Elijah shifted from one foot to the other, trying to keep from darting his eyes towards the perimeter around him, to the low growls and rustles he heard just beyond the trees surrounding them. Instead, he stayed focused on the Cold Ones; mostly on Carlisle, the vampire he knew to be the patriarch of this coven. His brothers and sister stood behind him, wary and ready to strike. The only cold ones they knew were The Volturi, who were nothing more than brutal beasts under a thin veneer of civility and refinement.

"It seems you've been expecting us," Elijah said, cocking his brow. "Then you must already know we have a shared problem that must be taken care of."

"We do," Carlisle agreed. "and we are willing to put aside any differences providing you can comply with some guidelines."

"Guidelines?" Kol snorted. "You do not control us."

"Quiet!" Elijah reprimanded his brother. "Our fight is not with the Cullens." He turned his attention back to Carlisle. "We will respect your 'guidelines'. But before we start with those, tell me, how you managed to make allies with the wolves."

"Amazing things can occur when one is fighting for a common cause. Are you certain you are up to the task? You will be fighting your brother."

"Klaus ceased to be my brother long ago."

"And the rest of your family?"

"Have just as much if not more cause to see him stopped."

Edward wasn't so sure. The female seemed to be reticent to the task. Even though he couldn't read past the barrier she had put up to shield him, he saw her lids lower and her lips tremble slightly when Carlisle asked.

"What about you?" he addressed her. "Are you willing to kill Klaus?"

Her surprised eyes shot to his. "Yes – of, course." Her tone suggested she was offended but she had hesitated just a fraction too long for him to be comfortable. She definitely bore watching.

As they walked towards the house, Carlisle explained that there would be no feeding off anyone in the area. They would have to make do with the blood bags procured for them in anticipation of their arrival. This was non negotiable. He also explained that there would be training sessions headed by Jasper, who had experience in fighting newborns and would defer to him. There would be no room for rogue behavior. In order for their plans to work, they must act as a seamless team.

"Do you agree with these terms?" Carlisle asked as they reached the front door of the house.

Elijah gave a cursory look at his siblings, looking for any hint of discourse among them before turning his attention back to Carlisle.

"We do."

Carlisle gave a relieved smile. "Good. Then you are all welcome inside. I am sure you would like to freshen up after your long journey. My wife, Esme, will see that your comforts are taken care of. We will convene in the morning to discuss our strategies."

His adam's apple worked furiously in his throat as he watched her walk into the room; her footsteps as tentative as he felt. His gaze never strayed from her, taking note of the unstructured movements of her hands as they swiped nervously at her hair.

Damon cleared his throat into his fist. "You wanted to talk."

Elena's hands stilled and dropped to her sides. Her brown gaze focused on him, wary at first until he saw determination take hold. "I'm sorry."

He let out a deep sigh and sat on the bed. "Me too."

"You?" She cocked her head at him, confused. "What for?"

"For being pissy and jealous."


"Wait a second, Princess. Let me get this out, okay?"


"You're Elena." He smiled when her lips quirked upward in amusement. "You're compassionate, sympathetic, you care about others. That's the Elena I fell in love with. Because of my own - insecurities -" His mouth twisted at the repulsive word. Jesus, this sharing emotions shit was difficult. "I let myself forget that and wanted you to act like someone you're not."

Like Katherine, he thought to himself, disgusted that Ric had to point that out to him.

Elena sat down next to him, twining her fingers with his, and placed them on her lap.

"You were right, Damon."

His eyes widened, regarding her with surprise. This was a first.

"I was?"

"You were." She nodded. "This is us, it's real and it's scary but hiding it because I don't want to hurt Stefan's feelings is hurting you. I don't want you to hurt anymore because of me. I've done enough of that to you already."

"You have to admit it is weird though."

"Me being with you after recently breaking up with your brother?"

"No. You apologizing. I have to say, you looking so contrite, it's kinda hot."

She rolled her eyes and grinned. "You're an ass."

"I know." He smirked, waggling his eyebrows.

"So am I forgiven?"

"Mmm." He stared at her lips. "Maybe. We should come up with some guidelines first though."


"Yup. For instance, can I do this in front of Stefan?" He caressed her cheek with the pads of his fingers and smiled when he heard her breath hitch.

"I don't think that will be a problem," she said in a breathless whisper.

"What about this?" Damon's lips followed his fingers, trailing down her jawline.

"Nothing wrong with that."

"And this?"

He nuzzled the sensitive spot under her ear, down her neck, his lips gliding over her carotid artery, his tongue flicking out to lick it.

"Oh, yes."

"Compromise is good isn't it?"

"Mmmm, very."

Elena moaned softly at the delicious things he was doing to her with his tongue and his mouth. She felt his hand at the underside of her breast, kneading softly; a welcome lover's touch.

"Would this be acceptable?"

His mouth covered hers, possessive and devouring as he pushed her back on the bed and hovered over her. In once swift move, he grasped both of her hands in his on either side of her head as he continued to plunder her mouth, grinding himself between her cradling legs.

Elena gave herself up to all of it, all thoughts of Stefan very far from her mind.

Now that the Originals were seen to, Edward felt the pressing need to find Bella. It didn't take him long to follow her scent mixed with quite a bit of tequila to his room. He smiled ruefully when he opened the door. She was on her stomach, snoring softly with the tiniest bit of drool gathered at the corner of her partially open mouth.

Closing the door quietly behind him, he moved quietly to the bed and laid down next to her, smoothing the hair back from her face.

One more full day, if Alice's iffy predictions were correct. That was all they had left before Klaus, Victoria and their newborn army would descend on them and Forks. There was still so much to do, so many plans to make but all he wanted right now was to be right here, with Bella. Just one night of peace even if she was barely aware of it.

His hand skated down her arm, lingering on the place where her elbow rested by her hip. She snuggled towards him with an indecipherable mumble that made him smile and hold her closer.

It was these unguarded moments that meant the most to him; where he could see the essence of her untainted by worry or fear. They had been through so much, both together and apart, this past year. His instinct was to wrap her up and carry her away from all of this, but he knew he couldn't. Not only would she not allow it but she was Klaus and Victoria's endgame. They would destroy her, no matter where she was.

As much as he wanted to end them, his main priority was here in his arms. He would protect her and keep her safe, alive, no matter the cost.

Bella moaned, her brow puckering in her sleep, pulling Edward from his thoughts.

"Shh," he whispered kissing her temple in an attempt to soothe whatever dreams fractured her sleep.

Her eyes blinked sleepily and she gave him a goofy lopsided smile. "Mmm, you're here," she said, tracing her finger down his jawline.

"I am." He smiled down at her. "You should go back to sleep. You're still tired."

Drunk, is more like it, she thought feeling the pasty texture of her mouth with her tongue. And horny, come to think of it.

She giggled.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing." She shook her head.

"Tell me. Please."

"I'm horny." She laughed again. Saying it out loud felt so lewd.

Edward coughed out a chuckle. "And that amuses you?"

"Kind of." She shrugged before rolling over and turning to fully face him, her hand caressing his arm. "So-" She looked up at him. "do you wanna do something about it?"

"You're still inebriated, my love. I shouldn't take unfair advantage."

"Yes." Feeling more bold, Bella pressed open mouthed on his neck as she fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. "You should."


"Take advantage of me, Edward. Now, while you still can."

He clenched his eyes shut, burying his hand in her hair as she kissed her way down his body. His own responded. His hips surged unconsciously upward when her deft little hands found him, caressing him through his jeans. He wanted to tell her to stop when he heard the teeth of his zipper descend and the button on his jeans pop open but he couldn't find the will.

Her mouth and tongue were hot upon his cold, rigid flesh. Mindless, he gave himself up and over to the pleasure she elicited in him, the desperate longing he couldn't contain around her.

Who was taking advantage of who, he wondered briefly, moaning low and deep when she sucked him in, laving him, loving him.

"Stop," he whispered.

She looked up at him, confusion marring her passion-glazed eyes.


He sat up and leaned over her. "So I can do this."

His mouth possessed hers as he moved over her, pushing himself against the juncture her thighs, rubbing against her provocatively. He smiled into her mouth when he heard her moan. This was so much better.

He took her that night, slowly, tenderly, leaving no part of her untouched, no part of her unloved. He wanted to savor every dip, every curve, every angle of her, committing it to perfect memory. This was their time and he was going to make it count.

In the morning, Bella woke up to a splitting migraine and a perfectly scripted note on her pillow from Edward informing her that he had taken Stefan out hunting. She grimaced as she moved and wanted to do nothing more than lay in bed.

"Wakey! Wakey! Eggs and bakey!" Damon's voice rang out as he barged into her room.

Bella groaned, sinking further under the covers and pulled the pillow over her head.

"Not funny, Damon," she said, her voice coming out muffled from under all the bedding.

Bella felt the mattress dip next to her. Peeking out from under the pillow, she saw Damon peering down at her with a knowing smirk and a large red plastic cup in his hand reminiscent of the ones she had been guzzling from the night before.

"What's that?"

"Your hangover cure."

She sat up and took the cup from him. He placed two pills in her other hand. Sniffing the contents, she pulled back slightly repelled.

"I'm not drinking that until you tell me what it is."

"It's a Bloody Mary. Go ahead, drink it."

She took a sip, her face puckering. "There's alcohol in this - a lot of alcohol."

Damon rolled his eyes. "Ever heard the old expression 'hair of the dog' and all that?"

"Yeah but this tastes like it's more than the hair. It tastes like it's the dog."

"Just drink it." His eyes narrowed. "All of it. The quicker you do, the easier it goes down."

"If you say so." She shrugged. Popping the pills in her mouth, she chased them down with the Bloody Mary, cringing as she did so. "If this makes me throw up, I will kill you," she said when she was done and handed him the cup back.

"You won't throw it up. I promise."

"I remember you saying the same thing before you let me try one of Guiseppe's cigars - right before I yuked all over the carpet."

Damon let out a brief chuckle. "Well, if I recall correctly, I also told you not to inhale."

Bella did feel better. She wasn't sure if that was due to the shower she just took or the "hair of the dog" remedy Damon made her drink but she felt strangely energized. She was thankful for it, now that she found herself face to face with Elijah and his siblings; the other Originals.

The Cullen house was full of vampires now.

She hoped the peace held until what they needed to do was done.

The hope didn't last that long.

Rose and Elijah's sister were already staring at each other like they wanted to rip each other's throats out and Emmett was throwing his most menacing looks at the other two brothers.

Brilliant, Bella thought, we'll be lucky if we don't kill ourselves before Klaus and Victoria get here.

"Isabella, it is a pleasure to see you again," Elijah greeted her. "Such a shame it has to be under these circumstances."

She really didn't know how to respond. It really wasn't a pleasure to see him again under any circumstances but she supposed she should be gracious. Their assistance was vital.

"You too, Elijah. As far as the circumstances, fortunately, I've learned to adapt to life and death situations."

"And admirably too."

"So, this is the infamous Isabella," the strange blonde girl tossed her hair over her shoulder and looked down at her with an expression Bella interpreted as part amusement and part scorn. She bristled immediately. "My brother has done nothing but sing your praises - for miles."

"Huh, he's never mentioned you at all." Bella couldn't hold back the dig. There was something about her she didn't like, a look in her eye that reminded her of Katherine in a way. "Who are you, exactly?"

"Rebekah," she said through clenched teeth.

"It's nice to meet you Becky," Bella said with a wide, friendly smile.

With that parting shot, Bella pivoted and walked into the kitchen, her only aim to get a cup of coffee.

"She doesn't like to be called Becky," an amused voice said from behind her.

Bella turned to face the new speaker. He had an air about him that exuded arrogance and entitlement but he didn't look as formidable as the other taller brother she didn't know.

"Who are you?"

"Kol Mikaelson." He bowed. "At your service. And don't mind Rebekah. She's just jealous that she isn't the only beautiful girl here."

"Oh, I don't mind her at all," Bella said nonchalantly, looking at him from over the rim of her coffee mug.

The endgame was so close he could taste its sweetness on his bitter tongue. They had taken everything away from him and now he would take great pleasure in reciprocating. He had already called dibs on the human girl, Bella. He had plans for her, special plans.

She was the one that ripped him of his plans, destroyed him, made him human. Yet, he still remembered the taste of her poisonous blood. He still craved it. And he was resolved to have it slither down his throat again.

Victoria wanted to kill them all but that would be too quick, too easy.

It would be a greater joy it to see them stripped of their humanity, stripped of everything, becoming the monsters they fought so hard not to be.

Monsters, like him.

There were only twenty-five newborns left of the initial hundred they had but they would have to make do. The numbers were still in their favor.

"Not too long now," Victoria said in that sweet sing-song voice of hers that he had once found sexy but now just grated on his nerves. "We'll be in Forks by tomorrow."

"Forks." He made a sour face. He would never get used to the name of the town. What idiot would call a town Forks and why? At least Mystic Falls had a nice ring to it. Yes, good old Mystic Falls. Won't it be quite the surprise when he showed up there again after this debacle was over with?

"What will you do after?"

"One step at a time, lovey. We haven't got that far yet."

"Surely, you've thought about it."

Oh, he had. He just didn't want to include her in his plans. She had went and gone all clingy on him. While he didn't mind the companionship at first, he had no desire to remain with her once the deed was done.

"Perhaps." He kissed the back of her hand. "But let's not talk of such things now. We have to get all of our little duckies in a row. I have a feeling this is going to be quite the spectacle."