(A/N): I know I should probably give this a better edit but it's after midnight and I'm exhausted... so yeah. Hope you enjoy it, and as always, I love hearing what you think!
"I don't need a miracle, I'm much more predictable
I just need you to show me this life
And if you ain't too critical, we could be something beautiful
I just need you to show me this life
Take me home tonight
Just a fantasy away, your naked love laid next to me
Poets of the Fall - "Show Me This Life"
Chapter 20: Isabella Salvatore
The way her name was spoken in that vaguely reprimanding tone let her know the speaker had been trying to get her attention for quite some time.
"Hm, yes?" Bella asked vacantly, her mind playing the memory of last night in loop... followed by a similar scene that had occurred when she'd woken up. Damon's wicked smirk as he'd caressed her body awake before slipping underneath the sheets, putting his quicksilver tongue to use.
"Bella, where is your head at?" Elena sighed, trying to catch her attention again.
Her cheeks igniting in a fierce blush, Bella shook the memories away and focused on Elena who'd come to see how Stefan, and by association Bella, was doing after the kidnapping ordeal. "Sorry, Elena. Yes, yes I'm listening. Just a lot on my mind."
Elena smiled sadly. "Yes, I imagine last night was pretty rough."
Bella choked on air. "Rough? Last night?" Again, her mind went images of Damon's body arched above her own, moving within her until she saw white light and he could have told her he was married her, Hilary Clinton or Oprah and she wouldn't have cared.
"Yes," Elena drew the word out with a concerned look to Bella. "You know, being kidnapped?"
Bella gave a nervous laugh, her cheeks the color of a fire engine. "Yeah, totally, being kidnapped. That sucked. I don't recommend it," she said awkwardly.
"Were you scared?" Elena asked curiously.
That was a rather personal question considering they'd only met the other day, but shrugging, Bella said, "At first, when I woke up and before I knew what was happening I was scared, yes. Then it set in and I was annoyed."
"Yes," Bella admitted. "Being kidnapped is rather annoying, Elena. Put a huge damper on my whole day."
Elena had a confused smile as she lightly shook her head. "Well, yes, I can see that, but weren't you terrified too?"
"No," Bella said simply. "When I figured out it was just the tomb vampires throwing a temper tantrum, I knew all I had to do was wait for Damon to come for me. Which he did. Just had to be patient is all."
"You," Elena began, and Bella could tell she was dying to find out why but was treading carefully, "You have a lot of faith in Damon, don't you?"
"Yes," Bella said unhesitatingly. "I trust him with my life."
"Damon?" Elena drew the name out, unable to believe it.
Bella rolled her eyes and was about to reply when the devil himself walked in holding a glass of orange juice out to Bella.
"Ears burning?" she asked him sarcastically, accepting the proffered drink. "And where's the rest of my breakfast, culo?"
Damon smirked. "I know it's a fine ass, mina, but try to control yourself in front of our guest."
She rolled her eyes but couldn't quite smother her smile. She'd been calling him culo all morning and she remembered his oddly fond grin the first time she'd called him it as he was getting dressed.
"Did you just call me an ass in Italian, mina?" he'd grinned, looking mildly shocked that she knew the word.
Bella narrowed her eyes even as her cheeks hurt from suppressing a matching grin. "It's what my grandma Marie called grandpa when she was annoyed with him," she said. "I figured it'd work for you as well. You know, since you're Italian... and an ass."
He placed his hand over his heart. "I'm touched," he said sarcastically, but she could see a glimmer of truth to the words.
Despite her lingering irritation about the whole secret wedding thing, Bella gave him a fond smile as he left to start breakfast for them, a most definite act of sucking up.
Elena broke her out of her thoughts. "Um... you're cooking, Damon?"
"More like sucking up," Bella muttered and Damon shot her a playful look before turning back to Elena, saying, "Yes, Elena. I'm cooking breakfast for my wife. Is there something wrong with that?"
"No," she said quickly. "It's just, you know, a very normal thing to do. Very domesticated."
Damon rolled his eyes at her. "Well I'm not cooking for you, so if you're hungry, go bug Stefan," he said airily as he retreated back to the kitchen.
"Speaking of," Bella began in a perfect segue. "How is Stefan?"
Elena sighed and the heavy sound weighed heavily between them. "Alright, I suppose. The vervain..." she trailed off, clearly shaken.
Nodding, Bella said, "Yeah, I'm sure that was no picnic." She winced at the understatement. "You know, you took a big risk, going against what Damon said and coming into that house."
A stubborn frown puckered Elena's brow. "I couldn't not help, Bella. I love Stefan – what would you have done?"
Bella gave Elena a hard look, her mind spinning with images from her past. In many ways, Elena reminded Bella of herself from months ago. She'd had that same eagerness, that burning love that had overtaken commonsense and placed her in life threatening danger time and time again.
Unthinkingly, her hand went to the scar on her wrist, her fingers tracing the teeth marks that served as a permanent reminder of the danger that came with facing vampires.
"If there had been no other way, I would have tried to save him myself. But Damon was there for you. Clearly, his plan would've worked without your help and all you did was potentially muck it up. You can't place yourself in situations and try to be the hero against them, Elena. You may not be so lucky next time."
Frowning, Elena persisted, "But I helped Stefan... I gave him my blood and..."
Bella snorted. "And that was probably the most stupid thing you could've done."
"Excuse me?" Elena gasped, visibly offended.
"Listen, I know it seemed like a noble gesture, but don't you know anything about Stefan? His struggles with human blood? He could've have drained you dry and who knows what troubles he'll face now that he's tasted the forbidden fruit," Bella said wearily.
Ever since Damon had confessed to her the events during and immediately after her rescue, besides the confrontation with the Cullens which she remembered all too well and was actively ignoring, Bella had been worried. Given everything Damon had told her about Stefan, even his Ripper days, she would've been a fool not to be concerned.
"But I'm fine. Stefan's fine. He didn't hurt me and he was in enough control to resist..." Elena insisted.
Bella sighed, not really in the mood to argue with her. "That's all well and good for you, Elena, but you're not the human currently living with him, now are you? He may have the strength to resist for you, but what's to say he'll have it for me, a stranger?" she snapped, feeling mildly vindicated when Elena flinched. "From my understanding of it, his reaction to human blood is along the lines of once you pop you just can't stop."
"Nice one, mina!" Damon called out from the kitchen.
She snorted, not the least bit surprised that he was listening to them. "You better be paying attention in there – don't burn my food, culo!" she called back with a teasing grin even though he couldn't see her.
Just as she was certain he could hear hers, Bella could tell he too was grinning as he called back, "I love it when you talk dirty to me, Isabella."
She giggled, shaking her head with a faint smile for him.
"You really love him, don't you?" Elena asked softly.
Bella started slightly, having forgotten all about the other girl. "Of course," she stated unashamedly. "I don't just give Damon my love, as I've been foolish enough to do for others in the past, he's earned it. Every second of every day, he earns it."
"It's so strange, seeing him with you," said Elena. "He's so different, but the same. Relaxed, almost."
"It's the way it should be, Elena," Bella confided. "We haven't really gotten a chance to get to know one another and I'm not in the habit of sharing my personal business, but I have trust issues. You're important to Stefan, and Stefan – whether he wants to admit it or not – is important to Damon. I want us to get along, be friends if possible."
I'm such a loser, Bella thought while mentally rolling her eyes at her own cheesiness. She sounded like she was begging for a friend. While she didn't really have a desire for a new friend, there was a lot of truth in what she'd told Elena. For all his grumbling, Damon was an eternal big brother. They may not always get along, but when push came to shove, Damon would always protect Stefan and back him up.
Maybe to tear him down later on his own, but still... the sentiment was real between them and for the sake of keeping some semblance of peace in the house, Bella wanted to help facilitate everyone getting along.
Elena gave her a genuine smile. "I'd like for us to be friends too," she said.
Smiling slightly, Bella said, "Well then, as your friend, it's my obligation to inform you that you acted like an idiot the other day and out yourself needlessly in danger."
Chuckling, Elena admitted, "Yeah, I did."
"But you don't regret it." It wasn't a question.
"I don't. Maybe if it had been Stefan asking me to stay put... but Damon hasn't exactly been all too trustworthy."
Bella snorted. "To say the least."
Damon came in with her breakfast. "Now I resent that, mina," he chastised.
Shaking her head, Bella accepted her plate. "Oh hush up. You know it's true. You haven't really endeared yourself to anyone here."
Smirking, Damon tapped her on the nose. "I've endeared myself to you."
"By some miracle..."
"And," Damon shot her a playful glare. "I get along with plenty other people. Sheriff Forbes isn't so bad, vendetta against my kind aside, and Alaric was pretty cool. A bit moody and uncooperative at first, though."
"You killed his wife, Damon. My birth mother," Elena hissed.
"Turned," he corrected dismissively. "And at her request, I may add."
"Which was before he'd met either you or Alaric, so really, you guys shouldn't really take that personally," Bella added.
"That's what I'm saying," Damon groaned. "Everyone takes everything so personally around here."
Setting her plate aside, Bella gave him an admonishing glare. "Hard not to when you keep making it personal, culo."
Holding up his hands, Damon said, "Easy cupcake. I come in peace."
Glaring at him, she said primly, "I need more juice."
They had a bit of a staring contest where they each playfully challenged the other's stubbornness. This time, Damon conceded, and with a long-suffering sigh, he grabbed her nearly full glass and left for the kitchen.
"You guys are like an old married couple," Elena laughed.
Picking up her fork, Bella grumbled, "Yeah, an old married couple."
"Though it sounds like you guys have had quite an adventure getting here. Maybe we should go out to the grill tonight. I can introduce you to some of the others and we can all get to know each other a little better, have some fun..."
"Yes," Damon breezed back into the room. "Let's go drink and shoot pool. Maybe they'll have karaoke tonight. Nothing brings people together like drunk people singing Journey on karaoke."
"Or not," Bella flicked his arm. "But I could do with a drink," she sighed. "Are they listening?" she asked Damon curiously.
"Two of them are in the trees, listening to every word. The Ginger and Hulk."
Just the knowledge that Edward and Emmett were waiting to bombard her the second she stepped outside had her head pounding. "Maybe more than one drink," she groaned.
Damon's arm slipped around her, pulling her closely into his side. "Relax, mina," he breathed into her ear so lightly she knew the eavesdroppers wouldn't hear. "They won't get the message if we hide away in here all day. The best way to send them packing is to show them you've moved on and they have no place in your life anymore. I can help you with that." He planted a sweet kiss to her temple.
Burrowing further into his embrace, Bella said, "I love you, Damon," purposely loud enough for the spies to hear.
His responding smirk told her he knew very well what she was up to, but the squeeze he gave to her shoulder showed both his acceptance and approval. "And I love you taste, mina," he said in dark, erotic hunger that had her blushing and crossing her legs.
He chuckled deeply, fingers trailing suggestively down her arm.
"You guys are too much," Elena said, sounding vaguely breathless.
"Aren't we?" Damon teased. "Why don't you go find Stefan, Elena, and let him know his dance card is full tonight."
While Elena left them, Bella found herself getting lost in her thoughts. Really, she had been under nonstop stress lately and was worried tonight, as fun as it sounded, would be the straw to break her back. It could be in the form of Stefan proving difficult or Elena's friends being too judgmental, but Bella rather suspected the honor would end up going to Edward and his family.
God, the nerve of him stalking this house and spying on her. It reminded her of how he'd used to come into her bedroom at night, without her knowledge or permission at first, to watch her sleep and listen to her sleep talk. How in the world did she ever find that romantic? Maybe if they'd been together at the time and he'd asked her permission... but without either of those two stipulations?
"Fucking creepy," she muttered into Damon's shoulder.
He knew what she was thinking about; he always did. "Try not to let it get to you, mina," he said softly. "I'll take care of it tonight."
"How can I not let it bother me, Damon?" she hissed, on the verge of hysterics and only soothed by his palms rubbing up and down her arms. "It's fucked up the way they're stalking me. They've no right, none at all, and –" she cut off in a barely stifled sob.
"Hey now," Damon gently cooed, hugging her even tighter into him. "It is fucked up. These past few days have been royally fucked up. I know last night's revelation didn't exactly help, but you have to know, Isabella... I'm here for you. I'm always gonna be here for you."
Bella sniffled light. "I know... culo."
She felt him smile into her hair. "Still not off the hook, then?"
"Not yet," she poked him in the ribs.
Really, she wasn't all that upset with him about the whole marriage thing. A lot of her ire felt forced, like she was only mad because she knew she should be and not because she actually was. In the grand scheme of things, their marriage really was rather insignificant. They already told everyone they were married, they acted married; hell, she was going to die for Damon... wasn't a little slip of paper binding them together rather small?
It'd happened before their big heart to heart conversation too, which really made a difference to Bella because she didn't think anything would be able to her fury if she'd opened herself up to him only to have him go through with this stunt the next night. Also, it didn't hurt that she trusted him enough to believe him when he'd said her the whole thing had been her idea.
For once, Bella had been the instigator in one of their bad idea schemes. Oddly, that gave her a sense of pride.
"We don't have wedding rings," she murmured.
"You know, since we're married and all in the for real sense. Seems like something we should have."
"Isabella Swan asking for jewelry... will wonders never cease?" he teased.
Slapping his arm, she said archly, "That's Isabella Salvatore, culo... apparently."
His chest rumbled in a deep chuckle against her ear. "I don't know if Mystic Falls can survive another Salvatore."
"Probably not," she said wryly. "But I'm not going anywhere."
She felt his grip tighten around her. "You most certainly are not. And I have a ring for you, mina. It's being made."
"Sounds expensive," she said, wrinkling her nose.
"Not very, but it's special... just like you," he pinched her nose.
Slapping his hand away, Bella sat up to finish her breakfast.
The next couple hours were spent relaxing and ignoring the can of worms waiting to be opened the instant they stepped out of the house. They lounge against each other, talking occasionally, or reading their selected books from the library. Bella was on the perpetual edge of losing it, but Damon sensed each time her anger at the Cullens or the kidnapping events raised to the point of devouring and pulled her back, soothing her with either a soft touch or an inappropriate joke.
She'd mostly already forgiven him for keeping their marriage a secret, but wasn't about to let him know it yet. In truth, she hadn't been lying when she'd told him she suspected she'd always known. The dreams had been entirely too vivid and she'd often recalled the images during the day, mostly brought to mind by a kiss. She was slightly mollified by the fact he'd never outright lied to her, as he'd made sure to point out. Not that it justified not telling her, but it certainly made matters easier to handle.
Damon was a dick, but was still a dick she understood and loved, regardless.
When it was time to leave, Damon made a show of gallantly offering her his arm and leading her to his Camaro, his teeth gritting as his eyes flicked to the forest, the only sign that Edward was still there.
Refusing to look in his direction, Bella got into the car, laughing as Damon spun the tires on their way out.
"Let's go get drunk, mina. We deserve it," he smirked.
The Mystic Grill was lively, but when they entered, Elena popped up waving them towards a table she and Stefan had been saving. The first five minutes of their double date were spent in awkward, stilted conversation, everyone obviously trying to play nice.
Eventually, and with the help of Jonnhy Walker and Jack Daniels, everyone loosened up. Damon dragged her to a pool table where he proceeded to 'teach' her how to play, even though she'd already told him she knew how.
"But I like showing you, mina," he whispered in her ear as he hovered over her bent form. He teasingly pressed his hips into her ass and Bella promptly scratched.
"See?" he asked tauntingly. "Looks like you don't know how to play at all."
Elena giggled from across the table and even brooding Stefan smiled slightly.
Sighing in mock annoyance, Bella said, "You'll pay for that, culo. Now go get me another drink."
"As my lady desires," he bowed politely, taking off to the bar.
"Wow, you really have him figured, don't you?" Elena said.
"Come again?" Bella turned away from Damon who was making eyes at her as he waited at the bar and gave Elena a confused look.
"Nothing," she smiled. "Just seems like you've tamed the infamous Damon Salvatore, that's all."
Bella shook her head and laughed. "Damon? Tamed? Nothing and no one can tame that man. We just run wild together."
Stefan shook his head in disbelief even as Elena laughed.
"Bella, what are you doing?"
She stiffened at the unwanted voice sounding from behind her. Stefan stood straighter, pulling Elena behind him and surprising Bella as he also moved to block her as well.
"Go away, Edward. You aren't invited here," she said through gritted teeth, turning to face him even as her eyes searched the bar for Damon.
"Bella, please. I understand you're upset with me, but you don't need to put on this show. Drinking, shooting pool, the public displays of affection... this isn't you."
"Look buddy," Stefan interjected. "I think you better go before my brother gets here and rips your head off. Bella clearly doesn't want you here and to be frank, neither do I."
Bella smiled up at Stefan, her eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Way to find your big boy pants, Stefan."
He sighed, rolling his eyes, but his lips twitched up.
"And he has a sense of humor after all! I may die of the shock alone."
"Bella," Edward hissed, unhappy about being ignored. "Now is not the time for jokes. You are in danger here."
His eyes flicked to Stefan's and Edward frowned. Knowing instantly what he was doing, Bella nudged Stefan and said, "He can read your mind, Stefan. Only surface thoughts though. Recite some poetry or something and it'll keep him out."
Glaring at Edward, Stefan straightened and she could tell he was successful when Edward turned back to her with a frown.
"What? Don't tell me you actually feel entitled to people's thoughts now?"
"Be serious, Bella," Edward chided.
"I am being serious," she seethed, her arms tightening against her sides as rage swept through her. "But you won't take me seriously. It's why our relationship was doomed from the start, Edward. I've heard what you've had to say, and I've said my bit as well though you refuse to listen. Go home. There's nothing for you here."
When he took a step towards her a hand came out of nowhere, slapping him on the shoulder and holding him back.
"Oh I wouldn't do that, string bean," Damon muttered darkly from behind him. "I'd hate to have to compel this whole bar to forget the image of me ripping you to pieces and setting you on fire... but I'd do it in a heartbeat. Oh wait, your heart doesn't beat."
Edward shrugged him off and stalked away, not for good, Bella was certain. That'd be just too good to be true.
"Old friend of yours?" Stefan asked.
"We're not the only ones with a manipulative, douchebag ex," Damon said, anger still dominating his every feature.
Stefan nodded in understanding and went to check on Elena.
"Damon," Bella soothed, her arms moving up to circle his neck. He seemed incredibly furious by the encounter, or probably more by the fact that Edward had clearly been waiting for him to leave before confronting her.
Frowning down at her, Damon lifted her up and carried her through the room until they reached the men's restrooms. Thankfully, they were empty, not that she had much time to contemplate that before she was pressed back against the door and Damon's lips were devouring her own.
Damon locking the door sounded incredibly loud.
"Damon," she moaned into his mouth, and as always, it spurred him on even more, his hands roving over her breasts, her ass, burrowing into her hair and holding her to him.
"Mine," he said, his teeth clamping lightly onto her lips and tugging lightly.
Molten desire burned through her, even as she pulled away and frowned at him. "Is that what this is about? Marking your territory? I'm not a hydrant for you to piss on, Damon!"
"I'm not into water sports, Isabella," he smirked, his hands still roaming along her curves.
"Damon," she huffed half-heartedly as his lips moved to her neck and lingered there.
"What, Isabella? Are you worried about me only doing this to prove a point to him?" he demanded in mild anger. "When do I ever do anything I didn't have to?"
Despite herself, she slowly smirked. "So you're saying that even if Edward hadn't showed up and acted like a dick you'd still have pulled me in here for a quickie?"
He gave her a smarmy grin. "Well I guess we'll never know, now will we? But think of it this way, mina, I'm taking care of two birds with one stone."
Gasping as he pulled her shirt up, she managed to stutter, "Oh, is that so?"
"Yes," he mumbled against her breasts, his lips and tongue devouring them like they were two scoops of vanilla ice cream. "That little shit will get to hear how much you're taken and I'll get to feel you coming around me again. It's a win-win."
Groaning, Bella surrendered to his seductive touch, her fingers gripping his hair and holding him to her as she slipped her own hand down to the front of his pants...
Until he suddenly wasn't there and a cold hand was holding her tightly, each finger biting into her wrist as she was pushed into the corner of the room.
Low growling emanated from the one that held her, though it sounded like a kitten's purr compared to Damon's snarling.
"That's the last time you touch my wife, mother fucker. When I'm done with you, there won't be enough for you to even find your dick, let alone touch it again."
Once again, Bella found herself smiling in the face of danger. She looked over Edward's shoulder and shot Damon a look full of mischief as she tried to show her utmost confidence and faith in him. "Oh Damon... I don't think he's ever been able to find it. Not that he'd even know what to do with it."
Edward growled, his anger getting the best of him as he slammed her painfully back into the wall. Before she could even attempt to catch her breath, Damon had sprung at Edward and all she could do was stay pressed to the wall and out of the way as the room erupted into snarls and growls.
(A/N): ...backs up slowly from gathering readers... Okay, now if you really think about it, this isn't really a cliffhanger. I mean, who do you really think would win in a fight – Damon or Edward? Yeah, that's what I thought! So be gentle with me! Thanks for reading :)