Home > The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(13)

The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(13)
Author: L.J. Smith

I heard murmurs ripple through the crowd. I could imagine what they were whispering. I’m sure they were wondering where she’d come from, why Samuel had chosen to escort her to the benefit. If only they’d known her less than a week ago, before she’d been forced to drink Oliver’s blood. If only they knew the man on her arm was evil incarnate. And if only they knew that vampires walked among them—and that some were capable of far more destruction than they could even imagine.

“Violet!” I heard a shriek as I saw Cora spring from her chair at the far end of the room and run toward her sister. Luckily, the band had resumed and the ballroom was abuzz with chattering, glass clinking, and footsteps. No one had heard her outburst except a few girls sitting nearby. But even that was too many. Any attention drawn to Cora, or to us, put our plan at risk.

“No!” Damon and I yelled at the same time, racing into the crush of bodies that separated us from Cora. But Damon was faster, and instantly, he was by her side. He seized her arm with one hand and covered her mouth with the other. “Be quiet!” he ordered, wrestling her back into her chair. Then, he leaned in front of her, his hands clasped in prayer.

“She’s hysterical,” he said, loudly enough so the girls and Sister Benedict could hear. “It sometimes happens when young women aren’t accustomed to large crowds. We’ll say an extra prayer for her,” Damon added as I joined him in front of Cora.

“What were you trying to do?” I hissed. She winced at my harsh tone. I glanced over my shoulder to see if Violet had heard Cora’s cry. Luckily, she was at the opposite end of the room, curtseying in front of a tall, thin man whom I vaguely recognized as the Lord Mayor of London.

“I’m sorry!” Cora whispered, the color draining from her face. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and twisted it in her hands, staring intently at the fabric instead of me. “I don’t know what came over me. I just saw Violet and was so happy to see her… I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” I said. I shot Damon a look. The plan was still in place. Everything would be fine.

“He’s right,” Damon said. “You weren’t even that loud. I’ve heard Stefan scream louder at his own shadow,” Damon quipped.

A glimmer of a smile crossed Cora’s face. I suppose she felt that if Damon and I were still engaging in civil banter, everything would be all right. She puffed out her cheeks and exhaled. “Do you think she knows I’m here?” she asked, her eyes searching mine.

“Vampires have good senses, but they aren’t telepathic. They can’t tell where someone else is unless they hear or see them,” I explained. “Now, please remember that the quieter you are, the better chance we have of getting Violet.” I locked eyes with her and nodded, reassuring her that we could still do this. Her determined expression reminded me so much of Oliver’s when he would try to convince me to take him hunting that my heart clenched.

I looked back at the crowd. Violet was still deep in conversation with the Lord Mayor, but Samuel had left her side. I saw that he was now clasping hands with Sister Benedict, only a few paces away from me. I froze, panic setting in as I imagined him asking about the pair of monks who weren’t on the approved invitee list.

But then, Sister Benedict ushered him into the crowd of Asylum girls. He tapped one on the shoulder. She was stocky, with brown hair that grazed her shoulders and large, doelike brown eyes.

I sucked in my breath as I placed a warning hand on Damon’s shoulder. I didn’t trust him not to try to surprise Samuel. But he stayed by my side silently. One by one, Samuel picked his victims and escorted them toward the back of the ballroom.

“It’s time,” I whispered to Cora.

She nodded, her large eyes shining. “Good luck.”

I smiled confidently. I didn’t need luck anymore. I had a foolproof plan and revenge-hungry Damon on my side. Now all we needed to do was fight for our freedom.

12

Damon and I hurried after Samuel, following him into the cavernous servant area across from the ballroom. Moss grew from crevices in the walls, and the hallway smelled damp—almost like a swamp. Samuel had ducked out of sight into one of the wooden doors dotting either side of the hall. I had no idea where he could be. I tested one of doorknobs. Locked.

I zigzagged farther down the corridor, putting my weight against each door until I heard a blood-curdling, otherworldly scream coming from the far end of the hall. It echoed in my bones and made me certain the plan had worked. Anticipation buzzed in my veins.

“Ready, brother?” Damon whispered. His eyes were red with anger. We ran, side by side, following the sound of the cry.

Damon used his brute strength to bust through the locked door. Inside, Samuel lay on the ground, writhing and clutching his gut as if his insides were on fire. Surrounding him were four terrified and bewildered Asylum girls. One girl was clutching her neck as blood seeped through her fingers, while the other three were gathered around her. The four whitewashed walls were empty except for a single wooden cross, and a lone candle burned on a wooden table, casting an eerie glow on the scene. We were far enough away from the party that no one could hear us, which I suppose was why Samuel had chosen this room in the first place. He’d probably brought girls here during every Magdalene Asylum fund-raising ball.

“Run!” I barked to the girls. They didn’t need any more urging. One by one, they took off down the corridor. I wondered what they would say to Sister Agatha, but brushed the thought away. We were on borrowed time, and I knew it was imperative we kill Samuel right away.

He was completely at our mercy, and we were ready to strike.

“Not so powerful now, are you?” Damon sneered, reaching into the folds of his cloak for a wooden cross he must have been planning to use as a stake. He let loose a low, demonic laugh and I stepped back. I may have been after Samuel’s life, but Damon seemed to be after something more. He wasn’t just intending to kill Samuel. He was intending to torture him.

“You think you can destroy me with that?” Samuel gasped, mustering a weak laugh.

Just as Damon reared back, ready to strike, Samuel lunged to his feet, pushing him against the wall. The cross clattered to the floor. I grabbed it, slashing at the air. But Samuel’s quick movement had extinguished the candle lighting the room, and as we were plunged into darkness, Samuel struck. I felt a searing pain below my knee and staggered onto my back, suddenly unable to move. A stake was jutting out from under my kneecap.

I couldn’t muster the strength to pull myself into a seated position to yank it out. I twisted, trying to get a view of the room. Samuel and Damon were circling each other. Damon’s jaw was clenched and blood was running down his face.

Kill him, I willed. No torture. Just strike. You don’t have time.

In my pain, I couldn’t be sure whether I was saying the words or merely thinking them. But I heard Damon’s low, mocking laugh.

“Ready to be revealed as a monster? What will Lord Ainsley think? Better call in all your political favors now,” Damon said. “Unless I just kill you. Take you off their hands.”

Just kill him, I thought desperately.

Samuel turned toward me—that time, I’d spoken aloud. “I’m afraid your brother won’t be killing me,” he said evenly as he pulled a glittering, jewel-encrusted knife from his jacket. The sound of sizzling flesh assaulted my ears; I could tell the knife had been dipped in vervain.

“Damon!” I yelled, but it was too late. Samuel took the knife and shoved it into Damon’s abdomen. Blood immediately seeped through his robes.

Samuel looked back and forth at us both, his eyes glittering in the darkness. I glared at him, still unable to move. He continued to laugh, a low, dangerous sound, as ominous as an earthquake.

“I have to hand it to you, boys,” he said, tapping his long fingers together and pacing the room. I wondered if this was when he’d strike, or if he’d hold out. “You tried valiantly. I didn’t think you had it in you. Spiking those little brats with vervain was admirable. But unfortunately, I have quite a bit of vervain in me. Started dosing myself with it years ago. Nasty and unpleasant, yes, but it does help build immunity.” He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief. “See, not so much the worse for wear.” He clapped his hands together, causing dried red flecks of blood to fall to the ground like rain.

“Which is more than I can say for your little friends,” he continued. “You think you’re the only ones who can spoil an evening? Jack the Ripper knows how it’s done. Now seems like the perfect time for him to head back to Whitechapel and strike again. The only question is, in a benefit full of whores, who will be the lucky lady?” Samuel’s mouth twisted into a sickening grin.

“No,” I said, as the horror of it invaded my imagination. I pictured one of the Asylum girls, ripped from the inside out. My leg was hurting badly, and I knew I’d lost a lot of blood. But my injuries were nothing compared to what Samuel would do to those girls. Cora was out there, alone…

I lurched upright, pulling at the stake in my shin.

Samuel laughed at my lame attempt at stopping him. “It’s been a pleasure, boys,” he said as he turned to leave.

I glanced over at Damon, crumpled on the floor. Blood was trickling out of his stomach. I yanked again, but the stake in my leg wouldn’t budge. Instead, every attempt to pull it out caused me to fall back in spasms of agony.

Far in the distance, I heard the faint strains of a waltz in the ballroom, and the cheerful chatter of the partygoers, completely unaware of the demon in their midst.

13

A few agonizing minutes later, I managed to yank the stake from my knee and stanched the wound with a stretch of fabric ripped from my robe. I stood up and hobbled across the dark room toward Damon. My leg seemed all right, considering the bone had been broken only minutes before. My body healed fast and already I could tell my knee was on the mend. But Damon … he was still on the ground in agony, blood gushing from his gut even as he tried to stand. This wasn’t an injury he’d be able to walk off. I debated: Should I leave him here and run to Whitechapel? Or was Samuel’s challenge a trap? I couldn’t think clearly, but I could sense the moments counting down. A girl’s blood would be on my hands if I didn’t act fast—and make the right decision—soon.

Cora burst into the room. Her face paled as she took in the sight of us, but she moved forward purposefully.

“What happened?” she asked as she sank to the floor beside Damon. “Is he…”

“Samuel stabbed him. Vervain. He’ll be all right eventually.”

“What can I do?” she asked, looking down at him.

I hesitated. I knew Damon was in bad shape, but without him I would not be able to stop Samuel from killing again tonight. And I knew what Damon needed. I would not force her, but if she did it willingly… “You could give him your blood,” I said.

Cora’s hands flew to her throat. “But where … how?” Cora asked.

“I just need your wrist. Not a lot. Do you trust me?”

Cora nodded silently, took off her vervain charm, and held out her white wrist. Even after living in the Asylum, Cora’s skin smelled like an intoxicating combination of freesia and milk.

I took a step back. I didn’t want to be tempted. Instead, I took the blood-covered knife, wiped it on the sleeve of my robe to remove any vervain left on its surface, and handed it to her.

“Just a small cut will do. Not too much—he has to be able to stop,” I cautioned.

Without hesitation, Cora took the knife and held it against her skin, pushing until she created a long, clean channel of blood.

“Good,” I said. “Now let him drink.”

At first, Damon tentatively licked Cora’s wrist, but then began sucking harder and more insistently. I turned away, part of me jealous that Damon was able to experience Cora’s sweetness in a way that I would never allow myself to.

“That’s enough!” I said desperately. There was such a fine line between life and death.

Damon glanced up at me and raised his eyebrows.

“Did you see him?” he asked Cora after briefly kissing her wrist in thanks.

“Yes.” Cora nodded, eyes wide. “And he took Elizabeth and Cathy! Just walked out the door with them, and no one said a word. I came down here as fast as I could. I knew I couldn’t go after him alone.” Cora’s voice was unnaturally high.

“He’s got them,” Damon said darkly, as if it were a point of fact. He was standing now and looked as strong as ever, except for the large red bloodstain on his robe.

Cora sniffed. “Elizabeth and Cathy drank the vervain. So they’ll be all right, won’t they?” she asked in a small voice.

“Vervain doesn’t work on Samuel,” I said. “He’s been dosing himself. We need to follow them.” I didn’t tell her about Samuel’s demonic wager. I couldn’t.

“We need to find them.” Damon’s mouth was set. “Another Jack the Ripper attack will happen tonight. He knows we’re here. And he won’t stop killing until the trail of blood leads the police to us.”

Damon took a distraught Cora under his arm and led her out of the room.

We left through a back entrance, and the three of us ran through the streets for what felt like an eternity. The wind was howling, and the party seemed ages away. As we pelted toward the rain-soaked alleys of Whitechapel, I felt as if we’d been transported back to Mystic Falls after the vampire siege, when the entire town had smelled of vervain, fire, blood, and death. Except Whitechapel was filled with snaking side streets and tiny courtyards masked by towering boardinghouses. It would be impossible to find Samuel in time. And yet, we had to.

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