Part Three: Welcome to Wherever You Are

Welcome To Wherever You AreI do not own Twilight or The Vampire Diaries. Remember, This is an alternate universe and does not follow canon timelines. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think in the comments section!

It was three days later when Bella opened her eyes to the bright afternoon sun streaming from the windows. She squeezed her eyes shut, muttering curses under her breath about the fact that they had forgotten to close the curtains – again. Her lips twitched into a smile over the reason why…after all, both of them had been much too distracted to worry about such things.

She turned her head, taking in the appearance of the vampire next to her. He was nude, the sheets barely covering his form. It sent a shiver through her and just looking at him had her wanting more. She brushed aside her desire, then lightly kissed his shoulder. She got up out of bed, skipping towards the bathroom. Yes, she skipped.

Her entire being was filled with a sense of joy that equaled a complete state of nirvana. Bella decided at that moment love was indeed a wonderful thing. Sure, she supposed the notion sounded cheesy, but it was the truth. She compared it to a roller coaster that started slow…then it dipped and took one for all kinds of unexpected loops, twirls and spins…it was the ultimate adrenaline rush.

Bella found herself so damned giddy that she could almost swear she was high. Yeah…high on Damon, she thought. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror, taking note of her glowing face and the sparkle in her eyes. “So, that’s what an afterglow looks like.” she whispered out loud.

She blushed while shaking her head, almost embarrassed by what she had said. She looked down at her arms and legs, noting there were no bruises. Then she realized it was probably because Damon had given her his blood the night before.

She’d been reluctant at first, knowing that the smell could make her sick. The first time she drank his blood, she was knocked out cold. The second time, she had been more interested in staying alive, so the thought of what was taking place never had a chance to enter her mind.  When he suggested that she partake in drinking it while fully aware of the action made her stomach instantly flip-flop.

Of course, Damon was undeterred by her reluctance and turned it into a game. She was unable to resist the seductive gleam in his eyes as he bit into his index finger. Then, he sensually smeared the blood across her lips and kissed her. That had led to a make out session – their tongues doing a fierce tango, with passion burning between them.

Bella didn’t mind one little bit because the thought of blood all but left her as she succumbed to the unbridled lust that coursed through her body. She was a novice at the whole sexual experience, whereas he had over a century and a half to master the art of making love. Every move he made with his hands were with tenderness and with intent to pleasure her. He had ran his fingers delicately through her hair, then to her collarbone. When he reached her breast, there were feather light touches as his thumb brushed against her nipple. It was a heady mixture of pure bliss that left her craving more. She had arched her back, indulging in the moment.

He flicked his tongue along her neck and when she felt the pressure of his fangs; she tensed briefly, remembering her attack. Damon responded by holding her closer to him so that their bodies were flush. He then peppered kisses on her throat before gently biting down. He palmed her breast just as he wrapped his lips around the wound and slowly drank from her.

The feeling of arousal overwhelmed her almost immediately – she found herself nearly intoxicated.  So much so, she didn’t even flinch when he brought his hand up to his own neck and made a small cut. He pulled back briefly, looking into her eyes before guiding her head towards the small droplets that left a trail there. She tentatively licked at them, tasting the flavor. He sighed contentedly, closing his eyes as he leaned forward, then pressed his lips voraciously to her throat once more. His reaction spurned her on, so she latched her mouth onto his neck and drank from him. His blood tasted different from the night of the attack – it was sweeter, richer and unlike anything she’d ever tasted. She drank greedily from him, finding his blood to be it nothing short of divine.

The more Bella drank, the closer she felt to him. The feeling was intense as she found herself consumed by his taste, his touch, and his scent. The world seemed to disappear around them while they lost themselves in each other – it was like they were two souls merged together as one. She suddenly found herself starting to climax, and tightly curled her hands around Damon’s shoulders, anticipating the freefall that she knew was coming. A guttural moan escaped his lips while he wrapped his fingers within her hair, tugging at it lightly as he bit down a little harder.

When he finally pulled away from her, she took in the sight of his blood stained lips, considering it incredibly sexy. She surged forward and kissed him, then erotically licked her own blood off his lips. That had led to other things…

She stood in the bathroom with a smile on her face, recalling the memory.

“Well, good morning… my little minx.”

Bella snorted in amusement at the moniker, turning to face him. “Good morning to you, too.” she greeted affectionately.

Damon smirked, “Thinking about the good time we had on that counter yesterday? Hmm?”

“You do realize that we haven’t left this suite for three days?”

He shrugged, “Why ever would we need to? We can order room service! We have a bed, a shower and I can tap a vein…right there.” he said playfully, kissing a spot on her neck.

Bella giggled as she hugged him to her.

“Unfortunately though,” he spoke with a bit of reluctance, “we do need to head to Mystic Falls.”

She took in a nervous breath, “I hope they like me…”

Damon took his index finger and raised her chin, making her meet his eyes, “It doesn’t matter if they do or if they don’t. I like you… that’s all you need to worry about.”

She smiled with a teasing glint in her eyes, “I thought you said that you loved me.”

He rolled his eyes, “I might’ve… once or twice.” He then wiggled his eyebrows at her.

She laughed, “I might’ve said I love you, too…”

“Actually, there was one time you screamed it…”

She cocked an eyebrow, “Damon?”

He smirked, “Yes, Minxy?”

Bella gaped at him, completely thrown off guard. “M-Minxy? What the fuck!?”

“I happen to have a thing for nicknames and that one sounds way better than Klutzy!” He batted his eyes as he bopped her on the nose, “Don’t ya think?”

Her nose scrunched up in disapproval, “Sounds corny…”

Damon looked to the ceiling for a moment as of in thought, “Hmm. How about Vixen?”

“Ughh! No!!” she grumbled before adding, “Rhymes with Blitzen…and you do realize that all the names you’ve given me so far are just a fancy way of saying I’m a slut?”

“You’re my slut…” he joked.

She scoffed in jest, “Well…I’d have to be a one-man slut because you’re the only guy I’ve been with and I hope to keep it that way.”

He smirked devilishly, “Oh you will!”  Then he whispered into her ear, “Want to know why?”

Bella nodded shyly.

Damon’s smirk transformed into a salacious grin, “Because I am going to definitely ruin you for anyone else…”

Her cheeks reddened as she shook her head. She gently pushed him aside and made her way to the bedroom. “We better get ready if you want to head home today. Does Stefan know you’re coming?”

“Yep!” he responded, walking up behind her and wrapping his arms around her. “How about some breakfast first?” he asked casually.

“I’m not hungry and you just fed yesterday.” she murmured softly, snuggling into his embrace.

He chuckled provocatively, “I don’t mean that kind of breakfast, Isabella.”

She spun around to face him with a shocked expression while he glanced down upon her with a playful leer. Before she could say a word, he had blurred them over to the bed, then tossed her in it. The word insatiable came to her mind as she thought of her vampire. God help her… she absolutely loved it.

Three hours later, they were on the Interstate headed towards Mystic Falls. It wouldn’t be a long trip; just over an hour. The closer they got to their destination, the more nervous she became. Bella wanted Stefan and the others to like her. She didn’t expect them to accept her right away, but hoped they would at least be friendly towards her.

It had been quiet in the car for the most part. That was, until Damon clasped his hand over her fidgeting fingers.

“Stop!” he ordered sharply.

She glanced over at him, not saying a word. She gazed into his icy-blue eyes, letting out a jittery sigh.

“They will love you.” he said with assurance.

“You don’t know that! They could hate me because of what we have and you’re not exactly sitting around pining for Elena like everyone expects you to -”

He cut her off. “Isabella, they know Elena wanted me happy.”

He blew out a breath, licked his lips and professed reverently, “You make me happy.”  He then took her hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles.

That set aside her reservations a little bit, so she settled into the passenger seat, holding on to his hand as if her life depended on it; just watching the world whiz by.

Bella damn near bolted upright in her seat when they zipped past the ‘Welcome to Mystic Falls’ sign. It immediately made her think of the day Charlie had picked her up at the airport to drive her home to his house in Forks. She painfully regretted ever making the decision to move there; just so her mother could enjoy the honeymoon phase with her new husband. That one decision led her to falling love with Edward, almost dying, and losing her family. She flinched as she recalled how happy her dad had been to have her with him. She could still remember the pride in his voice while he told her about the truck he had gotten her – the same truck Damon had convinced her to leave in Savannah.

She bit down on her bottom lip as a tear rolled down her cheek. She knew the sign was an omen, but was it a good omen or bad omen? Even after everything she had been through, she still held hope it would be a good one. After all, her choices had led her to Damon and he was the best thing that ever happened to her.

Damon had been right, she thought. Mere objects weren’t needed in remembrance of those she lost; her parents and her best friend would always live in her heart. She vowed then and there to never forget them.

“What’s with the waterworks?” he asked softly, interrupting her thoughts.

She wiped the tear from her cheek, smiling wanly. “I was just reminded of my dad and when I moved to Forks…”

He nodded, gently squeezing her hand. “How about we ride around for a little while? I want to see how much they fucked things up…”

“Damon!” she chided.

“Well, the kids don’t usually get it done right unless I’m around.” he said with an edge of cockiness to his voice.

Bella rolled her eyes, then looked out the window, but couldn’t help herself as a grin spread across her face. He was the most confident being she had ever met and had an enormous ego. She found it annoying at times, even though it only added to his charm.

Bella’s grin broadened as they came upon the town. She was completely enthralled by the brick buildings that surrounded a circular pavilion. Although the structures had obviously been rebuilt or restored, she couldn’t help but love the old world charm; it was like being back in another time. She eyed the clock tower and immediately thought of Back to the Future. She half-expected to see Marty McFly speed down the road in a DeLorean.

Damon had pointed out certain places to her, like the Mystic Grill, the town’s library and an ice cream shop. When they travelled up the road, they took in the newly built Mystic Falls Hospital with its mix of classic and modern style architecture.  There were two small wings connected to the main structure by glass causeways. She took note of the brick pillars at the entryway, along with the intricate stonework that surrounded it. The detail and design of the buildings gave her a chill, for she was instantly reminded of Esme Cullen.

She shook off the feeling and reminded herself that she would probably never see them again. She knew deep down that she’d always hold an anger and a sense of betrayal towards the Cullen family, especially Edward. In fact, she felt entitled to it because if they had simply stayed and taken out Victoria to begin with; she would have never lost her family, nor would she have lost her best friend.

Bella didn’t care about the years she spent running and being hunted. None of that mattered because in the end, she found out who she was as a person. It made her stronger – it led her to Damon. She philosophized that for every bad thing that happened to her, something extraordinarily good came out of it. Even if the past few years had been hell for her, she persevered it. Not only that, she became the woman she wanted to be and last but not least, she found the love her life.

She reasoned that their cruel abandonment was actually the biggest favor they ever did for her. Though, she hoped the perfect human existence the Cullens’ coveted would not be as perfect as they expected. She wanted them held accountable for their hypocrisy and blatant denial of what they were.  She believed they’d get their due – karma was the ultimate bitch, after all. Her one wish in regards to them was that she’d get to see it in action.

When Damon pulled up in front of a rather old house, Bella found herself mesmerized by how beautiful it was.

He smirked as she gasped, looking over the house with wide eyes. “Welcome to the Salvatore Boarding House.”

“This is your house!?” she asked, full of awe.

He tsked and replied, “Mine and Stefan’s, yes.”

“It’s…exquisite!” she proclaimed breathlessly.

He rolled his eyes and escorted her into the house. There, she took in the paneled walls and the antiques with wonderment.

“Wow!” she said in a dazed whisper, completely enthralled by her surroundings.

He shrugged nonchalantly, “It’s just a bunch of old stuff we’ve collected over the years…” He nodded to the swords over the fireplace, “Those were our father’s.”

He gestured to the crystal on the liquor cart, “Those were one of the few things that actually withstood the fire of the original Salvatore mansion. I’ll have to take you to the ruins sometime. That is, if Steffie didn’t clean it up…”

A figure walked into the room and softly spoke, “No, I didn’t clean it up. I think it was the only place you didn’t touch when you-”

He abruptly stopped speaking as his gaze landed upon Bella. “You must be Isabella.”

She nodded with a shy smile, offering her hand for him to take. “And you’re Stefan, I presume?”

“The one and only.” he replied with a cordial smile, politely shaking her hand.

“Please, call me Bella.”

“Well hello to you too, brother.” Damon said with more than a touch of sarcasm before casually wrapping his arms around Stefan’s shoulders. He looked over towards his girl with a mischievous glint in his eyes, “So, now you’ve met The Ripper!”

He then turned his head towards his brother, “What do you think, Stef? You wanna take a bite?”

Stefan’s eyes widened in shock while Bella simply giggled at her boyfriend’s antics.

“Bella, I assure you… I won’t be doing anything of the sort.” he stated reassuringly.

He peered studiously at the couple, realizing there was something special between the two of them. He was elated, knowing his older sibling had finally found true happiness and love.

“She tastes exquisite!”  Damon declared, to which Stefan shook his head, then wryly smiled towards Bella.

She shrugged as the tap, tap, tap of heels could be heard in the foyer. Bella glanced up, noticing a beautiful blonde girl.

Damon nodded in greeting, “Caroline, this is Isabella – she prefers Bella, though.”

Caroline took in the girl’s deep brown eyes and friendly smile. Stefan had already told her Damon met someone and she had been prepared to hate the girl on sight. However, there was something endearing about the petite brunette in front of her, causing her to smile warmly. She even opened her arms to hug her.

Bella shot a confused look to the boys, who both chuckled. She was totally taken by surprise, considering Damon once told her that Caroline didn’t take to newcomers well and was often suspicious of them.

After introductions, they all sat cozily in front of the fireplace, getting to know one another. Bella learnt that Stefan was the exact opposite of his brother in personality. Yet, she could see that they shared the same sense of loyalty, honor and respect for those they cared about. The sibling bond between them was undeniable, no matter how much they would find ways to annoy one another.

She found that she really liked Caroline, although the girl could be a bit too exuberant at times. She was sweet and compassionate, albeit a bit too inquisitive for Bella’s tastes. It seemed like she expected to get her life story right off the bat! After a few snippy answers, Caroline backed off and moved to lighter topics of conversation. From there, a friendship was born.

The next morning, Bella was in her boyfriend’s bedroom haphazardly tossing clothes out of her bag, desperately searching for something to wear for a lunch meeting with Bonnie that Caroline had arranged. She wasn’t one that normally put much thought into what she should wear, but hearing from Damon just how judgmental the little witch was, she wanted the odds in her favor to make a good first impression. To say she was nervous would be a vast understatement – she was damned near petrified.

Damon stood at the threshold of the bedroom, his arms crossed wearing an expression of amusement. “You know, if you unpack…you just might find something…”

She turned her head to him with a glare upon her face, “When have I had the time? We just got here yesterday! We spent ages talking with Stefan and Caroline, not to mention…” she then cleared her throat with a smile, “our other activities.”

He sighed, walked over and removed the article of clothing from her hands. “You’re worried about meeting the witch, aren’t you?”

She grimaced, hating how he could read her so easily.

“It will be fine. You’ve already won over Blondie. Believe me, that’s a feat in itself. The only thing Bonnie will hold against you is that fact you’re with me, but that’s more about me than you. She’ll like you…then, she’ll tell you in a thousand and one ways how evil I am.”

She laughed, “I know how evil you are…”

He smirked, “And sexy, charming, irresistible…”

She laughed again and shook her head, “That you may be, but I know you’re also an ass!” She arched her brow to emphasize her point before focusing her attention back to her bag and digging through it.

“What in the hell do I wear for meeting judgy little witches?” Bella muttered under her breath.

Damon bumped her aside with his hip, dug through the bag and pulled out a white sleeveless top, “Well, if you want to seem innocent and virginal…you wear this. But you’re not quite that pure, anymore.” He wiggled his eyebrows just as he tossed the shirt on the floor. “So…that one goes in the ‘no’ pile.”

He pulled out a flowy red tank top, “If you want to exude power and confidence… you wear this.” He then threw it on the bed. “That’s the ‘maybe’ pile.”

He grabbed a black button-down shirt, “Now, if you want to be sexy and mysterious, you wear this.”

Bella snatched it from him, “Says the man that only wears black…”

She took another look at the shirt. “And you can almost see through that! I don’t remember buying that!!”

Damon chuckled, “No, you didn’t. But I did.” He then tugged at the neckline of her tank top and unashamedly peered down at her breasts. “You could just stay home and entice your boyfriend…”

Her cheeks turned scarlet as she gaped up at him, “Seriously?!”

“Hmm, hmm.” was the reply while scanning her lasciviously from head to toe.

She scowled at him, grabbed a pair of jeans from the bag, picked up the white shirt from the floor, and stomped off into the bathroom.

He threw his hands in the air with a grin, “I was only trying to help! Women these days!”

He jaunted out of the room, then made his way downstairs towards the liquor cart in the parlor.

“Sounds like you met your match.”

He snapped his head to the familiar voice of his brother and nodded. “Feisty little thing, isn’t she?”

Stefan smiled, “Yeah… I think she and Caroline hit it off last night and I wouldn’t be surprised if they got close.”

“What did you think of her?” he quietly asked.

“I like her. She’s beautiful, smart, kindhearted, and brutally honest. I have to say it – a much better match for you than Elena ever was.”

Damon said not a word, taking a sip of Bourbon. He wouldn’t voice it aloud, but Stefan’s opinion mattered to him and so did Bonnie’s. While he was glad Blondie had taken to his girl, he had some uncertainty about the witch. If he were to be completely honest, he was just waiting for someone to yell at him because he fell in love with another while Elena rest in a magical coma. The little group had criticized him before for far less than that.

“You’re anxious about her meeting Bonnie, aren’t you?” his younger sibling asked.

“Maybe a little…but I don’t think Isabella will put up with any of her judgy crap, or allow her to condemn me. I actually hope the witch likes her.”

“You never did go into detail about her past…” Stefan timidly commented.

“And that is HER story to tell, not mine.”  he bluntly stated just as Caroline waltzed into the room.

Damon eyed the female vampire down, “Don’t pepper her with too many questions today. She’s been through a lot and if and when she wants you to know about it, she’ll tell you!”

“Okay…” she said with a nod just as Bella bounded down the stairs.  The conversation suddenly halted as they watched her enter the room.

“Gee, guys! You really need to get some lessons on how to not so obvious you were talking about the person that just walked in the room!”

Damon snorted loudly as he draped an arm around her shoulders. Caroline giggled and Stefan just smiled.

“I love your outfit!” the blonde remarked.

Bella tugged at the black shirt she’d swiped from Damon’s closet, her cheeks tinting pink. She wore it knotted at the waist, along with some jeans and black ballet flats.

“So, you went for sexy and mysterious to meet Bonnie?” he said in a teasing lilt.

“Well, I’m pretty sure a McDreamy will show up at the bar! Maybe I’ll want to impress him.” she stated flippantly.

He cocked a brow, “McDreamy?!”

Caroline burst into hysterical giggles, “You need to watch Grey’s Anatomy…and I think McAss suits you better!”

Bella covered her mouth, attempting to stifle her laughter while Damon stood there glaring at them both.

Unfazed by his demeanor, she batted her eyelashes playfully. “I love you…” she voiced cheerily.

His eyes softened as he blew out a breath, “And I love you.”

“Awe! How sweet!” Caroline sarcastically said. “I have a toothache!”

 “Give me a nice, sharp, stake…” he sing-songed threateningly, “then I’ll make sure you have an ache in your heart!”

She blew off his comment and pecked Stefan on the lips, “Love you, but we got to get going.” She then faced Bella, “You ready?”

The petite brunette nodded, grabbing her purse. She was almost to the door when Damon loudly cleared his throat.

“Forgetting something?”

Her eyebrows puckered as she thought on it. “Uh…no.”

He scoffed, “You know, two lips meet another set of lips…”

She smiled coyly, “Damon Salvatore, are you asking for a goodbye kiss?”

He blurred over to her and grabbed her butt, pulling her flush against him, “I’d want a hell of a lot more than a kiss, but I don’t think you’d want to put on a show for the kids…”

Bella’s cheeks turned a bright shade of red at his comment, Caroline scoffed and Stefan did not look amused. Before he could toss out another quip, she hurriedly pecked him on the cheek, then scampered out the door with Caroline trailing behind her.

Damon stood there with a goofy grin on his face as his brother looked over to him.

“You got it bad, don’t you?”

“Brother, unless you want me to rip off your ring and barbeque your ass in the sun, do not say that again!”

Stefan solemnly nodded, then walked out the room.

The two young women sat in a booth at the Mystic Grill making small talk. Caroline really liked Bella, but couldn’t understand how someone so shy and kind could end up with Damon – a vampire who would rip your heart out with a smile on his face, showing absolutely no remorse about it.

Then again, she had seen the way the both of them looked at each other. It was love in its purest form and she knew without a doubt he had never looked at Elena in such a way. Caroline knew with certainty that he once cared deeply for her lifelong best friend, though it was nothing in comparison to the obvious adoration he had towards Bella.

As shy as the girl seemed to be, she could put up with Damon’s sardonic humor, his abrasive personality, and dish it right back at him. They also balanced each other out, whereas Bella was quiet and unassuming; Damon was an extrovert and made no qualms about having his opinion known.

They both exhibited signs of pain and loss. It often reflected within in their eyes. Yet, with one glance towards the other, it would disappear and be replaced with joy and love. She thought the couple were a perfect match. While she may not like the raven-haired vamp, she surmised that he deserved happiness just as much as anyone else did.

Caroline was positively itching to get the girl’s story – to see what caused her pain and how she got the inner strength that clearly revealed itself in her demeanor. She knew she would have to bide her time, though. Not only because of Bella’s shyness, but the fact Damon had warned her. It just wouldn’t do to piss him off…she knew just how over-protective he could be.

So, she sat drumming her nails on the table as they made small talk about the weather, the history of the town and the best thing to get on the menu.

Bella sat nervously while she spoke with the blonde vampire. She liked her cheerful personality and the kindness she had shown her. She could tell that Caroline Forbes was a good soul, for it showed in every fiber of her being. She suspected her new friend wanted to know more about her, but she wasn’t quite ready to divulge the details of her past stupidity – falling for the charms of a Cold One and how it completely destroyed her life. Although, she felt rather certain that she’d eventually share her story.

She was apprehensive about meeting Bonnie, knowing Damon held the witch in high regard, even though he detested how she judged others. Bella always felt insecure and had the innate desire for others to like her. Because of that, she happened to be one of those people with a strong inclination to please others – it was a part her nature. She always placed other’s wants and needs above her own. At least, until she was on the run from Victoria. It was only then she put herself first, not giving a damn about what anyone might think about it. She did what was necessary to survive; because evading death was far more important than whether or not people liked her.

Here she was… once again worried about what someone would think of her. It shouldn’t matter, she told herself. Though, she couldn’t help but have flashbacks to the day Edward introduced her to the rest of his coven and gave her a tour of their mansion. At the time, she felt inadequate in her cheaply made skirt and sweater while the rest of his family donned designer clothes. Back then, she was just a naïve little girl brought into the supernatural world, finding herself completely enchanted by the idyllic picture that the Cullen coven had painted of it.

Bella had loved how they embraced the human side of themselves. She once held a vast respect for Carlisle and his chosen profession as a physician. He truly wanted to make the world a better place simply because he found beauty in it. It was a trait that he instilled in each of his fellow coven members, or as he called them – his family. They seemed to adore her, even accepting her as one of their own.

Looking back on it, she realized that she was no longer the gullible young girl that fell for the façade that the coven presented themselves as. She had grown up, becoming stronger and much wiser to the ways of the world.  The Cullens may have lived a human existence and exhibited a kind, compassionate nature, but showed exactly what their true colors were when they cruelly abandoned her in a world she couldn’t defend herself in. Edward shattered her very soul into a thousand pieces that day he ended things in the woods, telling her she wasn’t good enough and was nothing more than a distraction for him. Then, he had the gall to belittle her for being human, remarking that her mind was a sieve and that she’d forget him – it’d be as if he never existed.

The memory angered her, more than she would care to admit. From that very moment he walked away, her journey to hell begun. First, there was a deep depression she had to claw her way out of, with help from her best friend, Jacob. Just as she started to find some semblance of happiness, Victoria entered the picture, seeking to avenge the death of her mate. It was around that time she discovered Jacob and the boys from his tribe shapeshifted into wolves and once more placed her trust into the hands of the supernatural. She relied on them for over a year as a means of protection. In the end, her reliance upon them cost her the lives of not only Jacob, but her family. Victoria maliciously took everything she held dear.

When Bella found the mangled body of her father, she came to the conclusion that the only person she could depend on was herself and fled town to escape the Cold One’s wrath. The years of being on the run were terrifying, but it gave her a sense of freedom she hadn’t ever had before. Every choice she made thereafter was of her own design.

She lived a solitary existence, never once attempting to make any friends out of fear that Victoria would kill them; it was a lonely existence and she endured it. That is, until she hit Miami and handed her job application to an ex-narcotics detective turned nightclub owner. The man had a twinkle in his blue eyes, accompanied with a sexy grin that she was sure made the hearts of many ladies flutter. Sonny was his name and he was the epitome of charisma. He also had a knack for getting people to open up, and he was the one responsible for softening the walls she’d built around herself.

From the moment they met, she felt an instant kinship with him. He was the first person outside her family that seemed genuinely interested in her as a person. He taught her the ins and outs of working the club, how to handle the customers; and somewhere along the way, he built her confidence up. Eventually, they grew so close that he became the father figure she so desperately needed.

Unlike the Cullens, he never tried to change who she was. In fact, he was the one to sharpen her observation skills and taught Bella to always trust her instincts.

“Always trust your gut, baby.” he once told her.

Over time, she put her new found skills to use by dealing with all the walks of life that passed through the club on a nightly basis. There were the college kids – who just wanted to get smashed, then there were the people in their late twenties that wanted a break from the daily bump and grind. Older men often walked in with a pretty young thing, while scoping out the joint for another easy lay. They were the ones the ever-present blonde beach bunnies looked for. Those women flirted outrageously, pawing at them and showing off their assets. Bella thought it was disgusting the way those women sold themselves just to get at the money that lined the men’s pockets.

She saw a slice of life that she had been sheltered from, everything from jaded souls that would perch themselves at the bar, drowning their sorrows to the innocent high school kids that tried to get into the club, brazenly waving about their fake IDs. Meeting the various kinds of people helped hone her people skills and taught her how to blend in the world around her. Most importantly, she learned that everybody had a story to tell, whether it was good or bad.  She felt a connection to the people that surrounded her, realizing that whatever experiences one had made them who they were.

When Bella fled Miami, she returned to the life of a lone drifter and found that she missed the human interaction with others, especially Sonny.  A part of her felt as though it was mistake to allow herself to open up and soften those walls around her. It could have possibly put innocent lives in danger and that wasn’t something she was willing to do. Her only choice would be to live the life of solitude.

It was a choice that she made peace with, eventually accepting the fact that she would most likely die at the hands of Victoria at some point. By the time Bella reached Savannah, she had grown weary of the loneliness and tired of being hunted down like a rabid dog. What was the point of living if you couldn’t live a life?

She learned from an early age life wasn’t perfect, having been the product of a failed marriage. She never shared the typical aspirations other kids her age had. She never wanted the American dream that included two kids and a white picket fence. Her aspirations were of doing something extraordinary like writing a book, or teaching literature at one of those ivy-league schools. She wanted life to be an adventure, exhilarating and hoped she’d be lucky enough to find someone to share it with.

She thought she had found it when she met Edward; but after that farce of a relationship, Bella turned a blind eye to the very idea of love. She held the belief that love was a silly notion, and completely overrated. If and when she met someone, she wanted open honesty and that included a complete disclosure about her life. She didn’t think it would ever be possible to find such a person. Needless to say, all her sentiments on the matter went out the window that night in Savannah.

Damon Salvatore entered the picture and turned her world upside down. He not only saved her from Victoria; he saved her from herself and taught her to live life to the fullest.  He had been honest with her from the start, never once embellishing how dangerous or how superior he was. While he had an enormous ego, he never had to state what a bad-ass he was. It showed in his actions, his mannerisms and with just one look at him… if you were on his bad side, you knew your number was up.

The same could be said when he exhibited his affection for her. He wasn’t shy when it came to his gentle caresses or his soothing embraces. He exhibited passion when he kissed her or made love to her – he poured his heart and soul into whatever he did.

His words were always sincere; it didn’t matter if it was an expression of love or a threat…he meant what he said and his actions backed them up.

Damon was like a long-lost treasure that she didn’t know she’d been searching for. When he joined in on her escapade into a new life, there was an instantaneous kinship between them.  From that, a friendship was born, which grew into mutual admiration and respect for one another. For the first time in her life, she found someone who truly understood her. With each passing day, they grew closer and she found herself falling in love with him. It was obvious he cared deeply for her, but she never fathomed that he’d reciprocate what she felt for him. He proved her wrong that night in Williamsburg by barging into the bathroom, then making her confront what was brewing between them. Not only did he profess his love for her, he proceeded to show her in the most intimate way possible.

Her thoughts settled within her very soul as she sat there at the grill.  A sense of joy enveloped her, knowing that the love she shared with him was real. He cherished her as much as she did him, and with each minute that ticked by, their bond grew even stronger. It dawned on her that because of Damon, she found meaning in life once again.

It became clear to Bella that she wanted a second chance at forever and she wanted it with the vampire that captured her heart. She would give him her life for the chance of an eternity at his side. The question was, would he want the same? Would he turn her?  She inhaled a deep breath at the thought and hoped he would.

With that one thought, her worries about meeting Bonnie seemed insignificant…she had much more important things to worry about. While she would appreciate it if the little witch liked her, at the same time, she didn’t care. The only opinions that mattered were her own and to some extent, Damon’s. She liked who she was. It may have taken a trip to hell and back, but she survived and in the process, she became wiser, stronger and all the better for it. Most importantly, she found someone who nurtured that strength within her, accepting her just as she was. She had discovered the true meaning of love and treasured it for the gift it was. She vowed that she wouldn’t let anyone take that gift from her.

If the witch doesn’t like me, maybe a house will fall from the sky and land on her ass

She smiled at the notion while snatching a cheese fry from Caroline’s plate. The vampire glanced up at her friend, “You seemed like a million miles away there! I bet you were thinking of a certain blue-eyed Salvatore.”

Bella shrugged and then uttered, “Sorta.”

They sat and munched on their fries, chatting about the upcoming festivities for Founder’s Day. Somehow, during the course of conversation, she found herself on the decorating committee, a judge for the Miss Mystic Falls pageant, and a member of a Ladies Aid Society that Caroline was setting up. The girl was so damn tenacious that it was hard to say no. Plus, she’d found that she actually enjoyed spending time with the high-spirited blonde. She agreed to the volunteer work, knowing it would give her something to do, and hoped she could make some new friends along the way.

When Caroline brought up being a member of the Council, Bella was astonished at the very suggestion, and quite bluntly told the girl no. She was new to the town and wasn’t about to go stepping on anyone’s toes.

“Well, at least you’ll sign the ledger at the ball, right?”

Bella bit her lip, shyly casting her gaze downward. “I can’t do that…” she whispered.

Caroline stubbornly shook her head, leaned forward and braced her hands on the table. “Look at me.” she ordered in a firm voice.

The brunette sighed, and fidgeted uncomfortably before looking over to her.

The vampire offered a gentle smile before continuing on, “You’re helping to get this town back on its feet. You will sign the ledger at the ball!”

When there was no response, her eyes then narrowed as she stared the petite human down, “May I remind you that you’re screwing one of the original Founding Family members?! And as your new self-proclaimed B.F.F. – I say that in itself gives you a right to sign the damn ledger AND join the Council!”

Bella scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Damon was right…”

Caroline settled back in her seat, cocking her head to the side. “About what?”

Bella grinned as she quoted him, “The supernatural world tends to suck you in… and once you are in, you can’t get back out!”

The girls were still laughing at the quote when a figure approached the table a few minutes later. It was a handsome man in a police uniform. They suddenly stopped when they caught sight of him.

“Why does it not surprise me Damon would be stealing lines from The Godfather?”

Bella giggled, “At least it’s not Harry Potter, then there would be jokes about a House of Swan…” She snorted at the thought. “Uh…just…no!”

Caroline piped up with a certain glint in her eyes. “Oh please! It’d be the House of Salvatore and it would be a magical whorehouse!”

Bella laughed loudly as the police officer shook his head with a smile. He eyed the two girls when the laughter died down and held out his hand, “Matt Donovan.”

Bella grasped his hand, “Bella Swan.”

She noted the badge on his uniform indicating that he was the town’s sheriff.  An image of her father coming home from work and asking, “What’s for dinner, Bells?” instantly flashed through her mind.  She could recall the love that could be heard in his tone of voice whenever he spoke to her and how he always smelled of Aqua Velva.

She closed her eyes briefly, cherishing the memory. She then felt a warm hand on hers along with a gentle squeeze. “Are you alright?” Caroline asked, her voice filled with concern.

“I’m fine.” Bella answered inaudibly.

The blonde vampire knew otherwise. She lost her own mother to cancer, so she immediately recognized the same sadness in Bella’s eyes that she once carried within her own. She nodded to Matt, silently asking for a moment alone. He bid a friendly farewell to them both and walked off. When he was out of earshot, Caroline took Bella’s other hand in her own.

She eyed the girl empathetically before speaking, “I know what it’s like to not want to talk about things…especially if they are things you’d rather forget. But… you need to know that you can talk to me. There’s nothing I haven’t seen or heard that will scare me away.”

Bella bowed her head sadly, “I-I can’t.”

Caroline stood up and sat by the young woman, “Yes, you can. Sometimes it is better to talk about those bad memories, thoughts or feelings than to bottle them up. I did that once – when my mother died. The grief was so oppressive that I flipped the switch, and it was not a pretty sight…”

“I wanted to die.” the brunette said meekly.

It was then that Bella decided to tell her about her life. “I was seventeen when I moved to Forks. I met a Cold One…”

The two young women had sat in the booth for more than an hour as she told her story. When she was done, the vampire remained quiet. Her mind raced with something comforting and appropriate to say. Caroline was amazed by how one person could experience so many traumatic experiences and endure the sorrow that came along with it. She had the fleeting thought that Elena would have really bonded with Bella, given how similar their stories were. What she really admired about the human girl before her was the fact she still opened her heart to love, even after all the tragedy she faced. Though, she just had to question the happenstance of her finding it with a certain immortal asshat.

She had once swore Damon Salvatore would be bitter and angry for an eternity. When she first met him, he used her as his little sex toy, then compelled her to aid him in his schemes against his brother and Elena. She had known him to be manipulative and vicious. In fact, she once compared him to Satan. She hated him with a burning passion, which was exemplified even more once she became a vampire.

Her hatred of him had blinded her judgement of him on more than one occasion. It wasn’t until he and Elena begun their relationship that she saw a different side to him. He was an evil, arrogant bastard to most people, but he was never that way with her.  His whole world revolved around Elena and the love he carried in his heart for her caused traces of his humanity to shine through.

During that time, Caroline saw beyond the front that Damon put up with his sarcasm and violent tendencies. Instead, she saw a man who would risk himself to save the ones he cared for. When others would simply give up hope, he never did. He wouldn’t ever back down from a fight and could always figure out a solution to almost any problem. Although his ethics in solving problems created friction amongst their circle of friends, he was an ally they often needed. She knew without Damon on their side, all of them would have faced a much different fate.

Elena frequently scolded him for his actions, honestly believing she could change who he was and make him gain some sort of moral compass. Not wanting to risk losing her, Damon tried in vain to be who she wanted him to be and often failed. The two of them were vastly different from the other. Elena was too kind of a soul to accept the darkness that came with becoming a vampire, whereas Damon embraced it. The young woman continued to look at the world through human eyes rather than a creature of the night.  It made things difficult between the two of them because unlike Elena, the elder Salvatore’s view of the world was that of a vampire and had been so for over a century and a half.

Caroline thought the couple were doomed from the start, but they proved her wrong and remained completely devoted to one another. They found happiness together and he even promised to take the cure so they could live out a human life together – a dream that was shattered by a witch named Kai.

When Elena was put into a magical sleep, Damon returned to the homicidal, malicious vampire he once was. He switched off his humanity and unleashed bloodlust unlike anything Mystic Falls had seen before. He spent his days and nights draining bodies, leaving a very bloody trail in his wake.  Meanwhile, the town was in absolute chaos as they all fought against Lily Salvatore and her adopted family of heretics. They seemed unstoppable until Stefan somehow convinced Damon to help them. By then, Damon’s murder sprees had become sporadic and it seemed like he operated on what his brother referred to as a “dimmer switch.” His humanity was gone, but there was a small part of him that still cared for the town and its people.

Working together, they came up with a plan to defeat the heretics, only Damon took it a step further by tearing his own mother’s heart from her body out of revenge for killing his best friend, Enzo. Caroline could clearly remember the fury that flashed in his eyes as he did so, noting that it was the first time he showed any sort of emotion since her best friend died.

A day or so later he left Mystic Falls.  He became a drifter, barely keeping in touch with anybody. From what she gathered from Stefan, he wallowed in his grief and attempted to soothe it with alcohol and women. They were somewhat able to keep an eye on him from afar, due to Matt’s law enforcement connections. It saddened her whenever she heard the reports of women disappearing or found dead. Caroline saw little hope for the vampire’s future, believing that he would hold on to his anger, living a miserable existence for all eternity.

She came out of her thoughts, then glanced at the brown-eyed girl before her as the startling revelation came to her that she was Damon’s salvation – a second chance at happiness.

“You saved him.” she softly blurted out.

Bella quirked her brow in question. “What?” she stammered out. “You mean Damon?”

Caroline simply nodded. Bella eyed her solemnly, “No.” she whispered. She then took a deep breath, slowly blew it out and declared, “He saved me.”

The rest of the lunch was spent quietly chatting away and getting to know one another.  They were on dessert when a dark haired young woman approached them.

“Bonnie!!” the blonde vampire squealed gleefully before standing up and hugging the witch. “Bonnie, this is Bella Swan. Bella-”

Caroline was cut off as Bonnie’s green eyes looked imploringly at her. She then shot a cursory look towards Bella. “I know who that is.” she said stiffly.  There was an uncomfortable silence between the three of them that was broken when she outstretched her hand and spoke.

“Nice to meet you.”

Bella smiled, knowing exactly what Bonnie was trying to do. She had no secrets and if Little Miss Judgy wanted her story, she might as well have it. With that thought in mind, she brazenly shook the girl’s hand and met her eyes, never breaking eye contact. Not even when the witch paled, let go of her hand and stumbled back.

“Pain…death…cold…” Bonnie stuttered out.

Bella arched her brow. “What else ya got?” she inquired with a bit of a bite to her voice, holding out her hand once again.

Bonnie stepped forward apprehensively as she gently took her hand once more. A minute passed by before a couple of tears flowed down her cheeks as she replied, “Redemption…light…peace.” Then she whispered, “Love.” She inhaled a breath and smiled, “It is nice to meet you.”

“Now you know my story, how about you tell me yours? If I go by what Damon tells me about you, you’re either the Wicked Witch of the East, or you’re the Selfless Savior…” Bella’s eyes twinkled with amusement while she patted the spot next to her, “Have a seat and we’ll get you some cake since you totally missed lunch…”

The witch giggled at the Damon-esque smirk that graced the other girl’s face and sat down. The girls spent most of the afternoon perched in the booth getting to know each other and making plans for the various upcoming social functions. New friendships were made and a sisterhood was born.

The next three weeks seemed to fly by as Bella embraced life in Mystic Falls. She found herself in the throes of absolute happiness and finally had a sense of being in a place she really belonged. The feeling was foreign to her, but she accepted it with gratitude.

She gained true friends along the way that knew the dangers she’d faced in the past. Friends who truly understood just how profound her losses were. Bella never dreamed that she would find comfort in the supernatural world again. Yet, she felt right at home where she was. Throughout her life, she always felt like she was a puzzle missing a few pieces. Those misplaced pieces were now filled in and she was complete. She was a living the life she was denied, but once hoped for so very long ago as a young girl. Even with her vivid imagination, she never thought she would find herself so happy and content.

So content, she didn’t care that she would have to get all dolled up under the watchful eyes of Caroline and Bonnie for a ball in a week’s time. A night in a gown was not her cup of tea, but she would do it. She would do it out of love for Damon and out of love for her friends. She also reasoned that she was technically a member of the Founding Families, which meant accepting the duties that went along with it.

That thought went through her mind as she made her way to the supply closet at Mystic Falls Hospital to retrieve more empty blood bags. She couldn’t help but giggle at the irony of having a blood drive in a town crawling with vampires. She damn near burst out laughing at the idea of Caroline being the one to organize it. Even so, she felt a sense of honor at being present for the first one.

She collected the box of bags, then headed towards the area that they cleared for donors to come in to have their blood taken. There was a flurry of activity as nurses, blood technicians and volunteers whizzed by. In the past, the whole scene would have made her squeamish. She supposed dating a vampire, coupled along the constant blood sharing they did had something to do with her newfound ability to be around blood. She smiled thinking of Damon, whistling softly as she dropped the box off at one of the stations.

It was then Bella felt arms wrap around her. Startled, she turned and faced the culprit, who stood there smirking.

“Shouldn’t you be dressed in a cute little nurse’s outfit, or maybe even as a candy striper? Bet it’d be hot!” he pondered aloud.

She laughed, shaking her head. “Do I look like a nurse, Damon?”

He chuckled and whispered into her ear, “How about I go grab a lab coat so we can play doctor instead?” He then stepped back, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. His smirk turned into a smug smile as her cheeks reddened.

She bit down on her lip, looking up at him through her lashes. “What are you doing here, anyway?” she questioned after a slight pause. “Come to grab some lunch?” she added teasingly with a wink.

He met her gaze, his face an expression of amusement as he replied lasciviously, “Depends on what’s on the menu.”

Bella swallowed thickly while he eyed her from head to toe. Her stomach erupted in knots as she fought off a shiver of desire. She barely managed to brush it aside and spoke. “Uh…a vampire walks into a blood drive – insert joke there.” she said sardonically.

Damon shrugged, “Would you believe me if I said I missed you?”

“Nope!” she responded, popping the “p” on the end. “Let’s see…Caroline, Bonnie and I are here, Stefan has gone to pick up Jeremy at the airport, Ric is probably teaching class, and Matt is working on installing the sound equipment for the Miss Mystic Falls pageant tomorrow.” She crossed her arms and tilted her head thoughtfully, “You’re bored.”

He smirked, “I hate that you know me too well. Can’t you take a break? Maybe entertain me for a little while?”

Bella glanced at her watch, “Five minutes, Salvatore! And that’s it.”

“Make it fifteen.” He uttered, taking hold of her hand and leading her out of the room and into a hallway. They reached an empty room, where he flung open the door and pulled her into it.

Her brow furrowed in confusion, “What are you-”

Damon silenced her by planting a searing kiss upon her lips while yanking her closer to him. She returned it with fervor, relishing in the moment. He broke the kiss long enough to murmur huskily, “I want to make the most of my fifteen minutes…”

He then kicked the door shut and shoved her up against the wall. Bella’s body filled with sudden a need as she looked into the lust-filled icy blue eyes of her lover. She licked her lips and placed her hands around his neck, tugging at a few silky strands of his hair. “Didn’t someone once tell me that they always get what they want?”

He nodded, “Hmm, hmm. Always.”

He subsequently groped her ass before hoisting her up. She easily wrapped her legs around him, and undid his jeans, springing him free. She caught her breath, enjoying the feel of his hands caressing her thighs as he inched her skirt up. The distinct sound of fabric could be heard, startling her. She quickly looked up and saw him holding her panties with a smirk on his face. “You won’t be needing these.”

He hastily tossed them on the floor, then slipped inside her.

Bella let out a wanton sigh as she felt him fill her. “Fuck…” she said in a breathless whisper.

Damon nibbled on her ear, “Say that again…”

Bella simply moaned as she positioned her hands on either side of his face and plunged her tongue into his mouth. She wrapped her legs even tighter around his waist, drawing him closer to her. They moved with passion, giving into their urges. It seemed like they’d never have enough of each other. Bella briefly wondered how sex could feel so amazingly good; she didn’t think it got any better than it was at that moment. As if he could read her mind, he maneuvered himself ever so slightly, hitting her g-spot. It made her cry out in pure, unadulterated pleasure. Well! I guess it does get better, she thought.

She clutched at his shoulders, moving her hips against his in perfect unison. Just when she was about to go over the edge, she felt his thumb brush along her clit. She’d started to scream his name to the heavens when Damon roughly kissed her on the mouth, thrusting into her at a brutal pace until she climaxed. His quickly followed hers and afterwards, they just stood there entangled in each other, reveling in the afterglow.

He eventually set her down, smiling smugly as he did so. She blushed while she looked for her clothes. She hurriedly dressed and finger combed her hair. Damon had just zipped his pants up when the door suddenly flew open. Bright sunlight flooded the room, temporarily blinding her. She blinked a few times and was met with the judgmental green eyes of Stefan Salvatore. He had a young brown haired man with him, who stood with his arms crossed, his eyes quickly darting between the two of them. It was then that Stefan spoke.

“You do realize that people could have heard you two in here, right?”  he asked in a scolding tone.

Damon shrugged, “And why would we care if they did, brother?”

Stefan sighed heavily, “Bella? Would you like to meet Jeremy?” He then jerked his thumb towards the young man standing behind him.

Her face went beet red, realizing Saint Stefan and the brother of her boyfriend’s ex were more than aware of the debaucherous act that had taken place in the exam room. She covered her face in embarrassment and muttered, “Oh, my God!” under her breath. She then timidly peeked between her fingers, noting that both of them were trying to hold back their laughter.

“This is so not the scenario I pictured for when I met you.” she mumbled, before letting her hands drop to her side. She smiled nervously at Jeremy and stuck out her hand, “Bella Swan.”

“Jeremy Gilbert.” he said with a nod, grinning mischievously. “I’m not shaking your hand, though. I have a pretty good idea where it has been…”

Damon snorted and Bella’s cheeks reddened even more. Jeremy chuckled at her reaction, “Don’t be so embarrassed! F.Y.I. – You’re dating a douchebag … in case you don’t know!  I’m sure you’ll find yourself in worse situations…”

She smiled warmly at Jeremy, all the while thinking over the last few months. She was amazed by how much her life had changed since then; how she was no longer the same person. Sonny may have softened her rough edges, but it was Damon who truly got her to open up. Because of that, she found that true love itself existed and she was lucky enough to find the perfect being to share it with. Well… a perfect being for her.  He brought out the best in her, bit by little bit. With him, she was the strong, confident and witty woman she sought to be. He made her feel sexy and desired. No longer was she a weak and naïve.

So with those thoughts in mind, she stood straighter, locking eyes with the young man before her, “You know what? You’re probably right!” She then turned her head slightly towards her boyfriend, “But I can guarantee there will never be any dull moments with him around.”

Damon slung an arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek just as Caroline came marching down the hallway towards them with her eyes trained on the human girl. “Where the hell have you been?” she questioned in a demanding tone as she approached the grouping.

Bella sighed hesitantly before pointing at the small office behind them, “Umm…in there.”

“With Damon.” Stefan added for her, tossing a cheeky smile her way.

“What!? Why would you be in there with him?” Caroline asked with a furrowed brow.

“Well, Blondie-”

Bella cut Damon off by covering his mouth, “No! Don’t you dare say it!”

Jeremy laughed, “Oh you may as well tell her! There are never any secrets among us around here. No matter how hard we try to keep them, someone always blabs.” He then looked over to the blonde vampire with a grin, “To put bluntly, they were…uh…”

“Screwing.” Stefan finished for him.

Caroline’s eyes widened in shock as she looked over to her friend. Bella bit down on her lips to keep from smiling while Damon stood there smirking.

“Okay…I didn’t need to know that.” she said with a look of disgust. She then placed her hands on her hips, eyeing the petite girl pointedly, “But we got to keep things on schedule. We have an overwhelming amount of donors and we need all hands on deck…NOW!!” With that, she stepped forward, gripped Bella’s hand and dragged her away from Damon.

The three men shared looks of amusement at the sight.

“The Grill?” Jeremy suggested. The two vampires nodded in agreement. The three of them were heading towards the exit when Damon happened to turn around and saw Bella glaring indignantly at them.

He gave her a little wave, accompanied with a wink. “Have fun.” he mouthed. She scowled and turned on her heel, following Caroline down the corridor.

Bella was exhausted when her shift ended. She wearily opened the door to Damon’s Camaro, sighing with relief once she was finally able to sit down.  She really had to think about getting her own vehicle. She didn’t want to squash all of those years of being self-reliant away, only to become dependent on someone else. But…she loved the car almost as much as Damon did. She liked how the engine purred when she started the ignition and how smoothly it moved when she reversed out of the parking lot. It was an incredible car that she thoroughly enjoyed driving. Maybe she’d get a newer model, or something.

She turned on the radio, a smile lighting up her features as she did so.  The sounds of Bon Jovi’s “Welcome to Wherever You Are” filled the car and she let out a happy sigh at the words she heard.

Welcome to wherever you are. This is your life, you made it this far. Welcome, you gotta believe. That right here, right now is exactly where you’re supposed to be. Welcome to wherever you are.

“Welcome to wherever you are, indeed.” she spoke out loud. Without a doubt in her mind, Bella did know she was exactly where she was supposed to be. Not only that, she was older, wiser, stronger and blessed. She had the love of her life, some great friends and she finally found what she always wanted – a place she could truly call home.

She settled back into the seat for the short drive over to the Mystic Grill, where she knew Damon would be. And by now, he’d most likely be joined at the bar by his favorite drinking buddy, Ric. She liked the guy; he was considerate, affable, and had a dry wit that she appreciated. In a lot of ways, he reminded her of Charlie. She couldn’t comprehend how in the world two guys that bickered constantly could be the best of friends. It was odd to see, but somehow the friendship between the both of them worked.

Bella smiled as she pulled up in front of The Grill, parked the car and turned off the ignition. She got out, jiggling the keys in her hand as she damned near pranced into the establishment. She scanned the restaurant, settling on the area where the bar was. There, she met the blue eyes of the vampire she loved. He sat there with a flirtatious smirk on his face, then wiggled his index finger, indicating that she should come to him. She had a brief flash back to Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing and thought Damon made the little gesture even sexier.

She returned the gesture with a smile, sashaying towards him and planted a kiss on his cheek. His eyes swept her form as his lips turned upwards into a grin, “You really shouldn’t be walking around like that unless you want me to strip you down in front of everyone in the place. I’d take you right here on this bar.”

He then gave her a soft kiss on her lips, abruptly turned around and called for the bartender. She stood there, completely taken aback by his comment. She gathered her wits and sat on the stool next to him. “Haven’t you had enough of sex in public places for one day?” she asked sarcastically.

“Oh, Honey…” he murmured seductively, “Haven’t you figured out that I could never get enough of you?” He lightly traced his hand along her arm and she closed her eyes in response, just enjoying his touch.

“Okay, guys. That’s enough! If I wanted to see touchy-feely, lovey-dovey stuff, then I’d be at home watching The Hallmark Channel. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near drunk enough for that… yet.”

Bella snorted, “Ric, wouldn’t some show on The History Channel be more appropriate for ya? I mean…you did teach the subject at one time.” She looked over to him with a sly grin on her face, “Oh wait! Aren’t they all about aliens, now?”

He scoffed, “You are getting more and more like this ass,” he deadpanned, jerking his thumb in Damon’s direction, “every day.”

“You love it.” she quipped.

He shook his head as his lips twitched, trying not to smile, and then slid his drink over to her while he snatched the fresh one the barkeep had just set in front of him.

Ric eyed her for a minute or two before he spoke, “You know…I’m in a desperate need for an assistant and Whitmore has allowed the funds for it. I know you are hunting around for a job and well…you’re about as familiar as I am when it comes to occult studies. You’d be more than qualified. Besides, they have work-study programs if you ever decided to go back to school…”

Bella moved her head side to side, pondering over the idea before she replied to the offer. “Sounds like a good idea. I’d love to be your assistant. Maybe one day I’ll take a few classes and go from there. But… it might be awhile before I do. I just started my life over, you know. And I’m pretty sure the ass,” her eyes then trailed over to Damon while a playful smirk graced her lips, “will keep my hands full.”

“You got that right, Minxy.” he said with a wink.  Her response had been to simply blush and finish off her drink.

The couple sat at the bar, hanging out with Ric for an hour or so before he shooed them off, telling them he had papers to grade. They jaunted off to a booth in the corner for dinner. The world quickly faded away as they became engrossed with nothing but each other.

Another hour went by and Bella found herself with a good buzz while she and Damon played pool. A buzz that was ruined when Caroline waltzed up to them. Bella had been poised to sink the eight ball when a loud thud sounded. Bella jumped at the noise, completely missing her shot. She let out an aggravated sigh as she rose from the table and set down the cue stick. She peered down at a shoebox on the table, then glanced over to the vampire before her. “What in the blue hell, Caroline!?”

“These are R.S.V.P.’s for the ball. It just occurred to me that the catering company needed a head count by tomorrow.”

She arched her brow, “And…what the hell does that have to do with me?”

Caroline smiled weakly. “You can help me?” she asked with a pleading lilt to her voice.

Unable to resist the girl’s puppy-dog eyes, Bella hastily snatched the box off the table, “Just so you know, I need way more alcohol to do this, so that means we’re going to the Boarding House…”

A squeal erupted from the vampire. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” she said gleefully.

Damon groaned, “Well, thanks for ruining my night, Blondie.”

“Consider it payback for the stint you two pulled at the hospital.” she retorted.

Bella stepped up beside him and whispered in his ear, “I’ll make it up to you.”

“I’ll hold you to that.” he purred, tucking his hand into the back pocket of her jeans.

“You got to be kidding! Come on, guys!” Caroline nearly barked at them.

Damon tossed his hands in the air, jiggling the car keys he had slipped from Bella’s pocket. “Pull your claws in, woman! I was only getting the keys so we could leave.”

She merely glared at him, not believing a word. “Let’s go.” she ordered.

Two hours and two bottles of bourbon later, the three of them could be found in the kitchen at the Boarding House, joined by Stefan.

Bella tiredly picked up the last remaining R.S.V.P. card off the kitchen table. She quickly skimmed over the wording, making note of two guests on the sheet of paper in front of her when the name Esme Platt caught her eye. She instantly let go of the card, letting it fall to the floor. Her hands trembled and her heart stopped.

“Isabella?” Damon questioned gently.

“Bella?” came from Stefan, whose brow was puckered in concern.

“Bells? What is it?” Caroline intoned, her voice dripping with worry as she moved over to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.

Bella rubbed at her eyes, then glanced around at the three of them timidly. She swallowed thickly before she spoke, “The n-name, Esme….” she choked out, “t-that was the name of Edward’s mother.” She took in a calming breath and added, “Well…adoptive mother, if you could call it that.”

Caroline retrieved the card from the floor and looked it over. “It says Esme Platt, Bells.” she stated in a soothing voice.  She took Bella’s hand, “It doesn’t say Cullen.” she emphasized, doing her best to reassure her friend.

When Bella didn’t respond, she squeezed the girl’s hand, “Look, I haven’t met her personally, but I know for a fact that she isn’t married, at least not anymore. She’s from Rochester and only has a grown son that lives in Texas. She was one of the architects that submitted designs for the hospital. I got to know her a little bit through e-mails, though. For some reason, she couldn’t be here to over-see the construction, so Ms. Platt helped us find a contractor. Have to give the woman prompts…she’s a genius with design and incorporated all the specifications the Council required.”

“You mean what certain neurotic, control-freak required.” Damon countered with an eye roll.

Caroline arched her eyebrows and was about to retort something when Stefan lovingly reached for her hand. “Well brother, if you want something done right – no detail over looked, wouldn’t you say Care is the best woman for the job?” He looked to the blonde adorningly, while she smiled sweetly in return.

Damon scoffed, then glanced over to Bella, who sat there completely still with a blank expression. It was not a look he liked on her. It took him back to that day he first saw her in Savannah; back when he first saw her in that damn rust bucket she called a truck. She had seemed to be completely lost, void of any life within her. He could easily see that she had essentially folded and was about to walk away from the game of life. Something about her resonated deeply within him. So much so, that he couldn’t allow her to simply cash in her chips and be done with it all.

When she spotted him standing under the lamppost, he caught a glimpse of those deep sorrow-filled brown eyes. One look into them was all it took for him strengthen his determination to help her. He saw a mirror of himself in those chocolate pools, wondering how in the hell she had survived thus far in the world. He had his fair share of tragedy, so he understood the strength it took to live through it. Humans didn’t have that handy dandy humanity switch like vampires and more often than not, they succumbed to the pain. After all, there was only so much pain a person could take. He didn’t understand the draw to her at the time, although he knew he’d never let her just throw in the towel – not without a fight.

After being caught spying, he offered his trademark smirk and blurred off, sneaking into the back entrance of the diner. He was sitting at the bar when he overheard her talking to the waitress, finding that small bit of spunk she had rather appealing. Maybe if she knew she wasn’t alone in this world, it would ignite some sort of spark to keep fighting whatever it was she was battling against. So, that had been the reason he compelled the waitress to get her a beer. He also paid for her bill and was sitting at the bar when he heard the sounds of scuffle a few blocks away. His instinct alone propelled him to scramble out of his seat to go check it out. When he arrived on the scene, he was enraged at the sight of a tortured, nearly dead Isabella Swan. He easily destroyed Victoria, tossed the remains in a dumpster and lit them on fire. Then, he fed the young human his blood with the hope it would be enough to save her. It was an action that changed the course of his life.

He remembered carefully stripping her down once he got her back to the hotel room. His blood had healed the injuries but her body was so bloodstained, it looked as though she took a bath in it. He had gotten the ice bucket, filled it with warm water and wiped her down. The man in him peered at her naked body, admiring every square inch of her. It was during this he noticed the faint glint of a scar on her wrist, contemplating briefly how she had lived to tell that tale. Once he had her dressed in one of his shirts and safely tucked in, he had gone back to clean up the alley where it all happened. Plus, he wanted to be sure the red-headed bitch was ash.

He prowled around Savannah that night, searching for someone to feed on. It had taken a substantial amount of blood to heal Isabella and he was rather weakened. After draining three bodies dry and burying the evidence, he headed back to his room to keep watch throughout the night. He had been amused when he discovered she talked in her sleep. Especially when she mumbled, “Go to hell, Edward Cullen!”

He had chuckled while going through the bag he retrieved from her truck, mentally promising himself he’d get the full story the following day. She shared her remarkable tale with him about falling in love with one of those wannabe vampires and how he cruelly abandoned her, leaving the door wide open for a vindictive bitch to come after her. In his mind, Edward was his own special brand of evil that even Katherine couldn’t touch. His stomach churned as Bella told him about the deaths of her family and vowed that if he were to ever meet the Cold One, he’d torture the bastard until he choked on his own screams. During their conversation, he discovered what an interesting woman she was and just loved the fire she had within her, especially after he tried compelling her. So, he decided that he’d join her on her second chance at life.

Little did he know it would be another chance for him, as well.  He had never expected to fall in love with the girl, but he did. He knew he once loved Katherine, and he knew he loved Elena with every fiber of his being. While she may have even been his light to guide him through the darkness; Isabella was the light – his reason for living. It made every bit of misery he had ever suffered worth it because in the end, it led to her. There was nothing more important to him than her happiness. If Isabella was happy, then so was he.

He came out of his thoughts, not liking what he saw. His girl merely just sat there impassively at the table, her face showing no emotion with the exception of her eyes. The torment he found there sent thousands of pinpricks into his chest. What hurt him, hurt her and he supposed that was the price you paid when you love someone more than you love yourself.

Damon watched over her cautiously as he rose from his seat to sit beside her. He gently tucked a few strands hair behind her ear. “Isabella?” he called out softly.

When she gazed up at him, her eyes were misted over. “What if it is really Esme Cullen? It’s not like the name is common….” she articulated in a shaky voice.

Stefan offered a kindhearted smile, “One of our maids back in our human years was named Esme. It’s not quite as unusual as you may think. It is an old name that is not in much use anymore…”

Caroline interjected in a reassuring tone, “I can have Matt look into things and make sure what she told me checks out. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

Bella nodded vaguely, “Do you think he’d mind?”

Caroline shook her head. “Not at all! Tell you what,” she then pulled out her cell phone, “I’ll call him right now.” With that, she stepped out of the room.

Stefan reached across the table, and took Bella’s hand in his own. “If, on the off chance it is her, what do you want to do?”

“I-I don’t want to see her. I don’t want anything to do with any of them!”

His eyes softened in empathy as he spoke in a comforting tone, “I doubt it is her, Bella. Though, you must know this… you are now a member of this community. You may not be a Salvatore by name, but you are family. We protect our own and we will protect you. We won’t allow her to bother you if it is her.”

She squeezed Stefan’s hand in appreciation, his words touching her heat. “Thank you.” she murmured.

“Or we could just torch Mommy Cullen…” Damon tossed out there.

“No, not Esme. Out of all of them, she seemed the most genuine and caring. Jasper was, too. The rest of ‘em…well, you can go ahead and light them up like firecrackers on the Fourth of July if you want.”

Damon smirked, “That’s my girl.”

“So let me get this straight…you just gave my brother permission to kill somebody?” Stefan asked incredulously.

Bella shot him a pointed glare, “You know my story, you know what they did to me and what they are responsible for. Besides, it is not the first time he’s killed for me, and I don’t expect it to be the last! Stefan, of all people… you should know that when it comes to protecting the ones Damon cares about, that there will be blood spilled – or in this case, venom. It’s who he is and after the hell your mother and her witchpires rained on this town, I would think you would have stopped placing judgement on your brother! He doesn’t deserve it…not after everything he’s done for you, for Elena and for Mystic Falls. I accept him for who he is and what he is. Taking out someone or something to protect someone he loves is what he does. And…don’t sit there and say you wouldn’t do the same for Caroline!”

Stefan looked at her earnestly, “And we’ll back him up. Not just for you, but because after a hundred and eighty years, Damon finally has found someone that truly loves him, not just for who he could be. I won’t let anyone take that from him. As I said before, you are family.  And if anything, we have learned that family shouldn’t turn their backs on each other.” He smiled and patted her hand before standing up. “I’m going to go find Caroline.”

Bella smiled wanly, watching him walk towards the door, but cleared her throat to catch his attention before he stepped over the threshold. He peered over to her with a quirked brow while she sighed. “Thank you.” she said in a voice filled with gratitude.

“No, Bella. Thank you. You called me out on my shit and I needed that. There’s a couple things I’d like to add to what I said earlier, since I know Damon’s not going to say them. You have changed his life and in the short amount of time you’ve been here, you have made this town a better place. We are lucky to have you here and you’re a gift. One that my brother is very lucky to have by his side. You are exactly what he’s been needing all his life.”

“Well Stef, he’s got me. Forever, if he wants me.” Both Salvatores bristled at her choice of wording, exchanging apprehensive glances before Stefan walked out the room.

There was a stilted silence between Damon and Bella. Her words hit him like a bucket of ice, yet filled his heart with a warmth he’d never known. His voice was hoarse as he begun to speak, “Forever is an awful long time, Isabella. Believe me, I know.”

She bit her lip nervously as she looked at him, “I know that, too. I was actually planning to have this talk at another time…” She then cast her eyes down, fiddling with her fingers.

He cradled her chin in his hand, lifting her head to face him. He then licked his lip, regarding the serious expression she bore. His heart swelled with a sense of joy that he never felt before at her revelation…she wanted him for an eternity. He closed his eyes, comprehending exactly what that meant.

He slowly blew out a breath and kneeled before her, “You want to be changed.”

Bella nodded, not able to speak. She was afraid that he’d refuse to turn her like Edward once did. The rejection would be too much to bear coming from him, for he had imprinted on her very soul. Dead, alive or even undead, she knew she’d always love Damon Salvatore. So much so, she couldn’t fathom a single lifetime with him – she wanted forever by his side. Her eyes watered up as she gazed at him, half-expecting the word ‘no’ to come out of his mouth.

The fear he saw in her eyes nearly broke his heart. He tenderly took her hand and squeezed it. “Tell me something, Isabella. Are you sure you want an eternity with me?”

“Yes.” she whispered with conviction. “I want you.”

Damon gathered himself up so that he was standing on his knees, almost eye-level with her. He then cupped her face within his hands. “And I want you… more than anything I have wanted in my life.”

He swallowed thickly, his voice gruff as he spoke, “An eternity with you would be a gift. I should probably talk you out of it, but I’m selfish! I’d take away your human life just so I could have thousand lifetimes with you. I thought I knew what love was when I fell for Katherine – when it was nothing more than just infatuation and obsession. I thought I found love with Elena, then discovered that the only way she could love me was if it was on her terms. I gave up a part of myself, promising a future I’d never want just to appease her. That’s not love, either! Love should make you a better person, it should make you stronger and it should complete you. In my hundred and eighty years on this earth, I have never loved anyone the way I love you! I have never felt the way I feel when I am with you. To finally hear that someone loves me for who I am is something I waited for my whole life. Like Stefan said, it is something I needed. Just to hear that someone wants me for eternity fills my soul with a happiness I have not ever known! I don’t think you can even begin to comprehend how much it means to me.”

Tears freely flowed down her face. “Oh, Damon…”

Damon then rested his forehead against hers. “I love you, Isabella Swan.” he declared breathlessly.

“I love you.” she said reverently before capturing his lips with her own. The kiss was passionate, igniting a fire in them both. Moments later, he broke the kiss and with a devilish smirk he asked, “How about we take this upstairs and make noises that’ll make everyone just run for the hills?”

Bella blushed deeply but didn’t have a chance to respond, because he had picked her up and blurred them to his bedroom. She could only moan with content as she felt the familiar touch of his mattress on her back and his lips on hers.

I would like to dedicate this chapter to my friend, Natalie. She was quite helpful as I went through the editing of this. Thank you for the help, my dear and for your kind words.

Some of Damon’s dialogue may be recognizable to the fans of The Vampire Diaries. I thought it would be fun to pop a couple of my favorite lines from the show in there. In no way do I mean to disrespect the show’s writers or Ian Somerhalder.

Welcome To Wherever You Are by the band Bon Jovi is what inspired the title. It is used without permission.

Please excuse any mistakes I may have made when I edited. I do hope you enjoyed the chapter. Thanks for reading!

 SC Back


18 thoughts on “Part Three: Welcome to Wherever You Are

  1. I love that Bella voiced her feelings first.. and I especially love that they were both honest with each other. Excellent writing! I can’t wait for your next post!

  2. I’m kind of hoping it is the Esme, mainly because I would be very curious to find out her motives for being there, and if those motives are Bella-related why she is going about things solo.
    I also hope Bella is turned sooner rather than later.
    Her turning just adds a level to insurance that comforts me because it’s kind of necessary given the threats that still exist.
    I’m also really glad the Mystic Falls gang accepted Bella. For a second there I thought there would be some problems with Bonnie, and I’m glad that was avoided.
    Looking forward to more!

  3. Thank you for an excellent chapter. I really enjoyed seeing how Bella integrated herself into Mystic Falls. I would love to see her call Caroline on her shit at some point too. I love this Damon and Bella together. I can’t wait to see what happens next with ‘Esme Platt’.

  4. Great chapter! Glad to see more of this story. Love how Bella is still “Bella”, just, she’s more comfortable letting her strength show now than she used to be. She’s stronger and more sure of herself in the ways that count, but she’s still herself. (That’s not to say I don’t like ‘Suddenly: Ball-Breaker’ Bellas; I just like the more realistic ones better.) Esme? Jasper in Texas?? **fingers crossed** I’d love to see a great redemption scene – filled with tears, heartfelt apologies, self-recrimination, explanations, and finally hugs of acceptance!! (This *is* where I place orders for that kind of thing, right? Can I get a cup of coffee along with said order? With milk? Please???)

    Loved it! ❤

  5. I also agree that I would feel way more comfortable if Bella was turned very quickly.
    Platt was Esme’s maiden name in the books. I’m just wondering if she is just randomly using the name like the Cullens switched names all the time in the past or is she divorced from Carlisle now?? hmmm…..
    Loved it! 🙂

  6. Omg!! So happy I saved this for a day I can sit here and relax as I read. This was my treat!! Love confident Bella, and how the gang has accepted her. And it’s freaking Damon!!

  7. Sounds like momma Cullen has divorced her hubby and only claiming Jasper these days. Has to be her.

    Damon and Bella just made me all mushy and gushy at the end lol.

    Really enjoy this story so far.

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