Stefan smiles to himself at the sound of her breathless voice on the other end of the phone as she tells him, "I changed my mind." He had planted the seed of her little rebellion that afternoon and she'd seemed so against it, so sure she would have never faltered in her high moral position, but too much pride always brings a fast downfall and he had been counting the minutes to this moment.
This is what seduction is, after all, enticing someone into doing exactly what they secretly want to do. And deep inside, Bonnie wants to stop being invisible for the sake of her friends.
His answer is short, "I'll be there to pick you up tomorrow at 9 pm," before hanging up and turning off his phone. He's got no intention of giving her the chance to call it off on a regurgitation of conscience.
That night he flirts more than usual, and distraction helps him feed the women the needed silence to let his appeal set in. It is always a good thing to retreat, to give mixed signals. It makes his target fear the loss of the power he made her feel by giving her his attention after an indirect kind of approach.
Once he turns cold they throw themselves at him, and tonight is no exception. Only he is too distracted by the prospect of having Bonnie join in on his little quest for satisfaction and so he takes what he's offered in the back of the club instead of going to a more private place. He's not entirely happy with how he acts later, because he's got his standards to keep, but she seems fulfilled enough, by both his equipment and the exciting setting of their petit coup rapide (she's turned on by the French language and he gladly obliged).
The next day all he has to do is make a few phone calls and then he can sit in his chair, ankles crossed on the footrest, reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses - the first edition of the libertine novel written by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, published in four volumes in 1782 – and wait.
Patrick is an old acquaintance – a sixty-two years old stylist made immortal by a vampire that declared she was unable to go on living without his good taste. All in all, she was unable to go on living because Patrick had not liked to have her make such a choice for him and had made her a dress with a highly inflammable fabric that had sparked into a fire during a private dinner that saw him as her only guest.
And when he enters his room followed by his assistants, Stefan barely look up from the yellowed pages as they place dresses all around.
"Mr. Salvatore," Patrick greets him with his with his usual picture-perfect smile, "What a pleasure to see you."
Stefan reciprocates with a more placid grin, amused by his hardly subtle scrutiny –even in the thirties Patrick never put too much effort in hiding the fact that he used to swing both ways.
Stefan rises from the chair and listens very carefully at the – almost poetic – descriptions Patrick gives of the dresses. He's worked with the best over the years, always with a different name, always with an uncanny desire for keeping behind the scenes. After all, his field of work is not really made for shy people and to those who don't know his peculiar feeding habits the choice of anonymity is more than a bit odd.
"Your lucky… friend must be something," he comments stealing a glance his way as he observes the dresses with attention, studying their length and materials to envision them against Bonnie's dark skin.
"She is. Both something and just a friend," Stefan explains with a note of boredom.
"If you say so," the other shrugs and he watches the youngest Salvatore take his picks, pointing out at this and this and this one, going on and on. He's used to the eccentricity of his rich clients but the girl must be quite special if he's buying her Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Valentino, aside from the Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana accessories.
Stefan has just paid the check and is putting away his purchases when Damon enters his room with his light step.
"Are you going romantic on Rebekah?" he asks, "I remember her as more practical kind of girl."
"And you would know that, since you like to do anyone I do," Stefan comments blank.
"Not really. When you'll take pity on Patrick and finally scratch his itch, I will not follow," he says with as nonchalantly as he can, as Stefan mocks his habit to be the runner up with all the girls he cared about.
His little brother gives him no attention nor answer so he tries again, "I don't really see her wearing a gold Zuhair Murad."
"You're really good with fashion," Stefan says with a nod, "You should reconsider Patrick, you have so much in common. You both have no idea what to do with a woman."
It's the first vicious strike Stefan directs his way, it's a sign he's getting under his skin and yet pride has the better of him.
"Your ex-girlfriend says otherwise," he notes.
"Yes, she does, doesn't she?" Stefan asks with an unaffected grin, destroying his sense of victory, "Both her and her sire bond," when he turns he puts away the last dress spread on the bed and decides to amuse Damon just to get him out of his way, or maybe to torment him a bit. He's ready to throw the dice and see what happens, it's not like he has anything else to do.
"But, anyway, you're not going to see Rebekah in this dress."
"Are you going to wear it yourself? Because I think you've been too optimistic with the size," Damon replies hoping for more info about the girl that made him go out of his way for her. Is he trying to conquer Elena back? Has Katherine come back to take advantage of his weakness?
"No, I am not, now if you'll excuse me…"
"Not really," Damon shakes his head, gaining a shrug from his brother.
"Okay then," he says, breaking his neck with a fast snap, and watching his limp body fall at his feet.
Stefan is actually happy his brother is a vampire, because this means he can break his neck over and over and over until his heart is content. And he grins down at him.
When Bonnie opens her front door she's wearing a grey wrap skirt print skirt and a white blouse. Her chocolate curls fall to frame her pretty face and she looks as nervous as he imagined she'd be.
He's looking right into her eyes when he tells her, "You're lovely," but as she thanks him he informs her, "You must change now," raising in front of her eyes a big, glossy black bag.
"What?" she asks, taking the bag as he put it in her arms.
Instead of answering her question he just sits on the sofa, "I'll be waiting here. Are ten minutes enough?"
"Yes," she manages to say with a confused expression, as she walks to the stairs and up to her room.
He knocks on the door of her bedroom as she is trying to zip up her strapless, lace and chiffon champagne dress and she's not sure he's waited for her permission to enter because as soon as she turns her eyes back on the mirror he's behind her.
"Let me assist you," he says, with a gallantry that's way out of the current century.
"Thanks," she says, "For the dress, too," she adds, "You shouldn't have."
She's clearly embarrassed and he decides that's a good moment to be annoyed at her.
"You should have stopped at thanks," he informs her, "Because you should let any man know they have to. We are dense creatures. We'll never understand anything you want or deserve if you don't say it."
"You seem to understand more than I'm interested you do."
He sinks his fists into his black pants and looks at her through the mirror, making her feel very self-conscious. So much so that she's tempted to hide, but since there's no way to, she unconsciously changes her posture, hunching her shoulders and turning her eyes.
"Stop," he warns her with a soft tone.
She looks back uncertain and he clarifies. "Stand right, chin high. You are the center of attention and you're going to enjoy it."
She nods at him, before turning around to announce, "I'm ready."
He looks at her with an endeared expression, explaining to her, "You're not."
"I am, and you said ten minutes," she reminds him.
"Yes, and you have to be late for another ten, because if your date won't wait for you, someone smarter will." She should be flattered; instead, his hard tone makes her tense. He's so close that whenever he speaks she can feel the ghost of his breath and her first reaction is to take a step back.
Stefan holds her fast, gripping her waist and taking her back, a bit closer than she was before. She curses at herself in her mind as she looks up into his eyes.
"Don't act like you're scared. You'll be the prey only when you feel like playing it that way," he tells her, touching her hair. "I like them," he says, "But be so kind as to straighten them and tie them up in a high ponytail."
"Why?" she asks.
"Can you do that?" he gently urges her, making her sigh in surrender.
She turns around, once again, to brush her hair and straighten the curls Jeremy likes so much.
"You should put some emphasis to your neck," he says, observing it intently, "The most innocent curves make men think of the soft, welcoming places a woman possess. Knees and shoulders," he says, putting his large hands on her caramel shoulders, "are more enticing then you'd think. A woman showing off too much has no allure, anyone can make an easy conquest, but only someone of value can have you," he says, boring a hole through her as he stares at her, "Remember that," he says, before taking a step back, crossing his arms on his chest to watch her tie up her hair.
"What now?" she asks, turning around once again, expecting a new lesson.
Stefan smiles and bends slightly towards her. His nose is near her cheekbone, and he moves down, down, down, smelling her body as he kneels in front of her.
He looks up at her with an intense gaze and she doesn't move, which he approves of with a grin. Truthfully her lack of movement is because her body refuses to work properly, not because she's not dying to run away from him, but still, he seems pleased and so she count it as a point in her favor.
"There was a bottle of perfume in that bag," he says, standing once again.
"Yes, and I used it," she confirms with a nod.
"In the wrong way," he informs her, turning around to take the bottle from her dressing table, "I smelled it way too clearly on your wrists, and there's a trace at the base of your neck."
"Which are the places where people wear perfume," she explains, bothered.
He is completely unaffected by her change of mood, instead he's slow and delicate as he takes the bottle and wet his index fingertip with a drop of liquid.
"Not if they know how to use it," he continues, patiently, "The scent must be so faint to be an extension of the fragrance of your skin," he says with a husky tone as he caresses a point behind her earlobe with his finger, "Only the one who'll whisper to your ear will smell it, like a secret between you and him," he says, moving his hand to her décolleté, saying, "With your permission," before pressing the tip of his finger up between her breast, "The right point would be lower," he informs her, looking right into her eyes, "But I would never take such liberty. Not without the lady's request."
"Do they often send you written invitations to put your hands in their cleavage?" she asks, in the futile attempt to break the tension. It is starting to get to her, the idea that she did something very stupid.
He chuckles – for her benefit, so that she will feel comfortable and calmer – and smiles.
"Sometimes I settle for an informal request."
"Very generous of you," but when she's done talking she sees him kneeling again in front of her, touching her behind her knees and her ankles.
When Stefan looks up again Bonnie is breathless and slightly aroused. If he's noticed, he's gentleman enough to not let it show. And a moment later he's offering her his arm with the most charming smile he's got.
He can feel her heartbeat against his biceps, as she holds the arm he offered when he helped her down off the car. Her breast is warm and soft against the hard muscles of his arm. He grins to himself, leading her to their table.
"It's sweet the way you hold on to me," he says. "I know you're really nervous because I can count the beats of your heart, but whenever you feel like seducing a man, do it again. Hold his arm like this, wearing this same expression," he explains, "A man wants to protect his woman, even if she's strong and capable, he wants to do it. It makes them feel worthy of your love," he adds, taking her hand to guide her to her chair, pulling it out for her.
When Stefan sits in front of her she reminds herself to sit with her back straight, trying to ignore her burning cheeks.
"You seem to know a lot about people," she says, resisting the urge to hunch her shoulders.
"They've been my hobby for a long, long time," he replies, waiting to see her distrust. She doesn't make him wait long.
"You mean, you manipulated them."
"I read them," he explains. "Some of them wanted to be lead out of their safe confines, and I used to do that. Sometimes. But I never forced anyone in any way. It is not funny when they don't have their free will."
And she knows way too well whose choice it is that lead her here tonight. She won't be hypocrite and cry wolf just because she can't bear the consequences of her decisions.
Bonnie looks around, trying to blend in. A voice inside her head asks her if she's insane. She doesn't belong here, she can't compare to the other girls inside the club. Maybe she should have realized that before Stefan drove for an hour just to play to her stupid whims.
"Bonnie, look at me," he says, holding her gaze as she does.
"I'll provide some liquid courage," he informs her, motioning for the waiter.
"I'm underage," she reminds him.
"I thought you wanted to indulge a little bit…"
Bonnie swallows and nods, and when he asks her what she would like, her rational mind, for just a passing moment, remembers Stefan's eyes as he was kneeling in front of her.
"Wine," she says, "White."
Their glasses were in front of them barely one minute later and she tried to go for some harmless conversation.
"This place has a very attentive service."
"Not really," he says, "I think the waiter wanted to please you."
There is no innuendo in his voice but her skin feels suddenly hot and she crosses her legs under the table, confused about what's happening.
She thinks he's trying to flatter her, stroke her ego, and he knows that, for he adds, "Didn't you ask yourself how I could pick out the right size for you?"
Bonnie bats her lashes and looks down at her dress, then up at him, "Is that a vampire superpower I wasn't aware of?"
"Men look at you more than you realize," he says. Tension can turn very easily into arousal and he hopes to catch the smell of her in the air. He will not try to seduce her, because she's still his friend and he can't give a woman anything more than sex, but he wants to indulge only a bit. After all, he's far from being unaffected himself.
"Moreover, I should thank you. Your company will keep me from making any effort."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that desire is both imitative and competitive. We want what others want, and if they think you want me, they'll desire will only increase."
"The same applies to me, then."
"I don't think you need to worry about that."
But she's still insecure. You don't wash away years of being someone's shadow with a few compliments and a fine dress. Even if the compliments do not give her justice and the dress is merely a rag on such a body.
"There is a trick," he starts slowly, smiling at her. "You can use it whenever you're nervous, or anytime you feel like."
"What trick would that be?" she asks, curious, taking her glass in her hand.
"You should think of sex," he says, casually, like's starting a joke.
Her stammering makes him smile, and he decides he'll let it go this time.
"Whenever you want to feel attractive and you can't, you should think of sex. In detail. Imagine the touch of the man you're with or wanna be with," he says, caressing the wall of his thick glass of whisky with the fingertips of his right hand. "Think of the wet, slippery rubbing of flesh," he explains, leaning towards her.
"I don't think-"
"Think of his mouth on you," he cuts her words, "Thinking of sex changes people's aura. It's like a mute call no one can ignore. Even those who refuse to show it will be affected, only few of them can actually resist."
Bonnie takes a sip of her drink to swallow the knot in her throat. She wonders how much Stefan has been thinking about sex while he was with her, because she's desperately hoping for a reason why she now wants to touch him so much.
Note: I REALLY wanna thank alla-matta for the fabulous art she made for DTBH and everyone else for the kind support. I love you all.
Note 2: petit coup rapide means "quickie".