Come feed the rain
’cause I’m thirsty for your love dancing underneath the skies of lust
Yeah, feed the rain
’cause without your love my life ain’t nothing but this carnival of rust
Poets of the Fall – “Carnival of Rust”
Chapter 4: Dance of Danger
As they walked into the hotel, Bella’s hand subconsciously tightened around Damon’s arm as she absorbed the fancy décor. Having been with the Cullens, she was no stranger to luxury, but it had always made her skin itch. It was like a physical reaction to her being somewhere she didn’t belong. Even as she acknowledged the beauty of the hotel, Bella felt out of sorts in the midst of the red velvet hues and the classic Italian themed artwork.
Her free hand drifted to the edge of her baggy flannel shirt and tugged it nervously. When she’d packed her bag in Forks she’d spent at least ten minutes in her room in silent debate. The clothes Alice had superstitiously been moving into her closet had hung, new and fancy when compared to her usual duds, tempting her. But in the end, Bella decided to leave that part of herself behind. The clothes, while nice, were not even her style. Alice had never bothered to consult Bella for her opinion, rightfully assuming she would wear whatever purchased owing to a misplaced sense of duty. They were chic and would compliment her nicely, Bella was sure, but she’d always feel uncomfortable in them. It would’ve felt like she was pretending to be someone she wasn’t. And honestly, the last thing Bella needed was another reminder of the family that had left her. A family she now realized had tried to mold her into something she was not, and then looked down on her when they’d found her lacking.
Damon adjusted the bags he was carrying and brought his other hand over to cover her arm, squeezing to get her attention. Bella looked up at him, taking in his dark clothes, leather jacket and generally unruffled, sexy appearance. He fit in with these lush surroundings, and Bella wondered if he was embarrassed to be seen with her.
Frowning lightly, he leaned his head down to whisper in her ear, “Fitting in is about attitude, not looks. If you make yourself belive it, then others will follow. Own it, Isabella.”
Bella nodded once, thinking about his words. She supposed he was right. Her automatic self-doubt was probably obvious to everyone and made it easy for them to write her off. If Bella truly wanted to move on and take a leaf out of Damon’s book, then she’d have to stop doubting herself so much. Just because she didn’t grow up with luxury didn’t mean she couldn’t become accustomed to it. It didn’t mean she was undeserving of it. She was Isabella Swan – she’d lived through horrors most people would crumble at the mere thought of. If she could face James, confident in herself and decisions, she could certainly wear flannel in a fancy hotel.
And who cared if people judged her. Wasn’t her opinion the one that mattered most? Wasn’t she trying to be more like Damon, who oozed confidence at all times? What would Damon do, she asked herself. It would probably be her new mantra in the coming days. What would Damon do…?
Bella lifted the right corner of her mouth into a small smirk, her fingers gripping Damon’s in acknowledgement of his support, and raised her head. She told herself not to look down, not anymore. She’d keep her head high and meet any accusing or judging stares with an aloof glare of her own. Maybe she’d even arch a brow at those who looked too long.
She could do this, she reminded herself. Damon said she could do this, so she could.
“That’s my girl,” he said quietly, frank approval in his voice. Bella felt stronger in response, almost heady with the knowledge that Damon was proud of her. A small voice in the back of her mind told her to be careful, that Damon’s opinion was starting to matter too much, but she ignored that voice easily. Damon was her friend in a way no one had ever been for her, in a way she sorely needed. He was worth it, she told that small part of herself that was still alone and vulnerable.
He was worth it.
Bella’s new-found confidence held true even as the concierge gave her a look that clearly stated he found her lacking. Her eyes never left his disapproving stare and she felt a thrill of triumph when he looked away first.
“Checking in, sir?” he addressed Damon.
Damon glared at him. He hadn’t missed the little stare down between her and the clerk and he seemed angry on her behalf.
The concierge fumbled slightly under Damon’s hard stare. Bella couldn’t fault the man for that having been on the receiving end of one of those glares herself. Before the man could say anything, Damon looked down at her, a mischievous light entering his eyes. It made him look playful, but it made Bella instantly cautious. What was he up to?
“We want a suite in the Venezia Tower. We’re honeymooning and we’ll be here for a few days but have no set check-out plans so just book it for a week. That should be enough time, right my lovely?”
Bella blushed, meeting Damon’s laughing eyes with an unamused glare of her own. She wanted to question him about them sharing a room – never mind the honeymoon nonsense he was spouting – but she didn’t want to raise the concierge’s suspicions. The last thing they needed was to draw undue attention to themselves.
So instead, Bella said in a sickeningly sweet voice, “Whatever you say, dear.”
Damon’s lips pursed as he tried to quell a grin. Lifting a brow at her, he turned back to the clerk and said in his compelling voice, “And you’ll give it to us for half-off since you insulted my girl earlier.”
It was horrible of her, but Bella grinned at that.
“I have the Prima Suite available in the Venezia Tower, sir, at half-off for the week if you’re agreeable?” he said completely dazed. Damon nodded and the man accepted his card when he slid it to him. “Would you like help with your bags?”
“No,” Damon said tersely.
“Very well,” the man slid Damon’s card back to him along with two room keys, still looking dazed and confused, but he managed to give them directions to their room and Damon gave him another hard stare that had the man gulping before he led Bella away to where the elevators were.
They entered the elevator which was thankfully empty, allowing Bella to pull away from Damon and smack his arm.
“Was that supposed to hurt?” he sneered lightly.
Bella huffed. “What was that nonsense about it being our honeymoon? And why are we sharing a room, Damon?”
He rolled his eyes, completely unconcerned with her. “Relax buttercup. If your little friend catches our trail sooner rather than later, stands to reason we shouldn’t be separated, right?”
Bella grumbled, knowing that he was right.
He grinned in response, looking rather victorious. “And the honeymoon was just a cover. Roll with it.”
Again, Bella huffed irritatedly. She knew she was being childish, but it felt like Damon was up to something – like he was starting a new game with her and she was left clueless. However, her temper was quick to leave her and once again, Bella took Damon’s arm in a show of acceptance and forgiveness.
“Thank you, Damon,” she sighed, sounding half sincere.
He looked at her warily, suspicious of her change of heart. Nevertheless, he accepted her arm like a true gentleman. It made her wonder when he was turned because for such a sarcastic, smarmy kind of guy, he seemed to have the manners of a proper gentleman.
“What for?” he asked.
Bella nibbled her lip. For so many things, she wanted to say, but instead she said, “For taking care of me. I’m sorry I don’t have money to give you for the room and stuff. I appreciate you looking out for me, not just from Victoria, but also in other ways.”
Snorting, he said, “Isabella, I’ve been around for nearly 170 years. A week in Vegas is nothing, like a drop of water in the ocean. In fact, perhaps we’ll hit the high roller tables… You can be my arm candy, sweetness.” He gave her a wink.
How like him to sweep her sincere gratitude away, like him going out of his way to help her was no big deal. To Bella it was a huge deal. No one had ever taken care of her so naturally before and without smothering her in the process. She had always been the caregiver – with Renee, Charlie, even Edward and Jake. She was the one looking out for them, trying to help in whatever way she could, be it doing the laundry and cooking, or wearing the color blue (even though she didn’t care for it personally) because Edward thought it suited her.
It was oddly refreshing to have someone looking out for her without putting a spotlight on the fact. Bella felt relieved, light almost. Like some of the tension from the past few months melted away under the knowledge that she wasn’t alone, not anymore.
Belatedly, Bella gave Damon a smile. “I’m afraid I’d be rather lacking in the arm candy department. I don’t really have anything suitable to wear for that.”
Damon quirked his head, studying her, before looking away with a distracted, “Hm-m.”
Soon, the elevator dinged and Damon led them out into the hall and managed to find their room relatively quickly. Slipping the room key in, they heard the door beep and unlock. Holding open the door with a smarmy grin, Damon gestured for her to enter first.
She knew to expect luxury and elegance. The Venetian was a beautiful hotel known for its classy Italian renaissance feel. But still, when she entered the room, Bella was a bit floored by the beauty of it all. There were fresh flowers on the end tables and gorgeous, romantic paintings hanging from the walls. The entire room screamed class and elegance in a way that was almost understated. This, Bella decided, was the type of luxury she could appreciate. There was obvious money here, but the open room felt so warm and inviting. It didn’t alienate, or feel like she was in a museum.
Suddenly, she spied the king sized bed against the wall and took in the gathered crimson canopy curtain at the headboard and the golden throw blanket at the foot. It appeared undeniably soft and inviting, but the lone bed caused her to pause and twist a strand of her hair nervously.
Damon swept passed her. “So I call the left side of the bed. In fact, I call left side always.” He dropped their bags unceremoniously at the foot of the bed, turned back to look at her, and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. “I like to cuddle. Hope you don’t mind.”
It was an obvious ice breaker, and Bella couldn’t help but giggle lightly. Sure, it would be awkward sharing a bed, but as Damon said – it was best they stick together for her own protection. And she trusted Damon, she reminded herself. Yes, he’d probably give her hell and embarrass her to pieces about it, but she didn’t think he’d take advantage of her.
Besides, he seemed confident she’d come to him for anything of that sort… and Bella wasn’t so certain that he was wrong. Damon was a gorgeous man – a man who knew what he was doing with his cocky smirks and suggestive winks. Bella may be inexperienced, but she was fairly certain that his flirting with her wasn’t just a way to pass the time. He seemed genuinely attracted to her, and she was mature enough to admit that she was attracted to him as well. Hell, who wouldn’t be?
But those thoughts were exceedingly dangerous. While she was sure that Damon wouldn’t say no to fooling around with her, or more even, she was equally certain that she didn’t want her first time being with someone who didn’t love her. Edward may have thought she was a hormonal teenager who was so eager to throw away her virginity, but for Bella it had always been about love, not only lust. True, she may have been hormonal as Edward had not-so subtly suggested many times, but she hadn’t simply desired to have sex with him for the sake of scratching an itch.
And while she didn’t doubt that Damon would be able to thoroughly scratch any itch she had, the hopeless romantic that was still trapped inside Bella’s bruised heart wanted love, not just lust, even if that same part of her was dubious as to whether or not love was even worth it. She remembered what Damon had told her about love – that it was painful, pointless, and overrated. Why would she want to put herself through the pain of falling in love again if it wouldn’t work out…
Or maybe, a new revelation hit her. Maybe she’d been too quick to love before and it wasn’t that love itself was her problem, but that she’d loved the wrong person. How long and how well had she really known Edward before he was spouting things about lions falling in love with lambs?
Bella knew that love took work. It was the main reason her parents divorced. They’d been unwilling or unable to make their love work. She’d fought to make her love for Edward work, even going so far as to be willing to turn in order for them to be on equal footing. But Edward had been unwilling to compromise. He’d been so adamant against her turning that he’d failed her in their relationship in the most basic way, so simple that not Bella hadn’t even noticed it until now. Really, he’d given up on her before they’d even started. He’d accepted the star-crossed nature of their romance, even embraced it in his usual, tortured soul way. Whereas Bella had fought to make it work, to change it so they could have their happily ever after, Edward had passively accepted it. He’d shown her she wasn’t worth fighting for.
Abruptly, she wondered if Edward’s unwillingness to change her was him subconsciously telling her she wasn’t the one for him. That he wasn’t as serious about her as she’d been about him. Oddly, Bella felt grateful that he’d never changed her. An eternity alone was not appealing in the slightest.
Another thought hit her. Was Damon alone? Was that why he was going out of his way for her, because he was tired and lonely? If so, Bella felt sad for him even as she knew he’d spout off some nonsense about always being in the best company if he was by himself. From what she knew of Damon, snarky humor and mysterious past aside, he was a good guy and didn’t deserve to be all alone.
Suddenly, Bella saw her role as Damon’s new friend in an entirely new light. She’d wanted to help him before, but maybe just being here was helping him? Maybe all Damon really needed was someone who wouldn’t turn their back on him and would trust him – Bella didn’t think he had a lot of people he could truly count on and she vowed then and there that she’d be one of them.
Letting thoughts of attraction and loneliness slip away, Bella told Damon, “I should warn you that I talk in my sleep. I can’t be held responsible for anything I say while unconscious.
Damon smirked. “It’s alright, sugar lips – I’m used to women calling out my name at all hours of the night.”
“Dear lord,” she muttered, blushing to the roots of her hair. “Seriously Damon?”
His smirk widened. “Yes, seriously,” he answered, deliberately misinterpreting her meaning.
Deciding a change of topic was best, Bella couldn’t help but ask, “So why this hotel? I would’ve pegged you for the Bellagio.”
“Because I’m such a classy guy?”
She snorted, not even bothering to respond to that.
He chuckled and answered her. “The Bellagio is nice, but this reminds me of my home in Italy.”
“You have a home in Italy?” she smiled.
“Yep,” he said, like it was the most natural thing in the world. “I’ll take you one day. Maybe we’ll start globe-trotting after I finish some business in Mystic Falls. It’ll be like ‘Where in the World is Damon Salvatore?'”
“And Bella Swan,” she added. “Not everything is about you, Damon.”
He grinned. “Sure it is. Just give it time.”
“Whatever,” she allowed. “I’m going to take a shower and then I’m going to bed.”
The thought of sleeping in a bed, even with Damon, and not in a car was mighty appealing.
“No you’re not,” Damon said.
Bella put her hands on her hips. “Excuse me? Yes, I am.”
He mimicked her pose. “No. Go shower, but then get dressed. We’re going out.”
“But it’s almost one in the morning!”
“So?” he rolled his eyes. “For our time in Vegas, we’ll be like real vampires. Up all night, sleep all day. I’m going to teach you how to have fun, little girl.”
Against her better judgement, Bella was mildly intrigued. She’d always taken herself so seriously, maybe letting go and having fun with Damon was just what she needed. She’d had enough deep thoughts and revelations to last for the week… what with her new thoughts on her relationship with Edward, her epiphanies about Damon…
Maybe it was time to let go – to not think. Just go with it for once.
Bella sighed. “Fine,” she said. “But I’m still going to shower. I don’t have much to wear for going out, but at least I can save my hair after riding in your convertible all day.”
Damon was suddenly in front of her, using a finger to tilt her head back and toying with one of her locks of tangled hair. “I like your hair wild, kitten, but by all means, go get naked.”
Half glaring at him, Bella stomped away and secluded herself in the bathroom. This room was just as lush as the rest of the place – marble tiles, gorgeous bathtub big enough for three at least, double sink vanity, and even a flat screen TV…
Casting a longing look to the tub, Bella resigned to shower since it would be quicker.
Turning the water up high and allowing steam to fill the glass shower stall, Bella stripped and climbed in, sighing as the hot water traced along her sore muscles. She noticed a bruise on her hip from Jake knocking her into the stairs, but thankfully, she wasn’t as banged up as she’d feared. Considering she’d been tackled by a shape-shifting wolf, it definitely could have been much worse.
Taking her time with her hair, Bella sighed and allowed her mind to drift aimlessly, no deep thoughts or grand revelations. She simply let the hot water ease her mind along with her aches and relaxed. She didn’t think she was in there long, but the shower felt heavenly and there was a bench seat, tempting her to sit and relax as the water massaged her aches. So she did, fighting he urge to sleep, knowing that Damon was waiting for her and would probably barge in if she took too long.
Finishing up, Bella turned off the water and grabbed a towel. The steam still lingered in the stall and she was completely relaxed and at ease… until she saw the dress hanging on the back of the door that hadn’t been there before.
Gasping, she brought the towel around her and peered around the bathroom, expecting to see Damon. But he was gone. He must have slipped in with the dress and left. Bella imagined him sneaking into the bathroom while she was showering… would he have tried to sneak a peek at her? Knowing the answer to that, Bella shook her head. There was simply no use reasoning with Damon so it’d be pointless in calling him out on it.
Walking towards the dress, Bella cocked her head. It wasn’t a dress she owned which meant Damon had gone out to get it for her. She wondered where he’d gone since it was so late, but decided that didn’t matter. It was actually rather thoughtful of him since she knew he must have taken her words about not having much to wear seriously. It was just another way he was looking out for her.
A bit presumptuous too, she admitted. But still, she was grateful. She didn’t know what she would have worn otherwise. The dress he’d bought was white, surprisingly. She would have thought he’d dress her in black since he favored the color so much. She worried she’d look a little washed out in the white, but the shower had given her pale skin a naturally rosy hue. And if they were going to some nightclub the lights would be pretty low anyway.
Surprisingly, she found she rather like the dress. It was small, but not overly revealing. There were no tags, probably so she wouldn’t complain about the price, but even on the hanger Bella could tell the dress would compliment her well. It showed just how in sync she and Damon already were. Already he knew her tastes and just how far to push her, unlike Alice who’d simply railroaded Bella’s own style into submission.
Bella noticed a folded up note sticking to the hanger. Biting her lip, she grabbed it and took in the surprisingly neat, but spiky script, ‘Just shut up and wear it.’
She smothered a laugh. He probably knew she’d feel awkward with him spending even more money on her, but she’d wear the dress, Bella decided. Damon wouldn’t have bought it for her if he didn’t want to. It wasn’t just an obligation to him. This was him being nice – something she doubted anyone ever accused him of being. The last thing she wanted to do was make him feel awkward for thinking of her and doing something kind, so she’d wear the dress without a word.
Once her hair was dry and the dress was on, Bella gave her reflection a critical look in the mirror before declaring herself as good as she’ll get, leaving the bathroom.
Damon whistled lowly. “Hello legs,” he drawled.
Bella blushed. “Um, okay,” she said.
He huffed and rolled his eyes. “Learn to take a compliment, woman. Put these on and let’s go.”
She moved to take the silver pumps. When she was close enough and grabbed the heels, Damon tightened his grip and pulled her in. “You look gorgeous, Isabella, and by the end of the night I’ll make sure you know it.”
She shivered as his voice washed over her. She found herself smiling as he released the shoes. Sitting, she slipped the heels on. “I do believe I’ll hold you to that, big boy.”
Damon smiled, a playful glint to his eyes. He looked proud of her again, happy that she decided to rise up to his challenge and play his game. Bella supposed that if it meant so much to him she’d try harder to have fun. It wouldn’t kill her and it was time she started fixing herself the way she should have been from the start. The time for moping was over. It was time to find herself again. And Damon would be her compass.
“Lets go get wasted,” Damon smiled, offering her his arm again.
Bella laughed, took his arm, and away he led her to the Venetian’s nightclub LAVO. Bella was surprised by how much she instantly liked the place. It was crowded, being a Friday and all, but the club still felt intimate. The purple, blue and red hues mixed nicely with golden orange accents making the atmosphere fun, but playful. It wasn’t what she expected of a nightclub.
Thanks to Damon, neither of them were carded when they entered and they snagged a prime table by the dance floor. A waitress immediately set upon them, asking for their order.
“Bourbon, neat,” Damon smirked at Bella. “And she’ll have the same.”
The waitress scampered off with a flirty grin that Damon ignored.
“Bourbon? I thought like, a margarita or something…” Bella trailed off.
He scoffed. “There’ll be time for froofy girly drinks later. Right now, I’m educating you.”
“Whatever you say,” she said with a sarcastic smile.
“Now I can get used to you saying that,” he grinned.
The drinks were placed before them and Bella snagged hers and sipped, saying, “Don’t hold your breath, big boy.”
He barked out a single laugh, lifting his drink with a wink and salute to her.
The drink was surprisingly sweet, but the second Bella took a breath the air burned a path across the alcohol’s trail and she coughed a bit, her eyes watering.
Damon snorted at her again. “Easy there, princess. Small sips.”
Bella found that the more she drank, the less she noticed the burn. The music thrummed around them, and several people were writhing on the dance floor. She watched them move together, sipping her drink. Soon she finished and a new drink was in her hand. A pleasant warmth started to seep through her limbs and Bella started swaying slightly to the music while watching the dancers. There was something oddly sensual about club dancing. She felt like a voyeur, but couldn’t look away.
“Do you want to dance?” Damon asked after they’d lapsed into silence for a while.
Bella drank. “I suck at dancing. Clumsy, remember?”
Damon smirked. “I could teach you. Finish your drink and you’ll find that liquid courage does wonders for dancing.”
“Edward wouldn’t approve,” she said abruptly. It wasn’t that she was objecting, but as soon as the thought registered, she’d been unable to hold it back.
Damon leaned forward, his voice lowering an octave so that she had to lean forward to hear him. “Then that’s exactly why we should do it. Come on, sweetness, I know you can do it. You want to.”
Her eyes flicked to the dance floor. She remembered Edward tempting her to go to prom with him and his response when she’d mentioned the dancing. He hadn’t said he’d teach her, or that she could do it if she tried. He’d simply said it was all in the leading. Like all she had to do was follow him and she’d instantly be alright because of it.
And look at how well that worked out for her, she thought bitterly. She’d followed him blindly in more than just a dance and she was paying the price for it now.
Well, no more, she vowed.
“Let’s do this,” she smiled. The glass and a half of bourbon was just enough to give her the courage to try without smothering her nerves completely.
“There’s my girl,” Damon said. He’d said that earlier, and just like before, a blushing warmth worked its way over her and she smiled at him like she had at the cop earlier – open, unrestrained, and simply beaming joy.
A small crease appeared between Damon’s brows as he stared at her. He looked a bit befuddled, so Bella leaned over and rubbed the crease until his frown was gone and he lifted a brow in question at her.
“No more frowning. Only happy tonight. It’s been so long since I’ve been happy,” she sighed, her smile faltering slightly.
Damon took her hand and pulled her up. His self-assured smile was back and he pulled her close, slinging his arm around her. “Only happy,” he vowed. “Now let’s dance, sexy.”
He pulled her to a slightly less crowded corner of the dance floor. They stood apart, maybe a foot of space between them. Both took the other in, seeming to measure the other person, looking for something. Bella bit her lip, her nerves reappearing in full force as she doubted her ability to move so intimately with Damon. Afraid that she’d embarrass him.
Abruptly, Damon’s arms were around her, pulling her into him. He closed the space between them and Bella was oddly transfixed by how the white material of her dress stood out so starkly against Damon’s black ensemble. She could feel the outline of his hard chest when he brought her hands up, holding them to him as he started to slowly sway them to the beat.
Damon was tall, maybe about six feet, and Bella came up to just his shoulder. Her heart was racing fiercely, far more than it had when she’d flirted with the cop, and she was sure that even with the thumping bass, Damon’s vampire senses could hear it.
His hands moved from hers and traced down her sides, coming to a rest on her hips. His fingers gripped her tightly, slowly moving her hips, showing her how to move.
She wasn’t sure how long they danced like that – Damon’s hold firm on her as he silently directed her but still allowed her to move as she felt. Bella was aware of the songs changing, of their pace slowing or speeding accordingly, but the slight buzz from the alcohol paired with the high of being so intimately close to Damon, made her thoughts fuzzy and far away.
For once, she wasn’t worried about people staring at her or fearful of embarrassing herself. In Damon’s arms she was strangely vulnerable and confident. Damon made her both, and instead of loathing the feeling, she loved it. Bella loved that Damon made her confident to try something she’d never had before, even if she was taking a risk by putting herself out there.
It’s worth it, she reminded herself. This feeling was worth it. Damon was worth it.
Her eyes flitted up to his only to see him staring down at her. How long had he been looking at her? What was he thinking? He looked more pensive than Bella had ever seen him.
As if in answer to her thoughts, Damon leaned down and pressed his lips to her ear, whispering in a slightly husky voice, “Tell me now, Isabella. Tell me that you know it now.”
Shivering, his words seemed to dancing over her skin. Earlier, she remembered him vowing that he’d make sure she knew she was gorgeous, and as she danced in Damon’s arms, she finally believed him. Finally, she started believing in herself.
Finding her courage, Bella pressed herself further into Damon, her arms moving around his shoulders as her head fell to his chest. They were still moving to the music, Damon’s hands not directing her hips as much anymore, but still keeping a firm grip on her. To outsiders, Bella imagined they looked like two lovers, sharing an intimate moment on the dance floor.
Pushing away that idea, Bella murmured into his chest, “I believe you now, Damon. Thank you.”
His head tilted down to hers, his lips pressing into her hair just long enough to let her feel his smirk.
She grinned. “There’s no need for I-told-you-so.”
His chest rumbled with his laugh and she could hear his smirk this time when he said, “I didn’t say a word, beautiful.”
“You didn’t have to,” she snarked.
He laughed again, his hands tightening on her. “I love it when you’re feisty, kitten.”
She sighed into him. “I think I do to,” she admitted.
Once again, he tilted her head towards his. He had his serious expression on and Bella knew he was about to impart one of his nuggets of wisdom. “It’s important to have a backbone. Don’t ever back down from what you really want.”
Nodding absently, Bella leaned her head down again, resting her ear to his chest. Even after dancing for as long as they had, Damon remained cool to the touch, not frozen, but he was definitely a couple degrees below room temperature. With her ear pressed against him, she could hear the small, uneven thud of his heart.
Pulling back with an expression of amazement, Bella looked up to Damon, who smirked slightly at her. Bella pushed her ear back to listen again. It was slow, definitely a hollow comparison to her racing heart, but it was truly the most beautiful thing she’d ever heard.
Distractedly, she whispered, “You really have to fill me in on your type of vampire. I’m starting to think you guys took all the good points away from the other kind.”
“Oh baby, you don’t even know yet,” he told her, his voice dark and heavy.
Bella blushed. Suddenly it felt too hot and she pulled away from Damon who suppressed a smile as he lifted his brow.
“Um, I have to use the bathroom,” Bella said.
The amused smile bloomed on his lips and even though she suspected he was trying not to laugh at her, Bella couldn’t help but think he looked gorgeous himself. He was so different from Edward. Before, Edward had been the standard of her perfection. She’d compare others to him and constantly found them wanting – which was truly unfair of her. After all, what human could measure up to a vampire’s unnatural beauty or inhuman grace.
But as she walked in the direction Damon pointed her in for the restroom, she couldn’t help but compare him to Edward. The playing field was certainly even for him, after all. He was just as gorgeous as Edward, although with Damon there was a darker edge to him. He was like a tiger purring at you from behind a cage, but once the comfort of the metal bars were gone, the beauty was still there even with the danger exponentially increased.
Edward had constantly tried to impart a sense of danger to her, but for whatever reason, Bella never got a sense for it. She understood he was strong and deadly, but Edward had suppressed that part of him for so long that she doubted he’d ever be able to pull off the sexy but dangerous vibe that Damon had perfected.
As far as personalities go, they couldn’t be more opposite. Edward had been polite and romantic, but very repressed. There was nothing repressed about Damon. If he felt it, he said it, and you could always guarantee he meant it because he had no reason to lie. He never held anything back. Edward had lied constantly, blamed her own physiology against her as if she could control being human. While she’d had fun with Edward, Damon brought unrestrained fun to her life, something she sorely needed. With Edward always concerned about social standards, she doubted he ever would have danced with her like Damon had. Damon cared only about what he thought, maybe her to an extent, but he put his wants and desires first and never let anybody keep him from what he wanted.
Walking into the bathroom, Bella moved to the vanity area and splash some water on her face. Staring at her reflection, she realized that Damon and Edward couldn’t be more opposite if they tried. Also, she realized that the Bella she’d once been was dead. Indeed, she barely recognized herself in the mirror. The Bella who liked quiet music and reading late into the night – the Bella who was passive and happy to set aside her own wants and desires in place of another’s – that Bella was dead. Edward had killed that Bella when he’d left. That Bella had withered and died, lost and alone on the forest floor, crying for the one who had sworn to love and protect her.
It wasn’t just that he’d left her. She could respect that he no longer or had never felt for her what she’d felt for him. It was the way he’d left her. Abandoned her, more like. He’d knowingly played off her insecurities. He’d cruelly twisted his words to purposefully wound her. Each word had hit their mark and she’d crumbled, weak and dying from his betrayal.
Even now, months later, the wounds ached and bled still. But it was only now, with Damon’s snarky influence in her life, that she slowly felt herself rising above the ashes like a baby phoenix. She hoped she’d burn brighter than she ever had before and that Damon would teach her how to never let the flames go out again.
Feeling satisfied with that, Bella fixed her hair some and as she gazed at her reflection, she smiled. Where she’d once find flaw after flaw, Bella was now satisfied with how she looked. She was flushed from dancing, her hair was untangled but had a wild quality about it – sex hair, she’d once heard Jessica Stanley call the style. Even without makeup she remained satisfied with how she appeared. Maybe she didn’t look perfect, but Bella didn’t care anymore.
Damon was right, she realized. A little confidence and attitude goes a long way.
When she left the bathroom, she was smiling. The expression still felt odd and foreign to her, but she hoped with practice her smiles would sit right again. She was nearing the edge of the hall when a man bumped into her.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, feeling a bit winded. Instantly, she grimaced and wanted to take it back. The man had run into her, after all. But she supposed old habits died hard, and with a polite nod, she moved to go around the guy.
His hand snaked out and grabbed her wrist before she could pass. “Hey there pretty lady, you want to dance with me.”
Bella tugged her arm, but the guy’s grip was firm. “No, I don’t,” she said, each word clipped and dripping with annoyance. Again, she thought Damon would be proud of her. “Now let me go.”
“Don’t be like that,” the man said. Bella took him in. He was a tall, stocky build with blond hair and hard blue eyes. Something about him didn’t sit right with her and it wasn’t just his rude attempts at flirting. He gave off the same vibe James had in the baseball clearing. Dangerous and menacing.
Bella realized she could be in real trouble.
Instead of fear, she couldn’t help but feel annoyed. It was only her first night in Vegas and already danger had found her. Damon was going to get tired of saving her if she constantly brought danger to them.
A hand was suddenly around her mouth and she was being tugged back into the hall and away from the dance floor. She struggled, but the man was far stronger than her and seemed to know where he was going because he’d brought her to a secluded corner in a dead-end. There was no one to hear them and no way to escape except through him.
“Give me your money, pretty lady, and I won’t hurt you,” he growled.
I doubt that, she thought. But she said, “I don’t have any money.”
“Don’t lie to me,” he hissed. “Hand it over.”
Bella struggled against him. “I really don’t have any money – look, I don’t have a purse or anything. Just let me go.”
The man brandished a knife in her face and Bella froze. “Then maybe I’ll take another form of payment,” he sneered, dragging the blade across her collarbone and then down her cleavage. He pressed the tip of the blade into her skin and Bella gasped as he cut her lightly down the center of her chest.
As abruptly as it’d started, it stopped. There was a loud bang as he was thrown against the wall, and then a muted groan as he slumped in pain.
Damon had found her, she relaxed some against the wall, but when she focused long enough to take in his expression, Bella tensed again.
Furious was not a strong enough word to describe the look in his eyes. His vampire visage, as she started thinking of it, was bleeding into his features. His canines looked longer, his face incredibly cold and hard, and his eyes glittered at her, reminding her of a cat’s eyes catching the glint of light in a dark room. Those eyes were focused on her heaving chest, staring hungrily at the blood slowly dripping between her breasts.
But she wasn’t afraid of him, not really. Bella was definitely concerned about the predicament she found herself in, but even now when it was abundantly clear she was in trouble, she couldn’t bring herself to fear Damon. He’d proven to her since the first moment they’d met that he’d protect her and she didn’t doubt that he’d keep his promise. Damon would protect her from anything wishing to cause her harm…
(A/N): Dun, dun, dun! I’ll try to write faster than usual so you won’t hang for too long. Also, please forgive me if I’ve described the Venetian or LAVO wrong. I’ve walked through the hotel, but never stayed there, so I’m going off their website and improvising.
Please leave a review and let me know what you think 🙂