Ordinary Loneliness

Learning to Live Again

Damon watched, laughing, as Lindsey ran to the apple tree, swung into it, and did a handstand on the bottom branch. She swung around that branch and caught the next one up and then clambered to the top. Her face was like a child's as she took a swan dive out of the top and landed flat on her back, knocking the breath out of her. It didn't last long as she started laughing.

"Land on your feet, dumbass!" Damon called, going to her.

Lindsey was up and had him pinned against the tree trunk. "Who you callin' a dumbass, you big turkey?" She kissed him and sprinted away. Damon leaned against the tree, trying to remember when being a vampire had just been fun. Not "fun" tinged with blood and death, but just fun. Running full out, climbing trees, jumping off the top of the house, turning cartwheels and handsprings. Lindsey had never been able to turn a cartwheel in her life. Now she could. And she did, all around the house, just for the sheer joy of being able to do it. She bounded up to him like a wild kitten. "I will never get tired of doing that. Ever!" And he believed her.

As he watched her, Damon had to admit that even Elena hadn't been so joyfully exuberant after she was turned. Of course, she was only 18, and was a cheerleader and high school prom princess. And things were pretty messed up in Mystic Falls when she was turned. Lindsey was 46, had struggled with her weight her whole life, had never been remotely athletic, and if not for the clinical trials, would probably have died from cancer. He was starting to think that she had a point about this life – it was life. It wasn't the regular human existence, but it was life, not unlife, and not being undead. And he was a human, albeit an altered one. And somehow, Lindsey managed to draw Damon into her exuberance, and made him feel like hadn't felt since before Katherine came in to ruin their lives. She was embracing all the positives of being turned, and was mostly ignoring, or adapting to the negatives.

Being out in the country helped Lindsey adjust much better. She wasn't assaulted by crowds of people, noises, smells… Instead, she had a quiet, familiar place where she could adjust and adapt in peace. Damon's hunch was on the money. Because she was older when she turned, even the heightened emotions weren't as disorienting. So much was easier for her. Damon was even a little jealous of her. His transition and early days as a vampire had been agonizing torment. But Lindsey was like a little kid – only one with good sense. Even though she drank a fair amount of blood that first week, since then, she didn't seem to need as much as he did, and seemed satisfied with what she did drink. He wasn't sure if she really didn't crave the blood, or if she was hiding it. He needed to sound her out about it.

She still wasn't perfect, by any means. Damon couldn't believe how terrified she was of snakes. They had run across a rather large timber rattler in the woods one early evening and Lindsey nearly fainted. She ran screaming back to the house, leaving a very puzzled Damon looking at a seriously pissed-off snake. A full dose of venom would hardly make her feel bad. What was the problem? He rolled his eyes. "Get outta here, willya?" he said. The snake coiled in its defensive posture for several more minutes, then figuring Damon was not a threat or a meal, left the vicinity.

He went to the house. "What happened to you out there?" he said.

Lindsey was sitting at the kitchen table, wide-eyed. "I hate snakes. Hate them. Like despise them."

"They can't hurt you now. What's the problem?"

"I. Hate. Snakes. Period."

"That's just silly. Stop being childish." he said. Then, he looked at Lindsey, who was glaring at him, eyes narrowed. Her eyes blazed with anger – and hurt. Ooooh. Serious miscalculation, obviously.

Lindsey wanted to slap Damon's face for him, but she knew she had to rein in her hyper-extended emotions. "It's not silly. I am not a child." Her voice was eerily soft.

Damon wanted to argue with her and tell her it was indeed silly to be so terrified of something that couldn't harm her, but the hurt in her eyes stopped him. He realized he had just walked all over her feelings. Dammit. He still had a ways to go, some days. He said, "I'm sorry, Lindsey. I shouldn't have said it."

She rose gracefully from the table and nodded at him, said, "Thank you" softly, then went upstairs. He knew that was all she had to say to him until she had her temper under control.

He found her upstairs in the room she had converted into an office. She was surfing the net and Damon peeked around the door. "Is it safe?" he said.

She glanced at him. "Yeah, you know I can't stay mad at you for long."

"Thank goodness," he said. "Because it's hell when you are."

"You know you nearly ended up on the floor after I knocked you out of your chair, don't you?"

"I got that impression, yes," he answered. He went to her and stroked her hair, and then ran his hand down her back. "Let me really apologize," he whispered in her ear, raising goosebumps all along her arms.

She turned to kiss him and he pulled away, drew her up out of her chair and started for the door. Lindsey sped in front of him to block his way. She ran her hands up his chest and ripped his shirt off. Buttons flew everywhere. "John Varvatos, right?" He nodded. "Serves you right, you aggravating thing, you. If you don't want to lose your jeans the same way, you'd better get your oh-so-gorgeous behind in the bedroom and get rid of them."

"Yes, Ma'am," he said with a wolfish grin. He scooted into the bedroom, Lindsey hot on his heels. He barely got his jeans wiggled off before she threw him on the bed and pounced on him.

"Ooooh, but I like having you on your back for a change," she said. She knew Damon was stronger than she was, but she could keep him pinned for a couple of minutes, anyway. So she grabbed both of his wrists and kissed him fiercely, stoking his inner predator as their tongues fought for dominance.

She had her top off before he could return the favor of ripping it and smirked in victory at him. "I've had plenty of practice in getting my clothes off in a hurry with you around," she said.

"You make me sound like some kind of sex maniac," he answered with a grin.

"You don't even listen to the foolishness that comes out of your mouth, do you? You are a sex maniac!"

"Takes one to know one," he shot back.

Lindsey leaned over to Damon's mouth and looked him right in those exquisite blue eyes. "You made me this way, remember?" and she blistered his lips with another kiss.

"I'm figuring that out," he gasped, as Lindsey worked her mouth down his neck with kisses interspersed with bites – a couple of which drew a little blood, which she promptly licked away, and had Damon squirming underneath her as she moved down to his nipples and bit them, just how she knew he wanted her to. He painted the air blue with curses. She moved back to his lips.

"I can't believe I let you kiss me with that filthy mouth," she purred. "I can think of much, much better occupations for it." She kissed him again, dropping her fangs and nicking her lower lip, and then his, so their blood mingled together in their mouths as she took his lips again, and they both got high on the blood sharing.

Damon always had an idea there was a wild woman underneath Lindsey's pragmatic exterior, but he wasn't sure he had been quite prepared for this woman. Not that he was complaining. He could feel her hands in his hair, tugging on it even as she scratched his scalp and pressed his mouth to her neck, begging him silently to bite her as she had him. He complied willingly and she moaned with the feeling.

He knew her nipples were strictly off limits, as far as biting was concerned, but when he flipped her over to her back, he reminded her that he could, indeed, do a lot with his mouth. He licked and sucked her nipples until she had her legs wrapped around his waist and had her fingers threaded through his hair.

He kissed her stomach, and then dropped his fangs and left twin blood trails all the way down to her hipbones. He licked the blood from her skin and she moaned, hardly able to focus on what he was doing when he licked her center. She writhed underneath his mouth, but he held her in place easily and licked every centimeter of flesh he could reach. She lost count of how many times he brought her to the brink and backed off. He was playing with her and even though she loved it, she wanted release, too.

"You're gonna have a lot more apologizing to do if you don't get on with it," she gasped, making him grin. Finally, he suckled on her button and she arched against his mouth, screaming her climax. He crawled back up her still shuddering body and licked her neck all over.

"You know you love it. Everybody thinks you're such a good girl, but I know how bad you are and how you get hot for me." His comments continued, every X-rated opinion making her hot all over again. Nobody could talk dirty like this man, she was convinced. Or do anything else like him, where sex was concerned. "And you got me all hot and hard. What am I supposed to do with this hard-on?" he whispered against her jawline.

"Bronze it?" she shot back, knowing the reaction she would get.

Damon laughed out loud in spite of himself. He was never going to get to the end of surprises where this woman was concerned, he knew. "You smartass. You're paying for that," he said and thrust into her, hard. It would have broken bones before she was turned, but now, she met his hips with hers and kissed him. He was feeling her tight heat around him and it was driving him crazy. He sank his fangs into her neck and felt her return bite and once again, they were on that parallel plane where nothing existed but the two of them.

Every time they shared blood, it was as if they were drawn closer to each other. When they were finally licking each other's wounds closed, and were tangled in a sweaty mess of arms and legs, Damon nosed Lindsey's hair and ear. "Apology accepted?" he whispered.

"Oh yeah," she replied and kissed him again. "Just don't stop loving me," she murmured.


That kind of blood sharing was as exhausting as it was exhilarating, and they were twined into each other as they slept.

Lindsey had been turned about three weeks, and had mostly stayed around the house, but she needed to learn to hunt and Damon knew it. Finally, he broached the subject at breakfast. "Lindsey, I know this is not something you're real enthused about, but I've got to teach you to hunt. You might find yourself in a situation where you don't have any blood, and you may need to catch, feed and release. You need to learn to do it right if you don't want to kill someone accidentally."

"Yeah, I know. And you're right – I'm not enthused about learning to do it."

"I know you're not. But," and here he grinned at her, "You'd still rather eat regular food. You don't even like blood that much. I'm not seriously worried about you losing control, but you still have to learn how to do it."

"Oh, I like blood well enough, but it's not as good as chocolate. Or carbs in general."

Damon laughed out loud. "See, that's where 46 years of humanity helps you. Your age has to have something to do with it. Let's ride into Birmingham. Lots of people, lots of choices. And you need to practice your compulsion skills, too. You need to get used to being around a lot of people eventually."

"I know I do. I'll get dressed."

On the drive in, Damon explained most of the finer points of catch, eat, release. "You really have to be conscious of what's going on with the vic- er- participant." He knew using the word "victim" would not be good. "Listen for the heartbeat. As long as it sounds the same, you're good. Stop before you hear it slow down – or speed up for that matter. If you tell them not to be afraid, the heart rate should be steady."

"O.K. And always compel them to forget it ever happened."

"Always. It might come back in a dream or something, but that's a dream. Can't count on those."


When they got to the outdoor shopping complex, Damon said, "First thing is to look around and find a good spot to take someone. It needs to be somewhere you can get to quickly, and without drawing attention to yourself."

Lindsey pointed out a narrow passage between two buildings. "Like there? There's a little outcropping."

Damon grinned. "Perfect. Easy access and the outcropping hides you from the traffic. Remember to watch the angle of your entry when you bite. You don't want to have to heal more skin than necessary."

"Maybe start with the wrist or elbow hinge?" she said.

He thought about it. "Yeah, might be easier, and you can't get as much as quickly. Go that route, first. See any possibilities?"

Lindsey looked at the crowd, automatically discounting children, the elderly and parents with their children. Not even if she were starving. In fact, she was focusing on the high school/college age shoppers. She spotted one young man, about 19 or so. His clothes were designer shabby and he had good looks and an air of superiority, as though the world bowed at his feet. She saw him bump into someone and barely acknowledge it.

Damon followed her gaze and looked at her. "Oooohhh. You aim high. Think you can take him?"

"Watch me. Just hang close."

"I'll be around."

Lindsey approached the young man. "Now, don't I know you? Aren't you Lucy Lanier's son?" she threw out a name of someone in her hometown.

"No, I have no idea who that is." His tone was condescending and he looked at Lindsey as if she were clearly beneath him. He was making this so easy.

She looked him in the eye. "I could have sworn you were. Why don't you walk over here with me and let me figure out where I know you from." Damon could see the compulsion take hold as the kid's face went a little blank. He grinned and gave Lindsey a nod when she glanced at him.

"Sure, Ma'am," the boy said, as Lindsey led him into the passage.

"Now stand real still for me and this won't even hurt, all right?"

"O.K. What are you going to do?"

"I'm just going to take a little of your blood, that's all. But don't be afraid. You'll be fine. Just stand still and let me have your wrist." He held his wrist out and Lindsey took it with a smile. She sniffed the skin and wrinkled her nose. "Sweetie, you need to change your cologne. This is loud. Doesn't suit you." Damon, standing nearby, heard that and had to keep from laughing out loud at Lindsey giving motherly advice to her little snack boy. She was always redefining the parameters of what he thought it meant to be a vampire.

Lindsey looked his wrist over. Good, healthy veins. She dropped her fangs and bit into his wrist. He tensed, but she glanced at his face. "Did that hurt?" He shook his head. She drank, always listening to his heartbeat, as Damon instructed, and when she had several swallows, licked the wound clean, bit the tip of her finger and rubbed the blood on his wrist. When the punctures closed, she took a tissue from her purse and wiped off the excess blood. She looked at the boy. "Now, walk on out of here, and when you get to the doorway, all you're going to remember is you told me where to find the Apple store. Go on now. And get some better cologne."

"Yes Ma'am," he said and walked out of the passage. Damon waylaid him.

"Where was the woman you were just with?" he asked.

"Oh, she wanted to know where the Apple store was, so I told her."

"O.K. Thanks," Damon said. He looked down the passage. Lindsey emerged, dabbing her mouth with the tissue. He took her hand. "Very nicely done. Why him?"

She sniffed. "Because he's just like those jerks in high school who thought I was way too ugly for them to notice. Just a little karmic payback, that's all."

He chuckled. "First time I took Elena hunting, we went to this frat party, and she zeroed in on this d-bag who slipped a roofie in a girl's drink. She nailed him. But it proved she wasn't a ripper like Stefan, so it was successful. Oh, and by the way, loved the comment about that little prick's cologne."

"Do some good whenever you can," Lindsey said with a snicker. "Little twit. I wanted to scare him to death, but that doesn't accomplish anything."

"No. Fun, though."

"You'd say that. O.K. Now that I've done the whole catch, eat, release thing, I want to shop."

"So one and done, then?" Damon couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I did it. I know I can. I don't want to spend what's probably the last nice day of the fall trolling for blood. I want to shop."

"You don't want more?"

Lindsey gave him a puzzled look. "More? I had two bags this morning and then him. I'm full. Satisfied."

Damon led her to a bench. "You don't feel a constant itch for more blood that you have to tune out? If you do, that's all right. But I really need to know."

Lindsey sat quietly for a couple of minutes, assessing how she felt. "There's kind of a little feeling of more would be nice, but it's not at the forefront of my mind, by any means. Usually, when I have that feeling, I get some chocolate and it goes away."

"Really. Seriously? You eat chocolate and it goes away?"

She nodded. "Maybe chocolate does for me what bourbon does for you."

Well, that was a possibility, he had to admit. It had to be her age. There was no other explanation he could think of that made sense. She was older, so her body didn't require as much blood, so the cravings weren't as intense. And hadn't Elijah told him that older vampires didn't require nearly as much blood? Katherine being the exception, of course, but that was her personality. So the age factor was a real consideration. He was glad Lindsey didn't have to deal with all that, though. She was much happier, he knew.

So, he smiled at her. "Maybe so. And it's not like you don't have choices if you get hungry again. Where do you want to go first?"

"Johnny Rockets. Thinking about chocolate makes me want a milkshake. And now I can have one without feeling guilty or going for a walk to get rid of it."

Damon shook his head and laughed. "That's true." He tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow. "I'm just glad you're adjusting so well."

"Had a lot of help from a good teacher," she answered, loving the pleased grin she got from Damon when she said it.

They were sitting in the restaurant, snuggled in a booth, as Lindsey enjoyed her milkshake. "Want some?" she offered.

He shrugged and tasted the shake. "Wow. That is good."

"Yep. You know, I love this whole being able to drink milkshakes and eat chocolate chip cookies and doughnuts and chicken and dumplings and any carby thing I want. You know how I used to watch every mouthful. It was so depressing. And it didn't do that much good. So I'm thankful for cancer, which got the weight off, although I wouldn't recommend it, and for being what I am now, so I can eat what I want to and not worry a bit about it." She took a long, blissful drink and grinned at Damon.

He returned the grin. "You're a food addict."

Lindsey nodded. "Probably. But now, it doesn't matter."

"You've got a point. Hey, what is it with all these women looking daggers at you as they walk by?"

"It's you," she said. "I've got you and they don't. And there is a physical age difference, even though I still don't look my age."

"And you never will," he reminded her.

"That too. But these women figure they're younger than I am, and hotter, so they resent me for having a hottie like you. If you'll notice, the women who are a little older are smiling as they go by. One gave me a very subtle thumbs-up a minute ago. That's solidarity."

Damon laughed. "Women. Some things I understand. Other things... not even over 150 years can clear up the mystery."

"That's the way it's supposed to be. I think it's funny. I do not mind people thinking I'm a cougar out with her extra hot, boy toy stud." She was as smug as Damon ever was.

"Oh, my God. Is that what they're thinking?"

Lindsey nodded and was tickled to see a faint hint of pink wash over Damon's face, as his ears turned red. Getting him to blush about anything was a major accomplishment. She grinned broadly at him.

"I am not a boy toy," he growled.

"No," here she lowered her voice. "But you are my extra hot stud. Can you live with that part?"

"Yeah. That part's fine."

"I thought it would be."

"I've got an idea," he said, scooting closer to her in the booth.

"What's that?"

"How would you like to spend the night in Birmingham tonight, and then fly to Vegas tomorrow to get married?" he whispered in her ear.

Lindsey nearly dropped her milkshake. "Are you serious?"

"I sure am."

"Vegas? Really? I thought you hated cheesy."

"I do, but you can do a Vegas wedding without the cheese. You've never been there and I want to take you. There are a lot of other things to do in the area." He was wheedling – dangerously so.

"Who'll take care of the house?"

"Already called Melanie. She said she would be, and I quote, 'tickled' to keep an eye on things while we're gone. I even moved all the blood into the cellar fridge. Nothing remotely suspicious, anywhere."

"Speaking of blood..." Lindsey's voice trailed off. "Not like you can get a few bags through security these days."

He grinned. "You let me worry about that."

"What venue did you have in mind?"

"Well, knowing you, you'd stake me if I even hinted at anything to do with Elvis or Little White Wedding Chapels."

"Smart man," Lindsey replied dryly.

He grinned. "So, the Bellagio offers weddings in your suite, very intimate, just for two. We get a few pictures made, get married and then stay in Vegas for a few days. The Bellagio is incredible. They have a spa and beautiful pools, and incredible food..."

"And I have nothing to wear..."

"And you just said you wanted to shop..." He fished his debit card from his wallet and slid it to her. "Go nuts. Buy something beautiful for the ceremony, and something hot for the after party," and his voice had gone black velvet again.

"Guess we need to pick up wedding bands while we're here, right?"

He grinned – the victory was won. "Oh, yeah."

"You have a promising career in the used car business, Damon Salvatore. You can sell anything." She gave him a peck on the cheek. "Let's get the wedding bands out of the way, first. Then you can go look at whatever, and I'll shop."

"All right," he agreed.

The trip to the jewelry store was interesting.

"You've looked at a hundred wedding bands, at least, Damon. What are you looking for?" Lindsey asked him.

"I'll know it when I see it," he said.

She was looking at a case with different men's rings when she spotted something. "Come here," she said low, knowing he would hear her. He ambled over to the case.

"Find something?"

"That." She pointed to a narrow band, described as tungsten carbide. It was black and the surface was faceted. The inside of the ring was platinum, and a thin roll of the platinum ran around the top and bottom of the band, setting off the black.

Damon's eyes widened. "Wow," he said.

The sales associate met them at the case. "Would you like to try it on?" he asked.

"Yes, please," Damon said.

The man took the band out and Damon slipped it on his finger. Something about the black and silver set Damon's beautiful fingers off to perfection. Who knew a ring could be sexy? But Lindsey's mouth went dry at the sight of the band on his hand.

"You like?" he asked Lindsey, knowing the answer.

"Very much," she said, attempting to keep her tone appropriate for public places.

"Me too. I think this is the one," he said. Lindsey insisted on a plain narrow band, since her sapphire engagement ring was enough. It was an antique bought at an estate sale. The stone was oval, set in white gold filigree, and she loved it.

As they walked out of the store, Damon leaned over to Lindsey. "Getting all hot and bothered over a ring? Really?" he teased her wickedly.

"Evil," she said. "I can't help it if I have serious hand envy where you're concerned. I have short fingers and broad palms, but your hands are just beautiful." She took his hand and rubbed his palm with her thumb. "I guess I'll have to buy everything. Not like I planned on a trip to Vegas when I got in the car." Damon didn't answer and she looked at him. His expression was smug. "Let me guess. There's a suitcase in the trunk that you packed for me."

"Yep," he said, popping the "p."

"You're a stinker. You know that."


"I ought to be used to it by now. What did you bring, and please tell me at least some of it is actually comfortable, and not just clothes you think are sexy."

"I was tempted, but I think I brought a decent selection. But get whatever you want." He turned to face her. "I mean it, sweetheart. If you see it and like it, buy it. I don't care if you spend $50,000, if you're happy."

Lindsey chuckled. She knew he was serious. "Honey, I don't need money to be happy. You know that."

"I know, but you know I love spending money on you. What else am I gonna do with all that filthy lucre?"

"I don't know. We'll discuss that when my name's actually on the account, too."

Lindsey was enjoying shopping. Vampires didn't tire nearly as easily, and she was loving not having to sit down and ease the ache in her feet. They just didn't hurt. It was wonderful. When she met up with Damon again, he just laughed at her.

"Well, I told you to buy what you wanted. Looks like you took me up on it."

"It's not all for me. I did hit Williams-Sonoma for kitchen stuff. I am now the proud owner of a crimson Kitchen-Aid stand mixer." And being a vampire, the fact the mixer weighed about 20 pounds didn't even faze her. "And we have a Keurig. And about 50 K-cups." She grinned. She hadn't lost her taste for coffee, either.

He shook his head. "Like I said, as long as you're happy. That's all that matters to me."

They went to the car and stowed their purchases in the trunk. "I wondered why you said we'd take my car. Less chance of it going missing in long-term parking, right?"

"Well, yeah, and easier to replace. We can get another 2015 Focus. A '69 Camaro? Not so much."

"This is true. I saw you tapping away on your phone..."

"Yeah. I actually found an earlier flight to Vegas, if you don't mind leaving here about nine and getting to Nevada about 3 a.m. We can check into our room when we get there, then go to the license bureau in the morning and get our marriage license, and then get married tomorrow afternoon. How about that?"

"And you said the ceremony would be in our room?"

"Yeah. Just us and the minister."

"How can you arrange all this on such short notice?"

The only answer she got was Damon's signature tomcat grin, which meant he had probably done it through compulsion, bribery, or other means she didn't want to know about. She wasn't going to press for details, just as she wouldn't ask him how he planned to get blood while they were in Vegas, if not in the time-honored way. Some things were better left alone.

"So we need to get all of our loot packed and get ready," he said.

"O.K. For a flight leaving at nine, we probably need to check in by seven, right?"

"About then. There's four bags in the cooler, so you might want to go ahead and feed, unless you want to try a catch and release at the airport." He grinned at her.

"Not unless I have to. Bagged is fine for me." She took the bags and drained both, then rinsed her mouth with water. "Gah. Now I feel like a dead tuna, I'm so full. If I don't do much zipping around, I shouldn't need any more until we get to Vegas. Where are we changing planes?"

"Dallas. Ninety-minute layover, so we should be out of there by a little after midnight."

"I like the Dallas airport. Clean and roomy. Clean bathrooms, too."

Lindsey was more than a little nervous about clearing security. She hoped they wouldn't be singled out for a more thorough search, although she guessed a little compulsion could get them on their way pretty quickly. She knew Damon wouldn't be happy about it, although she also knew he wasn't going to cause a scene in the airport.

Damon went through with no problems, naturally. Lindsey handed the agent her license and boarding pass. The woman glared at her. "This is you?"

"It is," she said, and she heard Damon's low growl from the other side. She gave him a warning glance. "I've been through cancer and two rounds of chemo since that was made."

"Oh," the agent said, and looked at her suspiciously again.

Well, dammit. She might be a new vampire, but she wasn't a terrorist. She looked at the woman. "Ma'am, there are a lot of people behind me who want to get through the line, too. We'd all like to get to our gates on time. Help us out, can't you? And no one else in this line needs to get searched right now."

The woman handed Lindsey her ID and boarding pass. "Walk through the archway," she said mechanically.

"Thank you, Ma'am. Have a nice day," Lindsey replied.

Damon's eyes were twinkling when she picked up her bag from the end of the conveyor belt. "Compulsion comes in handy."

"Everyone ought to be able to use it when dealing with the TSA," she said. "It wasn't just me. Every person in that line has a flight to make, and I doubt there's any shoe bombers flying out of Birmingham."

He snorted with laughter. "Well, we have a wedding and honeymoon to get to."

"Don't we though?"

When they were airborne, Lindsey looked at the lights of Birmingham below, and into the darkness of the sky. "Another good thing about my condition," she said.

"What's that?" Damon said, ready to be amused again.

"I don't get motion sickness anymore. Bonus plan. And," she lowered her voice so only he could hear. "I'm not worried about crashing anymore, as long as nothing catches fire."

He stifled a laugh into a cough and his eyes twinkled at her. "Well, you have an original take on this whole thing, that's for sure," he chuckled.

"You've known for a long time that my 'take' on most things is original," she said.

"Yeah, you've got that right."

Lindsey shot him a look. "Oh, and you're Mr. Conventional about everything." He just grinned at her.

The cabin was dark and Lindsey leaned her head on Damon's shoulder. He kissed the top of her head and they settled into the short flight to Dallas.

Changing planes went quickly and they were on the way to Las Vegas on time, which made sense, considering the flight left at midnight. Of course, Las Vegas had flights coming in at all hours, so the airport was only slightly less busy at 3 a.m. than 10 a.m. The ringing and beeping of slot machines filled the air. Fortunately, cabs were also available all night. Damon found one and they were on the way to the Bellagio.

Only in Vegas was a doorman on the job 24 hours a day. He called for a bellhop to get their luggage and as Damon checked in, Lindsey saw him present a card emblazoned with the Bellagio's logo, in gold and black. The clerk only looked momentarily surprised when she swiped it, but then murmured, "Of course, Mr. Salvatore. We have your usual suite ready. How many key cards will you need?"

"Two," he said. "And please make sure all the advance arrangements have been taken care of."

"Of course, sir," she answered and handed him two key cards. "Have a wonderful week in town."

"I plan on it," he smirked.

They headed for the elevator and when they got in, Damon put his key card into the slot for the restricted access floors.

"Your usual suite, Mr. Salvatore?" Lindsey said, amusement heavy in her voice.

"What's the point of being a preferred guest if you don't have a usual suite?" he answered, his expression smug.

"I can't wait until I have the legal right to access your bank accounts and find out just how much money you've got lying around," she said.

"Enough," he replied.


The bellhop was waiting on them at the door of their suite. Damon opened the door, got their bags, tipped the kid a $20 and put out the "Do not disturb" sign when he left.

Lindsey looked around at the suite. It was decorated in blue, white and gold, and she had to laugh. "Well, it's not cheesy."

"Hell no, it's not. I wouldn't stay here if they turned up the cheese factor too much." He looked on the table in the seating area and found the expected welcome folder. He opened it. "Look here. You've got an 11 o'clock appointment at the salon and spa. I knew you'd want to have your hair done, but you can get a massage or facial, or whatever. We can get the license before then. The ceremony's at three."

"I take back what I said about a career in selling used cars. I think you're more suited for a career in event planning," she teased. She got the expected eye roll, which tickled her.

When she crashed on the bed, she said, "This is definitely the life. I may take back some of the things I've said about Las Vegas."

Damon snickered as he closed the drapes against the admittedly spectacular view. "It's past four. Want some blood?"

"Seriously?" she asked.

"Yeah. It's in the fridge."


"Preferred guest, remember? There are people who want stranger stuff than blood in their fridges."

"Since it's there, hand me a bag. Does Housekeeping just ignore blood bags?"

"Housekeeping ignores everything, except an obviously dead body," Damon said as he warmed up the blood. "Especially for preferred guests. As long as they don't have the police and coroner in here looking around, you know, what happens in Vegas, dot, dot, dot."

"Yeah, I know. Good Lord." She drained the bag and then put it in the receptacle Damon indicated. "Why do I even ask? Where you're concerned, there's a whole new world of weirdness I never knew about."

Damon got a laugh out of that. "Glad I can keep you interested."

"Never a doubt of that," she said.

Lindsey needed less sleep, naturally, so she was up about 8, feeling rested. She started to get up when Damon stayed her arm. "Where are you headed?"

"Breakfast buffet. Want anything?"

He snickered. "Let me guess. You intend to eat your way through this honeymoon, right?"

"Heck yeah. I can, so I intend to do justice to it."

He had to laugh. "Go for it then, babe. Bring me a bagel."

"Will do."

When she left, Damon rolled over and laughed again. Well, eating wasn't conspicuous, it made her feel better about her situation and it was a hell of a lot less destructive than most vampire habits. He knew, eventually, the novelty would wear off, but so what if Lindsey ate like a field hand for the next ten years? It wasn't going to hurt her and God knew she had spent most of her human life being miserable about her weight, and ashamed of every bite she consumed in public, unless it was a socially acceptable salad. "So let her eat," he said out loud.

He knew there was a spectacular patisserie in the hotel and had every expectation once Lindsey discovered it, he was going to find her in the room, passed out in a chocolate coma at some point, and he smiled. Once again, he pondered that walking Lindsey through the new vampire phase was a lot like being with a child, only one who had common sense. She was enjoying it. Consuming blood was only a minor inconvenience. Damon did envy her just a little. But she had actually agreed to marry him. He couldn't believe it. He was happier than he ever had a right to be, and he was truly grateful.

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