Author's note #1: This story was originally written for a contest hosted by Kittyinaz. We were provided a picture for inspiration to write a story and this was my result. It is my first completed story and I am proud to say that I placed third.

Author's note #2: Bella was not bitten by James, so she has no scar. This is alternate universe. Characters might be slightly OCC.

Bella had decided to take a walk. She needed to get some things off her mind. It was a beautiful autumn day, a perfect day for a walk. The boarding house was quiet, almost too quiet. Elena had gone out with the girls for a day of shopping. Stefan was probably sitting in his room brooding and writing in his journal. That thought just made her eyes roll. She took a peek in the bedroom at the end of the hall, hoping to see the one person she wanted to see. He wasn't there, so she went to her room, grabbed her jean jacket and quickly walked down the steps. She stopped by the kitchen first to grab a bottle of water and made her way outside.. As she walked, she contemplated on how much her life had changed in the past year. The so-called love of her life had left her, along with the rest of his family. It left her completely heartbroken. She had thought at the time that she reached a limit when it came to the feeling of despair. She had been wrong about that. Not more than three months after Edward, the so-called love of her life left, her father was killed. Charlie Swan was shot and killed in the line of duty. Bella had been so distraught that she had not been able to attend the funeral. She was curled up in a ball on her bed while the rest of Forks, Washington celebrated the life and times of their beloved Chief of Police.

Her mother had come to forks to help with the funeral arrangements and to settle Charlie's estate. It was then that Bella's anger at the Cullen's started to fester. She had received an extravagant arrangement of flowers with a signed note written on heavy, embossed paper. It simply said "With Deepest Sympathy' on the front and on the inside it was signed 'With Love, The Cullen Family'. She was so angry at the gesture that she threw the arrangement against the wall. How dare they? You don't just abandon someone that was considered family and then turn around and act like you care, she thought. "With love, my ass!" she screamed as the vase shattered on the floor. That was the day she decided to put her past behind her and move on with her life.

The house in Forks sold quickly. Three weeks after the death of her father, Bella found herself in a new home in a new town. Her mother, Renee and her husband relocated to Virginia because said husband had signed a contract with a minor league team. Phil had been proud of that because they were a popular team. Bella herself could have cared less. Minor league baseball did not interest her one little bit.

Phil and Renee had decided to settle in the small Town of Mystic Falls. Phil had hoped that the homey feel of the town would be good for seemed like the perfect place to start over, the perfect place to raise a family. Her mother and step-father loved the little town, and they both adapted quickly.

Bella was quite unsure how she felt about the move and was a bit unsettled. Her first day of school changed all of that. She quickly made friends with a bubbly blonde by the name of Caroline Forbes. It was impossible not to like the girl. She was perky and happy and the most honest person Bella had ever met. Caroline took it upon herself to introduce Bella around to her friends and she was quickly welcomed in their inner circle. It didn't take long for the group to bond. Bella felt a very strong kinship with Elena Gilbert, who happened to live across the street. Bella found something in common with each member of the group. Stefan had been the hardest for her to get to know. The truth of the matter was that Stefan reminded her of Edward. He could be a bit standoffish at times. The. The way he spoke and his mannerisms also made her think of Edward. After a few days, Stefan let his guard down and the two got to know each other. There had been a few attempts to fix her up with Matt Donovan, but they were all for naught. Bella was not ready to date. She doubted the fact that she would ever be ready and find love again. Needless to say, she was wrong.

After a couple weeks of being in town, she met Damon Salvatore. Bella and her friends had been having dinner at the Mystic Grill when he first walked in. Bella thought he was gorgeous, a god dressed in black. When he caught her looking, he smirked and winked. What a cheeky bastard she thought. Regardless, she liked what she saw and gave him a smirk of her own. She had no idea what came over her. It was as if her shyness disappeared. He seemed amused as he sauntered over to the group's table. Stefan reluctantly introduced the two and Damon started spouting flirty little comments almost immediately. Bella tried to ignore him at first but found that was nearly impossible, so she started flirting back, much to her surprise. He upped the ante of their little flirting game by throwing in some innuendo and coming on to her. Bella may have been a little flustered, but she didn't show it. She was immensely attracted to him and found him quite charming. Nonetheless, she decided she wouldn't succumb to his flirtations or his charms. No, she continued this little game she didn't know the rules to and threw some witty comments his way. Damon seemed to enjoy this almost as much as she did. The rest of the group exchanged wary glances, but Bella shrugged it off and Damon didn't seem to care what they thought. She liked that about him.

That night was the beginning of a friendship that no one expected. To the people of Mystic Falls, it looked like an odd friendship. A shy, caring girl from Forks and the big, bad Salvatore brother. None of them really knew just how much the two had in common. Both of their hearts had been shattered by love. They had both been abandoned and both had deep emotional scars. Bella confided in Damon about her relationship with Edward. Damon told her about his once-upon-a-time love for Katherine. He told her how she had played both him and Stefan. Of course, neither revealed the supernatural elements to their respective stories.

Bella thoroughly enjoyed Damon's blatant honesty and snarky humor. She loved the sweet and thoughtful side of him that was rarely ever shown to others, but let itself be known to her. Damon found Bella to be very observant, intelligent and had her own brand of snark that he absolutely reveled in. Like him, she was protective of people she cared for. He found her to be a loyal friend. Over time, as they got to know each other, Bella's close circle of friends grew less wary of the friendship she and Damon had. They all knew Bella hated it when anyone bad mouthed Damon. Bella wouldn't let him get away with the manipulative games he played or the little schemes he come up with. She never put him down, but she was the only one who could get through to him if his plans would do more harm than good. She could change his mind. However, if it was a plan she agreed with, she became his accomplice in whatever plan he happened to cook up. The teens of Mystic Falls soon saw that the two were good influences on one another. Stefan went as far to say that Bella had become Damon's humanity. Elena remarked that Damon was the one that brought Bella out of her shy persona.

Six months after being in Mystic Falls, Bella found herself truly happy. Her friends became her second family. She was grateful for each of them, especially Damon. At the time she didn't know the bonds of friendship were about to be tested.

It was late one night that Bella was walking home from the Grill. She and her friends had just had a fun night playing pool and darts. Bella was buzzed from all the shots Damon and Caroline had supplied her with. "Drink up, Bells!" Caroline would sing song. Damon, as always, had made it a game. If she managed to sink a ball at pool, then she needed to take a shot of bourbon. Of course, he still encouraged her to take a shot 'just because'.. "Live it up, Swan!" he would say.

She had a smile on her face when she approached her house, but that quickly disappeared when she saw the front door to the house ajar. Blood stains were spmeared all over the door. She stood still, fearing the worst. Making things more ominous was the crow that flew over the house and cawed. Bella tentatively walked to the front door, pushing it open further so she could go in the house. What she saw instantly made her buzz go away and would haunt her for the rest of her life. The walls were splattered with blood and the carpet was soaked with the crimson liquid. Laying on the floor was the mutilated bodies of her mother and step-father. They were barely recognizable. She stood there in shock and her hands trembled as she took her cell phone from her pocket. In a daze, she pressed the appropriate button on the speed dial and before the person on the other end could issue a greeting, she spoke into the phone the name of the person she needed most, "Damon.".

Bella stood there with the phone on her ear. Before she could say anything else, she heard a bell-like voice ring through the night.

"Hang up The phone, Isabella." It said. Each word was slow and deliberate with a lot of malice behind them.

Bella turned around. Her blood ran cold at the sight before her. She saw the white skin, the halo of fiery red hair, an evil glint in the being's red eyes and a triumphant smile. It was a vampire. The mate of another vampire that had tracked her down once before and nearly killed her. It had been the Cullen family who saved her. Her heart started beating faster with the grim realization that no one was here to save her this time as she faced another vampire. The two stared at one another for a minute as briefly before Bella whispered "Victoria."

The vampire grinned manically as she stepped forward. "Good, you remember me. That will make killing you much more pleasant." With that, Victoria blurred over to Bella and threw her across the room. Her phone flew out of her hand at the impact. Bella's head hit a large picture on the wall. The glass shattered into pieces, leaving a road map of lacerations on Bella's face and hands as both the picture and Bella fell to the floor with a thud. Bella could feel the shards of glass digging into her scalp and she could smell the blood that was starting to ooze out of a gash on the side of her face. The smell instantly made her woozy and she wanted to throw up.

Victoria pounced on Bella once again, picking her up and throwing her into the staircase. Bella winced as the pain shot up her back on impact. Victoria leaned over Bella, looking into her eyes. "I'm going to kill you, but I want you to suffer the way the Cullens made my James suffer." With that she picked up Bella's leg right leg and snapped the calf right in two. Bella screamed in pain. She wanted to keep fighting the urge to puke or pass out. She wanted to fight through the pain. She glanced at her leg and felt the bile rise in her throat. She nearly choked on it. Victoria sadistically grinned when Bella had screamed, relishing in the girl's pain. She had just picked up Bella's other leg when a voice stopped her in her tracks.

"Let her go." It ordered. Each word cut through the air like an icy breeze. Bella closed her eyes and sighed. A part of her was glad to hear the voice, but that thought was overridden with worry. Victoria would surely kill him. "D-D-Damon, go." she stuttered out. He minutely shook his head as he stood and glared at Victoria. His ice blue ices were cold and calculating. His stance was imposing. Bella had never seen Damon like this. It reminded her of a black panther, fierce and dangerous.

Victoria stood frozen. She had not lessoned her grasp on Bella's leg. Damon spoke up again, in a voice that sent chills down Bella's spine. His voice was soft, like velvet, but it made him sound even more threatening. "Let. Her. Go. Now." He spoke slowly, each word laced with venom.

Victoria was annoyed and dropped Bella's leg forcibly against the stairs. She abruptly turned around and faced Damon. She glared at him. "And just who do you think you are?" she seethed.

"Oh, Red..." Damon said mockingly. "You have no idea, do you?" He cocked his head at her as if he was listening, waiting for an answer. When there was none, he walked up to her. Looking her in the eyes he hissed "I'm Death." With that, Damon's eyes darkened and veins started to appear under his eyes. Bella's heart started to beat at the sight, but yet she remained unafraid. "What is going on?" she whispered.

Victoria gasped as Damon smiled evilly. His canine teeth had turned into fangs. The whites of his eyes were now red. "Not so big and bad now, are you, Red?" he questioned, tauntingly. Victoria tried to run, but he was much faster and grabbed her, wrapping one of his arms around her shoulders and chest. She struggled but was it was obvious that she was no match for his strength. He was standing behind her, holding her to him. With his free hand he grabbed her hair. He put his lips to her ear and whispered almost seductively "Ding Dong, you're dead". After that he yanked once on her hair, removing Victoria's head from her body. That was the last thing Bella saw before she passed out.

Bella awoke to the taste of something sweet and coppery in her mouth. There was something pressing against her lips. She shook her head to be rid of it. The pressure increased slightly as she heard a voice, "Drink up, it will heal you." It was Damon's voice. Her eyes popped open and landed on his face. He looked normal. She begun to wonder if everything she had seen earlier had been a dream or a hallucination. She saw the solemn look on Damon's face and she realized that this was all a stark reality. Victoria killed Renee and Phil and tried to kill her. Damon saved her. He had fangs? she thought. She noticed that the pressure on her lips was her savior's wrist and the sweet and coppery taste was his blood. Her eyes widened in shock and she tried to shake him off. He gently shook his head no and refused to budge. He licked his lips and begun to speak. His voice was soft, "Bella, I am a vampire. Vampire blood heals. We need to get you healed up and get out of here. We'll take you to the boarding house, or Elena's, wherever you want. Stefan and I are going to burn this house to the ground to cover up the attack. I'm sorry, I wish I had gotten here sooner. We'll explain things more once you are healed." He gently tucked some hair behind her ear. "Seems you have some things to tell us, too." he added. He gave her a weak smile.

Damon healed Bella. Caroline had packed her clothes for her and drove her to the boarding house. Stefan and Damon lit Bella's home on fire and came up with a cover story. Once that was taken care of, everyone gathered in the library at the Salvatore boarding house. They told Bella everything she wanted to know about vampires, witches, werewolves and hybrids. It did not shock her at all to learn that Damon, Stefan, Caroline or Elena were a different breed vampires. It didn't surprise her to find out that Tyler was a hybrid or that Bonnie was a witch. Jeremy could see ghosts. No, it actually fascinated her. She already loved this group of people and accepted them. It did not matter that they were supernatural. It explained a lot about the weird things that she had noticed since moving to Mystic Falls. It also explained why Damon, Stefan and Elena would get over protective of her at times. Bella admired Elena's strength and courage. It could not have been easy to find out you are a doppelganger and a key to breaking some evil hybrid's curse. Being a dead ringer for your boyfriend's ex could not have been easy, either. They told her more about Katherine and her devious ways. Bella had never met her and wanted to stake her herself. Bella realized that she now had even more in common with Elena. Not only had they lost their parents, but both had been humans who fell in love with a vampire.

After they each finished their stories, Bella told them about the Cullens, meeting them, dating Edward, and their gifts. She told them about James and his attack on her. She told them about that horrid birthday party, where Jasper tried to bite her over a simple paper cut. She elaborated more on her break up with Edward and the way it had affected her. She had not expected the empathy and love from each person sitting in the room. Damon himself had put his arm around her and tugged her closer to him as she told her story. She was grateful for the support, but something Damon said stuck in her mind as and it gave her a revelation, "Katherine is an evil, little, slut, but she has nothing on that sparkly bastard." Bella had agreed with him thinking that not only had Edward broken her down in the woods when he left her but he had left her in a world where she would be defenseless. She reasoned that if he had truly loved her, he would have never abandoned her. Even in the face of tragedy, she was thankful for her friends, especially Damon. Bonds were made that night that would never be broken.

The next few days passed by in a blur. Caroline took over the arrangements for Renee and Phil's memorial service. Bella just didn't have the heart to do it, so she told Caroline what she wanted and kept busy settling into the boarding house. Stefan and Damon had graciously invited her to live with them. Bella was grateful for the offer. Both Caroline and Elena had wanted her to move in with one of them, but after much thought, she decided to live with the Salvatore brothers. She felt the closest to Damon, and honestly, she needed him. He had been there for her more than anyone else. When she woke up screaming from the nightmares about Victoria, it was Damon who crawled into bed with her until she fell back asleep. When she wanted to see the lot where Renee and Phil's house once stood, it was Damon who walked her through the ruins and held her when she finally let the grief take over. She had bawled like a baby in his arms. It was his sense of humor that would bring a brief smile upon her lips. She had come to realize that the only person she wanted comfort from was the raven-haired vampire.

Bella found strength and warmth in Damon's touch whenever he would wrap an arm around her shoulders or grasp her hand. Her temple would tingle whenever he placed a kiss there. She was grateful for Damon Salvatore. Never more so than during the memorial service. Bella was so emotionally drained that she could barely stand as she lit the candles at the altar to honor the family she lost.. Damon had to help support her. He stood protectively behind her, his arms wrapped around her. He was going to be there for her, whatever she wanted or needed, he would see that she gets it. The others noticed their stance as they stood together. A few wondered how long it would be before one of them would realize that that there was something between them. During the service, Bella had felt Damon tense briefly and turn his head toward Stefan. She saw them exchange glances. The two brothers looked a little concerned and a little worried. If she had not been standing so close to Damon, she never would have noticed it.

Damon sat next to her during the service, holding her hand. Once it was over, everyone rose from the pews of the church. Damon had firmly kept Bella's hand in his, keeping her slightly behind him. Stefan walked beside him and Elena had grasped her other hand. It was almost as if they were shielding her from something. which she found it a bit odd. They were halfway down the aisle when Damon abruptly stopped. Everyone took his cue and stopped as well. Damon reached behind her to pull her closer against his back. "Who the hell are you and what do you want?" Bella heard him ask. His voice was not friendly and his tone demanding.

"We are here for Bella." A musical voice said. It was a voice that she would know anywhere. "Edward Fucking Cullen" she said in barely a whisper. Not quite believing her ears, she peaked over Damon's shoulder and lo and behold was the entire Cullen family standing behind the last pew. Their faces were serene. She seethed and glanced over to Elena. She shook her head no. She grasped Elena's hand tightly, as if holding on for dear life. Elena squeezes her hand in silent support. "That is the Cullen family" she murmurs, saying the name as if it's a swear word, her jaw clenched in anger. Upon hearing this, Damon's arm gets tighter around her waist.

Damon speaks up, a hint of fury in his voice, 'She doesn't want anything to do with you!"

"That's for her to decide." Edward arrogantly replies.

Damon seethes "Do you really think she'd want anything to do with you after you told her she wasn't good enough for you? That she was nothing more than a distraction? Do you really think she will even want to look at you after you abandoned her like trash?" The Cullens looked shocked, but said nothing.

"Who are you to speak for her?" Edward snarls out like a petulant child.

"Now, now I don't think THAT'S any of your business, Sparkle Pants.", Damon replied in his usual snarky manner. Bella just could not help herself, she snickers at the moniker. Damon looks down at her and smirks. She returns the smirk with one of her own as their eyes meet. Bella could swear she heard a few snorts at the comment. She moved Damon's arm aside as she moves to stand beside him. He wraps his arm around her waist. Elena steps up and stands on her other side. Bella makes eye contact with each one of the Cullens. "You need to leave." she says bluntly. "I don't want you here."

"Bella.." Esme addresses her softly, "We heard about Renee and Phil's death. We came for you. We know you have no family, nowhere to go. Please let us take care of you." She smiles gently at the girl she once called her daughter.

Bella purses her lips and glares. "That's where you are wrong, Esme. See these people? THEY are my family. I have a home and anything else I need. I don't need you, ANY of you. Please leave!"

Edward scoffs at her. Alice shakes her head and looks at Bella, her expression is pleading, "Bella, I saw Victoria coming for you. They won't be able to protect you." Her voice then changed, laced with a condescending tone "Do you really want to put these people in danger?"


t's Damon's turn to scoff as Bella's mouth gapes open. She is angry. "That bitch is already dead." Damon snarls out.

"She is the reason Renee and Phil are dead!" Bella yells out. "Victoria murdered them and almost killed me! I think it's safe to say your visions are way off, Alice.!"

"How can she be dead?" Edward asks with a dumfounded look on his face.

"Easy" Damon says with a shrug. "I ripped her head off and barbequed her ass when we burnt the house down." His tone is blunt and matter of fact.

All the Cullens eyes look on in shock. "How? You are human?" Jasper ponders out loud. His eyebrow quirks in Damon's direction.

Damon snarls as he replies "I'm not exactly human. Now, I believe Bella has asked you to leave. She has made it clear she doesn't need you, nor does she want you here."

The Cullens make no attempt to leave. Bella glances at Damon, then Elena. "Well..." she drawls out, "If they won't leave, then we will." She wiggles out of Damon's grasp and turns around, making a bee line for the back exit. Damon gives a little wave and saunters after her, his smirk firmly in place. The rest of her friends follow suit. Once they reach the back exit, Bella glares in Edward's direction and with a hard edge to her voice she tells him not to follow her.

Everyone left the church and went to the boarding house. Not a word was spoken on the way home. Bella was seething. She stomped into the house and went straight to Damon's liquor cart, grabbled a bottle and took a rather large swig. She slammed the bottle down on the cart. "Who the fuck do they think they are?" she screeched out. "So help me god if they come near me again I am grabbing a lighted torch and shoving it up their ass!" Some of the group is stunned at Bella's outburst, but that's only because they had never seen her truly angry. Elena, Caroline and Damon each grinned at her. Caroline walks over to her and hugs her tightly. Damon fixed her a drink and handed it to her. She sighed as she took it. He sat on the couch and pulled her onto his lap. "Isabella, if those fuckwits even dare try to talk to you, I will rip them apart and have a bonfire. I promise you that."

Bella was so touched by Damon's protectiveness and the anger he showed the Cullens on her behalf she turned and placed a kiss on his cheek, not noticing the way he closed his eyes and sighed in content at her actions. She remained in Damon's lap for most of the afternoon. The group discussed the situation and made plans to have someone with her at all times until the Cullen family had left Mystic Falls, or as Damon had bluntly put it "Until they are either gone or ash. Doesn't matter to me. To Bella's surprise, it didn't matter to her either.

Bella walked along Mystic Falls, past the Grill and the church. She been so lost in her thoughts as she reflected back on the past year. She hadn't realized she walked all the way to town until she heard music blaring from a car down the street. She had almost forgotten about that day. She realized that she would never really forget the day she lost what was left of her biological family, but she had learned to deal with it and gained a new family that accepted her and loved her. She smiled as she thought of the man that saved her. Damon. He always seemed to occupy her thoughts these days. Her dark knight with the most intense blue eyes she had ever seen. She was completely in love with him. She knew this, but she didn't know what to do about it. No, she did know what she wanted to do. She so desperately wanted to tell him. She wanted to tell him and hold him to her and kiss him. If she was completely honest with herself, she would do more than kiss him. She had never wanted anyone more than she wanted Damon Salvatore. Bella had always considered herself an old soul, burying herself in books by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. She also loved Shakespeare. As she thought about it, she realized those old romances formed her ideas of what love was and Edward Cullen fulfilled them. He had filled her head with a romance of a lion falling in love with a lamb, very much like Montague falling in love with a Capulet. She chuckled as she thought back to a time that seemed like so long ago when she was young and naïve and fell for Edward's so called charms hook, line and sinker. Even after everything that happened, she couldn't deny that it made her a stronger person.

She was no longer an innocent naïve, gullible teenager. She didn't believe that love was like a romance novel. No, those were works of fiction and they belonged on the shelf. Real love sets you a fire, consuming everything in its wake, yet it breathes its own life, burning brightly and keeping you warm. As much as she loved Damon, she was afraid to get burned. She loved whatever it was they had together. They were the best of friends. They understood each other, they laughed, and they could talk about anything in the world. They even shared the same bed on most nights. Aside from flirty comments with the healthy dose of innuendo coming from both sides, nothing sexual had ever happened. She smirked as she thought of the apparent sexual tension between the two of them. She was sure Damon knew the effect he had on her and she knew she had gotten to him more than once. Instead of blushing like she used to, now a days, she just takes it all in stride.

Bella reaches Wickery Bridge and stands there for a while, gazing at the water as she thought back to the time she knew for sure that she was indeed in love with Damon. Ironically, it was a couple days after the memorial service. Damon and Bella had both been asleep in her bed. With all her pajamas being in the wash, she had sneakily borrowed one of Damon's shirts and retired early that night. As usual, she had a nightmare about Victoria's attack. Damon came in and comforted her and she had asked him to stay. They lay cuddled together, with their legs tangled together. Damon's arms were protectively wrapped around her. To the outside world, they looked like two lovers. That's exactly what Edward Cullen had thought as he peered into the window of Bella's room.

Edward had only planned on sneaking into her room to watch her sleep. Seeing another man in his Bella's bed made him go into a murderous rage. He stood on the balcony fuming as he quietly turned the knob on the French doors. He smiled a maliciously as he found the door to be unlocked. He blurred into the room, grabbed Damon and threw him on the floor. "Bella is mine!" he roared.

Bella woke up to the noise and quickly wrapped the sheets around herself. "What the fuck are you doing here, Edward!" she growled out.

He turns to her, his eyes black as night, "You are mine! What was HE doing in your bed, Bella?"

Bella stands there and fumes, but before she could answer, Damon had gotten up and slammed Edward against the wall by the throat. Elena and Stefan had run into the room and pulled Bella behind them. Both wearing expressions of disbelief.

Damon's hold is so tight on Edward's throat that the marble-like skin begins to crack. Damon snarls at him, "I believe the lady asked you a question, Cullen. What the fuck are you doing here?" Edward doesn't answer, he just glares at Damon and then searches the room for Bella. "Answer me!" Damon shouts. He bangs Edward's head against the wall so brutally that cracks appear alongside his face. Edward schools his features, trying to look like an innocent victim. In a cool manner he lowly speaks, "I wanted to watch my love sleep."

Bella scoffs and Damon laughs in his face. "Seriously? Your love?" he stammers out between laughs. He shakes his head and utters, "You're an idiot."

"Edward", Bella says coldly and abruptly, "I am NOT your love, nor am I yours. You have no right to be here! Get out!" Edward's eyes widen in shock.

"Bella.."..." he says gently, looking at her. "You love me." His eyes widen as his pupils dilate.

"What is wrong with your eyes, Edward?" Bella asks. Her brows come together quizzically. Edward doesn't say anything. He just grounds out "Why doesn't it work?"

Damon chuckles as he eyes the vervain friendship bracelet Elena had given her. "He's trying to compel you. I think you called it dazzling when you told us about them." He turns to Edward "Ever hear of vervain, Ginger?"

Edward eyes Bella's bracelet and snarls out at them, "How do you know about Vampires?"

Damon moves his head side to side. "I don't know, maybe because I am one?" His tone turns cocky as he continues, "Your weaker vamp senses don't detect the fact that Bella is the only human in the room? It sure sucks to be your kind of Vampire! You see, we are stronger, faster and smarter than you..." He takes an appreciative glance at himself, then gave a disgusted look at Edward. He smirks, "and I have to add that we are also way better looking." The smirk remains on his face as he adds "Oh and guess what? We don't sparkle in the sun like a disco ball! That thought makes me have really bad flashbacks of Studio 54." Damon clicked his tongue and glanced at Bella. He wanted to make sure she was alright. He sent her a wink and she smiled at him. He turns back to Edward, "Are you going to be a good little boy?" he asks mockingly. Edwards glares at him but nods. Damon roughly lets him go and walks over to Bella, kissing her cheek and wrapping his arms around her waist.

"Bella?" Edward questions. Bella glances at him warily. "Are you with him?"

"Edward, that's not any of—"

Damon cuts her off aruptly and asks Edward "You came in here and found us in bed together. She's wearing MY shirt. Take a whiff of the room. Whose scents do you smell? That should be your answer." Edward looks crestfallen as he nods.

Bella looks at Edward "You left me, you told me time heals all wounds, remember Edward? You told me it would be as if you never existed." She smiles lightly as the pain shows on his face. She decides to stab the proverbial stake in the heart with her next words, "But that's not true. You left me and Victoria came after me because you guys killed James. Do you know if it had not been for Damon, I would be dead? I don't just blame Victoria for Renee and Phil's deaths, I blame you and your family. It's as if you and your family murdered them yourselves. You all are nothing more than self-righteous cowards. I got over you a very long time ago, Edward. The only emotion I feel for you is hatred. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. The same goes for you and your family. I was nothing more than a pet to you. There's nothing that will change my opinion on that. I never want to see you, or any of your family ever again, Edward. Leave.. Go.. It's what you do best." Elena winks at her and gives her a nod of approval. Stefan stands with his hands on his hips, thinking that Edward Cullen deserved everything that Bella threw at him. Damon squeezes her gently and kisses her on the cheek.

Edward looks lost and forlorn. He asks Bella if she loves Damon. Bella's whole face lights up into a genuine smile that does not go unnoticed by anyone in the room. She sighs and looks at Edward, "Edward, when you grow up and experience life a bit more, you will realize that love comes in many forms. Yes, I love Damon, but I also love Elena and Stefan. Most importantly, I love myself. How I love these people is not longer your concern and I would appreciate it if you would refrain from asking personal questions. I have asked you more than once to leave. Just go!. The next time I ask won't be so polite. Tell your family to stay away from me as well." She gives him a tight smile.

He makes his way towards the door and pauses. He makes eye contact with the group "Did you know I can't read their thoughts?" He then looks at Damon pointedly "Don't ever let her go." Everyone just stares after him as he walks away.

Damon squeezes Bella tightly, "He was about thirty seconds away from a hot date with a torch!" Bella shakes her head and bursts out laughing. Stefan and Elena both roll their eyes at him. Stefan grabs Bella's arm and tells her he is proud of her and kisses her forehead, "I love you, too." he whispers. Elena smiles broadly and hugs her. They both whisper their love and good nights to each other. "Good Night, John Boy!" Damon sarcastically shouts after them.

Bella giggles at him and shakes her head. He gets a playful grin on his face and quickly yanks the bedding she had wrapped herself in. She blushes as she tugs at the ends of Damon's shirt, trying in vain to cover her legs. He smirks at her "'Well look at you, Swan! You look sexy in my shirt!" He blurs over to her and throws her on the bed.

Bella yelps at the sudden movement "Damon!" she squeals. She then blushes as she realizes he's lying on top of her. The lengths of their bodies touching each other. His nose teases hers and she can feel her heart skip a beat.

Damon smirks in response. He licks his lips and eyes her in a seductive manner, "So….You love me, huh?"

She knows he is teasing so she bites her lip and bats her eyelashes playfully. She drags her leg up around his waist. He looks at her, surprised by her actions. She smiles at him as looks up at him playfully, "I love you Truly, Madly, Deeply..." she drawls out "You know like the song by Savage Garden?" Sarcasm was dripping in every word as her eyes dance with merriment. Damon smirks at her and cocks an eye brow. She giggles at his expression. He continues to stare down at her and she feels her cheeks warm up. Her heart flutters again and it was at that moment she realized that she had actually meant what she said. She shakes her head to clear her thoughts. But her mind keeps replaying 'I love Damon' over and over. Her throat closes in on her and she is at a loss for words.

He smiles at her "I always thought when a girl professed their love for a vampire, they would quote Love Bites by Def Leppard. It would be quite fitting, don't you think?" Bella just threw her head back and laughed. Damon laughed along with her. It been one of the few times he truly found himself genuinely laughing with someone. There was no pretentions, no games involved. Just pure laughter. It's something that he realized he had been missing in his life. It's not something he would openly admit, but he relished this moment. He also realized just how beautiful Bella Swan was when she laughed.

Damon moved off her to go and grab the blankets and sheets that were still laying in the floor. Bella yawned. She was exhausted, "You ready to go to bed?" she asked innocently.

Damon smirked. "We just recently professed our love, isn't a little too soon to go to bed?" he says with a teasing smirk on his face.

Bella's eyes widened when she realized what she had said and froze when she heard Damon's retort. She shrugged off the comment and helped Damon remake the bed. She climbed in, and surprisingly he laid down next to her. Seeing an opportunity too good to pass up he trailed his fingers along her arm and gave her a smoldering look, "You know I could never resist having a beautiful woman in bed." He smiled seeing her somewhat shocked look.

She smacked at his hand and gave him a playful glare, "Good Night, Salvatore!" She then rolled over with her back to him. She snatched the covers up and pulled them around herself as he snickered at her reaction.

He tugged some of the covers away from her and whispered teasingly in her ear "Good night, Beautiful Isabella."

"Damon?" she asked in a sleepy tone.

"Yes?" he drawled out.

"Shut up and go to sleep"

He smirked. "I love you too, Bella."

She could hear the smirk in his voice and she smiled. "That's nice to know, now lay that pretty head of yours down and go to sleep."

He chuckled. "You think I'm pretty?"

She sighed exasperated "Yes, Damon, you are very pretty. Now, please go to sleep."

Bella walks across Wickery Bridge, heading back to the Boarding House. She once again thinks about how much has changed. She fingers the locket Damon had gotten for her as a graduation gift. It was circular and the texture was done to resemble the branches of a tree and a nest. Sitting inside the nest was a crow with blue eyes. The eyes were made out of Lapis Lazuli. The same stone that were found on vampires' daylight rings. There were a few tiny red flowers scattered about the locket in a haphazard way. She wasn't sure what they were made of. The chain from which it hung was an antique. It was long and came to rest just past her breasts and onto her stomach. The chain had belonged to Damon and Stefan's mother. When Damon had presented her with the locket, she had not known that fact. It was Stefan who told her. She had immediately took it off and gave it to him when he told her.

Stefan had refused to take it. Telling her, "I don't remember my mother at all, but she was someone special in my brother's life. He asked my permission to give you this, Bella. He told me our mother would have loved you. You are special to Damon. I think he wanted some way to link the two women in his life that mean the most to him. Please don't tell him I told you what I am about to say. For the past 149 years, my brother suffered heartbreak and betrayal, very much like you have. He has done questionable things, he can be insufferable, snarky, and downright rude. Since that night he met you at the Grill, I have slowly seen a light come back into his eyes. His smiles and laughs are real. He is still an ass, but he is never that way towards you." He had taken her hand and squeezed it, giving her a wan smile. He licked his lips and his eyes misted over "Bella, you are his humanity. For many years, I hoped and wished, even prayed for someone to come and save him from himself, much like how Lexi helped me. I thought it would turn out to be Elena and perhaps he did love her at some point. Who knows for sure with Damon?" He chuckled lightly and continued, "You know my brother better than anyone, myself included. You accept him as he is, and that's what he has needed. Acceptance." He nods at her and smiles, "Acceptance and love."

When Bella had heard him mention love she had inhaled a sharp breath of shock and stared at him. He simply winked at her, "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me for now. I know you will eventually tell him someday. There is a time and place for everything. That is the one of the lessons I have learned over all these years as I walk this Earth. When the time is right, you will tell him."

Bella cradles the locket in her palm and smiles at the memory. It was a memory she treasured. She wonders if there will ever be a right time to tell Damon of her feelings. It late afternoon as Bella finds herself along an old trail along the Salvatore's property lines, leading into the forest. It's not one she had seen before. Feeling adventurous, she walks along the trail, just enjoying the colors of the leaves and the sound of her feet pattering on the forest floor. She thought back to when Damon had given her the locket.

They had gone to the Grill for lunch and were waiting for their food when Damon had placed a red velvet box before her. She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Happy Graduation", he said with that ever present smirk she had grown to love.

She gingerly opened the box. Nestled inside the box was the locket. She gasped when she saw it, taken aback by how beautiful it was. She looked at Damon and smiled. "Thank you" she said. She was admiring it and upon closer inspection, she saw the crow with the blue eyes. She giggled, "My little stalker." She had seen the blue eyed crow quite a few times when she was out and about town. He had always seemed to pop up when she was alone. Bella had told Damon about the bird and how cute he was quite a few times. She had told him that the little crow was quite inquisitive and had followed her around. She had gotten quite fond of him. He teased her, "Maybe he's in love with you and wants you to be his human girlfriend." That had made Bella laugh. Damon was quite pleased that she seemed to love the locket. He took the locket from her and opened it. Inside was a photo of the two of them that was taken at the boarding house. Her and Damon had been drinking and just enjoying having the house to themselves. Bella was in high spirits as she had had a lot to drink. Damon had turned on the radio so they could dance and "Truly, Madly, Deeply" started playing. It made Bella laugh, and he was anxious to capture the moment. He whipped out his cell phone and snapped the picture. Damon had had the photo blown up and framed. It sat proudly on his nightstand. It was the only picture in his room on display and the only one he wanted out. He also had a smaller copy made in black and white for Bella's locket. He had wanted a part of him with her at all times. His lips quirked up into a smile as he saw Bella fingering the locket. He had yet to show her the back where he had "Truly, Madly, Deeply IS/DS" engraved on the back. That would be for another day. A special moment when the time was right.

"This necklace will always make me think of you, Damon. Thank you" She had smiled and kissed his cheek. Once she put it on she never took it off.

Bella continued her walk through the woods and she came across a well. She had never seen it before. It kind of looked like a wishing well. It made her smile, so she walked closer to it. It was getting later in the afternoon and a light fog rolled in, filtering out some of the light. Bella twirled around looking for Damon. She knew about his ability to manipulate the weather. She wouldn't put it past him to play some kind of joke on her. "Damon!" she called out. When she got no reply, she grabbed her cell phone and called him. No answer, so she left a voice mail. She heard a caw and turned around back towards the little well. She laughed at what she saw sitting on the ledge of the well.

It was her blue eyed, black feathered friend. "Well, hello handsome" she cooed at him as she sat down. Her back leaned against the well.

He ruffled his feathers proudly. She giggled at him, "I see you're a bit full of yourself, just like someone else I know." He cawed at her and lightly tapped his beak against the back of her head.

"Ow!" she yelped. She reached up and rubbed the spot on her head. "You little ass" she grumbled. She lightly bopped him on his own head. He cawed loudly at her. She sat there and briefly wondered why am I sitting here, fighting with a freakin' crow! "I guess I can tell Damon that you are definitely not in love with me." She said with a wry smile.

He cocks his head and looks at her quizzically. She sighs ,"I can't believe I am talking to you." she grumbles. He continues to stare at her moving his head from side to side every now and then.

She looks at him and licks her lips. "Damon is my best friend." She sits and picks at her nails thinking as the crow stares at her. After few minutes, the crow perched itself on the ground next to Bella looking up at her intently. She decided to talk to the crow. She had to get some things off her mind and there was no way she would ever write her thoughts down for Mr. Nosy Vampire to find. It's not like the crow will ever tell anyone what she said. She takes a deep breath and looks at the crow. "I need to get some things off my chest…" She looks at the crow and it seems she has his rapt attention.

She shakes her head briefly to clear her thoughts. "Damon is my best friend." She smiles and casts her eyes to the forest. "I already said that, didn't I?" She laughs half-heartily. "Umm...yeah, this is awkward..." The crow pecks her foot and looks at her expectantly.

She smiles down at him. "It's almost like you can understand me…Well, as I said Damon is my best friend." She sucks in a breath and exhales. "He makes me laugh, he pisses me off. Sometimes I don't know if I'd want to stake him or kiss him." The little crow's eyes widen. She rubs his head gently with her fingertips. "He's a vampire, little one. He's a total bad ass when he needs to be, but he would never hurt me. If the truth be told, I think more about kissing him than staking him. I wonder what it would be like… He is the most passionate man I have ever met. He is impulsive, reckless, dangerous, and boy, does he have a temper." Bella smiles as she thinks about the vampire.

The crow openly stares at her, but Bella is so focused on her thoughts and purging them that she doesn't notice. "There is more to Damon than that, though. He is compassionate, loyal, caring, and thoughtful. At times, he can be the sweetest person you can ever meet." She chuckles ruefully. "He is definitely not perfect. No one is, really...Honestly? I wouldn't want him to be any other way than the way he is. He's complicated, but he wouldn't be my Damon if he wasn't." She shakes her head. "My Damon..." she whispers.

Bella stares out into the forest admiring her surroundings. She looks down at the crow and noticed he had moved closer to her. She licks her lips, "Did I tell you that he was gorgeous? He is a breathtaking sight! He has black hair, blue eyes and a full pouty mouth. He has a six pack and a happy trail." She grins. "Yes, I have checked him out. I live with the guy! He knows he's good looking, he parades around the house half naked in a towel or runs around shirtless. I won't deny it, it's a nice view." She chuckles and smiles at the crow. "I wish I had his confidence. He has vampire hearing and he knows where I'm at in the house. He KNOWS I check him out, I think he likes it! I'd love to be able to walk past him in nothing but a towel. The look on his face would be priceless. Me, Bella Swan parading through the boarding house in a towel! I think that would actually shock him!" Her eyes gleam with mischievousness. She glances at the crow, his head is cocked to the side as if in thought.

She shrugs her shoulders and picks at her nails, thinking. "I have a confession. The only other person that knows is Stefan. I can't tell anyone. Bonnie and Caroline are too judgmental, Elena is a worrywart and she'd probably question my mental health if I told her. Jeremy is too young to understand and I wouldn't tell Tyler Lockwood anything if my life depended on it." She grins with anticipation at knowing that her secret will be finally spoken out loud, that the heavy burden of carrying it alone will be lifted. "You will be the first to know. Stefan only guessed and I confirmed. Do you want to know, my little stalker?"

The crow caws and she smiles. "I have to warn you, it's a doozy…" Her smile wanes slightly and her heart quickens it's pace. The crow caws impatiently. Bella looks at him and chuckles. "You are almost as impatient as he is, do you know that?" The crow flies up to the ledge of the well, almost meeting her eye to eye. "Okay, okay," she sighs. "Here is my secret…I am in love with Damon. There! I said it! I am in love with Damon Salvatore!" She smiles. The crow's eyes stare at her almost as if in shock. Her secret is out….Well, out to a crow. A crow who is standing so still, that Bella wondered if he died.

Bella brushes her index finger along the top of his head as he looks at her. The blue in his eyes are more intense than before. Something niggles in her mind as she remembers that Damon's eyes will change its shade of blue depending on his mood. She brushes it off as a trait of having blue eyes. She looks at the crow and for a split second and she could swear that his eyes were the exact shade of blue as one Damon Salvatore. Bella moved in closer to look at him but he flew to the other side of the well. Maybe she has been thinking of Damon too much.

She shakes her head as she gets up and walks over to him. "Do you want to know the rest? There's a wee bit more." She gently smiles at him and sits down on the ledge, next to the bird. "I have only known Damon a year and it seems he knows me better than I know myself. He always seems to know when to make me laugh, when I need to talk, or when I need time to myself. He is the most amazing person I have ever known. Someone like that would never want plain, boring me—"

Bella is cut off as her phone rings. She gets up and goes to her bag. Peeking at the caller ID, she sighs. It's Stefan. She answers with a simple hello. He had wanted to know when she was coming home. She was about to respond when the phone was taken out of her hand. She spun around and saw Damon with her phone up to his ear, "Stef, she is with me. We'll be home later." He turned the phone off and looked down at her.

She stood there, startled, looking at him. Did he hear her when she talked to the crow? Damon stepped closer to her. He tucked some stray hairs behind her ear, "We need to talk." At the sound of those words coming out of his mouth her heart begin to pound. She could hear it thumping against her chest.

He encircled her waist with his arms. "Bella, there is no need for a panic attack today. I have something I want to tell you." Damon looks into her eyes and takes a deep breath. He takes her locket and holds it in his palm. They both look down at it. "This represents me. Not only because I can shape-shift into a crow, but because the nest represents home." A tear falls down Bella's cheek realizing that yes, he was the crow.

"After a hundred and forty nine years of being broken and angry, a hundred and forty-five of those years were spent trying to get Katherine out of the tomb. Once I found out she wasn't there, I felt lost. I felt like I was wandering around without a purpose. In truth, I was searching for something, I just didn't know what it was." He smiles and strokes her cheek tenderly. "I found it that night I saw you at the Grill, of all places. You sat at that table and smiled at me. It was like a beacon shining into the night, guiding me out of the darkness. The hopeless wanderer had finally found his home. In that moment, it seemed that everything in my life made perfect sense. You can call it fate, destiny, or karma." Both Damon and Bella chuckle lightly.

"I wanted you, too" she whispers.

He brings his index finger to her lips. "Shh…My turn to talk. Your little stalker listened to you for over an hour." He smirks at her. "No matter how much I wanted you, something told me the time wasn't right. I could see it in your eyes. They held the same thing mine did after I found out Katherine was never in the tomb. The held so much pain and loss. So, I waited and just as I was about to make a move, Red showed up and murdered your mother and step-father. I had never taken more pleasure in killing someone than I did killing Red. I made a vow to myself that night that I would protect you, I would do my best to give you anything that you needed or wanted." He takes her hand and leads her to the well and they sit on the ledge, bathed by the moonlight.

He brings her hand up to his lips and kisses her knuckles. "That night Eddie boy showed up in your room and you did such a splendid job of telling him off, I knew I had a chance. When we were doing our little flirt-a-thon in the bed, and you brought up 'Truly, Madly, Deeply', you meant it when you said you loved me, I know you did."

Bella smiled and nodded. "I didn't at first, but as soon as I said it, it hit me."

Damon nods and licks his lips. "Since you gave the crow such a detailed description of me, maybe it's time to tell you what I see… When I look at you, I see someone that truly knows me, someone that gets me and accepts me for who I am. That's all I ever wanted. Everyone has always told me be the better man. You never once tried to change me. I love you, Bella. You're everything I want and need." He cups her face and looks into her eyes. "You know that I am selfish. I don't want you to grow old and die. I want you for eternity, or not at all." He grasps her hands and waits patiently for her to say something. He wants nothing more than for her to say something, to want the same thing he does.

She smiles and tells him softly, "I wouldn't have it any other way. I love you, Damon. One lifetime just wouldn't be enough for me." She then leans in and presses her lips onto his.

Their kisses are sweet and tender at first and then as if they could not simply enough of each other, they kiss each other hungrily and passionately. Only they pausing to take a breath, Damon whispers in her ear "Do you want to go home and find out where that happy trail of mine leads to?" He smirks and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

Bella gives him a husky laugh and a wink. "Maybe I'll parade around in a towel for you."

He chuckles and wraps his arms around her waist guiding her out the forest. "I love you" he says.

"Truly, madly, deeply." She retorts. But this time she wasn't teasing him. She meant it with every fiber of her being.