Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(11)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(11)
Author: L.J. Smith

“Not for me,” Lavinia said flatly. “Either this vampire feeds on Alice’s blood, or the deal is off.” I looked at Cora, and she nodded encouragingly. Stil , she didn’t truly know what human blood did to me. In her mind, I was a wishful hero. She didn’t know me as the monster who’d never, ever have his fil .

“Go on, brother,” Damon said. It was the same phrase he’d used to egg me on countless times, ever since I was a child and he’d dared me to jump off the Wickery Bridge on the first warm day of the year.

I didn’t have a choice. I slowly pul ed her wrist to my mouth. My fangs sliced into her skin, releasing the pungent, sweet smel of blood into the air. I plunged my canines into the tiny blue veins in her wrist and was hit with waves of ecstasy I hadn’t felt in almost twenty years. I al owed the blood to wash down my throat, feeling it soothe al the pain and fear I’d carried. It surged through my body, making me feel safe and strong and alive. This was better than the blood in New Orleans, better than the oceans of blood I’d drunk during the murderous sprees of my youth.

Better than my father’s blood.

I wanted more, as much as possible, enough to fil my veins and my heart. A growl escaped from my lips.

“Vampire!” Lavinia cal ed sharply.

I pul ed back and wiped my mouth. I felt al eyes on me.

“I’m sorry if I got carried away,” I said stiffly.

“You did exactly as I asked,” Lady Alice said, but her face was pale. “Damon?”

She held out her wrist and I watched as Damon slowly took a smal sip, as though he were drinking a fine champagne. I couldn’t help but feel he was being so mannerly on purpose, to show the blood-hungry brother how proper feeding was done. I knew that even though I’d drunk from Lady Alice’s wrist briefly, I’d revealed part of my true nature. I was too greedy, too insistent, and I’d heard my angry, guttural growl as clearly as everyone else had.

When Damon finished, Lady Alice brushed the excess blood away with the inside of her sleeve. “Now, Damon and Stefan, come join our circle.” She held out her hands.

Instead of standing next to her, I chose to stand between Damon and Lavinia. It seemed safer. Because now that the taste of Lady Alice’s blood was on my tongue, it was al I could think about.

Lady Alice began to chant, and, one by one, the other witches joined in. I al owed my tongue to run back and forth over my teeth; the filmy coating left by the blood felt like both a blessing and a curse. The flames from the fire dimmed, sending the room into semidarkness.

“Vinculum,” Lady Alice said. The rest of the witches echoed the word.

Vinculum, I said under my breath. I hoped it worked. It had to. Lavinia dropped my hand. The room brightened.

“It’s done. We’re bound,” Lady Alice said.

“Good. Now, let’s discuss the next steps,” I said, glancing pointedly at Damon until he settled onto the bench next to the blond-haired witch. “What we need to do is trap Samuel, and the best way to do that is to use Mary Jane as Samuel, and the best way to do that is to use Mary Jane as bait. We can lead Samuel to her,” I said.

“How wil you do that, vampire?” Lavinia asked.

“I thought we could have Samuel spot Mary Jane in the East End, then attack,” I explained.

“No, no, no!” Lavinia protested. “Far too messy. We can’t have the battle where humans are. We need to do it somewhere hidden.”

“My house,” Mary Jane said quietly. “It’s the perfect spot.

We have a spel on the property that keeps the rent col ectors away. Humans don’t seem to notice it, even though it’s right there.”

“Good thinking,” Lavinia said approvingly.

“I suppose one of us could be used to bait Samuel,” I suggested, thinking on the fly.

“Too dangerous.” Lavinia shook her head. “Weren’t you paying attention? Vampires are crafty. He’l kil you without thinking twice. You need Samuel to know you have something he wants. You need to tel him you have Mary Jane.”

“He already knows,” I said numbly.

“Does he know he’s involved?” Lavinia asked, jerking her chin at Damon.

Damon shook his head.

“I say Damon goes and offers to bring Samuel to the girl,” one of the men suggested. “I know Samuel, and he wants power. No matter what you’ve done to him, even if you’ve stared in his eyes as you’ve attempted to stake his chest, he’l forgive you, if it means he’l get what he wants.”

“Al right.” Damon nodded. “I can talk him into listening to me.” His eyes gleamed, and I knew if anyone could pretend he was going to the dark side, it was him.

“Damon wil bring Samuel to Mary Jane, and we’l attack,” I said, finishing off the plan. The witches nodded in agreement. It seemed simple.

“Are there any spel s that wil protect her from a vampire? Vervain won’t work. And Samuel has a witch on his side, so we need to protect against that, too,” I said, emboldened by the way the witches were agreeing with me.

“Who is the witch?” Lavinia asked.

“Seaver. He’s the groundskeeper at the Magdalene Asylum.”

“Don’t worry about him,” Lavinia said with a derisive wave. “Stefan, you can take him on. He’s not as powerful as you. Al you need to do, if he appears, is simply kil him. A knife to the heart wil do the trick.”

“Al right.” I nodded. I’d kil ed before. I could kil again.

“And now, on to the most important thing. Protecting Mary Jane,” Lady Alice prodded.

“Should we do praesidium?” the middle-aged witch suggested.

“Not a bad idea,” the man next to her said.

“Praesidium is ideal,” Lady Alice agreed. “Of course it’s not foolproof, and it’s putting Mary Jane right on the front line. As her guardian, I wonder…”

“You’re not my guardian,” Mary Jane said. “I’m a grown woman. I can make my own decision. What exactly is praesidium?”

“A protection spel ,” Lavinia said. “It wil make Mary Jane’s body impenetrable to a vampire’s touch. It’s like a shield, but one that causes tremendous pain to a vampire if he touches it. The pain isn’t fatal, but it wil momentarily stun or surprise the vampire. That way, the spel is twofold. It wil protect Mary Jane from Samuel’s clutches, and it wil —”

“Al ow us to attack,” I finished. “That sounds perfect.” Lady Alice nodded. “It seems the best spel under the circumstances.”

“I’l do it,” Mary Jane said resolutely.

“Good.” I nodded at her. “Damon wil let Samuel know he has Mary Jane. He’l tel Samuel to come to us two nights from now, sending him right into the trap. We’l meet at five at Mil er’s Court and perform the spel before he comes.

And then we’l be waiting for him.”

The blond witch waved her hand up at me as though she were a schoolgirl and I were the teacher. “Al of us?” she asked.

I glanced around the group. It was smal , but the room was tiny. “Do we need everyone for the spel ?” I asked.

Lady Alice shook her head. “It’s very simple.”

“Good. Then no, not everyone should be there. Just Mary Jane, Lady Alice, and Lavinia in the house, and the rest in the al ey, waiting as backup if the plan doesn’t work. But it wil ,” I said, reassuring myself as much as the witches.

Ten stories above, I heard the lone, singular caw of a raven. The sound echoed in my ears, and I knew it was foreshadowing something. I only wished I knew what.

“I’l be there, vampire,” Lavinia said final y.

I locked eyes with Lavinia. “Good,” I said. I meant it.

Whether we liked it or not, we were bound to the witches.

And they were bound to us.

9

The next night, I was hiding in the bushes that surrounded the fence of Samuel’s Lansdowne House estate. A few hundred paces away, Damon hunched in the shadows of one of the large portico columns of the Georgian mansion.

Damon turned toward me and I nodded to him. I was ready in case things went sour and he needed backup.

Damon knocked on the door and was unsurprised when, seconds later, Samuel himself answered. His eyes were bloodshot, and his pale skin was almost white.

The wind had picked up and was blowing toward me, making it sound like the conversation was taking place only inches away.

“Listen. I’m here to offer you a deal,” Damon said stiffly, before Samuel could say anything—or stake him. “A business transaction. From one vampyr to another,” he said, using the ancient, foreign-sounding term for one of our kind.

“A deal,” Samuel repeated. An inscrutable expression—

was it amusement? Curiousity? Anger?—flickered across Samuel’s face. “You kil ed my brother. I ruined you. And yet, now you come to me to try to negotiate. Why?” I held my breath, lest Samuel should hear me. Watching my brother talk calmly with a man hel -bent on destroying our lives, it was al I could do to sit back on my heels and stay quiet. Maybe it was the eleuthro from several days prior or Lady Alice’s blood, but something had changed within me. My nerves were on edge and I was ready to spring into battle at a second’s notice. After al , the next few hours wouldn’t merely determine Damon’s and my fates—

they would determine the fate of the entire city. In the words of my brother when he had a particularly good hand of poker: We were al -in. But right now, there was nothing I could do but watch the scene unfold.

Damon shifted back and forth on his feet, and I knew he was exercising every ounce of his self-control not to lash out and attack Samuel.

Say it. Damon’s head jerked back to glance in my direction, even though I hadn’t even said the words out loud.

Admit he’s won.

“When I was a human, I was a soldier in the Confederate Army,” Damon said through gritted teeth. “I know the difference between victory and defeat, and I know when to wave the white flag. I’m done fighting. I just want to make a deal, one man to another. Give me my life, my freedom, and I’l give you something you want,” Damon said, bowing slightly.

Samuel threw back his head and laughed, looking like a wolf baying at the moon. “What could you possibly have that I want?”

“Your purebred witch,” Damon responded.

Samuel stepped toward Damon, slamming him against a column. I cringed as Damon’s skul hit the wood, leaving a lightning bolt–shaped crack in the plaster. “How do you know about that?” Samuel asked, emphasizing each word.

know about that?” Samuel asked, emphasizing each word.

Damon shrugged, seemingly unperturbed by Samuel’s violent outburst. “I overheard you and your minions discuss your search for a purebred witch. Stefan has Mary Jane.

And now, thanks to his foolish rescue, I know exactly where she lives. She’s defenseless and gul ible. It’l be easy for me to get her for you.”

Samuel tapped his slim, tapered fingers together as he scrutinized Damon.

“So my torture wasn’t in vain. I’m glad you came to your senses. But I’m stil not sure if I’l let you go free. After al , what of your brother?”

Damon smiled chil ingly, a look I knew al too wel as one he gave before he was going in for a kil . “I’m sure you can remember from when we were…friends,” Damon said, choking on the word, “how little fondness I had for Stefan.

While he was of assistance recently, I can’t say his help has made me like him any better. He’s made his choice about how he wants to live, and I’l be damned if he drags me down with him. He’s nothing to me,” he said dismissively.

“He’s not one of us. Here he is, playing the hidden hero to fal en women of the East End when he could have the world at his feet. I can’t associate with a vampire who doesn’t embrace his true nature. Even if he was once a brother.” Samuel nodded once. “Wel , he’l be easy enough to take care of. Tel me more about the girl.”

“I’l do you one better,” Damon said. “I’l bring you to her tomorrow night. She lives in a two-bit slum with a few other witches, but I’l make sure none of them are around. Come alone. That is, if I have your word that you’l clear my name alone. That is, if I have your word that you’l clear my name of these sil y charges and stop trying to kil me.” Samuel’s eyes gleamed like two lanterns in the darkness. “You have my word. I’l exonerate you of al this Jack the Ripper nonsense as soon as the witch is in my possession, alive and wel .”

Damon stuck out his hand for Samuel to shake.

Samuel grabbed his hand, and I expected a crash of thunder or spark to ignite as they shook. But there was nothing except for the whistling of the wind through the bushes.

With a final nod of agreement, Damon turned and walked down the path.

Had that been too easy? I imagined what it would be like if Samuel were able to compel other vampires. The idea fil ed me with dread. Compulsion, control ing the desires of another soul, was worse than kil ing. And when creatures already stronger and more lethal than any normal human being were compel ed…I didn’t want to imagine that. It wouldn’t happen. We’d make sure of it.

Across town, Hyde Park was lush, empty, and prime hunting ground, especial y since the Lord Mayor had imposed a curfew on the parks in the wake of the Jack the Ripper murders. That was perfect for me—the fields were free for squirrels, sparrows, and groundhogs to roam.

I stood behind an oak tree, ignoring the rustle of squirrels darting from a leaf pile. I needed something more substantial than a squirrel to quench my thirst. I real y needed human blood, but drinking from Lady Alice had made me more determined than ever to refuse it. Her blood had left me feeling more alive and more out of control than I had in years. And I couldn’t take that kind of risk right now, especial y when Cora and Mary Jane were depending on me.

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