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

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

"Matt," she said, lingering over the first consonant of the name. Then she smiled.

Stefan heard Matt's indrawn breath of disbelief, and the near sob he gave as he finally backed away from her.

It's all right, he said, sending the thought to Matt on a surge of Power. As Matt jerked toward him, eyes wide with shock, he added, "So now you know."

Matt's expression said that he didn't want to know, and Stefan could see the denial in his face. But Damon stepped out beside Elena and moved a little to the right, adding his presence to the charged atmosphere of the room.

Matt was surrounded. The three of them closed in on him, inhumanly beautiful, innately menacing.

Stefan could smell Matt's fear. It was the helpless fear of the rabbit for the fox, the mouse for the owl. And Matt was right to be afraid. They were the hunting species; he was the hunted. Their job in life was to kill him.

And just now instincts were getting out of control. Matt's instinct was to panic and run, and it was triggering reflexes in Stefan's head. When the prey ran, the predator gave chase; it was as simple as that. All three of the predators here were keyed up, on edge, and Stefan felt he couldn't be responsible for the consequences if Matt bolted.

We don't want to harm you, he told Matt. It's Elena who needs you, and what she needs won't leave you permanently damaged. It doesn't even have to hurt, Matt. But Matt's muscles were still tensed to flee, and Stefan realized that the three of them were stalking him, moving closer, ready to cut off any escape.

You said you would do anything for Elena, he reminded Matt desperately and saw him make his choice.

Matt released his breath, the tension draining from his body. "You're right; I did," he whispered. He visibly braced himself before he continued. "What does she need?"

Elena leaned forward and put a finger on Matt's neck, tracing the yielding ridge of an artery.

"Not that one," Stefan said quickly. "You don't want to kill him. Tell her, Damon." He added, when Damon made no effort to do so, Tell her.

"Try here, or here." Damon pointed with clinical efficiency, holding Matt's chin up. He was strong enough that Matt couldn't break the grip, and Stefan felt Matt's panic surge up again.

Trust me, Matt. He moved in behind the human boy. But it has to be your choice, he finished, suddenly washed with compassion. You can change your mind.

he finished, suddenly washed with compassion. You can change your mind.

"Matt," she whispered, her heavy-lashed jewel blue eyes fixed on his. Then they trailed down to his throat and her lips parted hungrily. There was no sign of the uncertainty she'd shown when Damon suggested feeding off the paramedics. "Matt." She smiled again, and then she struck, swift as a hunting bird.

Stefan put a flattened hand against Matt's back to give him support. For a moment, as Elena's teeth pierced his skin, Matt tried to recoil, but Stefan thought swiftly, Don't fight it; that's what causes the pain.

As Matt tried to relax, unexpected help came from Elena, who was radiating the warm happy thoughts of a wolf cub being fed. She had gotten the biting technique right on the first try this time, and she was filled with innocent pride and growing satisfaction as the sharp pangs of hunger eased. And with appreciation for Matt, Stefan realized, with a sudden shock of jealousy. She didn't hate Matt or want to kill him, because he posed no threat to Damon. She was fond of Matt.

Stefan let her take as much as was safe and then intervened. That's enough, Elena. You don't want to injure him. But it took the combined efforts of him, Damon, and a rather groggy Matt to pry her off.

"She needs to rest now," Damon said. "I'm taking her someplace where she can do it safely." He wasn't asking Stefan; he was telling him.

As they left, his mental voice added, for Stefan's ears alone, I haven't forgotten the way you attacked me, brother. We'll talk about that later.

Stefan stared after them. He'd noted how Elena's eyes remained locked on Damon, how she followed him without question. But she was out of danger now; Matt's blood had given her the strength she needed. That was all Stefan had to hang on to, and he told himself it was all that mattered.

He turned to take in Matt's dazed expression. The human boy had sunk into one of the plastic chairs and was gazing straight ahead.

Then his eyes lifted to Stefan's, and they regarded each other grimly.

"So," Matt said. "Now I know." He shook his head, turning away slightly. "But I still can't believe it," he muttered. His fingers pressed gingerly at the side of his neck, and he winced. "Except for this." Then he frowned. "That guy-Damon. Who is he?"

"My older brother," Stefan said without emotion. "How do you know his name?"

"He was at Elena's house last week. The kitten spat at him." Matt paused, clearly remembering something else. "And Bonnie had some kind of psychic fit."

"She had a precognition? What did she say?

"She said-she said that Death was in the house."

Stefan looked at the door Damon and Elena had passed through. "She was right."

Stefan looked at the door Damon and Elena had passed through. "She was right."

"Be like what?" Stefan said brutally. "Disoriented? A vampire?"

Matt looked away. "Both."

"As for the first, she may become more rational now that she's fed. That's what Damon thinks anyway. As for the other, there's only one thing you can do to change her condition." As Matt's eyes lit with hope, Stefan continued. "You can get a wooden stake and hammer it through her heart. Then she won't be a vampire anymore. She'll just be dead."

Matt got up and went to the window.

"You wouldn't be killing her, though, because that's already been done. She drowned in the river, Matt. But because she'd had enough blood from me"-he paused to steady his voice-"and, it seems, from my brother, she changed instead of simply dying. She woke up a hunter, like us. That's what she'll be from now on."

With his back still turned, Matt answered. "I always knew there was something about you. I told myself it was just because you were from another country." He shook his head again self-deprecatingly. "But deep down I knew it was more than that. And something still kept telling me I could trust you, and I did."

"Like when you went with me to get the vervain."

"Yeah. Like that." He added, "Can you tell me what the hell it was for, now?"

"For Elena's protection. I wanted to keep Damon away from her. But it looks as if that's not what she wanted after all." He couldn't help the bitterness, the raw betrayal, in his voice.

Matt turned. "Don't judge her before you know all the facts, Stefan. That's one thing I've learned."

Stefan was startled; then, he gave a small humorless smile. As Elena's exes, he and Matt were in the same position now. He wondered if he would be as gracious about it as Matt had been. Take his defeat like a gentleman.

He didn't think so.

Outside, a noise had begun. It was inaudible to human ears, and Stefan almost ignored it-until the words penetrated his consciousness.

Then he remembered what he had done in this very school only a few hours ago. Until that moment, he'd forgotten all about Tyler Smallwood and his tough friends.

Now that memory had returned; shame and horror closed his throat. He'd been out of his mind with grief over Elena, and his reason had snapped under the pressure. But that was no excuse for what he had done. Were they all dead? Had he, who had sworn so long ago never to kill, killed six people today?

"Stefan, wait. Where are you going?" When he didn't answer, Matt followed him, half running to keep up, out of the main school building and onto the blacktop. On the far side of the field, Mr. Shelby stood by the Quonset hut.

"Stefan, wait. Where are you going?" When he didn't answer, Matt followed him, half running to keep up, out of the main school building and onto the blacktop. On the far side of the field, Mr. Shelby stood by the Quonset hut.

It looked like the Mad Slasher room from the Haunted House fundraiser. Except that this was no tableau set up for visitors. This was real.

Bodies were sprawled everywhere, amid shards of wood and glass from the shattered window. Every visible surface was spattered with blood, red-brown and sinister as it dried. And one look at the bodies revealed why: each one had a pair of livid purple wounds in the neck. Except Caroline's: her neck was unmarked, but her eyes were blank and staring.

Behind Stefan, Matt was hyperventilating. "Stefan, Elena didn't-she didn't-"

"Be quiet," Stefan answered tersely. He glanced back at Mr. Shelby, but the janitor had stumbled over to his cart of brooms and mops and was leaning against it. Glass grated under Stefan's feet as he crossed the floor to kneel by Tyler.

Not dead. Relief exploded over Stefan at the realization. Tyler's chest moved feebly, and when Stefan lifted the boy's head his eyes opened a slit, glazed and unfocused.

You don't remember anything, Stefan told him mentally. Even as he did it, he wondered why he was bothering. He should just leave Fell's Church, cut out now and never come back.

But he wouldn't. Not as long as Elena was here.

He gathered the unconscious minds of the other victims into his mental grasp and told them the same thing, feeding it deep into their brains. You don't remember who attacked you. The whole afternoon is a blank.

As he did, he felt his mental Powers tremble like overfatigued muscles. He was close to burnout.

Outside, Mr. Shelby had found his voice at last and was shouting. Wearily, Stefan let Tyler's head slip back through his fingers to the floor and turned around.

Matt's lips were peeled back, his nostrils flared, as if he had just smelled something disgusting. His eyes were the eyes of a stranger. "Elena didn't," he whispered. "You did."

Be quiet! Stefan pushed past him into the thankful coolness of the night, putting distance between him and that room, feeling the icy air on his hot skin. Running footsteps from the vicinity of the cafeteria told him that some humans had heard the janitor's cries at last.

"You did it, didn't you?" Matt had followed Stefan out to the field. His voice said he was trying to understand.

Stefan rounded on him. "Yes, I did it," he snarled. He stared Matt down, concealing none of the angry menace in his face. "I told you, Matt, we're hunters. Killers. You're the sheep; we're the wolves. And Tyler has been asking for it every day since I came here."

Stefan rounded on him. "Yes, I did it," he snarled. He stared Matt down, concealing none of the angry menace in his face. "I told you, Matt, we're hunters. Killers. You're the sheep; we're the wolves. And Tyler has been asking for it every day since I came here."

"Why should I?" said Stefan coldly, emptily. "Do you regret it when you eat too much steak? Feel sorry for the cow?" He saw Matt's look of sick disbelief and pressed on, driving the pain in his chest deeper. It was better that Matt stay away from him from now on, far away. Or Matt might end up like those bodies in the Quonset hut. "I am what I am, Matt. And if you can't handle it, you'd better steer clear of me."

Matt stared at him a moment longer, the sick disbelief transforming slowly into sick disillusionment. The muscles around his jaw stood out. Then, without a word, he turned on his heel and walked away.

Elena was in the graveyard.

Damon had left her there, exhorting her to stay until he came back. She didn't want to sit still, though. She felt tired but not really sleepy, and the new blood was affecting her like a jolt of caffeine. She wanted to go exploring.

The graveyard was full of activity although there wasn't a human in sight. A fox slunk through the shadows toward the river path. Small rodents tunneled under the long lank grass around the headstones, squeaking and scurrying. A barn owl flew almost silently toward the ruined church, where it alighted on the belfry with an eerie cry.

Elena got up and followed it. This was much better than hiding in the grass like a mouse or vole. She looked around the ruined church interestedly, using her sharpened senses to examine it. Most of the roof had fallen in, and only three walls were standing, but the belfry stood up like a lonely monument in the rubble.

At one side was the tomb of Thomas and Honoria Fell, like a large stone box or coffin. Elena gazed earnestly down into the white marble faces of their statues on the lid. They lay in tranquil repose, their eyes shut, their hands folded on their br**sts. Thomas Fell looked serious and a little stern, but Honoria looked merely sad. Elena thought absently of her own parents, lying side by side down in the modern cemetery.

I'll go home; that's where I'll go, she thought. She had just remembered about home. She could picture it now: her pretty bedroom with blue curtains and cherrywood furniture and her little fireplace. And something important under the floorboards in the closet.

She found her way to Maple Street by instincts that ran deeper than memory, letting her feet guide her there. It was an old, old house, with a big front porch and floor-to-ceiling windows in front. Robert's car was parked in the driveway.

letting her feet guide her there. It was an old, old house, with a big front porch and floor-to-ceiling windows in front. Robert's car was parked in the driveway.

But she wasn't going to be able to get in here without being noticed. A woman was sitting on the bed with Elena's red silk kimono in her lap, staring down at it. Aunt Judith. Robert was standing by the dresser, talking to her. Elena found that she could pick up the murmur of his voice even through the glass.

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