There was another house in Forks, one the kids wouldn’t go to. They said it was haunted. When Mike first told Bella, she asked him if he’d been “chicken.” He looked at her in horror and whispered, “No one goes near Old Man Elijah.”
No one did go near Old Man Elijah. Not even Edward.
They were lying in the meadow, his cold fingers in her hair, when she asked, “Tell me about Old Man Elijah. The other kids won’t talk about him. They’re all so afraid.”
“Are they?” he murmured, his voice musical. He was looking up at the clouds in the sky, strangely not turning toward her. His fingers even stopped stroking her hair, his hand curled up into it in dead motion.
“I asked Jake,” she continued, wondering if he would pull his hand away. As it was, she couldn’t move her head. Still, Bella pushed ahead. “He said he never came out of the house. He said that a treaty wasn’t needed with the tribe, strangely, given that only vampires need treaties.”
Edward was silent for several long moments. “No treaty?” he eventually asked.
Bella shrugged. “That’s what Jake says.—However, all I know is that he’s an old man.”
“He’s old,” Edward finally admitted, removing his fingers from her hair and sitting up, looking away from her. “He’s very old, but he’s not an ‘old man’.”
Sitting up as well, Bella reached out to touch Edward’s shoulder. He looked back at her, but quickly turned away again. The sunlight shimmered off his neck, creating crystals of illumination, which mesmerized Bella for a moment, but then she remembered her purpose. “How odd,” she finally admitted.
“Let me take you home,” he suddenly stated, his voice cold and strict. “Charlie will be wondering after you.”
The next time she saw him, it was as if she had never asked the question.
Of course, she had to ask Charlie. “Who’s Old Man Elijah?” She took a slice of pizza from the box and sat back as he watched his game.
Charlie took a long swig of his beer. “I’m not right sure,” he admitted. “Never met the man. There’s never been a complaint against him or a 911 call.”
“Oh,” she answered. “Right.”
She took another bite out of her pizza. “Is his house made of slabs of stone, different colored?”
Stilling, Charlie didn’t look at her. “I won’t have you trespassing.”
“Of course not,” she answered, wanting to make sure. “But it’s the house with the wild garden and has several chimneys. It’s rather large—I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘mansion’, but it must have five bedrooms.”
Charlie looked at her.
“Mom watches HGTV,” she answered quickly.
“I won’t have you bothering Old Man Elijah. He’s highly respected in this community.”
Bella held up her hands, one still holding pizza. “I promise. I just saw the house and wanted to make sure it was the right one, the one everyone talks about but won’t go near. I know not to trespass, Charlie. I’m a cop’s daughter.”
He squinted at her for a moment in the dark room, but then turned back to the television. “See that you don’t.”
What he didn’t know—what no one knew—were the dreams. Edward didn’t even seem to realize she had them at all, which was peculiar because he came through her window while she slept, watching her. However, she knew she left during the night.
The first hint that the dreams were more than unusual, was that she would go to the house and look through the windows and pull herself through the glass without harming herself. It were as if she were incorporeal. She would walk through the house, touching the exposed beams in the wall, the stone of the mantles, looking at the photographs.
They all showed the four same people.
There was a young man of about twenty or so with dark gold hair that curled and formed a rough patch of beard, streaming from one temple down across the chin, up to the hairline on the other side of his head. His eyes seemed a blue-green. His distinct cheekbones made his face almost seem gaunt, and yet he was eerily attractive and powerful.
Blue eyes shone out of a young woman’s face, her hair long and naturally blonde. There wasn’t even the hint of roots. She was beautiful in a way that Rosalie Hale could never be.
The handsomest of them was a man with haunting brown eyes and hair. His face was intelligent with a high forehead and his hair was clipped fashionably like a young man, but wouldn’t be out of place in a business setting. Bella sometimes would stand in front of the picture and touch his face, her fingers lingering over his pale lips. She wondered if Old Man Elijah looked like this young man did—once.
Then there was the young boy, teenager really, who was about the girl’s age. He looked so similar to the handsome man that one could tell they were related. His face had a hint of innocence that was betrayed by the mischievousness of his brown eyes.
They were all clearly brothers and sister. Where you’d find a feature in one, it was copied in another. Bella wondered if they were the grandchildren of Old Man Elijah. They were all dressed in jeans and sweaters in front of a Christmas Tree, laughing and smiling.
The faces reappeared in other frames. The girl was a cheerleader—the handsome one was always in a suit. For some reason the younger brother liked a baseball bat. Then, finally, there was the blond with the beard. There were three pictures of him painting or sketching. He must be an artist. Bella wondered if he was responsible for the paintings on the walls. They were cubist, impressionist, modern, styles she didn’t even know. They were all signed, Nik.
Bella, of course, in her dreams wandered upstairs. There were five bedrooms, each one very specific for a different personality. One was meant for a young lady in pinks and pale purples and pale woods. The bed was a fourposter with opaque hangings. Another was terribly masculine and had more of the paintings in it. The third had a baseball bat in the corner. The fourth was covered in bookshelves with books in more languages than Bella could identify.
The fifth room was completely white. The walls were painted white, the furniture was white, the sheets white. It was a sad little room that had yet to realize its potential. It was waiting for something. For someone. Or someone had left who should have had the room—and the personality of the room had gone with whoever it was.
Bella first knew the dreams were a little strange when she woke up the next morning without her usual hoodie that she had taken to wearing because her room got cold at night. It was folded up at the bottom of her bed, and Bella knew that although she was neat, she wasn’t neat in her sleep.
Then, after she inspected the wild garden in a dream, she woke up to her feet being covered in dirt. Edward had already left that morning, so Bella stripped the bed and put her covers in the wash while she took her shower. She had to scrub her feet and between her toes.
After it happened the sixth time—the folded hoodie which she now wore because Edward watched her sleep—her feet dirty—Bella just stopped washing her sheets.
Something had to be done.
So, the first sunny day there was, Bella didn’t go home after school. Edward had yet to introduce her to his parents and they would spend time together at the diner (he would watch her pick at her food; she was getting a complex since he didn’t eat anything), but Edward wouldn’t be there that particular day. She turned down the dirt road that she thought led down to Old Man Elijah’s. She came up to the driveway and, inexplicably, she wanted to walk down it as she did every night in her dreams.
Parking the car to the side, she got out and walked down the winding path, which ran through the trees for over a mile. Finally she came to the gardens, and she leaned down to smell late blooming roses. A hand paused on her shoulder, and she turned around and looked at a familiar face in surprise.
“You’re not a ghost,” he stated in shock.
She stared at him. It was the man with the gorgeous brown hair and deep brown eyes. He was wearing a three piece suit without the jacket, the waistcoat matching his trousers perfectly.
“I,” Bella stated. “No. I’m not a ghost. Please apologize to Old Man Elijah. I didn’t mean to trespass.” She wrung her hands in nervousness and looked up into his—oh, God, she could kiss him so easily if she knew he wouldn’t push her away.
“He won’t mind,” the man promised. “However, you’ve been coming every night for nearly a month!”
“No one’s been here,” she stated before she could think. Then she realized, “I have been sleepwalking. Great. At least I know why my feet are always covered in dirt.—I’ll put a lock on my door,” she tried to promise. “Will that help?”
“I don’t think it will,” he disagreed before changing the topic. “I once spent an entire half hour watching you go through my books and try to sound out the titles. You have a magnificent French accent.”
Bella laughed a little and didn’t mind when he led her onto the terrace where they sat at a small table. “I watch foreign films,” she stated. “My Spanish is abysmal.”
He looked at her and cocked his head. “Well, I don’t read much Spanish.”
The man was about to say more when Bella’s cell phone rang. She had it in her pocket and she took it out. After staring at it for a minute, it fortunately stopped. However, the man got up and whispered about getting her some refreshment—why did he have to have a sexy British accent?—and she picked up when Edward called a second time.
“I’m kinda busy, Edward,” she greeted, her eyes looking in through to the kitchen where the man in the suit was getting a pitcher of something out of the fridge along with glasses. Something Edward said startled her. “It’s not more specific?”
The man came out with lemonade and Bella smiled at him.
“No,” she disagreed, “I don’t think I’m about to die. I’m not driving, I’m nowhere near my dad’s shotgun, um, don’t make me think of other ways I can possibly die, Edward.”
He poured her a glass and she nodded her head at him.
Turning back to her phone, she stated, “You can come over but I’m not there. Edward, I’m busy. I told you. I’m not in peril for my life. I’m at one of my hangouts—and no, you can’t come. A girl needs time to think occasionally.” She hung up and put the phone down. Turning back to the man, she opened her mouth to apologize, but he lifted his hand.
“The only ‘Edward’ I know is the Cullen boy, and he’s also one of the few people I know in town who would have such a peculiar conversation with a woman.”
“You know the Cullens?” she asked, her eyes brightening. “What are Mr. and Mrs. Cullen like?” She took a sip of her lemonade.
He looked at her for a moment. “I don’t much care for the Cullens and they don’t much care for me. We’ve agreed to ignore each other.—What I care about is you, the ghost who haunts my house.”
“I’m not a ghost,” she promised. “Touch me.” Holding out her hand, she waited several long moments for him to take it between both of his. His hands were warm, and it was wonderful to feel warmth against her skin in comparison to Edward’s cold touch.
“No,” he responded, his eyes flitting from their joint hands to her eyes. “You’re not a ghost.”
“I came,” she apologized, basking in the feeling of her hand still in his, “because I had to see if this place is real. I dream about coming here every night. I couldn’t get anyone to tell me anything. I tried Mike and Jessica—Jake down at the Reservation—Edward Cullen—Charlie—”
He cocked an eyebrow.
“Charlie Swan, the police chief. He told me not to trespass, but it seemed a little late for that. Who are you? You’re in most of the pictures with the other three—”
“Yes,” he agreed, “Klaus, Rebekah, and Kol, my brothers and sister. My brother Finn died, unfortunately, and it’s too painful to look at him. I keep a bedroom for him, of course.”
“The white one,” she murmured, her eyes falling down to their joint hands. “Who are you then?” Bella glanced at him hopefully.
He gave her a small smile. “Elijah.”
“Elijah,” she returned. “If you’re Old Man Elijah, you have the entire town fooled.”
Laughing, he looked at her openly. “It’s one of the many amusements of living in this place. I’ve managed to scare all the kids. I’ve convinced the Indian Chief that my land should be regarded as forbidden to the tribe. I’ve never met the police chief, but I would hope we would be on good terms.—Are you new to town? These dreams of yours are recent.”
“I will try to stop,” she promised.
Elijah shook his head. “I have seen a great deal of this world, and I would think that something like this only occurs if there is an important reason. I would not stop it unless it was natural. Now—tell me your story? Tell me your name.”
“Bella,” she answered and he nodded, kissing her hand, which he still didn’t give back to her. She couldn’t help but blush and he couldn’t have done anything other than notice. “I—it just started. I thought it was a dream but I noticed that the hoodie I wear to bed was folded on the end of my bed, as if I’d been walking and had gotten too warm.”
“Yes, you do always take it off,” he admitted, making her blush again.
“Then my feet were dirty every morning I woke up. I stopped washing my sheets because it just seemed pointless. Sometimes I walk down your drive, other times I’m in the garden, and sometimes I’m just in the house. I knew something was going on. I hid the keys so I couldn’t get out the front door, but that didn’t work. What time do I arrive?”
“You come about five in the morning,” he answered slowly, rubbing his fingers along her hand. “I usually hide so you can’t see me. Would you like to see, tonight perhaps, if you can see me—if you can talk?”
“Oh my god,” she realized with dread. “You’ve watched me—with the photographs.”
“Most people think Klaus is the handsome devil,” he answered with a grin. Perhaps at the look of intense embarrassment on her face, he added, “I chose to follow you every morning, Bella. I’m as fascinated by you as you are by me.”
She opened her mouth, uncertain what to say, when her phone went off again.
In exasperation, she picked it up and was surprised to see it was her dad. “Hi, Charlie.—What do you mean Edward called you? My life is not in danger. He has absolutely no way of knowing if it is or not. He’s camping with his family.—Yes, I’m not hiking in the woods.—I’m not talking to bikers and I have my mace.” She gulped. “I promise I’m not trespassing on Old Man Elijah’s land.” She grimaced at Elijah and he chuckled lightly. She hung up. “Sorry—”
“Boyfriend, husband—?” He let go of her hand and she felt bereft.
“Dad,” she told him. “I never saw him much growing up so I call him ‘Charlie’.”
“Fathers never let their little girls grow up,” he told her, cautiously taking her hand in his again, a light press of fingers to palm, and she curled her own fingers around his to show that she wanted the connection. “Why don’t we see if tonight I can give you a tour of the house?”
“All right,” she breathed as they stood up and he walked her down toward the driveway, never releasing her hand. They said nothing to each other all the way down the winding drive, Bella just looking at the nature around her, painfully aware that he was looking down at her. “Five am?” she asked when she got to her old Ford pick-up.
“Five am,” he agreed, leaning down and kissing her lightly. Pulling back, he gave her a small smile and opened the cab door for her.
She thought she might faint just at the hint of lips on lips. Edward had never kissed her more than that—but usually she just felt frustrated. This felt like a hint of something yet to be realized, a taste of wine before a meal. She wanted it to last but was content in what it was: a first, a beginning.
Blushing, Bella inserted her keys. “Just to warn you, Elijah, this baby makes a lot of noise.”
“She’s seen better days,” he agreed.
“She’ll see better still.”
As soon as the sun set, Edward arrived in Bella’s room. She was deciding between her sweatpants—gray and purple—and what tank to wear, when the window opened up as if by magic, and he hopped through. “Where were you today?” he asked, coming up to her and kissing her forehead. She was now comparing the blue and black tank tops to her purple sweats.
“School,” she answered. “How was camping?”
“I did this week’s homework,” he answered casually, taking her clothes from her hands. “Bella, only my sisters care what they wear to bed.”
Lying through her teeth, she responded, “I get hot when you leave. I’m going for a balance.” She took back her sweats and put out the black tank top and then her University of Arizona sweatshirt, which was far from attractive. She’d just have to work on that. “I have to go do homework under Charlie’s watchful gaze, because someone convinced him I was doing something dangerous.”
“Bella, Alice saw—” He tried to take her hand, but she didn’t want him to hold it. Not after Elijah. So she pulled it away casually.
“She didn’t see much of anything, did she?” Bella clarified. “Otherwise you would have said ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. You wouldn’t have had this bizarre sense of peril, which turned out to be entirely unreasonable.
“She saw you dead,” he told her.
Bella blinked. “Well, clearly I’m very much alive.—Edward, I need a night off. Promise me you won’t be stalking the property and let me just go about my evening. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He moved toward her, but she turned away.
“Please, Edward.” She knew he was gone when the window shut behind him.
She wore her bathrobe to bed and the tie trailed along the pathway up to Old Man Elijah’s house. She breathed in the scent of leaves on the trees, and hurried along, wondering if that afternoon had always been a dream.
The lights in the house were on, and she hesitantly walked up the front step and opened the front door. If it was locked, it didn’t matter. Bella could get through anyway. She closed it behind her, feeling the press of her hand against wood, when the sound of footsteps echoed in the hallway.
She turned to see Elijah, dressed casually in black pajamas and a silver robe. Bella didn’t think she’d ever seen a man in anything other than sweats. It’s what Charlie wore and what Phil did, as well. She thought that pajamas were—well—they should definitely come back into style as they looked so delicious on him.
“Five eighteen,” he told her as he held out his hand to her.
Smiling, she reached out and saw that her hand was translucent. Still, Bella was able to touch him, able to feel his fingers entwine with hers. He brought her into the den, which had all the pictures, and sat her down in one of the comfortable arm chairs in front of a warm fire. Bella could feel the heat on her skin, hear it crackling, and Elijah murmured, “Another test.”
He set a hot chocolate with marshmallows in front of her.
Bella laughed before taking a sip of it. It was warm and velvety and—“You must give me the recipe,” she breathed, looking over to him and his own mug of hot chocolate.
He looked at her, surprised. “You cook?”
“Yes,” she answered. “I learned when I was seven. Mom was feeding me on takeout and I got sick of it. So I do all the cooking and cleaning wherever I end up.”
“My sister Rebekah never cooked in her life,” he laughed. “She’s in Chicago, I think, living the life.”
“While you’re here,” Bella dared, placing her head in her hand. “Pretending to be an Old Man.”
“In all honesty,” he told her, “I didn’t come up with the name. I’ve just been here for a certain amount of time that all the children started calling me that.”
Bella laughed. “You have everyone terrified! I’m surprised you don’t wander the town with our one diner and tiny library and make a name for yourself.”
He smirked at her. “It wouldn’t do to spoil everyone’s worst fantasy of me. I’m a town legend! You have your very own haunted house.—Well, it is haunted now. You’re here and you’re clearly not a body although you can walk and talk and drink with me.”
Having a mischievous thought, she suggested, “I suppose it doesn’t matter what I do then, as it doesn’t count. I could throw a rave!”
Elijah looked affronted. “At five in the morning?”
“Trust me, if it’s a rave with illicit alcohol consumption because I’m inviting the entire high school, even the ninth graders, everyone will come.” She took a sip of her hot chocolate. “You say people from the Rez won’t come, so I might be able to scare up some twenty-somethings. I’ll make an age cut-off point. Check IDs at the door, roundabout style.”
“You’ll do no such thing, Bella,” he disagreed with a charming smile. “Everyone who saw you would know you’re not quite human, and what would you do with fourteen year olds?”
She shrugged. “I need a good starting cut off point. Do you think I should make it sixteen? There is alcohol involved.”
“Let’s not call Chief Swan.”
“All we have to do is wait until he’s out fishing with Harry Clearwater,” she argued with a swipe of her hand across mid air. “Then he’ll be nowhere near us and we can get the hell out of dodge before anything happens.”
He looked at her with a smile on his face. “Then he’ll have the shock of his life when he sees his own daughter like this. Even the peculiarities of the Cullens will seem minor in comparison.”
She turned her head. “What do you know about the Cullens?” Her eyes shifted away down to her chocolate, but he didn’t answer. When she looked up, she saw him staring at her.
“I think you shouldn’t tell them about this,” he finally decided.
“I already haven’t,” she promised. “You know Edward Cullen called me this afternoon and I said absolutely nothing. He called my father—”
“Yes,” Elijah agreed carefully. “He’s a little young for you, don’t you think? A high school boy?”
Then she realized it. He didn’t actually know she was a teenager. She’d referenced high school in general several times, but never counted herself among the students. Bella had told him about Jessica and Mike, but he didn’t know they were eleventh graders—like her.
Bella looked at him. She really looked at him. He had been so strangely accepting that a ghost walked into his garden in the middle of the afternoon—he didn’t have a treaty with the Reservation although the Cullens, who were vampires, did—and he and the Cullens ignored each other.
It was all very strange.
So, she took a gamble. “Don’t you mean I’m a little young for him?”
Their eyes held. “You know,” he decided.
Blinking, she took another sip of her cocoa. “The sparkling skin is difficult not to notice.”
“They’re usually more circumspect.”
“They are,” she agreed. “However, Edward saved my life. He was on one side of the parking lot and then he was right in front of me, keeping a car from crushing me. Next he played the, Guess what I am? game. It was terribly annoying.” She placed her feet, dirty with dirt, under her to warm them up. “Oh, sorry, your furniture—” She bit her lip in apology, her large brown eyes looking into his gorgeous brown ones.
He held up his hand. “It’s just furniture, Bella.—and, so, you know.”
“I know the Tribe call them ‘Cold Ones.’ They are certainly cold. How do you know?”
“They would prefer the term ‘vampire’,” he scoffed. “They’re nothing of the sort. I would be careful, Bella. It seems you have some sort of friendship with Edward Cullen, that he’s told you something of what he is, but one bite from him and you’re dead. His venom will turn you into what he is.”
She leaned forward and grinned, “I thought I was a ghost.”
“I’ve been researching you since you first appeared. I made sure all my books were put away so you couldn’t read them until I knew something for sure—”
“At first I thought you were a ghost, but that’s clearly not the case. You’re also not a sleepwalker.” He took in a deep breath. “I will find out, Bella. Even if I have to trust someone with access to a larger library, I will find out for you.”
She bowed her head in acceptance.
His next question surprised her. “Do you know about the Reservation?”
“Er—I’ve been visiting it since I was a child. I know all their legends about the cold ones and being descended from wolves.”
“They are,” Elijah told her plainly. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the young men of the tribe didn’t start transforming in a year or two. The last time it happened it was when the Cullens first appeared.”
“How do you know—?” Bella began, but then a knowing glint came into her eyes. “Of course. You know about cold ones, ghosts, wolves—you’re something, aren’t you? It’s why Edward thought I was in peril today. You could have killed me.”
“I would never kill my resident ghost,” he joked, taking a sip of his hot chocolate. “I would imagine you would forever haunt me, no matter where I went.”
Bella raised her eyebrows, not believing him.
“I could have killed you,” he told her, “but I don’t kill unless I need to, and I rarely kill humans. The last one must have been in the late 1700s.” He had set his mug aside and had folded his fingers, looking over to the side, deep in thought.
“You’re older than Edward, then,” Bella murmured. “No wonder you and the Cullens ignore each other. You probably don’t want to deal with them and they’re probably afraid of you.”
“Terrified,” he agreed, his vision snapping to her. “You have no reason to be, Bella. You were brought to me and not as a portent of dark times. I would no sooner harm you than myself.” Reaching out to her, he took her limp hand and stroked it.
Looking down, she noticed how her hand was incorporeal and she could see through it to the palm of his, and yet they were touching as if they were both here, now. She wasn’t shining, simply a colored shadow of herself. Colors.
“Elijah,” she murmured, “can you get some nail polish? I think it would be interesting to see that if I paint my nails here, if the paint stays or not.” Bella gave him a small smile and grasped his hand. “You study and I’ll experiment a bit. I’ll see if I can force myself into a nap and if I end up here.”
He reached out hesitantly, and touched her cheek. “I didn’t ask before, but may I kiss you?”
She blushed. “I—why? Is it because we’re both supernatural creatures?”
“Hardly,” he disagreed, his hand brushing through the hair behind her ear. “You are a remarkable woman, true, but I was all alone in exile here, and you came as if in answer to a wish I didn’t know I had.”
“What wish?” she murmured, leaning forward.
“Can’t you guess?” and he kissed her slowly, tasting of chocolate, and it was perfect.
Bella woke with a start and shoved her sheets back. Her feet were covered in dirt. She was no longer wearing her robe, which was hanging on the back of her door on the wrong hook. The ties were also tinged with dirt.
Making a decision, she nodded. A call came a moment later to the main line, and when she got downstairs, Charlie told her that the Cullens were going camping. It was surprisingly sunny.
With a sense of determination, she took a map out after school and found where the Cullens lived. She drove down the long driveway and saw a house that was nothing but glass. It was so different from Elijah’s house, that she put her foot on the brakes and just looked at it for a long moment.
There was a knock on her cab door, and she turned to see Edward and Alice looking at her through the window. She put up a finger to indicate one minute and then finished driving up to the house.
A pretty woman was at the door, a sad smile on her face, and Bella greeted her before turning to Edward. “We have to talk.”
“Who are you leaving me for?” he asked, and everyone went still in the room.
She opened her mouth and then closed it. “It’s not like that.—I just think that what we have is unhealthy.”
“How can you say that?” he asked her quietly.
“You stalked me. I woke up in my room to find you staring at me before you even saved my life. You like to watch me sleep. You may be over a hundred years old where that’s romantic, but it’s slightly creepy to a seventeen-year-old girl.” Then again, she didn’t think she would mind if she watched Elijah sleep if he happened to be in bed one morning when she showed up. He was her obsession. Like she was Edward’s.
“I’ll stay outside when you sleep,” he promised.
“You won’t be anywhere near my property when I sleep,” she told him in a strong tone, surprising herself. “Edward, this is really unhealthy. How have you gone so many decades without a single girlfriend?” Bella honestly didn’t expect him to answer. “Please. Respect me. Respect my privacy. I can’t do this.”
Edward looked at her with that impossible golden gaze and asked again, “Who is it?”
She decided to try to deflect and yet get more information. “Tell me about the wolves on the Rez or Old Man Elijah.”
“So not only are you leaving me for some pimpled seventeen year old, but you want more information on the supernatural?” he asked, his voice quiet.
“You want to know one thing, I want to know another,” she argued. “I’m not going to tell you anything, so I thought I’d try to get some information.”
He sighed. “Bella, this isn’t like you.”
She took in a deep breath. “I don’t think you do know me, Edward. You can study something under a microscope, but do you actually know it unless you are one of it, interacting with it, sharing the same experiences?”
Turning to go, she gave a small smile to Mrs. Cullen, who was standing next to a sullen Alice beside the door.
“Don’t go anywhere near the Reservation or Old Man Elijah,” Edward ground out, and she paused. “It isn’t safe.”
“No,” she argued, “you’re not safe. You’re vampires.” Bella pushed her hands in her pockets and went out into the snow. It hadn’t snowed in several weeks despite the ice and the cold. Roses had even managed to bloom at Elijah’s though she supposed those had died the night before. She didn’t look back as she got into her truck, pulling away and backing up the long driveway.
That night, she locked her window. She didn’t know if Edward was out there, but even if he was, he couldn’t get in without breaking the glass.
She wore thick socks to bed that night. When she appeared in the garden, they were on her feet, solid on the dirty ice, and she walked toward the door that had been left open for her.
Elijah led her through the upstairs, explaining which room belonged to whom, explaining where they were in the country.
“Niklaus is in love with one of our kind down in Virginia,” he explained. “We were all down there just a year ago. I’d been here before, owned this property, so it was easy to move back in. I thought I’d make each of them up a room just in case they ever came this far across country.”
He showed her into his room last—the one with all the books—where he’d set up a chair and stool with pink nail polish.
“Do I look like a pink girl?” she laughed.
“I’ve only seen you in sweat pants, Bella, and then when you were in my garden you were in jeans. I’ve never seen your nails painted.” He came and sat down on the bed and she took up her place at the chair and unrolled a sock.
“Too much work,” she argued. “It’s why I won’t paint my fingernails. This way, it can just chip away.”
She picked up the brush and, with a look of determination, began to paint her toenails. She was surprised when her hair was pushed behind one shoulder and lips descended onto her neck. Laughing, she pulled away and looked up at Elijah. “I’m in the middle of an experiment.”
“That doesn’t mean I can’t help you,” he breathed, kissing her lips lightly. “Paint your nails, Bella.”
Giving him a piercing look, Bella went back to her nails. His lips descended on her neck again and she sighed in contentment. When she was done with just the one foot, she discarded the polish and pulled his face close to hers and kissed him deeply. He picked her up and pressed her against the pillows. His kisses grew hurried, and he pushed up her tanktop so that his hands were on her stomach.
“Tell me there’s no one else,” he breathed against her cheek.
“No one,” she swore. “You?”
“It’s been two hundred years,” he promised before he claimed her lips again.
Books littered the dining room table and Bella held up a candle that had been waiting for her and looked over it all. Most of it was in Latin. Catching sight of a note, she read in strong handwriting, “Been awake for 46 hours. I may be asleep.”
She smiled and tucked the note into her hoodie. Her nail polish had followed her back to her bedroom, so perhaps this would as well.
Most of the books seemed to have to do with sleepwalking, but there was one interesting entry on top. Apparitia. It was close to an Out of Body Experience except one could change things and bring objects back with them. She was an Apparitia. How peculiar.
She took the candle and walked up the stairs. The door to his room was open and she found him sleeping over another book, wearing deep teal pajamas that went wonderfully with his hair. At first hesitantly, and then more boldly, Bella stroked his hair away from his face. Setting down the candle, she picked up the book and saw that it was on Apparitia.
Bella put it aside, leaving it open to the page. Then, carefully, she lay down beside Elijah and wrapped an arm around his waist. He sighed and turned around, his eyes flittering open.
She started and made to move, but he held her to him.
“Go to sleep,” he whispered. “Let’s just sleep.” Elijah wrapped her up in his arms and buried his face in her hair. Tucking her chin under her, she breathed in his scent, and let herself wander back into dreams.
Bella woke up and was surprised to see Elijah watching her. She smiled. “Good morning.”
“Good morning. You’re late for work.”
Her eyebrows creased and then she looked over at the clock and saw that it was eight thirty. “Charlie is going to kill me—” she sighed. “He’ll think I got a ride.” Holding up her hand, she looked at it. It seemed human enough.
He took her hand, spreading their fingers out against one another, and then smiled at her. “It was wondrous to watch. You got more and more like a person instead of the reflection of one. It took over an hour.” He leaned in and kissed her hungrily. “Blow off work.”
She laughed. “You are such a bad influence.” Bella put a hand on his chest and pulled away just slightly. “The reason why I was friends with Edward Cullen is because we have biology together. You seem to think I’m out of high school.”
He swore under his breath. Turning desperate eyes on her, he asked, “How old are you, Bella?”
Elijah paused. “It never would have mattered until the Second World War, which was interesting because I was in Germany with a Jewish name—but you’re not human.” He grabbed the back of her head and pulled her in for a gentle kiss. “I’m a much older man, Bella.”
“I know you’re older than one hundred,” she teased.
“Much older,” he agreed. “I’m still trying to figure out your aging process and if your lifespan will be longer than eighty—ninety.”
“So I’m not human.”
“No,” he told her. “You are a naturally occurring being—an Apparitia. Your soul—perhaps you should read it.” Elijah had suddenly become evasive.
“Why don’t you tell me,” she murmured gently, “and I can read it later.”
“Your soul is twinned,” he whispered. “You go to your twin soul when you reach majority.”
Bella paused. “Are you telling me we’re soul mates?”
“Something far more ancient,” he breathed as he leaned down over her again, his lips so close to hers. “It’s strange to think that all these centuries, my life has been leading me to this house I had built in the early 1900s, to a girl who dreamt of it every night.”
She reached up to his face and felt his morning stubble and smiled. “I don’t know why, but that doesn’t frighten me.”
Elijah wanted to show her his property. Bella warned him that she wasn’t good at walking and didn’t like being carried around like a backpack. He looked at her oddly and she had just shrugged.
A thunderstorm was brewing, but the weather channel said it wouldn’t be breaking for several hours, so they took his Range Rover up an old pathway. However, there were other tire tracks.
“Do you come up often?” Bella asked.
“Not this often,” he told her and he pulled to the side when they saw several other cars parked. Elijah, for once wearing black jeans and a black turtleneck with a matching parka, got out and helped her out. She had tripped and he had just managed to catch her.
There was a sound of a crack.
“That wasn’t thunder,” Elijah stated dangerously, taking her hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.”
“I don’t even know what you are,” she answered as they came out to a clearing. Bella saw it all clearly. Mrs. Cullen was catcher, it seemed, Rosalie was running between bases, so fast Bella could barely see, and Edward and Emmet were in the outfield. Alice was holding the baseball in the center of a crudely made diamond. They were playing baseball.
“I thought,” Elijah stated loudly. “That we had an agreement. You are on my land.”
Carlisle Cullen looked up and his family ran around him. “We don’t need to bring Bella into this,” he warned. “She’s the Police Chief’s daughter.”
“Bella,” Elijah told him frankly. “Is not human.—”
“You didn’t,” Edward seethed, surging forward, but Emmett grabbed him and held him down.
Elijah looked at Edward dispassionately, his hand still holding Bella’s. “I did not. She’s never been human. Keep your distance, Cullen. She’s my bonded mate.”
“We meant no offense,” Carlisle quickly stated, looking at Edward with a warning gaze. “We weren’t aware that Bella wasn’t human or was bonded to an Original.”
“Know it now,” he answered. “You are also on my land. I’ve owned it for over a century.”
Before Carlisle could apologize, Alice’s eyes went white and Edward’s head whipped toward the forest. “Vampires,” he warned. “They’ll want Bella.”
“Then I will destroy them,” Elijah answered nonchalantly.
Of course, it was nothing to worry about. After a few minutes, a group of three rogue vampires came out of the woods. As soon as the leader, Laurent, recognized a “nightwalker” and his “mate,” they soon left.
“They won’t be back,” Alice promised. “Everyone is terrified of nightwalkers. You can drink without turning—you have to be staked—and you’re an Original.”
Bella remained silent, though she held Elijah’s hand fast. She didn’t know what an Original was, she didn’t understand why everyone feared Elijah, and she certainly didn’t know what a bonded mate was (though she could guess and given that they were twin souls, it made sense)—but she would watch and listen and learn.
However, one did come back a week later. Alice hadn’t seen. Alice couldn’t see Bella, she couldn’t see her because of Elijah. It was strange, he was somehow blocked from her powers. As soon as Bella had broken up with Edward, she had gone back to her original cafeteria table, so she really didn’t have a chance to ask her why.
“Elijah Mikaelson,” Edward murmured to her during Biology, “is one of the most dangerous things on the planet.”
“Don’t call a person a ‘thing’,” she whispered back. “You’re a ‘thing’. I’m a ‘thing’.”
“I don’t believe that you’re not human.” He fiddled with his pencil.
“Fine then,” she murmured. “Don’t believe it. You were too blind anyway to figure it out.”
His golden gaze fell on her. “What’s that supposed to mean?” His hand tightened against the desk, his clipped nails, barely there, leaving indentations.
Bella at first ignored him and took some notes down from the board.
When she realized he was still staring at her and Mr. Banner was noticing, she whispered, “I was changing right under your nose, every night, and you didn’t realize. Now leave me alone, Edward. We’re bonded mates. You can’t change that, even if you want to.”
Edward, however, wasn’t finished. He followed her to lunch. She had a bag lunch from Elijah, who had asked politely if he could send her to school with something other than the horrible cafeteria food. Every evening, it seemed, he made her a different sandwich with a piece of fruit and bottle of water. It was all terribly domestic.
“He will hurt you,” Edward stated emphatically. “Remember that day I called you, when Charlie called you? Alice knew even though we weren’t sure where you were.”
This gained him an odd look from Mike.
“Elijah would never hurt me,” she told him simply. “He’s incapable of it.” He was her twin soul. The night before he had taken a small blade and tried to cut her (she had warned him about feinting about the sight of blood, but he refused to hit her or try to crush her hand). Elijah had placed the knife to the back of her hand—and just couldn’t do it. They had ended up tossing the knife on the bedside table and folding themselves around each other. He stroked her cheek and whispered apologies for ever trying to hurt her and she fell asleep in his arms. Elijah had gotten her up early enough in the morning that he could take her back to the Swan residence without her father realizing she had ever been gone.
Edward continued to stare at her. “I thought I was your own personal brand of heroin?” she parroted back. “You’re more of a danger, Edward. Face it.”
“He can’t control himself.”
At this Bella looked up at his harsh whisper. “What is that supposed to mean?” She had never met anyone so precise in everything he did, from kissing her madly and never letting his hands stray below her shoulders, to keeping the house clean, to always being impeccably dressed in his pajamas.
“Has he fed on you? Where are the bite marks?” He went to lift up her sleeve and she pulled away from him.
In a loud voice, she stated, “Stop making baseless accusations. Get away from me, Edward Cullen. We’ve been over for more than a month.” She returned to her sandwich and took a bite of it. It was turkey today.
“Back off, Cullen,” Mike told him loudly. “Bella, will you go to prom with me?”
Jessica suddenly stilled and looked between them.
Bella noticed, but then turned attention to Mike. “I don’t know if I’m going, Mike. I might go down and visit Mom in Florida that weekend. Anyway, I have a boyfriend.”
Jessica perked up at that.
“Who?” Mike asked in a strangled voice.
“He’s not a student here,” she responded and Edward snorted. “Edward, go.”
It was then that James found her. He was lounging in her tree when she got home that day from school. She looked up and went to her door. In an instant he was beside her. “Not so brave, are we now, pet?” he asked, his breath putrid.
Carefully, Bella maneuvered her hand into her pocket and speed dialed Elijah.
“Who are you and what are you doing at my house?” she asked. “I mean, I know you were one of the three vampires in the woods, but you must have a name.”
“James,” he responded. “What are you? The great Original said you weren’t human.”
She laughed a little. “Did you come back just for that? I haven’t told anyone yet. It’s terribly private.”
“What can be less private than your being?” he asked.
“No one knows anything about us,” she responded. “I don’t even know if there is an ‘us’. Now, James, please leave me.”
“You know, I wonder if your blood is sweeter than a human’s…” he murmured, grabbing her arm and leaning toward her.
Suddenly his hand was gone and Bella looked up to see Elijah holding it and slowly crushing it with his fingers. “I wouldn’t try that. Hasn’t anyone told you, cold one, to respect the Originals? Your Volturi Kings even fear us.”
James’s red eyes widened.
“I see you’re not as ignorant as I thought you were.” His brown eyes looked into his. “Leave and never try to harm Bella again.”
“Okay,” he stated and Elijah released his hand, which was a distorted mockery of itself.
“Keep the hand as a souvenir of what happens when a lowly vampire defies the Original Elijah.”
In a moment he was gone, and Bella just stood there before she walked into Elijah’s arms. She snuggled her head against his shoulder and just breathed out. “I don’t know why I didn’t fight back. It was the strangest thing.”
“It may have been his power,” Elijah told her. He ran a hand through her hair and she looked up at him. “You’re safe from him now, Bella.”
They just stood there like that in the cold, even though she offered him hot chocolate, until he heard Charlie’s cruiser returning. With a kiss on her lips, he promised to see her again that night, and with a whisper he was gone.
Bella was wandering the gardens, her fingers touching the newly blooming heather. The garden was always so wild, in autumn, in spring. She wanted to see it at its height in summer, but she didn’t have long to wait.
“Who could you possibly be waiting for at five in the morning?” a masculine (and, yes, British) voice asked angrily from inside the house. “The only people not sleeping are those cold ones you have managed to not slaughter and even they pretend to sleep at this hour.”
She could hear the murmur of Elijah’s voice, but couldn’t hear anything distinct.
“No one’s coming.”
“That’s probably because you scared her away,” Elijah snapped. “Perhaps she’s in the garden.”
Bella moved toward the window and saw Elijah, in his black jeans again, go toward the door, and a moment later he was standing in front of her, smiling.
“Do you want me to hide?” she asked. “You have company.”
“This is your home,” he argued. “In the vampire world, we’re considered married.”
She looked at him. “That’s the first time you called the Cullens ‘vampires’.” He was leading her through the front hall and she came out into the den where the man with golden hair and the beard from the photographs was standing, his hands in his pockets, looking entirely confused.
“Elijah—she’s a ghost.”
“Not quite,” he answered. “Bella, my brother, Niklaus. He wants me to go back to Virginia with him.”
“You can’t—” she breathed. “I don’t know if I can travel that far. What happens if I wake up there? I’ll be across the country!” Her fingers entwined with Elijah’s and she looked between the two brothers. “Perhaps I’ll wander somewhere else… I don’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t start this until I moved to Forks. Maybe I have to be in your proximity for it to work?”
Niklaus looked completely confused. “What does she mean, Elijah?”
“She means she’s an Apparitia,” he responded plainly. “No, I hadn’t heard of it either until I studied ghosts and sleepwalking for two months.” His thumb rubbed against the side of her hand in reassurance. “All you need to know, Klaus, is she’s not human and we’re still discovering her powers.”
This seemed to be explanation enough. “I’ve given the Doppleganger back her little ripper,” he informed his brother, taking a seat and taking a sip of—that wasn’t wine.
Bella moved forward, picked up the glass, smelled it, and promptly fainted.
She came back to herself with a cool cloth touching the side of her neck. “Your bonded mate is a ghost, she won’t be able to feel you.”
“She’s an Apparitia; she can certainly feel me,” Elijah argued back. “I warned you about the blood. I told you to put it away nearly an hour ago!”
“What’s happening?” Bella murmured.
“You fainted at the smell of blood,” Elijah apologized.
She blinked and saw the two brothers looking down at her. “Why was there blood?” she asked in confusion. “I’ve never seen you drink blood before.”
“I drink from campers,” Elijah told her, helping her up. “I’m an Original Vampire, Bella. I was the first to be created along with my brothers and sister. We don’t kill our food unlike cold ones.”
Bella blinked. “Vampire,” she murmured. “You’ll have to tell me more later. I just knew you were something fearsome called an Original.”
“Very fearsome,” Niklaus agreed as she was seated in a chair and the blood had been whisked away somewhere else. “He doesn’t even keep blood slaves anymore.”
“I have Bella to consider,” he argued, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I couldn’t have humans in the cellar with her wandering around the house as a ghost.”
“I think,” Bella stated unsteadily, “I want to go back to bed. You stay with your brother, Elijah. I’ll—walk—back.”
“That’s miles,” Elijah argued. He crouched down in front of her and brown eyes met brown. “I want you to close your eyes and wish yourself back in your bedroom, and if you wake up there, I want you to call me.”
Looking at him suspiciously, she closed her eyes and pictured her room and imagined herself lying on the bed. Then, with a start that felt like her heart was being squeezed, she sat up. She was still wearing her robe and her sweats. Her feet were cold from the garden. She picked up her cell phone and called Elijah.
“How long has it been?” she asked, waiting for the reply.
Hanging up, she couldn’t believe it had only been three minutes. If she could move back into her body, perhaps she could move at will out of her body. The possibilities were endless. She cuddled back into her blankets and tried to go back to sleep. Instead, she watched the sun rise from her desk chair and breathed out when she realized it might be a sunny day.
Bella managed to convince Charlie that she was sleeping over Angela’s all weekend. “I’ll just go over after school on Friday and then drive back over Monday morning,” she promised. “We need to talk about prom.”
In reality, she had slipped off to Port Angeles the weekend with Angela during another study break and while she looked at prom dresses, Bella bought a long negligee that was cream with crimson flowers. It had a matching robe, and Bella hoped she looked pretty in it.
The flight out of Seattle was a dream. Instead of being cramped up in between crying babies and obese men, she was in first class and she even asked Elijah if she was allowed a glass of champagne that was offered to her.
Niklaus finally asked, “How old are you, Isabella Marie Swan?” They had needed her ID to book her seat, and Elijah had been surprised to learn that Bella was a nickname.
“You didn’t check?” she answered. “How old are you?”
“How long have you been twenty?”
He smirked and looked out the window.
Halfway through the flight, Elijah knelt down before her with a necklace in his hands. It was a silver rectangle, falling down in a column, with the lower asymmetrical half a strange yellow. “Wear this,” he made her promise. “It will keep you safe from our kind. Don’t take it off.”
“What will it do?”
“I won’t be able to control your mind,” he told her. “Others won’t be able to either.”
Bella almost laughed. “You won’t be able to, Elijah. Trust me, my brain is defective.”
“Wear it anyway,” he asked. He placed it around her neck and stroked her cheek. “Now, just so no one gets any ideas around you—” He took a jewelry box from his waistcoat and produced two silver wedding bands. They were thin, simple, and yet elegant. “I know how much you hate anything expensive,” he told her, “but we are bonded mates and humans don’t understand the concept.”
“But we won’t stop being mates when we return,” she pointed out.
“Well, maybe I’ll keep on wearing mine,” he told her as he slipped it onto her ring finger before kissing her hand. When he went to slide his slightly larger ring onto his hand, she took it and symbolically did it herself.
“I don’t believe in marriage,” she told him. “Mom and Charlie got divorced when I was one, and Mom just got remarried and there seemed to be no room for me.”
“Well,” he told her quietly. “That’s the thing about being mates. We don’t have to follow human customs. We can stay together forever, knowing we’re pledged, without getting a flimsy document proving it.” Elijah leaned up and kissed her deeply.
Bella lost her breath but she kissed him back, greedily pulling him toward her.
Niklaus just sighed from his seat behind Bella, but she didn’t care. It seemed that Elijah didn’t either.
It seemed he wasn’t impervious to female persuasion, however. On the car ride down to Mystic Falls, after Elijah inquired about Caroline, Bella had to ask, “Who’s Caroline?”
“One of the Doppleganger’s little friends—and a vampire.”
“What’s the witch’s name?” Elijah asked again. “Bonnie?”
Niklaus hummed in agreement.
“But Caroline,” Bella asked. “What’s so special about her?”
Elijah smiled and turned toward the back seat where Bella was sitting, taking his eyes off the road for a second. “Niklaus is rather fond of her—although she’s only seventeen.”
“How long has she been seventeen?” Bella asked.
Niklaus grumbled something Bella couldn’t hear and Elijah laughed. “Less than a year.”
They arrived at a mansion late into the evening, which was being guarded by several young men. “Hybrids,” Elijah told her. “Niklaus is a Werewolf/Vampire Hybrid and is unfortunately creating an army.”
Bella’s eyes widened but she nodded. She let one of them carry her bag up the stairs into the “Blue Room”, and settled with the brothers in the den, which had a full sidebar.
“Where’s Rebekah?” Elijah asked over a glass of Bordeaux. “Shouldn’t she be here? I know Kol is off destroying everything in his path—but—”
“There’s a football game tonight,” Niklaus said by way of explanation. Bella remembered the picture of Rebekah as a cheerleader. “Now, Bella, you need new clothing.”
“No, I don’t,” she answered defensively. “My clothing is just fine.”
“You are the bride of an Original now,” Niklaus continued. “Elijah will never make you do it. He thinks you’re perfect as you are, but I think you should get a few things while you’re here. Get a dress for your prom, that I heard you murmuring about.” He smirked at her and she wished she had something to throw at him.
That night, she realized she was placed in Elijah’s room. She carefully put on the negligee, took out Wuthering Heights, and began to read in one of the large chairs. Bella hadn’t even realized she had gone to sleep until she stared down at her body. She walked out of the room, and found Elijah still drinking with his brother.
“Is it five am? Why haven’t either of you gone to bed?”
“It’s only twelve,” Elijah told her, reaching out for her. “You’re beautiful.”
She blushed despite herself.
Niklaus looked at her with a contemplative look on his face. “I have an experiment. It’s early enough in the evening to do it. Bella, I want you to try to go to the nearest house where I’m being mentioned.”
Elijah’s arm wrapped around her. “You cannot mean to use Bella like this—”
“Just an experiment. She can close her eyes at any time and wake up here. No one knows you’re here, Elijah.—Just call, Bella, if there’s a problem. You know Elijah’s number.”
She nodded her head carefully and looked between the brothers. “You better be trying to figure out how long I’m going to live,” she breathed and, closing her eyes, she found herself somewhere else.
She moved through the old house, noticing how rustic it was. Looking out the window, she saw woods she didn’t recognize.
“Klaus has been missing for nearly a week,” a male voice stated. “That can only be a good thing.”
Bella inched closer and realized she couldn’t see unless she entered the room. Looking down at herself, she realized she could see through herself, so she took a gambit. She walked down the stairs, into a brightly lit room, which held several couches. There were several people present. Bella stood in the center of the room, suddenly realizing she was in a negligee meant only for Elijah, and turned about her. “Where am I?” she asked.
Everyone was standing and someone, in complete surprise, asked, “What are you?”
Bella smiled at him. “Most people call me a ‘ghost.’ That’s inaccurate, however.—Where am I?”
“The Salvatore boarding house,” a girl mentioned who was tall, thin, with black-brown hair. She could be pretty, Bella supposed, but she didn’t find her so.
“Am I still in Mystic Falls?” she asked. “I went to sleep in Mystic Falls.”
“Yes,” she answered carefully.
“Excellent,” Bella stated. “In case this didn’t work, I didn’t want to end up in South Carolina by accident.—Do you mind if I make a phone call?”
“You’re a ghost,” a man who looked strangely like Edward noticed. “You don’t even have a pulse.”
“I don’t?” she asked. “Still, I would appreciate a phone.”
Someone held out their phone, she didn’t notice who, and she dialed in the number. She was surprised when Elijah’s name came up on the screen. He was already in this person’s list of contacts. Her eyebrows rose in surprise and she hit dial.
“It’s not Caroline,” she told him when he greeted the phone. “Caroline leant me her phone. Why does Caroline of all people have your number? Shouldn’t she have your brother’s?” Bella didn’t wait for an answer. “I’m at the Salvatore Boarding House. Do you want me to see how long I can stay or should I try to come back?” He purred into the phone, and she grinned. “Message received.” She hung up and handed the cell phone back to a pretty girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. “Goodnight, everyone,” she told them, closing her eyes and waking up with a start back at the Mansion.
Her heart felt like it was being squeezed and she breathed in heavily, only to see Elijah sitting beside her, looking at her in thought.
“I have all their numbers,” he told her. “They’re a group of supernaturals who fight other supernaturals they perceive as a threat. Until recently, I was a threat. Now, I’m considered a potential ally.”
“Oh,” she returned. “She’s much prettier than me.”
“No one is as pretty as you,” Elijah swore. “Let’s become bonded mates in reality.”
She smiled at him. “I thought you’d never ask.”