No peck on the lips was going to satisfy Damon, Elena thought. On the other hand, Matt was going to need outright seduction before he would give in. Fortunately Elena had broken the Matt Honeycutt code long ago. And she planned to be remorseless in using what she had learned on his weakened, susceptible body.
But Matt could be far too stubborn for his own good. He allowed Elena to put her soft lips against his, he allowed her to put her arms around him. But when Elena tried to do some of the things he liked most - like running her nails down his spine, or touching her tongue tip lightly to his closed lips - he clamped his teeth shut. He wouldn't put an arm around her.
Elena let go of him and sighed. Then she felt a crawling sensation between her shoulder blades, as if she were being watched but a hundred times stronger. She glanced back to see Damon standing at a distance with his Virginia pine rod, but she couldn't find anything unusual. She glanced back once more - and had to cram a fist into her mouth.
Damon wasthere ; right behind her; so close that you couldn't have gotten two fingers between the front of her body and the front of his. She didn't know why her arm hadn't hit him. Her whirl actually trapped her in between two male bodies.
But how had he done it? There had been no time to travel the distance of the clearing from where Damon had been standing to one inch behind her in the second that she had glanced away. Nor had there been any sound as he'd walked across the pine needles toward them; like the Ferrari, he was just - there.
Elena swallowed the scream that was desperately trying to get out of her lungs, and tried to breathe. Her own body was rigid with fear. Matt was trembling slightly behind her. Damon was leaning in, and all she could smell was the sweetness of pine resin.
Something's wrong with him. Something's wrong.
"You know what," Damon said, leaning forward even farther so that she had to lean backward against Matt, so that, even spooned against Matt's shaking body, she was looking straight into the Ray-Bans from a distance of three inches. "That gets you a grade of a D minus."
Now Elena was shaking as well as Matt. But she had to get a grip on herself, had to meet this aggression head-on. The more passive she and Matt were, the more time Damon had to think.
Elena's mind was in feverish scheming mode. He may not be reading our minds, she thought, but he can certainly tell if we're telling the truth or lying. That's normal for a vampire who drinks human blood. What can we make of that? What can we do with it?
"That was a greeting kiss," she said boldly. "It's to identify the person that you're meeting, so you'll always know them afterwards. Even - even prairie hamsters do it. Now - please - could we move just a little, Damon? I'm getting crushed."
And this is just much too provocative a position, she thought. For everybody involved.
"One more chance," Damon said, and this time he didn't smile. "I want to see a kiss - a real kiss - between you. Or else."
Elena twisted in the tight space. Her eyes searched Matt's. They had, after all, been boyfriend and girlfriend for quite a while last year. Elena saw the look in Matt's blue eyes: hewanted to kiss her, as much as he could want anything after that pain. And he realized that she'd had to go through all that fancy footwork to save him from Damon.
Somehow, we'll get out, Elena thought to him. Now, will you cooperate? Some boys didn't have buttons in the selfish sensations area of their brain. Some, like Matt, had buttons labeledHONOR or GUILT .
Now Matt held still as she took his face between her hands, tilting it down and going up on her toes to kiss him, because he'd grown so much. She thought of their first real kiss, in his car on the way home from a minor school dance. He'd been terrified, his hands damp, his whole interior quaking. She'd been cool, experienced, gentle.
And so she was now, drawing a warm tongue tip to melt his frozen lips apart. And just in case Damon was eavesdropping on her thoughts, she kept them strictly on Matt, on his sunshiny looks and his warm friendship and on the gallantry and courtesy that he had always shown to her, even when she broke up with him. She wasn't aware when his arms went around her shoulders or when he took control of the kiss, like a person dying of thirst who's finally found water. She could see it clearly in his mind: he'd never thought he'd kiss Elena Gilbert like this again.
Elena didn't know how long it lasted. Finally she unwound her arms from around Matt's neck and stepped back.
And then she realized something. It was no accident that Damon had sounded like a film director. He was holding up a palm-sized video camera, staring into the viewfinder. He'd captured the whole thing.
With Elena clearly visible. She had no idea what had happened to the disguising baseball cap and dark glasses. Her hair was disordered and her breathing came quickly, involuntarily. The blood had risen to the surface of her skin. Matt didn't look much more together than she felt.
Damon looked up from the viewfinder.
"What do you want that for?" Matt growled in tones completely unlike his normal voice. The kiss had affected him, too, Elena thought. More so than her.
Damon picked up his branch again and again waved the end of it like a Japanese fan. Pine aroma wafted by Elena. He looked considering, as though he might ask for a retake, then changed his mind, smiled brilliantly at them, and tucked the video camera into a pocket.
"All you need to know is that it was a perfect take."
"Then we're leaving." The kiss seemed to have given Matt new strength, even if it was for saying the wrong type of things. "Right now."
"Oh, no, but keep that dominant, aggressive attitude. As you remove her shirt."
Damon repeated the words in the tones of a director giving an actor complicated instructions.
"Undo the buttons of her shirt, please, and take it off."
"You'recrazy ." Matt turned and looked at Elena, stopped aghast to see the expression on her face, the single tear running down the eye not hidden.