Home > The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(17)

The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(17)
Author: L.J. Smith

I nodded, entranced.

“Ephraim will put these in a pouch for you. But be careful,” he concluded.

“Thank you,” I said sincerely as I carefully took the pouch from Ephraim and tucked it in my pocket.

“And now, time to take some of your blood, vampire.” I held out my wrist and watched as Ephraim neatly sliced into my skin. He pulled an ancient vial, crusted with blood, from another pocket and held it up to my wrist, using his fingers to knead and coax drops of blood out of the wound. It was like taking blood from a stone. I was desperately low.

“You need to feed,” Ephraim said sagely.

“I will,” I said. Or I would once we got back to the ground.

“I think this is enough,” he said, holding up the vial to the tiny window. The liquid gleamed in the moonlight, and I watched, entranced. Even though the blood was my own, I was still fascinated by the way it looked. No matter how often I saw it, blood was beautiful.

Ephraim trained his gaze on Cora. “Ephraim needs something from you, too.”

“Fine,” Cora said proudly, shaking her hair back from her face as she held both her wrists out under his nose.

The raven cawed in protest.

“No, no, no—no blood! What would Ephraim do with human blood? No, your fee is your hair.”

“My hair?” Cora asked blankly.

“Just a lock. It helps with the relocation spell. You’re her kin.”

“All right,” Cora said, not flinching as the knife came down dangerously close to her ear. Ephraim took the lock of hair and lit a candle.

“By the burning of this hair

Clear the way to Samuel’s lair.

For good or evil may it be,

But let this spell bring her to thee.”

He brought the lock of hair to the flame and it exploded in a sphere of purple light. At the center of the orb was an image of Violet under a gaslight, her fangs buried deep in the neck of a well-dressed gentleman.

I shivered. All too quickly, the orb disappeared, plunging the room into darkness.

“You’re done here.” Ephraim nodded, and the raven cawed.

“Three o’clock, then?” Cora asked.

“Yes. Tell James that Ephraim sends his regards. Goodbye, vampire,” Ephraim said, as he swung the vial of blood back and forth.

Cora and I clambered back down the stairs, glad to be leaving Ephraim’s oddness behind us. As we stepped out of the tower into the night, I heard the clock strike one long, plaintive stroke: one o’clock. Only a few more hours until we saw Violet.

“You need to eat,” Cora reminded me.

“I will,” I said. Or I would once we’d set up camp outside Samuel’s house. I didn’t want something as minor as my diet to waylay our plans.

“Do you want my blood?” Cora asked shyly, holding out her pale arms. The moonlight cast a shaft of light over her skin and I could see blue veins crisscrossing just beneath the surface. I imagined what her blood would taste like. Back when I’d first become a vampire, I couldn’t pass a woman without envisioning her blood running down my throat. Then, I’d plan my attack, and feed. Never had a woman offered her blood to me.

I shook my head. “I’ll have a pigeon,” I decided. “Or a squirrel.”

Cora opened her mouth as if she were about to protest. “Fine,” she said. “Then let’s go hunting.”

16

Two hours later, we were waiting outside the gates of Samuel’s fashionable Bloomsbury house. Earlier, we’d gone up to Hampstead Heath, where Cora said there was always wildlife. She was a good hunter, with sharp eyes, and she’d pointed out squirrels and rabbits that had zigzagged their way across the grass, But I’d seen the fox, its green eyes unblinking and curious deep in the forest. Cora sat by my side as I drank, just as I sat by her side as she ate buns from the bakery.

It wasn’t odd. In fact, it was rather nice.

Now, we sat waiting for Violet. We’d been here for the last hour, not wanting to risk being even a second late. Neither of us talked, and the silence was heavy with anticipation. It felt like the clock had struck two an eternity ago, but I’d lost all sense of time. Cora shivered slightly beside me. Despite the cold, Samuel’s lawn was springy and bright. While the rest of the city seemed decrepit, as though it was decaying along with the leaves that fluttered to the cobblestones, the grounds of Lansdowne House seemed fresh. I wondered if this, too, was an enchantment.

Cora kept her gaze fixed on the main entrance of the house.

“Violet may not be the Violet you remember, but that doesn’t mean the real Violet isn’t somewhere, deep inside,” I said, breaking the silence. “It just might take a while to bring her out. When I first became a vampire, I don’t know if I’d have listened to a human. Be prepared for anything.”

Cora nodded. “I know. But it’s different with me and Violet. We’re more than close. It’s like we share a mind. And even if she’s a vampire now, it won’t change things. I won’t let it,” she said, her jaw jutting out determinedly.

You might not have a choice, I thought, but didn’t say it aloud. I’d already said enough. And maybe Cora was right. More and more with Cora, I found myself acting like Lexi: the older and world-weary mentor who wanted to show the protégé how it was done. But Cora wasn’t my protégé, and she didn’t want to be anything like me. Besides, maybe things wouldn’t change between Cora and Violet. Maybe Damon and I were the monstrous aberrations, the brothers who lost their bond along with their souls. Maybe Cora, not me, was Violet’s best hope for learning to live a moral life as a vampire. Maybe…

Just then, far off in the distance, I heard Big Ben. One … two … three.

“It’s time,” Cora said, grabbing my hand and digging her fingernails into my skin so deeply that I inhaled sharply. Cora’s grip showed what her demeanor hadn’t: She was just as nervous as I was that Violet might not be the sister she knew and loved.

A hush descended over us—even the crickets or squirrels we’d heard moments earlier had gone silent. It was as if we were underneath a protective dome, where no one would hear or see what occurred.

Violet staggered through the gates, her face covered with blood and her breathing ragged, as though she’d been running. She was wearing a dark red dress that buttoned up to her chin, but her forearms were bare. Her eyes were glittering in the darkness, and she’d lost the scared, haunted look she’d had as a human.

“Violet!” Cora whispered from the bushes.

Violet paused midstep and glanced over. She looked so confused, it was all I could do not to leap from the bushes, wrap her in my arms, and bring her to safety.

“Violet!” Cora called again.

Violet finally located the source of the voice. Disoriented and defensive, she lunged for Cora, pinning her to the ground. Cora’s surprised cry pierced the air.

I plucked Violet off her sister and stood her up to face me. It was clear she was strong, very strong, from her recent feeding. I could hear the steady thrum of blood in her veins. I wondered how many victims she’d already claimed and hoped it was not as many as I had on my conscience.

Violet blinked and tried to focus, her savage grimace melting back to a look of confusion.

“Why… Stefan?” she said, shaking her head as if unsure whether she was in a dream. Just for a split second, I saw a glimmer of Violet as I’d known her: a naïve, innocent girl trying to make sense of the world. She turned to her sister. “And Cora?” she asked, as if she could scarcely believe her eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, Violet. You’re alive,” Cora said, leaping up and showering her sister with kisses. “I am so sorry. I’m sorry I went away, and I’m sorry for everything. Please forgive me. I never should have left you alone in the first place. Do you forgive me?”

Violet’s eyes glittered in the moonlight. She reached out and stroked her sister’s cheek. “Of course I forgive you,” she said. “Oh, I’m so happy to see you.” She drew Cora into an embrace.

Cora hugged her sister hard. “I needed to see you,” she said finally. “Stefan and I have been so worried about you.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Violet said in a dulcet voice. “I’ve been happier than I could ever have imagined. Jewels, furs, parties … it’s the world we always imagined,” she said, twirling a lock of her hair around her index finger. “And it can be yours, too. It’ll only take a second, and then you can be just like me. You can say good-bye to dull, dirty London forever. You’ll never have to sleep in a tunnel or in a crowded rooming house. It will be my gift to you,” Violet said as she lunged toward her sister. I ran toward them and pushed Violet to the ground, holding her there as she writhed and gnashed her fangs. Her face turned into a mask of hatred as she blinked up at me.

“You ruin everything, Stefan,” she snarled, pushing me away.

“I’m fixing everything. And Cora doesn’t want to be a vampire. That’s not the answer. We’ve come to take you with us,” I explained. “Where you’ll be safe.”

“Safe?” Violet spat as she stood. “I’m safe here. With Samuel. And I’m happy, too, Stefan. No thanks to you.” She sounded like she was issuing a challenge. Her voice had lost all traces of her Irish accent, and was as cold and hard as iron.

“You’ll be happier with your sister. You two are family. You don’t need Samuel.”

“What do you know about what I need?” Violet shot back, hatred dripping from her voice. “You told me not to become a vampire. You told me it would be lonely and terrible. ‘A fate worse than death,’ was what you said. But you just didn’t want me to have any fun. Not like Samuel does.” Violet laughed, an icy, tinkling sound. “I pity you. And luckily, I don’t have to deal with you. You’ll be dead soon enough. Until then, keep away from my sister. She doesn’t need your protection.”

At this, Violet turned to her sister possessively. “Look at you, Cora,” she said. “Why, you’re a mess. You need me to take care of you.”

“No, Violet, come with us. Please, this isn’t you,” Cora implored.

“Oh, Cora,” Violet said, grasping her sister’s hands in hers. “Don’t you see? I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Join me. It could be just like we talked about, me and you, taking on the world!”

“Don’t listen to her!” I interjected.

Violet turned and glared at me. “You’re the one who’s been lying. She needs a real vampire to protect her. And to think I believed you were so brave and so strong. You’re nothing like Samuel. You’re nothing at all,” she hissed.

Her words sliced through my stomach. There was nothing left of the girl I’d kissed on the hill in Ivinghoe.

“Violet, please. You’re hurting me,” Cora said, twisting her hands in Violet’s grip. “Stefan—”

“Shh,” Violet said tenderly, brushing her lips across Cora’s forehead. “I’m here now. He doesn’t matter. He’s nothing to you.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing, Violet,” I said, lunging toward her. But Violet stepped daintily out of reach, still holding Cora tight.

“And you do?” Violet laughed sharply. “Good-bye, Stefan. I’ll send Samuel out to deal with you.” She dragged Cora across the lawn as Cora tried desperately to claw her way out of her sister’s grasp.

“Let go, Violet!” Cora yelled futilely. “Stop!”

I barreled toward them and knocked Violet away from Cora. But Violet quickly retaliated with a kick that sent me flying into the wall of Lansdowne House. In the split second it took me to regain my feet, Violet snatched Cora, threw her over her shoulder, and sped over the threshold into house.

The door clicked closed. I rushed against it, but it wouldn’t budge. All I could hear was the faint sound of Violet’s laughter from within.

Down at my feet, I noticed a glint of silver. Cora’s vervain necklace. She was defenseless against her bloodthirsty sister, and Samuel’s compulsion.

She was doomed.

17

I circled around, hoping to find some entry into the house. I knew it was no use—I hadn’t been invited in—but I couldn’t give up on Cora yet. At one rear window, I caught sight of Violet leading Cora up a curved staircase. I rapped desperately on the glass, not caring that Violet would hear me as well.

Both girls whirled around.

“I’ll be back,” I mouthed to Cora. Her eyes were huge and her face was twisted with fright. I didn’t think Violet would kill her, but beyond that, I had no idea what would happen. Would Violet turn her? Compel her?

I had to rescue Cora as soon as possible.

Without a second thought, I began to run, my feet thudding against the cobblestones, heading toward Whitechapel and James at vampire speed. I didn’t care who saw me. I didn’t care about anything. All I wanted was to move, to hear the blood coursing through my veins, to see the spots of light in front of my eyes that signaled I was close to fainting. To know I was doing everything in my power to save her.

I turned down the twisty alleyway and burst into James’s store, not bothering to knock.

“James!” I called, my voice taking on a hysterical tone. “James!”

He shuffled out from the back of the store, clad in a white nightshirt and holding a candle in front of him. From his expression, I could tell he wasn’t entirely surprised to see me.

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