“We need to get out of here,” he said as he pulled her to her feet and grabbed her bag.
“No,” Bella growled as she pulled herself out of the boy’s grasp and grabbed her bag out of his hands. “I’m not going anywhere with you. I don’t know you. You… you just bumped into me and told me that we need to get out of here.” She held her bag close as she looked up at him.
“This area is being evacuated,” the boy explained after a moment of silence. “Gas leak.”
“Then you could have said something before,” Bella huffed as she stomped out of the little cafeteria she had gone in to to temporarily hide from Edward and his siblings. They were on a senior school trip in New Orleans, but even though she really really liked Edward’s company, for some reason he – and his brothers and sisters – were overly protective over her and it drove her insane.
The Cullens had already made sure that her other friends, Jess and Mike for example, didn’t talk to her anymore and it just really sucked. She wasn’t sure what to think of that, to be honest, maybe it was for Bella’s own safety now that the Volturi were still after her and Edward. It had been so much easier if the damn Volturi would just stay away or get their heads lopped off so that they wouldn’t bother them again. Bella knew about keeping secrets, why didn’t they trust her to keep theirs?
The moment she stepped out of the cafeteria, however, Edward and Alice were beside her, with both of them sporting a look of disapproval. “What?” She groaned. “I was safe. I was in…” she couldn’t even finish her sentence because the blinds of the cafeteria fell shut and the door closed with a slam. Looking around, she wasn’t able to find the boy who had wanted her to get out of there and she was instantly worried. What if the gas leak he mentioned would caused the cafeteria explode and kill him? “There’s someone in there, you need to get him out.”
“We don’t need to do anything,” Edward said as he protectively put an arm around her and started to pull her away from the cafeteria. “Jasper found a great place that serves good food. You’re going to love it.”
“Edward, no! You don’t understand, there’s—” Bella said as she tried to pull out of his hold but, of course, he was stronger than she was.
“Forget what happened in there,” Alice said as she gently caressed Bella’s arm. “It’s none of our business.”
“But the gas leak…”
“There’s no gas leak. It’ll be fine, but you have to get out of here.”
“Keep quiet and come with us, Bella,” Edward said with a smile on his face as they continued to walk down the street. “This trip was a bad idea.”
“It’s for extra credit, Edward,” Bella muttered, knowing from his tightened hold on her that she had to drop the matter. “And since I’m already doing bad with history, you and Carlisle agreed that —”
“It was a mistake,” Edward repeated calmly. “Rosalie is already talking to the teacher. Telling her that we’re leaving tomorrow.”
“What?” Bella blinked at him. “You can’t do that.”
“You’re not feeling well. Of course we can ask if we can go home earlier,” Alice smiled brightly at Bella. “We can totally do that.”
Bella managed to get out of Edward’s hold and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. “No. You can go home, but — but I’m staying.” Vampires didn’t need to breathe, however she could see both Cullens slump their shoulders as if they were letting out a deep breath. She knew that she tried their patience at times, especially now, but she loved the atmosphere in New Orleans. It was uncomplicated and the streets were usually always buzzing and there wasn’t a dull moment. She knew for a fact that Charlie would love it here too.
“We’ve talked about this, Bella,” Edward said after sharing a look with Alice. No doubt they were communicating telepathically. Bella always hated that. She never knew what was going on and only had their word to go on. She was fortunate that both Edward and Alice couldn’t get into her head otherwise hell would have broken loose months ago. “It’s not safe for you here.”
Bella sighed as she lowered her head and nodded slowly.
“I think that you are mistaken,” a voice sounded threateningly from behind them. Upon turning around, they looked upon a man with dirty blond hair, some scruff on his face and Bella had to admit, beautiful blue eyes. “The lot of you are soiling your underwear… Well, you would, if you’d still be capable of doing so. The lady said no.”
“As if that ever stopped you,” Edward shot at him and put his hand on Bella’s shoulder as if he made an effort to claim her.
The man blinked before a wide smirk magically appeared on his face. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”
“Mind your own business, Niklaus,” Edward bit at him as he pushed a surprised Bella towards Alice, who protectively put an arm around her and tried to usher her off.
“Let go of the girl, little imp,” Niklaus said with a tone of warning in his voice. “I recall her saying she wished not to leave. You know very well what would happen if you don’t let go.”
Alice gasped at whatever vision she she received, quickly letting go of Bella and spun around to face the Original vampire. “You should listen to my brother, Niklaus,” she said, not breaking eye contact with him. “Get lost.”
“But I am listening Imp,” he laughed. “You’re in my city where I’m sticking to my own knitting and I simply do not like Cold Ones harassing young women in my city. No wait, I simply don’t like you so I advise you to watch your manners.”
“We’ll be going home tomorrow. Mind your own business until then and stay out of ours,” Edward said coolly before grabbing Bella again by her shoulders and tried to lead her away. “Start walking, Bella.”
“If it’s the Volturi you’re scared of, Bella,” Niklaus addressed her by name at her retreating back. “I can assure you that you’re safer in this city than with the Cullens, wherever they must be residing these days.”
Bella stopped dead in her tracks, feeling slightly relieved. She didn’t know this man but Edward and Alice certainly did, but if she was safe in New Orleans, why didn’t Edward and Alice say so?
“Your companions have realized today that a handful of my siblings and I have once again taken up residence in this beautiful city and that’s why they want to leave. With you.”
“Because they’re scared,” he smiled widely at her. “If anything, I’m worse than the Volturi. But just because Humpty and Dumpty here want you with them, I can assure you that you are safe in my city for as long as you’re here. You can send them away, if you like. I hear that they dislike like the sun very much.”
She looked at him in shock and amazement before looking at Edward and Alice, who both looked like someone took away their favourite toy. She then looked back at Niklaus and slowly nodded. “I’d like to stay here and finish with our school trip.”
“You’re in school?” Niklaus had a hard time keeping a straight face. “I suppose virgins do belong in school…” he snorted as he looked at Edward, who looked furious. “You like them young, huh Pup? Nothing wrong with that, as do I, but your toy is not quite my type.”
“Bella, you’re coming back to the hostel with us,” Edward demanded, but she had already made her way over to the new vampire’s side, much to her boyfriend’s dismay. In a last ditch effort to sway her, he called out something he was sure would unsettle her. “He’s dangerous, he feeds on humans!”
Bella jumped at the information, right into the street and upcoming traffic, stumbling over her own feet and could feel herself falling. She had thought she’d hit the ground but found herself caught by surprisingly warm arms and in an instant being set back down on the sidewalk. Edward and Alice were gasping in shock while Bella was looking at Niklaus. “You use your vampire abilities in busy streets?” She was baffled. All of the Cullens made sure not to do that too much in public and yet, here was another vampire not caring about what he was doing.
“Humans are much too self-absorbed in their own dealings to really notice what’s going on around them and anyone who had seen, well there are ways of handling such things. Besides, I could not let you get run over when I’ve just promised that you’d be safe in my city for the duration of your stay,” Niklaus explained before looking into her eyes, attempting to compel her to speak the truth. “Tell me this, what do you know about New Orleans?”
“Not much,” Bella confessed, a look of confusion clouding her face. “We’re on a school trip here but we’re not really being educated about its history while we’re supposed to write a paper on it.”
“And how much do you know about vampires? Only what them lot told you?”
“I did some research…” she said slowly, frustration in her eyes before it disappeared as she glanced back at her marble friends.
“Some?” he prompted.
“We have a werewolf tribe and I studied their lore after I tricked my best friend, who’s one of them into telling me one of their legends and —”
“Wolves…” he mused curiously as he looked at her with more interest than before. As if it solidified some other decision he smiled at her. “Do you really want to stick around with them while in New Orleans?”
“What is this? An interrogation?” Bella quipped, causing Edward and Alice suck in a breath as she seemingly threatened the volatile man. “If you can give me what they won’t, then no, they can go away,” she said bravely, jutting her chin out in defiance. She knew that she was paying for this later, one way or the other, but seeing as they seemed scared of this Niklaus, she dared to feel confident. A couple of days without them would be fantastic.
“Well, that was interesting,” Niklaus said as he straightened himself up and looked at the two unwelcomed visitors with a smirk on his face. “Run along now, little Cullens. It’s time to educate the young lady properly on New Orleans seeing as the school system and you young vampires are failing miserably.”
“Don’t do this, Bella,” Edward pleaded. “You don’t know him and he feeds on humans.”
“Yes, you told me that already,” Bella said with an exasperated sigh and ran her hand through her hair. “I’ll be fine. You can call me on my phone.” She then looked up to the other vampire. “Just so you know, if anything happens to me, you’ll have my dad to deal with. He’s the police chief back home.”
“Alright little lamb, I shall keep that in mind,” he replied with an amused smile on his face. “Run along, Cold Ones, before I throw you out of the city myself.”
Alice put her hand on Edward’s arm. “Don’t, he’ll kill you and you know that. Let’s go, she’ll realize she’s made a mistake soon enough.”
“We can’t just leave her here,” he argued with his sister.
“We don’t have any other option because if we try something, no matter what, it will be bloody and there’ll even be death. Let’s go and wait this out. She will come home. I’ve seen it. Shh…”
Bella watched how a scowling Edward was being led away by his sister and let out a breath of relief. “Thank you,” she said as she looked back at Niklaus. “They mean well.”
He didn’t say anything but extended his hand instead. “I’m Klaus Mikaelson.”
“Bella Swan,” she said blushing as she shook his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Where are you staying, Miss Swan?”
“Ah, uhm, a hostel at Carondelet Street. Not that they slept and I must be the lucky one of the class as my bed is the only one without bed bugs but…” She put her backpack on her back.
“You’re going to go there and pack your bags. A Mikaelson always keeps their word. Nothing will happen to you whilst you’re in my city, but you will need to be close so that I can get to you fast enough,” Klaus spoke. “Return to the French Quarter when you’re ready, I shall find you again and show you a place to sleep.”
“Bring your teacher for all I care, it will be alright, Miss Swan. Hurry along now, I don’t have all day.”
“But what if they’re there?” Bella cocked her head as she looked up to him. “I mean, you went through all this trouble and when I’m on my own…”
Klaus seemed to be thinking for a moment before he got his phone out. “As it happens, my brother is in the area taking care of some business. I’m sure he’s finished by now. He might even be a better candidate of enlightening you about the world you have stumbled into than I am.”
Bella let him make his phone call while she could feel her own phone vibrate in her pocket. She didn’t have to look at it to know that it was one of the Cullens, trying to persuade her to come back with them, but being with Klaus – someone they were afraid of for a reason still unclear to her – gave her a burst of confidence that she last experienced with Jake and his pack. This stranger – a vampire who fed on humans no less – seemed to be genuinely willing to help her to catch her breath from the Cullens.
Bella was well aware that the relationship she had with them wasn’t a good one. It had been all nice and happy in the beginning, but after James, then after Victoria, they became more controlling of her, alienating her from everyone she loved and cared about. It was a good thing that Charlie was so stubborn, otherwise she would have lost him as well. She wasn’t even sure why she stayed with Edward. He had left her once. He’d probably do it again in a heartbeat. No, something had changed and she wasn’t sure why.
She tried to leave once, and he found her again. There was no sense in trying to run from vampires who could track you by their gifts and heightened senses. Not even when she hugged the entire Wolf pack in the reservation to mask her own scent. Essentially, it felt as if they were tracking her blood and that was creepy.
Not long after Klaus got off the phone the boy from the cafeteria earlier approached them with a big smile on his face. “I knew it,” he beamed at his brother before addressing Bella. “Hello again.”
“You!” Bella said in shock, staring back at him.
“Oh good, you’ve both met already. That makes introductions easier. Have fun,” Klaus said with a smirk and left the scene.
“I’m sorry about what happened earlier,” he said, allowing Bella to smack him in the chest out of frustration and worry. “But you really had to leave that cafeteria.”
“There was no gas leak, was there?” she demanded.
“You had me worried about you!”
“Little old me?” the boy chuckled and shook his head. “Darling, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“And you’re Klaus’ brother? Are you a vampire too?”
“You were?” she questioned, confused as she eyed him.
“I’m not in a habit of repeating myself, shall we go and gather your belongings?”
While they were on their way to the hostel, Kol, as he called himself, tried to figure out how much Bella knew about vampires and witches, just to get a kick out of how wrong she was. Well, she wasn’t completely wrong with the Cold Ones and all that, but to describe them as powerful vampires was just laughable, he told her. She told him that she didn’t want to know more about them or the history. Just about New Orleans so she could finish her damn paper and graduate. She kept to herself that she was trying find different ways to hide from the Cullens, but Kol wasn’t fooled. He called her their human pet.
“Klaus is your brother and he’s a vampire, but you’re not?”
“I’m human,” Kol said as he helped Bella off the bus. “I used to be a vampire but my mother was a powerful witch and she dumped me in this body and now I’m human again.”
“Just a yes would have sufficed,” Bella said with a shudder, but couldn’t help but being curious. “Witches are real?”
“Asks the girl who hangs around with vampires?”
Bella smirked. “And werewolves.”
“Seriously?” Kol laughed. “Werewolves?”
“Well, technically they’re shapeshifters who are descended from ancient warriors of the tribe but yeah, werewolves is an easier explanation. They grow in numbers when there are vampires around, there’s this centuries old feud between the two, it’s a long story.”
“New Orleans has just that, you know. We have a whole supernatural community normal humans shouldn’t be aware of. There are vampires, witches and werewolves. Real werewolves who can only shift during the Full Moon.”
“Oh! Like Children of the Moon?”
“Not quite, although there are similarities. I’m surprised you know so much,” Kol said as they rounded the corner onto Carondelet Street. “And yet think that witches are the stuff of fairytales?”
“I don’t think they’re the stuff of fairytales,” Bella shook her head. “I just don’t believe in it. The closest thing I can think of of being witches are some of the Cullens.”
“Oh, you poor child,” Kol sighed deeply. “Niklaus didn’t tell me you were with the Cullens. Just that a handful of Cold Ones were in your way. Are you alright? Has one of them tried to marry you yet? What’s his face? Edward?”
“You know them?” she asked hesitantly.
“I know of them. Some of my siblings have encountered them in the last two hundred odd years, very young vampires they are. Presumptuous and manipulative. And if there’s one thing that my brother Nik despises, it’s the abuse of people,” he explained sincerely.
“I’m not being abused,” Bella said quickly as she zipped up her hoodie as she saw Edward standing in front of the hostel. Of course they were waiting for her there.
“No,” Bella said through gritted teeth. “I’m their prisoner.”
“It’s the same, isn’t it? I want to bet that hugging them feels as if you’re locked in a freezer.”
“Shut up, they can hear you,” Bella whispered as she stuffed her hands in her pockets and continued to walk towards the hostel. She cursed herself that her confidence had gone back into hiding upon seeing Edward and that she felt awkward with Kol next to her. What could he do to protect her anyway?
“I’m not afraid of them, love, and neither should you,” Kol replied as he straightened himself up. “Here is what’s going to happen, doll. We’re going to walk in there without acknowledging them and you are going to gather your things.”
“What about the teacher?”
“Let me worry about that,” Kol smiled at her as they passed Edward, who looked like a marble statue more than ever, and entered the building. “Wow, the whole family is here.”
“No, the parents are home,” Bella said, glancing at Rosalie who shot glares at her as they passed upstairs to the room she shared with them. Even on their senior trip, they had made sure that they had Bella all to themselves. Falling asleep with them around was uncomfortable, seeing as they didn’t sleep. But after a so long she was sort of growing accustomed to it now.
Kol kept watch while she quickly packed, and a million questions flooded her mind – screw the history of New Orleans, what was all the talk about witches? How different was Klaus from Edward? He certainly was warmer and did seem to have a healthy, natural colour on his face. And was Kol more than ‘just human’? Because she knew the Cullens and they would have snapped his neck if they were able to. “Has Klaus ever tried to be a vegetarian?” Okay, maybe that was a dumb question, but she was curious.
Kol let out a hearty laugh. “There’s no such thing as vegetarian vampires, Sweetcheeks,” he eventually said. “Human vegetarians swear off all kinds of meat, yeah? Vampires thrive off of blood. Human blood is the best and tastiest, some eat only animals – which is a wee bit pathetic if you ask me because it makes them weaker, but there’s no such thing as going vegetarian and swear off blood.”
“I don’t understand,” she said confused as she closed her travel case.
“Well, say you’re going to swear off eating horsemeat because horses are cute and beautiful, but you continue to eat anything else like chicken and cows. Does that make you a vegetarian?”
Bella was baffled – of course not! She knew that the Cullens only fed on animals, even Jasper with his bloodlust, but she had always accepted it as them being vegetarian while it was nothing more than a change of diet because they loved humans so much.
Kol looked up when she walked in. Of course, he hadn’t seen her as they walked in and hadn’t been able to spell her so that Bella had safe passage and it was hard for him to keep up his concentration when he saw her. “Mary Alice Claire, it’s been a long time.”
“Sorry?” Alice blinked at him and then looked at Bella. “Why are you packing? You can come home with us.”
“She’s not going anywhere, Miss Claire.”
“Who are you?” Alice demanded as she crossed her arms over her chest and looked up to Kol. “I’m Alice Cullen, who are you?”
“No dear,” Kol grinned as he made his way over to Alice. “You may be a Cullen now, but you’re a Claire witch. Or you used to be anyway. What’s it like to be back in your old stomping grounds?”
“Bella, get out,” Alice told her as she looked around Kol. “I’ll deal with him.”
“Miss Swan can stay if she likes, I mean, it’s not every day that someone she knows gets caught out in a lie, is it?” Kol said playfully and casually waved his hand to freeze the vampire in place. “I know what it feels like, Love,” he continued. “No longer being able to practice magic because you’ve been turned. Must be harder for you seeing as the grounds of your magic is right here…So close!”
“Again, who are you?”
“Oh, this is fun!” Kol grinned as he continued to walk around the little vampire, taunting her. “Why can’t you use your gift on me, I wonder?”
“It’s her,” Alice answered after some hesitation, nodding to Bella. “She’s extended her shield to you, somehow.”
“My what?” Bella stammered, watching the two with caution.
“Interesting,” Kol said appreciatively. “Well then. My identity shall remain hidden from you for now, little vampire,” he said to Alice before looking at Bella. “Seems like Miss Swan has finished packing. Please don’t follow us and go home. Niklaus Mikaelson is a man of his word and will assure her safety.”
Bella snorted when she felt the familiar feeling of ‘mommy vs daddy’ thing happening right now, something she used to feel like when her parents would share custody over her when she was little.
“Bella, I’m still not comfortable with you being here on your own. What would Charlie say? Or Mrs. Beauchamp?”
“Is that the teacher?” Kol asked Bella who nodded in response. “Let’s find her and sort this out.”
After dealing with Mrs. Beauchamp, which went far easier than Bella thought it would, they made their way back to the French Quarter in semi-silence. Bella had so many more questions she wanted to ask Kol, as he obviously knew more than he let on. Especially what happened with Alice, but she figured that he’d offer the information himself if he felt the need for it. She didn’t want to be the nosy girl. On the other hand, she had felt as if a door had opened wide for her and she wanted to get all the information now. “What did you mean by has anyone tried to marry you yet?”
“I am not sure I’m the one to tell, love,” Kol said, inhaling sharply. “I did not have anything to do with them personally, but my brothers have. I only know what they decided to share with me.”
“Somehow I suspect that your brother isn’t as talkative as you are with things concerning the past.”
Kol snorted and then nodded. “Very well,” he replied. “From what I heard is that Daddy Dearest, Carlisle Cullen is somewhat of a collector of gifted people to turn. It’s almost as if he has a nose for it, that he can smell it in people’s blood.”
“That would explain Edward, Alice and Jasper. Emmett, maybe. He’s super strong. But he didn’t turn Jasper…”
“Just because they’re technically dead, it doesn’t mean that they don’t get lonely and seek for a mate. And I don’t know this Jasper so I can’t speak to his joining them.”
“I know that Edward was his first. Maybe he wanted to find a mate for himself as well.”
“See? It explains it all.” Kol said with a big smile on his face. “I didn’t tell you anything new there, did I?”
“Yes, but if he’s some sort of a collector, it still doesn’t explain Esme or Rosalie.”
“Esme is a beautiful, caring, maternal woman. Rosalie is drop dead gorgeous with a bite. But you’re right. Maybe he wanted to surround his family with ordinary vampires to make them feel extra special.” He smirked at her as he put his arm around her while they were still sitting in the bus. “Aren’t you going to ask me about Alice?”
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you know Alice.”
“Why? It’s possible, I used to be a vampire.”
“Yes, and how is that possible that you’re cured now?”
“This is not my original face. My mother… well. She’s a straight up bitch but she wanted us to stop being monsters and tried to put all of us in different bodies,” he said with a shrug. “She only managed me and my brother Finn, and if I have to be honest, I like this. Not that I’m wearing a different person but that I’m human again.”
“Why?” Bella asked as she looked at him. “Isn’t being immortal a great thing?”
“I had to give up witchcraft when my mother turned us into vampires to survive the werewolves, because you can’t be a vampire and a witch at the same time. Some of Carlisle’s gifted vampires or any of the gifted Cold Ones for that matter, must have some Witchy ancestor. What does Alice do?”
“She sees the future and different outcomes of that future.”
“Ah, the power of precognition. No doubt a remnant of the Dark Magic she used to perform, not that it’s harmful, but it’s a form of personal gain, isn’t it? It goes against nature.”
“How do you know?”
“I may have taught her some Dark Magic when we met…” Kol smiled knowingly. “You see, I was a vampire and no longer a witch but I had discovered that I could still teach witchcraft. I discovered a different kind of Dark Magic that could help me when I was in Arabia. I taught Mary-Alice that.”
“Are you sure it’s your Mary-Alice?”
“I never forget a face, darling,” Kol smiled at her. “That’s her alright. Perfectly preserved. Except for the whole hair issue. I should know. I was there when she got sired.”