He led his vampires into the parlour where he found Bella on the floor with Hope, both girls seemingly to have passed out, with Bella a protective arm over his daughter. A nearly empty jar of Nutella was on the table and he took a moment to take in the scene before him. There was no doubt that Bella was in a Nutella-induced slumber while Hope was taking her scheduled nap.
He knew that Bella didn’t like children much, babies in particular, but he was grateful for her at least making an effort. There was also no doubt that Freya had asked Bella to relieve her from babysitting duty to tend to her own life for a couple of hours, and he didn’t mind that. He trusted Bella in taking care of his daughter. She had a big heart, he could always trust her big heart to do the right thing.
And of course, Hope had her own draw to anything supernatural. To power. As his little test the night before, Hope trusted Bella without even knowing her; it was Bella’s energy that did it. Turning around to his vampires, he quietly compelled them to forget what they had been doing and told them to scatter.
Klaus then sat behind Bella and ran his fingers through her hair. “Love, it’s time for some lunch,” he said softly. “Time to wake up.”
“Sleep is good,” Bella replied with a yawn. “I’m tired.”
“Well, then you shouldn’t have eaten most of the jar of Nutella, love,” he said amused. “I’ll take Hope to her crib while you wake up,” he rose and gently pulled Hope up from the floor before moving her into her crib. By the time he returned, Bella was still on the floor. “On your feet,” he said, pulling her up, causing her to sigh and stand in front of him. “There you go.”
“You’re mean,” she pouted.
“That’s not fair, I spent all morning collecting your belongings,” he said as he showed her the bags and boxes. “Everything’s accounted for, even your… toys, although I doubt you’ll be needing them anymore.”
“I could use them on you,” she said with a smirk as she rubbed her eyes to wake up. “Tie you up… hold a vibrator against your cock and balls…Play…”
“Lunch,” he said as he put an arm around her and guided her towards the stairs. “I promised Myriam I’d take care of you, so lunch is what we’re going to have.”
“Of course you are,” she was still a bit wobbly on her feet so he held on to her as they walked down the stairs. “A good cup of tea will wake you right up,” he continued, adding the mental reminder in his head to put some of his blood in it. By the time they were at the bottom of the stairs, she was significantly more alert and able to walk without his assistance. Maybe he should have given her more time to wake, but something was nagging in the back of his head. Myriam had questioned his ability to look out for her, and that had stung.
When they walked into the dining room, however, he was surprised to find Elijah and Freya sit at the table, eagerly awaiting his and Bella’s arrival. “What is this? An intervention?” He quipped as he pulled out a chair for Bella and only sat down when she did. “Or an apology, perhaps?”
“For once, Niklaus, this isn’t about you,” Elijah replied as he nodded towards Bella. “This is about your new friend. I’m willing to extend a temporary truce between you and I to discuss your friend.”
Klaus looked at Freya and sighed before looking at his brother. “I gather you’ve recently had an interesting conversation.”
“Two, actually. One, this morning while I was preparing for the pack picnic. Something you should have been doing, but I suppose you’re still not over your grudge towards Hope’s mother and the second conversation was with our mutual friend, Myriam,” Elijah said evenly as he watched Bella pour herself a glass of tea from the teapot. She looked remarkably calmer than his earlier encounter with her.
“Elijah has informed me about the first talk,” Freya said with a shrug. “Most of it, I already knew, of course.”
“I do not like being kept out of the loop,” Elijah reminded his siblings.
“Well, now you know what that feels like, brother,” Klaus remarked before wincing as Bella kicked his shin underneath the table. “But please continue.”
It hadn’t escaped him what Bella had just done, she had corrected his brother’s behaviour and he took it. It was refreshing. Elijah nodded when his brother prompted him to continue. “Myriam didn’t say much, but what she had to say had me worried for the safety of our family, of Hope. And I know it’s a sore subject, but I really wish to know why you’re on the run from the Cold Ones, and what you’ve done to them.”
“What I’ve done to them?!” Bella shot at him. “Seriously?”
“Why else would you be in moderate danger?”
Klaus put his hand on Bella’s arm. “Easy love,” he soothed her. “How about I tell him and you add whatever you feel comfortable with?”
“How about we don’t discuss it?” Bella said as she gripped her fork tightly, ready to throw it at Elijah. “Those assholes ruined my life and he has the nerve to ask me what I’ve done to them? Me? To them?!”
“Breathe,” he reminded her. “Just breathe and take a sip of your tea, love,” he then looked at his two siblings. “It’s a good thing that I’ve already informed our sister what the Cold Ones are so that this conversation will go a little bit smoother. Nearly nine years ago, a coven of Cold Ones called the Cullens,” he could feel Bella tense up underneath his touch and gently squeezed her arm for reassurance. “Moved back to a little town they had previously lived in and they took a liking to Bella. Now, we all know how charming those rodents can be and young as she was, Bella started to get involved with the only son who was single. Despite mistreating her, mostly in the form of emotional abuse and the secret creepily staring at her while she slept, she stuck with him and his… family. During this time, this son decided to put her through the ultimate test to see if she would rescue him when pretending to want to end his life in a big way, exposing their kind to the human world, at the castle in Volterra, Italy. Bella, the good heart that she is, went, of course.”
Elijah blinked at that, as he listened to his brother’s words. It was unheard of for a human to survive an encounter with the Volturi, and he was anxious to hear more. As his brother spoke, he kept his eyes on Bella. He could see various emotions flash across her face. Anger. Betrayal. Pain. Mostly the same sort of look his brother usually had on his face when he felt as if a great injustice had happened to him.
“During that time, her father was in a car accident and she was unable to attend his funeral as she was in Italy. Upon coming home, the Cullens started to become more controlling, more abusive and tried to make her do things while she was trying to mourn her father’s passing,” Klaus continued, still his hand on her arm, watching her as she took a sip from her tea. “They become more impatient and at one point her life was even put further in danger as two members of that coven lost their patience with her.”
Freya swallowed hard. While Klaus had told her about the other kind of vampire, the Cold Ones, she hadn’t been able to foresee the shit that they put Bella through. Of course, she knew there was a reason for Bella being at Débauche, but for it to be this, it was tough to swallow.
“As if that wasn’t hard enough, there was a threat from the outside from another Cold One. The Cullens had killed her mate while they were protecting Bella, and she was on a rampage.”
“Edward and I went to Florida, to see my mother,” Bella softly said. “My mother and I never got along, and I think they wanted me there only to torture me even further, but once she saw Edward trying to shake me ‘out of it’ quite violently, she told me to run and never to look back. And I did. For all I know, Edward could have killed her out of spite,” she carefully put down her fork, relaxing a little. “The Cullens have gifts. Edward’s gift is the power to read minds. Then there’s another one called Jasper who can influence someone’s emotions, but the one to look out for is Alice. She can hone in to a person and based on the decisions they make, she can see their future. I ran for five years, trying to stay one step ahead, trying not to make decisions and only do last minute. I was so tired. And then I heard of Débauche.”
Elijah slowly nodded, feeling for the girl. Despite the monstrosities that he and his family had done, it was nowhere near as bad. Well, perhaps the only one would be compelling vampires to pretend to be them while they were on the run from their father but she was human. A human girl. Surviving Cold Ones. She was quite the tenacious creature. He then looked at Klaus and sighed. “You told Myriam the threat was moderate because you didn’t want to worry her, did you?”
“She has enough on her plate as it is.”
“What I don’t understand is, why haven’t they given up?” Freya questioned. “Or have they?”
“They have not,” Klaus replied curtly. “Bella spent the last week in the company of our old friend Lucien and he encountered a Cold One in the Quarter, the same one who had been hunting Bella when she was sent to Florida.”
“Lucien?” Elijah blinked. “Are you serious?”
“Ah, he’s a problem to discuss later, brother,” he said playfully and wagged his finger in warning. “Lucien killed the bitch, but if there’s one, it’s quite certain more will follow.”
“But why? She’s human! I understand that they’re quite the secretive bunch, and they usually kill humans on sight for even seeing them, let alone knowing about them and how they work, so how come is she still alive?”
“Have you tried to compel Bella this morning, brother?” Klaus mused, a big smile on his face. “If not, please make her cluck like a chicken.”
Bella let out a low growl in warning, before stabbing Klaus’ hand with the fork she had only dropped a few moments before.
“Easy, love,” Klaus hissed as he pulled the fork out of his hand. “We’re almost done, just keep it together for a little bit longer.” Handing her the fork back, he looked at his brother. “Does she smell like an ordinary human to you, brother?”
Now that he thought about it, not really. “Her blood does seem to smell a bit stronger than that of others,” he said slowly and then blinked. “Bella’s a singer?”
“A singer who survived the Cold Ones.”
“That is unheard of!”
“What is a singer?” Freya blinked as she looked between her brothers. Elijah looked stumped, Klaus looked smug and Bella looked on the verge of breaking her glass and slicing something open. “I mean, I obviously know what a singer is but what does it mean in your case?”
“Not much is known of the Cold One lore. All their mysteries, mishaps and destruction is kept secret, it’s quite difficult to find any evidence of them anywhere. It’s only that we know of them due to us having lived in Italy for some time and Elijah’s a book hoarder.”
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are,” Freya said, rolling her eyes at her brother. “But we love you for it.”
“In Italian, La Tua Cantante is used to identify a human whose blood appeals to a certain vampire. The human becomes irresistible to him or her and in most cases, singers don’t survive their encounter with their… audience,” Elijah explained. “And if they do, they turn.”
“But Bella didn’t.”
“The Cullens are self-proclaimed vegetarians who possess excellent control over their bloodlust. Well, most of them, anyway,” Bella said wryly.
“So, Elijah, do you remember what your books say about singers who live longer than they’re supposed to?” Klaus asked as he put a beignet onto Bella’s plate. “I have my suspicions but I’m wondering what you come up with.”
He opened his mouth to say something but closed it again before speaking. “It’s been awhile since I’ve brushed up on those books, but I do remember something about the longer singers live, the more powerful they become, but I can’t be sure. There was something else.”
“Well, I know you’re a bit short on time, brother,” Klaus said with a smile. “How about you allow Bella to read through those books? This gives her something to do.”
“They’re in Italian, Niklaus,” Elijah sighed exasperated. “Ancient Italian at that, I highly doubt that she’d be able to read them. I’ll look through them tomorrow after my visit with the wolves, unless you feel inclined?”
“I’m going to help Bella settle in, find a space for her belongings,” Klaus said as he looked at her as she nibbled on her beignet.
“You’re more than capable of doing multiple tasks at once, Niklaus. If she truly is under a threat by the Cold Ones, there is no time to waste and we need to get this over and done with,” Elijah remarked angrily. “You should have killed the Cold Ones that were after her.”
“My apologies, Elijah,” Klaus shot at him. “But if you haven’t noticed, we’ve been quite busy the last two years and she told me not to!”
“The sooner we figure out what her being alive still means for them, the better,” he said as he got up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to pack up my things and wait for Hope to wake up so I can take her to the Bayou with me. I shall also find you those books so you can peruse them.”
“Elijah’s right,” Freya agreed. “We have to figure this out now. It’s bad enough that our family has the reputation to get into trouble, we cannot have an extra threat in our house.”
“I could go back to the club,” Bella muttered as she finished her beignet and took a sip of her tea. “Problem sorted.”
“Oh, no, you’re not going anywhere,” Freya shook her head. “This house is filled with men. I am grateful that there’s another female in here that I can talk to instead of wishing a baby could speak, but we do need to figure your problems out. I shall use my magic to see if I can be of any use.”
Klaus watched as his sister followed his brother out and then looked at Bella, who looked as pale as a sheet. “Are you alright, love?”
“I just think this is a very bad idea. Let sleeping dogs lie and all that. If me being here is more dangerous for you then-”
Elijah walked back into the dining room. “Just what exactly did you mean by having to try to compel Bella? Singers aren’t supposed to have any additional gifts than being especially appetizing to some Cold Ones.”
“Her mind is an impenetrable fortress, nobody can read her mind or compel her.”
“I don’t know,” Bella said with a shrug. “It frustrated Edward to no end, but I thought it was great because then he couldn’t hear what I was thinking.”
“Freya?” he called out.
“Oh, on it, this is interesting!” Freya said as she bounced back in. “Can I try something? I promise I won’t hurt you.”
She was shaking her hands as if she was on something and Bella didn’t like it. While she didn’t mind the warlocks and witches at Débauche, she never allowed them to get close with their magic. And if Freya wanted to use her magic on her… She looked at Klaus, anxious. “No?”
“It’s alright, love. If she does anything to hurt you, I shall not hesitate to kill her,” he said with a warning in his voice as he looked at his sister.
“I’d like to see you try, Nik,” Freya said playfully as she put her hands on Bella’s shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze. “Relax, I’m not going to hurt you. Think of this as… a medical assessment with witchcraft.”
“I don’t like this.”
“Relax, it’s likely I can’t get anything either, but we’ll see,” she squeezed Bella’s shoulders reassuringly before putting her hands on the sides of her head and closed her eyes.
“I don’t want you to do this,” she said, squirming a little in her seat.
“Shhh,” Freya shushed her. “Working here.”
“Bella,” Freya whined. “Later. I’m sensing old magic…Oh, terribly old. Powerful. Let me see if…” Freya gasped as some force pushed her away from Bella and hit her head against the wall behind her. “Wow! Ow…” she said as she rubbed her head and got to her feet. “That…”
“Was interesting,” Elijah said, his curiosity piqued. Even Klaus was on his feet, looking to Bella and to his sister, confused. “Old magic?”
“Oh yeah,” she said out of breath, her eyes wide of excitement. “Very old, and obviously the magic is protecting Bella from others getting inside her head or removing the spell. Can I try again?”
“No!” Bella quickly rose from her chair, looking at Freya in shock. “Stay the hell away from me, you only want to hurt me!”
“And now we know why she has such a hatred for witches,” Klaus said lightly, slightly concerned by this old magic. Did they really have to concern themselves with Cold Ones, her being a singer and now old magic? What else was he going to have to put Bella through? “I think this is enough experimentation for the day,” he then said as he pulled Bella towards him. “How about we find a place for your trinkets?”
“I want some of Bella’s blood to work with,” Freya said quickly. “I can identify the magic, I know I can.”
“No!” Bella huffed as she pulled her arms closer to her body and shuffled closer to Klaus. “You’re not getting anything!” She then looked up to Klaus and sighed. “Is she mentally ill?”
“I often think that, yes.”
Elijah felt stupefied. Usually, his brother wanted to get to the bottom of things as quickly as possible, no matter the person. So what if the girl was overwhelmed? It never stopped his brother before, he always pushed. Granted, Bella had her issues, but if they’d break her now, they only had to break her once. “Niklaus, I think that we need to get to the bottom of this. A little bit of blood won’t hurt.”
“Freya’s not getting Bella’s blood, end of argument. Find a different means,” he then guided Bella out of the dining room. “Let’s get you settled.”