Bella didn’t remember much of those first few weeks.
She knew she had spent much of the time shivering and sweating, her body trembling like she was in withdrawal. Then she’d realised that was exactly what was happening to her.
Edward had made an observation once that her blood was like heroin to him, yet in a bitter twist, it had turned out instead that his presence had that effect on her.
She had wondered then, if they had ever spent enough time with a human before to know that they could have this effect… or if they knew exactly what it would do to her. Was she even the first human girl they had welcomed into their family and then cruelly abandoned?
That had been the tipping point for her, the beginning of her daily battle to regain some sense of self. She would never again be the person she had begun to lose from the moment she had met the Cullens… but perhaps she could take the shattered parts of herself and slowly rebuild them into somebody new…
It was quiet out, just the way Bella liked it. Besides the sounds of the forest and the occasional passing car, there was nothing to hear but the low thud of her feet hitting the pavement as she ran. She didn’t even listen to music like most people would, instead preferring the near silence along with the seclusion, using it as a way to clear her head.
It was funny really, if someone had told her that running would become one of her favourite hobbies, she would have laughed in their face.
Now it was something she loved, even on cold days like today, where each even breath she let out frosted in front of her face in misty clouds. Her thick hoodie and hat kept her warm enough though. Even her balance had improved, the repetitive motion helping her become more steady on her feet.
Reaching her mid-point for the evening, Bella slowed to a stop, and started stretching out her muscles, taking a breather before she turned and headed back to the empty house.
Charlie wasn’t home tonight, instead, he was at the station trying to clear some of the backlog of paperwork before Christmas. He knew she was out running though.
He hadn’t liked her running in the evenings much at first, but then he’d seen how much calmer she’d become, even sleeping better. Now all he did was ask that she stick to the roads rather than the woods, and wear something so that drivers would see her. Bella had agreed happily.
She was mid-stretch when she felt it. A strange prickling sensation, like someone was watching her. Looking around, she couldn’t see anything, though that didn’t matter. If it was Victoria watching her, she could be anywhere, if it wasn’t Victoria… well, Bella really didn’t want her thoughts to go down that route.
Shrugging off the feeling as best she could, Bella turned and began her run back to the house, the prickling sensation staying with her.
Days passed and Bella kept up with her runs, each time feeling the same way… like someone was watching. Even changing her route didn’t seem to help.
It was uncomfortable at times, but she wasn’t going to give it up.
The thought that it could be Victoria was a tough pill to swallow, as it meant that her end would probably soon follow, but a tougher thought to take was that it just might be one of the Cullens; watching without coming forward to speak to her.
The idea of that filled her with so much anger. She had no desire to see or speak to any of them again. The clear head that running had brought her had given her some perspective, and what they had done; bringing her into their world and then abandoning her was very wrong.
If she could easily come to the conclusion that Victoria was likely to return at some point to seek her revenge then surely the Cullens could, and yet they had left her anyway.
Scowling at the turn her thoughts had taken, Bella picked up her pace, pushing herself to jog faster.
She was forced to a halt though when a shape appeared her path, the winter afternoon half-light only allowing her to make out a shadowy figure. They spoke then, the strong accent setting off warning bells in Bella’s mind as she realised that it wasn’t Victoria that had been watching her…
“Good afternoon… Bella.”
“So, it’s you then… who’s been watching me recently?”
Laurent blinked and looked at Bella askance. “Watching you? No cher, I came to… check on you, after the Cullens left. Weren’t you a pet of theirs…? I’m surprised they left you behind.”
Bella squared herself, a bitter laugh escaping her. “We both know the Culllens aren’t the reason you’re here. Though I am curious… if you weren’t the one watching me…”
Laurent shrugged elegantly, stepping closer and inhaling with a smile. “It matters not… the Cullens’ loss is my gain. I was supposed to check on you for Victoria… but you smell just too good…”
Not willing to give him the satisfaction of seeing her running or screaming, Bella braced herself, but the attack never came, as a new voice rang out suddenly.
“Hold up, mate. The girl made a good point… who was watching her? And the answer to that question…”
A figure stepped out from the trees, drawing both Laurent’s and Bella’s attention. He was tall, around six foot, with brown hair that looked to have grown out a bit, flopping into his eyes and giving him a somewhat boyish look.
His eyes were anything but boyish though, Bella noted as he studied her, his gaze flicking between her and Laurent. They were shrewd and calculating, she thought, with a spark of something like mischief in them, especially when he met her gaze and winked.
“The answer to your question darling… would be me. I was the one watching you.”
His gaze switched back to Laurent who was growling at him. “She was my kill.”
The strange man simply smirked and it made Bella shiver, though she wasn’t entirely sure if it was out of fear or not.
“You should go now,” He told Bella without looking at her.
“But, he’s a…” Bella protested.
“I know exactly what he is. Now… leave, and don’t look back.”
Something in his tone made Bella obey him, though she hesitated after a few steps… not knowing quite how to voice what she wanted to ask.
“I’ll be back to find you again.”
Again Bella shivered, this time at the darkly promising tone to his voice. Unable to help herself she turned to get one last glimpse of him only to find there was nobody there.
Three days went by.
Bella honestly wondered if she’d dreamed up the encounter with the stranger in the forest. The oddly magnetic and fascinating person, that had apparently taken care of Laurent being as he hadn’t shown up again.
She’d irrationally hoped that the mystery man would show up later that night, but instead she had just been left with bizarre dreams where he would appear to save her, over and over again. Sometimes disappearing, too quickly to be human, sometimes staying to seduce her, in dreams that left her blushing and turned on when she woke up.
Then on the fourth night she was getting ready for bed when she heard it, a quiet tap on the window.
It happened again before she got there, the sound of a small stone hitting the glass pane, and she smiled to herself, somehow knowing who was there.
Carefully opening the window, she looked down to see the familiar tall figure standing in her yard, looking up at her with his longish hair almost flopping in his eyes.
“There you are, darling. So… aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Bella blushed at the endearment but shook her head.
“I don’t even know your name.”
He laughed and the next thing Bella knew, he was up in the tree outside her window, balanced on a branch that left him just about level with her.
She blinked in shock, taking an automatic step back.
“After I saved your life…” He smirked, “I’m hurt.”
“I don’t know what you are,” Bella responded, watching him carefully, “I don’t even know what your name is… and you expect me to invite you in?”
He chuckled again.
“Bright little thing, aren’t you?” He tilted his head almost respectfully at her, tipping an imaginary hat. “Kol Mikaelson, at your service, darling.”
Bella couldn’t help giggling, especially as he winked roguishly at her.
“And what are you?” She prodded curiously.
Kol let out a mock long-suffering sigh, “I suppose as you seem to know about Cold Ones, it’s safe to tell you about real vampires… you see darling, I am an Original…”
That was the first of several nights they spent talking.
Showing up each night while Charlie was at work or asleep, he would sit in the tree as they spoke.
Bella’s story intrigued Kol when he heard it, he’d never heard of Cold Ones acting the way the Cullens did. In turn, Bella found Kol’s history fascinating, even the bloodthirsty parts. Which possibly should have worried her.
He’d teased her several times about her reluctance to invite him in, though he’d understood a little better when she’d told him about the Cullen boy having a penchant for sneaking in without her knowledge.
Getting fed up of perching in the tree, he’d suggested a different option, and that was how their late night walks began.
Knowing that nothing would approach them while she was with the Original vampire, Bella felt free as they walked, their path often only lit by the moon.
They never really spoke of the fact that he drank from humans, but Bella didn’t judge him for it either. It was in his nature she’d told him, and you shouldn’t fight nature. The Cullens were proof of that, for all their human aspirations they had an inhuman way of acting.
She’d expected him to laugh at her when she built up the courage to speak about Edward refusing her advances, instead he’d simply told her that Edward was a fool. She hadn’t known what to make of that.
Then one night it was raining.
Much to her surprise Kol still showed up, even though it was absolutely pouring out, and as he looked up at her from her yard, his wet hair plastered to his forehead, she couldn’t help smiling at him.
“You’re soaked.” She called down with a grin.
Kol didn’t reply, just smirked back at her, his arms spread wide as he turned in a circle.
“For goodness sake,” Bella laughed, “Just come up… I invite you in.”
She turned to get a towel from the bathroom and by the time she got back Kol was in her bedroom, looking around with interest.
Taking the towel she offered him, he shrugged off his jacket and quickly dried his hair off.
“So all it took was a bit of rain to get my invite then?” He grinned.
“Shut up.” Bella grabbed the towel back and hung it up in the bathroom.
“You know you like me…” Kol smirked, sitting at the foot of her bed while she leaned against her headboard, “Though I’ll let you pretend a while longer that you don’t.”
Bella flushed, looking down at the bed, then blushed some more as it occurred to her that Kol was sitting on it… with her.
The last – and only – boy she’d had in her room had been Edward, and that hadn’t really gone so well. Though, she acknowledged, Kol definitely wasn’t a boy, despite his outwardly youthful appearance.
Kol smirked to himself as he waited in the school parking lot the next day, leaning against Bella’s decrepit truck.
She had no idea that he’d be there waiting for her, it was only because she’d made a passing comment about never seeing him during the day that he’d decided on a whim to surprise her on her last day before Christmas break.
He could hear the whispers of her classmates, unsubtly looking at him and giggling behind their hands as they tried to figure out who he was. Unusually, he wasn’t preening under their curious and lustful stares, instead he barely took any notice, just scanned the crowd for a familiar head of brunette hair.
Finally spotting her, he smirked as she paused and blinked when she saw him standing there before heading toward him.
“Hello, darling.” He purred, taking her hand and kissing it, much to the disappointment of most of the girls watching.
Bella blushed. “Not that I don’t like it, but what are you doing here?”
Her hand tingled where his lips had brushed it and not for the first time she wondered what it would be like if he actually kissed her. Would it be soft and sweet, or rough and demanding… or maybe a little of both.
Blushing deeper at her thoughts, Bella allowed Kol to take her keys and assist her into the passenger side.
“Are you home alone tonight?” He asked suddenly.
Bella nodded. “Yeah, Charlie’s working late. Why?”
Kol didn’t say anything, just nodded to himself, his eyes on the road.
Pulling into the drive a few moments later, he quickly got out and walked Bella to the door before taking her hand.
“Don’t go running tonight… I want to take you somewhere.”
“Okay.” Bella nodded.
“I’ll be back to get you in a couple of hours, wear something warm.”
Leaving Bella completely clueless as to what he had planned, he lifted her hand to his lips again, kissing the inside of her wrist this time and smirking faintly as her heart stuttered. Then he was gone.
He’d arrived back true to his word, and still giving Bella no idea as to what they were doing led her into the woods, in a direction they hadn’t walked before.
“Do you trust me?” He asked suddenly, touching her arm to stop her walking.
Bella nodded then squeaked as he suddenly picked her up, his arms supporting her back and under her knees as she blushingly wrapped an arm around his neck.
Her heart pounding at their proximity, she looked around as Kol began to walk, not dizzyingly fast, but certainly much quicker than she could manage in the woods at night.
They’d been walking for maybe ten minutes or so when the trees started to open out, and for a moment Bella felt a spike of panic that it was the same clearing that Edward had brought her to.
It was immediately obvious it wasn’t though. This one was more secluded, with thick growth surrounding it and a rocky outcropping at one side where it looked like there was a rough fire pit set up from what Bella could in the moonlight.
“You did this?” She asked as they got closer, indicating the log with a couple of folded blankets set on it, in front of a small, neatly built bonfire.
Letting Bella slide down to her feet, Kol nodded, looking a little uncertain for the first time since she’d met him. Busying himself with lighting the fire and getting it going, it was a few minutes before he came to stand beside her again.
“When I was a child, my family had a tradition for this time of year…”
“Is that what the bonfire is for?”
“Yes.” He still seemed on edge to Bella, so though she was feeling nervous herself she reached and took his hand, relieved when he just laced his fingers with hers, squeezing gently.
“We would have a fire like this, and each of us would write down our wishes for each other, for the coming year, and then we would all burn them for luck. I may dislike my brothers and sister… but they are my family, and this was something we always did… so as I am not with them, I thought perhaps this time you might join me…”
“I’d be honoured.” Was Bella’s immediate answer.
Sitting side by side on the log, they both wrote down their wishes on the pieces of parchment Kol had brought and then stood together in front of the fire to throw them in.
Bella was surprised when this time it was Kol that reached for her hand, again entwining his fingers with hers. They watched silently as their wishes burned and then tugging her hand gently, he pulled her to face him.
He was ridiculously handsome in normal light Bella thought, but illuminated by the moonlight and firelight he stole her breath away as she looked at him.
“There’s another tradition for this season, one I thought you might like…”
His free hand came up to touch her cheek.
“Close your eyes, darling.”
Bella obliged, curiosity burning as Kol rummaged in his pocket.
Feeling him take her hand and put something in it, Bella looked down and by the light of the moon saw a sprig of mistletoe resting on her palm.
The blush that spread across her cheeks, highlighted by the glow from the fire, was worth every bit of the trouble he’d gone to setting this up.
He wasn’t sure what had drawn him to Bella at first, but he’d been unable to resist getting to know her, and now he was hooked.
Seeing her slightly hopeful, yet confused and guarded expression, Kol felt a part of himself melt. Somehow this human girl had worked her way into his affections, and he couldn’t find it within himself to be the slightest bit unhappy about it.
Taking the leafy sprig back from her, he grinned wickedly and held it up over her head.
“Would it help if I did this, darling?”
Then he bent his head and with a sudden burst of courage Bella rose up on her toes to meet him halfway.
She had never been kissed, Bella realised, not really… because the measly offerings from Edward couldn’t come close to comparing to this.
A hand held her close, while the other tangled in her hair as he nipped her bottom lip, soothing it with his tongue. Bella whimpered, her fingers lacing through the hair at the back of his neck. She’d never felt anything like this, and as their tongues met and explored she clung to him, the world tilting crazily around her.
Slowly easing Bella back down to earth, Kol gently pulled away after one last soft kiss.
“Now…” He said quietly, putting his arm around Bella, tucking her neatly into his side as he turned to face the fire.
“We burn this too. For luck.”
Tossing the sprig of mistletoe into the flames, he watched as it caught alight and quickly disappeared, muttering a few old words he knew from childhood, the words having meaning to him even without the ability to do magic.
He’d started this year still locked in a coffin with a dagger in his heart, and now with the bonfire season it was close to year end…
He looked down at the petite brunette at his side and smiled. Yes, next year would certainly be a better one… right from the start.
~*~ fin ~*~