Elijah used his influence to get information about the club at the cadastre and recorder of deeds. The history of the building, who owned it and what kind of modifications had been made. Maybe his brother would appreciate it if the building was family owned. The only reason he was allowed to walk in without an invitation was that it was a public space when he went there with Freya and with rules and ownership always changing when it came to these kind of establishments, maybe it was better to have it in the family – if, what Freya said was true about the happenings on the top level.
Of course, it had crossed his mind that this was an elaborate ruse. To get Elijah interested in something because his brother was involved, to not see the entire picture or simply to keep him busy and having him to stop fussing when it came to Hope. It could very well be a cleverly performed trick by his very clever and easily jealous brother. But if this was the case, would their sister Freya have cooperated as willingly as she had, or was she just as devious as his brother?
Deciding that no one was playing a trick on him, he started to look at the papers. The building had been remodeled several times over the last few decades, with the most drastic one in the eighties when they included another building and built another story on top of it. How had this been possible? The French Quarter was a National Landmark, things like these simply couldn’t happen ‘just like that’. Perhaps this had been possible as the club was situated right on the edge of it, but still, it was curious. There was no paper trail whatsoever and whoever acquired the necessary permissions to remodel it in such a rigorous way, must have had some pull.
The first floor was more or less obvious, although should an inspector come by to make sure they’re up to code, he’d surely notice that the area on the left, behind the guest bathrooms, wasn’t a beauty parlor. Elijah believed it was where the offices were situated, and perhaps a staffroom.
The second floor had eight hotelroom sized rooms, and two master suite rooms that were three times the size of the others. This was undoubtedly the area where things happened in private; dancing or maybe even more than that. Most certainly more than that. While the plans didn’t say anything about a small cubicle near the stairs, he had seen it. It had been filled with two members of staff, security.
As shown on the plans, he found the lack of cameras disturbing. Sure, there were a handful, but if you ran an establishment where women were allowing themselves to be vulnerable, surely you’d have more visible security for them? Or was there something else in play?
The third floor was nothing like he had seen with his own eyes. According to the plans, there were a few criss-cross rooms. It was messy and unhinged, unlike the careful planning that went with what he had experienced. He knew there was a large area near the concealed stairs, there were at least three big apartments or rooms and a kitchen area. Why was it obscured on the plans? To keep refugees safe? Likely.
Pursing his lips, he casually flipped the papers to see who owned the building so that he could find that person, give him or her an offer they can’t refuse and purchase it in his name.
Elijah was surprised to see that his brother Niklaus already bought the building – under one of his aliases. “Generous anonymous donor, indeed,” he muttered to himself.
Bella made her way down the stairs and slipped out of the lounge before greeting some early birds making their way to the bar area. They looked like businessmen ready to do some business and perhaps some fun later. Giddy, she made her way through the secure door, passed Frank and Mark who were on security duty – more would come later, but since it was still early, it wasn’t really needed for the entire force to be present – and knocked on Myriam’s door before slipping inside.
The room smelled of sex.
No matter how well the airconditioning worked or how wide the vampire had opened the window, it still smelled of sex. And of Klaus. Klaus’ spunk. Klaus and his wonderful hands. His tongue. His cock. They had been all over Myriam and it was getting harder and harder to fight the jealousy, because Bella wasn’t a jealous person. Not at all. She didn’t even want to claim Klaus as hers because he wasn’t. And she wasn’t ready for a boyfriend or whatever, because they’d only mess with her jam. Her own beat.
“You wished to see me?” She chose to ignore all that she saw, all that she smelled. The ghosts that lingered. The ghost that she wanted to feel inside of her.
“Yes,” Myriam smiled at her. “I am glad to see that you’re doing alright after last night.”
“Water under the bridge. Or over it. Or turning into wine,” Bella said, waving her hand around. “Whatever.”
Myriam sighed. Bella was always good at making herself appear stronger than she was but she saw right through her. They hadn’t had a serious incident with a client in a very long time, mainly because of the safety they had put in place, but Bella was special, her mind couldn’t be read. They should have thought of something else for her to make her more secure. A panic button.
Not a huge bulky one, it had to look ordinary and small enough to carry around or place somewhere else.
But, until that was in play, Myriam was going to make sure that Bella was staying occupied with other things.
“I thought that maybe you could double check the numbers for me,” Myriam said as she got up from her chair and motioned for Bella to sit down. “And then, perhaps, take the stock inventory list and check the bar stock for me? While it’s great that we have a new bar manager and all, we still need to keep an eye on our stock. I have the feeling that we’re still losing a lot of bottles or he and his staff are giving alcohol away for free.”
“I wasn’t really planning on working today,” Bella replied as she sat down on Myriam’s chair and opened the spreadsheets to check them over with the loose papers that were on the desk. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to take a nap,” she smirked as she opened the door. “Only wake me when there’s something you can’t handle.”
“Bitch,” Bella muttered.
“I heard that!”
“I know you did!” It was payback because Bella now had to work in an office smelling of sex. Klaus and Myriam sex. Yuck. The moment Myriam was out of the office, she opened the windows and loved the slight breeze that came through the openings.
Bella wasn’t opposed to smelling sex. No. Not at all. Just not with the guy she actually liked. She never thought that she’d ever really like someone, someone she felt genuine deep feelings for, not after Edward, but there was Klaus. But admitting it out loud was a bit stupid, wasn’t it? She felt like a vampire groupie while it was merely coincidence that both men were vampires – Klaus more human than Fuckward.
She wanted to have sex with Klaus. But she couldn’t demand it, not like Myriam. She was grateful for Myriam calling him after what happened the day before, but he should come by on his own volition and he was obviously busy. With his family. With his daughter. Had he truly liked her in a way that she liked him, he would have come sooner, right?
Bella’s play for today was to continue her maintenance, and then maybe see if there was a spot available at the strip club. She wanted to lose herself in the music – well, she could do that in her room as well, but getting dollar bills to donate back into Débauche was much more fun. The interaction was more fun and damnit, she was the master of her own body.
Jake Harris was a douche. She was stuck doing numbers.
It hadn’t even been her responsibility to check the stock at the bar. Myriam always did it because she could do it in five minutes instead of a couple of hours like Bella had spent doing it. Myriam was punishing her for something, wasn’t she?
Bella had dinner and then went downstairs to look at the schedule for the strip club. There was an opening at 9.20 pm to 9.30 pm, in the middle of a break between Demelza dancing and the A-Squad. Ten minutes. Thinking about it for a moment, she signed her name and then went to Bobby to ask him if she could waitress that night as well. It would involve tips and lapdances, and she just wanted to have fun. While Bobby was grateful for her offer, he was completely full on entertainment and apologized.
At least she could show everybody that she still had ownership of her own body, even if it was for only ten minutes. She was going to make it memorable.
He had wanted to see how she was doing, and much to his surprise, Myriam told him that she was on the call sheet to dance tonight. He didn’t know whether to be proud of Bella – as she usually just kept going even on a bad day – or to be extremely cross with her – for the same reason. All he knew was that he had to be there to keep an eye on things.
Oh, yes, the club was well protected and had great security and now that she wasn’t locked in a room with a client they could get to her when she needed it but he couldn’t help but wanting to protect her. To make sure that nobody would yank her off that stage without her permission. If there was any yanking to be done, it was going to be him.
Klaus had spent the day with Hope, and realized that he had been neglecting his duties towards Myriam, and Bella. Granted, they were supposed to be a secret in case his enemies would try to get to him through them and maybe it wasn’t so wise to frequent the club but he couldn’t help himself. Myriam was a long time friend – with benefits – and Bella was this beautiful young woman who kept picking herself up after falling so hard. She was intriguing. She was beautiful and she was so stubborn.
He liked it.
He stopped having sex with Bella out of respect. He respected her as a woman and he feared that she saw him as a client, that the feelings weren’t mutual, which is why he never stayed after they had sex. Couples lingered in bed, muttering sweet nothings to each other, not two people who are not committed to each other. That was not how he worked. But he wanted to whisper sweet nothings in Bella’s ear. He wanted to fall asleep with her in his arms.
For a human, she was extremely comfortable around vampires. A level of comfort that even Camille didn’t possess. Bella didn’t seem to care that he could snap her neck with his pinkie finger if he wanted to. She was fearless. And also because of her history with the Cold Ones, he was afraid that that was the reason why things weren’t mutual between them.
Then again, how did he know that things weren’t mutual when they’d never even discussed their feelings?
It was silly, perhaps, to believe in true feelings such as love. Never in a million years he would have figured to feel something as pure and terrifying as what he felt for Bella. Granted, they had started out as acquaintances and were now good friends, but he wished for more. Being with Bella, imagining his life with her, melted away all the years of loneliness, even when he was supposedly in a relationship with someone.
Being with Bella made him realize that the past relationships had been nothing but immature infatuations. Lust. Jealousy. Or simply because he could. He was careful around Bella because he truly cared about her feelings, about her wellbeing and her state of mind. Granted, staying away for two months as he had hadn’t been his best move.
Klaus never said he was a good friend. Or a good lover. Or a good anything. Loyal, yes. But true friendship? True feelings of affection? He had tried to discuss this with Camille, but she was under the impression that he wasn’t capable of feeling this way, yet, he did.
He had even spoken to a witch to find out if something magical was at play – a spell of sorts, but she denied any magical involvement. His feelings were real. There was no magical bond and since she wasn’t a vampire or a werewolf, there was no sire bond to speak of. Camille joked about Stockholm syndrome and perhaps she was right. Or not.
He had thought about it, long and hard and figured that maybe he should keep his feelings to himself. That should he allow himself to bring her into his life – completely, he was endangering Bella. That he was going to endanger himself as it would be yet another person someone could use to get to him and his family.
On top of that, what if she didn’t want him? He didn’t want to get hurt over this, either. It would be terrifying to put his true feelings out in the open and then have her crush it by denying him.
They didn’t live in a Disney animated movie, there was no such thing as a happy ending for all. He didn’t want her to get hurt any more than she already had. Perhaps it had been wrong to have taken a liking to her, but what if it hadn’t been?
He hated to feel this conflicted.
Klaus straightened himself up at the other end of the room when Demelza left the stage. Demelza was an amazon, tall, gorgeous black hair and due to her athleticism she didn’t require to be able to dance that much. Some guys liked that. He thought that some of her tricks were freaky – and that was saying something.
The A-squad were true entertainers. Killers, but entertainers none the less. They had a show. A story. To him, that was more exciting than Demelza, but not as exciting as seeing Bella perform. Oh, she was an awkward mover, but that’s what made her so special. She wasn’t even trying to put up a show, she was only having fun. And that was sexy.
For ten whole minutes he forgot to breathe as he watched how she moved and occasionally stumbled. How men were throwing money at her. Money that she’d hand over to Myriam after collecting it all. A shame, really, she should treat herself to things. Luxury. After having been on the run for so long, she deserved to splurge on unnecessary things with her own money, but she didn’t. So Myriam donated the money back into Bella’s secret bank account. Myriam kept her wages, but all her tips were donated into that account. Had Myriam paid Bella her wages, she would see that whenever she was fiddling with the numbers.
Security knew who he was, so he followed her backstage after she was done. “That was great, love,” he said as he slipped next to her as she walked towards the staircase. She wasn’t even lingering, she was heading straight to her apartment. “I always like seeing you dance.”
“It’s fun,” Bella said as she looked up to him. “There’s a bottle of Patrón waiting in my apartment, I don’t mind sharing. I was planning on more fun by myself, but I suppose it’s fine if you join me.”
“I wanted to make sure you’re alright, love,” Klaus smiled at her as he followed her up the stairs. “I know you’re alright physically.”
“And mentally I’m fine too, Klaus,” she replied with a sigh. “Seriously. It happened. It could have happened to anyone.”
“But it happened to you.”
“Why do you care?”
“Because I do. You know I do.”
She was quiet until they reached her apartment. Letting him inside, she closed the door and headed straight for her bottle of tequila. “I don’t know,” she said as she took a gulp from the bottle and turned to look at him. “Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate all your help. I really do. And Myriam’s, of course. But there are days where I wonder why you care. No other girl in this place gets your attention like I do.” She took another swig of the bottle.
Yeah, she might as well put it out there that she wanted more. That she was ready for more and if he wasn’t willing to give it to her, she needed him to take his distance from her so that he wouldn’t cramp her style. “What are your intentions? No offense, I like it when we have sex but it’s the other things – you caring about me – that makes me think we’re blurring the lines a little.”
He watched her taking another sip from her bottle of tequila and sighed as he walked to the cupboard to take out his bottle of bourbon and a glass. As he poured, he quietly mulled over her words. She was right, of course. The thoughts had crossed his mind several times now. Even this evening.
There was nothing more that he wanted than to share his life with her. Everything. But that also meant putting her in harm’s way – should she ever decide that it was safe for her to leave her shelter. She left on occassion, he knew that, but her entire world was in Débauche. She felt safe there, and sure, they could change their relationship, but what good would that do when he couldn’t keep sneaking out like he had done before?
He wanted her at the compound. Keep her safe there, have her stop allowing other men to enjoy her body. Claim her as his and his alone. He was certain that she was strong enough to handle his siblings. But should she end up in the wrong hands, she could be used against him as a weakness and he wasn’t weak.
And then there were of course Bella’s own troubles, her nightmares, that were still haunting her. They were still around and while the compound was a fortress and well protected, the top level of Débauche was still a safer place for her.
“You’re awfully quiet,” Bella eyed him as she took another swig from her bottle.
“What do you want my intentions to be, love?” He asked quietly and took a sip of his bourbon.
“Don’t turn it back on me, Klaus. I asked first.”
“Why do you want to know?”
Bella let out a low growl as she took another sip of her tequila. Wasn’t it obvious? She liked Klaus. She wanted him all to herself. She was ready for this. She was ready for someone to be in her life all the time. She hated it that her happiness was connected to the few times he showed up and the last two months had been horrifying. If he didn’t see a future with them, then so be it. She was going to find someone else.
Klaus tiredly rubbed his face and sighed. What would Camille say about this? Man up, probably, but the thing was that he really wanted Bella in his life as his. Everything. But for safety purposes, this was impossible. He cared too much about this still so broken young woman. “You are an amazing woman, Bella. I thoroughly enjoy spending time with you, however, I cannot give you what you want. It’s best if we keep the distance we’ve put between us.”
She took another sip of the bottle, she was well in her way to be completely buzzed and her bravery was growing. “I’m nothing but a fun fuck to you? One you feel like coming to the rescue to because you don’t want to lose it?”
Bella nodded and let out a breath she wasn’t aware she was holding. “Very well, this is good. We’ve discussed our feelings like mature adults and we know where we stand.” She straightened her skirt and nodded again as if she needed to confirm things in her head. “Good, then I can go and flirt with the guy at the bookstore tomorrow. He’s cute.”
He looked at her in surprise. “You’re going outside?”
“Yeah, with Alina. We both need new books to read and there’s a new book out from this author I like,” she said with a smile on her face and took another sip. “Flirting with the cute guy at the store is a bonus.”
“What if I don’t want you to flirt with him?”
“Tough, we’re not together. If you want to fuck me, I want you to fork over the fee right now and I shall take you to one of the rooms. I do not fuck clients in my own apartment. If you don’t want to fuck me, I want you to leave so I can get stupidly drunk and have fun by myself.”