Caroline Forbes stepped out of her favorite karaoke bar –well, it was actually just a dive bar that happened to host a karaoke night. With her cellphone in hand, she dialed the number one contact on her speed dial.
You have reached the voicemail of Sheriff Liz Forbes. Please leave a message after the tone. If there is an actual emergency, please call 9-1-1.
"Hey Mom," Caroline said. She stood under a lamppost, walking idly around it as she conversed with her mother's answering machine.
"I know, you're out on patrol," she continued. "I'm just checking in, like I said I would. Bonnie and I will be heading home in a few minutes. "
In the background Caroline heard a faint whooshing noise. She glanced around, assuming it was the wind. Spring was coming to a close and the promise of summer was looming.
"I'm not too tired, but I don't know if I'll wait up for you. G'night Mom. Love you."
Caroline pushed the end button and stashed her cellphone inside her purse. She leaned on the metal lamppost column and waited for her best friend to return from the bathroom.
The whooshing wind blew faintly again.
Caroline didn't know that she was being watched.
"I never knew you were musical."
Caroline looked up, searching for the source of the voice.
He was sexy, she decided. In an obvious kind of way, standing at a modest five foot ten with an athletic build. Electric blue eyes framed by thick black lashes stared out at Caroline with the utmost scrutiny.
"Huh?" Caroline asked when she finally found her voice. Brilliant Caroline, she thought inwardly.
Her mysterious stranger, pressed on, flashing her a playful grin "I never would have thought you'd pick something from Footloose, but the singing...I was impressed. You've got a set of pipes."
Caroline furrowed her blonde brows.
"Do I know you?" She asked, folding her arms protectively around her torso.
His eyes bore into Caroline's indigo orbs once more and she felt as though this man was trying to see right through her. She didn't know it, but he's looking for tells. Listening for what shouldn't be there.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
It was the slightly elevated beating of a heart. Her heart.
I'll be damned, he thought.
He couldn't decide if he wanted to scream in elation or cry out in horror.
This girl was human.
Caroline took deep even breaths, willing herself to stay calm. Bonnie would be coming any minute and there were still plenty of people inside the bar to hear her, should she have to call for help.
"I'm sorry," the man said, throwing her an easy smile. "For a moment you just reminded me of an old friend. My mistake." His eyes had softened and with them, Caroline felt herself starting to relax to a certain extent.
"Sorry, to disappoint," Caroline sighed with a slight shrug of her shoulders. "Just plain o'l me."
He couldn't stop his legs from moving toward the young girl. There was a warm light radiating from within her shining like a beacon drawing him in.
"A girl like you is anything but plain," he told her.
Caroline scoffed at the line. "Oh yeah?" She added rolling her eyes.
Who was this guy, she wondered to herself. Mr-James Dean-leather-jacket-ANTM-stare?
"Oh yeah," he echoed, drawing out the word as he looked her up and down almost knowingly.
A blush rose to Caroline's cheeks and she laughed nervously.
She had had enough.
A firm grip on her denim jacket stopped Caroline from making a b–line to the door.
With narrowed eyes, she looked at the large hand on her forearm.
"Don't go," he whispered, almost pleading. His eyes were wide, compelling her to stay. Caroline complied. "You got a name Blondie?"
He had to know.
"They say you're not supposed to talk to strangers," she sassed.
She seemed comfortable again, he observed.
"That is what they say," he conceded. "But," he paused for effect. "If you tell me your name we won't be strangers anymore."
Caroline looked up to the night sky and laughed deep. She watched him wryly and he looked at her unapologetic.
"You're awfully determined," Caroline giggled. "Has anyone ever told you that?"
He shrugged casually, while on the inside his undead heart started to stir. It had been almost one hundred and forty five years since he had heard that coquettish sound. His brows raised expectantly. He was desperate to know her. Desperate to learn her name but, he didn't want to force it. He wanted her name to be given freely.
"Dance with me."
Caroline looked around the empty parking lot once more and back at her temporary companion.
He held out his hand, daring her with his cocky smile.
"There's no music out here," she complained while placing her hand gently in his.
She didn't know what was possessing her to indulge this guy. She had watched enough Dateline with her mother to know better.
"We don't need music," he assured her, holding her gently as they began to sway. "But if you insist, I'm sure I could croon something."
For a brief moment she wondered what was keeping her friend, but the semi-Notebook-esk moment Caroline had found herself in was overshadowing her concern.
"Please, don't sing," she begged, looking up at him.
He looked down at her, trying to maintain a serious face. "You sure? I had a few shots earlier. I'm brave enough to belt something out."
They stared at each other for a few moments before sharing a light laugh.
"So," Caroline said after a beat. "Aren't you a little old to be hitting on young girls?"
He chuckled, if only she knew how right she was. "Oh Angel Face, how you wound me."
"Angel Face?" Caroline's face scrunched up in confusion at the endearment and he found himself cherishing the sweetness of her.
He shrugged again, unabashed. "I have to call you something."
"I have a boyfriend," Caroline blurted out. She wondered if he too could hear how she sounded almost regretful of the fact.
"And where is he tonight?"
Caroline's heart started to race as she was gently twirled around, her back now pressed against his chest.
"He should be here," he whispered, his mouth close to Caroline's ear. "With you. Dancing under the stars."
"Not all people share my enthusiasm for karaoke," Caroline said, coming to her boyfriend's defense. "Besides, couples don't have to spend every second together."
But he was right, Caroline thought. She should be slow dancing in the dark with Matt. Not some stranger.
"Don't worry too much about him," he said as though he could read her thoughts. "This is your first love. It's not serious. Someday though, you'll find a love that consumes you."
Caroline turned back around sharply, shaken by the man's confidence.
"Who are you?" She asked.
"I'm someone who wishes you every happiness," he said, tucking a stray blonde curl behind Caroline's ear.
He could hear Caroline's friend walking toward the parking lot and a car coming around the corner. His time with her was up.
"I'm also someone that you need to forget."
The whooshing wind pressed against Caroline's face. She blinked a few times. A clamor of loud voices and music broke Caroline out of her revere. She could hear a familiar click of boots before Caroline saw her perky African-American friend walking smoothly toward her.
"Sorry Care," Bonnie called, as she ran up, her wavy black hair flowing behind her. "There was the longest line for the girl's bathroom. I think people might have been hooking up in there."
"Seriously!" Caroline gasped, only half scandalized. "I was wondering what happened to you, I was worried you fell in the toilet. Did you break them up?"
Bonnie grimaced. "No. I gave up on waiting and went to the men's. For a minute there I thought my bladder was gonna explode. Come on its late. Let's –"
A Mystic Falls police vehicle was cruising slowly in the parking lot and it came to a stop in front of Bonnie's silver Prius.
"Hey dad, hi Mr. Hopkins," Bonnie and Caroline said in tandem.
"Grove Hill's a bit out of your jurisdiction, isn't it Mr. Hopkins," Caroline mused. "Did my mom send you out to make sure that I was behaving myself? Radio her and tell her to check her messages."
Rudy Hopkins was a serious man, everyone in Mystic Falls knew it. He was also nice and kind and secretly hilarious; Caroline had known him her whole life, but in all the years she had known him she had never seen him wear an expression quite like the one currently fixed on his face.
"Dad," Bonnie asked. "What is it?"
"Caroline," Mr. Hopkins said. "I'm so sorry, honey. There's been an accident. You have to come home with me. Both of you."
Four months later.
My therapist still insists that writing my feelings down will help me grieve my mother's death. Honestly, I'm not feeling it. But – I did go out and buy the cutest (most expensive) little notebook I could find, so I'll wait till you're at least half way full before I toss you aside.
Today is the first day of school. My 'mourning period' is officially over.
I woke up this morning and prepared myself as though I were going into battle. My outfit is stylish, flawless. My hair and makeup, immaculate. On the outside I am the old Caroline – perfection: a size four teenage dream with an attitude the size of Texas.
Four months ago all I cared about was my cheerleading squad and ruling my sophomore class with a well-manicured fist. Maybe I wasn't as shallow as a kiddie pool, but for the most part, yeah I was. Being vapid is easier than this. Than feeling like this, the way I do right now…
Its September… usually it's my favorite time of year. I love the look of autumn. I love the activities here in town. My birthday. Now I just feel numb to it. Part of my keeps waiting for me wake up. To open my eyes and have it be spring, still living at home with my mom.
I don't really remember this summer. There was the funeral... My father made a small appearance, without his boyfriend Steven thankfully. Then Daddy's swift departure immediately followed the reading of Mom's will. That too (Dad bailing), was heart breaking, though expected. The rest is mostly a liquor fueled blurry bits.
The only highlight was Meredith's return to Mystic Falls. I don't know how I could have made it through some days without her.
Speak of devil, Caroline sighed inwardly.
Delicately, Caroline put her journal inside the fabric of her pillow and steps in front of her floor length mirror. Satisfied with her appearance, she switched off the light and shut her bedroom door.
"Caroline Beulah Forbes, it's time for school!"
The blonde grimaced as she emerged from the stair landing and entered the kitchen. Her eyes land on the willowy brunette sitting elegantly clutching a tall coffee cup.
Meredith Fell. First year surgical intern at Mystic Falls General Hospital and Caroline's second cousin.
"Please, for the love of all that is good, do not bellow my full name," Caroline groaned. "God forbid that the neighbors should hear you."
"You forget that you're not the only one who got stuck with a hideous family name," Meredith said playfully. "Caroline Beulah is way better, than Meredith Honoria."
Caroline snorted. "Are we back to day drinking, Mere? Forget school, let me catch up."
"No, no, no," Meredith cautioned. "Enabling cousin Meredith is no more. This is me being your responsible, pseudo guardian."
After Liz Forbes' death, her uncle, Tobias Fell, took it upon himself to look after Caroline. Meredith his youngest daughter, offered Caroline the spare room in her apartment and Tobias agreed that Caroline could live there.
"Come," Meredith said. "Sit. I made breakfast."
Their Anthropologie furnished dining table was covered with an impressive breakfast spread.
The two cousins sat in comfortable silence.
"Is this feast something I'll get to look forward to every morning?" Caroline asked as she helped herself to Greek yogurt, blueberries and bacon.
Meredith laughed, sipping her coffee. "No, today I'm just going into the hospital to fill out some paperwork with H.R. My first day is on Wednesday."
Meredith graduated from medical school at Columbia back in June. Though she'd never admit it, Caroline couldn't help but wonder if Meredith came back home just because of her. Not that there was anything wrong with Mystic Falls General, but if Caroline had gone to an Ivy League school, she didn't know if she would ever want to come back to their small town.
"Well, this is great," Caroline murmured. "Thanks."
Meredith set her brown eyes on Caroline and stared hard, her concern nearly palpable.
"Spit it out Mere," Caroline said, her tone clipped.
"Are you gonna be okay today?"
The blonde ran a hand through her long curls, a nervous habit.
"I just have to smile and comment on the awful summer highlights and tans people got while I was away," Caroline said, chewing on her bacon. "At some point my friends will just go with it."
Meredith frowned, pressing her fingers to her lips. "Care…" the young doctor faltered uncharacteristically. Fell's always knew what to say. "If you're not up to it you can stay home."
Caroline could feel the weight of her cousin's worry pressing down on her. She pushed her plate away, no longer hungry.
"I hid all summer with you Mere, I have to go to school and face the world or whatever. It sucks, but that's life."
"Promise you'll call me if something happens. I'll come and get you or you can call my dad if –"
"Meredith, I'm…" She wanted to say okay, but that was the furthest thing from the truth. "I don't know what I am, but I should probably get going. Bonnie is picking me up."
"Okay girlie," Meredith said. "Do you need milk money or something? I can give you some cash before you go."
Caroline smiled, a genuine one. She rose from the table and went to give her cousin a hug goodbye.
"Mere," she giggled, throwing her an exasperated look. "You just turned twenty-five. How about we wait a good thirty years before you use the phrase 'milk money' like ever again."
"Go to school, you bitch," Meredith laughed.
Damon Salvatore smiled while he poured himself a finger of bourbon.
He was a man on a mission and so far, everything was going extremely well. His objective was to establish himself with the locals and that had been a lot easier than he expected. Right now two prominent members of said community were sitting in his living room. Both were in slender, brown haired, olive-skinned men in their early forties. One sat haughtily in a winged-back chair, sipping his drink with a self-satisfied air. The other was stoic and empty handed.
"How does it feel to be home again, Mr. Salvatore?" Mayor Lockwood, the former, asked.
The Boarding house had never been Damon's home. In fact, the Tudor-style manor had been built a good fifty years after his death.
"Good," he lied, turning around to face his guests. "My late Uncle Zach did a wonderful job with the house while I was away."
"Indeed," the mayor agreed. "Zach was nothing if not capable. The efforts he made to modernize the property truly paid off."
The Salvatore fortune had been made in the lumber business, over time the family transitioned from harvesting wood, to carpentry and then construction. To the outside world, Damon Salvatore was the heir to a contracting company.
Damon raised his tumbler, as if to toast to Zach. In reality though he bore no love for the man.
Damon's father, Giuseppe Salvatore, lost his legitimate sons in 1864, but the family name and property had to be passed on to someone. Zach was the descendant of a bastard brother Damon never met.
With another quick swig, Damon left antique sideboard and the fine liquor resting atop it to join the Mayor and his colleague.
"Do you plan on staying in Mystic Falls for long, Mr. Salvatore?"
It was Grayson Gilbert who spoke.
"Please, gentlemen," Damon chuckled. "Mr. Salvatore was my father. Call me Damon."
"Will you be staying indefinitely Damon?" Mayor Lockwood pressed.
Damon bit back the urge to roll his eyes. He didn't care for the mayor's antsy behavior.
"I believe so," Damon sighed. "With Zach gone, it's just me and my little brother now. We've always lived a bit of a gypsy life... I think it would be good of us to have a real home and this one is as good as any. We would have come sooner, but I didn't want to pull Stefan out of school in the middle of the year. I've explained all of this in my emails."
Damon had, almost verbatim.
When Zach had finally succumbed to old age back in February, Damon had received notification from a lawyer along with a letter from Mayor Lockwood expressing his condolences along with his contact information urging Damon to speak with as soon as possible.
Intrigued, Damon began an easy correspondence with the mayor, playing the role of the grieving, long- lost nephew.
It had always been Damon's intention to return to Mystic Falls. The timing of Zach's death and the request from the mayor were simply added conveniences. The mayor unknowingly gave Damon much needed information that would help him execute his plans in the months to come.
"We're aware," Grayson interrupted. "What Richard is failing to elude to Damon, is that Zach was a pillar of the community. Your ancestors helped settle this town. We are Founding Family members and with that distinction, there were certain responsibilities we are expected to uphold."
The Founding Families, Damon chuckled inwardly.
The sleepy town nestled in the heart of Virginia was settled by five families. The Gilberts, the Fells, the Forbes, the Lockwoods and the Salvatores.
Damon knew all about the distinction and responsibilities. He had borne the weight of them when he was a child back in the 1800s.
"What we want to know, Damon," the mayor added, his ominously. "Are you aware of your family legacy?"
God bless Bonnie Bennett, Caroline praised.
Bonnie was the kind of girl who was always in tune with the needs of others. The young, African-American teen knew that her best friend needed a buffer and that is what she did.
On the ride to school, Bonnie made easy conversation with Caroline. Filling the blonde in on all the juicy gossip she had missed over the summer and commenting the fun things she had done over the break.
Once the two girls set foot in the main hall way of Mystic Falls High, students made attempts to swarm in on Caroline offering their sympathies. With Secret Service-like precision Bonnie took it upon herself to be Caroline's shield, only stopping for people she knew were in their circle of friends.
The two girls made it to their lockers without much incident.
"So with my dad taking over as sheriff, I've been spending a lot of time with my Grams," Bonnie said.
"Ms. Sheila?" Caroline asked. "I love her. How's she doing?"
Bonnie's green eyes twinkled with amusement. "Let's just say she's getting more interesting with old age."
Caroline leaned on her locker and stared down at her petite friend. "Define interesting."
"I don't know if it's the alcohol or that she's been bored since she doesn't teach during the summer, but her imagination has been running wild," Bonnie said.
Caroline smiled, remembering her own quirky grandmother long passed away. "Go on?"
Bonnie stuffed a makeup bag and her jacket in her locker and closed it. "She's on this witch kick," she explained. "I don't know, something about our ancestors coming from Salem. It was totally weird. "
"Salem witches sound cool," Caroline said in earnest. "A lot more interesting than being from a Founding Family."
"Being a Founder sounds a lot more fun than being burned at the stake, Care," Bonnie pointed out.
Caroline bit back a laugh, she missed Bonnie's dark humor.
"Well…when you put it like that."
Caroline barely had a second to react before she was trapped in a crushing hug. All she could see was a mass of pin-straight chestnut hair and the scent of Love Spell assaulted her nasal passages.
"Elena," Caroline greeted.
Elena Gilbert was Caroline's other best friend. Best friend slash rival.
The brunette pulled away and inspected Caroline. "Hey, Care," Elena said sweetly. "How are you? You look good. Hey Bonnie. Sorry I couldn't come with Bonnie to pick you up, my parents were all clingy...can you believe Jeremy's a freshman?"
Every year Elena's parents made it a big thing to stay at home on the first day of school to see their kids off. Two years ago, when they all started at Mystic Falls High, Caroline and Bonnie had been invited to the breakfast. It was cute and All-American. Everything you'd expect from the Gilberts.
Bonnie smiled. "Morning 'lena."
Elena rubbed Caroline's arm soothingly. "Did you have a good summer?"
"It was fine," Caroline answered. "Meredith and I road tripped for a few weeks. It was nice."
Elena nodded her head. "Very Sam and Dean Winchester season one; nice."
Caroline, Bonnie and Elena were obsessed with the fictional brothers.
"Well, we missed you. Oh I wanted to tell you that I made Captain."
Of course you did, the blonde thought.
Both girls were equal in both brains and beauty, but for some reason they always felt the need to compete for relevance within their social circle. The thought of Elena taking the spot Caroline had earned irked her, but that was the way of her world. If Caroline had something, Elena wanted it and vice versa.
"It's fine 'Lena," she lied. "Honestly, I'm not sure if I'll be coming back to the squad."
A pout marred Elena's face.
"No," she whined. "Care I'm going to need you. Please think about it. Don't say no just yet."
"There's no pressure," Bonnie said, narrowing her eyes at Elena while trying to reassure Caroline. "Give her some time to think it over."
"Oh my God, "Elena whispered, cheerleading all forgotten. "Here comes Matt. Hey Matt!"
This was one of the things Caroline couldn't stand about Elena, as much as she liked to pretend otherwise, the girl absolutely lived for drama. In ninth grade, Matt had a serious crush on Elena. The brunette was demure and polite when she turned Matt down. Three weeks after that Caroline and Matt became a couple and Elena never really let it go.
The girls watched as Matt Donovan, Caroline's ex, made his way over.
"Hi Elena, Bonnie," Matt said, flashing his easy-going smile. "Caroline."
He wasn't over her. The way he said her same gave it away.
"Hi Matt," Caroline said.
"I tried calling you a few times," he told her. "Did you get my messages?"
Bonnie at least had the decency to pretend she wasn't listening, Elena watched her two blond friends in rapture.
"Yeah…" Caroline said lamely. "I'm sorry I went off the grid. I didn't know what to say. To anyone."
Matt nodded understanding. "Do you think we could talk sometime? Just the two of us." Matt shifted his weight from foot to foot. "You think I could walk you to class?"
Caroline felt her throat go dry and she looked to her girlfriends for help.
"Matt," Elena interrupted. "Let the girl breathe."
Bonnie and Caroline gaped at Elena while Matt blushed embarrassed. After a pregnant pause, he nodded apologetically and walked away.
"Seriously Elena," Caroline said, her voice barely above a whisper. "I could have handled it."
Elena cocked her head to the side. "You looked like you needed some back up to me."
She looked over her shoulder once, catching Bonnie as she whacked Elena hard on the shoulder.
"I can't believe you sometimes," Bonnie growled.
"What did I say?
Caroline sought refuge in the girl's bathroom. She stood in front of a sink, resting her hands on either side of the white porcelain while she took some deep breaths.
First awkward back-to-school encounter, check. She thought to herself. Fucking Elena.
When she felt herself finally calm, Caroline took a moment to dredge up some courage.
I'm not going to quit. I will get through this day. I'm Caroline Forbes.
The bell for first period rang and Caroline knew her time was up.
With a renewed sense of purpose, Caroline headed toward the bathroom door and pushed it open with gusto. As she took a step out into the hall, she collided head first into something solid.
"Whoa. Walk much?"
Caroline frowned into the black shirt and leather jacket of the teen.
"You don't have to be a jerk," she grumbled, backing up. "Are you alright?"
He was tall, with classic looks, a nice mouth and pretty green eyes.
Caroline hated him on sight.
"I'll live," he said.
"Okay, well…sorry about that."
"You'll need to sound more sincere the next time you practically body check someone. There are a lot of kids in the hall."
Caroline rolled her eyes. The new kid wasn't funny.
Green Eyes surprised Caroline by extending his hand out.
"How hot is Stefan Salvatore?" Elena asked later that afternoon.
Elena, Bonnie and Caroline were at The Mystic Bar and Grill doing their homework.
"He has a romance novel stare," Bonnie said.
Elena squealed clutching her textbook to her chest.
"He's in three of my classes. He's so smart. Don't get me started on that leather jacket…not a lot of guys can pull that off."
Bonnie nodded knowingly. "I like his hair too. How much time do you think he spends on that?"
"He seemed like a douche bag."
Bonnie and Elena stopped their fangirling and looked at Caroline incredulously.
"What?" Caroline asked.
Elena leaned across their booth, eager for information. "Did you talk to him?"
"I ran into him earlier," Caroline explained. "Literally…It's not a big a deal. I wasn't impressed."
"Well, I invited him to the party at the falls tonight," Elena said triumphantly. "I'm totally gonna make a move. You know how I love a brooding bad boy."
"Has she always been this boy crazy?" Caroline asked, leaning toward Bonnie.
"I think you were too busy dating Matt to notice," Bonnie deadpanned.
Bonnie and Elena shared a laughed while Caroline winced.
"Oh," Bonnie said, picking up on Caroline's discomfort. "Too soon?"
Caroline set her pen down and rested her head in her palms.
"No. I'm fine, I guess I just feel bad for blowing him off this morning," she said dreamily, as though it just dawned on her. "I never let us have any real closure."
"The break up was sudden," Elena mused while her friends murmured in agreement.
Bonnie and Elena looked on at Caroline, each silently coaxing her to show her feelings. This summer had been understandably difficult for Caroline and the blonde chose to face her sorrow alone.
"It was just too much," Caroline continued. "My boyfriend's sister's boyfriend killed my mom. How is that real life? I know that Vicky didn't have anything to do with it so I understand that Matt had to stand by her. But I didn't want to be around her. I still don't."
"I saw her at a few parties over break," Elena said, ever the Gossip-Girl. "She was sober, I know, surprise. She's been looking well. You know she's been hanging out a lot with my brother and Tyler Lockwood. I don't know how the hell that happened."
"Would you feel the same if it had been someone else?" Bonnie probed loudly, ignoring Elena. "Would you have broken up with Matt anyway?"
Caroline bit her lip as she thought it over. "I think so," she said.
Elena grimaced, shocked by Caroline's honesty.
"You guys were so happy last year," she said.
Caroline shrugged. "I wasn't in love with Matt," she admitted. "I would have ended it at some point –but with my mom gone… I just couldn't see the point of staying in a relationship I didn't really want to be in."
"You should tell him," Bonnie said.
"Yeah, because he is still totally in love with you," Elena chuckled. "I don't know if I can take any more of those sad puppy eyes."
"Elena!" Bonnie rebuked.
Elena put her hands up in surrender. "I'm just calling it like I see it."
The brunette was a mess, but they loved her.
Damon could not believe he agreed to go to a high school party, but it was in his best interest to get over his qualms and simply go with the flow. What was a few hours of watching acne riddled, awkward teenaged debauchery if meant that he could make sure the youth of Mystic Falls would go home safe tonight.
Stefan Salvatore was in a mood.
The brunt of it was caused by one Caroline Forbes. Not so much because of something she did, but simply that she existed in the first place. So far, Stefan had shown no signs that he was planning on acting out, but Damon couldn't be sure. Either way, the elder Salvatore was in for a long night.
"There must be something in the water supply," Stefan said casually. "These girls look a lot better than they did when we were young."
Damon smiled at his younger brother, though guarded. "They looked good then, brother. There's just a lot less fabric covering them up now."
A group of girls cheered as loud rock music changed to a pop song. The Salvatore brothers watched appreciatively as the girls swiveled their hips along with the beat.
"Thank God for global warming," Stefan joked.
There was a dark gleam in the younger Salvatore's eyes as they locked on one student with long dark hair clad in tight lace shorts and a revealing top that accentuated her figure.
"She looks promising," he said, low and detached.
"Stef," Damon warned.
"She's a Gilbert. Elena," he said, drawling out the vowels in her name.
Damon watched his brother as he stared hungrily at the human.
"Brother, we agreed."
"I know what we said," Stefan told him. "I'm just admiring the view."
Stefan turned to his brother. "Don't tell me I'm not allowed to look."
Blue eyes locked on to green and Damon tried to discern his brother's motives.
"You can look," Damon said. "But we can't afford any mishaps. There's too much at stake."
Stefan rolled his eyes, not caring for his brother's dramatics. "I know."
The music changed once more and Stefan moved from his spot, heading toward his female classmates.
"Where are you going?" Damon called out.
Stefan turned to his brother, his face oddly joyful.
"I'm mingling, brother. If you insist on babysitting me, you could do us both a favor and be less obvious."
Damon watched his brother slink his arms around Elena Gilbert's slim waist.
The girl smiled up at Stefan, pressing her body against him looking like the cat who caught the canary. Too bad Elena didn't know that she was the canary in that situation.
"She's never going shut up about this."
Damon turned, looking for the source of the voice he hadn't heard since May.
Caroline stood on the left side of the clearing, a bottle of cheap beer in hand, her face wearing a neutral expression.
The short black haired girl standing next to her followed the blonde's line of sight her mouth too thinned into a grim line.
"He's the new guy," the dark haired girl reasoned. "Elena's a man eater. She'll get over him eventually."
Caroline took a sip of her beer. "But not before she over analyzes tonight in excruciating detail and our ears bleed."
She offered the bottle to her friend who took a healthy swill.
"What's your deal?" The question was asked more out of curiosity than offense. "Jealous?"
Caroline paused, pursing her lips. "No. I don't know. Don't mind me."
"So talk to me some more about that witch thing," Caroline said after a beat.
Damon moved through the crowd, drawing closer.
Her friend laughed, a soft blush coloring her toffee colored skin.
"There's not much to say," she told Caroline. "My wonderful, boozy Grams is just convinced that we're witches."
Caroline smiled, taking another swig of her beer. "That's so cool."
"It's not real Caroline. I don't have any powers."
"Oh, I bet you do Bonnie Bennett. It's always the quiet ones who surprise you."
A Bennett? Just what I need. Damon thought.
He had made his way to the alcohol, listening to Caroline all the while.
"Make a prediction," Caroline commanded. "I dare you."
The Bennett girl seemed to enjoy Caroline's antics.
"Are you drunk, Care?"
Caroline shook her head, her golden curls flowing around her.
"Just feeling warm," she said innocently. "Entertain me Bonnie."
Caroline held her free hand out. The Bennett girl, played along, taking her friend's in hers. The two were silent for a moment, at first Damon wondered if the young Bennett was stalling as a rouse but then, then the she pulled herself from Caroline snatching her hand away as though she were burned.
Caroline furrowed her brows. "What?"
Damon could see the Bennett's green eyes flurry with anxiety in the firelight.
"I'm not sure…I just had the strangest feeling," she said, her husky voice heavy with emotion, but just as quickly as it came it was gone.
"It's the beer," she told Caroline. "I'm just silly, not a witch."
Not yet, Damon thought.
"Hey Care…that guy over there is totally checking you out."
Caroline frowned her blue eyes scanning the woods. "Where?"
"Over there," the Bennett witch angled her head toward Damon.
"Wow," Caroline breathed. "He's so cute."
Damon smiled into his beer cup.
"I've never seen him before."
The two girls were quiet for a moment, appraising Damon, not so subtly. He nodded to them, wearing his signature smirk. The Bennett girl pulled the beer out of Caroline's hand. "You should go over there."
Caroline looked down at her friend, her mouth in a comical 'o' shape. "I can't!"
"Why," her friend cackled. "You're a free agent now."
Damon watched them interact, pleasantly amused. So she had dropped the boyfriend.
Caroline looked to the ground and back to Damon, as if she were weighing her options. Without a word Caroline marched toward the Damon with a drunken confidence. At last, she was in front of him.
"Hi," she said. "I'm Caroline."
"Nice to meet you, Caroline," he said. "I'm Damon Salvatore."
Caroline made a sour face. "Salvatore as in Stefan?"
Damon affirmed the association.
"Are you mean too?"
Damon opened his mouth to say more but a chilling scream echoed through the woods.
A panic broke out through the crowd.
Damon's glacial eyes combed through the students as her searched for Stefan.
The younger Salvatore was nowhere in sight.
"Bonnie," Caroline shouted. The two were reunited almost instantly, worried but, unharmed.
"Where's Elena?" Bonnie wondered.
It was then that Damon noticed that the Gilbert girl too was gone.
While the girls talked amongst themselves, Damon used his enhanced hearing to locate Elena. There was a steady, but shallow heart beat pumping not too far from the party. Damon could also smell blood. Lots of it.
"Oh God! Over here!"
"Somebody call an ambulance!"
"It's Elena Gilbert!"
A panic rolled over the party and people started to scatter in all directions. Students around them quickly pulled out their cell phones, while Bonnie and Caroline made their through the crowd to the boy who had emerged from the trees with Elena Gilbert limply hanging in his arms.
"Tyler," Caroline gasped. "What happened?"
The boy set Elena down gently, shaking his head.
"I don't know," he told her. "I was smoking…I didn't see."
Damon looked on helplessly as Caroline knelt dutifully at her friend's side.
Caroline smoothed her unconscious friend's hair away from her face, blinking back tears.
"Elena," she sobbed. "Elena."
"She's bleeding pretty good," Bonnie said.
"Hold pressure on her wounds," the boy, Tyler, instructed.
Elena stunned them all when became responsive.
"'Lena?" Bonnie asked, crouching down next to Caroline. "You're gonna be okay. An ambulance is coming."
"Can you tell us what happened?" Caroline asked.
Damon watched as Elena's glossy eyes came into focus on her friends. She tried to sit up, but Bonnie and Caroline kept her still.
"It was…" she whimpered, her voice shaken, but resolute. "A vampire."
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