Chapter 1

Damon had just rounded Elm Street when he felt it. A whisper of a breeze ruffled his hair, the scent on the wind heady and addictive.


A knowing grin twisted across his lips. He would know that Power anywhere. He changed his course immediately, cutting silently through backyards until he came out on Parker Avenue. He quickened his pace as he noticed she was ahead of him. It took less than three seconds to close the two hundred foot gap of space between them.

Bonnie turned sharply, whirling on him before he had even come to a stop. And come to a stop he did. Something dark flickered in her obsidian eyes and he came to an abrupt stop, feeling vaguely like he had run into a cinderblock wall. Suddenly he couldn't move at all. Air compressed around him, tightening like a vise. His eyes went wide.

She smiled at the surprise in his eyes. Folding her arms under her chest, she took a slow and steady breath before releasing him from her hold. "Damon," she greeted coolly before pivoting and starting back down the street.

He narrowed his eyes and surged forward, falling into step beside her. "Impressive. I see you have been practicing."

"What do you want? Another thank you for saving your ass again?" Bonnie snorted, flicking her dark hair over one shoulder.

He could help but notice the slender column of throat she exposed to him. Tempting him. He could see her pulse beating proudly against her mocha skin. His throat went dry, aching, as he remembered the taste of her on his lips. His stomach twisted with craving that he managed to control with over a century of practice.

"You think I don't know what you did?" Damon said, his voice smooth as silk against her skin. His fingertips barely touched her elbow, but she came to an immediate halt.

Tilting her face up to him, he saw her eyes reflected in the street lamps. Something in him hesitated. There was no fear at all in her gaze. Even Elena, who claimed to be his friend, still had a small look of hesitance when she looked up at him or even at Stefan.

It was primitive. The primal fear of prey to predator. It was instinctual and not easily overridden.

Bonnie couldn't have seemed more at ease than she was looking into the eyes of a newborn puppy. That confidence was intoxicating, and it made him all the more desperate to see an edge of fear in her. He needed that upper hand.

Damon took a step closer, closing the distance between them to scant inches. He traced the curve of her neck with a single finger, following the trail with his eyes.

"You never deactivated the device, you little witch." His tone was lilting, almost singsong. The accusation hung between them.

To his shock, Bonnie titled her head, offering him better access. His eyes went to hers, momentarily startled to see her regarding him with a look he could only classify as boredom. She arched an eyebrow expectantly.

"Of course I didn't deactivate it," she said after a beat, her lips hooking upward in a smile. "Why in the world would I want to save a town full of vampires that killed my grandmother?"

Rage at her betrayal flared up suddenly, blinding him. His hand closed around her throat and he started applying pressure. He wanted to hurt her. He wanted that smug smile off her face. But somewhere, in a place he almost refused to acknowledge existed, he was proud.

He was proud of her fire and spunk. That even in the face of her own death, she was still calm and controlled. He considered letting her go, letting her live. He wondered if she'd still be smug when his mouth was on her throat. When his lips covered hers.

In nearly a century and a half, no one had challenged him as openly and defiantly as Bonnie Bennett. And, God help him, it made him want her all the more.

Bonnie shut her eyes and placed two hands against his chest and shoved. She put all she had into that shove—physically and mentally. Damon's hand came free of her neck and he was hurled backward, slamming into a young sycamore tree that snapped on impact. The sharp crack rang out in the night like a gun shot. A dog started barking down the street and a light in the homeowner's house came on.

Moving fast, Damon ran forward and grabbed Bonnie in his arms until they were out of the street and away from prying eyes. They came to a stop between two old houses that appeared to be empty, its occupants probably at the Founder's Day event.

He released her as soon as they came to a stop, having no desire to be thrown into another tree or worse. He kept a foot of distance between them, his eyes dark with fury.

"Calm down," Bonnie said softly, this time moving towards him. She spoke gently, like she would a child. It infuriated him all the more.

"Stupid fucking witch," he hissed through clenched teeth. "I could have been killed tonight."

She stopped and again tilted her head as she studied him. Finally, she laughed quietly, her shoulders shaking. She pressed her slender fingers to her mouth.

"What's so funny?" he demanded.

"Damon," she said, sobering, "you were never in any danger. Relax."

His chest heaved with forced breathing. His fingers curled into fists as he imagined pinning her against the wall of the house behind her. But he had a feeling that even if he could have surprised her, he wouldn't have killed her. Lust and rage were too closely mingled. It was maddening.

He blinked, trying to clear his head enough to focus on the rage. "John Gilbert—"

"—was not going to kill you," Bonnie finished. "I was watching you with him the whole time."

That brought him up short. "You were watching?" His brow furrowed in genuine confusion.

"Of course I was. I needed to make sure he didn't kill you, too," she replied as if the answer should be totally obvious to him.

Damon was still scrambling to come up with a reason. "But—"

"I promised Elena I would help you and Stefan. I never once agreed to help save the vampire buried in the tomb. That's why I didn't deactivate the device. I knew I could save you both if it came down to it."

His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "You took a big chance, little girl. Do you really think you know what you're getting into?"

Another smile ghosted her lips as she now closed the distance between them. "I know now more than ever before."

"It took Emily years—"

"I'm not Emily," she said firmly, cutting him off. Something dark flared in her eyes. "Emily had her ways, and I have mine."

Intrigued, he leaned closer to her, using his added height to his advantage. "So now you're what? Protecting me?" He couldn't help the mocking edge to his tone.

Any warmth on her face drained. An icy chill rolled off her in waves. "You tried to kill me. Your selfishness led to my grandmother's death. You've hurt Caroline and Elena—the two people I love most. You've manipulated and lied to half the people in this town. You're a cancer to everyone you touch."

Embarrassment flushed through him unexpectedly. Her words rang of truth and stung more than he cared to admit to even himself. He quickly deflected it with a lazy grin, reaching up and toying with the ends of her hair. "Oh, go on."

Her hand moved impossibly fast, closing around his wrist. "It ends now. I've saved you twice, Damon. You owe me now."

He glanced down at where she held him, enjoying the heat her body offered. He could smell her blood now as his pulse through her body. He could feel his fangs start to descend.

"What do you have in mind?" he asked suggestively, letting his gaze roam freely over her.

Her hand tightened against him, something he barely would have noticed except that her hand was no longer just warm, it was hot. Burning even. It was searing his skin and he couldn't pull away. He could smell the scorched flesh now.

Bonnie released him a moment later. She stepped back, watching dispassionately as he rubbed the offended wrist. His brow wrinkled in pain as he looked at the charred lines of skin. They both knew his skin would heal, but the implication was there. She had branded him.

"I saved you from the fire, Damon," she said, a sharp edge of her voice that he couldn't ignore. "I can easily throw you back in. Slip up even once, and I won't hesitate."

"You're threatening me?" he sounded incredulous, but there was underlying steel to his voice. He was pissed.

"Warning you," she corrected. "You don't want me as an enemy. The scared little girl you attacked in the woods is gone."

"Is that so?"

"Don't test me, Damon. I won't let you hurt anyone else I care about. I'll stop you first."

He moved forward slowly, watching as she backed up. Her gaze was still unwavering, even as her back hit the wall and he raised his arms to bracket her head. He leaned close, inhaling her scent.

"You think you're strong enough to stop me?"

She lifted her eyes to his, her expression serene. "Do you really want to find out?"

Damon watched her a second longer, watched the way her gaze never strayed from his face. He could taste the cinnamon and sugar on her breath as it drifted across his face. After a minute, he dropped his arms and stepped back.

"Have a nice night, Bonnie."

"You too, Damon," she said softly, moving around him and walking back out onto the street and continuing on her way home.

He watched her go until she turned a corner and vanished from sight. He could still sense her. The Power she wielded was like a homing beacon. He could sense her in his mind. It was like a pulse, beating and vibrant.

He considered, for a fleeting moment, going after her again. He wondered briefly if he could surprise her. But even if he could, then what?

He still didn't know if he wanted to kill her or kiss her.