Ordinary Loneliness

Blood and Circuses

Breakfast at a B&B was always good, Lindsey thought as she sipped coffee and reached for a third cinnamon roll. They were homemade and she hadn't had a real, yeast-raised, homemade cinnamon roll since her grandmother passed away. She was going to have to tackle that recipe and learn how to make them herself.

Damon ate a little, but got in the shower, leaving Lindsey alone with the breakfast cart. After damn near fasting for several weeks, she was in the mood to indulge, and with Damon in the shower, she didn't feel self-conscious about eating a little more. She thought about the night before, about him in the shower with her, rinsing her hair, kissing her body, and she thoughtfully licked icing from her thumb. It was delicious, but not as delicious as his mouth.

"You're thinking about me again," a black velvet voice whispered in her ear and Damon's arms came around her.

"Just how even homemade cinnamon rolls don't taste as good as you do," she said.

"Is that so?" he purred.

"Absolutely," she answered, and started to clean the icing from her fingertips, when Damon took her hand. Keeping his eyes on hers, he licked the icing from each finger. Good, old-fashioned lust started flicking through her veins and she could tell it was affecting Damon, too.

She grinned at him. "I'd say you were insatiable, but that would sound too much like a complaint."

He chuckled and kissed the column of her neck, down to his favorite spot and Lindsey heard the crackle that meant his fangs had dropped and he bit her, which sent a flood of heat through her body. He drank only for a few seconds, then she could feel him cleaning the wound and healing it. He kissed back up to her ear and whispered, "Your blood makes me high."

That was news. "Really?" she said.

"Really. Too bad you can't bottle it," he answered, still kissing her.

Lindsey turned to kiss him full on the mouth, inhaling the scent of soap and the smell that was just Damon. She combed her fingers through his damp hair and said, "It's also too bad I can't bottle the way you smell when you get out of the shower. I love you any time, but when you're just out of the shower, it's my favorite version of you."

He pulled back from her and had an odd expression on his face. "Is that so?"

"It is. When we were in Nashville and you'd come strolling out of the bedroom, just showered, it drove me bananas. There were several times when the crazies nearly got a show in the hallway because I was debating whether it'd be worth it to just jump your bones right there."

The grin she got nearly gave her an orgasm right then. "You have a gutter mind," he said.

"You'd give any female with a pulse a gutter mind, Damon."

"I'm good that way," he smirked.

"And then you open your mouth and your ego walks out. Come here." She kissed him again, more forcefully this time, and in a second, found herself on her back in the middle of the bed.

"You like my ego," he growled in her ear.

"I like what it's attached to," she teased.

"Can't have one without the other," he murmured against her skin and smiled when she just snickered in reply. Since she liked him so well just out of the shower, he was glad to oblige her by keeping her in bed all morning. She tasted of cinnamon rolls and coffee and he was still high from her blood. It was a heady combination, even for him.

This morning, she was wearing a sleepshirt and he pushed it up so he could touch her. She was already wet for him and he thrust into her body as she arched up to meet him. It still blew his mind that he was her first – her only. And he wanted her in every way possible.

Some while later, Damon's phone buzzed. It was Jakob, asking if they wanted to meet at the Stockyards for lunch. "Sure," he texted back. Well, they needed to get out occasionally. Fort Worth was a great town and it would be a shame if Lindsey didn't get to see any of it.

"So how did it go with Careen?" Lindsey asked Jakob as they strolled through the Fort Worth Stockyards after their meal.

"Pretty good. She's a nice girl. I'll probably see her again," he answered.

"Glad to hear it," Lindsey replied. Although she was curious, whatever happened was their concern. She was interested in whether Jakob was a first-date biter or not, just out of pure nosiness, but it wasn't her business. Maybe she'd ask Damon later. The whole vampire social etiquette thing fascinated her. It was just too bad she couldn't write a story about it.

"Jakob, what kind of daylight token do you have?" Lindsey asked.

He showed her a beautiful lapis lazuli arrowhead bordered in silver, on a platinum chain around his neck. "Like it?"

Lindsey peered at it. "Ooooh. I do. Very, very much. Better than that big ol' gaudy ring Damon has to wear. Too bad he can't exchange it," she said.

Jakob laughed out loud. "Have you told him how you feel about his daylight ring?"

"Sort of."

Damon had been looking at knives in a shop window and came to the conversation a little late. "What about my daylight ring? How did that come up?"

"She asked about my token," Jakob answered.

"Oh." He glared at Lindsey. "You don't like my ring? What's the matter with it?"

"You want honesty or diplomacy?" she said, eyes twinkling.

Damon glanced at Jakob. He was enjoying this way, way too much. "I know I'll regret it, but honesty."

Lindsey grinned. "You asked for it. It's too big. You know how I feel about gaudy jewelry. I don't know who designed it, but it's not attractive. It's so big it looks like it weighs your hand down. I know it doesn't, but it gives that impression. Is Stefan's ring like yours?"

"Similar," he growled. "So what do you think I should wear?"

"A ring would be OK, but smaller. Maybe a horizontal bar of the lapis."

"That actually sounds pretty cool, Damon," Jakob said.

Damon shrugged. "After 150 years, I'm used to it."

Lindsey tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. "Gaudy or not, I'm glad you've got it," she said. "But a chain with a lapis lightning bolt or maybe a Native American thunderbird would look seriously hot on you."

Dammit, but the woman knew exactly how to get him: play a little on his vanity. He knew she was right, though. His ring was over the top. Leave it to Katherine to get something really ostentatious. He was grateful for it, but it had caused more than one awkward conversation over the decades. On the other hand, women were fascinated by Jakob's arrowhead. They loved it, and it was always a conversation starter for the right reasons.

"Too bad it's such a pain in the ass to transfer the spell," Jakob said.

"You can do that?" Lindsey said, surprised.

Jakob nodded. "Sure. But you have to find a witch who knows the daylight spell, and they don't grow on trees. Otherwise, a lot more of us would keep regular human schedules. We'd all be safer."

"So how have you lived in the same city all these years? I know you tell people you're your own great-great-grandson, but you don't age or anything. How does that work?"

He chuckled. "I disappear for a few years every thirty years or so, and come back as a descendant. People have fairly short memories, so they usually don't notice. There have been a couple of people who've been suspicious, but they've generally been smart enough to keep it to themselves."

"Wow." They were on the outskirts of the Stockyard district now, and there were a lot of buildings close together. She could see signs for clubs and bars, and a few restaurants, but it wasn't the busy district of the Stockyard proper. She spotted a narrow doorway with a strange symbol on the black glass door. "What's that place? Some kind of martial arts studio?" she asked. Damon and Jakob exchanged a look, and it wasn't one Lindsey liked. "What is it? Tell me."

"It's a club," Damon said.

"What kind of place -- the club formerly known as Prince?" she joked, since the symbol didn't look like anything familiar.

"It's kind of seedy and not very safe," Jakob said.

"It looks seedy. What's so unsafe about it? Biker bar or something?" Lindsey said.

Jakob shrugged. "It's just one of those places where you don't want to be caught alone."

She nodded, then looked at Damon. "What are you not telling me?" He quickly erased the expression that had put her on alert.

"Nothing. Jake's right. It's just not a good place."

Lindsey narrowed her eyes at him. Uh-oh. She was on the scent. "Damon Salvatore, I can read you like the AP Stylebook. What are you not telling me?"

Jakob raised his eyebrows.

Damon said, "I told you she can read minds, Jakob."

She punched his arm. "No, I can't read minds. But I can read your face, for sure. Now spit it out. What kind of place is that?"

Damon sighed heavily. "It's a vampire club."

Lindsey looked at the door again. "For real? Wow." Crazy concept.

"For real," he said, not happily. "And you're not going in there."

Jakob saw Lindsey's face change. Bad move, bud, he thought. Now you've done it.

"Oh really? And why is that?" Her voice was chilly.

Jakob could almost hear Lindsey's blood boil when Damon came out with, "Because I said so." He closed his eyes. Red flag, Damon. Break off, man! Abort!

"Ohhhhh. Because you said so. Because you said so. So now you're going to dictate where I can go and what I can do, are you? Because you said so." Lindsey was slowly backing Damon up to the wall of a building on the opposite side of the street. She wasn't yelling. Instead, her tone was solid ice.

Jakob was fascinated by their dynamic. Lindsey had no fear of Damon. None. He saw Damon swallow and could see he was trying to come up with something to calm her down. Imagine that.

"Babe, I shouldn't have said it like that. I don't want you to get hurt, and that is a really dangerous place for a human. It's touchy enough for vampires," he said.

Nice save, Jakob thought.

"So why didn't you say that to start with?"

"I didn't want you to think you needed to go in there."

"Being the great dictator is not the correct approach with me. You know this."

He nodded. "Sorry," and gave her apologetic grin.

Jakob remained where he was, although he could hear every word, of course. Watching those two was the most fun he'd had in years. A human woman standing up to Damon Salvatore, notorious womanizer, and seriously badass vampire. But from what Damon had told him about what he and Lindsey had been through, both in Nashville, and when the Augustines caught up with them, Jakob had tremendous respect for this woman, and he thought Damon did too. Plus, he was crazy about her and just didn't want to admit it. And the feeling was obviously mutual. Lindsey was nuts about Damon and trusted him completely. It was rare when a human and a vampire brought out the best in each other instead of the worst.

"OK," she said, taking his hand. They walked back to where Jakob stood, apparently deaf to their conversation, even though both Damon and Lindsey knew better.

As they walked back to the car, Lindsey said, "Would I be safe in that club with two overprotective, kickass vampires?"

The look on Damon's face was priceless and Lindsey nearly doubled over laughing. Jakob was chuckling too.

"Not funny, Lindsey," he growled.

"Sez you. You didn't see the look on your face. Looked like you swallowed a porcupine."

"That is no place for you. Take my word for it," Damon snapped.

"Settle down," she said. "Your hair is just about standing on end. I'm not talking about spending a whole night there. I'd just like to go in, look around and vamp watch for an hour or so. I'd stick to you like super glue, believe me."

"If there's two of us…" Jakob began.

"Don't even think about it," Damon rumbled. "Not for a second."

Lindsey raised one eyebrow at Damon. He didn't like the look on her face at all. She looked at Jakob. "Would you take me?"

"I would, except you're marked, and I'm not the one who did it. That could create a lot of unwelcome weirdness," he said.

"Marked? Marked how? And where? And why?" She turned to Damon, eyes blazing.

He cleared his throat. "I'll explain, but we don't need to have this discussion in the middle of the street. Let's get home and I'll tell you everything, OK?"

"All right." She turned to Jakob. "We'll see you later. Enjoyed lunch." She kissed him on the cheek and he grinned.

"I enjoyed it, too," he replied. He watched the couple go to their car, with Lindsey giving Damon the stink-eye the whole way. He wouldn't want to be Damon right now. He was in seriously deep shit, and really, he deserved it. You didn't mark a human and not tell them. But Damon could be so freaking autocratic. And Jakob really liked Lindsey. She was funny and had a lot of great stories about working for a newspaper. And he'd drive to El Paso -- and back -- to see a woman who would stand up to Damon. He had a feeling they were going to end up at that club, whether Damon liked it or not.

Lindsey was silent on the trip back. And when she stopped talking, that was a bad, bad sign. They got inside the cottage and Lindsey sat on the sofa. She gestured to the large ottoman. "Sit. And start talking. And brother, this had better be good."

Damon knew he was about five minutes from Lindsey getting on a plane, so he'd better be absolutely honest. "I'll start with the simple part. Where. It's that little blue mark behind your right ear -- about the size of a pencil eraser. How, is with my fangs at a certain angle."

"When and why?"

"When, well, it was one of the times when we were in bed and why, well it seemed like a good idea at the time to keep you from being hit on by anyone we ran into who knew me."

"Tell me more," she said, but her tone did reflect more interest than anger now. Damon might even end up with his hide intact, he thought.

"You know vampires aren't exactly a priori relationship material, if you like, you know, fidelity and stability. And it wouldn't bother most of them to try to seduce a human in their company, for blood or sex, or both. But if a human is marked, that's kind of saying hands off, taken, keep away. That sort of thing. It really was to keep you safe, Lindsey."

"Sort of like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant."

Damon shook his head, but he was smiling. "If you want to put it that way, then yeah. Kind of."

"But Jakob said other vampires would be able to tell he hadn't been the one to mark me. How does that work?"

"I'm honestly not sure of the mechanism that makes it work. But essentially, to vampire eyes, with our augmented vision, when you're with the vamp who marked you, the mark has a faint sort of sheen."

"Sheen." Lindsey was flatly dubious.

He nodded. "Faint. It's not like a neon sign or something. I mean, it is to vampires. It's a clear warning to leave you alone. But only a vampire could see it. A human would probably never notice the mark. And it kind of makes you smell like me." At Lindsey's expression, he added, "But we sleep together, so that's a given, anyway. It's really to protect you when I'm not with you, or when there's a whole lot of vampires around. I should have told you, I know, but I swear it was to keep you safe."

"I don't suppose there's any way to undo it."

He shook his head. "Not that I know of. It's for life, as far as I know."

"So why didn't you think it was important to tell me this little tidbit of information?" The irritation was back in her voice.

"I didn't want you to freak out." He examined the expression on her face. "Bad idea, obviously."

"Obviously." Her tone was dry.

So, maybe a little charm would help. "I'm sorry. I should have told you. I should have asked first. But if it makes you feel any better, there aren't any humans living whom I've marked. They've been few and far between. But Lindsey, when I see that little spot on your neck, I know you want me and you love me, and I know that any other vampire who sees you will know you're not available. And, they know if they try anything with you, they have to deal with me." He took her hand and stroked her palm with his thumb.

"Damon, I do love you. But this is my body and my privacy we're talking about, here. I appreciate you thinking of my safety. I do. And if you had asked, I might have been willing to let you do it. But you didn't even ask, and that bothers me." Lindsey didn't sound angry any longer, but she did sound disappointed, which might have been worse.

He picked up her hand and kissed the palm, then licked it with just the tip of his tongue. "Seems like I've needed to apologize a lot the past couple of days. Further evidence I'm a screw-up," he said.

She smiled at him. "You're not a screw-up. You just need to respect that I have boundaries, just like you do. And I get the feeling boundaries haven't been a big part of most of your past relationships, right?"

He looked a little uncomfortable. "How'd you guess?" he said, a little dryly.

"ESP," she teased.

He moved to sit beside her on the sofa and she didn't move away, so he figured they had made it up. He put his arm around her and kissed her hair. Damon wasn't used to having to work so hard in a relationship, especially with important things like respect. That usually wasn't a feature.

"So you really don't like my ring?" he said.

Lindsey scratched his jawline, which she had discovered he liked. "It's fairly hideous. I am beyond thankful that you have it, but it's about as ugly a lump of bling as I've ever seen. I'm sorry, but it is. I mean, it comes up to your knuckle!"

He looked around. "There's not any sunlight coming into this room. Would you like to look at it?" he said. Now that was a first. He didn't remember ever offering to take his ring off for anyone – not even Stefan.

"Sure." And Lindsey seemed to understand the importance of the gesture. Damon worked the ring off his finger and put it in Lindsey's upturned palm. She turned it over and looked at it from every angle.

"All you need is a loupe and you'd be appraising the darn thing," he said with a chuckle.

"Never seen one. Have to look at it very carefully." She looked inside the band. "Salvatore," she read.

He looked at her. "Where did you see that?"

She showed him the flowing script on the inside. "Right here."

He peered at it. "I'll be damned. Never noticed that before."

"And you've worn it for 150 years." She looked at the stone itself. "A 'D.' How precious. Let me guess. Stefan's ring has an 'S' on it, right?" He nodded and Lindsey rolled her eyes. "Good Lord. That's like dressing identical twins alike after they're about nine years old. And Katherine got them for you?"

"Yeah. Her maid, Emily, had them for us after we were turned."

Lindsey shook her head. "Apparently, the only good taste she had was in men. Her taste in jewelry was execrable, that's for sure. Bet she wore flashy clothes too, didn't she? Completely inappropriate for the occasion?"

Damon's eyes widened. "How did you know?"

"I'm a woman, and women don't change. And anyone who would want a grown man to have this ring, well... You say she was originally planning to have you and Stefan travel with her?"

"Yeah. So?"

"So this thing is designed to do one thing: attract attention. And people paying attention to you meant they were also paying attention to her, right?"

The thought had never crossed his mind. "Maybe so."

"Know so. As if having the two best looking men on the East Coast squiring her around wasn't enough to get people's attention in that day and age." She shook her head. "Messed up." She handed Damon his ring and he put it on.

"Yeah, she was."

"You sure you want to let her out of that tomb?"

"I hate the thought of her desiccating in there in the dark," he said.

"Admirable, but sheesh. Once in a while, I do have flashes of insight. Some people say I'm psychic, but I just say I know people. Mark my words, Damon. If you let that woman out of that tomb and back into your life, you will regret it. She'll make you miserable if she can, and if it suits her. Just remember I told you that."

"I will," he said quietly, a little shiver running up his spine. Her words rang uncomfortably true. "So. If you swear to stick to me and not move, and if Jakob wants to go, still want to go to that club?" He sighed.

Her eyes lit up. "Seriously? Oh yeah. I definitely want to go. And you better believe I'll stay right with you. I'll even make you stand guard outside the ladies room!"

"O.K. I'll take you, but please babe, don't turn loose of me once we're in there. I have to be able to protect you."

"Gotcha. No problem."

He looked her in the eye. "And Lindsey, I don't know what you'll see in there. There's no telling, and a lot of it may be gruesome. These are vampires we're talking about. It could be bad."

"I understand."

"Now listen really close to this. It's easy for a vampire to cut loose in those places. The sounds and smells are as intoxicating as the booze. If you think for a half-second I'm losing control with you, tell Jakob. He can help. And then, do whatever it takes to push me away. Tear out my hair, knee me in the nuts – anything. But don't hesitate, OK? I might be pissed off right then, but once I get my head together, I won't be. I promise. Do NOT hesitate."

"OK," she promised. Wow, this place must be really, really something else to have Damon so serious about it.

Back at Jakob's place, he and Damon were deep in a discussion about taking her to the vampire club. She really didn't understand what the big deal was. She had no intention of straying from Damon's side, and she was dressed as unobtrusively as possible, with only a light application of make-up. Nothing about her was designed to attract any attention. She knew bright colors caught a vampire's augmented vision, so she wore a pale lavender top with a black cardigan over it. She didn't want to be mistaken for the gothy types who went to the clubs deliberately, thinking it was all a big joke. She wanted to look as colorless - and hence as "bloodless" - as possible. She wore a pale foundation, with only a small sweep of faint pink in her cheeks, and a very pale lip gloss.

"I look like a freaking ghost, but I'm sure not out to catch any more fanged company than I already have," she said, peering into the mirror in Jakob's bathroom.

"You don't exactly look like yourself, that's for sure," was Damon's opinion. And she didn't. He hardly recognized her. Lindsey was fair-skinned, true, and didn't get in the sun. But her skin was normally pink and her lips and cheeks were naturally tinted dark pink. But there was nothing about her look or the way she was dressed that could be said to be attractive to a vampire club's usual customers.

"Yeah, well, I still smell the same, so you can keep track of me that way," she replied.

He snickered. "There is that. But you won't be getting far enough away from me for that."

"So right. I'm just there to watch the show."

"I still think this is a really, really bad idea," he groused.

"I know you do," she replied. "But I've heard of these places, and I just wanted to see what the real thing looked like, and this is the safest way I can think of to do it, true? I mean, I've got not one, but two very capable, very protective vampires flanking me. And I'm not interested in doing anything stupid."

"Except for go in there in the first place," he retorted.

She shook her head and gave him a kiss. "I'm not a little kid," she said.

"And you're not a vampire, either."

"Thank goodness," she replied. "There are some problems I don't need."

They went into the den, and Jakob handed Damon what looked like a scarf. "Oh yeah," Damon said. "Something else."

"What now?" Lindsey asked, as she sat in an antique rocking chair.

"Well, even though you're marked, in this place, this crowd needs to see us as a bonded couple."

"OK. What do you mean by that?"

"I mean that it's better if they see fresh bite marks. Kind of says we're an immediate item. It's weird, but we're not talking regular humans here. And one other thing…" his voice trailed off.

Lindsey raised an eyebrow at him. "This doesn't sound good."

"It's not that bad," Damon answered. "But if you let Jakob bite you -- wrist is fine -- then that's kind of like saying I control that sort of thing, so if anyone asks and I say no, then they're not as apt to start something."

"More dogs peeing on fire hydrants," she said.

Jakob cracked up, laughing. "That's exactly it, Lindsey. Have I mentioned how much I like hanging out with you?" His boyish grin was infectious.

"Not recently. So basically, if I go in there with two sets of fresh bite marks, and you two with me, that'll be better?"

Jakob nodded. "Yeah. It sounds crazy, but it's true."

"All right. I've gone this far. Might as well. It's just a shame I'll never be able to write about this, unless it's for my novel."

"You're writing a novel?" Damon asked.

"Every reporter has a novel they're writing. It's a law," she said and grinned. "Oh. When we get back, you'll take care of the marks, won't you?"

Damon nodded. "Always."

"O.K. Well, let's get this show on the road, then." Lindsey flipped her hair back on her right side, which was Damon's preferred spot.

He gestured at Jakob. "You want to split for a second?"

"Oh, sure," he said, understanding.

Damon nuzzled Lindsey's neck. "You ready for this?"

"Am I kinky if I say yes?" she said.

"Totally," he teased, and Lindsey heard his fangs emerge and then felt the pinch of the bite. Before she knew it, he was cleaning the wound, but left it open.

"That shouldn't feel so good," she said.

He raised his eyebrows as he licked a little of her blood from his lower lip. "It's because I'm so good at it," he said.

"I have no doubt that's the case. You can come on back in, Jakob," Lindsey said.

He did and smiled at her. "Which wrist?"

"Right one, I guess. I want to wear my watch and it would rub against the wound."

"All right." He knelt beside her. "You're good with this?"

"If Damon trusts you, I trust you." She held out her wrist to him. "Not too hard, OK?"

"I promise," he said, with a look that made her toes curl. Good Lord, what was it about these men? He took her wrist and actually ran his nose along the skin.

"Get on with it," Damon said irritably.

"Stop it, Damon. Behave yourself," Lindsey admonished him.

Jakob's fangs dropped and he bit into her wrist, with not much more force than Damon used. His mouth was very gentle as he took a mouthful of her blood. Lindsey twitched. Obviously, Jakob was a pro at this, too. He cleaned the wound, as Damon had done, and licked his lips. "Damn, but that is good stuff," he said.

"Um, thanks?" Lindsey said with a grin, ignoring Damon's glowering expression.

Jakob kissed her cheek. "Thank you."

Lindsey arranged the scarf around her neck. "Let's go," she said.

The inside of the club was very dark, but was probably fine for those with vamp vision, Lindsey thought. There was a big guy at the door. Lindsey figured he was the bouncer, but she didn't look at him as they walked by. Damon slipped his arm around her waist, which she found comforting. He whispered in her ear, "If anyone asks you to dance, or to buy you a drink, tell them to check with me. Look a little dazed when you say it and they'll think you're compelled." She nodded and felt Jakob take her opposite hand. With these two, she felt completely safe, even though the atmosphere in the club was dark, and it had nothing to do with the lighting. The house/techno music wasn't as loud as it usually was in clubs, probably because the patrons had more sensitive hearing, Lindsey thought.

They found a corner booth and as before in the other club, Lindsey sat between the two men, behind the table, which made for a pretty effective block. Lindsey heard Damon order her a "double virgin" strawberry daiquiri.

"What's that?" she asked.

He grinned wickedly at her. "No alcohol -- and no blood."

"Eeew," she said. "Hey, I know. I asked to come here. Not complaining."

Damon had to admit Lindsey was a trooper. No gagging or grossing out. Instead, she watched with avid interest as vampire couples strolled by, sipping from glasses filled with blood, or human/vampire couples, with the human frequently looking dazed, confused and anemic, sometimes with fresh blood dripping from bite marks. Even though she couldn't see any couples actually shedding clothing, the air was heavy with sex. It was all beyond surreal.

A couple of men had walked by their table and had shown some interest, but not enough to get past both Damon and Jakob. She noticed the great majority of the vampires were very attractive people. Well, she supposed that made sense, since they were probably most apt to want to turn people as good looking as they were.

One man in particular walked past and Lindsey could feel Damon scoot closer to her, and Jakob took her elbow in his hand. Damon draped his arm across her shoulders and she could feel his hand snuggle her closer to him. Lindsey didn't mind. She didn't like the look of this man at all, anyway. While none of the vamps -- with the possible exception of Jakob -- looked cuddly, this man had an air of menace that was palpable. He was huge -- tall and built like a defensive tackle. His head was shaved, and he wore a big hoop earring. Lindsey wondered if he had been a pirate in some previous life.

"Salvatore," he said.

"George," Damon replied.

"Haven't seen you around in a while."

"Just here for a short visit, and to see Jake. We'll be gone before too long," Damon replied evenly.

"Who's your friend?" he asked, his voice full of evil intent.

Damon's hand stroked her cheek. "Just my little urchin. Picked her up a few days ago. Very attached to me, aren't you sweetie?"

Lindsey looked at Damon, innocently wide-eyed, and nodded. "Very," she said.

"Sorry George," Damon said, nuzzling in Lindsey's neck.

"You marked her. She must be something to you." He had an odd accent. Lindsey couldn't quite place it.

"She's a sweet little pet. I like having her around."

Lindsey could tell by the tone in Damon's voice that he was actually enjoying this. She understood the necessity for his wording, but calling her a "little pet" wasn't going to go unpunished.

"Well, if she's just a pet, then you shouldn't mind letting me play with her for a while," George rumbled.

Lindsey could feel both Damon and Jakob tense up. This was getting hairy.

"George, you don't play nice with your toys and we both know it. I don't want my pet damaged. Or worse."

"You let Jake 'play,'" he said, indicating Lindsey's wrist.

"Jakob knows how to take care of my toys," he answered.

"Look at me, little human," George said.

Lindsey looked up at the man, but very deliberately didn't look directly into his eyes. She focused on a spot between his eyebrows. Her brain was working out possible answers to any questions he might ask her. She could feel Damon twine his foot around her ankle in reassurance. She knew they wouldn't let this big ape have her.

"Look into my eyes," he growled.

She gave him a dazed smile. "I'm so sorry. Damon told me not to do that. He said people might try to get me to do bad things." Damon couldn't believe how ditzy she sounded.

George glared at Damon. He shrugged. "I'd be an idiot not to compel her, George. She'll go with me or Jake, but no one else. Like you said, I marked her. For me. For my enjoyment." Damon was glad there was a button on the table that would call the manager. He pressed it while George was staring at Lindsey. The manager arrived about that time.

"Is there a problem?" she said.

"Well, Cera," Damon said, "George is having trouble understanding why I won't let him near my human. She's marked."

The woman looked over at Lindsey. "So she is. George, you need to leave him and his friends alone. There are at least 50 human females in here who aren't marked. Find one."

Lindsey looked at the woman. She might have been petite, but Lindsey knew that counted for nothing when you were talking about vampires. She had no doubt this woman could lift George over her head and throw him across a football field, if she wanted to.

"This isn't over, Salvatore," he snarled.

Cera moved to stand in front of George. "It's over in my club, so deal with it. You know the rules, but you're a troublemaker. I'll stake you myself if you stir up any more shit in here tonight. Got it?"

George moved off, muttering, and Cera shook her head. "He's been kicked out of every club in Texas. I'll tell the bartender to send another round of drinks on the house."

Damon nodded. "Appreciate it, Cera, but we don't want to cause any trouble in your place. We'll just slip out right now and take a rain check on the drinks and take you up on it the next time we're here."

"I'll be here," she said. "Come to the bar and ask for me."

"Will do." Damon gave her a peck on the cheek and Lindsey could swear the woman blushed. She understood the feeling.

"Thanks for stopping by tonight," she said, smiling at both men. She even gave Lindsey a friendly nod before she left.

Damon looked at Lindsey. "Please tell me you're ready to leave."

"Absolutely," she said.

Damon handed her out of the booth and immediately put his arm around her waist. Jakob got on her opposite side. As they walked toward the door, Damon put his lips to her ear, ostensibly nuzzling her, but he said, "As soon as we clear the door, I'm picking you up and we're heading to the car, so get ready." She nodded and looked up at Jakob. He smiled at her in acknowledgment.

They made their way to the door through the crowd, and as soon as Jakob opened the door for them, Lindsey was caught up and they sped to the car. She closed her eyes and hid her face in Damon's shoulder as he ran. Jakob was right behind them. Damon pretty much threw Lindsey into the front seat and then hardly waited for Jakob to get into the back before he gunned the Infiniti's engine and roared out of the parking lot. Once they were a safe distance away from the place, Damon slowed down and pulled over into a shady parking lot.

"Well?" he said.

"It was interesting," Lindsey answered, giggling.

"It was that," he conceded with a grin. "In fact, everything was pretty cool until that Neanderthal showed up."

"Who is he, anyway?" she asked.

"Old vampire. His name is George Neville." Damon looked slyly at Lindsey. "Ever run across that name in English history?" he asked.

Lindsey's mouth dropped open. "He's one of those Nevilles? You mean like Cecily Neville, like the mother of King Richard III?"

"He's a cousin. Of course, once he was turned, he kind of dropped off the family tree."

"You mean was erased," Jakob said.

"Yeah. Erased," Damon agreed. "They re-wrote history to say he died in battle. Since that was so common, no one questioned it."

"Wow. He's a big guy now, but for someone of that era, he was huge!" she exclaimed. "Wonder how he got turned?"

"Never been clear on that, myself. He came to America some time in the late 1700s. He wanders the country. I try to stay away from him. He's one mean, touchy sonofabitch," Damon answered.

"He gave me the cold chills."

"That's because you're a smart woman. Let's go get you some real food. Want me to take care of those wounds, now?"


"OK." Damon bit into his palm and rubbed blood on her bite marks and they healed immediately.

Lindsey got her purse and flipped the sun visor down so she could access its mirror. She turned on the car's interior light.

"What are you doing?" Damon asked.

"Putting on some blush and real lipstick. I'm tired of the ghost look." She did so and added a little eyeliner. "There. Now I feel more like myself."

"You look more like yourself, too," he said.

"Glad to hear it," she snickered.

"So, where did you come up with that airhead act with George?" Jakob asked her.

"I channeled this girl I went to high school with. Sweetest thing in the world, but a total dingbat. I just thought of what she would have said, and that's what I went with."

"Well you sounded like you didn't have the sense to walk across the street," Damon said.

"That was the point, my dear." She sighed.

"What is it?" Damon asked.

"Oh, nothing. Just wishing George Neville wasn't such a jerk. I'd love to pick his brain about that day and age. Not often you get to talk to someone who had a front row seat to history."

Damon stared at her, open-mouthed, while Jakob whooped with laughter. "What's so funny?" she asked.

"You wanting to interview that caveman!" Jakob snorted.

"I'm a reporter! Of course, I'd like to interview him! Where else are you going to find someone who knew that crazy family personally? He might even know what happened to the two princes in the tower!"

Damon rolled his eyes. "Him? He probably ate them for lunch."

"Wouldn't surprise me," Lindsey said. "Too bad he's bat-shit crazy."

"And mean as hell," Jakob added.

"That too," she agreed. "You said something about food?" she asked.

"I know a pancake house that's open 24 hours," Jakob said. He gave Damon directions.

Damon was staring at Lindsey's plate. "What's your problem?" she asked.

"You haven't eaten all that bacon."

"I'm getting around to it. You've already had a plate full, you glutton," she said.

"I've never lost my taste for good bacon," he replied, looking pitiful.

She raised a skeptical eyebrow at him and handed him a strip. "One piece. That's all you're getting. I like bacon, too." She looked up to see Jakob grinning. "Now what?" she asked.

He shook his head. "You two are cute together, that's all."

Damon paused in mid-chew. "Cute?" he said.

Lindsey nudged him. "Hush. Eat." And to Jakob, "Cute, huh. Why is that?"

"You don't take any crap off him. You don't let him run you over. And you're not afraid of him. I mean, you're not even compelled not to be afraid of him. You just aren't."

Lindsey returned his smile. "Damon's a sweetie. When he wants to be."

"No I'm not. I'm the bad guy," he said, low.

"Hush. Have another piece of bacon. Make you feel better." She handed him another piece of bacon.

"Don't get me wrong. I'm glad to see it. You've been a piece of work over the years, buddy. So it's nice to know you still have some humanity left."

"Don't spread it around," Damon growled, as Lindsey nudged him again and slipped her hand under the table to stroke his thigh.

"Did you have a good time?" Damon asked Lindsey as she took off her make-up in the cottage.

"Oddly enough, yeah. Got to go to a vampire club, see all kinds of interesting things, and got hit on by a cousin of Cecily Neville's, all the while being very well protected by two extremely hot men. So yeah, it was a good night." She grinned.

Damon couldn't help laughing. He came to Lindsey and put his hands on her shoulders. "Jakob says we bring out the best in each other, not the worst."

"That's a nice thing for him to say," she replied, leaning against his chest.

"Yeah it was, especially since he'd like to have you."

"Have me? As in a relationship 'have'?"

"As in relationship have," he murmured, kissing her hair and her earlobe.

"How do you know that?" Lindsey was bewildered.

Damon snickered. "I know. But the good thing about that is, if you ever need someone and I'm not around, call him. He'll help you."

"Good information, but," and she turned to face him and kissed him along his jawline, "I'd much rather have you. He's a sexy man, but you're the one who rings my bell, Damon Salvatore."

"Rings your bell?" he said, grinning.

"Cranks my tractor. Paints my wagon. Whatever," she said, kissing him again. He slipped his hands under her pajama top and caressed her back. She sighed. "Too good." He inched it up, but she stopped him. "Let's go where it's more comfortable," she said, leading him into the dark bedroom. She unbuttoned his silk shirt by touch and slid it off his shoulders. Then, she ran her palms across his chest and stomach, not forgetting to stroke his happy trail as she unfastened his jeans. She unzipped them and heard his intake of breath as she slipped her hand into the opening and touched him. "It ought to be illegal for a man to look as good as you do and be able to make me feel what you make me feel."

His mouth descended to hers again. "It probably is in some countries," he answered. "But don't sell yourself short. You're pretty damn talented in the sex department, too," he whispered in her ear, feeling her spine melt against his hand when he said it.

"Thanks," she breathed.

Once they were both under the comforter, naked, Damon curled himself around her. "Interested in trying something different?" he said, as he placed kisses on the back of her neck.

"What'd you have in mind?"

"Nothing too exotic. Just you on all fours and me behind you," he said, that black velvet in his voice. It could well be another form of compulsion, Lindsey thought. He could certainly convice her to do a lot of things when he used it.

"You mean, doggy style?" she said, a smile in her voice.

"That's one term for it. Want to?"

"Why not?"

"Good. Now just get on your knees and lean forward on your elbows."

"OK." She did so, and yelped when Damon touched her.

He laughed. "See? It's a lot more intense when you don't see everything."

"I believe you," she answered, and moaned as he slipped a finger inside her.

He chuckled again, very wickedly, and she could feel everything inside her body tighten up. "You need this," he said. "You want this."

"From you, always," she breathed, as he teased her with his fingers.

Finally, he was inside her and Lindsey felt like she could hardly breathe, the sensations were so intense. He was moving, holding her hips and she was backing up to him, and he was hitting every spot inside her. And he would lean over and growl erotic things in her ear, things guaranteed to make her even hotter.

She was so very close, when he leaned over her and she felt his fangs in her skin. As always, he cleaned the bites, then healed them. Just as suddenly, he had her on her back and his lower lip was actually dripping a little blood. He thrust into her again and kissed her, his lower lip between hers. "Suck," he murmured. "Hard." As she did, fireworks went off in her brain, and she felt Damon's climax inside her, as he called her name and rolled her to her side next to him.

When she got back from the bathroom, Damon was sprawled on the bed, in all his naked glory, and Lindsey sighed. He was so incredibly gorgeous. What did he want with her?

"Stop it. I want you because you're beautiful and sexy. Now get in this bed," he said.

"Now who's the mind reader?" she asked as she lay next to him.

"Like you, I'm good at reading faces. Especially yours. And did I tell you that you could put your pajamas back on?"

"Nope. Problem there?" she said.

Damon was on top of her again. "What if I wasn't finished?" he said.

"Sorry, sweetheart. I'm tired. Really."

He kissed her. "OK. I'll let you get by with it, this time."

"Oh, thank you, Sir," she said.

His grin was diabolical. "Ooooh, I like that coming from you. I may have to insist you call me Sir all the time."

He could see Lindsey narrow her eyes at him. "Put a sock in it, fangboy and dream on." She abruptly turned over, shifting him to one side and pulling the sheet over her.

He laughed. "I should know better." He nuzzled in her hair again. "I love you, Lindsey."

She turned to kiss his chin and raised her hand to his hair. "Love you too, honey." She was asleep almost before she finished her sentence.

Damon watched her sleep for a while before he drifted off. The demons weren't howling at him and his dreams were peaceful.

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