Home > The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3)(12)

The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3)(12)
Author: L.J. Smith

Robert. Her eyes narrowed suddenly. At the church, Robert had been outside and then the dogs had gone mad. And tonight Margaret's kitten had gone feral-just a little while after Robert's car had pulled out of the driveway.

Robert has a lot to answer for, she thought.

But melancholy was pulling at her, tugging her thoughts away. Her mind kept returning to the bright house she'd just left, going over the things she'd never see again. All her clothes and knickknacks and jewelry-what would Aunt Judith do with them? I don't own anything anymore, she thought. I'm a pauper.

Elena?

With relief, Elena recognized the mental voice and the distinctive shadow at the end of the street. She hurried toward Stefan, who took his hands out of his jacket pockets and held hers to warm them.

"Meredith told me where you'd gone."

"I went home," Elena said. That was all she could say, but as she leaned against him for comfort, she knew that he understood.

"Let's find someplace we can sit down," he said, and stopped in frustration. All the places they used to go were either too dangerous or closed to Elena. The police still had Stefan's car.

Eventually they just went to the high school where they could sit under the overhang of a roof and watch the snow sift down. Elena told him what had happened in Margaret's room.

"I'm going to have Meredith and Bonnie spread it around town that cats can attack, too. People should know that. And I think somebody ought to be watching Robert," she concluded.

"We'll tail him," Stefan said, and she couldn't help smiling.

"It's funny how much more American you've gotten," she said. "I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but when you first came you were a lot more foreign. Now nobody would know you hadn't lived here all your life."

"We adapt quickly. We have to," Stefan said. "There are always new countries, new decades, new situations. You'll adapt, too."

"You'll learn, in time. If there is anything... good... about what we are, it's time. We have plenty of it, as much as we want. Forever."

" 'Joyous companions forever.' Isn't that what Katherine said to you and Damon?" Elena murmured.

She could feel Stefan's stiffening, his withdrawal. "She was talking about all three of us," he said. "I wasn't."

"Oh, Stefan, please don't, not now. I wasn't even thinking about Damon, only about forever. It scares me. Everything about this scares me, and sometimes I think I just want to go to sleep and never wake up again..."

In the shelter of his arms she felt safer, and she found her new senses were just as amazing close up as they were at a distance. She could hear each separate pulse of Stefan's heart, and the rush of blood through his veins. And she could smell his own distinctive scent mingled with the scent of his jacket, and the snow, and the wool of his clothes.

"Please trust me," she whispered. "I know you're angry with Damon, but try to give him a chance. I think there's more to him than there seems to be. And I want his help in finding the Other Power, and that's all I want from him."

At that moment it was completely true. Elena wanted nothing to do with the hunter's life tonight; the darkness held no appeal for her. She wished she could be at home sitting in front of a fire.

But it was sweet just to be held like this, even if she and Stefan had to sit in the snow to do it. Stefan's breath was warm as he kissed the back of her neck, and she sensed no further withdrawal in Stefan's body.

No hunger, either, or at least not the kind she was used to sensing when they were close like this. Now that she was a hunter like he, the need was different, a need for togetherness rather than for sustenance. It didn't matter. They had lost something, but they had gained something, too. She understood Stefan in a way she never had before. And her understanding brought them closer, until their minds were touching, almost meshing with each other's. It wasn't the noisy chatter of mental voices; it was a deep and wordless communion. As if their spirits were united.

"I love you," Stefan said against her neck, and she held on tighter. She understood now why he'd been afraid to say it for so long. When the thought of tomorrow scared you sick, it was hard to make a commitment. Because you didn't want to drag someone else down with you.

Particularly someone you loved. "I love you, too," she made herself say and sat back, her peaceful mood broken. "And will you try to give Damon a chance, for my sake? Try to work with him?"

"I'll work with him, but I won't trust him. I can't. I know him too well."

"I followed Mrs. Flowers today." Stefan's lip quirked. "All afternoon and evening. And you know what she did?"

"What?"

"Three loads of wash-in an ancient machine that looked like it was going to explode any minute. No clothes dryer, just a wringer. It's all down in the basement. Then she went outside and filled about two dozen bird feeders. Then back to the basement to wipe off jars of preserves. She spends most of her time down there. She talks to herself."

"Just like a dotty old lady," said Elena. "All right; maybe Meredith's wrong and that's all she is." She noticed his change of expression at Meredith's name and added, "What?"

"Well, Meredith may have some explaining to do herself. I didn't ask her about it; I thought maybe it was better coming from you. But she went to talk to Alaric Saltzman after school today. And she didn't want anyone to know where she was going."

Disquiet uncoiled in Elena's middle. "So what?"

"So she lied about it afterward-or at least she evaded the issue. I tried to probe her mind, but my Powers are just about burnt out. And she's strong-willed."

"And you had no right! Stefan, listen to me. Meredith would never do anything to hurt us or betray us. Whatever she's keeping from us-"

"So you do admit that she's hiding something."

"Yes," Elena said reluctantly. "But it's nothing that will hurt us, I'm sure. Meredith has been my friend since the first grade..." Without knowing it, Elena let the sentence slip away from her. She was thinking of another friend, one who'd been

close to her since kindergarten. Caroline. Who last week had tried to destroy Stefan and humiliate Elena in front of the entire town.

And what was it Caroline's diary had said about Meredith? Meredith doesn't do anything; she just watches. It's as if she can't act, she can only react to things. Besides, I've heard my parents talking about her family-no wonder she never mentions them.

Elena's eyes left the snowy landscape to seek Stefan's waiting face. "It doesn't matter," she said quietly. "I know Meredith, and I trust her. I'll trust her to the end."

"I hope she's worthy of it, Elena," he said. "I really do."

Chapter Ten

December 12, Thursday morning

Dear Diary,

So after a week of work, what have we accomplished?

Well, between us we've managed to follow our three suspects just about continuously for the last six or seven days. Results: reports on Robert's movements for the last week, which he spent acting like any normal businessman. Reports on Alaric, who hasn't been doing anything unusual for a history teacher. Reports on Mrs. Flowers, who apparently spends most of her time in the basement. But we haven't really learned anything.

Stefan says that Alaric met with the principal a couple times, but he couldn't get close enough to hear what they were talking about.

Meredith and Bonnie spread the news about other pets besides dogs being dangerous. They didn't need to work very hard at it; it seems as if everybody in town is on the verge of hysteria already. Since then there've been several other animal attacks reported, but it's hard to know which ones to take seriously. Some kids were teasing a squirrel and it bit them. The Massases' pet rabbit scratched their littlest boy. Old Mrs. Coomber saw copperhead snakes in her yard, when all the snakes should be hibernating.

The only one I'm sure about is the attack on the vet who was keeping the dogs in quarantine. A bunch of them bit him and most of them escaped from the holding pens. After that they just disappeared. People are saying good riddance and hoping they'll starve in the woods, but I wonder.

And it's been snowing all the time. Not storming but not stopping, either. I've never seen so much snow.

Stefan's worried about the dance tomorrow night.

Which brings us back to: what have we learned so far? What do we know? None of our suspects were anywhere near the Massases' or Mrs. Coomber's or the vet's when the attacks happened. We're no closer to finding the Other Power than we were when we started.

Marie's little get-together is tonight. Meredith thinks we should go to it. I don't know what else there is to do.

Damon stretched out his long legs and spoke lazily, looking around the barn. "No, I don't think it's dangerous, particularly. But I don't see what you expect to accomplish."

"Neither do I, exactly," Elena admitted. "But I don't have any better ideas. Do you?"

"What, you mean about other ways to spend the time? Yes, I do. Do you want me to tell you about them?" Elena waved him to silence and he subsided.

"In the basement," chorused several voices.

"And we're all just sitting here. Does anybody have a better idea?"

Meredith broke the silence. "If you're worried about its being dangerous for me and Bonnie, why don't you all come? I don't mean you have to show yourselves. You could come and hide in the attic. Then if anything happened, we could scream for help and you would hear us."

"I don't see why anybody's going to be screaming," said Bonnie. "Nothing's going to happen there."

"Well, maybe not, but it doesn't hurt to be safe," Meredith said. "What do you think?"

Elena nodded slowly. "It makes sense." She looked around for objections, but Stefan just shrugged, and Damon murmured something that made Bonnie laugh.

"All right, then, it's decided. Let's go."

The inevitable snow greeted them as they stepped outside the barn.

"Bonnie and I can go in my car," Meredith said. "And you three-"

"Oh, we'll find our own way," Damon said with his wolfish smile. Meredith nodded, not impressed. Funny, Elena thought as the other girls walked away; Meredith never was impressed with Damon. His charm seemed to have no effect on her.

She was about to mention that she was hungry when Stefan turned to Damon. "Are you willing to stay with Elena the entire time you're over there? Every minute?" he said.

"Try and stop me," Damon said cheerfully. He dropped the smile. "Why?"

"Because if you are, the two of you can go over alone, and I'll meet you later. I've got something to do, but it won't take long."

Elena felt a wave of warmth. He was trying to trust his brother. She smiled at Stefan in approval as he drew her aside.

"What is it?"

"I got a note from Caroline today. She asked if I would meet her at the school before Alaric's party. She said she wanted to apologize.

Elena opened her mouth to make a sharp remark, and then shut it again. From what she'd heard, Caroline was a sorry sight these days. And maybe it would make Stefan feel better to talk to her.

"Well, you don't have anything to apologize for," she told him. "Everything that

happened to her was her own fault. You don't think she's dangerous at all?"

"Be careful," Elena said as he started off into the snow.

The attic was as she remembered it, dark and dusty and full of mysterious oilcloth-covered shapes. Damon, who had come in more conventionally through the front door, had had to take the shutters off to let her in through the window. After that they sat side by side on the old mattress and listened to the voices that came up through the ducts.

"I could think of more romantic settings," Damon murmured, fastidiously pulling a cobweb off his sleeve. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather-"

"Yes," said Elena. "Now hush."

It was like a game, listening to the bits and pieces of conversations and trying to put them together, trying to match each voice to a face.

"And then I said, I don't care how long you've had the parakeet; get rid of it or I'm going to the Snow Dance with Mike Feldman. And he said-"

"-rumor going around that Mr. Tanner's grave was dug up last night-"

"-you hear that everybody but Caroline has dropped out of the snow queen competition? Don't you think-"

"-dead, but I'm telling you I saw her. And no, I wasn't dreaming; she was wearing a sort of silvery dress and her hair was all golden and blowing-"

Elena raised her eyebrows at Damon, then looked meaningfully down at her sensible black attire. He grinned.

"Romanticism," he said. "Myself, I like you in black."

"Well, you would, wouldn't you?" she murmured. It was strange how much more comfortable she felt with Damon these days. She sat quietly, letting the conversations drift around her, almost losing track of time. Then she caught a familiar voice, cross, and closer than the rest.

"Okay, okay, I'm going. Okay."

Elena and Damon exchanged a glance and rose to their feet as the handle on the attic door turned. Bonnie peered around the edge.

"Meredith told me to come up here. I don't know why. She's hogging Alaric and it's a rotten party. Achoo!"

She sat down on the mattress, and after a few minutes Elena sat back down beside her. She was beginning to wish that Stefan would get here. By the time the door opened again and Meredith came in, she was sure of it.

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