“Seems to matter what I do, so I’m saving this 4 U
Cos it seems to be the last piece there is
And you haven’t had a chance yet to taste this
Fragments of a life you shouldn’t miss”
Poets of the Fall – “All the Way / 4U”
Chapter 3: Worth the Risk
As they cruised down the highway, the top down and the wind slipping through her hair, Bella couldn’t help but smile. She was free and relaxed for the first time in months. With the rate Damon was driving they’d be in Vegas within the half an hour. He’d taken what was supposed to be a twenty hour drive and had brought them to the outskirts of the city of sin in just over twelve.
At first, she’d been nervous about the speed, but after they were pulled over the first time, Damon had merely smirked at her while compelling the officer to forget about them and they were back on their way in two minutes flat.
The old Bella would’ve been horrified at their speed and the tampering of a police officer’s memory, and the first time it’d happened she’d made a token protest. But Damon had merely scoffed at her and told her to live a little, which then prompted Bella to get lost in thought about how, making friends of vampires and shape-sifters aside, she never took any risks. Her life was boring – she was boring, always playing by the rules. This then prompted her to reflect on the life she’d made for herself and how’d she feel if Victoria succeeded in killing her tomorrow… Would she feel satisfied that she’d lived fully and wholly?
The answer had been a resounding no. If she died anytime soon she’d like to be able to say it’d be without regrets, but at only eighteen years old, she had far too many regrets scarring her heart. This realization had made her a curious combination of angry and sad. But then she had resolved to take Damon’s words to heart – to live a little and have some fun.
“Sweetheart, sometimes you have to make you’re own fun,” Damon had told her.
And they weren’t hurting anyone really, so where was the harm?
So instead of balking at the speed, she’d leaned her head back and embraced it. She’d giggle at Damon as he made funny faces to her when a cop would start walking away after pulling them over. It had quickly turned into a game for them, making bets on how many times they’d be stopped and how quickly Damon could get them out of trouble.
“What do you say we make a run for it this time – just keep driving? You can be the Bonnie to my Clyde,” he winked at her when they’d been stopped outside of Portland.
Unbidden, an image Damon dressed in clothes from the thirties came to mind. She could picture him in a fedora, a cigarette perched precariously between his lips as he held a Tommy Gun aloft with a smirk.
Blushing, she shook off the image. She half certain that he’d been joking anyway.
Smiling at the memory, Bella trailed her arm through the wind, loving the feel of it slipping between her fingers. She thought back to when Charlie had come home and to the look on his face when he’d found her and some strange man sitting on the couch, clearly having been waiting for him.
Charlie had given Damon a suspicious once over before looking to Bella. Taking in the nervous appearance of his daughter, his suspicions had increased and the Chief had immediately on the defense.
“What’s this now?” he’d asked gruffly.
Before Bella could stammer a nervous reply, Damon gave her a smile drenched in mischief before smirking at Charlie, saying, “Why hello there, Chief. I’m Damon Salvatore.”
Charlie eyed him. “And what are you doing in my house with my daughter, Damon Salvatore”
Damon’s playful grin widened. “Why, I came to help her pack, sir. We’re heading to Vegas. You see, we’re in love and we simply cannot wait a moment longer to get married.”
Bella’s eyes widened in horror. “Damon,” she hissed, throwing an elbow to his gut.
Charlie choked on air.
“Now, now, love. No need for that,” Damon’s eyes bored into Charlie’s and Bella noticed his pupils dilating as he took on that low, commanding tone that sent shivers down her spine. “You are happy for your daughter. I’m an old friend of the family – you trust me and you’re thankful I’m with her. You support her decision to leave with me.”
“I support her decision,” Charlie parroted slowly, frowning slightly as though he didn’t recognize the words coming out of his mouth.
Damon scowled some, then looked to Bella. “It should hold, but now I see where you get it from, princess.”
Bella bit her lip. “Please Damon,” she cleared her throat some when her voice cracked. “Please, make him able to take care of himself without me here. Make him be happy without me.”
He stared at her and looked like he wanted to say something, but then he merely sighed, ran a hand through his hair and then turned back to Charlie. “You’ll be happy, but only because you know Isabella is happy. You will take care of yourself and you will be happy without Isabella here, Charles Swan.”
He spoke more firmly than he had the first time, and he sounded angry. Bella wondered if she had upset him by asking him to compel Charlie further than he had intended and she made a mental note to apologize and thank him for it later. She simply couldn’t leave without some form of assurance that her father would be alright – especially if she never returned to Forks.
While she’d been reticent about moving to Forks before, a large part of her now absolutely loathed the town. Before, she had missed her mother and the sun, but Forks now represented more than just a rainy, dull town. It was the place where her youth had died – where Edward had callously killed that part of her in less than ten minutes, leaving her in the middle of the forest, wounded and forgotten. A part of her had given up that day. Bella had curled up inside of herself as her innocence withered, and then, with nothing more than a trembling gasp, it’d died.
Now she was learning to heal and move on, but she’d always mourn the loss of that youthful innocence even as she slowly hardened herself. She didn’t think she’d ever be brave enough to open herself to the pain of loving someone again. And that was sad, she knew. She wasn’t even in her twenties and already she was jaded to romance. Pathetic, she scoffed at herself.
The rest of their time with Charlie had passed awkwardly. He’d been eerily happy with her leaving, supposedly to get married, and was particularly friendly with Damon.
“Thank goodness you talked some sense into her, son,” he’d told Damon as they moved to the door to leave. “The way that Edward kid left her in the woods… I would’ve shot the bastard had he the stones to stick around for the mess he created. But I trust you with Bells. You’ll take good care of our girl, won’t you?”
Damon smiled, but it was one step away from a smirk. “The best, Charlie. Nothing but the best for Bella mia.” He’d purred the last words in a light Italian accent that made her involuntarily shift.
As soon as they were in the car and out of the driveway, Bella had turned to Damon. “Why did you tell him we were running off to get married? You realize if I ever come back he’ll expect you with me, right?”
Damon raised an eyebrow. “I told him that before the compulsion, so if you ever come back you can make up some excuse. Besides, the look on his face was worth it.”
Bella relaxed some. Then she remembered how he’d seemed angry earlier and said, “I’m sorry about before.”
He frowned at her. “What about before?”
“When I asked you to compel Charlie beyond what you meant to. You sounded angry, and I’m sorry if I forced you to do something you didn’t want to.”
He snorted. “I can’t be forced to do anything I don’t want to, sweet cheeks, especially not by a tiny little girl like you.”
“Then why were you upset?”
He looked at her briefly, before he said, “Because it’s quite obvious you hold everyone else’s happiness before your own. You’re too self-sacrificing and it’s annoying.”
Bella reeled back some. “Annoying? Why would something like that annoy you? Isn’t it a good thing to put others before yourself?”
Damon shook his head. “Not to the extent you do, little girl. You need to value yourself more. Your happiness is important too.”
Bella frowned, not really liking how open they were conversing, but still feeling the need to defend herself. “If you love someone you always look out for that person. Haven’t you ever been in love before?”
Instantly she wanted to take the words back. That was far too personal a question, especially to someone like Damon who, for all his snark and humor, was probably sustaining more emotional pain than she could imagine. But before she could stammer an apology and tell him to forget about it, he was glaring at her as he admitted, “I’ve been in love before. It’s painful, it’s pointless, and overrated.”
Bella didn’t know what to say to that. She wanted to deny it, tell him love was kind, beautiful and completely worth the risk for the right person, but her protests would’ve rung false even to her own ears. She wasn’t sure she even believed in love anymore.
If in the future Bella ever began to doubt how much alike they were, she’d only have to think back to this conversation to be reminded that they truly were two of a kind.
“I think I agree with you,” she finally said.
They were quiet for sometime before they’d reached a diner and Damon stopped so they could eat.
Bella had watched incredulously as he swiped the discarded pickles from her burger, plucking them onto his.
“What’s wrong with you? You don’t like pickles? Women these days…”
She’d narrowed her eyes and countered with, “What’s wrong with you? You actually eat? Vampires these days…”
Damon had widened his eyes innocently at her before taking a huge bite of his burger, smiling obnoxiously as he chewed. Bella had rolled her eyes and the ice that had lingered around them after their earlier conversation had thawed and he was back to his usual, teasing, snarky self.
In fact, Bella was starting to suspect he was purposefully finding speed traps set up by the police so he could tease her when the cop stopped them. It would’ve made her mad had he not been so funny about it. When Damon was truly amused, not just the mask of mild amusement he wore at other people’s expense, his eyes were lighter and there was an almost glow about him. He was truly a beautiful man. Bella may be emotionally damaged but she certainly wasn’t blind, and his beauty was even more enhanced when he smiled genuinely – which he seemed to do every time she laughed at his quirky expressions behind the officer’s back.
“You get the next one,” he said abruptly, breaking her thoughts.
Bella blinked. “Come again?”
Damon looked at her and smirked. “The next time we get pulled over, you get us out of it. Why should I do all the work?”
She gave him an incredulous look. “Maybe because you’re the one speeding,” Bella pointed out.
He shrugged and looked wholly unconcerned as he gave her a sly smile. “But you like the speed, don’t you, cupcake?”
Bella huffed. “Regardless,” she drew out. “You’re the one committing the act so it stands to reason you should be the one to get us out of trouble.”
Damon laughed. “It does, doesn’t it? But I won’t. It’s all on you next time.”
“What?” she gasped. Just the thought of it was starting to freak her out. “That’s not fair.”
“Life’s not fair,” Damon pointed out.
Bella’s heart began to flutter nervously. “But, what do I do? I can’t compel – how would I even begin to get us out of a ticket?”
Damon shot her a look. “You’re kidding, right? Shake what your momma gave you, Bella Swan. If you got it, flaunt it. You flirt, silly girl.”
“Flirt,” the word felt foreign in her mouth.
“Dear lord, don’t tell me you’ve never flirted to get out of trouble or to get your way… and you call yourself a woman.”
“Hey,” she smacked his arm, a useless endeavor but it made her feel better. “I resent that remark.”
“Maybe you should resemble it instead. Seriously though, haven’t you ever flirted to get something?”
He seemed genuinely interested so she gave it some thought. She’d sort of flirted with Jake that time on the beach in order to get him to tell her the tribal legends, but all she’d done was smile and indicate that they could be friends. She doubted that was what Damon was talking about.
“Not really,” she admitted.
Damon snorted. “Well, there’s no time like the present,” he grinned.
It was then that Bella noticed the tell-tale red and blue lights coming from behind them.
Her heart trembled. “Damon,” she hissed.
“Isabella,” he retorted even as he signaled to pull over.
“Please,” she begged.
He grinned. “Nope. It’s all on you – and I should mention that if I end up with a ticket, I’ll be pissed.”
Her hands started shaking. She couldn’t believe he was making her do this. Actually, that was a lie, this was so like the Damon she’d come to know. It was nearly midnight and they were about to be pulled over in Las Vegas. Bella was sure she looked horrible. They had decided not to stop at a hotel and had pushed through the trip in one go, Bella dozing here and there while Damon drove. Her hair was a wild mess from the wind and it wasn’t like she was wearing revealing clothes or any makeup. She was sure she’d fail to entice.
Damon killed the engine. “Hey,” he said quietly. Bella looked at him and saw he was using his serious face as he gave her a pointed look. “You’re gorgeous and you can do this – stop telling yourself you can’t.”
Bella stared at him. He seemed to be trying to compel her into believing him even though they both knew it wouldn’t work. For the first time, she wished Damon’s mind trick would work on her. But as the cop turned on his brights and illuminated the cab of their car, Bella resolved to find the strength and the nerve within herself. She’d rather find true bravery within than have it implanted artificially. She’d run with vampires for crying out loud! Even if the cop ended up ticketing them he would be far less scary than James and his coven.
She could do this, she repeated Damon’s words. Damon believed she could do this and that meant she could. He wouldn’t lie, not about this. Damon was brutally honest; in fact, she believed he prided himself on this. And she admired him for it, truly. She just wished it wasn’t at her expense this time.
Bella took a deep breath. She could do this, she repeated. The words were an empty reassurance, but she kept them on loop in her head. Still meeting Damon’s eyes, she gave a small, timid nod. She could do this.
Damon grinned. “Go get him, tiger.”
With that he winked at her and Bella couldn’t help but smile in response.
The cop was there – a man, thankfully. She imagined Damon wouldn’t have cared if it had been a female and still would have expected her to try.
“May I see your license, registration, and proof of insurance please,” the cop intoned.
Damon smiled. “Certainly officer,” he said, unnaturally polite as he handed over the required documents.
“Do you know why I pulled you over, sir?”
Damon looked at her from the corner of his eye and Bella’s pulse hammered harder than before. There was no doubt Damon could here it for he shot her a somewhat comforting smirk. She was trying to work up the courage to move, speak, or even breathe, but she remained frozen in her seat.
“Speeding, I imagine,” Damon murmured.
“Yes sir, I clocked you going eighty in a sixty-five zone. I’m afraid I’ll have to write you up.”
And as if those were the magic words, Bella found herself leaning forward, her body practically draped across Damon as she placed one hand on the top of the steering wheel and the other on the base of the window.
“Excuse me, officer,” she said demurely. Which was no act – Charlie had told her once that if someone was respectful and polite to an officer, they were more likely to go easy on them.
The officer stopped what he was doing and looked down at Bella. She was uncomfortably aware of her loose shirt hanging down and giving the man a bird’s eye view of her breasts, and she shifted some, but made no move to cover herself. “Yes miss?”
Blushing, Bella said softly, “Please officer. It wasn’t really my brother’s fault – I’m afraid I was quite insistent that he speed and I feel just horrible about getting him into trouble.”
“Is that so?” The cop leaned down some, looking at her intently. He was young, maybe mid-twenties, and from what she could make out he was good looking. Brown hair, brown eyes and clean features.
Not as handsome as Damon, the thought rose unbidden and she became very aware of her body hovering over his, the subtle graze of his chest against her. Blushing again, Bella looked down and then up at the officer through her lashes as she bit her lip. “I’m afraid so. You see, my best friend is in labor as we speak and I was scared I’d miss it, so I told him to drive faster. I know that doesn’t justify it, sir, but maybe you can let him off with a warning just this once? He’s never had a ticket before, and I’d feel just awful if he got one on account of me.”
The cop stared at her. “I don’t know, miss. Speeding can be very dangerous, not only for yourself, but others out on the road.”
Bella felt her mouth go dry. It wasn’t working. She was horrible at this, and she was ridiculous for thinking she could be that girl – the confident, sexy girl who could smile and flirt with success. She was just plain, boring, Bella Swan. Not even Edward, who was a hundred and seven year old virgin, wanted her.
Suddenly, she felt Damon’s hand snake across the back of her knee just out of the officer’s sight. He gave an encouraging squeeze and Bella forced herself to try again. Licking her dry lips, she said, “I understand that, sir, and I promise to never be so reckless again. You’re very right to follow the rules, but I’d really appreciate it if you could find it in your heart to make an exception.” She licked her lips again, they felt so dry and she was so nervous. “Please… I’d be forever grateful,” she finished softly, once again chewing on her lip as she lifted her hand from the wheel to work her hair back as the wind blew it across her face.
The officer’s eyes drifted and he seemed unfocused as he said, “I suppose I can make an exception just this once, miss.” His voice was slightly hoarse as his gaze roved over her.
Damon squeezed again and Bella beamed in victory. Again, the officer’s eyes seemed to cloud as he stared at her, but Bella didn’t care to think on what that meant. She said, “Oh thank you so much, sir. You’re too wonderful,” and she was so elated at her success that her voice came out airy and breathless. Her smile was so wide it almost hurt as she beamed at the officer.
The man nodded absently, his eyes never leaving her even as he stretched out a hand to return Damon’s information. Damon lifted his arm and slipped it under her to receive the paperwork. Bella blushed for what had to be the hundredth time in the past five minutes. Her smile, however, never faltered, not even when she swore Damon had purposefully dragged the back of his knuckles across her chest.
“You drive safe, sir. And congratulations to your friend, miss,” the cop said with a little nod of his head as he turned back to his car.
Bella let out a half-sigh, half-giggle and relaxed back into her seat. Her smile remained and her limbs seemed to vibrate in excess energy. She felt invincible. She felt… attractive.
Time after time of Edward pulling away and denying her had left it’s mark. She’d accepted that physically there were some things they’d have to approach carefully, given his unnatural strength, but Edward had never even attempted to move pass closed mouth kissing even though he had alluded to trying for her. He’d let his fear twist their relationship until Bella could make only one conclusion: Edward loved her, but did not desire her.
It’d been a hard blow for her. Up until he’d discarded her in the woods she’d truly believed he’d loved her, but held not an ounce of desire for her body. Oddly enough, his confession of boredom with her in general had made his lack of physical desire for her somewhat more tolerable.
For Bella, she couldn’t imagine not wanting to even attempt to physically express one’s love for another. It was both a natural and beautiful thing. But Edward had made her feel like pervert. Like her wanting more physically was wrong. Eventually that had morphed into him just not wanting her in that way, and Bella sadly accepting the love of a man not attracted to her.
But from the beginning Damon had hinted at her attraction. He’d dropped cutesy nicknames at her, winks, innuendos all designed to fluster and flirt with her. While she doubted he meant more than that at this point – Damon struck her as a huge flirt – he had at least acknowledged her looks almost immediately.
“You feel good, don’t you?” Damon asked amusedly, breaking her thoughts.
Bella looked at him, still grinning. “Is it really pathetic if I say yes?”
Damon smirked. “A little bit, yes.”
But that didn’t even phase her. “I don’t care. I feel awesome. Did you see that? It worked!” she gushed.
Rolling his eyes, Damon started the car and put them on the road towards the strip. “Of course it worked – I knew it would.”
She shot him an incredulous look. “And how did you know it would work?”
He glanced at her curiously. “Seriously? You’re fishing for compliments now?”
Bella frowned. “No. I really don’t get it… how did you know?”
“You heard me.”
Bella nibbled her lip.
“See that? Right there with the lip – that’s hot. And the blushing, and the soft voice. You’ve got the whole innocent pin-up girl look going on. It’s hot.”
He sounded very nonchalant the whole time he explained this.
Self-consciously, Bella pulled her hair behind her shoulder. “I’ve never been called hot before.”
“Really?” he drew out. “Not even by the ex?”
Her shoulders slumped. “Especially not by him. I don’t think he liked me in that way, not really.”
“You shitting me?” he snapped.
Bella shook his head. “He’d barely kiss me and it was always closed mouthed. He was always pulling away. At first he said it was the whole strength and venom thing, but he never even tried for more like he implied we would. He made me feel like a pervert for wanting more.”
“The guy sounds like a dick,” he stated. “You’re better off.”
Bella shrugged. The jury was still out on that. She may have found her anger and was starting to re-evaluate her relationship with Edward with the benefit of hindsight, but she had been in love with him. That had not been faked, at least not on her part, and it was not easy to forget.
“He told me that we’d never be like that. That vampires couldn’t be like that with humans,” she said quietly.
“Bullshit,” Damon growled. He sounded really angry, and Bella could feel her heart loosening, warmth flooding her since she could tell it was on her behalf.
“So,” she began, then hesitated slightly before continuing, “You’re saying it would’ve been possible. For him to do that, with me?”
“Sex?” he asked bluntly. Bella blushed but nodded. “Of course it’s possible. Vampires can’t procreate, though we love to try. I’d be happy to give you a demonstration. You just say when, beautiful.”
She gasped, but couldn’t help smiling. “When? You’re awfully sure of yourself, big boy.”
Damon gave her a smug grin. “It’s only a matter of time, kitten. You’re bound to fall for me eventually. I mean, look at me – who could resist this?” He gestured to himself, winking at her.
Bella giggled. “Oh Damon. I wish I had your confidence.”
She expected some sort of witty retort, but instead Damon gave her a searching look and said, “You just have to believe in yourself more. In your mind you’ve already decided you can’t, so you’ve become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are gorgeous, Isabella Swan. Embrace it.”
Frowning, Bella thought about his words and found that in many ways he was right. Sure, Edward had fed her insecurity and made her self-esteem go to an all time low, but her tendency to doubt herself had always been there. When Damon had told her to flirt with the officer, she’d known instantly it wouldn’t work and she very nearly didn’t even try. Halfway through it, she’d been sure she’d looked like a spastic idiot and would’ve given up and retreated into her shell had it not been for Damon’s silent show of support.
She could still feel the ghost of his long fingers squeezing the back of her knee, drifting a little onto her thigh. Slowly, a bubbling warmth filled her chest and it took her a moment to recognize it as gratitude. She was grateful for Damon – for his insistence on kidnapping her and his vow to protect her which had been put to the test almost immediately upon returning to her home. But more than that, he took it upon himself to encourage her, to push her into putting herself out there and take some risks. She was positive he’d started speeding past cops because the adrenaline of getting caught made her giggle, made her feel wild and free. Surely with his vampire senses he could avoid the police altogether if he wanted.
And the way he’d casually pushed her into flirting out of that ticket. Yes, he’d put her on the spot, but not once did he give any indication that he believed she couldn’t do it. In fact, it’d seemed like a given to him that she could. And when she’d doubted herself in the middle of it, he was there in his silent way, offering encouragement.
It’d been a day and already Damon Salvatore was changing her – not into something she didn’t want to be, but into the person she’d always hoped she could be. Fun, confident, brave… they’d all been traits buried within her, hidden under the drama of the past few months, stifled under Edward’s overprotective ways. Bella tried to imagine what Edward would think of her flirting with a cop to get out of trouble. Undoubtedly, he’d disapprove – even though she’d seen him act similar on numerous occasions in order to get his way. He’d dazzled Mrs. Cope to adjust his schedule, restaurant staff to get better tables and service… he’d even dazzled Bella herself to accept a birthday party she’d had no want of. Dazzled her into going to prom even though she’d outrightly said she didn’t want to.
Edward would’ve found her new fun, confident and brave traits inappropriate. He would have dazzled his way into smothering them so she would turn into the docile lady she’d been throughout their entire relationship, and if Bella had found the courage to disagree with him, he would have chalked it up to her youth and ignored her in favor of what he wanted. He’d done it many times.
But Damon appeared to uncover these traits in her by the sheer will of his persistence and encouraged them to flourish. He believed in her, and in turn, it made her believe in herself. Not once did she ever feel equal with Edward. Their relationship had been unbalanced and unhealthy – she could see that now with the benefit of hindsight. With Damon, she didn’t feel that way. He certainly carried an air of superiority, but he never talked down to her like a little child being scolded after asking for sweets. He didn’t make her feel stupid or naïve when she’d been flirting with the cop, and he didn’t make it seem wrong for her to have wanted more physically with the person who professed to love her.
He did the opposite. Damon pushed her to question what she believed and forced her to act outside her comfort zone. She didn’t think he was healing her – that sounded too corny and simply not Damon’s style. But she did think he was giving her the tools necessary to heal herself. He was showing her she could be brave. She could take risks and get out of trouble unscathed. Men could find her attractive and she was desirable.
What he was doing for her, likely out of boredom, was far more than what her friendship with Jake had been. Jake had kept her weak, fed into her insecurities by trying to talk her out of taking risks. She didn’t think he’d done it purposely, maybe it had just been the ignorance of his youth, but she recalled the way he’d looked at her when she brought the bikes to his house. How he’d told her her balance was horrible for it and she was crazy for thinking about attempting it. In the end he’d given in and taught her. After learning of his feelings for her earlier that day, Bella knew it’d likely been because of his crush and not any real faith that she could do it.
“Isabella?” Damon prompted.
She’d fallen down the rabbit hole of her own thoughts. Shaking herself, Bella turned to Damon and saw his signature smirk. But his eyes were serious as he studied her. Damon was a hard person to read, but in that moment, Bella could read him like he was her beloved copy of Wuthering Heights.
He was worried about her.
Warmth blossomed in her chest as she stared at him – Damon Salvatore, the Man in Black, cocky vampire extraordinaire. He was damaged and defensive, but clearly loyal to those he found worthy of his time, and in his own way, he was kind to those he cared for.
Bella imagined she was seeing a side of him that he fought to hide. She didn’t know what his damage was, but given the affinity he appeared to feel for her, Bella could only assume he’d been burned and betrayed by someone he’d loved. She imagined it’d been a woman, a stupid woman who had been selfish and unaware of the true prize Damon Salvatore represented.
And it made her heart hurt for him. In this one day alone, he’d proven himself to be her truest friend. Maybe, Bella thought, she could return the favor somehow. It’d involve in opening herself up to him more than she’d originally planned, but Bella was very grateful for what Damon had already managed to do for her. Even if she got burned in the end, she decided Damon was worth the risk.
He needed to know she thought he was worth it.
“You make me brave, Damon,” she admitted quietly. “You make me feel beautiful and like I can do anything.”
As soon as she said it, she had the sensation of free falling. It was as scary as it was exhilarating. Damon was teaching her how to take risks, and this was probably the biggest one she could take – throwing herself out there to him, opening herself up to hurt again. It’d not been what she intended to learn from him – she’d wanted to erect a fortress around herself to keep people out. But maybe she could do that while still leaving a side door only for Damon. Bella needed to make sure Damon knew how truly thankful she was for what he’d done for her, what he’d committed to continue doing for her. With how similar they were in many respects, she didn’t doubt he saw the significance of her gesture.
He didn’t say anything in response, and for that she was thankful. Bella kept her eyes focused out of the car, taking in the bright lights of the Vegas strip. When they passed the New York, New York hotel, Damon’s hand pulled hers from her lap and entwined their fingers together on the seat between them. Bella didn’t break her gaze from the hotels and casinos, but she smiled softly and thought she could see Damon smiling too from the corner of her eye.
Her hand remained firmly ensconced in his up until he pulled into the valet section at the Venetian and he had to let go to sort out the car. But even still, he was almost immediately by her side when the valet helped her out of the car, offering her his arm with a confident smirk.
Bella took the proffered arm, her fingers subconsciously feeling the firmness there as he led her up to the front desk to check in.
(A/N): My original goal had been to get further into Vegas this chapter, but the whole cop scene was something Damon was pretty persistent about writing… I’d love to hear your thoughts on it 🙂 And I’m glad most of you are enjoying my canon Damon quotes. I’m trying to just pepper them in without being too forced…
Next up, the Vegas experience! Drinking, clubbing, gambling, and because Bella’s a danger magnet, some trouble too…