Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(10)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(10)
Author: L.J. Smith

Lady Alice walked to the side of the fake staircase and pushed open a thin wooden door.

“Go on,” she said, gesturing for me to walk through the door. I blinked. It was pitch black and quiet inside. The door was only four feet tal , and I had to duck to get through. I found myself standing in a dark coat closet.

But only for a moment.

Then, right before my eyes, the room began expanding.

The ceiling vaulted, the wal s fanned out, and furniture appeared out of nowhere. And I realized I wasn’t alone.

Chatter surrounded me as the room brightened with orange light. Two white marble benches flanked a fire. Three men and three women sat on the benches. Two of the men looked ancient. The other was middle-aged and had his fingers interlaced with those of a wel -dressed woman. An elderly woman perched on a stool by the door, while a girl, scarcely older than Mary Jane, sat apart from the others, on the very edge of a bench. Who were these people? And how did they al find one another? And, most important, would they agree to help us?

I heard someone come through the doorway behind me.

“Does she have to turn everything into a damn magic trick?” Damon whispered under his breath, so low only I could hear it.

“Shh!” I was comforted by the untraditional entrance. It was reassuring to have evidence of Lady Alice’s skil s before I put my faith in her.

“I hope you didn’t have too much trouble getting in,” a wizened man said as he hurried over to Damon. “Of course, I knew who you were from those parties at White’s, but I wasn’t going to say anything. You seemed to be behaving yourself. But I have to admit, I’m glad to see you in this setting.” His gaze shifted to me. “And another one!” he said as he grabbed my hand and shook it. I shifted uncomfortably and ran my tongue over my canine teeth. Stil short and straight. The man turned to our escort. “Al right, Alice. Now can you tel us why we’re here?”

“Yes, Thatcher,” she said as she patted her hand on his hunched shoulder and subtly forced him back to the marble bench where he’d been sitting. “Now, I’ve told you that we’d have guests tonight. Stefan, Damon, and Mary Jane?

Please, come forward.” She ushered us to a spot next to her in front of the fire. “Cora, take a seat.” Cora nodded nervously, sitting next to a beautiful young woman dressed in a blue velvet dress. Her long curls cascaded down her back and her neck and wrists were dripping with gold and jewels. The half-dozen people in the room looked like lords and ladies from the society pages.

Nothing about their dress, or demeanor, revealed their true selves. I felt a pang of envy. They could live normal lives.

They could blend in, without worrying about losing control or an accidental flash of fangs.

“As I’m sure al of you noticed, these men are not witches, but vampires,” Lady Alice continued, not bothering to introduce the witches in front of us. “You’l also notice they’re accompanied by one of our own tonight.” She turned and softened her gaze toward Mary Jane. “This girl is Mary Jane Kel y, a very powerful witch who doesn’t know the greatness of her gifts. She’s descended from the Original coven,” she said, nodding as several witches in the room gasped.

“Why’s a purebred witch wasting her time with ghastly bloodsucking monsters?” The woman in the blue dress sniffed. Cora shot a daggerlike glare at her.

“Because one of us is the ghastly bloodsucking monster who saved her,” Damon said smoothly, smiling his cat-who-ate-the-canary smile.

Lady Alice nodded. “It’s true. Why don’t you explain the rest?” she asked, looking expectantly at me.

I glanced around at the witches, trying to make eye contact. It was imperative they see me as their friend. But before I could explain that I was the one who’d saved Mary Jane, Damon continued.

“You may know me as Damon DeSangue, and this is my brother, Stefan. I came to your country a year ago, and I quickly made the acquaintance of London’s elite, including Samuel Mortimer,” he intoned. “But I can report to you with complete honesty that Samuel Mortimer is a vampire. And he’s Jack the Ripper.”

“That’s outrageous!” one of the old men blurted out, his head snapping up at the word vampire. “I know Samuel Mortimer. He’s a bloody great man.” A few dissenting grumbles echoed in the audience.

Cora came forward. “It’s true. He kil ed two of my friends and turned my sister into a vampire. I’ve seen him in the act, and I assure you he’s the Ripper.”

“The girl’s tel ing the truth,” one of the men stated, verbalizing what al the witches must have known.

“Samuel as the Ripper. I knew it,” one woman murmured.

“Didn’t I tel you, Oscar?” She turned to the man on her left.

“Why, at one of Cecil’s parties I straight-out asked Samuel if he had any leads. When he answered, I knew he was lying, but I thought he was covering up a secret Scotland Yard was keeping. I should have pushed him further,” she said, looking distraught as the man next to her patted her hand.

“Please, don’t blame yourselves!” Damon said gal antly, a gleam of excitement evident in his blue eyes. Damon in front of a crowd was an impressive sight, and I knew he was just warming up. “Samuel Mortimer began a reign of terror in the East End not for sport, but because he thought his kil ings would lead to the prize he covets.” At this, Damon lowered his voice so much that people had to lean in to hear him. “He wants the heart of a purebred witch. And he’s convinced that witch is Mary Jane.”

“It’s true,” Lady Alice said. “Al of it.”

“What happens if he gets the heart?” the woman in the blue dress asked, leaning forward in concern.

“He’s going to eat it.” The elderly woman by the door cut off Damon before he could answer. “And by doing so, he wil gain the power to compel vampires. He can get al the vampires in London to do his bidding.” She slid off her stool and hobbled toward us, leaning on an intricately carved wooden cane. “But why should we help them? We can do this ourselves. How do we know they aren’t just setting this up as a trap for this…this Samuel,” she spat, as if the name was the worst thing she could think to say. She glanced around the room indignantly, the eyebrows on her wrinkled, withered-apple face knitting together. Her strident tone reminded me of Mrs. Duckworth, the maid at Abbott Manor. She was the type of woman people listened to.

“My brother and I have witnessed firsthand the unspeakable horrors Samuel has committed. I assure you that we are dedicated to fighting him until he is stopped once and for al ,” I interjected. “As for taking care of yourselves, you may have magic, but Samuel is cunning and ruthless and therefore not to be underestimated. We’ve been fol owing him for weeks,” I explained. “We know his habits, and we know his weaknesses. We have strength, and we have knowledge of our enemy. While separately we might fail, by banding together we have a chance at ridding London of this fiend. And so we’re humbly asking for vinculum to be invoked. Lady Alice told us about the spel , and it seems it’s what we need. I know vampires and witches have a complicated history, but if we have a spel that binds us, then you won’t have to fear us.” The old woman nodded, but it was impossible to tel what she was thinking. She had the same strange pupils as Mary Jane. They were captivating, and it was hard to tear my eyes away.

Please, I thought. I didn’t dare say the word. But as I Please, I thought. I didn’t dare say the word. But as I thought it, the woman’s eyes flickered.

“I’m aware of what we’re risking, Lavinia,” Lady Alice said gently to the old woman. “But I’m also aware of the dangers in not binding ourselves to these vampires.

Samuel wil kil Mary Jane, and if he does, he could have al of London under his control. I won’t take that chance. Mary Jane’s one of our own. And we protect our own. Or have you forgotten that in your old age? What does the rest of the coven think?” she asked, not bothering to wait for Lavinia’s response.

“I say kil the bloody bastard by any means necessary!” a portly, red-faced old man blustered. The men in the group murmured their agreement.

“I agree. Whatever we can do to save Mary Jane,” the young blond woman in the front said shyly. I sneaked a glance at Mary Jane. She was staring at a point far in front of her. Her face was pale. Just because the witches were helping didn’t mean she was out of danger, and she knew it.

“I don’t think so.” Lavinia shook her head vehemently.

“These strangers come here in front of us, say they’re vampires, and say that one of their own needs the heart of a purebred witch. Now, I know they seem to be tel ing the truth, but vampires are crafty. And before we go any further, we need the girl,” she said, beckoning toward Cora.

“M-m-me?” Cora asked, stuttering in fear.

“No, the other human girl who was brought in front of our coven,” Lavinia growled sarcastical y. “Yes, you.” Cora stepped forward, and I could see her shoulders trembling underneath her frayed dress.

“Now, Cora,” Lavinia said, staring straight into her eyes.

“Wil you tel me the truth?” Her intensity reminded me of the way I focused before compel ing. Cora’s gaze flickered toward me.

“Cora!” Lavinia said, causing her gaze to snap forward.

“Yes?” Cora asked.

“When you open your mouth, wil you speak the truth?” she asked again.

“Yes,” Cora said. There was no question in her voice.

Lavinia placed one hand, then the other on her shoulders.

She nodded toward the coven.

“What wil these vampires do once they’ve defeated Samuel?”

“I don’t know,” Cora said in confusion, breaking her gaze away.

Lavinia shook Cora’s shoulders. “Wel , think! Two vampires, able to compel themselves into any situation or station would want to do something, wouldn’t they? Maybe gain power? Riches? Rule the city of London?”

“Damon wouldn’t. He wants an easy life. Whatever luxuries he can have, he’l get, but he won’t cause trouble here. Not like Samuel. And Stefan…” She paused, and a smal smile crossed her face. “I think that if Stefan kil s Samuel, then he’l final y stop feeling ashamed of who he truly is. He needs to do something good. Something heroic.

But he won’t cause trouble. I know that.” These were clearly Cora’s unedited thoughts. I felt she’d accurately pegged Damon, but I couldn’t help but feel betrayed at what she’d said about me. That was why she thought I wanted to fight Samuel? So I could feel heroic?

She didn’t think it had to do with my wanting to save her?

“How interesting,” Lavinia said, breaking the silence.

Her mouth twisted as though she’d sucked a lemon, and she took her hands off Cora. Cora staggered back as if she had been pushed.

“Are you al right?” Mary Jane asked, steadying Cora and helping her regain her balance.

Cora nodded, even though I saw her wince and rub her shoulder.

Lavinia turned to address the coven. “I’m satisfied that these vampires are who they say. And I won’t stand in the way of our affiliation with them.”

“Good,” Lady Alice said simply. “Now, let’s pledge vinculum. And then we’l formulate a plan. Stefan, please take my blood. Damon, you too.” She held her arms out toward us, her wrists facing the vaulted ceiling.

“Take your blood?” I repeated, hoping I’d misheard.

Lady Alice nodded briskly, not moving her arms. “Yes.

With your fangs, please. Vinculum happens when a witch freely gives her blood and a vampire freely accepts it. No spel s, no compulsion, no lying. Just an honest exchange.

You wil be bound to me, and I’m bound to my coven. But again, if any deception occurs, or any lives are lost, vinculum is broken.”

“What happens if vinculum is broken?” Damon asked.

“It varies,” Lady Alice said smoothly. “Broadly speaking, it means we have to face the wrath of the other species. Al propriety and rules are forgotten, and we battle until we feel balance is restored. In this case, we’d kil you. And I assume you would kil us,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Seems fair.” Damon nodded, but I felt dread creep through my veins. The witches were brutal. If things didn’t go according to plan, we’d suddenly have a powerful new enemy.

“Are we agreed, then?” Lady Alice asked as she pushed her wrist under my nose. Her skin smel ed of gardenias and jasmine and I wanted so badly to taste the blood running underneath it. I staggered back.

“I can’t. Damon wil just have to do it,” I said.

“Al right,” Lady Alice said uncertainly, turning toward Damon.

“No.” I turned to stare at Lavinia, who was shaking her head. “Either both of them do it, or I won’t al ow this bond to happen. Why doesn’t the vampire drink?”

“I don’t drink human blood,” I mumbled. I’d always been proud of my resolve, but here, when blood was being offered, I felt weak. What if I couldn’t stop at a sip? What if I ruined everything?

“Then how did you ever expect to fight this Samuel?” Lavinia asked, her eyes boring right into me. I glanced over to Cora, but she looked down at her hands folded in her lap. “You said that you were bringing vampire strength to this battle. But if you’re refusing blood, then you’re refusing that strength within you,” Lavinia said.

“We only need one vampire to do it, right? Maybe it’s better…”

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)