“Come into focus
Step out of the shadows
It’s a losing battle
There’s no need to be ashamed
‘Cause they don’t even know you
All they see is scars
They don’t see the angel
Living in your heart”
SIX:A.M. – Skin
Chapter 13: Unexpected Caller
“I hate the cold,” she groused, but said nothing else knowing he was already decided.
The look he gave her then was downright sinful. “Don’t worry, mina, I’ll keep you warm.”
As he’d probably known it would, the vague image of him moving above her from in her dream flashed through her mind.
Her cheeks heated; she was feeling warmer already. Maybe Aspen wouldn’t be so bad, after all.
She hadn’t known she’d said the last bit out loud until Damon laughed, his head thrown back as his hand reached over to hers, tugging her as close to him as possible as his foot turned to lead against the gas pedal.
“Not bad, at all, mina,” he said in his dark chocolate voice. Each word held the solemn hint of an erotic promise. “Not bad at all.”
While Damon had booked it down to Vegas, he seemed more content to take his time on their way to Aspen. He could have easily made the ten hour drive in a day, shaving off an hour or two along the way, but instead he decided to take the ‘scenic route’ as he called it, stopping at cheesy attractions along the road and staying in a cheap motel for a night.
Bella thought he secretly was googling tourist attractions for them to visit because he was unerringly good at finding the oddest places. Her favorite had been when they’d reached Moab and Damon steered them to what was known as Hole N’ the Rock. The name left little to the imagination and was literally a hole carved into a canyon rock that had been turned into a home and tourist hotspot.
The “hole” itself was only mildly impressive. There was no doubt it was an impressive feat to create such a home, but it was still just a hole in a rock. What Bella really found entertaining was the people who flocked there. Bikers, religious zealots, hippies, and people of the redneck persuasion all gathered and marveled at the unique home.
She and Damon enjoyed themselves while people watching – Damon making snide comments and creating backstories for each unique character they saw.
“See that guy there?” he’d pointed out an overweight biker heading towards them who was wearing a Hells Angels cut, his biceps the size of hams and wrapped in menacing tattoos. “That’s Marv. He and his old lady are Scientologists and have two cats named Travolta and Cruise. They spend their nights huffing glue and reading science fiction novels.”
Bella guffawed just as the man drew even to them and ‘Marv’ gave her an intimidating frown that had her blushing and swallowing the nervous giggle that tried to escape.
Damon returned the man’s frown with an even more impressive glare of his own. “Move along, Chuckles,” he ordered.
The man must have read something in his eyes that let him know Damon was good for it because though it was clear to Bella he wanted to throw down, he simply glowered at them as he kept moving.
Relieved laughter bubbled out of her. “You just can’t help yourself, can you?”
He leaned down and pressed his lips to her ear. “You know you love it.”
God help her, but she did. To someone like that biker, Damon should’ve looked like a pushover. Bella knew that Damon would win that fight without even breaking a sweat or losing that patronizing smirk of his, but it amazed her how everyone else was leery with him, as if they sensed some inner predator about to be unleashed if they weren’t careful.
Edward had spent many hours trying to convince her of his danger. He’d done childish things, tearing apart trees and boulders while spouting off maudlin analogies designed to impart a sense of danger with him still being the tragic hero. But Bella had never bought what he was trying to sell.
Intellectually, she knew Edward was a predator capable of killing her before she could even blink, but that sense of ‘oh my goodness, he’s a terrible monster that can kill people without even trying!‘ was never there. Maybe it was because he, of all things, sparkled in the sun. Truly, Bella was not a childish person, but even that had made her secretly giggle.
With Damon, she’d picked up on that sense of danger immediately. There was a barely suppressed fury and power simmering within him that implied you were only alive because he allowed it, like he could snap at any moment happily killing a room full of people. It brought to mind a scene from the movie A Clockwork Orange when the psychotic main character Alex broke into a family’s home and terrorized them brutally while jauntily singing Singing in the Rain. The only difference between that and Damon was that he was infinitely more deadly, not only because he was a vampire, but because he was smart. Knowledge, Bella had learned, was immensely more dangerous than brute strength and Damon was lacking neither.
“Alright Damon,” she’d allowed with a silent smirk. “You’ve proved you’re the biggest dog at the park. Now let’s go to the petting zoo.”
With a heavy air of annoyance, Damon followed her to the petting zoo where a young goat took a liking to him, following him around and lightly nipping at his jacket and giving a sharp bleat whenever Damon tried to escape.
Bella’d collapsed onto a nearby bench in a fit of giggles at the look on his face. It made her wish she’d had Damon’s phone so she could take a picture – it would’ve been epic blackmail in the future. It wasn’t long after falling to the bench that Bella found a friend of her own in a small fawn that tentatively curled up beside her to nibble on the oats she offered.
Looking up, Bella caught Damon staring at her and the fawn, his head tilted as he lost himself in thought.
“Something wrong?” she asked, turning down to smile at the young doe sniffing at her hand for more treats.
“No Bambi, nothing’s wrong.”
Bella rolled her eyes and they left the petting zoo not long after, the goat bleating out in protest at Damon’s departure, much to Bella’s delight. Damon was particularly scornful after that, his wit sharper than usual with her and if he’d made such snide remarks to her last week she would’ve run off in tears. Now though, she knew he didn’t really mean his scathing remarks and that he was probably just feeling defensive after she’d spent a good part of their time teasing him.
But for all his bad taste jokes about venison and veal, when a young boy accidentally left the gate open and a stray deer wandered out into a surprisingly busy parking lot and was about to collide with a Ford Explorer, Damon had reacted without thinking. Darting out, he’d caught the deer in a shockingly gentle maneuver, smirking slightly as he carried it back to the zoo and latched the gate securely.
What Bella found particularly interesting was that the smirk he wore was identical to the one that had teased his lips while killing Laurent as well as the man from the dance club. It was very telling that he wore the same expression while killing as he did saving, even more telling how his reaction to save was just as instinctive as the one to kill. He truly was a walking contradiction.
Later that day, he’d taken her to a seedy bar where he proceeded to start another brawl, thankfully without her being groped. When he’d assured himself, and thus her, of his masculinity, he’d swept her out as the sound of police sirens echoed and found a cheap motel for the night.
For once, Bella’s mind was blissfully blank as she showered that night. There was a numb feeling that still lingered after their fight, or whatever it was, and she felt emotionally exhausted even after the distracting events of the day. For once, she was content to let the hot water massage the ache in her muscles away as he mind half-heartedly buzzed a song they’d heard on the car radio earlier.
Perhaps that’s was why she was able to discern the tell-tale click of the door opening even with the sound of running water drowning her thoughts out.
“Damon,” she hissed, reflexively covering herself even though the steam from the water had long since frosted the glass over.
She heard him give a deep chuckle as he said, as innocently as he could, “What mina? It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
A hot blush swept over her cheeks and down to her chest. Damon laughed again as if he could see her. “Relax Bambi,” he murmured. He’d favored the nickname Bambi all day today after the zoo incident. “Just wanted to let you know I’m going for a bite to eat.”
She rolled her eyes at the pun.
“Stay inside, Isabella,” he continued, his tone turning unusually serious. “I’ll only be gone for an hour or two, but who knows what sort of trouble you’ll find.”
She rolled her eyes again, but silently conceded the point.
“Can you leave your cell phone here? I want to call Charlie, maybe Renee too.”
There was a small pause. “Yes,” he finally said. “But I’d advise against telling them where you are, mina. You never know who can be listening.”
Then she heard the quiet click of the door closing again.
A part of her wanted to scoff at the warning, but the situation she’d found herself in was too dire for such a reaction. As much as she hated to admit it, Damon was right. If Victoria had followed Laurent’s trail to Forks to find that she had all but vanished mysteriously in the wind, it was likely she’d hang around to find out where she’d gone.
But they’d already told Charlie they were going to Vegas. It’s what Damon had compelled him to believe, that she’d run off with Damon, an old family friend, to elope in Sin City. She remembered the way he’d introduced himself to Charlie so flippant about running off with his daughter, but the way he’d said his own name Damon Salvatore as if it should mean something more to Charlie, almost like a warning.
She hadn’t noticed it at the time having been too embarrassed about his cover story, but now Bella couldn’t help but wonder who the warning was for, certainly not Charlie who was none the wiser about the secret life his daughter lived. Was he planning on Victoria, or someone else maybe, learning his full name should they visit Charlie for information. Did his name hold that much weight in the supernatural world that it would serve to warn people off from chasing after her?
Bella wouldn’t doubt it.
Hurriedly finishing her shower, Bella wrapped herself in a towel and turned to the counter where she’d set her nightwear only to find the familiar flannel set gone and one of Damon’s satiny button down shirts there instead.
“Subtle Damon, real subtle,” she muttered.
But she donned the top anyway knowing he’d probably thrown out her pajamas and that it really would’ve been a silly thing to kick up a fuss about considering she’d worn his nightshirts before already. Truly, the material felt like heaven against her skin, certainly not as warm as the thick flannel she usually wore, but then again, she was never cold when she was in bed with Damon.
When she left the bathroom, she noticed the small box of take-out food sitting on the counter with Damon’s phone resting on it. She smiled softly at his thoughtfulness and palmed the phone into the shirt pocket to use after she’d eaten.
He’d brought her Chinese food, much to her pleasure, and Bella happily perched at the head of the bed to eat while watching some light TV.
Finished with her meal, Bella turn the sound down on the TV and pulled out Damon’s phone. She knew it was a sign of trust that he’d left it with her, and though she was sorely tempted to glance at the unread text messages waiting on it, Bella resolutely dialed her mom’s number without even glancing at the name of the sender.
The line rang once, twice, and eventually six times before there was a click as her mother answered breathlessly.
Bella smiled indulgently. Renee would always forget where she placed her phone and always made a mad dash around the house searching for it whenever it would ring.
“Hi mom,” Bella said.
“Bella!” Renee chirped excitedly. “How are you, lovey? How’s Forks – not too boring, I hope?”
Bella inhaled sharply. It was probably too much to hope that her dad would’ve filled her in on the new development her life had seemingly taken. Her parents didn’t talk much, Bella’s recent meltdown aside, and she supposed Charlie would have rightfully assumed it to be Bella’s place to inform Renee that she’d run off and eloped.
“Bella?” Renee asked carefully, uncannily perceptive even without seeing Bella’s worried expression.
Taking a deep breath, Bella said, “Actually, I’m not in Forks right now. I’m in Las Vegas,” she offered, mindful of Damon’s warning not to give away her true location.
“Oh,” Renee said in an innocently puzzled tone. “You and Charlie go on vacation for Christmas? Seems a funny place to go for that.”
“Um, no. I’m not here with Charlie.”
“Isabella,” her mother demanded in a mothering tone she so rarely used with her.
Well, Bella though, here goes nothing.
“I’m here with Damon Salvatore, an old family friend of Charlie’s. We, uh, well… we kind of got married?” she said with the slight rise of a question on the word ‘married.’
“What? Are you joking? Am I being Punk’d – is that it, Bella? Is Ashton Kutcher there?”
Good lord, mom, Bella rolled her eyes. She’d believe Bella was hanging out with Ashton Kutcher but not that she’d eloped?
But still, Bella had years of experience managing her mom and though she’d been nervous about lying to her, she knew exactly what to say to pacify her. Really, of her two parents she would’ve been infinitely more nervous to tell Charlie such a story, but at least they’d been able to do that in person and had had the benefit of Damon’s compulsion trick.
“Well,” Bella cut her mom off mid-rant. She’d been going on about Candid Camera – which wasn’t even on air anymore, Bella mentally groaned. “I know it sounds silly, but remember that dream dictionary you gave me? I’ve been having odd dreams and when I looked up the meaning, it said something meeting my other half soon. You know me, I though it was a crock, but then Damon came to visit Charlie and well, yeah. He and I are in love and I ran off with him.”
Holy crow, she felt like an idiot just saying it, but Renee was big on the New Age scene. When they’d lived in Arizona she was constantly making day trips up to Sedona to visit the vortex and her personal psychic. When she’d come back home, it was all ‘your aura’ this and ‘a vision’ that. She loved her mother dearly, and there was a part of her that almost envied Renee’s certainty about such matters. It took a lot of conviction to believe in such things, but Bella had always kept her feet, and her head, firmly to the ground.
So by telling her mom this ridiculous story, not only did Bella know she’d believe her, but she’d be ecstatic that Bella had followed the signs being sent to her instead of giving in to skepticism as she normally did.
And sure enough…
“Oh Bella, dear, how wonderful for you! So few of us are gifted with messages from the other side, and I know what you’re like, so I’m so proud of you for listening! Such a big risk you took, lovey, I’m so happy for you. Now tell me all about this Damon…”
The next thirty minutes were spent with Bella cringing as she told her mom all about how great Damon was, how handsome, how in love they already were… She drew the line when her mom started asking about their sex life.
Good thing Damon wasn’t there. Thank God for small miracles, she’d thought.
When her mom asked for Damon’s measurement, Bella hastily found an excuse to get off the phone, taking a ten minute breather before she dialed Charlie, thankful that she wouldn’t have to put up with such an interrogation.
“So, how was the wedding” he asked nearly off the bat.
“Oh, well, it was very nice. Small, you know, intimate.”
“No Elvis, right?”
Bella laughed. “No, no Elvis, dad. Actually,” an image flashed in her mind, and Bella frowned, wondering where it’d come from even as she said, her voice taking a fuzzy dreamy quality, “We got married in a nice, small chapel at the hotel. There was gold wallpaper and a beautiful chandelier… an old man married us and his wife was our witness.”
“Sounds nice, Bells.”
Bella smiled even though her dad couldn’t see her. She felt a little bad about lying, but she was also a little impressed with how easily the lie tripped off her tongue. If she didn’t know any better, she’d have believed it herself.
They spent a few minutes catching up about what was happening in Forks – which was pretty much nothing – and Bella bit her tongue when he offhandedly mentioned how Jake seemed more moody than normal.
“Probably puberty, dad,” she smirked in a very Damon-like way.
Charlie gave a surprised bark of laughter. “Jesus Bells,” he chuckled.
They chatted a bit longer and Bella was inordinately pleased to hear the easy tone to his voice. The past couple months had been just as rough on him as they were on her. She hadn’t been a very good daughter to him and, being the man that he was, he’d tried so hard to help her but had been completely clueless. Still, he never gave up on her and when she woke up screaming from the terrible nightmares that had plagued her, he’d rush in to comfort her as best as he was able no matter how awkward he felt at it.
Charlie Swan may be emotionally awkward at raising a young woman, but there was no denying that he loved Bella very much.
As their conversation wound down Charlie cleared his throat. “Listen Bells, I wasn’t sure if I should tell you or not, what with the way things have gone recently. But I figure things are better now. You’re a grown woman, married and all, and I know Damon will be there for you if you need it.”
Bella was instantly alert. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he said quickly. “Nothing really. I just thought you ought to know you had an old friend stop by looking for you. Gave me quite a surprise, really, but don’t you worry. I told her you were off to Vegas and married by now and she left pretty quickly after that.”
Oh god, Victoria, Bella thought. Her heart started hitting her sternum with the speed and force of a jackhammer. Fear clawed at her gut as she tried to remain calm for Charlie’s sake. He was clearly unharmed and at worst, Victoria was still running around Vegas looking for her.
Bella inhaled deeply trying to steady her shaking hands. “Oh really. Who was it dad?”
She bit her lip and waited for the confirmation that Victoria was hot on their trail. How she wished Damon was here – what if she’d already found them? She could be right outside her door listening to their conversation with that chilling sneer of hers, just waiting to break in and…
“It was Alice, hun. Alice Cullen.”
Bella dropped the phone and the call disconnected.
(A/N): Oh snap! Wonder what Alice wanted… well, I don’t wonder, because I know *insert evil laugh*
Until next time…