Home > The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(14)

The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(14)
Author: L.J. Smith

I sniffed the air to pick out Samuel’s direction. The wind carried the unmistakable scent of blood toward us. It was so strong my fangs automatically bulged under my gums.

We were too late.

Rushing toward source of the smell, I saw movement at the center of the square.

“He’s here,” Damon said tersely.

I nodded, freezing in my tracks.

Then another sound captured my attention. I might have chalked it up to the wind, whistling through the narrow alleys, but Damon had heard it, too. He sprang toward the end of the alley. I urged Cora to stay put before following him.

And there, I saw him. Lit by a thin sliver of moonlight was Henry. A knife glittered in his hand, dripping with blood. Below him lay the prone body of Cathy, the Asylum girl who’d befriended Cora.

My stomach lurched. I’d been responsible for dozens of deaths, and I’d seen terrible vampire murders. But I’d never seen a death like this. It brought me back two decades to the Sutherlands’ well-maintained living room. There, the entrails of every member of the Sutherland family were spattered across the walls and the floor, making it impossible to tell which body part originally belonged to whom.

And here, Cathy’s guts were being splayed out onto the street. Henry seemed entranced by the gore. Most vampires killed cleanly, draining blood from two small holes in the neck. But Henry had split open Cathy’s entire body, and had made slash after slash across her neck. Her clothing was so bloodstained that it was impossible to ascertain the original color of her dress. This was the work of a deranged demon.

Henry looked up. I was sure he knew what a picture he was painting for us, bowed over his prey. “Why, hello. I’m afraid you’re late for dinner. I would have whipped up a dessert, but my brother told me this blood was ruined for vampire consumption. What a waste.” Henry leered at us. Then he stood and lunged toward Damon.

Damon sidestepped him, causing Henry to ricochet against the wall. He fell to the ground, but quickly bounced back up, laughing demonically. With Damon occupying his attention, I rushed to check on Cathy to see if anything could be done.

I knelt beside her body, thankful that she was dead, not alive and in agony. Hopefully the death had been quick. Then I thought about Elizabeth, too, who might not have been so lucky. Chances were, since she wasn’t here now, she’d already met her fate.

“Good luck trying to fix that mess,” a smooth, low voice said behind me. “I’d say better luck next time, but there won’t be one.”

I whirled around. It was Samuel, a snow-white handkerchief tucked in his jacket pocket and a half smile on his face.

“I’m surprised you’re so disgusted. I do know how fond you and your brother are of messes. Isn’t that what you both have been doing since you arrived in London? Finding yourselves in impossible situations? It’s as if you two have a death wish.” Samuel shook his head. “In a way, it’s too easy,” he mused, kneeling down and smoothing Cathy’s hair back from her pale face as tenderly as a husband caressing his bride. From the neck up, she looked as if she was merely sleeping.

I leaped toward Samuel, guided by instinct as I threw a wild punch. My fist hit flesh, and Samuel staggered back. Maybe the vervain had affected him more than I thought. I wound up, ready to hit again, when a wild, raw scream rang out behind me. I whirled around and saw Cora next to Cathy’s body. Seeing her face, tortured by the sight of her friend ripped to pieces, I hurried to her side, my fight with Samuel all but forgotten.

Samuel, standing tall and strong as ever, turned toward Cora, a bemused expression on his face. “So, shall I kill your little friend? Or make her one of us?” Samuel asked as he pulled out a gold pocket watch and noted the time, smiling in satisfaction. I pulled Cora closer to me. “By my account, the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee should be here in minutes. I’ve been asking them to patrol Mitre Square every hour, on the hour. I always thought it was the perfect place for a careless killer to be caught. So you’ll forgive me if I break up the games,” he said. He whistled once. Henry looked up from his scuffle with Damon and immediately raced to his brother’s side. “They’ll appreciate catching the killers red-handed. Take it like men, will you?” With that, Samuel grabbed the back of Damon’s neck and forced his face into Cathy’s innards. Cora moaned in dismay, and I felt my own insides twist.

Damon choked as the vervain in Cathy’s body hit his lips and tried to jerk back, sputtering in equal parts anger and agony.

“Stefan? A snack?” Samuel asked, cackling, then shook his head as if he’d thought better of it. “No, too easy. And too unkind. I know how your brother abhors sharing the spotlight. Just like he abhors sharing his women. Katherine would always relay how humorous it was to pit the two of you against each other and watch you fight for her affections. As if either of you ever could have won her hand,” he laughed, as a peal of police bells pierced the night air and candlelight appeared in the windows of the buildings facing the square. Curious faces peeked out, and I knew we had only seconds to escape.

“I’ll see you soon, Stefan. And Damon, enjoy your demise,” Samuel said, releasing Damon’s neck. He seized Henry by the arm and they took off around the corner. The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee was coming, and Damon was again weakened by vervain. Still, I yanked him to his feet and searched for an escape route. A narrow path ran between two houses nearby. That would have to do.

“We can’t just leave her!” Cora shouted, staring at Cathy’s mutilated body in despair.

“Cora, we have to go!” I said, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her slightly. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I needed her to pay attention. If Cora became hysterical, none of us would be safe.

Cora straightened her shoulders and pressed her lips together in a tight line. A single tear trickled from the corner of her eye. She didn’t bother wiping it away.

“I’m fine,” she said, nodding her head as if willing it to be true. I dragged Damon with me alongside Cora as we ran, winding down one alley and another until we came to a tiny passageway between streets, filled with refuse and rats.

“Here,” Cora said, walking midway down the street and throwing her shoulder against a wooden door. Nothing. I stepped in front of her and tried again. It swung open easily.

As soon as we walked inside, I heard rats scurrying and bats squeaking. The structure seemed to have been a milliner’s shop at some point, and dusty hats and dresses hung from racks, rotting. I quickly located a heavy black trunk and dragged it in front of the door.

“We’re safe,” Cora said flatly, sinking to the ground and hugging her knees to her chest.

I was about to breathe a sigh of relief when I felt myself pinned to the wall by an unseen hand. I looked around wildly and realized the hand was connected to Damon. He squeezed my neck and scowled at me, hatred evident in his dark eyes.

“What now?” I asked, pushing him away. We had two vampires on our trail, a vigilance committee after us, and a cadre of policemen looking for us. Damon had the blood of an innocent girl all over his face. Yet all he seemed to be concerned with was reigniting our years-old feud.

“Well, Stefan,” Damon said, practically spitting out the words. “How do you feel about your grand plans now? Two more of your precious humans are dead, and not only are the police after me, but a Vigilance Committee is likely coming for me with torches and handcuffs. And instead of trying to destroy Henry or Samuel, trying to help me in the fight, all you cared about was how Cora felt.” Damon released his grip but kept his eyes locked on me. “You have no idea how to be a vampire. You have no idea how to fight. And I’m tired of listening to you.”

“I’m sorry,” Cora said in a small voice. “I should have been braver.”

“You should have been nothing,” Damon spat. “You shouldn’t even have been there. This is our world, and Stefan can’t seem to understand that he needs to live in it. All he wants to do is orchestrate events to his liking. He’s been telling me what to do since we got to London, and like an idiot, I’ve listened to him. But I’m not listening anymore,” Damon said. “We’re done.”

The words were like a knife to my stomach.

“Do you think I like living in tunnels and feeling like I’m hunted? Do you think I like seeing innocent humans die? I’m doing this to help you,” I shouted.

“How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t want your help,” Damon hissed, his voice low and ominous. “I didn’t need your help when we were humans, and I don’t need your help now. We’re done, brother. We’re done forever.”

“Fine!” I yelled. It was petulant and pathetic, but it was true. Because we were done. I didn’t want to worry and plan and always, endlessly, feel unappreciated and useless. I may have put up with that when I was a human, forever the younger brother trailing, puppylike, behind Damon. But not anymore. “Go.”

With that, Damon stormed out of the decrepit shop, batting the trunk away from the door as if it weighed nothing. I slammed the door behind him. If he wanted to run right into the arms of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, then let him go ahead. We were done. My thoughts were interrupted by a whimper from Cora. I placed a hand on her arm, knowing it wouldn’t do much to comfort her.

“It’s all right,” I said, even though it wasn’t. I felt the beginnings of a headache throbbing at my temples. Damon was gone, and it sounded like he was gone for good. And I didn’t blame him. I’d been angry with him in the past, but this was the first time I’d told him to go.

Good riddance, I thought, willing myself to believe it, trying to cast Damon as just another ill-mannered vampire, like the ones I’d lived with in New Orleans.

But he wasn’t. It was the same damning conclusion I’d always reached: Blood mattered. Damon mattered. Even if I wished he didn’t.

The sound of police bells drew closer, and I could hear footsteps. Torchlight danced along the whitewashed walls of the millinery shop, and once again I was thankful for Cora’s quick thinking.

Just then, we heard a cry from outside, so loud it rattled the windows, followed by the sound of doors slamming and footsteps echoing on the pavement.

“They found Cathy,” Cora noted, her voice devoid of emotion. I nodded helplessly. “I wonder where Elizabeth is. She can’t be alive, can she?”

“No.” I shook my head. Saying anything else would imply that I had hope. And I didn’t. The world was evil—I was evil—and everything I touched became surrounded by blood, destruction, and chaos. Including Cora. It was no way to live.

“It’s hard, isn’t it,” Cora said softly in the darkness.

“What is?” I asked.

“Living,” she replied. “It’s harder than death, I think. Because the first thing I thought when I saw Cathy was how lucky she was. She doesn’t have to live through this. She doesn’t have to see her friends torn apart, and she doesn’t have to live with any regret for bringing them into her problems. She’s free. It’s a wicked thought, isn’t it?” Cora asked.

“No, it’s the truth. I think it’s what Damon believes, too,” I admitted. I remembered when he had begged for the death I refused to give to him. Was that the root of all our problems? And if so, what could I do for forgiveness? In the moment when Cora’s terrified shriek pierced the night air, I had gone to her without a second thought. But in doing so, I had betrayed Damon, scuffling with Henry nearby. Damon on his own in London was as good as dead. If Samuel didn’t get him, then the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee would.

“You know he wasn’t mad at you tonight. That was just an excuse.”

“Maybe he was right. You chose me,” Cora said in a small voice.

“I didn’t choose anyone. Damon can look out for himself. You…”

“Can’t?” Cora asked, with a raw laugh.

“… just saw your friend dead on the street,” I finished. “But no. Damon’s always looking for a reason to hate me. And…” I took a deep breath. “Maybe he should. Because you see, I loved my brother. And when I became a vampire, I wanted him with me. I forced him to turn against his will. He was fighting his transition and I made him drink human blood. And he’ll never, ever forgive me for that.”

“I don’t think that I would hate Violet if she turned me,” Cora mused. “I think if I knew she did it for the right reasons, I would understand and forgive her. At least we’d be together.”

“It’s not that simple,” I said after a moment.

We were quiet for some time. Through the grime coating the shop windows, I could see the faintest streaks of sunlight appearing like brushstrokes against the inky black sky. The worst of the night was behind us.

“Nothing that’s worth it is ever simple,” Cora said in the darkness, picking up our earlier conversation and yanking me back to the present.

“Hmm?” I asked, startled.

“Nothing that’s worth anything is ever simple. That’s what makes it worth it. That’s what Violet always used to say when things got hard for us. She was the one who pushed for us to move to London. I’d have been happy to stay in Donegal, settle down…” Cora sighed. “Violet convinced our parents to let us move. And right before we boarded the boat, my da took me by the shoulders and told me to look after his little girl.”

“You did the best you could.”

Cora shook her head. “I didn’t! I was charmed by Samuel the second he came into the Ten Bells. He sat at the bar and told me I was beautiful. I didn’t give a second thought to what would happen to Violet when I went with him. And then… I was so stupid!” she exploded angrily. “Why couldn’t I resist him? I knew well enough that no nobleman like him would want a girl like me, so why couldn’t I ignore the compulsion?”

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)