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The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6: The Compelled - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online for free. Control or be controlled. The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries (Series). Book 2. L. J. Smith Author Kevin Williamson & Julie Plec Author (). cover image of The Craving. Thank you for reading the compelled vampire diaries stefans 6 lj smith. Maybe you [PDF]The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefans Diaries Based on.
It was as if Samuel had purposely allowed us to get closer and closer, only to outwit usjust like his alter ego, Jack the Ripper, had done to the Metropolitan Police when he sent them on a cat-and-mouse chase through London. No need to run, girl, one man said as he lecherously stumbled toward her. I stomped on the broadsheet, examining an etched photo of a girl with long, dark hair and pale eyes. Darkness had fallen when I returned to the tunnel. Im sorry I put you in danger, I said hollowly. Hoofs thudded behind us—the men had leaped on the other horses and were now fast on our tail.
And it was she whod helped set up a trap to snare Samuel. We had hoped to get closer to Samuel, to discover his weaknesses, anything that could help us understand his relentless vendetta against us.
Because the Ripper murders werent committed for the blood. As vampires, we could kill quickly and cleanlybut we didnt need to murder to obtain sustenance. Samuel, especially, didnt: As a benefactor to the Magdalene Asylum, he was able to drink his fill from its residents whenever he liked, compelling them to offer their necks to him and then forget all about the encounter.
And yet Samuel was intent on brutally slaying and slicing open victims on the streets of Whitechapel, all with the goal of framing Damon as a killer. His motivation could be summed up in one terrible name: At one point, the name had made my heart race. Now, it made it clench in dread. Katherine meant Samuel, and Samuel meant destruction.
And the only question was, when would he stop? When Damon was dead? When I was dead? In the process of our investigation, wed lost Damon and witnessed Violets transformation into a soulless, coldblooded killer. Not only had she fought brutally against Damon and me moments earlier, but shed hurtand.
I could only imagine the despair and confusion Cora was feeling as she stood in the corner. But I couldnt dwell on what had happened. I needed to think of the futureand I needed to save Damon. We cant stay here. Lets go home. Our destination was the Underground tunnel where wed spent our nights for the last week.
Cora nodded. A flicker of concern crossed her eyes as she noticed the cut on my cheek. Youre bleeding, she said. Im fine, I said roughly, wiping the blood away with my hand. It was just like Cora to be worried about my discomfort when she was struggling with so much. Let me help you.
Cora reached into the sleeve of her dress and pulled out a handkerchief. She tenderly rubbed it against my skin. Im worried about you, Stefan. You have to take care of yourself, because. She trailed off, but I knew what she was thinking. Because at this point, youre all I have. I nodded, knowing there wasnt much else Cora or I could say. I boosted Cora up so she could climb through the Asylum window, and together, we slowly trudged westward to our temporary home.
Above us, clouds and mist obscured any stars, and the streets were practically empty. People were terrified of the Ripper, and the eerie wind whistling through the alleys. The only heartbeat I could hear was Coras, but I knew from the papers that policemen were hiding in every shadowy alley, on the lookout for the Ripper.
Of course, the police presence was useless. While they were shivering on the streets, on guard for the Rippers next attack, the murderer was preoccupied with a prime distraction: At least, I hoped he was still plotting, not already tormenting Damon. Was my brother even now crying out in agony? Or had Samuel simply staked him and thrown his lifeless body in the Thames?
Tortured or killed? It was a lose-lose situation, but I found myself wishing Samuels sadistic nature had won out. While it would prolong Damons pain, it gave us a chance at rescuing him, boosting our slim odds. Cora stumbled and I reached out to steady her. We were almost home. I paused to make sure we hadnt been followed, but no one was chasing us.
In fact, no one seemed to be here at all, perhaps put off by the signs that surrounded the work area above the tunnel, all clearly stating that trespassing was strictly prohibited by the Metropolitan Police. I jumped down into the tunnel, unfazed by the drop. That was one of the advantages of being a vampire: My innate agility ensured Id land on my feet.
I helped Cora down, and the two of us faced each other. Despite the darkness, I could see everything, from the packed dirt walls to the pebbles scattered on the ground. Meanwhile, Cora blinked several times, her eyes adjusting to the lack of light. Suddenly, a creature darted past our feet. It was a rat, almost the size of a small cat. Instead of scrambling away in surprise, Cora grabbed a large stone from the tunnel floor and threw it at the creature.
The scuffling stopped. You need to eat, she urged. Thank you. I reached down, grabbed the still-warm carcass, and placed my mouth to its fur, piercing the thin skin with my fangs. The whole time, I was aware of Coras unflinching gaze. But what did it matter? It wasnt like my drinking blood was a surprise to her. Shed seen me bare my fangs to feed, and shed seen me battle Henry and Samuel.
I felt the rats blood calm my body as it ran through my veins. Once Id drunk all I could, I threw the carcass to the ground, wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, and smiled tersely at Cora. Our friendship was unlike any Id ever experienced with a human since becoming a vampire. Even when Callie had discovered my identity back in New Orleans, I had never fed in front of her.
I had concealed my fangs and masked my yearnings, wanting her to only see the best in me. But Cora was different. Was that enough? Dark shadows surrounded her eyes, and the smudges of grime on her cheeks blended with the smattering of freckles on her skin. Her teeth were chattering. A cold snap had hit London in the past few days, and it was especially frigid in the tunnel, where the walls were beaded with condensation and a misty gray fog swirled around the darkness.
It was, thank you. How are you? I asked, feeling stupid as soon as the words escaped my lips. How was she? She was in the tunnel of an all-but-abandoned construction site. Shed just killed a rat and watched it be drained of its blood. Shed been betrayed by her vampire sister. Shed witnessed vampires torturing one another, seen a body burned to ashes. And although she did so willingly, shed been used as a pawn in our war against Samuel.
But hed escaped, and had brutally killed two of Coras friends, then left their corpses in Mitre Square. How did I expect her to feel? Im alive, Cora said. I believe that counts for something. She attempted a laugh, but it came out as a sputtering cough. I patted her on the back and was surprised when she leaned in and gave me a hug.
Im sorry I put you in danger, I said hollowly. I should have known that we couldnt reason with Violet. I should never have brought you to see her. Wed gone to see Ephraim, a witch, and had him cast a locator spell to help us find Violet and persuade her to leave Samuel. But when wed found her, she hadnt listened to anything wed said and had kidnapped Cora, which is how shed ended up back at the Asylum the same day Damon and I had snuck in to ambush Samuel.
You wouldnt have been able to keep me away from Violet, Cora said firmly. You told me she wouldnt be the same. But deep down, I believed shed still be my sister. Now I know I was wrong. Cora shuddered. I nodded, sad that my prediction had been true. I was so stupid, Cora said, her face twisting in anger. I thought I could get through to her. I thought she could change. But there was nothing of Violet left in her. She fed on me, Stefan.
Then she brought me to the Asylum and asked that groundskeeper, Seaver, to lock me in that room. I tried to escape, but Seaver started chanting and all of a sudden, I was completely trapped.
Coras lower lip wobbled as tears spilled down her cheeks. She wiped them away with the back of her hand and set her mouth in a firm line. He must have used some sort of spell, I said slowly. I remembered how small and helpless Cora had looked in that room in the Magdalene Asylum.
She must have been terrified. We need to see Ephraim, I decided. The only thing I knew for certain was that if Samuel had witches under his control, wed need a way to counter their spells. Cora yelled. Not Ephraim. I had a bad feeling about him. His locator spell may have taken us to Violet, but what if that was a trap he set up with Samuel?
What if hes been working for Samuel all along? We know Ephraim used to do jobs for the highest bidderwhos to say he ever stopped?
We cant trust him, Cora said, setting her jaw. We need to come up with another plan. Well, we need someone on our side who can perform magic. Otherwise, Samuel will always have that advantage over us, I said. I stood up and paced back and forth, willing my mind to come up with a clever way to ensnare Samuel and free my brother. But I still felt weak and shaky and utterly unable to concentrate. The rats blood had only taken the edge off my hunger. I think you should drink real blood, Cora said quietly, as if she could read my mind.
Like your brother. Like Samuel. It would make you strong enough to fight him, right? It would make the fight even, like you said. Her eyes glittered like diamonds in the darkness. I cant! I exploded in frustration, unleashing all the tension Id been holding in.
My voice echoed off the walls of the tunnel, sending rodents skittering to unknown hiding spots. A few nights before, I wouldve heard the. Tonight, there were none, and I was glad theyd moved on. The sound of blood rushing against veins would be far too tempting. I took a steadying breath. I cant control myself, I continued more calmly. When Damon feeds, hes smarter and faster.
When I feed, all I want is more blood. I cant think logically or rationally. All I can think of is how Ill hunt my next meal. Im a beast on blood, Cora. Cora opened her mouth as if to say something, then thought the better of it. All right. But Stefan, she said, grabbing my wrist in a surprisingly strong grip.
This is war, and I wont have you lose on principle. What do you mean? I tugged my wrist away gently and peered at her. Its more than principleits survival. I dont drink human blood.
I know you dont. All I meant was that Ill do whatever it takes to stop Samuel from killing more innocent people. And I hope youll do the same.
Maybe drinking human blood would be different for you now. Maybe you could try. I cant, I said firmly. You dont know what blood does to me. And I dont want you to find out. Cora looked at me indignantly, but I didnt want to pursue the subject any further. We should get some sleep, I said. I settled on the hard ground on the opposite side of. I heard her shaky breathing, but I couldnt tell if she was shivering or crying.
I didnt ask. I closed my eyes and pressed my hand to my forehead, a gesture that did nothing to ease the relentless pounding in my skull. Coras suggestion echoed in my mind: Drink human blood.
Could I? I hadnt in twenty years, not since I was in New Orleans, where Id sometimes drank the blood of four, five, ten humans a day with little thought to the consequences. I often dreamt of it, the moment when I was bent over a victim, smelling the rushing, liquid iron, knowing it was about to run down my throat. Sometimes the liquid was bitter, like strong, black coffee. Sometimes it was sweet, with traces of honey and oranges.
It used to be a private, perverse game of mine: But no matter what the flavor, the result was the same: With human blood in me, I was stronger, faster. And ruthless. In a way, Cora was right. In the short term, blood could be the fuel to power me to rescue Damon. But in the long run, it would destroy me. And as much as I needed to save Damon, I needed to save myself, too. I reached into the darkness and allowed my hand to graze Coras slim fingers. She took it and gently squeezed. I know youll find a way to save Damon, Cora said.
It was meant to be reassuring, but I knew from the hesitancy in Coras voice that she was simply trying to make me feel better. She didnt really believe itwhich only made me feel worse.
I turned to face Cora. I promise, if I need to drink blood, I will. You have my word. Relief flickered in her large eyes. Thank you, she said. I didnt fall asleep for a long time after that. I could sense from Coras slow, deep breathing that the evening of terror had taken its toll.
She was resting, exhausted, her face in calm repose. Meanwhile, my brain was reeling. Damon, I whispered into the darkness. Cora didnt offer to join me, and I wondered if she thought I was off. If so, I let her believe it. But instead, all I did was joylessly kill a squirrel, feeling weak even as the blood hit my tongue. Human blood would make me feel sharp, alive.
This only made me feel more despair. Darkness had fallen when I returned to the tunnel. Cora climbed out to join me, and the two of us headed toward the Asylum. We knew Samuel often stopped there at the end of the day. If we could catch a glimpse of him as he exited, then follow him, we hoped hed lead us to Damon. We were armed with stakes, but they provided minimal comfort. My stake was jammed in the shaft of my boot and poked my skin every few steps.
It didnt make me. At this point, stakes were as commonplace to us as guns were to hunters heading into the woods. But having a gun didnt guarantee a hunter couldnt be killed. The crisp fall air smelled like burning leaves, and, unlike the East End, this part of town was filled with welldressed men and women, strolling from dining clubs to the theater to their fancy hotels. I didnt mind the crowds.
Having to navigate through the masses and around horsedrawn carriages took my mind off the task at hand. Gradually, the crowds thinned out and the smell of illicit fires made with newspaper kindling replaced the aroma of roasted chestnuts.
The streets were empty, but the slums surrounding them were full, and I could sense eyes watching us suspiciously behind plateglass windows as we walked up High Street, the main thoroughfare of Whitechapel. From there, we turned onto Crispin Street and soon arrived at the Magdalene Asylum.
The stone edifice towered, churchlike, over the now-empty Spitalfields Market. Coras attention was focused on the padlock on the heavy iron gates surrounding the building. The only sign that anyone inhabited the Asylum was a lone candle flickering in an upper window. It was only a little past eight oclock, but unlike the rest of London, the street and building were as quiet as a tomb. It was, after all, only two blocks away from Mitre Square, the location of Jack the Rippers most recent kills.
Ever since then, the. Whitechapel Vigilance Committee had urged residents of the East End to stay indoors. Clearly, they were taking the request seriously. I hope theyre all right, Cora said quietly, and I knew she was thinking of the girls shed met when shed infiltrated the Asylum. All young and down on their luck, theyd seen the organization as a chance to get back on their feet.
When theyd entered the Asylum, how could they possibly have known their blood would be used to feed monsters or that their benefactor would handpick them to be slain on the streets? Behind us, I heard the sound of leaves crunching. I turned, ready to face whatever new danger was headed our way, but it was only a watchman, swinging his nightstick in one hand and holding a lantern in the other. Dont come over here, I willed, focusing my Power on him. He moved toward me, and for half a second, our eyes locked.
Go back where you came from. He paused, but didnt shine the light our way. Instead, he pivoted on his heel and walked back in the opposite direction. Did something happen? Cora whispered sharply as she noticed my cocked head. I motioned for her to be quiet until the footfalls faded. Cora didnt have the same ultra-honed senses I had and was oblivious to our near miss. The Ripper - The. The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries. The Vampire Diaries has several series containing the following: The ReturnThe Vampire Diaries: The HunterThe Vampire-Diaries.
Stefan's Diaries: Origins - The Vampire. Buggy said: Opening Line: The day my life changed started out like any other. Origins is the first book in the trilogy Stefan's Diaries. He looked to be in his midtwenties and had a scar that ran the length of his face, from his left eye to the corner of his lip.
He wore glasses and a tweed vest over a white-collared shirt. I kept my face impassive. He looked not a day over fifteen. His face was smooth, but his green eyes were hard.
The older one stepped forward, poking his bony finger against my chest as if it were a wooden stake. What do you think? I tried to kick him, but my foot simply flopped harmlessly against air. The elder vampire chuckled. Impulsive, this one. I hit the plaster wall with a crash and fell on my shoulder, my head cracking against the wooden floorboards.
I cowered beneath my attackers, the realization sinking in that if I were to survive this encounter, it would not be by might. The sound of wood breaking assaulted my ears.
I flinched. Would one vampire stake another? This was not a question I wanted answered the hard way. I pressed my spine into the damaged wall. So this is how it would end. With me dying on a makeshift stake, killed by my own kind. Two hands crushed my arms, while another two pinned my ankles together so forcefully that it felt as though I were stuck under boulders. I closed my eyes. An image of Father lying prone on his study floor swam to the forefront of my mind, and I shook my head in agony, remembering his sweating, terrified face.
I squeezed my eyes tighter, trying to evoke some other memory to the fore of my mind, one that would take me to another place, another time.
But all I could think of were my victims, of the moment when my fangs sliced into their skin, their plaintive wails descending into silence, the blood dripping down my fangs and onto my chin. Immediately, the vampires let go of my hands and feet.
My eyes sprang open, and I saw a woman gliding through a narrow wooden door in the back. She was tall, though slight as a child, and all the other vampires shrank away from her in fear. They were clear and curious, but there was something about them—the darkness of the pupils, perhaps—that seemed ancient and knowing, which stood in sharp contrast to her rosy-cheeked, unlined face.
She ran a finger gently along my jaw, then placed her palm against my chest and she pressed me against the wall, hard. The suddenness of the movement stunned me, but as I sat, pinned and helpless, she brought her other wrist to her mouth, using her fang to puncture the vein. She dragged her wrist along her teeth, creating a small stream of blood. I did as I was told, managing to get a few drops of the liquid down my throat before she yanked her hand away.
That should fix your wounds at any rate. Not in his weakened state. The blond vampire wrinkled her nose as she leaned even closer toward me. She nodded, a hint of a smile on her lips, and stood, surveying the shop. The plaster wall was partially caved in, and blood smeared the floor and speckled the walls, as though a child had stood in the center of the room and twirled around with a wet paintbrush. She tsked, and the three male vampires simultaneously took a step back.
I shivered. With a sigh, the youngest vampire produced a long carving knife from behind his back. They were both bullies, always ready to kick a kid in the schoolyard and then turn around and tell a teacher they had nothing to do with it. She took the knife and stared at it, running the pad of her index finger over the gleaming blade. Then she held it back out to Percy.
He hesitated a moment, but finally stepped forward to take it. With a growl, she stabbed Percy right in the chest. He fell to his knees, doubled over in silent agony. He grimaced as he pulled the knife out with a sucking sound. Despite her youthful look and apparently violent temper, she also had a mothering quality that the other vampires seemed to accept, as if her stabbings were as normal to them as a light swat would be to a high-spirited child.
She turned toward me. Now, can I help you be on your way? I looked around wildly. She glanced toward the other vampires, who were now huddled in the corner of the room, heads bent in conversation. My leg was fine, but my arms shook, and my breath came erratically. With local vampires watching my every move, where would I go?
How would I feed? She pointed to the young vampire and the one who wore glasses. We walked down street after street until we neared a church with a tall spire. Her boots echoed against a slate path that led to the rear of a house. She opened the door, and a musty scent greeted me. Buxton immediately walked through the parlor and up a set of stairs, leaving me and the young female vampire alone in the darkness.
Find one that suits you. Black velvet curtains fastened with golden rope blocked every window. Dust motes floated in the air, and giltframed paintings covered the walls. The furniture was threadbare, and I could just make out two sweeping staircases with what looked like oriental runners and, in the next room, a piano.
Though at one point this must have been a grand house, now the soiled walls were cracked and peeling, and cobwebs draped over the gold-and-crystal chandelier above us. Never draw back the curtains. Do you understand, Stefan? I turned to face her, nodding in agreement. My panic had subsided, and my arms no longer trembled. From my window, I could see the goldfishorange sun sinking low behind a white steeple. Then everything came back: As if on cue, she glided into the room, barely making a sound as she pushed open the door.
Her blond hair was loose around her shoulders, and she was wearing a simple black dress. If looked at quickly, she could be mistaken for a child. She perched on the edge of my bed, smoothing back my hair. She clutched a tumbler of dark liquid between her fingers. I nodded. But here no heartbeats had kept me from slumber. I pushed it away. The blood in it smelled stale, sour. I brought the tumbler to my lips and took a tiny sip, fighting the urge to spit it out. As I expected, the drink tasted like dank water and the scent made me feel vaguely ill.
Lexi smiled to herself, as if enjoying a private joke. Or the soul. But I brought the cup to my lips once more. Lexi sighed and took the tumbler, placing it on the nightstand next to me. I was rewarded with a rich laugh, which was surprisingly loud and throaty coming from her waif-like body. Get up. After changing, I followed her down the creaking wooden stairs to where the other vampires milled about in the ballroom.
Hugo sat at the piano, playing an out-of-tune rendition of Mozart while wearing a blue velvet cape. Buxton, the hulking, violent vampire, was wearing a loose, ruffled, white shirt. When they saw me, the vampires froze. Hugo managed a slight nod, but the rest merely stared in stony silence.
Each entryway led to a dimly lit bar, from which inebriated patrons stumbled out into the night air. I instantly knew why Lexi took us here. Despite our odd attire, we attracted no more attention than any of the other lively revelers. As we walked, the others flanked me, keeping me in the center of their circle at all times. I knew I was being watched sharply, and I tried to remain unaffected by the scent of blood and the rhythm of beating hearts.
I was impressed by her boldness—back in Mystic Falls, only women of ill repute would ever enter a barroom. The floor of Miladies was caked with sawdust, and I winced at the overwhelmingly acrid smell of sweat, whiskey, and cologne.
The tables were packed shoulder to shoulder with men playing cards, gambling, and gossiping. The Union army had captured the city some months back, and soldiers stood sentinel on nearly every corner, maintaining order and reminding Confederates that the war they were fighting looked to be a losing cause. You know what that means, right? Aside from the soldiers, it was a solitary crowd. Single men drowned their loneliness at wooden tables, barely acknowledging their neighbors.
The bartenders filled glasses with a mechanical air, never seeming to register the people for whom they poured their wares. I understood immediately. Buxton cleared his throat in disapproval. Hugo walked his hulkish frame over to a rough-hewn table next to the band. Before he could even open his mouth, the blue-coated soldiers at the table glanced at each other and stood up, leaving half-filled mugs behind.
Lexi pulled out two chairs. But I reminded myself that even Hugo followed her lead. Lexi had Power, and she knew how to use it. Percy, Hugo, and Buxton also settled around. Buxton clenched his jaw, clearly trying to rein in his temper. I shifted in my chair. I suddenly felt like I was ten years old again, with Damon protecting me from the Giffin brothers.
Only this time it was a girl standing up for me. The touch was gentle and calmed me. Stefan, what song would you like to hear? Percy snickered again, but stopped when Lexi glared at him.
The first thing that came to my head, it was a tune Damon used to whistle when he was on leave from the army. Lexi scooted her chair back, the legs kicking up a layer of sawdust.
His comrades glanced at one another, clearly wondering why a band in a Union bar had suddenly been inspired to play a pro-Southern song. Lexi grinned, as if delighted by her trick. Even Percy and Hugo nodded in agreement. Lexi took a sip of her beer. I glanced around the bar, my eye catching on a dark-haired barmaid. Her eyes were deep brown, and her hair was tied in a low knot at the nape of her neck. Her lips were parted, and she wore a cameo pendant that nestled in the notch of her neck.
In the split second between seeing and knowing, I was reminded of Katherine. It felt as though my maker were intent to haunt me in New Orleans. Lexi looked at me sharply, as if she knew there was a story behind this decision. I fixed my gaze on the barmaid. Come here, I willed, staring into her liquid chocolate eyes. Come to me. For a moment she held her place behind the bar, but then she took a hesitant step forward.
Yes, keep going. She stepped forward again, more confidently this time, making her way toward me. I had expected her to look dazed, almost as though she were sleepwalking. To any bystander, she could have simply been coming to our table to take our drink orders. And, almost instantly, the girl wedged herself between me and Buxton, her thigh warm against mine.
My fangs elongated, and the sides of my stomach knocked together. I wanted her. But even as I thought the words, I glanced at Lexi, breaking my connection with the girl. The girl shifted, pulled her hair up, then dropped it down on her back. She glanced at the band, rubbing her forefinger on the rim of a glass.
Invite me outside, I thought again, refocusing my attention fully on her. Sweat prickled my temple. Had I lost the connection for good? But then she gave a slight nod. Would you mind if we went outside? I stood up, my chair scraping against the floor. But when I turned back, Lexi merely smiled and waved.
She shivered, and I put my arms around her thin frame. Instantly, she pulled away. You want to kiss me, I thought. She shrugged.
But I know a way we could both warm up. Then I lunged for her neck. She gazed up at me, confusion in her eyes, before she fell back over my arms, her face a mask of sleepy satisfaction. I took a few more sips of the blood, all too conscious of Lexi and the others back inside.
Then I dragged the woman up to her feet. Still, I adjusted her scarf around her neck to cover them up. Her eyes opened, the gaze unfocused.
I was simply making sure you were okay. Thank you for assisting me. Good job, boy. I followed the girl until she safely resumed her position behind the polished wood counter of the bar. She looked pale, as if she were coming down with a slight cold. Meanwhile, her blood was warm in my stomach. Chapter 12 The following evening Lexi knocked on my bedroom door.
She wore a black coat and matching trousers. A cap hid most of her hair, save for a few blond tendrils that fell loose and framed her face. I smiled, despite myself.
But the more you feed from humans, the hungrier you get. But there are other ways. Put on dark clothes and meet me downstairs in five minutes. We walked out the door, no trace of sunlight in the inky black sky.
I sniffed the air, searching out the scent of the nearest human, then stopped when I saw Lexi staring at me with a knowing look. Instead of turning left, toward the bustle of Bourbon Street, she turned right, snaking through side streets until we reached a forest.
Above us the trees were bare and ghostly against the dark night sky, the moon our only light. Quickly and silently, we darted from tree to bush without disturbing the underbrush. In a way, it felt like we were playing a game of hide-and-seek, or just playing at hunting, the way young schoolboys do.
Now all I had were my fangs. Lexi held up a hand. I paused, midstep, my eyes darting everywhere. Then, without warning, Lexi lunged. When she stood up, blood was dripping from her fangs, and a self-satisfied smile appeared on her face.
A creature lay on the fallen leaves, its legs bent as if it were still mid-run. She gestured to the lump of orangish-red fur. Would you like to try it? I forced myself to gingerly take a sip of liquid, though, as I knew it was what Lexi wanted.
I sucked in, and immediately the blood seared my tongue. I spit it out violently. The breeze shifted, and suddenly the scent of iron-rich blood was everywhere. Somewhere, nearby, there was a human heart, beating out seventy-two thu-thuds a minute. Cautiously I slipped past Lexi, and ventured out past the perimeter of the forest. Set up on the edge of the lake was a shantytown. Tents were pitched at every angle, and makeshift clotheslines ran between wooden posts.
The camp looked deserted save for one woman who was bathing, the moonlight striking her ivory skin. She was humming to herself, washing the caked dirt off her hands and face. I hid behind a large oak tree, pretending to take the woman by surprise. But then a large painted poster on a neighboring tree caught my eye. I took a step toward it. A branch cracked, the woman whirled around, and I could sense Lexi behind me. But this time, I was the one to hold up my hand to silence her.
Mist floated over the portrait on the sign, but the printing was clear: I blinked, and the portrait swam into my vision.
It was of a dark-haired man with chiseled features and pale-blue eyes. His teeth were bared, his canines elongated, and he was crouched opposite a snarling mountain lion. I knew the face on the poster better than I knew my own. It was Damon. Chapter 13 Damon. The words swam in my mind as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing.
Damon was alive. But who knew for how long? If he had been captured, he was undoubtedly weak. How could he face a ravenous beast in a battle and survive? Anger tore through my body, along with the familiar ache of my fangs elongating. I ripped down the sign with a snarl. I held up the paper. The picture made him look like a monster. My eye twitched. I shook my head, not understanding what she meant. She sighed. He owns a lot of places in town, including a two-bit circus and freak show.
Always looking for curiosities to display, and people always seem to find the money to attend. But what? How could I possibly save him? She brushed leaves and dirt from the back of her pants.
My hunger forgotten, I followed her through the forest and back to the wide, silent streets of the city. Magnolias and calla lilies spilled over the gate, and the air smelled like mint. Just beyond, I could see an enormous herb garden that took up a fifth of the property.
I recoiled as we walked closer, as the garden grew a generous amount of vervain. Lexi wrinkled her nose. We pushed open the gate, our footsteps barely crunching the gravel on the path that circled the house. Cicadas buzzed in the sycamore trees above us, and I could hear horses pacing in the stable.
And then I heard a low moan. Lexi gazed up at the sky. Orange streaks were starting to peek above the horizon; it was about an hour until day broke. I have to go. Katherine had arranged for both Damon and me to have this protection. I shook my head.
The orange streaks in the sky grew fatter, brighter. When I looked up, Lexi was gone and I was alone. Stealing quickly to the back of the house, I made my way toward the whitewashed stable. Horses pawed the ground nervously, obviously sensing my presence. The stable doors were padlocked with an iron bolt.
I grabbed the chain, testing it. But something stopped me. She had become my guide during the past couple of days, and I knew it was in my best interest to listen to her. Better not to leave any evidence of an intruder, better to get the lay of the land before doing anything rash.
I released the chain, and it fell back against the door with a loud clanking sound. A horse whinnied. I walked to the other side of the stable, where a dusty window was open a crack. The cloying scent of vervain was everywhere, making me woozy and nauseated.
In the corner, a filthy figure struggled to sit up.
His hands and feet were bound with chains, and his skin was covered in angry red welts. The chains must have been soaked in vervain. I winced in sympathy. Damon shrugged, an effort that clearly took all his energy. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy. A large cut lined his forehead, slicing into his eyebrow. I glanced around, hoping I could find something—a squirrel, a rabbit, a chipmunk—to kill and toss to him, but there was nothing.
He leaned back against the wall, his chains rattling. I whirled around toward the main house. And I stood, my hands raised to the sky, unsure of who—or what—had found me this time. Chapter 14 My hands still in the air, I pressed my lips together. Although twice my bulk, they were definitely human. Each man grabbed one of my arms, though I noted with cold calculation that it would take only one quick twist to shake both off before I lunged for my attack.
A girl walked toward me from the porch and stopped a foot away. I tried to make my voice sound like I was nervously gasping for breath. Her hair tumbled in flaming curls down her back, and she wore what looked suspiciously like a vervain wreath on her head. Though she was clearly from a wealthy family, this was no coddled city girl.
She knit her eyebrows together. One of the men holding me dropped my arm in surprise. A rooster crowed. Sunlight slowly spilled over the backyard. I glanced down at my gleaming ring, thankful that Lexi had left. She snapped her fingers, and the two large men dropped my arms. And the next time you may not meet someone as friendly as me. Callie Gallagher. Stefan out. Her teeth were pearly white, and one of her front teeth was slightly crooked. Freckles dusted her upturned nose.
She smelled sweet, like oranges. I realized it had been a long time since I had found a woman beautiful for more than the sweet smell of her blood.
The girl shook her head incredulously. After you trespassed on my property? But then she looked up and down at my faded trousers and sighed. We do need a new ticket taker—our last one ran off with one of the fat ladies. Chapter 15 October 7, Something has changed. Maybe it is merely age, a sort of hyper-maturation into the role of an adult vampire. Whatever the cause, the result is the same.
Though the scent of blood is still everywhere, I no longer feel compelled to hunt for sport. Hunting is distracting. My hunger is something to be sated quickly rather than enjoyably. Of course, the question is, how will I free Damon? Attack everyone in sight, creating a melee of destruction? Convince Callie to shed her vervain wreath so I can compel her to do my bidding? But Callie seems to have a power all her own.
That much is clear to her henchmen, and to me. Of course, my Power is stronger. I spent the entire day pacing my room, cutting a path through the dust that lined the wooden floor. Plans to free Damon flitted through my head one by one, but just as quickly as they came, I shot them down for being too daring, too risky, too destructive.
Her voice was light, but worry lines creased her forehead. I let out a low growl and raked my hands through my hair. He hates me. She took my hand. All the paintings were covered with a layer of grime. At the very bottom stair, Lexi stopped and pulled a portrait off the wall. It was newer than the others, with a gold frame and the glass polished to a gleam. A young, serious-looking blond boy stared out at me. His blue eyes contained a hint of sadness, and his cleft chin jutted in defiance.
He looked incredibly familiar. My eyes widened. I knew what she meant: Remaining connected to her humanity was how she maintained control and why she made the choice to feed only from animals. Fifteen minutes later we turned the corner onto Laurel Street and the house came into view.
A tall man with salt-and-pepper hair was climbing the stairs of the white structure, tapping each step with a gold-tipped cane. Behind him were two black-suited men. The three were engaged in intense conversation. Lexi put her hand on mine. I could have him killed and sell you his blood. My stomach plummeted.
But how much would you sell the fangs for? I sniffed the air. Lexi pushed the gates open and stepped onto the lawn. I nodded, and together we stole in the shadows toward the main house. We ducked under a window ledge and knelt in order to escape notice; we could just make out the scene unfolding in the parlor at the back of the house. He wore a large gold ring on his finger. In the far corner, Callie Gallagher sat in a pair of weathered overalls and a white linen shirt.