Home > The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(6)

The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(6)
Author: L.J. Smith

“I’m afraid you can’t come in,” the butler said firmly. His steady voice and unflickering eyes made it clear that he’d been compelled by Samuel.

“We’re business acquaintances of Mr. Mortimer’s,” I lied. I thought of Violet, crouched over Oliver’s body, being forced to feed after resisting for so long. I thought of Samuel, smiling down at me as he staked my stomach. I thought of all the destruction he’d wrought on London, of the smell of blood on the cobblestone alleyways. I thought of it all until I felt hatred begin to burn, as real and tangible as a brand pulled from the fire. I gazed into the butler’s eyes, willing my hate to be strong enough to override Samuel’s compulsion.

“Let us in,” I growled, and felt his resolve begin to weaken. Good. “Now,” I emphasized, not daring to blink.

But the butler stepped back and firmly crossed his arms across his chest.

“You are not to come in,” he said resolutely. “And if you continue to ask, I shall have to alert my master. Or, if you prefer, the Metropolitan Police,” he said, lowering his voice until he was speaking barely above a whisper. “In fact, the commissioner is inside right now, and I’m sure he’d love to see you, Count DeSangue.”

I flinched at the way the butler dropped Damon’s alias. Damon’s expression remained impassive. “If Samuel’s not willing to let me in, then tell him to come out. And as for the police commissioner, by all means, send him my way. Although blood on sandstone might be tricky to clean,” he said ominously, raising an eyebrow.

Murmurs rustled behind us, and I realized a crowd of guests had built up as we stood blocking the door. The butler cleared his throat and smiled tightly, as if to reassure the other guests that nothing was amiss.

“I’m afraid seeing Master Mortimer is impossible,” the butler said quietly, his voice tight behind his smile. “This is a private party, and you must get off the property immediately.”

“Samuel always invites too many people,” one of the guests complained, honking his bulbous red nose into a monogrammed blue handkerchief.

“You know you have a future councilor when commoners start crashing the party,” came another voice behind me. Laughter rippled through the crowd, and my spine stiffened. I knew we had to turn around, but I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. Not when Violet was so close.

“Beckford, is there a problem?” Suddenly, a presence loomed behind the butler. It was Samuel, dressed in a perfectly tailored black tuxedo. His blond hair glowed in the light shed by the lanterns surrounding the door. Hatred boiled in my veins at the sight of him. It was all I could do not to tackle him to the ground and hold him down so Damon could stake him.

His thin lips curled into a sneer at the sight of Damon and me.

“Well, well, well … not a pair of guests I expected to see. Beckford, I’ll deal with the riffraff. How will anyone trust me as the councilor of the city if I can’t handle the trouble on my own doorstep? Consider this a campaign demonstration!” He smiled widely at the crowd. “The rest of you, please come in and enjoy!” He threw his arms out in a gesture of welcome as guests squeezed past us and into the expansive mansion.

As the guests streamed in, two hulking men stepped outside, standing like bookends beside Samuel. I watched them warily. Were they vampires? Or were they human guards, unaware of their employer’s true identity? One of them caught me staring and took a warning step toward me. I clenched my jaw and flexed my fingers, preparing myself for what was sure to be an impossible fight.

Once the last guest was inside, Beckford closed the door with a thud. Samuel glanced back and forth between us. I shifted from foot to foot, trying as hard as I could to seem calm. After all, I’d gotten into battles with vampires before. I’d even thrown Samuel’s brother off a train. It wasn’t as if he could stake us on his front doorstep. Could he?

“You two.” Samuel shook his head and let out a long, low laugh. “Stefan, I would have thought you’d be in ashes by now. Or drowning in self-pity.”

“If you’re going to kill me, you’ll have to try harder,” I said, anger boiling inside me. “And I don’t know what you and your brother have against us, but I want answers. We both do.”

“Or else what?” Samuel asked calmly. “You’re on my territory, so my house rules apply. And I don’t appreciate trespassers, especially when I’m otherwise engaged. What did you think you would do here? Stake me? Have a bloody vampire battle while the band plays a waltz?” And that’s when I saw it. Under his white dress shirt was a pendant, gleaming in the moonlight. I glanced reflexively at my own ring. It also sparkled, as if sensing its nearby match.

Samuel must have noticed my gaze because he jerked his tuxedo jacket into place and crossed his arms. But he was too late. The sparkling blue stone told me everything I needed to know: His hatred of us had something to do with Katherine.

“Neither of you is as smart as I am,” Samuel continued. “And judging from this arrogant display, neither of you has any idea who you’re dealing with.” Samuel glared at us as though he were a headmaster and we were his wayward pupils.

“And you’re more naïve than we thought. Because this is just the beginning,” Damon said in a low voice.

“Oh, I know it is,” Samuel said, smiling like a cat with a mouse under its paw. “Because now I have a lovely deputy. Violet is a grand girl. Thank you for introducing us.”

Out of nowhere, Damon threw a punch. It landed on the side of Samuel’s nose.

Samuel blinked, but the blow had done nothing.

Samuel shrugged. “Just more fodder for the eventual flames of your undoing. As you can see, I’m unbreakable.”

Damon laughed, one short bark. “You’re a coward. I was coming to ask you to settle this once and for all, man to man. But you’re no man,” Damon spat. “Your days are numbered.” With that, Damon spun around and walked away, his footsteps hard on the path.

“Remember to vote!” Samuel called at Damon’s retreating back.

I had to do something. Maybe, with Damon out of earshot, it would be easier to reason with Samuel. Once I had Violet, I doubted I could persuade Damon from acting on his revenge fantasies, but at least I’d no longer have to be part of them.

“Samuel, let Violet free. She’s—” I began.

“A very hungry vampire,” Samuel interrupted. “And a lovely girl to have on my arm. Now, Stefan, I’m going to let you in on a secret. I hate you. But I abhor your brother. Play nice, and I may let you off easily. A stake to the heart next time. Simple. No torture. Or maybe—” Samuel leaned toward me. The sweet scent of blood hung in the air around him; he must have fed recently. “Maybe I’d let you go completely. Just leave London. Forget about your brother. And forget about Violet. But I wouldn’t count on it. After all, as I say to my constituents, I’m the type of person who gets things done.” He laughed maniacally before pushing me so forcefully I tumbled down the steps and cracked my head against the path.

The door slammed shut. In the distance, I could hear another group of guests working their way toward the mansion. Had Samuel somehow used compulsion—or something else—to make sure we’d been entirely alone during the course of our conversation? And if so, what couldn’t he do?

I stood and brushed myself off, rubbing the back of my scalp.

A short man in a top hat and tailcoat grabbed my arm. I whirled around, fangs bared. “What?” I growled, realizing just how much Samuel got under my skin as I saw the startled expression of the stranger. I needed to stay in control.

The man shrank back. “I’m sorry. I wanted to … is the Mortimer house?”

I nodded, giving a slight apologetic smile.

“Thank you,” the man said, fear flashing in his eyes as he rushed away.

Damon was waiting just inside the fence, pacing against the iron trellises. “I hate him. I want to pull him apart, limb from limb, in front of all his fancy guests. Just wait until they realize their precious councilor-to-be is a bloody murderer. It would serve all of them right to be killed.”

“Damon, listen to me,” I said urgently, leading him away from the property. “I noticed something tonight. His necklace. Did you see it?”

“No, I wasn’t paying attention to his jewelry,” Damon said as we hurried into the street. Mist swirling beneath the gaslights cast a ghostly shadow on his face. I pulled him away from the light. It wasn’t safe for him to be seen.

“He had a necklace like our rings,” I said pointedly. Finally, realization flickered in Damon’s eyes.

“Katherine,” he said finally.

The name hung between us, as palpable as the cobblestones under our feet. A shiver crept up my spine.

“He must have known her. He must have,” I said. I twisted my ring around my finger. The inside was tarnished, and there was a slight crack in the stone from one of the many bloody battles Damon and I had fought. But it was my lifeline to normalcy—and Damon’s, too. Without our rings, we would be bound to the darkness, unable to walk in the sun without bursting into flames. Damon’s ring was darker and even more tarnished, the silver nearly black. But the stone was just as blue as mine. As blue as the stone in Samuel’s necklace.

Damon nodded, a faraway expression on his face. I knew in his mind, he was back in the carriage house in Mystic Falls, Virginia. He was curling a lock of Katherine’s hair around his finger, planting a kiss on her porcelain cheek, or arching his neck in just the right way to allow her to…

I stopped imagining.

“Do you think … did Katherine ever mention Samuel?” I asked tentatively. A coach drove by, its well-dressed passengers most likely on their way to Samuel’s house.

Damon shook his head. “Katherine never mentioned any other man to me,” he said sharply. The end of the sentence went unspoken: Even you.

“She never said anything to me, either. Have you seen a stone like that anywhere else besides on our rings or Katherine’s necklace?”

“What does it matter?” Damon asked angrily, his voice piercing the night air. He threw up his hands. “All it proves is that the three of us shared the same dead vampire.” He kicked at the ground, sending a shower of pebbles further into the street. He lowered his voice. “I’m more of a man and more of a beast than Samuel ever was, or ever will be. And I want him to know that.” He turned on his heel and walked back toward the house.

“What are you doing?” I called.

Damon whirled around. “To hell with planning and plotting. I’m going to do exactly what I should have done in the first place. You were right, brother. Vampires can’t be trusted.”

“No!” I lunged at him. His expression was one I’d seen countless times. It was the same look he’d worn when he killed Callie and when he announced his intention to kill the Sutherland clan. He was out for blood, and I knew that if he attacked Samuel now, he’d be the one to end up dead.

But before either of us could make another move, we were interrupted by the crash of a door slamming shut. A girl wearing a jewel-encrusted blue dress stumbled out, blinking confusedly. I sniffed the air. I could sense her blood was wine-heavy, hear her heart beating erratically.

She walked unsteadily toward the line of coaches arranged like children’s models around the vicinity of the property.

Damon let out a low whistle in the darkness. I grabbed his arm and dug my fingers into his flesh. What was he doing? Now was not the time for Damon to fulfill his urges.

The girl turned around, wavering on her feet as she looked around for the source of the noise.

“Sarah!” Damon called. “Over here!”

“Do you know her?” I muttered under my breath, not sure which answer would be worse.

“Just watch,” Damon whispered through gritted teeth.

The girl stumbled toward us, her hands smoothing her skirts over the curve of her hips. “Why, I’m not Sarah…” she said, trailing off as her gaze landed on Damon’s rich clothes. “Although I could be, depending on who’s asking. It’s dreadfully boring in there,” she pouted.

Damon bowed. As he righted himself, he swept his cloak around him with a flourish, masking his features. “Deeply sorry to misidentify you. I’m Lord Fox,” he invented. “And you are?”

“Beatrice!” she hiccupped.

“Of course. Beatrice,” Damon said in an exaggerated show of politeness. “You will forgive me, but in this light, you looked like Sarah de Haviland.”

“The actress?” Color rose in the girl’s chipmunklike cheeks. “Oh, I’m not, but she is inside, if you’d like me to get her. Or maybe you’d enjoy getting to know me just as well?” she asked boldly.

Damon winked, acting as if he and Beatrice were the only people in the world. I watched, transfixed. Damon had more tricks up his sleeve than simple compulsion.

“I’d love to get to know you. But first, let’s play a little game. I want to play a prank on my friend Henry, who’s inside right now. Will you do me a favor? Flirt with him, and get him to come outside with you? But make sure you don’t mention me—I want it to be a surprise.”

Beatrice smiled, revealing an unfortunate crooked incisor. “I love surprises!” she said, clapping her hands together. “I’ll get him right away.”

“Terrific. And once I return to the party, I’d be honored if you’d dance with me,” Damon said, taking Beatrice’s hand and giving it a kiss. She blushed even more deeply and quickly turned away, eager to do Damon’s bidding.

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