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Story: Oblivion
Storylink: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9789675/1/
Category: Vampire Diaries
Genre: Romance
Author: newsgirl83
Authorlink: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/868933/
Last updated: 10/14/2014
Words: 108773
Rating: M
Status: In Progress
Content: Chapter 1 to 17 of 17 chapters
Source: FanFiction.net
Summary: It's been 4 years since she last saw his blue eyes, or so they say. 4 years since the coma-inducing tragedy
that took her parents but let her live. Elena wakes up at 23, with no memory of the years leading up to her accident or the
gorgeous man sitting beside her with a ring on his finger. Desperate for answers, Elena embarks on a not so typical
amnesia-love story. 1st Person POV.
*Chapter 1*: Prologue
A/N: I'm back again, this time with my very first shot at first person POV. I'm looking at switching between Damon
and Elena POV as the chapters progress. I thank you all in advance for reading. This isn't an unheard of concept for
a story, however it's also not what it may seem. There's a lot to unravel, and I plan to do so, much in a way I have
with my stories in the past. This is a new challenge for me, and I very much look forward to it.
The story title is a song by Bastille. It was featured on The Vampire Diaries in season 4.
Thank you again for reading!
I hold my breath and count to ten as the wheels of our airplane touch down on the runway. I'm not afraid of flying, or
landing for that matter. In fact, I'd almost rather still be in the air, where my future was still...in the future. I've been
traveling for nearly 7 hours, including 2 layovers. I should be cartwheeling down aisle, doing jumping jacks that I've finally
reached my destination. But I'm not.
Susan, the woman next to me on the aisle side of our row, shifts and unbuckles her belt, reaching for her purse beneath
the seat in front of her. She's been a pleasant travel companion, all the way from Cody, Wyoming to here, Milwaukee,
Wisconsin. I've heard all about her 4 grandchildren and her plans to retire next year, and I've welcomed the easy
conversation. It's kept my mind off my own life and the man sitting to my right.
His dark hair is sticking up on the right side, where he's been mashed against the wall for the last few hours, somehow
lulled to sleep by the rock music blaring from his earbuds. He's awake now, staring out the small, finger-print smeared
"Thank God we're here," Susan says, reaching for my hand on the cold armrest. "I'm sure you two are, too." Her eyes dart
to him, then back to me and she winks. "Before he died, my husband and I were always happy to sleep in our own bed
after a long trip..." Her voice is full of love and longing, and I wish I knew what it felt like to miss someone that way. "Hang
onto that one, dear. He's a looker."
The blood rushes to my cheeks, but I don't know why. It isn't like he can hear her over his music, and even if he did, it
wouldn't matter. My smile widens and I hope she attributes my blush to affection and not the discomfort twisting my
I manage a smile. Jesus, if she only knew the half of it.
She's right. He's easy to look at. It's not like I haven't noticed. He's got long, dark eyelashes even a woman would envy,
and black stubble along his cheeks. He's focused on something out the window, and I can't help but notice the way his
eyes crinkle when he smiles. I catch the reflection of his blue eyes in the window and quickly look away before he turns.
This isn't the first time he's caught me staring at him. I can't help it. I'm hoping one of these times it'll trigger something.
He pulls the string of his earbuds with one gentle tug until they fall easily in his lap and slides his hand over my right one
naturally, as if he's done it thousands of times before...and I'm guessing he has. I swallow and tip my head in his
direction and his lips curve up into a lopsided smile. At least one of us seems comfortable.
Maybe it's because he's had a hell of a lot longer to figure out what to say.
"All set, Elena?" His voice is rich and deep, the timbre protective. There's genuine tenderness in his eyes, and I'm not
certain what to do with it. My mouth suddenly feels like I've been sucking on a wad of cotton the entire flight. He may be
calm, but I'm terrified.
It's not just him that makes me nervous; it's the whole damn situation. My name feels foreign on my lips, like it doesn't
really belong to me. I didn't expect to wake up one morning and learn I'd slept through the last four years of my life. My
early-twenties are practically gone, and I missed every moment of it.
The worst part is knowing the world kept right on going while I was away. He tells me it's only four years, and I know he's
trying to comfort me, but it just isn't working. I can't get those four years back. They're just gone.
There are days I wish I'd tried to do this on my own. Having an almost-stranger tell me I survived when no one else did
was bad enough. I don't remember my last night awake or the few years leading up to it, but I must've been able to make
reckless decisions. No memories needed; the shiny diamond on my ring finger is proof enough.
"Stay by me in the airport. It's crowded and we'll have to pick up our luggage from baggage claim," he's speaking to me
like I'm a child and I can't stand it anymore. I cringe and look away, but nod slowly so he doesn't say it again. I'm not nave
enough to miss how hard this must be on him, too. He didn't vow to sleep alone every night for four years while I lie in a
hospital bed.
I hate not being able to do things by myself. For myself. I hate being told what to do; I guess that much hasn't changed.
Memories before age 17 are as clear as the Midwest morning sky. Coach purses and Jimmie Choo's. Forced smiles
and dinner parties. I spent my entire childhood trying to please my parents, afraid if I did anything wrong they'd stop
talking to me altogether. We weren't close; often I felt like they had me just to keep up with everyone else in their social
circle. But every now and then when I was small, my father would settle me into his lap and read me a story. It's that
version I want to remember...not the rest of it. Not the loneliness.
I'm an only child, and the friends I made in boarding school were nothing like me. Their smiles were as plastic as a
toothpaste ad, and I longed for something genuine. Someone who saw life differently than me...who didn't worry about
small things that wouldn't matter in a day. Someone who could make me see things that way, too.
I needed someone to ground me...to bring me back to earth, because honestly, I could feel myself starting to float out of
my shoes and I hated it. I remember not really knowing myself. I'd look in the mirror and see the scowl my mother often
wore, or catch myself using my fathers disinterested tone, and as the years went on, it was harder to distance myself
from their world. Truth be told, I loved them. What child doesn't love a parent or bend over backwards just to have them
pay an ounce of attention to them instead of their work or their ladies' association?
So I forced myself to roll with the punches for my first 17 years. I was so afraid I'd have no one, like they always
threatened would happen if anything ever happened to them. And I was right to fear the unknown, because this is the
most disconnected I've ever been.
I feel nothing, just blank. My head is full of whys and what ifs and this beautiful man is sitting next to me, promising me
he'll help me find the answers.
Three weeks ago...
I wake up in a hospital bed, surrounded by monitors and faces I don't recognize. The doctors ask me too many
questions I don't know the answers to, and I want nothing more than to close my eyes and go back to sleep. To me, it
feels like I've just been dreaming...and like any typical dream, time passes immeasurably. I had no way of knowing how
long it had been since my eyes had last opened. And then I see a man with big blue eyes, staring at me like I'm a ghost.
After a moment, his mouth parts like he has something really important to say, but he closes it quickly and tucks his
hands into the front pockets in his jeans, settling for a generic Hi, Elena, instead.
Two words are enough; a surge of hope fills me when his smooth voice floats into my ears. It's warm and familiar in a
way nothing else is right now, and I close my eyes so he can't see my tears doctors say I've been in a coma but they don't
tell me what caused it right away. It's only been a few hours and I'm already to lost in my own head.
That afternoon, the medical staff leaves me alone with Damon for the first time since I've woken up. I don't know what to
do or say, just that he's someone from life who's going to tell me about...me. His warm fingers push my dark wavy hair
behind an ear and he looks at me in complete disbelief. Like I'm not real. Like he's afraid he's the one who's been stuck
in a dream for too long. He brushes the backs of his fingers against my cheek just once, and I feel the cold metal of his
wedding band against my skin. Instinctively, my eyes flick down to my ring finger and notice it's bare.
"So...you're really awake," he says. I think he must be reassuring himself. I wonder where my parents are and why this
stranger is the one telling me all this.
After another few moments of silence, he pulls his hand away and settles it with the other one in his lap as he seems to
struggle for the right words. It almost seems like he's in pain. I don't know why because I don't know who he is, and I'm
afraid to admit it. Especially since he's looking at me almost affectionately.
I frown, caught up in the fact that I should probably let him know somehow, because unlike me, he knows exactly what's
going on. I'm having trouble maintaining eye contact, so I glance down at my blankets to keep myself together.
Carefully, he begins to explain.
"There was an accident, Lena," he nearly whispers. I don't remember anyone ever calling me that, but I like the
nickname...it helps me feel more like a real person. Like I really did exist before now. "Your house caught on fire..."
And though it's hard to feel much of anything right now, I do feel panic. Because I don't remember a fire, I don't remember
the night that nearly took away my life. I don't remember a thing past getting my driver's license. The funny part...or not so
funny part, is that it feels like just yesterday I was getting ready for a silly high school dance.
He says it's a miracle I survived the smoke inhalation, let alone the flames. My entire childhood home burned to the
ground with my parents inside, leaving me with an inheritance, a trust fund and an insurmountable feeling of guilt
knowing I'll never have the chance to make amends with them. The last memory I have is of wanting to rebel...to really
piss them off. I wonder if I did, but he doesn't go into any of that right now.
I stay silent while he explains, refusing to believe any of it. He hasn't stopped to tell me where he fits into the picture. He's
probably hoping the only part of my life I don't remember is that night. After he's finished, he squeezed my hand once and
stands, insisting he needs a cup of coffee and that he'll be right back. While he's gone, I will myself to remember.
Anything. Everything. Even one little detail. I strain so hard my head begins to ache, and by the time he's back with a
styrofoam cup of hospital coffee, I'm angry with myself.
I think he can tell, because he settles back into the chair beside me and offers me a comforting smile. And I am
comforted, but I don't know why. Is it because he's here? Because I'm not alone? Because he's my only connection to the
life I used to know...even if I don't remember it?
"I'm sorry I keep staring at you. It's just really good to see you. You've been asleep for awhile," he says finally, a gentle
smile forming on his lips. His thumb rubs over my left cheekbone. "I missed those pretty eyes." He takes a breath, as if
waiting for me to say I missed him, too, but it never comes. Instead, he smiles with understanding.
"I'm sorry," I manage. I'm not sure if I'm apologizing because I've been gone so long, or because I don't remember him.
My voice sounds different than I remember, and I frown.
"You're not sure who I am, are you?"
I shake my head, ashamed. I don't know how to act around him, or if the way I'm behaving right now is how I would've
before. I find myself over thinking everything, as if I'm going to make a mistake and he'll notice and tell me I'm wrong. But
he doesn't. He sits there patiently.
As his words sink in, I begin to wonder just how long I've been asleep. My eyes scan over his features, catching on his
stubble. He's older than me. I think. How long have I been out? What exactly did I miss? "What year is it...? How old am
He eyes me carefully, then reaches for my hand. I pull away, worried by the look he's giving me. "You're twenty-three."
"What?" My heart stops. I scoot up in the bed, searching for the mirror against the wall behind him, but I can't get a good
enough look. "I can't be." I touch my cheeks, as if that would be any indication that I've aged. "I would know. I would feel it.
"You were asleep for four years...19 when the accident happened."
Then why don't I remember the last two I was awake for before the accident? In my head, I'm still 17. I'm still a kid, for
God's sake. But I'm not, and it's clear to me I have no idea who I am. Tears prick my eyes again, but this time I let one
slide down my cheek, swiping it away with a hand before crashing fists down onto my hospital bed.
I know I must seem crazy right now. One minute I'm high the next I'm low. I'm a whole lot of nothing right now, other than
completely confused. It hits me like a truck and suddenly I snap. I'm not angry with him...just everything else. I'm angry at
myself for not being able to wake up for four years. For not being able to save my parents. For not getting the chance to
tell them I love them before they went.
He lets the information stew for awhile.
"And who the hell are you to tell me all this?" I finally ask, harshly. I'm frustrated and overwhelmed and would give just
about anything to go back to sleep. While his voice is soothing, I liked it a lot more when I didn't have to deal with this
new reality. My blank life. I'm missing so many pieces of the puzzle; it's not even fair.
He scrubs his face with his hands for a moment and take a breath, bracing himself before he says it. Immediately, I
know something's wrong. I can tell by the flicker in his beautiful blue eyes. He's someone I'm supposed to remember,
someone I need to know, and my stomach churns as I wait for him to deliver.
"I'm your husband," the words fall from his lips in a sigh and I'm pretty sure I stop breathing. I stare at him blankly, as if I
maybe misheard him. Talk about being blindsided. How much big information can a person take in just a few short
hours? "I'm Damon."
I know his name because I've heard the doctors say it. I just didn't realize my last name was Salvatore, too. I blink at him
once, then look away quickly because it's all too much. This man is sitting beside me, holding my hand...telling me he
missed my eyes and somehow, he means nothing to me. I can't remember loving him, but must have or I wouldn't have
married him. I don't remember love at all. Nothing more than the tough love of parents and the tiniest, squirmiest
feelings in my stomach when I had a crush on a Ryan Wilson at the start of freshman year. Nothing this big. Nothing
I feel like a fool and I just want him to leave. It's hard knowing so little. Everything inside my head right now is either from
my childhood or something I learned in the last hour. Nothing is my own. How can it be if I don't even remember the
years leading up to my coma?
"It's okay, baby. Really..." he reaches for me again but I jerk away and fold my arms across my chest. I watch as his chest
falls. He seems disappointed but I have to think about me. I'm being a baby right now, but I can't help it. I want to
remember so badly. He's not just a friend like I thought he might be, and not recognizing my own husband scares me.
"It's all going to be okay, I promise."
I get the feeling there's something he doesn't want to tell me.
"No. It isn't," I snap and I watch the color fade from his eyes. I immediately regret my tone. "I'm empty," I wave toward my
head. I'm not angry with him for what he told me. Hell, he had to tell me. I know the doctors suggested he talk to me
about my life, but I'm afraid of what's coming next. I don't want to find out we have a child I don't remember or some other
horrifying truth. I can't even handle what he's given me now. "Please, Damon. Just go. I need some time alone to think."
His brow knits, but he doesn't push back. Instead, he nods. He's had four years to plan out this moment. I'm sure the
doctors told him this could happen. They'd tossed around words like post-traumatic amnesia, but I'm left wondering if
the memories will ever come back. I'm afraid they won't...but right now, I'm even more afraid they will.
I don't want to remember being stuck in a burning building while my family melted away. I'm terrified of these missing
memories because I have a feeling my brain wants to keep them locked away. It's like I'm blocking something that's too
hard to process, and maybe it's best to leave it alone.
"I'll let you relax," he offers, but his voice sounds sad. "And I am sorry. I didn't know how to tell you but I didn't want to lie. I
know it's a lot to deal with all at once, but I figure it's better if you get to know the guy who'll be taking care of you when you
get released. I'm not trying to scare you."
I'm staring at my empty ring finger when I hear the door close. I married young. I wonder what it's like to love him...if the
wedding was an impulse decision or carefully planned out and anticipated? I don't know if my parents approved or if they
ever really even knew him at all. And while he's been supportive of me so far, I have no idea what he's like or what he
does in life. I don't even remember graduating from high school or starting college.
Mostly, I wonder how the hell I'm going to do this. How can I go home to a place that isn't home at all with a man I barely
know? How can I trust my life with a stranger? I fall asleep with these thoughts clouding my head. The next morning
when I wake up, I remember what he told me...all the things he said about me and about us. I tell myself that if I listen
closely enough, someday his words will fall into place and serve as memories.
He shows up everyday to sit with me and I'm working hard not to shutdown on him like I did that first day. Somedays he's
talkative and others he just looks sad, worried, like at any given moment I might decide to leave again. I tuck these
thoughts in the back of my mind so I can revisit them later. I'm in no position to start analyzing him at this point, and I'm
probably way off base anyway.
I wonder where he sleeps, because he always sticks around until around 10pm when the nurses tell him he has to go
unless he plans on spending the night. He hasn't yet, and I can't blame him. It can't be easy having a wife who doesn't
remember him. He probably hoped I'd open my eyes and wrap my arms around him. Instead, he's no more recognizable
than the nurses taking care of me.
The doctors are still running non-stop tests and I feel like a lab rat. I'm anxious to get out of the hospital, even if I don't
know where I'm going when I leave. It's then that I learn he isn't from Wyoming. Not only will I be leaving the hospital with
him, I'll also be moving across the country. I'm not leaving anything behind I guess. Maybe it's better that I get away and
just start fresh.
While I remember living my life as a teenager, I have trouble doing simple things now. Damon assures me the doctors
have made him well aware of my current state. He says he's fully prepared for anything that happens, and I guess I
should take comfort in that. I'm just not entirely comfortable relying on him for everything. Even if he is my husband.
Present Day
It's finally our row's turn to shuffle into the plane's aisle. I sneak out after Susan, bidding her one last goodbye as Damon
reaches up into the overhead compartment to grab our duffle bags. I can't help but watch as the muscles in his arm flex
beneath his T-shirt. I'm not the only one who notices, either. Two teenage girls in the row we're passing giggle and he
nods a hello before placing his free hand on my shoulder as we walk forward.
"We've got about an hour drive home," he says quietly, nudging me closer toward the front of the plane. "We can stop to
eat, if you'd like. You're probably starving."
This place we're headed shouldn't be strange to me. Damon and I moved there three months before the accident, he
tells me. I'm going home to my own bed, that I shared with this man, yet I don't remember kissing him or the way he
tastes. I can't recall the way his hands feel on my skin or the way it sounds when he says I love you. I don't know what it
even feels like to be so consumed by someone that I'd promise to feel that way forever.
The airport is as busy as he promised it would be, and though I really want to do things on my own, I'm happy to know
one face in this crowd. I walk closely to him, bumping shoulders every once in awhile when someone knocks into us on
the moving walkway. He hasn't reached for my hand since we got off the plane, and I'm grateful for the space.
I fell asleep when I was nineteen and he was 21. I was old enough to think like an adult, but I can't help but feel
somewhat out of place...like I'm supposed to be more mature or just naturally understand my situation in life. I don't feel
well-adjusted at all and I wonder what I'd be like if I'd never gone into that coma.
I was relieved to learn we don't have children. It's bad enough not remembering simple things. I'd never be able to take
care of a child, nor would I want him or her to see me this way. I couldn't handle knowing I'd just checked out of
consciousness for four years while he was left to take care of babies. I feel awkward enough knowing I'd been away from
him so long and that he'd waited. At least I think he'd waited.
My head rattles with questions. Was he forced to choose if I got to stay alive? Did he visit me often while I was asleep?
His voice was so soothingly familiar; I had to believe he talked to me in my dreams. It's so hard to remember what I
dreamt about while I was away. It was a mix of familiar voice and sounds blended together. The doctors...and Damon, as
well as the memory of my parents' voices. They all sounded so concerned, but at the time I just didn't know why.
We step outside and are hit with a blast of cold wind. It's November and the temperatures have already started to
nosedive. I tug a pink and purple knit hat over my ears, letting my curls fall to the front of black peacoat, just below my
shoulders. I reach up to touch the ends; it's shorter than I remember. I wonder if Damon had it cut on a regular basis to
make me seem more like the woman he knew.
He brought a soft pair of jeans and a well-fitting red v-neck t-shirt to the hospital this morning, along with a cozy black
cable knit sweater that buttons in the front, saying it was my favorite thing to wear on long trips. I nodded and thanked
him, welcoming the comfortable fabric after a long, hot shower. They'd kept me in the hospital for a week and a half after I
woke to make sure I was physically okay and mentally stable enough to leave, but this is the first time I've truly been free.
I spent the last week and a half a rehab facility, talking to psychologists and neurologists and every other type of doctor
deemed necessary for me to see before I was fully released. I went through the motions simply because I wasn't really
in a rush to go anywhere. I'm not sure if they thought talking things through would help me remember, but it didn't. I'm still
lost, still blank...it's just now I get to see the world again. If there's ever been hope that I'll regain parts of my past, I have
to believe it'll come from being around the people and things I used to know.
I shiver a tuck my nose into the collar of my thick coat as we make our way to the car. Damon drives an army green
pickup truck. It's not old by any means, but it's not fancy and new, either. I know it's only a car, but it tells me a little about
him. It's clean and and the seats are soft and comfortable. I know the clothes don't make the man, but he dresses in a
way that makes my mouth water and my heart calm at the same time. He dresses casually, but looks good doing it, and I
get the impression he's not trying to show off. He's just naturally attractive, and it radiates off him in waves.
I wonder if that's what attracted me to him in the first place, or if it was something else. While he's given me basic details
about where we live Oak Hill, population 1,003 and my favorite foods and music, we haven't gotten into the nitty gritty
of us. The way we met...the way we fell in love and why on earth we decided to get married when I was only nineteen.
Apparently after my little freak out the first day I woke up, the neurologists suggested he take things slowly.
He handed me my wedding ring just before we got on the plane. It's on my finger now, but no matter how hard I try, I can't
conjure up the memory of the first time he slipped it on. I've taken it off and put it back on at least a dozen times since we
left the rehabilitation center. I feel the same whether it's on or not, but I know I should feel guilty for not wearing it.
Especially since the man beside me wore his for four long, tiresome years...even when I was away.
I'm okay with all of this...as long as I know I'm not going home with a stranger or someone who would take advantage of
me. Everything about him so far suggests I'm going home with a really good friend. Sophie, one of the nurses who'd
taken care of me over the years, seemed to notice my tension at first. After he left the first night after I woke up, she came
into my room and told me I didn't need to be afraid of him...that he was a kind man whom I could trust. And I trusted her,
because as far as I'm concerned, she knows him better than I do. And it's worked out so far. He hasn't tried anything no
kissing, no hugging, and other than the comment about missing my eyes, he hasn't said anything to make me feel
uncomfortable. I wonder what he wants from me, or if this is all just a formality.
He rubs his hands together and breathes into them, the hot air coming out of his mouth in a white mist of condensation.
His cheeks are pink and he looks full of life, totally real. I catch him staring up into the winter sky, whispering something
once before he ducks into the car and turns the engine.
"So...stupid question," he smiles. "Do you still like pancakes?" His question is easy to answer and lightens the mood. Of
course I still like pancakes. How could I not?
"And coffee. Real coffee...not that hospital crap," I stick out my tongue. I have no idea what I'm about to get myself into. I
have to trust that when we get home, things will be as he said they'd be. I have to put my faith in an almost-stranger, and
hope it's not the biggest mistake of my life. I can't afford to completely let my guard down. I remain on the defense,
always aware...because I can't afford to just give myself away.
I don't know what I'm searching for by going home with him. Do I still want the things he says we used to have? Can I be
the person I used to be? If I never remember our past, will I even want a future?
"I know just the place," he says, clicking on his seatbelt with a smile. "Best pancakes in the state. Eat two of 'em and
you'll be full until breakfast tomorrow." His grin is wide and I notice dimples. He's tugged a red worn baseball cap down
over his messy hair, but his bangs still rest across his forehead below the bill. His eyes are incredibly blue, his face still
coated in stubble. I'm not so good at analyzing things at the moment, but I decide that he might be someone this new me
would wanted to get to know anyway. Even if we weren't married.
I notice the little things about him, because I feel like I should. Everything from the way he walks to the way he opens my
car door tells me a little more about the man with whom I'm about to be reacquainted. These past few weeks have been
a challenge, but he's approached it in a way that makes me feel supported, not suffocated. I'm not sure if it's because I
was always around medical attention when I needed it. I just hope he continues to let me find freedom and find myself,
even if that means I'm not the person I used to be. Even if I can't love him the way I used to.
*Chapter 2*: This Is What It Feels Like
A/N: Wow! Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed my prologue! I'm really excited to get this story rolling, and
look forward to updating as frequently as I can. As I said before, I'll be switching between Elena and Damon's POV.
This chapter is our first look into Damon's head, and I really enjoyed taking a crack at it from his perspective.
I picked "This Is What It Feels Like" by Armin Van Buuren because the lyrics fit into my story perfectly.
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 1: This Is What It Feels Like
Present Day - Damon POV
"There you are! What the hell are you doing out here? " The words come out harsher than I mean them to and I remind
myself to calm down, as hard as it is. I'm not angry, just worried, and need to let my relief wash over me before I
We live in the country and our property is huge. It's not just our house and a backyard. Our modern two-story log cabin
style home sits on 10 acres of land, and it's not well lit. It'd be pitch black outside if not for the blizzard. It's almost a
complete white-out, so bright it almost looks like daytime. The snow is cold, but it's the wind that's so unbearable. I don't
want to think how long she's been sitting out here on a stupid fence in nothing more than a pair of knee-high leather
boots, jeans and a sweatshirt. Her dark hair is coated with sparkly white snow flakes and she looks like an angel, but I'm
too pissed to think on it for very long. I just want to get her inside where it's warm before she catches pneumonia.
"I've been looking for you for over an hour," I explain, stepping closer to her. "You can't just run off like that without saying
something. I thought...shit, I don't know what I thought, but it wasn't good, okay?" I tousle my hair a bit to get the building
snow off it, then wait for her to get moving.
She blinks at me as if I'm absolutely crazy. I won't lie; I probably look that way right now. It's 1 a.m. I woke up in the middle
of the night dying for a glass of milk, and decided to peek in the guest room to make sure she'd fallen asleep. To my
surprise, she was gone.
I told myself not to panic, but for God's sake, it's the middle of the night and she doesn't even know where the hell she is!
After I called the cell phone I bought her and heard it ringing on her mattress, I freaked. I just got her back. There's no way
in hell I'm letting anything happen to her ever again.
I sleep naked. No, I'm not naked now. That'd just be ridiculous. I'd slid into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt before
making the trip to the kitchen for my drink, not wanting to freak her out if she happened to be up. Yes, I'm pretty sure me
walking around naked would fall into the category the doctors labeled gradual steps.
I was in too much of a rush to put on decent boots, so I slipped on the first pair of shoes I could find, some stupid
moccasins my mother got me last Christmas. They're not made for the outdoors and especially not waterproof, because
my feet are frozen and completely soaked through. I want to tell her to hurry the hell up and get over here, but from the
way things have been going the last few days, I think that would only make it worse.
"Seriously. Do you want to get sick?" I ask. I mean, I'm out here in barely anything out of necessity. She's out here
sightseeing. "I mean it, Elena. This isn't the time to be stubborn just to prove you can be your own person. Come here so
we can go back inside, or I'm going to pick you up and carry you home."
Her feet slide off the rickety fence beam and onto the ground. The stupid part of me kind of hoped I'd be forced to scoop
her up in my arms and bring her back to our home. She's right in front of me and has been, every day for three weeks, but
I still miss her so much. I wanted nothing more than to kiss her senseless the moment I saw her eyes for the very first
time in four years. But I couldn't, because she looked up at me like I was a stranger. And it felt like I'd lost her all over
But she's here now, upright and stubborn as hell. She tucks her red hands into the pocket of her sweatshirt and
marches back toward the bright light mounted on the back porch of our house like a teenager pissed at her parents.
Never in a million years would I have thought I'd find her here. Sitting on a fence in much need of repair, surrounding the
pond on our property. She hasn't said a word yet, and that worries me, but I'm happy she's going inside where it's warm.
I have no fucking clue how long she's been out here in this mess.
I'm blasted by the heat from the vent above our entrance as I close the door behind us. She plops down on the bench in
the hall and yanks her boots off, leaving clumps of dirty snow all over our hardwood floor. I smile, because this is so not
the Elena I remember. She'd be on her hands and knees wiping up the moisture before it could soak into the wood. Hell,
she'd never have wandered off into the woods in the middle of a blizzard in the first place.
My moccasins are wrecked but I don't care. I walk barefoot through the melting snow chucks and follow her as she
walked toward her bedroom. This whole silent treatment thing is familiar, but this time I didn't do anything to deserve it...I
don't think.
"Wanna talk about it?" I ask, clearing my throat. Her cheeks are stained red from the cold and her hair is soaked and flat,
void of her usual waves. I move a little closer when her hand touches her door knob, and she finally looks up. Now that
we're inside and I can see her clearly, I can tell she's been crying. My frustration melts and I let out a sigh. Jesus, this
isn't getting any easier.
"I went for a walk. I couldn't sleep. Thought the fresh air would help me think," she answers simply. My God, does she
even realize the danger she put herself in? There's animals out there, wild ones, not to mention the life-threatening wind-
chills and ice. She could've gotten seriously hurt. Fallen. Cracked her head. I've never been so happy about waking up in
the middle of the night as I am right now. "I didn't think you'd care."
"I do. Not that you want to go for a walk and think for awhile, just that you're careful and don't do it in the middle of the
night," I explain. She looks confused or surprised, but her eyes lighten up a bit like she understands. Maybe this whole
thing isn't about stubbornness at all. It's hard to remember that she forgets little, easy things like this. It's like she knows
it, somewhere, but her common sense is a few steps behind. I'm immediately humbled.
She's Elena, but she's not, and I both love and hate it. The therapists keep telling me not to force her into remembering,
but also not to make mention of this new life. So we're in this god awful limbo where I remember everything and she
doesn't. And I'm not mad at her. Of course I'm not. Just like I'm not angry that she was in coma for four years. It's not her
fault and if she hadn't woken up that day, she's still be in the hospital because there was no way I was ending her
chances. She didn't survive that fire just to die in a hospital bed.
I'm just happy to have her back right now, even if it scares me. Because I know us, the good and the bad, and she has no
freakin' clue. We've been home for two days and still just not sure how to even start.
"I should try to sleep," she offers. "But I'm too wound up."
"You need to warm up," I spot her red ears through her hair. She looks completely wiped out. Her clothes are baggy on
her, as she lost a lot of weight from having been fed through a tube for four years. She was tiny to begin with, and I can't
help but be afraid she'll break if we're not careful.
"How about you take a hot shower, change into some warm clothes and see how you feel. If you're still not tired, we'll
have some hot chocolate or something."
Thankfully, this suggestion goes over smoothly. I hear the shower turn on in the neighboring room and fill the teapot with
fresh water to heat on the stove. I'm wound up now, too. And worried that she'll sneak out again if I don't keep an eye on
I don't want to treat her like a child, but sometimes I have to make things as easy as possible. She's a beautiful, grown
woman. She's intelligent and before this all happened, she knew what she wanted and how to get it. I can't imagine what
she's thinking. It must be terrible to feel so lost inside herself. I'm glad she remembers some things. It's not like I had to
teach her how to tie her shoe all over again or how to brush her teeth. It's the weirdest things she doesn't get like not
going out without a jacket in the middle of a blizzard, and not touching the oven rack with her bare hand.
The kettle whistles softly and I grab two packs of hot chocolate from the box in the cupboard. When I close the door, I
allow myself to look at the picture on the wall for the first time since we came home. It's of us. She's 18, I'm 20, and we
have these huge shit-eating grins plastered on our faces. We're young and hopeful, but completely irresponsible. Never
in a million years would I have thought I'd meet my future wife that day.
Five years ago...
"You see that, man?" My buddy Ryan asks, tipping his head to the left of our tent. "What the hell is a chick like that doing
I've got a cigarette in one hand and an ice cold bottle of beer in the other. It's 5 a.m., or damn near close. We drove
across the country to California for this outdoor music festival two days ago and everything's starting to blur together. Our
tent is surrounded by hundreds of others in a muddy field, but it's worth it. The music is amazing. Because he's still
squinting away from the tent, even as he takes a huge drag from his cigarette, I glance to my left. At first I think he's
seeing things again. I wouldn't doubt it after the kind of shit he's into. I swear I've gotten a contact high at least three
times from just being in the same tent as him. We've been roommates for two years so I know how it is; The kid's only
happy when he's high as a kite.
"Seriously, though," he says again. "She's like the most fucking beautiful thing I've ever seen. Little miss princess or
some shit," he swigs his beer and I look again, but this time I see exactly what he's talking about. I see her. My head's
swimming with alcohol and I barely slept a wink, but I'm conscious enough to know that something's wrong.
I stand, brushing off the back of my jeans as best I can, and walk toward her. She's barefoot and can't walk a straight
line. Her skinny jeans are rolled up to her knees and her tan ankles and feet are covered in mud. She's looking at the
ground, swiping her hands at something only she can see. I know she's not watching where she's going, so in about
twenty seconds she's going to run right into me. That's okay. I don't plan on moving.
As fate would have it, we collide. I'm quite a bit taller than her, and steady enough on my feet that she doesn't come close
to knocking me over. She's aware enough to push her hands against my chest to hold herself up. They're warm against
my bare skin, and for a second I think of how they'd feel on the rest of me. Then she looks up and I stop thinking
Ryan's right; she's gorgeous. Her eyes are like big pools of melted chocolate and her dark hair falls in pretty long waves
down her back. Once I'm able to tear my focus away from her beauty, I notice her eyes are red and surrounded by
smeared, runny black eyeliner that looks like it's been caked on for days. Two black streaks run down her cheeks, like
she's been crying for days, too.
"You okay, sweetheart?" I ask, instantly regretting my slip of tongue. I hope she doesn't take it seriously; I use stupid pet
names more often than not when I talk to women. "You look a little out of place here."
"Can you please get out of my way?" She sniffs.
"You're a little wobbly on your feet," I point out, resting my cigarette between my lips. I move my beer to my other hand,
then place my free hand on her shoulder to steady her. " What the hell kind of friends leave you walking around alone like
this? And how long you been searching for them?"
She shrugs and picks at her finger nails, staring at her dirty feet once more. "I don't know. Awhile." She looks up at me
again and I'm done for. I can tell she's trying to be tough, like this doesn't bother her, but there's no way in hell she's okay.
Where are her shoes, for god's sake?
Normally I'd leave someone like this alone, but she's by herself and clearly out of her element. Her ears are dotted with
pearl earrings and she's wearing a pink shirt and cream cardigan combo that looks more expensive than my car. What's
this chick doing at a place like this, especially alone? I don't know anything about her, but she looks far too fancy to sleep
in a tent in a muddy field.
I can't ignore the way her stomach growls. It's sort of adorable. I don't know what I'm doing or why I'm even still standing
her talking to her, but before I know it, my mouth starts running again.
"You hungry? My buddy and I are making campfire breakfast back at the tent. You like pancakes?" I offer. For a moment, I
think she's going to turn me down. She surprises me when she tells me she's never had them.
Never had them. Pancakes. I just keep thinking, Come on Princess, what the hell do they feed you for breakfast up in that
tower? Okay, so much for not being judgmental. Once she sobers up a bit she'll have plenty to analyze about me. If she
sticks around long enough to find out.
Right now, I just need to get some food in her stomach. Something tells me alcohol isn't the only thing making her foggy.
Her pretty eyes are red and behind a mask of expensive smelling perfume, I detect a familiar pungent smell. I try to
picture her with a joint between those pretty pink lips of hers, but I can't. This doesn't look like her scene. I get the feeling
she's just lost.
"Are they gluten free?" She blinks her puffy red eyes.
Is she serious? Does it matter?
"Tell me that's the pot talking, baby." I say before I can censor myself. "They're fucking pancakes. You think I worry about
all that? And what the hell kind of girl your age hasn't ever had a pancake? Are you like allergic or something?"
"No. My mother just insists I don't eat gluten," she says with a frown, like it's just dawned on her that she's a grown up
and can do whatever the hell she wants. I wonder if her mom's voice is always in the back of her head and am grateful
that I have a mother who lets me be myself. Even if she doesn't always approve of what I do.
"Well Mommy ain't here and if she was, I can't imagine she'd appreciate the trip you're on right now. And I mean that
literally. Am I right or am I right?"
She giggles, and I tell myself it's not the drugs. She's not seeing me as a giant pillsbury dough boy or something. She
just thinks i'm funny...because I am.
God, what the hell am I doing? I'm flirting with her. Normally, this is something I'd high-five myself over. Or at least try to.
She's hot, but she's vulnerable and I'd be a complete asshole to take advantage of this right now. I tell myself it's just
pancakes and somehow I'm fine with it again.
She looks at me through glassy eyes and begins to laugh. I'm not sure if she's delirious or finds this genuinely funny, but
what the hell should I care? I don't like to judge people on the way they live their lives. I'm good with nicotine and alcohol,
never caring to venture into anything harder, and something tells me this girl isn't someone who normally does either. It
strikes a protective nerve in me and I'm too curious to let this one go. At least not without a few answers.
"Come on," I rest my arm around her cardigan wrapped shoulders and lead her back toward my tent. I don't know her
name or one thing about her. I just know there's something about her that I kind of like. I plan on introducing her to Ryan
but in the few moments it took us to get back to the site, he's passed out and snoring inside the tent.
I snatch some wet wipes from my duffel bag so we can clean up a little. It'd take an entire pack to wash the dirt off her
legs and feet, but I'll offer to walk her down to the creek later so she can clean up a bit. I'm a little afraid to send her off on
her own, the way she's walking.
She sits on the grass and folds her legs beneath her as I open the cooler and whip out the container of batter I mixed up
last night. I push the sleeves of my black henley up to my elbows and pour the batter onto the small skillet I packed. I
wait, them flip then once and lean back on my hands waiting until they're golden brown.
I finished my first cigarette and am already ready for another, so I slip one between my lips and flick my lighter. In an
instant, I'm calmed and chance a look in my mystery girl's direction. Her eyes are wide and she's staring at my lips like
they're a glass of water in the desert.
Jesus, I'm honored.
She crawls a little closer to me on her hands and knees before pulling the cigarette out of my mouth and resting it in her
own. It's the sexiest thing in the world right now. When she pulls it out, I notice her red lipstick stain on the paper.
She exhales toward the sky and looks back at me with this devilish smile. I'll admit, I'm confused as hell. She's like a
devil dressed in angel clothing and I wonder what else she's hiding behind those big brown eyes.
"I'm kind of high," she admits before saying anything else. She looks so damn sexy with that cigarette I can't ask for it
back. I'll get another one after breakfast.
"I kind of figured," I nod. The pancakes are done, so I slide one off with the side of a fork and plate it up for her. I hope a
paper plate will do. She smiles, then douses it in the butter and syrup I set out next to us before digging in. She eats
another and I'm oddly satisfied. I've never taken care of someone in my life. I can barely take care of myself.
After a short while, she begins to talk.
"I'm not a druggie," she blurts out between bites. I wonder if she's finally crashing. "I've never done something like this
before." It's summer, but the morning air is cool and it sends a shiver through her. "Starting to think it wasn't such a great
"So what're you doing out here, anyway?"
I'm not offering information about myself, like for instance I don't live in California. I keep the conversation focused on her,
because it's got to be more interesting than my life.
"I came with friends from school. I'm a freshman at Stanford," she bites her lower lip and I nearly die. "My roommate
Avery and I came out here last night to listen to a few bands we like and ended up partying with a guy she likes from her
psych class. Like I said, I'm not one to do this. I just..." she shakes her head. "Forget it. I don't know why I'm telling you all
this anyway. Long story short, I lost my phone somewhere in the field and can't find Avery. For all I know she forgot I'm
even here."
I wonder if that's what she was looking for when she ran into me. I wonder what the world looks like to her when she has
to be herself.
"Shitty friend," I mutter. I sort of wish I hadn't said it. Insulting her roommate probably isn't the best way to keep her
talking. Her pancakes are nearly gone and I realize this means she'll probably be gone, too. "But whatever, right? We all
get into stuff sometimes. I guess it doesn't have to define us."
I pat myself on the back because that sounded really intelligent. I'm struck with the need to tell her my name, to keep this
small connection going. "I'm Damon," I pull out my pack of cigarettes and pull one out to give to her before grabbing my
own. She leans in so I can light it and I catch that sweet vanilla scent again. She puffs it once, then leaves it in her lips
and begins to work her messy hair into a long, thick braid, tying it at the end with a band that seems to have appeared
out of nowhere. I'm shocked at how even it is, all things considering.
"Elena," she says. I try to tell myself she's just another girl that I'll forget as soon as she walks away, but something
inside of me knows it won't be the case. "Thanks for the pancakes, Damon."
"My pleasure," I stand up and wipe my hands on my jeans before tucking them in my pockets. The conversation has
reached a standstill and I'm desperate to find a way to keep her near me. Honestly, Ryan's been out of it nearly the entire
time we've been here and it'd be nice to have someone to hang out with and listen to new bands. Doesn't hurt that she's
hot, either.
"Here. Punch your number in my phone," I hand it to her and watch as her beautiful brow creases in confusion. "I've got
plenty of battery life left, so we can walk around dialing it until we hear it ring."
"You realize it could take forever, right?" She yawns. "I have no clue where I've all been."
I shrug. Of course I realize this. It's exactly my plan. That, and to have her phone number for when this is all said and
done. I offer her a smile that I hope she knows means I'm up for anything, then tug on my red Wisconsin Badgers hat
and duck briefly into the tent. Ryan's really out. He doesn't even move as I reach across him to grab my extra pair of
"Slip these on," I offer. She stares at me like I've officially lost my mind. "Yeah, I know. They'll be huge on you, but it's
better than walking around with nothing. You know how many broken bottles I've seen around here? It's amazing you
haven't cut yourself on one yet."
Without a word she slips into them and pulls the laces as tight as she can. I don't even care that she's wrecking the
insides with her dirty feet. She can keep the boots for all I care. If all goes well she won't give a damn about the phone by
the end of the night and we can grab some fair food and listen to some bands before she takes off forever.
It's like I told my mom last week, I may look like I'm walking around aimlessly, but I always have a plan.
Present Day
I'm at a point in my life where my past has begun to haunt me. I like to think I've got it pretty together now. This awesome
responsible side of me is due partly to the fact I've been on my own for years. I've had time to grow up and learn the
things I should've before I met Elena. I'd like to think I'd still be at this point even if she'd never been in that fire, but the
truth is, I'm not so sure. Her near death woke me the hell up and I haven't looked back since.
"Fall asleep standing up?" Her sweet voice snaps me back to the moment and I realize the kettle's whistling loudly on
the stovetop. My back is to her, and when I turn, I see she's now focused on the very thing that had been holding my
attention for so long. The picture.
I smile sadly when I see no recognition of that particular memory in her pretty brown eyes. I mix two mugs of hot
chocolate and hand one easily to her. She seems to instantly warm when her hand wraps around the ceramic, and
closes her eyes with her first sip. It dawns on me that this could very well seem like her first hot chocolate. It's so touch
and go with what she recalls.
"It's really good," she says softly. I can't help but smile at the thin layer of foam that's made itself comfortable on her
upper lip. She's got the cutest hot chocolate mustache I've ever seen and if this was any normal circumstance, I'd snap a
picture just to remember it.
When the doctors talked to me about bringing her home, they went through this whole spiel about how important a
simple picture can be. It has the potential to trigger memories quicker, but there's never any guarantees. The walls of our
home are filled with photographs, many of which I added after the accident so I could see her right away every time I
walked into a room. I thought about taking some down before she got here, but couldn't bring myself to do so. I think
she's been purposely avoiding looking at them, though, because she trains her eyes on the floor when she walks from
room to room.
I've been so caught up in our misfortune that I haven't taken the time to really think back on how it all began in a long
while. The memories are bittersweet. Both sad and exhilarating, but I'm afraid to share too much because I don't want to
freak her out more than she already seems to be.
"How old are we there?" She asks, her eyes flicking to the photo once more. I'm thrown off guard because it's the first
time she's really asked for details about our past. I've waited for this moment for forever, but I'm not sure I'm ready to go
there just yet.
"Eighteen and twenty," I watch the questions form in her head as she takes in the playfulness of the photo. We're
standing close, covered in mud, our foreheads pressed together. The shot was taken from far away, but I can remember
the details to a tee. Her white cardigan is unbuttoned over the top of her muddy pink blouse and her brown braid hangs
over one shoulder.
Ryan had woken up after a long day of traipsing through the fields searching for her lost phone and stopping to listen to
a bunch of different bands throughout the grounds. He'd finally done something cool and snapped a photo of us from
twenty feet away. We never did find her phone, but I'd like to think we came away with something better. The picture's
been hanging on the wall of every place I've lived in since that day. I love it for more than obvious reasons.
What the photo doesn't show is the the vulnerability in her eyes just before she kissed me or the sweet motion of her lips
when she told me she wasn't ready to go home, after all. Even after marrying her, it's hard to believe that the woman
before me now is the same woman I found that day. I remind myself to never let myself forget how lucky I am to have her.
"We look happy," she nods, then turns completely away from it. "I wish I could remember how I felt that day."
We're seated across from each other at the kitchen table, staring into our mugs of cocoa like they hold the answer to our
greatest question: Where do we go from here? Because I honestly don't know. I never know what to say or do anymore,
and I'm constantly worried she'll take off like she did tonight.
I don't think she gets the magnitude of it all, and I don't expect her to. She doesn't know what she lost, but I remember
everything, and it's taking everything I have not to push these mugs off the table and lay her down on it so I can press her
lips to mine and finally feel the her body moving beneath mine again. But I'm not stupid and I'm not selfish. I know what
that would do. It'd send her wandering, and this time, she might jus decide to stay in a hotel until her memories come
"I'm sorry I took off earlier. I wasn't thinking. It's just really hard being here. Harder than I thought. This house is beautiful.
It's a home," she smiles. "It just doesn't feel like my home yet. I thought I'd walk through the door and at least remember
something. The way it smells like pine or the beautiful hardwood floors cold against my bare feet. But I wander around
here like a guest and after two days, nothing's coming back. I'm worried it never will."
I let out a grateful sigh. She's opening up to me and it's a gift. I want to be supportive and show her that I'm patient and
that it'll be fine, no matter what happens in the end. I told myself a long time ago that regardless of whether she
remembers everything or nothing at all, I'll love her all the same. How can I not?
"I honestly didn't think about the consequences or about how it would affect you. I guess I didn't know how it would. I'm
not used to people caring what I do," she smiles sadly and I'm met with the eyes of my 18-year-old Elena. My heart aches
for her, because unlike her, I know what happened to bring her to the point of getting high out of her mind around
strangers at a music festival.
We talk a bit more, but nothing worth getting excited over. We've hung around the house a lot since we got back. I've
made a few trips to the store to get groceries and other personal items she's needed, but she insisted on staying back,
afraid of running into people who knew her. She says she's tired of so many strangers, and I guess I can understand
that. Tomorrow we have plans to venture out to the mall a few miles outside Milwaukee. She needs new clothes that
actually fit her, and it'll be nice to get her out into the world again.
She's yawns widely and it reminds me of a lion, the way it aways has. When she's tired, she's exhausted, and her tiny
body needs all the time to recuperate that it can get. I've taken a few weeks off work to get her settled, and I'm hoping
she'll be up to meeting people again by the time I need to go back. I can't stand the thought of her being lonely.
"Hope the sugar doesn't keep you up," I offer outside the guestroom door. I don't know what else to do, and I have to
keep myself busy so I don't do something stupid that would make her uncomfortable. Like hug her.
"It won't be the sugar," she tells me. I know what she means. I've been kept up with nightmares lately, too. "Goodnight,
She looks sleepy and weak, and right now, I really want to tell her I love her. I said the words a thousand times while she
was in her coma, but I'm not sure what she could hear or if she remembers it at all. I haven't had the chance to look her
in the eyes and say it to her in over four years, and it's torture. It's the itch I can't scratch, the words I mouth when she isn't
looking my way. It's the promise I made to her just a little over four years ago that I'm planning on keeping for the rest of
my life. Whether she remembers me or not.
I substitute those three words with "Goodnight, Elena," and know it'll have to do for now, but as soon as she closes the
door behind her, I whisper I love you, anyway.
A/N: Thank you for reading!
*Chapter 3*: Moon
A/N: Thanks to everyone for all the great reviews! I've been working on this chapter with a broken ring finger, which
has proved to be harder than I would've thought. I asked the doctor if I could use that finger to type and he said to
avoid it, so I'm splinted up and typing with the wrong fingers. :) Bear with me for 4-6 weeks, here. I'll update as
frequently as I can.
We're back in Elena's head for this one. I'm enjoying flipping back and forth between D and E as the chapters go on.
I chose Sia's "Moon" for this chapter. Thanks again for reading.
Chapter 2: Moon
Elena POV
It's nearing the end of November.
I'm sitting on a well-used swing on our screen porch with my knees pulled up to my chest and my bare feet pressed into
the wood. The chains are old and squeak as I swing forward, then back, hoping the motion will somehow calm my
thoughts. I didn't fall asleep last night. I should be exhausted, but honestly, I'm sick of sleep. There's a tiny part of me that
worries I may never wake up or that I'll regress and forget Damon all over again. I haven't remembered anything about
him yet...but he's been around everyday since I woke up and I've grown used to it. These days, routine is important.
Yesterday was kind of a turning point for us. We've been eating a lot of take out, and while I love Chinese food and a little
greasy pizza now and then, I was really starting to crave homemade food. I asked Damon to take me to the grocery store
to pickup the ingredients I'd need to try my hand at a meatloaf recipe I found in a cooking magazine, along with some
salad and items to make dessert. I picked up a bottle of red wine while I was at, thrilled by the simple fact I've never been
able to legally buy it before. I heard Damon chuckle when I proudly presented my still valid driver's license with a picture
of myself looking far younger than I do now.
It turns out I can actually cook. It's kind of crazy, considering I grew up with a mother who didn't touch an oven in her life. I
was in an awesome mood for once, happy that things seemed to be going my way for a change. Dinner was going well.
We were three glasses of wine deep and laughing about something we'd seen on the way home from the store, when
suddenly something in the air between us shifted.
He reached across the table to rub a glob of sauce from the corner of my mouth. My body was a million miles ahead of
my head, because my tongue slipped out to touch the pad of his finger as it rubbed the length of my lower lip. He let out a
guttural groan and his warm, calloused fingertips moved below my chin and tipped my face upward. I complied, because
how could I not? His touch was soft and commanding at the same time. And, yes, I might be stubborn as hell, but there
was something insanely hot about all of this. I brought my eyes to his, and was met with a look he hadn't yet given me
since I woke up from my coma. It was white-hot.
"You're so fucking beautiful," he said, placing his fork down next to his plate and scooting closer in toward the table so
both of his warm hands could cup my cheeks. I don't know if it was the alcohol warming his blood or the fact that he's
had to behave around me for four weeks, but his look was primal when his fingers slipped into my hair. I wondered what
it would be like to close my eyes and kiss him. To forget everything else and just give in. My thoughts came to a halt
when he licked his lips and pressed his thumbs gently into my earlobes. "Jesus. It's not even fair."
Then it all came crashing down and I was hit with a dose of reality. It isn't fair. Any of it. And I need to stop all this before I
let him kiss me, because I'm not so sure who it would confuse more.
His eyes were liquid heat, filled with longing and something else I couldn't quite read, but it startled me. Damon's fingers
tightened in my hair and it felt amazing, but I'll admit I wasn't sure quite what to do with it. I felt like a child, and that's the
last thing I wanted to explain to my husband
Oh, I'm plenty attracted to him. I'm just not sure what sparked the moment. Did he see something in me that reminded
him of the way we used to be, or was it just that moment...me...now? I still don't know, because I freaked out and left the
table before he could explain.
Yes. It sounds like something I would've done when I was seventeen and couldn't deal with my parents, but that's the
only way I remember handling thing. I can't imagine the look I must've been giving him. At seventeen, I'd never been
looked at that way.
I didn't resurface from my room until almost 11 pm, and I found Damon sipping a bottle of beer on the front porch steps
next to a dusting of snow. He looked up at me, and this time, his eyes were full of apology. He didn't make a move to
touch me, and after I apologized for not only freaking out but also for leaving him with half-eaten food and a pile of dirty
dishes, I asked him for a favor.
I knew it was a lot to ask, especially since he's already waited for years, but I'm trying to be honest, so I went ahead and
did it anyway. I'll never forget way his light in his eyes dimmed a little when I asked him if we could just be friends for
I know. How ridiculous. The man waits years for his wife to wake up and when she finally does, she only wants to be his
buddy. Maybe it's selfish of me not to try, but something tells me it would be so much worse if I forced myself into
something more. I'm not going to kiss him and sleep with him then cross my fingers that when I wake up I'll remember
everything. I'd rather build a new relationship with him, as someone I can trust in this world, because right now, I really
need a friend.
I think my request killed him a little, but I've come to learn that Damon's too kind and gentle with me to put up much of a
fight. I'm sure this isn't easy, and I hope one day I can make it up to him. I know we're married and it's not like I'm telling
him to go off and be with other women. I may not remember loving him, but I know he's mine, and this sacred union of
ours is still intact. I'm also not selfish enough to believe I'll really be able to keep him if I never do get my memory back.
He may love me, but how long can we go on like this? How can he possibly be forever content staying married to a
woman who feels nothing for him?
I sigh and remind myself this is the very reason I suggested we stick to friendship for now. It's not a free pass to sleep
around, of course, but it's taking off some of the pressure and I hope it'll help me figure a few things out about myself.
Like how I want to live my life, now that I was given a second chance.
I smile as my fingers slide over the note Damon left for me on the kitchen table this morning.
Went hunting. I'll be back by lunch...if you're awake by then ;) Help yourself to whatever you want. My phone's on vibrate
so feel free to call. Damon
It's written in blue ink and dotted with coffee stains, The paper's frayed on the left side like he tore it from a spiral
notebook in a rush, his handwriting a little bit messy. I smile, because even though I'm just getting to know him, this note
definitely has a Damon vibe. It doesn't hold awkwardness and I'm happy to see he meant what he said about our
I heard him leaving the house around 5:30 a.m.; he isn't exactly quiet. I'm sure he's not used to having to tiptoe around
his own place. I heard everything from his loud boots clomping around the kitchen, to the screen door creaking open and
closed over and over again as he got all of his equipment ready.
Hunting. I would've never guessed. Yeah, he has this outdoorsy way about him, but he lights up at the sight of animals
and I wouldn't have pegged him for a hunter. I can't fault him for doing the things he loves, no matter how I feel about it.
I'm sure this is all new to him again; he hasn't had anyone to answer to in four years. Suddenly I'm back, and it can't be
easy. And while I kind of miss having coffee with him when I wake up, I'm really happy he went off on his own for awhile
today. He's been so busy taking care of me that I'm afraid he isn't taking time for himself. A few nights ago one of his
buddy's invited him out to watch a football game and have some beers at a sports bar and he turned it down. He tried
telling me he didn't want to go anyway, but I know better. He's afraid I'll run if he leaves me alone for too long.
My eyes float to the note again. I can't help it; it's adorable. The writing's slanted off the lines, like it was an afterthought. I
can picture it, too Damon halfway to the woods before deciding he better let me know where he went so I don't panic if I
wake up and he's gone.
We've been back in Wisconsin for a week and I'm finally starting to settle in. It's not familiar like I'd hoped it would be the
first time I walked through the door, but it's toasty warm inside and has all the makings of a home. There's a rustic
fireplace in the living room and a wrap-around porch that reaches all the way to the back of the house and allows for a
perfect view of the lake behind us. Our property is huge and when I asked him how we managed to afford it, he told me
it's been in his family for years. He won't say much else about it and I won't push. I definitely understand how it feels to
not want to talk all the time.
Each room is painted a different color and the walls are collaged with pictures of the two of us. I haven't had it in me to
ask very many questions, but I will soon. I avoided looking at very many of the pictures because they only made me sad.
But something's changed now, and I'm working on being okay with it.
Two hours ago, when I found his note stuck to the kitchen table, I decided enough was enough. If I can't bring myself to
ask Damon questions, I need to at least try to look at my past on my own. It's easier this way, because I don't have to
worry about the look on his face when he realizes I don't remember one of his favorite memories. Like the first day we
met. Or our wedding.
I know I'm putting too much pressure on myself and I could actually be hindering my progress by doing so. I've been so
caught up in wondering what I would normally do, that I haven't been thinking about what I want right now. It's just hard,
because the way I remember myself is very different from the happy-go-lucky me dotted all over our walls.
Take for instance the picture I'm looking at now. We're young, with goofy grins on our faces and our forks and knives
positioned to dig into our humongous plates of turkey on Thanksgiving Day. My hair's knotted up in a messy bun on the
top of my head and my diamond shines brightly on my finger. I The back of the picture is dated just a month before the
fire. I look happy and silly, like life was easy and finally going my way...like there was nothing in the world that could rip
that look off my face...no tragedy great enough to make me lose that moment.
I'm holding a photo album filled with pictures of just the two of us during our short time together. The book can hold 200
photos, and somehow it's packed. I'm stuck on this photo right now because I'd like to learn something. Thanksgiving is
in just a few nights and we're going over to Damon's mother's house for a full-blown, gut-busting meal, and I'm nervous
as hell.
I begged him to let me wait a few weeks to re-meet everyone, and now I'm ready to kick myself for it. While it's been nice
having time on my own, I'm not sure meeting Damon's family (again) for the first time is such a good idea on a holiday
especially considering we're taking the friends route for now. He tells me it'll be a pretty small group, but I'm still afraid of
messing something up or doing something wrong.
And that's why I made a pretty important decision this morning when I rolled out of bed.
I don't remember a damn thing, and I'm going to stop trying. I need to be myself this me and not have to worry about
what I would've done in the past. I'm sick of being sad and I want to start my life over. I want to do it without worrying I'll
disappoint someone, but I'm just not sure that's possible. All I know is I have to try something different, and if I'm meant
to remember, I will...in the end.
I close the album and squint toward the woods when I see two figures walking back toward the house. It's 10 a.m., no
where near lunch, but I'm happy he's home early. I don't know anything about hunting except that he loves it and it
requires him to be quiet for hours at a time. The man has patience.
As he gets closer, I can make out the person behind him. It's a young woman with black hair tied back in thin ponytails
and a blaze orange cap pulled over her head. She's carrying a gun bag and a duffel, and I can hear her call something
out to Damon but I can't make out the words. He turns, then tugs the brim of her cap down playfully and laughs and I feel
my insides twist. I don't know who this woman is, but the easy way he's laughing with her makes me a little sad.
I'm starting to wonder if he understood our little talk yesterday.
Before they make it into the screen porch, I'm back inside the house, sitting at the kitchen table flipping through the
newspaper like I didn't see them at all. I tucked the photo album under a stack of magazines because I really don't want
to answer questions right now. I'm only looking at these photos because I'm interested, not because I'm trying to be her
"Morning, Elena," he says, walking around the table until he's facing me.
"Morning," I look up into his eyes and my heartbeat kicks up a few notches. Just because I refuse to act on my attraction
doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
He's sweating and it's sexy as hell. His cheeks are pink from the cold wind and the long walk home. It's times like these I
tell myself he's mine and that I shouldn't feel nervous around him. That this attraction is a good thing; maybe it's my body
remembering him when my mind can't.
He's in a pair of camouflage pants and thick black boots, and he's peeling off his blaze orange coat and gloves and
dropping them on the floor. He's left a trail of mud and leaves from the back porch to wear he stands now. I'm quick to
glare from his eyes to his mess and back, and he smiles and scoops his belongings up quickly. Just because he's
smoking hot doesn't mean I'm going to let him drop his shit all over the house. That much I do know.
"Sorry. I'm about to hop in the shower. Bad luck huntin'. Almost had one, but it got away," he sighs. "Good thing it's only
the start of the season. Plenty of time."
"By 'almost had one' he means he saw a buck off in the distance and missed it by a mile," I hear a soft voice say from
behind him. Damn, I'd almost forgotten about her. Damon rolls his eyes and she walks up to him to tousle his already
messy hair. Excuse me while I gag. I'm just about to do something irrational like flash my wedding ring to stake my claim
when Damon's voice interrupts my jealousy.
"Way to bruise my ego," he pokes her in the ribs until she jumps back. I look away, completely out of sorts for some
reason. He clears his throat, and when we make eye contact, I see realization in his blue pools. "Just remember who
taught you how to hunt to begin with."
He puts his hand on the woman's back and leads her slightly forward again until she's beside him and right in front of
me. "This is Harlow," he says carefully. "My twin sister."
Excuse me? Yeah, we've played it pretty simply, but I would've figured he'd have shared this minor detail, especially since
I'm about to dive head first into his family again in a few days.
He looks guilty, like he knows it could upset me to introduce me to her-his twin-this way, but I can't bring myself to be
angry with him. He's smiling like an idiot around her, and it's nice to finally see him relaxed. He's bent over backwards for
me since the moment I woke up, and it's about time he has a little time for himself.
Harlow steps forward and I stand up awkwardly. I'm not sure if I should shake her hand or hug her, and I wonder what
our relationship was like before the accident. I'm curious, because her eyes are filled with a thin sheet of tears. Instead
of a hug, she presses her hand into mine, like we're really meeting for the first time, and it eases me in a way. But only
"Hi," she says sweetly with a smile that says she's means every word. "I'm so happy you're home. We've really missed
you, Elena."
"Thank you," I nod and smile politely, because I'm not sure what else to say. I'm sure Damon has given her the spiel
about my status. I don't think she was expecting a big happy reunion, but still, this moment is big and this time I'm going
to remember it.
My sister-in-law is beautiful, much like her brother. Now that my jealousy is completely at bay and I feel like an idiot for
even doubting his loyalty, I can see the resemblance. Her eyes are the same striking blue and she's tall and slender.
"So. I'm going to grab a shower," he says, pointing his thumb over his shoulder toward the staircase. "You want some
coffee or something, 'Low?"
The corners of my lips turn up at his nickname for her. He's been so gentle with everyone we've come in contact with. I
know I must've hit the jackpot with this one.
Harlow glances at me carefully. She must pick up on my nerves, because she politely declines.
"I think I better get home before Andrew gets back from his trip. I'd like to shower and actually smell like a woman since I
haven't seen him in a week," she winks at him and he feigns a gag. I catch myself smiling at the ease that exists
between them. "But I'll see you guys at Mom's in a few days?"
Damon nods and gives her a look I can't decipher, but she seems to understand. Must be weird twin magic or
something. She's gone in a moment's time and I find myself at the table alone again. He excused himself for his shower
without saying much, and now I'm left feeling a little out of sorts. I need to tell him about my decision, no matter how
afraid of how it will go over.
Before I can stop myself, I'm at his bedroom door. It's closed, so I let myself in.
"Holy hell, Lena. If you only want to be friends you better learn how to knock. I'm practically naked in here," he teases. I
freeze as I take it all in. It's the first time I've been in here since the fire, and I'm immediately hit with the scent of dark
spices. Then it happens.
The smell is so familiar I almost can't breathe. I give it a minute, inhaling and exhaling, unable to get enough of the way it
makes me feel, but the moment ends when I open my eyes and see him sitting at the edge of his bed shirtless. Okay,
now that's just not fair.
He's cut, with the most amazing muscles I think I've ever laid eyes on, and a small script-like tattoo inked on the inside of
his right bicep that reads aeternus eternus. I can't bring myself to ask him what it means.
"What's up?" His head is tipped a bit to one side. He looks hopeful. "I was only teasing, you know. I don't care if you come
in here without knocking."
"I uh..." I'm almost afraid to tell him that I remember the scent, because a part of me thinks it's only familiar because he
wears it almost every day. I know that's not it though. Deep down, I know; this is the first time anything has ever felt like a
memory with him, and I'm nervous to voice it for fear I'll get his hopes up that I'm close to remembering the rest. "It's just
my first time being in here since I came back," I say honestly. "You're bed is really huge."
Wow. I'm awesome.
The bed he's sitting on used to be our bed. I pull my eyes away and they get stuck on a large canvass hanging above the
headboard. I nearly lose it, because I've never seen myself smile that widely. It's of the two of us, and my curls hang
loosely around my shoulders as I tip my head back into Damon's chest. I've got a lit cigarette between my fingers at my
hip, and I'm laughing. Heartily.
"I smoked?"
"Like a chimney," he laughs. "I used to, too. We'd go through at least two packs a day. You smoked up until the day of the
"Gross," I frown. "I guess that's one good thing about losing my memory. I don't remember the withdrawals. You quit,
"Yeah. Same time as you." I know what he means, so I hope he doesn't elaborate further. "I guess I started thinking
about all the bad shit it was doing to my body. I stared at you, and you were helpless to do anything for yourself...so I
knew I wanted to make some changes, starting with quitting cigs."
That's honorable, and sweet. "So why'd you pick this picture to hang up here?"
"I couldn't have you in person, and this picture is about as close to the real you I knew. I mean look at you. You're
gorgeous here," He says, nostalgia dripping from his lips as he waves toward the canvas. I wish this could go differently,
for his sake. "I mean, you still are. I just love the way this photo shows the way your eyes light up when you laugh." He
runs a hand through his sweaty hair and my insides crumple. He may be okay with the way things are right now, but he's
still deeply in love with the way I used to be. That worries me.
Okay, I didn't come up here for this. I bite my lip and force my gaze back down to him and start off with something a little
"I didn't know you're sister went hunting with you this morning. I didn't even know you had a sister, let alone a twin,
Damon. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm sorry. I wasn't sure when you'd be ready for all that," he reaches for my hand and I let him take it. It's comforting, and
I'm confident he's not going to push me for more. "She said she didn't have to come inside because she was worried
about overwhelming you. It's just she's really excited you're back. You're going to meet everyone else on Thanksgiving
and I thought it might be good to kind of break you in slowly, so you at least know one more person there."
"Speaking of introductions, I made a pretty big decision this morning and I haven't gotten to talk to you about it. I'm
heartbroken that I can't remember, so I'm just going to stop trying. I'm willing to talk about our past, but only because it's
our past, not because I'm trying to go back in time. I can't sit around and wait for my life to start back up, Damon."
He takes a deep breath, like he's going to beg me to reconsider, but let's it out without a word.
"I hated myself when I was seventeen,"
"I know," he frowns. "You weren't so keen on yourself when we first met, either."
His confession throws me off, but I press on. I'll revisit that sometime later because I deserve to know what I'm dealing
"I can't go back to feeling that way," he holds out his hand and shakes his head, but I know what he's getting ready to say.
That I was happy before the accident. That he'd never let me be that said again. I get my words out quickly, before I lose
my nerve.
"And yes, I realize a lot happened to me, and us, that I don't remember. I look happy in these pictures, and I want to feel
that way again. But it'll never happen if I concentrate on how much time I lost. I can't, anymore."
"Okay," he says simply. I'm fully aware that he knows the way I felt about myself just before we met. I wonder how bad I let
myself and how the hell I turned it all around.
"Okay? That's it? You're not going to tell me I'm silly to just give up trying to remember?"
I know in a way I'm saying I won't force myself to remember loving him, and it's got to hurt.
"No," he shrugs, then stands from his bed and swipes a folded towel from a pile sitting on his bed. He's starting to be
too good to be true. I'm just waiting for this all to come crashing down. I wonder if the doctors prepared him for this
particular speech, too.
"Well what if I'm nothing like the way you remember me?"
"You are. Trust me. Whether you remember it or not, you'll always be my Elena." his tone suggests he's never said a
more true statement in his life.
I stare at him, unable to move. He's so beautiful in just his unbuttoned camo pants. His muscled arms are stretched
above him and he taps his hands on the top of the doorframe, like he's waiting for me to respond.
I can't. He offers me a devilish grin that says he knows he just affected me, then turns and closes the door behind him
before turning on the shower.
I briefly debate whether or not I made a bad decision in asking we stay friends. He's gorgeous and completely
committed to me, no matter what idea I seem to present him with. If I'm truly trying to move forward and make decisions
solely on how I feel now instead of what I would've done before, I know I have to take things slowly and keep him as a
friend. A really, really sexy friend that I can stare at whenever I want. I just have to keep reminding my hormones of the
plan, because lately it seems they have a mind of their own.
I take the plunge and plop down on his bed. Our bed. I stare backwards, upside down at the canvas on the wall behind
me. I'm not sure what I think could happen. He's always quick in the shower and before I know it he'll be out here in a
towel. I should probably go. No matter the label slapped on our relationship, I just feel better when he's around.
I'm still adjusting to the idea that he's all I have left. The doctors say it's best if I take things easy so I don't overwhelm
myself. And I can, with most situations, but not the death of my parents. I catch myself zoning in and out, remembering
things they used to say. When I was small, I naturally believed everything my mother said was right. As I grew, I began to
wonder why she never seemed truly happy. Her brown eyes were big and beautiful, but when I really learned how to look,
I could only see emptiness.
"Only a fool marries for love alone; you'll see what I mean when you get older..."she once said.
Do I think she loved my father? Yes, but not in that inseparable, heart-aches-when-I'm-not-with-him type of love. She
supported him in everything he did...maybe that was the way she showed her affection. I wonder what it was like when
they fell in love. They never really talked about it. I just knew they married when they were in their early twenties. Before
they'd really seen the world, as my mother had once put it. As I think back, I don't recall ever walking in on them kissing or
whispering. The kind of relationships I grew up around were anything but passionate. I briefly wonder if I'm capable of
real love or if I, too, was systematic and practiced in my marriage.
I know I wouldn't be that way now.
Mom always had a way of seeing the sour side of things. She was well-spoken but arrogant, and often times more
beautiful on the outside than in. She didn't leave the house without her dark red lipstick and a pair of heels, spending too
many evenings downing bottles of red wine with her ladies' association rather than fixing me bedtime snacks.
My nanny, JosephineJoey, for shortdid all the important things, like making sure I brushed my teeth and packed my
books for school in Kindergarten. The nights my father got home early, he'd press a kiss to my forehead. I always
pretended to be asleep, afraid if I caught his eyes I might see something I didn't want to, like misery. Even as a small
child I sensed my family was different.
My father was a surgeon, and he spent countless hours hunched over the operating table, dedicating his time to
ensuring his patients got to see the sunrise the next day. I remember thinking how important his job was and how
admirable it was that my daddy saved people. Deep down, though, it bothered me that he always seemed so far away.
And I don't mean physically. Yes, he was gone a lot, but his hospital was just a few miles away. He'd work for hours,
coming home only to sit and stare at a computer with dark circles under his eyes. Even when he was home, it never
really felt like he was there...especially not the way I needed him to be.
I was sent away to an out-of-state boarding school in first grade. My parents told me I'd get a better education than the
public or private schools around our home. Maybe I did, but as the years progressed I realized a top-notch education
wasn't the only reason they'd sent me away. Joey escorted me on my first plane ride to school, when I was only 6 years
old. I remember clutching her hand and staring into her eyes as she told me she wouldn't let anything happen to me.
She was always kind to me, and often listened to me when it seemed my parents didn't care to. It broke my heart the first
time I came home from boarding school for thanksgiving break; I'd had to make the 3 hour flight alone, only to discover
Joey had been dismissed and I was back to having no one.
I had a few friends over the years at school. Mostly roommates. But Sophie grew up to be a Grade A bitch and Mallory
moved overseas when her father took a job in France. It wasn't easy for me to make connections. I was awkward and shy
and my parents had instilled in me that I needed to watch every word I said, so as not to offend anyone or tarnish our
family name. It was a lot of pressure for a young girl, probably more than I realized at the time. But as the years went on
my emotions began stirring, like I'd been holding back for far too long.
I watched the other girls prance around campus like they had it all figured out, but I didn't envy them. They walked like my
mother and talked like my father, and after awhile it became abundantly clear that I didn't want to be a thing like either
one of them...like I'd inherited the deeply buried wild side of each of them, and a vibrant young woman was just dying to
break free. I'm not sure if she ever did.
I guess it's been years since I've thought about all this. Everything Damon's told me so far makes me believe things
didn't end well with my parents. I wonder what I did, and I wonder if he has anything to do with it. I don't expect him to sit
me down and explain it all in one shot. I don't think he could if he wanted to...at least thats the way it seems. I hope I
wasn't so shallow that he could define me in a matter of hours.
I must be more exhausted than I'll admit, because I somehow managed to fall asleep in the short time he was in the
shower. I probably could've slept for hours, and maybe I did, because I woke to a fully clothed Damon sitting next to me
on the bed.
I jump, completely startled and unsure of where I am or what time it is. His smile calms me.
"It's okay. You should go back to sleep. I thought it was kind of weird that you were awake when I got back. You've been
waking up really early lately. Kind of surprises me."
"I take it I wasn't much of morning person," I prop myself up on my elbows so my head lifts from his pillow.
"You slept like the dead," he blurts.
"Don't I know it," I say with a small smile. As far as I'm concerned, I was dead for those 4 years. I have to comment it on it
now and then to show him I can accept it.
As soon as he says it, he's reeling his words back in. "Shit, Elena. I didn't mean it like that."
We're silent for a minute, but not because I'm angry. It's just one of those moments nothing can fix, and I'm thankful that
I've decided to stop revisiting these feelings. I know, now more than ever, that I've made the right decision in trying to
move forward.
"I tried your apple pie last night. It's awesome." He says. I'm happy for the change in subject. "I was thinking about
reheating some to have with dinner Interested?" He wiggles his eyebrows in an adorable way.
"Very," I tuck my hair behind my ears and pull the warm blankets away from my body. The cool air hits me and I shiver.
"You haven't slept well since we've been home, have you?"
I swallow, then shake my head. His eyes are swimming with empathy. We must be magnetic, because his hand
reaches for mine and he squeezes it gently. It's warm and wonderful, and I briefly picture myself falling asleep right here,
like this, with him holding my hand.
"Tell you what. It's only 2 o'clock. You go back to sleep and I'll come get you when it's time."
I try to act like I'm not completely drained, but my yawns give me away. He smiles, then pulls the covers over me up to my
shoulders. I catch his dark scent again and my heart flutters.
"I can go to my room," I suggest, but I don't mean it. I hope he lets me stay. It's warm and it's strange, but I somehow feel
safe here.
"Don't you dare," he warns, but his voice is playful. "Besides, this is your room. You can sleep in it anytime you want."
I don't have time to call him out on his very non-friend comment; I'm headed back toward dreamland before he's out the
door. His weight feels good pressing down on the mattress as he sits next to me. I don't feel so alone. He's staring at
me, and for the briefest moment, it doesn't feel like the first time I've fallen asleep looking into his warm eyes.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Next up, Damon POV.
*Chapter 4*: She Is Love
A/N: I managed to work on this chapter with taped fingers. It took a little longer to type, but it was worth it. I had so
much fun with this one.
As promised, this is all Damon POV. I'm really having a good time switching back and forth.
I chose Parachute's "She Is Love" for this chapter. Thanks again for reading and all of the amazing feedback!
Chapter 3: She Is Love
Damon POV:
Present Day...
A few years ago I would've never said this, but it's actually really good to be back at work. Focusing on something other
than my relationship with Elena is nearly impossible when we're around each other every second of the day. Don't get
me wrong. I love spending time with Elena; when I'm around her it's like I'll never get enough. And that's my problem. I'm
trying really hard to respect her wishes and keep a friendly barrier up between us, but as the days go on, it's hard to
ignore how amazing she is.
My choice of work surprised many of my relatives when I announced it, because it's not the suit and tie type of job that's
usually tacked onto the end of the Salvatore name. I have no interest in sitting inside of a stuffy office all day in some high
rise in downtown Milwaukee. The small town life suits me, and I'm happy with who I've become and the changes I've
made in myself. I'm a lot more put together than I used to be. And if I can't do the one thing I always dreamed of doing,
owning an auto repair shop is the next best thing.
I get here early almost every day, far before we open. I have a few mechanics on board that show up when the overhead
door rolls up, but I'm the type of boss who walks around in a pair of coveralls and dives right into the job, too. It took me a
long time to find something I love enough to make it my career, and I don't care what anyone has to say about it. Fixing
cars is my outlet, and it's gotten through a lot of tough shit throughout the years. Like nearly losing my wife.
I hop up off the creeper and prop it up against the wall, wiping my forehead with my sleeve. It's 6 am and the shop's
closed for the day since it's Thanksgiving. We're closed for the long weekend, which means I could've come in here
anytime to straighten out some invoices and order my inventory, but I needed to get away and think for a bit before we
head to Mom's in a few hours.
Everything's always a big ordeal on the holidays, and I'm nervous for Elena. Mom loves her like her own, and Harlow not
only lost a sister-in-law, but a best friend when she went into the coma. My older brother Ric was attending grad school
at Oxford and never got the chance to meet her, but he's been back for two years now. He won't be meeting the same
woman he would've back then, but I'm still excited nonetheless, because Ric's the closest thing I've had to a father since
my Dad passed away when I was 20. We're only 6 years apart, but he's someone I can depend on to tell me the truth,
even when it's not something I want to hear.
And I know they forgive me for not being around for awhile, but I'm still haunted by how I took them for granted for far too
long as I was off searching for myself. I didn't have a rough childhood. I was loved immensely by both parents and got
along fine with my siblings. Everything was going great until my Dad died and I lost it. Lost myself. I have my wife to thank
for bringing me back to the land of the living; a favor I hope I can do for her in return.
Even now, as I rolled out from the underbelly of this beautiful classic car, my head's all wrapped up in Elena. I don't know
why I'm surprised because this car belonged to her. My young Elena drove a 1969 tuxedo black GM Corvette with curves
almost as sexy as hers, and worn vinyl seats. She loved that thing so much she named it. I'm hard just thinking about the
way she looked sitting on top of it. If I didn't love her the first time I met her, I know I loved her then.
Five Years Ago...
My adrenaline's on overdrive as I slam the door of my car carrier. I just had the race of my life. Seriously. I can't think of a
better feeling in the world than curving around those turns at shit-enducing speeds. It's a natural high, and I'm completely
"That race was sick. So awesome. Can you sign my program?" There's a young kid behind me, probably around 10, and
I'm stuck by the admiration in his eyes. I wipe my hands on my jeans and hold one out to him, thanking him for watching.
It's when he lights up like a Christmas tree that it hits me; I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing, and it doesn't matter
what anyone has to say about it.
"Thanks, man," I smile and scribble my name down in thick black marker. I'm honored, because it's not like I'm famous
or anything. I'm just a kid myself who decided he loved amateur car racing more than school or anything else in the
world. Enough to drop out of college my junior year and move to California, where it's warm all the time and I don't have
to put my car away for eight months out of the year. Enough to leave my family in the wake of having just lost my father.
The general consensus is that I care about myself more than anyone else, and maybe they're right. I just can't go back
right now.
A month ago I dragged my buddy out here for a music festival and met the coolest, most beautiful girl I've ever known. We
spent one unforgettable day together and when it was through, I carried her through the muddy fields into my brand new
green pickup truck and drove her back to her dorm at Stanford. She never did find her phone, so I worried my efforts to
get her number were for nothing. I knew once I went back to Wisconsin I'd never see her again and for some reason, the
thought made my stomach ache. We barely knew each other, but I felt a bigger connection with her than I have with
"You should come back here later," she said, pulling her lower lip between her teeth. "Everyone's staying overnight at the
festival grounds. We could have our own little party."
And shit, did I want to have an Elena-party. She's like this perfect mix of heaven and hell pent up in this tiny little body that
fits perfectly in my hands. I've never wanted anything more, so I agreed to head back to the grounds, grab some my stuff,
and be back within a few hours.
I was on top of the world...and then my mom called me that night to tell me my father died.
I couldn't even come up with anything to say. I just felt numb. I went home for the funeral and tried sticking around for
awhile. I continued to go to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, just as my father and brother had before me. And it
was fine at first. I felt like if I kept myself busy with school I wouldn't think about my father's death. It's not like it was my
fault or anything; cancer comes when you least expect it. I just feel guilty for staying purposely busy all the months he
was going through chemo. It was easier to put everything off until the next day, until it never came. Being around those
who did support him through his battle only makes me realize I'm a complete asshole.
But the numbness didn't wear off, even a month later. I craved a connection to something, someone, and it brought me
back to California. We have no history or anything at all, but walking away from something as good as thisas Elena
felt like a whole new type of tragedy.
So I didn't.
I know. It sounds reckless and completely irresponsible to just give up everything...and it is. She's a big part of it, but I'm
not just out here for the girl. I haven't even seen her since that day. I've been busy racing, trying to make a name for
myself on the track like I wasn't able to back home. I love my mother to death, but she's overprotective and doesn't like
me racing. I'm sure it has something to do with the danger because when she pleads with me to quit, her eyes are full of
the type of tears cried only by a woman who knows great loss. I should understand, but I don't, and it's one of the
reasons I decided to stay away. Still, telling my family over the phone that I won't be coming home or going back to
school didn't go over well. We're at a bit of a standstill right now.
I'm not as much of a mess as I should be. I have a decent bank account with enough money to put myself up in a little
studio apartment and stock with my refrigerator with necessities milk, cheese and beer. I've been racing since I was
about 18, mostly just with buddies' cars, but kept pretty quiet about it. My Dad was the only one who knew. He was the
one who made me fall in love with it to begin with. He'd take me to races down at the tracks as soon as I could stand. It's
not like this is out of the blue; my eyes have always been set on that finish line.
My mother will kill me when she finds out, but I used a portion of my inheritance to buy my race car. It's not like I won't
have plenty left over to use when I need it. My car's pretty basic right now. It's not like I have sponsors or anything. I've just
been doing races when and where I can, entering as many as possible to get myself noticed. My dad always told me to
do the things that made me happy, and right now, this is about it. I know it seems like I'm turning my back on my family
and ignoring them at a time when we should be glued together and mourning my father, but I'm not like the rest of them. I
can't just mourn. I have to find a way to live.
My heart stops when I see her. If there was ever a doubt that I was meant to stay in California, it is long forgotten. I'm
either delirious or the luckiest guy on the planet, because Elena Gilbert's sitting on the trunk of a classic car, smoking a
cigarette and smirking at me.
"Damon Salvatore. Nice race. You hugged those curves almost as tight as you hugged mine," she takes a drag from her
smoke and blows it out with a smile. What I'd give to be that cigarette.
Her playfulness draws me in like a magnet. I can't help but want to be near her.
"Sweet Corvette. Is it yours?" I ask. Our previous meeting didn't lend much need to discuss cars. I would've pegged her a
Audi kind of girl.
"Yeah," she slides her hand along it lovingly. "This is Sparrow. She's a '69 and practically in mint condition." This new
tidbit of info adds a whole new layer of sexiness to her. Nothing hotter than a woman who knows what she's talking
about. "Or she was until I got my hands on her a few months back at an auction."
Her long, thin legs are bent at the knee and her leather boots rest on the the silver edge of the bumper. She's got on a
pair of dark jeans with strategically placed rips in the knees and a teal shirt that hangs loosely off her shoulders and
comes to a V at the bottom, revealing the tanned skin of her hips on each side.
Her lips are painted red and it hasn't been long enough for me to forget the way they felt against mine. She looks like
sin...far, far from the little stoned, fallen angel I saw stomping around in that muddy grass. Where are the pearls now? I
wonder, followed by What the hell is she doing at my race?
I'd be lying if I said our little excursion at the concert was innocent. While I managed to keep her away from Ryan's stash
of pot, she saw quite a few bottoms of beer bottles that day. I'm too decent of a guy to try to get in her pants when we're
both wasted, but I'm well aware of how soft her skin is and the way her hair smells like cinnamon and vanilla. And the
way I want to surround myself with nothing but her sweetness.
"Sparrow," I repeat, walking up to her. "Pretty good name for an awesome car."
She lets her feet touch the pavement and leans her ass up against the trunk. She's like a pinup, and I wish I had my own
personal poster of this very thing to hang up on my wall. I may have morals but I'm still a guy.
"You were good out there," she says. Her voice is a bit raspy from her love affair with nicotine, and she puts her cigarette
out and steps on it until the cherry goes out. I always hoped I'd find a way to see her again, this is just a lot different than
I'd pictured.
"Thank you," I smile so wide it hurts. I'm a fool and I don't care; she complimented me. I can picture her in the stands
now, cupping those warm hands around her perfect mouth and screaming my name. God, that's hot. "How'd you know
I'd be here?"
"I didn't," she shrugs. "Avery's boyfriend's big into racing, and I didn't have anything else going on. We come out here a
"Still hanging out with her, huh?" I tease. "Even though she ditched you?"
"She's my roommate, Damon," she laughs. "I couldn't avoid her if I tried. But I don't, because I love her like crazy."
Thank god for Avery; if it weren't for her I'd never have met my little vixen in the first place.
I've been working up the courage to try her number, hoping she'd gotten a new cell but kept the same line. I just hadn't
figured out a way to tell her why I didn't come back to her dorm that night.
"What are you doing back in California, anyway?"
"Just doing some racing and escaping some bad shit back home. Prettier here, anyway," I add, keeping my eyes trained
on hers because I want her to know I'm not talking about the scenery. I worry it'll sound like I'm stalking her if I mention
liking being closer to her after only one day together. It's not like that at all. I have no bad intentions when it comes to
Elena, except maybe a little uninhibited sex.
"Planning on sticking around this time?" I can't answer for sure, because the truth is, I don't know. If my racing goes the
way I want it to and I find sponsors, I could be hitting the road sooner than later. All I know is I need to be right here, right
now. And until something snags my attention more than this woman before me, I'm all hers. If she'll have me.
I step closer, until I'm near enough to see that her cheeks are pink. I smile, hoping I put that color in her skin. Hoping
she's been thinking of me as much as I've been thinking of her. I run my hand over my short hair and try to come up with
the least depressing way to tell her what's been going on with me.
"I'm sorry for standing you up last month. I kind of had some family stuff come up and had to rush home. I couldn't call
you since you lost your phone. It sounds like a bad excuse, but it's not. Trust me. I'd much rather have hung out with you
than what I ended up doing."
I'll tell her eventually, but right now I just want to keep going with this natural buzz.
She shrugs and seems to instantly believe me, and I'm thankful for it. I'm not into putting a lot of effort into things,
especially women. This is new territory for me, and I hope I don't seem too eager.
"It's cool. I partied by myself," she teases. Jesus, what does that even mean? My head fills with a thousand different
images, most of which involve Elena naked.
I need a beer. She's flirting with me, and the playful connection we shared that day is still humming between us. "How
about you be the one to ditch out on her this time and come hang out with me. I've got some errands to do and could use
some company. You up for showing a guy how to properly grocery shop? Been living on peanut butter and jelly for two
She smiles and loops her arm through mine. I like that she's so relaxed around me. I love that she seems game for
whatever I throw at her. She seems like the type that would go for just about anything without giving it much
consideration, just to taste a tiny bite of freedom.
"And what happens after the grocery store?" She arches an eyebrow. "You going to take me out on the track?"
"Sure, Lena. I'll take you anywhere you want," I smile, because I mean it. I can't imagine ever getting sick of being near
her. "Just say the word and it's yours."
She stops suddenly gives me and gives me a look that I'll never forget. It's not playful like it has been before. It's
affectionate and hopeful, as if I'm granting her a wish she'd never even asked for. I don't know what I said, but she's on
her tiptoes kissing me right here in the middle of the track's parking lot. I drop my keys and wrap my arms around her,
pulling her closer to me.
She tastes like raspberries and cream as her lips mesh with mine. This feeling of great peace washes over me an I
know I'm right to have wanted her so badly. When she pulls away, she looks at me tenderly and says,
"Thank you, Damon. No one's ever done that before," she tells me. I must frown, because she continues to explain.
"Called me by a nickname."
I don't know many details, but I know where this is coming from. Her childhood has her starving for attention. Affection.
She was lit when she told me before, but it boils down to daddy issues. And mommy issues. She's a rebel against
everything she had to put up with for years growing up. I have no idea what it's like to feel like that, and I'm pissed that it
was the hand life dealt her.
To know I've given her even a sliver of happiness thrills me. I'm thankful and relieved that it's me who's found her; there
are guys in the world who would take advantage of her vulnerability. I'm not one of them.
I can feel it; this is the beginning of something between us. Something real. Something fun and completely unexpected. I
came out to California to find myself, but I'd be just fine losing myself in her.
Present Day...
My shop is just a few miles away from our house. I'm back home and killing the ignition by 7. I haven't driven her for
years, but Sparrow still hums like the first time I got behind the wheel. I took her down for a tune-up and oil change
because I only keep the best stuff stocked in my shop. And a car like Sparrow deserves the best.
I've been keeping her covered inside our garage since Elena's accident. I rode in the ambulance with her, but after
weeks in the hospital when the doctors said she hadn't made progress, I knew I had to drive the car home. I made the
trip home all the way from her childhood home in Wyoming, and haven't even take a look at her since. Until this morning,
when I impulsively decided we'd be driving her to Mom's for Thanksgiving today.
The pickup would be much better in this type of weather, but I've got this idea in my head and I just can't drop it.
Elena's car is far cooler than mine. She wouldn't have minded if I'd been using her all this time. I just couldn't bring
myself to do it. Every single thing about the car reminded me of Elena and the possibility that she may never drive it
again. Her scent is long gone now, but if I close my eyes, I can still imagine the way she used to roll the windows down
and stick her arm out into the cool breeze. I don't think I really got it then, but I do now. Until we met, that car was the one
thing she had that really loved her back.
I'm pulling out all the stops, because I have to. Sometimes it feels like she'll just be lost forever. She had an intense
passion for this car before she even knew me. I'm hoping this will spark something. Friend-Elena is a little too tempting
and I'm starting to wear down.
I'm surprised to see every light on in the house when I reach the front porch. It's not that early, but she looked really
snuggled into my fuzzy blankets when I left at 4 this morning. Yes. My blankets. She's been sleeping in my bed for the
last few days. And no, I'm not staying in there with her. I just so happen to have to creep in there to get my clothes every
morning. I can't help but smile when I see her in nestled in my sheets; she may not realize it, but she sleeps exactly the
way she used to. One bare leg hanging out of the covers. It's things like this that make me believe she's not completely
I offered to take the guest room and let her have the master when I noticed the dark circles disappearing from under her
eyes. And I don't mind; it's really nice to think of her finding some sort of comfort from our bed. She's been sleeping
through the night since we traded. Trust me when I say she's a whole different person with a full night of sleep under her
Case and point, this morning. I open the front door and am blasted with music pumping so loudly, it's carrying
throughout the house. I shouldn't recognize it because it's country, and that stuff isn't typically allowed on my stereo, but
I've heard the song in my dreams countless times over the last four years. Dolly Parton's Jolene.
I'm cemented to the ground, unable to move. Unable to breathe or think or think about breathing. She's swaying her hips,
dancing around the kitchen completely unaware I'm even home. She's got a mixing bowl in her hands and she's stirring
something as she twirls around the kitchen belting out the song. I'd be silenced just by watching her move this way, but
my shock has nothing to do with the way her ass looks in that pair of jeans and the string of an apron.
I'm awestruck, because this is a memory, even if she's not aware of it.
The first time she heard it we were at a concert in a small venue in Chicago. The band playing was rock, but kicked out
this amazing cover of the song. I can't forget the way her eyes lit up when it came on. She fell in love with it instantly, and it
was catchy enough she was able to sing the chorus on the ride back home. Soon after she found a vinyl copy of the
original Dolly Parton version and must've played it hundreds of times the year we were together.
She's belting the lyrics, just like she used to, and I think I could watch this forever. By the second time the chorus comes
around she's peeked into the oven quickly before dancing back toward the refrigerator. I've been standing in the doorway
for about thirty seconds now, and when she closes the fridge door she immediately stops singing. Her eyes go wide and
her cheeks turn a pretty shade of scarlet.
"Damon!" She drops the bowl she'd been mixing and buries her face in her hands.
"What?" I smile, unfolding my arms and stepping closely to her. I touch her wrists slightly and pull them down gently
away from her face. She's beet red and mortified, but I can't help but chuckle at the adorable dusting of flour on each of
her cheeks.
"Don't be embarrassed. I love your voice. It's beautiful."
She avoids commenting by squatting down to tend to the mess of batter that's hit the floor. I can tell she's genuinely
embarrassed, but I drop down to my knees and help her wipe it up. The song is long over and she's still scrubbing the
kitchen tiles with a washcloth.
"Elena..." I swallow. I'm nervous to tell her, because I think she's completely clueless about what just happened. "You
just remembered something. That song, baby. Jolene. You loved that song. You used to sing it all the time."
She stops scrubbing and looks up at me. Her eyes are wide and pretty, but I'm not sold that she remembers how she
knows the music. The wind is momentarily knocked from my sails, but the more I think about it, I'm okay. It's something.
It's not like I thought she'd suddenly remember us just because she remembered a catchy song.
"I didn't realize. But that's good, I guess," a piece of hair falls in her eyes and she blows it away, wiping under her eyes
again with the flour covered hand. Her smile tells me she's happy about the progress, even if she doesn't say more on
the subject. I know she's trying very hard not to get my hopes up. I wonder if she's keeping anything from me.
She runs her hands under the faucet and we're quickly onto other things. Like the way my house smells like a donut
shop exploded. Her hair is tied up in a long messy ponytail and the front of her apron says FUTURE NASCAR WIFE.
She sort of knows the story on that. I let her know right away that I used to race. My car's still out back in the carrier
waiting. Maybe someday I'll get the courage to get inside it again. For now, it's a token from a time when life was a whole
lot crazier.
She grabs the stereo remote from the table and turns down the music. Thank God. I'm thankful for Jolene, but forget all
the rest of it. It's bumping like a country line dance bar in here.
I'm just now noticing the spread of baked goods lined up on the counter. Good God. It smells awesome in here. I quickly
eye blueberry muffins on the cooling rack and walk over to reach for one. It's hot and crumbly and before I can get it to my
mouth, Elena's hand it tearing it away.
"Hey Grabby. Those aren't for right now," she sticks out her tongue and I laugh. "They're cooling so I can pack them up to
take to your Mom's. You can have one in a few hours. With the rest of us."
"It's one muffin," I reach for it from her hand again but she sets it back on the rack. "Who will even know?"
"It's one of eight muffins, and everyone will notice when there's an uneven amount," she explains like I should already
understand. What the hell do I know? I'm just a hungry man surrounded by a bunch of things I'm not allowed to eat. "But
go ahead and eat it now. You've already touched it."
"Well what's all the rest of this then? Is that off limits, too?" I ask smiling as I roam along the counter top. She had to have
gotten up shortly after I left to have made all of this today. There's pumpkin pie and homemade wheat bread and
cinnamon apple crumb cake. It's a gluten paradise up in here.
"I couldn't decide what to make. Any of it would work to bring, but I think the muffins turned out best. Do you think your
Mom will like them? No one's allergic to blueberries are they?"
I'm a few seconds behind, still trying to process the words that just spewed from her mouth in record time. My brow knits
and a smile finds a way on my lips. If she stress bakes, I'm okay with it. I could so get used to this.
"Why are you looking at me like that? Oh God. No one's allergic, are they?" She repeats.
"I'm sorry. You lost me at I couldn't decide what to make. The muffins are perfect. Everything's perfect and everything's
going to be fine. Bring whatever you want, hell, bring pack all of it up if you want, but Mom isn't expecting us to bring
anything. She's just happy we're coming."
"I know that, but we should, don't you think? I mean, I want to make a good impression," she takes a sip of her coffee.
"And before you say anything, I know they already know me...but I don't know them, Damon. And I want them to like me.
Me," she emphasizes. "This Thanksgiving is nothing like the last one we all shared together, like I saw in the picture. I
don't remember having a family that loved me the way you say they do. It's important for me to make good memories
"Okay," I say between bites of my muffin. It's like my woman took baking lessons in her sleep or something. I've never
tasted a more delicious muffin. These give Mom's baked goods a run for their money. Yes, baby. Stress-bake you're
sweet little heart out. Now that she remembered the whole don't-touch-the-racks-without-a-oven-mitt bit, we've been
eating more home cooked meals than fast food.
"I need to wash up and change before we go," she turns of the oven off and unties her apron, hanging it on a hook
against the far wall. "Do you have all your stuff packed?"
I grew up about four-and-a-half hours Northwest from here, in a fairytale like place called Eagle River. It's that image you
get in your head when you think of Wisconsin, all tall trees and quaint little cabins dotted around the many lakes. In the
summer, there's no better place in the world to fish.
It's winter in Wisconsin, and that means snow's almost always in the forecast. If the weather guys are wrong and we're
hit with a storm, there's no way we'd be making it back home tonight. Mom suggested we pack a few changes of clothes
just in case. I think she's secretly praying we have to stay.
"Yeah, I'm all set. I just need a minute in the shower too. Gotta wash off the grease from work. It'll be a long drive, so I'll
put on another pot of coffee and load up the travel mugs when I'm done."
Her eyes widen with gratefulness and she pulls the tie out of her hair and shakes out her curls. She feels like heaven
under the hot spray of water, and I'll be lucky if I survive my shower thinking of her on the other side of the wall, doing the
same thing as me.
"I'll be ready in like twenty minutes," she says before closing my bedroom door. "And Damon...I set your clothes out on
the guestroom bed so you don't have to come in here to get them. I'm on to you, you know," she winks and I hear the door
click behind her. I'm not two steps away when I hear her beautiful voice wrapping around the words of Jolene again.
"You could have your choice of men, But I could never love again..."
If this is the only memory she gets back for weeks, it'll be enough. It's a slow burn and it hurts so good.
*Chapter 5*: Things Are Better
A/N: Only a few more days on the finger splint and then I'll just be taped. Anxiously awaiting it, as I'll finally get to sit
down for longer periods of time and work on chapters.
Back to Elena POV for this chapter. And yes, I promise, Thanksgiving does start this chapter. :) I chose Tyler Lyle's
"Things Are Better" for this chapter. Thanks for reading and all the great feedback. I really appreciate it.
Chapter 4: Things Are Better
Elena POV
Present Day...
"No way, baby. Fuck that. We're not calling a tow truck. It's only a little snow!" Damon yells from behind the car. Right. Only
little a snow. We've only been trying to push ourselves out of a two-foot snowbank for the last twenty minutes. No big
deal, right?
I don't get it. He'd rather be knee-deep in dirty snow and ice than have to depend on someone to get us out. I'm not sure
what he's trying to prove because I've never doubted his abilities. I am starting to doubt his common sense, though.
"Just give me another minute to try clear the tires and we'll give her another go," he assures me. t's only been a month
but this game is so familiar, so I roll my eyes like any wife would when her husband goes all caveman.
We've been on the road for almost four hours, and according to my dear husband, we're only half an hour away from his
Mom's house. We'd practically be there by now if we'd just call for help.
I wonder what the hell he was thinking taking this route. There has to be an alternative, because we're literally in the
middle of nowhere. We're surrounded by a hundreds of tall pine trees. They're beautiful, especially covered in snow, but
I'd appreciate them even more from inside the comfort of a toasty warm house with a belly full of turkey and cranberry
It can't be much warmer than 25 degrees. My knees bounce in place in an attempt to keep the rest of me warm. I wrap
my arms around my middle and press my head to the top of the steering wheel. I'm no wimp; it's really fucking cold. The
only way this could be any worse if if the car battery decided to die. It's official; the universe is frowning on us today.
"Okay, 'Lena. Try her again!" He calls out to me. I'm in the driver's seat and the window's rolled down so I can hear him. I
press the gas pedal flat to the ground and crank the wheel in the direction he suggests but it's just no use. The tires spin
beneath me and the backend fishtails from Damon's efforts, but we don't move forward. Not even an inch.
"Did you push it all the way, Elena? I mean, you really need to floor it."
"Yes, Damon. If I pushed any harder my foot would go through the floor..." My voice is raspy and laced with sarcasm. I bite
my tongue before I say something that will make me sound like a Debbie Downer.
I appreciate him trying. I really, really do. But I'm about to go off on him. I told him we should've brought the pickup truck
instead. I'm pretty sure it could've handled this amount of snow a whole hell of a lot better than my little car. My frustration
subsides when I peer into the rearview mirror and meet his eyes. I focus on how cold he lookshis frozen, red ears
below his red baseball cap. Watery eyes from the nasty wind. He's miserable and I want to get him warm before he gets
sick. He lets out a string of cuss words and I realize what I need to do.
I go ahead and make the decision he won't. I grab his phone from the dashboard and scroll through his contacts until I
find his brother, because I'm not above asking for help.
The conversation is a little awkward because we've never actually met, but I'm glad I called. He said he should be here in
under an hour with a shovel to help dig us out. Damon can be pissed at me all he wants. I'll deal with that later.
Satisfied that I made the right decision, I climb out of the car and make my way to him. He stops kicking the snow around
and looks up, frowning.
"What are you doing? Get back inside! I'll have us out in a minute. There's no sense in both of us freezing." He breathes
hot air into his hands, then rubs them together.
My feet slide on the ice beneath me. My knee-high leather boots weren't meant to be worn in this amount of snow. It's
time I start thinking more practically about my fashion choices; I just saw the way Damon's eyes lit up the last time I put
these on and decided I wouldn't mind seeing that look again. And yes, I do realize I'm torturing both of us.
"Enough with the caveman routine, Damon. Get back in the car. You're being ridiculous."
My feet start moving in this woman-scorned stomp toward him. Just when I think I'm in the clear my feet come up from
under me. I reach out for Damon to stop myself from hitting the ground but I'm just not quick enough. My hand doesn't
quite reach his shoulder in time and I start to go down. My right ankle rolls and I cry out, but Damon's arms are around
me before I crash into the snow. I focus on him instead of my pain and instantly feel better.
"Fuck, baby. I told you to get back in the car. Are you okay?!" He sounds flat out worried.
I don't know about my ankle, but the rest of me is feeling mighty fine all wrapped up in his arms. I slip my hands around
the back of his neck before trying to put weight on my ankle. It hurts, but I don't think it's sprained. His hands slide down
my arms and hold my elbows to steady me. I'm in okay enough shape to realize just how damn good it feels to be this
close to him. Just how warm his breath is as it comes out in puffs so close they touch my lips.
I swallow and prepare myself to ruin the moment. I have to tell him.
"I called your brother. He'll be here with a shovel in under an hour," I try to keep my voice strong to let him know I'm
confident I made the right decision and that I'm not sorry about it. This was a disagreement I couldn't let him win. I'm
waiting for angry eyes or a bit of a scolding but it never comes. Instead, he laughs.
I feel a range of emotions roll through me. Frustration, then relief. Confusion, and even though it makes no sense,
contentment. I can't stay angry with him for too long because he's just so genuine. One look and I forget I was pissed in
the first place.
"What's so funny?" I'd put my hand on my hips if I didn't think I'd fall on my ass. "I expected you to blow a gasket when I
told you. Shit, if I knew you'd be fine with it I would've called him before you even got out of the car."
He continues laughing in this real, gut-aching way. He presses his hand into his stomach and throws is head back and
up toward the snowy sky before he looks at me again. When he does, his eyes shine with laughter tears.
"You're amazing," he manages. "The whole ride in you're biting your nails, saying how nervous you are. I piss you off and
all that's out the window. You know what I think?" He pauses. "I think you don't like being told no. You're as stubborn as I
am. Maybe worse."
I raise my eyebrows and wait. "And you know what else? You're all kinds of sexy when you're irritated. I'm tucking this little
memory in my back pocket for later."
"Well what? You'd be content standing out here all day if no one ever drove past and offered to help, and that's crazy," I tell
him seriously. "Your family is waiting on us to eat."
He sighs and gives me a look that tells me I was right, then scoops me up in his arms and carries me back to the car.
It's freezing out, but his body is solid and warm. I notice its absence the moment he sets me down in the passenger
seat. I press my head back into the headrest and squeeze my eyes closed. It's not nearly warm enough in here. I'm glad
we only have to wait a little bit longer.
"I know," his voice holds apology as he grabs a fleece blanket from under his seat and spreads it across us. "I'm sorry.
Trust me, this isn't the first time I've apologized to you for being stubborn, and I'm sure won't be the last."
He tugs off his wet gloves and shoves them into his coat pocket. His hands sneak under the blanket and tugs his half up
to his shoulders. He'd never admit it, but he's freezing, too. Our thermos of coffee ran dry about an hour ago, and the
heater in the car can only do so much.
It's not his fault we slid off the road. A deer ran out just a few feet ahead of us; if we didn't swerve we would've hit it, and
from what Damon says, the snowbank was the much better choice. I've spent enough time in the hospital.
I turn my head to the side and stare at him. His cheeks are still red and the snow on the bill of his baseball cap begins to
melt and slide down his cheek. I reach a hand out from the blanket to wipe his cheek and my fingernails scrape his
stubble. It's rough in the best way. He turns to look at me and tiny goosebumps prickle up on my skin. When he lets out a
sound of pure satisfaction, I shiver. This time it's not from the cold.
I know. Just days I go I told him we should just be friends. I did mean it. We're in a pretty good place in our relationship
and I'm scared to mess anything up.
But My. God.
If he looked at me like that when we were younger, it's no wonder I married him. My skin tingles wherever he touches me,
and I know that's not a normal feeling between friends. My body sizzles from his appraisal of me. I can only imagine what
it's like when he doesn't have to hold back.
It's so tiny in this car. There's a gearshift between us and it's uncomfortable to reach across for too long, but I don't want
to pull my hand away. When I finally try, he reaches under the blanket for my free one and he squeezes it tightly.
"You're shaking. You may not remember this, but I run hot as an oven. Come on. I'll behave," he turns so his back is
pressed against his door and spreads his legs to create an opening. For me. His coat is unzipped and my eyes flick
down to his dark jeans. Heat floods my cheeks because it all looks warm and inviting. I think on it for just a moment
before climbing over to him and resting my back against his warm chest.
I lean my head back into the crook of his neck and close my eyes. I'm surrounded by that familiar scent and it's doing
wonderful things to heat my system. After I'm settled in, he leans down close to my ear and says, "I promise not to bite
until you tell me to."
Is he trying to kill me? This man is at an unfair advantage; he knows me intimately. What makes me purr and tick and
from the looks of it, not much has changed.
I don't move or say a thing because I can't trust my voice not to break from the sheer sensuality of that thought. I briefly
wonder about the things we used to do, and how it would feel it f we were pressed together this way with far fewer pieces
of clothing. Say...in our bed.
My heart rate spikes and I know he can probably feel my pulse thumping in my neck since we're practically stuck
together. He draws the blanket up over us and pulls me closer to him until I'm sure there's no space between us at all.
When his hands come to rest on my thighs, I realize I'm not the only one on overdrive. His heart thuds wildly against my
shoulder blades. I won't try to convince myself that it's just his body trying to warm up.
I remind myself that we're only trying to keep warm.
While I've given him the friends speech more than one time since we left the hospital, I don't think he really buys it. I'm
pretty sure he's just waiting for it to all click into place and for me to remember this awesome, hot thing we had going on.
And I still don't remember a thing about it...but I don't need memories to tell me how good he feels. These are fresh
feelings, born purely from this moment, and I'm going to let myself enjoy it until Ric pulls up and digs us out of our little
I let my shoulders relax against him and slip my hands between his grip and my thighs, threading my fingers with his.
"How's the ankle?" He asks near my ear again. He shifts his hand so it's under my thigh and draws my leg up toward us
so he can remove my boot. I move the blanket slightly and roll up the bottom of my jeans so he can take a better look. I
know he's not a doctor, but he's Damon; everything else he's ever done for me has made me feel a million times better. I
know this will be no different...and for once, I'm really enjoying the attention.
I turn it a few times without cringing, and after he rubs the pad of his thumb around my ankle bone a few times, he
decides it's not swelling but that I should put some snow on it anyway. He sits forward to support us, then opens his
door and scoops up a fresh handful of snow from the ground and presses it to my skin. Instead of letting my leg fall back
down, he pulls my other leg up and squeezes it tightly against me, insisting it'll help us stay warm. Personally, I think he
just likes feeling up my legs, but I won't call him out on it. Who knows when I'll have the courage to do this again.
"You warming up?" He asks and I nod.
He's got his nose buried in my hair. He hasn't said anything in awhile and I can't be certain, but I think he's been
pressing tiny kisses to the back of my head. I'm too cold to protest, and it'd only be half-hearted right now anyway. I
wonder if his head is half as twisted up about this as mine. I don't want to hurt him or lead him on. He just feels so good.
"Now that the novelty has worn off, I hope you're not angry that I called Ric. I was starting to think we'd be spending my
first Thanksgiving in four years in our Corvette, gorging on chips, blueberry muffins and a 2 Liter of Diet Pepsi."
"Sounds like something we used to do," I can feel his lips turn up into a smile against the side of my neck. He runs his
nose along the length of it and I shiver once more. Jesus, I could get used to this. I wonder how awkward things will be
once we're in a warm house and don't have a reason or excuse to constantly touch.
I wonder if I'll want to touch him anyway. I think my common sense is freezing over
"What did we used to do? Live out of our car?"
"Kind of. For awhile," he swallows. "If not our car, then a bunch of cheap hotels." There's a fondness in his voice that I
just can't understand. The whole thing sounds horrible to me. "We were on the road a lot. City to city. Track to track..." He
rests his chin on my shoulder and tips his head so it's pressed against mine. "We didn't stay in one place for very long at
all. I knew I'd met my match in you when you looked and me and said, 'The road feels more like to home to me than any
house ever has...' We didn't have a care in the world, except for each other.
"You don't remember this car, do you?" He asks. I answer carefully but honestly, because he's holding his breath as if
what I say could make or break this entire moment.
"I'm sorry. I don't," I bite my lip. "But it's a really beautiful car. I love it. I just don't love that we're driving it today," I smile. "I'm
not so reckless anymore, I guess. From the sounds of it, this would've been pretty normal back then."
He nods against me. "Oh yeah. It was you, me and this Corvette. We had the pickup, too, so we could haul my race car
around, but once I started doing more competitions, I had guys to drive that around when I needed," he explains, pushing
a few strands of hair away from my neck.
My chest aches from this tiny bit of information. I try to picture us crammed into this tiny car with all of our belongings, but I
can't. The life he's explaining seems rough and irresponsible. Completely opposite of the life he's been giving me now. I
wonder what changed. He won't tell me what made him give up racing but I'm sure I'll find out one day. Right now I'm still
processing the whole living-in-our-car thing. I mean, I had money we could've used. Why the hell didn't we use it?
"I know it sounds ridiculous, but even now when I think back to it, it'll always be one of the happiest times in my life.
Before I met you, I was looking for a way to live. To not feel numb. And Jesus, we hit a lot of bumps in the road on the
way, but I'd hit them all again if I had to. Hell, I'd hit them twenty times harder just to be right here with you again."
I turn and he's looking at me like I'm the best thing that's ever happened to him. I can feel the love radiating off him; it's
coming in big, heady waves and I close my eyes to bask in it. I feel selfish, because I don't want to lead him on. Right
now, I'm not. Right now, I feel amazing. I try to ask myself if I'm just attention starved or if my hormones are overheating,
but it feels like something else.
I do know his lips are pressed to my forehead and I'm ready to die. His fingers tuck my hair behind my ears and his blue
eyes sparkle. And Jesus. He says something I'm positive I'll remember for the rest of my life.
"Thank you for waking up, Elena."
It's enough to make a stream of tears slide down my cheeks. In the month I've been awake, he's been careful not too
reach too deep or pressure me. There's something about now that feels okay. We're close and it's intimate, but not
sexual. He's holding onto me for dear life, like he knows at any second I could pull away and tell him not to touch me.
But I won't. I can't. His eyes keep roaming down to my lips, like he's starved for me. It would be so selfish of me to let hm
kiss me just because I'm completely into it right now. Especially since I've warned him off so much these weeks. I'm
sure I broke his heart enough while I was gone for four years. What if I kiss him and regret it afterward? I can't ruin
Thanksgiving. I can't ruin this good thing we've had going. I can't ruin...
I can't worry about what I could ruin, because it's too late. I didn't move away when his lips brushed across my cheek. I
didn't tell him to stop when they grazed the corner of my mouth. I think I moved closer, so it's probably completely my fault
that his teeth are now sinking into my lower lip gently, pulling me into his mouth in a way that's both sweet and hot.
He tightens his grip on my hips and urges me to twist in the seat as he realigns his back so he's facing the windshield.
He's worked his way up the bottom of my shirt to dig his fingers into the bare skin of my waist. My body cooperates
without complaint; I can't even think of what's going to happen. I only feel his warm breath on my lips when he whispers
my name like it's a holy word. Only memorize the feel of his stubble scratching my skin as he finally seals his lips on
mine for the first time in four years. For the first time ever...for me.
I wonder if my heart skipped like this during our real first time.
He pulls me down against him and I slide my legs on either side of his hips. He comes up to kiss me hard on the mouth
again and I bump against the horn. He smiles against my mouth and scoots me closer to him so it doesn't happen
I'll admit it; I don't know what I'm doing with him. His longing gazes had me blushing because he's the type of man who
tells a woman what he wants with just a look. I'm sure as hell glad my body seems to know the drill, because I can tell
he likes kissing me a certain way. I must be doing okay, because the sounds he's making are driving me insane.
It dawns on me that I may have lost my virginity to him four years ago and I don't even remember it. I can't ask him right
now. I'm not sure I'm ready to know yet. I dream up all the things we may have done in this car and all the things we
might be doing right now, if Ric wasn't going to be here in just a few minutes. Nails and teeth and sweat. I don't
remember being this way with him before, but I'm riled up picturing us right now.
Right. Ric. Why did I call him, again?
My fingers wind in his hair; the diamond of my ring has spun to the inside of my finger and pushes into his scalp. I pull
away for a second to catch my breath. He's breathing hard, his lips red and swollen and his cheeks flushed. From me. I
feel crazy, like I could do anything, and I wonder if this spontaneity is me, or if being stuck on the side of the road with him
has made me into something else entirely. He rises up to kiss me again and tugs my hair. I let out a little yelp. It feels
good enough to want more, and from the way his jeans are tightening beneath me, I'm pretty sure he's feeling good, too.
A knock on the window makes me jump, and I pull away from Damon's mouth just in time for his older brother to open
the driver's side door. If Damon's hard on didn't give it away, I'm sure the red lipstick stains around his mouth would
"What the hell? What are you two, a couple of teenagers fogging up the fucking windows in here or what?" Ric's grinning
like an idiot.
I don't know the guy, but I can tell thing won't be the last we hear of it. Or his family hears of it. They don't look related
aside from that sweet little something in their smirk. He seems like a decent guy to come out here and help us out.
Ric's the one person in Damon's family that I didn't meet before the accident. This is really our first encounter and I'm
somehow relieved by it. I just wish he hadn't found me in his brother's lap. Once I'm settled back on my side of the car
Damon tells me to stay inside while they dig us out. Now Damon's gone, I'm left alone with my thoughts. My feelings.
My cheeks heat and I bring my palms up to them. Quick flashes of what just happened roll through my memory. I wonder
if he'll try to talk to me about it later or if he'll just expect us to fall into a relationship like we had before.
Watching Damon with his older brother is calming. They shake hands then hug, and Damon looks happier than I've ever
seen him. They get the tires cleared away within ten minutes and with both of them pushing and me hitting the gas,
we're back on pavement before I've really had time to process the kiss.
Damon does a once over on the car and decides it didn't suffer any damage from the spinout. He insists I ride with Ric in
his pickup in case the Corvette slips off the road again, but I'm not comfortable enough for that just yet. I don't know what
to talk about with him and I'm afraid he'll tease me about earlier. And what's with Damon? Does he want space?
Space would probably do the both of us some good, but I'm sure I'll get plenty of that when I hit the pillow tonight. Right
now I've got my mind set on some hot turkey, a glass of wine and a warm house. Suddenly the worry over meeting his
mother again has taken a backseat to everything else.
He was right; by 1:30 we're heading up a long and narrow driveway to his childhood home. It's nothing like I pictured.
When he said lake cabins, I pictured something small and quaint. Not huge lakefront property with a pier and a
boathouse. Our home south of here is nice and I've wondered how we afforded it, especially after the way he described
our lifestyle before.
We haven't touched my bank account, he tells me. Not before, not while I was in a coma, and not now. It didn't dawn on
me that he grew up with money, too. Not all wealthy men are the same, clearly. I loved my Daddy, but he walked around
with dollar signs painted over his eyes. Damon's nothing like him at all.
We park between Ric's blue pickup truck and a white station wagon, which Damon tells me his mother just won't give up.
The way he lights up when he talks about his mother is wonderful. I can't wait to meet her. My ankle's only a little achy as
we make our way up the path to the front porch. Damon's got one arm wrapped around my middle to support me, but the
way his fingers scrape slightly at my shirt tells me he's hoping for more later.
I have to hand it to him; he's more patient than I deserve. Women were practically drooling over him at the bakery we
stopped at to fill up on coffee halfway through the drive, but he just politely said hello and handed me my refilled thermos.
His dedication is one of the sexiest things about him, I think. I'm not sure I could find another man like him in the world if I
wanted to. But I don't.
I just like him, however we are. Wherever we are. Whatever we are.
"How are you holding up?" He asks just before he turns the knob. From what he tells me, I can expect to be nearly
suffocated as soon as I step in the door. I've met Harlow and Ric, so the main event is Erin, his mother. I've got my stats.
She's 48-years-old. She had Ric in her late teens and Damon and Harlow in her early-twenties. Now that her babies
have grown up and been married off, she's kept herself company with animals. She sounds like a lovely, kind woman.
I'm not sure I could ever prepare myself to meet my mother-in-law, no matter how much I tried.
The door opens and I'm hit with the scent of all things Thanksgiving. The oven's been on for hours and it's heated the
house to sleep-inducing temperatures. I eye the couch, where I'll no doubt be crashing from a Tryptophan overdose later.
At 17, I'd never had a real home cooked turkey dinner.
Flames are roaring safely in the wall fireplace of the living room. I watch them flicker and think of my parents. I'm still
learning about our history, but I do mourn lost chances. I'm lucky to be alive, here, with a family I hope will still love me
even thought I'm charred.
I'm happy I don't remember the fire. I can't have those memories scarring up my future.
From the corner of my eye, I catch a large, moppy-haired dog charging in my direction.
"Woah. Slow down, bud," Damon steps in front me before I'm assaulted with doggy kisses. I hold out my hand and let
him sniff me and he nuzzles his nose into my palm like he remembers me.
"He's happy you're back, too. This is Rocket. I've had him since I was 16," Damon's hand ruffles the black and white
dog's messy hair. "He thinks he's a lap dog, so don't be surprised if he's trying to take a nap on you after pie."
A smaller dog prances in shortly after, it's short toenails clicking on the beautiful hardwood floors. I bend down to pet it
and I see Erin Salvatore walking up to me. I hesitate a moment because I'm nervous again...maybe more so now.
"Sorry we're late, Ma," Damon says taking off his baseball cap before kissing his mother on each cheek. She pulls him
into a hug and we make eye contact over his shoulder. She's smiling carefully at me, like I might break if she moves too
"Ah, whatever. What's a Salvatore holiday without a few quirks anyway?" She pulls away from him and he walks back
toward me. I see affection and gratefulness in her smile as she looks at the two of us. I wonder what meeting her for my
real first time was like. Did she like me then? Did she support us and our decision to marry?
The next thing I notice is her eyes. They're blue, like Damon's and Harlow's. Ric must look like their father. But their
likeness ends there. She's got long, light blonde hair that reaches to the middle of her back, and skin smooth and fresh.
She doesn't look a day over 40. I hope I age that well.
Damon's hand presses gently into the small of my back and I step forward to reach for her hand. I want to thank her for
making dinner and inviting me, and also for supporting the wonderful man who's been taking amazing care of me. I owe
her more than I can say.
"You look beautiful, honey," she says sweetly, taking my hand. "I'm so happy you're here." She moves a little like she's
going to hug me, but stops short. If I know Damon, he had a thorough talk with all of his family members about the do's
and don'ts with Elena Salvatore.
"Thank you, Mrs. Salvatore," my throat is dry. I'm overwhelmed with feelings. There are tiny tears in her eyes but I know I
can't comfort her. I don't think she's asking me too. "Or should I call you Erin?"
"You can call me whatever you want, love," she takes a deep breath. "Dinner's ready whenever you're hungry. Harlow and
Andrew are getting their things settled in her old room and Ric's out back checking on the deep fryer. He insisted on
trying the deep fried turkey, but I made a traditional one, too. There's mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls and plenty of other
sides. You know how I am," she looks at Damon and he smiles widely. His love and respect for his mother and sister is
beautiful. He knows how to treat the women he cares about. He certainly knows how to treat me.
In our short time together so far, he's made me feel so many things. Happiness and frustration. Confusion and
sadness. Heat and chills. The desire to remember and a strange peace knowing there's a chance I never will. But above
all else, insurmountable thankfulness.
He reaches for my hand and squeezes it, as if he can tell I'm lost in my own head.
"Make yourselves comfortable around the table and I'll pour us some wine," she reaches down to pick up the small dog.
His tiny tail wags, the simple gesture fills me with joy.
"Thanks, Ma..." He says, rubbing my back a little as we walk forward. We're alone for only a second so I stop before we
reach the kitchen and look up at him and see pure hope floating in his eyes.
"It's all going to be okay, Lena. She loves you," he smiles. "You used to call her Mom, too."
A/N: Thanks for reading! Damon POV is up next, and I'm really excited to work on it. Elena's POV of the car ordeal is
the perfect way I could set it up.
*Chapter 6*: Kiss Me
A/N: I'm so happy to be able to get out another chapter. The holiday season at work is looming, and soon I'll be
working 6 days a week. The finger's feeling better, though.
Thank you very, very much for the awesome responses last chapter. I was thrilled to see your reviews. Damon's
POV is so much fun to write, and this one was particularly cool because I had the opportunity to get Damon's take on
the car scene.
I chose Ed Sheeran's "Kiss Me" for this one. Thanks for reading.
Chapter 5: Kiss Me
Damon POV
Present Day...
"Mom, seriously. You've got to show me how to make your green bean casserole," my sister says between bites. She's
on her second glass of wine, and let me tell you, when Harlow gets a little alcohol in her, it's hard to shut her up. "And
don't even say you just follow the recipe on the can. Ask Andrew. Mine tastes nothing like this. Does it, baby?"
My brother-in-law's eyes go wide for just a second as he scrambles to come up with the correct answer. The one that
isn't a quite a lie but also won't get him kicked out of the bedroom later. I know the feeling all too well, bro. All husbands
do. See, it isn't hesitation. It's fight or flight.
"I wouldn't say nothing like it. The way I see it, there's no wrong way to make a casserole. You just throw a bunch of shit
in a glass dish and wait," he brings his wine glass to his lips and takes a swig. Harlow's eyebrows raise to an what-the-
hell-did-you-just-say level and I don't envy him one bit. The only woman as terrifying as Harlow is the beauty tracing fork
trails in her jellied cranberries beside me. She can't keep the smirk off her face, but she sure is trying. Does she even
know how adorable she is? I shovel in a mouthful of creamy mashed potatoes and sit back and enjoy the show.
"I mean, I'm sure a lot more thought and preparation goes into it than that. Aw, what the hell. I'm a guy, what do I know? I
can't even make macaroni and cheese," Andrew manages and Harlow's face brightens in a satisfied smile.
Nice save, bro. At least I know I'll never have to sugar-coat anything when it comes to Elena's skills in the kitchen. Until
last week, I had no idea I'd married the reincarnation of Betty Crocker.
Mom chuckles from the other side of the table. Every year she plays it off as if it's not too much work to make this
extravagant meal for us. I took it all for granted when I was a kid. I always figured all Moms were the same...making tons
of food and shoving pieces of delicious pie in their kid's faces. As I grew up, I learned how special my Mom really is. Just
when I think I can't possibly love her more, I realize she's so amazing I'll never be able love her enough.
Her smile is ten times wider when her babies are home. And we are. Every single one of us. I swear Mom's been staring
at Elena almost as much as I do, and I couldn't be happier. Mom's been one of my biggest supporters through my Elena-
less years. She was the one I'd call on the cab ride to the airport after visiting Elena's hospital room. I swear she's heard
it all, my doubts and hopes. I know seeing her here next to me now is kind of like a little miracle for both of us.
This is the first year we've all been here together since Harlow and I left home. While Elena and I made it to the last
Thanskgiving before her accident, Ric was in Europe and going through a divorce. Harlow missed the year before that,
when she was on the East coast visiting Andrew at New York University for the holiday. It's also the first Thanskgiving
we've all been at the table since Dad died. Even years later, I still miss his corny jokes. No one's around to eat the giblets
"Well, who's ready for pie?" Mom asks with a knowing smile. Our crowd responds with a regretful groan, because we're
all in the same boat right now. We desperately want it because it's so delicious, but will damn near explode if we eat
even one more bite of anything.
"Gonna need a break first, Ma," I say, leaning back in my chair and slinging my arm around the top of Elena's. "But we'll
for sure have some before we get back on the road. There might be a nap in order, too," I add, yawning.
"You're not seriously going to get back on the road in that thing," Ric snorts. "It's been snowing nonstop for eight hours. If
you got stuck in two feet of snow, you'll be buried out there right now."
Mom's got that disapproving look on her face. I know she wants us to spend the night. And yeah, I'm exhausted and kind
of sore from all that useless pushing I did on the car earlier. It'd be nice to devour a good few pieces of pie, knock back a
few beers and call it a night in my old room. Hopefully with Elena snuggled up in my arms. And it's all pretty possible,
except maybe that last part.
We haven't had a second alone since we got here and I'm itching to know what's going on in her head. I can tell she's
still a little nervous, but she's fitting in just fine. Ric's taken over the tradition of telling awful jokes at the table and Elena's
eyes light up with every mention of me as a kid. It's kind of hard, because she's heard some of these stories before but
doesn't know it. She laughs at them with the same fire she did the first time around, and it gives me hope that we really
do have a chance to have it all again.
"We're staying," Harlow chirps in. "It could be like old times."
Old times. Like when we three Salvatore kids would stuff our faces full of turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie, then get in
our pajamas for the Thanksgiving Day football game with some hot cocoa and pass out on the floor. The more I think
about it, I could totally imagine five grown adults lounging around in sweats drinking beers and screaming at the football
game. I'm just not sure Elena's up for staying the night. It's already been a big day for us.
Either way could be awkward. We'll either be alone in a car for four and half hours with no chance for space, or we'll be
here, with four other sets of prying eyeballs watching every move we make. Yes, my family is nosy. I get it, though. We're
the will-they-won't-they couple. And Harlow's not privy to information like she used to be, when she and Elena we're
joined at the hip.
I'm torn about what to do, but this isn't a conversation I want to have in front of our fan club. I clear my throat in hopes
they'll get a clue. Thank god for Harlow. I swear we've got a twin mental connection or something. She smiles at me
before giving Andrew a kiss on the cheek and shooing him off to the living room with Ric.
"I'm going to help Mom clear the table and do some dishes. You boys get the beers and flip on the Packer game. We'll
pick a drinking game in a half hour, so don't get carried away before I get in there," she teases. Her blue eyes flash to
Elena, then back to me. I mouth a silent thank you before turning my full attention to my wife.
"Want a tour?" I ask, hoping to kill the awkwardness of this moment.
"Okay," I can feel the relief rolling off her. I have to believe she wants alone time, too. Maybe only to talk, but I'll take my
chances. We're headed up the stairs to my childhood bedroom in a matter of a few minutes.
"Oh my god. You're adorable," she squeals, looking up at framed photo on the wall. It's my kindergarten photo. I'm five-
years-old and Mom thought it would be a good idea to dress me up in a tie and suit jacket. All the other kids in my class
wore t-shirts; I've never been so uncool in my life. It's funny, because it was two decades ago and I still remember it like
yesterday. Stuff like that makes it incredibly hard to really comprehend what Elena's going through.
"You're like a mini politician or something," she bites her lip and walks forward a bit until she reaches my senior portrait.
I wasn't quite 18 when it was taken, but I didn't change much for a few years. It's pretty close to the way I looked when we
met, so my mind's racing a hundred miles an hour when I notice how long she's been looking at it. Does she remember
me that way? She's seen so many pictures of us at our own home and never let on that she remembered. I can't get my
hopes up anymore than I already have today.
"It's like the Damon Hall of Fame in here," her eyes get wider with each frame she passes. Me playing with toy cars. The
Damon and Harlow 10th Birthday Bash.
"Turn the corner and you'll run into the Harlow and Ric wings. Mom was like the paparazzi when I was a kid. If something
happened and she was around, there's probably a picture of it somewhere. She's a big scrapbooker. It's actually pretty
"Is that our house?" She asks, raising up on her tiptoes and squinting to get a closer look. I'm 12, and Dad and I are
covered in grease as we work on a car out by the garage.
"Yeah," I guess I owe her details. "My Dad was a businessman. Living up north didn't give him much opportunity, so he
bought a house about an hour outside of the city where he could stay a few days during the week to be closer to his
office. It would've been easier if we all lived closer to the city, but he couldn't bear to give up our place here. In the
summer, we'd spend weeks at a time there. Fishing, working on cars. It was like our place." It's harder to talk about than I
thought it would be, even so many years later. "He left it to me in his will."
She swallows, then walks two more steps until she lands in front of a picture of us. I'm in my driver's suit with a baseball
cap sporting the logo of my sponsor sewn on the front, and I'm grinning ear to ear as Elena presses a kiss to my cheek.
That memory is as fresh as the morning, too, because it's the day we decided to get married. And damn, it's selfish of
me not to share that with her right now. I'm really just looking forward to getting her in my room, shutting the door and
seeing what happens.
"Alright, even I'm getting sick of looking at myself," I joke. "I'll tell you all about the rest of them another time. Let's get you
off that ankle," I nod toward my old bedroom door.
My heart starts slamming the moment I close the door. She's on the edge of the bed, drawing her leg up to the mattress
and slipping off her boot. Her fingers find her ankle bone and flexes it a bit. The last thing I want to do is leave the room to
get an ice pack. I'm happy my bathroom is connected to my room. Mom keeps this place well-stocked. I've been gone for
years but she hasn't peeled my posters from the walls. The truth is, I spent quite a few nights back home while Elena
was in a coma. I couldn't stand being in our house alone all the time.
I was 21 and on the verge of becoming a widower.
I'm tough as nails, or so I'd like to think. It's the reason I left when Dad died. I obviously don't grieve well. Back then I was
out to prove there was nothing in the world could stop me from my dreams; I didn't realize dreams could change. That
sometimes they aren't jobs or things, but people. A lot changed before the accident even happened. But in the many
years I woke up without my wife beside me, I learned that grief is impossible to avoid.
"What do you want to do about tonight?" I ask.
She's got one cheek on her knee, and she's worrying her bottom lip when she looks up at me. I think her eyes are even
more gorgeous than the last time I saw them. My god, they're distracting. Shit. This is it. She's going to say something.
"You think we should stay," It's not a question. Her voice is a velvet smooth and soft. I'm thrown by how relaxed she looks
right now. Maybe I've been overthinking everything.
"Yes," I pull my hands from my jean pockets and move to sit next to her on the bed. "By the time we have pie and watch
the game it'll be getting dark. The plows won't have the roads cleared up here until tomorrow, and they'll all be frozen
over. I'm sorry if it upsets you, but I have to do what's right. We're safer here."
Our bags are already in here. I dropped them on my bed after changing into a set of warm, dry clothes when we got here.
I noticed Elena's ankle give a little when she stood from her chair. It's one more reason to take it easy tonight. I hate to
admit it, but Ric's right. I'd never forgive myself if something happened. I just got her back.
She's seemed to enjoy her time here so far, and it hasn't been nearly as awkward as I thought it would be. She even
managed to fit a few of her own Let's-Make-Fun-Of-Damon stories into the mix at dinner. It got her laughing pretty hard
and I couldn't be happier.
"So we'll stay," she says easily, knocking my side with her knee. I'm surprised, because I expected more resistance, or at
least her trademarked puppy dog eyes. Not complaining, though. We might sleep under the same roof every night, but
tonight is different. Our kiss sizzles in my mind, burning itself into a new memory. I've only gotten a taste of her. And I
want more.
"Good. I'll tell Mom when we go back down in a little while." I'm not even going to mention a guestroom. We'll figure all
that out later. "I wasn't kidding before. I'm tired hell. Could use a post-turkey snooze and a hot shower," I say as I fall back
onto the bed. I've got a good view of the ceiling until Elena moves to hover over me. She's kicked her other boot off and
scooted up to sit where with hip and pressed against my side. Her right hand presses into the mattress on the other
side of me, just next to my hip. She's not touching me, but I'm trapped and don't want to escape.
I take the opportunity to admire her this way. I want to thread my fingers through her hair and pull her down on top of me.
Not just because I'm sex starvedI so ambut because it just feels so good when she's pressed into me. I fist my
hands beside me and tell myself to wait for her to make a move. She shouldn't be sitting so damn close if she's not
going to do something.
"You up for pie and drunk football watching later, or you want to crash early?"
This is me exercising patience. It's not going so well.
I push her hair behind her ear and my eyes catch on her lips. She fixed her lipstick in the car mirror when we got in the
driveway. They're once again a deep, tormenting red and I want them all over me, staining my skin.
"Pie and football. Definitely," she smiles. Damn. I was hoping to keep her in here all night. It's kind of nice that she's up
for hanging out with my family, though. We've been alone so much that I worry she's missing out on interacting with
others. I hope she and Harlow can get back even a bit of what they used to share. It's a lot harder to make good friends
when you're older. When we were younger, we didn't have to work at anything. Things just fit and fell into place
automatically. I wonder if she's still the type to always get what she wants.
Over the last few weeks, I've seen changes. While she verbally says friend, her body sways to mine like a magnet. Her
eyes flash hot when she thinks I'm not looking. I know what she's afraid of, but I also know she's not one to let fear stand
in her way. And she's full of all kinds of courage right now.
I cringe when I shift my shoulder. I make a move to rub it but she beats me to it with a frown.
"You hurt yourself?" Her fingers knead into my muscles in a delightful way.
"It's just stiff. I'll be fine," Hell, I'll forget about it if you keep touching me like that. "Really."
Her hand stops on my collarbone and I can't help but believe these movements have nothing to do with my sore
shoulder. The top two buttons of my thin, white henley are undone, and her fingers spread across the exposed skin. I
swallow, and she smiles when her fingers cave slightly in the crook of my neck. The torture's not over. It only gets worse
when her eyes float down my body and land on my hips. I don't know what's come over her and I don't really care. Ogle
away, baby.
I'm wearing my favorite pair of jeans, too. They're well broken in, with a hole near one of my front belt loops, but I can't
bring myself to get rid of them. I'm really fucking glad, because they're doing the work for me right cool fingertip circles the
frayed edge before running over my bare skin. Guys get goosebumps, too. Okay?
"You're wearing holy jeans?" Okay, she doesn't sound that upset about it. Maybe she's looking for reasons to touch me,
too. "I can sew, you know..." it comes out a little throaty, and somehow sounds like the sexiest thing a woman's ever said
to me. Her fingernail is fantastically sharp, and I shiver when it bites into my hip bone.
"You can?" I swallow. Did my voice seriously just break like a 13-year-old? I clear it and hope to God she didn't notice.
She nods and moves her fingers away so she can adjust herself on the mattress. I finally let out a breath when she
leans back to put her head on my neighboring pillow and folds her hands loosely on her stomach. Guess she hasn't
forgotten how to tease.
She must've been studying up on seduction in her sleep. Her eyes are innocent, like she can't see the situation going on
in my pants. The longer I stare at her, the more obvious the smirk on her face becomes. She knows what she's doing,
and so do I. It thrills me, because if this is anything like it used to be, she's up for more. I won't take anything she's not
willing to give. I can keep it as innocent as she wants. Or I can make it quite the opposite. Only time will tell. All I know is,
she's playing. And you know what that earns? A little dose of my own torture medicine. Tickles.
She's one of those tickle victims who acts like it's the end of the world. She tries holding her breath, as if it'll make me
stop. It only makes me tickle her harder, because I know when I hit just the right spot on her ribs, she'll take this huge
breath anyway. And it almost always ends up in sex.
No, I don't think it'll go that way tonight. I sure as hell would be okay with it if it did.
Okay, it's mean because she has no idea what's coming. She's lying there all peacefully under the impression that I'm
going to mind my own business and behave, because it's what I've been doing for weeks. But it's not what she really
wants. She wants me to try something. If she didn't, she'd already be back downstairs wolfing down pie and ice cream
with the rest of them.
I sit up and grab the microsuede blanket from the end of the bed. It's all bunched from where we'd been sitting before, so
I find the end and tug it up, pretending like I'm going to cover her. She smiles at me appreciatively, but when I reach about
her hips, I squint toward the nightstand on her side of the bed, pretending to see something. Her nose scrunches up
and she turns her head to look and I drop the blanket and move in for the kill. When I tickle, I go all out. I'm talking bare
skin and squealing.
She lets out a gasp when my hands find her sides. My fingers dance softly along the flat plane of her stomach, then zero
in on their target. Her ribs. I have to shift on top of her in order to do the job right. I'm a Salvatore; I don't do a half-ass job
on anything. Especially not Elena.
"Hey!" She laughs. "Hey, that's not fair!" Her cheeks go pink as her breath comes out faster and shorter the more I tickle.
Her shirt's rolled up to her neck and I'm treated to a marvelous view of the other Salvatore twins in my life. Red satin has
never looked so good.
"Damon. I. Hey..." she squirms beneath me as my fingers play across her body like an instrument, but she's not the only
one affected. I've got my knees on either side of her hips and all of her giggling and bouncing isn't helping me stay calm.
"Okay, okay..." My hands still at her sides and I really take a moment to look at her. She's throughly worked over,
considering we didn't even do anything. She raises her eyebrows, silently asking me if I'm really done. I smile, because
I'm not. I'm just treating her to the full experience. I press my hands into the pillow on either side of her head. I look wide
open and defenseless, right?
There's no doubt in my mind she's going to try to tickle me. It's a damn good thing I'm not ticklish. She scoots herself
back on the bed so she's upright and pressed against the headboard. I move a little, but I'm still breathing right on her
chest. Her hands slide up the sides of my shirt and her nails scrape at my abdomen. Nothing. Well...no tickles, at least. I
bounce my eyebrows, daring her to try again. When she does, she frowns.
"What the hell? That's not cool," She laughs, then slides back down to get her head on the pillow. Her wavy brown locks
spread across her pillow, and I'm surrounded by her sweet scent. Let me tell you. It's very cool.
Here's the part I love the most.
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry, but I had to, Lena. You sort of asked for it," I shrug then shift like I'm going to get off her. I'm already
planning my next attack when her lip pushes out into this beautiful pout; she's practically begging for me to kiss her. Now
I'm the defenseless one.
I'm still above her, holding her warm sides. My fingers trace tiny figure eights on her hipbones and she wiggles around a
little more. I take a deep breath and flit my fingers over her ribs again, but I'm stopped almost immediately when I hear
her whisper.
"No more, baby..." she whispers. I'm taken aback. She hasn't called me that since before the accident. It just rolled off her
lips like second nature. My God. I have to know. Is she remembering us?
We've never been the type to have really deep talks. We move and kiss and let our bodies explain our feelings. But we
were kids back then. So much time has passed and I'm left wondering if this is how we'll still be now.
The strange thing is, I almost hope this isn't a memory for her. If she never gets those years back, I'll want and love her
all the same. I want her to look at me this way and do these things with me because of something she feels right now.
Not because it's what she's supposed to do.
Fire flares in her eyes. I give it a second, but she doesn't say a word and I'm convinced she's in the present and not
remembering. I take a few shallow breaths because I'm faltering. I'm supposed to be tickling her senselessly. This was
supposed to be simple fun. A way to connect with her and make her laugh without escalating things to unstoppable
level. But fuck. Her doe eyes are full of sexy curiosity and I want to teach her how we work all over again.
Just like I did the first time.
If I could only remember one thing in my entire life, I'd want it to be the very first moment she came apart beneath me. Not
because I'm a guy and that's the way we work. Sleeping with Elena was so different from everything I've done before.
Yeah, she was sex wrapped up in a tight little package. She walked and sassed like she'd done it hundreds of times
before. But she hadn't. Nope. I was her first. And moving inside her was like a first for me, because when she looked up
at me afterward with pretty little stars dancing in her eyes, I realized I never wanted to do this with anyone else. I was in
Her fingers drag through my hair, pushing pieces around until it stands up around my head in messy chunks. We're so
close, every time she exhales it reaches my lips. I open my mouth to tell her how beautiful she is, but I don't get the
chance. Her luscious red lips are on mine. Nibbling. Sucking. Dear God. I shift on her again and disconnect our lips so I
can get to work on the smooth skin of her neck. She tips her head back to give me a better angle, and I'm everywhere.
Her shoulders. The perfect skin peaking over the top of her satin bra. I move along her jaw slowly, savoring every second
of it. When I reach her lips she kisses me hard again and digs her nails into the back of my neck. The harder I kiss her
back, the more she presses into me. And damn, for a woman who says she doesn't know what she's doing with this
kind of thing, she's a fucking superstar.
Her lips pull away only to find my ear and she whispers, almost inaudibly, "You feel really good. Show me how you like
"Elena. Shit, baby," I manage. "This is good. This is really good. I like it however you want to give it to me-"
She cuts me off with another wild kiss. Her tongue is velvet in my mouth. Between ragged breath, she says,
"I...I remember the way you taste,"
Holy shit.
She doesn't have to tell me twice. I'm desperate to keep this going. To give her more reasons to remember. Of course I
want her to remember everything that led us to this point. But right now I'm not just kissing the woman I fell in love with
five years ago. I'm kissing this beautiful, strong woman who came back to me with nothing more than trust. I love her,
Her lips turn into a smile against mine and I pull away to check her eyes. They'll tell me what I need to know. She looks
happy. We've been given this great gift, and while I could kiss her all night and never get enough, we need to do this right.
We have to stop. Right now. Because I can't rip off her clothes when I know she could regret it in the morning. In her own
head, she doesn't remember giving herself to me. I can't take that from her now. I can't break her trust or give her
reasons to doubt me.
Thankfully, she's as into changing the subject as I am. My earlier question is answered: she's not so into big, dramatic
talks. She presses one more quick kiss to my lips to tell me she's okay, then moves into safer territory. Dessert.
"Think there's any pie left?" I'm still staring at her lips. I've got to stop thinking about how good her tongue felt in my mouth
if I ever want to be decent enough to go back downstairs and hang out with my family. I swallow and run my hand through
my hair, flattening her messy masterpiece.
"Damon?" She asks, licking her finger and wiping her lipstick off my mouth. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah fine. What did you ask?" Sorry, I can only think about crawling in that bed with you again tonight, I think. She
smiles and repeats herself. Apparently.
"Your Mom's pie. Do you think there's any left?" She's serious, but I have to laugh. Well what? We've been up here a long
time." She combs her fingers through her wavy hair and works it up into a messy bun. "What if they ate it all?"
"Not possible. Mom makes enough pie left to feed us and the rest of the houses this side of the lake. Sweet Potato.
Pumpkin. Pecan. If you can dream it up, it's probably on the kitchen counter right now."
Her eyes light up and she digs in the duffle bag until she finds a pair of black leggings and an oversized red hooded
sweatshirt. "Care if I put on some pajamas?"
I think she just asked as a formality, because she's already wiggling her way out of her skinny jeans and into the
leggings. The hoodie is over her head in a second. It hangs below her ass and she looks ridiculously cute. I'm surprised
she changed in front of me
I shed my holy jeans and pull on a thick pair of grey sweats. Elena's eyes go wide when I peel off my henley and dig
through the duffle for a looser fitting shirt. She's locked onto my tattoo.
"It means eternal," I tell her before pulling the black t-shirt over my head.
"How long have you had it?" She reaches out touch the ink on my bicep.
"Four years."
She looks down at her finger for a second and spins her ring on her finger so the diamond faces up, then takes my hand
and leads me to the door without saying a word. We sneak through the kitchen and see the pies have been cut into, so
we head into the living room.
We sat around the table with my family for a few hours before we came up here, but anyone who can do math can tell you
we've been up here for a good hour. Sure as shit they've got a pretty good idea of what we were doing.
The volume of the TV is cranked to a ridiculous level. The game is long over and we're already almost a quarter into the
next one. There's empty beer bottles lined up along the end tables and Mom's nowhere to be found.
"Illegal contact my ass!" Ric roars at the 's sitting in Dad's tattered old recliner. "What the hell are these ref's seeing!"
Clearly he's got a good buzz going.
Few things are as entertaining as my family watching football. Add alcohol and it's ten times worse.
Andrew and Harlow are sitting on the ground with their backs leaned against the couch. He's sound asleep but my sister
is wide-eyed and grinning when we step over their legs. I think it's because I'm holding Elena's hand. I make sure she's
okay before heading into the kitchen to get some pie. I take a moment for myself. I really need it.
I pour two mugs of coffee and set a few plates of pie at the table. I go to round her up so we can eat, and I'm surprised to
see Elena on the floor next to Harlow with a beer in her hand. My sister's arms are flailing around, so I know she's in
prime storytelling mode. It's probably something completely embarrassing about me, but that's okay. Seeing the two of
them laughing together warms my heart.
I really don't want to interrupt them, but I kind of want her to myself again. Sometimes I think my family's as crazy about
her as I am. But ultimately, she is mine. And I'd really like to eat some pie and have some coffee with her in the kitchen.
"Lena," I call out softly. When she turns, she's smiling so wide I swear her cheeks must hurt. I nod my head toward the
kitchen and she crawls up from her spot on the floor.
"Way to hog her, Damon!" Harlow calls out to me, sticking out her tongue. Yeah, she's a few beers in. Definitely.
I'm glad when Elena takes my hand without hesitation and leads me into the kitchen.
The coffee pot was turned on and the brew smells fresh, so I know Mom's around here somewhere. Probably on the
porch thinking back to years passed when Dad was still around and we were all young kids.
And I'll take my time to reflect too. With Elena. In a few hours we'll be back upstairs figuring out the bedroom situation.
Will she want the guestroom or will I get the honor of sharing a bed with her for an entire night? Sometimes talking
makes it worse; things with Elena go better when we just let them play out.
She sits down in front of her steaming hot mug of coffee and inhales. I can't help but smile when I really get a look at her
in this bright light. She's shoveling pumpkin pie in her face. Her cheeks are still pink. From me. Her eyeliner is smudged
and her lipstick worn off. It's a complete turn on that she's not worried about impressing me.
We're silent for a few moments as we dig into our pie, but she catches me off guard with a question.
"I've been wondering...was I completely awful when we met?" She takes a big sip of coffee and waits for my reply. It's one
of the first times she's asked anything about our past, so I'm nervous and excited. Our story isn't a fairytale; it's a different
kind of pretty.
"Are you kidding me?" My fork stops halfway to my mouth. "You are kidding me, right?"
She shakes her head and digs her fork in for another big bite of pumpkin pie.
"I just have this image of myself in my head. The last things I remember had me in a pretty bad place. I was bitchy and
stupid. I just wondered if I was that way with you."
"Never. You were a little rough around the edges, but so was I. We're more alike than you know. But you could never be
completely awful. You're were the greatest thing to ever happen to me," I push some whipped cream around my plate
and give her a second to think on it before I add, "Even after everything we've been through, I still believe that."
A/N: Thanks for reading!
*Chapter 7*: Bless The Broken Road
A/N: Thank you very much to this of you who've been reading and reviewing. I love seeing your thoughts. I had a good
time with this. It's a bit different than the other Elena POV chapter so far. We've got time jumps, flashbacks and lots
of other stuff. I hope you enjoy it.
I chose "Bless The Broken Road" for my title. Although it's most known for the Rascall Flatts version, it was
originally recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Thanks again for reading.
Chapter 6: Bless The Broken Road
Elena POV
"One..." His eyes flick down to my mouth and he wets his lips.
"Two..." He's not kissing me yet, but he's going to. His lips brush over mine with every word. He's got one hand on the
wheel and the other on my upper thigh, sneaking his fingertips up the frayed edges of my tiny shorts. My heart rate
skyrockets just from his touch.
"Hold on tight, baby," he says against my mouth as he revs the engine. It's pitch black out, and we're under a blanket of
bright stadium lights. He's never taken me out on the track before. I'm buzzing with excitement; high on life, because he
makes me feel like I can do anything.
He makes me feel like no one ever has.
"You ready?" he whispers against me and I shake my head.I knot my fingers in his thick hair and pull him back to me. I
kiss him hard and slow, slamming him back against his door with the promise of what's to come. When he pulls away,
my stomach flips. I'll never get enough.
His blue eyes blaze beneath the long dark bangs swept across his forehead and I can barely breathe. It's not because
we're about to strap in and take off at speeds well over 100mph. It't not because we snuck in the stadium and could
easily be caught. He flashes me a smile and my world tilts off its axis just because he's all mine.
His warm hands guide me back to my seat and secure me in place.
"You ready now?" He pushes his hair out of his eyes, and when I nod, he shifts in the driver's seat and yanks the gear into
Present Day...
Holy shit.
I've been awake for nearly two hours, and unwilling to get out of bed. It's early. The clock on Damon's nightstand reads
6:30 a.m. If we were home I'd probably get up and think about breakfast. Damon always makes a huge pot of bold, dark
roast coffee before he leaves for work in the morning. I could really go for a giant mug of it right now. But I've got
something better than caffeine flowing through my veins right now.
I've got a memory. An honest-to-God memory of Damon. Of us.
And I don't care how brief or vague it may have been. It was real. I got just a taste of how real we were. And as the days
roll forward, I'm learning that we're becoming pretty real now, too.
No, it wasn't a dream; I was wide awake and looking up at him from my pillow as he lowered his lips to mine and
delivered a sizzling goodnight kiss. And a memory.
The kiss was hot but shorter than the others we'd shared that day. We got back to his room well after midnight. We
watched A Christmas Story after our pie. We laughed so hard we woke his siblings, and we played a few rounds of cards
at the kitchen table. I was buzzing from a few bottles of beer and quick to shut him down when he offered to sleep in the
guest room. The feelings I get from just being around him are thrilling enough to quiet the few doubts.
When he kissed me this time, and let his body hang over mine protectively, there was no where else in the world I
wanted to be. I was treated with the only thing I've been asking for since I woke up from my coma. Familiarity.
I guess I'll never know what triggered it, but I'm thankful and hopeful that the more time I spend with him, the easier these
memories will come. It's comforting to know the butterflies in my stomach aren't new at all; they've been around for years,
warm and wonderful, even when I couldn't feel them dancing.
I haven't told him yet. I just kissed him back and said goodnight.
Needless to say, I barely slept last night. He crawled into the bed and tucked himself under the covers a comfortable
distance away from me. He didn't move to kiss me again, but as the hours ticked away, he crept closer to me. He's
shirtless and in a pair of thick black sweats, sprawled diagonally across the bed with his hand resting flat on my
stomach. My heart is beating out of control just from the simple intimacy of it. The domesticity. It's something I don't
remember feeling before now.
I don't want to keep things from him, especially since he's been so supportive and patient this whole while. It's been hard
to explain the things that have come back to me slowly his scent, a song, the sweet taste of his lips. I swear the things
he thinks will trigger my memory never do; instead, they're dug up from simple things. Like spending time with him. Up
until now, my my memories have been feelings. Up until now, I wasn't sure I'd ever actually have a mental picture of us
from before. I get the feeling our kisses last night have nothing on the heat bubbling between us years ago. I'm anxious
to see where we're going.
You know how movie theaters pump the smell of popcorn through the vents to make a person lose her shit if she doesn't
break down and buy a bucket? That kind of thing is going on right now, only it's fresh coffee, and I'm pretty sure it's free.
I'm torn between staying in this spot until he wakes up, and sneaking downstairs to see if the coffee is fair game. If I'm
being honest, the caffeine might do me some good. Staying in bed with him all day could be wonderful, but also a bit
overwhelming on my system. I'm supposed to be taking things easy, however I get the feeling Damon's fully capable of
working miracles on my body at any speed.
Yes, it's time to move now. My head's racing with the possibilities. I shift a little in my spot until he moves his hand away
and I instantly miss his touch. He mumbles something about radiators, then he's back to a dull snore. In the interest of
modesty around his family, I throw a zip hoodie over my thin strapped black tank top before I head downstairs.
There's something remarkable about this family. They've managed to make me feel comfortable and welcome without
pressuring me to fall into old suit. I don't think I could've picked a sweeter Mother-in-law if I tried; she may only be mine
through marriage, but I'm happy to have her.
"Morning, Elena," Harlow's perky voice calls from the other end of the kitchen. She's at the counter cutting cinnamon rolls
into slices. The radio is on an oldies station and Jackson 5 is playing at a comfortable volume. Her dark hair is tied up in
a loose bun like mine, and I can't get over how startlingly similar her eyes are to Damon's. Yeah, he's speeding around
in my head on overdrive lately.
I glance out the window and see the landscape blanketed with a fresh coat of snow. It's a god damn winter wonderland
out there, and I'm glad we spent the night. I don't know if I would've gotten that memory back if I hadn't been sleeping
I eye the coffee pot and Harlow laughs.
"That's my girl," she reaches to the cabinet beside her and pulls out a huge ceramic mug. "Pour yourself a big ol' mug.
Damon said you were an earlier riser now. I called bullshit," she shrugs and licks icing from her fingers, then rinses
them under the faucet. "Looks like he knows what he's talking about when it comes to you. Have you seen him yet this
I smile. She's fishing for information. I'm in a good mood, so I'll play along. I would love to make a few friends, and since
Damon tells me Harlow is my very best friend, this seems like a pretty good place to start. I pour myself coffee, dump in
my usual half-and-half to splenda ratio, and lean against the counter beside her.
"Um, yeah," I'm trying really hard to keep the blush off my face. My relationship with him feels sort of private and fragile, so
I'm not about to dish out details about how far he's been sticking his tongue down my throat. What sister would want to
hear that, anyway? "We got to bed super late and he's still sleeping. I can't remember the last time the sun was up
before him."
She smiles widely and it's nice. I've always wanted a sister.
"Andrew's still sleeping, too. Worn the hell out, probably. Thanks to me," she takes a deep breath and fans herself. "I
swear to God, Lena. We've been together for six years and it never gets old. They say marriage is the number one killer
of good sex, but I'd have to disagree." Harlow's got a fun personality, as I learned last night during cards. I wonder how
similar we really are. "And I'm ready to puke just thinking about it, but I'll tell you because no one else will. You and my
brother?" She smirks. "Hot as sin. I only know because you're gross like that and like to over-share just to get a rise out
of me," she teases.
Well okay then.
Thankfully, the subject changes on its own as I sip my coffee and eye the cinnamon rolls. She's dipping the slices into
an egg mixture and dropping them onto a hot griddle to make french toast. The song ends and another upbeat one
comes on just as Erin makes her way into the kitchen. She's in a pair of jeans and a soft cotton pink shirt and she's
ogling the coffee pot like it's the last drop of water in the desert. I swear; Coffee is the common denominator in this
"Good morning, my dears," she says, flipping the newspaper open to find the day after Thanksgiving sales ads. "Not
freezing your ass off this morning with the rest of the nuts to get Andrew this 72-inch TV for $200?"
"God no. Are you kidding, Ma?" She laughs. "You know I don't get into all that pushing and shoving. I'd much rather be in
a warm house clicking buttons on a computer and drinking coffee, where I know I won't lose a finger if I get in the wrong
person's way. Besides, Elena's here. We were just talking about our sleepy husbands," she flips the slices.
"Well breakfast smells delicious. I'm sure they'll be down in a few minutes," Erin says.
"Better put on a second pot of coffee because Andrew's a grump-ass without at least three cups," Harlow adds.
"It's 4 for Damon. I'm seriously thinking about buying one of those coffee urns that holds like 60 cups," I joke. It's nice to
be able to participate in this conversation, however trivial it may be.
"Your father was the same way," Erin explains softly as she looks at both of us. Damon wasn't kidding when he said she
treats me like her own. I know from Damon that it's been five years since he passed, but her voice breaks in a way that
makes it still fresh. I think about what it must be like to miss someone so much while knowing they'll never come back.
"Get a little coffee in him and he'd turn into a saint. Do anything I asked. Those men of yours are just the same." The
sadness leaves her eyes and she's once again wearing that loving, motherly smile. "Hold onto them tightly and don't
ever let go."
We're silent for a moment to let the uneasy feeling pass. I wish I knew the right thing to say to tell her how sorry I am for
her loss and to thank her for making me feel like a part of this family. But before I can string together even a few kind
words, Harlow's plating up the french toast.
"These look done to me. I say we get a round in before the boys wake up and eat 'em all."
We're seated around the table with our coffee and fancy french toast and talking about the card games last night when
suddenly the mood shifts.
"I'm not trying to be nosy, but how are things going for you, honey?" Erin asks. She's got that calm look about her that
says she's a great listener. And while these women are kind and wonderful, I won't share my memories with them
before I tell Damon. Instead, I give them something simple.
"Things are good. Damon's back to work and once I get settled in again, I'll start looking for work, too," I tell them. They
glance at each other, seemingly surprised, then both dig into their breakfast again and let me continue. I tuck this
reaction in the back of my mind to ask Damon later. "I need to stay busy. Staying home all the time gives me too much
time to think."
And wonder. And worry...and I really want to be done with all of that. Trying to move on has helped me tremendously. If I
stand around waiting to remember, I'd be missing out on all of this. I appreciate the way they're handling my situation;
their smiles are more curious than sympathetic, and I don't feel like a victim.
Yes, I survived something I probably shouldn't have. I escaped with a few burns and a four-year vacation to dreamland
while my parents suffered. I've steered clear of the details of that event so far because it's the one thing I'd be okay never
remembering. I don't know how I got out. I have to assume I was there visiting my parents, since Damon and I lived
several states away, but I wonder what brought me back. Now that I know I'm safe, I'm itching for details about my
relationship with them during the last years of their lives.
I do know one thing. I was a complete brat when I was 17, constantly doing things just to get their attention. And they
weren't good things, like getting good grades or volunteering at senior living centers. No, I was a wreck, stuck
somewhere between being a child and becoming an adult without any guidance. I'd make one horrible decision after
another just to see if they'd scold me.
Since I attended boarding school, I did spectacularly bad things worthy of a phone call to my parents. I figured after
awhile I'd get kicked out or they'd pull me out and bring me back so they could keep better tabs on me. I remember how
shocked my teachers were that my actions seemed to flip overnight. I was the model student, well behaved until senior
year. I wore pretty pearl earrings and my school uniform. I had perfectly pressed hair and was always playing the part of
the dutiful surgeon's daughter with a bright future. But I realized I was acting, and the lies were getting me nowhere. In
the blink of an eye, everything just snapped. I already had a ton of black marks on my name, and my purposefully bad
choices made it worse. I lost myself in them. I became them.
Six years ago...
"Miss Gilbert. Are you with me?"
I'm sitting at my guidance counselor's desk in his big, organized office. His wall clock reads 9 a.m. I'm definitely off to a
bad start of my day.
I focus on the papers on his desk so I don't have to look up at his eyes. We've been sitting here for ten minutes and he's
yet to get a word out of me. He's 24 and gorgeous, and I'm 17 and drunk as hell. I can't promise I won't say something
completely inappropriate. "Do you understand what you're doing in my office today?"
I nod, but it's a lie. I'm physically here, but my mind is everywhere else. I take a sip from my clear bottle and begin to
scribble in my notebook. I'm numbed out and content to just sit here doodling.
"Elena," he says a little louder and takes the bottle from my hand. "Eyes up here."
I know what will happen when I look at him. He'll see the glazed look I'm sporting and send me to the school nurse, then
to the psychologist, and finally the principal, where they'll determine I'm completely trashed and need to be suspended
for a few days. But here's the thing. I just got off a round of suspension three weeks ago for repeatedly breaking curfew. I
didn't get sent home. My parents didn't visit or come to talk sense into me.
I just got the usual, "Don't be foolish, Elena. You weren't put on this earth to tarnish our family name..." speech, and I'm
pretty sure they sent a fat check to keep everyone quiet. The bastards at this school are money hungry enough to be paid
off. No matter what I do, it doesn't work. But it can't hurt to keep trying. I just don't see any other way.
He unscrews the cap to my bottle and brings it to his nose.
"Surprise. It's not water," I say flatly. He shakes his head and recaps it, setting it on the other side of the desk away from
us. His arms fold across his chest and gives me the You're-completely-unbelievable look. See, this isn't our first rodeo.
"You were sent here after your very first class of the day because Miss Bennett smelled alcohol on your breath. Never
mind that it's not even 10 o'clock in the morning. You're underage. Do you understand the severity of your poor
"I'm fine, Elijah," I say. He's barely older than me, so I find it hard to take his reprimands seriously. I close my notebook
and look up into his eyes, tucking a loose strand of my wavy hair behind my ear. Am I flirting? Who the hell knows. I can't
separate right from wrong right now because it all just ends the same.
"For the hundredth time, it's Mr. Mikaelson," he says firmly. He takes in my full appearance and squeezes the bridge of
his nose. "You're really working my nerves today, just so you know. Now be honest. How much have you had to drink
I shrug and stare right back at him with a devious look on my face. I'm ballsy, and I think he sees it as a challenge. I
swipe a framed photo of a yellow labrador retriever off his desk and attempt to focus on it.
"Cute puppy," I turn the frame around in circles, trying to wrap my head around the image. It's pretty blurry right now. I'm
pretty blurry.
"I don't know what to say to you anymore, except you're too young to be ruining yourself. We've been in this office too
many times this semester. From what I can see in your file, you didn't have any trouble until this year. Is there something
we can do to help you?"
Yes. Kick me out.
"No," I say, setting the photo of his dog back down on his desk. "Like I said...I'm fine. I'm a kid. I fuck up. End of story,"
"Get your things, Elena. I'll walk you to the nurse," he swallows. He follows me to the door and sticks his head into the
hallway before I walk away. "We'll be placing a follow-up phone call with your parents. There are programs available to
you if this becomes a problem. You're better than this. You've worked hard at school for years, but if you continue on the
path you're treading, you won't be graduating with the rest of your class. Are we clear?"
"Crystal," I say, leaning against the doorframe. I move the strap of my bag up on my shoulder and do my best to walk a
straight line to the other side of the building. Inside I know I haven't won a thing; I just can't stop.
Present Day...
Bratty doesn't begin to describe the way I remember myself. I'm regretful, even though I know it doesn't change a thing. I
get the feeling it was only the beginning of my downward spiral, and that I have Damon to thank for slowing me down.
I guess I did graduate on time. Damon tells me we met when I was a freshman attending Stanford. I can't imagine I got
there on my own, though. I doubt any of the staff would've written letters of recommendations. I'm sure my parents paid
for Stanford to overlook my behavior, just so they didn't have to explain to the other country club members why their
daughter didn't go to college.
Some parents, right? Always thinking of themselves.
I know I shouldn't compare Erin Salvatore to my Mom and Dad, but sometimes I can't help it. Instead of parallels, I see
opposites. To my parents, I was a problem they could shove off on someone else. Once I started acting out, it only got
worse. They didn't bring me to their events anymore for fear I'd embarrass them. They wouldn't have approved of me
marrying Damon. His family is wealthy, but I get the impression he used to be as lost as I was. I'm not even sure they
ever met him.
I'm thinking too much.
Harlow's up and pouring herself another cup of coffee and I'm jolted back to reality as I know it now. A warm house that
feels like a home. A family I've only just begun to let in. I'm riddled with guilt thinking about how careless I was. Missing
out on four years really puts life into perspective.
"I know this must be awkward for you," I manage. "I bet you never thought you'd get to meet your daughter-in-law all over
again." I look at Erin and smile, because if I don't, I could easily cry. She's looking at me with patience and thankfulness.
She really has a way of making me feel like I belong with them.
"And you're just as sweet as the first time, love," She smiles. "Maybe sweeter. You hung the moon, as far as my son is
concerned. Even if you don't remember, I promise you're a very important part of this family."
It's obvious he cares for me, but I've been asking him to walk on eggshells around me. It's nice hearing about it from his
"Seriously. I've never heard him sound more excited than the day he called to tell me you woke up," Harlow says. "It was
3 o'clock in the morning, so I naturally thought the worst. You'd been in that bed for so long..." she swallows, then her
eyes light up. "When he told me you'd woken up, I thought I was dreaming. We all did.
"You know, you were in a hospital in Wyoming for all that time, hundreds of miles away from home. I know you well,
Elena, and I can see you're worried. My brother's not the bragging type, so I'm sure he hasn't told you. But you need to
know he never abandoned you. He was on a plane every weekend, sleeping on a cot in your hospital room every
Thursday through Saturday night, then back on a plane so he could open up shop again on Monday morning. Every
weekend for four years, Elena. The doting, the dedication...it's nothing new, Sis. It's not a novelty that's going to wear off.
And I'm not just saying that because I shared a womb with the guy. He's made some stupid mistakes, but he's a good
man. One of the best,"
Stupid mistakes, huh? I'm left wondering if I'll remember those, too. I wonder if there's more tragedy to our story than he
lets on, or if we were ripped right out of the middle of our happily ever after. He seems too good to be true. I mean, every
weekend for four years? That's a lot of traveling considering I wasn't making any progress. Wasn't he bored? Wasn't it
depressing? Did he ever have to make a choice to keep me alive?
"Who's a good man?" he asks, walking up behind me and pressing a kiss to the top of my head. I'm still processing the
bit of insight Harlow just shared with me. He could've left me sleeping alone for all that time and waited for the phone
call, but he didn't. He stayed with me as often as he could. He practically never left my side.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Harlow teases as she stabs her fork into her french toast and gestures for him to sit and dig
He places his hands on my shoulders and gives them a gentle squeeze. I look backwards at him and smile as I catch
his cologne. He's freshly showered and barefoot, wearing a pair of deliciously fitting black jeans and a Charcoal t-shirt.
His hair is intentionally messy, just the way I love it.
He rubs his hands together, sits down beside me and stacks a good four slices on his plate.
"Pass the butter, baby," he says to me casually. I catch Erin's smile as I hand him the dish. "So what is this, like the
women's breakfast club or something?" He wipes his mouth with a napkin, then walks to the fridge to pour himself a
glass of orange juice. He raises the carton to me, silently asking me if I'd like some, and I shake my head no. He's two-
fisting the breakfast drinks this morning, and he looks incredibly happy. I wonder if it's because we're here, or if it has
anything to do with last night.
Just wait til we get home and I tell him what I remembered. I lick my lips and take another bite as he sits back down. Erin
and Harlow bury their noses in the paper and pretend to ignore us. I appreciate the effort, but I've only really known them
for a day and I can already tell they're all ears.
Damon tucks my hair behind my ear on one side so he can lean in closer.
"Why didn't you wake me?" He whispers. He's smiling against my ear, his breath tickling my skin. "Wanted all the coffee
to yourself, did you?"
I shake my head and smile. I can't keep the heat from my cheeks. My head's spinning just thinking about the way I'm
going to tell him what I remembered. I bite my lip to keep myself from blurting it out. I can't wait for later.
"Was I hogging the bed?" It's barely audible; I think I swallowed louder than he spoke. I shake my head no again.
He's so close it feels like he's going to turn my head and kiss me. I'm actually disappointed when he doesn't. He scoots
his chair in, takes a big drink of orange juice, and dives back into his breakfast, complimenting his sister's cooking while
his bare foot rests atop mine below the table. I know he's trying to play it cool around his family so they don't jump to
conclusions, and I'm surprised I actually crave his hands on me.
Andrew stumbles in a few minutes later and wraps his arms around Harlow. Ric follows shortly after, peeling himself out
of his wet jacket and boots and sliding onto a kitchen chair.
"What the hell, 'Low? No french toast boats this year?" Ric teases. Their eyes meet across the table and I can see the
genuine affection floating between them. And here I thought siblings just fought all the time. He takes a bite of his
breakfast and smiles. "Don't mind me. I'm just an ungrateful bastard," he winks. "It's delicious, sis. Thank you."
"How's it looking out there?" Andrew asks Ric.
"The roads should be cleared by Noon," One of the neighbors went out there with a plow on his truck to get a start on it a
few hours ago. The forecast is clear, too. So we should be safe to head home once things thaw a bit."
I am ready to go home, but I've had a blast here. It feels like we're on a vacation. Like this is special and as soon as we
return back to normal, things will fade away. It's been almost 7 hours and my memory of us in his race car is still fresh
and wonderful.
"Or you could stay," Erin tries.
"I think you'd keep us all here forever, if you could," Damon sticks his fork into a slice of banana and smears it in syrup
before taking a bite.
"My babies are always welcome home. It's kind of nice having a little noise around the house. You never know how quiet
it can be until you have to listen to it everyday. Maybe someday you'll know what it's like." Erin's eyes float around the table
She's talking to all of us, but I can't help but feel a little overwhelmed. I've only kissed my husband three times; I can't
think about kids.
"Ma," Damon says seriously, shaking his head. His tone is pleading and gentle. I've never heard him speak to his
mother in any other way.
I feel the flood rising in my cheeks and feel Damon's foot rub against me again. My fears must be transparent because
Erin's already backpedalling. "Oh, don't listen to me, sweetheart. It's just the Mom in me talking. I've got a Grandbaby
fever, that's all," she smiles then drains her mug of coffee. "Now who's ready for a little pie? I've got two carmel apple and
a pumpkin left and they're not going to eat themselves."
Ten hours later...
I'm up to my nose in tupperware. Literally. We just got home from the long, but uneventful drive home and I'm doing my
best to maneuver around the kitchen to the fridge. After another few rounds of his mother to convince us to stay one more
night, "just to be on the safe side," as she put it, we managed to get out the door with no fewer than five tubs of leftovers.
Potatoes, casserole, turkey, rolls and pie. I could pop the tops of off these, throw them in the microwave and we could eat
a full Thanksgiving meal all over again. The food was so fresh it would probably taste as good as the first time...if I had
even an inch of room left in my stomach. Right now I've got my heart on something elsethe extremely gorgeous man
walking through the front door with our duffel bags.
I stuff the containers into the fridge and quickly close the door before anything can fall out. I'm anxious to talk to him now
that we're home. We were relatively quiet on the ride back. I fell asleep for as long as he'd let me, but was startled awake
more than a few times by the screaming and drums of his music. And his cracked open passenger window. Apparently
he was tired, too.
"My God. It's an event to go there," he yawns. "I forgot how exhausted I am when I get back. Too much driving," He plops
down on the soft couch and rests his head back on the cushion.
"You're a race car driver, Damon," I smile. "Aren't you supposed to be able to spend an insane amount of time behind the
wheel like it's nothing?"
"No fair," he yawns again. "I'm retired," he pats the cushion next to him, calling me over with his smile. My eyes light up
and I obey.
"Did you have an okay time? I hope they didn't scare you off too badly. Mom can get a little overexcited sometimes. And
Ric is just...Ric. It was nice to see you with Harlow again."
"It was fun," I can't think about anything but telling him. How much longer can I hold it in?
I rest my back agains the arm of the couch and stretch my legs so they're bent at the knees and over his lap. He puts his
hands on my left knee and rests his cheek atop of it. Then he smiles, and I almost completely lose my nerve.
Part of me wants to keep it to myself just a little longer so I don't get his hopes up. It's what I would've done beforekeep
emotions bottled up until I was ready to burst. But I'm not that girl anymore, and I don't think I have been for awhile. I know
what it feels like to have someone care for me. To want me and miss me. And I'm starting to feel for him, too. Heat and
curiosity and longing...but not just those things. I want to share my excitement with him, too.
This memory isn't just mine. It's ours. It's in his head, too, and I can't begin to explain how that makes me feel. It's a
connection I took for granted before my accident, but never will again. I'm giddy just thinking about being on the same
wavelength as him.
"You owe me a real trip around the track," I start. He frowns, completely oblivious to what I'm about to tell him. His lips
part and he makes a move to speak, but I interrupt before I chicken out. "Altus Speedway. Oklahoma. 2008. You
promised me we'd go fast, but we barely got above 65 miles an hour."
He lifts his head from my knees and stares at me. His hands find my waist and pull me up to sit on his lap before I
continue. I pull his worn red Badgers cap off his head and push his hair away from his forehead before looking into his
eyes. They're big and vulnerable, like he desperately wants me to say I remember. And God, I don't think I've ever wanted
to share anything with anyone more than I want to give him this.
"You remember?" He asks, his eyes unblinking. I bite my lip and nod and he lets out a huge breath I hadn't realized he'd
been holding in.
"Not everything...just that. And this..." I brush my thumb along his lower lip, "You strapped me in and kissed the hell out of
"Like this," his eyes burn hot as he threads his fingers through my hair. He tightens his hands into fists, tugging my just
enough to make me moan with want, then kisses me hard and long, like I've just answered a prayer. He sucks my lower
lip into his mouth and bites down, and I'm treated to an entirely new side of my husband. A rougher, animalistic side.
His cheeks are covered in coarse stubble as he works his lips down my neck and onto my chest. His fingers work the
buttons of my shirt until he gets four openjust enough for him to get his lips on the swell of my breasts. His stubble
scratches my skin in delicious ways, and he shifts me down until I'm on my back and he's above me, unbuttoning me
further. Kissing between my breasts. Leaving a searing hot trail down to my navel and back up to the hollow of my neck.
His hands slide inside the waist of my jeans at my hips, and his fingers hook into the sides of my panties until he's got
them low enough to caress my hipbones. And Dear God. I'm going to come apart just from looking at him. I'm flushed
and my heart's racing because my body wants him badly; it remembers the things I can't. Like what it's like to be pressed
naked up against him for an entire night. And my mind wants to know it, too, but I also know it's best if we just slow down.
Yes, I could beg him to take me in his bed and spend the entire night trying to make me remember. If a few hot kisses
yesterday could give me a memory, what the hell would sex stir up?
We move back into an upright position against the arm of the couch. I open my mouth to calm the want flowing between
us, but his lips find mine again. We're still in a tizzy, with bare flesh and hands all over the place, but this time his kiss is
slow and loving. I'm still sizzling as hands come up to hold my face, and he whispers my name over and over again
between kisses.
He pulls away slowly and stares at me again as if I might not be real. As if he's dreaming.
"You really remember that?" He swallows.
I smile and nod and he pulls me into the tightest hug I've ever been given. He turns to the side and lets his body fall into
the back of the couch so he's lying next to me with his head on my chest and his arms wrapped around my middle. My
hands fall into his hair and I run my fingers through it gently until his body relaxes against mine. He's been lulled to sleep
by my hammering heartbeat.
My eyes sting with tears. I close them and issue a silent thank you to whomever saved me from that fire. They gave me
this moment with hima warm, quiet moment that's become my new favorite memory.
A/N: Thank You for reading.
*Chapter 8*: Things We Lost In The Fire
A/N: WOW! A tremendous thank you to everyone who read and reviewed last chapter. :) Your reviews really put a
smile on my face, and I loved reading each and every one of them. We've got Damon POV again, starting out in
Present Day, then we're cruising right along with some backstory.
I've chosen "Things We Lost In The Fire" by Bastille for this chapter's title. Thanks again for reading.
Chapter 7: Things We Lost In The Fire
Damon POV
"The point is, I said 1970, not 1974. It took nearly a month to get that part in," I snap into the phone. This guy's really
testing my patience, but I maintain a level of professionalism. He babbles on for a bit about order numbers and
inaccurate shipment verification, but all I hear is blah blah blah I'm full of bullshit.
"Calling this an inconvenience is putting it pretty lightly," I inform him. "This is a tremendous setback and it needs to be
handled immediately. I want the correct part and I want it Next Day Aired to me the second you get your hands on it." I can
feel the irritation building inside me, so before my mouth runs off without checking in with my common sense, I rattle off
a stiff but polite closing and end the call.
I squeeze my eyes shut and run my hand down my face in an attempt to wipe off the stress. The glow on the shop's
OPEN light has been out for two hours. It's nearing 8 pm, which means I'm closing in on my fourteenth hour here. Most of
the guys are gone for the day; it's just me and my top mechanic, Adam, trying to bust out some work on this project.
We've been restoring and customizing a 1970 Apollo White Buick SGX for a corporate big shot down in Chicago for the
last two months. The job popped up shortly before Elena woke up, and it's easily one of the biggest accounts we've ever
had. I put a lot of faith in my guys to run the everyday basics of the shop and get a start on this restoration while I got
Elena settled back into our life together. Not surprisingly, they did a bang up job while I was gone. I just didn't expect the
guy we ordered the parts from to be a complete imbecile.
I'm patient, but here's the thing. We're three weeks away from promised completion and not even half done. We've still
got regular shit to do everyday on top of this project, and the holidays are just around the corner. In order for me to stay
caught up with the ownership part of the shop, I'm putting in ten and twelve hour days. That means I'm spending way
more time under the bellies of cars and not nearly enough beneath Elena.
So, yeah. I'm irritated.
I love what I do, but I can't practically live here the way I used to. The shop was an amazing way to channel my issues for
four years; I swear I felt every single second pass while Elena was away. I was stuck in a windstorm of emotions;
Whipping one way, then the next. Worry. Denial. Sadness. Patience. Defenselessness. Rage.
But never acceptancenot even when the doctors told me it was looking grim. Giving up on hope meant giving up on us,
and that's something I'll never do. After the initial shock, you better believe I felt a little cocky when they called me to say
she'd opened her eyes. That's right. I knew it all along...Didn't I? No one needs to know I spent the next hour sobbing.
So, really. I'm not ungrateful for my work. I just need it to go back to normal so the rest of my life can. Sometimes it feels
like I only see Elena in bed. Okay, so that's still pretty awesome, especially considering I thought she'd freak when we
got home from Mom's. Lucky for me, she hasn't lost her persistence. The guest room's been empty ever since and he
hasn't mentioned the friendship-plea in weeks.
She also hasn't mentioned remembering anything else, and I'm okay with that.
The growing want and intimacy between us is incredible, but I miss the rest of it, too. I swear I haven't sat down at the
kitchen table with her since last week. I know she's staying busy while I'm at work. Just a few days ago I came home to
her pored over a stack of interior design magazines and a completely redecorated living room. What the hell is Feng
Shui anyway?
And now this. A few hours ago I had to fire off another text apologizing to her for staying late at work again. I think she's
getting a little to used to it, because she sent one right back with a smiley face and a simple It's okay.
I'm just working myself into a really good pace around my desk when Adam knocks once on my open door and pops his
head inside my office.
"Yo, Salvatore. Your girl's out here with an enormous sandwich," he smirks.
I peer out the window that overlooks the garage and see her standing there in her red peacoat and fuzzy white hat. She's
beautiful beneath the overhead lights; easily the brightest part of my life. We make eye contact and she raises one
gloved hand to wave. The other is wrapped around a white paper sack labeled Hungry Head-my favorite sandwich shop
in the world. I toss my phone down on my desk and walk out to meet her. The moment we're close enough to touch, the
negative energy buzzes away from my system.
"Have a few minutes? I brought you the King of Sandwiches," She smiles brightly and waves the bag in front of my eyes.
That's literally the name, but the way she says it is still adorable. I'm not sure what I'm more excited for right now, Elena
or the sandwich. My veins have to to be running with 90% coffee and I could use the food absorb some of these jitters.
"More than a few. We can eat in my office," I gesture toward my door and follow her lead. Once inside, I lower the blinds
and move the messy stacks off invoices off my desk so there's room to eat. This is the first time she's been here, so I'm
not surprised to see her looking around while I grab her a chair. I wish I'd known she was coming. I would've picked up a
She slips off her coat and pushes up the sleeves of her tight black sweater. Three buttons are undone, revealing a light
pink v-neck beneath. She's got on a dark pair of jeans and black leather boots up to her knees. When I catch her pearl
earrings, I get a flash of the woman I met in those muddy festival field, and I can't keep the smirk off my face.
"I was out when I got your text and thought you could use a good meal and some company tonight. I know you've had sort
of the week from hell," her smile is compassionate, and I feel well cared for. "Was today at least a little better than
"Worse, actually. But I'll spare you the gory details," I unzip my coveralls and step out of them.
Sure, I could complain. I could probably ramble on for hours to her about how shitty things have been lately, and how
easy it would be for me to just hand off the keys to Adam or one of the other guys and tell them I'm taking more time off. I
know she'd listen, but I don't want to put my stress on her shoulders. She's got enough to worry about as it is. She was
sweet to bring me dinner so we could eat together and I'm going to make the best of this moment. I'll take it as a sign
that she misses me too.
She releases a breath and a small frown of concern before bouncing up on her tiptoes to give me a soft kiss. Her lips
say I'm sorry, baby without a single word, and I don't think can begin to imagine how much it means.
She tries to pull away, but I'm not done. Not even close. My hands push gently into her hips until she's pressed against
my desk. I kiss her until we both need air...then I kiss her again. I know she's into it, because her cheeks go pink when I
lift her up and set her on top of it. I rest my hands on her thighs and step in closer until I'm between them, then sink my
teeth into the sensitive skin on her neck. I think we're getting somewhere when I hear her moan, but she pulls away a
few seconds later. Her eyes go wide and she clears her throat as she jumps down off my desk and adjusts her shirt.
"We should wash you up. Unless you like the taste of grease," she says, pressing her fingers to the corner of my lips to
wipe away the black gunk. She rubs it between her fingers and sticks her tongue out at me. She's got no idea she's
wearing it, too.
"I don't know about me, but you sure seem to," I tease, wiping her off with a clean rag from my cabinet. "Actually, it looks
really good on you. I could totally see you as one of my hot little grease monkeys...but I'm pretty sure there's rules against
that sort of office behavior. And everything else we just did in here," She blushes scarlet, but there's curiosity in her eyes.
That's right, baby. I hope it's just as hot playing out in your mind as it is in mine.
I lead us to the sink to clean up, and in just a few minutes we're back at my desk, unwrapping the sandwiches and ready
to dig in. There's a reason it's called the King of Sandwiches. It's piled up with any and every meat imaginable; stacked
high with cheese and veggies and topped with an amazing secret sauce that I still can't identify.
This brings me to reason #509 why I love my wifemy woman can wolf down a huge sandwich better than any guy I
know. Calories...carbs...what the hell are those? The only way she watches what she eats is as it's halfway to her mouth,
ready to hit that perfect little stomach of hers. And let me tell you, I could watch her eat all day.
She takes a huge bite and chases it down with some water. I'm happy she's here, but I'm also starving, so I plan to eat
first and ask questions later. I look up at her after a moment of silence, and she's got this giddy look on her face like
she's ready to burst. I'd know this look anywhere.
Wait a minute. How exactly did she get here?
I'm trying not to be that overbearing husband but it's the dead of winter and she hasn't been behind the wheel of a car in
four years. Now's not the time to stretch those muscles. Still, I've got to know. I swallow my bite of The King, and ask with
as much nonchalance as I possibly can.
Then I wait. She's mid-bite when I ask, so she nods her head a few times and puts up one finger to let me know she'll
answer in a second. When she takes an abnormally long drink of water, I realize she's stalling.
"I took my car," she says and her eyes sparkle naughtily. It's really hard to be upset with her looking at me that way. Here
comes the justification. "The roads are clear and it's above freezing for the first time in a week. I've been out all day,"
My mother says I'm pretty easy to read. I guess she's right, because Elena's cheeks flush under my gaze.
"And now you're pissed," She bites her lip, but doesn't apologize. She sits across from me with a bit of defiance in her
eyes and says, "That's okay. You can be pissed. I'm here in one piece and I had fun," she takes another bite of her
sandwich and licks her fingers one by one. I can't help but smile, because now she's just torturing me.
"I'm not pissed. I thought we decided I'd take you out on back roads in the spring to make sure you're comfortable behind
the wheel before you start really driving on your own again."
"Well, yeah. We did. But something came up and it worked out really nicely. I ran to the market and picked up stuff we
needed for the house, plus a few additional things I read about in a magazine. I made a trip to that coffeehouse we went
to a few weeks ago and ordered a giant, nerve-numbing latte with at least 1200 calories and didn't regret a sip of it,"
I'm still smiling when she continues. Her enthusiasm is music to my ears.
"And then something really great happened. I found a job," she squeals. "And not just any job. It's one I'm really excited
about. It's a perfect way to get my foot in the door with this kind of thing."
She scoots her chair in and leans her arms on my desk to get closer to me. Let me tell you, I never realized how huge
this desk is until it became the only thing between us. I'm about ready to spread her out on it and throw a Damon and
Elena celebration party.
In my head.
But the dirty thoughts can wait til later. She's beaming with pride like a kid who just won a spelling bee, and it's beautiful
to see her so excited about something. I grip my edge of the desk and lean in close, waiting for more details. All we're
missing is the drumroll.
She's got this big, cheesy show-off-every-single-pearly-white smile going on. I wish I could take a picture right now so I
could look at it forever. All week she's been actively calling around to places in town to see who's hiring. I suggested she
take a little more time to settle in and heal, but she's still the stubborn woman I met all those years ago. I got an eyebrow
raise and a hand on that curvy hip of hers. I know she was trying to warn me off of babying her, but shit. Kind of makes
me want to misbehave more often.
"Well? Are you going to tell me where it is or not?" I grab her hand and thread our fingers together. "The anticipation is
killing me."
"Olivia's Bakery," she finally says, then bites her lip and waits for my reaction. If there's one thing she loves doing, it's
baking. Right now, this is her dream job, and I couldn't be happier for her. Even though I was slow to encourage her, I
know she needs to stay busy and I hope this gives her a chance to make friends. I can't keep her to myself forever. She's
got the ability the light up the whole world.
"A bakery. Now that is awesome," I stand up a bit to lean across the table to pull her into a quick hug. She smells like
raspberries, vanilla, and secret sauce. Yes, I'm in heaven. "It's perfect for you. Which part of the shop do you get to work
in?" I ask as I settle back into my chair.
"Pastries," her eyes dance. It's like she's just won the lottery or something. Reason #606 why I love my wifeshe
surprises me every day. "And I didn't just walk into it, either. I dropped in there the other day and filled out an application
the best I could. They called me back last night to set up an interview for today. There were a few of us and they set us up
with counter space and a pantry and let us go to town. Would you believe they liked mine best?" Our knees are touching
below my desk and I can feel her legs bouncing in place.
"Yeah. I can," I say happily. "And I'm really happy you found something you like doing." I love that she couldn't wait to tell
"Thank you."
This is what I missed the most. Sharing happiness with the woman I love. I've been wanting to take her out to a nice
dinner for awhile now, but this casual night might be just what we needed. I'd really like to take her out on an actual date,
so make a mental note to plan a weekend getaway when this car project is finally complete.
We eventually get back to eating, but I can tell she's still buzzing with something. Now that I'm out of my coveralls, I'm
sitting in a pair of faded jeans a grey University of Wisconsin T-shirt. Her eyes are stuck on it, and she's got that curious
look on her face. A few days ago she asked me how we met, but the questions stopped after I told her she'd been high
as a kite.
She frowned, like the truth disappointed her, so I didn't expect her to ask anything else for awhile. That's where I was
"Have you always wanted to race, Damon?"
"As a kid, yes. And enough to leave school and everything else behind. Yes," I answer.
My heart picks up as she shifts her gaze along my office walls. I'm here a lot, so I've tried to make it as much like home
as I can. I've got trophies up on shelving. I've got photos up of my car and of my wins, and it's not just me in the photos.
She's gorgeous in black and white. She's curled up under my arm. She's on the hood of my car, kissing me in front of a
Las Vegas Casino with a new ring on her finger.
"And I really wanted you, didn't I?" She meets my eyes. "Enough to leave school and everything else behind?"
I swallow and smile, because our story is very different than she probably imagines. I have always loved her, but I haven't
always been the hero I think she sees now. I've never lied and I've never cheated, but I haven't always done what was
best for us.
"I'd like to know what made us run," she asks carefully, not taking her eyes away from the walls. "And about a love so
great it could turn the girl I remember into someone worth spending the rest of your life with."
"Baby, you were already running before I met you," I smile sadly. "I'm just lucky you slowed down enough to let me on the
California 2008...
It's midnight and I'm just getting in from a big win. I pop the tab of a Miller and kick back on the couch. As soon as ass
meets cushion, I light up a cigarette and take a big drag. My time on the track has been good, but I've been doing a little
street racing with some guys I met and I'm bringing in a pretty good bank roll each time I win. I promised Mom I wouldn't
touch my inheritance, but with my winnings I've got enough to hit the road again soon. If I want to make a name for
myself, I can't stay in one place forever.
That's why I told Elena two nights ago that I don't plan on renewing the lease on my apartment. I dropped out of school to
spread my wings and do whatever I want. To make sure I'm living life by my rules. So far, so good. There's just one
problem-I think I'm falling in love with Elena. That's why I asked her to come with me.
I've only known her for two months, but she's like a drug and I don't want rehab. I don't want to give her up. Not for the
road. Not for a few wins on the other side of the country. Not for my name in big flashing lights.
I can't get her out of my head, or the look on her face when I asked her to leave with me. My baby's hardwired for
rebellion. She talks big and walks big, but deep inside, she's still a little girl trying to make her parents love her. She's
still a freshman at Stanford, dolled up in fancy clothes while she pledges a sorority her mother was in. But she comes
home to me at night in ripped jeans and a shirt so tight the entire world can see her tits. In my arms, she's anything but
She told me no...she won't come with me, but she won't say why. I'm really sick of thinking about it.
I'm just getting settled into a TV show when I hear a pounding on my apartment door. I answer it carefully these days, as
it's not always a friendly face waiting for me on the other side. I see Elena, and it's like I just got socked in the heart.
I unchain the door and turn the bolt so I can let her in. She's carrying two suitcase and when she sets them down inside
of my door and reaches for me, I feel her body shaking. I put out my cigarette and get a good look at her. Two black rivers
rush down her cheeks and stain her skin. She looks up at me like she never has before. Like she really needs me.
"Elena? What's the matter?" I smooth my hand down the back of her hair. She smells like cigarettes and whiskey, and I
want to crawl inside her and rip out whatever it is that's breaking her heart.
"Nothing. Just fuck me," she rasps, slamming the door closed and pining me against a wall. "Hard. Until I can't feel
anything but you."
And I want to more than anything, but she's crying. Why the hell is she crying?
Her warm hands dig into my jeans and her lips descend on my like a firestorm. I'm losing my shit because she feels so
good against me. I can't figure out what's going on in my own head, let alone hers. And we've never been the type to heal
with words.
This time should probably be different, but it won't be. Even now as I'm trying to talk myself into common sense, I'm
ripping off her clothes and wrapping her legs around my waist before I even know why she's upset. I've got her back
against the wall, and I'm drilling her into tomorrow. I can't even stop to think of the neighbors. I can't think about anything
except making her come.
And I do. Loudly.
When it's over, I feel like an asshole. I did what she asked me to, but Elena's not just a warm body. She's smart and
tough and doesn't take shit from anyone. Her cheeks are pink with a happy glow when I carry her to my couch and pull a
blanket over us. Because sex is I love you right now, and I've just shouted it from the rooftops.
"Now tell me. What's the matter, baby?" I say, lighting a cigarette and passing it to her.
"I'm dropping out of school," she says, wiping her tear stained cheeks with the back of her hand. "I can't do it anymore.
Any of it. I want to come with you,"
I pull on my boxers and make my way to the fridge to toss her a beer. I know this isn't what she needs, but it's the only
thing I can come up with right now. I wonder if I'll only ever be able to offer her this.
"I can't spend another minute of my life trying to be something I'm not. I did it for years. Did everything they asked and it
got me nowhere. I messed around and it got me nowhere. So if I'm going nowhere, I'd at least like it to be with someone
I care about," she licks her lips and tangles her fingers in the back of my hair. "And I care a whole hell of a lot about you,"
"It won't be like you think," I warn, rubbing my thumb over her bottom lip. "I can't promise you anything. This is a chance to
get away from everything and be whoever we want to be. I don't really have a plan."
This isn't about money. We've got plenty of that between the two of us, but I'd never blow mine on a whim like this and I'd
never touch a penny of hers. Not even if she threw it in my face. This is a rich kid's rebellion.
"Good. I hate plans," she says excitedly, but I wonder if she really knows what we'll be getting into.
"I'm talking cheap motel rooms and ramen noodles for awhile. In one city one day and another the next." I better shut up
before I end up talking her off it again. I don't want her to change her mind. The idea of us traveling the country together
with no game plan and no end in sight is thrilling.
"And long, sleepless nights out on the highway, baby," I add finally. "That's what you want?"
Her eyes light up with playfulness as she pulls the blanket away and rolls on top of me. Her hands run through my hair
and she presses down hard against me until I'm completely sunk inside of her again. She moves slowly and her eyes
stay glued to me.
"As long as I'm sleeping with you, I'll be fine." She breathes against my lips and I shiver. "Just take me away from my life
and give me a new one."
Present Day...
"And we actually did..." she says softly "We actually did just hit the road and live like that?"
"For awhile," I clarify. "But not forever." I spin her wedding ring around on her finger.
She brings her other hand up to cover her mouth as she yawns, and I know it's time to end the story. The clock tells me
it's nearly 9 pm. The way time passes when we're together blows my mind; Minutes turn to hours in the blink of an eye. I
heard Adam leave about an hour ago, and I'm far too wound up from all that reminiscing to get any more work done on
the car tonight. More than anything in the world, I just want to go home with my wife.
"Come on. Let's go home." My legs are stiff when I stand from behind my desk. "We'll take your Corvette and leave the
truck here." I toss the sandwich wrappers into the garbage under my desk and shrug into my coat.
I want to climb into bed with her and show her what it feels like to know someone completely. I want to re-memorize the
way she feels and the way she sounds just seconds before she splits apart. I'm a good guy, but even the best guys can
only hold it together for so long. You better believe I'm not taking the high road on this one if she gives me the go.
I hit the lights and lock up before we head to the Corvette. She's got the keys and this devious little look that's begging
me to let her drive. And hell, I haven't seen her behind the wheel of that thing in far too long. When she throws it into drive,
I swear it feels like no time has passed at all.
The questions don't start back up until we're tucked into bed and the lights are off. I was surprised to see her hop into
bed in nothing more than a t-shirt tonight, but I'm not complaining. She's snuggled tightly against my chest, tracing
patterns into my abdomen with her sharp fingernail.
And then it happens; I feel it coming way before it actually hits. Her eyes darken and I know her head's filled with wonder
about all the things I told her about at the shop. About us.
No, I didn't give her all the dirty details, but I did give her a pretty good idea of the big role intimacy played in the beginning
of our relationship.
I bet she's wondering what it was like, but I've been hoping it's one of those memories that strike her right in the middle
of the experience. That it happens when I've got her laid out under me in our big bed. She'll look up into my eyes and
know exactly what it's going to feel like when I make her come. That it'll hit her harder and better than anything else she's
ever felt, and every word I've ever said to her will come rushing back into her head.
When the time comes, she'll know that I love her more than anything that ever tried to get in our way. More than racing
and the fast life. More than winning and fame. More than time.
"It's not that I don't want you, you know..." she chews on her lower lip and slips her fingers under the waistband of my
mesh shorts. If she's not careful, she's going to be knocking into something else in a minute. "I do..." Her fingertips are
soft against my skin, but she doesn't give me what I want. Her eyes are wide and honest, and I see honest-to-God
naivety in them.
"I didn't expect to feel like this without remembering more," she whispers. "I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't this,"
her fingers continue to rub along my abdomen beneath my shorts. Her words strike a chord in me. Yeah, her hand is
down my pants and I'm still fully capable of really hearing what she's saying. I don't need her to say the words to know
what she means.
"I know, baby," I tell her.
She's saying she trusts me. She wants me now. Again. Just the way she did before.
Not just the sex...although it was great. I know things have been getting pretty physical between us lately, but I hope she
knows I'm not just wearing her down to get her to sleep with me. I know haven't said it, but I hope she understands I
won't ever force her into something she's not ready to do.
And no. I haven't said it. I didn't think it was fair of me, but the look in her eyes right now makes me believe I was wrong. I
reach for her wrist and pull it up to kiss the inside. I miss her touch like nothing else, but I'd miss this fragile look in her
eyes if I took too much, too soon.
I think back to that girl I met so many years ago. I reckless girl who thought no one in the world would ever love her the
way she needed to be loved. This is one of the first times I've seen our situation as a gift. I know she believes it
somewhere in her head, but she's never heard me say it. I might be the only man in the world who gets this moment
I think I hold my breath until I work up the courage to tell her. I can't count the times the words rolled of my lips, and I can't
believe how easily I managed them before because they're stuck in my throat like it's the very first time I've said them to
"I know you don't remember, but it doesn't change a thing," I try.
She presses her chin into my chest and looks up at me. It's dark, lit only by the moonlight creeping through our window,
but I can see the marvel in her eyes. It's like she knows I'm about to say something big. Something she'll never forget. I
think she's holding her breath, too.
"It might be too soon for a lot of things, Elena. But it will never be too soon to make sure you know how much you mean
to me," I run my thumb along her lower lip. "I love you. I need you to know it, okay?"
She blinks at me like she's never heard the words in her life.
Her eyes shimmer and she gives me a small nod before her head lands on my bare chest. I can feel every little move
she makes against me, so when her eyelashes flutter closed, I don't miss the warm tear that falls onto my skin.
*Chapter 9*: Tangled Up In You
A/N: Thank you for the wonderful support as this story continues. I battled the stomach flu this week and spent solid
portions of the day sleeping when I'd really meant to be writing. I'm happy to say I'm on the road to recovery and
finally able to get this up.
We've got another Elena POV chapter and this one is a doozy. Really it is. :)
I chose Staind's "Tangled Up In You" for this chapter. Thanks for reading and for all the wonderful supper through
reviews. I really am so happy to be able to read your thoughts as we go along.
Chapter 8: Tangled Up In You
Elena's POV
Present Day...
I love Sundays. I mean really, what's not to love? It's the one day a week Damon doesn't wake up at the crack of dawn to
go into work. I was hired on at the bakery for strictly weekdays, so weekends are our chance to spend quality time
And how can it get more quality than this? I finally taught Damon how to stay in bed past 6. The sun is out, shining bright
through our bedroom window. He got up briefly just to brew a pot of strong coffee, then hopped back into in nothing more
than a pair of blue boxer briefs and handed me a giant mug. I drained my coffee fast so I could snuggle back into him,
and we've been lying here since We're absolutely comfortable. He's propped up against the headrest and I've got my
head on his bare abdomen. We're each on our respective tablets, scrolling through news and other odds and ends of
the day. Even in silence I can feel our connection.
It's the little things like this that solidify my feelings for him. I'm not just going through the motions like I was in the
beginning and these feelings aren't manufactured out of desperation. I feel things for him that I didn't know were
possible, and I think I'd choose him all over again if he wasn't already mine.
I'd hoped a confession as big as his I love you four nights ago would've sparked something inside of me. I stared at him
long and hard, waiting for a memory that wouldn't come. Instead, my eyes filled with fresh tears. It wasn't until I closed my
eyes and tried to fall asleep that I realized the magnitude of his words and the way in which he chose to say them.
Of course deep down I had to have know he loved me. No man goes through that kind of mess for four years if he's not in
love with the girl. But after weeks and weeks with him, the words have taken on new meaning. If he'd said them to me
right after I'd woken up, I don't think I could've really believed him. He was a stranger...sexy as sin but still unfamiliar. But I
know it's real now. He didn't rush it, didn't say it out of frustration or desperation for me to say it back. He looked me in the
eyes and when he finally said it, I felt like he was saying it to me...not just the girl he nearly lost in a fire four years ago. I
can feel his love in everything he does. It's not just the kisses or the words themselves, which he hasn't said since. It's
his patience and the way he doesn't just expect things to go back to the way they were. He's not forcing information down
my throat or getting angry with me for not remembering everything. When he said it, it felt like the first time I'd ever heard
it. I just didn't have the courage to tell him I might love him, too.
I stopped paying attention to the content on my tablet about five minutes ago. I've just been staring up at him, focusing on
the way he looks when he reads. He's extra cute when he's really concentrating and I'd really like to see him concentrate
so hard on me. I move my head a little and I know my hair tickles his stomach because he squirms around and playfully
threads his fingers through my hair, moving it to one side of my face. He's officially the best pillow on the planet.
His stomach muscles are strong and I feel them tighten when he chuckles at something on his screen. I smile and
glance up to see him grinning widely. How's it even possible that he's even hotter with bedhead? His cheeks are coated
in his usual thin layer of stubble. I'm busy admiring him when he sets his tablet aside and looks down at me. His eyes
dance with mine and I don't know what it is about this moment, but it sets my mind off like a firecracker and I'm blinded
with another beautiful memory of us...
"Okay. You were right. They're pretty damn cool," Damon says over my shoulder. His breath is hot against my neck and I
turn just enough to meet his gaze. It's midnight and we're standing along the railing of the Bellagio Fountains in the
middle of the Las Vegas Strip. He's gorgeous. So gorgeous I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes on the show; the
colorful sprays are even more beautiful reflected in his big eyes. Butterflies kick up in my stomach as the music pumps
on, and our eyes meet. I feel a cool spray as the closest burst shoots high into the air and caresses us. My back's
pressed up against the railing and we're surrounded by a crowd of hundreds, but I can't focus on anything but the way
he's looking at me. No one has ever looked at me the way he does. Those eyes have become home to me.
I stare back at him with complete adoration. Devotion. I want to be the only one to look at him this way. I close my eyes in
anticipation of his lips on mine. I'm overwhelmed with emotion when his warm hands move from the rail behind me to
grab my sides. We're putting on a show for everyone around us, and I don't care. We break apart and I bury my face in
the hollow of his neck, savoring the fact that he's mine. That we're here. That nothing in the world could make me stop
feeling the way I do right now. I've never been more sure of anything in my life.
I'm in love with him.
"Elena? Where'd you go?" I hear him ask. He's frowning; I can tell even with my eyes closed. I hear the worry in his voice
and force my eyes open, even though I know he'll see my tears. I've got to stop this crying nonsense because, Jesus. I'm
not sad. I'm elated. I just figured it would've triggered some other way than me staring up at him on a completely ordinary
Sunday morning.
My heart flutters just thinking about it. My memory was vivid; so real it was hard to tell past from present. He looks at me
much in the way he did back then, and the feelings he evokes inside of me are right on par with what I just remembered.
Hell, I wasn't even sure I'd get a gem like this one back. Now I'm wrapped up in a blend of feelings both old and new, and
all I want to do is kiss him and let my emotions work themselves out. I'm burning up just thinking about it.
I blink a few times and let my happy tears fall from the corners of my eyes before I sit up. Yep, he's frowning because he
has no idea what's running through my head. He's probably dreaming up a thousand and one horrible I shift the fuzzy
blanket off his waist and throw a knee over the other side of him until I'm straddling him. He brings his hands behind his
head and looks up at me as if he's waiting for something. We've been in this kind of limbo for a few nights where I can
tell he wants to make a move but doesn't. And usually I'm too chicken shit to do it myself, but right now I'm high on a
memory and I can't let the moment pass.
My lips descend on his like a vulture on its prey. I hold his chin between my thumb and index finger so he stays in place
and I can kiss him as hard as I want. Our kisses have evolved. Sometimes they're hot and other times they're sweet, but
this one is entirely different than anything we've done before. I feel strong and sexy and provocative, though I know very
little of what I'm doing. I hope this is one of those times my instincts just kick in and I don't have depend on my brain,
because I'm firing on circuits, desperate to feel something new with him.
It's no surprise he's hardening beneath me. We've been inching in this direction for a few weeks; we usually just don't
stay long enough to see it through. The blankets once bunched around my chest have fallen, and it's apparently all the
fuel he needs to sit forward, roll me beneath him and take the driver's seat. I know no better feeling than the roughness
of his stubbly cheeks scratching against my neck and my chest as he nips me from the tip of my nose down to my
hipbones. It's heaven under his wandering hands. I move beneath him like a woman who knows what she wants and he
answers me with a wolflike grin and a growl that's got me wondering how the hell I could forget something as hot as
"Baby, you keep moving like that and I swear I'll forget everything I said about going slow," he warns, but his smile is
gentle and I know he'd never push me too far if I wasn't ready. I bite my lip and twist my fingers in his hair as his lips work
across every inch of me. I know I'm driving him crazy, because with each tug of his hair and he sucks harder until his
tongue is tracing warm, wet little circles around one nipple, then the other. When he looks up to meet my eyes, I see
flames of need.
He shifts me a little beneath him until his palms are pressing into the pillow and I'm surrounded by nothing but him. He
stares down at me like he's going to interject and say something completely unsexy, but I raise up to kiss him before he
can get a single word out. Because I know what's coming. It's the Maybe we shouldn't speech. And maybe we shouldn't,
but I'm hot as hell underneath him and I'm in the type of mood to relearn what it feels like for him to put out my fire.
I know. Terrible analogy coming from a woman like me. But really, my head's a bit of a mess, because I want this so
badly but I can't remember getting here. I don't remember losing my virginity, though I know it was to him. He told me a
few weeks ago, and I was relieved beyond words. I can't imagine going through that with anyone else. Even now, when
it's only a state-of-mind, it hurts to think of being this way with anyone but him. I want to know what it feels like to be
completely his.
So maybe it's love, but maybe it's too soon to tell.
"Don't warn me off," I manage between kisses. "I'm a grown woman and I know what I want," I arch an eyebrow. I'm
starting to feel a bit of the assertiveness in the bedroom he tells me I once had, and the way his eyes are darkening tells
me he likes what he's getting.
"Okay. So what do you want?" He asks seriously, but I can see he's all worked up. He's ready to go, and I can't really
blame him. A man can only be so patient, and if I feel this worked up over a few weeks with someone I'm just starting to
love, I can't imagine what this moment feels like to him.
"I don't want to talk about the things we used to do and wonder what it feels like. I want to know," I say bravely, because I
do. Desperately. I lick my lips and continue, even though I know I could be getting myself into something really big right
now. "Stop being gentle and show me what you really want to do to me."
He looks at me for just a moment as if calling my bluff, but my cheeks are flushed and I meant every word that I said. I'm
ready to be devoured by him. Absorbed. Consumed. I'm ready to close my eyes and really feel without thinking, because I
know I can trust him and that giving into something like this is a bigger step than I ever remember taking. My head
reminds me I've only really known him for a few months, but there's something inside of me telling me I can trust him
more than I've ever trusted anyone in my life. His eyes tell me everything I need to knowhe won't hurt me and he won't
fail me.
His mouth moves along my shoulder, biting the soft skin at the base of my neck as his thumbs dig into the waistband of
my panties and pull them down. It's strange, knowing we've been this way so many times before but feeling like it's all
brand new. His hands smooth down the outside of my thighs, over and over again, each time pulling the fabric further
until it's at my knees and I'm kicking it off desperately. I've never been so hot and needy. Or maybe every time with Damon
is like this.
"Tell me how I liked it," I rasp in his ear when his hands slide to my inner thighs.
"There's no way in hell we're doing it like that tonight," he smirks and I pout, then his hands pause as he looks me in the
eyes. I don't know whether to hug the shit out of him for being so sensitive or slap him for being so cautious. How many
different ways do I have to ask him to fuck me before he believes I really mean it. I let out a breath and relax. I'd rather him
be this way than just going at me without my permission, but I'm going to talk to him until he really gets its. And I'm going
to get him to talk right back, because there's nothing sexier than hearing him tell me how much he wants me.
I learned that two nights ago when he was talking in his sleep. I've been tightly wound every since and it's about time I
learn to let loose. What's the worst that could happen? I could find out sex with my husband is as mind-blowing as I've
been imagining and realize the surge of emotions running through my system right now has more to do with my feelings
for him now than it does the few memories I have of us from before.
I swallow, then say it again. "Tell me how I liked it, Damon." Oh, yeah. This bossiness is totally working in my favor.
"Fast and hard," he says roughly. My cheeks stain scarlet even though I think I already knew the answer. He may have
saved the dirty details from previous conversations, but I got the gist of what he was saying. "You were insatiable, baby. A
sexy little challenge every single time."
"Make me tell you how I like it now," I say boldly. Courage is a powerful thing. "I'm not afraid," I tell him when he looks at
me cautiously before continuing on. My mind and body are screaming in unison that I'd be a fool to not beg this man to
work the hell out of me right now.
For a second, I think he's going to pull the blankets over me and tell me he's going to take a shower. I'm glad that I'm
wrong. Everything on his face a second ago told me he wasn't going to touch me, but his I'm searing hot beneath his
fingers as they work toward my center. He doesn't have much work to do; that memory was enough to fire me up.
When his fingers finally sink inside of me, I embrace the contact like a memory. I can't breathe and I can't think. All I can
do is feel. It's better than I could've thought, and I'm not ashamed to savor the moment like it's truly brand new. It is, to
me, and I trust him enough to let him see that on my face. He's watching me experience it for the first time all over again,
and the combination of gentleness and desire has me losing it. I squeeze my eyes closed and let my mind flash back to
the tiny snippet of a memory I had just an hour ago. He stared at me with complete adoration then, much as I know he
will be now when I can manage to look at him again.
"Keep your eyes open," he tells me. His eyes roam over me hungrily as his fingers continue to pump deep inside of me.
"I want to watch you come apart for me."
And do I ever! The rush inside of me is unlike anything I know. It's a tidal wave of pleasure mixed with a very real
understanding of the way he loves me. Then he does it again and when my body is through shaking, he pulls me close
to him and tugs the fuzzy blanket back up over us.
"You're really beautiful," he says. My hair is stuck to my forehead when his lips my skin and I feel him smile. "I love that
little throaty sound you make,"
His words send fire between my thighs again. I know I'm supposed to be reveling in some sort of orgasmic afterglow,
and trust me, it's there. I'm just dead set on getting my hands on him and a chance to give him something he's been
missing for years.
"I'd be happy to make them for you again," I tease a my hand moves from his abdomen down into the waist of his boxer
briefs. This time there's no question what he's thinking. I see a million things flash through his blue eyeswant, need,
frustration, guilt, pleasure. It's like he's holding back what he really wants for my benefit. He has no idea that I want
nothing more than for him to climb back on top of me and go to work.
"You're asking for trouble, Elena," he smirks as I roll on top of him once more and slip him through the slot of his boxer
briefs. "Seriously, baby. I mean it. Big trouble."
"Oh, I'm hoping so," I tease. Seriously. Where is this side of me coming from? I'm starting to think I was even more
rambunctious than he leads me to believe. To be honest, it's kind of awesome. The sparks in his eyes are pretty
awesome, too. I make a mental note to pull this one out again next time.
"I mean it. I won't be able to stop if you keep talking like that. You don't know what it does to me,"
"That's kind of what I was hoping..." I shrug and raise an eyebrow as if I'm completely comfortable in everything I'm doing.
Really I'm kind of nervous as hell. Not scared, just unnerved. I think he can kind of tell that I really want to get it over with,
and if there's anything he won't buy into, it's rushed sex.
"Elena, we can't. I've never set foot in this house with a condom. We never used them. You were always on the pill,"
"And I am now. I've been on birth control for a month," I tell him honestly and he swallows thickly like I've completely
stunned him. My God, buddy. It's the biggest fucking green light you're ever going to get. Put it on me.
Here's where it gets interesting. I expect him to give me those sweet puppy dog eyes that say I'm sorry, but I love you
and one of us has got to do the thinking when clearly the other one's head is still between her thighs, but he doesn't. His
hands smooth down my naked sides and he pulls me on top of him until we make contact. He's warm and solid against
me. I'm planning what to say when he tries to pull me off him, but I can safely stash those worries away because he's
rolling me under him again and staring into my eyes.
"You really want this?" He whispers in my ear. I nod and goosebumps coat my arms as his hands move to my thighs to
open them wider. "Because I won't do this if you're only trying to force out a memory. That wouldn't be fair to you,"
"That's not what this is," I assure him. "It wouldn't be fair to you, either." Haven't I tortured him enough? I reach my hands
up and clasp them together behind his neck, watching him look down at me. "I want this. Me. The girl who just woke up a
little more than a month ago. I'd want it if we weren't married...if we didn't have this spectacularly wild past. I just want you,
Damon. For no other reason than you're the most important person in the world to me."
All bets are off as he repositions himself and slowly slips inside. He releases a sound that tells me he's found complete
bliss, then begins in a steady rhythm that has me building again quickly. It's anything but fast and hard, and to be honest,
I'm grateful that he's taking care. Sure, it doesn't hurt like it would if I was really losing my virginity right now, but I'm not
expert. I wish I could say I know his rhythm like the back of my own hand, but I'm finding great pleasure with each new
move he makes. I ride a long, slow wave of pleasure and he follows soon after whispering my name as he fills me with
his heat. He's not only loving me...he's giving me new memories to treasure. Even if I never fully remember my time with
him before, I can guarantee our first time was as wonderful as this.
One time is never enough for anything when it comes to Damon, and apparently sex is no different. Oh the things I've
been missing out on while I was huddled up in blankets all these nights!
I'm completely blissed out and it's not even 9 am. I'm ready to fall asleep in his arms for a few more hours before we
decide to get up and and actually start our day. I've got a big stack of blueberry pancakes in mind and I'd like to do some
cleaning up before Harlow and Andrew come over later to watch Sunday night football. That's if Damon ever lets me out
of this bed again. I don't know how long it takes, but I fall asleep wrapped in his arms, safe in the knowledge that this
memory will never go away.
As I pull out of sleep, I see us again. It's not a dream or a wish. It's a memory. We're young and wildly in love. The
moment is hot, but it's not the sex that sticks out in my mind. It's what he says.
"That's it, baby..." He grips my hips and rocks into me harder. I'm dizzy; seeing stars. I'm going out of my mind with need
for him. "I love you, Elena. Let go for me..."
My fists clench the bedsheets and I dig my heels into the mattress. This isn't just sex. It's the biggest connection I've ever
felt to someone. He's loving me. Worshipping me. In the moment I know that choosing Damon over everything else in
the world is the single best decision I've ever made.
It's the way he says he loves me. It echoes in my mind, warming me over and over again. It's a wonderful memory on its
own, but paired with the fact that he said it to me now, it knocks me sideways. His eyes shine the same as they did back
then, and drink me in with every push inside of me. Best of all, I've got the same warm feeling kicking around in my chest
now as when he said it years ago. I can't begin to explain the way that makes me feel.
I think the memory blitz has worn me out more then the sex this morning. I'm just not realizing the spot next to me is
empty. The shower is running and the door's wide open, so I slip out of bed and dash across the room into the steamy
bathroom. The mirror is completely fogged over, so I swipe away a section just big enough to assess my morning
damage. It's official. I'm a hot mess. My hair's going every direction but the right one and my cheeks are flushed in
perma-pink. I look thoroughly worked over and I'm proud to say I am. I give myself a proud grin, then pull the shower
curtain aside and scare the living shit out of my husband.
"Holy hell, baby. You scared me!" He yanks me in the shower and shuts the curtain. Once my body gets used to the
change in temperature, I relax and take in the view.
Jesus, he's glorious dripping wet. The drips off his dark hair in beautiful waterfalls crashing over the lean muscles of his
shoulders and chest. My hands find his shoulders and he's got me pressed up against the tile wall with his hands on
my ass before I can issue a word of protest that I'm still sort of clothed. His fingers work the buttons of the now drenched
button up shirt I'd pulled on sometime after round two, and he peels the wet fabric away from my body and throws it onto
the floor.
He washes my every inch of me with the new flowery body wash I picked up at the store last week, paying special
attention to his favorite spots. I return the favor, and I'm filled with the familiarity of his scent as I run my soap soaked
hands over his chest. And though I wouldn't mind if it did, it doesn't turn into sex this time. Just feeling his warm body
against mine soothes me in a new way I could very easily get used to. Yeah, this routine is awesome. If Sundays weren't
already my favorite day of the week, they would be now.
I feel sated as I rub the towel through my wavy hair and slip on a pair of nice jeans and a vintage Packers T-shirt I picked
up at the mall on one of my recent shopping trips. I leave my hair in loose waves that reach just below my shoulders, and
swipe my eyelashes with a thin coat of dark mascara. I take a moment to myself to really think.
My memories are coming back. If they were really dead and gone, I wouldn't really see the multi-dimensionality of his
love. It's past and present. Sickness and Health. It's everything we vowed one crazy day more than a thousand days ago.
It's ever evolving but never-changing. It's the kind of love I longed for my entire life. Thank God this mascara is waterproof,
because my eyes are like leaky dams just thinking about how lucky I really am.
He's freshly dressed and shaven when walks up beside me. He kisses the back of my neck and reaches on the top of
my dresser to my jewelry box. I rarely open it because I know it holds the pearl necklace my parents gave me on my fifth
birthday. I don't want to see it. I don't want the memories of false hope to cloud this perfect day. I close my eyes when he
reaches inside. It's a porcelain music box and it plays a beautiful classical song while his hands clasp cool chain
around my neck. I reach up to feel a diamond studded, scripty 'E' and open my eyes to see it pressed against my warm
"I gave it to you on our first Christmas together," he tells me. "Just six months after we met. We'd been sticking out West
for awhile, away from the snow so I could still get out on the track, but I guess the magic of Christmas won out and we
ended up driving toward Wisconsin. I was high on love and it was easy to forget the reasons I'd been running. I hadn't
spoken to my family in the entire six months since I dropped out of school, so they were surprised when I showed up on
their doorstep with my brand new wife." He grins widely, like he loves the memory, and my heart aches to tell him that I've
had a few memories of my own.
"We were married before Christmas?" I try to do the math, but no matter how you spin it, we hadn't known each other very
long before we said our vows.
"Just before," he says softly as I turn to face him. "Our anniversary is on December 22nd, and I'd like to take you away
somewhere for awhile to celebrate if you're able to get the time off work. We'd stay through Christmas and be back
before New Year's. What do you say?"
I nod and wrap my arms around him in a big hug. Of course I want to know more details, but finding out gradually is
equally fun. There's something new to learn about myself everyday. How many people can really say that?
When I pull away, he's got that starstruck look in his eyes again.
"So. You really had that all planned out, huh? Birth control. Really, Elena. I'm impressed." He smirks and my insides turn
to mush.
"It's not like I expected to just fall into bed with you right away. I just wanted to be ready whenever it did happen."
"But you were sure it was going to happen," he says with a cocky look.
"Well you're my husband, aren't you?" I shoot him a snarky smile back, then my gaze turns sweet and real. I thread my
fingers with his and swallow, mustering up the courage to let him know how real everything is becoming. How past and
present are starting to intertwine and become one amazing puzzle that I'm slowly starting to solve. I'm happy and he's at
the heart of it all. He deserves to know he's not the only one feeling this way.
I need him to know that my feelings are real. That I didn't sleep with him to jar a memory or to pay him back for all the
wonderful things he's given me. I slept with him because he's my everything. Because he's shown me that there's a
goodness in me that I didn't think existed. He's given me hope that one day I'll truly forgive myself for all the things I did
along the way, and taught me what it feels like to love and be loved back.
"I had another memory of us. In Vegas, by the Bellagio fountains. They were beautiful, but you were even more so, and I'd
really like to go there again with you sometime," I smile. "But that's not the real memory. It's what was inside of me when
we were standing there. I felt it. Us. I felt everything you've always talked about. It's warm and wonderful and I think I'm
starting to feel it now, too. It's the reason I wanted to be with you so badly this morning and the reason I can't stop
thinking about you when we're away at work. I don't want to scare you and I don't want to get your hopes up, but it's
coming back to me, Damon," I breathe slowly as his hands cup my face. "And I know I said I'd be okay...that I could be
happy whether I remembered it or not, but I was wrong. If there's one thing in the world worth remembering, it's loving
A/N: Thanks for reading!
*Chapter 10*: I'll Be Home For Christmas
A/N: The busy work season is in full-swing for me, and I'm happy to be able to get an update in, even if I stayed up tip
2 AM to post it :)
Thank you very much for the amazing, amazing reviews. Really, I say it in almost every Author's Note, but only
because I mean it so much. You all have been really generous with the reviews and I love every one of them.
This chapter we're back to Damon POV. There's some history in this one, and some fun present day stuff, too! It's
fun writing holiday scenes, so I had a good time with this one.
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 9: I'll Be Home For Christmas
Damon POV
Present Day...
"So what do you think?" Elena's eyes sparkle up at me from beneath the thick branches of our Christmas tree. I hate to
break it to her, but I'm not looking at the tree. I'm glued on her...because how could they not be? She's completely
gorgeous laid out below it with her hair spread across the red tree skirt. Her eyes glow with child-like excitement as she
runs her fingers on the short, smooth pine needles and moves an ornament from branch to branch until she finds the
perfect place. I swear she's doing her Feng Shui on the tree now, too.
We've been decorating it for almost an hour, but I think she could probably go all night. I strung up the lights outside last
night and she's been in full-blown holiday mode since the sky turned dark and she stood before the colorful glow.
"Maybe we need a few more ornaments," she says. The crazy part is she's serious. I'm all about the Christmas cheer,
but this poor tree is waving the white flag. It's sturdy, but Elena's plans for it are far more than it can handle. It's practically
begging me to reign her in, but she's too damn adorable to not pick her side. Sorry, Mr. Douglas Fir.
"And I think if we put even one more ornament on this thing, the whole thing's going to give out," I smirk. She arches an
eyebrow to try to look offended, but she can't keep a straight face for long. Her pretty pink lips widen in a grin.
"You're no fun," she says teasingly.
"Yes I am," I counter with a wink. Her mischievous smile tells me she knows I'm referring to earlier, and so I drain the
rest of my wine before I can think of her naked and wrapped in a big red bow under that tree.
Oops. Too late.
"Come here," she calls with a little wave.
I set my empty wine glass down on the end table with hers and turn the volume up on the radio. We've had the holiday
music on since we woke up, so this is probably at least the fifth version of White Christmas I've heard today. But I don't
mind. If she's going to keep smiling like that, I'll gladly listen to it twenty more.
Once I've got everything situated, I settle in beside her. I haven't laid beneath a Christmas tree since I was about 10, and
I'm hit with a wave of wonderful nostalgia from the strong scent of pine. It seems like just yesterday Harlow and I curled
up under our big Christmas tree at home when we were 6, convinced if we slept there we'd see Santa Claus. I may be
grown with a home and tree of my own, but the moment is no less magical with Elena by my side.
I lace my fingers in hers and we stare up at the tiny, twinkling white and blue lights. Michael Buble's version of I'll Be
Home For Christmas comes on and it's like he's singing it just for us. She squeezes my hand once, but we're quiet for
the entire song. I'm filled with hundreds of memories of lying beside her in her hospital bed while she slept, holding her
hand and praying for some Christmas miracle. Squeezing her hand and hoping so badly she would just squeeze back
to let me know she felt it. To let me know she loves me too.
And now she can.
When the song is through, she lets out a breath as if it's affected her too, then turns toward me. Her eyes shimmer with
curiosity and I already know what's running through her head. I reach up to bring her hair front of her shoulder and pick a
few stray pine needles from the thick brown waves.
"What do you say we put a hold on the decorating and finish off that bottle of wine?" It's almost 9 pm on a Saturday night. I
don't intend for the night to end anytime soon, and when it does, I'd be more than happy falling into bed a little fuzzy with
that gorgeous wife of mine.
She nods, and once we've scooted out from beneath the tree, she plops on the couch while I pour us refills. She takes a
sip and folds one leg under her, making herself comfortable for what seems like a very nice evening ahead.
"Thanks for going along with all the crazy decorating the last few days," she says. "When I was a kid, my parents paid
someone to put up our artificial tree and decorate it. I guess I'm just playing catch up," she sips her wine. I can tell her
head is threatening to cloud with dark memories of her childhood so I'm desperate to keep the moment happy and light.
"Me, too. I mean, I had trees as a kid, but I've never decorated in here. We moved in after the holidays and while you were
away I didn't bother to put up a tree when I was the only one looking at it. I may tease you, but we can decorate this place
from top to bottom every single year if you want."
"There was one year when my nanny Joey snuck me downstairs after my parents had gone to bed so I could put out
glass of milk and some cookies for Santa. It was something so easy, but it meant the world to me. I was a little kid, so I
should've been more excited about the presents, but I swear that was one of my favorite memories from being a kid," her
eyes light up with excitement like they always do when she gets a vivid memory; it's like she's in the moment right now.
"I remember wanting to put out sugar cookies, but she insisted on chocolate chip and now I understand why. She ate
those cookies. She kept me believing when I had very little reason, and I'll always love her for it."
I smile wrap my arm around the back of the couch until my fingertips flutter lightly on the tops of her shoulders. I'm doing
my best to listen because her stories are sweet, but she's so damn pretty I'm starting to lose focus. She's swearing a
wide-necked mint green shirt. The material is thin enough for me to feel how warm her skin is beneath it. Because I can
never get enough of touching her, my fingers find slide their way under the fabric until I'm met with the soft bare skin. She
leans in close until we're just inches apart, but instead of kissing me, she just smiles and digs her fingers into my hair.
I close my eyes and live in her touch. I never really gave up hope, but there was a time last year when I feared I might
really never see her eyes or feel this touch again. Her fingers were warm but still, and I'd have given anything for her to
move them just an inch to let me know she could hear me. I sat with her for hours, days, just talking to her about what
was going on in life. The newest thing with Harlow and how Ric had finally come home. I vented to her about work, and
fell asleep with my head pressed next to hers on her hospital pillow. Never in my best dreams did I ever picture this.
I didn't think Elena forgetting me could be a good thing. Sure, it's not all good. I want her head filled with all the wonderful
memories of the two of us that I have, but our situation has given me the chance to relearn about my wife that I may have
taken for granted. Like how coming home to her is the very best part of my day. Not just because the night usually ends
with us naked, tangled up in our bedsheets, but because when something good or bad happens to me, the first thing I
think is how I can't wait to tell her about it.
When we were younger, we were caught up in the fast lifenot content to slow down until we had no other choice. And
while certain circumstances led us to that point, I know we would've gotten there on our own by now anyway. We do this
domestic thing pretty well, and if I didn't know better, I'd say we were giddy newlyweds.
I guess we kind of are, if you count the months we've been married while we've both been awake.
Her fingers smooth from my hair and I swear she's about to put me to sleep. Her nose taps mine and my eyes open.
She's still staring at me lovingly and I really want to ask her what she's thinking but I can't bear to break this awesome
moment. I think I could watch her watch me all day long.
"I haven't been this happy at Christmas since I put out those cookies with Joey," she whispers, pressing her forehead to
mine. "Tell me, baby. Were we this happy on our very first Christmas?"
Holy loaded question, Batman!
"We were happy. But I like this Christmas better," I move a lock of hair away from her cheek and smile. If her memories
stay missing, I'm not sure she'll ever truly understand our backstory.
I know I've painted a pretty abstract picture of the life we led. Maybe she's got this romanticized version of the two of us
driving around with the radio blasting and the windows rolled down. Maybe she's got this idea in her head that we never
fought or that I never made selfish decisions, and though I hate to admit it, both are wrong. We all make mistakes;
unfortunately, some are bigger than others.
"We're better now? Even though I don't remember?" Her lips screw up in confused smile.
"It's just different. We're just different..." I try.
I'm not sure how else to answer. We were at a different point in our life back then, and some of the things that made it
wonderful back then no longer exist. One of the only things that hasn't changed is the way I love her. Wildly, with no
regrets. Unconditionally, until the day I die.
So like any other time words fail me, I kiss her. She smells like cranberry wine and her sweet perfume, and the warmth
of her tongue against my lips combined with this insatiable nostalgia is kicking up things inside of me I haven't thought
about in years. Like the way she looked sleeping against the window the night we drove into Vegas and got married. And
the way her eyes shimmered with complete certainty as she said her vows. We were kids, but we were sure. The fact
that she's here in my arms, falling into me all over again solidifies that.
I've got the memories, but I don't need them to love her. I've got a feeling if we'd really just met, we'd be falling like this
anyway. Sure, it'd be different this time, but I'd be just as sure and our love would be just as indestructible.
How do I know?
Not many people my age have to test out the whole In sickness and in health, til death do us part deal. There were a
good many times I felt slighted or cheated for the very short time I got to spend with her before her coma. Then I realized
how lucky I was that she lived and how fortunate I am to get to love her in the first place.
So while I'm thinking all this, I'm kissing her tenderly and trying my best to express all the emotions floating through my
head. Eventually she pulls away and her eyes scurry down to my wedding band. She chews her lips, lost in thought as
she spins the band around my finger.
"Our anniversary is in a few days and I've been wondering something," she says slowly and the nerves kick up in my
Oh, no. Here it comes.
One of these times I'm going to have to tell her why I quit racing. I'm going to have to tell her every single detail of the
entire story and I can only hope to God she the look on her face isn't have as heartbreaking as it was the first time
around. While I've loved nearly everything about re-educating her on our past, there is one story I'm not looking forward to
sharing. Even if it turned out fine.
I swallow and wait for her question, silently hoping it's anything but that.
"Okay. Don't take this the wrong way..." she pauses as if working up the courage to continue. Shit, this isn't going to be
good. "I know I loved you, but were there any other reasons we got married after only knowing each other a few months? I
mean, it's not like I was...I wasn't pregnant, was I?"
Though she's never brought it up before now, I can hear the worry in her voice. I hope this thought hasn't been eating her
alive, because if it was, she should've asked sooner. I'm happy to give her the answer I'm sure she's hoping to hear.
"No," I shake my head. "No baby Salvatore's. No obligations. Nothing forced us into the decision. We loved each other
like crazy, so we got married, and we didn't give a damn what people had to say about it."
"You mean my parents," she says knowingly. I don't want to bring to them into this again, but I can't pretend I didn't hear
"I mean everyone. Your parents. My family. Mom would think I was damn near crazy if I called her up and told her I was
about to get married, especially since they didn't even know you existed."
"Did my parents even know?"
I smile apologetically. This is one of the few things I don't know. "I wish I had the answer for you, Lena, but you never told
She's quiet, as if digesting that tidbit of information and trying to force out a memory. I can't give her that answer, but I've
got so many more I know she'd like to know.
I rub a lock of her hair between the pads of my fingers and she scrunches her nose up in confusion. I take a breath,
ready to dive into as much of the story as she'll let me. It's almost Christmas and maybe the greatest gift I can give us a
little piece of our past.
There's a tall bookcase next to us, and I lean across her to reach for a thick leather book on the second shelf. I haven't
pulled it out since she's been home, but I spent countless hours paging through it during the years she was away. I'm a
confident guy, so it takes a lot to make me nervous. This, however, is big enough to kick up some pretty substantial
She stiffens beside me when I crack open the cover. Together, we stare down at a picture of the two of us kissing. It's
black and white and so big it takes up three-quarters of the page. Just looking at it warms me; I think I could look at it
forever. It'd be beautiful regardless of the context, but the reason it got headliner is because it's our wedding photo.
Damon and Elena Salvatore 12-22-2008 is written in Elena's unmistakeable handwriting. Her hand shakes as she
smoothes her fingers over the the black ink beneath the photograph.
"Wow," she says softly. Her eyes sparkle with tears and I wonder how the hell we'll ever make it past the first page. It hits
me that this is brand new. She doesn't have the sea of memories that I do associated with this picture, and though she's
smiling, I'm sure it hurts like hell.
She's sitting toward the edge of the couch, so I scoot behind her and tug her back against my chest. As soon as she's
pressed into me, I feel the tension leave her back. I smile and rest my chin on her shoulder; amazed that we're actually
looking at it together. The last time I cracked it open was a month before she woke up. I'd had trouble getting past the
first page that day, too.
"I'm wearing white," she says, surprised.
"And you're gorgeous," I say, because there's simply no other way to put it. Her dress is strapless and knee-length, with
a thick black sash tied around her waist. She's up on her tiptoes with hear hands in my hair, pulling me down for our first
kiss as husband and wife. I even had the decency to shed the T-shirt and jeans and put on a suit and tie. Any stranger
can see we're damn good looking, and I remember strutting around the strip that night like I'd just won the jackpot.
"We got married in Las Vegas on a Monday. It was mid 50's and clear, and we made the decision just two hours before
the ceremony," I begin. "We'd left Arizona the day before, where I'd just come off the biggest win of my life. You said Let's
go to Vegas to celebrate and I said Why the fuck not?" I smile. "We were fast and disastrous and we lived like we were
invincible. Like nothing in the world could ever hurt us."
Five Years Ago...
"This is it, baby. The moment everything changes," I shiver as the last burst of music rushes through my system. She's
stunning in the colored lights, so lovely she overloads my senses. She tastes like raspberries and smells like vanilla,
and the eye-full of beauty I get from just looking into her eyes nearly knocks the wind right out of me. I'm lucky as fuck,
and I'm can't let another minute go by before making her mine.
I drop to my knee and dig in my pocket for the diamond ring. Once my fingers have a good grip on it, my hand begins to
shake. I have nothing to worry about. Of course she'll say yes...
"You're fucking crazy. Get your ass back up here," she laughs, blowing a puff of smoke into the air. "Seriously, you're
going to get trampled." She tosses the cigarette on the ground and steps on it with the toe of her boot.
I pull the ring from my pocket and hold it up to her, and although the crowd is hurrying, I can hear a few gasps and aw's
around us. I won't lose my nerve. I can't. I wet my lips and go for it.
"Marry me. I don't know where I'm going and I don't know what I'm doing. I just know I want you by my side, whatever
happens. I love you. I'll always love you. Always,"
Okay, so I didn't plan this speech. I should have, because I sound like a broken record, but I read something once that
said most women don't remember the actual words a guy says when he proposes anyway. She blinks and her jaw
drops slightly. She's staring at me in complete disbelief, but I'm serious as hell. I want to marry her.
But I get it. This is crazy. We're crazy. But I've never felt this way about another person and I know I never will. A few
months ago I wasn't sure I ever wanted to get married. I did a shitty job of taking care of myself, let alone taking on
responsibility for another person. Commitment was something I figured I'd understand when I was older and life slowed
down...when I had time to dedicate to something other than racing or my own dreams. Then suddenly I met Elena and
everything changed.
Commitment isn't a chore; it's simple. It's not about chaining myself to one woman for the rest of my life. It's about
sharing every single moment, happy and sad, with one person for the rest of my life. And Elena's it. She makes me crazy
in the best way possible, and I know I'll never get enough. We run hot like fire; and if it's possible, the makeup sex is ten
times steamier. To put it simply, I'm in love with her, and I want the whole damn world to know just how much.
Call it what you will, but this is the best decision I'll ever make in my life. I've had the ring for years, ever since my
grandmother passed. She'd never say it, but I was Grandma Salvatore's clear choice as favorite grandchild. When I was
16 and my father pressed her wedding rings into my palm, he made me promise I'd only give them to a woman I really,
truly wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
If he could see me now, he'd say I was a mess. But if he could see me with Elena, he'd know I've made the right choice.
She's wonderful, and I hope I can make her even half as happy as she makes me.
"So will you? I know it's only been a few months. I don't have much to offer you besides love, but I promise to give you
everything you need. This road stuff is going to pay off and one day we'll be sitting up in a big house somewhere thinking
back to these crazy nights. And we'll be smiling. Don't you think?"
"Yes," she says softly and her eyes light up.
"Yes we'll be smiling? Or yes you'll marry me?"
"Yes. Both," she laughs and I slip the ring on her finger. As soon as I'm back up on my feet, she throws her arms around
me and pulls me into a tight, warm hug. Her embrace is like nothing I've ever known; it's comforting and sexy and leaves
me in a constant state of want.
I'm doing my best to keep it under control while we're out in public, but I've got big plans for her later. It hits me again.
We're getting married. I'm about to make her Elena Salvatore.
"Let's go," she says excitedly. "Let's go right now."
I arch my eyebrows in surprise. I realize we're in Vegas and there's literally dozens of all night wedding chapels within
walking distance, but I didn't think she'd be up for it tonight. It's midnight and right now I'm itching to pick her ass up and
carry her across the street, right back up to the twenty-seventh floor of the Paris hotel where our room overlooks these
beautiful fountains.
No shitty hotels this time around. Nothing but the best for tonight.
I tried to convince her to just watch this show from our bed, but she insisted we come up close and see the real thing.
Feel the spray of the water and let the music rattle through our bodies, submerged in a sea of tourists all interested in
the same thing. It's the atmosphere, she said, and she was right.
And aren't we just a part of it! I know how it seems. We're a young couple who's known each other just a few months
goes off to Vegas on a random celebration and decides to get married. Seems like a fast track to disaster, maybe, but I
know better. I may be impulsive and make odd choices, but this isn't one of them. I've known I love her for months. Even
when we argue she's the brightest spot of my day.
"How about we go back up to the room, open that bottle of champagne someone accidentally delivered to us and lose
these clothes," I wiggle my eyebrows. "We can drink ourselves silly, sleep til noon, then wake up and see where the day
takes us. Sound good?"
"Yes. But no," she giggles. "I want to get married. Tonight."
"Are you sure you don't want to process it a little?" I laugh. She's buzzing around like a little firefly, lit up with excitement all
over becoming my wife. It's adorable and I'm totally going to cave, but I like to see her squirm and beg a little, so I'm
going to play this up.
"What's there to process? You asked I said yes. We find a chapel do the vow thing and we're good."
"Forever," I remind her. "You're not going to like back out of this and want an annulment or something, are you? Because
that could get messy." I cringe, but I I know she sees right through me. "I may not always be this handsome. Picture me
with no hair and dentures. I'll probably snore. Still want to marry me right now?"
"Oh shut up," she slugs me in the arm and I enjoy her playfulness. "Now come on. Less banter more walking. We've got
a lot to do."
Present Day...
Oh, God. She isn't saying anything. Her eyes fill up with tears again and I'm worried I've just ruined her Christmas with
the story of our impulse wedding. I really hope she says something soon because I'm at a loss right now.
"That memory I had," she spits out quickly. "At the Bellagio fountains. All this time I've been wondering what's triggered
these particular moments but now I get it. I kept thinking I was just remembering random things, but really I was
remembering how it felt leading up to the moment you proposed to me."
A rush of relief washes over me. Thank God they're happy tears!
"But hold on. Really?" She smiles. "That's really how it went? We just bought clothes, showered and rolled into one of
those 24 hour wedding chapels?"
"Yes," I kiss the back of her neck and I feel goosebumps rise on her warm skin. I love that I can still have that affect on
her. It's possible her body reacts even more to me now than it did back then.
While I'd been hoping all this time it would come back to her before I could tell the story, there are just some things I can't
keep to myself. She knows we were impulsive, but I wonder what she thinks about how quickly we acted on our decision.
"So we got married and then just kept going going like nothing had changed? We just got right back in the car and kept
on driving?"
"Yes." I can't manage to say anything more, but the rest of it runs through my head in a soul-cleansing confession.
Yes, we were basically homeless. Yes. I drove you around, night after night, day after day, seeking success and betting
away the money I made. Yes, you smiled the whole time, and I didn't let myself hear the things you would not say. You
smoked your cigarettes and drank your whiskey, but baby, you weren't made for that kind of life and neither was I. Yes, if
I could go back and change it I would. I would always put you first. I'm just glad I got another chance.
I want her to know, but I wish so badly she'd remember on her own. There's a chance she may never recall the details
and that's why I have to give her the book. It's not just a photo album; it's a travel journal. A diary of us.
"We loved each other like crazy, but we weren't always stable. Living on the road will do that to a person, and eventually it
did catch up with us. You deserved to sleep in a nice big bed every night and eat home cooked meals. Fruits, vegetables,
all that." I press a kiss to her earlobe and she leans her head back. "And to step into a steaming hot shower with
amazing water pressure, not close your eyes and stand under a shitty shower head in Dallas one morning, then do the
same thing in Albuquerque the next..."
"It's okay, Damon. I chose it," she says genuinely. This is the first time I've alluded to the fact that our history wasn't all
rainbows and unicorns. She doesn't seem surprised and she doesn't seem upset. If anything, she's trying to keep me
"Thank you for this," she lifts the book a little. "I'll take my time with it."
"It's not a wedding album," I tell her and rewet my lips. "It's pictures and diary entries of our time on the road together. You
snapped countless pictures with an old polaroid camera and scrawled notes out on the lines beneath them while I drove
us around the country. You made me promise not to read it, but I'll admit I broke that promise when you were in your
coma. It was the only thing I had left of you. I really tried not to, but eventually I just snapped."
She closes the book and sets it on the coffee table before spinning around in my lap. Her thighs part and she scoots in
close to me until our chests are touching and our eyes are locked. She must see apology in mine, because a forgiving
smile forms on her lips.
"Are you upset that I read it?" I won't blame her if she is. The one time I joked about it years ago she gave me a glare like
I'd never seen. I thought cracking it open and reading it would scare the shit out of her so much that she'd wake from her
coma just to yell at me.
"I'm not even sure why I'd want to keep it a secret," she admits. "But no. I'm not upset. And even if I did remember what I
wrote in there that I wanted to keep private from you, I wouldn't be upset. God knows if I was losing you, I'd want to hold
onto any little remaining piece I could."
She blinks at me, completely oblivious to the way her words just affected me. I wouldn't expect her to remember. God,
she barely remembers her own life let alone every last detail of mine. I just can't shake the feeling that she's right on the
edge of recollection on this one. The oddest things trigger her memories, and while it'd be so much easier if she just
knew on her own, I'm not looking forward to the moment the information finally hits her. At least she knows how it ends.
"Did you ever figure out why I wanted to keep it a secret?" She bites her lip as if she's afraid of the answer.
"I think so," I smile, thinking back to the moment. It's not a bad one like she may think. "And if you read through it
someday, you will too."
"That day isn't today," she yawns and presses her forehead into the hollow of my neck. She stays there a moment, quiet
and warm, and I tug the quilt from the cushion besides us over her shoulders. "Today I'm drunk on wine and old stories
and really just want to stare at our amazing Christmas tree and fall asleep."
Her yawns are contagious and she smiles as I bring my hand up to cover my mouth in turn. She kisses me once, then
rolls off my lap to settle on the cushion beside me with the blanket pulled over us. It's a good 4 degrees outside and it's a
miracle it warmed up enough yesterday to string up the lights.
"I need some serious sleep for what's ahead tomorrow," she yawns. "I was all confident about it before but to be honest,
I'm getting kind of nervous that I won't be able to pull it off. Think we're in over our heads?"
"It's not like you're cooking for the whole county or something," I wink. "It's just my family."
"I know," she yawns again. "But it's the first big meal I've ever had to make and I'm feeling the pressure,"
"I'll give you pressure," I tease. No, really. I will. Wine can do no harm to this libido.
"Oh stop and behave a minute," she laughs. "Seriously, though. What was I thinking when I offered to host the family
Christmas this year? I got all caught up in the holiday adrenaline rush and now I'm starting to crash."
We leave in three days for our surprise getaway, so we decided to organize a Salvatore Christmas party before the actual
holiday. Mom has no problem celebrating a little early if it means Elena and I get to spend some actual time away
together. I thought Elena's offer was sweet, and Mom was thrilled at the idea of doing it at our house. Something about
us really settling down.
"I hope you're ready to peel some potatoes first thing tomorrow morning. I hear wine hangovers are a bitch," she adds.
"Or are you immune to those, too?"
I laugh and savor the simplicity of the moment. I mean what I said about this Christmas being better than our last.
There's something to be said about snuggling up on the couch under a warm blanket in front of a big, brightly lit
Christmas tree. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being home with the one I love, listening to classic Christmas
songs on repeat.
She's just starting to doze off when Mariah Carey's version of All I Want For Christmas Is You comes on. And, Jesus. It's
true. I can't help but be warmed by the moment, because it's so true. We've spent more time apart than we've ever spent
together, but I'm as sure about us now as the day I asked her to marry me; She's all I want.
A/N: Thanks for reading. I'll be working to update as soon as I can. Aiming for next week.
*Chapter 11*: To Make You Feel My Love
A/N: Happy Holidays! I'm not sure I'll get another update in before Christmas, so I wanted to say it now. We're headed
into this chapter in Elena's POV. I enjoy writing in both POV's for different reasons, and I really enjoyed working on
this chapter. My muse was happy and it came together smoothly, so I'm happy to get it out there for you.
I chose "To Make You Feel My Love" for the title of this chapter. It was written by Bob Dylan and originally recorded
by Billy Joel. Others have performed and recorded it as well, like Adele. But my favorite version is by ortoPilot, who
you can check out on Spotify or iTunes.
Your reviews continue to inspire me and I thank you for taking the time to let me know your thoughts. Thanks for
Chapter 10: To Make You Feel My Love
Elena POV
Present Day...
"And so you just sit out there in a tent, freezing your ass off for hours?" I ask, twirling the stem of my wine glass between
my thumb and index finger. It's empty again, and I eye the chilled bottle in a tin ice bucket just a few feet away.
"Yes. That's right," he says with a grin. I can't fathom why someone would enjoy this, so I dig a little deeper and ask a few
more questions.
I'm warm and hazy from the local red wine working its way through my bloodstream and I easily lose my train of thought
to a fit of giggles when he smiles at me.
"And you do this willingly? Year after year?" I know I'm repeating myself, but I need some confirmation here. Everything
he's telling me points to completely insane and I've got to be sure I heard him correctly. "And you just walk right out there,
saw a hole in the ice and wait," I add, matter-of-factly. "For fish."
"Yes, baby. That's why it's called ice fishing," his light eyes widen playfully as he grabs my hands and pulls me forward
until I crash into him, sending a huge splash of water outside of the bubbling hot tub. I grab onto his strong shoulders to
get my balance. "And you don't really just wait. I mean there is some skill involved," he licks his lips and looks up at me
through his wet, dark eyelashes and it's like a shot of euphoria right to my veins. He's mine. And I could stare at him like
this all night.
"Your glass is empty," he frowns. "We better fix that,"
Honestly, I'm really fuzzy and really don't need even one more sip of alcohol, but I've got the best seat in town when he
rises above the water to reach outside of the hot tub to grab the bottle of wine. He pours us refills then sets them on the
grey slate surrounding the porcelain tub. His smooth skin is covered in goosebumps and he lets out a sigh of relief
when he settles back into the hot water with me. Are we sure I didn't die in that fire? I didn't think it was possible to be this
Maybe it's the alcohol or the fact that he swept me away from everything and brought me here a cozy little bed and
breakfast in Door County, Wisconsin but I've never felt more treasured than I do right now. We're completely isolated
from the rest of the guests, off in our own little hayloft cottage at the edge of the property. We're on the second floor and
we've got a killer view of Kangaroo Lake. It's completely frozen over, and I'm memorized by the light snow swirling around
just outside our window. The thermometer reads 25F and I'm happy to be snuggled inside with Damon.
We got here around 10 o'clock this morning and spent the day touring wineries and breweries, selecting bottles to
purchase to take the memory of this trip back home with us. It's odd, but this is the first time we've actually gone out and
done something together. We've spent time with his family and had lots of time together at home, but it's wonderful to get
away from it all and celebrate us. Our revival.
Now it's sunset and the the sky is turning from blue to orange to yellow. It's an explosion of colors in the sky, and maybe
it's the wine talking, but as I lie across from him watching the clouds shift and fade away, I'm reminded of the simple fact
that no two sunsets are alike. Just like no two days with him have been the same. I get to learn something new every
day, and while it isn't always easy, it's never short of incredible.
His skin is pink and hot from the water, his hair a little damp from the steam rising around us. I thread my fingers
through his thick hair and work it different directions, using the water to make it stay. My heart's on overdrive from the way
he watches me. I don't think I could ever come up with the right words to describe how he's making me feel, so I press
kisses along his stubbly jawline until his head tips back and he's staring at the ceiling with his fingers dug into my hips.
Although I've only known it for a little while, I crave this natural intimacy between us. He kisses me harder and tugs me
closer, until I'm nestled in his lap under the hot water, tipsy and falling deliriously more in love with him every moment
we're together.
My fingers slide through his hair and my nails bite into his scalp. I'm starting to lose myself to my need when I bump into
a little ridge at the back of his head. He continues to kiss me, but tries to pull my fingers away from the spot. Now I'm
obsessed. What's with the bump and how did I not notice it before? My head's spinning with questions. I just can't stop
worrying. We pull apart and I search his eyes questioningly. It's obvious he knows what I want to ask, and I hope he'll tell
me before I have to try. A million terrible things run through my mind, and he must see it in my eyes because his
shoulders relax and he kisses my forehead with a sad smile.
"It's just a scar, Lena," he says. A scar. Okay. I'd be a lot more relaxed if his voice hadn't wavered when he said it. Now I'm
wondering about the rest of the story. I picture a tiny Damon running around his house with Harlow, knocking into the
corner of their kitchen table. Next I imagine the twenty-year-old Damon from my memory, drunk and falling on an icy
sidewalk, cracking his head open on the hard cement.
"How'd you get it?" I ask.
"An accident," his lips curve up in that smile that says he doesn't want to talk about it anymore. He usually lights up at the
opportunity to talk about his past, so I won't push him the one tim he doesn't want to. It does worry me, though, because
if it wasn't a big deal he'd just come out and say it. I've got a sick feeling it has something to do with me. It's one of the
first times I've felt like he's actually keeping something important from me, and it hurts.
He can't look me in the eye right now, so I know I'm not imagining it. His fingers busy themselves rubbing the tips of my
hair as he seems as lost in thought as I feel.
"Okay," I say softly.
I don't want to hurt on our anniversary or any other day, so I close my eyes before they can well up with tears that will
certainly take the sweetness out of this otherwise perfect night. I will ask him soon. I hope I'm wrong in thinking it's about
me, but if it is, I think I deserve to know. I know he'd never lie to me, but I can see him leaving pieces out of the story if he
thinks they'll hurt me. He's protective of me and I'm grateful, but I won't break. I'm not sure what would be worse him
telling me or me remembering on my own.
"Maybe we should get out of this thing. You're wrinkling up like a prune," he teases, pecking me on the nose. I open my
eyes and just like that, the sadness is gone. I shiver when my wet skin hits the air as he lifts me from tub and carries me
across the room to the bed. I let go of my temporary troubles and get my head back into the sweetness of the moment,
enjoying the way he dries me off with the large, plush towel.
If he had his way, I'd never get dressed. But the little heater in this place can only do so much to keep us warm, so I slip
on a pair of yoga pants and a thin cotton long-sleeved shirt before settling under the covers. It's too early to sleep, but
there's no television and no internet connection. This place wan't built to cater to business people. It's a hideaway from
all the hustle and bustle of the outside world, as a place to remember what's really important.
"You ready to head home tomorrow?" He asks, climbing in beside me.
"Yes and no. This place is amazing, but it will be nice to spend Christmas at home. And I've got presents waiting for you,"
I happily announce. I'm actually really excited about it. I'm not sure what his reaction is going to be, but I went with my gut
instinct as I was out Christmas shopping. I couldn't control myself as I threw countless things for him in my basket. I see
so many things that remind me of him. But when I saw the one,main gift I'm giving him, I knew I had no choice but to
Which brings me to my current issue. Not only did I have to find the perfect Christmas presents for him, I also had to
shop for our anniversary. Because he's Damon, he told me not to get him anything, but because I'm me, I didn't listen.
He's still not thrilled about me driving out on the snowy roads, but we compromised when I agreed to take his pickup
instead of the Corvette. I scoured the neighboring towns for days, searching for just the right thing, and I'm still not sure I
found it.
What do I possibly get for the man who completely changed my life? There isn't a present in the world that could do
justice. I wish I could bottle up these feelings for him and wrap them up with a tiny little bow. Maybe then he could really
understand what he's done for me.
"Speaking of presents, I think it's just about that time," he smirks.
"Okay. You said no presents. This trip was enough for both of us," I remind him, even though I've got something tucked
away in my duffel bag for him, too. It's fun to push his buttons a little sometimes, just to see what he'll say next.
"You should know by now that I break the rules," he says, reaching to the floor and pulling something out of the pocket of
his crumpled jeans. The motion reminds me of the unforgettable hours we spent in this bed before our trip to the hot tub,
and my heart slams at the memory.
When he comes back up, he's got something clenched in his fist and I immediately panic. Dear God. It's tiny, which
means it's probably expensive. Probably earrings or a necklace or something way more elaborate than I got for him.
I asked Harlow to help me organize something for him, since she knows the kind of things he likes, and we came up
with something clever, but I'm not sure it's going to beat whatever he's done. Like I said, this relaxing trip would have
been enough.
He's got that look on his face that says he's got an Ace up his sleeve. He's so good at making me smile that I don't even
have to wonder how amazing his gift is going to be.
He's also really good at making me wait.
"Do you know," he says, spinning the rings on my finger. "That I love you even more than the day I married you?"
I shake my head slightly and smile. He's sexy and cocky but I know this isn't just a line. I can see in his eyes how much
he believes it to be true. This can't be my life. No way. It's too fucking fairytale. Oh, who am I kidding? I love it!
"Since it's our anniversary, we're supposed to think back on our time together. I know you don't remember it, and since I
do it's only fair I paint you a picture of now vs. then. Okay?" He presses a kiss on my lips and I nod, gloriously happy to
just listen to him talk.
"Us now - totally domestic, right? I mean I'm married to this generations young, sexy Betty Crocker. We're content to eat
pot roast at home and hit the bed by 11. And honestly? I couldn't be happier. I'm incredibly happy."
Swoon. I can't help but smile when he really gets going about something. Especially us.
But when his mouth goes slack and his eyes flare up with something entirely different, I'm worried that he's about to tell
me something I don't really want to hear right now. I see apology all over him, and before he even says it, I want to pull
him in my arms and tell him it's okay.
"Back then we were just a couple of kids high on love and possibilities. But I didn't cherish you the way I promised I
would in my vows, because I don't think I really understood. I wanted you, forever, but I was selfish to believe you'd really
be content staying on the road for years. And you weren't," he says honestly. "But I was addicted to winning and I ignored
all the signs. For awhile, you didn't come right out and say you were unhappy and it was easier to just pretend I couldn't
read between the lines. I think you were afraid of disappointing me, but I'm the one who let you down. Us down," he tells
me apologetically. "I should've listen to you the first time you asked me to stop racing."
I'm taken aback by this bit of information. I've been wondering what made us settle down, and if the end of his racing was
directly related to me. I'm hit with a pang of guilt knowing I may have ended his dream, but he tells the story like an
apology, so there must be more to it than a selfish request.
My eyes widen as I remember just a flash of what he's referring to.
"Stop. Stop and listen to me. Please, Damon. Just come back and listen. Don't do this..."
It's not vivid, just a recollection of exchanged words and a feeling of desperation to get him to stay. Looking at him now,
it's hard to believe he'd ever make me feel that way. He must see a bit of recognition in my eyes, because he suddenly
looks a little worried.
"Do you remember?" He asks sadly. As hard as it is for me, I'm sure it's hard for him, too. He's trying to be honest but I
know he doesn't want to relive it. He's torn between being real and keeping me blissfully happy, but what he doesn't
know is that I'm hungry for the past. I want to know all of it, even the hard parts. Because we were strong enough to
overcome it and end up here today.
"No. Not really," I say honestly. "If you loved it so much, why would I ask you to stop?"
"Because you loved me and were afraid. It was dangerous, but I didn't want to believe it. I was running with the wrong
guys, doing illegal street racing and blowing our money on bets I'd never win..." he admits, and I close my eyes and try
with everything I have to remember.
"I'll be fine, baby. You worry too much. It's not a big deal. I always win..." I think I can hear him say.
I close my eyes and search inside of my heart for a deeply rooted ache I didn't realize existed. It's frustration and
devastation at the thought of him getting hurt. But it's not anger or resentment, the way he makes it seem. If anything, I
was swimming with panic at the mere thought of losing him.
It gives me just a glimpse of what he must have felt when he almost lost me.
"And you were right, baby. I should've stopped," he says, reaching back and rubbing the back of his hair. "It was
dangerous. But I didn't stop until I had no other choice. And you stuck by me the entire time, without even one I told you
I'm firing on all circuits, trying to figure this out. Trying to remember. I get the feeling it's going to make me sad, and I
really don't want that today. So I do the unthinkable. I ask him not to tell me about it tonight.
Stupid? Maybe. He's been really sensitive about the whole racing thing this whole time and I should nab the opportunity
to talk about it when he's ready, but we've got a long time to sort through all of that. Besides, it won't change the way I feel.
And he'll know that soon.
"Today is all about us. Nothing is as important as us," he reaffirms. "Which brings me to this," he announces as he
opens his fist to reveal my gift.
"Happy Anniversary, Lena."
He hands me the box and my hands tremble as I take it. It's small and wrapped in shiny silver paper with a perfectly
looped metallic red bow. Once the wrap is off, I realize I'm holding a black velvet jewelry box. I look from him to the hinge
then back, then spin it around so I can crack open the front. My breath catches in my throat when I see it. It's not a
necklace or pretty earrings or a bracelet. It's a ring- solid white gold with little diamonds running around the band.
"I always thought you got kind of cheated, you know, getting both an engagement ring and a wedding band on the same
day. Two birds, one stone...all that," he smiles. "I bought this one a few months later and wanted to give it to you on our
first anniversary. I even brought it to the hospital room, but I couldn't bring myself to put it on you when you were sleeping
and wouldn't know. I needed to see your eyes. I get to now, and it was worth the wait."
Said eyes are leaking like an old faucet. He's gorgeous behind a sea of emotions. I'm trying to focus. I promise I am. But
this is the kind of romantic gesture I've only seen in movies. I never thought it would happen to me. It's the kind of love my
Mom said didn't exist in real life so I shouldn't waste time looking for it. But she was wrong, obviously. And although we
didn't really get along, it's sad believing she probably didn't love my father this way.
Maybe I'm just one of the lucky ones.
He reaches over to pull it from the box, then takes my trembling hand and slides off my engagement ring so he can slip
the new ring on to sandwich it between my others. His warm fingers stay on mine, and I keep my eyes focused on the
diamonds. I know if I look up at him I'll really lose it, and I also know that would be okay. He hasn't said anything in awhile
and I realize that while I've been doing a celebratory dance in my head, he's still waiting for a reaction.
"It's amazing. Thank you, Damon. I love it."
"It's a new promise. A promise that I'll never let you down again. That I want you as much as the day I asked you to marry
me and I'll only want you more as the years pass. I want these years with you, Elena. I can't ask you to marry me because
I already did. But I can ask you to believe that I'll make good on my promises and I can tell you I'd go back and marry you
all over again if I could. And we'd move into our house sooner than we did and we'd have as many babies as you
He stops quickly like he's said too much, but I'm hung up on the very last part of his profession. Babies. Was that
something we'd been working on before the fire? Wow. I can't breathe. I'm heady from all the ups and downs of the last
hour and I've got visions of this beautiful man pressing kisses to my rounded belly. And wow. I can't. I've got to change
the subject and fast.
It's not that it's not a pleasant thought. It's a wonderful thought. Down the road. When I've got my head back on straight
and we're even more established than we are right now.
"Okay, now it's my turn," I say quickly to get on with things. He gives me a confused look, like he didn't expect me to get
him anything. But there was no way in hell I could let this special day pass without letting him know how he makes me
Earlier, while he was in the shower, I shoved my gift under the bed so I could pull it out to surprise him. I guess I slid it
further than I thought, because I'm hanging half off the bed and I still can't reach it. I'm not surprised to hear him giggle
and feel him slap my ass before I actually get my hands on the gift. I haul myself back up and give him a playfully stern
look before handing him the package.
"What?" He asks innocently. "You were asking for it, sticking your ass up in the air like that," he shrugs. "I see you like
breaking the present rules, too."
"Yes," I smile. "And you can thank your sister for helping me find everything and getting it all put together the way I
wanted. She really is sweet,"
His blue eyes widen in surprise. I hadn't told him I'd spent time on my own with Harlow, but I know he's been dying for it
to happen. He tells me wonderful stories of how close we were. How she was the sister I always wanted, and after
spending an afternoon with her, hitting little local shops and coffee houses, I know he's right. She's got a contagious
laugh and a warm personality and she treats me like I imagine she always has. Like she trust me with everything she's
My stomach flips when I pull the bag up onto the bed. Now that it's actually time to give him the gift, I'm nervous. I feel like
I should preface this with a big, romantic speech or something, but the words are jumbling in my head so I hand him a
wrapped package before I can chicken out.
He smiles and gets to work on the first one. My heart's about to beat out of my chest when his fingers slide under the
tape and he's faced my handwriting on the tag.
"Happy 5th Anniversary, Damon," he reads aloud and my cheeks heat. He looks at me once with a smile as wide as a
child's then digs into the the gift, a small mahogany corvette. His fingers smooth over it lightly until he feels the engraving
on the belly of the car.
"Sparrow," he says smiling. "Elena, I love it. Thank you,"
"I know she's more of my car than yours, but I know she's been with us since the very beginning, and it just seemed like
a nice reminder. I thought you could keep it on your desk at work. The traditional gift for the fifth wedding anniversary is
wood," I tell him.
"Now go on and open the others," I wave toward the small pile between us. He hadn't noticed it before.
"There's more?" He laughs. "Way to outdo me, baby." I shake my head and get ready for his next surprise. He leans over
to kiss me once, then starts in on the second gift. His eyes widen as he opens a box of chocolate covered strawberries
and the second card.
"Happy 4th Anniversary," he says slowly, and this time his voice gives out a little. "Elena..."
I've seen him cry. I know the sound he makes, the thickness of his voice just before the tears fill his eyes. And I'm
touched knowing that by the end of this, I'll see it again. We've only just begun.
"The fourth anniversary is fruit. Not very exciting. I at least wanted to sex it up a little," I tease. He stares at me like I've just
given him the best gift in the world. "It's only strawberries," I say sweetly, reaching up to touch his cheek. But he swallows
and sets them aside to start on the next.
By now he's figured out why there are three presents left. He doesn't read the script out loud this time, just slides the
leather wrist band on and kisses the hell out of me. "You're incredible."
I smile back and watch him open the faded grey cotton University of Wisconsin Alumni T-shirt.
"Happy 2nd Anniversary/Graduation..."
His hands stop and he swallows when he looks at me. He takes a deep breath, like I've just uncovered a secret.
"I saw your diploma hanging up in the corner of your office. I know you went back and finished when I was in my coma.
It's not something you should feel you have to hide from me. I'm proud of you," I tell him. "Just because we ditched out on
it the first time doesn't mean you can't change your mind. And I get it. You needed to make a life for yourself, in case I
didn't come back." Now I'm the one with the shaky voice.
"Thank you," he manages, squeezing my hand.
My stomach's swirling harder than ever knowing we've reached the final present. This is the big one, the very reason I'm
nervous to begin with. I let out a breath and close my eyes as he unwraps the final box. There's no card attached this
time and I can tell he's confused when he finds nothing more than a blank piece of paper inside.
"Paper," he says. "The traditional first anniversary gift..."
"I wanted to write something on it, but I couldn't. I sat down for hours one night that you were working late, but I came up
blank. Just like this paper. It's not that I don't know what I want to say to you or how I feel. My feelings are one of the few
things I am confident about right now."
Tears spring to my eyes. Oh no. Here we go. "I've got a pretty good idea of how we spent our first four anniversaries.
We've never talked about it, but I know you were right by my side for every single one of them, just as you were by my side
on so many other ordinary days. Your Mother and Harlow confirmed it, but my heart knew before they ever said a thing."
My mouth is dry like cotton, but I've got to push through. He's staring at me, completely entranced like every word I'm
saying is more important than the one before it. We're facing each other, sitting with our legs folded under us like a
couple of kids with all of my gifts between us, and it dawns on me that this is the single most important thing I've ever
said to him, and no matter how it comes out, it's going to be right.
"I can't imagine what it was like for you when I stared up at you for the first time in four years without a hint of recognition,"
I swallow. "I was afraid at first, you know. Maybe you couldn't tell because I tend to hide it well, probably from all the years
I had to when I was younger. But I wasn't afraid of you. I was afraid I'd never figure out who I was in those missing years,
and scared the fire had done damage that I could never fix. But I have you..."
I say, taking his hand before I continue. "And I've had you all along. I may not have opened my eyes and I may have been
stuck inside my own body, fighting to get free for a really long time, but some nights were warmer than others. I didn't
understand why then, because I didn't remember you. But when I opened my eyes looked at you...when first spoke and
told me you were my husband...I got those same warm feelings. I've known all along that I can trust you, even if I didn't
know your name. So all those nights you felt like I couldn't hear what you were saying, you were wrong. I heard you and
felt you, even when I didn't know who you were.
"I wanted to write you a letter on this piece of paper, telling you that I really do believe I only woke up for you. Because I
loved you. Even asleep, I could feel you love me...just like I can feel your love right now," Okay. If I don't wrap this up
shortly I'm going to be a blubbering mess. So here goes. I send a big fuck you to my nerves and let it all out. I'm Elena
Salvatore, damn it.
"I'm in love with you. Right now," I say and the tears finally escape from both of our eyes. "Happy Anniversary,"
He sets the piece of paper down on the bed next to us and pulls me onto his lap. His arms are wrapped tightly around
my middle and I can barely breath when his lips crash into mine. I'm blitzed with affectionate kisses; the knee-
weakening, heart-melting kind that make me want to tear my clothes off and connect with him. I just might.
"I love you, too," he says happily. His lips are sweet from the wine, his touch intoxicating as the back of his hand runs
gently over my cheeks. "I still can't believe you're here."
I shift in the bed, ready to pull him down on top of me. The heat stays in his eyes, but it's paired with something even
better. Real, solid love. He must stare at me for a good minute before he kisses me again. I get the feeling he's taking it
all in. Processing it as fully as I am and savoring each moment.
I'm not sure I could've dreamed up a better anniversary than this. I would've been fine staying home in our warm house,
surrounded by our things and our own bed. But as I'm learning with each day, he's completely unpredictable. He says
things and plans things that I couldn't have imagined I'd experience. I haven't reopened my photo journal since he gave it
to me the other night, but with all the pieces of our history he's giving me, I know I will soon.
Even if they're just pictures to me and nothing more. Even if I can't remember the exact way I felt the exact moment we
took the picture or the feeling in my stomach as I scribbled down my thoughts on the road. They were still my thoughts
and my feelings and regardless of the fact that they'll play nothing into the way I love him now, I'm interested to know
more about myself in those missing years. If I can be pissed about one thing right now, it's that my brain has somehow
taken away the very best years of my life and left me with the crappy ones.
He rubs my nose with his before looking out the big window.
"The snow stopped," he says softly, staring at me from across the bed. "It's only 7:30 and I don't know about you, but I'm
not really tired." I watch as he fiddles with the leather band on his wrist, and I make a mental note to thank Harlow for
helping pick out something he'd like. I also take a moment to appreciate how good he looks with just my wrist band on.
All too soon he's up and slipping into boxer briefs and a pair of jeans that fit him just right. Sadly, the throws a black
button up shirt on over his head, and I stare at him with a questioning smile, wondering why he doesn't just undo the
"I'm not really tired either, I guess," I stifle a yawn because I'm really not. Regretfully, I get dressed. I should really look in
a mirror because I'm sure my makeup's smeared and melted from the steam of the hot tub and the movement of his
fingers across my face. I take a quick peek and sigh as I notice the disaster that is my hair. I twist it up in a messy bun
and throw on some vanilla lipgloss to feel at least a little more presentable.
"Since you're getting so dolled up, why don't we do something?" he says, coming up from behind me. He looks so put
together right out of bed, and it's incredibly unfair that bed head makes him even sexier. I roll my eyes and he winks,
teasing me. He always tells me I don't have to get fancy just to hang out with him, but he doesn't get it. Maybe I don't have
to impress him, but I want to.
"So what do you say we head out to The Elkroom for a little while? We can kill some burgers and fries and see what that
band is all about. What do you think?" He asks, straightening the three rings on my fingers until they're centered.
The wine is slowly thinning from my blood and the more I think about it, I am pretty hungry. Damon told me about this
cool little bar in a lodge down the road that brings in local musicians. Tonight there's an alternative country band there,
and I know he must really, really love me because he really, really hates country music.
"I think if you're this amazing after five years, I can't wait to see ten," I say and my fingers with his as he opens to door and
we head out into a beautiful, snowy wonderland. I get it now. I can't compare the beauty of my returning memories to the
moments I'm living out right now. They're each precious, old and new. And I want more.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Hoping to get the next chapter up after Christmas, when my work life slows again :D
*Chapter 12*: Wicked Game
A/N: Hello! I hope everyone enjoyed the Holidays and that you're all having a great start to 2014. Turns out I was
busier than I thought and wasn't able to write as much as I'd hoped following Christmas. I'm happy to be able to get
this update up, even if it is nearly 3 AM my time. :D And thank you for your patience, as I know there was a pretty big
gap between updates.
We're not the only ones starting a new year. We've got Damon's POV on the Holiday in this one. I chose Chris Isaak's
"Wicked Game" as the title. I love the song, and my selection will make sense by the end of the chapter.
Thank you all for reading and your reviews! Looking forward to your thoughts!
Chapter 11 - Wicked Game
Present Day New Year's Day
Damon POV
The morning sky is white and it's so fucking cold I can't feel my feet. Wool socks do nothing for below zero wind chills but
I'm wearing them anyway. They're soft and thick and from Elena, which makes them the best damn pair of socks in the
world, in case that wasn't clear. It's New Year's Day, and as my boot crunch a fresh pattern through the snow, I can't think
of a more peaceful way to start 2014.
I woke up with a dull headache, so I'm hoping the bitter cold will help kill this minor hangover. I did tear it up a bit, but I
didn't go overboard. A few shots and a few bottles of Spotted Cow over the span of six hours had me buzzing pretty hard,
but I haven't gotten completely trashed for awhile. I can think of one night in particular while Elena was in a coma, but the
aftermath of it kept me from having more than a few beers for a long while. Elena, on the other hand, will probably be
paying for the amount of alcohol she consumed last night. Unlike me, she doesn't have a memory to tame her.
Don't get me wrong; I don't want her to hurt, but a girl's got to learn her limits somehow. I smile thinking of her warm little
body wrapped in the many blankets on our bed. She barely budged when I slid out of bed to use the bathroom, or when I
slipped on a pair of jeans and my Timberlands and headed outside. I'm not worried she'll wonder where I am when she
does wake up; mornings have gotten pretty routine since last week. I actually have a reason to pull my ass out of bed
early on the weekends. Besides, she's warm as a heater when I crawl back in bed and pull her back against me.
"Let's make it a short one today, okay?" I say and wait as if I expect a response. "I can already picture the look on her face
when we do get back inside. She'll flip on her iPad and realize we're out here in negative temps and then we'll get The
Look," I warn him with a smile. I don't even feel ridiculous talking like this. Besides, he's gonna have to know what he's
gotten himself into.
Beside my footprints are the tiny, unmistakeable prints of my new buddy, Diesel. It's safe to say Elena is awesome at
hitting the mark with sentimental gifts. I've only been friends with our pup since Christmas, but I can already tell he's the
best damn dog in the world. He's quickly falling into place as the companion she intended him to be, sleeping at the end
of the bed and sporting a ridiculous dog jacket she insisted he wear when we go on our short winter walks.
"Yeah. See you do know the look. It's the one she flashed you as you tried to wiggle your way out of your snow gear," I
remind him. "Get used to it, because it's not going away." I smile because every given day is another confirmation that I
have my wife back.
No dog of mine is pussy enough to need protection from the wind, but I wasn't about to take the thing off him after
watching her struggle it on him for ten minutes. I nixed the boots though, because really. I stop as we approach a tree
and smile as I watch my buddy circle it a good ten times before he finds the perfect spot to do his thing. The whole potty-
training thing is a work in progress, so he could walk around here for hours and I'd be fine with it, as long as he's not
pissing on my favorite chair.
Diesel's a cool guy because he's a lot like me. And I'm not just talking about our dark hair. He looks pretty tough and I've
seen him do a stupid thing or two, but he's got a soft spot for love and although he's only been with us a short while, his
loyalty is evident. He's not a purebred anything, and he didn't come from a family who wanted puppies. He was picked up
by a shelter when he was just a few weeks old, which means our home is the first real one he's ever had. And Elena
moved up another few notches on the awesome meter for the fact that she took the shelter approach. I mean all dogs
are deserving of a good home, but she could've gone for a pup from a breeder who was in perfect condition. Instead she
chose Diesel, a little tough guy with a scar across his black nose, with no knowledge about him aside from the fact that
mutts make good family dogs. And I have to believe she picked him because he reminded her of us rebels out on the
He's small, but he won't be for much longer. He's a pretty decent dude on his own, but it's the symbolism behind the gift
that touches me the most. Yeah, my name was in big bold lettering on the tag on his collar as he ran up to me on
Christmas morning, but she loves him as much as I do, so it's pretty clear he was a gift to both of us. To our new life
I crouch down to his level and laugh as his tiny paws go in four different directions and he lands on his belly in the snow.
A small shake and I'm covered in a dusting of snow, and I smile and pick him up in my arms. "Happens to the best of
us," I tell him as my gloved hands rub the remaining snow from his ears. He looks up at me as if I have the answers to
all of life's questions, then warms my nose with a few licks. As I stare at him, I see more than just a new pet. I see a
friend. A companion. Someone I can talk to about the tough things without fearing disappointment. I know this little man
will be cool with whatever I say to him, and I know he'll bear my troubles right along side me until I'm ready to share them
with Elena.
It's not like I think she'll leave me for it, though I'm sure there are many women who would have. It was stupid and
something I'll never do again there's nothing in the world more important than the people I love, namely Elena. And I've
been dealing with the fact that I didn't just put her second. I put her third or fourth. I made it seem like she had no say in
my life even though we were married, and I gave her plenty of reasons to doubt me. A lesser man might say I'm lucky she
doesn't remember a thing, and maybe I'm playing up on it a bit by not sharing the details of my accident, but I'd feel guilty
for the rest of my life if I let her carry on oblivious to our problems. Like I said I'm not hero; I put her in distress and was
too fucked up to save myself, let alone her. All the credit goes to her, because if I were in her shoes back then, I'd have
peeled right out of the parking lot and left my sorry ass behind before I ever had the chance to break her heart.
I let out a breath and watch as it swirls before us. We've been out here for about fifteen minutes and we've rounded the
last corner that leads to the house. Soon we'll be back inside our toasty home in front of the fireplace, or if I get my way,
crawling back under the covers with Elena.
My mind goes back to last night and I realize we're not alone. The way Harlow was downing them last night, I'll be
surprised if she's sober this morning. After it was over, Harlow and Andrew managed to nestle themselves in one of our
guestrooms. Not so quietly, I might add. And let me tell you, it's been years since I've partied with my sister. I'm not
talking about knocking back a few bottles of beer around Mom's kitchen table, either; I'm talking pub crawling. Andrew's a
fucking saint for his self-imposed one beer rule; I wasn't wasted but there's no way I could've gotten behind a wheel.
Must've been something to party with the likes of us, but I get why he did it; Harlow's eyes were just as bright with
excitement as Elena's and it's been too damn long since those two have let loose.
The best part? It was all Elena's idea.
Twelve Hours Earlier...
"Damn adorable, aren't they?" Andrew smiles and lifts his bottle of Bud to his lips. My eyes shoot to the bar where I see
Elena and Harlow knocking back a shot. They're surrounded by a small crowdall locals watching my girl like a hawk as
if she may fall into another coma at any given moment, but every now and then I feel Elena's eyes fall on me.
We're seated at a small table in the corner of Renner's, a little bar just a few blocks downtown. It's our second stop of the
night and the clock's about to hit 9:30pm. She's got about three drinks in her, but the way she wiggles her sexy hips tells
me she's buzzing, and I'm itching to get my hands on her again.
"Whole lot of trouble when they're together, too," I add with a laugh as I tip my own bottle back. Elena's eyes go wide as
she brings the double shot glass to her lips and sends the burning liquid down her throat. She cringes for just a
moment, then laughs as she sets the empty glass down on the bar next to my sister's and throws her arms triumphantly
in the air. "Look at 'em up there, beautiful as hell and stealing the show."
"Always have," he reminds me as I reach into the tin bucket of shelled peanuts at our table and pop one into my mouth.
"Always will, I hope. Nice to see Harlow smile like that again, even if hanging out with Elena has revived her interest in
cooking," he laughs, then reaches for a peanut. "Small price to pay, you know?" His eyes are stuck on my sister and I
can't help but smile.
This moment. This second right here is the very reason I love this guy. He's a hell of a brother-in-law, and not just
because he loves local beer and a lot of the same things I do. He's real in the way good men should be and knows
when to laugh and when to bite his tongue. He's the kind of guy I'd be friends with even if he wasn't married to my sister,
but the way he treats her only gives me more reasons to like him. He looks at her as if she's the only thing that matters,
and as her twin, that means a whole hell of a lot to me; she's one of the most important people in my life, and it's
reassuring to know she's well cared for and loved in a way she deserves.
As twins we've always been close, but the events of the last few years have really drawn us together and made me
appreciate my family. They loved Elena dearly within hours of meeting her that first Christmas, and they've been nothing
but supportive us through the twists and turns since. My accident and hers, and someday soon when it all comes
flooding back to herbecause I know it willI hope to God she remembers she wasn't alone.
I reach back to smooth the hair at the back of my head and touch my scar. It's a new year, which means I've got another
365 days to show her how much she means to me before we wind up here again. 2013 brought us so many good
things; I can't help but feel the highs. But yeah. There were lows, too. I won't pretend I wasn't devastated to find out she
didn't know who the hell I was when she woke up, and I can't say I'm not worried she'll never get it all back. Of course I
am; who wouldn't be? Who wouldn't want his wife to wake up next to him one day and remember every single moment
they've shared? Only an idiot would say it didn't bother him.
But after so many years wishing she'd come home to me so we could finish what we started, it's easy to push those
troubles aside and embrace what we've been given. You better believe I'm celebrating the hell out of 2013, because I'll
never get a better year than this. The good news is, I've still got another two-and-a-half hours left to revel in it, and my
gorgeous wife is headed my way.
There's good music pumping in these walls, and while it's more of a laid back place, it hasn't stopped the ladies from
rearranging the tables to construe a dance floor. I like Renner's because it doesn't cater to just one crowd. It's known for
hosting some of the best upcoming local bands across all genres, and it's a cool enough environment to just kick back
and let loose without spending a ton of cash. Since it's New Year's Eve and the house is packed, they've brought in their
most loved band, Thayer's Love. It's a folksy-rock kind of band that doesn't lend much to dancing, but some of their slow
stuff is pretty good and I'll use any excuse to press up against Elena. Yeah, I'm that shameless.
Either these beers are settling in my blood, or she's taking all damn day to cross the room. I use the opportunity to enjoy
the view, as she really outdid herself tonight. I told her not to worry about getting all dolled up; it's cold and windy and
she'd look beautiful make-up free and in a potato sack, but all that got me was her trademark eye-roll and a smirk. I'm
pretty sure she actually saw it as a challenge to the look the sexiest she ever has, because damn. She wears red lipstick
like it was made just for her, and her wavy hair falls loose around her bare shoulders. She insisted on wearing a red
wide-necked, off the shoulder sweater and a blank tank underneath, so I'm glad the crowd's making it toasty in here. I'm
glued to her legs in those tight black jeans and the pair of knee-high black leather boots I bought her last week as she
finally reaches the table.
Her hands fall on my shoulders and I let out a breath I didn't even know I was holding.
"Having fun, Damon?" She asks, and I nod as I continue to appreciate her. Oh, stop it. I'm not a pig; just a guy with a few
beers running in his system and the hottest damn wife in the history of marriages. And yeah, a few more drinks and I'll
be letting this whole place know it.
She wobbles a little forward, so I reach out to grab her hips to steady her.
"Woah there," I smile, gripping her more tightly. "You okay?" She's warm, and my thumbs brush against her bare skin. I
should be worried she'll freeze on our walk to the next bar down the road, but all I can think about is how good she feels.
"I'm amazing," she tells me, smiling as she steps between my open legs until her warm thighs are cinched between
mine. She's close enough to feel the hard-on starting in my jeans, and if things take the corner I believe they will, we'll be
seamless on that makeshift dance floor in moments.
Her soft hands run across my shoulders and lift her gently to get her settled on my leg. She's light as a feather, though
she eats well, and when she's comfortably perched up on my knee like this, I'm on top of the world. I feel her warm
forehead press against my temple as she says,
"Drunk enough to dance with me yet? We brought a pitcher," She says and I reassure her I could be sober as hell in a
room with no music and still want to dance with her. She's got an empty hand now, but I'm sure she'll be shooting
another few fancy alcoholic concoctions before the clock strikes twelve. She may not recall, but she's got a pretty decent
tolerance; it's the only reason I'm not following her around like a watchdog right now. I know her limits and I won't let her
pass them. I don't want her waking up on a cold bathroom floor on her first morning in 2014, but I'm happy she's letting
her guard down tonight. Every day I see a new, beautiful side of her, and this is one of them. Carefree looks amazing on
her, and I hope it's just the beginning of what's to come for us.
I down the last of my beer and scoot the empty bottle beside the other two. I'm not drunk by any means, but I'm relaxed
enough to not worry about who's watching. I know a lot of people here...probably all of them. That's the thing about small
townsnews travels fast and every one knows everything about their neighbors. It can be annoying as shit at times, but
out of all the places I've lived and travelled, I couldn't have picked a better place to settle down. Their nosiness is just a
blemish on the beauty of what these people bring to our 've got warm smiles and genuine hearts and I've shared my
troubles with more than few of these faces over the years. And as I look around and see the people smiling at Elena,
laughing with her and sharing stories, I realize I'm blessed, because it's not just my family celebrating Elena's return;
These people are, too. And together we may just pull together and give her a chance at some memories. And if not, at
least she'll gain a lot of new friends.
Beside us, Harlow and Andrew are engaged in a tournament of tongues. And I've seen enough. Trust me, I get it. My
sister's tolerance of alcohol is quite a bit lower than Elena's, and her inhibitions are lowered enough right now not to
care that she's groping her husband in a public bar. And it's whatever, except they're coming home with us tonight and
I'm gonna have that shit running through my head all night.
I'm just about to tap my Timberland against her shin lightly when I feel the backs of Elena's feet bump into mine. Alcohol
brings out her playful side, and she's swinging her legs back and forth whie she sits on my knee. Andrew was dead on
with the 'adorable' comment; I'm half thinking about calling a cab right now and ringing in the New Year between Elena's
thighs. Instead, I scoot to the edge of my stool until she hops off my knee, and grab her hand as we head to the center of
the bar where a few couples are swaying to the music.
"I really like this one," Elena says as she draws her arms around neck and pulls me closer. Thayer's Sons is a band of
three brothers from just a few towns east of us. We've heard them play just once before, but they've got lyrics and a
sound that sticks easily. Before long, they're playing a cover of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game, and I hear Elena's sweet
voice softly singing the lyrics against my neck.
And it's just a cover song. Just a local band made up of a few guys slightly younger than us. And this is just a moment,
like every other we've hadonly it feels like a whole lot more. It feels like they're singing Wicked Game right to us. And in
my arms, it feels like she's singing it only for me.
We're moving for an eternity and I don't want to let go for even one second. We must've danced hundreds of times in all
the places we've been, but it's never felt more right, and I've never been more sure that I'm doing exactly what I want to be
doing in life.
I used to fear thissettling down. And not for the reasons a lot of men my age or younger typically do. In college, the first
time around, I couldn't really concentrate on my degree. It never felt like I was doing it for myself. I loved and respected my
father more than any other man on the planet because he never forced me to do anything I didn't want to do. He didn't
push me into the business field. I went willingly, because while I had dreams of doing so many other things, the dream
of becoming a good man and a good father like him far outweighed anything else. But as the years ticked on, I found
myself slipping up. Convincing myself I was doing what made me happy. And when he died, it all just went to hell. Those
dreamsthe ones I left school to live out...the one I risked my life and my marriage to pursue...it turns out they were
temporary. I would've never thought I'd choose something over my wife. And I'll never do it again.
Thisthis unmistakeable feeling in my gutis contentment. This is the feeling I've read about in magazines articles and
blogs from guys happily married and well-adjusted. I don't feel like life cheated me, or us or even that I have the right to
question the way we've gotten here. I just know I'm here. We're here together, and if I only ever spend every New Year's
Eve for the rest of my life in the arms of this woman...dancing the small town bands in this amazing bar, I'll be damn
She's warm against me, and her hips meet mine in exactly the right rhythm to get me started. I've got the self-control of a
saint most of the time-only stick my tongue down her throat in small crowds or in the comfort of our own homebut there
are some times I just can't help it. More than ever, I'm happy we've said our present I love you's. It makes thinking about
taking her home and fucking her a lot easier on my conscious; she's the type of drunk to want in my pants, and I'm not
sure I could've kept on doing her without knowing how she really felt. Not because I'm afraid of getting hurt; it just
wouldn't feel right after awhile, knowing I'm so wrapped up in her and wondering if she's even half as happy as I am.
Now I knowwe're golden.
The song ends and our feet stop moving, but I feel her body relax against mine. I kiss the top of her head, and when she
looks up at me with dark, beautiful eyes, I'm not sure we'll make it to midnight. I'm just about to bust out an innuendo
when her smirk turns into a yawn.
"It's not even 10 o'clock!" I tease. "Though you always were a bit of a snoozer after a few. Trying to lie down in the street
and all that,"
She cringes, then laughs, as if she's waiting for me to tell her I'm kidding. I'm not, and when she realizes it, she throws
her head back in wild laughter.
"I was a riot!" Her smile is wide and genuine, and I'm relieved. "How the hell did you put up with me all the time?"
I certainly didn't see that one coming. At any given moment, a story could turn into a flashback, which could turn sour and
put a severe damper on the night ahead. One of these times she's not going to laugh.
"Put up with you?" I smile. "I lied down in the street right next to you. Side streets only, of course. And only for a few
seconds because the ground is really uncomfortable. Never could stand to watch you try to fall asleep without me."
Her eyes flicker with something and the smile slides off my face. I've seen this look before. She knows something, or
remembers. There's something rocking around behind those beautiful eyes, but she closes them before I can say for
certain it's bad. When she opens them again, she's smiling as if nothing ever happened. Mmmhmm. I'll be thinking on
that one tonight, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what the hell would've triggered a memory.
Concern is boiling to the surface, threatening to interrupt this amazing night, but the moment is extinguished when I feel
a strong hand on my shoulder. Elena's eyes soften as she smiles at the man behind us, and I let the moment go.
"Next round's on me, kids." I'm soothed by the strong, familiar voice. It's Ryan Renner, the owner of this bar and a long
time friend of my Dad's. They met when my Dad bought our house as a place to stay when he had to be away for long
periods of time, I've loved the guys since I was little, and he's been a good friend since my Dad passed. He's always
reminded me a bit of my Pops. You two are all this town's talking about, and I'm glad to see the rumors are all true," he
Elena's cheeks tint pink and I pull her closer against my side. This is one rumor I'm happy to confirm. Renner, being the
kind man he is, can see she's antsy under all the sudden attention, and suggests she go tell the bartender what we'd
like next. I watch her sway up to the bar and just barely hear Rennder say,
"She's a good girl, Damon. Your Dad would've loved her, and the smile she puts on your face everytime you're together."
"Thanks. I appreciate that. Really," I let him know. I mean it more than he probably knows, because although he's not my
father, I imagine he's dead on with his comment about Elena. My Dad told me to do what made me happy and not stop
searching until I found what I wanted. I like to think he'd tell me I stopped at the right place, in a warm home with a loving
wife. And I know he'd forgive me for what it took to get there.
He reaches out to shake my hand and I squeeze it back, thankful for a friend like him. For my town and for places like this
where it's easy to rebuild a life and make Elena feel at home. Not everyone is so lucky, I remember. And I make a New
Year's Resolution to count my blessings everyday.
Because no one can seem to go more than a few minutes without interrupting tonight, Harlow's soon in front of us with
two drinks in her hand. Thankfully, one of them is water and it's sliding into the hand of my self-sacrificing designated
driver of a brother-in-law. Told you this guy was cool. We may be walking from one bar to the next, but it's more than a few
blocks to get back home. They'll be crashing at our house tonight, so I'm not worried about how late we're out.
"Last drink here an we're on to the next," Harlow says above the music. I'm not sure when my sister became such the pro
at pub-crawling, but she's clearly the leader tonight. Andrew shoots me an oh, shit look, and I've got to feel bad for the
guy. I love my sister to death but she's a loud drunk and she's tutoring my Elena in the ways of bar-hopping. I remind
myself we're young and that one day we'll look back at this and wish we could do it all over again. Then I knock back the
shot on the tray beside me and pull Elena against me as the band plays on.
New Year's Day 9 am
"Now remember, Disesel. Momma might be crabby this morning," I tell him as we approach the porch. Our morning walk
is through and I fully expect to walk into a silent, unchanged house. We were only gone for twenty minutesjust enough
time to wake the fuck up in the cold and let the little guy burn some energy. He's a ball of power most mornings, so I'm
not surprised when he takes off like a lunatic toward our bedroom. Because he's a puppy, his patience is non-existent.
Elena loves the little bugger, but if I've got a dull headache this morning, I'm sure she's got a construction team
hammering away in her head. I'm fast, but he's faster.
And it's too late. Before I reach him, he's barreling into our big bed, digging his cold, wet nose right under her chin. I
close my eyes and hope she's only a little pissed to be woken up by frozen dog paws, but I let out a breath of relief when I
hear soft giggles from beneath his bulky body. It wasn't enough to just snuggle under the covers with her. Nope. He's got
to jump all over her, step in places no woman wants stepped on. He's got to lick her face until she's covered in slobber.
I told you this guy was a lot like me.
"Morning, guys," she says easily, and I balk, because where the hell's hangover-Elena?
Her big brown eyes flutter open beneath her dark lashes, and I see the thousands of reasons I love her. She's smiling
and laughing and pulling our puppy under the covers beside her to warm him up. The house is otherwise quiet, but I
plan to put on a pot of coffee in a few so Harlow and Andrew have some ready when they do wake up. If someone
would've told me a few years ago that this is how I'd be welcoming 2014, I'd never have believed them. Sometimes turn
out even better than you hope.
"How're you feeling?" I ask, pulling off my boots and sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Surprisingly well," she shrugs. "Your three Advil and a bottle of water before bed trick really did work. Go figure," she
sticks out her tongue. "But then again, you've been at this longer than I have."
I smile, then I'm hit with that moment of discontent from last night. The look in her eyes in the middle of the bar. I can't
help but worry it'll come back today. Diesel's got amazing timing. Just as I'm starting to panic, he lets out a sign and
plops his head down on the pillow beside Elena's. Her hair is spread across the pillow in beautiful waves, and she
doesn't even cringe when he blows his doggy breath her way.
"Could use some coffee, though," she says. "New year, same poison. When do you suppose Harlow and Andrew will
wake up?"
"I'm calling noon," I say seriously. "My sister's a zombie. You have no idea."
She laughs and unfortunately reminds me of how late they were up last night once we got home. Trust me, I'll be hearing
it in my head for the next few days.
"Oh, come on, Damon. You're sister is awesome. Andrew, too. Without them to watch him, I could've never pulled off the
whole puppy-for-Christmas bit," she reminds me. "They make good babysitters."
I smile, because I'm not sure what to say to that. My hands sneak under the covers to warm up, and she pulls them into
hers. I'm not sure how, but she's fresh faced and even sexier than last night. Then I tell myself that's what a good fuck
looks like, and I pat myself on the back for ringing in the New Year in the best way I know how.
"I heard it's gonna be twenty below today. Your hands are like ice, so I believe it." She smiles. "Maybe we'll just stay in all
day and watch movies. Sound good, Diesel?"
I love that she talks to him in the way I dolike he's family. Before long, she's tugging my shirt toward her and I fall gently
on top of her. I press slow, long kisses to her lips before settling in beside her them. And like any good pet, our new
buddy worms his way between us and licks Elena's cheeks. She giggles, and pets him and for the oddest reason, I think
of what she might look like tickling a baby.
His wagging tail thumps right on my stomach and I laugh, because something as simple as this moment makes me
incredibly happy.
"Dude. You're killing me right now," I laugh and pick him up above us to move him on the other side of her. "Go steal
someone else's girl. This one's all mine."
A/N: Thank you for reading!
*Chapter 13*: Dust To Dust
A/N: We're back to Elena's POV with a pretty powerful chapter. One of my favorite things about writing Elena is
creating a window into her emotions as she discovers them, and this chapter really hits on that. Many have
guessed there's something pretty big coming, and some have even made guesses as to what the next memory will
be. This chapter definitely has a little more grunt to it than fluff, but I assure you we're *not* headed down a long,
tireless path of pain for these two. You'll see what I mean.
I chose The Civil Wars' "Dust To Dust" for the title of this chapter.
Many of the memories are italicized. Some are separated and others incorporated into the scene.
Thank you so much for reading and reviewing and for your continued support. I look forward to your thoughts
coming off the back end of this one.
Chapter 12: Dust To Dust
Elena POV
I'm heartsick. Broken. No matter how much air I take in, I can't seem to fill the emptiness in my chest. It's no wonder my
lungs ache; in the hours I've been here, the nurses have told me to calm down at least a hundred times. "You're
hyperventilating, dear," they say.
Yeah, no shit. I've been in this damn waiting room for going on three hours and have no idea what they've done to him.
"Drink some water and rest. You'll be no good to him if you're laid up, too..." they say.
And I know they're right. I'm sure they see dozens of these kinds of situations daily, some probably even more grim; but
in my worst nightmares I couldn't dream up something worse than this moment. My head throbs as I picture him lying
there on some cold metal table, sterile instruments pressing into his skin, guided by sterile gloved hands of men and
women who've dedicated their lives to doing just thissaving another's. I know he's where he needs to be and there's
nothing more I can do for him aside from telling him I love him and begging him to live, but I still feel so helpless. Like
I'm doing nothing at all. Like I could lose him at any given second and spend the rest of my life wondering if he heard the
things I screamed as they pulled him from that car.
I love you. I need you. Please don't leave me...
I hope he heard them, just like I hope he's holding onto them for dear life right now. I can't stand to think he's stuck with
the memories of everything I said before them and the anguished look in my eyes as he walked away like he was doing
nothing more than making a quick trip to the gas station.
I can't help but wonder which one of us is more selfishhim, for going against my wishes even when I begged him, or
me. I put myself in front of dreams he's been chasing since childhood and was surprised when he didn't pick me. My
heart was aching long before the crash and blood. Long before the sights and sounds I can't shake out of my head. But
my anger and disappointment in him all fell away the moment I nearly lost him. They were the slowest moments of my
life and every breath I've taken since just hasn't felt the same.
I was hurt and angry that despite my pleas, he went and did it anyway. My reality now is thisI have a loving husband
who means more to me than anyone ever has. We're all human and make mistakes, but he promised to love me and
cherish me me until the day he dies, and I won't accept that day as today.
It's unreal. I've been through a lot in my life, but never like this. I've always kicked shit to the side and moved on...but
there's no such thing as moving on without Damon. And that's why I can't think past this moment.
My legs bounce nervously and I squeeze my eyes so tightly I see stars. I really need a smoke, but I'm terrified the
second I do will be the very same second they'll say he's out of surgery. Fuck it. I think my bad luck's run out for the day. I
bite my lip and dig inside my purse for my box of American Spirits, desperate to feel something familiar, even if it's just a
little smoke hitting my lungs.
I'm outside in the warm Nevada air for less than five minutesjust enough to feed my addiction and grab some fresh air.
This city is crazy; I fell in love here. Married my Damon here. And now I'm losing him here, in our city of sin and
I'm so worn...so wrecked that my hand shakes as I bring the cigarette up to my lips and take a long, slow drag. And
honestly, I do feel a little better even if it's all chemical and temporary. I close my eyes and try to conjure up all the happy
moments I've shared with him over the last few monthsthe almost instant chemistry between us the very first day we
met. His warm hands and lips on my bare skin. Driving for days and weeks with no end in sight, conquering normal and
defying our better judgement. Falling in love and committing to that love with vows that promised we'd be here one day
in sickness and in health. And here I am in sickness, hoping like hell we'll get another day to live out the other side of our
My shirt sticks to the tacky bricks of the hospital building as I pull away. I put my cigarette out in a tray above a trash can
and pop a piece of spearmint gum into my mouth to keep my occupied. The same sad people are in the waiting chairs
around the one I've stationed myself in. I settle back in and draw my legs up on the chair to rest my chin on my knees, as
if curling up into a ball will somehow make this somehow all go away.
I swear I'm all cried out; I'm not sure how there's even anything left to cry out, but I do. My breath catches and I'm about to
start into a full on sob when my phone vibrates in my pocket. I swipe the streams away from my cheeks and clear my
eyes enough to see the name lit up on the screen. We've only met once, and I only have her number saved in my phone
because she texted me a funny picture of Damon as a child just before we left after Christmas.
"Harlow," my voice cracks on her name. "It's bad. He's in surgery. It's..." I can't relive it until I know how it ends, so I'm
thankful she was able to make out the frantic message I left on her voicemail. It's a terrible thing to leave in a message
but I had no choice. I needed her to know. "I'm sorry I..."
And then the unthinkable happens. My sick heart is warmed when I see her before me. I'm nearly knocked sideways
when her big blue eyes catch mine; she's so very much Damon it both hurts and calms me at the same time. I don't
know what to say, but so feet do the work for me, carrying me closer until I fall into her open arms. Then, we cry. And it's
like I've cried with her a thousand times.
We barely know each other, but somehow it fits. If there's anyone in the world who loves Damon even a sliver as much as
I do, it's her. She's kind and sweet and her being here means so much. And while I know she's ultimately here for her
brother, I like to think she might be here for me, too.
"H-how are you here?" I cry.
"Andrew and I were in Los Angeles on a long weekend, staying at his family's vacation home. I booked a flight the
second I got your message," she says between tears. "How're you holding up?"
"Horribly," I admit and let out a breath as we sit down beside one another in the hospital waiting room. I'm thankful that
she's not asking for too many details about the accident. "He hit that wall so hard. If he wasn't wearing his seatbelt he
wouldn't have even made it to the hospital," I tell her and my voice breaks. "He's been in surgery for hours. There's
pressure on his brain and glass and..." I trail off. "I just don't know what to do. This can't be happening. I don't know what
the fuck to do..."
She leans in closer and tips her head against mine the way I imagine good friends do, and there's no stopping my
vulnerability right now. I didn't realize how lonely I felt in this situation until she showed up and now I'm breaking down in
a way I seldom do in front of others. Damon is one of the few people who has really seen me cry, and maybe it's the fact
that I stand the chance to lose him that's drawing it out of me. Or maybe it's because she's his twin. Whatever the reason,
it's just right.
A young girl a few chairs down begins to cry and her mother scoops her in her arms where she instantly calms. I've done
my best not to eavesdrop, but I've been in her long enough to know her baby sister is in the middle of an emergency
appendectomy. It's the power of love and family playing out before my eyes, and it's something I've never really
understood until right now. I'm not alone anymore; I have family that cares about me and what I'm going through. I
couldn't ask for a better feeling in the world right now. I don't think of myself as an overly sensitive person who cries at the
drop of a dime, but this realization's got me pretty choked up. I swallow down a lump of emotion, grateful for the silver
lining this wreck has shown me.
"How'd we get here, Lena?" She asks gently. I know she deserves to know. It's her brother and she loved him long before
they were even born. "Was it really just an accident?"
I shake my head and look toward my feet. I want to lie, because it'd be so much easier than telling her the truth and
admitting things haven't been so carefree and wonderful as they were at Christmas. Funny how things can change in two
months, but money and pills will do that.
Even to a love like ours.
"I saw it coming weeks ago," I whisper. "The recklessness. I couldn't stop him. He'd do anything to win. Even lose
She looks at me with curiously sad eyes. I know she needs more than I can give her. I chew my lip, not ready to go any
deeper into it than that. I'm sure it'll all come out in time. She'll be disappointed in him and maybe in me for not being
able to fix it. I'm still pissed with myself for not being able to rein him in.
And though I'm still angry as hell with him for how it all went down, I forgive him. I've been there. Made mistakes. I was
making them right along side him for months before it caught up with me. It was enough to wake me up. Clean me up.
But not him, no. If anything, it only made things worse.
"Thank God for you," she says so softly I can barely hear her. "I'm so glad he's not alone."
My eyes float toward her left hand as she slips her phone into her purse, and I catch on a generous, sparkly diamond
banded on her ring finger that wasn't there on Christmas. Even though I'm torn to shreds right now, I can't help but smile.
"Congratulations," I say softly, nodding toward her hand. She breaks out into a brilliant, contagious smile.
"Thank you!" She squeals. She's practically giddy and for a moment I almost forget how tightly wound I feel.
"That's awesome." I really like Andrew and I'm happy to see things working out for them. It's nice to take a breather from
the heavy subject we've been muddling through since she arrived twenty minutes ago.
"You're the first to know in the family," she says simply, and her words are far more tender to me than she probably
realizes. "It happened last night. I feel silly parading around with this kind of news when my brother's in the operating
room. I'm sorry, Elena."
"Don't be," I shake my head and smile. "Damon will be happy, too. I can't wait to see the look on his face when you tell
him," I allow myself the image of him waking up with no pain and no dangerous cravings. I picture his beautiful, bright
eyes shining when they see me again. I picture them surrounded by wrinkles in years to come, because this isn't the
"Thanks for calling me, Elena," her voice is soft and shaky.
She and Damon were close growing up, but I know their contact was pretty limited while we've been on the road. Other
than Christmas, I'm not sure how much they've talked, so I don't know how in tune with our situation she is. I tread
carefully, not wanting to surprise her. I stick to the basics, like how shitty I feel.
"Thank you for coming" I say, twisting my wedding rings around my finger. I wonder how transparent I am. "Means a lot."
"Hey, we're sisters," she says easily and I smile. "And it's about damn time we make good on that, even if it is a pretty
shitty kickoff," she laughs but my smile soon fades as I see the doctor walking toward us. I hold my breath as Harlow's
hand comes up to rest on my shoulder, then I brace myself as I wait for my future to unfold.
"Mrs. Salvatore?" He says and my heart slams wildly in my chest. "We were able to relieve the pressure on his brain, but
it'll be a little while before we see how he does. He's in the recovery room right now, then he'll be put into intensive care."
"I need to see him," I say, jumping out of my seat and walking toward the door. The doctor reaches out with the hands that
saved my husband's life and gently stops me. There's no way in hell he can keep me from running in there to see
Damon. In fact, there's nothing in this world that will ever keep me from him again.
"He needs to rest. We'll let you know when you're able to see him. There may be changes. It may take awhile for him to
wake up, and when he does, you'll need to be prepared for what may come. He may wake up and recover easily, but I
want you to be ready for the possibility that he may not remember you."
Present Day
"Can I tell you something?" Harlow asks quietly. Her eyes are big when they reach mine, so I know I'm in for something
good. I nod and she sets her coffee mug down on the kitchen table and chews her lip. She's nervous. Now so am I.
"I'm pregnant," she says seriously.
"Are you serious?" My jaw falls open because this is coming out of nowhere. We've spent some time together shopping
for Damon's gifts and having coffee, but we've never gotten into anything too personal. I'm not sure if she's happy or
"I took two tests yesterday. Now I can't stand to think of New Year's Eve," she sighs. It's been three weeks since the turn
of the New Year and from the sounds of it, she'd had no idea back then. I smile as she continues, "We've been trying for
a few years. I went back on the pill and we stopped because it was incredibly frustrating. And just like that, I'm in the 1%.
Pregnant on the pill. But I couldn't be happier," she stares into the blackness of her steaming hot coffee. "Or more
terrified. But it's what we've wanted for years, and it's going to be good."
"That's amazing," I smile. "Amazing how stuff just works out the way it's supposed to."
"I'm due in late August, so we've got a long way to go. And I haven't told Mom or my brothers yet, but I can't hold it in
anymore. I was trying to wait until the guys got back from the lake, but I'm terrible with news. So congrats. You're going to
be an aunt."
Shit. She's right. I've never been anyone's anything before, but the idea is pretty cool. From what I know, she'll make an
awesome mother, and I'm excited to welcome a little one into this family. I could so handle spoiling an itty bitty look-alike
of my Damon, but I'm not ready to have one myself.
"Once everyone knows it's all they'll talk about, but I'm glad I told you first," she says, walking over the sink and placing
her empty mug into the basin. "You'll let me tell my brother, right?"
"Of course," I laugh. "I think he'll make a pretty good uncle."
"Oh I know he will. My kid will be hugging stuffed mufflers and corvettes before he or she turns a year old," she laughs.
I finally understand why I'm so close with Harlow. She's always been there for me
I remembered something three weeks ago, on New Year's Eve. It was brief but stung deeply, and I've been hung up on it
since. I was in a hospital, bawling, and Harlow was beside me holding my hand. I closed my eyes and tried to recall if it
was something Damon and I had talked about before, but it wasn't. It was new, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I let it bounce off me that night because I didn't want it to ruin New Year's, and I haven't told a soul about it. Not even
Damon. I think he knows something's been bothering me. Just the other day he said I've been more quiet than usual
and he wondered if there was something I needed to talk about. Stupidly, I said no. I guess I kind of wanted to get the
whole picture instead of diving in headfirst, but it's been nearly a month and I was still coming up empty.
I didn't think I'd actually resort to reading that diary Damon gave me, but I did this morning before I drove here for brunch
with Harlow while the boys went out ice fishing. I wanted to remember on my own, but it's not as easy as I hoped it would
be. It hurts, and I don't know how much time will pass before I remember everything on my own or if I ever will. I felt like I
was creeping around as I waited for Damon to leave the house so I could pull the book down and flip through the many
I read slowly because it hurt. The scene came to life in my memory as my eyes ate up the words scribbled in my own
writing. I ached, as the girl journaling her thoughts did. I squeezed my eyes shut and let it play out, over and over again.
Until now, I didn't believe memories so old could still be so painful. I remembered writing them out, and the reasons a
few of the pages are blurred from tears.
'We've been in Vegas for a few weeks, but I can't bring myself to tell him yet. I'm not even sure it's real. Maybe it's
stress. I hear that can make you late...'
'I'm writing this on the steps of the Flamingo, watching Damon pull a roll of bills from his pocket and trade it for
another bottle of pills. We need to get out of here. Away from Vegas. Away from these casinos and these guys.
Away from Stefan...'
"It's my fucking fault. I hate myself for not fighting harder for him. For us. I should've flushed them sooner, even if he
hated me for it. At least we wouldn't be here..."
I didn't need to read any more to know what came next. I remembered it as painfully clear as the day it happened. The
way I screamed at him from the top of my lungs.
'Stop it. Stop it! You'll kill yourself. Please, please don't. Give me the bottle. Give me the fucking pills, right now.'
And like a child with unapproved candy, he dashes across the room and snaps the cap open to dump a pile into his
'I need them,' he says. 'I love you, but I need them. Just a few more and I'll stop."
'You won't. And you don't need them,' I plead, shaking my head. 'That's it. You're done. I'm done with this shit!' I scream at
him through blurry, glassy eyes as I rip the bottle of pills from his hand. But it's too late. Two new pills are already
swimming down his throat and in a matter of minutes it won't matter what I say or that I'm here at all.
He was high enough to forget all the reasons he shouldn't get in that car. High enough to risk his life-our future-for pride
and a little money we didn't need anyway.
I remember the crunching sound of his car hitting the wall, and the sick feeling in my gut as I watched Stefan step out of
his car with little more than a bruise. I could barely breathe as I rushed to the scene. I lost all common sense and pulled
open his door when I saw him smashed between his seat and the windshield, his forehead bloodied and pressed into
the broken glass.
"Damon. Damon, baby...wake up. Wake up..." I screamed, shaking. He wasn't moving. Wasn't breathing. I reached out to
feel his neck, hoping I'd find a pulse but a thick hand batted me away before I made contact.
"Don't fucking touch him. You'll make it worse," Stefan's eyes are dark and his grip rough.
"Get off me. Get the hell away from us. This is your fault," I scream, wiping the tears away.
"Sure, baby. I just opened his mouth and dumped the pills right down," he says sarcastically, but before he gets the
chance to shoot his mouth off again, his arms tighten around my waist and he takes off running, dragging me away
screaming. I don't understand at first, just figure he's being an ass, but then I see it as the sirens draw nearer. Flames in
the engine.
"No. No, no, no..." I sob, pounding on Stefan's chest as he holds me back. "Let me go. Let me go to him."
"You want to die tonight, sweetheart? Because you're husband wouldn't want you to, and you're fucking with fate."
"I don't care. I don't care," I scratch and claw my way back to the car just as the paramedics and firefighters get to work. It
happens so fast. He's strapped on the stretcher, wheeling toward the ambulance before the flames have a chance to
devour him.
"You're an asshole," I say as I snap away from him. "But thank you for saving me."
I settle into the ambulance beside Damon and grab his lifeless hand, staring out toward Stefan as the double doors
close. This is the worst feeling in the world. Worse than feeling unloved by my parents. Worse than all the stunts I pulled
growing up. I don't want this for him. I don't want this life anymore. The racing, the drugs, the many motel rooms from
state to state. I thought I could handle it; I've never felt the need to settle in one place for very long. But it's destroying him
quickly, and it's not fun anymore. I can't do this anymore, and I won't...
"Can I tell you something?" I start softly. I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing, but it's eating away at me and I've got to get
this off my chest.
"Sure, what's up?" She wipes her forehead with her wrist before lowering the oven door and pulling out two sheets of
chocolate chip cookies. "Shit, did I burn them? I've only got a few years to get the hang of this or my kid will have the worst
cookies to bring to class,"
I smile, feeling a little tension rolling off my back. "No, they look perfect."
They smell delicious and I could easily stuff a few in my mouth instead of admitting what I'm about to. But I think I've been
living with this for years and it's time to let it go.
"Sorry. You were saying?" she says, slipping each cookie from the sheet onto the cooling racks.
"It's about the accident," I swallow. "Damon's accident,"
"Oh, Lena," she says sadly, plopping down in the chair beside me. She presses a kiss on the top of my head that feels
like the comfort of a big sister. "What do you remember?"
"Everything," I send her an anguished smile and she closes her eyes. "Things I'm sure I never told you. Things I'm not
sure Damon would ever want you to know. But I'm going to tell you anyway, because I need to. For me. I need to let it go,
because I'm pissed at myself right now that it even happened."
It's only been haunting me for a few hours, but I need it out. "You know it wasn't just a car accident on the track..." I begin.
I'm waiting for her to say something to give me an idea of what she knows and what she doesn't. I've been gone for years
and for all I know he may have told her everything. "It was street racing. He'd lost all of our money the night before on a
stupid bet. Everything we'd earned, but not a cent from our bank accounts. It was the money we were going to use to
settle down someday, though back then that seemed in the far in the future. Between that bet and all the money he spent
on pills..." I trail off and she waits for me to continue. "He lost it."
"He was high, Harlow," I finally manage. I'm relieved to see she already seems to know about the struggles he went
through. "He was high as a fucking kite when he got in that car, and there was nothing I could do to stop him."
"I know, sweetie," she says reassuringly, and I already feel better, but I won't for long.
"There's more," I sniffle. "You rushed to my side that day at the hospital. You treated me like your sister and friend when
we barely knew each other and I let you. I took your comfort instead of being honest and telling you the truth." Here it
comes. My guilt is about to be spread out right here on her kitchen table, but I know I can trust her. "I'm the reason he got
on the pills in the first place. I gave them to him months before the accident. I didn't think he'd get hooked. I didn't think
he'd keep buying them. I'm so sorry."
She shakes her head and squeezes my hand. She forgives me, but she still wants to know why.
"He got in a fight with a guy he'd been drag racing one night. Guy took a swing and clocked him in the jaw. From there it
gets blurry, but it ends with a few bruised ribs and broken fingers. He should've gone to the doctor, but you know him.
Stubborn as a mule," I tell her. "We'd been partying with a guy who dipped his hands prescription in pills and cocaine.
The real stuff. Oxy. I thought if I paid the guy and got him a bottle it'd all just go away. And it did for awhile. He was soaring
like I'd never seen him before, but when he'd crash, he'd bottom out hard. I took a few. Spent a week and a half on top of
the damn world," my voice shakes. "And I won't lie. There's nothing like it, but I had my reasons for quitting early on."
The way she looks right now tells me she might know this part, too.
"I thought I was pregnant," I admit. "But it turns out I was just exhausted and late." The memory of it fills my eyes with
tears. I don't know why I'm crying; there's no way we could've raised a child back then.
"We were completely out of control, Harlow. When you saw us at Christmas, you only saw the good stuff. Things turned
to shit just after. You saw thing things I wanted us to be, not the things we were."
"You're remembering," she whispers. Her eyes are moist and I love her for it, because these tough confessions aren't
sticking in her head like I feared they might. She's not looking at me like I'm the enemy or the bitch that ruined her
brother. She's looking at me the same way she always does-like she'd do anything in the damn world for me. My
memories tell me she would.
I feel like I could talk to her for hours. Like she's the piece of it all that I've been missing. I love talking to Damon, but there
are some things better saved for a friend and this is one of them. And it's wonderful to know she's heard this before,
because I sort of feel like I'm betraying him by telling her our secrets.
And just as I'm about to delve into the heart of it all, I hear my husband's voice from the doorway. He and Andrew left early
to ice fish and I drove here in the late morning. I haven't seen him since I paged through that diary, and I'm overwhelmed
with emotion as he walks through the door in his thick winter coat and a pair of sturdy boots.
His cheeks are red from the wind, and he shivers when I touch his skin. I'm always glad to see him, but this time it's
different. As the memories of pain and heartache roll through my mind, I wrap my arms around him and squeeze him
tightly against me, unwilling to let go. Behind me, he pulls his gloves from his hands and presses them into my hips,
pulling me closer still. I bury my nose in his neck and kiss it softly, so thankful he's here with me after everything we've
been through.
It's like getting him back all over again. I'm completely humbled.
"Hey, baby. Are you crying?" He asks, pulling me away just enough to meet my eyes. There's no hiding my feelings; two
rivers flow down my cheeks and I let them. It's heart cleansing. This isn't the ideal place to tell him what I've
remembered. I'd much rather be at home tucked between our sheets, but I'll explode before we make the hour drive
"You are," he frowns. "What's the matter?" His worried gaze shifts from me to his sister as his palms come up to cradle
my shoulders. I'm so grateful to Harlow for being so supportive, but I can't handle looking back at her now.
Behind us I hear Harlow and Andrew excusing themselves to their bedroom, so we'll soon be alone. I grip him tightly to
me, remembering the way my heart deadened as I watched him bleed in that car. I'm shaking hard as he unzips his coat
and throws is on the back of the chair. As soon as he's against me, I fist his t-shirt and tug him closer. My forehead
presses into his chest as I unleash a series of unstable emotions.
My fists slam into his hard chest twice and I cry harder. I want to tell him, but I don't know how. I just want him to know
somehow, so I don't have to say the words. I don't want him to apologize. He did that long ago. Many times. And he's
more than made up for it. He made good on his promises as soon as he was able, and we started over. We started the
healthy, stable life we're living now. Looking at him, you'd never know he was ever addicted. I never stopped loving
him...not for a second. And I forgave him easily, not because it's what I was supposed to do. I forgave him because I love
"Tell me what's going on," he says seriously. "You're scaring me."
I reach up and my fingers find the scar on the back of his head. My hand stays there and I stare at him wordlessly. When
his eyes go wide and he pales, I realize he knows.
"You remember," he looks about as heartbroken and guilty as I feel. "You remember my accident. The crash?"
My eyes close and I nod.
"Our argument?"
"Yes, Damon," I tell him. My throat aches with sadness but I push the words out anyway. Believe it or not, this is one of
the best things that's ever happened to us, no matter how much it hurts.
He's tensed up in my arms, like he's afraid of what I'll say next. He's right if he thinks I went for a second spin on the
roller-coaster of emotions. In just the last few hours I've been pissed, panicked, angry and depressed. But not anymore.
As I look up into his big, beautiful blue eyes, I can only be thankful. I can only feel love.
"Fuck, baby," he runs his hand through his hair and lowers himself into a chair at the kitchen table. "I'm sorry. I'm still so
sorry. I hate that you had to go through all that again..." He waits for me to make a move, like he's afraid I'll slap him or
scream. Doesn't he get it? It hurt like hell but it doesn't change a thing about the way I feel about him.
"Can you forgive me again?" He asks seriously.
"Baby, I forgave you the second you walked out that door. It was the drugs and only the drugs. I never doubted that you
loved me. We were lost and broken, but it's over now. It's all over now,"
I smile gently and a look of confusion washes over him. His hands stay on my hips as I step closer and climb into his
lap. My hands come up to brush the sexy stubble on his cheeks and I spend a few moments just taking him in. His eyes
are gorgeouseasily the most amazing thing I've ever laid my eyes on. He's got the softest lips and I won't think about
the way they looked as they swallowed those pills. I can only see the curve of his smile and his low voice saying I love
It's happening. Jesus Christ, it's happening. I've been so caught up trying to hammer out the details of this one moment
that I completely overlooked the rest. I don't just remember his accident or the terrible, torn up feelings before it.
I remember the first time he opened his eyes in that hospital bed and that he begged the nurse to let me sneak him
coffee and a smoke. I recall the rush of relief when he said my name just moments, knowing he hadn't forgotten me like
the doctors said he might. I remember nights spent at his Mother's house in Eagle River while he recovered, and the way
it didn't take long for me to feel at home. Her support, along with Harlow's, helped me get through it while Damon
struggled to overcome withdrawals. I remember spilling secrets with Harlow and falling into bed with Damon the first
night we moved into our home.
Our life together plays before me like a beautiful love story with just the right amount of highs and lows. It's vivid, but I get
hung up just before the fire. And I'm okay with that for now. I've got enough to keep me occupied for awhile, and my
neurologists said I may be blocking painful memories until I'm ready to remember them. I won't let it spoil this moment
the moment I've been waiting for since I found out I was married.
I didn't realize I was crying. Damon's hand comes up to my face and the pad of his thumb brushes away my tears. He's
full of apology and fear, and I know there's only one thing I can say to make it go away. To make him understand I'm not
going anywhere and that I wouldn't even if I hadn't remembered a thing.
"I remember everything. Everything but the fire," I whisper as I brush my lips against his. His lips move faster and harder
against mine as the words sink in. I feel his teeth sink into my lower lip and I let out a moan at the sweet sting it sends
between my thighs. This moment is invaluable; I'll never have another like it. His kisses are hungry and loving at the
same time, and I could spend hours in his lap this way just enjoying the feel of it. "I remember all of it, good and bad, and
I only love you more."
A/N: Thank you for reading. Next up we've got Damon's POV, where we'll continue to unravel the story Elena's just
only touched on. Yes, we've got a little more heartache, but at least we know how it all turns out.
*Chapter 14*: Flightless Bird, American Mouth
A/N: Hello! Thank you to everyone for sticking around for this update. I know it's way overdue, and I appreciate your
patience and understanding. We're on Damon's POV in this one, and I'm hoping this one comes as a bit of a
surprise. I've been waiting to post this chapter since early on, so finally reaching it was wonderful. Many of you had
ideas of what could take place in the first chapter following Elena's recovery of memories, but I don't believe
anyone guess this.
I used Iron & Wine's "Flightless Bird, American Mouth." Amazing melody. Lyrics that fit perfectly for this type of
Damon chapter. Everything I needed.
Thanks again for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 13 Flightless Bird, American Mouth
Damon POV
Present Day...
"You're seriously not going to tell me where we're going?" Elena's eyes are bright with wonder and curiosity, and the
smile she's wearing tells me she's enjoying this little game we've been playing. I eye her from head-to-toe as she walks
beside me. I've caught myself doing that a lot latelyjust taking everything about her in. Her beautiful, telling eyes. The
way she carries herself now that her memories are back. And I know what I'm feeling and thinking right now is only a
sliver of what she's been going through, but it doesn't make this any less amazing.
Her lips are painted a soft pink and when she sticks her tongue out at me and her hands go to those amazing hips of
hers, I know she's caught me staring. Guilty as charged and loving every minute of it. Her bright smiles me she loves it,
"Come on. You've got to tell me," she tugs on the sleeve of my coat just before wrapping her fingers with mine. It's
considerably warmer than just a few weeks ago, but her warm skin is a comfort to me for many reasons. It's all the
reassurance I need to know everything is going to be okay. That the past is just thatthe past. And that we're leaving our
mistakes where they lie and diving headfirst into the rest of our lives.
"Nope. What part of It's a surprise did you miss, Lena?" I ask playfully as I pull my keys from my deep jacket pocket. My
snarky question earns me an adorable glare, and I can't keep the wide grin off my face as she pouts and lowers herself
into the now unlocked car.
"I'll get it out of you," she teases. As soon as her seatbelt is clicked into place, she kicks off her boots and draws her
knees up to her chest. "Always do."
A laugh escapes my lips before I'm able to draw it back, because she's right; some things never change. She's always
had a knack for getting information out of me with a bat of her pretty long eyelashes and she's working them now as she
looks up at me with her cheek pressed into her knees. Her skin is a pretty pink, worn from the wind, and I won't take the
pure simplicity of this moment for granted. Never again. She chews her lower lip and I nearly lose it. Damn, I'm a lucky
"Not this time," I say, leaning over to press a kiss to her soft lips before starting the engine. The dash is lit with a bright
5:00 am, again reminding us just how early it really is. We're buzzing on two fresh, strong cups of coffee and I'm hoping
it's enough to get us til lunchtime because I want to make as few stops as possible. I shoot her one more cocky,
knowing smile before shifting the car into drive and heading back to the highway.
Honestly, I'm nervous as hell right now. I really hope I'm doing the right thing, because in a matter of 15 hours we'll be too
far from the comforts of home for anything to go wrong. My gut tells me this what we need to do. That I can love my girl to
the moon and back and she'll probably say it's enough, but deep down I know she needs more than just me. And while I
could be selfish and keep her all to myself, she deserves to know there's someone else, aside from my family, who
loves her. Who has been thinking of her, worrying about her all along.
We're only an hour in, so there's plenty of time to turn around. And trust me, the thought has crossed my mind a few
times. She amazes me every day. Even now, as I chance a glance to my right and watch her begin to fall asleep pressed
against the cool window. I'll let her rest, because I know she needs it. Her memories have been back for just under two
weeks, but it feels like my mind's been running ever since. I should be blissed out. Content. Relieved, right? Anything
less would mean I'm ungrateful...but that's not the case. No matter what I do, I just can't relax. Can't get this feeling that
something crazy is going to happen out of my gut. My heart just wants to feel and live and appreciate the second chance
we're being given, but it's got a hell of a lot of convincing to do where my head is concerned. The truth is, I've been so
busy mourning the last few years that I didn't have time to stop and think about how important it is to forgive myself.
I know she doesn't remember the fire, but she does remember the events leading up to it. The reason she was in
Wyoming. And she wears a smile when she talks about her past...our past...but sometimes I honestly don't know why,
but I know it's real. I see it in the way she looks at me, her eyes warm with unconditional love. I really see her now, maybe
even better than I did before the fire. She's amazing, my wife. And she forgives with everything she has, much in the way
she did so long ago, when we were young and I was very undeserving.
Five Years Ago...
She's crying, and it's my fault. As the tears glide down her cheeks, I can't begin to comprehend why I'd ever put us here.
Just weeks ago my life was on the line as the surgeons worked to alleviate the pressure on my brain, and the truth is, I
barely remember the events leading to the accident.
A fight with Elena. The itching in my belly, the angry beast of addition crawling beneath my skin, begging to be fed and
draining me of all common sense. Killing me slowly and threatening to destroy everything good in my life. I don't like to
admit it, but there were moments when my addiction was stronger than me and soothing it meant more to me than
anything, even more than the heartbreak in Elena's eyes. Yeah, I've had a lot of time to think about my choices and the
things that led me here. I'd like to think the reality alone would've been enough to make me quit, but I know that's a lie. I
was in too deep. If I hadn't crashed my car, I'd still be wrecking our lives with those pills. I just wonder how long it
would've taken for her to realize I was never going to stop.
While I don't understand the schematics of it, I'm told had I hit that wall any other way, I wouldn't be here today. I don't let
myself think on that too much, because I'm guilty as hell as it is. It kind of leaves me wondering what I did to earn a
second chance, and I'm not just talking about breathing.
"Questions for me?" The thin, red-headed woman's voice pulls me from the troubled corners of my mind. I've been
waiting for this day for what seems like forever, but now that it's here, I'm starting to worry. What if I can't do this?
"Damon?" My God. I don't know if she's crying because I've accomplished something and she's happy we'll be together
again or because she's worried I won't make it, too. I offer her a smile that I hope tells her how grateful I am she's mine.
I've been overlooking and ignoring so much good in my life; I half wonder if this was the only way I'd ever really wake up.
And while it's fucked up to say it, I can't help thinking my accident was somehow a blessing in disguise. "You okay?"
"Yes. I'm fine. No questions," I say on an exhale and squeeze her shaky hand.
I'm sitting at a table next to my wife at my rehabilitation center, signing a shitload of paperwork that states I'm cleared to
leave the substance abuse rehabilitation center I've been at since leaving the hospital. Her eyes sparkle, glisten as I
scratch my signature over the final line, and her warm hand slides comfortingly along the top of my thigh. I don't know
how in the world I ever sought comfort in anything but this woman. Now that I'm clear-headed again, I know no chemical
reaction to a pill could ever come close to the love of my wife. I'm a fool for ever letting it try.
The clinician gives me a standard smile, and I wonder how much of what he just told me is true. I wonder how many
faces he sees walk through these doors more than once, and if he warned me in the ways he just did me. I refuse to be
another statistic or end up worse off than I was when I came in. Unlike most, I was still on painkillers when I walked into
this facility. This time they were prescribed and regulated, and I wasn't allowed to touch the bottle. No one had to fight me
to get me to agree to treatment, because I knew I was doing the right thing by giving it up, I just needed to be sober to
accept that. I wanted to quit, to be the man Elena deserved and needed. I wanted to stop wondering if the tears on her
pillow every night were because my shit's been eating her alive or because she regretted marrying someone who would
only end up being another disappointment. I knew the withdrawals were going to be hell, but this was the hardest damn
thing I've done in my life. I hope I can look in the mirror in two months and still see the sober, hopeful man I did this
morning. I hope I can finally be what she needs.
The clinician's chair slides out and she's gone, leaving us alone with nothing but time. A future.
As I slip my hands into my coat sleeves and feel Elena's warm hand slide into mine, I know I've got a struggle ahead of
me. Rehab was ruthless on my nerves; as soon as I went off the painkillers, I lost it. I experienced what I imagine
everyone else does in these types of places. The things people fear the most. I heard plenty of stories from peers while I
was here, and I came to realize I've got it a whole lot better than most. Some guys in here don't have anyone to go home
to. Don't have reasons to stay clean, or live or dream. But I do, and I'll be damn sure I let Elena know how very sorry I am
and how precious every moment I spend with her will be from this point forward.
We haven't really talked...not about what happened. I apologized in the hospital, and it wasn't just for the reckless actions
of the night that got me here, but her eyes were so full of tears and she simply shook her head and silently plead me not
to go any further into it. I know she forgives me and seems willing to move one without a grudge, but I know her better
than I know myself, which means I know the thoughts swimming in her mind are a lot darker than the smile she wears.
Someday it's going to come out, and I want to hear every single thing she thinks, because I can't bear to know she's
holding something in for fear of hurting me.
She doesn't want to scare me. I was right beside her as the clinicians walked us through the steps of recovery. I felt her
hands squeeze my leg as they rattled off how important a stable environment is to this all, how vital family and a support
system is to my success. To my future. So it's a damn good thing I've got an amazing family, because for as much as I
pushed them away from me and out of my life recently, they're welcoming me back into theirs so easily.
Hello, normal.
"Ready to do this?" She asks softly. I'm relieved as hell to be beside her again, out in the fresh air without the eyes of
many keeping track of my every move. I tell myself it was only painkillers, not heroin or crack or meth or anything really
hard. But I know in the scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. A drug is a drug, and an addiction is dangerous
regardless of its source.
"Yeah," I say simply as my eyes float over her every beautiful feature, soaking her in. It's not like I haven't seen her while I
was in rehab. I was allowed visitations, but I guess I always felt there was still something standing between us. Like my
apology wasn't enough. Like I needed to work up an amazing, honest speech for the day I finally came home to her. But I
know home means something different nowsomewhere different, and now that it's here, my words are as dried up as
my first clean day.
Stable means giving up racing, traveling. It means the days of getting in a car and driving from one city to the next are
long gone, and life as Elena and I know it together will never be the same. There will be no more long, hard nights or
crappy motels. We'll finally be doing the one thing I wasn't sure we'd ever dosettling down. It's not that I'm afraid; I just
always pictured it being under different circumstances, if it did happen. We'd make a mutual decision, not by force, and it
would be so good when the time was right. When we'd worked the wildness out of our bones and were ready to
understand what a good, solid life would mean. I think the drugs in my system made it easier to believe that she felt the
same way, but the time alone without them has made me realize I was only telling myself that because it was easier.
She did want to settle down; there was no denying the flicker of joy in her eyes when she told me she might be pregnant.
She was happy, somehow, even thought I was a colossal fuck-up who was in no way prepared to be a father. I was
scared of what something like that might mean, but I heard her sobbing in the corner of the hospital one night and
begged her to tell me what was wrong. She told me her late period was due to stressthat she took a test and it was
negative. It's probably better anyway, she said, but I'm still left wondering if her tears were of sadness or relief, because
things could've turned out very differently for us. A little harder on the wheel and I could be gone. I few more pills in my
belly and I could be a ghost, and that's a shitty story for a mom to have to tell a child.
I climb into the passenger side of my Mom's four-door silver sedan and reality hits; Elena's about to drive us to my
childhood home. It's only been a few years since I lived at home with my parents. Before my dad died. Before I just
wanted to get away and forget. I spent a few months over the summer at home, but it never felt the same as it did when I
was a kid. It was temporary and I could feel the difference. The only home I've really known lately is Elena, and I'm so
happy she's by my side.
I try to put myself in her shoes, but it's hard. I try to picture her lost, gone, away...but I can't. I just can't imagine my life
without her. All I see is darkness, and I hope I never have to go through it. It's this thought that makes me realize why she
stuck by my side; we love each other dangerously. Fully. Unconditionally, and I know if I were her, I'd have done the same
"Whatcha thinking about?" She asks. I know I've been quiet the whole ride. The rehab center is two hours out of Eagle
River and we're nearly home. I've said all of two sentences the whole way, and I can tell she's worried. I know this isn't
the way she dreamed it would be a perfect reunion where nothing is wrong and nothing hurts. Where there's no guilt
and I don't get nightmares of hurting her again.
"Everything," I lick my lips and run my hand through my hair. Wisconsin is beautiful in spring; it's green and blooming and
I focus on the scenery passing me by through my window. I owe her the truth, every part of me. I owe her things I fear I
can never give her but want so badly to try. "Just a little weirded out by it all, you know? Living with my Mom again..."
Nothing like loud sex with my wife when I know my Mom's a few hundred feet away scrapbooking or baking brownies.
Not to mention the fact I'm up for asshole-son-of-the-year award.
"And then there's Harlow..." I add, picturing my twin sister...my first friend, my forever best friend.
"You don't have to worry about them being angry with you," she assures me, and a grin finds my lips because she's so
damn good at reading me. I don't have to say a word and she gets it, and it's just one of the thousands of things I love
about her. "We're all just happy you're safe and coming home."
Home. It's so strange to hear that word come off her lips so naturally. My family welcomed her into their lives and their
home from the moment she made the call to Harlow. I'm beyond grateful for what they've done for her and ultimately, us.
They comforted my wife when I could not. Cooked for her and gave her a place to stay and did all of the things I should've
been doing all along. She looks healthy and happy and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to repay them for loving a woman
they'd only met once and accepting her into our family as if she were born into it.
"Elena, look..." I begin, unsure of what I'm even about to say. I know what I want to, what I need to, but I'm not sure how or
if she'll believe me the way I need her to. I need her to know I'm completely dilapidated, down to my heart. Devastated
that we're even here right now. More disappointed in myself than I can even understand. I feel raw and hollow and
desperately need her to fill me up with warmth and love. And that's the thing that hurts the most, because regardless of
whether or not I deserve it, she'll do it without a second thought.
"Don't, okay?" She smiles sweetly as we pull into the driveway. She reaches for the knob of the stereo and silences our
distraction, leaving us alone with our thoughts, the ones I want to get out there before we set foot in our temporary home.
"I'm not even worried about anything right now except getting you settled into our room and eating a big dinner. The rest
will work itself out."
I offer her a disbelieving look, and her fingertips ghost along my hairline. "It will," she repeats softly. She's been fighting
our demons for us, alone. She's the bravest woman I know to have overcome it on her own. There was a time she was
right beside me, popping the cap of that bottle and reveling in the sweet haziness of oxy. And though she's working hard
to be strong for me, I know she still blames herself for giving me that first bottle, but I don't see it that way at all.
"And if it doesn't...what if it doesn't or I freak out or," I didn't realize my hands were shaking until she stills them with hers. I
look up into her soft brown eyes and I believe her. I trust her. "I won't hurt you again, or us. I don't want to, you know that
right?" My voice shakes, riveted with emotion. I'm about to crack, break, sob like a baby because I can't remember being
so afraid in my life. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
We were just supposed to have fun. Finish growing up...
"I know you won't," she bites her lower lip and leans across the console to kiss me softly. Somehow, it feels new. I taste
her lipgloss and that damn sweetness that could only be Elena. The kiss isn't angry or laced with hidden
disappointment. It's not desperate but not robotic, and the motion of her lips against mine reminds of me of how great
life with Elena really is. How she warms me and wraps me up in her arms until the rest of the world and all of my
problems just fade away.
"Thank you," I whisper against her lips. "For...for staying," I'm humbled, completely.
"I love you, Damon. You," she says again before pressing her lips to mine. "Everything that you are and everything you'll
be. Everything we'll be from this point forward. And I'm not going anywhere, okay?" Her fingers run though my hair,
calming me completely. I want to fall into her, love her the way I always meant to. I need her in a way I never knew I could.
"I'm yours. Forever."
Present Day...
"That sunset is gorgeous," Elena's head is pressed against my arm, way too far over in the seat to be comfortable. Her
feet are bare and reclined up on the dashboard, her toes pressing against the windshield. The sky is orange and yellow
with just a hint of purple, and it's layered in a way I know we'll never see again, just like the way Elena's looking up at me.
She trusts me, though I'm sure by now she knows where we're going.
How couldn't she? We've been in the car far too long for just a weekend trip away at some bread and breakfast. We're
headed West, but we didn't pack beach-wear and she knows there's no way in hell I'll ever go back to Las Vegas. She
hasn't said as much, but I can tell she's nervous. She knows what this is, or at least she thinks she does. Sure, she's
probably got the location down, but I'm almost positive she'll never guess the actual reason; I wouldn't bring her down
here just to trudge up more lost memories.
I know, I know. Hasn't she gone through enough lately? It took one, heart-shattering reminder to bring it all back, and I've
been paying close attention to her moods since. She's been happy, mostly. I see the fire of the woman I first fell in love
with mixed with the sweetness and hopefulness of the woman who woke up and gave me the opportunity to fall in love
all over again. She's everything I wanted and more, and sometimes I get the feeling I've barely scratched the surface of
her beautiful layers. I know more than ever before, I'm going to love every single of them. Yes, even the scary ones, like
the look she's suddenly giving me right now that the sun is down and we're still driving.
It hasn't escaped me how familiar this all is. Us, driving around to a destination unknown to her. I know she remembers
this before, and I wonder if she's clouded at all by the thoughts of what that all gave us. But despite all the bad that came
out of our life on the road, this is still somehow fun. At least it was, until a few minutes ago.
I feel her fear from the way she shifts away from me. Her warm cheek that was once pressed safely against my shoulder
is now red and in the grey light of dusk, I can see the panic flowing from her eyes in tiny streams. She may not
understand this and I may seem like a fool for bringing her here, but when it's all in the open, I hope she understands
why I did.
"Pull over, please," she asks quietly, barely above a whisper. "I need to get out."
"We can't. We're on the freeway. I'll take the next exit and we can stretch our legs and grab a snack or something. Sound
"No," she snaps, and I see the part of my Elena that was absent for so longthe part that panics. The part that refuses to
take no for an answer. "I need to get out now. Right now. Please."
I swallow and click my signal on to indicate we'll be hanging out on the shoulder for a bit. Her seatbelt is off and she's
out of the car before I've shifted it into park. My gut aches and my heart hurts knowing I've done this. What I wanted to be a
fun trip turned into this, and we're way closer to Wyoming than Wisconsin. It's after rush hour, but the traffic is still pretty
steady and I'm worried about her as she paces the length of the car. She needs the fresh air and I get that, but she
could've at least stayed inside and let me roll the windows down. At least I'd know she wouldn't get hit.
I scoot across the seats to exit through the passenger door and avoid an incident myself, and she bumps into my chest
without looking.
"Tell me I'm wrong," she says seriously. Her big brown eyes are lit with fire and disbelief, like she's pleading with me to
surprise her...to tell her we're going anywhere by Wyoming. But I've never lied to her and I'm not about to start. "Tell me
you're not bringing me there," her voice breaks, and I know she's more afraid than angry.
I'm not sure what to say to make this better, so I don't say anything at all. I take her small wrists in my hands and press a
kiss to her lips, but she pulls away and I'm hurt by the loss.
"Don't, Damon," she takes a few steps back. "Just tell me I'm wrong, because I know you wouldn't do this. You're not
ready, just like I'm not ready. I don't want to see it," she wipes a tear from under her eye, and I want to pull her into my
arms and comfort her so badly, but I know I shouldn't because I'm the source of her grief right now.
"I can't. You're not wrong..." I start and she huffs and spins around with her back to me and her arms crossed around her
perfect little body. I feel the life drain from me; it feels like an eternity before I see her eyes again, and when I do, they're
wet. "You're not wrong, but it's also not what you think. Trust me. I wanted to surprise you. I wanted..."
"When you said it was a surprise, I didn't picture this, okay? I thought California or Seattle or somewhere we've never
been. I thought Hey, this is awesome. I can't wait to get away from everything for a bit. I went along with it because I know
if there's two places in the world we'll never go again, it's Vegas and Wyoming. So tell me, please, why the hell you'd
think bringing me to a place I nearly died is a good idea," The words snap harshly from her lips and I instantly know I
fucked up.
There's something wrong; it's not just anger. I don't know how I didn't see it before...there's something she's not telling
me. I sense it in the way she's keeping her distance; I felt it when she pulled away from my kiss. I hate it. I hate my
decision to come here...to take a chance to try to do something good when I knew it could turn out so badly. She won't let
me finish.
"Calm down, baby,"
"Don't tell me to calm down. That's about the worst thing you could say right now. I'll calm down when I'm damn well
ready to calm down, and believe you me, that is not right now. How could you do this to me?"
Well fuck, I didn't expect this. Ten minutes ago she was laughing and silly, belting out country songs on the radio and
now she's a puddle of emotions leaking on the pavement. I know this is all part of itthe loss and regaining of painful
memoriesbut I'm completely blindsided by this sudden outburst. Hell, if I could go back in time and tell her why before
we left, I would. Sure, it'd wreck the surprise, but it'd be a whole lot better than this.
A semi blows past and I feel the car shake beside us. It startles me, and I realize the side of the highway is not a place to
discuss anything, so I nod my head to the car and suggest we get back in. She's stubborn as hell and I can tell she
wants to fight me on this, but I stare at her long enough to break through her anger and I know she's just broken when
her shoulders slump and she ducks back into the car behind me.
"You trust me, right?" I don't know how or why sometimes, now that she remembers the shit I put us through, but I know
she does.
"I do. You know I do," she swallows. "And that's why I don't understand this. Why Wyoming? I hate it there and I always
have. It's all bad...the memories as a child, and it can only get worse. I just got my memories back...all except this one.
And I don't want it," she says loudly. "I don't want to remember that fire, Damon. It's bad enough as it is..."
I want to beg her to tell me what she won't, what she hasn't, but I know better. There's a good chance she knows
something even I don't, like what happened in her parents' house the night of the fire. What secrets was she storing
inside her big, wounded heart when she walked through those doors, only to come out practically lifeless in a fireman's
arms. I choke back a sob at the memory of her burned body and fear roiling in my stomach, telling me this was karma.
This was my payback for all my bad choices. Life was taking from me the only true thing that I needed to survive...
Thank God for that time between tragedies. It was short, but it was beautiful and exactly what I needed. The memories
we made in those months kept me hopeful for a future when she was laid up in the hospital, hooked up to machines that
told me she was still alive. Life at my Mom's was actually great, and it gave me a chance to apologize and rebuild
relationships I'd taken for granted for too long.
And once Elena and I moved out on our own and into the very home we live in now, my mother and sister were still there
supporting me. They swooped in and took me under their wings, much like they did Elena when I was gone. And
because of those months, I was able to stay strong...able to fight the urges I might have caved to had it been any earlier.
"I hope I never remember," she says seriously, and I wish I could take it all away. I wish I could go back in time and stop
her from taking off to Wyoming in the rush that she did.
"Baby, that's not what this is. Believe me. I'm not bringing you to the site of your old home. I wouldn't do that, not on my
life," I assure her. I sound angry and hurt, but I can't help it. I'm not doing this to test her trust. I'm doing it because I love
her and I'll never stop trying to think up ways to make her life a little brighter. Unfortunately, she's hung up on only the bad,
and I guess I get why. I could've done this differently, and now I wish I would have. Maybe she's not as strong as I
thought, and that's okay.
Oh yeah, the psychologists would have a field day with this decision.
"Please, Elena. Just trust me. We won't come within 30 miles of that place. I swear," I hold my hands up and watch the
panic on her face dissolve into something like confusion. My wife's a smart cookie, so I know it be much longer before
she makes a few guesses.
But it's been years since she's seen her, so maybe she has no idea...
We pull off at the next exit as promised and refuel with giant coffees and soft pretzels. The remaining three hours go
quickly, and before long we're pulling up to a two-story brick home a far distance away from Elena's old stomping
grounds. It's almost 10 p.m., so I contemplated renting a room in a nearby hotel, but I couldn't do that to Elena knowing
she's on pins and needles. I sent off a text about an hour ago when Elena was glued to her window, staring out at the
scenery I'm sure brought back memories. The message I received back assured me it didn't matter how late we arrived.
"Damon..." she says softly, her voice laced with surprise. The surprise I had hoped to pull off.
"Tell me I'm wrong..." but this time, it's different. This time, she's happy. And god damn is she beautiful when she's
happy. Her eyes are wide and I love the smile playing on her lips as she starts to understand what this trip was all about.
I shake my head as my grin spreads from ear-to-ear, and she's across the seats and in my lap before I get the chance to
say a word. She snuggles in, nuzzles her nose into my neck and I feel the wetness of her tears against my skin. I thread
my hands through her soft hair and hold her to me, as she presses tender, thankful kisses on my neck and jawline. Her
hands are in my hair and she's tugging just enough to make me wish we had gotten a room a few miles back. I feel the
changes in everything from the way she kisses to the confidence she wears beneath me in our bed.
"Are you serious?" She asks, pulling away and biting her lip as she looks up into my eyes. "You found her?
These are the moments I lovethe pure joy on her face, the curve of her sweet, sexy lips. These are the moments I wish
I could bottle and keep forever so I could pull them out and douse her in them when things are rough. I'm trying my
damnedest to keep that smile on her face. Permanently.
"Yeah, baby," I say, feeling ten thousand degrees of relief rushing through my veins. "I found her."
"And she wants to see me?" She swipes her finger under her eyes and pulls the visor mirror down. She claws her hands
through her hair and pulls her lipgloss her purse with shaky hands.
"More than you know," I smile and brush a strand of hair out of her eyes. I take a breath and get ready to explain
everything. How we came into contact and how she begged me to see her. I'm afraid of what's coming, now that it's here.
I'm afraid Elena will be angry with me for keeping the fact that I kept this from her the whole time, but the timing was
wrong and now...it's right.
There's more to it than this, I'm sure. But she wouldn't say why, wouldn't give a hint of what she needed to say. So I'm as
curious as my gorgeous, nervous wife when we stop in front of the big wooden door standing between us and the only
real family Elena's ever known.
I'm holding her hand, watching her hold her breath and squeeze her eyes close when that big door opens. And I know
that I really know more than the stories she's told me, but I don't need to to feel the love coming from this woman when
she she's Elena for the first time in years. For the first time in 18 long years. And I feel a part of it somehow.
It's slow motion, like something out of a movie even a guy needs a box of tissue beside him to watch. By now she knows
who she'll see when she opens her eyes, but the surprise and elation is all the same when she does. A small cry
escapes the woman's lips, and she captures her in a huge embrace.
"Joey. Oh my God..." Her voice is shaky and it warms me, knowing I've turned this almost horrible day around just like I'd
hoped. "Oh my God..." Something indecipherable explodes in her eyes. A memory? I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything
but the fact that this moment is perfect.
Watching my girl in the arms of the woman who practically raised her for six years is beautiful.
Elena needed this, more than I even knew. Elena loved her, probably more than her own parents, and they were never
given a chance to say goodbye. It was quick and out-of-nowhere, according to Elena's stories, but as she got older, she
realized they dismissed Joey because their daughter was away at boarding school. Elena's favorite childhood stories
always revolve Joey. Cookies for Santa. Trips to the mall for new clothes. Dolls. Movies. Everything Joey.
When she called me out-of-the-blue a month ago, I had no idea where this was going. I didn't even know how she knew
my name. But the internet does amazing things, and there's no doubt in my mind we were plastered all over the papers
after that fire. The only thing I don't understand is why she waited so long...
"Oh, Elena," she kisses her on the cheek. "Look at you. You're gorgeous, sweetie..."
I can't see her, but I can tell Elena's smiling. I can hear it in her laugh. And when she turns and I'm faced with the two of
them at once, I'm hit with the craziest idea on the planet. My stomach twists and I feel my chest tighten, because I'm not
sure I want it to be true. But God...her frame and those eyes...
"And you're Damon..." she sniffles back tears and reaches out to pull me into a hug. "It's so nice to see you in person.
Thank you for bringing her to me..." She squeezes my arm a little and I feel the electric charge shift between us. There's
something big behind her brown eyes. She's trying to tell me something, I swear. "Please, come in. Don't worry about the
noise. The kids are teenagers; they're all about noise. And Steven, my husband, works third shift. I'll set you up in a room
and put on some tea and maybe we could catch up. Unless you're too tired..." she says, but she's halfway in the house
and I'm starting to see why Elena's so fond of her.
Beside me, Elena takes a breath and smiles. She leans up on her tiptoes and kisses me deeply in front of that open
front door. I taste her love and appreciation then, mixed with something else.
"Thank you, Damon. You were right to bring me here," she swallows. "I'm sorry for ever doubting you. This is incredible..."
She squeezes my hand and pulls me through the door, but I can't get that stubborn idea out of my head and I feel guilty
for not telling Elena about it. I scour my memory for images of Elena as a child...of her with her parents...but I come up
empty, because the only photo I've seen of them was posted in the paper after the fire. I never met them in person. She
hated them, so by default, I wanted them out of my mind too. But now...
"Just...thank you..." Elena whispers again.
I smile, unable to form words. I want to be wrong, but I also want to be right. I'm not sure what would be easier to
swallow. I'm not sure things will ever be the same.
A/N: Thank you for reading!
*Chapter 15*: Wake Me Up
A/N: Thank you so much for sticking with me. I know it's been a long time. Too long. But I never intended to leave this
story and I don't intend to now. Thanks for seeing me through the slow updates. My kids are getting older and there
is not enough coffee in the world most days to allow me to find the time I'd like to write.
Back to the story. We're in Elena's head after a very big chapter, and it took a long time for me to hammer out the
details I wanted to make sure they were just right. Thank you so much for the feedback through reviews. I love the
guesses some of you have made, and I appreciate the time you take to let me know what you think.
I chose Aloe Blacc's acoustic version of "Wake Me Up," for this chapter. I'm not sure there's a better song in the
world for something like this.
Thanks again for reading!
Chapter 14 Wake Me Up
Fall 1996
"Why do I have to go away?"
Joey's next to me, holding my hand in an airport full of people I don't know. I swing my legs back and forth because they
don't touch the ground. She squeezes my hand, but I just keep looking at my feet. I don't want her to see me cry. I'm not a
baby. I'm not.
"It'll be okay, sweetie. You'll be home for Thanksgiving soon, and we can make that pie I promised we would this year.
You're old enough to help, now," she smiles. Her voice sounds shaky and her eyes sad. I don't think she wants me to
know she's crying, either. We're kind of the same like that.
Two days ago, my mom and dad sat across from me at the kitchen table and told me I'm leaving, going away where I'll
sleep at school and won't come home unless it's a holiday or summer. I've been on an airplane before, but only to go on
vacation and never without Mom or Dad. But everything's different now. I'm six, and Mom says I have to go away to this
school because no place around home is good enough, but she didn't seem sad about it. She didn't even cry when I left
with Joey for the airport.
My stomach hurts; I feel like I might throw up. I'm sad an confused, but I'm just a kid and my Mom and Dad don't listen to
me. They helped me pack my things and said I'd love school and meet a lot of people and make them proud, but they
never came to even one of my school programs for Kindergarten, so I don't know if they really mean it. How do they just
know I'll be okay? Sometimes it's like they forget about me.
"But I don't want to go. I'm afraid," I finally say. "What if no one likes me?"
I finally look up at Joey, because I know I won't see her for a long time. Her eyes are wet, and brown like mine, and just
being with her makes me feel better. She's flying with me and helping me get to the school, and then she has to go back.
She has to leave me there alone with people I don't know. Strangers.
I feel so sick.
"Oh, honey. That won't happen. They'll love you. You're a good girl and I'll bet you make lots of friends before you come
home in a few months. I can't wait to hear the stories. You tell such good stories..." she stops and sniffles and swallows
hard. She's not very old. She's younger than my Mom and Dad and doesn't have a family of her own, so I like to pretend
she's a part of mine.
"But I will miss you," she adds, pushing a few strands of my hair behind my ear and smiling. "Very much." I smile and
wrap my arms around her neck, happy she's here.
I don't remember a time without Joey. She's been with me since the day I was born. She's my best friend, and I love her. I
love my parents, but they don't do things with me the way she does. They hardly read me stories or play dolls. And when I
cry or I'm sad, she's the one that cheers me up. I'm not sure how I'll make it without her...
Present Day
"Take some time for yourselves. Get settled in," Joey's voice is as soft and reassuring as I remember as she leads up
the stairs to the room we'll be staying in tonight. I'm stiff and sore from the long ride in, but my mind's a live wire, thrilled
and curious at what this trip will bring. I follow behind her with one hand folded securely in Damon's, my smile widening
when I catch him looking at me out of the corner of his eye.
I'm incredibly grateful for this chance to reconnect with someone who was once a very vital part of my life, and while he
knows I cared for her, I'm not sure he'll ever truly know what this means to me. I squeeze his hand once and mouth a very
definite I love you as we continue down the hall.
It's every bit as cozy as I would have imagined, with a sweet, light scent of apples floating in the air and collages of
framed photos along the wall. I eye them quickly, curious about the memories she's been making since the last time we
saw each other. I want to know more, everything, but I'm not sure it's my place anymore and I don't want to seem nosy, so
I make a note to check them out later on the trip back up tonight. I hope to get the chance to meet her children, and to
properly thank her for giving me some of the only good memories I have of my childhood and being there when no one
else was.
But most of all, I'd like to know the real reasons I never saw her after that cab ride to my new school. In adulthood, I've
come to learn the stories my parents told me as a child were not always true. That they bent and molded them to fit their
needs and could have cared less about what it meant to anyone elseeven me.
"I'll give you fair warning about the twins since you'll be sharing a bathroom with them," she smiles as we reach the room
at the end of the hall. "Jeremy's in and out in 15 minutes at night, but it's a miracle if Katherine's morning routine clocks
in at under an hour and a half, and it's a sauna in there for a good thirty minutes after. God love them," she laughs and I
can't help but smile at the affection in her voice as she talks about her kids. It's just so Joey, and it's exactly the tone she
used with me; I've missed her more than I realized.
"Been there," Damon says then lets out a descending whistle and smiles. "I've got a twin sister. We're grown up and
married off, but I swear she's still hogging the bathroom. At least it feels that when she comes over, doesn't it, 'Lena?"
I shake my head a smile, grateful that my husband is so personable; He's got a knack for making any moment a little
more comfortable. Joey smiles and brushes a fuzz of his shoulder before her eyes flash to mine and hang there for just
a few long moments. She's saying something without words, but I can't hear her. Not yet.
"Let me know if you need anything. There are fresh towels in the bathroom closet and extra blankets in closet in your
room. You can turn on the space heater if you get too cold, and anything in the cupboards or refrigerator is fair game,"
she says kindly. "I'll put on some tea, or coffee if you'd rather...unless you're too tired..." her words linger and it's obvious
she doesn't want us to go right to bed. I get the feeling she wants to talk to me as badly as I do her, so I shake my head
and let her know we'll be down in just a few moments.
She's off with a smile and soon I'm behind closed doors with Damon, plopping down on the soft queen size bed against
the wall. I unwind my hair from the rubberband securing my messy bun and let it fall loosely around me as I crash down
on my back and stretch my arms out above my head. I yawn, not because I'm tired, but because my body can't keep up
with the rest of me. I squeeze my eyes shut once, then prop myself up on my elbows and watch Damon crouch down
and unzip the duffel bag in front of the dresser. I'm not sure how long we plan to stay, but I don't think we'll need to
unpack. Still, it's nice to watch him quietly as he slips his Henley over his head and searches for a clean t-shirt in our
bag. It's over all too soon and he's fully dressed and out of his Timberland's before I can even suggest a quicky before
we head back downstairs.
"She's sweet," he says softly, sitting next to me on the bed. "And she's happy to see you," his long, warm fingers stroke
through my wavy hair as the tips touch the pillow and the corners of his mouth lift into a delicious smile. From the looks
of it, I can tell he wants to say something else but can't find the words. I know how he feels. I've been a jumble of feelings
since my memories came back. There is so much I want to say and do, so much lost time I'm desperate to make up for,
but I take it one day at a time, because there's no way in hell I'm rushing through it; Life's far too beautiful to rush.
I turn and snuggle my cheek deeper into the soft pillow, staring up at him as I stifle another yawn. "I'm almost nervous,
you know?" I say biting my lip and pulling myself up to sit beside him. "I shouldn't be...I just have so many questions-" I
swallow. "But she wanted to see me? She called you?"
He nods and swallows and I see a troubled look in my eyes that matches the thick feeling in my throat. While I'm excited
and this all seems amazing, it also feels big and heavier than it should.
"I'm just kind of wondering...why now?" I lick my lips and whisper. I'm sure she's downstairs fiddling with the tea kettle,
but I don't want to run the risk of her hearing me if she's upstairs. "Did she try to contact you at all after the fire?"
"No," he says quickly. "She called me up one day after you'd woken up. Said she'd seen the press on the fire and your
parents' death, saw you were in a coma and that they'd run a brief story in the newspaper saying you'd woken up, but
that's it. I'm as confused as you are," he smiles and I let out a puff of air I'd been holding in my cheeks. I guess I'm more
anxious than I realized.
"You ready for some answers?" He asks as he stands from the bed and reaches out a hand to pull me up with him.
When I nod, he presses a kiss to my temple and opens the door for us without saying a word.
The trip down the hall to the staircase is longer than it was the first time. I've got jitters, excitement coursing through my
veins. My heart pounds so hard I can feel it in my ears, and it's Damon's warm hand between my shoulder blades that
wakes me from my zombie march to let me know we've reached the living room.
There's a fire burning safely behind the glass of the fireplace a sectional couch in the corner of the soft green room. In
the kitchen, I hear cabinets opening and closing and hot water being poured into ceramic mugs on the counter. I take a
few steps toward the kitchen, feeling like I should go in and help her get things ready. I glance over my shoulder at
Damon, and as he lowers himself onto the couch, his eyes tell me to go. I'm grateful as hell that he's here with me for
such a big moment, but I'm also thankful he understands I need alone time, too.
He's never smothering, but always there. He gets me, maybe even better than he did before the fire. He gets me enough
to understand that I'm not the person I was when we met and that's not a bad thing. I'm happier, freer, and I owe a lot of it
to my accident, as horrible as that sounds. Waking up with no memory taught me the future doesn't always depend on
the past, and it's a lesson I won't forget.
If it's possible, I love him more than ever. I'm so happy my heart didn't forget the things my mind did. I know life will never
throw us so big a curve ball that we can't handle. I know no matter what, we'll always love each other like this.
I reach the kitchen just as Joey's setting bags of earl grey tea on a tray with our mugs. I mean to help, but I find myself
awestruck, watching her as she works across the room the way I used to as a child. She looks the way she always has
with a spring in her step and a smile in her eyes, but there are the making of wrinkles where there once was smooth
skin and a few grey streaks in her beautiful dark hair.
Her hands shake as she sets a plate of cookies on the tray, so I walk up beside her at the counter and wrap my hands
around the handles on each side to lift it.
"I've got it," I say softly and she rests her hand on my shoulder with a smile. Her hand is warm and she squeezes my
shoulder once before letting go.
"Thank you," her voice waivers, from nerves or tears I don't know, but she's obviously experiencing some of the same
anxiety I am. "Is this enough? How hungry are you? I could make up some sandwiches or put on some soup,"
"This is great. Thank you," I assure her. I lift the tray and peek into the living room where I see Damon fast asleep on the
couch with his head tipped back and his legs crossed at his ankles. How that man falls asleep so fast I'll never know,
but I don't want to wake him after the long drive we had in. I appreciate Damon's support and willingness to be by my
side through everything, but maybe it's best I do some things on my own. And maybe talking to Joey is one of them.
"He's exhausted," I offer with a smile. "Adorable and exhausted." Joey's eyes fall on my hands as I twist my wedding
bands around my fingera habit I had before the fire that I've recently picked up. "I guess we should let him sleep, even
if it means he'll be wide awake and antsy later when I'm trying to go to bed." I laugh, setting the tray down on the kitchen
table and pulling out a chair.
Joey sits across from me and steeps her teabag in her mug of steaming hot water. She looks up at me and I can tell
there are a million thoughts on the tip of her tongue. It feels like I've been waiting for this moment forever, and now that
I'm here, I have no idea what to say.
So much has happened since we talked; I no longer need to ask her to help me tie my shoe or braid my hair, but the
familiarity of sitting with her is as calming as it was when I was a child. I feel like I could tell her everything and she would
just understand, but how and where do I begin to explain that I became a rebellious teenager who drank myself through
the end of high school and only managed to graduate because my parents had full pockets and liked to pull strings? I
don't expect her to know a thing about me, other than the fact that I lost my parents in a fire and fell into a crazy long
Some of the stories I have to tell may disappoint her, shock her even. But the life I'm building now, and have been
building since Damon and I moved in with his Mother, is the kind of story I'm proud to tell.
The smile that spreads across Joey's lips is genuine and soft. Her big eyes squeeze close once, and when she opens
them, they're glassy.
"It's amazing, you know..." she bites her lip and runs her finger along the rim of her mug. She seems as nervous as I am.
"To be sitting here with you, eighteen years later, drinking real tea instead of the imaginary stuff."
"And with my husband snoring just a few feet away," I add, tipping my head back toward the living room. "Life's pretty
crazy like that. I've learned just about anything can happen. And just about everything has happened to me. Good and
Suddenly I find myself wanting to tell her everything; when it comes right down to it, she's the first friend I ever had. I
wonder what kind of ideas she's got swimming in her head about the way I grew up after she was gone. And I think one
day I will tell her...just not tonight.
"But it's all good now. I'm happy and getting back to normal. Settling down and all that, now that my memories are all
coming back. Took a few wrong turns on the way, but man, I'm a lucky woman, and I realize that now." I sip my tea and
smile, happy to settle on that summary.
"I'm sorry about the way I left you. It's haunted me for years. I can't even tell you." I know what she means, but I also
always sort of thought I'd blown her departure out of proportion because I was small and it really did feel like the end of
the world when I came back from Thanksgiving and she was gone. But she looks broken up about it, and I wonder if she
really did love me more than just as much as her job required.
"What really happened? I mean with Mom and Dad...and you," I clear my throat. I've always been sort of afraid of this
answer, because I can't imagine Joey just up and leaving on her own. Believing my cold-hearted parents fired her or sent
her away was always the easier scenario. And maybe by now I should be over it, but I'm not, because it's just another
thing unanswered.
"They said you left hours after you came home from the airport. Mom said it had been the plan all along...that once I was
away at school, you had no intentions of sticking around or coming back for summers. They told me I was nothing more
than a job, and once I was gone, you were off to take care of someone else..." As I say the words, I can feel the blood
working its way into my cheeks.
I'm a grown woman, but I feel like a child begging for answers about something that is long over and done.
"I had to leave," her voice is shaky. "I couldn't stand it anymore. Couldn't be there with them. Couldn't stand the fact that
they'd sent you away to school for strangers to raise instead of me..." She stops, "And chosen not to raise you
Her eyes flicker with sadness and...shame? She reaches across the table and takes my hand in hers and I can feel a
shift in the air. Whatever it is she's about to say, it's big. I hold my breath as I meet her brown eyes, and pray like hell I'm
not about to get my heartbroken all over again.
"You didn't want me to go away to school?" I frown, confused. While I loved her for the way she cared for me, I always
knew I was her job. I was too little to really understand it, but she always seemed brave and strong. I heard her speak up
to my parents if she disagreed with something, but the next day she'd keep her eyes on the floor when she passed them,
and I assumed she'd gotten a stern reminder of her place, much like I often did when I misbehaved.
I heard her argue with my father a few times, but I was too small to understand why. But it always passed over...always
ended there and we went on living. I didn't think I'd lose her.
"No. I hated the idea at first, and not just because I figured I'd be out of a job. You were so young and vulnerable. You
needed love...love I constantly saw them neglect to show you. So while I hated the idea of you being sent away, I secretly
thought being away from that environment was maybe for the best. Needless to say, they didn't like what I had to say
regarding any of it,"
"Let me guess," I swallow, saddened and surprised by this touching information. "My father reminded you that you were
'just the help?'" I offer sadly. "And they'd do whatever the hell they needed to do because it wasn't your business?"
"Your father is...was...a strong, confident man, there's no doubting that. He had a way with words and a way to put people
in their place when he thought he needed to...but he wasn't the reason I left...well, not really..."
I don't know where this is going, so I keep my mouth closed and hope for the best. I have no idea of the relationship she
had with my parents or how she even came to be hired. I always imagined they'd just found a name in the classifieds
and handed me off. I really wish I could tell her to hold on so I could wake Damon, because it would really be nice to hold
his hand if this turns crazy.
"I was young, Elena," suddenly, the color's gone from her cheeks. "Only 18 when it happened...23 when I left. I was nave
and afraid and I had no concept of consequences. I thought I was invincible...that it would never happen to me. I thought
we were different...that he loved me..."
And just like that, I feel my airways begin to close.
"I really thought he'd leave her. I thought we'd be together. That'd he'd pick me...us...but I was a fool, and you're the one
who suffered for it..."
I've been holding my breath too long. There are tiny stars before my eyes that only multiply when I shut them. I take a
deep breath and let it out, then repeat the process again and again while I work through a moment as it filters back into
my mind.
"I was wrong, Elena. Wrong about everything. And I'll regret it for the rest of my life, because it wasn't fair to you..."
I don't need her to finish her story to know the truth. I know it...or knew some version of it. And I've known it for four years.
I've buried it in the deepest, darkest part of my brain, and I wish so badly I could've remembered. But I know why my brain
kept it hidden.
Remembering it hurts, and that was without these new details. My entire life was a lie.
Wyoming Four Years Ago
I'm out of breath. I tighten my grip on the old, yellowing photo in my hand and push through the front door of my childhood
home, hell bent on answers.
I'm wrecked. Messy hair, twisted up in high bun and mascara so runny I could pass for a raccoon. I could've
flown...should've flown. But like everything else lately, I acted without reason or logic. I got in my beautiful black Sparrow,
alone, and let her purr down the highways and country roads without thinking about what it would do to my husband.
Without thinking what it could do to me...
I drove fourteen some hours with shaky hands, a pounding heart and a cigarette in my mouth. I sobbed at stop-lights
and screamed questions at people who weren't there. I ignored phone calls from Damon, who was out of his mind
worried about me and why I'd left in such a rush. At one point I looked down at my phone and saw a text message that
Are you leaving me?
And the best I could come up with...the most I could muster up from my stupid, selfish, broken, little girl-heart was.
Jesus Christ. No. I love you. I just need to do this alone.
Of course I fully knew he had no idea what was wrong. I left in a hurry. Threw clothes in a duffel bag and took off within an
hour of finding that folder. Within an hour of finding this photo that's in my hand.
I'm 19-fucking-years-old and I need answers. Now. Right fucking now.
As soon as I see them, my insides rot. Dad's sitting a chair, reading the Sunday newspaper like he's some easy-going,
laid back person who cares about the rest of the world. His feet are up on an ottoman and Mom's sitting on the couch
with her head tipped back and some stupid facial mask on her eyes. I storm in hard and fast, demanding answers that
should've been given to me years ago.
"Elena..." The disbelief is clear in his eyes. I've had hours alone on the road to process the fact that I'd willingly come
back here, and it's obvious he's shocked to see me back here, too. "Elena, what are you doing here? You should've
called. We could've made up a room..."
"What the hell is this?" I scream at my father, holding tightly to the only piece of evidence I have of what I believe to be
true. Proof that I didn't have to grow up the way I did.
As if just joining the situation, my mother sits up and squints through the blue goop slathered on her cheeks. They stare
at me for a few seconds and say nothing, and I realize just how long it's been since I've been home. I stopped coming
home for breaks after my junior year of high school, having stayed in residence halls until I graduated and moved to
California for Stanford.
I hated this godforsaken place so much I bought all new clothes and furniture just so I wouldn't have to come back. It's
only by some miracle I found this old picture tucked in a folder my parents sent away with me when I left for boarding
I only found it because I was looking for my medical records, but boy did I stumble upon so much more.
"My god. We haven't seen you in..." Dad stammers. "Sit down. Relax. You look awful."
It's been just two years, but the life I've lead and the things I've learned have made me a completely different person than
the spoiled brat they had to bail out of near expulsion.
"What is this, Dad?" I repeat loudly. "Please don't lie to me anymore. Please," I'm crying, but not because I'm devastated.
I'm crying because I'm so damn angry and so tired of the constant disappointment they keep shoveling out. "Tell me the
truth. Just once."
"Why does Mom look like she just stepped off a beach in this picture? Why the hell is my birthday written on the back
when I look no less than a month or two old?" I yell.
His eyes shoot to the photo gripped tightly in my left hand. His cheeks redden and as he walks closer, like he knows I'm
about to call him out on something he never intended to tell me. I wipe my angry tears away and stare at him, sick that it's
even come to this.
And just like that, I'm done crying. I'm done being the victim. It's time I got answers and showed him I'm not that broken
little girl anymore. I don't need him or his money, and he needs to know just how far I've come.
As he moves to slip the old photo from my fingers, the inside of his palm scrapes my wedding rings. His breath catches
just as he's about to say something, and he stops and stares in confusion.
"I'm married, but I'm not here to talk about that..."
"You dropped out of school to get married? Elena, what were you thinking..." My mother says loudly, now just a few feet
away. "We didn't raise you to be so..."
"You didn't raise me at all," I clarify loudly. "You sent me away before I could even tie my shoes. You kept me away, kept
my troubles away. Gave them to someone else...and ultimately, you gave them to me. Because I'm the one who suffered.
And now I'm done with all that. Done wondering why you didn't want me. I just need you to say it. To just be honest once
in your life."
I give them a moment, but they say nothing. There's nothing they could say to make this better. They're liars, and I won't
believe for one moment that they kept this from me to save me heartache. No. Knowing this information would've
changed everything.
"Fine," I laugh bitterly, grabbing the photo. "I'll say it. I'm not your child," I snap. When they say nothing, I know. I flip to the
back of photo and point to the blue ink scrawled on the bottom. "'Adoption Day'? What? My "birthday" is the day you
adopted me? How the hell old am I?! You adopted me for your own social status, then sent me away. You fucking lied to
me. If you didn't want me, why the fuck did you adopt me?"
"You're wrong," my father says sadly, placing his hand on my back and leading me toward the kitchen away from my
mother. At first, I don't want to go, but then I see remorse in his eyes and I walk. He leads me to a chair and places his
hands on my shoulders until I lower to sit. I'm too exhausted to fight it. He sits across from me and for a second, I think I
see the man I used to believe in.
"You're mine. My blood," he swallows. "I...misstepped. Made an error in judgement."
"You cheated on Mom," I say bluntly. "Don't sugar coat it." My Mother's a bitch, but no woman deserves to be cheated on.
"Yes," he says honestly. "Your birth mother...she was young and scared and couldn't take care of you. It was just a fling. A
few nights I couldn't take back. I didn't even know she was pregnant until she showed up on my door step with you. You
were a month old and you nearly blew my world apart.
"Your mother didn't know I'd been screwing around, and I was dumb enough to think I could let it slip away without ever
telling her. But then...there was you. I demanded a paternity test and the results gave me all the proof I needed. You were
mine, and your birth mother...she was only 18. She had no money. She worked as a candy striper in the
hospital...wanted to go into nursing but couldn't afford it." He squeezes his eyes closed and huffs. "And I fucked up,
Elena. I fucked everything up. Your mom nearly left me when she found out. She wanted answers, much like you do now,
but I only gave her half-truths.
I told her I'd slept with someone and gotten her pregnant. I told her I'd been contacted when your birth mother died and
begged for her forgiveness. She forgave me, after awhile, but I doubt she would've had she known the truth. If she'd
known my little Jezebel lived under our roof...slept just a few hundred feet away from us every day, cared for you..."
"What?" I stop breathing. I stop thinking. I can't process what he's saying. "Dad, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying your birth mother relinquished her rights early on, but she was still in your life. I kept things quiet. I knew
people. I'm saying that that woman, standing in the other room, legally adopted you under the full belief that your birth
mother was dead. I didn't expect to keep her around. I thought I could 'hire' her on as your nanny...pay her more than
she'd make at any job in any field. I fucked up, and thought I may seem like an asshole, I felt differently about her. Like I
messed up her life. Like I said, she was a fling at first. I didn't think I'd develop real feelings for her. I didn't think I'd fall in
love with her..."
I said I wouldn't cry. That I was done with being weak...but this man just ripped my heart open and I'm about to bleed out.
"And when I saw her with you...Jesus. I wanted it. Her. You. Us. And I made her believe it would happen. The affair...it
didn't stop. Not at first..."
My world is ending. It's splitting apart.
"Joey?!" I scream. "My birth mother is Joey and you couldn't have told me?!" I scream, standing up and slamming the
chair until it hits the table. "You're unbelievable! You let her take care of me and love me. You made her lie to me for five
years...and then what? Everything stops? You suddenly send me off to school and send her away like we're nothing? All
the while you're skeezing on your wife?"
"I didn't make her do anything. Let's be clear. She's as guilty as I am, sweetheart,"
"No," I yell. "Don't you dare try to apologize. Don't you drag her into this when she's not even here! Adoption is one thing. I
came here expecting you to tell me you took me in and it got to be too much, so you sent me away. I never expected this. I
never expected you to tell me that the woman who I loved more than anyone in the world...the woman that held me every
single day for the first five years of my life, was my parent. I cried myself to sleep at night thinking my parents didn't care
about me. I thought I wasn't good enough. And now this.
"You're a liar. It's no wonder I was a fucking mess. Joey's a liar. You lied to me. You lied to her," I point to the other room
because I can't bear to refer to that woman as mom even one more time. "And then suddenly, it stopped. You sent me
away. You sent Joey away...and why? Because she found out, didn't she?"
"I didn't mean to love her, Elena. It was a mistake to even bring her in my home. It wasn't fair to her or you or my wife. But
I'm not fair. And I'm not kind. But you got older, and your eyes got bigger and warmer and there was no mistaking that you
were Joey's child, and my wife saw right through it. I guess I missed the fact that she knew people, too...the kind who
could do some digging and find paternity results.
It blew up in my face, and I didn't know what to do. I panicked. Your mother," he points to the other room, "threatened me.
Threatened to divorce me and take me for all I was worth, and at the time, all I could think of was my career. My
reputation. She wouldn't look at you...was constantly angry with you as if it was somehow your fault. And she threatened
Joey. I thought I had no choice..."
"That's the biggest bullshit I've ever heard in my life," I say softly. "Because if you'd told me, I could've understood. If not at
5 years old, than at least when I was older. I could've been happy with Joey, knowing I had someone to go to. Because I
needed parents, Dad, and not just when I was little. I needed parents when I was in high school and fucking around in
class. Drinking. Doing pot," I scream. "And when it comes right down to it, I could blame you for every last thing that's
happened in my life, because I didn't have the support that I needed growing up. But I won't, because it won't change a
I'm not that messed up kid anymore. I grew up. And my poor decision making didn't end when I stumbled across that
stage at high school graduation. No, it took a whole lot more than college to make me want to change. You know what
did it? Love. Pure, easy love from a boy that I married. So fuck you, and fuck 'Mom'" I say with air quotes, "for judging my
marriage or anything else. I didn't come to kiss and make up. I came for answers, and I guess that's what I got. And
that's all I want from you. We're done..."
"Elena..." he stands, but his plea is half-hearted because he knows there's no way in hell I'm turning back. I storm out the
door, so angry I'm shaking. My stomach twists and I vomit before I realize it's coming. I'm clammy and dizzy and in
absolutely no condition to drive nearly fifteen hours back to Wisconsin alone. I should call Damon. I need to call Damon.
He'll forgive me for my outburst. He'll come for me and everything will be alright...
I pull out my phone and begin to dial, wiping my mouth before I slip into my car and back out of the driveway. It rings and
rings, but I'm in the middle of nowhere and I lose reception before we connect. I try to send a text message but my signal
is gone, so I throw it on the passenger seat and hope for better reception at the hotel. I slam my fists on the steering
wheel and let out a string of cuss words that would make a sailor blush. And yeah, I may have grown up a lot lately, but
I'm completely okay with being a brat right now.
It takes about twenty minutes to find a hotel that doesn't look like something out of a horror movie, and I'm tired as hell
and ready to crash. It's not until I go to fish in my purse for my credit card that I realize it must've fallen out of my purse
when I threw up on my parent's porch.
Embarrassed and exhausted, I apologize to the attendant and head back toward to my parents'. I can't bear to see them
or talk to them again, so I'm thankful it's pitch black outside. They won't see me, and their driveway's long enough that I
can park at the bottom without them noticing headlights.
I can smell the smoke before I reach the driveway. My gut aches with fear. I'm angry with them, hate them for what they
did...but I didn't want this. It's all black smoke and flames, without a fire truck in sight. It's what we get for living out
here...miles away from everything...from neighbors. My phone's still shit, so without thinking I race inside hoping to get to
the phone just inside the living room. It's hot...so fucking hot...I can't see. I can't breathe. But I can hear them
screaming...and I can see my Dad stuck underneath a piece of broken wall.
"Elena. Get out of there. Get the hell out of here!" He screams. "Just go. Go!"
But I can't. I hate him, but I can't do this. I can't let them burn, die...just knowing. I have to do something. I scramble to dial
911, but I hear a crack and everything goes black.
Present Day
"Oh my God," I blink through the thick, cold tears weighing down my eyelashes. I don't know how long I've been staring
like this or how long these memories took to sink in, but it was long enough that Damon is awake and rushing to my
side, pulling me against his side with a strong, warm arm. "Oh my God..."
"Baby, what's wrong? Jesus, are you okay?" He pushes the damp hair away from my forehead and kisses it softly. His
eyes are wide and terrified, much as they were the moment I remembered his drug addiction.
It's this moment I realize I'm now on the floor. I don't remember passing out, but I must've gone down pretty quick. I
couldn't have been out for more than a few seconds.
I look to Damon and wonder how much he knows. It dawns on me that I never had the chance to tell him about my birth
mother. I hadn't even told him why I'd left for Wyoming in the first place, just that I needed to do something on my own.
He'd begged me, begged me to tell him, but I knew if I did, there was no way in hell he'd let me go alone. And that was
something I needed for myself.
He gets me back up in the chair at the kitchen table as Joey slides me a glass of cold water. My stomach hurts too much
to down it, but the scared look on their faces pushes me to do it anyway. In moments, my breathing is back to normal
and I'm holding Damon's hand.
"I'm so sorry," Joey says nervously. "This is my fault."
"Of course it isn't," I say. "It happens...memory triggers..." I frown. "I don't usually pass out...but yeah, this was a big one," I
let out a long breath. "I mean, I think I got it, but just to be clear..."
"Yes. I'm your Mother, Elena..." She says seriously, and I didn't realize until right now how much I needed to hear the
words out loud...how very healing just a few words could be.
"Well holy shit." Damon says loudly, but I smack his leg to shut him up so I can relish the moment. "And you knew?"
"The night of the fire..." I apologize, and we all fall silent.
"I have a lifetime of apologizing to you, starting with years ago when I showed up on your Daddy's doorstep. I'm so sorry.
Beyond sorry, and I hope you'll give me the chance to explain and tell you how sorry I really am."
"Of course," I answer quickly, because it's what I want, too.
I thought it was impossible, but Damon's blue eyes go even wider and I can't help but smile. It's possible he's as mind-
boggled as I am by all this, and I'm looking forward to hearing the uncensored version of what he really thinks of all this.
Because yeah, it's absolutely coming tonight when we're alone.
How am I still smiling?
I know. I should be angry, right? As pissed at her as I was and am my father? But she's Joey, and she's the one good
thing from my childhood. I've missed her for as long as I can remember, and loved her even longer. Yes, there are a
million things we need to discuss. She lied to me, too...and stayed away...
But we'll muddle through all that, and I've got a feeling it won't take long because I believe in forgiveness. And I believe in
second chances.
I know what it's like to be young and lost. Afraid. I'm probably the biggest mistake she ever made, but she doesn't look at
me that way. No, she looks at me the same loving way she always has, and I don't know how the hell I couldn't see it
before, because the love that's radiating from her isn't the affection of a friend or a caretaker. It's the love of a mother, and
nothing in the world could make me throw it away.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Damon's up next for a pretty awesome chapter where we get an inside look at Elena's new
found family.
*Chapter 16*: Unconditionally
A/N: To say I'm excited to finally update would be an understatement. I'm sorry it has been so long...3 months. I thank
you for your patience and your continued support as I continue on this story.
We last left Elena's head after a pretty big, life-altering moment. Now we're back to Damon's POV, with a chapter
that encases past and present. Many reviewers commented about wanting to see a bit of Damon and Elena during
those 4 years of her coma. Hospital stuff. While it's always been in the plans to visit this time of their life in my story,
I've decided to incorporate it into this chapter. The section I've included gives us the Damon we've been needing to
see in order to fully understand his character and what he went through.
I chose Katy Perry's "Unconditionally" for this chapter.
Thank you so much for reading!
Chapter 15 - Unconditionally
It's really early...or really late. Hell, it doesn't matter; I'm too charged up to even think about sleeping. The adrenaline
running through my system has got me thinking I'll be awake for days. Or at least until I actually see her.
My eyes shoot up to the clock hanging on the sterile white walls and I sigh. It's just shy of 4 am. I'd say time has never
passed this slowly, but the last four years have been nothing short of an eternity. I take a sip of my mediocre coffee and
tell my heart to relax. It's going to be okay, right? It has to be.
Who am I kidding? There's no calming down. No closing my eyes for more than a few seconds, because nothing will
ever come between me and my girl again.
Especially not sleep.
The call came when I least expected it. My music was cranked to nearly full-volume as I lie under the belly of a car,
covered in grease and motor oil. It's a miracle I even had my phone in my pocket so I could feel the vibration of his call. I
don't think I could ever forgive myself if I missed it after all these years.
The news came fast and I could barely catch the details. I think I pretty much lost focus after the doctor said,
"Elena woke up..."
I didn't even say thank you or goodbye. I didn't say a word after that first hello. Hell, I dropped the phone before I even took
another breath. Then, just like my phone, I crumpled. I sprawled out on the cold, cracked cement floor floor, staring up at
the buzzing florescent light hanging in my shop. I stared until I saw dots when I closed my eyes. I stayed like that for
awhile, then slammed my hands on the cold cement just to feel pain. Just to know I was awake and alive...that this is
real. I'm getting my wife back. We're getting our life together back.
Holy shit. Holy shit. I'm going to black out.
Okay, I'm not a very religious guy, but there are some moments I can't let pass without sending up at least a little thank
you. I don't know about karma and all that good deed shit, so I'm sure Elena coming back to me has nothing to do
anything I did the past four years. It was all her, because she's just that damn strong and amazing. She's everything, and
she's been everything since the moment I met her, the very first moment I saw those big, warm eyes. God, I've missed
them. I've missed her.
So I got my self together in five minutes, and was up and ready to go. Before I knew it, I was punching my credit card
number into my phone and booking a flight to Wyoming.
That was 9 hours ago, and I'm still shaking. I took a cab to the airport because I wouldn't trust myself behind the wheel
so rattled like this. The first flight was short and boring, but the second felt like I was traveling overseas instead of just to
the otherwise of the Midwest. I spent the entire time thinking, staring off into space. Looking completely crazy, I'm sure. I
couldn't focus enough to read or watch a movie, and listening to music made me antsier. Every song, every lyric
reminded me of us.
Now here, in a hospital I've come all too acquainted with, my phone vibrates. I quickly squeeze my eyes shut once so I
can focus, then pull it from my back pocket. The first thing I see is Elena. Technology has evolved, but I've managed to
keep this one, gorgeous black and white photo of her as my phone wallpaper the entire time she's been gone. She's
laughing, covering her pretty smile with her left hand, so I have the perfect view of that ring I gave her. As always, her
smile makes me smile, especially right now as I swipe my finger across the screen to see what the buzz was all about.
Anything yet? I can't sleep either.
It's Harlow, the second most amazing woman in my life. Her concern is palpable, and she was the first person I
contacted when I got the call. She may be Elena's best friend, but she's also mine, and I love the hell out of her for how
supportive she's been of me. Of us.
I quickly type a message and hit send.
No. Still waiting. Going on an hour here already...they better not be wrong...
Of course I'm worried. The more time I sit here, the more terrible scenarios my mind and heart invent. They contacted me
and I got on a plane as soon as I could, without caring about the scary details that might come along with it. And now I've
got the time to think about all that. If I have to sit much longer, I might lose my mind.
Tell her I love her, will you? Right after you tell her how much you love her?
I smile and send back a simple okay before tucking it back into my jeans. I needed that.
I should've passed out by now, from the stress alone. Maybe I have. I've been trying to fight it, but maybe I really am
sound asleep and dreaming. Maybe none of this is real. I could be dead, and for a moment, I almost think I am. I thought
I'd have to be to get news like this. To see her again.
But I snap out of it when I realize this would be an awful Heaven, just waiting and waiting...and waiting...
I wait even longer. Longer than I thought I could handle and tolerate. It's moments like this I wonder how the hell I waited
four fucking years, when just a few hours are enough to drive me mad.
I'm just walking back from the vending machine when the door opens and a familiar face walks through it. He looks tired,
too, but his smile is genuine and it somehow helps may worry subside, if only a little. I've grown to know this man over
the years as he's cared for my precious treasure, and it's really good to see him. I know he's a doctor and they have ways
of telling families news about patients, but I could hear the excitement and relief in his voice as he told me she was out
of her coma.
It's 6:30 a.m., well before visiting hours but I've waited much longer than I thought I'd have to once I arrived. In my head,
they'd be cruel to tell me my wife was awake just a few hundred feet away, then tell me I can't actually see her yet. But
that's what happened, and I guess I'll somehow have to get over it.
His hand reaches out toward mine, and I'm shaking harder than ever. What will his first words be? I hope more than
anything it's him telling me I can see her. That her eyes are open. That she's asking for me...crying for me...that she
needs me as much as I've been needing her...
But they're not.
"It's unbelievable, isn't it? I've tried to be as honest and straightforward with you since the very beginning, so I don't see
any reason to be anything but right now," his smile is sincere, but I know he has to wear it, even when the news isn't
always ideal.
"Elena is awake. We've been running tests for hours. She hasn't said much, but her breathing is stable and the monitors
indicate her brain activity is strong. We've told her where she is. We've told her to rest, to take it easy and not try to push it.
We've asked if there's anyone she wanted to see..." he takes a deep breath. "We do that after a few hours to test memory,
recollection..." His eyes shift, and I immediately know she hasn't asked for me.
"She just shook her head, closed her eyes, and hasn't kept them open much since. We'll know more later. It's early to
say, and we have to watch her closely for awhile, but I have to be honest with you. We've talked about it before, but now
that it's here and happening, it's not as easy to accept. With this sort of situation, it's possible she may suffer from some
degree of memory loss. People, events...it's hard to say. I just want to prepare you for the possibility that..."
"She may not remember me," I say knowingly, even though I hope like hell he's wrong. I shake my head and look at my
feet as I feel the tears prick my eyes. Of course I've always known this was a possibility. And I'd rather deal with this than
what could've been so much worse. I shove my hands into my jean pockets and shift my boots a bit until I've gathered
myself enough to look into his eyes. This man has seen me cry probably more than my own mother. He understands,
and I couldn't be more grateful for what he's done for my wife. For my family.
He goes on to say more about brain activity and how she's tired, but all I can manage to do is swallow big, salty lumps of
emotion. I love her so damn much, and of course I want her to remember me so we can go back to starting this amazing
life together, but if not? I'll do whatever it takes to make sure she's taken care of and loved. She's my everything and she
will be, no matter what.
"I'm sorry we kept you out here so long. Visiting hours don't apply here. Not for you," he says softly. "We just needed to be
sure she was stable enough before bringing you in. It can be overwhelming for both patient and family. But she's able
now, if you're ready."
"Doc," I take a deep breath and slap him on the shoulder. "I've never been more ready for anything in my life."
Present Day
There is nothing sexier than a confident woman, and my baby's got it down. Oh, she's crying alright. But those pretty
warm streams running down her cheeks aren't rivers of disappointment; she's literally overjoyed in a way I've never seen,
and it's so fucking beautiful I could almost cry with her.
The dreams she gave up on were real all along. And this second chance she got at life gave her more than a husband
and shot at a new career It gave her her history. The one she almost didn't get a chance to know.
It's as if somehow she survived that fire just to prove the world wrong. To prove herself wrong...because she's always
deserved happiness, even when she thought she was shit out of luck.
As soon as she learned to love herself and love her life, she was granted the one wish she never thought possible. She
has family a kind, warm-hearted mother, who willingly admitted her mistakes and sought out a future with her child. I
never knew her father or adoptive mother, but I think it goes without saying that Joey's already a far better person than
both Gilbert's combined.
I love sharing my mother and siblings with Elena, and making her feel a part of our close little family, but I know it's not
the same. I also know she'll continue to love them as if they've always belonged to her, because they always will. Now
she's just got a few more people to love her, and there's not a damn thing wrong with that.
I can feel this moment, Elena's happiness, in my heart and in my gut, and when she looks up at me with warm, glassy
eyes, I nearly break. I see pieces of her fitting together I never knew existed, excitement and relief washing through her
veins, and she wears happiness so beautifully.
She sits beside Joey, flipping through the many pages of an old leather photo album that is no doubt filled with
snapshots of a tiny Elena from a much different time. I don't know much about Joey, and being Elena's husband, I'm
naturally pissed that Elena was misled her entire life, but I can see Elena's heart is filtering out the bad and only keeping
the good right now, and I admire her for it. There's no way in hell I could do the same so easily.
"Oh my God. I remember those shoes. I wanted them so much and they didn't have my size, so we drove across town to
the other location so we could pick them up that day," she laughs and I can feel it in my bones in the best way possible.
"Wow. I look just like you. How did I never know?"
And that's just another example of how amazing Elena really is, and that's not my rose-tinted glasses talking, either. To
go through the hell she's gone through and come out smiling is an accomplishment in itself, but she's diving headfirst
into this new life with her eyes closed and complete trust. And while I'm happy for her, I hope to God this doesn't turn into
another disappointment, because for as strong as she is, this would surely destroy her.
If you can't tell, I'm torn.
I want her to be happy. More than anything, I want her to have the happiness she deserves, even if it came later than it
should have. She is my dream...my whole damn world. She makes everything better and brighter; she saved me, and I'm
do everything I can to make sure I always save her, too. Sorry if it sounds macho, but it's my job to make sure she looks
before she leaps.
I did let her know my concerns last night, but her soft, warm lips pressed against mine, muting my words and worries
and letting me know she's got it handled. Like I said, it's sexy as hell. She's pretty hot when she's got her mind made up.
"Don't think like that. I'm not," she told me last night after we climbed the stairs and headed to our room to crash for the
night. "Just knowing the truth is enough. Everything else is a bonus. Just knowing that amazing connection I felt to Joey
as a little girl actually makes sense. All this time, my father said it was attachment problems. But he was afraid," she
smiled sadly, knowingly. "And incredibly selfish. And it's not my fault," she said with a yawn as she stepped out of her
pants and pulled a clean t-shirt over her head. "And that changes everything."
And then, as if she hadn't just received the biggest news of her life, she crawled into bed and fell sound asleep curled up
against me, her soft warm mouth sending gentle puffs of breath on my bare chest. She didn't stir or startle and panic,
and woke up with clear eyes, never once asking if it was all a dream.
Although I like to believe I fully understand what this means to her, I know there's no possible way I can. For years, she
looked to bad behavior as a cry for attention from parents that ended up being nothing more than liars looking for
popularity and a good name. So yeah, she's smiling, but I know somewhere inside, she's got to be hurting remembering
the way things used to be, knowing there was a chance it could've been so wonderful instead. But I can't see any grey
clouds in her eyes. Only bright, puffy, happy ones.
Amazing. Really. She amazes me every single day.
I don't know how she slept so well, because my heart was racing until the sun came up. I'd close my eyes only to picture
one of the may ways this could go south. We leave and it's all happy I'll see you soon and we never hear from them
again. Elena makes a genuine, whole-hearted effort to reconnect with the mother she didn't know she lost, only to feel
like she doesn't belong. Yeah, there's a whole stream of worries rushing through my head even now, but Elena looks
chipper and alert. Well rested. Excited, hopeful and just goddamn gorgeous as she sips her coffee across from me.
For once, she wants something in her life to just work out without strings or buts. She can't think of the whatifs, because
it's all she's ever done. The only person she's ever just trusted is me, and opening up her heart to 3 or 4 other people in
this way...how do I trust that they won't break her heart?
"I wish I'd done things differently. I know it might make it worse, hearing me say that now. I can't go back, and I know that.
But I regret it, you know...succumbing to the pressure and just giving up trying to raise you myself. I kept thinking...there's
no way I can give this little girl the life she deserves on my own...but looking back," she shakes her head and looks right
at Elena in a way I can't describe. "I'm sorry I didn't try."
She loved and trusted Joey before she even knew I existed, so I tell my husbandly instincts to take it easy and not
assume. It's a good thing I've got a strong cup of coffee to help me hash this out, because I'm ready to pounce at the first
sign of reluctance.
"Joey," she swallows hard, like she's about to let out a huge, powerful wave of emotion. But then, she shakes her head
and never finishes what she was about to say.
And then, their moment is interrupted. I still can't decide if that's a good thing.
A car door slams loudly in the driveway. Then another. Then a trunk.
"They're home," Joey says nervously. The way she chews her lip reminds me just of Elena.
Elena's eyes go wide and bright, and I can tell from the shine in them that while she's got about a million new things to
think about, right now she's thinking about meeting the little sister and little brother she never knew she had. They've
known for awhile, Joey told us. She swallows hard, the lump in her throat visibly bobbling with emotion.
And though she's so brave, I know she's scared. Her fingers knead over her knees again and again and I watch the air
leave her lungs a little harder and faster than just moments ago. Her teeth nip into her lower lip, and instead of looking at
Joey or at the front door, she looks at me.
Let me tell you, it's the greatest feeling in the world, being loved by this woman.
I hold her gaze for just a few seconds, and my lungs burn and ache, heavy with the thought of what my life would be
without her. I don't have to guess or stretch the imagination, because I fucking know what it's like. And while I could sit
beside her body and there was still air pumping through her lungs, I couldn't feel her. Not feeling her is the worst kind of
pain, and I'll be luckiest man on the planet if I never have to go through that again.
I watch her until my vision goes a little blurry and I have to close my eyes to keep from totally losing it. Right now, as she
stares at me as if I am her absolute everything, as if I somehow have the power to fix everything, I'm can't help but think of
the very first time I saw those gorgeous eyes. They were young and hurt and oh, how I needed her. She lit me up, burned
me up from the inside out, and I knew I would never be the same.
"I'll...tell them you're here. And to behave," she says quietly as she reaches the front door. "I'm sorry it's happening this
way. I wanted it to be nicer or more organized. If you're not ready..."
"I'm ready," she says quickly, without hesitation, then squeezes my hand.
Joey says her other kids have known about Elena for a little while. I guess I understand; no sense in lying to everyone. I
just wish Elena would've had the chance to know them sooner. To watch them grow up, and grow up beside them. I
really hope they can have some type of relationship. I hope they can love her as much as she wants to love them.
I get up and walk the few small steps it takes to get to Elena. I crouch down in front of where she sits on the couch and
take her hands in mine.
Then, she smiles.
"I'm okay," she assures me, but I'm stuck on her eyes again. One hand slips out from my hold and slides down my
stubble-coated cheek. "I'm okay, baby."
"I know," I smile back and hold her gaze, because her eyes tell me everything, the way they always have. Something
about this moment, about all of these moments put together since her memories started to come back, reminds me of
what getting to love Elena for the first time feels like.
As if falling in love with her the first time wasn't enough, I got to do it twice. While my first love never faded, never died...I
can honestly say I love her more, and for more reasons than I could ever explain. I love that loving her feels so
good...good enough that it kept my heart beating even when loving her had to hurt for a little while. God, you know I'd do it
again if I knew it would eventually feel like this.
I press a sweet, but short kiss to her lips before we're no longer alone.
"So. Teenage siblings," I smile as I pull away gently. "You ready for that? Could be awesome, could be crazy."
"Or both," she takes a deep breath. "I see you and Harlow. You and Ric. And I love them to death, just like they always
been mine...but the fact that there are 2 kids out there that share my blood?" She shakes her head and smiles. "I want to
know them so much."
This seems awkward, right? You feel like we should be sitting on the stage of some washed up talk-show host or in a
circle in a therapist's office when we meet the family Elena never knew she had? But the first moment they lay eyes on
each other isn't cheesy at all. It's awesome. And honestly, that whole let's sit around and hold hands thing has never
been Elena's style.
The door busts open and in rushes Jeremy, a nearly 6 foot guy who looks just like Elena, right down to the color of his
eyes. He's sweating, carrying a duffel bag over his shoulder and a box of donuts in the other hand. He stops right in front
of her like he's just seen a ghost.
I've also been a teenage guy, so I know this kind of thing can be weird. I was never sure if I should act excited or make a
big deal of things, even if they were a big deal. My heart wasn't on my sleeve. I expect this kid to be shy or disinterested,
but I'm wrong. He's actually pretty cool about it.
"Jeremy," she simply says. "Wow. You're really tall." Her cheeks tint a gentle, beautiful pink. She's nervous and it's knows
I'll tease her later about her comment.
"Uh, hang on. I'm gonna..." he holds up the box of donuts to indicate he needs to reorganize, then sets the bag down at
his feet and the donuts on the kitchen table. We stand there as the sink runs, then shuts off and in a moment he's back,
considerably less sweaty with a huge grin on his face.
"Sorry, Elena," he says, as if they've already met. And while he's trying to seem cool, I can tell he wants to make a good
impression. He reaches out his hand toward her and shakes it. "I went to the gym to knock around some bags, then got
a call from Kat saying her car died right outside the donut shop."
"That's okay," she says. God, she sounds like she's going to pass out, but she's smiling. I wrap an arm around her
shoulders and kiss the top of her head, letting her know I've got her if she does go down. "It's nice to meet you. You're a
"Good to meet ya, too. And, yeah. I'm graduating this spring. Awesomeness, right?" He pauses, "And then, I can do
whatever I want."
This kid sounds a lot like me at that age, come to think of it. It's hard to believe Elena was this young when I met her.
Jeremy looks like the type of guy who would protect what is his, and that makes me happy, because suddenly, Elena's
become just that. To shakeup the meeting, I step in and pat the kid on his shoulder, introducing myself as the coolest
brother-in-law he'll ever have.
Elena elbows me just before Katherine steps through the front door with two iced coffees in her hands. I look up and holy
hell, she's a mini Elena. Her eyes are blue, just like her Dad's, I'm sure, but everything else is the same. And from
looking over at Elena right now, I can tell she sees it too.
Katherine says nothing as she approaches us, but keeps her eyes trained on Elena as she gets closer. She sets the
coffees down on a side table then stops just in front of Elena and wraps her arms around her without a single word.
Elena's eyes flash with shock and relief as she brings her arms up to enclose her little sister into a hug. And it's sweet.
One of the sweetest damn ways this could've gone, and exactly what my girl deserves. She's 17, so I kind of love that
she's the sweet side of this age and not the bitchy, resentful side of teenage.
"It is so good to meet you," Katherine says, still hugging Elena. "I've always wanted a sister."
"Me, too," Elena's voice is shaky but sincere, like she's trying to hold it together and not cry.
"You can call me Kat. Or Katy," she says pulling away and wiping a stray tear from her cheek. I'm touched by the way this
is going so far. I didn't quite picture it being so simple.
"I guessed at the coffee. Mocha with a little bit of creamer and a little bit of sugar. I hope that's okay...it's the way I drink it,
so I just ordered two. Do you even like coffee?"
"It's perfect," Elena reassures her, looking at me out of the corner of her eye. I give her a quick thumbs up.
"Hope you like it watery," Jeremy teases. "When I pulled into the lot she was already standing there with the coffees. That
was like 20 minutes ago. It'll be a miracle if there's any ice left in them by now. Right, Kat?"
"It's the thought that counts, Jere," she shoots him a glare and quickly sticks her tongue out. "How was I supposed to
know my car wouldn't start?"
"There's this thing called a gas gauge. It's sole purpose is to tell you when you're getting low on gas. Cool, I know,"
"Jere..." Kat's hands find her hips and she gives him a glare I've seen so many times from my Elena. There's officially no
doubt in my mind these two are related.
"Oh, relax. Just trying to have some fun. Lighten it up in here," he messes up her brown, wavy hair. I can already tell, they
both love and hate each other in a way only siblings can.
"Okay you two," Joey says loudly shutting the door behind her. "Apologize to Elena for...this," she waves her hands
around to indicate she means more than just the bickering. Her hands are on her hips but she doesn't look mad.
Actually, she looks pretty damn happy to see the three of them together.
"It was supposed to be much nicer than sweat covered kids with donuts and watered-down coffee, but this is us," Joey
says. "Chaos. Disorganization. Fun."
"Really, Joey, it's fine. It's perfect." Elena smiles. "This is more than I could've imagined. Honestly." She stares at Joey for
a moment as if she's sending her a secret, silent message. Her mother's eyes brighten, and I think she understands.
They're saying one thing and meaning another, and it feels big and deep and remarkable.
It's only been a few minutes, hell, it's only been a day since she reunited with Joey, which means it's probably too soon to
let my guard down about the whole thing, but something about these moments, right now, make me believe it won't be
long before I do. I don't know if it's the ease and sincerity of these people that make them seem and feel warm-hearted,
but sometimes, first impressions mean a lot.
For as unplanned as this introduction was, it was exactly what Elena needed. I think it would've been a lot harder if she'd
had to walk into a room of the three of them sitting together on a couch. If they'd had to talk about feelings and why it was
all a secret for so long. Oh, those things will come eventually, I'm sure. But not today.
Being so close to my family, I wonder how it will all work with the distance.
Let's face it; life hasn't been easy for us so far. Sure, we thought it was, back when we were driving around with no end in
sight and no responsibilities. But we were fighting demons then that would catch up to us eventually. Demons that would
drag us down and try to smother our love.
We won.
The day speeds by with laughter and before we know it, it's over.
I hope the small bond Elena seemed to form with Katherine stays, too. They were able to spend a few hours alone
together shopping today, and I think did them a lot of good. We were planning on driving home today, before we knew.
After spending a few hours alone with her sister, Elena leaned over to me at the dinner table and asked me if we could
stay just a little while longer.
"I'd like to take some time with Joey tomorrow. Just the two of us. Do you mind? Would that be okay?" she asked, though
she knows she never needs permission to do anything. I'm not that way. I let her know we could stay as long as she'd
like. There's no way I'm taking her away from here for a few days, as long as we're still welcome.
Besides, it'll give me time to make some work calls, or maybe even hang out with Jeremy and see what he's about. The
conversations at dinner were pretty funny, so I've got a feeling we'll get along just fine.
Our stomaches are full of good, home-cooked food and and wine. I'm happy, buzzing with nostalgia and the excitement
of what our future holds.
It's well past midnight when she closes the bedroom door.
"What's wrong?" She whispers, climbing on my lap and wrapping her legs around me. She runs her soft hands through
my thick hair, then presses her forehead against mine. I breathe her inher scent, the feel of her against me, with me.
I've had her back for sometime now, but it's no less wonderful. I love that I can be here for on days like this, when she
needs me the most.
"Nothing, anymore," I bring her hands up to my lips and kiss her knuckles. "Just thinking about meeting you for the first
time. You remember?" I say hopefully and my heart soars as she nods with the warm skin of her forehead pressed
against mine.
My heart leaps, knowing we can share these memories again. Knowing how far we've come. What we've overcome to
get here.
"The way you looked at me the first time you saw me," I continue and she closes her eyes until I beg her to reopen them.
"It was almost exactly the way you looked at me for the first time after your coma..." I keep my voice low and soft, because
this moment is ours. "Like you wanted to know me," I smile, because I want her to know I mean all good things from this.
"Like you needed to know me..."
"I did," she whispers. "I do. More than anything..."
She brings her lips to mine and kisses me sweetly. It's tender, but intense, and it feels filled with the love of hundreds of
years. I want her to kiss me just like this one day, on the day our first child is born. And on the day our first grandchild is
born. I hope she still kisses me like this in 50 years. I hope she still kisses me like this in Heaven-bursting with decades
of the love we've built and made while we were on earth. Because I will still love her then, no matter the theories people
have about what death and the afterlife are like. I will know her and I will love her, because there is nothing, on earth or
otherwise, that will keep us apart again.
"Thank you for this," she was as she pulls back just barely. "For everything. Loving me. Waiting for me. Believing in me."
I want to say thank you to her for so many things, too, but I don't plan on using words right now. She's warm and perfect
against me, and with each word she says, my fingers creep up the bottoms of her thin red pajama shorts. I need her
badly right now, and I don't care that we're in her birth mother's house, right next door to siblings she just met. It's funny
trying to get her to keep quiet. Feeling her perfect white teeth digging into my hand or shoulder when she's just about to
Making love to Elena is incredibly different now than it used to be. It's always been good, even when we were young, but
everything is different now. Better. We're not two kids looking to escape reality. We're looking to breathe it in deeply, to live
it together. And now that she remembers? Our sex is nothing short of spectacular. Like now, as she pulls my t-shirt up
from the bottom and runs her hands over my stomach as I press kisses to the tops of her bare shoulders. We're not just
seeking physical pleasure, though I'd be lying if I said sleeping with Elena isn't the best thing in the world.
We spent an entire 24 hours in bed the day after her memories came back, and I don't plan on that being a one time
thing. If I could worship and love her all day, every day, I would. And right now, I plan to do just that. Her soft moans
against my lips tell me she wants it, too.
"You never have to thank me for a thing," I tell her, tangling my fingers in her hair as I press her into the bed. "Except the
cruise I take you on for our fiftieth wedding anniversary," I tease nipping the skin of her neck as I lower myself onto her.
"And maybe the baby crib I'll hand carve for us one day..." I test, watching her telling eyes carefully.
I wait right there, with my arms propping me up, my hands on each side of her pillow. I wait to see what her eyes will say
about what I just said. About our future.
"I'd like that," she says, and I can tell she means it.
"The cruise, the 50 years of marriage, or a baby crib?"
"All of it. Everything. Everything with you," she says without hesitation just before my lips crash onto hers and she sends
me into an oblivion I've never known.
A/N: Thank you readers! Like I said, I wanted to spend some time in Damon's head, talking about his feelings and
emotions for Elena both then and now. Although I was super excited to introduce new characters, I only wanted to
touch on them briefly here, as I want Elena to be the one who explains and shows her feelings toward her new
family members. I look forward to sharing that with you soon.
Just a little bit left! This story has become so special to me, and I want you to know that even though I haven't
updated in so long, your feedback and support still mean the world to me. Thank you for that.
*Chapter 17*: Bright
A/N: Back with the next chapter, and I had a blast writing Elena's POV. As promised, we push forward with the
present and a little better look at her new family, but not before we dive into the past for a glimpse at a big day from
five years ago that Damon has never shared.
Thank you for reading, and for your patience as I get these chapters going. Your feedback and reviews have been so
wonderful, and I enjoy reading each and every one. Thank you for taking the time to let me know what you think.
I chose Echosmith's "Bright" for this chapter. Honestly, it's incredible. If you've never heard it, find a way to do so.
It's everything I wanted for this chapter.
Chapter 16 - Bright
Five Years Ago...
"This is the best damn day I've had in a long time, you know that?"
His voice is smooth and soft, and I shiver when he whispers in my ear. It's not just his warm breath against my skin; it's
what he's saying and the way it makes me feel. I can't explain it, can't begin to wrap my head around it, because it doesn't
make sense.
And though I don't say it back, it's the best damn day I've ever had.
The sun is setting and I'm filled with an incredible sadness that I never expected. I've known him for less than a day, and
in another few hours, we'll go back to being strangers. We've no reason not to. We live thousands of miles apart, and it'd
be foolish to think we might stay in touch. But as I feel his warm chin rest softly on my right shoulder, I realize it won't be
easy to say goodbye.
I'm quiet as he holds me - so quiet I know we can both hear every breath I take. My stomach swirls with emotions I don't
yet understand, but I've got an idea of what it could be. I bite my lower lip and turn in his arms so I'm facing him. I know
what will happen when I look up; I'll feel it again. I'm not sure I want to feel it again, because I'm the type who doesn't get
But his hands are on waist and his thumbs work small circles on the bare skin just above my hipbones until I do look up.
And just like I figured, his eyes kill me. They're big and blue and I see something in them I've never seen in anyone else
before. It's not lust or challenge or pity; it's a million things rolled into a single look that can't be defined by any one word
other than Damon.
My fingers find his cheeks and run across the light stubble there. I want to memorize him, and this moment, because
everything about it is amazing. In the background, I hear Saint Forever, a song I've probably heard a thousand times.
Now I'll never be able to listen to it again without thinking of his eyes on me.
This is the sweet misery I've heard of but never believed or understood. It's hard to kick back and enjoy the rest of the
night when I already feel this enormous loss. For once, I care.
I open my mouth to speak before I realize I have nothing to say. I'm afraid of spouting something off like an idiot, or that
these crazy emotions I'm experience are exclusive to me and he feels nothing. But I can't believe that, not with the
lopsided smirk on his face. Not with the way he's holding onto me like I'm his life support.
Our short story began in the wee hours of the morning, as I tried to retrace my steps through this muddy field to find my
phone. I was lucky enough to smack right into him, and from the first moment I looked into his eyes, I knew he was
trouble. Not the bad kind, but the heartbreaking kind.
Not only is he the most gorgeous man I've ever seen, he's kind and fun, and it didn't take much for me to place a little bit
of trust in him, which is more than I've done for anyone in the last 13 years.
Our day might seem ordinary for anyone else, but as we walked and talked an listened to music, I felt free. For a little
while, I wasn't worried about my parents. I laughed so hard that my face hurts. I had fun. So much fun.
It's not over.
"You look tired. You wanna head back?" he says, and I shake my head and smile. His forehead presses into mine and I
soak in the feeling of closeness, the scent of mud and cigarettes and some sort of light soap.
My arms slip down from around his neck until my hands fall flat against his chest, but I'm not pushing him away. Beneath
my shaky hand, I feel his quick heartbeat. Music is now blaring from the stage a few hundred feet in front of us, but
somehow I can still hear my heartbeat in my ears.
I can feel everything. It's a thousand times better than anything has ever been, and if I could bottle this feeling, I would. I
would use it when I needed it most. Drink it, inject it, anything to get it into my system, because this is better than any
buzz or any high I've ever known.
This is Damon, and if he stuck around, there's no doubt I'd become addicted.
We've got this connection, and it's undeniable. Anyone who knows me will tell you this is not typical for me. I'm not the
type to get swept off my feat in 12 hours by a guy I've never met. I'm not the type to let myself care, or feel, for anything
more than a little temporary attention.
But this man...he makes me feel like a woman. I'm not that broken little 18-year-old girl...not with him. I'm something
else, and I like it too much to lose it so soon.
"Say something," he smiles and I feel his warm hands on my cheeks. His eyes fall to my lips, and I know "Anything.
You're driving my crazy." He laughs, and I get the vibe he's as wrapped up in this as I am. "Please?"
I shake my head again and grab onto both of his hands before I reach up on my tiptoes and press my lips to his for the
very first time. It's sweet, for about five seconds.
I hear his breath hitch against my lips, and feel an insurmountable power rush through us. It only takes a second for him
to take control, and as his tongue pushes into my mouth, I'm hit with a wave of insatiability; I'll never get enough of this
I can't say goodnight. I can't say goodbye. What am I going to do?
He kisses me deeply, softly at first, with building passion. My fingers twist in his hair and I pull him as close to me as I
can, certain he's breathing new life into me. I'm not sure how long we're there, or how much time passes, but my lips are
wonderfully sore and swollen and the sun is long gone when we walk hand-in-hand toward his tent.
"Are you leaving in the morning?" I ask, unsure of where the rest of our night is headed. Something about this feels like
goodbye, and I'll do anything to change the subject so it doesn't go that way. "You've got a long drive home."
He shrugs, as if he hasn't really thought about it, and it makes it that much easier to pretend we have all the time in the
world. That our little thing here, whatever it is, isn't about to end.
"Probably. Should get back to school, the real world. But I love California," he kisses my lips once, then leaves me
hanging with parted lips, hungry for more. "So beautiful."
My eyes sting, and I know it's not from the wind. My throat is hot and I stare down at the boots Damon let me borrow just
17 hours ago. My braid started to let loose long ago, and he tucks a thick section of hair behind my ear before drawing
my chin up so I can meet his gaze.
"And you? What will you do?"
"I don't know," I smile, but it hurts. "Go back to school, try to figure some stuff out, I guess."
"Stuff, huh? What kind of stuff?"
"The kind of stuff I don't want to think about tonight," I tell him, and I see the light in his eyes change. We barely know
each other, but in a different circumstance, I think he might be the type of guy I would share things with. The kind of man I
would let in.
"Yeah, I've got some of that going on, too," he admits. "This trip was kind of a fuck-it-I-need-a-break type of thing. To be
honest, I'm not ready to go back."
"Me either," I whisper, and he smiles as he grabs a few bottles of beer out of the cooler inside of his tent. He offers me
one, and I take it and plop down cross-legged beside him in front of the small fire he created in the nearby pit.
I don't want to be tired, but I guess I am, because I can't stop yawning. His hands find my shoulders and he pulls me
back into his chest. When I tip my head back to look at him, he leans around to kiss my cheek.
And that's when I know I'll miss him.
I must've nodded off against him, because my face is warm and I'm filled with a daze not linked to alcohol. I rub the
sleepiness out of my eyes and stifle another yawn. He was just so warm, I long to curl back up against him and go back
to sleep.
"I don't want to say goodbye to you," he traces his fingertips in a pattern on my knee as I lie back against him. I'm not
used to this feeling calmed by someone's touch. "But I know you're tired. I can walk you back to your tent, if you
remember how to get there. I'm sure your friends are back there by now...and I've got your number, you know, in case I'm
ever in town..."
It's the first mention he's made of possibly seeing each other again, and it sparks a bit of hope in me that I'm not sure I
should hold onto. I'm not ready to comment, so I instead touch on a different part of the question.
"Too sleepy to walk. Would it be okay if I just crashed here tonight? I'm sure I can find them in the morning."
I barely have the words out when he scoops me up in his arms and carries me into his tent. The air is just a little chilly,
so I pull my knees up to my chin and hug myself tightly as he sets me down.
"Wait here," he says before heading out to put out the fire. "Ryan won't be back tonight. He ran into some girl he knows
from back home and he's staying with her can have my pillows, and this blanket and I'll sleep on his stuff."
"Thank you, Damon," I smile as I tug the fuzzy blanket over my shoulders and turn to face him. I watch as he peels off his
shirt and pushes his hands through his hair before hitting the pillow. He's beautiful, and I'm not embarrassed to be
attracted to such a gorgeous man. My mouth is practically watering when his eyes find mine. And then we stare, for a
long time. I'm not sure how much time passes, but I wonder if he's using it to memorize me in this moment, too.
"I'm glad I met you," I tell him finally. "I had fun today. I won't forget it, this little break."
"I meant what I said, Elena. If I'm ever in town again, for any reason at all..." his words cut off and I wonder if he's as
tormented by this as I am. "We'll see each other again."
"Maybe," I say, though I'm not sure I believe it. Part of me wonders if there's just magic in the air today, and if we saw
each other again another time, if it would be the same.
"Maybe," he repeats, and it's the last thing I remember before I fall asleep.
Present Day...
"And you just knew?" Katherine asks with a smile before she takes a bite of her blueberry muffin. "I mean, he's
gorgeous, obviously, but how'd you know?"
"I just felt it," I smile. I just finished telling her a brief version of the day I met Damon, but the memories are vivid as they
dance through my mind. My cheeks heat, even now that I'm married to the man, because holy hell, that day was hot.
We're nestled in the corner of the coziest coffeehouse this side of Wyoming, in a corner booth by a huge window and little
novelties that makes it feel more like a home. We're laughing and sharing stories, and although I've know this girl for a
mere 48 hours, I feel like I can tell her anything. Maybe not all at once. Maybe without such raw details, but the truth
We've been talking on and off about Damon and my life for the last few hours, and it feels amazing. I've never been the
type of person to just throw pieces of myself out there for the world to devour; I wore careless as a shield for a very long
time, protecting myself the only way I knew how.
But I don't want to hide from Katherine, or anyone, anymore. My life may have blemishes, but it led me to today, and I can
definitely say this is somewhere I never thought I'd be.
One day, when she's older and I don't have to feel like I need to be a role-model, I hope we can be great friends - the kind
who go through things together and share experiences. I have Harlow, and she's more than enough, more than I could
ask for. But Kat is different; she's my blood.
"So that feeling you got, the first time you saw him...the first time you kissed him...was it love at first sight?"
"Maybe not love then, but definitely something," I smirk and take a sip of my coffee. I guess she's not looking for the
abbreviated version. I'm sure she's dreamed up some sweet idea where my life suddenly made sense after meeting
him. I feel I have to be truthful, because I don't want her thinking love is just so easy.
But still, there's a certain intimacy to our story that belongs only to us. Things I'll never share with another soul but his.
"To be honest, I didn't think I'd ever see him again, so maybe I didn't let myself think to much about what I felt. But looking
back? It was the most intense day of my life."
"It sounds perfect," she says dreamily, and I watch her gaze as it makes its way toward the counter of the coffeehouse.
Her cheeks are pink, her eyes wide. I can't help but turn, and when I do, I see a tall, muscled, brown haired boy staring
right back at her.
"I think I'm in love," she whispers softly so only I can hear. "With him,"
"Wow. Okay," I take a deep breath. This came out of nowhere. I wonder if she truly means it, or if her love is more of a
crush on a cute guy at a coffeehouse that she's really never met.
From the dazed look in her eyes, I'd say she definitely knows him.
"There's just one problem," she chews her lip, then breaks her stare to look down into her coffee. "Okay, two. He's
Well, shit. He doesn't look that old.
"Well, only 18. But I've known him since we were kids..." she continues and I feel myself settle down. "He's Jere's best
friend. He used to tease me and pick on me when I was 10, but now..." she fans herself. "We've been seeing each other
for a little while now...a few months, but we can't tell anyone and it's getting really hard to keep it a secret. Jere would be
pissed, and Mom would flip if she ever caught us. She thinks of him as another son, so you can imagine how that would
go over.
"But I think I love him, Elena, and I'm tired of hiding. Of stealing moments like this out in public. He's mine, and I don't
care who knows."
"But he's 18, and you're not. That can cause all types of trouble, like..."
"Stop," she laughs and shakes her head. "It won't. It hasn't," she exhales and I can tell this thankfully won't turn into a sex
talk. "Next year I'll be 18, and he's going away to school with Jeremy at Ohio State. They'll be roommates, I'm sure, and I'll
be miserable if he doesn't know by then.
"I mean, I'll hardly see him, and then when I do, I won't be able to stop myself. And Jeremy, being the guy he is, will be
trying to set Elijah up with all kinds of girls at college. And what girl wouldn't go for a football player?" I see the panic in
her eyes as she plays it out in her head. I give her a minute and just listen, until she starts back up.
"This is why we need to come out with it now. Don't you think? Just get it out there so there's time for it to sink in. It's been
three months, but I've know him practically my whole life..."
Oh, no. I think she's looking for advice I'm not really fit to give. If it were up to me, I'd tell every woman in the world to go
with their heart, because I only know goodness from loving Damon. But we were fortunate, and I know not every
relationship can be like ours. For the many roller-coasters we've been on together, I've never once doubted our love.
But this is my baby sister, and I haven't known her long enough to really know her heart. Her judgement. I want the best
for her, but only she knows what that is. She's 17, barely younger than I was when I married Damon. So I listen and
watch and when their eyes meet, even I can't deny there's something there.
"What do I do?" She swallows. "He comes to my house all the time. He says he's there to see Jeremy, but he finds way
touch my hand or get me alone for a few moments. And it's all wonderful and secretive and maybe the reason it feels so
hot is because we're not supposed to do it."
"Maybe," I agree. There's a chance she might have a bit of a rebellious side, after all.
"He's coming over for dinner tonight, and I'm going to tell him I want to go public...at least to our parents and Jeremy. I
don't need to be all over him at school, but it would at least be nice to sit with him at home or a movie without having to
look over our shoulders and wait to be exposed. I can't help it, Elena."
"I know what you mean," I smile. "And I guess I don't have any grand advice other than to follow your heart, because
nothing else will make you truly happy. And if it doesn't work, at least you know. Life is too short to do anything less than
what you want,"
"You won't say anything to Mom, right? He's a good guy. My family loves him. They just don't know I do."
"Of course I won't," I shake my head. "It's your thing. Just be smart. And safe, okay? Please,"
"I will be," she nods. "When the time comes," she looks down. "Thank you for listening. Saying it out loud makes it that
more real, and I'm too nervous to tell Elijah how worried about it all I am. I don't want to push him away. And I won't tell
him I love him. I can't," she shakes her head and takes a deep breath, "Just...thank you, Elena."
"Anytime," I reach across to squeeze her hand before excusing myself to use the restroom.
I check my phone and see that Damon's sent a text letting me know he's been playing football with my brother in the
backyard. I smile at his words, because I can practically hear him saying them.
I'm getting my ass kicked by an 18-year-old. Seriously. You're seriously going to need work out some of these kinks in
my neck, if you know what I mean...
I take a deep breath and send Damon a text back assuring him there will be plenty of ways to work him out tonight after
dinner, then chuckle when his response is nothing more than a devil icon.
Yeah, he's in for it later.
A few hours later...
Dinner is way more interesting now that I know about Katherine and Elijah. He's sitting next to Jeremy, reaching across
the table for another piece of pie and laughing with the rest of them like everything's just peachy keen. His smile is
contagious, and Katherine was right; he fits in with them like he belongs. I can see how things might shift to awkward
once they know the truth.
"Division I football?!" Damon shouts across the table. "Jesus Christ, Elena. No wonder he kicked my ass. Your brother's
like some little kid's future hero or something."
"Ya hear that, Katy? Damon knows I'm awesome," Jeremy says, making a muscle.
She's sitting at the end of the table, with her father on one side and Elijah on the other. I have half a mind to accidentally
drop my napkin so I can duck under the table and see if he's got his hand on his knee.
"Oh, please," Katherine teases and tosses a roll at his head, then one at Elijah just for show. He catches it and takes a
bite of it, and I don't miss the way her cheeks go pink she looks away after he sinks his teeth into it. Wow, the tension's
tight in here. How the hell can't anyone else feel it?
"And this guy, too," Jere points to him. "But he'll be lucky if he starts next year. Can't even tackle Katy here," he points his
thumb to his sister and her face falls into her hands.
I take it as an opportunity to change the subject and save her a little grief.
"Seriously, though. Division I football. I thought you said you were looking forward to doing whatever you wanted after
graduation. You acted like you were going to blow off school and run off to the city to live in a studio apartment or
something," I point out. I see Katherine mouth 'thank you' and smile back.
"Yeah, well. Pretty much want to do football more than anything else, and I guess you could say I don't like to brag. At
first," he smirks. "But yeah, we're pretty excited. Should be a good time. Lots of work, but worth the pay off."
He's up and wiping his hands on his jeans, ready to throw on a hoodie and head back outside with the rest of them to
build a fire and throw around the football. It sounds fun, but it's our last night here and I really need to talk to Joey alone,
so I pulled her aside after we were done cleaning up dinner and asked her if we could take a walk.
"You don't mind, do you?" I ask Damon as I pull on my coat. "You'll be okay by yourself with them here again?"
"Mind?!" He laughs, kissing my forehead. "At least this time I know when I get my ass kicked, there's a reason for it. As
long as you make good on your promise to fix me up later," his eyebrows bounce and I'm dazzled. It's amazing; all these
years later he can still make me blush.
"Over and over again. I promise," I tease, and he swats my ass playfully as he runs out the door.
Joey's grabbing her keys in the other room, so I'm alone in the kitchen with Katherine for a second. She asks me what I
think of Elijah, and I give her the thumbs up, noting the chemistry I saw right off the bag. I tell her to do what her heart and
her gut tell her to do, and watch as she begins to walk out the back door.
Before she makes it, I see Elijah come up behind her and wrap his arm around her elbow to stop her. I step bac to give
them a moment; she must have told him I know, because he's aware I'm still here. I watch her eyes and the way she
reacts to his touch. And maybe it's supposed to be a private moment, but it doesn't feel that way. It feels like a baby step
for them, and I wonder if he's agreed to telling the family tonight.
He pushes her hair off her shoulder and presses a kiss to her cheek, tipping her chin up with his index finger and
rubbing his nose against hers just once. He whispers something in her ear before they walk out the door, and when she
looks at me, I see what others must see in my eyes after I've just kissed Damon.
Ten minutes later, I'm nervous as hell.
"I need to tell you something. A few things," I take a sip from my water bottle and look at Joey out of the corner of my eye.
"A lot of things," I say finally.
We're walking around her neighborhood, passing cute little suburban homes and amazing trees. The sun is setting, the
sky full or beautiful oranges and yellows. It's quiet and normal, nothing like the area I grew up in. Our huge house was
high up on a hill, gated and a mile away from any neighbors. I didn't grow up shouting to my friends out of my window or
running across the street after school to play until dinner.
But Joey knows all of this. It's the other parts of my life I feel I need to share, not to make her feel guilty, but to really let her
into my life. I need her to know me, good and bad, because I don't plan on losing touch with her ever again.
"I wasn't a good kid," I start. I don't look at her...can't look at her. I just keep pace beside her, and hope she listens to my
stories without interrupting. I'm not sure I can take the disappointment that might be laced in her voice. Not that it matters;
I'm not that way anymore. But as a little girl, all I wanted to do was be good and make her happy, because she was the
only one who made me happy.
"When you left, I struggled away at school. I struggled at home. It's not your fault, and I hope you don't think I'm blaming
you. It's just the truth, and it was a bad start to a lot of things for me.
"My father and...Miranda," I pause, letting Joey know I will never call that woman my mother again, "were rough on me, but
not in the disciplinary sense. They were cold and judgmental and no matter what I did, it never mattered unless it would
cost them their reputation. Unless I was doing something wrong...
"In high school, I'd had enough. I was still away and saw them rarely, but each visit or phone call only made me more
disappointed in them, and I finally stopped trying to win their love and favor. I went backwards, did things to hurt them or
prove that I should matter...that maybe if they took me back home or spent time with me, I wouldn't have to act out
"I was a brat. A snot who drank before high school classes and said inappropriate things to teachers. A brat who
should've and would've gotten kicked out of school if my parents weren't rich and couldn't pull strings. If I was anyone but
me, Elena Gilbert, there's no way those teachers and counselors would send letters of recommendations to Stanford.
But they did.
"In college, I wanted to be a better person, but I spent so much time living with this poor-little-me attitude, that I didn't
know how. I had friends, but very few good ones. My roommate was the one person I felt I could trust a little, but even she
made bad choices,"
I hear Joey'smy mother'sbreathing change, and I'm still so afraid to look her in the eyes. I need it out. All of it. I need
to come clean so I can walk beside her knowing she knows me as well as I know myself, because I long for a
connection with a parent that I've never had. It sounds foolish and childish, but I need to know she'll still love me as much
knowing all this as she did when she may have thought I grew up a perfect child.
I continue, because if I stop now I'll break, and I'll never finish.
"We went to this music festival when I was a freshman at Stanford, an outdoor thing. I drank a lot, and I smoked a lot of
weed. I lost my phone and my friends, but as I wandered in that field, light and airy and out of my mind, it was the first
time I realized I didn't have to be sad. I wanted to be happy, and I was hell bent on making it happen. I didn't think I'd
literally crash into my future husband that day. And after we met, I didn't think I'd ever see him again. But I did, a few
months later. He was driving cars out in California and...everything from that point on, changed. We traveled across the
country for months at a time, living out of cars and cheap motels. We married when I was only 19 on a whim in Las
Vegas, but I've never regretted it for even one moment.
"And our time together has had it's highs and lows, but never bottomed out and it never will. Because despite all the bad
I just told you about, I've never been happier. And my coma, and my childhood have taught me more than any thing else
could. I know regrets; I've lived them. But I don't believe in them anymore, because there's no telling what any one thing in
life may lead to. I mean, look at us,"
I stop, having just bared my soul. I've got nothing left to say, and although I'm a bit afraid of her reaction, I'm ready to see
it. I want her to take my hand, look me in the eye and tell me it's okay, the way the Gilbert's never did.
"And that's it. That's me, I guess. Or was me," I smile. "I forgot the good stuff for awhile knowing Damon, falling in love
with him. The coma took it all away, but it turned out, I didn't need my memories to love him, or to realize how wonderful
my life could be and already was. I started living again, in all senses of the word. And I won't hold it back from you,
especially since you're the very first person I ever loved."
She stops walking and I can see her swallow. She's fighting something tears, words, I'm not sure. I reach out to touch
her elbow, desperate for her to know I wasn't trying to hurt her feelings. I just wanted her to know the truth.
"Mom," I say to her, for the very first time. My throat is hot and thick. It aches with emotion as the tears stream down my
face. The word left my lips in a little cry, not because I'm sad, but because I'm relieved, and for so many reasons. I'm
relieved to have told her my story and to have finally let her know that I do think of her as my mother; time and distance
has done nothing to dissolve my adoration for her. And I harbor no resentment for the choices she made in her youth.
I have her back. We have each other, and that's all that matters.
"It's okay, Mom," I repeat, and this time she looks up at me with so much love and devotion, I crumble. She swipes the
streams of tears from my cheeks and pulls me into the biggest hug I've ever know. It feels different than all the rest, even
the ones she gave me as a child. She strokes my hair the way she used to before she'd put me to bed as a little girl, and
I feel her shaking in my arms.
"I'm so sorry, my baby. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when you needed me. Sorry that I left you. I honestly believed you'd
be better off. But knowing you weren't..."
"That's not what this is about. I don't blame you. I don't want you to feel guilty or sad. I just can't lie to you, and not telling
you these things...letting you wonder or dream about what my life was like...it just wouldn't be right. But I'm good now. I've
got Damon. I've got you and Katherine and Jeremy...and Damon's entire family, too. And I'm happy. Really, really happy."
I feel her nod just before she pulls away to look at me again.
"I love you, Elena," she says.
"I know," I say immediately. "And I love you, too. I always have. You know I used to wish you were my mother. I wished you
were. Are you sure you never told me? Not even once when you thought I was asleep?"
"Never," she says surprised. "But you called me 'Mama' once," her eyes light up. "You were very small and we were
playing on the floor. Miranda was in the room, reading something, when you looked right at me and said it. It was your
first word, Mama, and it was to me."
My first round of tears hadn't begun to dry before a fresh new set begins to fall as I listen.
"It broke my heart, in a way, because I wanted to be your Mama so badly. And it lit a jealous fire under Miranda like I'd
never seen. Unfortunately, the things you've said today about her were true even then. She didn't show you the care and
love I wished she would, and it only hurt me more that one day I would not longer be there to give you the things she
wouldn't. But that day, she swept you up in her arms and carried you to her lap saying, '"I'm your Mama, Elena. Me. I'm
your Mama,"' she sniffles.
"You're my Mama," I wink, trying to lighten the moment a bit. I sniffle and wipe away my tears before tucking my now wet
hands into the front pockets of my light jacket. "And that's just about the best thing in the whole world."
A/N: Thank you for reading.