I Do not own Twilight or The Vampire Diaries.

Bella Swan had been on her own for two years. She had no one to rely on. She was bitter, afraid and dejected. She decided that tonight would be the night that it would all come to an end. Sometimes in life you just have to say, "Enough is enough." and be done with it.

She was completely exhausted after all the never-ending running from the one that wanted her dead. It wasn't enough the red-head had already killed her entire family. Her dear, sweet mother had been pregnant with her second child and her stepfather had been basking in nothing but pure joy as he awaited the arrival of his first born son.

Victoria - the vampire that wanted her dead, ruthlessly murdered them in their own home. They had been found splayed on the floor with their heads missing and their hearts ripped out of their chests. The fetus was torn from its mother and placed between the two would-be parents. It had been a macabre picture of the perfect family.

At first, no one had known it was a vampire attack. The police thought it was a robbery gone wrong, or perhaps that was some crazy murderer. They wasted precious hours going over files of known serial killers and bringing in an FBI profiler. Perhaps it was standard procedure in most cases, but there was nothing standard about the murders of Renee and Phil Dwyer. Her mother and stepfather were nothing more than an easy target.

A week after the murders, Bella lay her loved ones to rest, and returned home to Forks. She had an eerie notion that something was off the moment she stepped foot she into the house. She even felt her stomach knot up painfully as she made her way upstairs to her bedroom. When she entered the room, she saw a rather large box brazenly sitting on the bed. It had no address, no markings, no nothing.

She had warily walked over to it, ripped off the tape that sealed it, and then undid the flaps. When she peered inside, there was a cooler nestled within the box. She gingerly removed the cooler and opened it. Once she did, her shrill scream could be heard two houses down the street. For in the box, were the heads of her mother and stepfather.

A revelation flooded her thoughts - she knew that something was after her. Something she could not tell the law about; nor her father. She wasn't a hundred percent sure at the time it was a vampire, but the facts were quickly adding up.

A week later confirmed her suspicions when she encountered Laurent, a supposed friend and former coven mate of a tracker named James, a vampire who ruthlessly hunted her down at one time and tried to kill her. Laurent had tried to make her his meal, but found himself dead and lit on fire, instead. Humongous wolves had appeared out of nowhere and ripped him apart. Bella had fled the scene just as purple smoke rose from the forest.

During the short conversation she had with the vampire before his attack confirmed her fears that someone was indeed out to get her. More than that, he told her who was after her and why. The killings were nothing more than a game to Victoria, all in retribution for the death of her mate…

The truth of the matter was that her mate deserved to die. Bella could easily recall how James had been malicious, cruel and so very eager to kill her. At the time, she was thankful to have a vampire boyfriend and his very gifted coven; for they rescued her and destroyed the evil bastard.

If the Cullen family had not shown up when they did, she would be dead. James had been merciless when he tossed her about a ballet studio and broke her bones in an almost gleeful manner. He obviously enjoyed the thrill of taunting his prey before finally reaping the reward... the victim's blood.

He had bit down on her wrist and was drinking heavily from her when her boyfriend, Edward, barged in and fought with him. But it was not he who killed James. It was his fellow coven member, Jasper. Edward was much too busy sucking the deadly venom out of Bella's body so that she would not become a vampire. He simply didn't care about the tracker; he was far more concerned about her precious soul than an apparent sociopath. He had gladly let Jasper and the rest of his coven handle it while he played hero and saved her.

She couldn't help but feel bitter about that little fact. He could have easily turned her into a vampire and ended her suffering. But no… she suffered for six weeks afterwards as her wounds healed. Six long weeks that seemed to drag on like they were months while Edward and his so-called family took control over her life - what she ate, what she wore, her activities, who she spoke to… they controlled every little thing.

When the cast came off, she felt a bit of freedom when she was allowed to be on her own for certain periods of time. It had been a relief to have some respite from her overbearing boyfriend and his family. Though, in the back of her mind she felt fear that James' coven mates were out there. Jasper had suggested that they go after them to ensure Bella's safety. Edward, presumptuous by nature because he could read minds, made the assumption that the other two members would be completely harmless and told everyone to just let them go.

If the pussypires had only listened to Jasper then, her life would not be the hell it was now. Her parents would be alive. Her best friend would be alive. She would have a home and a future. Yet, she had nothing but her beat up old truck, some clothes and a couple of photographs.

All she knew was running, never staying in one place for too long; out of fear that Victoria would catch up to her. She tried to mask her scent by changing her shampoo and body wash. She even changed her diet and took up smoking. All in hopes that she could somehow throw off her scent, making it harder for the vampire to catch a whiff of her in the air.

Bella was also careful to stay in the south, where the sun shone often. That would only mean Victoria could come out at night. Not even she would risk her sparkling skin to the humans, no matter how badly she wanted her dead.

Bella parked her truck outside a diner in Savannah, Georgia. She took her pictures from the glove compartment. She looked down at the picture of her father in his police uniform while tears spilled from her eyes and down her cheeks. The other picture had been of her best friend, Jacob. She wistfully smiled as she remembered her Sun.

Jacob had been the one who kept her shattered heart melded together after Edward and his family cruelly abandoned her. It had been after a disastrous birthday party where Jasper had tried to take a bite out of her. Edward made his final decision in regards to her and their relationship and ended things in the woods behind her house. That was only after he tossed every insecurity she had in her face and told her she wasn't good enough for him. He had told her she was only human and had no place in his world. He had also promised her that it would be as if he never existed.

She bitterly laughed as she sat in the truck. "As if you never existed, my ass." she seethed.

Something then caught her eye and she momentarily forgot what she was thinking about when she caught a glimpse of a man dressed in black standing underneath the lamppost across the street. He had his foot propped up against the post, and his hands were stuffed into his pockets while he surveyed the scene around him. His eyes caught hers, then he cocked his head to the side, boldly smirking at her.

She blinked and he was gone. She was sure she had imagined it as she leaned back in the seat of her truck. Her mind flashed to the day she had come home and witnessed the sight of her father impaled against the wall. His body had been drained of blood and hung at an awkward angle. It seemed that every bone in his body had been shattered. It was an unsettling sight, to say the least.

She had made her way through the house and to the back door. Once she opened it, she looked out onto the back yard. There, she had found Jacob's mangled body in his wolf form; furry limbs were scattered all over the yard. She walked around in shock while she took in the view of the blood-stained back wall of the house. The whole area looked as though it was painted in blood. It dripped from the limbs of nearby trees and there were puddles of it all over the back yard. The spectacle reminded her of a gruesome horror film.

She had fell to the ground sobbing, allowing the grief to overtake her. She didn't know how long she had sat there when Sam - the Alpha of Jacob's pack, stepped out from the tree line.

"Bella, we chased her away. She's gone for now. I'm so sorry about Charlie. He was a good man." He spoke calmly and sympathetically.

Her grief turned to anger quick as a flash while she came to her feet, her eyes blazing with fury, "You chased her away?" You mean to tell me that your pack couldn't hunt the bitch down and kill her!?"

She then marched forward, "You and Jake both promised me! You fucking promised that you would protect Charlie and I…" Tears pricked her eyes as she threw up her hands, "Just look at this!"

She laughed bitterly, "He's dead! Hell! I'd be better off on my own. You guys are worthless! An entire pack of mutts couldn't catch one little bitch!"

Sam sighed and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, "Bella, I know you are angry and upset right now. You have every right to be; but you must know that we did all we could. Victoria is good at getting away…"

"No shit, Sherlock! Just how long have you guys been after her, now? A year or more? I think it is safe to say that you are never going to catch her and considering its obvious you don't know what the hell you are doing - I think it'll be better if I just leave town."

She looked down at the ground with a sigh and blew out a breath to release some of the ire she felt. She then bit her lip, quickly making plans in her head before she met the Alpha's face once more, "You can take care of Jake and I'll handle things from here…"

Sam cocked his head to the side, worry washing over his features, "What is it you're going to do, exactly?"

She gave him an awkward smile as she replied, "It is not your problem anymore, Sam… just go."

She turned her back to him and walked to the house solemnly. She calmly opened the door and found her way to her bedroom. There, she grabbed a small duffle bag and stuffed some clothes, underwear and a few pictures that she wanted to keep. She took the bag out to her truck and tossed it on the front seat.

Bella then made her way to the garage and picked up a can of kerosene and the gallon of gas Charlie kept aside for the lawnmower. Her mind and spirit went into autopilot as she went back into the house, ignoring the body of her father and set the can of kerosene in the middle of the floor. She unscrewed the cap on the gas and slowly walked through the house, leaving a trail of it behind. She detached herself emotionally from the scene and stepped out of the house.

Standing on the front stoop, she inhaled a deep breath while the memories of the past flashed through her mind. She had met and fell in love with a vampire, was abandoned by him, found out her best friend could shape-shift into a wolf, lost her family and had someone hell bent on revenge after her. Once the crisp air hit her face, the emotional toll overwhelmed her and she didn't fight the tears that fell steadily down her face. She bid her father a silent goodbye and walked to the squad car, where she knew he always kept a Zippo handy.

She walked back into the house, heading towards the kitchen. She grabbed one of her father's beers, popped the cap and quickly guzzled it down as she spotted a newspaper on the counter. She set the empty bottle down, tore off a piece of the paper, then folded it up and twisted it. She inserted it in the bottle, leaving a wick of sorts. She peeked over to the living room window, then briskly made her way over to it and opened it before ambling out of the house.

Bella stood on the front lawn and nervously drew in a breath. She glanced around, making sure there were no witnesses before she took the Zippo out of her pocket and lit the edge of the paper inside the bottle. She quickly tossed the bottle through the window and ran to her truck.

That was at that moment her life on the run began. She knew many would assume she died in the fire, as well. She also knew it would never fool a vampire. Sam had seen her and she knew that Victoria would pick up on that little tidbit sooner or later.

It had bought her a few months of freedom as she travelled from place to place. First was California, where she lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego before finally moving on. She eventually found her way back to Phoenix, Arizona. The memories of her life there with her mother were much too much for her, although she felt a sense of familiarity and security in the state. It was her home for such a long time; so she decided to settle in nearby Glendale for a while.

Bella felt safe there since it was relatively sunny most of the time. Her savings held out, but she still wanted to work, even if it just meant having something to do. She couldn't stand the thought of being holed up in her tiny one bedroom apartment all of the time, and she reasoned she'd be far safer in the public eye.

She got a job at a used book store and settled into a lonely existence. She was friendly enough with her boss and co-workers, but ever mindful not to get too close to anyone. She wouldn't want Victoria to use them as leverage.

She stayed there for a good eight months and in that time, her grief at the deaths of her loved ones ebbed away to a dull ache. The pain of missing them wasn't quite as sharp as it first was. During those months, she had also come to the conclusion that it wasn't her that wasn't good enough for Edward. It was the other way around, he wasn't good enough for her.

It was also there she learned for certain that there was no escaping Victoria. She was walking home from work one afternoon when she spotted a blurring figure that glittered in the rays of the sun making its way up the fire escape to her building. Not willing to take any chances, she quickly grabbed the keys to her truck and made her way to it. As soon as she had the ignition running, she stepped on the gas and peeled out of there.

She drove until she was nearly out of gas and it was only then she pulled over at a truck stop. She checked the glove compartment and made sure that her pictures and money she had hidden in the secret compartment were there. She sighed in relief and grabbed some of the bills, filled her tank and went into the convenience store. She bought a t-shirt to sleep in, some snacks, a soda, and paid for her gas.

She found a cheap motel and crashed there for the night. As soon as the sun was up, she quickly showered and left the city and moved on. She drove from place to place, never staying in one spot for too long. The place she stayed at the longest was Miami, Florida. Always sunny, always crowded and there could be a job found doing just about anything. She had stayed there long enough to add back the color she had lost while on the run and also took a stab at changing her appearance.

She cut her hair and dyed it a golden blond. She wasn't particularly fond of the color, but at least it helped her blend in among the thousands of the blond beach bunnies. Her wardrobe changed drastically, as well. She worked at a nightclub and sexy clothes were needed to get those extra tips. It was there her confidence improved as she mastered the art of flirting and how to control the men that got a little too handsy.

Her boss, Sonny, was an ex narcotics detective and had taken quite a liking to her. He taught her how to handle the men and taught her some basic self-defense moves. He himself being an all-around ladies' man knew just what would work to get rid of unwanted advances. He had told her that if all else failed, a good knee to the nutsack would do the job. That advice she took on more than one occasion and not once did she ever say she was sorry.

It was a busy night at the club when Victoria had caught up with her once again. She was at the bar awaiting drink orders when she caught a flash of bright red hair. She froze and grabbed ahold of the bar.

"What's got you so scared, Kitten?" Sonny spoke into her ear as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.

"I got to go…." she whispered in fright, stepping away him.

He shook his head and grasped her hand, "Now, you wait a minute! I know you're runnin' from somethin'! I was a cop too damn long not to know that. Let me help you!" he told her sternly.

"Y-You can't! She'll kill you!" Bella stuttered out.

"Not the first time I've heard that one, baby." he retorted back softly.

"I'm serious! I won't give her a chance to. Just let me go...NOW!"

He nodded while blowing out a breath and reached into his pocket, pulled out some money and handed it to her. "Well then, you get out of here and if you get in trouble... you damn sake better call me!" he ordered. When she didn't say anything, he arched a brow, "Got it?"

She squeezed his hand as she took the money and then kissed him on the cheek, "Thanks, Sonny."

Somehow, she had made it out of there and to her truck. She thanked her lucky stars for that. She traveled through the state, up to Orlando, then Jacksonville. She stayed on the move until she found herself in Savannah, Georgia.

The last few months had been nothing more than a cat and mouse game between herself and Victoria. She had discovered that no matter what she did; she could never outrun the bitch that was hell bent on revenge. The vampire would never stop chasing her until she was dead.

She tucked her photos into her leather jacket with a sigh as she got out of the truck and walked into the diner. She sat at the table and fidgeted, while thinking about her parents, her stepfather and her best friend. She even thought about Sonny. She was startled when the waitress approached her with a menu. Bella had stared at it blankly and when the tall brunette asked what she wanted to drink, she surprised herself with the decision to order a beer.

The waitress studied her at her, then shook her head. "Gonna need some ID, Pumpkin."

Bella eyed the waitress down, "Are you shitting me?"

The waitress frowned, "Afraid not."

Bella rolled her eyes and read the woman's name on her tag. "Well, Harley...Do I need ID to get a coffee, too?" she smarted.

"Nope, that I can do!" With a salute, Harley jaunted off to fill the order.

Bella was reading through the menu to decide what she wanted when a bottle of Bud Light was placed down in front of her. She glanced up to the waitress and was about to say something, but she was cut off.

"Don't thank me, thank the hot guy over there at the counter." Harley then jerked her head towards the counter, "The drink is on him. He said it looked like you needed one."

Bella warily glanced over towards the counter, spotting the guy she had seen earlier standing under the lamppost. He raised his glass to her and nodded once. She took a good look at him and noted that his eyes were a startling blue filled with pain and sorrow. She fleetingly wondered if he had lost as much as she had. She shook her head, clearing her thoughts and turned back towards the waitress to place her order.

Once she finished her meal, she made her way to the register and there, the cashier told her that her check was covered. Again - courtesy of the man at the counter. She simply shrugged, wondering just what the guy's deal was. It was almost as if he knew she was in danger. Almost like he knew that she was about to surrender herself to death and was offering her a gift with her beer and last meal. Did she have a sign on her back that said 'Dead Woman Walking'?

She walked out the door and down the sidewalk. When she got to a secluded area, she saw a blur and a flash of red hair.

"Oh come on, Vicki..." she whispered. "The game is up…you win. Just kill me and be done with it."

Someone roughly snatched her, tossing her into a nearby alley. The wind was nearly knocked out of her as she hit a brick wall. She shook her head and blinked. When her vision cleared, she was met with the frightening red eyes of Victoria.

"Oh you don't think I was going to actually make it quick and painless, did you? Oh, no… you will suffer!" With that, Victoria had smacked her hard enough that her eardrum popped and her cheek cracked. Blood trickled out of her ear, making her nauseous.

Victoria smiled maliciously. "This will be so much fun, Isabella!" She grabbed Bella by the collar and tossed her to the other side of the alley.

"You're not making this any fun! Aren't you going to try and fight back? That's what Daddy did! He didn't give up so easily..."

The red head bent down and roughly gripped Bella's chin. 'Actually, he tried to shoot me!" She then chuckled, "and your little friend Jake tried to bite me. It was cute how the little puppy dog tried to take on the big bad vampire." Her fingers dug into Bella's chin and she tilted her head to the side as her eyes shimmered with glee.

"But your precious mommy was a screamer. Did you know that? I just loved how she screamed when I ripped that baby from her womb!"

She then picked Bella up and slammed her against the wall. "So… are you going to scream like mommy or fight like daddy? What will it be?" she hissed.

Bella defiantly met her eyes. "Neither one. Just kill me." she uttered.

"But where would the thrill in that be, little girl? Hmm?" She then run a finger along Bella's neck, mopping up the trail of blood there before popping it in her mouth, "Hmm..."

She smacked her lips with a wicked grin, "Delicious. I guess we know what it was your mind reader was really after, don't we? It certainly couldn't have been your looks…"

That vampire's babyish voice was starting to grate on Bella's nerves and a spark suddenly lit within her. Surely, she couldn't just give up for this petulant little bitch that had misguided ideas on where her vengeance should lie. It wasn't her fault that her mate was stupid enough to go after someone protected by a coven of very gifted vampires, not thinking there wouldn't be any repercussions.

She licked her lips and met Victoria in the eyes, scoffing. "You really think that James' death was my fault?! It wasn't even Edward that killed him! He was too much of a goody-good for that! It was Jasper that killed him! The rest of the family lit him on fire! Shouldn't you be going after them?" She kept her gaze steady on the vampire and would not back down from her words.

The red head just shook her head, "Doesn't matter. You played your part in it, too. For that, you're going to suffer just as my James did!"

"You are a stupid, bitch. Aren't you?" Bella asked with a touch of incredulity.

Victoria tensed for a moment before she growled and hissed, "You'll pay for that!"

She then yanked on Bella's arm and pulled it from its socket. The young human girl bit down on her tongue to keep from screaming. She was not about to give the vampire any satisfaction of letting her know how much pain she was in. She decided straightaway she wouldn't even let out a whimper.

Dissatisfied at the girl's reaction, she pulled Bella's other arm from its socket, then yanked at her hair while her other hand came crashing down on the human's uninjured cheek, shattering her cheekbone.

Bella's nose bled profusely and just as she thought she'd pass out from the smell, Victoria kicked her in the stomach, sending her flying towards the other end of the alley.

She laid on the ground, blood oozing from her face and her vision blurry. She saw the flash of red hair coming to her and whatever will she had mustered up to live was quickly gone as the vampire kneeled before her.

"Say goodbye, Isabella." she whispered triumphantly. She then opened her mouth, preparing bite the girl's neck.

Bella's eyes widened and her heart thumped wildly. This is the end, she thought.

Suddenly, Victoria was no longer there. There was a blur of black and a flash of red hair; there were movements that her human eyes couldn't keep up with. It was then her body could no longer take the excruciating pain, and the smell of blood overwhelmed her senses. Her vision slowly faded until she drifted into darkness.

Bella awoke the next morning with a pounding headache. She squeezed her eyes shut and bit down on her lower lip to distract herself from what felt like a jackhammer in her head. There was also an odd taste in her mouth that was sweet, yet salty. The closest thing she could compare it to was a chocolate covered pretzel. She could also taste the faintest hint of copper and it puzzled her. Thinking on it for a moment, she was reasoned it was the blood she had swallowed during her incident with Victoria.

She inhaled a sharp breath in fear while gripping the sheets of the bed she was lying in. Flashbacks came to mind of the brutal beating she had received. She didn't know how she could have survived and then the image of a black blur fighting the vampire came to mind. She was sure that is what saved her and she wondered how it was even possible.

She opened her eyes slowly and took note that she was in a room of some sort - a nice hotel room, she surmised. She could spot the silk curtains, the expensive art that hung on the wall, and the fine china vases filled with flowers. Gingerly running her hand across the bed, she wearily blew out a breath. She slowly shook her head as she comprehended her surroundings and timidly sat up, bringing her knees to her chest.

It was then that she begun to ponder why she wasn't in pain. She should be dead, or at least in an intensive care unit somewhere. The pounding in her head returned and she rubbed her temples to soothe the ache.

"Good morning, sunshine! I see you're awake. Took you long enough…"

The voice was husky, sexy and had a dangerous edge to it. It was smooth as silk and Bella couldn't help but turn her head to it. She almost wished she hadn't…for there was the man she had seen at the diner, walking out of the adjoining bathroom in nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. His hair was wet and as each drop of water trickled down his body, she felt an urge to lick them off with her tongue.

She blinked several times in a vain attempt at banishing the vision before her and emptied her head of any ideas about licking anything. She cleared her throat and made a point to look the man in the eye, "Ummm…"

He raised a brow as he looked at her. The light flashed upon his face and she noted once again that his eyes were oh, so blue. She was almost completely mesmerized by them, but then his snarky tone filled the air when he spoke, breaking whatever spell she felt she was under.

"I guess this is the part where either start screaming bloody murder because you woke up to a sexy naked guy in a hotel room, or you put me in a round of twenty questions."

Bella simply stared at him, unable to formulate a response. He sighed, "The least you can do is thank me for saving your life and offing Ms. Ginger."

Swallowing thickly at the revelation of him being the black blur that attacked Victoria the night before, she questioned him apprehensively, "That...was you? How?! You're just human..."

His lips slowly formed into a smirk, "Well, if you really want to be technical about it… I am human. Just dead, or undead; however you want to put it." He then shrugged nonchalantly, "I'm a vampire."

She couldn't quite believe his words as she looked at him owlishly. She grasped at the bedding once more and her heartbeat sped up. Not out of fear, but nervousness. The last good looking vampire she met, she had ended up falling in love with. That ill-fated love affair nearly destroyed her. The thoughts of the past played through her mind like an old movie and she sighed regretfully, knowing that falling in love with Edward had cost her everything.

She eyed the so-called vampire before her and recollected seeing him at the lamppost - not sparkling. Then she remembered him drinking at the diner. She didn't suppose that he was lying, but the two facts were contradictory to what she knew about vampires. Bella shook her head in disbelief and blurted out, "But you don't sparkle!"

He laughed humorously. "Vampires don't sparkle, they burn in the sun!" He spun around and grabbed a glass of amber liquid before turning back to her. "Cold Ones, on the other hand… glitter like a disco ball." His eyes darkened and there was a menacing glint behind them. "Don't ever compare me to those things again! They are nasty, vile and just plain disgusting…masquerading as vampires when they are nothing more than parasites!" He swallowed his drink down and slammed it on the table next to him.

Bella chewed on her lip and looked down at her hands. She sat like that for a few minutes before she felt Damon plop himself on the bed. She timidly rested her head on the top of her knees.

"I'm sorry…" she mumbled sincerely.

He smirked, "And what in the hell would you have to be sorry about? Hmm?"

She peered up at him and smiled wistfully, "I didn't mean to insult you."

He licked his lip and eyed her, "Being compared to a Cold One is rather insulting. I mean, look at this!" he then waved a hand along his form. "There's no comparison. Trust me!"

"A bit full of yourself, aren't you?" she teased.

He chuckled. "How about I finish getting ready and you order some breakfast? He got up and went to a table, picked up a leather-bound menu and tossed it on the bed. "Get whatever you want. It's on me."

"Uh…Don't I need your name?"

He smiled slightly, "Damon Salvatore. Nice to meet you, Isabella." he answered in in a tone that was not quite polite.

"I prefer Bella." she stated meekly.

"And I prefer Isabella! Now, get that breakfast ordered! Chop, chop!"

She scowled as she watched his retreating figure and grabbed the phone on the nightstand. It was then she realized she was dressed in nothing but a black t-shirt. She screeched and anxiously tugged up her shirt, letting out a sigh of relief when she discovered that she still had her panties on.

She sat with the phone in her lap for a few moments, thinking of Damon and the fact he had saved her. He was an actual vampire. The ones she had thought to be vampires were Cold Ones. What did that mean, exactly? Obviously, they were weaker - or maybe Damon was just stronger and faster than your typical vampire? She didn't know. He was sarcastic, had a chip on his shoulder and had the total bad boy act down pat. Yet, he cared enough to save her life…

More and more questions popped into her head, almost making her head spin. She felt sharp jabs of pain as her headache returned. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, hoping to ease it off.

"Headache?" Damon questioned as he walked back into the room, fully dressed head to toe in black.

"Yeah…It feels like a herd of elephants are running through my head." she replied, trying her best not to look at him. To her, he was even better looking clothed and the black attire made his blue eyes stand out even more.

"It's probably from my blood." he stated in a casual tone, making his way towards her.

Her eyes flew open in astonishment as she met his gaze, "Your blood?" Her voice raised an octave as she added, "Explain. Now!"

He smirked while he bent over at the foot of the bed, reaching for something. He held up her duffle bag and carelessly dumped it on the bed. "My blood has healing properties."

Bella raised an eyebrow, not quite willing to believe him. "Healing properties?!" she inquired.

"Yep!" Damon responded with a touch of derision.

"You're kidding."

"Nope" he said, popping the 'p' sound. He then sighed, "Our blood can heal humans. But if they die with it in their system, they go into transition. So, it's not often I take my time to heal a human."

Her eyes widened, "And just how long will your blood be in my system, Damon? I don't want to be a vampire."

He tilted his head side to side as if in thought, "Usually, it takes about 24 hours to get out of a human's system; but you - had a lot. So, I'd say it'd probably take about a week, give or take…"

She gasped at the thought and looked at him, "Seriously?"

He chuckled, shrugging. "Seriously!" he mocked. His mouth formed into yet another smirk, "Here's a tip…don't die! That is, unless you change your mind about the whole undead thing. Otherwise, we'd just have to find a vein for you to tap. Viola! Brand new baby vamp!" He then snapped his fingers while she glared at him.

"How can you be so blasé about dying and living for eternity?" Bella asked, with incredulity in her voice.

He pursed his lips, "Easy! I didn't have much choice in the matter…"

She shook her head and wondered for a moment exactly what his statement meant. She glanced anxiously towards her bag and was rather stunned he had actually went to the truck and retrieved it for her. More like stole it, she thought. There were so many questions she wanted to ask him, but she just knew he wouldn't give any answers, at least not directly.

Damon saw her peeking at the bag and took the phone and the menu from her hands. "Go get a shower and I'll see to breakfast."

She arched her eyebrow at his demand, but said nothing. She got up from the bed, tugging at the ends of the t-shirt to make sure everything was covered.

He snickered, "Oh, stop that! I saw it all last night, sweetheart. Believe me, there's nothing there I haven't seen before!"

She placed her hands on her hips and with a huff of annoyance asked him, "Has anyone ever told you that you're an ass?"

He smiled, "Maybe...once or twice." He then winked cheekily at her.

"Well, you are!" she replied snappishly, deciding to blatantly ignore him while she dug through her bag to get her clothes.

His expression was rather amused as she stomped past him, heading towards the bathroom with her clothes in tow.

Once Damon heard the shower running, he sat on the bed pondering what the hell made him so drawn to her and why the hell he felt the need to save her. The past five years of his life had been meaningless. He had spent most of the time questioning his very existence and there were more than a few times he had the desire to take off his daylight ring and meet the sun. It would be selfish of him, though. Who would be there to look after his baby brother?

Two of those five years were spent wandering around like a vagabond, and had given him too much time to think. The conclusions he came to were mind boggling. The woman he loved - the supposed love of his life, laid inside his family's tomb; due to a magical spell. He had told her he would wait for her and she had simply told him to be happy - to live his life.

He shook his head, thinking on it. One of his many revelations had been that if he had truly loved her, he would have ended the linking spell put upon her and her best friend, Bonnie. All he would have to do was simply just kill the other girl and Elena would wake up. Then, they could have lived a blissful human life for however long it lasted.

But no, he had saved Bonnie's life on more than one occasion since then. For she was one of his best friends, too. The world would be a rather dreary place without the little witch, after all. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that Bonnie would be dead if he really loved Elena. The fact that he deemed Bonnie's life much more pertinent spoke volumes to him.

He reflected on the days after he had interred Elena inside the tomb and how they were filled with nothing but death and destruction. Damon couldn't bear the pain of losing her, so he flipped his humanity off and wreaked havoc on his hometown of Mystic Falls. He drained bodies left and right without a second thought. He and his brother fought a deadly war against their very own mother and her little group of Heretics. Witchpires, as he liked to call them. That too, brought on more devastation upon the town and in the end; it nearly destroyed it. The town became a shell of what it once was and when they finally had the evil, little group right where they wanted them, it was he that killed his own mother. Not that he cared at the time, anyway.

It wasn't until a few days later when he walked among the ruins and came across the bloody spot where it all happened that the past events caught up to him. Losing the one he loved, his town, his mother, and another good friend by the name of Enzo hit him like a ton a bricks as he peered down at the reddish spot on the ground. That feeling of desolation, abandonment and aloneness enveloped him and cast a dark shadow on his entire being. Ironically, it was what made him turn the switch back on.

That was two years ago…two years ago since he left Mystic Falls and after almost a hundred and eighty years of being on this earth, he finally faced the equivalent of what most people would call a mid-life crisis. He questioned everything that had happened in his life. He questioned himself and went off in search of something. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he knew there had to be something out there and he was determined to find it.

What he did know was that he liked being who he was and what he was. He accepted his existence and once again reveled in blood, sex and bourbon. He lived for being a vampire and compelling people to bend to his will. He enjoyed the strength, the speed and the agility. He even enjoyed ripping someone's head off if they pissed him off. He could no longer fathom the idea of taking the cure and being human, ever again. That would be the most miserable thing he could think of.

That little revelation made him realize that any romantic relationship with Elena would be doomed to fail. He had promised her before the spell was cast that he would take the cure, and live out a typical human existence. There probably would have been a white picket fence and two kids. He sneered at the very idea. It was never who he was and he only made the promise to please her. Things had changed so much in the past five years, that surely the next fifty or sixty years would change even more dramatically. Damon was a realist and it would be foolish thinking to believe that once the spell broke and Elena woke up, that they could easily pick up where they left off.

Sure, she would be hurt by that fact he no longer loved her and wanted that life; but he was sure she'd get over it quickly and rebuild a new life of her own. What she envisioned for them was something he no longer wanted. While he may have mourned her loss and what could have been and while he will always care for her, he could not say he loved her. Not anymore. That chapter of his life had closed.

He sighed, hearing Isabella shut off the water and grabbed the phone. He quickly dialed the number and placed an order for breakfast. He then got up and stood at the window, looking down on the city below. The girl's name danced in his mind…

He could not deny that she was a true beauty, even with the bad dye job on her head. She had a full, pouty mouth and big brown eyes. Her curves were in all the right places, and from what he saw the night before… her breasts her absolutely perfect. It wasn't just her little neck he would mind noshing on. He smirked at the thought and tossed back the last of his drink.

He glanced at the bag and wondered how long it would take her to figure out he had already been through it. There was a knock at the door and at the sound of clinking glass and a squeaky wheel he guessed it was room service. He opened the door and spied the young woman who stood there in uniform with a cart of food. He smiled devilishly, turning on his inner flirt and took a nice little bite from her neck before compelling her to forget and sending her away.

He had just finished transferring the food from the cart to the table when he heard the door from the bathroom click open.

Bella timidly walked into the room and stood there, taking in the sight of Damon and the table laden with food. She giggled softly as she asked, "Why is it I'm getting a Pretty Woman vibe from all of this?"

He huffed before issuing a retort, "Do I look like I need to hire an escort for a week?" He gestured along his body with a flourish to emphasize his point. His eyes then danced with amusement while he smirked down at the petite brunette.

Bella grinned at his reply before she sat down and grabbed a strawberry from the fruit bowl. She took a bite and nearly choked on it at his next statement.

"Besides, who would fall for a dick of a guy with a name like Edward?"

The strawberry fell from her hand, bounced off her plate and fell to the floor. The very sound of his name sent her for a tailspin. She truly thought she'd gotten over everything and put it behind her. Her heart clenched as she realized that the wounds Edward had left her with would always be there. Not only because he was her first love and cruelly hurt her; but because she would always have an anger and a bitterness in regards to him. It had been his actions that took everything she held dear away from her.

"Isabella… whoo-hoo…Isabella…" Damon called out, bringing her out of her thoughts. "Let me guess, you have a dick of an ex named Edward." he stated with a hint of sarcasm.

She nodded and placed her hands in her lap. The tears started to fall as she thought to the fact everything was behind her. Edward would never come back, Victoria was dead and she could stop running. She was free and could live a life. The only problem was she didn't even know where to start.

"Ok… let's do the whole bonding thing here. Ya know, swap stories and whatnot..." he suggested. "Just don't expect me to paint your toenails…"

She offered him a wan smile and asked him curiously, "Have you ever been in love?"

"Oh, honey… I wrote the fucking book on it and it's not pretty." His expression hardened somewhat as he peered over to her.

She poured herself some coffee and gestured to him, "Please, go on…"

"I've been in love twice…"

He held up two fingers and made sure he had her attention before continuing, "Cliffs Notes version would be this…1864, I met a woman named Katherine. My brother and I both fell in love with her and she got captured and locked in a tomb. When we tried to save her, we got shot by dear old dad for our trouble and died with Katherine's blood in our system."

Bella's eyes widened in shock, "She was a vampire?"

He scoffed, "And a nasty little bitch at that. We transitioned and I spent the next century and a half trying to find a way to free her from the tomb. Well, needless to say...she wasn't there and after a bunch of fun and games, my little brother killed her. She's dead and good riddance. May she rot in hell!"

He then raised his glass in a mock toast as a trace of bitterness laced his features.

Bella had been quietly listening while she picked at her food. She peered up at him, "And the second time?"

"Oh, the second time was with her doppelganger, Elena. She too, in love with my brother. I'll spare you the soap opera on that and tell you that she loved him and shit happened. She eventually fell in love with me; we promised to love each other forever, then some witch named Kai showed up and bonded her life with her best friend by casting a spell. So now she's a sleeping beauty in my family's crypt. At least, until Bonnie - the best friend, kicks the bucket."

She sat quietly, taking in what he said, empathizing with him because he had been toyed with by a vampire very much like she had and it was obvious most of his bitterness was directed towards that. She could understand the pain of being abandoned and losing the one you love. For him, it had happened twice. The thought of his waiting for Elena stabbed at her heart as her own memories came back to the time Edward had callously up and left her.

"So, you're just biding your time, waiting for her to wake up?" she asked with a mix of curiosity and compassion.

He swallowed his food and shook his head, "No. Not anymore. Too much has changed since then. What she wants and what I want are two very different things. At one time, I would have given up my immortality for her, to be her husband, and the father of her kids. But now…I just realize it is not who I am and who I want to be. I like being a vampire. I like ripping people's heads off if they do me wrong. I like being the eternal stud."

Bella snickered, "The eternal stud, huh?" She met his eyes and spoke earnestly, "Someday, you will meet the woman that'll put you out to pasture and you won't look back."

He shrugged, "So you gonna tell me about your white knight?"

She snorted as she stabbed a fork into her pancakes. "He was no white knight, trust me!"

Damon smiled, "So tell me more, tell me more, was it love at first sight?" Bella stuffed a bite of pancake into her mouth to stifle a giggle. She swallowed and resumed her story.

"Not exactly, no. Edward was complicated; moody and sullen one minute, then completely charming the next. He told me he was a vampire, but according to you, he's Cold One…in more ways than one, I might add. I was seventeen when I met him; a very naïve seventeen. I fell for his romantic lines hook, line and sinker. He spouted off words of love and said I was his mate."

She took a bite of her pancakes and a sip of coffee before continuing, "His family accepted me as a part of their own. They were the perfect family I always dreamed of having. His sister Alice was my best friend, his brother Emmett was the big brother I never had. I would have been willing to give up being human in exchange for an eternity with them."

Damon pushed his plate aside, poured a glass of bourbon and nodded, prompting her to continue.

"Everything was perfect until a tracker showed up and hunted me down. He nearly killed me and bit me. That's why Victoria was after me last night. She was the tracker's mate. She wanted revenge…"

Bella pushed her own plate away and grabbed the bourbon bottle, taking a healthy swig, "Edward refused to let me transition when the tracker bit me and sucked the venom out. He didn't believe vampires had souls. After that incident, he almost left me in the hospital; but stupid little me begged him to stay with me."

She swallowed thickly, "We spent a summer in what I thought was the perfect romance, when in actuality; I slowly gave up who I was. Edward dictated what we did, where we would go and when we'd do things. His sister told me what to wear and his parents intoned proper etiquette upon me. It was all so very Victorian and utterly ridiculous."

She leaned back in her chair and looked out the window, "My eighteenth birthday came and that changed everything. His brother, Jasper… lunged for me because I cut my finger opening a gift and Edward pushed me out of the way, causing me to crash into a glass table. I was injured so badly his father had to stitch me up. He was a doctor, if you can believe that…"

"Anyway, Edward ended things with me in the woods behind my house three days later. He told me I wasn't good enough. That was three years ago, now. He said it would be as if he never existed."

She huffed and grabbed the bourbon again and took another drink from it, "The bastard lied. I have the scars to prove it! Victoria killed my mother, my father, my step-father and my best friend!"

"So that's why you were so ready to die." Damon gently interjected.

She shrugged, "Partly! I've been running from her for two years. You can't out run a vampire! I tried!"

"You gave up." he retorted back.

"Yes." she whispered.

"He shouldn't have left you." He bluntly stated.

"Well, he shouldn't have done a lot of things, Damon. But that's all behind me. I'm finally free! For that, I thank you. What you did for me is a debt I can't ever repay. Just know I am grateful and knowing I have a second chance at life is more than I could have ever asked for. I can however, make you a promise that I'll live it to the fullest."

With that, she stood up and went to her bag. She rearranged her things and zipped it up. Her hands were stilled when Damon come up behind her and laid his own upon hers.

"Where do you think you're going, Isabella?" he whispered in her ear.

She turned around to face him and their chests brushed against the other. There seemed to be some sort of electricity in the air between them. She drew in a breath and took in his gaze. Those blue eyes seemed to cast a spell over her and for just a moment, she lost herself in them.

He stared down at her, never breaking contact with her eyes as he fought an urge to kiss her. It had been a very long time since he repressed his urges. The last couple years had been the ultimate return of the lady killer he'd once been. It was usually either screw, bite, compel …or screw, bite and drain them dry. Women were like putty in his hands, with or without compulsion. But he knew that Isabella wasn't that type of girl.

After all she has seen and done, a kiss and a romp between the sheets wouldn't cut it. If he were to be honest… maybe he would like to have more than that himself. The thought tumbled in his mind and he quickly brushed it aside. He broke the gaze and simply asked, "Well?"

"I-I don't know…" she said absently as she took a timid step backwards, nearly tripping and landing on the floor.

Damon braced her fall, then wrapped his hands around her face and met her gaze once more. He had been much too open with her and if she was going to leave, then he wanted to be sure she wouldn't remember his saving her. He wanted to give her something he never had – a clean slate. He could compel her to truly move on, to move forward and go after whatever her heart desired… compel her to live, to love, to be whoever she wanted to be.

He met her eyes and tried his best to get into her head, but something blocked him. An invisible source of some sort that protected her mind. He brushed her cheek and murmured her name. She brought up her hand to his, and in that brief second he could feel a connection with her mind.

He then quickly started the compulsion, "Isabella, you will leave this room. You will forget meeting me. All you will remember is that Victoria is never coming after you again. She's dead. Go live your life to the fullest. Find love and forget the pain Edward caused you…"

The connection broke and Bella looked at him startled, "How exactly can I forget that bitch tried to kill me and the pain Edward caused!? It made me a stronger person! Just what the fuck are you trying to do to me? Huh?"

He sighed as he dropped his hands to the side, "I was trying to help you."

"Help me?!" she asked with a furrowed brow.

"I was compelling you so you'd have a clean slate and be able to go on and live your life. You don't need to remember me or what happened last night! The supernatural world tends to suck you in - pun intended, and once you are in it… you can't get back out! I was giving you a shot at freedom from it. Elena would be living the happy life that she always wanted now if it weren't for the supernatural world. Is it so wrong to spare someone else the grief that comes with it?"

She eyed him with a burning fury, "Yes! It's wrong because it should be my choice to remember the pain, to remember you, to remember every damn thing I went through! It made me who I am today! The choices we make, the things that happen to us shape who we are. It defines our very being! While the world may not always be unicorns and rainbows, we become what we are through experiences that life brings us; the good and the bad. I may miss my family, I may regret ever meeting Edward, but I don't want to forget anything. I want that reminder of the darkness that haunted me, so I know to never go to that place again. I may have wanted to die last night because I thought I had no choice. Now, I see I do! Edward took my choices from me, Victoria took my choices from me and no one will ever do that again! So, keep your little mind trick to yourself!"

He crossed his arms and stared at her, "I don't know whether you are brave or stupid for telling off a vampire..."

"It's neither. It's called having nothing to lose."

Bella glared at him, grabbed her bag and then proceeded to head towards the door. He moved at vampire speed, blocking her path.

"Why didn't the compulsion work?" he demanded.

"How the hell would I know? Maybe it is the same reason Edward couldn't read my mind?" she stated with a hint of both fury and bewilderment. Frankly, I don't care! Goodbye, Damon."

He grabbed her arm. "Do you really think I'll let you go after you know about me, my brother and witchy?"

She blew out a breath, "I've kept secrets this long. What's a few more? Now… let go of my arm."

He nodded and let her walk on out the door as he went straight for the bourbon bottle. His thoughts turned over in his head. Why had he saved the girl? Should he just let her wander off, knowing about this world? He wasn't wrong when he told her that the supernatural world had a way of sucking you in. If it wasn't Victoria that got her…surely another supernatural being would. Probably the dick of an ex would show his face at some point.

No one could simply walk away from someone like her. She was far too interesting for that. He sighed and slammed the glass down on the cart. He promptly decided that she needed a companion and some sort of protection and it just as may well be him. He stuffed his clothes, his blood bags and the bottle of bourbon into a bag, then headed out the door. He compelled the clerk at the desk in the lobby to believe that the room had been paid for and when he walked out the door of the hotel, he spotted her red truck parked just a ways up the street.

Damon strode up to it, then slung his bag in the back of the truck. He turned up his nose, leaning against what he considered a rust bucket to wait for her. He figured she was at the salon nearby and hoped she was fixing that hideous dye job.

It was about an hour or so later when he spotted her walking down the sidewalk. He almost did a double take as he took in her brown, curly hair.

"Oh, fuck." he uttered as memories of both Elena and Katherine came to mind. Just what was it with him and brunettes? Well, at least with Isabella he knew what he was getting up front. She was brutally honest and didn't seem like the type to play games. He would have to be careful not to piss her off, though. It seemed she had quite the temper and would likely stake his ass in a heartbeat. Maybe he'd just keep that little stake-through-the-heart thing to himself…

She approached the truck and eyed him sharply, "What do you want?"

"Well… hello to you, too!" he smarted.

She raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips, "I was about to hit the road…"

He chuckled, "Yep, I figured you would and I'm coming along for the ride."

"Seriously!?" she questioned.

"Oh yeah! But we're not going in that thing." He jerked his thumb towards the truck behind him.

"And if I choose to allow you to come along, what exactly would we be riding in?"

He pointed up the street to a light blue 1960's Camaro, "See that sweet ride? That's my car."

She blinked and let out a small gasp, "That's your car?"

He smirked, knowing he had won her over, "Wanna go for a ride?" he asked with a touch of innuendo behind it. I'll take you for one, he thought.

She snorted derisively, "And what about my truck?"

He shrugged, "Leave it. You said something about second chances. Start all brand new…say goodbye to your past. It can be a symbolic thing…"

"My dad gave me that truck…" she said softly.

"Bella, you have your memories. Those are more important than objects we keep to remember them. The love in your heart and the memories in that pretty little head of yours will live on. Besides, the truck is on its last legs by the looks of it. Start with a clean slate…truly move on."

She looked at him in thought for a moment before she let out a breath and simply said, "OK."

He cocked his head to the side and winked. He then grabbed his bag from the back of the truck.

She shook her head and scoffed, "You were pretty sure of yourself, weren't you?"

Damon chuckled, "Yep. Even if you said no; I can be very persuasive…"

Bella sighed, "Somehow that doesn't surprise me."

She opened the door to her truck and retrieved her bag and other Items. She found herself a tad stunned when he took the bag from her. She would have never expected such a gentlemanly gesture from him. She found herself not only attracted to the blue-eyed vampire, but she found herself actually liking him.

They quickly walked to his car and if she was to be honest… she absolutely loved it. However, she wasn't about to admit it out loud. Damon's ego seemed to be big enough as it was. He tossed the bags in the trunk and opened her door for her. Once more, she was taken aback by the gesture. A gentleman and most likely, a killer. Who knew? That only left her to wonder what else there was to him besides the whole bad boy act, the broken heart, and the sarcastic humor. She was more than willing to find out.

She laughed as he started the car and the end of Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell came on the radio.

She subconsciously bobbed her head to the music and started singing the lyrics under her breath. He grinned at her, "So, is this gonna be our theme song?"

She turned her head towards him and giggled. "Maybe?"

He chuckled and stepped on the gas, peeling out of town. Bella settled in her seat and watched the world whiz by. She didn't know what the journey ahead would bring, but she was grateful to have a second chance.