The wait for this chapter was not NEARLY as bad as last, right?
Thank you all for your reviews, they truly mean so much to me.
Another HUGE/GIGANTIC thank you to Layla Reyne for making this look presentable and pretty. She does such an amazing job with everything I throw at her. She's amazing.
This is it, you guys. The last official chapter of Dancing in the Dark.
Considering my restless night, I lie in bed most of the morning, staring at the ceiling and trying to convince myself that last night was a dream. That Damon is still mine and that things between us are still okay. It does nothing but make it harder to accept that it really did happen. That I very well may have lost him to the darkness he had worked so hard to claw himself out of.
I finally push myself out of bed, having stretched my time just about as thin as it can get before I'm supposed to meet Jenna and Caroline to get ready for tonight. I mechanically run through my basic morning routine, and when I've done all I can inside the safety of this bedroom, I know I have to venture into the living room and face the possibility of seeing Damon.
I close the bedroom door behind me lightly and walk into the living room to find Damon sitting slouched at the table. He's facing away from me, staring out the window, still in the clothes he was wearing last night. His hair is in disarray, I assume from running his hands through it. My heart stops when I see the bottle of whiskey on the table next to him. It's still sealed. I close my eyes and breathe a silent sigh of relief. Maybe all hope is not lost, but it's still a depressing sight.
He doesn't turn or acknowledge my presence in any way as I enter the living area and fiddle with the fancy single cup coffee maker. The silence in the room is deafening and even the loud noise of the coffee brewing doesn't help cut the tension.
I fill my travel cup and a second mug for him. Crossing the room, I feel like I'm walking into the lion's den. With a shaky hand, I set the mug down next to him on the table. I clench my retreating hand into a fist, stifling the urge to run it through his hair.
"I made coffee," I say, desperate for even a scrap of attention from him. Just a hint that he's still in there somewhere trying to find his way back to me.
His eyes flick to mine for a brief second, but it's enough to destroy me. There is nothing behind his eyes, no spark, no light, nothing but pain. He turns back to the window, not even touching the mug I set down for him.
"I'm meeting Caroline and Jenna to get ready for tonight," I tell him, but he doesn't turn back.
A war wages inside of me. I want so badly to wrap my arms around him, bury my face in his chest and tell him it'll all be okay. It hurts more than anything that I can't, that even if I did, it would be a lie. Only he can fix this.
I grab my bag and head to the door, but stop when I'm nearly at the foyer.
"Damon?" My voice is just loud enough to carry to where he sits.
The only clue that he's listening is that he turns his head just enough so I can see his profile.
"I'll see you tonight?" I didn't mean for it to be a question, but right now I'm questioning everything.
He doesn't say a word. He only turns back to the window and it's all the answer I need. I respond with a sad nod that he doesn't see before I turn and get out of the suffocating suite, blinking back tears, refusing to let them fall and betray my calm exterior.
Jenna and Caroline greet me with hugs and excitement that I would love to mirror, but I just can't, not when Damon's sanity hangs in the balance.
I sit on an armchair near where Caroline is working on Jenna. I'm mesmerized by how dexterous she is, how her hands move over and through Jenna's hair so easily, curling and pinning. She truly is a master of her trade.
I jump like I've heard a gun shot and look at both of them, not even registering who said my name.
"Did you sleep at all last night?" Caroline asks, eyeing the purple bags under my puffy bloodshot eyes.
"I should've known Damon wasn't the only one," Jenna mumbles more to herself than anyone else, but I hear her loud and clear.
"What did you say?" I ask, scooting to the edge of my seat, desperate for any clue as to what may be going on in Damon's head.
Jenna eyes me warily and then sighs like she's going to tell me something she's not supposed to.
"Damon called Ric early this morning to pick him up from some bar down the strip," Jenna says softly.
"What?" I whisper in disbelief. No, no, no. I shouldn't have said those things to him. I should've stayed up with him, talking it out. I should've done something other than run away and hide behind my bedroom door.
"Ric said he didn't drink a thing. He called Ric to keep him from doing so," Jenna explains.
Oh, thank God.
"What else?" I ask, my voice hoarse.
"That's all I know," Jenna says apologetically. "He's spending the day with Damon."
I only nod. That's good. Damon needs someone like Alaric today. Someone who can maybe help him, make him see that he can't continue his life this way. He's helped him before. I just pray he can do it again.
"Elena?" Caroline's tentative voice registers in my mind and I glance up at her. "Is everything okay?"
The softness of her words opens the floodgates. Tears stream down my cheeks as I shake my head. No, everything is definitely not okay.
As if on cue, they both wrap me in their arms, echoing various words and sounds of sympathy. I let them hold me; let them help me shoulder the burden for just a little bit. I need someone too. When I feel the tears subside, I pull away but neither Caroline nor Jenna takes their eyes off of me.
"What happened?" Jenna asks gently.
I relay the whole story to them. How Katherine appeared in our suite - "That bitch!" Caroline exclaims - how she said all of those horrible things about Damon, how I watched the light in his eyes fade until there was nothing but the cold and detached shell of a man I met a year ago. Then I tell them about all the progress we had made the past two weeks on Damon's ranch and how that glimpse into what might have been just makes everything now, this reality, so much worse.
"I can't save him," I whisper hoarsely. "Not like he saved me. This time, he has to save himself."
"Elena," Caroline says, moving so she can place a comforting hand on my knee. "If anything is going to save him, it'll be his love for you."
The red carpet is the same song and dance that I've done several times now, but I've never done it on my own before. Jenna and Alaric skipped the spectacle and went straight inside to their seats, but being a nominee, I am expected to make an appearance. Luckily, Bonnie leads my PR team, so I'm not totally alone.
I'm dressed to the nines in a coral Oscar de la Renta gown complete with gorgeous silver sandals and dangling diamond earrings. With my hair falling in soft waves down my back and my make-up expertly done, I feel beautiful. I only wish Damon was here with me. I know he'd love the dress and probably make some lewd comment about it looking better in a pile on the floor. But, unsurpisingly, he's not here, and I've just gotta pull on my big girl panties and deal with it.
Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I turn my attention to the fans screaming my name from behind the ropes. I take my time with them to pose for pictures, sign autographs and say thank you for their support since day one. They are all so sweet and kind to me that it's hard when Bonnie nudges me away with a sympathetic smile.
I pose and smile for the flashing cameras, trying not to be creeped out by the strange men all calling my name. I move on and give interviews, carefully avoiding any questions about my personal life. I'm not ready or willing to talk about my breakup with Mason and the things I've shared with Damon are too intimate and too fresh. They are mine and mine only.
When I finally enter the theater and an usher escorts me to my seat, my eyes automatically scan the room for any sign of Damon. There is none save for his empty seat next to me.
We are informed there is a seat filler on hand and we all shift down so I'm on the end and the seat filler scoots down the narrow aisle to the empty seat. Luckily, Jenna is on my other side and we chat animatedly until the show starts. I try to pay attention and remember my cues for when I'm needed back stage to present. It's early in the show, so I'm back at my seat in no time and I don't have to worry about anything but my performance that closes out the show.
When the first category I'm nominated for, Top Female Vocalist, comes up, I'm a bundle of nerves. Of course I don't expect to win, but there's still that little voice of hope in the back of my mind that whispers what if. I listen patiently as they review the nominees, cringing when I hear my name because I still feel like this is all a dream
By the time the presenter is tearing open the envelope, I'm white-knuckling the armrests on either side of me. Oh, God. I'm ninety-five percent sure I'm going to throw up. The blood is raging so loudly in my ears that I barely hear them call my name.
It isn't until Jenna jumps up and pulls me into a hug that I realize what has happened. I won. I won! The smile that lights up my face threatens to break it in two. I get passed around my small group of supporters and as I walk up the short aisle to the podium, I'm congratulated by people I've looked up to all my life. Life is crazy that way.
I stutter and giggle through my acceptance speech and, truth be told, I'm not completely sure if I'm even speaking English. Everything goes by in a blur of excitement, giving my speech, being escorted off stage, posing for the backstage photo shoot. I'm still riding my high when I get back to my seat. Jenna holds my hand and squeezes it excitedly. I glance aside at the seat filler and I can't help but wish Damon were here to share this moment. I try to ignore the pain that lances through my heart and the tears that instantly prick at the corners of my eyes. I quickly look away and shake it off, refusing to let go of the awesome feeling of winning. Especially because I know that I'm not going to win the other two categories I was miraculously nominated for, Album of the Year and Entertainer of the Year.
"Excuse me, I gotta take this," Ric whispers to Jenna and me before he shuffles past us and out of the theater, phone to his ear. I give Jenna a questioning look, but she just shrugs and turns her attention back to the show.
My mind goes straight to Damon. What if he's in trouble? What if something happened? What if he caved, got drunk and got himself in trouble again? Oh, God. My mind races with so many awful possibilities that I completely ignore what is happening onstage.
Twenty minutes later, Ric is back, but I can tell he's agitated and nervous. He won't stop fidgeting and he's not paying any attention to the show. I can feel his nervous energy from where I'm sitting. My heart pounds erratically, but I tell myself that since he's here, nothing too terrible could've happened. Right?
When my next category - Album of the Year - is announced, the show holds my undivided attention once again. There's not a snowball's chance in hell that I'm winning this category; just being nominated gives me a thrill of joy. So I sit back and try to relax because I keep daydreaming about what it'd be like to win.
"And the winner of Album of the Year is Elena Gilbert's American Honey!"
I'm on my feet again, being hugged and smiled at as I float up the aisle once more. The award is heavy in my hands and I address the audience again, thanking them for their support, thanking Ric and the studio, and everyone that's put their time and effort into this album. Again, I'm swept off stage, photos are snapped of me holding the award and more interviews are given.
I stay backstage this time to change and prepare for my performance. Caroline picked out a white sleeveless blouse and a pair of black straight leg jeans paired with some rocking nude pumps. The hairdresser on hand fluffs up my hair and darkens my make up.
I pace backstage, waiting for Mason and his band to join me. They should've been back here by now. I feel my anxiety rise when I notice I have just twenty minutes before we're due on stage. Two minutes pass and each is like a growing weight on my chest. They still aren't here.
I turn when the door to the greenroom swings open, expecting to see Mason and his band, but it's Alaric instead. The surprise of his appearance momentarily distracts me from my building anxiety, but then I study his face and I know immediately something is wrong.
"What happened?" I ask cautiously. I'm not sure if I want to know, but my mind is running rampant with worst-case scenarios, all having to do with Damon and that phone call Ric received.
"Mason and his band are a no-show," he reveals.
"No," I whisper in abject horror. No, no, no! How dare he pull this shit with me! Embarrassing me in front of millions of people. Again! That asshole!
My whole world comes crumbling down. I have fifteen minutes before I have to be on stage for the biggest performance of my life. And that performance has just been shot to hell.
I look to Ric for some sort of guidance and he gives me a reassuring smile.
"We have a plan, Elena."
The stage is dark and my nerves are at an all time high. I adjust my earpiece and flex my fingers, trying to dispel some of this energy without making any sounds the microphone could pick up.
How Alaric found a piano and worked out a new performance with the sound and camera crews in just fifteen minutes, I'll never know.
I close my eyes and run through the music in my head. Playing a brand new, unreleased song is risky, but Alaric was convinced this was the song to play, despite the fact that it's supposed to be a duet. I'm not sure how he even knew about it in the first place. I take a deep breath when I hear the count down to filming. This is it. I pray for strength and that this doesn't blow up in my face.
The spotlight over the piano comes up, and the audience cheers their approval. This is it. It's now or never.
With shaking hands, I play the opening notes. It takes just a few seconds for me to get lost in the music, for it to take me back to the mind frame I was in when I wrote this song.
"Picture perfect memories scattered all around the floor.
Reaching for the phone 'cause I can't fight it anymore.
And I wonder if I ever cross your mind?
For me it happens all the time."
As I prepare for the chorus, I can't help but think of how it sounded when Damon's voice joined with mine when we first sang this together back at his ranch house. I wish fervently that he was here with me. My fingers fly across the piano keys, playing out the melody that reminds me so much of him. I glance up when I notice the lights rising on the other side of the stage. I nearly lose it when I see Damon walk on stage, strumming along on an acoustic guitar, just how we've played it the past two weeks. He doesn't miss a beat when his eyes lock with mine, giving me a sweet smile before he joins in with the chorus.
"It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone and I need you now.
Said I wouldn't call but I've lost all control and I need you now.
And I don't know how I can do without.
I just need you now."
I know the moment the audience realizes that Damon is on stage performing for the first time in nearly three years. I glance out and they are on their feet going crazy when Damon sings his verse. My own heart swells with pride and it's all I can do to keep playing and not cheer right along with them.
"Another shot of whiskey, can't stop looking at the door.
Wishing you'd come sweeping in the way you did before.
And I wonder if I ever cross your mind?
For me it happens all the time."
I nearly fall in love with him all over again listening to the words he wrote, the song of mine that he finished. How even when we were apart, we yearned for each other. Together, we finish out the rest of the song, our voices mingling perfectly, complimenting and harmonizing.
"It's a quarter after one, I'm a little drunk and I need you now.
Said I wouldn't call but I've lost all control and I need you now.
And I don't know how I can do without.
I just need you now.
Yes I'd rather hurt than feel nothing at all.
It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone and I need you now.
And I said I wouldn't call but I'm a little drunk and I need you now.
Well I don't know how I can do without.
I just need you now
I just need you now.
Oh baby I need you now."
There is only a second of silence after the song ends before the audience bursts into cheers, but all I see is Damon. He's wearing his typical boots, dark blue jeans, black button up and his black cowboy hat. He is every bit the man that I'm so insanely in love with. Seeing him here on stage where he belongs gives me hope that things might be okay.
Without taking his eyes off mine, he pulls the guitar over his head and props it against the piano as he walks toward me. I take his offered hand and let him pull me up off the piano bench. I stare into his beautiful blue eyes and see all the love I have for him reflected back at me.
Simultaneously, we turn and face the audience that is giving us a standing ovation. Hand in hand, we take our bow. The smile on my face is one of pure joy. Damon's relief is palpable as we exit the stage, the sound of the audience's applause following us into the greenroom.
Unease settles in the pit of my stomach when I hear the door click shut and realize we are alone. What happens now? Where do we go from here? Has anything changed for Damon?
Every single one of my doubts is banished when he turns me around and his lips land on mine. I could weep with the love I feel for this man and how right we feel together. I throw my arms around his neck, not ready for any distance between us, no matter how miniscule. I can feel everything in his kiss. Though I know I'm going to eventually need to hear the words, in this moment, this kiss is enough.
He pulls away, cradling my face in his hands and smiles down at me. He is elated and probably still riding the high from our performance.
"I'm so proud of you," I tell him softly, resting my hands on his hips, totally unable to keep from touching him.
He closes his eyes, as if he's trying to soak in every word from my mouth like it's the most precious gift he could receive.
"I know," he whispers. "I'm proud of me, too." My heart clenches and then explodes. I have to blink hard to keep the tears at bay. I have a hard time containing my smile when I pull him against me and hug him hard, burying my face in his chest.
"I love you so much," he breathes into my hair and if it were possible for someone to die from too much love, I would be a goner.
I let his words wash over me and I cherish how he said them with such fierceness, like they were his lifeline. Like they said so much, but not enough all at the same time.
"You're really okay?" I say, pulling back so I can really study his face.
"Yeah," he breathes with a reverent smile. "Thanks to you and the lecture I got from Ric and his fist."
My eyes bulge. "He hit you?"
"Yeah," he says with a faint chuckle. "And made it clear that if I didn't get my head out of my ass and realize all the people I have cheering me on, he'd gladly do it again."
"Did he hurt you?" I ask, frantically running my hands over his chest and stomach, checking for any tender places.
He stills my hands with one of his own and rests them in the center of his chest. With the other, he tilts my chin up and places a soft chaste kiss on my lips before he whispers, "Just enough to realize that losing you would hurt far worse."
I have to blink back the sting of tears behind my eyes. I can't ruin Caroline's work, but Damon's sweet words and the conviction behind them are nearly my undoing.
We are still wrapped up in each other when a stagehand comes in looking incredibly embarrassed at the scene he interrupted. He kindly tells me that I have to be in my place for the last award of the night.
As we follow him down the halls backstage, Damon refuses to let go of my hand. I know that people are going to have something to say about it tomorrow, but I don't care. Let them talk. Damon is mine and I am his and nothing else matters.
I stand on my mark and listen for my name over the speakers. The man behind the camera points at me and I smile into it, still giddy from the events of the last few minutes. Had it only been minutes?
I'm not even nervous about them announcing the winner for Entertainer of the Year. I'm not even sure how I managed to get nominated, but I am too caught up in Damon's blue eyes to really care. I'm confused when they grew wide and he rushes at me with a loud cheer before sweeping me into his arms. I'm not sure what is going on, but I don't mind his exuberance, even if it is in front of a camera.
He sets me down and seems to realize I don't understand what is going on.
"Elena, you won!" he says excitedly, pushing me toward the stage entrance.
I'm in a daze as I wander onto the stage, the lights bright in my eyes as I try to see the crowd, but boy do I hear them. They roar their approval with so much gusto, I know they are all be on their feet. This is incredible.
The award settles into my hands and then the tears finally come. I can't believe I'm crying like a total wuss. I thank my fans for being so supportive because without them, I'd have no audiences to play to. I thank Ric and Damon and my family personally. This is all just too surreal and before I start rambling, I give a last big watery thank you and leave the stage to find myself in Damon's arms again.
The night is a blur of hugs, kisses and celebration. Our small group foregoes the official after party for a late night chain restaurant. Damon's touch never leaves my skin. There's a hand on the small of my back or on my knee when we are sitting at the table. He holds my hand wherever we go, fingers laced together, and whispers promises for the rest of the night in my ear.
I'm dead on my feet when we finally enter our hotel suite, but there's an energy running between us that excites me. Damon leads me into the room we shared on our first night here, but he doesn't stop until we reach the bathroom. He leaves me standing in the middle of the spacious room to start the shower. No words are exchanged while Damon works to rid us of our clothes, only glances and smiles and kisses.
Steam has filled the room when he pulls me into the shower with him. The spray is warm on my back and I tilt my head so it soaks my hair and runs in rivulets down my back. Damon's hands massage shampoo into my hair and I hold onto his hips to steady myself. His fingers are magical against my scalp and I close my eyes and give myself over to the relaxation, occasionally brushing my lips against his bare chest.
There is something so intimate about showering together. We touch and smile at each other as we take turns pampering the other, both content to take things slow tonight and just enjoy being together. I love the feel of his soft slick skin beneath my fingers and my lips. I love the satisfied purr that comes from the back of his throat when I rub the pads of my fingers over his scalp.
When the water runs cold, he shuts off the shower and wraps me in a fluffy towel. I watch, totally unashamed, as he dries himself and then slings his towel around his hips. He grabs a third and meticulously dries my hair. He runs it through the strands and then down my arms and back. His face is one of concentration and admiration when he drops to his knees in front of me to run it down each of my legs. My breath catches when his eyes flick up to mine and I see the fire burning behind them. Everything inside of me clenches in anticipation. He rises from the floor slowly, running his bare hands up my legs and under the towel still wrapped around me. I let it loosen and fall to the floor while his fingertips glide over my stomach, brush the outsides of my breasts, and dance across my collarbone.
I can't look away from his face, everything I've ever wanted from him is there as plain as day. There is nothing between us now. No secrets, no resentments, no past mistakes, only the promise of the future. When his lips touch mine, I don't just see it, I feel it. I feel it in the way a simple kiss spirals into something passionate and all consuming. I feel it in the way his fingers dig into my skin like he can't hold me tight enough. I feel it in the way my body responds to his like I'll never get enough of him.
He lays me down on the bed and stands back to admire all of my skin on display for him only. His body covers mine and his lips devour every inch of me, whispering words of love as they brush and nip and soothe. I want to take this slow, to never let this end, but I want him so badly. I need him in every piece of me. He has filled my heart and my mind to capacity and all I need is him to fill me physically now as well. I need that closeness.
He moves back up my body after driving me to the edge over and over again, and I pull him to me, pressing my lips to every part of him that comes close.
"I need you, Damon," I breathe in his ear. My hands slide down to his lower back and my nails dig into his skin as he positions himself and sinks into me. I arch my back off the bed, and it's so perfect I almost can't handle it. He pauses and his breath is choppy in my ear. I can hear what I do to him, what he feels when we are connected like this. I trail my lips over his shoulder and up his neck, pressing them to the perfect angle of his jaw. He turns his head and his mouth seeks mine. I breathe him in, wanting to take him in, all of him.
"I love you, Elena," he groans as he starts to move. He sets a slow pace, building the burn a little at a time. Neither of us is in a rush. Tonight is not about the race to release. It's all about feeling each other, enjoying this moment for what it is, not what it leads to.
"I love you, too. So much." My words are punctuated by every thrust of his hips. I tangle my legs around his, wanting to feel every part of him, the hair on his legs brushing against my soft skin, his belly rubbing against mine, my breasts pressed into his chest, my fingers grasping at the skin of his back. I want to crawl into him and make us one in every way possible.
I feel the build intensify with every move he makes, and when he adjusts the angle, I cry out. We both lose ourselves to the rhythm he creates. I'm a slave to it, forced to ride it to the very end. I listen to the sounds of our lovemaking, the rustle of the sheets, our heavy breathing, our bodies moving against each other.
"Damon," I moan his name, sinking my teeth into his shoulder as the waves crash over me and sweep me away. I can feel him following inside of me, hear him cry out my name, feel every muscle in his body tighten, just like mine. We are lost to the pleasure.
He collapses on top of me as the last of the pulsing inside of me subsides. We are both breathing hard, covered in a sheen of sweat and water left over from our shower. I welcome his weight, loving the way it presses me into the mattress, the way it covers me, protects me. I feel his love for me in the air around us.
He rolls over, taking me with him and the thought occurs to me, I'm going to love this man for the rest of my life.
*bursts into tears*
There is just the epilogue to write and post, but then that's it. It's over. It's a sad feeling and a bit scary. I haven't decided what my next project will be, though I'm leaning toward writing an original story. The first chapter of which is almost finished, just needs some tweaks here and there. I'm pretty excited about it and I've been trying to decide if I should post it on Wattpad or on my LJ. I'll be sure to let you guys know if you are interested.
The song is obviously Need You Now by Lady Antebellum.
If you want the full love scene effect, read with I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz playing. That's what I wrote it to.
Follow me on Twitter for future story updates: rachellebelle08
Again, thank you all for the support for this story. I never imagined it would become what it has and it's all thanks to you guys. I appreciate it more than you know.
Reviews are love.