from her. Jenna left the room to get something.
Staring at her ring to show that he heard, Bella nodded and shrugged. His eyes twinkled and she couldn’t help but laugh lightly. “It got my point across, didn’t it?” she all but whispered.
Dinner was easy. The only hiccup was when Jenna moved in to kiss Not-Nic and Bella kicked him under the table. He didn’t even wince, but he did abort the kiss, much to Bella’s satisfaction and Jenna’s confusion.
When they were washing up, Elena began hesitantly. “I know it’s only Monday and I just met you, but we’re having a meeting on Wednesday to deal with—everything. I’m a pretty good judge of character and Damon and Stefan said that you seem to be on the right side—would you like to come?”
“I take it this has to do with the curse?” Bella asked quietly. She had heard the Salvatore brothers discuss her in the other room. Damon liked her boldness while Stefan found her openness and willingness to be human refreshing.
Elena nodded. “Then I would be honored. Text me the time and address tomorrow. I’ll be there.”
Of course, Not-Nic was the first to leave. It seemed that Jenna had expected him to stay, but fortunately he managed to weasel his way out of that one.
“Oh,” Bella said, “can you give me a ride back? I know it might be a bother, but—“
“I can take you home,” Damon offered.
“No,” Not-Nic said. “You stay with Elena and Stefan. I can manage. No need to worry.”
Damon seemed to be put out. Perhaps he wanted to marry into the royal family. Well, that certainly wasn’t going to happen.
Not-Nik escorted her to an old, run down car.
“Nice ride,” she quipped.
“Now, love, be nice,” he said. “I’m undercover.”
“So am I.”
“You declared yourself as part of the Original Coven,” he scoffed.
“It got Damon to trust me, didn’t it?” she argued. “I got Stefan to trust me, then Elena, thanks for that, by the way, and then Damon, all within a day! I think that was a good day’s work.”
They were driving out now.
“I could kiss you, but I know how much you would dislike that, darling,” he murmured as they drove through the quiet streets.
“I—“ she paused. “I don’t want you to break your cover, but if it’s at all possible, I want you to break up with Jenna. I know you won’t have unfettered access to your doppleganger, but—I can’t bear the thought—“
“I’m Damon’s drinking buddy,” he argued quietly. “Consider it done by the end of the week.” He made to reach for her hand, but then they each moved their hands away from each other. They were hesitant about touching each other while he was in another’s body.
“I love you,” she murmured. “Have you heard about the mall—?”
“On the news,” he answered quietly. “It sounded like Kol.”
“It was the both of us,” she admitted. “I was angry with you for leaving without saying goodbye. Why didn’t you wake me up and kiss me goodbye?” Bella looked over at him with sad brown eyes.
He glanced over. “Because it would have hurt too much,” he answered. “I don’t approve of Kol’s—excesses—but if you feel you need to take out your anger or any other emotion that way, Kol will keep you safe. I know you’re smart about feeding, that you can control it. Just be careful.”
“I will,” she promised. “Come home soon.”
“As soon as can be,” he murmured.
They pulled up to the mansion and carefully she reached out and trailed her fingertips down his cheek. “I miss you,” she murmured before getting out of the car.
She cried herself to sleep that night. When she opened up a gift that evening, she found the earrings he had given her for Christmas when she was fifteen. She realized that they were spelled lapus lazuli. A failsafe. Quickly taking out her earrings in her second hole, she put them in. Now, even if someone ripped the ring from her finger, she would be safe. Niklaus always protected her.
Leather. Brown. Boots that matched and her matching coat and gloves. She didn’t bother with a purse. She had her keys in her pocket. Fortunately, Elijah had purchased her a car, an old Rolls Royce that she absolutely adored.
“Princess,” Damon greeted as she entered.
She took off her glove and presented her right hand with her signet ring. He kissed it respectfully. “Mr. Damon,” she greeted.
Damon looked over at Stefan pointedly, who came over and bowed. “Princess.”
Damon then gestured for a blonde girl—Caroline—to come over. “May I present Miss Caroline of the Salvatore Coven?” She curtseyed. Clearly she had been coached.
“Miss Caroline,” she greeted. “You are loveliness itself.”
“Thank you,” she said, smiling. “I’ve seen you in some of my classes. Are you going to be at the game on Friday?”
“It seems that way,” she answered. She noticed that Tyler was there and looked happy about it. “My sister is one of your cheerleaders.”
“Oh, which one?”
She leaned in and whispered, “I’ll make it a game. You have three guesses.” Bella then laughed kindly. She’d gotten far bolder as a vampire.
Next, she was led to a seat and listened. When Elijah was called, she bit the inside of her mouth. This was going to be hilarious. When he entered, their eyes met, each asking if they should play the game. It seemed like a consensus was made.
“Princess,” he greeted as she stood.
“Your Majesty,” she replied, taking his hand and curtseying. “It’s been too long,” her eyes laughing. They’d seen each other just an hour and a half before. “Now. Klaus. Whatever is he doing? I can’t figure it out exactly. Then again, I am a little new to this. I know only what he wants me to know, and currently that is nothing.”
“You’re in contact?” someone asked.
“Barely,” she answered. “He’s fond of me, though. He is my maker, after all.”
What she didn’t mention is that they texted several times a day on his Niklaus cell phone and sometimes she would sneak into his apartment and they would just have wine together and talk about the past and the future and what it might hold.
“The entire coven is fond of her,” Elijah argued. “However, that is beside the point. Klaus is our main objective.”
The next time Bella saw Elena, the girl was trying to hold back tears. “Ric broke up with Jenna and no one seems to know why,” she confessed to Bella over lunch. “It was horrible. He went out with Jenna and she came home crying after less than an hour. She’s locked herself in her room and won’t come out.”
“How strange,” Bella said, trying not to smile. “Maybe something happened?”
“Maybe,” she sniffed. “He won’t talk to me or Jeremy. He seems to like you. Perhaps you can talk to him?”
“Me? I—I guess I could—but—“
Elena grasped her hand. “Thank you.”
Of course, Bella claimed she found out nothing at all. She knew the reason and smiled widely at Not-Nik when she knew only he could see, and he nodded at her in recognition. There. He wouldn’t be expected to sleep with that horrid woman or even kiss her. Niklaus had been hers for years, and she wasn’t giving him up, even if he was undercover and in someone else’s body.
The football game was interesting. Tyler had come up to her and tried to kiss her, but she turned away so he had only managed to kiss her cheek.
She’d never been one for sports and Kol teased her the entire time. “Aw, the werewolf has a crush.”
“Shut up,” she murmured. “Why did I even invite you?”
“So you’d have someone to sit with,” he answered. “And because I’m the best brother you’ve ever had. Let’s just remember that wonderful time we had at the mall.”
She smiled at him. That had been quite freeing. “I don’t want a repeat tomorrow, though,” she warned. “I just want to learn how to dance.”
“You will,” he promised. “The three of us are all beginners, so just grab a human who seems to know what he’s doing and you’ll be fine.”
The crowd erupted around them and stood.
“Looks like something important just happened,” Bella commented. “I hope it wasn’t whatever a ‘touchdown’ is that Tyler will dedicate to me.”
“Tell him you’re engaged.”
She glared at him. “I’d have to give a name.”
“No you wouldn’t,” Kol argued, as everyone settled back down in their seats. “It’s called evasion.—and if it comes to it, I offer myself up as a willing sacrifice.”
“As if you’re not going home with one of these beauties tonight,” she scoffed.
“Actually, I already have a date lined up. Everyone in this stadium is safe.” He winked at her.
“Just keep it down this time. The last one was a screamer.”
“That she was,” he grinned wolfishly. “And so tasty, too.”
Bella rolled her eyes. “This needs to end. I hate sports.”
“We’re only in the first quarter,” he said, looking at the clock.
She put her head in her hands and groaned. This was not good. At all. Part of her wanted to just leave Rebekah stranded and go back to the mansion and watch a movie. Or suck someone dry. She may have excellent control, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t love carnage.
Strobe lights colored the room and Bella just swayed to the music. Some man’s hands were on her hips, moving up and down, and part of her felt sick. She turned around to get a better look, and all she saw was a faceless stranger. No, she didn’t like this. She didn’t like this at all.
Perhaps he’d make an excellent snack.
“Buy me a drink,” she whispered in his ear, and he nodded gladly.
They didn’t say much. She would glance at him occasionally as she drank her whiskey, while he would just drink her in. Then, she led him to the back door, swishing her hair enticingly.
She left him in the garbage disposal. Well, the night hadn’t been a total waste after all.
Well, at least she had practice dancing. There was the 1920s dance next at school. Rebekah had dressed her in white to symbolize her “purity,” which she claimed Niklaus would like, but Bella ended up running after Not-Nik while he chased after the doppleganger.
Rebekah naturally followed. They were hiding behind a corner, watching as Not-Nik had the others trapped, when he called out, “Enjoying the show, ladies?”
“Not much,” Rebekah answered. “The landscape isn’t ideal.”
“I wonder how the woods are,” Bella mused to herself. “I really must give them a try.”
“What are you doing, Bella?” Elena called out, shocked.
“She’s curious,” Not-Nick responded. “She’s been curious since she was a little girl. I should know. Bella learned how to balance a checkbook at age eleven, partly out of necessity but also because she was curious to see if she could do it.”
Damon just looked shocked.
Elena was horrified.
“I did say he was my maker,” Bella explained to no one in particular.
“Hurry along, ladies. This doesn’t concern you.” Bella could hear the grin in his voice.
Rebekah pulled her arm. “Come on. We can go hunting, if you like. In the forest.”
“They’re too paranoid about us here,” she complained, leaving but glancing back.
“We’ll go to West Virginia, then, after we get changed.”
However, they never quite made it. Bella got a text while she was packing saying that the transformation from one body to another was happening soon. With a quick goodbye to Rebekah, she hurried off to Not-Nik’s apartment.
He was there, sitting in a chair, blood pumping into his veins and Bella just ran to him, touching his face gently. “Niklaus,” she murmured, reaching up and kissing him gently. “You returned to me.”
“I said I would, love,” he joked, his voice a bit raspy. He drew her in for another kiss. “I can come home in a few hours.”
“So soon,” she murmured, pushing a hand through his hair.
They waited out the early morning hours together until Alaric’s body fell to the floor and Niklaus was able to stand and pick up Bella in one fell swoop. “I suppose you didn’t bring a car.”
“No,” she said. “I came by foot.”
“Well, then. I suppose we’ll just have to leave that way.”
He didn’t take her to the violet room but to a room of blues instead, once they were back at the manor. He was only wearing a pair of jeans and he shimmied them off before pulling her shirt over her head.
“Niklaus—I’m not ready—“ she gasped in between heated kisses.
“I just want to sleep with you by my side,” he argued, finding her a tshirt and giving it to her, before motioning to the bathroom.
Bella looked carefully between him and the door before stepping inside and removing her bra and throwing the tshirt over her head. She stepped back out and saw he was already in bed. Carefully, she climbed in next to him and curled up in his arms. She was asleep in no time.
Damon was not happy. In fact, he was shouting at her. Bella had tuned out several minutes earlier. However, when he snapped his fingers in front of her face, she reared up. “Is this how you behave in front of royalty?” she demanded. “I’m young. I was curious. Sue me!”
Alaric—no longer Not-Nic—looked between them. “Who is this?”
“Not now,” Damon waved him off. He turned back to Bella. “I bet you knew the whole time that Klaus was impersonating Ric!”
“How should I know? I hardly know the man outside of class! I would get occasional text messages inquiring as to my health and diet, and a reminder not to eat the doppleganger. That bit was actually funny, if I must admit.”
“So what is he planning now?”
“To take me hunting in a forest,” she said slowly, as if Damon were stupid. “I did express an interest.”
Caroline actually laughed quietly.
Stefan took over. “So, he views you like a daughter. He said he knew you when you were eleven.”
“Right,” she said, pushing through them. “As interesting as this social experiment has been, having been questioned by social inferiors, I’m going to go hang with royalty now. Perhaps I’ll call the Volturi and arrange a royal visit. I haven’t seen them in over a month.” She stepped toward the door and waited for it.
If she had guessed correctly, Damon had a bit of a crush on her.
“Wait!” he said, and she turned, clearly not amused. “I beg your pardon, your highness. We merely worry for Elena’s safety.”
“I worry for Elena’s safety,” she argued, lying through her teeth. “However, I have no power over Niklaus in this matter. Nor does Elijah, nor Rebekah, I would imagine. We may be of the same coven, but we are of different minds.”
“Do you know where he is?” Elena asked.
She looked at her watch dramatically. “He’s a bit of a night owl, so I would assume he’s out and about.”
There was a knock on the door. Bella looked at it and then, glancing behind her, opened it. The grinning face of Niklaus presented itself. He knew the game, so he let her play it.
She curtseyed deeply, a hand on her heart. “Your majesty.”
“Your royal highness,” he greeted, motioning for her to rise and kissing her on each cheek. “I hear you want to go hunting and I’ve come to collect you.”
Bella smirked at him. “I like my food scared and begging.”
He sighed. “You take after my brother far too much.”
“Kol has been a great comfort in your absence.”
His eyes flashed dangerously. “I hope not in every way. The violet room is sacred and I hope you never left its bounds or allowed anyone across the threshold.”
Everyone was listening with rapt attention.
“Of course not. You made that room for me. I only meant that Kol took me hunting. Although I have Elijah’s precision, I do not quite care for it, nor for seduction. It feels like cheating, and I’m hardly unfaithful to those I set my mind to.”
His eyes flashed. “Then let us get you food that is ‘scared and begging’,” he teased, “that will give you a good chase. You’re all packed. I know the perfect camp grounds.” He paused. “Do you like children?”
“Not under fifteen. I’m not a monster, Niklaus.”
“I’ll compel them,” he answered, leading her out the door.
She waved her hand behind her in farewell before they were gone. Bella stifled a laugh as they got into Alaric’s car. “Really?” she asked.
“They’ll blame him if there are any witnesses.”
“Too true,” she agreed and then they were roaring off into the night.
Nearly twelve hours later, sated and covered in blood, they lay in a blood stained tent. The bodies of the original occupants had been thrown somewhere into the woods.
“You’ve never said it,” she murmured, feeling Niklaus brush the dried blood through her hair. “We’re soulmates, but you’ve never said it.” They’d never talked about the dreams, but surely that’s what they meant, right? Bella could think of no other explanation.
“I love you,” he whispered, lifting her chin so he could look into her eyes. “You know I do.”
She leaned up and pressed a chaste kiss against his lips and smiled. “Even though I’m a bit wild?”
“I like it, actually,” he murmured. “In Kol it’s just annoying. But with you—well—you just look sexy, covered in blood. You’re even better than a ripper with your cool precision.—Do you love me?”
She smiled self-consciously and nodded, tucking her head beneath his chin. He only held her tighter.
“Let’s be married on your birthday,” he mused. “In September.”
“Do you want to wait to be together until then?” she whispered, her voice barely audible above the sound of the crickets chirping.
“That depends, Princess Isabella,” he murmured. “We may not be able to keep our hands off of each other with such displays like this campsite.”
He pushed her chin up and claimed her lips in a searing kiss to show just how much passion he held for her. She sucked in a breath through her nose and sighed happily.
“I love you,” she murmured as he pulled away.
“I know, Isabella. I’ve known for years.”
She and Rebekah were sitting in the Grill when Caroline came up to them. “I’m the only one willing to talk,” she explained to Bella, “who’s not Damon, that is. They’re all spooked by your relationship with Klaus.”
“I think they should make a movie out of it,” Rebekah put in helpfully. “The Vampire and the Virgin. Sounds lovely, doesn’t—ow!”
Bella had hit her arm, but now she was smiling sweetly. “Give us a moment, Bekah?”
“I’m telling Elijah you hit me!” she teased.
“You can explain why,” she countered. “I think he’ll agree with me.”
When Rebekah was gone, Caroline just looked confused. “The Vampire and the Virgin? Are you and Klaus—?”
“It’s her way of teasing me,” she shrugged it off. “I never got much attention until my first and really only boyfriend, and he was rather stuck in 1901.”
“Ah,” Caroline said as she slid into the booth. “Now. You and Klaus.”
“What about Niklaus?”
“Are you sure you can’t get his plans out of him? According to Damon, who sounded awfully jealous at the time, it’s clear he ‘adores’ you. Surely you’d be able to wheedle something out of him—perhaps during a hunting trip?” She smiled sweetly.
“You want me to use a maker bond, if I’m getting this straight, and abuse it?” she asked. “How could you be so low, Caroline? I may want to stop the ritual, but that does not mean I want to abuse Niklaus’s trust in such a fundamental way. How do you feel about your maker?”
“Katherine? I hate her. I’d do anything to shove a stake through her heart.”
Bella’s eyebrows rose. “Katerina Petrova? Really?” She laughed. “That’s just priceless. I can see why you would have such a reaction.”
“But you don’t have the same reaction to Klaus, even though he’s a hundred times worse.”
“I’ve known Niklaus since I was ten,” Bella argued. “He was there for me during the darkest time of my human life. Why would I ever betray that except to keep the status quo? I don’t want him to become a Hybrid. It’s too dangerous. I want him to stay my Niklaus, the one to give me diamonds on my thirteenth birthday, not something that potentially has no feelings or couldn’t care less for a girl who’s just a vampire.”
“You love him,” Caroline realized.
Bella looked up, shocked.
“You’re in love with him. It all makes sense now. He turned you to be with you—you’re the first to somehow gain a place in the ‘family’ or ‘coven.’ Oh my God. Klaus is actually in love.”
“Of course he isn’t,” she argued. “Once a ten year old, always a ten year old.”
“I’m not so sure. When was your eighteenth birthday?”
Bella stared at her. “This is getting ridiculous,” she said, standing. “I really must go home. I’m sure you have cheerleading for basketball. I know Rebekah is probably already there, since I kicked her out of here.” She began walking away when Caroline hurried toward her.
“What should I tell Damon?”
“Whatever you damn well please,” she sniped back, pretending to feel irritated.
This had just played right into her hands. She could play the concerned lover whose beliefs and feelings were being ignored, and her credibility just skyrocketed.
“Is it all in place?” Niklaus asked Elijah one last time.
“I snatch Elena. Kol’s turning that dreadful aunt into a vampire. The werewolf’s been chosen.”
“I grabbed the moonstone,” Rebekah piped in, “and I’ll stay here and watch Bella in case her curiosity takes over.”
Bella just sat on the couch, looking into her goblet of blood, not saying a word. She was trying not to cry. Everything was going to plan. She had even found a reference saying that the doppleganger had to remain alive for the hybrids to be transformed. At least she was of some use other than spying.
“Love,” Niklaus said, leaning in front of her.
Bella suddenly noticed the room was empty except for the two of them.
“I may be gone for a few days. Kol will come and tell you whether or not it was successful.” He then leaned in and claimed her lips.
The kiss was soft, filled with hope of the future and love.
“Promise not to forget me,” she whispered when he drew away.
“I won’t be a different person, darling,” he promised as he stared into her eyes. “I will always come back to you.”
“Always and forever,” she murmured.
“Always and forever,” he agreed.
Elena was alive. Niklaus still hadn’t returned and Bella was standing in the Salvatore boarding house, watching as Elena and Stefan whispered to each other.
“They aren’t in love,” Damon whispered into her ear so that only she could hear.
She nodded in agreement. “It’s puppy love, I think,” she agreed. “He’s too hung up on the fact that she looks like Katerina, if I’m not mistaken. She’s just a nicer version—and, well, she’s still just seventeen.”
“How long have you been seventeen?” Damon asked quietly.
She glanced at him. “Not that long,” she admitted. “I died on my way to Mystic Falls. Fortunately I had Niklaus’s blood in me as a precaution.”
“Did you want to wait?”
The question made her pause and think. “Ideally. However, nature didn’t give me that option. I would have rather died, sleeping next to Niklaus and Rebekah, than in a hospital bed, which was my other option.” She looked back at Stefan and Elena. “She’ll grow up.”
“Who’s to say my brother will?”
“He’s had over a century. If he hasn’t by now, I doubt he ever will,” she laughed quietly. “Now, it’s time to see if the hunt has gone well. Although I could only partially stop the curse from being broken by saving Elena’s life, I am curious to see what Niklaus is like as a werewolf.”
“Caroline said you were in love with him,” Damon accused.
“I’m sure Caroline says a great many things,” Bella quipped back.
Damon came up to her and held her chin.
“I am your princess, Mr. Salvatore. I shouldn’t have to remind you of that fact.”
He stared into her eyes. “And yet I’m trying to determine if this princess is more likely to love a king or might be tempted to even go on a date with a commoner.” His blue eyes searched hers before letting her chin go. He then turned back to Elena and Stefan.
Perhaps he had found his answer. Perhaps he had not. She didn’t really need an answer.
She left by the front door and wondered when she would be seeing them again.
“Honey, I’m home,” Niklaus whispered into her ear just as she was falling asleep, and Bella immediately sat up and hugged him. He was covered in dirt and blood but she didn’t care.
Their lips met sensuously and passionately and soon they were clawing at each other’s clothing.
“Are you sure?” he asked her, as he hovered above her. She was still beneath the covers, but he was holding himself above her, his face stained with dirt, not that it mattered.
She pulled back her hair to expose her neck and he bit into it, while hastily pulling away the covers that separated them.
All was right. All was as it should be.
Always and Forever.