Bella had to admit, the first step she set in “the compound”, she was amazed by the size of it. It looked like an apartment building or a building with a community garden, although the garden was more of a big patio. It was spacious and impressive. There was a set of stairs that lead to the first floor and you could walk around the corridor to get a good view of the patio below..
The room that Klaus had arranged for her was as big as her home in Forks that she shared with Charlie and it was filled with antiques. It was essentially as if she had stepped into a movie, a period drama, it was all so gorgeous and ancient. She was afraid that the bed would collapse if she slept on it, but it didn’t. It was big and sturdy and the mattress was just right. She didn’t have a lot of time to look around from her place on the bed because as soon as her head hit the pillow, she’d been out like a light.
She woke the next morning because someone knocked on the door and she was embarrassed about the fact that she hadn’t even bothered to change into her pyjamas before going to bed. It would be a miracle if she didn’t suffer from the worst bed hair ever and managed to find a hair tie in her pocket on the way to the door.
“Good Morning, dollface,” Kol greeted her with a wide smile on his face while he held up a tray with food. “Slept well? I’ve taken the liberty to get you some breakfast. Fried eggs with bacon, a yummy ham sandwich, some tea, orange juice and best of all… Beignets.”
“A dessert for breakfast?” Bella sleepily smiled. “Thank you. It’s a brilliant way to start the day.” she stepped aside to let him in. “Can you give me a few minutes so I can freshen myself up?”
“Why? You look alright to me.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Bella snorted as she turned around to fetch some things from her bag. “But I’ve slept the best I have in ages in my own clothes and I feel a bit grimy. I won’t be long.” She continued as she walked into the bathroom and didn’t fully close the door. Kol counted the minutes and exactly five minutes after she’d gotten in, she exited the bathroom, looking refreshed in a change of clothes and a big smile on her face.
“That was quick.”
“Was it?” Bella smiled at him and giggled when he pulled out a chair for her to sit on at the table in the room for breakfast.
“I’d have thought you’d take a nice, long and relaxing bath in that gorgeous bathtub in that bathroom. Isn’t that what girls do?” He sat down in a chair next to her and relaxed as he watched her eye the food on the tray. “I’m not going to put stuff on your plate, darling, you’re not a child.”
Bella went for the ham sandwich and took a bite.
“I’m curious,” he eventually said after she had slowly eaten half of her sandwich. “Why didn’t you close and lock the door just now? I’m a complete stranger, I’m a guy, in your room and you just leave the door open. If I didn’t have any honor, I could have done something to you.”
“I pretty much always leave the door open,” Bella said as she carefully placed the sandwich on her plate and took a sip of her orange juice. “I’m sorry if it offended you.”
“It didn’t offend me, love,” Kol smiled at her. “But haven’t you heard of ‘stranger, danger’? You need to rely on yourself to make decisions for yourself. Take advantage of the next few days where you don’t have to listen to the rules they have set for you. Take your life back, even if you decide to go back to them.”
“But I have to go back to him,” Bella said kind of confused. “I have to finish school and then there’s the matter of the Volturi… even if Edward and I no longer— they’d still come because I know of them.”
“You always have a choice,” Kol wanted to point to her half eaten sandwich to prompt her to continue eating, but he figured that the Cullens were in control over her food too and he didn’t want to do the same. She’d get hungry eventually. “Take it from me, life is full of choices with endless outcomes. But for every problem, there is a solution. I can’t begin the many times I’ve been at odds with Nik. Mostly Nik, actually. I’ve made some bad decisions in the past, but I was usually able to fix them.”
She listened to his words and thought about what he had said. If she’d leave the Cullens, they wouldn’t stop following her, trying to get her back or even worse; they’d kill her and she didn’t want to do that to Charlie. She didn’t have a choice. None. “And sometimes it’s best to just let it happen for the safety of others.”
“Then why do you want a break from them, ey? My brother has opened his house to you, he’s ensured your safety because he knows what they’re like.”
“Yeah, you’re right, it was a bad and impulsive decision on my part.”
Kol grabbed her hand when she wanted to get up from her chair and pulled her back in. Maybe it was a little too much to confront her over breakfast about this, but she started it. “Was it? Or is your subconscious trying to tell you something?”
Bella looked at Kol’s hand and then looked at him. “Let me go.”
“No. Not until you answer me.”
“Let me go. Please.” Bella pleaded.
“Make me,” he snapped rather arrogantly.
“No.” She started to jerk her arm trying to get his hand off of hers, but he wasn’t letting go.
“I’m not immortal or anything. Make me.” He tightened the hold he had on her hand. “What are you? Weak? Maybe I should find that marble prince of yours and tell him he needs to marry you soon so he has more reason to bully you around. Although you’re honestly pathetic right now, but that’s how he likes them, isn’t it? Weak and pathetic. Easier to manipulate.”
“Stop,” Bella said with tears in her eyes as she looked at him. “You’re being an ass.”
Kol snorted. “You’re not telling me anything new, love, my siblings tell me that on a daily basis. Since I’m not immortal anymore, Nik can’t even shut me up without killing me.” Not letting go of her hand, he got up from his chair as he turned hers around with his foot and grabbed her other hand, pinning both hands to the chair. “I’m not letting go of you, you’d have to make me.”
He was dangerously close to her now and she squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t want to see this. Whatever had gotten into him was scary and he really wasn’t letting go of her no matter how much she struggled. “Please, stop…” she said with a whisper.
“I can see now why Edward wants you so much, you’re nothing but a doormat. You’re nothing without him, aren’t you? You need a man to tell you what to do, don’t you?”
“Stop!” Bella cried out as she felt a force coming from within her, almost as if she released all of her pent up frustration and anxiety and found Kol’s hands away from hers. When she opened her eyes as to take a peek if he was still there, she found him on the other side of the room, grinning like a maniac.
“Ow, that hurt,” he grinned as he got to his feet, brushing off the debris of the dresser she’d seemingly thrown him into. “Remind me not to piss you off for real.”
She just stared at him in shock.
“I didn’t mean it, I promise,” he said as he walked back to her.
“You magically threw me against the dresser, that’s what happened.”
“I’m so sorry! I— Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I didn’t—”
Kol snorted and gently placed his hand on her shoulder before he sat back down next to her. “I’m alright and you don’t have to apologise. It’s my own fault, really. I pushed you.”
“You were mean.”
“Yes, but you’ve learned three lessons now,” he said with a grin on his face before he held out his hand to use his powers to get a beignet.
“How did you do that?” Bella stared at him with big eyes.
“The opposite of what you just did to me. You wanted me away from you so you pushed me away. I want the good tasting beignet, so I have it come to me. But what three lessons have you learned?” He took a bite of the pastry as he looked at her. Maybe seeing him eat would make her think to finish the sandwich she had nibbled on earlier.
She blankly stared at him as she rubbed her hands. She could still feel his hands on hers and it was annoying. Edward or Jasper always put their hands on her to calm her down or make her do things and Kol wasn’t either of them. He was sweet and only trying to prove his point.
“One; you sure have a lot of thinking to do about your future with that beastly marble Ken-doll,” he said slowly. “As I said, every problem has a solution, no matter how bad. Which brings us to two; you’re stronger than you think.” He nodded towards the smashed dresser. “Your magic might not work outside of New Orleans, but I can tell you have a strong will working for ye… and three…”
“You’re an ass?” She quipped, a smile appearing on her face.
“Yes,” he agreed with a playful smile on his face. “But at least I’m honest about it unlike some people. But what I meant is that it’s alright to stand up for yourself and if needed, do bodily harm to protect yourself. Surely, with a copper as a dad he taught you some sweet moves.”
“Of course, but with Ed—”
Kol shushed her. “No excuses, love, he might be stronger than you and harder to hurt, but you have every right to kick his arse if need be. It’s time to look out for number one.” He took another bite off his beignet and was relieved when she once again picked up her sandwich. “So, museum today?”
Bella nodded as she continued to eat. “As many as possible.” She was glad Kol had dropped the subject, she still wasn’t happy what he had done, although she had to admit, unknowingly flinging him across the room had been really cool. She could understand why someone, an outsider, would think the way they did about the whole situation, but it was simply impossible to be completely out of the Cullen’s grasp.
She already feared the worst upon her return. They might do something irreversible to people she loved and there was nothing she could do about it other than to accept it. And that sucked. She could do as Kol said; kick Edward or whomever, but could he promise they wouldn’t retaliate by breaking her neck?
Kol smiled widely. “Well, hurry up then, we have a lot to do in not enough time. First order of business though, is to get you a phone of your own.”
Bella looked at Kol as she finished her sandwich and her glass of orange juice. The main reason why she didn’t want to have her own phone was that she was currently not carrying enough money to buy one. She had been given fifty dollars to spend on her own while in New Orleans and Edward would decide to pay for things she’d otherwise need. “My phone still works, you know.”
“Are you certain?” Kol smiled wickedly. “I had some time to kill when you were in the bathroom.”
“You didn’t!” Bella said panicked. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!” She flew off her chair and headed to her backpack to get her phone out and felt the color drain from her face as she tried to switch it on but it didn’t work. “No…” she whispered as she opened it up and a substance that looked like sand fell out of her phone. Upon closer inspection, she noticed it was the battery.
Maybe breaking her battery hadn’t been one of his brightest ideas, although he was certain that it had been for the best. Porcelain could have put stuff on her phone – apps – to track her every move, even if it was turned off and he wanted Bella to be free.
Kol could see how her heart shattered and how close she was to a panic attack and it was his bloody fault. He didn’t know what to say when Bella started to unravel in front of him. She was clutching her phone and rocking herself back and forth. Kol felt no better than Edward right now. Elijah had stressed the importance of leaving her be and not to take things away from her or make her do things against her will because that’s what she usually gets at home and he had crossed a line. Big time.
When his sister Rebekah angrily barged into the room, Kol didn’t know how fast he had to get up and get to the other side of the room, as far away as possible. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think it would matter that much…”
“That’s it, isn’t it?” the woman bit at him as she sat down next to Bella and calmly took her hands into her own. “You do not think! You might get off easily if the chip in this bloody device still works!” She then looked at Bella, making sure that she was looking at her. “Take a deep breath, it’s going to be alright, little dove. My brother is getting you a replacement phone even if it has to be his own.”
It took a while before she calmed down, there was this unknown woman sitting next to her, holding her hands and nothing else. “I am so sorry,” she whispered before looking around the room. Kol was gone. “I… it’s just…”
“I understand,” the blonde said kindly. “You don’t have to apologize. How about you and Kol forgo on your trip to the museums and how about you and I go do something fun such as doing something ridiculously girly and go to a spa and relax.”
“I can’t… I…”
“Niklaus’ treat. Just to get your mind off of things,” she interrupted her and let go of her hands to caress a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “My name is Rebekah, I’m them lot’s sister and I apologize for Kol’s behaviour.”
Bella slowly nodded as she looked at her. The woman – Rebekah – was absolutely beautiful and reminded her of Rosalie, if only just slightly. She appeared to be a lot kinder, though, which was a startling contrast to what she was familiar with. “But if I don’t have my paper done by the time I leave, I will fail the class.”
“History of New Orleans, yeah?” Rebekah smiled widely. “We’ve got you covered, I promise. Museums are nice and all that and…” From the corner of her eye she noticed the dresser that lay in shambles. It had been one of Elijah’s favourite items back in the day and it was beyond repair. “What happened here?”
“Kol.” Bella replied with a small smile on her lips. “Apparently I am capable of doing magic and pushed him in there.”
“That is – truly splendid,” Rebekah said appreciatively. “Well done, you!”
Bella wasn’t one to do extremely girly things as going to a spa. Even when she was little she simply liked to sit down with a good book and read to relax instead of playing outside with friends from school.
Tripping over her own feet on occasion was also one of the reasons; it wasn’t funny to faceplant into the pavement or a pile of dog poo. It grew old very fast. But she had to admit, Rebekah made whole spa experience fun by telling her stories about days past. If only she had been allowed to write it all down while getting a massage!
They went for ice cream on their way back and Bella could have sworn she saw Emmett and Rosalie standing in the distance, keeping an eye on her, which reminded her of her phone. “Oh shit, the phone!”
“Don’t fret, I’m sure that when we return, Kol will be apologetic up to the point of grovelling and he will attained a new phone for you,” Rebekah said calmly and gently rubbed Bella’s back. “You do know us girls don’t need men to take care of us, right? Nor to tell us what we can’t and can do.”
Bella sighed as she rubbed the back of her neck and looked to the ground as they walked back. “I know. I know all of that. It’s…”
“Kol mentioned you feel like their prisoner. Why aren’t you trying a prison break?”
“Complicated,” Rebekah said with a nod and sighed. “Do you even still love that Edward guy? I mean, surely you must, if you allow yourself to be treated the way he and his family are treating you.”
Bella sighed again. No matter how she wanted to drop the subject, Rebekah didn’t seem to want anything of it. Maybe it was a good thing to talk about it, it wasn’t as if she could tell someone back home. New Orleans was a long way from Forks and there was a great possibility that her new friends weren’t ever going to visit her or for her to go back to New Orleans. “I’m not a victim,” Bella eventually said, thinking it over. “I know very well that what they’re doing is wrong. Sure, I loved Edward. I mean, he’s handsome, he’s this old soul and his hands… oh god, I couldn’t wait for him to touch me with those hands and fingers,” she smirked at the thought. “He took care of me, I liked that too. I mean, he made sure I didn’t get hit by a car in the school parking lot and he saved me from a group of boys when I was out with my friends… he wasn’t even supposed to be there, but for some reason it felt… safe. It was nice to be taken care of instead of being the one who takes care of everyone.”
“Did you know he was a vampire back then?”
“My friend Jake had some suspicions, especially since his father disliked Edward’s father. Jake’s Quileute and their legends talk about vampires and he told me. I was even asked to sit in around the campfire for ‘story night’ and the legend was being told. At first I thought the whole tribe was insane because vampires… it’s the thing from stories, it couldn’t possibly be real, right?”
Rebekah smiled at that. “Of course not.”
“But stories and legends have to come from somewhere. So I did my research and I figured it out. Edward always tried to deflect me when I brought it up and eventually started to entertain me by asking me about my theories and I told him I thought he was a vampire.”
“I hazard a guess that that was the point where he fully let you into his life?”
Bella nodded. “He even admitted it was hard for him to be around me because my blood smelled too good for him to resist. That I was his singer and that every vampire has one.”
“That’s ridiculous. Blood is blood,” Rebekah huffed. “Whatever they’ve been smoking, I don’t want it.”
“There was a thunderstorm one night and everyone gathered up to go and play baseball out in the rain because it was the only time where they could use their strength and speed to their fullest. Vampire baseball was fun while it lasted, a couple of nomads strolled in and they thought it was amusing how protective the clan was over me, the only human, and wanted me dead.”
“I do have to admit, in the past, the thought of being around humans without them being a source for food, was appalling. Fragile beings. I would have wanted the same, to be honest. I can’t begin to count the times I wanted to sink my teeth into Marcel when he was growing up, simply for him being around us all the time.”
Bella shuddered at the thought.
“Oh, don’t worry love, Niklaus doesn’t want you harmed,” Rebekah reassuringly smiled at her.
“Up until that baseball game, everything had been amazing with Edward and his family, and then things changed. I nearly died because one of the nomads lured me away but Edward yet again saved me while my body was burning with venom.”
“Ew,” the vampire shuddered at that. “That’s right, the Cold Ones are venomous. Oh, the horror. Gross. Why didn’t he just kill you? Surely with so much venom inside of you you’d have turned?”
“He wanted me to lead a full human life and not frozen at 17. I’m actually glad I’m still fully human. Yes, I’m fragile and I am clumsy but to live with him? Forever? No offense to you, Rebekah.”
“None taken, little Dove. There are times where I wonder that myself when dealing with my brothers,” she smiled at her. “But the good far outweighs the bad. I’ve seen things you cannot even begin to imagine.”
“Yeah, but with Edward and his family?” Bella countered. “Things only got worse from there, I was aware about how they were treating me, Edward even dumped me once, wanting me to be safe.”
Bella nodded. “And I was stupid enough to take him back because I was scared shitless that the remaining nomads would hurt my dad or my wolf friends.”
“But you didn’t need to fear them, did you?”
Bella shook her head as she stuffed her hands in her pocket. “If I leave now, chances are they will hurt or kill someone that I love. They may have isolated me from my friends, and somewhat from my father, but it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t hurt them if I’d do anything. And it’s not as if anything can be done about it. They’re super strong and they can’t be hurt unless you have super strength yourself and are able to rip them apart. And even then you’d have to set them on fire.”
“I can see your predicament,” Rebekah said, surprised by the girl’s fighting spirit. She wasn’t a meek little lamb, not when she wasn’t scared or afraid something bad would happen. Her spirit was definitely broken, sure, but at least she was aware that things weren’t right. “But why does that not make you a victim?”
“Because…” Bella started and then shut up. She didn’t have a choice in the matter, she had to stay or suffer the consequences. She wasn’t a victim because she’d been so stupid to fall in love with Edward. “I’m not. I have to stay, it’s my own fault. And it’s tiny breathers such as these that keep me sane.”
“No, you’re right, you’re not a victim,” Rebekah said with a nod. “The situation you’re in is not your fault, Bella. It’s theirs. They have been trying to groom girls ever since they originated. If anything, you’re a survivor.”
Bella looked up to her as they were rounding the corner onto Bourbon Street. It had felt good to tell Rebekah her story, it felt liberating and she felt a rush of confidence run through her body.“I have to. I don’t have another choice.”
“If you could do anything, you would, wouldn’t you?”
“I would rip them apart, shove their arms in their mouths and their feet up their asses,” Bella said without thinking and then winced before looking around to see if anyone else had heard that. “Oh, that sounded so bad…”
“No, no,” Rebekah laughed. “That was exactly what I wished you’d say because you should never, ever, allow anyone to pull you down like that. You should not suffer any longer. When you get home, you should tell all of this to the Chief of that tribe of wolves and have them take your revenge.”
“I can’t. I don’t want them to get hurt.”
“You said they were wolves, surely they’re strong enough to tear a Cold One apart.”
“And the Cullens are strong enough to hurt them in return. I’m sorry, Rebekah, but I hate it when other people have to fight my battles, especially when they could get hurt.”
“I admire your heart, Bella,” Rebekah said solemnly. “Let’s get inside and see if Kol has indeed acquired you a new phone.”
Kol had indeed bought her a new phone. He boasted that he could have gotten her a new battery but he figured there would be things on her old phone that the Cullens could use to keep track of her and he wanted her to have a clean phone. He’d not only bought her a new phone but also brought her a box of pastries to show her how sorry he was. Kol promised not to do it again, but Bella wasn’t sure if she could take his word for that.
She was sitting in a comfortable chair in the court yard with her notebook to write down from what she could remember from the conversation she had with Rebekah at the spa about the history of New Orleans. At first glance, she was alone, but she knew someone was keeping an eye on her, after so long with the Cullens, she had developed some sixth sense for it. Whomever it was, she wasn’t really bothered by it. She’d do the same thing if she took a stranger into her home.
Bella was just about to take a bite out of her second pastry when her phone rang. Glancing at the number, she immediately picked it up. “Hi Charlie,” she greeted her father with a smile on her face.
“Hiya Bells, how’s it going?”
“New Orleans is fantastic,” she replied enthusiastically. “The whole atmosphere of the city is amazing, you’d love it here.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I like it here. It’s nice and quiet.”
“You’re such an old man,” she grinned.
“You don’t need to remind me of that. How’s the trip going?”
“I’m learning a lot about New Orleans’ history. It’s amazing how much of a history a city has, it’s completely different from Forks.”
“I’ll bet. Just make sure you’re getting home safe, alright?”
“I’m still being minded, Charlie. We’re coming back in a couple of days.”
“Edward here told me you ran away.”
Of course he did. Bella audibly sighed as she rubbed her eyes, spreading icing sugar all over them. She tried to rub it away with her sleeve as well as she could as she thought of an answer. Edward was obviously already in Forks. There’s no way that she could have seen Emmett and Rosalie earlier. “I didn’t. You know the school system, the teacher wants us to learn about the history of New Orleans and she doesn’t even know much herself. She’s a bad guide. I prefer to do things on my own.”
“Just be safe, sweetheart.”
“Don’t worry, if anything happens, you taught me well.”
“Is everything alright between you and Edward? He said you broke his heart yesterday. He couldn’t sleep last night because he was worried about you being alone in a big city.”
Bella tried hard not to let out a huff. Edward was such a drama queen. A manipulative bastard. It didn’t surprise her that he had gone straight to Charlie, he was her achilles heel. “I’ll make it up to him when I get home in a couple of days. I didn’t mean to upset him.”
“Have fun, Bells, I’ll talk to you soon.”
After hanging up on her father, she switched off the phone and continued to write in her notebook, trying to remember what Rebekah had told her, but her mind was flooded with how Edward was going to make her pay for ‘upsetting him’. She was breaking so many rules that it was going to be virtually impossible for her to return and have a life. She was probably going to get stripped off all of the freedom with restrictions he had given her.
She grew frustrated with herself as she knew she had to leave him but couldn’t, out of fear that everyone would get hurt, including herself. Bella felt how an energy built up inside of her and before she was aware of what was happening, the box of pastries flew across the courtyard. “Shit!” she said, partially cursing, partially in shock as she ran towards the mess to clean it up.
“Maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to give you a box of pastries right before you’re supposed to have dinner with me and my siblings, love, but to toss them aside like that?”
Bella looked up to Kol from her position on the floor. He had this self-absorbed smirk on his face as he was leaning against a pillar with his arms crossed over his chest. “It was an accident,” she said as she continued to clean up the mess. “I didn’t mean to do this.”
“Ah, but it happened, you should be proud of yourself!”
“So is this going to happen whenever I feel like I want to hit someone?” Bella said as she dusted herself off and got to her feet. She then turned to Kol and crossed her arms over her chest, mirroring him. “Because if that’s the case, I hope your brother has a damn good insurance because I might break more stuff.”
“It’s all about control, which would be impossible for you to learn now seeing as your emotions are all over the place,” he explained. “I mean, we could try, but I can tell you have a lot of anger and frustration stored into your body. We need to get rid of that first.”
Kol shrugged. “They’re your emotions, not mine. You have a surplus of them, you need to get rid of some of it.”
“Kill someone? I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. “Come on, let’s have dinner, you can meet my brother Elijah.”